BLOOD IS PRETTY recounts the adventures of The Fixxer, a mysterious character who lives in a high-rise on Wilshire Boulevard and makes his living "fixing" the problems of the denizens of Hollywood. If the denizen is one of the major players in the industry, the Fixxer charges them a fee far more than handsome. If he chooses to help an up and comer, he takes a percentage of their income -- for the rest of their careers. Anne Eisley is on the cusp of a great career if only she can win the "role of a lifetime" in a new movie about to go into production. Unfortunately, the producer is a scumbag who has been unsuccessfully trying to sexually harass her for years. But now, with this plum role to offer he is trying again. Only this time it's not just sex, but a trophy relationship he's looking for. Anne desperately wants the role, but she is not willing to give in to the producer's demands. So she hires the Fixxer. The Fixxer tells her that he can solve her problem, without violence, although she will have to experience a modicum of intimacy with the producer. He tells her to go to dinner with the man, and then bring him home. The Fixxer will be there waiting for them.
Anne Eisley had used her TV money well. She had purchased a very secluded, if small, house on Elusive Drive, a private road reached via Lookout Mt. Road off Laurel Canyon Blvd. It had a commanding view of the hills surrounding it, onto a vista that took in slices of the basin. On a clear night the diamonds-on-black velvet feel of L.A. must be worth the price. She had sent a key to Norton and I told her that when she got back with Crane from their "date," I would be in her bedroom waiting. She was to offer Crane a drink, get him settled in the living room, and then come into the bedroom to "Get into something more comfortable." Although I had requested that she not actually use that cliché. "Don't worry. I won't," she assured me. I got to her house about an hour before she and Crane were due.
Being alone in someone else's house can either be uncomfortable or interesting, depending on your nature. Those made uncomfortable are usually those who find the intimate details of another person's life a bad fit. They are the one's who always find other people's tastes, loves, and interests unfathomable and -- in what surely must be a genetic mishap -- insulting. Others -- and I count myself among these -- can't pass lighted windows on an evening's stroll without being deeply curious as to what the occupants have done to make a house a home, and what it might say about them and their personal marches, or stumbles, through life. Add to that my training and I'm sure you won't fault me for my casual walk through every room in Miss Eisley's house, my poking through, and my ruminations.
The house was wonderfully female in its look, colors and smells. Not in that exaggerated or caricatured manner that some single women adopt, turning their homes into something close to a 17th Century seraglio, but in a subtle manner of simple beauties, pleasing shapes and calm colors, all very well matched, but not regimented. The walls featured very tasteful posters from the world's leading museums, with a particularly interesting one in her kitchen from the Detroit Museum of Culture announcing an exhibit called "The Automobile in Toys." It was bright and colorful and showed a Barbie doll in her pink Cadillac convertible smiling her killer smile and waving to all the happy folks of the 1950's. It had, intended or not, a nice ironic twist about it. And I was willing to bet that Miss Eisley placed it on her wall understanding that twist completely. That was heartening, for if anybody could claim to have made Barbie's plastic body flesh, it was Miss Eisley. Barbie was empty-headed, of course, which is to be expected of a doll, whereas Miss Eisley's head seemed full of thoughts. Some direct, energetic and commanding, others crouching in dark recesses. Not in fear. In waiting.
Her bathroom was of interest. Besides its mundane functions, it was a staging area for her public "self" -- the one she would allow the world to experience. She did not have a jumble of cosmetics cluttering up the counter, but a neat row of one brand, the various matching bottles, jars, and tubes laid out, I would guess, in the order of their use. This was a woman rarely at a loss.
I settled in her bedroom. It was simple and functional, with a grouping of easy chair and ottoman, a very good floor lamp, and a side table with a stack of magazines and books being more the rationale for the room than the bed itself. Her reading was eclectic. The Hollywood trades, of course, Time Magazine, some fashion magazines, respectfully popular fiction, and Hollywood biographies of strong women who fought the system --nothing Dumb, nothing overly intellectual.
I heard a car pull up. By the sound of the engine it was a Mercedes SL 500. Two door slams, some laughter, the front door opened.
"Come on in," I heard Miss Eisley say.
"You're sure it's not too late for you now? I can go home," came Crane's accentless, mushy voice.
"Fred, you've been chasing my ass long enough that you shouldn't have to be coaxed."
"That's what I like about you Anne, you're very up front."
"And do you like what I have up front?"
"Sure. It's not just your ass I've been chasing."
"Fred, you've been an absolute charmer all evening."
"I'm glad you've finally noticed."
"I was a fool, I'll admit it."
"I suppose I had to get to a certain level of power before you could 'see' my charm."
"No, Fred, that was certainly not it. I was -- I was in love with someone else."
"And what happened to him?" Crane said with no hiding of his cynicism.
It was a beautiful line reading. Even without being able to see, I knew it sliced through Crane's guts. And that he immediately saw an emotional opening he could crawl into.
"Oh. I'm sorry."
There was an appropriate moment of awkward silence. So much of acting is timing.
"I can feel your compassion, Fred. Thank you. Maybe later, when we know each other better, I'll tell you the story. I think I would like to share it with someone. But -- but later."
