Jane quietly unlocked the front door to her house and peered in. The house seemed to be empty. She went in. She tiptoed over to the kitchen, trying to prevent her feet from making a sound, and lightly opened the door a crack. She looked through and panned across the room. It was empty. She let out a silent breath and started creeping slowly up the stairs.
Upstairs was clear. Nobody was in.
Jane pulled a large suitcase from the top shelf in her wardrobe and threw it on the bed. When it hit the bed the lid conveniently sprang open, as if this were a carefully choreographed movie scene, and a pile of clothes landed in it. Jane opened another drawer and grabbed a pile of assorted underwear and threw them in to the suitcase. She went into the en-suite bathroom and grabbed some basic toiletries. She stuffed them into her suitcase and then looked around the room with her hand on her chin wondering what else she would need. Of course! She thought, bending down and pulling a shoe box from under the bed; her duel-speed, multi function, Pleasureflex 3000! She tossed it into her suitcase and then looked at it for a while, she checked her watch, wondered when Simon might be back, started to smile, thought against it, and finally took her eyes off of the immensely pleasurable toy and grabbed a few last bits and pieces to pack for her stay at her mothers. Finally she packed the book she was currently reading, which happened to be one of Charlie Deavon’s early books, ‘The Elegance of Idiocy’, and zipped up the suitcase.
The bedside phone started to ring.
Jane stared at it and waited for it to go to answer phone. Eventually it did.
‘Simon, are you there? Please pick up. It’s Casey Jury, the Casting Director. I’m calling from the studio. We’ve got people here waiting to audition. I’ve been trying to get hold of you all morning. I’ve been told I can’t start until Charlie is on set. Please call me ASAP. I’ll soon have no choice but to start without you…’
Jane’s conscience got the better of her. I say that, what actually happened is that she remembered Amelia was going to be there to audition. She picked up the phone.
‘Casey?’ she said, ‘It’s Jane, Simon’s wife.’
‘Jane, thank god, where is he? I can’t drag this out much longer.’
‘I’m not sure where he is, he should be there. Listen, I can come as his representative, so you can at least start the process.’
‘I’m not sure, I have been told to specifically wait for Charlie to be on set.’
‘It’s ok, Charlie was here for dinner last night, I know he won’t mind so long as we don’t make a decision without him. The auditions are being filmed aren’t they?’
‘Yes, actually, they are.’
‘Ok, then we can do the auditions and then let Charlie and Simon view them when they become available.’
‘Ok, that will have to do, how soon can you be here?’
‘I’m on my way.’
Jane hung up the phone and picked up her suitcase. She trundled down the stairs and practically leapt out of the front door. She threw the suitcase into the boot and sped off toward the studio.
In Keep’s bar Charlie was standing on the stage writing on the back wall with a piece of chalk. To Charlie those carefully chalked words were the opening chapter of the greatest book he’d ever written. To the casual onlooker they were just a random jumble of misspelled words.
Keep was behind the bar making evolutionary leaps in the science of drink mixing. The drink he held in his hand now was glowing purple. He drank it and grinned. He searched frantically for a piece of paper and a pen to write down the recipe to this incredible new drink but, alas, could find neither pen nor paper.
Simon was sitting on the edge of the stage staring at a knot in a floorboard. A tuneful music began to swim up from the floorboard and Simon raised his eyebrows at it. Charlie stopped writing and Keep looked around him-self confusedly. What was that music? All three men converged around the music that, having investigated, turned out to be coming from Simon’s trousers. The music stopped. The men looked startled. They stood there in silence waiting for the music to start again. It did. The men smiled and started removing Simon’s trousers. As they did something fell out of his pocket and clunked to the floor. The men looked at it.
‘It’s a phone,’ said Keep, eventually.
A very slight, but very helpful, reality fell over the men for a moment and they were able to think clearly again.
Simon grabbed the phone. The music stopped. On the screen were the words, “16 missed calls. 3 new messages”.
Simon pressed a button and accessed his messages. The first message began to play. It was the voice of a thirty year old male.
‘Simon, it’s Casey Jury, the Casting Director, we’re hoping to start auditions in half an hour. Let reception know when you’re here and I’ll come and meet you.’
