by Dr. Rocket with Ms. Gonzo
Last time, as you recall, Texas rock singer Suze Benson and two drug-running brothers completed the first leg of their drive to Los Angeles, never imagining that their product-filled van was about to be broken into by the obsessed son of an extremely unscrupulous and powerful FBI man.
The phone in his room was ringing, and he hurriedly unlocked the door and rushed in to answer it. He was sure who it was.
Axel Hasselburger had been staying in the Watergate Hotel on his FBI business trips to the capital since the elegant establishment had opened in the late 60’s. He saw no reason to change lodgings because of the infamous scandal that had toppled his hero, Richard M. Nixon. The events that triggered Nixon’s resignation had all occurred in the adjoining office complex on the sixth floor, not in the hotel itself. Still, he sometimes felt deeply annoyed when hearing the name “Watergate.”
It was indeed who he thought, and the voice asked at once “How did it go?”
“Very well. The Senator won’t be around to retire. It may take a year or so, but that will go by quick.”
“Hmm. It will have to do. Did Mister Trouble ask any questions?”
“Several, and was dubious.”
“OK. He’s second guessing too often. Recommendations?”
Hasselburger didn’t pause. “Termination.”
“Noted.” There was a click.
He hung up and sat down on the bed, loosened his tie and kicked off his shoes. An image of Imants came to mind again. This time he acted on it and called the house in Dallas. His longtime maid Magnolia picked up, sounding sleepy.
“Magnolia.” Imants’ father seldom said hello.
“Yass, Mista Hasselburger.” Her voice changed pitch to the cautious deference she used with him.
“Check on Imants. If he’s asleep, don’t wake him.”
“Yessah.” She put the phone down, and in her absence he took off his socks, marveling briefly as usual how good it felt. But his mind snapped back to his train-wreck of a son. His mother had ruined him. Damn her.
On the phone he could Magnolia in the distance calling Imants’ name loudly. Clearly not asleep in his bed. He nodded slowly. His instinct was right again: something was wrong. He’d have to fly back tomorrow, early.
Imants had boldly pulled his father’s Monte Carlo into the motel lot and parked at the far end. Confused by what he had observed so far, and suspicious and jealous of Suze and the Carter brothers, he ground his teeth together.
This is abnormal behavior, he reflected yet again. Why is she doing this? It doesn’t make any sense. Imants felt the familiar burning, churning sensation of angry frustration. Why was Suze doing this to him?
He watched with a confused frown as Suze went into one room and the two men she was with went into the adjoining one. That van she’s driving. Gotta search that van. Better park further away. He fired up the overpowered engine.
Suze hadn’t realized how tired she was until she had shucked off her clothes and gotten between the sheets. But she couldn’t fall asleep at first. She turned over several times.
God, I’m horny. It’s been months. Those sweetly musky Billy smells from the farmhouse towel must have gotten to her. Or perhaps his proximity riding in the van. She thought about touching herself, but the squirming sensation faded, and she drifted off.
She was startled awake by a dream of her father, talking with her as they walked along one of their favorite paths at the old house. “It’s all so much clearer now,” he stated in his firm voice. “I was wrong about a good many things, but I love you, baby, and tried to raise you right. The Golden Rule, that’s the most important one.”
“Yes,” she said, nodding vigorously in agreement. Then it hit her, jolting her into a state of lucidity. “But Daddy, you’re dead.” She started to wake, but fought it, holding on, staring at his dear features. He held a finger aloft, semi-mockingly, a gesture she loved that he only did with her.
“Be careful, Suze. Be very careful.” He faded, still smiling. She awoke with moistened eyes.
Oh Daddy. Was that really you, or me missing you? She became aware of the sound of rain outside, and a metallic noise she couldn’t account for. The van was parked just outside the motel window. The van. She sat up abruptly.
Imants had been semi-tutored in various arts by his father’s visiting FBI co-workers, who found Imants amusing. Lock-picking was one of the skills he had learned, but he wasn’t an adept. Fumbling awkwardly with the picking tool in the steady rain, he had finally got the back of the van open. It’s just music cases. They are a band, going to play some town ahead.
But then Imants caught a faint whiff of an unusual odor. Drugs. He risked a glimmer from his flashlight. Just cases, but still… Drugs, definitely. I need to open one of these cases.
He stood on the bumper and reached into the few feet of free space beneath the van roof to pull on a smaller case, and managed to partially dislodge from it the rest. He hopped down, reached in and pulled harder. Thunder rumbled in the medium distance.
Suze leapt up, trying to find her clothes in the dark. Frustrated, she attempted to pull the bedspread off, but it was tucked extremely tightly. She peeled it back, yanking at it. Another clunking sound from outside. Some damn thief tryin’ to wreck my deal. Enraged, she grabbed a pillow, holding it in front of her nude body, and threw open the motel door.
Imants, confounded by the multiple straps holding the smaller case in place, failed to notice the door opening, the faint sound masked by the rain.
Suze bounded out and shouted “Hey you!” She whapped him in the head with the pillow as hard as possible and Imants froze, his back to her. Suze, infuriated by her lack of impact, yelled again and kicked him as hard as she could with her bare foot, right between his legs.
Emitting a loud, dismal groan, and keeping his face averted, Imants ran off, bent over and limping noticeably, as the light in the brothers’ motel room snapped on. Billy and Rob, the latter with a handgun, ran out cursing; they were stunned at the sight of Suze who stood naked in the rain, pillow in hand, next to their violated craft, as a dark figure shambled away hastily into the dim first light of dawn.
Rob recovered first, pocketing the pistol, looking around at the nearly empty parking lot. “Let’s go. Get dressed, we’ll lock up.”
Suze nodded, suddenly realizing she was both naked and wet from the rain, as well as in shock from the events, and she turned for her open door.
Billy watched, waited until her door closed, and then pointed to the van. “Look which case he was goin’ after.”
A half hour later they were seated at a breakfast cafe a few miles away. The three sat dazed over their waffles and sausages until Billy looked up and spoke quietly in a mock-dramatic movie announcer voice.
“One woman, alone, armed only with her wits and a fully loaded pillow… versus the most dangerous thief in the state of Texas…a vicious menace working under the cover of darkness.” Rob put his fingers to his lips, but struggled to hide his grin. Suze chuckled quietly, and looked around, but the few cafe patrons ignored them.
“Ya missed it, but I got in a kick to his tallywhacker that he’s still feeling.” The brothers nodded in near unison, impressed.
“Well, damn. You just earned your whole salary the first night,” Rob said slowly.
Billy nodded again. “No wonder he was runnin’ so funny. But Suze, how come you ain’t in Playboy Magazine yet?” He tilted his head with a mild leer.
