From 6:30 to 9:00 on the first Friday of classes, Jane's residence was having an "open house." All the residents would prop their doors open. One roommate would remain in the quarters, while the other walked around the building and met the neighbors. After a while, they would switch off. It was a way to keep people two doors down or one floor up from being total strangers.
Kaitlyn's behavior was.... improved. The overt hostility and bile seemed to be gone. Now Kaitlyn was just distant. Not cold, but any queries Jane put to her were answered with as few words as possible. Jane had attempted to start conversation on a few occasions, asking Kaitlyn how her first week of school was going, or if she wanted to look at the show-jumping groups on Usenet. Kaitlnyn's responses would be minimal, communicating she didn't feel like talking. Three times, she told Jane she wanted to make a phone call, and wanted it to be private, so would Jane mind vacating the space for a little bit? Jane would smilingly acquiesce, going outside for couple cigarettes. When she would return, Kaitlyn would offer a clipped "thank you" without looking at Jane. Well, at least she did say thanks.
A couple times, Jane would return home from wherever she'd been and Kaitlyn would have a couple friends in the space. Jane would greet Kaitlyn and introduce herself to the friends. The introduction would not be returned, and those present would leave within three minutes. The general feeling Jane got was Kaitlyn may no longer be actively wishing Jane dead, or even ill will, but wanted to make sure Jane had as little involvement in Kaitlyn's life as possible.
On Thursday, Riley stopped by with a couple other Oakland H.A. in the evening. Riley had brought two guys, Joker and Smitty with him, along with a twelve pack of Miller. Upon their arrival, Kaitlyn planted herself at her desk and did not more. Jane and the Angels sat on the sofas and drank beer and talked. If the conversation seemed to be drifting into overt discussion of extralegal events, Jane would nudge the Angel doing the talking and gesture at Kaitlyn with her head. The Angel would nod, and begin using more oblique phrases to get his point across. Jane showed the Angels a few groups on Usenet, rec.harley.tech, rec.harley.custom, and alt.outlaw.hogs. The first two were rather dry, discussions and debates (very civil) on tuning and modification of Harleys, and requests for advice. A post about gapping spark plugs would have twenty replies, everyone offering their own two cents. Real gripping reading there.
Alt.outlaw.hogs was, of course, far more freewheeling and noisy. About seventy percent of the posts were about putts, people bragging about their newest work, critiques of different models by year, and the most insane ranting vitriol directed at "the Jap crap." Ducati also was abused, a collective loathing of all leg-burner motorcycles, the cafe racers, seemed to be universal. The other thirty percent were a bit odd. A post would slag and insult the chapter of an outlaw club in a certain town, but the poster wouldn't name what club, if any, he belonged to. The responses would either be a defense of the club chapter, or more insults piled on. The Hell's Angels were never mentioned once, so far as Jane could tell. Jane's guests were highly amused at the almost artistic grace and passion demonstrated in the abuse. This wasn't someone yelling "fuck you, asshole" across a bar, but a couple paragraphs of the most creative insults and slander one could imagine: people would take their time to craft their hate-rant into elaborate (yet crude) slags against whatever they were annoyed with.
After the twelve-pack was gone, Jane and the boys rode up to Blake's for a few more, Riley double-packing Jane. (She'd had the sense to bring her helmet with her, California's mandatory helmet law had gone into effect on January first of that year, 1992.) They hung out for a couple hours, then dropped Jane off and headed back to Oakland. When Jane got back in the room, Kaitlyn was back on the sofa, watching TV. Jane told her, "See? They're harmless, at least here." Kaitlyn looked at Jane, then gave a muttered "Yeah" as she turned her head back to the TV. Jane collected the empties and took them to the trash, then sat down and watched television with Kaitlyn, in silence. After a long while, Kaitlyn asked, "Did they talk about me?"
"Uh, no, they'd have nothing to talk about," replied Jane. "There was never an introduction between you."
"Will they be back?"
"Almost certainly, yes. And as you saw, it was just a few friends coming over to drink a few beers and talk. There is nothing to worry about."
There was a reason for the visit. Smitty and Joker were looking into starting a bit of drug wholesale, meth and Ecstasy. And they wanted Boss' products. The friendship between Jane, Lenny, Bekka, and Boss was apparently a wide-spread piece of information. Joker and Smitty wanted to know if Jane was interested in being a middle-man between the H.A. and Boss, or even a mule. They promised good recompense. Jane was very cool on the idea. Her suggestion was to talk to Lenny. He could broker and mediate dealings with Boss, basically setting things up between Boss and the H.A., then stepping out of the picture. Lenny would not be involved in business, he wouldn't even want a pay-off. "Bekka's told Lenny, if he starts slinging again, she'll leave him. Lenny likes being married to Bekka more than being in business. Big surprise."
Joker laughed and said, "Yeah. Shit, if I was married to Becky goddamn Page, I'd be doing what she told me, too."
Now, Friday evening, Jane was sitting in the main room, feeling bored. Kaitlyn had gone out first to circulate, leaving Jane to greet others. People came in, exchanged a few words, and went out again. It was like a very slow receiving line at a wedding. Those who were coming in tended to be real white-bread students, who would actually startle at the sight of Jane. The manager had said there was a wide selection of social types in the building, but Jane wasn't seeing any of them.
She was playing a Kinks album, not too loud, to try and attract people. A couple stepped in, and they weren't the usual preppies. The guy had longish dyed-black hair sort of swept over to one side, and a lip ring. The girl had pink hair up in a top-knot, a septum piercing, and so many rings around the edge of each ear there wasn't room for any more. Jane brightened immediately. "Come in, come in!" she called.
"Hey, the Kinks, all right," said the guy. "Their first album."
"Good ear," said Jane. "Also, this is the British pressing, on Pye Records. Three more tracks than the Reprise version."
"What? Really?" Jane handed him the album cover. Reading over it, he murmured, "Amazing. You have got to let me tape this sometime."
"No worries," Jane told him. "Is your stereo of higher quality that this one? We'll tape on whoever has the better system."
