Kit Palmer, breathing heavily, faced down the man with the knife. Flinty eyes glared at her out of a scarred face, and the blade weaved hypnotically. As the man made his first lunge, Kit swung a shapely hip out of his path, and her right leg flew up, the toe of her boot whistling through the air past the knife, which clattered from the man's fingers. Kit spun, dark hair swirling, and she delivered another kick, right at her attacker's midsection. As the sole of her boot grazed his jacket, the man let out a tremendous "oof!", and crashed into a nearby table, splintering it. Kit paused, regarding her fallen opponent, when she heard the footsteps behind her. She braced herself, and felt the butt of the gun slap between her shoulder blades. Letting out a moan, Kit sank to her knees. Her attacker then reached beneath her armpits, and lifted her from the ground. As he grunted with the strain, Kit pushed with her legs, and flopped herself into the chair, head hanging down, glossy hair obscuring her face.
"Tie her up," came the growling voice from the man on the floor.
She felt her arms drawn behind the chair, and she slumped farther forward, her face still hidden.
Kit exhaled, and sat up. She twisted her neck, and stretched. "Someone call Merry, please." Kit closed her eyes, and rested her head on the back of the chair, as the crew bustled around to get ready for Meredith Banks to take Kit's place in the chair. It had been an exhausting morning-- TV shoots were always under more time pressure than films, and she had already fallen off two walls and broken down a door before having to run through the fight scene a half-dozen times. She had almost drifted off when she heard a voice next to her ear.
"Uh, excuse me? Miss Lambert?" Kit opened her eyes to see a teenage boy and girl regarding her with enormous respect. "Could we have your autograph?" The producer's niece and nephew, she remembered.
"Sure." Kit sat up straight, and took a pen from the boy, scrawling her name across the fabric passes the teenagers wore around their necks. The girl's eyes were twinkling.
"Miss Lambert, you are, like, so cool."
"Yeah," breathed the boy. "I always knew stunt people had to do tricks for the stars, but I never knew you could really make all those martial arts moves."
"And you're so flexible," his sister gushed. "Gosh, I'd give anything to be able to move that way!" Kit opened her mouth to give her standard good-diet-and-exercise speech, but the boy jumped in before his sister had even finished.
"Really, I always thought all the fight stuff you see in movies and on TV was fake. And, like, I know you weren't really kicking that guy, but I can see that you could have done it if you'd wanted to. It really makes you believe in what's happening. That is so cool!" The two thanked her again, and scampered off to find Meredith Banks.
Well, Kit thought to herself, that was nice. Though she knew that the professionals in her industry recognized her as one of the finest stuntwomen working today, it was unusual for the viewing public to have a chance to see her at work, and comment on it. The warm glow of satisfaction lasted for all of forty seconds.
"OK, Kit-- 'star time'." Kit looked up to see a striking brunette standing over her. Meredith Banks: soap queen now making her prime-time move in a god-awful action series. Meredith's character was supposed to be a lethally-dangerous super-spy, but Meredith had trouble being convincing in the act of opening a can of soup, much less running, shooting, and fighting. Close-ups: those were Meredith's specialty. Her face was heart-breakingly beautiful, with deep green eyes and pouty lips framed by thick brown hair, a shade darker than Kit's (it was a mark of this production's lameness, Kit thought, that she hadn't had to dye her hair to match Merry's-- as though no one really cared). Merry might not be an actress, but she was every inch a star.
"Oh, hi, Merry. All yours." Merry had a reputation for being difficult, and she was known to give crew members serious tongue-lashings, but she was always civil with Kit. Meredith sat down as the makeup and hair stylists flocked around her. Kit chuckled to herself at the exaggerated deference they all paid to the pretty little tyrant; as she watched, though, she found herself sighing. Sure, she loved her job, and was well-paid, but... to be so close to this kind of "star treatment"-- well, she'd hardly be human if she didn't occasionally ask herself-- just what would it be like to be the one on the receiving end of all that attention?
Kit shook her head, and walked toward an empty chair at the far side of the set. Now came the hours of tedious waiting: she was probably done, but they were paying her to be available for the day, so she slouched into the chair.
"All right, folks. Let's set up, here." The actors playing the criminals shuffled into place on either side of the chair, and one of the grips brought over a red bandana and some clothesline. He looked down at Meredith Banks, then glanced around, as though waiting for someone.
"Um... Jim?" He called to the director. "Is there someone supposed to--ah--?" There was an awkward pause as the director looked around, and was greeted with a series of shrugs. Kit noticed, though, that more than one side conversation had paused. After a moment, Meredith reached for the bandana in the grip's hand.
"Here, I'll take care of that." She carefully drew the bandana across her face, just below her nose, and knotted it at the back of her head. As the man held out the clothesline to her, she shook her head, nearly dislodging the bandana from her face. "No," she said, her voice clearly audible beneath the scarf, "I can just do this," and she hooked her legs into the rungs and held her arms behind the chair. "OK, let's go."
