After lunch we went back to the mansion. It was lunch break, and I was able to make introductions. I collared Roach before he and Dawn went out, telling him I'd need him on Monday morning, presuming Jolene's blood test was clear. She was definitely in a low-risk category, so we weren't worried. Jolene was intrigued by Roach: he had shaken her hand warmly, given her a tentative welcome aboard, and told her he looked forward to working with her. He told her to be a few minutes early on Monday, so they could go over likes, dislikes, and if she needed to set limits.
"Set limits?" asked Jolene.
Roach smiled. "Yes. Apparently I'm a fairly large guy, so for your own comfort and so I'm not banging into your cervix, we'll take a couple minutes so I know where your limits are. It's sort of a warm-up, we get to know each other better, and you're not hurting while we work. Do you understand?"
The penny dropped for Jolene and she said, "Yes. All right. Thank you very much, that's kind of you. Not every guy in the world would show that kind of courtesy."
"I figure we should both have a pleasant work day. I'm nineteen years old and I get paid to have sex with beautiful women, so I'm already having a pleasant day. Anything I can do to make your day a little brighter is fine with me."
I stuck my nose in and said, "Just give her a good ride, Roach. We don't want to spoil her on her video interview."
Roach took off. Jolene said, "You know, they can get rid of that acne scarring these days through plastic surgery. He's a good looking dude if you ignore the scarring."
"Is that so?" I asked.
"Yeah, he's cute deep down. Um, is he seeing anyone?"
I cocked an eyebrow and said, "No, not that I know of. His roommate Dawn, the tiny blonde he left with, is probably sucking his dick off and on, but there's no romantic connection there. That's just her hobby. She's our fluff girl, and she feels that she doesn't get to suck nearly enough dick during the day."
"What's a fluff girl?" asked Jolene.
"The fluffer's job is to get the males hard and keep them hard, using their mouths. A fluff girl's working life consists of fellating any man who stands in front of her with his dick out. But the fluffer just gets them up and stops. They never finish what they start, if you follow me. Dawn likes to suck dick, and is frustrated by the constraints of her job. Given that her roommate is both virile and unattached, I would be amazed if they weren't playing a game of Swallow the Swan several times a week, just for their own enjoyment. So, you find Roach has some appeal?"
"Well, yes. Like I said, he's cute deep down, he's got a nice body from what I can tell, apparently is a master technician in the sack, and seems like a genuinely nice guy.... Warm, friendly, natural good manners. Light years of difference from the yahoos and rednecks in Grass Valley. Shit, my husband's friends acted like I was a servant. They'd be hunkered down around the Nova's engine, and when I drifted over to see what was up, the only think they'd say to me was, 'Get me a beer, girl.' And my husband didn't like it when I would tell them to get their own fucking beer. I repaired and maintained aircraft engines on planes worth hundreds of millions of dollars, don't think I can't figure out a small block 350."
"You wouldn't be bothered by the age difference between you?" I asked. "Going to a bar or a club would be right out."
Jolene gave a smile. "Given what he does for a living, it's not like I'd be exploiting him. And I don't really drink much, or often, these days. I hit the booze hard when I mustered out of the Air Force. I didn't want to have the military be a career, but then I found I couldn't think like a civilian anymore. Does that sound strange?"
I chuckled, "Nope. Remember, San Diego is a big Navy town, so I know all about people with a military frame of mind. You're right, the ways of thinking are totally different. I think it may come from the lack of autonomy in the military, there's always someone to answer to. Funny, the Air Force was the only branch that ever had appeal to me. Being from San Diego, neither the Navy or Marines had any appeal, I'd started building my opinion that squids and jarheads were pathetic assholes when I was fourteen. My dad had spent four years in the Army, and said he'd disown me if I joined. Coast Guard? No thanks, I'm not that into boats. I knew the Air Force didn't have grunts, and had the best haircuts. If I was in the Air Force, I wouldn't spend four years walking a perimeter or peeling potatoes. I put half an effort into joining when I was nineteen and feeling really gormless, but there was an eighteen month waiting list just to take the tests. By then I'd found something better to do."
"I was the daughter of a rice farmer in Marysville, so I really didn't have anything better to do. I figured I'd at least see the world in the military. Hah! I got as far as March Air Force Base down in Riverside County. Anyway, when I first mustered out, it seemed like the only way I could communicate with civilians was by having a good buzz. I figured with my training, I'd be a shoo-in for a job with an airline. Nope. When was the last time you saw a woman aircraft mechanic? That's because they don't fucking hire them. Two airlines actually thought I'd sent my resume to the wrong department, and forwarded my information to the goddamn flight attendants department. Shit, why wouldn't I want to drink all the time?
