Sometime writer and full time bum Buddy Chinn is in trouble. The ponies are slow, his liver is bitching, the bugs are munching his wallet away and his free spirit squeeze Monique is catting around town with who knows who. Worse, a big-time manuscript collector believes he’s got the lowdown on some serious buried literary treasure. Buddy hasn’t a clue what he’s talking about.
Collector guy offers him a deal he cannot refuse. Find said treasure and make a hundred large. Fail and lose body parts. Lots of body parts. Worse, he’s got two weeks and some bad, bad people on his tail. Some days, it just ain’t worth getting out of bed.
Based on the life of the fictional son of the alter-ego of a brilliant beat poet, Hollywood Shakedown is a surreal, dangerous, funny, knowing, shaggy dog story ideal for the pool this summer.
The boys after Buddy are ordered to bring in his girlfriend Monique as an insurance policy against a rip off on the manuscript. She's shopping in an upmarket LA mall and having a great time. The boys have a guest with them, a tracker who is paid to bring in runaways and they don't like it at all.
A hectic, almost frenetic lot.
Three men forced to watch her enter the mall from the road outside. Stuck in a queue for parking places. As soon as they pulled into line, a Lexus tailgated them and that was that. They could have forced their way out if it came to it (or even shot their way out, as they were packing enough hardware to start an LA revolution), but they were under orders from Saxon to stay nice and quiet.
Under the radar.
Ahead of them, the line snaked thirty strong and though the delay was irksome, the men showed no discernible emotion.
After all, there was nothing they could do so why worry.
Bishop wasn't concerned. The woman clearly had no idea the men were following her and she wasn't likely to be leaving the mall anytime soon. She was there for the duration. There was shopping to do. They could take their time.
Pick their spot.
The man in the back seat stared out of the window, bored and restless.
Accustomed as he was to the open prairies, he disliked being cooped up in a metal casket like this one but it wouldn't pay to show too much weakness to someone like Bishop. He’d use that against him when it came down to it.
You give nothing away to a man like Bishop.
Scanning the lot like a hawk, he spotted a woman in blue jeans and espadrilles, with cherry blonde hair walking to her mini-van. Tall, long legged. He ogled her top, which would have been ample even if her blouse had been the right size. Several large bags of shopping weighed her down. Clearly, she’d been inside the mall since opening time and she prowled the lot with a confident swagger.
It didn't take the woman long to realise that someone was staring at her, but she had no idea who and it unnerved her, her sixth sense, her radar, attuned to the world around her going wild.
If she could see him, she would have seen a thirty two year old man, lantern jawed, bloodless lips the width of pencil points, sandy coloured hair to his shoulders, inlaid with flecks of grey and a days’ worth of rough stubble.
Lennon sunglasses covered up his pupils, but not the whole of his eyes.
Taking advantage of his position in obscurity, he took aim.
Dark things imagined.
The darkest of things.
A picture painted intricately in his head. Attached to the mental image, all his black emotions, all the fantasies spawned on long nights wandering the prairie. Because it was morning, and because he was merely amusing himself, he neglected to show her some of the more potent images that existed inside his library. The ones he used when he was being paid to.
Still, the particular picture he painted in his head was, nonetheless, not for the everyday person.
The window of the car opened about three inches, enough to let the breeze in.
The man extended the palm of his hand and placed the picture upon it.
Blew it toward her, gently.
He felt no pleasure in the act. She wasn't his usual type, not at all. He preferred muscular, athletic women, Native looking, chestnut eyes, skin toasted in the desert sun. The psychic thing he did to the classy looking urban chick was just something he did to pass the time.
The projected image hit her.
He watched her flinch. If a bystander were watching from a certain angle, it would look as if she'd been accidentally bumped into by a shopping cart.
Temporarily unsteady on her feet, she threw her bags of shopping into the back of her mini-van and jumped awkwardly into the driver’s seat. For a good five minutes she stared out of the windscreen. Remained totally still, perhaps to steady herself.
Tonight, he knew, she will experience unusual and unsettling dreams.
Dreams about things she didn't even know she knew. Things that would make her feel uncomfortable; make her look at people around her differently, with anxiety, for at least a fortnight
Eventually, she got a grip.
With a shake of her head, she drove off without looking back.
He adjusted his sunglasses.
(Sweet dreams, honey)
He leaned forward between the head rests of the two front seats. “I'll go after the woman,” he said. “It’s time.” A mid-west accent, sleepy and slow.
“Say that again?” Bishop said, not really understanding his rural drawl, the sentence taking twice as long as he was used to.
