Read The Man With the Iron-On Badge Online

Authors: Lee Goldberg

Tags: #Mystery

The Man With the Iron-On Badge (24 page)

BOOK: The Man With the Iron-On Badge
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There was a time when the roles would have been reversed. When schmucks would have been waiting for
would have had the grand Vegas suite and some bimbo welding his beam. Back when
was riding the top ten, and the network begged him for more. When studio heads would’ve shined his shoes with their tongues for the privilege of financing his next TV pilot.

was ten years, two wives, six flop series, three production deals, and eight busted pilots ago. Back when he had a Palm Springs house and a Maui condo, three Cadillacs and a yacht, and bowels that moved so regularly he could set his Rolex, the Mercedes Benz of watches, by it. His lawyer was wearing the Rolex now, in lieu of fees. That sonofabitch was probably shitting like a bird. Planet had to borrow money against his
Deputy Ghost
residuals just to keep the Studio City house and the Seville. Which was, oddly enough, how he ended up here.

Eddie glanced out the window as the volcano burst, all lights and smoke and jets of water. Flames shot into the clear night sky. The funeral pyre of losers. Look close enough, he figured, you might see bits of charred polyester wafting up into the stars.

Suddenly the doors of the master suite banged open and out strode Daddy Crofoot in a white terrycloth Mirage bathrobe and leather slippers. His wet hair was combed, his skin was taut and tan, his eyes sparkled with youthful exuberance. Eddie was momentarily startled. In his mind, he had cast Charles Durning or Danny Aiello for the part. Something about the name Daddy Crofoot. But this guy was James Woods, maybe. Or that guy Marty Scorsese cast as Christ. Thin. Edgy. Dangerous.

Crofoot flashed a smile and offered Planet his hand. “You must be Eddie Planet. Thanks for waiting.”

His voice spread across the room like an oil slick. Planet forced his cringe into a smile. “It’s pronounced Plan-A. It’s French for hyphenate,” he chuckled, but all he got from Crofoot was a blank look. “As in writer hyphen producer.”

Crofoot knew how to pronounce the guy’s name. But he liked to needle people. Gave him an edge. Not that he needed one with this guy. “I see you’ve already helped yourself to a drink—is there anything else I can offer you?”

“No thanks, I’m fine, Mr. Crofoot,” he said, thankful the man didn’t ask him to call him Daddy. That would have been too much.

Darla came out of the bedroom in her backless evening gown that accentuated her large, authentic breasts. Crofoot watched Eddie drink her in like another bourbon as she walked to the door and, with a smile, left. Eddie Planet was hungry, and hungry people are vulnerable.

Crofoot knew all about Eddie, knew the difference between the paunchy, too tan guy in the rumpled suit who stood in front of him now, and the titan of television he once was. The difference meant everything. Crofoot went to the mahogany bar and took an Evian out of the refrigerator.

“I just came like Vesuvius,” Crofoot said casually. “How many times have you come today?”

Eddie Planet’s third wife, Shari, didn’t think sex was a good idea so soon after her latest breast implants. That was six months ago.

“I’ve lost track.” Eddie nervously shook his glass, but his ice was melting too fast to tinkle.

“That was my third,” Crofoot said. “You got to have three a day, minimum, just to keep your balls working, the testosterone pumping. If there’s no one around, use your hand. But why am I telling you? You know what I’m talking about. You’re a producer.”

“Aren’t you?”

“I’m an investor, Eddie.” Crofoot joined Eddie at the window and looked out at the neon night. “I’m just creative with my money.”

When Bugsy Siegel came to Vegas, he stood in the desert and saw casinos. When Daddy Crofoot came, he stood in the desert and saw Bill Cosby. A two-bit comic worth two billion thanks to off-network syndication. Crofoot wanted in.

“I understand that you’ve got an investment opportunity for me, Eddie.”

Eddie downed what was left of his drink and set the glass down on the table.

“I’ve sold a pilot to MBC, and that’s like a miracle,” Planet said, winding up for his pitch. “You got any idea how hard it is to sell a pilot these days?”

Crofoot knew exactly how hard—he’d been camping out in Vegas for two months, reading up. The network guys hear thousands of ideas, buy hundreds of scripts, and make a couple dozen mostly doomed pilots, sample episodes of wannabe TV series or, as Crofoot saw it, million dollar bets with a slim chance of return.

“You were lucky,” Crofoot said, though he had no intention of relying on chance. The best gamblers cheat. Television was a fool’s bet otherwise. And Crofoot was no fool.

