'The Behind the Scenes Saga'

by Phineas Redux

—OOO—

Summary:— In 1949 Claire 'Ricky' Mathews and her lover Gabrielle Parker, both members of a secret British Security Department also active in Canada, operate the Atalanta Haulage company in Saskatchewan, using trucks and various aircraft. They are ordered to help in the production of an international film set in their immediate neighborhood of Canada.

Disclaimer:— copyright ©2024 to 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 B25 Mitchell bomber of the Royal Canadian Air Force sat on the tarmac at Green Lake airfield this bosky morning of September 1949 looking rather dusty and neglected, it having been for years part of the reserve fleet stored somewhere in the open air only partially covered by tarpaulins.

"Why ain't the Air Force doin' this'?"

Claire Mathews shrugged as she and Gabrielle Parker her lover and partner stood by the old machine.

"They got sniffy when they realised it was going t'be a fiction drama movie, not a documentary; so they've rented it out to whoever else wants t'fly the obsolete thing—meanin' us, sadly."

"An', as I understand it, it'll be a camera base? Filming the stunts of the other planes?"

"That seems t'be the extent of the plan, yeah." Claire moving forward towards the front of the stationary, and as yet inert, areoplane. "Let's take a look at the cockpit."

Standing by the plane's front, high above their heads, the women took in the state of the aircraft's accoutrements.

"Lost its bow armament, just an open space in the turret."

"Yeah," Gabrielle nodding agrement. "Believe they want a large camera pointing its lens out the turret. Don't know how that'll work?"

"Others in the upper dorsal turret and the tail turret, as well as at least one out the waist gun apertures."

"Jeez! How'll that affect the airworthiness o'this pile of junk?"

Claire shrugged once again.

"Won't know till we take it up."

"At least four cameras?" Gabrielle clearly having second thoughts about her own involvement. "How many crew'll we be takin' up with us? You an' me, a radio operator, flight engineer, four camera operators, an' at least two further camera assistants!"

"Yeah."

"That's ten." Gabrielle well up on her mathematics. "That's double the number of the plane's normal crew! Can it take it. How heavy are these cameras, by the way?"

Claire considered this with furrowed brow.

"Thirty-five millimetre colour film cameras, believe they're enormous! Probably very heavy."

Gabrielle frowned in her turn.

"It'll never get off the ground, mark my words. Are we gon'na be issued with a couple of those new ejector seats? 'cause we'll dam' well need 'em before we've reached the end of the runway, mark my words."

"Hrrph!"

—O—

The hangar at Green Lake was just large enough to hold one medium sized twin-engined plane or three single-engined monoplanes. At the moment, as Claire and Gabrielle stood within its confines along with three airfield officials, only one monoplane took up space in the far corner.

"So, Mister Colburn," Claire raking the airfield manager with a cold eye. "this's going t'be the main Base for the Production Film company?"

"Yes."

"And we're, Gabrielle here and I, going t'fly the Bee Twenty-five out on the tarmac there?"

"Yes. What exactly are we—"

"So there'll be a flurry of other planes coming an' going as well? Modern planes from the Film Company as well as the four reconditioned fighters."

"I expect so—"

"So you'll have to have radio operators in the tower on all-day standby, because of the burden of work."

The manager gazed fixedly at Claire with a dark frown.

"I believe my workers are capable of the commitment, ladies. You need not feel any worry on that score, I'm sure."

"Just so we see eye to eye on my and Gabrielle's involvement." Claire taking no prisoners. "We'll be flying around the airspace hereabouts for hours on end, trying to film the antics of a bunch of half-mad stunt pilots in Focke Wulf's! I'd like t'think the folks on the ground'll be looking after our interests meanwhile, is all."

Mister Colburn sighed loudly.

"Ladies, my assistants are all certificated and expert in their chosen fields; you may rely on them to the furthest limit."

"Dam' well hope so." Gabrielle butting in with a cold mien. "Are there going t'be ambulances ready an' waiting, by the way? Just in case of, oh, anything?"

