Bekka chartered an afternoon flight from San Diego to Oakland the day Jane's new roommate was expected. She was met by Riley, sitting in the passenger loading area on his putt. Bekka had what little she would need for an overnight stay in a Zo bag, slung across her back. They rode out for Berkeley. Once on Dwight Way, Riley spotted and occupied a parking space near the private dorms Jane was living in.
Conversation is not going to happen on a Harley-Davidson bombing up I-880, so Bekka and Riley didn't really talk until they were parked. Riley said, "I get the feeling my very presence, wearing the colors, is gonna get under peoples' skin, and that's what you and Jane want to have happen."
"Pretty much, yes," Bekka replied. "In a nutshell, Jane mentioned her acquaintance with the Oakland chapter to her new roommate, who freaked out. This way, the roommate --- her parents too --- will see that at least one Oakland H.A. isn't an ogre or Visigoth. Jane, her roommate,and myself will remain unmolested, our purses will not be rifled, and our friend the Hell's Angel will act like a normal human being."
Riley chuckled at this. "As normal as you can expect for a criminal defense lawyer in Oakland, anyway. I end up really wallowing in the crazy when I'm working."
They went through the rigmarole for Jane to buzz them in, and headed upstairs. When they arrived, Jane informed them Kaitlyn's father had called a few hours earlier, letting Jane know they were in Kettleman City, and headed for Berkeley. Not much longer to wait.
Ten minutes later, the buzzer from the front door sounded. A male voice informed Jane the Dalton-Hires family had arrived. She hit the buzzer and said, "Here goes nothing." For expedience, she propped the front door to the room open.
And here they were. Dad, Greg Dalton, was blow-dried, tan, in a pink LaCoste shirt, Dockers, and top-siders. Mom, Austen Dalton-Hires, was in a plaid skirt and puffy blouse. And Kaitlyn was in a Cal sweatshirt, jeans, Nike tennis shoes, and a snitty mood.
Jane was in full-on diplomacy mode. She greeted the three with a smile, introducing herself and ushering them in. The three stopped short when they saw Bekka and Riley standing from the sofa to shake hands. They got nakedly curious looks from the new arrivals, with Kaitlyn also expressing annoyance and disgust.
Looking at Bekka, Greg said, "You're Becky Page, aren't you? What brings you here?"
"My presence seemed like the the polite course of action," Bekka replied. "Jane is getting to meet the parents of her new roommate, I figured it was only appropriate that Kaitlyn get to meet at least one of the adults in Jane's life. My husband and I took Jane in when she was sixteen, on the streets after having been thrown out of her house by her parents in Gainesville. Jane took Greyhound to San Diego and looked us up. We decided having another teenage girl on the streets was a bad idea, so Lenny and I made Jane an offer: go to school, get good grades, help around the house a bit, she could live with us. It's probably one of the most joyous decisions we've ever made, we're blessed to have Jane in our lives." After a pause, she said, "Excuse me, this is Riley. He's a family friend, a criminal defense lawyer locally, and also an avid motorcyclist."
Hands were shaken, and Riley said, "Bekka called to say she'd be around today, so I picked her up form the airport. I wanted to see Jane, so here I am."
"How did you all meet?" asked Mom.
"We met about a year ago at the Hell's Angels Labor Day run to Pismo Beach. Bekka, her husband Lenny, and Jane are tight with the Dago chapter, so they came. I"m the Sergeant-At-Arms for the Oakland chapter. We hit it off when we met, you know?"
Frowning, Dad said, "Wait.... You're a Hell's Angel?"
"Yes I am, sir," Riley responded. He turned to show off the patches on the back of his denim vest. "If, somehow, you come across a set of the colors, never wear them, at least not in public. Get a hold of your local chapter, and tell them you would like to return some colors, you found them. Wearing the colors and not being H.A. is a very, very stupid thing to do.
"And why is that?"
Riley grinned, but also made a why-are-you-so-dumb glare. "Because any Angel, or Angels, who see you will be very eager to reclaim club property. They might get a little exuberant when they do the reclamation. Do you understand?"
Jane switched gears by stepping up to Kaitlyn and saying, "Finally we meet. I'm hoping you're feeling better than you were when we spoke on the phone. You were highly upset, saying things that made no sense at all. As you see, I took care of the furniture, at least on the grand scale. I also picked up desks and chairs for the both of us. The bathroom has all the usual accouterments, and I bought a microwave oven. Really, all we need is kitchen stuff and we're set. Oh, as you can see, I did pick up a small stereo system. With those dwarf speakers, we're not going to be disturbing anyone." After a quiet pause, Jane pressed, "How are you, Kaitlyn?"
The other freshman in the room was halfway to a Ruth Buzzi scowl. She glared at Jane, and finally replied, "Fine." A bit of silence. "So, you've gone to all this trouble and expense. I'm not sure what you're hoping to gain. Were you expecting me to say what a wonderful person you are, and how we'll be best friends? God, you look exactly how I expected you to look."
With a puzzled but amused twist in her lips, Jane said, "Well, I did describe myself over the phone...."
"I even get to meet a couple of your friends right away. Did you think you could intimidate me?"
Jane's face lost the 'amused' aspect, and she simply said, "What?"
In a snippy voice, Kaitlyn said, "You said you like to hang around with biker criminals, and here's one. You said you lived with the world's most beloved prostitute, Becky Page, and she's here too. Fine, you weren't lying, like I suspected. So you must have brought them here to try and scare me. You can't scare me. My father can call the UC police and have all three of you arrested, and then you'll be expelled. I'll have this place to myself, and you'll have gone off to do whatever it is.... people.... like you do with their lives. Probably not much."
