Bekka, Jane, and I watched both the local and national ABC News broadcasts, and in general were happy with how things came out.... Although on the national report, our guns and the presence of Jane seemed to have the most air time. The two messages I wanted to come across, did: we are not immoral or evil people, and anyone considering any kind of physical attack on Becky Page would be facing down a lot of lead. The national report identified Jane in a caption as "Jane Osborne - Underage Roommate of Becky Page." (The local caption simply said, "Jane - House Mate.") We'd decided to go for dinner at Evelyn's after the national segment, but when Bekka and I started to rise, Jane said, "Let's wait a couple minutes, I have a hunch I'll be getting a call."
It should be noted that Jane and her parents were finally in communication again. She had sent letters to them every few weeks since she first arrived, letting them know how things were going. It was very one-sided, they never wrote back. On her seventeenth birthday, last June, we'd told her to just call them, so they couldn't ignore her. She did, and had a short and rather stilted conversation with her mother. But after that, her mom started calling to check up on her: a bit of a challenge, as Jane was in Europe all summer. At least some basic dialogue was happening, though.
Sure enough, the phone rang within two minutes. Jane said, "They always watch ABC," and picked up.
"Hello? ... Yes Mom, that was me. Now you know I haven't been kidding you all this time about who I live with.... Yes they do, they're.... No. Highly doubtful, it's just precaution, you know? .... Well, thank you. I'd started to wonder if you did care, after all the letters I wrote and....
"I don't know. What have you told people for the past year? .... Okay, so you remind them I'm still an honor roll student, and I'll be going to UC Berkeley after I graduate high school, and.... No. No, that's ridiculous.... Don't you dare! .... Because it's not true! .... Actually, mother, the girls at the studio don't dress like that at all, they look like perfectly normal women.... We told you a long time ago, it's illegal, it's not going to.... All right, fine, tell lies about your own daughter. We're headed for dinner now, give Pop a hug for me, I'll call Monday, goodnight." And the phone was slammed down.
Catching our questioning looks, Jane seethed, "Well, I suppose the nice thing is my mother finally believes I live with who I told them I do.... Although she worries I'm going to be shot to death now. Of course, now everyone she knows will be asking her about how and why I live with Becky Page, to which she'll respond, 'Because Jane is making porn now herself.' She wants to assume the worst about how I'm living, that every positive thing I've said in my letters are just lies, me bullshitting her and my father. Let's go to Evelyn's, I can hear a fucking double of Wild Turkey calling my name." She scooped up her purse and started heading down to the front door.
I stopped her and said, "Uh, one minor problem, pet. They won't let you in dressed like that."
Jane stared at me in confusion, then looked down and realized she was still stark naked. She growled loudly and went back to one of the end tables, where she'd left her clothing, and began getting dressed again.
"I have wondered if you've ever tried to leave the locker room at school naked, dear," said Bekka. "Just showered, pulled on your boots, grabbed your book bag, and moseyed on out."
With a surprisingly embarrassed tone, Jane said, "Only twice now. Hey, I'm comfortable, it's a nice day.... Other girls have stopped me before I've made too much progress, at least."
"Have the girls asked you about this absent-mindedness?" I asked.
"They actually understand, more or less. The first few days of class, I sort of evangelized on ths subject of nudism. So, everyone on the volleyball team, plus a lot of girls who have sixth period PE, understand that is only for legal reasons that I'm constricted by clothing during the day. A couple girls suggested I would be daring men to assault me. My response was that if nudism was legal and socially acceptable, the sight of a woman's body would not be so stimulating, the novelty would be gone. And of course I had to put up with the 'My butt's too big!' brigade. Apparently grammar schools in California hold special classes in sixth grade, where all girls are trained to have bodily self-image issues. Florida may be full of horrible swamp trash, but at least you know a 270 pound woman in a tube top won't stand there and bitch about her love handles and cellulite."
Driving to Evelyn's Rib House, I said to Jane, "If you don't mind, I'm gonna bring up another touchy subject. What sort of interaction are you having with Lance at this point?"
