Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Bodyguard (Part 1)

     "Oh my god, look," said Ellen.
     We all looked out the windows of the stretch limo, which was rolling slowly down Balboa Ave. towards Smut 'N' Stuff.  There was a single file line of (mostly) men stretching up the sidewalk from the front door of Smut 'N' Stuff all the way to Convoy.  My eyes zipped up to the advertising marquee on top of the building.  It read, "BECKY PAGE LIVE!  NEW VIDEO SIGNING"  Then we were in the parking lot of the store, Angel and an unknown man trotting towards the limo.

Bodyguard (Part 2)

     We piled out of the limo at the restaurant, lighting fresh cigarettes.  What was currently under consideration was the psychology of Bekka's obsessed male fans, like the ones we'd ditched back at the store.  More in-depth analysis was wanted than Boss' dismissive "buncha goddamn psychos," but we were damned if we knew where to start looking for answers.  I was happy with observation and deductive reasoning.  We were smart people, we would come up with something.

Bodyguard (Part 3)

     Angel called me from the mansion around 8:30 the next morning.  The cops had taken their sweet time getting things sorted out the night before, so he'd decided to just crash out up in the penthouse rather than slog back to LA.  San Diego PD had treated him with surprising respect: they seemed to figure anyone with the pull and connections to coax a concealed carry permit out of Los Angeles County was somebody who could throw their weight around, no matter where they were.  Angel's gun was inspected, had the registration checked, and returned in the space of twenty minutes.  All three of the miscreants were carted off, with charges against them.
     As I filled Angel in on the details of how our dinner had gone, he kept sighing in annoyance.  When I finished, he said, "Dammit Lenny, Bekka is too valuable to be put at risk like that.  She needs a full time bodyguard.  You can't do it, you can't stay attached to her all the time.  I can get a good soldier to go down there who can help watch over her and keep her safe.  I've got a couple in mind.  They'll be discreet, and they won't get in your way.  I could have a guy down here by this afternoon."
     I said, "So, what, we'd have some dude built like a thumb and the IQ of a pork rind with us all the time?  Scaring the crap out of her fans?  Ninety-nine percent of her fans are harmless, they just want to say hi and get an autograph.  We don't really mind them.  And we've been able to handle the one percent who are creeps.  Hold on...."  I held the phone away from my face and called to Bekka, "Hey hon, how do you feel about having a bodyguard?"
     "Not so hot, actually," Bekka replied.  "Tell Angel if he assigns one to me involuntarily, I'll just spend all my time figuring out ways to ditch him."
     "You catch that?" I said into the phone.
     "Yeah," Angel grumbled.  "Look, we'll discuss this more when you get here.  But after yesterday, the idea of Bekka walking around unescorted scares the shit out of me.  This is new territory for me, and I'd rather be safe than sorry.  When will you be here?"
     "Fifteen minutes.  Listen for the Harleys.  What are your plans for the day?"
     "Harassing you.  Vinny's gonna check in by phone before noon, let me know if there's anything going on that needs my attention.  And the Don and his people know where I am, so they may call if they have any news.  Godspeed, Lenny.  You need to see my side of things."
     "Okay, ciao," I sighed.
     "So Angel is back on the bodyguard kick, huh?" said Bekka, pulling on her engineers.  "Not enough that you and I live like Siamese twins."
     "You're worth a lot to him, in a lot of ways," I said, tying up my Doc Martens.  "Not only are you a friend to him and his wife, you've also made him millions of dollars.  Hell, you've made us a million or so, too.  You know 'Bewitched' has sold over thirteen million copies in the US and Western Europe?  'Dangerous Desires' is around nine million, and 'Rocker Girls' has moved seven million.  And 'Temporary Pleasures' is lined up to be another blockbuster.  When we do 'Bewitched II,' that's sure to shoot the moon.  The world wants Becky Page, and not everybody is willing to play nice.  I'm not happy with his solutions, but I understand his concerns.  Believe me, he'll be spending the day badgering us about it."
     Bekka pulled on her gloves with a pouty look.  "I miss being able to walk through a mall unrecognized, but at the same time I don't want some brick of meat knocking people out of my way, when all they want is an autograph.  Like, imagine what it would have been like if I'd had a bodyguard with me at the party in La Mesa.  Having Boss with us was just about right for that scene, he didn't see menace every time someone hugged me.  A real bodyguard would have been throwing fits."
     We went out and down to the bikes.  Before we fired up, Bekka asked, "Do you think we'll ever live like normal people again?"
     I replied, "Define normal.  We've become inured to wearing guns, they're just a part of life.  I'm sure our mafia associations will bring us more adventure, and we've adopted to that.  This is just a whole new flavor of weirdness.  Our lives have been weird ever since the first time we slept together.  We'll weather it, and then something else weird will happen in our lives."
     Bekka muttered, "I'd like to never wear a holster again for as long as I live," then hit the starter on her Sportster so it could warm up.  I did the same.  Thirty seconds later we blasted onto Neptune St. headed for the mansion.
    In under ten minutes we were pulling into the driveway at the Inana mansion.  We dropped our kickstands, shut down, swung off, and removed our helmets.  That's when we heard a voice calling, "Becky!  Becky!"
     And here comes a heavyset guy around twenty-five, with a beard and a camouflage jacket, chuffing up the driveway.  He had leaves in his hair.  I had my jacket unzipped and my hand resting on the butt of my Beretta already.  Bekka stared at this pudgy apparition and said, "Um, yes?"
     Pudgy made a stage bow and said, "I am Cecil Richards, the man with whom you'll be having lunch with today.  Don't worry, I will look better than this when that time arrives."
     Bekka said, "What....  Where did you come from?  Where did you park?  Aren't you just a little too sure of yourself?  What the fuck, Chuck?"
     I said, "Start talking, boy, she asked you some questions."
     Cecil confidently said, "I know it's been requested that you don't have visitors here at your studio, but Becky doesn't own property anywhere in San Diego county, so I haven't been able to find her home address.  Sorting through all the property-owning Schneiders would take too long, and I don't believe that bullshit about Becky being married anyway.  I figure that since I'm neither an autograph hound nor a creep, I won't be pissing people off by showing up here.
     "In answer to your question, I parked down on El Camino Real and walked up.  I waited in your bushes, hence the coat I'm wearing.  I'd have just waited here in your driveway, but others were arriving and I didn't want to give the wrong impression.  And Becky, I am sure I can show you how much I love you.  We'll eat at Evelyn's, your favorite restaurant, and you'll see it is fated that we should be together.  I'll wait in your boudoir while you take care of your, ah, business matters, then we shall have lunch.  No need for your guard here, I'll be with you."
     Bekka made a low hissing sound and said, "Well Cecil, you get a C for confidence.  You also get a C for creepy.  First off, this here is my husband Lenny.  Yes, he exists, and currently has his hand resting on his gun, in expectation of you doing something stupid.
     So you went through the property records to try and find my home address?  And you hid in the bushes here waiting for me?  You're a stalker. You---"
     "I am not a stalker!" Cecil protested.  "It's just, it is very important that we talk face to face.  I love you."
     "All stalkers want to talk to her face to face," I pointed out.  "With some of them, it's deadly important."
     Bekka continued, "You knew we have precautions against intruders, so you took measures to avoid them.  You knew we don't want visitors, but you came here anyway.  You're a stalker, and it's time for you to go."
     Cecil's entire face roiled.  He glowered, "I told you I'm not a stalker.  Do not insult me.  Anyone with two X chromosomes does not get to insult me.  I come here and tell you I love you and this is how I'm treated? I thought you were different, that you were better."  His face shifted again, to one of desperation.  "Becky, I'll be the man you need.  Just lunch is all, I can show you all the ways we were meant to be together.  You don't need....  This guy, you need me.  We need each other.  You'll always---"
     I cut him off, jerking my Beretta out of my jacket.  I stood there with it hanging at my side.  I said, "Listen, Galahad, it's time for you to go.  We've got work to do, and I don't want her working while she's upset.  Shut your fucking mouth, return to your car, and go home.  I'll interpret any move you make that doesn't take you in the direction of the street as a physical attack on Becky, and will respond.  You won't be the first man I've shot in this driveway."
     The confident Cecil appeared again.  "Okay, I'll play along with the whole 'husband' thing for a while.  Why don't you join us for lunch, muscle?  I'm sure Becky won't mind."
     "I'm going inside now," said Bekka.  "You're not invited.  You need to leave.  You can go three places from here: home, jail, or straight to hell, for all I care.  Lenny, try pistol-whipping him, see if he gets a clue then."
     I smiled, flipped the pistol in my hand, and raised it.  I took a step towards him.  He took a couple steps back, which I followed.  He turned and began trotting down the driveway.  I stomped after him.  Hearing my footsteps, he doubled his pace.  At the foot of the driveway, Cecil Richards paused long enough to scream "Assholes!" at us, then continued his flight down the hill.
     Rejoining Bekka, we looked at each other and shook our heads.  There was nothing to say.  I put my key in the lock and we entered the mansion.
     Angel was in my secretary Gina's office with her.  We were interrupting a humorous anecdote, catching Angel saying, "So the the guy from Milan says....  Ah, Lenny, Bekka, I was starting to wonder.  Everything okay?"
     "Ran off a stalker just now," Bekka said.  "Hey Angel, instead of getting me a bodyguard, how about hiring a rent-a-cop to hang around in the driveway during working hours?  That would run off a lot of trouble.  This idiot we just dealt with was hiding in the bushes.  A rent-a-cop would convince people that we're not kidding, we really do want to be left alone here."
     "Wait, you just ran off one of those assholes this morning?  Where is he?"
     I said, "Presumably back in his car and heading home, like he was instructed.  I'll check in a few minutes to make sure nobody's hovering around outside."
     Angel said,, "Dammit Lenny, these creeps need the law sicced on them.  It's the only way they'll learn."
     There was no way to hide my sneer.  "Shit.  I'm only happy with the police when they're not around.  And it's easy enough to use some menace and scare the creeps.  I threatened to pistol-whip this dummy, had my gun backwards in my hand, and away he scurried.  Bearded, chunky losers who have issues with women aren't much of a challenge."
     "Okay, yeah, you can beat somebody up.  They hurt for a couple days and then are back in the game.  But the cops can take away their freedom for extended periods of time.  Remember, there are anti-stalking laws on the California law books these days.  Even on a first arrest, a creep will have to post bail and make a couple court appearances, even if he's only in jail overnight.  But then the creep has a record, and if he wants to play the same games still, a second arrest will send him up the creek.  Away he goes."
     I considered this and said, "Yeah, but personally, a lot of these creeps would never see the inside of a jail or prison.  They're nuts, certifiable.  They'd do their time in a mental facility."
     Angel smiled.  "And if they thought they were getting off easy, they're idiots.  Say a creep is staring at, oh, eighteen months up in Soledad.  He plays the mental health card and is instead placed in the funny farm.  Well, his sentence just got destroyed.  The shrinks determine when to release patients, and in the case of our creep, it won't be early.  He could be stuck there for several years, far longer than his prison sentence.  Once you're in the puzzle factory, it's hard to get out.  You lose more of your freedoms than a prisoner would, and you are there by the whims of the shrinks.  If they say you're still unstable, you aren't going anywhere."
