Small Steve anchored the mobile production truck, a former UPS truck, in the yellow zone outside the multiplex of University Town Center, a stone's throw from the food court. Everyone else pulled their cars into the closest spaces they could find, not a difficult task on a Wednesday morning. I stopped behind the truck, briefly admiring it. We'd had it painted black, with the Inana Productions logo put on both sides and the rear roll-up door. The original interior racks had been scrapped, and Steve had supervised the installation of custom racks, shelves, and cabinets which would hold all the stuff needed for shooting professional video on location. An electric inverter had been installed, powerful enough to run a a playback unit or charge a low camera battery pack. Angel had even allowed a bit of bling, we now had shiny chrome rims at each corner. The truck spent much time sitting to one side of the driveway at the mansion, ready to be called into service. We'd take it for a spin once a week, so the battery wouldn't die.
I was transporting our stars. Bekka, Elspeth, and Ellen were already in costume and makeup. Pill had come along to do any necessary makeup corrections, leaving Jeanette at the mansion to handle the performers in that day's loops. Our crew was Small Steve (director/camera), Sally (camera), a hep cat named Ace (sound/boom mike), and a gaffer who actually had the legal name of Bubba. His parents refused to elaborate why they had chosen this name. They were San Diego natives, and had no family lineage in the South. A twenty-two year old skateboarder, Bubba had decided to embrace his inexplicably hick name, wearing belts with giant buckles and a straw cowboy hat. He and Ace were friends, they played Dungeons and Dragons together. Ace, also twenty-two, hated all music written past about 1952. He was a huge fan of big band swing, blasting it out of his $5,000 car stereo louder than any Encanto b-boy ever would.
Also along were Pill (makeup/empath) and the male performer of the day, Tex. A native of El Segundo, Tex was an interesting specimen. At the age of twelve he'd seen professional rodeo on TV, and was hooked. He knew what he wanted to do with his life. Unfortunately, opportunities to learn how to ride bulls and broncos are few and far between when you're living in the shadow of LAX. His parents were thoroughly unsupportive of his goal, refusing to transport him to places in Riverside or San Bernardino counties where he could train. The damn kid could just learn to surf, like everybody else. At seventeen, he injured his back in a car wreck, which pretty much put the kibosh on ever riding anything more challenging than a merry-go-round horse. Nonetheless, he held onto the fashion sense he had started to develop when he was fifteen, that of a silent movie cowboy. Clomping along in his cowboy boots, Wranglers, stiff Western shirt with piping on it, bolo tie, a scarf around his neck, and a Stetson hat which had cost more than his first car, he was an easy man to spot in a crowd anywhere in Southern California. At Inana, performers (especially males) did quite a bit of their own costuming, simply being instructed to wear something appropriate for their role. Since roles for the guys would often consist of them playing That One Guy Who Fucks Ella Belle, their street clothes were often fine.... Except for Tex. Casting Tex in a feature meant taking him clothes shopping, so viewers wouldn't be wondering why the reincarnation of Tom Mix was getting his dick sucked by Tawny Smith.
Me and the three girls exited the Fleetwood, Bekka and Ellen wrapping their arms around themselves. Their costumes were skimpy, and it was not warm yet. The June gloom overcast, a mean trick San Diego plays on tourists, had yet to burn off. The further inland you were the earlier it went away, with the beaches not seeing the sun until two in the afternoon. A UTC security guard stood a ways off watching us, looking as interested as one can get when being paid five bucks an hour. I approached him.
I said to the guard, "Do me a favor, get on your radio and let your office know Inana Productions has arrived, and is going to start setting up in the food court."
The guard, about my age with a cop mustache, frowned and said, "Who?"
"Inana Productions," I repeated. "They'll know who we are. We're the suckers paying overtime on having a couple of you guys keep an eye on things. We're shooting video here in three spots, and we're going to start setting up in the first."
With a hood-lidded look, he pulled out his radio, pushed the button, and said, "Base, this is forty-two. There are some people here from Ivanka Productions, they say they're setting something up in the food court, and wanted to let you know."
A long burst of static came out of the radio, which the guard somehow translated into words. He looked at me and said, "Um, they said go ahead, your security will meet you there, but wait until security arrives before you start filming. You're making a movie?"
"Yes, exactly," I replied. I went over to where Small Steve was loitering and said we could start moving equipment in and setting up. Everyone had gathered around the camera truck, smoking cigarettes and gossiping. Small Steve slid the rear door open, a signal it was time to start grabbing stuff and heading in, following Steve like baby ducks until he stopped. Two cameras and tape drives, two "portable" lights, Ace's sound equipment, a couple cases containing tools, random bits, and blank videotape, and the portable makeup kit were handed out of the truck to those waiting. Everyone followed Steve into the food court, to our shot location.
I moved the Fleetwood into a normal parking space, checked to make sure the camera truck was locked, and trotted towards the food court. It was still fairly empty, the various vendors gearing up for the lunch rush. Bubba found a service outlet and began running extension cords for the lights. We determined the marks for the four performers, who took them and began polishing what little blocking and movement there was. With the performers in place, Steve and Sally assessed things, determining the best positions and angles for the cameras. Ace checked his sound equipment and got a feel for levels, expressing relief we weren't getting any ambient noise from the skating rink or arcade. People going from one end to the other of the food court would look at us, but weren't stopping and staring. However, they would walk straight through our set-up. Once we were ready to roll, this would not do. We needed our security guards, I couldn't do the job of re-routing people by myself.
