Monday, November 23, 2015

Pet (Part 1)

     I went down to my office around eleven in the morning and dialed Florida.  Jane's dad picked up on the third ring.
     "Yes, is this Mr. Osborne?"
     "It is...."
     "Yeah, hi, my name is Lenny Schneider.  You may remember me, we met a couple years ago on a dinner cruise in Fort Lauderdale.  My wife and I befriended your daughter Jane on the cruise."

     He paused briefly.  "Yes, I remember you.  You're the Californians, right?"
     "Yeah, that's us.  Um, we would seem to have acquired your daughter last night."
     "Is that so?"
     "Yes sir."
     An extended sigh from Osborne's end.  "Well as far as I'm concerned you can keep her.  If she wants to run wild she can do it out there in California."
     "How was she running wild?" I asked.
     "She's boy crazy.  Bringing young men she barely knows here to the house and fooling around with them.  She won't behave like that and live under our roof, you hear me?  She's out of control."
     "And you felt the best solution was to throw her out?"
     "She wants to act like an adult, she can learn to live like one," Osborne seethed.  "She can sink or swim."
     I considered this.  "Mr. Osborne, any chance you've filed for a legal emancipation for her?  That way she'll be treated like an adult in the eyes of the law.  She could get a job, open a bank account, things like that."
     "Oh, so you don't want her helping make your dirty pictures?  That's what she told us she was going to do out there, make porno movies."
     "She can't sir, she's not eighteen yet.  I'd like to see her finish high school.  Perhaps I could talk you into filing the emancipation, getting her school transcripts, and sending it all out here.  I'm not sure what kind of arrangements we're going to make so far as her living situation goes, but we're not going to put her out on the street.  Bekka and I are too familiar with what happens to teenage girls left on their own on the streets in Southern California."
     "Maybe it would do her some good," Osborne scoffed.  "She'd learn a few lessons."
     "Those aren't the sort of lessons I want a sixteen year old girl learning," I told him.  "Do you really feel that way, or are you letting anger speak for you?"
     "Never mind how I feel," he said.  "Are you serious about putting her in school, and having her live as a legal adult?"
     "It would save us all headaches.  My wife and I wouldn't get in trouble for harboring a minor, and you wouldn't get in trouble for throwing her out."
     Osborne sighed again.  "Okay, on Monday I'll go take care of business at the courthouse and the school.  You think you can raise a teenage girl, you're welcome to it.  Tell me where to send the stuff."
     I gave him the mansion address and instructions to use FedEx, saving everyone time.  He took all this down, then asked softly, "How's she doing?"
     "She's fine," I said.  "Still sound asleep right now.  My wife and I didn't get in until late last night, so we didn't go to bed until after three.  She spent all that time on a bus, so she needs to rest up.  We'll go out for brunch in an hour or so."
     "Okay.  Well, I'll get that stuff in the mail for you.  Take care of her, goodbye."  He hung up before I could say anything.
     I went back upstairs to find Bekka assembling the coffee maker.  She looked up and said, "You made that call?"
     "That I did.  Her story checks out.  Her dad has written her off as incorrigible, and put her to the curb.  To hear him tell it, you can locate Jane by the trail of used condoms."
     "At least you'd know she's playing safe," said Bekka.  "So what do we do?"
     "Right now, it's time to wake her up and get her dressed so we don't miss out on brunch at Triplet's.  In the long run, I don't know yet.  I got her dad to agree to send out papers of emancipation and her school transcripts so she can enroll without any problems.  Do you think you could handle living with a sixteen year old punk rock girl for a while?"
     Bekka considered, and said, "Yeah.  She's young, but she's not stupid, and it would be nice having a woman's voice around here.  One that doesn't want to talk business."
     She went out of the penthouse and across the hall, knocking on the guest room door.  "It's coming up on noon, and coffee's on," she called.  There was a muffled response.
     Bekka came back in, announcing, "She'll be here in a minute.  I think you two should start sharing hair dye.  You'd look groovy with blue hair."
     "Then people will think her and me are brother and sister."
     "Better that than boyfriend and girlfriend."
     "Oh, I'll bet you'd put a damper on that idea real quick."
     Jane breezed in, fully clothed.  She was wearing a Cro-Mags t-shirt and a pair of skin-tight leather pants, and Chuck Taylors.  She yawned into her hand and said, "Breakfast?"
     "Coffee first, then we go to brunch," I said.  "I talked with your father this morning."
     "Oh god, what did he say?"
     "Your story is corroborated.  Listen, did you have any plans for when you got out here, besides seeing us?"
     In a sulky voice, Jane said, "Get work somehow, maybe find someplace to squat.  If not here or in LA, then I'd try my luck in San Francisco."
