Back in the RV, Terry said, "Holy fuckin' shit, I was gonna ask her about what we, y'know, talked about, but there's just no fuckin' way. What the fuck is she so pissed about?"
I got behind the wheel and fired up. "No damn clue," I said. "She acts like I'm finding excuses to be up and out. Shit, if I was, I'd do it in a better damn town than this. She knows I'm not one to just go tweaking around, I'm not about to hit a bar, and I'm plenty aware that I have shit to do tomorrow and need my rest. I'd say it was jealousy, with you and me hanging out, but she's the one who proposed you as my assistant to begin with. Hopefully, whatever it is, she has the sense to go visit with Donna or Pill or Roach instead of stewing by her lonesome."
"Hey, if she's gonna get jealous over me, I'm telling her, 'What the fuck, woman, him and me ain't done shit. Check yourself, girl.' Personally, I think it would be fuckin' awesome if you and me got together, but at the same time, I know you don't want to do that to her.... And I don't want to, either. Shit, Becky is my fuckin' friend, she's an awesome chick, I'm not about to do her like that. Although you said it might be okay if I ask first?"
"Yeah. Bekka and I have a strange litmus for marital fidelity. If you and I were to fool around tonight while we did this laundry, it wouldn't be that act that would hurt Bekka, it would be the secrecy, the deception. Asking permission beforehand means we're all on the same page, and nobody's playing the other person for a sucker."
I drove up So. Fourth, looking for the laundromat. I found it between a liquor store and a self-serve car wash. The parking lot was mostly empty, so I parked across several parking spaces, away from the front doors. There were a few people inside, sitting around with that unique sense of boredom one can only get from being in a laundromat. Terry and I stepped in with our stuff and dumped the bag full of bandanas on a counter. We needed to remove price tags first. Then everything went in a washer set to Hot, with two or three cups of bleach poured in along with the soap. The machine started and we were free.
"Wanna beer?" I asked Terry.
"Oh, fuck yeah," was the response.
She chose two tall boy cans of Budweiser, while I just grabbed some jerky. The liquor store had a porn section, so I checked things out. Hardcore magazines featuring bleary printing and ugly women. Back issues of Hustler wannabe mags gathered in threes in plastic bags and sold for $10. Also for ten bucks were videos, the box covers promising much more than the tapes could ever deliver. I didn't recognize any of the studio or publisher names.... Oh ho, what's this?
Becky Page is staring at me from a box, hands cupping her breasts. Also on the cover are shots of Dale pointing a gun, Elspeth as a policewoman, and the Sport Fury cranking through downtown San Diego. The text across the top reads "Deseos Peligrosos." After a few seconds, my brain translates this to "Dangerous Desires." Funny, I'd never heard about a Spanish-language version of the movie....
Further inspection shows that unlike most other bootlegs, the information here is intact. They even left the Inana logo (although moved in location). Steve Stillman is shown as director, I am credited as both escritor (writer) and productor (producer). Everyone protagonizada (starring) is accounted for, with their names spelled correctly. The longer I looked at the box, the stronger I felt that whoever was responsible didn't do this as a cynical money-grab, but because he genuinely loved the film and wanted to share it with his non-bilingual compatriots. The RV had a VCR installed, now we'd have something to do.
At the register, Terry looked at the video with confusion. "You guys do Spanish-language stuff?"
"Nope, not at all. That's why I'm buying this. Somebody has released one of my movies, and I'm curious as to what liberties they took with it." I paid the clerk and and asked, "Who supplies your videos?"
The saggy sweaty bastard shrugged and said, "Quien sabes? Por que?"
I answered, "Because whoever made this particular video is using my content without my permission." I held up the tape. "I wrote it, I produced it, and I never did a Spanish-language version of it.... Although that might not be such a bad idea."
Looking at the video box, the clerk got a sloppy smile on his face. "Ay, Becky Page. Me gustaría coger su sangrienta." I realized he did everything left handed, his right hand was shoved deeply into his pocket and never remained still. I reached across and gave him a solid shove, causing him to stumble backwards. Then I leaned way forward and stuck my head into what would normally be the clerk's domain. Spotted a magazine sticking out off a shelf. Grabbed it.
The title was "Little Darlings." The photo on the front showed two ten year old girls nude and in the middle of a deep kiss. A quick flip through the pages showed an adult male was also involved. Terry looked at a few pages with me, muttered, "Fuck that shit," and cracked open one of her beers right there at the counter.
