Authors: Robert T. Jeschonek
Near Los Angeles, California - Today
The church exploded in a tremendous blast of fire and smoke. Rubble rocketed in all directions as an ear-splitting boom cascaded across the valley. Flaming debris crashed down on car hoods and bounded over the pavement. A church bell hurtled into the cab of a garbage truck, smashing through the windshield with a loud, discordant
An enormous, blazing crucifix plunged on the roof of a car speeding away from the blast, sending it spinning in circles. Tires squealed as the car swept around and around, finally slamming into the pump in front of a gas station, which then exploded.
A plume of fire shot skyward from the pump, blowing the car end-over-end across the street. The gas station windows shattered inward, and every car on the block bounced from the force of the blast. Power lines snapped and whipped like cobras, spraying showers of sparks through the air.
Then, suddenly, someone yelled, "Cut!" And the whole movie crew erupted in wild applause at once. Everyone behind the cameras clapped and hooted and whistled at the spectacular display of carnage.
Dunne Sullivan clapped, too, though he felt as dazed as he was excited. The mayhem had left him in a state of shock; he wasn't part of the crew and wasn't used to spending time around high intensity action scenes during filming.
It was true Dunne made his living off movies and TV shows, but he did so by writing tie-in novels based on them. Till today, the closest he'd been to a movie set or location shoot was the TV screen in his apartment.
But according to Thad Glissando, producer extraordinaire for Halcyon Studios, he'd be spending a lot more time there from now on. "Hey now, hero!" Thad clapped Dunne on the back, jolting him forward. "Think we got enough
Dunne nodded and grinned. "I want toys like that for
Thad laughed. "Don't worry!" He ran a tanned hand over his slicked-back blonde hair. "
Weeping Willows The Movie
the budget of this picture."
Dunne got a shiver of excitement just hearing the title. He was going from lowly tie-in writer to Hollywood screenwriter just like
. All thanks to a bestselling novel he'd written about the cult classic 70s cop show
, a kickass hit breaking big just as Thad was gearing up for a
So Dunne was about to write a major motion picture. Meeting on location with Thad would seal the deal, and then Dunne, at age 25, would finally get his shit together.
At least as much as he could
get his shit together after what he'd done to his family.
"Ready to start writing?" Deep crescent dimples set off Thad's mile-wide smile like parentheses. "Does this get the creative juices flowing?" He spread his arms wide to take in the smoky set, hissing with the spray of fire hoses putting out flaming debris from the shoot. The afternoon sun flared on the sleeves of his tailored white suit, giving him a radiant, angelic glow.
"Are you kidding?" said Dunne. "When do you want the first pages?"
Thad threw an arm around Dunne's shoulders and gave him a squeeze. "Actually, you need to do some
first." Thad nodded and raised his blonde eyebrows. "Some
"Research?" Dunne frowned. "What kind of research?"
"On location." Thad turned Dunne from the set and pulled him along as he started walking. "Expenses paid, of course. And you'll have a partner."
"Partner?" Dunne kept frowning. Thad was guiding him in the direction of a white limousine parked alongside a trailer twenty yards away. "A writing partner?"
"More like a
partner," said Thad. "And
Suddenly, Thad jammed two fingers in his mouth and let loose a shrill whistle in the direction of the limo. "Time for your close-up, Hannahlee!"
The back door of the limo swung open, propelled by a slender arm. A woman's arm in a long, black sleeve.
As Dunne watched, the woman's arm withdrew. After a moment's pause, her foot slid out, wearing an ivory pump. It was followed by a shapely leg in pale white hose. A black skirt with white piped trim rippled just below the knee.
Thad elbowed Dunne in the ribs. "Take a deep breath, kid. This is what they call a life-changing experience."
Thad's warning did no good. Dunne still wasn't ready for what he saw. For
When the first foot touched the pavement, the second one swung out beside it. Dunne saw more of the dress: gathered waist, wide white belt, white buttons. Understated, businesslike, crisp. As the woman braced herself against the seat, he saw white piping running from cuff to shoulder along her sleeve.
Squinting into the shadows of the limo, Dunne strained to glimpse her face. For a moment, all he could make out was a faint, gauzy shape, like a veil concealing her features. Like a ghost.
Then, suddenly, she emerged. She pushed up from the seat and stood straight, revealed all at once before him in bright daylight.
Which was exactly when Dunne gasped.
