Once in the hallway I called SATISFACTION.
“SATISFACTION. How can I help you, King?”
“Tell Joseph to have the limo ready immediately. I'm hungry. Put in some cold lobster, German potato salad, some shrimp.”
“Oh. Large, 3 to 4 inches. Also...let me see...some peaches with non fat yogurt and maple syrup, oh Yah...” Suddenly I knew where I was going. “...An oz. of triple A Peruvian flake. Make sure the flakes are small and even. Also, some champagne for the ride.”
“Oh Yah, the tape. Ask Daphne, she'll know.”
I walked toward the driveway along the cliff side of the house. Far below the water was as flat as a deflated stony gray balloon. Barnacle black gnarled encrustation’s choked the base of the steel pillars of the pier. In the limp, flaccid trembling of the water even the sea gulls seemed drugged. Slumped limp on the railing they stared lifelessly at the leaden water. The trees along the path rippled with the first tentative trembling of a breeze.
The limo crouched beneath the ancient eucalyptus trees, their branches sagged, bent backed by the weight of the sullen sky.
Joseph nodded as I approached.
In the car I stretched out my legs on the opposing seat. A pearlescent gray wash of defuse light streamed through the treetops, spilled over my hand, my outstretched leg, my shoe top. I raised the smoked glass divider between us.
I turned on the TV and put in the tape.
“Am I supposed to care about this?” I asked the ecstatic image on the screen.
I turned it off.
I nibbled cold lobster and threw the shells on the carpet. We threaded the tunnel of massive trees to the main gate and Highway I. Sudden flashes of sun semaphored across the smoked window. I lower the walnut burl tabletop. The rich, lemon scent of fine polish bloomed. I wiped the top with my hand and dumped a pile of cocaine on its gleaming satin surface. I carefully chopped the pile, arranged a row of thick lines and snorted a few.
Suddenly the trip began to feel like an adventure.
The concept of evil spoiled the mood. Evil, not of enormous consequences and magnitude, but, made up of small, seemingly insignificant motes of dust. Dust that sifted soft and silent in the still air- that finally buried everything in a clinging blanket of muffling numbness.
I thought about all the times I could have made choices about where my life was going and I didn't- all the opportunities to change that I ignored- the problems I let Dominique eliminate.
The script I created made me depressed so I did some more lines. Then I drank some more champagne. I finished the bottle. I had Joseph stop and pick up a couple more bottles in Pt. Reyes. I had just finished the first of them as we passed through Samuel Taylor Park on our way to San Rafael. Along the narrow road, campers hiked among the enormous redwoods. The air was heavy with the pungent fragrance of pine pitch and redwood. As I watched them through the tinted window I felt like a vampire. Their happiness like sunlight that I could never experience except second hand.
Bored and loaded, I snorted more coke to level me out but it didn’t help. It just made me feel more out of sorts and annoyed.
We come off the freeway into Sausalito. Hookers, their thumbs out, were pacing their usual cruise zone, between the 3030 Bridgeway building and the bus stop. One of them looked like Dominique in a blonde wig.
“Joseph, pull over by that blonde.”
He swung the limo into a smooth U turn and pulled up next to her. I rolled down the window. The air was cool. It smelled of salt, garbage, and stale car exhaust.
She leaned down and rested her elbows on the door. Her lips formed a predatory smile. The front of her black silk tank-top fell away from her breasts. A lacy, black, pushup bra bound them tightly. Up close, her hair was a confusion of color. Glints of gold and darker, muddy blond contrasting highlights, streaks of frosted silver among the gold and, close to her skull, where the untainted roots exposed the true color, black.
“Like what you see?” She licked her lips and turned away to spit out her gum.
“I suppose so. Get in.”
“Where we goin'?”
“I want to talk to you.”
She shrugged. “Times money.”
I reached into my jacket and pulled out a handful of crumpled bills, all fiftys. I handed her 4 of them. She looked startled, like a bird ready to flee. Then she smiled and opened the door. She paused in the doorway.
“You're not a cop are you?”
“No. Are you?”
“You into anything kinky?”
“Does it matter?”
“It’s your dime.” She said and got in. Her skirt rode up, and exposed transparent black panties and a tease of silky black hair.
“Like what you see?” Her eyes were wary
“You don't have to con me. I just want to talk.”
“Like I said, it's your dime.”
“Let me know when the dime's up.”
I tossed another fifty on the seat. She picked it up and stuffed it in her bra.
“Pull your skirt down. you're never going to get anything by acting cheap except to be treated cheaply.” I said.
She looked startled. Her eyes hardened. Her mouth opened.
