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Courtney Jacobs doubted there could be enough coffee in all of Thornton Springs, Montana, to see her through this movie shoot.
After filling her paper cup with the morale-boosting brew, she headed back toward the set. All around her, sleep-deprived crew members hustled to transform this charming burg into an old Western town. She checked her watch. 7:00 a.m. Within an hour, Keith Kingsley, the temperamental director of North to MontanaN2M to insiderswould be ready to call "action," and he wasn't exactly known for his patience.
"Move it or bleed!" A rigger bellowed as he charged past, swinging an aluminum grip stand just over Courtney's head.
She danced around a coil of electrical cables then sidestepped a set painter as he examined the distressing he'd given a storefront. Wincing as the gaffer shouted out coarse instructions to his crew of lighting techs, she ducked to avoid a swooping boom pole.
A contented sigh slipped through her lips. With just four independent films on her resumetwo a year since graduating from collegeshe felt lucky to have booked a major studio-backed project so early in her career.
She'd been hired as personal assistant to the star, Angela Bijouan A-list actress with a reputation for supreme diva behavior and for taking up with her leading men. Angela had made it clear from day one that Jeffrey Mark Caulfield (sizzling from the recent success of The Pharaoh's Tomb), would be no exception.
The bleep of Courtney's cell phone drew her from her wandering thoughts. Balancing her stillfull cup on the edge of her clipboard, she opened a text from the key costumer.
Ms. Bju s neded 4 a finl fttng of hr Act 3 pRT gwn 2moro @ 2. B sur sh's thr.
Courtney gnawed at her lower lip. If Ms. Bijou didn't know about the fttng, it would be one more thing for her to take out on Courtney.
Hurrying down the center of the newly dirtencrusted street, she clenched her cup between her teeth and shoved her clipboard under her arm. She flicked open the phone keyboard and tapped out a response while dodging a gaggle of grips positioning an old wooden wagon by the edge of the just-built boardwalk.
2moro @ 2. No woriez.
Nearing the area where the first scene of the day would be shot, Courtney hit Send and scanned the street. Several cast members milled about in costume butno surpriseAngela wasn't among them. Giving a cursory glance to the berry-pink Swatch she'd been given as a thank-you from her actress on her last movie, she headed toward the makeup trailer in the hope that Angela had made it to her call on time.
Striding across the set, she drank in the liveliness of her surroundings. It was great being a part of something this vital. So what if her job at the moment was keeping the leading lady on-schedule? She was an indispensable cog in the machine.
Stopping in her tracks, Courtney spun around to face the familiar angry command. From the first day of rehearsals, Angela Bijou had demonstrated an annoying articulation of Courtney's name that made the word itself sound like an outright accusation.
"You had better explain what's going on here!" The woman stormed toward Courtney with a heated, resolute gait and fire in her famous jade-green eyes. Her flimsy peach-silk cover-up and matching turban signified that she hadn't yet made it to hair or wardrobe, and screamed "Look at meI'm a star."
Courtney opened her mouth to respond, but Angela cut her off with a tirade that rivaled a hurricane.
"Are you completely incompetent?" Angela screeched as she planted her lithe form two feet from where Courtney stood.
As the blood rose to her face, Courtney became painfully aware that the entire cast and crew had turned to gawk. "What's the matter, Ms. Bijou?" She fought to keep her tone level.
"What's the matter?" Angela tossed her platinum pin-curled head back with such force her tiny neck made a faint cracking sound. "The 'matter' is that I have no water in my trailer."
Courtney let that register. All this fuss over a plumbing problem?
"D'eau Douce." Angela crossed her willowy arms. "Imported from France. Does that ring a bell? I'm supposed to have four sixteen-ounce bottles chilling in my trailer every morning when I arrive."
"Oh " Courtney skimmed her memory. "For. .drinking?"
"Yes, for drinking!" Angela gave her a scowl that implied she should audition for the next season of American Idiot. "I wash my face in pure Norwegian spring water, which by the way I didn't see in there, either."
Courtney heard herself utter something about making a few phone calls to Norway as she took a giant step backward.
"Look." Angela apparently wasn't done yelling. "I need sixty-four ounces a day. How else am I supposed to keep my skin so youthful and clear?" She drew her fingertips across her youthful, clear cheek for emphasis. "Every. Single. Day."
"Uh okay, Ms. Bijou." Courtney scribbled out a note on the top page of her clipboard as she took a half step in what she hoped was the direction of water of all desirable nationalities. A thought stopped her cold. "Was that sixty-four ounces of the drinking water or the washing kind?"
Angela's eyes narrowed. "Don't play dumb. Obviously, you knew about this."
Gripping her half cup of tepid coffee between her thumb and her index finger, Courtney flipped through the papers on her clipboard as if to exonerate herself from this allegation. She knew nothing about her actress's water preference and made a mental note to be sure always to ask in the future.
With what she hoped would read as a competent smile, she turned to go, smacking into a carpenter as he flew past with an armload of railroad ties. Coffee flew from her cup, splashing across her papers and down the front of her sea-green T-shirt. She winced.
Angela's shrieking voice rang out from behind. "Check my contract! I need my water every day I'm on the set. I'm supposed to have it!"
Courtney clutched her clipboard to her stained front and darted toward what appeared to be a grocery store on the next block. If the past five minutes were any indication of things to come, this shoot was going to be a nightmare.