Don't Look Down Read online

  "And we've got a real helicopter pilot," Bryce was saying to him. "Karen Roeburn. She's Althea's stunt double, but she's a real pilot, too. She thought the helicopter stunt was okay." He finally ran down, uncertain. "But you said you don't like it because of the bridge cables, right?"

  Wilder looked away from Althea's legs as Bryce's buzz penetrated. Female chopper pilot. His second ex-wife had been a chopper pilot.

  Before he could say anything, Nash faced him. "I know what I'm doing. We can get the chopper down on the roadway with enough safety clearance."

  Not if there's a wind, Wilder thought. The guy was a pro so he had to know that trying to land a helicopter on this bridge was dumb. What was up with him?

  "Connor," Bryce said. "You should listen to J.T. He's my consultant."

  Nash snorted. "He the one that got you that knife?"

  "No, no, I got it." Bryce unsnappcd the leather stay and pulled the huge pig-sticker out or the leather sheath. "I had the props department order it special after I saw how my role was rewritten. I told them my character, Brad, would have a big knife. They got it custom made by this guy in Alabama. Same one who did Rambo's knife in First Blood."

  Wilder truly believed he was going to have to get a rifle, climb a tower somewhere, and start shooting if one more person here said "Rambo." The blade was at least a foot long, the front edge honed razor-sharp, the back side serrated for-well, Wilder had no clue what Bryce would use that for other than cutting down a tree. If Bryce had shown that thing at Fort Bragg, the howls would have been heard all the way to Smoke Bomb Hill, where Special Forces had been founded long ago by manly men doing manly things with other men in a manly way. Wilder's first team sergeant had told him that line. He'd have told Bryce, but then he'd have had to listen to it for the rest of the shoot.

  Bryce slashed the knife awkwardly through the air, making Althea step back.

  "Careful," Wilder said automatically. "You never draw a weapon unless you mean to use it."

  Bryce slashed again, almost nicking Althea, and Wilder slipped his hand under Bryce's extended arm, caught it at the wrist, twisted, and applied just a little pressure. Bryce screamed and dropped the weapon.

  Wilder let go, feeling guilty, especially when Bryce turned those big puppy eyes on him. "What did you do that for?"

  People were watching, including Althea, who was staring at the two of them as if making a decision. Wilder bent over and picked up the monstrosity. He felt the balance. Actually pretty good; he was sure the guy in Alabama knew what the hell he was doing. It was Bryce who didn't have a clue.

  "Sorry." Wilder flipped the knife and caught it by the blade, extending the handle to Bryce, who eyed the proffered knife warily. He snatched it, almost slicing Wilder's palm open, slid it back in the sheath, and fastened the leather stay to keep it from falling out and impaling his foot.

  "I don't get it." Bryce sounded like a kid whose mother had just questioned the drawing he'd done in school that day. "What don't you like about the knife? I got one for you, too, because you're going to be my stunt double."

  "Thank you," Wilder said, trying to mean it.

  "He's not doubling for you," Nash said, quiet but firm. "I heard your double left, but Doc can cover you." He nodded toward the round-faced stuntman in glasses hitting the craft services table. "He's an ex-Green Beret, just like your pal here."

  "Doc doesn't look anything like me," Bryce said.

  Wilder smiled, not his forte. "Please, coach, put me in?"

  Nash smiled back at Wilder, and he was much better at it than Wilder was, even though the smile didn't reach his eyes. Perfect teeth. Fanned skin. Probably never had hangovers.

  Nash shook his head. "He hasn't even read the script," he said to Bryce.

  So you had to be a reader to make Nash's team? Yeah, that was tough. What the hell did these people know about being on a team anyway? There was only one kind of team for Wilder, a Special Forces A-Team, the eleven great guys he'd-

  Althea shifted into Wilder's field of vision, and he lost his train of thought. He noticed that she wasn't wearing a bra under her thin, tight T-shirt. And the April evening was evidently a little chilly for her. Got to get that DVD.

  "We about ready here?" he heard from behind him and turned. Armstrong stood there, the anti-Althea, tall and strong and in charge, not flirting with anybody, which was too bad. That would be something to see, Armstrong smiling, giving somebody the come-on. Probably that asshole Nash. Jesus.

  "J.T. doesn't like my knife," Bryce said, and Armstrong turned those dark, steady eyes on Wilder.

  Tough woman, he thought, his pulse picking up. Nothing like soft, bouncy Althea. Then he remembered the wind blowing her shirt back. Maybe a little bouncy-

  "So I guess we'll have to change it," Bryce went on, close to whining. "I really want the knife, but once I saw the new ending, I went all the way to Fort Bragg and hired J.T. to help me make this real, so we should listen to him. For the movie."

  Good for you, Wilder thought.

  "And I would have been with you on that," Armstrong said, "if only you'd brought him in at the beginning. But it's the last four days of shooting and we can't afford to reshoot without the knife. I agree that authentic is good, but you filmed with the knife all last week, so that ship has sailed. Now let's get-"

  "J.T.?" Bryce said.

  Oh, fuck, here we go. Wilder felt bad for saying anything more, but Bryce was paying him to keep things authentic. "It's just not what Bryce's guy would wear. I know this Brad character is supposed to be an ex-Navy SEAL, and they are studs, no doubt about it."

  Bryce stood slightly taller, trying to look the description. Wilder tried not to look at him.

  "But they spend a lot of time in the water. That knife would tip a canoe over, never mind a swimmer. They carry dive knives. On their calves. And even if his character is only operating on land, you want something that can kill quickly. Your SEAL isn't going to get in a sword fight with a Roman gladiator and that's about all that knife is good for. He's going to sneak up behind someone late at night and slice his throat wide open or, just as good, but more difficult unless you're a pro, jam the blade up into the jaw to the brain so it's a quick and silent kill."

  Armstrong winced, and Wilder ignored her.

  "So, optimally, you want something slender, pointed, and double-edged. About six to eight inches long. And he's wearing it wrong." Wilder tapped the upside-down sheath that Bryce had the pig-sticker locked into. He stepped behind the actor, grabbed the handle, jerked it down and clear of the sheath, the leather stay giving way easily, then brought it up, the point a quarter inch from Bryce's jugular before Bryce could turn his head. "You want it in a place where you can easily access it, but the bad guy can't. And hell, if you got to use a knife, the shit has hit the fan anyway. I prefer a gun. Ten millimeter at ten feet. Double-tap in the forehead. Lights out."

  They were all staring at him. Armstrong. Bryce. Althea. Even Nash had stopped scowling. Perhaps too much detail.

  He lowered the weapon and slid it back into the sheath, giving Bryce a comforting pat on the shoulder with one hand as he locked it down with the other.

  Armstrong smiled at them all, the kind of smile that said, I'm cheerful but don't fuck with me. "Thank you. The knife stays. Let's get this show on the road."

  She walked off and Wilder watched her long, strong legs crossing concrete again, her red cowboy boots clicking on the pavement. Yep, she was in charge. He turned to Bryce. "Hey, no big deal. Stallone will have knife envy for sure when he sees you with that thing." He looked Bryce over and felt a wave of sadness. "I guess dumping the tiger stripes is a no go, eh?"

  "What's wrong with the tiger stripes?"

  Nash stifled a laugh, and Wilder looked out at the surrounding forest and swamp that looked nothing like tiger stripes and thought of John Wayne wearing the same type of camouflage in that terrible movie The Green Berets, detested by all the manly men on Smoke Bomb Hill. Four days of this, he thought. Of cours