Bekka held her tongue, as did Riley. Jane frowned at the carpet briefly, then responded, "When we spoke on the phone, I came away convinced you'd had some sort of trauma in your life very recently, like that day. It was the only rational explanation for your vitriol and abuse and insults. But now that we're under the same roof, you're engaging in the same rhetoric. This concerns me. Are you ever in a good mood?"
"When I'm not being forced to associate with white trash circus freaks and their friends," came the acid response.
"Kaitlyn, really...." her father said with all the force of a three-toed sloth.
Mom was a bit more on the ball. "Really dear, your new roommate is doing what she can to make the both of you comfortable in your new place. Perhaps where she's from, her, uh, sense of style is common. There has been polite behavior from all three of these.... people." Bekka again noticed the strange pause around the word "people," as if it was being made clear the speaker was not using a more brutal descriptive.... But only out of politeness.
Jane aimed a level smile at Kaitlyn and asked, "Tell me, do you eat food?"
"What sort of stupid question is that?"
"Yes...." Kaitlyn hissed.
With the same smile, Jane said, "Okay, great. It would seem we do have some commonality, cupcake. Maybe we can go from there. Do you like to cook?"
Sounding inordinately proud of the fact, Kaitlyn said, "I don't know how to cook. I've never been under conditions where I would have had to. We have a cook at our house. If I want something to eat, I just have to tell him."
Unable to hold back, Bekka smilingly replied, "I don't think he'll be very helpful at this point, unless he'll send meals up via Federal Express. You are now living away from home, so you must do a bit of provision for yourself. Either that, or try to survive on delivery pizza."
"I have a UC meal plan," Kaitlyn announced proudly. "I can eat at any housing unit, plus a few other places on campus. I"ll be fed, and fed well, no matter where I am. I suppose you're one of those people who carries soda and bags of peanuts with you everywhere, like a homeless person. And you'll be smelling up my apartment cooking God knows what."
"Snickers bars and Slimfast, actually," Jane said in a calm voice. After a pause, she continued, "I will again correct you. This is not your apartment. This is our apartment. When you say that, you're displaying a level of possessiveness usually witnessed in small, spoiled children, not young women of college age. So far as my cooking odors being offensive, well.... That will be true only if you find visiting an Italian restaurant a level of torture normally addressed in the Geneva Convention. Do you like lasagna?"
"Lasagna will always be in the fridge. If you're hungry, feel free to have a piece. I also have a meal plan, but it's a convenience, not my only source of nourishment. Really, shopping at Safeway isn't a scary experience. Get some variety and save some money. Go grocery shopping, it's easy."
Riley chuckled and said, "C'mon, girl. Dorm food three times a day, seven days a week? Even as nice of facilities as Berkeley has, that's gonna get real tedious. I hadda deal with constant dorm food when I was in college, the scholarships automatically paid for my meal plans. Jesus, a damn beef jerky and a Mars bar were enough to break up the routine a little."
Looking amazed, Dad said, "Where did you go to school?"
"UNLV. Vegas. I'm originally from Pahrump, Nevada, about an hour's drive from Las Vegas. Despite the bullsh--- bullcrap they have with their athletic department, the rigging and the gambling, UNLV is a good school. I matriculated into their legal studies program, and passed the bar in both Nevada and California."
"So you're a lawyer?"
Riley raised his eyebrows, but smiled. "Yeah. I thought I'd said. I'm a criminal defense lawyer, my office is in Oakland. Haw, Oakland is the right town to do criminal defense in. Someone's always gonna need you. There's a few bondsmen who keep stacks of my business cards around, to give to clients. Not to brag, but I can be a real damn shark in a courtroom. I'd have got Dr. Crippen off with a fine."
"So you try to get criminals out of trouble with the law," scowled Mom.
With a smirk, Riley replied, "Well.... they aren't criminals unless they're convicted, right? Yeah, I've kept a lot of people from earning the title of 'convicted criminal.' Prosecutors and D.A.s all operate from the same playbook, around the entire country. I watch for details and soft spots in the case, and I know now to dance around the opposition so they fall over their own feet. I've kept more than a few asses from being guests of the state."
"So, you keep criminals out of prison, you find loopholes and let criminals go free for a living."
Riley put on a bitter grin and shook his head. "What did I just say? They aren't criminals, they haven't been convicted. They're just people who got arrested and had charges brought. And please, don't run that lame crap about 'If they weren't doing anything wrong, why were they arrested?' With that logic, why have a court system at all? Just chuck everybody who gets cuffed straight into prison.
"In this country, even a werewolf is entitled to legal counsel. It's a funny thing. A lotta people think I'm a scumbag because I'll find any and every way to keep my clients out of prison. But tell ya what, it's amazing how quickly people change their tune when it's their own asses in a sling. Or one of their kids, or whatever. Then, there's no technicality too obscure to not exploit. Just so long as they don't have to visit Folsom, or Susanville, or Chino, or wherever. Joe Blow in Walnut Creek was railing against scumbag lawyers like me six months ago, saying I prevent justice from being served. But then Joe Blow drank nine beers, got in his car, and killed a pedestrian crossing the street. Now he's facing vehicular homicide charges. Joe Blow likes his home in Walnut Creek, he doesn't wanna go to Soledad for seven years. So he'll mortgage that home, so he can pay me, so I can find the soft spots in the case against Joe. And when 'Not guilty' is announced, Joe Blow will be damn glad the world has scumbags like me around."
"So your practice is in Oakland?" asked Dad.
Riley answered, "Yeah.... But I'll get called to work all over the state. I've got good references all over by now. Where are you from?"
"We live in Irvine."
