This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any actual resemblance to persons or historical persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Hooper characters, settings, locales, ect. are owned by other entities who have not endorsed this fic nor have they given express permission for the character's use. Author makes not claims to these characters and is not making any profit from their use.

All original characters are the property of the author.

Copyright: 2001-2004. Lisa Philbrick

Chapter Four
October 12, 1983

Before leaving the hospital Wednesday morning, Cully thanked the doctors and staff on duty for their help and care and couldn’t help but apologize for anything he did when he went through the withdrawal state. They told him he didn’t need to apologize and they wished him good luck.

Although Cully was financially in the same position he was in before he landed in the hospital, it seemed a burden of some sort had been lifted from his shoulders. He wasn’t sure but maybe it was because he had Leeah and Casey back with him again that seemed to make things okay. Seeing the sun shine and breathing in fresh air he wasn’t taking for granted either.

He skimmed through the Wednesday paper and even glanced at the want ads, but instead spent the balance of the afternoon playing with Casey and Tyler out in the yard. Even Dancer got into the romp, the animal appearing happy to see Cully again.

In spite of the fact Cully was worn out by the evening, it felt good to feel that way. He and Casey both fell asleep on the couch while watching tv with Leeah.

“Leeah,” Gwen whispered, sitting in the chair to the right of the couch. She pointed at Cully. Leeah looked beside her and smiled. Case was sitting on Cully’s lap, leaning back against his chest, off in la-la land. Cully’s head was tilted back against the couch.

“Guess it’s time to put my babies to bed,” Leeah said with a grin. She got up and picked up Casey, who only stirred slightly, and carried her into the guest bedroom. The love seat had a pillow and blanket and Leeah placed Casey down, tucking her in with her doll.

When she came back out to the living room, Cully was groggily getting up. “I’m comin’...” he said.

“It’s past your bed time,” Leeah said, taking him by the arm.

“I don’t have a bed time,” Cully said. “Unless...yer in it. Then it’s bed time...”

“Cully...” Leeah giggled with embarrasssment.

“Well? Are you gonna be in it?”

“Yeah.”

“Then it’s bed time.”

Leeah looked back at Gwen and Sonny. “Goodnight.”

“Goodnight,” they replied. Sonny shook his head and smiled. “Crazy kids.”


October 13, 1983


Cully awoke Thursday to the sound of Dancer neighing in the yard, hoof beats drumming in the distance. Next to him, Leeah stirred softly. With her sigh and the touch of her to his hands it seemed like their troubles were thousands of miles away.

For a little while at least, their troubles were put aside. After Casey jumped up on the bed to officially wake her parents, the day started with a breakfast prepared by Sonny Hooper himself. Everyone gathered in the kitchen and chatted, Tyler happily babbling away with Casey, more than delighted that not only was Cully there, so was Casey.

Gwen and Sonny knew that Cully and Leeah had a lot of things they needed to discuss. So Gwen effectively distracted Casey by having her play with Tyler after breakfast, leaving Cully and Leeah alone for awhile.

With Leeah and Casey back with him again, Cully felt like he could overcome anything. They were still broke, he was still unemployed and the apartment was still hanging in the balance, but he had his family. Somehow it seemed like half the battle was over.

Leeah and Casey’s return was his second wind. As he and Leeah walked hand in hand through the fields of Sonny’s ranch, Cully was thinking of all the things he was going to do when things finally got back on track. Find a house with good acreage somewhere out side of LA, in a good neighborhood for Casey to grow up in, where she could ride her bike or maybe have a pony. He would help Leeah get her Firebird back in shape, buy himself a new car. Take his family to Disneyland.

Leeah shared in all those same goals, but she was Cully’s anchor, giving him the subtle dose of reality, that being they had more immediate issues to take care of first, the top priority being a form of employment.

They stopped by a section of the white post and beam fence and Cully sighed. “What are we gonna do?” he said. “There isn’t a production in this town that’ll hire me.”

Leeah paused. “Maybe we’re not going to find anything in stunt work.”

Cully snorted. “Shoulda figured as much, considerin’ my recent history.”

“Then why did you try?’

“Because it took trying in order to find out where I still stood in this town. They’re not hiring me because, one, I’m too old. Which is fine, I can accept that. But they’re also not hiring me because of what happened to Vic.” He looked at her and saw that she was waiting for him to continue. And after more than a year, she’d been waiting longer than she should have.

“I really felt like that was my fault,” he said turning his gaze toward the horizon, “that he died because of my actions, or lack of action. The little demons inside me had it pretty well rationalized, that I killed him; that I could have stopped it from happening and I didn’t.” He paused and sighed. “Every damn producer and gaffer I talked to last week spent more time yakkin’ to me about the goddamn good ol’ days than hiring me for a job. And the reason’s because they don’t want me around on their sets. They don’t want to risk their star getting killed.”

“But, Cully…it wasn’t your fault.”

“I know.” He looked at her. “I don’t know why but ever since I got out of the hospital I feel like this weight has been lifted off me. It wasn’t my fault, but Ski....made me feel responisble because nobody else was taking responsibilty.”

Leeah put a hand on his shoulder and he looked at her with apology. “I threw away a whole year of my life, of yours and Casey’s, I’ve lost just about everything I’ve ever worked for just because some snot nosed little shit couldn’t take responsibilty. And I know I shoulda tried to talk to you about it, Leeah, I know I shoulda…but it just hurt so much. It hurt that he was gone and the idea that I might have contributed to it, hurt. And now it hurts to think everybody in this town really does think I had something to do with it.”

Leeah shook her head. “I don’t think they think that, Cully. But if any do, they’ll find out they’re wrong. But right now they’re the last people you need to worry about.”

“I know.” He sighed. “I’ll just look for work somewhere else. Scour the want ads tomorrow.”

“I’m going to look too,” Leeah said.

He looked at her and was about protest.

“Cully, we don’t have any choice. Both of us are going to have to work just to break even again.”

“But what about Casey? Who’s going to watch her?”

Leeah paused. “Well….maybe Mrs. Bader will, if she doesn’t mind doing it for nothing for awhile.” Leeah thought back to August. “Hmm…”

“What?”

“I thought of looking for a job back in August but I couldn’t think of who could watch Casey. I didn’t think of Mrs. Bader at the time. I guess I was so wrapped up in everything I had blinders on.”

Cully turned to Leeah and gently put his hands on her shoulders, looking at her. “Leeah, I’m sorry,” he said. “I’ve got so much I’ve got to make up to you and Casey. I just hate to think you have to work too to pick up my slack.”

“Cully, you’re already on your way. You’re here, you’re sober. Not three months ago, I thought you had crawled so far into the bottle that you weren’t ever gonna come out. It’s not just your slack, it’s our slack. Now that you’re off the booze, it’s gonna take the two of us to finish getting it back together.” She put her hand over his on her shoulder and touched the gold wedding band before gripping his hand in hers. “Us.”

He gently squeezed her hand in return and nodded. “Us…”

She smiled at him and then drew him into an embrace.

October 16, 1983


Sunday morning, Leeah and Cully sat with the want ads from the Sunday paper. Leeah made notes on a note pad of phone numbers and addresses. The job prospects ranged from office work to waitressing. Occasionally, Cully would point out a potential job to her but otherwise he remained quiet and let Leeah figure it on her own.

As he looked, he kept mind anything that might work for him. There were a couple of ranches looking for extra help. There were ads for bartenders, valet drivers, grocery store baggers and City of Los Angeles dump truck drivers.

