Lafayette County police
68. Bust at the Halloween Ball – Saturday, October 30
“You’re looking awfully pleased with yourself,” Cindy remarks as I pass her the car keys to drive to the Jitney Jungle for party food. “Maybe now you understand why I keep telling you to get a real bed.”
Dr. Hirsch is the first guest to arrive for our Halloween Ball, followed by Clamor, and then by Rose, who’s brought three of her sorority sisters with her, doubtless to witness the authentic bohemian squalor that exists just across the railroad tracks from their old money splendor. They can’t stay long. They’ll be off in a bit to one of tonight’s blowouts on Fraternity Row.
“Look, they’re not even wearing costumes,” I hear one of the sisters whispers.
This isn’t exactly true – Garrett’s wearing a Richard Nixon mask.
“They’re poor,” Rose explains, acting as tour guide to the lower classes. “Most of these people can barely afford regular clothes. That one,” she adds, pointing to me, “doesn’t even own a winter coat.”
“And it’s going to be a cooooold winter!” I add, using my Old Prospector accent.
Ashley steps up and wraps her arms around me. She’s decided she can stay until morning and still make her Monday rendezvous in Dallas. “That’s okay, baby. I’ve got something right here to keep you warm.”
With Garrett’s paycheck for the week, Cindy’s been able to buy lots of food and Wild Irish Rose, and somehow Garrett himself managed to score four bottles of Jack Daniels. It’s a good party, but a little more raucous and sharper-edged than our usual. Blame the absence of grass for that.
Ashley has her eye on Clamor.
“What a fascinating girl.”
“That’s Clamor. And we’re not sure whether she’s a girl or a boy.”
“Oh, come on. That’s definitely a girl, can’t you tell? And she’s lovely.”
I make the introductions and stand idly by as they chat for a few minutes.
“Who was that man I saw you meditating with the other day?” I finally ask.
“That was no man. That was the sheriff.”
“That was the sheriff.”
“Why are you meditating with the sheriff?”
“Because we haven’t gotten around to astral projection yet.”
“Oh, I’ve done that,” Ashley says. “It’s amazing.”
At this moment, Joan steps through the crowd, radiantly perfect with a plastic cup of Wild Irish Rose in her hand. She begins to speak, notices Ashley’s arm around my waist, smiles, and vanishes back into the hubbub of the room.
“Come to bed,” Ashley whispers in my ear a little while later.
We retreat once more to the bedroll in my room and listen to the party below. Music and voices. Voices, music and laughter. Music loud, voices loud. Music softer, voices lowered. Then suddenly a loud voice. No more music. Other voices – angry, alarmed. Footsteps ascending the stairs. Voices complaining.
I leap from the floor, switch on my lamp and have barely managed to clamber back into my jeans when the bedroom door flies open and Deputy Hacker storms in.
“Shut it! I’ve got a warrant,” he shouts before I’ve managed to utter a squawk of protest.
“Allow the young lady to cover up,” I say.
Hacker – to his credit – acts the gentleman and turns his back while I pass Ashley’s t-shirt to her. When he faces us again, I detect an expression that I’ve never seen him wear before. The man’s embarrassed. It’s an angry embarrassment, but embarrassment nonetheless.
A second cop steps into the room behind him. They perform a visual of the room that lasts no more than 10 seconds.
“Nothing here,” the cop says.
“I knew it’d be a goose chase,” Hacker complains. “Let’s move on.”
They turn to leave. They haven’t checked my pockets, looked into our shoes, opened the closet door, rummaged through my pile of dirty clothes, unscrewed the lid of my jar of Tasters Choice, nothing I’d expect from a routine search.
Hacker and his buddy are already out the door. I follow them to the steps. Below, a small army of lawmen are exiting the front door. This is good news, and I know I shouldn’t jinx it by engaging Hacker in any further discussion. But I have to ask.
“What were you guys looking for?”
“Beer,” Hacker barks back at me. “Just plain old goddamn beer!”