Sunday, January 24, 2016

Don V. (Part 2)

     The ride went extremely well.  Don Ventimiglia loved it.  He hadn't ridden in decades, but old instincts were awakened, and he did fine.  Being on a modern Sportster probably helped a lot, it was a lot more flingable and comfortable than the old Indian he'd spent time on.  He kept up, indulging in the curves of the mountain highway all the way into Lake Elsinore.  As a rider, Jane made a good passenger, keeping centered and not squirming.  As always, Bekka was having a blast, powering along on her big purple machine.

     We took a cigarette break in Lake Elsinore, then headed south to the Hollandia Dairy, where we got milkshakes.  Even in my too-large leather, the don looked dapper, indulging in a chocolate shake against his doctor's wishes.  We sat at a concrete table, watching the ducks and chickens.
     Don V. sucked at his shake and said, "I know what I am purchasing when I return."
     "Oh?" I asked, but I knew what he meant.
     "Yes.  I wish to own a Harley Sportster, much like yours.  Perhaps I could impose upon your friend Boss to help me locate one."
     "I'm sure he'd be happy to help.  You haven't met Boss yet, have you?"
     The don shook his head.  "Vinny Morelli has told me of him, that the man seems to terrify strangers wherever he goes.  Why is this?"
     Bekka chuckled.  "Boss is the sweetest guy you could meet.  He's also six foot seven, big, and a biker straight out of central casting, with the boots and beard and denim vest and greasy Levis.  He can be an intimidating person to the uninitiated.  Poor Jane here was terrified of him the first few times they met."
     The don considered this.  He was well on his way to being a Little Old Man: thin, stooped, maybe five foot eight.  He said, "Yes, I would enjoy meeting this man.  He is at the center of our newest business venture, so I probably should meet him at some point.  I would just as soon do it under my current situation, so that I might get to know him as a man, and not a business partner.  Can you arrange this?"
     "It should be no problem," I said.  "He lives about forty-five minutes from us, in an inland town called Santee.  Him and his girlfriend could ride out we could have dinner."
     "Please, make this happen.  He will be a break from the men I am used to, just as you three are."  The don began laughing.  "When I return, it will cause chaos.  When I buy my motorcycle, it will cause panic.  I will warn you now, Lenny and Bekka, you will have people angry with you, for having inspired such a purchase in me."
     We finished our shakes and mounted back up, striking out for home on the 78, then south on I-5 into Encinitas.  We got the bikes in the garage, the don confidently backing my machine into its space down the ramp.  We went inside and out of force of habit I went straight for the answering machine.  One message.  It was Angel, simply asking that I call him.  I did so.
     He answered, I said, "Hey Angel, what's up?"
     He said, "We got trouble up here.  Don Ventimiglia is missing."
     "Really," I said in a surprised voice.
     "Yeah, he took off in his Lincoln this morning and hasn't turned up anywhere.  Nobody knows what to think.  If he's been snatched, the fuckers haven't gotten a hold of us.  That and, well, he's an old guy, he just might be somewhere and confused, you know?  But the search is on for him."
     "Okay.  What's he driving?" I asked, thinking of the Town Car parked at the beach lot.
     "It's a gray Lincoln Town Car, last year's model.  Keep your eyes peeled.  The chance of you seeing are slim.  The consensus right now is that he took off for Vegas, feeling nostalgic.  That's where we're gonna be concentrating.  Hopefully he'll turn up, and isn't in any trouble, you know?"
     "Things will work out, I'm sure.  Did he have any worries?"
     Angel sighed.  "He has announced his intention to retire, so the politicking and jockeying for favor have cranked way up.  I'm staying the fuck out of it, I'm happy where I am.  Anyway, that's what's going on.  If you spot a gray Lincoln, check out the driver.  The plate is 2LBW783.  Got it?"
     "Yeah, no problem.  Let me know if you learn anything."
