At nine the next morning, Sunday, the doorbell rang. Me and Nicky were the only ones up. I'd gently tried to rouse Bekka, but she first hissed like a cat, then offered me quickie oral sex if only I'd let her sleep for another ninety minutes. I let her sleep anyway. According to Nicky, the bedspring squeaks, moaning, and giggles went on in Jane's room until 4:30, so I knew they were crashed out, fogged in a sea of sex-driven endorphins. Nicky was in his usual spot on the deck, sucking down coffee and muttering about finding a legal way to have a sixteen year old girl spayed. I did my usual routine with a glass pipe and was toasting a bagel when I heard the bell.
Three well-dressed men were at the door: Angel, Dino, and Don Ventimiglia. The Don nodded to me with a smile, and expressed his happiness that I wasn't sleeping the day away. Angel and Dino stood behind the Don with neutral expressions on their faces.
"Please come in," I said. "To what do I owe this honor?"
Don V. said, "We wish to see the lady of the house. She has been under the protection of my former guard, Nicky, for a few days now. I would like to know how successful this arrangement has been."
I said, "She's still in bed. Let me get you gentlemen coffee, and I will get her up. Please bear with me."
There was just enough coffee for three mugs. I poured them out, started fresh coffee going, then trotted towards the stairs. The Don's voice stopped me.
"Where is Nicky?" he asked.
"Out on the deck," I replied. "Would you like me to get him?"
"No, let him enjoy his morning quiet. We will talk in good time."
I went up the stairs to the top. Kneeling by the side of the bed, I shook Bekka and told her that Vito was downstairs, get dressed and get perky, this is not a drill.
She sat upright in the bed. "Oh mio Cristo," she said. "He hasn't run away again, has he?"
"Nothing so dramatic, he has his driver and Angel with him. He wants to interview you, find out how you've felt about having a bodyguard for the last few days."
"Gimme five minutes and I'll be down. The pipe loaded?"
"Ready to rock," I assured her. "I'm gonna wake up Jane and let her know her Uncle Vito is visiting, and to put on some clothes before coming down."
One level down I knocked loudly on Jane's door. I got a grumpy muffled response. "It's Lenny," I said. "I'm coming in."
Stepping into her room, I found her and Roach snuggled deep under the blankets. I sat down on the edge of the bed and rattled Jane's shoulder. "What's up?" she yawned.
"Don Ventimiglia is downstairs. Put on some clothes before you come down, and brief Roach on who the hell the Don is."
Jane looked at me with wonder. "Oh wow. Is he coming to stay with us again?"
"Nothing so interesting, I'm afraid," I said. "He wants to find out how Bekka felt having a bodyguard for the last few days. I've got fresh coffee going, get yourself presentable and come on down."
Jane shook Roach (who had snored through this brief exchange) and said, "Wake up, stud bull. Shit is happening."
I went back downstairs to the living room, where my guests were sipping their coffee in silence. Knowing he'd be pissed if I didn't say anything, I went out on the deck and told Nicky that the Don was in the living room, with Dino and Angel.
"You're bullshitting me, right? What the hell do they want?" cried Nicky.
I said, "The Don just wants to talk to Bekka a little, see how she felt about having a bodyguard. No big deal."
Nicky paled. "Is she downstairs yet?"
"Good. Maybe I can tell my side of things first." He marched into the house.
I followed Nicky into the living room. He was greeting our guests loudly, inquiring to what this honor was owed, and could he get anyone anything? More coffee? Bagel? Toast?
"Please relax and have a seat, Nicky," the Don graveled. "We are just here for talk. I wish to see my Sicilian beauty, my lady mafioso, for a chat. Do not concern yourself."
"Lady mafioso?" said Nicky. "You mean.... Lenny's wife? The rumors are true?"