The guy's name was Dodge. That was his real name. "I hated it when I was a kid, but now, I dunno, it has some pizzazz."
Jane pointed out, "In the Becky Page movie 'Bewitched II,' the male lead was named Chrysler. The joke was, his parents had named him after the location of his conception. I don't suppose you have a similar story about your own name...."
"Naw, I wish! I'm named Dodge because in 1971, when I was born, my parents were very, very stoned. I'm sure it made perfect sense at the time.... Although I like the 'location of conception' idea, I'm gonna steal that."
The girl introduced herself as Mimi. "No story at all behind my name," she said. "What year are you in?"
"I'm just another damn freshman, clogging up the walkways and getting lost in Doe library," Jane answered. "Business major at Haas, minor in computer science. You?"
Dodge and Mimi were both juniors. Dodge was an archaeology major, Mimi was studying pharmaceutical chemistry, both were going to be graduate students after they received their BAs. Dodge wanted to travel the world in his career. "It's frustrating. Okay, we're archaeology students, so we're gonna dig.... But just because of time constraints, we have to dig fairly locally. And the problem is, the aboriginal people in the greater area --- like all of California, from Lompoc to Eureka --- were very primitive migrating tribes. No strong technological advancement, relatively speaking, no real artistic traditions, and since they were migratory, they didn't have their trash piling up. That's where archaeologists learn from, studying ancient trash piles. Like the Maidu trekked back and forth between the Pacific and the Sierra mountains, and they didn't seem to stay in the same places when they migrated. Locally, the most interesting feature was the shell mound in what's now Emeryville. The locals ate a hell of a lot of shellfish, and chucked the shells in one place. After enough generations, it got to be a damn big pile. But generally speaking, we go out on digs, and find examples of the same relics we've seen a hundred times before. So.... You don't look like the average business major."
"It's been noted," Jane sighed. "Well, whoopty shit for me. That's fine, I'm not going to be running an average business when I graduate. I already have a job lined up."
"What kind of business?" asked Mimi.
"An escort service. A high-end service down in LA called Patrician Escorts. It's got a Beverley Hills office, for no other reason than they wanted the status zip code. The average client is paying $1200 for a companion at dinner, then to a club or event. Any arrangements between the client and companion beyond that are their own business.... Although the agency does touch fifteen percent of that money. But the girls are on the honor system. We know they're providing extra services, they voluntarily kick in the percentage, Patrician makes sure the girls are well taken care of."
"Taken care of.... how?" asked Dodge.
"Anything from providing a guard for a girl, to legal representation, to hiring a stylist so a girl can change her look. On occasion, money will be loaned. That's rare, the girls are making very good money, that money is legal income --- more or less --- so their credit ratings are good. The example that was given to me was a younger girl will start at Patrician and want to buy a new car. Only thing is, she's young, so her credit is green, and she needs someone to cosign. Patrician will do that, but also make it clear to the girl she's committing to the company for a while."
"So basically, you're going to be a pimp," giggled Mimi.
Jane's eyes narrowed. "No. I won't be a madam, either. I will allow friends to refer to me as a procurer in private, but that's it. Patrician is a legitimate business." She let a few ticks go by. "So, you want to be a pharmacist, or do you want to create new drugs?"
"I want to create new drugs, be an engineer. Finally formulate psychiatric meds that are both predictable in their effects, and effective to begin with." She giggled again and continued, "And invent an even better version of MDMA than Smiley."
"I dunno, Smiley will be pretty hard to beat," Jane grinned. "How would you make it better? What effects would change?"
Mimi pondered, then said, "Maybe a mild visual experience, like a mild psilocybin high. Nothing distracting, not full hallucinations or massive trails, just.... Well, I'm not sure how to describe it."
"Adding, like, a neon intensity to how things appear," suggested Dodge.
Jane said, "Actually, you already get that if you double up on hits. I do, anyway. Everything looks very vivid."
Eyebrows raised, Dodge asked, "You double up on hits of Smiley Ecstasy? So basically taking fifty dollars worth of drugs at once? Can you afford that?"
"Oh, I get the stuff for fr---" Jane cut herself off, but realized her meaning had come through. She looked at them and said, "Aw, fuck it. Can you guys keep a secret?"
Dodge and Mimi promised they could. Jane told them to hang on a second. She went into her sleeping alcove and pulled a fireproof lock box out from underneath the bed. She opened it with a key, and pulled out a quart freezer bag full of yellow pills. Then she returned to the room and gestured the two into the bathroom. She opened the bag and poured out some of the hits of Smiley onto the counter.
The two guests each picked up a pill, and their eyes went wide in amazement. Mimi finally said, "Are these.... real?"
"Oh, you'd better believe it," Jane giggled. "The real Magilla, the straight dope."
"Holy shit," breathed Dodge. He looked at the bag and said, "How many do you have?"
"I came up here with 250. I got high with some people at Gilman Street my first weekend, so.... 244, currently. Not that an exact count matters. And let me make this explicitly clear: I am not dealing, I am not dealing, I am not dealing. I just.... have them, so I can share with people as I see fit. You guys want a few?"
"Are you serious?" asked Dodge. "Where the hell did you get them?"
Jane chewed her bottom lip and stared at the towel rack. She finally said, "I can't tell you that. To be frank, you really, really don't want to know, ignorance is not only bliss, it's also a lot healthier. I will assure you they're not stolen. Um.... I'll just say someone involved in the production, sale, and distribution of Smiley wanted me to have fun and be generous while I'm at Berkeley. If I need more before the end of the semester, they will be delivered." She chuckled gently. "I have some very unusual friends in Southern California. So, what are you two doing with the rest of the evening? Wanna get high?"
Both of the guests were still holding a pill. They both nodded in silence, staring at Jane. She picked one up too, filled her glass by the sink, and knocked it down. Then she handed the glass to Mimi. Her and Dodge put down their own hits. Jane scooped the pills on the counter back into the bag, then stopped and said, "Want a few to share? Here...."
