"Yer tellin' me those damn brats from Hellbound are the ones who want me dead?" exclaimed Boss.
"That's how we got it figured," said Chet. "They knock you out of the picture, then bully their way into running the labs."
Boss glared at the beer in his hand and muttered, "Damn little punks. No offense meant, Lenny."
"None taken," I replied.
We were sitting around in Boss' living room, drinking Budweiser and eating delivery pizza. A client was expected within the hour to pick up two pounds of meth. Beyond that, it was a group of people who were stressed out over a problem but had been unable to come up with a solution. Have Boss live out of the lab trailers for a while? No, he had too much business in San Diego to attend to. Go to war? More like go to prison.
I felt my suggestion held merit: call a meeting with Hellbound, someplace nice and public, like the zoo or Sea World. Explain their plan was short-sited and wouldn't work. Convince them to just keep working with their whores.
It was pointed out that they'd already tried to snuff Boss in the parking lot of a busy restaurant, so being in public held no promise of sane behavior. While it was doubtful they'd try to shoot Boss in the middle of the Shamu show, a well-aimed knife would do the trick just as well as a bullet.
Bekka and I were in the den pummeling the pinball machine when Boss came in with a hang-dog expression on his face. He said, "Guys, I'm gonna have to ask you to go home now."
Bekka and I looked at each other. "Did we do something to offend?" I asked.
"Naw, nothing like that. It's just that what's goin' on ain't your problem. No sense in you two gettin' killed just for being in my living room. As soon as that dude comes to pick up his two pounds of dope, I'm sendin' Chet and Gary to a motel. Even if I get killed, they can run things just fine between the two of them."
Bekka sounded angry. "Jesus Christ Boss, you sound like you're giving up! You can't let them win! You can't!"
"And I'm not. I'm just keeping my friends safe, okay? Look here lil' girl, I got one hell of an arsenal in this house. I'm gonna have a full auto MAC-10 hanging from one shoulder while I'm awake, and it sleeps on the pillow next to me. I'll have a .45 Smith and Wesson in each pocket. There'll be a shotgun leaning next to each door. Ain't nobody gonna come in here unless I let them. Ya get it now?"
In a low voice, Bekka asked, "And you're sure you want to handle this all by yourself?"
"No, I'm not sure," said Boss, "but I gotta do the right thing, and that's keepin' my friends safe and well removed from my troubles. It's one thing if I get killed, it's a whole different matter if my friends die too. If that happens, I'm condemned to walk the earth as a ghost, as one of the undead. There's some debts you can't repay."
I said, "If we go, do you absolutely promise to call us in the morning? If we don't hear from you, we're loading every gun we have and coming back here."
Boss smiled. "Nine o'clock sound good?"
"That will work," I smiled back.
Bekka did her darndest to give Boss a bear hug. Due to massive differences between their two body shapes and sizes it didn't work. I gave it a try and was somewhat more successful. Then Bekka and I headed out the door and into the Falcon, Bekka sniffling the whole way and finally bursting into tears when we got in the car.
"I feel like we're abandoning our friend," Bekka sobbed.
"We are honoring his wishes. Look at it that way," I replied.
"But what if--- "
I cut her off. "No what ifs. You know I'm no Calvinist, but whatever is going to happen will happen, and we can't change it. Boss can take care of himself."
The ride home was done in silence, with NoMeansNo playing quietly in the background. We were lost in our own thoughts. Squeak greeted us at the front door, demanding to be petted. We obliged. I grabbed us each an Anchor Steam and we flopped on the sofa, turning the TV on with the sound muted, waiting for Letterman to come on.
Bekka spoke up. "What can we do to help him?"
"I don't know," I said.
"Surely the family will help him out."
I sighed. "Except he's not an associate, he's just a contractor, a supplier. Hell, he hasn't even started on fulfilling his contract yet, no money or product has changed hands. While I don't think the mafia would feel threatened by a one-chapter motorcycle gang, they also wouldn't feel the need to get involved. They may feel under no obligation to help."
Bekka pursed her lips and said, "It can't hurt to at least ask for some advice from Angel. Or even don Ventimiglia, who I'll bet has been through some wars."
"And in those wars he had soldiers. Boss has you, me, Chet, Gary, and any other friends he doesn't mind getting involved in this mess. Outlaw clubs may be shambolic in their organization, but they still have a hierarchy. They have soldiers, and we're just a small group of people."
"We could organize."
I chuckled. "If Boss lets us. You heard him tonight, he doesn't want anybody but himself getting hurt. He doesn't want to put anyone at risk, even if we're willing to take that risk. Besides, weren't you saying that I shouldn't get involved?"
