Shortly after Rosie had skipped out of the bar, happily contemplating her impending shopping trip, Jimmy returned with the bad news.
“Well,” he told Georgie when he had resumed his position behind the counter and tied on his apron again, “he sure ain’t anywhere on the second floor and none of the employees up there has laid eyes on him. I seem to have been the last person to see him.” Then, as if to soften the news, he said, “You in a hurry or can I get you another drink?”
Georgie thought for a moment. “Yes,” she said, “I think I will have another one of these.” She held out her empty glass. “Besides, I could use some information, you see. I’ve never been to this town before.”
“Sure thing,” Jimmy said after shutting off the blender and returning with her drink. “I been here about ten years now so I probably know anything you might want to know. But first let me give you a little background.”
So for the next fifteen minutes or so, while Georgie enjoyed her second strawberry daiquiri, Jimmy filled her in on pretty much what he had told Gil and Rosie the previous evening.
“That’s a fascinating story,” Georgie said when he had finished. “But now, tell me a little bit more about the layout of this town. For one thing, where’s the business district or whatever you call it and is there a local police department?”
“Well,” he said, “there is and there isn’t. First of all, this place has only been really popular, what you might say tourist-oriented, in about the last ten years since the developers came in. Before that, it was a sleepy little town, kind of hard to find. In fact this main highway that we’re on was at one time called by the Mexicans El Camino Perdido. Mainly because, as you may have noticed on your way in, it’s kind of hidden on three sides by mountain. The only clear way in is the way you came from the west. Like I said, it was pretty hard to find until the developers put up signs along the freeway giving directions to this strip. So coming in on the highway you’ve got mountains to the left, mountains to the right, and that big one straight ahead at the end of the strip. You can see it easy from the front porch. It’s about a thousand feet high and the Mexican settlers used to call it Monte Sueño.”
“My Spanish is a little rusty,” said Georgie, “but doesn’t that mean Mountain of Dreams?
“Yup, you got it. They say the Indian tribes that lived around here a hundred and fifty years ago or more used to use that mountain for, you know, what the Indians call spirit quests and stuff like that. They attached some kind of magical properties to it. Of course, nobody believes in that anymore nowadays. It’s mostly just got hiking trails and a steep face for mountain climbers. The only thing at the top is a big old-fashioned structure that looks like a trading post. It’s really a combination coffee shop, bar, and souvenir store.”
“That’s nice to know,” said Georgie, “but we didn’t come here for our health. Tell me about the downtown.”
“Okay, sure,” said Jimmy still affably, “but keep your shirt on, I was coming to that. You’ll notice that we’re right here at the east end of the strip almost right against Monte Sueño. Now the developers renamed this strip Claritas Boulevard. So what happens is that about fifty yards east toward the mountain the boulevard divides into two. The left side, the north side is called North Claritas Avenue, the right side South Claritas Avenue. Now if you wanna get to the business district or what passes for it, you go north. Around here the two sides are called the north face and the south face. On the north face right after you turn onto the avenue you’ll see signs pointing you to what we laughingly call the central business district. There you’ll find a city hall that doubles as a police station, a courthouse, a couple other small municipal buildings, and a few commercial stores and restaurants. Everything else is residential. The south face is almost completely residential with only a few little neighborhood bodegas and chain convenience stories. Almost everybody in town comes up to the strip for shopping, entertainment… It’s the life of the town really.”
“Great,” said Georgie. She finished her second drink and was now feeling a little more optimistic. “You’ve been a great help. I think that’s about all I need to know. And thanks for the drinks.” She reached into her tote bag and pulled out her billfold. Extracting a ten-dollar bill, she placed it on the bar. “A little something for your trouble,” she said.
Without argument Jimmy took it and placed it in his pocket. “Thanks very much, ma’am,” he said as Georgie rose to leave. “And I sure do hope you find your fella.”
“Yeah,” said Georgie, a grim set to her lips. “I hope so too.”
Glancing at her watch and noticing that it was now nearly five, she strode out of the saloon and marched briskly to the registration desk where Fast-Draw Frankie Melson was busily doing what he did when he didn’t have anything to do.
Upon noticing her he looked up and, with a slightly distasteful curl of his lip, said, “Oh, it’s you, Ms. Jordan. Anything I can do for you?”
