Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Bodyguard (Part 8)

Around six we headed off to our respective bedrooms so we could get some rest, if not actual sleep.  Jane, being the little size queen she was, would probably not give Roach a moment's rest until he either cried, passed out, or puked.  I hoped Jane was serious about this being a one-time thing.  Her boyfriend Lance didn't deserve to be done over like that.  He was a nice kid, smart, maybe not the most thrilling person in the world, but that was fine with Bekka and I.  We figured Jane needed a calming influence in her life, and Lance and his average suburban family provided just that.  Life can't be all dope and hot cars....  Despite that Bekka and I made it look as though it could, sometimes.
     From sheer force of habit I was up at 8:30.  I scooped more meth into the glass pipe that permanently lived on our bathroom sink and melted it in, then took a few puffs to clear the cobwebs.  Then I began heading down the stairs.  I paused at the middle floor, listening for voices or sound coming from Jane's room.  Silence.  I continued down the stairs, where I could smell coffee.  Nicky was up, dressed, and nursing a mug out on the deck.  He didn't look happy, though, he looked tired and grumpy.  I poured a mug for myself and joined him.
     "Around 11:30 we're gonna head for a place called Triplet's and have brunch," I said.  "Normally afterwards we'd go cruising on the putts for a few hours, but you don't have a bike of your own and you're too big to double-pack.  How does the gun range sound?  Everybody has their own piece to work out with.  I was wondering, what do you carry, anyway?"
     Nicky reached under his left arm and extracted a very shiny pistol, a hair smaller than mine.  He held it out to me, and I took it.  The weight caught me off guard.  He said, "It's a Smith & Wesson Model 5906.  All stainless steel construction, and ten 9mm rounds in the belly.  That gun will survive doomsday.  What's that cannon you carry again?"
     I said, "The FS series of the Beretta 92.  It's a nine, and holds fifteen.  Weighs less than this damn thing, too.  I'd hate that weight pulling on my shoulder all day.  Bekka has her Colt Defender, and Jane carries a tiny Beretta that's registered to Bekka.  Only a six shot of nine, but she's good with it and it has decent muzzle velocity.  It's an instant bust for her to get caught with the thing, so you're one of the few people who knows she has it at all.  Bekka's Colt is an eight shot nine, with a muzzle velocity around 1100 feet per second.  We hit the range at least once a week to stay tuned up.  How often do you shoot?"
     Nicky shrugged and said, "I go to a range once a month down in El Segundo.  I'm not worried, I know I can hit what I want.  I'll bet I can out-shoot you or Bekka.  Or Lolita."
     I grinned.  "We'll go twenty bucks per target, best point out of ten shots.  I dunno, with you shooting as little as you do, you may not get good points.  Shall I bring my 1911 with me?  That's a solid .45, a good equalizer for us both.  God knows you're used to the weight."
     "Sure, bring it."  Nicky paused.  "So you gave Lolita a gun?  The hell does she need one for?  Where does she carry it, in her school book bag?"
     "She's already been kidnapped once, you know that story.  When a second attempt was made on her by those Eastern Bloc bastards, we gave her the gun.  She understands that she's only to use it if her life or safety are threatened, and that she will be going to jail after using it.  But she'll still be alive, which is the important part.  We'll slog through the legal aspects afterwards.  Bekka will go to jail too, for providing the damn thing.  A sixteen year old carrying concealed?  Hopefully she doesn't kill whoever she unloads at, so it's clear to a jury she had the gun for a reason."
     "Juvenile court doesn't have juries," Nicky pointed out.
     "Shit, you're right.  She still gets a lawyer, though, and we'd get her a shark."
     "You never answered me, where does she carry her piece?"
     I said, "Right front pocket of her pants.  Fairly quick to get to.  You can't tell what it is just by looking.  It's amazing, this thing is tiny, but Jane still gets great scores when she works out with it."
