After I dropped off Trish, the radio got tuned to 770 AM, KNX News Radio, the CBS affiliate in Los Angeles. The shootings were being discussed almost nonstop, only interrupted every ten minutes for the all-important traffic reports. Both Pelton and Bennett had been taken to local hospitals, their current status not yet known. Executives from Vivid and Hustler were holding a joint press conference at five. at the Hustler building. Neither had said much more than the standard "it's a shock and a tragedy" statements.
Leisure Time had released a statement saying that Ron Haley had shown up at their offices that morning and seemed agitated, but not violent. They would never have guessed at his next course of action. Haley was an old hand in the industry, but had quit unexpectedly just over a year ago and had disappeared, with no explanations. Leisure Time's prayers were with Larry Bennett, Lawrence Pelton, and their families.
In Ocean Beach, Terry buzzed me in the building and I went up. Bekka and Terry both hugged me when I walked in. "I'm just glad Haley started in LA, and not down here," said Bekka.
"You'd better believe it," I replied. "Heard any news?"
"Angel says the family has soldiers on alert all over SoCal. They're watching the freeways and major surface streets for any brown Audis that come along. Really, Haley better hope the cops find him first. There's a 'shoot to kill' order out on him."
I told them what I"d heard on the radio. "I'd like to get a hold of someone from Leisure Time who was present for Haley's appearance this morning.... Shit, I have Jerry Alvarado's home and pager numbers in my Rolodex in my office." I pondered a moment, then said, "I've gotta go up to Oceanside. I need my Rolodex, I need my telephone tree information, there's the scripts I've been working on...."
"Bull-fuckin'-shit if you're going to one of the fuckin' studios," said Terry. "It's a fuckin' Friday afternoon, traffic will be all kinds of fucked, and there's nothing that can't wait. This motherfucker is too reckless to not get popped real fuckin' quick. My guess is he'll be off the street by morning, so fuckin' chill."
"Yeah. Chill. Two of the best and smartest guys in the industry, friends of mine, got shot today. I don't know if they're alive or dead. You got any Johnnie Walker here, Terror?"
"Nope. I don't keep any alcohol in my fuckin' apartment, at Drummer's request. Yeah, he's been sober a fuckin' year now, but he still doesn't want the temptation, you know?"
"Let's walk to the bar," suggested Bekka. I could deal with a drink or three myself."
We headed out to the dive bar on the main drag, two blocks walk from Terry's building. Once we were at a table and holding drinks, Terry asked me, "So, you're working on the fuckin' sequel to 'Succubus.' How's that going?"
"It's gonna be pretty epic," I replied. "The shortest answer I can give you is Lila and the Lone Scavenger have found a place to settle, and return to their old turf to find the pirate band, in order to talk them into relocating. Hijinks ensue."
"Aw, c'mon, gimme more than that!" pleaded Terry. "Tell me a story, Uncle Lenny!"
All right. Okay, it's a year later. Lila and the Lone Scavenger --- he's finally given a name, Jacob --- are in the foothills of the Sierras. There's a place called Oregon House, about twenty miles outside of Marysville, that I'm basing the area on. It's low enough for good soil, but high enough there's plenty of game to hunt. For some reason, there's no one else around, all these farms and vineyards have been abandoned. So, they pick a farm, put in crops, and are settling in. There's a settlement down in the valley floor, and the valley is slightly populated with folks farming and raising animals. Jacob and Lila go to the settlement every couple weeks to barter. Most people are leery of them, they still look like the marauders they used to be.
"They're happy, but they're lonely. Lila suggests they return to the badlands and find the pirate band, to convince them to relocate and homestead, just like had been mentioned in the first movie. Jacob thinks that's a good idea, so they start planning the trip. They still have the Lone Scavenger's Mustang, but don't use it often, they have horses now.
"A few days before they're going to leave, Lila goes down to the kitchen --- they're living in an abandoned farm house --- to see some food they'd left out is gone. Someone has been in the house. They go outside, and Jacob sees some plum pits on the ground underneath a tree. They stop, and hear light snoring. They look up in the tree and can just make out a figure sleeping on a branch. Lila throws a rock at the figure, who falls out of the tree. It's a girl.
"The girl is gonna be played by Jane, mohawk and all. She'll turn out to be this weird, sorta feral girl who has survived on her own since she was a child. She can't adapt to living in a community, she has literally wandered all that time, with a satchel of possessions and a crossbow. She's a whiz with the crossbow, it's how she's managed to feed herself. If she wants a fire, she makes one like an Indian, with a stick and notched board and tinder. And she almost never speaks. The girl's only concept of 'society' comes from an old copy of Cosmopolitan' she carries with her, she uses ash as makeup, so she has black rings around her eyes. And, of course, the mohawk.
