The Case of the Casting Couch
Heidi arrived back at her apartment. Tears streamed down her face. She ran into the bathroom, reached into the shower and turned on the taps. She quickly removed her clothes and stepped into the shower. She had never felt more violated in her entire life. Was this what actresses had to do to get a part in a movie? She didn't know how she would continue to succumb to Julio Mendes's demands.
Her classmates in high school always laughed at her when she said she wouldn't have sex before marriage. Most of them were sleeping with their boyfriends or girlfriends. Heidi had been brought up differently. Her parents had taught her that sex came after marriage. She truly believed that. Heidi had been saving herself for that one true love. How could she have been so naive about Hollywood? She should have waited for Mr Mason to handle everything. After all, Mr Burr had agreed to help her. Why did she go it on her own? What a colossal mistake she made!
She had no idea what was in the contract she signed. Heidi never should have signed it without allowing Mr Mason to check the verbiage. As a result, she had no idea what she had actually signed. Furthermore, she didn't even have a copy of it. What would she have to do in the future when it came to Julio Mendes? She couldn't bear the thought of doing what she just did with him again.
Heidi scrubbed her skin until it was almost raw. She had to remove the smell of Julio Mendes from her person. If only that was all it took to remove the memory of what happened in his office. When she finished her shower, she stepped out, grabbed a towel, and dried her body.
She began to cry again, collapsing to the floor sobbing. What was she going to do? She wanted the part in the movie, but she couldn't do what she was sure Mendes was going to demand of her. Maybe if she talked to him and explained she was uncomfortable, he would understand and back off. He seemed so nice when she met him. Heidi thought he was willing to help her with her career. This was not what she had in mind.
Her mind wandered back to the contract she signed. What was in it? What had she agreed to? Maybe the agent assigned to her would protect her. She thought about that for a moment and almost laughed aloud. Julio Mendes assigned her to the agent. There wasn't a doubt in her mind that he would be loyal to Mendes. He wouldn't care one iota about her. The agent probably had some sort of agreement with Julio.
Heidi picked herself up from the floor, reached over, and grabbed her robe. After putting it on, she went into her bedroom. She had to stop feeling sorry for herself and find a way out of this mess. Perry Mason! That was the way out of her current predicament. He could help her get out of the contract. She would sign with the agent of Raymond Burr's choosing. Then she would be protected. She would no longer have to yield to Mendes's dirty desires. The things he made her do! God, she didn't want to think of them. What would her parents think? Would they have said I told you so? That was the last thing she wanted to hear.
The problem, as she saw it, was how could she go to Perry Mason and tell him what she had done? He had been so helpful. He was the one trying to protect her, not Julio Mendes. She should have consulted him before she signed the contract. Why didn't she just tell Mendes she wouldn't sign anything without her attorney? What a mistake that turned out to be. Then again, she knew why. If she had told him she wouldn't sign without Perry Mason, he would have dismissed her, and her dream of winning the part of Sarah would have been crushed.
But, what about the part of Sarah? She wanted that part very bad. It was written for her. Heidi knew she could be great in the role if given the chance. She worried Mendes would give the part to someone else if she didn't do as he desired. What in the world was she going to do? She couldn't think about it right now. Her mind was just a jumbled bunch of thoughts. She needed sleep. Maybe in the morning things wouldn't seem so bad. Heidi put on a nightgown and slipped between the sheets. Despite that she was exhausted, sleep wouldn't come easy. She knew in her mind nothing was settled. She wanted the part, but she needed Perry Mason. The problem was – if she went to him, would she lose out on the part of Sarah? She couldn't let that happen. She wanted the role. She needed the role. It would catapult her to stardom. Wasn't whatever she had to do worth the sacrifice?