     Bekka came yawning down the stairs, holding the glass pipe from the bathroom and a cross look on her face.  "Asshole, you pocketed the lighter out of the bathroom.  Again.  Gimme."
     I handed her the second Bic I found in my pocket and she began heating the bowl.  After a large hit, she passed the pipe to me, grinned at Nicky, and said, "Good morning, Nicky.  And how are we this lovely day?"
     Nicky was busy being affronted, by the drug abuse and by Bekka's appearance.  She was in a blue tank top with no bra and a pair of thong undies.  Nicky said, "So do you always appear in front of guests like that?"
     "Suck my dick, Nicky," Bekka responded.  "I've got more on than I would if I was at the beach, or at work.  Any house guest of ours would know what I do for a living, and probably already be familiar with me wearing very little.  Besides, you're not our guest, you're my bodyguard.  It's up to you to adjust to how I live my life."
     "It's hard to adjust to someone as self-destructive as you," said Nicky.
     "Oh?  How so?" asked Bekka, taking the pipe from me and firing it for a puff.
     "Jesus Christ, look what you're doing right now.  I'm surprised you both don't cough blood or have emphysema.  You don't sleep enough to be healthy.  You take drugs.  You ride a motorcycle.  You drive a big bomb of a hot rod.  Your fridge has plenty of beer, but no fucking milk or orange juice.  And you treat your fans --- you know, the people I'm supposed to protect you from --- like long lost friends.  Any of those psychos you insist on hugging could plant a knife in you."
     Bekka blew a cloud and said, "Carpe diem."
     I threw in my own two cents.  "Look, we need you to watch out for very specific types of fans.  You keep your eyes peeled for serious stalker types and vengeful women.  The stalkers want to kidnap Becky Page, the women think Becky Page stole their husband because all he wants to do lately is whack it to Becky's videos.  Just keep an eye out for the psycho ones, let her good fans meet Becky."  I heated the bowl for a puff.
     "All of Becky Page's fans are psycho," insisted Nicky.  "Guess what, girl, you're a cult leader.  You have an entire army of supplicants out there, who take anything you say or do as the light and the truth.  They aren't fans, they're worshipers.  You dictate how they live their lives.  And all they want is your wisdom, and a hug.  You are scary to watch, you can play people like marionettes.  It's the cult of Becky."
     Bekka gritted her teeth and said, "I will admit, my fans see things in me and in my movies that aren't there.  I wish I could claim responsibility for all the wisdom attributed to Becky Page, but I can't.  All we did was make some good fuck films, and people began reading truth and meaning into them.  I never wanted to be the darling of post-feminist empowerment, but I am.  I'm an actress, I'll try to play my role as best I can.  I have too many people who love me to break their hearts.
     "As far as how I live my life, well, I don't get scared of a lot these days.  Once you've had people try to kill you, a lot of your fears evaporate.  I honestly wonder if Lenny and I are somehow immortals.  We should both be dead, many times over, but we're not.  Little things like drugs or motorcycles won't kill us, it's gonna take something big.  Neutron bombs."
     And who should join us just then but Jane and Roach.  Jane was following Bekka's fashion guidelines, panties and t-shirt.  Roach stood there in his boxers.  Bekka said, "Holy Jesus, you both reek of sex!  Did you guys sleep or rest at all?"
     With a manic grin, Jane said, "I let him catch his breath a few times, but that was it.  I can be a real slave driver when I feel like it."
     I said to Roach, "So, uh, you never answered me last night.  Would you like a job in porn?"
     "Doing what?" he asked.
     "Stunt cock," I replied.  "You've got the equipment for the job.  Can you control that thing well?  It does what you tell it to?"
     Roach went through a few shades of pink.  "Oh wow," he said.  "Um, yeah, I've got good self-control.  Are you serious?  You'd pay me to....  Do that?  With women?  Aw c'mon, you're pulling my leg.  I know I'm a pretty ugly guy, nobody wants to see me fuckin'."
