Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Break (Part 1)

      Inana Productions was shutting down for a month.  There was no reasonable explanation why.
     The rumors flew hard and fast:  Inana was going belly up, permanently.  There was legal problems revolving the age of performers (doubtful, as the company was careful about that sort of thing in the post-Traci Lords era).  Inana was consolidating with its Los Angeles operations, and if we wanted to continue working with Inana, we'd better get used to  a hell of a commute
     Small Steve, the real director, had no information for us.  "They aren't telling me anything.," he said.  "They've promised that no one is losing their jobs, but that doesn't mean much: we could all have to commute or relocate to Culver or Century City and work from there.  I'm sorry  guys, but they're staying mum with me as they are with you you."

The Break (Part 2)

     Our plan was that we didn't have a plan.  We decided to jump over to Hwy. 1 at Santa Monica and follow the coast route until we got sick of ocean, then cut back to the 101.... Then back to the 1 again, and so on.  We'd have no itinerary, simply stopping anywhere that seemed interesting and exploring until we were bored.  If we were only making fifty miles a day, so be it.
     The two days before we left my place was everything I didn't want it to be: a drug house.  All my clients were doing their damndest to stock up as best they could, so I had people in and out constantly, picking up the largest quantities they could possibly afford, of both meth and MDMA.  Some of them still bitched about my lack of availability for a whole two weeks: these tended to be my lower-quantity purchasers, who simply didn't have the cash to load up.  Some of them were faced with the ugly specter of having to (*gasp*) work in my absence.

The Break (Part 3)

     We met Small Steve the next day outside a Chilean restaurant in Carlsbad.  I still couldn't get over the change in personality he had gone through: he truly had been an asshole.  A jerk, a prick, a dick-biter, a complete bastard.  Now he greeted me with a solid handshake and a hug for Bekka, a warm smile for both of us.  We went in to get a table.
     In deference to his history, Bekka and I stuck with iced tea.  The three of us ordered the house specialty, "Panqueques:" a burrito -like concoction made with a crepe instead of a tortilla, stuffed with grilled fresh vegetables, chunks of steak, sauce, and guacamole on top.  I rated it as a "darling, where have you been all my life?" experience.  "And I think they even have ice cream, too," Bekka told me.

The Break (Part 4)

     We made San Clemente, when Bekka took an off-ramp and pulled into the parking lot of a Carrows or Denny's or something like that.  I was a bit surprised, as we'd railed heavy before hitting the freeway: hell, I still had the drips; speed wasn't the appetite-killer for me that it is for many, but I couldn't imagine Bekka being hungry.
     But no, it was simpler than that.  She wanted to switch drivers.   "I hate L.A. driving," she said.  "Do you mind taking it at least as far as Malibu?"
     I told her I'd take it as far as Ventura, if she didn't mind.  She could spot neat stuff, and I'd hit the shoulder.  (We weren't expecting any neat stuff until well past the Malibu turn-off:  both of us were too familiar with Los Angeles to pretend we'd find anything exciting on the 405.)  Other than the luxury of being able to use the HOV lane, the drive would be a drudge until we turned off on the Santa Monica Freeway, which in both of our minds, was the true marker of our road trip: I was used to heading north and over the grapevine, with Bekka accustomed to getting off in Van Nuys for work purposes.

The Break (Part 5)

     We found a chain motel in Ventura, fairly close to the water, around dusk.  We were a bit tired, but didn't feel like crashing out yet, so we did a couple of medium lines and began figuring out what to do about dinner.  There was a Mexican/American diner a couple blocks up from the motel which the desk clerk said was decent, and that was good enough for us.  It was either that or McDonald's; I told Bekka we could hit the McDonald's for milkshakes afterwards, if there was no ice cream at the diner.

The Break (Part 6)

Just past nine in the morning a girl with jet-black hair, barefoot, and wearing a t-shirt and panties appeared yawning in the "breakfast room" and began loading up a couple plates with muffins, bagels, butter, and cream cheese.  She also filled a couple glasses with ice and orange juice.  Having worked as a waitress in her youth, she had no question about getting everything up to the room, but was a bit fuzzy-headed and not processing well.  While she stood there staring at the plates, she was aware of a Midwestern voice grousing about "it shouldn't be allowed" and "the very nerve."

