We didn't attend Lance's pretrial hearings, there was no need and no point. The first day of trial for Lance Grisham was in the last week of April. Our lawyer was with us, sitting at one end of the prosecutor's table, with Jane right across an aisle. Juvenile court was blazing fast, compared to adult criminal courts. Lance and Vance were being tried at the same time, which made almost everyone happy. Those that weren't happy were Lance and Vance's parents, who felt the double trial would poison things for their respective sons: their fine young boy would be closely associated with that young idiot who caused all this trouble.
There were tensions between the two families. First, Vicky and Richard had sprung for a defense lawyer, while Vance's parents had not.... and their economic status was such that they didn't qualify for a public defender. So, Vance's folks had been sort of trying to shmooze Vicky and Richard into letting Vance sort of, you know, borrow Lance's attorney a bit. Richard and Vicky said hey, no problem, the attorney can handle both clients at once, we'll split the cost. "Buy you've already paid him, right? Why should we have to foot part of the bill?" Things went downhill from there.
The friendship of Lance and Vance had pretty much withered. All their conversations seemed to summarize as the two of them saying to each other, "It was your stupid idea." Reading the interview transcripts of the two boys, I realized their motivations were quite different. It was obvious that Lance had a lot of ambivalence in his feelings about Jane, jumping between goddess worship and dismissive contempt. Vance, on the other hand, just wanted some pussy. My hunch was that among other things Lance had learned while dating Jane, he knew women were people, not vagina life support systems. Vance seemed to have the standard jock/frat bro attitude of objectifying girls.
Lance and Vance were having some trouble at school, and the trouble was coming from their fellow students. The gossip campaign they'd started was working, sort of. What they were saying about Jane was getting around.... Only thing was, large swaths of the student population would hear the gossip and say, "That's total bullshit." The school stoners and headbangers, and of course the punks, were particularly annoyed to hear Jane being verbally trashed. Jane's nitro-fueled sex drive was no secret, but because of Jane's frankness on the subject, the collective school losers and scumbags knew she wasn't a slut, she was just horny.... And hey dude, who isn't? While there was certainly a lot of lusty thoughts about Jane, the punks and headbangers were genuinely impressed with a girl who would admit to being horny, just like them, and would engage in candid, honest, and intelligent conversation on the subject of sex. Through osmosis, Jane probably removed a lot of mystery for the guys, when it came to the subject of "chicks."
So the punks and headbangers weren't happy with Lance and Vance, not at all. And when the two started to ramp up the gossip, the punks and headbangers didn't take long to figure out where the gossip was coming from, and were now very displeased. Fuckin' track runners talking shit about Gator Bait, that's fuckin' bullshit. Jane is way cool, fuck those dudes. Lance and Vance began catching a lot of random elbows and shoulders walking through the halls between classes. Vance went to his locker one morning to find the words "Kill A Raper" scrawled on his locker door in red marker. Both would be sitting in the cafeteria at lunch, and any headbanger or punk walking past would simply state, "Fuckin' asshole" without looking at them. One Monday there was quite a bit of consternation among the administration: someone had spray-painted "Grisham and Lewis Are Going To Die" on the sidewalk where the buses stopped. The message was being sandblasted off by lunch, but plenty of people had still seen it.
Two days later, Vance had driven his mother's car to school, a not uncommon event. When he went out to the car after school, all four tires were flat, someone had cut off the valve stems. Also, there was a small pile of sand on the ground under the fuel flap. Vance took the cap off and looked inside the fill tube. Lots of sand in there. There was some coolant on the ground under the car. An inspection showed the radiator had been stabbed about a dozen times, probably with a long screwdriver. Vance demonstrated his lack of intelligence by thinking to himself, "It's only about a mile to my house," and starting the damn car anyway. It failed about three blocks from home, simultaneously overheating and having the engine seize from all the sand being pumped into it.
