Bekka, Terry, and myself were at home in Encinitas about 10:20 the next morning, waiting on our two mafia bodyguards, Joey "The Fisherman" Falcone and Frankie No-Neck. They arrived precisely on time, both looking sharp in dark grey suits, every inch the mafioso professionals they were. Both had a single suitcase and a single briefcase, them explaining they also had garment bags in their cars --- fresh suits --- but were otherwise prepared for a while. Joey laughed, "My wife doesn't like when I have assignments that keep me away from home for several days. She really hates this one. I'm gonna be the personal bodyguard to Becky Page!"
Bekka said, "I will happily call your wife and assure her your chastity is not at risk.... In fact, she has met me before. You were present for my ceremony, when I was inducted into the family. You introduced me to her later. Gloria, is that her name?"
"That's her. Don't worry about it, she's just being catty for the exercise of it, you know? Although I'm not gonna let her know Lenny won't be around for a couple days."
Frankie No-Neck asked me, "So how's Gator Bait doing in college? She needs to send us new pictures, she's still our mascot, you know? How's she doing?"
"Just great so far," I answered. "She's finding it more of a challenge than high school was, but likes it, she wants the challenges. All her classes are going well.... Although on Monday, I have to go talk with one of her professors. He's singled her out and giving her grief, for no real reason. I need to tell him he needs a better hobby."
"What's he hassling her over?"
I took a split second and realized the members of the strike force may not know about Jane's foray into porn over the summer, and may be upset to learn of it. I hedged. "Her appearance, and her association with us. The usual bullshit about what life with Becky Page must have been like. Berkeley, the city, has a huge counterculture, nobody would think twice about a girl with a blue mohawk. Berkeley, the university, is preppy central at this point. What the place was like in the Sixties is totally dead, and the school likes it that way. So Jane doesn't blend in well on campus."
Frankie No-Neck considered this, and told me, "If this mook doesn't educate from you, let Don Vito know. He'll send a more direct message, make sure he does get educated."
Inwardly I cringed. The idea of mafioso hanging a target on a UC Berkeley professor was unsettling, the two worlds were too far apart. Fifteen minutes in the presence of an enforcer like Paul, even with no actual physicality, would have Jane's professor flushing himself down the toilet by the end of the day. I said I'd let Don Vito know how things went.
I took the Plymouth to Lindbergh Field. I had three grams of dope taped in a seal to the inside of my left ass-cheek, and would find someplace to buy a pipe in Berkeley. (I'd forgotten Jane had been sent, via private courier, an pharmacopoeia of illicit drugs when she'd moved up in August. 250 hits of Smiley Ecstasy, a quarter pound of magic mushrooms, Valium, Vicodin, and a half ounce of meth. She didn't use meth the way Bekka and I did (which was a good thing), and had said even with sharing the stuff, there was probably three grams gone from the half ounce, at the most.)
On the ground in Oakland, I remembered a horrible fact of life about the Oakland airport: there was no taxi stand. Airport security didn't want vehicles sitting at the front curb for any reason. Spend more than fifteen seconds ejecting a passenger and their luggage, they'd be riding your ass to move along, you should have had your mushy goodbye at home, get that car rolling. I assumed their security were utterly impervious to being called motherfuckers at this point. Anyway, to get a cab, you picked up one of the courtesy phones just inside the main doors. The phone automatically dialed to whichever cab company you'd picked up the phone for....
.... And it was a complete lie. There were eight cab companies in the central East Bay, and all eight were owned by the same people. All eight companies were dispatched from the same office. The cabs were "serviced" at the same garage, and whatever company a driver worked for on any given day was by random assignment. It didn't matter what the name on the cab was, it was still the same company. This monopoly made life much simpler for Alameda County and its municipalities, and guaranteed shitty service, shitty vehicles, and starving drivers. After all, what were you going to do? Call someone else for a cab? (The exception was Berkeley, which had two independent cab companies. However, they couldn't expand beyond Berkeley city limits. The city of Oakland would not issue them permits to use Oakland taxi stands, and they could not get airport permits, either.)
So I grabbed a random phone and requested a pick-up, checking afterwards for the name of the company. Yellow Checker, said the sign above the phone. The dispatcher said five minutes. I stood and waited in the correct area with one other guy, a businessman type, in a suit, even on a Saturday. I nodded greeting and lit a cigarette, then asked how long he'd been waiting. "Fifteen damn minutes," he groused. "They said five minutes over the phone."
"Which company?" I asked.
"Um, Central Yellow or something like that. Central something. Who did you call?"
I told him Yellow Checker, but it didn't matter. I explained the total lack of competition in the livery services of Oakland, then asked where he was headed. "Um, Berkeley," he answered.
"Perfect, me too," I said. "I'm headed to south of campus, Dwight and Ellsworth. How about you? We'll split the fare on whatever cab shows up first, screw the second driver. Where are you headed?"