The Don smiled. "Yes, the rumors are true. Crazy Don Ventimiglia has taken it into his head to make a woman full-fledged mafioso, a made woman, a full member of Cosa Nostra. Having a woman in the family will provide a bit of fresh air to a staid organization. Those who oppose the idea call themselves traditionalists. I call them out of date and out of touch, baselessly fearful of half the species."
"But.... Bekka? What can she bring to Cosa Nostra?"
"Bekka has balls. We can always use people with balls. She is young, she is smart, she is quick, and she is afraid of very little in this world. Remember Nicky, this is a woman who killed for the family. I wish some of our men had the balls she has."
Nicky, sounding traumatized, said, "But Don, she's just a.... A pornographic actress!"
The Don said, "Yes, and a talented one. Bekka Schneider, better known to the world as Becky Page, has an unusual career. It does not affect her instincts, her moral compass, or her worth as a person. La Cosa Nostra will judge her on her merits as a potential soldier, not on her method of income. I simply think of it as a highly unusual modeling career.... Which I cannot criticize without hypocrisy. She is a beautiful woman, and I am not so old that I can no longer appreciate that."
Nicky snarled, "Forget about her moral compass. She's a drug addict."
"Yes, her and Lenny share an addiction to amphetamine. I am aware of their habit. It concerns me, as I do worry about their health. But they are both intellectually strong, they have solid moral fiber, and both their business and private lives are orderly. I can only criticize the addiction for being an addiction. I am sure they shall someday overcome their habit, hopefully with a minimum of distress."
"They don't have moral fiber. They give drugs to children."
"What drugs? Whose children?"
Nicky held out his hands. "They give Ecstasy to that little blue-haired one who lives here, the Lolita, Jane. They all took drugs together on Friday, they took that Ecstasy crap."
"I find Ecstasy to be a very fulfilling experience," the Don grinned. "Yes, Jane does like Ecstasy, but limits it to weekends and special occasions, like escorting an old man around an amusement park. During the week she will drink a beer, smoke some marijuana at the end of the day. Bekka and Lenny are not corrupting her in any way. If anything, they have helped.... Stabilize some of her more outrageous behaviors. She would engage in certain dangerous compulsive activities. Lenny and Bekka have helped her beat these temptations. She is still more worldly than one would expect, but her behavior has improved."
"She's improved?" Nicky rolled his eyes. "She spent the weekend with some scumbag she met at the mall. She sits around watching hardcore porn, and you should hear her talk. If she were my daughter I'd put her in a convent."
Bekka's voice came from the bottom of the stairs, "The scumbag has a name, remember? It's Roach, or Sonny. And he and Jane are getting dressed to come downstairs right now. What other complaints were you making about Jane?"
"Why do you let her watch porn?"
A tinkling laugh came from Bekka. "Oh Nicky, those are the features Lenny produces and I star in. We keep her well isolated from our business, but she should know what it is we do. She likes several of them as movies, and will watch them over and over. Speaking of which, what did you think of 'Bewitched?'"
"It's a dirty movie, what should I think of it?" asked Nicky.
Angel spoke up. "Well, you could comment on the plot, or the script, or Lenny's excellent pacing, or the performances of any of those appearing in it, but particularly that of the woman in the room, who carried the fucking movie. I know the hot sex bothers you, so I won't mention it. But Lenny created, and Bekka starred in, a groundbreaking feature film, something that had been tried countless times but had always failed. Lenny and Bekka made entertaining porn. It's the first time a porn film has engaged viewers as a movie, something that makes the brain work. And you dismiss it as just a dirty movie? Nicky, did you watch the damn thing or not?"
"Look," said Nicky, waving his arms, "I watched the first half of it yesterday. I skipped the sex scenes, of which there are plenty, and watched the actual movie parts. The damn thing doesn't make any sense to me. According to little Lolita, the sex scenes contain dialogue and plot points which can't be missed, and for the damn movie to make any sense I'd have to watch it from the beginning again, and watch everything. The sex scenes are actually incorporated into the story? What the hell? That's different from every other porno flick I've ever heard of."