The two boys, their parents, and various administrators had a little conference, the upshot of which was Lance and Vance would transfer to Encinitas High for the rest of the year. Sorry boys, the track team will not take new members at this point, regardless of their pedigree. And sorry Lance, there is no drama club. The economic disparity between Carlsbad High and Encinitas High was obvious, just by looking at the cars in the parking lot. Plenty of junkers.... And some really sweet rides, too: lots of old Impalas and Buicks, with small chrome wire rims, airbrush art of sexy dark-haired women, Aztec warriors, or Jesus Christ on the trunks. The cars, when parked, sat so close to the ground you couldn't slide a dime under them. The drivers and passengers had names like Chuey and Manuel and Beto, and they always had their black sunglasses on, indoors or out.
On his third day, Vance went to the Spanish teacher's classroom to have a phrase translated. He asked the teacher what "chingaso gringo pendejo" meant. The teacher refused to provide a translation, but told Vance anyone directing that phrase at him would not be easy to make friends with. Did he know the person who'd said that to him?
"It was one of the beaners," Vance replied. "Whatever, you know?"
The Spanish teacher advised Vance and his friend Lance keep very, very low profiles at school. Much like in a prison, the facts about a new arrival have already spread throughout the population, before the new arrival has been on the property ten minutes, or even talked to anyone. Everyone knew who Vance and Lance were, and why they'd been transferred. And the moral code of the Latino population of the school --- a large percentage --- marked Vance and Lance as utter scum, "putos." The teacher strongly suggested both boys talk to the school administration and the district about going into a home study program. Their lives would be simpler, and much safer.
The next morning, both boys went to their respective lockers to find a single word markered. Just the word "SHOTGUN!" and the number 14, nothing else. Both opted to head straight for the school administration building, skipping their first period classes. A bitterly amused vice principal explained some soldier, or soldiers, from the Surnenos (or Mexican Mafia) had left a little message. Yes, home study might make sense for you two. At his question, the boys told him what neighborhoods they lived in. The vice principal considered this and said, "If you ever come home to find 'XIV' spray-painted on your house, notify the police immediately."
"What's up?" asked Vance.
"It means the street gang commonly known as the Surenos not only know where you live, they've taken an interest in you, and that's a bad thing."
Frankie No-Neck and Nicky were in their own cars. They both had cellular phones installed, so they could communicate with each other. Both were in strategic positions where they could watch for Vicky's red Astro van leaving the house. When she went out, they would shadow her. Depending on how much distance she was covering, they would switch back and forth for whoever was the closer shadow. They had been instructed to watch and take photos if she went three places: Lenny and Bekka's house on Neptune St., the Inana mansion, or Carlsbad High. They were not to contact Vicky, unless there appeared to be some drastic action about to happen.
On the second day, Vicky drove to Lenny and Bekka's house. Frankie No-Neck anchored his Caprice at the edge of the beach lot, and pointed a telephoto lens at Vicky. She had stopped in front of the garage, and was now standing there, staring in. Then she went and looked at the front door. After that, she walked to both sides of the house, looking at the space between Lenny and Bekka's place and their neighbors. There was a gap of maybe five inches between the two structures. After more staring into the garage, Vicky spun the minivan around and parked in the beach lot, then began walking towards the path that led up onto the bluff over the beach, the path that went past the backs of all the houses on Neptune. Frankie No-Neck quickly stripped off his tie and dress shirt, grabbed the camera, and sort of ambled along, not exactly following Vicky, but keeping her in view. She got to the house and stopped, staring at it. Then she walked up to the glass slider and gave a tentative tug. No luck. She snooped around a bit, then headed back to the minivan. Frankie No-Neck got photos of all this.
On the third day, Vicky drove to Carlsbad High and pulled into the student lot. She cruised the aisles until she spotted Jane's Cutlass, and stopped behind it. Vicky didn't get out, she just sat there. It was twenty minutes before the end of the school day. Nicky pulled into a space about twenty yards away and watched. Frankie No-Neck sat on the street outside the school, keeping Vicky in view. When the final bell went off, Vicky put the minivan in gear and left in a hurry.
