Kitty & Teddy, LLC Ch. 03bypocketrocket©
Author's note: This is where the real world starts to intrude. Just a head's up, things will get very dark shortly.
Thanks for editing to clairegerm.
Interlude: 25th Anniversary
After the date it was more phone tag and more Aunt Francine. She came to town for some girl talk and Chinese food. Mom likes to remember feeding Aunt Fran a dumpling. Aunt Frannie says mother hogged the bed and she should have slept on the rug.
Chapter 5 – Roasting Marshmallows in the Afterglow
Beep. You have twelve messages.
First message, Five twenty eight PM: Sean, if I don't tell you later, I had a really good time. Nice. I guess that makes me Richard Gere. I hope my hair does not go gray quite that early.
Message ten, twelve forty seven AM: Sean, I had the best time. I want to do it again. But, we have some things to discuss. Can you do lunch tomorrow at Cianfrani's? Eleven thirty? Well shit.
Message eleven, six thirty three AM: Sean, Justin. We need a meet on the catalog. This cannot go any further without input. Call me: 888-557-5309. Shit twice.
Message twelve, six thirty eight AM: Sean, forget calling. Just come over when you get this. Why did I start an auction business? International red tape was so much simpler.
Phone: This is 256-9521. Leave your mess... Sean, is that you?
"Yes, it is. I was planning on leaving a message. 11:30 at Cianfrani's is fine, but could you manage ten minutes earlier? I happen to know that Chuck Blanding has a regular Monday meeting at 11:30."
Phone: Charles will be there. Oh, yes. This I would pay to see. Just as a heads up, I want to discuss a proposition with you, concerning our appointment. Much as I enjoyed last night, this is unrelated.
"Last night was special. I do not date much, so I am not exaggerating when I say, that was the best date ever. I hope you slept well. You looked done out when I dropped you off."
Phone: I slept like a baby. I was just starting my morning workout when you called.
"Good. I am relieved. Since we will be talking business, I have a proposal for you as well. See you then."
Phone: You, too. And thank you again for last night. It was also my best ever date. Ciao.
That was nice. There is no chance Justin's meeting would be so pleasant. Oh well, I could always take it out on Chuck. The poor SOB picked the wrong week to play practical jokes on me.
Sundays are usually good days: work out, go to service, catch up on paperwork. If I am lucky, there is time for A Game of Thrones. This Sunday would be very different. It started with a few phone calls.
The first was from Sean. He wanted to meet and suggested Cianfrani's when Charles would be present. I formed an image of Charles, caught with his hand in the cookie jar. This would be choice. I wondered what sort of business he wanted to discuss. Almost certainly not my usual fare. This also could be interesting.
Phone: This is Francine. If you really need to talk, call my agent. If you have this number, then you have that one.
"Frannie, this is your partner in crime. I have a caper to plan with you. Do not call back. Just come over as soon as you can tonight. I am at the Heritage Arms. Ring #302 and I will buzz you in."
There was so much to do. Not only was there the usual couple hours of paperwork, I also had a long list of videos to review for still shots. Now I also had to get ready for Frannie's arrival. For about the thousandth time I wished for a very understanding secretary.
I finished my workout, then went back to my studio. I did First Position three times, with extensions, alternating legs. The ritual was quite calming. After I showered and changed, it was back to XTreme Fitness to check the weekly payroll figures, sign the checks and OK the recommendations. Then I checked my mundane client schedule for the week.
When you are both the General Manager and one of the hourly paid staff, things can get confusing. I put up with it, because it makes an excellent smoke screen. In my line of work, discretion is critical. It was noon, so I hit the juice counter for a protein shake and a bran muffin. Then I went to the break room and grabbed two bottles of water from the fridge. I was time for a film cutting session, so to speak.
Having multiple offices can also be confusing, but there is only one editing room. I had 14 hours of video to cover, but it reduced to only a couple of minutes each hour. The kiss strikes again. Buying the high definition, auto focus, motion tracking cameras was one of my best business decisions. Signing my work in lipstick was one of my most practical choices. 90% of my photo requests specify the kiss, which means I only need to cover the end of a session. Then it becomes a matter of selecting a frame of the recording, crop, reposition, crop again and save. I can pull six options from most sessions in about 5 minutes. An hour saw me through 12 of my 14 hours of recordings. That left two hours with no lipstick, since I was the subject. I set an alarm for 3:00 PN and got to work.