He could not believe his eyes. Not even a little. She
Thad laughed beside him. "I was wrong, wasn't I?" He shook Dunne's shoulders. "Life-changing experience is putting it
Dunne nodded and stared.
. The woman at the limo was in her late fifties or early sixties, at least. She was dressed conservatively, and the red color in her shoulder-length hair must have been dye.
But she was still
. And not just because of who she
. Not just because she'd been the biggest star of the
TV show. Not just because Dunne had worshipped her from afar and written book after book starring her character.
She was most striking because of the way she carried herself. The way she stood there, tall and regal in the late afternoon southern California sun. Thirty years past her
glory days, twenty years since she'd dropped out of the public eye...and still somehow resplendent, impressive, luminous. Still the star of all she surveyed.
Dunne stumbled as Thad walked him to the limo. His heart pounded, and nervous chills flashed through his body. His mouth went dry, and his palms turned wet.
There she was. Right in front of him. The actress who'd played Kitty Willow.
"Dunne Sullivan," said Thad. "Meet Hannahlee Saylor."
Dunne frowned as Thad pushed him toward her. He recognized the woman, but not the name. "Pleased to meet you, Ms. Saylor." He extended his hand. "Or should I say Ms. Caprice?"
The woman smiled and shook Dunne's hand. "Lianna Caprice was a long time ago." Her voice was so familiar, deep and velvety, yet cracking with age on the lowest notes. "I go by Hannahlee Saylor now."
Dunne shivered as he held her slender hand. Until now, she had never been quite real to him. An image on a TV screen, she might as well have been a goddess, transfigured in distant cloud tops and rainbows.
Dunne held on to her hand for an extra moment, aware of nothing but her face, her presence, her touch. Her blazing green eyes, locked with his.
Finally, Thad broke the spell. "You two will be spending a lot of time together. We need you to find the ultimate
Dunne let go of Hannahlee's hand. He suddenly felt self-conscious and broke eye contact with her, too. "Who's that?"
"Cyrus Gowdy," said Thad. "Maybe you've heard of him."
Of course he had. "The creator of
"Bingo," said Thad.
Dunne combed his fingers through his thin, sandy hair. "But no one knows where he is, right?"
Thad shrugged. "You see our problem."
"He's been off the grid for what? Five years?" said Dunne. "Is he even alive?"
"He's out there somewhere." Hannahlee said it definitively.
"There are more rumors than you can shake a stick at," said Thad. "But we think there's some truth to them. We think he's hiding somewhere in the
Dunne scowled. "There's a fan underground?"
"Is there ever!" Thad rolled his eyes. "Which is why we need you two. Kitty Willow herself and the writer whose books have kept
alive all these years. You'll have instant entrÃ©e with the fan community."
Dunne rubbed his chin. "And you want us to find Gowdy why, exactly?" He had a thought, and his hopes and dreams took a sudden nosedive. "Do you want him to write the screenplay?"
"No, no." Thad chuckled and thumped Dunne on the back. "But he
the only one who can save the movie. We need him to sign a
"What kind of release?" said Dunne.
"In Gowdy's original contract, he signed over everything to Halcyon Studios...
," said Thad. "But he still has right of refusal on future
"Like movies," said Hannahlee.
"See where we're going with this?" said Thad. "No signed release from Gowdy..."
Weeping Willows The Movie
. Got it." Dunne nodded and clapped his hands together. "So when do we start?"
"Show him the flyer," said Thad.
Hannahlee slid a folded sheet of pale blue paper out of her pocket and handed it to Dunne. It was an ad for the "25
Annual Willowcon" in L.A.
"The world's biggest convention for
fans," said Thad. "Might be a logical place to start, eh?"
"This is tomorrow," said Dunne.
"Then that's when you start." Suddenly, Thad shot his hand in the air. "So can I get a 'Hey now, hero?'"
It was the most famous catch phrase from
. Dunne knew it well, but he hesitated. Meeting the piercing green gaze of Hannahlee, he felt exposed. As if she could see through to what he really was. As if she knew he was as far from being a hero as anyone could get.
Because the truth was, Dunne's wife and baby daughter had died because of him. Because when a murderous gunman had broken into their home, Dunne had been too scared to fight back. He'd been too much of a coward to fight for his family's lives.
The truth was, Dunne was the opposite of a hero. But he said it anyway, to placate Thad. To move forward with this chance to turn his life around.
