Monday, April 3, 2017

Groove (Part 12)

     I called Bekka that night and told her I would be staying over another night, Jane wanted my presence and possible support when she met Kaitlyn's parents the next afternoon.  "Translated, that means the little darling wants you around to bulldog her if she tries to throw down on Maitlyn's mom," Bekka said.
     "You know, dear, you might be right," I responded.

     Kristen also stayed over a second night at the Marriott with Jane and I.  There's no other way of describing the scene in the hotel room: we were decadent as hell.  Sex, drugs, porn, and delivery pizza.  Kristen bought five rolls of ASA400 film from the gift shop at the Marriott, we burned through all of it in her Leica.  I was glad none of us had any political aspirations, as we spent two nights generating the most choice materiel for blackmail ever seen.  (I actually wished that Kristen was a video freak, a video camera is easier to operate during sex acts than an SLR.)
     Both girls headed off in a taxi bright and early, heading for their first classes.  I slept for another couple hours, then went downstairs and rented a car from the Enterprise office on the ground floor.  I'd only have it for one day, I didn't give a shit what it was.  I ended up with a 1992 Plymouth Laser, a deceptively sharp-looking two-door.  Okay, so I was spoiled by the hot rods we drove at home.  There wasn't anything really "wrong" with the car.  But so far as driving went, it was so dull and lifeless it may as well have been a loaf of bread with wheels.  Oh well, I'd have it maybe twenty-four hours.
     By pure chance, Riley was actually free that day.  We met around noon at a place in North Oakland called Lois the Pie Queen.  Riley insisted that is was the best goddamn place for food in Oakland, even if it didn't have a barbecue pit.  It sat in what had been, years earlier, a residence, right where 60th and Adeline met.  We slumped at our table and I looked at the menu.  Fairly standard breakfast fare, heavy on sausages.... I frowned at the menu and asked Riley, "Um.... Why would anyone want waffles and fried chicken at the same time?"
     "'Cos it's soul food," was his answer.  "Two legends about that dish.  Number one was during Reconstruction, Southern blacks couldn't even afford chicken, and waffles were a novelty, another pricey thing to eat.  So, if you wanted to really celebrate, hey, have both at the same time for a meal.  The other is that when Harlem was really hopping back in the Twenties and Thirties, a lot of people wouldn't be heading home until daybreak.  They'd be hungry, too.  The thing was, they couldn't remember if they ate dinner or not, but it was now morning.  So, a bit of both.  I know Harlem is where chicken and waffles first tarted showing up as a regular menu item."
     I ordered the chicken and waffles, and was not disappointed.
     Riley got briefed on the action around Inana, and the tale or Ron Haley.  When I stopped talking, Riley sat back and frowned at his plate.  Finally he said, "Until this motherfucker is on ice, don't let your guard down.  He's goddamn dangerous."
     "Well, yeah.  He's been shotgunning people with no pause."
     "More than that.  He's an assassin, only he's way more dangerous than any other assassin, because he's an amateur.  Most assassins are motivated by a paycheck.  This bastard Haley is motivated by conviction, so he'll try way harder and not give up until he's either caged or pushing daisies.  Tracking him will be a pain in the ass, too.  From what you said, he has no friends in Dago.  When you hunt an animal, you look for a lair.  Haley doesn't have a lair, he's sleeping in these stolen cars.  So he's mobile, and has no reason or inclination to hang around any particular area of San Diego, 'cept for La Costa and Oceanside, where people are watching for him. If he shows up either place, he's going into action, not just snooping.  Get that asshole dropped, but quick."

     Jane had said to be at her residence hall at 4:45.  I had time to kill, so first I went up to Telegraph Ave. aiming for a place called Amoeba Records.  Their selection, new and used, was stunning.  I spent over ninety minutes in there, and barely tapped the surface of the selection.  I left $280 poorer, with a load of vinyl.  Stashing the records in the trunk of the Plymouth, I considered strolling Telegraph, but thought: nah.  I'd done it before, and I doubted much was different.  Besides, I'd be hoarse from repeating the phrase "Sorry, no change" over and over.  So, I got in the car and cruised.
