'Double Duty'

by Phineas Redux

—OOO—

Summary:— Stephanie 'Stevie' Garroch, 34, and Kelly Humber, 32, are lovers, film producers, and owners of Redoubtable Films Inc, a 'B' film Poverty Row movie studio located in Hollywood and New York in the 1930's. Two movies are being made at the same time by two separate Studios using the same two main actors and Director for each, a policy which ends in confusion.

Disclaimer:— Copyright ©2023 Phineas Redux. All characters in this story are fictional; and any resemblance to real persons living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Caution:— There is some light swearing in this story.

—O—

The letter from Bulwark Productions was comprehensive yet unforthcoming in equal amounts; Kelly, as only to be expected, was unimpressed.

"That won't help us at all!"

Stephanie, perusing the letter for the third time, had to agree.

"Well, yeah. They say they're makin' an oater with Desmond Harrigan and Petra Ogilvy, with Charles Lever as Director. Because of contractual reasons we are also making a movie, a crime drama, with the same trio—at the same time. Which can only, as ya say, end in disaster, if we're not careful."

"Has it ever been done before?"

"Making two movies in tandem, from different Studios? Don't know; never heard of such."

"We could be about to make History here, then." Kelly smirking at the thought.

"Or fools of ourselves!"

Kelly had been considering the facts in the case, and now had questions of import that needed answering.

"How's it goin' t'work, then? Bulwark in the mornin'; us in the afternoon? What about night shots, location work, workin' overtime, extended and new scenes prolonging the schedule? How's all that goin' t'work?"

"How far apart are the two Studios?"

"What?"

"When everyone decamps from Bulwark t'come here, or vice-versa, how long'll it take for the journey between Studios? Where is Bulwark's main Stage, for instance?"

Stephanie nodded, finally understanding her lover's query.

"We have our Studio complex down in Queens, Bulwark has theirs in southern Brooklyn, could be worse."

"That doesn't take into account location work!"

"What?"

"When Bulwark have everyone on location, somewhere." Kelly making her point efficiently. "What if Bulwark are on location in Manhattan, while we're in Staten Island? On the same day? At precisely the same time? Eh? What then?"

Stephanie shrugged disconsolately.

"Then something gives, don't it, sis?"

"Lot'ta help that is!"

Kelly set her elbows solidly on the long table, against all known rules of etiquette, in the boardroom of the Studio's offices in the Cailley Building on West 54th St., NY, this warm June morning of 1938. Over the last 5 years Redoubtable Films had been doing fine things, now having almost reached the heights of a bona fide major studio, leaving its 'B' film origins behind. But all was still to work for and the two owners of the Studio were determined to reach this glorious pinnacle sooner rather than later. And a mere slight hindrance like shooting a movie simultaneously with another Studio wasn't going to hold them back.

"We'll need several Producers; and at least three Assistant Directors." Stephanie pondering over these details.

"We're workin' on a crime drama, so we could use a lot more set pieces an stock film than usual?"

"That'd work, yeah."

"We could cannibalize several of our old movies, limit the amount of new scenes needed, cut our shooting schedule down t'nearly nuthin'?"

"I'll get the Script Department on it right away." Stephanie nodding agreement to this suggestion. "With the right plot we could scrape by with very little of the stars actually on screen."

"Be a dam' strange movie, if so!"

"Well, have'ta work with what we ain't got, don't we." Stephanie waxing incomprehensible, not for the first time in a crisis.

"Huh!"

—O—

"Three Assistant Directors!" Charles Lever, renowned Director himself, sitting in the office, next day, sparking-up some at this perceived insult to his personal efficiency. "Will I be Directing any of this dam' movie at all?"

"Take it easy, Chas." Kelly trying to soothe insulted egos. "It'll be just the same as usual; you'll be the main contributor, don't worry; just that we'll need t'insert a lot of, er, extraneous material to cover for when you, an' the dam' movie, are, ah, on hiatus."

"Which is a nonsense in itself." Charles taking the bait without hesitation. "Which clown scheduled me on two movies at once? Have they no idea of how to use a calendar?"

Kelly stared at the top of the table immediately below her eyes; she having been personally responsible for signing Charles, at the time being unaware he had already signed a secret deal with Bulwark that interacted rather too intimately with her intended shooting schedule.

"—er, well, that's how things stand at the moment, anyway. We just need to work through it, is all."

"Hiirph!"

"We can do it!" Stephanie stepping to the plate with a hard positive tone. "A little bit of to-ing and fro-ing and all'll be well, you'll see."

From his expression Charles was still unconvinced, but switched to another topic.

"When do I start on your movie?"

"When does Bulwark start on theirs?" Kelly imitating a professional poker player.

"Three days from now, Thursday."

"We'll start ours this Wednesday, down in Queens." Kelly jumping in with an almost naive innocence. "Can you manage that?"

"Yeah, sure."

