Stan Whittaker, the owner of the farm, was in Detroit for the day. Serving as host to the many visitors at the pig farm was his best friend, Gene Peters, who lived just down the road. It had been a busy day, with dealers coming and going since noon. Now, with the sun dropping in the western sky, sending long shadows through the pines, a chill was in the air, and the mood was that of a happy summer’s end.
Rhino, Smitty, and Big Red (from Chicago) were getting ready to leave. They dealt primarily in heroin and never liked to hang around for the post-business parties.
This is what everybody else was up to: Negro Ned was doing one-arm pushups and taking a bong-hit. Skinny Teddy and Tattoo Freddy were cheering him on. Dylan’s mom (everybody called her Little Red) was picking up cans and putting them into a cardboard box while smoking a cig. Willie and Shiner were shooting up out back. Harvey Handjob was passed out on the floor of the kitchen. Man Mountain Dean had placed his chair carefully over the top of Harvey’s head and he was playing quarter-bounce with Daisy and Flo.
No-neck and Roach were tripping. Danny was in the living room looking for a DVD. He was ransacking the place. Tina’s baby was crying. Tina, Stan’s cousin, had been shacking up with a new boyfriend down in Flint for two weeks. She’d left her three-month-old in Stan’s care. This task had been delegated to Little Red and then down to sixteen-year-old Rita from Detroit. Rita was busy upstairs with Stan’s son Slow-Joe. They were in the Master Bedroom, making out.
Just before heading upstairs, Joe and Rita had smoked a joint down in the moldy basement of that ramshackle farmhouse. Rita was scared she was pregnant: she couldn’t keep her mind focused. Joe could tell something was wrong with her, but he figured it was her problem. Moondog, a handsome Belgian Shepherd, was up on the kitchen table, polishing off some pancakes and sausage links. He was wagging his heavy tail right in Daisy’s face. She couldn’t get him to stop.
The cat was yowling and the water pump was grinding away because the toilet-flap wouldn’t seat right and nobody had the inclination to fix it. It was simpler to turn up the stereo and that’s just what Gene Peters did. There was so much going on that nobody saw the cop cars slow down and stop out front of the house.
There was a locked, wooden gate at the end of the drive and the driveway was a hundred yards long. It took the police about two minutes to exit their cars, to re-establish the chain of command, and to confirm each one’s responsibilities. They squeezed through the busted-down part of the fence and came right in. That’s the way they always did it.
There were two State cops, a sergeant named Billy O’Conner whose wife had just left him, and a detective named Leon Loeb who was a really tough guy, and smart, too. The Sheriff’s team included a raw rookie named Wilber Scott who still had acne and a big fat deputy named George Lawrence, who was as mean as a Brahma Bull with a spur in his eye.
The township boys were quiet and polite. Those two were Dallas Perkins and Horace McCarthy. Horace was just two weeks shy of retirement and a pretty good friend of mine. Dallas was a steady hand who had been on the force for a little over one year. They were working on a burglary. Last week, when the two of them were out asking questions, nobody on the farm had been at all co-operative. The investigation was still nowhere; but the policemen were anxious to eyeball the place again and see if any of the stolen goods were in sight. If there were any new characters in residence, they planned to question those new suspects about that robbery. Neither Horace nor Dallas figured they’d have much to do regarding the assault at the school. The County and State cops would be carrying the ball. They were just along to provide additional backup in case there was trouble.
They spread out in two rows, three columns, State, County, Township, shuffling their way down an overgrown two-track that passed for a driveway, heading towards the nasty old farm house.
Rita saw them first. She was laying on her back, looking out the second-story window.
“Oh, my god, Slow-Joe! The law’s here,” she said.
“What the fuck,” said Joe, jumping off Rita and springing to the front window. He banged his head on the lintel and was rubbing his bruised noggin as he ran back towards the hallway-door without even pulling his pants on.
“Hey! Hey! Listen! The cops here,” he shouted.
“What?” Gene hollered from downstairs.
Joe pressed down against the railing at the top of the stairway. “The cops are here,” he yelled. “The fuckin’ cops! Cops!”
Outside the house, Rhino had just straddled his 1989 Electra Glide. Smitty and Big Red were arranging their duffels in the trunk of Smitty’s 1957 Chevy coupe. Those cops were still working their way down that long driveway, stepping around the deep, water-filled potholes and looking around warily when Rhino kicked the Harley into life. He waved at the house, revved the engine up a couple times and hammered the big bike into first gear. He waited for his partners to get into the Chevy, nodded towards the cops and then he cranked the accelerator. A rooster-tail of dirt flew up into the air when he let go of the clutch.
