Ruthe Wheeler.

Janet Hardy in Radio City





It was during this pause that Helen, watching the hills below the storm clouds, caught a flash of light. It was too low for lightning and she gripped Janets right arm.

Theres a car coming! she cried.

Janet turned hopefully and looked in the direction Helen pointed, but there was no sign of light and she heard an involuntary sob escape from Helen.

Then it came again, two twin beams of light cutting around a hill. Helen was right! A car was coming and Janet, unashamed, felt the tears flowing freely down her cheeks.

Billy Fenstow was talking to himself.

I knew that lanky cowboy would do it, he said, repeating it over and over as though he were a human talking machine, stuck on a single note.

A horn sounded a warning note as the oncoming vehicle swung into the ranchyard just as the sky opened and the first sweep of rain struck the valley. Forgetting all else, they ran toward the machine, which proved to be a hulking truck, with a covered top.

Janet and Helen reached the rear. Someone reached down and pulled them under the shelter of the top. A flashlight blazed into their faces and a strong arm encircled Janets shoulder. It was Helens father and they knew that their worries for that eventful night were over.

Chapter Eleven
NEW PLANS

The sky seemed to open wide and a great torrent of rain descended on the heat-ridden earth, but Janet and Helen, in the shelter of the truck, were safe.

All right, honey? demanded Helens father, and, assured that his daughter was no more than bruised and weary, he turned to Janet.

How about you, Janet? he asked.

Tired and dirty thats all, she managed to smile.

Heres blankets, he said, picking two off a pile on the floor of the truck. Throw these around your shoulders.

The air was chill now and the girls obeyed without hesitation for their own clothes were in a bad state of disrepair.

How did you find us? asked Helen when they were seated on the floor of the truck, and bouncing along toward the main highway which would take them back to Hollywood.

Curt Newsom got through. We were frantic after the line went dead when you were talking to us from the ranchhouse. We were coming in the truck and met Curt and the other two cowboys along the trail. From what they told us we knew that none of you could stand it to be out in the storm and we made all possible speed.

Hows mother? asked Helen.

Terribly worried. He turned toward Janet. Well phone your folks as soon as we get home. The fact that a film company was caught in the center of the fire was broadcast over a national chain and Im afraid they may be gravely alarmed.

Ill call them at once, agreed Janet.

They talked at length of their experiences and at last Helens father turned to Fenstow.

Lose all of your last-day takes? he asked.

Dont believe we lost a one, replied the other director.

We put the film cans in the well. One of my boys shot some swell scenes of the fire if the camera didnt get too hot and ruin the negative.

Then I suppose youll use a fire in your next western? chuckled Henry Thorne.

Cant say, replied Billy Fenstow. That will be up to Janet.

Why Janet?

Shes going to do my next scenario.

Youre not joking?

Of course not. Ive gone kind of stale and I thought she could inject some fresh material. At least shes going to get a fair chance to see just what kind of a film story she can turn out.

Then Im predicting that shell do a good job if its anything like the caliber of her usual work, replied Helens father.

Dont count on me too much, cautioned Janet. This is a new field and I may get in so deep Ill never get anything creditable.

The truck swung around a sharp curve. Ahead of them was a blaze of light from the headlights of a score of cars which were parked along the paved road. Raucous squawks of horns greeted the approaching truck.

It was still raining hard, but a trim figure, clad in a raincoat, detached itself from a group in front of one of the cars and hurried toward the truck.

Hello mother. Here I am, called Helen. Both of us are all right.

She jumped from the truck and into her mothers arms. After a brief embrace, her mother spoke quickly.

We mustnt stand here. Youll catch cold. Here, get under my coat and well hurry to the car. Janet, you stay in the truck until we can pull along here.

Henry Thorne looked down at Janet.

Pretty tired?

Just about all in, she confessed and she found it hard to muster a smile.

Had enough of Hollywood? he asked quietly.

Janet looked up quickly.

I dont know, honestly I dont. The way I feel right now all I want is sleep and lots of it.

He nodded understandingly and just then the car drove up beside the truck and they jumped down and entered it.

Henry Thorne took the wheel while his wife and the girls made themselves comfortable in the back seat. Mrs Thorne very wisely made no effort to ask them about the events of the night, but tucked them in with blankets and before the car had gone half a mile both girls were sound asleep.

The next thing Janet knew someone was shaking her shoulder. It was Mrs. Thorne.

