'Out On Location'
by Phineas Redux
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 oversee the location shots for an upcoming thriller movie.
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.
The Piers facing the East River, in Brooklyn Heights, New York, were busy at all times of day and night; the subject of various City ordinances surrounding filming therein and thereon; and the sub judice playground of a variety of small and large criminal gangs. For Redoubtable Studios, on this morning of June 1936, to film various outside shots for a movie there was taking a risk, but one carefully calculated in advance.
Buddie Brannigan, the Head Producer back in Hollywood, had spent the best part of a half-hour long telephone call explaining the risks and high points involved to his two Associate Producers and large shareholders; to wit, Stephanie Garroch and her lover and fellow Associate P., Kelly Humber. At present they were sitting in the New York office of Redoubtable Studios taking in all their friend had to say on the subject.
"—after which there shouldn't be any further problem." Buddie coming to the end of a long diatribe concerning the need to keep the Police Department both happy and at arm's length. "But ya got'ta take in'ta account there's corruption goin' on every which way ya turn—jes' a fact o'life."
"I just don't like the idea of paying hush money—especially t'New York's finest." Stephanie airing her concern, nonetheless.
"Like I say, fact of Life." Buddie taking the realistic view. "There'll be at least one Superintendent; an' a whole flock of Captains' an' Lieutenants', holdin' their hands out. Jes' make sure ya never part with more'n one hundred t'any one individual, is all. That bein' the goin' rate."
"Sounds t'me like it's a better choice, hawkin' fer backhanders, than workin' on the dam' movie?" Kelly, on the secondary phone, backing her lover's standpoint.
"That ain't all, either, ladies." Buddie deciding that his Associates ought to hear the whole of the bad news all in one go. "Down at the Docks, the Piers, where most o'the location shots are gon'na be taken up; that's where the gangs' an' the Unions' come in fer their slice o'the pie."
Stephanie looked at her inamorata, Kelly frowning in reply.
"Gangs? Dear Buddie, ya never said anythin', previous, about bloody gangs." She becoming heated as she considered this new angle. "What sort'a gangs? Are we talkin' about dangerous gangs, here? Gangs headed by the sort'a people who'd shoot first, then laugh at the results?"
The silence echoing down the line from the other side of the vast country was in itself more explicit than mere words would probably have been.
"God!" Kelly not taking to this situation either. "Gangs of criminals, dead set on milkin' the Studio fer every dam' red cent in our coffers? Wha' d'we do, Buddie?"
But Buddie was up for this complaint.
"Ya plays the Hard Game, is what you do, Kel." Having been in films for almost ten years Buddie knew of what he spoke. "They know they can only go so far. No-one's gon'na come after ya with a gat, or baseball bat—"
"I should bloody f-ckin' hope not!" Stephanie becoming inflamed at this prospect.
"Calm down, there ain't as much t'fear as ya might think." Buddie, for all his 28 years, coming the old philosopher—from a safe distance. "You'll have some bozo materialise out'ta the woodwork somewhere ya least expects it; he'll gently inform ya that if ya want t'continue filming in peace an' quiet ya might wan'na think about contributin' ter the local charitable organisations—which he'll happily take donations fer—"
"Oh, yeah?" Stephanie being no-way impressed.
"But don't take his initial pleas at face value." Buddie clear on this important point in the possible negotiations. "They always asks fer about five times what they expec's—just business dealin's, ya know. Laugh in his face—show him ya ain't a scared mouse, but a roarin' lion, that sort'a thing—"
"Oh, is that all?" Kelly being sarcastic as all get-out.
"It's all part of the game, Kel." Buddie no way put-out. "Argue him down to a responsible amount—"
"Which'd be—what?" Stephanie almost snarling this request for clarity down the telephone wire.
"Oh, let's see." The telephone went quiet as Buddie, in his safe haven in the Front Office of Redoubtable Studios in Hollywood, considered the inherent dangers of filming in New York. "OK, don't part with more'n two hundred an' fifty bucks, no matter how hard they plead—"
"What if they threaten us with railway shares?" Stephanie, under duress, waxing esoteric.
"Ferget it." Stephanie raising her eyebrows in despair.
"So, like I was sayin'," Buddie getting back on the main track. "Pin 'em t'the wall with yer counter-arguments; don't take no schtick from anyone; an' don't be afraid they're gon'na suddenly pull out the rubber saps an' go ter work on ya—they don't employ those methods anymore—well, not so much, anyway—"
Kelly couldn't let this example of sloppy thinking go by un-opposed.
