".... And so that's where we stand. With Bekka as ful-fledged mafioso and me as an associate, we're the mafia's first 'power couple.' Do you understand?"
"So that's why you're rich," said Dawn.
"No, that's why I have such great backing. I got rich on my own. I have made very canny business and creative decisions over the past year, which has led to my income leaping forward at an incredible pace. Did you have any questions?"
"Yeah. You don't sit around and play with your gun, do you?"
I smiled. "No. My gun is out of its holster when I am on the range, or am using it as a tool, like I did today. The man insulted your honor, and you are my friend. He stole from you, which is as good as stealing from me. Stealing from me is as good as stealing from the mafia. And you never, ever steal from the mafia. Understand?"
"I guess so," said Dawn. "But why handle it yourself? Why not just go get one of the cops?"
"Three reasons," I said. "Doing that would be slow, possibly ineffective, and would not have resulted in a lesson learned. First we'd have to find a cop. Once we got him there, his only role would be that of mediator. He saw none of the shit that went down, so Lester could just totally stonewall him and deny knowing anything about a twenty you gave him. He'd win. And lastly, Lester will now think twice before being so dismissive of us funny-looking white boys. Possibly white people in general. Who knows what we're capable of. I'd rather have the Lesters of the world hate and fear me than be contemptuous of me. I waste a lot less of my time that way."
"Five bucks says he tries to fix that deep fryer himself. With duct tape," chuckled Bekka.
I stood up from my chair out on the deck. Things, including Dawn. were settling down. The Oldsmobile was parked in the beach lot, minding its own business. Jane was still with Lance and his family, and would eat dinner with them. I sometimes wondered how Detective Ross felt about his wife's attempt to civilize the evil blue-haired sprite that was dating their son. Especially considering that he believed that Jane was a high-end underage hooker, and Bekka and I were her pimps. He had no evidence of this, it was purely a fever dream on his part.
"So what shall we do with tonight?" asked Bekka. "No parties, no good shows, Boss is out at the labs, it's too late to do anything with Angel and Angela...."
I said, "Fuck it, let's take Ecstasy and go to the mall. We'll eat in the food court and play pinball. Hey Dawn, do you play pinball?"
Dawn said, "Uh, I've played pinball before...."
"And have you ever taken Ecstasy?"
"No, but I've heard about it though. There's a type called Smiley that is supposed to be life-changing. Way too far out of the price range of everybody I know, like $25 each. That sort of money? It damn well better be life changing."
I said, "Well, prepare for a life-changing experience tonight. We're gonna get high on Ecstasy, eat mall food, and play pinball. If things go the way they always seem to at the arcade, Bekka will sign lots of autographs for lonely sailors over the course of the evening."
"Ecstasy doesn't put you out, does it?" asked Dawn.
"No, very much the opposite. It's a complex amphetamine. It's very, very unusual speed. I don't know about life-changing, we take it all the time and our shit is business as usual."
"It has to be this one particular kind, called Smiley," explained Dawn.
"Yeah," I agreed.
"But I thought you just said...."
"Smiley is what we get. Smiley is manufactured on contract for the mafia. I get the crap straight from the lab, for free. Come here, check it out."
I went into the kitchen, got into the stash drawer, and pulled out the freezer bag full of pills. I handed it to Dawn, who opened the bag and pulled out a few pills. She examined them. "My god," she breathed, "are these things real?"
"That's the real thing, as you'll find out about forty-five minutes after taking one," I said. "Don't worry, it's not like LSD, it doesn't alter your view of reality. If anything it intensifies it, and you feel like you understand things with much more clarity."
"What things?" asked Dawn."
"Everything. Whatever you decide to examine. Generally speaking, Ecstasy makes you fall in love with the world."
Dawn held up the bag. "My god, there's gotta be five hundred of the damn things here. Do you know how much this bag is worth? Jesus, five hundred pills at twenty-five bucks each, um...."
"Twelve thousand, five hundred," said Bekka, coming into the living room.
"Thank you, my dear savant," I said. "Yeah, I know that bag is worth some ducats. I also know that I was given all those pills for free, with the assumption that I would get other people high with them. I don't sell them, I give them away. It really is an awesome drug, so why not share the experience with my fellow man, and woman? Oh, and by the way, the wholesale price, what the mafia pays for them, is eight bucks each, not twenty-five. I learned to buy my drugs wholesale a while back. Better price, better quality."
