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Teaser Tuesday: The Disposables by Greg Jolley

June 8, 2021 by in category Apples & Oranges by Marianne H. Donley, Teaser Tuesday tagged as , , ,

The Obscurité de Floride Trilogy, Book 2

Suspense

Date Published: Jun 1, 2021

Publisher: Épouvantail Books, LLC

About the book

In the jungles of coastal Mexico, twelve-year-old Kazu Danser is on the run, his bloody past haunting and attempting to be his ruination. Hot on his heals is journalist Carson Staines, a deadly madman full of blood thirst and greed, determined to first chronicle Kazu’s criminal life – and then end it. Staines must nail him down, dead or alive; the boy being worth a huge payoff.

Making a perilous crossing of the border into the States, Kazu fights for his life, desperately heading east. Entering sunburnt Florida, he teams up with a gang of Floridian street urchins, known to the authorities as, “The disposables.”

With Staines not letting up on the chase, Kazu and the other youths go on the run, fighting for their lives.

Can the Disposables and Kazu survive?

What will they have to do to stop the murderous and resourceful monster mowing through them to get to his reward?

The second part of the book takes place in the shadows of Florida, where street urchins fights every day to survive, both bodily and in spirit. In contrast to the tropical beaches and teeming vacationers, the children will do anything necessary to keep their heads above the perilous deep waters.


Excerpt

Chapter One

Leaving the Hotel Or

In Mexico, there’s plenty of wet work for an innocent-looking boy with a 9mm. For the smart ones, there was a world of new clothes, game systems, and a bedroom door with a lock. For the smartest, there were bank accounts and dreams of living without blood-splattered shoes.

Kazu was on the run, his last job gone ugly, as in kicking-a-mound-of-fire-ants ugly. The twelve-year-old had escaped the Hotel Or with a policia dragnet reaching out to snag his heals.

Sitting forward in the driver’s seat so his boot toes could reach the pedals, he kept the speedometer buried past 140km per hour, racing down Federale 200, running south from Puerto Mita.

He had escaped the resort hotel with nothing more than his backpack and his life, taking advantage of the chaos by driving away at a forced, leisurely pace. In his rearview mirror, he watched a swarm of policia vehicles turn into the hotel road.

When the last policia truck with sweeping lights and siren swung into the hotel grounds, Kazu buried his boot toe on the accelerator.

The two-lane highway began its swaying turns through endless miles of green jungle and forests. Thirty kilometers along, he slowed up and rode in the draft of a six-wheel cargo truck, a gold tuna and ‘Fish de Jo y Maria’ painted on the rear steel door. Knowing he had to ditch the car, he stayed in the queue forming on the highway, a farm truck running behind.

“Run it to empty,” he decided, leaning forward, the steering wheel inches from his chin.

He had paid cash for the stolen and re-plated Buick at the Or Petrol y Restaurante adjacent to the Hotel Or.

“Get distance.” He wiped a skim of sweat from his brow and neck.

Federale 200 continued south for fifty clicks before heading eastward, away from the coast. The lush green jungle walls brushed along both sides, and over time formed tunnels of cooler but dank air of ripe rotting vegetation. He dropped all four windows, the air conditioning having died the week before.

When the fuel needle sank under the E, he drove the grass shoulder, letting the trucks and cars behind him pass. With the stretch of highway to his own, he turned the Buick from the road.

Foliage brushing the roof, the car bounced and jolted downhill. He worked the wheel as trees and rocks cracked the sides, undercarriage, and bumper. Thirty yards in, the car was invisible from the highway.

Kazu climbed out with his backpack shouldered. Hiking halfway back up the hill to a green and shaded clearing, he kneeled in the wet soil, where patchy sunlight had dried out the vegetation.

The heat and stagnant humidity were pushing down on him.

His skin was dank with sweat. Scooping up two handfuls of dirt and dust, he rubbed the front of his black t-shirt. Same with his Pirates baseball cap. He ground dirt and leaves into the front of his black shorts before standing up and looking himself over. The results had transformed him into an everyday, poor Mexican street urchin.

Pulling the cap low to shade his foreign, almond-shaped eyes, he climbed halfway back to the road through the brush and rocks.