And here they came, two guys who looked old enough to have diapered Rose Kennedy. They were well past retirement age, charging towards nursing home age. Both were trying to have a purposeful stride, but were stymied by their bunions, arthritis, scoliosis, and trick knees. They took us in as though we were in the process of building a bonfire. Getting closer, one elbowed the other and pointed to where Bekka and Ellen were sitting. Both scowled, affronted by the lack of materiel used in the costumes. I approached them to make introductions.
The taller one, whose ears made his head look like a VW with the doors open, took me in. He was displeased with what he saw. I had introduced myself as the producer, and the looks from both of them said they didn't believe me. I was just some punk rock hoodlum, certainly addicted to heroin and suffering from multiple venereal diseases. The shorter one had bifocals and a bottle of Pepto Bismol shoved in the back pocket of his pants. He walked around me and asked Bubba, "So who's in charge here?"
Bubba pointed back at me, telling him he'd just walked past the producer. The guard (who was named Pinky by the Inana people, due to his bismuth-stained teeth) looked where Bubba was pointing and got an appalled expression on his face, then slumped back towards me.
I told Pinky, "When you're on a set or location and you're looking for the boss, you find the producer. Like I said, that's me. Who did you think you wanted?"
The tall one (Inana name: Puddles, as he seemed to always have a tiny stream of drool running out one corner of his mouth) glared at me and said, "You're not the damn producer, you're just some damn kid. What sort of game are you people playing, anyway?"
I gave him a silent blank stare briefly, then said, "I started in this business at a young age. You can ask anyone on the cast or crew who I am, or you could go the business office and look up the use agreements I signed, which will have the name Leonard Schneider on them. That's me, Leonard Schneider, writer and producer of this current project, and of many others. But no matter what you do, the upshot is I'm the one you'll be dealing with and getting instructions from, like it or not. Any chance you two have been briefed as to what's going on?"
Puddles answered, "We was told some damn company named Anona Productions is making a damn movie here today. They want us to be damn traffic cops for pedestrians, keep damn idiots from walking through the scene or stopping and staring. How long before you damn people finish setting up? Where are the damn cameras?"
This second question briefly flummoxed me, as the cameras were set up and waiting on their tripods. Then I realized this guy was expecting to see the big Panavision film cameras set up. I patiently said, "We work with video, not film. Our cameras are already in place. We're almost ready, they're just tweaking the lights right now. One of you will be at each end of where we're working, and yeah, keep people the hell out of shot and away from the crew. You will also help escort and protect our stars, particularly Becky Page. She's the one in red over there, with the horns."
"Her and the other one are in your movie?" asked Puddles. "They look like a couple of damn hookers."
For expedience sake, I decided to let this comment go by. I said, "That's Skye Tyler. Also performing are the girl in the plaid skirt, she is Ella Belle. And the dude in the blue golf shirt is Tex. They'll be the people in front of the cameras. While we walk from location to location, your task will be to keep an eye open for overaggressive fans. Becky will be the primary target, but Skye and Ella are also well known. Basically, keep the girls from getting harassed. I'll also be with them, I function as a bodyguard. I've had to prevent Becky from being mobbed by fans in the past, right here in this food court. Can you handle that?"
"I never heard of any of them," said Pinky. "What have they been in? They ain't never been written up in Parade or Us. How famous can they be?"
"As I said, Becky will be the source of the most attention. Most recently all three were in the movie 'Succubus.' Skye starred in one called 'Temporary Pleasures.' Another one would be 'Dangerous Desires.' Are any of these ringing bells? Keep in mind these movies were not in theaters, they were all video releases, but no surprise there. Oh, and Becky and Skye have been in Time."
"Time? I don't read them egghead political magazines. I never heard of the movies you just said. And anyway, how can a movie be a movie if it ain't in a movie theater?"
I'd had it. I answered, "In our case, because it's porn. We make hardcore porn. What's being shot today is going to be in a porno movie. You think Ellen and Becky are underdressed right now? They don't have any clothes on at all in much of this movie, neither does Ella. This scene we're doing right now is just a setup for Tex getting his dick sucked by Becky. This Tuesday, we're renting a nightclub so we can shoot both Becky and Elspeth getting fucked. You're aiding in the production of pornography, and you're going to do it because I paid you to. Don't decide you have moral objections to what you're doing and decide to walk off the job, because I will sue you and the mall for breach of contract. Even if I had a weak case, I still have the time and money to make your lives miserable for a long, long time."
I heard Small Steve call, "Okay people, thirty seconds. Places, please."
I looked at Pinky and Puddles and said, "You, take that end, you take the other end. Just keep people moving past and out of our space. Go."
The two looked at each other, then shuffled off to where I'd pointed. I heard Sally's voice loudly announce "Good Girl/Bad Girl, scene twenty-one, take one." Then Small Steve called, "Sound, and action."
