Inspired by the following Decamot items:
chain, County Hall, comedian, polly, dutch barn, apparatus, Arizona, washer, Harley Davidson, megalith
A Harley Davidson 2020 deluxe boulevard cruiser in ostentatious stone washed pearl is hard to miss; especially when its rider is doing a passable impression of the late James Dean cruising along the Brighton waterfront. Polly Marsden couldn’t take her eyes of it, or him, and very nearly bumped into a fellow gawper as she made her way to the bus stop.
“Sorry!” she said apologetically as she came face to face with a handsome looking man in his mid-thirties sporting a discrete ponytail, who caught her in his arms to stop her falling over completely.
“That’s OK” he laughed, rubbing his chest in a gently mocking fashion. “I’m happy to take one for the team! It’s not often I catch someone quite so beautiful!”
“Yes” she replied, her face turning pink with embarrassment “I’ve never seen a brand-new Harley Davidson in the flesh so to speak”
“I wasn’t thinking of the motorbike!” he said, flashing a Hollywood smile
“Neither was I!” she replied quickly recovering her composure but hoping her impromptu knight in shining armour might quietly disappear to save her further embarrassment.
“My name is Marlon Brando” he said, offering his hand to her by way of introduction. “Nobody believes me; they often think it is my opening line as a comedian, but it is actually true. My parents were huge fans in the fifties. They must have watched On the Waterfront a million times.”
Polly Marsden didn’t like to admit she had never heard of Marlon Brando or On the Waterfront, but she was warming to her stranger who spoke with a mildly unobtrusive American accent. Later, over a coffee, he explained that he was from Phoenix Arizona. He was in the UK for six months only researching material for a book on Stonehenge which he was planning to turn into a screenplay.
“Unlike Arizona” he explained “You have genuine megaliths here!”
Before Polly could say another word, their conversation was interrupted by the boisterous arrival of James Dean himself who launched into an effusive welcome directed at Marlon Brando.
“Marlon my old mate!” he said with gusto “I thought it was you! How the devil are you? And what in heavens name are you doing in Brighton of all places? And who is this little sweetie?”
“Allow me to present Miss Polly Marsden” he said pulling up a chair so that his friend could join them in a cappuccino. “This is Ralph ‘Rocky’ Randall”
Polly was lost for words. Rocky wasn’t a bit like she imagined he might be, but she was determined to keep her cool
“I love your Harley” she said cautiously “Is it on a parking meter somewhere?”
“It sure is” replied Rocky “Although the owner wouldn’t approve. He normally keeps it in a converted Dutch barn near Ditchling. I couldn’t resist stopping when I saw Marlon catch you when I drove past just now”
“So” he continued without taking breath.” Are you still trying to flog that Neanderthal fantasy film Marlon?”
Polly wasn’t sure she could keep up with this level of chat so began gathering her handbag and gloves together as if about to depart ….
“Don’t go …!” said James Dean and Marlon Brando in unison. Marlon took up the narrative.
“Rocky here is in between jobs or ‘resting’ as we say in the business. He’s an actor. We were introduced to each other only last week. I’m working on a film idea, but it really is very early days. I came down to Brighton for a breath of fresh air and to take a ride on the famous Volk’s Electric Railway. The last person I expected to see was Rocky!”
Polly chipped in quickly
“Perhaps that’s a good omen for Rocky then?” she suggested with a smile. Rocky smiled back at the kindly thought
“If only life were that simple” he said “What Marlon doesn’t know is that this particular Harley Davidson is only one of its particular make and model currently in the UK. I have been hired for a video shoot which is due to take place at 5.00 o’clock – guess where?”
“The roof of County Hall for the next Bond movie?” suggested Marlon laughing at his own joke
“Oh very funny, I should be so lucky! No. Believe it or not, it’s at the Volk’s Electric Railway terminus!”
“Never – what a coincidence!” said Polly and Marlon laughing together
“I persuaded the owner to let me take it for a spin to get the feel of it, but I should really get on my way. This director will want me in makeup beforehand as well as making sure the Harley is in pristine condition. If I know her, she will insist that every link in the bike’s transmission chain is individually polished”
With that Rocky waved them both goodbye with an extravagant “arrivederci” and shot out of the Lucky Beach Café as if his life depended on it.
Polly Marsden couldn’t resist the temptation to turn up at the Volk Railway Terminus at 5.00 pm to see what making a professional video involved but she didn’t want to show herself up or let either Rocky or Marlon know of her interest. She was still wary of them both. After all, she had only known them for a few hours, and she hated the thought that either of them might think she was easy meat. Agreeing to go for a coffee on the spur of the moment had been out of character.