     I explained, "You'd be a stunt cock.  It would be rare for the camera to be aimed above your waist.  I'll warn you, it can feel a little dehumanizing, because nobody gives a shit about you.  They just care about your dick.  And it will feel like a job after a little while, no matter how much you're getting sucked on."
     Bekka said, "On a positive note, you make $300 every time you come on camera, and you'd be working with some of the hottest women in porn."
     "Would I be working with you?" asked Roach.
     "It would be hard to avoid, we're a small studio.  Tell you what, before we carve anything in stone, I want you to sit in on a shoot, beginning to end, so you can see how things work and what would be expected of you.  Then you would need to ask yourself, honestly, if you could do the work.  If you think you'd be camera shy, if you can't come on cue, if you need to be high just to work, then you're wasting everybody's time.  But it's good supplemental income, you could get $900 a week out of us."
     "Damn, that kind of money?  I could move out of my parents' house and get my own apartment.  I wouldn't have to deal.  That sort of bread, I'll fool with guys.  So what do women earn?"
     I said, "Depends.  Straight suck and fuck earns $750 for a half day.  Anal queens get $1000.  A girl will get $1300 for a double penetration scene.  And I pay the girls extra cash for taking a facial, like a couple hundred for taking a load.  Our friend Tawny pointed out that girls basically get grocery money for two weeks just for getting their face sticky, so why not.  So yeah, women earn more than men in this business.  That's because it's easy to find dudes with largish dicks willing to get sucked off for any amount of money.  Women willing to work porn are much more rare."
     Bekka said, "I know you know how to fuck.  Coming on cue is the only real difficult part of the male's job.  That, and keeping tan.  Speaking of, if we bring you on, you'll want to get a full body tan.  Go to a tanning salon, you risk getting burned lying around naked in your back yard.  Don't worry, you can keep your mohawk, though.  As a stunt cock, the camera never points that far up.  Unless your ex-girlfriends recognize your dick, you'll be anonymous."
     Jane stroked my arm and said with a pouty face, "Master, my ass is really dragging.  Could I please have another hit?  Or even a line of coke?"
     I sighed and kissed her forehead.  I said, "It's times like these I wish you liked speed.  That would keep you going all day, instead of the two hour window coke gives.  And I worry about you eating so much Ecstasy."
     Nicky elbowed her roughly and said, "What's up, Lolita, why don't you just do the drugs that are right in front of you.  I'm sure they'll share."
     Jane said, "Oh Nicklaus, you sweet ignorant man.  Just because there are drugs available doesn't mean I will take them.  Why would I take a drug I don't enjoy?  Because it's there, and it's a drug?  Naive boy, you wouldn't eat food that you knew would make you sick.  No, both times I've tried speed I was miserable, so I don't take it.  Although...."
     Jane took the pipe out of Bekka's hand and stared at it.  "You know, there is always the chance that what i got a hold of was garbage.  I've never tried your speed.  And smoking it, I won't burn my nose.  May I?  How does it work?"
     I gave a demo by taking a hit.  Jane and Roach were intrigued.  Jane took her hit first, drawing in and slowly exhaling a cloud.  She looked at me with her eyes wide and said, "Hey, that's....  Wow.  That felt good.  I could actually get into that.  Too cool."
     Bekka said, "Take three hits and then lay off.  You're a lightweight, you have no tolerance, and you don't want to be up all night again.  Three hits will carry you through the day."
     Roach took his hit and said, "Damn, that's good.  No cranky flavor like mine.  How do they get rid of that, anyway?"
     I said, "Um, it never goes in to begin with.  Yeah, this shit is practically pharmaceutical."
     The pipe went around and came back to Jane.  As she hit and started to draw, I grabbed her by the shoulders and got in her face, yelling, "One of us....  One of us....  One of us...."  I kissed her again and whispered, "Welcome to addiction."