The scene started. It showed Elspeth (trailed, as always, by Ellen and Bekka) approaching Tex, to try and start a conversation. As she approached, Ellen (the angel) says to Elspeth, "He seems like a nice boy, you should get his phone number." Bekka (the devil) says, "No no no, let's land the bastard, let's hook him. Take him back to the car and suck his dick, yeah. Ha ha, tell him you're a total cum-slut, he'll do anything you say after that. Yeah, suck his dick, suck his dick."
Bekka had just started to speak when a very loud voice started saying, "Keep to the left, keep to the left. Hey buddy, to the left. Keep to the left, ma'am. Keep to the left."
The voice was coming from Puddles, who was standing like a post, yelling instructions at anyone coming his way. Steve yelled cut. I stomped over to Puddles and said, "You're interrupting our shoot yelling like that. What are you doing?"
Puddles looked confused and said, "What you told me to."
I rolled my eyes and said, "Look, when you hear someone yell action on a set, you shut the hell up. We don't need audio of you bellowing. Just gesture at people to get them going in the right direction, swing your arms."
"I'm supposed to wave my arms at these damn people to direct them? My right shoulder catches."
I said, "I don't care if you look like Marcel Marceau having a grand mal seizure, you will direct people silently, okay? Keep your arms out and point people where they should go. No yelling."
Small Steve waited until I returned before calling ready. Sally announced Good Girl/Bad Girl, scene twenty-one, take two. The scene started again. We had just gotten to Elspeth introducing herself to Tex when there was a terrible crashing and clattering noise. Steve yelled cut, we all looked in the direction of the noise. Pinky was standing and staring at a large collection of food court serving trays scattered at his feet. I walked over and asked him what was going on.
Pinky said, "I was bored, so I started gathering up all these used trays to be washed. Everybody just leaves their trays on the tables, instead of putting them where they belong. I guess they slipped."
I hissed, "You will stay where you were instructed, and you will do what you were told to do, not be a freelance janitor. Back to where you belong." Pinky started to bend over to collect the trays. I said, "Leave them. Get in your spot. Now."
Good Girl/Bad Girl, scene twenty-one, take three. Elspeth and Tex's dialogue had just started. The angel and the devil were walking around him in a tight circle, examining him like he was a beef cow. Suddenly there was a short repeated honking sound, like a five foot whoopee cushion. I looked towards the noise while Steve rather grumpily yelled cut. Puddles had his handkerchief out, and was examining its contents, having finished blowing his nose. Then he blew some more.
I stood about three inches away from Puddles and growled, "So what fucking part of 'silence' didn't you get when I told you a few minutes ago? You make no noise when those cameras are rolling. None. Drip snot on your shoes, I don't care. But until you hear 'cut,' you shut the fuck up."
"You can't talk to me like that. Hell, I'm one of your damn elders. Don't get lippy with me, you damn brat."
"Until we are finished shooting at this mall, I am your boss. I say, you do. Do your job, and do it in silence. Later, you can file a complaint against me with the union. We're starting again, look alive."
Good Girl/Bad Girl, scene twenty-one, take four. We got it. Everyone began breaking down to move to the next location, an outdoor plaza. Tex and Elspeth went to get sodas. Ellen and Bekka planted themselves at tables, lighting cigarettes. Pill breezed up and said she wanted to do some light touch-up work on the both of them. Puddles and Pinky walked up to me, where I was standing next to Bekka, and asked what they should do.
"Wait until we're ready to move, then stay near these two while we walk to the location. Hang around here in the meantime. Neither Becky or Skye mind autograph hounds, but their fans can sometimes be excitable. Watch for them, and keep them away."
Puddles looked at Bekka and said, "So, you're famous?"
Bekka responded. "Yes. It came as a surprise to me too."
"I never heard of none of the movies this guy said you're in. He said they ain't never been in movie theaters even, that they're actually dirty pictures. I don't get it."
"We make adult video," Bekka said lazily. "Yeah, multiplexes will not show triple-X features, and the distributors won't carry them anyway. But Lenny there has created a series of features, all hardcore porn, which have sold countless millions of copies each. I've appeared in them. So has Skye here. With his movies, Lenny really struck a chord, he balanced hardcore sex with intelligent plots and genuine entertainment. Inana's features aren't just something for lonely men to jerk off to, they are actually satisfying to the intellect."
"But what do you do? How did you get famous?" asked Pinky.
"I suck and I fuck. I was also blessed with a modicum of acting talent, so I can play full roles, and fairly complex ones. Due to one thing and another, I have become known as a horny version of Wonder Woman, and an icon of post-feminist sexual liberation. I have an incredibly huge number of female fans, which is unusual for a porn star, and my fans range in age from fifteen to eighty. I have been in Time, People, Cosmopolitan, Vanity Fair, in the papers, and on CBS news. To be honest, my fame still mystifies me. I'm just a porn slut who doesn't blow her lines."
"Becky's fans can get kind of obsessive and nutty," said Ellen. "I've seen it happen. We've never been sure what they think they will gain by being alone with her, but they'll try. That's kind of a reason why you guys are around, I guess, in case some rabid fan shows up and makes a pest of himself. Lenny has always managed to bulldog them in the past, but this being the middle of a shoot, he has his mind on other things. Where are your weapons?"