Jane responded, "Oh.... For the most part, we just ignore each other. No hostility, we just act as though the other person is a random stranger, who we've never talked to at all. From what I've been told, Lance has been somewhat honest about why we split. He has told people it wasn't really a mutual thing, he left me. But he's also telling the why, and it's pretty much bullshit. The drama club is mostly the same people from last year, only with the previous seniors gone and a fresh batch of sophomores. Really, neither Lance nor I can lie about each other, because most everyone else in drama know us already. What Lance is doing is sort of parroting a lot of the Debbie object's views of me, how I'm oversexed and reckless and self-destructive, and he found someone who is 'better suited' for him. His talk has been duly reported back to me, and the people doing the reporting let me know they think Lance is full of shit.... Except maybe for the 'oversexed' part.
"And the little asshole still has a hard-on for me! Twice now, he's found some lame excuse to wander out to the smoking area at lunch, where he knows he'll find me. He'll start off with a couple sentences of polite conversation, then mention that golly, he sure misses seeing me all the time, him and the Debbie object only see each other a couple or three times a week, and why don't we hang out that afternoon at my place? He's totally angling to get a bit of pussy. The second time, I straight up asked if he was feeling sexually frustrated. He sorta stared off into space, so I jabbed at him, 'Isn't your little darling in La Jolla getting you off/ Is he bad at it, or is she refusing to bother at all?'
"He gave me this angry, defensive look that told me I'd nailed it. He's all, 'Debbie isn't oversexed, like you are. Most girls aren't. We're, you know, going at things in a more relaxed manner.' I pointed out that they'd already fucked, presumably on more than one occasion, at drama camp. Had she pulled in the welcome mat in front of her pussy? He said, 'Debbie feels like we moved to fast, we should never have had sex at camp, especially when we learned how close we lived. And uh, she goes to church and stuff, she just wants to take her time.' You know what church she goes to? She's a Methodist! Yeah, there's a denomination with heavy-handed moral strictures.
"Anyway, I told him, 'Sorry you're not getting any play out of your new girlfriend, try turning up the charm, I'll guess you got her off while you were at camp, right? I like to think I coached you into being a champion pussy-eater.' He stared at his shoes and told me Debbie thought it was disgusting he even offered to do it, so no. 'She's just not really big into sex, okay?' So I gave him an honest opinion, which was that he was getting ganked. The Debbie object used her pussy to bait him at camp. Well, there was a hook in the bait, now Debbie has landed him. I told him straight up, 'She never should have fucked you at all at camp, if she didn't really want to, and it sounds like she didn't. I don't buy any bullshit about her having a guilt complex for getting laid, if that was the case, she'd never have returned your calls once you were both home. You're getting gamed.'
"Lance got all snitty and says, 'So she's not a total nympho like you! You always said yourself how you're a total anomaly, sex-wise, she's acting like a totally normal girl for her age.' I told him that seventeen is right about when 'normal' girls start forming their sexual identities. If she was interested in sex, she'd be a tiny bit more aggressive.... Unless her fucking Lance at drama camp was her first real act of aggression, she decided she hated the experience, and is never going to put out again. He needs to have a talk with her, soon. Fine, his ex-girlfriend was a nympho, which should make it clear that Lance is used to a certain level of frequency and energy in a romantic relationship. If the Debbie object thinks Lance is being pushy or horny or lewd or whatever by explaining this little fact of life, he needs to do some serious thinking about what sort of future they have together, and if he feels like waiting and hoping she thaws out a little.
"And Lance, bless his soul, was open and honest in his response! He says, 'That's why I'd like to see you again. It's like you turned sex into a drug for me, and since we're not seeing each other any more, I'm going through withdrawals.' And it struck me: I totally spoiled him. Damn few suburban teenage boys have the sex lives Lance did with me, so I kind of warped his perspectives. Come on, I doubt any other dude at Carlsbad High knew he could count on a near-daily suck and fuck session after school, all year long. Especially a kinda geeky guy with dreams of a career in stage performance."