“Hey, here’s one for me,” he said, seeing another ad. “Male escort.”

Leeah’s pen stopped scribbling. “Yer kiddin’?”

“No.”

She looked up at him. His grin was from ear to ear. She chuckled and shook her head returning to the want ads. But Cully’s eyes stayed on her. She looked up at him again and saw he was still grinning. She started laughing.

“Ya don’t think so?” he said.

“Well…no…”

“There’s no age limit. Doesn’t say ya hafta to be good lookin’.”

Leeah laughed again. “Cully, are you serious??”

“It’s probably good money!” Of course, he was only joking around.

Leeah knew this and looked at him. “But Cully…what if I don’t want to share you?”

“Ohh…” Cully paused and looked like a kid who’d just been given a different, and better, alternative. “Yer right, I’m already your escort.”

“That’s right. I know the pay is rotten but…I can make up for that with special benefits.” She smiled slyly.

“Heh heh hmmm…”

She laughed. “Besides that, what else have you found?”

“Nothing with benefits as good.” He grinned and then moved from his chair to the couch to sit next to Leeah. “How about you?”

“Well, there’s a few here to try. I guess I gotta get a resume together too. The fun part is gonna be convincing somebody that other than crashing and wrecking cars, I can type and file too.”

“It is an odd combination of skills.”

Leeah smiled. “I’m an odd combination of woman.”

Cully slipped his arm around her waist. “You are…but that’s why I love ya.” He caressed a kiss upon her cheek and she turned to him to accept one on the lips. It was a quick smooch, but Cully decided that wasn’t enough and returned for a longer kiss.

Leeah put her left arm around him and touched the side of his face with her right hand. When the kiss broke, they looked at each other and both smiled. Leeah traced her hand over his cheek and jaw, happy to see his face with color and his eyes clear and bright. Cully gently took her hand into his and kissed it. He was happy just to be close to her and holding her again.

“How about I escort you somewhere right now?” he asked with a grin.

“Cully...”

“C’mon...” He stood up, never letting go of Leeahs’ hand. She followed him but before they got to the guest room Casey came bounding in from the kitchen. “Momma! Daddy!”

Cully and Leeah stopped and turned, greeting their child and then looking at each other as if to say better luck next time. They returned to the living room.

Sonny and Gwen came in a few moments later and had obviously missed the moment that had been interrupted.

“Any luck?” Sonny asked.

“No,” Cully said and glanced at Leeah. “None at all.”

October 19, 1983

A red 1983 Z28 Camaro flew like a rocket as it kept ahead of a black 1983 Mercedes 350SL with tinted windows. At the wheel of the Chevy was Danny Tolley, a promising young stunt driver hand picked for this picture by Ski himself. The driver of the Mercedes was another of Ski’s buddies. Proud as a peacock, Ski watched from behind the camera’s, as his two drivers went through their sequence.

Occasionally, he glanced over to the director, Bronson Beaudet, who seemed content with how the chase was going. His head slowly nodded with each pass the cars made. So far so good.

Danny swung the Camaro around a turn with the Mercedes sliding around behind it. The Camaro tore down the street, cut down another street and pulled a wrenching hair pin turn to cut down an alley, clicking the back fender of the Chevy against the wall of the building. Garbage cans and packing crates went flying when the front of the car made contact with them. The Camaro shot out of the alley and turned, tires screaming to stay gripped with the road. The red car crashed through caution cones and orange and white barricades, roaring down another street. The Mercedes followed a moment later.

Danny aimed the Caramo for the dirt pile of the construction site to jump the car. This was where the Camaro was to loose the Mercedes. Danny pushed the accelerator down to the floor and the car was straight on for take off. The nose of the car tilted up at the dirt pile but the dirt had not been angled right for the low slung sports car. The nose of the Camaro kicked dirt out of the way but it wasn’t enough to get the car up. Instead it turned to the side, coming around the dirt pile instead of going over it. The Camaro shot off to the side and landed hard on it’s right side, sliding several feet.

“Cut! Cut!” Beaudet’s enthusiasm died the moment the Camaro tilted to the right. He shook his head and turned away from the scene.

Ski and several of his stunt crew ran over to the Camaro. Danny immediately swore then complained that his shoulder felt funny. It took the stunt team several minutes to free Danny from the restraints and get him out of the car. It was very quickly noticeable that Danny was in a great deal of pain.

Beaudet turned back and watched the scene, not pleased. The driving sequence itself went great, but they’d have to reshoot the jump--and use the other car because repairs would have to be made to this one, which took time. And time was something they didn’t have a lot of at the moment. They were behind schedule and they were all ready too far over budget. Beaudet was about at the point of making heads roll.

Ski was about at that point himself. When the ambulance crew came in to take Danny away, he knew he was out a driver and that Beaudet would take nothing for an excuse. He already knew what Beaudet’s first words would be when he told him of Danny’s condition. “Find another driver.”

So with little sympathy from the director, Ski set out to find another driver.

***

The news of Danny Tolley’s spill spread pretty quickly among the stunt constabulary of Hollywood. The big deal of it all was that it was another one of Ski’s drivers. Danny Tolley was not the first stunt man on Beadet’s picture to be injured.

The news was the talk of the Palomino club, at least until Ski showed up. At that point the voices hushed.

Sonny, seated at the bar with a couple of guys from his Stunt Studs team, took note of the news and especially noticed as Ski worked his way around the Palomino, casually asking if anyone was interested in doing some stunt driving.

Sonny waited until Ski was near the bar before speaking. “What’s the gag,” he asked, looking at the back of Ski’s head.

Ski turned, surprised to see Sonny sitting there. He smiled to hide it. “Hey Sonny. Don’t tell me you’re looking for a driving gig?”

“I’m not. But I’m curious. What’s the gig?”

“Standard driving. Finesse at jumping a car is a plus.”

Sonny nodded. “I see. I thought you had drivers all lined up?”

“I do. I just need another one.”

“Oh.”

“You know some one?”

“I might. I’ll pass it along, see what he thinks.”

Ski smiled. “Super. Thanks.”

“No problem.” Sonny watched Ski walk away and noted that the kid never said that his driver had been hurt.

***

When Sonny got back to the ranch, he found Cully, Leeah and Casey out back with Dancer. The little girl and her mother were riding on Dancer’s back, going around the corral at a leisurely walk. Cully stood by the barn, watching them.

“Hey Sonny,” Cully said, glancing at his friend before resuming his watch.

“Hey.” Sonny grinned. “They look good out there.”

“Yeah, don’t they? Casey’s been fascinated with that horse of yours for awhile and Leeah hasn’t ridden for a few years, so I put ‘em up on Dancer and led ‘em around for a couple of laps. Then I let Dancer go on her own and they’re doing awright. You know, there’s an opportunity there. You stock this ranch you could teach horseback riding.”

“True. I’ve thought of that too.”

Cully grinned. “I could be a stable boy for ya.”

Sonny snorted. “Speaking of opportunity, I got a line on a job for ya. I’m not sure you’ll like what’s behind the door that this opportunity is knocking at tho’.”

“What’s the job?”

“Well, one of Ski’s driver’s wrecked earlier today and was sent to the hospital. Ski’s under pressure to find another driver according to the news that was flying around the Palomino. Although he himself wouldn’t admit it when he told me he was looking for a driver.”

“Hmm…” Cully sighed. “I dunno, Sonny, I’ve already gone to him once.”

“Don’t know unless you try. It’s up to you, but you could make a good bucket full of money doing a couple weeks of stunt driving.”

