فصل 05

مجموعه: کارآگاه لنی ساموئل / کتاب: فیلم در لوس آنجلس / فصل 5

فصل 05

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CHAPTER FIVE

‘Death Behind the Door’

I gave the photo back to Rik and I listened to him carefully.

‘You obviously know who she is,’ he began. ‘But what do you mean about speaking to her this morning? She’s working here at the studios today. She was on the set at seven o’clock.’

‘Don’t worry about it,’ I replied. ‘I meant that I dreamt about her. I was speaking to her in my dreams.’

‘Yeah - so were a few million other men,’ Rik said with a laugh. ‘But this is serious, Len. Gail Lane is the hottest actress in Hollywood this year. The studio has invested a lot of money in her. She’s a big star in the US already, and she’ll soon become a world star. That’s why the things that have happened have worried the studio bosses so much.’

‘What has happened, Rik?’ I interrupted. ‘Tell me. You’re being very mysterious.’

‘Well, Len, I’ll tell you.’ Rik spoke quietly now, although the nuns at the next table certainly weren’t listening to us. This is very secret. Only one other person knows about it. You must promise not to tell anyone about what I’m going to tell you.’

‘If it’s secret, why are you talking to me about it?’ I asked. ‘Why aren’t you telling your own studio security staff?’

‘Because no one else in Magic Movie Productions must find out about this,’ Rik replied. ‘Those are the orders of Homer Frank, the studio’s chief executive.’

‘Gail Lane is working on a movie here at the moment Rik went on. ‘It’s an international thriller, and the budget is huge. We’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars on this movie. So that makes Gail very valuable. And someone has been sending death threats.’

‘Rik, do you mean that Gail Lane has been getting letters from someone who’s threatening: to kill her?’ I asked.

‘Not exactly,’ Rik replied with a shake of the head. Then he paused while the waitress came to take our orders. I ordered tuna with a green salad and Rik ordered pasta.

‘The threats were sent by e-mail, directly to Homer Frank,’ Rik continued. ‘Gail doesn’t know about them. She hasn’t been told. Mr Frank is afraid that she’ll get scared.’

‘I can understand that!’ I said. ‘I’d get scared if someone said they were going to kill me. What exactly did these messages say?’

There were three messages, all sent during the last three days,’ Rik answered in a low voice. ‘They said, “Death Behind the Door will be the death of Gail Lane. Stop the movie or we’ll stop her.” All the messages were the same.’

I was puzzled. ‘Sorry, Rik,’ I said. ‘I heard the words but I didn’t understand them.’

Rik sighed. ‘OK. I’ll try again. Gail Lane is making a movie for Magic Movie Productions called Death Behind the Door. The message says that unless we stop making the movie, Gail will be killed.’

Our food arrived and we stopped talking for a few minutes. The tuna was great - it was juicy, with a lime and sweet pepper sauce. I was thinking hard while I ate it. Rik ate his pasta hungrily. There obviously wasn’t anything wrong with that either.

‘Rik you’ve got to tell Gail about these threats!’ I said, as we finished eating. ‘She might not want to risk being in this movie. You must give her the choice.’

‘We can’t afford to stop the movie, Len, ‘ Rik said quiently. ‘It’s half- finished now. There are hundreds of milions of bucks invested in it. Mr Frank won’t stop the movie. But we are going to protect Miss Lane. And that’s where I want your help. ‘ ‘I don’t think I’d be a good bodyguard, Rik, ‘ I said quickly. ‘Gail Lane is very attractive. I couldn’t be near her and do the job properly.’

Rik laughed. ‘No, no, Len’ he said. ‘Gail already has two bodyguards, very good ones. I want you to join the movie crew, so that you’re on the set all the time. I want you to keep an eye on everyone else. Perhaps these threats are just a hoax - a joke from a mad person. But we can’t be sure.’

‘OK,’ I said. ‘Five hundred dollars a day, plus expenses.’

‘Four hundred,’ Rik replied.

‘Four-fifty,’ I said.

‘OK. Four-fifty,’ Rik replied with a quick smile.

‘But what will I do on the set?’ I asked. ‘I don’t know anything about how movies are made.’

‘You’re going to be Miss Lane’s adviser on detectives and investigations,’ Rik said. ‘In the movie, she plays a private detective. You can tell her about how detectives work. You can start work tomorrow. And bring your passport with you.’

‘My passport?’ I asked. ‘Why?’

‘I said this movie is an international thriller,’ Rik answered. ‘We’ve finished the Asian scenes already. Today is the last day of shooting here at the studios. After today, the whole crew moves on to South America. When we’ve finished there, we’ll go on to Europe.’

‘What scenes are you shooting today, Rik?’ I asked.

‘Today’s scenes will be shot with some of the stars’ stunt-doubles,’ Rik said. ‘There’s lots of fighting in today’s scenes. There’ll be blood everywhere - not real blood, of course!’

I ordered coffee. Rik wasn’t telling me everything, I was sure of that. He was hiding something, but what? Perhaps I’d never know.

‘But you said that Gail was working here today too. I said. ‘Can I watch the shooting for a while?’

Rik shook his head. ‘Sorry Len. It’s a closed set - that means no visitors. Carla Chapman, the director of the movie, insists on that. She says that visitors always upset the actors.’

‘But I’m not a visitor,’ I said. ‘I’m Miss Lane’s adviser on being a detective. You said so yourself.’

Rik thought for a minute. ‘OK, Len. There’s not time to get you a security pass. But I’ll get you onto the set using mine.’

We finished our coffee and left the commissary. A group of cowboys was just arriving. We walked over to Studio Nine. There was a big sign outside: DEATH BEHIND THE DOOR - SET CLOSED. Rik spoke to the security guards, who let us both in.

‘Follow me,’ Rik whispered. ‘Be careful. It will be very dark inside. And don’t make a noise, or Carla will kill us, and there really will be blood everywhere!’

We walked very quietly through the darkness of the studio. Everywhere, there were boxes and ropes, metal wires and electric cables. In the distance, we could see a bright light. When we got closer, we could see that it was a huge, bright blue screen, like a movie theatre screen. We could see someone hanging down on a rope in front of the screen.

‘This is a blue-screen,’ Rik whispered. ‘Later, these shots will be combined with some shots of a rocky mountainside. When the audience sees the movie in a movie theatre, they’ll think that the actor was really climbing a mountain!’

I watched in silence. I was fascinated. The person on the rope was still quite high up in front of the screen, at least fifteen metres from the floor.

Suddenly there was a loud scream, and the actor fell to the studio floor! Lights went on everywhere. We ran towards the person on the floor. It was a woman with short blonde hair.

‘It’s Gail!’ I said to Rik.

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