No Business - Clawing Through the Back Doors of Show Biz

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Two Birds With One Stoner

Owing to my inability to perform material not patently offensive to American audiences, my bookings dried up in relatively short order. Sex and religion were touchy subjects on their own; my combining them did not ingratiate me to the heavy Christian audiences in the Mid-West, the South, Southwest, the North, East and West; also Canadia and Mexico. The audiences that didn’t find me offensive were for the most part the ones that didn’t have a clue as to what I was talking about. This is not to say I had no fan base – just not a particularly demonstrative one.

“According to the Bible, Jesus didn’t get laid. Hung around a bunch of women, some who would have gladly given up a little for divinity, one would imagine, but nowhere in the stories of his life does it say he got married or ever was with a woman, in that way. God, the 30 year old virgin. And I gotta ask, what’s the point of being God if you don’t even get laid? Zeus, he got laid. All the time, he was one horny god. Apollo, he was getting some guaranteed. Because they knew. One of the best things about having a body is getting laid. Right after getting fed, really, when you think about it, the reason we feed in the first place. Fucking. Our raison d'être – our solitary purpose. But it’s no good solitary; one needs a partner to appreciate the full measure of physical pleasure. Which brings us back to Jesus. Is this suggesting there is no pussy in heaven? No sex? Because, if you ask me, that sounds like hell.”

In 1970/’71 U.S.A., this was not a popular topic for proper stand-up comedy. Some would suggest it still isn’t. While performing at Gabriel’s Little Big Horn in Seder Rapids Iowa as Tony Montana & Dusk, I realized my cover had been blown when the enraged owner, Custer Abramowitz, chased me from the stage with a pool cue issuing unkind invective with a side of histrionics. In lieu of pay he offered, “Call for you Montana. Take it on your way out! Asshole!”

“Antonio Montana, n'est-ce pas?” I recognized the voice from only pages ago. “Hey Ted. How are things in Bombsylvania?” Without hesitation, “Smashing. I wanted to compliment you on maintaining a low profile.” I shook my head, standing in the phone booth outside the club. “Who would be watching the least popular comic in the nation? I can’t even get family to come out – comped.” “Your stunt in Milwaukee brought you back on my radar. Some other people’s too.”

I had had some problems with an audience member at Slarky’s Peanut Gallery – Beer and Hot Wings with Stand-Up Friday – in Milwaukee’s notorious whiskey district. I was tanking admirably when I injudiciously dropped the F-bomb. Actually, I believe it was 2 F-bombs, an S-grenade and a MF-Fer burst after some particularly heavy Jesus flack. Some of the audience took issue with my language (English) with one fellow in particular expressing his umbrage at my lack of public propriety. It was only after dismissing him as a puritanical asshole that I discovered that he was a judge, Demetrius Margoblin, who insisted that I join him for a performance at his venue, the Milwaukee Municipal Food Court (the first in Wisconsin).

After a night in some fairly unimpressive county digs (the Cinnabon was cold), they hauled me before that sanctimonious asshole where he demeaned me for about 5 minutes before deciding he really couldn’t charge me with anything and offered to let me off with a no potty-mouth warning.

“Do I make myself clear, Mr. Marteau?” I looked at him, this pitiful little shit with the ability to release me upon my utterance of a single syllable, “No judge, I can still see you. But keep trying; it’d be a decided improvement.” After that his language became particularly uncharitable with the word Contempt prominent in his proclamations. Again, all I had to do was shut up; maybe apologize, to walk away. The smart ticket.

“Contempt?! How would you have me hold any gathering that commands me there in irons? That I am here shows your contempt for me!” After a couple more days in lock-up it was agreed that a judge could not sit on a case where he was the only witness and they sprung me with several more warnings. I wisely insisted that they tie and gag me for those proceedings and walked after I found myself unable to raise any objections, a brilliant tactical move on my part. Afterwards I spent at least 3 hours doing a bar exam, finally settling on Cleeto’s Bowl on Davenport where I passed (out) with flying colors, mostly sky blue and kind of puffy white.

“Your Hoover maneuver broadened your support base but made you a target, because to take you out would presumably take out Hoover by virtue of your leverage.” The parking lot at Slarky’s was fairly packed and I noted that I had drawn the undesired attentions of 3 good boys smoking cigarettes out front. “Let’s pretend for a paragraph or so that I’m not as smart as I am; how exactly does killing me accomplish that?” Ted was on it, “You want me to spell it out?” “No, just use words – numbers if absolutely necessary.” “Punctuation?” “As you see fit.”