“Steal a pair of sunglasses,” he said, looking south, knowing he would come upon a village or city eventually.

Walking in the vegetation often high overhead, he paralleled the highway, standing still with his breath clenched when trucks or local buses went by.

He walked and climbed and crossed streams for the next two long hours. Sticky green vines repeatedly tried to grab and trip him up. The afternoon sun was lowering into the trees when he stopped. The highway sign up on the shoulder told him the town of Colomo was off to the east, and he headed that way.

“Get a ride. Then a Pepsi with lots of ice,” he said, pushing through green clinging limbs and leaves. He was approaching a scatter of small and worn residences. When he came up upon the first few cinder-block houses, he took to the pavement, the heat from the crumbled pavement pressing into each step he took. He entered the first side street, seeing no one about, hearing only a dog barking and a radio blasting Mexican disco a few houses up.

His next ride was parked alongside a station wagon on the dirt patch of a front lawn. The house was still and the windows dark. After drinking from a garden hose, he circled to the passenger side of the Ford pickup resting on its dirt tires. He looked in before opening the door.

The keys were on the dash, the passenger side of the bench seat cluttered with food wrappers on top of newspapers. Before climbing in, he checked out the truck bed. A five-gallon can of petrol was bungee-strapped to the side. He gave it a shake, and it sloshed and felt heavy. Opening the toolbox behind the cab, he swiped a roll of Gorilla tape and from the clutter in the bed grabbed two cuttings from a fence post among the other scraps of wood and aluminum.

With blocks taped to the two pedals, he turned the key and dropped the transmission into reverse. A half-hour later, he was a good distance away, up Highway 54, heading north and east.

Icons and beads swung back and forth from the mirror. Mary Magdalena was glued to the dash. She had a bubble compass embedded in her belly.

“Mary, right? Nice having someone to talk to,” he said, trying the windshield fluid knob.

It was empty.

Digging through the glove box, he pushed aside papers and food wrappers, coming up with a cashew tin full of green tobacco and some tissue papers. There was nothing to eat. He took out a sun-bleached folded map.

The miles rolled by, the road taking him through the outskirts of Guadalajara. The sun was low in the western sky when he passed through Zacatecas, where he braved a sleepy gas station to fill the tank, using forty of his one hundred ten dollars of cash. The soda icebox inside the station didn’t have Pepsi, so he bought two chilled bottles of strawberry Jarritos and two bags of chips.

“Help me find a place to hide?” he asked Mary on the dash. “Somewhere with cell service and a shower?”

The bubble compass in her mid-section appeared to bob and nod encouragement.

Four hours later, he pulled off the road on the north side of Saltillo. A dusty driveway ran to a simple row motel. A large and tired man sat behind a desk in a bowling shirt, television running to his left, radio playing to the right. Before saying a word, Kazu took out fifty US dollars from his backpack and laid it out.

“Una habitación para uno, por favor,” < A room for one, please> Kazu said.

The man didn’t even pause in renting a room to a short twelve-year-old boy. The entire fifty dollars was exchanged for a room key. Minutes later, Kazu parked the truck behind the motel instead of the parking lot and entered room six.

After locking and chaining the door, he got out of his black boots, stripped off his clothing, and took a long cold shower. He left the room one time to go out to the truck to pry the Mary Magdalena compass off the dash. After a dinner of chips and the second bottle of strawberry soda, he opened his backpack on the bed. Digging through his few belongings, he took out his old and battered gray Nokia flip phone.

He placed a single call to his former employer. Hitting voicemail as expected, he left a message.

“Lamento tu mala suerte en el Hotel. Necesito un trabajo. Cerca de la frontera.” < Sorry about your bad luck at the hotel. I need a job. Near the border.> After a second cool-down shower, he took out pens, pencils, and pastels and his current image-novel. With his pad of hard bond drawing paper leaning on his raised knees, he drew and shaded until his eyes began to close involuntarily and his chin bobbed on his chest.

Waking an hour before dawn as usual, he pulled on his clothes and took a third shower since arriving, rubbing out the dirt stains. Checking his Nokia, he saw he had no new messages.

With his backpack on his shoulder, he walked up the street to a market.

