We rolled down Santa Monica Boulevard to our fate, cutting up Wilcox Ave. and doubling back on Fountain. We anchored around the corner from Seward, just in time to have some obnoxious junkie type with a broken bottle in his hand accost us as we got out of the car.
"Hey chief, you got any money on you?" he asked.
"Enough to get by," said Bekka. "What do you care?" She already had her hand in her purse.
"I need some of it," he said. "Not all of it, but just enough, y'know?"
"And if we refuse?" I whispered in his ear.
"Then I'll fuckin' cut you," he said, spinning around and swinging the bottle at me. He caught me on the wrist and hand with the damn thing.
I jerked my Beretta out of my jacket and jabbed it into his stomach. Bekka came up on his side and bounced the barrel of her Banker's Special off the side of his head. He didn't like the presence of either one so close to him. You could see him reconsidering his choice of mugging victims. "What are you guys, undercover cops?" he spat.
"No, just a well-armed punk with his well-armed trendy girlfriend," I told him. "Listen little man, you don't want to be here. You want to be far away. Why aren't you there yet?"
He dropped the bottle and tore off down the street, giving us the bird as his parting shot. Bekka and I stood there as he dashed down Fountain. I was aware of blood dripping off my hand as I stood there. I looked down and saw where he'd made a mess of the back of my hand. It would probably need stitches. Doctor Liu, he of the in-home surgery, would have more business.
We walked across the street with our guns still out. I stared at the security gate and weighed my options. Shooting the knob off would attract the attention of everyone, and I didn't feel like I could spare the ammo anyway. I had nothing to pick the lock with. The whole stairway area was surrounded by fencing, with ugly spikes protruding from the top, which discouraged any attempts to climb in. I was down to one idea: wait for someone to either come in or go out. How we could remain there undetected was beyond me.
I looked around and saw the garbage bags. They were all full. A quick and quiet search of them revealed they held nothing but bottles and aluminum cans. I had Bekka squat down, and sure enough a single bag would cover her up to her boobs. A little more rearranging with the help of my uncle Billy and she'd have a good spa day in. If this wasn't glamorous enough already.
I pulled another bandanna off my boot and used it to mop up some of the bleeding, then tied it around my hand. Bekka said to me in a stage whisper, "How long do we have to stay in this position?"
I shrugged and said I didn't know. Until someone opens the gate.
That was the trigger the fates were planning to spring on us. The door to the place swung open and three dudes came out. They seemed rather animated for a Monday night.
I muttered to Bekka, "Now!" and the two of us sprang out of the recycling and pointed our guns at the small group. They didn't know what to think. They decided to stand there and await further instructions.
"Everybody back upstairs, now! Let's go!" I barked. They followed instructions well. Gil was among them, and asked me if they were being held up.
"It's a little more complicated than that," I told him
"Oh yeah? How?"
"We're here for Chrissie. I want her now."
"Who?" said Gil, running his jaw with his fingertips.
"Chrissie, Christine, the woman you snatched yesterday afternoon. I've already talked to Mikey, and he says you're the one who collects the bodies for your photos. Now fucking stand up slowly or all three of you die where you sit."
Gil stood up. The other two just stared alternately at Bekka and me. I shoved Gil towards the doors and said, "Lead on. I want Chrissie."
He walked to the door on the right and opened it. "After you," he said I was having none of it. I shoved him forward into the room, expecting to hear shotgun blasts go off, but it remained silent, except for labored breathing that was coming from neither me or Gil. I stepped forward and there was Chrissie, sound asleep through all the yelling. She also didn't have pajamas on.
Keeping an eye on Gil, I walked to the side of the bed and gave Chrissie a few gentle slaps. She barely stirred. I yelled her name and her eyes opened briefly but they swam around like two goldfish. To hell with this, I decided, and did my best to wrap her in a sheet, then I got her over my shoulder.
"Come on, Bekka, we're leaving," I called as I ushered Gil back out into the living room. "Bekka, keep them covered. Gentlemen, all of you sit on the sofa for three minutes. I see anything move out that door and we drop it. Bekka, get my back. Adios amigos, and today's lesson is to never fuck with the mob. Capiche?"
Keeping someone balanced on your shoulder while you're holding a gun isn't a simple as it looks. Nevertheless I managed to get Chrissie down the stairs and out the gate without dropping Chrissie. Bekka followed the same path as me, only backwards, making sure none of the three guys had a fast watch. I opened the passenger door and got the seat forward, flopping Chrissie onto the rear seat.
All of their watches were fast. As I started the engine there was a flat hollow boom from our right side, and almost simultaneously the glass in the rear side window blew out. Bekka leaned out her door and fired back, twice. I saw one of them drop out of the corner of my eye. Then we were on Fountain.Ave. hooking onto Highland and then onto Santa Monica Blvd, free and clear. Or so we thought.
