They stand in line on the red carpet. Everybody will be watching. They're given their queue. In five it's their turn to walk in front of the cameras.
Shrine Auditorium, mid way between USC and the Staples Center. Jefferson and Figueroa. It's the 33rd Annual Emmy Awards.
Metta World Peace and Nancy Grace, rub shoulders. Or, more precisely, Metta's hand rubs up against Nancy's shoulder. It's nearing 4 p.m., time to begin taping, for the 'Live' presentation on the East Coast.
She looks him up and down. "Maybe you didn't get the memo, Metta, but...you were supposed to dress like...in a tux, or something...you know, designer. You're wearing the detective clothes. They were just for the movie?"
"Well, I like being a cop. You said I looked the part."
"Yeah, when we were on the set. But...everybody knows who you are. It's okay." She smiles up at his tallness, his largeness, his presence.
"Today," says Metta, "I'm Garlan Fincher, Georgia detective. Got the season opener against the Mavs next Tuesday, so I'll be him...Detective Fincher... until then. Why not?"
A young man holds up two fingers. "You're up in two," he says.
Metta's hands shake. He sways, on one foot then the other. Grace can feel it. She elbows him. "Metta, don't be nervous . Nothing to be nervous about."
"Okay, Garlan. Let me hold your hand. Just relax. You're not nervous before a basketball game are you?"
"I am, but once it starts, I'm good to go."
"Remember, these questions, they're all fluff. Let me do the talking." She looks at his compact abs, his large biceps, and strong hands. She takes a deep breath.
Together they move out on the red carpet.
An interviewer whispers to his cameraman. "Watch me. I'll make sure my interviews get on the 11 o'clock news. You'll see." He snickers.
And as Metta and Nancy arrive, the interviewer jams his microphone in Nancy's face. She pulls back.
"Hey, it's Nancy Grace...along with...Metta World Peace...you know, Ron Artest...from the Lakers. Grace is nominated for Best News Commentator, and Lakers Metta World Peace is here to advertise Grace's Lifetime Movie. 'The Eleventh Victim.' It shows November 3rd. Metta plays a police detective.
"Hello. Nancy Grace, and Metta World Peace. Jimmy Twit, WDUD TV, Buffalo. Wow, what a night, huh?"
"It's wonderful," says Grace. "It's always exciting to be nominated for what I do. I fight for the rights of those who don't have a voice when they are screwed over by..."
"And World Peace," says Twit. "How do you feel about acting. Are you going to say good bye to the Lakers?"
"He's not there yet," says Grace, "but Metta is just beginning a new profession. He was very good..."
"Didn't you two meet on Dancing with the Stars? Metta, you going to be a dancer now...quit the Lakers?"
Metta looks down at the man. He losses his smile. "I'm not much of a dancer. I'm better under the basket. Why would you ask that?"
Grace squeezes his hand. "Metta put supreme effort into his dancing. For a non-professional he did very well. He certainly put maximum effort..."
"You're telling me," says Twit. "I saw you on the show...Rhythm you ain't got, Metta. Guess that's the reason you were the first one cut." He giggles toward the camera, shaking his head.
Metta's hands became fists.
Grace's eyes turn red. "He was excellent for someone who is not a dancer." She moves into the man's face, waving away the microphone. "He was a lot better than anyone thought he'd be. I saw his potential in front of the camera. That's the reason we chose him for the part."
"But Grace, as a cop? From his crazy stunts on the court, running into the stands, that elbow shot...I don't know?"
Metta eyes get big. He breathes heavily. He starts shaking again.
"But a cop, dealing with criminals and all? Come on. Nobody'll ever believe it."
Metta moves forward. Twit moves back a step. "Now that you're a novelist, Nancy, are you going to concentrate on writing books? I'm guessing you won't get sued as much. I bet that gets pretty old?"
"They're all nuisance cases. I beat most of them. People who can't stand the heat, they just sue me. If they'd just come clean, they'd feel a whole lot better. The truth will set them free."
"Now, Metta, this cop outfit. Who's your designer? Columbo?" He looks up at Metta, looking for a smile.
Metta stares down. His eyes are black. "What's your name again?" He steps on the man's foot, and presses down hard, his chest an inch form the man's nose.
Grace moves in between. "It's his character in the Movie ," she says. "He doesn't need an Armani original. You don't think Metta is so unsophisticated..."
Twit looks down. They are still holding hands. He points.
"Is there a connection here? Grace? Metta? Beyond Producer and Actor?" Then he points at her stomach, and his cameraman moves in for a close up. "Is there something going on you're not telling...?"
She squints at him. "Just what the hell are you trying to say? That I'm pregnant? I produced a movie, so I must be sleeping with all the actors?"
Metta's fist is a blur. Twit's jaw, teeth, nose. Crushed. Blood gushes through his fingers. Metta certainly doesn't need it all spelled out.
Twit lurches back, his mouth opens, his head twists. He drops to one knee, and flops over.
"What... is your... problem?" says Twit. His voice cracks. He kicks wildly at the camera as it comes in for another close up. "Get that thing..."
"What is my problem? What is MY problem?" says Metta. He leans over the man, his foot ready to kick him hard high in the ribs. "I don't like you."
Grace pulls him away. "These guys are no different than paparazzi." She checks the crowd. "We gotta get out of here. Follow me." They push through, off the red carpet and out toward the parking lot, running, Metta flashing his badge the whole way.
Twit's groans are loud. Everyone hears the commotion. The other cameramen stop, and turn. They too can see a good story. They are on the move.
Security rushes up. They see Twit's face planted in the plywood. They can't miss all the blood. They look toward Metta World Peace, hand in hand with Nancy Grace on their way to the streets.
"What the hell did you say to them, to make them react like that?" asks security.
"What? I didn't say anything...well...I just asked if they were...seeing each other. And...HEY, get that stupid camera out of my face..."
"And that's when you got slugged?"
"Go after them. He hit me. I want to press charges." He tries to get up, but falls forward. His face is a mess.
"Press charges? Against Metta World Peace, and Nancy Grace? Exactly who are you again?"
Without looking back, they sprint out the front door, across the street, and into her limousine. "Drive, Billy Ray, Drive."
"Oh boy." says Nancy. She puts her hand on Metta's knee. "I was watching that guy. I think, matter of fact, I'm sure of it, he had a knife in his hand. He was going to stab you."
She pats his knee. "All he wanted was to get big TV ratings. These small-time Blogger guys doing the red carpet interviews. I saw it. No wait...a gun. Yes, a gun. I'll tell them that's what I saw. No way he's getting away with this."
"Man," says Metta. "I'm so stupid. I'm going to get suspended for this...again. I know it."
"Guy had it coming. You're the only one with the guts to fight back. That's the way little men are. You wait, I'll make you a hero."
"You'd do that for me?" He grabs her hand. His eyes big.
She looks again at his large bicep's.
"Cops know where to find us. Come on, you saved my life."
With a wave of her hand, and a 'Take us home, Billy Ray,' the limo shoots up Out Post Drive, and into the Hollywood Hills.
"I like you, you know," says Metta. He looks out the window, as he rubs her leg, high on the thigh. "Girl, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship." He puts his head back. "I remember that from an old movie I saw once."
"I like you too, Metta, and remember, we'll always have the Red Carpet." She laughs and puts her head on his shoulder.
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