Cold Open, A Tale of Modern Hollywood // Chapter 8. The Headshot

25 min read

Teddy’s adventure began a little less than three hours before his desperate call to Nina. He had stopped by his apartment just long enough to throw on his lucky brown corduroy jacket and pick up the Colt revolver he intended to intimidate Justin Rodenko with, and by about eight he was driving through an unfamiliar section of Downtown LA toward the Frink Building. The street on which it was located was particularly dark and foreboding so Teddy was relieved to see the bright lights emanating from the far corner of the block. Driving towards them, he noticed a garish neon sign which proudly proclaimed “24 Hr Tacos”. Luckily there was an empty parking space on a brightly-lit portion of the street just around the corner and Teddy wasted on time pulling into it.

He opened his glove compartment, took out the revolver and tucked it into the waistband of his Dockers, then buttoned his jacket, smoothing it down to make sure no bulge appeared. He got out of his BMW, made sure it was securely locked, then walked down the street to the Frink.

The Frink was an old faded brown brick building four stories high that looked entirely unprepossessing on the outside. To the left of the door were four buzzers. Teddy studied the buzzers for a moment before spying one that read “Rodenko Productions” and then pressing it.

A harsh-sounding voice answered, “Yah?”

“Is Justin there?”

“Who vants to know?”

“Tell him Teddy Sunnegaard of Seesaw Productions is here to see him.”

There was a pause and then the voice answered, “Okay. Take the elevator up to the fourth floor.”

The buzzer sounded, the door unlocked, and he pushed it open. He looked around the dim lobby. It appeared to be a largely unused area, although stacked against the wall were a number of frayed canvases surrounded by old cans of dried paint and a number of glass jars containing opaque liquids in which paintbrushes of various sizes stood stiffly. Wrinkling his nose with distaste at the pervasive chemical smell, Teddy fingered the butt of his revolver through his coat for reassurance and went confidently to the elevator.

He took the elevator to the fourth floor, where it stopped and its doors opened, revealing a steel-barred locked gate. Behind the gate were two very tall, blond, and very powerfully-built young men in T-shirts and jeans that seemed to strain at their bulging muscles.

Teddy attempted his most winning smile. “Is this Rodenko Productions?” Their stares were a little unsettling.

“Who may ve say is calling again?”

“Seesaw Productions. Teddy Sunnegaard.”

One of the young blond men said to the other, “Ask him about his papers.”

“Yah, you’re right,” answered the other one, then turned to Teddy. “Vere are your papers? You have some identification?”

“ID? Oh, yeah, yeah!” answered Teddy, trying not to sound flustered. He quickly dug in his back pocket and took out his wallet, from which he pulled out a card and handed it to the young man through the bars of the gate.

The young blond man inspected the card intently. “Seesaw Productions,” he read. “Teddy Sunnegaard, President. Okay, come in.” Then he unlocked the gate and pulled it wide open.

“Thanks,” said Teddy as he strode in and looked around. He found himself standing in a large room that consisted of high ceilings, exposed beams and bare brick walls. There were a couple of closed doors in back which he imagined led to bedrooms. But the front room, although it was large, was sparsely furnished with cheap plastic chairs and tables, and very little else. In one corner was a long unfinished wooden table upon which was a computer with a large screen and a variety of expensive-looking video cameras and equipment.

He stuck out his hand and shook both of theirs one at a time. “Pleased to meet you both. You can call me Teddy.”

“I’m Kurt,” said the slightly taller one.

“I’m Friedrich,” said the other.

“So, you two work for Rodenko Productions?”

“Ve are interns,” said Kurt.

“From Salzburg,” said Friedrich.

Teddy nodded knowingly. “Interns. That’s great. It’s a great way to learn the business, you know.”

“The…business?” said Kurt, sounding puzzled.

“The movie business.”

“Oh, yah, yah,” agreed Friedrich enthusiastically.

“I, uh, don’t suppose I could have a couple of minutes with your boss?” asked Teddy.

Kurt turned and bellowed loudly. “Hey, Rodenko! Someone’s here to see you.” When there was no answer, he walked over in the direction of the closed rooms.

Alone for a moment with Friedrich, Teddy awkwardly shifted his feet, then asked if he could sit down.