“What the hell!” she thought, “I’m in my gap year, at a loose end, unattached, bored with hanging around waiting for something to happen; I’m going to let my hair down for once, throw caution to the wind and see where it takes me!”
Disguised as a vaguely androgynous figure clad from head to toe in close fitting black denim capped with her brown hair crammed under a soviet style peaked cap, Polly melted into the crowds which had gathered around the Volk terminus. The production company had hired the area for two hours from 5.00 pm, the last public train having run at 4.00 pm as usual. The spectators had all been drawn to the site by the erection of huge theatrical arc lamps lighting the scene and were being held back by several security men in front of temporary plastic blue and white chequered tapes making the whole area a bit like a police crime scene.
A fearsome looking female was clearly directing operations; checking camera positions, ensuring that there was a clear path approaching the stationary Volk’s Electric railway carriage. Polly spotted Rocky having a last-minute application of face powder applied by an overweight middle-aged female sporting a green floral scarf. A young man in a balaclava held a clapper board waiting for the Director to give him the signal for the action to start. Another member of the crew moved around the perimeter of the crowd and stressed that they should all cheer and clap once Rocky was on his Harley and stop immediately he came to a halt next to the 100-year-old Volk’s railway engine.
Polly kept to the back of the crowd and deliberately turned her face to one side, for she thought she recognised one of the security guards. The ponytail was the giveaway. It was Marlon Brando himself helping to control the crowds, many of whom looked a bit like Polly herself; young students who might be on their way to Brighton University Campus or emerging from Volk’s Underground Night Club, a very popular venue nearby which had a reputation for putting on live music on Monday nights. She wondered whether either had been telling her the truth earlier. Rocky seemed to be doing what he said but Marlon had given the impression he knew nothing about the shoot; yet here he was acting as though he had also been hired to take part.
Her thoughts were interrupted by the clapper board, shouts of ACTION!; the roar of the Harley followed by the cheering of the spectators. Rocky drove the Harley at speed for a distance of about 50 yards before screeching to a halt next to the Volk’s railway engine before looking left and beaming a smile at one of the close-up cameras.
“Cut!” shouted the Director as the cheering stopped on cue.
“Not bad for a first effort!” she said as she shouted further instructions in Rocky’s ear. Polly noticed that he was not wearing a helmet so guessed the video was intended to invoke a bygone era, although she wasn’t sure what the catchphrase or punchline might be at the end, always assuming it was an ad to promote the Harley Davidson brand.
The scene was repeated six times before the Director was satisfied she had what she needed in the can. Most of the crowd were bored stiff by the end but Rocky remained as fresh as ever throughout and was happy to sign autographs for those who thought they ought to know who he was. An orderly line of autograph hunters had formed which Polly joined quietly taking a piece of paper from her inside coat pocket.
When her turn came, she offered Rocky a Lucky Beach Café menu and suggested he write “arrivederci” on the top which caused him to look up in surprise.
“Polly Marsden! As I live and breathe” he exclaimed “I never recognised you – how lovely to see you!”
Suddenly there was a kerfuffle as the Harley Davidson sprang into life and disappeared in a cloud of smoke piloted by a pony tailed rider, head down, racing along Madeira Road along the sea front, hotly pursued by two policemen on official high-powered BMWs who had suddenly materialised.
“What the hell are you doing!” shouted Rocky as he went from smooth talking proto celebrity into panic stricken on looker. Polly could see that he really had been taken completely by surprise.
“Stupid question” she shouted as she ran alongside him, “But anything I can do?”
“Do you know the quickest way to Ditchling?” he called, as they approached a seven-year-old black Daihatsu Materia that looked as if it had seen better days.
Diving into the passenger’s seat she replied
“Yes of course - my uncle lives there - he manages the Bull in the High Street – head out on the London Road to start with. We will need to take a right turn at Preston Park … I can give you plenty of warning but it’s fairly straightforward from there – it should take us no more than 20 minutes – where are we going when we get there?”
“Mac’s Organic Egg Farm” came the reply “You know it?”
“Yes of course – it’s just north of the village off the B2112 – it’s owned and run by a whacky family who could easily pass for travellers, but they are well liked in the community. They are open most mornings to the public for organic free-range eggs and have a camping site available in the summer months. Is that where you got your Harley?”
“Yes it is” replied Rocky as he followed Polly’s directions through Hollingbury, zig zagging briefly on the A27 before hitting the Ditchling Road heading towards the famous Beacon which really tested Rocky’s seven-year-old Japanese car. Rain was beginning to mark the windscreen and Rocky cursed himself for not topping up the washers as his efforts at creating a clear view only made visibility worse.
In between some hairy moments he explained that he had been uneasy about Marlon Brando all along. When he had appeared in Brighton it really had been a surprise to him which is why he turned up at the Café as he did. This video job had been a last-minute booking via his agent.