The message stopped and another one started.
‘Simon, Casey again, I’ve been trying to get hold of you, the auditions were supposed to start an hour ago, please phone me.’
A feeling of dread greeted Simon with callous un-care for his emotional state.
‘The auditions!’ said Simon.
A third message started. Simon put the phone on loud speaker.
‘Me again, I’ve spoken to your wife and she’s agreed to come down as your representative. I’m sorry, I know we were supposed to wait for Charlie but we can’t wait forever. If you do eventually get here we’re in studio 2. Hope everything’s ok.’
The message ended.
‘Isn’t Amelia auditioning today?’ said Charlie.
Simon raised his eyebrows in realization and then discarded the look for another. He frowned and narrowed his eyes.
‘That bitch!’ he said, in a strangely calm voice.
‘To the auditions!’ shouted Charlie, raising his finger to the sky.
Jane had already arrived at the auditions and was currently shaking hands with Casey Jury.
‘Jane, how long has it been?’ said Casey.
‘Well, let’s see, I think the last time I saw you was on the set of Walking Backwards, Charlie’s first short story adaptation.’
‘Oh, yes, that was back before Charlie started hating everyone! Actually, prepare to be corrected; the last time we met was at your wedding!’
‘Blimey! Yes it must have been!’
‘So how long has it been?’
‘Six years this August.’
‘Well, I hope you and Simon are still going strong.’
‘We have our moments,’ she said, with a worried smile.
‘We better get on,’ said Casey.
‘What’s that on you collar?’ said Jane, lifting his collar for a better look.
‘Oh, nothing, just ketchup,’ said Casey.
‘Really? Pink ketchup?’ said Jane, with raised eyebrows.
Casey smiled and shrugged his shoulders.
‘Some things never change do they? So who have you promised the part to?’
‘I haven’t promised anything, assumption can bring a casting director great pleasures.’
‘I don’t want to know,’ said Jane, and they took their seats in the casting area.
They sat together on those cool director’s chairs, that are so unnecessarily uncomfortable, and an eager young person brought them coffee.
Auditions are normally held in the nearest available room but as the set was already near completion they decided to hold them in the studio; very exciting for the budding young actor.
The main male part had already been cast and it was indeed the floppy haired Owen Wilson. Today’s auditions were for the female lead and a few supporting parts.
Just off set were an entire gaggle of more-or-less unknown actors. They read their scripts and shuffled feet nervously. Some of them sat with their heads in their hands trying to recite the scripts from memory and then checking to see if they had made any mistakes. One girl was reading parts of the script aloud. A middle-aged woman gestured and moved her lips silently, holding the script at arm’s-length like a 16th century stage actor presenting Shakespeare to a ramshackle crowd.
Amelia stood near the back of the gaggle being cute and confident. She wore a long black skirt and high heels and a practically unbuttoned blouse. Her hair was tied back and her dark eyes bore holes through her rectangular secretary style spectacles. She filled the corner of the room she stood with an electric feeling of promiscuous ease.
Jane spotted her and smiled.
‘Melody Abigail!’ shouted Casey, calling for the first girl to audition.
Melody was blonde, attractive, and had the air of someone with no soul. She probably did have a soul, but I suspect it was busy having a seizure in a flashing gutless world of reality TV and overly produced music by people who looked a lot like her. She was wearing pink lipstick.
Jane raised an eyebrow at Casey and he shrugged with a guilty smile.
She was attractive but charmless. She scored low.
Another human was brought to the stand.
‘Donna Bronte!’ shouted Casey.
Donna had a fair appearance and a very nice demeanour. She wasn’t right for the part of a closet serial killer but she was honest and intelligent. She doesn’t know it yet but she will be given a small part with two lines. She will be overjoyed.
‘Margaret Bertram!’ shouted Casey.
Jane recommended to Margaret that she changed her name if she wanted to be taken seriously as an actor and Margaret scorned her for such a suggestion. Good on you Margaret. Margaret was the lady we encountered earlier with the Shakespearian manner. Her performance was immensely enjoyed by all but she was clearly not suitable for the part. She was thanked kindly and sent on her way.
