Goose was back. He was one of our Hell's Angels security guards, and he'd been shot in the leg by a psychotic fan. Healing and physical therapy had kept him out of action for a while, but now he was doing okay and ready to get back to work. Goose's old lady was a bit worried about him returning to Inana, but everyone was assuring her shooting at a porn studio was a once in a lifetime event. Unfortunately, they were wrong. There had been three shooting incidents at the mansion so far, all of which involved me, and one of them planted me in the hospital with seven holes in me. I avoided sharing this little statistic about Inana Productions.
Ron Haley of Leisure Time Video called after all. Twice. Both times he hurled abuse and veiled threats; at least the first time he called he was sober.
"Okay Schneider, first off, I want Trish back. Nobody steals my bitches from me, least of all punk rock brats from down south. Give her back, and I won't cut you in half."
I chuckled down the line. "Oh dear. Sorry Ron, but she is at Inana of her own volition. After you abandoned her at the trattoria, we fed her some coffee and got her straightened up. She told us a lot. Given the circumstances she was in, I felt the only humane response was to offer her the chance to do our interviews and put her up while she did them. She passed with flying colors, she's now officially an Inana girl. She's in her first week of doing loops, appearing in four, two suck and fuck, two anal. She'll be clearing $3500 from us for about sixteen hours of work, which makes her very happy. It won't take her too long to save up the money for an apartment and car."
"Send her back, I need her," graveled Haley. "She was the most on the ball performer I had, she could put your fucking wife to shame. Tell her you made a mistake, you can't use her, and drive her back here. It's in your best interests."
"I'm skipping the veiled threat for the moment. Dude, Trish came down here because she was fucking broke and needed to work. She told me she'd been on the sidelines for seven weeks, waiting for you to start production of your big feature. Are you starting production, or pre-production?"
A brief pause. Then, "We've just gotta iron out a few details in the script is all. This movie will make 'Bewitched' look like an episode of Ren & Stimpy."
"What's it about?" I asked.
Haley responded, "This woman discovers she has telekinesis and ESP, and her powers grow when she has sex. In fact, she has to keep having sex to maintain her powers."
Fortunately, Haley couldn't hear my snide grin. I said, "Okay, see, that's an idea. That's not a plot. What happens to her? How does she use her powers? Does she have control over them? How often does she need to have sex to keep her powers from wilting? What, if any, goals does she have? Riddle me this, Batman."
"Look, the bitch can read minds and move shit with her thoughts, she can do anything she damn pleases. Like I said, we're still hammering out the script. It should be done in five days. I expect Trish to be back here by then."
"Will she be your lead?"
Haley grunted in frustration and said, "No. We wanted the lead to have better tits than her. She'll have a decent role, though. So you'll be bringing her back up here, right?"
It was time to laugh loudly into the receiver, so I did. When I stopped, I said, "Look Haley, Trish Douglas is an adult citizen of the United States, and can do what she damn well pleases. She is currently choosing to stay in San Diego and work, along with enjoying a temporary rent-free place to live while she rebuilds her life. This may surprise you, but performers are human beings, not racing greyhounds. I can't shove her into a kennel and move her. Trish likes it here, she's happy."
"Bring her back. Five days. If you don't, I'll go down there and take her back. And I'll bring Becky fucking Page along with me, too."
I scoffed into the phone. "Ron darling, do you ever listen to yourself when you speak? You let a lot of dumb, reckless things fall out of your mouth. Right now you're talking about driving to just north of San Diego and kidnapping two women so they can appear in a porno movie. To pull this off, you'd need to get past my pistol, Terry's pistol, Becky's pistol, plus a few more in the possession of various performers and crew. Are you going to bring a squad down to do the job? If I need to, I can call in a favor and have thirty Hell's Angels forming a human chain around the studio. I've dealt with kidnappers before, ones who were much more violent and ruthless that you'll ever be. Don't make threats without consulting with your brain first, homeboy."
