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The black '68 Bentley roared to a halt just inches from the large, gilt gates of the St. Clair studios. The guard jumped out of his booth, furious at being disturbed in his perusal of Playboy. His belligerent features experienced a sudden metamorphosis when he recognized the car and the man in the back seat.
“Open up! Open up for Mr. St. Clair!” He windmilled his arms frantically to communicate the urgency of the situation to his compatriots behind the gates. The car started up again the instant the gates were parted, almost knocking down the panic-stricken guard in its unexpected burst of speed. It charged through the complex of low, flat buildings forcing the sudden dispersion of several oddly assorted groups of pedestrians including a phalanx of cigarette-smoking Roman legionnaires, some fierce-looking, war-painted Apaches shod in white sneakers, and a pair of Turkish belly dancers with their hair in curlers. It finally came to a halt at the side of one of the buildings in front of a heavy metal door surmounted by a glowing red light.
Like a jack-in-the-box a uniformed chauffeur popped out, opened the rear door and stood at attention. A short undistinguished-looking man was the first to get out. He adjusted his tie, slicked back his pomaded hair and stepped to one side only slightly more at ease than the erect chauffeur.
King St Clair emerged with the muscular grace of a panther. He stood still for a minute as if he was scenting his prey. His rugged features were made inscrutable by the dark glasses he wore, and by the rim of the black homburg perched at a rakish angle on his head. He spoke to the chauffeur without acknowledging his presence by looking at him. “Two things—one: there was a cigarette butt in the ashtray when I stepped in the car this morning, two: there's a scratch an inch and a half long on the back bumper. I want a report from you, in writing, explaining how both these things can happen when you're supposed to be doing your job properly. You hand that in together with your letter of resignation tomorrow.”
“But—if I'm going to be fired—?”, the chauffeur sputtered in astonishment.
“Unless you'd like me to see to it that your license is revoked, you'll do as I say!”
St. Clair turned to the short man who was squirming in sympathetic discomfort. “Let's get started, Marty!”
The short man flashed a mouthful of porcelain-capped teeth in a forced steeplechase smile. He yanked open the metal door, shrugged helplessly at the chauffeur as St. Clair strode in, then dutifully scurried after him.
Once on the other side of the door they found themselves in an interior the size of a large airplane hanger. A jungle of equipment—cameras on dollies, booms, suspended microphones, klieg lights—was silhouetted against a brilliantly illuminated set depicting a ballroom in ante-bellum days. Men in Confederate uniforms were waltzing women in swirling decollete gowns. They were being accompanied by a group of tired-looking musicians in their shirtsleeves located just out of camera range. The music stopped and a camera set up on a huge crane device zeroed in on the two leads who were carrying on an amorous dialogue.
“Brett, I can't believe that you're here dancing with me tonight and tomorrow you'll be—you'll be out there with the noise and the guns and the men dying!”
“It's more than just men who are dying, Lucinda—it's the South, our whole way of life! The Yanks want to sweep away everything, the good with the bad! We have to stop them.”
“But if we were married Brett—tonight—then at least there would be the future to look forward to!”
“There's no time for that, Lucinda! Besides you're too young a girl to become a soldier's widow. You've got your whole life ahead of you!”
King St. Clair's booming voice echoed across the set like a precursor of judgment day.
“Bullshit!”, he repeated.
Cass Banion, the director, jumped out of his camp chair in a frenzy of excitement. “Cut! Cut! The take is ruined! Who the hell said that?” He scanned the studio looking for the intruder.
St. Clair calmly strode onto the set, stepped between the two “lovers” and addressed the leading man in rebel gray. “How old are you, Roger?”
After a moment's hesitation Roger Douglas, voted the most promising male personality in last month's Screen Faces poll, stammered out an answer. “Twenty-six—I'm twenty-six!”
“Do you know the age of this “girl” who's doing the scene with you?”
“No, I don't know Miss Arden's age.”
“Well I'll tell you Miss Arden's age. Forty-five! Do you think she's too young to marry now?”
