".... And the handset will work as long as you're within a hundred yards of the vehicle. Installation will take about two hours."
We were in a car stereo palace in Kearney Mesa. Bekka was getting her Christmas present installed, a cellular phone in the Plymouth. It was a good system, with a good carrier, we wouldn't have trouble with coverage blackouts except for out in the boonies. The sleek looking wireless handset would rest on its small station sitting on the drivetrain hump by the driver's right leg. A small pig's tail antenna would be installed on the rear window. The salesman assured us that we would always have great reception: with all that steel, the whole car would act as an antenna, much better than if we'd been driving something new, full of plastic and aluminum. While the dollar a minute rate we'd be paying would discourage idle chatting, anyone in the Plymouth could communicate with the rest of the world.
Bekka and I stepped out front to smoke, then wandered in to the customer lounge to drink coffee and kick back while the phone was installed. I flopped in a chair. I looked at the table next to me and saw the previous night's Tribune sitting there. Well, that ought to kill fifteen minutes.
I read the front section, then pawed through the rest of the paper, looking for the funnies.... Then froze up when I reached the "Lifestyle" section. Bekka's face was staring at me from the paper. It was a cheesecake promo picture I'd taken last year, with Bekka in a red bustier and a black leather bikini bottom. The header and sub-head read "Temptress: Just Who Is Becky Page?"
The article, which aped Bekka's People article, explained that Becky Page was a pornographic actress who was native to the area. Her break-out popularity was the result of a few features she'd done, most notably Bewitched. The Tribune gently editorialized through the article, making it clear that Becky's celebrity, particularly with young women, was scandalous. Performers in porn should not be affecting the fashion decisions of high school girls.... Never mind that Bekka wore a hell of a lot more clothing than Madonna or those chicks from Prince's band.
And it got worse. Parts of the article seemed to function as a how-to guide for stalkers. The reporter who researched the article had done their homework. While no addresses were given, the article informed the world that Becky Page lived in Encinitas, worked in La Costa, and enjoyed taking her meals at Evelyn's in Carlsbad. She drove "a large black Plymouth hot rod, when not on her motorcycle," a custom purple Harley. Page was a life-long resident of Encinitas, now living on the beach. Lenny Schneider was her husband "and bodyguard." Both Page and Schneider had permits to carry concealed weapons, and had used them. Page was currently on unsupervised probation for firing a gun within city limits. The article encapsulated the shooting incident at the mansion, making note that Becky had shot the attacker while still nude. There were enough hints and pointers in the article to assist any stalker in tracking us down. I groaned and passed the paper over to Bekka.
She read the whole thing, then threw the paper on the floor. "Well, goodbye privacy," she growled. "Just how irresponsible can you get as a reporter? Okay, their editorial position is that they don't like me, they think I'm a bad person. I can live with that. But with the clues in that article, any goofball who wants to find me now can. All it will take is a county property records search to find that Leonard and Bekka Schneider own a house on Neptune Street in Encinitas. And you know that information will go up on my BBS. I've never been more glad that the world knows I carry a gun."
I said, "In a way, they helped. They portrayed me as a dangerous goon, a gun freak who is always at your side. Even the most overzealous fans will have that in the backs of their minds when they go to approach you. Still, I'm hoping our home address doesn't become public knowledge too quickly. I want to install a security gate on the entry way. Another added layer of protection."
An older guy shuffled in. He picked up the paper off the floor and sat down opposite of me. I said hello to him. "New stereo?" I asked.
"I'm having one of those cellular phones installed in my car. My wife thinks I'll somehow be safer with it. I don't see how. She just wants to be able to call her friends any time she wants, and at those outrageous prices. Just one more bill every month."
I said, "Bekka here is getting hers for convenience sake. It will be nice to be able to contact each other anytime we feel like."
"Hmph," said the old dude, and turned his attention to the paper. He stared at the front page of the section, looking at Bekka's photo. Then he lowered the paper and stared at Bekka, who was thumbing through an old National Geographic. He quickly read through the article, then stared at Bekka some more, a scowl on his face. Then he spoke.
"Young lady," he said, "are you Becky Page?"
"That would be me," replied Bekka. "I see you're reading that lovely invasion of my privacy."
The scowl deepened. "When I was younger, we had words for girls like you."
"Was one of them trollop? I don't mind being called a trollop. It sounds like a kind of candy. Yes, I'd like a pound of the chocolate trollops please."