Angel said, "Nicky, what did I just get through saying? 'Bewitched' is very different from every other porno flick, you're right. Lenny and his Inana crew made a genuinely good hardcore porn film, they broke barriers no one had ever even crossed. You're a grown man, Nicky. What is it about porn that distresses you so?"
"Pornography makes you obsess about sex, which is a distraction from your goals. All you do is think about sex, and ignore the problems at hand. It makes you not think clearly. Bekka's fans are fucking proof of what I say. Twice over the last few days I've met girls in their teens who were proud to tell Bekka, or should I say Becky, that they were lezzing out together, and it was because of Becky Page movies they tried at all. If Becky Page is the modern face of porn, then porn corrupts. Those teenage girls say they're still attracted to guys, but I wonder how much. If Bekka had her way, there wouldn't be any completely straight women left on the planet."
Don V. considered Nicky briefly. He said, "For what you have said about pornography being a distraction and clouding one's thinking, you could substitute the word 'pornography' with 'beer' or 'food' or 'crossword puzzles.' Everyone has their manias, but they are not all the same ones. So far as these Sapphic teenagers you described, they will grow out of it. The thrill will wear off, they will date boys again as though nothing had happened. They have found a new, rebellious, and exciting way of expressing their friendship with each other. You are right about Becky Page being an influence, there is no other media where they could have gotten such a message. But they--- "
Bekka cut Don V. off. "There are no such messages in my movies, you can check any of Lenny's scripts and see that. These girls read a lot more into my girl/girl scenes than was there. These girls saw Becky Page as giving an implicit nod of approval for bisexual activity, saying, 'You can explore, it's okay.' Given that I am bisexual, I cannot disagree, and will tell that to my fans. But there is no overt urging of women, or girls, to explore their lesbian side. Their curiosity was already there, otherwise they would discount such a message. For whatever reason, Becky Page was the catalyst for these girls to experiment together."
Nicky blared at Bekka, "So if you don't want that message getting out, then reverse it. You're Becky fucking Page, your fans hang on your every word. If you got the message out that, hey girls, quit acting like dykes with each other, the message would get across."
Bekka said, "Except that I thoroughly disagree with that statement. There is absolutely no harm in these girls exploring their sexuality together. I think it's wonderful. When they are a bit older, they will have more confidence and self-understanding thanks to their experiences. So no, I'm not bothered by the belief that that message exists.
"That's the thing about all the wisdom attributed to Becky Page: I don't disagree with any of it. Nobody has found any messages from Becky that support eugenics, or distrust, or fear. Fans tell me of the messages they took away from my features, and I am flattered. The messages they get are positive ones, and it's nice of them to think I'm intellectually astute enough to subtly insert those messages in. They give me far, far more credit than a fuck film actress deserves. They think that I have helped improve their lives, but I haven't. They did, when they imagined they saw wisdom and meaning between the lines of a porno film."
"Your fans treat you like Christ returned," sneered Nicky. "They all wish to touch the hem of your robe and receive their blessing. All your fans are psycho over you, admit it. I was given a job to do, but you wouldn't let me do it. You were too busy indulging those goddamn nuts. Aren't you even a little sick of writing that 'XXX kisses, Becky Page' message over and over again? If you'd left things up to me, you could have relaxed and had a quiet time when you were out, instead of being bugged by fans and signing autographs and fucking hugging everyone.
"Don Ventimiglia, Mr. Morelli, I tried. I really did. But between this woman's personal habits, living situation, and reckless behavior, it is impossible to protect Bekka Schneider. She lives too much of her life as her persona, Becky Page. Personally, I'm in favor of buying her a second gun, smacking her ass, and wishing her luck. She'll need it. I'm ready to go home and find a new assignment. Preferably one far away from porno queens or punk rockers."
