Around five Bekka and I each ate another hit of the Ecstasy. I'd stupidly left my vial of speed in the motel room, and we didn't feel like walking back to get it. Well, the "MA" in MDMA is short for MethAmphetamine, so we were simply changing up from our usual method of ingestion. Maybe for the party/dance happening after we closed, we'd find someplace semi-private to crush up a pill and snort it up. We knew it worked.
It was time for a break from the booth. We decided to go exploring, see what others had to offer. Bekka said to me, "Give me the bag of pills."
"Okay. Why?" I asked.
"Because I'm going to get people happy, dammit. We'll give them out as party favors for this dance tonight. We've got at least 350 hits, right? Let's try to give away two hundred hits of Ecstasy between now and then. That'll give us a good percentage of the crowd who's high. The party starts at 10:30, we'll tell people to take their hits at 9:30 to time the first really good rush right. Think of the chaos we can create, that many people high in a small area? And they're all in the sex industry? The possibilities are endless."
I said, "You want to be Ursula, don't you? You want to live your most famous character."
Bekka grinned at me. "That's right, you're my husband, dammit, you're good at figuring me out. Goddamn right, I wanna be a real-life Ursula. I want to watch while people fuck in the streets. Magic isn't real, but powerful drugs are, and I have a shit-ton of them. Like Ursula did, I will cast out my spells, then watch the results for my own curiosity and amusement. Come on, let's go alter the realities of as many people as possible."
We began going from booth to booth. Hi there, we're from Inana Productions. Yes, the people that made Bewitched, that's us. Are you going to the party tonight? You are? We'd like to give you something that will make things that much more fun. It's Ecstasy. Yes, the drug. No, it's free. Take it when you start to wrap up for the night, so that the first good rush hits you as the same time you hit the dance floor. If you have any questions or doubts, find us at our booth. How many others are in your booth? Okay, we'll give hits to them too. Inana Productions, we're on the map, just ask where Lenny The Punk is. He'll answer any questions you have.
We checked out the wares as we went along. One company specialized in porn starring dwarf girls with normal-sized men. All black. All Asian. All Latina. Huge cocks. Oral only. All anal. Handjobs, and that's it. Name some sort of preference for penetrative sex, and it was available here. Surprisingly little gay video, bondage was also lacking. They must have their own conventions.
We went to a booth selling sex toys. Bekka browsed around and chose a decent sized vibrator. This surprised me, as she owned no toys of her own, and had never expressed an interest in one, preferring the viability of my dick. "It's not for me, it's for Jane," she explained. Fair enough. We went to the cashier, and Bekka went into her routine with the Ecstasy. When she put down the hit, the girl at the register freaked out.
"Oh my god, you have Smiley?" she asked. "How much are you asking? Did you want to trade?"
"It's free for anyone going to the dance here tonight," explained Bekka. "I'm guessing you've taken it before."
"I've gotten a hold of Smiley, like, twice, and both times were just incredible. And you're giving them away?" she asked.
"Yeah. Just show up at the party tonight, the gig they're putting on here. Time when you take it so your first good rush is at 10:30, that's what we're telling people. This is our little experiment with magic on a grand scale, we want to see what happens, what vibe is created. A grand scale effect. As many people as possible rushing at once, in one place. What will happen?"
The girl asked, "You said you're from Inana, right? The studio that put out 'Bewitched,' right? You guys are doing good."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Shit, if you can run around a porn convention handing out free hits of Smiley, you guys have got to be raking it in with both hands. Twenty-five bones each for those things? And you're giving them away just to see what happens when you get that many people high at once? You're rolling in it."
We smiled and let her think what she wanted. The truth was too complicated.
Some people refused them outright. An unknown drug, being handed out by Becky Page and some punk mutant, for free. Too suspect. Thanks anyway. We told them where we could be found, but that didn't assuage their fears. We would thank them for their time, compliment them on their lovely booth, and move on.
At a few minutes before six I told Bekka I needed to use the pay phones to order our pizza for a seven o'clock delivery. Meet me at the Hustler booth, I told her. I ordered five large pizzas, figuring everyone could snack all night. LA Convention Center, out in front of the main entrance. Look for the punk with bone-white hair, he'll have the bread. A simple transaction.
