It wasn't a such a strange coincidence that we ended up at the same school. After all Alexandra Benson had gotten the part because we had a lot in common. Before she had gone to Hollywood she had lived here with her Aunt, so she had nailed my accent which of course everyone had heard when the audio tapes were leaked to the media. She was an actress. I was the daughter of murdered diplomats. Ellington was the only school in the state, and one of the few in the country, with the necessary security to handle us so it wasn't that odd that our paths would cross. It was almost predictable.
Even the kids at Ellington were star struck by her though. J K Rowlings had spoken at our last year's commencement ceremony, and yet the entire student body as buzzing with gossip just because of this actress. It would have been far worse for her at nearly any other school though. I had the opposite problem. Staying under the radar was a matter of survival. No one knew who I was and it needed to stay that way.
I had heard the rumors that she was on campus, and then there she was, bigger than life in my English class dressed from head to toe in status symbols. Oh dear, Gucci, Pucci, Prada for her first day of school. My best friend Amber Newnan looked at Alexandra and then at me and smiled cutting her eyes dramatically. As Alexandra passed by my desk her eyes lifted up from her cell phone met mine then went back to the phone and then fluttered back up. After the double take she let the hand that held the phone drop very slowly and I saw on her face that unmistakable look of recognition.
When I saw the movie I knew that somehow she had seen me and studied me. She had imitated my mannerism and speech patterns perfectly. My security team had surmised that the director Ramon Stone, who went to great lengths for realism, had somehow gotten ahold of home movies of me. She was quite the little method actress and I had read in the paper that she had locked herself in a closet for 8 hours to get the feel of what I went through which I found insulting. She wasn't blindfolded and gagged. She could leave the closet whenever she liked and there is a big difference between 8 hours and a week. Still when I watched her play that scene my heart had pounded and my stomach had felt weak. The illusion was effective even for me or maybe especially for me. She won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for that performance and it was the gig that took her from bubble gum pop star to serious child actor.
I was nervous now. If she blew my cover, I would have to leave school and start all over again with a new identity and I liked it at Ellington. I looked back at her and gave her a hard stare. She gazed back at me and knit her brow. We were both so tense that when the lock down alarm sounded we both jumped. I have had extensive tactical response training but since the kidnapping, I don't handle being startled very well at all. When that alarm went off I screamed even though at that point I wasn't even sure if it was just a drill. Alexandra dropped her purse on the floor and the contents went everywhere.
Our teacher, Mrs. Daniels said to me, "Miss Evans please!" and she jumped up, closed the blinds on the window and door, and clicked the door lock into place. She then pulled on the door handle several times to make sure it was secure.
Three blasts of a horn and then a whistle was code for armed intruders. This was no drill. None of the students were supposed to know the codes but I had been briefed. Of course Mrs. Daniels recognized the code too and by that time she had started to panic just as I had started to calm down. Her arms were shaking so hard they became weak and useless as she struggled to shut and lock the windows. Several students jumped up to help her. I looked back at Alexandra who was texting furtively. I walked to her and grabbed her hand that held the phone and easily took it away from her.
I read the text. It said: "Jane Plain is in my class. We are on lockdown. Come and get......."
I erased the text and shut the phone off. As she struggled to get it back from me, I held it high in the air away from her until I heard it power off and then I put it in my pocket.
"No, Don't, I need that. Give it back."
"You can't tell anyone!" I hissed sticking my face right into hers. "Especially not now and my name is Peyton Evans."
"Say it." I said.
She looked confused.
"Say my name. Payton Evans." I said.
"Payton Evans." She repeated.
Mr. Stacy our principal came on the intercom. "Mrs. Daniels, We have reason to believe that the intruder is a fan of Miss Benton's. Someone had told him that she is in your class and he is headed your way. Do not open the door for him. "
"It is Edward Lester. My stalker." Alexandra said. "He followed me from LA. I thought I saw him this morning." She seemed embarrassed. "He is just upset that I moved. He is not dangerous at all. I read the psychological reports on him. I think we are all safe. He has never been violent"
Then we heard the blast of a shotgun, quickly followed by a slam on the door. He was kicking the door. With each impact the door buckled on its frame. It was a strong stainless steel door on a steal frame but it would only hold for so long. Kids were screaming and many ducked under their desk as they had been trained to do in school lockdown drills. I never understood the logic in that. Sure, put hard cover between you and the gunman but kneeling under a desk was pretty much useless, especially if everyone did it which was what they had told us to do in the drills. I knew I had to keep my wits about me. Alexandra and I looked a lot alike. Okay we looked something alike. I am not as pretty as Alexandra Benton but then again no one is. Still if you didn't look too hard or for too long, I could pass for her.
"Take off your clothes!" I said unbuttoning my shirt.
"What?" Alexandra said, But she she knew what I was thinking and started pulling off her clothes and pulling on mine. Once she was dressed she scrambled into the closet closing the door herself from the inside. I reached into the secret compartment hidden in my book bag and touched my gun but I left it there. Shooting him would have been the end of my high school career, and I wasn't going to let it go that easily.
The door gave way with a thud and then a moan as it swung open on broken hinges. Edward Lester stepped into the room and pointed his shotgun at me. When it registered that I was not Alexandra, he lowered the gun down confused , and he looked around for her. His eyes rested on the closet door and he lifted the barrel up again.
Disarming a gunman in real life is much different than it looks in a movie. When Alexandra had portrayed me she either played it too casual or too angry. I had trained with Major Suvorov, a former member of the Russian GRU Spetsnaz ( military intelligence) and he had taught me to disarm a gunman by approaching him in a purposeful but non-threatening way, like I was going to hand him a cup of coffee that he had just requested. Don't make a mean face. Don't look too nonchalant either because in a life or death situation nonchalance is unnatural.
I was scared but I wasn't too scared which was good. At least it wasn't a hand gun, which is much harder to steer clear of in a struggle, and if I could take a cell phone away from a Hollywood starlet then I could take a rifle from a nut job like Edward Lester. I walked toward Lester as if he had called me over, and when I got close I reached for the end of the barrel with one hand and the middle with the other as if I expected him to hand it to me. Then I rolled it against the weak side of his grip. Just as he started to give me resistance I yanked the gun with a snap and leaned my weight in with follow through, just as I was taught. Suddenly Alexandra was beside me, sinking her teeth into his arm. Several boys rushed in to help and in seconds we had him disarmed. I handed the gun off to one of them. I didn't want to be the one holding it when the police came.
I looked away from Lester and saw Amber staring at me in my borrowed clothes. She started crying and said, "You look great."