Breakfast at Blancaneaux was delicious as ever, and the feeling on the open deck as delightful. But the big table surrounded by the twelve “interlopers”, as they’d been dubbed by the conference staff and paid attendees, wasn’t awash in taste or sensation. They huddled together trying to both come to grips with and avoid examining what had happened to them the night before.
“I wish you’d just tell us the whole works,” Copper pouted behind her freckles. “I’d say we’re all pretty involved in this by now.”
“And if it’s the end of the world you’re talking about, I’d like to cancel some engagements and break a few dates,” Aphra added, only halfway smiling.
“My guess, anybody you date or are engaged to is already broken,” Townsend said, but without any real spite.
MeiMei was more on beam. “When you talked about that… whatever it was… being the First Tone,” she asked, “Do you mean ‘tones’ like the date glyphs on the Mayan calendar? Because if so…”
“I’m telling you everything I know,” Loris said. “As it comes in.
I don’t know what’s happening, but I’m not questioning it.”
“Hard to question getting your ashes hauled that thoroughly,” Winston tossed out, pausing to burp. “Best safe sex I ever had.”
That was the first time any of them had made a direct reference to the most spectacular part of their evening soak in such terms. The general, unspoken, feeling in the group was that nobody had ever had such a sweeping, explosive, wringing, pyrotechnic, obliterating orgasm before, and maybe nobody would ever again. There was a pause, nobody making eye contact, then Loris spoke again.
“Oh, sorry. There’s also this. The four ‘tones’ are also known as ‘calls’. What we heard was the First Call, and each of the future ones will be stronger and felt by more people, until the final one which will be of universal scope.”
That produced another silence until Aphra piped up. “Well, if they’re going to be stronger than that, I’ll definitely keep them on Call Forwarding.”
“Just a call girl at heart,” Copper chuckled, tapping her thigh to Aphra’s under the table.
“Each one of us has been changed. Or more like… oriented. I get the impression of something like a magnet with a field around it. And each of us will in some way help to bring about the Second Call.”
“Ah, a Second Coming,” Tuan said, straight-faced. “I assumed there are no dates and venues announced?”
Loris shook her head as if embarrassed not to have the press kit ready to hand out, then they all looked up because Francis Coppola was approaching the table.
He walked up, nodded around the circle of expectant faces, said, “About last night…” and gave it the beat any straight line needs to breathe.
“Mr. Coppola,” MeiMei said with mock severity, “By your age you must have learned never to utter that phrase to a woman over breakfast.”
He laughed with the rest, but obviously retained curiosity. Which Loris nipped in the bud. “I hope you’re ready for your massage, Mr. Coppola?”
He smiled back, “Is anybody ever not ready for a massage?”
“You’d be surprised.”
And if there are surprises to be had, I’m sure you and your little bunch will be the ones to provide them, he thought. “You know,” he said in an avuncular manner, as if veering off into some old-timer’s reminiscence, “You shoot all these miles of film, and most of it gets left in the cutting room. Not really on the floor, I’m sure you understand. I’ve often thought it would be interesting to take all those cuts and splice together a picture. The same cast, same setting, most of the same scenes, but a very different film from what everybody gets to see.”
“Sort of a ‘defector’s cut’?” Tuan ventured.
Coppola nodded absently then said, “I just look at you people and get a sense of you and that comes to my mind. Some other picture than the one that we’re seeing.”
Nobody had a quip for that so he stepped back and made a courtly, old world gesture. “There will be transportation at the parking lot at one. If anybody wants to arrange something more spectacular than a bus or house van…” he looked at Townsend, “…there’s a satellite phone at the concierge. Thank you for coming. I have to say, you’ve made this one of the more memorable conferences.”
“Thank you Mr. Coppola,” Loris said. “I know we’re party crashers, but your hospitality has been wonderful and your place here is simply magnificent.”
He turned and gave her a deprecating gesture of his fingers, straight out of Brando, and said, “It’s been my pleasure to be your host. You’ve entertained me, as well. And an old maxim of entertainment is, ‘Give ’em what they want, then beat it for the wings’.”
And he turned to make an exit worthy of any stage trouper, leaving a dozen people charmed, but still totally unsure what to make of what had happened at the Lodge or why they were even there in the first place.
But there was no doubt of the “why” in the minds of Gareth and Kenny as they waited until Coppola had left the building then jumped up and buzzed over to the twelve-top burning with guarded outrage. “Where is it?” Gareth snapped without warm-up or intro. “It’s not in the pool and not in your room.”
“And definitely not in our room, where our property belongs,” Kenny snipped.
Everybody just looked at them except Loris and Bannock, who knew exactly what they meant. “He,” Loris emphasized, “Is in a safe place.”
“Well then would it be safe to say…” Kenny started up, but Gareth finished.
“…that since he is ours and we paid you a large sum of money…”
“…that you’re going to be honorable…”
“…not sneak thieves…”
“…and return him to us?”
Bannock set down the English muffin he’d been spreading with black Mayan honey and said, “No.”
The simple finality stopped the two harried producer-hyphenates, as it was meant to.
Gareth immediately dropped into a whining competition with Kenny, no easy contest. “But listen, you guys… We can work something out.”
“Maybe. Some time,” Loris said. “But for now, oXo wants to go home so that’s where he’s going.”
“Listen, you two.” Kenny actually managed to snivel and bluster at the same time. “There are laws, even in this God-forsaken place…”
Almost everybody at the table turned their heads, taking in the simple grace of the dining deck, the teeming green beauty of the morning rain forest. But Kenny plunged on.
“We paid for that thing, it’s part of our film, and we are going to have it back.”
“No,” Bannock said. “You’re not.”
“Well you make your tactics pretty obvious,” Kenny sniffed. “Mr. Inedible Hulk sitting there threatening to turn us into brunch. But things don’t work like that in the real world.”
“Sure they do.”
“Okay, they do,” Gareth practically sobbed. “But couldn’t you just talk about this?”
“We’ll talk.” Loris’ calm statement astonished the rest of the table, who regarded talking to the Van Niseguys as being as fun and useful as self-administered dentistry. “Back in L.A. We’ll call Curtsy when the time comes. She’s on your picture, right?”
“What picture?” Gareth practically shrieked. “You stole our picture, remember?”
“Director-nappers!” Kenny snarled.
“Roasting Flesh,” Loris said. “The festival brochure said you start shooting next month.”
“Is it a cooking show?” Aphra asked. “Or one of those celebrity roast things gone horribly wrong?”
“It’s a teen-aged grindhouse fucking flasher/slasher!” Gareth moaned. “We can do better. But you stole our director.”
“And our buzz,” Kenny glared accusingly. “You snatched Entertainment Tonight right out of our jaws.”
“So it’s ‘ET meets Jaws’?” Copper asked with feigned innocence.
“I think Curtsy would be practically type-casting for some co-ed getting naked before some ugly freak takes a jackhammer to her,” Aphra announced, drawing a scowl from Curtsy.
“Cut the shit, you crooks,” Kenny spluttered. “We’re going to…”
“You’re going to shut up and get lost,” Bannock said without inflection, but it was enough to stop Kenny in mid-spittle-spray. Bannock raised a battered hand and made a shooing gesture and the two producers started backing away, glaring as they bumped into waiters and chairs.
“You haven’t seen the last of us, Chuckie,” Gareth shot back as the two wheeled and fled the room.
Now that’s a dire warning,” Aphra said. “I’d just as soon see Hannibal Lector for being overweight”
“You know what really sucks?” Loris said. “He’s right.”