Monday, February 13, 2017

Preacher (Part 20)

     Angel came back, and sat in relative silence.  After a while my parents left.  When they did, Angel pointedly said to Bekka, "Why don't you take these two over to your house, show it off a little.  I'll keep Lenny company."
     Bekka picked up on Angel's tone and said, "Absolutely, Angel.  We;ll come back in about an hour or so."  The three girls skipped out.
     "Unburden yourself," I told Angel.

     He started in. "Two of the attackers are now out of the hospital, and being held in isolation at the jail, they're still under suicide watch.  The other three will probably be released Monday, like you, and also head for isolation.  They're not allowed to speak with the media, and when interrogated, pretty much stonewall.  However, they're still human, they need a little interaction, you know?  All of them have dropped little bits of information on the deputies assigned to watch them in the hospitals.  Mercifully, the deputies weren't dummies, and paid attention to what these guys had to say, and even kept notes.
     "So in theory, the splinter group had about 450 members, right?  Not all of those people are in the Southwest, and of those, some were not really militant.  It took a hardcore to get together and start making their plans and organizing, maybe forty guys.  And of those, only a few were so fervent they were willing to do a suicide mission.  I guess it's one thing to act as a safe house, or store guns and ammunition or whatever, but actually saying to yourself, 'I'm going to be killed today, and take people with me,' not many men are up for that when the chips are down.
     "Between the five attackers, and the amount of time they were alone with those deputies in their hospital rooms, the sheriff's office managed to compile some decent information about the group.  I won't hold you in suspense: Bekka is now much safer than she was.  These five guys were the only ones willing to actually do the job, and I doubt that any of the others are going to feel inclined to try and succeed where these guys failed.  There are still all these Christian jihadist wingnuts out there who hate Becky Page, and want her dead or whatever, but they don't quite have the stones to actually attempt the job.  Don't drop your guards completely, but you two can relax quite a bit.
     "Mather Owens is bouncing all over Southern California, staying a couple nights in one place, then moving to another location.  He's got warrants out for him, failure to appear, plus the arson job he did to his own house.  Merced County wants him, but bad.  Owens is sort of the de facto leader for these wingnuts, since he's the one who created and published the newsletter which acted as a lightning rod for these folks.  It's a bit strange, despite the militaristic composition of the group, they have no real hierarchy.  Owens is the one they all look up to for advice or whatever, but nobody is under orders from anybody else.  One of the deputies asked his prisoner about organization, like if they had lieutenants and captains and all that.  The guy just told him, 'Jesus is our field marshal, we are all mere foot soldiers.'
     "Money has been a real hindrance.  Another deputy cultivated a bit of talk with his prisoner by getting into the tech aspects of rifles and guns, seeing if the guy would bite and let things slip, while they had hobbyist talk.  What they brought with them to the studio was representative of the best firepower they had.  They wanted real assault weapons, and possessed them off and on, but they'd be sold to cover basic expenses.  So they had their hunting rifles and shotguns, but no M-16s or Stens or Uzis.  Only a little explosives, too.  Their goals required guns, not bombs.
     "Overall, this was a pretty piecemeal outfit.  They didn't have a lot of firepower, they didn't have much money, shit, they didn't even have a name for themselves.  It was just a bunch of guys who subscribed to this rant tract and actually felt they could jump-start a holy war.  The big commonality with them?  They all feel Jerry fucking Fallwood is the smartest man in the world, they idolize him.  Anything that comes out of Fallwood's mouth is taken as gospel.  They're his hardcore cult of personality."
     "Jerry has a lot to answer for, personally," I noted.  "I'm going to watch his show tomorrow morning, to see if the studio attack is mentioned.  This has been national news since Thursday, so it's not like Fallwood  wouldn't know about it.  In light of what just happened, I'm curious to see what sort of invective and abuse he wants to aim at Becky Page these days."

     On Monday I went home, to Bekka's great relief.  Her and Jane had been sharing our bed, mostly to help with Bekka's feelings of loneliness and isolation.  Angel, Vinny, and I sat down and decided the studio would remain closed until the following week, when loops would ramp back up and we'd start on pre-production of "Miss Treatment."  Angel said both performers and crew would receive decent stipends to cover their lost income.  The yellow tape had been pulled Monday morning, and Crime Scene Cleaners got to work.  The hallway carpet was being replaced, my blood had flowed out the bathroom door and soaked the carpet.  All the necessary repairs to walls, floors and ceilings were being done, the glass slider leading to the backyard had shattered, so that was replaced.
