Sunday 2:21 pm
I learned early on to approach my cases differently from the way the cops approach theirs. I have fewer resources than they do, but I also have fewer rules. Besides, there’s no point in retracing their footsteps. I jotted down some notes and ideas about the case. Who knew the victim? Who were her friends, lovers, family, and co-workers?
I stretched out on the sofa and punched Raven’s number into my cellphone.
“I’ll need to talk to Kitty’s ex-boyfriends,” I said. “Sam and Corey.”
“I don’t know how much help they’ll be,” Raven said. “Like I said, she wasn’t with either guy for very long.”
“Doesn’t matter. How can I reach them?”
Raven rattled off two phone numbers. I dialed Sam’s first and got a recording. This mailbox is full. I tried Corey next.
“My name is Sasha Jackson. I’m a private investigator,” I said when Corey picked up after the second ring. “I’m looking into the death of Julie McPhee, although you might have known her as Kitty Vixen.”
“Sorry. I can’t help you,” he said. And with that, the dial tone started humming in my ear.
Wow. My investigation wasn’t off to a very good start.
Sunday or not, tired or not, I decided that I should try to be productive. I went into the den of the Riverdale home I share with my dear old dad, Jack, and my awesome brother, Shane. Neither one was home right now, so I cranked up the tunes – Mötley Crüe – and started surfing the internet. There were things I wanted to know about the world of adult entertainment, and the internet seemed like a good way to kick-start my investigation. I thought it would be a good idea to learn more about the porno industry and about the world Kitty had been a part of. At least Google can’t hang up on me.
I found the website for XRatedCon right away, and read up on the event. The expo, which started in 1999, bills itself as the world’s largest “adult entertainment and lifestyle” tradeshow. Participants could spend time in the ‘interactive fetish playhouse’, or they could attend the porn industry’s version of the Academy Awards, premium ticket holders could go to ‘private parties’, and anyone with extra cash could get rid of it at any of the two hundred exhibitor booths. The vendors were promoting everything from live sex chats, to edible condoms and flavoured motion lotion, to ‘lifelike’ silicone sex dolls that came with a variety of wigs so their owners could pretend to have several girlfriends. Some of the dolls were priced at eight thousand dollars.
I surfed around a bit more and found a newspaper article discussing the economic impact of the event. Apparently, more than 200,000 people visit the expo in Los Angeles every year, hotel rooms are sold out months in advance, and the convention does upwards of a couple million dollars in business annually. There was speculation that the show’s promoters were going to start doing two expos a year to meet demand.
I surfed a bit more to get a sense about the adult movie industry, and was pretty gobsmacked by what I learned. The United States makes over fifteen thousand adult flicks a year, and they’re not the only place producing them. In fact, the worldwide porn industry is worth upwards of $100 billion. I read it again. Yes: $100 Billion.
I tried to reconcile that number with the thousand bucks a day that Raven said the actresses are paid. How many girls would have to be exploited in order to generate revenues like that? What kinds of profit margins are we talking about here?
That was enough general background for now, so next I clicked onto the website for Triple A, Triple X in order to learn a little bit about Kitty’s former employer. Their homepage was even sleazier than I expected, and I had a feeling that the Members’ Only pages would make me want to bleach my brain. That’s saying a lot, given my previous case-load, and my brief stint working at a phone-sex hotline.
A link near the bottom of the webpage offered the usual disclaimers and over-eighteen legal mumbo jumbo. Next to that was a tab labelled Work For Us.
Here we go...
If I had dreams of a career in the dirty movie biz, I could probably be on my way to x-rated stardom in under an hour. The webpage had a pop-up screen confirming that all applicants are eighteen years or older. I clicked the box that said “yes” and continued.
Apparently, Triple A, Triple X’s recruitment process begins with three photos, one of which has to be a full-length nude picture, and no more than one of the three pics could be in black and white. The photos were to be attached to the online pre-employment survey of the candidate’s willingness and experience. There were boxes for activities like “girl on girl” and “bondage” and “oral” next to which the potential actress could click “yes” or “no”. I wasn’t surprised that there was no box asking for references. Also not surprisingly, the application didn’t request academic transcripts. A notice at the bottom of the page said that all applicants would be considered for movies, or live web chats, or both, and that in either case, an audition would be required.
