Monday, October 28, 2013

Chapter Fourteen: FRISKY BUSINESS

Tuesday 1:42 pm
Mick dropped me off at Raven’s. I was glad to finally have another chance to sit down with my client, given that I had hardly connected with her since Saturday when she came into my office to hire me.  As fast and convenient as modern communication methods are, texting, voicemail, web chats and so on are no substitute for good old fashioned face to face.   I had so many things I wanted to ask Raven about - money and drugs and Corey and dealers and XRatedCon among them.  But I wasn’t planning to tell her much.  At least not yet.  There was no reason for her to know about the phone call or the break-in, which is why I hadn’t mentioned them to Mick this morning either.  No one needed to know – whether by accident or design, whether in confidence or on the record – that I was feeling a wee bit scared.
“Can I offer you something?” Raven asked, clearing her sketchbooks out of the way.
“Maybe just a glass of water,” I said, seating myself on the worn beige sofa.  The living room had been tidied up since my visit yesterday, although the coffee table was covered with crumpled sketch pages, charcoal sticks and a rainbow of pastel pencils. 
She disappeared into the kitchen and came back with a couple of bottles of water, a big bag of Ruffles potato chips and a container of onion dip.  She plopped down on the other end of the sofa, ripped open the chip bag, and placed the snack on the cushion between us.
“You’ve been busy drawing,” I said, nodding towards the sketchbooks.
“Yeah.  I woke up thinking of a couple great designs and wanted to get them on paper while they were still in my mind.  I’ll show them to you when I’m done, if you want.”
“That’d be cool.”
“So what’s happening?” she asked.
I gave her a brief update while she munched, and then started in with my questions.  I noticed that since her hands were busy with the chips, she wasn’t chewing her fingernails today.
“You said before that Kitty wanted more money and better working conditions.  Exactly what did you mean, or I should say, what did she mean, about working conditions?”
“It’s not really concrete, I mean, yeah, she wanted us to have sick leave and stuff like that.  But she really just wanted us to be treated a little better, like with respect.  Like for Pete’s sake, after filming all day we’re feeling pretty gross.  There are showers in the change room, but there’s never any towels, or at least not usually, and not clean ones.  I mean, can’t they just give us some fucking clean towels?” 
“That doesn’t seem like too much to ask.”
“And we should have a drug plan.  Seriously.  We all get checked regularly, but still, people catch things.  Keep in mind, we don’t use condoms. No one will download a flick with rubber in it.”
            “You’ve got to be kidding.  There should be a law requiring that condoms be worn,” I said.
            “Actually, there is, but only in California, and that law is pretty recent.  No laws like that here.  It’s one of the reasons that filming pornos in Canada is so busy these days.”
            “That’s unbelievable.  It’s so dangerous...”
            “Anyhow, like I said, we get tested for STDs, but that doesn’t really mean anything.   I know lots of girls who’ve caught stuff.  I have, too. Luckily it’s all been curable.  You think we could have a drug plan since, like Kitty said, it’s an occupational hazard.”
            “You girls are taking your lives in your hands. No amount of money could make me take a risk like that.”
            “That’s kind of what Kitty’s point was, that the risk increases when there are multiple partners, and that’s why I usually just did girl on girl if I could.”  She nibbled on a few chips before continuing.  “Shooting certain types of movies, like gang-bang ones, are especially bad.  It really wears you out, literally.  I know a couple of girls who had to go for stitches afterwards.”
“You’re kidding...”
“No.  I’m not.  But that kind of really hard-core movie usually goes to the girls who are most serious into drugs.  They won’t say no if they need money for a fix.”
I took a moment to digest all of this. 
I had known at the outset that this was a shitty business, but I hadn’t known just how shitty. 
“The topic of drugs keeps coming up.  Who’d Kitty buy her pot from?”
“Just about anyone at Triple A can help you score.  Two or three of the male actors sell a bit, and so does Portia, plus Bongo usually has a stash on him and he’s there all so time, so a lot of us often bought dope from him.” 
Could he be selling enough pot to have bought a Ferrari?  That would take a lot of reefer... 
 “I see.  By the way, how did Kitty meet Corey?”
“He showed up at a party once.  One of the actors brought him.  It might have been Dixon...?  Actually, yeah, it was Dixon.  He met Corey when he bought a bike from him.”
Interesting that Corey and Dixon knew each other, since one had disappeared and the other refused to talk to me. 
Hmm... Curiouser and curiouser.
“I got the impression that Corey and Kitty didn’t really have much of a relationship.”
“I guess you could say that.  He’s cute, but a bit of an asshole.  Wasn’t what you’d call real attentive.” A blob of chip dip landed on the sofa cushion.  Raven grabbed one of the crumpled up sketch pages and dabbed it up.
“Why did they break up?  Who was the dumper and the dumpee?” I asked.
“He’s the one who called it off.  Said that dating a porn star who wouldn’t fuck him was an insult.  Kitty didn’t seem to care.  I think she was kinda glad, actually.” 
If he had initiated the break-up, then my spurned lover theory was out the window. 
“If that’s the case, then I wonder why he’s so anxious to avoid me?”
Raven shrugged her shoulders in reply.  I dug into the bag for another handful of chips.  
 “Actually, you mentioned Dixon a moment ago, and I’m curious about him.  Kitty made a lot of movies with him, she met her ex-boyfriend through him, and then she’s killed and he takes off to Florida.  Any thoughts?”
“Never really considered it.  It’s probably no big deal that he moved away.  Triple A, or even really any other companies in this type of business are kinda like revolving doors.  People come and go all the time.  It’s not like you can gain anything by sticking around.  Seniority isn’t an advantage.  Actually, it’s kinda the opposite: get old, get out, make way for the newcomer.”
“True.”  I munched another chip slathered with onion dip.  “I’m also really puzzled by XRatedCon.  Antonio told me that he didn’t ask Kitty to go because he thought she was a bit stressed out after the break up.  He didn’t strike me as a particularly considerate guy.  Besides, she’s obviously money in the bank for him, especially at an event like that.”
“Are you serious?  That’s what that fucker told you?  That he gave her a pass on the convention?  What a load of shit!  He had a fit when she told him she wouldn’t go; they had a huge fight about it.  As a matter of fact, he’d already booked hotel rooms for her and everybody else that was going, and he’d bought the plane tickets, which are a business write-off anyways.  That fucker’s full of shit. He bitched and moaned about Kitty would have to reimburse him for the trip.  She told him to go fuck himself.”
“That’s really interesting,” I said.  But like much of the other info I’d gleaned so far, I had no idea what it signified or where to go with it.  It didn’t seem like the cost of a hotel and a flight were valuable enough to warrant foul play.  “Who all went?”
“Let’s see, Frankie and Antonio, of course, plus Clint, and Misty, Devondra, and Crystal.”
“Why didn’t you go?  Didn’t he ask you?”
“Hah!  He did, but I didn’t want to.  I got out of it by telling him I can’t travel to the States because I have a criminal record.  For drugs, I said.  He dropped the subject as soon as I told him that.”
“Is it true?”
“Hell no.  If it were, it would screw up my plans for Parsons.”
My cell phone bleeped, and I saw Derek’s number on the display.  I hit the ‘silent mode’ button, and then reached for another handful of chips.  I couldn’t deal with Derek right now.  The case was occupying my mind, which was just as well, because otherwise I’d have to resort to the ostrich way of handling things, and I knew from experience that it wasn’t terribly effective. 
“I don’t want to pry into your business, but I’m a little curious about you.  You’re obviously smart and really focused on Parsons and your future.  What’s your story?  How’d you end up doing film work?  It seems like you could be doing so much more.”
“I will be.  Eventually.  As for my story, well, there’s not much to tell.  I was born on a Reserve up north to a single mother.  She was fifteen when she had me.  She had a lot of problems, I guess, and I was put into a foster home.  She died when I was three, so I don’t even really remember her.  I just hopped around from one foster home to another.”
“What about your father?”
“Birth certificate says ‘unknown’ and that’s probably just as well.  Anyhow, that’s the long and short version of my story, and how I got into this business.  Social services pretty much cuts you loose once you turn eighteen.”
“Isn’t there some kind of support from the First Nations?  Anything at all?”
“Not really, not if you don’t live on the Reserve, or at least if you don’t have ties to the Reserve.  Doesn’t matter, anyways, because even then, they would never cough up enough for Parsons.”
Listening to her story, I recognized once again how very lucky I am.  Even though my mother did a Houdini when I was still in diapers, Shane and I had been raised in a loving home.   I wouldn’t say that we were spoiled, but dad gave us pretty much every creature comfort.  More important than that, though, he’d given us a solid sense of values and unflagging support.  I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it weren’t for him.  For many years, I gave dad cards and some embarrassing piece of spray painted macaroni artwork on both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. 
I remembered the card I’d made him when I was in the second grade.  Dad found it howlingly funny and had it framed.  To this day, it hangs in his office behind his desk, much to my embarrassment.  I’d made it made with light blue construction paper and various colours of crayons.
H – is for making me happy every day
A – is for being amazing and awesome and aardvarks
P – is for see below
P – is for the pepperoni pizza you order for dinner
Y – is for you because you’re the best dad in the world