"Huh?" said Puddles.
"Don't you have sidearms? Or batons? Or even pepper spray and handcuffs?"
"Jeez lady, we'd get fired if we carried that stuff," said Pinky. "We're mall security. We just keep an eye on things. Any real trouble gets handled by the real cops."
"What the hell do you expect from us for what we get paid?" added Puddles.
Bekka rolled her eyes and blew smoke at the ceiling. "Oh, just dandy. I knew we should have called in Terry and maybe Roach. Between those two and Lenny we would have been covered. So tell me, how did you two end up having these jobs?"
Pinky said, "I guess we're both retired, but just didn't want to sit around the house. I wanted to be around people, and a mall has lots of people, and I found out they'll hire you as a guard here with no experience. I tell ya though, I never thought about how much time I'd spend on my feet. I can barely walk out to my car on some nights."
Ellen considered the two evenly. "So if some creep came up and tried to put their hands on me or Becky, you would...?"
Puddles and Pinky looked at each other. There was a pause. Finally Puddles said, "Um.... Tell the guy to move along. If he don't, I'd get on the radio to the office and tell them to send a couple cops up."
"You wouldn't try to grab the guy and get him away from us?"
"We can't put our hands on nobody. It's policy. We'd get fired," said Pinky.
"Right," said Bekka. She turned to me and said, "I'm going to walk down to the pay phones and try to get a hold of Terry. If I can, I'm telling her to please get up here as fast as possible, we need her. Between you and her, we should be able to handle both safety and crowd control. How does that sound?"
"That works," I told her. "Gentlemen, your day may get that much shorter. We will replace you with a professional guard, one carrying a gun, who has had to handle large crowds of people in the past, along with overzealous fans. She will serve our needs well." Bekka began walking towards the phones.
Puddles snorted. "Wait, a she? You think one woman can replace the two of us?"
"In a heartbeat. Her name is Terry, and she is is five foot six of outlaw biker chick, rides a Harley and everything. Along with the Harley, she wears a Colt Defender in a shoulder holster, carries a Buck knife just in case, and fears absolutely nothing on this planet, or elsewhere in the solar system. Terry is Becky's personal bodyguard, accompanying Becky when she goes out and I am not around, and sometimes even when I am. Terry cannot be flummoxed, does not back down, and will risk her own safety to protect Becky's. She has the tenacity and loyalty of a pit bull, and she is quick-witted. I would say one Terry could replace twelve or thirteen of you two."
"And she can suck a golf ball through a garden hose," giggled Ellen.
I went and told Small Steve that we may be holding there at the food court for a bit, we were going to see if Terry could join us as security. Her and I could handle things, and I could fire the two dimwitted geriatrics in uniform. "That's fine, we'd just be sitting around at the plaza anyway, waiting for the overcast to burn off so we'll have good light. No real hurry, so far as I'm concerned."
Presently Bekka returned, with a tight smile on her face. She said, "Yes, Terry will be joining us. She said she refuses to be paid for helping, given how much we've helped her in the past. I made it clear we were waiting on her, and she said she'd do her Steve McQueen impression burning rubber on the Harley getting here. She gave an ETA of fifteen minutes, although I'm thinking longer, if she's coming all the way from Ocean Beach."
I bought sodas for everybody and told them to sit down and relax. The equipment was lined up in the entry hallway, being kept an eye on by Bubba. Pinky sidled up next to Ellen and took her in. Neither she nor Bekka were wearing bras, and it was very obvious. They were also missing underwear, but that wasn't as noticeable. He finally said to Ellen, "Don't it bother you to be out in public dressed like that?"
Ellen gave Pinky an I'm-humoring-fools smile and said, "Should I be bothered? Why?"
"Well, jeez, you barely got anything on at all. You don't leave nothing to the imagination, a woman's bathing suit covers you up more than what you got on."
Ellen said, "It doesn't bother me one bit to be exposed, I could sit here naked and not care. In fact, being naked has earned me a good living, along with the various sex acts I engage in. I am constantly told how beautiful my body is, and I am proud of that. As I once told someone else, I have no shame, because according to my fan mail, I have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. Does the sight of a woman's body bother you?"
Pinky looked both annoyed and befuddled. He finally said, "Well jeez lady, you may be happy being almost naked, but you gotta take how society views you into account. You shouldn't defy society."
Ellen laughed at this. She said, "Flouting community standards is what got me where I am. In the small town where I grew up, I found myself being accused of being a slut, a harlot. I refused to sew on the scarlet 'A' everyone wanted me to wear. In fact, I decided that if I was going to be called a slut, I may as well earn a living at it, so I got on the Greyhound and headed for California, where I started making porn, and continue to. The pious assholes in my hometown think I'm a slut, and I cry all the way to the bank. Half the time I work twenty hour weeks at the most, and earn enough that in another two years I will have saved enough to buy a nice house in a good neighborhood with cash, I will own my home outright. Those who wish may admire my body all they want, and the prigs of the world can find something else to do. Me showing off my body makes too many people happy, and earns me too good of a living."
