Françoise Chanticleer moans painfully in his sleep. From beneath his sprawling body peeps the auburn head of his young wife Pertelote. Sunshine streams through huge windows poorly blinded by broken slats, striping her face and hair lending them enviable salon highlights. She stirs. Slowly the strange occurrences of her own dreams fade as she realises her sense of being trapped stems simply from the weight of her husband. Her eyelids flicker painfully against the brilliant light, but she manages to squint down at Chanticleer’s head as far as her cramped position will allow. Smiling ruefully, she contemplates her access to their bathroom, weighing the sharp chill in the air of their lofty bedroom against the warmth of Chanticleer and his dead weight applying serious pressure to her rather full bladder.
Chanticleer’s groans become louder, more insistent. Pertelote sighs, taking this as her cue to wake him, wriggling around underneath his body until her mouth lies next to his ear.
She whispers, giggling slightly, “You’re dreaming again. It’s all only a dream. Time to wake up. It’s a beautiful morning. Blue skies, sunshine – everything. Would you like coffee? Or croissants? Or both? Or me?” At the lack of response she continues to whisper until at last his pupils can be vaguely seen.
“Bad dream?” Pertelote asks.
“Umm. Nightmare. Horrible. Ugh! I can still feel his hands on my throat… a huge man with bright red hair,” Chanticleer trembles.
Pertelote finally wriggles free, making a dash across the vast expanse of floor to their bathroom.
“I dreamt I was buried alive, but I woke up to find my coffin was only you! Whatever it was, it was only a dream,” she laughs over her shoulder from the other room.
More awake now, Chanticleer sits up, leaning against the headboard of their bed, pensively rubbing his neck, trying to feel convinced, trying to feel less threatened, less violated. The man was definitely going to kill him, he knows he was. Was it really only a dream? Pertelote returns, slipping back under the bed covers, Chanticleer gently drapes his arm around her shoulders as she snuggles into his chest.
“I think it was a bad omen,” Chanticleer ventures tentatively, “I think I should stay upstairs today – safe – in bed – with you.”
Pertelote’s head disappears under their duvet, Chanticleers groans again, this time in pleasure.
“Of course we can stay in bed – but do you really need such an elaborate excuse? Surely you are not seriously frightened by a silly dream? Surely I have not married such a coward?” Pertelote teases Chanticleer as her head re-emerges.
“No of course not, but….”
“Well… it’s not totally impossible is it? Prophetic dreams I mean. History is riddled with such stories – take … Julius Caesar… Croesus… Hector’s wife Andromache … and what about the Old Testament? Have you actually ever read the Book of Daniel?”
“Well no, but who would want to murder you? You’re a pop star, not a politician,” she humours him, kissing his chest. “Your dreams are simply indigestion. Too much garlic together with too much cheese and red wine last night. Take a pill – I think I left some in your studio.”
Chanticleer slides back under the quilt, nuzzling into Pertelote’s breast. “Umm, it’s probably really your fault,” he murmurs, “mulier est hominus confusio.”
“Pardon?” she queries.
“Woman is man’s delight and all his bliss… now, tell me again, what were your options for breakfast?”
Russell Fox parks his car next to a crumbling stone wall separating Chanticleer’s somewhat dilapidated chateaux from a neighbouring wood. He begins to prowl around the wall. Three long years he has been stalking Chanticleer. Three long years of gatecrashing concerts, sleeping rough, three long years of planning, waiting for Chanticleer to quit the road and settle. Now he has, now he isn’t going anywhere except today with him, Fox. Finding a gap in the wall he already knew existed, he creeps inside the grounds. Now the time has come to make Chanticleer his meal-ticket.
The child of an internationally renowned baritone, French-Canadian born Françoise Chanticleer, together with his six sisters, was an opera orphan. Refusing to drag her children around the global operatic circuit, Chanticleer’s mother stayed firmly entrenched in Quebec. Finally at the age of sixteen, Chanticleer made his escape joining his father on the road, until his untimely death three years later.
Forever plagued by constant self doubt as the result of living in his father’s shadow, a very good looking but rather small man, Chanticleer still succeeded in launching his own highly successful musical career combining French folk music with nineties’ rock. Now, after ten years on the road Chanticleer has finally settled in France, ten kilometres outside Cahors, making a home for himself, Pertelote, his six sisters, four dogs, Coll, Talbot, Bran and Shaggy, housekeeper Maggie and her two daughters. Together, their renovations to the house and outbuildings proceed at typical rural French pace – a snail’s pace. Chanticleer has allowed himself one major luxury though, a newly built, state-of-the-art, music studio. Having just dragged himself from the warmth of his bed and Pertelote’s arms, it is towards this studio that he now makes his way through the house in search of Pertelote’s indigestion pills.
Russell Fox also loiters by the studio. He hides in the shrubbery, convinced Chanticleer will soon appear. He waits patiently. Finally he is rewarded as he watches Chanticleer emerge from the house, walk across the lawn, pass close-by to him and enter the building.
Inside, Chanticleer runs his hands affectionately across the keys of an open grand piano. He turns and recoils violently seeing Fox standing in the open doorway, blocking the sunshine.
