We hit the driveway of the trattoria with five minutes to spare, checking in the Fleetwood and getting out. Me, Bekka, Jane, and Sue. We were there to dine with a star....
.... Who was already there and waiting, sitting on a bench next to the entryway arch. Ms. Lois Ayres of adult film fame would be eating with us at this rather exclusive Italian restaurant, and had already expressed her doubts about my ability to get us in the front door, or to a table. Much less a patio table, where the hoi polloi gathered. I wasn't worried. I'd eaten here too many times before, on the spur of the moment, and with much less savory characters than two well-known porn queens, a goth, and a punk rock brat.
I made introductions all around. Lois had met Bekka and spoken with her at length, had briefly shaken hands with Sue, and had never met Jane. No surprise there, as the function we'd met at was eighteen and up. Jane was sixteen. Lois did not patronize. She'd gotten enough hints to know that Jane lived as an adult, and was treated as such, except when she was a brat. Then she'd get put over my knee and given a spanking, which only seemed to convince her that being bratty could be used in a strategic manner. She liked spankings.
"So Lenny, you're sure they'll seat us here? You don't looked dressed for the occasion," commented Lois. I was in my usual street clothes, Bekka and Sue were at their goth-iest, and Jane was in her alligator pants and a half-shirt, her leather draped over her shoulders, Doc Martens poking out below, just like me. We didn't blend in with the crowd, who were either Hollywood types in their casuals or tourists done up for the occasion. Excluding Lois, who would look classy in a burlap sack, we stuck out. I heard somebody mutter "rock stars" as we entered, and couldn't help but chuckle. Wrong industry.
I stepped up to the maitre'd, who I knew. He smiled ingratiatingly and said, "Ah, Mr. Schneider! How many tonight?"
"Five, for the patio," I replied, slipping him a twenty for good manners sake.
"Give us a minute, you will be seated shortly," said the maitre'd as he whisked off. I wished I could I remember his name. He knew mine, and that was the important part.
Lois said, "You've got two minutes to meet your deadline. Will you make it?"
"I will," I replied.
The maitre'd came and escorted us to a table out on the patio, to Lois' surprise. She was sure we would be seated with the tourists. We followed him out and took a seat. The wine steward came out, saw me, and said, "House red, sir? I know you like it."
He flipped our glasses over and returned moments later, uncorking the bottle with a flourish. I looked over at Lois, who was staring at me in amazement. I'd pulled off quite the coup, in her eyes. I held up my wine and said, "To new friends." We all clinked glasses.
The waiter came and took our drink orders: double Johnnie Walker for Bekka and I, double Wild Turkey for Jane, Singapore Sling for Sue, and Lois got Pellegrino water. I'd gotten the impression that she was staying clean for the most part, so I didn't question it. She sipped at her wine while we waited, so she wasn't going straight edge, just watching herself, I guess. I consulted with Bekka, and we agreed she'd be the designated driver this time. Cool, I could get buzzed with Jane and Sue.
After we ordered and had a second round of drinks brought, Lois turned her attention towards Jane. "So, you're sixteen, right? I won't ask about them serving you here, for the same reason I won't ask how Lenny got us here to begin with. What I am curious about is the rumor that you're interested in going into adult films. Is this true?"
Jane replied, "Sure is, only Lenny and Bekka won't let me. Even after I'm old enough to do it, they've said they won't let me. At least not for Inana. I'll have to cut my teeth in San Francisco after I'm a Berkeley student."
"So you want to be in porn," said Lois. "Why?"
"I think it'll be fun. And I want to prove I can hack it. And I want to make good money so I can take Lenny and Bekka out to nice restaurants, pay them back for all their kindness. I think I'd rule at making porn."
Lois smothered her laughter by taking a bite off her garlic-cheese bread. "Fun, you say? There are elements of fun in it. Depends on your level of degradation, what turns you on to begin with. From what I've heard about Inana, they aren't into humiliating their performers, male or female...."
"Yeah, that's on purpose," I said. "I've found you get more out of people when they feel strong in what they do."
".... But you haven't had a balanced view of the industry, if Inana is your litmus. Have you watched any video being made yet?"
"Again, they won't let me," sighed Jane. "I wish I was eighteen already."
