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by Ellis L Grimshaw about a year ago in fiction

Whatever happened to Walter Hendrix?

you're screen is broken.

I gingerly slam the laptop down.

"Well what do you think?" Cameron asks, I am hesitant to speak as though my words would be encapsulated forever.

A mixture of emotions, I feel horrified, I want to laugh and I want to break into tears of unbridled hysteria. I was feeling an element of rage as I had just watched 18 months of hardwork and money go up in flames.

I am speechless.

I can't even comprehend what I just watched. There was a disconnect in the original message and what we were delivered.

"Who else has seen it?" I asked, I was nervous. Investments on projects like this came very sparingly and one wrong investment meant being blacklisted in this industry.

"You fucking kidding? Came straight to you after watching it, Duncan what we are gonna do?" Cameron asks nervously, she's shaking as she lights a cigarette.

Even in the darkness of the editing booth I can see how pale she's become.

"Have you heard from him?" I ask pushing the eject button on the laptop. I hold the disk in my hand, such a harmless looking object.

"Came by special delivery today, I was first to pick it up." Cameron says imagine her face awash with fear, I couldn't take my eyes from the disc and yet I knew exactly how she was feeling.

"Anything else come with it?" I ask feeling a layer grime form on my skin. I put the disc back in the case on the table.

"Just a note saying it was the final cut," Cameron says letting out a shocked laugh.

"That's the final cut?" I ask in absolute disbelief, a cold sweat clung to my neck.

Cameron shrugged.

I held the case in my hand, I wondered if this what the holy grail felt like or is it more of a raider's of the lost ark situation.

I hope never to find out.

"Look we knew the risks when hiring him, but this? What the fuck is this?" Cameron asks, I can't answer I still couldn't believe what I saw.

It was a montage of violence and pornographic pleasures, we'd asked for a film that would help convey our message.

A project we were all passionate about. And now it seems all that passion was for nothing.

"We destroy it," I say, an cold silence hangs in the air. Like the looming silence after an air raid siren rings.

"Duncan, you can't be..." I don't let her finish, I stand up and push passed her. "Duncan!" She shouts as I switch on the paper shredder, I turn and see one of the crew stood watching me as I hold the disc in my hand. He stands awkwardly observing us from the door way.

"Francis from the Studio called, they want to know if you've heard from Walter?" He asks, I lie, I would've denied ever knowing him if pushed.

Damn the brilliant Walter Hendrix, I stood holding his most recent and most anticipated work to date, and in that moment I'd say I never knew him.

"Oh well, if you hear from Walt give Francis a call, they seemed pretty pissed." He says unaware of the true nature of the situation. "Hey Cameron still fancy grabbing a drink?" The crew member asks, Cameron looks as though she's fighting the urge to vomit.

"Sorry Vinny, but not tonight, have to get home to Catlina. Uh her dad's dropping her off later." She smiles, I know her well enough as my personal assistant and co-producer to know she's lying but regardless it works. With that young Vinny nods and exits from the scene.

"I can cover this if you need to get home." I say, I remember the days when I juggled home and work life, but after my 3rd divorce I gave up trying to juggle.

"She's at my mom's for the weekend, I'm suddenly not feeling like partying." Cameron says holding her stomach. I know how she feels, I feel like I've been punched in the gut.

Moments turn to minutes and we're both sat in silence staring at the disk at the centre of the table.

"What if we edit it? You know cut round the worst parts?" Cameron suggests lighting her 6th cigarette, I've lost count of how many I've had.

"Yeah I guess we could cut out some of that scene in the abortion clinic. But that's not gonna work let's be rational." I say feeling the ax man prepering to bring down his judgement.

"I don't even understand how he got from what we gave him to this." She says in disbelief and confusion.

"He's a nutcase is how! A fucking lunatic!" I scream flipping the table in the air. I can feel the veins in my neck swell. Cameron is shaking, she's not seen me this angry since the incident with my ex-wife.

My anger brings the attention of a new character into our little scene. Hillary the longest standing executive producer in the company.

She acts as the matriarch of our company, she had originally approached me with the idea for the movie.

A friend of her son's who had released a world wide successful book. She wanted us to oversee the project and gave us all the money she could to get this project going.

And everything was going great until Walter Hendrix took over directing.

"Deary me, what is this about?" She asks looking about the room.

"Duncan got a call saying his daughter has been arrested" Cameron says quickly, I'm shocked at the fact she thinks so little of my daughter who she has helped me raise but also amazed at the perfect lie. But it wasn't perfect enough.

Hillary looks at us like shark that smells blood, she's played this game.

She knows the rules.

"That pretty face and Latino accent may fool the men here, but rest assured it will not work on me. Now tell me what is going on?" Hillary says folding her arms, she's dressed as though she's ready for a lengthy court battle. Smart suit and arms folded she stands ready to provide a ruling.

Between us we fill her in, I try not to retch as I recall details of the film.

The fear of remembering what happened in that 226 minute film was getting to me. And that fear exploded into state of catatonic dread as Hillary asked to watch the movie.

"Hillary, I don't think you realise, I'm not sure all of this is fiction." Cameron says holding the disk to the table as though it was about attack. "There's parts of this that I can say with certainty is not fake." She adds getting tearful.

6 years on and she's still traumatised by that evening. That disc, brought all those memories back.

Maybe my own personal horrors had reawoken in watching this movie.

"Listen, I've been in this business for over forty years. I've seen everything." She says very boldly as she takes the disk over to a nearby computer.