“Yeah, I know.” Cully watched Leeah and Casey and his wife waved to him. He grinned and both he and Sonny waved back. Yeah, he could use a bucketful of money.


October 20, 1983

Thursday morning, after Leeah left to mail off some of her resumes and job applications, Cully dropped Sonny off at the Universal lot and then drove the pickup back to the Warner Bros. lot. Seeing as he had struck out previously with asking Ski, Cully figured he’d have better luck talking to the producer.

Roger Birmingham was a youthful 53 years of age with a mix of dark and silver hair and bright green eyes. He greeted Cully with a smile, wearing a stylish dark suit with a silver and black stripped necktie. Although he looked refined he spoke like a country boy.

“Christ! I’ve heard so much about you and Sonny Hooper I am damn disappointed I never got you fellas on one of my productions,” he said as he shook Cully’s hand at the door.

Cully chuckled. “Well, you may get one of us.”

“Ski hiring you?”

“Well…it’s a little more complicated than that.”

“Well, come in. Have a seat.” Birmingham stepped back and let Cully into the office. Roger shut the door and returned to his desk as Cully took a seat across from him.

“What’s on your mind?”

“Well, I heard about Ski’s driver wreckin’ yesterday and that Ski’s looking for another driver. I’ve been in search of work for awhile now and I’ve been to Ski once already.”

“And he said no?”

“Actually, he laughed first. Then he said no. I figure, as the producer, you have the final say on who gets hired and fired so I thought I’d ask you. I need a job, Mr. Birmingham and I need one bad.”

Roger leaned back in his chair and nodded. He paused in thought and then looked at Cully. “Are you aware that Danny Tolley, the driver that wrecked yesterday, is not the first person to be seriously injured on this picture?”

Cully raised an eyebrow. “I wasn’t aware…but some how I’m not surprised.”

“You’ve worked with Ski before, right?”

“Yeah.”

“How would you describe him as a stuntman?”

“Well, he’s…good at what he does. But I think sometimes, he goes too far. I think he’s a little reckless at times.”

Roger nodded. “Do you know who Bronson Beaudet is?”

“I’ve heard of ‘em.”

“You know he’s nearly impossible to deal with?”

“I’ve heard that about ‘em, yeah.”

“Do you know what you get when you put a nearly impossible to please director and a too eager to please stunt coordinator together on the same picture?”

Cully paused. “Trouble…”

“Yeah,” Roger sighed. “A lot of it. I’m worried about him, Cully. I think Ski’s in way over his head. Everybody kept telling him what a great stunt man he is and how he’s the new King since Sonny Hooper finally packed it in, but he thinks he’s indestructable. He thinks people are industructable. He treats the stunts like they were just as magical as the images we see on the film. I’ll admit he’s smart and understands the science behind some of the stunts...but that’s just it. He treats it like a science. If anything goes wrong it’s all the other guy’s fault. The concept of human error just doesn’t compute with him.”

Birmingham paused and looked at the veteren stuntman. “And Beaudet’s no better. I think you’re foolish to want to work on this picture. Too many people have been hurt all ready. I don’t sleep all that well at night. Ski, Beaudet, they just keep pushing it more and more to the limit. Ski’s promised all kinds of things to Beaudet and Beaudet expects them to be done. I’ve witnessed more than a few heated discussions between those two when Ski’s tried to alter any stunts in any way.”

Cully raised an eyebrow, finding this tidbit amusing. “Perhaps the Kid is realizing what can and can’t be done.”

Birmingham nodded. “Maybe he is, but it could be too little, too late. Danny Tolley is not the first one to be injured on this picture, and I know he won’t be the last. Instead of risking more people, I wish Ski and Beaudet would just acknowledge that there’s a limit to how far and how much a stunt can go, instead of trying for bigger and better.” He paused and looked at Cully. “Unless you think you can convince them.”

Cully snorted. “I don’t think so. I’ve tried before and all it got was a good friend killed.” He stood up. “Mr. Birmingham, despite what you’ve told me, I still need a job. Would it be possible that I could work on your production?”

“Cully, I’d hire you in a heartbeat, but I’m afraid it’s not my decision. You’re going to have to talk to Ski.”

Cully snorted. “Wonderful.”


After asking about twenty different people where Ski was at, Cully was finally directed towards one of the make up trailers, where Ski was finishing taking an extended break with one of the makeup girls. Cully turned the corner of the trailer and saw a girl dressed in blouse and skirt, standing in the door way, her head and shoulders obscured. Her shapely backside and legs, however, couldn’t be missed. He could hear her speaking but not what she was saying. Her left foot lazily tettered on the toe of her strappy high heeled sandal and would lift up and down tapping on the step once or twice.

Cully held back and waited for her to leave. He looked away and leaned against the back corner of the trailer. A moment later, the girl bid farewell, giggling as she was revealed from the door. “Bye, Ski,” she said, her smile as bright as a star. She walked in Cully’s direction.

He stepped way from the corner of the trailer and she made eye contact with him. “Lookin’ for Ski?” she asked.

“Yeah.”

She pointed to the trailer. “He’s in there.”

Cully smiled. “Thank ya.”

“Anytime...” Cully watched her saunter off and chuckled. He walked to the doorway of the trailer. “Hey, Ski!”

“Yeah!” Ski poked his head out the door, his shoulders bare. “Oh. You. What do you want?”

“Wanna talk to ya for a minute.”

Ski shrugged. “C’mon in.” He stepped back and Cully stepped up into the trailer. Ski had a pair of jeans on and was reaching for a shirt. “If you’re here about a job, we already discussed that, remember?”

“Yeah, I remember. But the circumstances are different now.”

“Oh yeah? How so?”

“Well...” Cully leaned against a nearby counter and crossed his arms in front of him. “One of your guys just busted his collar bone tryin’ to do a stunt and you need somebody to replace him. The picture’s behind schedule, you got a director who will gladly fry your ass for lunch and dismiss you on a whim if you don’t put out what you’ve been promising, which according to the producer of this thing, is quite a great set of expectations. And you need a driver. Pronto.”

Ski’s eyes darkened. The young stuntman took a step away from Cully for a moment of thought and tucked in his shirt. The pressure to deliver on this picture was intense. The director was relentess and unforgiven. He demanded perfection and expected the stunt team to do it, do it right and do it all in one shot. After all, Ski was now the greatest stuntman alive...

“How do you know all this?”

“Waalll...I’ve been in this business a long, long time...”

Ski snorted and turned back to Cully. “Yeah,” he said, “don’t you think you’re kinda long in the tooth for stuntin’?”

“I can drive,” Cully replied. “I’m not looking to jump off a roof or be thrown from a truck. But I can drive. And you need a driver on this picture.”

Ski’s expression was guarded. He would never let Cully see the pressure he was under. So the old goat needed a job. What the hell, give him one. Ski would pull no favors though. If Cully couldn’t cut it with tomorrow’s stunt, he was gone, yet Ski would be damned if Cully somehow managed to upstage him.

“Awright. Be at Stage 12 tomorrow mornin’. I got something you can do. You do good enough, you got yourself a job.”


October 21, 1983

Cully arrived Firday morning at Stage 12 and was given an overview of what stunts were needed to be completed that day. The script called for it to be a certain way and the director was determined to see it done that way.

Bronson Beaudet had a name that would have fit a Hollywood star, but his face didn’t. Short, fat, balding and bi-focaled, Beaudet commanded his pictures like Patton had commanded his troops. He was known as one of the most hard assed, toughest, unbiased and unimpressionable directors in Hollywood. If your way didn’t match his way, you were out. If you said you could deliver on something, you better damn well deliver. Or else.