Julio Mendes had it made and he knew it. All of the bitches would do whatever he wanted them to do in order to win the role of Sarah. The sex had never been so good and so plentiful. Every one of them fell on their backs and provided him with what he wanted. All of the women except one were very talented. He could choose any of them for the part, but what he really wanted was a fresh face. That fresh face could very well be Heidi Moore. She was beautiful and young. She certainly fit the image of what he thought Sarah should be. There was a problem though. Whoever got the part would have to provide him with sex all during the filming of the movie. Julio wasn't about to go without it.
It was amazing how they would do whatever he wanted them to do simply because they wanted a part in a movie. Some of his friends told him he was playing with fire, and soon or later he was going to get burned. You can't treat them that way without it coming back to bite you, they said. Julio didn't see how it could. Why should he worry about it? The women were all whores, otherwise they wouldn't sell their bodies for a part in a motion picture. He didn't give a damn about any of them. He proudly held the role over their heads for sex. He enjoyed taking them, dominating them, and most of all screwing them. Obviously, not all of them were going to get the role of Sarah. He could only give it to one actress. The rest were screwed! He laughed at the thought of how utterly stupid these women were. He had been holding roles over actresses' heads for years, screwing them out of the job, and the dumb bitches still came back for more on the next picture. God, how he loved being a king maker, or in this case a queen maker! The fringe benefits of deciding who got to act in his movies were fabulous.
The more Julio thought about it, he wanted Heidi Moore for the movie. She was a virgin when he bedded her, he was certain of that. Yet, at the same time, whether she wanted to or not, she reacted to him. He loved it when he could stir a woman that way. Julio could always tell when they were faking and she wasn't faking. He imagined she could be a real wildcat, and he could teach her so much. She could very well end up being the best he ever had. He just had to get her past her naïve attitude. She would get use to it. It was the way of Hollywood. Men dominated the industry, and women had to succumb if they wanted to get anywhere. At least that is the way he saw it, and his track record proved it.
Perry Mason parked his Cadillac at the Brent building. He went around and opened the door on the passenger's side of the vehicle. Taking Della Street's hand, he helped her out of the car. As they did every morning, Mason headed for the back entrance and Della headed for the front. It allowed the appearance that both of them came in at different times. Della still wondered why he went to such lengths to protect her in this day and age. Nobody cared that they were living together. Yet, Mason went out of his way to protect her reputation.
She walked through the front door and took the elevator up to the floor where the lawyer's office was located. She opened the door and walked in. Gertie, as usual, was already at her desk.
"Good morning, Miss Street. Mr Mason has not yet arrived," Gertie told her.
"Thank you, Gertie. Are there any important calls that Mr Mason needs to give his attention to right away?" Della wanted to know if Heidi Moore had called yet.
"Just the usual calls. Everyone in Los Angeles seems to want Mr Mason's services. You would think there wasn't any other attorney in the entire city."
Della smiled. "There are plenty of attorneys in Los Angeles, just none better than Mr Mason."
She opened the door that led into the outer office of Perry Mason. Separate from the lobby, it gave Della a private office in which to do her work. A few minutes later, she heard the private entrance door open. Della knocked on the door and entered. Mason had just come in.
"Any calls?" Mason asked her.
"No, Gertie says just the usual. Were you expecting somebody in particular?" she asked, knowing fully well he was referring to Heidi Moore.
"As a matter of fact, I was hoping that Heidi Moore had called. I want to get her set up with the agent that Raymond recommended. In case you haven't noticed, our client is somewhat flighty. I want to make sure she doesn't sign a contract with someone else. No doubt, she would do it without reading the contract. I don't trust Julio Mendes."
"You met him at the party. What did you think of him?" she asked him.
"Just exactly what I've heard. He's a sleaze who takes advantage of actresses who are hungry for movie roles. It's too bad that someone doesn't sue him. I would be more than happy to take their case."
"If he takes advantage of Heidi, you may get your wish," Della said.
"That is the reason I brought Raymond into this. He will see to it that she gets a honest agent who will protect her."
"Della, if she doesn't call within the next half hour, call Paul and have him find her. I simply don't trust Julio Mendes. He paid entirely too much attention to Heidi at the party. I don't want him getting his hooks into her."
