tagBDSMThe Harpy Ch. 01

The Harpy Ch. 01


The Dream Girl

Clifton Henry was born on May 28th, 1899 in the dusty town of Post, Texas. Growing up in Post taught Clifton two things: First, how to be a gentleman to a lady. Second, the finer things and prettier things took their sweet time coming to Post, if at all.

So, when he turned 17, Clifton enlisted in the army. It's his time in the army that explains how Clifton came to Hollywood from Post, Texas. He had stop-offs along the way in the Argonne Forest, Paris and New York.

In the Argonne he learned that life was fleeting and there is very little time for regret. In Paris he learned how to love a woman and that they don't always love you back. And in New York he learned how to act. It was only natural that a tall Texan leave the footlights of Broadway (or just off it) to the bright lights of Hollywood.

In Hollywood, time slowed down. Or rather, his career did. It was a year before he even got signed by Famous-Lasky studios, and even then it was only a bit contract for bit roles. But things were looking up. It was on one of those bit roles, as a heavy in the latest Inspector Lightley Mystery, that Inspector Lightley himself took an interest to him.

In 1924 Basil Montjoy was not the big star he had been in 1914 but he was still a well-respected draw. When Clifton was 14 he'd spent every cent he'd owned to go to Lubbock just to see Basil in The Dark Hand of Death at the Odeon. And here he was not only promising Clifton a bigger role in the next movie, but showing him about the town.

He took Clifton golfing along the ocean. He took Clifton out for steaks and whiskey at Musso & Frank. And now he was taking Clifton to the Garden of Alla.

"Do you suppose the rumors are true, what they say about miss Nazimova?" Clifton asked as Basil's Packard 8 zoomed down Sunset boulevard.

"What, that she fancies the lasses?" Clifton nodded. "Ha, it's no rumor, old boy. I've seen her with women. It's not like she hides it."

"And it's safe to go to this place? Will we get in trouble?"

"No it's not, and one can certainly hope so." Basil pulled the Packard on to Hayvenhurst and parked. "Follow me."

They walked through a cool green courtyard up to an ornate Italianate style house. The sounds of revelry could be heard all the way from the street corner. Inside it was near deafening. The place was packed to the rafters with men and women dancing, drinking, smoking. Everyone was stylish and beautiful. Clifton felt bashful and outmatched.

Basil seemed to recognize that look. He patted him on the shoulder. "Cheer up, lad. You're the best looking bloke here. Stay put. I'll fetch us some victuals and drinks." Basil tottered off, leaving Clifton alone to gawk.

Apart from the rooms being generally full of people, the deck was full, the pool was full. Every antechamber and hidden corner had men and women engaged in some form of frolic. Some corners had just women, a scant few had just men.

He recognized some of them. Valentino held court by the pool, surrounded by adoring women and jealous men. A woman who looked a lot like Clara Bow strolled by. He was pretty sure it was her, but there were at least six other women who looked like Clara Bow.

Basil returned with canapes and champagne. "Come with me, lad. Let me introduce you." Basil took him by the hand and led him through the throng. He took him on a whirlwind tour, always leading him by the hand and always whispering conspiratorial information as he introduced him to producers ('He likes young girls, they say. Very young.'), actresses ('She's on her 4th husband.') and directors ('Stay off his yacht. You're just his type.').

When the tour was done they were both a little drunk and a little overwhelmed from the sheer magnitude and spectacle of an Alla Nazimova party. Basil pulled him into a little alcove in the back covered porch and the two collapsed on the couch. Basil leaned over. "So what do you think, lad? Told you I'd show you Hollywood. Warts and all."

"It's not quite what I expected. It's a lot. It's a bit like Sodom."

"Oh, it's exactly like Sodom." He said, grabbing a bottle of champagne off the floor and refilling both their glasses. "So we better drink to it before we're turned to pillars of salt by an angry God."

Basil cheered the glass and downed it. Clifton did the same. When he brought the glass down, Basil moved in and kissed him. Clifton broke the kiss and pushed him away.

"Basil, I'm not a fey."

"Ask me if I care." He went in for another kiss, but Clifton pushed him back again. "I mean it. Stop. I'm not mad. I mean there were a ton of you guys in the trenches. You bled like the rest of us. But I ain't one of em. You've roped the wrong bull."

"Oh I think I've roped the right bull. Don't play the ingenue with me." Once again he reached for Clifton's face.

"Dammit, Basil. I'm serious."

