On Tuesday the doorbell at the mansion rang. I was just getting off the phone with Sue, our goth sales clerk. She'd thought about it, discussed it with her boyfriend, and wanted to give porn a shot, if we'd have her. I set up an appointment with her for Wednesday morning to try a script read-through, just go through a couple pages of Bewitched to see if she could emote and inflect. I warned her to not quit her day job until after she'd gotten the go-ahead from me, cautioning her again that we were picky about who we brought on. She seemed confident. I decided to match her up with Eddie the Big-Dicked Jew for her screen test. She claimed to be able to swallow a garden hose, and I wanted to put that to the test.
Gina my secretary stepped into my office. "Lenny, there's a huge biker type at the front door, and he's demanding to see you. He looks dangerous to me, you may want to have your jacket open."
I said, "Tall? Scary-looking? Does he have a full beard and is wearing wraparound shades like I do?"
"Yeah, that's him," Gina said.
"Aw hell, that's just Boss. Lemme go get the big bastard."
I went to the front door and sure enough, there's Boss, a huge grin on his face. He gave me a bear hug like always and said, "C'mon out to the driveway, Lenny, I bought you a present."
I gaped in amazement. Boss said, "What do ya think?"
"Are you serious?" I replied.
"Hell yeah. It's a modified '88 Sportster. I picked it up off a jarhead in Chula Vista who's wife is making him get rid of it, they're expecting their first kid. Me and Gary went over it with a fine tooth comb, and it runs as good as it looks. What do ya think?"
"I don't know what to say," I stammered. "I guess the question is why?"
Boss gently laid a hand on my shoulder. "Hell Lenny, I'm gettin' rich because of you. If you hadn't hooked me up with Angel and Vinny to make their Ecstasy, I'd still be knocking out a thousand hits a week. Right now I'm up to 25,000. Things are really goin' my way, and it's because of you. I'm keepin' my eyes peeled for another Sportster for Bekka, and don't argue with me over it. I can afford to buy a couple putts for my friends. So here's the key, take 'er out for a spin real quick."
Still in a state of amazement, I straddled the machine. I put the key in and hit the starter, giving it a bit of gas. The engine grabbed right away. I gently twisted the throttle a couple times, and was rewarded with an explosive roar. This was not a subtle machine. I knocked the kick stand out of the way, clicked the shifter into first, and rolled down the driveway. On the street, I pointed up the hill and gave it the gas. The acceleration wanted to pull me onto the rear tire. I got as far as second gear and fifty mph when I found myself approaching the dead end. I hit the brakes and whipped it around. The motorcycle felt like it was built into me. I pointed back down the hill at a slightly more relaxed pace. Turning onto El Camino Real, I cruised along at median speed, adjusting to the feeling of the bike. I finally made a u-turn and headed back home.
"So does it work okay?" Boss asked after I shut down in the driveway.
"Boss, this thing is beautiful. I can't thank you enough."
He smiled. "Just make sure Bekka gives me a hug when I round up her putt. Not everybody kin say they get hugs from a Penthouse Pet!"
He reached in the glove box of the truck and pulled out the pink slip for the Sportster. "Here, it's all signed, ya just need to turn it in to DMV. Right now I gotta head out to Needles again, see how things are goin'. Have fun goin' home tonight. An' give lil' Gator Bait a hug for me!" He backed out and took off down the street.
I stood there and stared at my new motorcycle. It was a beast, no doubting that. An outlaw bike. And outlaws are meant for upsetting the status quo. I had a mean idea, and decided to follow through on it.
My timing was perfect. I located the Cutlass just as the dismissal bell rang. A slow tide of high school students began pouring out of the various buildings, some aimed for the bus stop, others for the parking lot, sophomores heading to the bike racks. I sat at the tail of the Cutlass watching for Jane.
She showed up with Lance in tow. She was surprised to see me, and even more surprised to see me on a new motorcycle. "Holy shit, Lenny, where did this thing come from?" she asked.
"It was a gift from Boss," I told her. "He's looking for another one for Bekka. At the rate things are going, girl, you're gonna end up with full-time possession of the brand new Sportster."
"But you'll let me drive this one, right? Please?" Jane begged.
"That's why I came here today, to get a parking permit on it. You mind heading for the office for a few minutes?"
Lance muttered, "The most I can hope for is my mom letting me drive the minivan when I go out."
Jane elbowed his ribs and said, "That's because they didn't have the foresight to get rich in porn."
I rode ahead on the bike and put it in a visitor's spot near the door. I wiped my eyes as I waited for Jane and Lance to catch up. Sunglasses helped, but I was seriously considering goggles. If I kept up the riding habits I'd developed so far, I'd either die or go blind.
The three of us walked in together. I rang the bell and waited for someone to show up. When someone did show up, her name tag identified her as Mrs. Gates. Great. She was annoyed when we had three parking permits, and now we'd be working on five.
"Hi!" I introduced myself. "My name is Leonard Schneider, we've spoken on the phone. Jane and I are here to get another parking permit."