Georgie slammed her palm down on the counter and looked him square in the eye. “Yeah,” she said, “you can tell me all about the little search you were supposed to do, remember?”
Melson rolled his eyes ceilingward. “Oh, that,” he said, “we didn’t find him. We didn’t expect to.” Then he looked at her curiously. “In fact, Walter and me and Jimmy have been wonderin’ why this guy didn’t come back last night.” He looked at her accusingly, obviously trying to regain the upper hand. “Got any ideas?”
Her gaze never wavered and, if anything, became more intense. “No,” she retorted, “of course not. That’s your department. You’re the ones that are supposed to take care of your guests.” Then, realizing that this was getting her nowhere, she threw up her hands and conceded, “All right, all right, you’ve made your point. And since this is getting us nowhere I think I’ll see what the police have to say about this.”
This piece of intelligence obviously took Melson aback. “You—you’re not going to mention our name, are you?”
“Well,” she replied, some satisfaction evident in her voice, “I do have to tell them where he was staying, don’t I?”
Now it was Melson’s turn to throw up his hands in surrender. “Okay, okay,” he said, “but at least tell them that we searched the hotel and found no trace of him, okay?”
“That much I can do,” she replied not unkindly, then without another word turned on her heel and strode briskly out of the hotel.
After retrieving her Mustang from George’s tender care she drove out onto the strip and, as per Jimmy’s instructions, turned left and then left again where the highway divided. This is getting ridiculous, she thought to herself. What can have happened to the idiot?
She realized that in her own way she had actually become rather fond of Gil in the better than five years since she had become his office manager. He was, she reflected, okay for a rich liberal white man and was, while not particularly sensitive, at least largely inoffensive.
She wondered what to do next as she drove down North Claritas Avenue towards the central business district. She didn’t really like Angry Black Woman that much, though it had stood her in good stead over the years. She had only been eighteen, just out of high school, when she had joined the woman’s pro tennis circuit back in 1970. At that time, even though major civil rights legislation had allegedly made both segregation and discrimination against people of her race illegal, still on her swings through the South in the early seventies she had often encountered veiled and even not so veiled hostility. It was then that she had developed the persona of Angry Black Woman as a means to hold her own and demand at least grudging, if not downright false, respect from restaurant owners, hotel managers, and even some redneck bartenders.
She had quit professional tennis in 1984 after noticing that her reflexes were beginning to slow. Even with the title she had won, she hadn’t made that much money—the women’s tour was never paid as much as the men’s. She thought, however, that the investments she had made had been good ones, but largely they been wiped out in the infamous stock market crash of October 1987. Desperate for some way to support herself she had fallen back on the business skills she had learned in high school—typing, filing, even the ability to take shorthand dictation, and she was a born scheduler and planner. This is how in 1989 she had come to the then largely unstaffed offices of FineHall Productions and applied for a secretarial job. Gil and Natalie had taken one look at her and in the politically-correct late eighties thought they had struck gold. Put a black woman in a managerial position, they reasoned, was incredibly good publicity for their production company. She didn’t even mind converting her status into a three-way threat by admitting to the occasional lesbian experience (a triple minority!) but in truth she was merely an independent woman who lived alone and liked it.
She was now coming into the area of this small town in which the city hall, police department, and a few other municipal buildings were arranged around a town square which (she noted with some astonishment) even contained a bandshell that looked as if it had been there since maybe 1890. She envisioned a brass band decked out in Sergeant Pepper-style uniforms busily and energetically playing a Sousa march.
She pulled into the small but nearly vacant parking lot that fronted the building which doubled as the city hall and the police department, parked her car, locked it, then went inside. On finding the area that was simply marked Police Station on a door with an old-fashioned translucent glass window, she tried the knob and, finding it open, went inside. The room was of average size and looked more like an office waiting room than a police station. There was a row of folding chairs along one wall and on the opposite wall was an ordinary-looking office desk and chair which was occupied by a middle-aged, rather dumpy-looking white woman in a rather nondescript police uniform. In front of her on the desk was only a telephone that Georgie could discern was a four-button call director, and an old-fashioned metal microphone on a stand which she assumed was some sort of radio dispatch equipment. A nameplate on the desk read, Sergeant G. Stein.
Looking up, the woman said briskly but pleasantly, “Good afternoon, ma’am, may I help you?”
