Jane got up with Don Ventimiglia in the morning to start dinner. She chopped vegetables and potatoes and meat, dumping it all in the crock pot and seasoning it, then starting the crock on Low so it would cook all day. She'd make biscuits at dinnertime. Because Sea World opened later than the zoo, Jane and Don V. were out on the deck drinking coffee and watching the morning surfers when I got up. Jane was attentive to the don's needs. I finally figured out why she was so interested in the man: it wasn't his money or power, she'd simply never met a man with the graciousness and manners of Don V. He was charming in an old world way that she'd never experienced before. With a few words, he made her feel special. I was still glad she was avoiding showing him affection in the manner she was used to. An elderly mafia don hooking up with a jail-bait punk rock girl had all the makings of disaster.
Don V. didn't want to ride the motorcycles to Sea World, especially while high. Freeway riding made him nervous, urban freeway riding especially so. He was more than happy to let Jane show off in her Cutlass. The two of them took their hits of Ecstasy and headed out at the same time as me, the don grinning like a high school kid.
The two of them had a wonderful time. They saw all the shows, took the tours, ate ice cream bars, had lunch at the "good" restaurant in the park. They certainly made an unusual pair. Jane was stopped three times by tourists wanting her photo, punk rockers being a rarity in the wild wherever they were from. Don V. bought Jane a stuffed plush Shamu that was almost as big as she was, to her squealing joy. Nobody could match the don for gentlemanly class, and Jane told me later she was proud and happy to have him on her arm, and fuck what other people thought. They may have thought she was a grandchild, or that she was a strangely successful gold-digger. She didn't care. Being with Don V. made Jane very happy.
After they left the park Jane piloted them up through Mission Beach, so the don could meet our friend (and my lover) Sue, Inana's resident anal queen. Our goth surf betty was home, and invited the two in for beer. Feeling candid, Don V. explained to Sue precisely who he was, where he was staying, and why. This intrigued Sue. "You had to run away from your own people," she said.
"Yes," the don said. "I could take no more of the posturing and positioning. Running things in Vegas in the Fifties was less stressful, and I am an old man now."
Sue said, "I'm giving you my pager number. You need to hide out, my place is perfect. You're two blocks from the beach, no one would ever find you here. You can have my bed, you'll be fine."
The don was slightly affronted. "I would never turn a lady out of her own bed."
This amused Sue. "Who says I'm a lady? Besides, I wouldn't have the don of the Southern fucking California mafia sleeping on my sofa. You'll take my bed, and like it."
The don smiled. "Dear girl, I may take you up on your offer someday. But how would you explain my presence to friends?"
"I'll just say you're my eccentric grandpa, who travels a lot and dropped in on me. No big deal."
Don V. and Jane finished their beers, gave Sue hugs, and headed home. Jane launched into making biscuits. We ate like royalty, and only one pot to wash. I liked crock pot nights. Jane had no homework, so we simply delayed our usual bong session to an appropriate hour. In the interval I got a hold of Boss on the cell phone he'd stationed out at the lab compound, and let him know who wanted to meet him.
Boss was amazed. "Don Ventimiglia wants to meet me? Ho-lee shit. When and where?"
I said, "How about down here, tomorrow, around 5:30? We'll get dinner at the Seafarer, and you two can sniff butts. He's a hell of a guy. Do you think you can make it?"
"Well, hell yeah. Given who wants to have dinner with me, I'll be there, and on time. I'm just glad I've got clean clothes here, I'm on my putt and I'm gonna be here training a couple new folk. I'll be riding straight in tomorrow. I got some extras for you, want 'em?"
"Jesus, how many?" I asked.
"About a hundred. You kin save 'em, not like they go bad."
I chuckled down the line. "Boss my brother, at some point I'm gonna take all the extras you've given me and I'm going to throw one hell of an orgy. And it will be the most amazing thing ever witnessed outside of Roman times."
Boss guffawed at this. "Yeah, an' you'll git it all on video, too."
"Shit no, this will be a personal victory. I won't need to share it, it will be mine. My own triumph."
He laughed some more, and said, "I'll be at your place around 5:30 tomorrow. Sure the big guy will take me as I am?"
"Well, he's only five foot eight, and yes he will. He knows who you are from descriptions Vinny has given. He's good people, you're fine."
"Okay, see you tomorrow."
