The two apartment-hunters lucked out right away. Olivehurst had several vacancies, including two two bedroom units. My attempts to keep me and Bekka distanced from Dawn and Roach fell apart when the two began filling out their rental applications. Bobby, the property manager, saw the words "Inana Productions" under Employer for the both of them, and knew immediately who their boss was. Bobby let it slide, he must have figured that lightning couldn't strike twice: no way would this punk kid and the tiny woman he was with draw as much trouble as Bekka and I had. Bobby called me the next morning to learn more about the two prospective tenants. I attested to their quiet living, intelligence, and moral fiber. Bobby asked me what they did for Inana. I laughed.
I said, "Bobby, it's a porn studio. How much detail do you want?"
"Oh yeah," said Bobby. "Um, never mind."
Bobby was not happy with me or Bekka. Apparently our eviction had been the result of no less than twelve notices to the property management company saying, "Either they go or I do!" Our three month lead time in the eviction --- under rental law, they need to provide a minimum of three months when evicting without cause --- was still too much for half of those people. The creepy-looking people who had the hot rod and never seemed to sleep weren't going, so they would. Staring at seven vacancies, Bobby panicked and let in the first people to apply. Big mistake. Three were beer-swilling, brawling, unbathed, unrepentant white trash, three were constantly late with their rent, getting further and further behind until they finally just skipped out in the middle of the night. The last one conducted every single financial transaction in his life with stolen credit cards. He went off to jail $2100 behind on his rent.
"So you're saying these two kids are okay, huh?" Bobby asked me suspiciously.
I said, "Well, Sonny is nineteen. This is him leaving the nest. His parents are a mess, I've met them, and he just wants to get someplace calm and quiet. What information did Dawn give you?"
"Well, under her housing history, she put down a few addresses in Modesto, and under the most recent she didn't give an address, she just wrote 'PCE 427.' And that she was there for about a year. That's not, like, a jail ID, is it?"
I chuckled grimly down the line. "No, that's a license plate. She was living in a 1975 Oldsmobile in Ocean Beach. As you can imagine, being on the streets that long taught her to not stir up trouble or attract attention to herself. She's someone else who wants quiet. My hunch is that she will tiptoe around, for fear of being considered a nuisance and getting evicted."
Bobby sneered, "Speaking of evicting nuisances, where are you and Bekka staying now?"
"Actually, we're homeowners. We found a lot on Neptune, a space where a house had burned down, and built a custom home. We're on the bluff right over the beach.."
"And how did you pull that off?"
I laughed. "Bekka and I have had a lot of good fortune in our careers over the last nine months. Ever heard of a porno movie called 'Bewitched/'"
"Yeah, I heard of.... Wait, that was you?" exclaimed Bobby.
"Yep, along with 'Rocker Girls,' 'Dangerous Desires,' and 'Temporary Pleasures.' I keep writing and producing these porn features, pulling the handle, and getting three cherries. Whatever me and Bekka are doing, we're doing it right. People can't get enough of Inana Productions video."
Bobby sighed down the line and said, "Okay, listen. You say these two are going to be loyal employees of yours --- doing whatever it is they're doing --- and that they're not going to party or tear the place up. Fine. Tell them to come in this afternoon to sign the rental agreement. They'll need $2300, for first and last month's rent, plus a cleaning deposit. Their rent is $850 per month, due on the first. How many vehicles do they have?"
"One each," I said. "Dawn has her Oldsmobile, and Roa-- Sonny has a '78 Mustang, one of the real dogs. Dawn is currently driving Bekka's Plymouth, as the Olds is in the shop."
"Okay. Yeah, they're in, so long as they got the money. Tell you what though, Lenny, if they're fuck-ups or they wreck stuff, I'm coming after you. Not them, you."
"I'm not worried. You'll see them around 5:30, bearing an Inana Productions check for $2300. I'm sure they'll be doing their darnedest to move in over the weekend. What unit are they getting?"
"5A," said Bobby.
"That's our old unit," I pointed out. "Small world, eh?"