"Four thousand," smiled Bekka, carrying a beer. "Let's bring some with us tonight. Not this whole bag, though. Drop like a hundred in a sandwich bag and bring that. Shall we dose now?"
"What the hell, might as well," I replied. I got up to grab a sandwich bag and something to drink for Dawn and me. "Hey Dawn, do you drink beer?" I called.
"Yeah," was the reply. "I would love one, thank you."
The three of us toasted with our beers and took our pills. Once we finished the bottles, we got in the Plymouth and headed for the UTC mall. Dinner was on our minds. I was burned out on the "gourmet " burgers and wanted to browse. I gave Dawn a twenty and told her to do what she liked, turn what was left into quarters for the arcade. Meet me and Bekka at those tables over there. After a bit of internal dialogue, I settled on a gyros combination plate from the Greek place. Dawn picked barbecue.
We headed back towards our table only to find that we couldn't sit down because of the crowd. Becky Page had been discovered. There must have been twenty or twenty-five rabid fans crowding her, all of them calling messages or shouting questions at once. I put my tray on another table, elbowed my way through the crowd, and jumped up on the table. I got most everyone's attention doing that. I dispersed the noise by yelling, "Hey, hey, HEY!" When all eyes were upon me, I said, "You're all here to see Becky Page, right?"
There was nodding all around.
"Look, she's in the middle of eating her fuckin' cheeseburger. Give her five minutes, okay? We promise we won't run out, but have a heart and let her finish dinner, okay?
"Now then. Here's how things are gonna work. Once Becky is finished eating.... Well, am I wrong, or do you people have a lot of questions for Becky? You do? Then what you're gonna do is gather around the table without crowding it, and raise your hands. Becky points at you, you're on. Ask your question and let her answer it.
"I'll take a wild guess and assume that most of you probably want autographs, right? Okay, you all can form a line running down that way. We're gonna do this in an orderly manner. That way everybody gets their autograph, or their hug, and Becky isn't at risk of being injured by an aggressive mob. We start production for 'Bewitched II' in another week. You wouldn't want to inadvertently delay that movie's release, would you?"
"Who the hell are you?" came a voice.
I said, "Me? I'm Becky Page's goddamn husband, my name is Lenny Schneider. And I take care of my wife."
A different voice called, "Are you the producer and writer at Inana?"
"Yeah, that's me."
"Can we ask you questions?"
I smiled and scratched my neck. "Sure. I'll even try to provide answers for you. Tell you what, why don't you all ask me what you want right now. That way Becky can finish eating at her leisure. Go ahead and get your hands up. Okay, you, in the letterman jacket, whassup?"
"What was the fate of the coven in 'Bewitched'? It seemed like they got split up, possibly irreparably."
I answered, "The coven survived, as you'll see in 'Bewitched II.' The coven witches will be back and will have whole new problems to solve. Okay, you ma'am, in the Pink Floyd t-shirt."
The college-age girl said, "Will Inana ever make an all-lesbian feature?"
I said, "To be frank, highly unlikely. You won't like this, but it's a business decision. Inana's audience is made up of heterosexual males. Most enjoy a bit of girl-on-girl, but would not want a steady diet of girls together. Simply, the people who pay our bills would not buy such a movie.
"There are other problems with the idea. Okay, we try to do things right. I'm the guy who creates the scripts for Inana's features. If Inana were to attempt a lesbian feature, that would be a problem, because I'm not a lesbian. I would have no basis on which to write an all-lesbian screenplay, and an attempt on my part would be insulting to far too many people. For the pride of the studio, I would have to fire myself and contract out the job. I'd probably want the thing produced by a woman who was into other women, too. There's too many creative and structural decisions made at the producer level to leave it up to a straight guy and hopes he gets it right.
"And of course Steve Stillman would be shown that door. Okay, Steve directs incredibly hot sex scenes.... For a straight audience. Do straight men and lesbians like seeing the same sorts of thigs? I have no clue, and Steve doesn't either. Bang, another job we have to contract. We would essentially be building a brand new studio to make a feature that we have no honest measure of its quality.
"Ma'am, I'm gonna go out on a limb here and assume that it's Becky Page in particular you want to see in lesbian scenes. Am I right?"