"That's the one thing my husband was good for. Having him in my life gave me focus, something to think about besides feeling sorry for myself. He's never been a heavy drinker, and was amazed watching me pour it away when we first got together. He asked me if I was enjoying myself, and I had to answer honestly, no. And with his childish naivety he asked, 'Why don't you stop?' So I did. It took me a while to adjust to coffee that didn't taste like Southern Comfort again, or being able to fill my gas tank by cashing in all my bottles and cans. But I did it. Besides, here was this man who was actually expressing affection, and who needed taking care of."
I said, "Look, you're pretty goddamn hot. Are you telling me he was the only dude who showed an interest in you?"
Jolene replied, "No, not at all. There were plenty of hicks, crackers, rednecks, farm boys, and white trash around who would have been happy to take me for a test drive. Maybe it's the age difference, but my husband was one of the few men I could find who wasn't a total yahoo. I found out after we were married that what I thought was genteel manners was actually shyness. Once we tied the knot, he didn't need to be shy anymore, and I found myself living with a fifteen year old boy: selfish, naive, irresponsible, crass, and horny."
Bekka came up --- she'd been in conversation with Sue --- and said, "Come on, let's give Jolene the grand tour." First we took her out back to show her the pool and spas and patio. Then through the downstairs, including the offices. Both West and Main sound stages were open, Main having already been used that day, West being used that afternoon. Calm Steve was in there, leaning against the wall and eating a sandwich. He gave a sullen nod in greeting. A thought struck me, and I said, "Steve, meet me in my office in ten minutes. I need to talk to you about something important."
We took Jolene up to the penthouse. She was blown away. Bekka reminded her that it would be temporary housing only, long enough for her to open a bank account and find a place to live that she liked. I explained that the owner of Inana would sometimes come down and wish to stay overnight, preferring to stay in the mansion rather than going to a motel. Unless she wanted a lanky dago pornographer (who snored) flopping down on the bed next to her, she'd need to find her own place.
We went back downstairs, me to my office, Bekka and Jolene out front to smoke, and where Bekka could gossip with various Inana people as they turned up. Calm Steve slouched into my office, landed on the sofa, and said, "What's up?"
I rolled in my chair to the door, which I closed. Calm Steve looked nervous. I grinned and said, "Steve, how would you like to be a director?"
His face went from nervousness to outright shock. "Are you serious?" he asked.
I said, "Yeah. We're getting busy enough and popular enough that it's time to have a second unit, one that can keep the ball rolling with loops while we work on features. You'd still have a camera in your hand, just like Small Steve does, but you'd be directing loops three days a week --- Sunday, Monday, Tuesday --- and rough editing them Wednesday and Thursday. Small Steve would direct loops Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, and presumably edit Sunday and Monday. You'll see quite the fucking boost in your pay. You'll still answer to Small Steve, but it's not like he'll be riding around on your back. I think you have the knowledge and the talent to do the job. Hell, you want to make some extra money off me? Actually write scripts for loops. I'll give you a hundred bucks each for scripts that work out to about three minutes of set-up dialogue. They can be about anything you want, so long as it leads into hot sex. So do you want to be a director?"
Calm Steve said, "Wow. Would I make what Small Steve does?"
I laughed at this. "No, not right off. First we'll need to get you into directing features, then you've gotta put out a few that break records. That's no pipe dream, if Inana continues to expand, we could end up with multiple units, all working on different things at once. For now, you'd be starting off at $1400 a week. Not bad for a five day week of staring at hot naked women."
"So I guess we'll need to hire, what, two more camera operators?"
"Yeah. So how did you get your job? Did they run an ad in the paper?"
Calm Steve said, "No. Actually, I had been taking a Media Production course at Vista College, and I learned video there. They offered job placement, and Inana was one of the jobs that semester. Rick hadn't told them what kind of video production Inana did when he asked to be listed. I interviewed with Rick and Steve, and I thought it was hilarious when I found out what I'd be doing. I spilled the beans to my instructor, who pulled the listing. I took the job anyway, obviously. I dunno, Inana is famous enough at this point you could always try to get listed in the community colleges again: Vista, Mesa, Palomar, and San Diego Community."