Cully thought of all of this as he and Ski approached the director. There was a tension on the set that Cully detected, and it had been especially heavy during the morning meeting. A hard nosed director and a gaffer who was promising everything short of the sun and the moon, Cully noticed most of the stunt people had that glassy look to their eyes that said, what the fuck have I gotten myself into?

Beaudet looked up as Ski approached with the older stuntman. The director narrowed his eyes and then tilted his head back, to get a look at Cully through his bi-focal for more clarity. “Who’s this?” he asked.

“This is Cully Dawson,” Ski replied. “He’s our new driver.”

Beaudet looked at Cully through the top lenses of his glasses now, recognizing the face. “You worked with Sonny Hooper.”

Cully nodded. “Yes, sir.”

Bronson smiled. “Good. I’m lookin’ forward to seein’ you work on this. Maybe you can whip these kids into shape.”

Cully smirked. “Well, I’ll do what I can.”

The director chuckled. “Awright people, let’s get started!”

***

Ski had not appreciated Beaudet’s comment to Cully. Ski had been working his ass off on this picture, delivering stunts just as the director wanted them, making everything look good. And then Bronson goes and makes it sound like Ski was gaffing a goddamn group of kids during elemtary school recess. Ski’s rotten mood carried for the day.

Ski walked across the grassy divide between the highway and on ramp. A three mile stretch of closed off highway offered the perfect setting for the next few stunts. Ski was determined to make sure Cully understood what was expected of him today. He knocked on the door of the dressing trailer.

“You ready yet or what?”

The door opened and a dark blue uniformed deputy sheriff looked at Ski. “Yeah, I’m ready,” Cully replied. He stepped out of the trailer and put his matching dark blue deputy’s hat on.

“Well, come on, Beaudet’s waiting.”

Cully followed Ski back towards the highway where the director waited.

“Okay, Cully, this one’s pretty simple I think,” Beaudet said. “You’re going to drive the patrol car at full tilt, sirens blaring, lights flashing the whole bit and Ski here will be driving the Camaro. Now you’ve got three mile’s worth of highway here to use, and I want you two to use it well. There’ll be other cars and trucks here as well, I want to see tense driving, near misses, other cars being forced off the road. And I want it fast.

“Now when you get to here,” he pointed across the highway to where the off ramp sloped upwards to come around to an overpass, “Ski will start to go towards the off ramp and then cut back onto the highway. Cully, you won’t be able to make the turn as quick but you’ll attempt to jump the curb and grass, but it’ll land you down in that ditch.”

Cully nodded. “No sweat.”

“Alright, go to it.”


From his view up on the ridge that over looked most of the highway, Beaudet called for action and watched the two cars start on their chase. The Camaro pulled ahead of the police cruiser and a fairly predictable chase began. The two cars weaved around traffic in the first mile and the director was about ready to cut the action and have them start over when he noticed the cruiser start to come up on the back side of the Camaro.

Cully grinned. He nudged up enough until Ski noticed he had nothing but the grill of a Chevy Caprice in his mirrors. Cully pulled to the right side of the Camaro, making it seem he was going to come up along side. He anticipated Ski’s attempt to cut him off and floored the accelerator, gladly allowing the front corner of the Caprice to come in contact with the red Camaro.

“Yeah!” Beaudet exclaimed.

“But, that’s not in the script...” the assistant director started to say.

“Shut up, this is better!”

Cully brought the Caprice back in line behind the Camaro to navigate through some more traffic within the second mile. When a space opened up on the highway, he began to cut around the right hand side again. Ski attempted to cut him off but Cully only moved further to the right, to avoid being hit by the Camaro.

Ski was pissed. The Caprice started to come up along side it’s souped up Chevy sibling and the younger stuntman looked quickly back and forth from the road to Cully.

“What the fuck are you doing?!?!”

“Driving! You better haul ass boy, or I’m gonna smash this pretty piece of shit all over the highway!”

Cully turned the wheel just slightly and the fenders of the two cars made contact. Tires squealed, metal crunched and the director was loving every minute of it.

Ski fought back and the Camaro slammed against the Caprice. The two cars fought with each other and Ski kept pushing, even when Cully tried to back off so he could avoid the other car that was in his lane. Cully had no choice but to hit the brakes and then cut the cruiser around the other car, go into the breakdown lane and then cut back out in front of it.

Ski was laughing now. He watched the Caprice in his mirrors and saw Cully wasn’t letting off the throttle. “Shit...” The police car came up fast. Ski floored the accelerator on the Camaro and went into evasive manuevers trying to outrun the Caprice in the last mile.

The off ramp was in view and there were still a few cars left in the traffic. Cully was forced to fall back inline behind the Camaro and follow it towards the off ramp. He kept the Caprice right on the Camaro’s back end, bumping it even when Ski went to slow down enough to make the cut over from the off ramp lane back to the highway.

The Camaro missed the curb by inches and slid back onto the highway. Cully slammed the brakes, feigned an attempt to jump the curb to get back onto the highway and let the Chevy go where ever it wanted. The Caprice found it’s way into the narrow and shallow ditch and came to a crunching rest against one side of it.

“Cut! Cut dammit!” Beaudet had the biggest grin on his face anybody had ever seen. “Awright! Tell Cully and Ski I want to see them pronto!”


Cully climbed out of the side window of the Caprice as a group of stunt assistants came to help him. He tossed the deputy hat to one of them.

“You okay, Cully?” Sam asked.

“Yep.” Cully accepted the helpful hands that pulled him out of the ditch. He straightened his uniform and looked at the Caprice. “Some wreck huh?” he said and grinned.

The assistants laughed. “Ski’s gunna be pissed at you,” one of the others quipped.

Cully snorted and caught the sight of the red Camaro making it’s way back. The scuffed and crumpled sports car came to a sliding stop and Ski jumped out.

“What the hell was all that??” he demanded, marching straight towards Cully. “What the godddamn fuck was that?? We weren’t suppose to do any of that shit that you did out there! I hired you to drive. To drive! This wasn’t supposed to be a goddamn demolition derby!”

Cully looked at the stunt assistant who had made the previous quip. “Yer right, he is pissed.”

The other’s laughed. “Relax Ski, Beaudet loved every minute of it.”

Ski looked at who had spoken. “He what?

“He loved it. Infact, he wants to see you and Cully right away. I bet he’s got an idea for the next gag...”

“Fuck...” Ski muttered. He marched off with a grinning deputy Cully following.

***

“That was great fellas, just fabulous what you did out there today,” Bronson Beaudet said as Ski and Cully approached him. “I was almost going to call you in just after you started, then Cully here started bumpin’ the Camaro. You never cease to surprise me, Ski.”

Ski blinked. “Uh...” He suddenly realized Beaudet was giving him the credit for the idea. He chuckled. “Well, that’s my job.”

“You did good hiring Cully here too. That’s why I’ve called you both over here.” Beaudet leaned against one of the camera trucks, attempting to cross his arms over his girth and not quite making it. “I don’t like the set up for the gag Monday. From the preliminaries it looks to boring. Too boring to film, too boring to watch on film. I was thinking maybe you two could come up with something different?”

“What’s the gag?” Cully asked.

Beaudet handed Cully a script already opened to the scene. He took a moment to read it.

“It won’t be boring, Bronson, I can promise you,” Ski said. “I know it looks blah on paper but picture it in your mind for a moment...”