"OK, that's settled then."

—O—

The filming, in Queens, began as one might have expected, with problems. Kelly had decided to make her presence felt on this first day just in case of anything serious turning-up, and it did.

"What?"

Jeremy Stainton, young runner for the Company, had bad news and felt the tension associated with delivering same to no less than the Studio's co-Head.

"Miss Ogilvy is down in Brooklyn; Bulwark decided to begin early, with some of her reaction shots; she can't be spared today, or for the next two days, apparently."

"F-ck me!" Kelly astonished to her very bones by this devious move by the rival company. "What can we do with Desmond, if Petra's not here to re-act to him? Jeez!"

"I was gon'na film the first romance scene between them." Charles butting in here, with a scowl. "How, meb'be y'can tell me, do I film a romance with only one participant? I think you'll find filmin' a kiss'll be somewhat difficult in those circumstances."

Kelly thought on her feet, frowning like the Medusa experiencing a dark night when no-one could see her.

"OK, this is it, Jeremy. Take a taxi t'Brooklyn, tell Bulwark from me you need t'take Petra at midday, whatever they say! Bring her back here around one pee-em. Got that?"

"What if they say no?"

Kelly's expression changed to one of immense disgust.

"Tell 'em I'll come down on them like the dam' fabled Assyrian on the Fold, an' they won't like what I do when I get there. OK?"

Jeremy turned to go about this latest order, appearing a trifle sick, looking for all the world like young Casabianca on the burning deck.

"What about—" Charles more worried than ever about his latest project.

"Re-action shots, Chas!" Kelly coming to the rescue of the Director. "Must be a fair amount of those you can splice together, for one scene or another. Just go through the script an' pick as many out as you find. Should fill the day, till we rescue Petra, anyway."

"And if she doesn't materialize?"

"Then there'll be blood on the streets of Brooklyn, is all." Kelly frowning about as deeply as she was able. "Significantly more than usual, I mean!"

"See what I can do; but don't blame me if it's a waste of a coupl'a reels!"

1.00pm rolled round, and so did the returning taxi with both a relieved Jeremy and Petra Ogilvy, looking a little strained.

"Nice t'see ya, Petra; ready t'go with Desmond? The set's hot."

"My brain's spinnin' some." Petra shaking her head as if to clear cobwebs. "Half an hour ago it was Eighteen seventy-two an' I was surrounded by cowboys; now it's Manhattan an' it's the Nineteen twenties!"

Kelly turned to Jeremy.

"What'd they say when you appeared?"

"They were perfectly polite, as if they expected me." Jeremy sighing in relief. "Made no grief about me grabbing the Lady from under their noses; fancy I saw the Producer an' Assistant Director smirkin' at each other in the dark Stage."

"All a grift!" Kelly making the obvious calculation. "Taking us for idiots; seein' how far they can push us! Dam' morons. Well, we've got Petra, an' we're dam' well gon'na keep her, at least for a few days."

"I got'ta keep workin' on the oater, at Bulwark." Charles shrugging dispassionately. "I mean, contracts, an' all! I'll have to go there sometimes."

"Oh, no bother!" Kelly nodding. "Just, I'll need'ta keep a sharper eye on our combined schedules, is all, dam'mit!"

—O—

The dual movies had been shooting for just over three weeks and both were reaching the last few days of production. Switching between movies Charles Lever had become somewhat schizophrenic in his attempts to control yet keep separate each operation; his temper suffering as a result, especially as he was now hitting the bottle with more regularity than was good for him. Desmond Harrigan, main character, in contrast accepted the whole thing pretty well, he not taking much of anything that ever happened around him with any level of gravity.

Petra Ogilvy, on the other hand, was experiencing mental problems which were gradually increasing to the point of affecting her work; her performances, for either Studio, not being quite up to her usual standard, and decreasing as time went along. Indeed, both Charles and Kelly could see, finally, that she was not giving what could in any sense be called an adequate presentation of character, either of them.

"What's her problem?" Kelly asking this of the Director one afternoon on a break while reels were changed and something technical with the sound system was ironed out.

"What's wrong with her is what's wrong with me, too!" Charles making no bones about it. "Dragged from one Studio to another; one set-up to another; one Stage to another! We hardly know which way t'turn at this point. I know I don't!"

Standing close to the man Kelly could smell the aura of spirits which hung round him like an invisible cloak these days, but as he seemed to be handling the situation without appearing as a dead drunk, and his work was still under control, there was not much she could do about this.

"I woke up screamin' last night!" Charles going on with his revelations of a Director's life under pressure. "Well, not t'say sleep! I don't sleep, jus' hallucinate fer several hours during the night! Found myself screamin'' at a picture on my wall last night, as I said."

"Meb'be cut back on the drinkin' some?" Kelly biting the bullet for the good of the Studio.

