We rolled up the 580 and got off at Richmond Parkway, as instructed. The parkway bordered the Chevron refinery for a distance, as one could determine by the smell. There is nothing cheery about the drive up Richmond Parkway, it runs through literal wasteland. The landfill is out there. Industrial concerns, like steel recycling centers and small foundries, squat in their corrugated steel buildings, huddled as though to fight off the breeze that comes constantly off the bay. No shrubbery, no services, no gas, no food. No hope. Everything about the area seems to suggest to the uninitiated, "You will find no life here. Conduct your business and leave, lest you also find yourself mired here, covered with grime and rust."
We turned on Parr and rolled up to the gate marked with the Triton Chemicals sign. I sat and surveyed where I was. Front and center was a reddish steel building. Two smaller shack-like structures sat on either side of it. A large warehouse squatted to the rear. Too much open space, there would be no sneaking up. May as well drive straight up to the doors and state our case to whoever decided to see who we are.
I slowly rolled to the warehouse. The big rolling doors facing me looked like they hadn't been opened in ten years. I looped around the east side and went to the back. Bingo. The doors were open, and we were staring at rows of cars parked neatly inside. There was no movement, no sign of habitation. I stopped with the nose of the Cougar just inside and looked around at Bekka and Jane.
"Let's roll through and try to spot the Cutlass. If and when we do, we fire it up and make tracks. Anybody who wants to talk to us will be told exactly who we are, and exactly what we're doing. Wallace said to talk to a guy named Ichiro, some Japanese dude. If we bargain with anybody, it's with him. Keep your eyes peeled."
We rolled up the first aisle, me not even putting my foot on the gas, letting the engine carry me forward. Nothing. I turned down the next aisle with the same nil result. Up the third aisle, and --- lo and behold --- there sat the Cutlass. If I didn't know better, I'd have sworn that it looked annoyed, for having had to have gone through its recent indignities. Bekka and I slid out of the Cougar, Jane jumping over the seats and landing behind the wheel. I headed for the driver's door, Bekka got in the passenger side. I slid the key in the ignition and turned it. The big 442 fired right up.
A shout, and running footsteps. I'd have peeled out and made tracks, except that the Cougar was sitting in the way. With the windows up, Jane hadn't heard anything. I unbuttoned the top of my jacket, allowing easy access to the Beretta. I looked over at Bekka and saw her undoing the lower half of her blouse, for the same reason. We both stepped out of the car and waited.
Two men approached us, one Asian and one Latino. "Who the fuck are you?" asked the Latino.
I said, "My name is Lenny Schneider. I'm here to collect my car, which was stolen last night. I learned it was here, so I'm taking it back. You want to look at the name on the registration? This is my car.
The Asian dude said, "You fulla shit. You thief."
Smiling, I said, "Taking back something that was stolen from me isn't theft. Is your name Ichiro? I was told to talk to you."
Stunned, the Asian dude said, "Yeah, that's me. How you know?"
"I was told to spot the Asian guy. So I guess you paid Wallace $900 for my Cutlass. Just to show there are no hard feelings, I'll give you back that money. That way you aren't out a dime, you just have to find a different hot rod to steal. Fair enough?"
The Latino threw his hands in the air and declared, "Fuckin' Wallace. He's who you talked to, right? That damn drunk coon shoots his mouth off."
"Don't get pissed at him," I said. "I put him in a no-win situation. I went to his house and cornered him, pointed a gun at him. I got a little rough. He provided the information I asked for and I"m acting upon it. Wallace didn't sell you out. All I want is my car back, I couldn't give a tin shit about what you guys are up to here, it's none of my business. So if you stand out of the way, we'll just fuck off now, okay?"
Ichiro said, "We gotta buyer for dat Cutlass already. We keep it."
"Well, your buyer's gonna be real damn disappointed, because that Cutlass isn't on the market anymore. I'm taking it back."
"Bullshit," said Ichiro, and both him and the Latino reached to the small of their backs and produced mid-size pistols. Ichiro continued, "Looka dat, Arturo. We gotta bonus. We got door and ignition keys to go with the Cutlass!"
Ichiro paced in a shuffling manner, always keeping his gun leveled at me. He said, "You crazy damn punk rockas. You dive into things head-first, no thought. You think we're going to give up some of our stock just because you asked us to? Fuck you, we own the car now. You call your insurance company and get your money, go buy another one. You lose this one. It stay lost. In fact, you lose two. We keep this beauty here," he said, gesturing behind him at the Cougar.