In the parking lot of the local Supermercado , a combination hardware and grocery store, he watched a thin and very short man push a shopping bag into the rear basket on the back of a motorbike. As the man started the bike, Kazu studied each movement of his hands and shoes on the throttle, clutch, and gears. The man toed the shifter into second gear as he sped away up the road.

Finding shade under a dusty tree, Kazu sat and waited. An hour passed before he saw what he needed. A man rolled in on a seriously old Honda 90 trail bike, once red and white, then different hues of oil stains and dirt. The rider got off, leaving the keys, and did a cowboy walk into the market. A dust devil also spun into the parking lot, a brown whirlwind crossing right to left. Corralled by the gap between two farm trucks, it spiraled slowly to death.

Kazu stood and crossed to the spinning residue, not bothering to wipe the dust from his dirty face, eyes on the key.

After scanning the cars and trucks and the store’s doorway, he climbed onto a dirt bike for the very first time. Minutes later, he was running up the highway in the slow lane, the wind cooling his skin even as the sun blasted down.


About the Author

Greg Jolley earned a Master of Arts in Writing from the University of San Francisco and lives in the very small town of Ormond Beach, Florida. When not writing, he researches historical crime, primarily those of the 1800s. Or goes surfing.

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Other Books by Greg Jolley

THIEVES: Book One of the Obscurité de Floride Trilogy

THE COLLECTORS

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THE COLLECTORS

THE DISPOSABLES

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THE DISPOSABLES

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Thieves Book Tour, Giveaway and Excerpt

March 4, 2021 by in category Apples & Oranges by Marianne H. Donley, Rabt Book Tours tagged as , , ,
 

 
 
 

Thieves

 
The Obscurité de Floride Trilogy

 

Suspense

Date Published: March 1, 2021

Publisher: Épouvantail Books

 

 

 

 

From Tropea, Italy to Michigan and Florida, the thieves Molly and April Danser are on the run, trying to escape from an enraged ex-US Marshal. He is hell bent on stopping them once and for all, his twisted black heart fired up for revenge and their total destruction. Will the sisters elude his blood-soaked hunt? They have their smarts and resource but have never faced a pursuit like this.

Can they somehow put an end to his blood lust?

What will they have to do to save themselves from his powerful and deadly claws?

The hunt is on…

 

 

 

About the Author

 

 


Greg Jolley earned a Master of Arts in Writing from the University of San Francisco and lives in the very small town of Ormond Beach, Florida. When not writing, he researches historical crime, primarily those of the 1800s. Or goes surfing.

 

 

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Excerpt

Thieves

Greg Jolley

Chapter Twenty-Nine

A Day to Do

April woke at first light, seeing she had slept on top of the bed instead of climbing in under the blankets. After putting the coffee percolator on the burner, she went and checked the boat’s position at the lower helm. Starting the engines, she steered southeast in the northward Gulf Stream and watched the blue swells until the boat was pretty much in the same location as the day before.

            “At least eat,” she instructed herself, it being twenty-four hours or more since her last meal. Opening a can of stew, she ate it cold with a spoon while sipping coffee. Looking at the closed laptop at her elbow, she hesitated to reach for it.

            “Only one way to deal with fear.” She opened the lid and started the computer.

Her fingers unsteady above the keys, the vision from the previous day’s nightmare came fully into view. The big dark doorway at Klave’s. Her imagination ran with and gave her the rolling door crashing down and up fast like steel teeth chomping, chewing.

“Back off.” Her shoulders shuddered, and she barked at the vignette.

Opening a secure internet browser, she launched the messaging application.

After addressing an email to Allison, she froze for a minute, her fingertips quivering. The three hardest words she ever typed displayed.

AprilDid she die?

Hitting send, she stared at those three words, waiting for the reply that she couldn’t will Allison to answer.

***

Sometime later, she opened a browser alongside the messaging application where her question to Allison still floated without an answer. The local television stations had previously recorded ‘on scene’ footage ripe with frightful images of Klave’s with the breathless voices of newscasters. There were no details of any worth.

            Opening the online Daytona Beach News-Journal, the story was in the banner.