Were home and you can be in bed in five minutes, she said. Janet rubbed a little of the sleep from her tired eyes just enough so she could see to get into the house.

Helen, walking ahead of her, moaned now at every step, for her feet had been badly bruised by the stones.

Mrs. Thorne hurried ahead to run a tub of hot water while her husband drove the car around to the garage. With Mrs. Thorne helping them, the girls were soon in fresh pajamas.

Janet decided on a warm shower and Helen followed her under the spray. Then Mrs. Thorne treated the bruises on Helens feet and both girls piled into bed.

Sleep as long as you want to, she said as she snapped off the light.

Janet didnt even hear the click of the switch. She dropped into a deep slumber, one so heavy that there were no dreams of fires and storms.

When she finally awoke it was broad daylight. Fresh, sweet air filled their room. There was no smell of smoke, no threat of storm, and she wondered, for a moment, if she could have been dreaming about the night before. It was just possible that it had been a nightmare. Then she stretched and the aching muscles of her legs told her that indeed it had not been a nightmare.

Janet looked over to Helens bed. Her friend was still sleeping heavily so Janet slipped out of bed quietly, donned her dressing gown, and went down to the bathroom.

Mrs. Thorne heard her moving about and looked in for a minute.

We telephoned your folks last night, she said. Theyd heard the radio broadcast and were greatly relieved when we told them both of you were safe.

Oh, thanks so much. I was so sleepy I forgot all about it, confessed Janet.

Helen getting up? asked Mrs. Thorne.

No, shes sleeping soundly.

Then come in to lunch without going back to dress, said Helens mother.

You mean breakfast? asked Janet.

Mrs. Thorne smiled. No, I mean lunch, and a very late lunch at that. Its well after two oclock now.

Janet, finishing her shower, rubbed her body briskly with a heavy towel, and slipped the dressing gown on over her pajamas. Then she joined Mrs. Thorne in the dining room.

The morning papers made quite a story of it, said Mrs. Thorne, handing Janet a copy.

A bold headline was blazoned across the entire top of the front page:

MOVIE COMPANY ESCAPES FIRE!

Then, in terse, action sentences, the story told of the narrow escape of Billy Fenstows western unit. Janet found Helens name and her own mentioned. She was glad that the story gave Curt Newsom full credit for the cool-headed work which had saved their lives. Curt deserved every word of it.

Helen joined them a few minutes later, limping a little for her feet were still aching from the bruises.

The girls passed the remainder of the afternoon resting and at dinner that night became involved in a serious discussion with Helens father and mother.

After the dessert, Henry Thorne pushed back his chair and looked at them quizzically.

Summers about over, was his opening remark and Janet knew that he had something on his mind. She had a hunch that she could guess what the trend of the conversation was to be.

You girls made up your minds what you want to do?

He seemed to have his eyes fixed on Janet, as though looking to her for the decision which would guide Helen.

First of all I want to try to do the story Billy Fenstow asked me to do, retorted Janet. After that I think Ill have had enough of Hollywood.

Getting tired of being an actress?

Not at all, Im just realizing my limitations and after all, I do want more education the type of broadening education that I can get in a university.

Henry Thorne swung toward his own daughter.

What do you think, Helen?

Why, I havent made up my mind yet, Dad. I like Hollywood, Ive been having a grand time, but I guess Ive never really thought of staying on here definitely. It was understood from the first that this was just a glorious vacation and that when summer ended Mother and I would go back to Clarion and Id go to college.

I expect thats right, nodded her father. It did start out to be just a vacation proposition and you girls can make it that if you want, but Ive a new plan that may appeal to you. How would you like to go to Radio City in New York for several weeks?

Chapter Twelve
THE PREVIEW

The girls stared hard at Henry Thorne. It was so like him to toss off an important statement in an off-hand manner that it left them almost gasping for breath.

Why, Dad, what do you mean? demanded Helen.

Just what I said, smiled her father. How would you and Janet like to go to Radio City for several weeks?

Id like it fine, put in Janet quickly and Helen chorused her own agreement.

Now tell us what its all about, insisted Helen.

Im a little vague on it myself, admitted her father, except that the studio is planning an extensive promotion stunt to boost my last picture, Kings of the Air, and the general manager, Mr. Rexler, is going to send a part of the cast to New York City where theyll put on a radio drama based on the action in the new picture. The whole idea is to whet the appetites of the film fans by giving them just enough of the story over the air to make them rush to the nearest theater and see the actual picture.

