'Playing the Field'

by Phineas Redux

—OOO—

Summary:— Stephanie 'Stevie' Garroch, 34, and Kelly Humber, 32, are lovers, film producers, and part-owners of Redoubtable Films Inc, a 'B' film Poverty Row movie studio located in Hollywood and New York in the 1930's. While in New York they travel around, meeting several film moguls and prospective financial backers.

Disclaimer:— All characters are copyright ©2020 to the author. All characters in this story are fictional; and any resemblance to real persons living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Caution:— There is some swearing in this story.

—O—

The two women stood on the sidewalk on 5th Avenue staring up at the Empire State Building in awe and wonder. Kelly Humber, Film Producer extraordinaire, finally being first in finding words to express her feelings.

"Jeez, big, ain't it!"

Stephanie Garroch, ditto Film Producer, her partner in business and lover in person, glanced round at the dapperly dressed young woman in her ankle length yellow cotton skirt with waist-length jacket to match.

"Kel, ya got a way o'sayin' what's best needin' sayin' way above anyone else I knows."

Suspecting a gentle hint of sarcasm on her lover's part, Kelly stared intently at her revered partner, as the crowd passed them both by on the busy thoroughfare.

"Stevie, if it wasn't that—"

"Oh, look, a taxi. Hey, you! Fare! Fare!" Stephanie waving wildly, as at a friend departing for foreign parts never to return. "He's stoppin'! First one in the last hour; get in quick, gal, before he changes his dam' mind."

Hustled in this uncomfortable, not to say brutalist, manner, Kelly found herself dragged into the interior of the rather odd smelling vehicle before she could reply effectively; losing her train of thought in the process, which was probably good for Stephanie's ongoing happy state of mind.

"The Sumner Building, East Thirty-first, thanks."

"What's with the hurry? We got all mornin' t'ourselves before we need t'meet Krausmann?"

"Better early than late, y'know." Stephanie settling herself on the somewhat slippery seat. "Hope t'God this seat don't stain my frock; should'a worn the dark-blue one like ya suggested, not this pale green affair."

"Eau-du-Nil, darling."

"What?" Stephanie not being up in the intricacies of High Fashion.

"Nile Green, lady; and you're perfectly correct, you should'a worn the blue—but too late now."

"Huh, thanks."

On arrival at the Sumner Building they found it to be another huge skyscraper reaching for the clouds which, on this beautiful morning of June 1934, were noticeably absent from the deep blue sky. In the main hall they were met by a blaze of overstated grandeur almost overwhelming in its intricacy. The Building had been built at the height of the Art Deco love affair, showing this in every inch of its decoration. Fan-shaped stucco in blazing white on the walls; strange angular designs on the doors, all of which appeared to be made of solid bronze, and lamp-standards, tables, and chairs all echoing the Grand Style. Stephanie, never a student of this bravura outpouring of the architectural imagination, sniffed superciliously; her partner, on the other hand, stared in glee like a schoolgirl out on a class spree.

"Wow, what a joint."

"Get a grip, woman." Stephanie trying to instill some level of composure in her excited companion.

The hall was wide, long and two stories high. Over to the right stood a long mahogany counter behind which were a veritable army of staff of both sexes—all looking patronising to the nth degree. Stephanie, bold as brass, took on this multifarious workforce as if born to it; picking a young lady in a red uniform to do so.

"Hi-ya, we're looking fer Bernard Krausmann, Film Producer—which floor?"

The young lady, to Stephanie's surprise, who was expecting a relation of the Medusa at least, smiled charmingly, consulting a printed list on the counter in front of her.

"Seventeenth floor, ma'am. Turn left, on arrival, and you'll see the office on your right-hand side some way along the corridor."

"Oh-Ah, thanks." Somewhat embarrassed, though she couldn't quite pinpoint why, Stephanie led the way to the elevator where, on the door opening, a young man, a youth indeed, was found to be awaiting the joy of transporting them into the non-existent clouds above. "Seventeen, thanks."

"No worries, ladies." The elevator attendant apparently well-used to tourists from foreign parts. "First time in the Big Apple?"

"Nah, been here often; got a business here, ya see." Kelly breaking into conversation without a second thought, as was her usual way with strangers of all types. "Film Producer."

