Turning Blue Chapter Ten: The Devil Wears Blue (Pt. 2)

Turning Blue Book Cover

Chapter Ten: The Devil Wears Blue

At dinner, they talked about the cultural differences between their countries, and their agreement on almost all other things, and Jack made sure that her glass was full all through the meal. This was not hard to achieve. The Europeans all drank heartily, much like the Americans, a universal cultural similarity.

Travis made a little speech, welcoming the group. “We’re a long way from Chatsworth, but we’re still shooting. Everyone take the night off, and blow off some steam. Tomorrow, we will finalize wardrobe–make sure everything fits–and Jack, if there’s time, we can walk the locations once more….”

“I have to pick up all the props and supplies….” Evita interrupted from the other end of the long table, “So, I don’t know if we can go back to the locations….” She turned to Irmalinda, but everyone at the table could hear her. “And I don’t know about blowing off steam! I don’t even have time to blow off a fart!”

“Well!” responded Irmalinda.

“If there’s time,” repeated Travis, and then he turned to Jack, “Otherwise, we’ll just wing it.”

“Sure,” said Jack, who had seen too many plans crumble when confronted with the actuality of production, “It doesn’t seem complicated.”

“The money shot of the movie is going to be the boat. Which we are shooting as the final scene when everything else is out of the way.”

“That is going to be unreal,” said Evita, who had proudly secured the vessel from a local waterman.

“The boat,” Zoltan spoke up in agreement, making a sweeping gesture to compensate for his lack of English, “The lights.”

The waiter arrived with a string of hot plates balanced precariously along his arm, and a steaming array of pastas, veal, and chicken dishes, exuding an appetizing aroma. With hardly any confusion, he proceeded to serve the hungry diners.

“I have a question,” Summer piped up, much revived by nourishment, “When do I have sex?”

“You are first up tomorrow,” Travis told her, “And then, nothing until the last scene.”

“What about me?” asked Nikita.

“You work on the last day with Salvador.”

She was not thrilled at the prospect of the time-consuming ploughing she would be obliged to endure while Salvador fulfilled his professional obligations. “I don’t have sex with the Americans?”

Jack touched her on the thigh. “Hey, I’m American.”

His hopes evaporated right after the meal, because, well-quenched, Nikita fell asleep in the mini-van on Gunter’s shoulder, and went straight to bed, like a returning sleepwalker, as soon as Attila deposited them all back at the Ibis.

Forlornly, Jack wandered around in the lobby of the hotel. The tile floor looked green under the fluorescent lights. The smell of exhaust fumes from the highway seeped through the open windows. He was not ready to sleep, after the rousing dinner, but his plans had collapsed like limp spaghetti. He glanced at the tourist brochures and the Hungarian newspaper, at a loss for what to do, until he fell into a conversation with the hotel porter.

At this point, against all expectations, his night took a surprisingly pleasant turn.

“Do you want to see the book?” offered the porter, a gangly young man, badly in need of a haircut and a shave.

“The book?” Jack was not sure he had heard correctly.

“Yes,” the porter said, “The catalogue.”

Jack was not certain what the man was talking about. “Sure.”

The porter reached behind the desk at reception, and presented Jack with what looked like a small photo album. Inside the album, on page after page, were snapshots of local women dressed in lingerie and pouting at the camera.

The porter began to offer comments, as Jack paged through the collection.

“This one is very good.” He indicated a sultry blonde with heavy hips. “Makes anal.”

Jack found a brunette with long hair, small breasts and bright eyes. “What about this one?”

“Very nice,” the porter approved, “Good blowjob. You make what you want.”

“Okay,” Jack had the idea. “She looks good.”

“Which is your room number?”

Jack held up his key. “I’m in 217.”

“You go in your room. She will be there in fifteen minutes.”

It was about half an hour until there was a knock at the door of his room. Jack was not disappointed in the slightest. He opened the door to reveal the exact model from the catalogue, not dressed in the lingerie of her portrait, but a modest housecoat over a skimpy dress, even though the weather was warm. She was much more charming in person than her photographs promised, with soft skin and a slender torso. Despite her lack of English, they spent a delightful two hours together, in room 217 of the Ibis, as trucks rumbled past outside the window, and the moon rose over Budapest, as if they were shooting a movie on location in an exotic land.