Douglas reddened with embarrassment. Sheila Arden, numb with shock, was muttering beneath her breath at St. Clair. “King—you bastard—what are you doing to me?”
Cass Banion, whose anger had taken on a cautious cast when he saw the intruder was St. Clair now attempted to intervene. “Look, King, I don't know what this is all about but couldn't we work it out someplace else? I'm behind on my shooting schedule now. This is no time for personal grievances.”
St. Clair snapped back at him. “You know me better than that, Cass! With me everything is business, strictly business! I've seen the rushes on yesterday's takes and it looks to me like this is going to be the bomb that sinks St. Clair Productions!”
That's not true, King, we have a strong script, the most lavish sets since Gone With the Wind and some of the best actors in the business, not to mention me at the helm! I've never let you down, have I?”
“No you haven't Cass, and I'm not going to let you do it now—she goes!” He stabbed his finger in the direction of Sheila Arden like a prosecuting attorney.
A deathly quiet descended over the set as the calumniated woman walked up to St. Clair and raised her hand preparatory to striking him. He intercepted the blow and twisted her wrist till she cried out. “No—don't! Let go, King! Let-go!”
“You let go, Sheila! You've been hanging on too long now. It's time for younger, better actresses to have their innings. You've shot your load, baby! Even the make-up man can't hide all those nights of boozing and whoring. Let go, Sheila, get out of the business now! Find yourself some rich sucker who'll take care of you before you wind up like one of those dames who have to pay when they want it!”
When he let go of her hand she looked at him with glaring hatred. She turned and ran to her dressing room, emerging almost immediately with a mink coat flung hastily about her shoulders not quite covering her costume. She left the set, nose in air, without so much as a glance at her tormentor or her co-workers.
Banion dismissed the crew trying to conceal his chagrin, “Okay people that's it! No more shooting today. You'll all be notified when to report!”
The crew and cast dispersed reluctantly, moving off in small groups buzzing over Sheila Arden's disgrace and the sudden monkey-wrench thrown into the production. Only one of the extras remained behind seating herself in Sheila Arden's vacant camp chair like a throne's pretender. Barbara Brody had wanted to know what it felt like to sit in that chair with her name blazoned across the back, to have the director ask if you were ready instead of barking commands as if you were some performing animal. She knew that the only way to a chair and dressing room of her own was through St. Clair's casting couch. “Okay,” she thought, “if that's the way it has to be! I can give him a lot better tumble than that cow Sheila!” She pulled down the top of her costume till her breasts were revealed down to the top of the pink circumference of her nipples. She sucked in her stomach and waited.
Banion and St. Clair were in heated discussion, oblivious to her—only Marty Ryder, St Clair's dapper little press agent, was eyeing her greedily.
“Listen King, if you want to give Sheila her comeuppance it's okay with me. She can't act her way out of a banana peel and I never had any use for the bitch personally. But why come in here like a Sherman tank and mow her down in the middle of a take in front of the whole crew and two hundred extras? And what's more important, what in hell happens to the picture now? If you halt production you're out six million already!”
“Who said anything about halting production?”
“We've done five weeks of shooting and you yank my leading lady out from under my nose... just what am I supposed to do, have Roger Douglas marry General Lee?”
“Why not, he's a faggot, ain't he?” Marty chimed in.
St Clair signaled him to be silent the suggestion of a smile flickered about his lips for the first time.
“You're a bright boy, Cass. That's why I let you speak your mind to me. If I didn't like you you'd be back shooting those crappy underground movies in Greenwich Village.”
“You've done okay with me, haven't you?”
“That's right, King, and you've seen same money on the films I've made for you.”
“And we're both going to see a lot more on this one—only you have to trust my judgment, Cass. If all I wanted was to get Sheila, I could have let loose a few choice pieces of gossip to Veda Broadhurst for her bitchy column and that would have done the job. Veda would have loved to know about that sixteen year old she was shacking up with in Mexico City or the time she jumped up on the table at the Larrimore party, squatted over the punch bowl and peed in it; No, there are bigger things at stake than that whore's reputation. By firing her like this I get The Blue and the Gray a million bucks of free publicity. The suckers will pay good money to look at the broad who took the place of Sheila Arden.
