|Subject: Chapter 196 - Part 2 (end of chapter 196)
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Date Posted: Wednesday, July 13, 07:36:11am
In reply to:
's message, "Dreams in the Dark - Chapter 193 and onwards" on Thursday, July 07, 07:06:24am
She was thinking into this, as she reached her partner's office, smiling at Monique, as the woman nodded to her. Madeline went in, pleased. Paul was being a bit better trained these days, had ceased trying to punish her in anything but the usual, tawdry ways. Those she could handle. She closed the door behind her, smiling. It was good to have him behaving once more.
The mogul looked up at her, only vaguely grunting--utterly unaware of her thoughts, as usual. "So?" he prompted.
Her smile was typically enigmatic. "He had a woman with him." She headed for a chair.
"Another one?" He had to shake his head. The man went through them more quickly than he did himself; there was a snort. And at least he had the sense not to dispose of them so completely. You never knew when you might want them again.
She could see his usual "waste not, want not" policy lingering somewhere in his eyes; it was his typical objection to the producer. Still, she didn't address it, continuing with business, as she sat back, crossing her legs. "She was more . . . innocent than most." A bit rude, too, but the new ones frequently were. All the ex-prom queens expected the world to be handed to them on a silver platter. When they finally had explained to them their true value, it tended to come as quite a shock.
He seemed a little surprised, misunderstanding her. "You don't intend to sign her?" After all, she had put Susan under contract--and that girl nearly defined "naive." He almost rolled his eyes, thoughts turning. The last thing they needed was another young Kitty Ward coming around to turn the heads of his stars.
His unacknowledged partner just smiled, seeing his objections, leading him along. "I think we have enough blondes working for us, don't you?" He snorted, making her smile. "But she might . . ."
"What?" he interrupted, suspiciously. He never quite trusted her when she started to plan.
"We need a new stand-in, for Kitty and Susan." Her gaze was focused on him calmly, forcing him to see. "Now that Simon is doing most of the lighting . . ."
Yeah, that was true--sadly. Mr. Birkoff had been good enough to use almost anyone as a stand-in, could adjust, but the semi-inadequate Simon needed to have just the right hair color in his stand-ins for the actors; simple "blonde" wasn't enough. Otherwise, they ended up with female stars who they either couldn't see in the murk or who looked like they had grown prematurely white-haired. The snort returned. They had enough problems around here. Little old ladies he didn't need.
This issue didn't help his mood, however; little ever did. But the loss of their lighting genius rankled more than most. His gaze singed her, making her pay. "And whose fault is that?"
His insinuation was unfair, of course, but he was never one to accept blame; Madeline knew this. "Mijovich's, perhaps?" she taunted, but he only snorted in response. It wasn't like either of them were willing to look too deeply into the boy's defection.
The studio's tutor tried to push this issue aside, even if the memory of it still annoyed her. She had thought that Birkoff had been appropriately emasculated back when he had originally been pushed out of a job. That he had managed to remain so bold, all those years later, still came as something of an unpleasant shock.
She refused to think into this, though, knew it would do her no good, changing topics. "He came with a project, too."
"Mijovich?" Paul was still glaring at her.
She shook her head. "Bauer. It's not all that interesting, but it might be of some use."
She only won a snort from him again, as he took out his lingering disgust at Birkoff's bravery on her. "If it's not that interesting, why would we want it?" The last thing they needed was more boring films.
As usual, she didn't take his rebuke to heart, was leading him where she wanted him to go; she didn't address his question. "It's a love story--an older man, younger woman. They flirt; they marry, but she can't give him children. When he leaves her temporarily, we find out the twist." He was already watching her with interest. "It turns out that she's been dying of a terminal disease for several years and was afraid to tell him. He only comes back in time to say goodbye."
Hrm. He hated to admit it, but he liked it. It had all the right points: a love interest, a tragic deathbed scene, a woman punished for being infertile. His smile grew, thoughts shifting. If only his damn wife had ended the same way.
She knew very well what he was thinking about, didn't dissuade him. She also didn't bother to go into details. It was clear that the deathbed scene would include the man asking for forgiveness, the woman denying that it had been his fault, before she blessed any new choice he made. It was the right ending, left her with no doubts--the reality of it eternal. Men were bound to stray, if they weren't given children--the only anchor any woman had on a man. Any woman idiotic enough to end up in such a situation deserved no sympathy at all.
She waited for his response, then, already knowing what it would be. His smirk grew. "Who do you have in mind?"
Ah. This was the harder part. "Michael and Kitty." He began glowering again, made her go on, smiling now. "Doesn't it give you any ideas?"
"What, like killing Kitty?" There was a sort of harrumphing noise, as he thought about it. It was tempting, but impractical, his gaze returning. "What ideas does it give you?"