Elspeth, who had eavesdropped, said to Pinky, "If she was in a bikini she'd be a lot less covered up than she is now. And she won't have anything on at all in a lot of this movie. Neither will I, neither will Becky. All three of us will be spending a lot of time with dicks in our mouths or up our pussies. And millions of people will buy millions of copies of the video, like they always do. Not only are we porn stars, but we're the best damn porn stars in the world, and we have both the sales figures and the fan mail to prove it. This is my first lead role, and I couldn't be more proud. You think what we do is defiance of society? Somebody's buying all those videotapes. Screw society's hypocritical double standards."
Puddles horned in and said, "So what do your parents think?"
"My parents are resigned," chuckled Ellen. "After all, I am their daughter the slut."
"My parents are pretty accepting," said Elspeth. "I told them what working for Inana is like, and how things work in the industry, so they're not worried about me. And I made them understand that what I do is just performance, it happens in a controlled and safe environment, everyone I work with is healthy, and I'm not doing anything I don't want to. They also don't mind that I will sometimes make their mortgage and car payments for them, when they're running short on money."
"I feel sorry for Lenny," said Ellen. "His parents hate his career, and not only is he incredibly creative, he's also a good businessman. Lenny and Becky are millionaires at this point. His parents don't care, they still think he's just making dirty movies with no value."
Terry arrived within the fifteen minutes she said she would. She must have been weaving through traffic on her motorcycle like a slalom course. Puddles and Pinky were immediately appalled at the sight of her: a biker bitch, in boots, tight black jeans, a tight Jack Daniels t-shirt, flannel shirt with the sleeves hacked off, and a bandana holding her long dark hair in place. Her wraparound sunglasses hung from the collar of her shirt. And her shoulder holster peeked out from behind the flannel. They were used to processing people with her fashion sense as career criminals. And this one was supposed to do their jobs.
"So what the fuck's going on?" Terry asked, giving me a kiss.
I told her, "Well, the security I got from the mall isn't working out. They're really not up to the task, they don't grasp how to behave on a set, they will be utterly worthless for protecting Becky, Skye, and Ella, and they don't like us. They're bugged they have to work with a bunch of pornographers. Thanks for coming down. You and me will handle crowd control at our next two locations, and we've had experience in protecting the girls. Bekka said you're refusing to be paid for working. Let me at least buy you lunch."
"Yeah, that's cool," said Terry. "Fuck no, you ain't payin' me to be here. This is me helping friends who were in a tight spot. You've done too much fuckin' shit to help me out for me to expect a paycheck just for hanging out at the fuckin' mall. Besides, with all the work I do for you anyways, I'm rolling in greenbacks at this point. It's not like I need the bread."
Puddles and Pinky were slowly edging in our direction, keeping an eye on the criminal biker. Pinky said to me, "So where are we going next?"
I replied, "Inana Productions will be setting up to shoot over in a plaza, the one near Foot Locker. I have no idea where you two are going. Back to your office, I guess. I paid for your presence for four hours, but I don't need you, so you'll be getting paid for doing nothing." I handed them each a quarter. "Here, go play some pinball. That'll kill a little time."
Puddles was giving Terry a baleful glare. He said, "Him and me are being replaced by.... her? Some damn white trash biker gang woman?"
"You sure are," I answered. "I made the mistake of believing I would get professionals through mall management, not just warm bodies in uniforms. My mistake. I'm not asking the mall for my money back, I'm just installing a professional to do the job. And Terry is the professional."
Puddles went off. "You want someone like her working for you? I still can't believe you run this damn studio, how do you even stay in business? You're just some damn kid, you look like a damn hooligan, you got no damn respect for your elders.... You're just some worthless damn brat."
Terry gave Puddles a steady gaze and said, "You seem awful fuckin' worked up, buddy. Everybody loses jobs. Why don't you relax?"
"Shut up, you little whore!" Puddles exclaimed.... Then swung a hand to slap Terry. She grabbed the hand at the wrist, twisted, and wrenched his arm behind his back, spinning him around. Then she swept one of her legs into both of his, putting him on the ground face-first. She planted one knee on his back, still holding his arm up between his shoulder blades
In a slightly bored voice, Terry said to Puddles, "Look motherfucker, I'm here to do a job. I've worked for Lenny for a while now, and I'm good at knowing what the fuck he wants to accomplish. I don't need to start my fuckin' day off with any fuckin' bullshit from some geezer rent-a-cop. Motherfucker, never swing a hand at me again, or I'll break it the fuck off. And I ain't no fuckin' whore."
Terry let go of Puddles' arm and stood up. Puddles began slowly trying to return to a vertical position, looking like a drunk walrus. Pinky came over and helped him, keeping a nervous eye on both me and Terry. For her part, Terry wandered over to Small Steve and said, "So how's it gone so far today? You got your shit all settled in here, right?"
"Four takes," said Steve. "Our mall security didn't understand how to behave on a live set, even after it was explained to them. We kept getting audio interruptions."
Terry started laughing. "Yeah, I remember you chewing me out right after I started fluffing, because I'd brought a bag of Doritos to snack on. I didn't quite get it yet. I remember you saying, "No adult video has ever been enhanced by having strange crunching noises in the background.' Shit, at least I only needed to be told once."