“Yes,” Georgie said, glancing around. “You the only one here?”
“It is the weekend you know,” the woman replied, pointing at a large clock on the opposite wall. “And after hours at that. What can I do for you?”
Georgie decided to come to the point. “Well, it’s this way,” she said.
About fifteen minutes later Georgie had filled in Sergeant Stein on Gil’s arrival and subsequent disappearance at midnight the previous night.
“Hmm,” said Stein thoughtfully, “well, I can tell you one thing, he has not been arrested. Nobody’s been brought in for the last twenty-four hours at least. I will check with the hospital though. There’s only one and it’s about twenty miles down the mountain in Riverside. That’s where we send all emergency cases. But I have to tell you this. If he was injured or took sick enough to have an ambulance called, procedure is that the police department is notified for identification purposes and also to notify his family if need be, and since we received no calls for an ambulance since, oh the middle of last week, I think that’s going to be a dead end. So,” she folded her hands on the desk in a matter-of-fact manner, “how would you like me to proceed?”
Georgie was rather at a loss for a good answer. This was a pleasant enough woman so trying to get tough with her was out of the question. “We-ll,” she stammered rather helplessly, “couldn’t you get your people to mount a search for him?”
“Ma’am,” said Sergeant Stein, still respectfully, “you probably noticed that this is a really small town. Our budget for police enforcement is not what you’d call really high. We have a total of eight street officers, that’s it, for the entire 168 hours that comprise a week. And they work long hours and are also, in everyone’s opinion, underpaid. What I can do,” she picked up the microphone and before switching it on said, “I can call the officers on duty right now, I think it’s Blake and Milton, and have them search the strip which, in all likelihood, is the only place he would have gone. You did say he was a big shot Hollywood film director…”
Yes, not in so many words, Georgie thought, but said, “Yes, that’s correct.”
“And then again, he didn’t really know anyone in town,” the sergeant continued.
“No, that’s correct,” said Georgie.
“Then it’s unlikely that he would be visiting anyone in the residential area. The only other thing I can think of,” she said as if this had suddenly occurred to her, “is the possibility of kidnap. But,” she said, “since you obviously have received no communication then that doesn’t seem very likely. After all, what else except money could they want from him? Make him direct a picture?”
Georgie gave an amused giggle. “No, I don’t think that’s very likely.” Then seriously she admitted, “You’ve got a point there. Anyway, no, we haven’t received any calls from anybody.”
“Well, there you have it,” said Stein amiably. Then she leaned forward and almost joking said, “Unless he had some kind of a personal enemy that would want to grab him and keep him hostage for his or her own purposes. You know, kind of like that book by Stephen King, what was it called?” She tapped her chin thoughtfully and looked at the ceiling as if it were crucial to remember this trivia.
Georgie smiled in spite of herself. “I think you’re talking about Misery.”
Stein snapped her fingers. “Yeah, that’s it. Misery! Did you see the movie? I thought that Kathy Bates was wonderful.”
“Yeah,” Georgie grudgingly agreed, “I didn’t really buy the premise, but it was a heck of a movie I’ve got to admit.” They paused to chuckle a little at that.
“But I digress,” Stein finally said after wiping the merriment from her eyes. Then, realizing that she was still holding the microphone, she flipped the switch and intoned in a perfect imitation of a police dispatcher in the old movies, “Calling car two. Calling car two. Please respond.”
A distorted crackling sounded and a rather scratchy voice said, “This is car two. What y’all want, Trudy?”
“Officer Blake, we’ve got a woman here who’s lost a guy and we need you to canvas the strip and ask everybody in the hotels, the people in the restaurants, anyone, if they’ve seen him. I’m going to turn the microphone over to this woman who will give you a description of the missing person.”
There was a silence of several seconds, then Blake responded, “Copy that, Trudy. But have a heart. Me and Jack are supposed to get off at six.”
“Stand by,” responded Stein, then clicked off the transmitter switch and said to Georgie, “this could take several hours. You say you’re from a film production company? Think you could possibly make it worth their while? You know what I mean.”
Georgie heaved a high. She knew it was coming sooner or later and she was prepared for it. “How about five hundred that they can split if they do a thorough search of the strip by ten or eleven tonight?”
“That sounds fair enough,” said Sergeant Stein, already extending her palm and rubbing her thumb over it in the universal symbol of Let’s have the money, if you please.