“Jobbing actors like me can’t afford to turn down £1500!” he said wryly. “I was asked to pick up the Harley from Mac’s farm and told that Billy Mac would collect it from the shoot himself afterwards. I spent £25 Uber money getting it in the first place which should have alerted me. Props are usually supplied by the production company on the day. Something doesn’t add up here!”
“Do you think Marlon is behind it?” shouted Polly trying to peer through an increasingly grimy windscreen.
“Who knows?” came Rocky’s exasperated reply “The last thing I expected was to see him hare off on the Harley with two policemen in hot pursuit!”
They were now approaching Ditchling village centre, with the Bull coming up on the right.
“Another quarter of a mile and you will see the entrance on the right signposted “The Mac’s Farm” – It’s quite a tight turn into their drive so slow down ….!”
Rocky ignored the last instruction and swung violently right on seeing the sign through his smeary windscreen. He was immediately confronted with a motorcyclist coming at him at speed from the direction of the farm; neither could avoid the other; the motorcycle hit the Materia on its offside wing and Billy Mac was sent in a spectacular cartwheel bouncing on then off the roof of the Materia. He ended up motionless beside a ditch which ran along the roadside. Polly found herself thrust forward towards the windscreen and would have suffered a painful blow to the head but for her seatbelt which saved her. Rocky was not so lucky and sat for several minutes clutching his head. The Materia had crashed into one of the farm gates and steam was pouring from the radiator.
Before she could recover her thoughts, Polly heard the unmistakable American voice of Marlon Brando shouting instructions to two armed uniformed police officers who were running alongside him
“I know these two – I will take care of them – you two put Billy Mac under arrest if he is still breathing - take him back to Lewes Police station or the morgue, whichever is most appropriate! We have enough evidence to charge him. Another squad car is on its way”
Twenty minutes later a nervous Polly Marsden and a groggy Ralph Rocky Randall were seated inside a converted Dutch Barn which was part of the farmyard but not open to the public. Both were sipping tea, trying to make some sense of what was happening all around them.
They were surrounded by every piece of apparatus you would need to dismantle a motorbike on the one hand and then manufacture a line of high-grade cocaine on the other. The Harley Davidson 2020 deluxe boulevard cruiser in ostentatious stone washed pearl lay in separate pieces in one corner.
“How are you feeling?” said Marlon to Polly in the soft concerned tone he had used when he first met her. “I’m sorry you got involved in all this but, in truth, you were part of a spectacular citizens arrest at the end”
“And as for you Rocky, how did you enjoy being a star for the day? I have to say you were very convincing as James Dean. We might even be able to sell the video to Harley Davidson as a legitimate TV ad. Sorry about the Materia though – it must be a write-off”
Polly wasn’t sure what Rocky was really thinking as he was clearly suffering from mild concussion at the very least, but she decided Rocky was probably as much an innocent victim of the same conspiracy as herself. This was finally confirmed a week later when all three met for dinner on Marlon Brando at the Grand Hotel Eastbourne.
Over four gourmet courses and several bottles of quality Italian wines Marlon Brando explained that he was actually an undercover CIA operative with a background in the film business. The FBI had picked up a tip that a Harley Davidson dealership was shipping hi spec bikes to the UK which had crack rocks of cocaine concealed in various parts of the bike. These were shipped in containers that were easy to move and above suspicion.
Mac’s Farm was a ramshackle set up but entrepreneurial. The youngest son Billy wanted to make a name for himself. He was supplying university students and the nightclubs with doctored cocaine which was highly addictive. He was also selling quality Harley Davidsons at highly competitive prices (no questions asked)
Marlon had conceived the plan which they finally executed but they had to move quickly. They offered Billy £3000 to hire the Harley for a day to make a commercial, a fee which he couldn’t resist.
“I gambled that he would not risk dismantling the bike before loaning it out as we needed to grab it and examine it before arresting him” Marlon explained
“And how did you choose me for the part?” said Rocky
“Having met you in London, I suddenly had the perfect James Dean lookalike. This gave me the idea for the pretend commercial and its authentic theme. Billy Mac had to be convinced we were genuine film makers. Your agent drove a hard bargain by the way. We don’t normally go to £5000 for jobbing actors”
Ralph “Rocky” Randall, alias James Dean, made a mental note to have a quiet word in the ear of his agent but smiled benignly at Polly who was really beginning to enjoy herself.
Polly Marsden used the experience to set up her own agency and Polly Marsden Management’s first exclusive client was Ralph Randall. With Marlon Brando’s help, they sold the commercial to Harley Davidson for a six-figure sum. The tag at the end was … Quality Performs For Ever, Quality Never Dies.