Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Bodyguard (Part 7)

     Bekka had interrupted the game she was observing.  She stood talking with the four players, two middle aged couples.  I walked up as one of the men was saying, ".... Something else, you really are, little missy!"
     Bekka smiled and asked, "So how did you become acquainted with Becky Page?  Have you all always been porn fans?"
     The second man said, "One of the boys in my shop had your centerfold up in his locker.  He'd never done that before, so I asked what the appeal was.  He told me, 'Oh boss, that there is Becky Page, she's the hottest thing going right now.  You gotta see her movies.'  I told him my wife wouldn't appreciate me sitting around watching porno movies after work, and he says, 'That's the best part.  Women don't get all bent out of shape by her movies, they're really fun to watch, they're actual movies.  My girlfriend is a fan too.'  So I rented 'Bad Babysitter' and 'Bewitched' and me and the wife had a movie night."
     The woman next to him said, "Your movies amaze me.  They're explicit, and very sexy, but they're not tacky or in bad taste.  And they're good movies, too!"  She got a bit pink.  "I can't lie, you've re-ignited a lot of passion around our house."
     "Our house too," giggled the other woman, putting her arm around the first man's waist.  "Mick told Harry here about those movies, so Harry rented them too.  We made popcorn and watched 'em both.  After they were done, Harry turns to me and says, 'Shirley, guess what I feel like doing.'  Well, I did too.  We had more spark than we had in a coon's age, it was wonderful.  We've seen all your movies since, they've really invigorated us, you know?  And I guess you have a new one out, we've gotta get that one.  Be a couple weeks though, the waiting list to rent is that long."
     Bekka grinned and said, "You're all really eager to see 'Temporary Pleasures,' huh?"
     'Oh yeah," all four agreed.
     She turned to me and said, "Hey love, you drove the Plymouth, right?  Get in the trunk and grab a couple copies of the promo tapes in there.  Hey, I can give you all promos of 'Temporary Pleasures,' you'll get the full movie, but they're missing the liner notes that come with the retail version.  I'll sign them for you, though.  By the way, this is Lenny, the producer, writer, and my husband, the love of my life."
     I shook hands with Mick, Harry, Shirley, and Bess.  Mick said, "Kid, whatever you're doing, keep doing it, because you make a damn fine movie!  Pleased to meetcha."  His meaty hand enveloped mine and shook it like a martini mixer.
     I turned and found myself nose to nose with Nicky.  He'd been standing there behind me and Bekka for who knows how long, observing the interaction.  He said loudly, "Is there any trouble, Miss Page?"
     "Oh, suck my dick, Nicky," replied Bekka.  "I'm talking with the four lovely people who have been bowling next to us for the past hour.  Harry, Mick, Shirley, Bess, this is Nicky.  I'm slowly driving the man insane, by running around in an irresponsible manner.  He's supposed to keep me safe.  He must be doing his job, because I'm doing just fine, no matter how many drugs I take, no matter how many motorcycles I ride, or no matter how many strangers I talk to.  So how was the bar, Nicky?"
     Bekka loosely gesticulated while she spoke.  I started walking away, then turned back in their direction.  Bekka was saying something, hands waving.  And then I realized: that wasn't Bekka at all right there, that was Becky.  The transfer was complete, Becky Page was now fully in control of what was normally known as Bekka Schneider.
     I went out and got the tapes.  As I walked back in I could see Bekka/Becky hugging the wives.  Everyone had a blissful smile on their lips.  When I got up close I could hear the oration of, ".... So I want you all to hug people more!  Hugging is beautiful.  When you hug, you let the person know you are sharing yourself, and it's okay if they share themselves.  Think about it, hugging is such a small gesture, but it breaks down huge barriers.  Mick, you run a metal shop, I know there are conflicts there.  Think about how those conflicts would dissolve if each party knew it was okay to embrace the person he was feuding with.  It would work, it really would."
     Nicky listened to this from several feet way and rolled his eyes.  This was the sort of Becky Page crap he couldn't deal with.  Not only was Becky interacting with fans, she seemed to be eager to enter into discussions with them.  Engage them in discourse.  Becky Page was too damn friendly for Nicky's tastes.
      I walked up with the two tapes and said, "Your media, mon ami."  Bekka/Becky smiled like I'd handed her a winning lottery ticket and kissed my cheek.  She asked the first couple, "What are your names?"
     The man said, "Um, we're Mick and Bess."