     Mallory and I kicked around the minor issues I had with the script, then sent it up to Vinny for editing and final approval.  Mallory was quite proud when we got our now-final scripts back, Vinny had changed a couple basic turns of phrase and that was it.  The big stack of scripts would arrive Monday, ready for review by cast and crew.  As our script girls, Terry and Dawn got their copies early, me just running them off on the office copier.  Both read it, and loved it.  In fact, Roach called me up that night, saying the script was fucking gold.  The premise for that conclusion?  Dawn was reading it, and absolutely howling with laughter.  Roach said Dawn did not emote much more than a giggle when she thought something was funny, and she was rolling on the floor reading the script.
     On Thursday I got a call from Lawrence Pelton from Hustler Video.  Pelton and I had met at the previous year's Eroticon in LA, a pornographic version of a comics convention.  Pelton had offered me a job, which I refused.  Nonetheless, we exchanged cards, and every now and then he'd call, just to shoot the shit and see how things were going.  He never broached the subject of hiring me again.  After the second call I figured out that Mr. Pelton was something of an altruist.  Yes, of course there would be competition between adult studios, but there shouldn't be any animosity.  We were all in the same racket, one with a lot of public misconceptions and unique challenges.  Pelton felt that when the chips were down, the industry should form a united front against whatever problems we collectively faced.
     "You've been through some hell for a while, huh?" Pelton asked.
     "You don't know the half of it," I replied.  "I know I'm getting into heaven at this point.  Twice now I've been shot up by some religious dingbat while at work.  I'll show up at the gates, Saint Peter is gonna see who it is, and say, 'Oh. You.  Yeah, you're in.  You had to put up with a lot of bullshit from our more zealous worshipers.'"
     "From what I've heard on the news, the crew that came after you weren't terribly organized, just a random clump of apocalyptic Christians with a hard-on for Jerry Fallwood.  Are you worried about any of their buddies trying to make a second attempt?"
     "Only a little bit, it's not a pressing concern.  My understanding is the five dudes who attacked the studio were the only five in their little clique who were zealous enough, and suicidal enough, to actually attempt what they did.  Yes, they had supporters, but it's one thing to buy ammo for a crew of murderers.  It's another thing to join them."
     Pelton chuckled.  "The attack on Inana was major national news for a few days.  Funny, Jerry Fallwood says he likes to comment on events in the country, but on Sunday, he didn't breathe a damn word about Inana."
     "Maybe there was a glitch with his teleprompter, and that page got skipped," I suggested.
     "You have any plans Sunday?"
     I thought, and said, "Nothing of importance.  Why?"
     Another chuckle down the line, then Pelton said, "I was thinking you and yours might want to drive up to Gardena Sunday morning.  You, Becky, and everyone connected with Inana.  And they can bring their friends, too."
    I tried to keep the suspicion out of my voice.  "What for?"
     "Well....  There's a place of worship called the Crystal Chapel in Gardena, right on Chapman Avenue, and a few blocks off I-5...."
     "Larry, why the fuck would I want to show up at Fallwood's architectural monstrosity?  To see if his armed security guards have better aim than Fallwood's zealots?"
     "Oh, you won't be alone, Lenny," stated Pelton.  "You'll have quite a bit of company, and all of it on your side.  I got to thinking a while back, right after Fallwood started bashing Becky on his show, that what Fallwood deserves is to have every damn adult performer in Southern California show up at the Crystal Chapel and picket.  It was just a fancy of mine, but now....  I think a demonstration of unity in our industry would be a good thing.  What if Fallwood starts picking random girls, and railing against them by name?  Okay, Becky Page is the one who shows up in People and Newsweek, but who knows?  In a couple years, adult performers could become a staple of entertainment.  And that means everybody in the industry is under threat from Bible psychos with guns.
     "Yeah, there's gonna be a little march outside the Crystal Chapel.  All the girls from Hustler Video will be there, plus some from the magazines.  Vivid's people will show up, Leisure Time's people will show up, The folks from Skin Star, and a lot of the small and mid-range studios will also turn out.  Girls, studs, crew, front office, anybody and everybody from the industry will be in Gardena on Sunday, to let Jerry Fallwood and his followers know we are real people, we take our work seriously, and there are a whole lot more of us than they probably think.  Inana got picketed by fifty members of the Moral Militia.  Fallwood is gonna get picketed by.... Oh, rough estimate, about five hundred members of the adult film industry.
