‘What do you mean his trailer’s bigger than mine?’
Jessica James was outraged and Brian Capaldi was worried. He’d represented her for five years now; she was the jewel in his crown and he would do literally anything to keep her happy. He smoothed a wrinkle in his Ralph Lauren Chinos.
‘It’s a contractual thing Jessica,’ he said. ‘There’s nothing I can do about it.’
‘Well you better do something about it or I’m walking.’ And she hung up.
She’d never hung up before. She’d actually threatened to leave. Did she mean it? His mind crunched into overdrive. Was she talking to another agent? Who were the likely contenders? All this over a trailer? Jeez. He would call that prick of a producer, the Yank with the elegantly coiffured silver hair. He’d order him to give Jessica a bigger trailer. Brian grabbed his iPhone, pulled up Tobias Quail in the address book and hit ‘call’. Toby answered immediately.
‘Yeah?’ barked Toby in his LA drawl. Brian wanted to punch him.
‘Toby! How you doing?’
‘I’m great Brian. What’s up?’
‘I’ve just been talking to Jess…’
‘What does she want?’
‘It’s this trailer thing.’
‘What trailer thing?’
‘Dirk’s got the top of the range Winnebago. The one with the side that concertinas out.’
‘So Jessica doesn’t have one of those.’
‘She’s got a very nice trailer.’
‘But she hasn’t got the concertina out side thing and it’s smaller than Dirk’s.’
‘Sofia negotiated that trailer for Dirk. My hands are tied.’
‘Jessica’s very unhappy.’
‘Sorry to hear that. Nothing I can do.’
‘You could give her a bigger trailer.’
‘Nope. Dirk’s contract stipulates that he must have the biggest trailer.’
‘Got to go Brian, I’m on set.’
Brian heard the line go dead. He stared at the Trainspotting poster on his office wall for a moment then kicked his desk.
Fucking Sofia Silversmith-Smythe!
That was it. It was Sofia. She was trying to poach Jessica! She knew Jessica would blame him for failing to get her trailer parity with Dirk. All Sofia would have to do is bump into Jessica in the Groucho. A little word over a glass of fizz. Brian put his head in his hands and grasped strands of thinning, dyed hair.
‘Shit. Shit. Shit!’
He was going to have to come up with something fantastic, and fast, or he was screwed. Losing Jessica was out of the question, especially to Sofia Silversmith-Smythe. He gazed out of his window at the Covent Garden rooftops. His mind was churning like a cement mixer. There was only one thing for it. He was going to have to get Jessica a top of the range Winnebago and pay for it himself. Spending his own money went against all his professional principles but it was either that or lose Jessica.
A Winnebago is basically a caravan, how expensive could it be? Brian congratulated himself on getting Jessica £3 million for her role in Baron Aardvark. That’s £300,000 for the agency, of which Brian’s take was fifty percent. So Brian’s end of the deal was a cool hundred and fifty grand. Comparatively, buying a Winnebago would cost chump change.
He hit the Mac and Googled. There it was. The Winnebago ‘Articulated Dream’, billed as ‘simply the biggest and best motorhome in the world’. That was definitely the puppy for Jessica. The price? £525,000.
‘Half a million quid!’ Brian couldn’t believe it. ‘For a caravan!’
He checked the rental price and this too was wildly prohibitive. Sweat prickled his forehead. His anxiety levels were peaking. He stood and paced. The situation called for exceptional measures. He poked his head out of his office door.
‘Angie,’ he said to his P.A. ‘No calls for the next hour.’
‘Okie Dokie,’ was Angie’s customary, cheery reply.
Brian ducked back into his office and unlocked the special drawer in his desk. Inside he found his silver snuff box; the one Binkie had bought him in Mumbai. It was ornately crafted with a little spoon which slotted into a clasp on the lid. Brian extracted the spoon and opened the box. Inside, the white powder sparkled invitingly. Brian was feeling better already. He snorted a couple of spoonfuls and then had one more for luck.
After more furious Googling, phone calls and cocaine-fuelled negotiation, Brian was pleased to discover himself the owner of a second-hand Winnebago ‘Sightseer’. Okay, it wasn’t the ‘Articulated Dream’, but it was big and impressive and it had the concertinaing out side thing going on. At under forty grand, Brian considered it a bargain and worth every penny if it meant he kept Jessica. It was in Margate, in Kent. He would collect it tomorrow.
The shock of the coke was like lightning in his cortex. He was king of all he surveyed. This was what being an agent was all about; making deals and making things happen! He’d earned another spoon of fairy dust. Hell, he’d earned a celebration. He hit speed dial.
‘Binkie! Grab your glad rags, love. We’re painting the town!’
At the Groucho, Brian was bouncing off the walls. He had been taking regular hits from the snuff box all afternoon and evening. Binkie had joined him in imbibing as they’d shared a pre-bottle of Bolly while dressing for the night. Binkie had opted for a classic Paul Smith suit while Brian’s buoyant mood called for a somewhat funkier, Issey Miyaki. They had decided to forego their plan to attend the premier of High Society at the Old Vic because Brian was too wired to sit still and had chosen instead to have a couple of relaxers in the Groucho. Brian was on his fourth Martini when Jessica made an entrance.
