Pre-production ran smoothly. Everyone threw themselves into their parts. Rita was practicing talking like a white girl in conversation, with decent success. All three sound stages were dressed to our needs and according to the shoot schedule, all would be getting re-dressed as we went along. The city of Oceanside came through with the permits for our location shots, we'd be taking over a full block of a residential street for our massive group sex scene. I'd made it explicitly clear what we were doing, and the city didn't seem to mind: I think they were just overjoyed to get the fees. They didn't seem to mind aiding a porn studio in production, including providing a few cops to keep people out, so long as we came up with the cash.
On the following Thursday Bekka, Dawn, Roach, and myself hopped in the Falcon and rolled out to Santee to pick up Dawn's newly-completed Oldsmobile. Mitch was happy with the job he'd done, which meant the damn thing would be mechanically bulletproof. He'd had it repainted to its cream color, new vinyl on the roof, and new Michelin tires at each corner. "I got it bolted together better than them union bastards in Dearborn ever would have," said Mitch. "That little girl should be pleased."
On the freeway there, Roach considered the vehicle he was in: the obvious exhaust note, the hood scoop, the aftermarket instruments on the dash, the pistol grip shifter. "You guys really love your hot rods, huh?" he said. "You got the Plymouth, the Cutlass, and now this. Does this one really have a supercharger installed on it?"
"Sure does," said Bekka. "We don't have the room to fire it up right now, but we'll have to take you out late some night and show you what this thing is capable of, do a quick shot between home and San Clemente. It's a bullet."
"Naw,' I replied. "He got it back to factory spec. It'll be like driving a brand new car."
We pulled in Mitch's driveway and pointed towards the shop building, where the Delta was parked alongside. Dawn threw herself against the glass of the Falcon. "Is that really my car?" she asked.
We piled out. Mitch came out of the shop, can of Olympia in one hand, the other extended in greeting. I introduced him to Roach, simply saying he worked for me.
"So what are you doing for Lenny?" Mitch asked.
"Um, I'm what is called a stunt-cock, sir," said Roach. "Only part of me is ever on camera. I guess I'm doing okay, they seem happy with me."
"Roach is far too modest," said Bekka.. "You could uproot trees with his dick."
Dawn said, "Mr. Mitch, sir? Can I try driving my car?"
"Sure, little missy," said Mitch, reaching in his pocket. "Here's the keys, cruise it around a little bit. Tell me if I missed anything."
Dawn trotted over and got behind the wheel of the Olds. The engine caught immediately, the 350 motor making almost no noise whatsoever. She put it in Drive and went out onto the street. Roach asked Mitch, "So what all did you do to it?"
"Hoo boy," said Mitch. "Short answer is, I rebuilt the damn thing. You know cars, kid?"
Roach said, "I know which end of a wrench to hold."
"Well lemme tell ya...." And Mitch launched into the litany of repairs and corrections he'd made to the Oldsmobile. Roach nodded along, occasionally asking questions. After a few minutes Dawn rolled back in, getting out of the car with an expression that portrayed both joy and shock.
"I'm going to have to re-learn how to drive it," she said. "There's no play in the steering wheel. I kept twitching back and forth in my lane, because I'm used to having to make corrections in the steering, and now they don't need to be made."
Mitch said, "Come on, Roach, I'll show you some of the stuff I did. Little missy, you're coming along too, you're gonna learn all the things you need to check on a weekly basis on your car. Pop the hood for me."
The Oldsmobile's hood went up, exposing the now spotless engine bay and motor. Mitch alternated between explaining the different mechanical bits of wizardry that had been performed to Roach, and pointing out how and where to check fluid levels to Dawn. Roach explained that he and Dawn lived together, so he would make sure she stayed on top of the maintenance of the car. Mitch said there was a brand new tire gauge in the glove box, and for Dawn to keep them inflated to thirty-two p.s.i. in all four.
And who should come putting up but Boss and Ellen. They were on their way to spend the weekend in Rosarita, on the Mexican side of the border, at a snazzy tourist hotel. Boss had installed a tall chrome "sissy bar" hand-hold on the back of his soft-tail for Ellen, and had their gear strapped to it. He wanted to check with Mitch about whether he needed Mexican insurance on his bike.
"Yeah, stop in San Ysidro and get it," said Mitch. "Keep that Mexican fuzz off you, if they decide to give you a hassle. Just get it for the number of days you'll be down there. Are you gonna be cruising at all down there?"
Boss said, "Some. We're gonna go to dinner at a restaurant in Ensanada tomorrow night, a place Gary suggested. Maybe just go exploring a little. Why?"
"Get a bottle or two of octane boost," Mitch said. "That Mexican gas is only about eighty-six octane, it won't hardly fire up your putt."
