Bekka and I made our intentions clear of heading to bed. This distressed Dawn. "No, come on, let's smoke some more and, y'know, hang out or whatever," she said. "Or Jane, you wanna stay up. You and me have never really talked."
Jane said, "It's two right now, and I had a long and taxing day, which I had to handle totally straight. I gotta crash out."
I shoved my hand in my pocket and pulled out the glass pipe. "Here, girl," I said. "There's still a decent amount in there, if you really want to stay up. Let the TV keep you company. We got cable with all the premium channels, we got movies.... Hell, all of Inana's stuff is down there, you can familiarize yourself with our catalog. Raid the fridge for food and beer. We're usually up around 8:30, we'll see you then, okay?"
Dawn took the pipe and squinted at the bowl. "Okay," she said. "The TV being on won't bug you?"
"We're on the third floor," said Bekka. "With our door closed, you'd have to really be blasting it to disturb us. Why don't you just crash?"
"In another day or so, I will," Dawn said. "I've only been up for a couple days, and I don't stay out if I don't go at least four nights."
Bekka gaped at Dawn. "Umm.... That's not sleeping, that's passing out. That cannot be healthy."
Dawn smiled and shrugged, saying, "Probably not, but whatever. I hate normal sleep so much. Like I told Lenny, when I fall asleep, all I hear is screams from hell. I feel like someone has parked a tractor on my head, and all these ugly images flash through my vision. I can't drink it away, I can't drug it away, I can't fuck it away. The only thing that works is going for days without sleep until I just.... Expire. Whatever."
I said, "Girl, we need to get you to a shrink. A good one. Bekka sees one, you can go to her. Lemme guess, you were going to public services before."
"You'll get happier results out of a private psychiatrist. They won't just dope you up and send you on your way. Shit, didn't you say they had you on Thorazine? These days? That's crazy."
"I'll stay up with you," Jane volunteered. "We can watch Lenny and Bekka's movies in order, and I can give you some of the details about them they've told me. I'll even do meth with you, so we're on the same wavelength, you know?"
Bekka said, "Just three hits, pet. You're a lightweight, and I don't want you showing up to school on Monday still not having slept."
I took the pipe back from Dawn and pulled out my vial. Tapping more in, I spilled some on the floor. Grunting, I rubbed it into the carpet with my boot. Dawn gave me a horrified look and said, "What...?"
"What what?" I responded. "It's only drugs."
"That was, like, a full bowl...."
"So not much at all, then. Like I said, it's only drugs. I refuse to let them matter that much to me. By the way, don't finish what's here. That bowl is plenty full, and Jane is only taking a few hits. It's not going anywhere, and you don't need to get stuck to the wall." I melted what I'd put in, and held it up to the light. "There's plenty for you, and there should still be some left for me and Bekka in the morning. You said yourself that I get strong shit, well, don't go through it all. You don't need to."
Dawn stared into the bowl and nodded. "Okay," she said. "Yeah, I was really damn spun last night, almost too much. I'll watch myself."
"Good girl," I said. "And with that, we're going to bed."
Sunday was fairly relaxed. Dawn kept her promise and didn't burn through the entire bowl. Bekka and I got up around ten, showered, fixed, and we went out to Triplet's for brunch. Dawn was better about ordering whatever she wanted, for which we were grateful. Between the dope and the garbage she was used to eating, there was no doubt in my mind that she was malnourished. She was still amazed watching Jane, our black hole, put away food, though.
After we got back home, Dawn dragged the vacuum downstairs, moved her Oldsmobile in front of the garage, and began cleaning the interior. I brought her down Windex, Armor All, and a roll of paper towels. When she was done, it was obvious the interior was in good shape, it had just been dirty. For the random hell of it, I did the Armor All routine on her tires while she cleaned her windows. Anything that would help the State Parks people not suspect it of being an abandoned vehicle.
"My grandpa bought me this car when I got my license," Dawn said. "I loved him, he died when I was twenty. That's why I don't want to get rid of my car."
I said, "Well, if things work out, you'll be able to keep this car well cared-for for quite a while. You need to put some money into it, so it won't die. That's why I'm fine with you staying at the mansion for a while, your checks can go into getting this thing fixed back up. I'll call my friend in Santee and tell him he's got a job as soon as you get your lab results on Tuesday. He's the one who built my Falcon into a hot rod, I'm sure he can keep this Oldsmobile at stock specks, and have it running like new."
After we moved the car back to the public lot, the four of us went to the Gun Range in Kearney Mesa for the weekly work-out with our pistols. I bought Dawn a set of ear plugs, Bekka and I gave her the safety lecture, and we had her try out Bekka's Colt. She was nervous at first, barely keeping her shots inside the lane, but relaxed by her third clip, staying in the general vicinity of the target area. Dawn was amazed at the tiny Beretta Jane carried.
