Lisa’s heart thumped. “No, it doesn’t,” she whispered. “And perfect fodder for us. Has anyone else gotten to them yet?”
“That’s the very thing, my girl,” Rocco affirmed. “No American tabloid has captured them post-engagement, and certainly not in the middle of one of their famous rows.
“And where are they now?” Lisa asked, continuing to scribble. This could be her big break, if only she twisted many, many arms across the world to reach it. She sizzled at the thought of so much work, knowing that she’d have to scam, cajole, and bribe her way to the best scoop.
“That’s not a question I can answer, darling,” Rocco said, scoffing slightly. “You’re the reporter, are you not? Get to the bottom of where they are in the world, right now. If you can get a picture of them arguing somewhere romantic-looking, then you’ll be seeing a nice five-figure sum in your bank account no sooner has the paper hit newsstands. Capeesh?”
Lisa’s eyes widened at the proposition. She’d never been paid more than a thousand dollars for a photograph, and her stomach flipped at the thought. Her bank account was dwindling ever toward zero, a reminder that failure was constantly hovering.
“I do,” Lisa said with conviction. “I understand completely. And I will deliver.”
“Good,” Rocco said. “I’ll expect the photographs on my desk within the week. I wish you the best of luck, Garcia. You’re going to need it. Ciao.”
With that, he ended the phone call, sending a high-pitched beep into Lisa’s ears, an affirmation that she was alone again.
She eyed her phone, her blood pumping quickly, her ears ringing slightly. She’d never been handed such a big assignment before. She felt that the money was already in her bank account; her bills were already paid; her college tuition fund (preferably for NYU, so she could continue her photography in the city) was finally set up. If she was going to compete in the world of photography, she was going to have to stretch her spine, crack her knuckles, and dive into the trenches. She was ready.
Despite the late hour, Lisa set to work immediately, pulling out a list of sources she’d used previously—taxi drivers, flight attendants, restaurant servers, and coffee baristas—people of all professions who blended in, but who saw and heard things due to their camouflage. These sources came across celebrities on a near-daily basis, and for a small price, they lit tabloid photographers’ ways.
“Marco,” Lisa said brightly, speaking with one of the baristas at a hipster coffee shop in Brooklyn. “How have you been?”
“Get to it,” Marco huffed, clearly drunk. Lisa imagined him at a corner bar, cigarette smoke oozing from between his lips. “Who do you need?”
“I get it. No time for pleasantries,” she said. “I need to get to Prince Francesco of Aluzzi. You got any word of him being in the city soon?”
Marco sighed evenly, the sound crackling through the phone speaker. “You don’t want to mess around with that, Lisa. Bad people.”
He cut the phone call short, then, allowing an ominous feeling to fold over Lisa. She shivered.
But still, she continued, her mind focused. She wouldn’t be defeated. She dialed Melanie, an airline attendant she’d met when pursuing an action hero, and she answered the phone cheerily, clearly well caffeinated due to her long hours.
“Darling Lisa,” she began, her voice lilting with the slight British accent she’d picked up in her years working for a UK-based airline. “How have you been? And who are you searching for?”
Lisa grinned, on the hunt now. “Hi, Melanie. I’m looking for Prince Francesco of Aluzzi. Have you heard anything?”
Melanie hummed for a moment, parsing through the many conversations she overheard every day. “Prince Francesco. I’ve actually seen him before, you know.”
“Really?” Lisa said, beginning to scribble. She only had a vague memory of what the Prince looked like. Black-haired, olive-skinned, remarkably handsome, with a slightly crooked, alluring grin. “What was he like?”
“Oh, love, I only saw him from afar,” Melanie continued. “At Heathrow. I haven’t seen a more attractive man in all my life, I swear. Far too handsome for the likes of that Princess Rose. That slob. I saw her eat an entire hot dog on a stick once. Disgusting.”
Lisa had to stifle a laugh. “Sure. That sets a wonderful dynamic for me,” she said, half-joking. “Any word that they’ll be in New York soon? Otherwise, I suppose I can travel…”
She imagined her empty bank account, an assurance that she’d have to take a loan from her mother if she needed to high-tail it to Europe at a moment’s notice. The thought curdled her stomach.
“Let me see,” Melanie murmured. “You know, I think you might know the Prince’s New York driver. He used to drive for that basketballer, when you took those shots last year. Do you remember?”
Lisa did. The amount paid—a whopping one thousand bucks, her biggest paycheck ever—had been for an image of the same basketballer sauntering through the crowd, an ice cream cone held high above peoples’ heads.
“Sergio,” she murmured.
“The very one. And a bright fellow, I think,” Melanie said. “I saw him at the airport and asked him who he was driving for these days. Michael fired him. Said he wanted to stick to Chicago for a while. The poor thing.”
“Wow. I think I have Sergio’s number, actually,” Lisa said, flipping frantically through her notebook. “We spoke at length last time. I think he’d remember me.”
“Of course he will. But he won’t remember you for nothing,” Melanie said, her tone hardening slightly. “And darling, neither will I.”
Lisa sighed, pursing her lips. “Sure. Absolutely,” she replied. “Can I offer you—” She paused, working out what funds she could possibly spare. “A hundred dollars?”