Authors: Steven Paul Leiva
Tags: #Suspense & Thrillers
The Second Fixxer Novel
By Steven Paul Leiva
First Digital Edition published by Crossroad Press & Macabre Ink Digital
Copyedited by David Dodd
Copyright 2010 by Steven Paul Leiva
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For Peter Anthony Holder
Two fine gentlemen from Montreal.
Early readers. Early fans. Friends forever
I must thank Todd Cronin for illustrating the cover of Hollywood is an All-Volunteer Army. I owe him more than I can say for his time, talent, dedication and friendship.
Which leads me to thanking Peter Lonsdale, a friend of many years, but the last several being the best. He has done so much to support my creative efforts, not only with encouragement but with his own creative skills, smarts and sensitivities. Peter is the very definition of pal, good buddy, comrade, confidant, ally, chum, mate, amigo, compadre, and, of courseâfriend.
And then, of course, there is my best friend, my wife Amanda. Such a clich
, to call your wife your best friend, but when so very true, what can you do but give in? So I have, and declare it with deep love.
We are often disconcerted by what we see when we look in the mirror in the morning. For gravity is an unkind force on our faces after eight hours of horizontal unconsciousness. Imagine, though, how disconcerting it is when you look in the mirror and see not yourself but somebody else. Now imagine what it would be like if that someone else was famous. What if, on your shoulders, you found a head that was a Monday through Friday morning habit for three million Americans? Worse than that, a head which, in its original form, holds little inside to be in awe of.
“Fairly freaky.” Roee said as he wheeled in a room service cart.
“Fairly freaky, indeed.” I said.
“A damn masterpiece, if you ask me, Fixxer,” offered Michael Slayton, the Hollywood makeup man I had flown to New York to effect this transformation.
“We are not questioning your talents, Michael. Indeed you can take our reactions as a compliment. Still, I wish it had been Bryant Gumble.”
“Robert Jordan isn't a semi-regular on the Today Show, you're taller than Bryant Gumble, Gumble hasn't been the host for years, and he's black,” Roee reminded.
“Yes, but he's a better interviewer â and what does him being black have to do with it?”
“Swanee, how I love you, how I love you, my deal old Swanee...” Roee began to quietly sing.
“Really, Roee, you ethnic and/or cultural minorities should become less sensitive. Here I have altered my appearance to that of a gee-shucks, midwestern, all-American, white Anglo-Saxon Protestant, and no one seems offended by that.”
“Being a gee-shucks, midwestern, all-American, white Anglo-Saxon Protestant is offensive enough.”
“Jeez. Centuries of power, and where does it get you? No respect.”
Roee just sighed a sigh he had worked to perfect and announced, “Your breakfast.”
“What's on the menu?”
“A three egg omelet with fresh cut basil, Kalamata olives sliced into perfectly even quarters, and feta cheese left, as you prefer, in large chunks.” Roee revealed the meal with a flourish as he lifted the silver dome from the plate.
I allowed myself a moment to gaze, smell, and salivate. “You cooked it yourself, didn't you, Roee?” I said with the proper measure of delight I've learned he expects.
“Kitchen privileges are not hard to come by when you can speak intelligently about sauces. And for you Michael,” Roee lifted another silver dome, “since you made no particular request, I took the liberty to whip you up some sourdough pancakes from a starter I once acquired in Alaska. As for embellishments, you have your choice of Canadian Maple syrup, a fresh raspberry compote I've made, or â and please don't scoff, just try one bite â sour cream and honey.”
Michael was amazed. “How did you know sourdough pancakes are my favorite?”
Roee smiled. “How do we know that you've been collecting the underwear of a particular stripper at Bodies 2000 out in North Hollywood for the last six months?”
The slam of this information reformed Michael's face. “Oh. Yeah. I forgot.”
“By the way, Michael,” I said as I took my first bite of the omelet and the full force of its hot flavor blessed me, “she's got a drug habit â very nasty one, and despite the delicacy of her visage and the smoothness of her skin, both, I admit, very appealing, she is very, very dumb and dangerous. Best forgotten at this point, don't you think?” I looked up at Michael and answered my own question with, I hope, a subtle force.
Michael starred back at me. Then he looked down. Not in shame, I assumed, but in the dumbfounded wonder of it all. “You're doing me a favor, aren't you?” he asked sadly.
“Yes, Michael. The pit of your stomach is telling you something different right now, but, yes, I am.”