     Bekka laughed.  "The same plans every runaway has.  Look, you can stay with us, on a few conditions.  First, you're going to school.  Your father is going to mail your school transcripts out here so we can enroll you.  Second, you contribute to the household somehow.  What can you offer to do?"
     "Um....  I can cook, I'm good at that.  And I can clean.  You're really gonna let me stay?"
     "Just so long as you don't get in trouble.  If you do, we're shipping you back to Florida on the next plane."
     Jane launched herself into Bekka's arms.  "Oh, thank you guys so much!  I promise I won't be a bother, and I can make good meals and I'll keep the house clean and I'll stay out of your way...."  She began to sob.
     We both wrapped our arms around her.  Bekka said, "Really, what we want you to do is get good grades and behave.  That's all we ask.  Now, drown your tears in a Sumatra-hazelnut coffee."
     I poured her a mug and handed it to her.  I said, "Your father is going to have you legally emancipated.  That means you're your own legal guardian.  Do you have a driver's license?"
     "We'll need to get you a California license as soon as the emancipation papers arrive.  I'm guessing you were still chauffeuring your parents around when they got drunk, like you did before?"
     "Yeah, any time we went out to dinner, they'd get sloshed.  I started doing that routine when I was twelve."
     "You're in Southern California now, so driving legally is essential.  We'll get all that sorted out.  Ready to eat?"
     "Yeah, I'm hungry.  Where are we going?  Denny's?"
     Bekka and I laughed.  "No, we're going to a local place that does a good brunch.  We just need to finish getting ready."
     Jane hadn't noticed my holster and pistol sitting on the coffee table.  She watched me pull my holster on with fascination, asking, "Why are you carrying a gun with you?"
     "Because I have the bad habit of being shot at," I smiled at her.
     "I'm wearing one too," said Bekka, unbuttoning her blouse to show off her waist holster and Colt Defender.  "Unfortunately, it's part of how we live these days.  We have a lot to tell you about."
     I pulled on my jacket and we headed out to the Fury.  "Cool car," Jane commented.
     "Thanks," said Bekka.  "This is my daily driver.  Lenny has his Acura, but he's trading it in for a Cadillac Fleetwood in about a month.  He's decided he wants something more comfortable."
     I wound us down the hill and headed for Triplet's.  Jane asked on the way, "Do you really get shot at much?"
     Catching her eye in the rear view, I said, "So far I've been shot three times in my life.  When we're back home I'll show you the scars.  Bekka has never been shot, but has been stabbed.  We're big on personal protection, so we got the concealed carry permits, and we use them.  I just shot someone last night, in self defense.  That's why we were so late coming home, we had to spend a few hours at the cop shop sorting things out.  Thankfully they gave us back our guns once we got everything straight."
     Bekka said, "I carry two.  I've got my Colt on my waist, and I carry a tiny little Beretta in my purse.  Unfortunately, guns seem to be part of who we are now.  We'll explain over brunch."
     "Too wild," commented Jane.  "Do I need to carry a gun too?"
     "No way.  You're too young to carry concealed legally, and you having one with you is a straight bust.  We're not happy we need them, but we keep ending up in situations where we need them.  Don't you worry about it, the guns are our concern."
     Over brunch, Bekka and I tried to explain our lives.  The mafia association.  The guns.  How Inana Productions had grown by leaps and bounds.  Bekka's celebrity status as a porn star.  Our drug addiction.  Our new house.  The income we had.  Our inability to relax, with or without drugs.
     "So, reconsidering living with us yet?" Bekka asked.
     "I can handle it," said Jane, slathering butter on a second helping of French toast.  "You guys live pretty wild."
     "Not by choice," I said.  "Most of the action we see is foisted on us.  We both wish life didn't have so much adventure in it.  Like what went down last night, that was a case of being targeted by some psycho.  We didn't choose the situation, it found us."
     "But what if you did something different with your lives?" Jane asked.  "Wouldn't things get better?"
     "We can't change now.  Remember, I'm in the mafia.  I can't quit, I'm in for life.  Whatever I do for a living, it will be for the mafia.  I'm good at producing porn, so that's what they have me doing.  And with Bekka's success, it would be dumb to try and quit now.  We're kind of stuck."
     "I'm hoping you have a calming effect on our lives," said Bekka.  "With you being in school, we'll have a routine to live around.  We'd lay off the drugs, and start going to bed at a reasonable hour."
     Jane said, "I was wondering about that.  You guys really dig crank?  I tried it once and hated it, I was a nervous wreck."
     "Like I said, we're addicts.  I wouldn't feel comfortable giving you the stuff anyways.  Just as well you hate it."
     "I still wanna try Ecstasy, though."
     I smiled.  "That's a weekend thing."
     "It's the weekend now!" Jane exclaimed brightly.
     Bekka said, "Let's just stick with beer and weed for now.  Don't worry, there's always next weekend to get high, right?"
