VAMPYRES OF HOLLYWOOD (Chapter One)
They don’t call me the Scream Queen for nothing. “Where is he?” I shouted, and everyone who wasn’t deaf, drunk, or dead heard me. “Where the fuck is Travis now?”
I did a hard twist in the air so I could scan the soundstage behind me. I was strapped into a safety harness forty feet up, desperate to go to the bathroom and royally pissed.
Yes, I do need to go to the bathroom occasionally, just not as often as the rest of you. And it isn’t pretty. A diet of red blood and raw meat will do that to you.
No one answered me. Below me an entire crew, seventy people at least, hustled around like they knew what they were doing and, whatever it was, it was so important they hadn’t heard me shout. Most of them had worked with me for a long time. They knew I rarely shouted, and when I did, someone was about to get his ass reamed. They also knew that my temper was legendary.
Finally, Candy, the 2nd. AD, raised her head and looked up at me. I swear she should have been acting in this film instead of assistant directing—I’ve worked with stars who couldn’t show as much fear in their face. She’s an adorable little freckle-faced pixie with a featherweight boxer’s body and macho attitude to match. The attitude was fast disappearing. And this was only her second week.
“I’m sorry, Ms. Moore. Mr. Travis said his blood sugar was low and he needed a protein bar from his trailer. I offered to send a PA, but he insisted he’d be right back.”
“In the middle of a scene? This fucking scene! I’m hanging up here like Amish laundry flapping in the wind and he walks off the set! Is he fucking nuts?!” I spun in the harness. “Goddammit, Tony, get me out of this thing.” Tony Tanner motioned to Jamie Long, and together my stunt co-coordinator and stunt double started lowering me down without a word.
I was halfway to the ground when Neville Travis, the boy-wonder director, object of my unmitigated rage, strolled casually back onto the soundstage, a cell phone pressed to his ear. Even at fifty feet, I could see the traces of white powder under the nail of his right pinkie finger. His eyes were dancing like Maria Tallchief in Firebird.
“Hey, Ovsanna, what are you coming down for, we’ve got two more setups in this scene.” He was smiling, for God’s sake. A lamb to the slaughter. A coked-up lamb…about to be spit and roasted.
“I may have two more setups, Neville, but you don’t. In fact, I have the rest of this film to shoot, but you don’t.” Tony and Jamie dropped me gently to the floor. I unbuckled the harness and let it drop to the ground while I drew myself up to my full height—which, at five feet, six inches, is not very full. It still put me eye to eye with the little turd. I put my hands on my hips and pushed out my chest—and that brought him to a halt. “We are two days behind schedule. Two full days, Travis. Now I don’t know what it’s like in MTV-land, but losing two days on an Ovsanna Moore film is enough to send you back to whatever junior college you managed to get through. Nobody walks out on me in the middle of a take, do you understand that? Nobody!”
“What do you mean? What do you mean? You’re firing me?” The coke was making him reckless and overconfident. He went for overfamiliarity, which I despise. “Ovsanna…hey, Ovsanna, sweetheart, baby, I wasn’t walking out on you, I just needed a candy bar, you know, for my blood sugar.”
“You needed candy, all right, but not for your blood sugar. Wipe your nose, Neville; you’ve got white stuff all over it. And don’t ever call me baby.” I turned and headed for my trailer. At a look from me, Shaheed, our 1st. AD, called lunch. I swear I never saw a set empty so quickly.
Travis trailed after me. One of the curses of my kind is a heightened sense of smell and hearing. Those senses served us well thousands of years ago, warning of intruders, keeping my Dakhanavar Clan alive. Normally I manage to filter out the extra input. But not today. Rage messes with my control. I could smell Neville Travis: the Abercrombie cologne, the failing deodorant, the fungus between his toes, and the dried blood in his septum. I didn’t mind the blood so much but the fungus made me want to puke. And I can’t do that; my kind has no gag reflex.
Neville’s voice turned wheedling. “Listen, Ovsanna, you were wonderful in that take. You know that. I didn’t think you even needed me there, you’re so good. Hey, come on, we’ll finish lunch and then speed through the day’s schedule, maybe even grab a couple of shots we owe from yesterday.”
I didn’t look over my shoulder, didn’t even raise my voice, but on the empty set it rang and echoed off the bare floor. “You finish your lunch, Neville. And enjoy it. Because it’s the last one you’re having around here.” I walked up the steps of my trailer and closed the door behind me.
Maral McKenzie, my personal assistant, was at the desk in the back room. We’d converted it from a bedroom into an office when the production company bought the trailer for me three movies ago. I didn’t like sleeping back there; I’d rather stretch out on the sofa in the living room so I can hear what’s going on outside and know when the DGA trainee is coming to get me. That’s the advantage of being Clan Dakhanavar—I can hear conversations all over the lot. I get a kick out of opening the door a fraction of a second before he knocks just to see the surprise on his face.
Maral was looking beautiful in a bizarrely cut black and white suit, Dolce & Gabbana probably. She’s twenty-eight and she’s been with me almost ten years. She’s Warm, and one of the few outside the clan who knows the truth and still loves me in spite of it. Or maybe because of it. That’s one of the few things she’s never told me; maybe she doesn’t know herself. She had her titanium Mac Pro up and running and I could see a version of my Web site on the screen. Probably answering letters posted to the guest book page or updating the “personal” blog I never write. She raised a razor-sharp eyebrow in a silent question.
“Get DeWitte on the phone. I want Travis out of here and off the set. I’ll direct this damn movie myself if I have to.”
