My hackles went up when we pulled up in front of the mansion. It was after five and Rick's truck was still out front. Something was wrong with this picture, and I had no idea what.
Bekka's antennae were up too. "Rick shouldn't be here this late," she said.
"I know. Makes me wonder what he's up to. I've gotta find out."
"I'm coming with you," Bekka said.
"You know what?" I replied, "I'm not even going to argue about it with you. Take off your shoes so you don't make any noise and stay behind me."
I kicked off my engineers and carried them with me to the front door. Bekka did the same. We went in quietly, checking doorways as we went.
We didn't have far to go. Rick had kicked in the door to my office. He had trashed the place: my posters had been torn down, the file cabinet drawers pulled out and dumped, the desk swept clear of everything except the phone and the community stash of drugs. He'd been into both by the look on his face.
Seeing me, he threw the phone like a brick, which I caught and set down. Rick wasn't done with the malice for the day. He came around the desk and began swinging at me, wildly. I blocked most of these and put in some of my own shots. He aimed a knee to the groin, which I blocked. I finally got tired of the boxing and gave two shots that I knew would disable: forcefully swatting him in the ear, and a good shot to the Adam's apple. Both are painful but don't cause any permanent damage.
I spun him around, then knelt on his back. "Get me the wall end of the phone cord!" I yelled to Bekka. She obliged, and got the phone end loose too. I cinched and tied his wrists together, then pulled off one of his shoes and used the lace to do the same to his ankles.
"So now what do we do with him?" asked Bekka. I didn't have a good answer besides calling Frankie and Angel for their advice. I knew they would be very unhappy: they'd shown a bit of trust to Rick, and Rick had pissed it down his leg. Rick just might disappear.
I picked the Rolodex off the floor and handed it to Bekka. "Call Frankie first and let him know what's happened, we've got him tied up and need instructions. Ask if you should call Angel yourself or if he will. Personally, I'm in the mood to throw him in the pool as he is. He wrecked my Plasmatics poster, and it'll take me a week to get my paperwork straightened out again."
"I hate you," came a voice from the floor.
"I could guess that, Rick, but why? What did I ever do to you?"
"You and your charmed fucking life. You always had the best drugs, you got your photo job here by total luck, you get the hottest performer here to fall in love with you, and you take my job. You have my goddamn job. You stole it. I could destroy you."
"That's bullshit and you know it, Rick. I worked hard for everything I have. You gave up your job when you and Todd decided to rip off the studio. Did you really think the family was going to pat you on the head and put you back here? You're paying off a debt.... Or you were, since I have no idea what they'll do with you now."
Bekka called to me from the kitchen. I grabbed my bat and went down the hall. "Angel wants to talk to you," she said. I handed her the bat and told her to use it on Rick if he showed signs of getting loose. Then I took the handset.
"This is Lenny."
"I am sorry about this happening, Lenny, this is probably not how you wanted to spend your afternoon.. Listen, an associate of mine in Mission Viejo is going to come and collect Rick, take him off your hands. I'll need you to drive the truck up here to my place, and I'll give you a ride back home."
"So what happens to Rick?"
"He'll be taken care of."
"He is leaving the family. He will be given a thousand dollars and dropped off in Las Vegas."
"Maybe I'm feeling vengeful," I said, "but it seems to me he's getting off light."
"He isn't. Two hours in the company of my associate will have him begging for forgiveness from every deity you can name. His magic is that he leaves few marks. Would you care to watch?"
"I'll take your word for it. So why Vegas?"
"Because anyone can get a job there. Anyway, as soon as Frankie called me, I knew what had to be done. My associate --- his name is Paul --- should be there at any time. He does not like idle chat, so only speak when spoken to. I will talk to you later." The line went dead.
After about fifteen minutes the doorbell rang. Standing at the door was a man who could get lost in any crowd. He was utterly featureless, to the point of being an enigma. I simply said hello to him and stepped to one side.
"Where is he?" His voice, like his face, had no distinguishing features.. I led him down the hall to the office.
Rick looked up at the new arrival, said, "No, not you, Paul," and began to weep. Paul pulled a pair of handcuffs out of his jacket pocket and replaced my phone cord. Then he said, "You'll live, Rick." un-knotted the shoelace, and pulled Rick to his feet.
Rick sobbed, "I'll live? You promise?"
"Unless you piss me off," said Paul. "Now walk to my car and get in the passenger seat. We're going to my house for a little while." Rick visibly sagged at this news. He knew what happened there.
As they drove off, I said to Bekka, "And there goes the local enforcer.."
"He has the personality for it," she said.
"Now I need to deliver that truck to Encino, to Angel's house."
"Mind doing it solo? Given how the late afternoon went, I"m in the mood for some chips in front of the TV."
"Just save me some chips, babe."
I drove the generic Toyota truck north and into Encino. Angel was pleased with my time; he fired up his Maserati and we we got on our way.