     Bekka/Becky wrote, "Mick & Bess: Thank you for the intimate tips!  XXX  Kisses, Becky Page."   She moved on and said, "You're Harry and Shirley, right?   Let me sign your insert."  In this one she wrote, "Shirley & Harry: thanks to you two, I know how to handle balls.  XXX  Kisses, Becky Page."  Then she put a lipstick imprint on it.
    Mick said, "So how does hugging, um, work?"
     Bekka/Becky said, "It is simultaneous aggression and surrender.  Hugging says to a person, 'I am invading your personal space, and at the same time leaving myself completely open.  There is no reason we cannot communicate.  We can know each other.'  Being close to another human being is a high, just a few moments of closeness, of saying our conflicts don't matter.  That's how hugging works."
     "Well, all right," said Mick.  "It's worth a shot.  I'm gonna start hugging my workers in the morning, and encourage them to do the same with each other.  Maybe with that sort of feeling, things will be quieter out on the floor."
     "Oh Mick, do it!" said Bess.  "I know some of 'em will think it's a little, y'know, fruity, but they'll adjust."
     Harry said, "Do you think this would work in an office environment?"
     "Oh, absolutely," said Bekka/Becky.  "Most friction in offices is due to miscommunication.  How can you not communicate clearly with someone you've held in an intimate embrace?  Who you welcome, intimately?  I bet within two weeks your whole floor is working smoother than it ever has."
     "Hoo boy," said Nicky, rolling his eyes again.
     With her laser beam pupils aimed at Nicky, Bekka/Becky said, "And I don't mean the formalized embrace that Italians or Russians do.  Really hug the other person.  Revel in feeling another person that close to you.  Hug them like long lost kin.  Hug them like you mean it.  And you should."
     Mick smiled, "Once I explain things, and they learn who I learned it from, it should be smooth sailing."
     "And once I start," said Harry, "we'll have the best, tightest, friendliest department in the building!"
     Bekka/Becky said, "Harry, Mick, I want to see you two hug.  I want to make sure you're doing it right."
     With a bit of trepidation, Mick and Harry approached each other, arms out.  They put cautious arms around each other, then relaxed and embraced tightly, remaining that way for several moments.  They closed their eyes.  Bekka/Becky beamed as they separated.
     "How long have you two known each other?" asked Bekka/Becky.
     "Gosh, coming up on thirty years," said Harry.  "We're in the same subdivision, we moved into our houses across the street from each other a week apart, just us and our wives, planning our futures.  We watched each others kids grow up.  Now the kids are grown up, they've got their own lives, but I know I couldn't stand moving to someplace smaller, I'd hate leaving the neighborhood too much.  I'd miss Mick and Bess.  I may not need all that room anymore, but that's where I put down roots."
     "I think me and the missus are the same way," said Mick.  "I can't imagine not being able to just walk across the street to say hi and have a beer with an old friend."
     "Have you two hugged each other before?" asked Bekka/Becky.
     Mick and Harry glanced at each other.  Harry brightened and said, "Actually, we have.  Mick's daughter was in a bad car accident when she was seventeen, Bess was off someplace, and so me and Shirley went to the hospital with him.  It was touch and go for her.  Mick was in tears, so I held him while he cried.  Just as well it was me, he was holding on so tight he'd have crushed Shirley!  After a while Bess showed up and took my place, then his daughter came out of surgery and we found out she'd be okay.  All four of us held each other tight and cried when we got the good news."
     Bekka/Becky reached up and stroked each man's temple.  "The four of you love each other," she said.  "That's beautiful."
     Mick said, "It's not love in, y'know, a funny way, but yeah, we do love each other, I suppose.  I care about Harry and Shirley, and I can't imagine life without them."
     Bess said, "We were there for the births of all our kids, for the new cars, for the promotions, for the graduations....  Yes, I love them."
     Bekka/Becky motioned me forward and asked for the bag of pills.  She said, "I want the four of you to do something for me.  First I want you to take one of these pills each.  Then I want you to head towards home, stopping at a liquor store for a couple six-packs of good beer.  Choose a living room, and the four of you can sit and enjoy the new movie, it's hilarious.  Harry, you'll really dig it, it's an office comedy.  After the movie is over with, I want the four of you to talk about your lives together, reminisce, and enjoy each other's company.  Then, when the time is right, you all drive up Mount Soledad to watch the sun rise, and praise God.  Will you do this for me?"
     Mick stared at the smiley imprint on his pill.  "What is it?" he asked.  "It's not gonna make me, y'know, trip out, right?"