A terse "Yes" came in reply.
"Okay, two bits of good news. First of all, there is now a compilation tape available from Inana titled 'Becky's Friends.' It is two hours of nothing but Becky Page doing girl/girl scenes, clips taken from her movies and from her early loops. If you just want to see Becky having sex with other women, then this tape is a box of magic wishes.
The other good news is.... You know what? Becky Page is not under contract to Inana. She can do anything she wants. If someone --- say, an enthusiastic fan --- were to begin producing a XXX lesbian feature and asked Becky to appear, there is nothing stopping her from doing that movie. And I know Becky well enough to say that money would be no consideration. She would do it just because it sounded like fun, or she liked the script, or even that she thinks one of the fellow performers is hot. But Becky is not laboring under a contract. If anyone making lesbian porn wanted to approach Becky, they're welcome to. You, in the leather jacket...."
And so it went. Bekka got fifteen minutes of peace while I answered questions, then she jumped up on the table and started doing the same things. Some of the highlight questions for Becky include....
"Becky, you have sex with women in your films. Have you ever been with a woman in real life? Do you like women?"
"Yes, I have slept with several women in my life because I wanted to, and all of them more than once. I am bisexual. My hetero side is the dominant one, but I will always notice a beautiful or sexy woman. I won't do anything about it now, because I am married and will not disrespect my husband in such a manner, by cheating on him. But yes, women turn me on. To be brutally frank, I am a sucker for a nice rack. Oh yeah."
"Do you find the sexual politics in your films to be true to life, or more of a pipe dream?"
"To be honest, everything sexual in a porn film is a pipe dream: these are fantasies created and put on video tape. One of the inadvertent effects of policy at Inana is that there is no gender dominance, on either side, in an Inana sex scene. Our perspective remains gender neutral. Well, hell, that's a pretty liberating position to be taking for viewers of both genders. Women in particular, though, picked up on it and said, Hey, the bed should be a level playing field. It's not all about him. So to answer your question, what started out as a pipe dream is becoming true to life. Next."
"Becky, you have brought polyamory out of the shadows and into the light. Are you polyamorous yourself or not?"
"The short answer is no, I am not. I am married to a man I am madly in love with, and am committed to him. Naturally, I notice sexy men and women, but sexual attraction is not romantic involvement. Anyone who doesn't know there's a difference between the two shouldn't be attempting either.
"To expand a little bit more, I consider the tenets of polyamory to be absolutely beautiful. That is why I champion polyamory an a more honest reflection of what humans are emotionally capable of. If I were still single, I am sure I would have both a boyfriend and a girlfriend. However, I am blissfully satisfied living within the tenets of traditional marriage with the man I married. I think that it is this particular man who makes monogamous life wonderful for me. I think that for both of us, we learned how to love when we were young, and learned we were capable of sharing our love with more than one person. Then, when we met and fell in love, we learned the lessons also applied in monogamy."
After all the questions, Bekka/Becky sat down at the table and began inviting the people in line up, one by one. I stationed myself at the head of the line so it wouldn't inch forward and breathe down her neck. We did it like we did at the La Mesa party: everyone who waited in line got their autograph, a hug, and a few moments alone with Becky to say whatever they wanted: confessions of love, lust, adoration, or sometimes just confessions. Just like in La Mesa, there were people leaving with smiles on their faces and tears in their eyes; people drew a lot of emotion from Becky.
Finally, the last fan had "XXX Kisses Becky Page" scribbled on a place mat and we were free.to head for the arcade. Dawn had been fascinated and aghast at the outpouring of emotion from the fans. Maybe Nicky was right, and there was a whole cult mentality surrounding Becky Page. She didn't have fans, but acolytes.
"Is it like this every time you visit the mall?" asked Dawn.
"This was a new experience," I said. "The most we've had before was handfuls of teenage girls and sailors. Never a mob like that. I have no idea where they all came from at once. And all about the same age, between seventeen and twenty-four. Although this does prove we can get along without a bodyguard. Could you imagine Nicky trying to deal with that scene? He'd have ended up in jail for assault, he'd have started swinging knuckles before long."
