by Balls Malone
The location for the swimsuit edition shoot was truly lovely. Hedda had always been useless at place names, so she had no clue what any of it was called, but she was very taken with it.
The place was secluded; hundreds of kilometers up the coast, where the sandy beaches and rolling hills had given way to sheer, rocky cliffs and narrow pebble beaches. There were lush trees everywhere, affording a marvelous color pallet of greens to juxtapose the greys and blues of the stone, sea, and sky. With the women, the swimsuits, and the setting all being ideal, the only thing that could go wrong was the weather or the photographer.
The weather was fine.
As a photographer’s assistant, Lance was singularly useless at everything but the heavy lifting. The saving grace was that there was an awful lot of heavy lifting to do. The pebble beach they were on was only accessible by a very steep, rocky trail down a sheer cliff. Lance had pulled double duty with that: humping up and down the trail to carry the equipment cases, folding chairs, tarps, tents, and pavilions that the shoot required. However, when it came time to unpack and set up the equipment, it quickly became clear that he had no idea what he was doing. Even so, besides a few ruffled feathers among the other assistants over this, it did not cause any real problems.
Over the next two days, things went very well (for Hedda and Lance, at least). Hedda performed perfectly. Lance’s willingness to do more than his share of the physical labor, along with his very reasonable rates for excellent cocaine and pure MDMA, made him quite popular indeed.
Of course, everyone assumed that Rupert and Hedda were fucking (especially since she and Lance had decided to keep quiet about their relationship and affiliation). There was some snark to deal with from her fellow models over this, who felt she was jumping the queue to steal their share of the spotlight. But Hedda knew that haters are going to hate and did not pay it any mind at all.
As was his custom on these big jobs, Rupert had rented a house near the location. This gave him a place to unwind and party in privacy and comfort for the duration of the shoot. When things wrapped, he, Hedda, Lance, and a number of the models assembled there to party in earnest. The other professionals on the technical side of things, such as the stylist and the hair and makeup people, were conspicuously absent from Rupert’s party.
The house was gorgeous. With an open plan and windows almost all the way around, it jutted out over a cliff’s edge; hanging right over a sheer drop to the rocky coastline pounded by the Pacific surf. The party was mostly centered on the wide balcony on the seaside of the house; with its warm breeze, marvelous view, and hot tub. With Lance’s contribution to things, it was a lively affair.
Lance was mostly spending his time with the one corporate executive who had come along after the shoot. They were in the kitchen, where the executive was buying lines for anyone who wanted them. Hedda, Rupert, and the other women were mostly spending their time in the hot tub (when they weren’t in the kitchen partaking of the executive’s generosity).
Hedda would have found the scene sexy, but she was feeling very over Rupert Cornelius, acclaimed glamour and fashion photographer. It was tired. Definitely time to move on.
That Rupert would not stop whining about his beef with the shoot’s stylist was not helping matters. Hedda sighed, climbed from the hot tub, toweled off quickly, threw on her dressing gown over her bikini, and went into the kitchen.
The executive was holding a model’s hair for her while she did lines off the kitchen’s marble counter. When she had finished, he turned his focus to Hedda.
“Hi, I’m Reuben,” the executive said, extending his hand to Hedda with a leer.
“I know. I am Hedda,” Hedda said, accepting him warmly.
“I know. You’re the one that caused us all the trouble. Rupert just about shut us the fuck down getting you put on the roster. You know, all his bullshit aside, I’m actually glad he did. Everyone was very pleased with your work. You are very talented.”
“May I offer you something here?” Reuben asked, gesturing vaguely at the counter.
“Thank you,” Hedda smiled.
Seeing his forces were a little light on the ground, Reuben snapped his fingers at Lance and pointed down at the counter. “Lance, my man, set us up another half dozen lines for my lady here.”
Lance nodded and scooped a generous portion of cocaine out of a baggie with a straight razor, with which he chopped the drug into lines on the counter.
Reuben took his rolled up one-hundred dollar bill from the other model and handed it to Hedda with an exaggerated flourish. Hedda snorted up her fill and handed the bill back to Reuben, who killed a line before handing the bill back to the other model.