"I just didn't want you taking on the whole problem by yourself. You've got me to help out. Boss is my friend too, and I don't want him killed."
I frowned at Bekka. "I don't know how involved I'd want you getting," I said. "These are some mean people we'd be dealing with."
"So I carry that Charter Arms .38 until I get my Colt next weekend. Or the spare Beretta, if you get yours back from the cops Monday. I'm not expecting them to make any exceptions for me just because I'm a girl."
"They won't. I got the impression from Chet and Gary these guys play it double tough, because they have something to prove. They'll go through anything in their way."
We finished our beers and I got up for fresh ones. I said, "You're right about asking advice from Angel, though. I'm calling him in the morning. Even if the family doesn't want to get involved, he can give us some suggestions as to how to proceed."
Boss kept his promise and called at nine the next morning. It was Sunday, so he was headed for church. I asked him a few questions about the Hellbound, which he answered with great suspicion.
"What do ya wanna know that stuff for? You ain't goin' to war with 'em."
"Me personally? No. But I'm gonna back you up all I can, me and Bekka both. We've got brains and we can aim straight."
"I don't want my friends gettin' killed over me," he practically pouted.
I told him, "We plan on avoiding it ourselves. We're also your friends, and we plan on keeping you alive. Dammit, you've got our help whether you want it or not. Capiche?"
Boss laughed into the phone. "Yer startin' to talk like a mobster, you know that?"
"Yeah, and they wish I'd dress like one too. So you had a quiet night?"
"I did. There's always the chance they never figgered out where I live."
We said our goodbyes and hung up. I didn't bother putting the handset in the cradle, instead dialing Angel's number immediately. I hoped he wouldn't be pissed off that I was calling him on a Sunday.
"Hey Angel, it's Lenny."
"Hello, Lenny. Why are you calling on a Sunday? I thought you liked your Sundays to be free of all business."
I cleared my throat and said, "I need some advice on how to handle the situation with Boss. We figured out who it is that wants him dead."
"An outlaw club called the Hellbound. There's thirty of them total, all in San Diego. We found out the location of their bar, and also of their clubhouse. We even have a guess as to how well armed they are. We just have no clue as to how we should proceed."
Angel's turn to clear his throat. "What is your goal?" he asked.
"To convince them to not kill Boss."
"How much force do you expect you'll need to display?"
"At least some. We need to show them that Boss is not someone without friends, and that we're willing to play dirty to protect Boss."
Angel sighed, "I suppose diplomacy is out."
I said, "I'm willing to give it a shot. I've no idea how receptive they'll be. This is a club that even other outlaws consider violent."
A chuckle from Angel. "So there's thirty of them, and how many of you?"
"There's me, Boss, Bekka, Chet, and Gary."
"You need more soldiers," said Angel.
"Can you spare any?" I asked.
"No. This isn't the family's fight. We plan on doing business with Boss, but what's going on with him right now is far out of the organization's scope. He's gotta solve his own problems. And you helping him out wouldn't draw the family in, either. It would take either you or Bekka getting killed by these guys to draw the family in, and I don't think either of you are willing to go quite that far to help out Boss."
"We're trying to avoid it. Bekka just bought a waist holster yesterday, and put the money down on a small Colt 9mm. We pick up the gun next Saturday. Until then I'm not sure what she's going to carry. The cops have her .380 and one of my Berettas, and everything else we have is hot. Hopefully the cops give me back my Beretta and she can wear the one I'm carrying now."
"Hmm," Angel pondered, "perhaps I could convince Angela to loan Bekka one of her purse guns. She has several. That way Bekka wouldn't be carrying hot iron."
"Works for me," I said. "What does she have?"
"Actually, the one I have in mind is the Beretta Nano. It's a 9mm, it's thin, and it's light. A perfect automatic for a woman wearing a waist holster. Would that work?"
"Let me ask Angela, won't be a moment." He set the phone down and walked away. He returned in a minute, saying, "Yes, it's not a problem. I'd forgotten Angela owns two of those, so she'll be fine with only one for a week or so."
"How many guns does she have?" I asked.
"Ten or twelve. She's a damn good shot with one of those little compact guns, and she'll load up five of them and hit the range every Wednesday morning. They're all purse guns, and they're all either .380, .38, or 9mm. In a shooting situation, I'd just as soon have her next to me as I would some of my soldiers."
"Whoa," I commented.
"So you and Bekka come on up and grab this. Tell you what, why don't we meet at the trattoria for an early dinner? Does that work for you?"
"Sure, sounds good. What time?"
"We'll be there."
Bekka and I drove up to Century City, Bekka excited about her loaner toy. We agreed to go to the range with a couple boxes of ammo the next afternoon so we could practice.