“Be my guest,” said Friedrich. Teddy took one of the plastic chairs while Friedrich took another one facing him.

“So, you’re a filmmaker,” said Teddy.

“Filmmaker? Oh, yah, yah. I am, like you say, learning the business.”

“So who are your favorite directors? Fassbinder, I bet. Or Werner Herzog? Wertmüller, maybe?”

Friedrich shook his head. “Uwe Böll,” he replied.

“Uwe Böll!” said Teddy. “You mean the guy who directs all those video games turned into movies?”

“Yah. You ever see Blood Rayne?”

“I’m afraid I’ve never had the pleasure.”

“I like his style,” said Friedrich with a solemn nod.

At this point a man with bushy dark hair of average height but solid build, who could have been anywhere from twenty-five to forty, emerged from the back.

“Hey, Friedrich,” he said, “why don’t you go lift some weights with your brother? I’ll take care of our visitor.”

With unusual lightness of foot, Friedrich rose and disappeared into the other bedroom.

The dark-haired man held out his hand. “I’m Justin Rodenko. What can I do for you?”

Teddy got up from his chair and shook it. “Teddy Sunnegaard, Seesaw Productions. I’ve heard some good things about your work.”

Justin took the chair that Friedrich had vacated and Teddy sat down at the same time. “Oh yeah? Like what?”

“Well,” said Teddy smoothly, “for one thing, I’ve heard you’re real cutting-edge. That when it comes to working with the new technology, you’re the go-to guy.” He pointed toward the worktable. “I see you’ve got the latest model of digital there. Must have cost you a mint.”

“I need the good stuff for my work. So what are you, a camera dealer?”

“No, I’m a director. A director-producer.”

“What’s your name again?” Teddy told him. “Never heard of you,” said Justin. “You ever work with the studios?”

“Sure,” answered Teddy.

“Which ones?”

“Well, Paramount. And a couple of others.”

“Movies or TV?”

“Both.”

Justin considered this information while staring at Teddy intently. “Okay, Sonny — ”

“Sunnegaard. Call me Teddy.”

“Yeah, whatever, let’s get down to business. What is it exactly you’ve come here for?”

Teddy smiled again. “As I said, I could use your expertise. I think we could do some great work together.”

“Hmm. Can you get me into the studios?”

“Perhaps.”

“You know I had some interest in my work over at Universal.”

“You mean over in Development?”

“Are you shittin’ me?” exclaimed Justin. “I’m talking about a star. In fact the biggest star that fuckin’ studio ever had.”

“Had?”

“Yeah…” he said more quietly. “She’s not around anymore.”

A warm feeling of complete clarity and control enveloped Teddy, and he said evenly, “You wouldn’t be talking about Dennie Dearman, would you?”

Justin’s reply was sharp. “What makes you say that?”

“Just a guess. Her murder’s been all over the papers. Tragic business, tragic, don’t you think?”

He got up and began to pace around. “Yeah, yeah, I guess you could say that. I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to tell you that we were tight, man.”

“That’s not what I heard.”

Justin stopped pacing. “Where the fuck did you get that?”

“In fact, scuttlebutt says you and Dennie had a falling out. Pretty recently, in fact.”

“That is bullshit. I loved that girl. And she was nuts about me.”

“Can you account for your whereabouts Tuesday night?”

“Tuesday night? I was here cutting videos.”

“Anyone with you?”

“Nope, the boys were out that night. Jesus, you talk like I need an alibi.”

Teddy slowly stood and unbuttoned his jacket. With one brisk move he pulled out his Colt and pointed it at Justin. “Yeah, maybe that’s just the kind of flimsy alibi you should be telling the police.”

To Teddy’s dismay, Justin appeared completely unaffected by his threat and only mildly surprised at seeing the gun aimed at him. “Man, what are you doing?” he said with an air of disgust. “You look like you’ve never pulled a gun on anyone in your life.”

“Untrue,” replied Teddy.

Justin cocked his head and squinted at him. “You know,” he said, tapping his forehead as if receiving an insight, “I think I have heard of you.” His voice grew louder. “You’re the guy, aren’t you? You’re the guy in the news! You’re that fucking guy!”

At this, the door of Kurt and Friedrich’s bedroom flew open and with astonishing swiftness Teddy felt a vise-like grip on his gun hand. Before he knew it Kurt had wrenched the Colt away and sent him crashing to the floor writhing in pain.