“Sorry for startling you,” Fox smiles with his mouth not his eyes, but offers his hand just the same. “Fox, Russell Fox. Your number one fan,” he shrugs looking sheepishly back over his shoulder, “not much security round here, celebrity like you ought to have armed guards.”
Chanticleer continues to eye Fox suspiciously.
“I really just hoped if I could get an autograph,” Fox continues, “for my daughter you know – and maybe hear you sing and play a bit? Used to admire your father, but he was nothing to you…” Chanticleer’s face softens. Fox presses on, “No he just sang other people’s stuff – and old stuff at that. You, you do everything! Write the music, play, sing! Man, I wish I had just a bit of your talent!” Chanticleer blushes deeply.
“So you will play for me? It would mean so much, you’ve no idea how much it would mean,” Fox finally asks, almost leering.
Deeply flattered, Chanticleer blinks but fails to see that the man standing before him is huge and with a head of bright red hair. He beams back at Fox, “Well it would seem rude not too, you being such a fan.” He moves towards his piano, “in fact you could do me a favour. I’ve some new work – maybe you could let me know what you think?” Fox nods slowly in agreement.
Chanticleer sits on his stool with his back to Fox. He begins to play and sing a haunting melody of possibly Gaelic origin. His voice resonates around the studio, strong, clear, vibrant. He moves onto something slightly different totally lost in the music, happy with the thought of a listening admirer to perform for, but oblivious to Fox’s actual movements behind him.
Fox paces quietly behind Chanticleer, his hand slips noiselessly into his trouser pocket pulling out a small white cloth and a small bottle of clear liquid. He pours a little of the liquid onto the cloth, then dropping the bottle, makes a grab for Chanticleer from behind, reaching around his neck and smothering his mouth with the white cloth.
Chanticleer’s body twists and both men fall sideways across the keys of the piano resulting in a resounding crash of discordant notes. Fox drags Chanticleer’s unconscious form clumsily from the piano and heaves it fireman style over his left shoulder. He staggers slightly under the extra weight, then heads through the open door of the studio before lurching as fast as he can back across the lawn towards his car hidden in the woods.
Up at the house, alerted by the noise from the studio, the dogs, Coll, Talbot, Bran and Shaggy, try to raise the alarm, barking furiously to be let loose. Alarmed even further by the sight of a stranger making off with their master across the back lawn, the dogs go crazy.
Upstairs, Pertelote glances curiously out of a window, sees Fox with Chanticleer and screams. She races to the stairs shouting for Chanticleer’s sisters and anyone else that can hear her. The women emerge in the kitchen from different parts of the house, collide with each other, then burst forth into the garden screaming and shouting, together with the dogs barking, in a deafening pursuit of Fox who has just made it through the wall back to his car.
Fox tries to prop an inert Chanticleer against the car as he struggles to open the door without releasing him. Chanticleer stirs slightly, he can hear the women very close-by now. Confused and groggy he tries to taunt Fox, “Need to keep them at bay … then you’ve won… you’ve got me… I’d threaten them… let them know you’re boss….”
To Chanticleer’s alarm, Fox, feeling smug, pulls out a gun.
“Don’t come any nearer,” Fox blusters, “I’ll use it, really I will,” he’s enjoying himself immensely.
He waves the gun at the women who stop dead in their tracks grabbing the dogs just in time. The women fall quiet, but the dogs continue to bark, furiously.
“Shut them up, filthy, disobedient brutes, or I will,” Fox threatens.
His attention now focused totally on the women he releases his weight from Chanticleer who begins to slide down the side of the car door.
Just as Chanticleer’s face slips over the edge of the door window, his eyes manage to focus on the keys in the ignition of the car. From somewhere he manages to find the strength to grab the door handle and push Fox away from him at the same time.
The car door flies open and Chanticleer scrambles inside, locking it shut. Fox looses his balance, dropping his gun. It’s only plastic after all. Fox staggers to his feet, trying to laugh. He looks from the gun to the women to Chanticleer.
“Come on man, it was only a joke. I didn’t mean any harm, honest I didn’t. Just wanted to hear you sing. Was never going to hurt anyone, I’m your number one fan remember?”
Chanticleer nods to the women. Suddenly released, all four dogs bound ferociously towards Fox.
An hour or so later, Fox could be seen struggling in the custody of gendarmes berating himself wildly, “Why did I stop to open my big mouth? Why do I always open my big mouth? I should get on with it, just get on with it…”
Whereas inside the house, Chanticleer, back once more in bed with Pertelote muses, “’be on your guard against the flatterers of the world’, who said that? I’m sure someone said something like that.”
“Ecclesiasticus?” Pertelote replies nodding sagely, then she frowns, “by the way, ‘mulier est hominus confusio’ does not mean ‘woman is man’s delight and all his bliss’ it means ‘woman is man’s confusion’, I looked it up.”
“Well maybe… maybe ‘woman is man’s confusion’ because she is ‘man’s delight and all his bliss’,” Chanticleer retorts smiling and holding her close, “I know you are mine”.