"Aw shit! That burg? I'm surprised they bother having polling places in that town, everybody there should either be in prison or on parole, no eligible voters. Irving is the sort of place where.... Okay, in California, anything less than an ounce of marijuana is just an infraction, no big deal. In Irvine, if you get caught with two joints, you're up on felony charges. They'll arraign you for 'possession with intent to sell.' The fuzz argue that since you had two joints,, obviously you were gonna smoke one, and sell the other. You're a drug dealer. Wotta joke. Don't the civil servants in that town got anything better to do?"
Mom looked haughty and sniffed, "We live in a gated community. We have a private patrol. The Orange County sheriffs have a small presence, but that's it."
"Huh." Riley scratched his nose. "Tell me, you know a place here in East Bay called Blackhawk?"
"Blackhawk? Of course," said Dad.
"Yeah. Yeah, I figured you'd know Blackhawk." Riley's face communicated contemptuous amusement. Then, in a perfectly neighborly voice, he said, "So, you're moving your daughter in here today. Need help carrying stuff? Many hands make light work."
"No, no, we'll be fine. We should get started," said Dad.
"You're sure?" Jane queried.
Kaitlyn began bleating at her father, "So.... I have to stay here? With her? And having her friends around? God, Dad, you're kidding me."
"If there are any incidents, we'll move you out immediately," said Dad. "I'm sorry, princess, but we've paid ahead for the semester here so you'd have a place to live. If you're not comfortable with someone, just.... don't involve yourself with them. Do you understand?"
Positively sniveling, Kaitlyn yelled, "You've seen her! I told you what she said she was like! I have to share my apartment with someone like her? Daa-aad!"
"Someone like her?" Bekka cooed. "You mean an honor roll student? A business major who's been accepted at Haas? Surely, young lady, you are not so judgmental that hair dye and a piercing condemn someone in your eyes. Where did you attend high school? Didn't your school have any punk rockers at all?"
"I attended Pacific Academy in Irvine. Anyone showing up looking like.... that;... would have been expelled. She should be expelled from Berkeley, she would be if there was any decency in the world."
Jane said sweetly, "You brought up my expulsion the last time we chatted. You never really answered my question, which was what the grounds would be for expulsion. You only started ranting about how your parents have a lot of clout at UCB, and can apparently manipulate things here like a shah, or Kim Jung Il. Please, I would love for you to elaborate."
Pointing an accusing finger, Kaitlyn rattled, "God. Just look at you. You're probably on drugs right now.... There, that's one thing! You dress like a streetwalker, so you'll probably get pregnant or VD.... or AIDS! How did you manage to get accepted at Haas, did you sleep with all the professors? You probably did! Why do you want to go to Haas anyway, what could you possibly do with what you'd learn there? What sort of business would you run? Or do you think Fortune 500 companies are going to have drugged-out weirdos in their board rooms? You're just wasting everybody's time by even being at Berkeley. That's why they should expel you, for wasting the time of the professors and staff and administration, you'll spend four years here and still end up being nothing, you'll just be trash, like you already are."
There was about ten seconds of dead silence. Then, with a smile and a diplomatic voice, Jane said, "Excuse me, Mr. Dalton? I'm mostly being rhetorical, but would you mind terribly if I punched your daughter in the head and face seven or eight times? Surely you would admit the level of invective she's reaching demands a response, and trying to sensibly debate Kaitlyn would be a pathetic joke."
"Try and touch me, and I'll claw your eyes out," hissed Kaitlyn.
"I wouldn't sully my hands, cupcake." Jane sighed. "Look, go get your shit from your car. We'll hang out here until you have everything in, then we're gonna head for Blake's and have a drink or three. Then maybe dinner. Cupcake, are you gonna hang around here after you're done unpacking, or are you and the parental units going somewhere?"
Dad said, "We're going to help Kaitlyn get organized, then we're visiting an old friend of mine out in Pleasant Hill."
"Are we.... Are we visiting with Gilbert?" quavered Mom. The idea seemed to genuinely disturb her.
"Yes, we are. Me and Gil were close when we were in Delta Alpha Omega together, you know that."
Mom looked at the floor and quietly said, "You know I find Gilbert to be.... unsettling."
Dad's face suddenly went stiff. His eyes became slate. With an automaton's voice, he said, "Yes, I know that. And it doesn't matter. Gil will be happy to see all three of us."
"I know," Mom whispered.
Dad turned and headed for the door., his wife and daughter following in the slipstream.
After they left, Riley, Bekka, and Jane sat in silence. Bekka broke the silence by declaring loudly, "Goddamn motherfucking psycho-ass rich cunt!" In a quieter voice, she said, "Jane, if need be, we will get you into different housing. Expense will not matter, we'll move you, no problem. Don't let things get too out of hand. When you're sick of her shit, let us know, we'll have you out of here in twelve hours."
"Actually, I'm not too worried," said Jane. "My hunch is that her verbal abuse is the most she's capable of. She thinks I'm psycho? Let her. That will stop her from fucking with my stuff, or vandalizing anything. She'll assume I'll come after her."
"You don't think she'll snap and attack you?"
"Oh, please Bekka. I could drop a preppy bitch like her if I was in a coma."
Riley scowled, "Gotta blame the parents at least partially for that little broad's bullshit. How goddamn sheltered was she growing up? Where just the sight of a punk rock chick her own age melts her brain? Jesus, she's gonna have real fuckin' fun when she starts walking around in East
Bay. Berkeley's got a good crop of street crazies, always has. And hell, I wonder if she's ever actually met a black person face to face? I'm sure she's seen them on TV, but still. Or Mexicans. Or...."
"I'm sure she's semi-cognizant of Mexicans," Jane declared. "Who do you think is mowing her family's lawn every week? No way would Dad do something as earthy as run a lawn mower. Um, by the way. What's Blackhawk?"
