Damaged Beauties

By: Aphrodite Hunt


God, but he was so handsome!

I am perched at the edge of my desk, sifting through old magazines and photos of David Kinney, ex-movie star, who had gone into sudden and mysterious seclusion ten years ago.

Most of us know the story, or at least, those who keep up with entertainment gossip. David Kinney had a meteoric teenage rise to dramatic stardom. He was at the peak of his career, when he suddenly disappeared.

No, I don’t mean that his plane crashed in the middle of the Caribbean. He didn’t commit suicide. He wasn’t kidnapped either.

He just stopped making movies overnight and disappeared from the public eye.

No one knew why.

He didn’t announce his retirement. He didn’t check into rehab. His publicist couldn’t or wouldn’t give a press release. His lawyer had no comment. His agent had nothing official to say.

For months, the tabloids speculated on everything from a failed love affair to a cocaine overdose, from alien abduction to an FBI cover-up conspiracy (he was secretly a state witness against organized crime and had to be protected thereafter from the mob).

And naturally, like all news with a finite shelf life, the speculations dwindled. Other movie stars ascended to the Hollywood firmament to replace him in the public eye. His fans soon deserted him – all but a hardcore group which still dedicated a website – no, shrine – to his memory.

David Kinney was largely forgotten.

I stare at his pictures, taking in his large mud green eyes, his perfect Roman nose and his flawless complexion. He has very sensuous lips. Very kissable lips, actually. In the movies, he specialized in playing incredibly complex, flawed, and broken characters. His eyes were forever projecting a rainbow of emotions, a kaleidoscope of inner conflict. It didn’t matter if the character was a vampire or an undercover wise guy cop or a demonic assassin from the future. David Kinney nailed every one of them.

Oh, but he portrayed pain and angst so very well. When he bled, we bled with him. When he cried, the audience wept with silent tears.

He should have gotten an Oscar, but he didn’t.

I was a fan.

Not exactly the President of his fan club, but I was an Internet member of the community. I posted fan fiction on Live Journal. I watched his movies over and over, pausing at sequences where he looked particularly beautiful or emotional, or if the scene is particularly well played.

I’m all grown up now.

I have an exciting job as an investigative journalist. And yesterday, I pitched the idea of me solving the mystery of why David Kinney disappeared.

My editor, Sharon Contralto, frowned. “David Kinney? But he’s yesterday’s news.”

“Not if I angle the piece as a mystery,” I said. “Everyone loves mysteries.”

I expanded upon what I would like to do, and finally, she nodded.

“Sounds interesting,” she said.

“It will be,” I promised.

“What sort of budget are you aiming for?”

I was ready for this. I outlined some points from my spreadsheet. It wouldn’t take that much, really, especially since I already have an inkling of where he’s holed up in, thanks to overzealous fan site speculation.

“OK, approved,” Sharon said. “Go to it.”

The meeting turned to other matters, but inside, I was gloating with exhilaration.

I am going to meet David Kinney and solve the mystery of why he disappeared. Only he doesn’t go by the name of David Kinney anymore. He doesn’t even go by his real name. That’s why he is so difficult to ferret out. Unless you are particularly driven, like a hardcore fan.

But the real mystery is this:

If he is alive and well, why why why go through such pains to conceal his whereabouts and identity?

What does he have to hide?


Since we are operating on a shoestring budget, I fly coach class to Missouri. I have never been to Missouri before. I stop in St. Louis for the night, soaking in the culture and dining on the best ribs I have ever eaten, topped off by the best bread-and-butter pudding in the world. It was advertised as such too: ‘THE BEST BREAD AND BUTTER PUDDING IN THE WORLD’, even though the joint was just a lopsided Mexican shack which looked as though it could collapse at any minute.

But I’m not here to sightsee.

The next morning, I rent an Avis car. It is a Chevy HHR with a well-maintained engine – which means it doesn’t cough up enough smoke to choke my tailgaters.

I set out on my journey. I am a careful driver – careful to abide by the speed limit, that is. I don’t have a GPS. My reporter’s budget doesn’t allow for that . . . yet. I’m navigating completely by roadmap. The kind you can fold by its creases.

I like being on a road trip. My parents used to take my brother, Mikey, and me on cross-country expeditions. We went to Yellowstone that way. And the Grand Canyon. And Niagara. OK, so we like water.

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