"Another permit?" Mrs. Gates squawked. "What could Jane possibly be driving to school now?"
I gave her my car salesman grin and said, "It's parked out front. Grab your folder."
Grudgingly, she did, and followed us out to the front lot. She froze up when she saw the latest machine.
"Isn't it cool?" asked Jane.
"You intend to ride this to school, Jane? You already have so many other vehicles to choose from," said Mrs. Gates.
"And all of them have style," I said.
Mrs. Gates sniffed and said, "Well, I can't prevent you from registering another vehicle. Place the sticker on the front fender."
Jane peeled off the backing to the permit sticker, saying, "I feel bad, desecrating this putt with a parking permit. Can't I just leave it in the administration lot? It would be a lot safer there."
"You know how well our parking is patrolled. How often do you intend on riding this.... Object to school?"
"As often as Lenny lets me. This thing is rad."
I said, "Don't get too hung up on it, Gator Bait. This was a gift from Boss, and I want to play with my new gift some. I'll let you take it for a spin when we get home, but don't count on putting any miles under it for at least a week. Let me have my fun. Hell, Bekka doesn't even know I have it."
"Okay. Fair enough. So Boss just up and bought this for you?"
"Just like he did the Fury," I said.
"What prompted this?" Jane asked.
"I'll tell you later. A business arrangement went well, and he wanted to thank me. That's all I'll tell you now."
Lance stared at the chopper some more and commented, "It only seats one."
I said, "Yeah, most show bikes are like that. Don't worry, the new Sportster can carry a passenger. You don't mind riding bitch?"
"I've never been on a motorcycle before."
"We'll have to change that. C'mon, we have to go fill out a form in the office."
As we filled out the form, Mrs. Gates asked me, "Why do you have so many vehicles?"
I gave her a wolfish smile. "Because wherever you are is no good unless you can get away from it. That's why."
Our business concluded, I struck out for home. I left the new chopper in front on the street, dashing up the stairs and calling out to Bekka, "Grab your helmet and leather, babe, I got something to show you."
"What's the commotion?" she asked, getting off the sofa.
"Come downstairs, this is really neat."
Bekka stared at the chopper and blinked. "Where did you get this from, Lenny?" she asked.
"Boss got it for us. A thank you gift for setting him up in business with Angel. He says he's looking for one just for you, too."
A smile crept over her face. "I get to ride it, right?"
I smiled back. "That's why I brought you down here."
"Let me go get my stuff on. Is it quick?"
She dashed up the stairs, and returned two minutes later wearing her boots, leather, gloves, and helmet. "This thing looks too cool. I might be gone a little while. I'll stop and fuel it."
"Don't be over an hour, or I'll start to worry. Remember, you're still in the learning stage, just like me," I said.
She didn't reply, she just gave me a grin best described as psychotic while she fired up the engine. Then she was gone, roaring down Neptune Ave. towards Leucadia Blvd., presumably headed for a gas station and then the freeway. She was just turning off of Neptune when Jane and Lance pulled into her space. Jane hopped out of the Cutlass and said, "Where's the new bike?"
"Getting cruised by Bekka," I said.
"Aww...." she responded. "Okay. Um, me and Lance are gonna be up in my room, okay?"
"That's fine." I followed them into the house, grabbing the remote and landing on one of the recliners. Squeak jumped up in my lap. It was too early for a drink or the bong, and I wasn't in the mood for anything heavier. I turned on some cartoons and lightly dozed.
Forty-five minutes later I heard a Harley pull up outside. Bekka skipped into the living room with a look of joy on her face.
"I love it," she said. "That thing is quick. I took it down to Pacific Beach and back, and cruised around our old neighborhood some, getting used to the feel of riding in traffic. People definitely check that thing out. So who gets what bike, now?"
I said, "For the time being we're sharing. Remember Boss is looking around for another custom machine for you. By default Jane gets the brand new one, once that happens. Until then we all just share. If Jane is really keen on riding to school I'll take either the Fleetwood or the Cutlass to work. I'm sure we'll spend plenty of time arguing about this."
"Jane can ride to school on days I'm working, but I want something to ride when I have free time, I'm having too much fun on those putts. How about you? Are you going to start riding to work every day?"
I held out my hands. "It will depend entirely on my mood when I get up."
Jane and Lance came tumbling down the stairs and into the kitchen, in search of sodas. They'd been working up a thirst. Bekka said, "Feeling better, girl?"
"Much better," said Jane. "I'm way more relaxed now."
"Getting your boy trained, then?" I asked. Lance went bright red.
"Practice makes perfect."
"And the practice is fun," smiled Bekka.
"Can I try the new putt now? Please?" pleaded Jane.
"For a little while," I said. "Don't go on a run to San Clemente and abandon Lance here. Just cruise around town for ten or fifteen minutes."
"Can I ride it to school tomorrow?"
"Nope. I'm taking it to work. But Bekka is working tomorrow, so you can ride the new one."