"Point taken. So what's this y'all workin' on?"
"Project I just finished for this girl here, a rebuild. Got it back to showroom condition. Dawn, this here is Boss."
"How ya doin', honey?" said Boss, stepping to her and putting out his hand. Dawn stared up at Boss, aware of the nineteen inch difference between them. She silently shook hands with him, then literally hid behind Roach, peering out from around his back. Ellen snickered at this, going over and assuring Dawn that the monstrous biker only liked to eat blondes in a good way.
Boss took in Roach and said, "I git the feelin' I know you from somewhere, but I can't think where from."
"I know," said Roach. "My dad tried to rip you off about four years ago, when I was fifteen."
Boss stared a little bit more and started laughing. "That's right! Your old man is Willis? Lives in Linda Vista?"
"Yeah, that's him."
"So what's he up to these days?"
Roach stared at the ground. "Oh, you know. Working enough to stay eligible for unemployment. Tweaking. Living on Burgie and government cheese."
Considering the young man in front of him, Boss asked, "How 'bout you? How you doin'?"
"I just moved out of my parents' house a couple weeks ago. It sucked there. Me and Dawn got a nice place in Encinitas. I work for Lenny now, so does Dawn." I noticed Roach was keeping his chin up and meeting Boss's gaze, trying to not show fear.
Boss stepped up and clapped Roach on the shoulder. "Well, good. You'll be fine if you're workin' for Lenny, he takes good care of his people. Lissen, we wanna be across the border before dark. C'mon Ellen, let's saddle up. See you around, kid. Mitch, Bekka, Lenny, talk to you later. Nice meetin' you, Dawn."
Ellen ensconced herself of the back of the Harley. Boss swung on, fired up, and took off, spinning his rear tire in the dirt. Roach slumped visibly. He fumbled out a cigarette and lit it. "Okay, I can breathe again," he said. "I knew who he was the moment he got off his bike."
Bekka said, "See? I told you he wouldn't hold your father's sins against you. If you're hanging around Inana, and hanging around me and Lenny, you're sure to run across him, and now you know it'll be fine. Boss is a good guy."
Mitch invited us all into the shop for a beer. I wrote him out a check, plus $500 cash as a tip for a job well done and ahead of time. Dawn thanked him profusely for his work, the car ran better now than it ever had. When our cans were light, I proposed heading back towards North County, going to Evelyn's for dinner, if that was all right with Roach and Dawn. Fine with them. Out of necessity, Roach had learned to be a good cook, but was limited in scope. I suggested buying a crock pot and a cookbook to go along with it, he could prep dinner in the mornings, they would eat well at night. Both of them saw the wisdom in this. I used Mitch's phone to track down Jane, and told her to meet us at Evelyn's. She was at Lance's house, and said Vicky, Lance's mom, was saying she could have dinner there. Vicky was a huge proponent of home-cooked meals with the family. That worked.
After dinner I asked Dawn and Roach to do us a favor and go to the mansion and put the Plymouth in the garage. We now had a spare hot rod, the cell phone having been transferred into the Falcon. They agreed to do so. Leaving the restaurant, we slumped down in the seats of the Oldsmobile and passed the glass pipe around several times. Taking a hit, Roach expressed his understanding of why his father thought he could get away with ripping off Boss. "This is Boss's shit? Yeah, my dad was so high he thought he could get away with it. Dope clouds my dad's judgement. Good dope, even more so."
Bekka laughed at this. "Yeah, most people wouldn't think that big teddy bear of a biker was capable of altering the realities of so many people. But he does, and they beg for more."
Dawn said, "So he's responsible for Smiley Ecstasy, huh? How much does he make?"
"100,000 hits per week at this point," I said. "But that's going all over the West Coast. It's sought after. You can still get the imported Dutch stuff, it's cheaper, but everybody wants Smiley. Cosa Nostra thought they'd have the market cornered, but they weren't counting on wholesalers moving into Washington and Nevada and other places. If it had stayed in California, we'd rule the roost. But we're on top so far as demand goes. Everybody wants Smiley."
"How much shit does he make?"
"Thirty pounds a week, and all his wholesalers are in San Diego. How much they move out of area, I don't know. Boss considered dropping meth in favor of focusing entirely on MDMA, but the money from meth is too fast and too easy for him. He'll always move dope, he doesn't know how not to."
We went our respective directions. Arriving home, Bekka and I found Jane slouched on the love seat with an Anchor Steam in had. Kisses were distributed, then Jane said with a quizzical look, "You guys were at the studios all afternoon, right?"
"Then you went out to Santee to pick up Dawn's car, right?"