Jane sighed and lit a Newport. Her voice developed a morose tone. "So, I apologized to him. I told him he would be right to feel angry with me, I'd given him a very inaccurate perspective on sex for a suburban high school junior, and I was sorry. But he'd have to either get used to having orgies of one, like every other high school dude in Southern California, or find the secret password to start Debbie's pussy a-twitching, because at this point, we were done. And I was hanging out with Smiley from auto shop after school that day anyway. Lance didn't say anything, he just gave me a mean glare and stomped off.
"I'd say Lance only misses getting his wee-wee wet with me, but he's also asked about you two. I think he's had a really mundane existence, so dating me was some serious adventure, just because of how I live. Shit, he was a sixteen year old boy who routinely hung out with the biggest porn star in the world, and her husband. I know I probably scared him a few times, but at least I was never boring for him, you know?"
There was brief silence, then Bekka said, "Having never met his new girlfriend, I can't make a personal judgement. However, if your judgement is accurate, Lance may be setting himself up for a big fall. Okay, say the two of them stick it out through the school year, and agree to keep seeing each other, even if Debbie doesn't thaw out any. I know Lance will be heading to UCSD for college, where he'll still be horny as hell and surrounded by girls with far more socially progressive views than Debbie. In a nutshell, Lance will be looking for a piece on the side, and can probably find it easily enough. Any idea if Debbie's plans for college are the same? Is she bound for the UC system, or some Ivy League place back east?"
With a snicker, Jane said, "Actually, in a rare moment of non-fawning talk about Debbie, Lance admitted she's never been a brilliant student, she doesn't have the grades to get into a UC school. She'll be going to one of the state universities.... Um, I think he said she would be going someplace, uh, Chico State...?"
Beka and I both burst into laughter. I told Jane, "Oh, shit! If Debbie is the prig you've described, she will either love or hate going to Chico! You know the Playboy list of 'Top Ten Party Campuses' they put out every year? Chico State University is always very high on that list. Chico is a fairly dull town at the very north end of the Central Valley, it would just be another farming community if not for the school. Since there's nothing to do in the area, the students all party, damn hard, and nearly constantly. It is one fucking rowdy campus."
There was a wait for a table, so we were standing at the bar, which was pretty damn crowded. I was suddenly jostled from behind. I spun and grabbed the man doing the jostling, a cookie-cutter yuppie in his forties. My left hand was holding his collar, and out of reflex my right hand was wadding itself into a fist. He looked panicked and squeaked, "I'm sorry, someone bumped into me!"
I stared at him for a couple seconds, then let go and turned away without a word. Bekka and Jane were looking at me with great shock: I didn't tee off on people without giving them a chance to talk first, and I just had. I shook my head and said, "Sorry, just feeling a bit edgy."
I continued, "Anyway, if Debbie remains pent-up, she'll be utterly horrified by the state of bacchanal most of the other students at Chico live in. It's not a real pinnacle of academia, you know? She'll hate it there. But what would be worse is if she's jarred out of her priggishness, and decides to take part. From what you've said, she doesn't have any damn practice as a party gladiator. She's gonna try to party, but have no previous experience at it, and will be playing in the big leagues. A lot of college freshmen go through a phase in their first semester. It suddenly strikes them their parents are hundreds of miles away, and now they attend a school which doesn't take attendance, no penalty for just not showing up to a class. And especially at Chico State, alcohol flows very freely, along with plenty of drugs. So, having been freed, the freshmen run wild for the first half of the school year. Most snap back into shape when they (and their parents) are told they've been put on academic probation: raise your GPA or you're not coming back next year. Shit Jane, you could sleepwalk your way through college if you'd decided to go to a Cal SU. You'd be bored to death, the academic rigor is pretty low. Think about the sort of idiots you've met in the past year, and you found out they go to SDSU.
