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Authors: Adrienne & Scott Barbeau,Adrienne & Scott Barbeau

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BOOK: Vampyres of Hollywood
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Chapter Seven
 

 

I pushed the door open with a little more strength than I intended and sent the anemic woman who had her head pressed to the other side flying flat onto her bony ass. A Marc Jacobs knockoff shoe skittered across the floor.

“What’s the matter, I wasn’t loud enough for you?” I growled, then snapped my lips closed; I could feel the prickling of suddenly sharp points against my tongue.

“I…I’m sorry…. I…can I help you?” The woman scrambled to her feet and limped around her desk, trying to put a barrier of some sort between us. She looked about fifteen—and was probably seventeen—flat chested, with short spiky hair and a half-dozen studs running up along the curve of her right ear. A pair of low-cut jeans had me giving thanks to whoever did her waxing, and three inches of taut, tanned belly showed beneath a cropped white shirt and a minuscule brown sweater. If she looked any more boyish, Thomas would have been on top of her as soon as she hit the floor. I took another look: maybe she was a boy; it’s hard to tell sometimes. I breathed deeply, inhaling a mixture of pheromones, N.V. Perricone’s Lip Plumper, and a floral perfume that screamed $12.99 from CVS/pharmacy. No, definitely a girl. The boys tended to use a better cologne.

“Can I help you?”

Her voice was a little stronger now, but I could see from the way the muscle twitched in her left forearm that she was desperately pressing a button concealed under the desk. No doubt trying to call the rent-a-muscle downstairs.

“You can stop that: you’re wasting your time. Anthony is busy at the moment.” I smiled without parting my lips, which must have frightened her even more. Her eyes looked liked those candy buck-eyes they sell in Ohio before the college football games—big peanut butter balls surrounded by dark chocolate. “No. I don’t need any help. But you do. I think you need to go down to the kitchen and get yourself a cup of coffee. Or a glass of milk. Whatever someone your age drinks these days.”

“But Mr. DeWitte—”

“I’ll take care of Mr. DeWitte. I’m his boss. Ergo, I’m your boss.” I watched her eyes flicker to the framed posters on the wall and saw them widen as recognition set in.

“You’re—”

“I know who I am. Now move!”

She scrambled past me, scooped her shoe off the floor, and hopped out on one foot. I could hear a single heel stumbling down the stairs. I closed the door behind me, then turned the key in the lock. What sounded like a dozen dead bolts clunked into place. That was new; DeWitte was taking his security very seriously indeed.

The smell in Thomas’s outer office almost put me back in the hall. He’d insisted on black leather sofas and glass-topped tables with limestone bases. He’d sourced the limestone from the same quarry the Getty Museum was built from. I love the museum; I hate the stench. It smells like hundreds of people with bad body odor. It’s the stink of the limestone. Personally, I think it’s only fit for mausoleums. Thomas’s outer office smells only slightly less offensive than a cemetery in New Orleans, which is why we generally hold our meetings in mine.

I caught a glimpse of myself in the reflection of the glass over his Lichtenstein. Don’t believe everything you read about vampyres. Of course we reflect in mirrors and glass; it would defy all the laws of physics if we didn’t. But it makes a great movie effect, always did, right from the moment Lugosi strapped on the cape.

Right then I wasn’t too happy with what I saw. My black curly hair was no longer cascading down my back in Christophe-styled ringlets. It was frizzed out about a foot in all directions, reacting to the change in my aura. I leaned forward and pulled down my lower eyelid. The whites of my eyes were filled out with tiny threadlike veins. Soon the entire white of my eye would turn red. I could feel my lower teeth pushing out of their sheaths and my incisors growing to meet them. Forget the Hollywood image of two nice, neat Christopher Lee fangs; think tiger canines instead, top and bottom. Plus—and this really pissed me off because I’d just had a manicure—my nails were elongating, flakes of coral nail polish spiraling to the floor.

