STAR IS TORN
(Part 3 of 3)
TaleSpin and its characters are the property of Buena Vista Television/Walt Disney Co. This short story was adapted from the televised episode written by Dev Ross. No profit was made, so please don’t sue me. Some extra parts were written and minor changes were made in order to improve the narrative flow for the written page. I would also like to thank my good pal Ted for his invaluable feedback and advice
by Michelle “Gidget” Beaubien
Shakily getting to her feet, Rebecca could only stare at Kitten Kaboodle. “It’s you! You’ve been the one causing all the accidents!”
A haunted expression crossed the other woman’s delicate features; she looked as vulnerable as Molly did when she was scolded. Her pale blue eyes pleaded for understanding and her lower lip trembled.
“Yes…yes…” she whispered, “It was I.” Shakily, she sat up, looking terribly frail.
“You…you wouldn’t understand,” Rising to her feet, Kitten brought her wrist up to her brow dramatically and turned away sobbing, hiding her face in shame. “It’s all so…terrible!” Unable to resist checking Rebecca’s reaction to her plight, she peeked through interwoven fingers, exposing one lovely blue eye.
Unimpressed, Rebecca crossed her arms in a bored fashion and continued to stare. This always worked with Baloo when he tried to con her with his stupid excuses for being late. It didn’t fail her here either. “So’s your acting.” For two seconds, the actress’s pretty face froze with wounded surprise, then darkened with fury as she whipped around to glower at the businesswoman.
“All right!” she snarled, in a voice so coarsened by hatred that it was hard to believe that this was the same honey-voiced woman who had Baloo under her spell. Kitten removed her gloves and black robe, tossing them carelessly aside, revealing her white gown underneath. “So my last two pictures flopped big and my career’s on the skids. I needed the publicity to put me back on top. It’s as simple as that.” Reaching in her dress pocket, she produced a round compact and flipped the lid open. She twisted a tube of lipstick and applied a fresh rosy pink coat. Like a pendulum, her voice swung back to her customary purr. “Now, if you’ll excuse me...” She turned opened the exit door and walked away with graceful, leggy strides. The other woman followed her.
Rebecca was incredulous. “You risked all those people’s lives for a movie?”
“Hey. That’s show biz.” Giving her reflection a final glance of approval, the actress kissed it, and clicked the compact shut. She snapped her fingers, and a limousine smartly appeared at the curb. She gave Rebecca a smug, crooked smile. That did it.
Rebecca stalked in front of her, blocking her path. Her anger boiled and the words spilled out, furious. “Well, I’m not going let you risk Baloo’s life. I’m going to tell him everything!” Kitten shoved her roughly aside.
The driver opened the passenger door for Kitten to slide in, then closed it. Kitten leaned lazily out the window, chin cupped in one hand. Her expression was as hard and cold as that of a porcelain doll. Her soft blue eyes were as wintry as ice and her voice was again filled with loathing and contempt. “Go ahead, darling,” she sneered, “I’ve got that big, dumb galoot wrapped around my little finger. Who do you think he’ll believe, me…or you?”
She depressed a button and the tinted window closed, concealing her from view, as final and smug as the last word. The motor revved to life and again Rebecca was left standing on the curb alone.
She shouted after her, “Baloo and I are
friends! He’ll believe me!”
* * *
“Places, everybody!” C.B. called out. Crew members and actors alike shuffled around the airfield, finding their marks and adjusting the lighting and cameras. Baloo’s stunt plane rested in the middle of the outdoor set, waiting for take-off. Another plane sat several feet away, as a spare.
“I don’t believe you!” was Baloo’s shocked and angry response. He was wearing a bomber’s jacket, goggles and a long scarf that dangled dashingly over his left shoulder. In a designated area behind the cameras and equipment, Kit and Wildcat stood expectantly, waiting for his stunt to begin.
Kitten nudged Rebecca aside with her hip and hissed, “See? Told ya so!” She stepped in front of the burly pilot and began to adjust his collar. She asked huskily, “Ready for the big stunt, Baloozie-woozie?”
The scowl on the bear’s face was instantly replaced by a delighted, adoring grin. “Oh, anything, Kiki!” Smiling, she took the end of his flight scarf and started to lead him to the stunt plane until Rebecca blocked their way.