Haley abruptly switched topics. "We're just now getting the damages to our office fixed, the walls destroyed by your organ grinder of a boss. I'll be sending you a bill. Jerry, the guy your boss threw through a wall, is probably gonna sue him for injuries and emotional distress. I can't believe a psycho like that is allowed to run around free. I'll cut him in half if I ever see him again. I got mob connections, I'll have the bastard killed and get away with it."
"Sweetie, you're starting with the empty threats again. You're connected to Cosa Nostra, huh? What's your capo's name? I'll give him a ring."
"I don't have a capo, I don't need one."
I chuckled again. "Then you're neither a member nor an associate. Just trust me on this, okay? You really, really don't want the family to think you're pretending to be a made man when you're not. They don't like posers, and they really don't like loudmouths. Claiming an association with Cosa Nostra when you have none riles them up."
"How would you know?" sneered Haley.
"You wouldn't believe me if I told you. Look sweetie, this has been amusing, but I have work to do. Still planning on following through with your kidnap threat?"
"I'll get back what's mine. Trish will be returning to my studio."
"Only if she wants to, and she doesn't want to. Goodbye, Ron."
His next call was shorter, but more drunk. Five days later, my phone rang a little past five, just as I was getting ready to head home. In a slightly slurred voice, Haley yelled, "You little scumbag, where's Trish? It's been five days. Your fuckin' time is up."
I replied, "Oh, hi Ron. I believe Trish went out for a few drinks with a couple other girls. So my time is up, huh? So what happens now?"
"I'll be coming down there. I'm getting Trish, I'm taking goddamn Becky Page, I'm cutting you in half, and I'm gonna set that biker cunt on fire."
"Oh, Ron. The clutch plate to your brain is slipping again. Bringing a crew with you?"
Haley coughed, then said, "I don't need no backup. I can handle you losers by myself. Say goodbye to your fuckin' wife, she's gonna be Leisure Time property from now on."
"Ron honey, this is getting dull," I said. "I'll see your kidnap threat and raise you approximately sixty rounds of hollow-point nine millimeter ammunition. Tell you what dear, pour yourself another tankard of scotch and relate your plans to a close friend. Or a phone sex operator. Whichever one still takes your calls. Tell you what, though. If I see a brown 7-Series BMW lurking around here, I'll be putting my thumb on it. If I don't notice your car, you'll still have to approach the studio, which means getting past the Hell's Angel I have stationed in the driveway. He gets paid to get rid of people exactly like you, delusional bastards who are hung up on a porn star. And you never explained why Trish is so important to you."
"If your dumb ass hasn't noticed, Trish is genuinely good looking, not just sexy. And her fuck scenes are as hot as anything goddamn Becky Page does. Hey Schneider, I think your wife is a bitch. Becky Page is a fucking cunt. What are you gonna do about that?"
"Not a thing, you're coming to me, remember?" I chuckled down the line. "Cazzo puzzola, see you soon."
I hung up, and stared at the phone briefly. I was confident I could handle anything that went down myself, but I knew Angel would want to be kept in the loop. I dialed his number.
"What's up, Lenny?"
"Just thought I'd let you know I've heard from Ron Haley twice now. The first call was his usual noise. Now he's threatening to kidnap both Trish and Bekka, he says he'll be down here soon. Oh, and Bekka is now both a bitch and a cunt. Any ideas?"
Angel paused, then said, "Yeah. We got some mook threatening a family company and the wife of an associate. This is now family business. Tomorrow morning, a few wise guys are gonna pay a visit to Leisure Time and explain the realities of life to them, in no uncertain terms. This dipshit Haley had better do some fst talking. He also claims mafia ties, right?"
"Yeah," I laughed. "He's gonna use his connections to have you offed. Gosh Angel, how did you ever run afoul of organized crime? Jeepers, but that's scary."
Chuckling down the line, Angel said, "I don't know, Lenny. Those wop criminals are dangerous, too. Anyway, don't worry about Haley anymore. We'll get our message across. Ciao."