"The west side of town, Sixth near University," he replied. He seemed a bit nervous in his reply.
"What awaits there?" I asked.
"Just..... meeting some people." Now he seemed really nervous.
I stood in silence briefly, then the Clue Bus arrived. I asked, "Headed to the Steam Works?"
His head jerked towards me, then turned back towards the driveway. In a barely audible voice, he said, "Yeah."
As far as I knew, the Steam Works was the last open gay bath house in the Bay Area. The AIDS panic had decimated the bath houses in San Francisco, between pressure from the city and rapidly dwindling attendance, they'd all gone belly-up. I had no idea if there were any bath houses in South Bay or Silicon Valley. The Steam Works was THE place to cruise. You could get a locker, a private room, a private room with a TV (showing an array of almost all gay porn), or a private room with TV and a fuck swing. It had been explained to me the front half was for socializing, where the steam room and spa and gym equipment were. The back half was where you went to cruise: dimly lit, with glory hole booths and porn playing on big-screen TVs, lots of small alcoves to hide out in. Up front, it was considered in bad taste to sport wood. In the rear, it was expected.
I told him, "Well.... Have fun. Enjoy your day. It's a Saturday, it'll be crowded."
He looked at me out of the corners of his eyes. "Have you been there?"
"Me? No. I sucked a few dicks when I was younger, but it's just not my thing. Live and learn, you know? Cruising never had any appeal anyway, I was always with somebody I was already friends with, and, well, things just happened. So where are you from?"
The businessman seemed to relax slightly. "Spokane," he answered.
"No scene in Spokane? I know it's not Seattle, but I thought Spokane was a pretty big town."
He emitted a sigh. "Spokane isn't small.... But it's conservative, it revels in its rural roots. What happens in Spokane would be easily spotted."
I glanced down. I was standing on his left. He was wearing a wedding band. "Been to Steam Works before?" I asked.
"Yeah. A few times. Business trips."
"On the weekend?" I chuckled.
He stared out in silence, then actually chuckled. "What the missus doesn't know won't hurt her. She's never asked about the days I travel on."
"Well, have fun, and play safe. When a fucking cab gets here, we'll split the fare from here to Sixth Street, I'll cover it from there. Good enough?"
"That's fine." After a couple moments, he said, "I'm glad you're not hostile."
I grinned and said, "So long as you're not into children, animals, or violence, it doesn't bother me. I'm straight, but not narrow. Just play safe, like I said."
"Thanks." He was still too worked up to actually look directly at me.
Moments later a cab pulled up. The name on the door was Oakland Checker. The driver, who looked like a Nepalese yak herder, rolled down the window and said, "Mista Yates?"
"That's us," said the businessman. We got in, putting our meager luggage on our laps. We told him we were going to separate addresses in Berkeley, his first. Fine with the driver. Up the 880, onto the 980 through the MacArthur Maze, and onto 80, jumping off at University. The driver looped around onto Sixth St. and dropped Mista Yates off at the door to the Steam Works. The businessman looked at the meter and handed me some currency, then quickly jumped out of the cab. As we took off again, I looked down at what he'd handed me. It was six twenty dollar bills, nearly three times what the meter would be when I was let out on Dwight Way.
Rolling up the street to get back on University, the driver commented, "That place, da funny men go dere."
"Really?" I exclaimed. "The funny men?"
"Yah. Da men, dey like otter men, you know? Funny men."
"Oh, I see. Is there anyplace funny women go?"
The driver frowned in concentration, then said, "Not I know of.... Oh, wait. Bar on Telegraph, sout' end of town. Da White Horse. Funny men, funny women, both go dere. Busy place weekend night." He gave me a questioning look in the mirror. "You look for funny women? Dey not like guys, why you look for dem?"
"I'm not," I answered. "I was just curious."
We turned right on Sacramento. The driver said, "I pick up from dat bar, when I work at night. Da funny men, they good. They quiet, we go to ta address, they pay. Da funny women, oh! Dey wanna kiss, wanna touch each otter. I tell 'em, you don't do dat in my cab, an' you know? Dey laugh an' ignore me. No tip at end of ride. Damn funny women."
"What are they hurting? Leave 'em be, they'll probably tip better than the funny men. If you don't wanna see them, tilt your mirror up. No big deal, you know?"
"You like da funny women?
I snorted. "Actually, I'm friends with more than a few of them. A couple are employees of mine. When you're picking them up at night from the White Horse, they're just drunk, they're acting like most drunk people do. You're not gonna tell me that when you pick up a guy and a girl from a bar, they aren't all over each other, too?"
In the rear-view mirror, I could see the driver glaring at the road. "Yeah. okay. Maybe if I ignore da funny women, dey tip. Dey can't hurt me if dey doing dat in back."
