RULE 8: Nothing wrong about not dying. Nothing right about taking a bullet you don’t need to take
I dreamed of craziness mostly; the usual firefights at midnight, and the sound of
ground being churned by heavy ordinance. Running, running, running, but even in a
dream you can’t out run a bullet. I die nightly.
I wake to birds singing and open my eyes to a light filled bedroom and think I must
have died and gone to white boy heaven. The bedroom is brilliant gold; white draperies flutter in the breeze flowing in. I must still be dreaming and then I notice the gigantic mirror over the mantle and the fireplace below. Where the fuck am I? Then I see Barbarella come in from the bathroom, naked as sin, her red hair wrapped in a white towel.
“No, I’m dreaming.”
She comes towards the bed and straddles me.
“I can help you wake up.”
I knew from the get go and even more so now this beautiful bitch would get me killed, but at this moment I would have pulled the trigger.
She slides me in and that shit is tight, but like I said the thing about fucking is that it
means something to me that I don’t want it to mean. She leans down and kisses my
mouth, I know it don’t mean a thing, or it shouldn’t, but it does to me.
“Come in me! Come in me!”
I do. I come so hard my head feels like its being ripped from my shoulders.
She gets off and goes into the shower leaving me there to pant like a dog. I doze off
but wake to see her return with the towel wrapped around her like she’s suddenly
“You need to get dressed. Breakfast is by the pool.”
“Yeah, I guess I do.”
She leaves through the open French doors. Somebody hung up my clothes; torn jeans and a stained tee shirt. My stomach growls and I realize I missed a free meal last night. Hate missing anything free that’s good. I look around the room one more time, probably the last time I’ll ever sleep somewhere like this. I hear Barbarella talking to someone outside, and then I hear her calling for me.
I go through the French doors and see Barbarella and her old man in the wheelchair
having lunch underneath a bougainvillea covered arbor. The arbor is next to a pool that stretches for damn forever. The old man waves me over. I got to laugh when I look around the grounds; I feel like a bear that’s got his hand in the honey jar.
“Sit down, young man.”
Barbarella just got that towel wrapped around her, but it’s not tucked too tight. See, if
that was my daughter I’d be having a shit fit if her tits were hanging out in front of the
hired help. He doesn’t seem to notice or care, but I’m noticing the spread, breads, cheese and fruit.
“Eat,” the old man says and he doesn’t have to ask twice, I’m stacking together a
Fatburger sized sandwich, and trying not to look like the starving fool I am.
“Listen. I fired my security man. You know anything about security?”
“I did some security. We all did if we wanted to stay alive.”
“I got some of these idiots from a local security firm coming by, you tell me what you
think about them.”
“Sure, whatever you need.”
“Marisela! Bring the money!”
She appears as if on cue wearing an odd expression, no, it was no expression. Her
face was a perfect mask.
She hands the old man a fat envelope and he hands it to me.
“That’s two thousand in there. You’ll be working for me this month. Whatever else
you got going on, you tell them you’re working for Simon Ruston.”
I hold the money in my hand gingerly, as though it would explode.
Barbarella stands up and drops the towel and walks casually to the edge of the lap
pool and dives in.
“My granddaughter tries to shock. Never, never let her shock you,” the old man says.
“Got it,” I reply.
After a bit the old man must have tired of watching his granddaughter swim naked and
wheeled himself inside. I couldn’t stop watching Barbarella swimming like a fish, lap
after lap until the old man returned sweating from rolling himself about on a warm Pasadena morning following him was a joker straight out of boot camp, Billy Joe Bob or some shit like that, with his bad suit, buzz cut and aviator sunglasses. He looked almost for real, like maybe he knew his business.
He was struggling not to check out Barbarella, but couldn’t hold back that sly glance,
hoping nobody would notice.
This is my consultant,” the old man says, pointing to me.
I try not to laugh. Somehow he doesn’t see me; understandably his eyes are on Barbarella. To him I was a big ass lawn jockey with an Afro. Finally Billy Joe Bob noticed me and checked himself.
“So what you got planned for Mr. Ruston?” I ask him.
Surprised at my question, he looks over at the old man for help.
“Answer him,” Ruston snarled.
He starts unfolding blueprints and I pulled up a chair to give them a close going over.
“Bullshit. That’s just a flood lights and some rent a cop who’ll be sleeping on the job
Bobby Joe went pale which wasn’t hard for him.
“No motion detectors, no doors wired for forced entry? He’s paying good money. You got to come up with something better than this cut rate shit.”
Ruston smiled. Bobby Joe looked even sicker and then Barbarella came walking up bare-assed, dripping wet and I swear it looked like Bobby Joe had been the one swimming from all that sweat flopping off of his face.
Shit, I had died and gone to heaven. I had the best fucking job in the world, even if the whole thing blew up tomorrow, so far it was a gas.
Later that afternoon, after drinking good whiskey with the old man by the pool until we were both lit, he told me what I had to do for him.
“I need for you to wear a good suit.”
It took a minute for the old man to pull himself together.
“You are going to a dinner party with us at the Huntington hotel and you’re not getting through the door wearing that camouflage jacket.”
“No disrespect, but why you need me at a dinner party?”
“Why I need you doesn’t matter. I need you and that’s all there is to it,” he said, drunk and red faced, and then he shouts for his granddaughter.
“Take him to the Jew for a good suit, but don’t let him get something loud.”
She nodded and I followed her to the garage where she slipped into a sky blue Cadillac. Soon as I got situated into the Caddy she started explaining like I needed to know all the details when really all I needed was to close my eyes and sleep off the whiskey buzz.
