Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Frantic (Part 4)

     I explained what was going on while I drove home.  I included Jane in the discussion because I figured she would be impacted too.  We had already discussed our mob ties and she had taken it with grace.  She asked if I knew when I'd be called up, if at all.  I told them both that me being called into service was slim, as not only was I too far south to be in action quickly, but I was considered the sole source of security for Inana.  They weren't about to let one of their valuable holdings take the risk of no muscle.

     "I could cover for you," said Bekka.
     "They're letting their chauvinism show through," I replied.  "No way is the mafia going to let some woman take care of security at one of their businesses."
     "That's so unfair!" said Jane.  "Me and Bekka could have things totally covered."
     "Forget it.  If the family is going into battle, I want you well and far out of the way.  No way am I putting you at risk."
     "I said forget it.  My risks, not yours."
     Bekka chuckled.  "I think she just wants an excuse to carry a gun."
     "Well....  Maybe a little," said Jane, looking coy.
     I sighed.  "And we aren't giving you a gun for the same reason we won't let you help make video.  My lawyer isn't that good.  You taking it to school would be an instant bust.  Hell, you leaving the house with it is an instant bust.  And where would you carry it, anyway?  Given your predilection for leather pants, no way could you have a gun shoved in your pocket.  Wearing a waist holster like Bekka wouldn't work, it'd take you five minutes to get at the damn thing wearing a t-shirt."
     "I'd just keep it in my car."
     "Where it would be utterly fucking useless.  No criminal is going to let you run to the parking lot before he starts shit."
     "Besides," said Bekka, "except for a .380 revolver we have sitting around, all our iron is hot.  Yeah, a teenage girl carrying a stolen gun.  That's a good idea."
     Jane said, "What if I carried that little tiny gun of yours, the one in your purse?"
     "No, you don't get my backup piece."
     "Fine already.  Have me walking around totally unprotected," Jane said with a harrumph.
     "Unprotected?" I exclaimed.  "Pet, you got two well-armed criminals looking out after you.  The only time you're really at risk is when you're driving to or from school, and even then you can peel out and get away from anything that threatens you."
     "I'm wasting my breath arguing this with you two, aren't I?"
     "You finally figured it out, Gator Bait."

     The call came in on Monday.  I was being sent someplace familiar at least, I was going to Angel's trattoria.  They'd already set up reservations for me at a motel in Hollywood called the Moonglo.  I checked in and stashed my bag in my room.  I wouldn't be lonely.  All I had to do was walk out to the street and I could start a conversation (for a price) with any of a myriad of ladies, all of whom dressed in a flashy manner and seemed to enjoy walking up and down the same strip of Hollywood Boulevard.  I was glad I'd talked Jane into letting me use her Cutlass instead of my Caddy, I wouldn't be confused for a pimp.
     Rolling down Santa Monica Blvd. towards the trattoria in Century City, I reviewed what I knew.  Organized thugs from Eastern Europe were unhappy about the power play the mafia was making in an effort to control Ecstasy in California (and other areas).  The thugs and the mafia had attempted to negotiate an agreement, to no avail.  The thugs were now letting their displeasure be known by bombing mafia-owned businesses in the LA area.  Three more had gone under the Molotov treatment over the weekend, including a strip club in El Segundo, a liquor store (front for gambling), and a Chrysler dealership.  The lack of injuries or deaths was pure luck.  Even the cops were starting to sit up and take notice.  Whether they'd figure out the connections was anyone's guess.
     I pulled in the circular driveway of the trattoria (which has no name, just the address, 5110) and left the Cutlass with the valet.  Walking up to the entrance, I hear my name called.  I look over and see Vic, a crusty old bastard I recognize from Vinny and Chrissie's parties.  We give each other the traditional Italian man-hug --- Vic is a traditional kind of guy --- and briefly exchange pleasantries.  I notice Vic is constantly scanning the street, watching every car rolling past through his Vuarnets.  He lights a cigarette from the stub of the old one and says, "You better get inside.  Angel is expecting you."