"All right, but in the mean time, what do we say we work on the mail? It was on Gertie's desk when I came in."
Mason cringed. In all the years he had been a practicing lawyer, the one thing he hated more than anything in the office was the mail. It was tedious and boring, yet, he knew it had to be done. Realizing it was a good thing he had Della to force him to do the mail, he walked over and sat down behind the desk. Since he told Della to call Paul in a half hour, that meant he only had to endure the mail for that time. After that, he was going to find Heidi. Mason didn't want to leave her to the likes of Julio Mendes.
Fortunately, as Mason dictated his instructions for the mail, he lost himself in the task. The half hour went by quickly. He didn't even notice. It was Della who reminded him he wanted Paul to find Heidi.
Della Street looked at her wrist watch. She had been hoping Heidi would call. Unfortunately, she didn't. "Perry, your half-hour is up. I'll call Paul and have him locate Heidi." She reached for the phone just as Paul's code knock sounded on the door. Della walked around the desk and went to the private office door. She opened it to a smiling Paul Drake.
"Hello, beautiful. I need to talk to Perry. It's urgent."
"Come on in, Paul," Mason called out from behind the desk. "You must have ESP. We were just about to call you."
"I can't imagine. How did things go in Detroit?"
"Perry won. Heidi's trust fund is being transferred to him. That lawyer has all sorts of problems. We doubt he will be practicing law much longer," Della said.
"Well, at least you have control of the trust fund, but Heidi's acting career is another story altogether."
Mason sat forward in is executive chair. "What are you saying, Paul?"
"It was in the gossip section of the Hollywood Reporter that Julio has signed a young aspiring actress from Michigan. Just how many aspiring actresses from Michigan do you know?"
Mason shot out of his chair. "Paul, find Heidi. She is not answering her home phone or her cellphone. Neither has she called in this morning. We need to find out just exactly what she has signed."
"Okay, but I don't see what you will be able to do about it if she has. I can't believe she would sign anything without you. What is the sense of retaining an attorney if you aren't going to listen to him?" Drake got up and headed for the door.
"That . . . is a question Perry has been asking for years," Della said.
Drake shook his head and left by the same door he entered.
Della saw the concerned look on Perry's face. "Is there anything you can do if she has signed a contract with Julio Mendes?"
"I don't know, Della. It depends on what is in the contract. However, you can bet your bottom dollar that Mendes has made sure it is iron clad. The man has been in the business for years and he hires the sleaziest of attorneys to make sure he has total control of an actress. I'll have to read the contract and go from there."
"Why in the world didn't she wait and have you read the contract?" Della wondered.
"I can tell you why. Mendes promised to make her a star. He convinced her that if she didn't sign it, he would choose another actress for the part. As badly as Heidi wants to be an actress, she would have signed the contract. She's naive, and has stars in her eyes. The girl has no idea what kind of shark she is dealing with. I think we should pay Mr Mendes a visit." Mason got up and took Della's elbow. The two of them left the office, leaving word with Gertie where they were going in case Paul needed to reach them.
Paul Drake knocked on the door to Heidi Moore's apartment. He waited for an answer. Despite Perry and Della telling him she hadn't answered her home phone, Drake wasn't about to ignore the fact that Heidi might not be answering his calls. She could be embarrassed that she didn't consult Mason before she signed the contract.
Drake waited for a reasonable amount of time and then knocked again. Still no answer. He turned the knob. The door wasn't locked. Drake opened it. Standing there, he knew he had no authorization to enter. He had a private detective license to protect. Then again, he had an obligation to Perry Mason as well. He would want him to check on her. Maybe she was inside. She could have realized what she did and taken an overdose of drugs. It wouldn't be the first time a Hollywood star did that. Drake had to know if she was all right. He couldn't just walk away and then tell Perry he didn't check inside when he found the door unlocked. Besides, an unlocked door could spell trouble for the occupant. No one in Los Angeles left their doors unlocked. They would only be inviting trouble.