"I'll always be there for you, Anne."
"I know. But, speaking of stories, I was fascinated by the story of your life."
"Well, it has been interesting."
"And your whole take on this town, and all your plans. Very -- very stimulating"
"I don't hide my ambitions, Anne. I fully intend to take over this fucking town. So we're talking about a lot of power and a lot of money. I wouldn't mind it if you found that attractive."
"Fred, what I find attractive is that even though you talk like a shark -- you retain your boyish charm.
"Yeah. A killer combination, huh?"
"Would you like a drink? I know you had a lot at dinner, but you know, one last one."
"One last one would be just fine."
"Good. The bar is right there. Why don't you make yourself one? Make one for me, whatever you're having, and let me..."
"Get into something more comfortable?"
"Please, Fred. No clichés."
She entered the bedroom and found me sitting in the chair, a Time magazine open on my lap. She was wearing an attractive dress with a tee-style top, mesh from the cleavage up, form revealing spandex below until a metallic taffeta skirt took over until mid-thigh. She wore dark hose and spike heels. Exactly what you would wear to a very expensive restaurant in the company of a man of power, real or imagined.
We, of course, had to talk in whispers.
"This better work," she said as she tossed a fur coat on the bed. "I've had the most boring evening of my life."
"It'll work," I said, standing up.
"Okay, what do you want me to do? You said I had to get intimate with him?"
"I assume you have no objections to cunnilingus?"
For the first time her control slipped. "You want him to eat me!?"
"You and a little additive I've brought." I produced a small silver metal tube. No label.
"Something known as Formula 12-72."
"And you want me to put that on my..."
"Person. Yes, you have the idea."
"I don't know." She was beginning to feel the fear of the enterprise.
"Miss Eisley, I told you, I am not a hit man."
"Well, whatever it's going to do to him, won't it do something to me? Won't it get in my system?"
"It only works in tandem with a minimum level of testosterone. Otherwise it is completely harmless."
"Don't women have some testosterone?"
"Miss Eisley, unless there is something you should confess to me now, you don't have enough."
"But -- but won't he smell it? Won't he taste it?"
"It's been flavored. Chocolate."
"Chocolate? But -- but what if he doesn't like chocolate?"
"Miss Eisley, have you ever in you life met someone who doesn't like chocolate? And anyway, even if it's not his favorite flavor, I'm pretty sure he'll like the container."
"This is very -- very strange."
"I could go. He's falling in love out there. I'm sure you two will be perfectly happy."
"No, give me that." She grabbed the tube. "How much do I put on?"
"All of it."
"All of it!?"
"I have the drinks ready, Anne," Crane's mushy voice announced from the living room.
"Uh -- all right! I'll be out in just a moment."
She went into the adjoining bathroom, and then soon came out. She was wearing a sheer plum colored chiffon gown with matching robe. She wore it proudly. "It was warm," she said, referring to the formula.
"I was sitting on it."
"Oh. I suppose you will be in here listening the whole time."
"I never leave until a job is completed. But don't worry about me. There's plenty here to read if I get bored."
"What happens if he wants to do more than...?"
"He's not going to want to. Trust me."
"Trust you? You're a man without a name who's going to have a two per cent slice of my butt for the rest of my life."
"That's why you should trust me."
She looked at me with her deep aquamarine eyes. They questioned. Mine must have answered well for she ended the look with a smile and said, "Okay." She headed for the door.
"You look beautiful by the way." I said.
She turned to me; her unsupported breasts whispered through the chiffon, her nipples were dark accents that thrilled. "Yeah. Thanks." She opened the door and left to rejoin Crane.
"Oh my god!" I could hear Crane exclaim.
"Nothing. You're just so beautiful."
"Yeah. So I've been told."
"Here's your drink."
"Thanks. Oh. Very strong, Fred."
"Well, we're both adults."
"Yes, we are. Should we go relax on the couch?"
"Yes, that would be fine."
"A little music? What would you like? The theme from 'Jaws'?"
"Just a little joke."
"Oh. I'm going to get John Williams for this film, you know."
"Oh, that would be lovely."
Then, softly, I could hear Billie Holiday making a plaintive musical statement:
It costs me a lot
But there's one thing that I've got
It's my man
It's my man.
He's not much on looks
He's no hero out of books...
Her devil irony? It pleased me to think so.
Not knowing if Crane was the kind of producer who liked to cut to the chase, I picked up the Time and began reading a detailed analysis of the current interest raising actions of the Federal Reserve Board. It helped my mind mask the sounds from the living room, although Crane's declaration of: "Chocolate! My favorite!" did sneak through.
Soon Miss Eisley returned to the bedroom, somewhat agitated.
"He -- he's fainted."
"Well, that's not exactly the clinical term for it, but if I know my Formula 12-72, he has lost consciousness."
"He just suddenly looked up from down there with a shocked expression."
"That's because his erection suddenly de-erected. I've been told it's like having a chair pulled out from under you."
"Then he complained of fever and dizziness."
"Perfectly natural -- so to speak."
"Then he just -- collapsed right there into my..."
"Was that the Decca recording?"