Jane and Roach came down the stairs, both fully dressed and looking clean. Jane cried, "Hi, Uncle Vito!" and launched herself towards the sofa. The Don managed to get in an upright position in time for a big hug. He gave the back of Jane's hand a kiss and said, "Your smile brightens my day, my week. I am so happy to see you well, Jane. How are you?"
"I'm fine, Unca' Vito. You're looking gorgeous as always. Oh, let me introduce you to my friend. Um, this is Sonny Willis, but everyone calls him Roach. Roach, this is Don Vito Ventimiglia of Los Angeles."
Roach, having been told by Jane precisely who the Don was, said, "Good morning, sir. How are you?" with a solid white man's handshake. The don looked quite pleased to be meeting Roach. It was my hunch that Don Ventimiglia liked characters, and with his mohawk, Roach certainly qualified as one.
In his gravelly voice, Don V. asked, "If it is not too rude of me, you must tell me how you came to be known as Roach. Did you embrace this epithet?"
Roach said, "In sixth grade we had a massive cockroach infestation in our house. They got everywhere. I'd open my book bag at school and a few would crawl out. I'd open my lunch sack, here comes a few more. They were in my clothes. Everybody started calling me 'Roach-Boy,' or just Roach. I got in a few fights with real loudmouths over it, but mostly I ignored it. The name never went away, and I embraced it. Hey, if I'm a roach-boy, that means I'll survive a nuclear war."
Just to be a dick, Nicky said, "Hey Roach, why don't you tell the Don about your career plans."
In response to Don V.'s questioning look, Roach rolled his eyes and said, "Um, I may get a job at Lenny's video studio. It's up in the air right now."
"Indeed," said the Don. "Behind the cameras, or in front of them?"
"In front. Are you, uh, familiar with Lenny's studio?"
"Absolutely. That gentleman there is Angel Morelli, the owner of Inana Productions. Angel, come over here. Angel, this is Roach. He may be one of your new performers."
The two shook hands. Angel asked, "So how would Lenny be adding you to his roster?"
Roach said, "As a stunt cock, sir. I still need to do my auditions, but I think I can pull it off."
"To be a stunt cock would mean you presumably have the equipment for the job. How did Lenny learn of you?"
Angel smiled. "No, let me guess. You and Jane are fooling around together, and she just had to brag about the prize she found. Naughty girl. Was that it?"
"Um, something like that, sir," Roach replied.
Angel said, "Well, believe it or not, you're taking on a bit of responsibility. Stunt cocks may be anonymous, but they are the backbone of the masculine end of this industry. You set the marks the pretty boys in front of the cameras must reach for, a standard to be met. How old are you?"
"Young and hung, excellent. If you pass your interviews, you could have a decent career in front of you, a comfortable life. I wish you luck."
"Sir, I'm confused. I thought Inana was Lenny's studio."
"In many ways, it is. Lenny is the man who runs Inana, for all intents and purposes. I look at the big picture, approving major projects, and signing the really big checks. Lenny is my field marshal, he manages the business and is the creative mastermind behind our features. By letting Lenny do as he pleases, he has made the two of us quite successful. I know to not meddle in how Lenny does things, he's too good at his job for me to fuck things up by sticking my nose in. Him and his director, Steve Stillman, turned my rinky-dink studio into an industry powerhouse. I'm assuming you've seen 'Bewitched?'"
"Of course," said Roach. "I was blown away. It was the first porn I ever watched all the way through, I didn't hit the Fast-Forward button once."
"We'll be watching it again in a bit. Nicky has not seen it, and I wish him to comprehend what it is Inana --- and by extension Lenny --- does, so he can grasp what we have accomplished."
Nicky stuck his nose in. "Mr. Morelli, I heard what you were saying earlier, and I think I get it. I don't need to learn any more about Inana."
Angel pivoted his head at Nicky and said, without moving his jaw, "You will watch the film, all of it." He went to collect a belated hug from Bekka.
