Around 4:30 the phone rang. Bud was calling to let us know they were headed back down south.
"Hey, we're in Anaheim right now. You guys have any plans for dinner? We feel like steaks. Steaks sound okay with you? You know a good steak house down there?"
"There's a chop house in La Costa called Evelyn's, and they do a good steak. Also ribs, if you want to go that route."
"Perfect! Gimme directions and we'll meet there at 5:30."
I gave him directions off the freeway to the chop house, and hung up the phone. I told Bekka we had dinner plans involving her two most recent favorite people.
"Well, I know not to wear something low cut," she said.
"Save that for the realtor," I said. "Assuming it's a guy."
At 5:20 we got in the Fury and headed for the chop house. When we pulled into the lot we were amazed to find a monster truck taking up two parking spaces. Someone had loaded up a Chevy Suburban with steroids and let it loose on the world. We gawked.
"Think about it," said Bekka, "we'll be eating dinner in the same restaurant as the man who drives that truck."
We went inside to find that Lou and Bud had beaten us there. "Hey guys!" Bud greeted us. "Did you see my Chevy out front?"
"Um, no," I replied. "We were too busy staring at the giant Suburban parked in the lot."
"Yeah, that's it," Bud announced.
"What?" Bekka and I chorused.
"That's my Chevy. I figured it could be useful tonight when we go visit those bikers. It's mostly a cautionary thing."
A cautionary thing. I processed the fact that neither one of them were wearing jackets, and thus not wearing holsters. Instead they'd brought a mutant SUV. I began to lose my appetite. I decided to soldier on.
"So, um, what do you plan on doing with that thing? Knock the bar down?" I asked.
Lou said, "Not a bad idea, but that's not it. It's just a show of power."
We were seated and ordered drinks. I put down three double Johnnie Walkers before our food arrived, Bekka doing a similar routine with glasses of red wine. This went unnoticed by Lou and Bud, who were knocking back whiskey sours like mineral water. They didn't seem to be affected, though. Years of practice, I assumed.
After we'd tucked into our respective meals, I asked, "So, what is the plan for tonight? That seems up in the air."
Bud looked surprised. "Oh! We're gonna go in, and you two are gonna tell them that the game is over, and they need to leave you and your friend alone."
"It's pretty straightforward," said Lou.
I poked at my breaded pork chops. "And if they say no?"
Bud said, "Then me and Lou will put out our own argument supporting your side."
Bekka asked, "Would this mean invoking the family? Even you said the family can't officially support us."
"That 'officially' part is just there for caution. Don't worry, if bad shit goes down, you guys won't be left out in the cold."
"The family takes care of its own," added Lou.
The meal passed in relative silence, interrupted only by Lou telling Bekka how he wished she'd worn a shorter skirt. Bekka rolled her eyes. I put my fork down with a clank and looked in his direction. He caught my glare and gave me a pasty grin.
"Just jokin' around, Lenny," he said.
"Re-tune your humor," I advised. "If you're the only one laughing, you're not funny."
"My apologies. No offense meant." Lou paused briefly. "I have been kinda wondering, though. Lenny, you seem like a fairly protective husband, jealous almost. How do you deal with what Bekka does for a living?"
"That's strictly business," I replied. "It's what she was doing when we first met, what she was doing when we first got together. It's only performance."
"Yeah," said Bekka. "I'm gonna burst your bubble. You two say you like my videos, right? You like watching me get off on camera?"
Both men nodded vigorously.
"That's called acting," she continued. "You're watching me play out a good time. Sure, I'm physically stimulated, that would be hard to avoid, but I'm really not into it. I could care less about what I'm doing, or who I'm with. Like many things in front of a camera, it's all make believe. It's called performance for a reason."
"Well, we applaud your thespian talents," said Bud. "So are there girls who really do get off when the camera is on them?"
Bekka considered this. "I'm sure there are. But even they are gonna put on a show when they come, just 'cos it makes for better video. In fact, I'm sure Ellen will orgasm on screen, but you won't be able to tell the real ones from the fake ones. That's the whole idea."
As one voice, Bud and Lou asked, "So who's Ellen?"
"Look for Inana videos with a performer credit of Skye Tyler on them. That's her. You'll like her, she's got fantastic tits."