I wandered back downstairs and said to those collected, "We're having dinner at the Seafarer tomorrow with Boss. He'll be riding in from Needles, so make sure there's a couple cold beers left for him in the fridge. Oh hell, I'll stop by the liquor store on my way home. Don, what are your plans for tomorrow?"
"I shall not take drugs. I do not wish to overindulge. I had no other ideas than walking on the beach and reflecting. Did you have any suggestions?"
Jane said, "I want to ride with you, up Mount Palomar. It's a weekday, so the road will be empty, and it's a awesome ride. We can sit at the summit and you can reflect all you want. I'll cruise up to the observatory and you can sit and think."
The don said, "Yes, that shall make a pleasant afternoon. Am I safe in guessing that the Seafarer is a seafood restaurant? Do they have salmon?"
"They do, sir," I said. "And very good salmon, I have it often."
Jane asked me, "Is Boss pissed at me? After, you know...."
I told her, "I haven't discussed it with him. I wasn't going to bring the subject up. Tomorrow would be a bad day to do it anyway."
Don V. asked, "Is this man Boss upset that the two of you are lovers?"
Three heads swiveled towards the don. "How do you know that?" I asked.
"A woman has a certain look in her eyes when she gazes upon a man she makes love with. Jane has that look when she sees Lenny, as does Bekka. I met a girl named Sue who also has that look when Lenny is mentioned. I do no know if she is making love with Lenny, but it is certainly on her mind. Bekka, you are either a highly tolerant woman, or all this is of your own design."
Bekka drew in a deep breath and said, "It is of my design. Don Ventimiglia, I fuck for a living. I realized that it was horribly unfair of me to do what I do and still insist on sexual loyalty from Lenny. Jane has had a crush on Lenny since she was fourteen, and is sexually active. Why should I be selfish? Why should I not share my husband with this girl who is my friend? The same with Sue, who is a performer for Inana, just like me. She expressed an interest in Lenny, and I felt it only fair that she have some, so to speak. Don, I spend my weeks fucking men I am barely acquainted with. My husband should be allowed to have lovers besides me. I hope all this does not bother you."
The don considered this, rubbing his chin. He finally said, "It is admirable that the two of you have worked out this arrangement. Knowing what you do, Bekka, I have often wondered about your marital relations. Your relationship could be very rocky, but it is not. That the two, or three, of you have reached such a position is quite an achievement. Is this girl Sue amenable to your arrangement?"
"Sue and I are a sometimes thing. We fool around in my office a few times a week. I've never spent the night with her, as I have with Jane."
The don grinned. "This girl Sue, she seemed to be a very strong-willed individual, with her severe makeup and styled hair. Am I right?"
Bekka said, "Sue is what is called a goth, short for gothic. She is fascinated by death, or at least the end of life. She is also a surfer, a very strange combination of social tribes. As a surf betty, she is supposed to sit on the beach and look nice, she is not supposed to be out there tearing up the waves with the guys. But she is, and gets grief for it. She is a player in a male-dominated sport. Sue has attitude like you wouldn't believe. She goes out every morning and rips up the surf, doing better than a lot of the guys, then goes home, showers, and puts on her dark makeup and puts her hair up, transforming herself into a death-worshiping goth bitch. She probably has the most balls of any woman I've ever known. She is no one to be trifled with. And she's buying a custom Cadillac from Rico Carelli in another two weeks. She has the money to do it now, and rather than find a nice place to live and be that much further from the beach, she's dropping all that money on a car she likes. Like I said, attitude. She'll have her surf rack strapped to the roof of her brand new Sedan de Ville and not give a fuck what anybody thinks. Sue is one tough awesome chick. Personally, she'd make a great assassin."
Don V. studied his nails. "I have known female assassins. They were very successful. And they never got caught. The ones I knew stopped working because the idea of being around so much death began to bother them. You say this girl is fascinated by death, is not bothered by it?"
I laughed. I said, "So near as I know, Sue has never had to deal with death personally. It is a concept for her, one that she is fascinated by. Bekka and I have watched men die in front of our eyes, it holds no attraction to us. We have told Sue our tales, which she was amazed by: to pull the trigger, to watch the lights go out, seeing a man stop being a man and become an object. Sue did not care that we had to do these things to save our own lives. That we have taken life is enough to keep her enthralled. As an assassin, she would relish that moment. I have no doubt that Sue could seduce a man, slit his throat at the moment of orgasm, then stare into his eyes as his lights went out. She would get up, wash, get dressed, and leave, with no more emotion than if she had stepped on a roach."