Three Killed in a Possible Attempted Robbery

April read that David Klave was declared dead on the scene. She learned that Molly’s pal, Dennis, was also murdered, evidence suggesting that he was trying to cover and protect another victim. No other names were offered, pending notification of next to kin. One man had been shot twice and was expected to survive. He was being attended to in the ICU at Memorial Medical Hospital. There was nothing about the third victim. No mention of Molly or her status.

She saw her own name given as one of the ‘persons of interest.’

Klave’s employees were quoted as saying that the suspect had a long face that was injured. He had driven off in a late model red Corvette, heading north.

She read three more news reports in the Ormond Beach, Orlando, and St. Augustine newspapers, the body count making the story a headliner. There was no additional information, only a recap and worthless commentary.

She closed the browser and looked to the messaging application.

No reply from Allison.

She sent the text again and waited ten long and painful minutes.

Leaving the table for the flying bridge, she grabbed a bottle of water and a package of the saltines she had seen her sister snacking on. The light went out over the middle of the galley as she left, and she made a mental note to put in a fresh bulb.

Up top, the breeze was sweeping away the heat of the day. She checked her location, fired the engines, and spent the next hour staring at the ocean until she had the boat back in place.

Climbing down the ladder, she went inside and saw that Allison had not replied.

“My beautiful Molly…” she held her eyes closed, “… I’m still hoping.”

She spent the rest of that day at the lower helm, getting up every half hour to look for a message from Allison.

As the sun set at her back, she went inside to look again. The darkening galley reminded her to find a package of light bulbs and a step-ladder. She found both in the click-lock supply closet and had the dead bulb out and was poised to twist in the new one when it slipped from her fingers. It shattered, and she got a new one from the closet, along with the dustpan and broom. The second bulb went in easily, and she climbed down to sweep up the aluminum cone and shards.

The messaging application pinged.

Instead of hurrying to it, she stalled, fearful of the news. She finished up the sweeping and stepped to the table, the ball of her right foot landing on a stabbing missed piece of glass.

“Brilliant.” She felt the deep cut as she swung around on the bench and looked to the message screen.

AprilDid she die?

AliDon’t know.

AprilFind out.

AliI’m on it. It is a fuck storm here. Wasn’t here when it happened. Parts store.

AprilYou learn anything?

AliYes, of course.


Greg Jolley’s Books

(Hover over cover for buy links.)

THIEVES: Book One of the Obscurité de Floride Trilogy

THE COLLECTORS

Buy now!
THE COLLECTORS

THE DISPOSABLES

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THE DISPOSABLES

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Books Are Daughters by Greg Jolley

December 24, 2020 by in category Apples & Oranges by Marianne H. Donley, Guest Posts, Rabt Book Tours tagged as , , , , ,

With the recent launch of The Collectors, I experienced the same fine emotion I always feel when a book is shared with readers and reviewers. To me, each book is a like a daughter, stepping off the porch barefoot, a bit disheveled, but grinning—perhaps smirking—as she heads out into the real world. As I watch her head on up the road with her battered suitcase and tousled hair, I wish her all the best, confident that I have loved her and done my very best to raise her well. We’ve had our ups and downs, disagreements and arguments, but this was always in the spirit of helping her become the best that she can be.

As always, I hope her journey is good and interesting, just before the screen door slams and I head to my back office, where another young one is waiting to be born.

This is why when I’m asked about having a favorite Danser novel, the answer is always no. How can you, and why would you ever favor one darling child over another?

All the best,

Greg Jolley
The Danser Novels

About The Author

Greg Jolley earned a Master of Arts in Writing from the University of San Francisco and lives in the very small town of Ormond Beach, Florida. When not writing, he researches historical crime, primarily those of the 1800s. Or goes surfing.

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a man walking away in the spooky fog

The Collectors
Greg Jolley

Publisher: BHC Press
December 15, 2020

Suspense, Thriller

Pierce Danser is on the hunt for his soon-to-be ex-wife, the actress Pauline Place, who’s disappeared from the Black Island film set in the heat swarmed waters off the Mexican coast. A wealthy “collector” with a black heart and dangerous, evil mind has kidnapped her, planning a forced marriage to complete his manage of twisted museum pieces. As Pierce starts down the winding, dark, and deadly path in pursuit, his journey is a roller coaster through a horror show. No matter the grisly and dangerous obstacles, he is determined to rescue Pauline, even if it means the loss of his own life.