     "All right.  Give the girls a hug for me.  Good night." (*click*)
     I returned to the living room, where Don V. was saying to Jane, "I spent much of the day staring at your jacket, young lady.  What does 'Machine Snatch' mean?"
     Jane was actually coy about it.  "It's, um, it's a personal joke...."
     "It could be taken to mean something obscene."
     Jane was now red.  "Well, actually...."
     I rescued Jane by butting in.  "Sir, I just got off the phone with Angel Morelli.  You were right, they are up in arms.  They don't think you've been snatched, because there has been no demands called in to anyone.  Right now they figure you've either taken off for Vegas to relive old times, or you've had a senior moment and are lost and confused somewhere.  But they're searching for you, and for the car.  Might I suggest that you put the Lincoln in my garage, where it would be hard to spot?  I'll find a place to anchor my Cadillac, like at the mansion where we film, and you can use one of our other cars."
     Bekka said, "I'm not on the board until Thursday this week, so he can use the Fury to get around.  I'll just ride my bike.  We'll take the Fury to the zoo tomorrow."
     Don V. gave this some consideration.  "Yes.  Or leave the Lincoln at the Inana mansion, in the garage.  Yes, that would be best.  Shall we do it now?"
     Jane said, "Give me the mansion keys, I'll drive over with him, and give him a ride back.  I want to show him the Cutlass."
     "That's fine," I said.  "Don't lag too much, so we can go get some dinner.  Evelyn's sound okay with everybody?"
     That sounded great to all present.  Don V. and Jane left, Jane explaining to the don that Evelyn's was the best steak house in the universe, and their ribs were to die for.  I heard the Cutlass fire up, warm, and then head for the beach lot.  I poured two Johnnie Walkers, tall, and handed one to Bekka.
     "Our lives just got that much more complex, huh?" said Bekka, knocking back half her drink in one go.
     "Oh yeah," I replied.  "We've got the fucking godfather of the Southern California mafia staying under our roof, hiding out from his own handlers.  When word gets out that we did this, we're gonna have a load of pissed off mafioso calling for our heads.  We'll have abetted in terrifying the SoCal mafia half to death for four days.  No matter what Don Ventimiglia says, we're gonna have created some enemies."
     "Shit!  What is it that the don drinks again?"
     "Hennessey," I replied.
     Bekka grabbed her purse and keys.  "I'll be back in just a few.  I'm headed to the liquor store.  You need anything?"
     "Naw, I'm good.  Maybe grab some Miller for Jane."
     Bekka shot out the door.  For lack of a better idea, I turned on the TV.  The six o'clock news was just coming on.  Some pile of clothing was telling about what little had happened in San Diego that day.  Then it changed gears.
     "A Los Angeles businessman is missing tonight.  Vito Ventimiglia is said to have left his residence this morning in his private car, and has not been seen since.  The 78 year old Ventimiglia is said to be in good health.  He has been connected with organized crime in Southern California, but has never been indicted or charged.  His destination remains a mystery.  Also in Los Angeles...."
     I ran my hands through my hair.  I was comforted that they hadn't run a photo or description, but just the fact that it had hit the news was disconcerting.  I sat and reflected, and got nothing.  The don was my charge.  He wanted shelter.  He wanted his life to be stress-free, for a few days.  I changed the channel to something showing a rerun of 'Mama's Family' and settled back in.  I would say nothing of this news blurb, it would only upset people.  Soon I heard the Fury backing into its space.
     Jane came up the stairs with a bottle-shaped bag in her hand.  She tossed me a couple Snickers bars.
     "How did you know?" I asked.
     She sneered at me.  "Because every fucking time I do a liquor store run, I get home and you say you meant to ask me for a couple candy bars.  I'm married to you, remember?  You don't think I know my husband?"
     I unwrapped one and began gnawing.  "Perfect.  Thank you dear, this will hold me together until we get to Evelyn's.  You grab anything for you and Jane and the don?"
     She reached in her pocket.  "Jerky," she said.  "Teriyaki beef jerky.  One of the pound bags, so we'll hold body and soul together until dinner.  And you know we're gonna have to wait on a Sunday."