The clerk gave me a plaintive look and said, "Mine."
I told him, "You'll get it back when you tell me how to contact your video distributor."
"Dunno. You gimme." And Jesus Christ, the slug-like pile of sweat is still jerking off with his right hand.
I pulled out my Zippo and lit it, dangling a corner of the kiddie porn just out of range of the flame. The clerk seized up. "No. No, no no no."
"Tell me what I want to know," I said.
"Okay, okay. I get, you wait."
I let him take the lead and followed him into the back of the store. I stuck my head in an open door in time to see him pull a revolver out of a file drawer and set it on top of the cabinet. I sneaked up behind him. When he reached for the gun, I knocked him in the head with my Beretta. He froze. I reached around him and grabbed the revolver, shoving it in my pocket. Then I said, "I'm still waiting on some information you said you had for me."
The clerk glared at me, then threw himself down into a chair at a messy desk. He grabbed a Rolodex and spun through it, finally stopping and yanking the card out. It was for Buenos Tiempos Producciones of Mexicali, with an address and phone number. The contact name was, oddly, Brian Salinas. I shoved the card in my pocket and gestured for the clerk to go back up front. When we got there I took the kiddie porn back from Terry and threw it at the clerk. "Patético," I commented.
"¿Dónde está mi arma?" whined the clerk. (Where is my gun?)
"Es mío ahora," I replied. "When someone plans on using a gun against me, and I take it away, I keep it. You don't want to argue that point, do you?"
Me and Terry went out. Checking our load, the washer was on the rinse cycle. Terry asked, "So are we gonna watch that video? I may not get what's going on, I don't speak Mexican too good."
I chuckled and said, "Yeah, we're gonna watch it. And don't feel bad about not understanding what's being said. I have a hunch it was translated from English to Border Spanish, which means anyone deeper in Mexico than San Felipe will be struggling with what's being said too."
"Do you deal with a lot of bootlegs?" asked Terry.
"No, but I don't look for them either. Bootlegged video won't turn up much in the U.S. or Western Europe. Now, South America, Asia, and the old Soviet bloc countries? Yeah, our stuff gets bootlegged. What intrigues me about this is that somebody obviously took some time and effort to release it. Anywhere else, a bootleg would just be a shitty copy, still in English. With this, apparently someone took the time and expense to re-dub all the dialogue into Spanish. And they even kept all the credits on the box. Check it, they even show Inana's real address. This wasn't put out by some scam artist, but by an honest to God fan of the movie."
We got in the RV and headed for the TV. I popped in the tape and let it run. From the opening credit frames I was watching what I expected, a crap quality reproduction of a retail tape. The real fun began when the first dialogue started, an exchange between Dale and Bekka. Dale's voice was deep and flowery, like he was about to start talking about "rich Corinthian leather." And the woman doing Bekka's voice either hated Bekka or had a unique artistic interpretation: she sounded like a cartoon mouse. For better or worse, the decision had been made to not dub the sex scenes.... Which meant the voices all changed. The Spanish bootleg script seemed to be pretty faithful, at least with my limited translating. And the voice actor dubbing Eddie The Jew's parts made him sound like Scooby Doo.
I stopped the tape and headed into the laundromat. Our bandanas were dancing around in a dryer. A check showed they were finished. I stuffed them in the Big Five bag and headed out. Standing in the parking lot, I had a thought. The bandanas got dumped on the asphalt, and I began stomping on them, kicking at them, and trying to grind them into the pavement. Terry saw me, figured out what I was doing, and came out to help. After ten minutes of this we decided they weren't going to get any more abused than they were.
We gathered up the bandanas and departed, heading for the motels. Thirty-two ounces of Budweiser and Terry didn't seem any the worse for wear. We rode in silence. Then, Terry said, "If you and Becky have a fight and she kicks you out, I'm in room 122 of the Travelodge. You can stay with me."
I replied, "If we have a fight, we'll get things settled and go to bed together. That's how we've always worked it in the past. Even when she cheated on me I still slept in the same bed as her that night. And for reasons of strategy, I'd spend the night with Roach. There wouldn't be any suspicions that way."
"I could take your mind off your troubles, way better than Roach could."
"Oh, I know you can. That's a problem in itself. No, if her and I have a major fight, I want to remain on the moral high ground. That means not sleeping with an employee, no matter how willing the employee is."
