Copyright (c) 2018 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.
By R. Peterson
I woke up slumped in one corner of the kitchen, still unable to see, but I heard the cooking wine bottles in the Barrel Stave rack rattle when I banged against them with my cramped legs. I had no idea how long I’d been unconscious; it could have been seconds, hours or even days. The last thing I remembered was hearing a woman’s scream. The scream was a one of fury and outrage, and could only have come from my girlfriend Scarlett Lee O’Bannon. I listened closely but the only sound was the sound of the refrigerator motor cycling off and on and the whispered swish of the Felix the Cat clock’s tail mounted on the wall as it counted the agonizingly slow passage of time since I, one of Hollywood’s most successful movie producers, had become the victim of a home invasion. I tried to stand but both my hands were bound behind my back. I managed to sit up but my head was a rolling ship in a violent storm. For an instant I thought I might pass out … wondering in my blindness if I already had.
Sounds of a fight came from the upstairs bedroom: a woman’s angry shout followed by several bangs, a crash and the sound of breaking glass. Scarlett was a fighter, she always had been. I met her on the set of Armageddon where she’d been cast as an extra to play one of the apocalypse survivors. The cameras fell in love with her strawberry blonde hair and kaki green eyes and I ended up having the writers change the script to give her a couple of minor lines so that she at least had a speaking parts to add to her resume.
As a first time actress Scarlett took everything in stride but her agent, a cigar smoking locomotive with too much steam, was suddenly all over tinsel town like a bad smell. Scarlett was like a tigress that had taken human form and I wanted to protect her. Nineteen out of twenty films produced in the entertainment industry lose money; Hollywood was a mine field of secret deals best negotiated by the crazy super rich or those with absolutely nothing to lose. It was I who suggested that she ditch her agent and move into my Laurel Canyon mansion. It was also me who suggested she refrain from showing up at endless casting calls and take acting lessons … she seemed thrilled. I really thought she was. Now in addition to being blind I was filled with self-doubt about my new relationship. If Tony Small hid five million dollars in cash in my house yesterday Scarlett had to know about it. What was going on in my world? Was my business partner making a move on my girlfriend? What were they planning?
A piece of broken glass cut into my knee as I attempted to crawl across the kitchen floor. If I could pick up a large piece with my fingers I might be able to cut the leather laces that bound my hands behind my back. I found what I was looking for. The blood acted like a lubricant and the sliver of glass kept slipping between my fingers. The Felix the Cat wall clock emitted a low yowl like an alley Tom getting ready to fight. It was four A.M. Normally I’d be in the shower in another fifteen minutes and drinking coffee on set at five. Whoever thinks filmmaking is glamorous has never worked sixteen hour days for three months without a break. I wondered if any of the crew would notice me missing; when you were a boss an occasional absence was expected. The piece of glass broke and I crawled around looking for another. I heard someone bounding down the stairs and banged my head when I discovered I’d crawled under the kitchen table. A blast of light when off in my brain like an old fashioned flashbulb. Relief hit me like a cold glass of wine. I could see images …. My sight was returning. I caught a glimpse of the strawberry hair but knew it was Scarlett mostly by her Passion De L'Amour perfume.
“What’s going on?” I asked her.
“There’s no time! We’ve got to get out of here!” She was behind me tugging at the shoelaces that bound my hands. “Are you really blind?”
“I was … my sight is starting to return a little.”
She kissed me. “We better get you to a doctor.”
“What about our houseguests?”
“I kicked Gomez right where his passion was rising,” Scarlett said. She noticed the funny look I gave her. “It was stamped on the back of his belt! Men don’t realize that when they want something from a woman … she has all the power. His sidekick, Mr. Jitters passed out when I broke that Ming vase over his head.”
‘Not the porcelain dragon vase,” I moaned. “The one that I paid sixty thousand bucks for?”
“Sorry,” Scarlett said as she finally cut through the laces. “I didn’t have time to look for something … that would fit your budget!”
“These thugs are here looking for five million in cash that Tony and I received from an investor. Tony didn’t bring it here did he?”
She hesitated for only a second. “Tony suspected he was being followed. He didn’t want you to know about the trouble because he’d already screwed up. He made me promise not to say anything. He was supposed to make everything right.” She pointed to the far side of the living room. “How can you say no when someone wants to stuff five million dollars up your chimney?”
It was a good hiding place. The daytime temperature had averaged at least ninety five every day for the last month in LA … there was not much chance of anyone building a fire.
“Have we got time to pull it out?” I could see but it was like looking underwater.
“No, we’ve got to get you to a doctor!”