A thought struck me. "How long are your shifts?"
"Twelve hour. Sometime fourteen. Six day week. I don't work Tuesday. Usually. Sometime dey call me in, driver sick, driver quit."
"Huh. I'm not sure how familiar you are with restrictions on commercial drivers, but that's illegal. Your company can't keep you on the clock more than twelve hours straight, and no more than sixty hours a week. Tell your bosses to either drop you to ten hours a day or five days a week."
"Yah. Otter driver, dey tell boss men same ting, get fired. I got wife, I got boy. I work, no matta what."
We pulled up in front of the residence hall. The driver reached to stop the meter, but I said, "Let it run for a minute, I want to ask you a couple questions. Where are you from?"
The driver eyed me in the mirror, then said, "Tibet. Bad place. Da China, dey come, say 'Tibet ours now.' Da Tibet, we have no way to fight dem. Me, my wife. we leave. We walk t'rough Nepal, into India. Get to New Delhi, no work. Too many India people no work, so a Tibet man work even less. We see Red Cross workers in da street, talk to dem. Dey say we ref.... refu-gees, dey amaze to learn we walk from Tibet. Dey get hold of America cons.... consultant...."
"Consulate," I corrected.
"Yeah, dat. Red Cross, consulate, dey get us visa for US. If I work, we stay. Red Cross fly us to San F'isco, we stay wit' otter refu-gee, learn bit of English, get driver license. I drive truck in Nepal, I know how to drive, I drive long. Da cab comp'ny --- dis one --- have ad in paper, so I take job. Here now twenty mont's. Live in Oakland, da Fruitvale. It not safe, but more safe den on street in New Delhi. We have place, food, water and power work, not cold. It okay here."
"Any goals? What would you like to do with your life?" I asked.
The driver considered, then grinned for the first time. His answer: "Kick da fokkin' China out of Tibet. I wanna do dat."
I laughed and said, "You're in good company in the Bay Area. There's plenty of people who want to do that." I let a few ticks go by and continued, "And if you're working seventy-two hour weeks, you'll never have the time or energy to do what you want. How much are you taking home every week? How much money do you make?"
"And how much in tips?"
The driver shrugged. "Dat wit' tips."
I stared at the driver in the mirror. Finally I said, "This is not my place to say, and it's probably just as rude to say in Tibet as it is here, but.... Dude, you're getting fucked. This goddamn cab company is screwing you, big time. Tell your boss to suck your dick, and find another job. Anything else. Even fast food would be s step up."
The driver scowled at his still-running meter. "Den I not have a job. INS find out I not at work, dey take visa, send us to Tibet." His eyes went down. "We go back, China say, 'You run away, you no good, you go in p'ison.' No good."
"Shit," I muttered. I stuck an unlit Marlboro in my mouth and punched at my brain. A few seconds later, I had an idea. One that could work. I told the driver, "Kill the engine, but go ahead and leave the meter running. I have an idea. Do you think you could teach an American how to speak Tibetan?"
The driver swiveled his head and actually looked straight at me. He said a word recognized universally: "Huh?"
"I'm here to visit a friend of mine, a girl. She's eighteen, she goes to UC Berkeley. Very smart. If she's amenable, I'll pay you $600 a week to teach her how to speak Tibetan. Just a couple hours of teaching a day, maybe four days a week. She learns a foreign language, you make decent money, and you'll have the time to find a good job. Or hell, take some classes at the local community college, learn a trade. You'd be an employee of my company, your checks would have all the necessary taxes taken out, totally above board. What do you think?"
After ten seconds of open-mouthed staring at me, the driver said, "I dunno. You hear me talk, you know I don' speak English too good. My wife, she speak English good. She talk to otter women in building, go to shop, t'ings like dat. No one talk a lot wit' me when I drive cab. My wife, she talk wi' many people, she talk English good."
"Okay, so I hire your wife. The INS shouldn't give a crap about who it is working, just so long as someone is working, and you're not applying for welfare and food stamps, you know? Then you could definitely go to school. Hell, every damn community college I've ever heard of had an auto shop, you ever work on cars or trucks?"
"Oh yah. Da trucks I drive, dey old, break. Gotta fix, usually on side of road. I fix car, truck."
"Okay. So, what do you think? I hire you --- or your wife --- through my company to teach a girl how to speak Tibetan, for double the money you're making now, and for maybe ten hours a week. You can save some money, and look for a better job, or go to school."
Another pause, then the driver said another universally-recognized phrase. "You shitting me."
"Nope," I promised. "Come on, follow me for a second, you can talk to your future student."
I got out of the cab, and waited for the driver to do the same. He did so, with some reluctance. Probably he was worried about me walking off and leaving the meter unpaid. I led him into the foyer of the residence hall, found Jane's buzzer, and pushed it. She responded immediately.