     "How do you know all this?" asked Bekka.
     "Lenny knows the situation, you don't.  This is a secret.  You know I've got anger management problems, right?  About seven years ago they were really bad.  At one point Angela and I got in an argument over something really trivial, it escalated, and, um, I hit her.  And then I'm looking down at her lying on the floor, her eye already swelling, and the enormity of it hit me.  I'd hurt the woman I loved, who means more to me than anything.  I hated myself for it.  I spent the next twenty minutes sitting in the garage with a gun in my mouth, williing myself to put just a little more pressure on the trigger.
     "Angela came out to the garage and talked me down.  I was a mess.  It was agreed that I would check into a mental hospital, a private one, both to deal with the suicidal urge and my anger problems.  It was a great facility I was in, certainly better than a public nut-hatch would have been.  And I was ready to go home after five or six days.  Only thing was, the shrinks felt I needed more time.  I stayed two weeks.  In retrospect, they were right, I wasn't stable yet.  All your behaviors are observed by the staff, and they keep notes, and the shrinks read those notes.  You don't have secrets in the puzzle factory.
     "Like for example, in the smoking area, you're not allowed to have matches or a lighter.  They've got these electric cigarette lighting doo-hickeys on the walls.  You poke your cigarette into a hole, press a button, and wait a few seconds.  Voila, your cigarette is lit.  Well, on my fourth or fifth day in, I went up to one of these machines and tried to light a smoke.  It wouldn't work.  I tried four or five times, and still no love.  So out of force of habit, I punched it.  Bloodied my knuckles some, did no damage to the machine.  I went to another machine and got my light, forgetting all about it.
     "There must have been a staffer around I didn't notice because my little tantrum was duly noted and reported to the shrinks.  At my seven day review, they used this as one of the reasons why I needed to be kept longer.  They also didn't like that I would refer to my fellow patients as 'fucking psychos,' or that I got fed up with the condescending tone of my assigned social worker and threatened to break all his fingers if he didn't start talking to me like an adult.  I really didn't help myself when, after it was clear I was staying longer, I called the shrinks 'money-grubbing pussies' who were just trying to juice me by keeping me there.
     I was already in on a 5250, and could have been staring at a 5270, a thirty day hold, if I didn't get stable.  I started taking part in the group therapy, I engaged people in normal conversation, and I told the nurses that I needed a higher dose of Klonipin, what I was getting was not softening my edges.  And I started paying attention to how I interacted with the world, really paying attention.  I started catching myself when I'd start to lose my patience and begin to lash out.  Like, if someone was talking bullshit in group, I'd force myself to tune them out.  If it seemed like the meal line was moving too slow, I'd take a couple deep breaths and remind myself that an extra thirty seconds wouldn't kill me.  It worked.  A week later they wrote me my prescriptions and cut me loose."
     "So were there people who should have been in jail residing in this place?" asked Bekka.
     Angel said, "No, but the way things are run show just how screwed you can be if you think your time in the puzzle factory is limited.  A 5150 is a seventy-two hour involuntary hold.  Even though I was there voluntarily, they still processed  me as a 5150 initially.  A 5250 is a fourteen day hold, which is how they kept me for as long as they did.  And a 5270 is a thirty day hold.  All of these can be put on someone who, say, the police picked up because they were acting funny.  Your rights evaporate as a mental patient, your freedom is at the whim of shrinks.  So they can hold someone involuntarily for up to forty-eight days.  Now just imagine how you're treated if you've actually committed a crime.  If you'd gone to Soledad, you'd be able to mark on your calendar when you leave.  In a mental hospital, you leave when they fucking let you leave."
     Bekka said, "My god, Angel, I never knew you went through this.  To be honest, you've never struck me as someone with anger management problems....  But then again, you almost never came down here to the studio back then.  We never spent any time around each other until you, Frankie, and Vinny came down to get Inana's finances straightened up, remember?"
     Laughing, Angel said, "Oh yes, when Rick went nuts and ran away from home.  No, by then counseling and medication had done their job.  I no longer have to process my reactions to outside stimuli."
     I excused myself and went outside to see if Cecil (or anyone else) was creeping around.  Things were quiet.  Then a Nissan 300ZX pulled up across the street.  Rio got out and lit a cigarette.  She was followed by a Plymouth Sundance, which was piloted by Gayla.  She hated that car.  She wanted to replace it with anything, but was warm to my offer of taking her car shopping up at Rico Carelli's Cadillac dealership, get something with style and comfort.  Hey, she was commuting from Allied Gardens to La Costa three days a week now, she needed something cushy, and could afford something sweeter than her husband's Ford Taurus.  As Gayla put it, "Given what I earn in a week compared to the hubby, I'm within my rights to determine what counts as a luxury vehicle.  I'm not about to pick up a Ferrari, but a blue, tastefully appointed Coupe de Ville is not unreasonable.  He can even drive it on my days off."
     The two joined me in the driveway.  I lit my own cigarette.  "So what's happening, boss?" asked Rio.  "What are we doing today?"
     I answered, "You two will be doing each other, at least part of the time.  This morning is a three way with you two and Tex.  Afternoon is a two-on-two with Gayla, Bekka, Chip, and Dale.  Oh, and Rita called, she won't be here today.  Her mom is sick, so she's taking care of her.  This means it'll be up to you two to prep Tex, and Gayla, you and Bekka will have to prep Chip and Dale.  Of course, Rio, I know how you can pick up some extra money this afternoon...."
      "Oh, you want me fluffing?" asked Rio in amazement.  "Just what kind of money are we talking?"
     "$400.  And that's higher than what I pay Rita."
     "Sure, I'm in," Rio shrugged.  "Chip and Dale are both pretty steady, I'll just need to prep them and keep them in service if there's any delays."
     We stepped inside, the ladies stowing their purses in their lockers.  I went back into my office, where Bekka was on the sofa and Angel had shifted to my chair.  He started to jump up when I came in, but I waved at him to remain seated, settling next to Bekka.  "So what's the word," I asked.  "You two still talking about loony bins?"
     "I was just about to make an offer," said Angel.  "You two try having a bodyguard for seventy-two hours.  You'd see if you're amenable to the idea.  I think you'll find it pleasant to have your path cleared for you."
     "But I don't want to alienate Becky's fans," said Bekka.  "This guy would have to adapt to the fact that when, say, I go to the mall, I sign a lot of autographs and give out a lot of hugs.  The underage sailors who like to hang out at the arcade love Becky Page.  They're shy but friendly, they're no threat.  This guard will have to learn the difference between my good fans --- which is most of them --- and my bad fans.  He'll also have to learn that unless I'm in the middle of a movie, a meal, or a pinball game, I don't mind interacting with my good fans a bit.  Like, here's a common scene.  Lenny and I are walking through the mall.  We hear a girl's voice say, 'Oh my god, are you really Becky Page?'  We turn and there are three teenage girls there, staring in awe, then they squeal and move towards me.  They all want autographs and hugs and to tell me how awesome I am.  I will happily give them what they want, share a few words, and be on my way.  They're not wasting my time: for god's sake, I'm at the mall, all I'm doing is wasting time.
     "Or a scene that would have freaked out a bodyguard, one night me and Lenny were in the arcade.  Came to realize there's a small group of sailors standing about forty feet away watching me.  One of them works up the courage to speak to me.  He haltingly says he wants my autograph, but has no paper.  So he opens his shirt and says, 'Sign my chest!'  So I did, and gave him a big lipstick print, too.  He goes back to show off to all his friends.  Several minutes later we look over and there's four more sailors standing there, and they all have their shirts off, and politely asked for my autograph.  I gave them all autographs and lipstick kisses.  Then they took off back to Miramar so they could get good pictures of each others chests.  That was fan service.  I don't mind fan service one bit.  A bodyguard would have to adjust to that.  We just want to keep the creeps away."
     "You can't have a knucklehead doing this job, if we decide to go for it," I said.  "He'll need to pick up on people's vibes real quick.  Bekka and I can do it, he'll need to also.  Where are you planning to find a guard, anyways/"
     "He'll be one of your fellow soldiers," answered Angel.  "I have a few people in mind, and they'd all be perfect for the job, they're used to watching for threats.  So can I go ahead with this?  Is it okay?"
     Bekka and I looked at each other and shrugged.  I said, "Seventy-two hours.  If it's livable we'll keep him around.  If not, it'll be like having an annoying houseguest for three days, then they're gone."
     Angel smiled and said, "You won't regret this.  I'm going to use the phone in the kitchen for privacy."  He hopped up and headed that direction.
     Bekka said with a smirk, "Well, at least Angel feels like he's doing something constructive."
     I said, "And I get my chair back.  I need to work on the 'Bewitched II' script.  By the way, Ursula is going to fall in love with Eddie's character, Chrysler.  The two of them will be consummating their love at the end of the movie.  You'll need to bring your A game to that fuck scene, as will Eddie.  It will be two people who, after much conflict, are admitting their love for each other.  It'll need passion, but also closeness and a feeling of true love."
     Bekka said, "Wait a minute, Eddie's character is named Chrysler?"
     "Yep.  Chrysler Goldberg.  Cruel parents, they named him after the location he was conceived in.  Ursula is the only one who isn't sardonically amused by his name, she thinks it's pretty.  But she is also insane."
     "So you're already at the end of the script?" asked Bekka.
     I laughed sharply.  "No, not at all.  What I'm doing right now is thinking of cool scenes that should happen, and putting them down.  Then I get them in the right order and connect them together, either through adding another scene or editing and patching the two scenes together.  I know as long as I have cool shit happening on a regular basis, I'm good.  Awesome shit starts and ends this movie so far, and I've got some really cool shit that happens in the middle.  Patching it all together is the only real challenge in writing a screenplay.  You'll see when it's finished, we'll have something solid to work with."
     Angel bopped into the office, saying, "Your back line should be ringing in a moment.  Please let me answer it, okay?"
     Sure as shit, the back line ringed.  He was lucky I hadn't been dialing into the BBS for the latest Becky Page gossip.  Angel snatched up the receiver and said, "Yes, Don....  That's fine, four is a good time....  I don't know what they are, let me ask...."
     Angel asked, "So what are your plans for tonight?"
     Bekka replied, "Mall food and pinball.  Pick up Jane from home, drive to UTC mall, engage in a fast food frenzy in the food court, then play pinball.  We wager five bucks a game with strangers."
     "And what time does all this start?"
     "We'll leave home around six."
     Angel relayed this information, then smiled.  "Of course, good morning sir!"  He hung up.
     I said, "So Angel, please tell us the whole story now.  I can tell you're just bursting with enthusiasm."
     Angel said, "Your bodyguard is going to be on his way in a few hours.  He will be here at the mansion at four o'clock, follow the two of you home, then accompany you two to the mall.  He will see to it you two have a relaxing evening."
     "So, um, who is this guy?" I asked.  "Do I know him from anywhere?"