“I’ve been trying to Ski, and I don’t see anything remotely interesting in that scene.”

Cully looked up and saw Ski’s eyes smoldering. “Um, look maybe the writer wrote it this way for a reason,” he offered.

Beaudet snorted. “The writer doesn’t know anything about film making. The audience is gonna fall asleep at this point.”

“You gotta have parts in the film to give the audience a chance to recoup,” Cully said, handing the script back. “You can’t keep hittin’ ‘em with action too much or you’ll wear ‘em out.”

“Who’s the director here?”

Cully sighed. “Sorry.”

“This is to be filmed Monday afternoon. I want new preliminaries by 8 o’clock Monday morning. And I want something better than this shit. Do my make myself clear, Ski?”

Ski nodded. “Yes.”

Beaudet looked at Cully. “After what you just did on the highway, I figured you would have had some ideas for this. I hope Ski didn’t make a mistake by hiring you.” With that the director left the two stuntman to their own thoughts.

Ski cursed softly. Cully, figuring it wasn’t his obligation to come up with any new ideas, turned to leave, pulling his necktie loose.

“Wait a minute.”

Cully paused and turned back. “What?”

“You got any ideas on it?”

Cully looked thoughtful for a moment and then shook his head. “Not at the moment.” He grinned. “I’ll think about it and letcha know.” He turned back and walked away.


* * *

Sonny spotted Gwen’s grey Caprice as it pulled into the drive. He came out of the house as Cully was getting out of the car.

“Where the hell you been?”

Cully took a moment to finish chewing his bite of Snickers. “I got that job.”

“No shit! Ski hired ya?” Sonny asked, following Cully to the house.

Cully nodded. “Yup.” He took another bite of his candy bar. He then stopped and turned back to Sonny. “And I had a lot of fun today,” he said in between chews.

Sonny snorted. “Yeah? Whatja do?” They walked into the house. “And how the hell did you manage to convince him to hire you this time?”

“Strictly a matter of necessity. Ski needed another driver, I needed a job. I got to push his little ass all over the highway today.”

Sonny laughed. “Man I woulda liked to have seen that.”

“You will. It’ll be in the picture. Of course it was my idea to trade paint but when Beaudet complimented Ski on it, the kid had a shit grin about a mile wide.”

Sonny snorted. “C’mon, did you honestly think you’d get credit for it?”

“Nope.” Cully finished the last piece of the Snickers. “But I’ll tell ya...I’ll be damned if he takes credit for everything.” He deposited his candy wrapper into the trash can and then paused in thought. “Yeah, I wonder what he’ll come up with for Monday.”

“What’s Monday?”

“Beaudet doesn’t like the prelim on a gag for Monday and wants Ski, or me, to come up with something different. I’ll admit, I’ve got an idea but I don’t think Ski will like it, khee...”

“Uh oh,” Sonny laughed.

Cully grinned.


October 22, 1983

Saturday afternoon Leeah sat at the kitchen table, clicking away on Gwen’s typewriter, working on another resume. Cully walked in to find a soda and found something better. He stepped up behind his wife and leaned over to kiss her on the cheek. She smiled. “Hi..”

“Howdy...” he kissed her again moving down her neck. “Busy?”

“Just typing another resume...” she leaned her head to the side, exposing her neck for him. His fingers tickled in her hair. “You know, everytime you and I start something like this we get caught.”

“I know...it’s very frustrating. I gotta take what I can get...” He returned to her cheek and she turned toward him, their lips joining in a tender exchange. When they parted, husband and wife looked at one another. “What I get tho’, is never enough.”

“I know,” Leeah said softly. She gently took a hold of Cully’s jean jacket. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s not your fault. But at some point I’m just gonna grab you up and we’re gonna drive somewhere where we can be alone.” He whispered in her ear. “All alone...for several hours.”

Leeah giggled as his breath tickled her ear. “I hope it’s soon,” she said.

“It will be. Infact, we may have something to celebrate.”

“Oh yeah?”

Cully softly left her side and pulled one of the other chairs up next to her. “I got a job.”

"Ya did? Cully, that's great! Where??"

"Some stunt work on the Warner's lot."

Leeah was surprised. "I thought you tried every place already?"

"Well, I did, but something changed. This production needed another stunt driver."

"Who's the director?"

"Um...Bronson Beaudet."

Leeah looked at him. “Oh Cully...” she said. “He’s impossible to please. Who’s the gaffer?”

Cully paused and swallowed. “Ski.”

Leeah blinked. “Ski?? Cully, are you crazy? After what happened to V--” she stopped short and closed her eyes.

“After what happend to Vic?” he finished softly.

“I’m sorry,” she said, opening her eyes to him. “I meant it with Ski, after what happened...”

“Leeah, it’s awright, I know what you meant. I know working on this picture is probably insane but...I’m desperate. I’ve got amends I’ve got to make and things to do and I need money to do it.”

“Cully, you may end up just gettin’ yerself killed!”

“I’m gonna get at least ten grand workin’ on this picture,” he said. He reached and took hold of her hand. “Ten thousand dollars ...we need that kind of money, Leeah. We can start over with that kind of money.”

“I know, Cully...I know, but...I’m going to worry about you,” she said. “Don’t let Ski get you into something that’s way too dangerous.”

Cully smiled and gently squeezed her hand. “I won’t. I promise you,” he said. He then leaned and softly kissed her on the lips. “Ten grand,” he whispered.


October 24, 1983

Monday morning, Cully strolled onto the dining room/function hall set. Ski and Beaudet were already there, along with the Assistant Director and a few other stunt people, standing near one of the dark colored cheap wood tables dressed up to look heavy and expensive. Nobody was leaning against it, knowing fully well it would collapse under their weight. Beneath their feet was a deep red carpet that offset the two tone red/dark brown walls. Cully grinned to himself, finding the thought of trashing the set during a fight scene devilishly exciting. Especially seeing as the participants would all be wearing tuxedos. High class elegance meets southern fried bar room brawl.

There was no conversation taking place when Cully approached the group and he noticed Ski looked especially agitated. Beaudet’s look was only a hair more sour than usual. Cully stopped grinning and put on a serious expression.

Ski glanced in Cully’s direction. “Well there he is,” he said. “Why don’t you ask him?”

Cully played innocent. “Ask me what?”

Beaudet gestured with his hand to the set that surrounded them. “You read the prelim Friday for this,” he said. “Tell me, Mr. Dawson if you can’t come up with something different?”

“Didn’t Ski come up with anything different?”

“He wants to keep it as is, maybe break a few extra tables.” Beaudet paced a moment. “The whole set comes down after today. They come in with a wrecking ball and demolish it. For christ sakes, why don’t you take the opportunity and help the demolitions people out a little bit?”

Cully snickered which earned him a cold shot from Beaudet. But Cully kept smiling. “No, you’re right,” he said. “Only we don’t need to knock out the walls. After all this is supposed to be a scene with high class Beverly Hills kinda people right? And our hero gets into it with one of the locals and the only way he knows how to settle things is with a punch to the face. Ski’s original idea is fine....but I have one twist to add to it.”

“What?”

Cully looked over at the mirrors behind the bar. He looked at the drinking glasses all neatly lined up. The wine bottles. He walked over, surveying it like an art critic only instead of noting how the lines flowed, he was picturing in his mind how the glass would shatter and fall when a stuntman made contact with it. He continued to look at it with both childlike amusement and serious determination at conquering the feat before he turned back to the others.