"Ah, never had much idea of goin' in the flicks, myself." The callous youth nodding knowingly. "Not a lasting career, y'know. My dad, back in Ohio, always said, Harry, he said, don't get embroiled in them there Nickelodeon moving pictures; lot'ta dam' dodgy characters involved in 'em. Look at thet Fatty Arbuckle, fer instance, he al'lus said. Nah, I'll leave the flicks t'those who likes 'em. Seventeen, ladies, come agin'."

Before either Stephanie or Kelly could think of a suitable response the elevator had closed, on its way to other floors, other customers; leaving them sole occupants of a long green-carpeted corridor with no windows.

"Which way'd that lady, down on the public desk, say?" Kelly having lost her bearings completely.

"Left, office on the right side." Stephanie being made of sterner stuff. "Come on, follow me, I'll keep yer safe, youngster."

"Har-Har! Idiot."

—O—

Having negotiated the preliminary obstacle generally put in the way of aspiring visitors wishing to eyeball Harry Krausmann face to face; ie, his secretary Annabel Lee, a cold Norwegian on whose ample slopes snow had never been known to melt, they found themselves established in the inner sanctum—a very plush private office indeed.

"So, ladies', here we be, at last. Thought, at one point, we were never goin' ter meet." Krausmann, having been born and raised in Pennsylvania, had a noticeable German accent though never having spent time in his ancestral country at all. "Any news of 'The Dravenscourt Affair' comin' t'fruition?"

"Things have started lookin' up, some, I got'ta admit." Stephanie giving credit where it was due. "That idea of yours, to bring Terry Andersen on board, has done wonders fer the publicity, over the last few weeks."

"Yeah, we can afford him, major star though he is." Kelly nodding in affirmation. "And we got Anna May Wong, too."

"Yeah, I like we managed that." Krausmann nodding in his turn. "Criminally under-used, that gal, in my opinion. Well, how's the money-men aspect bearin' up?"

This was Kelly's corner of Redoubtable Films, she keeping an eagle eye on virtually every single cent expended on the business—she and Stephanie being 30% shareholders in the entire concern.

"We have around sixty per cent of the expences already wrapped up, via our usual subscribers. Only the other forty percent to look for—but we got that in hand, too."

"We have an appointment this afternoon with someone else who seems willing to back the movie; just need'ta give him the old spiel, buck his spirits up, y'know." Stephanie backing her partner in this run-up to the film's beginnings. "Make him believe his money won't simply disappear if the movie, y'know, bombs—"

Krausmann, pursing his lips, assumed a pained expression, waving a hand from side to side in a negatory manner.

"Don't say that word, ladies, if yer doesn't mind." He making a further face of disapprobation. "Had too much o'rubbin' shoulders with such in my early days t'want a re-match at this time in my life, thanks."

"Don't worry, none." Stephanie grinning widely, full of confidence. "It's gon'na be a zinger, across the board."

"I've read the preliminary script, an' there seems ter be a lot o'exterior work involved."

"Yeah, just over half the movie'll be outdoor scenes." Kelly again on the ball. "Some we'll shoot at our own outdoor spread, the Triple Triangle; but most, the wide shots gen'rally, will be on the Carlsson Ranch, just south of the Iverson spread."

"Good, good." Krausmann leaned back, twiddling a pen in his right hand, clearly pleased. "Sounds like it's all comin' t'gether fine."

Stephanie frowned as she brought a new subject up; raising a hand, spreading her fingers wide in a habit she had.

"There is one thing; there's a long scene in the main room of the interior set, of the main house. It's a plush affair, at least on paper, but we need a good designer t'dress the set."

"Yeah, not just some old hand, either." Kelly adding her input with some fervour. "A real interior designer—the kind you get on these fancy Park Avenue apartments and private houses—that sort of style."

Krausmann puckered his lips, thinking about this aspect.

"Well, there's designers; then there's designers, y'know." He scraped with his fingernail at the red leather surface of his somewhat shabby desk. "The kind who cater t'the Nobs, like you say, are way out'ta our league—they'd require a salary more'n the whole output from Accountancy fer the entire movie."

"Jeez!"

