Violent Femmes

Violent Femmes – Novel Excerpts Repost

My name is Elizabeth but if I get arrested I’m going to tell the fuzz my name is Betty Bang Bang. Chances are pretty good that I’m already wanted in connection with one murder tonight and if we don’t make it to Kitty’s mysterious middle of nowhere doctor soon, I’m afraid Carl is going to be number two. Poor Carl. One of those, sorry you got shot while I was getting mineral water and Jaydee’s a psycho that got her hands on a gun kind of misunderstandings. I hope he doesn’t die. He seems like a nice boy. I bet he’s in a pretty good band. He looks like he’s in a band. All this murder, adrenaline and smoke is making me dizzy and numb. I wish Kitty gave me one of those pills.

Read chapters 1-5 of my novel Violent Femmes right here!

Violent Femmes – Chapter 5

Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4

It took me just under five hours to drive from the King’s Castle to the Magenta Building.  I didn’t even need to stop for gas.  I rolled the windows down in the car and let the hot dry air fill up the car and my ears with white noise.

When I pulled into Las Vegas it was still dark.  I avoided the strip but saw the lights and the tall buildings from a distance.  I expected all of Las Vegas to be like what I’d seen on post cards and TV shows, glitzy and exciting.  Off the strip though, most of Vegas is just pretty much just like every shitty city.

The Magenta Building is lit up with flood lights and lives up to its name.  The walls themselves are stucco neon.  It’s surrounded by a mote of palm trees.  The address and the word “Magenta” are written in cursive letters.  It looks like there’s a pool and every apartment has a small rectangular deck sticking off the side full of dead plants and Christmas lights.

I parked a little bit down the block and waited.  I was planning to wait until a reasonable time in the morning but I got impatient and had to pee.  I got out of the car and headed to Suite 207.

After the initial complicated bits, Kitty said that we were going to have some coffee and a chat.  She told me to take a seat.

She sipped instant cappuccino and stared me down.  She was wearing a fuzzy orange robe, matching slippers and no makeup.  Kitty has thick auburn hair that goes rebel guerrilla freedom fighter crazy if she doesn’t brush it and napalm it with chemicals regularly.  That morning, it was exploding from her head like TNT.  “What’s your plan?”  She asked me.

“Plan?”  I repeated.

She nodded.  “What do you intend to do?”

“Stay here,” I told her.

“I don’t think that’s realistic.”

“Why?”  I asked.

She looked around the apartment.  “Well, this is a one bedroom apartment.”

“I’ll sleep on the couch.”

“You don’t have any things with you.”

“I do,” I said.  “In the car.”

“Car?  What car?  How do you have a car?”

I considered lying to her but opted for honesty because she’d see right through me.  “I stole it.”

“I see,” she said and took another sip from her coffee.  “You’re developing into quite a criminal enterprise.”

“I’m a quick study.”

“School,” she said.  “You go to school.”

“High school,” I told her.  “It’s overrated.”

“You have to go to school.”

“So I’ll go here.  There are schools here.  This is Vegas not Mars.”

“I think your family might have a problem with that.”

I shrug.  “I told you.  I don’t have a family.  Mom’s dead.  I’m an orphan.”

“You’re not an orphan,” she told me.  “Don’t be so melodramatic.”  She took another sip of coffee, considering her next move. “What about friends?  You have friends back in Los Angeles don’t you?”

“No,” I said.

“No?”

“No,” I repeated.  “I’m weird.  No friends.”

“I see.”

“Look, if you don’t let me stay here I’ll probably live on the streets and become like a mouth whore and get addicted to speed or something,” I told her.

“That’s an incredibly manipulative threat, darling,” Kitty told me.

I shrug again.  “If it works.”

Kitty looked at the clock on the wall.  “Here’s what we’re going to do,” she told me.  “I’ll make up a bed on the couch and you can get some rest.”

“I don’t need rest.  I’m not tired.  I don’t sleep anymore.”

“Fine,” Kitty says.  “I do sleep.  You can watch videos.”  She walked over and opened up a cabinet by her television.  She doesn’t have Bluray or even DVD.  She has VHS and loads of old movies I haven’t seen in a hundred years.

“You have Fox and the Hound,” I said.

“I do,” she said.

“Nothing,” I said.  “It’s just this used to be one of my favorite movies.  When I was little.”

Kitty pulled the hair out of my face and put it behind my ears.  I looked up at her and I was crying again.  I hugged her.  I wrapped my arms around her and squeezed.  She hugged me back.

“Can you watch a little bit of it with me?”  I asked her and then immediately decided that was a stupid question.  “No,” I told her.  “Never mind.”

Kitty nodded.  “I’ll watch a little of it with you,” she told me.  “If you want.”

We sat on the couch and I started the movie.  Kitty was asleep in fifteen minutes.  I didn’t wake her.

When Kitty finally woke up it was nearly two in the afternoon and I was going through her cupboards.

“You don’t have anything in your kitchen,” I told Kitty.

“I’m aware,” she said and rubbed her eyes.

I stood on a chair rummaging through the top cabinets.  “You have like a hundred bottles of alcohol but no eggs or bread or anything,” I said.  “What do you eat?”

“Martinis,” Kitty told me.

“Okay,” I said.  “Well, I need actual nutrition.”  I jumped down from the chair.  “I have some money.  I can go to the grocery store.”  I pulled the money out that I took from the King.

“Let me guess,” Kitty said.  “You stole that money too.”

“Is there a Whole Foods near here?”

“Whole Foods?”  Kitty shook her head and looked at the clock.  “We have some errands to take care of.”

“We do?”

Kitty nodded.  “You need to get your things from the car and bring them upstairs.”

“Okay,” I said.  “Then can we get some food?”

“Then we move the car.”

“Why?”

“Because we can’t have a stolen car in front of my apartment.”

I thought about it a moment.  “I guess that makes sense.”

“For a criminal protégé you’re certainly making some rookie mistakes,” she told me.

“I’m getting better.”

She rolled her eyes.  “Go,” Kitty instructed.  “I’m going to freshen up and put my face on.”

I did what she told me.  I went to the car and got my bags.  I looked around the neighborhood in the daylight.  There was a scary looking convenience store with bars all around the glass and a couple other apartment buildings.  Las Vegas has a gray pallor.  I didn’t really care for it.

On the way back in there was a man in short short pink shorts, a gold chain, flip flops and a “What Happens in Vegas” t-shirt.  He has white hair and he’s way too tanned.  He looked at me suspiciously.