     Mama's Family blended into an old episode of the Carol Burnett Show.  Soon enough we heard the Cutlass stowing itself into its place underneath the house.  Jane and Don V. came up, Jane looking exalted, the don looking winded.
     Jane said, "We got in a drag race on the way home.  Some yuppie shithead decided he was gonna challenge my fenders coming up to a light.  Stupid, right?  So he started goosing it sitting at the light, and I just rested my left foot on the brake and gave it the gas, like you taught me, to burn some rubber and get the tires sticky.  The light turned green and I laid into it.  He was ahead for the first fifty yards, but then I shot past him and kept going.  I smoked him.  He pulled up next to us at the next light and Uncle Vito, he was so cool, he leaned out the window and said, 'You owe us a hundred dollars.'  Is that not awesome or what?  The little chump made a right turn and took off.  It was so cool, he'd been had."
     Don Ventimiglia grinned and said, "This young lady is quite the driver.  I wish my own drivers demonstrated her skills."
     Bekka said, "Gator Bait, what have we said about dragging? And here you are with an honored guest in the car, getting in drags on PCH?"
     "Yeah, but he challenged me," said Jane.  "I was minding my own business."
     Don V. said, "It is true.  The young man in the Audi challenged her.  Given what she drives, it was a matter of honor.  Do not punish this young lady."
     "Well....  Okay," I said.  "But girl, no more showing off.  You understand?"
     Jane looked frustrated.  "But then why did you teach me how to do a brake stand?" she asked.
     "What?" exclaimed Bekka.
     "Nothing, nothing," I said.  "Come on, let's go to dinner."
     At Don V.'s request, we took the Plymouth.  I took the wheel.  The don rode shotgun.  I got us out on PCH and laid into the gas.  We were at eighty within three blocks, me dodging through traffic like a slalom course.  We reached the next red and stopped.  There was an Audi sitting next to me....  And he suddenly jerked the wheel in my direction and aimed.
     "Hey Jane," I said, "is that your new friend?"
     Jane looked over and said, "Shit that's him!"  She threw herself across Bekka, cranked down the window, and yelled, "Hey, fuck you! Fuck you!  Fuck you!"
     The don rolled down his own window and gestured for the driver of the Audi to do the same.  He did.  The don simply said, "You are a glutton for punishment, aren't you?"
     I jerked the tranny down into first and did a wheel-stand, getting the tires hot.  The Audi driver hit his gas, getting his nose in front of mine.  I wasn't worried.  The light turned green and I laid into the gas, the sticky tires grabbing at the asphalt.  The Audi shot forward at first, relying on his clutch, but the monstrous weight and horsepower of the Plymouth matched, then bettered, the Audi.  I kicked into second and shot past.  He tried to keep up, but there was no match.  I hit third, now rolling at over ninety, and zoomed up the slight grade towards the next light.  I brought it down to a stop, letting the Audi catch up.  He looked over at us with a pissed-off look on his face.
     The don leaned out and said, "You know what tonight's lesson is?  Never fuck with the mafia.  We're the best at everything."
     The Audi pilot muttered something we couldn't hear and rolled up his window.  When the light turned green he hesitated, allowing us to leave the line ahead of him, and in a fairly sedate manner.  Behind me Bekka and Jane cheered, and attempted to hug me from that position.  I got ahead of the Audi and made a right, aiming for the restaurant.
     Beside me Don Ventimiglia grinned.  He said, "Lenny, I am glad you are part of la cosa nostra.  The family needs men willing to take risks. You and your family, you are different than what we are used to, and that is a good thing.  Maybe you shall breathe new life into a very staid organization."
     I said, "Thank you, Don Ventimiglia.  Perhaps in my own way, I shall be a positive influence on the family."