     "Yes, me and a couple other people from different studios organized this, and didn't tell you, even though Inana and Becky Page are the catalysts for this event.  I did that on purpose, you've already got enough shit going on in your life.  Don't worry about a thing, just come on up Sunday morning.  Hopefully Becky will also attend...."
      I laughed.  "I think I'd have to chain her to the refrigerator to stop her from being there.  And you want as many Inana people as possible to be there, too?  Okay....  I'll get on the phone and let people know, they can arrange ride-sharing.  This may sound like a minor concern, but how easy is it to park in the area?  I'll take a wild guess we won't be allowed to use the lot at the Crystal Chapel."
     "No, that's a fair concern," Pelton averred.  "The Chapel is surrounded by residential neighborhoods on three sides, and the city of Gardena doesn't issue residential parking permits.  People are gonna have to do some walking, but just drop your car on a side street, and you'll be fine.  The neighborhood is safe, too."
     "Okay, great.  What time is this little bit of civil protest going to get underway?"
     "Fallwood's service starts at eleven.  We're telling people to start gathering in the parking lot of the office building across the street at 10:30.  The lot is on the southeast corner of Chapman and South Lewis Street.  It's a Sunday, so the lot will be empty."  A couple seconds went by.  "Oh, one thing.  We're telling performers to dress somewhat restrained, just normal street clothes.  Don't slut it up, you know?  The TV news crews will be there, and we don't want the girls looking like their own stereotypes.  Also, comfortable shoes.  This is going to be a picket, we want to be there for a couple hours, and everyone will have to be moving all that time."
      "Jesus Larry, this is too crazy," I commented.  "I don't know what to say."
     "This needs to be done, personally," Pelton responded.  "Yes, Becky Page is the impetus.  But by extension, Fallwood is attacking the whole industry.  I'll tell right now, Lenny, Hustler Video is going to be releasing a big-budget feature on December first, and I think it'll be as big as 'Bewitched' or 'Succubus.'  We've taken our time, we have a good script, our performers are being coached in their roles....  To be blunt, dammit, we followed your lead in making this film, and I think we're gonna be joining Inana in the 'smart porn' genre.  And we'll keep at it.  Who knows, our lead could be as big of a mainstream breakout as Becky Page.  If that happens, guess what?  Jerry Fallwood and all the other fucking self-appointed moral guardians in the country now have a new target.  This isn't just about Becky Page and Inana Productions, this is about the whole damn industry.  Savvy?"
     "Got it.  So, now I can't wait to see your feature.  What's it about?"
     Pelton told me, "I'm not going to give you the plot, but it's a genre feature, and you'll never guess what genre."
     "Hit me," I said.
     "It's a western.  We're doing our production at a dude ranch in Santa Barbara County, great scenery...."
     "Dammit!" I exclaimed.  "Dammit, dammit, dammit!"
     "What's up?" asked Pelton.
     "For six fucking months, I've been kicking around the idea of doing a western hardcore feature.  I've never gotten past jotting down a general outline, but still....  Aw man, you beat me to the punch!"
     Pelton cackled with laughter.  "Hey, sometimes you gotta move fast when inspiration strikes.  I'm gonna brag a bit, Lenny.  Our budget wasn't as big as what you spent on 'Succubus,' but it's still a multi-million dollar project.  I've been seeing the rushes every few days --- we're still in production right now --- and what I'm seeing makes me very, very happy.  The script is intelligent, and the performances are spot on.  Guess what, Lenny, Inana Productions is gonna have competition."
     I said, "I have one thing to say to that.  And that is....  Welcome aboard, brother.  Let's show the world that hardcore isn't just the bastion of horn-dogs and lonely men.  I truly, sincerely wish you the best of luck, I hope your western kicks ass."
     We chatted a bit more.  I told him of Bekka's trauma when I'd been shot, but downplayed it: I made it sound like Bekka had simply shown up at the psychiatric unit and requested admittance, she had just undergone some trauma and wasn't feeling stable.  He asked what it was like to be shot.  I told him it doesn't get any easier with practice.  And this time, I was being hit with 30.06 rounds, not the .22 ammunition an AR-15 fires.  "There was no worse feeling than fading out after I was hit.  That hadn't happened before.  Now, everything is going grey, I can't get any words out....  And I was pissed, I had a feeling of 'Come on, I've still got shit to do!'"
     "Uh huh," quipped Pelton.  "You get shot, and you're just gonna jump up and keep going.  Right."