“Suite 207,” I told him and then ran up the stairs.

With her “face” on, Kitty looked like a cross between a black and white bombshell and a magazine model.  She was graceful but flashy at the same time.  She’d changed to a jacket dress thing that I can only describe as something that I’m pretty sure Jackie O would have worn and gravity defying heels.

“Did you hotwire or do you have the keys?”  She asked me.

“I have the keys.”

“I suppose that’s something.”  She applied some lip gloss and stretched her hand out for the keys.  I put them in her hand.

“There’s a guy downstairs with pervy shorts on,” I told her.

Kitty nodded at herself in a handheld mirror.  “I am aware.”  She stood up, smoothed out her jacket dress and put on a pair of pink sunglasses.  “Shall we?”

“Okay,” I said.

“You’re going to see Vegas, sweetheart,” she told me with a smile and kissed me on the forehead as she passed.  I tried to rub off her gloss but it stuck.

Kitty drove the King’s car.  She drove us down some strange side streets and finally parked the car just off the strip where the Scientologist and the Boxer would find it three days later.  “Come on,” she told me.  “Let’s get breakfast.”

The thing about Kitty is that she knows people.  I mean she knows everyone.  The mysterious desert doctor surgeon guy is just the tip of the iceburg.  Kitty knows what to do and she knows someone that can make it happen.  That’s Kitty’s thing.  I kill people.  She gets favors.  Not really fair if you ask me.

One of the people Kitty knows is Bonita Tequila, a Las Vegas legend.  After we parked the car, we walked to the strip and there she was, bigger than life and far more interesting.  She saw Kitty and nearly sprinted toward us.  Bonita is tall, her black hair standing up giving her an extra six inches.  That day she was wearing black tights and a Technicolor dreamcoat.

“Kitten!”  She screamed and wrapped her big gawdy arms around Kitty.  She kissed both of her cheeks.  “You look stunning!  So beautiful!”  Then she saw me and her eyes surrounded in huge fake lashes exploded.  “Oh!  Oh!”  She said and hopped up and down, waiving her hands.  “You!”  She said.  “You’re so beautiful!”  She looked over to Kitty.  “She’s so beautiful!”  Then she grabbed me in a great big warm Bonita hug. “I love you!  I love you!  I love you!”  She told me.  She kissed my cheeks.  It’s impossible not to like Bonita immediately.

“Betty,” Kitty said.  “This is Bonita Tequila.”

I was not prepared for Bonita Tequila.

The three of us stepped into some casino.  I couldn’t catch the name.  Once we got to the strip and met Bonita I felt like I was an alien on some foreign planet.  I didn’t even understand the language on the bright blinky signs.  Kitty and Bonita moved so quickly, talked so quickly about Vegas, people I didn’t know, about me even.  I could hardly keep up.  Bonita would lapse in and out of Spanish if she thought I might be listening.  We weaved through crowds of old people with green plastic visors and fanny packs.  We took shortcuts past ice machines, dodged gawking tourists.  Later Kitty told me that they make the interior of the casinos intentionally disorienting.  They make the carpets like mental labyrinths to drive your eyes up to the machines and tables.

“Everything in Vegas is a competition for your eyeballs,” Kitty told me.

We stepped past a line of people, stopping only briefly as Kitty chatted up a few friends of hers as they let us step through into the largest and most absurdly equipped food orgy buffet I’ve ever seen.  There was food going on forever.  Kitty handed me a plate and got one for herself before going directly for the red meat.

“You should have some greens, chica,” Bonita told me and started to put things on my plate.  “And some fruit.  Fruit is good for your complexion.”

I followed Bonita in a daze.  There was steak and shrimp and roasted chicken and potatoes and everything anyone could ever put on a salad ever and lobster legs and goblets full of pudding and a dozen different kinds of cheese cake.  There was fruit spilling out of serving bowls, pasta and pasta sauces in three or four different colors.  A man was making omelets on demand right there.  I’m pretty sure I saw sushi and a bank of cereals.  They had pancakes and rice pilaf.   I let Bonita fill up my plate with random delicacies.  She’d grab a hunk of something, a dollop or something else.  Put one on her plate and one on mine.

“Ooh, mussels in white wine sauce,” she’d say or just simply, “you’ll like this” without identification or explanation.  This place, all of this reckless hedonistic gluttony was like what a regular non-Vegas buffet has dirty buffet wet dreams about.  This is what all buffets want to be when they grow up.

Bonita got me a big glass of milk and led me to join Kitty at a table.  Kitty had a steak, strawberries and a glass of champagne.

“This place is crazy,” I told Kitty when I sat down.

“It’s not Vegas if it’s not completely unnecessary and flagrantly gratuitous,” she told me.  Honestly?  I don’t always know all the words Kitty uses.  Sometimes I wish I had a dictionary with me.  When she wasn’t around I looked up some of them on the internet.  Flagrantly means conspicuously and outrageously bad or reprehensible, by the way.

“I need a bigger plate,” I said, finding a chicken wing buried beneath mashed potatoes and a spinach and feta omelet.

“Don’t eat too much,” she cautioned me.  “Or you’ll get sick on the roller coaster.”

“Roller coaster?”  I looked at Bonita and Kitty.

“Indeed,” Kitty said.

“Eat your salad,” Bonita told me.

“Bonita took care of me when I got to Vegas,” Kitty told me.  “She took me under her wing.  She’s been in Vegas for forever.”

“You make me feel old,” Bonita told Kitty.

“She’s my fairy godmother,”

I ate until I was sure I wasn’t going to want to eat ever again.  I watched Kitty eat a hundred strawberries and steak.  That was it.  Well, and three glasses of champagne.  She produced a pill tin and took a few pills after eating.

“What are those?”  I asked her.

“Medicine,” she told me.

Sure enough, Kitty took me on the roller coaster.  Most people know that there’s a roller coaster on top of a hotel in Las Vegas like they know that the Earth is the third planet from the sun.  I however, was not aware of this and was a little impressed.  Kitty told me that Vegas tried to attract families to the casinos back in the 90s but it hadn’t really worked.

“The whole city is broke now,” she told me as we got into the roller coaster cars (she knew someone there too that waved us on past the crowd).  “Who would have imagined sin would lead to bankruptcy?”

From the top of a roller coaster the whole city of Las Vegas looks like a misshapen Christmas ornament.  Everything’s blinking and shiny or it’s shooting out jets of water or sprouting random columns of marble.  It’s kind of beautiful in a conspicuously and outrageously bad or reprehensible way.