“And who, may I ask, might that be?”
“That's what you're going to find out Cass, baby!”
“Yes, you! I'm setting up a nationwide competition to find the new 'Lucinda' and you're going to be the judge. You're going to visit every jerkwater stop in the country that has an amateur theatrical society, every college dramatic group and every church basement until we come up with her!”
“What about the production schedule?”
“No sweat. I've talked the backers into playing ball. This picture will either net me the U.S. Mint or break my back, and I don't intend to break!”
“Publicity is one thing, but a good picture is another. How can I turn in a good job if I have to teach the ropes to some starry-eyed kid?”
“Because pictures live or die on their publicity and nothing else. I made my fortune on sex films and Italian westerns. If not for those, you wouldn't have the chance to play around with your arty camera angles and your 'social significance'. No, Cass, it's up to you to find me an unknown. If you can find a Sarah Bernhardt, fine, if not any two-breasted broad who can read a dummy card will do the trick. I personally don't give a damn!”
“Okay, King, I get you—The Blue and the Gray becomes a three-ring circus and you're the ringmaster. I don't like it but I guess I'm just one of the clowns around here.”
St. Clair put his arm around Banion's shoulder in feigned camaraderie, “Don't take it so hard, Cass! Look on it as a challenge. You're going to make a star! I've made quite a few in my time—eh, Marty?” He looked for approval of his witticism from his press agent but Ryder was lost in contemplation of Barbara Brody's cleavage. “Marty! I'm not paying you twenty five-G's for daydreaming!”
The flunky snapped to attention, “Sorry! Sorry Mr. St. Clair! I guess I'm too much like you, I got a big eye for the girls!”
“There's not one atom of you that's anything like me, Marty, and don't you forget it! Now, what are you talking about?”
“The broad! The one with the big ramparts! Sitting over there!” He indicated Barbara.
St. Clair became aware of the girl for the first time. “Who is she, Cass?”
“I don't know. Looks like one of the extras for the ballroom scene. I'll tell her to get lost.”
“No—no, not yet. Call her over here. I want to meet her.”
Dubiously, Banion did as he was told. Barbara walked towards them, not too quickly, she wanted to give St. Clair the opportunity to make a good survey of what she had to offer. When she got up close, St. Clair was the first to speak. His tone was low and insinuating. “You must have heard a lot sitting there.”
“I'm a girl who can keep her mouth shut, Mr. St. Clair.”
“Really? But you don't want to keep it shut all the time do you? It's a lovely mouth, dear. I can think of a lot better uses for it!”
“I've wanted to meet you for a long time, Mr. St. Clair, I hope you won't think I'm too bold doing it this way.”
“You can never be too bold, honey. If you've got what it takes—flaunt it! Nice girls finish last too, you know.”
“Then I should win the race!” she smiled up at him alluringly. She was aware that one of her nipples had slipped free of her dress and that all three men had their eyes on it, but she pretended not to notice.
“I see you were sitting in Miss Arden's chair. Am I right in guessing there's a reason for that?”
His tone was smooth and encouraging. Barbara thought she might as well go for broke.
“I guess you could say, Mr. St. Clair, that I've wanted to take her place for a long time!”
“Do you think you're qualified?”
“I can act circles around her, Mr. St. Clair!”
“I repeat—do you think you're qualified?”
She got the drift of his meaning and perceived that this was no time for subtlety. “I'm better qualified than Sheila Arden in every way and I can prove it.”
St. Clair laughed like someone who's just been told a dirty joke. “You hear that, Cass? The girl's qualified! Okay! If we're going to run a contest, there's no time like the present to get started! Would you like to give the young lady her first test, Cass?”
Banion's answer was guarded. “You're calling all the shots, King, why don't you test her?”
Barbara jumped at the opportunity. “I'd love the chance to prove myself to you personally, Mr. St. Clair!”
