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SINGING IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT: Chapter 11, Our desertion and our blindness

“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.

Fact or Fiction

“‘Ere he is: coming home with a bag of groceries, and he’s supposed to walk up to the door of his apartment with ‘ooligans making mayhem inside, overturning furniture and raping his girl—and he wouldn’t hear any of it? Like just walk up to the door as you please and open it like nothing is going on?” Vlad, the key grip, asked in disbelief.

He grew up on movie sets in the British studio world. The young director might think he’s all that, with his first big feature project, but the grip had been making movies with David Lean when this guy was still trying to hold his Foster’s down after a rugby game.

“He’s got a point,” Cynthia, the script supervisor piped up from the director’s right side. “That is a lot of commotion to walk into. I mean, you would hear that, wouldn’t you? It is a continuity and credibility issue.”

The director looked from one to the other —let his gaze sweep across his assembled crew. These were moments he felt like he couldn’t breathe or think. It was all he could do to see a dark purple cloud in front of his eyes. Didn’t they know he was the director? Why the fuck couldn’t they trust him? Why did they keep challenging his authority and make him look like a fool? If they were so goddamn good at making movies, why weren’t they directors? Why were they still lowly fucking crew people? Anyway, they weren’t even from Hollywood, these people lived in the goddamn sticks!

The monologue ramped up when Jeffrey Chen, the star of the film, chimed in.

“How about some headphones? He’s a musician, how about he’s listening to music, and he doesn’t hear what’s going on inside?” the star offered. “You know—come in all rockin’ out to the beat and then BAM! He looks up and sees what’s going on.”

“That’s not a bad idea,” the director said slowly to the star. He put his arm around Jeffrey and walked away from the grip and continuity supervisor. “What would you be listening to, exactly? Your own music or someone else’s?”

“Good call, Vlad.” Cynthia nodded.

“Ungrateful little shite.” Vladimir shook his head looking after the director and star. “He’s ruining my movie.”

“Still, you spotted it and got it solved—so good call.” She shrugged her shoulders.  “Go get a cup of coffee and a smoke while this sorts itself out.”

The key grip stalked off, muttering to himself.

Cynthia recounted the story patiently into Kitty’s tape recorder. “You really should talk to Vlad when you get a chance,” she advised.

“I’ve been trying to get up with you both for a couple of weeks,” Kitty responded.

“Yes, well, two heads of department—with all that has happened since the death—we’ve been out of town.” Cynthia looked down and collected herself. “But Vlad was one of the last people, if not the last person, to talk to Jeffrey before the … the scene. Vlad was on the other side of the apartment door on set, so Jeffrey was waiting with him to go on. They’re just being guys, you know, bullshitting each other. Then, we get ready to go, and Jeffrey says, ‘Here we go,’ and Vlad wished him luck. Off he went through that door.”

Cynthia’s breathing was getting noticeably more labored while recounting the events. “Were you there?” Kitty asked.
“Of course. I’m the script supervisor. Of course, I was there.”
“Where were you?”

“I was sitting maybe 12 feet away?” She looked at Kitty. “Warren, the medic, was sitting at my table that night.”

“Does he usually sit with you?”

“I had an extra chair, and I like him, so I invited him to join me.”

“OK.” Kitty stopped and tried to think how to phrase the next question. “Is it weird working on the same film with your husband? To be a married couple on a film set?”

“No.” Cynthia shook her head. “It’s better than working on separate films and not seeing each other for weeks at a time. Besides we met on a movie.”

“Really? Which one?”

“‘Rocky IV.’ Anyway we are in different departments. There is no reason we can’t have a professional relationship at work.”

“What do you know about the second set of shots?” Kitty asked. “I’ve been hearing there was a second set of shots.”

“Listen, we hear gunfire—a lot out at the studio. The police firing range is right next door. But after Warren loaded Jeffrey into the ambulance, and they took off for the hospital, there was a second set of shots—people were hitting the ground. It was scary. I mean, after what had just happened.”

“So what was it?”

“The special-effects guys were testing the gun. They went next door to an empty sound stage and loaded the gun with blanks and started firing it off to figure out what happened.”

“Before they turned the gun over to the police, they tampered with the evidence?”

“I don’t think anyone realized the police would be involved. They were just trying to figure out what happened. See what they needed to do to fix it—try to make sure they didn’t do it again … I guess.”

“What did the police say?”

“About the gun? I don’t know. I gave them my statement and signed it. What I saw, what I heard. As the continuity supervisor, I made good notes. You have to be good at writing while looking up in my job.” She gave a half-hearted smile.

“What did the director and producers say?”

“I don’t know. I wasn’t there when they were interviewed.” Cynthia paused. “Have you been able to get a hold of any of them since they left town?”

Kitty shook her head. “Do you know how to reach them? Do you have a phone number for any of them?”

Cynthia shook her head. “Just what’s on the call sheet.” She looked away and mumbled half under her breath, “It sure is shitty the way they fled like that.” She turned and looked at Kitty. “There’s a military term for that: ‘leading from the rear.’ It’s not terribly inspiring, is it?”

“Do you think they are coming back?”

“I don’t know. Have you heard anything?”

Kitty shook her head. “How about Stan?  Has anyone heard from him since he left?”

“I don’t want to. No … I don’t want to know how to get a hold of him.” Cynthia looked away.  “The person you should talk to—and I think the police advised him not to leave town—is the props master.”

“Ruben?”

“Yes, him and his ‘assistant,’ Cherise. You know this was only his second movie? And, suddenly, he’s a head of department? Who’s he screwing? Besides Cherise, I mean.”

“So you’re saying he’s unqualified?”

“I didn’t say that. I said it’s only his second movie … ever. You know, most of us work our way up, and along the way, we get training and learn how to work—learn procedure and protocol. I’m not saying there isn’t nepotism in films, but even then, someone is usually looking over our shoulders. How did he get to be a head of department on his second film ever? That’s a lot of responsibility for someone who has less experience than a second-year college student.”

“Well, when you put it that way…”

“I do. I do put it that way.” Cynthia took a deep breath and counted to 10 to try to calm down. Snapping at Kitty wasn’t the answer.  “I’m sorry,” she offered. “I’m sorry. I’m just very upset.”

“Understandably,” Kitty nodded.

“Hey, Kitty, after you talk to Vlad, can you find out for me how Ashley is doing? We were all quite fond of her. No one knows how to reach her and we just … we would like her to know we are thinking of her.”

“Sure, sure. This must be terrible for her.”

“Yeah. They were supposed to be getting married today in Mexico.” Cynthia looked down at her own wedding ring.

“It was supposed to be today?” Kitty asked.

“Yeah. Yeah, it was.”

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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