This went on alphabetically until it was finally Amelia’s turn to impress. And impress she did. She had memorized the part and understood its subtleties perfectly.
The scene in question isn’t actually in the film; it was developed to find out if the actress was able to flip between being an innocent and naïve receptionist to a determined and intelligent serial killer with believable ease. There is dialog but it is unimportant and is only really there to check the girl can remember lines and doesn’t have a ridiculous and crippling accent.
The scene starts with the lead female sitting behind a desk, a man enters and the girl greets him pleasantly, the man exits, the girl then removes her glasses and takes on the air of a serial killer. The man comes back in and she again resumes the ‘naïve girl’ persona. The man begins to leave again and the ‘serial killer persona’ re-emerges, she slips a knife out of a drawer and follows the man out of the room with intent to kill.
Amelia played it perfectly; she sat behind the staged desk with all the attractive pull of a wood mouse. The man enters the scene and Amelia smiled politely without a hint of invitation; she appears to be bland, just your basic everyday receptionist. The man exits the scene and her true colours come out.
It was the way she removed her glasses and stood from the desk. Her body toyed with the set as if even furniture was not immune to her sensuous allure. It was as if her sexuality had a volume control and she was able to turn it off or turn it right up without apparently changing anything. She went from a dormant wood mouse to a predator of lust with a flick of a switch. Casey and Jane were blown away.
The rest of the auditions went by with little interest, as far as Casey was concerned the part had now been filled. Sitting through the rest of the auditions was nothing more than a courtesy.
Outside the studio a beat-up Jaguar XJ-S came to a lugging stop in a cloud of black smoke.
Charlie, Keep, and Simon got out of the car.
The effects of the drug had worn off now. This is another good thing about the new drug, because it’s based on cocaine its effects only last about twenty minutes. The effects of the alcohol they had consumed before they left The Basement however were still quite apparent. The men were drunk. There was no doubt about it. And the first piece of evidence to support this wild claim came courtesy of Keep.
A doorman, who by chance resembled a door, stood in front of the studio door. Keep greeted the man by urinating on his shoes.
The man responded by kicking him repeatedly with his wet shoe.
Charlie and Simon snuck past and left them to it.
‘You know, we could have just told him who we are, we are supposed to be here,’ said Simon, as they ducked behind a table covered with food, coffee, and soft drinks.
‘Keep would probably have peed on him anyway to be honest. Why are we hiding?’
‘So Jane doesn’t see us.’
‘Oh, of course. Why?’
‘In case she’s doing something with Amelia.’
‘Good point, she probably is. What with all these people around, and most of them knowing she’s married to you, and it being totally appropriate for all these people to see the woman doing the casting getting steamy with one of the actors auditioning for the part, and that she’s sober, and you’re paranoid and slightly retarded, and with all the cameras in here, seems like the perfect place for a quickie.’
‘Piss off. I can’t see her. We need to move to get a better view,’ said Simon, looking around, ‘there!’
Simon ran in a crouch over to the false front of the set and ducked behind it. His face appeared in one of the windows. Charlie stood up and took a coffee and a biscuit from the table. He walked over to the window that displayed Simon’s face.
‘I can see you,’ he said.
‘Get behind here you idiot! You’re going to get seen!’
A moment later Charlie was standing behind Simon.
‘There she is!’ said Simon, in a whisper.
‘Oh yeah,’ said Charlie, and began to wave.
‘Get down!’ said Simon, grabbing the bottom of Charlie’s jacket, ‘She’s going to see us!’
Charlie begrudgingly sat on the floor and ate his biscuit.
A head appeared on the other side of the window scaring the crap out of Simon causing him to flail and nearly fall over. It was Keep.
‘What’s happening?’ he said.
‘Hi Keep,’ said Charlie, waving his biscuit.
‘A biscuit, where’d you get that?’ said Keep.
‘Buffet table, over there.’
Charlie pointed his biscuit in the direction of the table.
‘Keep, fuck off, you’re going to draw attention to us!’ said Simon.
‘Alright I’m going, do you want any biscuits?’
‘Are you planning on coming back here?’
‘Make sure no one sees you. Sneak over and hide behind here with us!’
‘Now go away!’
‘Yes, thank you,’ said Simon.