“But I saw her sabotage the plane myself, Baloo!” she protested.
“Sabotage, schmabotage,” he snapped. “Jealousy, more like it. Now simmer down, Becky, and---!”
A stabbing pain lanced her, and she felt sick. This couldn’t be happening. Suddenly, a ghostly phrase, spoken in the sanctum of Shere Khan’s plush office, invaded her brain, from what seemed to be a lifetime ago: You let somebody get close to ya and they stab ya in the back! She folded her arms and said coldly, “It’s Rebecca.”
He took Kitten’s arm protectively. “Fine. Then I’m doing this stunt for Kiki. Got it?” Rebecca’s lips thinned. He was just as rude as the day they’d met, when he’d slammed the door of Baloo’s Air Service in her face, trying to pretend that she didn’t exist. I should leave him to the wolves, she thought. But a tiny part of her protested, But still…
“Stunt pro at the ready!” The director said, using the megaphone around Montgomery’s long neck. The assistant held the script tucked under one wing.
“That’s my cue!” said Baloo cheerfully. With that, turning on his heel and lumbered toward the stunt plane. The heck with her. I’ve got me some flyin’ ta do!
“Break a neck…uh, leg, Baby Bear.” Kitten said. It was a showbiz expression version of ‘good luck’ on stage. Baloo turned slightly and blew several kisses in her direction, then continued his path to the stunt plane. Suddenly, something grabbed his leg!
Rebecca had thrown herself to the ground, arms wrapped around his right leg in a viselike grip. “But Baloo!” The words were strangled, desperate.
“Hey! Leggo of my leg, lady!” He tried to walk, dragging her with him.
“Please, Baloo, as a friend…” she implored him, looking up with anguished eyes. "Don’t fly this stunt!”
He jerked his leg from her grasp and was about to climb into the cockpit. “Well, we aren’t friends anymore, are we, Rebecca?” he said coldly. Then he nearly shed his fur when C.B. suddenly popped up on the other side of the plane, bellowing into his megaphone. “What is holding up this stunt?”
Rebecca wearily got to her feet and stepped in front of Baloo, blocking the cockpit. Her expression was one of wounded dignity.
“All right,” she said flatly. “I won’t stand in your way.”
“Great,” was what Baloo started to say, until something cylindrical was suddenly jammed over his head, and all he saw were blinding stars and darkness. “Hey! Who turned out the lights?”
“My megaphone!” yelled C.B., outraged by this sacrilege. “Give it back!” He yanked it off Baloo’s head. Rebecca climbed into the cockpit, gave him a hard shove backwards, then flipped the ignition switches on the control panel. The engine revved to life.
“Sorry, Baloo,” Rebecca called over her shoulder. “But I am your friend!” The plane rose from the ground, lifting her forward, then up.
Baloo couldn’t believe his eyes. “That crazy dame is stealin’ my stunt!” he said indignantly. Of all the lowdown, dirty tricks…
C.B.’s sharp eyes lit up. Here was some great footage about to happen…
”Action! Action!” he shouted at his crew. “Special effects!”
Fireworks and explosives blasted into the sky, nearly blinding Rebecca. The plane tilted suddenly to the left. Quickly she righted it.
Rebecca clenched the control stick with grim determination. “I’m a friend and I’ll prove it. Even if it kills me.” She told herself. Again the plane rolled dangerously, the wings almost vertical. “Why do I always have to be so literal?” she groaned. Explosives burst in front of the propeller, showering her with sparks.
Suddenly, a small, shiny object twinkled under the spotlights, catching Wildcat’s eye. A star! He thought excitedly. Drawing out his trusty star-catching butterfly net, very quietly, on tiptoe, he advanced.
Kit glanced briefly at him, his attention on Rebecca shanghaiing Baloo’s stunt plane. “Wildcat, what are you doing?” Wildcat shushed him.
“Shhh…” he whispered. “Don’t want to scare it away…” Exasperated, Kit rolled his eyes and continued to follow the action above.
An explosive just missed Rebecca’s head. “Oh, dear!” she squeaked, sinking lower into the pilot’s seat.
“That’s my limelight she’s in!” The big pilot glared up at the sky, shaking his fist.