After the roller coaster, Kitty asked me if I’ve ever been to Europe.

“I went to Canada once,” I told her.

“Come on,” she said.  “Let’s see Paris.”

Apparently the whole world exists as a casino in Las Vegas.  There’s New York City and Paris with the Eiffel Tower going right through it.  Venice, Egypt, even Hollywood.

“You can go to every place worth going and you can get a huge drink there,” Kitty said as she led me through the whirlwind tour of the strip.

“Do you like living here?”  I asked her.

Kitty smiled at me.  “I hate it more than words can express,” she told me.

Kitty got me ridiculous Las Vegas t-shirts from a person she knew at the t-shirt place.  She let me play slot machines when no one was looking.  I asked for a sip of her giant drink but she wouldn’t let me have any.

“Do as I say, child,” she told me.

By the time it was dark I was dead on my feet.  We stopped at a juice bar where Kitty knew a guy (I’m not kidding; everyone) and got smoothies.

“What do you think?”  Kitty asked me.

“I don’t want to go home,” I said.

Kitty took a drink from her Blueberry Explosion.  “This place is awful, Betty,” she said.  “It’s vapid and superficial and under the surface it’s just trash and desert.  The people here are awful.”

“I don’t think you’re awful,” I told her.

She smiled at me.  “You’re sweet.”

“How do you know this isn’t where I’m supposed to be?  How do you know that somehow this isn’t like fate or something?”  I asked.

“I don’t believe in fate, darling.”

“You don’t really want to get rid of me,” I told her.  “If you wanted me gone you’d take me to the police station and not to a roller coaster on top of a skyscraper.  You want me here, don’t you?”

Bonita smiled.  “She has a point, chica.”

Kitty held up her hand in Bonita’s face to shush her.  She drank from her smoothie.  She looked at her watch.  “I have to work tonight.”

“I can watch videos back at your apartment,” I said.

She shook her head.  “I’m not leaving you alone there.  You’re an admitted thief.  I hardly know you.”

“You know me,” I protested.

“Maybe,” she said.  “But tonight you’re coming with me.”

“Okay,” I said.

I’m pretty sure Stockings was Kitty’s secret weapon.  She thought she’d introduce me to all these crazy dancers like Jaydee and I’d run for the airport. Or maybe she just thought I’d see another side of her in the club and I’d be disgusted or something and leave her.  Total miscalculation on her part.

Violent Femmes – Chapter 4

Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3

The thing is, it is my fault.  All of it is.

I nagged her for weeks to give me a driving lesson.

“Where are you going to drive?”  Eddie asked me.

“The Hell away from your ugly face,” I told him.

“You don’t have to hurry through everything, Betty,” Mom told me.

But I was in a hurry.  I was in a hurry to drive, to grow up.  I’d been imagining moving out of the King’s castle since we moved in when I was nine.  And I didn’t let up about it.  Just an hour I asked her.  For my birthday.  Like I said, I worked on it for weeks.

In the end it was the King that convinced her.

“I don’t see the harm in it,” he said over breakfast.  He was eating a grapefruit.  I imagine that when no one’s around he sprinkles gold flakes on it.  Just because he can.

“She doesn’t have a permit yet,” Mom said.

“I’m not suggesting you drive down Santa Monica.  Just around a few side streets out in the valley,” the King suggested.

“I need like a thousand hours of driving time before I can get my license, Mom,” I reminded her.

“It’s not going to hurt anybody, Claire,” the King said.

“It’s illegal, Greg.”

The King smiled.  “Break the law a little,” he said.  “I won’t tell.  It’s her birthday.”  That fucking douche bag.  The one time he’s not a bastard to me and it all goes straight to Hell.

Mom shook her head but I could tell she’d been convinced.  She took a sip from her coffee and looked up at me.  “One hour,” she said.

“Awesome!”  I hugged her.  “Thanks, Mom!”

“Can I come?”  Eddie asked.

“Fucking die, Eddie,” I shouted as I ran back to my room to get dressed.

It was early in the morning.  The roads were supposed to be deserted.  We took Mom’s car, the new sedan.  She made sure I adjusted the seat and the mirrors and had the seatbelt on tight enough.  We spent like a half hour in the car before she let me turn the engine over.  Starting a car for the first time, turning that key, it felt like the most amazing thing in the world.

“I’m saving already,” I told Mom.  “For a car.”

“Since when?”  She asked, surprised.

“I don’t know.  A year.”

“One thing at a time,” she told me.  “Disengage the parking brake,” she told me.  “Now put your foot down on the break and shift into gear.”  I felt it go into gear.  The whole car was ready to go and so was I.  “Let off the brake slowly – slowly.  You can start to give it just a little gas and head down the driveway.”  I knew how it all worked.  I’d been watching for years.  We turned onto the road in front of the house, took a few turns.

“I can’t believe you’re fifteen,” Mom told me.

“How come?”  I said.  “I’m mature.”

“That’s not it,” she said.  “It’s just come on so suddenly.”

“It’s taken fifteen years, Mom.”

“Don’t be cute.  I’m your mother.  I get to be nostalgic.”

“Whatever.”

“You’re almost a full person,” she told me.

“What does that mean?”

“An adult,” she told me.  “A grown up.  Most of the people in this city aren’t quite there.”

“Like the King’s friends.”

“I thought we agreed you wouldn’t call him that anymore.”

I stopped at a stop sign and looked over at her.  “Well, not to his face.”

She rolled her eyes at me.  “I admit that some of Greg’s friends are a little bit…”

“Fake?”  I suggested.

“Eyes on the road.”

“I’m watching the road.”

“I would have said vapid or vain.”

“Same thing.”

“Not exactly.”

I shrugged.

“I’m going to miss you,” she said.  “When you’re gone.”

I looked over at her.  She knew.  Some teenagers are just counting down until the day they can leave.  It wasn’t because of her.  I didn’t want to leave her.  Kids leave.  We just do.

I don’t remember the whole accident.  I remember we were at an intersection and I was going through it and then I remember spinning and glass breaking and falling onto my lap.  I looked over to Mom and she was trying to say something.  Was she warning me?  Was she going to tell me something important, something I’ll never hear?  The doctors said that after her neck snapped she died instantly.  She didn’t feel any pain.  She left it all for me.