“Edgar is not loved in the Company. He interferes with some of our extra-legal operations which disrupts our cash-flow. Your brilliant Hoover Maneuver – see, it’s already got a rhyming title – compromised him. Some of our people close to him say it’s actually affecting his health, so good job on that. That you pulled this off, without Agency assets, money, tradecraft, is astounding. We’ve sought that kind of leverage from the beginning – nobody could get it.” I watched as the 3 shit-kickers considered me and discussed their options in my regard – we had about 40 feet between us. “Well, they were just warming up. Studying his habits and such….”

Ted was clearly impressed and I knew that even though he was the personal enemy of everything decent and noble in human interchange, a social engineer of the lowest order, as well a killer unrepentant, he was now also an Art promoter. “Once again you embarrass the Agency by impressing the hell out of it. I took serious heat for sending you back upright. You put both of us in a very sharp light. A good one for the most part. You’ve got some serious back-up now, mostly because of your sheer audacity. Like I said, you’re entertaining as hell. But I haven’t been able to bring your principal detractor around – he doesn’t like you. You’re too smart. Capable.”

I watched as the shit-kickers agreed upon a course of action and shit-kicked their way toward me in my transparent phonic booth, as Ted continued, “Capable people show the posers for who they are. The businessmen who run the Company are in tension with the Company men who take care of business.” I was confused and a little distressed. As shit-kickers came, these were some fairly large ones, likely football shit-kickers, and they appeared fairly inebriated.

“And who doesn’t like me?” Ted clarified, “The businessmen. You live too well with no money. You fuck up the sales pitch from every direction. Unfortunately your adversary hates Hoover more than he hates you.” I considered my exit routes as they moved in their shit-kicky way toward my useless sanctuary, trying to move him along, “Which means…” “Which means that by killing you, your damaging material on Edgar goes public, which ruins him.” I got it. “Killing two birds with one stoner, huh?” “Exactly.” I watched them continue toward me, they were halfway there. “Well, I’m not clear on where this idea that I am opposed to money came from, but I suspect it’s from those opposed to giving me any.” Ted’s voice perked up. “Well then, as your bookings appear to have dried up, perhaps you can do something for me.”

Ted offered me a car and 5K to do a little chauffeuring work back in LA, nothing illegal – on its face. Nothing that could be used against him. The car was in the lot, key stashed, money and info in the glove – all I had to say was yes. Which as I was again unemployed, broke and without transportation, worked out rather fortuitously for me, hastening my affirmative response. The car was a new Dodge Challenger, a deep blue, fully loaded, 5-on-the-floor muscle car of the first order. Just sitting there, the key on the right rear tire. All that stood between me and total autonomy were the three evolutionary dead ends who had made their way to where I no longer talked and who now loomed outside the booth. I hung up the phone and opened the door.

The self-anointed leader (he’d soaked his crotch with beer), Larry, as his shirt proclaimed, explained that as they were good Christians, they had taken particular offense at my comments in his regard. Jesus’s, not Larry’s. Then as if to further cement their association with the Prince of Peace, Larry swung wildly at me. My training with Chan kicked in instinctively and I stepped back and dodged his blow deftly. Then they were on me: I blocked, turned, punched, blocked, punched, elbowed, kicked, punched, blocked, blocked, punched, kneed, punched, kicked, then walked to the Challenger, the shit-kickers laid out in the lot behind me, duly stomped. While true my performance didn’t kill, it certainly kicked some ass. Asses.

If not a lethal weapon, I was most assuredly a painful one.

The Challenger possessed several unique features which gave it the competitive edge when it came to general roadcraft. Ted had emphasized the car came “fully equipped,” and I sensed that considering the source, he wasn’t praising the leather upholstery. The Challenger came with the limited run Hemi V-10 which pulled 500 horsepower pegging it in 5th gear.

The suspension had been altered which gave it wicked traction in tight turns and held it amazingly straight during burnouts. The Pioneer 8-track tape player pumped 100 watts per channel and it came with bucket seats, electric windows and a rear window defogger. This was a trick car. But it still had some tricks that I had to figure out myself. “Fully equipped....”

I headed down the 80 to Des Moines to find a hotel and regroup. It had been another challenging day – my hands throbbed from hick-whip. I got a room at the Corn Blower Inn by Mary Ott that reeked faintly of b.o. and cow farts and parked outside the door, inspiring the fawning adulation of the local car culties who spoke of it, and me, in hushed tones as they slowly passed. My instructions were simple enough: I was to pick up an operative named Lee at LAX in five days hence at 1:40 AM on an Asia Air flight from Saigon, get a room near the airport and wait till the 10th, the 7th day. On the 10th at 8:00 p.m. I would drop off Lee at Wilson and Santa Monica with retrieval an hour later. After that, I would return Lee to LAX for an 11:45 p.m. flight to Taipei.