This chance for him to change.
"Hey there, hero." Dunne said it half-heartedly.
"What're we fightin' for?" said Thad.
"Love and justice," said Dunne.
"You're darn tootin'." Hannahlee frowned at Dunne as she said it.
Barcelona, Spain - November 1883
I am at a crossroads when he enters my life.
A year and a half ago, a bishop laid my first stone. In the time since then, I have grown; workers have dug and lined my foundations, sprawling over this space in the heart of the city.
It is a fitting spot, as I am meant to
that heart...beating with the rhythm of the faithful, given over to love of God and His creation. Everything about me is intended to express that love for as long as I shall stand.
Yet I do not love God. I know nothing about Him, and I know nothing at all of love.
At least until today.
Today, I see the newcomer for the first time. My patron, SeÃ±or Bocabella, walks him around the cavity of my foundation, describing his vision of me with grand sweeps of his hands.
The newcomer weaves a vision with
hands, too, but the pictures he draws in the air are much different than Bocabella's.
I overhear Bocabella call him
"To craft a fitting tribute to Our Lord, we must use His language." GaudÃ sweeps his arm overhead, taking in the bright blue sky and shimmering sun. "The language of Nature."
Stern Bocabella grunts and nods. "You are a true believer, SeÃ±or GaudÃ, and your ideas are inspired...but I am not sure that is enough."
GaudÃ drops his arm and shrugs. "What else do you want from me? Spinelessness? Blind obedience? Perhaps your last architect would have lasted longer if he had had more of these."
"Let me tell you what I think of SeÃ±or Villar: he is nothing like you."
"I'll give you that." GaudÃ rubs his bearded chin. "I am even
cooperative than he...at least when I am right."
"Which is always." Bocabella says it with a sly half-smile.
GaudÃ chuckles. "Perhaps we
understand each other."
As they walk onward, I wonder if GaudÃ will get the job. I wonder if he will build me. I wonder if I want him to.
This is the crossroads I face: I need someone new to bring me to life. Someone who will not hold me back. Someone who will give voice to the greatness that gestates within me.
Is he the one? I wish I could tellâbut for now, his true potential lies as hidden as my own.
"What if I told you I had a dream?" says Bocabella. "A dream that I should hire you?"
"I would say that the only dreams I live by are my own." GaudÃ smiles and parts from Bocabella, strolling to a section of the knee-high stone wall rising from my foundation. He crouches, black frock coat brushing the ground, and runs his hand along the row of granite blocks.
I gaze up at him as he touches me. His bright eyes blaze in the sunlight like twin blue flames, piercing the dusty afternoon air with unusual force.
He startles me with the strength of his stare. For the first time, I feel as if someone is looking directly at
ânot at my foundation, but my true self, my spirit.
Mesmerized, I watch his every movement and expression. I cannot look away.
And then he does something no one else has ever done to me. Something extraordinary.
He tells me a secret. He whispers it so that I alone can hear.
"I will make of us a cathedral like no other."
That is what he says. "Us," as if somehow he intends to build himself, too.
His hand is warm on my granite. He smiles, and something quickens inside me. I know that I will never be the same.
"Well, SeÃ±or?" Bocabella's sharp voice breaks the moment. "Will you humor me? Or shall I summon the next candidate? Have you turned your back on the Holy Family of Our Lord?"
GaudÃ pats my wall...and winks at me. I realize, as he pushes himself to his feet, that I do not want him to go.
Turning, he brushes the dust from his hands. "Congratulations," he says. "You're hired."
hired?" Bocabella laughs. "And what will you
"Grief and insubordination," says GaudÃ. "Struggle and strife and pain. Endless controversy. And genius. All the ingredients we need to exceed our limits.
"And if we are lucky, I will pay you one thing more," says GaudÃ. "A prayer for all Barcelona...all Catalonia...all mankind. A prayer so huge and lasting and wild that God Himself will not wish to look away from it."
"Your ambitions match my own," says Bocabella. "Very well. I will go to work for you."
"And I will build your cathedral," says GaudÃ. "I will build your
My spirit soars as he says my name for the first time. My mind rushes with excitement at the thought of us two working together in days to come...of him lavishing his attentions upon me. Teaching me to fulfill our mutual dreams.
I cannot imagine what he will make of me, but somehow, I know it will be grand. Somehow, though we have only just met, I trust him without reservation.
Somehow, I know that this was meant to be.