"I believe so, but that will be the reserve of the Film Company."

"Oh, dear!"

"Both well respected companies, or so I have been informed." Mister Colburn beginning to feel the conversation was taking a course beyond his capability to follow.

"Who are they, again?" Gabrielle always able to ask the awkward question out of turn.

"Some second-rate unit called Bulwark Pictures," Claire supplying the unwanted information. "allied with another company from Ol' Blighty—Resplendent Films, I believe."

"Never heard of either." Gabrielle sniffing luxuriously. "What've either produced, that we'd have seen?"

Claire frowned over this significant query.

"Well, can't bring anything t'mind off-hand, ducks."

"No, neither can I." Gabrielle stating her case with the efficiency of an Old Bailey prosecuting solicitor. "Which's why we ask about the dam' ambulances, Mister Colburn!"

Colburn, at the end of his tether, fell back on the old excuse.

"Why not ask the Film Production Team Manager that? He's the one who'll know. What's his name? Quigley? Querson? Quidley?"

"Qwenford." Claire on top of this point too.

"Yes, well, him. Look, ladies, I have a lot on my schedule t'day; if I may?"

"Yeah-yeah!" Gabrielle dismissive in the extreme. "See ya later somewhere, bye. Lot'ta help he'll be, I'm sure."

Claire shrugged as she turned to move off.

"Only wants t'be responsible for his own little corner, obviously. Say, when was the last time you flew a Bee Twenty-five, lover?"

Gabrielle considered this delve into her far-past history with wrinkled brow.

"Must'a been 'Forty-four. Yeah, then; just before our Big Prang, remember?"

"As if I could dam' well forget, which I can't."

This gloomy rejoinder brought on by the remembrance of a mighty crash they had both been involved in with a huge Stirling bomber, the after-effects of which had seen them both out of action in hospital for months afterwards; both still having long-lasting injuries. Claire with a serious limp in her left leg, Gabrielle with a right shoulder affected by any heavy item she might think of carrying, as well as recurring headaches.

"Yeah, well." Gabrielle as wishful of forgetting the dreadful accident as her lover. "So, 'Forty-four, but I still got the gen on the type. You know, once flown, never forgotten."

"Let's hope so!" Claire less certain about her own capabilty in that direction. "Let's take the crate for a few runs up an' down the Secondary runway, OK?"

"If ya feel ya must."

"I must."

"Oh, well!"

—O—

The next morning dawned bright and early; too early for some. Although the Sun was up and performing its due duties, the birds were in the air already, making a nuisance of themselves, and the usual smells and scents were wafting about in the light breeze, neither Claire nor Gabrielle looked or felt up to the new day.

"Six-thirty!" Gabrielle shuffling disconsolately as she stood in full flying gear on the tarmac beside the B25, three Focke-Wulf's and single Hurricane. "This is madness! Who in their right mind gets up at this ungodly hour?"

"Milkmen!" Claire always willing to find an answer.

"Huurph!"

"Ladies, we're ready when you are." Mark Qwenford, the Production Manager, consulting his roster. "The Focke's'll go first, followed by the Hurricane, then you. Probably take around ten minutes before everyone's in position. Remember, all we want this morning, is fly-by's. Just film the planes shooting past in the sky. Try'n get 'em against a backdrop of clouds, if ya can; makes it easier to see their relative speed, y'see—but the cameramen'll see t'that aspect. Remember, listen over the radio links to the cameramen, that's of vital importance. Try'n carry out whatever they want, OK?"

Claire was up for the appropriate answer to this.

"On the contrary, Mister Qwenford; in the air I'll be the Pilot and Captain of the ship. I give the orders, everyone else aboard carries them out. If not, I kick them off the plane, whether they wear parachurtes or not; that being a responsibility of their own!"

Qwenford gave the woman a glance imbued with equal levels of doubt and amusement.

"Yes, er, yes! Anyway, try your best. Can you throw this big beast around the sky effectively if needed, by the way? Some of the fighters' maneouvres'll be dramatic, and you'll need to bustle to keep 'em in the camera viewfinders, y'know."

