Chapter 4


Fuck, I need to get out of town.  Indira was about to make me say or do things that I would regret.  Don’t get me wrong, the girl is an amazing actress, but she doesn’t get that chemistry onscreen doesn’t mean we’re dating after the director yells “cut”.  It’s one thing to hang out for a few drinks and fool around a little to blow off some steam; it’s another to have her pull into my driveway at six am with coffee as a wake-up call… on my day off.  Or showing up when I’m out with another girl and having a giant, jealous freak-out in the middle of the restaurant.

When Ocella came to me about the comedy they wanted to shoot in Virginia and I read the script, I figured “why not?”  I’d done several dramas since HBO released “True Crime”.   Comedy seemed like a nice extension; my character on the series has several funny lines, but it’s a drama/soap at its core.  We finished filming for the season and after all the editing, I’ll have to go back and do the premiere/publicity bullshit I’m required to do, but a few weeks off the Hollywood grid sounds like a great idea.  I figure I can head to the area we’re going to film the movie in and learn the area.

From what I’ve been about to find out online, it’s pretty rural, but not like “Deliverance”.  There are farms and fields, but still close enough to a few cities to not have to travel far to get almost anything you want.  And if I arrive before the madness of filming starts, I may be able to avoid the paparazzi and fanaticism that I encounter on the streets in LA.  Really, how many pictures of me in sunglasses leaving an airport does the public want or need to see?

I get the realty information from the studio and fly out to Virginia.  The studio makes all my arrangements, including my requested choice of rental car.  From the number of Toyotas and Fords in the rental lot, I have no doubt the Corvette was a special order.  I plug the address of the rental office into the GPS and drive off to find my temporary home.

The area is quite beautiful, nestled between two mountain ranges.  The trees are just starting to leaf out after the winter and if the sun clouds over, there’s still a bite of winter-like chill in the air.  It’s different from anywhere I’ve ever lived or even visited before.  The Vette hugs the curves of the mountain road and I have to remind myself to back off on the gas pedal so I don’t kill myself on one of these hairpin curves.

Eventually the road smooths out and I am able to follow the annoying British lady’s voice on the GPS with accuracy. When I see the clock, I curse Chicago.  It’s not the city’s fault that there was a freak snowstorm shutting down the runways, but I should have been here yesterday.  I take a chance and hope the office is open on Sunday.  If not, I’ll get a hotel for the night and try again tomorrow.

When I pull into the parking lot for the rental office, it looks like luck is on my side.  A tiny blond woman seems to be locking up for the day.  If I had been a minute later I would have missed her.  I pull up in front of the building and park.  I stretch as I get out of the car, wanting to get blood back into my extremities after spending the better part of the past thirty six hours sitting.

She turns and her jaw drops.  I have to bite my cheek to keep from laughing.  It’s a reaction I’ve had to get used to.  I circle the car and extend my hand.  “Eric Northman.  This is Norris Realty, right?”  Her head nods slowly, her eyes still wide, not noticing my hand.  I drop it to my side and continue.  “Do you mind if I come in?  I would have been here yesterday, but my flight was delayed.”

Still silent, she turns and enters the office; I follow mutely, wondering if she’s the cleaning lady.  She’s certainly not dressed like any realty or rental agent I’ve ever come across.  She quietly asks if I want anything to drink, which I decline.  She nods and pulls her phone out of her purse.  From the office she goes into, I hear, “Calvin, is there something you should have mentioned to me?… No, obviously he didn’t come yesterday or you would have been notified, right?… You didn’t think of shooting me off an email so I could be prepared?… Fine.”  I hear the phone beep as she hangs up and she softly mutters, “Dick” under her breath.  I have to chuckle at that.

“Sorry about that; I was just about to leave for the day.  Are you checking in?” she asks very professionally.

I nod.  “I should have been here yesterday, but my flight to Roanoke from Chicago got postponed.  It’s not a problem, is it?”

“No, not at all.”  She pulls a stack of files off her desk and flips through them.  Smiling, she hands one to me.  “This is one that I thought of as soon as Mr. Norris told us about the Ocella contract.  If I could buy this house for myself, I would.  I think you’ll be very comfortable there.”

I look over the property information.  I can see what she means: with the lake and mountain views, it may be nicer than my house in Cali.  Everything is neutral with hardwood floors and stone accents.  It has all the necessary amenities, but it will be secluded and private as well.  I don’t think I could have picked anywhere more suited for me and I tell her so.  Her cheeks flush with the most adorable shade of pink.

“It won’t start getting dark for another two hours or so; do you think you’ll be okay to follow the map?” she asks politely, expecting to hear a stock response of “yes”.

I’m not a stock-answer kind of guy.  “Do you mind leading me out?  It’s been a very long couple of days and you’re clearly more familiar with the area.  I’ll tool around a little tomorrow and get the feel for the area, but a tour guide this evening would be extremely helpful.  Do you mind?”

Her cheeks flush and she ducks her head a little.  “What kind of customer service would it be to let you get lost in the wilds of Smith Mountain Lake?  It’s not a problem; just let me make a quick call.”

She steps into the office and again doesn’t close her door.  “Hey hon.  I’m helping my last check-in get to his rental and I’ll be home a little later than usual…. It’s not like we had any plans for tonight beyond hanging out…. Sam, you know this is part of my job.  Just chill.  I’ll be home in a bit…. You too, bye.”  Rolling her eyes to herself, she stashes her phone is her pocketbook again.  “All right, Mr. Northman, follow me to your temporary retreat.”  She pulls out her keys again and heads to the parking lot, switching off the lights she just turned on.  “By the way, forgive me… My name is Sookie.  Sookie Stackhouse.”

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