     First, I checked out Berkeley's Frat Row area.  It's not a row, but a small neighborhood.  Looking at the houses, I was struck by just how damn big they were, I'd never given it much thought.  Also, it was easy to suss out which were fraternities and which were sororities.  The sororities had impeccable landscaping and painted trim.  The fraternities had no landscaping whatsoever, and usually a rusting weight bench siting out front.  Still, a vast improvement over the houses as SDSU's Frat Row.  No trash, broken windows, graffiti, or weeds.  On a weekday, the houses were dead, everyone was in class.
      I decided to check out Cloyne Court in daylight, to see if it was still an architectural fun house or not.  I vas over a block away before I found legal parking.  Hoofing it back to the co-op, I saw another pedestrian coming towards me who looked familiar.  It was Rinny.  I called to her.  She stopped, stared, then broke into a sprint towards me.  I was nearly tackled by her, a squealing ball of blue dreadlocks and a nice rack.
     "Lenny!  You're here!  I thought you were leaving today!  Why are you back here?" came the squeal.
     "Oh boy," I stated.  "There's some problems at the place Jane lives in, and she wanted my moral support."
     "What's going on?"
      I stared at the sidewalk, then said, "Not my place to talk about it, know what I mean?  I will give you the subject matter, in an oblique way.  I need an answer to a question.  Now, I'm sure the frat scene isn't your cup of tea, so I'm not sure if you'd be able to answer this question, but you also talk to other female college students, so you might know.  In a nutshell, is there a standard M.O. for date rape on a college campus?"
     Rinny looked confused.  "What do you mean?"
     "All right, the way the frat boys kick things off these days is to slip a girl a Roofie, either getting it in her drink, or telling her it's another drug and getting her to swallow it.  The Roofie kicks in, the girl is now a mannequin.  Okay, then what?  What does the frat boy, or boys, do with her next?"
     Now Rinny looked a bit annoyed.  "Well.  What a lovely topic of conversation.  Why do you want to know?"
    "To possibly help solve a crime.  I don't know how to think like a frat boy or a rapist, so I'd be guessing at how things work, and that's no good.  Any information is useful, since I have almost none right now."
     "Let's go inside."  We walked in and landed on a sofa in the lounge.  Far across the room, two people played ping-pong.  They were the only other people around.  Ginny said, "All right.  This is all hearsay, just sort of overhearing conversations."  She sighed.  "The guy who dosed the girl will stay with her while the Roofie kicks in.  When she's down for the count, he'll guide her upstairs.  If anyone asks where they're going, he'll say she's had a bit too much to drink and wants to lie down in his room.
     "They don't go to his room, but someone else's.  And.... the guys take their turns.  Sometimes it's just three or four guys in on it, sometimes the entire damn house could be allowed a go.  They have about a three hour window to work in, before the efficacy of the Roofie wears off, and the girl might become cognizant again.  They'll also usually loot her purse, or steal it completely.
     "Um....  Afterwards, they'll get her the hell out of the house, and at least a block away.  They'll sort of carry the girl between two of them, holding her up under her arms, so it would look like three people walking side by side.  They dump her in a backyard or a parking lot, someplace where she can't be seen easily.  And that's that, go home and drink some more, I guess."
     "They'll get clothes back on her?" I asked.
     "More or less.  At least her shirt or blouse, and pants or skirt.  Jesus Lenny, I really don't want to talk about this, don't make me talk about this, let's change the fucking subject, okay?  Why are you doing this to me?"
     And Rinny burst into tears, sobbing into her hands.  I slid closer and tried to put an arm around her.  Without looking, Rinny swung an elbow at me to get me to back off.  It worked, she jabbed me hard right in the solar plexus.  Rinny sat and cried.  I sat next to her and gasped and wheezed.
     She finished with the water works before I had my breath back.  She looked at me and asked, "Are you okay?"
     "Will be," I managed to reply.  "You knocked the wind out of me with your elbow.  I'll be okay in a minute."
     She stared at me with concern and worry, until I could breathe normally again.  Then I said, "I didn't mean to upset you, I really am trying to solve an attack, or at least gather information.  Um.... A resident where Jane lives was attacked last night.  I am totally dropping the subject, let's move on the the reason I felt like coming back.  Last night, I was totally confused by how this place looks, both on the inside and the outside.  From here, it would take me a half hour to find your room again, or Kristen's.  I wanted to see the place in the daylight, and not high on drugs.  That's why I came back."
