Monday, February 13, 2017

Preacher (Part 22)

     Around 12:30 the peal of an organ became rather pronounced.  We'd heard brief, theme-music type bursts of the organ, now it was bashing out a rather triumphal upbeat hymn.  The service was over.  Along with everyone else in the picket line, Bekka and I were looking towards the glass building.  Soon, a trickle of adherents began emerging.  It slowly got thicker.  I elbowed Bekka and said, "There's something wrong here."
     "What's up?" she asked.

     "There's too many people leaving at once.  This isn't like any church service I've ever seen.  Doesn't anyone stick around for coffee and rolls?"
     Bekka gave me a patient smile and said, "I don't believe they do that here."
     "What the hell!" I yelled.  "How cheap can you get?  These bastards won't spring for a can of Folgers and a trip to the donut shop?  Next you're gonna tell me they don't have a Wednesday night potluck, or never have a canned food drive....  Or nobody's ever taken the wrong kid home from Sunday school!  I'll bet their janitor doesn't even own a pair of jumper cables, for when somebody's car won't start after services!  This isn't a church, it's Jesus Christ's temp agency!"
     Bekka finished cackling with laughter, then pointed.  A lot of people weren't going to their cars.  They were slowly approaching the iron fence which separated the parking lot from the sidewalk.  There were only a few cars parked that far from the building, so everyone had a good view.  They wouldn't walk all the way to the fence, but would stand back about six or eight feet, and.... watch.  There was no chatting.  The women had a look of mystified stupefaction, while the men wrinkled their faces into dour piousness.  More and more parishioners were coming that way.  Soon it looked like a parade audience made up entirely of autistics.
     Something struck me.  "Hey Bekka....  Do you see any kids?  Anywhere?"
     After rotating her head some, she replied, "Holy shit, you're right.  Um, and a complete lack of melanin, too.  I haven't seen anyone darker than Corey Haim.  Even the Catholic church in Encinitas had a couple black families, plus the Mexicans...."
     "No one under the age of forty....  Wow.  Fallwell's demographic is even more homogeneous that I imagined."
     We did our U-turn and began heading back up.  I told Bekka, "I sort of wish people would move closer to the fence."
     "So I could smile and wave and be friendly. I think that would confuse the shit out of people, if everyone in the picket line was warm and open.  'Oh my God, they're acting like fairly average white people, not characters out of a dirty Frank Zappa song.'  They might accept the fact we really are human;."
     We got to the end of the block and did our U-turn.  This brought us closer to the iron fence.  And we picked up a shadow.  A "younger" guy, only around forty, was pacing us along the inside of the fence.  Since our stationary observers (of which there was quite a few, at this point) stood back from the fence, he was unobstructed.  He and I were walking alongside each other, separated by a distance of four feet;  He said to me, "Excuse me, are you all in porn?"
     "Generally speaking, yes, we're all in the industry," I replied.  "If you're asking if we're all in front of the cameras, no.  You've got a lot of gaffers, sound men, writers, camera operators, office people....  Anyone who works in the business is represented here. No, we're not all porn stars."
     This seemed to amaze him.  He said, "Huh....  Wait, you have gaffers?"
     I laughed and said, "Well, duh.  We're doing video production, you gotta have lights.  You sound surprised."
     He looked at the ground while he walked and averred, "Yeah, you're right.  Huh.  So....  Is making pornography illegal?"
     This prompted laughter from me, Bekka, and everyone within ten feet of us.  A girl a couple steps forward of us told him, "So long as you're not using children or animals, no.  The Supreme Court saw to that."
     Our pace was slower than slug racing.  The guy asked, "So.... Why do you people do what you do?"
     A louder, more sustained burst of laughter rang out.  Some girl behind me responded, "Which one of us?  What job?"
     "Well.... You know.... Making porn."
     The dark-haired girl directly in front of me responded, "Are you asking why I routinely remove my clothes in a room full of relative strangers, then have sex with a man I barely know?  Me personally, I like the money, and I'm an exhibitionist.  Also, it's a good way of working out your chops as an actress.  If you can nail doing a convincing fuck scene, you can nail any role you're handed." She gave a bright grin to the questioner.  "I want to be the next Becky Page.  This babe behind me is the goddamn Zen master of hardcore porn.  Hey Becky, you don't do anal, right?"
    "No," Bekka responded.   "It's just too uncomfortable.  Everybody says, 'Oh, just use lots of lube, force yourself to relax, it's fine.'   Utter horseshit.  I tried a few times, and it never got better, so no, I don't do anal.  We've got enough girls around Inana who love it in the ass, anyway."