“Sit down,” Justin ordered, but Teddy remained on the floor, cursing and trying to shake some feeling back into his throbbing hand. Justin nodded to Friedrich, who grabbed him by the armpits and set him back in his chair.

Teddy looked up and upon seeing Justin cock his fist he flinched and closed his eyes. Then to his relief, he heard him chuckle and felt him gently tap his cheek. He opened his eyes.

“Listen, Sonny, that was one piece of shit you tried to pull,” said Justin in a calm yet sinister voice. “Did you really think you were gonna pin that fucking rap on me?”

“So,” said Teddy, with as even a voice as he could manage, “you had nothing to do with her murder.”

“Jesus fucking Christ!” Justin roared. “Why do I even have to say this? Did you even know what we were planning? Did you, you dumb fuck, all those times you were banging her?” Teddy shook his head. “We were gonna hold a press conference. We were gonna come out and declare our love and our eternal devotion to each other and our artistic partnership. You hear that? You have no idea how many people had a stake in that girl. She was going places. We were going places. Now look where I am! Right back where I started!” He pointed menacingly at Teddy. “And you are so gonna pay for that.”

“I didn’t kill her,” Teddy whimpered.

“Maybe you did, maybe you didn’t. The point is, she’s dead and so is my ticket to ride. So what are you gonna do about it?”

Teddy looked up at him, totally bewildered. “I — I don’t know if there is anything I can do.”

Justin then reverted to the businesslike tone he had used when Teddy first arrived. “Well, as a matter of fact, there is.”

“Yeah, yeah, name it,” said Teddy.

Justin was silent for a moment and then smiled. “I have a screenplay.”

Teddy exhaled in relief. “Okay, great! Just send it to me and I’ll take a look.”

Justin burst into a long hard laugh. “Are you fucking kidding me? When you’re already here in my home, enjoying my hospitality?”

“You have to understand,” said Teddy in a soothing voice, “there are certain protocols that have to be followed. I can’t just read every script that people throw at me. It has to be done in an orderly fashion.”

Justin bent down and thrust his face close to Teddy’s. “Listen, you dumb shit, I’m not applying for some lame-ass seminar at Sundance. This movie is going to the top and I’m taking it there any way I can. You hear me?”

Teddy didn’t answer. Justin nodded again, this time to Kurt, and immediately Teddy felt something hard and metallic pushed against his temple.

“Um,” he said, nervously clearing his throat, “so what’s the title?”

Justin slapped the arms of Teddy’s chair with enthusiasm. “Now you’re talking!” He sat down again in front of Teddy and turned to Friedrich. “Go get it and give it to Sonny here.”

Friedrich went to the work table, brought back a bound script and handed it to Teddy.

Teddy looked at the cover. “Kill and Be Killed,” he read. “Catchy title.”

“You think so?” said Justin, genuine pride in his voice. “I thought it up myself.”

“We-ell,” said Teddy, thumbing through the script and seeing that it was nearly two hundred pages, “this is really going to demand some concentration. You know, I’d really do better if I could just take it home with me.”

“Nah, don’t worry, we’ll take care of you,” said Justin. “We’ll get you whatever you want. What’s your poison? Brandy, whiskey, gin?”

“Perrier if you’ve got it.”

Justin turned to Friedrich again. “Go get him a glass of water, wouldja?” Friedrich disappeared into the kitchen in back.

“I’d also appreciate it,” said Teddy, confidence slowly returning to his voice, “if you could tell your intern to put down that pistol, which is my pistol by the way.”

“Sure. I don’t think you’re going anywhere just yet.” Justin nodded to Kurt, who lowered the Colt but remained standing where he was.

When Friedrich returned, he placed the glass of water on the floor near Teddy and stood beside his brother.

“This is going to take a little time,” Teddy said.

“Relax. We don’t have to be anywhere till midnight.”

With a sigh, Teddy turned to the first page.

As befitted a script called Kill and Be Killed, the opening scene began with a decapitation. To Teddy’s growing dismay as he read on, the scene was described in such elaborately gruesome detail it took eleven pages before the man who was doing the decapitating, who appeared to be the hero, finished the job.