Dawn was enjoying the hell out of Ecstasy. She said she would hold off on playing games in favor of watching the ice rink. Watching a welter of humanity smoothly glide around iin a counter-clockwise circle kept her fascinated. Bekka and I winked knowingly and went to play the High Speed machine.
I was in the middle of my third ball when a girl's voice said, "Ohmigod, Becky, is that you?" I glance over and see two headbanger chicks that I recognize, but am not sure why.
Bekka catches the clue bus much sooner than I do. She says, "Brandy, Harley, how are you? Harley, you never are home. I left messages, did you get them?"
Harley --- an eighteen year old girl whose hair is almost identical to Bekka's --- says, "You never left a number. You should have left a number, it would have been safe."
Bekka/Becky looks contrite. "You're probably right. It's easy to get too security conscious, and alienating people. Tell you what, here...." And Becky is writing seven numbers on the back of an Inana business card, saying, "There, that's my home number. Evenings during the week is the best time to get me. Call, we'll talk. So, what's new with you ladies?"
Brandy said, "Well we have some big news. We've been keeping it a secret, but I know it's okay to let you know. You'd understand. You wanna tell her, bitch?"
Harley said, "Me and her are a couple now. We're, like, dating. We're in love."
"That's wonderful!" Becky exclaimed. "How did this come to pass?"
"Actually, it got going that night we met up on Soledad. You had given us that Ecstasy, and we were siting in my room listening to music and talking, and the talk just kept getting deeper and deeper, and we suddenly both realized we loved each other. Not as friends, but romantically. We were crazy about each other. We tried kissing, and it was like we were hit by a bolt of lightning. I think we both found out what it's like to physically want someone so bad your whole body feels electrified. We almost literally tore each other's clothes off, and we just.... We tried everything we could think of together, we kept making each other come, and it kept getting better and better. We finally pretty much collapsed from exhaustion just after sunrise, so we climbed in bed and fell asleep. When we woke up it was noon, and waking up in each other's arms felt so natural, like there was no other way to be. We'd left the same record side playing the entire time. Hee, we're probably the only two bitches in the world who get horny hearing Testament!"
Brandy said, "We wanna scream it from the rooftops, but we know we can't. People would freak out, especially our parents. We have a plan, though. We're gonna get jobs and save up $2000 between the two of us, and use the money to move to San Francisco. We figure that's where we can live where two metal-head bitches can kiss each other on the street and people won't give us shit, you know? And we can be together all the time. It's like, both of us are constantly horny now, totally wanting each other all the time. We've had a few more nights where we were able to make excuses and I could spend the night at Harley's, but most of the time it's us parking somewhere secluded, or going for walks in San Clemente canyon and hiding in the bushes to fool around. I never felt this way about a guy, I never had a guy turn me on nearly as hard as this bitch does. She's, like, my heroin or something. I gotta have her to live."
The two did a quick check of the arcade, then stole a brief but deep kiss. I looked over at Bekka/Becky. She was wiping her eyes. She finally said with a cracking voice, "That is so beautiful. I am so happy for you both. I want you to be together forever."
Harley reached over and punched me in the arm. She said, "If anything, we owe it all to this guy."
I said, "Me? What did I do?"
"Dude! You were the one who walked up to us like some kind of head case and asked if we wanted to meet Becky Page. If you hadn't done that, we never would have met Becky, and she never would have given us the Ecstasy, and we wouldn't have stayed up talking half the night, and spent the other half of the night having sex, and.... Everything."
"Well.... Glad to be of help. I'm so happy you two found each other, and have each other. Like Becky said, I hope you two are together forever."
Bekka/Becky cleared her throat and said, "How would you two like to get high again?"
"No way!" said Brandy. "You have more of that same stuff?"
"Sure do. Lenny, hand me that bag."
I pulled the Ecstasy out of my jacket and handed it to her. She pulled out two pills and handed them over, then held out her soda cup so they could wash down the pills. The two headbanger chicks held each other at the waist and said thank you. Brandy announced her plan to go to the pay phones and call Mom to let her know she'd be spending the night atHarley's. No big deal, they just felt like hanging out, see you tomorrow.
"But still, the urge to tell my mom my real plans is very strong."
"What are your real plans?" I asked.
"I'm gonna make Harley come so hard she can't remember her own name."
Harley said, "Dammit bitch, you're already getting me wet. Stop it, or I'm raping you in the parking structure."