"Not t'worry, Miss Humber," Krausmann on top of his business, as per his reputation. "there's others more, er, accessible. I got someone in mind, right now. Brigitte Restrom—ever heard o'her?"

Stephanie and Kelly ruminated singly then, glancing at each other, together; but the end result was similar in both cases.

"Nah, who is she?" From Stephanie, not against, but certainly wanting some sort of evidence to back up whatever reputation the unknown designer might have.

"Mmm, no, can't say her name means anything." Kelly taking more time to consider the matter. "Magazine fashion photographer, is she? What mags' she done work for that I might have seen?"

"Well, no; she don't do mag work." Krausmann shaking his head, as knowing this point for a fact. "She has a reputation on the Upper West Side; for interior decoration an' that sort'a thing—doing up houses, apartments, country villas, an' so on. Done some well-liked work over the last five year. I think I can get her onboard, an' she'll come up with the goods fer certain, I'm sure; and for the the right price. These interiors, fer 'The Dravenscourt Affair', they're modern, yeah? Up t'date, the times we're livin' in at the moment, right?"

"You've read the First Script," Kelly raising an eyebrow. "So it should'a been obvious it's a modern drama. Shouldn't want the audience settling in their seats thinking they're about t'sit through a Western, or something."

"No, no, of course." Krausmann embarrassed by his palpable mistake. "Dropped the ball some there, didn't I, ladies? No, I've—that's to say, yeah, I've read the script, of course. I know fine well what period the dam' thin—er, the movie's set in. Up t'date, with frills on, an' everythin'. As Art Deco as can be, eh?"

This remark, to Stephanie's ears, hardly improved the matter.

"Mr Krausmann?"

The Producer, from the safe haven of the other side of his desk than his visitors, gave Stephanie an anxious glance.

"—er, yeah?"

"We ain't dealin' with High Class frippery here." She giving him the benefit of her second-best scowl, known before now to have laid German Expressionist Directors low. "Deco's certainly a thing o'the times; but it ain't, all the same, the only thing."

"A-ah?" Krausmann slightly confused.

"What my partner means is, Mr Krausmann, the set we're working up for the house interior scenes is gon'na be in the Old Spanish Colonial style." Kelly coming forward with some sort of explanation for the hard-pressed Producer. "Sort'a old-fashioned, but still wholly up to date, if you catch my drift."

Now realising he was certainly out of his depth, and had missed something important on the set design front, Krausmann took shelter behind wholesale acceptance of the scenario offered him by the two Producers.

"Yes, yes, of course. I haven't the slightest doubt you've both got the thing satisfactorily under control. Well, I think Miss Restrom can handle Old Spanish Colonial—yes, yes, I'm sure of it. I'll give her agent a call in a few minutes—have her onboard on the movie in two shake's of a lamb's tail, what?"

"We'll give ya the figures for the overall exterior set expences in a coupl'a days, OK?" Stephanie returning to the meat and gristle of making a movie from scratch.

"That'll be fine—just, try'n make it not over a week, will ya?" Krausmann rising to usher his guests out. "I got some Pennsylvania backers who're dead set on querying every single dam' cent on the Production Inventory. Y'know the type—determined, come Hell or dam' anythin' else, t'get their five cents back fer every one cent they put in—that kind'a backer. God, come another week an' my ulcer'll be playin' up again, I bet."

"Condolences, I'm sure." Kelly hardly concerned about the Producer's health, come May or September.

"See ya in, oh, another three days." Stephanie already thinking more about their next port of call. "Don't do anything, in the meantime, Kel here or I wouldn't; or, if ya do, do it with style, eh? Ha-ha!"

Completely bewildered by this farewell remark Krausmann could only wave dazedly to the backs of his visitors as they passed through and then shut his office door behind them.

—O—

"Where the Hell are we, sis?"

Stephanie, addressed thus by her lover, gazed out at the clearly decrepit landscape on both sides of the mean street their taxi-cab had just delivered them to.

"Y'sure ya brought us t'One-Two-Oh-Five Rivington Street, cabbie?"

"This's it, ladies'." The cabbie an old hand at this sort of thing. "Looks dirty an' low, 'cause it dam' well is. This bein' the Bowery, y'know."