The alarm went off before I was close to finishing. I knew it would. I suspected that I would be returning to these recordings for years. So far, I had three folders of selection. One folder focused on my face. The range of expression was amazing. The most interesting pair was from 10 seconds before Sean slapped on the cuff, versus 10 seconds after. Another interesting one is from when Sean licked my clit. The most compelling is from when he spoke of me losing my dancing. I have large eyes, but in that shot, they are positively huge, and teary. The second folder is small, covering each of the 10 lashes, and the same spot 30 seconds later, to show the redness. The third folder is the most interesting for me. It focuses on Sean. It is funny, in a way. I distinctly remember looking at these recordings and thinking of him as Mr. Richards. When did that change?
I could think about it later. I had to get back to my apartment, to get ready for hurricane Francine. I burned a copy of the stills and grabbed my bag. On the way out, I stopped at the equipment locker and threw an assortment of toys into a gym bag. My special flogger was in the studio, so I made an extra stop for that. I just hoped that Frannie did not beat me home.
Justin Immons was my problem child. My firm is hosting an auction, and Justin is the photographer. The items in the auction are all erotica, sexual equipment, fetish items, fertility symbols, and so on. For example, there is a letter from the Marquis de Sade.
For this type of auction most of the buyers will not be present in person, which means the catalog is absolutely critical. I had ten days to get the catalogs in the mail, which meant that the photo proofs had to be at the printer no later than Saturday. Despite this, I was going to tell Justin and his crew to take the rest of the day off. My idea would either work in five days, or not at all.
Still, there were things to discuss. Helen's inquiries turned up three of my clients, who were also Cynthia's clients. I was on good enough terms with two of them that they agreed to loan me pictures. As with mine from Cynthia, they all had no face in the frame, which is as anonymous as I could manage.
Justin, as Immons Images, is a professional photographer. He is out of Philadelphia, as much as he was from anywhere. Given the nature of the subject matter, I had anticipated difficulties with getting a top studio to take the work, which I did. However, for enough money, you can hire for almost anything, so Cox & Hart came on board. What I had not anticipated is that after three weeks of shooting, we would still be on square one.
I finally realized that Cox & Hart would not get me what I needed. It was not that they had sat around doing nothing; they were a reputable firm. But the product they put out was not working, though I had no idea why not. So I we reached a deal and I cut them a five figure check, and watched as their people wiped the drives and destroyed the disks. It is hard not to complain for paying that much for nothing, but my check only covered pay for their hourly people, plus travel and lodging. Cox and Hart ate the rental value of the equipment and their salaried people's pay.
When I decided to buy C & H out, I also started looking for another photographer. None of the name firms would touch it now, even without the deadline. Justin had spent the summer shooting a series of car shows for a California van dealer. What caught my attention is the fact that they were using local call girls as eye candy. The inducement was a 30 minute professional shoot, done by Justin. It evidently had worked for them, since there was no rumor of legal issues. The pictures I had seen were of some knock out girls, and they were definitely advertising their services, albeit discretely. In any event, the string of shows had run out, and Justin was looking for new work.
Justin and his crew, doing business as Immons Images, agreed to shoot and edit the catalog. I could not fault their effort. In four days, they had shot every piece in the auction at least 10 times. But none of the shots were usable as they appeared, and I could not convey what else was needed. Enter my brilliant idea. I would hire Cynthia as creative consultant and let her deal with these issues.
First, I had to sell Justin on the idea. While it could not hurt, he could make sure it did not help. Hence, my little portfolio of Cynthia's work. As George drove me over, I called ahead.
Phone: This is Peter. Can I help you?
"Peter, this is Sean Richards. Is Justin handy?"
Phone: I'll get him. He wants to talk to you. Badly.
