Monday, April 3, 2017

Groove (Part 4)

     Rico Carelli met me at the door of his office, all smiles and arms outstretched for an Italian man-hug.  I gave him one, then introduced the baby ducks I had in tow.  Behind me were Trish Carreza and Feather.  Both were in the market for new cars, and Rico could deliver them nearly painlessly.  He'd put other performers at Inana behind the wheels of brand new Cadillacs; if he had his druthers, the parking lot at our Oceanside studio would look like his new vehicle storage lot in Anaheim.

     I had been Rico's first Inana customer.  The vehicle I'd been driving was a then-late-model Acura, which was as cursed as the Hope Diamond.  It collected bullet holes like shopping cart bums collect aluminum cans.  The only glass that hadn't been replaced at least once was the window of the passenger door.  If someone had taken that one out, I'd probably be dead.  The Acura was zippy and fast and fun, but lousy for any long-distance driving.  And it garnered no respect on the freeway, just another flimsy-ass Jap piece of shit.
     Rico and I were part of the loose association of Legitimate Businessmen known as Cosa Nostra, or the mafia, or simply the family.  We helped each other out, what goes around, comes around.  I told Rico what I wanted, and he made it happen.  A Cadillac Fleetwood, a whale of an "old man" car....  Fitted with bulletproof glass all the way around, armored body panels, a beefed-up suspension, and a hot motor.  In black.  Dearborn took care of the first, second, and fifth requests, Rico made the third and fourth happen, plus fabricating in dual exhaust.  The Police Interceptor package resided under the hood, an option illegal for civilians to have, but Rico made it happen.  The suspension got anti-sway bars and aftermarket shocks, which provided surprisingly good handling for a vehicle that size.  No one would expect a whale like the Fleetwood to have a 0-60 time of six seconds, but mine did.  I could drift the damn thing around a 270 degree cloverleaf ramp with minimal body roll, totally stable.  And it was as comfortable as any other Cadillac on the road.  All this at factory cost.
     I kept providing Rico with two small favors: whenever I saw him, I'd flow him fifty or so hits of lab-fresh Smiley Ecstasy, which he and his wife loved.  (He'd also give them to the salesmen at his dealership as bonuses.)  On top of that, I pushed anyone at Inana who was making noises about getting a new car towards getting a Cadillac.  In fact, I could get any performer in a Cadillac, regardless of credit history or trade-in value.  Being young and female, most Inana Girls had fairly green credit: no blemishes, but no major transactions either.  Sue was twenty years old and had never even financed an order from Fingerhut.  Rico got her in a brand-new Sedan de Ville, complete with bulletproof glass (it's also a fantastic way to soundproof a car).  If an Inana Girl had worked for me six weeks, that was good enough for Rico, and he'd kick ass and stomp balls with GMAC to get their loan approved, at the lowest interest rates they offered.  The girls, for their part, were diligent with making their payments, often paying off the car early.
     Rico invites us in and offers us a line of coke.  Despite his fandom of stimulants, Rico Carelli measures about five foot nine and tips the scales at 260 lbs.  The scary part: he used to be really heavy, like around 330.  A cardiac event made him cut some weight, cut back on the cigars, and quit working ninety hour weeks.  He still has plenty of stress, though.  Along with the Cadillac dealership, Rico is a major dealer in the hot car market.  His customers are all overseas, mostly in South America and Asia.  A client will let it be known that getting a hold of, say, thirty late-model Porsche 911s would just be boffo.  Rico puts his team of professional thieves to work, they round up the cars, the dealership's carriers move them to the docks at Long Beach.  Rico shakes hands with some bastard in military garb and reflective sunglasses, who gives Rico a suitcase full of large bills.  Wash, rinse, repeat.  No, no stress at all in that gig.
     Rico started out as a car thief himself.  One of the hangovers of that gig is....  Well, you've probably heard the phrase "Drive it like you stole it."  Rico doesn't just drive like a car thief, he drives like an Italian car thief.  The only laws Rico observes at the wheel are those dictated by physics.  And --- proving that God likes a good thrill show --- his driving record is spotless.
