The following Wednesday found me in my office with Bekka. We were trying to figure out a discrepancy of eight hundred tapes that one of our distributors hadn't paid for. I'd already spent the morning yelling at our warehouse manager, and was gearing up to spend some time yelling at the distributor's warehouse. Eight hundred tapes of hardcore porn seemed to have disappeared, and I wasn't happy with the answers I was getting from people.
The doorbell rang. This puzzled me, as damn few people bothered with it. Anybody who knew the place would walk straight in and head for my office. Ivanka and Ginny were up in Anaheim, visiting Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm for a couple days. We didn't expect them back until the next day, and they knew they could just walk right in. Curious, I went to the door.
To find my parents standing there.
This was certainly a surprise.
Their timing certainly could have been worse. Thirty minutes earlier and they would have caught me fucking Bekka across my desk, her completing what she'd started with Chip and Dale up in one of the soundstages. As it was, she had followed me to the door wearing her kimono robe, which ended about a half inch below her crotch. Seeing who it was, she let out a yelp and darted for the stairs, headed up to our penthouse.
"Mom.... Dad.... What are you doing here?" I asked.
"We wanted to see your new place, the one you told us about over the phone," said Mom.
"Well.... Come on in, I'll show you around. There's work going on on the second floor, so we'll have to skip a tour of the studios, but let me show you the pool right now."
Dad looked up at the giant arch over the doorway and said, "Well, it certainly is a mansion."
"It is at that, room for everything. What prompted you guys to come here, today, unannounced?"
Mom said, "We decided to take a drive along the beach, and we knew you were down here. Why, are we interrupting something?"
"Like I said, there's work going on in the studios on the second floor. If Steve calls a break, you may be treated to the sight of naked people. This is where all our work happens."
"Why don't you show us the pool, like you said."
We were joined by Bekka, who had pulled on sweats and a t-shirt (but no bra). "Mother in law, father in law, to what do we owe this honor?" The Ecstasy we'd taken at breakfast was still riding her, and she talked more complicated than most people when she was high.
"Hello, Bekka," said my mom, giving her a hug. "How are you doing?"
"I've had a good morning. The usual work. And how are you?"
My mom looked puzzled. "You're still working.... Here?"
"Absolutely," said Bekka. "With us building a house on the beach, we need the income. Here, let us show you the pool area." She headed for the slider. I followed, along with my parents.
Staring out at the pool, my father said, "It certainly is grand." He took in the giant pool, with its two spa areas and fountains. It looked even better at night, when the lights were on.
"It's a great place to relax after a day," said Bekka. "The spas are on separate pumps, so there's good pressure on both. And the fountains are great to cool off on a hot day, you just wade in up to your hips and stand there, it's wonderful."
"And you two don't pay rent here?" asked my mom.
"No rent, no utilities, not even for the housekeeper," I said. "My bosses cover all that. If it weren't for the fact that we're living in the same space that we work in, we'd take it permanently."
"And how goes the real estate venture?" questioned my father.
"Another ten days and we're out of escrow. We'll own the lot. After that we start consulting with architects to get a house built on the space. We're looking at three stories: one of living space, one of guest and project space, and a giant bedroom up top for ourselves. Balconies on all three levels. Parking will be below surface, we're not leaving the cars on the street."
"And this is okay with the zoning people? It seems like you're planning on putting up quite the huge structure," said my dad.
"We'll have to take you over to the lot, you can see what's built around us. We won't be any bigger than anyone else there."
Bekka leaned on my shoulder and said, "Why don't we show your folks our quarters, and we can put on some decent clothes, and take your parents to Evelyn's for lunch? We can take them by the lot afterwards."
"A good idea," I said. "Mom, Dad, we're finally taking you to the chop house I've always wanted you to eat at. It's right here in town, we'll take Bekka's car."
"Oh, we drove your father's Toyota. Why don't we take that?"
"Because we are four adults getting in one car. We'll be more comfortable in the Plymouth."
"But yours takes so much gasoline to run...."
I frowned and said, "Such is the nature of the beast. Unless we walk, we're burning resources. Come on upstairs and we can fight this out while I put on a nice shirt."