Don Ventimiglia sat back in the love seat, his favorite place. "Do you really think this girl would do these things? She is memorable, that would make things difficult."
This time Bekka laughed. "Don't be fooled by how you saw her. Jeanette, our makeup genius at Inana, routinely makes her up to be of Jane's age. If she was going to seduce some guy in a bar, they'd card her in a second. Sue can look any way you want her to look. All she'd have to do is rearrange her makeup and no one would know who she was. She's a chameleon."
"Fascinating," said Don V. "I must talk to this young lady more."
And that's how Bekka and I turned a goth surf betty into a mafia assassin. But that's a story for another time.
Boss showed up at 5:27 the next afternoon, cursing traffic. He wanted a beer. I invited him upstairs, promising a nice cold Anchor Steam, which he liked almost as much as Budweiser. We got up into the living room and he scanned around out of force of habit from years of criminal behavior. His brain didn't really register on the wizened old man on the love seat. I grabbed him his beer, then guided him over to the love seat. I said, "Boss, I'd like you to meet Don Vito Ventimiglia. Don Ventimiglia, this is Boss."
The don arose from the cushions where Jane was working on his neck and said, "I am happy to meet you. Your product is making money for the family. I have tried it, and enjoyed it."
You could see Boss trying to make himself smaller, to make up the difference in sizes. Boss said, "It's a pleasure to meet you, sir. Y'all have really tried my dope?"
Don V. said, "Yes, two days in a row. I have been to the zoo, and also Sea World under the influence of the drug you create, and enjoyed myself immensely on both days. I have heard much about you, and am pleased to finally meet you. Tell me, is 'Boss' your christian name?"
"No sir, it's Walter. Walter Donovan Stetson. I just picked up the name Boss and that's what everybody calls me. Hell, I gotta freeze up and think about it if I hear someone call for Walter in a room."
The don smiled. "Boss suits you well, you are an imposing figure. Given your exploits, I imagine that you are a natural leader."
Boss put down half his beer in a swallow. This giant of a man was thoroughly cowed at meeting this little old man. It made sense. This little old man controlled more crime and vice in Southern California than any Compton gangbanger could even conceive of. To shake his hand was to shake hands with concentrated illicit power. A force to be reckoned with.
"Why don't we head for the restaurant?" I suggested.
Jane said, "Let's take two cars. Me and Uncle Vito will take the Cutlass, you three can take the Fleetwood."
"Sure, that works," I said. We headed down to the cars, me, Bekka, and Boss all piling in the Cadillac, Don Ventimiglia and Jane getting in the Cutlass. After we were rolling, Boss asked, "Uncle Vito?"
I chuckled. "It's Jane's name for him, at his insistence. To me and Bekka, he's still Don Ventimiglia, or simply sir. He indulges the girl, and she of him."
Boss asked, "So, uh, how did it work out with that arrangement you had?"
Bekka leaned over the seat and said, "It worked out rather well, actually. Lenny has three lovers now. Me, Jane, and a girl from work named Sue. How much detail do you want?"
Boss said in a tight voice, "Not much, actually. Lenny, you got two women besides your wife right now? And one of 'em's Gator Bait?"
I said, "I was surprised as anyone. Bekka arranged all this."
"God damn." Boss sounded more amazed than angry, which was fine with me. He still thought of Jane as a little girl, and I'd learned to know better.
Since it was a Wednesday evening, we were seated quickly. Drinks were served all around, and we perused the menu. I got my trout in cream sauce, the don and Jane selected salmon, and Boss and Bekka chose halibut steaks. We sat and relaxed with our drinks, until Don V. broke the ice by asking Boss, "How did you think of creating such a drug? I have taken it on Monday and Tuesday, and am amazed at its effects. I have never had such an experience."
Boss shrugged and said, "Hell, I didn't invent it. MDMA has been around for a while. I just figgered out a better way of making it. More kick, without the speedy effect you git from a lot of dope out there. The Dutch shit, th' stuff that gits imported, that has a lot of speed in it. I figgered out how to git the high without the speed effect. Same process, though."
Don V. said, "I am happy you are working with the family. I know Ecstasy sells well all over the West Coast, and yours is the most in demand. What would it take for you to double your production?"
Boss chuckled and said, "A couple warehouses. You're talking about a lot of lab equipment, cooking stations, pill presses.... Hell, just the pill counters would be a bigger investment. You're talking about 80,000 hits per week at this point. It would take a while to gear up to that kinda production."