Drake decided not to take any chances. He reached into his suit coat pocket where he kept a pair of surgical gloves. He pulled one over his right hand and then the left. Then he pushed the door opened and entered Heidi Moore's apartment. "Heidi!" Drake called out her name several times with no response. Moving from room to room, he found no sign of Heidi. The only room he hadn't checked was the bathroom. The door was closed. The last thing Drake wanted to do was barge in on her if she was in the shower.
Knocking on the bathroom door, Paul said, "Heidi, are you in there?
I'm Paul Drake, a private detective. Mr Mason sent me." He waited for a moment, but once again received no response.
Turning the knob, Drake entered the bathroom. Heidi was nowhere to be found. Looking down at the floor, he saw clothes in a pile. There on top was a pair of womens' panties. He couldn't help notice the blood on them. Concerned what that could mean, he checked the cabinet. Unfortunately, he found several boxes of tampons that weren't open. Drake looked into the waste basket. There wasn't any indication of any tampon wrappers in the basket. That could only mean one thing if Heidi was a virgin and he suspected she was.
Perry wasn't going to like it. All evidence pointed to Mendes already having taking advantage of the young lady. Drake found himself becoming angry. How did Mendes get away with it; using potential actresses this way? Despite knowing he couldn't do it, he would like to go over to the studio and beat the living hell out of Julio Mendes. Drake was even more determined to help Perry protect the girl. Whatever it took, he was going to do it. Grabbing his phone, he press the contact icon and called one of his men. "Smitty, I want you to find all the dirt you can on Julio Mendes. It is time someone put that scumbag in his place. Report back to me as soon as you can. This is a priority." He hung up the phone. His next stop was the studio. He just hoped he could hold his temper. Perry already defended him in one murder trial, he didn't want him to have to do it in another. For, sooner of later, someone was going to do Mendes in."
Grant Torrance paced back and forth in front of Julio Mendes office. He wanted out of the damn movie. Having spent every waking hour thinking about it, Torrance decided he wanted no part in the production. He didn't care how important or powerful Mendes was. He could only be as powerful as actors and actresses allowed him to be. There were always other parts and other directors.
It made no difference to him what the damn contract said. He was going to force Mendes to let him out of the movie. No amount of money was worth putting up with the man. He represented everything that was bad about the business. Certainly, Torrance had bedded his share of actresses, but he did so with their consent. He never tried to force any of them. Then again, Julio Mendes was such a sleaze and unattractive physically and personally; the only way he could bed a woman was through blackmail, and that was exactly what it was . . . pure blackmail. He was using them; promising them parts in his movies if they succumbed to having sex with him. With so many actresses vying for parts, they would do exactly what he wanted. Grant suspected, no not suspected . . . he knew he was promising several actresses, knowing fully well only one of them would be given the role in his movie.
The only reason Mendes got away with it was because his movies were always a huge success. Every actor and actress wanted roles in his films. If they had good agents and lawyers, they would be able to get a tremendous salary and royalties when the picture became a hit. As a result, it allowed Mendes to take advantage of every woman who audition for the roles in his movies.
It was time someone put the scum in his place, and Grant was just the man who could do it. He would go to every actress who auditioned and tell them exactly what Mendes was up to. If it was the last thing he ever did in this business, he was going to run Mendes right out. Grant simply had to get all of the actresses to file suit against him. It wouldn't cost them a red cent. He would spend his own money. There was one lawyer in Los Angeles who would never back down from Julio Mendes, and that was Perry Mason. Grant would make an appointment with him as soon as possible.
"What are you doing here, Torrance? Shouldn't you be studying and learning your lines? There isn't going to be any teleprompters for you to read them from. It is about time you got off your ass and did your job the old fashion way; memorize your lines. I am not paying you to read them off the teleprompter. I hate those things. It makes you sound like a robot."
"Oh really? If I sound like a robot, then why did you want me for this picture? Remember, you came to me, not the other way around."