Mimi and Dodge were each handed about six or seven hits. Mimi dug through her purse and extracted an Altoids tin. She gestured to Dodge, and they both dumped their pills in the tin. Jane looked at them and said, "It goes without saying, it's a secret where you got those from. In fact, you never saw this bag, you only imagined it. Capiche? Once again, I'm not dealing. And I don't want people trying to break into the apartment."
"Gotcha," said Dodge. "I've gotta ask, what else do you party with?"
"Um, weed, Wild Turkey, Anchor Steam beer, cocaine, mushrooms, and meth. The meth is a sometimes thing. I've been warned too often about how easy it is to become addicted."
There was sound at the door, and a voice called "Hello?" Jane shoved the bag of Ecstasy down the front of her leather pants, then stepped back into the living room, Dodge and Mimi behind her. A girl in a Cal Bears sweatshirt and a ponytail was just inside the door. She looked at Jane in surprise and said, "Um, hi.... I'm Marilyn, I'm from 212. Hello, who are you?"
Jane stepped up with her hand out and introduced herself, along with Dodge and Mimi. Marilyn said, "Oh, hi again, Mimi! 322, right?"
"Correct. Dodge is in 301. If one of us isn't in our place check the other person's place. You'll be happy to know there's another freshman around, Jane just started here herself."
Confused, Jane asked, "Is there a paucity of freshmen living here? If so, why?"
Dodge answered, "Well.... I think the big thing is, parents are a bit leery of signing a contract with a private landlord for a kid's first year at Berkeley. If Junior turns out to be a flake that can't handle college, the parents won't lose any money if Junior just moves out of the dorms. Freshmen are usually up in Unit 4, on Hearst. I guess the school likes to keep them corralled, or something!" he chuckled.
Mimi grinned, "Okay, I know you've seen the stack of menus for Breakers Pizza downstairs. They're the go-to place for pizza delivery around here. Me and Dodge got to be friends with one of the drivers, he's worked for Breakers for, like, eight years. The guy knows every inch of Berkeley like the the back of his hand. We hang out sometimes. He's told us the most hilarious stories about delivering pizza in Berkeley you could ever imagine. And he swears, every year, the freshmen get stupider."
Picking it up, Dodge said, "For the first six weeks of school, all the drivers at Breakers hate getting deliveries going to Unit 4. I'm gonna give you two credit for the ability to order a pizza over the phone. Not a real complex task, right? This guy swears some of the freshmen have never operated a telephone in their lives, much less had a pizza delivered. I never thought ordering a pizza would be something you can screw up, but apparently freshmen can. The drivers call to any delivery going to student housing when they're leaving, telling the customer to be out front of their building or unit in, say, five minutes. They'll get to Unit 4, no customer. This guy is smart, he has a cell phone in his car. He'll wait a few minutes, then call the customer and ask why they aren't at the gate, like they were told to be. The little brats come back with, 'Aren't you gonna deliver it to my room?' Jesus! He just called you and said to be at the gate, kid! Don't you remember hearing that? So now he's gonna be running behind on the rest of his run --- drivers almost never carry just a single delivery --- and it's because of some obstinate brat."
Grinning and nodding slowly, Jane said, "I have noticed that a whole hell of a lot of my fellow newbie students are.... I suppose 'sheltered' would be a good description. Okay, I'm very much an exception. I left home at sixteen, and was legally emancipated from my parents, and I've had to do a lot of things in my life that...." Jane paused. "Uh.... I'll just say, I've had a lot more adventure in my life than most people do by the age of eighteen.
"But I can see where your pizza guy friend is coming from. On Monday and Tuesday, every single one of my classes had people coming in late. The instructor would ask them what the holdup was, and be told, 'I never heard the bell go off.' Oh, please! You're not in high school anymore, it's up to you to be somewhere at the correct time, no bells or buzzers telling you that class is starting. I ran across three kids on Hearst who wanted to take the bus somewhere, I think the El Cerrito mall. They didn't know where a bus stop --- any bus stop --- was. They didn't know how much fare was, one of them asked if the bus would take his ATM card! They didn't know what a 'transfer' was. I finally told them to pool their fucking cash, find a phone, and call a cab. 'How do we do that?' Oh. My . God. What the fuck sort of question is that? You've never taken public transportation, you've never been in a cab.... And it would seem you don't have the common sense to work out the problems on your own.
"It's like, a hell of a lot of my fellow freshmen are very, very sheltered, like they were packed in Cosmoline until they graduated high school. Zero exposure to the outside world, no grasp of how things work. And the worst thing is, they've got huge entitlement issues! Everything has been done for them their entire lives. My own roommate doesn't know how to cook. She'd never even used a microwave. She's a rich kid from Irvine, and her family had a live-in cook. If she was hungry, she'd just tell him, and food would magically appear. I had to do a step-by-step lesson on how the microwave works, and another lesson on how to set up the coffee maker. Tell me, are there a lot of pedestrians hit by cars in Berkeley, and if so, how many of the pedestrians are freshmen at UCB? Too many newbies act as if they were literally born yesterday, their mothers had an eighteen year gestation period, and the kids absorbed what knowledge they have through osmosis."
Marilyn was glaring at Jane, having a real snit-fit. "Everyone was a freshman at one point," she sniffed.
"I'm a freshman, that's my point!" Jane said. "It's not like I fought my way out of the ghetto to be at Berkeley, generally speaking, I've had a pretty upper-middle class life. But I had to figure out how to fairly basic things, like order a pizza or call a cab, before I was eighteen and in college. Hah, that's another thing my roomie will be experiencing for the first time, using a washer and dryer. Dammit, we're eighteen, legally we're adults. We're old enough to die for our country, vote, and go to jail. If you're eighteen, you should be able to feed and clothe yourself, and be in class on time with no one to hold your hand. There's too many freshmen around who can't."
"Freshmen can't what?" asked Kaitlyn walking into the room.
"They can't balance a checkbook," Jane said quickly. "It's the sort of thing they should cover in high school, you know?"
Kaitlyn frowned at Jane, who realized a lot of the hostility and distrust which had been missing recently were now back. "You have a checking account?" Kaitlyn asked disbelievingly.
The nose went up in the air. "I don't believe you."