"Drinkin'?" Charles making a strange noise between his lips. "Two bottles of whiskey a day? That ain't drinkin', that's just lubricatin' the throat in dry times, is all!"

Kelly walked away.

Ten minutes later, the sound system still proving recalcitrant, she met Petra at the door of her dressing-room, she looking woeful.

"How's it goin'?" Kelly hoping she could get away with merely passing the time of day.

"Badly—dam' badly!" Petra grabbing this heaven sent opportunity with both hands. "I might be losin' my mind! In fact, I'm dam' sure! I'm losin' my mind!"

With no other course open to her Kelly paused to remonstrate.

"Now, why sound off like that, gal? What's up?"

"What's up's I'm goin' mad!" Petra making her feelings plain. "Don't know if I'm livin' in Nineteen-thirty-eight, Nineteen-twenty-five, or Eighteen seventy-two. What d'ya make of that?"

Kelly tried her best, though immediately taking entirely the wrong tack.

"Now, I know things are a little complicated at present, but—"

"Complicated!" Petra responding with the look of an angry leopard. "Do ya know what complicated is, lady? I'll tell ya complicated! Two days ago I started the day in Brooklyn, at Bulwark; two hours later I found myself here, in Queens with Redoubtable; three hours later I was back in bloody Brooklyn; then, hours later, I finished my day back here, in Queens, again. That's goin' from the Eighteen-seventies t'the Nineteen-twenties, backwards an' forwards till I thought I was the main character in H G Wells' Time Machine!"

Kelly tried again.

"Things is a little up an' down at present, I give ya that; but there's no need t'have a fit over it! I mean, take it as just the way things are. I mean, don't take everything to heart, it won't help. And, at the end of the day none of it's real. I mean, it's all make-believe an' fantasy, isn't it? Think of it like that."

But Petra was philosophically up for this weak get-out clause.

"It may be future audiences' fiction, but it's my present reality!"

"Uum!"

"And it's drivin' me stir crazy!"

Petra here stepped back, retreating into her dressing-room and slamming the door, giving Kelly the moral problem of whether to tap on said door and continue to try to help the young star, or fade quietly into the shadows, defeated at all points. She took the latter step, heading along the corridor to Desmond Harrigan's dressing-room.

"Come in! Oh, it's you! Made any headway in smoothing out this dam' pig's breakfast of a farce we're all trapped in at the moment?"

Kelly grunted at this less than social greeting.

"Des, I came t'you fer sustenance, morally speakin'. What can I do? What should I do? What is there t'do? Nuthin', far's I can see—an' I can see a church by daylight easy as anyone, most days. What's your secret?"

"What secret?"

"You're the only one not goin' quietly off their dam' heads round these parts, what with one thing and another." Kelly confessing all. "How d'ya get along, embroiled in this farrago, without falling into a blue funk? Everyone else is."

The star of the movie, both movies in fact, raised an elegant eyebrow, considering his reply.

"Oh, just natural elegance of nature, and chic."

"Chic? Howzat?"

Desmond shrugged his wide strong shoulders, accompanied by the charming smooth smile that had made him the star of every contemporary woman's romantic dreams, Kelly excepted of course.

"I take Life easy, is all. One movie, two movies, both movies at the same time! Just a joke, from my point of view. Someone once asked me how I managed to act so convincingly in everything I do. I told them I didn't act at all, in anything—go out'ta my way not to in fact! I step in front of the camera, speak my lines an' step back into the shadows when the Director shouts cut. That way I keep my senses, an' don't go mad—figured that out at the beginning of my career when I played opposite t'Harold Lloyd for a coupl'a movies. It's knowin' how t'accept karma, go with the flow. Ever heard of—"

"Karma? What's that?"

"An old Indian mind trick, keeps you focused on reality, not what you merely interpret anything as affecting you."

"Didn't know the Indians went in for that sort'a thing?"

Desmond looked at his Producer for a second before understanding dawned.

"Not Red Indians, the Indians from, er, India! The sub-continent, y'know."

"Oh-ah!"

Seizing his chance Desmond waxed philosophical in his own right.

"That's what this movie really needs; both movies, in fact—a guru!"

"A what?"

"A teacher of the Higher Aspects of Life." Desmond obviously off on a topic close to his heart. "Teach how to accept the downs more than the ups in Life; take everything on the chin, an' laugh at adversity."

Kelly wasn't convinced.

"My workin' life's full enough of downs as it is; don't want to caress them in'ta thinkin' they're my pets! Look, ya got me talkin' nonsense now!"

Desmond, out of pure pity for the harassed Producer, offered his deepest thoughts on the subject.

"You got'ta laugh at Life's drawbacks, not cry. That way you survive t'enjoy the good things in Life that're waitin' just round the next corner, if you go at it in the right state of mind."

Kelly backed out the room shaking her head, confused beyond caring.

"Des, you're either a genius or a fool; can't make my mind up which!"

Desmond laughed as she closed the door behind her.

