Read Dangerous Games Online

Authors: John Shannon

Dangerous Games

BOOK: Dangerous Games
2.35Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Also available from John Shannon

THE ORANGE CURTAIN

STREETS ON FIRE

CITY OF STRANGERS

TERMINAL ISLAND

DANGEROUS GAMES

A J
ACK
L
IFFEY
M
YSTERY

John Shannon

C
ARROLL
& G
RAF
P
UBLISHERS

N
EW
Y
ORK

Dangerous Games

Carroll & Graf Publishers

An Imprint of Avalon Publishing Group Inc.

245 West 17th Street

11th Floor

New York, NY 10011

Copyright © 2005 by John Shannon

First Carroll & Graf edition 2005

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission from the publisher, except by reviewers who may quote brief excerpts in connection with a review in a newspaper, magazine, or electronic publication; nor may any part of this book be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or other, without written permission from the publisher.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available.

ISBN: 0-7867-1543-X

Printed in the United States of America

Distributed by Publishers Group West

For Diane Stewart

Not to be aware of the natural light of California, nor even of a mountain fire that has been driven ten miles out to sea by the hot wind, and is enveloping the offshore oil platforms in its smoke, to see nothing of all this and obstinately to carry on running by a sort of lymphatic flagellation till sacrificial exhaustion is reached, that is truly a sign from the beyond.

—Baudrillard

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned.

—Yeats

ONE

Drive-by

“Don't touch me there,” she protested.

“Hey, kid. Did you know that's a song?”

She glared and rolled away from him. Covering her nakedness with the soiled bedspread, she clasped a hand against her breast, which he had reached out idly and touched, apparently just to fiddle. She felt as soiled as the bedspread, bewildered by the lights and activity around her. Not quite sure what she had got into.

“It was by The Tubes.”

“Sure.”

“They were a San Francisco punk band. Well, a sort-of art school band really. Before you were born, the seventies.”

“What's going on?”

“On the set? Kelly's trying to fluff Kirk. This is known as waiting for wood, hon. If you're going to stay in the biz, you'd best get used to it. Guys can't always do the deed. Isn't fair is it? All you got to do is make a little noise, but we got to get it up. You want a boyfriend? I could be your boyfriend tonight. You wouldn't have to fake anything.”

“Leave me alone.”

He batted his eyelids a few times, and she had no idea what it was meant to imply. He was in his forties with a strange handlebar moustache and not too bad looking, but she didn't really trust him after he'd lied about what she'd have to do that afternoon. “You better not get yourself too stuck up, princess. It's a long, long road down blowjob lane, and somebody like me can ease the way for you.”

Rod was the AD. It meant the assistant director, he'd told her—that much she remembered. Most of the rest was a blur. Too many people and too much happening in just her third week in the city, and then there was that pill they'd given her. They'd said it was to make her relax, but it just seemed to confuse her.

“Money is time! Money is time! Money is time!” The director stormed across the messy room, a huge man with a full beard and a shaved head with a tiny ratlike pony tail flopping down in back. He wore torn jeans, and his big hands were like ham hocks in her uncle's smoker up in the Owens.

“Ah shit! She's a mess. Make up! Get that lazy cunt in here!”

The director stormed away, and Luisa Wilson tried to lie still and cause no trouble, draw no attention at all. The AD came back with a clipboard and knelt on the mattress.

“You really an Indian, hon? You sure got the hair. And those black black eyes, I'll say that. Valley Talent says your name is Luisa Wilson, and that's fine with me, but I think you're going to want you a fancy screen name. Why don't you look these over while the big dog's hunting down Makeup.

She took the clipboard from him with a remarkably weak hand, almost dropped it. Something wasn't quite right about her muscles. He'd scribbled a number of ridiculous names.

Sleeps-with-Wolves

Princess Show-me-mo

Cat-on-back

Wild Beaver

Wiggling Bottom

She threw the clipboard down and said, “Call me Taboots.”

“What's it mean?”

“None of your business.”

“Sure, hon. You're only a feature player, remember. You still got time to change your mind.”

“Time is money! Time is money! Time is money!” The director hove into sight again like a belligerent comet passing through the heavens, bellowing and gesticulating. Trotting behind was the makeup woman with hair so unnaturally red it gave Luisa Wilson a headache. “We're twenty minutes from golden time, Jess. Step on it!”

“Whoa, sweetie, you do need some work here.” She sat on a corner of the mattress near Luisa and opened the accordionlike makeup box, then extracted several small square bottles and a brush.

“Here comes wood!” somebody cried.

“I don't know why they always say you guys are red. It's more like brown, isn't it?” The redhead held a bottle up for comparison. “Here. Sit up a bit if you can, sweetie.” She had a nice smile, and Luisa tried to be ingratiating.