And two days later, Vicky drove past the Inana mansion on three occasions, once in the morning, around lunchtime, and again around four. On this last visit, she stopped in front of the driveway. Spike, the Hell's Angel working security that day, recognized the minivan. He'd seen it twice already that day. The mansion was on a residential dead-end street, long periods of time would go by between any vehicles rolling past. Spike began marching down to the van with determination. Vicky saw him and began to get out, then changed her mind and drove off. Spike had been close enough to read the plate number, which he dutifully reported to Lenny. Upon hearing the plate number, Lenny just shook his head and said he knew who it was, there was a bottle-blonde housewife at the wheel, right? "Yeah, that's right."
"I hope you don't have any reservations about getting physical with a woman, Spike. If she shows up again, and actually approaches you, bulldog her. She has zero business here, and is trespassing."
On Sunday morning, Vicky did the same routine at the beach house. Nicky was her shadow this time. More photos of her scoping both sides of the house, and this time she brought a screwdriver with her, which she tried to use to jimmy open the glass slider in back. Nicky kept a cautious eye on her. preparing to run up the bluff path and confront her if she did get in. She didn't, and gave up.
Wednesday morning Vicky was sitting in the kitchen with her third cup of coffee. She was alone in the house. Richard was at work in Escondido, Haley and Lance were at school. Two grey Lincolns pulled into the driveway and stopped. Six men got out, all well-dressed, and came to the door. When she opened it, the smiling, well-groomed man up front said, "Vicky Grisham-Ross?"
"That's me," Vicky replied.
With the same smile and friendly voice, the man said, "Vicky, my colleagues and I have speak with you for a few minutes. We'll be coming in." All six began walking in, jostling Vicky out of the way. The first man stood at her side. When everyone was in, the first man gestured at Vicky to go in the living room and have a seat.
"Who are you people?" demanded Vicky.
"My name is Rizzo," said the friendly first man. "The identities of my colleagues isn't relevant. Vicky, we are a bit worried about you. Recently, you've picked up a new hobby, one that could be very dangerous for you. You've been engaging in some stalking behavior of a young lady named Jane Osborne. I know you know who Jane is. Mel, would you hand me those photographs?"
Rizzo was sitting on the sofa next to Vicky, not too close. The other men all remained standing, occupying as much space in the living room as possible. Rizzo opened the envelope he'd been handed and pulled out some photos, which he arranged on the coffee table in front of Vicky. He said, "Let's see.... Here you are in the parking lot of Jane's high school, blocking Jane's car with that red shitbox you drive. Here, you're out front of the studios of Inana Productions, the business Jane's roommates work at. And these.... Well, here you are reconnoitering the garage and front door. And in these, you've walked up to the rear of the house. The second time you did this, you tried to break in. See? There's a picture of you using a screwdriver, trying to force the latch on the glass door."
Rizzo left the photos were they were and leaned back on the sofa. Still using his engaging smile and voice, he said, "Mrs. Grisham-Ross, our curiosity is piqued. That curiosity can be summed up in a single question we've all had: just what the fuck is wrong with you?"
Vicky stared at Rizzo, then looked at the other five men. All of them were staring at Vicky, passive expressions on their faces, silent. She quavered, "Who are you people?"
Chuckling, Rizzo said, "Well.... We're friends of a man who is a friend of Jane's. This man, his name is Vito, is an older gentleman from Los Angeles, a successful businessman, now retired. He and Jane are very close. He loves Jane like a grandchild, if not stronger. Vito is very protective of what he loves. When he learned of Jane nearly being attacked by your little scumbag asshole of a son, Vito was very, very angry. If he'd followed his initial instincts, your asshole rapist fuck-bag you call your offspring would have been dead within hours of his initial release from juvenile hall.