"I'll let you consider the matter. The answer, you'll find, is blowin' in the wind!"

—O—

"Any luck?" Stephanie gazing at her partner with interest.

"None whatsoever."

"That's helpful." Stephanie sighing despondently. "We got'ta come up with something better than that. These double movies, doin' everything at the same time, in two separate places, is makin' my mind ache; can't imagine what it's doin' to our stars."

"I can," Kelly well up to answer this. "drivin' 'em all mad as hatters, is what. All, that is, except Desmond—don't ask!"

"Well, what's the answer?"

"Me!,—I don't know."

Five minutes later the red phone on the table in the boardroom by Stephanie's elbow burst into life with its raucous jangle.

"Jeez, what now? Hallo—what? What! You sure? Jee-sus! OK—yeah, OK, 'bye."

Kelly waited patiently, like a good sidekick; but when it became obvious her lover had descended into a form of trance she slid her chair along to be able to nudge Stephanie in the side, not gently.

"Aaww! Why'd ya do that?"

"T'get your attention, what else. Well, what?"

Stephanie still looked at her lover with a dazed expression.

"Stevie! What was the call about?"

"Oh, right! Bulwark's Studio, in Brooklyn, burned down this mornin', right t'the foundations, nuthin' left but smokin' ash, apparently."

Kelly absorbed this news in silence for a few seconds before, as her nature impelled her, coming to the worst possible conclusion.

"They'll say it was us! Sue us fer dam' millions, sure as rickets!"

"Get a grip, lady!"

"Gim'me that phone, got'ta get our Lawyers on defence mode quick's we can." Kelly attempting to get ahead without really knowing where she was going. "Who was there? Who wasn't? Everyone, of course! We deny everything, across the board; how can they prove anything? Was it someone of ours? Did you authorize anythin' behind my back, baby?"

"Idiot!" Stephanie appalled by the very suspicion that she would descend to such low actions. "Have ya lost your mind, what there was of it t'start off with, at all? Gim'me a break!"

"Only askin'. Got'ta cover every eventuality." Kelly sailing ever nearer to madness with every word she uttered. "Hallo! Hallo! Is that Barrie, Jenkins, Jenkins, Jenkins, and Bartholomew? It ain't? What? The 29th Fire House, Queens? What d'I want with you? Oh, sh-t, same t'you, buster! Sit back, relax, baby—Kel's on it, I'll see ya safe, don't worry. Where the dam's the telephone list?"

Stephanie pointed out a large folder in a red cover some eighteen inches from Kelly's left elbow.

"Oh, thanks! Right, let's get this goin'. Barrie, Jenkins, Jenkins, Jenkins, an' Bartholomew? Gim'me me—what? What ya mean, they're all out? How can they be—all on various serious important cases, in Courts across the City? Well, call 'em back. What? Yeah, all of 'em, pronto; our needs outweigh—well, everyone's! You can't do that? D'ya know who—ya don't care, Barrie, Jenkins, Jenkins, Jenkins, an' Bartholomew come before anyone else, includin' me! Dam' you—what's that? Another word from me an' I'll be gettin' a summons in the post from Barrie, Jen—Jee-sus, I know who the dam' ya are! Hey! Hallo! Hallo! G-d'd-m-it! They've hung up!"

"Not surprised!" Stephanie sniffing loudly, pretending to find great interest in one of her own advertising leaflets lying on the table.

"God!" Kelly breaking free from all moral and temperamental restrictions whatsoever. "What a G-d'd-m'm-d day! If the Flood, the Seven Plagues of Egypt, and the Black Death happened all together, they still wouldn't equal what's happened t'me t'day—that's a dam' fact!"

—O—

"They want to what?" Stephanie hardly able to believe her ears.

"Rent Studio an' Stage space with us, here at Redoubtable in good ol' Queens!" Kelly almost ecstatic while offering this information as they sat in the boardroom the next morning.

"What about them suing the shi—suing us for every penny we own?"

"All forgotten an' forgiven—not that it was us in the first place, of course." Kelly grinning widely. "It wasn't, was it, lover? Just, y'know, checkin'."

"Clown! Give over with the childish insinuations, will ya; you're drivin' me round the bend with your suspicions."

"Just can't get over the dam' Studio burnin' down so conveniently! I mean, well!"

"It happened. It was an accident. Let's forget it, an' move the dam' on, OK?"

"OK—OK!"

Ten minutes later they were both on their way from central Manhattan to south Queens, each in their individual vehicles. This as a result of long experience in the film trade, where it had early became obvious that the more transport one had the easier life would be in any number of unforeseen emergencies. Stephanie using her snazzy Chrysler sedan, while Kelly made do with her Plymouth two-seater, she being a sporty kind'a gal.