Teddy put down the script for a moment, looked up to clear his head, and saw that Justin was watching him intently. He smiled at him as reassuringly as he could. “That’s some beginning,” he told him. “You’ve definitely got something here.”

Justin nodded enthusiastically. “Yeah, yeah, it’s great, isn’t it? Go on, it gets better.”

Obligingly, Teddy picked up the script again and continued reading. The plot, as far as he could tell, was fairly simple: The hero, a contract killer, discovers that a contract has been put out on him and spends most of the movie searching for the man who ordered him killed, pausing only to dispatch by the most violent means the seemingly endless series of assassins sent to try to kill him. But what made Justin’s script so lengthy, Teddy realized, were the involved and pathologically loving descriptions of the ways the hero kills off his would-be killers.

By the end of page 163, after the hero had eliminated the seventh hit man by hurling him screaming into the propeller of a taxiing airplane, Teddy checked his watch again. It was about fifteen after nine. Well and good. He was certain he could finish reading in another forty, forty-five minutes and be out of this madhouse soon. He picked up the glass of water and took a sip.

“How’re you doing?” asked Justin, who was still watching him intently. “Want anything stronger?”

“No, no, I’m fine,” said Teddy.

“How do you like it so far?”

“It’s — fascinating. One of the most original scripts I’ve read in a long time.” Justin grinned like a little kid at his remark. “But you know, as far as I can tell, you’ve got a hundred, maybe hundred and ten million budget here.”

“That’s great!” he exclaimed.

“You have to understand, though, you’re going to have to get some pretty big people interested to get big money like that.”

“So that’s where you come in, right? I mean, with your connections and everything.”

“Sure, sure.”

“Ve vould like in,” said Kurt.

“Don’t worry,” said Justin, “we’ll take care of you.”

“And ve get a salary?” Friedrich asked.

“Are you crazy? We’ll do better. We’ll throw you some monkey points.”

“Vat are you saying,” said Kurt, “that ve are monkeys?”

“No, no,” said Justin, “that’s just Hollywood slang for ‘monetary percentage’, see? It means that you’re both in to make a lot of money on this film. Because for you, we won’t take your percentage out of the gross, we’ll take it out of the net!”

“Und ve get to meet Uwe Böll,” said Friedrich.

“Absolutely.”

Justin shot Teddy a sly look, then said to him, “Looks like you’ve only got another thirty, forty pages. Finish it up, willya?”

“It’ll just take me a few more minutes.”

“Then we’ll have a celebration.”

“Uh, yeah, okay. No liquor though, I’m driving,” said Teddy.

“No problem,” replied Justin, and picked up Teddy’s glass. Seeing that it was nearly empty, he said, “Hey, I’ve got something that’ll make you feel really great.”

“What is it?”

“Pomegranate juice. With some special added ingredients,” said Justin.

“Actually,” said Teddy, “that sounds fine. I’ve been meaning to try pomegranate juice, it’s supposed to be some kind of rejuvenator.”

“Coming right up,” said Justin. He went into the kitchen and came out with a full glass which he handed to Teddy, and sat down again.

Teddy picked up the script from his lap, determined to speed-read the remaining pages and get the hell out of there. As he starting reading again he took first a tentative, then a long drink from the glass. “Say, this is good stuff,” he said.

“Good and good for you,” said Justin with an odd smile.

After a few minutes Teddy began to feel strangely comfortable with his situation. Maybe it was because Kurt was no longer pointing a gun at his head, or maybe it was because he was in his element again — being asked his advice on film scripts. Whatever it was, Justin’s tale of killers killing other killers was starting to look pretty wonderful to him. The director’s part of his mind was taking over, and he was starting to plan camera angles.

The climax, which consisted of the hero dismembering twenty-six ninja guards and finding and decapitating Mister Big at last, was written in lovingly graphic and gory detail. Teddy was completely captivated. There are things I could do with this scene, he thought with excitement, as he imagined himself being hailed as the new Quentin Tarantino.

When he finished reading the last page, he closed the script, put it down on his lap, and said simply but sincerely, “Wow.”

Justin came over to him and, bending down and gently patting his shoulders, said in a voice choked with emotion, “Man, that means a lot to me.”

“I’m…I’m just overwhelmed,” said Teddy. He handed Justin the script and stood up and stretched.

