"I can have any of them? Seriously?" she asked.
Jane walked into a center room and said, "This one. I want this one. Can I put up posters?"
"That's fine," said Bekka. "It's your room, why not?"
Jane walked through the room to the sliding glass door, opened it, and stepped out onto the balcony which ran around the entire house. She let out a whoop, gazing down at the surf. We followed her out. Her eyes were wet when she turned back towards us. "It's beautiful. Thank you."
"Just no fires, that's all we ask. Unless you and Lance set up a hibachi out here on the deck."
"Deck furniture, that's what I keep forgetting," I muttered.
Bekka turned to me and said, "Baby, it's gonna take us a while to fill this place up. I hadn't realized how much space we had until today. We've got all of downstairs to fill, plus Jane's room, plus three guest rooms, your office.... We aren't getting it done in the space of a weekend."
Jane asked, "Wait, where's Lenny's office?"
Bekka answered, "It's on the ground floor. It's an airless windowless room sitting above the garage, utterly useless to anyone but him. He can sit in there and poison himself with cigarette smoke and write porn scripts. And it's what he insisted upon. A custom house, sitting over the beach, and he wanted a glorified refrigerator box to work in."
I said, "Yeah, and I have my reasons. If I had a nice pretty office to work in here, you know what I'd do? I'd stare out the window. With my office where it is, I'm using up otherwise wasted space in the structure, and I can go in there and crawl inside my own head and get work done. I'll be more productive this way."
"I'm sleeping with that sliding glass door wide open," said Jane. "Unless it's storming outside, I wanna feel that ocean breeze on top of me."
"Keep your door closed then," warned Bekka. "We're not gonna heat the beach. You can close your vents too. I think it will take no more than three nights of you sleeping like that before you close your slider."
"The Pacific isn't warm, I know that. But breathing in that air is just too awesome to pass up."
"I have a suggestion," I tossed out. "I brought drugs with me, since I figured everyone would be in a celebratory mood. Let's sniff some coke, smoke the rather fat joint I rolled, and go get some dinner at Leucadia Bistro. Then we sniff more coke and go into San Diego and get some furniture shopping done. Sound good?"
I was greeted with approval. We went downstairs into the kitchen, where I'd have a flat surface to chop out lines. I handed the joint off to Bekka, who fished around in my pants for my Zippo and lit it. She took a hit and passed it off to Jane, who took her own hit.
"How'd I get this lucky?" asked Jane. "I mean, six weeks ago I was on a Greyhound bound for California, no real prospects, just hoping you guys would feed me for a night. I won't lie, I'd been adjusting to the idea of turning tricks to get by. Now I'm getting high in a beach house I'm going to live in, a bedroom above the beach, getting ready to go to dinner with people I love. What did I do?"
I puffed the joint, arranging cocaine on the glass of the stove surface. I passed it back to Bekka, saying, "Most people don't deserve what they get. I sure don't, I'm a fuckup speed dealer from East County. How I ended up here is anyone's guess. It's better to not question such things."
I rolled up a bill and handed it to Jane, saying, "Here you go, pet. Some of Vinny's finest." She snorted up the line and handed over to Bekka, accepting the hovering joint.
"You've mentioned Vinny, have I met him yet?" Jane asked. "He wasn't part of the crew that rescued me."
Bekka giggled. "No, Vinny is not built for jumping in and out of helicopters. Don't worry, you'll meet Vinny on Saturday, when I take you up to LA for lunch with the girls."
I did up the remaining line. "Vinny is good people," I said. "Think of him as your Uncle Vinny."
"I sure seem to be picking up a lot of uncles lately," Jane laughed.
"You're held in esteem by the uncles you picked up a week and a half ago. They'd never done an extraction on a teenage girl before, and that meant a lot to them. To them, you're our kid, our little girl. The fact that it was a successful extraction was routine, they took it for granted that they'd get the job done. That there was no blood on our side made it a winner. Believe it or not, you have powerful people who care about you. You're their mascot now, remember?"
"That's something else that's scary. I have mafia connections now."
Bekka put her hand on Jane's shoulder. "You got those connections when we first said you could live with us. In the eyes of the mafia, you're the daughter of an associate. That doesn't mean you can run wild, but it does mean you have little to fear in this world."
"Too wild," said Jane, using Bekka's Bic to relight the joint.
"Screw Leucadia," I said, "let's do burgers. I could deal with Boll Weevil right about now. The La Jolla location okay?"
"Let's do it," said Bekka. "I can deal with beef."
We bombed into La Jolla and chowed down on burgers and chili, washed down with a pitcher of Budweiser. Sitting on the street I pulled the vanity mirror off the passenger sun visor and quickly chopped out three medium lines. I didn't want to get Jane too wound up, after all, it was a school night. Still, we had things we needed to do.
Jane briefly brought up the mafia as we drove towards Levitz Furniture. "Those guys, Dougie and Mel and Rizzo, what do they do? I know Rico has his car lot, and you told me Uncle Angel has a bunch of porn studios plus his restaurant, but what do those other guys do?"