Angel's first words to me were, "So, how's the wife?"
I answered honestly. "She's at home, watching TV and eating chips."
"Good, good," he replied. "The transfer of Rick to Paul went smoothly?"
"Very," I responded. "I get the impression that Paul is not someone I want to become well acquainted with. He seems like a private man."
"No, you do not want to get to know Paul well."
"None of my business, is it?"
We drove in silence for a while, and Angel asked, "So what did Rick do, anyway?"
I replied, "Oh lord. He kicked in the door to my office and trashed the place. Pulled down my posters, emptied the file drawers onto the floor, cleared my desk, got into the drugs.... He threw a tantrum, basically. In his own words, he hates me, and I guess he was demonstrating that hatred. He didn't touch Bekka, because whatever Paul will do with him would look like a walk in the park when I got a hold of him if he hurt her."
"So why does he hate you?"
"According to him, I've led a blessed life. Mostly me getting his old job is what pisses him off the most. He can't face up to the fact that he blew it."
Angel sighed and and adjusted his grip on the steering wheel. "He's always been impulsive, and we thought that impulsiveness would be controlled running Inana."
I looked over at Angel. "Until nine months ago, I'd never have pegged him as someone given to compulsive behavior."
Angel chuckled and said, "You weren't witness to the weekend coke jags, the whores, the drinking. He would tear it up when left to his own devices."
"Missed out on the fun, did I?"
"You missed out on the weekend train wrecks, is what you did,"
I looked out the window and realized how much quicker we were moving in comparison to the rest of traffic. Angel wanted to spend the night in his own bed, and wanted to get this trip over with.
We pulled up at the mansion and the Falcon was still parked out front. This made me nervous. I charged in the door calling Bekka's name. "In here," I heard.
I walked in the office to find her on the floor organizing folders and putting them in drawers. She was nearly done. The floor was almost clear, my posters were flattened out and weighted down with soda cans, she'd plugged the phone back in. She was listening to Foetus on the office boom box.
"You.... Are a goddess," I told her.
"Things weren't as bad as they looked," Bekka said. "All the paperwork had stayed in the files, so there wasn't much sorting to be done. That and just tidying up. It looked like a disaster, but it wasn't. I think Rick pocketed a bunch of the Ecstasy, though, because there's only a few left. Gimme a half hour and I'll be done. We can hang your posters on Monday."
"Rick had made quite the mess, though?" asked Angel.
"You can ask the guy who came and picked him up," said Bekka. "It looked like a disaster area on first accounting."
"I thank you for your work here, Bekka. It looks like you have things in hand, so I'm going to be heading back home. If you hear from Rick for any reason, let me know. If he doesn't learn his lesson this time around, I don't know what to do with him. Leave him in the desert, I suppose." With that, Angel headed out the door.
I slid the last file drawer onto its brackets and closed it. "That's all, you wonderful woman," I told Bekka. "Wanna just eat at home?"
"Sounds good, we'll throw something together."
"No, I will. You've already worked enough. Something simple okay?" I asked.
"Don't take this the wrong way, but if you're doing the cooking, it's going to be simple," sassed Bekka. "Sure you don't want to just serve cold cereal and toast?"
"In fact, I was thinking omelettes would be good, smartass. You want foxbane in yours?"
"I want whatever wine goes with eggs, please. I need to wind down. It's not every day you see your ex-boss carted off by a mafia enforcer. You really think Rick will live through the night?"
I held up my hands. "Angel said he would. Rick is getting the shit beat out of him, then will be driven to Las Vegas and dropped off with a thousand dollars and the clothes on his back. It's already been said, but not so long ago they'd have just killed him. It's a kinder, more gentle family I guess."
We stepped outside and I locked the front door. I'd have to have someone come in and repair my office door; for the time being the cash bag, checkbook, drugs, and other valuables were being stashed in Small Steve's office. I'd left a note on his desk saying as much (I had keys to everything in the mansion).
We were walking down to the Falcon when a nondescript American sedan pulled in the driveway. The enigma named Paul got out and walked toward me. I didn't know whether to invite him to dinner or run screaming down the street. I simply stopped and faced him.
"While I was talking with Rick, he remembered he had these," said Paul, holding his hand out. He dropped a couple of keys into my hand. "Glad I caught someone here."
"You had good timing. Thank you," I said.
Paul simply said, "Good evening," and drove off again. I looked at the keys: one was to the front door, the other was to the studio rooms upstairs. Frankie would definitely be glad to have them back.
"So.... Nearly piss yourself when you saw who it was?" asked Bekka.
"I was calculating how fast we could run in our respective footwear, " I told her. "He is a man you would forget thirty seconds after meeting him on the street, but those that know him harbor a lot of fear, I think. I got the impression that even Angel is leery of him. And Angel doesn't rattle that easily."
"I noticed something. He was wearing a wedding band. Somebody loves him."
"That, or it was a souvenir," I muttered. "Let's go make dinner."