"Yeah, I'm listenin'?"
"Jeez, this call's costin' me bucks—what?"
"If some bozo with more muscle than brains goes t'work on me with a sap—I'm comin' right back t'Hollywood, when I've recovered, an' break both yer dam' legs fer ya—slowly, with pleasure."
Another pause ate up more of Buddie's bucks before he could think of an appropriate answer.
"Aah, well—yeah, well. Oh, fer God's sake, Kel, what's with the Macbeth Witches scene? It's only a dam' movie, on a dam' decrepit Pier on the East River. What, can't ya handle it, or what?"
Poked beyond endurance by these calumnies, Kelly broke out into her native Idaho language; of which, under pressure, she was a mistress.
"Buddie, ya reptilian s*%$$~ piece o'*^£""# blisterin' m+(8^."
"Hey, that ain't no way fer a lady ter talk!" Buddie taking it like a man; he having known both Stephanie and the outraged Kelly for many years and judging her feelings to the nearest iota. "Get a grip, lady. Save it fer the Marines, an' the dopes down on the East River. I figure ya got the high ground there on language, anyway, by a long shot. I pity the poor duhingus who tries t'put the squeeze on ya, I do."
From the film set-up on Pier 7, or camp-out as some were already referring to it, there was a splendid view of Governor's Island—lying low in the mouth of the East River for all the world like a green lush tropical island. The Pier, on the other hand, was an entirely different kettle of fish, it having been out of action and more or less abandoned for the best part of 10 years past; a disreputable unkempt neighbour amongst its busily active compeers.
"God, what's that smell?"
Implored so directly by the woman she loved over all Stephanie took a second to sniff heartily, instantly wishing she hadn't bothered.
"Graah! Yeah, see what ya mean."
"Don? Hi, Don!"
"Yeah? What? I'm busy."
"Get yer butt over here—now!"
The Director of the movie, so cautioned, threw his arms in the air, slapped his script down on the fold-up chair that served as his throne, and made his way over to where the two Producers were standing.
"What's up—I'm on a schedule, y'know."
"Take a snifter—then tell Stevie an' I what the Hell, is all." Kelly making clear her standpoint and area of interest.
Raising his eyebrows at this unusual request Don Calbron, a long-term Redoubtable Director and friend of Stephanie and Kelly, caved in, sniffing heartily as was his way with everything. A few seconds later he too gave a gasp and coughed.
"Grauugh! What for ya made me do that?"
"I'm thinkin', Don; jes' off the top o'my head, y'unnerstan's," Stephanie giving of her best sarcastic nature. "oh, probably the return of the Black Death? Can't be anything lesser, f'sure."
Don eyed his revered Producers, cast an eye across the wide planked surface of the long Pier, caught the opposing eye of a young woman in dungarees twenty yards off, and grabbed at this safety buoy eagerly.
"Sally! Sal! C'mere."
Sally Foster, general dogsbody to those in higher positions on set, sloped over with head held high; she being of a masterful scratch me an' I'll dam' well bite ya nature.
"This God-awful smell pervadin' the vicinity? What about it?"
Sally, looking perplexed as if asked a silly question, glanced at her three companions, gave a slight sniff, as if it were hardly worth the effort, then came back with her angle on Life and offensive smells in general.
"Oh, that. That's nuthin'. Take no note."
As she turned away, clearly of the opinion her work in this area was done, Stephanie spoke out.
Sally, never one to take impertinence lightly, turned to face her Producer with a cold eye.
"Ya speakin' ter me, sis?"
Even Stephanie suddenly realised she had taken that step too far.
"Aah, that's ter say—a fine mornin', out here, no mistake—but, there's a, er, sort'a aroma that's mighty pervadin', don't yer think? We was jes' wonderin' if ya could shine any light on said ghastly reek, is all?"
Supplied with the topic of concern to one and all Sally stepped up to the bar like a good 'un.
"Oh, that. That's the ordinary smell ya gets when a Pier like this here's been used fer off-loading copra, an' then later storin' it wholesale, fer decades. Tends ter leave a niff that's probably impossible t'get rid of. Come back here in fifty year, an' likelihood is you'll still catch a mighty fine echo of it."