~ * ~
I was in New York on a job. It had come to me, as all my jobs do, when my business manager, Norton Macbeth, called me up on the secure line of The Phone.
“Larry Lapham,” Norton said without preamble.
“Desperate to be Mr. Film Comedy, but somehow always comes in just shy of that,” I launched into what I knew. “His films gross well, which certainly impresses, yet he still remains somewhat unknown by the general public, and not really accorded the respect he probably feels he deserves by the industry.”
“He wouldn't argue with any of that.”
“So what does he need fixed?”
“Just that, he, he, he.” Norton often punctuated his sentences with a little staccato laughter.
“What am I supposed to do? Blackmail Hollywood into respecting him?”
“He thinks he knows the source of his troubles.”
“You want to talk to him?”
“Will he make me laugh?”
“Not unless you pay him, he, he, he.”
“I was thinking of the unfortunate humor involved in the reverse.”
“He can afford a lot. You can take it seriously.”
“Then I can talk to him.”
~ * ~
Norton had arranged for me to see Larry Lapham at three in the afternoon that day. I was to meet him at his building on Washington Boulevard in Culver City across the street from the Sony Lot. Now there's an example of the glamour of Hollywood gone shiny instead of lustrous. Instead of the old dream factory that was Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the original occupant who built the studio lot, you expected a “Sony Lot” to be pumping out the gleam of many gadgets housing transistors, light emitting diodes, microchips and other mysterious ways to manipulate electrical energy. Not true, of course, the lot still made movies. It was, I guess, just a name thing, that bothered me. Actually, the lot had been refurbished and now had the look of what you might dream a movie lot should look like â if you were a star struck, semi-literate farm girl in 1935. There is just something a bit discomforting about all the new fa
ades they put on the office buildings to make them look like the golden-hued simple life of the Anytown USA that politicians keep getting elected to lead us back to. Of course my comfort was not much considered when the pricey American management team the Japanese had hired to run the place convinced them that if they really wanted to buy into Hollywood, they had to buy into fake â and love it. Of course, that management team eventually petered out. Now, as we sit here in 1999, ready to close out this 20
Century, the “Century of the Movie,” there's a new team running the show. They probably think the fa
ades are real.
I much prefer Lapham's building. Although he makes comedies with goofy yet charming characters who are cleverly made to slip on metaphorical banana peels, and who are often participants in humor derived from the various ways the mammalian body expels waste, the building that houses his company, Painted Dessert PicturesâLapham's from Arizonaâis all clean, gray concrete, shiny, clear glass and cold, highly reflective steel. It's a serious business making hoi polloi laugh.
You enter the building from the parking garage where a very pleasant guard greets you with respect. Then you take an elevator up to the first floor and it opens onto a spacious area illuminated for the most part by the natural sunlight streaming through the two story floor-to-ceiling glass window in front of you. You almost don't see the receptionist sitting at a semicircle desk against the glass, as your eyes are diverted by the view of the giant movie posters for upcoming Sony releases on the fortress wall of the studio across the street. Right now the posters were proudly hailing,
The Day my Dog Died
, a Sundance Festival anointed little independent film made by a guy in Montana that Sony's classic division had picked up, and
, the new hit romantic comedy about twin vampires.
“May I help you?” asked the young woman behind the desk. She was cute, almost marketableâbut then, that's not unusual here.
“I have an appointment with Larry Lapham at three.”
“Your name please?” Cute asked.
“My name is, Mr. Lapham's three o'clock appointment,” I said sternly.
“Has he got more than one three o'clock appointment?”
“Oh, well, no, butâ”
“There you are.”
“But, how do I announce you?” There was confusion and worry and the hint of being yelled at often in the past for “fucking it up.”
“As Mr. Lapham's three o'clock appointment, emphasizing that I am the three o'clock appointment. Not the three-o-five, or any time thereafter.”
She did so and was obviously told to send me right up.
I ascended a wide, sweeping staircase, which lead to a second floor of balcony offices that overlooked the reception area. A smiling, well-tailored woman greeted me at the top of the stairs and showed me into Lapham's office. It was a large, bright, L-shaped room, with a desk at one end, a large conversation pit of couches and chairs in front of a media center at the other, and a concrete and glass conference table in-between at the bend of the L. Lapham was standing behind his desk, backed by a large canvas seemingly painted by Picasso. It took my eye as it probably took the eye of everyone who enters for the first time.