The city of San Diego came through for us, blocking off streets and detouring traffic around us. We've got a forty-five minute window in which to work. Then we have to clear out, except for the shooting on the sidewalk.
Bekka is looking forward to this. She gets to fling her Plymouth Fury hot rod around in a manner not normally allowed on public streets. We need to get two shots of her, one of which is her simply speeding down a hill, then one of her speeding down a hill and doing a four-wheel drift into a right turn. It's her car, she knows what she's doing, so she's the driver. Dale, who is supposedly at the wheel, wasn't feeling confident enough to pull off this bit of driving.
My own contribution is at the wheel of Ellen's Grand Am. All I need to do is quickly drive down the hill quickly (slower than Bekka) and make a right turn, then accelerate out of sight. I'll be doing the driving for Donna. Edited together, with the freeway scenes we've already shot, it will look like a chase. Small Steve is in hog heaven, like he is with all location shoots.
On our first take, Bekka hits the cross street too fast and bottoms out, bouncing the nose of the Fury into the air. I wince at the scraping sound. She goes back up and does it again, this time timing her braking and acceleration much better. Small Steve gets on the walkie-talkie and tells her to do it one more time, so she does. Steve is happy.
Cameras are shifted across the street and Bekka waits at the top of the hill, getting ready to do her drift. Steve tells her to roll. She charges toward the bottom of the hill. Twenty yards before the cross street, Bekka hits the brakes and twists the wheel, sending the Fury sideways into the intersection. Then she trounces on the gas and shoots down the cross street. There is applause when Steve yells cut. Naturally, he has her do it again, changing camera locations to get the feeling of a different event. Both look great.
We park the vehicles and the city gathers up their barriers. We're still shooting, but these are just dialogue scenes of people walking down the street. Piece of cake. Jane watches all this with great interest, it's the closest thing she'll see to porn being produced for nineteen months, when she turns eighteen. She coils cable and helps move equipment, being useful. When we finish equipment gets locked in various trunks, then I take everyone to a spaghetti palace for dinner. Unless there is footage Steve and I decide we hate, all our rough video is complete and ready to be edited into a movie. Add the music and credit roll, and we're done. Another good project, and hopefully another good seller. I feel confident we'll get more rave reviews.
Around four on Monday I get a call. It's Lance, Jane's boyfriend. "Is Jane there?" he asks.
"Hell, I thought she was with you," I tell him. "You're both usually here by now. You haven't seen her?"
"No. She didn't have volleyball, and drama club meets tomorrow, not today. The thing is, her car is here, but I can't find her anywhere on campus. I was thinking maybe you guys picked her up or something."
"Bekka is upstairs, and I'm in my office working. The Cutlass is still parked there?"
"Yeah, and it was unlocked. She always locks it, she's paranoid about it being stolen, so she's good about that."
I frowned. "And she's your ride home, right?"
"Oh yeah," Lance said. "The bus has long gone. We were gonna use the pool today, like usual."
"Tell you what. Give me fifteen minutes, and meet me at her car. I'll get you a ride home. So far as to where Jane is, I have no clue."
"Okay, thank you Lenny. I'll see you in a bit."
I went upstairs and told Bekka what was going on. Bekka looked as miffed as I felt. "Think she went out to have fun with a couple girl friends? That's shitty, leaving Lance high and dry like that."
"She does have a bit of explaining to do. We may not be her parents, but if she's gonna break routine like this, she needs to let us know."
I drove to the school and located Lance, standing next to the Cutlass. He had a worried look. "Her book bag is on the seat," he said. "She always throws it in the trunk. It's like she got here and then just disappeared."
"She can explain when we hear from her," I told him. "Not like her at all."
I dropped Lance off at his house, promised to have Jane give him a call when she turned up, and headed back home. I went upstairs and asked Bekka if she'd heard from our little Gator Bait.
"No, I don't think so," she said. "I've had two hang-up calls come through on the office phone since you left, though."
"Speaking of offices, I need to get back to mine. I can't wait to hear Jane's justifications for ditching Lance and not coming home or calling."
"Maybe we treat her a little too much like an adult," suggested Bekka.
I went back downstairs and stepped into the office just as the phone began to ring. I picked up and said hello, and was greeted by a hollow windy sound.
"Spit it out," I said.
An accented voice said, "Yes, this is Lenny Schneider?"
"That's me. Who is this?"
"No one you know, it is not important. Listen, Mr. Schneider, right now a friend of mine is busy pointing a gun at a little girl with blue hair. She is wearing black leather trousers, a t-shirt, boots, and she says her name is Gator Bait. Does this make sense to you? She is sitting there unharmed, for the time being. I think you know who this little girl is, do you not? And you would like no harm to come to her?"