"She's fucking sixteen," said Bekka. "We're not letting her on a set."
Lois said to Jane, "You can go to UC Berkeley, or make porn. Take it from a veteran, go to school. You'll be happier."
"I figured I'd do both," chirped Jane. "I'll have my nights and weekends free, I'm sure I can find a studio...."
"That you'll be sucked in by. Soon all your time will be spent performing or getting ready to perform, or partying, or recovering. Your grades will fall, and you'll end up dropping out of school. All to satisfy the fantasies of total strangers. Trust me on this. I've been in this industry too long and have seen too many wrecked lives. You've got the opportunity to go to a good school like Berkeley? Take it. Otherwise you're just throwing away your youth, and a chance to go to a school other people would step on their mother's heads to get into."
Bekka said, "We've already promised her we'll let her sit in on a shoot when she's old enough to be in the room, we might even let her make a loop. She can find out what a drag making video really is first hand, and do it in a controlled environment. It's a lesson she insists on learning on her own."
"There you have it, Gator Bait," I said. "You've got professional performers, veterans of the industry, telling you it's not what it's cracked up to be. Bekka and I tell you because we love you, and Lois is a friend. They have no reason to lie to you about it. Please believe us and drop the idea."
With a stubbornness only teenage girls are capable of, Jane said, "I'm still gonna make a loop when I'm eighteen. You promised I could."
"Just take what we've said into consideration," said Bekka. "Who knows, you might change your mind in the next seventeen months."
Lois said, "Look girl, you've got a chance at the brass ring, going to Berkeley. If I had that chance at your age, Lois Ayres wouldn't exist. I'd remain Sondra Stillman, a nice girl from Boston. Fairly nice, anyway."
"I've suggested it before. Maybe while you're up in the Bay Area you can do some fetish work. Can you suck your own toes?"
Jane slid her chair away from the table, grabbed her right foot, pulled it up to her face, and licked the toe of her Doc Marten. It left a wet smear. Lois snickered at this and said, "That shot alone would be worth plenty to some men. Jane, I'm curious about something else. Why does Lenny call you 'Gator Bait'?"
Jane laughed. "I'm swamp trash from Gainesville. The swamps are where you go to drink beer and fool around with boys, so that's where I liked to spend my time. I picked up the name Gator Bait and it just stuck. It fit. I got chased by gators on a few occasions, which was scary. You can outrun them on land, but they're fast in the water."
"Quite a bit of adventure at a young age," said Lois. "So where are your parents?"
"Still in Gainesville. Probably getting ready for bed right now."
"You're a runaway."
Jane looked slightly miffed at this. "Throwaway, actually. They kicked me out. I had some money, so I jumped on Greyhound and came out here. Lenny convinced them to have me legally emancipated, so I was able to get into school and live with Lenny and Bekka hassle-free. I get As in all my classes, and that's how I'm gonna get into Berkeley. Leaving home was the best thing to ever happen to me."
"What if you hadn't been able to hook up with Bekka and Lenny?" asked Lois.
"I'd have found a place to squat, either here in LA or up in San Francisco, and figured out a way to work. That's another reason why I'd be good at porn. I expect it to be work, not a party. And I work hard at anything."
Lois laughed. "An admirable ethic, but one which would be wasted if you were on the streets here. I know what happens to teenage runaways in Los Angeles. Trust me, you'd have joined the legions out peddling their asses in Hollywood."
Now Jane was positively annoyed. "I got that lecture from them ---" she indicated me and Bekka "--- and I'd have done what I needed to survive. I wouldn't have hooked up with a pimp, and I'd have figured out a way to work. I know which end of a hammer to hold, I'd have gone out on work crews, or worked fast food, or something. I'd have been more than a hooker."
Lois laid a reassuring hand on Jane's. "Your self-confidence is heartening. The world needs more girls like you."
"You should see her on a motorcycle," said Bekka.
"The world doesn't need too many Janes, though," I said. "The men of the world would never survive such an onslaught."
"Aggressive, huh?" teased Lois. "I bet she's got a dozen boyfriends."
"Just one. She caught him as a virgin, and is currently molding him into her ideal lover."
Jane said, "He helps me get through the day. He's learning, and improving with practice. Him and Len---" She gasped and clamped her hand over her mouth.
