Les Folies: Trois
Bannock’s head rested on his laced fingers, a straw hat low over his eyes. One leg dangled out of the huge cotton hammock, an occasional flick of his toe keeping him in a gentle rocking motion. He kept his eyes on the view down to Privassion Creek and the valley below, taking in all the delicate and charming graces of Blancaneaux lodge, but mostly the foreground of view of Loris giving a very intense massage to Shane Black.
Not, rather pointedly, on Kenny and Gareth sitting forward in their cane chairs, their positions and faces advertising supplication.
Or even on Curtsy, perched on a table over by the wall and moving her head back and forth to follow the conversation. She’d been following the “Melrose Mafia”, as Loris called them, for three days, practically underfoot. Gareth actually saw possibilities in her for the film–apart from his more immediate schemes for her lush flesh–and had really nailed her when he mentioned they’d need a dolphin wrangler and that Hollywood was practically begging for people who could get cetaceans on their marks.
Continuing his abject crawling to Bannock, Gareth wheedled, “Listen, Big Guy, you did a fabulous job getting oXo for us and it was very small of us to quibble over the money. We felt shitty immediately and hope you’ll accept…”
“Now you need something else,” Bannock said quietly, his eyes half closed as he watched Loris’ hands running over the writer’s shoulders in an almost hypnotic sequence.
“Well not really need,” Gareth said.
“And not so much else,” Kenny stuck in.
“Look, Bannock,” Gareth moved on with an urgency that indicated he might come to the point of their barging in on his siesta. “We’ve taken some meetings behind the skull, and now we’re here. Here in the same house with Coppola and Cage and Shane Black and Marty Bregman and Pacino might even show up and…”
“But we’re getting no love,” Kenny pouted. “We need interface, capische? Input, liaison, face time.”
“You want face time with a skull?”
“You know what he means,” Gareth almost begging for sympathy and succor. “We’ve got access, the director of all time, building a cast…and we can’t talk to oXo.”
“Did you call his agent at Morris?”
“Just fucking with you, man. You need some answers from oXo.”
“Exactly. You nailed it.”
“Well, you came to the right place.”
Gareth turned to Kenny, gushing. “I told you. This man has a few rough spots on his diamond, but he delivers.”
“I didn’t say ‘the right person’. I said the right place.” When Gareth stared, puzzled, he nodded his head at Loris, now working on Black’s fingers as he seemed to be liquefying.
“Of course. Didn’t I tell you, Kenny…”
“You most certainly did not ‘tell me, Kenny’. You said…”
“Okay, okay. But look, do you think she’d…”
“Ask her when she’s done tenderizing Mr. Kissy Kissy Bang Bang, there. And you guys might consider having her work you out, too. You’re both way too uptight.”
Gareth looked at Loris, now kneading the soles of Shane’s feet, and approved. Even Kenny seemed open to having a woman put her hands all over him. “So when will she be done?”
“A massage therapist’s job is never done,” Bannock said with mock gravity. “But I’d say that guy’ll be medium well in about another twenty. Long as you’re up, could you shag me a beer?”
Townsend flowed into the dark bedroom like moonshadow. Moving silently but surely, he took a position in a dark corner to await alarms and gauge the breathing from the bed. He held his fist up to his face, reading his responder without releasing the tiniest amount of glow from the LED’s which were all working overtime in the immediate presence of their obscure object of acquisition. It took two reads before he believed it was sitting in plain sight on the dresser. He ghosted over and scanned it, his stylish glasses giving him a view of it, all twisting, psychedelic color-maps with digits dancing at the sides of the projection. Just sitting there.
Just sitting there in the middle of a big, confused pile of silverware from the dining room, two glass windchimes from the pavilion, and various other odds and ends piled up in a gleaming game of Pick Up Stix. He bent as close as he could without his display feeding back too much to read, but knew there was no way to remove the teetering cage of noisy junk without toppling it onto the steel tray it rested on. Shit. Well, more ways than one to get a cat skin.
He crept to the door sticking close to the walls, opened the door six inches noiselessly, and exuded.
On the bed, Aphra watched the dim triangle of light on the ceiling narrow and disappear before relinquishing the butt of her Detonix, under the pillow. That man was a thief in the night, that’s for sure. Could feel you up and knock you up but not wake you up, no doubt.
Speaking of which. She slid her arm softly over Copper’s ribcage and cupped her firm breast. With just the tip of a fingernail, she gave a tiny pluck at the end of her nipple. No response from the redhead, who must be pretty exhausted, all told. So she scissored two fingers around said nipple and started to move them slowly together and apart. It took about a dozen little squeezes like that before she felt a hand reach back, grab her pubic tangle, and slide down to cup her warmth and do a little finger-walking of their own.