I said, "Yeah.... Or run ads in the Union and Tribune, not just the Reader. You know, 'Inana Productions seeks camera operator. Long resume not required, but knowledge of professional video equipment a must. Work for America's hottest adult video studio! Send resume to....' Blah blah blah. Yeah, I'll call the colleges this afternoon and ask about job placement, see what happens. Hopefully we get two operators hired quickly. The sooner I hire them, the sooner your pay jacks up."
Calm Steve actually smiled at me. He said, "Damn. And at first I thought you were calling me in here to fire me."
"Why would I fire you?" I asked. "You're valuable to Inana. No, there was one time in the past when I was going to fire you, and I didn't do it then, either. I knew you were too valuable then, too."
"When were you going to fire me?" He honestly looked like he didn't know.
"When I caught you in bed with my wife, when else? But I realized running cameras for a porn studio takes a particular kind of skill, and I'd be hard-pressed to easily find someone else with it. And I got over being mad at you after a while."
"I thought you were going to kill me. You were pointing your gun at me and making that clicking noise with it...."
I chuckled. "Yeah, I was flicking the goddamn safety off and on with my thumb. I wouldn't have killed you, but I would have merrily crippled you right then. Blown one of your knees off."
"I went home and confessed all to my girlfriend," said Calm Steve. "She pointed out the obvious, which was, what about Bekka? Was she safe? We argued about calling the cops to make a safety check, but then Bekka called. You'd taken off, and she was fine. She told me it was over between us, that we'd broken our own rules about when we'd see each other. She said you were forgiving with her, and she hated you for it, that she could cope with you punching her around or whatever, but not with you telling her that you two would work it out."
"Yeah, well.... She fucked up. The thing was, if I had known about you two up front I would have been fine with it. If Bekka had said, 'I hate getting in bed alone, so Calm Steve is going to keep me company, hint hint,' I could have dealt with that. It was the deception that hurt more than the infidelity. So how did your girlfriend deal with your confession?"
"Initially, she was okay. We're young, everyone makes mistakes, and on like that. But I was sure you were going to kill me either at home or at work the next morning, so I felt like confessing everything: that this wasn't a random, spur of the moment event, but something that had been happening for, like, five years. She started feeling less and less forgiving. When I admitted it wasn't just any random chick, but Becky Page from work, she told me I was sleeping on the sofa."
"Are you and Toki still together?" I asked.
Calm Steve nodded. "It took a lot of groveling on my part, and a lot of water had to go under the bridge, but we rebuilt the trust. I was able to make her understand that this wasn't me out having fun, but was a continuation of something that had been going on for a while, longer than I'd known Toki. I wasn't just fucking some random chick. She was cool with that aspect, but the fact that it was Bekka drove her crazy, and this was before Bekka was famous, she was just a porn queen with her face on a few boxes."
"Too wild," I said. "Bekka has been causing disharmony for longer than I thought, and I've met a shitload of angry wives, women who are convinced that Becky Page is somehow spiriting their husbands away by hexing them through videotape. Of course, I also meet girls not yet old enough to drink who thank Becky Page for showing them the joys of bisexuality and polyamory. My wife makes a serious impact with folks."
Jumping back to our original subject, Calm Steve said, "So as soon as we've got two camera operators hired, I'll start directing?"
"Yeah. And don't forget, a C-note for loop scripts. They shouldn't take you more than forty-five minutes to think up and write down. Obviously, multiple sets are out. We just want introductory dialogue to two or three or five people fucking, it shouldn't be more than ninety seconds of talk before the action begins to ramp up."
"Have you made this offer to anyone else?"
"Anyone at Inana can make a contribution," I said. "I haven't gotten the word out to everyone, but I will. Shit, I told Eddie The Jew about it and he gave off the most insane cackle. Remember, he's the guy who made 'Temporary Pleasures' funny, he's a creative dude. But if we start cranking out twelve loops a week, I want them to stand out. Even pretending to have a story will help matters."
Bekka came into the office and began groping me for my cigarettes. "Heya Steve," she said.
"Hey Bekka." He stood up and said, "Okay, thanks for the good news. I'm looking forward to this. Talk to you later." Out Calm Steve went.
Lighting one of my Marlboros, Bekka said, "So, you and Calm Steve actually had a civil conversation. How did this come about?"
I said, "I let him know he was being made a director as soon as I hire two more camera people. Inana is going to start doing production six days a week. Small Steve takes three days, Calm Steve takes the other three, and they each do their editing while the other one shoots. We can get away with more frequent loop releases.... I was actually thinking of maybe doing it like a book club, where you get so many tapes for a cheap price so long as you buy 'X' number at full price. We send you tapes weekly and bill your credit card automatically until you cancel. What do you think?"