We said our goodbyes and hung up. At lunchtime Dawn and Roach came downstairs, sniffing around the office in hopes I'd smoke a bowl with them. I loaded the pipe and broke the good news. They were relieved and ecstatic. I pointed out to Roach that he had a lot of stuff to move --- his room, plus the stuff I was giving to them --- so if he could, he'd need to wrangle up a truck from somewhere. No way was I tying a sofa to the roof of any of my vehicles.
"The dudes at the stripping yard have a twenty foot Iveco box van. We should be able to do everything in one go Not everything in my room is coming with me, some of it's getting stored, some of it's getting junked. Like, I'm not gonna put up show flyers on the walls of the new place, it's too nice for that, and I'd just as soon have people think adults live there. Anyway, lemme call down to National City and see if they'll let me borrow the Iveco."
I pushed the phone towards him. He dialed a number from memory, then said, "Hey, it's Roach. Lemme talk to King.... Hey, King? Roach. Listen, do you think I could borrow that Iveco box on Saturday? I'm moving out of my house.... No, no conflict, it's just time to leave the nest, you know? Me and a friend from my other job got an awesome place in Encinitas.... Actually, a her. Dawn.... What? Dude!... Of course we work together, it's unavoidable. You know what I'm doing, and she's the fluff girl.... I'll tell you some other time.... (*sigh*) Look, um, it's her job to, uhh...."
Dawn suddenly snatched the phone away from Roach. "Hi, this is Dawn, who is this? Hello, King. I'm the fluff girl. It's my job to get men hard and keep them hard. I use my mouth. Basically, I sit around all day watching other people fuck and occasionally suck some dick. Do you understand my job now?... Well, easy work, good pay, and all the free breath mints I can eat.... Let me hand you back to Roach now, goodbye."
Dawn turned to me and said, "You're a bad influence on me. It's not normally like me to give people any lip."
"Yes, but wasn't it cathartic?" I smiled.
Roach firmed things up with his other boss and hung up. Then he and Dawn headed to Carl's Jr. for a celebration lunch. I sat and reflected that I'd seen Dawn smile more in the past two days than she had in the previous five. I hoped that meant she was shedding her protective outer coating.
Around eleven on Monday morning Gina interrupted our first read-through to let me know there was a Matthew Golan on the phone and he insisted it was important. I went to my office and picked up. The voice on the other end sounded winded.
"Mr. Schneider? This is Matt Golan, Time. I'm going to be running rather late, my car just caught on fire in El Toro. It's toast. I've got to get it taken care of, then wrestle with my insurance company, then get a rental car. With a bit of luck I can be there by five. Will that work?"
I said, "It depends on how long people are willing to stick around just to talk to a reporter. Everyone has a new script to study. I'll hang around until you get here, along with Becky and Skye. We'll go to my place and have a couple beers, sounds like you could use them, and go get some dinner. Oh, our friend Boss will be joining us, he's going out with Skye. All right?"
"Fine, fine. Okay, the tow truck is here, I've got to go. I'll call you if I think I'll be any later."
"Okay, ciao." (*click*)
When I returned to the read-through, Bekka and Gayla asked if everything was okay. I said, "That was the reporter from Time. His car just immolated itself, so he probably won't be here until around five. If you had anything important you wanted to say to him, you'll have to stick around."
There was a lot of glancing back and forth. While the presence of a reporter from Time was flattering, hanging around and killing time until he arrived didn't sound like fun. Maybe a reporter from Newsweek would be less trouble, we'd just have to find out. We completed the read-through and ordered Chinese food, our first script day tradition.
Hunching over her General Tso's chicken as though someone might try to take it away, Dawn was quizzing Eddie The Jew. "Nine inches, huh? Wow. How did that happen?"
"I have no clue," said Eddie. I've been considering asking my male relatives if they're packing a lot of weight in their pants, but I'm not sure how to phrase it. With my career, Passover was uncomfortable enough this year. Personally, I think that when I was first starting puberty, I angered a vengeful god. In my head I was lusting after schicksa girls during my Bar Mitzvah, and my rabbi had pork chops for lunch that day. Oy, what a mess."
"So I heard you were doing gay porn before this."