The three movie officials glanced at each other, before Kelly came to the fore with the question on their combined minds.
"What the hell's copra?"
Sally, enquired of as of a tutor or teacher, shrugged her shoulders.
"Dried coconut meal or powder." She grinned innocently, obviously not so impaired by the all-surrounding smell as her compeers. "Because of the way its treated it tends t'go off at the drop of a hat—the result bein' the gentle sweet flower-like scent you've jes' alluded to. It ain't goin' anywhere; so get used t'it, is the only thing I can tell ya."
With this declaration Sally strolled off, to continue with whatever duties of import she had been called away from; leaving in her wake three non-plussed movie officials.
"Well," Stephanie breaching a long silence. "all I can say is, if'n I'd been told about this god-awful smell before, I'd have chosen another dam' Pier. It isn't too late yet, is it Don?"
The Director, being at the head of all things movie associated, knew when he was beat.
"Yeah, far too late." He gazed around with a dull eye. "Broken down as it verifiably is it's already cost us about two thousand dollars ter rent here. If we up's anchor an' bids for somewhere else, that'll ipso facto be in better condition, it'll take days t'work out, an' about three times the expence. You wan'na go for that?"
Kelly, accountant extraordinaire, came out fighting at this horrible thought.
"Nah, we're good—carry on as usual." She sniffed disgustedly. "God, what a smell! OK, we'll just have'ta put up with it. Jeez, come t'New York fer your filming Heaven! Some chance!"
This up-coming movie, a splendid example of the thriller genre, was being filmed under the title of 'Cargo of Import'; but this was only a stop-gap until a better title could be found. The two main participants being a private dick and a police Captain; these being played by Tom Harris, as the dick, and Gary Baird, as the police officer. With the scene scheduled to be covered this morning coming ever closer to the kick-off the inherent differences in character between the two actors who, to everyone's surprise actually hated each other's guts from way back, had begun to show.
"What's the time?"
Stephanie glanced at her wristwatch, always ready to give sustenance and solace to the one she loved.
Stephanie let a gentle pause suffuse the vicinity before she came to the end of her tether.
"So? So what?"
Stephanie, faced with this level of unconcern, tried not to scream outright, but it was a close run thing.
"Nice day, ain't it?"
"Yeah, so what? We got a dam' film t'film along hereaways, y'know." Kelly showing all her renowned contempt for those matters which didn't. "The Director's havin' a fit, over there; the sound system, as was only t'be expected, ain't workin'; the Photographer only brought three reels, instead of six; and I stubbed my toe on a bolt stickin' out'ta a big log over there. Nice day's the least o'my worries, doll."
Kelly obviously feeling she was harried from pillar to post Stephanie changed the subject, slightly.
"We still goin' with Cargo of Import, or changin' it sum'mer's along the way?"
This topic, bearing on the film if even in only a general way, brought Kelly back to reality.
Stephanie's tether, metaphorically lying discarded on the ground, now received the pounding of its life as Stephanie, still metaphorically, danced on its remains.
"Jeez, woman, get a grip!"
"What? What the hell's gettin' on your wick, darlin'?" Kelly clearly in the dark, in the middle of the day.
"Yeah, lover; I'm here, by your side, as you can clearly see. Can I be of any assistance to Modom?"
"Spit it out, ya lumpkins, ya; it'll all be for the better, you'll see."
Defeated, Stephanie fell back on clarity and lucidity.
"The title of the dam' film, is what." She snarling this like a spitfire. "Are we gon'na change it t'somethin' more fitting, or what?"
Kelly, now fully au fait, considered the matter.
"Are we? Don't rightly know. Maybe yeah; maybe no. Ask the Director; or, better, the scriptwriter; no, belay that, what you want's the original story writer, who's pretty strict about these things, I got'ta say; she's domiciled in Arizona, as we speak, though."
As the time neared midday Stephanie and Kelly had a modicum of the same to themselves, which they employed in casting around the set for anything of the slightest interest to offset the boredom.
"What're Tom an' Gary up to, over the other side of the Pier, there?"
Kelly, so requested by her lover, condescended to gaze in the direction Stephanie pointed out.
"Having a chat, looks like." She narrowed her eyes as something about the two men caught her attention. "No—no, something else. God! I think they're having an argument—a real hot one. We better get over there an' throw a bucket o'water over them before Don sees."
"Jeez, what next?"