The next morning Paul, Rizzo, and Dougie went to pay a visit at Leisure Time's offices. All three were dressed sharp, shoes polished, nails trimmed. Taking a cue from me, Paul was carrying an aluminum baseball bat. They arrived, cruised past the receptionist without a word, and began walking through the offices. Going by Angel's description, they located Jerry, the one who had been tossed through a wall by Angel. Dougie grabbed him by the collar and told him they wanted to have a meeting with those of importance at Leisure Time, and right now, so start gathering them up. Jerry collected four more dudes. One of them, a gent with a salt-and-pepper beard and gradient sunglasses, demanded to know what this was all about.
"We need to discuss certain statements and actions made by Leisure Time, through a Mr. Ron Haley," stated Rizzo. "Which one of you is him?"
"Ron isn't here," answered one of the dudes. "He hasn't been in this morning."
"That's all right. I'm sure you all will be able to communicate our messages to him. See, this guy Haley keeps saying stupid things where other people can hear him. He speaks out of turn. He thinks he can bully his way into other people's business. He has insulted the honor of friends of ours, and referred to the wife of one of our friends as a bitch, which will not be tolerated. And this Haley has threatened to abduct two employees of a business we work with. He has done all these things under the color of authority of this company. We wish to express our displeasure, and make it clear we will not tolerate any more of this asshole Haley's bullshit. Paul?"
Paul stepped over to a desk with a PC monitor on it and swung his bat. The monitor flew off the desk, the CRT exploding. Then he walked over to a water cooler in the corner and brought the bat down, smashing the five gallon water jug and destroying the cooler. A copier was the next target, Paul giving three shots to reduce it to rubble.
"Stop it! Stop it!" yelled one of the dudes. "What the hell are you doing?"
Rizzo calmly said, "What my associate is not doing is aiming his bat at any of you dumb motherfuckers, so be happy. Desist momentarily, Paul."
"What do you want?" pleaded one of the dudes.
"Merely to get a point across," smiled Rizzo. "Leisure Time Video seems to have recently taken an interest in the studio named Inana Productions. This asshole Haley claims you wish to purchase the studio, and he would not drop the subject even after being told Inana is not for sale. He insulted the owner of Inana, Mr. Angel Morelli, a close friend of ours. Again, his statements were made under the color of authority of Leisure Time. Haley represented your company, and caused great offense while doing so. Paul?"
Paul began striding towards a 150 gallon salt water aquarium against a back wall. A dude yelled, "No! For God's sake, please, no!" and ran over towards Paul, who stopped and stared at the dude. They stood there and silently faced each other.
Rizzo smiled and said, "Now here's what will happen. Leisure Time Video will end any interest or curiosity about Inana Productions. Neither Leisure Time, nor any individuals connected to it, will attempt to contact Inana Productions or any of its employees. Apparently there was a bit of confrontation here a little while back, involving an officer of Leisure Time and Angel Morelli. Don't even think about pursuing legal action, or otherwise being little bitches about the incident. Leisure Time will not libel or slander Inana Productions, no matter how innocent you think your statements may be. And this jackoff Ron Haley will be put out to pasture. Within ten days, Leisure Time will no longer employ or contract with Ron Haley. And remind Mr. Haley that our friend Paul here brought his bat specifically to use on Haley. This reminds me, it is my understanding that Haley claims to have an association with Cosa Nostra here in Southern California. No one in the family has ever heard of this mook. He will stop making his claims, he is misrepresenting both the family and himself. We will visit Mr. Haley at home, so there is no doubt about how unhappy we are."
"Who are you people?" a quavering voice asked.
"I am Rizzo. This is Dougie, and the one with the bat is Paul. We are legitimate businessmen, our only interest is seeing that friends of ours, the businessmen who run Inana Productions, are not harassed or inconvenienced by any dumb motherfuckers connected to Leisure Time. From now on, Inana will be treated in the most deferential manner possible. Am I clear? Keep your fucking mouths shut and nod."
Five heads began vigorously bobbing.
"Is Mr. Haley expected soon? Where has he gone?"
There was a lot of glancing about. Finally someone said, "He may just be sleeping off a hangover. He likes to party pretty hard."