“All right, my dear. Since Mr. Banion seems to have deferred to my authority I'm going to give you your test right now. How does that suit you?”
“Now? But I thought-”
“Don't think! It makes wrinkles. Do you want the chance or don't you?”
“Yes—oh yes!—I want it!”
“Then you're going to get it. Marty, we'll be in Miss Arden's former dressing room. See to it that we're not disturbed.”
St. Clair grabbed the girl by the arm and hauled her off to the vacated dressing room so forcibly that she stumbled several times over her voluminous skirt. She knew the kind of test she was going to receive, it was one she had been through many times before though never with anyone so influential as King St. Clair. She had hoped for a more leisurely seduction, perhaps even an invitation to his home near Malibu, the one she had heard of often, with the swimming pool shaped like a woman's mouth and the rooms with the trick mirrors. She would have settled for the usual motel room. There was something about making it in Sheila Arden's dressing room that was unnerving. It wasn't just the idea of the two men waiting out there for them to finish; she had long since stopped worrying about her reputation, it was the way St. Clair had dragged her off, as though he were seizing upon the nearest spot to satisfy a natural need and she was only an implement to that end. Still she had heard many stories of St. Clair's eccentricity and if he got his kicks doing it in broom closets, the smart thing was to play along. The part was up for grabs and it was obvious that he didn't give a damn who got it, as long as the publicity angle was going well. So if she made it good for him—very good—so that he'd want to come back for more, there was an excellent chance she would be the new Lucinda and be able to park her pretty fanny in one of those chairs with her name on the back.
He closed the door behind them and stood there. She knew he was surveying her from behind those dark glasses—if she could only see his eyes! If she could only tell what part of her anatomy he was concentrating on—she might know better how to please him.
The walk were papered with publicity stills of Sheila Arden. How she envied that bitch! A second-rate body and face parlayed into a million bucks! There was no doubt about how she had done it. She must have been an apt pupil of St. Clair's likes and dislikes. She must have learned to scratch him where he itched! If only she knew that sensitive spot!
“I guess all these pictures of Miss Arden will have to come down now that she's gone.”
“They won't go to waste, I'll use them for wall-paper in the commissary men's room.”
“She must be very stupid to get you so mad. If I were — closely acquainted with a gentleman like you, I'd make sure you were pleased with me all the time.”
“How would you manage that?”
“By doing just what you say—no questions asked!”
“How old are you?”
“I'm twenty-three, but I make it like I'm forty-six, I stand five feet five in my nylon'd tootsies, and I'm a natural blonde.”
“Can you prove it?”
“There's one sure-fire way of finding out, Mr. St. Clair, and I know I don't have to tell you what that is!”
St. Clair smiled a crooked smile, he reached out with his hand, methodically freed her partially revealed breast and squeezed it hard. He was hurting her but she bit her tongue and kept from crying out, it wouldn't do to betray any squeamishness after the big buildup she just gave him.
“I see you're a breast man, Mr. St. Clair.”
“You see wrong! Breasts are good for preliminaries. I tire of them after a while.”
“Let me know when you're tired!”
He stuck his hand into the long tangle of her wild blonde hair and wound it about his fingers. Pulling her gently but firmly by the hair he led her to the couch at the far end of the room. They sat down. She was smiling at him, trying to still the small, unreasonable fear that was fluttering in her breast. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, she was determined not to let it get away from her.
He spoke in warm, almost paternal tones, “This is a foolish costume isn't it, dear? It conceals some of the most charming parts of the female anatomy. I hope you don't have on a pair of those long, ruffled bloomers underneath it or one of those iron-maiden corsets.”
“I have nothing on underneath it.”
“Really? I thought I told the costume department to go all out on the budget.”
“They did. But I couldn't stand all those underclothes beneath the hot lights—so I took them off.”