It sounded shady – it was for Ted and his horrible Company, it could not bode well. But there I was, beholden to the very collective that had tortured and tried repeatedly to kill me. Masterful! I thought back to ‘Nam – when the Devil holds out his hand, you grab it rather than plunge into the abyss, you grab it without a thought. Who saves you is your benefactor, who condemns you, your destroyer. When they occupy the same space, personage, acronym, one is bound to be faced with conflicting perceptions and compromised ethics. This I did not appreciate; my ethical foundation is important to me, life and death choices leaving little room for nuance or shades of gray. I did not wish to assist this criminal legal organization – I wanted to die at their hands even less. Such dilemmas readily dispose of the ethical or moral foundation of an individual, just as will starvation or dire thirst. Survival trumps decency. Every time.

I continued west across the barren Plains of North America, faced with unremarkable features, uninspiring views and unrelenting emptiness. The Plains weren’t very appealing either. To make matters of even greater personal disinterest, Ted had left me an astounding collection of perfectly awful music: Guy Lombardo, Lawrence Welk, Burt Bacharach, and, to make it even more painful, Liberace. The local version of radio was of equal or greater disinterest and I found myself listening to the broadcast ministers as they worked to drive the devil out through rigorous application of Biblical principles coupled with endless donations from poor people. One such minister, Pastor Ruskin Parry, exhorted me to “Dig deep into your car!” which got me thinking.

My first thought was that he had slurred heart and that I was a little whipped. But I had never disposed of the idea that Ted had something else in this behemoth that he hadn’t apprised me of. Given the nature of our relationship, it seemed prudent to establish what that, if anything, might be. Just west of Lincoln, Nebraska, I pulled off onto a quiet road to what appeared to be nowhere and parked. I needed to really look at this car. In Council Bluffs I had happened upon a Slavon Drugs Store that sold 8-track tapes and augmented my collection with music I could listen to.

I also met with a local dealer in Omaha who landed me an ounce of what proved to be some fairly pedestrian cannabis, so I could at least smoke, even though smoking the bag would have likely gotten me higher than what it contained. Still, for a confirmed addict it was a favorable alternative to nothing. I put Steppenwolf’s Monster into the player, amazed at my good fortune finding it at Slavon and began crawling around in the car. After about two hours I began getting really creative. I attempted several variations and finally struck pay dirt by stepping on the clutch with the parking brake off, putting it into reverse, then turning on the ignition. This caused an immovable piece of trim near the drive train to release, opening to reveal a hidey hole. Fairly packed as it occurred.

The concealed panel contained a holstered Berretta 9mm pistol with 3 loaded 20-round magazines in addition to one in the pistol. Clipped beside it was a Walther PPK 9mm, notably gutsier than the popular .380. Along with 4 loaded 12-round mags, the smaller Walther also was fitted for and outfitted with a silencer. Unlike in popular misrepresentation, silencers do not reduce a bang to a whisper but more reduce a gunshot to a firecracker. While this might not seem like much, fewer people would be inclined to call the cops because someone set off a firecracker or 3 than they would be at the sound of 3 gunshots nearby. As with authority’s policy regarding me, it doesn’t shut you up completely so much as make you too uninteresting to pay attention to. Disinterestifiers.

The hidey hole was very useful; in addition to weaponry, it could hold a full complement of drugs and had room for a decent pint of scotch as well, though some snobby types would likely suggest that decent scotch doesn’t come in pints. To which I would respond, “I’m not a duke, I’m a drunk – shut the fuck up and give me the God damned booze.” I find it hard to be pretentious about booze. Alcohol is one of the dirtiest drugs prone to man – interesting as its primary medical application is for cleaning; it makes us sloppy and stupoid and stinky and sick. Debating the aesthetic integrity of one booze over another seems tantamount to debating the appeal of bathroom cleansers: “I’m a Lysol man, Ajax is so common.”

I took the 70 west out of Denver but owing to a highway clogging collision outside of Buttsplit, I headed south on the 91 till I reached the 82 then continued west toward Glenwould Spring. This was an insanely treacherous road, passing the 14,433 foot Mt. Elbert with hairpin turns, blind switchbacks and narrow single lanes with sheer drops, the very kind of driving I find most stimulating. I marveled at the raw natural beauty of the Rockies – of this nation – and how the ugliest part of America was its citizens, its leaders, its ethos. How humanity only seemed able to work together to destroy our world and species, as if the effort to redeem it was somehow beyond us – not our responsibility.