I was in the car with her for a half hour while the fire department got there to cut me out.  I kept saying, “Mom.  Mom.  Mom.”  She didn’t answer.

Back at the King’s castle they were getting prepared for a surprise party.  There were still streamers when I came home from the hospital the next day.  I tore them all down.  I threw all of my stupid presents away.  I put the cake down the garbage disposal.

It is my fault.  All of this.  Mom and then the gun.  Why did I take the stupid gun?  If I’d just left the gun in the King’s study, there wouldn’t be a dark blood spot on Kitty’s carpet decorated with teeth and Carl wouldn’t be dying.

I decided to leave the night after the wake.  I waited until everyone left for the night.  I knew the King had a few drinks and he’d go down quick and deep.  Eddie stayed up playing video games downstairs.  I could hear the music and his excited little video game grunts.  I waited until the bright Tokyo high definition shadows stopped and Eddie wandered up to his bedroom to surf for porn.  He’d have his headphones on tight, paying close enough attention to his downloaded naughty bits that he’d be oblivious to everything else in the world.  There could be a fire and he wouldn’t notice as long as there were naked lady boobs on his computer screen.

I had all my things packed already.  I left my bags by the door and took my shoes off.  I padded back upstairs in my socks to the King’s chambers.  I listened outside the door.  Nothing.  No light, no sound.  I turned the handle all the way and eased the door open just a crack and listened again.  All I could hear were my own panicky short breathes.  I closed my eyes and tried to breathe slower, tried to calm down.  I could hear the King’s half snoring.

I went inside and pulled the door closed behind me.  I walked toward his dresser where I knew he kept his keys and things in a dish on top but I stopped.  I smelled her.  Not just her perfume or the shampoo she used in her hair.  I smelled Mom.  I remembered talking to her, sitting on the bed and watching her put on her make up at her vanity, sometimes seeing her smile at me in the mirror.  I remembered an earthquake, a rumble though the whole house and I ran straight to her.  “Come here!”  She called out and grabbed me.  We stood in the doorway of the bathroom until the tremor stopped and then we started laughing, we both doubled over and slid down to the floor laughing, just this kind of delirious scared laughing that made no sense to anyone but us.

I remembered watching movies with her in bed when the King was out of town on business and I remembered making her chicken noodle soup when she had the flu but I tripped over my own dumb feet and spilled most of it on the floor on the way to her bedside.  I remembered that she told me it was okay and she ate what was left.  Every noodle.

I felt that throat tickle, the lip quiver, the gut lurch.  I was gonna sob right there.  I stopped caring about waking the King up.  I crossed the room and took his keys then turned around and walked right out, closing the door behind me.  I stopped outside his door holding his keys tightly enough that they hurt my palms.  I listened until I was sure I heard his half snore again and then headed down the hall, past Eddie’s personal perv factory, to the King’s study.  I went through a few keys quickly until I found the right one and I unlocked the door and went inside.

He kept some money in the top drawer of his desk.  I went there first and tried to open it but it was locked.  I tried all the keys but none of them worked.  I grabbed a letter opener from his desk and pried and prodded at the lock.  I stabbed at the drawer.  Finally, I kicked the lock in frustration and heard something break.  I went still.  I was sure Eddie had overheard me over his smut or that I’d woken the King.  I was sure one of them would come in right then and catch me in the act.  But they didn’t come in.  That stupid drawer would never hold up to a burglar.

I opened the drawer and took the stack of money and jammed it into my pocket.  I rifled through the drawer to see if I’d missed anything and then I felt it.  The handle of the gun underneath stacks of papers.  I felt it under the paper until I was sure and then fished out the pistol.  I stared at it, shocked at what I’d found.  I had no reason to think the King didn’t have a gun but I’d never seen it or heard him talking about it.  I sat down and turned on the desk lamp, examining it until I figured out how to swing out the cylinder.  It wasn’t loaded.  I checked the drawer again and found a box of bullets.  I put them next to the gun on the desk.  I’d never held a gun before or seen one in real life.  It was heavier than I’d expected it to be.  It felt dangerous to me like finding a rattlesnake under a stack of rocks.

I don’t know why I decided to take the gun.  I just did it.  I didn’t know for sure where I was going or what I would find when I got there.  I figured a gun was more useful to me than to the King.  I grabbed a set of spare keys for one of the King’s cars, I took the gun and bullets and went downstairs.  I stuffed the gun into the bottom of my bag and started putting my shoes back on.  I heard Eddie’s door open and I stopped with one shoe on, untied.  He started coming down the stairs.  I put on the second shoe quickly thinking I might just open the door and slip out before he got down but I wasn’t fast enough.  Eddie stopped at the bottom the stairs and looked right at me.  I tied my shoes and stood up.  I looked back at Eddie waiting for him to say something.  He didn’t say a word.

“Shhhh,” I shushed him and opened the door.  I went out and down the steps two at a time to the garage.  The lights didn’t go on inside.  Eddie didn’t follow me or go up to the King.  Maybe he wanted me to run away.  Maybe he’d been just as eager for me to leave as I was to go.  I got to the garage and to the car.  I started it and rolled down the driveway.  I looked back at the dark house one last time before I turned out onto the road.

When most kids run away they go to California for Hollywood or the Pacific Ocean or just some great American California lie.  Except California kids.  We go to Vegas.

Violent Femmes – Chapter 3

Chapter 1 Chapter 2

At my Mom’s wake there were all these people dressed in black holding small glass plates filled with hors devours that I’d never met before.  I’m not sure she knew any of them.  They lined up in their tuxedos and their funeral dresses and shook the King of California’s hand.  The women kissed his cheek.  They told him that they were sorry for his loss.  His loss.

This whole story is about people dying.  That’s the theme.  Put it on an index card for your book club.  Until nine days ago I’d never really known anyone that died before.  I had a cat named Baxter that got feline leukemia and Mom said he had to go to sleep but I didn’t go with her to the vet and I never saw him again.  She said I was too young.  It’s embarrassing to admit but back then, after Mom took Baxter to the vet, I actually imagined a room full of cats and dogs and hamsters and little brothers and sisters and Mom’s and Dad’s just sleeping forever.  I imagined the background noise in the city was all of those sleeping people and pets snoring.  Fuck you.  I was five.  I didn’t understand how it worked and even after I knew it, even after the logical scientific kind of reality sunk in, it still doesn’t quite cover it, does it?

I could feel people staring at me when I wasn’t looking.  Thinking that it was my fault.  And you know what?  I think maybe they were right.