Kit and Wildcat came running up, panting. Both were frantic and spoke simultaneously in their urgency.
“Baloo, look what Wildcat found! It fell off the stunt plane!”
Wildcat held up his net, displaying the sabotaged airplane part. “Without this thingy, there’s no way you could do your stunt---you’d crash!” Wildcat hurriedly explained. “Good thing you aren’t up there now.”
It took a moment for Baloo to realize the calamity that was about to happen. They gaped at each other with mounting horror. Over their heads, Rebecca fought with the controls, but it was a losing battle. The stunt plane began to gasp and sputter, then tipped in a sickening bow. Her stomach lurched and her knuckles whitened on the control stick as the craft began to nose dive, gaining speed.
My God! I’m going to crash! Molly!
Baloo cried, “Rebecca!” Oh man, she’ll get killed! “ Don’t worry, Becky---I’ll get ya you out of this in a jiffy!”
He hoped. Gotta save her. Gotta tell her I didn’t mean it! The angry, hurtful words he and Rebecca exchanged echoed in his fevered brain.
Running as fast as his heavy legs would allow him, he raced to the spare stunt plane, and bounded into the cockpit. Both Kit and Wildcat pulled the chocks from under the wheels and in seconds, he too was airborne.
Montgomery was shocked. “It doesn’t say that in the script!” he cried, flapping the pages in C.B.’s face. His boss waved him away impatiently.
“Who cares?” he demanded, not turning his head from the sight above them. He ordered the elephant cameraman, “Keep rolling, keep rolling!”
Well, we aren’t friends anymore, are we, Rebecca?
Would that be the last thing he ever said to her? The last words she would remember? Grimly, he dodged an explosive, keeping the nose pointed straight up and shouted as he passed her: “Hang on!”
“To what?” she shouted back.
He did a hairpin maneuver and swooped down, banking the plane until he was on her right, almost parallel to Rebecca’s struggling craft.
He shouted above the noise, but everyone below could hear him just fine, since speakers were installed in both planes so dialogue could be recorded for the movie. “Becky! Grab my hand!” He stretched out a large paw, trying to reach over the wing. She looked surprised, happy to see him and reached out, almost touching his fingertips…then snatched her hand back.
“No! I refuse to budge until we talk!” She folded her arms stubbornly.
That crazy dame! He couldn’t believe it.
“Talk! Are you kiddin’?” he exploded, then switched tactics, pleading with her. “Look, couldn’t we talk later---I mean, say after we’re on the ground---in one piece?”
“No! What’s the good me going to all this trouble if we don’t have a good heart-to-heart right here and now!” All the hurt and resentment boiled inside her, obliterating all reason. He was right, but she didn’t care. They were seven hundred feet in midair, and descending fast. Six hundred feet…
“All right! All right! We’ll talk!” Baloo stole a peek over the cockpit and moaned. Five hundred feet. He spoke very fast, the words running together as one.
“What do you want to talk about?”
“You said we were friends, Baloo, but then you never treated me like one!” She glared at him fiercely, staring him down.
Below, C.B. was in hopping up and down, urging the cameraman, “I love it! Keep rolling, keep rolling!” Several feet behind them, Kitten was relaxing in a lounge chair, reading a magazine. She let out a bored yawn.
In the air, Rebecca told him, “Friends talk. They trust each other and they stick together. You said so yourself!”
Below, Kit said tersely, “Uh-oh---Baloo’d better think fast or he and Miz Cunningham are gonna get glued to the pavement!” Wildcat covered his eyes, unable to bear the grisly image.
Baloo was dumbfounded, then ashamed. “You’re right. I haven’t been much of a friend. Too many stars in my eyes, I guess.” With pleading eyes, he again stretched out his paw. “Is it too late to try again, Rebecca?” Four hundred feet.
Rebecca hesitated, her expression softening. Then she smiled at him, extending her hand. “It’s Becky.”
Just as their fingers touched, the pavement seemed to rush at them.
Below, Kit and Wildcat could not look away. Carnage was inevitable and would be forever imprinted on their brains. The two planes dove, then tipped over, the wings blocking their view. They couldn’t see Baloo and Rebecca anymore.