“So, how do you feel?” Justin asked.

“Umm…great,” he drawled, and patted Justin on the shoulders in the same friendly manner. “You know…you’ve got great biceps. You work out?”

“Yeah, Kurt and Friedrich are my trainers. Come over some time, we’ll do a session together.”

“Yeah, yeah…that sounds great.” For some reason Teddy felt like giggling, and did.

“Listen,” Justin said, “you’re part of Team Rodenko now. Anything you want, you got it. You like the good stuff? It’s yours. Plus I know the hottest girls in town. You’ll meet some of them tonight. Nice girls too, not like those skanks over at Chateau Marmont.” He noticed Teddy slumping back into his chair. “Hey man, you all right?”

“Um…listen, Justin,” said Teddy slowly with a bewildered look on his face, “I don’t mean to… insult your hospitality…but did you put anything in my drink?”

“Don’t worry,” said Justin brightly. “Nothing special, just a pinch of ground ginseng. And a Quaalude.”

Teddy paused, trying to think. “You’re saying… you dosed me with a ‘lude…”

“Yeah, man, some fag friends tell me it’s the drug of the disco era. I figured you’d get a kick out the retro experience.”

“I…I haven’t had a ‘lude since 1977.”

“See what I mean? Ain’t it cool?”

The drowsy, silly, sexy Quaalude feeling was coming back to him like an old acquaintance, and Teddy’s mouth widened into a sloppy grin. “Yeah, I guess so,” he sighed. “But I gotta lie down a little.”

“No problem,” said Justin. “Go stretch out on the bed for a few minutes. We got a party to go to.”

“Party?”

“Yeah, you’re coming too. Didn’t I promise you good stuff and great women? As a matter of fact,” he said, reaching into his pocket and taking out a cell phone, “tell you what. Let’s get this party started early.” He punched in a number and a few seconds later spoke into it seductively, “Hey baby?” Then he cupped his hand over the phone and called to his two interns who had been standing by silently all this time, “Kurt! Friedrich! Take Sonny boy to my room, willya? He needs to get really relaxed for tonight.”

At once Kurt and Friedrich did as they were bid, each taking one of Teddy’s arms and hoisting him to his feet and propelling him towards Justin’s bedroom. On the way they passed what Teddy guessed was their own room, and from the open door he could see above their weight rack a poster of Arnold Schwarzenegger in a scene from the movie that made him famous, Pumping Iron.

Catching Teddy staring at the poster, Kurt said, “You like our governor, yah?”

“I’m…a Democrat…” he answered tentatively.

“Ha ha!” said Friedrich. “Don’t vorry, he don’t bite.”

Once inside Justin’s bedroom they gently laid Teddy down flat on his back on a big soft fourposter strangely placed in the center of the room. He would really have found it quite relaxing had it not been for Kurt and Friedrich continuing to hover over him.

“How do you feel now?” asked Friedrich.

“Ummm…okay…” said Teddy dreamily, staring up at the wooden beams of the loft’s ceiling.

Kurt bent down close. “Just okay, huh? Vell, you’re gonna have a blast real soon,” he said, almost in a whisper.

Though the Quaalude’s effect was at its height, it didn’t prevent a sense of dread from seeping into Teddy’s consciousness, and he thought, Oh God, I’m about to get raped by these Nazi morons.

But barely a minute went by before Justin came in. “So how’s our boy doing?”

“He’s fine,” said Kurt.

“Great, great!” Like Kurt and Friedrich, he bent down and stared at Teddy. “Listen, Sonny, I’ve got a real treat for you. And this is just the beginning. Tonight we’re taking you to a — ”

Just then he was interrupted by first a clanging, then a clunking noise coming from the front room. Teddy recognized it as the sound of the elevator he had come up in.

“There she is,” said Justin. “Go let her in, would you?”

“Sure, boss,” said Kurt, and left the room. When he returned a few seconds later Teddy saw that Kurt had with him a short young woman in a diaphanous toga-like dress.

She went over to Justin and lightly kissed him. “Hey baby, what’s up? I was still getting ready for tonight.”

He brought her over to the side of the bed where she looked down at Teddy. “I want to you to meet our new partner,” he said. “He’s a real big shot in Hollywood. He’s going to get us the money to make the film.”

“Cool!”

