Monday 3:42 pm
I’m forever finding new ways of jolting my worldview. After working at a phone sex line, visiting strip joints, hanging out at a bordello, and bartending at a fetish party, I’m rather desensitized to smut in all its forms. However, walking into a porno film studio was a new one for me.
The studio, a one-story, brick building with a glass fronted entrance, was on Sunlight Park Road, just off Broadview, at Eastern Avenue. The big window to the left of the doorway was covered with an opaque black curtain, which blocked out all the warmth of the street’s namesake. The studio is more or less in the area known as the “Film District,” although AAA-XXX is located on the wrong street, at the wrong end of the neighbourhood, and too far away from any of the real players to absorb their Hollywood North cachet.
In the parking lot beside the studio, I spotted three cars, each one worth more than the house where I live. The first car was a canary yellow, two-seater Ferrari, next to it was a black Maserati Grand Turismo, and beside that was the pièce de resistance: a candy apple red antique Jaguar with white walled tires. It looked like it was probably from the early Fifties. Sweet rides, all of them, or so sayeth the chick without a licence.
I pulled out my smart phone and took a photo of the licence plate on each car. You just never know...
“Hello,” I called out as soon as I entered the studio.
The reception area was empty and quiet, but the place was screaming “misogyny.” From floor to ceiling, the walls were plastered with pictures of naked women, many of whom were posed at angles that showed off their double-jointedness.
“Anyone here?” The lobby consisted of nothing more than a couple of plastic, folding chairs that were even cheaper than the ones in my office. There was a plywood counter with a swinging door behind it. I contemplated going through the door, but if the reception area was any indication, then the Jizznyland on the other side of it would probably make my toes curl.
“You’re late. Don’t let it happen again,” said a muscular guy in his early twenties. His biceps stretched the sleeves of his navy blue tee-shirt, his cheeks were pockmarked with scars from adolescent acne, and his amber tinted John Lennon glasses looked too small for his head. “Go on through. Change room’s on the left.”
“Excuse me? I’m not an, um, actress.”
Four Eyes on Steroids checked me out from head to toe. “Wanna audition? Nice face, and people love blonds. You a natural?”
“Good. It’s better when the carpet matches the drapes.”
In my mind, I punched him in the nose.
“I’ve never heard it put—”
“Looks like you got a good body, even though your tits are kinda small for film.”
“I thought the camera added ten pounds?” I said.
“Not where you need it, babe,” he said.
“I’m an investigator,” I said, handing him my card. “Sasha Jackson. And you are...?”
Of course you are…
“Is Antonio or Frankie around?”
I seriously didn’t think any of the hot rods in the parking lot belonged to an actress or to the lighting and sound crew. So, Bongo was probably lying to me about the presence of either Antonio or Frankie, or both.
“Oh, then you must be in charge.”
“Are you the film director?”
“Nah, I just do cameras.”
I have no idea how much cameramen earn, but probably not enough to buy a fancy car. If indeed one of the cars out there was his. And would a cameraman wear amber tinted specs?
“Cameras? That’s pretty cool. I’ve always been interested in the technical side of filmmaking. How long have you been doing it?”
“Just a coupla years. Look, I’m kinda busy right now. What do you want?”
“I’m looking into the death of Kitty Vixen.”
“Oh, her. Shame what happened.”
Behind the tinted lenses, Bongo did an impressive job of holding back his tears.
“I understand she was one of your top stars.”
“Yeah. Her flicks get downloaded thousands of times a month. Kitty did some wild stuff. People really got off on her.”
“Yeah, well, someone didn’t,” I said.
“Too bad. She was like a tree that money grows on.”
“Any idea who killed the golden goose?” I asked, deftly mixing the metaphors.
“Chicks like that, they can piss off guys in real life, you know. The camera’s one thing, but face to face, chicks can be bitches. Porno actresses all act like prima-fucking-donnas in person.”
Gee, if this is his recruitment speech...
“So, who would have wanted her dead?”
“My guess? She pissed off the wrong guy. An ex-boyfriend or a dealer.”
It just occurred to me that I should find out who Kitty’s dealer had been, since people kept bringing it up. My gut told me her death wasn’t related to drugs, but it’s my motto to leave no stoner unturned.
“Got any names?” I asked.