“Oh ya’ll hush,” she said quietly, turning a bit pink in the cheeks. She finished her coffee, pushed back her plate and stood abruptly. “Gonna visit the ladies room.” This time they both watched her go.
Imants sat miserably in his father’s car a block away, watching the doors to the cafe and trying to sit comfortably despite his aching groin. He was numb both that Suze had kicked him in his most sensitive spot, and his growing belief that she had likely fallen in with drug dealers.
His mind grappled with the problem of what to do. He had managed to maintain the tail from the motel to the cafe, but now what? The rain had stopped, some part of his mind registered.
That his worst fears about her were coming true, he had no doubt. But, she needs to be rescued. If only I could speak to Suze, reason with her, show her she is off the true path. His thoughts, as they sometimes did when thinking about her, became chaotic and cloudy.
Imants pulled out the worn picture of his mother he kept in his wallet, the last one of them together, earmarked and worn. He preferred to remember her smiling with her arm around him, a small eight-year-old boy, not the mental picture of his mom leaving, tears streaking her face, her face lined with worry and care, somehow hideously bruised. No, I can’t lose Suze. I can’t.
He became electrifyingly aware of how confused and mixed up his feelings were about Suze.
They had met at the neighborhood church, where Imants had been praying for deliverance with tears streaming down his cheeks. He’d opened his eyes to see Suze standing in front of him, radiant at 13, blonde hair glowing in the light. “You okay?” she asked in concern. I am now. God has answered my prayer. I am to be saved.
Suze hadn’t really wanted to know Imants. She felt some obligation to him because he attended her church, but she instinctively knew he was creepy, and likely creepier than she could imagine. Later, Imants attended the local high school, a year behind her, and she had stood up against the near universal hazing directed at Imants, but it was a losing battle, and only seemed to make his obsession with her get worse.
Imants shook his mind free from his repetitive train of misery. He adjusted his pants again. He knew he had to do something, but had no idea what.
When Suze emerged from the shabby restroom, her hair was pinned up and she had put on a bit of makeup, her walk full of confidence. Damn right, I earned my pay. Something horrible happened, that guy she’d kicked… but still. If that’s the worst, this trip will be a blast, especially with Billy boy by my side. But that was a gun Rob had. She pushed the thought away. Onward.
Rob had paid the tab and the brothers stood outside in the sudden bright sunlight. She pushed open the heavy smudged glass door and joined them, smiling with good cheer. Billy grinned back brightly, adjusting items in his shoulder bag: newspapers, a Carlos Castaneda paperback book, bananas.
“All ready?” Rob asked. Her nod was firm and quick. He glanced at her, and then a line of dark clouds on the horizon to the north. He grunted. “I wanna get the hell out of Texas today.”
She nodded again. “Me too. Let’s hit the road, jack.”
To be continued in Chapter Six: Trouble Highway
by: Sammi “Mayor Gonzo” Mays
The time is now. The epic begins on Nest Key, an uninhabited mangrove island off the Straits of Florida, where a fantastical band of renegades, who call themselves the Pirates of the Florida Keys, are in the throes of a party of mythical proportions.
Unlike other modern day pirates, this society of unabashed brigands don dazzling head dresses and snazzy grass skirts and flock by the hundreds to the exotic locale. In a staggering spectacle of debauchery they consume mass quantities of Pirate’s Choice Rhum from its legendary bottomless bottle, and in a collective trance fueled by Gulf and West Indies music, they dance in a heated frenzy until exhausted.
Little do they realize that on this day, their gluttonous behavior would come back to bite them on the booty; for the Pirates of the Florida Keys are unaware of the far-fetched odyssey that awaits them.
The story you are about to read is one of fiction; any similarities to persons or places is purely coincidental.
It is the dog days of summer and in the heat of the day, the weather has taken an ominous turn. The groovy blue sky has suddenly disappeared behind a tremulous blanket of black. Two waterspouts duel for hydro as they make a run for the tiny atoll. The birds have all long since flown, and to save their vessels from grounding, so must the Pirates of the Florida Keys.
The Captain quickly delegates a cleanup crew to remove all evidence of their presence. They must leave the island a bit better than they had found it, for it is an eons-old agreement between the Pirates of the Florida Keys and the Party Gods.
However, on this fateful day, in their haste, an empty bottle has been overlooked and it is this lone abandoned bottle that angers the Gods. Once looked upon with favor, and in a simple twist of fate, the Gods have become disenchanted with the Pirates of the Florida Keys, and before they are to be allowed back into the graces of the party deities, they would be ordered to make amends by running the dangerous gauntlet of the bars – all while on a noble quest to save the Wild Bird Sanctuary. The Pirates’ journey home would be a long treacherous one fraught with peril, uncertainties, and hangovers.
From the blackened sky, the seething squall drove the Pirates of the Florida Keys to seek shelter in the shallow bay behind the Caribbean Club. Pointing their bows into the stinging head wind, the flotilla anchored down and in a race against the encroaching storm — while dodging deadly coconut missiles — they make their way ashore.
Once inside the sweltering cavernous bar, flickering candlelight brought to focus a strange brew of badass bikers, beer-bellied boozers, busty babes, Bogart’s ghost and a sniveling midget from the third world Isle of No Where.
With their backs against the wall, and fortifying themselves with rhum, the Pirates of the Florida Keys had just settled in for the duration of the storm when an unexpected thunderclap lights up the night and commands their attention!
There, out of a scene from Frankenstein, framed in the doorway, stood a terrifying figure dripping wet and smelling of rotting vegetation at low tide. “It’s Aga-Ou!” the midget from No Where screamed. “The angry voodoo Spirit of the Sea!” Oh but it was far worse than Aga-Ou. Straight from the insane asylum with a hideous Jagermeister grin plastered to its face, it was none other than the notorious bogyman Cujo!
He was armed with a roll of raffle tickets, selling chances to benefit his favorite charity, the Cujo Gone Wild Fund. It was a profound moment when the Pirates of the Florida Keys realized their trial at hand was to survive the dark stormy night and the con of Cujo.
One dollar a ticket, six tickets for five or an arm’s length for ten, with stealth precision Cujo worked the Carib like a carnie working a carnival thoroughfare. Oddly enough, not one single pirate questioned his validity or even asked what the raffle was for. Was Cujo crazy or a genius? As pirates buy quickly and back away from Cujo, it seems his foul breathe and bad hygiene was merely a tactic to sell his bogus tickets. His purple Crown Royal drawstring pouch bulged with ill-gotten gains.