"Buttons and everything," teased Bekka.
Naturally, as we were going along the second floor landing the red light went off over the door to one of the smaller soundstages and people began pouring out, not all of whom were wearing clothes. My parents observed this with shock. I told my parents, "It's lunchtime," and left it at that.
"You're not bothered by naked people traipsing around your house?" asked my mother.
"This isn't my house," I told her. "This is Inana Productions' studio, and it just happens to have living space on the top floor. Bekka's and mine privacy ends where the stairs begin, and sometimes not even then, what with me being the one to make a lot of decisions. And being a porn studio, the lack of clothing on performers is kind of a given. I don't think twice about seeing naked men and women wandering around. Please, come in."
I ushered them into the penthouse, relieved that Bekka had thought to put away all evidence of drug abuse when she'd changed into sweats. We showed them around our quarters, which was simple enough: with the exception of the bedroom, it was one giant room. Bekka grabbed some clothes and disappeared into to the bathroom to change. I grabbed a dress shirt from the closet and took off my jacket to change, revealing my shoulder holster. Both parents gasped when they saw it.
"You're still wearing that thing?" cried my mother.
"Sure am," I replied.
My father said, "You've already gone to jail for it once."
"I have the permit to carry concealed now. Among my other duties, I'm responsible for security here at the studio. My bosses want me to wear my Beretta."
"Your bosses have strange ideas. Why do they insist you wear a gun?"
"Safety. Most places don't have to worry about obsessed fans."
My mom asked, "Have you had trouble along those lines?"
"No. But better safe than sorry. It's nice having personal protection, too."
Bekka came out of the bathroom in boots, a white slit skirt, and a see-through black billowing blouse that showed off her red bra. "What about personal protection?" she asked.
"We were just commenting on our son carrying a gun," said my father.
"I'm carrying one too," Bekka said, pulling out her Colt. "Ever since I was stabbed, I've felt a strong need to protect myself."
"Good lord Bekka, you too?" said Mom.
"Absolutely. If I'd been wearing this when I was attacked, things would have come out different. It's a dangerous world, may as well be ready."
I showed them out and went downstairs ahead of them, to let Small Steve know we'd be out of the mansion for a while. As I walked past my office my phone began to ring, so I grabbed it in case it was Angel calling with an assignment.
"Hello, Inana Productions."
"Yes, may I speak with Lenny Schneider please."
"Mr. Schneider, my name is Mark Lindstrom and I'm calling on behalf of Penthouse magazine."
I sat down in my chair. "What can I do for you, Mr. Lindstrom?"
"Well, I'd like to get in contact with your actress Becky Page. We're interested in doing a photo shoot with Ms. Page, providing it does not interfere with her contract with Inana. As much as we'd like to have her on a centerfold, we don't want to create conflict."
"No conflict possible. All our performers and crew are independent contractors, their obligations lasting the length of the shoot. Tell me, would there by tie-in back to Inana if she works with you?"
"Absolutely. I've already spoken to your owner, and he said you all were in production of a new feature right now. If it would be possible to have Becky pose for us sometime in the next two weeks, she would appear in the June issue. And we of course would plug your new feature."
"Tell you what, Bekka is in fact right outside, why don't you speak with her directly? Please wait."
"Do you function as her manager?"
"You could say so. I'm her husband."
I went and retrieved Bekka from the front porch, where she was desperately trying to make casual conversation with my parents. I told her, "Penthouse is on the line, and they're interested in you. What do you think?"
"Holy shit," said Bekka. "Let me go see what they have to say."
She picked up the receiver and said, "This is Bekka.... No, Bekka, with two 'K's. My real name is Bekka Schneider.... Of course we'd use my stage name.... I don't see a problem with that, where would you be shooting? LA works, I can just drive up.... We'll have to discuss this in further detail, but I can give you a tentative yes right now, there shouldn't be any scheduling conflicts.... No, I've just finished my scenes today, except for some location shots, and we're doing those over the weekend.... Good, let me get your number.... Okay, we'll be in touch. Right now I'm going to lunch with my in-laws. We'll talk tomorrow, okay? Goodbye."
Bekka hung up and said, "I reiterate, holy shit. That guy is talking Pet Of The Month. My mind is blown."