With a cunning grin, Riley said, "Blackhawk is a very large and very expensive gated community east of us, out by a town called Danville, off the 680. Country club, golf courses, private cops, the whole nine yards. The residents like to think it's exclusive, but anyone who can afford a house there can move in. Blackhawk averages about one a year for police raids on a home. Folks who import cocaine in fifteen hundred pound shipments tend to be well-off enough they can afford a home in Blackhawk, so they buy one. Another argument against the exclusivity of the place are a lot of the homes themselves. I'd like to think the true landed gentry would have better architectural taste than what was built in Blackhawk. Imagine a standard Crasftsman home that was raped by a Volvo dealership. The resulting offspring is what a lot of houses in Blackhawk look like, just hideous buildings. Oh, golf carts have right of way inside Blackhawk. There's no sidewalks. It's out in the valley, so it gets really goddamn hot in the summer.
"My personal reason for not taking a home there, even if it was free? Well, Blackhawk is nest to a stretch of preserve called the Sherburne Hills. A good name, they're covered with dead grass and brush ten months a year. Standard goddamn California tinderbox. What Blackhawk doesn't have is any of their own fire protection. If a fire breaks out, fire trucks have to head to one of two entrances which let you into the community, and one of those is a chained fire gate. If you just have a house fire in Blackhawk, you're probably fucked. Now, if a serious conflagration blows down out of those hills and into the homes? With such limited ingress, it'll take forever for firemen to arrive, consult, do some recon, and start an attack. Fuckin' idiots in Blackhawk. Yeah, you wanted to live somewhere you wouldn't have to deal with 'undesirables.' Well, you're also excluding important emergency workers. Not to mention pizza delivery, medical supply, and your friends. None of your fuckin' friends will want to see you after a while, they'll be sick of contending with the rent-a-cops at the gate. You tell me you live in a gated community, what I hear you say is 'I'm a total coward.'"
Mom, Dad, and Kaitlyn returned, bearing armfuls of loose stuff. Bekka thought this strange, and asked why they hadn't boxed anything. "Where are we supposed to get boxes from?" asked Mom, sounding genuinely mystified.
"Well, for free, hit up places like Office Depot, Best Buy, Circuit City.... Even a Safeway will have some decent-sized boxes, and they'll give them away. Or, go to a Kinko's or UPS center and buy them brand new. Grab a tape gun and go to town."
"Hit the mall," suggested Riley. "Every damn business there has to receive stock, and all that stock arrived in cardboard boxes. It really didn't occur to you to just go someplace and ask for a few empty boxes?"
"I'm not going to go door to door at the mall, begging for a handout," sneered Dad. "Those businesses don't owe you anything." He was giving Jane, Bekka, and Riley the same look he usually reserved for panhandlers.
"Actually, you're helping the business out," Jane said brightly. "You're saving them the time of disposing of the boxes. They don't want 'em, they just trash them."
"So then you're stuck with having to dispose of the boxes."
"Unless they're damaged, you just break the boxes down flat, and store them in a closet or your garage. Sooner or later, you're gonna need a box."
They were about to head out for another load when Dad suddenly stopped in front of the sofa. He looked at Jane and said, "Didn't you say you're headed to Blake's?"
"Yes,sir." Jane confirmed.
"You're not twenty-one."
We have a 'Don't Ask/Don't Tell' policy with Blake's," Jane grinned. "They don't ask how old I am, and I don't tell lies to them. By the way, Kaitlyn, what's your favorite beer?"
"I don't have one," came the cold reply. "I don't like beer."
"Are you sure you're ready to be a college student?" Bekka giggled.
It took the family five trips to get everything. As they left for the fifth trip, Kaitlyn snapped at Jane, "You'd better keep out of my stuff."
"I'm not that nosy, and you're not that interesting," Jane replied.
When they were done, it was clear Kaitlyn had brought too much crap, especially clothes. Jane and Kaitlyn had identical closets to use. Kaitlyn and Mom were literally pushing and squeezing to try and get stuff in. A lost cause. Mom finally walked up to Jane and said, "We can't get all Kaitlyn's clothes in her closet."
"I noticed. She'll have to send stuff back with you."
"She can use some of your closet space." Mom made this as a statement of fact, not a question.
"No, no she can't," Jane replied. "My closet is full too. I'm not about to stuff things in there, my bustiers would be crushed."
Mom chewed her lip briefly, then said, "Then we'll hang stuff inside your sleeping alcove, we'll find a hardware store and get a couple rods---"
"No," Jane said with loud finality. "Kaitlyn brought too much shit, so some of her shit will be going home again."
"Why won't you let us use some of your sleeping space for Kaitlyn's clothing?"
Jane stood up and looked Mom in the eye. "Lady, you have got to be kidding me. You've heard how your daughter has spoken to me, and about me, today. Why the fuck do you think I owe her any goddamn favors? I'm going to have to deal with Kaitlyn's entitlement issues all year, I don't want to deal with yours right now. Go start sorting through clothes, pull what Kaitlyn doesn't care about or doesn't need. It'll take you ten minutes."
Looking down her nose, Mom said, "You are being very obstinate."
"No, just digging in my heels, ma'am. I don't push easily. Don't try. Go sort clothes."
By some miracle, Kaitlyn saw the writing on the wall and had already started pulling clothes and throwing them onto the floor. After about ten minutes, her closet door would close, and her gear wouldn't need the Jaws of Life to be extracted. Kaitlyn looked at the pile of clothing and wailed, "I've hardly got anything to wear!"
Bekka looked in Kaitlyn's closet and snorted loudly. "Oh, gumdrop, you've got to be kidding me."
"There's only, like, two and a half weeks of outfits there!"
