We weren't inside the restaurant yet, and already we were causing chaos.
We were there for a business dinner. See, the Southern California mafia had decided to expand into Ecstasy, and my friend Boss had the best around. Everyone was duly impressed with the product he provided. So impressed that they wanted 5,000 hits per week, at $8 per hit. And that was just to start, they wanted to increase that number with demand. They were willing to put up the money needed to help Boss expand his operations to keep up with demand. Being that I was the one who already had a personal relationship with Boss, I was the one to work out a deal. He needed a few more Airstreams and more desert property to run labs on? A done deal. Automated pill presses? Not a problem. We just needed to work out the devil of the details.
Boss and I had agreed to meet up at Bekka's and mine place, then roll to a rather snazzy seafood place down on the beach in Encinitas. He showed up on time, so we cracked a couple of beers and passed the bong around before heading to the restaurant. He'd come prepared, wearing a perfectly acceptable dress shirt under his denim vest. His boots and ratty jeans might disturb people, but then again, so would mine.
Boss first attracted undue attention to himself with his parking. Seeing the sand-covered lot, he dropped to first and spun a 180 into a space close to the building, screeching rubber all the way. When he shut down, his soft tail Harley let off a backfire like a shotgun, startling the diners he hadn't already attracted the attention of.
Boss, Bekka and I walked in to claim our seats. We had reservations. The management was not prepared for one biker, one punk rocker, and one sluttily-dressed porno girl. Bekka may have been dressed slutty, but dammit, she was my slut. In a lot of ways, marriage allows you to make claim, and it works in both directions. If she wanted me to wear a t-shirt reading "This Dick Is Mine" with arrows pointing at her and my crotch, I would. As it was, our fashion sense made it clear who was with who.
We were seated and ordered drinks. Boss stared at the glass presented to him and sipped his Budweiser from the bottle. I took a sip off my double Johnnie Walker while Bekka poured her Tecaté into the glass provided. I started off first.
"So, five thousand hits per week, at the same quality we're used to seeing. What's needed to pull it off?"
Boss sighed and settled back into his seat. "I'd need two more Airstreams just for the lab work, plus a third for running pill presses. It's a tall order, I know."
"The syndicate wants to see this running for years, so it's not a big deal. Would this all be out in Needles?"
"That general area, yeah. It's easy to get mixed up with them survivalist types out there, so moving in is no big deal. Even finding lab boys is a piece of cake, you just hit up the community colleges fer lab geeks and you're set. Who would provide the pill presses, though? We had to git the presses we have right now on special order. Those aren't automated. They expect us to hand-punch all them pills just so they have the smiley face on 'em?"
I told him, "You'd be surprised at what the mob can get if they ask. Automated pill presses with a smiley face engraved shouldn't be a problem."
Boss smiled and said, "I think we can work something out here. If your people can cover my top costs, we got a deal. And I need another beer."
Signaling for the waitress, I told him, "I knew we could work something out. Remember, we're hoping for the same quality we're used to out of your thousand batches, and we'll be your sole distributor. Does that bother you?"
"Naw, that's fine. Nice to have somebody who doesn't want a front."
I smiled and said, "We wouldn't dream of it."
We had an excellent meal, me supping on a good chowder with fresh sourdough bread backing it up. Both Bekka and Boss declared their fish steaks to be top notch. We wandered into the parking lot and lit cigarettes.
"It's not a problem," I said, "I'll set you up with an appointment with my capo and you two can work out the exact numbers."
Boss said, "Hey, I kin get the prices for land and trailers by the end of tomorrow. What else does he need to know?"
"Chemical prices and what county you're in, in case he needs to post bail on anyone. But that last one is strictly precautionary. Can you get your own chem?"
"We have all these years, it's no big deal, unless he can get a better discount."
I laughed and said, "I wouldn't be surprised if it's the same people. Remember, this is a new racket to them, and they're used to your product. That's why you don't want to disappoint with what you're turning out at five thousand hits per week. They'll notice."
Boss laughed back and said, "We take pride in what we do. I guarantee they'll be happy."
We'd walked past Boss' putt and were standing next to the Acura, chatting. Boss got his hug from his "lil' girl." Nobody paid attention to the older grey Lincoln sitting in the aisle fifty feet away.
We'd shook hands and Boss had just turned to walk to his bike when we heard a voice call, "Hey Boss!" We all turned to look in that direction. I saw the shotgun barrel sticking out the rear window of the Lincoln and caught Boss in a rugby tackle just as the blast went off. And Bekka, bless her heart, already had her Banker's Special out of her purse and was blasting away at the rapidly fleeing Lincoln. A few shots connected, none of which incapacitated the car or the driver.
"What.... The.... Hell!" said Boss as he climbed to his feet. We both stood there dusting the sand off our pants.
"I don't know if I took down anyone or not," said Bekka. "Impossible to tell with all that dark glass. Are you two okay?"
"Yeah, we're fine. How are you?" I asked.
"I think that's three of us. Who the hell were they?"
"Ya got me," said Boss. "I can't think of anyone we pissed off recently, and nobody's wanted to go ta war with us in a coon's age."