Eager to count his earnings Cujo slithered off to the head but the Pirates’ reprieve from his funkiness would be short lived. From the bowels of the darken bar came the sound of a commode flushing, then the whooshing, choking sound of a second flush – and with a prodigious pea green aura surrounding him, the bar held its breath as Cujo hastily exited the latrine, accompanied by a nuclear stench that could have backed a buzzard off a gut wagon.
Choosing the lesser of the two evils and figuring their chances of survival better out than in, the Pirates of the Florida Keys were flushed from the den of darkness into yet another tribulation.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, the wind and the water had grown eerily calm. The squall moved out over the open Gulf and in its place rolled in a dangerous blinding fog. But there was something enticing about this mysterious haze. Curious of the riches that they had convinced themselves were on the other side; perhaps even enough to save the Wild Bird Sanctuary, with their ship bells ringing and their fog horns blasting, boat-by-boat the fearless denizens of the sea disappeared into the murk.
It seemed days had passed that the armada wandered in complete oblivion until – what?! Neon lights and samba music guiding the Pirates of the Florida Keys in a conga line through the foggy quagmire?! No need to explain that of which cannot be explained. There are many strange and inexplicable occurrences in the Conch Republic like Yellow Book ad salesmen and foam parties.
When the great impossible foggy passage finally spit the sea dogs out the other side, the Pirates were soaked to the bone, befuddled, and out of control. Compasses and steering mechanisms failed to function. A mighty magnetic force with kinetic powers had hold of the fleet and was transporting the Pirates of the Florida Keys to a distant bar far, far away.
From overhead, an airship mesmerized the captive voyagers with billboards that flashed: Shipwreck’s Bar! Free Booze! Free Bait! Free Beer! Free Burgers! And Helium! It was Gomorra by the Sea alright and like any good pirate, the Pirates of the Florida Keys took full advantage of all its offerings.
Chug-a-lugging swill and dancing the cha cha while singing shanties with Donald Duck voices; the Pirates are completely oblivious to a gnarled low-down man huddled alone in a smoky dim-lit corner of the bar, fiddling with his pocket fisherman.
Just when it seemed the strange couldn’t get stranger, the Pirates were about to encounter the scummy, scheming, scandalous, cock-eyed serpent of the sea: Ol’ Captain One Eye –and he had been watching their every move!
To get a closer look at his prey, Ol’ One Eye reached back into the socket of his cocked eye and plucked it out! Holding the slimy yellowish orb between his stubby thumb and nubby fingers and, like a cobra ready to strike, he raised his hand and propped his elbow up on the bar and, resembling some spooky macabre periscope, turned the forearm ever so slowly, allowing the eerie eye to get a good look at each and every one of the Pirates Of the Florida Keys. He was not amused.
Disgusted and worked into a rage by their slaphappy camaraderie, the crusty red-faced rogue gulped his grog and let out a belch. Beer foam clung to his wiry handlebar mustache and a menacing curled lip appeared from under his ZZ Top-like beard as he slammed down a familiar Crown Royal coffer onto the bar, challenging the Pirates of the Florida Keys to a double or nothing drink off!
A rumble could be heard among the Pirates as they began to speculate on where the reprehensible Ol’ One Eye had gotten the booty. Somewhere along the way had bogyman Cujo fallen victim to one of the Ol’ Captain’s no prey, no pay schemes? No matter, their eyes grew wide for before them lay a small fortune, more than enough to save the Wild Bird Sanctuary and perhaps even earn their way back into the graces of the Gods of Frivolity.
Ol’ One Eyes’ karma was just about to catch up with him though for he had no idea that the Pirates of the Florida Keys were former members of the Conch Republic Olympic Drinking Team. Ok, so granted that was then. These days the Pirates just simply drank for the hell of it and to avoid hangovers.
With his secret hollow leg, Leroy the Pirate was designated as the team’s champion; and the rules were kept simple: remain seated, remove all prosthetics, and no hurling!
To signify the start of the match the house band belted out the tune: “One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer” and then slash-for-slash the opponents began trading shots.
The competition was fierce, and the momentum swung back and forth like a hypnotic game of double-jointed Chinese Ping Pong. No words were spoken between Leroy and Ol’ One Eye just a good old fashion stare down. They were psyched and all around a carnival atmosphere.
To break up some of the guzzling monotony, the Pirates of the Florida Keys gambled and placed wagers on whether or not bad-boy Pete Rose would be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. They chowed down on funnel cakes and got henna tattooed while taking turns riding the pony and having their pictures taken.
The summer moon rose and fell for two nights and three days when, near dawn, an all too familiar stench of rotting vegetation at low tide rolled in over the spectacle.
“It’s Aga-Ou!” the midget from No Where screamed. “He’s back!”
Out to settle a score and to collect the soul of the loser was the voracious, vile and vicious Cujo – and still plastered to his face was that same hideous Jagermeister grin.
The surprise appearance by the devil himself startled Ol’ One Eye. “Drink up Captain!” Cujo vehemently spoke. “I believe you have something that belongs to me.”
It was evident that the Ol’ Captain was having trouble keeping his only eye on Cujo and on the game at the same time. Eternity was at hand and it seemed that the Ol’ Scallywag was just a shot away from having made two really bad mistakes.
The barkeep poured the umpteenth round and with his perception already askew and nerves frazzled, he made the only real fatal mistake a one-eyed pirate could possibly make – he blinked! Now in this warped universe everyone knows that when a one-eyed pirate blinks, he’s blind – and so with a toss of his scurvy head he knocked back the shot, the barstool wobbled, and down went One Eye!
Realizing they had won the Pirates of the Florida Keys turned to high-five one another and raised a mug of Bomba’s mushroom tea in homage to the Party Gods; for good ole Leroy the Pirate had drunk the sick and twisted One Eye blind! Victory was theirs, as was the all-seeing eyeball, and a tumultuous buzz to boot!
When they turned back again Cujo and Ol’ One Eye were missing – and ever since that day legend has it that no matter where your travels may take you, if you keep your ear to the ground you can hear the grinding discord of Ol’ Captain One Eye laboring away at calling the same repetitive 69 numbers from Bingo Parlor Hell.
Making a hasty retreat the motley crew took to their vessels and as if by some strange magic, one-by-one the Pirates of the Florida Keys fell into a dream-like trance; where on the wings of cuckoos, boobies and loons they were safely transported back to their homeport.
Islanders and landlubbers and even tourist from near and far came to celebrate the Heroes triumphant return, and to bear witness to the passing of the Crown Royal Pouch. The Party Gods gazed down on the Captain and crew with favor and reallocated their blessings, for the Pirates of the Florida Keys had saved the Wild Bird Sanctuary from extinction!
Upon the Pirates’ arrival, standing at the top of the dock was Mayor Gonzo who had been ordained by the Gods to present a special proclamation. “Quiet everybody!” the midget from No Where screamed. “The Gonz is gonna speak!”