Teddy looked up and returned the girl’s gaze. She wasn’t a raving beauty, but she was young, voluptuous and fairly attractive, with a round face, a wide nose, thick pink pillowy lips and a lustrous dark mahogany complexion. When she smiled she showed her gleaming white teeth.

“Sonny, this is my technical director. She lives downstairs. Maggie, say hello to Teddy Sunnegaard.” Justin pointed at Teddy playfully. “See? I got your name right.”

“Pleased to meet you, Mister Sunnegaard,” said Maggie. When Teddy didn’t answer, she turned to Justin. “So what’s he on?”

“Gave him a ‘lude.”

“Seems like it’s a little strong.”

“Nah, he’s having the time of his life. Trust me. So, what do you think?”

She looked down at him again. “I think he’s kind of cute.”

To Teddy it was all so disconcerting, almost as if he were a patient and they were doctors discussing him.

She spoke to him again. “Mister Sunnegaard? My name’s Maggie. I just want to say thank you for believing in our project and I’m sure we’re all going to get along really well.”

“You’re…welcome,” Teddy said drowsily.

Maggie turned back to Justin. “You think he’s really coming with us? I don’t think he’s in good enough shape to really enjoy himself.”

“The coke at the party’ll perk him up.”

“Yeah, but don’t you think he needs a little perking up now?”

“You know baby, you got a point. So are so smart!”

Maggie looked down at Teddy again and spoke to him in a strangely nurse-like tone. “Mister Sunnegaard? I’m going to make you feel really good but I don’t want to you worry, okay? You just lie back like you’re doing and I’ll do all the work.”

She moved to the foot of the bed and reached for the zipper of Teddy’s Dockers. In one smooth motion she unzipped them and pulled both them and his boxer shorts down around his knees. Then she climbed onto the bed and positioned herself on her knees between Teddy’s upper thighs and bent down toward his manhood which, to his horror, was starting to spring to life.

As Maggie was preparing Teddy, Justin appeared to be lost in thought. Chewing his knuckle thoughtfully, he stared at the scene before him. Finally he said, “You know…I haven’t tried that new lens out yet…”

“Great idea,” said Maggie. “I’ll wait.”

“Kurt! Friedrich!” said Justin. “Get the Sony!”

“Oh boy, ve are gonna make another movie!” exclaimed Friedrich as he and Kurt swiftly left the bedroom.

A mixture of terror, shame, and not a little bit of bewildered excitement swirled in Teddy’s drug-clouded brain. He tried to sit up but only succeeded in flailing his arms about weakly. “No, wait… You can’t do this… This is insane… Now see here, young lady…” he protested feebly, but by this time Maggie’s warm breath on his private parts was inflaming his sensibilities.

Kurt and Friedrich returned with the camera equipment.

“No tripod,” said Justin. “I’m going handheld for this one. Now this is what you call DIY, seat-of-your-pants, festival-worthy guerrilla filmmaking.”

“Not monkey filmmaking,” quipped Kurt, as Friedrich fitted on the new lens and handed the camera to Justin.

“All right. Gentlemen! Lights, please.” Kurt, who was nearest to the bedroom dimmer, turned it slightly to lower the bright overhead light by a quarter.

Justin attached the camera to its shoulder rest, placed it on his shoulder, and reached up to stretch out the thin sound boom to its maximum length. “Quiet on the set,” he said.

Maggie turned her head toward him and nodded slightly to indicate she was ready.

“Aaaand…action!”

Maggie steadied herself with the palms of her hands, bent down and began her work.

Teddy, meanwhile, was viewing the scene with simultaneous but conflicting emotions. On the one hand, part of him was enjoying the fruits of Maggie’s labor, while the other part of him watched, fascinated, by the antics of the three guerrilla filmmakers. But not antics, he decided on second thought, it was more in the nature of a well-precisioned close-order drill. Justin had begun the scene by shooting from the foot of the bed over Maggie’s busy head and shoulders, his camera lovingly zooming in on seemingly every part of Teddy’s body. Appearing to be satisfied, Justin grinned and pulled the camera back. This was when the drill began in earnest. Justin began stalking around the bed, his camera still focused on Teddy. Stealthily he moved round and round like a lion stalking its prey, while Kurt and Friedrich performed a graceful and silent backward-moving ballet by moving various articles of furniture out of their director’s way.

