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SINGING IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT: Ch. 17, And a rock feels no pain and an island never cries

Gwenyfar Rohler’s Fact or Fiction series continues with Chapter 17.

Fact or Fiction

“How did you find me?” James Green looked at the floor instead of Kitty’s eyes. “How?”

“I had a copy of the crew list. I asked around and heard you were on another film.” She was half surprised that he was bothered and half insulted he would think she wasn’t smart enough to track him down.

Really? How dumb does he think I am?

“Yeah, well, I’m at work.” He paused and looked toward the camera. “So now is not a good time.”

“When is a good time?” Kitty asked. “I can wait.”

“I am not losing my job over you; I am a good camera assistant. All I want to do is work and be left alone. And work.”

Green didn’t think Kitty was dumb, he just didn’t understand why anyone wanted to talk to him. He knew which way the wind blew. At under 6-feet tall, he was average height for a man with a lean build and he had many years on his feet 12-plus hours a day. The sudden interest in him was not due to his handsome looks. Not to say he didn’t wish it was. He spent his life photographing the beautiful, making them even more desirable.

Kitty was still staring at him. She had planted herself squarely and wasn’t moving unless he made a scene. Green hated making scenes. “Excuse me, ma’am. I have work to do.”

“I’ll be waiting in the parking lot when you finish for the day,” Kitty called after him.

She watched him walk away and wondered for a moment why everyone was so hostile to her. She was just trying to do her job after all.

John Green moved through the rest of his day in the fog of auto-pilot. He liked big women. He always had. Maybe it was a lifetime spent making anorexic women seem sexy to Joe Six-pack on the couch. But a woman should look like a woman, not a man. A woman should have something to grab on to.

Damn, did she have a great ass, and the kind of tits a man could bury his face in and die happy!

It made Green’s eyes water to think of her body. She waiting for him—to talk to him. Even if it was about Jeffrey Chen. And he knew she wanted to talk about Jeffrey Chen.

The stupid bitch. Chen was dead and wouldn’t have gone for her anyway. But would she even notice a guy like me? Only to talk about goddamned Jeffrey Chen! Bitch.

But Kitty was waiting for him, waiting with those big soft pillows begging him to lay his head, to rest his tired eyes, to quench his lips as they drank—drank so deeply…

*    *    *    *    *

The tape somehow had been forgotten—even Kitty had forgotten it. Then Jeffrey’s mother filed a lawsuit against the people she held responsible for her son’s death while filming “Blackbird.” Cut down in the prime of his life, the beautiful young actor’s death was ruled accidental by the DA, and no criminal charges were filed.

The powers that be thought it would end there. They had taken into account Hollywood big wigs who wanted this problem, this inconvenience, to go away. They figured local crews wanted to get back to work—to not lose their jobs.

But they hadn’t taken into account Judy Chen—a woman who defied her family and the convention of the day to marry the man she loved. The woman who buried him far too young when he died filming his own magnum opus. After a massive traditional Chinese funeral, which was broadcast on TV around the world, she consented to let his real-life funeral footage appear in the film—because he gave his life for the movie and he wanted that film more than anything. And she knew it. But she still brought his body back to the States to be buried where she and her children could visit him. She shared so much of him with so many people, but this last thing, this she wasn’t parting with. No.

She raised two grieving children on her own and kept them away from the public eye as much as possible. She assembled the foundation that would continue teaching their father’s work and philosophy. How did anybody think she would back down from this fight for her son?

She was adamant someone would be held accountable for his death—and the film would be finished and released. She also wanted the film in the canister that recorded Jeffrey’s death. The camera was rolling when he was shot and she wanted that film. In her hands. She wanted the negatives. She wanted the print. All of it.

It took Kitty a few days of asking around before she found out John Green pulled the film from the camera that night—the faithful camera assistant, veteran of decades of film work. He had done his job: unloaded the camera, put the film in a canister, labeled it and taped it shut. Then he broke brackets of hierarchy by making the producer walk him to the production office, and both of them sign the tape on the canister before locking it in the production safe.