"Okay, that works. Lemme grab my leather and helmet." Jane raced back upstairs.
She came back downstairs with her leather on, helmet in place, and pulling on her gloves. Lance and I followed her to the garage, where she hopped on and fired up. She roared down Neptune in the same manner Bekka had. I couldn't criticize, it was a motorcycle that demanded you use its power.
Lance sidled up next to me. "She's quite a girl," he said.
"She is at that," I replied. "Tell me, was she your first woman?"
He got red again. "If, uh, you mean what I think you mean, yes. She's my first at a lot of things. I've never had a girlfriend before. Are all girls as, um, aggressive as her?"
I laughed. "For better or worse, no. Jane is a girl who knows what she wants. Most other girls are a lot more coy. No, she's a girl who will put a lot of demands on whoever she's dating. Don't let her intimidate you."
Lance said, "It's hard to not be intimidated. I mean, when we're alone she's all over me. I know that's what guys are supposed to want, and it's fun, but she gets so aggressive it's scary. I don't consider myself to be shy, but I feel that way around her."
"Dude, you're sixteen. You're not supposed to be the model of confidence at your age. In a way you're lucky. Jane is showing you all the different ways to make her happy, right? That knowledge will help as you get older and meet other women. Enjoy the ride for now."
"She's just.... Such a dynamo, you know? Between her hair and makeup and the sex and her music and her car and now the motorcycles I don't know if I could ever keep up with her. I'm always afraid she'll realize how boring I am."
"Don't sell yourself short. You make her very happy. Maybe she likes that you're a calming influence in her life."
Lance rubbed his nose. "You really think so?"
I laughed again and said, "Dude, you said yourself how aggressive she is. If she was unhappy with you she'd have put you to the curb by the end of the first week.... Although you're at a point where you should be getting a little bit assertive yourself. You've got to have some confidence built up by now. Go ahead and tell her what you want to do."
"I want to learn how to ride a motorcycle."
I stared at Lance. "Okay, that's in my territory. If you can get your mom to call me and tell me it's okay, I'll teach you, and Jane will help. Any chance you have a helmet?"
"I've got my old skateboard helmet. Will that do?"
"It will suffice for learning. To start off we'd just be putting around the parking lot of your school, you getting used to the clutch and the weight of the putt. We don't have the easiest machines to learn on. C'mon, let's go inside."
We went up the stairs and into the living room, when Bekka was reclined on one of the sofas watching TV. "What's shakin'," she asked.
"Not much, how about you?"
"Watching Tiny Toons."
"Lance here wants to learn how to ride."
Bekka's face split in a grin. "Does he have his mother's okay?"
"I asked the same question," I said. "What the hell, give her a call and ask, Lance. You can borrow my helmet."
"Okay...." He went for the phone and dialed. "Hi, Mom? It's me. Listen, I'm over here at Jane's house, and Lenny says he's willing to teach me how to ride a motorcycle. I can borrow his helmet, we'll just be at the school parking lot.... I don't know, he just got another one.... But.... No, just in the lot.... Actually, she's out riding the one he just got.... Let me ask."
Lance turned to me. "What kind of motorcycle is it?" he asked.
"A Harley Sportster," I replied.
"A Harley Davidson Sportster," he said into the phone. "It's what they're learning to ride on.... I guess.... Aw, c'mon.... Okay.... Okay...."
"Ask if it's okay if you stay to dinner, we're ordering from Leucadia Pizza," called Bekka.
"Mom, is it okay if I have dinner over here? I'll have Jane drive me home right afterwards.... Okay, thanks Mom, and I'll talk to Richard when I get home. Bye."
Lance hung up and said, "She's afraid of me learning on a Harley. She thinks they're too powerful. I have to ask Richard if it's okay with him. I tried to explain to her that we'd be in the school parking lot, but.... Anyway, if Richard says yes, maybe I can learn over the weekend. And dinner is okay."
Bekka said, "Better to be learning on a Sportster than a lot of other bikes. What if Lenny and I had a thing for crotch rockets? We'd be trying to teach you on a Ninja, or a Ducati 900. Bikes with serious zip to them."
We heard the rumble of a large motorcycle being backed into its space under the house, and presently Jane came up, doffing her helmet and sunglasses. She looked thrilled.
"Oo-wee, that thing is fun! It's a rocket! I dusted some guy in a BMW leaving a light who wanted to race me. Is the next one you get from Boss gonna be just like this one?"
"I have no clue," I told her. "This next one, he's searching out something specifically for Bekka, so don't get your hopes up. As a daily rider, you're going to have the brand new one. By the way, Lance is going to learn how to ride if it's okay with Detective Ross. Maybe you can put a positive spin on things when you drop Lance off after dinner."
"I'll try," Jane said. "Every time I talk to him, I get the impression that he's disappointed I'm not a whore."
"We'll get that out of his head, one way or another," Bekka said. "In the meantime, grab the Leucadia menu off the fridge, let's order some dinner."