But where do we come in? asked Janet. We were only very minor members of the cast.

True enough, but some of the principals are now working on other pictures and it would be impractical to release them and send them east for a promotional stunt so some of the lesser members of the company will make the trip.

Maybe were lucky to be lesser members, smiled Helen. When do we start?

I dont know exactly. The release date for Kings is next month, so I expect youll leave here in a few weeks.

That will give me just time enough to try the scenario for Billy Fenstow, said Janet. Maybe Id better start work on it tonight.

You look pretty tired. Better wait until morning when youll be thoroughly rested, advised Helens father.

They adjourned to the living room where they gathered around a large table and discussed possible story plots that Janet could use. She made several notes and then, with Helen, retired early.

A second night of sleep found the girls feeling greatly refreshed. Henry Thorne loaned Janet his own portable typewriter and she set it on a low table beside the swimming pool, found some yellow copy paper in the house, rolled a fresh sheet into the typewriter, and sat down waiting for an idea to pop into her head.

Hello, author! said someone from behind her and she swung about to face Curt Newsom, who had walked up unheralded.

Hello, Curt. Sit down. My, but Im glad to see you. Are you all right after the fire?

The cowboy smiled. As right as Ill ever be. I was scared half to death that night. Say, I saw Billy Fenstow this morning. The pictures all together now and theyre going to screen it at the Bijou down the street after the regular feature. Better be there tonight.

Ill be there in fear and trembling, smiled Janet.

Oh, I wouldnt feel that way about it. I think you did a lot better than most of the girls Ive had in the company.

Thanks, Curt. That was nice of you to say that, but I realize I have very definite limitations as an actress.

Well, Im not so hot as an actor, he admitted. About all I have to do is stick on a horse and shoot a gun loaded with blank cartridges.

That isnt all and you know it, reproved Janet.

Curt looked at the typewriter and the blank sheet of paper.

Im keeping you from your work. I only dropped in to tell you about the preview tonight. Ive got to get along.

Im supposed to be generating ideas for Mr. Fenstows next script, confessed Janet, but the mental generator seems to have gone on a strike.

Whats the story going to be about?

You guess, smiled Janet.

Well, why dont you have a young heiress, pretty much spoiled, who owns a ranch. Shes never seen it so she goes west for a trip and while there learns that most of her fortune has been wiped out through the declining value of securities and by embezzlement of some of her trustees. About all she has left is the ranch and a brother who is pretty much worthless.

Its a grand idea, exulted Janet. Then of course we could have a cattle war, some rustling, maybe a vein of gold found on the ranch, and plenty of action.

Youre supposed to write the story, chided Curt. Well, I must get along.

Thanks for the help. Ill make you coauthor, called Janet as Curt strode toward the street.

Curts suggestion gave her the nucleus of her story. It would be a little different treatment of the western theme. Janet started working, her fingers flowing rhythmically over the keys. She wrote simply. All that was required of her was a good, comprehensive outline of the story. The studio writers would put in the dialogue.

But Janets interest grew as the story progressed and she found herself putting in conversation and bits of description of the characters. She was so absorbed that Helen came and stood beside her for several minutes before she was aware of her presence.

Going strong? she asked.

Janet, barely interrupting the smooth flow of her story, nodded.

Previews tonight at the Bijou after the regular feature. Curt Newsom stopped to tell us.

Then youd better stop writing now. Youve been at it steadily for more than hour. You want to feel peppy tonight when we go to see the preview.

Janet finished the paragraph and pulled the sheet of copy from the machine. She had written eight pages and the top and bottom margins were narrow. She wanted to keep on writing, but knew that Helens advice was sound. She wanted to be rested enough to enjoy Water Hole, to see herself, for probably the only time in her life, as the leading lady of a motion picture.

They met Billy Fenstow at the box office and he handed them tickets for a few seats which had been reserved for his friends.

Nervous? he asked Janet.

A little. How is it?

Wait and see. Here comes Mr. Rexler.

The girls turned in time to see the taciturn general manager of the Ace studio stride into the lobby. Close behind him was Helens father. Janet felt her heart sink. Here was the chief of the studio on hand to pronounce final judgment on the picture. But Bill Fenstow seemed unperturbed and she forced herself to be calm.

They all went in together. The feature was a south sea love drama produced by a rival studio and it was typical program picture with nothing to make it outstanding in interest.

