The big overhead door to the back lot at Monterrey Mick’s was open most of the way. Warm, haze filtered Mid-Afternoon Saturday in L.A. sunshine flooded the area on both sides of the French drain that ran the width of the door, just inside the shop.
Bobby faced the sun on one side of the drain, Bernie on the other, each on one of the two red and white Coleman coolers the jumbo shrimp had been shipped in. They pulled the shrimp out of a pile of ice on an aluminum cart, sliced and deveined them, rinsed them under a propped up garden hose over the French drain before tossing them in a big pot of ice water. The sixteen gallon shrimp boil pot Bobby had rented, full of Bernie’s Trinity and spice, pearl onions and baby Yukon Gold potatoes, simmered in the corner like a giant diffuser full of an aroma called “home”.
“This shrimp’s not too nasty for the Gulf, Beaudreax.” Bernie squinted, held one up and tossed it into the bucket of ice water, reached for another.
“Farm raised tigers. They should be deveined before they leave.”
“Farm raised explains the short on nasty. Deveined would drive the price way up. Think about paying you and me in Hollywood dollars for all the Sunday afternoons we’ve done this.” She held up a hand sealed in a stainless-steel mesh glove. “You order the gloves with the shrimp?”
“Asked Senior to pick these up for us when he bought the knives.” He held up his own gloved hand, wiggled his fingers. “I knew he’d send the sharpest knives he could find. I’d like to keep my thumb.”
She shook her hair out of her face, not looking at him in the midst of a shrimp toss. “He’s looking for a way into your money, Beaudreaux.”
“So are you. You workin’ with him, or free lancin’?”
She kept up her end of the one for me, one for you deveining, let three cycles go by. “I’m waiting to see the where the eye tracks. How’d you know?”
“I didn’t come out here to learn about cars, I came to learn about people. I figured the place that would take a kid like me didn’t see me at all, they saw easy money.” He tossed a shrimp, looked over at her. “I asked a man who does background checks for a company I started to run everybody connected to this place. ‘Cause I wanted to see whatever the game was. He said if I see it once when I could see it coming, I’d understand it, stop worrying and get past feeling like a dumb redneck all the time.”
She waited for two more shrimp cycles, built up a little steam. “This man of yours decided, out of all these dime bags of fuck everybody and everything narcissistic Hollywood gator stank, that I was the one?”
“No. He said you had a degree in entertainment marketing and told these people you were ready to rob a liquor store to get some money together and they pulled you in. There’s you, Mick, and the suspension guy, so far. Suspension guy is a game show host poser with expensive teeth and about as much of a mechanic as I am. The skinny convict does his work.”
She stayed quiet, flipped another shrimp.
“Mick think I’d be lonely out here, need a friend?”
“Mick did his homework. Or thought he did. He found out your two Houma homies went off to college after an old black man drove up in your yard in a clean Vega, got out and faced into the bayou, dead before he hit the water. And it spooked you. Mick put two-and-two together, wrapped in California bigotry for the susceptible southern fried mentality, figured you for a dim bulb Voodoo child. Hoped you a had a hole in your pocket to go along with the one in your head.”
She took a deveining break, brushed some light sweat off her forehead with the back of her wrist and hit the cold, sweaty bottle of Dos XX sitting on the floor next to her.
“He’s in deep shit, Boudreaux. His numbers suck, his house is up for grabs. His wife drycleaned him before she loaded up the Bentley and found gone. He lost most of his talent two years ago with the antiques series, got into the danger zone with the pimp and steroids boys last year.”
“I hadn’t heard that version.”
“His ex’s lawyer locked down all the assets for over a year and he was looking at a three season contract with empty pockets. He’d borrow money, do a show, pay that money back when it wrapped, and borrow against the next one. But he was taking a ‘lifestyle maintenance’ cut. One of the Lakers put ninety grand up front and Mick couldn’t start on his car because that cash was on the way out the door when it dropped. This lawyer showed up, drove the old Porsche out of the corral of keepers behind me and Mick’s money problems evened out.” Her shrimp plopped in the pot. “He’s not making mac and cheese pocket money now, but the show and the shop are still running.”
“And the plan for me?”
“Nothing big. Somehow we get you to give up a couple of million. Whoever gets it is supposed to split it. If I get it having you seduced, maybe you get short on mind for a while, say something stupid that sounds contractual or a phony DNA test says it’s yours and you have to marry this girl, or pay your way out of not marrying her? I get the money. If that were to happen, then fuck all of them. I’m gone with the cash to be somebody besides another cute ass in cutoffs and your soon to be ex-or-never-was bride is back on a casting couch.”
Bobby saw her cloud up getting through losing her way out of being another cute ass in cutoffs. But she kept time with the shrimp toss, something that told him she’d done it since she was old enough to hold a knife.
“The game show host and Mick?”
“The game show host ‘mechanic’ gets to it by getting you dirty. Hookers, dope, some young dumb dude stunts with pictures.” She shook both her hands, palms out. “Big scare. Mick’s a TV star, Oh No! His reputation could get fucked up! All that costs money to fix! You buy your way out. But he’s tied to Mick some way, so he and Mick split it and they’ll shut me out.” She reached for the Dos XX. “If Mick gets it by hiding all the debt and selling you the shop and the show, we all get the finger and he’s off fucking teenagers in Argentina before anyone knows he’s gone.” She looked at him, sadness and borderline desperation palpable. “C’est l’histoires, Boudreaux. Now what?”
“You’re too old, and I’m not stupid enough to think someone like you would have anything to do with me. So who’s supposed to suck my brains and money out through my joystick?”
“Goddammit, I’m twenty-six, I’m not ‘too old’.” Too old and losing her way out of cute in cut offs was almost too much for one day. “The fucking girl doesn’t matter now.” She tossed a shrimp at the pot with some velocity. “That plan is swirling with the others.”
“Nothing swirls unless you call them off. You and me can be bros off camera, game on under the lights, ‘cause I need to see it. Otherwise I’ve wasted a butt-load of time learning car shit I could have gotten from down the road back home. I’m thinking maybe there’s something we can work out by the time this is over, might make everybody some money.”
“Something legitimate? With longevity potential?”
“Yep. But first I need to meet what y’all think is hot enough to make my brain stop and mean enough to break my heart for money.”
“Hell, Boudreaux, this is Hollywood.” She eyed him over the shrimp, gestured over her shoulder with the knife. “Walk out that door, strike a pose like a part time TV star with money in the bank? They’ll start a line.”