The old hippie shot straight across the yard in front of the house, digging a shallow rut in the clay and the patchy lawn. He cut it sharp to the left as he hit second gear, skidding wildly and nearly losing it. Then he raced directly towards the policemen. He jammed on the rear brake and slid sideways, downshifting into first, about twenty feet from the cops. O’Conner, Scott, and Perkins had their pistols in their hands. The three older law enforcement officers just looked at one another. The game had begun. Ten feet off the drive, the motorcycle rumbled past them at about five miles per hour. Rhino nodded to them, smiled widely, and proceeded down the drive, a model of biker refinement and gentility.
Up near the road, Rhino pressed down on the brake and rolled to a halt next to the dilapidated fence. He jerked the bike up on its center stand and climbed off. Next, he unlatched the gate and pulled it open. He took one long, last look at the farmhouse and the platoon of law enforcement officers about to assault it, shook his head, spit on the ground, and returned to his motorcycle. It was still running, grumbling in that unique way that only a Harley Davidson can. He swung his right leg over the seat, balanced himself, and pushed forward, releasing the stand. Then he was gone.
Every cop I’ve ever met appreciates powerful old cars. The ones here at the pig farm were drooling over the classic turquoise Bel Air with the white roof that Smitty and Big Red were just climbing into. The dim interior light sparked its reflection in the depth of the car’s custom paint job. Even in the fading light of the dirty Michigan sky, it seemed to radiate a glow from within itself. The menacing growl emanating from beneath the hood said “big V-8”.
Sitting behind its oversized steering wheel, Smitty gave the car’s horn a couple long blasts and he waved his hand at his friends inside the house. The car rolled haltingly towards the police. Smitty and Big Red were nervous as a pair of dogs in a thunderstorm. They were both pretty loaded and the trunk was, too, with a few pounds of dope, a suitcase full of money, a semi-automatic Winchester and a Colt Python. Big Red, in the passenger seat, took his sunglasses off the dashboard and slid them down over his face.
Sergeant O’Conner had put his pistol back in its holster and his hands rested on his wide hips. He had a 1955 Chevy at home and would have liked to swap stories with the two men before they drove away in the ’57. He wondered if it had a 409 in it. It sure sounded like it
did. He wished he could think of a reason to ask them to open up the hood. His partner, on the other hand, was stewing about that biker and he was in a mood to hassle these two characters.
“Hold it right there,” yelled Detective Loeb, holding his hand up, outstretched in front of him.
Big Red put on a concerned look and asked, “Something wrong, officer?”
“Yeah,” the cop answered. We’re looking for Mary Lou Turnage. She here?”
“Yeah, she’s up at the house,” Big Red replied. “Look, We’re running a little late, officer.”
Loeb could think of no reason to prevent them from leaving, so he dropped his arm, backed off to the side of the drive, and waved the two men past. The cops stepped aside, three on either side of the car, and the Chevy
slid past them. Every one of those cops raised up on his toes, hoping to see something illegal inside the car.
“Son-of-a-bitch,” said Big Red as they turned onto Chalmers Pike. ”I’m glad them fuckers didn’t get here ten minutes ago. Let’s roll.”
The two men held their breath as their car twiseted delicately around the three cop cars at the gate. Then, like a fish shaking off a hook, the old Chevy shot down the dirt road.
Inside the house, Gene was spraying air freshener all over the joint. Teddy and Freddy had their arms filled with illegal drugs and paraphernalia. They scrambled out the back door, looking left and right for the law. If the house was searched, there wasn’t a safe place to hide the stuff. They were heading down to the creek. Dean and Daisy and Flo were pretty wasted. They’d polished off a quart of Jack Daniels and they just sat at the kitchen table, dumfounded. Little Red tossed the box of beer cans down beside the stove in the kitchen, jumped over Harvey, and ducked into the bathroom to check herself out in the
mirror. Her eyes were like black holes in space. She ran into the bedroom and dug her sunglasses out of her purse. The cops were knocking at the front door of the house. She fumbled with her shades, dropping them twice on the bed before pushing them over her wild eyes.
“Hey baby,” Ned called out. She turned around and he tossed the water pipe at her. She snatched it out of the air and ran with it back to the bathroom. Once there, she flushed the skunk-smelling water down the toilet. That made the whole bathroom reek. Her hands shook as she hid the pipe down in the back of the vanity. She piled some shampoo bottles and some toilet paper rolls in front of it.
“Mrs. Turnage.” It was a nice-sounding voice, very resonant. That was Horace McCarthy calling out to her.