"Sort of. I was doing solo shoots for Man Crush studios, where it was just me and a camera, the camera recording the action as I jerked off. No interaction with other men, so no risk of HIV, if that's what you're worried about.
Dawn said, "No, what I was thinking was that you'd completely shifted your sexual orientation somehow, when you left there and came here. I was going to ask how to do it, I'd be a much happier person if women turned me on. I'd be Dawn, the pocket-sized dyke."
"You wouldn't need to adjust your orientation to switch jobs," said Eddie. "There are plenty of guys doing gay for pay. They have the power to get hard in any situation. And wouldn't you going butch affect your job performance here?"
"Just because I'd turned lez wouldn't mean I'd forget how to suck a dick. I just wouldn't like dicks anymore. Speaking of dicks, do you ever get busy or pass out getting your dick hard? I heard John Holmes could only get it up all the way if he was lying flat on his back. In most of his movies, he was actually at half mast, but his dick was so big nobody caught on."
Eddie chuckled at this. "No, I can get it up without blacking out. I guess that five inch difference betwwn me and John Holmes makes the difference. Given the amount of coke the guy did, I'm amazed he could get any action out of his putz at all."
Bekka swept up and said, "Eddie, my little matzo ball, let's start running lines now. You and I spend a lot of time in one-on-one conversation in this flick, so let's get it nailed down. I loathe cuts in the middle of scenes."
Dawn held up her copy of the script and said to Bekka, "Lenny was saying that Id need to memorize this entire thing. Was he serious?"
Smiling, Bekka said, "You don't need to memorize it, but you pretty much will anyway. You're the script girl, you'll be reading every single line of dialogue over and over, not just one part. Just from the constant repetition, you'll have this sucker down pat."
Across the room, Donna and Jackie were trying to coach Rita out of her barrio accent. Rita had a total of seven lines in 'Stroke of Luck,' but was insistent on not sounding like a Mexican homegirl when she spoke them. "This is muy importante.... Shit! There I go again! It's important to me that I don't sound like a damn spic when I do my scene. I need to sound like the other witches."
Jackie said, "Don't sweat it if there's still a trace. Rio still has her Brazilian accent after all these years, and nobody gives it any thought."
"But I embarrassed by my accent! I sound like a chingaso lowriding gang-banger. It no work in this movie."
"Then we'll coach you on your pronunciation every chance we get. I know you can nail a measly seven lines sounding American," said Donna.
In the kitchen, Chip and Dale bickered like the married couple they were. "I don't see why we have to reprise the same characters we played in the last movie," Dale grumbled.
"Because we'll be recognized," said Chip. "Everybody will remember us as the two loser frat boys from the first film, and be confused when we don't act like them. Be glad Lenny brought the characters back. If he hadn't, we'd be on the sidelines for five weeks, bored and with no income.... Unless you feel like commuting to Van Nuys, to work at one of Angel's other studios."
"We'd get a damn cheap motel room, like we did last time. And the only way to get decent money out of Van Nuys is to work for Dirty Angel Studios. I can't hack being tied up, or having my balls put in a vice, or whatever."
"Oh! And who was it that was telling me, 'Oh, go ahead and work for Dirty Angel, they fake all that stuff.' Then why does their office have the numbers for the local ambulance services posted front and center above the phone?"
"Don't bitch at me. All three straight studios only paid $150 per shot. Dirty Angel was offering $800. Hey, we could do a little work for Man Crush."
"Um, no. I'm still quite comfy in my closet, and so are you, don't lie. Besides, would Man Crush accept us showing up and saying, 'We want to work as a couple.' They could split us up and stick us with old leather faggots who smell like Astroglide and feet."
I sat in my office scarfing down my food, Fang playing on the boom box. Small Steve came in and parked on the sofa. "Calm Steve is talking about quitting," he announced.
"Again?" I asked. "He still saying he's gonna make the move up to LA and work for one of the studios? We heard this two months ago."
"He's saying he's bored, and wants to work, and I quote, for someone legitimate."