A good citizen came trotting up to us. "I saw the whole thing! The cops are on their way! You folks alright?"
"Yeah, great, fine. You called the cops?" I asked.
"Yes, they'll be here in a minute."
Boss said, "That's my cue to cut out," and headed towards his Harley. When he got there he stopped and yelled, "Aw son of a bitch!"
Bekka and I hustled over to see what was the matter. We found Boss staring downwards. Both tires on the motorcycle had been slashed. He was going nowhere. And he wouldn't have had time anyway, as the first couple black and whites came powering into the parking lot. Grudgingly, we walked forward to meet them, along with a few witnesses who were so darn eager to be helpful to the police. It was only then I realized I'd lost my back glass in the Acura. Right where Boss had been standing. He'd have lost his head if I hadn't crushed him into the asphalt.
"So what happened here?" asked one of the cops. All three witnesses started jabbering at once. Boss, Bekka and I stood there with our arms crossed waiting for the questions to come around to us. They would soon enough.
And something else happened to brighten our evening. A familiar station wagon rolled in and stopped. Lieutenant Donner had arrived.
The lieutenant and I already had a brief but rocky history. When Bekka had nearly been stabbed to death in our townhouse, he decided I was the guilty party. He wasn't happy when me and an associate of mine proved him wrong, bringing Bekka's attacker to him on a platter with a recorded confession. Donner just plain didn't like punk rockers, and planned on seeing me take a dive. He hadn't guessed at my mob ties yet.
Lieutenant Donner smiled when he saw me standing there. He walked over saying, "Lenny! Why am I not surprised to see you at the scene of a shooting. So, who did you try to kill?"
I told him, "No one. We were the ones being shot at. Look behind you and you can see where they connected with my car. My gun never left its holster."
He didn't look happy. "You have a gun on you?"
I opened my jacket to display my Beretta. "You want to see my concealed carry permit?" I asked.
"You'd better believe it," he replied.
I fished my permit out of my wallet and handed it to him. He frowned at it and handed it back.
Bekka volunteered, "Here, you'd better look at mine too, since I was the one who did have their gun out. I let off a few rounds, but didn't connect with anything important."
Boss stuck in with, "You best back off of those two. They saved my life. It was me them shooters were after, not them."
Donner said, "And you're friends with these two?"
"Damn straight. I known 'em both for a few years now, and they're good people. Hell, they just saved my life, so don't go givin' no grief to them, officer."
Donner ignored Boss and said, "Did I hear you right, Bekka? You fired a gun?"
She replied, "Yep, sure did. I put a few rounds into the bastards that tried to kill Boss, but it didn't seem to phase them. You want to see the gun?"
"You'd better believe it."
Bekka pulled out her.38 and handed it to him. He cracked it open, sniffed the barrel, then pulled a plastic bag out of his jacket pocket and dropped it in.
"I expect that back," said Bekka. "I'd hate to have to go shopping for another one."
Boss said, "Look, shouldn't you be out lookin' for the people who were trying to kill me? They ain't done nothing, let 'em alone."
Donner said, "You're both being held as witnesses and she's being booked. Turn around." He had the patrolmen cuff all three of us.
"You're makin' a mistake," said Boss.
"I don't think I am. I'm sure you can provide plenty of answers for me. As for her, she'll be going to jail for discharging a firearm within city limits."
"Oh please," I said. "She was trying to stop whoever shot at Boss."
Donner angled his head up at Boss. "So is that your christian name? It occurred to me, I haven't even checked you for ID yet."
"Walter Donovan Stetson, sir," Boss growled. "My wallet's in my back pocket."
"Don't worry, we'll get to that. Reyes, Miller, let's get these three in the cars and get them to the station. I want her booked and taken to the lockup in downtown."
As we were marched to the cars, I called to Bekka, "Don't worry, I'll get a hold of Angel and he'll have you out in a few hours."
"Take care of yourself!" she yelled as they put her in the back of the squad car.
"I'll take care of us all!" I yelled back.
Boss and I were deposited in the back of the other black and white. Before they closed the door, Donner reached in and relieved me of my Beretta. "I've got you on ice now," he said. "You don't get any calls as a witness. I've got you as long as I want you."
"I'll want to talk to your captain," I told him.
"At this hour? He'll be at home with his wife and kids. I'm not about to disturb him."
"Either here or in court. My lawyer can beat up your layer. I've watched him work. Unless you plan on having me die while I'm in your custody."
Donner smiled. "You presume too much. I just want to ask you a few questions. It may take a while, though. You, Mister Stetson, do you have anything you wish to share?"
Boss leaned over me and said, "I did right after the shooting. Now I can't remember a damn thing. You wanna ride the circuit with me, that's fine. You're just a small town cop with a shit attitude. You don't worry me at all."
The lieutenant seemed a bit taken aback at this. He straightened up and told the patrolman to get us to the station.
The ride over was mostly silent. Boss said to me, "I'm sorry to get you into this."
"Wasn't your fault," I replied. We lapsed back into quiet.