“As the Official Honorary Mayor of Key West and fabulous Florida Keys … for living by the ‘Party With A Purpose’ creed, and for just being good-hearted pirates … with so many islands and so many bridges and with so many weird wonderful people in these Keys, may this rubber chicken – the international symbol of mirth, and of the Office of Key West Honorary Mayor, be your Key to Key West and to all the fabulous Florida Keys – opening doors you never knew existed!
It is my order, and I do hereby declare, that from this day forward, and forever more, that ye shall be known as the Parrot Heads of the Florida Keys!”
by: Doctor Rocket with Ms. Gonzo
Last time, as you recall, Texas rock singer Suze Benson took the wheel of a van loaded with illicit drugs, and headed off with two desperate brothers on a major drug run to Los Angeles. She little dreamed she was being tailed by an FBI man’s obsessive son, who was determined to save her soul, win her heart and punish the young men corrupting her… punish them severely.
“Ten-four, good buddy,” Billy drawled into the CB microphone, exaggerating his Texas accent in his deepest tone. He let go of the hand-held mike switch with a click, and turned towards her, dimly lit in the dashboard light. “With him comin’ along behind us, no cops on our ass, this will be a snap.”
Suze grinned, nodding her head. The brothers had wanted to try out the radios right away, and they had already chosen handles for their identities that suited their tastes. Rob was Rootin’ Tootin’ and Billy’s handle was Wheatbread, which cracked Suze up.
“Why Wheatbread?” she laughed. He looked over at her, and felt a rush of emotion combined with cautionary inhibition.
“Because I made some Swiss Cheese sandwiches before you got to the farm. Got us a cooler behind the seat. Want one?”
“Sure!” Suze suddenly realized she was not only famished, but thirsty. “Got anything to drink?”
“Some soda cans. Rob said no beer.”
“Damn…” He’s right. We got a ton of pot back there.
Billy quietly chuckled. “Truth is, I put some in anyway. Carlsberg Elephant.”
Suze laughed. “You rascal. And imported too!”
They listened to the Dallas radio as they drove through the darkness, munching and swigging their bottles. Billy punched the radio buttons, eliciting “…more scattered thunderstorms, locally heavy in some areas.” Billy grunted, peering up ahead, but the earlier lightning in the north and west had stopped. He took another bite of sandwich.
“Billy why’s this taste so good?”
“Veggies I guess, we had some good tomatoes and bell peppers in the garden.” They chatted on about how delicious home-grown veggies were, compared to store bought, moved on discussing the beer, the beer name, elephants in general, and how sad zoos were. They wound up laughing when the conversation shifted to music. The found they had a lot in common, especially regarding the Blues.
After they got through the Dallas metro area the van and Rob’s Delta 88 exited the interstate and headed west on 380 towards Decatur. The wind was picking up but the van was riding solidly because of the load in back. The chat wound down and Suze had a moment to think about her life, and feel thankful for her freedom.
Imants, sweating as he drove, reevaluated his situation as the miles wore on. His father had not given him permission to drive the souped up Monte Carlo. It was Father’s pride and joy, and he was mortally afraid of the consequences of something going wrong. It wasn’t too late to turn around. But it would mean defeat, bitter and final. Suze appeared to be under the spell of bad people. In that van up there. Evil men. Godless Evil.
He clenched his jaw, brain whirling, and reached into his father’s Gladstone Bag. For all his life, the bag had been his father’s sacred item, always in the FBI man’s possession. Perhaps he had left it for him to find! But even as the thought hit him, he knew it to be untrue. His hand hit something. He pulled it out.
A gun! Imants tossed it back into the bag hastily. This was the opposite of… of… Suze standing delightfully nude as he watched through that farmhouse window. He felt a powerful blast of desire. Suze, so beautiful, a Goddess… bedeviling dream come true. God had made her for him, had shown her to him.
He reached into the bag, pulled out the pistol again. Hefted it, eyes on the distant taillights in the blackness ahead. His member stiff, guts roiling. Jesus, help me. And what about Father? God forbid he should come home and find his car missing. FBI Sector Chief Hasselburger would whip him silly.
In distant Washington D.C., Axel Hasselburger looked at the six other men at the long table. “Make no mistake, this incorruptible bastard is one of the biggest threats we face. So we are unanimous?”
Nods, some enthusiastic, some faint. The man at the far end, in the shadows, spoke slowly. “Taking out a sitting U.S. Senator… does it get any more serious?”
Imants’ father looked up, and repressed several sharp retorts. “Yes,” was his only reply. His listeners found it chilling.
Somehow his questioner found the nerve to speak. “Of course, the Church Committee…” The man stopped, started again. “Will it be done…”
Hasselburger frowned and interrupted. “In a way so that no one will ever know. He won’t last next year. He’ll get a statue or memorial, and the message will be sent.”
Hasselburger began putting documents in his briefcase, signaling meeting’s end. He missed that Gladstone Bag tremendously, he realized again, as the men stood and left. It was in the Monte Carlo, safe in the garage. He thought about troubled, unpredictable Imants, and suddenly frowned. His instinct, so trusty over the years, was kicking in. Something. Something was wrong.
In Texas, aware of the importance and seriousness of their journey, Suze’s musing gave way to the current situation. She felt a surge of optimism, pleased and bemused to be at the wheel of a van loaded to the top with God’s special and wrongfully illegal plants. Her earlier fears had dissipated and Suze became exuberant. “Wooo, we are regular desperados like Cheech and Chong!”
Billy, riding shotgun casually with his feet on the dashboard, looked over at her. Suze had her window down to catch the breeze, and he admired her in the dim light. “If yer finished, gimme that empty.” He flipped both the glass bottles out his passenger window, and grinned. “Less of a bust. Let’s see if Rob starts hollerin’.”
He turned down the car radio, turned to face her, and chatted about music some more and then spoke of her band, which Rob had joined three months previously, at the start of Suze’s blazing run of summer gigs at the Last Chance Saloon. Billy had seen many of those crazy nights, and expressed his fondness in strong language.
“I liked Suze and the Bruisers, too,” he said, speaking of her first band.
She laughed, astonished. “You saw the Bruisers? We were too wild to last. But damn I loved those boys.”
She found herself telling Billy about her earlier experiences. Suze was living with her then-husband and performing at clubs for the first time, but when her dad died, she’d moved back into her family home to help her mom. And had never moved back in with her spouse. The marriage was a miserable experience she was relieved to be free of.