Don Ventimiglia had a tractor-beam stare that was like getting hit with a sheet of sharpened ice. He trained it on Nicky and said, "You attempted to embarrass this young man a couple minutes ago."
Nicky gave a wobbly smile and said, "Just razzing him a little, Don. He's an okay kid."
"Then why do you repeatedly refer to him as a scumbag?" Jane asked sweetly over the rim of her coffee mug.
"This doesn't concern you, Lolita," Nicky snapped at Jane.
Don V. casually commented, "This young lady's name is Jane. Or, you may refer to her as Miss Osborne. She also carries the moniker of Gator Bait, but use of that one is reserved for the members of my strike team. Jane is their mascot. You know the strike team members, Nicky."
Looking a little pale, Nicky said, "Yes, Don."
"Perhaps you should be a member of the strike team. You would gain much discipline. And as the team is our paramilitary wing, you would learn how to keep your fucking mouth shut when you should. That is a skill all soldiers learn."
"Please, Don Ventimiglia, I'm not a wet operations kind of guy."
The Don's smile became wolf-like. "No one is, when they first start. Lenny has worked with the strike team on two occasions, and performed admirably in both, from what was reported to me. I consider Lenny to be one of the warmest, most caring individuals I have ever met, and he can handle wet ops. Surely you can too. The strike team is respected, and compensated well. Or, I can move you to Bakersfield, where you will operate a gambling front out of a liquor store. You would need to quickly brush up on your Spanish, to deal with both customers and staff. These are your choices. Make a decision by the time we reach my home."
I eavesdropped all this from the sofa, and winced. I knew being sent to Bakersfield (or Fresno) was to be exiled, little hope of ever returning to the big city and its big money. In a way, Nicky would be getting let off easy. He could be sent to oversee the coyotes, human smugglers who brought illegal immigrants from the border to the Central Valley for a price. Coyotes were rightfully considered utter scum: they treated their charges like cattle, sometimes robbing them of what little they had, and were known to cull teenage girls away, to be utilized for their own amusement. Hell would not admit coyotes, as they lowered the class and tenor of the place.
Don Ventimiglia said to Roach, "So what is it that you currently do?"
"Work for an auto dismantler," Roach replied. "I strip down a lot of hot cars, it's a pretty shady operation. I want to go to college or a trade school, but I don't know what it is I want to do. I'm sorry sir, but I don't know how to explain myself without sounding like a directionless loser. At least if I worked for Lenny and Becky I'd live comfortably, and have time to take classes at a junior college."
"You are young, you have time to explore the world a bit, see what fires your passion," said the Don. "Do not make such life decisions out of panic or worry, you will be unsatisfied with the rest of your life. Who knows, you may find the world of pornography can provide a satisfying career, and not just as a stunt cock."
Angel, remote in hand, said, "Take seats, people. We're going to watch 'Bewitched,' then go out for brunch. Sound good?"
Don V. said, "Lenny, Bekka, I believe you have seen this movie before. Would you join me on the deck? I wish to speak you you privately."
We followed the Don outside and got cigarettes in our mouths. The Don shook his head no, then reached in his jacket and pulled out three of his Cuban cigars. We trimmed and lit up. Presently he said, "So, you have had Nicky as a bodyguard for the last few days. Did things work?"
Bekka and I glanced at each other. Bekka said, "No sir, it did not. We were never in circumstances where I was at risk, so Nicky was superfluous. He and I also had very different ideas about what his job entails. To be frank, it has been a needlessly difficult few days. But we did learn, I do not need a bodyguard besides Lenny to watch over me."
"There also seems to be some friction between you and Nicky."