I sighed. "Well, shit. We're about to start work on a new feature, that should keep him amused for a few weeks. And as far as my legitimacy goes, I'll point out that his paychecks don't bounce, the lights stay on, and we never run out of video tape. Anything beyond that is none of his concern. So is there any way in particular that I'm being illegitimate?"
"Well, you promoted Rita and installed a new fluffer on a whim, that irritated the hell out of him. I know you, Lenny. You found this Dawn chick as a stray, and invited her in. Somehow you convinced her that being a fluff girl was better than the situation she was in, and maybe it is. I think Steve feels you spend a lot of time acting without thinking, and it's only through good luck that you haven't been bitten in the ass by it."
"Except things were thought through. It had been six weeks since Rita passed her interviews, and we still had her fluffing because we couldn't replace her. Lo and behold, I found Dawn at the Roberto's in Ocean Beach early one Saturday morning. I learned a few things about her within the first three minutes of conversation. First, she's a bigger tweaker than me and Bekka combined. Second, she was living in her car and needed all the help she could get. And third, she's a pathological cocksucker. Those last two were the reasons I offered her the job, it was too perfect. She'd get a comfortable income for doing something she liked doing anyway. She's already in her own place, her and the new stunt-cock Roach got a place together in Bekka's and mine old complex. I saw a solution to a problem, and I grabbed it. They're called 'executive decisions' for a reason."
"A pathological cocksucker?" Small Steve asked.
"It seems to be her way of making friends with dudes, or at least a way to get them to not treat her like shit. She offered to blow me if I got her high, that and her bumming a smoke was how we met. She literally cannot believe her good luck, $500 a day for some intermittent dick-sucking and reading a script over and over. Her and Roach owe me some money for their move-in at Olivehurst, but that's no big deal. They're both overjoyed by the money they're seeing, they'll pay me back."
Small Steve said, "Yeah, the arrival of Roach is another sore spot with Steve. Where did he come from, anyway?"
"Roach is the offspring of biker trash from Linda Vista," I explained. "Roach is nineteen, holds a shady job at an auto wreckers in National City, and struck me as having a few brain cells to rub together. Him and Jane spent a weekend in bed together. I caught a glimpse of what he's packing between his legs and asked him if he had good control over it. He said yes, so I offered him the opportunity to take the interviews, and you know yourself that he did great, even though we put him with Sue the man-eater for his video interview. And to be honest, I see a lot of my younger self in him. He feels directionless, but doesn't know what to do about it. Shit, you know I got my lucky break when Rick asked me to become the still photographer. So maybe I figured I could provide Roach with his lucky break. He doesn't need to stay a stunt-cock. Hell, start training Roach on the cameras during off time. Him and me could replace Calm Steve if he does bolt, at least until we find another cameraman."
"Think you can talk him out of the mohawk? Yeah, he's a stunt-cock, the camera never strays above his rib cage, but he'll never be a steady performer with his hair like that."
"Oh, the hair is only one problem," I chuckled. "The poor kid has a face like a jar full of smashed assholes. He can never play romantic leads, he can never play anyone who's supposed to be clean-cut.... He may be mired playing cops and criminals and random tough guys."
Random tough guys. Tough guys, and tough girls. Something Jane had suggested a while back scratched at my brain. An idea for a movie. A post-apocalyptic tale, sort of like The Road Warrior.
A couple dozen switches in my head all clicked at once. I sat bolt upright. I had a new movie, and it was going to be awesome. I barked at Small Steve, "Dude, I just had a brainstorm. Get out, I got work to do. Start the read-through without me, I'll be along in a bit, I've gotta get this idea written down. Hee hee, Roach can't lose his mohawk. He'll need it, he's gonna be the male lead in our next movie. And holy shit is this one gonna be fun to make!"
Small Steve stared at me. "What the hell are you on about?"
I grabbed the Macintosh keyboard and slid it in front of me, typing quickly. To Steve I said, "Okay, we're doing action and adventure next time around. Post-apocalyptic wasteland, everybody scavenges, To scavenge you need to be mobile, so there's all sorts of weird pieced-together cars around, like in Road Warrior. Becky Page is a pirate queen, with a band of mostly female pirates. They pillage for everything they want, including men. They take away men to sexually exploit for a while, then turns them loose. The pirate queen has a problem. Sex with her is so intense that every man who spends the night with her loses his mind, is turned into a giggling zombie, a mess.