I said, "When you were younger, you had Marilyn Monroe and Bettie Page to look at. There's a wider selection these days, and Becky here is number one. I have the feeling you're working your way up to insulting my wife, which would be a very bad decision on your part. I'm kind of protective, if you couldn't tell by what was said about me in that article. Speak your piece."
The old guy leaned on his knees and rasped, "Young lady, you are a corrupter of men. You distract and tittilate to earn your filthy money. You are a prostitute, a glorified prostitute, a woman who has sex with other men for money. If there was any decency left in this country you'd be in jail."
Bekka stared at him, then burst out laughing. She laughed and laughed. When she stopped, she said to him, "Really? I should be in jail for making porn? Tell you what, I'll quit doing what I do for a living when someone makes an enforceable law against jerking off. I'm an entertainer, that's all. I just entertain certain parts of men more than others. I won't sit here and try to convince you that I'm not a bad person, I can tell your mind is already made up. I'll just cry all the way to the bank knowing there's some bastard in Kearney Mesa who doesn't like me. Want an autograph? I sign them for teenage girls all the time. Why shouldn't you get one?"
The old guy stood up, said, "You sin against God and man," and stomped out of the waiting room.
I told Bekka, "I felt like telling the bastard that the last guy who spoke to you like that disappeared. Remember? He kidnapped us and drove us out to the desert with the intention of killing us both. I ended up killing him and burying him out there. Goes to show you, self righteousness doesn't pay."
"He's the type of stalker I worry about. Fanboy stalkers can still be reasoned with. Dudes with his opinion of me who stalk me are convinced they're ridding the world of evil by getting rid of Becky Page. The fanboys love me, the zealots hate me, and both want to get their hands on me. I think I'll be taking back my purse gun from Jane. I'll feel happier carrying two pieces."
I said, "Ross will hate us for it, but any and every incident that happens at our house gets reported to the police. If bad shit goes down, I want a paper trail. Tomorrow I'll call our contractor and see about getting a nice solid security gate installed. But I refuse to be cowed. We should not have to spend our lives hiding. We'll still eat at Evelyn's whenever we damn please, we'll still do our own grocery shopping and drive our own cars. We won't be scared."
"Okay," Bekka said. "We've already proven to the world that we can handle ourselves. It's hard, but I'll try to not be scared. Let's hope our home location remains a mystery for a while."
We got the car back and headed for the mansion. I had some paperwork I needed to catch up on, the pressures of producing a movie and running a business were building, like they always did. Gina's responsibilities would increase again. I needed to delegate, but there was no one to delegate to. Maybe I could convince Angel to be more mindful of the day to day operations while I made this movie.
We pulled into the driveway at the mansion to find it already occupied. A five year old Toyota sat there, unattended. I puzzled at this. I knew the cars of my performers and crew. All of them were making too good of money to be driving this lame thing, anyway. Somebody's boyfriend? Maybe.... But why they'd be here on a Saturday was a mystery. I was about to head towards the front door when Bekka said my name in a low voice. I looked over, and she pointed. The gate to the pool area was partially open.
I got my Beretta in my hand and strode into the pool area. There was a skinny drink of water, about forty, standing and considering the pool and fountains. He hadn't noticed my approach. I aimed the Beretta at him and called,, "Don't move. Don't even let your thoughts wander. Who the hell are you, and what are you doing back here?"
He gulped and held his hands up. I stepped closer. He said, "I've just been waiting for filming to start. This is Inana Productions, right? I've been waiting to see Becky."
"This is a Saturday. Why did you think we'd be working today?"
He stared at his shoes and said, "I always heard porno companies keep weird hours. Like, you know, druggie hours. A Saturday afternoon made sense to me. Who are you?"
"I'm Lenny Schneider. I run things around here. Who are you?"
"I'm Burt Mitchell. Wow, you're the producer. I love what you've done."
"Thanks. Right now, Mr. Mitchell, what you're going to do is sit down on that chaise lounge, keep your hands on your knees, and answer some questions. You follow?"
Mitchell looked nervous and said, "Look, you said there's nothing going on here today. I don't want to waste your time...."
"And you won't be," I said. "You're going to explain a few things for me. Don't try to run, your car is blocked and I'd hate to have to blow off one of your legs with this thing."