I chuckled. "I'm sure they have businesses to run, just like I do. And just like me, the family calls them into service when needed. Me, I'm an anomaly, because I run a business for someone else. Those other guys, they take care of business how it's asked of them. I don't know what to tell you."
"Is it weird that I want to send them thank you cards? You know, thank you for rescuing me from my kidnappers?"
This prompted a burst of laughter from Bekka. She said, "I say go for it, but just write 'Thank you, love Gator Bait.' More than that would arouse suspicion. You could send them to Angel, and he'd see they got them. No problem."
We pulled in the lot and piled out. The showroom was warehouse-sized. We trekked in and were immediately set upon by a nervous-looking concierge who asked how he might be of help. It was another case of us not looking like we belonged there.
I said, "Yeah, we've got an entire house to fill. Living room, dining area, master bedroom, teen room, three guest bedrooms, an office.... And plenty of deck furniture, too. You guys have deck furniture?"
"We do, sir. You have a whole house to fill? We can help with that. Where would you like to start?"
"Bedrooms, I guess. We gotta have someplace to sleep. We'll move on from there."
He led us through the giant warehouse to where various bedroom sets were assembled. Jane spotted one in black veneer and said, "I like this. Do I still get to have a big bed?"
"Of course. You want another queen size?"
She flopped down on the demo, stretching out. "Oh yeah, plenty of room to roll around on. Nice and firm, too."
Bekka gave Jane a smirk as Jane rolled on the bed and said, "Shame we didn't bring Lance along. You could have given the new bed a test drive."
A salesman drifted up and asked if we were doing okay. I told him, "We found one set we like, we need to find four more. Three guest bedrooms, and a master suite. Lead on to the masters."
Bekka and I liked one suite in dark mahogany, matching dressers, a lounge setup, and a king-size bed with a flotation mattress. I told the salesman to mark up our two choices so far, we'd worry about the guest rooms in a while. Right now we wanted to consider living room furniture. All the stuff we had already was old, wouldn't match, and would be going to Salvation Army or Goodwill.
We found seven foot sofas and a matching love seat that were damn close to the same color as our new carpet. A couple glass coffee tables, end tables, lamps, an entertainment center, and recliners rounded us out. The salesman had a happy but nervous grin: happy for his commission, nervous about the criminals in his presence ability to pay. He was surprised that we weren't applying for credit. I assured him that I could pay for everything by check or plastic, whichever he preferred. A check was fine with him. We went to his desk to settle everything, including delivery.
"You're not on the board Thursday or Friday afternoon, right babe?" I asked Bekka.
"Steve was talking about re-shooting that fuck scene with Dale, the one in the hallway, on Thursday morning, then having me do a loop that afternoon."
"Dammit, what's wrong with the fuck scene right now? I saw that footage and it was fine, good and sharp."
Bekka shrugged. "He said something about selling it more, that it looked like Dale and I had just met in a bar and were fucking in an alley. I've known Dale longer than I've known you, I don't know how much more cozy we can get."
"Steve's turning into a prima donna," I griped. "He's gotta tell me about these decisions. He can have you for the re-shoot, but I'll drop someone else in that loop, Donna or somebody. I was keeping your afternoons free precisely because we're moving, and he knows it. Thursday will work."
The salesman had a fearful smile on his face, like he might lose the sale if the delivery day fell through. "Is there a problem?" he asked.
Bekka said, "No big deal, I just have to fuck somebody Thursday morning and I wasn't planning on it. Don't you hate it when that happens?"
His face turned into a mask of confusion. "I.... Don't understand."
Jane, who was resting her leather-clad ass on the salesman's desk and linking his paperclips into a chain, said, "They're making a porno video. Their director wants to re-shoot one of the fuck scenes. Simple enough."
I said, "It's just like any job. You set up a schedule that everyone's happy with. In our case, the director shot a hole in that schedule."
"Okay!" said the salesman. "Um, well, so a one p.m. delivery time on Thursday works with you, or is there a conflict?"
"Fine with us," I said.
"I want to be there, but I'll be in school, dammit," said Jane. "If I draw a diagram, will you make sure they put my stuff where I want it?"
"We can get that done," the salesman said. "Where do you go to school? UCSD? SDSU?"
"Carlsbad High," said Jane, checking her lip liner in her compact mirror.
"Okay then! All I need you to do is write me a check, I get it verified, and your furniture will arrive on Thursday. That okay?"
I wrote him a check and he disappeared with it into the glassed-in offices along one wall. He was gone for a bit, then returned with a beaming smile. "Yes, your check has been cleared. Our delivery team will see you on Thursday. Is there anything else I can help you with?"
Bekka said, "No, but we'll be glad to help you."
"You look stressed. Let us take you over to Dirty Dan's and buy you a few drinks. You'll feel better."
The salesman looked flustered before, but now was one big ball of fluster. "Uh, I really don't...."
"Look, you just made one hell of a commission, right? The people who got you that commission say it's time for you to have a beer and a couple shots. You're taking your lunch break. Your name's Carlos, right? Let me go get this approved."
