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18

Fleeced

Careful! Please be careful! Thomas urged the men who were carrying all the film equipment into the front parlor of the club. Dont bang into anything, please.

He was largely ignored. As anyone whos spent time on a movie set knows, the crew go about their business, unimpressed by celebrity, surroundings, or gawkers. They simply do their work.

In contrast, Thomas was running around trying to make order out of something he could not. Hollywood had arrived, and time was precious. They had one afternoon to film an important scene.

Thomas suddenly wondered if he had gotten in over his head. Outside on the narrow street, the movie trucks were taking up a lot of space. Production assistants were trying to direct traffic around the park. Electric cables were strewn all over the sidewalk.

Thomas looked out the bay window and saw people staring into the front parlor of the club. Oh dear, he thought. Sometimes things can seem like such a good idea in the planning, but then when they come to pass, your palms start to sweat. Especially now. He wanted the Settlers Club to gain attention. But only in the right ways.

Could you move, please? a burly fellow holding a large piece of lighting equipment asked Thomas in a tone that barely masked his impatience.

Thomas stepped back quickly. Of course. What can I do? What can I do? he thought. I know! Ill bring the sheep down. Wendy wanted them here, and it might be a nice touch for the movie.

Ten minutes later, with the help of Regan, who was on her way out, they brought the two sheep into the parlor and plopped them down on either side of the fireplace.

Excuse me! An efficient-looking thirtyish guy wearing a cap and carrying a clipboard rushed over to them. What are you doing to the set?

These sheep are important to our club, Thomas said. We thought you might want them for the movie.

All the casting has been completed. Could you please remove them?

Regan looked at Thomas. Why dont we carry the sheep into your office? Well bring them back out when theyre finished filming.

I just wanted to do the right thing by Wendy and Nat.

I understand, Regan said. But lets move them.

Regan had Dolly and Thomas had Bah-Bah in their arms when from behind them someone yelled, Stop!

They turned to see a wiry man dressed in black, sporting a black beret, and carrying an empty cigarette holder, coming toward them from the doorway. I like the sheep. Put them back.

Regan and Thomas both shrugged and put the sheep down.

Im Jacques Harlow, the director of We Must Be Dreaming.

And Im the president of the club, Thomas Pilsner, and this is my friend Regan Reilly.

Nice.

Im pleased you chose to use the club for a scene in your film.

Jacques bit on the edge of the cigarette holder and spoke through his teeth. I like the vibes here. I dont work with a script. My actors all improvise their lines. I think that a setting such as this inspires our deepest hopes and our darkest fears.

Does it ever, Regan thought.

Would you like to be an extra? he asked Regan with a touch of a leer.

No, Regan answered quickly, then added. Im pretty busy. She turned to Thomas. Im heading out.

Come to my office for a moment, Regan.

They excused themselves, stepped around the piled-up equipment, and went into Thomass office down the hall, shutting the door behind them.

That guy is weird, Thomas said.

Thomas, what kind of movie is it?

The location manager told me it was a period piece.

What period?

Thomass lip quivered. I didnt ask. I assumed he meant Victorian.

The phone on the desk rang. Thomas picked it up and identified himself.

The New York World? Yes, there is a movie shooting here He what? Just got out of jail he trashed a location in New Jersey? I cant talk now Good-bye. Thomas dropped the phone back in its cradle.

I hate to ask, Regan said.

Jacques Harlow is a nut case. He trashed a bowling alley in New Jersey where they were shooting a scene last week. He thinks hes one of the Sopranos. They just released him from jail.

Regan grimaced. Well, somebodys paying for this film to be made. I wonder who?

I think its low budget, Thomas said in a tiny voice. We were desperate for new sources of revenue, but this isnt so good for the club.

Regan stood. Im going down to the 13th Precinct. Ill give them your regards. As she walked out, Regan wondered when the next flight to London was leaving.


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