Gawd, I bet that could take the ‘casting couch’ cliché to another level.
According to the About Us section, AAA-XXX has made over 600 videos since they were founded about a decade ago. Wow. That’s a lot of smut. Horndogs could search movies by keywords, like “Back Door” and “Gang Bang,” or look through titles alphabetically, or search by actors’ names. Movies could be downloaded for as little as $3.99, and there was a link for private live web chats, starting at $15.99 for 30 minutes. As well, “premium members’” could pay a flat monthly fee for two hours of web chats, plus unlimited movies. Wow. Sex on the internet is cheaper than I imagined.
My father has a rather foolish habit of leaving his extra credit cards in the top drawer of his desk. No doubt, when he gets home from his current gambling trip, and receives his next Visa statement, he’ll be shocked to see how much he spent this month on adult entertainment.
I downloaded a number of exceptionally tasteless porno flicks with absurdly uninspired titles, like Mmmmmuffdiving and Full Frontal Fun and Adult Toy Story.
I watched the first few minutes of several Kitty Vixen movies. Kitty was exceptionally hot. A luscious blond with full lips, come-hither green eyes, and a body that wouldn’t quit. I could see why anyone would be sexually stimulated by her. The current video was supposed to be a gang bang at a summer picnic. Kitty was spread-eagle on a picnic table, covered in melting ice cream, and the guys around her were doing disturbingly creative things with strawberries and hot dogs. Yikes.
I reminded myself that this was the same girl who had brought Raven chicken soup and had covered her half of the rent.
The moans and sighs of the flick were unbearable, and completely unlike any of the sounds I’ve ever made with Derek or any other bedmates. I muted the video and cranked up my heavy metal playlist. I growled along with Guns ’n Roses while I watched the on-screen hump ’n grind. Too bad Axl Rose turned out to be such an asshole, and that the band had broken up so soon after hitting it big. Axl had killer heavy metal pipes, and Guns ’n Roses was one of the rock groups that had inspired me to pursue a career in the music biz. My lungs were just as powerful as Axl’s, my moves were a bit more willowy, and I had better hair, but I’d never mastered the art of being an asshole – which is the prerequisite for making it in the world of rock ’n roll.
Maybe that’s all for the best, though. Besides, being a private investigator is a pretty good consolation prize, and, surprisingly, it makes frequent use of the skill set I developed during the bar band days. Bullshitting, flirting, and faking it can take you pretty far in either field.
As soon as I had a glimpse of the entire cast, I advanced to the end of the video to read the credits. I made a list of all the cast members as the credits scrolled across the screen. The male actors’ names were either super-cheesy or hairball-hacking glottal, like Darius Rockwell, Lance LeMans, Rory Swaine and Chad Fist. I bet in real life at least one of them had a nerdy first name, like Eugene or Dilbert. And Chad Fist sounds like he ought to be in gay porn. I’m just saying...
Raven had mentioned that Kitty often filmed with Clint Slade and Dixon Cash, so I zeroed in on movies with them. After watching a few minutes of Clint and Dixon in action, I could see why they were both cast in porno movies. Although neither guy was especially good looking, each one was hung like a Zanzibar donkey. Yowzah.
My iPod switched over to some delightfully sour caterwauling from Buckcherry. Josh Todd and his band of bad boys were going on about being too drunk to fuck, which wasn’t the case in the flicks I’d seen so far this afternoon.
A few female actresses had appeared in multiple movies with Kitty, so I wrote down those names as well. The feminine porno names were even cornier than the masculine ones. There was Trinity Splitz, Crystal Frost, Misty Chambers, Tatiana Mounds, and Portia St. Germaine. I remembered that Raven said that Trinity and Crystal had chipped in to hire me, and Portia St. Germaine sounds like she ought to be on a soap opera.