Half a minute later the two women interposed themselves between two men who were clearly on the edge of fisticuffs; the first stage, unhampered bad language, already loudly holding the stage.
"—an' I says it don't, ya palukah."
"Who's a dam palukah?" Gary Baird, always the hard-done by police officer in any movie, glared at his opponent; though Tom Harris, taking time off from his usual Western output to actually act for once, seemed hardly worried by this complaint. "Your dam' gran'ma was a Texas wh-re; y're mother was a street-drifter in Chicago as everyone knows; an' your father; well nobody, includin' yer mother, knows that."
As the camel which collapsed under the last straw, Tom stood back a pace, turned slowly a beautiful shade of puce, started having breathing difficulties, then raised his arms and went for Gary's jugular. The next minute, enveloped as it was in dust, dirt, rust flakes like a sandstorm, and wood fragments from the Pier deck masquerading as a London pea-souper, ran its course like an old-fashioned Keystone Cops pie-fight. The problem being that Stephanie and Kelly found themselves in the middle of this; but Stephanie, never one to back away from a brisk combat, whaled in with her own defensive maneouvres—while Kelly contented herself with kicking, with her leather blunt-nosed brogues, anyone who let their shins come within range. It was a beautiful fight; but, as all beautiful things must, it came to its end well before everyone involved had gained the most pleasure from the ongoing mayhem.
"Aouuch! That was me, ya lummox!"
"Oh, sorry, dear." Kelly grabbing her paramour's arm to drag her to safety as several roustabouts from the film crew arrived to hold the offensive stars in durance vile. "Got carried away; God, that was fun—I mean, glad it's all over; what were the fools thinkin'?"
Don Calbron, arriving on the scene far too late to enjoy the best bits, stood flailing his arms and apparently expostulating in Polish, until everyone realised his Bronx accent was masking the true foulness of his ordinary language. Finally order was restored; though the contestants were kept twenty feet apart for everyone's safety: and Don could get down to the post mortem.
"What in Hell?"
No-one answering this pertinent question, he tried again.
Still no-one came to the fore; at which point Don lost his cool altogether.
"OK, ya apes, what was it all about; what fer ya went ter punchin' the oats out'ta each other; an' what the hell were you two women doin', in amongst it all, might I ask?"
Miffed beyond measure by this disrespectful calumny Kelly, for the second time in five minutes, came out fighting.
"What we was doin, ya great ninny, was what you'd ought'a been doin' a'fore us, is what."
More than a little confused by this obscure comment Don took time to frown over it, but it did no good.
"My companion means, Mr Director," Stephanie coming it the Lady by way of exerting her authority. "these two cowpokes pretendin' t'be film actors decided t'use your film set as a boxing-ring t'let out their personal differences, of which they seem to have many, varied and complex."
Don deliberated over this explanation; apparently, considering the time he spent in doing so, from every feasible angle. Then he turned to Tom Harris.
"What's yer beef, mister?"
Caught short, in company and broad daylight, Harris had the politeness to blush shyly.
"That idiot Baird let slip he thought oaters' was all my eye an' Betty Martin; said a child o'ten could do as much as me, on my best day; an' what I was doin' on this here high-class affair defeated him, alround,—b-st-rd!"
"He's only carpin' 'cause o'bad blood from way back." Gary coming in with his take on the contretemps. "We was both in an oater fer John Ford, some ten year back, an' I, 'cause I was better, got the better part of a couple on offer; fer which this here loser ain't forgiven me, yet."
These concepts Don could understand, having much experience in the matter, and so let rip with his thoughts covering the subject.
"Jey-sus! Oaters?" His voice rising to a high falsetto. "Oaters ain't goin' nowhere but down,—ya coupl'a clowns. The audiences're walkin' out'ta oaters in droves, they're so fed up with 'em. Give it a coupl'a more years, an' there won't be any oaters, period—an' good riddance. Now, can we get back ter makin' a real movie; ter-day, here, hopefully?"
The Pier extended some 150 yards out into the East River, with a group of warehouses, offices, and single cabins cluttering the entrance from the wide wharf. In one of these cabins, previously used for extra office space or stock or both, Stephanie and Kelly had made their temporary HQ. Inside the one-room affair Kelly for one was not impressed by the quality of the interior design on show.