"If you'd left that sitting on the coffee table, I'd have probably shot myself, because I would have thought it was a lighter," Dawn said.
"Lighters don't have safeties," said Jane. "Wanna try a couple clips? Your hands are smaller than mine, so you'll have a good grip. It likes to jump around, though. Re-steady after each shot until you're used to it."
Dawn tried it, and stayed within the target area. She got points out of all twelve shots. She was amazed when we told her the muzzle velocity and the ammo size. "This must cost a couple hundred dollars, huh?" she asked.
"About $650," smiled Bekka. "A low price for a Beretta, actually. But it's a purse gun, you'd never use one in competition."
"Wow. I never heard of anyone spending more than $200 for a gun."
I laughed at this. "They were either buying total garbage, or the guns were hot. So did anyone bother with getting concealed carry permits in Modesto?"
"I doubt it. Colts are good guns, right? How much did Bekka's cost?"
"Mine was around $750," said Bekka.
Dawn said, "Huh. One guy showed up with a big Colt, a nineteen-something, and said he'd traded an eight-ball for it, like $140 worth of shit."
"Oh Jesus," I said. "Yeah, if he ever gets caught with it, he'll be going to jail for a long, long time. Holding a stolen gun in California is begging for prison time."
"Actually, that guy went to jail after he blew up his garage trying to make shit. Dunno if he had time tacked on for having the gun."
"Modesto sounds like a real special place," commented Bekka.
I got to Inana fairly early on Monday, wanting to knock out some business. I also wanted to talk to Angel about what to do about Detective Ross. I dialed, there was a click, and I could hear someone breathing.
"Hello?" I said.
"Lenny?" came Angel's voice.
"Yeah, I just dialed you."
"No, I just dialed you," insisted Angel. "Great minds think alike. Lenny, Lenny, my god. You've fucking done it again. You're a goddamn genius."
"What have I done now?" I asked.
Angel said, "I just got the first month sales numbers on 'Temporary Pleasures.' They're over the top, they're nearly double what 'Dangerous Desires' did. We're going to get every duplication plant on the West Coast on contract to keep up, not to mention adding more packaging services. When I saw these numbers, I jumped the gun on you, I called the duplicators and told them to crank up, we'll need 'em. The warehouse is empty. Lenny, you dug us another gold mine."
"Holy shit," I said. "You know what else this means? Some of the pressure will be off of Bekka. Now Ellen will be that hottest porn star in the world, at least for a while. I'll let her know this morning."
"1.5 million copies in the first month, and you know sales only build from there. Jesus Lenny, if sales hold like this, I'm paying off your mortgage, I'm paying off Steve's mortgage, and I'm buying everyone at Inana a fucking Cadillac. This is insane. This is proof, 'Bewitched' wasn't just a fluke, you're a genius. So what were you calling me about?"
I said, "Listen, I've got a problem. Actually, me, Bekka, and Jane have a problem, and I think we need the family's help. I've mentioned that cop down here that doesn't like us...?"
"I think so. Fill me in."
I gave Angel the whole story. I listed out my concerns that the longer Bekka and I proved ourselves clean, Ross's vendetta would only grow stronger. And he was upsetting Jane, which just pissed me off.
Angel considered what I'd said in brief silence. "And you say you don't want him offed?" he said.
"No. I don't want to hurt his family like that, they're nice people. I just want him neutered somehow, made impotent. Not crippled, either, I want him able to earn a living. But preferably not working as an Encinitas cop."
"I can think of some possibilities," Angel said slowly. "Tell you what, I've got a lot to do today, but I'll talk to a few people, see what their ideas are. What's the cop's name again?"
"Detective Richard Ross, of the Encinitas police department. That last asshole, Donner, hated me, but he wasn't insulting and verbally abusing my little girl like Ross is."
"Yeah, that won't do at all. Sure we can't just take him out?"
I sighed. "No. It would kill his wife and stepchildren, and they're friendly. Vicky, his wife, is helping Jane understand what it's like to live in a normal family. To me it's funny, because Jane is not a normal child, but her heart is in the right place. She's even nice to me and Bekka, even though she thinks what we do for a living is unspeakable. We've kept our bad habits hidden from her."
"Good. Especially with her husband being who he is. I worry about your bad habits getting you in trouble in this situation. Try to stay clean when you're on the street."
I heard a crackling noise, twice, which signified Angel had just cranked his head to each side, popping his neck. He said, "Okay, like I said, I got a lot of shit to do today. So you start pre-production for 'Bewitched II' next week?"
I said, "Yeah. Vinny has the script for editing right now."
"Great, great. Listen, a courier is going to be dropping something off for you at Inana this afternoon. Don't take off until he gets there, okay? Ciao, Lenny."