The clock is ticking, his resources are slim and he’s up against a man of great means as well as a twisted, cruel vision.

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THE COLLECTORS

Excerpt

Chapter One

TIN CAN

“Welcome to the film set, Mr. Kiharazaka. Please mind your step, we’re having a problem with vermin.”

The tall, thin man, fresh from Kyoto, adjusted his stride, placing each step of his spacesuit boots gingerly.

“I’m Rolf. Can I call you Zaka?” the assistant director went on.

“Please, no,” Mr. Kiharazaka replied demurely.

“Got it.”

“Will we be going weightless? It was in the original scene.”

“We’re woking on that, yes.”                                                                                                 

“Woking?”

“A joke. Sort of.”

A few yards away, green gaffing tape marked the edge of the darkened film set. Rolf spoke into her headset and the lights came up, revealing the interior of the spacecraft: the complex helm and seating for the crew. The second set—the crew table and galley kitchen—was half-lit in the distance.

Mr. Kiharazaka stared with unreserved delight. The crew had accurately replicated the 1990s television series Tin Can’s two most famous locations.

Members of the film crew were already on the set, at their places among the equipment; lights, extended boom mics, and various cameras, some dollied and some shoulder-held. Mr. Kiharazaka had to rotate stiffly in his spacesuit, turning his helmet, visor up, to watch the young, professional film crew. He nodded to some and spoke to none. For the most part, these serious professionals looked right through him, focused on their craft.

“Please step in, Zaka. We’d like you to feel comfortable in both locations.”

“Where is the cast? The Robbins family?”

“Soon enough. Please.” Rolf extended her hand and Zaka crossed the green tape and stepped into the helm, noting that the flooring was white painted plywood. With the flight helmet on, the voices about the set were muted. Zaka stared at the helm, admiring, but not touching, the multiple displays. He stood back of Captain Robbins’s helm chair, taking in all the exacting details of the complex spacecraft controls. Easing between the captain and copilot chair, he turned to Rolf with his white gloved hand out to the second chair, asked, “May I?”

Rolf gave him her buttery professional smile.

“Captain, permission to man the helm?” Zaka asked.

Rolf rolled her eyes, up into the complex scaffolding above. The client was already in role, using the famous and familiar dialogue from the Tin Can series. Since none of the cast was yet on set, Rolf answered for Matt Stuck, the sod of an actor who played Captain Robbins.

“Aye, mate. Take thar helm,” she spoke the next well-known line with a grimace.

Zaka bowed to her voice and twisted around into the copilot’s chair.

She looked on as Zaka began the familiar series of taps and changes on the right side of the helm. She could hear him identifying each click and adjustment he made. He was doing a good job mimicking the terse, focused voice of copilot Sean Robbins, but his inflections were clearly Japanese.

The director, Rose Daiss, entered the soundstage, crossed to the set, and for once didn’t trip on the snakes of cables. She wobbled her large rear into the La-Z Boy with “Director” stenciled on the back. Her nickname was “Bottles” and never used in her presence—it was a reference to the many times she had washed up. Her pudgy face was nip-and-tuck stretched, her skin was rough, but rouged well. She did have good hair.

The director’s personal assistants entered the soundstage and roamed to their places just back of the cameras. They donned headsets and leisurely took up their positions, standing deferentially to Bottles’s side, their faces lit by the glow of their tablets.

Rolf shouted for status among the film’s crews, and they called back equally loud. Lighting, boom mics, and cameras leaned in on the set. Mr. Zaka climbed from the helm and walked back into the spacecraft along the equipment bays on the left wall—the right wall of equipment didn’t exist, providing the view for one of the many cameras. He tapped a brief series on the wall panel and the air lock door opened with a gasp. He stepped through, the door closing at his heels, and crossed the short area of soundstage to the side entrance of the crew and kitchen set. Zaka took in every detail of the reproduced Tin Can galley as he moved carefully through the room. He eased himself into his role and the chair assigned to Ruth Robbins, the flight crew’s matriarch.