     Rinny gazed off briefly, then smiled at me.  She said, "That's fine.  I was being illogical, I was thinking you decided to give me a,  mind-fuck, for the sheer hell of it....  But I'm home over an hour early, you wouldn't know my schedule anyway.... Um, you wouldn't know what subject matter to bring up as a base for a mind-fuck...."
     "Well..... I do now.  You have my number, I have yours.  If you ever want to talk about it to a man, I can handle it.  Otherwise, it's a dead subject, never happened at all.  So.  What can you tell me about this place?  It seems like when it was designed, the architect had something else on his mind, and kept getting distracted."
     Now smiling, Ginny said, "Okay, here's an overview.  Originally built in 1903, this was the Cloyne Court Hotel and Casino.  It was bought by the school and turned into a co-op in 1933.  Cloyne houses 150 students, it's the largest student housing co-op in the country.  If you're wondering about the architecture..... My best guess would be that since it was a turn-of-the-century hotel, they had the idea of 'whimsy' in mind during design.  Oh, and the school hates us."
     "Why does Berkeley hate you?"
     "A few reasons.  Getting 150 undergrads to do anything at once is like herding cats.  But Cloyne is sort of a united front.  In campus politics, we can throw our weight around, the entire co-op will show up at council meetings and board meetings.
     "For any group of students, that's bad enough.  But Cloyne is also sort of the last refuge of counterculture at Berkeley.  Cloyne is where the weirdos live, and have for decades.  The UC system has put a hell o fa lot of effort into transforming UCB's image from the home of Mario Savio and the hippies and People's Park into a squeaky-clean, high-powered school, the Yale of California.  To this end, the board and governors like to try and instate new rules, ones which would affect the weirdos more than anyone else.  They talked about drug testing incoming freshmen.  They talked about expulsion for anyone arrested --- not convicted, arrested --- on drug charges.  They've talked about a fucking dress code!  Not to mention tuition that keeps getting higher, like UCB tuition is connected to the inflation rate in Zimbabwe.
     "Everyone at Cloyne follows campus politics closely.  When something we don't like is up for consideration, we act.  We show up at the meetings, we leaflet, we pass petitions, whatever.  To the trustees and governors, Cloyne is the herd of noisy freaks that keep jamming them up, by drawing attention to their plans.  We remind them constantly that Berkeley is a public institution, not a private school back East.  They can't make unilateral decisions and declare edicts.  If the student population doesn't like a policy change, they can say and do something about it.  And it's usually Cloyne who kicks enough of the student body awake to prevent those changes, like drug testing and dress codes.
     "But back to your original question....  I'm sorry, I have no idea.  The place was build ninety years ago.  Their design choices, and the rationale behind them, are probably lost to time."
     Rinny gave me one of her looks briefly, then said, "So!  How would you like to take another gander at my etchings?"
     I looked at my watch.  A few minutes past three.  I told her, "Sounds lovely.  I'd say I'll race you upstairs, but we'd lose twenty minutes while I try to navigate to your room unaided."
     She took my hand and said, "Come with me."

     I found a parking space on Ellsworth and walked to Jane's residence hall, a few minutes late.  She answered the buzzer and let me in.  She said, "I picked up Kaitlyn about forty-five minutes ago.  She's not groggy, really, but tired and not in the mood for talking.  She's in her alcove, presumably asleep.  Her parents left a message on the machine around two, saying they were in Los Banos and headed this way, so I'm expecting...."
     The door buzzer sounded  "Speak of the devil," Jane quipped.
     Greg and Austen Dalton-Hires came in, looking around like they were checking for trip wires and laser-based triggering devices.  Jane said, "Hello, Greg and Austen.  How was the drive?"
     "The usual slog," said Greg.  "I-5 will never be interesting."
     This caused me to snort with laughter.  "Do the drive in a tule fog.  It's not just interesting, it's damn hair-raising."
     "Where's our daughter?" asked Austen.
     Gesturing, Jane said, "In her alcove, probably asleep.  She had an overdose level of Rohypnol in her system...."
     "She had what?" asked Austen.
