I drove the Falcon back south solo, placing Jane rather unwillingly in the Fleetwood with Bekka. The reason for this was simple: I was planning on breaking a shit-ton of traffic laws in an effort to test the limits of the new hot rod, and didn't want to set a bad example. That, and if I got pulled over, I wanted it to be a short and simple exercise. Jane was at the age where mouthing off to cops seems like a good idea.
The supercharger continued to impress me. It poured horsepower onto the road. It also poured gasoline into the engine at an alarming rate. Running with the supercharger on, you could practically watch the gas gauge drop. Just to be safe, I stopped in Irvine and re-filled the tank. Even without the supercharger, though, the beast had plenty of grunt. The car was perfectly happy ripping through traffic at ninety-five, responding to all input cleanly.
After I was past the immigration checkpoint near San Onofre, I fired the supercharger back up and let it rip. I had the speedometer pegged at 120. At high speed, the motor had a sharp exhaust note, not to mention the whirring sound off the supercharger. I dodged through traffic like it was standing still all the way into Oceanside, where I shut down and returned to a semi-legal speed.
Headlights in the rear view were approaching fast. I pounded the wheel, sure I'd picked up the CHP..... But the headlights were round, not square. I watched the approach with curiosity. Presently a 7-Series BMW slid up in the lane to my left, and began pacing me. Fuck him, I thought. I had better things to do. He goosed his throttle a couple times, then stomped it and took off. I let him go. There would be plenty of time for racing yuppie dickheads.
At the mansion I opened one of the garage doors and turned on the lights, anchoring the Falcon in a space. For the sheer exercise of it I went inside and checked my answering machine. It blinked. I hit PLAY and listened. It was Eddie.
"Lenny, please say you'll check this damn machine. It's Eddie. Listen, me and Elspeth had a fight while we were partying in Tijuana, and she ditched me. I walked back across the border and right now I'm in a motel in San Ysidro. The problem is that Ella had all the money, who knows where she is, and I have no way to pay for this room. The bastards that run this place look like they'll stomp me if I try to welsh on the rent. Look, I need a favor, okay? Could you come down here and pick me the hell up, and pay for this damn room? I'm in the Star Brite Motel in San Ysidro, room 105. The number here is 555-8302, room 105. Call me as soon as you get this message, I'm in some deep shit. Later."
I sighed and dialed the motel. Eddie picked up on the first ring. "Lenny?" he asked into the receiver.
"Yeah, it's me, Eddie. So it sounds like your night went to shit, eh?"
"Yeah. I guess the fight was my fault. We were in one of the American bars on Revolucion. I was feeling bored and broke, and I had a deck of cards with me, so I began running a bit of Three Card Monte on the bar, fleecing drunk honkies. No big money, just ones and fives. And I purposely lost just often enough to make it look honest. I was just getting some beer money, you know? Ella freaked out on me. She was sure I'd either get jailed or stomped, or both. Started yelling about how she couldn't handle being with a compulsive swindler. I told her I'd quit as soon as I hit a hundred bucks, and that only pissed her off more. She slammed out of the bar, saying that if I tried to follow her she'd yell rape. I threw the cards in the trash and spent what money I'd made on beer and dinner. Then I started hoofing it towards the border crossing. I realized I didn't even have money to get on the trolley, so I found this motel. They took an imprint of my Visa card, but the damn thing is maxed out, I couldn't buy a fucking candy bar with the damn thing. So can you help me?"
I chuckled. "Not a problem, Eddie. I just got back from LA, and I'm waiting on Bekka to show up. We got a new car tonight, so we have two vehicles. As soon as Bekka and Jane get here, we'll head out. Where is this motel?"
"Hell, it faces the freeway, and is right at the border. Hold on...." The phone was put down briefly. "Okay, Lenny? You know how when you drive into Tijuana there's that big sign saying 'Last American Exit'? Take that exit. You'll be on a frontage street for the freeway. Come back north a block or so, and you can't miss it."