I heard a car pull into the driveway, so I shut down the computer and wandered into the kitchen. Shane and his girlfriend Lindsey – who’s been my best friend since we were in training bras – were unpacking groceries.
“What are you doing here?” Shane asked, making zero effort to disguise his annoyance.
“Ummm, I live here,” I said.
“I thought Lindsey and I had the place to ourselves,” he kvetched.
Lindsey didn’t miss a beat. “Don’t be a jerk Shane.”
This is why Lindsey’s my best friend. I love people who speak without thinking.
“Sorry. I just thought that, you know, with Dad out of town, and I hardly ever get a Sunday off...” Shane mumbled.
Our dad had retired a few years ago from his job as a math professor at the University of Toronto. His numero uno pastime for his Golden Years is spent putting statistical probability to work as a professional Blackjack player. This week, dad is in the Bahamas, trying hard to relieve the Atlantis casino of some of their money. His latest Blackjack theory has something to do with something called Idiot Insurance Camouflage, which is even more boring than it sounds.
“Never mind,” I said to Shane. “I can make myself scarce. I forgot you were off today.”
Shane is the Executive Chef Extraordinaire and co-owner of Pastiche, one of the premiere dining spots in Toronto. Pastiche is a très cool contemporary restaurant, serving mouth watering dishes - like smoked duck with sour cherries, or fennel crusted tuna steaks - that had opened to fantastic reviews not that long ago. During his twenties, Shane had slaved away in five star kitchens across Europe where he honed his skills, always with the goal in mind to start his own place someday. It was nice now to see his dream come to fruition. But, given the nature of his business, it’s no surprise he works most weekends. As it happens, Lindsey, who is a real estate agent, works wonky hours as well, so their leisure time together is predictably unpredictable, except that it’s rarely on the weekend.
“Don’t be silly,” Lindsey said, as she twisted a corkscrew into a bottle of Italian red.
“We’re doing Italian tonight—”
“Veal parmesan and Caesar salad,” Shane said.
“Stick around. We bought way too much stuff.” Lindsey - never one to stand on ceremony, such as letting the wine breathe - poured three glasses of Montepulciano and took a sip from hers immediately.
“I’ll bail after my glass of vino. I really should get to work. I have a new case,” I said.
I told them about Kitty Vixen’s murder while Shane pounded veal medallions and Lindsey rinsed the romaine. My culinary reputation precedes me, so I didn’t even offer to help, saving Lindsey and Shane the bother of having to decline. I can fuck up a bowl of cereal.
“Porno stars? I’m sensing a theme here Sasha,” Lindsey said.
“What? It’s not as if I go looking for sex cases.”
“I’m just saying: bordellos, fetish parties, and now dirty movies...” she said.
Shane piped in, “And let’s not forget that you were working at a phone sex line when you landed your first major case...”
“The clients find me...” I didn’t protest too loudly because it was true.
Shane continued, “I hope you’ll stay fully clothed when you solve this case. And try not to kill anyone this time.”
I had no retort for the “fully clothed” comment, again, because it was true. But I flinched a little inwardly at the “kill anyone” remark, and was irked by Shane’s insensitivity. How come big brothers can be such jerks at times?
My last big case was a murder investigation that involved a volatile collision of municipal politics and kinky sex. I solved the crime, but in doing so, I had caused the death of another human being. The person who had died was a truly despicable individual with absolutely no redeeming features, so society hadn’t really lost out. But I still had mixed feelings about taking a life. The Private Eye manuals don’t say anything about dealing with guilt.
“So how are you going to tackle this one?” Lindsey asked.
“The usual. Talk to a bunch of people and try to figure out who’s lying. I’ll check out the porno studio and talk to her co-stars, see what her family says, and her ex-boyfriend.”
The world of detection lacks a concrete set of Standard Operating Procedures. Hunches, common sense, and chutzpah are usually all I’ve got to go on. Lucky for me, I have an abundance of each.