‘Look who it is,’ said Binkie, pointing her out amongst her entourage. Brian was starting to find it difficult to focus. He squinted into the crowd and saw his star-client air-kissing her way into the bar.
‘Fuck me,’ said Brian as he stumbled off his stool and swayed toward her.
‘Darling! So marvellous to see you!’ he said as he appraised the little powder blue number she was almost wearing. ‘Alexander Mcqueen? You look ravishing!’
‘Have you met Dirk?’ said Jessica dismissively, gesturing behind her. There, as large as life, stood Hollywood box office gold, Dirk Legend. Brian felt his knees buckle. Dirk was gorgeous, even better in real life than on film. It was impossible to look that perfect and dress yourself. Brian pulled himself together as best he could and thrust out a hand.
‘How you doing, fella,’ he said in his best macho transatlantic.
‘Cool. Say, I’m parched.’ This comment precipitated a stampede to the bar, as several flunkies fought for the honour of buying Dirk a drink.
Brian turned to the familiar, husky voice as Dirk and Jessica moved off to the bar.
‘Hello Sofia.’ He noted the lipstick migrating into the smoker’s creases around her mouth.
‘Not trying to poach my client are you?’ she said.
‘A chance would be a fine thing.’
‘You’re not wrong. How’s tricks with Jessica?’
‘Hunky dory, as usual.’
‘If you say so Brian,’ she said smugly. ‘Try not to gnash your teeth, darling. It’s not a good look.’ She headed off toward Dirk and Jessica. Brian checked himself in a wall mirror. His expanded pupils were swallowing his irises and his mouth had distended into a gum-bearing rictus.
‘Bitch’ thought Brian as he endeavoured to straighten his face. Binkie stepped over.
‘You’re looking a little peaky, love.’
‘I need a sharpener,’ said Brian before heading off to the toilet. He stopped and turned.
‘Coming?’ he said.
Brian stumbled out of the train at Margate station and fell, face first, onto the platform. He vaguely remembered going to Helen’s drinking club on Hanway Street at around 3am and Binkie doing his Chaka Khan impersonation, but after that the night was lost. What he did know was that his silver snuff box was empty and he was suffering an apocalyptic come down, allied with the mother and father of all hangovers. As Brian lay on the platform willing the world to stop spinning, he was assailed by the strong stench of ammonia. He was lying in a puddle of stale urine. Two DM shod feet loomed into his double vision.
‘You aright, mate?’ asked the guard.
‘Mmnnnn…’ replied Brian.
Brian’s destination was a gated yard near the coast containing a number of vehicles, including the Winnebago Sightseer in a fetching shade of royal blue. As he clambered unsteadily out of the taxi, Brian saw the vendor opening the gate. He was a large man, wide around the middle, wearing a black satin bomber jacket, jeans and a baseball cap.
‘You Brian?’ he said in a Geordie accent, shaded with a mid-Atlantic inflection.
Brian grunted in the affirmative. The vendor put out his hand.
‘Merv. They call me ‘the Swerve’. You okay?’
Unable to speak, Brian nodded. Big mistake. His brain banged against the inside of his skull like the clapper in Big Ben. The Swerve noted the look of anguish in Brian’s green features, the sagging mouth, the bloodshot eyes, the vomit spattered down the front of his Issey Miyaki.
‘I’ve seen that look before. You can’t do business in that state. Come with me.’
Brian found himself reclining on a sofa inside the reassuringly luxurious Sightseer. The impulse to lie down and sleep on the cream leather was irresistible. His head was throbbing like the alien’s thorax and his stomach was threatening to disgorge its contents at any moment.
‘Here,’ said The Swerve and he placed a small mirror with two glistening white lines upon it, on the table before Brian. He proffered a rolled twenty and Brian, without question, grabbed it and vacuumed the two lines in an instant. Bam! Suddenly Brian felt fine. Better than fine. He was ready for business. Damn! He was the business!
‘The Swerve?’ asked Brian.
‘Long story. How’d you get so fucked up?’
‘I heard that. You in the market for a Winnie?’
‘Does the Pope shit in the woods?’
The Swerve eyed Brian closely.
‘Not usually,’ he said.
An hour later Brian was piloting the Sightseer up the M20. It was bigger than anything he had ever driven, but the coke was giving him confidence. He ignored the horns of outraged drivers as he slalomed around the motorway.
It turned out The Swerve was a retired rock tour manager. He’d worked with all the top acts, AC/DC, Guns ’n’ Roses, Metallica. He’d smuggled their drugs across borders from Canada to Australia, hence his nickname. When The Swerve said he’d seen that destroyed look before, he had; with bells on. He’d taken pity on Brian and thrown in a couple of grams with the deal, plus a bottle of Famous Grouse as a hair of the dog. Now Brian’s hangover had reduced to manageable proportions and the coke was levitating his vibe. He punched up Radio Two and was thrilled to hear Irene Cara kicking into ‘Fame’. Brian opened his throat and joined in with all the gusto he could muster.