Georgie reached into her purse, extracted the money she had brought with her from the office safe, and counted out five one hundred dollar bills into Stein’s hand. Then she added another to the pile and said, “For your trouble.”
Stein responded by closing her fist over the bills and quickly inserting them into the center drawer of her desk. Then she switched on the microphone again and said briskly, “Five big ones, Bill. Finish by ten. Okay?”
A happier-sounding Blake responded immediately, “Roger, Trudy. We copy.”
“I’m going to let the lady talk directly to you, Bill. She’ll give you a description.” She handed the microphone over to Georgie and flipped the switch for her.
“Well,” said Georgie, “he’s about forty-four years old, white guy, about six-one, one seventy-five, medium built, light brown hair and eyes, clean shaven, no glasses, and usually,” she couldn’t help adding, “usually has a stupid grin on his face, particularly if he’s had a few, which he probably has.” Georgie realized she was venting her frustration here and stopped talking long enough for Blake to answer, “Tell you what would help. Have you got a picture of the guy?”
She said she did and Blake responded, “Well, tell you what. We’ll stop by the station and pick it up. There’s a Kinko’s on the strip that does color copying. We can get some copies made up and get them to everyone on the strip. That should help some, huh?”
Georgie said that it would, then reached into her tote bag again and produced a publicity glossy that showed a grinning Gil in a fake director pose, both hands in front of him as if he were framing a camera shot. She handed it to Sergeant Stein.
She took the microphone back as well and said, “All right, Officers Blake, Milton, you have your orders. Anything further?”
“Not ‘cept those five C’s,” Blake responded quickly.
“You can pick them up at the station when you get the picture,” Stein said. “Over and out.” She flipped the switch off and returned the microphone to its stand. Then she turned to Georgie and said, “Well, that’s the best we can do. Why don’t you go on back to your hotel and we’ll call you tonight either if we find him or if we don’t. Then we can talk about how to proceed from there if you want to. Meanwhile I’ll call the hospital and make sure no one fitting that description has been admitted. That satisfy you?”
“I guess for now,” Georgie said, turning to go. “And thank you Sergeant, you’ve been a big help.”
“Don’t mention it,” Stein said and opened the center drawer and began to fondle the bills in a reassuring manner. “All in a day’s work, you know.”
By the time Georgie got back to the hotel, it was only around 6:30 and her dinner date with Rosie wasn’t until 8:00. So she contented herself with banging the bell on the front desk, frightening Fast-Draw Frankie out of his wits and imperiously summoning Walter because she had no key to enter the room.
Walter let her in and then respectfully said, “Will there be anything else ma’am?”
“No,” she replied, gracing him with another fiver. “You’ve been very helpful.”
“Always glad to be of service, ma’am,” he said, closing the door behind him quietly.
As she still had well over an hour, she decided to busy herself by taking a shower and changing her clothes. She was in the middle of watching Entertainment Tonight on the big screen television when Rosie burst into the room, excited as all get out.
Divesting herself of three large shopping bags she began pulling garments out of them and waving them at Georgie saying, “You won’t believe what I was able to buy for only a hundred and twenty dollars. Just wait till I put them on and show them to you.” She wiggled her hips in a rather lascivious manner. “You won’t believe how fantastic I look.” And then without waiting for a reply, she gathered up her bags again, stuffing the garments back into them, and fled to the bedroom, shutting the door behind her.
For the next half-hour Rosie paraded in and out of the bedroom, now wearing this ensemble, now that one, and it wasn’t until nearly eight-thirty that she had run out of clothing to show Georgie. Deciding that for the rest of the evening she would wear the last dress she modeled, she came over and sat down on the sofa beside Georgie and said in a more controlled voice, “Well? What do you think?”
Georgie decided that a little gushing wouldn’t hurt. “I think they look just marvelous, dear,” she enthused, “and they fit you so well. Did you have them altered?”
“No!” said Rosie. “Would you believe it? These are all just off the rack!”
Georgie shook her head in wonderment, not so much at the clothes, stylish as they were, but at her feelings for Rosie. She had, against her better judgment, developed maternal feelings for this intelligent and capable but chirpy little girl she had known for only about two weeks. She made a silent vow that whatever happened she would protect this girl, take her under her wing so to speak.