Both of us watch in horror as she starts up the movie and sits listening through headphones.

Her face illuminated by the screen tells us everything we need to know.

At 12 minutes she looks nothing but repulsed, for a while she did seem amused.

By 34 minutes her anguish is becoming painful to watch, her eyes filled with tears of terror.

She never made it to 60 minutes, she refused to watch anymore. He face had gone pale long before she pressed stop.

"I need to speak with my husband," she says shakily standing as though she's learning to do so for the first time. I quickly provide support as she hastily tries to get to the door.

In her office I pour her a glass of brandy and place it front of her shaking hand.

"We are ruined, Duncan we are ruined." She says half sobbing half laughing.

"I'll find a way to fix it," lying at this point is coming naturally. I watch over her as she speaks with her husband. Fragmented instructions in between violent moans of woe.

"Sweetheart, please just listen." She begs, but it's no use. I know instantly the moment her husband put down the phone is the same moment that Hillary collapsed onto her desk and began to cry.

I stand over her finding it difficult to concentrate on what comes next.

I leave Hillary alone to grieve and return back to Cameron who is talking on the phone in Portuguese. I don't know what is being said but sounds emotional, like a last farewell.

"Sorry, Catlina wanted to say goodnight," She says trying to stifle her crying.

"We just hold a press release, we drop the project and state creative differences." I say feeling confident. "You know people do it all the time, we'll get some moron like Michael Bay to fill in the rest and move one with our lives." I say feeling an overwhelming sense of hope drunken my rationality.

"Walter has been dropped before that could work in our favour." Cameron says wiping her eyes on her sleeve.

"Yeah, like the guy was caught coked up with hookers dressed as pugs, like the guy has no credibility left." I remind myself laughing at the stories surrounding the Nutty Director.

"Didn't he once do an art project wear he covered himself in human shit?" Cameron asks remembering the details of Walter Hendrix's colourful career.

"I think we'll be okay, we just have to make sure no one gets this disc and we're golden." I say rewarding myself to a victory cigarette.

We sit in silence as we both de-stress and prepare to move on from what we witnessed, but then as if someone had suddenly hit play. It started when Hillary's phone rang, I could hear it as though it was in this very room. Then the studio became filled with activity, the sound mumbled shuffling in the hallways began to mask the sound of phonecalls. Both of our phones ping at the same moment.

We hesitate to look, but then mumbles turn to whispers and then we heard the rumours.

Cameron checked first and when she put her hand to her mouth as though to silence a scream that's when I could no longer take the dread of not knowing.

"RADICAL ARTIST FOUND DEAD IN APARTMENT FOLLOWING SUICIDE BY DRUG OVERDOSE"

For a moment I began to thank god, I thought my prayers had been answered. And with the relief came a sickening sense of guilt.

I was thankful for another person's death. A young and aspiring artist chose to take his own life and I'm rejoicing.

"I can't believe he's dead," Cameron says she looks like I should feel awful. But I'm torn, on the one hand we maybe able to destroy any evidence that the disk ever existed. "Do you think the rumours of the Club are real?" She asks, she looks as though she's sifting through puzzle pieces.

"Destroy it, bury it. I don't care just never say his name to me again." Hillary says from the doorway, she's drunk and looks as though she's gone through some emotional journey. The once elegant looking Hillary now resembling a grim faced clown.

I reach for the computer ready to snuff the last bit of life that remains from Walter's 27 years of living. The last remnants of a consciousness in my hands in the form of a disc. I feel as though I'm preparing to pull the plug.

Walter was genius, everyone accepted that though the limits of his genius were too much for us to comprehend. He'd been a child prodigy since he wrote his first collection of poems at the age of 6.

As he got older his work became dark, twisted by the false reality he'd lived, he'd grown up a golden prince and yet knew nothing of what it meant to live.

He fell into hard drugs and his career was held up as nothing more than a carcas to rot. Occasionally picking off the rot to keep the carcas fresh so we could display him as a lesson.

This was inevitable I think as I hold disc, the last thoughts of a tortured genius.

The morden day Van Gogh.

Maybe this disc holds the clues as to what those last thoughts he had were. It would explain the graphic nature of the film.

I feel myself being drawn to the disc, I want to watch it all and understand what he went through.

"Duncan, are you okay you've been staring at the disc for five minutes." Cameron asks breaking me from my trance. The editing suite is now filled with curious workers all staring at me as I hold the disc up to my face. I can see my bloodshot eyes looking back at me.

"No one can see this movie, understand!" I say loudly back in full control over my senses and recalling the horror of what is on the disc. With both hands I break the disc in half and drop both pieces to the floor.

A great sigh of relief fills the room and we all begin to feel normality seep back into reality. Suddenly everyone but those that have seen the movie quickly lose interest in this now boring scene and go back to their lives. For many it's home time, and for me it's go and get blackout drunk whilst I work on what I'm going to have to do with the studio.

"Cameron, fancy a drink?" I ask, I'm twenty years older than her but we've always had a certain chemistry when we're both single.

"Sure, just let me get my... Oh I have a text." She says sounding surprised. I'm preparing myself for an excuse involving her kid. She's fallen silent as I grab my coat.

"What does the text say?" I laugh thinking she must be reading an essay of a text. She swallows loudly and looks at me her face painted with sickly paleness.

"Hahaha I made copies," She says reading from her phone.

- fin -

fiction

Ellis L Grimshaw

Read next: The Thunderstorm

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