     Our pacer was wide-eyed and embarrassed by this turn in the conversation.  He went on to his next question: "So, who makes you do what you do?"
     Every girl within fifteen feet was now paying attention, and all of them responded with a variant of, "Huh?"
     "Well....  Aren't you forced into being in porn?"
     This prompted a gale of bitter chuckling and groans.  A  bleached blonde with bolt-on tits a few spaces back from me said, "Oh come on.  Fuck you, buddy.  If I was a white slave, do you think my master would send me out to walk a damn picket line, in daylight, in front of a fucking mega-church, around all these cops?  Right.  Hey, ding ding, here comes the clue bus.  You better get on."
     The questioner looked at the bleached blonde and started say something, but she cut him off.  "I do porn because the money is good, I can fuck like a goddess, and I don't blow my lines.  I like knowing I'm entertaining people, making them happy.  It's fun.  Beats the shit out of sitting at a desk all goddamn day."
     This really seemed to addle the man.  There was a pause of about twenty seconds.  Then he came back with, "So you're not bothered with doing what you do...."
     More groans.  The girl behind the blonde said, "If I was bothered, I'd stop doing it.  This is a free country.  I'd work out the rest of my contract, and, I dunno, take the money I've saved and go to a trade school.  But right now, I'm a horny bitch and I got a tight body, so why not be a porn star?"
     There was a few moments silence.  Directly behind us was a light-skinned black girl, with a complex weave and very disproportionate tits.  She said, "Brother man, you want to know this business, you talk to the girl in front of me."  She reached forward and put her hand on Bekka's shoulder.  "Becky, shit, she knows this job.  She give you the 411, okay?"
     Strangely, our questioner hadn't seemed to have noticed Bekka on the other side of me.  He did a cartoon-like double take and gasped, "You're Becky Page."
     "Live and in the flesh," Bekka responded.
     The man paused, then said, "You know Reverend Fallwood doesn't like you."
     This was the funniest thing anyone had heard all week.  When the laughter died down, Bekka said, "I'm very aware of your pastor's animosity towards me.  That's why I'm here, and also a big reason why everyone else is here.  Mr. Fallwood had vilified me on television, labeling me a devil and a corrupter.  His only reason for this is he seems to have an issue with my career as a pornographic actress, he's of a certain mindset that believes porn is immoral.  Utter horseshit.  I can think of trades which have far less morality than porn.  Used car sales, for example."
     "Being an LA cop," came a voice.
     The black girl behind me said, "Being a Chicago cop.  Hoo, lordy, you gotta watch them."
     "Military recruiters."
     "Being a televangelist."  Everyone cracked up again.
     The questioner scowled.  "Television is a powerful tool for communication.  How is having a television-based ministry immoral?"
     I said, "Perhaps if the large-haired, well-dressed men in front of the cameras spent more time talking about God's grace and love, and less time rattling the tin cup for pledges, they wouldn't seem quite so sleazy.  Of course, then they wouldn't own Gulfstream jets and limos and live in mansions.  I mean, look at this place.  I did a bit of research, the Crystal Chapel cost $18 million.  Think about how many homeless people you could feed, if Fallwood just did his gig out of an auditorium he rented every Sunday."
     "He could sell off his Mercedes, buy a Honda, and give a nice big donation to a women's shelter somewhere," a girl in front of me said.
     Another voice came, "Why doesn't Fallwood convert that big mansion he lives in to a halfway house for recovering addicts?"
     "Think about the number of school textbooks that could be bought if he just cut down his staff."
     "Brother man, Fallwood say he a man of the Lord, he say he just a humble servant," said the black girl.  "So why he live like a king?"  She skipped a beat, and continued, "And why he go runnin' his mouth about Becky Page?  If he don't like her movies, shit, nobody gonna make him watch 'em."
     I had been vaguely aware of a voice yelling ahead of us, a single syllable repeated over and over at three second intervals.  Our questioner had stopped walking alongside: he was blocked by a hedge, and going around it would take a bit of time.  We got closer to the driveway, and the yelling became louder.  There was a red-faced man standing in the driveway, ten feet behind the phalanx of cops.  He looked like a bloated version of Peter Boyle, and he was yelling, "Whores!  Whores!  Whores!" over and over.
    Ahead of me, a girl timed his pause correctly and yelled back, "I prefer 'strumpet!'"  She got a laugh.  As we passed him, Bekka inserted in a pause, "Yes, just like Mary Magdalene."
     I caught the eye of a cop, gestured with my head, and said, "You really should get that man to move along.  He's not contributing anything constructive."  The cop just glared at me.