Mm. This was what she had been waiting for. "They're about to get married." She saw him starting to turn red and moved on swiftly. It had been hard enough making up an excuse for their last film together; she didn't want him to focus there for long. "If the public thought she was dying, though . . ."
He was shaking his head, utterly lost; she continued, before he had to face his own lack of imagination. "If she's ill, she can't work. She'll be at home, while Michael's here with us."
Paul nodded. "And Michael gets the sympathy." He was seeing it now--had already seen it work with Gray, the little nebbish getting tons of fan mail, as his wife had grown sicker. Of course, it was even easier when there was a child--so many women offering to marry the man, to be his brat's mother. If they could just pull off the same sort of thing with Nikita, could get her out of their hair . . .
He liked the idea the more he thought about it, enjoying any possibility of having her gone. Not only was she a pain, her effect on Michael infuriating, but to have such a link to Adrienne was disturbing. The sooner they could be rid of her, the better. He was smiling. And then maybe they could get Michael back as their own, once and for all.
The more he thought about it, the better it sounded--much better than their previous plans. Before, he would have to give the girl away to some other studio, and, as much as he wanted to be rid of her, he hated to think that she might be of some use elsewhere. He wanted to know that she would be gone, out of their sight for good. Still, he looked back to his partner, remembering her ideas about the couple earlier this year. If she were right . . .
"You said she was going to get him to quit, to stay at home with her." His eyes narrowed. "How will this stop her?"
Ah. There was a sigh from the woman before him, but it was imperceptible to her partner. That story had been convenient at the time, had made him go along with her plans; a slight sense of annoyance rose in her. If only he hadn't remembered it now.
She didn't let his renewed memory stop her, though, twisted the facts again. "It's the separation that's important--keeping them apart without making her seem like a victim." Paul's gaze made her continue, pointing out the obvious. "No one will bother her like this. We'll make it clear that she's safe--from Louella and everyone else." Her theories moved on, spinning around him. "So long as he's here, is paired with other women, and she's at home, he won't be a problem. It won't take him long before he remembers how much he wants to work. And the longer Kitty's off the lot, the more he sees her as just a housewife, the less interesting she'll be to him."
This seemed only half-logical to him, but he couldn't quite find the holes. Finally, he shook his head, dismissing his doubts. Sometimes, it was just easier to go along with Madeline. As little as he liked to admit it, her plans were often quite useful.
She saw his mind turning, knew he was accepting her story. Good. That was all she wanted. Her real plans were always another matter entirely.
She was settled now, very pleased with her current machinations. The movie would be yet another to release after Nikita's death, another to tug at the heartstrings of an audience who were mourning for Michael's loss. The romances were good, would help, but the tragedies aided her plans far more. Only in an audience full of tearful women would their main star's future be secured.
She would see to this end, wouldn't be derailed--no matter what the pair might scheme. Her only fear right now was time, was how long it might take a new production to prepare and finish. As it was, Michael and Nikita's wedding was only a little under two months away. She would prefer to have Jamie act soon after--but that had yet to be seen. Still, even if they rushed, in almost superhuman fashion, it would likely be August before they started filming--and to assume that the whole film would be complete by September 1st would be an uncertain bet, at best; her thoughts moved in. But, if they just had *enough* footage to release the film, whatever its holes, they should be secure. After all, MGM had done it with *Saratoga* after Harlow's death, and audiences had wept in droves to see it. All she needed to ensure, then, was that they started quickly.
She continued her discussion with Paul for some time after this, trying to find the right director--even if she didn't let him know the real reasons for their parameters. It was enough that he thought the couple's wedding to be a good time to make such a move against them. That was all he really had to understand.
They made their plans, then, Madeline unconcerned about any other details. The wedding would be prepared by the studio, so lack of time for the couple wasn't an issue. Besides, the less time they had alone, the less time they had to defend themselves against her future attacks; her smile grew. And that would soon make them hers completely.
This was a perfect thought, no disturbances within her--everything almost set. Only another few months and the pair would no longer be a burden; her smile grew. Only another few months and Michael would finally be incapable of turning away from them again.
Extra notes: That reference at the end is, probably obviously, to Jean Harlow's last film. When she became ill and died unexpectedly, the studio cut together what they had and released it, supposedly because of public outcry to see what there was--but it's what they often do, in such cases. Ghoulish as it may be, such movies often make a fair amount of money.
About the "mad, bad, and dangerous to know" quote, it was originally said about the writer Byron in the 19th century. Considering what a total cad he was, whoever said it (yes, I've forgotten) was probably right. Still, it also seems to fit the usual "bad boy" actor's image, so it snuck its way in, nonetheless.
[End of Part 196]
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