"You're sleeping with Lenny," said Lois. She stated it as a point of fact, not as a question.
"Well.... Sometimes, yeah. When Bekka lets me." Jane had an expression on her face I wasn't used to seeing on her, one of coyness.
I said to Lois, "This here is a situation I should be uncomfortable with. I'm having dinner with four women, three of whom I routinely have sex with. I'm too stupid to be afraid right now."
Lois replied, "But you care about all three, and that's important. And all three care about you, otherwise they wouldn't be here right now. I think it's sweet. Oh look...."
Our meals arrived. We ordered more drinks and tucked in. I had prawns with linguine and pronounced it excellent. Lois was impressed with her grilled eggplant with tortellini on the side. We made small talk about the industry as we ate. Jane, working on her third double of Wild Turkey, was becoming more Southern as she talked. This amused Lois, who was only on her second glass of wine. We ate in comfort, relaxed around each other.
When we were mostly through our dinners, Lois asked Sue, "So how do you occupy your time when you're not working, or getting your hair to look like that?"
Sue said, "I surf. I know, I'm a walking contradiction, a goth bitch who's also a surf betty. But I'm out every morning at daybreak, with another session in the afternoon if I can. I just bought a new board, a six foot tri-fin. It rips. I'm gonna give my old board to Jane, so I can teach her how to surf. Um, and lately I've been spending a lot of time cruising. Thanks to Lenny, I now own a car I just love, so I'll just go driving around all over, for the hell of it."
"What do you drive?" asked Lois.
"It's a brand new Cadillac Sedan de Ville, all the bells and whistles. Plus some custom stuff Lenny wrangled up special, like bulletproof glass and a charged-up engine. Black with chrome, too. This thing is a dream."
"So Lenny, how did you pull this off?"
I said, "Like us eating here, it's just a matter of who you know. I'm friends with Rico Carelli of Carelli Cadillac down in Anaheim. He got my Fleetwood put together for me custom --- I've got both bulletproof glass and armored doors --- and is happy to help set up my friends with new Cadillacs. Rico is a good guy, he got us our cars at factory cost. Even pushed through the financing. Looking for some new wheels? I can set you up."
Lois appraised me. "You have some surprising connections, Lenny."
"Yeah, well, you meet people, and then you meet their friends, and then you meet friends of their friends. You know how it goes."
"So did Rico like the tape you made for him?" asked Sue.
"Oh, he loved it," I said. By way of explanation, I said to Lois, "Rico is a bit enamored of Sue, here. I had a sampler tape of her loops made, which he was quite pleased to get. It was a small tip for his excellent service."
"You gave him all those hits, too," prodded Sue.
"Yeah, he got those too. You know he uses them as bonuses for his salesmen?"
"What are you talking about?" asked Lois.
Bekka said, "Rico really likes Ecstasy, so Lenny shares his. We always have a ton of the stuff sitting around, and we may as well give it away."
Lois said, "Oh, yes, you were trying to foist that stuff on me at Eroticon. No thank you, I'm trying to stay clean these days. From what I hear, you have the good stuff. And you just come across it for free? Another connection of yours?"
I shrugged. "Yep. The guy who runs the lab gives me extras. Hell, we probably gave away two hundred hits at Eroticon, and we've still got a ton left. More than we could ever use, so why not just run around getting people high? It's an amazing drug, and it's fun to see how people react to it."
"You have to have the spirit of a warrior to truly appreciate Ecstasy," said Jane. "If a person takes Lenny's Ecstasy, and they're frightened, then they are not warriors at heart. It makes me despair of my boyfriend."
"Oh no," said Bekka. "Lance didn't enjoy himself, I take it?"
Jane sighed. "He spent too much time being frightened of how he felt, of letting his psyche bloom for a little while. The emotional high was too much for him, he was afraid of not being grounded. He couldn't open up his mind, know what I mean?"
"I'm sorry, pet. Maybe next time try to guide him more closely. If nothing else, distract him with your tits when he's uncomfortable."
"Assuming there is a next time," Jane huffed. "He thinks too much like the son of a cop, dammit. He let his fears dictate the experience. I'm afraid Lance just isn't a warrior, and it makes me question our viability as a couple."