The director shouted at her assistants, barking orders and questions, sounding semi-lucid. Rose’s drug-addled, fast-clipped voice received intimidated replies. She was enjoying their pale, cowering expressions while chasing two lines of thought, a mixture of movie-making aesthetics and redundant direction. Her face was beading with drug sweat on her upper lip and brow.

Where’s my cast?” Rose bellowed, finishing the tirade. That done, she promptly nodded off, delighting Rolf, who then inherited the director’s role.

Zaka was exploring the many displays embedded in the galley table, trying to ignore the shouting.

“Heat it up,” Rolf instructed her underling

The assistant typed a series of brief commands on his tablet and the script dialogue for Ruth Robbins—whom Zaka had paid dearly to portray—appeared. The script was scroll ready and at an angle on the galley table that couldn’t be seen by the cameras.

Rolf heard the cast crossing to the set, a scuffing of moon boots and voices approaching from the soundstage. A sweeping flashlight beam guided their way. The cast moved into the back glow from the lights on the set. Rolf pressed the inside of her cheek between her teeth and bit down. Most of the original cast had been hired or persuaded to appear in the remake of the famous season seven-ending cat fight scene. The brawl between the Robbins’ daughters was nominally, impotently, refereed by the only member of the flight crew who was not a member of the family: the handsome, irreverent, and sociopathic engineer, Greer Nails.

Twenty-two years had been most unkind to the once-famous family members. Greer Nails appeared overinflated; the penchant for food and wine, and dessert, over the past years of dimming celebrity had taken their toll. His formerly idolized face was jowled, reddened, and fat. His spacesuit looked like a white dirigible.

The other cast members were naked save their space helmets. Time and gravity and overindulgence had also taken a toll on their bodies. Greer Nails was the lone holdout from nudity, and with obese good reason.

The scene that Zaka had chosen from the menu provided by the studio had cost him a breathless $3.7 million. An additional $1.3 million was invoiced when he selected the option off the Premiere menu for the cast to be nude except for space helmets. He had expressed his desire to be part of the famous scene’s reenactment, in the role of Ruth Robbins, the space family matriarch. Most of his role was to be aghast at the start of a violent family shouting match and brawl. Later, he would be able to view the vignette time and again, for all eternity, receiving sole ownership of the footage of this and the other short scene as part of the package he had paid for.

Zaka watched his castmates approach, trying to keep his eyes on their helmets, not their nakedness. He was delighted and light headed with his proximity to the famous—the real flesh instead of celluloid, but their memorized faces were distorted by their helmets.

Nods were used in lieu of greetings. They had met during rehearsal earlier in the day. Places were taken, and Rolf reviewed the lighting and camera placements.

The first scene was succinctly re-rehearsed. This was of little use to Zaka, who had the script committed to memory.  But the rehearsal helped him dissolve some of his lighter-than-air headiness. The rest of the cast drolly joined the read and walk through, their acting marked by a blend of boredom, professionalism, and chemicals.

Zaka was delighted. Here he was, a real actor with an important part in the infamous scene’s reenactment. It was all he could to not giggle. He somehow found the ability to maintain Ruth Robbins’s dithering mothering role.

Julianne, the slutty smart sister, stepped past Greer and pantomimed the jerk-off gesture that would set off her sibling, “Cy,” as in Cyborg. In the television series, Cy had been Greer Nail’s budding romantic interest.

Zaka was enthralled, but also concerned. He had paid for Captain Robbins to sit at the head of the galley table, and he was nowhere to be seen.A booming, authoritative voice carried from the back of the soundstage.

 “Welcome to Tin Can Two, Mr. Kiharazaka. You are certainly star material, mm-hmm!” Fatima Mosley called out.

Fatima was the studio head, noticeably short and burdened by a massive chest that gave her stride a wobble. She was dressed in an elegant and trendy style, including a beret. She had a titanium leg, the original lost to disease. The metal ratcheted when her knee articulated.

“Zaka’s doing a great job.” Rolf called over, not turning from the rehearsal.

“It’s Kiharazaka, please,” Zaka politely corrected Rolf again.

“Actually, it’s Ruth Robbins,” Fatima smiled, causing her cheeks to fill and her eyes to disappear.

Zaka flushed with pride at being addressed as Ruth.

“All is well, mm-hmm?” Fatima asked Zaka.