"Our friend Vito has decided to allow the little wannabe rapist you raised to have his case heard in court, to let the system judge your son. But then we learn you've been prowling around Jane's house. We can't help but wonder what you have in mind. And our suspicions are you wish to harm Jane.
"So, to satisfy our curiosity, and the curiosity of Vito, you're going to tell me what you had in mind when you finally developed the stones to confront Jane. And again, what the fuck is wrong with you?"
Vicky stared at Rizzo, silent, her jaw trembling. After a few moments, Rizzo yelled "Answer me!" in Vicky's face. She made a strange gargling noise, but still didn't speak. Rizzo gestured at one of the other men and said, "Paul, Vicky seems a bit recalcitrant. Perhaps you can help persuade her to answer me."
Paul stepped forward, reaching inside his jacket. He removed a pair of pliers, and moved towards Vicky. Rizzo explained, "Paul wanted to be a dentist when he was young, but never had the money to go to dental school. Still, his interest in the trade hasn't gone away."
Rizzo pivoted in his seat and leaned on Vicky, pinning her to the sofa. He held one shoulder with one hand, and drove his elbow into her other shoulder. With that hand, he grabbed Vicky's forehead and pushed back. Paul grabbed Vicky's jaw and pried down, opening her mouth, moving the pliers forward. Vicky began squawking and jabbering, unable to have intelligible words come out without the use of her jaw. Paul stuck the pliers in her mouth and clamped onto an incisor. Vicky's noise became louder and more panicked. She was making the same sounds over and over.
Rizzo looked in Vicky's face and said, "One moment, Paul. I think she is trying to communicate to us that she'll talk. Is this true, Vicky? Paul, let go of her jaw."
Vicky warbled loudly, "I'll talk! I'll talk!" Rizzo leaned back into the sofa again, and Paul stepped a few feet away, pliers still in one hand.
In the same soothing voice he'd been using, Rizzo queried, "So tell me, what did you have in mind for Jane? And don't worry, there are no wrong answers. Just dishonest ones. Please be honest with us."
Breathing heavily, Vicky said, "I.... I'm not sure what I would do if I was alone with Jane. My feelings change. Sometimes I want to kill her, sometimes I want to fight her, and sometimes I just want to give her a piece of my mind. She's ruined my son's life. He's missing school because of court appearances, he's going to have a juvenile criminal record that will carry over to his adult record if he's convicted.... He'll be dealing with this for a long time. They may put him in CYA, I don't know. He should be headed for college in the fall, not sitting in jail. Jane is destroying Lance's life."
Her face suddenly got hard. "I should have known the little bitch was trouble.... I knew she was. The little slut seduced Lance, kept him captivated with sex. She had my son on a lead for nearly a year, using her body to control him. He'd do anything she asked, I know he would, he got to have sex with her whenever he wanted. She's a little pervert, and she lives with two other perverts.
"I'm glad he went to a summer camp this last year. He was away from her, finally. Lance met a nice girl, a proper young lady, not the little skank he'd been around all school year. Now Lance has a young woman in his life who has bigger goals than sex and partying and riding motorcycles. Jane will be nothing in this world, all you have to do is see her and talk to her, and the writing is on the wall, she'll probably be dead from AIDS by the time she's thirty.
"And then, Lance goes over to visit with her, him and a friend, and Jane holds them at gunpoint and calls the police and tells them thew were going to rape her! There wasn't a mark on the bitch! She just decided she'd put Lance in a big mess, for her own fun. So while Lance is talking to his lawyer or going to court, Jane is out riding her motorcycle around, and having fun, doing whatever sick things she calls fun anyway. She is trying to ruin my son's life. He found a better girl last summer and left her, so now I guess she wants revenge. He was her play toy, she knew she could use sex to control him. Now she's going to destroy him. I hate the little bitch, the world would be a better place without her."