I found Bekka at the Hustler booth. She had a huge drug-induced smile on her face. "I found someone you want to meet, baby," she said, and led me deeper into the booth area.
Sitting in a big comfy chair was none other than Lois Ayres. We'd met before, a few years earlier, when I was working at a porn shop. I had a crush on her, and my wife knew it. Bekka said, "Here's my husband, Lenny. You've met before."
Lois looked at me and said, "Yes, we've met, haven't we? In San Diego?"
I grinned and said, "Yes, at Smut 'N' Stuff on Balboa. I was your concierge. You enjoyed the burgers from Boll Weevil, if I remember correctly."
"And you did a sprint up the street so I could have chocolate when I wanted it. You running up the street in those boots, you took your job seriously. So what are you doing here? I gather you're still in the industry."
"I run a studio called Inana Productions. I'm the COO, also a producer and writer. Surely my wife explained a little."
Lois looked a bit annoyed. "She was busy trying to convince me to take a drug I don't want. I'm trying to stay clean these days. I recognize her, but I'm blanking on where from."
I said, "She was in a movie called 'Bewitched,' that's where most people recognize her from. She's been in several other features, too."
Her eyes lit up. "Oh yes, I remember her now. Silly of me, she can actually act. A beautiful girl. And you're a producer at her studio?"
"I run the day-to-day operations at Inana. I function as a producer, and I write scripts. My horizons have definitely expanded since I was nineteen, much wider than being the bouncer in a porn shop."
Some stooge wandered in and said, "Ms. Ayres, we have dinner for you."
I put my hand out and she shook it. "Enjoy your meal, Lois."
"I shall. Nice to see you, Lenny, I'm glad you're doing well for yourself. Congratulations on 'Bewitched.'"
I walked out of the booth, where Bekka was signing an autograph. She grinned at me and asked, "Happy to see your dream woman?"
I replied, "Come on, that was a few years ago. Before I knew Sicilian girls have asses you can bounce quarters off of."
"Long nipples, too."
I laughed. "You realize, if we ever visit Sicily, and I'm surrounded by women that look like you, I'll probably be arrested for dry-humping lampposts in the town square, out of desperation."
"You wouldn't just dry-hump your own wife?" asked Bekka.
"I'd have worn you raw by then. You'd be refusing sex because you're sore, you'd be unable to work up the spit to suck me, and we'd be calloused from you jerking me off. An island of women like you? I wouldn't survive."
We still had a ton of Ecstasy to give away, and agreed to pick up where we'd left off after the pizza delivery. We got back to the booth to find things business as usual. The last twenty minutes of Rocker Girls was playing to an appreciative audience. Our performers, still full of pep and vigor from that morning's Ecstasy, were answering questions and signing autographs and being fawned over by the convention guests. I checked my watch, figuring I'd go out and take the delivery with a few minutes to spare, so I could have a cigarette. Bud and Lou had done their job admirably, keeping guests informed about all aspects of Eroticon and keeping the racks stocked. Bud announced his need for a soda, and headed off towards the snack bar. Next year I would bring a cooler, so people weren't having to pay $1.75 for a Coke.
A glance at my watch a little later told me it was time to go out front. A fifteen minute lead time, plenty of room for a smoke, some people watching, and taking the pizza in when it arrived. I let Bekka and Angel know that I was headed out front for the food, and wandered that direction. I had the song "Up And Down" by the Mr. T. Experience running in my head. It was going to be a good night.
I was headed down one of the thoroughfares when suddenly one of the booths seemed to collapse, about twenty yards ahead. The canopy fell on its side and the display cases went down. Into the thoroughfare came two guys in ski masks, both waving guns, and one holding Lois Ayres around the waist. Crazily, my mind wondered what sort of show stunt this was, and why Lois had agreed to it. Then the single ski mask guy put two shots into the booth behind him, blowing out the Hustler neon sign and sending people diving, including me. I went into the booth to my left, kicking over a table of discount porn. I whipped out my Beretta, but I was already spotted. The guy not dragging Lois fired in my direction, plugging the table I was behind. I risked it and sat up, gun out.