"Bare boards, one wobbly desk, two chairs, a stove that ain't lit, a wooden filing cabinet dating from Eighteen and Seventy-four, and a small window with one of its four panes missing?" She turned to her amour with a shuffle of indignant shoulders and the curled lip of disdain. "And it stinks of that ghastly stuff that's permanently permeated the Pier, outside."
"Who gives a sh-t what it's called?" Kelly ranging free, unhampered by the social niceties. "It stinks outside and, by G-d, it stinks in here, too. Let's go somewhere else, and find a cleaner office."
"What? Why not? What's to stop us?"
Stephanie, from years of consoling her highly-strung better half in such circumstances, broke the news as gently as she could.
"We only rented the Pier, an' it's ancillary appurtenances, is all."
"The Pier, and it's offices." Stephanie spread her arms wide, indicating features outside at the moment invisible to the women in the office. "This cabin, the one next to us bagged by Don fer his own evil purposes, and the two-storey building on the other side of the main entrance, leading off the wharf; where the sound boys an' lighting roustabouts and so-called stars have set-up shop and dressing-rooms. In short, this's the only place we can make camp in, fer the duration; so get used to it, doll."
"That's one way of looking at it, sure."
Before the conversation could sink to even lower depths a knock came at the door, swiftly followed by the appearance of a carpenter, in blue dungarees.
"Miss Garroch—Miss Humber? Got a coupl'a guys out here, wantin' some strong ter talk ter ya both. Shall I send 'em both in?"
Glad of the chance to change the subject Stephanie took this offered route to freedom like a striking rattlesnake.
"Nah, send one in; I'll grab the other, outside. See ya, Kel."
"So, what can I do for you?" Kelly rising from behind the dubiously stable desk to greet the man who was ushered in by the carpenter, clearly well-used to extra-curricular butlering duties. "We're in the middle of makin' a movie here, as you can easily see, so I don't have much more than five minutes to give you."
The visitor was middle-aged, something more than slim though not fat, exhibited huge shoulders like a circus strong-man, and had a round thick-set face reflecting the features of someone who had been there, done it, and now coached youngsters in the same. Dressed in a quite snazzy blue suit, when he broke into speech it was obvious that the Bronx had set another native free to roam the further outskirts of Bagdad on the Hudson.
"I'm told these here movies has Producers, who corral the doings an' outgoin's of sich? That right?"
Frowning doubtfully, Kelly indicated the chair on his side of her desk while she slowly sat down, harbouring growing dark thoughts.
"And you're one o'those? Producers, I mean?"
"That is so." Kelly tried her interpretation of an AT&T operator with no time to spare. "What do you want? If it has nothing pertinent to do with the present concern, the movie going-forward outside, I'll have to ask you to defer your requests to a later opportunity. I can make an appointment with another member of staff, for some days from now, if that'll help?"
The man, ignoring this helpful advice, sat back at ease, fumbling in his jacket pocket and eventually bringing his hand back into the light of day holding a cigar-case.
"Mind if I spark one up? Nah? Thanks."
He spent the next minute carefully biting the end off one of the thickest cigars Kelly had ever seen, using a silver lighter to light it with the expertise of one long-used to the matter. Finally, when he had a satisfactory head of smoke billowing from his stubby lips, weaving in bluish clouds through the confines of the small office, he leaned forward to place his lighter on the desk; giving Kelly, as he did so, the once-over of an expert.
The cigar smoke, Kelly suddenly realised, had the effect of disseminating the background aroma of old copra; which she could at least, on some level, take as a positive point.
"So, what's on your mind?"
"You ever hear of the East River Longshoreman's League?"
Kelly considered this esoteric question for several seconds before light dawned; she remembering Buddie's lecture on those who would request a cut off the juicy ham, or else.
"See's ye've got the right idea, gal." The man leaning back, smirking like a Vaudeville comic. "Now, all's we need'ta—"
Stopped short in his introductory prologue, the man stared at Kelly as at a new species.
"Listen, gal, nobody, but nobody stops Conrad Nugent in full flow—nobody. Now get yer ears open an' start listenin' ter what I'm gon'na tell yer, yer silly—"
He stopped at this point in his challenge for the simple reason that Kelly, always equipped for bear when out in the wilds, had gently put a hand in her delicate soft-leather purse and brought it back out with a snub-nosed .38, clearly fully-loaded, which she placed on the desk, though keeping her fingers tightly round its butt.