The Break (Part 7)

     I snapped awake in Carpinteria, my body screaming for ice water.  We hit a fast food place where I bugged them for french fries and the largest water they'd give me, I'd pay full price on a soda for ice water.  After that, Bekka and I traded off using the bathroom so we could rail up.
     In a short while we were in Santa Barbara, searching for a posh hotel.  After much picking of brains we found a place called the Bacara Resort & Spa, with $140 rooms and $70 dinners.  Perfect.

The Break (Part 8)

     I'd called the game spot on, but missed by a mile when it came to competence.

     There were no dark-suited Eastern European thugs with Glocks waiting in the shadows, but instead a hillbilly harpy with bad hearing, hollering that she'd get a lawyer, she weren't puttin' up with this shit, if that Hunky bitch wanted her goddamn visa back she could go get a lawyer, an' she didn't have the money for a goddamn lawyer, now did she?

The Break (Part 9)

       We spent the night in Salinas, and Ivanka was off by a day.  She joined us in our bed that night.  I had no worries of being haunted by Tom Wellow, at least not that night.  The presence of two beautiful nude women  erased his images.
     I was initially afraid to touch Ivanka, due to the abuse she had suffered.  She finally explained that it was obvious I was gentle, I would not hurt her, and she wanted both Bekka and me.  She had never taken Ecstasy before, and was interested in trying it.... At least with us, as she extended trust to us, and not the Romanian guys who wanted to get her high.  I figured they had a lot of bad speed mixed with god-knows-what, or GHB, or Rohypnol.  Date rape shit.  The oddity was the number of clients that wanted to feed her date-rape drugs: dude, you've already paid for the sex, you don't need to turn the girl into a mannequin first.

The Break (Part 10)

     We needed the wasted day; I know I sure as hell did.  Being a hero is tiresome, and I was sick of the job.  I didn't ask for it, I didn't want it, and it turned  out the pay was crap.  I mentioned all this to Bekka, who was vaguely sympathetic, but had a Calvinist attitude towards the whole scene: it was obviously meant to be , so there's not a lot I can do about it, can I?
     Ivanka thought it was all beautiful, and that that I needed a cape to go along with everything else.... Especially her hero worship, which had taken a very physical aspect.  It was unspoken so far, but it was a matter of time before hostile words were exchanged over who got access to me....

The Break (Part 11)

     A couple days later the Falcon was being turned from yellow to blue, Ivanka's unbreakable cheeriness had pretty much endeared her to her co-workers at both venues, and we were learning a civics lesson.

  • To get an apartment, you need a bank account.
  • To get a bank account, you need I.D.
  • To get an I.D.,  you need a permanent address --- the motel wouldn't do, so you need an apartment.
     Fortunately, we found the loophole: SRO (Single Room Occupancy) hotels qualified as "permanent" housing.  It was time for Ivanka to start cutting the cords, and get herself a room in an SRO.

The Break (Part 12)

   JapanTown lived up to the stereotype by having a huge futon showroom open.  Bedding also available, plus lamps, and the futons bolted together like Ikea products.  Unassembled, the bed/sofa hybrid actually fit in the trunk of the Falcon (although that says more about the Falcon's trunk than anything else).  We got it home, the three of us taking turns lugging it up the steps from where Ivanka's parking space was, along with the lamp and sheets and blankets.  I assembled it as the girls went through the phone book, in search of used and new furniture places that provided delivery.  The bed would be new, if nothing else.  Just a hang-up all three of us had: a used bed is like second-hand underwear.  You'd rather not think about it.
     With her new pseudo-bed assembled, we walked down the hill and had some Italian for dinner.  By coincidence, we ran into the guy from the property management office just leaving from his meal.

     "Are you working tonight?" he asked Ivanka.  He smelled like he'd had a few.
     "Yes, eight  to midnight.  Oh, and we solved the problem of the bed.  I now have futon.  I will use until I buy real bed.  Thank you, thank you so much for wonderful apartment!  It is beautiful!  I take care of it, and stay a long time!"
     "I'm glad you're so happy with it, honey!  It won't bother you if I watch you dance?"
     "Please, do come.  I wish you to see me dance."
     I said, "She doesn't just do the usual 'tits and clit' show.  Yeah, she's sexy, but she's an amazingly gifted dancer, very gymnastic moves.  You gotta see it."
     He promised his attendance, and we went in for some dinner.

