Several months after the Hollywood Appreciation Society event, I sat in the back of a police car outside of my new North Hollywood apartment. I was distressed and almost in tears.
“Excuse me sir,” I spoke to a police officer through the open car window. “What’s happening? I’m really worried about them. They may be dead.”
“Just stay put, ma’am,” he replied.
“I think you need to go inside.”
“We have everything under control.”
I fidgeted with my brown corduroy purse. I was in agony over Fred and Buffy. Were they dead? Were they injured? They had been alone in my apartment with the gunman. I had deserted them, and my body was wrapped in a blanket of guilt. I’d learned how I would act under pressure. I’d saved myself and left others behind. This was not altruistic. This was not commendable. But it proved one thing: I was a survivor.
Coldwater Canyon Boulevard—which was lined with 1950s and 1960s apartment buildings—was normally buzzing with cars, but that morning it had been evacuated by official orders. There were ten law enforcement vehicles in my line of sight and what seemed like a hundred police and SWAT officers scampering to and fro, hoping not to get nailed by the gunman who could have poked his rifle out of my apartment window. The incident had the distinction of being Los Angeles’ number one news story for the day.
Despite my pleas, the officers did not care about Fred and Buffy. They were only animals. Fred was a German shepherd, and Buffy was a striped golden cat. Both belonged to my roommate, Lynn. I had met Lynn six months earlier at an audition for a game show, after which I’d appeared on-air as a contestant and become the lucky winner of a lamp. I had to pay taxes on that stupid lamp. Lynn had moved to Los Angeles from Florida. We had that “southeastern state” connection.
Lynn had wanted to offset the cost of rent so she’d offered me the distinguished position of “roommate” in her one-bedroom flat. I was only there for a few weeks before the gunman incident. We had to share a bed unless I was willing to make the pint-sized couch or porcelain tub my sleeping quarters. I opted for the bed, sleeping fully clothed each night in shorts and a T-shirt. In an attempt to save me from myself, Lynn was forever seeking hiding spots for the Cheerios and Lucky Charms. Without her, I would consume an entire box of cereal in one sitting and turn into a human oat balloon.
At two that morning, I woke to find a gunman hovering over our bed with an assault rifle aimed at Lynn’s head. I recognized him as Mack, a twenty-year-old guy who was obsessed with my roommate, although they were not romantically involved. He often took Fred to the dog park and Lynn to lunch. Mack had broken down the front door and the bedroom door, both of which had been locked. He’d thought she was with another man, but he had been wrong. It was just the dog, cat, and me—the cereal fanatic and soon-to-be ex-roommate.
I did not scream or panic like they do in the movies, nor did I jump into action like Indiana Jones. I knew I could not count on physical strength with my five-foot-tall build. My only hope was my brain. Could I outsmart this guy? That is when I left Lynn, the dog, and the cat behind.
I yawned as if Mack’s presence was routine, even boring. I folded back the covers with an air of detachedness and calmly slid out of bed. I slipped on my flip flops and casually collected my purse from the bedside table. Thank goodness I slept dressed.
“Well, I’m already up. I might as well go the grocery store,” I stated in an aloof and tranquil way.