"Mr Nugent, let's get the rules of the game in order, shall we?" Kelly wholly in command. "You've just threatened me; to some purpose, indeed. I don't care a dam' who you think you are, or what your position in local society may be. If I up and shoot you dead, right here, right now, the Mayor of New York'll probably only chastise me fer not putting more'n three bullets in your sniveling carcase; but probably give me the Freedom of the City, anyway. Now, if we're gon'na have a conversation on business matters, pertaining to my Film Company's presence on this Pier, we can do so in one of two ways—you can continue in the frame of mind you've inadvertently started with; in which case I shall inexorably shoot you dead—or we can have a real business meeting, with outcomes and decisions mutually beneficial to all concerned. So, which'll it be? And, yes, I have shot people dead before."
Nugent, having come up through Union ranks on the many and varied Piers and Wharves of the East River, was a physical fighter—but not a gun-fighter. Now, faced with what he instantly recognised as a game-changer, he made the right choice.
"What were you going to suggest, Mr Nugent?" Kelly gently twirling the revolver round on the desktop with her fingers as she spoke, making a point. "I'm open to any offer within reason."
"Aah, three thousand."
"Overall, or weekly?"
"Overall, once an' fer all."
His eyes fixed on the gun in his opponent's hand, Nugent found it hard to raise his eyes to those of the woman opposite.
"Go f-ck yourself."
Clearly at a loss Nugent sat staring wordlessly, apparently hypnotised by Kelly's grim expression; and, of course, her artillery.
"Three hundred a week; for the two weeks we mean to be here." She laying down the limits of her allowance with cold authority, meanwhile gently tapping her revolver's barrel on the desk. "No more, but no less. You got a choice, Nugent—take it, or I still got an option, here, myself. I got enough defence to get me off any legal claim; while you'll be in a nice warm hole in Potter's Field on Hart Island. Think about it—you got thirty seconds—one—two—three—four—"
"What can I do for you?" Stephanie not much taken with the form or attitude of the man she was standing beside, out on the Pier decking.
He stood some 5' 8'' in height, solidly built, square-jawed features showing little if any expression, except for stolidity in the face of almost any opposition, and a heavy-footed stance which shouted to one and all he wasn't going anywhere till he decided it was so.
"Name's Carter, Ben Carter; you don't know me, but I know you—at least what your Company's up to."
His voice showed itself to have a curious tenor twang nearly adjacent to a screech, which itself got on Stephanie's nerves.
"So, again, what can I do for you—and what my Company's up to is pretty obvious to every three year old, I'd say." Stephanie starting as she meant to go on. "Or is that a little too difficult for you—at your age?"
The man rocked back on his heels for a moment, as if unused to such outright disapproval, then sneered like a stage villain.
"Very funny,—so, like I jes' said, I'm Ben Carter, head of the East River Organisation." He saying this with a touch of honest pride echoing in his high-pitched voice. "Looks like I should'a come, this mornin', with some o'the boys, instead o'this polite personal visit. We run everything, t'put ya in the picture,—an' I mean everything in this District, includin' most o'the cops. You wan'na operate here, ya got'ta pay the goin' rates, is all. Get me?"
Stephanie certainly did get him; this fact not making her day any the more happy as a result.
"Ah, I see—a two-bit thug, extorting protection, without the option—only you never do supply the advertised goods, do ya, ya palukah?"
"Hey, b-tch, I only got so much patience, an' now, it's all gone—oof!"
This last ejaculation was dragged from him as he bent double, holding his gut—which had just been firmly punched by Stephanie, giving her reply in the right-fisted physical mode rather than the merely auditory.
"There, there—get your wind—deep breaths, deep breaths." She expressing conciliation after the event. "You ain't hurt—much. Now listen t'me, ya clown—you may be big round these parts; but I'm from Californee-aih; where the cowboys an' gals, an' hard men an' dam' harder women, come from. You get on my bad side, the East River Boys'll be lookin' fer a new Company Executive—get my drift, soldier? Now take your two-hundred dollar suit, an' your sloppy excess weight, an' beat it, buster!"
With this parting thrust she turned away, ignoring the further gasps and groans behind her; heading back to the cabin's door just as the other visitor, looking as unhappy as her own caller, came out heading for the wharf entrance himself. Inside, after shutting the door firmly and locking it for good measure, Stephanie took cognisance of her partner, ensconced behind the broken-down desk, looking for all the world like an olden-days school-marm.