The unencumbered one was watching in every direction but mine, thinking I'd been dropped. I yelled, "Hey!" He spun in my direction and fired. The shot whizzed past my right ear. I shot back and caught him in the hip, spilling him to the ground. I jumped up and ran towards him. The wiry guy dragging Lois considered his options and scooped her up over his shoulder, running for the front. Another shot rang out, but not from me or the wiry guy. I looked in the direction of the noise and saw Bud standing in a booth, with a soda in one hand and a pistol in the other. "What the fuck?" he yelled.
As I charged past, I yelled, "They got Lois Ayres! Watch that one! Call cops!"
The wiry one was hitting the doors, gun still in hand, and Lois over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. He began running towards the long turnaround driveway. I headed after him. It suddenly occurred to him to check his rear. He spun, saw me, and snap-shot. It plugged into the cement wall somewhere to my left. He was aiming for a Buick Century idling at the drive. All was lost if he hit that car before I figured out a way to drop him....
.... Or maybe not. A dude on a motorcycle pulled into the drive, a large padded container sitting behind him. My pizzas. The rider probably figured he'd do the same thing I had planned, which was to take a smoke break before delivery time.
The wiry guy threw Lois into the back of the Century and got in beside her. They were just getting into motion. I got to the motorcycle, a Kawasaki Ninja, and drove the rider off in a tackle. We both stood up. I ripped the pizza bag off the rear of the bike, handed it to him, and said, "Inana Productions, inside, they'll pay you! I'll be back, promise!" The delivery kid nodded, grabbed the pizzas, and ran like hell for the entrance. Bud intercepted him and guided him to our booth, assuring him that yes, the crazy armed man would be back with his motorcycle.
The driver of the Buick nosed his way into a left onto South Figueroa St. and hit the gas. I couldn't intimidate other vehicles on the bottle rocket I'd just stolen, so I dodged cars by running on the opposite side of the street, pointing against traffic. I cut over the median and followed, the pattern of their tail lights emblazoned into my memory. They ran up South Figueroa and turned onto South Eighth St., and aimed for the freeway on-ramp, jumping onto the 110.
We had just gotten onto the 10 westbound when the kidnappers seemed to realize they were being followed. They cut across two lanes and laid into the gas, two things a Buick Century is not known for responding well to. I was on one hell of a crotch-rocket, and angry. They were taking away my teenage fantasy, to who knows what fate, and I was having none of it. I shadowed them as close as I could, until they reminded me in a direct way that I was in a much more delicate situation than they were, so far as being shot at went. I was much more vulnerable to bullets, and they proved it by creasing my arm with a bullet.
I dropped back and hid behind a minivan, watching for their tail lights. At the Venice Blvd. exit they angled off. I followed. It took me a few seconds, but I found the damn switch for the headlight and turned it off, so I'd be as invisible as possible.
They turned west onto Culver Blvd. and headed in the direction of Marina Del Rey. I stayed back a half block, cutting to the curb and waiting when they hit a stoplight. They finally turned on Inglewood Blvd. and into a residential street. The Buick settled at the curb in front of a modest house. From the end of the block and behind a parked car, I watched the wiry guy and the driver get Lois Ayres out of the car and inside the house. Things were quiet.
I crept up the street on the opposite sidewalk, leaving the motorcycle where it was. I felt something drip, it was blood running down my left arm where they'd creased it. Sooner or later I'd need to bite the bullet and buy a new denim. I stood across the street from the house, considering. I was alone, no fellow soldiers from the mafia to back me up. I had to get Lois out of there, and eliminate all threats. Spitting on the grass, I made my mind up.
It took me four seconds to run across the street and get to the front door, grateful for how quiet Doc Martens are. Also how sturdy, as I kicked the door in without a thought and headed in, Beretta at the ready. Two shots whiffed by me as I went into the living room. I hit the floor and found a target, blowing a couple holes in his chest. He pitched forward onto the carpet. One less threat.
From the rear of the house, I heard a squawk. Lois. I got up and moved in the direction of the sound. Doorways were gaping black holes holding possible threats. I checked each one, keeping one eye closed as I moved down the hall so I'd have better vision in the dark. Near the end of the hall light glinted out the bottom of a doorway. I stopped and listened. A brief squeak of bedsprings, then a voice whisper, "Shut up, I gotta hear."