I closed my eyes and concentrated on my breathing, using techniques that would have made a yogi proud, techniques I’d perfected over half a millennium of existence.

I opened my eyes and stared at the Lichtenstein, not seeing the art, just my reflection in the glass. The whites of my eyes were pink again and I could smile without showing teeth. My nails were a mess and my hair still looked like shit, but that could be explained.

I pushed open the door and strode into Thomas’s office.

Thomas was standing in front of the Warhol, talking on the phone, with his back to me. He had on black Dolce & Gabbana jeans, a white XOXO T-shirt and a black Armani silk jacket, black Kenneth Cole loafers, no socks. I may have been pissed, but I know my designers. I’d also lay money that he was wearing the Patek Philippe watch I’d given him in a moment of weakness and was carrying a quintet of platinum cards in the alligator wallet that just slightly disturbed the line of his jeans. There was the faintest hint of blood in the air; obviously his little session in the dungeon in Boys Town had gone well. I’ve been whipped and beaten, burned, branded, stabbed, shot, and poisoned. Every one of them hurt like a bitch and I’ve no intention of repeating any of them, so I simply cannot understand people like DeWitte who pay to have someone beat on them. And it’s only the human race that does it.

Thomas and I had been lovers when I was going through my “wouldn’t it be nice to have someone to take care of me for a change” stage. That lasted about four minutes. Beneath his aging Tom Selleck exterior—complete with moustache—was a weasely little Mickey Rourke with welts on his ass. Once I realized I wasn’t the one making them, I kissed him good-bye. But I didn’t kiss him off. He managed to be both a remarkably inventive lover—for a man—and a sexual slime at the same time. He was also a good exec; I think it had something to do with being a sleazy ass-kissing ego-maniac. I offered him 20 percent of Anticipation Studios and a seven-year contract. He bought the limestone tables.

He also bought some really good art. Two Hockneys, a Sam Francis, an Edward Ruscha, and the Warhol I coveted. Dear Andy, I had wanted so badly to Turn him. Something I rarely do. I wanted that talent to be immortal. But once I saw the pain he was in, I couldn’t perpetuate it. He never knew, of course.

I made it across the room in two strides and ripped the phone cord out of the wall. Thomas spun around, something foul bubbling across his face, then dying when he saw it was me. Watching his lips curl from spite to smile was like watching a sidewinder curl across the desert.

“Ovsanna, what the hell…? That was an important call—”

“Why are you standing, Thomas? Something wrong with your ass?”

Confirmation flickered in his widening pupils. “What are you talking about? You just hung up on Rodrigo Garcia. You know how hard I’ve been trying to get him to direct
Satan’s Prayer
—you hung up on him!”

“Yeah? Then you’d better make sure you’re still here when he calls back. Sitting down. That’s what I pay you for. And you’d better teach Miss Von Dutch logo out there not to rat you out when you leave work in the middle of the day to get your rocks off. Better yet, save your S&M scene for after business hours.” I poked him in the chest, allowing a tiny tendril of my strength to show through, emphasizing each word with another poke. It was going to leave a bruise. “But you are just one stupid prick.”

DeWitte tried for bluster. “Oh, get off it, Ovsanna. You can’t threaten me. You need me.”

“I need you? For what? To hire your coked-up little lover boy to screw up my movie? I’m here to tell you that he’s off the set, Thomas. And if I have my way, I’ll see he’s off every set in Hollywood. And get rid of that brainless piece of beef you’ve got standing guard out there. What if the Japanese had come in? What was he going to do, open fire?”

“He’s a bodyguard, Ovsanna. And he’s licensed to carry. People are getting killed all over town. We’re in danger and I’m not taking any chances.”

“The only person you’re in danger from is me, Thomas. Fuck up one more time and you’re gone. Gone and never coming back. I want this merger to happen and you’re not going to screw it up because you’re thinking with your cock instead of your brain. Get Travis out of the picture and replace Anthony with someone who can think and talk at the same time. And while you’re at it, get a real secretary.” I turned and walked out.