"Where is she?" I demanded.
"You will know if you cooperate. You wish to keep her safe, yes?"
"What's your price?"
"We wish information. I will tell you what information in a little while."
"Let me talk to her."
I heard the phone being put down, then two foreign voices talk briefly. One laughed. Then the phone was picked up again.
"Lenny?" came Jane's voice.
"Pet! Where are you, I'm coming to get you."
"I don't know where. I'm really sorry about this."
"Don't be sorry. I'll have you home as quick as I can."
Jane sniffled, then swallowed her tears and said, "I can take care of myself, don't let them push you around, don't give them anything...."
I heard the phone being pulled away, Jane yelling "Fuck you!" over and over, then a slap. The accented voice returned.
"So you understand we have this girl named Gator Bait?"
I wiped my forehead. The office was a couple sizes too small. I said, "I get it. So you want information. What do you want to know?"
A cold laugh came over the receiver. "We will tell you soon. In the meantime, we will have fun with this little girl."
"Hurt her and I'll kill you with my bare hands."
"Do not threaten me. You want the little girl back, yes? You will do as you are told. You will not contact anyone. You will wait for me to call." He hung up.
I sprinted through the mansion and up the stairs to the penthouse. Bekka startled as I burst in, heading for our private line phone. I told her, "Jane's been kidnapped, get dressed. Put that spare Beretta in your bag, I think we're gonna need it."
Bekka didn't ask questions, she just got off the couch and headed for the bedroom to change, stripping off her sweats on the way. I dialed Angel's number.
"Angel, it's Lenny. Jane has been kidnapped."
He swore violently. "Is she okay?"
"As of four minutes ago, yeah."
"What do they want?" Angel asked.
"He said they want information. Given the accent I was hearing, this is our friends from Eastern Europe playing hardball. I don't know what information I have that they would want."
"I don't know either. Listen, Lenny, don't panic. You've dealt with kidnappers before. Stay cool. I'm calling don Ventigmilia to tell him what's going on, and I'm gonna have everybody in Southern California on alert. I'm guessing you're waiting for them to call back?"
Angel cleared his throat. "Keep me posted. And forget about trying to handle this by yourself. They're fucking with the family, big time. They'll regret snatching the daughter of a Cosa Nostra associate. Just don't do anything without telling me, and that's an order."
I couldn't help but chuckle. "Daughter?" I asked.
"That's what she is to you two, isn't she? You're raising her, thus, she's your daughter."
"So long as I can keep her alive long enough to graduate high school."
"There will be dancing at her wedding," Angel assured me. "I need to make calls, I'll talk to you later." He hung up.
Bekka came back in the room in Levis and one of her goth-y blouses. She sat on the sofa and began pulling on her Doc Martens. "Who took her?" she asked.
"By their accents, those Ecstasy gangsters the family has been having so much trouble with lately. They're gonna pay, if I have to knock them all off myself, they're gonna pay."
"Worry about Jane first. I am."
I sighed and said, "So am I."
After forty-five minutes of stress the office phone rang again. I dived for it and picked up.
"Mr. Schneider, you need to give us information."
"You told me that already. What do you want to know?"
A low chuckle. "The precise location of the Ecstasy labs which the family operates. That, and where the product is stored. You see, your mafia has tried to put us out of business. We wish to return to business. Having our own labs would help us greatly, yes?"
"I'm a pornographer, I don't know that," I lied.
"You can find out. You have three hours in which to obtain a map to the labs and bring it to a location by the Long Beach airport named Southern Steel Fabrication. You have until 8:30. You will arrive alone, and your map will be accurate, not a dummy. Do you understand?"
"Then I get Jane back?"
"If you comply, yes. Otherwise, your little blue-haired girl dies. Before that, she will spend a week wishing she was dead. Remember, you alone. You will be watched. You will do exactly as you've been told."
"Got it. But if you've hurt my little Gator Bait, I'll kill you with my bare hands."
He laughed. "How dangerous will you be with a gun up your asshole?"
"Nobody's managed to kill me yet."
"Our snitch warned that you may be trouble. We are not concerned. Who knows, maybe your little girl walks free and it is you who spends a week begging for death."
"Enough with the threats. You'll get your map. 8:30, Southern Steel, Long Beach. You get me and my wife."
He sounded genuinely surprised. "You bring your woman with you?"
I told him, "She's my good luck charm. And she's eager to see Gator Bait."
"She will stay at the car."
"Of course. I don't want her hurt."
"You are losing time. You are here at 8:30, or the little girl pays for your mistakes."
I sneered at the receiver. "In America, we just say goodbye."
"Goodbye, Mr. Schneider." (*click*)