The news from Nicholas Pasquale arrived on the final morning of the shoot. Attila was waiting for Travis in the grand lobby of the Kempinski to drive him to the set. There were plush sofas and ottomans, and a lounge area with low tables where refreshments were served. As the producer made his way across the richly carpeted floor from the elevator past reception–with a croissant in his hand–the receptionist summoned him and informed him that a confidential fax from Los Angeles had come in for him during the night.

Nicholas had information from one of the board members of the First Amendment Association who represented the trade magazine of record. Dreamscape was going to be nominated in Las Vegas for Best Picture of the Year, and Travis Lazar was up for Best Director. There would be no official announcement for months, but because the publication had such early printing deadlines, the decisions had already been made. It was a great triumph. Travis had a strong chance of winning, but the nomination itself was money, sway and prestige. His price would go up, more projects would come in; there was a lot he could do in the time between the announcement of the nomination and the actual event. In many ways, the nomination was greater than the prize.

The winning movie would be quickly forgotten a few days after the trophy was awarded, smothered in insignificance by professional jealousy.

The other contenders in the sweep were Zig’s Future Foxes, Flannigan’s Wake, Pullman’s Titanus, and Forbidden Desire from the Duchess.

He wondered if his friend, who was also on the board, knew that she had been nominated. If he did not win, he hoped that it would go to her.

This was such top-secret information that he did not even say anything to Jack, when he reached the location. Evita kept everything running smoothly. They only had one scene to shoot with Salvador and Nikita at the former house of pleasure, and then, to end the production, the climactic scene between Summer and Storm, on a boat floating down the Danube with all the monuments lit up on the banks.

He kept his news to himself, but he savored the glory of his critical triumph.

He was on the home stretch. The stumble was Salvador.

The actor delivered his dialog perfectly, in a short scene with Storm, which they staged outside under the archways. Travis always shot the men standing side by side in a loose two-shot; close-ups on the rugged males in adult cinema tended to make them look gay. On the same set, Salvador had a few lines with Nikita to motivate the sex scene between them, and after some brief fondling and fumbling with her buttons, they began to move through their positions. Jack
had to keep instructing Nikita not to look into the lens. Her reactions seemed exaggerated; she was overcompensating because she was not enthralled at being cast with Salvador. She always selected poses where she did not have to look at his face–reverse cowgirl, spoon, or doggie style, which was called four paws by the Europeans.

Travis was standing at the monitor with Evita and Irmalinda, who was taking notes in a leather binder.

The director crept forward and whispered to the cameraman, “Let’s get an early start on that pop shot.”

Jack nodded, without taking his eye from the viewfinder. “Any time you’re ready, Salvador.”

“Okay,” said Salvador, in mid-stroke, “Give me two minutes.”

He began to thrust harder and faster, in the four paws position, and with each lunge, Nikita flinched and pulled away. Salvador held her by the shoulders, pulling her back towards him. They were both sliding around because of the perspiration, which was oozing down his body.

After ten minutes of ramming, Nikita asked for a break. A production assistant brought her a bottle of water, and the Hungarian make-up artist tried to clean up her mascara, which had dissolved in the downpour of sweat from her manly counterpart.

“She keeps going in the wrong direction,” complained Salvador, “You have to push back.”

“Your pole is too big,” she responded, “I have to work tomorrow too.”

“What do you think, Salvador?” Travis tried to be as discreet as possible so as not to ruin the delicate mood. “Any time soon?”

“Oh, sure, I can nut it. Just two minutes more.”

Nikita rolled her eyes, and got back into her position on all paws.

The actor mounted her again, and re-commenced his energetic motions and facial grimacing.

Travis took his place beside Evita. “What do you think?”

She had a worried look on her face, and she was biting her lip. “He’ll get it eventually. But we have a booking. I don’t want to get to the boat too late.”

Jack put down the camera, and crossed to the monitor, although the couple continued driving towards their conclusion.

“Let us know when you’re close,” Jack instructed Salvador.

“Two more minutes,” he assured the crew.

Jack eyed the green knolls beyond the house, and said quietly, “If he doesn’t nut it before the sun moves behind that hill, we’re going to have problems with the light.”

“We might be here until the squirrels come up with the nuts tomorrow morning,” remarked Evita.

The cameraman had a suggestion. “Send in someone to stunt.”

“All we need is the pop shot?” asked Travis.