With a what-the-fuck? expression, Jane walked over to her desk pulled her checkbook out of a drawer, and handed it to Kaitlyn. "Jane Osborne, Wells Fargo checking account number 7442-609986. I don't have the number on my debit-Visa card memorized. Uh, why would this be such a shock?"
Kaitlyn didn't answer. She was stating into the checkbook with a look of annoyance and horror. She said to Jane, "What the hell is this?"
"What are you talking about?"
Holding out the checkbook and jabbing a finger into it, she said, "That! Your balance!"
Jane literally stamped her foot in frustration. "Dammit Kaitlyn, what? What about it?"
"There is absolutely no way you have that kind of money. This is some sort of fake."
The current balance was around $9800. Bekka and Lenny had put a bumper of $7500 in a few weeks earlier, plus Vito's monthly "allowance" of $3500. (She would get another $1800 per month from Lenny and Bekka, as well.) Jane had bought all the furniture, her bed, random stuff for the apartment, food, an AC Transit bus pass, and a mid-range meal plan at UCB. Besides PG&E and Pacific Bell, Jane had no monthly bills, rent on the apartment was paid for until the end of the spring semester. The upshot was that for a college student, Jane had a hell of a lot of money to play with. Far more than your average student, and probably even more than most rich kids back East in the Ivy League schools.
Jane couldn't help but chuckle and shake her head. She said quietly, "Kaitlyn.... That is real. That is not a lie, not a fake, not a sham. What would I gain by having imaginary numbers written in my own checkbook log? Here... August twenty-fifth, $7500 deposited, that was from Lenny and Bekka. This one here, for $3500, is from my friend Vito, the man who's also paying my tuition, I've told you about him. All the debits went to pay for the furniture and other stuff in here.... Hell, it's all itemized by name, you can see where I've been spending money." She sighed. "Kaitlyn, what is the problem now?"
In her snotty, elitist voice, Kaitlyn declared, "My parents are rich, and they're only giving me a thousand dollars a month!" (Jane briefly imagined Kaitlyn thrashing around on the floor, beating her fists on the carpet, yelling, "It's not fair! It's not fair! It's not fair!")
Marilyn glared at Kaitlyn and said, "Oh, poor deprived baby. Only a grand a month? Girly, I've got $250 a month to spend. Cry me a river." She stomped out.
Dodge asked, "Who's Vito?"
Jane answered, "Vito Ventimiglia, he's a businessman from LA. Him and I are friends."
Now Dodge's eyebrows jutted down and his eyes got big. "Wait, Vito Ventimiglia? The mob boss?"
She looked at the ceiling briefly, then smiled at Dodge and said, "Don Vito Ventimiglia of Los Angeles, or as I call him, Uncle Vito, is a legitimate businessman. There has never been a successful indictment placed against him. He and I are very close friends..... And I can read your thoughts, and you're wrong. Our relationship is platonic. He initially had a lot of paternal affection for me, I was like a granddaughter he never had. The more time we spent together, the better we really got to know each other, and now he's probably one of the closest friends I have. We ride our motorcycles together, he was teaching me how to play tennis, I was teaching him how to play electric bass. Vito is an incredible, wonderful man."
"Uh.... Do you know the sort of connections he has? The sort of stories that have gone around about him? He is a scary dude, he's total mafia and shit."
Another bout of ceiling-staring, and Jane said, "I know his connections, and I've heard all the stories. I'm aware of his associations. And that doesn't change our friendship one fucking bit. Vito isn't scary, he's a charming, genteel man who has the sort of Old World manners you only see in movies. He's very clever, and has a wonderful dry sense of humor, he appreciates the absurd. He's very generous, the sort of guy who, if he had no change and asked if you had a spare quarter for the phone, would mail you a thousand dollars the next day, along with a thank you note." She snickered. "Let me put it this way: Don Vito loves cats. He has five, and he treasures them. There's a few no-kill shelters in the LA area which would have gone belly-up if not for Vito's continued financial support. Don't believe the hype."
"So none of that stuff is true?" asked Mimi.
"All I'm saying is, Don Vito is not a monster. All right.... There are aspects of his associations and business dealings which are, um, a bit unsavory. I won't discuss them, as they're none of my business. I will tell you that Vito is the owner of Patrician Escorts, the business I'll be running after I graduate. Remember Sydney Biddle-Barrows, the 'Mayflower Madam'? She was in business from 1978 to 1984, then got nailed. Patrician Escorts has been in business since 1970, and has s lily-white legal history. That doesn't sound like something that would happen if the owner was dirty."
"Now I'm dying of curiosity, how did you meet him?" asked Dodge.
"Oh boy, this will take a few," said Jane. "Let's walk and talk. Kaitlyn, I'm going to go circulate now, I'll be back in a bit."
"Don't just disappear, some people are meeting me here, we're going to a party," Kaitlyn announced.
"It's 8:10 now, don't worry, I"ll be back by nine." Her, Dodge, and Mimi stepped out. Jane said, "Let's head for the front door, I'll try to explain within the duration of one cigarette."
Outside, Jane explained about her living with Lenny and Bekka, how Inana Productions, the studio Lenny operated, was owned by Mr. Angel Morelli. Angel and Vito were friends, and Angel introduced Lenny to Vito, the two of them hitting it off. She elaborated a bit about the time Vito stayed with them, and how that started her friendship with Vito. The weekends at the Bel Air estate, touring Europe, and general close companionship had made Vito and Jane very close friends, confidantes, establishing very deep trust in each other, and also respect.
"I will not discuss Vito's business dealings. It is not my place, and it would be a betrayal. He's been accused of doing a lot of things, in the press and by the law, but has never spent longer than sixteen hours in jail. To me, it doesn't matter if Vito isn't on the up-and-up, because it doesn't affect what sort of person he is. And Vito is a wonderful person."
They went back in and began circulating through the rooms. After six or seven, Jane realized she was doing what others had done to her: step in, introduce yourself, and immediately get the hunch that there is almost no commonality between her and the other people. Try the next room, same result. She finally commented to Dodge and Mimi, "Is everyone in this building white, upper-middle class, and boring? Fine, Berkeley is a high-ranked school, there's gonna be plenty of preppies. But this is ridiculous."