Jane looked over as Keep was heading away from them. Simon ducked down.
‘Shit, I think she saw me,’ he said.
‘Hold on,’ said Charlie, getting up.
‘What are you doing?!’
‘Seeing if she saw you. Nope, we’re safe. She’s talking to a sexy brunette.’
Simon scrambled to his feet and peered out of the window.
Jane and Amelia were standing next to an unused camera rig.
‘I got the part!’ said Amelia.
‘I know, congratulations.’
Without hesitation the girls embraced with the easy spontaneity of a natural disaster. All was professional in the mind of Jane up until that point. Unfortunately new lust is impossible to control and as soon as their breasts connected in what was meant to be a warm celebratory hug, all of the feeling from the night before came flooding back. The warmth of Amelia’s body and how limber Amelia made Jane feel, the smell of her hair, her sure confidence, her ease. Jane couldn’t help herself. She kissed her.
Simon’s eyes couldn’t open wide enough.
‘Do you see that!’ he said.
Keep was back. He had a coffee in one hand, a biscuit in his mouth, and his camera phone open in front of him recording the scene.
‘I missed the beginning but I think things are heating up.’
Simon snatched the phone from Keep and closed it shut. Without a word he threw the phone to the ground and removed himself from the hiding place.
‘Uh oh,’ said Keep.
Charlie was leaning on the false windowsill.
‘Here we go, turn your camera back on.’
Keep had already picked it back up, flipped it open and pressed record. Charlie sipped his coffee and Keep handed him a biscuit. Simon was storming away from them toward Jane and Amelia.
Passion had blinded them to their surroundings. Things were getting heated. You know that feeling you get when you step off of an air conditioned plane into a hot country? A similar thing had happened to Simon when he entered the girl’s personal space. They were kissing wildly. Buttons had come undone and cleavage was showing, Amelia’s bare tanned shoulder lifting from her open blouse, her skirt rising by itself, Jane’s hair ruffling in the caress of Amelia’s hand. An audience had gathered. Keep and Charlie had gotten closer for a better shot. A cameraman had a similar idea and was receiving directorial tips from the director. Things seemed out of hand. They were about to get worse.
Simon’s character, his normal placidness, his naïve ability to forgive, had been forgotten. Temper full, and logic gone, he charged at them and pushed. They fell hard to the sound of a collective gasp. Jane hit her head on the camera rig and Amelia fell to her back, stunned, mouth open. Unperturbed Simon grabbed for Amelia. It’s curious isn’t it, logic would have you attack Jane for the betrayal, but instead its temptation the angry mind is against.
‘Simon! Stop it!’ Jane shouted.
It doesn’t take long for decency to trump voyeurism and before Simon was even close to throttling her he had been wrestled to the ground by at least six men.
Amelia isn’t a fool. She knows when it’s time to remove herself from an awkward situation; when it becomes awkward. Everyone was so busy asking Jane if she was ok and giving Simon equal doses of condemnation and pity that she was able to disappear with only the ever vigilant Charlie noticing. Charlie saw her heading to the exit and nodded for Keep’s benefit in her direction. Both men snuck backwards out of the crowd and went after her.
Amelia had made it out of the studio and was casually pressing a fast walk to the main exit at the end of the car park.
‘Amelia!’ shouted Charlie.
She turned to see who had shouted. She saw it was Charlie and sighed dramatically. She didn’t protest or try to run away. What would be the point? She waited for Charlie and Keep to catch up.
‘Hurry up!’ she said.
They did and they caught up.
‘This is Keep,’ said a slightly breathless Charlie.
‘Need a lift?’ asked Charlie.
‘Yes, and a drink!’
Charlie smiled and pressed a button on his car keys and his battered old car clicked open, indicators flashing, right beside them. This kind of casual luck is woven into Charlie’s DNA and one no longer questions these lazy coincidences. They got into the car. A short drive later and Charlie’s beat up relic will be parked outside Keep’s bar. By the time we get back to them they will all be tipsy again and Amelia will be back to her normal sexually charged and flirty self. They will have consumed an impressive volume of alcohol, gotten bored of the bar and moved downstairs to Keeps lab.
Tripping the Night Fantastic is available now on Amazon