Plain turned to an assistant: "Larry, move the heater into the back. You gotta get some heat on her."
"We'll get the fumes," Larry said, arms akimbo, a deliberately effeminate pose. Larry wasn't gay, just ironic.
"We'll deal with the fucking fumes. Huh? Okay? We'll deal with the fucking fumes."
"You gotta do something. I'm really cold," Alie'e said. She clasped her arms around herself and shivered for effect. A man dressed in black walked out from behind the lights, peeling off his cashmere sport coat. He was tall, thin, his over-the-shoulder brunette hair worn loose and back. He had a thick hammered-silver loop earring in his left ear and a dark soul-patch under his lower lip. "Take this until they're ready again," he said to Alie'e. She huddled in the coat. Turning away from them, Plain rolled his eyes. "Larry-move the fuckin' heater."
Larry shrugged and began wheeling the propane heater farther into the barge. If they all died of carbon monoxide poisoning, it wouldn't be his fault.
Plain turned back to Alie'e. "Jax, take a hike, and take your coat with you. . . ."
"Hey-" the man in black said, but nobody was looking at him, or paying attention.
Plain continued: "Alie'e, I want you pissed. Don't do that thing with your lips. You're sticking your lips out, like this." Plain pursed his lips. "That's a pout. I don't want a pout. Do it like this. . . ." He grimaced, and Alie'e tried to imitate him. This was one of her talents: the ability to imitate expression, the way a dancer could imitate motion.
"That's better," Plain said to Alie'e. "But make your mouth longer, turn it down, and get it set that way while you're moving. Do it again." She did it again, making the changes. "That's good, but now you need some mouth."
He turned back to the line of lights and the small crowd gathered behind them-an account executive, a creative director, a makeup artist, a hairdresser, a couture rep, a second photo assistant, and Alie'es parents, Lynn and Lil. Plain did not provide chairs, and the inside of the barge was not a place you'd want to sit down, not if your hand-tailored jeans cost four hundred and fifty dollars. To the makeup artist, Plain said, "Fix her mouth." And to the second assistant: "Jimmy, where's the fucking Polaroid? You got the Polaroid?"
Jimmy was fanning a six-by-seven-centimeter Polaroid color print, which was used to check exposure. He glanced at the print and said, "It's coming up."
Behind him, the creative director whispered to the account executive, "Says 'fuck' a lot," and the account executive muttered, "They all do."
Plain peered at the Polaroid, looked up at an overhead softbox. "Move that box. About two feet to the right, that way." Jimmy moved it, and Plain looked around. "Everybody ready? Alie'e, remember the line. Clark, are you ready?"
The welder said, "Yeah, I'm ready. Was that enough sparks?"
"Sparks were fine, sparks were good," Plain said. "You're the only fucking professional working here this morning." He looked back at Alie'e. "Now, don't fucking pout-blow right through the line. . . ."
Alie'e waited patiently until her mouth was fixed, staring blankly past the makeup artist's ear as a bit of color was patched into the left corner of her lower lip; Jax said into her ear, "Love you. You're doing great, you look great." Alie'e barely heard him. She was seeing herself walking the plank, the vision of herself that came from Plain's mind.
When her mouth was done, she stepped back to her starting mark. Jax got out of the way, and when Plain said, "Go," Alie'e got her expression right, started down the plank with a lanky, hip-swinging stride, and blew past the exposure line, the green dress swirling about her hips, the orange-yellow welder's sparks flashing in the background. The stink and smoke of the burning metal curled around her as Plain, standing behind the camera, fired the bank of strobes.
Reprinted from Easy Prey by John Sandford by permission of Putnam Pub. Group, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright (c) 2000 by John Sandford. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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