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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Penultimate Hustle: L.A. - Chapter 15

Chapter 15 – Akira

As the day of the recruitment drive grew near, the energy of the offices ebbed and flowed in ever-increasing waves. Janique called the girls back to the offices to assist in preparations for what would be a night of monumental excess.
Chris and Janique would screen at the doors. The girls would work at processing those who made it through, checking medical records and entering them into a database Brad was designing.
“We need security,” Janique told Janice. “And no off-duty cops. I don't need them spoiling the atmosphere.”
“You're in luck. I happen to know six Samoan brothers who run a combination security and limousine service. Nice guys, but you wouldn't want to get on their bad sides.”
“Aren't Samoans supposed to be the happiest people on Earth?”
“Not if they were raised in south central L.A. They're ex-gang members. Bloods.”
“Can we trust them?”
“I'd trust them with my life.”
“On your recommendation, then. Tell them not to allow any police on the property.”
“It shouldn't be a problem. I'm sure they share your disdain.”
“Good. Get eight limos, too. I plan on celebrating.”
###
“Chris,” Janique said. “We need more cameras.”
“So talk to Brad.”
“Right. But we'd need more camera people, too.”
“Set up stationary cameras at each mattress, and give each group a handheld. Let them film each other. They're going to have to learn to do that, anyway.”
“That's a good idea, for sure. But I'd like someone to document the entire event.”
“Call Akira.”
“Brilliant! But how?”
“He should be reachable at Hazel's office. The phone is set to ring through to his satellite phone. I figured we might need to stay in touch.”
Janique kissed him and dialed Tokyo.
“Herro?”
“Akira-san! Stop that!”
There was a pause, and Akira lost his parody accent.
“Nikkei!” he said. “What the fuck is up?”
“A lot, actually. I need you.”
“I thought you'd never ask.”
“As a photographer. Videographer, really.”
“Aww.”
“What are you up to, lately?”
“I'm on tour with Anvil and Roudness.”
“Who?”
“Sorry. Loudness is a Japanese metal act. Anvil is Canadian.”
“Never heard of 'em.”
“They're both huge in Japan. 'Metal on Metal' and 'Forged in Fire' are big anthems for Japanese metalheads.”
“I don't listen to much after nineteen sixty-nine...”
“Come on, grandma!”
“Sorry. It's classic rock or nothing, for me. So can you come to the states?”
“Can I bring my wife?”
“You got married?”
“I had to. Yumi is perfect.”
“She'd better be...”
“You have no idea,” Akira laughed. “Can you make it worth my while?”
“Of course. Five thousand a week plus expenses?”
“Damn good. What about Yumi?”
“Can she act?”
“Heh. She is the perfect Japanese submissive.”
“I'm sure we'll love her, then. Are you cool with that?”
“Of course. Why wouldn't I be? I know you and Chris too well to expect you not to touch her. She's beautiful.”
“And how would she feel about that?”
“She'll do whatever I tell her to do, and love it.”
“Then get here by next Friday. Janice will make the arrangements for you both.”
“Yowza, boss.”
Janique gave him the address and phone number.
“Okay. But, look. I'll be cutting out of this tour early for this. Is it something big?”
“The biggest thing ever.”
“Movie title! Also, intriguing. Hey, I'm starting a band. Does Chris play drums?”
“He does like to beat on things. What's it called?”
“Gore Beyond Necropsy.”
“That's a terrible name!”
“Heh. Wait'll you hear it. I recorded bass, guitar and vocals, but I can't find a drummer crazy enough to handle it. So I'm stuck with a drum machine.”
“I'll tell him. If not, I'm sure you can find someone in L.A.”
“Cool! I'll see you soon. Love you, Nikkei.”
“I love you, too, Akira-san.”
###
An excited Payback burst into the offices a few hours later, red-faced and panting.
“They found the girl!”
“What?” Janique said.
“'Found' is an exaggeration. She was dropped off on the steps of the L.A. County courthouse, all beat up.”
“Christopher Jacob Turner!”
“What? I had nothing to do with this.”
“Melvin?”
“Me, either. I have no explanation. It's just one of those things.”
“Hmmm.”
Janique's mind turned briefly to Janice, for some reason, but she instantly dismissed the notion.
“Does this help Tokio's case, given the circumstances?” Chris asked.
“Are you kidding? This is the break we needed. She's already made a statement absolving him of all wrong-doing. She just wants the civil suit dropped.”
“And to not get beat up again, I'm guessing,” Janique said.
“Right. There's that, too...”
“If he gets off, we'll drop the civil case. If.”
“We're filing for a dismissal now. But even without that, they think they can get him released before the trial. “
“That's fucking fantastic, Melvin!” Janique said, embracing him tightly.
“I can't take all the credit. But, yeah, it's pretty good news.”
“Switching gears,” Chris said, “what do you know about Swiss banking?”
“Hazel?” Payback asked.