"Got it," I said. "It might be a couple hours before we're there, though. This new car is a rocket, and I had fun driving down here. I know I outran Bekka, by a long shot. We'll drive the new one down so you can check it out."
"That's cool. Thanks a lot, Lenny. I'll see you soon."
With time to kill, I fired up the Macintosh and logged on to the Becky Page Fans BBS, to see if there was any new gossip about my wife. Nothing much interesting.... Although I noticed a new pattern. There was a whole cadre of female college students, Women's Studies majors, who were espousing some deep philosophical thought to Becky Page. They were the ones who seemed to think there were messages ingrained into Becky's movies. Having written them, I could assure them there were not. Anyone replying to these posts and showing skepticism would be shouted down by the cadre, like a pack of howler monkeys. I figured I'd break the bad news to them when I was feeling a little more lively. On that subject, I pulled the glass pipe out of my suit jacket and took a few hits, in hopes of feeling more enthusiastic. No luck, I just felt restless.
I moved the Falcon back out of the garage, but left the door open, so as to park the Fleetwood when Bekka and Jane showed up. Five cigarettes later they arrived. I informed Bekka and Jane of Eddie's plight and our new plans for the night. They weren't enthusiastic.
I said, "If you want, I'll just drop you at home and I'll take care of this myself. It doesn't need to be a group excursion."
Bekka said, "No, there's no way I'm missing the opportunity to give Eddie shit. Running a hustle in a foreign country known for its corrupt law enforcement. Yeah, that was a good idea. The Tijuana jail doesn't have pay phones. If he'd pissed off the locals, Eddie could rot in jail for a long time."
"Maybe this will be a wake-up call for him," I suggested. "Eddie has to decide whether he loves being with Elspeth, or if he loves a good hustle. Personally, I think he gets a high off of running scams, he gets a serious buzz from his flim flam games."
We saddled up and headed out. It was a simple drive: I-5 south until you run out of California to be in. I spotted the motel from the freeway, and pulled into the lot moments later. I rapped on the door of room 105, heard bed springs squeak, then Eddie peered out at me through a one inch crack. Seeing it was me and the girls, he swung the door open wide and invited us in.
"Thank god it's you," Eddie exclaimed. "Those bastards in the office here tried running my plastic and found out it's worthless. I promised them I'd pay for the room by one a.m., and then I'd be leaving. They know I arrived on foot, they don't know what to think of me."
"Well, let's go give them their money," I said. "Then we'll get you home. Girls, we'll be right back."
We stepped inside the office and were met by three steely gazes. The Mexicans who ran the place didn't know what to think of a punk rocker in a tailored three-piece suit. And they looked rather displeased with Eddie.
Eddie said, "Hey guys, we're gonna pay for my room and I'm splitting. By the way, the toilet keeps running."
One of them commented to the other two, "Estoy asombrado. Este hombre tiene un amigo en el mundo!" (I'm amazed. This man has a friend in the world!) The other two burst out in laughter.
I gave a small smile and said, "Voy a suponer que lo han tratado bien? O debería enojarse con usted?" (I will assume you have treated him well? Or should I become angry with you?)
Without looking at me, the heavyset one in a Hussong's Cantina t-shirt said, "Trouble follows that man, I can feel it. $26.40 for the room."
I handed over $30 and got my change back. I asked for four quarters, change of a dollar. I handed the coins to Eddie and said, "Why don't you show them what you can do with loose change."
Eddie smiled and began juggling the four quarters. This was observed with vague interest. The oldest of the three commented, "Un payaso." (Clown.)
Eddie's smile grew wider and he said, "No, un brujo!" (No, a wizard!) He caught the coins and set them on the palm of his left hand, arranged in a square. He stepped up to the three gents and said, "Now, what I have here are four coins, legal tender, American quarter dollars. Perfectly normal coins. You can pick them up, examine them, taste them, anything you like. But these coins are special, as they prove just how bad with money I am. I am terrible with money, I can't hold onto it, not even when it's in my hand. I mean, look at this...."
Eddie brought his right hand down on top of his left, covering the coins. He then turned his right hand palm up, as if opening a book. One of the quarters was gone.