     So here are two pint-sized porn stars interested in owning Cadillacs.  Feather will be trading in a four year old Toyota, Trish has a five year old Honda.  Feather is only nineteen, but has the financial advantage.  She started working for Inana four days after her eighteenth birthday, so she could escape form the perverted hell that was her home as quickly as possible.  Her mother is an alcoholic floor-walker at Nordstrom's, her father is a miserable scumbag piece of shit who is, in theory, a realtor.  He hasn't been in his office for nearly two years, so far as Feather knows.  He literally does nothing all day but sit in his recliner and jerk off to porn in the living room.  This hobby had been in play while Feather (and her younger sister, Glee) still lived at home.  Neither could invite friends over to the house because Dad would be in his chair, dick in hand, hardcore blaring out of the TV.  Then he started acting in a creepy and predatory manner towards hi daughters.....
     Feather told her mom she would be leaving as soon as possible after her eighteenth birthday, and taking Glee with her.  Mom asked how she'd accomplish this.  Feather told Mom, "I'm going to be a porn star."  Mom told her good luck and poured more Southern Comfort in her coffee.  Feather did what she said she would, having made enough money to rent an apartment in Carlsbad and buy a shitbox of a car in two weeks.  She bullied Mom into signing the papers making Feather the legal guardian of Glee.  Ever since, she's send Mom money to make the mortgage payment every month.   The cable and phone and water and power might get turned off, but her parents won't be homeless.  For a punk rock girl, Feather had one hell of a work ethic.  She was also very conservative with money.  The first thing she did was apply for one of those sub-prime credit cards with 30% interest, and purposely ran up $1000 on it....  Which got paid off in four months.  With this little foothold into the world of finance, she went to her bank and got a real credit card.  The shitbox was soon replaced with the Honda.  Feather is still paying her parents' mortgage, but has a $20,000 IRA appreciating nicely, a similar amount in a savings account, and a high-balance checking account.
     When Trish started at Inana, she literally had nothing: a garbage bag full of second-hand clothes, some basic toiletries, and about $90 cash.  No home, no car, no bank account, nothing.  Her life in LA had turned into a shit sandwich.  I won't go into the details of how we met, but they were a bit harrowing.  She'd been performing in LA, knocking around from studio to studio like everyone else.  She asked to take the interviews at Inana, so I put her up in the living space on the top floor of the mansion while she did.  Trish was the first Inana Girl with any sort of history in the adult film industry, which helped her a lot.  Poor luck seemed to follow her, though.  The apartment building she moved into was condemned by the county, putting her back on the street.  The Honda was the third car she'd bought in about sixteen months, the first two suffering massive mechanical failure out of the blue.  Her luck of late had seemed to improve: a nice apartment in San Clemente, and a romance with executive director Small Steve Stillman.  But her credit was pretty much nonexistent at the age of twenty-four, except for her checking account.
     Rubbing his nostrils, Rico told both girls, "You don't worry about that stuff.  I do.  You find something you like, you tell me what it is.  I get an appraisal on your trade-in, stomp on some dicks at GMAC until I get the answers I want, you drive home in a new Cadillac at factory cost and five year financing, low payments all the way through.  So long as you're with Inana, your credit is golden with Carelli Cadillac.  Now, let's go look at the '93s."
     Down on the showroom floor, Trish was drawn to the Seville, while Feather was attracted to the Eldorado.  Rico gestured at two salesmen and pointed to the girls.  "Each of you, take one.  These are friends of close friends, and their credit is fucking golden, capiche?  Answer their questions, give 'em the grand tour, take 'em out for a test drive in what they like.  Treat 'em like fucking royalty, get me?  Go."  The salesmen scurried towards the girls.  Rico looked at me and asked, "Either of them want any special features, like you or Sue did?"