“Relax. don't try to be clever. Compose yourself. You've got a lot of good qualities but you defeat yourself.”
“What's your trip. you Want to be my daddy?” She asked.
“Home improvement. Your house is a mess. Do you like living in a garbage pit?”
“What garbage pit?” She sneered.
“Your life. What you put in is what you get out. You’ve got it all crapped up. Don't you want anything better for yourself? It's up to you.”
“Who are you, Dr. DoGood?”
She adjusted her skirt. She was blushing.
“It's DoLittle but I suppose that makes as much sense as anything else.”
“Well, I don't need your help Doc. My life is just fine.”
“What's that supposed to mean?”
“Did you decide to turn out like this or did it just happen?”
“What do you mean?” She looked puzzled.
“I mean, is this you? Is this what you want for your life? Is it within your control?”
“Control? Shit happens man!”
Her lips twisted in a bitter smile.
“Only to those people who let it.”
“You’ve got it all figured out huh?”
I tossed another fifty at her.
She brushed her hair back from her eyes with a nervous gesture and jutted her jaw at me as she snatched at it.
“Is this your car?”
She picked up the silver topped crystal champagne flute. A ring of moisture glistened on the table top. She took a tentative sip.
“It's good. Can I have some?”
“Go ahead.” I gestured to the refrigerator.
She opened it, took out the bottle and poured a glass.
“Pour me one too.” I said.
Across from me, knees together, her stockings gleamed in the half-light. Her shoulders slumped. One stocking had a rip in the knee.
“Sit up straight.”
“Now, close your eyes and take long, slow, deep breathes. Concentrate on your breathing. Try to feel your own power.”
“What's this all about?”
“You're learning to center yourself.”
Her nostrils flared.
“You act like some kind of therapist.”
“You could say that, for lack of anything better.”
“Should I know you?"
“I don't know, should you?”
“What's your name?”
“King, what's yours?”
We turned onto gate 5 road and then onto the graveled side road into Varda Landing. As we pulled into the parking lot I saw FROSTYS' blood red 69' Cadillac convertible parked by the succulent lined, gravel walkway that led to the pier. Beyond the pier the bay was choppy. A sharp salt breeze and slate gray clouds conspired a storm. The sun, imprisoned behind thick walls of clouds, was only a memory.
Joseph parked the limo and opened the door.
Come on.” I gripped her hand and draw her out into the sullen air.
“Don't tell anybody where I am.” I said to Joseph. “We're just wandering. Say I'm shopping, alone.”
Joseph nodded his head and closed the door.
I led her to the pier and out, over the murky, oil slicked sewer of Richardson Bay. Past the smaller, shabbier boats a large, funky elegant, violet, two storied house-boat sprawled on a solid concrete barge base. As we started up the gang-plank I heard grumbling, loud, spastic coughing and a shout from inside.
“HAY! Who in Hell is it?”
“Shut up FROSTY!” I yelled.
“It's O.K. He's just loud. Just watch.”
FROSTY slammed open the door. A ceramic hand, its middle finger prominently displayed, hung over the door. The shock dislodged it. It crashed to the weathered deck and smashed. Pieces flew everywhere.
“HAY! WHAT THE FUCK!”
“Serves you right, clomping around like an elephant.” I said.
He stared down at the shards at his feet, a bewildered, foolish look on his face.
“Hay man, I dug that piece.”
“Well, it's gone now.”
He looked up. A broad smile lit his grizzled face.
“Hay man, how you been?” He reached out and embraced me in a bear hug.
I pulled away.
He slapped me on the back.
“Good to see you again, man. Been a long time. I thought your ol' lady whacked you. The fuckin' Black Widow.” He bellowed.
“Watch it FROSTY. Dominique’s' got ears everywhere.”
“Ah fuck the bitch, man!” He said with a furtive glance at the parking lot. Then he noticed Martine.
“Hay man...who's the tasty treat?”
“This is Martine. Martine, FROSTY.”
“Hi.” She said.
He nudged me.
“Far out tail man. She looks a little like your ol’ lady.”
“Yah.” I said.
“Come on,” He said. “Lets go in the pad an....”
“Let me guess.” I finished. “Get stoned.”
“RIGHT MAN!” He slapped me hard on the back and pushed past me, through the door.
“Sit down man. Here honey let me take your clothes.” He belched and elbowed her gently.
“Cool it FROSTY.”
We sat down on the floor around the party table. I leaned back against the huge, plush cushions scattered in piles around the table like an Arabian Nights fantasy.
“Right man. I know how sensitive you are about your chicks. Does the ol' lady know you're cattin' around or did she give this snack to you?”
“I'm on my own today.”