I told her, "Jane, come on down, I've got someone I want you to meet. This is kinda important, get your ass down here." She said okay and disconnected.
Thirty seconds later she was in front of me and the driver, who was pop-eyed looking at her. Between the blue mohawk and the leather bustier, Jane was not a common sight anywhere in the world, but particularly not in Tibet. I said, "Jane, this is my cab driver....." I didn't know his name.
The driver picked up on this and said, "I am Ngawang Thokmay." After a pause, he said, "My wife is Pema. My son is Michael."
I had to ask. "You named your son Michael?"
"Yes. He six month old when we get to New Delhi, no papers. Consulate want name. I t'ink of Red Cross man who help us, say 'Name is Mike.' Dey ask, 'You mean Michael?' Yah, yah. dat it. My son grow up in 'Merica, he have good name for United State, okay?"
"Got it," I smiled. To Jane, I said, "You have a foreign language requisite for getting through school, right? Would Tibetan be an acceptable language to learn?"
Jane laughed and replied, "Given the political climate in Berkeley, I'd be amazed if it wasn't. Why?"
"Ngawang --- or his wife, or hell, both of them --- could tutor you in Tibetan. You'd learn a bunch of the language skills before next year, and breeze through your language requisite." Jane was giving me a mystified look, so I elaborated, "Look, it's like this. Homeboy here is getting royally fucked by his job, they're screwing him. He's here on a visa, so he can't quit. They have no money, and if they apply for support, INS will ship them back to Tibet, where the fuckin' Chinese will put them in prison for fleeing the country. What I can do is hire him or his wife as language tutors. I'll hire 'em through Inana, so the job is totally legit. pay them $600 a week, they come up and tutor you a couple hours a day, four or five days a week. Ngawang and Pema get out the the hole they're in, he can find a better job or take some vocational training. They'll be better off. See what I'm driving at?"
Jane went from wide-eyed surprise to a smirking grin. She said, "Lenny, you found another random person to help in a random way, didn't you? At least you're not trying to get him in front of the cameras."
"Uh, no. I don't think he'd go for that, a little too much culture shock, you know? So, are you willing to learn Tibetan?"
Jane giggled and said, "Sure, why not? I'm not sure how much use I'd get out of it after I graduate, but it could be fun. Certainly an interesting party trick, if nothing else."
I turned to Ngawang and said, "Okay, she's willing to be a student. You, your wife, or both of you can teach her how to speak and write Tibetan, for better money and fewer hours. You'll have the job through May. Is that acceptable to you?"
Ngawang looked at me and asked, "Why you do dis?"
Jane laughed, then told him, "Because it's the right thing to do. I don't know the whole back story, but if you're in dire straits, and Lenny here runs across you, he's gonna work like hell to help you. It's his own little way of inflicting justice upon the world. Don't worry, you can trust Lenny, he's not gonna screw you over. And I'd love to learn Tibetan."
The upshot was Jane ran up to her room to get some writing paper. The three of us went out to the cab, where a whole lot of information was exchanged. I was a bit surprised when Ngawang said, "Oh, Inana. Dat was goddess in Sumeria. Dat da one?"
"Spot on," I replied. I got the address and phone number of the Thokmay family. Ngawang got Jane's full name, address in Berkeley, and phone number. He also got my full name, number, and both the P.O. box and street address for the Inana studio in Oceanside. It was agreed he would be an employee (not a contractor) of Inana Productions as a language tutor, receiving $600 a week for his (or his wife's) services. I copied down his driver's license and social security card information, to fill out his I-9 and W4 form for the IRS. To aid in his quick departure from the cab company, Inana Productions would be sending him a "welcome aboard bonus" of $500 by FedEx. The paychecks would be sent out every Monday by mail. Ngawang and/or Pema would tutor Jane at her place, or at Moffitt Library, from seven to nine Monday through Thursday, starting a week from this Monday.
Ngawang looked at the two of us, plus the paperwork we'd created, and looked very happy. He was escaping from one hell of a rut. I told him, "So now, I'm gonna teach you a bit of English, for you to tell your boss tomorrow morning. Walk in, smile, and say, 'Suck my motherfuckin' dick!' Then leave."
He grinned and said, "Oh, I know dat one. I drive cab in Oaklan', I hear plenty of time."
I paid the fare off with the $120 the closet case from Spokane had given me, telling Ngawang to have a pizza delivered with the extra. Walking up to her room, Jane said to me, "Jesus Lenny, don't you have a knack."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"You come across people in shitty situations, and decide it's your fucking moral duty to help them out of their travails. And hell, a lot of the time they end up making money for you! You hired Donna, and Jolene, and Gayla as performers because their lives were disaster areas. Now they're stars. You did the same thing with Crystal, up in the Sierras. Now she's the star of what is possibly the raunchiest non-scat porn produced in America. Just how well are the 'Cum-Crazy Crystal' tapes selling, anyway?"