"I'll take a wild guess that Debbie's priggishness was trained into her, it's not a natural state. Oh God. If she gets turned loose at Chico State, her freshman first-semester tantrum will be a fucking doozy. It's hard, but it's possible to be expelled from Chico. If she blows it big enough, and hard enough, she'll be back down in La Jolla by the end of her first year, looking forward to classes at Mesa Community 'College and living with her parents, who can't believe their daughter had a GPA of 1.4. Or was showing up to her Monday morning classes still totally wasted, puking on her own desk on multiple occasions. Or her arrests for drug possession in her dorm. Or the arrest for drunkenly attacking a cop with a beer bottle. Or getting caught fucking some guy in the stacks of the main library, totally stripped. Or all of the above.
"Yeah, someone like Debbie is a train wreck waiting to happen in her freshman year. The thing is, at other schools her fellow students would be pulling her aside, telling her she's really blowing it. At Chico State, shit, she's gonna be that rich bitch who always has lots of bread for booze and dope and general decadent behavior. Most other students go to Chico with their eyes wide open, knowing their limits already, to an extent. If Debbie crashes and burns, hey, she was a blast to party with, but it's her own damn fault she got expelled."
Bekka said, "Please, tell Lance what we've told you. Explain that while you don't care for Debbie, you also don't want her to fuck up her life, either, and going to Chico State will be a very, very bad choice, no matter how you slice it. Like Lenny said, she'll either hate it, or love it far too much. Either way, she's in for a miserable experience at college. Tell her to go to Stanislaus State, or Hayward State.... Or even SDSU. Okay, SDSU is a rager campus, but her parents would be able to keep her corralled, she'd probably live at home while she goes to college, like I did.
"My guess is her parents are Chico alumni. Fine, dandy. But when they attended, Chico state was a new-ish campus, and very sedate. Just guessing at their ages, I'd point out that going to college at all was not something most Americans did after leaving high school at that point. People still trained for trades and worked in factories. College wasn't a necessity to live a comfortable life, going to any college was a sign you had major aspirations.
"Make it clear to Lance that you aren't the one who wishes to dissuade Debbie from going to Chico State, Lenny and Bekka are. And we have no real grudge against Lance, we wouldn't be trying to find ways to sabotage his new relationship. But we're serious: if he does care about this girl, he needs to talk to her about what Chico State University is really like. It's not the bucolic little campus his parents remember, it's a very reckless party zone."
"How do you know all this about the place?" asked Jane.
I replied, "Okay, there's the Playboy list they always make, that's a big tip-off. Also, I've been there. On one of my solo vacations, when I went up to the Sierras again, I spent a couple nights in Chico, just to check things out. Back when I was still dealing, I'd heard rumors about what a fucking gold mine that school is for anyone slinging any kind of dope. I walked around the general campus area quite a bit, and.... Jesus. It was a Thursday and Friday when I was there. Every bar was jumping by seven at night. Their frat row is a fucking slum and a war zone. By ten that night, I was passing people who were almost literally dragging wasted fellow dorm-mates back to their housing. Care are driving up and down at ten miles an hour, with jocks and frat boys hanging out the windows howling at people and blaring the horn. Every girl was named 'bitch' and every guy was named 'faggot,' according to those cruisers." I paused. "Uh, I just realized I have a bit of a story I've never told you two...."
"What's up?" the girls asked.
"Okay, the cruising around campus is pretty much nonstop. All pedestrians are either 'bitch' or 'faggot.' Some dickhead would yell 'Faggot!' at me as I was walking along, so I'd give them the finger. Fuckin' whatever, you know? About the fourth car that did this, it seemed the occupants didn't like my nonverbal response to them, so they aim the car halfway onto the sidewalk and stop, and all four dickheads get out. Okay, I'm assuming it's four frat bros, right? No, two of them are fucking football players, and goddamn linemen at that. They're all trashed, staggering, even the driver, and they're all standing in a row across the sidewalk waiting on me.
If I'd still been sixteen, I would have run like hell in the direction I'd come from. But I was already in kind of a shitty mood, just from seeing the willful stupidity of so many people in such a small area. Fucking college students, and they're pretending a Thursday night in May is Mardi Gras. So, I kept walking towards the dickheads. When I was about twenty feet away, I pulled my leather open wide, so my holster and pistol would be very visible. And, uh.... I bluffed. I pulled my wallet out, let it fall open, and held it up above my head. You know, like a cop showing his ID. I said in my best loud cop voice, 'Gentlemen, return to your vehicle and continue on, now.'