Suze’s sister worked as a nurse in Los Angeles, so a lot of the morbid details of her father’s funeral arrangements fell on Suze’s shoulders. It was eventually decided that her mom move in with her more stable and now-pregnant sister, so Suze had also had to help her mom dispose of a lifetime of stuff and sell the house. The mortgage had taken most of the profit. Suze’s voice tailed off, and she sighed.
Billy knew only a few bits of this, and was horrified by the larger tribulations of her life, of which he had known little. Troubles were a downer, he wanted to talk music to change the mood. “I’m just glad you kept your music going.”
“Only thing that kept me sane.”
“I hear that! Well. Rob and I used to sneak into The Ruby to see you. I was there the night the guitar player fell off the stage.”
Suze giggled loudly, sliding back into a state of amusement. “His last night.” She fell silent a moment as a spatter of rain hit the windshield. “Frank was so unpredictable, but when he was hot, he was the best player I ever had; he could make everyone in the room freekin’ wig out. He had those Mike Bloomfield blues chops down cold.”
“Yeah, I was there the night he stood on top of his Twin Reverb. That was like a fifteen minute solo, right? And he was doing those fills when you were singing…Turn on Your Love Light. So cool. Rockin’!”
Suze giggled again, closer to a guffaw. “Goddamn, I am amazed you saw that! It was a special night.” She looked over him with a look of mock rebuke. “How were you even there? A bit young for The Ruby then, weren’tcha?”
Billy was animated. “Yeah, but Rob knew the bouncer. He knows a lotta people. Anyway, I convinced him to take me, the hardass, and…”
The CB crackled into life. “Watch your speed there, Wheatbread. You’re a bit high.”
They looked at each other and burst into laughter. “His ears were burning! I love it,” Suze said. A sudden spatter of rain hit the windshield as she let up a bit on the pedal.
Billy pushed the handset switch. “Copy,” he said in a quiet tone, let up the switch, and chuckled loudly, “At least he didn’t see those bottles. Better not let him know we’re having fun.”
Hmm. Yes. And that was strong beer. She felt tingly, damn pheromones, huh. She looked over at him again. “Billy. What are ya’ll gonna do after this, in California?”
Billy shrugged in the darkness. “I’d like to try surfing for a day or two. Get shitfaced after this. Buy a cool car, maybe a Stingray! Drive it back to the farm, I dunno. We might have another run like this one in a couple weeks, then I could get my own place in town. Girls don’t like coming out to that ol’ farm; my last girlfriend thought the place was too funky.”
“Last girlfriend huh?” she teased. “What a ladies man!”
“Well, and she was a bit kinky. I didn’t understand lingerie until… and the fur handcuffs, man, and, well, that was just the start.”
Yikes. And I thought he was still a kid. She debated a neutral sounding question or something to tease him with, but he spoke first. “What about you? What are you gonna do when you get there?”
Right, what about me? “Now that I’m sorta rich… get a car, get a place with a view, visit with my mom and sister and my baby niece. I wanna start a new band, write some tunes.” Suddenly a great hunger to do this, and more, grabbed her. Those demo cassette tapes, gotta get ’em out to the right A&R guys!
“Well shee-it. We’re gonna miss ya in Garland. Why ya leaving’ us?”
“Oh God, too much to say. I just need a change.” No way am I going to talk about Imants, any more about the ex and all the rest now. The radio voices sang, if you can’t be with the one you love, honey, love the one you’re with – love the one you’re with. Yes, perhaps so. She looked over at Billy to find him looking at her. She felt a surge of, of what? Lust? She had been so shut down since the divorce…
A massive bolt of lightning lit the sky ahead, but there were still only a few drops on the windshield. They rode in silence for a few minutes, until another bright bolt from the sky illuminated the front interior of the drug-filled van, this time with a goodly boom of thunder. “Wow!” they both exclaimed in reaction to the blast.
Rob’s voice crackled again from the CB. “That was close. We better stop at the next motel. Looks pretty hairy up ahead.”
To be continued in Chapter Five: The Break-in
by: Karene Horst
I strolled through my dad’s thick tangle of a backyard for the customary tour during my last visit.
The quarter-acre plot glowed vibrantly green now the rains had returned to So Cal: potted baby king palms, succulent jades and assorted sprouting flotsam my father dug up on a whim and nurtured into fruition, all tucked between hundred-year-old Valencia orange trees and an out-of-control patch of arugula.
That backyard watched me grow from a buck-tooth and freckled shy girl of five playing hide-and-seek with the neighborhood gang, to a bleary-eyed, sullen adolescent sneaking cigarettes whilst hiding from a family of eight amidst trailing avocado branches. I think I lost my virginity back there.
“You want anything to take home, go ahead,” Dad offered as he stroked the leaves of some unrecognizable plant he’d started in a 12-ounce metal Yuban coffee can. I passed, reminding him I live in the mountains and require hardier foliage.
Then I spotted a familiar leaf pattern stretching its limbs toward the sun.
Dark burgundy clusters of leaves topped by greenish buds spiked with rust-colored hairs. I pinched a tad and sniffed.
“Dad, what’s this?”
“I don’t know. I dug it up from somewhere,” he flung his hand toward the chain-link fence cocooned in ivy, “It’s doing great. You want it?”
“Dad … I think this is marijuana.”
He chuckled and said someone else had made the same observation. Knowing that most of my brothers and I had imbibed during our reckless youth spent under his roof, he added rhetorically, “I wonder how it ended up here.”
I’m still flabbergasted at how I ended up there myself, nonchalantly admiring the offspring of my 87-year-old dad’s green thumb just as California follows the path of several other states by legalizing recreational marijuana including cultivation of up to six plants for personal use.
My twisted journey, from the seemingly carefree ’70s pot culture through decades of draconian tactics inflicted by the War on Drugs starting in the ’80s, has transported me to today, where cannabis dispensaries are taking root across parts of our country but I still can’t get a job without pissing into a cup and providing a THC-free stream.
What a long, strange trip it’s been.
I discovered pot in seventh grade. One of my friends had stolen a joint from her older brother, so after school we snuck into a nearby parking garage and passed it around amongst a group of five girls. We giggled a lot, but we always giggled. I don’t remember feeling anything more than giddy.
Then during a sleepover at another friend’s house two blocks from the Venice Boardwalk, we snagged some from her step-father’s stash and kicked back on her waterbed while listening to a soundtrack of waves lapping against the shore. At one point I thought I was actually lying on the beach and then the realization hit me; I was stoned.
At Samohi we passed pipes in the girl’s bathroom between classes: the thick plumes of tobacco smoke from our compatriots covered our tracks. When we weren’t cutting class to smoke weed, we were ditching school to buy thai stick, hashish, or sometimes a dime bag of whatever that had too many seeds and stems but we were desperate. I didn’t hang out with the in-crowd, the jocks or the nerds. I hung out with the stoners. I rarely made it to classes scheduled after lunch.