     "You may," Angel answered.  "He's been looking after Don Ventimiglia for several years now, he's tough and he's pretty smart, too.  His name's Nicky, and he's been the guy to walk two steps behind the Don since 1987.  You ever met him?'
     I made a desperate, bitter chuckle.  "Yeah, I know Nicky.  He's offered to kill me once already.  He also called me a pimp, and you know how much I hate that.  Why the hell did you pick that guy?"
     "Because he's good at his job and he's becoming available.  Don V. is cutting down some of his staff, in anticipation of retirement.  The Don is holding onto his driver, Dino, but feels like he's no longer in the catbird seat.  Shit, now I am.  So why did you nearly die at Nicky's hands?  I'm curious."
     "When the Don was my guest, I drove him home on the last day.  I needed a ride back down here, and the Don instructed Nicky to do the job.  On the way back, I turned on some of my music, which didn't make Nicky happy.  Then he told me about how stressed everyone had been during the Don's absence, how frustrated everyone was, and how he'd make a lot of new friends if he just killed me.  He'd have gotten rid of a source of stress.  I don't know how much stress there was going around, but I do know he was serious at the time.  The only real thing that saved me was my insistence that the first two be head shots, otherwise I'd be pulling my own gun and letting loose at him.  And I'd already taken enough shots to be immune to lead poisoning.  What the Don would do, when he found out about this, was another matter.  Nicky didn't like hearing about how close me and the girls had gotten to ol' Vito.  He also didn't want to hear about how pissed off Don V. would be if I got shot up by one of his own lackeys.  We reached a stalemate around then."
     Angel waved it off.  "Nicky is a professional, I'm sure he's forgotten it by now."
     I asked, "What does he know about this little assignment?"
     "Only that he is coming to be the bodyguard for a celebrity named Becky Page.  He has the address for the mansion, not your home.  It is presumed he will stay in your house, even if that means crashing on a sofa.  I have no idea if he is familiar with Becky Page or not, he will assume that Becky is young, female, and friendly.  And prone to trouble, if she needs a bodyguard."
     "What I need is a license to kill creeps," complained Bekka.
     "Creep hunting," I considered.  "When is creep mating season?  That would determine when you could hunt for them."
     "Creeps don't mate, they're creeps.  They're a biological aberration born of normal parents."
     Angel said, "Creeps are always in season.  It's just what to do with them after they're dead."
     "They're pretty gamey, but they make good sausage," suggested Bekka.
     I said, "They're dead and they're creeps?  They're the perfect Pacific Bell employees."
     "Meter readers."
     "Mall security."
     "Live sound engineer for Spyro Gyra."
     "We have a winner."

Bodyguard (Part 4)

     At precisely four the doorbell rang.  I got up to get it.  Bekka was upstairs working, and Angel was flopped on the sofa reading an old issue of Maximum Rock 'N' Roll. He had a face that expressed total incredulousness.  As an expression of a culture, MRR was like hieroglyphs, enlightening but completely foreign.  Angel would later confess to a morbid curiosity with the magazine.  Seeing people expound so passionately on totally alien subjects fascinated him.
     I opened the door to Nicky's less than happy face.  "I knew it was you," he said. "I recognized the building.  The fuck is this, some kind of a joke?  You put the Don up to this?  You notice I am not laughing, I am not amused."
     I said, "You have been asked to bodyguard a woman named Becky Page for seventy-two hours, right?  You're in the right spot.  She's upstairs right now, but she should be back within half an hour."
      "I know who the fuck Becky Page is," said Nicky, stepping inside at my gesture.  "So you're saying saying this is where she makes her fuck movies?  And she works for you?"
     "You could put it that way.  Simpler to say she is my wife, I am her husband, and I write and produce movies for her to star in.  This is a family-owned studio, surely you  must have heard something about both me and Inana Productions."
     "I ignore all that crap.  Especially about what you do.  Porn is poison to the brain, it'll cut you down in your prime if you let it."
     I grinned at this. "I produce it, Bekka stars in it.  What problems and bad habits we have are unrelated to porn in any way.  Come into my office."
     We stepped into my office, where Angel barely looked up from his magazine.  Nicky looked at Angel, then startled and said, "M-Mr. Morelli!  What are you doing here, sir?"
     Angel sat up and put down the magazine.  He said, "Hello Nicky.  Thank you for coming down.  I'm here looking in on my investment, and to help out a couple friends.  With Bekka's popularity comes obsessed weirdos, people who harass and annoy.  I wished to alleviate this problem for her, and that is why you are here."
     "And who are your friends, sir?" Nicky asked nervously.
     "Well, Bekka of course, and Lenny.  Who else would I mean?"
     Nicky burst out, "This guy?  He's the one who hid Don Ventimiglia away for four days!  Are you aware of the hell he put people through?  This guy's a scumbag!"
     Angel regarded Nicky coldly.  "The Don came to Lenny and his family and asked for shelter.  Lenny provided it.  He acted in an honorable manner, obliging a powerful and venerated man, obliging the Don his wishes, which were to be left alone by the family and have fun.  I was angry too, when I found out, but if I'd been in his shoes, I would have done the same thing for Don V.  And do not call my friends scumbags.  Are you sure you're up for this task?  You aren't just clearing a path for two or three people, you must discern between Bekka's true fans and those who would stalk her, capture her.  You know, creeps.  You get rid of the creeps, you let the fans in.  Can you differentiate?"
     "I, uh, I guess so.  No problem.  Tell me, how do you two know each other?"
     Angel said, "I own this studio, Inana Productions.  Lenny here was an employee, our still photographer.  When our last head guy went crazy, I promoted Lenny into the head position.  I'd been observing him, and felt his intelligence, mixed with his initiative, were well suited to running the place for me.  I was also the one to draft him into cosa nostra.  I felt he may spark life into a rather staid organization.  I was right, he arranged  for the mafia to enter into the Ecstasy trade, where our product is the most sought after around.  Over drinks, over cocaine, and just through good companionship we have come to respect each other, and regard each other as true friends.  Through his genius, he has made me very rich, and I in turn have directed money back to him.  We have...."
     Nicky interrupted.  "I have to ask, in what way is he a genius?"
     "Lenny writes and produces the world's best pornography.  Between him, his pool of acting talent, and his director, they make porno films that are genuinely engaging as movies, real entertainment.  He arouses and entertains at the same time, something no other porn film has been able to do.  And he does this on budgets of under $400,000 and three weeks production time.  Surely you've seen 'Bewitched?'  That was the real break-through movie.
     "No sir, I haven't.  Porn clouds your thinking."
     I chuckled at this.  Angel looked surprised, then said, "I insist that you see 'Bewitched.'  It is a movie that will make you think, truly stimulate your mind.  And it's fun as hell.  The big difference with what Lenny does versus other porn studios is that in his movies the sex is part of the natural flow of the narrative, intrinsic to the plot.  In other people's stuff the sex feels tacked on, added for the sake of itself.  So you'll watch one of Lenny's movies and suddenly realize you're watching an incredible amount of really hot sex, but it never feels like a separate event from the rest of the movie.  Lenny, how many movies have you written and produced for me so far?"
     I said, "Umm....  Six or seven.  Let me go over them real quick.  Okay, 'Lust Instructor,' 'Wedding Party,' 'Bad Babysitter,' 'Bewitched,' 'Rocker Girls,' 'Dangerous Desires,' and 'Temporary Pleasures."  So seven so far....  Although on three I had co-writers.  The first two Vinny and I wrote together, and 'Temporary Pleasures' was mostly Eddie Steinberg, coming up with all the great laughs. I created the framework and structure, he filled in all the empty spots with really juicy satire.  Right now I'm working on the sequel to 'Bewitched,' it's gonna be a fun one, and that reminds me, Angel.  I'd like a budget cap of $500,000 for 'Bewitched II' so that we don't skimp on special effects.  It's gonna be more than just fireballs and zaps and lighting across the screen this time.  Is five hundred okay?"
     Angel said, "Hell, make it six, and that's as an advisory.  On this one, what you want, you get.  Once we get word out about our sequel, the excitement will only build.  People are gonna be thrilled, like 'Empire Strikes Back' thrilled.  I have no doubt you're gonna build another blockbuster."
     I unplugged the back line and put in the cord from the Macintosh.  Angel and Nicky stared at the computer as it made its modem noises.  The Becky Page Fans BBS came up.  I called Angel over so he could have a look.  The most recent was only three minutes old, the header reading, "I hate cynics."  The message was, "I got into a discussion with my Communications instructor over when a celebrity's popularity is justified or not.  I used Becky as an example of valid celebrity, and he laughed!  He said Becky will never be valid because all she does is porn.  Well DUH.  I pointed out that she does really brilliant porn, and had he ever seen any of it?  He says he's seen porn before, he doesn't need to see Becky's.  Damn that's like saying you've never heard Mozart, but you did once hear someone play a piano, so what's the difference?  I don't think I can respect this man any more -- I'll find out in a couple days, I'm loaning him a couple tapes, so he can see why one of his (gasp) female students is so hung up on a porn star.  We'll see."
     Another one simply stated, "party???" and read, "i want to organize a big party like the la mesa one but i dont know where to start.  it would be on my street in clairemont, id expect about the same no. of people, id have kegs and bbqs going and hopefully becky! would show up.  advice please."
     There were several replies to this, the advice saying things like "Contact your city PD and tell them you want to block off a street on such-and-such date," "Have keg-minders to keep the kids out of the beer," "Porta-potties are essential," and "Let the neighbors know."  One respondent said, "Something like the La Mesa party is once in a lifetime.  Becky has better shit to do than hang around with computer nerds in the suburbs.  As much as I'd love to see her again (and get another hug) I'm not holding my breath for her to show up at another block party full of geeky fans."
     I read quickly through the gossip, the usual claims that Becky was going to go mainstream with her acting.   In a twist on this theme, one claimed that Becky had a fantastic singing voice, but wasn't going to become a pop star: she was going to go into opera.  Start in the choir for the San Diego Opera, and work her way up.  I chuckled at this, then invited Angel to have a seat at my desk.  I showed him how to navigate around on the board and left him to it.  Sticking my hand in my pocket, I grabbed the meth pipe and stepped into the hallway to take a few hits.
     Nicky followed me.  He watched me heating the bowl, and said, "Okay, some kind of drugs.  What?"
     I moved the lighter away and replied, "It's speed.  Or crank, or meth, or crystal, or tweak, or dope, or shit.  Methamphetamine is the legal name."
     "And you can smoke it?"
     "Yeah.  Watch."  I got good smoke going and started taking a hit.  When I was maxed out, I blew a plume at the ceiling.  Nicky looked at the white cloud in amazement.
     "It doesn't have an odor," he pointed out.  "How is that possible?  I've heard about the garbage that goes into making that shit."
     "I don't do bathtub crank," I said.  "What I get is of pharmaceutical quality.  Keeps you going, too.  You wanna hit?"
     "Fuck no," Nicky said.  "I don't want to die, even if you do."