Chris nodded. “She has two million dollars of your uncle's money in a numbered account.”
“I'll look into it. But you're talking about international financial crimes. I'd have to keep it theoretical. For actual involvement, I'd need twenty-five percent.”
Janique laughed. “You're such a lawyer! You'll get fifteen percent and like it.”
“I guess I can live with that.”
“Do your research. I have the account number and PIN.”
“Sounds both fun and profitable.”
“I hope so. We're spending tons of money, lately...”
###
Janique busied herself with specifics of the casting call, and making a list of items she would need from Brad and Janice. When she finished, she brought the equipment list to Brad, first.
He scanned it, and said, “This is nearly two hundred thousand dollars worth of gear. Plus you left off some ancillary items. How do you want to handle it?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I can get it all wholesale, but you're kind of hurting my store.”
“Your store?”
“Our store,” Brad conceded.
“How?”
“We're not making anything off of this. We place the orders, accept delivery, turn around and re-deliver it, then set it all up for free. I realize it helps the production side, but you're taking a loss on the retail side.”
“Spoken like a true manager. I see your point. It's a write-off for us, anyway. Mark it all up and bill us for set-up and delivery. It sounds like we could make more money that way, anyway. Thanks! Anything else?”
“Just that Dana said there are a bunch of disappointed and angry nerds at the store since you pulled the girls.”
“They'll be back soon.”
“That's good. He's pretty distracted with writing. Between scripts and stand-up, that's almost all he does.”
“Good,” Janique said. “He'll be doing it full-time soon, anyway. Leo, how are the covers going?”
“See for yourself,” he said, redirecting his monitor.
“Wow! That's filthy. But somehow glamorous. You make me look good.”
“It's, uh, excellent source material.”
“How about the game rewrites?”
“Surprisingly easy,” Brad said. “Check it out.” He launched the new, hi-res version of 'Dragonriders'.
“It's so pretty!”
“I added mouse control, too.”
“What's a mouse?”
“An input device. Like a reverse trackball.”
“I have no idea what that is, of course. Can I try it?”
“Of course.”
Janique sat at the desk, and Brad placed her hand on the mouse.
“Slide it side to side, and click either button to launch fireballs.”
“It's really smooth, now...”
“One of the benefits of rewriting it in machine language.”
She finished her game, and turned to Brad. “Can we make the knight a princess?”
“Sure...”
“Do it. Men all want to be heroes, and rescue damsels in distress.”
“That's a good idea. But what if the player is a girl?”
Janique shrugged. “How many girls play computer games?”
“Not many,” Brad admitted. “But that will change.”
“Can we let the player choose a gender?”
“We could. But I think it would spoil the aesthetic.”
“Go with the princess, then.”
Brad nodded.
“What else do we lack?”
“Just the title screen, and the music. Leo's parts...”
“To be fair,” Leo said, “I'm doing authentic medieval songs. It's taking some research. But I have the intro screen almost done...” He pulled up a graphic.
“That's really nice,” Janique said. “Add your names to it, and 'Ultimate Hustle Software'.”
“Okay,” Leo said. “But programmers aren't usually credited like that.”
“This is a new era. You're my superstars.”
Leo smiled. “Speaking of superstars... Funny question. Can I borrow some girls?”
“That's between you and them...”
“Oh, it's not like that, exactly.” He glanced at Brad. “I have an idea for a tech demo.”
“In that case, absolutely. Tell them I said so.”
“Cool. I'll have something to show you soon.”
“Marketable?”
“Perhaps. But sometimes hackers have to do things because they can. Personally, I do think it's viable tech.”
“Really?”
“Yes. Did you know porn drives the tech industry?”
“Like, motivation?”
“No, I mean the actual advancement of technology.”
“How so?”
“It's the first thing men do with any new visual technology. Why do you think the store can't keep video cards in stock?”
“I never considered that,” Janique admitted. “But, thinking about, phones, too. Didn't Edison first say, 'Watson, come here, I want you.'?”
“Funny,” Leo said. “But what you want to do is stay ahead of the curve. Look at what people will be doing five to ten years from now, and plan accordingly.”
“Example?”
“Hard drives, for one. Brad and I have them, but only because you're so generous. They're expensive, and hard to configure. But three to five years from now, they'll be standard issue.”
“Now relate it to porn.”
“More picture storage, and faster viewing. Higher resolutions. Eventually, video.”
“So we'll eventually be able to put movies on the BBS?”
“Now you're thinking,” Leo said.
“But that could obsolete videotape! That's half of our business.”
“Plan ahead. We already do it at school. I can download a ten minute video in about an hour.”
“Damn it, Leo! Just when I thought I had it all figured out.”
“That's nothing. There's a project some people are working on, CU-See Me. Video chat. Like a video phone, essentially.”
“Fucking shit.”