“ALL RIGHT! LETS PARTY!”
Martine watched our every move with bird bright eyes.
FROSTY pulled out his coke jar.
“Wait a minute FROSTY. I've got some flake.”
I tossed him the bag. He sat down, held it up to the light, opened it, sniffed, dumped a large pile on a glass plate on the table, pulled his grinder to him, frowned, shook his head, pushed it away, picked up a hand chopper and spooned a heaping mound in front of him. Carefully, he began to chop the coke.
“Be a fuckin' shame, usin' a grinder on this man. This is da kind.”
He lifted his head and winked at me with blood-shot, fevered eyes. Sweat stood out on his forehead. He used the cutter to line up a platoon of fat glistening soldiers. He reached for a silver tooter and attacked the lines. He killed four and pushed the plate to me.
“Oh man! I’m fucked up.” He groaned and fell back against the cushions scattered behind him on the floor. “I need a drink!”
He crawled to his feet and stumbled to the kitchen. It was large and white. Half height windows framed a dark, sullen sky. A vast assortment of shining copper cookware hung, evenly spaced, from weathered pegs embedded in a long rail frame. A massive, well used, well-oiled chopping block table sat below it. Lined up in a block built into the table, was a large collection of Henkles, black handled chefs' knives. Cooking tools of all types and description filled the carefully laid out room.
There were both a black and a white Kitchen-Aide mixer, ceramic bowls and jars on stainless steel shelves, bunches of fresh and dried herbs, garlic, sun dried vegetables and fruit hung like garlands. On the window sills' mysterious bottles of multi colored liquid and oils of all varieties sparkled. A huge Wolfe restaurant stove with a salamander and twin convection ovens, and a massive, Hobart, stainless steel triple door refrigerator/ freezer dominated the room. Across from it was a spotless, 3 compartment stainless sink. Indirect spotlights illuminated everything perfectly. It was a serious kitchen.
He swung open the freezer and removed a tall square bottle, frosted with a shell of ice. He placed 3 long stemmed silver glasses on a silver tray, poured them full and set the bottle on the trey, along with a small silver cup of round biscuits. He set the tray on the table between us.
“Aquavit man! Water of life!”
We picked up our glasses.
“Skol!” he said.
The syrupy, half frozen liquid tasted like caraway.
Martine smiled, nodded her head, and twisted a cropped strand of hair in a coil between her fingers as she watched us. She looked very stoned.
“Well...” FROSTY said as he eyed her greedily. “Let’s party.”
“Show her where the bathroom is, give her shampoo and soap. I want her out of those clothes. Loan her your bath robe and keep your hands off her.” I said.
“Ah SHIT man! You're no fun.” His face lit with a broad, good natured smile.
He got up and stumbled toward the hallway. He motioned to her. She got up and followed him down the hall.
“Great chick man!” He said when he returned.
“What do you mean?”
“She wanted to know if I was a friend.”
“What did you say?”
“I said Yah, man. What do you think I'd say to a fox like that?”
We both laughed.
FROSTY scooped up the tooter and killed 4 more soldiers. He pushed the plate back to me.
As I poured another glass of Aquivit I spilled a few drops on the table. I look around for a napkin to wipe it up.
“That's O.K. man, I'm a slob.”
From the bathroom I heard the shower turn on. Martine started to sing. FROSTY nodded toward the sound.
“Where'd you get her man?” His eyebrows bobbed up and down, accentuating the words.
“I picked her up on Bridgeway.”
“What! One of the whores?"
"I ain't seen her around before or I'd have snatched her.”
"too bad for you."
He nodded thoughtfully. “Man, she's a jewel. Tell me about it.”
“She looked like Dominique when she was young.”
“Right. Well, one thing led to another.”
“Usually does. Don't you have enough chicks in your life as it is?”
“Who knows, she might be useful.”
“I could think of a few uses for her.”
“So how’s the Goddess of Doom.”
“Why do you keep calling her that?”
“I heard the bitch plans to off all of us cats after you do your world domination thing.”
“Oh God FROSTY, you've been using too many drugs.”
“Think about it man.”
“I don't want to think about it. Dominique is strange but she isn't that whacked.”
“Well, if you wake up one day and you're the only cat left don't say I didn't warn you. Me, I'm packin' full time.
“So, besides being paranoid about Dominique, what else is happening?”
“Oh you know, a little this, a little that. I've been movin' a mountain of blow lately man. I cleared nearly 3 mill last 6 months. Pretty good for a country boy huh?”
What he had said about Dominique bothered me. A long moment passed. I looked up.
“Back to the world man?” He asked.