"So what happens to us?" asked Bekka.
The Latino said, "For now, we're shoving you in the trunks of your cars. We'll decide what to do with you in a while. I think I already know what I"m gonna do with you, baby. We'll have some fun tog---"
Everyone reflexively ducked at the sound. Ichiro and the Latino spun towards the sound, turning just in time to see Jane exit the car, her tiny six-shot Beretta in her hand. She said, "You guys are kinda stupid. I've been sitting there all this time. How unobservant can you get?
"I've got you covered. This little gun may not look like much, but it packs quite a wallop. Not that it matters at this range. Place your guns on the ground and step backwards a couple paces. Do these things slowly, so you don't startle me. Lenny, pick up their guns. Bekka, get behind the wheel of the Cutlass, Lenny, you drive this one. I'll keep these assholes covered until we're clear of the building."
I scooped up the guns and shoved them in my jacket pockets, then got my Beretta in my hand. Bekka pulled her Colt. The two gentlemen looked rather dismayed at this turn of events. I walked up to Ichiro and told him to say ahh. He did so. I tucked nine one hundred dollar bills iin his mouth.
"See?" I said. "You aren't out a damn thing. Wallace is the only winner in this scene, he got his racetrack money. We're taking off now. Don't even dream of trying to follow us. Enjoy the rest of your morning."
I got behind the wheel of the Cougar and fired up. I rolled forward and Bekka got in line. We progressed down an aisle and out of the warehouse, me opening it up a bit heading for the gate. Back down Parr Blvd. and onto Richmond Parkway. I wrapped an arm around Jane, pulling her close and cuddling her.
"I'm glad you were with us. You were very useful. You handled yourself like a pro. The mafia would be proud to have you as an associate, you don't rattle easily."
Jane kissed my cheek and lit a Newport. She said, "I was scared to death. But I knew if I let that show we'd be screwed. I just pretended I knew what I was doing."
I laughed. "That's how I get through all the tense situations I get into. I don't have a plan, I just act like I do. I've been making it up as I go along for as long as I've been involved with the mafia. And believe me, I spend plenty of time being scared."
Jane leaned on my shoulder. "Lenny, will you fuck me tonight?" she asked. "I need to be loved like that. I mean today was a milestone: I fired a gun outside a target range. I didn't hit anything, but I used a gun as a weapon. I accomplished things using a gun."
"You should feel proud," I said. "Like I was saying, you handled the situation like a pro, you got me and Bekka out of a tight spot. Tell me, are you comfortable carrying a gun?"
Jane considered this. "When you and Bekka first gave me her purse gun, I was really conscious of it being in my pocket. For one thing, it represented just how much danger I was living in. That, and you were giving me a huge amount of responsibility. I knew I had to keep it a secret from everyone, even Lance. No one could see it, and using it would mean going to jail. Carrying the gun weighed heavy on me at first.
"But months have passed now, and I'm adjusted to it. It's just a tool I carry, that I have never needed until today. I'm still aware of the responsibility I have, especially carrying it at school. But I'm no longer paranoid about the lump in my front pocket. So, yes, I am comfortable carrying a gun."
I said, "I'm going to talk to Bekka about either you keeping that Beretta, or we find another just like it. You've seen the sort of shit that goes down around us. Remember, this is a vacation, and look what happened. Things get more interesting for us when we're at home. Bekka and I have both used our guns in life or death situations. Hopefully you're never in one, but I want you protected if you are."
I merged onto I-80 and then took the Gilman exit. We set anchor in front of the junkyard and walked up to Jerry's back door. Jane had never been, and eyed the tumble-down structure Jerry called home with trepidation. I pounded on the door (the stereo was on like usual) and Jerry invited us in. It wasn't yet noon, but he passed out beers just the same. I was appreciative, as I didn't have my flask with me. I'd left it at home, expecting this abbreviated vacation to be stress free. My rotten luck.
Jerry pointed out that he didn't actually know what our car looked like, so we traipsed back out front so he could see it. He seemed to compare and contrast the two muscle cars, presumably on aesthetics, as he was not a car guy. "So which is faster?" he asked.
"The Cutlass, without a doubt," I answered. "Mechanically, the Cougar is a Mustang with a weight problem. Mustangs and Cougars share engine specs and a lot of running gear. The Cougar was designed to be acceptably quick, but also comfortable. This one has been modified, so it's quicker than normal, but there's still no doubt in my mind that the Cutlass is the faster of these two."