     "Well....  The first time I was shot, a few years ago, I took a nine slug in my right lung.  It hurt like hell, but the fucker that shot me still had to be taken care of.  I cold-cocked him with a baseball bat, then trussed him up with duct tape.  Then, I had to go to a neighbor's house and tell them to dial 911.  And then, I had to climb a flight of stairs to check on the person who I was trying to protect.  She was okay, the neighbor said cops and an ambulance were on their way....  So then I allowed myself the luxury of passing out.  Didn't know a thing until the next morning."
      "What the hell was going on?"
     I gathered my thoughts and said, "Okay, me and Bekka were in San Francisco, on vacation.  We'd befriended this Romanian girl, we were helping her set up a new life in the City, including getting an apartment.  The motherfucker from the property management company we were working with decided he wanted a piece of our friend, so he showed up late that night, our friend's first night in her new place, with a gun and wearing a ski mask.
     "I don't really believe in ESP or any of that shit, but....  I snapped awake that night in our motel room, absolutely sure something terrible was happening to our friend.  I didn't know what, I just knew she was in trouble.  I pulled my clothes on, waking up Bekka to tell her of my premonition and for her to get her ass in gear.  She told me I'd just had a bad dream, and to get back in bed.  I ignored her, and went to our friend's place by myself.  And sure as shit, I got there right before anything happened.
     "I flushed the asshole out of the apartment and made him fumble his gun.  The apartment is at the top of a flight of stairs leading down to the sidewalk.  When he fumbled the gun, we both dove for it, me still holding my bat.  He got to the pistol first and pulled the trigger, chunking up my lung and ribs.  But he pulled the trigger again and nothing happened.  I remember what a crestfallen look he had in his eyes.  I smiled at him and bashed him in the head with the bat.  After I'd trussed him and got the neighbor to call 911, the neighbor came across the street with me.  I asked him to pull of the bastard's mask, and saw it was a man we'd done business with that afternoon.  It was as good thing it hurt so much to move, because my first instinct was to start kicking him in the face, and not stop for quite a while.
     "Okay, hunting ammo is larger than a nine millimeter round, but still....  I wanted to just have the energy to tell Bekka, 'Don't worry about me, take care of those bastards, I'll be fine,' and I couldn't get it out.  Bekka thought I was dying.  Shit, I started to wonder about it myself.  I just remember being pissed that I was fading to black, it just felt so unfair, somehow."
     There was a pause from the other end, then Pelton chuckled.  He said, "Okay Lenny, I know you say you're not a tough guy.  But it's shit like that why everybody thinks you are."
     We said our goodbyes, and I went to work on the phone, arranging an impromptu telephone tree, so I wasn't having to call every Inana person myself.  Everyone I talked to sounded rather enthusiastic.  Ace said he'd bring his portable sound system, so he could serenade the marchers with swing and jazz from the Thirties and Forties.  I told him the cops would probably object to him anchoring the system on the sidewalk, he'd be breaking legal protocol for a picket.  "No problem, I'll mount the casters on it and push it with me!" he told me.
    More than a few people said they'd be bringing a friend or two.  Thinking about this, I called Bekka back (she was the first person I'd called) and asked her to call Mallory and Jill, to see if they wanted to hang around with a large crowd of porn sluts and studs Sunday.  She said they'd probably love it.  Also, Jane was enthusiastic, and would dress in a t-shirt and jeans.  Jane grasped that the idea was to make adult performers look like normal people with strange jobs, and not a collection of sexual stunt workers.
     I called Angel to tell him what was going on, and would he like to join us?   He considered and said no. Why not?  "If I had my way, none of the honchos from any of the studios would be there.  This picket should look like it's made up entirely of the trench workers from the industry, give the impression that the performers, and gaffers, and office grunts from the studios are the ones who decided to do this.  Make it look a little more grassroots, you know?"  After a couple ticks, he asked, "Is Bekka going?"
    "She's looking forward to it," I answered.  "She said if nothing else, it'll be nice to hang around with other performers, and not be either working or at an event."
     "You realize, the media is gonna glom onto her, right?   And the LA TV news crews can be pushy little assholes."
     "She's gonna have me, Terry, almost certainly Roach, and God knows who else getting her back.  I talked to Roach, and he agreed he won't wear his colors on Sunday.  Reporters seeing the colors on someone will only confuse the issue."
     Angel giggled down the line.  "Jesus Lenny, of all the fucking fraternal organizations you could have made friends with, you had to pick the Hell's Angels."
     "Yeah, well, the Shriners don't drink Jack Daniels, and they suck at playing nine ball."

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