Around three in the afternoon the doorbell rang. Answering the door, I found it was an honest-looking dude about my age in a polo shirt that announced "Centurion Courier" on his left breast. "Mr. Schneider?" he asked.
"Yeah, that's me," I confirmed.
He handed me an envelope that appeared to be nearly empty, and had me sign a receipt. He departed. I stepped back inside and examined the envelope. It simply had "L.Schneider" written across it in Angel's hand. I opened it up and found a note reading, "Genius should be rewarded. This won't be the last one."
The envelope also contained a cashier's check for $75,000.
Well, God bless Angel.
That night we had dinner at Evelyn's. Obviously I'd shared the news of my good fortune. Bekka was elated, Jane was smug, and Dawn was stunned. I'd gotten bonuses from Angel before, but the largest had been $25,000. Bekka had also received bonuses along those lines, six in that amount for Bewitched alone. This on top of what she made playing leads.
"My god," said Dawn. "I can't believe he just gave you that out of the blue. What do you think he'll want from you?"
"That was a bonus for work I've already done," I explained. "He pays me extremely well to keep working as it is. I don't even want to think about what Angel is worth himself."
"Is he a millionaire? Hell, are you guys millionaires?"
Bekka said, "If you include our property, yeah, we're millionaires. And if you'd told us a year ago that we'd be this well off, we'd have laughed. We were doing well, we were comfortable, but we never expected we'd have our own house on the beach, or a collection of hot rods, or the motorcycles. I grew up pretty damn poor, and I still haven't quite adjusted to being able to go shopping for, say, new boots, and not be concerned with what the price tag says. I like them? They fit? They're mine. No comparison shopping, no having to wait until the next paycheck. If I was to decide tomorrow I was tired of driving hot rods and wanted a Cadillac like Lenny's, we'd go up to Carelli Cadillac in Anaheim, I'd order one, and we'd pay cash for the damn thing. It still blows me away."
"Me too," I said. "If you had asked me three or four years ago where I'd be right now, I'd have said, 'probably prison.' It turned out that I actually have a decent work ethic and some innate talent, and I've been able to take advantage of both. I'm the luckiest punk on the planet. I love a job that's making me rich."
"What do your parents think?" asked Dawn.
I laughed. "They hate it. To them, I'm their son the sleazy pornographer. No matter my business success, no matter my great reviews, no matter how much people love what I do, to them I'm in a scummy business and should quit, go to college, and become a civil servant. Bekka's popularity drives them crazy. They can't stand that their porn star daughter-in-law is the darling of post-feminist intellectuals and worshiped by teenage girls. To them it's abhorrent."
"We had lunch with them a few weeks ago," said Bekka. "The waitress asked for my autograph, which totally upset his mom. She asked the waitress, 'Why do you want her autograph?' The waitress said, 'Are you kidding? I love Becky Page! Her movies are wonderful!' I asked if she had taken any Women's Studies courses in college, and she said, 'Yeah, that's how I learned about you. I think I like watching your porn even more than my boyfriend does.' You could tell Lenny's mom just wanted to sink into the floor. Even after we told them that at the rate we're going our house would be paid off years ahead of time, they went into the same routine about us quitting the industry, going back to school, and getting 'normal' jobs. It's like they can't grasp that millions of people are consumers of porn, and we just provide them with what they want. And we do it so well, that even people who have never been into porn in their lives own our movies. We brought hardcore out of the closet."
Jane said, "Yeah, you made triple-X porn that even teenage girls like. I mean, I love your movies, but I like porn anyway, so I don't count. But word got around school about who I live with, and I've had people who have never spoken a word to me coming up and asking me about you. What are you like, are you cool to live with, could they get your autograph. I ask them if they really are fans, and they tell me which of your movies they've seen. They're all watching their parents' copies when their parents aren't around. And I've checked, and the girls think the sex is awesome. That surprised me, because some of these girls are the types you'd expect to be grossed out by hardcore."
"I think I can explain that," I said. "Steve gets fairly close-up shots of the action, but they're not the total 'gynecologist's view' of what's going on. He shows detail, but you can't tell what brand of IUD the girl is using, you know? Most porn directors think the camera has to be millimeters away during a fuck scene. That's bullshit. Viewers want to see two people fuck, not have an anatomy lesson."
"I've seen five of your movies so far --- 'Dangerous Desires' twice --- and I have to say, I'm a little intimidated," said Dawn. "This is totally unlike any other porn I've ever seen, and being around tweakers, I've seen quite a bit. You guys make real movies, and it's all totally professionally done. It's obvious that everyone takes their work seriously. And now I'm gonna be working around these people? In a way, I'm glad I'm at the bottom of the food chain, because then people won't expect much from me."