"The girl explains her parents were homesteading in what was Washington state when they were killed by robbers. She's been alone since the age of eleven, and has walked from Washington to California. When she's around any sort of settlement, she'll steal to survive for a little while, hiding from everyone, and move on. Her social maladjustment is much stronger than Jacob's ever was. They invite her to live and travel with them, she'll no longer have to kill possums and steal to survive. So, the three of them head back to the badlands.
"They find the pirate band when the pirates try to waylay them. Lila and Jacob's offer to settle and relocate is greeted warmly. There hasn't been any discontent in the band, just an overall feeling of, 'Is this all we're ever gonna be?' They decide to take the plunge and emigrate to the Summerlands. The band barters off their collected booty in exchange for tools, fuel, ammunition, and other supplies. They also convince a few men to join them. Remember, everyone at the local bazaars know who the pirates are, and what they do, so they're not exactly loved. The only reason they've never been attacked is because they're well-armed.
"Okay, so the band starts off on this great pilgrimage.... And right now, details are sketchy. They'll have some adventure on the trip, I know that. They'll also run into conflict at the settlement in the valley, they're all obviously marauders, and no one wants to do business with them. Those people are trying to rebuild civilization, and dealing with criminals isn't high on their list of priorities, so the pirate band has to explain they're going to be homesteaders in the hills, they're going straight.
"I know how I want it to end. It'll be three years later. Jacob, Lila, the feral girl, all the pirates, and their men are gathered together for a community meal and, uh, sort of a sex party. They're still highly sexed, and they have no real concept of monogamy. Lila and a couple other girls will be holding babies. The general vibe is that they've made it, they're self-sufficient and happy. Oh, and the feral girl and Itsy are a couple now. The end."
Terry asked, "So how come there's no other fuckin' people where Jacob and Lila settle, if the land is so good?"
"It'll be explained that after the world collapsed, bandit gangs pretty much ran rampant through the area. Everyone who lived there were fairly isolated, and sitting ducks for marauders. The bandits just killed everyone off within the first couple years. In the intervening time, the legends of the area grew, and no one will live there because it was seen as a place of evil. The valley residents think the area is haunted, and populated by the bandits. Jacob and Lila found this area and agreed to settle before making contact with the valley people, so they never knew of these legends.
"Also, the valley people are leery of Jacob and Lila anyway. Lila no longer has her Uzi, instead she wears a pistol belt with two automatics on it. Jacob has a shotgun on his leg, like Max in 'Road Warrior.' It's what they're used to, and especially when going to barter at the bazaars. So not only do they look like marauders, when they tell people where they've settled, everyone assumes the worst about them."
Bekka asked, "I know you and Mallory were knocking around ideas about how many vehicles the pirate band ends up taking with them. Figured it out yet?"
"We're not sure. My best idea was that they trade off a couple of the raid vehicles, plus the moving van, in exchange for.... Okay, you know the vacuum trucks they use to clean parking lots? Like, Toyota trucks with a big tank on the back? They'd get a hold of one of those, and set it up to hold fuel for all the vehicles. Then they pretty much trade off most of what they have to fill the tank. That way, they can get back to the Summerlands.
"Oh, you know how in the first movie, Lila put the kibosh on homesteading for a real simple fact, that none of them knew how to grow crops? They'll barter for the knowledge. Also, a few of the men they recruit to join them are from farms, so they know what to do. Jacob and Lila were damn lucky, when they found a place to settle, the farm land hadn't completely gone wild and fallow. There were still gardens and farms where what had been planted continued to grow, so they were able to suss out how to dig rows and plant. They were growing tomatoes and corn and beans, plus there were some fruit orchards around. They did know how to preserve meat, so they'd take down a deer and jerk the meat."
"This is gonna be a fuckin' epic," said Terry. "Do I even wanna know how long production is gonna last? And where?"
I couldn't help but laugh. "Oh, shit. We'll be back out in Imperial Valley, we'll be in the Sierra foothills, we'll be in the mountains, we'll be in the Central Valley.... I'm thinking eight to ten weeks. And it's gonna cost even more than 'Succubus.' There's a good chance me, Mallory, and Erica are going to finish this script and give it to Angel, who will totally nix the idea. Between production time and the fact that the movie is gonna be one long location shot, he might just say no way, it'll take too much of our resources."