After several passes Justin gave a nod to Kurt, who approached him, bent down and grasped him by the ankles. Smoothly and silently he began to lift Justin up in the air, much as a car is raised on a hydraulic lift. Justin, meanwhile, made his body as rigid as he could as he was gradually lifted ever higher, his camera still focused on the scene below him. As Kurt’s arms began to extend upward to the level of his head, Justin nodded to Friedrich, who came forward and grasped him by his armpits. Justin was now in a prone position between the two interns and they began to carry him around the bed again with slow sure strides, still extending their arms until Justin was a good ten feet above the scene below. In this manner they made several more passes around the bed until Justin seemed satisfied and nodded to his men to begin reversing the process. Without breaking stride, they began to lower Justin back down to the ground, and when Justin was finally standing on the floor again, he nodded to everyone, Maggie included, and called out, “Cut!”

Maggie, having completed her labors in a most explosive manner, raised her head from between Teddy’s legs and daintily wiped her mouth with a tissue proffered by Kurt.

Justin handed the camera to Friedrich, who carefully laid it down on the dresser. Then Friedrich let out a whoop and gave Kurt a high-five.

“That was fan-tas-tic!” exclaimed Justin, lifting Maggie off the bed and giving her a big hug.

“I tell you,” said Maggie, after pausing to take a breath, “I didn’t know how long I could keep up the pace. I was so terrified my timing was going to be all off.”

“No, no,” he assured her, “it was great.” He turned to Kurt and Friedrich. “Get over here, boys.” As they approached him, Justin embraced them both with his free arm. “You know,” he said, overcome with emotion as they engaged in a group hug, “you are the best team an auteur could ever have. I mean it.”

Meanwhile on the bed Teddy began to sit up and with a little effort pulled his boxers and trousers up to some semblance of propriety. The volcanic climax he had just experienced had somehow caused his head to clear. Glaring at the group, he intoned in his darkest, most disapproving voice, “You people are all insane.”

Justin went up to him. “Hey, come on, Sonny,” he said in a conciliatory tone, “this is art, man, art. You’ve just been made a part of film history.”

“Art?” Teddy spluttered. “Is that what you call what you were doing? And don’t Sonny me. The name’s Sunnegaard. Mister Sunnegaard to you, you no-talent little schmuck. What the hell was all that stuff with the camera? Don’t you even know how to compose a shot?”

“Yeah? And what do you know about it, Pops?” Justin fairly shouted in Teddy’s face. “When’s the last movie you’ve done?”

“Fuck you,” said Teddy unconvincingly.

“Fuck you. You’re a fucking has-been, you’re all dried up. And don’t you dare call me a no-talent schmuck, you schmuck!”

Smiling nervously, Maggie went over to them and put her hand on Teddy’s arm, murmuring in a soothing voice, “Now, boys…”

Teddy jerked his arm away. “Take your hand off me, you — whatever it is you are,” he snapped. “Don’t touch me.”

Maggie pulled back as if he had struck her. “What? What did you say?”

Justin’s expression darkened. “Come on, man, that was low. She just gave you the time of your life.” He glanced over at Maggie and saw that she had begun to cry.

“Ohhh, baby…” he began comfortingly.

“This is bullshit, this is total bullshit,” she said, choking back her sobs.

Justin turned back to Teddy and glowered at him. “Why do you wanna do stuff like that, huh? Look what you did, you made Maggie cry! Man, I was watching you both. You had a moment, the two of you.” Teddy’s lips curled in disgust. “So what is it with you?” continued Justin. “Gentlemen prefer blondes or something? You’re a fucking pig, you know that?”

“Let it go,” said Maggie quietly.

But by this time Justin had worked up a full head of steam. “I’ll tell you,” he said to Maggie as evenly as possible but with a hint of menace, “I’ve been giving this some thought, and you know what? I think this guy might actually be enough of a creep to have killed Dennie.”

“Dennie Dearman?” gasped Maggie. “You mean this is the guy?”

“Yeah. This is the guy,” said Justin grimly.

“Now wait a minute — ” began Teddy.

“Shut up,” said Justin without looking at him.

“Should we call the police?” said Maggie.

“Yeah, we could. The stupid dickface pulled a gun on me. Kurt and Friedrich will testify to that.”

