Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Issue #21: February, 2012

By Allerton Mead

We rolled into the hills at sunset, passing a bottle of Old Granddad, driving a black Galaxy 500 that Jimmy started with a key I found in the street. Those old Galaxies were some cool-ass cars, and I bet some poor bastard was really going to miss it. Then again, fuck him. The dumb son of a bitch should have known how the tumblers in an ignition will wear down over the years. Motherfucker should have had the sense to buy one of those Clubs.

It was our ride now, and Jimmy turned the wheel with his index finger, stomped the gas and moved us on up. He had the seat pushed all the way back for his long legs, and his head was turned at an angle so his mohawk wouldn't get bent out of shape on the top of the car. It looked real uncomfortable for him, and was probably not something he'd thought of when he insisted on being the one to drive.

At the top of the hills was the top-dollar real estate, and we passed by—several gated driveways with giant mansions set way back from the road. That was what money bought you: privacy and protection. That, and a cool view. We saw that view ourselves when we went along the top of a cliff and looked to the west. That California coast at sunset was really something else. Hills that turned a glowing purple as they rolled out to the sea. Clouds that hung like loose, orange elephant turds in a prune juice sky. Beautiful.

We had climbed to the top of the highest hill when a thin, pale hand with black nail polish slipped out from the darkness of the big back seat. The hand touched Jimmy's shoulder.

"Slow down," said Jet. "That's it on the right."

Jet pulled his hand away, sat back again quiet and creepy, with his long black bangs hung low over his ghostly vampire face.

Jimmy slowed the car down and we came to a stop at the head of a long driveway. At the end was a security gate, which was about twelve feet high and made of spiky, black iron, and was mounted in a gap in a white stucco wall that looked to surround several acres of prime real estate. In front of the gate was a marble statue shaped like a big pineapple. Jimmy stared at the pineapple and gate for a long moment, his eyes squinted in deep concentration. Then he turned to Jet.

"You ready?" Jimmy asked him.

"I am," said Jet.

Jet took the snubnose thirty-eight out of the pocket of his black leather jacket, and Jimmy gave him a handful of shells. Jet fumbled around with the cylinder for a bit until Jimmy took the gun, loaded it himself, and then handed it back.

Jimmy was smart that way, not just because he knew how to handle a gun, but because he knew things about the law. You get pulled over with a loaded gun in a stolen car, you get tossed in Chino for the next year and a half of your life. But you get caught with an empty gun, it's only a months in county, if that. At least that was the way Jimmy explained it, anyhow. 
Jet slipped the pistol back into the pocket of his leather, and Jimmy pulled the car up to the Pineapple. It had a speaker and keypad mounted on the side. Jet rolled down the back window, poked at the numbers with his skinny fingers.

"May I help you?" said the Pineapple.

"Open sesame," said Jet.

There was a long pause.

"Who's there?"

"It's me, Franky, from a week back," Jet said. "We're looking to party."

Another pause. "Franky. Oh, yes. Who do you mean by 'we'?"

"Just a couple of friends. They're cool. We're all looking to party. All three of us"

The speaker went dead. The iron gate hummed and swung open. We were inside.

The driveway curved back through a grove of tall palm trees to a tri-leveled, new age castle, lit up white from big floodlights on the lawn. A white Bentley was parked right up front, and a sporty convertible Mercedes, also white, was pulled under an open air garage around the side.

Jimmy parked the Galaxy alongside the Bentley, in front of a pair of tall double doors that were open on the main floor of the mansion. I took a long pull of the Old Granddad, handed the last swallow to Jimmy.

"Whisky," I said, "makes you frisky."

"But crank," said Jimmy, "makes you stank."

Jimmy took the last slug, and tossed the bottle out the window onto the putting green lawn. Then he took a little plastic baggy from the pocket of his studded leather jacket, snorted a pinch like an old timer would do with snuff. Jet and me did the same. God only knew what Jimmy's crank was cut with—powdered glass and dish detergent, probably—but still, it really got us going, put us on a wave of confidence that we would need to ride all the way into the house, if we were really going to pull this off.