Pinky called to me. He said, "We're headed back to the security office now," and the two of them began shuffling for the exit. I told them to have a nice day, which they ignored.
Ace had run to the CVS, and when he returned told us the sun was breaking through. By the time we were done setting up, we should have good light. Crew grabbed equipment and headed out, following Steve. Terry and I walked with the girls, Terry slightly ahead, me a bit behind. We got to the plaza and set marks. Steve and Sally started working on camera angles, which had to be just right. We'd promised mall management we would exclude all signage from our shots, both the mall's and the names of the tenant stores. We would keep them anonymous. We reminded Bubba that he was superfluous, so he said he'd go to the arcade for a while and catch up with us later, as he'd car pooled with us to the mall.
Ace was checking levels and we were waiting on him when we were approached by two guys in security uniforms. They looked different from the other guards, as their uniforms had been starched, and were spotless. They stopped on the edge of the plaza, gazing around. I began walking towards them, and asked how I may be of help.
"We're looking for Leonard Schneider," one of them said in an officious voice.
"You found him."
"There seems to have been some conflict between you and your security today," he said. "They say that not only did you dismiss them from their assignment, one of them was attacked by an employee of yours. Would you like to explain? Why did you dismiss the two guards?"
"Because they were worse than useless," I answered. "They had no idea how to behave on an active set, causing us delays. They seemed contemptuous of me and my performers, them initially refusing to believe I am the producer. And as security for my stars, they are completely unprepared, no weapons or protection of any kind, and to be frank, both are at an age where frailty is a genuine concern. They told me straight out that if one of my stars was attacked, they wouldn't do a thing about it, except have the office call the cops. I was expecting professionals when I agreed to pay for the mall's security, and I didn't get any. So, I called in my own professional to do the job. Her and I will handle all crowd control and security needs from here on out. And no, I'm not going to ask for my fee back."
Both were eyeing Terry, who was standing at one end of the plaza, in a place where she could see both the girls and anyone approaching from that direction. The officious guy continued, "One of them said he was attacked by a woman. From his description, it's that woman over there. We'd like to talk to her."
"No problem. Hell, I was there. Shit, she didn't attack him, he swung on her. That was a mistake, as Terry is a professional bodyguard, and knows how to respond to attacks. She put him on the ground for his troubles, but she didn't injure him. Maybe he'll think twice before being a little bitch and swinging on someone he's never met. Never fuck with people you don't know."
We got to where Terry was standing, and the officious guy asked her why she had attacked a member of mall security. Terry started laughing and said, "Oh, is that what that motherfucker is saying? That jackoff swung on me, he was gonna give me one mean fuckin' pimp slap. I blocked him, got his arm up behind his back, and dumped him on the floor. I didn't fuckin' rough him up or nothing, I just got him the fuck out of my face. I dunno if he thinks he can do shit like that because he's mall security or what, but I ain't playing that shit. To be honest, those monkey suits don't mean fuckin' shit to me. You guys have the same fuckin' powers of arrest as I do, and you all ain't armed, so I ain't taking any shit from some motherfucker I never met. Those security guard monkey suits mean about as much to me as a fuckin' Cub Scout uniform."
Terry told the security man all this with a smile and a pleasant look on her face. He seemed a bit taken aback: it was obvious that Terry had no respect for his authority. If anything, Terry was only sizing him up by his potential ability to put her on the ground first, before she took him out. The two security men stepped away and conferred, then came back. The officious guy said to Terry, "What job do you do for Inana Productions?"
Shrugging, Terry said, "Well, I work for the studio as a fluff girl a couple days a week. But I'm also Becky Page's personal bodyguard, part time. And today, I'm just helping out, Lenny and Inana have always treated me fuckin' awesome, and they needed a favor, so here I am. I'm here to keep my eyes peeled around Becky and Skye and Ella, keep the motherfuckers off of them. And I guess me and Lenny will be sort of controlling the flow of pedestrian traffic, keeping fuckin' morons from walking into where we're shooting and making sure nobody is stopping and gawking. But yeah, my main gig for the studio is as Becky's personal guard. Basically, I get paid heavy dough to hang around with fuckin' Becky Page all fuckin' day."
The officious guy said, "The guard is demanding we call the police, that you have assault charges brought upon you...."
I stepped in and said, "And I've got a whole lot of witnesses, standing over there, who will tell them that asshole swung on her first. It was self defense on Terry's part, she's just much better at it than him. Even if you had her arrested on assault charges, I'd have her out in four hours, her bail would be getting processed before she was even in the holding cells. He was pissed that I'd told him he was no longer needed, that Terry would be replacing him and the other idiot. He lost his temper and swung on Terry, and she defended herself. That old bastard is just feeling all butt-hurt because a woman took him to the ground. By the way, out of all the guards you could have sent me, why did you choose those two? Ultimately, any guard you sent would have been useless, but they were decrepit."
"Jenkins and Rogers were chosen because it seemed like the sort of assignment they would be suited well for. No, they're not about to go chasing after a running shoplifter. But crowd control on a film set would work for them, they'd just wave people along."
