I almost didn’t recognize him. Walking down the street in London, England, wearing a mask and carrying a gun, my jaw nearly dropped to the pavement. Rob Pattinson, the twenty-something son of Hollywood royalty and one of the world’s most eligible bachelors, looked like any other normal guy. He looked like Clark Kent. Or a superhero. Or an escaped mental patient. It was all a bit overwhelming.
The last thing I expected was to end up at the premiere of the most expensive film in the world. It was the end of April, and the British sun was beaming down (no pun intended). But it was also the beginning of a new nightmare. A nightmare that would see me uncover a decades-old secret, follow a murderous trail from the suburbs of Chicago to the streets of London, and involve me in a battle for survival that has left me physically and mentally scarred.
So here we go. Let’s begin at the beginning.
It all began innocently enough. Walking into a flower shop in downtown London, I was overwhelmed by the smell of freshly cut roses and began looking for a way to express my appreciation. When the shop owner asked me what I would like, I replied that I didn’t have any money, but that I would take some roses anyway. At this point, I had no idea what kind of movie we were making or who the main character would be.
He told me that he didn’t have any white roses because they weren’t in season, but that he would charge me anyway because my mask was obviously fake. In retrospect, I guess he was right. The next thing I knew, I was being ushered into a black van by two large, muscular men who looked like they could break me in two like an egg. As we pulled away, I saw the astonished look on the owner’s face as he followed us outside and watched the van’s tinted windows blow out as we drove away.
“Rob,” his Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh once said of his youngest son, “is as happy as a prince and as relaxed as a lamb, which is fortunate for us because we haven’t been able to convince him to leave the castle for over twenty years.”
It’s fair to say that Rob has kept a low profile since graduating from Oxford University with a degree in English literature. He’s largely stayed out of the public eye, emerging only for some royal events and a series of well-publicized bachelorships (his fifth, to be exact). Still, all that changed when he ventured into the realm of film. At the age of twenty, he wrote and directed his first short film, entitled “As She Syringes,” and it was a smash hit. The following year, he wrote and directed his first full-length film, “Twilight.” The movie was such a success that it went on to earn over 300 million dollars worldwide, making it the most profitable film of all time. Since then, he’s gone on to direct several more blockbuster movies, all while maintaining an incredibly low profile.
The Tracking Down
“Hey, Annie,” the text message began. It was sent from my cell phone at 7:00 a.m., London time, and it was just about to become my new morning ritual. Checking my phone after a particularly late night out, I saw that an unknown number had called me. Thinking it might be a friend offering help, I responded with an eager “Yes, what is it?”
After a brief pause, a man’s voice, heavily accented, replied, “I’m sorry to bother you, but I’ve got someone who wants to speak with you.”
Terrified, I responded, “Who is this?”
“He would like to speak with you about your mother,” the man said.
My heart, which had been pounding in terror, suddenly sank. “My mother? What does he want?” My voice was shaking as I asked.
“He wants to know what happened to her.” The man didn’t give any other details. “He thinks she might be alive.”
“What does he look like?” I asked.
“He’s a big man with dark hair. He’s wearing a black suit and a white shirt. What are you doing tonight?”
If you’re reading this, I’m guessing that you’re wondering who the mother of the man calling me might be. I’ll tell you, but first I need to set the record straight about what happened that night. This is going to require a brief detour through time.
The Time-Traveling Cousin
It was a sweltering summer night in 1982, and I was fifteen years old. I was babysitting at my Uncle Michael’s house in the suburbs of Chicago. One of his friends, Eric, had brought along a film projector and wanted to show it to us. After the movie, Eric invited me back to his apartment, a short drive away. As his guest, I was given supremely comfortable accommodation with a double bed, a dresser, and a leather couch. On the wall, there was a large flat-screen TV, complete with a DVD player.
In the mornings, when Eric woke up, he would go to the kitchen, make coffee, and bring it back to bed, where we would sip it and talk about the films we had seen the previous evening.
That night, Eric decided to re-watch the 1969 film “One Million Years B.C.,” starring Tyrone Power and Jane Russell. It was the second time we had seen the movie, and it was about the beginning of human civilization. In the film, Russell’s character is abducted by Power’s character, setting in motion a chain of events that lead to a battle between man and dinosaur for the survival of the human race. At the end of the movie, the dinosaurs’ reign is coming to an end, and it looks like we’re going to live happily ever after. What a load of crap!
When we reached the part where the dinosaurs attack, I, of course, lost my cool. “That’s it!” I shouted. “I’m out of here!” I leapt out of bed, ready to bolt. Uncle Michael, who had been sleeping through the whole thing, looked at me with concern and said, “Where are you going?”
“I’m going to find my mother! I’m going to find Eve! You know what? Fuck this! No more babysitting! I’ve had it!” I was practically in tears as I flung open the door and stormed out. He didn’t get up to chase after me, which was probably for the best. I imagine he would have just gotten in the way.
After I calmed down, I realized how stupid that had been. Eve wasn’t my mother! And besides, where would I go? I didn’t have any family in England, and my dad and I weren’t exactly on the best of terms. It would be best if I stayed put. Besides, I needed a place to crash. It was early summer, so there were plenty of vacancies.
It was a cool, breezy October night when I got the call. It was late, past midnight, and I was almost asleep when his smooth, melodic voice spoke to me on the other end. “Hi, Annie,” he said. “This is Scott McCall, a good friend of mine. Have we ever met?”
“Of course,” I replied. “At the premiere of ‘Twilight,’ wasn’t it you who came up to me and asked for an interview?”
“Yes, that was me. Listen, I’ve got some bad news.” He was quiet for a moment and then continued, “Your mother has passed away.”
My heart sank. “Oh, no,” I managed to choke out. “What happened? Was it the pneumonia? I mean, she was in a lot of pain, right?”
“It was cancer,” McCall replied. “She’d been sick for a while. The doctors gave her a month at the most.”
“How did she go so young? She was only forty-two.” My mind was in a daze. So much for the fairy-tale ending. My poor, sweet, defenseless mother had suffered horribly and passed away a virgin. Alone and friendless in the world. How could this be happening?
“I’m sorry for your loss,” McCall said. “I know this is a difficult time for you. How would you like me to help?”