“You looked like you were goin' ta float away for a minute there. Why don't you have another drink? Here toot up.”
He snorted another double line and shoved the plate back to me.
“No time to waste man. Dreams to burn. Our work is never done.”
Suddenly it was all too strange. Tears filled my eyes.
“What's happenin' man, why the long jaws? Sittin' here with fast company, plenty of blow, the best to drink and this stone fox to keep us company. What more could a cat want?
“A life.” I muttered.
“Nothing FROSTY, nothing at all. I'm just thinking.”
He sat down on the cushions next to me and put his arm around my shoulders.
“Man, for a cat who's got everything you sure are hard on yourself.
Lighten up. Be kind to yourself. Why don't you take this beauty back in the bedroom and plow some furrows? Hell, you can do it here if you want to I won't tell, if you let me watch.”
“No, I want to talk.”
“Well, nobody’s stoppin’ you.”
“Things are strange.”
“Stranger and stranger.” He agreed.
“Today I watched a tape of the Pope getting a blow job.”
He bellowed with laughter.
“Man, Porno’s gettin’ weirder and weirder.”
“It wasn’t a movie.”
“What do you mean?”
“It was real. One of Dominique's plots.”
“She was always one for getting it all on the record.”
“So?” He shrugged. “Who gives a rats ass? You’re not a Catholic are you? It’s just another scam, man.”
“Yah, I suppose so.”
“Then what’s the problem? Get the bread and down the road. The poor fuck deserves it. Anyway, they can afford it.”
“It’s not for money.”
“Well,” he said patiently, “If it’s not for bread, what is it for?”
“You said it before, world domination.”
“What? You and the Catholic Church. Man...” He spun the tooter on the tabletop. “That fuckin’ Dominique has got balls.”
“What else is new.”
“So you’re going to be the Pope now huh? The fuckin’ Church of the poisoned mind. Stranger and stranger.”
“Oh well, what the fuck do I care. It’s time for a little courage.” He said, grinned, and leaned toward the remaining lines of coke.
Finally he said, “So what’s the problem? It’s a little late for you to get a conscience ain’t it?”
“I’ve always had a conscience.”
He looked up at me with hard eyed disbelief.
“Give me a break man. Where was it when Camilla got offed? Up your ass?”
“What do you mean?”
“Come on man. Don’t play babe in the woods. You remember Camilla, right? Great fuck? Your ol’ lady offs Camilla and not a word out of you. Now here you are with your tale of woe. Should I feel sorry for your sad ass because you suddenly discover how corrupt you are. Where you been man?”
“Dominique killed Camilla?”
“Now your brain is starting to function. Here, clear your head.”
He tossed the coke sack toward me.
“I don’t want any. Really, I didn’t know anything about Camilla. How do you know?” I asked.
“Well, now you do.”
He took a deep breath and blew his nose. He threw the blood spotted tissue on the floor.
"I was there man. I watched her do it. She walked into the pad, you were zonked out on the bed with Camilla's tit in your mouth. She put a PPK to Camilla's head and whacked her. Fuckin' blood all over the bed. She's a stone cold bitch man."
He paused a long moment, then wiped at his eyes and looked at me.
“Does it change your life man? Does it make you care about something other than yourself?”
I didn’t know what to say. Suddenly a lot of things made more sense.
“Dominique is evil man. I mean I’ve done some evil shit in my time but it’s just a game. With her it’s a philosophy. An’ you. God knows about you. I never have been able to figure you out. Get a life pal.”
He stood up and went to the window. His broad back blocked the sun that had suddenly broken through the cloud cover.
Martine entered the room wrapped in a huge, white, terry cloth robe. Her wet hair clung to her head like a dark cowl. She looked even more like Dominique. She stared at me suspiciously, as if she sensed some change but wasn’t sure how it affected her.
“You need some clothes.” I said.
“I’ve got clothes.”
“No, it’s time for a change.”
I picked up my portable phone went out on the deck and dialed.
"SATISFACTION. How can we help you King?"
"I need a selection of clothes for a woman. You know the style, Dominique clothes. She's size...hay Martine, what size do you wear?"
“What size what?"
“Yeah...no wait, I need some clothes. Get me a black linen suit, loafers, black turtle-neck, fresh underwear. Also, a couple of suitcases. Haliburton brushed aluminum, no wait, something plain, leather. You know. What Dominique would like.”
“HAY MAN! come on back inside. Your chick doesn't want to do it with me an' I’m gettin' bored sittin' here with her.”
Inside, the air smelled sour. FROSTY sprawled on the pillows. The carpet was littered with blood stained tissues. .Martine sat on the couch.