Bekka chose this moment to walk up. Mitchell looked at her and said, "Oh my god. Becky, you're here. I'm so happy to see you."
"I'm not happy to see you, asshole. Instead of being inside getting work done we're having to deal with you. What's your game, anyway?"
"I was just getting to that," I said. "Actually, my first question is how did you get the address of the studio? Anything connected to us would only show our PO box."
"I got it through a computer BBS. Somebody figured it out and posted it on the Becky Page Fans BBS. Honest, I didn't mean any harm in coming here, I just wanted to meet Becky, maybe get her autograph and a picture."
"Where are you from?"
"You expecting any friends?"
"No, it's just me. I told my wife she could come along, but she took a pass. Um, she doesn't like Becky Page very much."
I actually smiled. "Very few wives do. So, you got our address from a BBS. I'm not familiar with them. Do you use your own computer?"
"What is it?"
"An Apple Macintosh."
I smiled again. "Too perfect. Right now I'm going to give you three choices. The first is that you come in my office with me, sit down, and show me how to get to this BBS. The second is that I call the sheriff's and have you arrested for trespassing and stalking. And the third is that you try to run away and I blow a hole in you, then have you arrested. Which is your choice?"
"I'll go in your office," Mitchell said, shaking his head.
We walked back out the gate, around the garage, and up to the front door. He kept glancing backwards at Bekka, as though unsure whether she was a mirage or not. Bekka said, "You wanted to see me. What the hell for?"
Mitchell said, "I, um, I just wanted to meet you. I think you're wonderful. I was hoping maybe we could talk for a bit, become friends."
"Sorry, I don't befriend people who act like stalkers. Just keep following Lenny."
We got to my office and I let everyone in. I realized I would need a phone line to run from the computer to the wall. Telling Bekka to keep him covered with her Colt, I want across the hall to Small Steve's office and took the line off of his phone. Wen I returned, Bekka was saying to Mitchell, "No. Don't try to humor me. You scared the hell out of me and Lenny, and I have you pegged as a stalker. You're sure acting like one. You're going to accomplish this little task for Lenny, then you're going home, never to return. Am I clear about this?"
"I'm sorry, Becky." He looked forlorn.
I told him, "Sit down iin my chair. You're going to show me, step by step, how to get on the Becky Page BBS, and also how to post information to it."
He showed me how to open a display window, where to find the modem and what to tell it to dial, and how to read the posts once you were on the BBS. I had him get up so I could do a bit of reading. After a bit of hunting around, I found a post titled "Becky's Address!" It said, "Hey fans! Through a records search, I managed to come up with the street address of Inana, Becky's studio. We can show up and show her how much we love her! Don't spoil things by being creepy." Then our address. Then a couple dozen responses, thanking the original poster for the information. Not one of them wondered if this was a bad idea.
"So how do I write a message?" I asked Mitchell. He gave me the instructions, and I posted a brand new message on the BBS. The header said, "An Announcement From Becky's Husband." The body read, "Hello, all you fans out there. This is Lenny Schneider, a.k.a. 'The guy who produces Becky's movies', a.k.a. Becky's husband. We just found our first stalker today, some cheese head from Chula Vista who showed up at the studio unannounced. Currently, Becky is pointing a Colt Defender at him, while I decide whether or not to have him arrested. You know that post which gives away the address of the studio? Forget it, unless you want to risk being shot by either me (Beretta 92FS 9mm) or by Becky (Colt Defender 9mm). We are rabidly insistent on our privacy, both at home and at work. We do not want visitors.
"Now that I know you're here, I'll be checking in on a regular basis. I'll even share some information about Becky's projects. For instance, we're in pre-production for our newest feature, in which Becky has second lead and four hot scenes. It's called 'Temporary Pleasures,' and is an office comedy. Watch for it in nine weeks. More news to follow.
"Make no mistake: anyone showing up here at the studio will be TRESPASSING. We will also assume you're a stalker. Your best hope is that you're only arrested and jailed. Act unsteady or violent and you'll be a very sick chicken indeed. Becky loves you all, but doesn't want you showing up where she works. You want to communicate with her? Write a letter. You want to meet her? Wait until we do our next round of video signings, and show up. But don't come to the studio. Regards, Lenny Schneider."
Mitchell read this over my shoulder and said, "I thought you said you wouldn't call the cops."