“I admire a girl with initiative. You don't mind if I see for myself do you?” Without waiting for an answer, he plunged his hand under the billowy skirt and started massaging her calf and the backside of her knee. He rubbed and squeezed vigorously as if he were kneading dough. After a minute, the hand slid over the back of her thigh and commenced a stroking movement which ran the entire satin-smooth length and terminated in the deliciously rounded rump. Finally it discovered her rear cleavage and traced a titillating path down it, which sent shudders of ecstasy along her spine. A little past the juncture of her parted buttocks, it came upon her moist receptacle which it quickly pried open. She threw back her head and gave a low, throaty moan. He took advantage of her open mouth and clamped his own over it. She knew it was time to show him what she could do. Her tongue slowly blossomed in his mouth like a wet, tropical flower while she crooked her own hand down to his bulging necessity. After a minute or so of customary soul kissing, which consisted of the steady rhythmic thrust of her tongue against his own, she started to employ a variant in which they both shook their heads from one side to another as if they were saying “no” while their protruding tongues met in an emphatic “yes”!
By the insidious use of tongue and fingers he had succeeded in invading every orifice of her body simultaneously. She felt utterly possessed by this strange man who, even in the heat of his passion, seemed to be keeping a part of himself remote from her. Their salivary exchange was copious now and she freed her mouth from his and gasped for air like a deep-sea diver surfacing. She thought to slake his lust momentarily by asking him a question that had been preying on her mind.
“Tell me, why is it that every time I've caught a glimpse of you and even now, when we're making love, you're always wearing those fierce-looking dark glasses?”
He seemed annoyed and impatient to get on with the business at hand but he answered her, “Because they're my protection! Understand? If I had to look at the world and the people in it as they really are, I'd puke my guts out! These glasses—they blur the hard edges, they make everything softer, easier to take.”
“Do you need to make me softer looking?”
“Even you, baby! Even a luscious piece like you!” He seized her by the shoulders and pushed her back on the couch. With movements made deft by long experience, he unhooked his belt and lowered his trousers with one hand, while keeping her pinioned with the other. She wondered just how he was going to take her. He apparently was content to have her lie on her back. That reassured her. The most uncomfortable sex experiences she had had were with men who insisted on unusual postures. It was only the homburg and the dark glasses that continued to make her a bit wary. She had the impression he wore them because to take them off would have been extraneous to the act he was about to perform—and King St. Clair was not a man to waste movements.
She wriggled the costume down from her shoulders, this time completely baring both her love-melons. He was crouching over her like a predatory jaguar. To her surprise, she suddenly found him between her breasts, lunging along the narrow valley dividing the twin delectable hills. This was going to be easier than she thought, a bit messy perhaps, but easy.
She cradled the pectoral intruder lovingly. It made her think of Cleopatra crushing the serpent to her bosom. There was a role she'd like to play! The serpent's sojourn in the valley of plenty was, however, a short one.
Barbara finally discovered what King St Clair's bag was when he moved to his predetermined target. If she had raped his mouth with her tongue earlier, he was paying her back tenfold now. While the experience was not an utterly strange one for her, in the past she had always been the one in control. Now she found herself entirely engorged and helpless. She felt like the victim of a sex crime rather than an equal participant in a sex act.
St. Clair spewed forth a stream of profanity which included some expressions unfamiliar to even Barbara's jaded ears. He was using the foul language to whip himself up to new heights of eroticism, bucking frantically in her mouth until she was afraid she might choke. Her arms pinned down by his hairy knees were of no help in her attempt to repel his thrusts, so she drew up her legs and wrapped them around his waist in a scissor-hold while she struggled to dislodge the invader.
With the strength of a madman, he grabbed her ankles and yanked them apart spread-eagle fashion until, with one mighty yelp, he delivered all of his stored-up passion into her unwilling receptacle. She gagged, but fearing his anger, wisely decided not to reject the spurts of his ammoniac seed that slipped down her throat. He hovered over her for a few minutes like a reluctant incubus, then got to his feet and pulled up his trousers. She looked up at him, afraid to be the first to speak. She wondered if Sheila Arden had been taken the same way her first time out. Obviously, St. Clair wasn't about to break silence, concerned as he was only with restoring the crease to his rumpled trousers. It was up to her to say something, but what?