Kit glanced at the director; he looked stricken. There was no question that Merry, sitting there, didn't look remotely helpless. She did look impatient, though. Jim called for "action", and one of the "villains" took Merry by the shoulder, to issue some dire threat. As the actress turned, she leaned too far forward, and one of her "tied" hands appeared in the scene, clearly unbound.
"Merry, I think we'll need to take that again." The "villains" did their best to hide snickers as the star looked at the director, baffled.
"What? I didn't do anything."
"No, no, I understand-- it's just, well-- your hands. Could we--"
"Jim, just shut up and let's try again."
And again. And again. Thirty minutes later, and Merry had still been unable to produce a single take which might convince an audience that her character was actually tied helplessly to a chair. She tried grabbing her hands behind the chair, but her fingers got tired, and her hands slipped. Sometimes the bandana would slide off her face. For Kit, this began to be worse than tedium-- her thoughts drifted to the two kids who had spoken to her earlier. They had complimented her on the realism of her-- well, go ahead and call it a "performance"; it was as much acting as anything Meredith Banks had ever dreamed of doing. Here she was, having spent a long morning convincing an audience of this character's lethal competence, and now here was Merry undoing it all. It just wasn't fair; but then, Kit, she told herself, who said life was fair? She closed her eyes again, resting her head on the back of the chair, when she heard her name called.
"Kit! Kit, help me out, here!" She opened her eyes to see Meredith Banks looking at her. The actress rolled her eyes toward the director. "Jim feels that this scene isn't going to work until I look more realistically tied up, and you're the only person here I'd trust to touch me." Kit glanced around to see if any of the crew had taken offense at Merry's remark. Whether any did or not was hard to say, but there could be no doubt that she had their attention: every man on the set seemed to be listening to the two women's conversation.
"Um, well, if I can help, then, I guess... sure, I'll help." Kit got up from her chair, as Merry went on.
"I mean, it seems ridiculous to me-who's gonna know or care if I'm really tied up?"
"Well," Kit answered her, "he does have a point. After all, we've just spent a half-hour of screen time"-- at least I have, Kit thought-- "making the audience believe that your character is a dangerous spy and assassin. You wouldn't want to break that illusion now, by having her unable to escape unless she was realistically tied up."
Meredith's face gave an impression resembling thought. "You know, I never thought about that. Okay," she continued more brightly, "I'll show 'em who's an actress! Go ahead and get me all tied up!" There was a collective intake of breath around the set.
Kit walked over to the grip who still held the clothesline, and took the roll of white rope from him. She glanced at Merry, appraising the job of tying her to the chair in the same logistical terms she'd use with any setup.
"Well, first of all, we'll need to cut this shorter." The man reached in his toolkit, and produced a small knife, which Kit used to cut two 6-foot sections from the clothesline. "Try and tie her with this whole thing, and you'd have to walk around her chair like it was a maypole." The man was looking at her with an odd sort of respect. Like I tie women up for a living, or something, Kit laughed to herself. Kit then addressed Merry. "Okay, now let's try and get your hands behind the back of the chair." The star seemed to be getting into it, now, and sat up, arms pulled back, the chest of her skin-tight black bodysuit now especially prominent. A hush had descended on the set, and Kit looked up to see at least a dozen pair of eyes trying not to stare too obviously.
"Now, even though the camera can't see your hands behind the chair, let's go ahead and tie them. It really does make a difference in your posture, plus it might even be easier on your arms than having to hold them still on your own." Kit grasped Merry's wrists and brought them together behind the chair. Her arms weren't long enough to reach all the way, so she looped the cord around each wrist separately, leaving just enough cord to keep a taut connection between the "prisoner" 's arms. Kit stepped in front again, about to announce that Merry was ready to shoot, when she looked up; the ring of eyes was still fixed on the two women. Kit wasn't really sure if it was the boredom, or some natural streak of mischieviousness, but she was suddenly struck by an idea. Taking up the long loop of cord that remained, she bent down to Merry's ear.
"Merry, trust me-I won't let you get hurt, but you and I are going to have a little fun, here," and she began to wrap the cord around Merry's upper body. The actress gave Kit a strange look, but sat up straight as the stuntwoman fastened her more securely to the chair. Kit wound the rope around the chair, making sure that the white cord highlighted Merry's breasts against the black of the jumpsuit. As she knotted it gently but firmly, Kit took a glance at their audience again. The set had grown dead quiet, and every man who wasn't blatantly staring at the outline of the starlet's chest was sneaking a surreptitious glance. Kit smiled, and gave Merry a wink. The actress seemed unsure as to what was amusing the stuntwoman, but she was certainly not unaware of the effect that her situation was having on the men.
Kit then picked up the bandana. She pulled it to its full length, and tied a double knot in the center.
"Open up, Merry." The starlet did as she was bid, and Kit gently fitted the knot between the perfect white teeth. She pulled it behind Merry's head, and tucked the ends under the thick, dark hair, tying the knot as carefully as she could, so as not to catch Merry's hair in it. A final tug, and Kit stepped back for a final look at her work.