Rosie’s voice broke her reverie. “Well, hey,” she said, “look at me. I’m going on as if it’s all about me. So what happened with you? Did you go to the police?”
“Yes,” Georgie replied. “I went to the police, they’re going to have two men search the strip—that’s the road you came in on—this evening and I’m supposed to get a call around ten or eleven. But right now we’d better head downstairs if you want dinner. Didn’t you say they stop serving at nine?”
Rosie looked flustered. “Omigod, you’re right. I completely forgot. Just give me five minutes.” She rushed into the bedroom and within the allotted time came back out with slightly altered makeup, more neatly brushed hair, and a large purse. “Shall we go?” she said.
“By all means,” said Georgie, getting up. “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.”
“I hope the food is okay with you,” said Rosie as they left the suite and headed for the stairs. “It’s pretty plain stuff but it’s good, mostly what you’d call country cooking.”
“Sounds great to me,” said Georgie. Then she put her hands on her hips and rolled them suggestively. “You’re looking at the original soul food mama. I was born and raised in Kansas City and I never met a T-bone I didn’t like.”
Laughing, they went downstairs together and entered the chronically underpopulated dining room, where only two other tables were occupied. Georgie had the aforementioned, while Rosie settled for what the restaurant called the KFC special: Kansas fried chicken, cole slaw, and potato salad. After chocolate cake for dessert, they went back up to the room and were soon engrossed in an HBO showing of Pretty Woman.
An hour and a half later as the movie was nearing its climax and they were working their way through their second dessert—pieces of banana cream pie that room service had been coerced into delivering by Angry Black Woman—the phone suddenly rang.
“That’s probably the police,” Georgie said, rising. “You just stay here and enjoy the rest of the movie. I’ll take it in the bedroom.”
Engrossed in the story Rosie merely nodded her head and kept shoving pie into her mouth while Georgie tiptoed into the bedroom and softly closed the door.
She answered the bedroom extension and was surprised to immediately hear a rather deep man’s voice inquiring politely, “May I speak to Ms. Georgette Jordan?”
“Speaking,” said Georgie curtly, expecting that it was some hotel employee maybe giving her grief about the after-hours room service, and she was just getting ready to give the hapless person another piece of her mind when the voice spoke again saying, “This is the chief of police. My name’s Eliot. Tom Eliot.”
“Oh, Chief Eliot,” Georgie said, reversing gears as quickly as possible and bringing her voice back to the polite level.
“Trudy—Sergeant Stein—told me about your problem,” he said. His voice was folksy but reasonably well-educated. “We have a standing policy that if anything out the ordinary happens when I’m off duty, Trudy is to call me on the two-way.”
“It’s very good of you to call,” said Georgie. “So, you completely understand my little problem then?”
“Yes,” he said, “and as far as having anything to report, there’s really not much. Blake and Milton just came back to the station about half an hour ago and made their reports. They did turn up one thing in their canvassing of the strip but it doesn’t seem to lead us anywhere.”
“Oh?” said Georgie, hopeful that any scrap of information, however small, might be of some help. “And what did they find out?”
“Well,” Eliot replied, “there’s this club on the strip, actually more of a strip joint really, called Nunzio’s. Your boy was definitely seen in there last night by the doorman, whose name is Guido. He’s what you might call a reformed lowlife and since, at least by the way he tells it he’s been straight for the last five years, he’s always eager to cooperate with the police department. He said he saw your man enter the club alone shortly before one o’clock last night, or this morning if you prefer, about the time the last, ahem, show was being presented. According to Guido he sat down by himself at a small table after ordering a drink, had two or three more, and when last call was made, about 1:45 or 1:50, he simply got up from the table and left he club. Guido said he wasn’t with anyone and didn’t, as far as he knows, talk to anybody or meet anybody for about the forty-or-so minutes he was there. However, Guido didn’t see which direction he went after he left the club as he, Guido, was busy making sure the patrons didn’t sneak out the club with alcohol, as this is against the municipal ordinance about drinking in public. So,” he concluded, “we’re sort of at a dead end here. Nobody seems to have seen him in the last—let’s see now—nearly twenty-four hours or so.” Now his voice took on a sort of slyness that Georgie recognized from her years in Hollywood. “I’m not sure what we can do from here, Ms. Jordan. It looks to me like it’s gonna be a mighty big job. I think Trudy—Sergeant Stein that is—probably told you about our problem, being understaffed and underfunded? Now, tomorrow is Sunday. I could, under the right circumstances, get four of our remaining six officers out early to canvas the neighborhoods and see if maybe your boy is holed up in somebody’s house for some reason or if anybody happened to see him since last night. So what we’re gonna do here is”—here his voice became a little softer as he moved away from the telephone—”take this down, Sergeant Stein. We’ll have, let’s see, we could have Bobby Frost and Charlie Sandberg do the south face, they live over in that area anyway, and we’ll get Gwen Brooks and Wally Whitman to check out the north face.” His voice became stronger as he turned his mouth to the phone. “By around nine tomorrow morning I could have them doing a door-to-door, but it sure would be nice if you could come by the station sometime tomorrow and drop off some of those, uh, calling cards like the five you gave to Sergeant Stein. After all, your boy is a hotshot Hollywood director, isn’t he?”