     Jane said, "Fuck that.  This is for getting me through the day, that's all.  I don't need it."
     Roach found this hilarious.  He said to Jane, "Can I quote you on that in six months?  It's so precious."
     Nicky scowled and said, "So that's it?  She smoked it this once and now she's addicted?  That's how it works?"
     Bekka grinned at Nicky and said, "It depends entirely on her attitude.  The thing is, speed feels like this incredibly useful tool, one that tightens down all the bolts in your path.  But after a while, it feels like your entire life is made up of loose bolts, so you keep getting high, to try and tighten the bolts.  Me, I'm praying that how Jane feels right now doesn't have a lasting impact.  I would prefer this to be a rare experience for her, this house needs no more tweakers."
     "This is how speed makes you feel?" asked Jane.  "Now I know why you do it all the time."
     Bekka corrected, "No, what you're feeling right now is the feeling Lenny and I slavishly chase.  We're addicts, sweetie, speed is a survival mechanism.  Don't think me and Lenny are having fun."
     "You're a couple of junkies," sneered Nicky.
     "Junkies?  No, wrong drug," said Bekka, accepting the pipe.  "We're speedfreaks.  I'd say we're tweakers, but we don't have the bad habits that epithet implies.  The house is not full of incomplete projects, we bathe regularly, our bills are paid....  We don't live like white trash.  We're addicted to methamphetamine, okay?  Hospital stays are the only times we go without our dope."
     Roach laughed and punched Nicky in the shoulder.  "Haw, you wanna meet tweakers?  I'll introduce you to my parents.  My dad will decide to work on his Harley, and will always have two bolts left over when he's done.  My mom tweaks out in the kitchen, she's destroyed more food than General Sherman.  Shit, these two aren't tweakers.  Come to my house, and you'll meet tweakers."
     Nicky looked genuinely offended.  "Never touch me," he snarled.  "You don't get to touch me."
     Jane giggled and said, "What about me, dear Nicklaus?"  She grabbed him by the neck and kissed his cheek.
     Nicky glared down at her.  "You fucking stink, Lolita.  Go take a shower."'
     "Evidence of a night well spent.  Come on, Roach, let's go get soapy."
     Roach sighed.  "Okay, but let's just get clean, okay?  My abs are killing me."  The two trotted towards the stairs.
     "So what's that little asshole's real name, anyway?" asked Nicky.
     I said, "No clue, the subject has never come up.  Roach is good enough."
     "So you let a scumbag like that just wander around your house?" Nicky sneered at me.  "He's probably already calculated how much he can get for your stereo and TV.  Jesus, but you two are reckless."
     "We trust Jane's judgement.  He seems like a good kid."
     "You're kidding, right?  He told us he strips hot cars for a living, he deals drugs, apparently his parents are also fuck-ups, he runs around with his goddamn hair like that....  He's a scumbag."
     Bekka said, "But he's also been honest and open with us about who he is and what he does.  He's got a crush on both me and Jane, and doesn't want to fuck up his chances with either of us.  He's not about to screw us over."
     "Look, we gotta shower," I said.  "We'll be back down in about forty minutes.  Why don't you start watching 'Bewitched,' like Angel asked you to?  You can watch the first half, we can get some brunch, then we'll hit the gun range.  You'll like the place, it's pretty high class.  They even have a coffee bar.  And we'll all ride in my Fleetwood, it seats five comfortably.  Jane can sit in the center."  I went to the entertainment center, flipped on the TV, and inserted the correct cassette in the VCR.
     Shuffling over to the sofa, Nicky said, "I'm only watching this because Mr. Morelli instructed me to.  I am a little curious, though.  I want to see what's so goddamn special about a fuck flick."