“It’s not about luck, it’s about relationships—who you know. And Morrie Lustig and I go way back, back when he was the network exec on
Hollywood and Vine.”

Eddie was referring to the infamous, short-lived series about the busty fashion model teamed with a photosynthesizing, green-skinned detective who could communicate with
plants—Half-man. Half plant. All-cop.
Morrie Lustig was now MBC’s head of programming. It wasn’t so many years ago that Lustig was a network liaison, the skinny kid with the clip-on tie nervously giving Eddie script notes like “What’s the potted palm’s motivation?”

“Morrie called me up a couple months ago, said it was time to do
as a series, and that I was the only man in this business who could pull it off.” Eddie’s hands were beginning to move now, underscoring each point with a gesture or a sweep of his arm. “Morrie wants to do the classics, but updated. Sophisticated. Hip. Pulsating with the mood of the streets. So I came up with something.”

And then Eddie Planet was off, building up to what he did best, what he enjoyed most. The pitch. Sometimes it felt better than sex. He certainly did it more often.

“Nick Stryker is a rogue cop who doesn’t play by the rules, he just makes ’em up as he goes along. He’s an undercover cop who finally went so deep into the bowels of organized crime it took half the L.A. police force to get him out.” Eddie was feeling good now, getting caught up in his own momentum, building his pitch. “And when the smoke clears, and the blood dries, there are seventeen corpses on the floor. Ten of ’em are mobsters, seven of ’em are cops. One of ’em is Nick.”

Eddie’s hands were moving now, as if grabbing ideas out of the air and thrusting them into the hungry maw of his voracious pitch. Crofoot watched with a poker face. Eddie didn’t care whether Crofoot liked it or not; the pitch had a life of its own, it couldn’t be stopped.

‘‘Then a black Corvette pulls up and out steps Dr. Francine ‘Frankie’ Stein, a scientist with a badge, a black-belt beauty with more dangerous curves than Mulholland Drive. She picks up Nick’s decapitated head and clutches it to her heaving bosom. He was her lover, the best she ever had, and damn it, she’s going to bring him back, somehow, someway.” Eddie was feeling the rush, carried by the energy of his idea, of his vision, of what had to be the best fucking idea ever.

“She takes his head, and the corpses of the dead cops, back to her secret, high-tech, underground lab where, using the latest advances in surgical engineering, cybernetic organs, and computer imaging, she makes medical history.” Eddie was in the homestretch, the finish line in sight, the prize money and the fame his for the taking. “She builds a man. He’s got Nick’s head, and the best body parts and healthiest organs from the seven other dead cops. He’s also got a gun. And a badge. He’s no ordinary man. And he’s no ordinary cop. He’s
and he’s serious about fighting crime.

Eddie stopped then, a broad smile on his face, waiting for the rousing applause. Crofoot nodded, taking it all in.

“Are we talking a two-hour pilot?” Crofoot asked.

Not exactly the enthusiastic response Eddie had hoped for, but at least he was showing an interest. “We can shoot some sex scenes and sell it overseas as a big, wall-to-wall action movie—on the slim chance MBC is stupid enough to pass on a sure thing.”

Crofoot tapped his fingers on the arm of his chair, adding up the figures on an imaginary calculator.

“It’s going to cost two million dollars, and what’s the network coughing up, maybe half?” Crofoot didn’t need an answer, he could see it on Eddie’s face. “So that leaves a million dollar deficit. How much is the studio kicking in?”

Eddie instantly plummeted from his postpitch high. “I think I’ll have that drink now.”

Crofoot motioned to the bar. “Help yourself.” He knew where this conversation was going, but it wasn’t fun unless Eddie squirmed.

Eddie took a handful of ice cubes and crammed them into a crystal glass, then liberally splashed them with Jim Beam. “I’ve worked with all the studios, and made each of ’em a fortune. We’re talking millions on millions. But executives have no loyalty, no respect. You have a couple near misses, and they forget you exist.” He gently shook the glass as he walked back to Crofoot, the tinkle of ice cubes making him feel like an important character in a meeting rife with human drama. Suddenly, he felt like he actually had some control over the situation. He sank into a leather chair.

“I did a half-dozen ambitious, high-concept series that were too innovative, ahead of their time kind of stuff. The networks didn’t have the guts to stick with ’em. So the studios lost a few bucks, but not nearly as much as they’ve made off of me in my time.” Eddie settled into a seat opposite Crofoot, who was staring impassively at him. “There’s still a
stage show on the Pinnacle Studios tour. But, can you believe this, no studio will give me a cent for this incredible pilot, just because they lost a couple dollars on a couple shows.”