"Well, you look like the cat that got all the cream, lady. How'd your visitor go?"
"About as well as I judges yours did, lover." Kelly grinning from ear to ear. "Looks like this District's infested with a bunch o'losers who's idea of making a profit don't involve any actual work for their salary."
"Ah, the same as my moron, eh?" Stephanie nodding in agreement and sympathy. "Bozo named Carter tried t'make me believe he ruled the entirety of South New York, includin' all the ships on the River. Wanted me t'pay fer the privilege of spendin' time in his neck o'the woods. I sort'a dis-abused him of the thought; though he'll probably be back. Think it's about that time we ought'a bring in the Heavy Mob, don't you, babe?"
Kelly leaned forward to cup her chin in her hands, elbows firmly on the desk.
"Yeah, a bit of professional security won't go amiss; good idea, lover, didn't think you were up to it."
"Oh, very funny—wait'll we get back home!"
The Heavy Mob; or, to give them their official entitlement, the Redoubtable Studios Security Department, had a reputation throughout Hollywood for being the hardest, meanest, most thorough, people of their kind at present available for rent or lease by the month. Stephanie, not being as innocent as she could on occasion look, had transported the entire group by train to an anonymous brownstone in The Battery, where they had lain low for the last few days. But now she had decided, with the help and input of her loved partner, that the time had come to take off the velvet glove of generous friendship and replace it with the iron fist of dam' yer eyes, mister!
Therefore early the next morning showed the entrance to Pier 7 as hosting what at first glance appeared to be a platoon of troops, consisting all of hardened veterans.
"Well, this is a sight for sore eyes, Jenky." Kelly, for one, happy as a lark at the uplifting sight. "To hell with the local thugs, with this bunch around us, eh?"
John 'Jenky' Jenkins, late boxer, soldier, bootleg-runner, and upholder of the Law around the Redoubtable Hollywood Studios, cast an expert eye over his assembled workforce with a confident glint in said dark-gray optic.
"Yeah, Miss Humber, they're in fine form. I got the roster fer their positions all set-out; take it from me, this here wharf an' Pier is now protected territory, or my name's Greta Garbo. You two happy with the set-up?"
"As hogs in a mudhole, Jenky." Stephanie describing her contentment in rather higher terms than actually warranted, but Hell! "With this bunch surrounding us, I should think we'd be safe from invasion by a Foreign Power, never mind a bunch o'deadbeat thugs from Skid Row."
"Mighty glad ter hear ya say so, ma'am." Jenkins perfectly happy with this compliment to his organisational capabilities. "Well, I'll be gettin' on with fine-tunin' the whole concern, if I may?"
"Go ahead," Kelly nodding happily as the man turned away. "Thanks for your effort."
Ten minutes later, back in their poky office, the women contemplated the present position of their unfolding movie.
"What've we got so far, lady mine?"
Kelly, so titled, grinned like a girl with a cherry lollipop.
"We're a week into production; the set, out on the Pier, is all ready t'go; the actors an' accessories are all present, in A1 condition; and we have the lid on the local community of law-breakers. All-in-all, I'd say we was top o'the range and raring to go, lover."
"Famous last—y'know, lover;—but hell, OK,—go an' give Don the starting signal, will ya?"
Outside Kelly found the Director pacing on the patchy wooden Pier deck, raring to go.
"Everybody present, Don?"
"Yeah, Kel; so, is it a go?"
"Sure is laddie; take it away, at your own pace."
Nodding his acknowledgement of this long-awaited order, Don turned swiftly on his heel and raised a speaking-trumpet in his left hand to his lips.
"OK, gals an' gals—ready fer the first scene. Bill?"
"Qui—eet on set!" Bill Langton, Second Director giving of his all.
"Tom-Harry, places please." Don, happy as a donkey in a carrot field. "Lights?"
Gary Baird, playing the Police officer, clambered out of his four-door sedan and strolled up to Tom Harris, playing the private dick, awaiting him at the edge of the Pier.
"What ya want, way out here, in the wilds, Tom?"
"Thought I'd better let ya—"
Before the actors could get any further into their opening scene a disturbance at the Main Gate twenty yards away halted their efforts. Everyone in the crew turning, they all became spectators to one of the most dramatic incidents in Redoubtable's, and New York's, history of gang warfare, as an attack unfolded around the Gate leading from the riverside wharf onto the Pier.