My pager started shaking, the display showed Jane's number. I excused myself, got five dollars in quarters from the bartender, and rang her up. "Lenny! You're okay!" Jane cried.
"More or less, yeah," I shot back. "Why?"
"My shithead of a geology instructor tells me he heard there were shootings at two different adult studios in Southern California, and the bastard acts like he can't remember any details! He doesn't remember the studio names, or where in SoCal they were, or the names of the victims.... And no, I'm not allowed to use the damn phone. I called the Oceanside studio and it just rang and rang, which really scared me. Thank you for calling back so quick, where are you?"
"In our favorite bar in Ocean Beach. Yeah, it was Hustler and Vivid that got hit, and I know two of the victims. I am very highly stressed right now. The shooter is a motherfucker named Ron Haley, who hates me with a passion, I have no doubt I'm on his hit list, along with all of Inana. Both studios are empty, I sent everyone home. But rest easy, pet, I'm fine. Bekka and I are gonna hang out with Terry for a while, then get a hotel room. Angel is sending down two guys from the strike force to act as guards at home, just in case Haley has figured out where we live. We'll be okay, promise." A thought struck me. "So how would your instructor know you'd care about a shooting at a porn studio in SoCal?"
Jane scoffed into the phone. "Aw, at the beginning of the semester, we all did a 'What I did on my summer vacation' routine, to sort of introduce ourselves to the rest of the class. I told everybody I partied with you guys, hung out with Uncle Vito, made four porn loops, and practiced my surfing. I wasn't thinking everyone would latch onto the porn loops thing, but I ended up talking for, like, ten minutes, trying to explain about what it was like, who you guys are, and on and on. Now the asshole likes to razz me in class off and on. I talk shit to him back, but he won't let it drop. It's like he wants to keep the idea that the freaky girl with the mohawk did porn fresh in everyone's minds."
"Uh.... huh." I considered this briefly. "Maybe I should have a chat with him at some point."
"You know what, Lenny? For any other instructor, I'd tell you to not let it bug you. This guy, though, come up and visit. Don't get thrown in jail, don't beat him up or anything, but if you make him nervous and get him to find a different target, that would be great. I'm bored in his class anyway."
"Why did you take geology to begin with?"
With a cynical giggle, Jane replied, "Some sort of applied science credits are needed, they're a requisite course. Geology is also known as 'Rocks for Jocks,' it's a no-brainer class, super easy. By taking geology, I'm fulfilling my science requisite and can concentrate on my important classes."
"Smart thinking," I observed. "You know, I still haven't met your roommate, and I'd like to stick my head in and visit Riley from the Oakland chapter. I just might come up and visit. Fly up tomorrow morning, we can hang out, I'll have a chat with your instructor on Monday, and fly home Monday night. Sound good?"
"That would be so awesome, Lenny. Hey, uh, let's get a room at the Marina Marriott for the weekend. We can destroy one of their beds together. I need a good, solid fucking or twelve, I'm going crazy."
"You can't find any action up there?"
"Not like I get from you," Jane sighed. "Too many boys up here are looking for girlfriends, and I make it clear I'm playing the field for now. And guys I have hooked up with are.... Dammit, they're boys. I've tried to talk Soda Pop to come up and visit, but he says he's a foreman at the garage now, and he's working six day weeks. His bosses are all Berdoo H.A., and won't cut him any slack. They tell him he shouldn't be making a seven hour drive for pussy, blah blah blah. The local boys are nice, but they're just not cutting the mustard."
I said, "Okay. Tell you what. Lemme talk to Bekka, see what she says, and I'll call you back around nine to let you know what's going on. She may not want me to leave, what with all the trouble we're having.... Or, she might think it's a boffo idea, I'll be out of the line of fire."
"'Kay.... Hold on.... " Jane held her hand loosely over the mouthpiece and talked to someone in the room. She sounded annoyed when she got back on the line. "My roommate would like to know if you plan on sodomizing me over the arm of the sofa the entire time you're here." (In the background, I heard a shrill voice say, "I didn't say that!")
"Uh.... Assure the little darling the most she'll have to put up with is you giving me an 'I've Missed You' blowjob when I first get there.... Although I will get your face sticky."
Jane held the phone away, I heard her say, "Don't worry, Kaitlyn, all that's gonna happen is he's gonna have me suck his cock when he gets here, and come all over my face. No big deal, we'll both have most of our clothes on." ("Oh my God.... You're serious, aren't you?") "Lenny is my master, and I like making my master happy." ("You are such a fucking pervert. Don't talk to me.")