The tomboy must have kept an extra key downstairs because she was back at her desk when I went through the outer office. Her cheeks were bright pink and it wasn’t makeup. She’d heard the whole thing. I ran my tongue over my teeth to make sure I didn’t frighten her any more than I already had.

“I am a real secretary,” she whispered, then cleared her throat and tried again. “I am a real secretary. I’ve got a certificate.”

She had guts; I admired that. Maybe she would survive in this business. “Well then, start secretarying. And welcome to the Wonderful World of Movies.”

Chapter Eight
 

 

SANTA CLARITA
2:00
P.M.

 

If I hadn’t become a cop, I’d have worked in the movies.

My mother is the only person I know who knew the business from the inside and still wanted her kid to be an actor. She loves movies. She grew up in Hollywood during the glory days of the studio system and had dreams of being a contract player but never got that far. She appeared in a couple of movies in the fifties, though: in the crowd in the café in
Summertime,
in the crowd in the store in
The Long, Hot Summer,
and in the crowd in the hospital in
Suddenly Last Summer
.

Then television came along and she had a bit more success: she did Merv Griffin’s series
Summer Holiday.
I’m not kidding. Then she played the “girl in the bar” in
Rawhide,
the “woman in the bar” in
Bonanza,
and the “woman behind bars” in
The Untouchables.
We still tease her about being typecast.

Whenever she wasn’t working, she was going to the movies. She loved them and she wanted me to love them, too. As soon as I was old enough to stay still for two hours, she sat me down in front of the TV and showed me her pirated
3
/4" copy of
The Sound of Music
on our Sony Beta machine. Maybe she thought I’d grow up to be another Christopher Plummer. I didn’t care about the von Trapp kids, though. It was the German soldiers with their smart gray uniforms—shiny belts and boots and guns—that captured my attention. The one thing my mom didn’t want—that I’d follow in my dad’s footsteps and be a cop—and the first movie she shows me gets me hooked on the trappings of law enforcement.

After I came along she gave up acting and went into on-set catering. “I’ve eaten so much bad food on a set—I know what actors want,” she said. She was right. And she could cook! My dad’s people are Welsh, but my mom’s are Italian, so cooking’s in her blood. She was so good, stars started requesting her, and within a couple of years they had clauses inserted into their contracts that King’s Catering, The King of Caterers would do the food. By the mid-seventies, Mom had seven trucks working and she floated from one movie set to another, overseeing the ragu and the outdoor barbecues. She knew Clint’s preferences, always kept a special aside for Meryl. Pacino and De Niro gave her hugs when she showed up, and Shirley MacLaine once gave her a gift certificate for a psychic reading.

My mom kept mementos from every movie and TV show she appeared in: scripts they gave her, costumes she bought at discount, photos she got signed, and props she walked off with. In her catering years, she made sure she got several scripts from each film signed by the entire cast. And if production was tossing out the personalized chair backs because the stars didn’t want them, she grabbed those, too.

When eBay came along, she turned the catering company over to my brother and two sisters and started selling movie memorabilia. Last year she cleared close to six hundred thousand dollars and my parents bought their second condo in Miami.

My dad just retired from the LAPD and his father and grandfather walked a beat in New York. Before that, though, things got a little iffy. My great-great-grandfather was part of the Tweed Ring, taking bribes for Boss Tweed to grease the way for the Erie Railroad because, according to the family legend, “it was better to receive the bribes than to pay them.”

My dad’s proudest boast is that he’d spent nearly thirty years on the force and never fired his weapon at another human being. I don’t remember the last time I’ve fired my weapon off the range. I love watching cop shows: guns fired in practically every episode…and no one ever does paperwork! Fire a shot in anger in this city and you drown under the form filling.