     Up at the Chapel, I could see TV news crews doing their routine with men in dark grey suits.  One crew was right at the edge of the driveway, getting a long shot of the picker.   The reporter was standing there, looking annoyed.  He said to his crew, "I'm gonna try to get that idiot to shut up for a minute."  He approached the yelling man, and tried to glad-hand him, being diplomatic. The yelling man was having none of it.  He actually began yelling full statements.  Even more red-faced, he yelled at the reporter, "Get away from me!  You media people are all liberals!  You should be thrown off this property!"
     Then the red-faced man threw himself forward and aggressively pushed the reporter with both hands.  The reporter stumbled backwards and bumped into a cop, whose back was turned, facing the sidewalk.  He spun to see the reporter, who was holding his hands up and saying, "I'm sorry, the guy pushed me...."
     The cop demonstrated why psychological profiles should be required for anyone wanting to go into law enforcement.  He pulled his billy club and raised it, getting ready to clock the reporter.  Another officer, who had a better demeanor, stepped forward and yelled, "Vince!  Vince!  Be cool, the guy was pushed."  The cop with the billy club glanced back and forth between his partner and the reporter, then put the billy back and turned around again.  The red-faced man resumed his mantra.  A different cop went over to him and told him to shut it. The man shut up, and just stood there glowering.  Straightening his tie, the reporter walked over to his crew and said, "Screw this, let's just walk to the end of the block and shoot from there."
     The crew began breaking down the camera tripod.  Then the reporter realized Becky Page was six feet away, shuffling along at a rate of about nine feet per hour.  He yelled at his crew, "Hold on!" and trotted over to us.  "Excuse me, Ms. Page?"
     Bekka bid him good morning.  He said, "I'm Phillip Mann, Channel 2.  Would you consent to a brief interview?"
     "Fine with me," Bekka smiled.  "I guess the question is, where?"
     "Right there, at the edge of the driveway," said Mann, pointing to the opposite side from where his crew was.  "That guy finally quit making noise, so we'll be good there."  He called to his crew and gestured.  They began moving towards him.  The camera operator opted to just shoulder his rig, instead of bothering with the tripod.  Bekka and I stepped out of line so Bekka could be interviewed.  When we did, all the girls around us yelled encouragement: "You go, girl!"  "Knock 'em dead!"  "Remember, keep your clothes on!"  "Testify!"
     Bekka was positioned with her back to a hedge which ran alongside the driveway.  I stood several feet to one side, presumably out of shot. The reporter saw me and said, "May I help you, sir?" in an irritated voice.
     "Not at all," I calmly smiled.  "Just standing here while you interview my wife, Mr. Mann."
     Mann blinked and said, "Oh.  You're Leonard Schneider?"
     "Someone has to be.  I drew short straw."
     "I'm sorry, I wasn't processing correctly," Mann said apologetically.  "Why don't you stand with Ms. Page, I may ask you a few questions as well."  I told him, fine by me.
     The camera started rolling and Mann said, "Good afternoon, Ms. Page.  Tell me, why did you organize this rally?"
     "I didn't," Bekka responded.  "In fact, I didn't know it was going to happen until this last Thursday, it's probably the strangest surprise party anyone has ever thrown.  This picket was organized by people from Hustler Video and Vivid Video, they contacted the adult studios in the Los Angeles area and asked everyone to come down today.  As you can see, there has been a tremendous turnout."
     "Are you familiar with these people?"
     "Some of them.  I live and work in the San Diego area, so I don't see a lot of the other people in the business."
     "This is quite a crowd," Mann observed.  "Are all these people in pornography?"
     "Almost all of them," Bekka answered.  "Some people brought friends.  Also, not everyone here is a performer.  There are plenty of crew members and business staff as well."
     "So what is the purpose of this picket?"
     Bekka considered this, then said, "A show of unity.  After Jerry Fallwood began lambasting me, I believe many of the girls working thought, 'There but for the grace of God...'  If Jerry Fallwood can vilify one performer with no basis, encouraging his followers to annoy and harass her, what's to keep him from doing it to others?  Okay, my success has put me in the spotlight, I was an easy target.  But who's to say who will be in that spotlight a year from now?  Fallwood could vilify another girl who's gotten popular, call her a devil, and indirectly urge his flock to commit acts of violence against her.
     "We're here to show Jerry Fallwood and his parishioners that we are real people, not straw dummies to be abused.  Also, there are plenty of us in the industry, on both sides of the camera.  We want Jerry Fallwood to know we will not be bullied or intimidated.  He can find something better to do with his position in the pulpit.... Maybe encourage his viewers to engage in volunteer work for humanitarian causes, like shelters and soup kitchens.  Jerry Fallwood's flock should do something more constructive than sitting around hating s woman they've never met, and has never done a thing to hurt them."