"The pirate band come across a solo scavenger --- Roach --- and his hot rod. They capture him. Becky decides he'll be her next victim. She takes him into her lair, but the next morning, he's fine. Becky has finally found a man who can match her. She is overjoyed. Roach escapes in his hot rod. The pirate band pursues him, eventually capturing him. Becky offers him everything if he will become a pirate. Roach asks Bekka to join him, it would be just the two of them. Becky considers, then takes him up on his offer, turning over the reins to another pirate. Becky and Roach drive off in the hot rod, happily ever after. The end. What do you think?"
Small Steve looked blankly across the desk. "You're crazy," he said. "A sex-loaded version of Road Warrior? What sort of budget are you talking about? Hell, where would we film it? Not a lot of wastelands around here."
"Ye of little faith," I grinned. "The budget would be at least three million. At this point Inana can afford it, and I'd want to use a helicopter for some of the filming. I know a few psycho mechanics who would love to build wild apocalypse cars. We'd probably need to hire stunt drivers, me and Bekka couldn't handle all the wheel work ourselves. So far as where to shoot, dude, have you ever been out in Imperial County? It's all varied types of desert, lots of barren isolated two-lane blacktop, mountains, sand dunes, abandoned housing tracts by the Salton Sea, a place called Slab City, just.... All kinds of space and places to make a post-apocalyptic adventure movie. God, we'll need to buy a shitload of sunblock, um,shit, we'll need motel rooms for cast and crew for two to three weeks...."
Small Steve shook his head and went out, being replaced almost immediately by Bekka. She grabbed a Marlboro and gave me a quizzical look as I banged away on the keyboard. I smiled up at her. "Baby, I've got a new role for you after we finish 'Stroke of Luck.' You're going to be a post-apocalyptic pirate queen, wreaking havoc and capturing virile men to exploit. Sex with you is so earth-shattering it literally drives men insane, you leave a trail of destroyed men behind you. Then you meet one who is your match, you don't break him. He escapes, you and your pirates chase, and get him back. He doesn't want to be a pirate, instead asking you to join him. You accept, leaving your pirate band. The last long shot of the movie is of you and the man laughing and having sex on a blanket in the middle of the desert. And Roach will play the male lead. It'll be like Road Warrior, only better."
Bekka smirked at me and said, "Now I know why Small Steve just had such an annoyed look on his face. I'm guessing this project will be expensive, have a miserable production schedule, and all production will take place in one hellhole or another, if you're going for the Road Warrior vibe. Do I win a kewpie doll?"
"Minimum three million, four weeks for production, and Imperial County. We'll make the first hardcore adventure movie. See, most of your pirates are women, so they capture men and exploit them for a while, eventually letting them go again. The men in the pirate band were kept, to be used as concubines. You can't touch them, you'd destroy them and anger your pirate band. I haven't decided the how or why of you breaking any man that you have sex with. It may just be such an intense experience with you that their minds shatter. You're a real life succubus. When you capture Roach, and he doesn't break, you are overjoyed. You get to have your own personal concubine. But he's a scavenger, not a pirate. He gets his hot rod back and escapes. The pirate band chases him and recaptures him. But you've finally found something you like more than being a pirate queen. You can have a mate, forever. That's why you take him up on his offer to run away with him. Deep down you've been lonely."
"Roach? Really? He's only nineteen. Just doing a loop with him made me feel like some cradle-snatching older woman."
I said, "Roach is perfect for the role. Let's face it, the poor bastard already looks like some sort of post-apocalyptic scavenger. He's in great shape, which also helps. No, Inana has no other male performer who could pull off the job as your adversary. Everybody else are all too pretty."
"Where do the vehicles come from?" asked Bekka. "I'm guessing you want wild looking combat hot rods, like in Road Warrior."
"That's the vibe I'm gonna go for, yeah. And we can round up enough weirdo mechanics to assemble these vehicles. Ooh, that's another detail, we'll need a couple car carriers to transport our completed apocalypse hot rods. I doubt any of them will be street legal."