     We pulled into the lot of Evelyn's and I actually managed to find an open spot, a rarity on a Sunday evening.  We disembarked and headed inside.  There was a wait, so we were ushered into the bar.  We weren't worried about Jane, they'd served her before, to the don's mild surprise.  He didn't question things.  He got his Hennessey, Bekka and I got our Johnnie Walker, Jane got her Wild Turkey.  We all leaned against the bar, feet up on the rail.  We sipped at our drinks and waited to hear our name called.
     Presently a young stud elbowed his way in and demanded Jack Daniels.  The bartender served him.  Bekka looked at him and said, "You looked stressed."
     "Yeah, there's punks in this place I want to have words with.  I was racing on PCH, okay?  They pull up in this big black shitbox, and dust me.  They've gotta be running nitrous.  I just spotted them parked in this lot, and I'm gonna have it out with them."
     Barely stifling her laughter, Jane asked Studley, "Tell me, did you get dusted off by a Cutlass earlier?"
     "Yeah, another punk with nitrous....  You!"  He jumped backwards.
     Jane laughed.  "No, I'm not running nitrous, that's just well-tuned American steel you keep running up against.  That was my Cutlass earlier, and you were up against Lenny at the wheel of his wife's Plymouth you just got had by.  And where's our hundred bucks?"
     "What?  You're kidding," said Studley.
     "Seems like a fair deal to me," said Bekka.  "Actually, you're up to two hundred bucks at this point, since you lost to me and my husband.  You wanted to race, racing is more interesting when there's a bit at stake, and a hundred per race is not too unreasonable.  Better than losing your pink slip, right?  So cough up."
     And Don V. says, "It is a fair wager.  You could have lost more.  Do not welsh on your challenge."
     And Studley says the stupidest thing to come out of anyone's mouth since someone suggested Caesar was unstable, which was, "Fuck you, grandpa, stay out of this."
     Don V. looked up at Studley and asked, "What is your name, young man?"
     Studley looked at him and said, "Richard Livingston.  The third.  What do you care?"
     The don gave his small smile and said, "Well, Richard Livingston the third, your life as you know it will be a lot more messy, and very soon.  I will be spoken to in many ways, but I will not tolerate anyone saying 'fuck you' to me.  I will devote the next few months of my life to ruining your life.  It will not matter what you do, your fate is unavoidable.  Perhaps you will learn something from what you go through.  Your lesson will be to not to be a poor loser.  You can avoid a lot of pain by apologizing, and admitting to these two that you lost fair and square.  They have no tanks of gas under their hoods, they race honest machines.  Do you have something to say?"
     Richard Livingston III looked at the don of the Southern California mafia and said, "Fuck you, old man."
     Don V. gave his gravelly chuckle and said, "Suit yourself."  Then he waved at the bartender to give us another round.
     My name was called and we went and took our table.  We perused our menus, me and Bekka already having decided on pork ribs.  I asked Don Ventimiglia what he planned to do with Mr. Livingston.
     "First, I am blowing up his precious Audi.  Then, I am ransacking his home.  Then, his employer will be provided with color photographs of him in bed with a male prostitute.  Then, the police will be alerted to the ounce of heroin under the front seat of his car.  No, I do not like it when people say 'fuck you' to me.  Not at all.  I will not tolerate that particular abuse."
     I said, "This is something to remember.  Bekka and I say 'fuck you' to each other all the time, and we carry no meaning with it.  It's just a vaguely dismissive phrase we use."
     The don chuckled.  "Oh, you can tell me to fuck off all day.  I just will not tolerate being told fuck you.  It is....  An allergy of mine."
     Jane said, "I'm gonna stop using that phrase."
     Bekka asked, "And who are you saying fuck you to?"
     "I use it in the locker room with the other volleyball girls all the time, just joking, you know.  Shit, they're so disturbed by all the other things that come out of my mouth, they don't even notice that one, you know?"
     The waitress came by.  We ordered more drinks (Jane switching to Miller) and requested our food.  Don V. ordered the New York cut.  He gave off his gravel chuckle, saying, "My doctors would have a fit if they knew what I was eating in your company.  I am an old man, why should I not enjoy what I eat?"
