Penultimate Hustle: L.A.
By Jason Z. Christie
Chapter 8 – Acceleration
Chris decided to help the team haul up boxes, enlisting the girls, as well. All three had on bedclothes, which they wore down to the street. But instead of negligees or lingerie, they were wearing pajamas, which was somehow sexier, to him.
Brad was blasé about the whole thing, his mind already focusing on future projects. Dana, however, was distracted. Entranced, even.
Once all the gear was unloaded, Chris said, “Brad, could you put a PC and Sixty-Four in the girls' room, first? Teach them to set them up, and then they can help you with the rest. After all, they'll be running the store, soon. Consider them your trainees.”
“Dana, could I talk to you?”
“Uh, should I be scared?”
“Not at all. Sorry, that was just business. I'm pretty serious when it comes to Janique.”
“You made that stunningly apparent.”
Dana followed him to the break room, which was a dreary half-assed attempt at a kitchen, and closed the door behind them. He continued to look apprehensive until Chris said, “Smoke a joint?”, breaking the tension.
“It's my business. We do what we want, here.”
“I'd love to, honestly. How'd you know?”
“A hunch. Plus I read an interview with Richard Belzer, once. He said that every comedian he knows smokes pot. Except for Jay Leno.”
“Who's Jay Leno?”
“I have no idea,” Chris said, lighting a joint. “Anyway, I wanted to see how you'd feel about working with me.”
“For me. Janique has it in her head that you'd make a good script writer.”
Dana took a huge draw and immediately coughed it back out again. Chris had to laugh.
“Sorry, that's skunk bud. Not commercial. I should have warned you.”
Undaunted, he tried again, this time successfully.
“So, let me get this straight. You're asking me if I want a writer job...”
“With a bunch of beautiful starlets...”
“Where I can smoke dope all day.”
“Where do I sign?”
“Heh. Well, it's not as cut and dry as that. I want a script from you.”
“I can do that.”
“I'd like it to be hot, funny, and romantic.”
“Not a problem.” An idea was already forming in Dana's head. “What are the constraints?”
“Huh? None, really. You don't have to write out the sex scenes, they'll take care of themselves. Just the surrounding dialogue and scenarios.”
Chris noted that Dana was at that point thoroughly stoned, and didn't pass the joint back to him again out of consideration.
“Um, hetero and/or lesbian.”
“I can live with that,” Dana laughed. “Can I start now?”
“No. Right now, we have an office full of computers to set up.”
He was slightly disappointed, and Chris appreciated his enthusiasm.
'If this works out, I'd like to sponsor you as a stand-up. Sort of a patron of the arts role. If you ever make it big, and I suspect you might, I'd like a piece of the action.”
“Wow. That'd be really cool. What about the girls?”
“That's between you and them. No promises. But I think you'll find them very receptive.”
“Uh, they already were,” Dana admitted. “I lasted all of two minutes.”
Chris laughed. In the hallway, Dana was making a beeline for the girls' room, when he stopped him.
“Not now, tiger. I need you to service Janice.”
“Do you mean...?”
“I mean set up her office computer, knucklehead.”
“Ah. Okay,” Dana said, and changed direction.
While everyone else was busy. Chris began to set up his own office, and listened as Janique phoned the accountants.
“Christie Accounting and Consulting, this is Nellie. How may I direct your call?”
“Janique Turner for Judith Christie, please.”
“Yes, ma'am. Please hold.”
The hold music was a Muzak version of Hotel California, which was both repellant and amusing in equal doses.
“Mrs. Turner? I'm sorry, Judith says she doesn't know a Janique Turner.”
The line went dead.
“Fuck,” Janique said, and redialed. She listened patiently as Nellie repeated her lines.
“Hi, Nellie. Sorry, Janique again. Could you please tell Mrs. Christie that I was referred by Janice Livingston?”
“Oh, my,” she said. “That's different. Hold, please.”
This time the music was 'Light My Fire', and it confirmed what she had always suspected: Jim Morrison was the Lawrence Welk of the sixties.
“This is Judith. How may I help you?”
“Hi, Mrs. Christie-”
“Ms.,” Judith corrected her.
“Sorry, my receptionist Janice Livingston recommended your firm.”
“Janice Livingston? There must be some confusion. The Janice Livingston I know is far from a secretary. I'm afraid we're not accepting new clients.”
'Yes, ma'am. She's actually more of an office manager. But I assure you we're talking about the same person.”
Judith scoffed at the notion.
“I am barely qualified to be Janice's receptionist. She's worth-” she started to say, and then caught herself.
“Nevertheless, ma'am. Would you like to speak with her?”
“No, that's won't be necessary. On her recommendation, I'm willing to help.”
“Just like that?”
“Just like that. She's a dear friend as well as a client. May I ask the nature of your business?”
“Film production, and computer hardware and software.”
“Growth industries,” Judith noted.
“Yes, ma'am. Very promising. And the finances are already becoming overwhelming. I'd prefer to focus on other aspects of the business.”
“I see. What sort of cash flow and assets are we talking about?”
“Roughly eight point four million in capital, and properties worth about eight hundred and sixteen thousand, as of this week. A projected income of six hundred and fifty thousand a month at start-up.”
“Impressive. I must say, I am intrigued. Have Janice get the necessary information to us, and we'll get started right away. And do tell her I said hello.”
“Yes, ma'am, I will. Thank you.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Turner. Glad to help.”
Janique hung up.
“She is fucking awesome,” she told Chris.
By early evening, the Ultimate Hustle offices were buzzing with new computers and excited energy. The atmosphere was electric.
As everyone said their fairwells for the evening, Dana pulled Chris aside.
“Can I get some of that choice weed, boss? It'll really help me write.”
They went to his desk, and Chris packed a cigarette box full of herb for him.
“Can we not mention this to my brother? He's not too cool about drugs.”
“No problem, Dana. Have a good night. I expect to see something within a week.”
“Yeth, thir!” he said, giving him a Benny Hill-style salute.
“Bye, boys!” the girls called out.
Dana smiled, and Brad joined him in the hall, looking vaguely uncomfortable.
“Don't worry, bro,” Dana said. “You'll get used to it.”
“A great, landmark day, Janice,” Janique said. 'Thank you.”
“I trust things went well with Judith?”
“Yes! She's great. She said to tell you 'hello'...and added to your aura of mystery.”
“Wonderful. I suppose I do owe you an explanation, at some point.”
“How about tonight? We could have dinner and celebrate. A little champaign, a little cocaine...”
“Goodness, no. My days of frolicking and frivolity are long since passed. I appreciate the offer. I'll be spending the evening with Mr. Chaucer.”
“I assure you, you'd be bored to tears.”
Janique caught on. “Oh, that Mr. Chaucer.”
“Correct. You surprise me, Janique. You're more learned than I suspected.”
“And you, madame, damn me with faint praise. See you tomorrow, Janice.”
“Goodbye. Bright and early. We have a lot to do tomorrow.”
“Of course. Tell your cats I said 'hello'.
“Ouch. I will...”
Chris was showing Janique the new set-up when the girls came in.
“Mommy, can we sleep here tonight?” Mia asked in her best good little girl voice.
“Not me,” Gia said. “I have something to do.”
Before they left, Chris and Janique turned on the cameras in the bedroom.