     Just then Bekka came down the stairs and turned into the hallway towards the office wearing her kimono robe.  She saw me standing there, saw what I had in my hand, and smiled.  "Just what I'm in the mood for, darling."  She briefly examined Nicky, six feet of muscle in an Italian suit, and said, "Hello, you must be Nicky.  I'm Bekka.  Apparently I'm the one who needs minding, even though Lenny has been doing a good job of it.  He can't always be with me, so I understand Angel's concern.  So I guess we'll see how this goes."
     Nicky  said, "Ma'am, is your name Becky or Bekka?  I'm confused."
     "Please call me Bekka, that's my real name.  The public knows me as Becky Page, a twenty-two year old porno queen who is the darling of the smut world, teenage girls, and horny post-feminists.  Becky Page is an icon, a symbol of powerful feminine sexuality, a woman strong enough to ask for what she wants from her lovers.  It goes without saying that Becky is bisexual."
     Bekka began taking a hit off the pipe.  Nicky said, "You do that stuff too?"
     She was busy, so I answered in her stead.  "Evidently so.  We just recently started smoking it.  We've been snorting our dope for years, but considering how much the stuff burns when you snort it, we figure we should give our sinuses a rest.  It's a better high when you smoke it, too."
     Bekka blew a plume gently towards the ceiling.  "And it makes such pretty white clouds, too," she declared to Nicky.  "Lenny babe, let me take a couple more hits, then I simply must go up and shower.  I smell of dick from head to foot."
     Nicky rolled his eyes at this announcement, watching Bekka suspiciously as she hit the pipe again.  I stepped in the office to see how Angel was doing.  He was engrossed in the computer, reading posts on the board.  He looked up at me and said, "My god, Lenny, these people are obsessed with Bekka.  They're all crazy."
     "It's not Bekka, it's Becky Page they're ga-ga over.  Good people though.  We went to a block party that was being thrown for members of this BBS, and Bekka did nothing but sign autographs, talk, and hug people for four hours straight.  To them, Becky Page is like a post-feminist Wonder Woman come to life.  A highly oversexed Wonder Woman.  Becky Page embodies strength and coolness."
     Bekka stepped into the office and handed me the pipe.  "Best to reload it," she said.  "Nicky is mystified why we're not coughing up blood right now.  I'm off to shower, back in just a few."  She trotted off.
     Nicky came in and said, "Mr. Morelli, I'm surprised you're not bothered by those two using drugs the way they do.  You're not bothered?"
     Angel said, "Yes, I am bothered.  Lenny and Bekka are both addicts, I worry about them.  But they have been using the same drug for as long as I have known them.  They have merely changed their means of ingestion.  And they have no faults which can be blamed on their use of crank.  Their lives are orderly, they are in good health, they do not live as if enslaved.  I can only criticize their addiction for being an addiction."
     "Hey Nicky, do you play pinball?  'Cos that's what's on the docket for tonight.  Mall food and pinball."
     "I can't remember the last time I played pinball," sneered Nicky.
     I said, "Well, it's a big arcade they got.  You'll find something to occupy your time."
     Ten minutes later Bekka was back down, fully clothed and ready to go.  I'd already melted a fresh bowl into the pipe, and I handed it off to her.  She took a hit and gave it back, saying, "Let's take a few more hits once we're home, then leave it alone.  We'll be high enough for the night."
     I rolled the pipe up in a bandana I'd folded for precisely that reason and shoved it in my pocket.  I said, "Okay Nicky, you'll be following us home.  We'll ride mellow so you don't lose us.  If we do get separated, the address is 816 Neptune St., just south of the beach parking lot.  When we get home you get to meet Jane, the girl who lives with us.  You'll be in a room next to hers for the next three nights.  Angel, what are your plans?"
     "I'm going to keep reading for a while," Angel said.  "This is too fascinating.  I'll go out for some dinner in a while, and sleep in the penthouse again.  I want to be there for the signing tomorrow, so I'll want to be rested.  Hint hint, Lenny and Bekka."
     Bekka, Nicky and I stepped outside and into the driveway.  The bikes sat waiting, helmets dangling from handlebars.  Nicky stared as we zipped up our leathers, pulled on gloves, and got helmets in place.  "Jesus, do you two do anything that isn't gonna kill you?" he asked.''
     Bekka chuckled.  "We've both had so many attempts made on our lives that we're inured to the idea of death.  We should be dead, but we're not.  Sometimes I wonder if we're immortals."
     I realized that both Gayla and Rio were still at the studio.  I needed to see Rio, I had her $400 in cash for her.  On the second floor I checked the main sound stage.  Both Steves and Mickey were wrapping up equipment.  The next sound stage down had a slightly open door.  I could hear panting.  Stepping in the door revealed the sight of Rio flat on her back, legs spread wide.  Gayla was between Rio's thighs, licking, sucking, fingering.  Both of them gazed up at me as I entered.
     "Hi, Lenny," said Gayla.  "I've decided I like women as well as men.  I think Rio is really hot, and she's allowing me to indulge myself."
     Rio said, "I'm in heaven right now.  She keeps making me come.  Oh god...."  She gasped as Gayla clamped her mouth back over Rio's pussy.
     I walked over and handed Rio her money.  She said to Gayla, "Bitch, I'm taking you out for dinner and drinks, okay?  I just got paid."
     Gayla lifted her head and replied, "Cool.  I just need to call my husband, tell him I've got plans.  We'll call it a business dinner."
     "That works.  Your turn."  Rio sat up and grabbed Gayla by the shoulders.  She pushed her backwards, then went face-first into Gayla's pussy.  Gayla moaned her appreciation.
     I smirked, wished the two of them a good evening, and went out.  Apparently Gayla was working through any shyness she may have had,  putting her wants and desires up front.  It was as if her inner libertine was coming  out to play.  Well, this was a good a place as any to sexually explore.  If nothing else, she would know that any partners she chose would be healthy.
     Nicky had brought his car, a new Lincoln Continental, to the foot of the driveway.  Bekka and I putted down and into the street.  Nicky fell in behind us.  We kept it mellow, making sure to not rocket away when leaving stoplights.  When we got home I waved Nicky up next to me.
     I said, "Wait until we get the bikes parked, then park so you're blocking the Lincoln and the Cutlass.  We'll take the Plymouth when we leave again."  I rolled the Sportster into its space, Bekka doing the same thing on the other side of the Cutlass.  Nicky cut the Lincoln in sharply, getting the car inside our driveway.  Better parallel parking than I expected from a Los Angeles driver.
     "Grab your stuff and come on up," I said, gesturing.  Nicky followed me and Bekka up into the house.  When we got to the living room, we found Jane sitting on the floor in front of the coffee table.  Her favorite porno movie, Rocker Girls, played on the TV.  She smiled and waved at us, and stared at Nicky.  There was undisguised lust in her eyes.
     "Hey," Jane said.  "Just knocking out my homework before we head to the mall, that way we're not staring at the clock.  Who's your friend?"
     "Jane, meet Nicky," said Bekka.  "Nicky, meet Jane.  he's going to be my bodyguard for the next few days, to see if I want to take one on permanently.  He'll be sleeping in one of the guest rooms on your floor, so make sure the spare bathroom is clean."
     "Right next door to me, huh?  Okay."  Jane's smile was far too wide.
     "Get that out of your head right now, Gator Bait," I said.  "There's a chance he may not want horny little girls crawling into his bed in the middle of the night."  Jane stuck her tongue out at me.
     Nicky had been staring at Jane like she was a space alien ever since coming up the stairs.  He now asked, "How old are you, girl?"
     "I'm sixteen," said Jane.  "But I've done a lot of growing up.  You'd be pleasantly surprised."
     "Jane...." Bekka said in a warning tone.
     Nicky glared at Jane and slowly shook his head.  He said, "I know what is on your mind, and you can forget about it.  You shouldn't be thinking like that at your age to begin with.  Assume I'm married, assume I'm queer, whatever.  But get me out of your mind.  I know exactly who you are, you're the mascot for our direct strike team.  Those are not people I would want pissed off at me."
     Jane made a huffing sound and said, "Okay, I'll leave you alone.  Still gonna stare at you, though.  You make good eye candy."
     "Come on, girl, let's go hit the mall.  Get your shoes on," I said.
     I piloted us in the Sport Fury towards the UTC mall.  I parked and we headed through.  When we reached the center plaza three of us landed on a bench and lit cigarettes.  Nicky remained standing, his head rotating around.  Presently three teenage girls walked past.  One glanced in Bekka's direction, gasped, and stopped.  Her two friends stopped to see what was the matter and also gasped.  The first one said, "Oh my god, are you really Becky Page?"
     And Nicky is inserting himself between the girls and Bekka, saying, "Yeah, it's her, move along."  Bekka gave Nicky a shove to one side.  She said, "Relax Nicky, they're just fans.  I'm happy to spend a minute with them.  You girls wish me no ill will, right?"
     A second girl said, "No way.  I think you're awesome.  Um, could I get your autograph?"  The other two girls made "me too" noises.  Book bags were dropped and paper was produced.  Bekka pulled out her Sharpie and began doing autographs, getting names from the girls as she went along.  As she finished each one, she would hug the girl, to their great joy.  They were being hugged by the Wonder Woman of porn!  A real embrace!
     When all three were done, Bekka gave them an appraising stare.  She said, "So how did you three come to be familiar with my media?  To be frank, you all look too young to be watching my videos."
     The third girl said, "My parents have all your movies.  They're cool with us watching them, so we'll, you know, um, understand how sex works.  My mom said she didn't want me watching any other porn besides the stuff you've done.  Your movies are so cool, they're so fun.  You are so awesome as Ursula the witch."
     "Or as the bartender in 'Rocker Girls,' " said the first one.
     "Do you like hanging out in the mall?" asked the second girl.
     Bekka replied, "I like to periodically get dinner from the gourmet burger place, then spend the evening playing pinball with my husband and my friend Jane, here."
     "Hi," said me and Jane simultaneously.  We stuck out our hands to shake.
     "Don't you hug?" asked the third girl.  "Hug me instead."
     I said, "Yeah, no problem.  Um, why?"
     "I learned from watching Becky just how important physical contact is between people.  Holding another person close is simultaneous control and submission.  When you hug someone, you are truly an equal with them.  And it feels good, rubbing against somebody."
     Bekka gaped at the girl.  "How did you get that out of my videos?" she asked.
     The girl said, "My big sister explained it to me.  She's in college.  She also said I'm at the right age to start my sexual exploration."  The girl got a bit pink.  "Um, the three of us fool around together.  At some point each of us has made the other two reach orgasm.  We all like guys, but um, we have fun together, as girls.  I mean, you fool with girls.  It's okay, right?"
     Bekka flapped her jaw, then calmly said, "That is just fine.  I think it's beautiful that the three of you have such trust and caring in your friendship.  Go for it, keep having fun together.  Tell me, do you all fool with boys?"
     The girls looked at each other.  The second one said, "Um, not really, no.  Should we?  It feels like a big deal to me."
     "If you're not comfortable with it, don't do it.  Wait until you are comfortable.  But you don't owe it to anyone, not a boy, and not yourself.  When it's time, it will feel right, and you will cherish the experience.  But don't try to rush it, your time will happen on its own."'
     "That's cool, thank you," said the first girl.  "Um, how old were you when you first, you know, did it with a guy?"
