For some, maybe, like Lorne, Steph, Wade and his family: An old alcoholic who treated his body like shit and had a heart attack; not unusual. Young jealous boyfriend kills girlfriend and self; sadly not unusual. Unstable teenager runs car into parents and killing them; not unusual but at the same time not an exotic happening. Depressed man, and Wade was always a depressive, getting a divorce and has a breakdown; that shit happens hundreds of times a day.
I was making money, Dana was making money, Wade would get his share whenever he’d get out of jail. And John, the prick leading man, he got discovered and was cast in a supporting role in a Denzel Washington movie. I heard he moved to Los Angeles got an agent and scripts were coming in. I never got a gift card. Oh well, at least his growing notoriety would help the film. I hoped.
I started thinking that the hermit director angle wasn’t the best route to success beyond my indie horror. The income peaked and started to trend downward again. But we made more money than we ever thought. Hell, the indie award and distribution deal was more than we thought. We’ve earned nearly fifty thousand dollars.
Yeah, the film wasn’t cursed. I sure wasn’t. I didn’t even feel that way when Covid hit. I lost my job, but the beefed up Covid unemployment and the stimulus got me by well enough. Hell, the entire planet was cursed, I was still lucky.
Wade got out of jail and I offered him to stay at my place, he insisted I keep his part of the earnings not paid to him yet and dock a couple hundred bucks a month until...whenever.
“It may be a while, Dude?” he lamented.
“No problem. Just keep away from me for the first few days just in case.”
I apologized about what I did regarding The Night of Doctor Barlow, if that added to his situation.
“No, dude. I was gonna...something was gonna set me off. Just happened to be that. For a second I thought the film was cursed. I mean Jesus, a lot of bad shit happened to all of us. I mean except you, Dana, and John.”
“Wade, over a dozen people worked on that film. Nothing bad happened to them.”
“How do you know?”
He was right. I didn’t, but I never heard anything down the grapevine and I figured I would have by then. We got drunk and looked everyone up on Facebook. They all seemed to be doing OK, alive anyway. A few of them stuck to filmmaking and acting, the rest seemed to be going on to other things, normal lives.
“I wonder what Harley Reynolds is up to?” I mused.
Harley played Dr. Barlow. He wasn’t an actor but for some reason came to the audition. He wasn’t even that good, but he looked great! He was about seventy, very thin, had those deep grooved vertical lines on either side of his face, long white hair, and almost colorless eyes. He looked like a freak. We adjusted the script so Dr. Barlow had as few lines as possible. So we just had this guy in a long white coat that got more and more stained with red as the story went on. Harley was a mellow guy but didn't socialize much, to say he was an oddball was an understatement. No surprise that the guy had no social media. Never heard from him since we wrapped his scenes. Never came to any screenings or festivals. Man was a ghost.
Wade’s phone buzzed with a message. “Oh shit!” he said when he read it. “Dude, it’s John.”
“John from the movie?”
“Yeah, said he’s in town while the industry is shut down. Wants to hang. It cool he can come here?”
Bygones, I thought. Man’s a burgeoning movie star, maybe making nice would be good. “Sure.”
Wade texted and there was a quick response. “He says cool. On the way.”
I drank silently. I didn’t like John, at all, but I liked Wade and he seemed to get a lift over seeing an old face. So I swallowed it hard. And a while later my buzzer rang and I didn’t even ask, I just buzzed the man up. The knock at the door came and I took a breath and answered.
“Dude!” John yelled and he threw an arm around me, as the other held a large paper bag. John was wearing sunglasses, it was almost ten at night and he was wearing sunglasses, along with a dark red leather coat and distressed jeans
“Come on in, man!” Wade jumped up and the smile I literally hadn’t seen in years lit the room. The two embraced hard.
“Gents, I come bearing gifts!” John set the bag down and pulled out a bottle of Gosling rum and two small bottles of coke. “Our old drink!”
I started to ease up a bit. “Cool! I’ll get glasses and ice”
“Should we wear masks?” Wade said.
“Dude, don’t be a pussy!” John decided no.
We sat and chilled and reminisced. John talked about himself and his career. “Denzel is so cool. Intense as fuck! He’s always studying his script or talking to the director. Pro all the way.”
“You get to talk to him?” Wade asked, sucking down another rum and coke.
“No, dude! I was in a scene with him but my character didn’t talk to his and otherwise, man, you do not just sidle up to Denzel and talk about the weather.”