Bekka came to my side of the desk and leaned on one shoulder. She said, "Lenny baby, don't get too happy about this being your next project. To be honest, there's a high likelihood of Angel saying no. Three million dollars? For what is supposed to be a porno movie? That's crazy. Keep your brain working in other directions, more sedate ideas."
I said, "Inana is rolling in money. Even spending four million on this project wouldn't phase us. Inana has plenty of greenback resources to where we should be able to take on a wild project and not worry about it. Personally, the only real downside is that during production, we'll have everybody connected to Inana living in motels in El Centro, and some of us will be there for up to four weeks. But dammit, it'll be worth it. There's gonna be some adventure and really wild shit happening, like when the pirate band is chasing Roach. But it will also have plenty of that patented Becky Page sex, plus lots of others going at it. This will have sex and action, and even romance towards the end."
"Hey, you don't need to sell me on it, I think it sounds groovy. I'm game. So I'm assuming that this land-locked pirate band is basically a fleet of different vehicles. What does the pirate queen drive?"
"She doesn't," I answered. "Her vanguard vehicle is an old hot rodded Dodge pickup truck, really square and boxy looking. It's got a cow catcher on the front, armor plates on the doors and over the wheels, just a really mean-looking ride. The pirate queen rides standing on the roof, sometimes jumping down onto the hood for a closer look at things. There is a single vertical pole poking out the top of the roof so the pirate queen has something to hold on to for balance."
"And how is she dressed?" asked Bekka.
I pondered. "Let's see.... Black leather bustier, dusty and covered with zippers. Leather utility belt holding tools, a large knife, and a pistol. A miniskirt that is really just a strategically-arranged rag. No underwear. Boots, but I don't know what kind.yet. She wears a chain around her neck, from which is suspended a single 30.06 cartridge. And she has Becky Page makeup, only done in two colors, blue and gray. Oh, and she has a cowboy spur on on of her boots."
Bekka gave me a dead-eyed look. "I just realized you intend to have me jumping around on the roof and hood of a moving pickup truck. I'm not sure I know the correct combination of drugs and booze that would make me willing to do that. Why not give the pirate queen a two-seater armored hot rod that she can tool around in? It can be missing the windshield, so all she has to do is step on the seat, the dashboard, the hood, and the roof, and she's ready to address her troops. Oh, and the chain around her neck also has a locket with a picture of a matronly older woman in it. She will open it and stare at it if she thinks she's alone."
"Okay. I can deal with that. I just thought about how expensive stunt doubles could be, not to mention the trouble of finding a Becky Page double. I'm sure we will need stunt men, though. Um, any particular two-seater in mind for the pirate queen's private ride? Me, I'd let some welding genius do radical reconstruction on an old Honda CVCC."
"Actually, I was thinking of using an MG. That would set her apart, it would be the one vehicle with a mutated sense of class."
I said, "No. This is post-apocalypse. MGs can't survive a hard frost, much less the end of times."
Bekka sat on the edge of the desk, crossed her arms, and considered me. She said, "So. What we're talking about is four weeks of living in the desert, no decent restaurants, dust, heat, what will certainly be a tight shoot schedule, uncomfortable costuming, and a nineteen year old male lead ugly enough to frighten small children, and I'll be having at least two fuck scenes with him. Oh, and this will be another boundary-breaking movie, something totally untried, which means it may be wholly rejected by fans and reviewers, causing us to not net dime one, which would cause Angel to never trust you again. What the hell, I'm in. I'll even help lobby Angel for approval of the budget."
"I don't think it will tank.... Although we may be somewhat alienating some of our fans. This is definitely gonna be a 'guy' movie. Gunfire and car chases and fucking, oh my. And let's face it, I'm going to be showing men being sexually victimized, in loving detail. A switch from the usual victimization of women, but still. All those post-feminist Women's Studies groups that idolize you may not cotton to such a display. Exploitation is exploitation."
Dawn stuck her head in the door and said, "They're ready." We went out to begin another read-through of the new script.