"There's a few kindled spirits around," Mimi assured her. "In fact...."
They stepped into another room. It was clear the two roommates here had decided early to split the place in half, pretty much literally. There may as well have been a line of white tape down the middle of the floor. One half had a desk, chair, couch, table, small TV, and a lamp or two. The only decoration was a Nagel print and a wall calendar. The other half had a half dozen bean bag chairs,a stereo and TV sitting on shelves, a lava lamp, and the walls were covered with posters and flyers for a wide array of rock and roll bands. A Dead Kennedys poster resided next to a concert poster for Ricky Skaggs. On the ceiling was a banner reading "LOUDER FASTER SHORTER."
Presumably the roomies had reached a state of detente, in regards to music. The occupant of the vanilla side of the space looked like he considered Steely Dan hard rock. He was engrossed in a copy of Fortune magazine. The music fan on the other side waved as the three entered. He was wearing tiny John Lennon sunglasses far down on his nose, His t-shirt announced "The Stoner Witches Have Entered The Building." And the lower extremities were contained by voluminous pants and Chuck Taylors.
"You are back!" the host announced. "Where are you guys this year?"
"322 and 301, respectively," said Mimi. "Justin, this is Jane, by far the most interesting freshman to enter the hallowed halls. She's at the other end of the hall, in 108. What I've learned about her life so far has either amazed or terrified me."
"How have I terrified you?" asked Jane.
"Um.... The man who's paying your tuition all four years?" hinted Dodge.
"But I just explained.... Look, I'm gonna let it lie for now. Hopefully, you'll get a chance to meet him at some point, and you'll see that he's exactly how I described him."
"What's all this then?" asked Justin.
"Long story," Dodge said, waving a hand dismissively. "So still trying to build a girlfriend out of binary code?"
"There were some IF/THEN errors in the most recent one. When I compiled her, she seemed okay at first, but it turned out she was a Texan. Never, ever date a girl from Texas, they're all crazier than a three-legged snake. I had to nuke and pave the project down to the frame. I'm hoping the new one is Canadian. They're cuddly."
"Tell me, are you a computer science major?" asked Jane.
"Indeed I am, small blue-haired novice!" Justin declared. :"Have you any inkling what might possibly captivate you during your time at Tie-Dye Acres?"
Jane cocked an eyebrow and smirked. "If you're asking what my major is, it's business. I'm a Haas student. And yes, I've already been informed I don't look the part. It may interest you to learn I'm taking an unofficial minor in comp. sci., myself. I'm starting in 101, I'm not pretending to know more than I do."
"Who's your instructor?"
"Hoo, boy!" exclaimed Justin. "You may be in for a time. He should not be wrangling freshmen, or instructing a beginner's class. Since freshman are fucking idiots, he---"
Mimi whacked Justin. "Hey, Jane is a freshman, watch the attitude."
Jane asserted, "But freshmen are fucking idiots, I was saying so earlier."
"Anyway, a 101 class is gonna be ninety-five percent freshmen, right? Since freshmen are feeling overwhelmed and excited and are still young and used to a high school mentality, they'll say and do things --- just little, minor things --- that will get under Brach's skin. A lot of the frosh are having growing pains. They're away from home for the first time, there's an entire new city to explore, their parents aren't looking over their shoulders, and they sorta lose it. Let's just say.... stupid decisions are made. I see you've already rebelled against Mum and Poppy. Lovely shade of blue, by the way."
Everything about Jane but her voice said, "Fuck you, asshole" to Justin. Her voice said, "Let's see.... The hair has been blue since seventh grade. The mohawk happened last October. The nose ring happened that September. And so we don't miss any details, my pussy has been shaved since the middle of eleventh grade. Also, I've been an emancipated minor since I was sixteen, my parents are in Gainesville, Florida. I've had good support, but ultimately I've had to sign my own contracts and call my own shots for quite a while now. Anything else you'd care to get wrong about me?"
Justin seemed to have frozen in place, staring at Jane, an open-mouthed half-smile on his face. Dodge and Mimi were giggling and snickering. Dodge said, "Perhaps we should have warned you, Jane is definitely not your average freshman from Southern California. Not even a little."
Clapping his hands, Justin continued, "Anyway, my point is, college freshmen, especially at a well-to-do school like UCB, are still trying to form themselves as individuals, decide who they are.... Present company excluded. I'm guessing all the freshmen you're around look like the products of privileged suburbia they are, right?"
"A fair assessment," Jane replied.
"That's gonna change, and given what little I know about you, you're probably gonna think it's hilarious. A month from now, you're gonna notice a whole lot more facial piercings on your classmates.... But they'll be gone when they return from Winter Break. The preppy prick next to you in your English class is going to show up wearing a Queer Nation t-shirt and s bad attitude. Others will have suddenly, magically, transformed themselves into Dead-Heads, wannabe rappers, industrial artists.... hardcore punks.... If you ask them, they'll tell you they're finally letting who they truly are out. If only it were true. In most cases, they went shopping for an identity, and found one they liked. And the hilarious thing is, by the middle of spring semester, they'll have traded in their old new identities for new ones. The punk will now be a rapper, the hippie will now be a techno raver, like that.
"Brach has watched this happen every damn year for a long time. He calls it 'the day-care rebellion,' children acting out and misbehaving for the sheer exercise of it. He knows all these kids at UCB will graduate and land in the white collar workplace --- a fair judgement --- and he hates they've wasted so much energy going through their find-an-identity phase. Brach feels UCB students should be bright enough to know their futures and accept their fates, and not spend time pretending to be something they aren't. So, over the year, he'll get more and more patronizing with a class, aiming what I must admit is some really good sarcasm at the kids who've chosen an off-the-rack identity for themselves. I imagine he gave you a ration of shit when he first saw you."
"No, not at all," Jane answered. "Actually, I'd given him something more tangible to get bugged at me about."