     Mann held the microphone away and cleared his throat, then said, "A week and a half ago, your studio was attacked by a gunman for the second time.  Is this a common thing in the pornographic industry?"
     Bekka chuckled and said, "Mercifully, no.  If anyone else in the industry has had such incidents happen, I've never heard of it."
      "Religion seems to have been a motivator in both attacks."
     "Generally speaking, yes.  The first attack was a single individual, a loner, who had the nebulous idea of 'wiping out pornography.'  His target was the entire studio and everyone in it, regardless of who they were.  That attacker was from San Diego.  Since Inana Productions is also in that area, we were the easiest target for him.  If Inana was elsewhere, he'd have just driven to Los Angeles, where he would have had a choice of targets.  Really, the only reason he attacked Inana was to save on gas money.
     "This recent attack was different.  This was a group of five men, and while mass murder was also on their minds, they had a specific target: me.  I'f fairly sure that once they knew I was dead, they'd leave again, and not go human-hunting inside the building.  But yes, in both incidents, the attackers felt that they would be doing God's work by murdering total strangers in a video studio.  I'm a bit conflicted, to be frank.  The first attacker was not allowed to use an insanity defense, he was found competent to stand trial.  The same will probably be the case for the five men who hit us recently.  But my feeling is, how sane can they be?  The idea of killing for God is not a rational idea.  Really, these men believe slaughtering innocent people is a good Christian act?  I seem to remember something about 'Thou Shalt Not Kill' in the Ten Commandments."
     The camera was cut, and Mann changed positions, so he was on my other side. The camera operator adjusted his angle and distance, so all three of us would be in shot.  The camera rolled again, and Mann said into his microphone, "Also here is Becky Page's husband, Mr. Leonard Schneider.  As you probably know, Mr. Schneider was shot twice in the incident at Inana Productions.  How are you doing, sir?"
     "Fairly well," I told him.  "Hurting but healing."
     "You were also shot when the lone gunman attacked the studio...."
     "Yes, I was.  Five rounds of .22 ammo." I paused to chuckle and continued, "I've been shot three times in my life.  It sucks, it doesn't get any easier with practice."
     "What are your feelings about the men who recently attacked the Inana studio?" asked Mann.
     I chuckled again, saying, "Uh....  To truly express my feelings about them, I'd have to use language that's not allowed on TV.  I will just euphemistically state I hold a very low opinion of them, as American citizens, as Christians, and as men."  I paused.  "Both Becky and I were using our pistols to fire back at the attackers.  If something like this happens again, I'm making sure to go for head shots.  I'll save the courts some time and money."
     "Do you feel your industry is a dangerous one?"
     "As Becky pointed out, we at Inana have had incredibly bad luck.  No other adult studio has ever had anything like this happen.  The only other incident I can think of was when Larry Flynt got shot and crippled.  And then, the would-be assassin's motivations were racial, he was bugged that a photo spread in Hustler showed a white girl with a black dude.  That guy didn't hate porn, he just hated Larry Flynt."
     Nodding sagely, Mann asked, "You keep guns at your studio?"
     Bekka interjected, "Neither Lenny or I will leave home without our pistols.  We both have concealed carry permits.  Lenny carries a large Beretta, I have a fairly compact Colt.  Right here...."  She lifted her blouse to expose her waist holster.  I opened my jacket, showing my shoulder rig.
     I commented, "It's not comfortable wearing a shoulder holster right now, it sits right on top of where I was shot in one place.  But there's no way I'm going anywhere without it."
      Mann started, "Will Inana Productions take any precautions---"
     Then the red-faced man was right there, shouting at Mann, "You get off this property!  You're on the property of Crystal Chapel, and you're not welcome here!  Go the hell back to wherever you came from!"
     Rolling his eyes, Mann said, "We're on the edge of a driveway...."
     Bekka's face had shifted into mafioso mode.  "Sir, you should relax.  You look like candidate for a cardiac event."
     "Such warm, friendly people they have at this church," I snickered.
     Red-Face took me in, and started waving a finger in my face.  "You!  You're that porno maker from San Diego!  You're proof that God has turned his back on America!  If God was still here, you'd be dead!  They woulda killed you!  I hope someone else shoots you, and they get the damn job done right!  You die and go to hell!"
     I just stood there and smirked at him.  He turned his attention to Bekka.  "I can't believe you have the gall to come to a house of worship, to show up where Reverend Fallwood preaches the word!  They shoulda killed you too, you dirty whore!  Slut!  Devil!  I hope you die!  Die, you bitch, die!  Goddamn whore slut!"