"HHHhhhmmmmppphh!" Merry shook her head, "emoting" through the gag. Kit did her best to stifle a laugh. Her eyes traveled from Merry's bound form, to the audience, and it was as though a light bulb had gone off in Kit's head: there had to be two dozen men working on this set, and nearly every one of them was practically drooling over the shapely form bound in the chair. And what do you do with an idea that can hold the attention of a man that way?
"Your own what?"
"My own show."
Pale blue eyes looked quizzically at Kit through tortoiseshell frames. Sitting across the large desk, Jan Ellison might have been an especially earnest vice-principal supervising detention. Actually, the little redhead was one of the toughest Hollywood agents working, well-known for getting her high-profile clients just what they wanted, no matter how unusual. It had been quite a while since one of them had taken her completely aback.
"As in TV show?"
"Yes, as in TV show." Kit did her best to remain patient. "I may not be in Meredith Banks' class, but I'm not exactly a hag, either."
"Forget it. Stand-up comic or soap star, maybe they give you a shot. But you're a stuntwoman. Maybe the best stuntwoman I've ever seen, but you don't honestly expect anyone give you your own TV series, do you?"
"You don't understand, I don't expect anyone to give me anything. I'll be one of the producers. I have my own idea for a show that is a guaranteed winner. It's called Fox Force."
"Someone's used that name already." Jan frowned. "Haven't they?"
"No, really. It's like a Mission: Impossible type show. I play the leader of a top-secret group of special operatives. All women. all babes. We'd have a different team each week--it could be like the old Batman show, with different guest stars every week: models, singers, you name it."
"Sorry," Jan's frown was even more sour, "they've already done Baywatch. What's so special about a bunch of bimbos in bikinis?"
"Bimbos? Thanks a lot."
"You know what I mean. Why should anyone put money into something like that?"
"Because," Kit's smile was almost wicked, "this will emphasize something no one else ever has: beautiful women--all tied up."
The stare back at her was blank. "What are you babbling about?"
"Look, haven't you ever noticed how much guys like to look at women tied up?"
"Surprisingly," Jan responded drily, "I don't pay much attention to what guys like to look at."
"Well, I have. Heck, yesterday on the set, you should have seen the way the guys were staring when Merry was getting tied up. Their eyes were bugging out of their heads!"
"Well, don't women already get tied up at the end of a lot of those crappy shows?"
"Right, but, see, the trick is, we're not just tying up the hero's girlfriend in the last ten minutes of the show like some other series-- one week, one of us might get tied before the opening credits, another time it might be two or three of us at different times during the show, sometimes back to back, or maybe even front to front. Get it? No one would know just when it might happen, or how sexy it might be, so they'd stay glued, to make sure not to miss anything! Plus, there's no actual nudity or sex or anything, so they can tell their wives they're just watching an action show. And villainesses! I think those guys yesterday really got off on the fact that Merry was being tied by another woman. Something else I noticed-- it makes a difference if you do it right. I'd make sure that all the girls would be tied really professionally: nothing lame that looks like the actress would get loose if she even wiggled. Really tight ropes over snug costumes will have that male 18 to 49 demographic eating out of our hand! "
Jan's look had gone from incredulity to skepticism, which Kit regarded as progress. "And you think you can get someone to put up money for you to do this?"
"Well," Kit paused. "Maybe not, if it's just me. But what if it's not just me? After all, I'm pretty close to some damn foxy actresses and models-- hell, I've made them look good on camera. I'd bet a lot of them would be willing to return the favor. What if I can get you some names?"
"Big names. Look, I'd be willing to bet that if I talk to some of them, they'll see what I see-- guys drooling over tied-up babes, and sitting through every commercial imaginable, just so they don't miss anything. The beer companies alone will KILL for time on this show. We can make a LOT of money."
Jan sighed. "Well, I don't know. Tell you what, you come back to me in a week or so, and show me just who you've been able to interest in this---um-- 'brainstorm' of yours. Then, we'll see. And, for God's sake, keep this as quiet as you can. If the idea actually turns out to be worth anything at all, some bastard will steal it from you if you let him." Jan reached to the top of her desk, and picked up a pink message slip. "Anyway, if you're free this afternoon, Lew Wainwright wants you to call."
"Is he still producing Crime Scene?"
"Yeah. He got some hot new indy filmmaker to do an episode, and I guess the guy's giving him fits."
"So what's he want with me?"
Jan shrugged. "Ask him."
Driving home, Kit thought about ignoring the message, and taking the rest of the day off; in Hollywood, though, you learn never to turn down work. So, after arriving home, and pouring a quick iced tea, she dialed the number on the slip.
"Hi, Lew? It's Kit Palmer."
"Kit, thank God. Can you give me a few hours today, and maybe tomorrow, too?"
"Well, sure, I'm free. What's all the fuss?"
"Ah... I'm not quite sure how to put this. I was talking to some folks about your work on Merry Banks' new show yesterday, and from what they tell me, you're just the gal I need."
"Need for what?" Kit was used to requests for her services being a lot more straightforward than this. " Do I have to fall off a building or crash a car?"
"No, nothing like that..." there was a long pause. "I need you to tie someone up."
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