She gargled with some mouthwash, and ran a brush through her hair before she yelled back, “I’m in the bathroom.”
She looked in the mirror and saw a junkie.
If the cops looked into her eyes, they would know she was high. She left the glasses on. Then, she spritzed some perfume on her neck and figured it was showtime. She left the bathroom and passed through the master bedroom. Ned had pasted his back to one of the bedroom walls and he squeezed himself beside the door that opened into the kitchen. He shushed her silently and pulled his index finger across his throat. His eyes were bugged out and he was mouthing, “No. No. No.” There was a warrant out for him. He didn’t want any part of talking to those cops. She rolled her eyes, and made a face at him as she stormed past him. Men. Not worth a goddamn thing, she thought.
The cops climbed up on the rotting front porch. They asked about Little Red and Gene told them she was inside and that they could come in. Moondog lumbered off the kitchen table and he came growling into the living room with his hackles up. Gene deftly grabbed him by the collar and forced him up against a wall.
“You want some coffee?” Gene asked the police officers. A couple of them paid attention to him and shook their heads as he wrestled the dog past them and out the front door. “I gotta put this dog on his chain,” he told them. I’ll be back in a minute.”
Then he was gone.
The policemen stood around, their prying eyes digging into everything. Their nostrils were wide like dogs on a scent. confident there was some illegal activity going on and they were itching to see or smell some evidence that would allow them to tear the place apart. The cloying perfume of the spray air-freshener told them they had just missed something. They exchanged questioning looks. The State Boys were wondering if they had reasonable grounds to start shaking people down. The sheriff’s crew had never been out to the pig farm before. They were sort of overwhelmed.
Little Red was the center of attention when she strutted into the living room. She had a look about her like a Gypsy. It was a contrived look, but it worked. She had on a white blouse with sleeves like deflated balloons and her pleated skirt was purple with yellow smiling moons
on it and it swirled across the floor as she glided in to challenge the cops.
“What is it?” she asked, crossing her skinny arms in front of her chest.
“Mrs. Turnage?” asked Detective Loeb.
She nodded and gave him a black look.
“Mrs. Turnage. Is your son here?”
That took her aback. She hadn’t expected they were here to hassle her about her kid. “No,” she said coldly, glancing at her wristwatch, “He’s over to some friend’s house.”
“And what friend would that be, Mrs. Turnage?” asked the detective.
“Probably Tammy Horton, that’s his girlfriend. He might be at Bobby Fremont’s place. Why do you want to know?”
“He got caught selling dope at school and then he beat up the principal.”
Without a moment’s delay, she snapped back, “That’s impossible. He doesn’t use drugs. And he would never lay a hand on the principal. He’s a good boy.”
The detective stared at her like she was a roach. “I repeat: he was caught selling narcotics at school, earlier today. Then he assaulted the principal, put him in the hospital. We need to speak with him.”
She turned white. She didn’t know what to say or what to do. What she did was she lit a cigarette. She flipped the wooden match into an ashtray, swallowed a bunch of smoke and then tilted her head back and spit a plume of haze up at the ceiling. She still couldn’t figure out the best way to respond to the policeman’s revelations about her son. So she got mad. That usually worked for her.
But it didn’t work on these cops. Not at all.
“You’re fucking lying,” she said. “Get the hell out of here.”
The cops all looked back and forth at one another, grinning. That made her even angrier.
“Don’t you laugh at me, you fuckers,” she snapped. She turned her back on them and stormed into the kitchen.
All six policemen were right on her tail. She looked around, exasperated, at Daisy, Flo, Dean, and at Harvey, sprawled out in various stages of intoxication. She took another hit on the cigarette and smashed it out on the kitchen table. She was looking up at the ceiling,
“Miss Turnage. Do you know where the boy is?”
She looked down at her hands. Her fingers were curled up like a hawk’s talons. Her back was still to the police.
“No. I mean, yes. He’s not here. He’s at one of his friend’s homes,” she muttered. She spun and faced them. Her mouth was tight her eyes were hot. “You’re the cops. You find him.”
“You’re not being very co-operative, Mrs. Turnage. How about giving us the phone numbers of the kids he might be with.”
“I don’t know their phone numbers. I don’t even know if they have phones.”
“You don’t keep very close tabs on him, do you?” Sergeant O’Conner remarked.
She just stood there, twisting her lips.
Deputy Lawrence was staring off into the bedroom where Ned was hiding. He was amazed and disgusted by the curtain of thick black cobwebs clinging to the bedroom door. Without looking at Little Red, he said, “Don’t seem like you’re much of a parent.”
She slapped him. It was just a reflex action.