     Bekka and I went up to our room, showered and screwed, got dressed, and headed back downstairs.  Nicky had been joined by Jane and Roach, Jane slowly Oi-lacing her blue fourteen-hole Doc Martens while watching the movie.  She was in white patent leather pants and a Crucifucks t-shirt.  I offered Roach the use of both my deodorant and a clean shirt: I had both height and weight on him, but one of my shirts wouldn't be too baggy.  He accepted.  He was still at the age where nobody would notice if he didn't shave for a day.
     The ride to Triplet's was fairly silent, excluding Nicky asking Roach, "So, what's your real name?"
     Roach said, "It's Sonny, like Sonny Barger.  My dad isn't a member of H.A., he doesn't hold a patch with any club, but he gets along with the local Angels.  Hell, it was through them I got my job at the dismantlers."
     "Do you ride?" asked Bekka.
     "Well, I'm licensed.  I don't have my own putt.  The dudes at work offered to get me one, but I told them I didn't want anything that's hot, and they dropped the subject.  My dad's machine spends half its time in pieces, so I can't ride his.  Maybe if I work for you guys, I can save up and get my own, one that's legal."
     After we were seated at the restaurant, Jane said, "Maybe Boss could find one for him.  Boss could find him a cool putt for a good price."
     "Who's Boss?" asked Roach.
     I said, "He's a friend of ours from Santee, a serious putt-monkey.  You know those two custom Sportsters we have?  Those were gifts from him."
     Roach paled under his tan and acne scars.  "Oh fuck, is this dude, like, huge?  Seven feet tall or something?"
     "Yeah, six foot seven, and about two-seventy.  Boss is a big boy.  You know him?"
     "Uh huh.  My dad tried to screw him for two pounds of dope when i was fifteen.  Boss showed up with a couple other dudes and took my dad's Harley and his prize '32 Ford, saying they were collateral, and my dad had thirty days to pay up.  Otherwise my dad would be going to the hospital for a while.  They even made him sign and hand over the pink slips for the bike and the car, so my dad couldn't report them stolen.  I don't know how he did it, but three weeks later we got the Ford and the bike back.  I'd seen Boss a few times, he'd be over at the house, and when he came for our vehicles I realized this was the last person in the world I'd want pissed off at me.  Probably best if I never see him, you know?"
     "Boss may not remember you," said Bekka.  "Even if he did, he's a very fair-minded person.  He wouldn't hold the sins of your father against you."
     I cast my mind back.  Yeah, I remembered the '32 Ford.  At that point I was doing lab runs for Boss, loading up the back of my Honda with fresh meth from his trailers in the desert near Needles and taking it back to Santee.  Boss barely was able to squeeze behind the wheel, but he took me for a cruise in it one night.  I asked him about it, and he was vague, saying something about "people ain't payin' their damn bills."  It was a serious rod, too.  God knows where Roach's dad got it.
     After brunch we headed down to Kearney Mesa and the Gun Range on Balboa, a few doors down from Smut 'N' Stuff.  Nicky was actually impressed with the place.  The showroom up front (with coffee bar) was spotless, well-lit, well-stocked with both new guns and accoutrements, and staffed by friendly people who knew their trade.  Practice ammo, regular-point 9mm, was sold for a reasonable price.  And the sound from the firing range was audible but not intrusive.  I bought Roach a set of ear plugs --- they wouldn't let him onto the range without hearing protection --- paid for two lanes and a few boxes of ammo, and we went in.  As the novice, Roach would hop between lanes, getting a feel for the various hardware we had with us.
     I sat down at my lane's load table and began swapping out ammo from both clips.  I'd be sharing a lane with Nicky.  Bekka took Roach under her wing, giving him the safety lecture and instruction, showing him first how to break open the gun to make sure it's empty.  Then she showed him how to load one of her clips.  Roach gawked at Jane's tiny pocket rod, amazed that any gun firing 9mm ammo could be that small.
     Nicky only had a single clip with him, the one in the belly of his Smith & Wesson, and that was just a ten-round clip.  "You don't carry an extra clip?" I asked.  "Damn, I always have thirty rounds on me, ready to go."