     She said, "This is a drug technically known as methyl-dioxy methamphetamine.  Its common name is Ecstasy.  It brings on feelings of euphoria, confidence, well-being, and a sense of closeness with the universe.  I routinely take it on weekends as a way to clear my mind, so does Lenny.  Don't worry, it does not disconnect you from reality, like psychedelics do.  You'll be able to function normally and naturally, you'll just feel really good and have great empathy for those around you.  I think that for the four of you, you'll have a night of great discovery, with more clear understanding of each other than you've ever had.  And in ten hours, you'll all go get some breakfast, go to your homes and sleep for a few hours, then continue on with your days.  But it's a rewarding experience."
     "It's not gonna make me see monsters or anything, right?" asked Shirley.
     "No, it's not that kind of drug at all.  I give you my word that you won't find it disturbing at all.  If you've ever taken amphetamines, like Benzedrine or Dexedrine, you'll recognize the feeling when it first starts to kick in.  But it is so much better than that.  There is no out of control feeling with Ecstasy, you actually feel very well attuned to things.  It's an experience, but not a trip."
     The four of them all looked at each other, then collectively shrugged.  They stepped to their score-keeping console, retrieved their beers, and swallowed the pills.  I looked behind me, where Nicky was still standing.  He looked pale and was seething at this turn of events, but minded his tongue.  He caught my eye and shook his head slowly.  If I could read his thoughts right then, I was sure I'd hear about what evil people Bekka and I were.  I winked and looked ahead again.
     Mick said, "Well, uh....  I guess we'll go home and watch the new movie.  Thank you for, um, everything."
     "I want one last hug from everybody," said Bekka/Becky.  "It was so beautiful meeting all of you."  Everyone interrupted putting their balls in their bags and changing shoes so that both her and I could collect hugs.  I told Harry and Mick to consider mine a practice hug for Monday.  After we disengaged, Mick put a spade-like hand on my shoulder and said, "Bein' married to Becky Page must be something else, huh?"
     "She never ceases to amaze me," I said.  "It's one of the reasons I love her."
     As they left, the four debated briefly about whose house to watch the new movie at.  Harry and Shirley had the better TV, so the fun would take place there.  I took a look and saw Jane and Roach were playing a one-on-one game, waiting for us to stop talking with the old geezers.  Jane had paid for eight games, anticipating us getting into a groove.  That, and an alley employee had told her that there was a waiting list for a lane, we couldn't just pay for one and then sit there idle all night.
     While we watched Jane and Roach finish up, Nicky said, "I can't believe you just gave drugs to those nice people."
     "And may they have a night of mutual self-discovery in front of them," said Bekka/Becky.
     I told Nicky, "Shit, they trust us more than you do.  They will have the experience, and be all the richer for it.  You're still afraid of it, no matter who you talk to or what you witness.  Come on, even Don Ventimiglia has taken it, and he had a blast."
     Nicky gave me a vicious little smile.  "That's right, you gave the stuff to the Don when he ran away from home.  So did you have fun, giving drugs to an old man?"
     "Let me correct you on a couple points," I said.  "First of all, the Don was the one to express an interest in trying it out.  He knew I'd originally brokered the deal between Boss and the family, and could get a hold of it easily.  I already had some, so that was easy.  The Don was curious about this new product the family was investing in, and I could satisfy his curiosity.  He's big on Ecstasy as a long-term product, with the permanent structures now complete, we'll be knocking out a hundred thousand hits per week.  We'll control the whole fucking West Coast.
     "And I never took any with him.  He dosed with Bekka on Monday, and they went to the zoo.  The next day him and Jane got high and went to Sea World.  He had a blast both days.  His time was spent in the company of beautiful young women, seeing amazing things, and experiencing a truly unique drug.  Heh, he bought Jane a stuffed Shamu that's as big as she is."
     "You mean Don V. and that crazy little girl were running around on drugs, nobody to watch over them?"
     "Dude, they went to Sea World.  The Don is crazy about Jane, he loves her for her brains and independent attitude.  You know he's paying her way into Berkeley when she graduates high school?  Hell, they're riding buddies.  Now that the Don has his motorcycle, Jane is gonna go up to Bel Air and the two of them are going to go cruising together.  They'll terrorize Mulholland Drive and Griffith Park together.  Don't worry, I already made Jane promise no drag racing.  She's already done that once with the Don."
     With slitted eyes, Nicky simply said, "What."