     I go in and gingerly step around the tourist trash that have somehow found this place.  The trattoria thrives on exclusivity.  Hollywood types know they can go to the trattoria, sit on the patio, have excellent food, talk about anything they wish, and not be bothered by the press or autograph hounds.  Tourists upset this balance, and are shunted off to the furthest reaches of the dining room.  They are never put on the patio.
     I am always put on the patio.  A benefit of my connection to the family.  However, I'm not here to eat right now, but to locate Angel.  I lean on the maitre'd's tiny table and say, "I'm looking for Angel, know where he is?"
     The maitre'd is new to me.  He looks me up and down and is not impressed by the engineer boots, black jeans, Vandals t-shirt, spike-and-pin covered denim jacket, bleached hair, and wraparound sunglasses from the swap meet.  He says, "You'll excuse me sir, I'm taking care of these people at the moment," in a feminine voice.  Great, another swish.  Given Angel's repressed homophobia, I don't know how they keep getting hired.
     I press the issue.  I say, "Look, I know Angel is here.  Is he in the office?  I'll just go back there.  My name is Lenny, he's expecting me."  I step around the tourists again and begin heading towards the back of the restaurant.
     I'm halfway through the main dining room when a hand grabs my jacket.  I turn to see the maitre'd standing there.  We stand there for a second, being unamused with each other.  I finally say, "Look Nancy, if you want I'll tuck you under my arm and carry you to the office.  I told you, my name's Lenny and Angel is expecting me."
     I continue on through the kitchen, saying hi to Saul and Marcus, Angel's two chefs.  The maitre'd trots behind me like a terrier.  I get to the office to find Angel smoking and reading Newsweek.  I give him a greeting.  We do the man-hug routine.
     Angel brightens up.  "Lenny!  How are you?  I trust you saw Vic outside?"
     "Sure did.  I know he considers me a snot-nosed brat, but hopefully we can get along.  So what's required of me?"
     The maitre'd is still trying to process this scene.  Some punk rock scumbag has walked into the holy of holys, the owner's office, and been greeted with a hug.  The maitre'd has spent his career preventing people like me from getting much past the front doors.  He stares at Angel with a sick, quizzical look.
     Angel says, "Vance, if you haven't already met, this is Lenny Schneider.  Every courtesy I receive here, he shall also receive.  Is that clear?"
     "Um, yes sir.  Patio seating?"
     "Yes, with an ashtray.  And he is to never receive a bill."
     "Yes sir."
     A questioning look comes over Angel's face.  "Vance, why did you come back here?  Lenny knows where the office is."
     I answered for him.  "Vance here is unfamiliar with me, and escorted me back as a measure of security."  Vance, catching my play, nodded eagerly.
     Angel said, "All right.  But Vance, remember this man.  He will often be here in the company of his wife and friends.  They are to be afforded every courtesy, capiche?"
     "Yes sir," said Vance, and headed back to the front.  I said to Angel, "Another queen?  What happened to Mr. Smith, anyway?"
     Angel replied, "Mr. Smith is now on nights, replacing Bruno, who is currently hosting at a fish restaurant in Santa Monica, two blocks from his house.  He decided he valued the ability to walk to work."
     I laughed at this.  "Come on, it's, what, four miles to Santa Monica from here?  He should have aimed higher."
    "Oh please, Lenny.  Walking four miles in LA air?  That'd kill a cockroach.  Close the door, please."
     I swung the door closed.  Angel lifted a bag of cocaine out of the top desk drawer and began chopping up a couple lines.  "May as well start this gig off with a smile," he said.
     "So what am I doing?" I asked.
     "You're a glorified fucking security guard.  If they stick with their M.O., we're expecting a Molotov cocktail thrown at the front door.  You watch the traffic as it passes, trying to spot anyone who looks like they're slowing down to throw something.  If you spot somebody looking suspicious like that, shoot 'em.  Pretty simple, right?"