This was especially true for Jet. This was going to be an important night for him. It was going to be a big step from giving ten-dollar gummies to middle-aged sickos down on Sunset. The poor son of a bitch walked around constantly with chapped lips and steering wheel bruises on the side of his head. It was a three-day limp if he pulled an all-night trick. Jet was a good guy, though, which was why Jimmy had decided a while back to take him under his wing.

And really, I guess it was a big night for me and Jimmy, too. After what seemed like months of scuffing our knuckles for chump change on drunk GI's and drunker tourists who wandered off the Boulevard in the wee hours before dawn, this was going to be our first actual gun crime. And by the looks of this house, we were going to hit it big. I just wished I was still under 18, so Jimmy would have let me carry the gun.

We got out of the car and followed Jet down the drive and through the open doors. The inside of the house was as white as it was on the outside. White furniture on marble floors, white pillars that held up a vaulted ceiling. The place was so blinding white and squeaky clean, it could have been a movie set for a waiting room outside the pearly gates.
The only thing that threw off the image was a humongous, rectangular mirror just inside the door. Not the mirror itself, really, but what was in it. Our reflections. Against all that white and sparkling cleanness, all I could think was that Jimmy had been right about what he'd said in regards to speed and personal hygiene: they don't mix. Living in an abandoned hotel room without plumbing didn't help much, either. I saw that my 501's had gone to a grimy shade of grey and could have stood up on their own. A week-old malt liquor stain down the front Jimmy's shirt had turned a color that was not likely to be found on any paint chart. Looking at us in that mirror, all I could think of was an underfed, punk-rock version of the Three Stooges. With smell lines coming off our black leather jackets like Pigsty in a Charlie Brown cartoon.

Something about that last image caused that big wave of confidence to drain from my body like a long beer piss in a dark alley.

The mirror seemed to have the same effect on Jimmy. His mohawk, his pride and joy, was listing to port after the long car trip. But he tried to straighten it for only a second, gave up on it and looked away with his shoulders slumped lower than I had ever seen them.

The mirror didn't seem to bother Jet, though. First off, he wasn't quite as dirty as us. Second, I suspected a loaded handgun will do wonders for your self-esteem.

Since this was Jet's second visit, we followed him across the marble floor and through a sliding glass door that led out back. We came out on a huge stone deck on the top of a cliff, with a hot tub and a negative edge pool on the far end. The way the pool was set up, it looked like the water poured right off the deck and down the side of the cliff, onto the sprinkling of lights of the low hills that grew brighter and brighter until they turned into the solid glow of Los Angeles. Out past that was the big, black ocean.

Standing on the deck next to the pool was a middle-aged man, a tall, pear-shaped fucker, with sad, sneaky eyes and a mustache that was somewhere between cop and fag. He was wearing a white robe that was wrapped pretty loose around him, and when he walked toward us a little breeze kicked up to show that he wasn't wearing anything underneath. He smiled at us, and without a word, he led us back inside.

"Stuart," he lisped, once we were back indoors. "But you can call me Stu."

He held out his hand. It was big and limp and clammy, and when we shook I got the feeling he wasn't squeezing near as hard as he could. He shook Jimmy's hand next, and I noticed Jimmy couldn't look him in the eye. Then Stu gave Jet a long, slow wink.

Jet winked back and even managed a grin. That gun had really given him a set of nuts. The plan was to force this rich fuck back into his bedroom to open a safe in his closet, which he had opened the week before, when Jet was in his bed and old Stuart thought he was still sleeping. Jet said he got a good look in there, too, and that there was a brick of coke and several big stacks of bills. Hundreds, most likely. I thought Jet was full of shit when he told us about it, but by the looks of the house and cars, I could imagine this fool would have enough coke and money in the safe for us to rent a real hotel room and live like drug kingpins for the rest of our lives. Or at least for the next couple of months. As for Stu himself, we were planning to shoot him only if he tried something stupid.
Jet stuck his hand in the front pocket of his leather jacket, which was where he'd put the gun. This was it. He shook his black bangs out of his eyes, his hand twitched inside his pocket, and then, right at that very instant, I heard some swishing footsteps behind us on the marble floor. Jet froze in place, the butt of the thirty-eight just barely visible. Things had all of a sudden changed. The old queer was not alone in the mansion. Someone else was with us in the room.