Bekka trotted over to the row of offices and stuck her head in for a few moments. Then she came trotting back with a smile. "You're clear, Carlos. Let's go get you a beer."
We hustled Carlos out to the parking lot and into the Fury. Jane and Carlos were ensconced in the back seat. I turned on Primus, but not too loud.
I heard Jane say, "So your name's Carlos, huh?"
"It is," said our nervous passenger.
"You're really cute, Carlos, you know that?" said Jane.
"Enough of that, Gator Bait," I warned. "Remember, you may be stuck in the burger hall while we're in there, so you behave if they don't let you in."
I don't know what I was worried about. Maybe it was the blue hair, or the makeup, or the attitude, or something, but Jane got waved in the doors of Dirty Dan's like she owned the place. The four of us went in and grabbed a table. Jane and I got Miller, Bekka and Carlos each asked for Tecaté. Our beers arrived and we sat and watched the stage for a few minutes.
"She'd make a good performer," said Bekka, pointing at the dancer occupying the stage.
"How so?" I asked.
"Watch her eyes. She is constantly eye-fucking the audience, instead of spacing out on the lights. She'd be gold."
The first beer relaxed Carlos enough to where he worked up the courage to ask, "Did I get you correctly the first time? You make, um, bad movies?"
I told him, "Actually, they're really quite good, going by our reviews. And everything is done on video these days. We make porn, that's the simple way of putting it. I'm a producer, Bekka is a performer, and Jane here is underage so we keep her well apart from it. It's a lucrative business to be in. You read Penthouse?"
"Then you missed seeing Bekka. She was the June Pet of the Month."
"Well.... That's something."
Jane interjected, "Her centerfold was awesome. It even turned me on."
I said, "Pet, you could get turned on staring at mud. You got a boyfriend, leave this man alone, or you don't get more drugs later."
Carlos said, "I know this is late to bring this up, but I don't even know any of your names."
Bekka said, "Well, you know the man of the hour, that's Lenny. I'm Bekka, and that's Jane. Call her Gator Bait when she annoys you. She may or may not take the hint."
"They call me pet," said Jane. "And their pet needs another line."
"In a while. Have another drink. Besides, this is a school night, you shouldn't be partying anyways. You get one more beer, one or two whiskeys, and another small line." Bekka turned back to Carlos. "I swear, raising kids is tough."
"She's your daughter?" asked Carlos.
"Not legally, but yeah. She's a Florida swamp rat who turned up on our porch one night, and we kept her. Her real parents know where she is. We have her in school, and she's not a problem when she's not horny. But that's rare. If she hits on you, ignore her. She has both a boyfriend and a vibrator, she gets along fine."
Carlos turned his attention to me. "So.... Why did you want to have drinks with me? Is something up?"
"Not at all," I said. "I just thought it would be nice to have drinks with someone who I haven't seen naked, or isn't wearing a gun. You seemed amiable enough, so here you are. That, and they've got good dancers here."
"You're not uncomfortable watching topless dancers with your girlfriend?"
"Wife, actually, and no. I watch her get fucked by various men over the course of the week, so this is a nice change of pace. She's used to seeing naked women wandering around, so it doesn't bother her."
Carlos shook his head. "You all live different that what I'm used to."
I laughed. "I'm sure we do. That's why drinking with you is a nice change of pace. You're totally normal, as near as I can tell. Wanna do some coke?"
"What, right here?"
"No, in the car. Then I'll drive you back to Levitz. Deal?"
"What the hell," he muttered. "I've made worse mistakes."
I told the girls of my plan, and Carlos and I went out. I set up lines on a tape case, and we snorted up. The effect on Carlos was palpable. He was instantly full of energy, ready for the rest of his shift.
As I drove him back, he said, "Wow, that was.... I never done coke like that before! That's got me going, that was heavy. Can you sell me some of that?"
"Enjoy your high," was all I said. He sprung out of the Fury and nearly ran back into the warehouse.
I spun the Fury around and headed back to Dirty Dan's. The girls had moved locations, much closer to the stage, so they could make dancers nervous by shoving bills into tight places. I separated out some ones and joined them. Bekka and Jane were working on double Johnnie Walkers with beer behind them. I signaled the waitress and got my own drink, reminding them that we all had things to do in the morning. This was accepted grudgingly. We finished our drinks and headed for the door.
"So was Carlos happy?" asked Bekka.
"Quite. He likes our cocaine," I told her.
"He was cute," Jane piped up from the back seat.
Bekka reminded her, "You'll see Lance tomorrow. You can work out your sexual tension then. Is he still willing to help us move shit out of the mansion?"
"Yeah, he's fine with that. You're still willing to pay him a little for his trouble?"
"Not a problem."
Jane sank down in the cushions. "I never thought living with you guys would be as interesting as it is."
"We try not to be too interesting. We could live without the guns and stress and kidnappings."
"Lenny, the scotch has kicked in. You need to carry me in the house."
I laughed at this. "Make me do that, and I'll pull your shoes off and tickle your feet the entire way to keep you awake."
"You won't suck my toes?" Jane giggled.
"No, that's up to Lance."