     He smirked at me and said, "I hit what I'm shooting at the first time."
     I said, "You're assuming you'll run out of targets very quickly.  Also, that they'll stay down after being shot once.  And how do you provide cover fire for a fellow soldier?"
     With a haughty look, Nicky said, "I'm not on a strike team, I don't do those wet operations.  It's my job to protect one person at a time.  So, you still wanna make this interesting?  Best points out of ten rounds, twenty bucks a target?  What distance?"
     "Fifteen yards," I said.  "Let's get warmed up first.  Thirty rounds each, then fresh targets."
     I went first, putting the first six rounds through the head of the silhouette target, then concentrating on the points area.  I brought the target in and considered.  Everything was inside the points area, but I had more sevens than I wanted.  Whatever, it was warm-up, and I'd gone through both clips quickly.  Nicky looked over my shoulder and said, "Who knows, you may not owe me too much money."  Then he ran out a fresh target and began blazing away.  Him having to reload after every ten shots slowed things down.
     Nicky ran out a fresh target and began to fire.  Clip empty, he drew the target in and did the math.  "Seventy-six points," he said.  "Beat that."
     I shrugged, ran out fresh paper, and stepped up to the line.  Cleared my lungs, got in a stance, and began to fire, counting as I went along.  Drawing the target in, I added my points.  Eighty-six.  Nicky stood up from the loading table to see how I'd done.  His face fell when he realized I'd beaten him.  "Run out a fresh one, asshole," he said.
     Twenty-five minutes later Nicky was into me for $180 and vibrating with frustration.  Bekka, Jane, and Roach had stopped firing and drifted over in our direction to see what was going on, observing from behind the safety line.  I explained the situation, to their quiet amusement.  Bekka said to Nicky, "I want in on this action.  Will you shoot against me?  In fact, to keep it interesting, I'll use Lenny's Beretta instead of my Colt.  Is that fair?"
     "Step up to the line, woman," Nicky growled.  I handed off the Beretta to Bekka.  She ran out fresh paper and toed the line.  She fired a little slowly but steadily, earning seventy-eight points.  Her and Nicky traded places.  Nicky scored....  Seventy-seven.
     Red-faced, his eyes darted back and forth between me and Bekka.  At that exact moment I was glad I knew his clip was empty.  Silently he pulled out his wallet and extracted two hundreds, which he held up in front of me.  I slid them out from between his fingers and thanked him.  He said, "I'm going to rent my own lane.  Obviously I need some practice.  I just had a damn woman beat me by one point, a crazy whore with a drug habit."  He set his Smith & Wesson on the load table and stomped towards the doors.
     "I think he didn't expect us to be able to keep our shots on the paper," Bekka said.  "He probably wouldn't want to hear that Jane scored over a hundred in twelve shots, using her pocket gun."
     Roach said, "Hopefully the dude calms down some.  I don't like the idea of him being both pissed off and armed at the same time."
     Nicky walked up carrying a box of ammo and grabbed his pistol.  He wordlessly whisked away to a lane a good ten spaces over.  "And that's our cue that it's time for a smoke break," said Jane.  "Is he just a sore loser, or what?"
     "I think it's because he lost to me," said Bekka.  "Not only did he lose to a woman, he lost to Becky Page, the woman who has been infuriating him every waking moment as of late.  You may have noticed that I make him crazy.  Who knows, maybe Angel really should have gotten us some stupid brick of meat.  A dumb guy would have been more malleable, more adapting to how we live."
     "We never cease to dismay him," I agreed.  "So Roach, have you ever spent any time shooting?"
     Roach said, "Not really, no.  My dad's got a .38 revolver, a five shot, that he keeps next to his bed.  We've gone out in the desert with it a couple times, but that's it.  It's kind of a piece of shit, it kept wanting to jam.  I think it's stolen anyway, so there's no way I'd bring it here.  Are we the only people here who aren't off-duty cops?"