“Yes.” Jack had the serious expression of a soldier volunteering for a dangerous mission behind enemy lines. “I mean I could go in, do a few pokes and give you the pop.”

By now, the couple had disengaged from one another, since the friction between them had become combustible, and there was no Fire Marshall required on the unmonitored sets in Budapest. Left to his own devices, Salvador adopted a bow-legged stance and a firm grip. Nikita got on her knees, resting on a towel, with her eyes closed and her mouth open towards Salvador’s engorged member, which he was frantically battering.

“They’ve been going at it for thirty minutes,” Travis said, “Give him a little longer.”

“He’ll get it,” Evita said, although she was not very convincing. “Eventually.”

“All I’m worried about is the light,” said Jack, picking up the camera again.

“Stand by,” said the producer, “I’ve got an idea.”

Travis tiptoed off the set, leaving Jack with the camera on his shoulder, ready to roll at a moment’s notice; Nikita on her knees with her jaw as wide as if she were at the dentist anticipating a root canal; and Salvador in a frenzy of masturbation as he tried to attain his elusive moment of ecstasy.

The producer returned, with Storm at his side. Everyone understood that Travis was getting ready to send in Storm to double the shot, which was highly risky considering that Storm was scheduled for his own sex scene with Summer on the boat, if they ever got to the jetty.

It was considered protocol that the surcharge for the stunt work would be deducted from the wages of the performer who was not able to complete the scene. This common knowledge proved to be just the inspiration that Salvador needed.

As soon as he glimpsed Storm standing by, he gulped, “Okay, I’m ready.”

Jack pressed the record button, Nikita came to life, moaning and groaning, and Salvador finally let loose with a gluey fountain of ejaculate that coated Nikita’s face and hair like a dollop of frosting on a cake.

“That’s it.” Evita looked at her wristwatch. “Wrong set. Let’s get out of here.”

They were finally gliding on the waters of the Danube, and he was almost home free. It was noiseless on the water, save for the sputter of the boat. The traffic on the banks was a soft rumble, and there was no sound other than the splash of the river and the hum of the occasional vessel passing upstream. Around them, the imposing monuments gleamed under spotlights. The vista of the city would make a spectacular backdrop for the final scene. It always felt satisfying to complete production, with everybody safe, and money to go around fairly, and the lion’s share to take to the bank. He would come home with gifts, toys and Hungarian souvenirs, like an adventurer returning with treasure.

He missed his family, and he thought how much the boys would have loved the boat.

They passed beneath the gleaming castle on the hilltop, all lit up in historical splendor. The plan was to make it the climax of the movie as they came back up the river at the end of the scene. The concept of the movie was a grand romance about the reunion of long-lost lovers. It was going to be released under the title, The Devil Wears Blue.

The story in the movie was never as interesting as the story behind the movie. There was always a handshake somewhere that got things going. The story was always about the man or woman behind that handshake, where they came from and what became of them.

There were some who became lifelong friends, and some who drifted off and were never heard from again. There was always that meandering roadmap where intersections crossed, and contacts were made.

They floated beneath the Chain Bridge, spanning the two banks.

From the boat, revealed by the lights of the structure, he could see the statues of the four stone lions guarding each corner.

The Hungarian river captain asked in broken English if they had come far enough down the river. Evita made a circle with her fingers, signaling to him to wheel the boat around.

A light breeze cooled the evening. Storm and Summer were on the open deck at the prow of the boat, warming up for the scene, and Jack was braced with the camera ready to roll. The rest of the crew comprised Evita, Zoltan, and Attila; Irmalinda and Gunter were still at the old whorehouse with Nikita Sexi conducting a post-coitus interview for German television while the remainder of the staff wrapped the equipment.

The boat veered towards the Pest side, made a wide arc towards the Buda side, and they began the upstream journey.

Although public nudity was a lesser crime in Budapest than in Los Angeles, the plan was to keep clothed as much as possible through the scene, but right away Summer dropped her top. Storm kissed her on the mouth and placed his hands on her pendulous breasts. Jack started
filming, his feet apart to steady himself against the yaw of the vessel.

He had recorded all of forty seconds for posterity when the ribbon of monuments on the banks–all lit up in dazzling light–suddenly went black.

“What happened?” Travis asked.

Evita translated for the captain. “They turn off the lights at midnight.”

Everybody peered around in the gloom.

“Salvador screwed us,” Storm’s voice emerged from the hollows,

“But we’re good to do the scene, Travis.”

