Chapter 11


In Ward’s office, he and Tracey sit across from one another. She looks surprised by something he has just said, though he seems none too excited. “Really?” Tracey stammers. “Was this your idea?” // “Not entirely. The publisher wants this book, and I think everyone owes it to Alina to get it printed. Wouldn’t you agree?” His tone is pointed, but Tracey is too preoccupied to notice or care. “So are you my agent then? Oh my God, do I have an agent?! // “We’ll draft a contract for something short term, for the project.” // “This is great news!” // “You’ll forgive me for not agreeing entirely, or perhaps for seeing the full picture.” // “Let me have this moment, will you? How many times will I get to write my first book?” // “You mean ghost write. And it’s practically finished. Now…” He starts to list some logistics of the project, and we can see the anxiety flooding his face as he looks into her eyes, as we pan in on her terrifying, sociopathic smile.


A real estate agent shows Ward’s house to a young couple and their 5-year-old daughter. They like the place, and seem interested in buying it. Everything is quiet as the agent guides them into each room, but whenever we cut to Ward’s POV (as he follows them around), we hear shrill screams from Amanda. While he answers a question about the master bathroom, she’s behind the group, shouting “THIS IS OUR HOME. THIS WAS OUR LIFE. OURS. YOU CAN’T JUST HAND IT OVER TO THEM. WE BUILT THIS.” She’s sobbing, she’s unhinged. Then, as he explains some design features in the kitchen: “WE WOULD HAVE ALL OF THIS IF IT WASN’T FOR YOU. IF YOU HADN’T KILLED ME, POISONED ME. HOW DARE YOU GIVE EVERYTHING WE BUILT TO THESE STRANGERS.” We see him look over to her once, just for a split second, and the couple’s daughter turns back to see what he’s looking at. Amanda is there, in the doorframe of the bedroom, but only Ward can see her. He’s poised nevertheless. He’s really selling it with a smile.


Ward enters Helene’s apartment, and is greeted by both Helene and Tracey, cozied up on opposite sides of the couch. They’re laughing and chatting with full mugs in hand. Alina sits in the chair before them, and as Helene says “Hi dear!”, Alina turns to Ward, grinning widely, and says “Don’t mind us, we’re just catching up. Couple o’ young gals gossiping over hot cocoa. No tears here.” Ward ignores her, even sitting himself in her chair, which forces Alina to move as she mutters “Ass hole! I was sitting there. Jerk…” Ward is suspicious of this scene, but he tries to play friendly: “What a nice surprise. So good to see you smiling, Helene. “Tracey just stopped by with flowers, and thanked me for entrusting her with finishing the book,” Helene says. “If everything is alright, she’ll start this week.” Then Tracey: “Everything’s alright, isn’t it?” Then Alina: “IS everything alright, Ward?” We don’t see him respond, but we do see him mull it over for a few seconds, trying to stay poised.


Ward and Tracey leave the building together. They’re heading opposite directions. “I have an appointment this way,” Ward starts. “But quickly, before I forget to say so…” Tracey smiles innocently, intently. He continues: “You are to follow my instructions throughout this entire process. I know what happened with you and Alina. Everything that happened. The affair. Your being fired. Everything. Your track record—even before you signed on with her—is a red flag. But I’m willing to see past that. For this book, and for Alina.” Tracey isn’t smiling so innocently now, but she’s just as intent. Ward finishes: “My patience will be as short as the leash you’re on.” // “Are you going to give me a fair shot at this?” // “At what, finishing Alina’s book, per the contract?” // “You’re afraid to let me shine.” // “For my own health, maybe.” // “You’ll see what I’m capable of.” With that, she’s off.


A broker shows Ward around an apartment. It’s a large 1BR, newly refurbished. “I’ll take it. Absolutely.” They shake hands. He exits onto Underhill in Prospect Heights, and we track him from the front as he walks away, toward Eastern Parkway. He steps onto the boulevard there, then points to the Soldiers and Sailors Arch. He’s having a conversation with himself, just mumbling words—not in the same way he might converse with Amanda or Alina. He looks even more worn-down than ever, but upbeat, like he knows he will go no lower. He arrives to his parked car, gets inside, and breaks into a fit of laughter and tears.


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