"We'll do our best." Gabrielle giving the man her brightest Medusa stare. "Within safety parameters, of course. We ain't got any intentions of goin' above an' beyond, though; not for a B-rated movie that'll probably only show for a limited season at the lesser fleapits, put your mind at rest there, Mister!"

"Hey, ladies, is that nice, or what!"

But Claire and Gabrielle had already turned towards the B25, leaving the manager to shrug his shoulders and turn to his team of stunt pilots.

Five minutes later the bomber was climbing to 5,000 feet with Claire at the controls, Gabrielle by her side.

"How's it feel?"

"Not bad, everything's coming back; though it feels a little heavy, I got'ta say."

"Glad t'hear it." Gabrielle shuffling her maps on her lap. "Though I thought we were gon'na run out'ta runway there, mind. Took at least fifty yards further t'get up than it should'a, y'know! Anyway, we need t'get to six thousand feet, level off heading in a nor-westerly direction, then wait for the fighters t'appear from the south-east an' below us."

"The intercom operating with the cameramen?"

Gabrielle threw the switch taking the cockpit off private interchanges to connect with the rest of the crew.

"Hallo, everyone on call? Nose?"

"Hear ya fine, lady."

"Upper turret?"

"Yeah, I'm here, good visibility all round."

"Waist gun-,er, I mean, camera?"

"OK here, just loading my film magazine, gim'me a coupl'a minutes."

"Tail?"

"Whazzat?"

"Tail," Gabrielle repeating herself rather snappily. "What's up?"

"What's up?" The tail cameraman just now finding out that a rear gun turret, even without guns, was not a featherbed of luxury and comfort. "I'm stuck in a sardine-can I can't get out of, there's no heating an' the glass's open for my lens. I'm f-ckin' freezin' here, an' we ain't been up for five minutes yet. By the time we come down I'll be f-ckin' frozen solid. An' I don't think the film stocks gon'na take these temperatures t'heart either; just so's ya know!"

"I know, but do I care!" Gabrielle wholly dismissive of these amateur grumbles. "Back in the late conflict—you may have heard of it—I used to go on flights in your position that lasted eight hours or more, an' survive! So give the grouses' time-out, OK?"

Something unintelligible came over the airwaves from the rear turret before Gabrielle switched back to cockpit privacy.

"Bunch o'kids, don't know their livin'!"

"Yeah, makes ya feel old an' past it, don't it, baby. But I still love ya all the same."

Gabrielle giggled lightly.

"Only thing keepin' me goin' in my twilight years, baby, fer sure!"

—O—

It became obvious almost on the first pass of the fighter planes that the heavier B25 was going to have issues keeping the more aerobatic aircraft within the limits of the camera lens'.

"Can't you keep this crate on an even course?" Bart Nicols, head cameraman in the waist exerting over the intercom what he fondly believed was his overpowering authority. "We keep missing the planes' fly-by's; try'n do better, will ya?"

"Listen, laddie, I'm flyin' this thing up to legal limits an' no further." Claire exerting her authority. "I'll look after the plane; you look after your cameras. If you have problems, they ain't mine, buster."

"Hey, who the hell's in charge here?" Bart firing-up at this opposition. "I'll have ya know—"

"I'm the boss, buddy!" Claire making her position incontrovertible to all and sundry. "Don't come the haughty Film Boss with me, son! As long as you're in my plane you're under my orders; not the other way round—so zip it, bud! If ya can't get the planes' in your viewfinder to your satisfaction that ain't got anything t'do with the way I fly this crate—do better yourself!"

Bart, sorely hurt as he was, still had some fight left.

"Who's payin' you here, dame? The Film Company! So, as it's representative, I'll dam' well tell ya what I want an' you'll dam' well follow orders or I'll know the reason why, lady!"

Which, of course, was just the trigger Claire was waiting for.

"Hey, what's up?" Bart reacting to the sudden change of course Claire had immediately initiated. "What ya doin'? Where we goin'? We still got hours o'filmin' t'do.