     Jane smiled at him and said, "Do you like manicotti?  I was gonna make cheese manicotti with sausage and salad tomorrow night."
     Don V. smiled back and said, "Homemade manicotti?  I look forward to it, young lady."
     "She's quite the cook," said Bekka.  "Jane, are you going to show off for the don while he is here?"
     "Sure," Jane replied.  "We'll have beef stew and biscuits the day after tomorrow."
     "My favorite," I said.  "Maybe you can do your chicken and dumplings, if the don is still around.  That's another one of your winners."
     We sipped our drinks, at peace.  Jesus Christ, here I am having drinks with Don Ventimiglia himself, and we're totally at ease with each other.  I should be totally attentive to his every need, but here I am, treating him like....  Just another dude, and he is totally fine with that.  Maybe it's what he needs, to just be treated like a fellow dude, some guy, and not the important man he is.  He wants to be treated as a normal person, just a guest.  I eased into the next question, as it would affect how the rest of our evening went.
     "Don Ventimiglia, how do you feel about marijuana?" I asked.
     He smiled.  "I remember tucking rolled up towels under the doors of hotel rooms in Las Vegas so that we could indulge.  It was a great risk then, possession of a joint could land you in prison for years in Nevada.  I know that smoking marijuana is much less of a risk these days, and that it is also much more potent.  Why do you ask?"
     "Well....  It is something the three of us do at night.  We smoke, watch TV for a little while, then go to bed.  If it will disturb you, we will pass on it."
     The don said, "Tell me, do any of the three of you use needles to take your drugs?"
     "No, we don't."
     "Then nothing you do shall upset me.  I understand that you and Bekka are addicted to amphetamines, which you snort.  Hopefully this little girl does not also take part in this, at her age."
     "I don't like the stuff," said Jane.
     The don continued, "Your use of drugs will not disturb me.  If you use cocaine, I may join you.  Heh, another way of infuriating my doctors.  I may join you in smoking marijuana, it is a pleasure I have not had since the early Seventies.  I do not like amphetamine, it is too abrupt and jarring of an experience.  In a way, I am surprised: you use crank, but your lives are orderly.  That is rare, in my experience.  If anything, I am curious about this new drug, Ecstasy.  What does it do?"
     "It induces an incredible feeling of euphoria and well-being that lasts for eight to ten hours," I said.  "It is quite an experience."
     Jane said, "Uncle Vito, you're a warrior.  You'd enjoy Ecstasy."
     "What do you mean by that, young lady?" asked the don.
     "Ecstasy makes you see the possibilities in all things, good and bad.  You get feeling, a vibe, from everything and everyone.  That scares some people.  They're not warriors.  The experience frightens them.  You, you run the damn mafia, and all mafia members are warriors.  You have the strength to deal with what is presented to you by the drug.  You can handle the experience."
     Don V. blinked and said, "It sounds like an incredible drug."
     Jane continued, "I think you and Bekka should take Ecstasy and go to the zoo tomorrow.  I think you will have a rich experience, being around the wildlife and all the people.  I think you will have a good time."
     "What do you think, Bekka?"
     Bekka looked stunned at this suggestion.  "Um....  I think, yeah, that could work.  If you start feeling too weird, we can just land on a bench and watch the world go by for a while.  It's a powerful drug, but I'll be with you, and I have experience with it."
     "Is it like LSD?" asked Don V.  "I have taken that, and it was very involving."
     I said, "It's not as involving as acid.  You don't have the visuals, and it doesn't mess with your head as much.  It's fun."
     "Settled then," said Jane.  "You and Bekka have your morning coffee and wash down a couple hits with your bagels.  You'll have a great day.  Then you come home, have a couple drinks, and have manicotti and sausage for dinner.  Okay?"
     The don laughed.  "I am glad you have my day planned, young lady."
     "It just seemed like the best idea," Jane smiled.