     The cops had stepped closer, but were still holding back.  The march had come to a complete stop while the picketers watched this scene.  I stepped toe to toe with Red-Face and said, "You know, it's really in poor manners to speak to someone's wife that way.  Especially my wife.  You need to either return to the Chapel or go to your car.  Now."
     Red-Face took a step backwards and shouted, "You don't tell me what to do, I"ll knock your block off!  Damn pimp trash, go back to hell!  And take your slut wife with you!"
    I paused to light a Marlboro, then said, "So you're gonna knock my block off, sir?  Really?"
    "I'll flatten you!  Pimp trash!"
     I blew smoke in his face and smiled, "You dumb motherfucker, nothing will amuse me more than to see you try."
     With his eyes bugging out, Red-Face decided he was going to knock my block off.  I could have translated a Beckett play in the amount of time it took him to bring a fist back and throw it at my face.  I sort of leaned to one side and let the fist go past me.  Red-Face actually started to lose his balance forward, he'd swung so hard..  I drove a fist into his stomach, then grabbed his swinging arm and twisted it around behind his back.  He yelled.  I started marching him towards the cops, who were finally coming towards us.  I said to them in a voice dripping with sweetness, "If it's not too much trouble, officers, would you mind removing this man?  He's being a pest."
     Two officers stepped up to us.  One grabbed my arms and held them behind my back.  The other grabbed Red-Face, and did the same.  We were walked backwards from each other.  I allowed myself to be guided, keeping my arms relaxed, but not limp.  I knew better than to struggle or resist.  Red-Face didn't.  He began pitching a bitch. yelling at the officer to let him go and struggling.  The cop holding him began twisting one arm and telling him to stand still and shut up.  This advice was ignored, so the cop twisted harder, until Red-Face squawked with pain.  The cop said, "I'll dislocate the damn thing if you don't relax."  Red-Face relaxed, and the cop put cuffs on him.  My cop put a pair on me, too.  I twisted my head around and said, "What could I do?  He threw a fist at my face."
     The cop bent his head towards mine and said quietly in my ear, "I know.  Don't worry, you're not going for a ride."
     "Thank you, sir," I replied.
     On the sidewalk, boos erupted at the sight of the cuffs going on me.  A voice yelled, "Hey, that fat bastard was gonna punch him!"   One of the other cops walked to the edge of the driveway and loudly instructed everyone to keep moving.  There was resistance.  I caught the eye of a girl and gave a wink, then gestured with my head: move along.  She gave a single nod and said to the others around her, "Let's keep it going, we're gonna have better manners than the assholes from the Moral Militia."  Reluctantly, the picket started moving again.
     Lawrence Pelton came hustling up.  Ten feet away, he slowed to a calm walk and installed a friendly smile.  He approached the cop next to me (who was now standing at my side, holding one arm in a very loose grep) and asked, "Has there been a problem here?"
     "Who are you, sir?" the cop asked.
    Pelton said, "I'm Lawrence Pelton, from Hustler Video.  I'm one of the organizers of the picket.  This is Lenny Schneider from Inana Productions down in San Diego.  Is Lenny in some sort of trouble?"
     Before the cop could speak, I replied, "Hey Larry, it's no big deal.  Some dude took a swing at me, so I got his arm behind his back.  The officers just want to make sure I'm not going to cause any trouble."  I grinned wider and said, "I know better than to do that."
     Bekka stepped up and said, "Hello, Lawrence.  Don't worry, just a bit of a scuffle.  If they do decide to book Lenny, I'll just post bail, he'll be out in a few hours.  I believe the officers are more in the mood to keep the peace than perform arrests, though."  She smiled warmly at the cop with me, who realized Becky Page was at her most charming, and he smiled back.
     Ten feet away, Red-Face yelled, "Die, you whore!  I'll do the job myself!"  He suddenly broke away from the cop he was with and charged towards us.  Pelton was closest to him, so he stepped forward and put a shoulder into Red-Face's chest.  The other cop grabbed Red-Face and pulled him back.  Red-Face began his bellowing again.  "I'll kill you both!  You die you whore, you die!  I'll kill you!  I'll blow your slut head off!  Satan's cunt!  Slut trash!  Die!  Whore!"
     The cop with Red-Face spun him around, quick-marched him to one of the cop cars, and shoved him into the side of the car, stomach-first.  Red-Face turned his volume and vitriol on the cop, yelling, "You're protecting Satan!  The woman is Satan's own whore, she has to die!  God will punish you!  You have a gun, kill the whore!"
     Another cop walked up and opened the back door of the cop car.  They quickly stripped Red-Face of everything in his pockets, and the two of them shoved Red-Face in.  Bekka stepped over to where the Channel 2 reporter was standing and asked, "Is there any chance you were recording audio over the last few minutes?"