"See? I let the money out of my sight for just one second...." He covered the coins again, and another one disappeared. ".... The money just evaporates. So I try to keep it in a tight grip...." Eddie clenched his hands together. ".... But that only makes things worse. See?" He brought his hands apart, showing the remaining two coins were now gone, and both his hands were empty.
"I shouldn't bitch too much, though. I always seem to get my money back, somehow. Ow." Eddie reached down and removed one of his penny loafers. He turned the shoe over, dumping four quarters onto the counter. He picked one up and dropped it into the shirt pocket of an observer, then pulled the same coin out of his pants pocket.
"How'd you do that?" asked the heavyset one.
Eddie said, "I told you, I'm a brujo. I can't let out the secrets, they'll throw me out of the union if I do."
"We could use that knowledge," said the older one. "We could get noisy barrachos to disappear." This was greeted with laughter.
"Lemme see those quarters a minute," said the heavyset one. Eddie handed them over. The Mexican stared at them, tapped them on the counter, even sniffed them. Then he had an idea. He reached in a drawer and pulled out a Sharpie, and marked each quarter differently: one a square, one a triangle, one an X, one a bar. He slid the coins across to Eddie and said, "Can you still work your magic, brujo?"
"Everyone's a doubter," said Eddie. "Tell you what. I'll make it so the magic happens in your hands. I'll use the coin with the X. Put your left hand out, and hold the coin. Okay, now cover your left hand with your right. The coin still there? You sure? Maybe you should check." The Mexican took his hands apart, and was stunned to see his left palm was empty.
"Looking for this?" asked Eddie, who reached forward and pulled a coin from behind the Mexican's belt buckle. Flipping it over revealed an X marked on Washington's face.
The Mexican's eyes grew huge. "But.... It was in my hand. I could feel it! Dios mio, you are a brujo."
Eddie held out his hands. "If I were really a brujo, don't you think I'd have conjured up the money for the room somehow, instead of calling my boss all the way up in La Costa and begging him to rescue my happy ass? And I would have turned my girlfriend into a frog, put her in my pocket, and not gotten ditched in Tijuana to begin with."
"What do you do for a living?"
Me and Eddie both burst into laughter at this question. I said, "He's in human relations."
Eddie grinned and said, "If you really want me to, I'll tell you, but you won't believe me. Do you want to know what I do for a living?"
"Spit it out, brujo."
"I get paid to fuck beautiful women. I earn a living with my putz. I'm not getting rich, but I'm comfortable, and I have lots of leisure time."
The Mexican said, "You're right, I don't believe you. What the hell sort of gig is that?"
I said, "He's got a nine inch dick, so he makes porn videos. Pretty straightforward, actually. I'm the guy who produces them."
The heavy Mexican looked at us both. "I think you're both nuts. Let's just say this has been charming, we appreciate the diversion, but we have work to do. Good night. Leave the key on the bed when you go out."
We stepped back out of the office and went back to the room. Bekka was standing in the open doorway smoking a cigarette. "So what the hell took so long?" she asked.
"We had to convince the three dudes running this place that Eddie is a master of the dark arts," I explained. "Thus, he should not be trifled with."
"Well, let's go, me and Jane are both hungry. We didn't get enough dinner. Let's hit the Roberto's in Ocean Beach, we can make fun of the tweakers."
Jane was sprawled on the bed watching TV. "We leaving now?" she asked.
"Sure are, pet. Come on, we're gonna go eat at the world's craziest taco stand."
As requested, Eddie left the room key on the bed, and we closed the door behind us. Eddie balked when we walked up to the Falcon. "Yoicks, another hot rod? What is it with you two that you've gotta get everywhere at a thousand miles an hour?"
Bekka gave an evil grin and said, "And this thing is a rocket. It's got a supercharger, and it launches like you wouldn't believe. Don't worry, Eddie, you'll be safe in the back seat. If traffic is light Lenny can give you a little demo of our new toy."
"Where did you get this one from?" asked Eddie.