Loris sat in a lotus position, regarding the producers with a neutral calm. Behind her, Shane Black was snoring lightly on the massage table. She thought out the two metrosexuals’ dilemma, to the point where they were about ready to jump out of their skins from anticipation, and said, “Have you tried drugs?”
“Well, I’ve experimented a little,” Kenny offered demurely.
“Tried them?” Gareth expostulated. “He’s like indicted them. Convicted them. He’s like, rounded them up and exterminated them.”
“She means on oXo, you twit.” Bannock continued his slow rocking motion and languorous expression.
“How could we do that?” Kenny asked, genuinely stumped. “Maybe a sort of inverse bong-out?
“Kenny,” Loris said, “He doesn’t breathe. He’s a rock.”
Gareth pointed two pistol fingers at her. “You are, baby.”
“Oh, so now he’s just a rock?” Kenny whined. “Before, he was some ascended soul brother.”
“He’s a great, transcended oversoul. He’s a spirit, a mind. But then so am I. We all are. But here’s the deal with him, and it’s kind of sorry, really. He’s been in shifty hands around L.A. for a long time and he’s picked up, basically, a nagging drug habit. He’s the ultimate monkey man. Likes to bring people around him and interact with them when they’re stoned. He’s right in your mind when you blow it and he likes the feeling.”
Gareth stared at her. “So he surrounds himself with telepathically linked stoners and feeds off their energy?”
“If you want to put it like that.”
“Not a problem. I’ve worked with directors like that before.”
“And he’s worked with weaselish Hollywood types before you two. That might help. But maybe not.”
“What? Other producers and directors have had access to him? Why haven’t we heard about this before? Part of the appeal here is novelty…”
“I only know a couple of names, but they’re big names, that I recognize.”
“Name me one,” Kenny challenged with his lip stuck out stubbornly.
“Oh my God, don’t even bring that name up.” Kenny held his hands to his cheeks, stricken. “I could just sob every time I see that perfect face. And the hair to die for.”
“Not the only bodily fluid you seep out at the very thought, I’m sure,” Gareth observed waspishly. “But look, if he’s such a great seer and fortune teller and all that, it didn’t seem to help River much did it?”
“Because he wasn’t listening. Or asking the right questions.”
Kenny shot a look at Gareth. “This is getting complicated.”
“It always does,” Loris admonished. “Because you turkeys always think he’s a wild joker to cheat with or an ego medallion you can use like bling or a hood ornament. You have access to unlimited energy and use it to pull your puds, then go to smash in your own greed and silliness. You don’t need to worry about him helping you, you need to worry about ending up worse off than when you started. Take my word for that. Or do whatever you want.”
“Okay, what can I say?” Gareth saw no point in getting cute with Loris: she saw through everything he threw out. “You got me… I’m a weasel, I play angles. I got needs. So kill me. But I need to…. see?”
“Maybe you can hire somebody else to ask questions for you,” Kenny sniped bitchily. “Some slut who had a three month run on Jeopardy.”
“Shut up, Kenny. No, wait, wait a second, you’re right. I got it.” He turned back to Loris, excited, “You know how to work him, don’t you?”
“I definitely don’t know ‘how to work him’. Haven’t you been listening to me? It’s more like I’m learning how to let him work me. He’s an influence.”
“More like under the influence to hear you tell it.”
“You paid a quarter million dollars for him, don’t you think it’s worth listening a little?”
That shut Kenny up but Gareth had seen the Route To Riches. “Yeah, yeah, that’s what I’m saying. I’m seeing it now. We need you. On the picture.”
“Look, if you’re just going to play Hollywood games, I…”
“No, no, serious. We need somebody to liaise here. F2F peripheral. We’ll put you on salary, you handle him for us.”
Loris thought a minute and said, “I can handle that.”
Gareth looked at Bannock, who had turned his head toward them as soon as he started talking about using Loris. “Full salary, above the line. No points, but hey, gimme a break. On the production payroll as of now. What I’m saying, she’d have a job and we’d treat her right.”
In a low tone, almost a growl, Bannock said, “That’s what I’d suggest.”
“Sure, Biggie, no problemo. We’ll list her as a scout.”
“I was a scout once,” Kenny mused idly.
“Really? Did you make Eagle?” Bannock asked him.
“Double bogie, I think they said.”
“Look, she’s on the film.” Gareth scrambled to get back on track, nail it down. “You come along. No pay…hell we already paid you. We’ll take care of her.”
“If you know what’s good for you.”
“You bet, Bannock. Might even be a speaking part for you in this.”
“You talk like you’ve seen a script,” Loris said evenly.
“Nah, sorry,” Gareth grinned apologetically. “Just reflex. It’s my nature. See, that’s why we need you.”
“First thing we’re going to do,” Loris said with an understated forcefulness, “Is clean up his aura. Give him a nice bath.”