We arrived at Angel's house around 8:30 at night. Angela answered the door, Angel being asleep on the sofa.
"Did you need me to wake him?" she asked.
"No, let him sleep," I replied. "Really, we need to use the phone. Any more faxes come through?"
"No. That second one is disturbing. I'm praying for you guys. I know you didn't have anything to do with her getting kidnapped. The family could come up with the 200K they're asking for, but it's a matter of principle. They want money, but we don't know how to get it to them."
"You will soon enough. They're just trying to get us all to sweat. It's working."
"Yeah, me too," said Bekka.
Angela seemed surprised at Bekka's presence. "Bekka, why are you involved in this?" she asked.
"Dammit, there's no way I could let Lenny deal with all this alone. I love him too much. Besides, I've already been useful." She told of our exploits with Richard.
I said, "Anyway, let me get on the phone, find out if that's a legitimate number he gave us. I went in the kitchen and dialed. It rang seven times and someone picked up.
"Yeah, I want to talk to Mikey," I said.
"Hold on." The phone was put down.
"Yeah," came the voice over the phone.
"Hey Mikey, this is Lenny. How you doing?"
"Wait, who is this?"
"It's Lenny, from Clairemont! How's it hanging, man?"
There was a pause. Then, "Holy shit man, how did you get this fuckin' number?"
I told him, "It's a long story. Listen, let's hook up tonight. You can meet Bekka again, we're up here in LA and we've got nothing better to do."
"Um, yeah, okay. There's a bar called Connolly's on Vine at Santa Monica, wanna just meet me there in an hour?"
"Sounds good. Talk to you soon."
I turned to Bekka and said, "Guess what? We're gonna have drinks with one of the people who snatched Chrissie. Won't that be fun?"
We arrived a couple minutes early, so we hung outside the bar. In a few minutes a 280ZX pulled up to the curb nearly in front of us. Out hopped Mikey.
He had traded his leather jacket for a dark blazer, worn with a t-shirt under it, like Don Johnson on Miami Vice. For chrissakes, his jeans were creased like a frat boy's. He was wearing Nike shoes, those big puffy sneakers we used to make fun of. And his Nissan gleamed like he'd just left a detail shop. Mikey had gone Hollywood.
"C'mon in. I love this place, it's a total dive. They haven't put new records in the juke box since, like, 1968." He led the way in.
We grabbed one of a selection of empty tables. Bekka went to explore the jukebox, telling me to get her a Tecaté to drink. The tired looking waitress came over and took our drink orders. Mikey and I considered each other across the table.
"Mikey, you've changed some," I said.
"And you've remained the same, Lenny."
"Not really. I'm more business-minded than I used to be. I have to be, running the studio in La Costa. And I've been doing some extra work for my bosses."
"Like what?" he asked. Bekka joined us at the table.
"Just making deliveries for them. It's an easy gig, keeps me out of trouble. What about you, what have you been up to?" I asked, and took a sip off my Johnnie Walker.
"Aw, just working. I decided to try the Hollywood thing for a while, see how it treats me. So you were going to tell me how you got my number."
I gave an insincere smile across the table. "I threatened a cab driver with a gun until he spilled the beans. Bekka here helped."
"It's true," said Bekka. "I threatened to shoot off one of his balls. Maybe both."
"Right," said Mikey. "Well, it was good seeing you, Lenny. I wish you both the best of luck in your marriage." He made to stand up.
I opened my jacket, displaying the Beretta. I said, "Mikey, I'm going to have to insist you stick around for another drink or two. We need to talk. So how did you end up grabbing women off the street for a living, anyway?"
Mikey took a drink off his Rolling Rock and wiped his forehead with the bottle. "A guy approached me at the porn shop I work in. He was one of our suppliers of under the counter stuff, like chicks with dogs and kiddie shit. All we had to do was hold on to these women at our place for a couple hours until some guy came to pick 'em up. If the 'H' they'd been given started to wear off, we had a bottle of chloroform to knock them back out again. You've never done heroin, have you Lenny?"
"Nope. I dated that junkie when I was nineteen, remember her? She was enough to convince me it's not worth it."
Mikey laughed and said, "Yeah, I remember her. Tell you what though, it definitely takes the edge off a coke or speed hangover. I don't let it run my life."
"Good, good. So you received a new one early this afternoon. Still got her?"
"No, she was gone in an hour. Older chick with plenty of hair?"
"That's her. Answers to Christina. So where did she go?"
Mikey rolled his eyes and said, "I honestly have no idea. I just pick up the second half of the snatch and hold onto 'em. That's the truth. So how do you know her?"
I gave him my car salesman smile and said, "She's the wife of one of my bosses. You met him at the wedding, he was the one doing people up with coke. To say he's upset is to vastly understate his current mood. Can you blame him?"
He got even paler and said, "Wait a minute, that broad's married to one of those mafia dudes? Oh shit...."
"Oh shit indeed. We don't know if she's told them that she's married to someone in the family, but that's who's looking for her. Not the cops. Between the cops and the mob, who do you think is going to be more forgiving? I'll give you a hint: it's the ones who buy their clothes off the rack, and drive Fords to work."
"So what's gonna happen to me?" he asked. He wiped his bottle across his face again and signaled for the waitress.
