Chapter 271: The Perils of Being Famous (Sort of)
She’s young, perky, professional. Her name is Heather Yung.
Gibbs doesn’t like her.
Abby does. Probably because she came in, talked about her experience with babies a bit more, played with Kelly some (she seemed to approve, or at least didn’t cry) then asked politely about his knee, listened carefully, offered some helpful suggestions, and then told him about how well her grandfather was doing after they put the artificial knee in, and how much better artificial joints are these days than they used to be. According to her, her grandfather was up on his feet without a cane only three months after the surgery and that a year later he was only barely limping. She seemed to think that was comforting.
Mostly she just made him feel seventy million years old, and broken on top of that. Sure, she’s twelve (okay, not really, she’s probably twenty-six) and bustling with useful purpose and energy. No need to rub that in.
When Heather got up to use the bathroom, Abby grins at him. Keep your butt on the sofa awfully clear in that expression.
He glares back at her, I hate the universe pretty clear in his.
That makes Abby laugh.
When Heather returns, Abby hands off Kelly, letting Heather put her down for her nap and that went… They both listened carefully, yep, smoothly. No crying. And in ten minutes Heather was down again, commenting on what an easy baby Kelly is, and they were talking about schedules, expected salary, and when she could start.
All in all, it was an hour out of Saturday, and by the end of it, Abby seems pretty pleased.
Once she saw Heather out, she sits down next to Gibbs and says, “So?”
He half shrugs. She’s fine, on his face.
“Good enough.” He says grudgingly, and it’s not the sort of ‘you’ll do’ statement he made about Tony. There’s no affection here, just a recognition of the fact that Heather is good enough. “You can probably do better.”
“Kelly seems to like her the best. No fussing on naptime.”
“True.” This was the first of the nannies who got Kelly down without any protest.
Tim wanders down a few seconds later, looking awfully out of it, hair sticking up in all directions and only wearing his pajama pants, and sat on the floor in front of Abby, resting his head on her knee. “Someone just leave?”
“Yeah. We had an interview today,” Abby answers.
“Oh.” He looks annoyed, mostly at missing it, not at her. “Why didn’t you wake me up?”
Abby kisses his forehead. “Because when I finished Kelly’s one AM feed, you still weren’t home.” Yeah, it wasn’t too long after two that he finished his second report and headed home. He hadn’t even told them about the team having the week off, yet.
“How’d it go?” Gibbs asks.
Tim nods. “Let me get some food, and I’ll tell you all about it.”
He’s in the kitchen, located some chicken lettuce wraps (“Thank you, Abby!”), stuck half of them on his plate (it’s after four, so he’s hungry, but dinner’s less than two hours away, so he doesn’t want anything too big) when he notices a package on the kitchen table.
“What’s this?” Tim asks, carrying it into the living room (food forgotten for the moment) and putting it on the coffee table.
Abby shrugs at him. “No idea. Has Thom Gemcity on the address, so I didn’t open it. UPS guy asked about that though, and I let him know that it’s your penname and that stuff with that name can be sent here.”
Tim feels a shiver of fear go up his spine. Things with Thom Gemcity on them should go to his publisher or agent. Not to his home. Never to his home. He checks more carefully and sees that Thom Gemcity is a redirect, it had gone to his agent first.
He sighs with relief. Gibbs is watching him carefully.
“Fan stuff shouldn’t come here.”
Gibbs nods; he remembers why fan stuff isn’t supposed to come to Tim’s house.
Tim smiles at him while heading back into the kitchen for his food and a knife. Yes, fans are great, but no, he does not want them knowing where he lives, that one time was more than enough.
A minute later he's back and opens it up and finds a very cute little basket of baby goodies, along with a few onesies, and some stuffed animals. Okay, good, it’s all pink and covered in little flowers. Standard cute baby goodies.
Tim’s checking a card, thinking it might have actually been from his agent, when he realized he had no idea who it was from. Which meant this was from a fan.
Which meant somehow one… shit there’s a bunch of packages in this box… several of his fans knew he had a child.
He was getting into freak out, hunt down the stalker, make sure his family is safe mode, when Abby says (pulling him out of it) (for a second, at least), “You’ve got a publicist, right?”
“And she posts things online about your life?”
“Sometimes.” Oh shit! He’s trying to remember if he ever specifically said he didn’t want anything about his kids posted.
“When was the last time you checked your Twitter or Facebook page?”
Tim winces. That’s a really good point. “Damn it.” He gets up, goes upstairs, grabs his phone and begins to go through “his” tweets and almost drops the phone when he sees that there’s a shot of Abby and Kelly, still in the hospital, along with the announcement that mom and baby were doing fine. Thom’s Facebook page had the same thing.