     "More commonly known as Roofies.  Rohypnol is in the same group as Valium, a hypnotic.  It's used as a first-stage drug for the start of surgical anesthesia.  In other countries, it's prescribed for insomnia.  Really, the stuff drops you like a rock.  The lights may be on, but nobody's home.  Someone on Roofies can simply stand in one spot for a long time and have no clue as to what's happening around them.  You're essentially a zombie.
     "The hospital said she had a double dose in her system, bordering on an overdose level.  Kaitlyn is my size, so I can see that.  She was almost completely unresponsive when I found her.  Alta Bates kept her overnight, then I picked her up about, oh, fifty minutes ago.  She's conscious, but tired.  No surprise.  You can probably wake her easily enough."
     Austen said, "We will, in a moment.  First, who is this person?"
     I stuck a hand out and said, "Hi, I'm Lenny Schneider.  I'm the guy Jane lived with for the last couple years, while she finished high school.  Jane is sort of like my adoptive little sister.  I'd say she's like a daughter, but we're too close in age."
     "I thought she lived with Becky Page," said Gary.
     "Yes.  Becky --- Bekka --- is my wife.  I believe you met her when Kaitlyn first moved in."
     "And why are you here now?"
     Grinning widely, I responded, "Just up for a visit.  That's the nice thing about being the Big Cheese at a successful company.  You want to say, 'Hey, I'm outta here for a few days,' you have the pull and the money to do it.  I just wanted to visit with Jane, I miss her."
     "And I miss him," Jane added, putting an arm around my waist.
     Austen asked, "So, where was Kaitlyn Saturday night?"
     Jane's eyelids dropped slightly, and her mouth lost its curve.  "I don't know.  Logic says  a frat party, as it was Rush Week and Kaitlyn seems to gravitate towards that scene anyway.  Which one, I have no idea.  You'll have to ask her."
     Now Austen put more tension into her voice.  "Why did you allow her to go to one of those parties unattended?  You've expressed your suspicions about what can happen at fraternity parties, why weren't you with her?"
     I was bolloxed by this questioning, it took me a couple seconds to just say, "Huh?"
     Jane was drumming her fingers on her leg, and holding Austen in a Hell's Angel stare while she formulated her reply.  At last she answered, "It wasn't my night to babysit."
     "Beg pardon?"
     "I didn't stutter.  Let me give you a litany.  First off, your daughter is a legal adult, no one can restrict her movements, or dictate who she associates with.  Next, if I expressed my concern about her going to a frat party, she would ignore me completely.  Kaitlyn would ignore me if I told her to not drink Liquid Plumber, for the sheer exercise of disregarding anything I say to her.  If I told Kaitlyn the sky was blue, she'd say I was lying.  Next, I wasn't here.  I left with Lenny Saturday afternoon, and I had no idea what her plans for the night were....  Not that it would matter.  I doubt she went alone, she has friends who also also like the Greek scene.  Again, you'll have to ask her.
     "And finally, there is no goddamned motherfucking way I would attend a fraternity party, with or without Kaitlyn.  What constitutes 'fun' at those parties is early adolescent tedium to me.  I already know how to drink, and I know better than to drink too much.  The music is lame, and I have about as much in common with a frat boy as a Maasai warrior would.  There is no commonality between me and a Greek, our life experiences are completely foreign to each other.  And go to one with Kaitlyn?  She'd wonder why God was punishing her, if I tried to tag along.
     "Here's a novel idea.  Talk to your own daughter for these answers.  If you wish me to babysit her or be her guardian, I'll talk with my legal counsel and come up with a pricing structure for the services provided.  Your daughter has made it clear she wants nothing to do with me, and I'm respecting that.  I have my own life, I don't need to be intertwined with hers."
     Austen's jaw wobbled a bit, then she said, "You don't care about Kaitlyn at all."
     "Oh Jesus Christ.  If it's any comfort, I do, in the same way I care about any other human being not named either Augusto Pinochet or Edwin Meese.  But Kaitlyn has made it explicitly clear that she wants nothing to do with me, full stop.  I don't wish her ill, but I also can't befriend someone who holds nothing but contempt and loathing for me, I'm not a masochist."  After a couple seconds, Jane added, "Oh, by the way.  Your concerns about Kaitlyn's attack being in the papers?  It wouldn't matter.  Lenny pointed out, correctly, that the media provides no identifying information about rape victims these days.  Victims are referred to by their initials only, and any other information, like where they live, is put in the most nebulous terms possible.  The news would only report that the victim of the attack was K.D.H., a student from East Bay.  She is anonymous."
