Friday, February 15, 2008

Jayne & the Satanists --Chapter 17

We should probably have turned the whole thing over to the police and if somehow Scream wanted to blackmail me with some photos, I should just start sending resumes to New York and forget all about this sun-baked burg where the heat boiled everyone’s brains and they became pawns of their every urge. Satanists, sex clubs, dominatrixes, transvestites, alcoholics, dope fiends, and gossip columnists; what a sorry lot we were. The real Bettie Page had the right idea: come out here while you’re young, have some fun and split back to the real world before this freak show breaks your ass.

While I’d been mulling this over, Ed had persuaded Betty to let him have a look at her outfits. You could see he was in seventh heaven running his fingers over the satin and leather, discussing corsets and high heels. From the way Ed was looking at her I knew he was no nance. He mentioned that he had a still camera for taking continuity shots for his films. I was amazed he had not hawked it for a bottle along the way. He asked Betty if he could take a few shots of her. She said that she usually charged ten bucks an hour for the privilege, but she relented when Ed gave her the puppy-dog eyes.

I could tell she loved being admired. “Before I get my pictures taken though, I like to have some of this,” she said, and pulled a brown reefer out of her purse. Ed and she smoked it. I declined. I’d had reefer before and I didn’t like the sensation. Pretty soon, they were giggling like schoolgirls, while I felt outside of some special bubble they were in. Ed was rambling on about how a man could get great pleasure from wearing a woman’s clothes and how it was unfair that men had to wear such dull, lumpy clothing when, in nature, the male of the species was the flamboyant one, the peacock.

I felt like getting out of there, but when Betty stood and started posing for Ed, my interest was piqued. When she started modeling, her silliness fell away and she was the serious, statuesque poser. After a couple of shots in her sundress, she asked me to undo her dress and she slipped out of it revealing a white half-bra and a white garterbelt and panties and black nylons. I couldn’t help but stare. She was magnificent and substantially bustier than the real McCoy. She scorched the camera with her stern gazes and Ed clicked on until he ran out of film. She seemed disappointed when it came to an end, but showed no sign of getting dressed. The sun was pouring through the window, glinting off her slick nylons and the straps of her garterbelt, highlighting her hair and the silver hoop earrings she wore. She stalked around the room as she sipped her drink, always aware of our eyes on her, glorying in the attention. She was magnificent. If Scream’s mind could be boggled by female pulchritude, she could do the job.

The reefer and the booze had climbed all over Ed and he was soon smiling sleepily in a chair. My fondest hope was that he would pass out and get some sleep to be in shape for tomorrow’s meeting with Scream. Ed in the throes of hangover was not the sharpest knife in the drawer.

I asked Betty if she needed a ride home and she said she had taken the bus down, so she would appreciate it. She got dressed and maybe because she was high, she did not bother hiding her bangs under her hat.

* * *

I drove her to a little bungalow in an older neighborhood. It was very quiet, sedate. On the way over, we had talked about her life and how she had become an expert on Bettie Page, how she had learned to capitalize on it. All afternoon I had wondered if she hooked on the side. She invited me in and I was powerless to refuse.

Her place was spic and span, a nice airy place with a few framed photos of her on the walls, all very conservative. She made us gin rickeys, which I thought was not such a bright idea on top of the bourbon. She asked if I wanted to see her modeling portfolio. She brought it out and we sat on the couch. The pages were arranged from her in dresses through lingerie, nudes then stuff of her in bondage and on to her as a domina over trussed up women, spanking them. When we reached the end there was a large white envelope. She looked up at me and there was hunger in her eyes. I was obviously aroused. She opened the envelope and brough out a series of her dressed in a leather corset. She was with some young muscle boy. He was nude and aroused. She spanked him and lay her riding crop across his genitals. The final shot was of her on her knees peering at the camera, she was holding the guy’s erect cock.

I looked over at her and she was flushed and breathing hard. There was an imploring look in her eyes. “You are so gorgeous,” I said and pulled her face to mine plunging my tongue into her mouth. She gasped and pulled away for air. “It’s thirty for regular, more if you want special outfits or to play games.”