“Relax,” Leo said. “You can't do that stuff with modems. We use DARPANet. It's only for the military and university researchers, people like that. We're talking ten to twenty years before it reaches the consumer level.”
“Phew. You make it sound like it's right around the corner.”
“It's not. I just want you to see things the way I see them, and be prepared. Just understand that things are going to change tremendously.”
“Okay, genius. Now I really want to know what you're working on. “
“Nope. Big surprise. I'll just humbly say that it's the biggest innovation in porn since the invention of the color camera.”
“Hurry,” Janique said. “Now you've got me all excited.”
###
She presented the other list of items she needed for the casting call to Janice.
“I understand twenty king-sized mattresses and bedding, but what are the tarps and scaffolding for? Acrobatics?”
“Well, there's a lesbian scene in San Francisco.”
“Is there?”
“Oh, stop. Anyway, sometimes they have these get-togethers in warehouses. Hundreds of hardcore dykes. They build all these little rooms, and pretty much have hot anonymous sex all night. All weekend, even. I want something like that.”
Janice smiled. “The rooms, or an army of militant lesbians?”
“Heh. Both, actually. It's so freaky. They do, like, bloodletting with razors and syringes. There's a lot of anal sex with women calling each other 'son' and 'daddy'.”
“And you know this how?”
“Oh, I was a runaway, once. It was fun for a week or so. Then I got homesick.”
“Interesting. In a clinical sense.”
“Those women ate me alive! It was really hot.”
“How old were you?” Janice asked, pointedly.
“No comment. But they didn't ask.”
“You realize this is a very expensive party you're planning, correct? Over three hundred thousand dollars before it's all said and done.”
“I plan to make all that back, and more, on the same night. Relax.”
“It's my job to worry. By the way, the building deal was approved.”
“Yay!”
“Yes, but your war chest is down by nearly half. Five point four million in the bank. How are the demo videos going?”
“Chris and Brad are finishing the edits. Seven and a half hours of video, all told. Great stuff, too. And Leo's almost done with the covers. They're really good. The guy is talented.”
“That's a good start.”
“So, I was thinking about the structure of the video deal. Let's propose fifty thousand if the videos sell less than a hundred thousand copies, sixty thousand and five percent if they sell more than that.”
“Hmm. Assuming the videos sell. Otherwise, you're leaving money on the table.”
“Oh, they'll sell. And the deal plays off human nature and greed. They'll think they're getting the best of us, but we'll actually come out way ahead.”
“I'll get Melvin to work on it.”
“Speaking of which, how about the incorporation papers?”
“In progress. You and Chris will soon own an L.L.C. with three sub-corps.”
“Three?”
“Judith's recommendation. A video division, an electronics division, and the retail end of things. She says it will be better than a huge pool of income and expenses, tax-wise. But since they're sub-corps, you can shift capital from one unit to another to cover losses.”
“I don't intend to take any losses.”
“I do admire your confidence.”
“I don't know much, but I know men, women, and sex.”
“You have a good grasp of business.”
“Do you really think so?”
“Definitely. You're running this operation as if you've done it many times before.”
“Maybe I have. I've always felt that Chris and I were together in other lives.”
“An interesting take on things.”
“We're Kudra and Alobar.”
“Who?”
“You need to read a little popular literature once in a while. It's from a Tom Robbins novel.”
“I've never heard of him,” Janice said.
“You're fired,” Janique said, smiling.
“Is he good?”
“Like a poet who writes novels. Chris killed in prison to get me one of his books.”
“That is quite the recommendation. And a story I would love to hear...”
###
Later, Janique found Natalia in her newly-decorated office. The furnishings were spartan, with a modern desk, chair, and an easel in the corner. Her head was down, but she raised it when she heard Janique knock and enter. It was hard to tell, but she may have been crying earlier.
“Are you okay?”
“I'm fine. Just tired. They worked all night on the...room.”
It was the hesitation that interested Janique. She was dying to see the medieval furniture.
“Poor baby,” she said. “Want some cocaine?”
Natalia looked surprised, considered it, and then said, “Sure.”
Janique dumped a small mound onto the desktop and said, “We need a straw.”
Natalia reached into her purse and pulled out a stainless steel tube.
“Cool,” Janique said.
They blasted a few rails, and Natalia perked up considerably. They discussed progress on the various rooms, until Janique walked around the easel and saw her current work in progress.
“Natalia, this is fantastic! It's the Garden of Eden, isn't it?”
Natalia nodded.
“I didn't know you were religious.”
“I'm not. But I'm Italian. Catholic. Whether you believe it or not, it stays with you. Besides, beauty is beauty, yes?”
“It certainly is. I want to buy it!”
Natalia shrugged. “I painted it on your time. Technically, you already own it.”
“When you finish, would you hang it in the hall?”
“Yes.”
“Thanks. Now go home and get some rest. You're working too hard.”

Janique walked to Janice's office. “Move everyone out of the eighth floor as soon as the deal is closed.”