I said, "Don't forget, you're our script girl, so people do expect something out of you. You're going to need to know the movie script back and forth, and always be ready to prompt when someone drops a line. Normally you've have a couple weeks off during pre-production, but I want you there for the read-throughs and blocking and rehearsals. This is a big one we're starting in a couple weeks, the sequel to 'Bewitched,' and I want everything polished to a shine. Presuming your labs are clean, you'll get a few days of fluffing in, but next Monday morning, you'll be sitting with the cast while they do their first read-throughs. I'm guessing you don't have a bank account."
Dawn merely chuckled at this.
"Okay, on Tuesday morning, after I hand out checks, I want you to take yours and open a checking account. Go to the Wells Fargo in Carlsbad, they know us there. I don't want you just cashing your checks and running around with huge amounts of cash on you. Besides, when you find an apartment you like, they'll want a check, not cash. So how did it go at DMV?"
"Fine," said Dawn. "I got my temporary, and my license will show up in the mail here in a few weeks. At least now I don't have to worry about being pulled over."
"Always a positive," said Bekka. "In a while, living in your car in Ocean Beach will just seem like a bad dream. One that will fade."
"Wow. In a while I'll be living like a regular person. I won't be street trash, I'll be normal." And with that Dawn burst into tears.
At 9:30 the next morning the doorbell rang. Gina left her office to answer it. She came back to my office and said, "There's a young girl at the door for you."
I went to the door to find Dawn standing there. Upon seeing me, she launched herself into my arms in a great big hug. Excluding our little incident in the kitchen, it was the first time she had ever touched me. She said, "Negative, everything came out negative! I can work! I can work for you guys!"
"Too cool," I said. "Let's go upstairs and see if they've started yet. If they haven't, I'll introduce you around."
We went up to the main sound stage, where the light was off and the door was open. We stepped in, where Donna and Jackie were talking quietly, Stallion was being prepped by Rita, and Small Steve, Calm Steve, and Mickey were conferring over the general blocking for the loop. They'd already discussed what action would take place, in what order, with the performers. Small Steve looked over and waved good morning to me. I stepped in his direction, bringing Dawn with me.
I said in a loud voice, "If I could have your attention, please. I'd like to make an introduction. An important one for you, Rita. This is our new fluff girl, Dawn. She'll also be shepherding you through your scripts when we start shooting 'Bewitched II.' Dawn, this is Jackie, Donna, Stallion, Rita, Steve Stillman, Steve Nash, and Mickey."
The girls came over and shook Dawn's hand, welcoming her aboard. Small Steve broke up the little confab and also stepped over. Dawn shook hands with him and the other two. Rita stopped what she was doing, looked up at Stallion, and asked, "You okay? You good?"
Stallion said, "Yeah, I should be good. I'll see you if I need a recharge." Then he went over to greet Dawn, phallus leading the way.
Rita said to me, "So I'm getting the promotion? ¡Esto es maravilloso!"
I said, "Yeah. You're doing your first two loops Thursday and Friday. Thursday morning I'm turning what was a one-on-one into a three-way, and Friday afternoon I'm subbing you for Bekka in a three-on-three. Bekka's already doing three other loops this week, so she won't mind. This also means you won't be pulling double duty when we're in production, you can just concentrate on being a witch."
"My ex-boyfriends, they'll tell you I'm good at the job already!" giggled Rita. She turned to Dawn and said, "So, have you worked as a fluffer before?"
"No," said Dawn.
"You like to suck cock?"
Rita smiled. "Then you will handle this okay. I just finished prepping Stallion there, but we start early, so he may drop before the scene starts. Remember, get them hard, don't get them off. Que lastima, we never get to see a job all the way through, you know?"
Dawn said, "So, uh, Lenny said you've done this for a while?"
"Three year. I like to suck cock, I like to make money, the job fit well. Now I get in front of the cameras, I do a little better for myself. Do you wish to perform?"
"I haven't given it much thought. I know it's hard to be an Inana girl, I dunno if I could pull it off. I've never done any acting. This whole scene is new to me."
Rita said, "Three year, I watch them perform, I learn. It is not so hard."
I said to Dawn, "How about you sit in on this shoot. You'll see how things work, and Rita can answer questions for you during cuts."
Small Steve called, "Ninety seconds, people! Be in your places, ready to go! Stallion, you ready?"
"Just gimme a few, Steve. Hey Rita, I'm starting to drop." Stallion stepped over to us.
Rita looked at Dawn and said, "You want to take this one?"
"Sure, why not," said Dawn. She dropped to her knees and began fellating Stallion. I heard him draw in air in appreciation.
"Dawn, I'm buying you a congratulatory lunch," I said. "I gotta get out, or I'll be stuck in here until they're done."
Dawn didn't stop what she was doing, simply giving me a thumbs-up with her free hand. I went out.