Rizzo slowly nodded, a look of concentration on his face. He said, "Or, you may have to face the reality that your son, and a friend, got drunk and decided to visit Jane with the specific purpose of sexual gratification. This little prick Lance wanted some action out of an ex-girlfriend, someone he hadn't talked to for a few months. And he was going to let his friend have some action, too. It didn't matter to them whether Jane said yes or no, they'd both have some fun with her.
"Don't call Jane a slut. Lance knows she's not, you know she's not. In fact, you applying the label to Jane has me a bit angry. I will control that anger --- for the time being --- but you will watch your dumb fucking suburban white-bread mouth when you speak of Jane.
"Your son is facing some legal troubles. As his mother, I'm sure you are worried and distraught. However, that doesn't mean I give a ripe fuck. As you can see...." Rizzo gestured at the photos. "... we've been watching you, and you never knew it. We're going to continue to watch you, and you will still never know it. From now on, you will keep a very wide berth between you and Jane Osborne. If by sheer chance you are both in the same place at the same time, you will leave, immediately. And if you take it into your head to stalk Jane again, your life will take a turn for the worse. In fact, there's a chance you would never be heard from again. That is how strongly we feel about preserving Jane's safety, and peace, and comfort.
"Don't bother to tell your patrolman husband that we were here. First of all, it wouldn't matter. And second of all, you will only be dragging him into a mess you created. Then the both of you would be at risk. Do you want to do that to your husband? Don't tell your asshole son we were here, don't tell your beautiful daughter Haley we were here.... In fact, we're not here at all. This is just your conscience speaking to you, advising you of the right and wrong things to do. The right thing to do is studiously avoid any contact with Ms. Jane Osborne. Do the right thing, and your life will be relatively simple, and fairly safe. Have I made myself clear? Keep your fucking mouth shut and nod."
Vicky pumped her head up and down silently.
"Good morning, Vicky. Hope and pray we never meet again." Rizzo got up and gestured to the other men to follow him. They all left the house, getting in the cars and driving off.
Vicky sat in the same position on the sofa, breathing through her mouth. She stared blankly at the wall across from her. She realized she was shuddering like a chihuahua. After a few minutes, she got up and went into her bathroom, digging through the medicine cabinet. There was the bottle she wanted. It contained three Valium, a prescription she'd never finished, but didn't want to throw away. She was glad she hadn't. All three Valium went in her mouth, and she washed them down with a drink from the faucet.
Vicky went and lay down on the bed. She was scared over what had just happened, but there was a deeper fear. Her husband harbored deep suspicions about Jane, believing she was a high-end, underage prostitute. He had communicated his suspicions to Jane on a few occasions, and there had been some ugly scenes. Then one day, the brass at Encinitas P'D receive a package of photos, all of which showed Richard engaged in various bisexual perversions. Several days before, Richard had been drugged in the parking lot of the Safeway. Three hours later, he woke up behind the wheel of his car, no idea what had happened in that time. That's when the photos were taken, obviously. The PD brass couldn't deal with the scandal which would be created if they didn't follow the instructions which came with the photos: fire Richard Ross, as soon as possible.
So her husband was now a rank patrolman out in Escondido, a deep reduction in pay and rank. He'd ended up there because someone didn't like that he was upsetting Jane. Now, Vicky was.... Actually she hadn't done anything to upset Jane yet. But someone had learned she wanted to, so she'd just had this little visit.
It struck Vicky that Jane Osborne, a five foot five teenage girl with blue hair and a brash personality, was under the protection of very powerful, very dangerous, and very ruthless men. Who they were, and why they considered Jane's peace and harmony so important to protect, were irrelevant. These men looked out for Jane, and would do anything to keep her happy and comfortable. No one would disparage or insult Jane. No one would make Jane unhappy or uncomfortable. Anyone that did was in for a very, very bad time.
Vicky laid there and thought, Jane Osborne is the most powerful person in the world.