I rooted through my brain, then replied, "A new tape every two months.... We're moving about 1.5 million tapes in those two months. Not bad for a niche product. And one with no damn redeemable qualities whatsoever. It's strange, if you think about it. Bekka is known for some of the most stunning, graceful, beautiful performances in adult film.... And the stuff she directs is solid gold raunch, total filth, and totally indefensible as art. But by God, she does a good job of it."
Inside her room, Jane wrapped her arms around me and kissed me deeply. I reciprocated. We stayed like that for several moments, until we were interrupted by a loud and pointed sigh behind me. We broke apart and I turned. There stood a girl of Jane's age and size, but lacking the stellar rack and curvy hips. She had dark blonde hair in a standard-issue preppy style, a sweater with Greek lettering on it, jeans, and a facial expression like Ruth Buzzi's. I figured it must hurt to purse one's lips like that for so long.
I strode towards her, saying, "Hi, you must be Kaitlyn. I'm Lenny, the guy Jane was living with in Encinitas for the last couple years. You've already met my wife...."
The nose went up in the air. "Yes, Becky Page. So you're married to her? How can you be happy married to w woman like that?"
Fixing a wide grin, I queried, "A woman like what? Please, enlighten me on what my wife is like."
"She has sex with other men for a living.... And women, too. How can she be married to anybody? She's turned you into a cuckold, and you don't mind?"
In a voice filled with lazy amusement, Jane said, "Leave it the fuck out, Kaitlyn. I've explained this to you in the past. What Bekka does in front of a camera isn't really sex, it's just acting, performance. Besides...." Jane got next to me and began grinding herself on my leg. "... Lenny and Bekka have sort of an open relationship. Lenny has Bekka. But he also has me. I'm his fuck toy, his little pet, and have been for a while. Actually, I'm kind of both their fuck toys. But Lenny was first, and the most frequent." We deep-kissed again briefly.
Jane broke apart from me and headed towards the fridge. She said to Kaitlyn, "In fact, I promised a little something to Lenny when he got here. We'll be in my alcove for a little while.... Unless you care to watch."
"What are you going to do?" hissed Kaitlyn.
"Suck Lenny's cock so long, so hard, and so well he won't be able to remember his own name. Would you like to watch? Maybe pick up some pointers?"
I assured Kaitlyn, "It's true. Jane could get a grant from the NEA for her prowess. Reaching heaven when I die will be a let-down after being blown by Jane."
Handing me a beer, Jane continued, "So. Are we going to hide in my alcove, or can we stretch out on the sofa? I'm not taking any of my clothes off, and Lenny is only dropping his pants to his knees. Did you want to be witness?"
"You are both so totally gross," said Kaitlyn, nose even higher in the air.
"You've gotta be kidding," I laughed. "Judging by the runes on your sweater, I'm guessing you are connected, somehow, to the Greek fraternal system. Frat boys sure seem obsessed by oral sex..... Well, being on the receiving end, anyway. If you're not blowing your boyfriends, how are they kept docile and cooperative?"
"I know how to ---!" Kaitlyn cut herself off, then said, "Just go in your room. And don't be all sick and noisy! And why does he have a beer?"
"He's going to be drained of a lot of fluids," Jane stated. "He'll need the beer to get them back." We went into Jane's private space.
We were engaged for over twenty minutes. Jane knew me well enough to get me going crazy, then back off some, then start up again. I finally growled loudly, "Girl, make me come, now." There was just enough room beside her bed for me to stand and Jane to kneel in front of me. As she promised, she took my load like a porn star earning the big money. And given how worked up she'd gotten me, she was fairly well drenched.
I pulled up my pants and zipped up. Jane gently wiped at one eye, but otherwise left her face splattered. I'd finished my beer, and Jane wanted one, so we headed out into the main room. Kaitlyn was slouched on the sofa, watching a rerun of "MASH." As we walked in, Jane said, "There, we weren't too loud, were we?"
"No, I guess not, you...." Kaitlyn trailed off and stared at Jane. "What do you have..... Oh my God..... Oh my God! You are so fucking gross!"
Jane said, "What? What?"
"You've got his.... stuff all over your face! You are sick, you are totally sick!"
Her voice and expression totally serious, Jane said, "I like it when Lenny comes on my face, it makes me feel really sexy and special. Besides, it's fantastic for the complexion. I haven't had to buy Clearasil in ages." She smiled. "Anyway, I forgot to bring a towel with me when we went in my alcove. Let me grab a beer, and I'll wipe down. Terribly sorry to offend, cupcake." She drew a finger across her cheek, then stuck it in her mouth. "Mmm. Lenny always tastes so nice."
Kaitlyn threw herself back against the cushions and glared pointedly at the TV. Jane and I hooked a couple more beers and chatted briefly, then she went and grabbed a towel and began wiping down. She looked at me and asked, "Did I miss anywhere?"