     Our meals arrived and we dug in.  Don V. commented again at how upset his doctors would be, if they knew his current eating habits.  We finished --- the don again snatching up the bill --- and headed back out to the Plymouth.  It remained unmolested.  We piled in and headed towards home.
     Once inside, Jane asked if it was okay if she got the weed and bong.  I gave her my approval, telling her to fix the bong up with ice and water.  The TV went on and we all settled in the living room.  I loaded the bowl and passed it to Don V., who stared at it.  "I have never used one," he said.
     Bekka took the bong.  "I'll show you," she said.  "You put your thumb over this hole, and draw in while firing the bowl.  You keep an eye on the smoke rising in the chamber.  When it's up to the top, exhale, then take your thumb off the hole and draw in all the smoke.  Repeat the process until the bowl is clear.  You should get two or three hits off a bowl, and that should do you right.  Want me to go first, so you can see how it's done?"
     "Please do," said the don.
     Bekka fired the bong and took a big hit, blowing a cloud into the living room.  She cleared the bowl, then handed the bong back to me to reload.  I put in a not-too-large load in for Don V.  No sense in incapacitating him.  I handed it over, saying, "We loaded it with ice water, so it shouldn't be too harsh.  Here, have a go.  It should definitely get you mellowed out."
     The don followed instructions and got a good hit, not coughing as much as I had feared.  He took his time, getting three hits off his bowl.  He set the bong back down on the coffee table and said, "Yes, it seems to be working."
     Bekka and I glanced at each other.  The stuff we got was serious creeper weed, it waited a few minutes and snuck up on you.  If he was feeling it now, in fifteen minutes we would have a very stoned mafia leader on our love seat.  I shrugged and loaded the bong, passing it to Jane, who accepted it gratefully.  Then I took my own turn.
     Bekka, Jane, and I talked a bit about nothing in particular.  Jane had a quiz in English the next day.  Bekka gossiped a bit about the love lives of her fellow performers.  I told them how my newest script was going, and who I saw in what roles.  And the don sat there watching the TV, a vacant smile on his face.  He suddenly said in a quiet voice, "Lenny, if it is not too much trouble, may I have something to drink?  I am feeling very dry."
     "No problem, sir," I said.  "Would you like a beer?  We drink a brand called Anchor Steam from San Francisco, it's quite good.  Anybody else want one?"
     The girls both said a beer sounded dandy.  I got up and popped the caps off of four Anchor Steams, bringing them into the living room and distributing them.  The don took his and said, "Grazie."
     Bekka smiled and said, "Prego, Don Ventimiglia.  Come ti senti?"
     "Molto bene.  Is there something in that marijuana?"
     I sucked at my beer.  "You mean is it laced with anything?  No.  We just have access to a strong strain.  It's just how it's been grown."
     "Stupefacente," the don said.  He still had the same vacant smile on his mug.  "I cannot remember the last time I felt this relaxed."
     Jane looked over at Don V., sizing him up.  She got up, kissed him on the forehead, then walked behind the love seat and said, "Take your jacket off."
     Don V. didn't ask questions, merely complied, placing his suit jacket neatly on the seat beside him.  Jane began massaging his neck and shoulders.  His eyes widened briefly, then drooped to half-mast.  His smile got even wider.  He muttered up at Jane, "You shall not go to Berkeley.  For this, dear girl, I shall be sending you to Harvard.  Ahh, the touch of a young girl...."
     Jane smiled over at us, her tongue poking out from between her teeth.  The don swigged at his beer, placed it in his lap, and closed his eyes, a portrait of relaxation.  He said, "The three of you are very gracious hosts."
     I said, "Prego, Don Ventimiglia," knowing that much.  "We are pleased to have you here."
     Jane worked on him for another ten minutes, when the don announced, "I must retire.  It has been a long and adventurous day.  Now I need to sleep."
     Jane, who had observed and learned over the course of the day, said, "Please Don Ventimiglia, allow me to show you to your room.  I have school in the morning, I need to get to sleep myself.  Shall we?"