"It was a gift," I explained as I fired the engine. "It's replacing a nearly identical one we used to have that got blown up. You don't like hot rods, Eddie?"
"Hot rods are the antithesis of Jewish logic. Us Jews like Volvos and Lincolns. Sedate, reliable, comfortable cars. We like our cars the same way we like our wives. Well cushioned, and you don't have to worry about anyone stealing it. To the Jews, driving a hot rod would be like if I walked around with my putz hanging out all the time. You're bragging, you're showing off, and that's bad for the soul."
"Do Jews like Cadillacs?" I asked.
"Oh sure. All that room, and a ride smooth enough to perform a briss in the back seat? Yeah, Jews like Cadillacs. We would like Mercedes Benz, but we're still a little sensitive about owning cars built by the Germans. Why do you ask?"
"Because I can get you in a new Cadillac at factory cost, and guaranteed financing. My friend Rico owns Carelli Cadillac up in Anaheim, and he seems to be interested in having anyone who works for Inana at the wheel of a new Caddy. You should get a new Cadillac, Eddie. Your mother would be so proud."
Eddie sneered, "My mother bursts into tears and shrieks 'Why, God, why?' at the very mention of my name these days. During one of our scheduled arguments about six months ago I told her exactly how I earn a living. If I don't croak off from the hundreds of STDs, God will smite me. Not for my career, but for having embarrassed my mother so thoroughly. Yes, schtupping beautiful women has brought shame upon my family. According to Mom and Dad, I've fallen so far from faith that it's a surprise my foreskin hasn't grown back."
I piloted us into Ocean Beach. At the time, Ocean Beach was overrun with tweakers. How and why they all settled in one area, I'll never know. But they did. It was like some grand social experiment to determine the affects of long-term amphetamine use. There were pedestrians out twenty-four hours a day. Empty dope seals clogged the gutters. You'd see paranoids walking down the street spinning 360s so they could see who was behind them. Almost everyone you spoke with stared at you a little too intently. Everyone walked everywhere, they had to because they'd taken their cars apart and forgotten how to get them back together. At the beach, frightening snaggle-toothed women would offer to suck your dick in exchange for a fat rail of speed. And they'd have takers. Ocean Beach positively vibrated with a collective brainless, directionless energy. Hobbies would be undertaken and discarded midstream; some took up collecting coins but got jammed up trying to alphabetize the pennies.
As meth addicts, what right did Bekka and I have making fun of the OB tweakers? Well, Bekka and I did things like sleep, and eat, and shower, and brush our teeth, and pay our bills. Dope may have been an intrinsic part of our lives, but it never seemed to pressure us. Maybe that's because we never ran out, I don't know. We also still knew how to have fun. The tweakers you'd see stomping around at two in the morning certainly looked like they were high as shit, but they didn't seem to be enjoying themselves. And Bekka and I were terrible. Fucking with tweakers is an easy thing to do, and her and I would sometimes go into OB around the same hour the bars closed and goof on people's heads. Spot a tweaker with obvious paranoia issues, walk up in his face, and loudly announce "You have FAILED!" just to see what his reaction will be. Usually panic. Or pass a tweaker on the sidewalk, and as you do, say, "You dropped something." Then get in a good position to spy on him or her as they scour the sidewalk and gutter for a half block looking for anything they might be missing. Well, it's not like we were interrupting people who were doing anything important.
It was into this sleep-deprived human zoo that I aimed our brand new hot rod. The Roberto's taco stand was a tiny structure containing a small kitchen and a cash register. Both people working gave the impression of not only having failed their ESL course, but set fire to the school. All dining was patio dining, on those cement picnic table combos that remind me of the furniture in psychiatric wards: one piece and immovable. At that late hour, the line to order was short, but there were plenty of people around, just.... Hanging out, smoking cigarettes, haggling over small amounts of money, trying to look casual as they stepped behind the stand to do more speed. Being there always reminded me that meth might make you talkative, but not necessarily friendly. I had no compunction with standing around with my jacket open and my Beretta showing. Let 'em think I was some sort of narco cop.