There are three boys in the King family and four girls. My older brother and two older sisters run The King of Caterers now; they’ve branched out into celebrity functions, births, bar mitzvahs, and weddings, and I hear they’re developing a range of celebrity sauces. I’m the only cop in the family. I reckon I only became a cop to do something—just one thing—to make my dad proud.

And I’ve never regretted it.

But there are moments, like when I drive into a studio complex, or step onto a stage, or wander through a set, when I really do think, What if…? How different would my life have been if I’d gone down the path my mom had so carefully laid out for me? She really wanted me to get into the business and she had the contacts then to get me a foot in the door. I might have been a movie star.

I moved through Anticipation’s backlots, keeping to the shadows so I wouldn’t sweat. December in L.A. and it was eighty-seven degrees. I’ve heard people grumble about the weather in L.A., but I’ve been in New York in December and, believe me, I know which I prefer.

I knew very little about Anticipation Studios, but that was hardly surprising. Beyond the biggies—Warners, Paramount, Universal, 20th Century Fox—there are dozens of small studios scattered across the city. Well, someone has to fill the gaping maw that is TV-land. All I knew about Anticipation was that it started out making low-budget horror films for the DVD market. It was owned by the horror queen, Ovsanna Moore, daughter of the equally famous Anna Moore. I knew what Ovsanna looked like—I think I may have even had a poster of her, or her mother, on my wall when I was a kid—but I’m damned if I could remember the name of her latest movie. Or any movie for that matter. But she’s had a long career in Hollywood and done dozens of movies, and in a city where careers are often measured in single features or spans of months that was quite an achievement.

I stepped out of the blinding December sunshine into the dark of an empty soundstage. I stood and waited for my eyes to adjust before moving—a cop trick my father taught me—and then looked around. Directly ahead of me was a series of sets: the one on the left a young girl’s bedroom complete with a pink chintz–canopied bed and white wicker furniture, the one on the right a cozy living room with Christmas tree, presents, and twinkling decorations. An enormous bloodstain dappled the ceiling and dripped down the walls, and instead of a star on top of the tree there was a remarkably realistic severed head. I guessed this wasn’t your average Hallmark Channel Christmas movie.

The set was practically deserted: a couple of carpenters fixing a door, an electrician checking meters, and someone from set dressing comparing Polaroids to the set, rearranging props. Somewhere in the distance, someone was whistling “Havah Nagila” off-key.

I picked my way through the rats’ nest of cables and I’d almost reached the set dresser before she turned and caught sight of me. Her jaw was working overtime on a double wad of pink gum. I edged my coat back, revealing my badge and gun clipped to my belt, ready to get some fast cooperation.

“Next door,” she snapped.

I looked at her blankly.

“You deaf as well as lost?” she asked, chew, chew, chew. “
A Mother’s Love
is shooting in Studio Two.” She blew a huge pink bubble…

…which I burst with the end of my pen.

Snotty little twenty-year-old. Probably talks on her cell phone in restaurants, too. I hate to admit it, but my age is showing.

“The gun is real. The badge is real. Which means I’m a real cop. And you are?” I demanded.

She picked pink gum off the end of her nose and peeled it off her cheeks. “Tiny,” she mumbled. She was a short, pinched-face redhead with troweled-on makeup and those startling turquoise eyes that only come from colored contacts.

“Excuse me?”

“Tiny…well, Tina really, but everyone calls me Tiny because I’m—”

“Tiny. I can see that.”

“I’m looking for Eva Casale. She works in special effects.”

Tiny rolled the burst bubble back into a ball and shoved it back in her mouth. I couldn’t believe it, the thing had her face makeup all over it. “Go through the door marked ‘No Exit,’ past the honey wagons, and you’ll see what looks like an old army Nissan hut. Actually, it
is
an old army Nissan hut. That’s the prop department. She’s probably there.” I nodded my thanks and was turning away when she asked, “Is she in trouble?” She was unable to keep the note of eagerness out of her voice.

I turned back and put on my best smile. “Should she be?”