I grabbed a corner of the towel and swiped across the side of her head. "There, all good.... Oh, uh, you got some in your hair."
Jane felt her mohawk, found where I'd hit, and began working it in. "Just like mousse," she commented.
To Kaitlyn, Jane said, "Cupcake, you'll be overjoyed to learn you'll have the place to yourself until Monday afternoon, after classes. I'll be staying with Lenny at the Marina Marriott tonight and tomorrow night. Lenny needs to help me catch up on my fucking, I'm way behind schedule." She sighed. "Maybe I was hoping for too much out of college boys. I guess I was. They were still high school boys until a few months ago, weren't they? They haven't grown up enough yet. And the seniors treat me like I'm jail bait, I can't get one interested in taking me for a test drive. How do you cope with it, cupcake?"
"Do not try to drag me down to your level," Kaitlyn hissed. "I'm getting along just fine."
"And your wrists and fingers have never been stronger," I observed softly. Jane burst into laughter.
Jane called Green Cab for a pick-up, and we were ready to go, Jane had packed a duffel bag and had her textbooks for Monday in her book bag, ready to go. As we headed for the door, Jane said, "See you Monday, cupcake. If Riley, Buzzy, or Hunchback call, we're at the Marriott and will stop by the bar around seven. If Bekka calls, tell her I'm already feeling better, if not a bit sticky...."
"You sicko," inserted Kaitlyn.
".... and I'll be returning Lenny undamaged. If Nadir, Potato, Mimi, or Dodge call or stop by, tell them I'm hanging around with my criminal friends, and to get a hold of me Monday night. Anyone from Gilman, I'll be there tonight, but I'm not sure what time. Thanks, cupcake. See you later."
"Just go!" Kaitlyn yelled. We did.
We were just stepping out the front door when we were approached by three guys and a girl. Jane introduced them as Dodge, Mimi, Potato, and Justin. Dodge and Mimi were standard-issue Bay Area hipsters (which are about forty times cooler than SoCal hipsters), Potato was skinny, with spiky, truncated dreadlocks above a mulatto complexion, and Justin looked like he'd been designed and clothed by a committee of anarchists, all from different time periods over the last three centuries. He said, "At last, we meet the famous Lenny! You've been quite a figure of legend around these parts."
"Do tell," I replied.
Mimi cut in with, "I hope Jane has expressed how much she misses you. She has expressed it to us quite a bit. From what she says, you're a sexual virtuoso, a creative genius, and a defender of all that is good in the world. Quite a lot to live up to."
Jane proclaimed, "And he just defended good today! His cab driver from the airport is a guy from Tibet, a refugee who walked all the way from Nagqu, Tibet through Nepal and into New Delhi. Him and his wife walked all that way! The guy is getting screwed by the cab company he works for, so Lenny made him a deal, basically, Lenny took him on as an employee. I'm gonna be learning how to speak Tibetan, this guy and his wife are gonna tutor me. I'll have a major jump start on my foreign language requisite next year, and this Tibetan dude will have a decent income, plus the time to find a better permanent job, or go to school or whatever. Tell me that's not righteous."
The four stared at me with raised eyebrows. "An interesting strategy," said Potato. "Find exploited workers, one at a time, and hire them to do something they understand, no matter how common it seems to them. Do you do this often?"
"Well....." I started.
Jane cut in with, "Usually, it's girls he meets. He turns them into porn stars."
"Oh, really," all four said at once. I glared at Jane.
Mimi said, "Oh, yes! Duh, that's right, you run Inana Productions. So you recruit women you meet by chance into adult film stardom?"
"It's happened a few times," I replied. "Donita Dare, Missy Liscio, Gayla Goode, Susan Black.... And uh, another couple girls who are now part of the production crew. Also Roach, I suppose. Really, I'll run into people who are in ruts they want out of, and tell them, if you think you could hack the work, take the interviews, I'll see how you do. It's worked pretty damn well so far."
"Dawn was homeless when you found her!" said Jane. "Now she's living in Encinitas with Roach, she's happy, she likes herself again.... Remember her self-loathing trip? It's gone now."
"She's still pretty damn tweaky, though," I noted. "When she dies, we'll have her cremated and her ashes distributed in a series of glass pipes."
Justin mused, "So you rescue women.... by getting them into the porn industry. I thought it worked the other way around."
I stared at Justin briefly, then concentrated on getting a cigarette in my mouth, in silence. Jane looked in my eyes and didn't like what she saw. Just as she opened her mouth to speak, Mimi beat her to the punch by saying, "Justin, shut the fuck up. I know you know exactly who this guy is. You own some of his fucking videos, so don't be a hypocrite! You don't think what you just said might be interpreted as a tiny bit insulting to him?"