"I know where the money is, unlike you. For some reason I can't fathom, the movie going public likes you. You put butts in the seats at the theater. I have to sacrifice some quality to ensure a money maker. And hiring you is a big sacrifice. You know, Torrance, you really are a lousy actor. You've gotten by on your looks. You're pretty to look at. What is it the women call it - eye candy? That's you in a nutshell. Now if you will excuse me, I have work to do."
Mendes wasn't getting off that easily. Torrance followed him into his office. Julio turned around to see the actor hadn't left. "Get out, we have nothing to say to each other."
"We have plenty to say, or at least I have. I want out of your lousy picture. The money isn't worth having to put up with you. Furthermore, Mendes, I am going to spend my own money to help every woman on this picture sue you for forcing them to have sex with you"
"What's the matter, Torrance, you aren't getting any? Every one of those women made a choice. I didn't force them to do anything. Now, get out before I call security to throw you out. And forget about getting out of your contract, unless of course you want to pay me fifty-million-dollars. You know, I love idiot actors like you. You aren't even smart enough to read what you sign. Now, get out!"
"You son-of-a-bitch!" Torrance doubled up his fist and slugged Julio Mendes who fell toward the door. He was caught by Perry Mason who was just entering.
"You are going to pay for that, Torrance! I suggest you read your contract! Now get the hell out!"
"I'm leaving, but you haven't heard the last of this," Grant Torrance shouted as he left Mendes' office.
Mendes wiped the blood from the corner of his mouth with his doubled fist. "And the hits just keep on coming. What the hell do you want, Mason?"
"I represent Heidi Moore," Mason began before he was interrupted by Mendes.
"Not anymore you don't. You're fired."
"Only Heidi can fire me, Mr Mendes, and she has not done that."
"I've got news for you, Mason, she will be firing you. She doesn't have any choice. It's in the contract she sign yesterday. You don't know the movie business. I do. I got her an agent and a lawyer. You are out of the picture. You really didn't think I would allow you to be her attorney, did you?"
"I can see why you wouldn't want me to be. I wouldn't allow you to take advantage of her," Mason said.
"Take advantage of her? You must be kidding. I am giving an complete unknown a chance for the lead in the picture. Just how is that taking advantage of her?"
"I'll tell you that as soon as you show me the contract," Mason said.
Mendes started laughing. "Do you really think I am going to do that? You are going to be fired soon. What's in that contract doesn't concern you any longer. Now, get out."
"Just as soon as you give me a copy of the contract," Mason said.
Della was amazed Perry was in complete control of his temper. Then again, he almost always was. Without Julio Mendes noticing, she had pulled out her steno notebook and was taking down the conversation between Perry and Mendes.
"Oh, what the hell. Since, you haven't been fired yet, I'll give you a copy. There isn't one damn thing you can do about it anyway. It is completely legal." Julio walked over to the file cabinet, unlocked it, and pulled out a file. Inside the file were several copies of the contract Heidi Moore signed with him. He removed one copy and tossed it at Mason. "Now, will you get the hell out of here?"
Instead of leaving, Mason began skimming through the contract. It was even worse than he thought. Mendes was in complete control of Heidi's career. Not only would he be able to say what picture she could accept, he could stop her from accepting any role whatsoever without his permission. He would be able to exercise total control over the young woman. He totally controlled how much she would be paid. In other words, she couldn't work for anyone but him, and Perry knew what that meant. She would not be working at all unless she gave in to him. Obviously, Heidi hadn't read it before she signed it. No person in their right mind would read that contract and then sign it. This was exactly what he wanted to protect her from, and he had failed to do so.
"I'll be taking you to court. You took advantage of a naive young woman and I have no intention of allowing you to get away with it, Mendes," Mason said angrily as his composure began to slip a bit.
Mendes laughed. "Go right ahead, Mason. People have tried it before and my contracts are handled by a lawyer who makes sure they can't be broken. But don't you worry, I'll take good care of little Miss Moore. Oh yes, I intend to take very good care of her, if you know what I mean." He grinned and started laughing again.