    One of the crew guys said, "Cameras and sound never went off.  We got everything.  Ollie...."  He gestured at the camera operator.  ".... caught it all.  If they lay an assault charge on your husband, we got footage of that nut swinging on him first."
     With a smile, Bekka said, "Thank you very much.  Actually, my first concern is the fact that I've just had my life threatened by that man.  I'm getting a little sick of people connected to this church doing that.  I'll investigate what legal recourse I can aim at that man."
     Over my shoulder, I said, "At the very least, we'll be filing a restraining order."  I laughed.  "The dude is a poster boy for why you shouldn't skip doses of your Zoloft."  The cop next to me gave in to the urge, and actually chuckled.
     Bekka drifted up to the cop who'd been handling Red-Face with her royalty smile on and said, "If I may interrupt, I'd like that man's name.  He just threatened my life, and I'm getting a little tired of that.  I'll be filing a restraining order against him tomorrow with the Orange County Sheriff's Department."
     The cop looked at the wallet he'd taken away from Red-Face.  He opened it, found the driver's license, and said, "Hugh Westin, Yorba Linda.  The last name is W-E-S-T-I-N."  He had his cop face and cop voice on while he told her this.  Then he stepped close and tilted his head towards her.  I could see his lips moving.  Bekka beamed a smile and nodded.  The cop gestured her towards the cop car.  He got in and grabbed something, which he handed to Bekka.  She turned away and did something, then handed it back.  The cop smiled like a junior high kid, then caught himself and installed the polite cop-smile instead.  She headed back towards us, the cop staying with the car, in case Red-Face wanted to make mischief.
     When she reached me, I asked, "What was that?"
     "I'll tell you later," Bekka grinned.
     I was brought over to a different cop car.  The officer I was with told me to lean against the side.  I did.  He looked at me and said.  "I need to have a chat with the other officers.  If you promise to stay in this spot, and not move, I won't put you in back.  Will you behave?"
     "Of course," I said with a polite nod.  The four cops huddled up and spoke in low voices.  My cop came back and asked, "Just to confirm, you and Ms. Page live in San Diego?"
     "Encinitas, to be precise, but close enough."
     He went back to the confab.  A couple more minutes, the powwow broke up.  The cop told me to turn around.  I did so, and he took the cuffs off.  I thanked him.  He said I could go back to speaking with the reporter.  I started to walk, then he grabbed my shoulder and said, "One minute, sir."
     "What's up?" I asked.
     He quietly asked, "Would you mind if I asked for your wife's autograph?"
     I suppressed giggles and gave my blessing.

     The other two news crews had approached the driveway, but held back.  Bekka and I finished speaking with Mr. Mann, and moved to get back in the line.  The reporters from the other stations came trotting up, wanting to get their own interviews with Becky Page and hubby.  We told them fine, only they'd be doing it together, to save time and the annoyance of having to repeat ourselves.  They looked at each other and said, fine, fine.  Their interviews were shot in the same location.  The questions were pretty close to what we'd already been asked by Channel 2, but we stayed polite.
     Bekka and I went to get back in line.  The girls and guys were happy to give us some room, both of us getting our backs slapped a lot.  The tale of my confrontation with Red-Face had spread through the picket, and there was relief that I hadn't been arrested.
     We'd hit the end of the block and were coming back up when one of the Gardena cops we'd dealt with came jogging up.  "Mr. Schneider, we'd like to have a few more words with you."
     "No problem," I told him.  I kissed Bekka's cheek and told her I"d be back in a few.  Me and the cop walked up the curb to the driveway.
     We walked up the driveway to where the cop cars were.  Red-Face was still in the back of one of them.  He stared and glowered as he noticed my approach.  Two other cops were standing there.  One of them approached me and asked, "Did you wish to press charges against this man?  He was witnessed attempting to assault you."
     I stared at Red-Face a moment, then told the cop, "No.  He didn't connect, and you guys were on the ball and cooled his jets.  I'm not worried about him.  Pressing charges would mean having to appear in court, and I'm kind of busy.  And to be frank?  I don't think he'd learn a stinking thing if I did press charges.  What are you going do with him?"
     The other cop said, "Give him a ride directly to his car and advise him to go home immediately, not hang around.  He'll use the rear driveway, like everyone else has."
     "Suits me fine.  He'll be getting a visit from the sheriff's department soon, my wife is filing a TRO against him.  Maybe that'll wake him up."
     "All right, thank you for your time."
     "And I thank all of you for yours, officers," I smiled.