"This ain't the street the Backhammer Saloon's on; we, Stevie here, an' I've been there often. This ain't the Bowery." Kelly begging to differ, in her own personal manner.

Faced with such a high level of critique of his professional knowledge the cabbie swiveled round to take due note of his opponent. Glancing from one to the other he, as any other New York cabbie would also have done, took their measure instantly; styling his response in return to his perceived reading of his passengers' natures.

"Ladies, the Backhammer's a fine establishment, fer those of the Sapphic turn o'mind; an' nuthin' I got against such, neither." He raising a slightly bored set of thick black eyebrows. "But it's on the Bowery—the street as such; this here's Rivington Street, in the District of The Bowery, which is all-encompassing around Bowery Street—got me? One dollar fifty, if ya please."

Standing on the sidewalk, after the triumphant cabbie had driven off, they took stock of their situation.

"Forgot The Bowery was a District as well as the Street."

"Well, ya knows it now." Stephanie shaking her head slightly. "T'change the subject some, what kind'a Film Producer has his office in The Bowery?"

"Beats me." Kelly hardly taking due note of this interesting, possibly significant, question on the part of her better half. "Meb'be he's after local colour and atmosphere?"

"Doesn't need a permanent office fer that." Stephanie taking the logical outlook on this. "Just a quick visit'd be more'n enough. So,—One-Two-Oh-Five?"

"Over here, this three-storey junk-heap, with the Chinese restaurant at street level." Kelly having pinpointed their destination like a hungry eagle. "This side-door'll be the way in, I expect."

A bare minute later, walking along the second-storey corridor, neither lady was delighted with the surrounding décor.

"Looks like the place hasn't had its wall-paper changed in forty year."

"Yeah, an' look at the paintwork, peeling like it's on its last legs." Stephanie as repelled by the building's obvious lack of upkeep as her partner. "Hey, who's this bozo?"

Standing outside a door halfway along the corridor was a tall, well-built black man, sporting a fine linen dark-grey suit whose noticeable quality was startingly out of keeping with the surrounding standards. He turned to watch the ladies' approach, putting out a large hand to stop them in their tracks.

"Wha' youse wants?"

"We're here t'see Mr Killian Lancaster." Stephanie explaining their presence somewhat dubiously. "He hereabouts, or what?"

The man took no notice of this last question, staring at the women as if never having seen such before; then he came back to life.

"Aarh, jes' cool yer heels, both o'yer, till I see's what's what."

With this helpful request he turned the doorknob, passed through the open door, which he carefully closed behind him, and left the ladies alone in the corridor, as on a sinking ship.

"What the f-ck's going on?" Kelly taking umbrage, as by nature bound. "This ain't the office of a up and coming Film Producer. This's the den of someone up t'no good; probably in a wide variety of ways. Where the Hell are we, lady? What've we gotten ourselves into?"

Before Stephanie could form an adequate reply the door re-opened to show the black man, now beckoning his guests to enter the dark interior of the room he was so determined to defend at all costs.

"C'm in, won't ya; the day's gettin' along here, move it."

Inside the ladies found themselves in a poky reception room, as of some sort of lowly office, two closed doors in the far wall leading into the further unknown depths of the suite. One of these doors now opened to reveal a tall thin sharp-featured man in his late forties; dark hair going grey at the sides, and an expression of distrust and disappointment at the world in general obviously deeply ingrained by years of experience.

"Yer here, then. Come in, come in. Hey, Joesy?"

"Yeah, boss?"

"Go back out, an' make sure no-one else gets in fer, oh, the next hour, OK?"

"Yeah, boss."

"After you, ladies."

In what appeared to be the man's personal office all was set on a slightly higher level of decency, but only relatively speaking; the whole room looking for all the world like the dingiest kind of a second-rate Private Dick's office in a run-down Brownstone nearer the Upper Side. There was a desk, of dubious antecedents, a couple of hard chairs, several wood filing-cabinets, and a safe in the corner.

"Here, take the weight off, sisters." The man gesturing to the chairs as he sat on his own upholstered affair. "So, it's finally come ter this, eh?"

Stephanie looked at the chair offered her, the general aspect of the office, the man himself, and made her doubts of the whole business manifold by her first question.

"You Killian Lancaster?"

