Daze in the Valley
by Jay Cantrell
“He’s done it again!” Trinity said when she walked in the house. Everyone had gathered in the study lounge. Adam had called to let everyone know they were safe but he told them nothing else. He got distracted when Trinity’s head disappeared beneath the steering wheel before they even left the parking lot.
It didn’t reappear until she had a mouthful of cum.
Still, her declaration when she walked in the door could have meant a variety of things.
“What did he do?” Rebecca asked. She was almost positive Trinity meant Adam stuck his foot in his mouth again. Her tone indicated that clearly.
Trinity gave her a smirk.
“Well, he filled my mouth with yummy, yummy cummy,” she said. “But before that he almost certainly made sure Subarctic is going to lead the way on the industry healthcare issue.”
“No kidding,” Walt said. He could have done without the commentary about Trinity’s oral experience but he was interested in what Adam might have accomplished. “How?”
Trinity glanced toward Adam but he appeared content to let her take center stage.
“Two ways,” Trinity said. “First, he stepped forward with a plan. Everyone else is still focused on how this happened and he’s already moved on to making sure it doesn’t happen again.”
“Wait, what’s his plan?” Allie asked. “We didn’t really talk about this, did we?”
“Not as such,” Trinity said. “But the woman at the health department ripped AMS a new asshole. She basically said anything they’ve done in the past outside of testing samples is over. If they try this shit again, she will close them down.”
“Oh, wow,” Allie said. She had been in the industry for a year and had watched AMS run roughshod over anyone with a decent ideas that didn’t mirror its policies.
“So we had to move quickly if we were going to be out in front,” Trinity said. “Personally, I think it sounded well thought out. We spoke to Dr. Brannon right afterward. Then the reporter came over. He said the only way AMS can regain its credibility is to change the way it operates. It has to sever ties with the studios. It has to find other sources of funding. It has to have someone qualified as its leader and it has to have a board of directors with medical experience to provide guidance.”
“That is good thinking,” Sean said. “But I don’t see how that gets us out in front. Sure, we spoke first but bigger groups will co-opt our message.”
“No they won’t because Adam already put a stop to that,” Trinity said. “The woman who runs AMS made a total ass of herself. She was completely discredited by the time the conference started.”
“Courtesy of Trinity,” Adam said, contributing to the narrative for the first time. “I thought Wilma Scott was a moron but she confirmed it when she tangled with Trinity. Trini was awesome.”
He couldn’t believe it, Trinity actually blushed.
“Aw shucks,” Trinity said. “Well, after I was done with her and the health department was done with her, Adam went over and spoke to her. He explained a few things to her and offered to help her regain her pride if she would agree to some changes.”
“Well, that isn’t exactly what I said,” Adam protested.
“What exactly did you say then?” Trinity asked. “I only got a synopsis.”
“I told her that she had two choices,” Adam said. “She could continue the path she was on and find herself completely obsolete or she could change and work with the few people who are trying to move the industry forward and find a new way to get her message across. She quickly chose option two but we still have to see if she’ll agree. She might get so much pressure from the studios she has no choice but to follow their tune.”
Veronica shook her head.
“They’re abandoning her,” she said. “They are saying she misled them and they are reevaluating their decision to go dark for 180 days. RapidFire has already announced it will pull its sponsorship until a new director is appointed. The others will follow.”
“AMS might not be able to open again in 180 days,” Adam said. “I think she is too stubborn to backtrack on what she said. AMS will offer no tests for that long either.”
“Which screws us,” Sarah said.
“Adam made arrangements for our group to use Cedar-Sinai for testing,” Trinity said. “Dr. Brannon said that she won’t offer that to anyone else but us. See, our boy was on top of his game!”
“Aw, shucks,” Adam said. He made it a point to glance at Rebecca and wink. “Still, there might be some other statements credited to me that will fall directly into what Rebecca fears.”
“I don’t really fear it,” Rebecca said.
“Well, you probably should,” Trinity said. “But it wasn’t Adam. It was me. I gave the woman from the Chronicle a few good quotes but Adam said she could attribute them to him since he is better known and feels the same way.”
“Such as?” Karlie wondered.
“Uh, where do I start?” Trinity wondered.
“She said Wilma Scott is either a moron or a crook,” Adam said helpfully. “Then she said AMS is corrupt and the big studios are guilty of abusing their talent for their own profits. What else? Oh, yeah, the best part. The performers have to stop going to, what was it, Argentina to butt fuck some guy they don’t know, whoring themselves out and sharing needles with junkies off the street.”