     At about 1:30 in the morning I sat up in bed, the adrenaline pumping hard, nostrils flared, eyes open wide.  I began pulling on my clothes.
     "What the hell are you doing?" asked Bekka, mostly still asleep.
     "Ivanka is is trouble, I've gotta go over there."
     "She rubbed her eyes and said in a patronizing tone, "She'd just call the cops if there was trouble.  There's nothing to worry about."
     "Yeah, she'll call 'em on what?  Two Dixie cups and some thread?  I've gotta check on her."
     Still being patronizing, she said, "Look, you're just worried  because she's not here.  You're feeling paranoid."
     "Come with me or stay here, like I give a fuck.  I'm going, goodbye."  I was gone before she had a chance to tell me to fuck off.

I'd have done Steve McQueen proud slamming across town.  I had the sort of luck you only get when you don't give a shit, when you know something has hit, but bad, and shit like other cars and signals and stop signs is just so much pointless noise.  If you're pushing it as hard as you safely can, you push harder, Sparky, because there's too much on the line to worry about safety.
     I jumped off Bay St. onto Columbus and saw trouble ahead, in the form of night construction.  Fuck that.  The curbs were too high to hop, so I slammed in reverse to the last corner, hit the curb cut, and shot down the sidewalk with my thumb on the horn.  I slid into a left at Filbert and threaded my way through heavy equipment, then was clear to zoom up Filbert towards Genoa, Ivanka's street.
     I ignored the stops up the hill and turned on Varennes, anchoring the Falcon on the sidewalk.  I had no plan except to save Ivanka from.... Whatever wanted to hurt her.  I got in the trunk and grabbed things that made sense: the baseball bat, the duct tape, and for some reason the baseball.  I had no idea why.
     I walked on Doc Martens --- nice quiet Docs --- until I was at the foot of the steps to her apartment  I crept up the steps.  The door was wide open; I could hear a voice: ".... Ignore me.  You're all stuck up cunts, you act so fucking sweet as long as the money is there.  Take off the pants , it's my turn to play...."
     Standing to one side, I rolled the baseball into the living room.  The reaction was immediate: four shots fired from an automatic.  My ears rang slightly.
     Now I knew why I'd brought the baseball.  I knew what he had, and there were four shots left.

     I swung over the side of the railing and yelled, "Hey motherfucker!  Barney Fife shoots better than you!"
     Two more shots came out the door. I made an agonized yell, fading to a gurgle.  I dropped to the ivy under the steps.
     C'mon, be cagey, you bastard.  Check on me.  I may be dead, I may not.  Get out here and check.
     He checked.  He started down the steps rather slowly; as he reached the right step I grabbed his ankle and yanked.
     He yelled and pitched forward, the gun tumbling out of his hand.  I vaulted back onto the steps, kicking at him, and swinging the bat into his stomach.  He was single-minded, though, with his mind on getting the gun back.  I threw myself stomach-first down the steps after that automatic.  He beat me....
    A single round went through my ribs on my right hand side, then.... Nothing.  He clicked the trigger several times, to no avail.  I wasn't feeling generous or in the mood for fair play: I bashed him in the head with the bat like Jose Canseco.  I had no idea if it was a killing blow.  Didn't care much, either.
     Somehow I managed to run up the steps and stick my head in Ivanka's door.  She saw me and burst into tears; for the last thirty seconds she didn't know if it was her masked rapist or me taking the short end of things.
     "Are you all right?" I asked.  "I've gotta get some cops here, fast, I'll be right back."
     The rapist was coming out of it, so I gave him another tap to the skull and found a use for the duct tape: I put about ten layers around his hands and wrists, and the same around his  ankles.  Then I taped him upside down to the railing of the stairs.  "You're --- ouch --- stuck, you asshole."
     The shot I'd taken to the ribs was making itself known in a big way.  I gimped across the street and banged the bat on the door.  Someone inside yelled, " Who is it?"
     "It's Arsenio fucking Hall, asshole!  Dial 911!  I've been shot, A woman was nearly raped, I've got a guy duct taped to a stair railing, and I fucking want my mommy!"
     I bearded guy in a heavy robe slid out the door, took a look at me, and said, "Are you all right?"
     I stared at him, with blood soaking my waist, my chin scuffed from the steps, and a look on my face that would make Francis Bacon seem stable, and said, "Two guesses.  We gotta check on my friend, I may need your help."
     I needed his help. My ribs were screaming.  As we walked past, I told the incredibly helpful neighbor to pull the mask off the rapist.

