Jackson ran out the door, stopping only for an instant to snatch the singular gaudy envelope from his mailbox. The frantic march resumed, but only for an instant, coming to an abrupt halt as his eye caught the name on the return label.
Linden Murray c/o Helen Muster
Irate honking alerted Jackson to the fact that he had strayed into the road, holding up a line of two whole cars. Resisting the urge to share his feelings by way of one scarred middle finger, Jackson tucked the letter in his satchel and moved on. Or would have.
"Admire your mail somewhere else pal!"
"Or you could just watch where I'm going asshole!" Jackson shouted back, flying the finger high and proud. The driver looked like he was on the verge of starting something, and any other day Jackson might have obliged, happily; but today the filmmaker was already behind schedule and couldn't afford another delay.
He placed a hand on the bulge at his hip and stared hard the driver, his eyes inviting the man to give him an excuse. After a tense moment the driver looked away, shifted forcefully, and drove off.
The bulge at Jackson's hip was only a cell phone, but showmanship was everything, and what the driver didn't know wouldn't hurt him. And, more importantly, wouldn't hold up Hollywood's next big thing.
In fact, the trip on which he was about to embark would later be considered by many to be his victory lap. His big break. His defining moment. It would be viewed in the same light as the moment when Bruce Wayne took up the mantle of Batman, or when Peter Parker suffered the fateful bite that turned him into Spider-man.
And the star of his movie was so confident that he had his secretary send Jackson a letter to be sure he didn't miss the inexorable call of destiny. Or fate. Whichever sounded better when the came to write his memoir.
Pearl Street Station was only a couple of blocks from Jackson's house, and he arrived, out of breath, but just in time to catch the train that would take him to his flight. From there he'd traverse the ocean to Catania-Fontanarossa Airport where a man would be waiting to ferry him to the final destination:
Isola di Fiori Mortali. The stage on which his masterpiece would unfold.
Jackson nodded and began to rummage through his satchel. The leather bag was the closest thing to a companion that'd he'd ever had. It had hardly left his side since his mother had given it to him for his college graduation almost twelve years ago now, a fact which starting to become obvious in more than a few places. The day he'd have to replace it would be, in Jackson's mind at least, akin to losing a dear pet.
After several seconds he located the ticket, pulling it out, along with the envelope. Handing off the ticket to the usher, Jackson turned his attention to the letter, debating whether now was the right time or not. On the one hand, he'd hardly be able to contain himself if he waited to open it until he reached his destination; yet on the other, chances were the letter would only serve to make him even more excited about starting his film, and the trip would pass just as slowly. As he waged internal war against himself, Jackson stared at the letter, getting his first good look at it since he snatched it from his mailbox earlier that day. The envelope itself was maroon, and was made of some material that he couldn't quite place. It wasn't paper, not as far as he could tell at least, it too smooth and supple for that. Flowery gold embossing lined both the front and back perimeter; Jackson fingered it idly. The envelope probably cost more than his train ticket. That was a good sign.
Deciding to hold out as long as he could, Jackson passed the rest of the train ride staring out the window, but seeing very little of the passing landscape. His thoughts were on his movie. He had detailed notes, and something resembling a script, but they weren't carved in stone, and a better idea might be just around the corner. The working title was "Slicker than Oil: The Life of Linden Murray." Jackson liked the play on words, Murray owed his wealth to the success of his oil industries, but something about it was just lacking a ring. He wasn't worried though. There was still plenty of time to come up with something, and the island might just give him the inspiration he needed.
Jackson finally caved two hours into his flight. Sliding the flat of his finger nail under the envelope flap, the filmmaker carefully worked his finger across, attempting, as he always did, to break the seal as cleanly as he could. All was well up until the last inch or so when a particularly firm patch of adhesive prompted Jackson to apply more force. The patch gave without warning and Jackson's finger lurched forward, tearing the flap. With a sigh he brutally finished the job and extracted the envelope's contents.
Mr. DeQuin, Salutations,
I regret to inform you that, due to recent health complications, Mr. Murray will be unable undertake the rigors of filming and has decided to cancel the project. He apologizes for the inconvenience and has invited you join him and some guests for a weekend extravaganza being held on the island.
-On behalf of-
The note had begun to shake in Jackson's hand, and it wasn't until he finished that he realized it wasn't due to turbulence. Heart pounding, the filmmaker looked around wildly, searching for some hint that this was all a cruel joke. Cancelling the project wasn't just an inconvenience. Jackson had bet everything he had on this opportunity, spending what savings he had on equipment, editing services, props and costumes... not to mention the cost of having it all shipped to the island!
Noticing that he was receiving concerned looks from several nearby passengers, Jackson made an effort to pull himself together. He didn't want to add detainment by Homeland Security to his list of this weekend's monumental failures. Turning the letter over he spotted information on the weekend gathering including a menu, descriptions of the services that would be offered, and a guest list. He scanned through the list quickly, not recognizing anyone until he came to the last name on the list.
Jackson sucked in a sharp breath. Henry was his business partner. Was. He had first approached Jackson a few years after the filmmaker had graduated college. It was he who had set Jackson on the path he now walked. Henry had the knowledge, he had the contacts, but he also reeked of one thing Jackson couldn't stand: desperation. So Jackson cut the man loose. Hardly lost any sleep over it either because he thought he'd never need to see the man again.
Karma was a cruel mistress indeed.
For the briefest of moments Jackson considered taking the next flight home, and not even bothering to go the dinner. It wouldn't make the failure sting any less. And there was little chance it'd do him any good. But...
Murray would be there. He'd have to talk to Jackson. Not like he could just invite to a party and blow him off. If there was even the slightest chance he could convince the man to simply delay the project a while, instead of outright cancelling it, then Jackson had to take it. Because he had no other choice.
Because he was desperate.
Clutching the satchel to his chest, Jackson settled into a chair so uncomfortable, it had to have been designed to be just that. No longer worried about being too excited, the filmmaker bid the pilot take as much time as he needed.
Ten hours had never passed so quickly.