By the time I’d reached Aspen, I was beat. The Challenger required some serious wrestling down the mountain and when I saw the tavern light, I pulled in without further thought.

“These scoundrels don’t even live here. Wanna open the whole area to development and walk away with the money. They’ll ruin the goddamned place.” Even though he was completely bald, I recognized him immediately, his mumbled bark distinctive. He held court with several locals who had heard it all before. “Before you know it, anybody will be able to walk into your public houses and have sex with your sheep.” This silenced the conversation and I felt all eyes sear into me as I took a seat down the bar from Doc Thompson and his retinue.

“Jesus God. I thought you were dead.” The wave of ugliness turned immediately to interest as the Doc fairly leapt from his stool and ambled over to me. “It’s early still. Certainly not for lack of trying. You seem well.” He flagged the barkeep, gathered us some drinks and led me to a booth, bubbling with excitement. “It’s goddamned amazing. They told me you were dead. Badly.” I sipped my scotch, Johnny Runner Red, admiring its chunky misguided pretension and slight Sterno after-burn. “Yes, I’m badly dead, which I suppose is another way of saying goodly alive. I would be curious as to who has pronounced my demise, prematurely, to you.”

He looked around concerned; he knew everyone in the place but me, beyond our literature changing meeting so long ago – what was I up to? “What the hell happened to you?” I looked him over: he was a trifle drunk and relit his filtered cigarette while avoiding my gaze. He seemed tentative. I caught his eye. “You remember the last time we saw each other?” “Yeah, what, page 86?” Great, now he’s doing it. And after all the hell I went through helping him with an interview he would never publish. “San Francisco Airport. Left you the car, drugs and girls.” It seemed a lifetime ago though the pain still felt real enough and very present. “Left me.”

I sat back and looked around. I realized I felt foreign in this environment, this rustic woodsy tavern. Upon reflection, I realized I felt foreign in most environments. I didn’t fit. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to – a good fit is one of life’s nicer attributes – it’s just that where ever I went, I felt as an outsider allowed in, not invited or welcomed, but tolerated, endured. “Oh, you brought Art.” I leaned forward, my arms on the table, suddenly very tired – some memories can be exhausting. I sipped my scotchguard. “Before I got in your car, nobody cared whether I lived or died. After I got out of it a terrifying number were particularly interested in me being dead. After being shot, beaten, kicked, drugged, tortured, dropped in a war zone and blown up, I think I have finally learned an appreciation for my mother’s warning not to get into strange people’s cars.”

He looked at me, ashamed. “Probably good advice.” I shook my head. “You appear to be doing well.” He sat on the verge of publishing his defining work, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and had been drawing high praise for his work with Rolling Stone magazine. He was in an upsurge. He looked down, contrite. “When I got off the plane in Chicago, a couple a guys met me. Didn’t say, but they looked to be Agency. Fuckers. They told me you were dead, the girls, were dead. They talked about Sandy, Juan. Gave me a choice: I could continue to have a successful journalistic career where I talked about stuff other than the Agency, or….”

We both knew that I knew the or. Bring a person’s family, their spouse or kids into play, the stuff they will agree to is disturbing. Tell a man with no equivocation that either he is dead by his own hand before morning or his wife will be dead by evening – make that man know that no matter what he does, no matter what measures he takes, the outcome will play out the same and that man will kill himself. Especially if after the wife come the kids, parents, friends…The CIA can suicide people without lifting a finger. I understood his position.

“They’ve told me I will never be published. My work will never see the light of day, or cathode ray. My music will never get airplay. I didn’t even fucking do anything.” He drained his drink and started on the next – we each had three. “Hells Angels.” I looked around; would I now have to contend with those guys? The Doc continued, “My book. If they’d killed me, everyone would have figured it was the Angels. There would have been an investigation. People asking questions. Media noise.” I looked at him; he was badly shaken. “So they made you an offer.”

“And I fucking took it, you bet your ass. I know what would happen to me if I ever wrote about that. They made that goddamned well clear enough.” The liquor had shifted on him; he had started morose and repentant but had since shifted to defensive and self-righteous. I couldn’t argue with him because I understood the stakes. “I appreciate the appeal of the carrot especially after being flayed with the stick; guess I resent not even being offered the carrot.” He looked me over, still amazed by my presence. “You’re alive.” I was feeling a trifle aggressive, “And I had to fight for every breath. Those assholes fucked me up. And now I’m trapped by them. And I don’t know what to fucking do.” I hung my head in despair. That was some shitty scotch.

