“Where were you last night?” Larry cradled the phone on his shoulder, which had begun to tremble from the strain.
“We decided…” the voice hesitated as if massaging the brow beneath it. “We decided not to come.”
“Just like that? Just not show up?”
“We decided,” the voice spoke deliberately, “that it wasn’t in our best interest.” The specificity in the man’s language reeked of legal counsel.
“You left me in the cold. For the better part of an hour.”
“And we apologize for that.”
“This isn’t how this is supposed to work. When I ask you to meet me somewhere at some time, you will be there. You can’t call in sick. You can’t reschedule. I say when.”
“We understand that.”
“This is my thing,” Larry reiterated.
He switched the phone to his other shoulder, eyeing the metal cases stacked in the corner. He knew they were bluffing; the studio wouldn’t risk their investment. They condensed millions into those kidnapped tin canisters. “Who am I talking to?”
“Harry. The producer.”
“I shouldn’t give you another chance.” Larry glanced down at the phone, teetering atop a pile of bills. “But I will.” In two sweeping steps, he walked from his bed to the kitchen. The phone cord stretched across the room. “And it’ll cost you. Interest.”
Larry scanned the stark cabinets. He opened a package of saltines. The man on the other end cleared his throat.
“What do you propose?”
He began applying mustard to the crackers. “Double.”
“I can’t authorize that.”
Larry felt the voice taunting him, as if he wasn’t prepared.
“Sure you can. I know how much these cans are worth to you.”
“It’s just not realistic, son.” He heard muffled laugh on the other end.
The cable became taut. What were they trying to say? That he didn’t plan it through? As if he didn’t make it his job to consider all this? He went to the open window, hearing the murmur of sirens and car horns.
“Sure it is. You’ve already put out probably a hundred thousand in ads.”
“Yes,” Larry heard murmuring in the background. “It’s just…you’re asking too much. We’re going to have to decline.”
“Decline? You can’t decline a hostage negotiation.”
“I’m sorry but circumstances have changed.”
“You bet they’ve changed. I’m going to call back in one hour and, if you can’t get the money, I’m gonna light those reels up.” Larry smiled at his his profound leverage. “Let me talk to the director. Maybe he’ll be a little more sentimental.”
He heard rustling as the phone shifted hands.
“Yeah. Billy here.” Said a notably higher pitched, higher-strung voice.
“How much is this Brinks Job picture worth to you?”
There was a calculated pause. “You’re lucky I’m even talking to you.” Somebody in the background murmured a correction. “Look, I’m the end of my three picture deal here. I have to deliver this picture. You’ve already set the foley editing back a week.”
Larry noticed his palms sweating, but he still had the upperhand. “Well, it’s going to set your release back even further.”
He heard the director whisper, “Is that long enough?”
“Hey, what’s going on?”
“We have a rough cut. The test screening bombed.”
“What?” Larry shot his glance to the dozen film canisters stacked in his living room. “Nice try. I’ve got the master right here.”
“Dailies” he could hear the director smiling as he spoke. Larry stared at the canisters. “You lifted our dailies.” He continued in the wake of Larry’s pause. “Outtakes.”
Larry ran to the cans, the cable pulling the phone to the ground. He opened one and flung ribbons of film across the room. He held a frame to the light: an image of a slate in the celluloid. Larry pushed the receiver to his ear, sensing now why they were “even talking” to him. The director continued. “Hardly worth the film its’ printed on. Though, you’re welcome to edit it. Make it your thing, Larry.”
Larry tore the phone jack from the wall. He crept to the window and heard the sirens’ volume mounting and settling beneath his window.