Jane frowned. "Okay. I thought so. Weird shit happened today, and Detective Ross thought you might be involved."
"What sort of weird shit?" I asked.
"Oh god," sighed Jane. "Ross was an hour late to dinner. What I caught --- and me and Lance were eavesdropping --- was that Ross was walking through the parking lot of the Safeway after responding to a robbery call that turned out to be bunk. He felt somebody grab his neck, everything went black, and the next thing he knows it's two hours later and he's behind the wheel of his car in the parking lot. He gets on the radio to dispatch, and they're pissed at him because he's disappeared. He says what's up, so they send him to the hospital to be checked out. They've gotta wait on blood tests, but he was perfectly healthy on first inspection. But Ross is sure he was snatched.
"Anyway, Ross and Vicky stop talking, so me and Lance throw ourselves in front of the TV. Ross comes in the living room and gets in my face, yelling, 'So where were Lenny and Bekka today?' I told him, you're wrapping up pre-production on the newest feature, why? He's all, 'Does he have witnesses?' I said, 'Yeah, probably at least eight, they were doing blocking, what's your problem?' He says, 'Your pimps had better be able to account for every second of their day today.' He pissed me off when he said that, so I said, 'Fuck you, Ross, don't call them pimps, don't start that shit again.' Vicky pulled him out of the room and came back after a little bit, saying something strange had happened to him that afternoon, and he promised to behave himself at dinner if I stayed. I told her that was fine, but I would not tolerate him insulting people I loved. Me and Lance went outside so I could smoke, and when we came back in Ross was watching TV, so we went to Lance's room. For once his mom didn't mind us being in his room unsupervised. Dinner was real quiet. We finished eating and I announced my plans to go home. I was getting up from the table and Ross says, 'I'll see the three of you in jail.' I asked, 'What for?' He says, 'You can't get away with kidnapping a cop in this country. I can see that none of you survive to arraignment.' Vicky slapped him and said, 'Jane, go home, my husband is distraught.' I got out of the house real quick. Lance didn't even walk me to the car."
"God damn," said Bekka.
I held up my hands. I said, "This is almost funny. Ross is a career cop, and he acts like we're the only enemies he's ever earned. There's plenty of people in this world that would like to hurt Richard Ross of the Encinitas PD. Maybe he should look at some of them. He better not start leaning on us. We're clean."
Bekka cuddled up next to me, Jane set herself down in my lap. "Don't let him worry you," said Bekka.
Jane stuck her tongue in my ear and said, "I'm sorry this news upset you. I'll bet if you came upstairs with me and Bekka, we could distract you."
The three of us went upstairs. Jane was right, they did distract me.
And for over a week, things were quiet.... Sort of. On Monday we started production on "Stroke of Luck." Up at 6:30, not home until nine. I lived with a warm glass pipe in one pocket. I insisted Bekka be a bit of a primadonna and not hang around shoots if she didn't have anything to do.... But she was the star, so she had something to do nearly every day. Besides, she kept reminding me, "I'm your fucking wife, and I'm going to be around to support you. Somebody's got to remind you to eat and occasionally stop moving."
The following Tuesday was the day of our big outdoor sex scene. Cars were stopped in the middle of the street and driven up on lawns, doors open. People were on the hoods of cars, in the street, and on the sidewalks sucking and fucking. We got a long panning dolly shot of this, and plenty of close-ups too. We tested everyone's endurance. The coven witches were present for this, desperately trying to end the chaos. My girls were troupers, volunteering to fluff if it came down to it. Our imported talent from LA were professionals, Angel had put them up in motels the night before so they'd be rested. They held their marks during cuts (of which there were plenty) and portrayed random people who had been driven to psychotic levels of lust. The households of the neighborhood had been bribed a hundred bucks to go to the mall for the day, see a couple movies or whatever. We wrapped around three. Me and Small Steve took the raw video back to Inana to see what we'd accomplished, and high-fived at our footage. This was something that no one in the business had ever accomplished.... Or probably even considered doing.
Gina stuck her head in Steve's office and said, "Lenny, Bekka is on line one. She says it's important." I picked up the handset and pushed the button.
"What's up, babe?" I asked.
Bekka said after a pause, "Ross just called. He sounded psycho, totally out of his gourd. He started yelling, 'You won, you and Lenny win, okay? Leave me alone!' I asked him what the hell he was talking about, and he just said, 'You ruined me, you win, leave me alone,' and hung up. Lenny, I'm scared, I've got my Colt sitting here on the coffee table, he sounds really unhinged. Please come home as soon as possible."
I inserted my own pause, then said, "Ten minutes. Hold tight. What did Jane take to school today?"
"Okay, that means she'll be hanging out with Lance. Call and tell her to head home. I don't want her in Ross's house, he may take his aggression out on her. Let me lock my office and I'll be home."