     "I was eighteen and out of high school," said Bekka. "I had played around with boys, and I knew how a dick worked, but my virginity lasted until after I graduated.  I waited until it felt right."
     "Wooow," said all three girls.
     "And with that, my lovelies, I'm going to bid you adieu," said Bekka.  "I'm hungry and am craving a fancy cheeseburger.  I'm here about once a week, and always around this time.  Check for me in the arcade, I love pinball.  I'll be playing either Xenon or High Speed.  Good afternoon, girls.  Go have some fun."
     "Bye, Becky!"  "Thanks for talking to us."  "Becky, you rule, you're so awesome."  The three girls continued on their way.  We stood and began sauntering towards the food court.'
     Nicky said, "Jesus Christ.  You really don't want me to do my job, do you?  You don't want a bodyguard at all."
     Bekka said, "I want someone who can help keep creeps and stalkers at bay.  I'm fine interacting with my fans.  Those aren't the only teenage girls who are hung up on Becky Page."
     "That's another thing.  Those girls are maybe sixteen.  And you're giving them sex advice?  Telling them to lez out together, but to wait on boys?   You got that backwards."
     Bekka glared at Nicky  and said, "No, I got that right.  When they explore with each other, they also explore themselves.  When they decide to try sex with boys, they'll be very much in tune with their own bodies, and can help the boys be better lovers.  It's a win/win situation.  Besides, those three already are 'lezzing out together.'  More power to them.  I wasn't aware that my girl/girl scenes carried so much resonance, that I was inspiring young women to try other young women.  Wild."
     "Wild?" exclaimed Nicky.  "You're encouraging teenage girls to turn into dykes.  Do you secretly hate straight dudes or something?"
     "Oh brother.  No, I don't secretly hate straight men.  I think my husband would have noticed that sort of twist in my psyche by now.  And they're not turning into dykes, they're experimenting.  Most girls try it in college.  These three just started earlier.  You heard them say they're attracted to boys, they just don't feel ready for fucking yet.  Don't worry, they will."
     "So are you always so friendly with your fans?  You wasted five minutes signing autographs and jawing with them.  All it got you was even  hungrier.  Do you gotta make everyone happy?"
     Shrugging, Bekka said, "My fans love me dearly.  It would be selfish of me if I didn't give some of that love back.  And those brave enough to walk up and speak to me deserve a reward.  They get autographs and hugs.  I'm sure I have plenty of fans who have let me go past because they didn't want to be a bother."
     "They are a bother," said Nicky.  "They're delaying you from doing what you want.  Do you think you owe them something?"
     "Like I said, my fans love me.  I should show them I love them back.  And so far as delaying me goes, we're at a shopping mall.  Wasting time is what malls are good for.  If I had an appointment or reservation, I would have told them so and kept moving.  But we were having a leisurely smoke, no place to be, so why not make some fans extremely happy and converse with them briefly?  I'll bet Madonna never shoots the shit with her fans.  They're probably lucky if she looks at them when she speaks."
     "Oh, so you're better than Madonna?" asked Nicky.
     "She's way better," said Jane.  "She's way sexier, she's smarter, and her art makes people think.  Madonna ain't got shit on Becky Page."
     Bekka and I got in line at the gourmet burger place.  Jane went off to the barbecue hut, and Nicky said he was going to wander a bit, see what struck him.  He pointed to some empty tables in a corner and said, "Go sit there.  Nobody can come up from behind you there."
     The kid who handed out the orders was positively vibrating with excitement as he passed us our burgers and fries.  He said, "Thank you, Ms. Page!  I hope you enjoy your meal!  Please come again soon!"
     Bekka grinned and said, "You know my name, but I don't know yours.  What's your name, sweetie?"
     The kid swallowed and said, "It's Justin."
     "Would you like an autograph, Justin?"
     "That would be so rad," Justin sweated.
     Bekka said, "Let me get some of my dinner in me and I'll get you an autograph.  Back in a few.."
     Bekka and I launched into our burgers.  Bekka took a place mat off a tray and wrote with her Sharpie, "Thanks for dinner, Justin!  XXX  Kisses, Becky Page."  She carried it back up to the Pick Up Orders window and slid it over to Justin, who picked it up with shaking hands and a manic grin.  Justin grasped his courage and said, "Ms. Page, you're the most beautiful woman I've ever seen.  And you're even more beautiful in person.  Please come back anytime."
     Bekka said, "Aw, I'm flattered.  Thank you so much.  You have a nice night."
     We were mostly done when Nicky joined us.  He had corn dogs and a salad.  "Quiet with you guys?" he asked.
     "Very quiet," said Bekka.  "I signed an autograph for our server, and was told how beautiful I am.  That's always nice to hear."
     I said, "I tell her that all the time, that she's the most beautiful woman in the world.  In return she complains about the size of her ass.  I tell her that if we travel, and all Sicilian girls are as hot as her, I won't be held responsible for my actions."
     "Wait, you're Sicilian?" queried Nicky.
     "A hundred percent," answered Bekka.
     "Okay, that much is true," Nicky said, scratching his head.  "There's some dumb rumor going around that Don Ventimiglia is gonna have a woman become mafioso.  Induct her, do the whole ceremony, and make her a made man....  Or woman.  One version says it's supposed to be you.  Wild, huh?"
     Bekka had a wide grin on her face.  "Oh Nicky, my dear boy.  The rumors are true, and it is me the Don will be inducting.  You can check with the Don, or ask Angel Morelli.  You seem bothered by this news."
     "Women mafioso?" Nicky cried.  "It's never happened before.  What about tradition?  Next they'll be letting blue-eyed mutts like Lenny in as full members.  No, the mafia has always functioned just fine without any women.  I mean, what do you have to offer the family?  Business acumen?  Connections?  Street smarts?"
     "I've got twenty pound balls," said Bekka, sucking down the last of her Pepsi.  "Tempered steel, just like Lenny's.  I've killed for the family.  I think on my feet.  And I can stare down a gun and not panic."
     "You better have steel balls.  Cosa Nostra is no game, don't expect anyone to soft pedal for you."
     "Wouldn't expect them to.  It's time to go play some games.  Will you join us, or are you going to find your own amusement?"
     Nicky said, "I'll play a game near yours, so I can keep an eye on you.  I'll try to spot the stalkers you're so worried about."
     We went in the arcade to find that High Speed was not in use.  We dropped quarters on the glass and in the slot, firing up the machine.  A small band of sailors was whooping it up a few machines down.  They suddenly became quiet.  I looked over to them to see them all gawking at Bekka.  Of the six, one guy had the stones to come over and say, "Excuse me, ma'am, are you Becky Page?"
     "That I am," Bekka smiled.  What can I do for you, sailor?"
     He hadn't thought that far ahead.  "Oh, um....  I wanted to let you know we're all really big fans of yours, and uh, we're happy to see you here, um, could I get your autograph?"
     "Sure, sweetie.  What do you want me to sign?"
     "Oh!  Uhh...."
     "Why don't you go and get a place mat off a tray," said Bekka, "and I'll sign that.  You seem awful nervous.  Why don't you let me give you a hug, so you can relax.  Okay?"
     Bekka held her arms out.  Still nervous, the sailor stepped into her arms.  They embraced tightly for ten seconds, then released.  There had been a collective gasp from his friends when they first went into their clinch, all of them drop-jawed at the sight of their comrade hugging Becky Page.
     Stepping back with a huge grin, the lone sailor said, "Wow, I feel great now!  Thank you so much, ma'am!  I'll be back with something to write on."  He sprinted out of the arcade into the food court.
     The game forgotten, the sailors nervously edged towards us.  A tall black one said, "Excuse me, ma'am, but why did you hug our buddy?"
     Bekka gave a charming smile and said, "He was nervous and I wanted him to be relaxed.  A hug is a good way of helping someone relax."
     "Really?  I'm feeling kind of nervous too, ma'am."  His buddies cracked up.
     Bekka said, "Uh huh.  If you want to hug me because you want to hug me, tell me that.  There's all sorts of reasons to hug.  If you're feeling lonely and miss a woman's embrace, tell me that.  If you're just horny and want to feel Becky Page's tits against your chest, tell me that.  But don't bullshit me about why you want to hug me.  So, Stretch, why do you want a hug?"
     The tall black sailor said, "You nailed it.  You nailed it.  I miss my girl.  Feelin' a female in my arms will cheer me up."  Bekka held her arms wide, and then the two of them had a good long hug.  At the end, the sailor looked truly touched.
     Another sailor stepped up to Bekka.  She asked him why he wanted a hug.  He answered, "So I can say I've hugged one of the hottest women in the world!  Becky, you sizzle!"  Bekka laughed and gave him his hug.
     The last three sailors got their hugs, too.  Their reasons were lonely, homesick, and horny.  The first sailor waited patiently for the hugs to end, waiting for his autograph.  Bekka turned to him and said, "What's your name, sweetie?"
     "Yeoman Gerald Spinoza, ma'am," the sailor replied.
     "You go by Jerry?" asked Bekka.
     "Yes ma'am, my friends call me Jerry."
     Bekka wrote, "Dear Jerry: Thank you for the hug, stud!  XXX  Kisses, Becky Page."  She handed the place mat back to G. Spinoza and said, "There you go.  And here, this is for being first and bravest.."  She gave him a kiss, turning his mouth dark red and his face pink.
     The sailors began shuffling out of the arcade.  Movie times were mentioned.  I heard the tall black sailor say, "Damn, but Becky Page really is one hell of a woman."
     Nicky shuffled up and said, "I watched your love-in.  None of them got fresh, right?"
     Bekka said, "They were all gentlemen.  They were all nervous, I could feel their tension when I hugged them.  But they were nothing to worry about, just squids from Miramar.  They're all under twenty-one, otherwise they'd be hanging around a bar, and not an arcade.  They love me.  I provide diversion from the monotony of their daily grind.  Getting a hug from Becky Page made them happier than they'd probably even admit to, but they all have something to brag about for the next few weeks.  Nicky, I'm sorry you've been so bored.  If one of them had been a creep, I would have called for you....  Actually, I would have called for Lenny, out of force of habit, but I'm sure you would have jumped in too.  Don't worry, at the signing tomorrow I'm sure we'll have creeps and stalkers a-plenty."
     Jane walked up with another kid in tow.  He had a face pockmarked from acne and a mohawk.  He was practically drooling on his boots, his mouth was open so wide as he stared at Bekka.  Jane said, "Hey Bekka, Lenny.  This is Roach, he's from Linda Vista.   He didn't believe me when I told him I knew Becky Page.  Now he owes me a pack of Newports.  Hey Bekka, can I take Ecstasy tonight?  Please?  Roach has never had it before."
     Bekka considered Jane and Roach, before saying, "It's a school night, so no.  Tomorrow isn't a school night.  Why don't you invite him up tomorrow?  We'll get high and go bowling.  Roach, do you have a car?"
     Roach answered, "Yeah, a '78 Mustang.  It runs, that's what I can say about it."
     "How old are you, Roach?" I asked.
     "I'm nineteen."
     "Will your parents mind if you stay out all night?  Ecstasy gives you a lot of energy, and you can't sleep while you're high," said Bekka.