Jane said, "I smoke the tires in first and get a chirp out of them in second. Pretty good for an automatic. I always wondered just how much of a terror this thing would be if it had the four speed in it. I'd probably be burning through rear tires every three weeks."
Jerry said, "Jane, this is basically your car? How did that happen?"
Bekka said, "She needed something to get to school in. We were just going to buy a boring old Toyota, but I made the mistake of letting Lenny go car-shopping alone. Basically, we got the Cutlass through a friend of a friend. It's fair enough that Jane has this, since me and Lenny drive bombs ourselves."
"What do you guys drive?" asked Jerry.
"I have a 1970 Plymouth Sport Fury, glossy black. It's probably about the meanest looking car ever built. Runs a 440 motor with three two-barrel carbs. It needs all that motor because it weighs a couple tons. Comfortable, though, and a beast on the freeway. Lenny has a brand-new Cadillac Fleetwood that he had built custom."
"What could be done custom to a Cadillac?"
I smiled and swigged at my beer. "Let's see. The Police Interceptor package under that hood to make it faster, bulletproof glass all the way around, armored doors, dual exhaust, anti-sway bars for better handling, and a gun safe down by my right shin. Everything but the Police Interceptor package and the gun safe were put in at the factory. The boys in the garage at the dealership I went through took care of the other two bits. Best part, I got the damn thing at factory cost. It pays to be friends with the owner of the dealership. Nope, none of our rolling stock is lightweight."
"Not even our motorcycles," giggled Jane.
"Comparatively, they are," I said. I explained to Jerry, "We have three motorcycles, all Harley Davidson Sportsters. Two are custom outlaw machines, and one is brand new. The Sportster is Harley's lightest bike, but that's not saying much. Especially when you compare against, say, a Kawasaki Ninja. The best that can be said is that the Sportster is very flingable.... For a Harley. Whatever, they're gorgeous beasts and they terrify white people just starting up. Call it Freudian, but there's also something to be said about having all that power between your legs."
"Thanks to my bike, I know what it's like to have a dick," said Jane.
"No you don't," I corrected. "For one thing, the motorcycle has never made you make terrible, terrible decisions. You don't have a private urge to show your motorcycle to every girl you see. You're not worried that black dudes may have bigger motorcycles than you."
"I can negate one of your points," Jane said. "My pussy makes me make terrible decisions. That's how I got thrown out of my house and ended up in California. Genitals in general help you make poor choices, not just dicks."
Jerry asked Jane, "Um, I was wondering, you have 'Machine Snatch' across the back of your jacket. Does it mean something.... Risque?"
Jane answered, "It does. I was going to paint 'Machine Pussy' but 'Machine Snatch' sounded cooler. It's a reference to my own pussy. It runs like a machine, it never stops, it never gets tired. Basically I'm a sixteen year old girl with the sex drive of a sixteen year old boy. Fucking is constantly on my mind. I watch my behavior so I'm not getting in any trouble, but what goes on in my head embarrasses me. Nobody should spend as much time thinking about cock as I do."
"And your little meet-up with Claude last night was a symptom of your malady?"
Jane chuckled. "No. If that was the case, I'd have had my pants around my ankles and been bent over, bracing myself against the wall while that weird bastard did me from behind. No, I'd been instructed by Bekka to scare the hell out of him, so I did it by giving him the most terrifying handjob ever. After the fact I realized that all I'd done was go full violent domme on him. It made me think that I could be a dominatrix for a living, but I'm too damn short. Come to think of it, I don't know if that dude Claude was terrorized or overjoyed with how I treated him. I didn't let him come, so I know he was frustrated."
Jerry stared at our sixteen year old sex junkie. "Tell me, do you have a boyfriend?"
"Yeah. We're pretty tight. Heh, I captured him as a virgin and now I'm molding him into my ideal fuck doll. He's a sweetheart, totally devoted to me."
"Can I drive your car?" Jerry asked.
Jane smirked, tossed him the keys, and headed for the passenger door. Jerry smiled widely and got behind the wheel. He chirped the tires pulling away from the curb.
I turned to Bekka and said, "Merry Christmas, dearest wife."
"And a happy holidays to you, darling husband," she replied.
"Next year we're spending all of December in a Muslim country."