We arrived at the trattoria a few minutes early. Just as well, as there was a back-up just to park. We turned the Falcon over to the valet and stuck our heads in, looking for Angel and Angela, but they weren't there yet. We lit cigarettes and waited on the sidewalk for them.
Presently they rolled up in Angel's Maserati. The valet practically genuflected when he saw who got out from behind the wheel. The maitre'd did the same thing, showing us to a patio table near the back, well ahead of others who had been waiting a while. I wondered if they always kept one table in reserve in case Angel (or one of his soldiers) came in unannounced.
Angela sat down and pulled the gun out of her purse in one movement. "Here, let me show you how to break it down for cleaning," she said, and began dismantling the gun at the table. We placed our drink orders while Angela gave Bekka instructions on reassembling it.
"With hollow point ammunition, it's got good stopping power. It kicks a bit because of its size, but you'll get used to that at the range. Are you wearing your holster now?" asked Angela.
"Matter of fact, I am," said Bekka. "I'm still getting used to the feel of it around my waist."
"You can feel how light that pistol is," said Angela, gesturing at the now-assembled gun sitting on the table. "It's just over one pound unloaded, it holds six rounds in the clip, and has the accuracy you'd expect from a Beretta. And you'll find out at the range, it's damn fun to shoot. Go ahead and tuck it away."
Bekka unbuttoned the lower half of her blouse and tucked the Beretta into the holster. "There," she said, "now I'm completely dressed."
I said, "And I think back at all the shit you used to give me when I first started wearing my shoulder holster."
"I know, I know. That was before I knew how much personal protection we'd need in our lives. Even with the holster, I'm still tempted to carry one in my purse. I never imagined guns would play such a prominent part in my life."
Angela said, "Bekka darling, I currently have three guns on me. One in my purse, one on my waist like you, and one in an ankle holster. What happened to Chrissie reminded me that the family will always have enemies, and it's better to be safe than sorry. Tell you what, you keep that one. I have a second one just like it, I won't miss it."
"Are you sure?" said Bekka. "I mean, this is a Beretta, and I know they're not cheap."
"Call it an early Christmas present," smiled Angela.
"Gee, and I didn't get anything for you."
Angela put her hand on Bekka's and said, "Start coming up for lunch on Saturdays again. I've missed you, and I know Chrissie has too."
"Done deal. So long as I'm not recovering from stab wounds or plastic surgery, I'll be there." Bekka took a sip off her Tecaté and said, "We should probably decide what we're going to have for dinner, huh?"
After dinner we all stepped out front and lit cigarettes, standing on the walkway lining the parking circle. While we stood there chatting a 3-Series BMW zipped in the driveway, to the valet line. We paid it no mind until we heard a voice yell, "You!"
I looked over and it was none other than Mr. Mulvoney. Mulvoney and I had become acquainted months earlier at the trattoria when his BMW rolled into my Acura, and I failed to display enough concern for the cosmetic damage done to his bumper. He tried to pick a fight with me, so I'd put him on the ground a few times. Now he was back, in the company of a somewhat ditzy blonde woman.
As he came storming up to me, I said, "I see you repaired your bumper."
He got up to me and said, "Asshole, we got a score to settle."
"Do we?" I asked.
"After the shit you put me through the last time we met, you better believe it." He reached forward and grabbed the front of my shirt.... Then froze in place, his mouth hanging open. He suddenly found himself being jabbed with three different guns at once: Angel had knocked his Beretta into Mulvoney's skull, Angela had her purse pistol leveled at his heart, and Bekka had stuck the Charter Arms .38 into his stomach.
Sighing, I pulled my own pistol out of the shoulder holster and pushed it in his sternum. "There, four of a kind," I said. "All 9mm, all hollow point." I lifted his hand off my shirt.
Angel said to him, "Being that I am the fucking owner of this restaurant and can make such decisions, I suggest you retrieve your car from the valet and go find a Denny's to have dinner at tonight. Am I clear?"
"Yes sir." Mulvoney seemed afraid to breathe.
"The valet is waiting on you, sir. Good night."
Meanwhile, Mulvoney's date or wife or whoever she was is standing at the doors saying, "Greg baby, are we going in?" He walked her back to the BMW and pushed her in, ignoring her protests. They zipped back out of the circle and headed onto Santa Monica Blvd., presumably heading for the Denny's on Wilshire.
"Oh, gross!" said Bekka. We looked where she was pointing. There was a small puddle where Mulvoney had been standing. We'd literally scared the piss out of him.
Angel went inside to tell them to clean up the mess, and then came back out to wait for our cars. He put an arm around my shoulders and said, "Say what you want about the mafia, we're good at dealing with crisis management."
"Never a doubt in my mind," I told him.