“Well, I can’t see anything,” determined Jack, lowering the camera.

The dedicated couple continued with their foreplay, so that they would be ready for the screen as soon as the solution presented itself. Everyone had a suggestion, ranging from returning the following night to restaging the scene back at the whorehouse. But, Storm and Summer were booked on early morning flights, and they were out of time.

Zoltan came up with the answer of using the power from the boat to run a few lights. He had tools and cables ready, and everybody got back into their positions to roll camera. As soon as Zoltan plugged in the first lamp, the circuit overloaded, and the bulb exploded in a shower of glass and sparks. Evita squealed, the motor spluttered, and the boat itself stalled in the water. Not only was it pitch dark, but the boatman could not get the vessel started. He cursed in Hungarian and pounded his fist on the console. They started to drift on the current, drawn gently downstream in the opposite direction.

Travis was famous for running a tight ship, yet here he was on a hapless boat in dark waters, miles from home. That seemed always to be his compass point when he was in production. It was not anyone’s fault. It was just a matter of the stuff that life threw up at you when you were trying to make a movie. He was accustomed to all of these random obstacles and opportunities. He kept cool. There was no reason to panic.

The big picture was always overwhelming. The producer focused on details, and put the pieces together one at a time. There were always problems, but he had never yet shot an empty set.

He was at the flux of matters. He was at the intersection of sex and money and celebrity and media and law and technology and the global culture and economy. Things mingled, people connected. Everybody worked so hard, the girls too. It was not an easy job under the hot lights for long hours on top of a wooden bench or a concrete floor covered with beach sand, trying to look your best with your legs in the air and make-up as thick as cake. He had never forced anybody to be in it, or to witness it. He had tried to keep his hands clean in a dirty world. He was no hero but it was worth risking it all to send a creep like Ryder Mackenzie on his merry way.

The boatman struck a lantern.

If you followed the thread of how he ended up in Budapest, this whole situation had started with a favor for Beppo the Bear, and led him straight through the Vice Squad to the Dreamboat project, and all the aftermath of Tiffany, and now, the Best Picture nomination, and in a final twist, here he was, far from anywhere, drifting on the inky waters of the Danube.

He stared down into the ripples and eddies, as the boat was pulled on the current. The sky above them was as black as the waters beneath them. A ghostly cloud masked the front of the moon. Between the dark moon and the river, he could have sworn he saw the phantom of a lost spirit; in his imagination, she resembled the late departed starlet, Kimberly Kreeme, who had made her debut and her swan song in a single tragic performance. He saw her swinging from a rope, flesh swollen, turning blue. He thought about her fragile young life and unexpected demise and he wished he could have intervened to save her.

We all had to live or die with our own free choices. There was no time for regrets. It was all as ephemeral as the image flickering on a screen.

The engine churned and the captain started the boat chugging up the river again.

Win or lose, the producer was looking forward to Las Vegas, being a player at the awards, at the crown of the industry. He would wear his tuxedo and a white smile, and drink champagne at the table with the executives.

All at once, the clouds passed on a gust of wind to allow the silvery beams of the moon, as if it were a clairvoyant moment.

The only thing that Travis Lazar could predict with absolute certainty, based on a history of experience, was that whatever happened next would be absolutely unpredictable. The world they inhabited was too wild and random. The mists of the future were a mystery. You could never be ready for the unexpected. He would not have been able to foresee the grand and fleeting marriage of Miles and Tiffany; Beppo’s heart attack in the gym; the disappearance of Johnny Raw; the critical acclaim of The Caterpillar; the diabolic tale of Mister Sunbeam; the fall of AXE; the arrest of Alec Zig; the swift and ruthless rise of the Duchess; the assault and battery of Billy Dallas; and the regrettable case of Finkel versus Lazarus, which all lay ahead of him.

It was time to return to California. He missed his wife and children. He imagined Lillian, Finn and Charlie waiting for him at the airport in Los Angeles, and how he would hold them in his arms. He pictured his house behind the white picket fence. He would tussle with the boys on the carpet of the family room in front of the TV. He would sleep in his own bed with his wife.

He was done with laying low in Budapest. He was ready to go home.

War was good; peace was better. The first thing he would do when he got back to the valley was make peace with Duncan. It would be a challenge, but the producer had an idea.

See more from Stuart Canterbury‘s Turning Blue here


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