He glanced down at Trinity with a smirk that was as close to hers as he could manage.
“Did I leave anything out?” he asked innocently.
“I’m sure she didn’t say it that way,” Mary remarked.
Trinity could only look at the floor.
“Not word for word but, uh, yeah, that’s pretty well what I said,” she admitted. Then she repeated as much of her diatribe as she could recall and waited for the eruption.
It came – but it was an eruption of laughter instead of anger.
“We sent you with him to keep him from doing that!” Rachelle said, wiping tears from her eyes and trying to stop giggling. “We actually discussed this. Who is the best choice to send with Adam to make sure he doesn’t say what everyone thinks but knows to leave it unsaid? It was unanimous: Trinity. So what happens? She just cuts out the middle man and says it herself. Oh well, I’m sure it will make for good copy in the Chronicle tomorrow.”
“I don’t think she’ll use much of it,” Adam said.
He was wrong.
It was over breakfast the next morning, Saturday, when Tyanna, Jason and Cameron arrived with an armful of newspapers. They passed them out but were still short, so everyone had to share.
“‘AMS Discredited; Health Dept. Shortens Leash, ‘” the headline read. It was on Page 1 below the fold but it was still right there. Also, in the lead paragraph was Trinity’s statement about how avoidable the incident was and how one idiot had killed himself and two others. Of course, it was credited to “Derrick Driller, a relative newcomer to the industry who has quickly become known for his direct approach to curing the industry’s ills.”
The next two or three paragraphs dealt with the outbreak and the backlash for AMS. Then the story moved back into quotes Adam had made about how AMS could regain relevancy. Most interesting, at least to Adam, was how the story glowingly referred to the “Sweet Things” web site as being the most up-to-date place for unaffiliated performers and small studios and web site owners to get the real facts on the situation.
“How did that happen?” he asked.
“Ronni was getting slammed with phone calls,” she said. “I talked it over with the site holders and they agreed that the ‘News & Notes’ portion of the free section should be used to keep people informed. So Beth, Lucy, Erin and I started posting information as it came in. I got a lot of e-mails from people in the industry complimenting us on how quickly we moved to keep them informed.”
“I can tell,” Adam said. “Listen to this: ‘AMS completely dropped the ball – again, ‘ Chad Raymond, owner of two adult web sites, said Friday afternoon. ‘A lot of us were scrambling. We didn’t know if we might have endangered a performer. You know, a lot of us in this business understand that these are real people, not just funny names and body parts. But we couldn’t get any information from the place we were instructed to turn to – Adult Medical Services. Then we got an e-mail from the woman who runs ‘Sweet Things’ letting us know that they would do their best to keep current on the situation and to update their free site as soon as they knew something. It was a blessing for a lot of us. Like everything else that company does, they lived up to their promise.’”
Adam smiled at his tablemates – Allie, Shelly, Sarah, Lucy and Mary – then continued reading.
“‘It wasn’t only web site owners in the dark. Thousands of adult performers were left to wonder if perhaps they could be the next to test positive. ‘I was really scared, ‘ the woman who performs as Jade Treat said. ‘No one would tell me if I was at risk. No one would tell me who was positive and who they had worked with. Then a friend called to let me know that there was a web site, ‘Sweet Things’ where I could find the professional names of those thought to be at risk and those who confirmed positive. I’m thankful that I wasn’t in danger but it doesn’t make it any better for those who are.’”
“That’s pretty cool,” Shelly said. “I’m glad we could give a little peace of mind to some people.”
“What’s cool is that we got about a thousand new subscribers yesterday,” Mary said. “I mean, the other part is cool, too. I’m not trying to sound like a bitch or anything.”
“We know, it just comes naturally,” Allie joked. “But you’re right. It’s good that we were rewarded for our kindness.”
“You haven’t even gotten to the best part,” Cameron said with a huge smile. “It’s on Page 8, with the rest of the story.”
He opened the paper and read.
“‘As is becoming a common theme in the adult industry, it is the up-and-coming generation of performers pinpointing the flaws in the industry and providing solutions. Driller, who is a dean’s list student at a local university and one of the major players not only as an adult performer but in the entire adult industry, said it’s important that AMS rebound.’”
“‘AMS or something similar is fundamental to this industry, ‘ Driller said. ‘But it cannot have an agenda, political or social. It cannot have financial ties to the industry. It cannot continue to be influenced by its biggest sources of funding. It cannot be run by someone who is clearly out of her depth.’ Driller’s list of reasonable requirements for Adult Medical Services were echoed by Dr. Brannon, who added she has offered to assist Driller and his corporation in making the industry safer for performers not only from an infectious disease standpoint but as a whole.’”