     "Seems that way.  So are me and Vic working together?"
     "No.  You're each doing twelve hour shifts.  Vic covers it from three a.m. to three p.m., you get the other twelve hours.
     "Any indication as to where they'll hit next?  Any patterns emerge?  How about clues as to where they spend their time, so we can return the favor."
     "No, no, and maybe.  After Winner Chrysler got hit the cops found a guy three blocks away in his car.  He was unconscious, and the car reeked of gasoline.  If he's talked, then we haven't heard about it.  What's clear is that these assholes know their businesses.  Like, the Chrysler dealership.  That is a fully legitimate business.  No laundering of cash, no hot cars, no dope, nothing.  Hell, the owner's name is Morton, he's an old-time associate.  He's as much of a wop as you.  Anyway, we're sure somebody's feeding them information."
     We did up our lines of coke and went out front.  On our way up, Angel handed me a key, which he said was to the front door, so I could use the bathroom when the place was closed.  Once outside, Angel got Vic's attention and called him over.
     "Vic, while Lenny's here, why don't you grab something to eat.  I'm gonna have him go to his motel room and nap for a while, until it's time for him to be here.  How are you holding up?"
     "Fine.  I gotta run to my car and grab more cigarettes, though."
     "Okay.  It's just about noon right now, why don't you be back here at 12:30?"
     "That works.  So Lenny, you up for a twelve hour shift?"
     "I'm not concerned," I grinned at him.  "I brought lots of drugs with me."
     Vic's eyes crinkled behind his sunglasses.  "That's right, you're the speedfreak.  You were offering that garbage around at the last couple parties up at Vinny's."
     "Me and my wife both plead guilty."
     "So how come that stuff hasn't driven you nuts yet?"
     I gave him another grin.  "Why are you assuming I'm sane?"
     Vic chuckled and headed for the parking structure.  Angel said, "Vic's a good guy.  He's got a million stories about what Vegas was like in the Sixties."
     "I'll get him to share," I said.
     Thirty-five minutes later I was tearing down Santa Monica Blvd in the Cutlass.  My plan: shower, chop out a line and leave it on the bathroom sink, then nap until 2:30.  Given that I was going to be on my feet for twelve hours, I regretted my decision to wear engineers and not my Doc Martens.
     The shiny red and black of the Cutlass, along with the engine note, attracted the attention of the hookers.  Me turning into the lot of the Moonglo attracted even more attention.  They began casually milling about around the driveway.  I was getting the eye.  I lost half the crowd, however, when I got out of the car and they saw it was just some damn punk rocker.
     One of the girls hailed me from the sidewalk.  "Hey, motor boy!" she called.
     "What's up?"
     "I like your car."
     "Thanks.  Cutlass 442."
     "Wanna give me a ride in it?"
     "Where you need to get to?"
     "No place, I just want a ride in  your sexy car."
     I laughed.  "Tell you what, let me go in and shower and change clothes.  You wanna come in?"
     "Sure."  She began walking towards me, but was interrupted by a Punjabi cannonball launching itself out of the motel office.  The cannonball declared, "You whore!  You stay off lot!"
     "Listen Apu, he invited me," she said, pointing at me.
     "And how do you know she's a whore?" I asked.  "Maybe she just has a really outgoing personality."
     The rotund man scowled at the two of us and headed back for the office.  I let us in to my room.  The AC went on, along with the TV, and the drapes went closed.  The girl perched herself on the edge of the bed.  "So, what are you in the mood for?" she asked.
     "Just company," I said.  "Wanna do some speed?"
     "You just snort, right?  No mainline?"
     "Sure, count me in."
     The girl watched with interest as I set up a couple of lines.  Every time I looked at her she seemed to be younger; at this point I had her pegged at fifteen.  I rolled up a bill and handed it to her.  She snorted the speed, said, "Shit!" and wiped at one eye.