Basil's mood turned from amorous to angry. "Don't be a tease!"

Clifton went to tell Basil to shove it, but got distracted by the most lovely creature he had ever seen. She appeared out of the corner of his eye, sparkling like a mermaid in a full length gold sequin dress. Her long naked arms hugged her curvy hips.

She twirled an empty glass in her fingers and looked around for another bottle to fill it, finally resting her eyes on Clifton and the bottle next to him. She moved across the floor towards them in a motion that was a cross between an exotic bird and predatory cat.

He knew her instantaneously. It was Rose McQueen, better known to folks on the other side of the silver screen as The Harpy. It was the #1 hit of 1916 and it made little 20 year old Rose a star, at least for a little while.

She sauntered up to the pair. Basil took his arms from around Clifton and returned to a more neutral position.

Clifton released his own defensive guard and simply watched her approach. He was too star struck to think of how he looked or acted, for before him was the platonic ideal of femininity. Rose McQueen had gotten him through the end of the war. Rose McQueen had convinced him to go into acting.

France got movies much later than the US, so The Harpy's European distribution coincided with his post-war time in Paris. He must have seen her slap the evil baron fifty times in the theater. And the end, when she cried for her lost Eldridge, well he cried right along with her. He'd seen her image a thousand times in magazines and seen that saunter a hundred times in film, all to profound effect. But he had never heard her voice. Miss McQueen stopped in front of the couch, rocked on her lovely hips, parted her delicate bright red lips and spoke.

"Fuck off, Barry."

It was the most beautiful phrase in the English language, made even more delightful by her cockney accent. Basil promptly stood up, adjusted his tux and wandered off into the party.

Miss McQueen flopped down on the couch next to Clifton, coming to rest against him. She turned her side towards him and leaned her arm into his, then folded her left leg over the right so that her left heel just grazed his shin, ever so slightly.

She was much smaller than he expected, a little slip of a thing really. Maybe 5'2" and a hundred pounds soaking wet, but her personality made her seem larger than life, even if she was a foot shorter than him.

"Barry is his real name." she said. "Dirty little poof. Not that I mind them, mind you. It's just that it seems like he was cornering you and you could use some help." She twirled a short curl of her hair waiting for an answer, but Clifton was still stupefied by her presence. "Unless I got that totally wrong and I ruined a lovely date! Did I get it wrong?"

"No, you didn't" he said bashfully. "Not that I couldn't handle myself."

"Oh, no, of course not."

"But still, much obliged."

"Barry's harmless, really. Just lonely these days and a sucker for tall yanks. You just have to be forceful with him. That's why I told him to fuck off."

"Shouldn't you have told him to 'piss off'?"

"Nonsense! Barry's not British, he's from Oregon. He wouldn't know what it means." She moved her right hand from her hair to his shoulder. "But you seem to. Can I take that to mean you've been in the wars?" Clifton nodded. She eyeballed him head to toe. "And did you come back all in one piece? All your parts in working order?" She playfully lifted up his arm and let it fall.

"Yes, ma'am." he laughed.

"How about on the inside?" Her tone was sarcastic but her demeanor serious.

He got the message. Some guys left pieces of themselves in some French field. Some brought home ghosts. "No holes there either, far as I know."

"What's your name, honey?" Oh to be called 'honey' by the Rose McQueen.

"Clifton Henry."

"I mean your real name, honey."

"That is my real name."

"How wonderful for you, then. You don't have to change it. My name is-"

"I know who you are, Ms. McQueen."

"Good God, call me Rose." She declared. "A woman never feels older than when a beautiful young man calls her 'Miss'. 'Mistress' If you must!" She downed her champagne and wiggled her empty glass. "Pass me some more of that John Barleycorn, honey."

Clifton grabbed the nearest bottle and emptied it into her glass.

"'Ma'am' and manners too! Wait, don't tell me. Guessing from your accent, you must be..." she pondered for a moment. "An Oklahoma boy?"

Clifton frowned. "Texas."

"Oh dear." she said in mock seriousness. "Can you forgive me my transgression?"

"For you, anything."

"And loyal, too." She pulled out a cigarette from her clutch. Clifton produced a lighter. She wrapped her slender, beautiful fingers around his hand and guided it to her cigarette. It was heaven on earth.

"Careful." she said. "That's a lethal combination for some girls." She batted her eyelashes at him.

"So you know who I am. Have I seen you in anything?" she asked.