Near North Gardner St. our back glass shattered, teaching me a rule about complacency while on a family job. I dropped a gear and laid into the gas, shooting forward and weaving through traffic. Bekka dived into the back seat, kneeling in safety glass shards and pressing herself against Chrissie, who was still dead to the world. She had the Charter Arms out and was keeping it steadied against the seat back. I told her, "Keep that thing down unless they're in range."
"They are in range," she told me.
"Then what are you waiting for?" I asked her. "Take out the driver."
She aimed and fired three times into the windshield. The third time, the car behind us jerked to the right and did a slow arc into the curb, hopping up and going into a fire hydrant. I could see the geyser in the rear view. I dropped down to a sane speed and kept rolling along, headed for the interstate and Angel's.
I glanced over at Bekka as she slid forward and deposited herself back in the passenger seat. She looked white as a ghost. "You okay?" I asked.
"It's nothing, just the adrenaline that kicks in when you realize you've just killed somebody," she replied. "There's nothing I want more on this earth right now more than a scotch and a line."
I said, "Shit, if you killed somebody, you're ahead of me. I've only crippled a person up until now."
"I'm not happy about it," she replied. "In fact, I don't consider it an achievement. It's something I planned on getting through life without ever doing."
"Them or us, baby, It couldn't be helped. My adrenaline is going too, you know."
Bekka said in a barely audible voice, "Is this how things are going to be? The two of us, solving the mafia's problems?"
"That was then, this is now," I told her. I think we're living very different lives than we were a few months ago."
She punched me in the arm, quite hard. "God dammit, this is supposed to be your gig, not mine! I just wanted to be a nice mafia wife and enjoy the fruits of your labors."
I shrugged and said, "I wasn't anticipating we'd ever have the level of adventure we have on a trip to a friend's party. I'm glad I thought to think of filling Squeak's automatic feeder before we left on Saturday. Whatever we've accomplished is over with now, and we're both still here. We could be worse off."
Bekka asked, "So what do we do with her?"
"We take her home. If Angel and Frankie think Dr. Liu is needed, then they'll call him. Taking her to an ER without their permission would be a bad move."
At that moment Chrissie propped herself up on one elbow and said, "Lu-lu-lu-lu-lu," then went back down on her side. I hoped it was only heroin she was stoned on, and not anything more esoteric. Her coma-like sleep worried me.
Bekka said, "Christ, I've gotta do something about all this glass she's laying in," and crawled into the back seat again. She began brushing pieces of safety glass off the seat and onto the floor. Chrissie ignored her.
I followed the well-traveled path over the pass and into Encino. Frankie and Angel heard me pull into the driveway, and at first were panicked, as they saw no passenger in the back seat. Vinny yelled, "Where the hell is she?"
I pointed in the back and said, "She's been out like a light since we found her. Who knows what they've got her on. They weren't happy about it, but we got her away free and clear, nobody following us much past La Cienega. Bekka got rid of them."
"You got that address?" I was asked.
"Yeah. ____ Seward, top left unit. After tonight I doubt there will be much of anyone hanging around that place, though. I think they're well spooked. They've never had to undergo an extraction before, I'll bet."
Angel said, "We'll determine that. I see you lost another rear window."
I got in the back on the driver's side to help Vinny extract his wife, ignoring Angel for the time being. Bekka had run in the house, presumably to be sick from all the spent adrenaline curdling in her system. I climbed through the car holding Chrissie's head and torso up and away from the glass. Vinny and I carried her through the house and into one of the guest bedrooms. I asked Angel about calling Dr. Liu.
He held his hands apart and said, "I don't know. This isn't really his specialty. You didn't find out what they have her sedated with?"
"We were in kind of a hurry," I told him.
Angela came out of nowhere and suggested, "Having Liu go over her is not a bad idea. Shall I make the call?"
"Please do, sugar," said Angel. We left Vinny and Chrissie alone in the room, Vinny kneeling by the side of the bed and holding his wife's hand.
"So, how did your day go?" I asked Angel.
"We netted a homeless junkie," he replied. "Some trash who was told he'd get paid two hundred bucks to pick up the bag and carry it to an address on Glencoe. We squeezed him as hard as we could, but that's all he could come up with. Not even a name. It was a bust on our end, I'm glad you two were more successful."
"Bekka is rather worked up. We got followed when we left, and we're pretty sure she shot the driver. That's how we ditched them."
"I'm sure both of you could use a drink. Bekka? Where are you?"
"In here," came a voice from the living room. She had taken it upon herself to set up several lines of cocaine on the coffee table. Now she was digging through her wallet for a flat bill to roll up.
Angel reached into his breast pocket and handed Bekka his gold straw. "Try this," he said.
She thanked him and did up one of the lines. "Angel, could I trouble you for a drink? In fact, just bring a glass and a bottle and watch me go to work."
"Me too," I said.