Jane explained about Nadir and his need for better class placement, and her defense of Nadir, plus busting Brach's chops for not immediately doing the right thing and accommodating Nadir, screw the rules. "Actually, Brach first assumed I was trying to audit the class, I really didn't look like I'd ever belong there. Then, when I basically took him to task, told him to do the right thing and get Nadir in an appropriate class, he had no response at all.... At least not one he was willing to emote in a classroom.
"But.... The next day, I asked him how it had gone with Nadir, and he thanked me. He said after he saw just how talented and educated Nadir was, he realized I was right, he should have been more willing to accommodate Nadir. I thanked him for being gracious, and for doing right by Nadir. We've been kosher ever since."
"Okay," said Justin. "I guess the main thing I'm warning you about is he'll use sarcasm like a buggy whip, or a Taser. He's quick, and he can get in verbal jabs that will ruin the rest of your day, if you let them."
Jane gave a vicious cackle. "Is that so. Well, well. Maybe Brach and I can have s one-on-one verbal smackdown competition. I can use my tongue like a wasp's stinger, too." She cackled more. "And I learned from a pro."
Mime said, "You'll never guess who Jane has been living with. Becky freakin' Page."
"What?" queried Justin. "You're kidding."
"No," Jane commented. "I met Becky --- Bekka, Bekka Schneider in real life --- and her husband Lenny when I was fourteen. They were on honeymoon in Florida. We hit it off, and kept writing each other. When my parents kicked me out, I took Greyhound to San Diego and just sorta showed up at their door. I only wanted to sofa-surf for a couple nights, but they said I could live with them so long as I went to school, got good grades, and helped around the house a little. So....I did as they asked, and here I am."
A fifth voice suddenly was heard. Justin's roomie was looking at Jane. He said, "Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. I know you. I know you. You were with Becky at a block party in La Mesa a couple years ago, one put on by the sysop of the Becky Page Fans BBS down in San Diego. When Becky was giving out autographs and hugs, you were, like, the gatekeeper, letting people pass to go see her. Yeah, you, her husband, and that giant biker. Then that night, Becky was handing out free hits of Ecstasy. Oh my God, that party was so incredible. This is a trip."
"What was your name on the board?" asked Jane.
"Okay. You mostly lurked, but would chime in every now and then. I sort of remember you, you'd always be a bit abusive to whoever you were responding to."
"Hey, how's Becky doing? I know she had trouble with some militant Christian types last fall."
"Oh lord, yes," said Jane. "Okay, I'm sure you read about the firefight in the studio, right? What the papers didn't tell you was really heavy. Lenny took a couple bullets, big time. One nicked an artery, he nearly bled out. Bekka gets over to him, and here's her husband, not moving and lying in a giant pool of blood. Bekka thought he was dead. What she did next was just insane. She had her own pistol, but she also grabs the one Lenny had been using and just charges the Jesus creeps head-on, shooting both guns at once.... and drops them all. Then Terry, her bodyguard, had to tackle her. She was getting ready to execute them, shoot all four in the head where they were. Bekka was just.... She totally lost it, she thought Lenny was dead. She was screaming and wailing and pounding her head on the floor, totally out of control. Terry had to pin her so she wouldn't hurt herself. The EMTs shot her full of Thorazine, and Terry checked her into a psychiatric crisis unit for observation. It was at the same hospital Lenny was in, thank God. Lenny survived, and when he came out of surgery, they told Bekka he was alive, it was okay. They let her see him, and she got on the hospital bed with him and refused to move. God, Bekka was just a mess."
The roomie said, "Wait, over her husband? That punk rock dude?"
"Ooh, that would have been a big loss," the roomie scoffed. "He should have croaked it."
Jane stared at the roomie briefly, then crossed to him. She said, "Excuse me, would you mind standing up for a moment?"
The roomie stood, looking at Jane questioninly. Jane gave a warm smile, then punched him in the face as hard as she could. He hit the floor, mostly from surprise. Jane stomped down on his neck, pinning him. She bent down and said in a clear calm steady voice, "Watch your bitch-ass mouth, motherfucker. You don't talk shit like that about anyone I love, and I love Lenny. You'll never be a hundredth of the man Lenny is, of the person he is. Motherfucker, from now on, if you see me in the hall, you turn around and walk the fuck away. You stay the fuck out of my way. You understand me, you stupid motherfucking piece of shit?" She bent a little further and slapped the roomie. Then she straightened up and said, "Go get cancer."
Jane started to walk towards the door. Dodge, Mimi, and Justin were frozen in shock, looking at Jane. She stopped and said, "Look, um, I'm gonna go have a cigarette. Please stop by my room, okay, 108. Stop by, I'll be up. Talk to you in a few." She went out.
The roomie was pulling himself back onto the couch. "Goddamn little---"
Mimi cut him off. "To quote Jane, Rex, watch your bitch-ass mouth. You just told Jane you wished the man who's raised her for the past two years was dead. I kind of get the feeling that while her reaction isn't what you're used to, it's the sort of reaction she is very used to delivering. You deserved that. Your cheek will be a little swollen, but your're fine, so don't go bitching to anyone about the mean punk rock girl who beat you up. Just let it lie."
Forty minutes later, Jane was on the sofa in the apartment. She was watching TV. Well, she was looking at it, anyway. There was sound, and moving images, but the effort of actually figuring out what she was watching didn't seem like it would be worth it. The Ecstasy was preventing her from feeling sad or angry, she just felt numb, which was fine with her at the moment. There was a knock on the door. She called, "It's open," without moving her head.
Dodge, Mimi, and Justin entered. Justin was carrying a twelve-pack of Budweiser. He said, "Hello, Mrs. Tyson." Jane rolled her eyes and gave him the finger. Justin smiled and handed her a beer.
"So, is that dude gonna ring Johnny Law on me, or just have me evicted?" Jane asked.
"Neither nor," said Dodge. "He's gonna let it go by the wayside. Part of it is pride, to make any noise would mean having to admit he got punched out by a girl.... And not a very big one. Also, we pointed out he was kind of asking for it. Okay, maybe where he's from an insult like he said would just prompt another insult in return. We sorta reminded him that not everybody plays by the same rules, and talking shit like he did can have very adverse effects. It did tonight. Have you had to use your fists to settle a lot of conflict?"
