Bekka and I heard her Harley fire up at the unpleasant hour of 7:15 a.m., as Jane headed for school. She was leaving a bit early to see about getting a parking permit, her sixth. We heard her nudge it out of the garage, then accelerate up Neptune. I pulled my pillow over my head and went back to sleep until 8:45, when me and Bekka both got up. We snorted our morning speed, started coffee, and hit the shower. Bekka and I always showered together in the mornings. It helped us start our day with a smile.
I headed out first, booming through Encinitas and up El Camino Real on the Sportster. Bekka followed, driving the Cutlass that day. She didn't want to frustrate our stylist by riding in and having helmet hair. I pulled in just ahead of both Steves and Mickey, all of them heading upstairs to set up for that day's loop. Jeanette arrived soon after, switching on all the lights in her salon and stashing her lunch in the kitchen fridge. Gina, my secretary, came in and checked to see if there were any messages. Sue, our newest performer, arrived next, not wanting to be late for her first day of work. She was doing an anal loop with Chip and Bekka. Chip, Bekka, and Rita all came through the door together, having finished their cigarettes out on the driveway. It was another day at work for all of us. Rita was in a jovial mood: she'd just replaced her old Toyota Tercel with a Corolla that was only two years old.
I was burrowing into a pile of invoices when the back phone line rang. Unusual. I picked up and said, "Inana Productions."
A slightly pompous voice said, "Yes, may I speak with Lenny Schneider please."
"Mr. Schneider, this is vice principal Kendrick at Carlsbad High School. You are the guardian of Jane Osborne?"
"Well, not legally, but I take care of her. What's up?"
"Jane was involved in a fight here at the school this morning. She gave you as her contact. Would it be possible for you to come here?"
"No problem," I said. "See you in about ten minutes."
I pulled my leather back on, grabbed my helmet and gloves, and went upstairs to the sound stage where they were blocking out the morning's shoot. Waving Bekka into the hallway, I told her, "Jane's got trouble. She got in a fight. I'm headed down there to see what's up."
"Is she okay?" Bekka asked.
"I guess so, they didn't say. But they asked for my presence, so I'm headed to the school. I'll be back in a while."
"Keep me posted."
"I will. Happy shooting."
On my way out I told Gina where I was headed, and didn't expect to be long. I fired up and headed out, a lit cigarette clenched in my teeth. It was about seven minutes fast riding between the mansion and the school. I anchored the putt in one of the visitor spaces, hanging my helmet from one of the handlebars. In through the office doors and up to the front counter, still pulling my gloves off. Mrs. Gates saw me and asked how she could help.
"I'm here to see vice principal Kendrick," I told her. "He's expecting me."
"Right this way, Mr. Schneider." She led me through the cubicle warren to an actual office, with a door and everything.
Sitting inside were Jane and Mr. Kendrick. The side of Jane's face looked bruised, and she had an angry look. Kendrick looked like Mr. Weatherbee from the Archie comics. He was even wearing a vest, and was missing most of his hair. He rose from his chair with a surprised look on his face when I stepped in.
"You are Mr. Schneider?" he asked.
"That's me," I replied. "You must be Mr. Kendrick. So what's up?"
"Jane got into a fight with another student in the hallway between classes. The other student is in the nurse's office with a bloody nose and several cuts on his face."
I sat down in the chair next to Jane. "So what happened, girl?" I asked.
Kendrick started in, "What we can tell---"
I cut him off. "I asked her. Jane, what happened?"
With a face full of tension, she said, "Okay, I'm walking down the hall to my science class, right? Somebody grabs my ass, so I spin around, and there's some jock I don't even know standing there. Stupid grin on his face. I ask him what his problem is, and he says, 'Girls on motorcycles are all whores. I'll give you ten dollars to suck my dick.' I told him to fuck off, and he grabbed at my tits, so I punched him in the face. He punched me back, so I went after him with my nails, I got him on the ground and was trying to tear him up when some teacher pulled me off of him. I'd opened up his nose, so they took him to the nurse and they took me here. Now I've missed science and I'm missing drama right now. This is bullshit, the guy grabbed me and called me a whore. What was I supposed to do?"