"Of Billie Holiday?"
"I don't know. It was a gift. Are you going to explain this formula to me or not?"
"Don't you think we should go make Crane comfortable first?"
"Oh, I laid him out on the floor. He's comfortable."
"Nonetheless, let me take a look at him."
I did more than that, of course. I had a small medical bag with me containing the instruments needed to take Crane's temperature, check his heart rate, and take and analyze a blood sample. All of this told me that Crane was reacting normally to Formula 12-72 and would indeed suffer its effects.
"Here's what you do in the morning..."
"In the morning? Aren't you going to get him out of here?"
"No. He has to wake up here in the morning."
"Do you think we've gone through all of this just to slip him a rather pleasant mickey to keep him from consummating his desires? How would that help you? He would just assume he had food poisoning and be back at you in days. You yourself pegged it. It isn't just sex he wants. He wants your life to aid his plan to 'take over this fucking town.' One bum night would not stop him."
"So Formula 12-72...?"
"Let's make a pot of coffee. Then I'll explain everything."
As the coffee was dripping, Miss Eisley changed into something more comfortable. Flannel pajamas with a simple pattern of small blue flowers and a colorful ankle-length flannel robe. She also washed and scrubbed her face. Nonetheless, when she came back to the kitchen where I had been waiting, her beauty had not altered and her entrance was grand. This woman would become a star.
"How do you take your coffee?" She asked.
She gave an approving look. "Good boy." From anyone else it would have seemed condescending.
She brought two mugs of coffee to the kitchen table and sat. It was hot, truly black and deeply appreciated. "Excellent. French Roast?" I asked.
"Yes. I get it at a little place in the Valley on Ventura -- Coffee, Etc. They
roast their own, of course."
"Part of a chain?"
"Please!" She mocked umbrage, and then took a sip. "Should we now discuss the weather? Local politics? Any operations we've had?"
I smiled and quickly wondered if there was any way to make my life more "normal." I just as quickly doubted it. "Formula 12-72?"
"A simple compound actually. But it causes a very complex reaction. It was created to combat South American Communist rebel leaders. It was assumed by certain Powers-That-Were that, being Latino, these rebel leaders put an inordinate value on their manhood. And that if you could take away their manhood you would so demoralize them they would become ineffective leaders and their
"Movements" would fall apart.
"Did it work?"
"Well, it was only used once. The formula worked to expectations; the rebel leader was sufficiently demoralized. But nature, as you know, hates a vacuum, and he was simply replaced by another who was actually a far more brilliant military tactician. He is now the democratically elected leader of his country."
"And the first guy."
"He's now their Minister of Culture. You know, ballet, opera, that sort of
She gave me an incredulous look.
"Actually he's now an activist trying to save the rain forests."
"And his manhood?"
"Someone steered him to a doctor who could help."
I simply smiled.
"What's going to happen to Crane?"
"He's going to wake up in the morning feeling absolutely awful with a moderate to high fever, no appetite, dizziness. You will be an angel of mercy and nurse him throughout the morning. Insist on it. Show great concern. Eventually, not getting better, you will drive him to his doctor. The doctor will be baffled. He will hospitalize Crane, where he will stay for six weeks. During this time he will have no desire to even think about work, leaving everything up to his line producer. You will start work on the film and turn in -- I'm sure -- a wonderful performance. It will make you a star. After six weeks the mysterious disease will abate, but linger. And Crane will notice another aspect of the disease. He will still feel sexual passion. In fact, he will feel a heightened sexual passion, true horniness like he hasn't felt since he was an adolescent sneaking peaks at Playboy at the local liquor store. But it will be absolutely impossible for him to achieve an erection. This will, of course, distract him further. He will pay very little attention to the film, or to you. He will just about be ready to agree to an implant to prop up his precious member, when his doctor -- who, by this time should have published a paper on the mysterious decease now named after him -- will be contacted by a doctor in Brazil who will claim knowledge of the disease and offer a therapy that should cure it. Crane will jump at the opportunity and will spend the next three years in Brazil going through a rigorous regime of diet, exercise, meditation, and injections of what he will think is a miracle drug."
"But will actually be...?"
"The antidote. Given out in extremely small doses over an extended period of time. But, eventually Crane will experience a complete cure. By that time he will have probably fallen madly in love with a Brazilian beauty and gotten himself involved in the local television industry. Or he'll come home. But you know this town. Three years out of the loop, and he will have to start all over again. In either case he will be in no position to threaten you."
"Absolutely amazing. Should we be at all concerned about the morality of what we have done?"
"I don't think so. What Crane was doing to you was a form of rape. What I have helped you do to him was self-defense -- and a kindness. He will have the opportunity, in the next three years, to reassess his actions. He might come out of it a more humane person, less prone to using people. And then again, he might not. But that is not our concern."
She thought about this as she sipped coffee. Both concept and coffee seemed to go down smoothly. "What is the significance of 12-72?"
I smiled. Interesting that she assumed it had a significance and wasn't just a notation of rank. "Stands for December, 1972."
"When the formula was created?"
"Nope. When man last went to the moon."
"So it means...?"
"Yeah. No more shooting the moon."
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