     "No clue," I replied.  "Neither of them know what my Fleetwood has, so I don't think it would occur to them to request a Police Interceptor package or bullet-proofing."  I paused.  "So have you seen much of Sue?"
    Rico gave an easy-come, easy-go smile and said, "She came up and saw me off and on for about six months after she bought her Sedan de Ville.  Things just kinda tapered off, you know?  We're just too different of people."
     "Gee, really?  Imagine that.  I can't imagine why a wop car thief and a goth surf betty half his age wouldn't have a lot of affinity.  Their lives are so parallel."  Rico smirked and made a rude gesture with his thumb.
     "So Inana has expanded in a big way, from what I hear.  How are things rolling?"
     "We're getting in a groove," I replied.  "I've got lieutenants now.  There's no way I could manage things by myself, and Angel wants me to focus on just being creative.  We've got double the number of performers now, double the production crew, we're trying a new format of producing video....  It's pretty crazy.  Angel's nephew is the new COO, focusing strictly on keeping Inana, as a business, running.  We're going to have multiple productions happening at once, so we hired an executive production manager to keep track of everything.  Really, he's a better juggler than Penn Gillette.  Bekka is still performing, but is also a producer and occasionally even a director.  And I've got two full-time writers now, besides myself.  Here's a bit of an oddity: the best porn script writers I could find are both lesbians from Minneapolis.  One, Mallory, was a friend who I already knew had writing talent.  In turn, she tipped me off to a friend of hers, Erica.  Now they're both living in Venice Beach and cranking out really good hardcore scripts for Inana.  Their sexual preference doesn't seem to color their ability to come up with juicy hetero plot lines, they're both fantastic....."
     My pager went off.  I glanced at the number, and frowned.  It was my friend Lawrence Pelton, a big-wig at Hustler Video, and leaving his private office number for the call-back.  Lawrence wouldn't be hitting my pager if he just wanted to chat, he had information to pass on.  I asked Rico where I could make a private call from.  He said to use his private office upstairs, and handed me a key.
     Sitting at Rico's desk, I dialed Lawrence.  "There you are, Lenny," he said in his gravelly, marble-mouthed voice.  "You remember Ron Haley?"
     "How could I forget that charming man?" I replied.
     Ron Haley was a megalomaniacal, loud-mouthed, offensive, borderline sociopath whose former employer was Leisure Time Video, one of the major adult studios.  At his request, I met Haley for lunch about eighteen months previous.  He verbally abused me, Inana Productions, Becky Page, and every decision I'd made since puberty, then had the gall to try and (1) offer me a job, (2) try to hire Bekka away from Inana, and (3) offered to buy the entire studio.  He was the reason Trish worked for Inana: she had been a Leisure Time girl, but Haley had shown up to our lunch date with her when she was half-comatose on China White.  Then he'd abandoned her at the restaurant.  She told me what was up when she got straightened out, so Angel and I took her under our wing.
     Two more of Haley's flaws were a massive overestimation of his abilities, and a very bad habit of claiming connections he didn't have.  Haley claimed to be mafioso, which I found hilarious.  The mafia really, really doesn't like it when people falsely make this claim.  As an associate of the family, it was easy to determine Haley had no such connection.  After Trish joined us down in La Costa, Haley had called up twice, both times threatening to kidnap both Trish and Bekka.  Bekka is full-fledged mafioso.  The mafia likes it even less when you threaten to kidnap a made man (or woman).  Haley showed up at the studio with a shotgun.  Spike, our Hell's Angel security guard, and myself disarmed him, then held him for collection by the real mafia.  Even after me beating the shit out of him and tying him to a chair, he still insisted on running his mouth.  A couple of rather tough Cosa Nostra operatives collected him from the studio, and he hadn't been seen since.  He survived three days of "attitude adjustment," then was dropped off in Las Vegas with $1000 and the clothes on his back, with the instructions to never enter California again.
