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Authors: Elmore Leonard

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BOOK: Get Shorty
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“Sandy Dennis, sure. The daughter blame the mom for her marriage going to hell?”

Karen gave him another look. “She accuses me of talking her into getting married before she was ready. And that, of course, adds to my sense of guilt.”

“What'd you do you feel guilty about?”

“It's not anything I did. It's more . . . what right do I have to be happy when my daughter's miserable?”

“You know the kid's faking?”

“It's not that simple. You have to read it, see the way Beth works on me.”

“You got a problem.”

“Well, yeah, that's what the picture's about.”

“I mean feeling guilty. I think what you oughta do, either give little Beth a kick in the ass or tell her go see a doctor, get her head examined.”

“You don't get it,” Karen said. “I'm her
I have to come to grips with my maternal feelings.”

Turning off Doheny, Karen shot through an amber light to swing into the traffic crawling along Sunset.

“People have guilt trips laid on them all the time and they accept it, the guilt. It doesn't have to make sense, it's the way people are.”

“Anywhere along here's fine,” Chili said, thinking of times he had been asked if he was guilty and not once ever having the urge to say he was. Real-life situations, even facing prison time, were never as emotional as movies. Cops got emotional in movies. He had never met an emotional cop in his life. He liked the way Karen sideslipped the BMW through a stream of cars to pull up at the curb. He thanked her, started to get out and said, “What happens, the kid goes after your boyfriend and that's when you finally stand up to her?”

“You're close,” Karen said.


What he liked best, thinking about it, was not so much guessing the ending but the look Karen gave him when he did. The eye contact. For a moment there the two of them looking at each other in a different way than before. Like starting over. Karen
broke the spell saying she had to run and he got out of her car.

Still looking at the photos on the wall he thought about taking a closer look at the ones Karen was in. Check out her eyes. See what they were like when she was a screamer with blond hair. Maybe later.

Right now Harry was saying, “Here we are.”

Harry, in the doorway, stepping aside, the two limo guys coming into the office past him.

Chili stayed where he was, at the desk. The one he took to be Ronnie Wingate—and had been thinking of as the rich kid—glanced at him, that's all, then looked around the office saying, “Harry, what year is it, man?” with a lazy rich-kid way of talking. “We enter a time warp? I feel like I'm back in the Hollywood of yesteryear.” He was wearing a suede jacket so thin it was like a second shirt, with jeans and running shoes, sunglasses resting in his rich-kid hair he hadn't bothered to comb.

The other one, Bo Catlett, was an opposite type, tall next to Ronnie and put together in a tan outfit, suit, shirt and tie all light tan, a shade lighter than his skin. But what was he? From across the room he looked like the kind of guy who came from some island in the Pacific Ocean you never heard of. Ronnie kept moving as he looked at the photos over the sofa, his motor running on some chemical. Now Harry was waving his arm, inviting them to sit in the red chairs facing the desk.

Chili watched Catlett coming first, saw the mustache now and the tuft of hair beneath the lower lip
and wondered what was wrong with Harry. The guy wasn't Latin or even from some unknown island out in the ocean. Up close he was colored. Colored and something else, but still colored.

Sitting down he said, “How you doing?”

That's what he was and what the other Catlett, the jazz drummer, was too. Chili said to him, “You any relation to Sid Catlett?”

It brought a smile, not much, but enough to make his eyes dreamy. “Big Sid, huh? No, I'm from another tribe. Tell me what brings you here.”

“The movies,” Chili said.

And Catlett said, “Ah, the movies, yeah.”

Ronnie was seated now, one leg hooked over the chair arm, the leg swinging up and down on some kind of energy, his head moving too, as if plugged into a Walkman. Behind them Harry said, “This is my associate, Chili Palmer, who'll be working with me.”

Harry already forgetting his instructions.

The limo guys nodded and Chili gave them a nod back. “I want to make sure there's no misunderstanding here,” Harry said. He told them that despite rumors they might have heard, their investment in
was as sound as the day they signed their participation agreement.

“Harry, are you making a speech?” Ronnie had his face raised to the ceiling. “I can hear you, but where the fuck are you, man?”

“What I been wondering,” Catlett said in a quiet voice, looking at Chili, “is where he's been.”

Ronnie said, “Yeah, where've you been? You called us once, Harry, in three months.”

Harry came around from behind them to stand at one side of the desk, his back to the window, saying
he'd been off scouting locations and interviewing actors in New York and his secretary had left without his knowledge to work for an agent, for Christ sake, Harry saying that was the kind of help you had to rely on these days, walked out, didn't even tell him.

Chili listened, not believing he was hearing all this.