Georgie bit her lip but replied politely, “Yes, I guess you could call him that.”
“So I was thinkin’,” Eliot continued, “that probably another ten o’ those calling cards could keep my officers out on the street and trying to solve your problem for as long as it takes. Now whadda y’all say to that?”
Georgie did a mental accounting of what she still had in her purse. Another thousand would still leave her with about three hundred even after the money she had spread around the hotel as a goodwill gesture. Oh well, she thought, in for a penny, in for a pound. If we don’t find him, everyone’s going to scream at me, a few thousands dollars one way or another won’t amount to much anyway. “All right, chief,” she said pleasantly. “I’ll be in sometime tomorrow morning and I will bring those calling cards with me.”
“That’s real nice of you, Ms. Jordan,” Eliot purred. “Shall we say till tomorrow then?”
“You got it, chief,” said Georgie, hanging up the phone before she lost control and said something decidedly unladylike.
She returned quietly to the couch and, noticing that the last few minutes of Pretty Woman were still to come she made no comment until Julia Roberts was in Richard Gere’s arms and Rosie had obligingly shut off the set.
“So,” said Rosie, “any news?”
“Not really,” said Georgie. “He was spotted leaving some bar down the street about closing time last night but apparently that’s the last anyone’s seen of him. I just don’t know what to make of it. I mean, I can understand a guy like Gil just getting fed up with the whole scene and deciding on the spur of the moment to just get away from it all, whether temporarily or permanently. But the thing that keeps sticking in my mind is, he left his car here. He loves his car, he calls it his baby. He wouldn’t have gone a mile without that car—voluntarily, at least.” She pulled herself back out of her thoughts and continued. “Anyway, I just got off the phone with what passes for the chief of police around here, and he said that he would be glad to have the whole town searched if I would, in essence, pay for it. So I figured, well, what the hell, another thousand here or there. Know what I mean?”
Rosie nodded her head encouragingly.
Georgie’s voice took on a confiding tone. “You may or may not know this honey, but FineHall Productions is worth a pretty sizable chunk of change. At least twenty or thirty million and that’s probably a low estimate.”
“Wow,” breathed Rosie, “I had no idea.”
“Not many people do,” replied Georgie. “Natalie likes to keep things under the radar, if you know what I mean, but she’s not above throwing her weight around. Let me tell you a little story. I mean, don’t get me wrong, Natalie is one of the nicest, kindest, most pleasant women, as long as she gets her own way. When she doesn’t she is the stereotypical bitch on wheels. When I first joined the company as office manager about five years ago, Gil would periodically lecture—in a nice way of course—about being sure to play nice with Natalie, as he put it. Even back then she rarely came into the office but when she did, it was with the air of a general inspecting her troops. Anyway, Gil told me the story about an incident that happened, I guess it must have been about 1989. I know it was right after they’d been nominated for Running Against the Wind and I guess Natalie was feeling like a big shot or something. Anyway, she and Gil decided to go to Spago’s, you know, that really swank Hollywood restaurant where all the stars go to be seen, if you know what I mean.”
Rosie nodded her head again. “Hey, I know that much about Hollywood. Go on.”