     I laughed and said, "Oh, one night Jane and the Don were in her Cutlass cruising up PCH.  At a light, some clown in an Audi decides he wants to race Jane.  Now, that's a '71 Cutlass 442 she drives, and even with the automatic transmission, it's a rocket.  Jane shut the dude down.  When he caught up at the next light, Vito rolls his window down and says, 'You owe us a hundred dollars.'  It was classic.  I got on Jane's case for dragging, but Vito told me to lay off, it was a question of honor.  One way or another, the Don had a total blast while he stayed with us.  He's welcome anytime, I've got a bottle of Hennessey waiting for him."
     Nicky sneered.  "Oh, so it's Vito to you, is it?  Not Don Ventimiglia?"
     I shrugged.  "In public he is Don Ventimiglia, in private he is Vito.  When someone puts the trust and confidence in you that he did in me, you end up getting to be friends fast.  Don't think I discounted the gravity of what I was doing at the time, either.  Angel Morelli is calling me to let me know what's going on, his disappearance is on the news, and I knew I'd have people pissed off at me when it all came out.  Just like you were."
     Eyes like slate, Nicky said, "Four fucking days of agony you put everybody through.  You could have called your capo, you could have called the estate, you could have sent a fucking postcard.  No, you have every made man in the Southwest worried sick, searching for him, while you and those two crazy broads are giving him drugs and riding motorcycles with him.  Going to the fucking zoo.  If the Don hadn't made it explicitly clear that you were to remain unharmed, I'd have blown you away in the driveway of your own damn porn studio.  And I'd have made some friends.  You know because of your happy ass, he's smoking marijuana every night?  Says he prefers it over drinking to relax."
     "How much had he been drinking?" I asked.
     Nicky looked away.  "I dunno, he'd have some drinks, that's all."
     "How many?"
     "Um....  I guess eight or nine.  C'mon, the man has a stressful life.  It's not like he was getting shitfaced.  He'd drink, read or watch TV, and go to bed.  Now he's stinking up the TV lounge with that damn weed, and he gets crazy ideas, which he acts on.  A month or so ago, he decided he wanted to take the whole house out for ice cream, staff, soldiers, everybody.  And he did it.  We all went to the Swenson's in Santa Monica and he bought sundaes for everyone.  On the way there, I asked him why were were doing this.  He gave me this nutty smile and said, 'I crave ice cream, and I crave company.'  So yeah, I've been following the whims of a stoned old man on most evenings.  Not a day goes by where he isn't out on his Harley, putting around Bel Air and Beverly Hills."
     "That's really cool," I smiled.  "So where is Vito getting his weed?  I can't picture him scoring dime bags in Venice."
     The eyes rolled again.  "Angel Morelli sets him up.  Bought him one of those water pipes, too.  I guess Mr. Morelli's wife smokes the stuff, so he can get it."
     I laughed and said, "Oh yeah.  That's where I get my weed from, too.  It comes out of the Sierras, and it is choice.  Seriously, if Angel ever wants to smoke a joint with you, be warned, it can kick your ass.  It took us a couple weeks to acclimate to what Angel gets.  Personally, if Vito was drinking heavily, and now just has a couple bong loads instead, it's definitely the lesser of two evils.  He'll be fine."
     With a pained expression, Nicky said, "Well....  The Don says he sleeps better, and is more clear-headed in the mornings.  And he is more pleasant to be around at breakfast."
     "He's not fighting a hangover," I pointed out.
     "What's next though?" Nicky asked.  "Will he start listening to Bob Marley?  Grow a pony tail?  Will he start taking acid on weekends?"
     I laughed again.  "Don Vito Ventimiglia will always be the erudite, genteel man you have known.  He has simply expanded his horizons.  And he's taken care of himself for this long, no reason to think he'll stop now."
     "After four days with you, he changed," scowled Nicky.  "Drugs, motorcycles, he's hung up on that blue-haired Lolita....  You know he's still taking that damn Ecstasy?  He gets it from Vinny Morelli.  On Saturdays he takes a pill with breakfast, pulls on that fucking leather jacket you bought him, and disappears on his motorcycle for hours while we all worry.  He's like a teenager, purposely vague about where he's headed.  One time he didn't get home until well after dark.  When I asked him where he'd been, he just clapped me on the arm and said, 'I met some wonderful people in San Clemente. '  This is the man who fucking runs Southern California, he's got responsibilities."