Through the slits of my reddened eyes, I envisioned a gloriously mainstreamed marijuana lifestyle. Everyone partied, not just hippies. People in suits and ties, celebrities, professionals. My best friend’s father used to light up in a restaurant after his meal.
Not my parents, of course, and that divergence caused quite a few brouhahas in my household. My pack-a-day Marlboro habit smothered most of the evidence, but my parents weren’t stupid. They discovered my bong buried behind a pile of unread books on my closet shelf. They just yelled at me, stonily stared down the few friends who dared stop by my house and silently prayed I wouldn’t experiment with the harder stuff. And although of course I did, I wasn’t enamored with cocaine, quaaludes or LSD as I was with pot. Even our teachers just acted annoyed when they caught us smoking or smelled it on us. I only had one teacher who threatened me with retaliation if I entered his classroom reeking again. I dropped his class.
Yes, you could still get in trouble if caught with grass and the government definitely didn’t want us getting high. The US funded the spraying of marijuana fields in Mexico with the herbicide Paraquat to kill the crop, but the growers harvested it anyway smuggling pounds and kilos across the border to us satisfied consumers. One radio station offered a program where listeners could send in a sample of their weed for testing to see if it was safe to inhale. Yeah right, we said. We smoked it anyway, Paraquat or not.
They couldn’t arrest all of us. Decriminalization was just around the corner. Starting with Oregon in 1973, a handful of states liberalized their marijuana laws by making possession of small amounts a misdemeanor punishable with fines rather than jail time. By 1977, President Jimmy Carter told Congress he would support legislation eliminating federal criminal penalties for possession of up to one ounce. I’d heard somewhere that the cigarette companies were trying to copyright the names “Acapulco Gold” and “Maui Wowie.”
Then in 1980 Ronald Reagan grabbed the reins of the US government along with a conservative posse that blamed “drugs” for high crime rates and the general breakdown in society. Nancy’s motherly “Just say No” mantra jacked up into SWAT teams crashing through front doors in search of heroin dealers and crackheads. They scooped up pot smokers, growers and sellers in their widely flung net. Harmless people ended up with lengthy prison sentences in cells next to rapists and murderers. Three strikes and you’re out. In 1980 the government had locked up 50,000 men and women for nonviolent drug law offenses; by 1997, the number rose to 400,000, according to drugpolicy.org
Caught with paraphernalia: lose your scholarship. Want to play junior varsity, then pee in the cup. Carrying while cruising in your Camaro, you’re going to jail but first, handover your car keys as the cops own it now.
In 1990 then Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates testified to the U.S. Senate that pot-smokers and casual drug users “ought to be taken out and shot.” Zero tolerance.
Throughout the hysteria, I still puffed away: with federal and state employees, lawyers, doctors, nurses, insurance agents, school teachers, business owners. But we maintained a close-knit group knowing public knowledge of our vice could destroy us. One friend withdrew her candidacy for the school board when an anonymous albeit unpublished letter to the editor accused her of marijuana use years before as a college student. Another friend had a near miss when his young daughter reported his daily smoke breaks in the family garage to her DARE counselor, who laughed off her story because who could believe this “pillar of the community” would smoke dope? One of my high school buddies got nabbed selling a baggie to an undercover agent, pleaded guilty and accepted a two-year jail term to protect his wife from being charged also and losing custody of their daughter. Scary times.
Living in the country away from the cops’ drug-sniffing canines, I felt somewhat insulated but we still indulged in a healthy amount of paranoia. Before the internet and the advent of cell phones and texting, you really only had to worry about the government bugging your landline, so you avoided discussing it unless you had a code; before visiting a friend I’d ask if I needed to bring any “party favors.” On road trips we always limited ourselves to an amount small enough to avoid the harshest felony penalties, plus my boyfriend insisted I hide it in my underwear right against my crotch; “they won’t search you there,” he argued. Besides, if he were caught with a joint he could lose his license to practice law. We risked criminal prosecution by purchasing from others rather than growing reefer on our land; we feared the government would seize our farm through asset forfeiture laws.
I was mostly too stoned to take any of it too seriously, however, until I got pregnant. I quit smoking as soon as I found out. Maybe once or twice I enhaled. I certainly reveled in second-hand smoke.
Eventually marijuana provided my only solace during the demise of my marriage and the frustrations of parenthood. I told myself that it was OK to set my kids in front of the television while I snuck away to the garage, knowing if I didn’t I’d do something horribly drastic. Comfortably numb.
Then September 11 turned our nation’s ire toward terrorists and all things foreign. Many American anti-drug soldiers on the political front finally surrendered, conceding the drug war a lost cause as they aimed their gun sights on other targets.
The tide had turned. According to a 2006 study by the National Institutes of Health, during the 1990s, “… the primary focus of the war on drugs has shifted to low-level marijuana offenses. …” at a cost of “… roughly $4 billion per year for marijuana alone …” The study concluded that the country’s war on marijuana diverted law enforcement funds from violent crimes, thereby representing “a questionable policy choice.”
With teenagers of my own, my inner parent took charge and I banished my youthful indulgence to “only once in awhile” but never when they returned from their dad to stay with me for my timeshare. OK, maybe once my son caught me with smoke spewing from my nostrils and I had to make a public confession. But neither of my kids were stupid. They’d smelled it on me when they were just toddlers. “Mother, did you hotbox me?” my then teenage daughter once teased me in mock astonishment.
Still, I have to confess a strange pride that neither of my kids followed in my self-medicated meanderings. I discouraged them from experimenting, acknowledging that daily marijuana use had clouded my judgment and led to a multitude of poor choices especially as a teenager. Looking back, I’m still stunned that I survived those idiotic, drug-induced decisions.
The legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington in 2012 brought me a whiff of nostalgia. By then I avoided associating with anyone who imbibed. I’d gone back to school and worked in healthcare. I had a mortgage and responsibilities. I planned to travel the world. I no longer wanted to see my future through a haze. On a trip to Colorado in 2013, I contemplated hitting a “boutique” for some Blue Magoo or Censored Kush. First time I would ever smoke pot legally. Naaaah. It just wouldn’t be the same.
So seems I’ve come full circle. Welcome to the Hotel California. As I walk through the parking lot at the ski resort near my home, I breath deeply and smile wistfully while savoring the pungent perfume of Golden Goat, Green Crack, Triple Diesel, Strawberry Cough, Girl Scout Cookies. Aromatherapy! I’m 16 all over again. But this time around, my dad can cultivate a fine bouquet of wonderfulness whenever I want.