"You sit down with the Morelli cousins and tell them what is needed. I wish to corner the market on this drug. It is too valuable to let slip by. Yours is too good."
Over our meals the don asked, "I understand you ride a Harley Davidson. Is it your main source of transportation?"
Boss said, "Yeah, when it's just me, or me and my lady. In bad weather or if I got people with me, I got a '71 Chevelle SS I drive. A hot rod."
"I have ridden Lenny's motorcycle, what I believe is a modified Sportster. Is there any way you could locate such a machine for me?"
Boss grinned over his fork. "You like Lenny's putt? You want to ride? Shit, gimme a week, I'll find something you'll like, something with style."
The don smiled. "That would be greatly appreciated, Boss. As I have pointed out to these three, my resuming riding a motorcycle will panic many of my associates, but will provide me pleasure in my retirement. I must also remember to purchase a leather jacket, one like Lenny wears."
After our meal we headed into the bar for a few drinks. I reminded Jane that it was a school night, and she was driving, so two Wild Turkeys was her limit. Don V. was entertained that Jane was served at all. "She is still a child," he said.
"We don't get it either," said Bekka. "But she gets served in just about every restaurant we to into. Maybe they figure anyone who looks like Jane has to be of age. Whatever, she drinks responsibly, so it's never been an issue."
I smiled over the edge of my Johnnie Walker. "We treat Jane like an adult in so many ways, her having a drink is no big deal. Me, I like seeing her with a buzz, because she turns into a Southern belle." Jane punched my arm.
"What? It's cute," I said, gently punching her back.
Don V. asked Jane, "Where in the South are you from again?"
Jane said, "Gainesville, Florida. I'm a swamp rat. That's how I picked up the name Gator Bait."
"And your family, they are still out there?"
"Yeah. I had a big fight with my parents, and they threw me out. I had some money saved, so I got on Greyhound and came out here. Lenny and Bekka took me in, which is just as well, otherwise I'd probably have ended up strolling on Hollywood Boulevard." Jane suddenly looked sad. "I write to my parents, letting them know what is going on, but they never write back. I'm hoping they will. Despite everything, I miss them."
"Call them," suggested the don. "Despite your separation, you should still be involved in each other's lives."
Jane said, "I think I will. Are you really going home tomorrow?"
"I am. I have delayed my responsibilities long enough. I feel refreshed, and am ready to handle what awaits."
"You still want me to go with you?" I asked.
"Yes. I would like you to drive me in my Lincoln, and I will have one of my soldiers drive you home again."
"No problem.... But I wonder what sort of reception I'm going to get. When word gets out as to where you've been, I'm not going to be the most popular person in the family for a while."
The don waved his hand. "They have no choice but to accept my explanations. You let me know if you are threatened, and I will deal with the problem. I have come to view you and yours as close friends over these past few days, and I will not have my friends harmed."
In a voice choked with tears, Jane said, "I'm gonna miss you, Uncle Vito."
The don embraced her. "Do not cry, dear child. I am only up in Los Angeles. You may come and visit me whenever you get the chance. Come up on your motorcycle, and we shall go for a ride together. Perhaps I will teach you to play tennis."
Boss said, "How do ya want to take delivery of your putt, once I find a good one for ya?"
"If you can get it to my home in Bel Air, that would be optimal. I will provide you with a ride back to your own home. I have enough vehicles and men that it would not be a problem. I will give you my phone number so you can let me know when my motorcycle is ready."
"No problem. I'll find you a sweet machine, tune it up for you, and ride it up. You'll have some classy iron, leave it to me."
We finished a final round of drinks and headed out. When we got back to our house, Boss said, "I'm headin' out. I git to sleep in my own damn bed tonight, and I'm looking forward to it." He shook hands with Don Ventimiglia again, promised to have word on a good bike within the week, and took off.
The four of us went upstairs. I grabbed the bong and weed, and we settled in the living room, me acting as bong mother. I loaded the bowl, and passed it and a lighter to Don V. He burned through the bowl, and set the bong back down on the coffee table, declaring, "An amazing plant. It makes one believe in God, as such a thing could not have come into being without a plan in mind."
We watched TV for a while, then headed off to bed. Knowing the don's hours, I didn't want to delay him in getting home. As Bekka and I stripped down, she asked me, "Are you expecting trouble tomorrow?"
"Yeah. I don't think I'll have my gun out, Don V. is gonna be right there and will call his dogs off, but I'm not expecting a warm reception."
"Take care of yourself. The don, too."