“What happened to the stupido and his girlfriend?” I asked.
He put his fingers on my lips. “Not now. Just tell me you’ll let Otto take you around.”
I promised. I’d keep as safe as I could.
Katrina’s post-production rental was on the west side in some in-between neighborhood. The low-slung buildings in a three-block radius had been painted yellowish beige and sprinkled with Spanish roof tiles, black soot, and garish signs in three languages.
Otto walked me to the double glass doors that faced into the parking lot.
“Where will you be?” I asked as we passed into the small reception area.
“I have to check it out. Then I’ll be right here.” With a pinky-less hand, he indicated a leather chair by a plastic plant.
“You can grab a cup of coffee if you want.”
He smiled and nodded, but prior experience told me that he wouldn’t get himself a cup of anything.
The receptionist, a young Hispanic girl with straight hair down her back, said “Which project?”
“The Lion In the Sand?” I said. “I think they’re in edit.”
She checked her computer. “They have a bay on four.”
Otto took me upstairs, and when we left the elevator, I turned to him, saying nothing but giving him a look. He understood and nodded.
“I’ll be here.” He indicated a bank of couches.
I went past the double doors alone.
Katrina leaned into the monitor. The overhead lights were dimmed down to nothing, leaving only the four glowing editing-bay monitors to illuminate the trays of half-eaten burgers. The room smelled of men and salty food. Her editor, Robbie, tapped keys. Michael Greenwich’s face, all lion and rage, filled the screen.
“This is the best take,” Robbie said. He motioned to his assistant. “Rob, call up number four.”
Katrina leaned back. “I’ll look, but I think you’re right. TeeDray, what do you think? You marked four as the best.” She tapped my set notes.
“Look at four again. But this is it. I mean, who can tell anything on set?” I shrugged, and Katrina eyed me as if I were lying. She grabbed our Styrofoam boxes and went to the door.
“Let’s eat. You look like you could use it.”
The light in the hall was blinding on the white walls. Burgundy doors lined the corridor. Each had a little square, meshed window at eye level, and behind them came the sounds of screaming, music, crashes, whispers, and groans. Editors didn’t understand moderation of volume, and headphones would have given them a headache after twelve hours of chopping up scenes.
Katrina led me to the lounge at the end of the hall, which consisted of plywood boxes covered in grey industrial carpet that matched the floors. No windows. No tables. Dated movie posters. There was a vending machine that reminded me of Antonio and, in front of it, a brown-splat stain that would never come out, no matter how hard they shampooed.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” Katrina flipped open the Styrofoam box and shoved my well-done burger toward me, pushing it against my thigh. I moved so she would have room to open hers. Her burger would be rare. She liked it squealing as it went down.
It had been a week since I’d seen her. I hadn’t answered any texts but had left a voice message when Antonio told me it was safe for her to come home. I believed him, because he knew his business.
“Well?” she said with a mouthful of fries.
“I don’t know where to start.” My fries looked like a bundle of Jack Straws. I tried to pick one up without disturbing any of the others and failed.
“Throw the first scene out,” Katrina said. “Always.”
“I’m in love with Antonio.”
“That was fast.”
“Yeah,” I said.
I looked up at the walls to think for a second and was hit with a poster for Good Fellas. I laughed to myself. Even in that bland, windowless room, he hung over me. “I understand him. It’s weird. There’s this connection. I get what he’s saying, and I know what keeps him up at night. It sounds crazy, but I know what’s in his heart.”
“That sounds pretty good.”
“It’s different. With Daniel, I knew what was in his mind. I knew what he was thinking; I just didn’t know what he was feeling. Obviously, or that whole Clarice thing wouldn’t have gotten past me.” I brought my burger to my lips and bit it. It tasted like every other well-done burger. The texture was grey and leathery. Flat. Boiled dry. Katrina’s burger dripped when she bit into it. “With Antonio, I’m alive when he’s there. It’s chemical. My blood goes crazy.”
I shrugged. “Yeah.”
“Oh, for Christ’s sake, Tee. What’s the problem? Speak. You’re boring me.”
She chewed slowly then took a pull of her soda. “I’m waiting.”
“How is the edit coming?”
“Fine. I think I got most everything. Michael’s in Montana doing a spelunking movie, so if I need pickups, I’m screwed. Why don’t you tell me why it’s so complicated?”
“It just is.”
“Oh, for the love of God. He’s in the mob. Just say it.”
“Katrina!” I said.
“Please, sister. I wasn’t born yesterday. One, he was having you followed by that guy with no pinkies. Two, it’s all over the news that shit’s going down. Your ex is taking out the flamethrowers and threatening the biggest prosecution since Robert Kennedy in like, the sixties. Which I’d blow off, except I met Antonio and yes, he’s hot, but also… he’s got a whole connected thing happening. Three, you disappeared in a poof after the wrap party.”
“I did not.”
“You talk on the phone and don’t tell me where you are. Have you even been to the apartment?”
I put my burger down. “Antonio is a businessman. His office was burned down. His partner split and took half his team. He’s rebuilding, and I’m there for him.”
“Uh-huh. Fine. And what else?”
“What do you mean?”
“You have no job. You’re not talking to me.” She leaned forward. “A lot of fucking, huh?”
I pulled out a fry and it rubbed against another. Five more shifted in the container. “There is sex.” I bent the fry against my tongue and folded it into my mouth. “And it is life-altering.”