Not so fast. Our supreme leader and his band of merry henchmen want to steal the show, promising to crack down on recreational marijuana use, democratically legalized in eight states, by enforcing preemptive federal laws currently on the books. Will they drag us back onto that stomach-churning rollercoaster ride, snuffing out the booming businesses and growing tax revenues while stuffing our still overcrowded jails and prisons with more Americans prosecuted for victimless crimes?
Talk about a buzzkill.
Chapter Three: The Drug Van
by Dr. Rocket with Ms. Gonzo
Last time, as you recall, beautiful young singer Suze Benson, recruited by the bass player in her band to drive a massive load of pot from Texas to L.A., encountered her obsessed former schoolmate Imants Hasselburger, son of a powerful FBI man. She little realized he was determined to stalk her as she went to pick up the drug van, an act that would place her in terrible danger.
Rob drove fast on the flat straight road that led to his family farm. The road was usually deserted at night, and he gunned the ’67 Olds up to 80.
“Time for a recent oldie, from early this year, number one across the USA.” Suze grinned as the radio blasted out “Pick Up the Pieces” by the Average White Band. She finished her coffee with a gulp, dropped the cup on the floor mat, and nodded her head to the music vigorously.
“Love it!” she shouted, over the catchy horn riff. Rob, still distracted by his own thoughts, nevertheless smiled. But the smile faded as he looked into his rear view mirror, and he suddenly let up on the gas and turned the radio down. “Headlights back there, comin’ up fast,” he said flatly in response to her look. “Cops don’t ride out here much, but…” Rob stopped talking, and watched his mirror.
Imants’ mania eased as he saw how fast he was catching up to the Delta 88. The speedometer read 105, he realized with a jolt. He was going to blow this surveillance! He took his foot off the gas and hit the brakes. When he had slowed, he pulled over at a wide dirt turnaround and cut the Monte Carlo’s lights.
“Ha, kids going to drink beer and make out,” Rob grunted, refocusing on the pavement ahead and turning the song back up in time for Suze to sing along with the refrain. Another minute brought them to the dirt road turnoff that led to a dimly-lit farmhouse and various structures.
Rob’s parents had left town under unpleasant circumstances concerning a problem with the IRS. He and his younger brother Billy were staying on what was once their grandparents’ family farm ten miles out of Garland. Both of the Carter boys hated farming and they had sold the animals and equipment and let the property go wild, except for the barn and farmhouse which they indifferently maintained.
Lightning again flickered on the horizon as the Olds pulled into the barn. Suze, still singing softly to herself, immediately noticed the white, late model Dodge van which had been backed inside. Her paying ride to the coast. “Good lookin’ van, Rob.”
“’74 Tradesman. Only 20k on it. Heavy duty shocks, new radial tires. Drive ‘er slow.”
“My ex had a van like this, ‘cept older.” That creep. Suze shook her head, then gave him the thumbs up sign. “I’ll be jus’ fine.”
Rob’s brother Billy came out from behind it, blonde hair mussed, clad only in jeans and tennis shoes. Damn. He’s all grown up. “Hiya Suze!” he exclaimed, his handsome face beaming.
She and Rob got out of his Olds as she replied “Hiya Billy.” He came up to hug her. Damn kid smells good. Uh oh. She grinned when he kept hugging.
He had always been in awe of her, and she had often gently teased him. But that was when he was a teenager. Though he was a couple years younger than her, he was 21 now.
He finally let go and she looked around. The old barn smelled of faintly of hay, and something else. Must be the pot, she suddenly realized, with a tingle of excitement. Billy watched her approvingly. “Hope your last gig kicked ass. Would have been there if I coulda.”
“Aw, I know. Yeah, pretty good swan song. I’m proud of my boys, they went out with a bang.” She glanced at Rob, who was looking out the barn door at the distant lightning.
If possible, Billy’s grin was even bigger. “So you’re gonna be our new safety driver. Great call! Our other gal up and vanished on us.”
“I can understand why. She probably had too much time to think about it.”
Rob, expressionless, ignored the talk and went around in back of the van. He examined the interior through the opened doors. He called out, “So this is it, all finished here?”
“Yep, cases are loaded ‘n’ strapped in tight. We could slam on the brakes if we have to, that old load ain’t shiftin’.” Rob carefully closed the rear doors tight, locked them and walked back with a satisfied look.
Suze pointed to the Olds. “Rob could you pop the trunk, I gotta get my suitcase so’s I can change and shower before we go. Also phone the airport, cancel my flight.” She had intended to use the 7-11 pay phone, but a rapid escape from Imants had come first in her priorities.
Rob nodded. “Sure, go in the side door to the kitchen and there’s a hall bathroom. Fresh towel hanging on the rack.”
Billy chuckled. “Kinda fresh, anyway.”
The brothers watched the voluptuous Suze saunter towards the farmhouse, suitcase in hand. They were silent a few moments. “She keeps getting hotter,” Billy finally said quietly, and shook his hand as if it was on fire.
Rob grimaced, “Do not get distracted on this run. We fuck this up… oh man. Our lives are on the line, and mom’s depending on us now.”
“Don’t lecture me, bro.”
Suddenly Rob grinned. “Oh yeah?” Suze looked over her shoulder at the sound of laughter and scuffling to see the brothers wrestling. She watched a moment. The sillies. Well, boys will be boys.
Billy occupied her thoughts, as she walked into the house. His voice got deeper in the last year. Always this cute, little puppy-dog following me around. Hmmmm. When did the puppy turn into this hunky dude?
The kitchen was clean but smelled just a bit moldy. If there was air conditioning, it wasn’t on. Suze picked up the yellow wall phone and called the airport, but they weren’t answering at this late hour. Oh well, money gone. No biggie.
Next, she called her sister, glad it was earlier out in L.A. Sally picked up, and they exchanged greetings and small talk. After a few minutes of chatting about her band’s last gig and her sister’s baby, Suze told her not to pick her up at LAX, and not to expect her for at least a week because she was driving to Los Angeles with friends. Sally went silent, and Suze continued “Mom okay?”
Sally sounded peevish. “Yes, just worried about you as usual. Why the sudden change in plans?” She could hear her mother’s voice in the background, questioning.
“Oh, well, these are some old friends of mine. Rob is the bass player in my band. Just seemed like a good opportunity to see that part of the country. You know…”
A sigh of resignation. “You be careful and call once in awhile, so we don’t worry. Love you.” Suze could hear her mom saying “love you” in the background. A fleeting moment of regret for changing her plans, but then she thought about the money. All that money. Dad didn’t leave mom a lot. I can help her, too.
“Love you both, too. See you soon.”