     It was the guy from the property management company.

     "My God," said the neighbor, "this is the man we rent from."
     "Well, feel shocked later.  Me, I'm settling for being pissed off.  He tried to rape my friend who's up at the top of these stairs, which --- OWW! --- you're gonna help me climb.  You're my crutch  Okay, on three."
     I nearly passed out twice, but I made it.  Ivanka succeeded in making me pass out by launching herself at me with a hug.  When I came out of it, I told her, "Ivanka, you're beautiful and I love you, but please don't touch me until after a doctor has seen me.  I've been shot and it really hurts."
     "How did you know to come here?" she asked.
     "You wouldn't believe me if I told you.  By the way, the Falcon is parked on the sidewalk a block down.  Are you up to moving it?  I can get the guy from across the street...."
     She smiled and kissed me.  "I will get the car if you allow me to call you 'hero'."
     "I'll allow it, for now."

          The next afternoon, the cop --- naturally, the same one from the diner --- looked down at me where I lay in my hospital bed.  "Y'know, I'm starting to really hate Fords.  Especially old ones."
      I told him, "That must be painful, especially with you guys being saddled with those Crown Vics all day and night.  Maybe you should get Camrys instead."
     "Just so long as it's not a Falcon.  First we get a report from CHP about an old Ford that may or may not have been involved in a fatal crash down near Solvang, but to not put too much work into it since the guy who died was a scumbag.  Okay, they say ignore it, we ignore it.
     "Then we hear about an old Ford hot rod tearing it up on the sidewalk of Columbus. Fifty on the sidewalk, so we're told.  And lo and behold, we find an old Ford parked at the scene of an attempted rape on Telegraph Hill.  After a while, a guy can't help but make some connections.
      I'm gonna ask you, and you're gonna tell me, how you knew that rape was going down.  And I swear I'll beat on your ribs with my nightstick if I don't like the answer."
     "Well, first of all, I disavow any knowledge of reckless driving on Columbus Avenue.  People see funny things at night.  Second, you may as well pull out your nightstick, because you'll hate the answer I'll give you."
     "Try me."
     "It came to me in a dream."
     "You're right, I hate it.  You wanna at least sell it to me a bit better?"
     "Officer, don't lie.  You've relied on blind hunches plenty of times, hunches that had no basis in reality.  Just mental flukes you can't explain.  And I'll bet they pay off more often than you're willing to admit."
      The cop stared at me with narrowed eyes, then shrugged and said, "Fair enough.  Is that your story?"
     "Pretty much, yeah.  I just had a bad feeling about a friend being in trouble and figured it couldn't hurt to go over to her new apartment.  If I was wrong, then I look like an asshole, but otherwise, no harm no foul.  And if I'm right, well...."
     "If you're right, you catch a slug in the side that takes out chunks of ribs, ventilates your right side, grazes your lung, and generally colors you as one lucky sonofabitch.  You should have sustained more damage than you did.  That, and you're walking around right afterwards like you got a hangnail.  Most guys pass out from the pain of getting a chunk of lung knocked out, but not you.  No, you're a busy little bee, taping up the perp and talking to neighbors and walking flights of stairs.  You gotta be the most stubborn bastard on the planet."
     "Speaking of, how is the rapist scumbag, anyway?"
     "Until he's convicted, we call him a suspected rapist.  And he's alive, well, and a complete prick.  Was talking about suing you for that shot you gave him with the bat.  We reminded him you could sue him right back for shooting you..  As it is, your girlfriend will probably end up owning half that block: the employee of the property management company allegedly attempts to rape her,  she sues the management company, who is also being sued by the actual property owners.  She's a tough little bird.  You know where we tracked her down?  At work.  She didn't wanna miss her shift.  Most girls would curl up in a ball from the trauma, she's just pissed off that being in court will jam up her sleep schedule and she may end up with shorter shifts for a couple weeks.  She's not traumatized, she's pissed off.  You know some tough women, bud.
     "Anyway, the perp's brain scan is perfectly fine, which is good for us, 'cos it means he goes through trial like anyone else.  Shit, you'll probably be on a cane, while he'll look healthy.  Bad news for him, good for us."
     "What's his story?"
      The cop laughed.  "We gave him his Miranda and he wouldn't shut up.  All dancers are closet whores, she deserved to be raped, he hates women, blah blah blah.  May as well have just told us to lock him up without a trial.  He's a woman-hating bastard, and said as much under oath.  No lawyer on the planet can dig him out of the hole he made.  In the meantime, we're checking assaults and rapes occurring at properties managed by this particular service, y'know, see if a pattern pops up.  Given how talkative this dumbfuck is, it just might clear out some stuff from the cold files, some women finally get to have some resolution for their assaults."
     "Don't suppose I could borrow your night stick?  I want to have a chat with him."
     "Yeah, scratch that, kid.  He's under lock-down.  Nobody gets near him that isn't in uniform, not even to bring his meals.  In another day or two he gets shifted to the county facility, where we'll give him the choice of general population or solitary.  After we explain what happens to suspected sex offenders in G.P.,  he'll take solitary.  He doesn't have a death wish.
     "What's pathetic?  How much he whined when we got all that duct tape off him!  You'd have thought we were using a blowtorch instead of pulling off some hair!" the cop laughed.
     "Anyway, you got another visitor waiting.  You had the blonde foreign beauty up here all morning, now you got the raven-haired one to see you.  How you do it, buddy?  Hypnotism?"
     "Not hating women has worked well for me so far," I replied.  "Please, bring Bekka in."