We talked mostly about the film and John brought up that even out in Hollywood The Night of Doctor Barlow was getting a rep as the cursed film.
“Yeah, I told people I was in it, the lead. People are like what! And you’re alive?” He laughed but remembered Wade. “Oh dude, sorry! Your parents, I didn’t mean...”
Wade held up a hand. “No problem, man. I’m glad you’re able to use the movie to get your career going. We’ve been workin it too. Movies making pretty good money from all this cursed shit.”
The entire time John was looking at Wade very strangely, like he was steeling glances. If I didn’t know any better it is almost as if John liked Wade and was gauging him. Or John knew something and was measuring if Wade knew it. It was weird, these long glances when Wade was looking somewhere else. But John, being the ego maniac he always was now amplified by success, quickly made me forget that...for the moment.
“So guys...the pretty good money you’re making.” He just left that there, smiled and shrugged.
“What about it?” I said, knowing exactly what it was about.
“Dude. Come on. I’m a name now, small but growing. People are going to seek that shit out! So...”
Wade’s eyes just went down to his drink.
“Am I wrong, bro?”
“Yeah you are fucking wrong! I put you on the map! The Night of Doctor Barlow got you discovered, dickhead! You should be cutting me in on your paycheck!”
“You serious, dude!”
“Look, you went out to California and took the risk. It’s working out for you. The little notoriety you got from my film helped you get there That’s cool. That’s how it works. You signed a fucking contract, you got paid, you’re getting traction. Yeah we’re making some cash but otherwise I work, I used to work a shit job which I lost.” I waved my hands around my apartment. “This is all I got!”
John just grinned and glanced at Wade again as he poured more rum.
“Why the fuck you keep looking at him like that? Want him to suck your dick or something?”
John stifled a laugh like a sixteen-year-old pothead just heard a bad joke.
“The fuck is so funny?” I yelled. God I hated him!
“Already got my dick sucked!”
Wade and I just looked at each other and I shook my head. Then something occurred to me.
“How did you know Wade was here?” I asked. Something was up.
“And how did you know my number, it changed like three times in the past ten years?
I always thought John had one of those faces you just want to punch. I didn’t like him the first time I laid eyes on him, and his personality only proved me right. But Wade and Dana insisted and besides there were slim pickings for a lead actor. But that look on his face just then, sucking in his lips trying so hard not to erupt into laughter, I wanted to bash it in.
“Well I remembered Wade’s address from his invite to his kid’s first birthday party, still in my phone. So I rolled over there, figured I’d surprise my favorite camera guy. The Missus was there and, well, sorry but she was a little star struck. Anyway she offered a drink and we got to chatting, more drinkin and...she’s a tiny thing so can't really handle the booze, right? Beautiful kids by the way.”
“You met them?” Wade asked. He hadn’t seen them in months.
“No. I guess they're at your mother in law’s, or ex mother in law or whatever. Saw the pictures on your, well her mantle. Anyway, shit dude! It wasn’t planned. Forget it!”
“What?” Wade changed, it was like when I watched the TV show he and Dana was on but live in the flesh...you could feel it. The temperature of the room lept a hundred degrees. “What?”
John chuckled and sipped. “Dude! Like...shit happened! People are lonely during all this virus shit. Throw in a divorce...?” John shrugged.
I could feel Wade’s soul crush. There wasn’t much to crush.
“She sucked my dick, dude!” John could barely get out under the laughter.
I barely saw Wade move, I’ve never seen a man move that fast. He launched himself at John, the chair tipped back and they were on the ground, Wade on top of John, his fingers wrapped around John’s neck pushing all his weight into his throat.
I did nothing. Most of it was shock but if I’m honest with myself, if John was the least bit of a good person I’d have dragged Wade off of him. And if I’m really honest, the so-called cursed film crept into my mind. Add the lead actor to the list, what would that do to the legend?
The most striking thing about that moment was how quiet everything was. Not like the movies, no dramatic music, no screams or crashing. Wade was breathing hard, and I heard little croaks coming from John, the patter of fists against Wade’s arms that quickly subsided.
When he felt the body go limp Wade just cried. He slid off of John and just rolled into a ball and cried.
I rushed over and checked on Wade. He was shivering with the adrenaline. “God!” he whimpered.
I looked over at John. His eyes were still, they were turned upwards slightly, the irises half covered by his upper lids. His mouth was wide open but no breath.
He was dead.
TO BE CONTINUED...