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The late movie director Harry Rubik had two protégés in later years, both descended from the family that once owned the gothic mansion in Yorkshire he’d bought with some of the fortune he made in the movie business. As it happened, the family who built it, the Starlings, were still living in the area but (as with so much of the English upper class) were under much reduced circumstances which had lead them to sell up. Perhaps reasoning that it is better to keep your friends close and your enemies closer, Rubik had taken the two young Starling children under his wing and given them intern jobs in his production company, ironically working out of a corner of one wing of the vast country pile out of which he had disinherited them.
Harry Rubik was a man who lived in a world sealed off behind vast iron gates. The Great Director was famously reclusive.
It was widely thought that he did some of his best work around that time, included the enormously successful psychological horror The Clarifying (1980), that cemented his reputation as one of the all-time greats of the cinema. Press interest in the director and his associates rapidly became intense to the point of intrusive, and after this time the two Starling children were rarely seen in public, although the younger child, Jane, could sometimes be glimpsed through the windows of the great house, by anyone with a telescope powerful enough, stalking around the corridors dressed entirely in black with a face like thunder. She went on to have a successful modelling career and shoot several films.
The eldest of the two children, Roger, went on to have a successful career in the film industry in his own right as a producer of Hollywood blockbuster pictures, and soon diversified into other fields.
After university, Jane stayed on as a production assistant to Mr Rubik until the director’s untimely death in 1999. Both she and her brother were apparently present at the great man’s bedside at the end.
It has been said that Harry Rubik would have adopted the two Starling children as his own if he could have done so. He had no children himself, perhaps through choice or because he was unable – or perhaps because his films were the one creation he wanted to send out into the world. Certainly, their world-weary cynicism sometimes suggested he thought it would have been better for everybody if none of us had ever been born at all – although the message was always offset by his own trademark sense of humour, through which he said he always found the strength to go on.
He did much work with charities for disadvantaged children, perhaps in recognition of his own beginnings to parents who had originated from the former Soviet Union. Still, there was the suspicion that he favoured the two Starling children precisely because of the accident of their family bloodline, which, for whatever reason, he seemed to
be trying to muscle into like a character from one of his films, in which social climbers trying to better themselves were often something of a theme.
Picture the scene, if you will, as the young Roger and Jane stand around the bed in the hospital as the snow is falling outside and he motions to them to come in closer and whispers in their ears his final message:
Did he tell them the secret key to deciphering a hidden meaning within his movies?
Did he tell them it was all some kind of joke?
It was many years later, in the course of the affair with the skulls, that I would have the misfortune to meet the Starlings.
That, too, would become a story quite like something from a work of paranoid fiction.
Or go back to the beginning