"Not this mornin', anymore." Claire adamant about this detail. "Show's over for the day; we're goin' back t'base, t'get our priorities sorted out before we have another flight. Settle down, we'll be landin' in less than five minutes."

"Hoi! Ya con't do that!" Bart losing all control. "I order ya t'carry on flyin', dam'mit!"

"Save your breath for your soup, buster." Gabrielle cutting-in here. "The Captain's told ya what's happenin'; an', buster, it's happenin'! Sit back an' relax."

—O—

The room given over to the Film Company in the airfield building was small and sparsely furnished; just a long table with six chairs, barely enough for the group of officials now seated along both sides. Present, in addition to Claire and Gabrielle, were Mark Qwenford, Production Manager; Bart Nicols, Head Cameraman; Harold Langham, Front Office Accountant; and two other anonymous suits: all the men looking as if they were attending an execution.

"This won't do, ladies." Mark laying down the Law as a basis for his company's standing. "We're making a movie here; everyone has to muck in and do their best for the boys—and girls, I suppose. We can't have this sort of mutiny going on all round unopposed. When Mister Nicols here says do, you do, ladies, that's all there is to it. Otherwise we find ourselves someone else t'fly the plane is all. Take it or leave it."

Claire rose from her chair, accompanied in this by Gabrielle, neither looking the least put out.

"We'll leave it, thanks. By the way, we take the Bee Twenty-five with us." Claire laying down the Law as she perceived it. "It's rented to us personally through a series of Government Organisations an' Departments too deep for you fella's to follow, believe me. We go, your camera transport goes with us; you ain't gon'na get anyone else t'fly the thing, 'cause that'd be illegal across the board. Try it an' watch your movie bein' shut down permanent before you can blink three times. Come on, Gab."

"Hey, wait a minute!" Mark taken aback from boots to the top of his flat-top crewcut. "What the hell!"

"Ring your boss's at Head Office." Gabrielle giving her advice for the benefit of the team. "See what they say."

Mark gazed at the women in perplexity, then glanced at Bart who glanced at Harold who deflected this to one of the unnamed suits who in turn gave his companion minion a scathing glance; making him, at the tail of the serpent, pick up the phone on the table and ring a number. A conversation ensuing which in its intensity and depth set new levels of interest, dismay, disappointment, and bafflement amongst the officials present: they for the first time discovering what an immovable object actually felt like. The designated minion finally hanging up the phone with a look of distress appropriate to one of the passengers on the Titanic who had just missed the last lifeboat.

"No dice, sir. She's right! She's got the reins in this business; what she says goes, all legal and shipshape. We can't do anything; the Government has a lasso round this business tighter than a—than a—well, we ain't got a dam' leg t'stand on is the way it pans out, sir!"

"Sh-t!"

"Well, there ya are, buster." Claire coming in for the kill. "You take Gabrielle an' I as we are; we run the business when in the air; your boys follow our orders or else. This plane's an early mark, been through fire an' brimstone during the War; Y'can still see patched bullet an' cannon-holes along the waist. Testing it t'the limits t'day would be madness, an' I ain't gon'na do it. That's the way it is; that's the way I'm runnin' things. Take it or leave it, Mister Qwenford. So, which'll it be?"

"Sh-t!"

"Just so!"

—O—

The next day's filming got off to a sticky start, Bart Nicols aspirations pushing hard against Claire's determination to fly her plane the way she saw fit.

"No, I ain't puttin' the crate in'ta a nose dive jus' for you t'get an action shot." She laying down the law with resolve. "Plane can't take it, so think of another shot, laddie."

"I ain't no g-d'd-m laddie, people who work fer me call me Mister Nicols, I'll have ya know."

"There's your mistake, laddie." Gabrielle, in the co-pilot's seat, pushing for the home team. "We don't work for you or your Film Company; we work for the Government and are on lease for this unwinding fiasco—so bite it, buster! You make your cameras work; we'll, Claire an' I, make the plane work: two different issues."