“It may not be that easy.” Maral’s managed to lose most of her accent, which hails from somewhere between the Louisiana swamps and Jackson Square. A Cajun girl with a Scottish last name—go figure.
“Why not? What do you know that I don’t?” I was having trouble with the zipper on my costume and she came over to help. I turned my back on her and raised my arms. The zipper hissed down and the leather and lace costume slid away. I stepped out of it and Maral draped a silk dressing gown over my shoulders.
“Travis is Thomas DeWitte’s fair-haired boy. Mr. DeWitte thinks he can do no wrong.”
“Yeah? Has he seen him on the set?” I turned to face Maral. “It’s a wonder he hasn’t caught his cock in the clapper. I doubt he’s even looked at the budget for this movie.”
“DeWitte’s been championing him all over town. Word is that Embassy is ready to hire him as soon as we wrap. You fire Travis and Thomas DeWitte’s got shit on his hands.”
“Oh, brother. Don’t tell me…. Thomas is sleeping with him, isn’t he?”
Maral shrugged. “Possibly.” I was staring at her. “Probably.” I raised my eyebrows. “Definitely.”
“God damn it.” I stretched out on the couch and closed my eyes. “Set up a meeting. We need to remind Thomas DeWitte just who calls the shots around here. Remind him that I’m the senior partner in Anticipation Studios, not him. He’s still only head of development. I walk and he’s finished.”
“I’m not sure he’ll see it that way.”
“Well, he should. Besides, he needs to remember his history. If it weren’t for me, he’d still be making porno down in Tijuana.”
Maral had my costume in her hands, ready to hang it in the closet. She turned back to me and stared. “I didn’t know he was a director.”
“Actor, dear, actor. You’ve never seen Going Down on the Titanic? Check my video collection; I think I’ve got the uncut version.”
She shook her head and laughed. “I didn’t know he had it in him.”
Score one for me…. I bit my tongue and didn’t rise to the bait.
A half hour later the smell of Neville coming across the lot brought me back to consciousness. Usually I close my eyes for ten minutes, go into a deep sleep for five of those, and awaken refreshed and ready for the next scene. A half hour is a luxury I don’t often get. Maral had helped me take advantage of this one.
She stood up from the couch, buttoned the sleeve of her suit, and handed me a Kleenex for my mouth. My relationship with Maral is discussed ad infinitum in the gossip rags, but no reporter has even come close to the truth. The tissue came away red. She took it from me, folded it, smiled and flushed it down the toilet.
Neville knocked. Maral looked to me for an answer.
“Let him in.” I sat up on the couch, closed my robe and threw my boots on the chair across from me. He could come in, but he wasn’t going to sit.
Neville’s eyes were red. I couldn’t tell if it was the coke or if he’d been crying. I didn’t smell any weed, just his sweat. I stared at him, curious to see which approach he’d take. He’d already tried bonhomie and wheedling. My guess was he’d try for a straight-out apology and an excuse.
“Look, Ms. Moore, I, uh…I…well, I’m really sorry I ran out like that. I, uh, I just…wasn’t feeling well and I needed some, you know, like a protein bar or something so I could concentrate.”
“You’re just not going to cop to the truth, are you, Neville?”
“The truth?” I watched his eyes widen and knew, before he opened his mouth, that he was about to lose it. Evidently attacking his veracity was enough to make him forget all he’d ever directed were music videos for mediocre bands. Suddenly he thought he was Tarantino. He put his balled fists on his hips. “The truth is you’re being a fucking prima donna, and if I want to leave the set—”
I cut him off. “Let’s not get into a pissing contest, Neville. You wanted to leave the set? Fine. You want to shove powder up your nose? That’s fine, too. You can do it on your own time. Leave. I’m shutting down production for the rest of the day. It will give me the time I need to find your replacement.”
His voice went up a notch, along with his arrogance. “I’ve got a contract, Ovsanna. Thomas DeWitte himself—”
Maral stepped in, her voice just this side of glacial. “Your contract is with Anticipation Studios…which Ms. Moore controls. Thomas DeWitte is the head of development and is answerable to Ms. Moore. As are you.” She backed him out the door and closed it with a solid click, reminding me once again how much I’d like to Turn her. She has the potential for becoming one of my greatest creations. If only she weren’t so valuable to me Warm. She looked at me, eyebrows raised in a silent question.
“Tell Shaheed to send everyone home. I’ll absorb the cost. I can use the time to do some rewrites on the transformation scene, anyway. Did you manage to get Thomas on the phone?”
“He’s got another new secretary—the third this month—and she said he left this morning for a creative meeting with some new talent.”
“What does that mean, exactly?”
“Well, she was new enough and stupid enough to tell me where he was going.”
“Did you trick her? Or bully her.”
“I allowed her to volunteer that he was supposed to have breakfast at the Abbey and then look into a new S&M dungeon in Boys Town. He told her it was business, he was scouting locations.”
“Any S&M movies in production that you can think of?”
“None that DeWitte has anything to do with. And nothing to do with Anticipation. I got the impression that this was personal rather than business.”
“Shit. There go my rewrites.” I finished dressing and pulled on my boots.
Maral looked at me quizzically.
“The last time DeWitte visited an S&M dungeon, he conducted meetings standing up for more than a week.”
And in three days’ time, on Saturday, a group of indecently wealthy Japanese investors were flying in to discuss a new project and a potential merger. I needed DeWitte focused. And seated. At the very least, he’d better be able to bow.
VAMPYRES OF HOLLYWOOD Copyright © 2008 by Adrienne Barbeau and Michael Scott.