"Okay. So, every couple weeks is a reasonable rotation time for doing laundry."
Kaitlyn looked crushed, Bekka thought she was going to start crying. "I don't do laundry!" she announced.
Upon hearing this, Jane, Riley, and Bekka burst into laughter. This declaration, coming from a spoiled and entitled young woman, summed up how deep the spoilage was. Bekka caught her breath and said to Kaitlyn, "Gumdrop? Dear-heart? Yes, you do laundry. You are a legal adult, you suffer no handicaps, and you are living on your own, more or less. Doing your own laundry is a bit of self-sufficiency you'll have to engage in."
Jane rolled her eyes and added, "There's an entire damn laundromat in the basement here. Buy a roll of quarters, some Tide, some dryer sheets, and go to town."
"I've never used one of those things before," Kaitlyn pouted.
The three on the couch stared at Kaitlyn. Silence fell again briefly. Then Jane said, "Oh my God. Oh my motherfucking cum-eating shit-sucking God. Are you joking, cupcake? You have never used a coin-op washing machine in your life?"
With a solid note of pride, Kaitlyn said, "No, I haven't!"
Jane walked around Kaitlyn to where Mom and Dad were standing. She said in a calm and clear voice, "Mr. and Mrs.Dalton-Hires, I am going to offer you my condolences now. I'm giving them to you because your daughter will not live to see the end of the semester. From what I've seen and heard, her entire existence has been so sheltered she has no survival skills at all, none. She can't cook, she can't wash her own clothes.... Is she capable of bathing herself?" Jane got two annoyed looks back. "Okay, good. Venturing more than six blocks away from campus will probably paralyze her with fear. While I'm sure she has plenty of ingrained ethnic biases which may help her if she somehow ends up in Oakland, Kaitlyn is a sitting duck for other predators. I'm sure Kaitlyn will see fraternity brothers as clean-cut, handsome, solicitous, and obliging. After all, the Greek fraternal system is where America gets its future leaders, right?"
Dad said, "I was in a fraternity, what's your point?"
"Well, bully for you, sir! You can certainly confirm my assertion that an amazing percentage of frat bros view date rape as a league sport. In the old days, you had to get the bitch to drink so much she'd pass out. These days, Rohypnol, or Roofies, are a jock's best friend. Roofies equate to a lobotomy that lasts six hours, with attendant memory loss. The victim will still appear ambulatory, but needs a lot of help. Crush up a Roofie and get it in the bitch's drink. Or, just lie and say it's Ecstasy or something. Whatever, your mannequin will be ready in about twenty minutes.
"Greg, Austen, I'm afraid Kaitlyn is unable to recognize sexual predators. She'll be fooled by their camouflage, she will assume they are good people. After all, they're white, they're well-off, they drive the right cars and wear the right clothes.... And every Sunday morning after Kaitlyn goes to a frat house blowout, she'll wake up with blood on the inside of her thighs, articles of clothing missing, throbbing pain in her vagina, and no clue as to where she is. Probably outdoors in a backyard somewhere. She will have no idea how she got there, or why she's in pain, or how she got so drunk off two cups of Seagram's wine cooler.
"Kaitluyn isn't stupid. She will realize what has happened to her. But her own emotional self-defense tells her to forget about it, it never happened, nobody could be that evil, especially not in a group, and really especially the Future Leaders of America she'd been hanging around with. And next Saturday, she'll make the exact same mistakes again."
Dad was staring at Jane with his mouth slightly open and his brow creased. He .finally said, "You have absolutely no right to say any of that. Where do you get off? Fraternity members come from the solid stock of this country, the families of movers and shakers. Who are you to make such accusations?"
Jane replied, "I'm someone who has researched, and studied, and observed. I also have a grasp of social anthropology that I can spot commonalities in behavior very quickly. I grew up in Gainesville, Florida. Gainesville is home to Florida State University. When you hear that college name, what goes through your mind?"
Dad puzzled a moment, then brightened and said, "Oh, hey! Go Gators!"
"Spot on, sir. My father is a defensive coach for the team. Now, you'd say that there are solid social links between college football and the Greek fraternal system?" Uh, yeah, sure. "Sir, you're an alumni of Berkeley. At UCB, Bears football is a nice diversion, but doesn't saturate every aspect of life on campus. It does at FSU. And if you think the Frat Row area around Piedmont and Channing are impressive, you would be blown away by FSU's Frat Row. FSU isn't an academic powerhouse, so there's a lot of partying going on, especially in the frat houses, seven days a week. A teenage girl could put her blue hair under a hat, pull on a baggy sweatshirt, and just sort of wander into the different houses, poke around, observe what the bros were doing, and listen to their conversations.
"Sir, imagine being a thirteen year old girl, standing unnoticed in a large house, eavesdropping on the residents, and having the horrible realization that every single guy there was, if not an actual rapist, certainly had the mental processes and logic of a rapist. This wasn't three or four guys, there were about fourteen of them, hanging around in a lounge area. That's a lot of rapist instinct in one place. And on my little forays, I'd visit the different frat houses, and end up hearing the same types of conversations over and over. This attitude wasn't at one or two 'bad apple' frat houses, it was endemic among all of them.
"Mr. Dalton, reflect on things you observed when you were in a fraternity, and do so honesty. I believe you will see the sense in urging your daughter very strongly to avoid the frats completely. There's a whole lot going on at a school with an undergraduate population of 30,000. Kaitlyn can have fun and party without the risks involved with doing so with the frat bros. Kaitlyn, do you have any comment?"
Kaitlyn sneered and said, "Oh, big surprise, you hate the fraternities. The frat brothers have money, they have class, they have futures.... Things you'll never have."
