Don McLain, script writer for Max Pleasures Productions, stood in front of the cluttered desk and read his latest great magnum opus to Mr. Grantham. "Carlotta and the beautiful singer Mrs. Betty Lee Jones are running through the dark cold streets of Angel City, being pursued mercilessly by Greko and some of his gang. The night club singer Carlotta had met with earlier that night (with the intention of finding out as much information as she can on the whereabouts of the dreaded and sadistical gang leader Nancy Drew) now lies dead in a pool of her own blood. Shot through the back as the two women run for their lives through the rain filled night, and away from the De Winter Club!"
Max Pleasures Productions films a scene from ''Jungle of Death''.
The reader pauses for a moment to look over his sheaf of papers at the cigar puffing movie producer sitting slouched like a sack of corn in his creaking, rickety old chair. He then continues reading breathlessly and passionately. "The night is as cold as an Arctic iceberg, and soon the precipitation gives way to heavy snow, falling thick and fast like pea broth onto the city streets below. The only sounds that can be heard echoing through the alleys and side streets are the sharp click of stiletto heels as Carlotta fearfully dashes to escape through the concrete jungle. The muffled tread of heavy boots in pursuit are like an irregular beating drum in our heroine's ears."
Max Grantham blows a billowing waft of smoke into the air and interrupts the speaker. "But can you get that dame back to work for us?" Miss Felicity Cava, who played Carlotta Wynn, had left the set a full seven months ago. In mid production of the latest instalment of the drama, and after a rather heated argument had ensued between herself and the former employer and movie producer of the then whimsically named Karl Denton Production Studios. The end result had witnessed the rather drunk and wilful prima donna walk out in mid shoot, never to return... and the continuing tales of Carlotta Wynn had come to a rather abrupt end.
Don McLain blew through his teeth for a moment, and then carefully replied. "Not without a pay rise, better working conditions, and only with a written apology from the company... but she did imply she would consider returning to the shoot if her conditions were properly re-dressed."
"What? The woman's a sap... a drunken has-been, no good bum, who's only acting ability comes to the fore after a lengthy rhetorical conversation with the contents of her eternally half empty glass of wine."
Don McLain raised his hands in a placatory manner and quickly continued. "Yes, yes... but I stole a look at her former contract with Denton, and the doe she was collecting falls a wad short of your current offer to her. Beef it up a fraction, and the kid will think she's made the movie headlines. As for the conditions she demands, a clean-up here, a few nice new things in her dressing room, the occasional bunch of flowers, and she'll be swell. The apology will be harder to manage - but I'm not above forging Karl's signature myself, if it gets her back to the set."
Max Grantham started to grin, his mouth widened to display a row of pearly white teeth, edged with glee like a tom cat playing with a mouse on a hot tin roof. "See to it Don." Mr. Grantham concluded the conversation by getting up from his overburdened chair, coming over and clapping his script writer on the back with a generous slap from his big meaty palm. "And the rest of the script Boss, shall I read on?" Don enquired eager to show his employer the latest instalment of the story. He was quite pleased with the way he had picked up the pace again after such a lengthy delay in the original production. "I trust you Donny, no need to tire yourself. Just do me proud and I'll be one hell of a happy guy." Mr. Grantham's smile widened to that of a shark as he walked from the office, intent on searching the kitchens for his next hotdog and fried onion snack.
Don forgot all about Mr. Grantham the second he was gone, and read the latest story to himself one more time. Before long he was engrossed in his work once again. "The snow fell heavily on the streets..." Hmmm. He'd have to make sure the artificial snow making machine was up and running properly by next week. The bearings were playing up on the clapped out engine, and asking Mr. Grantham to have it replaced would be as futile as asking him for a two week paid luxury vacation in Key Largo.
Blood from Carlotta's wounds continues to drip onto the pavement beneath her feet in a slow but constant flow. Her need to get off the streets is urgent! But Greko's boys seem to be everywhere, and she is fast running out of time.
Suddenly, a car screeches round a corner and approaches her speedily, its engine whines like a tram at full throttle. Carlotta hesitates for a moment as the headlights blind her eyes. Loss of blood and adrenaline rush are making her dizzy and sluggish. The car skids to a halt beside her, and a balding head appears from an open window. "Get in Missy, and you'd better make it quick, sweetie."
Carlotta peers woozily at the man driving the old Delamaye saloon, and is surprised and delighted when she discerns Licksy's red faced and toothy grin staring back at her from behind the wheel. His manner, as usual, is light and cheerful, but his eyes are full of concern; and for a moment she sways unsteadily and has to lean hard against a wall to stop from passing out as a wave a nausea hits her in the pit of her stomach like a proverbial punch in the gut.
The next thing she knows is being slumped crookedly in the passenger seat of the speeding car, cruising along the highway towards the suburbs of Angel City, headed east bound towards the LA metropolis... yes that's right. Licksy has contacts there.
Carlotta is safe, for now.
© 2010, Stephen A Gilbert