This request for identity seemed to humour the man no end, he breaking out in a wide grin, showing perfect white teeth.

"That I am. You both ain't native t'The Bowery are ya? Would'a known fine well who I am, if yer were." He continuing to grin like a Cheshire Cat. "So, to business; how's the lay workin' out, then? Lookin' like I'll get my dough back, an' then some, when it hits the spot?"

"If ya mean how's the production funding for the movie going, we're gettin' there, slow but steady." Stephanie giving little away, frowning at the man opposite. "You've put five thou in already; said you were up for another ten? How's that lookin'?"

Killian, forbearing to reply off the cuff, instead leaned forward, putting his elbows on the desk, the more easily to hold his chin in his hands as he gave both women the once over.

"Five thou's a lot'ta dough, as ya know; ten's a dam' lot more, even." He frowned darkly, as if trying to intimidate his visitors. "What I'm lookin' for, out'ta this business transaction, in the long run, is profit—hopefully som'mers along the line of, oh, thirty-five percent. How's that sound?"

For the last five minutes Stephanie and Kelly had been becoming more and more certain they had fallen into the Minotaur's den; this last hopeful hint for astronomical interest rates only serving to put the tin lid on their suspicions. Kelly making the first move towards disenchanting this supposed backer of his fantasies.

"Mr Lancaster, it don't work that way—"

"What don't, lady?"

"The reimbursements to backers in movies." Kelly frowning herself as she stared down the man before her, and his wild ideas of fantastic future profits. "The general median return on subscribed money from backers to movies is somewhere around a general level of five to ten percent, nothing more. Movies make money, at least when they're any ways successful; but not such a profit as to make every backer rich beyond the dreams of Croesus. You're twelve thou'll bring you in, oh, around fifteen to eighteen in return, that's tops."

Lancaster sat back on his chair; considering this sad, even woeful, news from the Front, then reached a decision.

"That ain't enough; no-ways enough."

"How much'd be enough, Mr Lancaster?" Stephanie hitting the centre of the disputed target first shot.

"Let's see, fer an input o'twelve thou—iirm, I'd expect, at least, a return of twenty,—twenty-two thou." He nodding, satisfied with his personal mathematics. "That bein' the bare minimum of profit, y'unnerstands. I mean, what the hell, it's business, after all. Profits' profit, ain't it?"

Stephanie considered this answer, and request for understanding, then glanced at her partner; who, like her, was also clearly suffering from the same state of disappointed aspirations.

"Mr Lancaster, we can't do that."

"What, Miss Garroch? Don't quite follow?"

"We, no-one in fact, in the movie business can guarantee percentage profits of that magnitude." Stephanie, from long experience, firm in her convictions on this topic. "It just don't work that way. Movie's come to life after hard lengthy expensive preparation at the pre-production stages; what with other expences, not least the stars' salaries, there ain't ever much left over when the finished product's run its course in the theatres—even if it were a big success. All, you as a backer, can count on is a return of, certainly, five percent—meb'be, if it hits with the Public, ten percent, that's all. That's all you get in return, 'cause that's all there'll be t'get, is all."

Reclining back on his chair Lancaster studied the two women opposite him, as if they were members of some exotic species new to the local zoo. His eyebrows went up, stayed elevated for some considerable time then, on lowering to pre-astonished levels, only being replaced by a low gloomy frown reflecting disappointment, sadness, pessimism with the state of the whole world, and finally a general inclination to get what was his own back come what may.

"Ladies, I am disappointed."

In unison, like performers on the stage, Stephanie and Kelly shrugged their shoulders in perfect harmony. Lancaster, however, clearly remaining wholly un-impressed by this remarkable exhibition of synchronicity.

"I think, on the whole—yeah, I think, what with one thing an' another, I'll politely ask yer both ter return my earlier offering—five thou, down t'the last bent brass cent, if ya please—wih ten percent interest, fer losing out on its use in other affairs in the meantime. That sit OK with you two?"

Stephanie and Kelly—clearly understanding that, indeed, the now plainly revealed gangster before them did indeed mean every iota of his business methodology—raised astonished eyebrows, this time exhibiting less than perfect duality, then simultaneously buckled in defeat.