"Don't bother. Here is what I want you to do. First, you and Jason can take the rest of the day off. I am going to make some changes, but it will take time. Be at the warehouse, ready to work, at 1:00 PM tomorrow. Get as much sleep as you can, because if things work, you will be needing it. Tell Justin I will be there in five minutes."
"Tell Justin I will be there in five minutes, hang up the phone, then you and Jason get the hell out of my building. Clear?"
Phone: Right. Bye.
If only everything was that easy. Peter was not bad, but he was a geek. Spelling things out usually saved time. When George and I arrived at the warehouse, all three of them were standing in the parking lot. As usual, Peter and Jason were arguing. I said to George, "It looks like I need you to play taxi, George. Take the two yokels wherever they want to go, then pick me up at the coffee shop up on 7th Street. Clear?" George looked at me through the mirror and said, "Copy that." You can get a driver out of the Marines, but not the Marine out of the driver.
I let myself out of the car. I said, "Peter and Jason, climb in. George will drop you off. Justin and I need to talk, but you two need to get started on your down time. Justin, walk with me. I want to get some coffee."
He and I walked a block before Justin ventured anything. Understandably, he asked, "Is this a termination, and you want me to let them down for you?"
I respect someone that can get to the point. I responded with the same candor, "No, but there will be some changes, I hope. Leave it til we get to the diner. I have some things to show you."
He referred to the picture folder I was carrying, "Yep. I see that."
We arrived at the diner to find it half empty. That was good. With these kinds of pictures, I did not want a lot of passersby. I picked a booth in the corner, and we sat. Coffee cups were already on the table, so I turned mine over. In a moment so did Justin. The waitress came right over with a pot of coffee and menus. Justin ordered a cinnamon roll, and I asked for a hot roast beef sandwich. I figured that would take at least 5 minutes to put together.
When the waitress left, Justin asked, "So?"
I went straight to the point again, "Justin, it is not working. In my opinion, we cannot get it to work in the time we have. Do you agree?"
He seriously considered the question. Finally, he acknowledged, "No. Not as things stand now."
Good, so far. I pulled out the picture folder. "Justin, I want you to look at these. In your professional opinion, what do you think?"
He opened the folder and closed it again immediately. Then he turned sideways in his bench and held the folder so that no one else could see into it. As he looked, his color flushed and his breathing got more rapid. Justin is unrepentantly gay, and these were pictures of naked, bound men, showing the signs of a recent beating. I suspected he would need to visit the men's room before we left.
At this point the waitress returned with his cinnamon roll. Justin closed the folder and thanked her. She looked at him oddly, then shrugged and left without saying anything.
As he reopened the folder, I said, "Save the last one for a moment. It is a female subject, and I want you to view it separately. What do you think about the others?"
"Hot. Really hot. There are things that could be better. For example the lighting is all passive. None of these used a flash. The camera is good, but not studio grade. That said, the composition is excellent. Every shot looks completely unstaged. That is odd, too, since the kiss mark is central to each shot. Where did you get these?"
I leaned back. So far, so good. "Not yet. Turn to the last shot, the one with the female subject. Tell me about it."
"This is fine work, too, exceptional in fact. I have done thousands of female nudes in the last year. Dozens of them are in this vein. I would stack this torso shot with any of them. The composition is outstanding. In this case, the face would distract from the interest. At the top, you get these fantastic shoulders, but it takes a moment to notice that the arms are bound. The hair forward is inspired. The line leads you down to a glistening pussy, with just the hood of the clitoris poking out. That is very difficult to stage. The pubic hair could be shorter, or removed, but here it looks very natural, as if this were a candid shot.
"But, there is still more. The asymmetry, caused by the hair, draws attention to the perfection of the breasts. The shape is very nice for breasts this heavy, almost as if they were never subject to gravity, yet the skin says a woman in her mid to late 20s. The cherry on the sundae is the little curl of hair framing the nipple of the covered breast. That kind of touch is often purely chance, again making the whole image look spontaneous."
He set the folder down and looked at me. Very intensely he said, "That last shot is an award winner if it ever gets entered. The others would have a dozen publishers pounding on the door. If you can get the photographer that shot these, why do you need me?