I called, "It's too bad you gotta die like this."
A gruff voice replied, "Fuck you."
"Yeah, just a fuckin' shame, it is."
"Come in here and she dies."
"Most people have a better sense of self-preservation than you. Why don't you come out here, you still have a chance to run."
"Staying in there means you end up dead. Not a hard choice. Leave her, and run. I'll let you live."
"I said fuck you!"
The doorknob rattled, which is what I was waiting for. It meant Lois was alone on the bed. I kicked the door, knocking the wiry dude back into the room. He swung a gun towards me, so I shot him three times: chest, neck, head. A real mess. He was dead before he was all the way on the ground.
I looked at Lois, who was perched on the bed, tied to the frame. She stared back at me in terror, her mind not registering that she knew who I was. I kicked the corpse of the wiry guy out of the way and went to her. She scooted back on the bed away from me. "My god, you...." was all she got out.
"Hey, Lois, it's me, the punk rock dork from San Diego. Lenny. Come on, we gotta get out of here. Hold on, let me cut you loose."
I pulled out my Leatherman and opened the knife blade. The rope gave way under the blade, and she was loose. "Did you really have to kill him?" she asked. Then she said, "Yeah. I guess you did." Lois stood up, unsteady on her pumps.
I led her out of the house. No sirens wailed, no red and blue lights flashed. Things were calm in this neighborhood. I led Lois by the hand, stopping to light a cigarette. She asked for one, I obliged her. Her hand shook as she took it. We continued on and stopped at the motorcycle.
"We can't leave, two men just died here," Lois said.
"We can't stay, else I go to jail for quite a while. I just killed two men who were going to kill you. They never blindfolded you, right? They never intended for you to live. What did they want, ransom?"
"Yes, they were going to get money out of Hustler."
"If we stay, I have to explain to the cops how I managed to follow them, get in their house, and shoot them. Cops hate vigilantes, and what I just did was a vigilante action. See? Even without a conviction, it would be a long time before I drew free air again, and they'd get a conviction on something, even discharging a firearm within city limits. I'll be screwed if we get the cops here."
"But you just killed two men. Doesn't that mean anything to you?" Lois asked.
I stared at her and said, "Yeah. It means I'm up to four."
"Oh my god."
"You'd hate being me," I said, throwing my cigarette butt in the gutter. "All I'm asking you to do is stick with a simple story. They got you here, tied you up for a few minutes, reconsidered, and turned you loose, you promising to not talk to the cops about where they are. Me, I'd followed them from the convention center, but lost them in the area. I was cruising around looking for their car when I spotted you. I picked you up and brought you back. Real simple. I don't go to jail that way."
"But how will we explain why they're dead?"
I chuckled. "That's for the police to figure out. Don't worry, they have creative minds, they'll come up with something. Those two dudes were murdered by a partner in the crime, someone unknown. Again, real simple. So you got the story?"
Lois Ayres took a deep breath and said, "Yes. After they got me to the house, they tied me to the bed, then cut me loose after a few minutes and told me I was free, so long as I didn't give up their whereabouts until tomorrow. You came along on your motorcycle and gave me a ride back to Eroticon. Is that it?"
"Perfect. And avoid elaborating. Screw details, you know?" I lit another cigarette.
"Where did you get the motorcycle from?" asked Lois.
"Right now, there is one angry and frightened pizza delivery dude hanging around Eroticon, hoping I bring this thing back in one piece. Funny thing about running around with a gun in your hand, it makes most people more cooperative."
Lois finally smiled. "Most?"
I smiled back. "Yeah. There's always assholes like me with their own guns who don't feel like cooperating. Now, you ever been a passenger on one of these?"
"Well.... It's been a while."
"To review, stay centered, don't wiggle, and lean with me on turns. This thing is a crotch-rocket, so we'll get back there fast, but it ain't comfortable. I'd rather be on my Harley."
"You have a Harley?" Lois asked.
"Yeah, an outlaw Sportster," I replied.
"Given what I know about you, I wouldn't expect you to ride anything else," said Lois, swinging onto the tiny seat. I fired up and headed back to the convention center.