“That was wonderful.”
“Oh? Did you enjoy it?”
“Yes. I like being mastered by a man.”
“You wouldn't lie to me, would you?”
“Why should I lie? I enjoyed it as much as you did.”
He snapped back at her, “Who said I enjoyed it?”
“Well—it's just that—I thought—that is, you seemed to, the way you finished and everything!”
“Look, if you tap me on the knee, I'll kick my leg, if you flash a bright light in my eyes, I'll blink. Automatic reflexes—that's all! Who's to say it wasn't the same just now?”
“But I know you enjoyed me! The way you touched my body—”
“I'm conscious of pleasurable sensations in the nerve endings of my fingers. What produces them is a matter of indifference!”
She thought it best not to pursue the subject any further. If St. Clair wanted to pretend she wasn't especially desirable to him—well, that was his business. The important thing was playing Lucinda. Had she managed to sell him?
“Before we came in here you said this was going to be a test. Well? Did I pass?”
He shot her a keen look over his shoulder as he opened the dressing room door. “With flying colors, baby, with flying colors!”
He closed the door leaving her alone amid the myriad smiling photos of Sheila Arden. They seemed to be mocking her. Was this all there was to it? Was the part hers without any further bargaining? She hastily pulled her costume into a semblance of order and ran out after him. His rapid stride had already taken him across the soundstage to where Cass Banion and Marty Ryder were awaiting him. As she drew nearer, she could make out a bit of what they were saying.
“Marty's starting the ball rolling tomorrow. You and he are going on a tour of the whistle-stops. When I decide the publicity is at its peak, you pull any dame you want out of your hat—as long as she isn't already on the St. Clair payroll. The press is going to figure the fix is in anyway, so we don't want to make it too easy for them!”
“Don't worry about the press, Mr. St. Clair, they'll play ball with me. They owe me—all of them!”
“Not Veda Broadhurst, Marty! Don't underestimate the power of that bitch!”
“I can handle her!, All I have to do is give her the scoop on the next Lucinda.”
Cass Banion noticed Barbara standing a short distance from them. He motioned uneasily to St. Clair.
“King. Some unfinished business.”
St. Clair looked at her as if it were the first time in his life—and he wasn't too interested, at that. “If you're waiting for a streetcar, you're out of luck, baby. You're going to have to hoof it all the way.”
She repressed her anger. This was too dangerous a man to tangle with. But it was impossible to resist a jibe. “You said I was up for the part Mr. St. Clair. I think these gentlemen would like to know if you're as good as your word!”
He bellowed at her in a voice that reverberated throughout the sound track, “You wanted to whore yourself? Okay! You whored yourself! You get a whore's reward, not an actress's! Marty—give the broad twenty bucks or whatever the hell the going rate is, I've been out of touch with pigs!”
Ryder fished a bill out of his wallet and offered it to her. Barbara, her eyes flashing white-hot hatred raised her hand to slap him. Ryder seized her wrist and spoke to her so that the others couldn't hear. “Don't be a sucker, Honey. Take it! You get him any madder and he'll make it so that you don't work anywhere on the coast!”
She relented and he tucked the twenty in the top of her dress. St. Clair snapped his fingers at his flunky and motioned with his head that it was time to leave. The three men walked off the sound-stage leaving the girl standing there, faintly ridiculous in her rumpled costume. As they opened the door, she seemed suddenly to remember something and shouted after them.
“You—St. Clair—and the rest of you— you don't even know my name! You never even asked me my name! You never even asked me my name!”
When Gale Lynn stepped off the ramp from her Pan-Am jet to the welcome terra firma of Los Angeles Airport, she was momentarily blinded by a battery of flashbulbs fired by the small army of photographers lying in wait for her. She was immediately surrounded by a horde of predatory newsmen—all asking questions.
“How did you feel when they told you you beat out two hundred girls for the part of Lucinda?”
“Is it true you've had no prior experience, on the stage or screen?”
“Is it true that King St. Clair gave you a proposal of marriage along with your contract?”