After I stopped laughing, Jane said in a soft voice, "Okay, you are definitely giving me a facial when you first get here. I'll blow you in my sleeping loft, so she doesn't have to watch, but after you come, I'm going straight into the living room. I hope I drip cum on her textbooks."
"I'm guessing things are still rocky with you two," I chuckled.
"Yeah.... It's like she starts to warm up and get human, then catches herself and reverts back to her usual condemning, elitist garbage. I'll tell you more later."
"I'm on a pay phone, so I'm gonna get going. Be by the phone at nine."
"I will, master," Jane breathed like a phone sex operator. "I always obey my master."
"Later, fuck toy." I hung up.
Back at the table, I was just in time for a fresh round. I explained the plan to Bekka, who said it sounded like a good plan. We'd call Southwest Airlines from Terry's and find flight times from San Diego to Oakland. One catch: Bekka wanted me present when our two mafia bodyguards arrived, so I wouldn't be flying out before noon. It's an hour flight, so that was fine with me.
Bekka suddenly said, "Hey, where's Drummer?"
"Out on one of his fuckin' neighborhood strolls," said Terry. "He's still the fuckin' eyes and ears of Ocean Beach. He used to be the smelly-ass drunk everybody purposely ignored. Now he's just some old guy that people ignore just as easily."
As if on cue, Drummer appeared at the table, giving us greetings. Bekka said, "Have a seat.... Um, if being in here won't make you uncomfortable...."
"I'm fine in a bar," Drummer said in his screechy voice. "Never drank in bars, too damn expensive. Bars are for people to be social, and I wasn't a social drinker. No temptation fer me here.... Although if you could buy an old bum a Coke with jalapenos, I'd be grateful, missy." He cackled. "When I'd get tempted would be if you three decided to walk down the jetty with a twelve pack. I'd be staring at every sip all three of you took. Just the association of the place, you know?"
We got Drummer his Coke (with five jalapenos) and briefed him on the day. He stared off, rubbing his chin. Then he said, "Don't underestimate this bastard. He ain't no James Huberty. Huberty, he killed all them folks, then just hung around inside the McDonald's, like he was waiting fer a police sniper to git off a shot, like one did. Huberty was on a suicide run. This feller Haley keeps doing strikes and splitting. He don't wanna die, I don't think."
The rest of us absorbed this information in silence. Terry finally said, "Okay, operating on the assumption Lenny is a fuckin' target, do you think Haley is gonna take his time, and wait until he can find Lenny?"
"Oh yeah. Damn and shit, any idea if he's got a bankroll? Friends in the area? You said he's driving a stolen brown car. I'll bet he's in a different stolen car by tomorrow, he'll know what he's driving is being watched for. He'll jack another car, drive it fer a while, then do the same thing again. Don't be watchin' fer that brown Audi to pop up again."
Drummer had an excellent point. I chewed on my bottom lip and thought things through. Then I said, "We need to lay a trap."
"How?" asked Bekka.
"Fairly simple. Park cars at the mansion, make it look like there's people there. One of them will be my Fleetwood, another will be the Falcon. You've been photographed with the Falcon, and that picture was in Newsweek. He'll pull up, think we're open for business, and head in. But the only person inside will be a strike force sniper, at the top of the stairs with the front door in view. Bang bang, no more Haley."
"Okay, when do we do this?"
"We'll set it up for Monday," I answered. "Angel can get some strike force guys down in the early morning. A couple will drive our cars, the rest can just leave their own cars there. They can car pool to the house and kick back until the sniper calls and says the deed is done."
"Pretty fuckin' slick," observed Terry. "But what if he goes to Oceanside instead?"
"I'll bet he'll be checking both locations all weekend," said Bekka. "He may figure that we'll assume enough time has passed, with no incidents, that he's fucked off somewhere. And who knows, maybe he'll be picked up sometime over the weekend." She looked at her watch. "Let's head back to your place, Terry. I'd like to see the news."
We paid our tab and headed back to Terry's apartment, getting inside moments before local news started. Not much had happened in San Diego that day, as the shootings were the top story. We settled on Channel Ten, the ABC affiliate. They had footage courtesy of the Los Angeles ABC station, the anchorman telling us that both Pelton and Bennett were still in surgery, but no one held out much hope. Apparently someone at Leisure Time had come through with a photo of Haley, taken maybe two years earlier at a party. Ronald Huberty, age 44, last seen driving a stolen brown Audi, plate number 2HHS577. If spotted, report his location to the police, do not attempt to confront or contact him.