Award winner? I knew it was good, but he was talking a showing about of professional photographers work. Even for this type of art, there were such shows. From a professional photographer, praise does not come any higher than, "I wish I had shot that." If I heard him correctly, that was exactly what Justin had just said.
Still, I needed a lot more, "You clearly respect the artist. As you might guess, she is the owner of the lips. She staged each of the shots, save the last one. As it happens, I staged that one. Is this woman someone you could work with? You would still be behind the camera, but she would have artistic control?
That was a lot to drop on him. Giving up artistic control meant that Justin would be reduced to a technician. I know many artists that would never consider it. On the other hand, his first question had been whether he still had a job. All this was going on behind his eyes, but it only took a moment to reach a decision.
He blew out a deep breath. "Holy Moses, Sean. You sure know how to drop a bomb. If you had asked me without showing me the pictures, I would have told you to fuck yourself. Better yet, I would have told you to lean over the table so I could do it without lubrication." Oh my goodness, he winked. "But, as you clearly intended to point out, you have me over a barrel. I would do a lot to finish this project, and she clearly has the talent to help get that done. So yes, I can work for this woman, if she can work with me. Humph, she probably does half her work with closet gays as it is. I might let her stage me, or have you do it."
I heaved my own sigh, "OK. Here is where things stand. I have a lunch meeting with her tomorrow. We are friendly, but I also know that her schedule is packed. Hopefully, Helen can help shift some of that load. One way or another, we will know by one o'clock tomorrow. So, go to Mass. See a movie. Take some time for yourself. Either I land her at the meeting, or I am well and truly fucked. If it makes you feel better, I consider her to be replacing me, not you."
Justin laughed, "That's a point. If she has artistic control, we might get a coherent theme, finally. That is one area where you well and truly suck. As a sucker of no mean repute myself, that is my highest praise. But, there is something you have not told me. Give."
Sometimes working with competent people can be a pain. Oh well, he would find out anyway. I said, "What I did not tell you is that she did not shoot any of those pictures. They were taken out of video. It was really good quality video, but she never took a shot."
Justin's mouth fell open, and his eyes bugged out. After a moment he blinked and closed his mouth, but continued to stare at me. Finally, "Are you telling me she cut all these prints out of digital video recordings?" I nodded. "That would explain the lighting and the spontaneity. And the kisses. It was bull's eye cropping. Holy freaking Moses, she got professional grade prints out of video. Yes, Sean, I want to meet this woman. In fact,I could line up twenty people that would want to meet this woman."
I smiled, "Don't bother. I am already dating her."
Justin cocked an eye at me, then both eyes got big. Oh shit. He had jumped to the right conclusion. "That is what the lipstick on the last picture was about. She loves your work. That was her in the last shot, and she loves your work, and gave you a prize winning picture as proof. Congratulations Sean, that is one hell of a woman. She makes me wish I was straight, and better looking than you." Did I mention competent people can be a pain?
I changed the subject, "Now, where's my lunch? It should..." Justin was looking over my shoulder, so I turned to see our waitress standing behind me, with my plate in her hands. She appeared to be attempting death by embarrassment. I motioned her forward and took the plate from her hands. There was only one reason to be this embarrassed; she had heard the conversation. In fact, I could guess where she walked in on it. Her name tag said Christine.
I took her hand and pulled her still closer. I whispered, "Do you want to see it?"
She flushed again, her eyes got wide and she bit her lip. Then she jerked a single nod. Without a word, Justin opened the folder to the picture of the woman I still knew only as Cynthia. Christine's wide eyes threatened to jump out of her head. I still had her hand in mine and could feel her trembling. I glanced at Justin and he closed the folder.
I said to her, "Justin is a photographer. He could make a lot of money shooting pictures of you in situations like that. I am not going to ask him to do so. Here is why." I released her hand, pulled out my business cards, and handed her one. "Call the number on that card. Ask for Helen. My name is Sean. Tell Helen that Sean told you to call about the job. Right now, do not tell anyone, just finish your shift. Call Helen in the morning. Got it?"