Kendrick said, "Jane, language."
I asked him, "So have you talked to this other kid yet?"
"And do the stories corroborate?"
Kendrick sighed. "He says he was just teasing Jane, and she attacked him."
I said, "Some teasing. Sounds to me like Jane was defending her honor."
"By physically assaulting another student?"
"He assaulted her first, when he grabbed her ass. I have any chance of talking to this jock myself?"
"I can't allow that," he frowned.
I frowned back. "So why am I here? From what Jane said to me, and she doesn't lie, some jock picked a fight with her, and she responded. Seems like the best course is to warn them off of each other and let things lie, unless the other one comes after her again."
Another sigh from Kendrick. "Tristan is the star halfback for our football team. I can't imagine him causing trouble for himself."
I grinned over at him, saying, "But I can imagine it very easily. He's a star football player on a high school sports team. He's probably been getting answers on tests fed to him by his teachers just so he can make his GPA. He's on top of the world, he can do anything he wants to, including giving shit to the new girl who doesn't fit in. This may not be Texas, but high school sports still counts as a lot around here, unless things have changed since I was in school. I can imagine this Tristan thinking he can behave any way he feels like, with no blowback. Am I right?"
Kendrick rubbed his forehead. He said, "You mentioned honor earlier. What honor is there in picking a fight in our school?"
I laughed, loudly. "Honor is an important thing. I've taught Jane here to defend her honor, and the honor of those close to her. She will let no one offend her parents, as distant as they may be. She would not have the honor of me or my wife insulted. And her own honor is sacred. My adoptive family is Sicilian, and I learned from them just how important honor is. No one insults the family, not without receiving some heavy repercussions. Jane defended her honor, so unless you can tell me another reason why I'm sitting here, I'm leaving."
"Jane is looking at two days of detention," said Kendrick.
Jane said, "I will serve them with my head up. If that's how the game is played, so be it. But I expect that bastard to be sitting there too."
"Atta girl," I muttered.
Kendrick cleared his throat. He said, "As Tristan was a party to the fracas, he will also be serving detention, but not in the same room. Both of your coaches will be informed of this event. They will respond as they see fit."
Jane said, "I'll miss a day of drama club...."
"That can't be helped. Maybe this will cause you to consider your actions before you make them."
I stood up. "So that's it then?" I asked. "Two days of detention? That's all you want out of the girl?"
Jane tugged at my sleeve. "I'm really sorry, Lenny," she pouted. I looked down at her and her eyes were wet.
I dropped to one knee, gave her a hug, and said, "Take it easy, Gator Bait. In my eyes, you didn't do anything wrong. You work off your two days of detention and it's all over with. Okay?"
Her eyes still wet, Jane said, "Will Bekka be pissed at me?"
"We'll tell her what happened and she'll understand. She loves you too, and she's part of the family. She understands about honor. It'll be okay."
Kendrick stood up from his desk. He said, "I get the impression that neither of you two are taking this very seriously. Jane is to report to detention within ten minutes after the final bell has rung."
I said, "Yeah, we get it. Everyone has to pay for crimes they're caught doing. So long as the jock doesn't get off easy, there's no problem. We understand, it's an honor thing. Now, if the jock did his detention out on the track, then there would be a problem. You dig me?"
Jane said, "Mr. Kendrick, I don't start fights. When someone picks one with me, then I respond. And I respond with my own voice. Do you dig me?"
"I'm not sure what to make of you," he muttered.
I handed him another laugh. "Then we'll provide you with some mystery in your life, now won't we? Hey pet, it's nearly lunchtime anyway, you want to ride down to the taco shop on the highway and get burritos? You won't have to wolf it down sitting in your car, like normal."
"Sounds good," Jane said. "Mr. Kendrick, I'm releasing myself from the last fifteen minutes of class. I will be be back in time for fourth period. Do I need to sign anything?"
"Enjoy your lunch," sighed Kendrick. "Am I to understand you received another parking permit today?"
