Bekka agreed to the use of her car, with one stipulation: she did the driving.
The gentlemen weren't too keen on that idea, but had no rational arguments to put up against it. They were letting their chauvinism out to get some air. For once, I'd be sitting out on all the excitement. I'd drive the truck full of equipment back from LA and that was it. I couldn't say I minded, to be frank, but I'd worry about Bekka the entire time they were gone. We had no idea what their plans were, and they weren't telling. All we knew was they wanted a fast car with a driver to handle it. They couldn't carry equipment in the Falcon, and I'd be down in La Costa unloading the borrowed equipment. Maybe they just planned on reconnoitering and retrieving it all later with the help of the cops.
In the meantime, Bekka and I had an extremely expensive car to play with on Sunday. Out I-8, down the Carrizo gorge and jump on the S2 at Ocotillo Wells, up through the desert to the 78 and some fun on Banner Grade. We'd stop in Julian to stock up on cider, then drop into Ramona and have dinner. Overall, a pleasant day's drive. I was looking forward to putting that Tesstarossa on the two-lane blacktop of the S2, making a forty-five minute run from Interstate 8 to the 78 in twenty minutes. Maybe doing it a couple times if there were no cops around.
There were cops around.
I swear there was a radio transmitter built into that damn Ferrari which notified CHP and the sheriffs of my presence. We picked up a Chip outside of Alpine, and he sat a hundred feet behind me for five miles.... Like I'm going to decide to outrun him, right? He finally got bored and passed us. I continued to hold a nice legal 55 until we passed him sitting on the shoulder, writing a ticket to a guy in a Porsche. I felt like dropping a gear and laying on the gas, just to see if he would drop one ticket to write a different one.
Then the San Diego County Sheriffs wrecked my fun on the S2. I had just finished flinging through the bends on Sweeney Pass when I caught the reflection of a roof-mounted light bar on a vehicle a half mile ahead. Sure enough, he pulled out behind me and stayed there until we pulled off at the store at Agua Caliente Hot Springs. We got sodas and some chips, soaking in the unique dry heat of the desert. Bekka lamented that we didn't have bathing suits to take advantage of the springs; I agreed.
The same sheriff picked us up again around the Rancho Vallecito airport and pretty much tailgated me to the foot of Banner Grade.... Which was fine with me, as I intended to have fun on the Grade, law enforcement be damned.
Look, I know it's a flashy expensive car that can go extremely fast. I get it. But only the most rich and psychotic among us are about to get in purposeful chases with the cops for fun. Tailgating me in my boss' Ferrari accomplishes nothing. I'm out on this desert highway to drive fast. This I will freely admit. And I'm out here because it's the safest place to do it. Would you prefer I push my limits on an urban freeway?
With Johnny Law finally off of me, I took the bends and twists of the grade the way I wanted to. A total of three times, in fact: up, back down, and up again. Bekka was enjoying herself, like one would on any roller coaster ride. I'd learned that Bekka got a thrill from dangerous runs in fast cars that bordered on the erotic; our high speed late-night shots in the Falcon were proof of that. My suspicion was it was the "dance of death" vibe such vehicular risk held: we could die, in a heartbeat. This was ultimately no different. Missing a turn meant eating a wall or going over the edge of a cliff. And at the speed I took the grade, I left no margin for error.
After loading up of apple juice and cider in Julian, we dropped further down the hill and had dinner at an ersatz hillbilly steakhouse. I asked Bekka what her suspicions were of the gentlemen's plans to regain our equipment.
"I have no clue," she said. "Like, why do they need my car? They can't fit equipment in the trunk. I hope they're not thinking of confronting this Todd guy with guns a-blazin'. You said they told you he's a gun freak...."
"And coke freak. Shoulder holsters be damned, if they put you in harm's way I'm telling 'em to get in a line because I'm putting beat-downs on all three. And if you got hurt I'll use my bat."
We were at a table by a window and I could see the Ferrari from there. People would detour through the parking lot to take at look at it, leaning against the windows to peek inside. I realized I was constantly glancing out to make sure the looky-loos weren't damaging a car that wasn't mine.
Bekka noticed it too. "Worried about your toy?" she asked.
"Ain't my damn toy, it's Frankie's. And yes. A car like that can't help but give off a feeling to other people that says, 'I am so much better than you.' Hell, if I was still seventeen I'd probably key the hood. Never underestimate the symbols of class distinction, even in America. Imagine the confusion people will feel when a twenty year old punk --- and his hot friend --- go outside and fire that car up. I will be pegged as a rich spoiled brat, I guarantee you."
"And as your hot friend, how will I be viewed. You're a bit too young for marriage, so am I your trophy girlfriend?"
"Absolutely. You'll be the porn queen I developed a crush on, and I used my daddy's money to track you down and then court you. You're after my money, of course."