And yes, the fact that he had close to twenty thousand congratulatory tweets/likes whatnot is nice, but in that he’s in a frothing rage that his publicist posted that pic… and that he’s seriously contemplating getting his gun and scaring the shit out of her…
Then he realizes he didn’t send that picture to her. He sent it to his agent, who must have given it to her. Unlike his publicist, who works for his publisher and answer to them, not him, his agent actually is his employee, and he’s a valuable property she wants to keep happy. After all, she’s getting ten percent of each of his contracts, and at this point his contracts take her, on average, twenty minutes every three years.
His hand is shaking while he dials the numbers. She picks up on the third ring and before she could say anything he yells, “Doreen! What the fuck?” (He half notices that Gibbs appears to approve of this, and if his knee was working, would be volunteering for the scare-the-shit-out of-whoever-did-this plan. Meanwhile, Abby is looking really irked at him, and signs Kelly’s napping!)
“Tim?” she’s sounding really startled by that. She’s never heard him raise his voice, let alone yell or curse.
“I just got baby presents from a fan,” he says, still angry, much more quiet.
“Yeah.” To her this is really obvious. Of course fans will send baby presents. That’s part of what fans do. “We decided to send them on immediately. If we waited until we do your usual quarterly fan mail drop they’d be too small for Kelly. Four more packages showed up today. How’s she doing?”
“You posted pictures of my baby online!” His voice is rising again, and she’s still clueless.
Obviously he’s pissed, but this is just weird… So she patiently explains, “Well, yeah. Fans love stuff like that. They love little peeks into your life behind the writing. It makes them feel like you’re a real person and keeps them happy and eagerly anticipating your next book. Any ETA on that, by the way?”
He’s staring at the ceiling, vibrating with the desire to reach through the phone and pull her lungs out. He finally pulls it together enough to head into the basement (which should minimize the risk of waking up Kelly), shut the door behind him and say, “Do you remember about ten years ago, when that…” he can’t even start to think of a word for that, so he goes with, “fan started killing the people I was basing my characters on? You remember how he hunted down Abby and tried to kill her? And, remembering that, WHY THE FUCK WOULD YOU POST A PICTURE OF MY CHILD ONLINE!?!”
Silence meets his ears.
And Doreen suddenly gets it, really gets it, and realizes that she’s got no idea how to fix this. “Would you like me to take them down?” she asks meekly.
“Them?” Tim’s heart is beating so hard he can actually see the pulse in his eyes when he shuts them.
“It’s just the one pic. Only one I had.”
He inhales deeply and lets it out long and slow. “How many places did you post it?”
“Fifteen,” she says, very quietly, suddenly very aware of the fact that Tim’s only got two books left on his contract, and that it’s suddenly extremely likely he’s not resigning with her when it comes time to negotiate the contract for the next three books. “You’ve got some fan sites in addition to the Facebook and Twitter and tumblr, and there are the bio pages on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Goodreads so…”
“Fuck!” He scans through the Twitter feed. That shot had been retweeted and reposted hundreds of times. “It doesn’t matter if you delete it or not. Do not ever, EVER post any pictures of Kelly or Abby. If I want pics of them up, I’ll post them myself, and you’ll note, I haven’t posted any pictures of Kelly at all and the only ones of Abby are our engagement and wedding shot. That’s it. I don’t want anything beyond that out there.”
“Okay. What do you want us to do with the baby presents?”
“Oh, God.” He thinks about that for a moment. He’s too damn nervous to use them, even though the rational part of his mind is sure they’re just nice little presents. “Donate them. There has to be a shelter or something that works with pregnant women who need baby gear. Write up thank you notes for me. I’ll copy and send them out.”
“Okay, I’ll get on that.”
Pulse still racing, he fired off a quick thank you for all the well wishes, and another one saying that Kelly had everything a baby could possibly need, and that while he was touched by all the presents, if fans felt moved to send presents that donations to Wounded Warrior Program or whatever local services were available to low-income mothers would be a very fitting present.
Tim spent about five minutes just pacing around his basement. Not really looking at anything, just trying to make himself calm down.
He knows that immediately moving and changing their names is not only not rational, it’s also not warranted. Almost everyone on earth who’s even a little famous has their private life splashed all over, and all that happens is that they get people looking at them. But he can’t help but feel the fear that there are all these people out there who not only know he has a wife and child, but knows what they look like.
One of those maniacs found him before.
They can do it again.
And the unknown vulnerability of it makes him want to be sick.
Eventually, he called his sister. “Hey, when you told me about starting your own imprint, were you serious?”