"And I'm not. You did what I asked of you. I just put that line up as a warning, for dramatic effect. So, do you think I'm making myself clear enough? Shall I go ahead and post it?"
"Yeah, go ahead. Are you really gonna provide scoops about Becky's movies?"
"Sure," I said. "In fact, I'll give you a bit of news that almost no one knows yet. There will definitely be a 'Bewitched' sequel. It'll be at least six months out, but it is coming. That make you happy?"
"Yes," said Mitchell with a nervous smile. "Can I share the news?"
"Please don't," I said. "Right now I'm going to walk you to your car and see you off. You're going to drive back to I-5, get going south, and not stop until you're back in Chula Vista. And you're never going to come here again, under any circumstances. Have I made myself clear?"
He nodded and looked downcast. He started to say, "Becky...."
Bekka cut him off. "Goodbye, Mr. Mitchell," she said coldly. Her Colt was still dangling from her hand, and she had a look of loathing on her face. Mitchell sighed and stepped out the door.
Walking through the mansion, he said, "I blew it badly, didn't I?"
"That you did," I said. "Becky and I don't like surprises, and haing a stranger show up and then trespass at our studio was definitely a surprise. Maybe by the time we're doing our video signings for the new feature, she'll have forgotten all about you and you can get your autograph."
I moved the Plymouth out of the way, and he backed out onto the street. He took off slowly, turning right on El Camino Real, presumably to head for the freeway. I wondered how much of his afternoon he wold tell his wife about. He'd probably just say we weren't around, and leave it at that.
His wife.... Shit, that was a brand of stalker I hadn't taken into consideration, all the angry jealous wives of Becky Page fans out there. Becky Page, a two dimensional image on a screen, was stealing away their husbands or boyfriends. The hussy. I couldn't be sure of the real story, but I was guessing the problem was that these men preferred masturbating to Becky Page's videos over sex with the women in their lives. Personally, this spoke volumes about Bekka's allure, that she could captivate so completely. One of these women, spurned for a video image, might decide to take out the problem at the source. I'd be on guard, and not just watch for men acting creepy and stalker-like.
I went back in and sat down at my desk, staring at the BBS window. There were already three replies to my missive. The first one read, "You really L. Schneider? Prove it." The second one said, "I'm sixteen. Video signings always happen at adult book stores, where I can't get in. So now what do I do?" And the third read, "Fuck you I'm not a stalker I love Becky she'd love me if she met me."
I thought about it, then created a new post. This header read, "Movie Gossip." In the body I wrote, "Hello fans of Becky, this is her husband Lenny again. News that will probably make you happy: there will definitely be a 'Bewitched' sequel happening. Yes, Ursula, your favorite witch, will be around to stir up more trouble. It's still in the idea stage, so the release is at least six months out. But it is coming. Becky will have more action in this one, too. I'll keep you posted about production and release."
I posted this and pulled out the invoices I was supposed to be working on. Bekka lay on the sofa, staring up at the ceiling. After a while, she said, "Okay, we had stalker number one. He was pretty incompetent and easily disposed of, but he was a stalker. Do you think most of them will hopefully be as big of dolts?"
I said, "I think one of the hallmarks of being a stalker is not thinking things through. These guys have decided you're their dream girl, but haven't thought through why they decided that. They want to meet you, but haven't thought it through what they'll say and do once you are their audience. What this guy didn't think through was what if we hadn't shown up today? How long would he have waited? What he also didn't think through was that maybe you didn't feel like meeting anyone today, least of all a fan. Hopefully it won't matter. I put up a post on the Becky Page BBS making it clear that misery awaits those who use that address to show up at our door. I need to learn how to contact the sysop, and maybe have him delete the address post completely. I'm going to keep reading that BBS, just to get a good measure of your nerdier fans. Who knows, maybe other areas have their own Becky Page BBS's. I'll check them out too."
"I wonder how many users there are of that BBS," said Bekka.
"Another question for the sysop. Anyone who would take the time and energy to run one of those BBSes for fans has got to be a pretty big fan themselves. They'll be overjoyed to learn Becky's husband is on the board now. So, are you going to be doing any reading and writing on this board?"
Bekka said, "Reading, certainly. Writing, maybe. I have a hunch people would accuse me of being an imposter, and since those boards are anonymous, there's no way to prove who I am. I suppose they could ask me trivia about my features, but any mega-fan would be able to answer those sorts of questions. If I think of something that really needs to be said, I'll do it. But I provide plenty of fan service already, In that I never refuse an autograph. Pleasing fans via computer might be a modern touch, but would end up being too involving. Those boards never sleep."