“The mark. I'll go after her.”
The big man shook his head. Took a sip of his soda. “No dice. We need to wait”
“Let's go now. Stay here and park the car. I'll bring her in.”
Ramirez, who did not like the man in the back seat one little bit, felt uncomfortable around him, a distant alarm bell ringing in his head every time he heard his voice, turned round over the seat and spoke assertively. “We'll do this later. That's the deal. “
He shook his head, knowing full well the Mexican didn’t like him and knowing also, that he didn’t like him much either. “I ain't talking to you, brother. Who asked you anyway?”
Ramirez bristled but didn't let it show. “The boss doesn't want a repeat of Denver. You heard what he said. You were there. You were Denver, man. And I’m not your brother.”
The man stretched his arms on the full length of the back seat rest. Ramirez had hit his weak point full on.
Up till Denver, he would have probably been asked to carry out this job alone. It was an easy payday. Bringing rogues back to base was what he did.
Now, because of certain unfortunate events in Colorado, a pair of assholes had to come along for the ride and it felt like babysitting. “Denver went bad. It happens. I apologised, what more could I do.”
“Sure, real bad.” said Bishop, wryly. He was no fan of the man in the back seat either but there was a job to do and he was a professional. You couldn’t always choose your partners in a disparate organization like Saxon’s and the man in the back was a specialist. “You're lucky to be allowed back on the team. Let’s sit chilly for a little while. It’s busy in there and the man wants this to be done nice and clean, squeaky clean. Besides, what else have you got to do today? There's no rush....”
He sat back and crossed one leg over another. A pair of expensive rattlesnake skin cowboy boots under a pair of Levi jeans. Whereas Bishop and Ramirez wore business suits, he took a more casual approach to his work. He hated suits and, by and large, the people who wore them.
He hated Bishop and Ramirez too.
One day he was going to sort them right out.
Oh yes. Ace them.
Besides, he'd been there when Saxon told them all to blend in and stay inconspicuous. Guess what happens. These two assholes turn up at his hotel looking like, er, gangsters while tailing the mark in a black Audi with tinted windows typically driven by, er, gangsters. Maybe they had misunderstood the word inconspicuous.
Or they didn't know quite what the word meant...
By his side, a black cowboy hat rested on the seat. He didn't really like being stuck in the back of a car, even one as comfortable as this. In the end, there was no choice, so he shut up, picked up his cowboy hat and rested it over his eyes.
“I can think of a hundred places I'd rather be than in this car right now, Mister Bishop, sir. But it’s your party. Wake me when you want the huntin’ to begin.”
Lunchtime was beginning to blend into the middle of the afternoon and Monique was desperate for a drink.
Cravings crept up on her unawares and they bit her hard. The force nearly knocked her down and she began to feel faint. Luckily, before they overwhelmed her, she found a spare seat near the fountain at the centre of the mall. Lucky in itself – the mall was even more crowded now than it was when she'd arrived. Hundreds and hundreds of shoppers wandered the Pineapple Grove. Sitting down, she felt at peace, a momentary sense of relief.
Up until that point, she had been a busy girl.
She'd done herself proud. The professional shoppers of Beverley Hills would have been proud of her. Alone, she'd faced the daunting shopping Everest ahead of her and she'd climbed it with a rare vigour, using the shopping equivalent of ice pick, mountain boots and shiny axes. Raced up the mountainside and there she stood, atop the peak.
Monique sat with her back to the fountain alongside an impressive collection of upmarket shopping bags. In a quite memorable spree of see it and buy it shopping, she'd spent nearly a thousand bucks on clothes, shoes, make-up, accessories and lingerie in around two and a half hours and there was still plenty left in her purse.
Just under a thousand bucks.
If she spotted a cream maxi dress, a zebra skin printed top, a pair of pink strappy sandals, a mauve purse with gold clasps, a pair of fifties style horned sunglasses, a lemon camisole set, or a pair of pristine, rare, American-made Levi jeans, she'd be all over the item like the sun’s rays.
If she liked the look of it, she brought it without trying it on.
Second thoughts? She cast it aside, not bothering to put it back on the hanger.
Well, she thought: This lil Oklahoma girl would most definitely enjoy being one of the idle rich.
In the last ten minutes before the cravings hit her, she had been having a pressing internal dialogue with her inner self about purchasing a leopard skin mini-dress that hugged her figure like a Latin lover, but was one of those dresses which caused more problems than it solved, especially when combined with a pair of black shoes with eight inch spikes for heels.
The dress and shoes were some real bad girl combination.