“Yes, yes. Might I ask? Is Captain Robbins ready? And son Sean Robbins?”

“Why, here’s Sean now,” Fatima answered, her crunched face dissolving downward, revealing her wise, ferret eyes. She didn’t explain Captain Robbins’s absence, and Zaka showed good manners by not repeating his question.

Sure enough, Sean Robbins, the Tin Can’s copilot appeared from the shadows of the soundstage, naked save his helmet and boots, looking slightly sedated—well, a lot sedated. His birdlike wrists hung limp.

There was a white worm of drool creeping from his face, now ravaged by years of amphetamine addiction. He was escorted by two of the bigger grips, who held his scarecrow thin arms and pulled him along, his moon boots sketching the soundstage flooring.

The sisters, Cy and Julianne, did not look pleased to be reanimating their once famous daughter roles, no matter the money. They were clearly drugged to an agitated condition and firing foul slurs, even before the shoot began. Julianne had a wrench tattoo on her naked, once-perfect boob. Cy’s sensual body was scarecrow thin, as though drawn of all blood.

The grips assisted Sean Robbins into the hot lights and seated him at the galley table. He opened one eye and panned it across the cameras and lights aimed on him, then barfed into his own lap.

“Unpleasant, mm-hmm,” Fatima observed.

Zaka did the brave thing—he stayed in role, putting on his best Mrs. Robbins bemused and maternal expression.

“Nice,” Rolf encouraged him.

One of the grips wiped up Sean’s vomit. The other cleaned off his chest. Sean stood up and looked on, patting one of the men on the top of the head.

Rolf called out, “I have the set!”

From the film crews came sharp, short calls, and the boom mics lowered overhead.

“Quiet, quiet!” Rolf delighted in her temporary directing role.

“Lock it up,” she hollered.

“Places,” she shouted to the cast.

“Cameras up!”

“Roll sound.”

“Roll camera.”

A young woman appeared with an electric slate, shouted a brief stream of incomprehensible code, clacked the device, and disappeared.

Zaka did well, not looking to Captain Robbins’s empty seat at the head of the table.

Rolf yelled, “Action,” and the movie magic began.

For Zaka, there was a spiritual lift, even as he stayed in his rehearsed movements. He allowed himself to experience the elation, but stayed in the role of motherly concern.

Julianne entered the scene from the door to the helm. She moved behind Sean, who had a line of dialogue but missed. Staring at Cy, she stepped to Greer’s side and hefted the weight of his groin. Cy transitioned fast and smooth, from agog to madness. She fired forward and attacked, going for the smirk on her sister’s face with a clawed left hand and the space cup in the other.

As scripted, Mrs. Robbins took one step back from her end of the table, her expression alarmed and offended.

Greer was looking down at his groped crotch like he was just then realizing he had one. He leaned back as Cy collided with Julianne, and the brawl exploded with screams and nails and fists. The two careened off the galley counter and shelving, swinging and connecting blows.

If Captain Robbins had been at the head of the table, he would have moved fast to separate the two, looking sad and determined and disappointed. Instead, a bit of ad lib occurred, the two brawlers tumbling low in the shot, fists and knees swinging and pumping. Greer performed the ad lib, turning to the mayhem with a slack expression and barfing on himself again.

Mrs. Robbins went into action. She stomped manfully to her scuffling daughters, arms shooing, intending to break up the chaos on the spaceship floor. She was two strides away when Greer stepped out and pushed her back. Mrs. Robbins resisted, flailing her arms, eyes wide with alarm. Greer held her true. The fight continued, the sisters grunting and gasping. Hair was grabbed, a low fist was thrown. Julianne coughed in pain. Cy let out a cry, “You bitch!”

That was Zaka’s cue. He looked away, eyes upward and spoke the season-ending line, “My daughters. The sluts.”

“Cut. Cut. Cuu. Cuush . . .” Rose Daiss, the replaced director, called out in a trailing off slur. She was ignored.

The brawl continued. A mangy rat crossed the plywood set boards, scurrying away from the fisticuffs. The two beefy grips stepped to the edge of the set, poised to separate the sisters. The brawl looked real enough to them.

Rolf took the director’s prerogative, screaming at everyone.

“Cut!”


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