Servers walked by with trays of sushi or cream puffs, shrimp cocktail or stuffed mushrooms.  The bars were open.  People mingled.  They told stories.  They laughed.  It was like one of their parties with a photo of my Mom in the center next to a big porcelain urn.

I wished for an earthquake or a typhoon.  I wanted a massive crack to split underneath the King of California’s estate and swallow all of us, for the earth to turn into teeth and devour us, devour the King and his mournful eyes, devour these cocktail grievers with their wine spritzers, devour the catering staff and devour Prince Eddie and devour me and all of her ashes.

The doctor in the Emergency Room he gave me these pills.  “These will make it better,” he told me.  “Easier.”  But it’s not supposed to be better or easy.  I’m an orphan now.

When you know someone that’s died, death suddenly has a time machine and gets to go back to every memory of them you’ve ever had and add on this epilogue.  I remember stupid stuff with my Mom or Baxter, playing a board game or falling asleep in the car on the way home from the beach but all those memories now have an addendum; P.S. And then she died.  I don’t even get to remember her alive.  She dies again every time I remember her.

“How are you holding up?”  A woman with straight gray hair and too few wrinkles asked me.

“What?”  I said.

“I’m Matilda,” she told me.  “I’m – I was – a friend of your mother’s.”

I looked at Matilda’s California botox face.  “No,” I told her.

“It’s hard,” she said.  “I know.  I lost my mother too.”

“When?”  I asked her.

“It’s been a long time,” Matilda said.  “Twenty years.”

“I’m fifteen,” I told her.  “It was my birthday.”

I was in the middle of an eight lane intersection when my mom died and she was in the middle of the sentence.  I’ll never forget how surprised she looked.  Her eyes opened wide and a moment later a truck hit the front end and we spun.  She was dead before we stopped moving.  Her neck snapped back and her mouth was open.  I waited for her to say something.  The paramedics had to cut me out.  If she had five more seconds I wonder what she would have said.  Stop leaving the peanut butter out on the counter, Betty.  What do you think about tacos for dinner?  Bye bye, Betty- I’m gonna die now.  I’ll miss you.  Yeah.  Trust me. Not as much as I’ll miss you. The dead never miss us as much as we miss them, right?

“Yes,” Matilda said.  “I’m so sorry.  It’s terribly tragic.”

“No,” I told her.  “You weren’t her friend.  She didn’t know you.”

Matilda’s eyes widened.  “Excuse me?”

“You didn’t know her,” I said.  “I never saw you.  She never mentioned you.  I’m her daughter.”  My voice got louder.  People turned to see what was happening.  During the wake there was like this silent agreement that all of our grieving would be appropriate.  There’d be folded hands and folded starched handkerchiefs.  I was blowing it for everyone.

“None of you knew her.  She didn’t care about any of you,” I told them.   They looked back at me, too appalled to speak, maybe compiled their polite reviews of the wake to exchange at future parties.  “You’re fake people,” I said.  “You’re not her real friends.”  I started to cry.  “I don’t want you here, she wouldn’t want you here.”

“Elizabeth,” the King of California said as he walked toward me.  He put his hand on my shoulder.  I shook it off.

“That’s not my name!”  I screamed at him.  “I’ve told you a million times.  It’s Betty.  My name is Betty.  That’s what she named me.”

“Betty,” he said.

“No!”  I screamed.  “No!”

“Poor girl,” Matilda said and shook her head sympathetically that way that these fake California people do, the way that’s so completely condescending and smug.

“No!”  I screamed right into Matilda’s face.  “No,” I repeated.  “You don’t get to say that.  You don’t get to be here.  You don’t get to feel anything for me or for her because you’re not real.  None of you are.  You’re half people.”

“Betty.”

“No!”

“Betty!”  More insistent.

The ground starts to shake.  The walls start to sway.  Glasses and dishes fall off tables.  Shatter.  Mom’s picture falls forward, tumbles to the ground and breaks.  The urn is shaking.  I look at the King of California.  I look at all the people.  They’re silent and frozen.  I run as fast I can to Mom.  My arms outstretched.

“Betty!”

The ground splits in front of me, a crack speeding ahead of me toward the urn.  Everything’s moving so slow.  Eddie’s there.  Staring at me in his swimming trunks and baby fat, dripping.  The crack gets to the urn and I scream but I can’t even hear my own voice.

“BETTY!”

“I didn’t do this.  It’s not my fault.”

The urn splits in half.  The pieces explode.  The ashes fall.

“BETTY!”  It’s not the King of California.  It’s Kitty.  This isn’t a memory.  I’m dreaming.

I open my eyes and hit the breaks.  The car screeches to a halt in the middle of the desert.  The road is empty.  The headlights look out at blank asphalt.  My heart is sieging against my chest trying to get out.  My hands are wrapped around the steering wheel so tight I don’t think I can let them go.

I look in the rear view.  Jaydee and Bonita are passed out, drifted into Xanax bliss.  I see Carl’s eyes look back at me from Bonita’s lap.  He’s awake and silent.

“Turn here,” Kitty said and motions to a small dirt road I would never have noticed.

I nod and hit the turn signal.  I slowly turn onto the road.

Kitty offers me a tissue.  I realize my face is wet and there’s mascara and foundation and blush running down in drops to my chin.

“Bonita,” I say.

“Ah.”

“It was a dream,” I tell Kitty.

Kitty puts her hand on mine on the steering wheel.  She squeezes.  “I can talk about dreams.  Anytime.”

“I’m okay,” I say.

“You’re tired,” she tells me.

“I’m not,” I say

“Alright,” she says but it’s obvious she’s not convinced.

“Is it much farther?”

Kitty nods.  She hands me a water bottle.  I open it and drink from it, realizing as it hits my mouth how thirsty I am.

“It’s going to be morning soon,” I realize looking at the clock in the dashboard.

Kitty digs through a bag at her feet.  “Snowball or beef jerky,” she asks me, holding up a package of two pink coconut balls and a bag of preserved meat.

“Snowball,” I say.

She opens the package and holds the snowball close to my mouth.  I bite it and take the whole thing with a giggle.

“Watch the road.”  She says.

“I AM,” I manage to say with a full mouth, pink crumbs spilling out all over my shirt.

“Drink your water,” Kitty says after I’ve managed to choke down about half of it with the rest falling to my lap.  I do as she says.

Kitty pokes me to get my attention and I look over.  She has the second snowball in her mouth and as her eyes widen she closes her mouth.