"I haven't a clue. So far as retribution goes, they may consider you too small-time to bother with. They want Chrissie back, that's the main thing. Revenge is their second priority. That's all I can tell you."
Bekka had been silent through all of this. Now she interjected with, "Helping us out could be to your advantage. They're bound to cut you a break if you made yourself useful of your own volition."
Mikey scoffed at this. "Yeah, right. Like me sitting here is of my own volition. Lenny has a damn gun, what sort of pressure can expect from your capo?"
"Actually, I've got a gun. Two of them, in fact. We took one away from your cab driver out in Van Nuys. I'm a pistol-packin' mama. So you're covered all the way around. You have been since you pulled up and got out."
"Mikey, you spoke in the plural earlier. Who is 'we'?" I asked.
"It's me and my roommate Grant. I wouldn't have any way to explain to him why there are these stoned women in the place, so I had to cut him in."
I ran my fingers through my hair. "You're not out of business, but you're not out of the woods yet, either. I'll try to set it up so the more help you give us, the less damage you receive. That sound fair?"
"Do I have any choice?" he grumbled.
"Keep yourself available. By the way, what's the name of the porn shop you work at?"
"Um, Cynthia's Dream, it's on Hollywood Boulevard near Normandie. Why?"
"Just checking. Come on babe, let's cut out."
We drove down Vine until we found an open gas station. Bekka fueled the Falcon while I read the phone book, tracking down the street address of the Sex Shack. It turned out to be on Hollywood and Vine, or damn close. We drove in that direction.
"So what's the plan?" asked Bekka.
"No clue. Go in and ask for under the counter bondage photos, I guess."
"Aw, I'll tell 'em I'm in the mafia, like always. That line always seems to get a laugh."
Bekka tittered and said, "Looking at you, it's a hard pill to swallow. You look like you're in the family like I look like I run a Catholic school."
"We'll act like tourists, okay?"
We turned on to Hollywood and parked. The hookers began making their way towards the car, but most dropped away when Bekka got out of the car. The few who remained apparently didn't care about Bekka, or were hoping for a serious party with the both of us. We started walking toward the store, me getting Bekka on my right side while we walked. I insisted.
"Why? What's the difference?" she asked.
"If you are on the curb side while we walk, people will assume I'm your pimp," I explained.
We arrived at the Sex Shack and began to browse. The usual videos, magazines, toys and novelties, and a hallway leading to the viewing booths. There was nothing of note about the place. There were two or three other customers in the place, and they looked as bored as I felt. There was nothing in that store to interest me.
We gawked, like tourists, at the various sex toys. They had fairly strong handcuffs for sale, so I picked up a couple of those. There had been times in the recent past where I wished I had some with me. Then we wandered up to the cashier.
"Hi there," I greeted the lumpy guy behind the register. "Say, we're looking for bondage photos, can you help us out?"
"All the bondage magazines are in the lower left corner of the second magazine rack. You can't miss 'em," I was told.
"No, we're looking for something outrageous. Under the counter stuff, you know?"
"Can't help you there," said Lumpy.
"Aw, come on, we're not cops. Do we look like cops? Help a dude out here."
He sighed and pulled several boxes from under his counter. "This box just came in today," he said, sliding one box over.
I took the top off to see a glaze-eyed Christina staring up at me. Except for a pair of boots and a ball gag, she was nude. I went through the rest of the box and was shocked and horrified by what I was seeing. Bekka was looking over my shoulder as I went through the photos, and I heard her stifle a gasp when I hit the first graphic photo. Not even the Dirty Angel studio, another of Vinny and Angel's holdings, would produce crap like this.
I rearranged the smile back on my face and said, "Cool! I'll take 'em! Those and the handcuffs, wrap 'em up."
While he bagged my purchases and worked his magic on the register, I asked him, "So where do you get them from? Around here anywhere?"
"I dunno. A guy brings them in."
"But who? See, my wife and I are pretty kinky, and I bet we could do some posing for him that would blow his mind."
"I dunno. You saw those pictures, you can't get just anybody to pose for shit like that."
"Probably not. But my wife and I would like to try, right honey?"
Bekka backed me up. "Oh yeah. Hey, how much are these?" she asked, holding up a sucker that was in the shape of a penis.
"Those are $1.99," he said.
"I want a dozen. Just throw them in the bag." Bekka scooped out twelve tiny sugar cocks and dropped them in the bag.
"Okay, your total is gonna be $219.96, Cash or credit?"
"Credit. No, make that cash. Say, if I left my pager number with you, would you let the guy know he has a couple who'd like to work with him? He'd get it, wouldn't he?"
Lumpy said, "Yeah, I can do that much. I'll warn you, though. I've seen him bring in photos which make that stuff seen tame. There's no way somebody wasn't crippled for life in some of them."
"Well, we've got strong constitutions, right babe?"
Bekka smiled weakly at the clerk and said, "Oh yeah hon. I wanna get scarred up by you."
We headed out the doors and back to the car, me keeping Bekka on my left that time, for the same reason as before. She thought it was ludicrous that I'd be mistaken for a pimp, in any circumstances. "I mean, who comes up with this stupid shit, anyway?" she groused,
I had to confess my ignorance.