CHAPTER 15 — Gina Does Lunch
Gina at the wheel of a Guards Red Boxster doing 85 was going west on the 10 toward Santa Monica. She held the Boxster in the far left lane. Wind was whipping her hair and she felt like a California girl in a commercial. The overcast had finally burnt off and the day had become one of those LA days with only a scattering of clouds and almost perfect light. It was warm, she was heading to lunch with a friend, life was good, and she was happy.
Gina was a good driver, but a dangerous driver for other people. She drove aggressively, counting on speed and the image of a beautiful woman in a Porsche to protect her. After all, it was California. She never worried about what she left behind. She looked only at what was coming at her. Gina took the Lincoln off ramp, turned left and accelerated into Venice.
South of the 10 was the downscale part of Santa Monica where houses worth fortunes sat on gang blocks. LA is sliced into classes by its big east west boulevards: Pico, Olympic, Santa Monica, Wilshire, and Montana in Santa Monica. Venice is all narrow streets, beat up bungalows and million dollar restorations. It took Gina a while to find a parking space. About a block down from the restaurant she found one and squeezed the Porsche in. She got out and headed back to La Cabana. Maya’s Silver SLK Roadster crossed Lincoln a block ahead of her on its own search for parking.
Gina arrived and got a table. She liked having space around her. You never knew who has behind you in a booth. She had just punched the first four numbers of Joseph’s phone into her cell when she saw Maya coming through the door. Maya: big smile, big eyes, curly black hair. She was wearing a red dress, with a matching short jacket embroidered with a sombrero, a cactus, and a coyote. Gina and Maya had shared a cell at High Desert.
Gina snapped her phone shut with one hand, waving at Maya with the other. “Shy!” Maya called when she was closer. They kissed the air, admired each other’s outfits and then settled down to scan the menu.
“Do you remember Denise?” Maya asked in a hoarse whisper.
“That girl who kept getting put in solitary.”
“I ran into her in the Ralph’s on Santa Monica.”
“Shit. So she finally got out.”
“She was trailing around with this surfer type covered in tats.” Maya paused, “Pregnant. As big as a house and she recognized me before I could turn down another aisle.”
The waitress came over. A tall, fashionable thin woman dressed in a white shirt and black pants, wrapped in a long, white apron that almost reached the ground. Her name was Patricia and she knew Gina and Maya from past lunches there. The three of them chatted for a while about what was going on in their lives. Patricia had a very dramatic love life. Gina and Maya ordered a Mojito and a Margarita.
“John and I are thinking of trying to get pregnant next year.”
“Maya, that’s wonderful.”
“Now that we got the house, I want him to go all the way and start the landscaping business. I know he’s going to want to do his stuff on the side. But after the baby comes I think he’ll start to drop it.”
Maya is always hoping Gina thought. What she said was, “That would be so good for you two.”
“You going to get out of it, Shy?”
“Everybody keeps talking to me about taking care of myself. Pearl was telling me about starting a retirement plan yesterday.”
“You should. We look great, but we’re not getting any younger. Don’t you want to have your own place with somebody to take care of you?”
“Believe me I’ve got somebody to take care of me,” said Gina. “And that is me.”
“You’ve got to get to the place where you can trust. We both had hard times coming up, Shy. It takes a lot to get you to trust again. I know.”
The drinks came. They ordered and the waitress left them alone again. Gina took a sip from her Mojito. That was when it all started. That was when Maya leaned across the table and said “I‘ve got something for you.”
“Do you remember Naomi?”
“I tried to set that girl up. And what did she do? She can’t listen to anybody.”
“She hangs around with these musicians.”
“Well she wants somebody to do something for her.”
“I don’t know what. She just needs some guy who could handle some people she was dealing with. You know some protection. She wants to scare these guys. She said she was either going to be respected or somebody was going to be sorry. I was thinking maybe Paul.”
Gina was thinking. “I’ve got somebody else. Someone who just started working for me. Tell her to call me at the Mulholland house. She knows the number.”
“Working for you. You starting to move up, Shy?”
Gina smiled and took a sip from her Mojito.
“You know I’ve been in this a long time.” Gina leaned close and spoke softly but distinctly. “Pearl is yesterday. We barely use the internet. Everything is still on phones. There’s a girl in Switzerland, looks like a fitness model, has a website, works around the world. But she doesn’t do anything in Switzerland. That’s her safe corner. Just post pictures and videos and your contact information. Give a number to call in another country. And go. You keep it limited. Charge a minimum of twenty-five hundred.”
“You going international?”
“The thing is who is going to spend the time chasing a small operation from country to country. You keep out of trouble so they don’t even bother you in the city.
“There are a lot of people trying that. Looking for a place that won’t hassle them. Suppose it goes legal like grass?”
“I won’t change everywhere at once. It only has to last until I get mine,” said Gina.
Maya lifted her glass. “That is my motto.” She and Gina touched glasses.