Then, in a blinding orange flash, they heard the shriek of metal hit the ground, then a deafening explosion. Roaring flames and black smoke mushroomed upward.
Horror-stricken, Kit felt his insides collapse. “Baloo! Miz Cunningham!” Wildcat kept his eyes covered, not responding.
Then, a faint hum of propellers came from the heart of the flames. It grew louder until it became a roar. The second stunt plane emerged from the smoke, swooping up and out, then straightened to an even keel. Smiling, Baloo guided the craft aloft, one hand on the steering wheel and his other arm around Rebecca, who gazed up at him with admiration…and something else she could not have named that day.
Kit nudged Wildcat. “Look!”
“They made it!” Wildcat gleefully twirled his cap on one finger. “And it’s a good thing too!” he added.
“All right, they made it!” Behind them, the crowds cheered. Kitten leaped from her seat, dropping her magazine, her lovely mouth agape. Baloo landed the plane, climbed out and then gallantly helped Rebecca step out.
C.B. had jumped up onto his assistant’s skinny shoulders, bouncing up and down excitedly. “Cut! Print! Oscar, here I come!” Suddenly, the casing of the camera popped open and the film, his precious Oscar-winning opus, escaped its prison and lay in a winding heap on the ground. With dismay that was almost too painful to watch, the director wailed, “Oh nooo!” and, pounding on poor Montgomery’s head with the megaphone, he began to cry.
Kitten Kaboodle, the golden girl of Starrywood, was undergoing an amazing transformation. For the second time that day, she lost control and threw a tantrum. She stamped both feet and swung at the air with clenched fists, her face an ugly mask of rage. Or rather, it was not a mask at all.
“No, no, no! That idiot was supposed to crash!” she shrieked, her voice suddenly shrewish and coarse. “He’s completely ruined my accident!” Then she was surrounded scoop-hungry newshounds, who aimed and fired their cameras at her from every angle. “Oops.” She blinked, remembering her role.
She gave the reporters a charming, sheepish smile. “Did I say accident?” she purred. “Petite moi?” At that, someone called the police department and almost immediately, Starrywood’s finest were at the scene. Before she could fathom what was happening, Kitten Kaboodle found herself frisked (they found her lipstick and compact), handcuffed and read her rights.
Baloo and Rebecca were too preoccupied with the aftermath of their latest brush with death to notice. He cupped her hands between his large ones and asked her, “Friends for life?”
She smiled. “Friends. Even if you are easily fooled by a pretty face.”
“Great set of legs, too.” Baloo gazed wistfully past her, and she turned to see the police firmly push a cursing, handcuffed Kitten into the back of the paddy wagon. Then they slammed the doors shut, locking them, and were on their way to Starrywood Precinct. The actress would soon learn a new definition of ‘booking’.
Suddenly, Baloo noticed her glare and hastened to add, “Hey, just kiddin’, Boss Lady! Just kiddin’---I’ll never be star-struck again!” He was rewarded with another lovely smile. She’s sorta cute when she does that, he thought.
Kit and Wildcat came running up and everyone embraced everyone else. At the end, Kit and Wildcat gave each other a rough hug and let go.
“Wow, you guys sure cut it close! I thought it was gonna be spatula time!” marveled Kit.
Baloo and Rebecca were still in each other’s arms. She leaned her head against his chest and looked up at him. He answered Kit, but he smiled down at her.
“Naw, kid. Me and my friend here, we had everything under control.” He gave her a squeeze and she returned it.
“Great! Well, I gotta be going, then.” Kit said briskly and started to walk away.
“But Kit, we were just leaving for home and---!” began Rebecca.
“Home?” he wailed. “But I’ve got an audition for the new Bumphrey Hogart film!” and continued on his way to the set. He could not miss an opportunity like this!
Rebecca, formerly the voice of reason, clasped her hands together and said fervently, “Bumphrey Hogart? Why, he’s only the dreamiest star in the whole world!” She ran after him. “Wait, Kit, wait!”
Wildcat pulled out his net. “A star?” He hurried after them. Baloo was left alone.
Hands on his hips and a little miffed, he watched the bizarre parade of three disappear into the distance.
“Aw, now --- what’s gotten into them?”