     I headed back towards the driveway. pausing to light a Marlboro.  I'd been avoiding smoking while in the picket, just out of good manners for the non-smokers.  I stood at the end of the drive and smoked peacefully.  The cigarette was almost gone when I heard a whining sound. the noise of too little engine pushing too much car, and the driver trying to actually get the damn thing to go fast.  Looking towards the noise, I saw a tan Oldsmobile Ciera bearing down from across the lot.  It was aimed at the driveway.
     The cops were waving and yelling at the approaching car.  The driver's plan was obvious: take out as many picketers as would be in the way as he barreled out of the driveway.  And after that, possibly put the Ciera down the sidewalk.  This can't be happening, I thought, and stood there watching him get closer.
     About forty feet from the end of the driveway, one of the waving cops was playing chicken with the car, waiting until the last possible moment to get out of the way.  The driver reflexively swerved....  And bashed into one of the haphazardly-parked cop cars.  All forward momentum ceased.
     The driver's door of the Ciera popped open, and Red-Face emerged, looking rattled but still in his usual rabid state.  He began loping towards the sidewalk, a tire iron in his hand.  He was bellowing, "I'll kill them!  I'll kill the whores!  They die and go to hell!"  And on and on.
     A cop ran up from behind him and laid him out in a savage tackle.  Two more cops also ran over, pinning him.  Red-Face was cuffed and left face-down on the asphalt, one cop kneeling on his back..  He was silent for the moment....  Then started shouting at the cops to let him go.  He informed them they were Communists, faggots, devil-worshipers, liberals (this, at an Orange County cop), traitors....  He had to kill the devil sluts, they would die and go to hell.  The cops lifted him up by the arms in a manner designed to cause pain, then dragged him to a non-impacted cop car and chucked him in back.  The picket line had paused again, and cheers broke out when this happened.
     About a half dozen dark grey suits with white men inside began chugging from the Chapel towards the driveway.  They arrived and demanded to know what was going on, why was Deacon Westin's Oldsmobile wedged into the side of a cop car?  One of the cops said in a loud voice, "Because Mr. Westin drove it there.  His initial intent was to drive into a crowd of people at the end of the driveway.  He swerved and hit the cruiser instead."
     And just why was Deacon Westin now locked in the back of a police car?  The cop stepped very close to the dark grey suit who asked and said (still in a loud voice) "Mr. Westin has been causing trouble and being disruptive for a while now.  He has assaulted both a reporter and a picketer, verbally abused passers-by, he has threatened a woman with death, and he has damaged public property.  Mr. Westin was given the chance to leave the area, and did not.  Instead, he crashed his car into one of our cruisers while attempting to commit vehicular homicide.  If you know him, I suggest you contact a bondsman, because he's going to jail."  (More cheers came from the sidewalk.)
     A different grey suit offered up, "I can't believe you're saying Deacon Westin has done what you've said!  What caused him to do these things?  He's a good Christian!"
     I called, "Oh yeah, he's a model of restraint and good manners."  The picketers laughed, and one of the cops gave me a look and said to be quiet.  I held my hands up and said, "Sorry, sorry."  I eased back to the very end of the driveway.
     In more reasoned tones, the grey suits continued their protests that this was not like Deacon Westin at all, please let him out of that police car, his insurance company will be contacted.  For his part, Red-Face (Westin) sparked into life again.  The windows of the cop car were up, so whatever he was yelling was muffled and unintelliglible, but obviously being delivered in his usual volume and style.  Another cop jerked a thumb at him and said, "At the rate things are going, he's looking at a 5150 hold, they'll pump him fulla Thorazine if he doesn't get a grip."
     Bekka drifted up next to me and said, "Word down the line is that my newest would-be executioner has wrecked his car....  Oh, yes, he has.  What the hell happened?"
     I explained the recent developments.  While I was, the cop who initially had addressed the clump of grey suits --- also the one who had cuffed me --- noticed Bekka's presence, and gestured at us to approach.  We did.  When we got there, the cop said, "This is Bekka Schneider, of Encinitas.  Mr. Westin made repeated threats of bodily harm to Ms. Schneider, she's already stated she'll be filing a restraining order against Mr. Westin.  He threatened to kill Ms. Schneider in front of me, several other officers, her husband, and a Channel 2 news crew, who recorded the incident.  I haven't checked Mr. Westin for priors yet, but given his behavior, if he has any, he may find he is denied bail completely.  What connection does he have to this church?"
     The cop wasn't answered, as all the grey suits were agog at the presence of Bekka.  Bekka looked back at them with her royalty smile, nodded, and said, "Good afternoon, gentlemen."
     After a bit of silent lip-flapping, one of them got out, "What are you doing here?"