"So after I finish here, shall we collect Jane and hit Evelyn's for dinner? We can gauge how big of an impact that Tribune article has had."
Bekka said, "No need to head home. Jane is eating with Lance and his family. They're doing sort of a family night out thing, dinner and a movie. I believe Lance's mom wants Jane exposed to a normal family life, as a counterpoint to living with us. She doesn't want Jane to be confused by wholesome living."
"That's right, I forgot. We actively corrupt Jane."
I finished with the invoices and went back to the board. Six more responses to my warning post. They all generally said the same thing, which was, "But we love Becky and just want to meet her! We'd never do anything to hurt her! You're a jerk!" Four responses to my little gossip blurb, one doubting that I really was Lenny Schneider, the other three saying (encapsulated) "Hooray, bring back Ursula! You rule!"
A new post came up as I sat there, simply entitled "Liar?" The body read, "Twice today someone claiming to be Leonard Schneider has posted on teh board. While it is true that Becky is married to her producer, L.Schneider, the poster only made veiled threats to those who might wish to visit the studio and propagate the rumor of a 'Bewitched' sequel (we've heard that one before). If Becky's husband really is out there reading and posting, welcome. We think your wife rules. If it's someone pulling a prank, get lost."
I responded, "Yes, I am who I say I am. Unclear to me how this could be settled, so you'll just have to take my word for it. Lenny Schneider, somewhere in La Costa."
I began reading through old posts. What became clear was that on the BBS, everyone was pretty smart, everyone was a fan, and everyone was obsessed with Becky Page's life. Fantasy script treatments were posted. A drive was on to reunite her with her estranged parents, this bit being proof that rumor and falsehood could rule the day: Bekka's mom was dead, and while there was tension between her and her father, they still were fairly close. I wondered how far back I'd have to go to find "information" about Becky's fictional parents. There was plenty of erotic prose and stories, but for the most part it was rather restrained. No "I wanna take my big dick and fuck Becky cross-eyed" here. Some posts were obviously from teenage girls, as the posts and their comments revolved around Becky Page style: where to get her haircut done well, clothing, makeup tips. There was a cadre of older gentlemen who were out to prove that Becky was still single, that her marriage to L. Schneider was just false gossip propagated so she wouldn't get harassed by lonely men so often. In fact, there may be no Lenny Schneider, that may just be a pseudonym created by studio owner Angel Morelli.
My stomach complained at me. It was two hours later and I was still reading, having not even made a dent in the logs of posts. Bekka was asleep on the sofa. I lit a cigarette and powered down the computer, returning the phone line to Small Steve's office. I made a mental note to stop by Radio Shack and pick up a line for myself. Then I gently woke up Bekka. She stretched and blinked at me.
"Come on, Miss Page, time to go to dinner," I said. She gave me the finger and sat up.
Bekka said, "The clientele at Evelyn's skews older, so we may be safe from fans there. I'm hoping so. That Mitchell asshole really has me soured on the idea of fans at the moment. Jesus, my life was so much simpler when all I did was loops. Everyone would just jerk off and then forget about me."
I said, "The one possibly positive thing that can be said about your fans on the BBS is they all seem to be quite intelligent. I guess if you hang around on computer message boards for fun, you're no slouch in the brains department. A wide variety of people on that board, too. Everything from teenage girls to the elderly. Personally, you ought to put up a post. Not right away, though. Wait until you're good and frustrated with production for 'Temporary Pleasures,' then blow off steam by putting up a juicy gossip-filled message. My own problem with the board is that it's hard to tell if the posters actually represent a cross-section of Becky Page fans. I dunno, anyone on that board is gonna be computer savvy, which means they're gonna be kinda geeky."
"Geeks aren't safe," said Bekka. "Look at the Unabomber."
We left the mansion and headed for Evelyn's. On the way, Bekka said, "I may have a solution for when I don't feel like being approached on the street. I'll just pretend to be someone else. When they ask if I'm Becky Page, I'll just say, 'Oh, I get that all the time. I am a fan, though.' I'll pretend to be Becky Page's doppelganger. Think I can pull it off?"
I said, "Well, you are rumored to be quite the talented actress."
"Shut up, my love," Bekka replied.