"So you're willing to do it?" I asked.
"Hell yeah! It should be fun. They're talking about taking two days to do their stills, so we'd just get a motel room for the night and stay in LA. Oh, and he said there'd be good tie-in to Inana. They'd make it clear where I was coming from, and where to get tapes of me in action."
I kissed her on the forehead. "Baby, you're gonna be a star."
"Right now I'm starving. Let's rescue your parents from Small Steve and go to lunch. I'm sure Steve has lapsed into tech-talk and is driving Mom and Dad crazy."
We went back out on the front steps, where Small Steve was saying, ".... the technical challenges of shooting adult video are far different than doing news clips. You have to be willing to get on your knees a lot of the time, keeping your lens buried in...."
"So are you two ready for lunch?" I asked. "We sure are."
We got in the Fury, my parents insisting on taking the back seat. I apologized for the delay, explaining that we had to take an important phone call. "Bekka may be a Penthouse Pet," I said.
"Would this be considered an honor?" asked my father.
"You'd better believe it," I replied. "They're talking about having a tie-in to Inana, which would boost us through the roof. That, and they pay their models well from what I understand. Bekka making Penthouse would help us in many ways."
"Just think of the prestige this will bring," said Bekka. "I'm really excited about this."
"There's prestige in appearing in a pornographic magazine?" asked my mother.
"In Penthouse? Oh yeah. Our video sales will definitely take a spike. I'll be looking at a bonus from the owners, if this pans out."
"I suppose this is a bad time to bring up us suggesting you quit your job and start working someplace respectable."
"Mom, I'm not qualified to manage a 7-11. I am qualified to run a porn studio. It's a business I have trained for, that I understand. If Inana went belly-up tomorrow I'd end up working for one of the studios in LA, if I didn't start my own. This is a career."
"And nothing will dissuade you from that, " she sighed.
"Not a thing," I replied.
At the restaurant my mom asked, "Won't they mind you having a gun here?"
Bekka laughed and answered for me. "They're used to us. They've seen Lenny's holster plenty of times."
"It's the Seafarer where we run into trouble," I said. "I leave my pistol under the seat of the car there, so we don't have conflict with the management. Bekka keeps hers, though. They don't know she has either one with her."
"Either one?" said my dad.
"I've got two with me," said Bekka. "I wear my Colt Defender on my waist, and I keep a tiny Beretta six-shot auto in my purse. The Beretta was a gift from the wife of Lenny's ca--- boss."
"Quite a gift," muttered my mom.
"It's a six hundred dollar gun, so yeah, it was. I'll show it to you in the restaurant."
We parked and went in. Seating was quick, as we were past their lunch rush. The place was still fairly full, though. We ordered drinks: sodas for my parents, Tecaté for Bekka, Johnnie Walker for me. This gave my parents something else to be aghast about.
"On a full stomach? We'll both be fine," I said.
Bekka pulled out her baby Beretta and set it on the table. "See? The thing weighs less than a pound unloaded, but has nearly the same muzzle velocity as Lenny's. You've gotta practice with it, though, because between its weight and its size it's hard to keep accurate. Me and Lenny both load with hollow-point, so we've got plenty of stopping power between us."
"Yeah, your Colt is the more accurate of the two, in my experience," I said. My parents stared at the gun like Bekka had set a live rattlesnake on the table. Bekka picked it back up and returned it to her purse.
"I just find it distressing that you're both so cavalier about carrying deadly weapons with you," said my mom. "It doesn't bother you at all?"
I said, "They are tools. Bekka and I both carry quality tools, so we're proud of them. They don't see any action outside of a range." (So I lied.)
My father changed subjects, and came on strong. "What would it take for the two of you to get out of porn and into different work?" he asked.
"Fun and money. Lots of money. The kind of money we make now," said Bekka.
"Not to mention the independence, the leisure time, and the self-determination," I added. "Why do you ask? Something in mind?"
"All I was thinking," said my father, "was that the two of you could go to college and get degrees. Then you could start building careers, real careers, of your own."