“Well, gee, I don’t know,” Tiny began, then continued quickly when she saw I was about to walk away. “It’s about that man, isn’t it?”

“You’re very good,” I said non-committedly.

“Watched him sneaking around,” she said, glancing around in her best conspiratorial pose. “He gave me the creeps.” She shuddered dramatically.

I nodded. It’s hard to miss Benny, though how he got past security is another question; maybe I’d have another chat with the guard, or with Benny. “When did you last see him? Was he with anyone?”

“He was here a couple of days ago. It was early. We had a five
A.M.
call and I couldn’t figure out why anyone would be on the lot at that hour if they didn’t have to be. Sun wasn’t even up yet.” She shuddered again. “I thought he was a ghost with that white skin.”

“Early riser” and “white skin”: two phrases I don’t associate with Benny. “Describe him.”

Tiny chewed and considered and then chewed some more. She was about to blow another bubble and then thought better of it. “He was thin,” she said finally. “Thin and ugly.”

She wasn’t giving me a lot to go on. “What about his beard?”

“Oh, no beard. And you know something else,” she added. “He smelled. Just like he’d been dipped in shit.”

“Thin. Ugly. Smelly.” I wrote it down, just in case I forgot the detailed description.

“And he was bald.”

“Bald?” Benny was many things—including thin, ugly, and smelly—but bald he was not.

“Bald and white,” Tiny added.

“A Caucasian male,” I added to my notes.

“No, white. I mean really white, white skin, no color. An Albanian.”

“An albino?”

“No, no, a white guy. Only really white, like that guy in
Powder
. Did you see that flick? Boy, that director did a great job.”

“Thanks, Tiny,” I said, “you’ve been a real help.” I turned and headed for the No Exit door, leaving Tiny to get back to the set. First Biblical Benny and now a bald albino; Eva Casale keeps very strange company.

 

 

The Nissan hut was set apart from the main studio, a slightly battered long metal rectangle that wouldn’t have looked out of place in any WW II movie. If Ovsanna Moore was putting money back into the company, she wasn’t spending it on the facilities. Maybe the hut had once been green, but decades of L.A. sunshine and Santa Anas had scoured it to that peculiar color men’s magazines like to call taupe. I’ve a pair of jeans in that color: I never wear them. The original tin structure had never been painted, but it was covered with Magic-Markered autographs from actors who’d filmed on the lot. My mother would have a field day on eBay if they ever demo’d the place and she got her hands on the pieces. I had a sudden image of her slicing it into irregular little chunks with a jigsaw.

The door was open and I could feel the frigid air blowing from massive air conditioners positioned on metal girders above the huge expanse. I stepped into a nine-year-old’s dream come true. The long rectangular building was crammed with dozens of monsters in various stages of construction. Bits of human bodies, really good work, hung on the walls, alongside an assortment of bladed weapons that would have made Kurosawa drool.

My mother would have been in eBay heaven.

There was a large, chest-high worktable in the center of the room, probably ten feet wide by twenty long. It had been divided into four sections with three-inch black tape and each section was covered with what looked like prosthetics and effects items from different movies. A mangled Santa torso lay on its back, sliced almost in half by the chef’s knife stuck in its liver. There was even an accompanying odor, sort of sweet and cloying. I didn’t know effects wizards went to such trouble; maybe it was a joke for their own enjoyment. Except the odor wasn’t coming from Santa. Crucified to the end wall of the hut was the amazingly lifelike body of a young woman. Her throat had been cut so deeply that her face was resting against her shoulder; she had a hole clear through her stomach right to the knotted white of her spine. A heap of offal on the ground represented the internal organs and that’s where they’d spilled whatever stench they were using to represent death. This Casale woman was good!

I took a step closer and the smell got stronger. And more recognizable.

Then I saw the flies.

And then I heard the sticky dripping of bloody fluids.

This wasn’t a special effect I was looking at. I had a good guess it was Eva Casale. Someone had just cast her in her own horror movie.

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