Terry chuckled bitterly. "My problem is I'm too used to being around fuckin' scooter trash. Those motherfuckers couldn't stay faithful to one woman no matter who she was, or no matter how much you paid them. They're total dogs."
"They're not sluts?" I asked.
"Shit. They fuckin' wish they were sluts. Roach is a slut, he pulls women in. That boy has every single woman at Inana, plus Dawn, plus some jail bait from Encinitas. They're all aware of each other, but still vie for Roach's attention. Fuckin' scooter trash will fuck some drunk chick at a party, and when his old lady gets wind of it, he'll just stand there going, 'Duh, I dunno....' I don't care who they are or what club they're in, scooter trash have no fuckin' control over their own dicks. They're.... They're weak! They're powerless to not fuck any random piece of pussy that drifts their way. Now maybe you understand why the fuck I find you so appealing. You've got backbone, and self-respect. You've got a scooter tramp who's done everything but strip naked to get you in the sack, and you keep looking her in the eye and saying, 'Sorry, but it won't work.' You have integrity, and I'm not used to that."
We pulled up in front of the motels. When we got out, Terry gave me a hug and said, "Remember, no matter what happens, you don't have to sleep alone. Goodnight, Lenny."
I let myself into the motel room. The lights were off, but the TV was still on. I sat down at the desk to pull my boots off, then began stripping down. When I was down to boxers I slid into bed next to Bekka, gingerly sliding the remote control out of her hand. Bekka drew in air and rolled towards me. "So how did it go?" she asked.
"Just fine. I---"
"Did you fuck her?"
I sighed. "No. You know I wouldn't do that."
Bekka sighed back. "You say that. I think if someone probed deep enough, they'd find your weak spot, and you'd be happy with some solid American white trash pussy, a real break from the nagging Sicilian harpy you're saddled with. For a white trash Cinderella like Terry, you'd be her knight in shining armor. You're everything she's ever wanted: class, respect, brains, and money. She would need you in ways your wife never has. You would be valued, and appreciated, not taken for granted like your wife does."
"I never knew you took me for granted."
"I must. I set up a situation where you'll be in near constant contact with a female who would love to replace me in your life. I do this with a la-ti-dah attitude, giving it no thought, after all, Lenny is a good boy who wouldn't run around on his wife. Lenny loves Bekka, he tells her that all the fucking time. Bekka loves Lenny so much that she assumes he is immune to the lure of other women, even women from the same social caste as him. So tell me, how much time did she spend flirting with you tonight?"
I said, "You don't know Terry very well at all. Terry would never flirt, she's see that as a stupid game, high school crap. No, Terry blatantly propositioned me on several occasions. I kept turning her down, reminding her that I took my wedding ring seriously. Around the fifth time I rejected her she said that one of the things she was attracted to me by was my integrity. She doesn't see much of it in her social circle. Yeah, your husband is a good boy. For some reason that seems to be pissing you off tonight."
Bekka said, "I wish my husband would do something I could get angry with him over. Something that would prove to me he's not a perfect person, that he has weaknesses.... That he can be seduced. No, he's got a biker bitch hottie throwing herself at him and he rejects her, because he could never hurt his wife that way. His wife doesn't know if she has the same strength. Okay, here's a hypothetical. What if Angel wanted to have an affair with me? Don't ask me what I'd do, because I don't know what I'd do. But what would you do?"
I gave a low chuckle. "I'd tell Angel that if he wants my wife, I want his. Fair's fair, just a bit of old-fashioned wife swapping. And I already know Angela would have me, too. She's had something of a crush on me since the first time she saw me, punks turn her on. Angela is someone else whose temptations I have been able to resist. So was that the right answer?"
In a voice that was suddenly rough, Bekka said, "You wouldn't do anything to warn Angel off of me? You wouldn't fight for me?"
"I wouldn't need to. You're forgetting that Angel is a very jealous man. Can you imagine the internal maelstrom he'd have if I told him I'd be fucking Angela, and morally there wasn't a thing he could say or do about it, since he was doing the same thing to me? Angel would back right the fuck off of you, without a single punch thrown or voice raised."
"How long have you known Angela had a thing for you?" asked Bekka.
I answered, "Since you got stabbed. We were staying in the Best Western, and Angela let me know I didn't have to sleep alone if I didn't want to. I told her I thought she was groovy, but it would never work out. In the morning she agreed: she didn't want to hurt her friend Bekka, just like I didn't want to hurt my friend Angel. And there it's lay, ever since."
