Another day, another read-through of a new script. Cast and crew gathered in the living room, cigarettes and sodas ready at hand. Eddie was telling Rio and Elspeth why Jews make the best male porn stars.
"First of all, we're all circumcised, so our dicks look good and smooth on camera. Next, thanks to our domineering mothers, we're used to taking instructions from women, so we're easy to work with. And last, any pleasure besides halvah and a good steam bath is frowned upon. We constantly deny ourselves pleasure. Where do you think orgasm fits in your average Jew's mind? We're so conditioned to avoid stuff we enjoy that delaying orgasm is second nature. We last forever in bed."
Rio and Elspeth took all this with a grain of salt.
I walked in and distributed freshly copied and stapled scripts. Taking a hit off my Mountain Dew, I said, "It is finally here, and we finally have approval to go ahead with the new project. I will again apologize for the delay and all the loops and featurettes we'd done in the meantime. I especially apologize to you, Donna, since I promised you work with a bit more pizzazz than what you've been doing. The pizzazz has finally arrived, I hope. Everybody relax and start reading. We've got a fairly mellow schedule for shooting this one, so if you see something that you think should be revised, say something. This script is not set in stone quite yet. Dig in, y'all."
As a script, I was proud of it. As an example of artistic inspiration, I was embarrassed. Plot-wise, I'd thrown three or four Raymond Chandler novels in a blender and pressed the Whip button. Still, the story was coherent, the pacing good, and the sex frequent and ardent. While writing it, I couldn't help but wonder what the classic pulp authors like Dashiell Hammett and Erle Stanley Gardner would think of the modern porn industry. Their own stuff was viewed as lowbrow by contemporary society, yet the writers poured their souls into their work. I thought they might view porn as competition, both camps going after the same entertainment dollar.
While everyone read, I went to my office and read mail. Bill, bill, bill, misfiled fan mail, check, invoice, and a guy wanting to market Bewitched t-shirts with Bekka's face on them. Polite of him to ask. I'd ask Angel what he thought, marketing was not my strong suit. Probably ask for a small percentage of the net, and be thankful for the free advertising.
I reflected back on my most recent confrontation with Detective Donner, when I provided him with the video tape. First he was angry that I hadn't brought it to him sooner, and didn't believe me when I said I just hadn't thought about it. Then he was angry with the deputies for not having noticed the monitor in Steve's office. And he was really angry when we watched it, as it exonerated me. No way could I pass myself off as the Tall Man, and magically appear from the side of the garage seconds later.
"You're off the hook for now, Lenny," he said, slapping the tape onto his desk. "I still think you're bullshitting me about forgetting you had a recording of the murder. I'd love to know your real story."
I told him, "Maybe I wanted to watch it first, to see if there were any clues available. Don't forget, I have an interest in solving this too. Whoever those two guys are, they had a plan for my place, and I doubt it was to improve our landscaping. The fact that the big one is still out there scares me. I've already been shot once in my own home, I don't want it to happen a second time. It might stick."
"You're not a detective. Stop playing as one, leave it to the professionals. And I don't mean your dangerous friend from Chicago."
"Paul is a good guy," I said. "You know, asking his advice is not a bad idea."
Donner stood up. "Go home, Lenny. Polish that damn Beretta you wear. Make your dirty movies. But remember to stay out of the way of law enforcement in this county."
"Maybe give the tape to your technical wizards, see if they can finesse a better picture out of the video."
"Thanks for the advice."
From the doorway, I asked, "By the way, any luck with the John Doe corpse?"
"Go home, Lenny."
I stepped out front for a cigarette and another Mountain Dew. Leaning against the garage door, I stared down at the street. Presently an old Datsun 510 coasted to a stop directly across the street from us. The driver sat there. After a few moments he began looking through a pair of binoculars at the mansion. He either didn't see me or didn't care.
I was in no mood for games. I unbuttoned my jacket so I could get at the Beretta unhindered and walked down the driveway towards him. As soon as I reached the sidewalk he took off, pointed the same way.
This was stupid of him. The mansion was on a very long dead end street. To leave he would have to come back this way. I ran up the driveway and jumped in the Acura, backing up onto the street and waiting.
As he passed I got behind him, matching his speed, staying back a nice legal distance. I followed him as he turned onto El Camino Real, then onto La Costa Ave. and began heading for the freeway.
He knew he was being followed, and I didn't care. I wanted words. I wanted him to get pissed off and hit the shoulder of the freeway and challenge me to a fight. I wanted him as rattled as possible. Just so long as he was capable of giving me his name, and possibly an explanation (however unbelievable) as to why he was scoping out the mansion.