"Don't throw in the towel yet," I advised. "Wait a while, and try again. Point out that he knows what to expect now, and that you'll be there with him. Maybe get high and go for a hike up Palomar or Mount Laguna. The solitude and fresh air will be calming influences on him, and your guidance will help."
Lois said, "This stuff sounds a lot more involving than what I've taken."
"Oh, it's heady stuff," I said. "It really is a trip."
Jane added, "It makes you see all possibilities in all things. Like I said, it's a high for warriors. It's hard to explain."
Sue said, "Lenny gets a type known as Smiley. The club kids would sell their birthright for steady access to Smiley. Christ, if they knew Lenny had that big bag of the damn things, they'd be standing in line to suck his dick for a chance to get at that bag, girls and boys both."
"And it'll keep you grooving all night," said Bekka, draining her wine glass. "Ask anyone who was at the party last Saturday."
"Speaking of," I said, "did you tip the DJ?"
"The bartender got a good tip too. I figured they could use it. Thanks to us, there was a large contingent of people in that crowd that wanted to party all night. And that was entirely our doing. No way would I leave those two un-high and dry."
"Double them up?" I asked.
"No way," Bekka replied. "We wanted them working, not humping the customers. A single is still good enough for us, and we eat the crap all the time. Don't worry, they were fine."
Lois said, "Yes, I heard rumors that the two of you were trying to get as many people as possible high at the party. How did that go?"
"I gave away about 120 hits, by my estimate. Some people refused them, even if they knew who I was. Yeah, hi, I'm Becky Page and I like to poison people at parties. I don't know what their problem was."
I laughed and said, "They could tell you wanted to be Ursula. Remember, we'd doubled up, so you had a pretty manic look on your face most of the evening. You gotta admit, it's a strange thing to be walking up to random people and offering free drugs, like they were deodorant samples. You just threw people off, is all."
"Who is Ursula?" asked Lois.
"That was my character in 'Bewitched,'" said Bekka. "Her name is only spoken, like, twice in the whole movie, so there are a lot of people who are unclear as to what her name is. You've seen 'Bewitched,' right?"
"I did. I was fascinated. You all did something that people have tried and failed at since the 1970s: you made a hardcore film that was genuinely engaging as a movie. And you were the main witch, this Ursula. This was your breakout role, really. You made Pet of the Month in Penthouse, and were in the other magazines. You had a busy summer, I'm sure."
Bekka said, "What took adjusting to was being stopped at Safeway and asked for an autograph. Or a date. And they'd ask me out with Lenny standing right there!"
I said, "You're forgetting, I'm your hired muscle, not your husband."
"Oh, that's right, I forgot. You're my security detail. A guard for twenty-two and single Becky Page, so she doesn't get in trouble." Bekka fluttered her eyelashes.
"Actually, he's pretty good at the job," said Lois. "He went and rescued my ass from kidnappers."
"What was the real story with that, anyway?" asked Sue. "You guys get real cagey whenever the subject comes up."
Lois and I looked at each other, shrugged, and told her the whole story: her being dragged out of the booth and thrown into a waiting car, me commandeering the Ninja motorcycle and following them, kicking their door in and killing the two men in the house. Our brief powwow to agree upon what to tell the cops. Riding back and our subsequent interrogations by LAPD. Lois filled in details about her kidnapping I'd never heard, like her abductors arguing about whether to give the wife of their now-wounded and arrested partner his cut of the ransom.
Sue took all this in with her usual fascination. After a pause, she said to me, "See, this is why we need to hang out more often. All the really sick shit happens to you. Take me to the range with you, I'll be your moll."
"Sorry, but that was a solo excursion. If there are fanatical Christians plotting your kidnapping, then it's a joint venture. Now, who's for dessert?"
Three of the four females rejected dessert, Jane abstaining in favor of milkshakes from McDonald's. I threw money on the table for a tip and we headed out, Lois tugging at my sleeve and asking, "Are we walking out on the bill?"
"There is no bill," I explained. "I'm friends with the owner. It's a family thing. Angel is a member of the family, I'm a member of the family. You don't charge family members when they eat at your house, right? So Angel doesn't charge me. I just keep making him rich. We're in the same family."
We got to the valet kiosk outside and presented our tickets. While they trotted off to get our cars, Lois said, "I.... You're in the mafia, aren't you? Is that the case? It would explain a lot."