Jet's vampire eyes jumped back and forth between Stu and the guy who had just come in. He was barely five and a half feet tall, but had a rough look to him and the muscles of a professional bodybuilder. He wore a white tennis outfit and carried a tray of drinks. He came across the room and set the tray on a long, low-slung, glass coffee table, and then he swished his way out of there so fast that none of us had time to react. 

I looked to Jet. His mouth hung open like he'd been slapped. His eyes started jumping again, this time back and forth between me, Jimmy, and Stu, who by the way had the strangest expression on his face. It was almost like he knew we were up to something, and was just daring us to go through with it. I think it was this look that made Jet lose his nerve. He let out a long, shaky breath and eased the gun back in the pocket of his leather.

If Stu had actually seen the gun, he didn't let on. The slightest hint of a smile crossed his face when Jet, Jimmy, and me reached down and picked up the three tall glasses full of ice and liquor. Stu checked his watch then, a gold Rolex that looked heavy enough to use as a weapon in a street fight, and his smile got bigger when we turned up our drinks. We slammed them down pretty quick, too, nervous as we were, and by the time we were done, Stu had wandered over to the wet bar and asked us if we wanted more. That, and maybe do a line or two of coke on top of it. We did three or four. Unlike Jimmy's Private Reserve, the stuff wasn't cut with anything at all, much less detergent and powdered glass. Afterward, Stu grabbed a bottle of top shelf Scotch and a bucket of ice, and we all went back out on the deck.

                                    *                                  *                                  *

An hour later, and the bottle was nearly gone. Stu sat next to me in a deck chair, watched Jet and Jimmy frolic around in their boxer shorts in his swimming pool. The rich old fruit checked his expensive watch again and stirred the ice in his drink with a long, sausage-link of a middle finger. He turned toward me and slipped the finger in his mouth, pulled it out with a long, slow sucking sound, like his lips enjoyed the sensation and didn't want to let go. He said, "Do you see that room up there on the second floor?"

He pointed back over my shoulder, leaned in a little too close for my liking. "Yeah," I said, pulling away from him, "something special about it?"

"That's the little girly's room," he said.

"OK, man," I said.

He said, "I never go in there, you see."

"Why not?" I asked him. "It's your house."

"Because, young man, it's full of leprechauns."

"Are you serious?"

"Quite," he said. "They'll get you if you're not careful."

He stared at me and he pressed that thick sausage link along one of his eyebrows, molded it high up onto his forehead and dropped the other eyebrow down into a squint.

I felt my flesh crawl and I got up from the chair. I'd drunk more than I thought and was having some trouble focusing. Jimmy and Jet had just climbed out of the pool, and they were both sitting on the edge and breathing hard. I walked over to them and called Jet by his real name and then said "Franky," real loud so Stu wouldn't get suspicious. But it didn't matter anyhow. Stu had already gotten up and gone inside. I could see him through a window, talking and laughing with muscle boy in the kitchen. I got down on a knee next to the pool and spoke in a whisper.

"Let's get this shit over with." I said. "Now. I'm starting to feel sick or something, and that Goddamn queerhole is giving me the creeps."

"Don't worry," said Jimmy, his eyes swimming. "All we got to do is get them in the same room together, and then...  then we shoot the motherfuckers dead."

"Dead?" I said.

"You in, man?" said Jet.

"You bet your ass," I said. I wasn't going to let a little death rocker act tougher than me. Besides, at that moment, it seemed like the right thing to do.