We got on I-5 south. Around Santa Fe Drive he decided he didn't want to be followed any more. He cut across three lanes and laid into the gas. I wasn't worried: that's the sort of behavior the Acura was made for. I cut across and stuck with him one lane over, shadowing him.
That poor little 510 maxed out at ninety, so he made up for it by jerking across lanes in an erratic manner, trying to shake me. He also either had excellent insurance or none at all, as he was tapping fenders left and right, bouncing off other cars. I found it simplest to hold the fast lane and watch him, taking it for granted that he was headed into San Diego and wouldn't jump off on any ramps.
When it was obvious he couldn't outrun me, he suddenly dropped speed and pulled alongside. A quick glance showed he was pointing a gun at me. I decided to do some fender bashing of my own, sideswiping the Datsun and pushing him into some old guy in a Fleetwood. I got behind him and gave the Datsun a shove, hoping to make him lose control. No luck.
He suddenly appeared to be climbing out of the car. He stuck the entire top half of his body out the window, pivoting backwards, his right hand holding the steering wheel. His left hand held the gun. He was trying to steer and aim at me, so I dodged behind a Honda Prelude and pulled out my own gun. I was getting into a good position to fire when he got off a lucky shot, right into my radiator. Coolant began spraying all over the windshield, blinding me. The wipers just made smearing patterns of coolant. I stuck my head out the window to navigate to the right shoulder, shutting down so I wouldn't ruin my engine.
The La Jolla Village Drive ramp was about a half mile back. I locked the doors to the ruined Acura and began walking, hoping someone would make change of a twenty for me so I could use a pay phone. Trying to remember where the nearest damn Acura dealership was, so I could give directions to the AAA tow truck driver. Thinking about how pissed Bekka was going to be when I told her the story.
I lit a cigarette and continued walking.
"You didn't get the license plate?" Bekka queried.
"Just the first three digits, LYF. I was kind of busy having a road war with the guy."
Bekka whacked me in the head with a rolled-up script. "Idiota! What prompted you to go chasing after him!?"
"He was acting like a creeper, so I wanted to find out who he was. Remember I'm supposed to be in charge of security for Inana. His behavior aroused suspicion. That's all there was to it."
We were sitting in the customer lounge of Kearny Mesa Acura, drinking something that we were told was coffee. An estimate was forthcoming, for the radiator and the body work. A bright chap named Kurt assured me it would be less than an hour. I'd made the mistake of telling him how I'd gotten the damage, and he was horrified. His opinion was the same as Bekka's, which was that I should have left well enough alone. I was his first customer who brought in a car with damage from a bullet.
"Just one of those things," I told him.
"But.... Running into him on purpose? Being shot at? Have you called the police?"
"No, and I don't intend to. I'll get my car repaired and forget about it. Remember, I'm culpable too. I ran into him, twice."
"Sir, I must say it. You're the craziest customer I've ever met."
I smiled and said, "There's a good chance you're right. My wife will concur."
Bekka and I finished our supposed coffee as Kurt approached us. "The short answer is about $1300," he said. "Our body man wants to know if you've had bullet damage done to that car in the past."
"Sure have. I had five holes along the right side, where he'll be working."
Kurt paled. "How did those happen?"
"Do you really want to know?" I asked.
"Probably not. Anyway, it will be four days to get all the repairs done." Bekka responded to this by whacking me in the head again.
"Saturday, then. I'll be here. See you then."
Bekka and I walked out to the Plymouth. I suggested Boll Weevil for dinner, which sounded fine with her. I also suggested going to the Gun Range, buying some practice ammo, and working out our frustrations and tension. She intimated that she had better ways for relieving tension, but we'd have to wait until we were home. That sounded fine with me.
We started heading for bed around midnight. I went downstairs to check lights and locks. What the hell, one more smoke out at the garage sounded good.
A small four-cylinder car pulled up across the street. I couldn't believe it. I got my Beretta in my hand and began slowly walking towards it, keeping to the shadows. The car sat there, idling.
I was halfway across the street and bringing my gun up when he realized I was there. He didn't make the same mistake he'd made earlier, this time shoving the Datsun into a tight U-turn, correcting his steering so he could aim for me. He grazed my right foot with his bumper as I dove for the sidewalk. From a sitting position I let off four rounds at the fleeing car, and was rewarded with the sound of shattering safety glass. Unfortunately I didn't slow his progress: he continued flying down the hill towards El Camino Real. I sat on the ground, thinking, then went inside and told Bekka we were staying in a motel that night.