“No way,” I tell her and look back and forth from the road to her eating it.  She manages to eat the whole thing without any crumbs or messing up her lipstick.  She takes the water from me and washes it down.  I clap softly for her and she does a small bow in her seat.

“Is this doctor going to be able to help, Carl?”  I ask her after a few minutes more on the silent stretch of dirt desert road.

“I think so,” she says.

“We should have taken him to a hospital,” I say.

“Everything’s going to be okay,” she tells me.

“Maybe not for Carl,” I say.  “If I hadn’t let Jaydee-”  Blink my eyes and I see Jaydee crouched down over Johnny Morningstar, the King of California’s gun in her hand.  She kisses Johnny and then she blows him away.

“Don’t,” Kitty interrupts me.  “You didn’t do anything wrong.”

I look over at her.  She looks back, certain and confident but I don’t know how she can be.  I feel that tickle in the back of my throat.  I feel my lips kind of shaking and tears start to come out again.  I hate that I’m such a girl.  I hate that I’m always crying.

“It’s not your fault, Betts,” Kitty says.  “It’s not.

“Yeah,” I say.  “I know.”  But I’m so not convincing.  I’m the worst liar in the world.

Violent Femmes – Chapter 2

Chapter 1

“This is the place,” the Scientologist says.  He has his back to the camera but he turns back when he talks.  He knows how it works.  The audience wants to see your face when you’re talking.  The world around him is grainy and lit with a cheap light and neon signs.

The Boxer is in the lead, walking swiftly away from the shot toward the Magenta Building.  The Boxer goes inside, calls back “suite on 7th floor” in a thick Eastern European accent and hits the elevator button.  The Scientologist and Camera Man crowd into the hallway.

One of Kitty’s neighbors comes up with a load of laundry from the basement.  He’s wearing a white t-shirt, short short pink shorts, gold chains and way too much tan.  “I’ll take the stairs,” he says.

The elevator dings and they move inside.

“Take camera away from my face,” the Boxer growls.  She has washed out gray eyes, pale skin, Marine Corps short blond hair and cauliflowered ears.  Her lips are scarred and her teeth are yellow.  She grabs the camera and forcefully points it down toward their feet.  The Camera Man is wearing cheap sneakers.  The Scientologist is wearing three hundred dollar loafers.  The Boxer is wearing big dirty boots that I image are stained with giant man eating wolf blood and volcano dust.

“I told you, I don’t like camera,” the Boxer says out of shot.  She sounds like a Cold War movie villain or like the fighter that beats Rocky’s daughter to death and brings him out of retirement again. The Camera Man tries to pick up the camera again but is stopped.

“Relax, Sveta,” the Scientologist says.

“You relax,” she says.  “I break camera.”

The Scientologist pulls the camera back up to his face.  “Focus on me, okay?”

“Should we do a little exposition?”  The Camera Man asks.  “For the movie.”

“Yeah,” the Scientologist says.  “Okay so we’re in Vegas looking for a runaway girl from LA.  Teenager.”

The elevator stops on Kitty’s floor.  The Boxer takes the lead down the pink hall to Suite 707.

The Scientologist pulls a photo from his pocket and shows it to the Camera Man.  It’s me.  It’s a bad picture.  I look like I’m confused or passing gas.  It’s a stupid school picture and I’m in that retarded uniform.  Really, they didn’t have a better picture of me?  “Name’s Elizabeth,” the Scientologist says.  “15.  She ran away from home three days ago.  We’ve managed to track her here.  We find her, get her on a plane home – case closed and money in the bank.”

“How did you track her here?”  The Camera Man asks.

“Two things.  We found -” the Scientologist starts but is interrupted by the Boxer getting to the suite and shooting him a “shut the fuck up look.”  The Camera Man adjusts to shoot the Boxer.  She pushes the door and it goes right open.  The Boxer takes a gun from inside her coat.

“Is that a pistol?”  The Camera Man asks.

“Shit,” the Scientologist says.  “Come on,” he says and then he seems to change his mind.  He paces back and forth for a beat.  “Hang back in the hall a minute.”  The Scientologist goes into Kitty’s suite.  The camera shoots the hall, the vintage 70’s stained carpet and the broken door.

“Looks kicked in,” the Camera Man observes.

“Fuck,” the Scientologist says inside.  “Fuck fuck fuck.”  When they air this footage on the news a surprisingly large portion of the dialogue here is just bleeps.  You’d think they just talked in robot Morse code.

The Camera Man sneaks closer and looks inside.  He’s breathing fast and loud enough it’s on tape.  Kitty’s suite is completely fucked up.  The couch is cut up and flipped over.  Books are tossed onto the floor and bookshelves knocked over.  We didn’t do that.  That’s post us leaving.  Potted plants are smashed.  I mean was that really necessary?  Why did they have to take it out on the ficus?

Flash back 12 hours and I was sitting cross legged on the floor eating a bowl of crushed up cookies and milk for breakfast, watching “The Little Mermaid” while Bonita gave me a makeover.

“Jesus,” the Camera Man whispers.

“Check the bedroom,” the Scientologist tells the Boxer.  She nods and goes out of sight from the camera for a moment.  The Camera Man, he’s panning around to take everything in.  He’s zooming in on the coffee table flipped over, on Disney VHS tapes pulled out of their cases and thrown around.

“No one,” the Boxer says, returning from Kitty’s bedroom.

“Bathroom’s clear too,” the Scientologist says.

“Clothes are missing from drawer.  No suitcases in closet,” the Boxer says.

“What the fuck is this?”

The Camera Man focuses on a dark spot on the carpet just inside the door.  Johnny Morningstar.  Well, some of him.  “Is that…”  The Camera Man says.  “Are those teeth?”

“Go out in hall!”  The Boxer shouts.  The Camera Man steps back a bit but stays with an angle inside.

“Fuck,” the Scientologist says and walks closer to the dark spot on the carpet.  He leans over to get a better look.  “Fuck,” he repeats.  “Sveta, check your boots.”

“No blood on boots,” the Boxer says out of the camera’s angle.

“We should call the police,” the Camera Man says.

“Out in hall!”  The Boxer shouts and walks toward him, appearing in frame.

“What the fuck is this?”  the Scientologist repeats.