Jane gave a pitying smile and said, "Dear little cupcake, I know on at least three occasions between now and the end of spring term, I'll be holding your head out of a toilet bowl, so you won't drown in the water while you puke. You'll have come home barefoot, missing your watch, your purse, and your underwear. A total mystery what happened to them. And even after you get some sleep, the previous evening will have big blank spots in your memory. I will empathize, and gently suggest you visit the campus STD clinic, just in case. You'll be horribly insulted by this idea, hurl your now rote abuse at me, and go back to sleep until Monday morning. And you will lie to yourself: there wasn't really dried blood on the inside of your thighs. Your pussy doesn't hurt, why would it? Nothing bad ever happens to you."
Kaitlyn sneered again and said, "God, you are so sick. You just sit around and think this stuff up. Do me a favor and hate the Greeks in silence, I don't want to hear you. In fact, you can have the decency to never speak at all while you're inside my apartment."
For the first time, Mom actually was somewhat forceful. "Kaitlyn, drop it. This is not 'your' apartment, you and Jane are co-renting it from a third party. Really dear, your possessiveness can get out of hand, and you end up looking foolish. Yes, you're not happy having Jane as a roommate, we understand. But at least keep the basic facts clear."
Bekka said to Jane and Riley, "Let's cut out for Blake's. We'll figure out dinner after we leave, Telegraph Avenue seems to have plenty of places to eat. And no Blondie's or Fat Slice, either. I"m not in the mood for hot chewy dough."
"So, you're headed out to Pleasant Hill?" asked Riley.
"We are," Dad confirmed. "A few drinks, some talk, compare how we're each dealing with getting old. Who knows, maybe Gil can call up a few of the other Delta Alpha Omega alumni, we can make a full night of it."
"Well, good luck with that," said Jane. "Oh! If you're going to tell your friends about the uppity little punk rock bitch you met today, the last name is Osborne. O-S-B-O-R-N-E. And yes, I am in possession of the Beretta registered in my name. check with the San Diego County Sheriffs Department. Or, have someone get drunk and attempt to attack me. Either way will confirm that I am armed."
We left the room and headed for the stairs. As we walked, Riley said, "Girl, I'm keeping my ears open for a place for you to live. Someplace in Rockridge, or Broadway Terrace, or maybe off Lake Merritt. A studio or one bedroom, off-street parking, quick to hit Telegraph or College Avenue and cruise straight up to UCB. I want you away from that miserable bitch by the end of the semester."
"Kaitlyn may save me the effort, and bug out on her own," said Jane. "Her expulsion talk worries me a bit, though."
"All but impossible," Bekka assured. "On reflection, I don't think the family could pull something like that off, regardless of cost or effort. Too much scrutiny, everyone trying to figure out how a freshman managed to fuck up so badly and still maintain her place on the Dean's List."
"The high-ups on campus are administrators for the University of California, not the Chicago Police Department," said Riley. "They're not crooked, and they have too many other people watching over them."
They went to Blake's and had a few beers each, then stopped at a Chinese place down on Shattuck to grab some food. When they arrived back at Jane's building, the manager was just sticking a note on the door. She saw Jane and said, "Ah, Jane! We need to talk privately."
"It won't be too private," said Riley. "My name is Angus Riley, I'm Ms. Osborne's legal counsel. If you can't say it in front of me, you really shouldn't be saying it at all. Let's just step inside."
We didn't sit down. The manager said, "Ms. Dalton-Hires had a litany of complaints to make against you. She says you were on drugs --- she didn't specify what kind --- you had a prostitute in the room, along with a criminal. Ms. Dalton-Hires suspects you will try to steal from her at every opportunity. She mentioned unhealthy sexual activities you expressed interest in, the sorts of things which would require medical attention. And in closing, you've somehow defrauded the University to gain admission to Haas Business School. Would you like to respond?"
Jane grinned and said, "In order: no I wasn't, Bekka here, a.k.a. Becky Page, is an actress, not a whore, Mr. Riley is a lawyer, not a criminal, I'm not a thief and I have better shit than her anyway, she hallucinated the 'dangerous sex acts' bullshit, and she's changed her tune. Originally, I"d gained entrance to Haas by fucking every single professor in the building. Now I've somehow pulled a scam on a large collection of very intelligent business professionals. An eighteen year old girl has ganked everyone at Haas. In a perverse way, I'm flattered she thinks I could pull it off."
Bekka put in her own two cents. "Kaitlyn is a psychiatric student's thesis paper waiting to happen. She is very spoiled, demanding, negative, and her entitlement issues are the stuff of legends. Her and her parents have a very strong sense of social class, and you can guess what class they believe Jane falls into. Emotionally, Kaitlyn's growth seems to have stopped around age eight. Today she was throwing a long and subtle temper tantrum, because she wasn't getting her way.
"My own belief is that she will calm down. She doesn't have much choice. But Jane, by aesthetics alone, is frightening and contemptible. In the social bubble Kaitlyn grew up in, anyone who looks like Jane must be a criminal drug addict with very perverted sexual interests. Obviously, she is wrong, but it will take her a while to learn she is wrong, and more time to actually accept it. My advice is to take any complaints Kaitlyn makes about Jane with several grains of salt for the next month or so."
The manager nodded slowly and said, "Yes.... The girl did seem highly agitated, much more so than one would expect."
"Like Bekka said, she was having a temper tantrum. She may not have thrown herself on the floor kicking and screaming, but her psychological state was the same," said Jane.
Riley asked, "Any idea where she is?"
"Kaitlyn and her parents were headed to get some dinner, I believe," said the manager. "And I see from what you're carrying, I'm delaying you all from yours. Thank you for your time. Don't worry, Jane, I will mentally filter and process what Kaitlyn says of you, and not take her statements at face value. Good night."