Rizzo nodded and said, "No matter, we'll catch up to him. We always do. When you see him, explain about our visit and the new guidelines. Make him understand we are not kidding. There is no business between Inana and Leisure Time to discuss. If Inana somehow acquires former Leisure performers, it is pure happenstance. If our paths cross, we will be mannerly. So shall you. And this prick who wants to threaten friends of ours, this Haley asshole, is no longer part of Leisure Time. We will be very unhappy if he remains, and will express our displeasure in rather extreme ways. Dougie, Paul, let's get some fucking coffee. Ciao." The three mafioso left.
The Leisure Time dudes stood in silence briefly. One of them finally said, "I think I got the message, loud and clear."
Another commented, "God, Ron is really up shit creek this time. I wonder if he'll live through the weekend."
Mr. Ron Haley wasn't at work that morning because he was driving to La Costa. I'd briefed Spike, our other Hell's Angel guard, about this possible threat. He nodded and said he'd keep his eyes peeled for any brown BMWs. People were arriving to work, at this point Spike recognized everyone and bid them all good morning as they went in. The Inana people had initially been alarmed at the arrival of the Angels, even if it was only one of them at a time, and they spent most of the day hanging around out front. I'd assured everyone they took the job seriously, they respected Inana, and would be friendly and professional. I believe if they were run of the mill outlaws, everyone would have relaxed sooner. No, Lenny had to hire Hell's Angels, modern day Vikings and Visigoths, to guard the mansion.
Around 10:30 Spike trotted into my office to let me know a brown 7-Series BMW had just rolled by fairly slowly, as if checking addresses. We both went out, Spike taking his usual position at the entry way, while I went to the bottom of the driveway and half-secreted myself in the shrubbery. A couple minutes later a BMW pulled up to the curb and stopped. Ron Haley got out, went to the trunk, and removed a pump-action shotgun. He racked the slide and held it at his side, finger on the trigger. He turned up the driveway. As soon as he passed me, I stepped out of the bushes and trotted up behind him, bumping him in the back of the head with my Beretta.
"Drop it, Ron," I told him. "I see the tip of that shotgun come up, I'll splatter your brains all over the driveway. You're covered."
Haley stood there stock still for a few moments, then lowered the shotgun. "Put it on the ground," I said. He bent down and set the shotgun on the cement and straightened up again. I moved the pistol from his skull to the middle of his back. "Forward."
Haley and I started towards the entry. I called for Spike to pick up the shotgun and then join us, in case Haley decided to try and do a Jesse Owens impression. We herded Haley in the mansion and into my office. I gestured at an office chair, Haley grudgingly sat. Spike propped himself in the doorway, keeping his eyes on Haley. Nobody had spoken yet.
I broke the ice by saying, "So what was your plan, if you even had one?"
Haley sneered and said, "Search this place for Trish and Becky, herd around some hostages if need be, and croak anything that got in my way. That shotgun holds ten shells, that would be enough. Plenty of people would be hiding, so I wouldn't waste the rounds on them. No, I'd just waste the stupid assholes who think they're tough because they carry a gun. I think you're a pussy, Lenny. I bet you don't have the balls to shuck your pistol and go toe to toe with me. I know some heavy judo and aikido. You've probably run from every challenge you ever had where you couldn't either point a gun or bash someone over the head when they weren't looking. You're just a cowardly little pussy, Schneider."
Spike and I both lightly applauded his little speech. I grinned and said, "Yeah, no sweat, we'll go out in the driveway. It'll be a few minutes though, I gotta make a couple calls."
First call, Angel. I was lucky, he was just headed out the door. "What's up, Lenny?"
I said, "Well, I'm sitting in my office right now. Across from me is Mr. Ron Haley, our favorite little ray of sunshine. He showed up here with a shotgun, which I took away. I've got him covered with my Beretta, and Spike is standing in the doorway to the office. He intended to get Trish, get Bekka, and just blast holes in anything that tried to slow him down. He'd have been disappointed, though, Bekka isn't on the board today, her and Terry are taking a cruise up to Idylwild. So what should I do with Ron?"