The anchor continued on and let the world know it was a year ago, almost to the day, that local adult film studio Inana Productions had been attacked by gunmen. It remained to be seen if there was a connection between that incident and the events of today. I grabbed the telephone and Yellow Pages, looking up and dialing Channel Ten. When I got through, I asked to speak with Pauline Fawcett, this was Lenny Schneider. The person on the other end asked what it was regarding. I reiterated my name and told him it was regarding my possible murder. The penny dropped for the guy, and I was put on hold.
A couple minutes later Pauline greeted me. "So what do you think of what happened?" she asked.
"I think I have two friends in the industry that aren't going to survive. Lawrence Pelton, of Hustler, and Larry Bennett of Vivid Video are both good men. I pray they live. So far as Haley goes, I'm going to give you a scoop, Paulie, but I'm not sure how you'll use it. Both Inana Productions and myself are on Haley's shit list. I've had personal interaction with Ron Haley, and I know for a fact he hates me, big time. With me, it's a personal thing for him. Haley might think the other studios screwed him over, but I don't think he had any grudges against individuals at Hustler or Vivid. Me, he hates on a personal level.
"I won't lie, I'm getting the hell out of Dodge for a few days. Bekka will be in the area, but not necessarily at our home, and will have three armed bodyguards with her at all times. Both of Inana's studio facilities are shut down until Haley is off the street. Hopefully that's sooner rather than later."
"Where are you going?" Pauline asked.
I chuckled and said, "I'll say the Bay Area, and leave it at that. I'm going to visit some friends. Tell me, will there be any updated information on Bennett and Pelton on the eleven o'clock broadcast?"
"If there's anything new, we'll be reporting it. So, you don't believe there's a connection between the Moral Militia shooting at Inana last year, and what's going on today?"
"None whatsoever. Those pricks a year ago were religious zealots. Ron Haley is a motherfucker who assumes the only reason he's not God is that he was too good looking for the job. Haley is a narcissist, a blowhard, an egomaniac, and possibly a sociopath. He's always the smartest guy in the room, just ask him. No, he is not on any sort of moral crusade. This is his own revenge trip. And I honestly believe he expects he will get away with it, he'll ride off into the sunset and start a new life under an assumed name."
Pauline pressed, "What were the circumstances for you interacting with Haley?"
I considered my words, then said, "Haley, representing Leisure Time Video, wanted to make a business deal with Inana Productions. The deal he offered was genuinely insulting, and I said so. He didn't like a twenty-four year old punk rocker from San Diego back-talking him --- remember, he's the smartest guy in the room --- and shot his mouth off. He didn't like it when I laughed at him in response, and he let me know I was on his permanent shit list. Others in the industry have told me that yeah, Ron Haley carries grudges, and for a long time. Sorry babe, no details beyond that."
"Fair enough. Lenny, thanks for calling me. You'll help clarify our story, so far as Haley's connection to Inana. I'm going to pass the information along to the LA affiliate, if that's all right."
"Fine with me. I'd like the whole truth out there, and I didn't like the idea of people believing these shootings were somehow connected to the Moral Militia shootings last year. But you're the only station I'm calling, the other networks can get the news from you."
We signed off, me promising to call Pauline when I was back in town, whether Haley had been apprehended or not. My next call was to Southwest Air, for flight times the next day. Hey, a flight leaving San Diego at 12:50 p.m., landing in Oakland at 1:55 p.m. I paid for a ticket over the phone with my Visa card, to be picked up at their desk. Then I called Angel to make my suggestion about setting up an ambush. He saw the wisdom in this, although there would be two operatives present, both of them snipers. They could spell each other. He'd lay out a plan, I'd call him tomorrow night for details. Angel was glad I wasn't going to be around for a couple days. "We'll have this mook Haley off the street by then, one way or another."
The four of us headed to Roberto's for some dinner. Mexican soul food, SoCal comfort food, carne asada burritos, Mexican rice, and quesadillas. We ate back at Terry's, then sat around and shot the shit for a while. I was glad the subject of the shootings seemed to be avoided. Around 9:30 Bekka and I headed for the Radisson hotel in Mission Valley. We set a nine a.m. wake-up call, and told room service that the sooner a pint of Johnnie Walker Red appeared in the room, the better. Time was of the essence.
By eleven Bekka and I were buzzed, naked, and catching our breath from a good Christian fuck. "Gonna make Jane come like that, too?" Bekka asked me.
"I'm gonna try damn hard. She makes it sound like the Bay Area is totally void of any decent male lovers."
"Maybe all the good ones are also gay," said Bekka. "Although if that was the case, I guess it wouldn't matter."
"Hopefully I can carry her over until Winter Break," I said.