"Huh," said Bekka. "It could work. Talk to Angel about it obviously. How would you get the word out?"
"Half page ads in Hustler and Club and the rest. And more restrained ads in Playboy and Penthouse and Esquire. If we can increase volume and keep quality up, we can't lose."
"Planning on bringing in new performers?"
I shook my head. "If I chance across them, great, but I'm not running ads. Everyone will just start making that much more money, by doing four or five scenes a week. If some people just want to do three, that's cool. But let's see, we brought on Gayla a few months back, now we're gonna be getting Jolene, and Pill, and Feather. I figure everyone will be as busy as they want to be. The guys will be overjoyed, their money will go up. Enough two-in-one and DP scenes, Roach could see $1500 weeks on occasion."
Bekka said, "Oh, that reminds me. Sue said that if she does another DP scene with Roach, he does not get the back door. She was seriously hurting afterwards today, Roach is just too wide."
"I'll pass the word along to Small Steve," I said. "Say, where's Jolene?"
"Out front, smoking and chewing the fat with Sue and Mickey. I overheard her earlier, so she's considering pouncing on Roach, huh?"
"Well, Roach impressed the shit out of her with his friendliness and good manners. From what she's told me, I'm guessing it's been a minimum of two years since she's had a decent sexual experience...."
"Except for you," said Bekka. "She said you made her come her brains out."
I shrugged. "Yeah, well.... I went down on her and got her off, that's all. It didn't count as a full sexual experience, not to me anyway. I was just helping her out. The poor girl needed some release. Anyway, Jolene has been having lousy sex with her husband for about twenty months total, and I got the impression she was in a dry spell before that. She used to fool with other girls when she was in the Air Force, but that was kind of irregular, and neither here nor there. So now she's broken it off with hubby, she's hanging out around porno people, and here's this young guy who is genuinely nice. It doesn't hurt that he's not as ugly as people make him out to be, he's fairly buff, and he makes a living having sex with women, which means he must be pretty damn good at it. And best of all, he's single. Yeah, Jolene definitely has an eye on Roach. And hey, more power to 'em, I hope she goes off like a rocket during her interview on Monday."
And who should walk in the office but Jolene, Roach, and Dawn. Jolene was saying, ".... Maybe ten times in my life. I could never seem to find it when I was younger, and it was a straight bust in the Air Force. A couple people gave me lines in bars when I was discharged, but it was crap."
Roach said to me, "Hey Lenny, would you be willing to smoke a bowl with us? I've been trying to convince Jolene that you get pure methamphetamine, and not redneck crank."
"Not a problem," I said. "Jolene, have you ever smoked dope before?"
Jolene said, "I've always snorted before now. I guess I'm gonna learn how."
I said, "If you're a lightweight, three hits will do you right." I got the pipe out of my pocket, along with the vial. I began loading the pipe. Dawn walked up to me and held her hands out underneath the pipe, causing snickers from Roach.
"What are you doing?" asked Jolene.
Dawn said, "Just a precaution. Both Lenny and Bekka are in the bad habit of spilling shit when loading a pipe. And instead of trying to pick it up, they just rub it into the carpet with their feet. It's horrible seeing them waste like that."
"It's only drugs," said Bekka. "It's not anything valuable or important."
"It's just.... The principle. Whatever."
I was using a completely clean pipe, so I would be able to show Jolene what was going on. She stepped closer. I said, "Okay, that's about a twenty-weight, two-tenths of a gram. That's enough to get us all high, and there will still be some left over. Smoking is economical. Anyway, first you melt it in.... Like this.... So you're not inhaling dope. Saw how it started to smoke? Use the lighter to do that again while taking a hit and rolling the pipe back and forth between your fingers. The dope smokes more when it hits the cooler parts of the glass. And you don't need to keep it flamed, when it's putting off good smoke stop firing it. Here, watch...."
I took a hit, then passed the pipe to Bekka. From her it went to Dawn, then Roach, then to Jolene. Having observed all of us, she took her hit like a champ. We passed it around again, and again. When Jolene had taken her third hit, I said to her, "Lay off now or you won't get any sleep. How do you feel?"
Jolene said, "Perky. Energized. Damn fine. On top of the world. That stuff is really awesome. Thank you."
Bekka said, "Us addicts have a tolerance for the stuff, so we're gonna keep smoking. Hopefully you'll keep the shit out of your life enough that when you do indulge, three hits is enough to get you off."