Jet laughed like he could read my mind and that the whole thing was all a big joke. He was so fucked up he could barely stand. He put his jacket on without even bothering with his shirt or pants. I had taken my jacket off earlier because I'd felt hot, but now I felt cold all over. I got it off the pile of clothes next to the diving board and put it back on. I felt weak and the jacket felt heavy and bulky. My stomach was doing flips. The three of us stumbled back inside, practically hanging on to each other for balance.

Stuart came mincing back in from the kitchen with his terrycloth robe just barely hanging on him. His cock was rock hard now and the head was poking straight out between the folds.

"I like the look," he said to Jet. "Leather on bare, wet skin."

"I'll bet you do," said Jet. "But you're gonna have to call your buddy in here if you want to get this going."

He then hooked his thumb in the elastic of his boxer shorts and gave Stu a look I would have rather not seen.

Stu's breath came faster, and his eyes grew wide and round. "Of course," he said, and then he called over his shoulder. "Pinochet? Would you care to join us?"

A second later, Pinochet, if that was indeed his real name, came out of the kitchen. He stared Jet up and down like he could have eaten his flesh raw.

"Is this a group party?" Stu said next, eyeballing me first, and then Jimmy.

The second Stu took his eyes off him, Jet moved.

"You bet your ass it is!" he said, his voice full of drama. He then dramatically shoved his hand into the pocket of his leather, and his face went a dramatic shade whiter than it already was. He jerked his hand form his pocket, but nothing was in it. He stared at it for several seconds, and the shocked look on his face was almost enough to make me bust out laughing. It was like his wrist had sprouted a Christmas ham, and that if he concentrated hard enough, he could somehow make it turn back into a gun. He then looked at Stu and Pinochet crazily and started backing away. He made about three steps before his legs buckled, and he fell back on his skinny butt. He shook his wet bangs from side to side as his pale, thin body eased down on the marble floor.

Jimmy made a move, but it was a move to lay back on a white leather couch, close his eyes, and fall asleep. I went after Stu then myself, and as my own knees gave out, it dawned on me that the old homo had drugged the whiskey, and that I was about to go through the glass coffee table with my face.

                                                *                      *                      *

What then? Well, I came to in the trunk of a car is what then. Wrapped in plastic. Choking on my own blood. The next couple of minutes were too scary to even remember, really. All that matters is I managed to rip through the plastic and kick down the back seat and poke my head through.

I was alive, but that was about all I could say for myself. My gut was full of rotten liquor, and it felt like some steroid freak cop was knocking me in the back of the skull every time my heart beat. I half-climbed, half-fell out of the back door of the Ford into a sandy parking lot on the beach. When that fresh, west coast ocean air hit my lungs, my stomach flipped and puked for what seemed like an hour straight.

The heaves eased up, eventually, and I leaned back against the wheel well of the car. The sun was just coming up and no one was around to see me, except for a few surfers next to the pier, and they weren't watching. My shaking hands found their way to my belt, to make sure it was still buckled, and that all the buttons were done up on my jeans. They were, and I breathed a long, shaky sigh of relief. My face and neck were stiff with dried blood and it felt like my nose was broken, but I could see pretty clear through both eyes and I checked in the side mirror to see that I didn't have any serious scars.
Thoughts went through my head like ghosts, disappearing when I tried to grab hold of them. The only thing I knew for sure was the gun was still in Jet's jacket, the one I was wearing now, after putting it on by mistake the night before.

I thought about driving the Galaxy back to Hollywood to see if how things had gone for the other two stooges. They were probably both just back at the squat on Wilcox, with no more damage done to them than bad drug hangovers and a couple of really sore buttholes. But when something like that is the best possible case, then the last thing you want is to know the truth.

I tossed the gun in a trash barrel on the edge of the parking lot, pushed some garbage over it so it couldn't be seen. Then I took off the leather, and I walked into the ocean wearing all my dirty clothes.  

Allerton Mead lives and drinks in southeast Virginia, where he is very, very slowly finishing a novel about skinheads, punks and murder. His work has also appeared in Pulp Metal Fiction.

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