"Not really, no," mumbled Jane. "Lenny is the one who's been in a lot of punch-ups. He was a serious brawler when he was younger, I guess. But tonight, I know Lenny would never have laid a hand on that guy, even if the guy had insulted him directly. Lenny would have cut him down to size with his tongue. I're really sorry I lost my temper. Um, Justin, tell your roommate I'm not gonna be after him, and I'm not gonna attack him on sight. If we see each other in the halls, it'll be like we've never met at all."
"I'll pass word along, tiny punkette," said Justin.
"For losing your temper, you were pretty restrained," said Mimi. "You could have kept going off on him."
"He was down, and in a position where he'd listen to what I said," said Jane. "That was the idea. But.... I launched a physical attack on someone over some words. Just some random mook, a goofball I'd never met before, speaking out of turn. What he said was really shitty, but he didn't question or insult Lenny's honor. He said Lenny should have croaked it. Okay, that's a fucked-up thing to say, but.... If he'd said Lenny was Bekka's pimp, or Bekka was just a sleazy whore, or something, that's a challenge to the honor of people I love. And yeah, I'd have kept working on him until I saw blood. But I overreacted tonight. The guy's just some stronzo, un cazzo mook."
Justin smirked at Jane. "He's a 'mook'? What is this, the movie 'Goodfellas'? And what is a 'stronzo'?"
Dodge and Mimi were trying to send warning glares at Justin, who didn't see them. Jane responded, "'Stronzo' is Italian for 'asshole.' And yeah, he's a mook. He speaks out of turn, and doesn't consider things before saying them." Jane chuckled. "I'm pretty sure I'm not the first person to lay him out for running his dumb fucking mouth."
"Okay, you're not Mrs. Tyson, you're Mrs. Corleone!" laughed Justin. Dodge and Mimi were now glaring as hard as they could at Justin, and mouthing the words "Shut the fuck up" at him.
"Nope. Osborne, Jane Osborne. Don Vito Corleone was a fiction, and I could never reach that position anyway, no Italian or Sicilian blood in me. I'll always be an associate.... But that's okay, associates of the family can go far. Look at Meyer Lansky, and how far he got. The thing with Lansky was, he was too violent, he would deep-six people over anything. In Vegas, they were still cleaning up after him years later."
"So, what, you're fascinated by la Cosa Nostra, ;punkette?" Justin giggled.
"Justin, leave it out," Dodge muttered.
Jane looked at Justin and emitted a long, low chuckle. She said, "It's weird, the shit I've learned since coming to Southern California. Like, I know where to place bets on sports or horse racing all over LA, anything from $2 to $100,000. I know where I can buy an Uzi, a MAC-10, an M-16, or a fucking grenade launcher if I wanted. If you like cocaine, I can get that. Nothing less than a kilo, but it's fresh off the boat, pure rocket fuel. No matter what your sexual interest or kink, I know who to talk to, so you can indulge yourself... for a price. Unless you're into children. Then you'd just get stomped, and locked in the trunk of your own car." She stretched her legs out, then shoved her hand down the front of her pants and pulled out the bag of Smiley Ecstasy. "You like Ecstasy? Wanna hit? It's Smiley, ten hours of being in love with the world. Ever had it?"
"We gave Justin a hit earlier," Dodge said quickly. "And yeah, you're right, that stuff is definitely legit. Thanks again."
Justin had a querulous arch to his eyebrows. After a pause, he said, "Who the hell are you, really? How would an eighteen year old punk rock girl know how do do what you said? Jesus Christ, is that bag in your hand real? What are you saying, you're in the mob?"
Jane replied, "In no particular order, yes, this bag is real." She tossed it to Justin. "I'm Jane Osborne, originally from the Florida swamps, now a legal resident of Encinitas, California. No, I'm not in the mafia, I can't be, I'm not Italian or Sicilian. And, well, I've met different people over the past couple years, and become buoni amici with them. They would be the people I would talk to if I wanted guns or coke or a bookie or sex for money."
Justin stared in silence, all the amusement gone from his face. "So who are your friends?"
With a wide smile, Jane replied, "They are legitimate businessmen." After some silence, Jane sat straight up and said, "Hey guys, I never had dinner. Wanna get something to eat? My treat. We'll call a cab and go up to the casino in San Pablo. It's really just a glorified card room, but their restaurant is open twenty-four hours and is pretty damn good. The best part is, it never gets packed, like the Emeryville Denny's. Wanna roll?"
The other three glanced at each other, then said sure. Jane went to the phone and called Green Cab for a pick-up.
Three hours later, they returned. After they ate, they wandered into the casino briefly. Justin saw the blackjack table and took a seat. He only had $14 on him, so Jane handed him a $100 and told him to go to town. She stood back from the table with Dodge and Mimi, and watched Justin play. He did quite well, leaving ninety minutes later about $650 richer. The other three had grabbed a nearby table and nursed drinks.
Mimi and Dodge congratulated Justin on his good luck. Jane laughed and said, "Luck, my ass. He's a card-counter. By the way, Justin, two bits of advice. First, learn to count in your head. You tap your fingers and your feet to keep track, and that's a dead giveaway. You're lucky, the dealer must have been numb to not notice. Also, don't plan on making a career out of juicing the San Pablo Casino. They'll get to recognize you real fuckin' quick. The best you could hope for would be them refusing you a seat at the table."
"What's the worst I could hope for?" Justin asked.
"Being taken out back and having both hands crushed with a sledgehammer. Being unable to wipe your own ass for six weeks would be a real drag, capiche?"
"Yeah.... Yeah, I see your point. I'll keep my visits rare."
Everyone headed back to their own rooms. Ten minutes after Jane got in hers, Kaitlyn came home. She was fairly bombed. She saw Jane sitting at her computer and said, "Oh God, you're here," as though Jane's presence was wildly out of character. "I thought you'd be hanging around at your punk rock bar tonight."