     Roach said, "They probably won't even notice.  Um, Ms..Page, I don't mean to spaz out on you, but I am such a huge fan you wouldn't even believe it.  'Rocker Girls' is the best movie ever made, it's so awesome, I really like your other ones too.  Meeting you in person is just blowing my mind...."
     "Well, tomorrow around eight we'll all take Ecstasy together and see where the evening takes us," said Bekka.  "Whatever we decide to do, we'll have fun.  And lucky you, you get to take drugs with Becky Page, right?"
     "Too cool," Roach grinned.
     Nicky stuck his nose in.  "Aren't you two on drugs all the time as it is?  What drugs are you taking tomorrow that will be so damn special?"
     "We'll be taking Ecstasy," I said.  "You will be joining us, right?"
     "No.  Somebody has to be capable of driving a car and hiding the kitchen knives, trying to talk people down from freakouts."
     I chuckled.  "Wow, far out man.  You really don't have a clue, do you?  Have you ever met somebody who's heard of someone who has taken Ecstasy?  MDMA, or Ecstasy, brings on euphoria, confidence, increased energy, and a feeling of being connected to the universe.  You fall in love very easily on Ecstasy, you want to be emotionally and physically involved with everyone you meet.  Ecstasy has brought about more bi-curious behavior than ten thousand glory holes could.  The high lasts eight to ten hours, at which point you eat some breakfast and nap for a few hours.  Then you're back on track.  Relax Nicky, we've eaten a ton of this stuff.  Roach is new to it, but he'll have Jane's guidance."
     Nicky sighed, "Oh, so you give hard drugs to a teenage girl."
     "It saves me the trouble of stealing them," snapped Jane.  "Really Nicklaus, you're too much.  When I was admiring your body earlier, I don't know how I missed the stick up your ass.  Don't concern yourself with how I relax on weekdays, or party on weekends.  You'd probably just be frightened.  Me, I'm a warrior.  I can handle anything the world throws at me."
     Jingling his quarters, Nicky said, "I've been given the assignment of keeping Becky Page safe.  Unfortunately, she seems to constantly be doing things that put her at risk.  The drugs, the fans, the motorcycle, the hugging of strangers.  In this situation, I don't know how I'm supposed to accomplish my task.  The person I'm supposed to protect is constantly trying to hurt herself."
     "You'll have action tomorrow," Bekka said.  "The creeps will come out of the woodwork for this event.  We'll have dangerous psycho fans hanging around.  Sorting them apart from dudes who are just socially maladjusted is a bit of a challenge, but you talk to them for a minute and you learn where they're coming from.  We're talking about dudes who would try to convince Becky Page of their love by tying her up in their attic and drugging her.  And every single one of them is convinced that they are the only person who truly loves Becky, and thus are the only one entitled to her love.  All they need to do is be alone with Becky, by any means."
     "So how have you dealt with them in the past?" asked Nicky.
     I said, "They're a new development, so far as I'm concerned.  I guess the good news is they aren't organized.  Every stalker hates every other stalker.  They're not about to cooperate to accomplish a goal.  The downside is that means you have thirty different individuals doing thirty different things to try and get to Becky.  Hard to keep track of.  In the past, me and my friend Boss did the security.  If a dude got creepy, the girl would raise her hand, and we'd chuck the creep out.  Now, anyone asking Becky --- or any of the other girls --- out to dinner is suspect.  I get a lot of hate.  Creep asks Becky out, Becky refuses.  She points out her husband, the punk thug, as the reason for the refusal.  Creep refuses to accept that Becky is married.  I have to escort the creep away to keep the line moving.  The creep vows that he will show his love for Becky, soon.  I fear how."
     Bekka said, "Yeah, dinner alone with me is the Rosetta Stone for my stalkers.  I'm not sure what they would say if left alone with Becky, but it is some earth-shattering information, presumably.  I could be wrong.  It could be that they all believe they can sob and whine their way into Becky's heart, nagging her into falling in love."
     I said, "Yeah Nicky, tomorrow will definitely be fun."

Bodyguard (Part 5)

     Nicky had been Don Ventimiglia's personal protection, and had adapted to the Don's preferred hours.  None of this lazy sleeping in until 8:30 a.m., wasting the best hours of the day (according to Don V.).  No, up at 6:15, and downstairs to start the coffee.  Nicky had company at this hour, although he may not have wanted it.  Jane was up at the same time, getting ready for school.  As soon as she was out of the shower her stereo went on, and when she went down for breakfast, she'd turn on the living room stereo.  No escaping the music, except in our room, which remained blissfully silent with the door closed.  Nicky was not a music guy.  I already knew he hated the Cramps, and I doubted he would be amenable to any of Jane's choices of wake-up music.
     Nicky was out on the deck when Jane came down.  She was wearing a blue leather bustier, alligator skin pants, and blue fourteen-hole Doc Martens.  She headed straight for the stereo, putting on "Songs About Fucking" by Big Black.  The sound of horribly distorted guitars over a Roland drum machine filled the downstairs.  Jane started the coffee maker and poked a Newport in her mouth, heading out on the deck to scope out early morning surfer boys.  She said good morning to Nicky, who grunted in response.
     "I'll probably regret asking this, but what the hell are we listening to?" asked Nicky.
     Jane answered, "This is Big Black, a proto-industrial band from Chicago.  This was their last album before they broke up.  Choice stuff, huh?"
     "Please don't claim that this is music.  This is noise.  It's someone yelling while screeching and grinding noises happen, with a rhythmic thudding in the background.  You cannot tell me you take enjoyment from listening to this.  And the people responsible for it must be suffering some heavy mental illness."
     Jane puffed her Newport, put her chin in the air, and said, "I do enjoy it.  This sound brings me energy, makes me feel alive.  Steve Albini, the guy responsible for most of this, isn't insane, he's a genius.  So what the hell should I be listening to?"
     "Shit, I don't know.  Elton John."
     Jane snickered at this suggestion.  "I'm sorry, no.  There is not enough time in life to spend any of it listening to a chubby, piano-playing British swish.  Care to try again?"
     "Why can't you just turn on the radio like a normal person?" asked Nicky.
     "Because radio is a wasteland of prepackaged pap.  The songs with the heaviest rotation are the ones who won the bidding war.   I have loads and loads of music I like, both down here and in my room.  I can put on an album and be enthralled, entertained, energized.  Radio stupefies me.  Radio has a million words, but can't think of anything to say.  I'd rather make my own show, using my own music and a cassette."
     The album side was over.  Jane went inside and swapped it for the album "Damaged" by Black Flag.  Jane poured coffee into two mugs and brought them out to the deck.  Nicky stared into his and said, "You take your coffee black?  I usually take cream."
     Jane said, "Go ahead, try it.  This is really smooth, you don't need creamer.  It's a hazelnut//Sumatra blend that Lenny and Bekka get.  You don't need cream or sugar for this stuff."
     Nicky took a doubtful sip, then another.  "Say, this is really good.  I'm impressed.  Um, you're headed to school today?"
     Jane affirmed this.
     "Then why are you dressed like that?"
     Jane stared at Nicky for a few moments.  She said, "Really, the only honest answer is, Because I fucking feel like it.  I like dressing sexy, and I'm comfortable in this stuff.  Besides, I have a reputation as a psychotic sex bomb to maintain, so this is just about right.  My reputation helps keep the cheerleader bitches off of me, boys flock around in an obliging manner, and my male teachers are right there if I raise my hand for help.  The power of my decolletage has ruined men far stronger than them."
     "So you slut it up, then," said Nicky.
     "No," replied Jane.  "I want to be a sex bomb, just like Becky Page.  I want to suggest, through my appearance, that there are limits to the amount of physical pleasure.a human being can stand, and I push that limit.  And like Becky, I am always in control of the situation.  I will always persevere."
     "You're sixteen, why do you want to be a sex bomb?  You can't tell me you don't upset the adults in your life dressed like that, or were you unaware?"
     Jane said, "Sex spurs us on nearly as strongly as food, and more strongly than shelter.  Human beings don't have a mating season.  That makes us fairly unique in the animal kingdom, we can fuck pretty much constantly.  And we're incredibly creative, too.  Who thought up the blowjob?  Some cave-woman, wanting to do something nice for her man.  Plus bondage, role-playing, fetishes, leather, domme/sub relationships, sex toys, spanking, water sports, and toe sucking.  Sex is all-encompassing.  Our species wallows in it.  What the hell, I like to do a bit of wallowing myself.
     "Lenny and Bekka, the two adults in my life who I listen to, are fine with my fashion sense.  My teachers consider me a distraction, especially when I'm the one to solve a problem on the board.  I especially distract the boys.  Shit, it's not my fault they're repressed.  So the teachers and administrators despair in me, but they can't say much to an honor roll student with nearly perfect attendance."
     Nicky asked, "Is it Bekka who encourages you to dress like this?"
     Jane laughed.  "Not at all.  I've been trying to dress as sexy as possible since I was twelve.  Sorry, but from the first time I learned firsthand what an orgasm was, I've been hooked.  I'm sure there are boys at my school who masturbate while thinking of me.  I couldn't be more flattered.  Making someone come, even by proxy, is still an achievement.  To think that I inspire orgasm in others makes me very happy."
     Jane stretched and said, "And now I must leave.  You need to move your car so I can get mine out.  I guess I'll see you this evening, when y'all are back from the video signing."

     We arrived early to meet the limo.  This was by design, as I wanted to check my messages.  All five of my distributors had called, begging for us to hurry up with the new shipment of tapes, they were running dry.  Also of note was a call from Hustler magazine, wanting to get a hold of Ellen.  They wanted Skye Tyler to be a centerfold.  When she arrived, I relayed the good news.  She was ecstatic.
     "Oh wow, this is too cool!" said Ellen.  "Bekka, you've worked with Hustler before, what's it like?"
     "Very professional," replied Bekka.  "You know how to take direction, so you'll do just fine.  Despite the tone of the magazine, they treat their models with courtesy and respect.  You aren't just chattel."
     Nicky was introduced to Boss.  Nicky was definitely put off at having to share a limo with this mutant.  Boss explained his relationship with the family, which didn't relax Nicky any.  The Southern California mafia was shifting huge amounts of an esoteric drug, and the person in charge appeared to be a werewolf with gigantism.  Just before the limo arrived, I passed out Ecstasy to everyone.  It was refused by Boss, who was trying to stay clean.  Nicky also refused, on general principles.  On the way there, Bekka and I demonstrated our meth pipe close up.  Elspeth took a couple hits, curious about a smoked drug that had no flavor or odor.  She took her first hit, slowly exhaled, then smiled and said, "Yeah, that does do the job.  Damn."  Boss looked amused, Nicky looked appalled.