"OK, OK, that's a deal." Stephanie trying to soothe rattled tempers as best she could. "The movie business's always a hard nut t'crack; chances have t'be taken all the time, y'know. It ain't, by any ways, a primrose path t'profits beyond comprehension, as most people think. But there ya are; we'll transfer you're money back t'your account in a coupl'a days, plus ten percent, OK? Sorry we can't do business in this matter, after all."

"Your sorrow ain't nuthin' ter my sorrow, lady, believe me." Lancaster rising to bid his disappointing visitors a less than friendly farewell. "I was lookin' fer big things from this joint venture; those, in my line o'business, who come over less than useful ter me gen'rally ends up in some deep waters, ha-ha; but, seein' yer both from out'ta town, an' from that well-known den o'iniquity, Hollywood, I'll let yer off with this warnin'—next time yer comes ter The Bowery lookin' ter mulct business-men o'their hard-earned cash, come with opener hands than ye have this time, is all—g'bye t'the both o'ye."

—O—

Back in their room at the Colchester Hotel in Mid-town, the ladies sat on the bed, bewailing their misfortunes.

"Jee-sus! What was that all about?"

Stephanie, having thought the matter over in the taxi back from The Bowery, had strong opinions on this subject.

"He was a dam' downright gangster, is what the dam' he is." She grinding her teeth in an ecstasy of rage. "Al bloody Capone t'a tee, if not more so, even."

"How in hell'd we get mixed up with someone like that?"

"Dun'no." Stephanie shaking her head in dismay herself. "I got'ta have words with the dam' Front Office when we returns t'Hollywood, that's clear enough. G-d'd-m gangsters; Jeez, what next, bank robbers fer President o'the Company?"

Kelly, meanwhile, as she divested herself of her waist-length jacket, throwing the offending article on the bed on which she was sitting, had been mulling over another angle of the newly past debacle.

"With Lancaster out'ta the game, we got'ta look fer another backer, quick-time."

"Why so, dear?"

"We've just lost the best part of twelve thousand dollars, dearie." Kelly up to the mark, moneywise. "That's a big chunk of the necessary fer the production expences. We got'ta make it up fast. Remember, we have another appointment early tomorrow morning with Conrad Le Meistre—he's gon'na put twenty thou down, if he thinks the movie's on the go for real."

"Aah, yes." Stephanie bearing this point in mind with the serious consideration it required. "Le Meistre, yeah; that is a problem."

Kelly, who had been struggling with the ankle-strap on one of her shoes, ceased this activity to stare at her lover.

"He is, as you know, a fashion designer t'the Nobs, the rich, the wealthy, an' the people with influence who Get Things Done." Kelly, as she spoke, making a face that would have scared the Medusa. "Rolling in the only coloured paper that matters—greenbacks—and willing, as we also know, to shell out for this up-coming movie, like he did for our last six-movie series about Dan Darrington, The 'Tec Who Knows."

"Yeah, well, he got a fair profit out'ta those, didn't he?" Stephanie not quite seeing her companion's point.

"But what's the chances of him making out with the dough this time when he hears we've just lost the second biggest backer, and as a result the movie's now teetering on the edge?"

This was certainly something to think about, and not simply while taking a bath preparatory to a nice evening out. Stephanie scratched her chin, looked at her partner now flailing around on the bed trying to gracefully remove her left stocking, took less interest in this entertaining exhibition than she would normally have done, then came to a decision.

"Doll?"

"Yeah, tootsie?"

"I'm gon'na take a bath." Stephanie turning towards the bathroom as she so declared her intention. "When I return, refreshed and smelling like a field o'wild flowers in High Summer, I'll have the answer. Is that pearl-coloured soap with the vanilla scent still in there?"

Kelly, having conquered her stocking problem, sat up to gaze at her paramour with open eyes.

"Yeah, it's still in residence in the soap-dish." She shook her head disparagingly, all the same. "You may come out smelling like a flower shop, but will your plan, whatever it turns out to offer, be anything other than a busted flush? Only askin', is all?"

Stephanie, grasping the handle of the bathroom door, turned to inflict her best No.1 sneer on her beloved better part; knowing beforehand it would have literally no effect whatever—but a gal has to do her best in trying circumstances, doesn't she!

