THE BIG SHOW - KEITH BUCKLEY
Max Baum reactivated the camcorder, switched the LCD joystick over to ‘night mode’ and slowly panned around the bottom of the quarter-mile long rectangular quarry again. Not a sign of the couple he absolutely knew was back here tonight. He’d heard their BMW turn off Fairfax Road onto the gravel drive, followed their lights as they took the right fork to the barbed wire fence where the kids always parked on the way to skinny-dipping, saw the two figures emerge with flashlights, and disappear behind his landlord’s place, the old farmhouse on the back road to the quarry. Sure, this Saturday night wasn’t prime time for juvenile shenanigans up at Sanders Quarry, it being the quarter moon and all, but the car looked like the same one he’d spotted two weeks ago, and the couple he’d surreptitiously filmed that night had garnered over 2,000 new subscribers to Amateurs On The Rocks, his for-pay adult site.
Even with all the free porn on the web, the act those kids had put on was so hot that horn-dogs all over the world were willing to pony up $19.95 to watch.
“All I want’s a repeat of last month,” Max told himself. “Double the viewers, cash out the account, shut down, and move on before the Feds close in." Because close in the authorities would. As soon as he’d started shooting on June 26th from his perch overlooking the up-tilted slab on the west side of the quarry pool, he guessed that both the male and female were underage. Even during his brief stint on the fringes of the adult video world, though, Max had never seen a hotter, more hardcore display of raw sexual acrobatics. The chick was incredible, and would’ve been a perfect 10 if not for the oversized jaw. Everything else was perfect except for that Jay Leno jaw. Those two performed a series of no-holes barred moves literally beyond his imagination, and under the perfect glare of the full moon, he’d captured the entire scene.
Captured it, gone back to his tumble-down cottage off the other fork of Norton Lane, and beat off to it, he grinned. Three times in one night, a new Max Baum record. Then, on Sunday morning, he slapped together an assemble edit, posted Moonlight Madness on the site, and got the buzz going through eXnet, his service provider, with some carefully cropped stills. And watched his Paypal account explode.
A thin reedy voice, a very familiar voice, interrupted Max’s calculations of his take on the subscriptions. “You’ve got the wrong guy!” wailed Jack Fleetwood, Max’s landlord. “You’ve got the wrong guy!” The sound of Fleetwood’s strained, terrified voice carried beautifully across the vast, carved-out amphitheatre, echoing against the Indiana limestone walls. Max jerked the JVC GZ-HD30 in the direction of Fleetwood’s cries. Within a few seconds he found Jack, down on his knees on the edge of the highest cliff of the quarry, on the west side just beyond that same angled slab jutting up from the water 90 feet below. Zooming in and steadying the camcorder by pressing his left elbow into his chest, Max only had a moment to register the two men on either side of Jack before one hauled up a revolver with a two liter soda bottle stuck on the barrel and fired point blank at Jack’s head. The enveloping stone made the muffled pop very clear and very real.
Years of close calls filming from lockers, closets and the ceilings above restrooms had taught Max rigid self-control. But he couldn’t keep his hands from trembling when, a few minutes later, he struggled to film the pair as they reappeared at the cliff’s lip and hurl what was obviously Jack’s weighted body into the water. Max filmed the great splash of water up over the tilted slab, panned back up to catch the pair disappear back into the woods surrounding the quarry, and then hauled ass back to his cottage.
Hurtling along the trail with the camcorder huddled close to his sweating body, Max fought back the adrenaline trying to piece together what he had just witnessed. What the hell had Jack done to deserve a death sentence? And why dump his body in the quarry? Sure, it could be something like a steep gambling debt, but Bloomington didn’t support the kind of gangsters and enforcers who’d execute a welsher like that. This was something off the charts, weird beyond even Max’s extreme boundaries of weirdness. None of the wild speculations he dreamed up on the seemingly endless trek through the trees made any sense...though he definitely had a course of action roughed out by the time he unlocked his back door.
Once inside, he switched the camcorder to night vision again so that he could navigate his way back to the computer without turning on any lights. Those maniacs were probably already tooling back up Fairfax, but better safe than sorry. He powered up the computer, then fumbled in the dark until he found the loose USB cable hanging at the right corner of the old dining room table he used for his desk. He plugged the cable into the JVC, nudged the camcorder’s display screen until he had the shooting sequence cued up, and hastily moused through the apps that set up a live feed to Amateurs On The Rocks.
Max had just entered the crude title ‘Snuffed July 17, 2010’ and switched the camcorder to PLAY when he heard them smashing down his front door. He batted at the JVC to close the LCD screen so the images wouldn’t give away his position, but seconds later they were in the room with him. They were in the room and the lights flashed on and now there were three of them and they had guns and he did not.
“Okay, so this time I think we really got Mr. Amateur On The Rocks,” sighed the short one, the guy who’d shot Jack Fleetwood, the guy who was jamming a new empty Coke bottle on the barrel of his old Cobra .38 Special.
Max violently shook his head. “That’s not my name,” he said. “That’s not my name.”
“Yeah, you’re the guy with the camera,” said a squat pug-faced tough in a black turtleneck. “Saw him from behind your car, boss, following you guys out to the quarry.”
Ahh, shit, Max thought. They left a look-out with the Beamer. These bastards are professionals and my ass is grass.
“If it’s any consolation, Max,” said the third guy, a very muscular though flushed man with a lantern jaw, “you were next no matter what. You share a dynamic IP range with your former neighbor, Mr. Fleetwood, which meant one of you had to be the host of Amateur On The Rocks.”
Oh, screw it, Max decided. “How do you know?” he shouted. “How do you know, and so fucking what if I am?! Why does that get me and Jack killed, your assholes?!”
The little guy cinches the Coke bottle in place, then puts both hands on the grip. “We know because your firewall is crap, you stupid turd. We know because we all are from eXnet, and we know how to get here because you didn’t even give a rat’s ass that eXnet was local. How fuckin’ retarded do you have to be to run kiddy porn through a local provider, you dumb, ignorant shit for brains?”
“Kiddy porn?” Max squealed. “I have never posted--”
“Yeah, you did,” said Jawbone. “I ought to know because I own eXnet. And that girl in your hit video? Moonlight Madness? That was my fifteen year-old daughter’s ass you smeared all over the web.”
The jutting mandible. The BMW. Mother of God.
“Wait a minute, here! Wait a minute!” Max shouted. “How soon did you realize she was your daughter?! Why the fuck didn’t you shut me down?”
“I diverted all of your subscription payments to eXnet, Mr. Baum,” Jawbone grinned. “And when nobody really cares how old anyone is anymore, Moonlight Madness might just be the Number 1-selling amateur adult flick in the world.”
“Your daughter?” Max asked.
“But that’s just between you and the boss,” said the little guy, raising the pistol.
The last two things to go through Max Baum’s brain before the +P .38 shell were: 1) I can see the red RECORD light on my camcorder, and 2) This is going to make me the forever star of the internet.
BIO: Keith Buckley lives in a dimly lit money pit in Bloomington, Indiana, surrounded by mountains of golden retriever fur, unpublishable pornoviolence, noir, and music. He is also a contributor to AIR IN THE PARAGRAPH, to name but a few.