We placed our orders. We were order number 241. They were serving order 233. Everyone except Eddie lit cigarettes. I adjusted my position so I had a good view of the Falcon. Presently a skinny little thing with bleached hair sidled up to me. She looked about thirty, which meant she was probably twenty-four.
"Hey big money," she said, "could you spare a cigarette?"
"Sure, no problem." I handed her a Marlboro, and lit it with my Zippo.
"Are you a cop?" she asked.
"Because you have a gun, and how you're dressed. All formal. Like maybe you're a plainclothes detective or something. Why do you have a gun?"
"Why do you not have one?" I countered.
The tweaky girl giggled. "I can't have one. I kind of went crazy about two years ago and spent three weeks in a mental facility. It's the law, if you've been involuntarily committed for more than seventy-two hours, you can't own a gun. I'd only get in trouble if I did have one, anyways. You said you're not a cop, right? Do you like getting spun?"
"Is that an offer?" I asked.
Her eyes darted around. "Um..... No.... Actually, I was sort of hoping you maybe had some shit, I'm really dragging. I mean, I'm fun to get spun with. Like, you know I said before I'm kinda crazy? One of my forms of craziness is that I'm a nymphomaniac. When I get spun all I think about is sucking dick, it's really weird, to me it's the most awesome thing I could possibly be doing. So do you have any shit? I'll suck your dick if you do."
I said, "Okay, two things. First off, yeah, I have dope and am willing to share. Second, who are you? When the conversation turns toward me getting my dick sucked, I'd at least like a first name."
"I'm Dawn." She seemed to buzz with energy at the prospect of getting high.
"Well Dawn, you'll be smoking your dope tonight. You ever use a glass pipe?"
"Hell yeah. I like those things, your shit lasts longer. I always break mine, though."
"One other thing," I said. "So far as you sucking my dick goes, that may or may not happen. You'll need to ask permission from my wife, she's right over there. She may say yes, she may say no."
"I need to ask your wife?" Dawn gasped.
"Well.... We'll ask together. And don't worry, even if you sucking my dick is a no-go, I'll still get you high. Walk this way."
We approached Bekka, Jane and Eddie. Bekka gave me a questioning look in regards to my companion. I made introductions all around, then said, "Bekka --- or Becky --- Dawn has made me a proposition. If I get her high, she'll suck my dick. I'm going to get her high regardless, but I wanted your opinion on the whole dick-sucking thing. How do you feel about it?"
Bekka had morphed into Becky, and Becky now gave a lewd smile and said, "Only if I get to watch."
I turned to Dawn and said, "There you have it. So long as you don't mind an audience, sucking my dick is a go."
Dawn said, "I've never had a chick want to watch."
"In Becky's case, it's probably professional curiosity. I'm sure Jane will also be viewing, she is an incorrigible voyeur."
Dawn's eyes suddenly got even wider. "Oh my god, Becky Page? Are you really Becky Page? What are you doing here? What's up?"
Becky said, "Well, little girl, it really is me. At least I hope it is. And I'm here because I'm hungry. What brings you by?"
"You know, just hanging around. A friend gave me a line earlier, and right now I'm in that shitty zone where you're no longer high, but you also know you can't sleep. I didn't feel like sitting in the car, so I walked up here."
"Why would you sit in your car?" I asked.
"Because it's home," said Dawn.
"Um, yeah, I live in my car. It's a 1975 Olds Delta, so it's plenty big enough for me. What little I own is in the trunk. I have people who let me use their showers, and other people feed me off and on, and I know people who are always willing to chop me a line. I'll go to the Safeway in Point Loma and spare change all afternoon and pick up some money that way. And I know this married guy who gives me twenty bucks three times a week to jack him off. He doesn't want his dick sucked. So, um, yeah. I'm doing okay."
"All right then!" said Becky. "You have solved a lot of problems at once. Girl, you are coming home with us, where you will sleep in a real bed for a couple nights. This way you're not blowing my husband out by the dumpster. You can get high in the car as we drive home. When did you eat last?"
"This morning," came the too-perky reply.