"Kel, you're a case, is what."

"Stevie, get wet quick—there's others wants a bath, too, y'know."

"Har!"

—O—

"When's our appointment with Conrad?"

"Ten-thirty, tomorrow morning." Kelly having this information burned on her consciousness, as part of their business itinerary for their NY trip. "So, what about another, new, backer?"

It was an hour later, both had taken their individual baths, freshened their make-up, and changed into evening clothes. The earlier plan had been to hit their favourite restaurant around 8.30pm, but this had been pushed back to 10.30pm in order to focus on the lack of viable backers for their upcoming film.

"We could—, no, we couldn't." Stephanie thinking aloud, to no great effect. "Wonder if—? Nah, that's no good, either. There is, of course—nah, won't work. Jeez, ain't ya got anything t'contribute, lover? I'm on my beam-ends here."

On her part, while taking her bath, Kelly had been going over the problem and had come up with a possible escape clause, which she now prepared to spring on her companion.

"What about the Anglo-Asian Reformed Bank, dear?"

"Name rings a bell; remind me, young 'un?"

"They sprang for thirty thou before we made 'Calypso Queen', two year since." Kelly having remembered this transaction with joy and happiness ever since. "They made a good return; only in the region of seven percent, mind you, but the sort'a level sane business companies expects. Meb'be they'd like to come on board with 'The Dravenscourt Affair'?"

Sitting at the dining-table in their hotel room Stephanie leaned her chin on one hand, considering the merits of this idea.

"Yeah, might work, at that. Who was it we spoke to, as representative, again?"

"Mike Galway, good bloke." Kelly having a near photographic memory for business associates who had the right idea about financing films. "We could phone him now; I got his number in my schedule, somewhere."

"Bit late in the day, ain't it?"

"Stevie, it's never too late in the day to charm willing business partners out'ta their cash for needful enterprises. Slide the phone over, will you."

"Graah!"

—O—

The Grey Duckling restaurant, on West 51st just south of the Park, had a widespread reputation among theatre-goers and the nighthawks amongst the tribe of revelers and nightclub haunters; which meant it was wide-open and hunting for business at 11.00pm that evening. It also provided private little high-sided alcoves, surrounded by walnut screens, guaranteed to give the largest amount of privacy and peace as possible to the aspiring customer who didn't want to hog with the throng. At the present moment Stephanie, Kelly and Mike Galway occupied one of these secret nooks, going over the menu de la jour.

"Steaks? Too heavy." Kelly giving the card in front of her a searching analysis. "Lobster, not at this time o'night. Beef stew, iiim; nah, don't feel like it. Shepherd's Pie, uum."

"Kel, lover?"

"What, dearest, I'm occupied here."

"Kel?"

"What? What?"

"D'ya wan'na eat, at all; or will Mike, here, an' I jes' dig in whiles you sits back watchin' us devour the menu while you drinks a glass o'water,—only askin'?"

"Oh, very funny—OK, I'll take the cod-fish with raspberry and oyster sauce, an' the mixed Russian salad, with cayenne." She finally making up her mind, at the last hurdle. "You OK, Mike?"

"Never better, ladies." Mike Galway was tall, broad-shouldered, and as healthy as a back-stop in a football team. Presently he was all ears for a good business deal for his bank and appetite for a really top-notch evening meal at a fine restaurant curtesy of his two hostess's. "The steak, mashed turnip, an' fries for me, thanks. Any ideas about the wine?"

"Well, I'm gon'na have the Chinese rice noodles an' red peppers, thanks fer askin'." Stephanie finally relaxing after a hard day and enjoying her evening. "Wine? Uum, depends on what Kel, here, can stand before falling over on the floor, drunk as a coot, after two glasses."

"Ho-ho-ho." Kelly prepared for this attack on her reputation. "Always the comic, lady! The Rioja looks good; what do you two think?"

"I'll go fer it, sure." Stephanie bowing to her partner's superior knowledge in the subject.

"Fine by me. I'm game for anything that'll hit the right spot first time over the tonsils." Mike settling back to really get into the spirit of the evening meal. "Better make it two bottles just, you know, to be sure."

"My kind'a guy." Kelly laughing as she waved at the expectant waiter hovering in the offing. "Right, let's get into this."