     "Thank God for that,' mumbled Greg looking at the floor.
     "I'm going to wake Kaitlyn," announced Austen, and strode towards the correct door.  Greg stood and stared at me, finally saying, "I recognize you from somewhere.  You've been in the news."
     "On a few occasions," I replied.  "I've been in Time, Newsweek, People, Vanity Fair if you can believe that, and on the national news.  Most recently, when I was shot at the studio I run.  That was last year, some religious zealots came to murder my wife, and there was a gun battle.  I nearly bled to death."
     Whacking himself in the forehead, Gary said, "That's right, Lenny Schneider.  You're the one who makes the Becky Page movies....  And she's your wife?  Do I have that right?"
     "On the money."
     "So, you don't mind being married to Becky Page?"
     I gave him several seconds of staring, long enough so he could regret his question.  "Tell me, why would I mind being married to the woman I love?  And you're a bit confused, there is no Becky Page.  There is a Bekka Schneider, my wife, who uses the screen name of Becky Page in her movies and in the media.  But the media persona and the real woman are not the same....  Well, they're both pretty horny, but that doesn't bother me."
     Jane and I looked over to see Kaitlyn moping along behind her mother, aiming towards the sofa.  Jane stepped towards her and said, "Kaitlyn, are you feeling better?  Do you feel like talking now?"
      Kaitlyn responded, "Did you take me to the hospital?  How did I get there?"
     "We called 911 after we found you unconscious on the floor yesterday.  I could barely get you to respond, so an ambulance made the most sense.  I rode with you.  Do you remember how you got home?"
     "I don't know.  The last thing I remember was being at the party.  Then I was at the hospital.  Where's my purse?  They said I didn't have one when I got to the hospital."
     "Your purse isn't here, either," I chimed in.  "Neither are your shoes."
     Kaitlyn's voice was numb.  "They said at the hospital I'd been, um, assaulted.  I don't remember that."
     "Nor would you," Jane noted.  "You got Roofied at the party you were at, a double dose.  Which frat house were you at?"
     "It was...."  She suddenly clamped her mouth shut and glared at Jane.  "I'm not telling you."
     "Why not?"
     "Because you'll do something to them.  Just like you did to the Delta Tau house.  Don't lie, I know you mutilated those guys!"
     An amused but patient smile in place, Jane said, "I see.  I somehow managed to hold four guys down and pull their teeth out, by myself.  I would love to hear how I did this."
     "Not you personally," Kaitlyn huffed.  "But you got your criminal biker friends to do it, I'll bet!  You hate the Greeks, you just want an excuse to hurt them!  I won't give you one!"
     "Um, cupcake?  You are aware the police are involved in this matter?  The ER realized you were a rape victim, so --- by law --- they are required to report it to the police.  I'm sure Berkeley PD will be by at some point to interview you.  I'm not about to try and commit vigilante justice on an entire fraternity house that will be investigated by the cops.  Or are you going to stonewall them, too?"
     "I won't tell them anything," Kaitlyn insisted.
     This assertion blew my mind.  I said, "Why not?  You want the guy, or guys, who raped you to get off She wouldn't look at me.  "The whole house will be punished, and that's not fair.  So there's one bad person out of a whole house.  They shouldn't punish the entire chapter because of one guy."
     "Unless they can come up with evidence of collusion, the cops are going after an individual, or a few of them....  Although others could be charged with aiding and abetting or whatever, by purposely looking the other way."
     "But the school can punish the entire house.  They can put them on probation, or even rescind the chapter's membership on campus."
     Jane stated, "And if the chapter allows sexual assault to happen with a wink and a nod, why would that be a bad thing?  Maybe I'm displaying my bias, but a frat that turns a blind eye on rape is probably also the sort of place where pledges die.  Seems to happen somewhere every year, a fraternity pledge dies because of hazing.  Alcohol poisoning, physical assault, attempting some dangerous stunt, some eighteen year old gets killed by the people who say they're his friends."
     "Well, you gotta cull the weak," Greg chuckled.