I woke the next morning on the Doc’s sofa utterly wrecked. We had closed the tavern then continued our excess at his place, The Owl Farm, in nearby Woody Creek, where we enjoyed much good smoke and some decent mescaline with which we resolved any festering resentments: me forgiving him for getting me into the whole life-consuming mess then leaving me to dangle desperately on my own, and him forgiving me for being upset about it. It seemed like we talked for hours, then the firearms displays which went on for what seemed to be hours as well, his wife Sandy just shaking her head at us through the living room window.

It was hard to believe that we covered so much ground over the course of one night, but there I was waking the next morning. “What page is this?!” The Doc looked at me puzzled. “What?” “Day, what day is this?” He looked at the paper, The Gnu York Thymes. “Uh, May 7.” I looked close at the main page: the date read 5/6/71. “It says the 6th. The 6th.” I held it in his face, flustered. He pulled the paper away and shook his head. “You’re so fuckin’ smart. Don’t get the Thymes out here till the day after. This is yesterday’s paper.” I was fucked. Owing to my inability to say no in those instances ‘No!’ is called for, I had lost a day, and not any day, no, but a day I needed to drive to Los Angeles to fulfill my Company obligation. My obligation to the Blond Ghost.

“Well then I am fucked. A condition I am masterful at attaining, with little to no effort.” He looked at me serious, concerned, “What’s the problem?” Sandy wandered over as I slammed my tea, a poor choice as it was quite hot, immediately following it with a pad of butter and then some water from the tap. They both watched me amused, Sandy more than a little suspicious. “Jesus. I have to be in L.A. tomorrow.” The Doc seemed relieved. “Well then, what’s your problem? You can drive there in 13 hours with a good tail wind.” I sat back at the table and picked up a piece of toast. “Really?” The Doc nodded confidently and Sandy confirmed it, “Sure. What time do you need to be there?” I munched on the toast, a huge weight lifted from me, nosing around the table for more butter. “Uh, like one-thirty. On the eighth.”

Finding the butter, I triumphantly displayed the knife with which I would smearify my toast. Sandy looked at me like I was insane or just amazingly stupid. “Well then you’re fucked. This is the eighth. And it’s about 12:30.” I crunched on my newly lubricated toast. “Shit.”

I hurtled westbound on the 15 just past Baker when I tracked him in my rear-view mirror. I instinctively sensed trouble when I saw headlights gaining on me while I was doing 95 mph – just plain irresponsible motoring. Beyond us, the highway was empty. After some discussion we had determined that I could, in theory, make it to L.A. in time, with amazing good luck at dangerously high speeds. In order to help me maintain maximum alertness, the Doc offered me some Black Beauties to keep my edge as well some considerably higher grade smoke to sand it smoother. So when the encroaching lights became evident, I was quite burnished.

If I stopped for a cop, I would never make up for the lost time – Lee would be left hanging. They would kill me. So it became clear that my very existence was incumbent upon my maintenance of speed – I could not stop if I were to keep going. Curiously, behind me, no red flashing lights, just headlights, coming closer, ever closer. As I crested a slight rise, my follow car disappeared from sight – I would have about 15 seconds out of sight. So I kicked it into overdrive and took it to somewhere in the range of 130 m.p.h., some kind of range, I assure you. After 13 seconds I let back off the gas, returned to a manageable 98 mph and watched behind me.

When the lights crested the rise I had given myself a half-mile edge which must have rattled them, as I was still driving the same speed as before. Instead of gaining on me, they were falling back. So, they stepped on it. By the time I hit the next rise, they had gained the half mile back and then some, but I still led them by ¾ of a mile as I disappeared from their sight. This time I pulled to the right and stopped behind a Joshua tree, killing my lights, taking my foot off the brakes. Within 2 seconds the car following me all but flew over the rise crest and zoomed past me, concealed off the shoulder. I watched as the car accelerated even more, wondering no doubt where I had disappeared to. I pulled onto the highway behind the dangerously speeding vehicle, keeping my lights off until they were over a mile ahead. I resumed a solid 85 and continued west. Three miles further I passed a flaming car off the highway. Speed kills, I thought.

I arrived at LAX at 1:45 a.m., stopping at Asia Air’s arrivals, finding no one waiting. I was five minutes late. This was of concern. An airport pig chased me off. “No parking, loading only!” and I took another circuit of the upper deck. On my second drive through I was troubled that there was still no one at the arrivals, no cars picking up, nobody waiting. I pulled over in front of the entrance and stopped, looking through the sliding glass doors at a virtually empty terminal. The airport pig had moved up the sidewalk, but spotting me turned and was walking back when, “Nice car. Looking for some boom-boom?” For a disturbingly serious man, Ted could show uncharacteristic bursts of inappropriate humor. Lee, it turned out, was a young Asian woman.

