The flies keep landing on my hand. They're drawn there by the blood that drips off of it, refusing to congeal. They itch. I shake them off and resume my position, leaning against the garbage bags.
"Bekka!" I whisper. "How you doing?" I receive a psychotic giggle as a response. I glance over to her and she is in position, frozen in place like a Franklin Mint statue, her hands holding her .38 on the railing like it was the most important thing in the world....
.... And in our world, it is. We continue with our vigil, covering the door.
What's it been, eighty? Ninety? A hundred hours? Something like that, the amount of time since we've slept. The shindig Vinny and his wife were putting on was a serious blowout, and Bekka and I had been invited.
We appreciated the invitation, it was genuine flattery. I'd warned Vinny ahead of time I'd show up dressed like I would for any party, and with the same favors: lots of methamphetamine. People could deal with me how they felt like, I didn't insult easily. You invite a punk rocker to your party, you're gonna end up with a punk rocker at your party. One and a half, if you want to include Bekka as being a punk. She's not punk, she's a trendy, and will freely admit to it.
So we're there surrounded by the cognoscenti of the mafia world in Southern California, and you can guess how well we blended in. Bekka and I had done a nose dive into the speed before we even left the house, anticipating a long night. What was surprising was the number of people who knew who I was without me introducing myself. My reputation preceded me.
"Oh, you must be Lenny!" I kept getting. Yeah, that's me, have we met?
No we haven't. I was a low-level soldier in the family but had a reputation already as being both smarter than I let on --- which I doubted --- and also as a bullet magnet. Also as a visual train wreck, which I took offense to. I didn't dress the same way I did at nineteen: I wore clean shirts that usually didn't have the word "fuck" on them anywhere, I didn't wear many spikes, just on my jacket and maybe one around a wrist, and my pants were all in one piece, no rips. In my opinion I looked respectable enough to get through life.
"So how's your foot?" complete strangers were asking me. They were referring to the hole I'd had blown in my left foot by another soldier, Frankie, who was unhappy I'd figured out he'd killed a couple guys when he shouldn't have. Frankie was displaced from the family. Frankie had been moved to the suburbs of Portland, Oregon where the family could keep tabs on him and where he could keep an eye on prostitution and drugs in the area. Frankie was persona non grata in the family, currently.
This is a kinder, gentler La Cosa Nostra, so word of any kind of shooting passes around quickly. Frankie putting a hole in another associate was news, and news spreads quickly. My foot was healed by the time of the party, but would still ache. That's what happens when you have surgery done on you on the kitchen table in your capo's house.
So me and Bekka are at the party, sort of leaning on each other for moral support --- there was no question about who was with who --- eating canapes and grabbing the occasional drink from the bar, when Christina, Vinny's wife, dashes up to us in a cocaine frenzy and says, "You two cannot go home tonight. You're staying here, I insist, you can have one of the guest rooms, you're not driving all the way back to San Diego."
Well.... Okay. It's a generous offer, and one which I didn't want to refuse. That meant I could stop monitoring my food-to-booze ratio. I wouldn't have to play my usual game of "which one of us us the designated driver?" with Bekka in a couple hours, requiring I lash more meth up my nose to get home.
The evening slithered along. Angel, my capo, introduced me to people. Too many of them knew who I was already, a girl's school has nothing on the mafia when it comes to gossip, and I had been the subject of plenty. Angel drafted some punk rock kid? And he's doing a good job with his business? And he keeps getting shot at? What witchery is this? Just the fact that Bekka and I showed up for the party, and insisted on bringing our own drugs, would feed the furnaces for a while.
I offered to share with plenty of people, and mostly got turned down. Meth was an unknown quantity around these people, especially the lab-fresh dope I got. They were happier with the cocaine in decorative jars sitting in strategic locations around the house. Bikers and punks use meth, and look how they live. Best to stick with a known quantity. If Bekka and I were to throw a party, most of these people would refuse to attend, because God knows who else might show up. Friends of ours, most likely. These people lived around guns --- shoulder holsters were a common fashion accent for the men, including me --- yet were terrified by the sight of a leather jacket or the sound of a Harley starting up.
At one of the later stages of the party, Bekka came up to me and said, "Believe it or not, but I am so bored with cocaine. Every guy, attached or not, offers me a line. A fucking wedding band doesn't mean shit around here, apparently."
"Nonsense," I said, "they just want to get inside the head of the freak's wife. There's three single women here, and all three have offered to give me a ride home. They ignore that band when it's politically expedient for them to do so."
"I'd be more comfortable at one of Boss's beer bashes. At those, you get left alone when you say you're with someone," growled Bekka. "You get more respect there."
"At least we don't need to worry about getting home tonight. I took the initiative and accepted Christina's offer of a room for the night. We just need to let her know when we're ready to crash out."
Bekka gave one of her patented smirks. "These people won't get out until there's no more cocaine left. We'll hit the mattresses around daybreak, by my guess. Can you imagine, staying up all night on coke?"
I chuckled and said, "I've done it. Not for me, thanks. I'll stick with my old-fashioned speed, and be grateful for it. We are square pegs around here, aren't we?"