"Promises, promises," said Brandy.
The two headed off for the bank of pay phones. Beside me, Bekka/Becky was wiping her eyes again. "I feel like we did a good deed. They're so happy together, it's wonderful. They have something magic."
Dawn walked into the arcade, scanned around, spotted us, and walked in our direction. She had a fairly unhinged smile on her face. She said, "I'm in big trouble. You know how I said that getting spun makes me think about sucking dick? That shit you gave me has me so horny I'm ready to sneak into the submarine base, strip naked, and throw myself into the first barracks I find. Tell them to get in line, everybody gets a turn. More than one if they want. What are you guys up to?"
"We just saw a couple of friends. Two metal-head chicks. They're madly in love with each other, and it's our fault. The power of Becky Page strikes again."
"I never knew Becky Page was so popular, or that her fans were so, um, dedicated.to her. Ever been to a tent revival?"
We both shook our heads.
"No big surprise, I don't think they ever work farther south than Bakersfield. But that's what that whole scene reminded me of, tent revivals I was dragged to when I was younger. The fervor, the dedication.... Holy shit Bekka, you're a religious leader. You have the charisma, and you have the followers. Your fans hang on every word you say. You're like a sexy Oral Roberts, only you never talk about religion or the bible. Trippy."
Bekka glared down at the pinball machine. "Well, I'm going to break tradition with most religious leaders, in that I'm going to call for my followers to constantly and openly question everything I say. Who the hell decided some damn dago porn slut had all the answers? I'm not even sure what the questions were. And I can't help but wonder if this charismatic thing I have going will carry over into my interactions with my fellow mafioso. I already know they like looking at me naked. Are they going to constantly seek my input and opinions?"
I felt a presence at our backs. Turning, I was faced with a group of six or so off-duty sailors. They were in civilian clothes, but they always have a look about them that screams "military.." These had a shocked look on their faces. I gave a nod to the one nearest me, in hopes of prompting speech. He finally spoke.
"E-excuse me, but is that really Becky Page right there? Or is it just some babe who looks like her?"
"Yeah, that's her," I said. "Why, what's up, sailor?"
"We're all huge fans of hers on base, and we just wanted--- hey, how did you know I was in the Navy?"
"I'm a San Diego native, and we can detect squids at two hundred yards. So you were saying, you're huge fans of Becky, and...?"
The sailor looked at his shoes. "Well, we just wanted to say hi, I guess, tell her how much we appreciate what she does."
I clapped him on the shoulder. I said, "I have a suggestion. Why don't you boys go find something to write on, like one of those paper place mats, and ask Becky for her autograph? I'm sure she'll be happy to sign for the lot of you once she's done playing her ball. Don't ask her while she's playing, though, you'll just be told to fuck off in Italian. She takes her pinball seriously."
The sailor finally smiled. "That's a really good idea, sir, thank you. Tell me, how do you know Becky? Are you her security?"
"Yes I am, but I'm more commonly known as her husband."
His eyes grew large. "Oh wow, the descriptions of you are accurate! I read about you on a computer board."
I said, "The Becky Page Fans BBS? Sysop is a guy named Syko? Yeah, I have a strange relationship with that board. They know who I am, but they have it in their heads that I hate Becky's fans. Also that I'm a gun-toting psycho, the dangerous punk Becky is married to."
The sailor explained to his buddies what was going on. They all double-timed it out of the arcade in search of clean place mats. Dawn asked me, "Who were they and what did they want?"
I explained, "More fans. Off-duty sailors. They're off to get something to write on, so they can get autographs."
Dawn had a positively feral look on her face. "Sailors, huh? Young, in shape, deprived of women for long periods of time.... I could put them to use."
"Look, you're a big girl, so if you want to go sport fucking, that's entirely up to you. But I will remind you that it's in your own best interest to have all of them assholes wearing a jimmy hat, if you do decide to tackle them. What, are you go work out of their car?"
"Yeah. Find some secluded place in the parking lot and settle in for a while."
"Sex is a real impersonal thing for you, isn't it?" I asked.
Dawn gave me a hooded look. "I don't particularly care for men. I like dicks, though. But the two are permanently attached. So I've learned to put up with men."