     I told Nicky, "He's aware of that.  He also knows he's got a good man behind him in Angel.  The Don is looking forward to retirement, and is breaking himself into it.  He's not going crazy, he's not going soft, he just wants to have fun while he still can.  I say let him.  He pointed out to me that if he had a normal job, he'd have been retired for years already.  He should have his leisure.  He's earned it."
     Jane skipped up to me and kissed my neck.  She said, "Hey master, let's start a new game.  You in, Nicklaus?  What are you two gabbing about?"
     "Hey pet, we're just talking about Uncle Vito."
     "Oh!" Jane exclaimed.  "I'm working on a present for him in metal shop.  It's a pewter winged death's head to go on the front fender of his putt.  When I finish it, I wanna deliver it myself.  Can I take him up on his offer for me to spend the weekend with him?  I promise I won't run him ragged, even if I do take the Sportster."
     "And how would a sixteen year old girl --- you in particular --- keep herself entertained around a seventy-eight year old man?  What would you two do together?"
     "Ride our motorcycles, what else?" Jane said slyly.  "Unky Vito wants to show me around his estate.  He wants to teach me how to play tennis.  I'll bet he could give me a really awesome tour of Los Angeles.  And before he goes to bed at night I'll give him one of my patented back rubs, he loves those."
     I said, "With his old world manners and genteel nature, the Don really charmed the pants off of Jane when he was visiting."
     "Not literally," said Jane.  "That would have been inappropriate.  But I'll bet you he was quite the stud when he was younger.  Rowr."
     Nicky looked disgusted.  "Listen Lolita, don't even think about putting designs on Don Ventimiglia.  You do that, I don't care who has you as a mascot, I'll have it out with you.  Am I clear?"
     Jane smirked at Nicky.  "A couple years ago, I would have considered it.  I was much more crass, lacking in self-discipline.  You think I'm a handful now, Nicklaus?  At fourteen I thought my pussy was a playground, and everyone was invited to come and play.  No, as much as I love Uncle Vito, I won't be using that method to show him how much I love him.  And he would have to do some heavy persuading to try and talk me into his bed.  I think Vito is a wonderfully awesome man, and leave it at that."
     "But you considered going after the Don," snarled Nicky.
     Jane laughed at this.  She said, "I consider going after almost every man I meet, and many of the women.  I even considered you an option, however briefly.  Stupid idea.  But I don't act on these thoughts, obviously.  I have three lovers, who keep me satisfied, mostly.  One doesn't know about the other two, but that can't be helped, it would cause too much trouble."
     "Sixteen and you juggle boyfriends.  Just goddamn peachy."
     "Actually, I'm not," intoned Jane.  "I do have a boyfriend, a nice boy from my high school.  He teaches me about Shakespeare, I teach him how to make a woman come.  He is the one who remains ignorant of the other two.  Those other two....  Jesus Lenny, should I just tell him?  Uncle Vito knows."
     I shrugged, "Go ahead.  He's not stupid, he'd have guessed."
     Jane said, "I fool with Lenny, and sometimes also with Bekka.  It's a situation I actively pursued.  I had a crush on them both from the first time we met, when I was fourteen.  When I came to be living with them, I made my wants clear, but they refused me.  I finally made a bet with Bekka over a pinball game: if she won, I'd make dinner every night for two weeks straight.  If I won, I got Lenny for three nights.  I won.  Then Bekka gave her blessings for us to continue.  She felt Lenny wasn't fucking enough, compared to her.  I was more than happy to fill in that gap.  Me and Bekka being lovers just sort of happened through osmosis, it happened, and we were happy with it.  Do you have any questions, Nicklaus?"
     Staring slightly bug-eyed, Nicky said, "You are one sick, twisted little girl.  Is that the only thing you think of?  Sex?"
     "Of course not," said Jane.  "There's also drugs, and music, and motorcycles.  Ultimately I'm a sixteen year old girl with the same interests as a sixteen year old boy.  Possibly hornier, too."
     "So do I need to sleep with my door locked?"
     "Of course not," Jane cackled.  "First of all, you have expressed your disinterest.  I'll take that at face value.  Second, you're just eye candy.  It's obvious you work out, and take it seriously, but that on its own is no longer enough to get me naked.  I've been disappointed by gym bunnies in the past, they were always trying to make up for some obvious shortcomings, which I learned about as soon as they got naked.  Now in your case, I'm sure I'm wrong.  I'll bet it's the length and size of my forearm and fist.  Just as prehensile, too.  Anyway....  Lastly, you have little appeal as a person.  You are horribly judgemental towards both me and people I love.  You insult and you denigrate.  You have constantly tried to bully Bekka into not interacting with her fans, something she loves to do.  I know you think it's your job, but I also believe your job's parameters should be set by who your work for.  No, Nicklaus, you don't appeal to me as a man.  Maybe a fourteen year old me would still be puzzling her way into your pants, but a fourteen year old me also seduced three of her teachers for the fun of it.  I was already getting As in my classes, I just thought it would be fun.  I'm a much less dangerous person than I used to be.  Your chastity is safe."