Bart, after a short pause, replied in a sorrowful tone.

"I got'ta get a particular action shot, the Fockes' nosing down at a steep angle at speed. If ya don't nose-dive along with them how'm I supposed t'get the shot?"

"Some other way." Gabrielle clear on this point. "We ain't nose-diving in this decrepit plane; we do, we crash is all—so put that scenario out'ta your mind altogether."

The next half hour was filled by expletives, prayers to a variety of Gods, and plain imprecations as the camera crew fought against the odds to get the shots of the passing fighter planes needed for the film. At the end of this period of time Bart called it a day.

"Listen, Miss Mathews, this's gettin' me an' my boys here nowhere; just a waste of stock. Can we go back an' land, thanks?"

"Anything you say, sure."

Ten minutes later they were all back on the ground at Green Lake, milling about in a loose group. Finally Bart traipsed over to join the women, looking dark and gloomy.

"Ladies, this can't go on; either ya make an effort t'help here or we may as well dump the movie altogether. It's all up to you two."

Claire shook her head calmly.

"That's trying to pass the buck, an' you know it. You want shots I'm not prepared to chase in this plane—it can't take it. You'll just have to settle for lesser shots; or, like ya said, give it all up—no skin off my nose, please yourself, sure."

"Qwenford—"

"Qwenford may be a great film producer but he knows diddly-squat about flying old dilapidated planes." Gabrielle giving of her inner feelings. "What you're looking for is great, dramatic, overwhelmingly entertaining shots of fighter planes zipping about the sky; the only problem being this old Bee Twenty-five isn't up to chasing such fast planes—and Claire, not being mad, isn't goin' t'push it to try. What you need to do, Mister Nicols, is rein in your wishes an' make do with an acceptable less rather than an impossible more, OK?"

Nicols tried another angle.

"Can't you put the crate in a shallow dive? More of a curve than a straight dive?"

Claire shook her head.

"No."

"Oh, come on—"

"Look, Mister Nicols, there's a difference of opinion here." Claire pointing at the cameraman's chest with a delicate finger. "You think you know everything about filming a scene. The trouble is you also think you know all there is to know about flying dangerous aircraft in impossibly dangerous situations. Allow me to inform you of your mistaken viewpoint. The kind of acrobatics you want Gabrielle an' I to perform in that Bee Twenty-five over there are wholly outside its capabilities; and I speak here as an expert with bags of experience in the matter. There's nothing more t'be said on the matter, believe me."

"You got'ta lower your expectations." Gabrielle giving of her opinion. "That, or we'll never get anywhere; there ain't no other recourse."

"Sh-t!"

"Well, there ya are. Coming over t'the commisariat, Ricky? I feel like a warming cup'pa coffee an' sandwich."

"Sure, lead the way."

—O—

Three days after filming finally started Bart and his assistants still only had four or five minutes of useable film, where they had hoped for fifteen or so. The daily arguments about what the cameramen hoped for and what Claire and Gabrielle could deliver on were still so infinitely opposed as to lead to no clear decision. Mark Qwenford had lit up the telephone wires between Green Lake and Ottawa searching for some loophole in his contract that would allow him to exert the level of leadership he craved, but such was not forthcoming however much he begged the corporate lawyers. So by the fourth day he was in close meeting with Hank Nicols over just what could be done to rescue the movie. Claire and Gabrielle, meanwhile, stood by the B25 giving it an external going-over to list its snags and problems.

"See that line of patches along the rear of the waist, over on the port side?"

Claire had indeed spotted this in her earlier walk-round.

"Yeah, plane must'a had a nasty moment when that happened. Captain did well t'get it back down in more or less one piece."

"Been looking at the rear gun turret—you?"

Claire gave her loved partner a cool gaze.

"Not specially, why?"

"Think it's been wholly replaced; the whole thing, from the end of the waist. You can see the line of new bolts and different texture of steel skin. I think they chopped off the whole rear, turret, tailplane an' all. That can't have done the crate any good overall; what d'you think?"