"Are you saying mine isn't real?" I asked. I was getting mad. "I'm in charge of hundreds of thousands of dollars at once. People have their own careers based on my decisions. I take work home with me. This isn't a joke to me, I take my work for Inana seriously. Daily I make decisions that affect peoples' lives. I could walk into any studio in the state and have them running like a machine in seventy-two hours. How is what I do not a career?"
Bekka piped up with, "I've already got two years of college under my belt. None of that helps with what I'm doing right now. I plan on performing until I'm forty, if not longer. After that, I'm not sure. Probably something along the lines of Producer. Setting foot back in a classroom doesn't have that much appeal to me. Why should I leave a job I enjoy?"
I said, "I'm in the same boat. Sure my job is stressful, but I'm having a blast. To be frank, Dad, I can't think of any reason why Bekka and I would want to stop living the way we do."
"Guns and all?" wailed my mother.
"It can be a dangerous business," said Bekka. "We'd rather be safe. And the waitress has been standing here for a few moments. How are you, Laura?"
Laura said hello to everyone and took our orders. At my suggestion, my parents got the pork ribs. Bekka and I both got steaks, having had the ribs ad nauseum. Everything arrived hot and fresh, which is what I expected of the place. If I was going to own a restaurant or two like Angel and Vinny did, it would be at least as good as Evelyn's.
We were mostly through our meal when the trouble started. There was commotion at the entrance. I looked down the path and saw a man in a ski mask talking to the hostess. Down the aisle came another guy in a mask, stopping at tables and booths demanding wallets and purses. Things did not look happy.
The second guy in a mask stopped in front of us. "Wallets and purses, in the bag," he said. My mother dumped hers in his sack, and my father followed with his wallet. I sat still. Bekka sat with her purse in her lap.
"C'mon bitches, give me the stuff," he said.
"You want my stuff?" asked Bekka.
Bekka put her purse up on the table.... With her hand inside it. "Are you sure you want it?" she asked.
"Cough it up, bitch."
"Okay...." And with that she shot through her purse and blew a hole in his hip.
The robber screamed and spun away from the point of impact. I kicked the table over and Bekka and I both charged over it, pinning him to the ground. Bekka swapped out the Beretta for her Colt, jamming it into his neck and yelling "I'll blow your head off!" as she did so. He lay still.
I already had my Beretta out and waiting. The first palooka at the front decided it was time to go, so I put a shot into the tile at his feet. He still had his revolver in hand, so he grabbed for the hostess, who tried to duck away but failed. He grabbed her by the neck.
"Back off or I kill her!" he yelled, pointing the gun in the direction of her head.
"Hold it, don't panic," said Bekka, walking towards him. "Here's my gun."
She set the Beretta down on the counter. The robber let go of the hostess and grabbed for it. As he did so, I made a snatch for her, throwing her down on the carpet and jamming the flat of my pistol grip into the robber's nose. Bekka threw her right hand under her blouse and pulled out her Colt, shoving it in the robber's eye.
"Your hand's way back there," said Bekka. "Do you think you can bring it forward before I blow your brains out?"
I reached over his head and took away his gun. "What about the other one?" I asked.
Bekka smirked and said, "He can't even stand up, and I took his gun away. He's finished. What about this one?"
I said loud enough for him to catch, "I say blow a hole in him. We can write that one off to the cops, and it'll save them a lot of paperwork. I'm not worried about witnesses, everyone here already hates these guys."
"A good idea," said Bekka. She grabbed the robber by the hair and shoved her Colt into his teeth. She smiled down at him.
"Have you said your prayers today? You should have," she chuckled.
"Wait," I said, "don't kill him yet. What if he is cooperative?"
"I hadn't thought of that," she said.
"Hey buddy, what if you were to lie on the floor and not move?" I asked. "That way you'd just have to deal with the cops, and the two of us wouldn't have to kill you."
"Me especially," said Bekka.
I said, "Yeah, she's the dangerous one. Already killed two men, and looking to add to her count. She is lethal with that little Colt of hers."
The robber spoke. "I'll lie on the floor. That's fine."
I said to Bekka, "You keep an eye on this guy. Let me go check on the other one."
The second robber had made mild progress up the aisle, pulling himself along with his elbows. I gave him a kick and said, "Just relax. The cops will be here in a minute." He wasn't happy to hear that.