Of course, he was too old to be thrown into glass and mirrors but he saw the same devilish grin on the faces of a couple of the other stunt guys who were nodding their heads. “Instead of ending it where our hero just throws the guy into a table, we end it by having him throw him into this.” He jerked a thumb behind him to the mirrors.

Beaudet’s sour look faded. “Perfect!” He spun around to Ski. “Can you do it?”

Ski was staring at the mirrors and glasses, wondering why he didn’t come up with that idea. He blinked and looked at Beaudet, giving a nod. “Of course I can do it.”

“Good. I want to film from three angles.” Beaudet walked over to the bar. “I’m going to put one camera behind the bar here, looking up as he’s thrown over. The other two cameras will be at either end of the bar.” He turned back to Cully, Ski and the others. “It’s also a bit symbolic, where our hero really doesn’t like being around these people and smashing up their expensive glasses and wine bottles will be his own primitive form of justice for what they’ve got him involved in.”

Cully nodded. “Yeah, that’s kinda how I was thinkin’ it.”

Beaudet chuckled. “All right, we convene here at 1 o’clock. I’m sure you’ll have everything ready to roll by then, Ski?”

“Sure thing.”

“Excellent.” He looked at Cully and gave an appreciative nod before turning to leave.


When one o’clock rolled around, everyone gathered back at the function hall set to film the fight scene. The stars of the movie were there, along with the extras and the stunt people. Technicians were checking lighting, sound and moving cables. Cameramen were setting up their cameras for the stunt sequence. Three cameras were positioned by the bar as Beaudet wanted.

Beaudet was in conversation with Ski, who by the looks of his tuxedo, had volunteered to be the fall guy to go into the glass and mirrors. Cully hung back, away from the core action but with a clear eye view of all the goings on.

“Awright everybody!” Beaduet shouted. “Places! Let’s get this thing underway here.”

People started moving as the assistant director shouted more orders. The stars of the movie were soon in place for the scene and dialouge leading up to the first punch. Beaudet called for action as soon as everything was ready.

The incidental dialouge was spoken and the protagonist of the film, an indebted PI from Texas forced to work a case in Beverly Hills for people he didn’t like, decided he didn’t have to listen to what the smug man sitting at the table was saying. A pretty girl next to the PI tried to stop him but to no avail. The first punch was thrown and the man in the chair tossed his head back and tipped his chair but didn’t go all the way back. Beaudet yelled cut and the stunt team went in.


Ski took the place of the smug man who had been sitting at the table and another stuntman took the place of the PI. Once everyone was in place, Beaudet called for action and the PI swung at Ski, knocking him backwards out of his chair. The melee was well underway.

The entire fight scene would play out in one shot and people scattered as the PI and the Beverly Hills big shot exchanged blows. Ski knocked the PI over a chair. The PI came back and threw Ski over a table.

Women screamed as wine glasses and sliver ware went flying. Ski landed in a heap on the floor. He started to get up again and found himself forcefully persuaded by the PI to turn around and take another hit.

More punches were exchanged. Ski’s tuxedo was starting to come apart. He fought back, got a couple of hits in but obviously the Beverly Hills big shot was not supposed to be much of a fighter. In an attempt to keep on the offensive, and to set up for the final stunt, Ski rushed at the other stuntman, who lowered his shoulder and lifted Ski up to the throw him over the bar.

The action itself was quick, but would be slowed down in the film itself. Ski cleared the bar and collided perfectly with the wine glasses, bottles and the mirror. Glass shattered, exploded and sprinkled all over the back of the bar and covered over Ski once he landed on the floor.

“Cut!” The extras, the stars and the stuntmen all applauded. Beaudet was smiling and nodding. “Looked super,” he was saying. “Super!”

Cully went over to the bar where a couple of the stunt guys were collecting Ski up off the floor. They congratulated him and brushed the glass out of his hair. “Shit,” Ski said, “if he threw me any higher, I’da missed!”

“You hit it just right,” Cully said. “Beaudet’s practically giddy about it.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“Well good. Maybe that’ll help us get through the rest of the day!”

The stuntmen laughed and then Ski left to get out of his trashed truxedo. One of the young stunt guys hung back and turned to Cully.

“That was really cool, man,” he said. He put his hand out. “Name’s Chad.”

Cully smiled and shook the young man’s hand. “Nice to meet ya, Chad.”

“What made you think to have them do that?”

“Well, about a thousand years ago I did some stunts in a western and I got thrown into the backside of a bar myself.”

The young man grinned. “I’ve heard a lot about the stuff you’ve done. Man, you’re living legend.”

“Aw hell. Christ, three quarters of the stuff I did was in movies that came out before you were born!” Cully laughed.

“Saw ‘em all on the late show,” Chad replied with a grin. “Hey, has Beaudet or Ski told you anything about the big chase scene on Thursday? I bet you could come up with something for that.”

“Chase scene huh?” Cully shook his head. “Haven’t heard a thing. What’s it entail?”

“You got a script?”

“Nope.”

“I’ll show ya mine. C’mon...”


Chad jumped down off the steps of one of the trailers with a script open to a page. “Here. This is where our fearless PI figures out that the Big Shit that hired him is in this thing deeper than he’ll admit. So our fearless PI swipes Big Shit’s Ferrari and suddenly finds he’s got a chopper full of mob dudes gunning for him.” Chad handed the script to Cully. “I guess Ski’s still working out the driving sequence and Beaudet wants something really spectacular. After seeing you trash that Camaro, I just thought maybe they’d ask you for some suggestions.”

“Hmmm...” Cully skimmed through the script. “No, nobody’s said anything to me. Doesn’t mean they won’t but they haven’t yet.” He flipped a couple of pages, reading, falling silent. Chad watched Cully.

Cully looked up after a moment. “Are they kidding about this?”

“What?”

Cully pointed to the scene. “This.”

Chad looked and read. “Oh, the warehouse bit. No, they’re not. Beaudet’s really big for that. Keeps talkin’ about how great it’s gonna look on film.”

“Hmmm....” Cully read the prelim for the scene again. “Tell me if I’m picturing this right,” he said. “The Ferrari goes into the backside of the warehouse and the chopper swings around to the front side, waiting for the car to come out. They apparently toss a grenade at the same time the car is busting out the front?”

“Yeah. Only the choppers not directly infront of the warehouse, it’s off to the side.”

“Off to the side?”

“You have to see the building itself. It makes sense for it to be off to the side.”

“Where is the warehouse?”

“It’s in Agura, on Chanell Drive. The company that owned it was going to have it demolished but the studio bought it instead. Why? You want to go see it?”

“Yeah.”

“You got an idea?”

“Not quite. But I might have a concern.”


Chad pulled his white1983 Chevy Monte Carlo into the gravel lot of the warehouse. He and Cully stepped out and looked towards the building. “There it is,” Chad announced.

The building was approximately sixty feet wide and about a hundred and twenty feet long. From the street, the building stretched bak and wide loading bay doors faced the street. The right side of the building was a straight wall, with windows here and there and a regular doorway every twenty feet or so. The left side of the building faced an old railroad bed and included several open loading bays and ques. The entire left side of the building had an awning, protecting it from the exposure of the elements. The entire structure was surrounded in grey pavement.

Cully looked around the immediate area, noting the trees and powerlines. Chad was right, the chopper couldn’t be directly infront of the ware house...but there wasn’t enough room for it to be off the side either.

“They really gonna toss a grenade or are the explosives gonna be on a detonator?”

“Ski’s still debating that.” Chad looked at Cully. “What’s buggin’ you about it?”