Boosting herself up against the wall, she readjusted herself for the woman but kept the spread clutched over her breasts. “Don't worry about it, hon,” Makeup whispered. “That's why I earn the big bucks around here. Even some of the veterans cry the makeup off.”

Dear Diary,

I was so hope-full of beginning a new life in this dreamy city, where I can begin completely anew with the aide of a person who cares for me, but little did I realize that this strange odissey of mine that began at the Greyhound bus stopping for me beside the Buy-Rite Market in Lone Pine & would end up in such a strange activity. One man here has tried to console me & I remain cheerful & hopeful inside, despite all. He is very handsome & looks a little like an overweight Brad Pitt. I dream of a handsome man like him who will become my protector. Since my first hope of finding a protector & sponsor in Little Deer did not pan out.

* * *

“I hear you hate cops.”

Jack Liffey was indignant. “Does this look like hate to you?”

“No, it looks a lot like a penis. Only smaller.”

They both laughed. It was hard to get the best of Police Sgt. Gloria Ramirez, even with both of them naked as jaybirds.

“I've had some bad experiences with the officers of public order,” he told her. “You know how you guys react to anyone considered a private dick. I'm the partially chewed internal organ of a squirrel that the cat has left at the back door.”

She shook her head, trying not to laugh again. She knew how Jack Liffey had lost his aerospace job just as the industry was hitting the skids in Southern California, and how he had found out by accident that he had a talent for tracing missing children. The truth was, she had a soft spot for lost kids and approved of what he did. Right now, they were in the big queen bed upstairs in her old frame house in East L.A., Boyle Heights actually. She owned the whole two-story house, which was unusual for the neighborhood where most of the bigger houses had been broken up into four apartments or more. Gloria had been living there alone until Jack Liffey had moved in with her.

There was a gentle rap at the door. “Are you decent?”

“I'm not into epistemology this early,” he called out as Gloria flipped the sheet over them.

His nearly-seventeen-year-old daughter Maeve peeked in. “I'm making fresh orange juice, French toast, and strong coffee,” she announced.

“Wonderful,” Gloria said. “Any of the
pan dulce
edible?”

“I'll see, but I think they've gone pretty hard.”

Jack Liffey knew his lover's favorite breakfast was machaca, a kind of scrambled eggs with chiles, peppers, and shredded beef, but Maeve was on a new vegetarian kick and wouldn't dream of serving up something with cow in it. Cows were destroying the planet. They were a tremendous drain on the earth relative to the calories they provided. Cows also committed the sin of farting more methane than the biota could absorb. Which was all probably true, but Jack Liffey liked beef enough to let the planet go ahead and die a little while he lived out his allotted span. For this attitude, Maeve claimed he was no better than an SUV owner—though she had to be careful where she said it because Gloria Ramirez drove a Toyota RAV-4 and Maeve was crazy about Gloria.

“We'll be right down, hon. Give us a chance to freshen up.”

“Just don't be humping anymore. It'll get cold.” The door shut quickly.

“Humping.” He tested the word in his mouth after his daughter had gone. “Just how polite is that expression these days?”

“A few cents better than some others I know, that's for sure. You know what kids mean by ‘hooking up'?”

He nodded. “Maeve's told me. I can't imagine a party where kids just pile in to choose up for meaningless sex, and then, when it's over, walk away.”

“You're getting old, Jack.”

“Boy, I hope that's not it. You're closer to the street than me, but not every kid's that jaded, or is it only wishful thinking on my part?”

She shrugged. “Yes, Jack. I wish I could tell you what you want to hear …”

He kissed her and gave it up. She was already putting on her work mood, he could tell, toughening up for her new partner, a hardnose who'd never even acclimated to having women in the department. “Okay, okay.”

“I've got to shower. You go down and keep her company for a bit.” As a consolation, she gave him a deep kiss with a lot of tongue, and for an instant she shuddered, pretending mischievously to be heading toward an orgasm.

“Women may be able to fake orgasms,” he challenged as she pushed him away and jumped out of bed, “but men can fake whole relationships.”

“If you're faking this one, Jack Liffey, I'll shoot your balls off.”

You had to feel a little twinge when a woman who said that to you actually carried the new .40-caliber Glock that the cops had all switched to. He was the one who had proposed marriage about five times over the last year, though. Something—he wasn't sure what—was holding her back.

He even wondered if it might be his own anxieties putting her off. Over the last decade, he'd lost so many things important to him that he'd given up counting—the secure middle-class job, wife, beloved daughter (only back temporarily), comfortable house, money in the bank. It was strange living almost entirely without luck. It left you spiritually depleted, somehow, and a bit too needy.