At the Studio all was hectic as a Market Day in a busy country town. Bulwark had been granted the temporary use of Stages One and Two, while Redoubtable carried on with the other three. As a result Bulwark now appeared to be in the process of taking over the whole Studio complex with their activities. Private vehicles, trucks loaded down with all kinds of materials, sets, and equipment; as well as buses with what appeared to be most of the population of Brooklyn eager to get a bite of the cherry. This army of workers causing confusion at the Main Gate where it was proving impossible to maintain any show of Security whatsoever.

"Just let 'em all through; it'll work itself out in the end!" Kelly telling the Main Guard how to cope, to no-one's satisfaction.

And now, of course, itself not wholly unforeseen by Kelly and Stephanie, the Battle of the Producers commenced.

"Who are they?"

"George Forsythe, Head Producer; John Cade, Assistant Producer; Paul Cannington, Director of Affairs; Harvey Scheinfelde, Assistant Accountant." Kelly filling her partner in with the necessities.

"No women in charge of anything?" Stephanie hitting a favorite point of hers.

"At Bulwark the only thing women are allowed to be in charge of is the coffee-making machine, supplyin' same beverage, with biscuits, to whichever man shouts for it, and basic stenography!"

"Feurrph!"

"Quite!"

At which moment, as if to prove a point, two of the men so described strode across the roadway into the women's' path, like Knights on their way to the Crusades.

"Hey, who the Hell'r you two dames? Get out'ta our dam' way! Ain't ya got any files t'type up somewhere!"

Stephanie, never one to let misogyny pass by in any form, stepped close to the arrogant blonde haired man, looked him in the eye, grinning wildly in a very unhinged manner, and brought her heeled shoe down on his with forethought, pre-planning, and the utmost malice.

"Aa-aargh!"

"Oh, dear, did that hurt diddums? So sorry; but if ya talk like that agin, I'll do it agin—OK, buster?"

"OH—AH—AAH!"

The man, struggling half bent over with one hand grasping his injured foot, gasped for breath while his companion himself took several paces backwards out of the immediate danger zone.

"I'm Stephanie Garroch, head of this here enterprise—the whole thing! Who the hell'r you two apes? An' whoever ya are ya better be of some use t'the world, an' Redoubtable in particular, or you'll both be out on your butts, skiddin' down the road back t'Brooklyn, curtesy of my other boot—Savvy?"

"Ah—Ah, Head o'Post Production." The taller, as yet unscathed, member of the duo explaining himself. "er, George Mikelson. This here's Jack Hogarth, set designer."

Stephanie nodded solemnly at this information.

"OK, Georgie—now get this, we—us two women here before your very eyes—own an' control every dam' thing at Redoubtable; while you, Bulwark, I mean, are just unwanted visitors on trial. Be nice an' all's well. Be not nice an' we'll kick yer butts till they're black an' blue—got that, boys?"

Both men nodding wildly in their attempts to convince the ladies of their understanding and determination to stick to these new rules, Stephanie and Kelly walked on, triumphant.

—O—

Round the very next corner, separating Stage Three from Stage Four, the intrepid owners came across another example of Bulwarks' male dominated approach to female employment. Three men were walking along, strolling would be a better description, idly chatting, grunts of laughter echoing in their wake; four of five paces behind them a single young woman, tall, graceful, dark-haired, stumbled along weighed down by two suitcases and at least three thick and weighty cardboard files under her arms; obviously the dogsbody of the men. Kelly sparked up first, darting ahead to race in front of the male trio and turn to confront them.

"Hallo, boys! Having a nice day? You all sure sound like it! What the flyin' f-ck d'ya all think you're f-ckin' doin'? I ain't seen three better examples of semi-human apelike Neanderthals since I left High School!"

The three men, brought up short, gazed at their verbal assailant as if facing Bigfoot in person; the heavier of the trio finally gaining the power of speech.

"Sh-t, dame! I don't know who the f-ck you are, but you're dam' fired as of now; get off the f-ckin' Studio Lot before I call Security, or meb'be I'll haul you off t'the Main Gate myself, stupid b-tch!"

He never saw Kelly's expert Haymaker coming, he never felt its arrival on the side of his jaw, he never felt the impact as his unconscious body hit the concrete, he never woke up till an hour later in the Studio Medical Centre where he was assured something unidentified had fallen from the skies and unfortunately hit him—only days later his compatriots filling him in with the reality; they also explaining that Kelly had said, in no uncertain terms, that if he repeated his offence to anyone again or even showed up at the Studio under any pretence whatsoever something else would inevitably fall from the skies once more.

"And as for you two palookas!" Kelly not finished by a long stretch. "I've seen a mite of ungrateful sons of b-tches in my time, but you two take the dam' biscuit! It's obvious neither of you care a dam' about anything other than your own welfare an' well-being. So, as a result of me being owner of this whole rancho—yeah, boys, you're lookin' straight at the lady in charge—I'm trespassing you both from any future involvement with this Studio an' its environs from now on till the end of Time! Got that? So, get the f-ck off my Lot! Lady, you stay here!"