“‘I get the impression from my discussions with him that this is not simply about limiting the risk of an HIV outbreak. That is important, but he envisions an industry that not only protects its employees but one that empowers them, educates them and prepares them for the future. He works the mainstream side but he also makes it a priority to stand up for those who work the same-sex portion. I have spoken to members of the board of directors at this health facility and we are willing to work with him and his businesses to ensure he succeeds.’”
Cameron raised his eyes to the group.
“Not bad for a day’s work,” Katey said. She wondered why Adam looked so uncomfortable.
“I didn’t mean to give the impression that, you know, I’m the only one doing things,” he said. “I’m sorry the rest of you didn’t get your share of the credit. You deserve it, you know.”
“Remember, Adam, that’s your job,” Rachelle said. “We planned all along that you would be the face of Subarctic Enterprises. I can’t speak for the others but I think you’re doing exactly what I hoped you would do.”
“I agree,” Sarah said, smiling. She was listed as the president of Five Friends Casting on paper but she couldn’t be prouder of the guy she woke up beside this morning.
“Adam has gift,” Katya concluded. Technically, she had no affiliation with any of the companies but her opinions had always been sought and she didn’t mind sharing them. “We joke about words he says. Still, we cannot argue with them.”
“I noticed that the first time I met you, Adam,” Meredith remarked. “You seem to have this innate ability to be in the right place at the right time and to say just the right thing. Thank God you went into porn and not politics.”
“Or a religious leader!” Walt chimed in. “The Cult of Adam has a nice ring to it though.”
It was almost 11 a.m. before the whole group arrived at the houses. The newspaper was the topic of conversation until Shelly piped up.
“You know, all our finals are Tuesday,” she said. “Walt’s Dad and the workers are going to be hammering and sawing at the ass crack of dawn every morning and none of us have anything to do. We probably want to live up to our word and stay dark for another week. ‘Dragon Lore’ doesn’t shoot until next Saturday. We’re going to use the photo sets we’ve already shot for ‘Sweet Things’ and we’ve canceled the web shows because of the quarantine. What do you say we head to Vegas early? The utilities and everything are still on at Rebecca’s old place. It’s huge and we could just relax for a while.”
“Awesome!” Tyanna said. “I’ve always wanted to go there. Oh, I guess I should make sure I’m invited.”
“I think it’s a great idea,” Sean added. “And everyone is invited. I’ll call Mike and Celina and see if they want to come up for a day or two. I think they’ll probably leave before we start shooting, though. I’ll even call Mom.”
“I want one day to be a Wally Walrus day,” Rachelle said firmly. “Allie told me there is a store there, so we’ll have to see who needs them.”
“We should check quickly and order them online for variety,” Karlie said. “They had a good selection at the store but we have a lot of people.”
Adam found himself doing a head count to make sure everyone was there. It was easy to miss someone and he didn’t want anyone to feel left out.
“Where’s Ronni and Reanna?” he asked.
“They’re at the trailer calling to reschedule stuff,” Erin replied. “Beth, Elena, Lucy and I are going over to help them in a few minutes.”
“Not on Saturday,” Sarah said. “I’m right about that, aren’t I?”
“Absolutely,” Karlie chimed in. “If I would have known they were planning to work, I’d have taken away their key.”
The five friends from Five Friends Casting walked over to the trailer – trailed by several other performers and affiliated personnel – to put a stop to any weekend work. Veronica – or Ronni as Adam had started to call her, much to her delight – was plotting a schedule on a dry-erase board while Reanna dictated scenarios.
Adam plucked the marker from Veronica’s hand and Sarah closed the binder on Reanna’s lap.
“First rule of Five Friends Casting,” Sarah said.
“Don’t talk about Five Friends Casting,” Veronica cut in, drawing a laugh from everyone but Shelley, who had not been allowed to see such a violent movie.
“No work on weekends for the office staff,” Karlie corrected.
“We have like 30 things that need to be moved around!” Reanna replied.
“And we’ll bend over backward to make sure you don’t have problems scheduling them,” Adam told them. “But right now we’re planning our Vegas Vacation and we need your input.”
“Why?” Reanna asked.
“Because you’re coming with us,” Sarah said. “Or at least you’re invited to come with us. It isn’t a requirement. We’re going to treat everyone to a few days away from L.A. as our thanks for being so much help in the past few days.”