     Nicky looked at me and said, "I need to get a fucking drink, then I'll keep score.  I'll be right back."  He stomped in the direction of the bar.
     Bekka and Roach were wrapping up the one-on-one game they'd started in Jane's and mine absence.  When they finished, I sat down at the scorekeeper's board/control panel, which displayed information on a TV screen above the lane.  For the new game's players, I didn't enter our names, instead typing in Lust, Pride, Envy, and Sloth.  I then told the others to pick one.
     "Okay, four of the seven deadly sins," commented Bekka/Becky.  "How come no one gets to be Covetousness?"
     "Because I didn't feel like typing it in," I replied.  "Bekka, I elect you to be Lust.  After all, that's your stock in trade."
     Roach said, "I'll take Sloth.  I'm a lazy fuck.  I can't even be bothered to get a decent job and move out of my parents' house."
     "I'll take Pride.  After all, I make fuck films and act like I've accomplished something."
     Jane shrugged and said, "I guess I'll be Envy.  Um....  Oh, I know!  I'm envious of Bekka's success, and how she got it.  I wish I could fuck my way to the top."
     Nicky returned with a cup of something strong-smelling.  He shooed me out of the way, looked at the display in annoyance, and asked who was who.  We got that straightened out and started playing.  The person to beat was Roach (Sloth).  He had three strikes in the first game, plus several spares.  He claimed no innate talent or amount of practice, merely claiming that he felt really synced in with the game that night.  Maybe it was the drugs, maybe he really did have untapped natural talent.  Roach said it made sense if he was Sloth.  "Come on, this is the only sport in the world you can play while drinking a beer and eating a sandwich.  Talk about a bass ackwards approach."
     Between each game, Nicky went for a refill.  I reminded him that he could drink all he wanted....  So long as he turned the keys over to me.  I got a dismissive wave in return.  Okay, fine: he could drive himself home, and the four of us would take the Plymouth.  He would have no passenger.  Last call caught him unaware, but that was probably just for the best.  It was obvious the booze was having an effect.  I caught him giving Jane a frankly appraising look, as if considering the possibilities.
     Two stoner couples approached, wanting to find out if that was really Becky Page.  Bekka confirmed that it was, and leaped back into the persona.  The talk went the same way we were used to: oh wow, this is helluv rad, Becky Page rules, we're all huge fans, could we get autographs.  Bekka/Becky obliged.  One girl volunteered how she always thought porn was gross until seeing Rocker Girls.  One of the guys, squeezing his girlfriend's hand, confessed that Becky Page had taught him to "not be such a selfish dick" during sex, and put some effort into his partner.  Amazing, teenage suburban white trash with healthy sexual communication.
     Bekka was interrupted in her signing once to bowl her frame.  When she finished, she waved me over and felt for the bag of pills.  "Would you all like to get high?" she asked the fans.
     "Um....  Sure....  What on?" came the collective response.
     "Ecstasy.  I won't be joining you, I'm already high, but I can guarantee a good time.  You don't mind being up all night, right?"
     "Um, not at all," said one of the guys.  "We did some tweak earlier, but it feels like it's going away already, weak sauce.  We were kinda hoping to score while we were here."
     "Gotcha covered," said Roach.  "What are you looking for?"
     "We each wanted a quarter," said one of the girls.  "Something to get through the weekend on."
     Roach grabbed his leather and got into one of the small zip pockets.  "Twenty each.  And I guarantee you'll be happy with my quality.  I weigh fat, too.  All four of you are in?"  They nodded assent.  "Here, step this way, so we're not waving the shit around."
     They slid over to the ball rack, where Roach handed out tiny baggies and collected cash.  He told them, "Do me a favor, though.  Each of you take one of those pills Becky is offering you, you won't regret it.  In fact, take her stuff instead of doing a line.  Her Ecstasy kicks ass.  I took a hit around eight and I feel fucking awesome, I'm helluv jazzed off that shit."