"And what did you have?"
"Umm.... I shoplifted a bag of Whoppers."
Becky stared down at Dawn. It was an eight inch drop. "Okay. You're eating a burrito before you do anything. Before you get high, before you suck off Lenny, before you even have another cigarette, you're eating a burrito. Come with me and order. Get a soda, too."
"Are you mad at me?" Dawn asked.
"No," said Becky. "I am angry about your situation. How old are you?"
"Well, in my view tiny twenty-three year old girls should not be living in cars in sketchy seaside towns like Ocean Beach. They shouldn't have to suck dick just to get high...."
"But I like sucking dick," said Dawn.
"Fine, great. Suck all the dick you want for fun. But you shouldn't have to offer it up just so some dude will share his drugs. That's fucked up of them, they're taking advantage of you. Tell the man what you want to eat, I'm buying."
Dawn placed her order and said, "If I go visit with you guys, I'm gonna need to move my car first. I'll put it on a residential street, it'll be fine for a couple days. And I need to grab some clothes, I guess. Where do you live?"
Becky said, "On the beach in Encinitas. It's a place we had built custom, there's room for everything. It's three stories, with guest rooms on the middle level. That's where Jane's room is, too. Are you from San Diego originally?"
"No, Modesto. I hate my home town, it's pathetic and ugly. There's nothing to do. People get tweaked out and just sit around staring at each other, like they're waiting to die. Then they start playing with guns. Modesto is an ugly place, I'm never going back."
"What about family?"
Dawn ran her tiny hands through her hair. "My folks have written me off. They hated that I partied, and that I didn't like taking my medication. It never seemed to make any difference if I did or not, so why take it at all?"
Becky asked, "So, um, what kind of meds did they have you on?"
"1200 milligrams of Lithium daily, eight milligrams of Risperidone, twenty milligrams of Haldol, and fifty milligrams of Thorazine every night. The Haldol and the Thorazine really fucked me up. I couldn't hardly move. It's because of those drugs that I turned into a tweaker, I was doing shit just to be awake. Then I realized shit made me feel better than the meds did, so I'd just do more shit. I should probably get back on my meds, but.... Whatever."
Our food came out, including Dawn's. I'd bribed the cook $20 to move her order to the head of the line, and he did it. We ate, then piled into the Falcon. Dawn directed me to the beach lot where she'd left her lumbering hulk of a car. I followed her a few blocks away, where she left the car on a side street. With her back in the Falcon, I headed towards Carlsbad and Eddie's apartment to drop him off. He announced his plans to kiss Elspeth's ass in the morning, so we wished him luck.
Back at our place, we gave Dawn the grand tour and showed her to her room. I doubted she'd sleep, she'd smoked the entire bowl of dope I had in the pipe, enough to get two people good and high a couple times. She had smoked it all. Strangely enough, she now seemed less talkative. She stared wide-eyed at everything as we gave her the tour.
"You own this place?" she asked me and Bekka. "What do you do? I mean, I know Becky does porn, but what do you do?"
I told her, "I write and produce the porn Becky stars in, and I run the studio. We've had a lot of success from our features."
"Are you hiring?"
I chuckled. "Can you act? Can you work from a script? Do you mind being fucked by some big-dicked dude for a couple hours straight? Can you pass a blood test?"
"I need to do all that to do porn?"
"To work for me you do. Have you actually seen any Becky Page video? We make full movies, we expect actual talent from our performers."
Dawn considered this. "I'm really good at sucking dick," she said, and began fellating her own thumb.
Bekka laughed. "Listen, tiny tweaker, that's a learned skill. I could take a roomful of naive teenage girls and have them able to make a dead man come in four hours of training. No, we need talent. Sit down on the sofa, I'm going to bring you a few beers and a fresh pack of Marlboros. You're going to watch a movie so you can understand the level of performance we need. Lenny, shove 'Dangerous Desires' in the VCR and hand her the remote. Jane has gone off to bed I think, so we can have some alone time in the spa. Sound good to you?"
"Yeah, that works. I'll grab towels."