I put the handset down and stood up. Small Steve looked at me and said, "Trouble?"
"Possibly," I said. "My wife is scared."
Steve said, "Go. Go. I'll wrangle everybody when they get here. Leave me the cash for four facials, that's what those LA girls took today. Heh, they usually don't get that bonus."
I got in my desk and pulled out $800, handing it to Steve. I said goodbye and hustled out to the Fleetwood.
When I got home I found Jane wasn't there yet. I went upstairs and asked Bekka if she'd gotten a hold of her. "Yeah. Vicky is wound up too. Ross got fired today, but didn't say why. Jane wants to stay there until Ross gets home. If he's nuts, she wants to make sure the rest of the family is safe. She's got her pocket rod, and will protect Vicky and Lance and Haley. I'd suggest we go over there, but I think the sight of us would really push him over the top."
Just then we heard the sound of a Harley Sportster pull up and idle down underneath the house. Jane came trotting in a moment later, shedding her pack, leather, helmet, and gloves. She looked at me and said, "Bekka told you?"
"Yeah," I said. "What the hell is going on?
"I don't know, but it's bad. Ross got home, barely glanced at me, and went to his room with Vicky. I gave Lance a hug and took off. Ross didn't have his shoulder holster on, and Vicky says there's no gun in the house, so I was superfluous, Ross can't hurt his family. I guess they take your gun from you if you get fired."
"A wise move," I said. "Any idea why he got the sack?"
"No idea," Jane said. "Not a clue."
"But he blames us," said Bekka.
I lit a cigarette and sat back on the sofa. The switches were clicking in my skull. I got up and said to Bekka and Jane, "I need to make a call, private like. I'll be upstairs."
In the bedroom I dialed Angel. He was pleased to hear from me. "Lenny! How goes production? Everything all smooth?"
"Going just dandy," I said. "Listen, I just got some news. Remember me talking about that cop who was bugging me and Bekka and Jane? Seems he got fired today. He was rather upset about it. I can't imagine why he would have been fired, he was one straitlaced bastard."
From Angel's end, there was silence, then a quiet demonic chuckle. "Oh Lenny, you'd be surprised at what people, even straitlaced cops, can get up to in private. And have pictures taken of their activities. It's a sin and a shame."
I said, "Fucking unpack it, Angel."
Angel said, "I can only speak in hypothetical terms. Now, say there is a nice small white-bread town in Southern California, upper middle class, fairly conservative. The sort of place where cops are considered to be civic leaders, especially those in plain clothes. Not the sort of place that would tolerate scandal.
"Well --- strictly hypothetically --- what if the brass of the police in this nice conservative town were to receive eight by ten color photos of one of their plainclothes officers in bed with two prostitutes, one of them very male and obviously underage, some twink stud hustler? Lenny, I've seen a lot of pornography in my life, much of it illegal, and my God, what this hypothetical cop is getting up to would disgust even me. This is the sort of thing even your performers couldn't live down. And the hypothetical cop is very much an active participant in it all.
"So these photos arrive with a note suggesting maybe it's time for our hypothetical plainclothes cop to move on. The sender is so big-hearted he or she even includes job flyers for other local jurisdictions that are looking for patrolmen. Places like Imperial Beach and Escondido. But if our hypothetical plainclothes cop is still on the job in a week, the photo negatives go to the paper, and more prints go to the local news stations.
"Lenny, I don't have a fucking clue as to why Richard Ross of the Encinitas, California police department got fired today. How would I know that? I'm a legitimate businessman up in Los Angeles. What could I have to do with that?"
I looked over to the sliding glass door that opened out onto the Pacific. I'd been feeling myself growing colder and colder, but the slider was closed. "Jesus Christ, Angel...." I said.
"It seems to be something you keep forgetting, Lenny. You and Bekka, and by extension Jane, are in the fucking mafia. The family takes care of its own. Nobody fucks with us, least of all small town cops with shit attitudes. Capiche?"
He cleared his throat. "Okay, so long as we're clear on that. Now, why don't you tell me how today's shoot went. You had all my studs and sluts from up here on loan to you, today was a big day. After you tell me about that, you and Bekka and Jane go have dinner at that fish restaurant you all like so much. Have some drinks, you need to relax, you work hard. So tell me about today."
I gave Angel the details about the shoot, assuring him our extras had behaved admirably. When I was done, we said our goodbyes and I went back downstairs and announced we were going to the Seafarer for dinner that night.
Jane said, "Aw, I was gonna make enchiladas! You're actually home at a decent hour. Why are we going out?"
"Because Angel said to," I answered. "And I never want to not take Angel's advice."