Ronnie said, “Let's get the man a girl. Harry, you want one with big hooters or one that can type?”

Chili's gaze moved from Ronnie the fool to Bo Catlett the dude, the man composed, elbows on the chair arms, his fingertips touching to form a tan-skinned church, a ruby ring for a stained-glass window.

“The main thing I want to tell you,” Harry said, “the start date for
is being pushed back a little, a few months. We should be in production before the end of the year. . . . Unless because of unforeseen complications we decide it would be better to shoot next spring.”

Chili watched Ronnie's leg, hanging over the chair arm, bounce to a stop.

“What're you telling us, Harry?”

“We have to put the start date off, that's all.”

“Yeah, but why? Next spring, that's a whole year away.”

“We'll need the prep time.”

Ronnie said, “Hey, Harry? Bullshit. We have an agreement with you, man.”

Chili raised his hand toward Harry.

“Wait a minute, okay? What we're talking about here—Harry, you're gonna make the movie, right.

Harry said, “Yeah,” sounding surprised.

“Tell him.”

“I just did.”

“Tell him again.”

“We're gonna make the picture,” Harry said. He paused and said, “I've got another project to do first, that's all. One I promised this guy years ago.”

Chili wondered if there was a way to shut Harry up without punching him in the mouth.

He saw Catlett watching him over the tips of his fingers while Ronnie fooled with his sunglasses, Harry telling them he'd be starting the other project any time now, a quickie, and as soon as it wrapped
would go before the cameras.

There was a silence until Ronnie got up straighter in his chair and said, “I think what happened, you put our bucks in some deal that blew up in your face and now you're trying to buy time. I want to see your books, Harry. Show me where it is, a two with five zeroes after it in black and white, man. I want to see your books and your bank statements.”

Chili said to the rich kid, “Hey, Ronnie? Look at me.”

It caught him by surprise. Ronnie looked over. So did Bo Catlett.

Chili said, “You have a piece of a movie, Ronnie. That's all. You don't have a piece of Harry. You don't tell him what you want to see that has to do with his business, that's private. You understand what I'm saying? Harry told you we're doing another movie first, before we come along and do
And that's the way it's gonna be.”

“Excuse me,” Ronnie said, “but who the fuck are you?”

“I'm the one telling you how it is,” Chili said. “That's not too hard, is it, figure that out?”

He watched Ronnie turn to Catlett, who hadn't moved or changed his expression much. Ronnie said, “Cat? . . .”

Chili watched Catlett now. He still couldn't understand how Harry missed seeing the guy was colored. He was light-skinned and his hair was fairly straight, combed over to one side, but that didn't mean anything. The color itself didn't mean anything either, Chili thinking the guy wasn't any darker than he was. Colored, but could you call him black? The guy was taking his time, giving the situation some thought.

When he spoke it was to Harry, Catlett asking, “What's this movie you're doing first?”

A simple enough question.

Chili said, “Harry, let me answer that.”

He saw Catlett looking at him again.

“But first, I want to know who I'm talking to. Am I talking to you, or am I talking to him?” Meaning Ronnie.

He saw Catlett's expression change, not much, but something in the eyes, with that dreamy kind of half smile, that told Chili the man understood. The man saying now, “You can talk to me.”

“That's what I thought,” Chili said. “So let me put it this way. Outside of
it's not any of your fuckin business what we do.”

Now it was between them, Chili giving the guy time but that's all, no way out for him except straight ahead or back off and the guy knew it too, looking at it and not moving a muscle, making up his mind . . .

Christ, when Harry stepped in, Harry reaching over the desk to pick up the script, Harry telling
them, “This is the project,
Mr. Lovejoy.
I'm not trying to pull anything on you guys. This is it, right here.” Harry blowing the setup and there wasn't a thing Chili could do about it.

He eased back in the chair and saw Catlett watching him with that dreamy half-smile again.

Ronnie was saying, “
Mr. Loveboy
?” reaching for the script. “What is it, Harry, a porno flick?”

Harry saying, “Love
,” backing away, holding the script to his chest.

“Okay, but what's it about?”

“It's fluff, it's one I got involved in as a favor to a writer friend of mine. The guy's terminally ill and I owe it to him. Believe me, it's nothing you'd be interested in.”

Ronnie said, “You think we go see the shit you turn out? Cat says he's seen better film on teeth.” He looked at Catlett and said, “Right? I bet it's porno. Harry's lying to us.”

Chili watched Catlett, the guy taking it all in, Harry telling them now the script was unreadable—holding it with both hands against his body—it needed all kinds of work. Catlett pushed out of the chair, in no hurry, and Chili had to look up to see his face, with that bebop tuft under his lip.