"I've got an idea," I said. "When we're done with our meal, let's go back to the townhouse and abuse drugs."
Bud and Lou looked nervous. "What kind of drugs?" asked Lou.
"What do you want?"
"Um, cocaine. None of that meth stuff you two use."
I chuckled. "You sure? It'll put hair on your chest." (They both had plenty already.)
Bud said, "No way. I tried that stuff once. I didn't sleep for three days, but my house was good and tidy. How do you two cope with it?"
Bekka said, "We've used enough of it for long enough that we both have a tolerance. We'll do a line when we get back home, but we will sleep tonight, around one or two. We're just used to it. Besides, it came in handy when Chrissie was kidnapped. We weren't allowed to sleep through all of that."
"Yeah," said Lou, "don Ventimiglia told me about that. You two showed up at his house after having not slept for, like, five days. He said you were both fairly mannerly, but you looked like you were ready to go for the jugular of a passing virgin. You know, you amuse the hell out of the don, Lenny."
"Oh, I know," I said. "Between my fashion sense and the predicaments I find myself in, I'm sure I'm very entertaining to don V."
We got in our respective vehicles and headed home. Once there, I got in our stash space for the drugs. Our stash space was behind the bathroom medicine cabinet, which slid up and lifted out of the wall, exposing a hole big enough to store stolen guns and various drugs. I grabbed the speed and the coke and went out to the living room.
"I found cocaine," I said, dropping the bag in front of Lou. "Help yourselves."
The two gents pulled enough out for a couple generous lines and began arranging them on the coffee table. I was at the other end, crushing and chopping out lines of speed for me and Bekka.
"Sure you guys don't want to trade off?" I asked.
"Hell no," said Bud. "That stuff you do is psycho city."
I said, "Explains a lot, doesn't it?"
Around a quarter of nine we literally climbed into Bud's truck and began making our way towards East San Diego and the Alley Cat bar. Due to the huge tractor-like tires the damn thing felt like it was going to bounce us off the road. Regardless, Bud rocketed us down the freeway and onto El Cajon Blvd. Our fate awaited us.
Arriving at the Alley Cat, we parked directly in front, right next to the eight motorcycles which were at the curb. Before we got out, Lou said to Bekka, "Hey honey, hand me that duffel bag that's behind you, will ya?" Bekka did as she was asked, straining against the weight.
"What the hell is in there?" she asked.
"Just some supplies we may need," replied Lou. "I know you two aren't expecting the warmest welcome, so we brought some tools to help calm things down if need be."
The four of us walked into the bar, allowing our eyes to adjust to the dim. The Hellbound seemed to be gathered around a single booth at the back.
"Go on, state your case. We'll be right here," said Bud. Bekka and I walked towards the collected bikers. We hadn't attracted their attention yet.
We caught their notice when we reached the pool table. Conversation died and we became the center of interest. These were appraising looks we were getting, the hive mind determining if we were a threat or not.
I said in an orator's voice, "The war is over. We want to hang up our guns and go our own way, not crossing paths with you all again. You leave us and Boss alone, and there will be no more trouble. Do you understand?"
There was laughter. One said, "We want Boss's business. Give it to us and there will be no trouble."
I shook my head. "That's not part of the bargain. You'll have to start your own lab or something, but what I'm saying is all interested parties go their own way. Pretty simple, really."
Some guy sitting in the back of a booth suddenly stood up on the seat. He pointed at Bekka. "Bitch, you're the one who killed Marcus up in Encinitas!" He began coming our direction.
I had my hand halfway into my jacket, reaching for the Beretta, when RATATATATATATATAT. Everyone froze, including me. I finally turned in the direction of the sound to be greeted by the sight of Bud sitting on the bar with a smoking Uzi in his hands. He'd perforated the ceiling. Lou was standing to one side holding its twin. Both had the hundred-round Beta C-Mag magazines attached to them.
Lou sidled up next to me and said, "Lenny, If I may?" He faced the bikers and said, "Okay, game time is over. You heard what this gentleman had to say, and I'm the one telling you that you're going to take him seriously.