"I stopped when I was ten feet away. They'd left their stereo playing, so they might not have heard me clearly, but they should have at least clued in on my gun and my bluff with the wallet. One of the dickheads yells, 'Fuckin' faggot, we're gonna beat your ass' or something. So I continued the bluff and said in the same cop voice, 'I'm not going to repeat myself. Return to your vehicle and move out. And keep your fucking mouth shut.'
"They start moving towards me, telling me about the ass-beating I'm about to get. So.... I pulled the Beretta. They stopped and sorta gave me this confused look. One of the dickheads says, 'Is that a gun?' I told him that yes, it was, it's my service pistol, and since they didn't seem to pay attention to my displaying me ID, perhaps this would get their attention. And to leave, immediately.
"One of the lineman types says, 'You're not a fuckin' cop, you're just some puke I'm gonna have to hurt. You can put your fuckin' squirt gun away, you stupid faggot.'
"Well, all right then. I stepped to my left, so I was behind the Volvo wagon they were driving, and shot out the back glass. Then I stepped into the traffic lane and put holes in the front and rear door panels. All their windows were down, and I wanted to make sure I was destroying a lot of glass. I got back on the sidewalk and did the same thing to the other two doors. And as a bit of a coup de gras, I aimed inside the car and shot the stereo.
"They're all now staring at me, totally amazed and stupefied. Since it was now quiet, I said, 'Now that you can hear me, I'll give you the information I'm sure you want. Officer Raymond Grundy, badge number 4142, Chico City Police Department. Go file a fucking complaint against me, I really don't give a shit.'
"A frat bro is all, 'Duuuude..... You don't look like a cop.' I smiled at him and walked up into his face, I still had the gun out. I told him, 'Well, judging by the parking permit that was in your rear window, I"m guessing you're college students, and may have a brain cell to go with the other one. See, sometimes police do something called undercover operations. I'll bet you've seen them in movies or on TV. No, I don't look like a fucking cop, that's the idea, stupid.' I backed up a few steps and said, 'Now what was it I've told you to do three times already? Why the fuck aren't you stupid assholes doing it yet?' And I started to bring the gun up again.
"They all dove in the Volvo and beat cheeks. I reholstered, zipped my leather up again, and just sorta strolled nonchalantly to the next corner, where I turned and began sprinting back towards my motel. Gunfire is not something that happens often in Chico, and I knew somebody would be reporting some punk rock asshole firing a gun on one of the main drags. When I got to my room, I shucked my holster, swapped the leather for my denim, and cut out in the Falcon. I spent the rest of the night in a titty bar north of town, a place on county land. It was about half jock-type students and half locals, the locals all being cowboy types. There was obvious hostility between the two tribes, but nothing too loud or physical. I started gabbing with a couple good ole boys at the bar, and ended up hanging around with the locals until close. It was a little weird: the cowboys knew that if it weren't for the college, the titty bar wouldn't be there at all, the local economy just wouldn't support it. But they hated the jocks who showed up, they said them thar college boys ain't got no manners with the dancers, always thinking they can grab ass. After everyone got kicked out, me and three of the cowboys went to the Falcon and smoked a bowl in the parking lot before we all headed home."
The hostess came up behind me and put her hand on my shoulder. I jumped and turned, and had my hand sliding into my jacket towards the Beretta. I saw who it was and settle down, her apologizing for startling me. I nodded and began following her. Again, Bekka and Jane were giving me looks.
Continuing with my story, I said, "The next morning I made myself get up fairly early, so I could walk around on the campus itself. Holy shit.... I stopped counting obvious hangovers when I reached eighty, all those students dragging their sorry asses to class at 8:30 in the morning. After observing the walking wounded it was time for some breakfast. Then I checked out the main library and wandered some more. Around lunchtime, I decided I wanted a brew, so off to one of the 'student' bars just off campus. It was packed, stuffed with Chico State students all killing their hangovers. I was sitting there, and some girl lands on the stool next to me. I realized she's fucking glaring at me, so I gave her a smile and a nod. She says to me, "Who the fuck are you, and why are you in such a pleasant goddamn mood?'