Jane continued, "Lenny rescues women by making them Inana Girls, or at least giving them a chance to be an Inana Girl. You heard me explain about the interview process at Inana, so I'm not going into that. But everyone at Inana --- everyone --- is treated with respect. God help the stupid asshole who calls a performer 'bitch' within earshot of Lenny. Inana doesn't rely on drugs, desperation, pressure, abuse, or coercion to get performances. It relies on a supportive atmosphere, the allowance of performers to preset limits, and open communication. The studio pays an industry standard, plus bonuses. And the best part? At this point, any Inana Girl can hold up a video she's in and say, 'That was me,' and be proud of it." She let a couple ticks go by, and said, "And Justin? Remember what happened the last time you heard somebody verbally abuse Lenny within my earshot?"
Justin regarded Jane levelly, but there was naked fear in his eyes. "Yes, I do. And I remember what happened to him a week or so later. What a frightening thing to have happen. I wonder about the sort of person who would do that to anyone, let alone four college students."
Jane put on a tight, polite grin. "Gives one pause, doesn't it? Well.... Like Dirty Harry Callahan said, 'A man's got to know his limitations.' Maybe none of the Delta Tau brothers did. They believed themselves gods.... And the angels came to correct them."
There was a three second stare-off between Jane and Justin, then Justin broke off and he stepped towards me, hand out, saying, "I'm sorry, I phrased that in a very rude way, I didn't mean to insult you. I know Inana is a reputable studio, I don't mean to cast aspersions on it."
"No problem," I said, and immediately changed the subject. "So what are you people up to tonight?"
"Avoiding frat row like the plague, for one," said Dodge. "It's Rush Week. Boola boola, whoopty shit, decide which herd of identical white people you want to be around for the next four years. Thankfully, the heathen scum over at Cloyne co-op are throwing a party too. Three bands, three dollar keg charge, and the usual brand of hedonism associated with the place."
I was puzzled. "Okay.... And this will be different from a frat party.... how?"
Even Jane giggled at me. Mimi said, "First off, the bands Cloyne will have playing will be good. Looking at the list of bands that have played Cloyne parties is like a who's who of the East Bay punk rock scene. Yes, there is beer, but getting shitfaced is a major faux pas around there. If you're getting hammered, people will be steering you away from the keg and encouraging you to eat something, not egging you on until you pass out. And the big thing is, a girl can go to a Cloyne party without an escort and not be worried about her safety, you know? There's a ton of drugs around Cloyne, but Rohypnol is not one of them."
"Point well taken," I said. "Thank you. Is there any restriction on non-students showing up?"
"If there is, I've never heard of it," said Potato. "I've been going to parties at Cloyne Court for, shit, ten years now. You'd think someone would have noticed the yella boy who still hasn't graduated."
Jane and I looked at each other and shrugged. "Dinner, then the bar, then.... Cloyne or Gilman?"
"You left out a major event in your scheduling," said Jane. "First furniture-destroying, mind-bending sex. Then dinner, the bar, and.... Yeah. Cloyne will have some novelty. I haven't been to a party there yet. I've walked past the place, but it's just a big, rambling building from the outside. I didn't try to go in, because I don't know anyone who lives there, I'd pretty much be breaking and entering.... Or at least being incredibly rude."
"What bar are you going to?" asked Dodge.
"It's a place called Connor's on East Fourteenth, deep in Oakland. Some friends of friends spend their time hanging out there, when they're not out terrorizing the citizenry or performing unnatural acts."
"Hey, Connor's.... Isn't that---"
Jane cut in. "What time will things get going at Cloyne tonight?" she asked.
"Um, probably around nine," said Mimi. "But it won't get really jumping until midnight. That's another difference between the frats and co-op parties. At the frats, everybody is passed out drunk by three in the morning. A good Cloyne party can go until sunrise, and beyond."
I nudged Jane and said, "You still have all those, uh, party favors we sent up? We should bring them along."
"Excellent point," Jane agreed. "Wait here for the cab, I'll be right back." She headed for the door, then reconsidered. "Hey, you guys wanna get high tonight? Come on up with me." This sounded just spiffy to the others, They followed her in.
Five minutes later, Jane was back downstairs just in time to see the cab turn off Ellsworth onto Dwight. We settled in the back seat, telling the driver to head for the Marina Marriott. As we rode, Jane said quietly, "I'm really not comfortable about bringing up H.A. around those four, especially Justin."
"What's up?" I asked.