"Hmm, ya make a fair point. The plane, as we see it now, is bits an' pieces cobbled t'gether, is what you're sayin'?"

"Yeah, like a jigsaw puzzle, though the new bits are taken from different packets of the same puzzle, if you see what I mean." Gabrielle digging herself into a swamp of logical thinking. "All sorts of strains now on different parts of the airframe, is what I'm gettin' at."

"It seemed a battered wreck from the get-go, sure." Claire allowing the criticism. "Wondered about that myself. Obviously rescued from some boneyard, when they could'a, I suppose, have leased one of the one's they still keep in perfect condition in squadrons they operate t'day."

"Obviously thought a mere film company didn't merit one of those; make do with a rusting wreck!"

"Har!"

"Oh, here comes Mark."

"Oh, God! All I need now."

"Ladies, got a question for you both."

Both women looked at the Producer suspiciously.

"Which is what?" Claire heading the team.

"Could we—could I—could the Film company; that is, could we—could you see fit if we changed to another set of pilots?" Mark finding it more than difficult to bring up the subject of his position. "You two step aside for a few days, while I put in another couple of men, who'll foll—er, that is, who will be able to fly the plane the way that's most useful for what's needed?"

Claire and Gabrielle looked at each other, though both already knew each other's view on the matter.

"No." Claire putting it succinctly.

"No!" Mark perplexed by this answer. "Surely I can change pilots when I think it's necessary? I am the bloody Film producer, after all, when all's said an' done! I'm gon'na put new pilots in charge, an' have 'em do what I want, an' that's it, ladies. You can both go an' surrender your lunch-baskets before ya leave the airfield, OK?"

"No!" Claire calmly repeating herself.

"Ladies, argument can't hel—"

"For the umpteenth time, we don't work for you or the Film Company." Claire laying down the Law yet again. "We, Gabrielle and I, are the lessees for the Bee Twenty-five, which in turn is leased from the Canadian Royal Air Force to us, not you or your minions or leaders. You have no authority over either us or the plane; doing or trying to do anything along the lines you've just specified is in direct opposition to the contract you signed. You can't fire Gabrielle or I; you can't impose other pilots whenever you choose; you have no authority in either of those positions whatever."

Mark stood, moving from one foot to the other obviously nonplussed by this stonewall which had suddenly appeared before him.

"I—I—I don't know—"

"Quite clearly," Gabrielle making plain her position. "if ya did this debacle we've just gone through would never have occurred. You look after your cameras; the plane belongs t'us, not you—just get over it an' move on. If you can't get the footage you want with us flying the plane then you ain't gon'na get the footage at all; that's Life, buster."

Mark glanced from one to the other woman, searching for an adequate answer which, not being forthcoming, left him no recourse but to turn on his heel and stalk away defeated at all points.

"I think we won that battle too."

Claire smiled for the first time that morning.

"Yeah, I'm glad t'say. Let's hope that's the last query about what the plane can do an' who's in charge of it."

Gabrielle looked askance at her lover as they walked away from the shadow of the plane.

"When that happens, lover, it'll be the day pigs can fly, my opinion."

"Har!"

—O—

Over the next two days filming it became clear that what Mark Qwenford wanted was exciting action-filled footage of the fighters performing death-defying acrobatics taken from a camera-plane engaged in more or less the same dangerous activities—for versimilitude, he said, over and over again. When Claire comprehensively and conclusively refused to follow this line he became distressed, followed by passionate imprecations, ending in him flying to Ottawa one day to beard the Lawyers in their dens; end result, no-go, followed by a fit of the Blue Devils. The whole situation coming to a head in the Film Company's office in the Airfield building the morning of his return.

"Look, ladies, it comes down t'this—the way you fly the dam' Bee Twenty-five a child of three could overtake it, run faster than it, and as its pilots perform acrobatics way beyond anything either of you feel pressed to accomplish. I want footage that'll make the cinema audiences sit up an' applaud wholesale; whereas the footage you're giving me they'll get up an' leave, asking for their money back on the way! Good God, I mean!"