"I doubt it." he replied. "Not unless you're a big Inspector Lightley fan."

"Who isn't?"

"Well, I was dock thug #2 in Lamplight." He pulled his tie across his mouth and tried to look menacing.

"I knew you looked familiar." she said. "A very convincing role."

"You're kind, to say the least."

"Well, how about we just agree you have a face that ought to be in pictures." She shot down the glass of champagne and before she could wiggle it, Clifton refilled it.

"Now now, Texas boy, don't make a girl drink alone." She reached across him and tapped his glass. She was now practically in his lap.

"Sorry, ma'am." Clifton downed it. He was no neophyte when it came to booze. Paris had built up his tolerance, but between Basil and Rose, he'd drunk a lot.

"Say! I have an idea!" she sat up and slapped his arm. "Care to follow me around all night like a lovesick puppy?"

"How do you mean?"

"Be my beau. Fawn over me in public. It will be a gas! Besides, people will ask. You might even make the papers!"

It wouldn't take his best acting job to follow her around in awe. "Sure thing, but don't you have a beau?"

"Too many to count at this point." She stood up and offered him her hand. "So what's one more?"

For the rest of the fete he travelled alongside the Rose McQueen as her paramour. He dutifully admired her as she regaled guests with tales. He blushed as she introduced him as the breakout star of Lamplight, a bold faced lie if ever there was one, but Hollywood ran on lies. Well, it ran on belief, and belief is predicated on convincing lies. And what's more convincing than a beautiful, charismatic woman?

Rose was beautiful. Somehow she was more lovely and desirable in real life than she was on the screen. She was radiant, and crafty and just a little bit dangerous. It was all enough to make Clifton wonder what a star like the Harpy was doing with a bit actor from two C-studio movies. Perhaps she was a 'friend of Nazimova's' and Clifton made for a convenient slab of Texas beef to dress up and parade around.

If that were the case he would be heartbroken. Not for himself, but for the idea no man got to consider Rose his own, even if only for the briefest of moments. He decided reasons were unimportant. He would be whatever form of companion she needed, for it was a pleasure simply to be in her orbit.

In in her orbit he was. Rose clinged to him the whole night, only letting go near the end of the evening to go to the powder room, leaving Clifton alone by the pool. The crowd was thinning out now. Only the hardcore, the young and the forbidden lovers remained. Clifton lit a cigarette and stood on the porch steps, taking a moment to himself. He heard a voice from behind. It was Basil.

"Permission to come aboard, sir?" he asked in his best British naval voice.

"Can it, Barry. I hear you're from Oregon."

"Washington, actually." He said in his actual American voice. "Can I come over? I come in peace." Clifton nodded, but remained wary.

"I'm sorry, Clifton. For before, I mean. I thought you were..." Clifton shot him a look. "Well, like me. I know now you're not. So honest injun, no funny business."

"Look," said Clifton, "I get it. I don't judge. Your kind dies just the same in the trenches."

"What a terrible way to make me feel comfortable." Barry smiled. "But I understand. I was too old to serve myself. But we all bleed red and all that. You're trying to be accepting. I'm just being a bitch." Basil smiled a lonely smile and took a drag from his cigarette.

"I appreciate it. I really do. Most 'actors' around here come in two stripes: those that beat you for coming on to them or those that will fuck you just to get a part. I can't decide which one is worse. Those that'll fuck you are only doing it for their career. The sex is joyless. At least when a guy beats me up there's some passion behind it."

Clifton felt a sadness for Barry. All this time he thought Barry was trying to get him in the sack to fuck him, but in truth he was trying to get him in the sack to love him. Clifton couldn't imagine a life more lonely than that. He put his hand on his shoulder.

"You'll find someone, Barry. You can't be the only one of your kind in this town."

Barry laughed out loud. "Oh you sweet, wonderful rube. You're really one of the kindest people I've ever met." Barry extended his hand. Clifton took it. "I hope we can be friends, Clifton. The part is still yours if you want it. Lovers are great. Loyal friends even better."

"Thanks, Barry."

"Listen..." he said, pulling Clifton a little closer in. "I saw you with Rose McQueen."

"The Harpy herself." Clifton replied. "Can you believe it?"

"Yes." he replied. "Yes I can. And that's the point. Do be careful around her."

"What do you mean?"

Barry pulled him in closer, so no one could hear. "Do they teach the classics in Texas schools, kid? Then you know what a harpy is. Well, I'm here to tell you that she's as close as they come to a real harpy. It's not just coincidence she won that role. Sure, she has a girl's face but just like the harpies of Virgil, she's got sharp talons and an insatiable hunger. She's ripped apart better men than you. Consumed them."