She sounds surprised that he’s calling her in the middle of the day to talk publishing, but says, “Yes.”
“You want a bestselling mystery writer? I move about fifty-thousand copies in hardback per book. More in trade.”
“Tim?” She can’t believe this. They’ve talked about him going indie, and about what she’s hoping to do with her own start-up. But he’s always been so set on staying with his own machine that he mostly just listened and smiled.
“My agent just screwed us big time.”
“Doreen? Really? I’ve always heard good things about her. What, she skimming or something?”
“No, nothing like that. She posted pictures of Kelly online.”
“Oh.” Sarah knows that that’s not a traditional definition of my-agent-screwed me. She also knows that’s a hot button issue for Tim. “We’re starting up a YA Urban Fantasy imprint. Not that I wouldn’t love someone who’s got a name that actually sells books, but…”
He nods on the other side of the phone, understanding that he’s not part of their brand. “Okay. I’ve been with Doreen since ’03. Never shopped around, and I don’t want to query again. You know anyone who’s any good at this stuff?”
“Yes. I can shoot you a few names. Trust me, Thom Gemcity isn’t going to have to submit queries. Tell me more about it?”
“She published the baby shot I sent all of you to let you know Kelly was on the outside online without telling me.”
“On all my fan sites, twitter, Facebook, tumblr. It’s everywhere. They’re sending me baby presents.”
“Yeah. Until I find they’ve got razor blades or trackers or some other shit in them.”
“Tim.” Her voice is making it very clear that he’s being, not silly, not with his history, but overreacting is likely.
“I know. I really do. Doesn’t mean I wasn’t about to shit myself when I saw it.”
“Okay. Just calm down. Talk books more?”
“Yes.” He nods. Books are easy. Books are calm.
“You know, you’ve got the name recognition, you could go it on your own. Skip the publishers all together and put it out yourself.”
“More work than I want to do.”
“Maybe not. We get our imprint going, you can contract with us on flat fee basis. At least until we’ve got some real sellers, that’s part of our business model. We’ll get you set up with typesetting, cover art, editing, what not. You just write the book and do whatever publicity you normally do.”
“Normally my publisher does that.”
“Yeah. I have no idea how they get the damn things in book stores, and I don’t have the time to find out.”
“It’s not too hard. Not for someone who’s already selling as well as you are. Besides, how many bookstores do you think will still be around by the time your contract is up?”
“That’s a point. It’ll be 2018 by the time I’m out, and…”
“And almost the entire market will be digital by then. And trust me, if I can get a book on Amazon, you can, too. It’s not rocket science.”
“By 2018, how set will your brand need to be? I mean…”
“Set. Blog placement, reviews, ad networks, I know that for my market. I don’t for yours.”
He sits there quietly, neither of them talking for a minute, then, “Tim, I’m about to be late for dinner. Talk to me about this tomorrow? We’ll get a plan set up, and I’ll give you some names for possible new agents if you want to try that.”
“Things like this happen a lot?” Gibbs asks when Tim heads back out of the basement.
“First time that’s happened.” Tim paces around their living room, staring at the presents. Yeah, he got lots of congrats tweets and whatnot when they got married. No one sent presents. “My core demographic is twenty-five to fifty year old males, they usually don’t get too weird about fan stuff, but sometimes they do, and my weird fans are really weird.”
Abby’s unpacked all the baby gear from the box, but hasn’t taken anything out of its packaging. “You don’t want to keep this, do you?”
“It’s cute.” The set closest to him appears to be a stuffed Bunny from the Pat the Bunny books, the Pat the Bunny books, and a little white hat with white and a blue bow and pink bunny ears. It’s adorable. He’s terrified it’s got a tracker in it or slow acting poison, or just something. “I can see it’s cute. But, no, I don’t want it in the house. I know it’s fine. I’m sure there’s nothing bad in there, but…”
“It’s okay, Tim,” Abby says. If there’s anyone who is going to sympathize with him on his fear of what might happen if his fans figure out where he lives, it’s Abby.
He puts everything back into the box. “You guys mind if I go take this to Goodwill?”
Abby hugs him and shakes her head. “Not at all. Bring some dinner home?”
“Sure. What do you want?”
Before Gibbs got a chance to say something she says, “I think Gibbs is in junk food withdraw.”
“Okay. How about I hit the diner and tell Elaine you’ve been stranded at my place and Abby keeps force feeding you vegetables?”
Gibbs smiles at that. “Good. Food. Tell us about the case. Snuggle your girls.”
Tim kisses Abby, and then pats Gibbs’ shoulder, and heads up to find a shirt.