Okay – pause the tape right there on the Scientologist.  He’s got those boyish good looks, highlights in his hair, sparkly teen idol devil eyes.  You recognize him?  You’re thinking, “is that Cody from In the Doghouse?”  It totally is.  The Scientologist in his youth was sitcom sensation, PJ Barnes.  If you’re wondering what’s little Cody been up to since he was that rambunctious pre-teen that grew up in front of all of America on Friday nights, then I guess you haven’t heard of the internet.  PJ (or Peter as he goes by now) was in a really nasty gay sex tape that leaked out a few years ago.  I’ve been told that for like six months if you were looking for gay porn on the internet you’d see PJ with a mouthful.  I remember staying up with jammies on Friday nights to watch little Cody and his best friend, the talking dog Ramsay get into and out of all sorts of trouble.  Fast forward a decade and little Cody is giving some hairy dude a tongue bath all over.  That’s fucked up, right?  I mean apparently Peter Barnes is a private investigator or something now and the King of California hired him out of all of the low lives in his kingdom to track me down.  I feel kinda insulted.  Other than the sex tape and the sitcom, Peter is only really famous for being a vocal scientologist and for offering to give Shia Lebouf a BJ at the Nickelodeon’s Kid Choice awards.  That’s his resume.  I’m just saying.  This is the guy the King of California thinks of.  Liz is missing.  She might be on a crime spree with showgirls, having narrowly escaped death at the hands of a real life fucking supervillain with a badass name and everything.  I know – LITTLE CODY!  Apparently, Ramsay was busy.  Dear future therapist – I think we’ve found the root of my self esteem issues.  But I digress.  Ok, press play.  Resume.

“Go out to the car,” the Scientologist tells the Camera Man.

“Those were teeth, right?”  The Camera Man asks.  “Somebody’s broken fucking teeth in a puddle of-”

“Just go out to the fucking car,” the Scientologist says.

“Peter, Jesus Christ,” the Camera Man says.  “Did someone kill that girl?”

“Go to fucking car!”  The Boxer shouts and gets between the Scientologist and the Camera Man.

The Camera Man heads back down the hall and goes down the stairs.  He’s freaking out.  You can hear it.  He keeps saying “Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ.”  The Camera Man stops and braces himself against the wall in the stairwell for like a whole minute.  The camera just records concrete.  There’s Cydni Lauper playing in the background.  The Camera Man tries to slow down his breathing.  “What the fuck?”  He mutters.

Now, I’m obviously not dead.  That’s not even my blood upstairs.  It’s not Carl’s either.  It’s a crazy drug dealer pimp Charles Manson and Saddam Hussein love child guy that we killed.  But he didn’t actually die then.  It’s complicated.  I’ll get to it.  I swear.

The Camera Man gets himself together and makes it down to the ground floor.  He runs out to the car and sits in the backseat.  He takes out his cell phone and just looks at it.  I have no idea why this guy is still recording.  It seems to me that film school and all these faux documentary movies are giving guys with digital cameras brain damage.  You can stop and start it again, Camera Man.  You don’t have to have one continuous take just because you can.  Stupid Cloverfield.  

“Give me phone,” the Boxer says as she opens the back door and goes for the phone.

“What the fuck!”  The Camera Man shouts.  “Peter!”

“Dammit, Sveta that’s not…”

“Who you call?”

“No one!”

“Who?!”

The camera’s just a blur now until the Boxer gets the Camera Man’s phone.  The Camera Man gets the camera under control and watches the Boxer walk away from the car and check the call lists.

“Peter, what the fuck is going on?”  The Camera Man asks.

“Nothing,” the Scientologist says. “This is good.  You’re filming all this?”

“Yeah,” the Camera Man says.  “That blood, Peter.”

“Blood doesn’t mean anything,” the Scientologist says.

“That girl…”

“She’s not here.  We’ll find her.”

The Boxer throws the phone back at the Camera Man.  “Hey – that’s a fucking iPhone!”  The Camera Man shouts as he dives to catch it.

“Come on,” the Boxer says and climbs into the driver’s seat.  “We go now.”

“You’re going to call the cops?”

“From a pay phone,” the Scientologist says.

“Okay,” the Camera Man says.  “What are we doing now?”

“Now we get coffee and pancakes,” the Boxer says.  She looks into the rear view mirror and the Camera Man catches her eyes.  “It will be long night.”

Dude.  You have no idea.

Violent Femmes – Chapter 1

Notes:  This is the opening to my novel Violent Femmes.  This is from a revised 3rd draft that I’m doing a final polish on before packaging up to send out to agents and publishers.  I will be posting pieces from the beginning of the novel here until I’ve posted about ~25 pages.  –Erik

The speedometer in this overcrowded rusted out American combustion relic is pushing 80 MPH and we’re halfway to dawn when poor wrong place wrong time Carl wakes up for the first time since Jaydee shot him back at the convenience store outside of Vegas.  The first sound I hear from the backseat is a gasp like he’s just come up from underwater and he’s sucking for breath.  And then it’s pretty much screaming and four letter words.

“Fucking… what the fucking fuck?  I…”  Carl manages to sputter.   He’s stretched out over Bonita and Jaydee’s laps, staining their knock off designer clothes and the interior upholstery.  He tries to sit up and Bonita gently presses him down.

“Shhhh…”  Bonita says, her big cover girl eyes swelling up with fat salty tears.

I see him in the rear view mirror and he sees me.  His eyes are darting around and they stop on my reflection.  His skin is pale and getting paler.  The kind of pale that means he might bleed to death in the backseat before we need to stop next for gas and Funyons.  We have a brief rear view staring competition and he goes still and it’s like he’s begging me or condemning me or trying to tell me something with his big stupid boy blue eyes.    I want to yell out that it’s not my fault, that none of this is my fault and that if I could just tell him the details that led to this he’d laugh and understand.  Really this is just a zany sitcom caper with a couple of capital crimes.  Hilarious.  I wish I was that good a liar.

This story really begins with my not really sweet at all fifteenth birthday and the car accident that changed everything but I wanted to start things off like all of the best stories; right in the middle.  We’ll catch up to the rest of it soon enough.  Bear with me.  This is why God made flashbacks.

Kitty puts her hand on my shoulder to get my attention.  “Eyes on the road, sweetheart,” she tells me and points to the freeway.  I blink and pretend to forget about the gut shot boy.  Kitty taps her press ons against the dash and turns up the radio.  Kitty is my co-pilot.  She’s my driver’s ed teacher.  She’s composed, almost elegant even.  If someone told you she was the first lady of the United States and you had no idea who the first lady of the United States was, you’d probably believe it until you saw the spray of blood on her heels or did a background check.