"We had four takes of that scene because of them. Then I come to find out that if one of my stars was attacked, particularly Becky Page, they would do nothing to stop it. They're too old anyway. They'd already annoyed me, and when I learned that, I told them they could go find something else to do, I couldn't use them, and I got a hold of Terry."
The officious guy rubbed his nose, then sighed. "All right. I'll go and talk to Rogers some more, get him off the idea of calling the police. To be honest, he has shown.... flashes of temper in the past, and in inappropriate situations." He paused, then smiled. "Yes, I can see Rogers being very upset that a woman got the upper hand with him. A bruise to his ego." The two security men walked away.
When they were gone, I asked Terry, "Where did you learn a move like that? You were quick, and you did it well."
Terry said, "Aw, I was dating a dude in the Nomads who was big into martial arts shit. He taught me a bunch of different moves for when somebody's coming after you. Shit, he taught me how to pop somebody's fuckin' eyeball out of their skull. He said it doesn't come all the way out, but sorta gets totally dislodged and hangs there."
"How come you never told us this when we first hired you as Bekka's bodyguard?"
"I dunno, it just never came up. I mean, I'm no fuckin' black belt, it's just random shit I learned. Okay, yeah, if some motherfucker tried to jump Bekka, I could put him on the ground. And I'll bet Bekka would help. I told you before, I'd never want fuckin' Becky Page pissed at me. She would be one mean bitch to have in your face."
Tex jogged up to me and said Steve was ready to start, and had been for a while, and was there any trouble? I assured him things were fine. Terry walked further up, where she could deflect pedestrians from walking into our shot. I went down to take my own position at the other end of the plaza.
We got that scene in the can, and decided it was time for lunch. Since our final two shots would be at the other end of the mall, all the equipment got dropped in the camera truck, so it could be driven over. I noticed something on the windshield of the truck. It looked like a parking ticket. Looking closer, it wasn't a ticket, but a bitchy little form note from the mall telling us we risked being towed if we left our vehicle there. Okay. We were a company with business at the mall, in a company truck with commercial plates. I grabbed a sheet of paper and a Sharpie and wrote, "Work crew on site - contact mall mgmt.for info." Then I tucked it under the wiper blade, where any mall cop doofus could read it.
Terry and I hit the gourmet burger place for lunch. As we ate, I filled in Terry about how it had gone with Pinky and Puddles. She was bitterly amused. "Neither of those dumb motherfuckers had any clue how things work on a set? I don't know shit about making movies, but I still knew to behave when I started at Inana. What the fuck, are these dudes Amish, and are mystified by all modern media?"
I told her, "I wish I'd just had you, and maybe Roach, to do security to begin with. I thought that getting security through the mall, and paying for it, I'd be getting professionals, not just warm bodies. The food court was where we needed the security help the most, and we were stuck with those geriatric dingbats. These last two shots are a breeze, it's just setting a camera up on the roof of the truck and getting footage of Bekka running through the parking lot and jumping into Elspeth's passenger window, head first. Then, five seconds of Ellen standing on a sidewalk looking worried. This is all getting knocked out at the south lot, down by the Macy's. Only a few people around, just folks headed for their cars. I'll have you stick around, just in case, but you and me are probably going to just be standing around, burning through cigarettes."
"That's cool. Too bad we're not a big Hollywood studio. They'd have trailers and RVs all over the place, a bunch of places you could go for privacy. When you and me had down time together, we could just find a vacant trailer. And I bet we could find fun ways to pass the time."
"Oh, could we," I chuckled. "We'd have to find a trailer with a special Bekka-proof doors on it. Titanium-enforced, and a forty thousand volt charge going through it."
"I'm gonna ask Bekka if I can borrow you for the night again soon," said Terry. She paused and sighed, then gave me a sad look and said, "God dammit Lenny, why the fuck can't you be single? Why couldn't I have found you four years ago, before you and Bekka hooked up? You are such an awesome fuckin' dude. You're a tough motherfucker, but you don't let being tough dictate all your behavior, you're really fuckin' sweet and gentle. You're smart. Heh, you know how to fuck me until I come my brains out. And you're not scooter trash, your world is bigger and better than that. I wish I could have you as a really, really big part of my life, you know? It's awesome that Bekka lets me take you away for the night off and on, but I wanna wake up in the morning, every morning, and be able to roll over and hold you. Lenny, I have got it for you so bad and I know I can't have you and I don't know what to do about it and it really fuckin' hurts a lot."
I ran my hands through my hair and looked at the table. Then I gave Terry a small smile and said, "Okay, first off, no murder plots against Bekka. No contract killings, either. Look, Terry, I love you. And that love has aspects of romance. If those aspects weren't there, I don't think we would ever have successfully slept together. I've gotta feel more than just companionship with someone to have sex with them. I think you are an awesome, sexy, dynamic, incredible woman. But I feel the same way about Bekka, and Bekka really is the woman who stole my heart.