     We pulled into bedlam at the Mira Mesa Smut 'N' Stuff.  A line came out the front door, wrapped around the building, then ran through the parking lot out to the street.  The driver pulled up to the front doors and let us out, where we were greeted by Angel.  At the sight of the girls, the mob waiting in line began to applaud.  The girls waved and we ducked into the store itself.  Angel ushered us to the manager's office in the rear, where he had some "refreshment" lined up.  Surprisingly, Nicky accepted this.  After the girls took a potty break, we went out and surveyed the setup.  Once again, Boss took the far end, where he could observe both the crowd and the girls.  I got behind the tables, hovering near Bekka.  Nicky came over and planted himself two inches behind Bekka, if he'd gotten a hard-on he'd have whacked her in the head.
     "What are you doing?" Bekka asked him.
     "My job," Nicky replied.  "I'm the one who is supposed to watch after Becky Page.  I won't let anybody bother you.  You can relax."
     "I'd like my fans relaxed too.  They won't be when there's a muscly dude with an obvious gun bulge inside his jacket standing behind me, rubbing his crotch into my scalp.  Stand back by that display rack, you'll be close enough if I need you.  If I put my hand in the air, it means I need you."
     "Don't worry, I've got my eye on these assholes," Nicky announced, loud enough for the fans to hear.
     The signing started.  Once again, there were two lines: the main one, and a small one of three to five dudes, built up in front of Bekka's table.  Still, we weren't having the same problem of fans wanting to have conversations with Becky Page.  We were getting people through quicker here.  At the hour mark I stepped outside for a look at the line.  Still out to the street, but not growing.  There was a chance we'd have no disappointed fans come seven o'clock.
     Around a quarter to five Elspeth shot her hand into the air.  I stepped to her table, Boss began approaching.  Elspeth was as white as a ghost.  "He has a knife," she stated flatly.
     I looked at the fan, then down at his hands.  He had a psychotic smile on his face and a knife with a six inch blade in his right hand.  He didn't seem bothered by my arrival at all.  At that moment he decided it was time to play.  He drew the knife back to get a good slashing swing in.  If he held the same trajectory the knife would come straight across Elspeth's neck.  Elspeth screeched and threw herself backwards out of the chair.  I dove over the table with both hands aimed at the psycho's right wrist.  We both piled into Boss, who was right behind him.
     I grabbed the psycho's wrist and twisted it like a bungee cord.  He squawked and the knife dropped free.  Boss lifted him up by the neck and shook him like a rag doll.  The psycho yelled and flailed, trying to squirm out of Boss's grip.  I told Boss, "Hold him up like that.  I wanna check him for any more toys."
     The psycho tried squirming even more as I checked his pockets.  Boss told him to hold still, or else Boss would put him to sleep.  In the small of his back I found a sheath knife clipped to his belt.  I also confiscated a boot knife from the inside of the Tony Lamas he was wearing.
     Angel came trotting up to see what all the hoo-hah was.  I pointed at the Buck knife lying open on the floor, and held up the two other knives I'd found.   "This guy tried to slash Elspeth," I told Angel.  "We need some law."
     Angel flipped his Beretta out of its holster and said, "Boss, get this guy into the office.  Lenny, see how Elspeth is doing.  If she's freaked, she can sit out the rest of the signing.  Nicky.  Nicky!"
     Nicky stopped wiping at his nose and said, "Yes, Mr. Morelli?"
     "The three of us will be off the floor for a few minutes.  Take point on security, where Boss was, and keep the line moving.  We'll be back."
     Nicky frowned.. "I'm only supposed to watch over Becky."
     Angel frowned back.  "And in case you didn't notice, we've had a bit of a situation here.  Becky will be fine.  Now get the fuck over here and take point.  Don't worry, you won't be alone long."
     I went to where Elspeth was sitting at her table.  "You okay, girl?" I asked.  "You want a break for a while?"
     She smiled up at me.  "I'm okay, really.  Just rattled.  I could really use a cigarette, though.  Let me step out front and smoke."
     "Like hell if you're going outside alone," I said.  "We'll go smoke together.  Then you'll be okay with the rest of the signing?"
     "I'll be fine," Elspeth said.
     "Wait here for a minute, then.  I'll arrange it so your absence won't be missed."
     I went to the front of the line and the gatekeeper, who I told I was going to rearrange things briefly.  Then I stepped back and yelled, "Attention!  May I have your attention please!"  Silence suddenly reigned.
     I yelled, "By a show of hands, who is only here to see Becky Page?"  About twenty guys raised their hands.  I continued, "Then get your asses up front here, we're putting you muggs through first.  Form a second line parallel with the first one."  I said to the gatekeeper, "Clear out the Becky Page fans first.  Ella Belle needs a cigarette, and will be gone for a few.  Doing it this way, nobody misses out on an autograph.  Don't have them backed up more than five deep in front of Becky."
     I waved Nicky over and told him, "All the focus is going to be on Becky for a little bit.  Get back behind her, like you were.  Elspeth needs a cigarette, and I'm escorting her.  I'll be right out front if you need me."
     I waved to Elspeth, who was standing with an unlit cigarette dangling from her lips.  We walked to the door and stepped outside, wincing at the sudden glare.  I got a Marlboro in my mouth and lit us both up from my Zippo.  Elspeth dragged deeply and leaned against the wall.  The fans waiting in line were curious as to why one of the stars would be out having a smoke, but left us alone.
     "He said three words to me: you are him," Elspeth said.  "And he just leaned on the table, staring at me with a dumb smile.  I glanced down and saw the knife, so I got my hand in the air."
     "I'm just happy he didn't spring straight into action.  He didn't talk at all, huh?"
     "Just that one phrase, 'You are him.'  I wonder who he thinks I am?"
     We smoked, then went back inside.  The timing was perfect, Angel wanted to talk to me.  Elspeth got hugs from Bekka and Ellen, then sat back down at her table.  Bekka was still contending with the crowd of Becky Page fans I'd filtered out.  I followed Angel back into the office.
     Boss was standing just inside the office door, Angel's Beretta in his hand.  The psycho was sitting in a chair against the opposite wall.  His face was a blank slate, totally unreadable.  I walked over to him and grabbed him by the hair, saying. "Hello, sunshine.  You were going to cut up a friend of mine.  I should stomp you on general principles, but the cops are on their way.  I guess my question is why?  What did she do to you?"
     The psycho licked at his cracked lips and said, "Because Ella Belle is Satan.  Watch her videos closely enough and you'll see it's true.  Ella Belle is ruled by hell.  There, poetry.  Watch all the videos that she's appeared in, really watch them, and you'll see.  Hand gestures to the camera, her eyes change color, she sometimes shows her fangs when she smiles.  I've watched her stuff over and over and every time I do, I find something new.
     I stepped back and looked into his eyes.  His pupils were dilated.  I stood him leaning forward against the wall, and went through his pockets.  Score.  He had a glass pipe in his left front pocket, holding about five hits worth of dope in the bottom.  His coin pocket yielded a small plastic bag with about a half gram of dope inside.  I set these on  the desk.  Then I turned back to the psycho.
     "When was the last time you slept?" I asked.
     He shrugged and glanced around the room.  He said, "Seven or eight days.  I don't need to sleep, my medication takes care of that.  I'm too busy anyway, I'm learning a lot of things.  Like right now, I know that you're in league with Satan, and so are these other two.  But as long as I destroy Ella Belle, you'll be safe.  You'll be free.
     I shuffled over to Angel, where he was slouched behind the office desk chewing his thumb.  I asked him, "You catch any of that?"
     "Fill me in."
     This guy is so tweaked out it isn't even funny.  He says he hasn't slept for eight days.  I guess along the way he watched one of our movies, one with Elspeth in it, where he saw her turn into the devil.  He says Elspeth is Satan, and can prove it using her videos.  The dude is infested with speed demons, he's watching porn and hallucinating, seeing Elspeth grow fangs.  He came here to kill Satan.  I wonder what sort of a person he is when he's not massively spun out on speed.  He's going to jail by way of County Mental Health, but once he gets the drugs out of his system he'll be as sane as anybody."
     "How come you never went off the deep end like this guy?" asked Angel.
     I said, "Because I knew enough to remind myself I was on drugs.  And I would sleep.  Maybe only for a couple of hours, but I'd give my brain a little rest."
     Angel said, "You understood the drug you were abusing.  Fair enough.  Get back out there, Nicky is probably panic-stricken by now.  Keep the line moving.  The cops should be here by now.  Hey Boss, you better give me my gun back before the cops arrive.  They don't like it when guns are loaned out.  If he bolts for the door, squash him like a grape."
     I went back out to find that all three tables were vacant of fans.  The line was stopped.  The gatekeeper was awaiting instructions from me, now that the Becky Page fans had been disposed of.  I told him to start it flowing like normal, so he did.
     Nicky called to me.  He had a wild look in his eyes.  "What's up?" I asked.
     "Jesus Christ," Nicky said.  "So are all Becky Page fans as intense as I've been seeing?  She had those girls who worship her yesterday, plus the sailors.  And I swear, every single one of the dudes she just handled confessed their love for her.  Five of them begged her to have dinner with them, I hadda tell them they were jamming things up and to move on.  She could start a whole new religion."
     I replied, "Now you know why she will spend time talking to them, and why she hugs them.  Her fans seem to be completely devoted to her.  Imagine if you saw the woman you carry in your heart, and she blew you off when you approached her.  What a crushing blow.  Bekka --- Becky ---- knows that her fans view her as more than just a porn star, and doesn't want to hurt any of them.  I dunno, maybe it's enabling behavior on her part, helping keep their inflated view of who Becky Page is.  But yeah, her fans are totally devoted to her.   I don't know if there is such a thing as a casual Becky Page fan."
     I left Nicky where he was and took point on the floor, watching the tables and the line of fans.  Presently two cops came in.  The cashier pointed them back to the office.  They knocked and went in.  After about ten minutes Angel came out, called for me, gestured.  I told Nicky to keep his eyes on all three tables and went back into the office.
     Once there, I was introduced to Officer Gillespie and asked to give my account of what happened.  I did so.  Gillespie asked why I thought to frisk down the psycho.
     I said, "Because he's a blade freak, and blade freaks always carry multiple knives.  They'll hide them anywhere, psychologically, knives are their armor.  Be careful when you strip search him, he could have a blade hidden anywhere."
     "And you frisked him a second time, locating drugs and paraphernalia.  Why?"
     "To confirm my suspicions, which was that he's so tweaked on meth right now it's a miracle his heart hasn't exploded.  He acted paranoid, had wild fantasies he thought were real, he needs a shower, his pupils are dilated, he seemed jittery.  Shit, he told me himself that he hasn't slept in eight days.  The dude is way around the bend at this point.  Commit him on a 5150, stuff him full of Thorazine, let those three days burn the drugs out of his system, then have him arraigned for assault with a deadly weapon.  Piece of cake.  You know who he is yet?  I never found a wallet."
     "He'll only say his name is Gabriel," said Gillespie.
     I said, "Gabriel....  Of course.  Like the archangel.  Makes perfect sense.  I'm telling you, get him in a mental health hold for seventy-two hours.  See what his behavior is like after he gets some sleep."
     "You don't think we should take him to a hospital, see if they can straighten him out?"
     I held up my hands.  "Meth isn't like heroin.  With heroin overdose, there are drugs which can be administered to neutralize the smack.  So far as I know, nothing counteracts meth.  You just have to wait for it to wear off.  Thorazine will help some, it slows the brain down to a crawl and gets rid of the hallucinations you get from being awake for eight days.  Dunno if it'll make somebody soaked in speed sleep."