“Could I talk to some of her co-stars?” I wondered if Portia was back there somewhere, teasing and cavorting for her next web-cam chat. I wondered if I had made a mistake in approaching her that way, if I should have waited to try talking to the girls until after I’d talked to the head honchos. It was a moot point now. “Maybe someone can shed some light on something?”
“The only broads on site right now are a couple of new ones. Probably couldn’t tell you anything.”
“When might you be filming with people who knew Kitty? I can come back then, or better yet, I can come back when Antonio and Frankie are here.”
Ahem, like now.
He tapped on my business card. “How ’bout I’ll let you know?”
I nodded. I had little faith that I’d hear from him. I mean, really, how reliable can a guy named Bongo be?
As I walked along Eastern, trying to find a taxi, I placed a quick call to one of my secret sources, a fellow investigator named Randy, who has more connections, greater resources, and even less respect for rules than I have. I asked him to run the licence plates of the three chick magnets in the parking lot.
This was a lousy place to try to find a taxi, so I turned onto Lewis and walked north to Queen Street. As soon as I got to the corner, a streetcar rolled into sight. I hopped on and rode the few short blocks to Bricknell.
A friendly, rotund woman at the reception desk of the Allbright Retirement home offered to page Sam Zwicker for me.
“He should be along in a minute. Why don’t you have a seat?”
Instead of sitting, I paced around the lobby. I didn’t have to pace long though as Sam, pushing his cart of cleaning supplies, emerged from the elevator a moment later.
He was stocky and short, only about five feet eight or nine, with a shaved head and no front teeth. The sleeves of his blue janitor’s uniform were rolled up, revealing tattoos up and down both forearms. I could also see a part of a tattoo around the open collar of his uniform shirt, and a small cross on a gold chain. I couldn’t discern what the images were, and the colour of the ink was pretty drab.
I introduced myself and explained why I was here. “I’m sorry to barge in on you when you’re working, but every time I tried your cell, I got a message saying ‘mailbox is full’.”
“Damn, still? I been having problems with my cell provider. I thought it was fixed,” he said.
“Doesn’t seem to be. Anyhow, can we talk about Kitty?”
“Sure, but it’s gotta be quick. I still have a lot to do before I’m finished, and I can’t stay late today because I have a meeting right after work.”
“No problem. Why don’t we step out front so we can have a bit of privacy?” He followed me out through the heavy double doors. A car was idling right by the entryway, so we took a few steps to the side.
“I assume you heard about Kitty? About how she died?”I asked him, and he nodded in reply. “Is there anything at all you can tell me?”
“You know the meeting I just said I gotta go to? After work?” Sam asked.
“Yeah. I started going to meetings a while ago. Actually this Sunday’s gonna be my ninth month anniversary of going straight. I started the meetings after I did a month in rehab back in the winter. Reason I’m telling you this is because I don’t hardly remember much of dating Kitty.”
“That was around when I was hitting bottom. The last couple of months of it’s all a blur. Meth mainly.”
“I see.” That explained the missing teeth.
“And then I started to get right fucked up on bath salts. It was pretty bad. Those are some nasty shit and I’m real lucky to be alive.”
“Did Kitty try to help you get off drugs? I know she had some problems with them herself.”
“Nah. I don’t really know how she stopped using, didn’t care, didn’t ask. And I lied to her a lot about what I was doing. That’s why she dumped me, but I didn’t give a shit. I was just real freaking high all the time, and wasn’t interested in anything else. I think I was kinda glad when she ditched me ’cuz then I could just go ahead and get wasted a lot more and not have her bugging me about it all the time.”
“What was the turning point for you?”
“I was in a car accident and I got banged up real bad. It was a stolen car too, but at least it weren’t me driving. While I was lying in the emergency room at the hospital, Jesus came to me. That was the moment that I realized that I had to finally let God into my life. Turns out that joyride was the best thing that ever happened to me.”
“Oh. Well, good for you, and congrats on going straight,” I said.
“I wouldn’t be able to do it without the Lord.”
I shook his hand and thanked him for chatting with me. “Godspeed,” I said. That certainly seemed like the appropriate parting word.
My instincts are usually pretty good. My gut told me Sam was telling the truth, and that he had nothing to do with Kitty’s death. No one could make up a story like that. As well, when most people tell lies about themselves, they generally tell tales that put them in a better light.
So, what next?