     The don picked up his jacket and took Jane's proffered hand.  As they headed towards the stairs, I said, "Good night, don, sleep well.  Jane, get us up when you're headed for school, okay?  I don't like the don to think I sleep all the time, wasting good hours."
     The don turned and asked, "When will you come to bed?"
     Bekka answered, "In about two hours, after we have watched more TV.  It is one of the effects of the drug we're addicted to, we stay up late.  Don't worry, we'll be up when Jane leaves for school."
     The two headed upstairs, Jane leading Don V.   The clock said it was almost time for news, so I flipped channels.  Jane snuggled against me as Channel Ten News went through their announcements.  A minor shooting in Encanto, a liquor store in Pacific Beach robbed.  Then this:  "Los Angeles businessman Vito Ventimiglia has been reported missing.  He left his Bel Air home this morning and has not returned."  A picture of him, obviously a mug shot and at least ten years old, took up the screen.  "Ventimiglia has been connected with organized crime in the southland, but has never been indicted.  His business partners are concerned.  Ventimiglia is seventy-eight.  He was last seen driving a 1990 Lincoln Town Car, gray in color, plate number 2LBW783.  Anyone spotting Ventimiglia or his car is asked to contact the LAPD.  In Hollywood...."
     I hit the mute button.  Bekka and I gave each other shocked stares.  The item I'd heard earlier was a blurb, nothing to be alarmed about.  Now it was clear the hunt was on.  I knew where 2LBW783 was parked, sitting comfortably in the garage of a mansion in La Costa.  Apparently I held a bigger secret than I had anticipated.  Keeping the don safe until he felt like resurfacing would be a bigger task than I'd imagined.
     Bekka said, "Shall we tell him?"
     I replied, "Yes, but not now.  We will break the news in the morning.  I still think you should go to the zoo.  He is looking forward to it, and you'll be surrounded by tourists there, they won't make the connection.  And you'll be in your car.  The family is still looking for him in Vegas, it's the most logical place for him to have run to.  You two get high and enjoy yourselves.  He is one tough bastard, he won't panic at this news."
     "It's hard to not want to plaster a fake beard on him and plant him at the beach until he feels better.  He's in good health, right?"
     "If he's not, he hasn't said anything to me.  Why?"
     "Just....  His interest in the motorcycle, him getting into drag racing, his diet.  It's like he's having a last hurrah."
     I stifled a laugh.  "Or, he's just enjoying youthful things, shit he hasn't been able to take part in since becoming the godfather of Southern California.  He's been living under a microscope, and is finally free of it.  He is being carefree in Christ knows how many years.  I say we let him, and do what we can to enable it."
     Bekka sighed.  "You're right about us making enemies.  We're allowing him to eat however he feels, we're giving him drugs, we're letting him ride a fucking motorcycle...."
     I said, "On that subject.  If I know the man, he's gonna want to ride the Harleys to the zoo tomorrow.  Remind him that you're gonna be on drugs, and take the Fury.  Maybe when you guys get back and his high has mellowed, you can both hop on bikes and cruise around town for fun.  But don't take the Sportsters to the zoo.  You know the superhuman feelings Ecstasy can bring on, especially in the uninitiated.  I don't want him deciding to screw the speed limits and racking up on a stretch of freeway he doesn't know."
     "Good point," Bekka said.  "I have this hunch that I'm going to be spending a lot of time hugging the don tomorrow.  You know how loving Ecstasy can make you feel.  I get the feeling the poor old bastard has not been able to express affection for too long, except towards his cats.  He's gonna latch on to me.  And when we get home, onto Jane.  He's enamored of her."
     I didn't stifle my laugh this time.  "Yes, Jane, the dear girl, has just found a rich and powerful man who is fascinated by her.  I don't put it past her to sneak into his room tonight.  I think she'll find him too exhausted and stoned to respond, but she'll put in the effort, and possibly offer another try in the morning.  She'll work her way into Berkeley, in the best way she knows how."
     "Cynical bastards, aren't we?" said Bekka.
     "We know our little girl," I replied.


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