“Well...” Cully looked at the front of the warehouse. “If the chopper’s supposed to be hovering near the front here, there’s not a lot of room for it with those powerlines. My concern is when the explosion goes, that choppers gonna have no where to go. There’s no telling how far out the flames are gonna reach.”

Chad looked and nodded thoughtfully. “Yeah...”

“Does Ski not know those powerlines are there? What does he think, they’re gonna disappear the day of the shoot?”

“I dunno...” Chad studied the warehouse and the air space the chopper would occupy. “Shit man.” He looked at Cully. “You’re right.”

“The trick now is to convince Ski and Beaudet of that.”


Trying to convince Ski and Beaudet turned out not to be as easy as convicing Chad. Beaudet listened to Cully’s concerns but apparenlty only did so to be polite. Once Cully finished, Beaudet gave him a gentle brush off, telling him that Ski was handling the details and he trusted that Ski could put together what he wanted and that it would all be safe.

Cully didn’t get the chance to argue it, as Beaudet made a quick exit to direct the next shot, and it left the veteren stuntman with a bad feeling of deja vu’.

A little later, Cully watched as Ski returned to the set from a break with a different girl hanging on his arm. Cully purposely wanted to approach Ski on the set, while other people were around. He was sure he would have had better luck extracting his own teeth, but Cully knew he had to try to get Ski to listen. And he figured with an audience, maybe somebody else would agree with him.

When the girl left and Ski walked on to the set, Cully approached, falling inline with Ski as they walked. “Can I talk to ya a minute?”

“Make it quick.”

“Ok. Scrap the warehouse gag.”

Ski stopped and looked at Cully. “Scrap it? You kiddin’? That’s going to be the best gag of the whole picture.”

“It’s gonna be the most disasterous gag of the whole picture. Have you even looked at the damn warehouse??”

“Of course I’ve looked at it.” His eyes narrowed. “How the hell do you know about that gag anyway? I didn’t give you a script for it.”

“I saw somebody else’s. And maybe you oughta give me a copy because obviously you don’t have a clue of what the hell yer doin’.”

“Don’t push your luck, Cully. I’m the one that’s letting you work on this picture and I can toss yer ass whenever I feel like it. I’m the gaffer and when I finish the details on the warehouse gag it’s going to go whether you like it or not.”

“I just think you should think over those details carefully. Very carefully.”

“I know what the hell I’m doin’ and I don’t need your input.” Ski turned to walk away. “I won’t have you turnin’ this into the Twilight Zone all over again...” he muttered.

Ski’s words bit venomously. Cully stared hard at the young man’s backside and loudly replied, “I ain’t gonna have you turn it into the fuckin’ Twilight Zone!”

There wasn’t a stuntman within ear shot that didn’t hear the exchange. Ski stopped and looked back at Cully and saw the line had been clearly drawn. Cully would try to battle him, he knew, and it pissed him off to no end. But he was confident the gag would go, no matter what Cully did. He flipped the older stuntman off before walking away.

 

October 25, 1983

Late Tuesday afternoon, Chad found Cully and handed him a copy of Ski’s preliminary details for the warehouse gag.

“Take it with ya,” Chad said. “I breezed through it and...” he sighed, “you’re gonna find Ski didn’t change much.”

“Terrific,” Cully said.

“If it makes ya feel any better a couple of the other stunt guys don’t really like this either.”

“Have they said anything to Ski? Or Beaudet?”

“You kiddin’? Ski’s runnin’ the show, man. Beaudet thinks every stunt Ski touches turns to gold. What the hell can any of us do about it?”

Cully sighed. “Not much.” He held the script up. “Thanks for the copy.”

“Sure.”


Tuesday night, Cully sat in the living room of Sonny’s ranch, reading over the warehouse gag. He was still looking at it after Leeah had got Casey ready for bed and tucked in for the night. She came back out into the living room and sat down next to him.

“You’ve been staring at that since you got home,” she said, curling her arm around his.

“I know,” he sighed. “I keep trying to find something good with it and I’m not.”

“Can I look at it?”

“Sure...” He turned the script back to the first page and handed it to her. She looked it over for a few minutes, referring to the diagrams and photos of the warehouse that were included. She then looked at Cully. “Is he kidding?”

“That’s exactly what I said to Chad when he first showed it to me.”

“Beaudet’s letting Ski do this?”

“Beaudet’s absolutely thrilled about it.”

“Oh Cully....”

Cully sighed. “I’ve got one more chance tomorrow to either get them to scrap the whole thing, or do a revision.” He shook his head. “I know they won’t scrap it, so I gotta try to think of a revision. And probably get fired by Ski for doing it.” He paused. “I didn’t tell ya what he said to me yesterday.”

“What?”

“He said ‘I won’t have you turnin’ this into the Twilight Zone all over again.’...”

Leeah closed her eyes and shook her head.

“But I said to him that I wasn’t gonna have him turn this into the Twilight Zone again.”

“What did he say to that?”

“Nothin’. He flipped me the bird and walked away. But there were stunt guys there that heard me, and him." Cully sighed. "I may end up being fired before this production is over, but not before I prove a point.”


October 26, 1983

Cully stayed up late and wrote a revision for the gag and took it straight to Beaudet Wednesday morning. But the director wasn’t interested. Ski’s idea was what they were going with, the final script to be delivered that afternoon.

Cully left the directors trailer and sighed in defeat. He rolled the rewrite in his hands and walked toward the set.

Chad saw him and came running up. “How’d it go?”

Cully shook his head. “It didn’t,” he sighed. “I feel like I’m screaming at brick walls.” He looked at the rolled up script. “Maybe Ski’s right. I’m too old for this crap and I’m trying to play it safe.”

Chad shook his head. “No, you’re not. I told ya a lot of the other guys don’t dig the gag either. But Beaudet and Ski, man.... it is like screaming at brickwalls.”

Cully looked at Chad, appreciating the youngster’s support. He then glanced across the set and saw Ski coming in with yet another girl hanging on his arm.

“Jeeezus,” Cully muttered. “He ever stick with the same girl for more than one night?”

Chad chuckled. “Seems like he doesn’t. I think he’s got a different girl for every night of the week.”

Ski saw the veteran stuntman standing across the set. He knew Cully wasn’t suppose to be on the set until later and with a script rolled in hand, Ski didn’t like what it looked like. He gave the girl a quick kiss goodbye and marched over.

“What are you doing here?”

“Attempting to save your ass but Beaudet won’t let me. I know you won’t either so....”

“You won’t give up trying to change that warehouse set up will you?”

“No, I just can’t leave it alone. To be honest tho’, considering how often you change girls I figured you’d be open to changing the gag a little.”

Ski bit back and pointed a finger at Cully. “You’re pushing your luck.”

“I’ve been pushing my luck for forty years, I don’t intend to stop now.”

Ski had listened to enough and walked away.

***

At the Palomino that night, Ski watched in disgust as Cully, Leeah, Sonny and Gwen sat at a long table with several other Palomino regulars, talking and lauging.

“You’re damn lucky you didn’t get your foot caught in a stirrup, have the horse pull you one way and the rope around yer neck pull you the other!” Sonny said.

“You really hung from that rope?” Leeah asked.

“For about two seconds, which was long enough. I was the only one willing to do it,” Cully said.

“Just goes to show the things we do when we’re young and stupid,” Sonny said.

“Better than the stuff I do now that I’m old and stupid,” Cully countered with a grin.

Sonny snorted.

At his own table, Ski wasn’t smiling. His buddies were laughing around him, until one of them noticed Ski wasn’t.