“Well, she and Gil walked into the place without reservations and it’s about eight o’clock on a Saturday night. I mean, you could look around and see that every table was filled. So she marches up—this is the way Gil tells it—marched up to the maitre d’ and demands a table. He of course looks around in a very hesitant manner and says, I’m sorry madam, but there is no way I can get you a table. It’s going to be at least thirty minutes or more before a non-reserved table is free. So Gil can see that Natalie is starting to get steamed and he tries to defuse the situation by telling her okay, that’s not so bad, let’s have a couple of drinks at the bar. But Natalie is having none of it and goes, Don’t you know who we are? And proceeds to tell the maitre d’ in no uncertain terms. The maitre d’ looks a bit bewildered and says, No, I don’t believe I do know who you are. Then she says, I bet if we were Tom Cruse and Jane Fonda you’d come up with a table pretty damn quick. But the maitre d’ just shrugs, I’m sorry madam, there’s nothing I can do at the moment. So then Natalie starts screaming about him being an anti-semite and how she’s going to spread it all over town that Spago’s discriminates against people of the Jewish persuasion. Of course by this time Gil is totally embarrassed. So Natalie grabs his arm and turns on her heel and stalks out of the restaurant in what Gil describes as a very haughty manner.”
“Wow,” said Rosie again. “That’s unbelievable.”
“That ain’t nothin’,” replied Georgie, obviously relishing the effect she was having. “Wait till you hear the punch line. The next day, Sunday, around the middle of the day Natalie gets a phone call from Wolfgang Puck himself, begging her not to spread the news around, etcetera, etcetera, and offering her a complimentary—on the house—dinner for two anytime she chose, just give him an hour’s notice and he’d make it happen. Gil was in the room when she got the phone call. The way he tells it, she hung up the phone and with a look of savage triumph on her face she said, ‘See? This is the way you get things done in Hollywood.’
“So,” Georgie continued, “you can see why I don’t exactly relish telling Natalie about Gil’s disappearance. If they don’t find him tomorrow, and I really don’t think they will, we’re gonna have to leave and go back to LA. And then there’s going to be hell to pay.”
Rosie bit her lip and said in a small voice, “I know it sounds like I’m just being selfish or something, but what’s going to happen to me? You know, the office, my job, and all that?”
Georgie put a comforting arm around Rosie’s shoulder. “Don’t you worry about that, honey. No matter what happens I know this much for sure, Natalie is not going to fold the company. The office will stay just like it was on Friday. So don’t worry about that. When we get back to LA first thing I’m going to do is call Money. That’s George Mooney, our CFO. He always has a soothing affect on Natalie and can usually talk her back down into something resembling sensibility and logic. As far as the next picture goes our AD, Nan—that’s Nancy Chaney—is probably just as capable of directing the film as Gil would be, particularly given Gil’s obvious distaste for the subject. I mean, that’s why you came up here in the first place, right?”
“Yeah,” Rosie said, “he was kind of upset about not being able to think of a way to improve the script. He even asked me to help but I couldn’t come up with anything either.” She buried her face in her hands and with a slight sob said, “I keep thinking that this whole thing is somehow my fault. If I could have done something about the script or even gone to bed with him, whatever it took, he might not have done this—this—whatever he did.”
In response Georgie stood up and, with her arm still around Rosie’s shoulders, pulled her up as well. “Don’t even give it another thought,” Georgie said, directing Rosie towards the bedroom. “Let’s get some sleep. Tomorrow I’ll deal with the cops and we’ll just see what happens.” She looked around the bedroom and then said, “Which bed should I take?”
“That one over there near the bathroom,” Rosie said. Her lower lip started to quiver. “That was the bed Gil was going to sleep in but I guess…I guess…he never got to use it.”
Georgie crossed the room and put her arm once again around Rosie. “Now don’t talk that way,” she admonished her. “You now what men are. I mean, you should by now. Men do things that aren’t sensible. That aren’t practical and aren’t even lots of times good for them. But they seem to think that just because they’re men they’ve got a right to do it.”
“Yeah,” Rosie said thoughtfully. “I know what you mean. I haven’t had that much experience with men but my brothers were kind of like that.”
“So,” Georgie said, her tone now cheerful and upbeat as she released Rosie and went around to her bed, “don’t give it another thought. It’s not your fault and it’s not your problem. And besides,” she said, giving Rosie a wink, “think of the story you’re gonna have for your friends.”
Rosie brightened visibly at this and a note of unbidden excitement came into her voice as she replied, “Yeah, wait till I tell the guys at Stella Adler!”