“We didn’t do much,” Veronica answered.
“Oh, stop the humble-pie crap,” Adam said, shaking his head. “I know what you’re about. I saw the dance exhibition. I got a firsthand view of you twisting and turning naked on the deck to give us the best view. You’re good and you know it. In the last three days, you’ve both answered a thousand phone calls, provided helpful guidance and advice and put up with us when we were at our worst. So accept that we wouldn’t be half as far along as we are without you and quit trying to downplay your contributions. The five of us might have started Five Friends Casting but you – and Karlie before you – have made it what it is.”
He turned to Reanna.
“And I’ll be saying the exact same thing to you in a couple of weeks, too, I’ll bet,” he said. “And to Darla and Jackie two weeks after that.”
Veronica looked like she was about to cry – and Adam worried he was about to get his ass kicked by the rest of the group. Instead she hugged him, then she hugged the rest of them. Being appreciated so openly made Veronica feel very good indeed.
“Monday is a full work day,” Sarah explained after the hugs were concluded. “Tuesday we’ll work until noon. The next three-and-a-half days are off with pay.”
“Do you mind if I beg off going to Vegas?” Reanna asked. It wasn’t that she didn’t like the group but she was five or six years older than they were. She would prefer to hang out with her boyfriend if she had the choice.
“Not at all,” Adam said. “You’re welcome if you want to go. If you want to invite a guest, that’s OK, too.”
“He works,” Reanna said. “Are you serious about no working on weekends? I mean, that’s pretty unusual for this business.”
“We’re serious,” Karlie answered. “They used to take the phone away from me and hide it before we brought Veronica on board. Now we do the same thing to her.”
“Then I am going to grab my guy and hit the beach,” Reanna said. “I’ll see everyone Monday morning.”
She waved and disappeared through the door and the mass of humanity.
Sarah noticed Adam’s frown as they walked back to the main house. She thought she knew why, too.
“I knew Reanna wouldn’t want to go,” she said. “But it was important that we invited her.”
“It’s not that, really,” he said. “I mean, it is but it isn’t. We’ve got other people who work for us. We’ve got an outside accountant and an investment adviser. But she is the first person we’ve brought in to work closely with us who is really different from us.”
“I know,” Sarah said. “It’s going to be the same with Darla and Jackie. They both have lives. Darla has a child. Jackie has a girlfriend. Soon we’re going to representing performers who have lives outside of this, too.”
“I was just thinking about a year or two down the road,” Adam told her. “Everyone will be out of college or close to it. We’ll all probably be out of the business. Katya and Anya might have returned home. I just hope we’re all still friends. I don’t want this to be over.”
“Some will probably leave us,” Sarah replied. “Some we probably will wish would go away – at least for a little while. But I think in a year or two or five, you’ll look around and see a lot of the same faces here you see now. They might be doing different things. Carter Creations will probably evolve and so will Petal Technologies. Subarctic will expand to fit the needs of the group here. If Leslie decides to get a master’s in counseling, we’ll find a way to incorporate it. If Allie goes into designing clothes, we’ll go with her.
“The funny thing is, a lot of the people in the group are honing their skills to contribute to Subarctic in the future. Beth wants to go into casting when she’s done. Elena has decided she is going to study computers. Jason, Tyanna and Cameron were talking about law school so they can take over when Celina moves to bigger things. Meredith wants to study metallurgy so she can help Walt make better and lighter – whatever. I have no idea what Walt works on half the time. But he’s got Timm and Meredith right there with him. They make a great team.”
Adam chuckled. He spent as much time in the workshop as anyone and he had no idea what Walt was trying to create. He only hoped it wasn’t something to take over the world.
“As for the seven in your harem?” Sarah said. “Good luck getting rid of us, Mister.”
Adam put his arm around her and hugged her tightly.
The idea of a Las Vegas getaway was a hit with everyone. Only Lucy seemed ill-at-ease at the prospect.
“Look, if you don’t want to go, I’ll stay here with you,” Katey offered.
“It’s not that I don’t want to go,” Lucy admitted. “But I really have to watch what I spend. They are talking about going to shows and taking a helicopter over Hoover Dam. The money I have has to last me awhile and, uh, well I figure rent here is a lot more than I was paying at the rat-trap I was in.”
“Lucy, they can’t rent rooms to us,” Katey said. “Are you familiar with zoning laws?”
“A little,” Lucy said. “I know that they put the trailer on one lot because they could run the business from there but not from 75 yards away. It doesn’t make sense and I’m not sure I understand it very well.”