"Dandy, you're a misandrist. Hey, so long as your annoyance with men doesn't affect your work performance or your interactions with the male performers. Funny, you've seemed to get along with me."
"I like you," Dawn said. "You were good and kind and generous with me, and you never asked for anything back, you know? You didn't act like it was expected that I'd give you some pussy because you got me spun or fed me."
I said, "Might I point out that the reason we met and interacted was because you approached me with an offer to suck my dick if I got you high? It could be you're sending out a lot of mixed signals, tiny tweaker."
"Yeah, well, whatever."
The sailors returned, bearing various pieces of paper. I blocked them off, saying, "She's still on the same ball. You'll have to wait."
One thing the military is good for is teaching people how to wait. They patiently stood and watched Becky Page play pinball. There was no throat-clearing, no tapping of hands or feet, no nervous gestures. The person who was in charge had told them to wait for further instructions, so that's exactly what they did, without complaint. With a quiet "Merda!" Bekka finally lost her ball. She turned and stared at the sailors as though unaware of their arrival.
"Hey cuties!" Bekka/Becky said. "You're all staring at me, so I guess you wanted to have some interaction. What's up?"
A different guy than the first one stepped forward. He said, "Hello, Ms. Page? Hi, we're all stationed at Miramar Air Base, and we're huge fans of yours. Everyone on base is. We were wondering, would you be willing to sign autographs for us? We'd really love it."
Bekka/Becky smiled as though he'd told her that week's winning Lotto numbers. "I'd love to! I always love to meet my fans. You spoke first, honey, so step on up. What's your name, cutie?"
The sailor strode up to the pinball machine. "Specialist Daniel O'Malley, ma'am."
"Do you go by Dan, or Danny?" Bekka/Becky asked as she took the blank sheet of paper from him.
"Buddies call me Danny, ma'am," the sailor said, smiling.
Bekka/Becky wrote, "Keep 'em flying, Danny! XXX Kisses, Becky Page" on the paper and started to slide it across the glass to him, then stopped. She gave Specialist O'Malley a crafty grin. Then she said, "You have to do one thing for me in exchange for the autograph. You have to give me a hug."
"A.... Hug, ma'am?"
"Yes, a hug. You know what a hug is, right? Where you wrap your arms around someone and squeeze? Come here, I'll show you how it works."
O'Malley stepped up to Becky and they had a long, tight embrace. At the end, she kissed his cheek, leaving a lipstick print. "Pleasant dreams, Specialist," Becky said. "Who's next?"
Becky worked her way through them all, each one getting a hug and a kiss on the cheek. She freshened her lipstick between signings. At the end she said, "Thanks for stopping by, cuties. Have a good night."
"You too, Ms. Page! We love you, Becky!"
They turned to leave, but were stopped by Dawn. I heard her say, "Hey guys, I want to talk to you about something, but it's kind of personal. Would you all step over here for a minute?"
She herded them over to the side of a flight simulator game, the kind you sit down in. After thirty seconds of hearing her low murmured voice someone said, "Are you serious?" in a surprised tone. A minute later Dawn strode up to me and said, "Do you know where the fuck the CVS is? They've gotta buy condoms."
"I'll walk you over. Let me tell Bekka I'll be gone for a few."
I told Bekka precisely what was going on. She rolled her eyes and said, "Tell her she has ninety minutes. After that she's gotta talk them out of a ride to Encinitas. I want a few drinks and feel like heading to the Pink Panther when we're done here. Pazzo bambina."
We walked in a group to the CVS. The sailors were silent, not chatting among themselves like normal. You could practically smell the performance anxiety roiling off of them. It was a strange proposal they'd received, one not normally expected in mall arcades. One of the sailors sidled up next to me and said in a low voice, "Is this girl in porn?"
"No," I replied.
"Does she always do stuff like this?"
"Not all the time, no. Everybody has their sexual kinks and bends. Now you know hers."
We arrived at the CVS and all the sailors went in. I stopped Dawn at the door and said, "Remember, you've got ninety minutes. After that me and Bekka take off to go drinking. So this is what you want?"
Dawn said, "Right now, yeah. It really is."
"Well, be careful. And for Christ's sake don't get busted by mall security, they might be bothered to call the real cops."
"Oh, that's easy. I'll just offer the rent-a-cop a go, too."
"Nobody can fault your practical mindedness."