Bekka chuckled bitterly. "Oh yes, there is. In my experience, Nicky is an anal-retentive misogynist blowhard. He holds an even lower opinion of me. Nicky believes that I am reckless, insane, destructive, a cult leader, and a corrupter of young women. He hates my fans, my methods of communication, my drugs, my music, my career, my clothes, my friends, my husband, and my motorcycle. How Lenny, Jane, and I live our lives is completely abhorrent to him. The three of us, plus Roach, manage to offend his personal morals almost constantly, and he rolls his eyes and debates us when we try to explain our actions or feelings. I believe he thinks Becky Page is the maniacal leader of a strange underground sex cult that specializes in turning teenage girls into lesbians. The only thing he likes about being here is our coffee."
"I see," said the Don. "He seems to have a disparaging attitude towards Jane. Why is that?"
I said, "You must admit, Jane is sexually hyperactive. This hyperactivity, combined with Jane's age, offends the hell out of Nicky. Her honor roll status and overall good behavior don't matter. Jane's aggressive sexuality and willingness to speak her mind make her a delinquent. I don't think he considers her a slut, I believe to him she's worse, a succubus. Heh, he probably considers Jane a representation of everything that is wrong with American youth today. Sex, drugs, noisy music, and an insubordinate attitude.... Yeah, that's Jane, but it ignores the fact that she is still a sweet, loving young girl who loves the adults in her life and still sleeps with stuffed animals.
"When they first met, Nicky developed an instant low opinion of Jane. She noticed, and has amused herself since by pushing Nicky's buttons. If Nicky said fire engines are red, Jane would contradict him, just to amuse herself and raise his blood pressure. She spent all Friday in a blue patent leather bustier and leather pants, knowing her sex bomb appearance would enrage and appall him. He is genuinely offended by a sixteen year old girl who is as sexually aggressive as Jane is. If it were up to Nicky, Jane would be stuffed full of Depo Provera and thrown into reform school until she was menopausal. She outrages him on so many levels it's almost funny."
Don V. rubbed his chin and said, "I know Jane is very sexually active --- in Europe, she would be of legal age, and it would not matter --- but to me, she has always been a sweet, wonderful child. Why can't Nicky see that in her?"
I laughed. "Here's a list. Her hair, her clothes, her boots, her music, her Ecstasy, her motorcycle, her hot rod, and her sexiness. I'm sure I'm leaving out reasons, but those are the obvious ones."
The Don stared out to sea. In a low-timbered voice, he said, "I love Jane, she is the granddaughter I never had. Her strong will only makes her more beautiful. I will not have her disparaged. Thank you both for your time, would you go in and ask Nicky to join me? I must speak with him."
We went inside. On the screen, a nerdy guy (played by an irregular performer named Andy) was being administered the love spell by Ursula the witch. Ursula didn't yet understand that the spell could be spread like a virus, causing anyone who had sexual contact with the nerdy guy to also be spellbound.... And a sexual magnet. I relayed the message to Nicky, who heaved himself up and headed for the door. Angel hit the Stop button on the remote, saying, "We'll wait for you to get back."
We sat in relative silence. Jane started quietly talking to Roach, filling him in on some bit of trivia about the movie she'd picked up from Bekka or me. After a couple minutes we heard a barked "You're kidding me!" from outside. A few minutes later Nicky walked back in.
He didn't look sane. His eyes were open too wide, while at the same time his eyebrows were jutted in so deep they practically touched the bridge of his nose. He stood there, glancing from me to Bekka to Jane. He finally locked on Jane, staring as though she wasn't human. His right hand began to slide into his jacket....
I barely saw Angel move. The next thing I know Angel has his Beretta leveled at Nicky and is saying, "Don't move, Nicky. Get your fucking hand out of your jacket, slow and empty." Nicky looked at Angel in shock, and stood frozen. Dino danced around the end of the sofa, walked up to Nicky, and stuck his hand in Nicky's jacket, removing his Smith & Wesson.
Angel lowered his gun but didn't put it away, resting it on his knee with one hand. He said, "You have something on your mind, Nicky. Tell me what."
Nicky pointed a shaking finger at Jane and said, "I'm going to Bakersfield because of that fucking blue-haired little Lolita cunt. It isn't fair, she's just trash, some teenage slut. I put up with nothing but bullshit from her, and the fucking Don tells me how he loves her. The bitch hexed him, like a witch, I've gotta kill her."