“What's happening man?”
"Oh, I don't know. You seem preoccupied."
"I don't know what I'm doing. I'd like to disappear for a while but it's too much hassle to figure out how."
"Well I'd invite you to hang out here but there isn't much space. Also, I'd hate for Dominique to find out and trash my pad again."
“No, that's all right. I'm waiting for clothes.”
“Martine needs clothes. Plus, I’m tired of the ones I'm wearing.”
“So? What are you going to do? The stores are closed. At least here they are.”
“No, a selection is being brought here.”
“How do I know. That's SATISFACTIONS problem.”
“Are you serious? You're having somebody open up their store, pack up a bunch of clothes and bring them here.”
“Oh never mind. I forgot I was talking to God.”
“Jealous? Don't be. It isn't worth it. My life isn't that great.”
“Oh yah, right! We should all have it so bad.”
“The world couldn't support more than one of me. It would collapse from the strain, FROSTY.”
Finally there was a knock at the door.
“Hay! HOLD IT! Wait a minute man, who knows who it is? It could be the man. I'm holding.”
FROSTY struggled to his feet and shuffled to the door. He opened it a crack. Someone said something in a high, fag voice.
“Yeah, come in.” He scowled, opened the door wide and stood aside as three immaculate, stylishly dressed women marched through. They carried arm loads of clothes on cream silk covered hangers. They laid them over the chair and stood at parade rest. They looked us over curiously, as if they wondered which of us had the power to mobilize this mercenary troop on such short notice. A narrow, elegantly dressed man in a black suit with narrow white pinstripes and a lavender tie paraded through the door. He paused in the doorway for effect.
“Mr. King?” He lisped.
“What would you like to see first?”
“Show her, one at a time.”
Martine's eyes sparkled with excitement. She sat on the edge of her chair, her body tense with anticipation. With a wispy, effeminate voice, Mr. Style began to describe the collection.
“This is a very elegant selection, made of raw Chinese silk. It is stylish but casual. With careful assessories you can go anywhere in it. The lining is ...”
“We don't need to know its life history. Do you like it Martine?”
“I love it!”
“Fine, that one. Next”
“This item,” he said and held up the sleeve of a simple, floor length black dress as if it was the hand of a princess, “Is for those special occasions. It's simple, understated classic styling fits any need, from an afternoon party to the opera.”
I started to get bored.
“Martine, get whatever you want, or, better yet,” I turned to one of the women. “Leave all of it. Did you bring suitcases?”
“Yes, we did, Mr. King.”
“Good. Martine, put on whatever you like best then you people pack the rest and leave.”
Martine picked out the first outfit, looked at me and walked left the room. The shop people finished their clean up and left. I took off my clothes and put on the new suit.
“What am I supposed to do with these?” FROSTY kicked at the pile on the floor.
“Throw them away, keep them, whatever.” I finished dressing and went outside. The sky was velvet black. The lights of the surrounding boats reflected off the water. In the distance, a helicopter from the Marin Heliport flashed out over the bay for San Francisco.
FROSTY joined me on the deck. “What's happening man?” We sat down.
“I don't know.”
“I can tell your tweaked man.”
“Yah, I’m tweaked FROSTY. Things have been getting stranger and stranger for a long time. I don't like what my life has become or what I’m a part of. Now you tell me about Camilla.”
“Dominique is a monster, I'm a monster, everything is strange and yet I succeed at everything.”
“Right! Just call you “Mr. Lucky”. FROSTY sneered.
“Exactly! I'm trapped. I want to do something that is just me. Something that doesn't depend on all this.”
“Like what man? Get a job? Get married and have kids Ha Ha!”
FROSTY laughed boisterously.
“My life doesn't belong to me. “
“Ah man, there you go again, making big torment out of a little good fortune. I should be so lucky.”
“Luck is a curse.” “
“So, what are you going to do?”
“I don't know.”
“Do you really want to find out?”
“I don't know.”
“You don't know what it's like FROSTY. I look like I’ve got everything. I don't. MOTHER, and SATISFACTION, and THE CHURCH OF GLORY, and GLORY INTERNATIONAL, and Dominique have everything that my life should be. I'm trapped inside this puppet. I watch him go through the motions but I’ve got nothing to say about it.”
“Scary.” He said.
“Right. At least you have a life. What you do, you do. It isn't done by a puppet.”
“So, what's the plan, man?”
“I don't know.”
“Is it worth it man?”
“I don't know. I just know I have to do something on my own. The only way I can do that is to escape from this soap opera I'm trapped in.”
“Do you have the stones, man?”
“I suppose I'll find out. I just have to figure out where to start.”