"Terry, if you disappeared from my life, I would miss you terribly. It would take a long time for me to heal. If Bekka disappeared, I would never heal, I would just be a shell of a man. As much as I love you, I would eventually recover if you went away. And I would always miss you. Bekka leaving me would be a wound that would never heal, and I know that. I will always share myself with you, but I won't lie to you and say you and Bekka have equal parts of me. Bekka has the bigger share, and always will, and there's nothing I can do about that. Bekka is my muse, she inspires more than anything or anyone else ever will.
I like when we spend the night together. I make love to you, and mean it. You want more of me, but I can't in good conscience say I can provide it. All I can do is ask you to accept what I can offer, and not pine for more. Don't obsess over what love I give you, and shut out others. You deserve a wonderful man, and you deserve him all to yourself. It's nice you think I could be that man, but I'm not.
"And if we had met four years ago, you wouldn't recognize me. I'm not the same person now that I was then, believe me. I was just another punk rock loser, some fucking dope dealer from El Cajon. To be honest, Bekka helped shape me into the man I am today, so if you think I'm a cool guy now, you have Bekka to thank for a lot of it. Without her, I'd just be more suburban white trash. You wouldn't date me on a dare. So ultimately, be glad I am married to Bekka. The guy you're hung up on wouldn't exist without her."
Terry's eyes were dripping tears. She said, "Bekka really is a part of you. You two are like those conjoined twins who share organs. No matter what you do, if you separate them, they both die. Shit Lenny, it's so hard. I'm hung up on this awesome guy, who rescued me from poverty and gave me a sense of self-worth, way bigger than just being a scooter tramp. Without you, I'd still be dealing quarters of shit in Ocean Beach, which would eventually get me busted. I'd do my prison time, get out, and just be a scooter tramp with a record. You made me realize that I am someone, Terry Patton doesn't have to be another tramp with some outlaw's dick in her mouth and a nose full of bad crank. Thanks to a dude named Lenny, a biker bitch named Terry Patton looks at life more than three days forward, bigger and better things can happen besides a fresh six pack and my SSI payment. I want something out of life. I don't even know what yet, but I ain't gonna just get stuck in a grind of partying with outlaw losers, living on macaroni and cheese, and always being fifteen cents short for bus fare.
"Okay Lenny, I can accept I can never have you to myself. I wish I could, but you can have wishes in one hand and shit in the other. Guess which one piles up quicker. It really hurts, you have been better to me than every dude I've ever dated combined. But you're right. I guess I've always known that. I see you and Bekka together, and you fit like puzzle pieces. The two of you click together, and trying anything else would be forced. No matter how many times we get high together, or have lunch, or I suck your dick, I can't change how well you and Bekka mesh. I guess all I can ask for now is that you please, please share what you can of yourself with me. It will always be appreciated, and cherished.
"Um, and if it's okay with Bekka, it would be so rad if every now and then you fucked me across your desk in your office. God dude, you make me come like a fuckin' rocket."
Terry and I went to talk privately with Bekka. The upshot was that I would spend the first weekend after we finished production with Terry, I'd go to Terry's apartment on Friday afternoon and be with her until Sunday night. That weekend I got to Terry's around four, had my clothes off by 4:30, and stayed that way until about ten Saturday night, when we went to Roberto's for burritos and had a few beers at the bar. When I left Sunday night, Terry tearfully told me she would not wait for me, hoping for a miracle, but I had raised her standards higher than they had been. She said she doubted the next serious man in her life would be an outlaw, bikers just seemed to be dudes who had turned minor social alienation into a tribal phenomenon. Terry was tired of dudes who stuck with that party line, or any party line. She wanted a man whose loyalties weren't predetermined by social tribe.
"That's the biggest problem," said Terry. "I'm always gonna be a scooter tramp, it's just who I am. But I ain't gonna expect to find the man I want by hanging around with putt monkeys. Honestly? If Fatso from the Hell's Angels was twenty years younger and single, I'd go for him. But he's the only fuckin' outlaw I know who thinks about shit, he thinks, then acts. I dunno, where the fuck does a biker bitch like me go to meet dudes that aren't scooter trash?"
I said, "Huh. Um, maybe hang around the Gun Range more. Any guy you met, you two would know you had at least one common interest, shooting. You can work from there. The only word of warning I could say about guys there is if you get interested in a guy, and he's a cop, check his ring finger for wedding band tan lines. Cops are notorious cheaters, I swear there's a course at the police academy on how to treat marital fidelity like it was a drunken bet, something that's easily dismissed."
When I left Terry's apartment, she hugged me tightly and said it was hard to let go, her apartment and bed would feel empty with me gone. I told her, "I will see you tomorrow, at work. We'll go get lunch. Don't worry, I'm not going to disappear."
Driving home, I realized that Terry was the first girl I'd ever known who had a serious crush on me. It was flattering, but also had me mystified. I looked at myself and saw a former drug dealer who had lucked into a well-paying job. Terry saw me as a wonderful person, something unmatched. I wondered briefly if she would be as interested if I was still relatively poor. And I realized, she would. There was something about me that really struck a chord with her, and it wasn't my money. Terry had decided that a punk rock loser named Lenny Schneider was the best dude she had ever met, and doubted there were many more like me running around.
I pulled over at the La Jolla Village ramp and waited for my eyes to clear and my tears to dry. Breaking someone's heart was really painful.