Forty minutes later three replete diners sat back, trying not to belch openly, having enjoyed their fare tremendously; not least Kelly, whose manner of eating always roused her partner's ire.

"Kel, why d'ya wolf yer grub so fast?" Stephanie complaining once again, after the event this time. "You had t'sit back fer all of ten minutes, grumblin' at Mike an' I something awful, when you'd cleared your plate before either of us. Y'could'a just eaten at our pace, an' kept up with us that way."

Kelly, on the other hand, was having nothing to do with this mealy-mouthed attitude towards food.

"Grub's for eating, sister." She having strong opinions on the matter, and not afraid to air them. "Eat it before anyone has a chance to muscle in an' steal it out from under your nose—an old childhood habit, Mike, just for your information. You eat too slow, anyway, dearest; you could do with bucking up in that line a trifle—talking of which, is raspberry and vanilla trifle on the dessert menu, Mike? It is? Yippee, I'll have a double portion. What're you having, dear?"

"Uurr, a dry biscuit an' a scrapin' of Brie, just to settle my stomach, you understand. Purely medicinal."

"Ha!"

—O—

Another twenty minutes later, the table cleared except for coffee and a couple of plates of mixed biscuits, which were intriguing Kelly no end much to her partner's disapproval, the trio sat back for the onset of the main event—talking shop about financing movies bigtime.

"Well, hit me with it, ladies," Mike grinning from ear to ear; now, this evening, obviously open to almost any offer. "what've you got in the movie line the Anglo-Asian'd be interested in sinkin' it's yearly profits into on spec?"

Ten minutes later the basic plot, the stars involved, the character actors taken on board, and the general level of appropriate expences involved laid bare, Stephanie and Kelly reclined in their chairs, taking as much interest in the reaction of their guest as eagles in a lamb two hundred feet below them in a field.

"It seems a fair arrangement." Mike nodding, having carefully thought about the deal for all of three minutes—digestion and a nice warm growing fuzzy feeling getting in the way of any lengthier intellectual focus on the subject. "Alright, it's a deal; I'll put it through at the next weekly meeting of the Directors; but don't worry, it'll be a forgone conclusion, me being well up in their good graces these days."

"Thanks, and thanks again, Mike." Stephanie not loath to give praise where due. "That more or less settles the matter—the movie's got enough backing now t'go ahead. We should start filming in, oh, two weeks time. Y'sure the Bank'll be happy with fifteen thou' at seven percent at six month?"

"Sure as roses is green,—er, red, lady,—er, I mean, Miss Garroch." Mike beginning to show signs of too full an acquaintance with the glass that warms the heart. "Yeah, everything's jes' hip-hoppity, don't worry. Is there a chance of there bein' a cameo part for me, in this movie, by any chance? Jes' sittin' in the background as the camera passes me by, that sort'a thing. Be amusing that; could point it out t'my grandchildren, in years t'come."

Stephanie, and even Kelly, now well aware that Mike was half-seas over and only getting worse, ended the conference here, waving for the bill like an Empress after a particularly large but successful banquet.

"Come on, Kel, let's get this happy lad in'ta a taxi before he keels over; he havin' done his duty handsomely, I admits."

"Sure thing, lover; you take his left arm, I'll take his right. God, he's heavy; is it all muscle, or just fat, dear?"

"Clown, come on, let's shift him out'ta here before we make a public spectacle of ourselves."

—O—

"What do you fancy Conrad'll think of the deal now, lover?"

Stephanie, lying in bed close by the naked side of her lover, thought about this aspect of the remaining details involved with the approaching movie.

"When we tell him, tomorrow, the Anglo-Asian's in up to it's ears he'll jump at the chance." She nodding, whilst infiltrating a soft warm hand into a very nice preliminary position. "Looks like we've cleared all the hurdles, and got the thing going, at last."

"That's nice—Stevie, what're you doin?"

"Jes' gettin' ourselves comfortable, is all, dearie."

"Aa-yee! Never heard it called that before! Eeyaa! Do that again, lover."

"Your wish, lover, your wish; happy t'oblige."

"Ee-aa-rrh!"

The End

—O—

The next 'Redoubtable Films' story will be along shortly.

—OOO—