She put her hands over her ears to shut out the din. She was afraid they might tear her apart. She had just congratulated herself oh surviving her first three thousand mile air journey and here she was in the midst of what seemed like a pack of wild beasts. Gale had been used to gentle handling all her life as one of the privileges of being a very pretty girl. Her good looks were of the kind that puzzled some men and inflamed others to fever pitch. Her cascade of velvety black hair framed a heart-shaped face, disarming in its expression of childlike innocence. A cupid's bow mouth which looked as if it were constantly puckered for a kiss underlined a snubbed nose covered with the most delicate saddle of freckles. Her eyes had a baby-doll stare, trusting at the same time they were inquisitive. From the neck up, Gale Lynn could have been the girl you shared your ice cream soda with on two straws or the sweetheart of Sigma Chi. From the neck down, it was a very different story. Her body looked like it meant business. Her long golden legs were revealed to magnificent advantage by a thigh-high miniskirt which hugged her buttocks tightly. The plumpness of those buttocks was dangerously inviting. Her breasts, large and firm, pointed their nipples tantalizingly upwards without benefit of a brassiere. The supple curve of her belly ran, unhindered by any corseting, into a smaller curve just between the juncture of the lovely pillars of her legs. Gale believed in having her body free to express itself, free of all unnatural encumbrances. To her it seemed the healthier way, to her male admirers it seemed a heaven-sent boon.
The questions were growing more insistent when suddenly the squat form of Marty Ryder elbowed its way through the circle of newsmen. He only came up to Gale's shoulder, but this didn't prevent him from putting his arm around her in a protective gesture and giving a commanding signal which silenced her harassers.
“Okay! Okay! Easy fellas! Remember, I used to be a reporter myself. Miss Lynn is all worn out from her long trip. You can see that, can't you? I'll answer your questions. Only keep 'em short and sweet! This is gonna be a very busy young lady from now on!”
“How old is she?”
“Eighteen! And if you doubt me, get a load of that complexion!”
Gale was twenty and thought the he unnecessary. She had never met this little man. Still, he seemed to be in charge and he certainly knew all the answers.
“What's her background? Has she had experience?”
“Not the kind you're thinkin' of, fella!” Ryder said with a leer. Gale was embarrassed at the obscene snickering of the crowd and the way Ryder's hand had slipped down to her hip.
“C'mon Marty! Level with us? Where did St. Clair find her?”
“Miss Lynn's a country girl. She hails from a small farm in New England where a cow ain't somethin' you wind up with on a blind date. She used to sing in the church choir and do bits in the school pageants. Mr. St. Clair was just passin' through on the tour when he stopped off to see the local school group do 'Romeo and Juliet'. He took one look at Miss Lynn leanin' over that balcony and that was it! He signed her on the dotted line!”
“Bunk,” Gale thought, “maybe I haven't had all the experience in the world, but I've had two good, solid years with the Actor's Studio and two seasons of summer stock doing everything from Sadie Thompson to Young Bess and I was born and raised on the upper East Side, New York! Why is he handing out all this gook?”
“What I wanna tell you fellas is this, Miss Lynn is something different. She's young, fresh and untouched talent—if you know what I mean!”
“'Untouched', do you spell that v-i-r-g-i-n?”
“Keep it clean, fellas. She's everything I said she was. Mr. St. Clair is gonna take her and mould her and build her up till she's the biggest name in the business!”
Gale flinched at the web of deceit Ryder had spun; she had never even met St. Clair. It was Cass Banion who caught her doing a scene from “Rose Tattoo” at the studio and told that he thought, with the proper prep-ration, he could get a great performance out of her as “Lucinda.” Ryder's last remark precipitated another barrage of questions.
“Is that why St. Clair fired Sheila Arden, because she isn't young and untouched?”
“What's the love angle, Marty? St. Clair is known for romancing all his leading ladies. Is she going to be the next Mrs. St. Clair?”
Ryder demurred, “That's all the time we've got! You'll just have to figure out some of those answers yourselves. Mr. St. Clair never gives out information concerning his private life!”