Bekka shot him a tight grin and said, "Yes I did, on another Harley Sportster. It's not mine, it's my close friend Bekka's, so I won't be riding it very often. Still, I may ride it now and again, and it's a show bike, so I'd appreciate it being kept an eye on. Step outside and you'll see it."
Kendrick gave a suspicious eye to Jane. "I think I will," he said.
I scooped up my gloves and gave a loving kiss to Jane's forehead. She wrapped a leather-clad arm around my waist and we walked towards the front of the office, Kendrick following close behind. He followed me to own putt, staring at it as if it had descended from above. I threw a leg over it and pulled on my helmet, saying "Hell of a machine."
"Does everyone in your family ride bikes like this?" he asked.
"My immediate family, yes. My extended family, no. Wrong family."
I heard Jane fire up and putt in my direction. I knocked back the kickstand and began to slowly roll out of the space. As I rolled back, I said to Kendrick, "There's very few more important things in this world than honor. I protect mine. Do you protect yours?"
He pretended to not hear over the sound of Jane approaching him. She yelled, "Race you there!"
"Fuck you!" I yelled back. "We're still learning. Just head for the taco stand, and take it easy. Remember, you're on someone else's bike."
Kendrick stared at us in amazement. I hit the starter on my machine and the thing came to life. Kendrick backed off as though it might explode next to him. Boss had tuned these right, they came alive with a blatting roar, a sound no one could mistake. Since they were built, the sound of a Harley Davidson starting up has been the sound of rebellion. I wished the streets were alive with these beasts, terrifying the Kendricks of the world back into their holes. I clicked into first, gave a wave at the vice principal of my little girl's school, and followed Jane out to the driveway. We both shot down the street, masters of the asphalt.
We parked at the taco stand, peeling off our gear. We stood there briefly, then I thrust my hand in my pocket and pulled out a hit of Ecstasy. I dropped it into Jane's gloved hand and said, "You've had a tough morning. Take the afternoon off, as it were. Although I'm not sure how much that will help you with detention."
She smiled and dry-swallowed it. "It'll help. Detention is boring. Being high on anything will make the time pass that much quicker."
She shed her leather and her helmet, draping them both over the seat of Bekka's machine. She stretched and said, "Did I do right?"
I did my own stretching and replied, "You were protecting your honor. Think about who you're associated with now. Honor is everything. In the family, you question someone's honor, you've just entered into a death match. That jock questioned yours, and to me you reacted in the right way. The fact that it happened at school sucks. If it was on the street somewhere, I'd blow up their cars in their driveway tonight. But since it was at school, you both do detention and put it behind you. Don't worry about it, unless they come after you again. I doubt they will, since you left marks on the guy."
Jane said, "Oh yeah. I may not grow out my nails that long, but they're there. He will think of me when he looks in the mirror for a while."
"God damn but girls fight mean," I said. We stepped to the counter and ordered our burritos, splitting a quesadilla between us.
As we waited, Jane said quietly, "I'd never do anything to insult the honor of the family. Let me know if I am."
"You'd have to do a lot," I said.
"You'd have to really slut it up, as an example. Or get caught it a thievery ring of some kind, with no backup. So basically, don't fuck a lot of guys and don't take up shoplifting as a hobby. Simple enough?"
Jane grinned at me. "I'm happy with the boy I'm with, and I don't like thieves. Nothing to worry about there."
"Good. Think about your new uncles. When you think about doing things, think about what they would think. Believe it or not, the mafia is a good litmus when it comes to honest behavior. They don't play around. Get me?"
"I won't play around. Honest."
"Really?" I asked.
Jane wrapped her arms around me and said, "I've got two wonderful people who love me, and show it all the time. I've got my new extended family, all my uncles and aunts, who also love me, and will protect me. I'm sixteen year old swamp trash and I've got it made. Why would I play around?"
I paused and said, "I can't imagine."
She kissed my cheek. "I can't either."
We ate our lunch in loving bliss. Despite obstacles, life was good.