     "Taking part in a civil protest," Bekka cooed.  "Given the presence of picketers associated with the Moral Militia at my studio a few weeks ago, me marching a picket here seemed like the right thing to do.  Excuse me, this is my husband, Leonard Schneider.  You may remember seeing him on the news a week ago.  He was shot in an attack made by religious extremists at our place of business.  Lenny nearly bled to death.  I nearly lost the man I love because someone had planted the idea in these extremists minds that I was some sort of Satanic monster.  Lenny got shot defending me."
     "A 30.06 round in the lung, and one in the shoulder," I stated.  "I nearly bought the farm because five yahoos thought murdering for God was a reasonable thing to do."
     The cop cut in and said, "You haven't answered me.  "What connection does Mr. Westin have to the Crystal Chapel?"
     A pause, and then a suit responded, "He works for Reverend Fallwood's television ministry as a researcher.  He provides data on subjects that will be discussed on the show."
     "What sort of data?"
     "He.... Say a particular person is going to be talked about by Reverend Fallwood.  Westin provides the person's history, their associations, their allegiances, their beliefs...."
     "Well, thank you!" beamed Bekka.  "Now I know who to drag into court for character assassination."
     "Beg pardon?" asked one of the grey suits.
     "About six weeks ago, Reverend Fallwood went on his show and declared to his viewing audience that I am a prostitute and a Satanist.  He also inferred I routinely abuse drugs, I am a corrupter of children, and am disloyal to my country.  The Reverent phrased these assertions in a way to dance around actually committing libel, but just the same, urged his viewers to take these claims as fact.  Thanks to Reverend Fallwood, my life had been needlessly complex since that show aired.  Do you remember the show?  Would it be safe to say Mr. Westin was the one who provided the rhetoric Reverent Fallwood used in his claims?"
     "I'd like to get back on track," said the cop.  "Your Mr. Westin directly threatened to murder Ms. Schneider, while using abusive language towards her and her husband.  He attempted to assault her husband as well.  If you gentlemen act as Westin's employers, you may be seeing this woman in court."
     Bekka calmly said, "Mr. Westin was already rather worked up, he was standing in the driveway and yelling an epithet, over and over, at the picketers.  My presence seemed to send him into apoplexy.  He hurled various epithets at me, and threatened my life.  I'm not sure why he has such a violent reaction to me, but I intend to find out.  It should make for some interesting statements in a courtroom."
     There were several moments of silence, then a grey suit coldly stated, "You're trespassing."
     "Actually, this officer asked me to join him, so that Mr. Westin's behavior could be more closely examined.  What I've witnessed of the man would indicate he is dangerously unstable.  I would think a 5250 would be more appropriate, if he is involuntarily held in a mental facility."
     "What is a 5250?"
     The cop answered, "A 5150 is a seventy-two hour, involuntary hold on a person either law enforcement or the courts consider to be a danger to themselves and others.  A 5250 is a fourteen day hold.  A person can petition a judge to be released, but the decision is left up to the judge, not a mental health professional.  The judge will hear the person's statement and also examine the notes the mental facility has mage regarding the person's behavior and demeanor."  The cop paused and continued, "In the case of Mr. Westin, regardless of the duration of his mental health hold, he would be collected by law enforcement upon his release, so he could be booked on the charges he faces."
     Another grey suit sniveled, "And what charges would these be?"
     "Off the top of my head, two counts of assault, incitement to riot, reckless driving, and attempted vehicular manslaughter.  Those are the ones I've witnessed, anyway."
     "Wow, not even Hell's Angels pile 'em up that quickly," I chuckled.
     Another cop came up and said, "We're taking off, we've gotta get the suspect to the station.  We'll drop him in one of the holding cells there.  If he doesn't simmer down, we'll contact County Mental Health and get him transferred.  Otherwise, he's headed to Santa Ana.  ETA for the tow trucks is fifteen minutes, one pulling a fresh cruiser for you and Bates."
     "Thanks, we'll start clearing out the totaled one in a couple minutes."
     "You can't just cart off Westin!" a grey suit wailed.
     Both cops fixed their patented glares on the grey suit.  "If you people are so terribly concerned with Mr. Westin's freedom, I suggest you contact and retain legal counsel, an attorney with experience in criminal law.  Mr. Westin has broken the law, and is now under arrest.  This is not up for debate."
     I quietly asked, "If it's all right, may we return to the picket now, officer?"
     "Yes, that's fine," the first cop said.  When we were ten or so feet away, he trotted up and stopped us.  He gave a very un-cop-like smile and said, "Thanks again for that autograph, Ms. Page."
     "Please, call me Becky" Bekka smiled back.

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