"You haven't called the cops yet?" asked Angel.
"Nope. I called you first, to leave my options open."
"Good. The family wanted to have words with him anyway, and in light of what just happened, they'll definitely want an audience with this jackass. Who knows, he may just disappear. My hunch is putting a scare in him won't work. His ego is so bloated he'll decide he's smarter than the entire mafia, and just try to get one up on us again. Personally, I'm in favor of cutting his tongue out with a box cutter, dosing him on fifty hits of LSD, then turning him loose on the freeway. I'll ask Don Ventimiglia's advice after I hang up with you. Keep him on ice until you hear back from me, we'll be sending someone down to collect him. What's he got to say for himself?"
"Jesus Angel, this guy's a clown," I said. "He didn't have a plan, he had a notion. I haven't frisked him, but his pockets look fairly empty. Who knows how he would have kept Trish and Bekka restrained while driving to LA. Oh, and I'm a pussy. Ron thinks I will run from a fight unless I have my gun with me. He wants to go toe to toe with me out in the driveway, and he knows judo. It's shit like this which made me call you first. I dunno, I can lay down some tarps in the garage, execute him on the floor, then we just need to dispose of the body."
"Even if that was the plan, Lenny, we'd keep you clean," said Angel. "Considering how lucrative Inana is for the family as a legitimate business, nobody wants you to go to prison. You're one of a kind, you couldn't be replaced, and if you're serving a manslaughter sentence in prison you wouldn't be able to run Inana, or write scripts, or produce features. You have officially been removed from doing coke runs, as of last December when we got the first month sales figures for 'Dangerous Desires.' The family is making sure Lenny Schneider stays very clean in the eyes of the law."
"Too cool," I replied. "Look, I'm gonna go see if this bastard can fight or not. No matter how it works out, he'll be duct taped to something solid within a half hour. Any clue who's coming down?"
"Easily Paul. He's in Mission Viejo, so he'd be closest, and he won't put up with any shit from Mr. Haley. Him, Dougie, and Rizzo went to visit Leisure Time this morning. I haven't heard how it went, but I'm guessing they never saw Mr. Haley, since he was driving down to see you. Talk to you in a bit." (click)
I looked at Haley and said, "So, you want to beat me up in the driveway? How do you plan to do that?"
Another sneer from Haley. "I told you, I know judo and aikido. I have technique and skills. You probably just flail with your arms and hope you hit something, then run away. I'm gonna drop you, then I'll drop biker gang boy here. Then I'll leave, gather up more protection, and pick up Trish and your cunt of a wife some other day."
I pulled out my Beretta and dropped it in a file drawer. "There, see? No gun. Well, let's go have some fun, I guess."
We walked out into the driveway. Spike stood to one side, me and Haley faced each other. He started doing some hissy breathing noises he must have heard in a Jackie Chan movie, trying to stare me down. Then he leaped into action, aiming to get me in a judo hold and throw me. I twisted one arm away and used my other hand to punch him in the stomach. He gasped and jumped backwards. He panted for a few seconds, and swung a crane kick at my head. I dodged out of the way, let his own momentum spin him, and grabbed his left arm, twisting it behind his back like Terry had done to him. Then I kicked his legs out from underneath him, purposely pushing him forward by the neck. His face took much of the impact with the cement. I let go, stood up, and backed away a couple yards.
Haley got up. His forehead was bleeding, along with his mouth. One cheekbone already looked swollen. He opened his mouth to yell, and I realized his front teeth had been snapped in half. He threw himself at me like a professional wrestler jumping off the ropes. I sidestepped and kicked him in the ribs as he sailed by. I was sick of this bullshit and wanted it to end, so as he was standing up I kicked him in the face. His hands went up, so I drove a boot into his solar plexus. He began gasping and dropped to his knees. I walked behind him and kicked him in the back of the head as hard as I could. He went forward, then came to a rest in a fetal position on his right side, not moving.