I heard a vicious laugh and we both turned. The Hispanic voice stood almost doubled over at the bottom of the stairs holding a pistol in his hand … obviously in pain. He was fatter than I imagined, although the colorful sombrero I’d envisioned him wearing was missing. “This puta bitch you have for a girlfriend is going to pay mucho for what she did to me! But first the money!” He pointed the gun at the fireplace. “Bring it to me! Rápidamente!”
Gomez obviously thought I was still blind. He ignored me and aimed the gun at Scarlett as she pulled the huge garbage bags from the chimney. I could see the fireplace poker I’d picked up before lying on the expensive hallway tile. I edged toward it. The third bag was stuffed in tight and a cloud of soot filled the room when the bag came free. I picked up the iron rod and swung wildly at the last place I’d seen my enemy standing. I heard a sickening thud … and then a second later a scream.
When the air cleared, Gomez’s sidekick, the meth freak, stood behind Scarlett with the blade of a knife digging into her throat. Blood ran from the top of his head in several places making him look like he was wearing a red hat … thanks to my broken Ming Dragon Vase. “I could do this so easy,” he stammered. His eyes looked around the room wildly. “Maybe I should!”
“You’ve got what you came for,” I told him pointing to the soot covered trash bags. “Take the money and go!”
“Drop that poker first!” From outside came the sound of several car doors opening and closing. I tried to act as if I heard nothing. He was losing it. “What was that?”
“What was what?”
As if in reply, he poked the knife point into Scarlett’s throat. A small drop of blood appeared and ran down her neck. “You expecting company?”
“You need another fix,” I told him. “You’re hearing the ghosts of want and no have! Come in the kitchen I’ve got a few lines of California snow to solve your problems.”
I could hear footsteps on the walk … but acted like I didn’t.
“I’m still going to kill her,” he said smiling and licking his lips. He looked toward the door and then shook his head as if trying to dislodge a piece of gravel. “You don’t hear that?”
“She said she liked me … she was lying!”
“I’m an actress,” Scarlett told him with a forced whisper. “Lying is my business.”
“You’re both liars!” His eyes were suddenly large and wild. “I’m going to cut her in tiny pieces … and you too!”
The door flew open the same time I saw the blade in his hand move. There was a gunshot and once again my head was spinning. Someone caught me before I hit the floor. Could anything in my life get any worse?
I woke up in room 419 of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Scarlett was leaning over my hospital bed carefully washing the lump on my head with a damp cloth. A diamond necklace covered the scratch on her neck. She pushed the pretty registered nurse standing next to the bed away and told her she had everything under control. “The doctor said you had a mild concussion from the fall down the stairs and the swelling caused your optic nerve to be temporarily pinched. You should be fine in a day or two.”
The door to my room opened and Tony Small walked in … I knew he wasn’t a ghost … his face was too red. “I’m sorry I got us into this mess,” he said. “Hopefully I’ve got everything back in synch.”
I wanted to vault out of bed and hit him but Scarlett held me down. “I thought that meth freak put a bullet between your eyes!”
“Tony wasn’t even home when those two broke into his house,” Scarlett said. “Twitchy was just trying to scare us. When Tony came home and found his house trashed he went to see Mr. Luciano.”
“I accused him of setting us up,” Tony said. “Zerenzo said he didn’t work that way. Turns out your Hispanic home invader was his former driver, Gomez, doing a little dirty work on the side. His accomplice was probably just some junky he picked up off the street. We decided to come to your place and see if you were okay …. It was a good thing we did … his new driver is a hell of a shot.”
“So the police have those two thugs in custody?”
“No,” Tony shrugged. “Luciano takes care of his own problems … those two are somewhere out in the desert near Bakersfield I think.”
“And we still have three garbage bags filled with hundred dollar bills?”
“No,” Tony actually looked happy. “I traded him the money for a cashier’s check. He understood. It’s now in our Beverly Hills Bank … nice and legal.”
“We figured you’d had enough hassles for one week!” Scarlett kissed me.
“Get dressed. I’ve got a car waiting downstairs,” Tony said.
I still felt a little dizzy. “What time is it?”
Tony glanced at the six-thousand dollar Rolex hanging off his wrist. “It’s almost eight O’clock,” he said. “We’ve already missed wardrobe and the run through. Goldfield will be shooting the first explosion scene in twenty three minutes.”
“Even after everything that happened I don’t get a break?”
“We’ve got another five days of shooting,” Tony said. “After the film goes into post production we’ll each get one afternoon a week.”
Both the people in my life ignored my grumbling as I slipped into my pants. It was a bright day … a pair of seventeen hundred dollar CARTIER sunglasses would disguise the swelling around my eyes.
There was fresh coffee in the back of the limo and I began to feel better as we rolled down Laurel Canyon Road. Tony and Scarlett were already arguing over tomorrow’s shoot. Explosions, gunfights, blood, sex and money …
There’s no business like show business!