Had her mother seen what she was planning to wear at her age, she would have had a cardiac the size of the 1905 earthquake. She really wanted those clothes- really, really wanted them and the combined spend would be close to five hundred bucks – her mother would have definitely keeled over at that price - but the downside nagged at her.
The downside? The married woman’s downside.
What would her boyfriend say?
What would anyone say? She was just past forty and this kind of outfit gave a gal a real bad name and these were not clothes for a woman with a boyfriend.
These were prowlin’ clothes.
Well, she'd already gotten herself a bad name! She'd heard the whispers. Seen the impact she had on men who only ever respond like that when in the presence of a girl with a bad name.
She'd never been unfaithful to Buddy, though she'd pushed it farther than she was supposed to at times, pushed those boundaries until they bent, strained and cracked, (smooched with a few guys, sipped bourbon, smoked a little draw in a car with Sylvia and a couple of hot young guys from outta town when the bars had shut, watching the lights flicker down in the Valley; hung out at the occasional impromptu house party with guys Buddy wouldn’t be all that happy to know about, danced a little and such), but she had never actually hid a dick apart from that of her boyfriend since they’d been together. It was hard not to. She got plenty of attention from guys and she was a free spirit.
Yet, since Buddy, she had been playing it straight.
So, putting it all together, she wanted that dress badly.
She desired it. The dress niggled at her. She'd put it back on the rack and left the shop but that wasn't enough. The desire for the dress ate away at her. The more she thought and prevaricated, the more she felt she'd have to leave the State to avoid buying it. She could just imagine Buddy's face when he saw her wearing that dress. Hell, he'd rip it off there and then (she'd have to watch that, if she decided to buy it), but he wouldn't be too happy at all is she wore it down Jodie's or the Hangman. It would upset him, the sight of her walking out with that dress, those shoes and her new clasp purse. She knew men well enough to know that a whore in the bedroom is a whole different thing to a whore in the local street corner Lounge.
And she loved him. She really did.
That was the God's honest truth.
Yet, this dress was just too damned special to wear just for Buddy in the bedroom.
It was too cool not to show off.
And those shoes...she had NEVER seen a pair of shoes like that in her life! She spotted them in the shop window of a Luigi Facchino franchise.
Stared at the window almost hypnotised.
Time slowed to nothing when she saw them.
Instinctively, sensibly, she knew that nothing good could come from buying these shoes.
She'd already brought shoes.
Nice ones too, real sexy shoes.
These were different though. They seemed to call to her. It was like they had spotted her walking past the window of the boutique, spotted her essence – the woman inside, her soul, her being - and latched on to it like a tractor beam. It was like those shoes had hunted her down, predators: imprisoned her there in front of the shop window.
Mounted on a plinth, framed by two spotlights orbiting the shoes like the twin moons of Saturn, each shoe buffed to a glistening shine, they had an ethereal, otherworldly quality.
Powerless to resist, she entered the shop. When she'd tried them on they fitted her perfectly too, the caress of the inner shoe like a silken embrace, the insole a bed of a million feathers. The shoes had a transcendental impact upon her that stretched from her temples to the tips of her toes and centred like a hurricane between her legs.
She had to have them - three hundred and forty bucks was a small price to pay for such sheer emotional range and she wasn't going to get this chance again anytime soon.
Then she embraced the downside. Those heels would attract men like flies round shit and send Buddy into a deep depression if she wore them out, say, to go shopping with one of her pals. She needed the attention of men, but she needed Buddy more.
Pals would love those shoes. Sylvia. Katy. Christina. The Sunday night gals at the Magpie Bar. Even Gay Nate.
They would ENVY those shoes and by extension, they would envy Monique.
Little Monique of Annardarko, Oklahoma.
To buy or not to buy.
The sensible half of her knew that buying those shoes was attracting heaps of trouble into her life on just about every single dimension she could think of.
The mad side of her didn't give a crap about that – she wanted them so bad she could taste the need at the back of her throat.
The battle raging inside her went on. Every time she tried to reach a resolution about the clothes, the idea of a cool drink in her hand came to her. First the mind, then the body. The craving began to take hold at the back of her throat. Though the mall was homeostatically controlled by powerful air conditioners, she began to perspire. After five or six minutes of sitting in the rest area, her entire body was covered in a sheen of moisture.
This was her psyche solving the problem for her.
Can't make up your mind? Decisions too much for you? Too much pain and thinking? Have yourself an ice cool Margherita, Monique. You KNOW it makes sense...
Unable to resist the craving, she got up and went in search of a lunchtime drink.