     She gave me a leering smile.  "Well, I know you're not a cop, because cops always have shitty drugs.  Listen, I get twenty for my hands, thirty for my mouth, and forty for my pussy.  Suck and a fuck is sixty.  What kind of money you looking to spend, stud?"
     I unrolled the bill and handed it to her.  She looked down at the hundred in her hand.  "You wanna stay busy?  Okay...."  She began to unfasten what appeared to be a yellow patent leather sports bra.
     I stopped her.  "No, that's not what I'm after," I told her.  "I really do want someone to just hang out with until about 2:30.  Watch TV, smoke cigarettes, drink sodas, maybe order a pizza if you know someplace that delivers around here.  No creepiness, either.  I'm just a bored guy who likes people."
     "You really will order a pizza?" she asked.
     "Uh, yeah, no problem.  Who delivers?"
     "Whitney's pizza is good.  I'll check the phone book for the number."
     We found the number for Whitney's  Pizzeria and I ordered a large sausage, mushroom, onion, and olive pizza.  The girl was excited about this.  "Can I have a slice to take with me?" she asked.
     "Well, I figure I don't have a refrigerator in this box, so I was just gonna give the leftovers to you.  If you want them."
     "Sure!" she said.
     I said, "Correct me if I'm wrong, but has it been a while since you've eaten?"
     She stared at the floor.  "Yeah....  I had a donut yesterday."
     "What's your name?" I asked.
     "I meant your real name."
     "Is business that bad, Brianna, that you can't eat?"
     Her eyes went back to the floor again.  "No, it's just....  My pimp controls my money, right, and he was pissed at me, so I didn't get anything to spend."
     "How old are you?" I asked.
     With a face that screamed "I'm lying" she looked at me and said, "I'm eighteen."
     "How old are you really?"
     Her face crumbled.  "Fourteen."  Jesus.
     I looked at her and spoke slowly.  "Brianna, I have a very important question for you.  One that will dramatically affect how we interact with each other.  Like I said, this is important."
     ".... Yeah?"
     "Brianna, what do you want to watch on TV?"
     She giggled and gave me a nudge.  "Yer funny," she said.  "I thought you were about to get all heavy on me."
     "No.  If you can, stop by tomorrow, and I'll get heavy with you then.  We can get something to eat again.  Tell me, you ever want to kill your pimp?"
     Brianna snickered.  "Hell yeah.  Daily."
     I asked, "So why haven't you?"
     "Well....  Because I don't have a gun, and he's bigger than me, and I'd probably get caught, and that's a really crazy thing to think of.  Why?  Should I kill him?"
     "No....  I was just wondering."
     We stared at the TV in dumb fascination, and after a while a Vietnamese kid in a Honda brought us pizza.  I paid him off and opened up the box in the middle of the bed.  "Dig in," I said, "but not too quick.  You'll make yourself sick if you eat too fast.  You want a soda?"
     "Yes please," she said through a full mouth.
     I went out to the machine and bought a couple cans of Coke.  Then we sat on the bed and ate pizza and laughed at the drama on Phil Donohue.  When 2:30 rolled around I stood up and said, "I'm sorry, but it's time for me to throw you out.  I've got to get to work."
     "What do you do?" Brianna asked.
     "I work for the mafia.  I have to go guard a restaurant that may be attacked by the Hungarian mob, or someone like them.  It's a long story."
     She gathered her clutch purse and the half-full pizza box.  "Do you really work for the mafia?" she asked.
     "Sure do.  How that came to be is a story in itself."
     "Wow.  Well....  Thanks for the pizza, and getting me high.  Do you think you're gonna be around again?"
     I gave her a grin.  "I'll be in this room for a week, I think.  Go ahead and stop by any time after eleven in the morning."
     "Can we order pizza again?" she asked in a small voice.
     "Sure.  Right now though, I've got to get to Century City."
     "Okay.  Thank you."
     "No, thank you."


1 comment:

  1. It's definitely pulp crime drama.
    For some reason, though, the narrator in my head is Hunter Thompson.