Let me go on!”  Gordon sings and Kitty sings along with him.  “Like a blister in the sun!  Let me go ooooon, big hands I know you’re the one!”

“Kitty!”  Jaydee shouts from the backseat.  She’s got Carl all over her hands and in her wig and smeared in flailing finger prints on her arms and cheeks.   Carl is oozing out through a tangle of Bonita’s pastel scarves.

Kitty sighs and pulls up her little pink pill box from the floor next to her vacant pink heels.  She told me that she went to school to be a pharmacist once upon a time but Jaydee told me it was a lie.  She’s just a high class Rite Aid junkie, no better than a backroom needle fiend but with slightly better teeth.  They’re both liars.  Really, I’m starting to think that everyone is a liar.  And then there’s me without a poker face.   Kitty takes out a syringe, hooks up a fresh needle, and sucks something clear and opiated from a prescription vial.

“You!”  Carl says when he looks up to see Jaydee’s bruised and split face covered in too much make up.  “You fucking shot me!”

“Ay dios mio, este muchacho va a morir,” Bonita says.  She has her rosary in one hand and she’s holding down Carl’s legs with the other.  Mascara and tears are running down her cheeks, her gold sequined dress is ripped in a few places and smudged with liquid Carl in others.  She needs a visit from the hairspray fairy ASAP.

“No one’s dying,” Kitty says.  She flicks the syringe and squirts out a tiny stream.  She hands it to me.  “Hold this, dear,” she says.

I take the needle.  “What happened to ten and two?”  I shout out over the music.

“Don’t be clever,” Kitty tells me.  She grabs Carl’s arm.  He’s either too weak or too disoriented to stop her.  She finds a vein with surprising ease.   “Just a little sterile kiss and then two surprises,” she tells him.  She kisses his arm and then follows it with an alcohol swab.

“Betty,” she says and puts out her hand for the needle.  I hand it over.  I’m her high speed needle nurse, the getaway driver and enabler.  I don’t know what the hell I am.  I kind of figured I’d be learning to parallel park before attempted murder, kidnapping and drugging.  But there’s a lot of things I’ve been figuring wrong recently.

Carl looks up at Jaydee.  “I don’t want to die,” he says.   Please.  I don’t…”

“I’m sorry,” Jaydee says.  I can’t tell if she’s being sincere or mimicking sincere to cover her inner sociopath.

“Sorry only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, dear,” Kitty say and sticks Carl.  “Surprise number one,” she says and then frowns.  “I’m afraid there will probably be some light bruising.”

“Who the fuck are you people?”  Carl asks.  He looks at Jaydee.  Her nose is fractured; her left eye is swollen nearly completely shut.   Her split lips are lacquered in peach lip gloss.  She’s wearing costume jewelry and a crooked mostly platinum wig. She’s got a strappy black top on, jeans and no shoes.  Then there’s Bonita Tequila, one of Las Vegas’s most revered old time show girls with epic hair, scarves and inconvenient shoes, Kitty L’amour, amateur pharmacist and questionable role model and me, driving the getaway car.  It’s a fair question.  Before anyone thinks of an appropriate answer, Kitty’s second surprise goes straight to Carl’s head.  “Ohhhh…” he says and blinks his eyes very slowly.

“Okay then,” Kitty says.  She turns back around and straightens her blouse.  She takes a measured, calming breath, and then pulls out a mint tin from her pink pill box.  “Raise your hands if you want a Xanax.”

Bonita and Jaydee raise their hands immediately and Kitty begins to dole out pills and sour apple mineral water.

I put out my hand for a pill.

“Have you lost your mind, child?”  Kitty asks me.

I stick my tongue out at her.  She fixes my hair.  She closes the mint tin and puts it back in the pink pill box.  What she doesn’t know is that I’ve been stealing pills from her pink pill box for days.  This is already me heavily medicated.

In the backseat Jaydee lights up a cigarette and sets about inhaling it in record speed.  The smoke crawls inside of her, mingles with her blood and swirls around in her eyes, a breathable nicotine ghost.  “We’re going to get arrested and we’re going to spend the rest of our lives in prison.”   She doesn’t sound panicked anymore.  She’s past panic.

“Maybe,” Kitty says.  “Let’s take things one step at a time though, shall we?”

Jaydee rolls down the window and the desert air fills the car.  Jaydee puckers her lips and blows a cancer kiss.  The wind picks up Bonita’s scarves and takes Jaydee’s smoke away.  Jaydee takes a final drag and flicks her cigarette out of the car.  I see the orange tip, tumble end over end until it disappears behind us in a final anticlimactic burst of tiny sparks.

Kitty takes out her compact.  She checks her makeup and touches up her lipstick.  “Go ahead and step on it, dear,” she tells me.

My name is Elizabeth but if I get arrested I’m going to tell the fuzz my name is Betty Bang Bang.  Chances are pretty good that I’m already wanted in connection with one murder tonight and if we don’t make it to Kitty’s mysterious middle of nowhere doctor soon, I’m afraid Carl is going to be number two.  Poor Carl.  One of those, sorry you got shot while I was getting mineral water and Jaydee’s a psycho that got her hands on a gun kind of misunderstandings.  I hope he doesn’t die.  He seems like a nice boy.  I bet he’s in a pretty good band.  He looks like he’s in a band.  All this murder, adrenaline and smoke is making me dizzy and numb.  I wish Kitty gave me one of those pills.

We’re headed south from Vegas to Arizona to hide out at Bonita’s special gentleman friend’s house.  It’s not the most sophisticated plan but circumstances have necessitated some planning on the fly.  As soon as we get out of the middle of nowhere, I’ll be surprised if every cop west of Texas isn’t looking for us from behind his mirrored cop glasses.   There are roadblocks in our future.  There are guest appearances on America’s Most Wanted.  I feel like we’re driving right toward a big brick wall and the brakes are out and Kitty just says “go head and step on it, dear.”  Yeah.  I’m pretty sure Jaydee’s right about how this ends.

I close the window and pretend my foot is made of lead.

Anyway, it’s about now, with us a few hours out of Vegas, that the Boxer and the Scientologist track me to Kitty’s penthouse.  They find the door broken down at the end of that big pink hallway.  They find Kitty’s broken things, a whole lot of blood, a puddle full of teeth and bone and a picture of Kitty, Bonita and me waving and blowing kisses at the camera stuck on the refrigerator door.  Wish you were here.