Two hours later the sheriffs had inspected our weapons and returned them. In fact, they were happy with our involvement. It would seem these two had started a spree in La Jolla and continued it northward, hitting chi chi restaurants as they went, robbing both the restaurant and the diners. We had broken a cycle. Hands were shaken all around and the cops departed.
My parents were still in the booth, where they'd been interviewed and had their stuff returned to them. They looked up at Bekka and I as we approached.
"See?" I said. "Carrying guns can come in handy sometimes. How are you guys?"
My father said, "I'd like a glass of wine. You two act like this is something you've gone through before. I have to ask, are you full of adrenaline right now?"
"You'd better believe it," said Bekka. "But that's the way things go when Lenny and I are together. The last time something like this happened, the only weapon Lenny had was hot coffee. Wild stuff happens around us, and the only factor is that it's him and me within a couple miles of each other. We've already told you the story about how he came to be shot up in San Francisco. We live a dangerous life, and it's not of our making. It just happens. And I want a scotch, and I'll bet Lenny does too." She waved wildly at the waitress standing up front.
The manager came up along with the waitress. "You're the two that stopped up from being robbed," he said.
"That's us," I said. "I'm sorry about the damage to the tile, I'll pay for it."
"Don't worry about it. You've had your meals, right? Can I get you anything else?"
I smiled and said, "These two would each like a glass of Chardonnay. Bekka and I want double Johnnie Walkers over ice."
"Jenny, you heard that, please get them their drinks." The waitress shuffled off.
The manager continued. "Those bastards were going to make off with our deposit. They would have gotten it, if it weren't for you two. You're both heroes. What can I do to repay what you've done?"
"Just keep making good food," I said, shrugging my shoulders.
"Tell you what," he said, "you're both getting free meals for the next month. Does that sound fair?"
"More than fair," said Bekka. "You guys cook one mean steak."
My mom said to the manager, "You're not bothered by these two waving guns around in your restaurant? It seems like it would have been better to take the loss."
"Why should they?" asked Bekka.
"Mom, we had two people of questionable stability waving their own guns around in here. Dispatching of them seemed like the most logical decision," I said.
"And they saved us a lot of trouble. After all, they are cops," said the manager.
"What? They're not the police," exclaimed my mom.
"Wait.... You two aren't cops? But.... You two have those holsters on you.... All this time I thought...."
"We aren't the police, we're pornographers," I told him.
"But aren't you glad we were here?" added Bekka.
The manager muttered "Holy crap," and wandered off. Bekka and I toasted each other with our newly arrived drinks, and attempted to do the same with my parents. They were too busy drinking out of their glasses to be bothered.
"What the manager isn't thinking of," said Bekka over the rim of her glass, "is that no honest cops could afford to eat here with the regularity that we do."
"Excellent point," I said. "Maybe he just thought we were crooked vice cops."
Bekka snuggled against me, her scotch at the ready. "So now do you understand why Lenny and I carry the weapons that we do?"
My father said, "What you two did was insane and reckless. Why didn't you just give up your things and stay safe?"
"Why should we?" I asked.
"Because that would have been safe!" he cried.
Bekka leaned forward and said, "Lenny has been shot, and I've been stabbed. We're both still here. Personally, I question our ability to die. I don't think we can. We're condemned to walk this earth for a long long time. We don't play it safe because there's no point. We can't die, we're limited immortals. Do you understand what I mean?"
"That's horrible," said my mom.
"It is," I agreed. "Knowing that nothing can kill you is terrible. Knowing that terrible things will happen to you but not end your life is sheer hell. But it's how Bekka and I live. Why else would we live in the dangerous manner that we do?"
"Do you really believe that?" asked my father.
I grinned at him and Mom. "Sure, why not? What about you, Bekka?"
She aimed a grin of her own at the two of them. "Like I said, we're limited immortals. Only time will kill us. Get me?"
My parents drained their glasses in sync. My father said, "After this afternoon, I don't know what to think about the two of you. If you would be so kind, please give your mother and me a ride back to where you live. We wish to go home."
The ride back to the mansion was silent.