     Both Jane and I swiveled our heads towards Greg.  "Uh huh," I said lazily.  "Because making sure an eighteen year old can hold down a full quart of Everclear determines the moral and intellectual strength of the kid.  Or being blindfolded and forced to walk through a room full of people beating him with bats.  Or daring him to make an Alcatraz-to-San Francisco type swim in the bay, and if he doesn't do it,he can't be in the fucking club.  Isn't academic excellence supposed to be a hallmark in the Greek system?"
     "Of course."
     Jane picked it up.  "Personally, I'd consider a freshman of higher than average intelligence by whether he's willing to tell the Greek fraternal system to fuck off, he prefers thinking for himself.  Not bleating along with a herd of Star-bellied Sneetches."
      And of course, Greg trotted out the favorite line about fraternities.  The Greek system produces the leaders of this country."
     I started laughing.  "No accounting for taste, is there?  This country also had a B-movie actor as a two-term president.  The state of California currently has a borderline fascist as governor, someone had to cast those ballots.  Plenty of people believed Ivan Boesky was on the up-and-up.  All the whole 'generating future leaders' line tells me is that getting ahead in this country revolves around who you know, not any innate talent."
     "The mentality needed to be involved with the Greek fraternal system has always been a mystery to me," Jane commented.  "Not only do you have a group telling newcomers, 'If you endure being abused and humiliated by us, we'll be your friends,' you also have individuals who say, 'Sounds great!'  Call me old-fashioned, but if a group of people drag me out of bed, beat the shit out of me, then strip me naked and drop me off in the country, miles from home, they aren't friends.  They aren't peers.  They're enemies.  They're people I'm going to put a lot of effort into destroying, one by one.  I'd have a lifelong hobby."
     "You're making that up," Kaitlyn insisted.
     "Sorry, cupcake.  Last year, University of Texas, three members of something called Sigma Nu pleaded no contest to hazing charges, and got sent to jail.  UT is in Austin, and the state finally has anti-hazing laws on the books.  These dudes are trend-setters, they're the first ones convicted under the new law.
     "Or, shall we discuss all the ER visits, and occasional deaths, due to forced drinking?  Hey, you're laid up in the hospital, you had a .43 BAC when they brought you in.  You may have permanent kidney damage, not to mention brain damage, but now you're allowed to hang out with the Star-bellied Sneetches at your school.  You're a real man now, aren't you?"
     I dropped my own two cents.  "Between hazing rituals and the sexual assaults, it's like one of the goals in the Greek system is to train members out of having any human empathy.  Other people are objects, it doesn't matter what you do to them.  The only ones who garner respect are your fellow Sneetches."
     Silence was the only response, but we were getting three different reactions.  Kaitlyn just sat there staring at the coffee table, her haughty "I can't hear you" look on her face.  Greg was staring at Jane and I.  His face was passive, but there was no doubting the hate in his eyes.  And Austen was also looking at us, but her face showed....  recognition.  She saw we weren't lying, and we weren't just trying to be mean.
     Greg approached us.  I'd never seen a more dishonest smile, and I'd dealt with personal injury lawyers.  He said, "The wife and I would like to talk to Kaitlyn alone for a while.  Why don't you two go have a few drinks at Blake's?  Here...."
     He held up a ten dollar bill.  Jane smirked at him and replied, "Ten dollars?  You don't want us to be gone very long, I guess."
     The smile twitched while Greg stuck his hand in his pocket again.  He added a twenty to the ten.  "That's the spirit," Jane chirped, taking the two bills.  "Shall we, master?"
     "We shall, pet," I responded.  We went out.

     Two hours later we returned.  The Dalton-Hires family was gone.  Jane was going to spend one last night with me at the hotel, and needed to pack a few clean clothes and her textbooks.  She left a note for Kaitlyn, reading, "Kaitlyn et. al. -- I'm staying w/Lenny @ the Marriott again, back tomorrow after classes.  -- Jane --  PS: K., don't talk to the cops for YOU, do it for the next girl --- so maybe there won't BE a 'next girl.'  Fuck the Sneetches."
     "Appealing to her altruism?" I asked.
     "She's gotta have a little bit, it's just buried kind of deep," Jane replied..

No comments:

Post a Comment