When the model had finished, Reuben put his arm around her and pulled her close. He smelled her breasts, armpit, and neck while she giggled and pretended to struggle against him. Then Reuben ran his gaze up Hedda.
“I think I’m about ready to get more private with this,” he said. “How do you ladies feel about taking this somewhere more private? And horizontal.”
The model murmured her assent. Hedda smiled and reached out to stroke Reuben’s cheek.
“You are very charming man, but I am here with someone. You know!”
“Yeah, I know. You have to dance with the one that brought you. I know. But you can’t blame a man for trying. Speaking of that pain in my balls, there’s the bitch now. Hey, Rupert! Get over here! I got some shit to say to you and I don’t know how much longer I’m gonna be here. Come on, let’s get this over with!”
Reuben had spotted Rupert coming out of the bathroom looking as though he had just vomited. Rupert Cornelius, acclaimed glamour and fashion photographer, grimaced and shuffled into the kitchen with a petulant scowl.
“What is it, Reuben?”
The executive leaned back against the counter and pulled his model close into his side. He smiled expectantly at Hedda and Rupert, so Hedda performed as expected and snuggled up to Rupert.
“See, that’s right. Just as I thought. You dance with the one that brought ya,” Reuben said. “But the question is, Mr. Cornelius, who the fuck do you think brought you to the dance? Because this whole scene here is my fucking dance. And you sure as shit did not dance with me this time round. So, I guess what I’m wondering is: if these two ladies can have such a clear handle on what they’re all about, what the fuck is your problem?”
“Look, Reuben. I don’t—”
“I know you fucking don’t,” interrupted Reuben. “And you didn’t. And you won’t. You fucking blew it, man. You blew it! You gave us shit! All a big fucking waste of my time and money! The big fucking artist with his muse, playing the whole fucking part, and I may as well have taken those fucking pictures myself! Garbage! Fucking garbage!”
“Fuck you! What the fuck do you know about it, you fuckin suit!”
“I know I’m not qualified to judge it, and even I can tell it’s not fuckin good. But I don’t need to know it myself: I got the heads up on it from your own house here, guy. I know what my people tell me. People I pay to know what the fuck they’re doing. Like I paid you. Shit, son, you’re supposed to be the best! Get your shit together! You have to get your shit together, man. I mean, pushing to get your latest peace of ass on as a model is one thing, and bad enough, but bringing your fuckin dealer onto the shoot as your assistant? I mean, points for being balls out with your big fucking brass balls, sure, but maybe it’s time to pump the brakes, huh guy? Maybe time to think about checking in somewhere for a bit of a rest.”
Rupert Cornelius, acclaimed glamour and fashion photographer, had nothing to say now. He stared dead eyed at Reuben for a long moment before disentangling himself from Hedda and leaving for the hot tub without a word.
“Okay, then, have a good one, guy! Jeeze! Just don’t say I never tried to help you!” Reuben called after him. Then he turned to Lance: “Hey, my man, I’m sorry to bring you up like that just now. It wasn’t meant as any slight on you, your profession, or the quality of your product. You clearly are a man that has his shit wired tight. It’s nice to see that someone around here does!” Reuben shouted out at the balcony.
Lance simply nodded deeply at this.
“Okay!” Reuben exclaimed, clapping his hand sharply and rubbing them together. “I think it’s time for us to be somewhere more private. And horizontal,” he said to his model. “Are you sure you don’t want to join?” he asked Hedda.
Hedda made an effort to looked pained about saying: “I am sorry. I should stay with Rupert. He will be so upset now.”
“Loyalty. I like that. That’s good. Speaks well of your character. But when you’re all done babysitting the train wreck and want to get your own car on a better track, give me a call. I’ll be more than happy to consult with you on any number of career opportunities.”
Reuben pulled out his business card and handed it to Hedda, who took it with clear delight.
“Lance, I have your digits. I will get in touch about setting something up soon. Middle of next week, when I’m back in town from the bullshit in Europe. You’ve got me covered, right?”
“Oh, you know it brother!” Lance said, pushing his fist out to Reuben to be bumped.
