By 4:00 PM CK was feeling like God had just shown His appreciation for his efforts to shut down the concert industry by helping him to land his second major contract in two weeks. Between the deal and tonight’s concert at Leatherneck Park in Oceanside, he was feeling like a very powerful man. That high was short lived as his cell phone vibrated and he checked the caller ID.
“Yes, Father,” he said.
As usual, his father began the phone call with a reading from the Bible. Upon concluding the reading, his father said, “The devil will be everywhere in the cities this weekend, my son.”
“Is he not also in the country, Father?” CK asked.
“We country folk spend more time in church and less time giving ourselves over to the urges of the flesh.”
CK said, “The Lord has been instrumental in helping me to succeed in business.”
“I don’t believe there are many Patricians seated at the right hand of the Father in the kingdom of heaven.”
CK wished he could find a way to explain about how he was going to shut down the concert industry. But he knew his father would instantly start lecturing on the Sixth Commandment, Thou Shall Not Kill. So he simply asked, “How is Mother?”
“She’s nearly worried to death that you’ll lose your soul associating with the godless masses in the city,” he thundered.
“It’s not where you are, it’s who you are. You and Mother did a wonderful job instilling a set of morals and values that don’t change with my address.”
His father began citing verses from the Bible, and CK tuned him out. He removed a dollar bill from his wallet, and stared at the Eye of Providence until his vision went out of focus. When he heard his father pause, CK said, “I have to go, Father. May the Lord be with you.”
“And also with you, my son,” he replied.
CK changed out of his business suit and into a pair of black jeans, a USMC sweatshirt, sneakers, and tucked the bill of a red Semper Fi cap into the back of his pants. He then pulled a yacht club windbreaker over the sweatshirt to wear through the resort lobby. He had made a reservation under an assumed name at a cheap motel in Oceanside, not far from the Marine base. This is where he’d change into the Halloween costume he would wear to the concert.
Kelly reminded me at least three times during the month that her high school friend, Lynette, was working at a haunted house in downtown San Diego throughout the Halloween season. I called at lunchtime and asked if she wanted to go see Lynette tonight. She was thrilled that I was paying attention. Lynette told her that if we went through the haunted house at the back end of the first group, she’d be able to chat for a minute and was looking forward to meeting me. Kelly thought the box office opened at 6:00 and the first tour went through at 6:30. I made reservations at a nice Italian bistro in the Gaslamp Quarter, not far from the haunted house, for 7:30.
Kelly suggested we wear Halloween costumes in keeping with the spirit of the weekend. But, knowing that the restaurant would not be catering to revelers, I told her we shouldn’t compete with Lynette’s outfit and should probably dress in the kind of casual clothes that horror movie victims wear.
Just before 6:00 we arrived at the box office, only to read a sign that it opens at 6:30. After a quick scan of the immediate area, I spotted a Hooter’s nearby and suggested we kill the half-hour by getting a drink.
“You were doing so well, up to this point,” Kelly said.
“Oh, c’mon. It’ll be fun.”
“Fun for you. This was probably part of your plan all along”
“I’m not the one who said the box office opens at 6:00. I’ll bet the waitresses are dressed up for Halloween.”
Kelly reluctantly went along with my plan and, sure enough, the waitresses were in Halloween costumes. Our waitress was dressed in what appeared to be official USMC underwear, with a few cuts and tucks to the boxer shorts. Kelly landed a kick to my shinbone after I saluted her and said, “Private Pleasure reporting for duty, sir!”
After she took our orders and retreated to the bar, Kelly said, “I’ll bet you’re a riot at the tittie bars.”
“I don’t go to those places, except when I’m tailing someone for work or providing moral support at a bachelor party.”
“I saw how you looked at her,” Kelly said in a teasing manner.
“Just because I’m on a diet doesn’t mean I can’t look at the menu.” Classic quotes, like classic rock, can be timeless.
“Unless you want to switch to the No Fun Diet I suggest you be mindful of your eyes when she returns with our drinks.”
“I’ll stare at the floor as a sign of my true devotion to you, my love.”
Five minutes later our saucy soldier returned. True to my word, I held a $20 bill in my hand as I stared at her feet. “What color nail polish is that?” I asked.
“It’s camouflage, to go with my outfit,” she replied. “Do you like it?”
“I don’t think it’s such a good idea.”
“Why not?” she asked.
Looking into her eyes for the first time since she returned, I replied, “You don’t want the boys calling you camo toes, do you?”
My smile turned to a grimace as blood rushed to my shinbone.