Katey laughed and put her arm around her new friend – a person she would have sworn 10 days earlier she would hate if they met.
“It’s complicated and I’m not sure anyone really understands it – particularly in California,” Katey remarked. “But it’s like this. The reason they’re building apartments next door is because that piece of land is the only one on this block that can be rented to unrelated people. The reason they are building an office building on the other end is because that is the only land on this block that can legally house businesses. The middle properties – the houses, I suppose – can’t be rented to unrelated people or house a business. So you see, the rent here is nothing because they can’t legally charge you rent.”
“I won’t sponge off them!” Lucy said. She was somewhat taken aback that Katey would accept living that way.
“We don’t live here for free,” Katey clarified. “The ones who don’t own the property, right now it would be Leslie, Meredith, Anya, Katya, you and me – it changes almost from week to week, I think – contribute to the utilities and the food. The owners split the mortgage and we pay for the rest. Well, most of the rest. Those guys are always showing up with a bunch of food and Mary insists that half the electric bill be paid by Petal Technologies. It is not a set amount. It is what you can afford. Right now, if you chip in $20 a week, we’ll be in good shape.”
“That doesn’t seem much different from living here for free,” Lucy protested.
“And they would let us if we would allow it,” Katey replied with a half-smile. “Let me ask you this: When you first met us, could you tell who has access to three-quarters of a billion dollars and who doesn’t?”
“Did you say three-quarters of a billion?” Lucy asked, wide-eyed. She had grown up in a household where money was paramount but her father never came close to $750 million. Even after his crime spree the feds could only account for $150 million in cash and assets.
“Yep, hell, it’s probably more by now,” Katey concluded. “Everything they touch is like hitting the freakin’ lottery. ‘Sweet Things’ brings in about $40,000 a month. Five Friends makes about $10,000 a month. Petal Technologies makes $5,000 each month. Looker Lass will have a license to print money with ‘Dragon Lore’. Conservative estimates suggest it will gross $50 million but Ben, Jerry and Tate think closer to a $100 million. Now, back to my question, do any of these people act like their shit doesn’t stink?”
“No,” Lucy said.
“As far as they’re concerned, you earned your keep by chipping in and helping Mary with the news updates on ‘Sweet Things, ‘” Katey declared.
“But that didn’t require anything but my time,” Lucy stated. “And my time is not that valuable.”
Katey laughed again.
“To them, your time is just as valuable as anyone else’s,” she told Lucy. “You saw it needed doing and you did it. No one had to beg or threaten. You and Beth asked Mary if she could use your help and then you helped. The same way you and Elena helped Veronica and Reanna with the phones. The same way you contacted Alonzo Cruz to keep him in the loop and to let him know where he could get more information. To these guys that means you’re worth your weight in gold and it also means they will now do anything in the world for you.”
“I’m not used to this,” Lucy said.
“No one gets used to it right away,” Katey replied. “I kept looking for the catch, you know. I kept waiting for them to come to me and say that because they did this for me, I had to do this for them. I finally realized if that was what I was waiting for, I’d be waiting a long time. They’re good people, Luce. Maybe the best people we’ll meet in our lives.”
She squeezed Lucy’s shoulder.
“Now, about Vegas,” she said, “when they asked us to go, that meant they were footing the bill. It’s a staff-bonding exercise or something and they might even be able to write it off on their taxes. But we won’t talk business until the last day or so before ‘Dragon Lore’ kicks off. Do you plan to stay and help out while they shoot?”
“Yeah, if they need me to,” Lucy said. “I’ll come back if it looks like I’ll be in the way or something.”
“There will be tons of stuff for us to do,” Katey replied. She had shot a few features in her career. None of them went smoothly and none were as intricate as what was being planned for the next weekend. “We’ll take care of the food and the props. We’ll help out with lighting and play gofer for Ben, Shelly and Sarah. We’ll help Erin with the stills. We’ll help Walt and Timm set up the machinery. There will be things for us to do.”
Lucy gave a smile and poked her tongue through her lips.
“Maybe I can offer to work as a fluffer in case Adam needs some help,” she said with a giggle. “He seems to think Katya is the end all and be all of blowjobs. I might just prove him wrong.”
She and Katey dissolved into laughter and collapsed on the bed.
It promised to be a fun trip – and the group deserved to have a little fun given the past few days.
But it would have to wait.
Edited by BlackIrish; Proofread by ZoltanTheDuck and Lee.