Imants had motored past the Carter farm and turned around, parked a quarter mile down the road. He had been watching the house with a pair of powerful binoculars that he had found in his father’s Gladstone Bag. Suze was dimly visible as she strode to the farmhouse, stopped, looked back towards the barn, then walked on.
Impatient, and with a sick feeling in his guts, he hastily exited the car and scaled an old barbed wire fence, managing to bloody his hand, and set off across the weed-grown fields towards the dim lights. Wait. Farm dogs? He almost turned around at the thought, but forced himself on. Protect me, Lord. I must do your work here.
In the barn Rob and Billy were dusting themselves off. Rob’s face became thoughtful, and he frowned.
“Now listen here, twerp. I’m serious, be cool. And don’t say a damn thing about extra stuff.”
Billy gave him a phony grin. “Suze? She’s your friend. Why the fucking paranoia?”
“It’s being cautious. Best she only know what she needs to know, right? Better for her, safer for us. This ain’t a damn game, we can get killed in this business and our boss is one hard core scary bastard. Got it?” Billy was silent. “I said, you got it!?”
“If you’re so worried, then why even bring Suze in on this?”
“I’m only worried if you lose focus. Someone’s gotta be the adult around here, twerp.” Rob playfully smacked the back of Billy’s head, and Billy grabbed his arm. They wrestled around a moment again as Imants snuck past in the darkness. He looked back from the deep shadows for a moment at the shiny white van and the figures next to it. Then he moved on.
Suze had peeked into the living room. Most of the furniture was gone, with just a couch and a TV console. The nearly empty house echoed with her footsteps. A bit spooky. She walked back, puzzled.
The bathroom wasn’t nearly as bad, clean and with a nice fluffy bath mat to stand on, and she showered in good spirits. The cool water was invigorating, refreshing, a trigger for Suze who wailed into the echo, “well, since my baby left me, ba-dump, I found a new place to dwell, ba-dump, it’s down at the end of lonely street, at Heartbreak Hotel. I’ll be, I’ll be, I’ll be leavin’, Texas, baby, I’ll be leavin’ Texas, so I don’t die.”
Revived with water and song, she pulled back the shower curtain and stepped carefully out of the claw foot tub, looking at her five-foot-nine body in the full length mirror on the door. As always, just a bit over-critical.
Her lips pursed impishly. Still need to lose ten pounds. But men don’t seem to mind. Their eyes were always on the blonde hair and the boobs. So silly. Handy onstage. I’m not gonna worry about the weight, she decided. Here’s who I am, world. Here I come, L.A. She turned and shook her butt playfully at the mirror.
Imants, still worried about possible farm dogs, slowly crept to the brilliantly lit window, shade down but not all the way, window frame raised open a couple inches. He cautiously peered in, and what he saw seared his brain. For an insane eternity he drank in the forbidden visual, then reeled backward, and stumbled clumsily over a garden hose. Lust. Oh God. Naked. Sinner, I am. Never dreamed… Sweet Lord. Did she hear me? Back to the car. Back. Hurry.
Suze, oblivious to the world outside the bathroom, critically examined the bathroom’s sole towel, which hung on a towel rack and was just a bit damp. Right, Billy must have used it. Rubbing his pheromones all over her. At least they are cute pheromones. Well.
She dried off briskly and put her hair in a bun, then pulled some clothing from the suitcase and dressed. The shorts were a bit provocative, the silk top a bit flimsy for not wearing a bra. Nipples still standing up from the cool water. Damn, the boys will think I’m a tease. But, so warm, must be 85 still. Screw it. Maybe a bit of lipstick…
Indeed, the boys liked what they saw, but choked back their natural reactions in the gravity of the occasion. She got her purse from the Olds as Rob took her suitcase and put it back in the car’s trunk. Suze held the purse wonderingly. My purse has… all that money in it. All that money.
Rob walked back to her, waved in the drug van’s direction. He spoke quietly and urgently.
“You have a full tank, fluids are topped off. I’ll be behind ya. Billy and I will be on the CB. Should be no problems. Billy will navigate. Stay just a couple miles above the limit. Cops think it’s suspicious when you’re doing double nickel exactly. But at least you don’t look like a mule, not at all.” Rob grinned. “Those are music cases, and you are headed for a gig.”
Suze nodded. “I can dig it.”
“Good. If you get sleepy, Billy takes the wheel. Prolly get a motel in a couple hours before dawn.” He paused, walked to the van, opened the front door. “Ever use a CB radio?”
She nodded again. “Yeah.”
“All right. Billy will use it mostly when you’re drivin’.”
She climbed in behind the wheel, then looked around curiously. The back of the windowless van was piled high to the roof with tightly strapped instrument and equipment cases. They looked a bit scuffed up and had various stenciled letters and numbers, giving a strongly plausible music band look. But they were packed with dope, she realized. She felt a sudden shock at the thought of what she was driving.
Billy, carrying a small backpack, had hopped in the passenger door, slammed it firmly, and gave her a huge grin. She observed that he had put on a sleeveless tee shirt that didn’t do much to hide his physique. Hmm.
She sniffed. “That talcum powder?”
He smiled in admiration at her question. “Hey, pretty good detecting. Yup. Powder eats up that ol’ pot smell.”
“Well, that’s mighty smart of ya’ll.” She eyed the load. “Jesus, Billy… How much is there?”
Billy shrugged. “Uhmmm… lots.” Rob’s right. Better not tell her. About a lot of stuff.
Rob was examining the van tires one last time. He approached her window, which was rolled down. He looked at her critically. “You ok?”
She nodded. He leaned in to kiss her cheek. Suze acknowledged his kiss with raised eyebrows, but smiled. He walked away towards the farmhouse mumbling, “All right, all right, off we go.”
Suze started the drug-filled van, put the automatic transmission into Drive and very slowly motored out and across the rutted farmyard to the gravel driveway. They van swayed, and the cases in back creaked and strained. She adjusted her seat a bit closer to the wheel.
Behind them the lights in the house, then the barn winked off.
“Here’s to an easy run to LA,” Billy said resonantly in the darkness. He chuckled. That deep voice. When did it get so deep? Kinda startling here in the dark. Sexy, actually.
Rob’s headlights appeared in her side mirror as the Olds caught up on the long gravel driveway. She took a deep breath. Then she felt a big smile come over her. “Onwards and upwards, Billy!”
The two vehicles reached the paved road, turned right. The tail lights dwindled into the distance, lightning yet again flashing at several points to the north.
Down the road, Imants, still recovering from the heady stolen sight of his beloved Suze nude, was further stunned to see her walk from the farm house with her suitcase, and then when the van and car moved out. Suspicious, so suspicious. He started his father’s modified Chevy up, his thin lips pressed together tightly, and began pursuit.
(To be continued in Chapter Four: Night Drive)