Spike observed all this dispassionately, puffing on one of his Tijuana Smalls cigars. He'd seen the same action in a hundred bar fights. I lit a Marlboro and said, "I know there's gotta be duct tape somewhere in this joint, but I don't know where."
"What do you need duct tape for?" asked Spike.
"To truss up his nibs, here. Gaffer's tape wouldn't be strong enough."
Spike snapped his fingers and said, "I got a couple bungee cords on my putt. We use those to cinch him to one of those office chairs, we're done. Lemme go grab them."
We dragged Haley into the house and onto a chair in my office, where we tied his arms behind him and to the back rest prop, and his ankles to one leg of the chair. Haley took all this in silence. When we finished I sat back down at my desk, Spike landing on the sofa. Finally Haley glared at me and growled, "You fucking punk scumbag, you're in real trouble now."
I burst into genuine laughter. When I was done, I said, "Really? How is that? Is your army of trained attack gerbils currently stampeding down I-5, aiming for us? Are you going to throw holy water on me? With you out of circulation, will your evil twin swear vengeance? Or are you going to pay a Wiccan to stalk me, him casting curse after curse, hoping one sticks? Or are you just going to sit there hoping I expire from your fuckin' bad breath?"
"Stupid. I told you, I got mafia connections. They'll come after you, asshole. You're finished."
"The mafia, huh? Like, La Cosa Nostra?"
I buried my face in my hands and rested my elbows on the desk. I said, "Oh dear. Oh dearie dear dear. You know Ron, there is such a thing as having too vivid of an inner life. I believe you have crossed that threshold. I'm not sure who these people you're associating with are, but they are not mafia. Tell me, did it never strike you that I haven't called the police? You attempt to enter a business with a loaded shotgun, but I just beat you up and tie you to a chair? Isn't that a little suspect? The call I made was to Angel Morelli, my boss. He is also my capo, and is lined up to be the next Don of the Southern California mafia. Given your claims, Angel was curious about you, so he checked around. Nobody in Southern California has ever heard of you, much less befriended you, or done business with you. But you have made them curious, though. They'd like to know who is running around claiming an association with the family when there is none. They don't like that one little bit, no sirree Bob.
Between your fraudulent mafia association, your poor manners, your insulting Angel and my wife, and this abortive assault on a family-owned business, the mafia --- the real mafia --- wishes to have words with you. Right now we're waiting for someone to arrive and ---"
The phone rang. It was Angel. "Hey Lenny. Okay, Paul is headed down there, but not yet. He's waiting at his place for Frankie No-Neck to get there. Both of them will be escorting Mr. Haley up to Vinny's house, where several wise guys will explain the realities of life to Haley. He's in for a couple of very long days. After that, I have no clue. Any new ideas?"
I sighed and said, "Ron just proved to me he is utterly incapable of ever learning a lesson. I just beat him up in the driveway of the mansion and tied him to a task chair. His response to this was to tell me he'd sic the mafia after me. The man refuses to educate. He doesn't learn from people talking to him. He doesn't learn from getting the shit kicked out of him. Exiling him to Las Vegas wouldn't work, he'd be back in three days, sure he'll stay one step ahead of those dummies in the mafia. I doubt we could drop him in a family business and keep him under a microscope. God knows what his job talents are, making porn isn't one of them, personally...."
"Fuck you, you little asshole!" Haley yelled at me across the desk.
"So honestly? While his transgressions may be fairly minor, he might become fish food anyway. Without a permanent fix. I'm sure Mr. Haley will make a pain in the ass of himself over and over. He's such an egomaniac I have no doubt he believes he will get revenge on me, you, Bekka, Trish, the trattoria, the Beretta Arms Company, and the entire Southern California mafia. He's incredibly smart, just ask him."
"Yeah...." You could hear the gears whirring in Angel's head. "I guess we'll see if anything sticks after two or three days of intensive attitude adjustment. Is he cuffed?"
"No, tied with bungee cord," I replied.
"Why didn't you cuff him?"
