Social Engineer - Chapter 7

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Seven Weeks Ago

Brody waved his pass at the underground station turnstile. The barrier opened and he waltzed through. Behind him, Mel did the same. He held out his hand. She took it and together they ran up the steps to the streets above.

Laughing, they jogged along Tooley Street, which ran parallel to the south bank of the Thames. It was eerily quiet, this early on a Sunday morning. Through gaps between office buildings, Brody occasionally caught sight of boat masts on the Thames and the iconic Tower Bridge. They reached a small side street and turned into it, coming to an abrupt halt when they saw the crowds of people and parked vehicles ahead of them.

Mel squeaked in delight. “Do you think we’ll see ’im?”

“According to the filming schedule, they’ll be here all day.”

She squeezed his hand in anticipation. Together they approached the crowd. Film production crew vans were parked up alongside the road, in front of a tunnel that disappeared under the railway lines above. Film cameras were positioned high on cranes, along with powerful lighting.

As they neared, a barrier blocked further access. A group of fans stood around it, buzzing in anticipation. Brody and Mel joined them, blending in. As if on queue, a door to one of the cast caravans, parked up beyond, opened and a figure descended. The women in the crowd around them began screaming.

Brody observed Mel’s jaw drop at the sight of the Hollywood A-lister. He had seen some of the heartthrob’s action movies, and hadn’t been particularly impressed. The star seemed to always play himself, rather than the character written in the screenplay. Brody thought about some of the social engineering charades he had pulled off over the years and wondered if perhaps he might be the better actor. After all, his performances had to work first time; there was certainly no opportunity for a retake.

The leading man waved at the crowd of fans, a huge grin overflowing with white teeth plastered on his made-up face.

“He seems smaller in real life,” whispered Mel to Brody, cupping her hand around his ear so that the other onlookers couldn’t overhear.

“Yeah, I wonder if he’ll film the scene standing on a box so that he’s eye-to-eye with the other actors.” Having overheard Brody’s quip, three of the onlookers turned around and gave him daggers.

Brody held his tongue while they watched the scene being filmed. Finally, after a rather painfully repetitive hour, the director shouted, “Cut!” There was a small ripple of applause. Taking a bow, the actor seemed about to return to his caravan but diverted towards the small group of onlookers when he heard his name shouted by his adoring fans. Smiling genially, he autographed a steady stream of photos and any other memorabilia that they had brought with them. Mel, who hadn’t been quite as prepared with the short notice Brody had provided, stuck out her bare arm in the hope the star would sign it. Unperturbed, as if it happened every day, the actor dutifully scribbled his name on her forearm. Mel promised him that she would never wash it again, prompting laughs from everyone in earshot, the actor included. Delighted, Mel grabbed Brody’s hand and led him back in the direction they had come, her schoolgirl-like giggles rebounding from the side street around them.

They breakfasted together in Joe’s Kitchen and Coffee House, a casual eatery near Borough Station. Brody introduced Mel to the delights of bubble and squeak, which she ordered with poached eggs and hollandaise sauce. To compliment her choice on something so quintessentially English, he ordered a very French Croque Monsieur, topped with a fried egg. They chuckled their way through breakfast, casting doubt on the logic behind their respective countries’ cuisines.

Afterwards, they walked along the south side of the embankment, all the way to Westminster Bridge, opposite Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. It had become a beautiful summer morning. They took selfies with each other on their smartphones, posing alongside human statues. They listened to jazz musicians inside the foyer of the South Bank Centre. They experienced a slow loop of the London Eye, a whole capsule to themselves, admiring the capital’s distinctive skyline.

The day passed in a carefree blur.

And later, when Brody walked her to her flat in Chalk Farm, his body tensing in nervousness as he neared her front door, she laughed freely and teased him about his English reservations. She stood on tiptoes and, without hesitation, kissed him, both arms wrapped around his neck. When they pulled apart, she quickly opened the door and pulled him inside.

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