     As he was doing all these threats under the color of Leisure Time's authority, a few wise guys paid a little visit to their offices.  They explained, in no uncertain terms, that Ronald Haley would no longer be under the employ of Leisure Time Video.  After briefly demonstrating just how annoyed the wise guys were with Haley, the others at Leisure Time agreed that Haley's connection to the studio was at an end.  Ever since, Leisure Time has been very deferential to Inana Productions.
     Anyway, Lawrence continued.  "He fell off the face of the earth after tangling with you, right?  Well, he's resurfaced again.  Bob Gould from Leisure Time called me about forty-five minutes ago to say Haley had shown up at the offices that morning, and was on the warpath.  Bob said he looked like he'd been living in his car, he was yelling and making threats against just about everybody in the industry.....  But especially you.  I was also someone Haley seemed to have a problem with, which is why Bob called me.  Haley was yelling about some goddamn conspiracy between the mafia, Inana Productions, and every girl performing in the industry, something like that."
      "Was he armed?" I asked.
     "If he was, he didn't display a weapon.  Leisure Time hired an armed guard after Inana got shot up last year.....  Hell, I think every damn studio has.  The guard tried to grab Haley, but he managed to dodge him and run out of the building.  The guard went after him, and saw him take off in some Japanese piece of shit, a blue hatchback.  Maybe an old Mazda GLC, or a Dodge Colt, something like that.  Bob also said Haley was loaded on something.  He was yelling like a drunk, but he didn't move like a drunk.  Who knows."
     "Did Bob say if he made any direct threats against me or the studio?"
     Lawrence gave one of his hacksaw chuckles.  "From what Bob said, Haley was swearing to kill everyone over the age of twelve living south of Point Conception.  But you and Inana Productions kept coming up in his ranting, over and over."  Lawrence paused.  "And, uh, also Bekka."
  I thought briefly.  "Any clue why he showed up at Leisure Time, if he didn't want to pose a threat to them?  You'd think if he was capable of wreaking havoc...."
     Cutting me off, Lawrence said, "Haley seemed to be under the misapprehension they'd be happy to see him.  Everyone in the goddamn industry is corrupt except for his buddies at Leisure Time, apparently."
     "I wonder why he suddenly crawled out of his hole, and began showing up in public.  And why he has a grudge against me and Inana in particular."
     "Well, hell.  If he read Variety about a month ago, he'd know about how Inana has expanded, and by how much...."  A phone in the same room as Lawrence rang faintly.  He said, "Hang on, Lenny, lemme get this real quick."  He set the receiver down.
     I heard Lawrence say hello, then brief silence.  He suddenly yelled, "What!?"  Another pause, followed by, "Aw, shit.  This is bullshit.  I can't believe this...."  Pause.  "How many?  Who?"  Pause.  "Okay.  Yeah, thanks for letting me know, I gotta make some calls, big time."
     There was a clunk as Lawrence picked up the receiver again.  For a few moments I could hear his slightly labored breathing.  Finally he said, "Lenny.  That was Chance Bolton over at Vivid Video.  Haley showed up at their production studios in North Hollywood about a half hour ago."  Another pause.  "He had a shotgun, and he used it.  Four wounded, three seriously, including Larry Bennett.  Chance says Larry probably won't make it."
     "God dammit," I said forcefully.  Larry was someone else in the industry who had started out as a nemesis, but turned into a friend.  I forced myself to not choke up until after I was done talking on the phone.
     "Haley took someone else's car.  They didn't see him drive up, he walked up the driveway.  The car he took is a brown Audi 80, a '91.  Hell, at least they know what he's in now, including a plate number."  For a few moments, there was just the sound of Lawrence's labored breathing.  Then, "Shit.  I'm sorry, Lenny.  You and Bekka have spent too goddamn much time in your lives dealing with fuckin' nut-cases waving guns.  Look, you and yours get someplace safe, and stay there until this asshole Haley is taken care of.  Where are you right now?"
