The glare of the flash photography and shriek of the screaming crowds at last began to fade away. Dan’s mind was a swirling cortex of inner contemplation and lacklustre contentment. His first shot at a major role on the “big players circuit” and he would have assumed a more elated reaction than the one he felt. The pressure was off and the frantic adrenaline rush worn down to almost nothing. His failure or success now lay at the mercy of unmitigated public scrutiny. As the countless lines of rehearsal transcript still scrolled through his thoughts, the phone rang.
”Speaking?” He answered, slotting right back into his professional persona. The voice on the other end was soft and meek. A woman who sounded as if her vocal cords had been denuded of most of it’s threading.
”Mr. Hanold. This is Charlotte Denning of “Modern Lifestyles”. I hope you are resting well after today’s performance.”
A jolt of nervous exhilaration sparked through his body. He sat upright in the chair, every neuron of his being following suit and standing to attention. The question of how she had discovered his private number was of no consequence at this conjuncture. Just the very notion that an acclaimed critic such as the exalted Mrs. Denning having made connect with him, was all that mattered.
”What a nice surprise! The famous Mrs. Denning!” He exclaimed whilst creating a fine balance between appearing too exaggerated or overly subdued. ”To what do I owe this esteemed honour?”
”I’ll get right to the point.” She hastened, still speaking with a resonance just above a whisper. ”Your performance tonight left me… Well, quite underwhelmed. I felt the urge to contact you and enquire as to the reasons behind this. I knew of your father's work quite well and before I publish any of my findings based on what I witnessed a few hours prior, I decided upon giving you the benefit of the doubt. Though at the same time, I do appreciate this call is quite out of the ordinary for a person in my position.”
His jaw hung open as he attempted to gather his thoughts into some semblance of appropriate order. Dan’s experience in “the business” had so far been numerous practice sessions as well as some scant prep work in order to audition for his breakthrough role. Was this the way things worked in showbiz, he pondered? A mild cough over the receiver juddered his senses back to cohesion.
”All I can do is offer my sincerest apologies, Mrs. Denning.” He said, in an assertive, composed manner. Acting was not something to be carried out solely in the workplace, he thought to himself. ”If I may ask you to what ends you found my performance tonight not to your liking?”
”This is something I wish to discuss with you in person, Mr. Hanold.” She responded. There was a forceful directness behind her voice that caused him to cower without even realising it. ”Can you meet me in the lobby at a quarter past nine? That should provide sufficient enough time for you to ready yourself I presume.”
”Sure, Mrs. Denning” He said, reciting off of pure instinct. Only after the words left his mouth did he contemplate the peculiar nature of her request. ”I will be there on the dot. Not a second later.”
”Fine.” She answered, reverting back to the same sombre tone she had exhibited at the start. ”I look forward to meeting with you and discussing those certain issues that need addressing. See you in a bit.” Even before Dan had a chance to say his goodbyes, the phone went dead.
He held the receiver in his hand a few moments longer with a look of confused astonishment on his face. Questions regarding the validity of the call as well as the forcefulness in her voice, hurt his head somewhat. But assuming everything up until that point was authentic, this was uncharted territory for the twenty-something, dashing young bachelor. He glanced at the clock on the wall. Just gone five to eight. After a quick shower and some careful last-minute grooming, this could result to an interesting outcome for his career as well as his conscience. Curiosity got the better of him as he bolted out of the chair with not a second to lose…
(To be continued... Possibly.)