“All right! All right! All right!” Reuben exclaimed happily. “So today was not a total fuckin write-off after all. Love it! Love it! Okay, let’s go!” He smacked his model on the ass to get her moving towards a bedroom. He paused briefly as he left to shake Hedda’s hand in a sleazy way once more. “Hedda, it was lovely to meet you. You are very talented. I have no doubt I’ll be seeing a lot more of you in the future. You clearly are a woman who knows how to get a head in this business.”
The party ground on in a predictable way for the next while. After a couple more hours, once he was finished with her in the bedroom, the executive and his model left in his Porsche. With only half a dozen people there, and all of them beautiful, it seemed possible that things could get properly sexy as an intimate little group. There was Hedda, Lance, Rupert, two models, and one of the model’s hangers on: a twink who was giving the models a run for their money in presenting himself to Lance.
Unfortunately, for all of them, Rupert Cornelius, acclaimed glamour and fashion photographer, shit himself in the hot tub as the sun set into the Pacific.
They were all enjoying the beautiful sunset in the hot tub together. Lance, Hedda, and one of the models were nude after an intensive game of strip rock, paper, scissors had lost them their swimsuits. The twink, with an otherworldly prescience, had dominated the game, and was gloating over his hoard of nylon winnings.
Then Rupert groaned. The brown cloud emanating from his nethers soon explained why. Things were predictably noisy as everyone but Rupert evacuated the hot tub. Group showering in the master bedroom’s grand bath ensued and things soon got back on track.
Some time later, Hedda left the bedroom to get a bottle of champagne for Lance to put up the twink. Rupert was still sitting in the hot tub. Mortified, and thinking he must have passed out, Hedda came closer to get a better look.
No, he was upright and conscious. Rupert Cornelius, acclaimed glamour and fashion photographer, was sitting up to his chest in the murky water, like a pasty, limp little sausage stewing in a bowl of lukewarm baked beans. His head drooped low. Tears and snot were dripping off his face into the water. A stink like stale vomit with a faint undertone of shit hung in the air over the scene: the fragrance of failure and cataclysmic fall from grace.
Hedda left him to it.
Once things were finished in the master bedroom, Hedda met Lance’s eye across the smooth and glistening body of the twink laying face down in a puddle of model. She gave him a nod.
“All right, bitches! Time for a nightcap!” Lance said loudly, clapping his hands to get everyone alert enough to register what he was saying. “I’ll make us all a nice drink to round things out.”
Hedda went with Lance and helped him mix drinks for the models and the twink: vodka screwdrivers with a little something extra to help them sleep. Hedda and Lance had orange juice. In the master bedroom, they all shared the drinks and another group hug.
Lance and Hedda waited until the models and twink were sound asleep before they left them. Lance went to get things squared away with Rupert while Hedda packed their bags. When Hedda returned to the balcony, Lance and Rupert were sitting on the comfortable patio furniture. Lance was pouring scotch into Rupert; topping off his glass every time the photographer finished it.
Hedda rolled a joint and she and Lance shared it in silence while Rupert dozed off between them. Then they waited another half hour.
“That’ll do,” Lance finally said. “Blood of a rock star flowing through his veins now.”
Hedda went and peeked into the master bedroom. The three there were sleeping just as they had left them. She returned to the balcony and gave Lance his final nod.
Lance slapped Rupert on the face a few times to get him awake. “Hey! Rupert! Wake up! Time to go!”
“I said time to go! Stand up!”
Lance got Rupert upright and led him over to the balcony’s railing.
“Where are we going?” Rupert asked, swaying on his feet like a palm in a storm.
By way of answer, Lance ducked low, locked his arms around Rupert’s waist, and lifted him up onto his shoulder. Rupert made not a sound as Lance dropped him over the railing. It was about a hundred meter drop to the rocks below, so with the pounding of the surf, they heard nothing of his landing.
And, with that, Rupert Cornelius, acclaimed glamour and fashion photographer, was gone.
Lance picked up the bottle of Johnny Walker Blue Label and took a swig. He handed it to Hedda, who did the same. Lance poured the rest of the whiskey out over the railing where Rupert had left. Then he threw the bottle far out into the night.
The next morning, Hedda and Lance left before the others were fully awake and wondering too deeply about where Rupert might have gotten to.
Hedda had Lance drive her to wine country for a little getaway where they could plan their approach with Reuben, the corporate executive.
They had a very lovely time.