Unfortunately, the airport pig heard her offer of boom-boom and moved upon our position with increased vigor. Eyeing him, I offered up the appropriate response, “Why yes – can I interest you in some zoom-zoom?” With that she hopped in and we sped off, the determined airport pig thwarted in his pursuit by the additional 40 pounds I gave him for his obnoxiousness, pointlessly huffing and puffing there in the traffic lane, my license plate obscured by my burn-out smoke wafting around him. White Zone that, motherfucker!

Lee was not who I had anticipated, nor did I sense that I lived down to her idea of me, either. She was young, maybe 20, long black hair, very cute but not in the conventional Western sense of what passes for attractive Asianess: she had beautiful Asian eyes, not the artificially round ones offered in popular media, but mischievous and mysterious almond eyes behind rimless glasses, very light make-up over tan flesh; she was about 5 foot 2 inches and weighed in around 110, dripping wet. She was firm and fit; strong calves and thighs, a perky little butt, thin waist and nice breasts, not big, but enticingly shapely. She wore a short red skirt above way too high heels –her legs to drool for – a tight black wife-beater with no bra beneath and carried a small pack.

She was understandably shy. “So, you know what this is about?” Blunt, I mean she was surprisingly blunt. “As to my part, I am merely the wheels. And seats and stuff.” She looked at me suspiciously, “You get a room?” I headed east on Century, “Just arrived from Colorado. You want something to eat?” I could actually hear her eyes light up. “Famished.” I was impressed with her American/English, as well her other attributes; she was delighted with my knowledge of lots of good places to eat and willingness to buy her food.

After we ate, I secured a room at the Hillcrest Arms on Sepulveda, ground floor, around the back – I liked keeping an eye on the Challenger, it drew a lot of attention.* In case it drew too much, I had taken to packing the Walther in my shoulder holster. The smaller frame made it easier to conceal and the hot-load hollow-points gave it a deadly bite. I had come reluctantly to the understanding that I could not do this unarmed. I wasn’t fucking around here – too much was on the line and I wasn’t taking any more shit. From anyone.

*Nice low profile, Ted!**

**”Don’t blame me; I wanted to give you a Rambler.”

“What do you mean the floor?!? I paid for the room.” She sat cross-legged on the bed as I pleaded with her from the foot with the pillow she had tossed me at my feet. She considered me obstinate. “Doesn’t mean you paid for me and I’m not for sale.” I kicked the pillow up into my hand and shook it at her for really stupid emphasis, “We’re talking about sharing the same bed, not negotiating ownership.” She watched my impotent pillow menace then fixed me with a serious stare, “I just don’t appreciate that you immediately assume that I’m sleeping with you.” I tossed the pillow to the too-small-to-sleep-on couch and sat on the edge of the bed, Lee pulling back slightly. “You know what we were up against. This is the only room they had and it only has one bed. I like that you immediately assume that I even want to fuck you. I been driving 16 hours. I don’t want to sleep on the fucking floor, that’s all.”

This might as well have been a wet slap on the face and she shook her head, a little off balance, “Well, when you put it that way. Sorry. Sleep where ever you want.” I kept my pants on because I don’t wear underwear and didn’t want to hasten any setbacks in our somnolence détente by climbing under the covers I had negotiated so hard for freeballing it. “Thanks.” She watched me for a minute then turned out the light and climbed under the covers as well, laying on her back staring at the ceiling in the near darkness. After another minute, she looked over at me, pretending to sleep there, a massive boner causing me to shift about in my pants as discretely as possible. “So you don’t want to fuck me?”

I awoke the next afternoon, more than a little whipped. By way of response I had fucked her 12 ways to Sunday and had fallen asleep working on other ways to occupy us till Monday. I clambered about the bed for a moment before I realized sweet Lee was gone. Making my feet, I stumbled about trying to regroup, find my bearings and Lee who I suspected might have had them. I reached down tentatively – did she have my balls too? No, they were right where I left them, in my hand. I felt a trifle chafed. I thought of her delightful enthusiasm and small frame, how I had lifted her and fucked her standing upright, watching us ooze hotness in the mirror.