Then the picture they had been waiting for flashed on the screen. Water Hole, directed by Billy Fenstow, starring Curt Newsom and produced by the Ace Motion Picture Corp. Then came the credits for the story, photography, etc., and finally the cast of characters with Curts name at the top. Janet felt her heart stop for one breathless moment, Her name Janet Hardywas the second in the cast and directly under that was Helens.

Then the picture zoomed away to a fast start with the action that always characterized a Billy Fenstow production. Janet tried to be critical, but she couldnt help enjoying the picture and her voice didnt sound so terribly bad as it came out of the loudspeakers.

The picture ended all too suddenly. The house lights came up and Janet found herself staring at the others, waiting for their verdict.

Rexler was the first to speak. He leaned over and tapped Billy Fenstow on the shoulder.

Nice show, Billy. Got the girl signed up?

Billy turned to Janet.

How about it; want to sign a contract to stay with my unit?

Suddenly Janet knew that she didnt. It had been a wonderful summer, climaxed in the picture she had just seen with herself as leading lady, but now she was just a little homesick. Then, too, there was the trip to Radio City.

Not right now, she told the director. Later, perhaps, but not now.

The general manager looked at her strangely.

I wouldnt be surprised if it is the smartest thing you could do. If you change your mind, let me know.

He stood up and stalked down the aisle, but Janet knew now that she would never change her mind.

Chapter Thirteen
JANET TURNS AUTHOR

Early the next morning Janet returned to the task of writing the story for Billy Fenstows next picture. The story developed rapidly and she found plenty of opportunities to provide the hard-riding action for which Curt Newsom was famous.

She worked steadily until mid-forenoon when Helen joined her in the garden.

How is it going? she asked.

Its lots of fun, and I think I have a fairly good idea. Whether Im getting it across is another thing, smiled Janet. I suspect the regular studio writers will think it pretty much a mess when they get their hands on it.

I wouldnt care much what they think as long as Mr. Fenstow likes it. After all, hes the one who will accept or reject it and the check you get will depend on his approval.

Janet leaned back in her chair and gazed at the scudding white clouds far overhead.

How much do you suppose theyll pay if they accept the story? she mused.

Sometimes they pay thousands of dollars, said Helen.

But only for outstanding books or plays. I mean for little stories like this; the kind that perhaps have an idea in them that can be developed further by the studio staff.

Maybe a thousand dollars, ventured Helen.

That would be enough, said Janet, a faraway look in her eyes.

Now just what do you mean by that? Helen wanted to know.

A thousand dollars would go a long ways toward guaranteeing me a college education. Why, with what Ive saved out of our salaries this summer, Id have nearly two thousand dollars and I could make that go a long ways toward four years of college.

Ive saved a lot this summer, too, admitted Helen. Dad and mother were talking this morning. Were going back to Clarion.

Helen was silent for a moment. Then Janet spoke.

When are you going back?

Soon; perhaps next week. But you and I will go on to New York to help with the radio promotion of Kings of the Air.

Will you be happy in Clarion after a summer here? asked Janet, watching her companion closely.

Im sure I will. After all, Im a small town girl and all this amazes and scares me a little. Perhaps when college days are over Ill want to come back and try to make a name for myself in pictures. Dad thinks that would be wise.

What school are you going to go to? Janet asked the question with bated breath. They had always planned on going to their own state university, Corn Belt U., but she thought it possible that Helens father might have expressed some other preference since their arrival on the coast.

Corn Belt U., replied Helen. Dad left that entirely up to me and of course I wanted to follow out our plans.

Janet sighed heartily. She was elated at Helens words for it meant that the pleasant companionship they had enjoyed through high school days could continue through college.

Well have lots of fun, said Helen, but if we go on to Radio City for the promotion work well have to register late. Perhaps we can arrange for that while were home. It isnt more than half a days drive from home to school.

Im sure we can, especially if we explain that the trip to New York will enable us to earn more money for our college educations.

But, Janet, you know we dont actually have to earn our way through school. Dads got plenty and your father is comfortably fixed.

I know it, but its a matter of pride. Id like to have as much of my own money as possible for college. If I got in a pinch, Id yell for Dads help, I suppose.

They talked on about college plans and were finally interrupted when Mrs. Thorne summoned them to lunch,

More plans for their return to Clarion were made at the luncheon table. Packing would have to be started soon.

Lets pick out our college wardrobes here in Hollywood. Then well be sure and have the latest styles.





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