Bekka laughed in a metallic way. "There he is again, fucking Galahad. Able to resist the wiles of mafia wives and Junkyard Juliets. He's not bothered by the fact that his wife is a professional slut, he remains true to her in the face of better offers. Sometimes she wonders if he stays with her out of pity, he knows no one else could love her, so he's taken on that responsibility. His cross to bear, a cross the same shape and weight of his wife. No wonder he looks tired so much of the time."
"Self pity doesn't fit you very well, darling, so fucking drop it. I fell in love with Bekka Luchessi, a sweet girl with a strange job. She's had the same job for as long as I've known her, and I don't give it much thought, it means nothing to me. Her skill at her job has made her rich and famous. I am continually amazed that this goddess gives me the time of day, much less shares a bed with me, but she does. And after all the shit we've been through, I am still madly in love with her. What the hell happened today that I missed, that spurred you into wallowing in self-loathing?"
I was only greeted by the sound of soft whimpering.
"Answer me, dammit."
Through tears, Bekka said, "It was at dinner. I was watching you and Terry talking, seeing how you communicated. And it hit me, you and Terry make a wonderful couple. You sync so well. You and her should be together, not you and me. Terry would worship the ground you walk on. I'm just a career porn slut, with all the cynicism that entails. I'm not a goddess, I'm a woman with a drug addiction, staring down the big three-oh, whose only real job skill is the ability to fake orgasm in front of a video camera. I'm so weak I am petrified at the idea of having to get through life without you. It's that weakness which makes me wish you would hurt me, cheat on me. It would prove that I really am worthless after all. You don't need me, you could do so much better than me. I'm just damaged goods."
I wrapped my arms around her and held her tight. She began to squirm and struggle, trying to push me away. I held tighter, pulling her into my chest. She suddenly went limp, then wrapped her arms around me and squeezed. I stroked her hair, and she cried and cried and cried.
After a while she was quiet. She cleared her throat and asked, "Lenny, why do you love me? I can't think of any reason why you would."
I said, "I love you because you are clever, and smart, and quick. You are beautiful and very sexy. You are a bolt of energy in a lifeless existence. You like cats and taqueria food and the band Big Black. You shine out, you provide a pool of warmth for me to bask in. And you give the best head I've ever experienced in my life."
"You don't feel sorry for me?" Bekka asked.
"I'm afraid of being alone. You know that's true, you've met a few of my asshole ex boyfriends. I have no real talents or skills. And I don't like my own company."
I responded, "Okay, first of all, everyone is scared of being alone. We're afraid it will never end, that we will die and no one will care. Next, you are very talented. There is only one Becky Page, and Becky Page is loved for her skill and brilliance. If you weren't doing anything that took talent, the world would be full of celebrity porn stars, because that would mean anyone could do what you do. They can't though. You singlehandedly created a whole new vista for adult entertainment. That took talent and skill. Lastly, you're forgetting you have Becky to keep you company. She lives in your head, and will always be there for you. You could talk with her for hours."
Bekka said into my chest, "You're with me.... Because you want to be."
"I'm with you because I love you, straight up. Face it woman, you're stuck with me."
"I love you. Thank you." She shifted slightly. "If I gave you permission to fuck Terry, would you take it?"
I thought briefly. "Yes, but not for any self-interest. I'd do it because it would make Terry so damn happy. The girl has a bit of a crush on her boss."
"I'll assume you'd have a bit of fun, too."
"Well, since she does want to perform a marathon blowjob on me, I'm sure I would, yes."
Bekka chuckled and said, "In that case, I want you to fuck your personal assistant. You have my blessings."
I chuckled back and said, "Okay, now I'm up to lover number four. Admittedly Jane isn't around, and Sue will be too busy working to have time for any freelance sodomy, but still...." I paused. "You're not worried that Terry will try to steal me away from you, or that I'll decide I love her instead?"
"No. I trust in your integrity, and I believe you when you say you love me."
"Good. To be honest, I don't think Terry and I would make a good couple. She's much more white trash than me, she insists on drinking Budweiser, and I don't think I could adjust my speech patterns to constantly use variants of the word 'fuck' like she does."
"But deep down, she's a sweet girl," said Bekka. "We need to find her a man. Not a biker, either."
"How about Gary?" I suggested. "He's single, he's confident, he's rich, and he's not affiliated with any club, so far as I know. He doesn't even own a motorcycle. He just works on them."
"A good thought."
The two of us snuggled down into the covers and were asleep in moments.