“This place is amazing. You just call them and they bring you food. Look! Chicken, fried fucking chicken and pizza. I don’t even know what’s on it. Don’t care. It’s like food heaven – nothing like at home.” She took on a far-away look, a distaste evident in her expression. Then, a whiff, a sniff and smile in a jiff. “Want some?” She offered me a chicken part, all brown and crusty and I consumed it with gusto. Lee loved food like no one I had ever met and certainly so for someone so physically fit. She had clearly come from a culture of deprivation. While delighted at the bounty before her, she was not happy.

“I’m so glad to be outa that hellhole.” I looked at her seated naked on the bed munching on some fries. I thought back to my travails in Indochina. “Vietnam is a hard place.” She looked at me, shocked, several fries in a holding pattern before her pursed lips. “Vietnam?! I’m talking about Florida.” I stopped chewing, baffled. “Florida?! But, I….”

She cocked her head and looked at me, “What?” She had me. “It’s just…” She widened her eyes with a little ‘What?’ shrug and I decided better than pursuing it. “Good chicken.” She smiled widely and grabbed some more fries. “It’s fucking wonderful.”

She told me what she was doing there – she had come to kill a bad man. She felt no shame; this was a man with few if any redeeming qualities, a man who would kill but only for the effort it would demand. And rank cowardice. He would kill only if it required no effort on his part and posed no possibility that he would get hurt. Ted had sent a girl to kill a big pussy and I was her ride. She was an exceptional ride as well so reciprocity was maintained.

Dominic Lipschitz had shit on the wrong person. Dom had blown an Agency cover, gotten a field operative killed and had incurred Ted’s wrath. Not bad for a lazy douchebag on a sex tour of Bangkok. But in addition to being disgustingly corpulent, devoid of personal hygiene and sarcastically condescending where not outright dismissive, Dom had come upon new levels of parsimony repellant to even the cheapest of miserly assholes. His cheapness is what led to his mess and his mess is what necessitated his demise. Dom liked the boys who looked like girls in Bangkok’s Boom-Boom district and as a sloppy tight wad, preferred receiving to giving. After he had received that which moved him the deepest, he decided that he would renegotiate the giving rate. This led to a fight and Dom got the shit kicked out of him by a 90 lb, 4 foot, 11 inch Thai tranny in a mini dress and high heels. Crying “heroin” he called the FBI – they checked her out.

Lai Dee-Dik was 27 and had been one of Ted’s field operatives for 3 years. She had delivered a lot of intelligence and moved a lot of heroin. She had tangible value to Ted. But she had the misfortune of being questioned by a Bureau field agent – very publically, as they are big on reputation destruction – after which some of the people who knew what she was into talked to some of the others with even more to lose and boom, boom, she was dead. Ted was furious. He’d looked into Dom’s fraud, thievery and general despicability and found him too vile even for an Agency field op. Lee was his way in and Ted was her way out. Lee and Dom knew each other; Dom wanted Lee to give him for free what he’d failed to pay for in Thailand. The date was set.

I dropped her in front of his place, a craftsman in a quiet neighborhood. He was supposed to be alone but his cloying gay roomy Percy had stuck around, apparently to assist Dom in his denigration of Lee. I watched her walk in then pulled around the corner and parked. I grabbed the Walther and checked that I had tightly affixed the silencer – a loose connection could prove quite loud indeed. Replacing it in my holster, I concealed it beneath my leather jacket and stepped out of the car. I walked up the sidewalk and then moved quietly along the face of the house, sequestered in the foliage, wild and overgrown. I found a side window with a view to the living room which made me invisible to the street and watched. Dom, another tea totaling long hair poser, sat back in a recliner and made jokes at Lee’s expense; I could see she was becoming enraged. Percy sat to the side and made snide remarks to Dom who laughed and pointed at her.

Suddenly, Lee stood. She appeared flustered and moved as if she would leave, but Dom decided that she would stay and got up, blocking the door. She seemed ambivalent, at first opting to not fulfill the contract, then becoming more perturbed and enraged as Dom, then Percy, grabbed at her, poking, pushing. And all the while they laughed. Then she blew up: she screamed, wild- eyed, terrifying to see actually – Dom and Ass-boy were stunned. And then out came the knife: a 10 inch tantō blade, razor sharp, gripped deadly in her trembling hand. Dom and Dommer looked at each other, half-concerned, half-amused – surely they could stop this tiny hellion. Dom lunged at her, and Lee spun toward him, slicing him across the forearm, opening him widely, a gusher of blood. He looked aghast, terrified, ashamed – he couldn’t even beat up a little girl. He stumbled back, still blocking her exit, confounded. He was bleeding, a lot. This was not a condition he was used to or necessarily prepared for and he looked faint.