"Gee, ya think?"
As we predicted, people started heading home as the sky began to lighten. That, and I'd slipped a Misfits tape into the stereo, which scared a lot of people at once. Christina and Vinny were high as kites and thought they were brilliant. They didn't have a lot of people agreeing with them, including me. The Misfits are party music, what should have been playing around midnight, not five a.m. They aren't art.
Me and Bekka cashed in around 5:30, heading to one of the vacant bedrooms. Several others were already occupied. We found an open door, stripped down to our underwear, and crawled into the bed. We'd both consumed enough alcohol that moving around didn't seem like much fun, but had also consumed enough meth that we couldn't sleep. We just laid there and talked, reviewing the highlights of the night. For both of us it was pulling out my bag of speed and chopping lines from it, to the consternation of those around us. There were drugs already available, who were we to bring our own? And what are you doing? That meth stuff we've heard about on the news, my God.... "C'mon, it'll put hair on your chest." This to an Italian guy.
Around eleven we heard movement in the house. It was Christina, rattling around in the kitchen, looking for things to cook for breakfast. Or lunch. Whichever. She wasn't picky, and her overnight guests wouldn't be either.
"Lenny, you're up!" she cried. "Would you give me a ride to the Safeway, please?"
"Sure," I said. "Lemme just get Bekka in a vertical position and we'll get you right down there. Sorry if I'm spacey, I didn't get much sleep last night."
"Oh? And why not?" she grinned.
"Between the drugs and fucking my wife, there was just no time for it."
"I understand. Why do you prefer that crank you do over our coke?"
"It's what I'm used to. Besides, the effects are more straightforward. Coke can mess with your head over time. So long as you remember to sleep, speed can't do you wrong. Like I said, It's what I'm used to doing. Let me go get Bekka up."
"Could I talk you into leaving that tape you played here with me? I won't damage it, I promise."
"You can keep it. I'll just make another one."
She smiled at this news. "Thank you. That band is fantastic, cathartic noise, I love it."
I went back down the hallway and roused Bekka, whose first response to me was, "There better be a line of something waiting for me when I get out in the front room."
"Anything for you, darling," and I went about the business of setting up a couple lines of speed on the black glass of the coffee table in the living room. Christina watched this with morbid fascination. "You two really prefer that stuff, huh?" she asked.
"Hey, coke is fun, but it's a vacation. I couldn't live with it. I'd turn into some sort of mutant in no time flat if I had access to all the coke I could handle."
Bekka stumbled out, fully dressed, yawning into the back of her hand. "Dammit, where's a line, and what is it?" she asked.
"Boss's finest, and right in front of you. Kneel on the carpet like everyone else," I said, tossing her a rolled up bill.
"Good. Something I understand."
She snorted up the line to her left, raising her head and realized Christina was there. I took the tube out of her hand and did up my own line.
Bekka perked right up. "Hey Chrissie, how ya doing? What's going on with you this morning?"
Christina smiled and said, "I was going to pester you two for a ride down to the Safeway. No need to give me a ride home, I'll grab a cab. Is it okay if we listen to that tape you were playing on the way down?"
"Yeah, no problem," I said. "You sure you don't mind riding in the Falcon. Nothing personal, but you'll ride kiddie style."
"That's not a problem," she said. "You don't have bucket seats, right? I can just slide across."
"Actually, we have racing seats in that bucket, so you'll be riding kiddie. Unless it really bothers you, you know."
Bekka stood and stretched. Coffee has nothing on speed up the nose when it comes to getting a body awake in the morning. "Let's get this show on the road. Will Muriel be in to tidy things up today, Chrissie?"
"Her and an assistant," assured Christine. "We have nothing to worry about. Not even breakfast dishes. Are you two going to stick around?"
"Probably not," I said. "We need to do some crashing after all the shenanigans of last night. We'll stop by Vinny's place for a bite and then head home. I'm burned. Not as young as I used to be."
Christine laughed at this. "You're what, twenty-two, Lenny?"
"Twenty-one, actually. Punk rock ages a person."
She found this entertaining. "I'd better stick with just borrowing one tape at a time from you then, should I?"
"And you should ask for the bands by name. You ready to roll? Bekka, you ready?"
They were ready. We rolled down the hill into the flat lands and squealed to a stop in front of the doors of the Safeway.
"Sure you don't want us to wait for you?" I asked.
"No, that's fine, you two go and have a nice quiet breakfast and go home. You've gotta be tired by now."
"I'll survive. It's only been one night."
Bekka and I decided to skip Vinny's place in favor of making pigs of ourselves at a Jack In The Box. There was something traditional about eating at Jack In The Box for me.... The weird food washed down with one of their oddly-textured shakes just seemed to round out a white night or two, or three. It hit the spot.
We got home around two. Out of force of habit, I went to the answering machine to see who had called in our absence.
The first message of the day was Angel saying, "Lenny, you need to come up here right now." That was it.
The second one was from Vinny. It was him simply yelling into the phone, "Lenny, where the fuck is my wife!?" The time stamps for the two messages were two minutes apart.
This did not bode well.