"Because I don't have any. I had four pairs, and one by one they all ended up with either you or Vinny. I gotta go get more."
Angel yawned and said, "Okay Lenny, Paul and Frankie should be there at any time. Sorry about your afternoon. Ciao."
I hung up and Haley said, "Was that your boss?"
"On the money," I replied.
"What the fuck did that guinea have to say for himself?"
"Just letting me know who is coming to relieve me of you. You'll be riding back up to LA in the company of a man named Paul, and also a dude named Frankie No-Neck. Neither of them enjoy idle chat, so I recommend you remain totally silent while in the car with them. Oh, and if they blindfold you when they put you in the car, that means you'll live. Not getting a blindfold means you're gonna die."
Haley stared at me for a few seconds. Then in a voice lacking its usual arrogance, he asked, "So how does that work?"
I explained, "Okay, they're gonna take you somewhere to have a little chat, you know? But they don't like having the location of that somewhere being common knowledge. If you get the blindfold, you won't know where you are, so you can't give directions to the police or whatever. No blindfold means it doesn't matter if you know where you are or not, because you'll be too dead to tell anyone about it. They even blindfold fellow mafia members and associates, to keep certain things secret from as many people as possible."
In the same quiet, non-aggressive voice Haley said, "So.... These guys coming here, they're really in the mafia? The real mafia?"
"Yep. These two coming for you, one is a full member, the other is an associate, like me. Angel is a big wheel at this point, like I said, he's gonna be the new Don of Southern California. Yes, you are about to meet genuine mafioso. And to your misfortune, they don't like you. You will survive the next sixty hours of your life, but there may be times when you wished you were dead. These dudes are experts."
Haley started to panic. "Oh my God! The fucking mafia is after my ass! Shit, I didn't do nothing! How the hell did this happen?"
I couldn't help but chuckle. "It was your fucking mouth that got you into this predicament. You kept insulting, abusing, and threatening members and associates of Cosa Nostra. Your little foray into kidnapping was the final straw, I think. That and calling Becky Page a cunt. Becky is revered in the family, there's a lot of pride taken in knowing the sexiest woman in the world is full-blooded Sicilian. But yeah, you insulted and abused me, and continued to even after you were warned to stop. You did the same thing with Angel. You went around talking bullshit about how you were connected when you weren't. Why did you start that line of hoseshit, anyway?"
He sniffled. "It was just.... It was a quick way of cutting people off, you know? They'd think that if I was pissed at them, I could call down the wrath of the whole fucking mafia...."
"And a real member or associate could do that, if need be. But you used that as a threat on everybody, in every situation. Okay, say a made man is at a bar. Some drunk tries to pick a fight with him. The made man will either just ignore the drunk, or go ahead and fight, even if it means risking a beating. But he's not about to waste the family's energy and resources going after some random anonymous alcoholic dipshit. You get the family to back you up when it's important, like when the teenage girl you're raising gets kidnapped. Then the family is on the ball, and all the devils in hell cower in fear."
Haley gave me a pleading look and said, "Cut me loose. Come on. I'll get in my car and disappear, you'll never see or hear from me again."
I gave him a small sad smile.
"Please. Look, I'm sorry for talking shit to you, I was wrong, okay? Just cut me loose, it'll be like I never existed at all...."
My smile continued. From behind him, Spike's voice said, "Everybody's gotta pay the ferryman, bubba. You took your ride, and the cost is due."
Haley reverted to his old patterns. He yelled, "You fucking little scumbag! I hope your whore wife gives you the siff! Fuck you, and fuck your company! Look at you, you're just a two-bit criminal who managed to scam his way into this job, you're a no-talent hack. I could shit a better movie than 'Bewitched!' As far as your goddamn cunt wife goes...."
Spike cut him off by putting him in a choke hold. "Noisy little fucker, ain't he?"
I grabbed two sheets of printer paper and wadded them up into a ball, a little larger than a racquet ball. I told Spike, "Grab his jaws and pry them open wide. Don't let him bite you."