"See, the threats have gone on for long enough. All these two are trying to do is protect their friend from you chumps. That's gotten the shit kicked out of Lenny and it got Bekka's beloved Falcon blown up. I'm telling you you're now walking on thin ice."
"But they killed Marcus!" came a cry from a booth.
From behind me, Bud brayed laughter. "Yeah, shooting back at him. When you point a gun at someone, don't be surprised when they point one back. Your shooter had it coming."
Lou continued. "Anything happens to either of these two, or their friend, and you're all in a world of hurt. You won't have a couple guys threatening you with Uzis, you're gonna have a couple hundred Italian guys, all well-armed, and all pissed off, looking for you. And it won't matter where you go, either. We can get the word out to watch for you guys faster than you can ride. You'll end up shaving your heads and joining some cult it Texas."
"What, are you guys mafia or something?" asked a younger dude at the pool table.
"Bingo! Give that man a cigar!" Lou pulled a Hav-A-Tampa out of his shirt pocket and bounced it off the guy's face.
Bud sprayed the ceiling again. "Now. Are there any questions? Have we made ourselves clear? Lenny and Bekka, and their friends, are strictly off limits. They have no interest in pursuing you, so you get over the urge to pursue them. Understand? Shut up and nod if you get it."
The bar was full of silent head-bobbing.
"Good, then we'll be on our way. We expect to never have to see you again."
Lou, Bekka, and I began heading for the door, Lou still carrying his Uzi. Bud shoved his own in the gym bag --- no wonder it was so heavy --- and when he pulled his hand out, he was holding a hand grenade. He moved a glass to the edge of the bar, then pulled the pin of the grenade and gingerly leaned it on the edge of the glass. Then he leaned over the bar, located the ice bin, and threw the pin in. All this was watched with horror by the bikers.
"I just wanted to make sure you idiots don't come charging after us. You don't want to make that pineapple fall, right? Goodbye. Get that pin back in and you'll be fine." Bud grabbed the gym bag and went out after us.
We climbed back into the truck. Bud slid behind the wheel and said to me, "So, should we take out their motorcycles? Round things off?"
I thought about it for a couple of seconds and said, "Nah. At this point they're the only things they have to live for. Besides, I was under the impression that the no provocation thing worked both ways. No sense in stirring the snake's nest."
Bekka said, "Crush one of them. Payback for the Falcon."
"No sweat, darling." Bud threw it in reverse and knocked over the closest Harley, then continued backwards and squashed it into the asphalt. We could hear pieces of metal falling as we pulled forward again.
"Well, that was fun!" said Lou. "Let's go get a couple drinks someplace. You two wanna recommend anywhere?"
I whispered to Bekka, and she smiled at me and nodded. I said, "Well, there's a bar called the Pink Panther that's not too far from where you guys are staying. Me and Bekka can take a cab home from there...."
I could hear the Dead Kennedys playing as we got out of the monster truck. Bud and Lou looked a bit crestfallen at the noise, and were outright disturbed by the sight of the bar's denizens. We went in and grabbed a table.
Our waitress was familiar: my old friend Pill had landed a new job. She gave me a hug across the table, then asked if I'd seen anything of Mikey lately.
Purposely vague, I said, "I think he's living in Las Vegas now."
Pill looked relieved. "Okay, he's at least not yanking my chain about that."
"What do you mean?"
"Oh, I got the wildest letter from him, and it was postmarked from Vegas. The letter was complete insanity, him talking about the mafia beating the shit out of him a couple times and shipping him off to Vegas with nothing but the clothes on his back. I think he was tweaking, it was really paranoid stuff."
We ordered and received our drinks. I asked Bud and Lou a question that weighed heavy on my mind, namely, "Do you think that play will work?"
"I'm not worried about it," said Bud.
"Me either," chimed in Lou.
"Look, we proved to them we've got them outgunned. We told them where we were coming from, and who we are. They can't all have shit in their ears. No, I don't think you'll have any more trouble with them."
"Good!" exclaimed Bekka. "I can go back to carrying one gun at a time."
"We'll be able to relax in our own bed, too," I said.
"Here's to peace," said Lou. We all clinked glasses. Then we got down to the serious business of getting fairly plowed. Even Bud and Lou decided to take a cab back to Vacation Village rather than drive the monster truck.