Angel smiled and brought us two ice-filled glasses and a bottle of Johnnie Walker. He poured us out our drinks and set them on the table while I snorted back my line. Then he stood there, considering Bekka.
"You had a stressful evening," he said.
Bekka took the glass from her mouth and laughed. "Yeah, you could say so. I shot two people tonight. That's not like me." She reached for the bottle.
Angel chuckled at this and said, "And hopefully it never will be. If you will excuse me, I have to make a phone call. I'll just be a few minutes." He disappeared into the back of the house.
I grabbed the remote and patted the sofa next to me. Bekka joined me, setting the bottle in front of us. We channel surfed, stopping randomly and absorbing nothing. The news would be on in a few minutes. I wanted to see if we'd made it.
Angel came back in the room with a grim look on his face. "You two have a breakfast meeting with don Ventimiglia tomorrow at eight. I recommend you don't attend it hung over. And Bekka, remember, you shot people who wished to shoot you. There should be no fear or shame in defending one's self. I'm going to check on Vinny. Where the hell is Doctor Liu?"
As if he'd spoken the magic word, the door bell rang. I pointed out to Bekka, "At least he's not here for either of us."
Dr. Liu gave Chrissie a good inspection, pronounced her in good health, and confirmed my own suspicion: she was out of it on heroin, which would wear off. As he went to leave we shook hands and he noticed the blood-crusted bandanna on my right hand.
"Lenny, you have injured yourself?" he asked.
"Yeah, got cut with a bottle tonight. Just some stupid-ass mugger, it's no big deal."
"Will you allow me to examine you? As it happens, I am a doctor."
We went into the kitchen where he rinsed off the blood and told me to wait right there. He left and returned with one of his big bags.
"Lenny, you need stitches. I am going to anesthetize your hand and sew you back into one piece again. You said you were cut with a bottle? Presumably not your own."
I told him, "No, this was while I was still at work. Hey, anybody check on Mikey recently?"
Angel volunteered, "Before you arrived back here. He used the restroom and is back in his spot. I will take him home tomorrow. He will remain blindfolded until we reach Hollywood."
To Dr. Liu I said, "No, it was a broken bottle in the hand of a would-be mugger. How many stitches do you think I'll need?"
"Seven or eight," he replied. "Come into the dining area and I'll get you sewn up."
Bekka followed Dr. Liu and I into the dining room. She knew my phobia of needles and held my hand while he anesthetized me. She declined his suggestion that she be elsewhere while he did his work. It wasn't bad, all I felt was some tugging as he tightened up the stitches. And then we were done. He packed his bag back up and told me to keep the hand dry, and to allow him to examine it in two weeks.
"Is a Sunday okay? I've got work every other day of the week."
"Two weeks from this previous Sunday will suffice. It is now nearly Tuesday. I cannot understand where you get your energy from." And with that he went out the door.
"Wouldn't he love to know," smirked Bekka as his car fired up. "Well, you jerk off with your left hand, so you won't be out of action."
"And will I need to be jerking off soon?" I asked her.
"Putting me in situations where I have to shoot people is worth at least one night in the spare bedroom," she said. "But at the same time, I feel like I need a lot of comforting and being held close right now. We'll have to schedule you to be put in time out."
We went into the living room for another drink. Channel Four News had indeed covered the Hollywood shooting, providing us footage of the hydrant geysering, the smashed Toyota, and footage of an LAPD sergeant telling the world that evidence of narcotics use was present. The driver had been killed, with a passenger having sustained a bullet wound. A sawed-off twelve gauge shotgun was recovered from the vehicle. No suspects yet.
"And we shall keep it that way," said Angel's voice from behind us. "Lenny, be up at six and I will give you that address. It is in the Bel Air district. You do not want to be late for this little breakfast meeting you have. The both of you need to sleep." He went down the hall towards his bedroom.
"The very nerve, suggesting we should sleep. I'm so exhausted it's tiring to move my jaws to speak. And he thinks after I killed someone earlier tonight that I'm gonna sleep? That's the most ludicrous thing I've heard today," said Bekka.
"Try not to think about it," I told her. "It's over and done with. We'll find a custom auto glass place that can repair the Falcon, and this will all be in the past. Just don't broadcast your new status as a mafia killer to the world."
"Oh, I have no intention of it," she said. "The whole idea is busy running around in my brain like you wouldn't believe, though. I've taken a human life, I've taken a human life, I've taken---"
"You killed someone who wanted to kill you," I pointed out. "It was us or them in that setup. There was no middle ground, no talking it through."
"Will I get over this feeling?"
"Yeah, as soon as you get some serious sleeping done."
"What is sleep again?"
"It's the other thing you do in a bed. Why don't we find one and try our hand at both things a bed is good for."
Bekka headed back to the guest room while I turned off the TV and put away the bottle of Johnnie Walker. She was nude when I reached the room.