F – is for fucking fantastic because that’s what you always say
A – is for another thing I’ll write down when I think of it
T – is for terrific
H – is for hamburgers and hot dogs on the barbecue
E – is for making me feel extra special every day
R – is for Romeo and Juliet, whoever they are
S – is for super sweet and special and for shit I can’t find my keys

D – is for being a delightful dorky dad
A – is for applesauce and aardvarks again
Y – is for yellow submarine which is a song you like

Home may feel a bit crowded sometimes nowadays, but in the grand scheme of things, maybe that’s not so bad.
“I know I’m prying, but I have to ask: How do you deal with it?  Everything you’ve told me about the industry is just so awful.”
“I used to just shut right down emotionally as soon as I walked into the studio, and do the same now when I’m with a client.  I completely detach myself from what I’m doing and try never to think about it when I’m not there.  It’s a means to an end.  When I finish my degree at Parsons, I’ll be able to say that it was all worthwhile.”
“Cheers to that,” I said, tilting my water bottle towards her.  I really hoped someday she’d make it big as a designer.  “Something else I’ve been wondering about.  Your roommate Athena.  She just started working there a few weeks before the murder, and moved in here afterwards.  I know you quit working at Triple A because of what happened to Kitty.  How come Athena’s still working there?  Did you suggest to her that she get out?”
“Yes, and no.  I mean, I casually mentioned to her that maybe she should bail too when me and Crystal and Trinity did, but she was still pretty new and still thinks she’s get rich and famous.  I don’t think the hint even registered with Athena, and besides, who am I to tell her what to do?  She has to figure it out on her own.”
“Hmm...”  In that, Raven was absolutely right.  “Do you think or did you think that any of the girls at Triple A were in danger?  Did any of them think they might be a target?”
“Not really.  I firmly believe Kitty’s death had to do with Triple A, but I could be wrong.  Maybe she really was mugged on her way home.  Who knows?  But if it was indeed Triple A, then I think she was targeted because of the money thing, and if it was a mugging or a random thing, then Triple A isn’t a dangerous place.”
  Actually, it is, I thought, but in ways different from what Raven was talking about.

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