     "You seem to know an awful lot about meth," Gillespie frowned at me.
     "Aw, I've known a few heavy users," I shrugged.  "Nice enough people, but they had very intense personalities, you know?"
     Officer Gillespie closed his notebook and asked, "So, he went after a girl with the stage name of Ella Belle, correct?"
     "Yes.  And her real name is Elspeth Iverson."
     "He never threatened Becky Page?"
     Glaring across at the psycho, Gillespie said, "Good.  If he'd threatened Becky, I'd drive him back to the station by cuffing him to the bumper.  Becky Page is awesome."
     I gestured towards the door and said, "That's it?  I need to get out front."
     "Yeah, go ahead," Gillespie said.  "Thank you, sir.  I'll be out shortly to interview Ms. Iverson.  She can stay at her table if she wants, just a few quick questions."
     I went back out and assumed my position in Boss's spot.  After a few minutes Gabriel (the archangel) was marched in cuffs through the store and out the door.  He stared at Elspeth for as long as his neck would twist that direction.  Momentarily Gillespie returned and aimed for Elspeth's table, where he crouched down by her side, notebook at the ready.  Elspeth signed autographs and talked to the cop for about three minutes.  He straightened and turned to leave....  Then swerved and headed to Bekka's table.  A clever way of starting a conversation, Becky Page was a potential witness.  He pulled his notebook back out and began lobbing questions, but soon it became clear they were no longer on the subject of the attack.  At one point Bekka pointed directly at me while speaking.  After about five minutes of this, Gillespie got up to leave.  He had a pained look which I recognized: whatever offer or ploy Gillespie had made, she had turned him down.  He started heading to the door, then changed direction and walked up to me.
     Gillespie said, "Are you really married to Becky Page?"
     "I sure am," I replied.
     He considered this, then punched me gently in the arm.  "You're a lucky man," he said.  "You take good care of her, understand?"
     "Yes, officer."
     Officer Gillespie began walking towards the doors.  I looked over at Bekka.  She was sticking her tongue out at his departing figure.  I couldn't wait to hear the backstory.
     Around 5:30 Angel came out and announced to those in line, "Listen!  The ladies are going to take a fifteen minute break right now, so they can stretch their legs and get something to drink.  Please be patient, we're back in fifteen."  There were a few boos, but no real crisis on the part of the fans.
     Angel had planned ahead.  He'd put out the correct number of lines of cocaine on the office desk before calling for the break.  The girls snorted up first, then the guys.  I'd need to speak to Nicky about a nervous habit he had when he did cocaine, which was that he wiped at his nose compulsively.  It was a very obvious gesture.  He may as well have been wearing a shirt that said, "This man has done coke recently."  Oh well, it seemed to improve his disposition some.
     Bekka and I leaned against a Xerox machine.  I pulled the pipe out and began heating the bowl.  I asked her to explain why she'd stuck her tongue out at a cop.  She rolled her eyes and said, "Cops can be creeps too.  First I turned him down for dinner Sunday.  Then he told me that if I agreed to marry him, he would start filing for divorce immediately.  He would keep me as a mistress until the divoorce was completed, then he would marry me.  I told him I'd make a lousy cop's wife, and the wife he currently has would be very hurt if she knew what he was thinking, and does he not love her?  He says, 'Sure, I still love her, she's a sweet girl.  But she's not magic, like you are.  You win.'  So I pointed out that I'm already married, and that I'm not magic, I'm a normal woman.  I just have a powerful screen presence in my features.  So thank you, officer, but it ain't never gonna happen.  He figured out I wasn't just being coy, and that's when he left."
     I handed the pipe off to Bekka, exhaling my hit.  She began reheating the glass.  I told her, "Our knife terrorist turned out to be tweaking so hard he may have set some sort of record.  He's been up for eight days, and got the idea in his head that Elspeth is Satan.  He watched her videos while hallucinating from lack of sleep, and saw shit on the screen that wasn't there.  Ella Belle has fangs.  Ella Belle's eyes change color.  Ella Belle makes arcane gestures at the camera.  This dude is tweaking so hard.  He had no ID, and would only identify himself as Gabriel.  You know, like the archangel.  Too perfect.  I told the cops to commit him to a seventy-two hour hold in the funny farm, so he gets some sleep and the drugs leach out of his body.  At the end of that time, drag him into court and have him arraigned for whatever charges you arrested him on.  Temporarily insane or not, I don't want him walking around free for a while."
     Nicky jived on over, saying, "You two still trying to kill yourselves with that shit, huh?  Hey Bekka, I've figured out the biggest challenge in being your bodyguard.  You can't just watch for the nut cases, because all your fans are nut cases.  They're all obsessed with Becky Page, and they're all crazy.  So do you merely attract people who are crazy, or do you somehow make them crazy?"
     I took the pipe.  Bekka said to Nicky, "We've puzzled on the subject for a while.  What is it about Becky Page that inspires such devotion and love and loyalty?  We've got a few hypotheses, but nothing firm.  The current fave is that people are seduced by Becky's fuck scenes.  Becky is always rather sexually aggressive, she never weakly submits.  And what someone else pointed out is that I'm a talented enough actress to make my fuck scenes feel like love scenes.  I give the feeling of emotionally intertwining with those I have sex with, that I am sharing my soul as well as my body.  Well, shit.  I'm doing those scenes to turn people on, not make their hearts go pitter-pat.  Evidently my fuck scenes are actually celebrations of emotion, and my fans want their sex lives to be full of such feelings, too.
     "Another hypothesis is that in this post-feminist world we live in, Becky epitomizes the ideal woman, for both men and women.  She is beautiful, she is intelligent, she is strong, she's in control, she's a sexual dynamo, she takes no shit, in any situation.  Men are attracted by her beauty, sexuality, and strength.  Women are drawn in by her strength and courage.  Nobody messes with Becky or puts her down.  If they do, they pay a heavy price.  Becky is like Wonder Woman, without the bondage hangups.  Women look up to Becky for all the positive aspects in her persona, she has a woman's grace and sensitivity along with the qualifications to be a superhero.  And I'm getting inured to hearing from young women, telling us how Becky made them admit their bisexuality, that they are now more confident and in-charge in the bedroom, they have multiple lovers now and are proud of that, and their bed is now a level playing field.  There are all these young women, from teens to post-college age, who feel sexually empowered because of Becky Page.  It makes us wish we'd planned it, you know?"
     Nicky said, "So basically, you're taking these girls and turn them into sexual predators, totally aggressive and unashamed.  Just dandy."
     I said, "A lot of this comes from the features being over-analyzed.  Women's Studies courses love Becky Page.  They watch the movies and then sit around finding meaning in places where there is none.  Me and Bekka are hailed as this incredible creative powerhouse, the people who have reinvented porn.  Becky Page is like no other porn star, either on screen or off.  Fair enough.  We proved that you could have a hardcore porn film that is actually engaging as a feature movie.  I bust my ass for my movies, I want them all to be excellent.  But never have I purposely placed any kind of message or deeper meaning in one of my features.  Come on, they're still porno films.  We're happy to entertain and arouse, we've never considered trying to make people think.  So the Women's Studies courses are barking at shadows.  Anything resembling any sort of message in an Inana Production is purely coincidental.  Don't blame us."
     Bekka added, "Sometimes I try to define who Becky Page is.  Okay, she's a very famous and highly popular porn star. But why does she do what she does?  What motivates her?  As an example, the hugging.  Why does she hug complete strangers?  The idealized answer is that Becky treasures all people, for one.  Also, hugging literally means sharing yourself with another person.  To hug a stranger is to thumb your nose at the barriers between you, breaking them down.  You and a stranger have shared bits of yourselves.  Why not use that bit of vulnerability to become friends or lovers?  Hugging shows a willingness to share yourself.
     "Or, why is Becky Page such a sexual powerhouse?  A few things with this one.  First of all, Becky is Sicilian, and speaking one's mind is part of a Sicilian's genetic code.  If you're doing something wrong, Becky will tell you.  However, she is aware enough of social cues that she can communicate her thoughts without coming off as a bossy bitch.  She is highly skilled at pillow talk, and can verbally critique a lover in such a way that the lover doesn't get defensive, but gets aroused again at the thought of doing things differently.  Becky is a take-charge kind of woman, no matter what she's doing.  She is also easily physically aroused, and if is sufficiently worked up, will express her pleasure long and loud.  Men who want women to lie there and shut up during sex would hate being with Becky Page.  Her sexual dynamism is just part of a larger picture, one that captures all of Becky's personality."
     Angel called out, "Five minutes, people, five minutes!"
     Nicky said, "You talk like Becky Page is a whole different person.  Come on, you are Becky Page."
     Bekka said,, "Becky feels like a separate entity.  We've had different things apparently happen in our lives.  And we have different quirks.  As an example, Bekka is more fearful than Becky.  Becky fears almost nothing, and when she finds something she is afraid of, she goes and learns about it until she's not afraid anymore.  The hugging is another example.  Bekka's style would be to give a loose hug, chests barely touching, and if you could convince Bekka to hug a stranger at all.  Becky holds on and squeezes, wrapping herself around the other person, practically dry-humping them.  She really does share herself. And the decision to hug strangers came from Becky's feeling that human physical contact should be a more constant, flowing thing..  We should always be touching each other is Becky's feeling."
     "I've already criticized Becky Page for doing reckless things," said Nicky.  "Do Becky and Bekka share the recklessness?  Like the drugs?"
     "You mentioned the motorcycle as something you dislike.  Sorry, that's common with the both of them.  The difference is that me, Bekka, just enjoys going for rides.  Becky revels in the fact that she rides a fast, powerful, custom, loud, threatening Harley Sportster.  She gets all Freudian and talks about how much she loves having all that power between her legs.
     "So far as drugs go, well, Becky can and will rage all night, given the opportunity.  She is always open to a new experience, and will smoke, swallow, or snort anything someone hands to her.  Becky is rather reckless in that regard, and knows she's being reckless, but doesn't always stop herself in time.  Bekka is more of a creature of habit.  Her and Lenny are addicted to speed, they can't get through the day without it.  So there's that.  Also Bekka knows the bong doesn't get brought out until after eight, you drink on Fridays, and you take Ecstasy on Saturdays.  So there's a split between the two.  Bekka doesn't seek new thrills, but Becky sure does.  So far, Becky hasn't gotten the two of them in trouble."
     I said, "I can tell the difference between talking to Becky and talking to Bekka.  Becky has more of the Sicilian habit of using gestures while talking.  Bekka doesn't waste words.  They both swear at me in Italian, though."
     "Each of them are better at different things.  If we got a letter from, say, the district attorney's office, Bekka would be the one to open it.  If we're invited to a party where we'll know no one, Becky is the one who rings the doorbell.  Yes, it is strange having an alter ego that is considered a separate entity, but that's how things have worked so far."
     Angel announced, "Okay, break's over.  Let's go knock 'em dead."  We filed out of the office and to our respective spots.  And the onslaught of fans started again.