While Kelly had been holding this Shakespearean soliloquy with the two representatives of Bulwark, Stephanie had been giving succor to the lady hauling the men's cargo.

"OK, sis, dump that crap on the ground. Yeah, everything; you work for Redoubtable now. Yeah, the files too, let those bozos scrabble after the papers blowin' in the wind—give 'em some well-needed exercise. Ya finished, Kel? Nice smack on the jaw, babe!"

"Knew those boxing lessons I took from Jimmy McLarnin would finally come in useful!" Kelly walking back to her partner with a wide grin, though rubbing her knuckles. "He didn't say it'd hurt me so dam' much, though."

"Nice move, all the same. So, looks like we got us a new lady Manager here."

"Glad t'hear same." Kelly extending her hand to the astonished new recruit. "Salary as per Studio policy—Redoubtable's, that is—probably about three times what dam' Bulwark paid ya, all insurance an' medical perks, three weeks holiday per year, an' full expences paid while on location. OK? What's your name, by-the-by?"

"—ah-ah, Molly—Molly Paterson. Are ya givin' me the true gen, lady? Not just pullin' my leg?"

"When we say something," Stephanie joining in the congratulations. "we always mean that something; it's the way we operate. You're a Production Manager now, follow along with us an' we'll introduce you to Glen Forbes, he's our Main Production Manager; he'll be glad t'fill ya in with the routine—nuthin' to it, really. Come on, this way."

—O—

That same afternoon at just after 4.00pm, in the meeting-room in the Front Office at Redoubtable Studios, Queens, a conference was taking place. On one side of the long table Stephanie and Kelly; on the other side George Forsythe, Head Producer for Bulwark, Paul Cannington Head of Affairs, and Harvey Scheinfelde, Assistant Accountant, both the latter appearing for the same Studio—the atmosphere tense and edgy.

"No! Ya ain't gettin' off that easy!" Kelly laying down the rules of the game with emphasis. "We own this Studio, an' its Lot. Everything—an' I mean every dam' thing—that takes place here does so under our—Redoubtable's—authority, not Bulwark's! We call the shots, not you. When we say jump, you jump, as high as we require, no excuses. From now on you, an' every dam' earner on your salary list, act by our rules, got that?"

"This is intolerable!" George speaking-up for the team, in a hissing tone that had scared generations of secretaries before this. "Who the hell—"

"We're the Owners, ya ape!" Stephanie jumping in here, unbowed by the man's childish attempt at subduing his audience. "An' make your tone a mite more polite before you continue talkin' t'either of us. We ain't under your thumb, like those poor women we've seen kowtowin' to your men so far. All that stops while you're on our property, an' I mean all! We see any women bein' taken for granted by one of your male employees, no matter that man's grade or title, he's out on his dam' ass, no excuses allowed. An' don't think you can get away with anythin' behind our backs or in secret. We hear of any attempt t'intimidate any woman on this Lot, be they Redoubtable or Bulwark, an' the contract between us is cancelled! You can scrabble for a location under Brooklyn Bridge to film from, for all I care. Got that?"

"The way ya talk you'd think women were on equal terms with men!" Paul Cannington showing the colour of his flag. "—'course they ain't! Who ever heard such nonsense; an' another thing, you two dames ought'a mend your own ways before you find yourselves slapped with a lawsuit that'll make your eyes water, is all. Well?"

Kelly had been waiting for just this opportunity, and didn't mean to waste it now it had arrived.

"You're right, Paulie! There is a difference between Men an' Women; one sex has common sense an' a feelin' of responsibility to all those round them, an' the general way they live their lives; the other sex has balls! I make that physical distinction to emphasise the fact that a majority of same don't have much else; common sense, politeness, respect for the feminine side of the world, or for anyone else in particular at all! But here at Redoubtable the equality of the sexes is in full swing, much as such horrifies your childish minds. So just get used to same, or sling your hooks an' leave us in peace, OK?"

Harvey Scheinfelde, till now silent, here tried another tack; though one hopelessly miscalculated as he was about to find out to his cost.

"Ladies—Ladies! Let's not get into personalities, shall we? How about Bulwark pays your Front Office, say two thousand dollars, for any inconvenience that might have, purely unconsciously, have taken place? Then we can proceed, both on our own courses, without any further problem—eh? Fair offer."

Kelly had done many things in her many years in the Film industry, but taking bribes had never been one of them.

"Harvey, baby?"

Harvey stared at the angry Siren with flushed face who now sat opposite, wondering what he had done wrong, an unfamiliar cold shiver trickling down his back.

"—er, what?"

"That your briefcase on the table at the end there?"

"Yeah, why?"

"Go an' pick it up?"

"What? Why?"

"Indulge me, there's a dear."

Frowning doubtfully, glancing at his male compatriots as he did so, Harvey nonetheless rose and walked to the end of the table, retrieving his briefcase as asked.