     The four got in line in front of Bekka and collected both hits of Ecstasy and hugs.  Nicky watched and heard all this activity with a baleful glare.  The woman he was tasked with protecting not only insisted on greeting her fans like lovers, she was hanging around a teenage nympho and some ugly crank-dealing scumbag.  And her own husband seemed to be amused by all this.  The four stoners thanked us all for our time and drugs and headed for the game room to play pool.  Nicky headed for the bar to find he'd missed last call by five minutes.
     We finished our last game around three.  After returning our shoes, we went into the game room to see how our latest victims were doing.  All four had manic smiles on their faces.  One of the girls said, "This is just so intense.  I can't even describe it.  I feel almost like I'm about to come, only in my head.  Does that make sense?"
     We assured her that it did, wished them all a good night, and headed towards the parking lot.  I jabbed Nicky and told him to hand over his keys.  He bared his teeth, then shoved a hand into a pocket and pulled out a key ring, separating out the door and ignition keys for me.  "I can't believe I'm letting some druggie drive my Lincoln.  If you fuck up my car, you'll be paying in a lot of ways."
     "You've got a choice of four drivers," I pointed out.  "Which one of us do you want?"
     "You," he sighed.  "I'm not letting either of those crazy broads behind the wheel of my car, and pizza face, that kid Roach, is just along for the ride.  I don't know him.  No, I'm trusting my car to some damn punk who pimps out his wife and smokes his drugs, no matter what they are."
     I stepped in front of him and then stopped, forcing him to grind to a halt.  We were nose to nose.  I said in a clear and calm voice, "Nicky, we've discussed this once.  Never, ever, call me a pimp.  It pisses me off, and I get kind of crazy.  There's no telling what my reaction may be.  Do you fucking get it?"
     Nicky heard my words, saw the look in my eyes, and drew back slightly.  "Sorry," he muttered, then stepped around me and continued towards his car.  I followed.
     The Continental was sportier than Don Ventimiglia's big Lincoln sedan, but still didn't compare to my custom Fleetwood.  The drive home was quiet, Nicky alternately looking at me and watching the road through the windshield.  When we got off at the Leucadia ramp, Nicky finally admitted, "Okay, you drove all right.  You didn't fuck up."
     I said, "We keep telling you, Ecstasy doesn't affect you like that.  There was never a worry."
     "Yeah, well, your wife isn't the most rational of people right now.  Seems to me like she's off in fairyland, where everything is good and wonderful.  She could stand some more caution."
     "She's got plenty," I assured him.  "She doesn't wear her Colt for effect.  She's been too close to death, from both sides, for her to be much afraid of anyone.  I know you said you've never had lead poisoning.  You ever grease anyone?"
     Nicky stared out the passenger window and said, "One.  When I was young, in Bayonne.  A runner thought he could skim, then came at me with a knife.  I was faster with my straight razor, slashed his throat.  Fucking mess.  How about you?"
     "My count is four, Bekka's is two.  Both of hers have been for the family.  Two of mine have.  We had some religious nuts threatening Inana, so I went to talk to them.  They thought a gun in the hand meant a world by the tail.  They threatened me and Bekka, and I had to kill them.  Them or us, no choice."
     "How about your other two?" asked Nicky.
     I laughed.  "Oh shit.  That was me playing Batman.  You don't follow porn, you you don't know who Lois Ayres is, but I had a schoolboy crush on her for a long time.  Some scumbags decided they were going to kidnap her from a convention I was at.  I saw it going down, and dropped one of them.  I ran after the guy carrying Lois.  He shoots at me a few times, to no avail.  We get outside, he dives into a waiting car.  They're trying to pull into traffic while I'm standing there trying to figure out how to stop them, when a dude on a motorcycle shows up.  I tackled him off the bike and stole it, chasing after the kidnappers.  They shoot at me again, so I go into stealth mode, killing all the lights on the bike and stalking them from a distance.  I manage to follow them to a house near Marina Del Rey.
     "Okay, I have them tracked down, but I'm leery of just calling the cops.  They'd be so fat-fingered they'd be sure to get Lois killed.  I figure I can get the job done a lot neater.  I went in and took out a dude in the living room, then went down the hall and found where they had Lois.  I offered the guy with her a chance to escape, to just put his gun down and walk away.  He decided he wanted to play, so I killed him too.  Lois was freaked, but I got her calmed down and we agreed on a cover story for the cops.  I was so happy, I had Lois fuckin' Ayres hanging onto my waist the whole way back to the convention center."