“I got an idea,” Bo Catlett said to Harry. “Take our twenty points out of
and put 'em in this other one,
Mr. Loverboy.
What's the difference.”

“I can't do it,” Harry said.

“You positive about that?”

“It's a different kind of deal.”

“Okay.” Catlett paused. “Then be good enough to hand us our money back.”

“Why?” Harry said. “We have a deal, a signed agreement to do a picture I guarantee you is gonna get made.”

“Take some time, think about our going into this other one,” Catlett said. “Will you do that?”

“Okay, I'll think about it,” Harry said. “I will.”

“That's all we need to know, Harry. Till next time.”

Chili watched Catlett look over before he turned—not long enough to be in each other's face, just a look—and walked out, Ronnie following after him.


Now they were in Harry's Mercedes, Chili not saying much for the time being: getting his thoughts together, deciding what kind of attitude he should have if he was going to stay in this deal: take it seriously or just go along and see what happens. So when Harry said, “That's where Lew Wasserman lives,” Chili didn't ask who Lew Wasserman was. When Harry said, “There's where Frank Sinatra lives,” Chili did look up, caught a glimpse of the house, but saw mostly Frank Sinatra's bushes, nice ones.

“You want to look at a star's home you can't even tell it's there,” Harry said, “I'll take you past Bob Hope's place, over in Toluca Lake. You want to get a look at actual homes you can see, I'll show you where two of the Three Stooges used to live, also Joan Crawford, George Hamilton . . . Who else? The house Elvis Presley lived in when he was out here. It's in Bel Air. You know he made over thirty pictures and the only one I saw was
Stay Away, Joe
? A wonderful book they completely fucked up.”


Chili kept thinking about right after the limo guys left saying to Harry, “What's wrong with you? What'd you tell 'em all your business for? Whyn't you do like I told you?”

Harry said, “What?” Acting surprised and then offended. “I had to tell 'em

“What'd we talk about, Harry, before? The way to handle it, you weren't gonna tell 'em shit. Isn't that right?”

“It didn't work out that way.”

“No, 'cause you wouldn't shut up. You want these guys off your back, I tell you okay, here's how we do it. Next thing I know you're saying yeah, maybe they can have a piece of
I couldn't believe my fuckin ears.”

“I said I'd think about it. What does that mean? In this business, nothing. I was buying time. All I have to do is hold 'em off till I make a deal at a studio.”

“That's the difference between me and you,” Chili said. “I don't leave things hanging. If I wanted Karen to talk to Michael I'd say, ‘Karen, how about talking to Michael for me?' I told the limo guys it wasn't any of their fuckin business, period. They don't like it, that's too bad. What's the guy gonna do, Catlett, take a swing at me? He might've wanted to, but he had to consider first, who is this guy? He don't know me. All he knows is I'm looking at him like if he wants to try me I'll fuckin take him apart. Does he wanta go for it, get his suit messed up? I mean even if he's good he can see it would be work.”

“He could've had a gun,” Harry said.

“It wasn't a gun kind of situation. You don't pack, Harry, less you're gonna use it. You say Ronnie
plays with his in the office. That told me something right there. Then, soon as I saw the colored guy, I knew he was the one in charge. I asked him—you heard me—he goes yeah, without coming right out and saying it. Ronnie's sitting there, he don't even know what I'm talking about.”

“What colored guy?”

“Who do you think? Catlett. I don't know how you could've missed that. He lets the rich kid think he's the boss, but Catlett's pulling his strings. You don't see that?”

Harry said, “You think he's a black guy?” Sounding surprised again.

“I know he is. Harry, I've lived in Brooklyn, I've lived in Miami, I've seen all different shades and mixtures of people and listened to 'em talk and Catlett's a black guy with light-colored skin, that's all. Take my word.”

“He doesn't talk like a black guy.”

“What do you want him to say, Yazza, boss? He might be part South American,” Chili said, “have some other kind of blood in him too, but I know he's colored.”

They left the office talking about Catlett and the rich kid. Now they were in the car heading for Michael Weir's house, Chili wanting to get a good look at it, maybe let Harry drop him off and he'd stroll by. Harry said, “You see anybody out strolling? Not in this part of Beverly Hills. It's against the law to be seen on the street.”


“The one on the left,” Harry said, “that's where Dean Martin used to live.” Chili looked at the house without saying anything. “The one coming up—see
the gate? Kenny Rogers rented that while he was having his new home built. You know what he paid a month? Fifty thousand.”

“Jesus Christ,” Chili said.

“Okay, right around the bend on the left, the one that looks like the place they signed the Declaration of Independence, that's Michael's house.”

BOOK: Get Shorty
3.31Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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