“Daddy has two tailors, a Jewish one and an Oriental one. They’re both good, but the Jew has the better deals.”
I nod with my eyes closed.
“Daddy wants to torture you. This is one of those horrible charity dances,” she said.
“As long as he’s paying and I can order a steak, I don’t care. I’ll probably be drunk.”
Barbarella pointed out a fancy clothing store. I park in front and instead of letting her go through the door first I stroll in like I own the joint, and goddamn, those Felix Unger types were rushing towards me like I was dragging in a dead dog behind me.
“WHAT CAN I DO FOR YOU?” The first salesman asks harshly but with fear in his eyes. Then Barbarella walks in. They knew her all right. Suddenly, all the harsh looks and finger on the panic button treatment, died right down. Yeah, now I must be John Shaft, or Bill Cosby or somebody black but famous enough to hang out with rich white
“May I interest you in the season’s new Italian suits?”
Squashing down the need to backhand the shit out of the little dick, I nod, and he leads me to a rack of suits that when I saw the price tag I wanted to back hand him all over again.
Barbarella picks out one that’s close to my size and holds it up against me.
“Try this on.”
“Listen, I’m not getting no suit that I could buy a car for the same price.”
“My Grandfather is paying for it.”
“Oh, that’s different. Shit, I’ll get two.”
“You catch on fast.”
“Yeah, what’s the catch?”
“He’s generous, really generous, but just remember, whatever you get from him, he’s going to take something if you want him to or not.”
I expected as much but for right now I was cool and as I walk into fitting-room with the most expensive piece of cloth I’ve ever touched, draped over my shoulder.
Later, at a fancy restaurant in the hills with a view of the valley that ran all the way to the mountains, Barbarella orders lunch for us on the veranda. She likes to sit in the sun, and I hate baking in it, so I slid the table around until we were in half shade. I didn’t care that they white folks look upset over all the noise I made; no way was I gonna fry so Barbarella could try to get brunt blacker than me.
I ordered a long island ice tea and a roast chicken because I like roast chicken and she was paying. She ordered a salad and some bubble water. I don’t know how people could live like that, eating nothing but rabbit food and drinking bubbles.
“Listen,” Barbarella said, sounding more serious than I could remember.
What? I said, looking at the view, thinking about the view and waiting for the real bill
to come down.
“I need your help with something.”
“My grandfather is just about broke.”
I look at her, shaking my head.
“Broke? Then we must be spending his last dollar,” I said
Here it comes, the scam in all of its big ass glory.
“He doesn’t know about how bad off he is.”
“What are you talking about?
Barbarella smiles. “You can’t count on him.”
“Who should I count on?”
Right then I should have bailed, up two grand and a good suit and meal. I thought I was done getting played. It was coming…the set up.
“I need to settle with Tony,”
“That asshole you saw that day you met me.”
“Yes. He owes me.”
“You seemed to have robbed him stupid. What do you expect me to do?”
“Just go with me.”
“You know I can’t do that. Your granddad just gave me two thousand to work for
him, to keep you out of trouble.”
Barbarella’s face hardens.
“I’ll pay you double. This is my father’s business.”
“This Tony is his business?”
She paused long enough to let me get a bead on where she was coming from. Home chick was lying through her teeth.
“It’s all Daddy’s fault. They were business partners and Daddy loaned him lots of money.”
“But you were going out with him? Why’d you let your father get dogged like that?”
Now she was smiling again.
It’s a complicated set up. Something was going down and I was going to be the one left holding the bag.
“What do you need me to do?”
Whatever it was, it was going to involve some nefarious shit. It always comes down to that.
“I’ll tell you later, but first I need to take care of errands.”
That was that, she didn’t have any more to say about what she needed me to do. Now,she just needed me to drop her off at a bank in Beverly Hills where she had to get something out of a safe deposit box. Then she had me drop her off at a fancy ass office building, she’d find her way back to her granddaddy’s. I thought that was strange, that she didn’t want me to wait, but I shrugged. I had business of my own so I drove to the police station in Pasadena, to see if Rodney got my impounded van.
Fine-ass Marisela opened the door for me, but before I could make it back to the bedroom the old man wheels out into the hall looking pissed at life.
“What did she tell you?”
“My granddaughter has a plan to take care of me in the works?”
I shake my head. I didn’t want to be knee deep in family shit.
“She wants me to go to L.A. with her. Some business she’s got going on down there.”
The old man laughs. “Don’t believe a word of what she tells you. Did she tell you I was broke?”
“Yeah, she did.”
“Don’t believe a word of it,” the old man says, shaking with laughter.
“She’s my old flesh and blood, but don’t think I trust her. She’d put a knife in my back and worry about it later.”
I nod; the old man was in a heap of trouble, because I believed every word he said about his granddaughter.
“You go with her and do what she says. Find out what’s she up to.”
The old man wheels away leaving me to think that this shit was out of my league, this little taste of Pasadena money was gonna cost me big time. Man, if Barbarella fucked this gig up for me, I don’t know what I’d do. Just a taste of the good life and I was hooked. I have money in my pocket, if I had any sense I would just jet out of town, but no, I got bit with the money bug. I got a taste and now I need to mainline it.
About Rogue’s Rules
Rogue is based on a cousin of mine who came back from Vietnam damaged but determined to figure out how to put himself back together again. Los Angeles of the seventies was probably as decadent a place to be in the United States as anywhere, and I wanted a character who could move through that world and be tough enough to survive and maybe even prosper. Rogue is that character.