"Technically, no," I replied. "Um, I'm an associate. I can't be a member, I'm not Italian or Sicilian. Let's just say that I have an informal, long-term business agreement with La Cosa Nostra."
Jane piped in, "I'm a mascot. They adopted me."
Lois started laughing and said, "You realize this means that the best porno movie ever made was put out by the mafia. You'd never guess it by watching."
I bristled and said, "'Bewitched' was put out by me. I work for a legitimate company called Inana Productions. I'm proud to say the movie was a success. Nothing shady happened to get 'Bewitched' where it is. It worked out to be a sound investment on my boss's part. That's all."
"So what do you do for them?" asked Lois.
"Run a successful business," I replied.
I considered my answer. "I do what they ask of me. I perform tasks. Bekka, help me out here, what do I do for the family?"
Bekka cackled. "You get shot at while running errands, that's what you do. Lois, my husband is a bullet magnet. Shot three times, and shot at who knows how many. I try to not think about it."
"We've both been fired on," I pointed out. "Hell, you dropped more men that I ever did for a while there. The family still considers you in its debt to you for what happened in Hollywood."
"I consider that debt paid off. I need to communicate that to Don Ventimiglia, that me and the mafia are square. Nobody owes me anything."
Our cars rolled into the driveway, my Fleetwood and Lois' new-ish Nissan. She distributed hugs and told Bekka and I, "Call me mid-week. I can tell you two have some stories to tell. You can let me know how it's going with Jane and her boyfriend. Thank you so much for dinner, you were right, their food is wonderful. I'll talk to you later, good night."
She hopped in her car and drove off. We did the same with the Cadillac, Bekka at the wheel. We piloted down Santa Monica Blvd., aiming for the nearest McDonald's so Jane and I could get our shakes. As we waited in the drive thru, Sue asked, "So did Lois seem a little distracted?"
Bekka answered, "She was too astounded by the service we got to actually enjoy herself. Let's face it, we don't look like the types who should be getting preferred seating anywhere, much less at the trattoria. She was also thrown by the fact that we didn't get a bill. Lenny left a tip and that was that. That was the point where Lois started to really figure him out."
"I gave her some really fat honking hints, too," I pointed out.
"So y'all gonna fuck her?" asked Jane from the back seat.
"Highly doubtful," I chuckled. "Bekka certainly hasn't given her approval for such a thing, and I'm not her type anyway. I'm missing about forty or fifty pounds of muscle mass to be considered desirable by Ms. Ayres. She's on the lookout for gym bunnies with brains, a combination that is not easily had. I wish her luck on her quest. She'll need it."
We ordered: a large strawberry shake for Jane, large vanilla for me. And I ordered a small chocolate shake, too.
"Who's the third shake for?" asked Bekka.
"It's for you and Sue to share," I answered. "Every time we go for shakes, you say you don't want one, then end up sucking down a third of mine. You and Sue can go to town on your own shake, secure in the fact that you didn't have one all to yourself."
"I only want a couple sucks off yours," protested Bekka.
"No, you'll put down a good chunk of it, bitching the entire time that I didn't get chocolate. You learn certain behaviors about another person when you're married to them. It's like how you know to get me Snickers bars when you go to the liquor store even when I say I don't want anything. You and Sue will share a chocolate shake, dammit."
"Ah still think Lenny ought to fuck Lois," came a Southern voice from the back seat.
"And what gives you a stake in that horse race?" asked Bekka.
Jane giggled. "Y'all said Lenny's had a crush on her since forever. Hail, Ah had a crush on Lenny and I got to fuck him. Seems only fair he gits a chance at his crush."
"Lois has already expressed her lack of interest in me so far as that goes," I pointed out. "It's a non-starter, Gator Bait, so don't worry about it. Ain't gonna happen."
"Still want it to happen," Jane muttered as I handed her her shake.
Within five minutes, a violent argument erupted between Sue and Bekka over who was bogarting the chocolate shake. Jane solved the argument by snatching the cup, pulling the top off, and downing the whole thing like a boa constrictor swallowing a rat. Then Jane and I high-fived. Bekka, being the one at the wheel, pulled off the freeway and located a Jack In The Box, where her and Sue each got their own shakes.