     We paid our tab and went out to the Fury.  "Why don't we give her a tour of the area?" suggested Bekka.
     "A capital idea," I replied.  "We'll start with the new house."  I cut over to Pacific Coast Highway and drove into Encinitas, anchoring in front of the mostly completed house.  I popped the padlock and led the way through to the bluff.  We stopped and looked out to sea.
     "Well, there's the Pacific ocean," I said.  What do you think?"
     Jane was distracted by a different view.  "Ooh, California surfer boys.  Yum!"
     "Plenty to choose from, too," said Bekka.  "The trick is finding one who isn't as dumb as a rock.  I grew up around them, and it's a challenge.  I think it has something to do with the exposure to salt water.  Why do you think I fell in love with a punk rocker six years younger than me?"
     "We'll walk the bluff path down to the beach," I suggested.  "You can get a better view of them from down there."
     "So you guys are moving into this house?" Jane asked.
     "In about five weeks we'll all be vacating the mansion for here.  You'd be moving with us, right?  You can't live in the mansion by yourself."
     "Yeah, yeah, totally, it's just....  It's weird to think that I ran away from home and now I'm gonna live in a house on the beach.  How'd I get so lucky?"
     "I ask the same question whenever I look at Bekka," I said.
     "Ignore him," said Bekka.  "He has pockets of sap that he has to air out on occasion, otherwise he gets headaches.  He's good about buying flowers, too."
     "I think it's sweet," said Jane.  "If we're going down to the beach, is it okay to leave my shoes here?"
     We hiked along the bluff, down to the parking lot, and onto the sand.  Jane cuffed up her leather pants (somehow) and walked into the water.  "I've got to get a bathing suit," she said.
     "We're about the same size," said Bekka.  "I'll find a couple of mine that aren't too porn-y and you can wear those."
     "But I need to be risqué to a degree.  How else will I meet cute boys?"
     "Um, by talking to them?" I suggested.
     "You have to attract their attention," Jane said, dragging her toes through the wet sand.
     "I remember being sixteen.  A girl could be wearing a burlap sack, but if she starts talking to a boy, the boy's attention is attracted."
     "You're boy crazy, aren't you?" asked Bekka.
     "Boys are fun."
     "Look, all we ask is that you have fun safely and discreetly.  We don't want enraged parents showing up at our house."
     Jane kicked at the water.  "Don't worry, I'm on the pill.  I'll need to hook up with a local Planned Parenthood to keep up my prescription, though."
     Bekka frowned.  "That's all good and fine.  Use condoms, too.  Do I need to explain why?"
     "No, I get it.  Condoms are such a drag, though."
     "So settle on one boy and you both get blood tests.  We can help with that, we have a lab on contract for the studio.  All our performers get blood tests weekly, or they don't work.  We play clean, and we play safe, understand?"
     "Got it."
     "Good.  Now let's blow this Popsicle stand and go record shopping.  There's a local place, Lou's Records, which always has great stuff."
     We went back up the path to the house.  Jane hosed off her feet and put her shoes back on, then I locked up and we got back in the Fury.  On the way to Lou's, I pointed out various stores and sights.  Jane noted that without transportation, she would be reliant on us to get around.
     "Not a big deal, we pick up some cheap wheels so you have something to drive," I said.  "No sense in you being stranded.  Besides, you'll need something to get to school in."
     "Where will I be going to school?" Jane asked.
     "Carlsbad High," Bekka told her.  "It's a big school, so you're sure to find other punks there.  You won't be lonely."
     "Why don't I just get my GED?  Then all I have to do is wait until I'm eighteen and I can start working for you guys."
     "Answer honestly," I said.  "Do you really have anything better to be doing with your time?  You may as well get the cap and gown, and besides, this way you'll make friends your own age.  You won't be stuck hanging around a bunch of porn performers and professional criminals, like you would be hanging around us.  You need a social life, and you'll have one attending high school."
     "Hanging around porn stars all the time sounds pretty cool," Jane giggled.  "Especially the guys."
     "Get that right out of your head," said Bekka.  "They're there to work, not boff underage girls.  The age difference will be a big shutdown for our performers.  Hell, just explaining your presence is gonna be a challenge.  Lenny's capo is probably gonna freak out when he learns of your presence."
     I said, "Remember, for the next five weeks you're living in a porn studio.  There's gonna need to be a lot more discretion around there.  People are used to wandering around the mansion with no clothes, and with you there that's gotta end.  And we'll need discretion from you, pet."
     "I don't mind naked people," chirped Jane.  "Sounds kinda cool."
     "The thrill wears off, believe me.  Don't worry, you're sure to see plenty of flesh.  I just want people to pull on underwear before they leave the sound stages."
     "So can I walk around in my underwear?"
     "Not even a little?"
     "Forget it."
     An exasperated sigh.  "Fine.  So is this record store any good?"


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