Crofoot smiled, but Eddie found it anything but reassuring. For the first time in days, his bowels wanted to do aerobics.

“The shows were toilets, Eddie. Everyone shit all over them and the studios had to flush twenty million bucks down the drain.” Crofoot’s fingers were doing their tap dance and so was Eddie’s stomach. Crofoot’s choice of metaphor verged horrifyingly close to mind reading. “No one can afford you. The big studios are too smart now, and the little ones are too poor.”

Eddie sat up so quickly some of his drink sloshed out of the glass onto the black leather. “Look at
look at
Deputy Ghost,
look at
Beyond Earth
—those shows made ten times what my other shows lost!”

“A decade ago, Eddie.” Crofoot handed Eddie a napkin and motioned to the wet spot. “In Hollywood, that’s the Stone Age. You’re extinct. You’ve had to mortgage everything you own just to keep up the appearance that you’re still alive.”

Eddie wiped up the tiny puddle, then unconsciously dabbed his brow with the wet napkin. “This is your chance to get into the television business big time, to start as a player. You know how hard it is to sell a pilot? You don’t let opportunities like this slip away. It’s brass ring time. You understand what I’m saying? They don’t come along every day.”

And in Eddie’s case, might not come along ever again. But Planet was right about one thing, it was the perfect opportunity for Crofoot to buy into the exclusive network television game and get a coveted seat at the high rollers’ table.

“You’re asking me for a million dollars just for the pilot, and maybe three hundred thousand an episode to cover the deficit if it goes to series.” Crofoot said. “That’s a big risk.”

is gonna sell and it’s gonna be a hit, I can feel it,” Eddie said. “I’ll stake my career on it.”

“If I give you a million bucks, more than your career is going to be at stake. You do understand that, don’t you, Eddie?”

Eddie swallowed some Jim Beam and mulled the implications. If he couldn’t deliver on a pilot commitment, for Christ’s sake, he was dead in the business anyway. What difference did it make if he was dead all the way around? Better to be six feet under than to face the humiliation of waiting for a table at Morton’s.

“Sure,” Eddie said.

No contract. No deal memo. No handshake. One tentative word was all it took for Eddie Planet to strike a coproduction deal with the mob, otherwise known as Pinstripe Productions International, Daddy Crofoot, president and head of production.

“I own the negative,” Crofoot said, “and I call all the shots.”

“I want the final card, at the end of the show, executive producer credit.” Eddie hoped the bathroom was close by. He was going to need it.

“You can call yourself Grand Poobah of the Realm, I don’t care, as long as you remember you work for me.”

“Gotcha, Mr. Crofoot.” Eddie downed the rest of his drink. “Could you point me toward the bathroom?”

“Call me Daddy.” Crofoot walked to the desk, opened a drawer and pulled out a manila envelope. “I want you to meet the star of
Flint Westwood.”

“What’s his TVQ?” Eddie had never heard of the guy, much less his popularity quotient with the public.

Crofoot opened up the envelope and tossed Eddie an eight-by-ten photo. Eddie looked down at a picture of the biggest hard-on he had ever seen. Crofoot grinned.

his TVQ.”

A stream of cold air was aimed at Sabrina Bishop’s nipples, and eighty-three people were waiting around impatiently for them to get hard. But her nipples just weren’t team players.

Maybe if she had spent all those years in all those acting classes pretending to be erect nipples instead of a tree, or all old woman, or a dog, she wouldn’t be sitting topless on a pool table, while a stringy haired makeup lady dabbed Sabrina’s face and a gum-chomping special effects man wearily aimed a tiny air hose at her breasts.

Her cinematic lover, Thad Paul, who had already managed to become a has-been TV star at age thirty-five, was huddling with the shaggy young director, just out of USC. They were watching the video playback of Thad’s close-up, taken while he lay on top of her and mimicked orgasm.

Being a method actor, Thad had thought they should
the orgasm rather than
it, but she wouldn’t go for it, despite his fervent protests. After all, he claimed, Mickey Rourke did it in
Wild Orchid,
so why couldn’t they? She didn’t care if Ronald Reagan did it in
Bedtime for Bonzo,
she wasn’t going to prostitute herself for a direct-to-video, erotic thriller—another
Postman Always Rings Twice
Double Indemnity.

BOOK: The Man With the Iron-On Badge
8.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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