If Perry ever wanted to hit a man, this was it. Yet, he wouldn't. He was a lawyer and he knew the law. There were other ways to handle Julio Mendes. "Come on, Della, let's get out of here." He handed the contract to her. She opened her purse and placed it inside.
"Oh, Mason, before you go, I just wanted to tell you it has been a pleasure doing business with you. I don't know where you get your hot-shot reputation because I had no trouble outsmarting you, but then you probably never ran up against real competition."
Mason said nothing. He took Della's elbow and led her out of the office while Mendes laughed hysterically.
"I don't care what it takes or how much money it cost, Della. I am going to take him down. As soon as we get to the car, I want Paul located. I want every bit of evidence of Mendes's dealings with actresses. It's time he find out just what I can do. Now, let's go find Heidi. She is going to need us; you, in particular. She'll need the feminine touch."
Heidi Moore got out of the taxi in front of the movie studio. The tears ran down her pretty face as the mascara streaked all the way to her chin. She knew she needed Mr Mason more than ever. So far, he was the one who truly wanted to protect her. She kept going over in her mind all of his actions toward her, and he hadn't done anything except to look out for her interest. She didn't even know the results of his trip to Michigan to move her trust fund to California into his hands.
Heidi ignored several calls from him. She didn't know how she was going to tell him what she'd done. After what Julio Mendes had forced her to do, she was afraid to find out what was in the contract she signed. He must be a reasonable man. She had to explain to him that she could never do that again. She had felt so dirty afterwards. Heidi simply couldn't go through it again.
With her studio pass, she headed for his office. It was easy to find since she had been there before. Closing her eyes, she didn't want to go over in her mind what happened the last time she was in his office. When she arrived at the door, Heidi knocked.
"Whoever you are, go away," Mendes shouted.
Heidi wasn't about to go away. She had to talk to him. She had to convince him to let her out of the contract. Opening the door, she poked her head inside. "Mr Mendes, can I talk to you?"
Julio looked up from his desk. He smiled at her. Just what he needed, sex would break the tension Torrance and Mason had caused him. "Come in, Heidi, come in. Please stop calling me Mr Mendes. Call me Julio." He stood up and walked around his desk to her. He put his arm around her with his hand on her buttocks, and pulled her so that their bodies came into contact.
"Please . . . stop! I can't do this. It was why I came to see you. I would like you to tear up my contract. I want Mr Mason and Mr Burr to handle my career. I can't do what you want me to."
"You ungrateful little bitch. I am about to give you the lead in a motion picture and you want to let someone else handle your career. I got news for you. That contract you signed gives me complete control over your career. You won't have a career without my say so. You can't act in any picture unless I allow it. You have to do exactly as I tell you to. Now, I would like to make you a big star! If I do, we both make a ton of money." He knew that was a lie. Only he would be making a ton of money. She would only make a small amount for each picture he decided to put her in. "I can do it, but you are going to make pictures for me, and no one else."
"I am not having sex with you. I will not do that."
Mendes grabbed her by the hair and bent her over the desk. "You will do as you are told. Sex is part of the bargain whether you like it or not."
Heidi struggled to get away from him, but he was too strong. "Mr Mason will break that contract."
"Mason isn't going to do anything. That contract is iron clad. He was here earlier. I gave him a copy of it. He read it. He left here with his tail tucked between his legs. Now, what will it be? Are you going to be a good girl, or do I invoke the part of the contract that keeps you from working in Hollywood for the next ten years. By then, no motion picture company will go anywhere near you. There will be new fresh faces and yours will be too old." He bent over her with his hand between her legs. When she said nothing, he grinned. "That's what I thought." He took her right there bent over the desk.
"I am going to kill you!" she screamed.
"Sure you are. If you're lucky, I'll have a heart attack while I'm screwing you."
Heidi started crying. "I'm going to kill you!"
Outside his office, his secretary, Edna Johnson leaned up against the wall and closed her eyes. Another poor girl falling prey to Julio Mendes.