     Bekka's eyes were so swollen I didn't know how she could see.  She held my hand in a shallow, distant way, as if I'd expired already.  Then she removed her hand, tried clearing her throat, and announced, "I'm flying back to San Diego tomorrow.  I'll leave you the Falcon, I know you'll get it home safe."  She started to rise.
     "Wait!  What the hell!  Why are you leaving?  You're my partner, y'know?"
     "I abandoned you.  That sixth sense bullshit you have told you to go save Ivanka, and instead of helping, I told you you're an idiot and to go back to bed.  You ignored me and you were right, Ivanka was in trouble, and I rolled over and went back to sleep while my best friend is busy getting shot.  You don't need me around, I'm an obstacle, I'm just in your way."  She was crying again.
     "But you're my best friend too.  I don't know what I'd do without you around.... Especially right now.  Forget last night, it was a fluke, it was.... just...."
     "It was you saving the day again!  And you won't even admit it!  You're a hero and for some reason you hate the idea, like you've gotta wear a cape and be a pompous fuck!  You can be you, dammit, and just admit unusual things happen around you that you always manage to fix and take care of.  Just, please, admit you're a hero.  That's all I want.  I want you to admit you can do good, that you are good.  That you save people's lives, that you're not the self-described fuck-up you think you are.
     "Just that."
     Tears ran down my face.  I said, "Please, lie down on my left side.  The right side will hurt like hell."
      I managed to scoot over some for her, ignoring the pain.  She managed to get situated next to me; I reached over to hold her hand.  Then I muttered, "Okay, I'm a hero."
     Bekka kissed my cheek and said, "And you were the last one to know."


The Break (Part 13)

(In No Particular Order....)

     Ivanka achieved part of the American Dream in record time, by becoming a property owner.  She ended up with her own one-bedroom, plus the two-bedroom at the back, which sat higher and held a better view.  The manager at the Hungry I, concerned about being sued by Ivanka --- 'Customer Rapes Dancer at Hungry I, Film At Eleven' --- became unbelievably helpful to Ivanka, mostly by giving her unfettered access to his venal, ball-chewing, shark-like lawyer and pointing him at the property management company.  The lawyer made it clear just how much cheaper buying the property, then transferring it to Ivanka, would be as compared to taking it in front of a jury.  The portrait of a doe-eyed 22-year-old, regardless of her career, facing down against a mask-wearing sadistic monster in the home she'd just rented that day from the man.... It was a no-go.  With the manager's statements part of public record, the property management company may as well have admitted to kicking kittens in court.