In a slightly halting manner, Jane told what had happened in her personal life recently. First, punching out Justin's roommate Rex. Finding out Rex was a member of the Delta Tau Theta fraternity, who cultivated a bad-ass image and kept an "enemies list,' which Jane was entered onto for punching Rex. She had apologized to him through Justin, but that didn't seem to matter. The M.O. for Delta Tau when dealing with women on their list was abuse and intimidation: two or three would corner the girl and begin yelling insults and epithets, telling her she needs to drop out of Berkeley and become a whore, or else. This did not work on Jane when they tried it the first time. Instead, it brought on an ER visit for one of the bros, to get his arm stitched up where Jane had stabbed him with her butterfly knife. Her would-be tormentors told her exactly who they were, and why she was a target. It was also made clear that if she was still in the city of Berkeley by tomorrow sundown, her life would be one of pain. Days-long gang rape was alluded to.
Okay. Delta Tau believed they were tough guys. Jane knew real tough guys. She contacted Riley, the Sargent-at-Arms for the Oakland chapter of the Hell's Angels. He told her to sit tight at home until he picked her up. While she waited, she received a obscene and threatening phone call, and again had her butterfly knife in play, running off a bro armed with a bucket of animal blood (the plan: re-enact that one scene from the movie "Carrie"). Riley and the rest of Oakland H.A. agreed this was bullshit, Jane was a Little Sister, a friend to Angels everywhere, and no punk-ass honky frat-boy pukes were gonna make her life difficult. A raiding party showed up at the Delta Tau house that night. Rex, the two tormentors, and the blood thrower were fingered by Jane (the house population having been rousted and brought downstairs), and brought forward. While the rest of the bros watched, each of the four had seven teeth extracted with a pair of pliers. The teeth were given to Jane, who would have them made into a necklace. Collectively, Delta Tau House of UC Berkeley realized that nah, they weren't tough guys after all. They'd met the real thing, and had no stomach for that kind of action.
As Rex was Justin's roommate, and both lived in the same building as Jane, Justin had suspicions. The story Delta Tau stuck with was the four bros missing teeth had been attacked by crackheads in downtown Oakland late that night..... Or was it Satanists in San Francisco's Tenderloin? (They didn't keep the story straight enough.) But they were keeping very mum about the truth, understandably so. Having the Hell's Angels slightly peeved with them had cost four bros their front teeth. If Delta Tau sicced the cops on H.A., the Angels would be very angry.... And no one wanted to think about what the responding action would be. But Justin had a suspicion that Jane was responsible, somehow, for the impromptu dentistry among the Delta Tau brothers.
"Riley and other H.A. have been over to visit," Jane explained. "People know who my friends are. I just don't want anyone to get too suspicious about the boys, and drop a dime. That could make things very messy. Justin has --- as you saw --- a bad habit of acting without thinking. He's like a lot of hardcore computer geeks, he has no real grasp of what is and isn't an appropriate thing to say in a situation. And he might think he's helping things if he laid out his suspicions to Oakland PD."
I thought about this, and finally declared, "Huh. Okay, you know what? I'm not even gonna get into you owing a favor to the Oakland H.A. You're a big girl, you'll figure something out. This guy Justin.... You say he talks like he did to me, to everybody? No sense of restraint? And he's a computer geek?"
"More than a geek," Jane replied. "He's an ubermensch, he eats binary and shits operating systems. This is his senior year, and he's going to get a master's --- at least --- in Computer Science. He'll be one of those pale, creepy dudes you see shuffling out to their cars outside the Lawrence Berkeley Labs."
"My gut reaction is he has Asperger's Syndrome."
I smiled. "Okay, sorry, I'd better explain. Asperger's Syndrome is a defined level of the autism scale, one fairly high up. Some Austrian dude, Asperger, defined it in the Forties. It's sort of a high-level, very functional form of autism. Asperger's sufferers thrive on mechanical, repetitive actions and single-minded zeal.... Like writing code for a computer. They don't seem to have empathy for others, they suck at non-verbal communication, and they tend to be klutzes, always tripping on carpet lint or chipping their teeth eating yogurt. It's a diagnosis that is more easily found in children, since their interactions with others are pretty simple and straightforward. Most people just assume adult sufferers of Asperger's are total dicks, and leave it at that." I thought a moment. "What kind of music does this dude listen to?"
"Oh boy, he's all over the map," Jane said. "He'll play an album side of 'Joe's Garage' by Frank Zappa, follow it up with some GBH, move on to early Brian Eno, and conclude with the Skatellites. He says his favorite band is Naked City Orchestra, the John Zorn project. Why?"
"Well, damn. That pisses on a hypothesis I had. I was wondering if maybe all raver brats fall into the autism scale. They can stay interested in the same repetitive sound, or sounds, for hours at a time."
"Duh, Lenny. That's just drugs."
We went into the Marriott, checked in, went to our room, smoked a bowl of dope, got naked, and engaged in the most debased, animalistic, profane-laden sucking and fucking one could imagine for the next two hours. Jane finally said she was spent, she had enough, she'd be sore for days if we kept it up. "Mission accomplished?" I asked.
"All systems go," she replied. We showered and dressed, then went downstairs to get a cab to East Oakland.