Then he went down, smacking his greasy head on the coffee table, knocking over the candle burning to mask the putrid ambience, igniting the cheap ass-worn couch and paper trash on the floor. Outraged, Percy grabbed a shotgun from his room, then ran back out, raising it toward Lee. I had no other reasonable option – I fired a single shot through the window, missing him completely. The shotgun continued up, the menace to Lee who was tugging desperately on Dom imminent. I focused and aimed and fired – 8 times. I got him once through the eyes with another one through his guts, dropping him. I quickly grabbed my brass then ran to the front door.

Forcing it open I saw Lee drive the blade into Dom’s heaving blobby torso. The fire was now rolling up the walls and across the floor, Percy flailing wildly. We walked with a purpose back to the car, front doors opening as the neighbors’ curiosity overwhelmed their sense of self-preservation or simple reason. We were well under way before we heard the first siren. We had gotten away clean and I had killed again to protect a woman. And the world was down two more despicable assholes, a drop in the bucket, sure, but still a move in the right direction.

“I’m not going back.” She watched the road as we drove toward LAX. While on a personal level this pleased me, I realized the potential consequences should I fail to complete my end of the deal. “It doesn’t matter, there’s nothing for me there.” If I were to go against Ted, he’d have me killed; that much was sure. “I don’t know; he seems to like you.” She was responding to my thoughts as written--once again, my characters… “Stop blaming us. Everybody knows who’s responsible here and it sure as hell isn’t some randomly appearing ephemeral literary construct. You can tell your buddy I didn’t show up for the pick-up. Or better, that I died. I’ve got a little money; this seems like a fine place to disappear.”

She was correct about that – L.A. was a magnificent place to disappear. Millions of people, address changes, name changes, face changes, countless places to hide and nobody looking. Off the grid, out of the system, one could achieve anonymity in this place. In the most visible city in the world, the invisible walked unseen among us, casting no shadow, leaving nary a ripple.

Where only the Somebody matters, the nobody becomes as vapor, hardly mist. She had me drop her at Sunset and Gower. “I planned for this, just not for you. You are an amazing man.” I had been dumped before and I knew the scent, having been sent packing more than once, “And you an exceptional woman.” She could see that I was getting emotional – I had been up for three days – and had little use for that, “Listen. I’ve got some stuff I have to do, as do you.” “True.” “So look me up in a book or two.” She kissed me deeply, and with that she was gone.

I had driven about 45 minutes before I spotted him in my rear view mirror, southbound on the 110, about 11:30 p.m. I don’t know how long he’d been dogging me, but suddenly he was right on my ass, hurtling down the freeway at 80 mph. He was dressed in black and on some kind of a hog, and in the mirror he represented an ominous form. I lowered the passenger window about halfway as I watched him hang back in my blind spot on the right. We continued that way as I sped up and moved through the sparse Monday night traffic, the biker right up my ass. I could see he was having trouble with something.

While focused on my 2-wheeled antagonist, I had neglected to notice a 4-wheeled one approaching me on my left – this held potential, much of it not particularly promising to me, but literary gold. The biker struggled with a practical dilemma – he was right handed, on my right side, the throttle of the bike on his right. He’d have to assault me with his left hand. In order to pull out his pistol though, he had to unzip his leather jacket which at 80 mph tended to be rather flappy, then control it sufficiently left handed to even begin to pose a realistic threat to me. The sedan back and to my left was another problem and I could tell the driver had a dedicated shooter riding shotgun, an appropriate place for him to ride, though of no comfort to me.

The biker made his move. I could see him in the side-view mirror holding the pistol, arm fully extended as he accelerated alongside me. At the precise instant his arm crossed my open window, I swerved to the right, hit the button and rolled it up, the glass snapping shut on his elbow, holding him. He pulled off a single shot, which owing to the angle, ricocheted along the inside of the windshield, then out the open wind wing and into the sedan now beside me, hitting the gunman in the face, causing him to discharge his shotgun inside the sedan. This I thought was a situation ripe for misadventure, so I locked up the brakes, a huge black cloud of tire rubber filling the air, obscuring the freeway. I could hear the ominous sounds of approaching skids.

The biker, much to his misfortune, didn’t at that precise instant hit the brakes which caused tension with his arm, which was still in my car, and his body, which had continued past at about 85 mph. The sedan as well proceeded forward, both of them passing me. The biker’s jacket came off, as did his left forearm which also provided me his pistol. The sedan cut in front of me just as the biker came apart, flipping a squirty cartwheel into the air as his bike bounced up, then came crashing through the windshield of the car, which then flipped and squashed the bouncing biker.

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