"I said I was Lenny, and I was in a goddamn pleasant mood because I was a tweaker. I'm high as shit, sister, okay? I feel great. Sorry about the hammer party in your skull, you look pretty caved in. Her jaw dropped and she starts blathering at me, 'Oh fuck, do you have any meth? Do you have any meth? Do you have any, anything? If you do, we can go back to my dorm room, I will suck you off if you get me high.' Uh.... Okay. I told her I was happily married, but I'd get her high just the same. We went back to her dorm and I smoked a bowl with her, for which she was very grateful. I had to ask her: I'd noticed a lot of partying the night before, and a lot of hung-over students around that morning. Was there some sort of event last night? She looked confused and said no, just a normal Thursday, why? Just wondering, sister.
"So have Lance lay that little vignette on this Debbie bimbo, tell him to ask her if she wants to go to college in a place that's trying to be a microcosm of New Orleans, only with both fewer blacks and less humidity. God, if I was hiring creative staff and an applicant had the words 'Graduated - Chico State University, California' on their resumé, they're gonna be getting scrutinized very closely. I don't need a set decorator or editor who keeps a beer bong in their office."
By this point in the conversation, we were waiting for our fresh drinks. Jane was squirming slightly, as though her bra was too tight. And it struck me, its presence was not a very common thing. Before we left, she'd swapped that day's bustier for a t-shirt and bra, to cut down on scandalized old people at the restaurant. (We were usually the youngest people there, by at least three decades.) You don't wear a bra with a bustier, and during volleyball practice Jane would have a sports bra on, not a standard foundation garment. With her constant nudity at home, she wore a "real" bra maybe twice a week now. Bustiers and the Speed-O company took care of her jug containment needs the rest of the time.
"Jane said, "If you would do me the favor, I'd like it if one of you two gave :Lance the heads-up about Chico State. He'll see some form of malice if I tell him whassup with the place. But he'll listen to you better, you know? Honestly, I don't hate the Debbie object. My opinions of her are very low, but at the same time, I don't believe she's evil or cruel. She's just a snotty frigid bitch, so whatever."\
"I'm glad you don't carry around hate," I said. "Hate weighs a lot, and wears you out. I can only think of one person alive who I truly hate."
"Who's that?" asked Jane.
"Julian Earl Bradshaw, a current guest of the California corrective system. He's the Christian zealot who shot me up inside the mansion. He had arrived with an assault rifle and plenty of full clips, Kevlar body armor, and the stated-in-court goal of murdering everyone in the building. We made porn, Bradshaw believes porn is an instrument of Satan, so he was going to rid the world of a bit of evil. What's the trip is that I don't hate him for having shot me. I hate him for his intentions: Julian Bradshaw was going to slaughter a bunch of people, total strangers, and all nice folks. But in his head, they made porn, so they were.... I'm not sure. Not really human? Genuine vessels of evil? I'm not sure."
With steel in her eyes, Bekka said, "I know what all the performers were to him, but he'd never admit it in a million years. Porn probably reminded him his sex life was probably a near total failure. No, porn does not reflect reality, and you know that. It's fantasy, it's almost a cartoon of actual sexual interaction. But my hunch is that Julian Bradshaw is someone who was born with very little social grace, human warmth, or basic empathy. Not only is he a sociopath, he's incapable of reading social cues and nuance. He was described, in court, as a 'loner,' and I'm sure women have been as good as space aliens to him since puberty, totally inscrutable, mysterious, and confusing.
"He went through his teenage years without ever even kissing a girl. He probably lost his virginity to a hooker in his early twenties while in the military.... Not a real fulfilling method of experiencing one's first full sexual event. So, he was probably watching porn, just for the vicarious enjoyment of sex. But after a while, he starts really hating what he's seeing. Why isn't his life like that? Since he has no friends, he has no one to compare notes with, nobody to point out that such liaisons are fantasy, about as common as being struck by lightning. With no litmus, Bradshaw starts to think that pornography actually reflects reality in some ways.... And he's being left out on the fun. The girls in porn are mocking him.