I was surprised, but not much. I had almost hoped it would turn out this way. I stood and opened my wallet, dropped fifty on the coffee table and she pressed her face into my trousers and purred.

* * *

Next day at work my mind kept wandering. I was working on a story about a country club that certain stars belonged to. Certain, non-Jewish stars. I had this whole story worked up about stars and prejudice. I was investigating the Masons too. It would be a good piece if I kept my mind on it. I tapped the keys until lunch break. Then, I went out to buy a gun.

It was a beauty. I had gone to Remo’s Firearms and given him my budget, substantially reduced after last night’s dalliance, and for thirty-five bucks I got a grey snub-nosed thirty-eight revolver and a clip-on holster suitable for wearing at the back of my pants. A good reliable gun, nothing fancy. A killing machine.

When I got back to the office, I called Ed and he seemed compis mentis. He understood he was to call me as soon as he finished with Scream. I spent the next few hours working fitfully on my stories. After two, I kept visualizing Ed and Betty across the desk from Scream. Negotiating who knew what.

At 3:30, I filed my copy and went home to wait for the phone to ring. Lex seemed to sense my tension and curled up in my lap, allowing me to listen to his throaty, calming song. When the phone rang, it shocked me from a faraway place where the texture of the world was shimmering with energy, where there were no decisions to make.

“Well, he’s quite a feller. We’ve got an assignment.” Ed started in on it, but I cut him off. “Where are you?”

“We’re at a bar called Darrien’s.” I said I’d meet them there in twenty minutes. In recent weeks, I’d improved Lex’s automotive digs and he never seemed to object to the car. I did the typical pet-owner “Car-ride” falsetto and Lex lifted his chin and trilled his eerie “yes” sound. I clipped on my gun and threw on a jacket. With Lex in one arm, I took the egress.

* * *

Wood and Betty were hunkered in a corner and engaged in conversation. Both smiled as I sat down and Betty sidled her hand over to my knee and gave it a squeeze.

“Well, Szandor went ape-shit over our Betty,” said Ed. “Was beside himself. Wanted a go right then and there, I think.”

I foolishly felt a twinge of jealousy. “What does he want you to do at the party?”

“He’s got this whole B&D, S-M scenario worked out,” said Betty. “He wants me to bullwhip this chick in the middle of the party. Then, I dildo rape her and then she’s thrown open to anybody who wants to bang her.”

“And he wants me to record it for posterity on film, plus he wants a still photog there, too.”

I let out a low whistle between my teeth. “It must be Serena. He doesn’t want to kill her, but he wants to degrade her and humiliate LaVey. And he wants a record that he can use if LaVey ever steps out of line or threatens him. He’s obviously clued that LaVey’s hex was behind Ariana’s death. What the hell did you say to his proposition?”

“I asked if the chick was willing,” said Betty. “And how much?”

I raised my eyebrows.

“He said she was into it, but would pretend not to be because that’s what got her off. And a hundred-fifty bucks.”

“What about you, Ed?”

“Document it for a hundred-fifty, plus expenses, seventy-five bucks for the photog. All you can drink and eat and a thrash at the chick if I felt like sloppy fifteenths.”

“And you said?”

“I said, I’d do it, because that’s what the plan was. But Betty said she’d need to think it over for a night, which I think was a pretty cagey response.”

“Did he tell you how many guests were coming?”

“About eighty,” Wood said.

“Well, we can’t just go in and start shooting people, much as I’d like to. I think we have to turn this over to the cops.”

We finished our drinks and walked to a liquor store where I bought Ed a bottle of bourbon and sent him on his merry way. Then I offered Betty a ride home. “Ah, the day is still young,” she said. “I’ve done enough business for one day. You want to do something?”

“I’ve got to do something first. Want to meet the High Priest of Satan?”

“Why not?” she said.

“Okay, I’ve got to call LaVey, then maybe we can go over.” I located a phone and told LaVey I had news. He said to get right over.

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