Spike did as instructed. When Haley's mouth was open wide, I shoved the ball of paper in, then told Spike to let go. There, Haley was now effectively gagged. The ball was far too big for him to spit out, and since he was tied up, he couldn't pull it out. Any noise he made would be garbled nonsense.
Strapped to his task chair, Haley tried to murder me with his eyes. He would occasionally bleat out muffled gibberish. After a while the doorbell rang. I went and let Paul and Johnny No-Neck in, explaining the situation to them as we walked to my office. They found the story of Haley's attempt at fisticuffs rather amusing. When we walked in the office, Paul took in the sight of Haley and did something I'd never seen him do: he smiled. I guess being a mafia enforcer kind of requires having a strange sense of humor. Paul , snapped handcuffs on Haley while Spike and I untied the bungee cords. Johnny frowned at Haley's face, and asked, "Does he have something in his mouth?"
I said, "Yeah, an impromptu ball gag. I was getting tired of his noise."
Frankie said to Haley, "Open your mouth, lemme get that out."
Plucking the wad of paper out, Frankie asked me, "Does he run his mouth much?"
"Running his mouth is precisely why he's in his current predicament," I answered.
Now that he could speak, Haley launched into his usual mode of operation, saying to Frankie, "Shit, at least you goons know how to dress. I'll finally be away from that little punk rock scumbag. Shit, the mafia allowed him to join? Your organization must be falling apart at the seams if you let that happen. I mean, who even gives a fuck about the mafia these day...."
Paul ended Haley's litany by punching him square in the face, hard. I realized that not only was Paul wearing gloves, they were police gloves, which have a strip of sandbag over the knuckles. It's like having a sap sewn to your fist.
Frankie and Paul began walking Haley out to the car, me and Spike following in their slipstream. Frankie got behind the wheel, Haley and Paul occupying the back seat together. No parting words or goodbyes were said, they just left. For the first time since they'd arrived, Spike finally spoke.
"So those bubbas handle the heavy work for the mafia, huh? Damn. I know I'd never want that dude Paul pissed at me. You ever spend any time around them?"
I said, "I've met Frankie at a party or two, and Paul and I have worked together in the past. Paul is a former Chicago cop. To put it delicately, Paul is valued for his efficiency. He doesn't get invited to many parties, though."
Spike stayed out at his usual spot, while I went in to call Angel and let him know they were on their way. Angel said, "I have a bad feeling Paul is going to start the festivities a bit early. You know how Paul hates random talk, and that bastard Haley doesn't know when to shut up."
"He already took a fist for precisely that reason," I commented. "Paul is riding in the back seat with him. Maybe it will be a litmus to see if Haley is capable of learning a lesson, given the lesson is repeated often enough."
"Hey Lenny, a thought just struck me. What about Haley's car? Is it still parked in front of the mansion?"
I giggled. "Got it covered. I took the keys off Haley before they left. I'm gonna just drive it down to Linda Vista or Sherman Heights and park it with the keys in the ignition. It'll be disposed of within an hour. So, you need a shotgun? I've got one sitting here for free."
"No thanks, carrying a shotgun ruins the lines of your suit." Angel paused. "I've been thinking about Mr. Haley. You know what? He was a microcosm of everything that sucks about people in LA. A lying, sarcastic, bullying, bragging, egotistical ball of pretension and self-importance. Anywhere else in the damn country, Haley would be working in a factory and spending his nights drinking alone in a dive bar. In LA, he ends up as a director of a large entertainment company. In Los Angeles, being a lout puts you on the fast track to success, so long as you drive a German car and wear Perry Ellis. I know you dislike San Diego for its conservatism and lack of culture, but believe me, that's better than having to constantly deal with people who seem to be barely suppressing their contempt for you. LA people have the likeability of a child pornographer with Tourette's syndrome."
We signed off. I sat at my desk for a few minutes, then got up and began digging through a cardboard box full of cassettes. It took a bit, but I finally found the one I was looking for. I dropped it into the boom box and let it rip. The sound of "I Love LA" by Randy Newman filled the office.