"I'm a writer," she smiled, spreading the legs that stretched her five-foot-ten to his shoulder, steadying herself in the Bolivian mud. The crew couldn't take their eyes off her.
Sloane had always liked tall women. And a blonde tall woman, in Bolivia, after a month and a half with nothing but weed and coke and his own two hands to soothe him when the sun went down, it was like his prayers had been answered.
The director was looking at him funny, anxious to get the shot. Sloane dismissed Pedro, who was grinning ear to ear, like a dangerous Mexican cur who'd brought his master some new trinket to approve:
"Thanks, Pedro. Very nice. Let us get back to work here, hunh?"
Pedro slid away into the shadows in that maleficent way he had. It's surprising they called the other one—that pudgy lapdog with choreographic tendencies—the Evil One. This Pedro looked like he'd just as soon slip a blade between your ribs as go down on you, but—they were all guests in a foreign land. Who's to judge local customs? So long as Pedro kept the flake and the floozies coming, Sloane would reserve judgement.
Taking a wait-and-see attitude; that was Gordon Sloane's way. Method. Observation. A Plan in good time. He'd learned success in the movie business well, from a succession of patient masters who, in their way, had loved him.
He motioned to his gaffer in that surreptitious way all cinematographers evolve, locked down the Panaflex, and appraised this new face on the set. She wasted no time:
"Independent News Service. They like crazy stories and this is the craziest."
She placed her definitely muscled though still slender arm through his and walked him through the maze of cable and crew to a spot in the shade by the honeywagen.
"I mean how did you get all this stuff in here?"
Sloane smiled. She had blue eyes. Her tailored jungle fatigues reminded him of some hopelessly erotic girl scout, the way she tumbled out of them.
"I might ask the same question--"
"Sondra, Mr. Sloane. Sondra Baynes. Independent--"
"News Service, I know. We flew it in, Sondra. Every last applebox and ninelight. All the way from--"
"There it is," he nodded. He held his finger to his lips, anticipating the A.D.'s call:
"Awright, everybody, this is picture." Everybody but the birds settled in for the shot.
"Unh…23 Charlie, Take One," said the mixer. "Speed."
Jungle fucking magic, Sloane thought, inserting the Porsche into the flow of traffic the way a junkie finds a vein. I must have been out of my mind.
In fact, they both were, a little. By the time they'd worked their way through a gram and a half of the purest coke in the world, and with the better part of a fifth of some of Pedro's finest imported Herradura tequila to chase it down, it was like their bodies had come together somewhere down the line at the Enrico Fermi Lab.
It was raining, and it had been a dry summer in the poon department. Sloane slid his lips past the edge of Sondra's smile, grazing in the smooth plane of her cheek. Her breath was hot in his ear.
There was an odor of ozone in the air from the storm, and the O3 molecules interlaced themselves with Sondra's own sweet smell, transforming into something like trinkets of the gods, the gift of freshness in a spoiled, decaying world. Sloane brought his head down to nuzzle in the depths of her breasts.
He felt her body relax as she settled on her back. She rotated her hips.
Sloane undid the bass buckle of her web belt and tugged at the tight O.D. shorts.
Fellini hitched up a pair or summerweight trousers roughly the size and shape of a third-rate traveling circus tent. For a man who spent the better part of his professional life exuding ball-busting confidence, he perspired too much.
Sloane bridged his nose with a long-irrelevant copy of Vanity Fair, the better to fend off the faint smell of camel piss in the air. He wasn't in the mood.
"So sue me, goddammit!" Fellini screamed into his faux-bejeweled French Provincial telephone. He rang off in humor most foul. "Sonsabitches, all of 'em. Man can't make an honest living in this fucking business anymore."
He eyed Sloane the way a grade school principal does a chronic offender, full of bile:
"And you, Sloane, are FUCKED!"
"You drag me all the way down here to tell me that? Fuck, Fellini, I haven't worked since I got back from Bolivia. I got expenses, man, I got a new house and--"
"You got shit for brains, Gordon!"
Fellini heaved his fat carcass against the back of his chair and swiveled over to the window ledge that ran the width of the room. On a clear day you could see San Pedro, but where do you find a clear day?
"You still fucking that reporter you met on the shoot?"
"I don't see what the hell difference my--"
"You don't see shit, Sloane! For a Big League Fucking Director of Photography I call that an occupational disadfuckingvantage!"
There was something in the way he said it, something in Fellini's uncharacteristic resignation that bothered Sloane. He watched his agent methodically open his humidor, handcarved with scenes from the Kama Sutra, and extract a torpedo-shaped cigar grown in Honduras from Cuban cuttings.
Fellini let the moment of doubt he sensed in Sloane play out, moistening, nipping, rolling the cigar in sensual flame before he spoke. His words, when they came, cut through the thick smoke like a Muslim death sentence:
"You and I are through."
Sondra stiffened as Sloane found the rhythm that drove her towards the edge. Sweat like jungle rivers ran down her hard thighs, pooling in the salty marshlands of her need. Sloane's beard was rough and she liked it. She pulled him back up to her and he traced his way back across the valley and the hills of her, along her neck that had started to become so wondrously familiar, to her lips again, so full and grateful, nipping at him, whispering alternately, cursing him for his genius with her.
"Now, baby. Gordon. Now."
The Porsche needed a tune-up. She lurched a little as Sloane hit the gas, passing an Average Joe on the right. Joe gave him the finger and Sloane floored it. The Carrera burped again but took it.
My life could use a tuneup, Sloane thought as he cut quickly back into the number one lane. Why do I always lead with my dick?
It was just a little trinket, the fat one explained. From the both of them. Just something to remind him of their time together .
Sloane examined the money clip. Sterling silver. A nicely-engraved rendering of the Aztec Calendar Stone; a small blade hidden along one edge, like a razor, good for cutting a cigar, some blow--or an artery. It was expensive, even in pesos. He looked up at Pedro and Evil, the big lug, who had tears in his eyes. Considering what they'd all been through, he had no difficulty hugging them both.
They surveyed the equipment laid out on the tarmac: aluminum cases by the dozens; grip stands, dollies, mic booms and tripods.
I'm a fucking gypsy, Sloane thought. A fucking clown in a goddamn traveling circus
They'd on-load this shit, kiss the locals goodbye, and tomorrow they'd be back in El Lay.
The jungle would reclaim all their locations and everything would be the same.