Claire shook her head, confident of her position.

"Ya got'ta look at the realities of the whole thing, Mark. This Bee Twenty-five's near on ten years old; it's been through the War in a fighting capacity, still showing the scars. It's old, it's decrepit, it sorely needs a refit, and any attempt to push it too far'll end in disaster; and when that disaster happens, as it surely would under your command, neither Gabrielle nor I wan'na be anywhere near, never mind actually inside, the thing!"

So opposed Qwenford fell back on the only answer the Lawyers, safely ensconced hundreds of miles away, had come up with.

"I can dump you an' the dam' Bee Twenty-five! Get another team, an' another plane, an' take it from there!"

"Oh, can you indeed?" Gabrielle preparing to go berserk, something she was good at.

"Yeah, I can an', I'm pretty much determined, I shall, so there!"

"Go ahead." Claire not put-out at all, in fact nearly grinning in the man's face. "According to our contract you'll have to pay a full month's rent on the plane and supply Gabrielle's an' my salary for a statutory three months as severance pay. You up t'that?"

Staggered by this minor, but damned expensive, detail Mark stepped back a pace or two before regaining his nerve.

"It'd—it's—it'd be well worth it, I'm sure! At least then I'll get the dammed footage I've been missing these last few days. Let me see real pilots flying a plane for real, at last; be worth it for that alone, dam'mit!"

The women exchanged a quick glance that was more of a telepathic communication before Gabrielle put their combined answer in words.

"Feel free, no skin off either of our noses. We'll take the Bee Twenty-five an' return t'our base this mornin', thanks. Best of luck with your new crate an' pilots. Just make sure to order 'em t'make their Last Wills an' Testaments before they sign your contract's all, OK?"

"Ladies—"

"Chow!" Claire heading off, Gabrielle by her side, with head in the air and no concern for the Producer whatsoever.

—O—

It was only a further 10 days before Gabrielle, comfortably installed in the small office at Gatch's Point, Lake Seclusion in the south of the Province, put down her coffee mug, laid an iced biscuit carefully back on its plate, spread the local newspaper wide on the desk and commenced to read out loud an article for her lover's benefit.

"Listen'a this, babe, you'll laugh like a dam' hyena."

"Oh, shall I?" Claire always up for a dialectical argument when offered. "Sez who?"

"Jus' listen, you'll see."

"Oh, get on with it, then; I wan'na chomp down on another of these lilac-iced biscuits in peace."

"—from the La Ronge Ranger—"

"Didn't know we took that weekly rag!" Claire butting-in from habit.

"—dated yesterday," Gabrielle, through long necessity, carrying-on unfazed. "—'it is reported that two days since, up at Green Lake, this Province, a possible tragedy was only just averted when a large Boeing aircraft only recently modified to take several large colour cameras for a Film Company crashed on take-off nearly injuring the crew of ten. The machine, failing to gain height from overloading, swept off the end of the runway, sliding to a halt on the grass perimeter minus undercarriage and propellors though no fire ensued and all escaped the wreck unscathed.' Well, wha'ya think of that? It happened, jus' like you prophesied, baby."

Claire sniffed with a sarcastic air.

"Anyone could'a done the same; I only told Qwenford what would logically happen, an' apparently it did. Nuthin' curious about that; just glad no-one was hurt. Wonder how it affects his movie, though?"

Gabrielle returned to the printed page before her.

"—our reporter on the scene tells us that the Film Company in question—Bulwark-Resplendent—have decided to put the movie on hold for the forseeable future—"

"Kicked the whole concern in'ta the long grass—last we'll hear of that movie, for sure!"

"Yeah, very likely." Gabrielle nodding her agreement with this measured assessment. "So, time for another cuppa coffee, an' two more of these delicious biscuits each, or should we buckle down t'work, lover?"

"Pass the biscuit plate, dear."

"Yay, my choice too—here we are; don't take 'em all, mind!"

The End

Another 'Atalanta Haulage' story will arrive shortly.

—O—