“Hey man, what’s with you?” one of them asked. He looked in the direction Ski was looking and saw Cully. “Christ, you ain’t still pissed at the old geezer, are ya?”

“You bet I am. I’ll be shit if he thinks he can fuck up my stunt.”

“Don’t worry about it man, Beaudet’s backing you up on it. Cully can’t do a damn thinga bout it now, we film the thing tomorrow.” The young man paused. “Yer just pissed because he yanked yer chain about being with a coupla different girls. So he’s an old fashioned bastard. Leave it alone.”

Ski didn’t say anything and was still watching over at Cully’s table. He looked away when a girl he knew came up to the table to say hello to one of the other guys. Ski thought of how Cully had chided him for being with different girls, but despite what his friend said, Ski was more pissed about Cully trying to kill the warehouse stunt.

He suddenly got an idea and when the girl turned to him to say hello, he smiled for
the first time all evening.

“Hi Marcie,” he said. “Could I ask you to do something for me?”

“Sure, Ski.”

Ski smiled. “Want you to help me play a joke on somebody....”


Cully was unsuspecting as Marcie walked through the Palomino heading to Cully’s table.

“So anyway,” Cully was saying, “I had a lot of fun smashing up that Camaro.” He grinned. “I shoulda been a cop...”

Sonny snorted. “Yeah, the LAPD would be thrilled to have you on the force, smashin’ patrol cars.”

“I’d be thrilled,” Cully said with a laugh. Suddenly, Marcie came up to him, snaked her arms around his shoulders and planted a kiss on his lips.

“Um, excuse me?” Leeah said.

The girl let go of Cully’s lips but ignored Leeah. “I’ve missed you, Cully.”

“Umm...I think you’ve got the wrong guy,” Cully said, trying politely to remove her arms from around him.

Marcie pouted. “You don’t remember me.”

“I’ve never met you.”

“But you have. Don’t you remember back a few months ago?” She leaned closer to him but still spoke loud enough for the rest of the table to hear. “You and I drove out to Malibu in my car....don’t you remember the way I screamed when you tore my clothes off? The way you--”

Cully pushed her away. Leeah was about ready to kill, either the girl, Cully or both. “No, I don’t,” Cully said firmly. “I don’t even know who you are.”

Marcie paused. “Well, you were pretty drunk. But you performed soooo wonderfully.”

“I don’t believe this,” Leeah said and abruptly stood up.

“Leeah--” Cully turned where he sat and stood up, pushing Marcie aside to do so.

Marcie spoke to Leeah. “Oh, it’s okay sugar, you can keep him.”

Leeah stopped and glanced at Cully. “No, thanks,” she spat and marched toward the door.

“Leeah! Wait a minute!” Cully took two steps to follow Leeah out and was beat by Gwen, who ran out after Leeah. He turned back to Marcie. “I don’t know what the hell yer tryin’ to pull but I’ve never seen you before in my life!”

Across the Palomino, Ski was hooting in laughter. “Oh man, that’s just beautiful!”

Marcie, however, suddenly felt guilty and realized that Ski’s joke had been vicious in its intent. “I’m sorry,” she said suddenly. “It wasn’t my idea to do this.”

“Bullshit. Who the hell here would put you up to come waltzin’ over here and make me look like I’ve been cheatin’ on Leeah?”

Before the girl could answer, Sonny nudged Cully in the arm. “I think I know who...” he said, looking over at Ski who was still laughing. Cully looked at Sonny and then followed his line of sight.

“Ski...” Cully growled. “That little shit.” He looked at Marcie. “Did Ski put you up to this?”

She nodded. “He said it was a joke.”

“Sure. For him. We’ll see who’s laughing when I bust his goddamn head open!”

Outside, Gwen caught up to Leeah.

"Leeah, wait! You don't believe that really happened do you?"

"I don't want to believe it....I didn't want to believe it," she sobbed. "But he doesn't remember hardly anything from the time Vic died to now. He could have been with another woman, Gwen. He could have!"

"Not Cully." Gwen shook her head. "No way, he wouldn't do that to you, Leeah. He wouldn't, you know him better than that. You know he wouldn't be unfaithful."

Leeah wiped away tears and looked back to the front doors of the Palomino. Of course he wouldn't, she thought. Would he?

Inside, Cully and Ski were in a battle royal. Cully had marched over, hauled Ski out of his chair and threw the young stuntman into the next table. Beer bottles and plates of food went flying to the floor along with the table itself. Ski managed to jump back up and try to take a swing at Cully in defense.

The last time the two had battled was when Cully had dumped the beer on Ski's head. Although Cully was sober then as he was now, his endurance at the time was low, hindered by the many months and years of drinking. Several of the Palomino regulars were thinking of that last fight as they watched this new one unfold. Right away they saw something different. Cully Dawson had the upper hand.

Of course, he was pissed enough to spit nails, more mad than he had been last time. And with each blow Ski took, he was finding his joke on Cully wasn't all that funny anymore. After Cully tossed Ski over the railing of the upper deck, sending the young stuntman crashing down on another table, Ski cried uncle. "Awright!" he hollared, "awright, awright!!"

Cully came down the steps from the upper deck and walked to where Ski was still laying on the busted table, his clothes drenched in beer and barbeque sauce. He grabbed Ski's shirt and hauled him up to his feet. "You told that girl to do what she did."

"Yeah...yeah, I did."

"Why?"

Ski looked at Cully and then pushed himself out of Cully's grip. "Because you piss me off," he growled.

"So you try to embarass me infront of Leeah? You upset her because I piss you off?" Cully grabbed Ski's arm. "You haven't seen my worst." He yanked the younger stuntman toward the door and they stepped out into the parking lot. He looked towards Sonny's truck and saw Leeah and Gwen. He marched Ski over.

"Tell her," Cully said, letting Ski's arm go with a push.

Ski looked at Cully with spit in his eye.

“Go on...” Cully demanded.

Ski then looked at Leeah. "I told that girl to say those things to Cully."

Leeah stared at Ski. "You did? Why?"

"Because I'm a pain in his ass," Cully said.

"Why can't you back off about the warehouse bit?" Ski asked.

"No way. I'm gonna make sure that scene is never filmed. Mark my words."

"Fuck you," Ski spat. He turned to leave but Leeah stopped him.

"Wait a minute," she said. "Everything you had that girl say was all lies?"

"Yeah. So what? You want me to say I'm sorry?"

"I want you to tell me they were all lies."

"Yeah, they were all lies. The stupid sonofabitch couldn't make it to his car half the time, I doubt he could have got it up. He never had a woman with him." He glanced at Cully. "Not that he could have gotten one if he wanted. Leaves me to wonder how he ever snagged you."

Leeah's palm violently cracked across Ski's face. He turned with the force of the blow and covered his hand over his cheek, looking back at Leeah.

"Get the hell out of my sight."

Ski looked at her for a moment and then glanced at Cully. Without a word he turned and walked away. A couple of his buddies came out of the Palomino and met up with him. They threesome then walked to the other end of the parking lot.

Leeah turned to Cully. "Cully I'm....sorry."

"It's awright...I just can't believe he'd pull something like that," Cully replied.

"Well, I don't think he'll try something like that again," Gwen said with a smile. "I'll go find Sonny." She walked back to the Palomino.

Cully looked at Leeah. "You know I'd never..."

"I know," she said and stepped into his embrace. "I know..."

Cully held her to him for a moment and then with his arm over her shoulder they walked back to the Palomino.

 

Chapter Five