"Oh, but of course. And I still haven't put out for you yet. I've been your arm candy and that's it."
"I'm frustrated, but I've got it for you bad. And I give you rides in my Ferrari whenever you want.... Baby."
When we went out to the Ferrari there was a tourist-y type family admiring it. With a thick drawl, the father told me, "We didn't touch it, honest!"
He continued: "So, uh, whut is it?"
"It's a Ferrari Tesstarossa, V-12, this year's model. Nice, eh?"
"How fast does it go?"
"You know, I was going to find that out today, but I kept getting interrupted by cops. The speedometer says two hundred."
"Wow! Yew could enter this in NASCAR just as it is! Are ya a race car driver?"
"No, I'm a pornographer."
"I take pictures of naked people for a living. You know, porn. Smut."
"I'll be damned! Y'all can make enough money takin' dirty pitchers to buy a car like this?"
"You have to take a lot of pictures, though."
I dropped off Bekka --- we'd be busy tomorrow so no staying over --- and went to return the Ferrari to its rightful owner. I asked him about the radio transmitter I suspected was intalled, and he laughed. "Yeah, that car draws a lot of attention.... Even when you don't want it to."
I was backing out of one of the visitor space in my boring old Honda when Vinny came running up. "Lenny! We need to talk to you. C'mon back in the house and have a drink with us."
Vinny said, "We just got a few questions for.you, okay? We just need a few minutes of your time, please."
We went inside together, Vinny announcing, "Don't worry, I caught him." Glancing into the kitchen as I walked past, I saw they had stocked the small bar area with various bottles. If they were going to offer me a drink, I hoped they had Johnny Walker.
The TV was on, but Angel flipped it off when he saw me come in the room. "Ah, Lenny! Welcome, welcome. What can I get you to drink?"
"Um, Johnny Walker?"
"Red or black?"
I smiled and said, "Oh, black please. Over ice."
Angel smiled and said, "I knew you had class."
Angel handed me my drink and ushered me into the conversation pit, where Frankie and Vinny were already seated. All three seemed to be smiling at me, and they were the smiles I associated with someone who wanted to borrow money. The sort of money they were used to, I didn't have. I took a sip off my drink and said, "So, um, what's going on guys? Y'all are smiling at me like car salesmen."
This was the ripest joke they'd heard all year. After they finished laughing, Angel said, "I'm gonna ask you a question, direct and to the point: have you ever used a gun?"
Holy shit. "Um, I used a .22 rifle when I was in Boy Scouts, but, ah, that was it. Boy Scout summer camp didn't have pistols."
"Would you mind learning?" asked Vinny. "It's quick and easy to handle a Beretta."
"Uhh.... Okay, no problem, but why?"
Angel said, "Strictly as a matter of insurance. We want you to go with us up to Chatsworth tomorrow evening to recover our property. Don't worry about it, though, the last thing we want is conflict, there's literally million to one chance that you would need to ever even have the gun in your hand, much less fire it, much less fire it at a person. Breathe easy, this is not that big of a deal. Are you with us?"
I took a sip off my drink and said, "Sure, what the hell." Vinny bounced up and announced he was going to get "my" Beretta. My Beretta. The sound of that didn't have much appeal to me.
First Vinny fitted the shoulder holster on me. I was taller, but he was wider across the beam than me. We got the straps adjusted and he told me to leave it on. "You want to get so you forget it's there. Hell, you know I forget mine's there!" he laughed.
Next, Vinny taught me how to safely load and operate the Beretta. He thumbed the bullets out of the clip, showed me how to insert them, then had me do it. Then, with the clip out, he taught me the safe operation of the gun: cock, safety off, fire. "Unless you have every intention of firing, keep your fuckin' finger outside of the trigger guard. If you have a gun in your hand, don't carry it like they do in the movies."
He had me dry-fire it about twenty times so I could adjust to the feel of it, and make sure I didn't jerk my hand up when I pulled the trigger like they do in Hollywood. "Your hand is good and steady," Vinny said. "I wish we had time to take you to a range, I bet you'd have some good scores, make us all proud." He tucked the pistol into the holster. "There. Soon as you get dressed in the morning, put on your holster and keep it on all day, every day. You want it to feel like it's part of you."
"Uh.... Will I need it past tomorrow?"
"You never know, kid. Look, you're hung up on that performer Bekka, right? You wouldn't want anything to happen to her, right? Now you don't need to worry, because you can protect her from any scumbags that try to put their hands on her. Right?"
The last thing he did was give me a second clip and eight extra bullets. "Load that clip right now," he said. I obliged him, quickly loading up. He smiled and squeezed my shoulder, saying "Okay, you got that down! That's probably the hardest part of using a gun. You're ready to back us up tomorrow night."
It was nice that one of us was feeling confident.