"Out of psychological self-defense, he has to find reasons why porn chicks are actually horrible people he should actually be glad he's never encountered. Well.... Religion states that wanton sexual activity is a sin, a form of evil. Bingo. Bradshaw actually has a bit of solace, he's comforted knowing no one can say he has rarely sinned against God, he's actually one of the pure, a rare man who's place in heaven will have his reservation posted on the door. Porn stars were just bitches who mocked him. Then the evangelical style of Christianity he began subscribing to told him they were not just sinners, but actually evil, Satan's minions. He knows how he will guarantee his admission to heaven upon his death. Destroy the evil. Literally. Get the rifle, put on the Kevlar, and fight a major skirmish in a holy war single-handed. God will be so pleased to meet him face to face after what he's done."
I let a few beats slip by, then said, "Or, to encapsulate, Julian Earl fucking Bradshaw is a sociopath with the communication skills of an autistic child, an asshole who really sucked at being a human. He hates women, but those cunts in the dirty movies in particular. So, he figures out how he can get revenge against the cunts while providing some righteous justification for being a murdering piece of shit. The motherfucker was going to kill me, and a lot of people close to me --- like Bekka --- because he'd brainwashed himself into thinking God told him to. Fuck him. I don't care the cost, I'm gonna make sure goddamn Bradshaw doesn't live to see a full week of freedom after his prison term is up. I will put a hit out on him. Nobody threatens my friends, and people who even consider hurting my wife may as well start chugging Drano for fun. I will take them the fuck out, full stop.
"Yeah, I need to get a hold of this jackoff Jerry Fallwood. I'll remind him of Julian Earl Bradshaw. I want Fallwood's unfiltered opinion of him, and I want to remind the flag-jacking asshole about what happens to people when you fuck with me and mine. Those Moral Militia pieces of shit had better make the Navy SEALS look like Boy Scouts if they think they'll get the drop on me. Fucking scumbags. You know everything Fallwood says is vetted through three tons of lawyers. Just once I'd like to hear his thoughts about my wife and our careers off the top of his dome, no filters. I won't even sue him, I'll just tell him to his fucking fat face that I'll drop every one of his little band of elves, if I need to. Then I'll be after his ass."
I stopped speaking. It suddenly occurred to me it was rather quiet in our area. Other patrons had stopped talking, and were all stealing glances at me. Bekka and Jane were staring with wide eyes, and looked a bit panicked. Bekka finally said, "Darling.... You don't need to shout."
"Was I shouting?" I asked.
"Yes, you were. While I'm hardly one to shy away from causing a scene, you're yelling profanities in the middle of our favorite restaurant, and you're frightening people. Me included."
"Me too," Jane said softly.
Speaking directly at the table, I said, "Shit. Um.... Look, I'm really sorry, I'll shut up. If you see a waitress, flag her down, I need another Johnnie Walker. Calm my nerves, you know?"
"No," Bekka said firmly. "You're in a state of rage at the moment, and I'm not going to let you fuel it with alcohol. You've had a lot of rage boiling under the surface all day. I've been waiting for it to subside, but it isn't. We're going to have dinner, then we're going home, where you will take a couple Valium, land on the sofa with the bong, and decompress. Lenny, please, I don't like being afraid of my own husband, and right now I am." Her eyes were wet.
"Okay. Okay okay okay. God fucking dammit, I'm so sorry, honey.... Can I have a beer?"
"One Miller. That's it. No beer at home, either. This thing with Fallwood is eating at you in a very bad way, and I don't think you realize it. For your own sake, you need to decompress. I'm worried you'll pull your gun on the waitress if your soup sin't hot enough."
A look showed Jane had tears running down her face. She said, "Lenny.... I never thought I'd be scared of you, but I am right now."
I reached over with each hand and grabbed theirs. We sat in silence until our waitress arrived, me just staring at the center of the table.