"So, now what? I only got a magazine, some files, an' a pack of sandwiches in it."

Kelly smiled in a manner Harvey remembered well into his old age.

"That's just diddly! They'll sustain ya in the long slog back t'Brooklyn. Harvey, get off this Lot—do it now—do it quick—ya got two minutes, if you're still in view after that I set the Security lads on ya an' tell 'em t'drag your scrappy ass all the way t'the Main Gate an' throw the dregs in'ta the gutter on the other side, OK? Oh, by the way, don't ever come back t'Redoubtable for any reason whatever. Now, f-ck off, there's a dear!"

Harvey stood like a statue for an appreciable time, Kelly's words obviously having some difficulty in penetrating the long established chauvinist quality of his personality; but finally understanding dawned.

"What? What? Ya can't do that! Do ya know who I am? I'm Assistant Accountant for one of the biggest Film Studio's in NY. Have ya lost your everlovin' mind, b-tch?"

From that instant in the course of his life Harvey could never remember, at least with any clarity, how he left the boardroom, raced along the building's inner corridors, exited into daylight, and finally hove up at the Main Gate, where two burly guards took him in charge; all the while Stephanie and Kelly at his heels, if not indeed being physically responsible for this disoriented odyssey—he never able afterwards to logically put the flow of events into any understandable sequence.

"Henry," Kelly addressing the guard. "you see here someone whom we, Steph an' I, never want t'see on our Lot ever again. Burn his features into your memory, take note of his name, Harvey Scheinfelde; an' if he ever attempts to enter these premises again you have full authority t'shoot the bum, OK?"

"Got it, ma'am." Henry champing at the bit to fulfill his contractual duty to the full, with menaces. "OK, scumbag, this way."

Henry grabbing Harvey by his jacket collar the Assistant Accountant vanished from the presence of the Film Owners like a piece of scrap paper into a waste-paper basket, leaving no sign or tittle of his former existence behind.

"One more bum off the Lot!" Kelly rubbing her hands together, as having accomplished a fine piece of house-cleaning. "What about the two bums still in the boardroom?"

"We'll let 'em be, for the nonce." Stephanie snorting sarcastically. "See if they actually manage t'reform their ways significantly, or not."

"An' if not?"

"Then they can whistle for a place t'film's all!" Stephanie putting her foot down authoritatively."

"With ya all the way, gal." Kelly turning to plant a soft kiss on her compatriot's cheek. "God, what a dam' day; hope tomorrow's better!"

—O—

"Think you're up to it, Molly?"

"Yes, Kelly." Molly nodding enthusiastically. "I signed on with Bulwark thinking my University Degree'd have some sway, but it wasn't t'be. Don't know how it happened, but I finally found myself more or less only in charge of the dam' broom closet. This'll be a delight, don't worry there."

"Try not t'rile them, but if there's no other way, go ahead, we'll back ya up all the way."

"Thanks."

Ten minutes later Stephanie, Kelly, and Molly were in a small room in Stage Two, confronting George Forsythe and Paul Cannington once more.

"This's the way it's goin' t'be," Stephanie laying out the rules of the reformed game. "You're on Redoubtable's ground now, which means you play by Redoubtable's rules. Women work on equal terms here; though not when on your property, apparently. But here every woman who works for you also works for us, under our umbrella; which means you treat them with politeness and equality—"

"I don't see—" George trying to get a word in.

"No, but you will in a few minutes." Kelly taking no prisoners. "Steph an' I have already had enough experience of your, and your subordinates', manner of treating women to last us the rest of our lives—but your tricks won't play on the Redoubtable Lot, believe that, boys."

"What's needed here is fair play, that's all." Stephanie continuing to lay out her notion of moral worth. "You ought'a treat women with respect; the same way you treat other men. It's as easy as that. We ain't askin' for the World on a platter, just equality in the workplace. No-one of any sense can have any complaint there, surely?"

"Doing that'd make a lot of ripples across the whole board." Paul trying to make these difficult women see common sense. "I mean, you surely don't mean we should pay women as equal with their male counterparts? That'd be—well, that'd be just stupid!"

Kelly, scenting a worthy opponent, licked her lips, ready for the battle.

"Oh, really! For why?"

Paul paused before attempting a reply, suddenly realising he was on soft ground.

"Well, it just ain't done, is all."

Stephanie snorted with laughter in her turn.

"By that way of thinkin' nobody'd ever get ahead with modernizing anything! Tradition is very romantic, but in reality it just holds back future development indefinitely. We here at Redoubtable believe in taking things forward, not building walls to keep things from advancing."

"But—" George trying to make a fuzzy point but failing.