     "On a Saturday?" I said.  "No, there's civilians around.  But there are plenty of law enforcement types here, there always is.  This place is one damn chi-chi firing range.  Air conditioned, the staff knows their beans, centrally located, good coffee, those sofas in the showroom to relax on....  You can spend your whole day here in comfort.  Me, I've always wondered if anyone has ever gotten laid hanging around this place."
     "Roach needs to work out with a full sized pistol for a while," said Bekka.  "I figured he could use your Beretta, and maybe also the 1911.  Fair enough?"
     "That works," I said.  "I'm not even going to ask Nicky about sharing his Smith & Wesson.  That bloody thing outweighs my 92, it's solid stainless steel.  Nicky insists he's fine with the weight, though."
     "Shooting is helluv rad," said Roach.  "It makes me wanna get my own gun.  What should I get?"
     "Try my Beretta first, so you get the feeling for a full-size gun.  Really, I recommend taking a shooting course, where you'll get a feel for various sized guns, you'll learn what's most comfortable for you.  I've never not used a Beretta 92, it's just what I'm used to.  We've all chosen our guns with practicality in mind, not comfort.  For Bekka, having something both powerful and concealable were what we were after.  That, and reliability.  You said your dad's is a .38 five-shot revolver?  That's a Charter Arms police gun.  Not garbage, exactly, but not great either.  They're fairly cheap.  You get what you pay for in a gun."
     "Don't you guys ever worry about getting busted for carrying them?" asked Roach.
     "Me and Lenny have concealed carry permits," said Bekka.  "It's Jane we worry about.  If she gets caught with hers, no matter the situation, her and me both go to jail."
     Jane said, "Not even my boyfriend knows I have it.  The only way I'll have it in action outside the range is if my life is in danger.  Yeah, I go to jail, but like the bumper sticker says, better to be tried by twelve than carried by six."
     Roach queried, "So how do I get a concealed carry permit?"
     "Through the sheriff's department," I answered.  "To be frank, chances are between slim and none of them actually issuing one to you.  They demand you have a demonstrable need.  Bekka got hers because she has fame, and had already been attacked once.  Me, I carry large amounts of cash and have a celebrity wife to protect.  They don't consider 'personal protection' to be a valid reason, even if you do live in Linda Vista.  Personally, it's kinda bullshit.  It should be up to them to find a reason you shouldn't carry, not up to you to show why you should."
     We finished our cigarettes and stepped back inside.  I was loading the soda machine with change when Nicky came through the double doors of the range, wild-eyed.  "Where the hell did you guys go?" he barked.
     "We were out front having a smoke," Bekka calmly replied.  "Why, what's the matter?"
     "I look over and all of you are gone.  The woman I'm supposed to keep an eye on is missing.  Yeah, that concerned me just a little.  Shit, you're the one concerned with being kidnapped by stalkers."
     Bekka laughed.  "Kidnapped from a shooting range?  This one in particular?  Not only are we surrounded by off-duty cops here, this place is a microcosm of that old adage, 'an armed society is a polite society.'  Now, if we were going to go up a few doors so I could shop at Smut 'N' Stuff, then I'd probably be happy with both you and Lenny at my side....  Although I'd still sign autographs.  But this place is very safe, you know?"
     "And you wouldn't try to ditch me," Nicky said suspiciously.
     My turn to laugh.  "Dude, our guns are still sitting in our lanes.  We're not going to abandon a couple thousand dollars worth of iron.  Besides, that would be a shitty thing to do to you.  Why would we?"
     "Just, y'know, as a practical joke."
     "But jokes are supposed to be funny, and that wouldn't be.  Relax, Nicky.  We're going back in right now to work out some more, Roach is gonna use my Beretta and the big Colt for a while."
     Roach grinned and said, "The only Colt .45 I've ever handled before is the malt liquor."
     "This costs more, and probably tastes better," I said.

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