From the floor, Jane stared wide-eyed at Nicky. She said, "For God's sake, I was teasing you. It was obvious you were bugged by me. I didn't know you hated me."
"You shut up," Nicky snapped, and swung a foot at her head. Jane narrowly dodged it. He dove for her, but was deflected by Roach, who put a fist into the side of his head. "Jane, split!" Roach yelled.
Jane was on her feet and sprinting up the stairs. Me, Angel, and Dino piled on Nicky, along with Roach. Nicky kept yelling how he had to kill her, he had to kill that little cunt. Angel said, "Who's got cuffs?"
"I got some," I volunteered.
"Grab 'em. We'll keep him bulldogged."
I got off the floor and went for my leather, where I had a pair in an inside pocket. You never knew when they'd come in handy. Angel knelt on Nicky's neck while Roach and Dino brought his wrists together behind his back, and I snapped the cuffs on. Everyone stood up and caught their breath, leaving Nicky with his face in the carpet. He started to get a knee underneath him to stand, and Angel kicked him in the back, telling him to stay down. I turned and realized Don Ventimiglia had watched all this. He walked over and crouched down next to Nicky.
"Your rage is out of proportion. You are so angry at the hectoring of a teenage girl? Perhaps it is those steroids you take. No matter. We are going home, you shall stay in your suite for a while, and you and I shall talk at great length. Have you packed to return home yet?"
"No," grunted Nicky."
The Don said, "Lenny, Bekka, do me the kindness of gathering his things. We will return to Bel Air. Angel, you drive Nicky and his car to my home."
Bekka and I went up to the room Nicky had used and began throwing his stuff in his bag. Going through a drawer, Bekka said, "Bingo," and held up a vial and a few syringes. "Anabolic steroids. No wonder he was so bulked up and edgy. Shit, and he thinks we're crazy for taking speed."
"The Don ought to know," I said, taking the items from her. I went downstairs. Nicky had been moved up onto a sofa, where he sat between Angel and Dino. He glared at Roach, then suddenly spat, "I hope she gives you the siff, punk. I hope she makes your dick rot off."
"Enough of that," said Don V. "Yes, Lenny?"
Wordlessly, I handed over the spikes and vial. The Don pulled out reading glasses, then studied the vial. He chuckled. Nicky looked over and saw what Don V. was holding and froze up. The Don said, "Nicky, you are in no position to criticize the bad habits of others when you have habits of your own. This here shall no longer be part of your life, and I do not care if I have to chain you to your bed, I will break you of your habit. It is making you.... Unstable."
Nicky said, "Oh, my supplements make me unstable? What about the people around this house and their damn crank? Look at them! They're weirdos!"
The Don chuckled again. "I am afraid their fashion sense is inspired by their music, and their unique view of the world. Take away their drugs, they would still insist on looking the same. Am I correct on this, Roach?"
Shrugging, Roach said, "Yeah. There's plenty of straight edge kids who look more hardcore than me or Jane or Lenny do."
Bekka came downstairs bearing Nicky's bag. "Okay, I think I got everything," she said. "So, um, now what?"
Don Ventimiglia said, "We need to return home. Nicky needs to do some reflecting on how he interacts with others. We have things to discuss. First, however, I wish to say goodbye to Jane. Is she in her room?"
The Don went upstairs, and remained for several minutes. The rest of us stood and waited, staring at the floor and glancing at Nicky. Nicky stared at the stairway as though Bela Lugosi was going to come down at any moment.
Don V. returned. He said, "Dino, get Nicky's keys from him, and place him in the passenger seat of his car. You shall drive him home. Angel, go with them to keep an eye on Nicky. Roach, go and comfort Jane, she is feeling distressed. I have things to discuss with these two."
Bekka and I gulped and nodded.