Kurt and Friedrich nodded.

“That’s it. That’s absolutely it,” said Teddy, starting to get up. “I’m leaving. This meeting is over.”

Without being ordered, Kurt and Friedrich went over to Teddy and pushed him back down flat on the bed.

“I’ve got another idea,” said Justin, with an odd look on his face.

“Ve love your ideas,” said Friedrich.

“Guys,” he said, “what do you say we drive over to Silver Lake and bring the party back here? We bring it back here and shoot it! And guess who gets to be the guest of honor!”

They all looked at Teddy.

“What are you talking about!?” said Teddy in a loud voice.

Justin ignored him and went on excitedly. “We hop in the van and go and cram it with all our friends. We come back here and have some fun with Pops before we call the police and turn him in. And we’ll film that too! It would make one hell of a video on YouTube. Maybe even go viral!”

“Hmm,” said Kurt thoughtfully.

“Ve are coming too?” asked Friedrich.

“No, you and Kurt stay here and watch our guest.”

“But ve vant to come!” he wailed.

“Oh, all right,” said Justin. “You big baby. But do something about him first.”

“I’ll get the handcuffs,” said Kurt, who went over to the dresser, opened a drawer and pulled out two old-fashioned but sturdy-looking pairs of manacles.

Kurt handed Friedrich one pair, then swiftly pulled up Teddy’s left arm and clamped one side of the handcuffs to his wrist and attached the other to the bedpost. Friedrich, in turn, pulled up Teddy’s right arm, but when he grabbed his wrist Teddy shrieked in pain.

“Looks like you really gripped him hard when you got the gun,” Justin remarked.

“Please don’t hurt him,” said Maggie, concern in her voice.

“Okay, baby, okay,” Justin assured her. “Just do his ankle and be done with it,” he instructed his henchman, and so Friedrich went down to the foot of the bed, took Teddy’s right ankle, cuffed it, and attached it to the corresponding bedpost. Teddy, sprawled on the bed, was now manacled diagonally.

“You better cut this out if you know what’s good for you,” said Teddy, defiant as ever. “Goddamnit, do you know who I am? I will have my lawyer down on you so fast you won’t know what hit you. You and your Gestapo friends over there.”

“Hey!” said Kurt sharply.

“And your little whatsis girlfriend over there.”

“You know,” said Justin, “I liked him better on Quaaludes. Just shut him the fuck up, would you?”

Friedrich went over to the dresser, reached into another drawer, took out a vial of pills, removed the cap and shook one out, then knelt on the bed on Teddy’s right arm and, with Kurt helping by prying open Teddy’s jaws, popped the pill into his mouth.

Teddy began to gag but finally involuntarily swallowed the Quaalude. Kurt patted him on the head and said, “Good boy.”

“All right, so that’s done,” said Justin to his interns. “You said you wanna come? So let’s go down and get the van. And let’s get this night rolling!”

Laughing with anticipation, Kurt and Friedrich preceded Justin and Maggie out of the bedroom. At the door, Maggie turned to Teddy and said, “Don’t worry, we won’t be long. We’ll be back in a few hours.”

Justin turned as well and, pointing a finger at him and, mimicking the firing of a gun, said, “See ya later, partner.” Then he switched off the lights and closed the door.

In the dark, Teddy heard the clanging of the elevator gate opening and closing, then silence. To his horror, he was gradually ceasing to feel frantic — the Quaalude was kicking in again. Get help! Get help! the remaining rational part of his brain was screaming. But he could think of only one person in the world who could help him.

With some effort he reached down with his free right hand and, with a little wriggling and a lot of pain, managed to grab hold of his Blackberry. Gingerly, very gingerly so as not to drop it, he pulled it out of his Dockers pocket. It was dark, but he felt with his thumb for what he hoped and prayed was the redial button and pressed it.

A woman’s bright voice answered on the other end.

“Is Nina there?” moaned Teddy into his cell phone. “Can I talk to her please?”

TO BE CONTINUED EVERY FRIDAY 13 MAY — 12 AUGUST 2022

NEXT: CHAPTER 9. THE CLOSE-UP

© Cantara Christopher 2012, 2022

:: SUPPORT MY FREE MINIPRESS AT KO-FI.COM ::

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s