The three ate and talked in a general way. After about ninety minutes, Bekka expressed an interest in going to check in at the Marriott at the Berkeley Marina. Riley would double-pack her there, then head home himself. After they left, Jane turned on a Wipers album at a low volume and sat at her desk, reading a Terry Pratchett novel.
About forty minutes later, Kaitlyn came in. She was looking around the room as if to spot where attackers had secreted themselves. Jane bid her good evening and returned to her book. Kaitlyn stood in the middle of the room, doing nothing, for a couple minutes, then announced, "I'm going to watch TV" in the same tone a fourteen year old girl informs her parents that she will too date that twenty year old guy she met at a party. "Go ahead and turn off the stereo," Jane advised.
In a while, Jane put down her book, fired up the PC, then dialed in to her ISP so she could read a few different Usenet boards she was a member of. The modem began its usual handshake hisses and squawks. Kaitlyn suddenly said, "Is that your computer making that noise?"
"Yes, that's the sound of the modem connecting to my ISP server," explained Jane. "Once I'm connected, the sounds go away."
The Mosaic browser window displayed the logo for Prodigy, Jane's ISP., signaling the connection had been established. Jane first checked her email inbox, then used a connection emulator to get on Usenet through the browser. She was leafing through new posts on the talk.origins board, an archaeology board which had become a sparring grounds in the battle between Evolutionists and Young Earth Creationists. Then, right behind her, Kaitlyn's voice said, "What kind of computer program is that?"
"This isn't a program, really," Jane responded. "I'm reading a discussion board on Usenet. This is a recent post to the board. Here...." Jane clicked back to the listings. "See? All the posts people have put up are listed here, in chronological order. You select a post title, click it, and the post opens up, like this...." She went back to the post she'd been reading. "If you want to respond, click here and write your response. It's a good way of sharing information with people all over the world, on just about any subject you can think of. There's thousands of Usenet groups out there. Some see five posts a week, some see fifty a day."
"And.... All that is coming through the phone line?" Kaitlyn queried. "How does that work?"
Jane smiled and asked, "Do you understand how the binary system works in computers?"
"Okay. At their base, computers only understand binary code. Binary is made up of bits, and each bit is nothing more than an on-off switch. Computers can only understand two states: on-off, or yes-no, or however you feel like looking at it. It's sort of like Morse code. Morse is juyst a series of short and long beeps, right? But you make those short and long beeps in the correct order, strung out, and the beeps translates to letters, then words. Binary functions the same way. Tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, or millions, of individual yes-no signals are arranged in the correct order, and add up to, well, whatever it is you canted to communicate. Text, or sound, or a picture. The computer processor takes all these yes-no pieces of information and arranges them into the correct order. A processor can handle millions of these yes-no signals at a time, so their arrangement happens so quick you don't need to think about it." Jane chuckled. "I'm probably not giving the optimal explanation for this, but I'm trying to make a analogies that would make sense. I'm a newbie with computers, I'll be learning them starting this year."
Silence from Kaitlyn. Then, in a challenging voice, she said, "Any subject, huh?"
"Pretty much, yeah," Jane responded.
"So there are computer nerds who also like equestrian show-jumping? And you could find them on your computer?"
"Well.... To start or post to a Usenet group wouldn't require a huge skill set in computers. You wouldn't need to be a hardcore geek just to form a Usenet group, you'd just need to know some stuff, enough to get by with. I get on the Internet and Usenet routinely. I know the steps to take so I can, it's just a matter of learning how to accomplish a specific task on a computer. But anyway, I'm sure there's equestrian groups on Usenet. Would you like me to search for some?"
Jane opened a second browser window and went to a World Wide Web site that carried a pretty full index of all Usenet boards. She entered the words "show jumping" in the search box and hit Enter. The website told her to wait a few moments while it searched. As they did, Kaitlyn said in a barely audible voice, "Thank you."
"No problem," Jane responded. The browser window now displayed the results. It had located twelve Usenet boards which were about show jumping Jane said, "Okay, here we are. They're almost all .rec groups, no surprise.... Although the two .alt groups intrigue me."
"What are you talking about?" asked Kaitlyn.
"Usenet is divided into Hierarchies, depending on subject matter. The .com groups will all be about technology and computer science. The .talk groups tend to be running debates on any given subject, usually something like politics or religion or law. The .rec groups, like these show jumping groups, are there for hobbyists in the subject matter. Like, if you wanted a group where everybody talks about quilting, you'd form a .rec group.
"And then there's the .alt hierarchy. The .alt groups are like the Wild West. Groups in other hierarchies are invariably moderated by an individual or a few people. You have to sign up and join other groups. The .alt groups can be about any subject in the world, and are almost never moderated. You don't have to join an .alt group to post a message, you can just do it. It's very anarchistic in that hierarchy, no rules. Naturally, the .alt groups are where you'll find lots of pornography, hacking information, discussion of illegal subject matter like drugs or fraud, stuff like that. You'd better have pretty thick skin to hang around on a lot of the .alt boards, people will talk shit constantly. On other groups, if you put up a post and someone else replies, saying you're a stupid ignorant cunt who should have been killed by her parents as a child, the moderators will delete the response, and also fire off a warning to the responding party's email address, telling him or her to mind their manners. That will never happen on an .alt board. Like I said, it's the Wild West.
"The flip side is, to form a Usenet group in any of the other hierarchies, you must submit what is called a Request For Discussion, or RFD, to Usenet's managing board, explaining about what your group will be about, your moderation policies, stuff like that. If there's an existing group that is like the one you're proposing already, they'll turn you down, just to cut down on the plurality. These rules don't apply in the .alt hierarchy. Anyone can create a .alt group, with no oversight. The problem there is whether the news servers may or may not index you, and if you're not indexed, then anyone using that server would never know of your existence.