Why? Why had this unremarkable man had the presence of mind to do this? Now, he was personally responsible for preserving the photographic evidence of the crime.

“Do you need photographic evidence when you have 40 people’s eye-witness testimony?” Kitty mused aloud.

“Yes, you do,” a gruff male voice answered her. John Green found her in the parking lot at the end of the day—just as she had threatened he would.

“Really? Why?” Kitty asked.

“Because everyone remembers it a little differently. Everyone remembers what they were concentrating on. Then, when people ask question…” He glared at her. “Then people expand their memories to include things other people suggest to them.”

“Are you saying I have suggested memories to people?” Kitty demanded.

She pointed her finger at John accusingly and pursed her lips in anger.

“No, I’m saying people’s memories are not as reliable as we all want to think they are. But the camera doesn’t lie.”

He paused.

“Well, the camera can make you believe anything, but the sequence of events that an uninterrupted piece of film would show you … could be truthful.”

“Could be?” Kitty cocked her head to the side.

“You still see what you want to see,” Green shrugged. “But it is a lot harder to deny or remember differently with evidence in front of you.”

He gave her a hard look and added icily, “I’m guessing you wanted to talk to me about the footage from the night Jeffrey Chen died on set?”

“Yes. Yes, I do.” She nodded.

He dragged his eyes away from her bouncing cleavage and tried to concentrate on the matter at hand.

“Why do you want to talk to me?” he mustered.

“Because you were the last one to handle the film before it went in the safe. I want to know why you taped it and why you made the producer put it in the safe and how he reacted.”

“How the fuck do you think he reacted? He almost fired me on the spot! We had an injured actor who had been taken away in an ambulance. The whole crew watched Warren work on him for what seemed like hours until the goddamned ambulance got there, and the producer is thinking about how much money he’s losing from shutting down production. And here I am, a lowly CA, telling him he has to walk me to the production office and put it in the safe! I’m amazed he did it. I am amazed I can work at all. And with people like you asking the question like you are asking, I might not get to tomorrow, so do you mind leaving me the hell alone?”

“Mr. Green, you have a job to do, and I understand that—because I have a job to do. My job is to ask questions. Jeffrey Chen was shot in a room with 40 witnesses, and the DA and a lot of other powerful people want us to believe no crime was committed.”

“Yeah? Well, what has that got to do with me? The last I heard, you don’t work for the paper anymore!

So what are you doing out here asking things like you’re somebody?”

“I’m freelance, and I am still on the story, Mr. Green. I am asking you because I respect you and consider your work important and—and because I want to see justice for Jeffrey.”

“Yeah? well, what about justice for the crew? What about us? You think we don’t feel anything? You think we don’t matter? Is that it?”

The words spun out of him with a force he couldn’t control.

“Why don’t you look after your own for a change? Why do you care so much for the Hollywood hotshots? Why don’t you ask some questions about local people who were working, and doing their jobs and getting hurt on that show and no one cared? Why don’t you ask about that for a change?”

His chest was heaving and his fist were clenching and unclenching. “Now, if you don’t have anything more to do or say, I suggest you get out of my way. I have had a long day and I want to go home.” He pushed past her and fumbled for his keys. Kitty stood in the parking lot, her jaw agape. She was too embarrassed to meet the eyes of any other crew who had stopped to watch the confrontation on the way to their cars.

“But I do…” she started, her voice hardly above a whisper. “I did stories on all those accidents…”

But she could barely hear herself.

Gwenyfar Rohler is encore’s fact-or-fiction writer for 2018. Her serial story, “Singing in the Dead of Night,” follows the death of a young movie star and the emotional aftermath that follows, as local media try to uncover the events leading up to the high-profile “murder,” which takes place while filming in Wilmington, NC. Catch up on previous chapters at encorepub.com.

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