"You guys aren't tweakers," said Jolene.
"You're right, we're not, but we are addicts. We don't have the bad habits and behaviors tweakers do. We bathe, we eat, we sleep, our cars run, our bills are paid. We're not white trash...."
"I am," said Dawn.
"Me too," I added.
Roach said, "I was raised by white trash. I know white trash. You two aren't white trash."
Dawn said, "Yes I am. I dumpster dive for food."
"No, you used to dumpster dive for food, because you were homeless and broke and starving. You were in survival mode. It's not like you did it because you were just cheap. You did it because you had to."
"But I was....."
Roach placed a hand on her mouth. He said, "You don't get to start your 'I'm trash' litany again. In the past, you were broke and homeless. Now you have a job and a fairly ritzy place to live. There's food in the fridge and gas in your tank. And you matter. You're my friend, and that's important to me. You give really awesome head, too. You are valid, okay? Remember that."
Jolene asked, "Are you two, um, a couple? Lenny said you lived together."
"We're roommates and we're friends, but no, we're not dating or anything."
"I don't do romance," said Dawn. "With a few exceptions, I don't like men. Lenny I like, Roach I like. There are a couple others around, too. But my only interest in men is sexual, otherwise, I harbor nothing but contempt."
"So you wouldn't be bothered if, say, I were to take Roach out to dinner," quizzed Jolene.
"Roach is my friend, and I want him to be happy. If you make him happy, then I will be happy."
I spoke up. "Jolene, I am now going to interfere in your life to an extent. If you are considering getting Roach in the sack, I will request you wait until after your video interview. If you two fuck before then, I will be forced to substitute someone else for the interview. The idea is that you're working with someone totally unfamiliar to you, to see how adaptable you are. Having Roach work with you on your interview will mean that you're with a stud who's well-hung, true, but you'll also be with someone who has a brain and a modicum of courtesy, brains not being too common among my male performers. Nice guys, but they are always amazed at the intellectual feats pulled off during 'Wheel of Fortune.' Savvy?"
Jolene looked irked, but said, "Okay. So if I were to attempt to seduce Roach, it's all right after Monday?"
"Just leave him with some energy and seminal fluid. He's gotta get off a good money shot a few times a week."
"I recover well overnight," said Roach.
Dawn said to Roach, "Hey Moe, let's go to the movies, we can catch a matinee at the UTC mall."
"Moe?" queried Bekka.
"Yeah. Short for mohawk."
Roach said, "I call her Pint-Size."
The two went out. There were probably more strangely matched pairs of friends, but I couldn't think of ever having heard of them. And their friendship wasn't just based on drugs or oral sex, they truly enjoyed each other's company.
"So what should we do with ourselves?" asked Bekka.
I considered. "Um.... Get Jolene's luggage up to the penthouse. Go get copies of the local papers, so you all can check on rentals. Go home, sit down with a map, and plot out rental locations. Jolene, I have no idea what rents are like in Grass Valley, so I have no idea what you want to spend."
Jolene answered, "A one bedroom would be between $350 and $550. Given what I'll be earning, I have no problem with spending $700 a month, so long as it's a decent place."
"Okay. Bekka, track down North County rentals. Check Del Mar, Cardiff, and Solana Beach if she's willing to spend that much. Introduce her to Jane, maybe decide what we should do for dinner."
"Wow," said Jolene. "I just realized I'm gonna have Becky Page helping me apartment hunt. My husband would shit a brick if he knew we were hanging out. To my knowledge, he's never seen one of your movies, but he knows who you are."
I asked, "I was wondering, how much information did you give your husband in regards to your destination and plans?"
"I told him I was heading to San Diego and that I planned on building a very different life for myself, a life he could not imagine me having. I didn't tip him off as to my career plans. Once I'm settled in someplace, I'll give him a call and let him know where I can be found, and what I'm doing. I'm not worried about him coming after me, he's such a creature of habit that traveling any further than Sacramento would frighten him. We can take care of the business we need to by phone and mail. When it comes time to split personal property, I'll rent a truck and haul it home."
"You're not sparing a lot of emotion over this dude," said Bekka.
"I can't. It would be false. I realized that the feeling I had for him wasn't affection, it was pity. He really is lost without someone to hold his hand. Dammit, I need an adult relationship. The fact that a nineteen year old punk rocker looks like a viable candidate is a sorry measure of where my husband stands on the maturity scale."