"No buts!" Kelly cutting through this misty opposition. "Our Lot, our Rules! We ain't askin' you to suddenly increase women's' pay across the board; just pay them on equal terms with other male workers doing either the same work or something similar. Anyway, this—"

"But—" George, appalled by this democratic sentiment, trying to form some kind of negative reply. "But—that smells of Communism! In fact, it dam' well is Communism! I'm against it all the way. My God, I mean, I'm partially in charge of a forward movin' big Film Studio; you can't push rules like this on us, just out of spite for some vaguely imagined form of misconduct that wouldn't stand up in a Court of Law for a single instant! I'm mean, who's got the dam' bruises in this stand-off, may I ask?"

Here Paul unknowingly jumped in with a question that destroyed Bulwark's rocky position in one fell swoop.

"While we're talkin' about this, ah, difficulty, what about tellin' that gal, there—Molly, I think she's called—t'take a hike? What we're discussin' here ain't got anythin' t'do with her—far above the little gal's pay-grade, you'll agree. We'll pause while she runs off an' makes herself useful somewhere else, in the Commissariat or somewhere."

Kelly, having been provided with this Heaven sent opportunity, didn't waste her chance.

"Glad ya brought up Molly, Paulie! What it is, is she's now Redoubtable's Moral Supervising Production Manager. Steph an' I havin' been mighty impressed with her scholarly achievements, certificates, and Degree. Her role now bein' t'keep an eye on whatever goes on around the campus; makin' sure everyone's happy with their lot, an' the way they're bein' treated on a daily basis. This goes for Bulwark's presence an' crew too. What Bulwark does, in the way of treating all it's workers equally, is of great interest to us here at Redoubtable, and always will be long's you're here as our guests. An important point t'remember, boys. Steph?"

"This mornin' Molly was one of your general female dogsbody's!" Stephanie taking-up the reins of the debate with verve and enjoyment. "Now, this afternoon, she holds sway over every decision you, as Producers, make regarding the well-being of your workers, especially the women who unfortunately come under that heading. You play by the rules, everything's hunky-dory; you do us wrong, Nemesis will fall on you like one of the Biblical Plagues; don't think for a moment it won't. Where else, at short notice, d'ya think you can find Studio space t'complete your film? We here at Redoubtable are swingin' along at our ease, our legal rights to do so walled round by unassailable contracts. Your contract, on the other hand, is writ on water to coin a phrase. You haven't, to any meaningful extent, read the small print, have you? No, I thought not. Well, there it is. Take it or get off our Lot pronto—which'll it be, boys?"

George and Paul, both looking sick round the gills, glanced at each other for a few seconds before George spoke, a slight tremor noticeable in his voice.

"We'll, ah, we'll consider it. We'll, ah—how about tomorrow mornin', say ten?"

Stephanie nodded, grinning in return.

"That's fine. Ten tomorrow, but mind—you make your decision by then to agree wholesale, retail, but without the benefit of export, or USS Bulwark sinks beneath the waves bows first never t'be seen again as far as this Studio Lot's concerned, OK?"

"Oh, sh-t!"

—O—

The morning had dawned bright, unclouded, with a warm glow in temperature that spoke of a balmy but comfortable day ahead. In the boardroom of Redoubtable Studios Front Office Stephanie and Kelly, with Molly by their side, sat like dual Queens on their thrones, awaiting the appearance and obeisance of their subjects.

"What d'you think, dear?" Kelly smirking at her lover without restraint.

"I think we have 'em by the shorts', baby." Stephanie no less gleeful. "Just sit back an' enjoy the show, Molly; an hour from now you'll be presiding over Bulwark like you owned the dusty old joint, head t'toe."

"You think this'll actually come out right?" Molly still hardly able to believe the sudden change in her prospects.

"Easy as French toast, gal." Kelly putting the mind of their latest employee at rest. "They ain't got a leg t'stand on. From what you've told us about their methods of business supervision over all their female staff we have enough evidence to put them out'ta business throughout the State of New York for good, never mind just the City."

"Yeah, they've broken, or ridden roughshod over, so many Regulations of Business Conduct most of your female compatriots have enough evidence t'bring so many lawsuits it'll cripple, if not right-out bankrupt, the Studio forever." Stephanie looking reality in the face and not flinching.

"Of course," Kelly continuing. "it'll mean them all lookin' for new jobs, but we have room for a fair number here at Redoubtable, and the others—well, anywhere else'll be better than what they've been suffering under Bulwark, don't you agree?"

Molly, seeing the sense in these proposals, nodded in return.

"Can't thank you enough; for, y'know, everything!"

"Think nuthin' of it," Kelly patting the shoulder of their latest recruit warmly. "Glad t'have you aboard. Oh-Oh, here they are!"

This last statement induced by the boardroom door opening to allow the two representatives of Bulwark Studios to enter, both looking cowed beyond measure.

"This's gon'na be fun!" Stephanie whispering this for close ears as the women settled themselves for the grand climax.

The End

—O—

The next 'Redoubtable Films' story will be along shortly.