Law and Order
The afternoon was pleasant today, with a strong sun and a cool ocean breeze. A perfect day to hang out on the beach with the Villagettes, drinking beer, discussing deep artistic concepts, and communing with nature. I tossed two six-packs into the back of the Island Car, fired up the engine — which is actually an hour-long process involving a key, a spark-plug wrench, two cans of dry gas, a small crowbar, and a potent fire extinguisher — and headed south. I was in a great mood, which is rare after a night in The Stump.
I had been driving south for just a few minutes when a pickup truck shot northward. It was a large, red pickup, beaten and scratched and rusty. I had never seen it before, in town or in The Village. As it barreled past, I glanced into the cab. In the passenger seat was Summer, looking more worried than I thought she could possibly be. In the driver’s seat was the Wiry Guy.
They had to be doing seventy-five miles an hour. That might not sound like much, but no one on this road ever goes that fast, with the obvious exception of Cory. The road is too rutted and heaved and washboarded and gouged to allow anything much over fifty. I don’t know how Cory and her baby-blue Bronco survive on it.
Naturally, I turned around and followed them. I’d love to report that I stomped on the gas, turned the wheel hard to the left, and did one of those great, dust-kicking, tire-squealing skids like you see in every crime movie on TV. But the Island Car isn’t up for such maneuvers, so I spent a good three minutes backing and filling in a classic twenty-seven-point turn in the middle of the road. My driving instructor would have taken my license away after I shifted into reverse for the fifth time.
But at last, I was heading northward at a dizzying thirty miles an hour. The Island Car has ground clearance like a pregnant sow, so I didn’t dare go any faster. Put it up over thirty-five or so, and the transmission would go into reverse while the rest of the car was still going forward.
When I got to town, I could see where the excitement was. A crowd was gathered around the Pop’n’Squeak, and I could even see flashing red-and-blue cop lights.
The sight of flashing lights on a cruiser doesn’t generate much interest in most cities, but it does in GSI for one important reason: The town doesn’t have a police car. This car must have come over on the ferry, which means two things. First, it was the State Police. Second, they planned this adventure in advance, which suggested that they were acting on some reliable information regarding a major problem.
With the blinking cruiser in front of the, I didn’t have to think too hard about what the problem might be.
I parked up the street and dashed into the crowd, my notebook and pen in hand. I wanted to look like a reporter. I don’t know why.
One police officer — arguably the tallest skinny person I have ever seen in my entire life — was standing outside the front door of the Pop’n’Squeak, doing the classic “back up everybody, there’s nothing to see here” routine. (Isn’t it fascinating how cops imitate art?) There was clearly at least one other officer inside, undoubtedly doing the “keep your hands where I can see them” drill.
The crowd was murmuring the way crowds usually do, sharing gossip and innuendo and rumor and pure fiction, but always in an authoritative, declarative way that suggests that everyone knew about this all along.
Eventually, the inevitable appeared. It was the other officer — a short, paunchy guy in the classic “Mutt ’n’ Jeff” tradition — pushing Floyd through the door. Floyd looked tired and angry at the same time, and his hands were clenched behind him in cuffs. Even for Floyd, this was pathetic. His clothes looked slept in, his face was stubbled and ashen, and his tobacco-stained teeth were glaring like an abused dog’s. He did the standard struggle-against-the-pushing-cop thing — doesn’t anyone think creatively in times like this? — and then the cops shoved him into the cruiser. The crowd parted slowly to let the cop car inch forward and turn back toward the ferry dock.
Off to one side, Summer and several others from The Village, including the Wiry Tattooed Guy from the pickup truck, huddled around looking pissed and desperate and sorry for themselves. I’m guessing they just lost the easiest link to wholesale drugs that this island has ever seen.
I saw Henry with a bunch of the townsfolk, so I trotted over to hear what he had to say.
“The State Police have informed me,” Henry began in his best press-conference voice, “that Floyd Houlton has been arrested on several charges. There are at least fourteen counts of various forms of drug trafficking, all of them involving quantities of marijuana that suggest that Floyd was a major distributor in this region.”
Region? I don’t think Floyd had to do anything but drive down to The Village once a week or so with a trunkful of interesting packages. He’s too lazy to build any kind of empire on the Eastern Seaboard.
“In addition,” Henry continued, “he has been charged with conspiracy, threatening to commit bodily harm, money laundering, and assorted other charges. He will be held in the Eastport Correctional Facility pending bail, and he will be tried in Machias County on these charges.”
Mentally, I added “selling dairy products past their expiration date” and “grossly overcharging for crappy little candy bars” to the list of charges, but I doubt I’ll ever file a complaint. In fact, I doubt I’ll ever see Floyd again.
I wondered whether Floyd’s incursion into the Coffin living room had anything to do with the arrival of well-informed officers. It struck me as a bit suspicious that Floyd gets busted just a short while after moving in on Meg. Are Henry and Cory so protective of their daughter that they would have an unwelcome suitor carted off to jail? Given that I haven’t been arrested so far, I actually thought that was OK.
Then I saw Suzette, Floyd’s mother, sitting on the Pop’n’Squeak steps, her cherry-cotton-candy hair looking streaked and faded in the sunlight. She was wearing her trademark gaudy costume — this time, it was a neon-teal paisley dress and a yellow scarf — and she looked like she’d just had her gall bladder removed without anesthesia. I sat down next to her.
“The kid is a shit,” she said, sucking on her vermouth bottle. “A mean, hostile, selfish shit.”
She grabbed my arm and looked at me. Her eye makeup was smudged and running down her face. Her lipstick-glossed mouth trembled. Suddenly, she didn’t look like the economic-development director, or the local prostitute.
She looked like a mother.
“Oh, God!” she wailed. She buried her face against my shoulder, doing untold damage to the fabric of my shirt. She cried loud and long, sobbing like her heart was breaking. When at last she had cried herself out, she looked up at me, messy and blotchy and devastated.
“He is my only child,” was all that she said.
— Donovan Graham, “The Shadowless Writer”
Comment — FreedomFirst: Serves him right. Lock him up and throw away the key.
Comment — Gemstone: I feel bad for his mother. She deserved better. But do you really think Henry had anything to do with this?
Comment — PriscillaW863: Well, that’s a relief. Maybe now that island will begin the long march toward decency.
Read previous blog entries in the Island Wars story by clicking here.