He'd given up his psychiatrist, too, since he'd only gone to the blithering idiot under duress, and when he found out it wasn't going to get him back custody of his daughter, he'd quit. It was hard to know what effect moving to East L.A. was going to have on him. If it was like being a Commanche in Norway, at least he was studying Spanish to try to catch up. He wondered if he wasn't, in fact, too old to start over quite this thoroughly, but he really wanted to be with Gloria Ramirez, and he figured his fingernails were tough enough to cling to what little seemed to be left. It just couldn't help take a toll as he struggled to maintain that grasp.

Just before 9
A.M.
was the perfect time at the big Coffee Plantation on Wilshire to catch the men's room full of pissers in business suits, semidisabled as they held up their big paper cups of latte in front of the long row of urinals. Surreptitiously, Rod Whipple slid a new cassette into the little digital video camera; his partner, Kenyon “Beanpole” Styles, had already done the same. They'd met in an extension film class, and the compilation video had been Kenyon's bright idea at a bar after class five months earlier.

“Are we set?”

“On some level.”

“Well, on any level, what's the signal?” Kenyon asked. His nickname came from his being 6-foot-5 and thin as a pencil.

“I knock twice on the door.”

“Sweet. Okay, I've got speed.”

“Me, too.” Rod stuck out his free hand and rapped hard on the outside swing door. They moved apart to give themselves different camera angles on the action.

There was a longish pause before anything happened. One man shook himself off one-handed and left for the basins.

Then the door flew open, and what was clearly a homeless old woman stomped in. She had only a few teeth in her big grin and wore a series of filthy skirts and shirts. Pink socks that had lost their elastic settled limply over laceless tennis shoes.

“Who's the richest cocksucker in the room!” the woman bellowed. Her scratchy voice echoed painfully against the tile.

Every eye and two cameras went to the woman, who stood with her wrists on her hips.

“Get out of here, ma'am. This is the men's room,” a man in a suit said, with patronizing politeness.

“So it's
you!

She rushed at him and before he could turn away she punched him hard in the balls. He squealed and went down hard on his knees, spewing milky coffee from an oversized paper cup across the floor. “Ow! Ow! Ow!” he bleated. “Ow! Ow!” The woman turned immediately to a new target two stalls away, who was caught midstream with a panicky look on his face. She cackled and punched him even harder so that he went off like a steam whistle, bending over and clutching himself with both hands. He wasn't holding a coffee.

The old lady now approached a third man, also caught midstream, and he turned on her the only weapon he had, spraying her purposefully.

“You fascist!” she cried and went for him. But he managed to turn his back and absorb her blows on his hip as the other men in the room fled for the door, right past the softly purring cameras.

The woman reached around her new prey and grabbed his balls, squeezing until he screamed and threatened her.

“Go down, motherfucker, go down
now,
” she commanded, and he did, falling to the side of his hip beside his still-writhing predecessor.

The old woman then turned to the camera and grinned broadly, exposing three widely spaced teeth lost in bluish gums. “Did I do good, boys?”

Kenyon handed her a hundred-dollar bill, and the two videologists fled the room, straight through the stirred-up coffee bar and out the front door. They sprinted up busy Wilshire and around a corner before slowing to a reaching gait.

“Jesus, was that sweet!” Kenyon exclaimed.

“You could of probably kept the second hundred,” Rod said. “Fuck the bag lady.”

“No, you fuck the bag lady. Let's be honorable. A hundred bucks is nothing to what we're going to make off
DG II.
We're gonna be
rich!

Jack Liffey was raking the front lawn, even getting in behind the plastic barrels that held geraniums and flicking out the leaves and crud caught there. It was some sort of completely gratuitous penance he was offering Gloria, who didn't demand it, yet always managed to keep him off balance. Still, he enjoyed the physical labor, and it had to be done. The yard had grown ankle deep in big papery orange and brown sycamore leaves. He didn't know why anyone planted deciduous trees in California, when there were so many attractive evergreens, from palms and pines to the live oaks that never dropped a thing but acorns. But he liked the look of sycamores, with their big arched boughs and the patchy beige and white bark that invited climbing, and this one was really huge, generations old. The hurricane fence along the sidewalk was also trapping leaves, and the chain-link grabbed noisily at the tines of his rattan rake. Used to the openness of Westside front yards, it hadn't taken him long to notice that every house in Boyle Heights had a wall or fence of some kind in front, often concrete block posts with forbidding wrought-iron spears in between.

BOOK: Dangerous Games
2.35Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

TrickorTreat by Madeleine Oh
Bug Eyed Monsters by Jean Ure
Sidetracked by Henning Mankell
Be Mine by Rick Mofina
The Fleet Street Murders by Charles Finch