     I pulled up in front of the house, blocking the Fleetwood and the Cutlass.  Getting out, Nicky said, "So you killed two guys over a broad you didn't even know?"
     "Actually, we'd met before, a few years earlier," I explained.  "Besides, what a harsh thing to happen to a chick, you know?  Even if I didn't know who Lois Ayres was, once I saw what was going down, I was gonna try to end it."
     "So how did you explain two dead guys to the cops?" Nicky asked.
     "We didn't," I answered.  "Our story to the cops was that I followed the guys into the general neighborhood, but lost them, so I just started cruising around in hopes of spotting their car.  In the meantime they've thought things over and cut Lois loose, her promising to not rat out their location until the next day.  I find Lois walking down the street and pick her up.  We don't know shit about how those guys came to be killed.  Shit, near as I know they're still rotting inside that house.
     "The cops were pissed enough with me, without a couple killings stacked against me.  LA cops hate punks to begin with.  Here's one with a legally concealed Beretta on him.  Plus getting in a gun battle in the LA Convention Center.  And 'borrowing' a motorcycle.  And getting Lois Ayres back before they figure out how to spell her name.  The cops didn't have shit on me, and they hated it.  Angel and a couple other wise guys coached the kid whose motorcycle I'd taken into saying he'd actually loaned it to me, of his own free will.  I got threatened, I got hit, then they gave me back my Beretta and cut me loose.  As much as they hated it, everything wrapped up nice and neat.  I went and ate pizza, then me and Bekka partied until four.  Man, porn people like to party hard.  Between the Ecstasy we gave away and a ton of coke, the party was still bumpin' when we left."
     The Plymouth rolled up and backed into its space.  Getting out, Bekka thrust a Jack In The Box cup into my hand.  I tasted.  Chocolate shake, bless her heart.  She also gave one to Nicky, saying, "I didn't know what flavor you'd prefer, so I got you vanilla."
     "Fine with me," Nicky said.  "Thank you."
     Jane said, "Me, I vote for the bong followed by some time in the hot tub.  Sound good?"
     "Um, I don't have a bathing suit," said Roach.
     "That's fine, I had no intention of wearing one myself.  And I doubt these two will, either.  Nicklaus?  Will you be joining us in the spa?"
     Nicky said, "No.  I need to sleep, that's where I'm headed.  Aren't any of you tired?"
     I said, "Nope.  Maybe around ten this morning we'll need a nap, but we're fine now."
     "So you consciously avoid sleep?"
     "Not at all.  That's just a side effect of the high.  No big deal, unless you go for a few days straight without sleep, and then things start to get weird."
     Shaking his head, Nicky said, "Somebody around here has to be mentally stable, so I'm going to get some sleep.  You're not gonna be too loud, are you?"
     "We'll try to not suck on the bong too loudly," said Bekka.
     Jane grabbed towels, I grabbed the weed and bong, and we all stripped down and got in the spa.  Roach was a bit self-conscious at first, but was distracted by the presence of two awesome sets of tits.  I wasn't a bit surprised when Jane made a move on Roach.  Despite the bubbles, I could tell her hands were in his lap, and she was quietly saying how she had a boyfriend she cared about dearly, and wasn't leaving him, but that was no reason they couldn't have a bit of fun, right?  And what is this thing?  Stand up.
     Roach stood up.  Roach was hard.  Roach was also quite large.  Bekka and I gaped.
     "O holy father," breathed Bekka.
     I said, "Hey Roach, how would you like to change careers?  I'd like to offer you a job."
     Jane said, "Thank you God," and put it in her mouth, gorging herself with it.  I felt Bekka's hand around my dick, so I lip-locked her.  Soon enough the four of us were trying to slosh all the water out of the hot tub.
     After about half an hour or so, Bekka called to Jane, "Hey, let's trade off for a while."
     "Are you serious?" asked Jane.
     "Yeah.  I know you miss Lenny, and I'm enough of an egotist to believe that I'd make Roach's week if he got to fuck Becky Page, even for a little while."
     Bekka and Jane traded places, Jane settling into place and giggling, "Hi, master," in my ear.  Meanwhile, Bekka was getting her tongue down Roach's throat.  He had a look of amazed shock on his face, which did not go away even after they mounted up.  Bekka finally asked him, "Are you okay?"
     Roach replied, "Shit like this never happens to me, I'm not sure if it's real.  Not only am I having wild sex in a hot tub, I'm having wild sex in a hot tub with Becky Page."
     "Enjoy the ride, sweetie," said Bekka, and got her tongue in his mouth again.

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