The Gate itself was a double-sided affair made of long planks well past their sell-by date, the gate having been constructed on site around 1901. When a 3-ton White truck smashed into its centre there was nothing else the ancient structure could do but dissolve in a cloud of splinters and wood dust—freeing the entrance for the fast appearance of the prime truck and a close companion of similar size and weight to its rear.
They were both open-bed with strake sides, showing them to be packed with about twenty men each; though, even at long range, the spectators could easily identify these men as thugs, brutes, ruffians, and hoodlums of the worst sort.
"Looks like Carter's mad at me." Stephanie, as she appeared from the small office to stand by her lover's side, whispering this reading of the situation to Kelly. "Don't worry, once Jenky gets goin' things'll hot up some, I'm thinkin'."
But Jenky, already in view with his horde of followers in a group to the left side of the now destroyed Main Gate, had less to look after than expected. The first truck rolled at quite a speed onto the wooden decking of the Pier—decking which had not seen such an intruder for maybe 10 years or more; in which decade the wood had been attacked by thirteen different varieties of woodworm and water-borne grub. The end result being that, though still able to hold fast under the weight of a sedan, the Pier had no back-up to take the strain of two heavily loaded 3-ton trucks travelling at speed.
The first vehicle came to grief almost instantly, when the planks below its front wheels collapsed under the sudden weight, the truck's bonnet sinking axle-deep into the decking. The second truck, realising its predecessor had come to grief, swerved to the left in an avoiding tactic, which in fact only made matters worse for it; it also proving too heavy for the surface it rolled over, the planks again subsiding under the strain. The truck's right wheel sank into the deck, causing the vehicle to slew round; it's open-bed rear skidding towards the left-hand edge of the deck. The rear wheels slipping over the edge it was only seconds later that the weight of the cargo of big heavy men in the open rear-end hauled the front of the truck free, sending it somersaulting backwards over the edge of the Pier into the water twenty feet below.
There was an almighty splash, closely followed by a sheet of water like a torpedo exploding against the side of a ship—then unfettered pandemonium broke loose. By this time the surviving hoodlums on the first truck had jumped down, only to find themselves opposed by a bunch of Demons from Hell in the form of Jenky's well-trained security outfit. They, having been trained in the wildest parts of Hollywood, Los Angeles, and the Barbary Coast District of San Francisco, were well able to confront what was essentially a bunch of untrained, unfit, undisciplined thugs. The ensuing fight was swift, brutal, and comprehensive—Jenky's outfit emerging champions in something under five minutes. The men who sank with the second intruder truck meanwhile having other things on their minds than engaging in sporting fisticuffs with the local talent—they all, in fact, trying their best to survive the overbearing threat of imminent drowning. Five minutes later again and the local police force, hailed hence by hotline telephone, arrived en masse in official vehicles and the Battle of Pier 7 was over.
"Well, that was a frolic, an' no mistake." Stephanie still on a high some half hour after all had quietened down, and the criminal survivors of the attack had been highjacked to prison cells. "Great bit o'fun, eh?"
"Fun? Huh!" Kelly, her accountant's spirit coming to the fore, less enthusiastic. "The Pier's bent and buckled something awful. Take a thousand dollars at least to fix the dam' thing. The location shots for the next week here are up the jihoosey, for sure."
"No matter, we still got lots of interiors t'do." Stephanie choosing to ignore this minor complaint. "Won't put a damper on our continuity, at all."
"Glad you think so."
Stephanie glanced at her companion, as they sat in the poky little Pier-head office for the last time for the foreseeable future.
"What's eatin' you, sister?"
"Nothing's eating me, lady." Kelly miffed at the very idea. "I just love a good smooth-running schedule, is all."
Stephanie was up for this quibble, too.
"I got two schedules, unfoldin' as we speak, lover."
Kelly, well-knowing the curious thought processes of her partner, looked at the tall dark-haired woman with a mixture of doubt and interest combined.
"What'd they be, then?"
"First, to keep the movie on track—easy-peasy." Stephanie counting each point off on her fingertips. "Second, to engage in private doings tonight, involving Miro's on Broadway, a show in the same district, and a comfy evening in our Hotel suite afterwards. Guess who I've invited t'accompany me, doll?"
There was a long pause, whilst Kelly digested this agenda then—
"Stevie, I love you like—like—well, everything. What's the show?"
The next 'Redoubtable Films' story will be along shortly.