     "Carelli Cadillac in Anaheim," I answered.  "Bekka should be in her office at the new facility.  I'll call her and let her know whassup."
     "Yeah.  Get that girl safe.  I got calls to make, I'm gonna get going...."
     Then there was the sound of a hollow boom in the background.
     "What the fuck was that?" I yelled into the receiver.
     "A shotgun, hang on...."  There was a loud clunk as Lawrence dropped the phone onto his desk.  I heard a metal file cabinet drawer open, then slam.  A few moments silence, then a faint yell, saying, "Pelton!  Motherfucker!"  And another boom.  Then, nothing.
       I began yelling impotently into the phone, "Larry!  Lawrence!!  LARRY!!"  After a few moments, I heard Lawrence yelling, "Lenny!  You still there!?  Haley blew a hole in me,...  Shit....  Lenny, watch your ass!  Haley's off his rocker...."
     Then, nothing.
     I stared at the silent receiver in my hand, then screamed, "FUUUUUCKKK!!"  I pushed down the button to disconnect, then dialed Bekka's office number in Oceanside.  Nothing.  Next, her pager, putting in my own pager number plus "666911," our private code meaning shit has hit the fan in a big way.  Then I dialed the cell phone in the Falcon.  Bekka picked up on the second ring.  "What's up, baby?  Did you just page...."  There was a pause as she checked the display on her pager.  She must have seen the 666911, because her next words were, "Shit.  What's going on?"
     "Ron fucking Haley is back in SoCal," I panted.  "He's got a fucking shotgun and he's using it, I just listened to him blow down Larry Pelton.  God dammit...."  I choked back tears and panic.  "He's after us.  You, me, the studio.  Where the fuck is Terry?  Find her, get her by your side, and hole up at home.  This isn't a fucking drill.  Um, I'm in Anaheim still....  Shit, I've gotta make some calls.  Fucking Haley is on a major revenge trip, he shot people at the Vivid studios, including Larry Bennett, and God dammit, I just fucking listened to the motherfucker take down Larry Pelton....  Shit...."  I started to break down.
     Bekka's calm voice came through the receiver.  "Lenny.  Lenny.  What kind of car is Haley driving, do you know?"
     This gave me something tangible to focus on.  I drew in air and said, "A 1991 Audi 80, brown.  I don't know the plate."
     "All right.  Right now I'm at the UTC mall.  I'm going to page Terry first.  Then I'm going to call Angel and Vinny, whoever answers the phone, to have them put the family on alert, a pest named Ron Haley we exiled is back in California, and he's violent.  You call both studios and send everyone home, including the security, ASAP.  When I get a hold of Terry, I'm going to have her meet me at her apartment in Ocean Beach.  We'll stay there.  You go there too, once you're back in the county.  Shit....  Feather and Trish are with you, aren't they?"
     "Yeah, they're admiring new Cadillacs," I replied.
     "You drove them up?" Bekka asked.
     "Yeah.  Their cars are in La Costa.  I'm going to drive them both straight home, they can get their cars when we get this shit sorted out.  When you talk to Angel, make it clear Haley is extremely fucking dangerous, he's on a revenge trip and he doesn't care who he hurts.  Anybody spots him, they drop him, period.  He's a fucking rabid dog at this point."
     "How did you find out all this was going on?"
     I drew in air deeply and told Bekka, "Larry Pelton paged me.  He found out Haley had shown up at Leisure Time, and wanted to let me know Haley was talking a lot of revenge shit about me and you and Inana, and the rest of the fucking industry.....  Babe....  I heard Larry take a round....  He started yelling at the phone Haley had shot him, and I needed to watch my ass....."  I gasped for air, trying to again tamp down the fear and panic and tears.  Then I continued, "Babe.... Pray for Larry Pelton and Larry Bennett while you wait for Terry to call you back.  They need it right now."
     "I will, sweetie," Bekka said with steel in her voice.  "Let's hang up now, we've gotta make some calls.  I love you, goodbye."  (*click*)

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