"So. Really, the only thing to do is visit the groups to see what they're like. I don't know shit about show jumping, but if there's ten different results for the subject in the .rec hierarchy, the different groups are probably discussing different aspects of the sport. And the two .alt groups will probably have lots of scatological descriptions of the horses and riders. Well, let's check 'em out.... Although just by the group names, you can tell what they'll be discussing. Like this one, .rec.show-jumping.euro, will be about the European scene. Or here, .rec.jumpers.breeding, is gonna probably be a lot of talk about animal husbandry."
Kaitlyn pointed at the screen and said, "Ooh, try that one."
She was pointing at .rec.show-jumpers.west. Jane went back to the first browser window and entered the name. Up popped a newsgroup, Western States Show Jumping. Jane scrolled down, to see what the traffic was like. The group looked like it had about thirty posts a week, plus the replies to the original posts. The post titles made no sense to Jane, who knew show jumping involved horses, and that was it. Kaitlyn pointed at a post and said, "Can you read that message?"
Jane clicked on it. The post, five days old, had the header of "Malton tips it/Ventura." Jane was able to gather that a horse named Malton had done a header while competing at an event in the Simi Valley. The horse sustained a minor neck injury, the rider's shoulder was dislocated. There were eight replies, all of them generally offering condolences and wishing speedy recovery for both horse and rider. Kaitlyn read this and murmured, "Oh no...."
"What's up?" asked Jane.
"I know her. Brenda Fagin, the rider, is a friend of mine from Pacific Prep. She's been jumping with Malton since she was twelve. I hope she's okay...."
"Give her a call, see how she's doing."
Kaitlyn asked suspiciously, "I thought you said the phone line was in use when you're doing this stuff."
"That's why I had a second line installed," Jane assured her. "Our primary line is open. I knew we'd both want the phone working, and it would have been rude to deny use of the phone to my roommate while I'm online, so I had Pac Bell install a second one. Go ahead, call her."
Kaitlyn went to the phone and dialed. She go through to her friend Brenda and said how sorry she was that her and Malton had been hurt. The conversation continued, hitting other subjects. Jane looked over at Kaitlyn in wonder. Kaitlyn was doing something Jane had yet to witness: she was smiling. Then, her and her friend began gossiping about boys, which prompted giggling and squeals from Kaitlyn. Jane saved the Usenet address and bookmarked the results from the index service. Then, curiosity got the best of her. She went to alt.show-jumping.competition to see what it was like.
The .alt group was a bit more active than the .rec group, it seemed to cover jumping nationwide. Scrolling through post headers, Jane found one reading "Malton and Brenda crash and burn in Simi." The poster's name was HedgeWhore. The post read, "SoCal honey Brenda Fagin, riding her gelding Malton, ate shit on a jump at the Simi Valley event Sunday. Malton's ass was way too high over a hedge, he biffed it face-first into the turf. No need tor the knackers at least, nothing broken. Brenda will be off her surfboard for a while, she dislocated her left shoulder in the smash-up --- but what do you expect, all those Cali bitches are frail, they should go back to lying on the beach and stop trying to pretend they can jump. (Altho Brenda is a real dish, yum yum.) Malton is out of action for six weeks. Better than ending up dog food, I suppose." Nine responses, five of which basically said, "Ha ha, figures, all West Coast jumpers are for shit." The tenor of the other four said, "Fuck you, Brenda rules, better than you inbred Yankee pussies."
Jane read a few more posts. They were what you'd expect from an .alt board, lots of slagging and flaming, the digital equivalent to a bunch of guys in a bar yelling insults at each other. Since the subject matter was foreign to Jane, she quickly grew bored and went back to talk.origins. After a while, Kaitlyn finished her call, then walked back over to Jane's desk. "How's your friend?" Jane asked.
"She'll be okay. She can't ride for, like, four weeks, which is going to drive her crazy. Malton is out of action for six weeks, Brenda is worried about him losing strength while he heals, it's gonna set off his form, and it may be months before he gets it back."
Jane resisted the urge to say, Well, better than ending up dog food. Instead, she said, "Best of luck to them both. Have you ever done any riding or jumping? It's a sport I know nothing about, I didn't know it was a thing here in California."
"Oh, jumping is pretty big, really. For some stupid reason, it's never on TV on the West Coast. They'll cover it back in New England, where there's a ton of jump events. East Coast jumpers are a bunch of jerks, though, they think jumpers out here are all just, like, cowboys or something, they think riders in California approach the sport like it's motocross and take too many risks with the mount. Maybe California jumpers just have more guts!"
"I have a basic grasp of steeplechase racing. It's a hell of a thing, a rider trying to be totally in tune with a horse and hitting those jumps at high speed. I'll stick with motorcycles."
Kaitlyn pondered briefly and said, "I guess maybe you'd get the same sort of fun from both. You have to have excellent balance and a lot of strength, and understanding how what you're riding is going to react to your input. I've never been on a motorcycle."
"I just noticed something," said Jane.
"What's that?" Kaitlyn asked.
"We're having a normal conversation."
Kaitlyn looked at Jane in shock. Then she stared at her shoes briefly in silence. She finally said, "It's getting late, I'm going to bed, um, thanks for showing me that stuff on your computer, goodnight." She went to her sleeping alcove and disappeared inside.
Sitting and reading talk.origins, Jane realized she had a rather smug mile on her face. She thought, Gosh Kaitlyn, it turns out your roommate is a person after all. The shock of realization hits everyone hard, don't let it keep you awake too long, cupcake.