‘Fame! I’m gonna live for ever!’
With exaggerated hand gestures and head thrust to the sky, Brian’s shaky control over the big Winnebago became even less sure. The Sightseer veered across lanes causing mayhem on the motorway. Brian hardly noticed when he crashed into the central reservation and rebounded back into the traffic. A Volvo clipped his back end, taking out a section of bumper and the left indicator, but still Brian sang on.
‘People will see me and die!’
Two hours later Brian rolled into the Baron Aardvark unit base in London’s Docklands. The familiar miscellany of film vehicles were all present; trailers, four by fours, pick-up trucks, the ubiquitous double-decker bus; and now he was here too, with Jessica’s Winnebago! She would be thrilled. He deserved a celebratory line. He pulled out The Swerve’s wrap but found to his distress that it was empty. Shit. Brian licked the paper clean and threw it out of the window. As he did so he saw a young woman with a walkie-talkie, striding towards him, gesturing. He hung his head out of the cab.
‘You can’t park here.’
‘It’s designated parking.’
‘But this is Jessica James’ trailer,’ explained Brian.
‘Are you mad?’
The question gave Brian pause. Now he came to think of it, madness was a distinct possibility. He felt his confidence beginning to topple. It was an hour since his last line and the come-down was starting to gnaw at his guts. He reached for the Famous Grouse and took a slug to calm his nerves.
‘Jesus,’ said the woman and she raised her radio to her lips. ‘Security, I’ve got a situation here.’ In less time than it took Brian to swallow another shot, two burley men in pink hi-viz jackets appeared.
‘Step out of the vehicle please, sir.’
‘Our colleague has seen you drinking at the wheel. You’re not safe to drive.’
‘How dare you! Do you know who I am?’
‘I couldn’t care less, sir. You’re not driving that heap in here.’
‘Heap? This is a Winnebago Sightseer. A very sought after, American motorhome. It’s Jessica James’s trailer!’
Brian was confused by the security guard’s reaction. He seemed to be laughing. In fact, he was laughing.
‘What are you laughing at?’
‘Just get out of the cab, sir.’
Brian had no intention of complying with the instructions of an obvious ignoramus. He pulled out his iPhone and hit speed dial. Tobias Quail picked up immediately.
‘Toby! I’ve brought you Jessica’s trailer!’
‘I could see your contractual difficulty vis-à-vis the trailer situation so I’ve sorted it for you.’
‘Wait right there.’
Five minutes later Toby was standing in front of the Winnebago, elbows pugnaciously akimbo and his fists pressed into his hips. As ever Brian was impressed by his expensively coiffured silver mane.
‘Hey Toby!’ hailed Brian from the cab. ‘What do you think?’
‘Get that heap of crap off my unit base!’
‘He’s drunk,’ said the woman.
‘Oh Jeez. Call the cops.’ And with that Toby spun on his heels and walked away.
Now the security guards came back at Brian, shouting at him to get out of the vehicle. One attempted to gain access, at which point Brian decided discretion was the better part of valour. He shoved the Winnie into reverse. Rolling backwards at speed he felt a bang at the back of the vehicle. Brian braked.
Then mayhem exploded.
The security guards and the young woman started screaming in alarm. People came running from all directions in states of extreme agitation. The Winnie was suddenly surrounded by a large crowd. A guard yanked the door open and manhandled Brian out of the cab. Someone shouted, ‘Call an ambulance!’
‘What’s the problem?’ asked Brian.
‘You stupid bastard. You’ve only run over Dirk Legend!’ said the guard.
Brian felt his bowels loosen.
‘How is he?’
‘Gimme some room. I’ve broken my leg!’ howled Dirk from the back of the trailer.
Brian looked towards his Winnebago. Dirk was obscured by the crush of people, but now Brian could see Jessica’s motorhome, or what was left of it. The side was stoved in, a window was missing and there were deep scrapes running the length of the vehicle. The back bumper was also hanging off.
Toby came running over, closely followed by Jessica in full Victorian costume. They were quickly apprised of the situation.
‘What have you done?’ screamed Jessica.
‘It was an accident!’ Brian protested.
‘I’m gonna sue your ass off, Capaldi,’ growled Toby.
‘You’re so fired,’ said Jessica.
Brian wanted to cry. He saw the Mexican hippie director, Emilio Ferrara, joining the throng.
‘We gotta stop production, Emilio. Dirk’s bust his leg,’ said Toby.
‘Over my dead body. The film has to be finished this year to qualify for next year’s Oscars. There’s no way I’m stopping production.’
‘But our star’s been hospitalised!
‘It’s an insurance job. Re-cast. Meanwhile, there are scenes I can shoot without The Baron; Jessica’s scenes, for instance.’
‘Okay Emilio. If you say so.’
‘One thing,’ interjected Brian.
‘Shut the fuck up Brian.’ snarled Toby.
‘But I have a question. It’s important.’
‘What is it?’
‘Since Dirk won’t be needing his trailer anymore,’ said Brian. ‘Can Jessica have it?’
Toby’s jaw gaped. Brian looked at Jessica and winked.