"Naw," Jane answered. "It was a ska show tonight, and I wasn't in the mood for ska. How was the party?"
"You missed out. The guys at Kappa Delta Gamma threw a rager! Three kegs. One of the bros is a DJ, so there was good music, too. A ton of people, I met guys from other fraternities, and some of the girls from the local sorority houses, and even some of the Bears players! And no freaks or weirdos, either." Kaitlyn said this last bit rather pointedly. Then, "So what did you do, hang out with your new weirdo friends you met?"
"Spot on. We drank a few beers, then took a cab up to San Pablo for some dinner. Justin picked up some decent pocket money playing blackjack." Jane smirked and said, "So, cupcake, are you going to pledge to a sorority?"
"Well, duh," Kaitlyn replied. "I'm gonna pledge Lambda Beta, my mom is legacy there, so I've got an in. I dunno, they may have gone downhill there. There were a bunch at the party tonight, and they're letting Oriental girls in now."
"The horror, the horror," Jane muttered. Then she laughed and said, "Uh, 'Oriental'? What is this, 1962?"
"Yeah, you know, slants."
Jane gave Kaitlyn an amused grin and commented, "Um, cupcake? Use the word 'Asian,' at least in public while you're at Berkeley. Dropping the word 'slant' is gonna probably get you punched, sooner or later."
Kaitlyn looked at Jane with an unsteady supercilious glare. "So, are you happy there's a few weirdos in the building? You won't be the only little freak around?"
"Yes, I am. Although I'm probably gonna have a little trouble with one guy's roommate. The guy who lives with Justin knows me from San Diego, although I don't know him. Um.... He said something I really didn't appreciate, and I decked him."
"Who is he?"
Jane replied, "His name is Rex, he lives with a guy named Justin...."
Kaitlyn looked shocked. "Oh my God! Is this Justin guy tall and skinny, curly hair that looks like a rat's nest?"
"That's the guy."
"You beat up Rex? God, you are so stupid! Rex is a senior! He's Delta Tau Theta, the only reason he lives here is the house, um, it had some damage done to it last spring and four or five rooms are unusable until they fix them. So not only did you beat up a senior, you beat up a Delta Tau brother. You are just so stupid."
"Is that so," Jane pondered. "Maybe he'll watch his mouth a little better from now on, not speak out of turn. It was one punch, and he hit the floor. So why does this make me stupid?"
"Pfft," Kaitlyn hissed. "Because now you'll be on Delta Tau's enemies list. Enemies of Delta Tau have bad shit happen to them, okay?" She snickered. "I may have this place to myself a lot sooner than I'd hoped. Tomorrow go back to his room and offer him a blowjob as an apology, and hope you're good enough that he forgives you."
This suggestion caused Jane to laugh uproariously. "Nope, not gonna happen. In fact, me sucking off a frat boy would be cruel. I'd be the best he'll ever have, Every girl after me would just be a let-down. I'd drive him insane, because after me, nothing would truly satisfy him. Anyway, I'm dying of curiosity now. What are a bunch of dumb-ass frat boys gonna do to me that I should be worried about?"
"They'll harass you. They'll stalk you, to learn your class schedule and where you hang out, and start harassing you, just walking up and yelling in your face, two or three of them. They'll totally cut you down."
"Gee whilikers." Jane reached in her purse and grabbed her butterfly knife, which she spun open with one hand. "And maybe I do a little cutting of my own. This is not your average butterfly. Most of 'em are only good as daggers. Mine has a blade to it, I can do some slicing.with it. Besides, a couple fucking jocks think they can bug me by standing there and yelling? What, calling me a cunt and a whore and a slut and blah blah blah? Please. I'll remind them they're tiny-dicked losers who don't even have the stones to try and fuck a girl unless she's trashed, they're a bunch of pussies, they're just losers, white-bread honkies with money."
In a lower voice, Kaitlyn said, "They could also beat you up. Wait until you're walking alone one night, then jump you. The could even kidnap you. They'd tie you up in their basement had have fun with you for a couple days, you know? You'd want to leave school then."
"No I wouldn't." Jane sighed. "Okay, excluding the gang rape, you're just describing the same sort of lame crap junior high bullies do. And if they decide to get real heavy, well...."
Jane reached in her right front pocket and extracted her tiny Beretta. It was now registered in her name, an eighteenth birthday present. Her concealed carry app had been turned down, but oh well. She held the gun lying flat in her palm and said, "This is a six-shot Beretta semi-automatic. It holds six rounds of nine millimeter hollow-point ammunition. Are you familiar with how hollow-point ammo works? The entry wound is small. However, the bullet causes a cone-shaped expansion to happen, so the exit wound will be the size of a softball, a very big hole. A hole than things can fall out of, you know?
"I threatened this asshole Rex when I dropped him. I told Justin to tell him I'm rescinding my threat, all bets are off. I'll leave him alone, and I expect the same from him. However, in light of what you've told me, you may want to communicate to him that if he has any stupid fucking ideas about siccing his bros on me, they are going to be biting off far, far more than they can chew. If push comes to shove, well.... Rex and his bros are no match for my bros. Think about who I'm friends with. You think my friends are gonna put up with some Greek jack-offs giving me grief? They'll be lucky to only have hospital stays, their whole fucking little clubhouse could just burn to the ground one night, and with people trapped inside because the ground floor doors have been magically nailed shut. Am I making myself clear?"
Kaitlyn looked concerned briefly, then got her usual snotty expression. "You can't fool me, that's a cigarette lighter. They can't make guns that small."
"They can, and they have. Tell ya what, tomorrow we'll walk up one of the canyons east of campus and I'll give you a demo. Just a couple shots, I'll..... Kaitlyn?"
Jane's roommate's eyes were half-closed, and she was weaving. She hiccuped twice, then let off a small belch. Her face was looking rather green.
With a sigh, Jane said, "Kaitlyn, go in the bathroom now, and throw up. If you puke on the floor out here, I'll never let you live it down."
Kaitlyn staggered into the bathroom. Moments later there were retching noises. Jane shook her head and went back to reading her Usenet group.