"Come on, Barry." he broke loose from the handshake.

"I'm telling you the truth, kid. Ask anyone around here from the older days. Of course there aren't that many up this late. Maybe Chaplin if he's still around here somewhere. But I mean it. She's a devil. Older women are always that way."

"Older?" he scoffed. "She's 27."

"Ha! Is that what she told you? She's 33, if she's a day." Rose emerged from behind a screen by the back bungalow. "Oh God. Here she comes. We'll talk later at the studio. Good luck." Barry scurried off into the main house.

Clifton watched her, still in awe that the amazing Rose McQueen would choose him to spend an evening with. Who cares if she was 33?

"Do I have to save you from Barry every time I leave for 5 minutes?" she teased.

"No, we've reached an accord. Friends."

"Well that's good. I'd hate to have to hurt him. Can't have him accosting my little Texan." She stroked his cheek. Her touch felt electric.

"No need, we were just talking. In fact, we were talking about you."

"Has that old queen been spreading lies about me?" Clifton smiled a wry smile.

"That cunt!" Her accent was delicious. "What did he say? No wait, let me guess. I'm a real harpy, a man-eater and I'll claw you to shreds ad leave you wrecked upon the shore if given half a chance."

"A pretty good summation." he replied.

"We're actors, my sweet darling. We have a flair for the dramatic."

"You wouldn't, would you?" He asked, taking her hand in his. "Rip me to shreds, I mean."

"Only If you're lucky, darling."

Rose surveyed the dwindling party scene and pronounced it dead. "Do you have a car?"

"My ride left with Barry."

"Not a problem." she replied. "Alla and I are close. Come with me. I want to show you something."

Pandora's Box

Rose led Clifton into the house, past the remaining revelers in various stages of half-drunk debauchery, past the long table littered with empty booze bottles and up the grand staircase to the 2nd floor. She guided him down a long, Persian carpeted hallway to a room at the end. A man sat reading a trade magazine on a divan just outside the door. He looked up to Rose.

"Is the room empty?" she asked. He nodded and went back to the paper.

Rose opened the door and led Clifton inside. The room was large, encompassing probably the entire south end of Nazimova's palatial mansion. But the size was the least impressive thing.

The room itself was more like four rooms blended together in a mélange of styles. One side was decked out in leather furniture, bookcases and stonewash paint. It could easily pass for a Jacobean drawing room or castle.

The next corner was decked out in rough hewn furniture and wood paneling. A large fireplace made of river stones dominated the area. At its feet a bearskin rug. An obvious homage to a cabin in the woods.

The third corner had a low bed, silks, pillows and tapestries. It was all enclosed in a canvas tent with braided rope tassels. A bedroom fit for a sheik. The fourth corner contained racks upon racks of costumes for both men and women, and a screen for changing. There was a door to a powder room behind it.

And in the center of this cornucopia of styles were three old 'wooden box' one-lens Prevost cameras. They were probably 10 years old by this point which in movie technology was ancient. Each one could only shoot about 4 minutes of film.

"Alla uses this room for test shots and choreography." said Rose. She placed her hands on Clifton's Jacket and unbuttoned it. "But she won't be in here tonight."

She slid her hands up his chest and eased his jacket off. "We have it all to ourselves." Rose slid into his arms and with her left hand guided him down to her lips.

Clifton could not believe he was kissing the Harpy. She tasted of champagne and honey. He was shocked as she slid her tongue into his mouth and teased him with it. He wrapped her in his arms tightly and returned the kiss. And then just like that, she broke it off and wandered over to the rack of clothes.

"I wonder." she said as she pulled out items from the rack, looked them over and placed them back. "Have you seen The Sheik?"

"Just me and everyone in America."

"Well then." she said, pulling a robe off the rack. "I wonder how you would compare to Rudy." She walked over hand handed him the outfit.

He demurred. "I'm no Valentino."

"Oh please." she begged. "Humor me." He relented.

"How wonderful!" she clapped her hands together. "No, change out here. I will go behind the shade and put on something too!" She whisked something off the women's rack and scurried behind the screen.

Clifton stripped to his essentials and put on the robe, hat and band in no time. Rose took longer. He watched as first the sequin dress flew onto the top of the screen, then a slip. The whole time she talked from behind the screen.

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