The Jarhead Inn was everything CK expected. The desk clerk wasn’t the least bit surprised when CK said he didn’t have a credit card, but pulled out a small roll of twenty-dollar bills. The room would be $49.95 for the night.
“I’ll need $100 security deposit if you don’t have a card,” he said.
“Right,” CK replied, and pealed off five bills from his roll. “I like to get an early start in the morning. What time does the front desk open?”
“6:00 AM, sir,” he said.
“Banker’s hours,” CK said. “Are you OK with settling up right now if I let you keep the balance of the deposit for your trouble?”
“Yes, sir! That would be fine, sir!” the clerk said enthusiastically.
CK walked a block and a half to his car, returned with his suitcase, and carried it up a flight of exterior stairs to his room. After placing the suitcase on the floor at the foot of the bed, he closed the curtains and turned on all of the lights. He then dropped to his knees near the head of the bed, and with his fingers interlocked on the bedspread, CK recited the Lord’s Prayer aloud. Then he took a very hot shower, dried himself thoroughly, and stretched out naked on his bedspread for the next hour, staring at the ceiling. Statements such as: “I am a soldier in the Army of the Lord,” and, “Tonight I am the physical embodiment of the wrath of God,” were recited over and over.
CK arose from his bed at 7:30 PM and removed a costume from his suitcase. First, he put on a pair of red boxers. Over them he wore a pair of bellbottom blue jeans. He considered a similar pair with embroidery around the bottom hem, but decided against them to avoid standing out in the mind of one of the motel guests, should he be seen leaving for the concert. CK pulled on a T-shirt with the word “Nahum” stenciled in an abstract font across the front of its tie-dyed pattern. He then added nondescript socks and a new pair of cheap sneakers he picked up at a discount retailer in the South County.
He removed a long black wig he purchased in Los Angeles the previous week. Then he pulled a black cigar tube from the suitcase. Black electrical tape held one end of a small chain to the cigar tube, while the other end was attached to a black alligator clip. CK put on the wig, pulled it back into a ponytail, and used a black band to hold it in place. He then removed the wig, clipped the cigar tube into the ponytail, and tied the bottom end with a second band. He added a third band in the middle to make sure the tube didn’t poke out of the tail. A tie-dyed headband was removed from the suitcase and put in his pocket. He placed a fake beard, spirit gum, and a change of clothes in a Marine backpack he acquired at a military surplus store.
CK pulled a crewneck USMC shirt over the tie-dyed shirt. Then he carefully wound the ponytail on top of his head and placed the large red Marine cap over it. He felt for both ends of the cigar tube, to make sure the hat’s shape wasn’t distorted.
He removed a dollar bill from his wallet and a black pen from a suitcase pocket. Starting at the bottom of the Great Seal, he drew a black line through the lower four rows of pyramid blocks. He drew a broken line through the fifth row and said, “There are 13 rungs on my ladder. As I ascend these steps, help me to be worthy to enter Your kingdom.”
CK left his motel room at exactly 8:00 PM and trotted down the stairs. When he reached the bottom he heard, “Hey soldier, what’s the hurry?”
He spun around and saw a hooker in her early thirties standing in the doorway of the motel room at the foot of the stairs. All she was wearing was a miniskirt-length red T-shirt that read I’d rather be screwing a jar.
CK asked, “Isn’t there a man in your life who would rather see you dead than giving away your favors?”
“I ain’t givin’ nothin’ away, soldier. It’ll cost you fifty bucks if you want any favors from me.”
CK briefly considered citing scripture on how a harlot could still attain the kingdom of heaven if she would only repent. But a voice within reminded him to stay focused on one mission at a time.
“I’ll save my fifty for the collection plate.”
“You do that,” she said, “and I’ll save my pussy for after you get drunk. Knock four times if Mr. Seagrams changes your mind.”
Dale Ebonrite worked most of the shows at Leatherneck Park that attracted a teens and twenties crowd. He was thrilled that tonight’s show featured a techno band. Dale’s biggest profit margin came from selling ecstasy, which was the drug of choice for this crowd.
Leatherneck Park was Dale’s favorite concert venue. It’s the home of the Oceanside Leathernecks minor league baseball team, which goes out of its way to attract a family-oriented following. Behind the stands, down the right field line, is a children’s playground which is within the concourse, but sealed off from the rest of the park to make it easy for parents to keep an eye on their kids without worrying about wanderers, perverts, or drunken patrons. A small restroom is located adjacent to the playground, which is where Dale handles all transactions. His friend on the security staff was well connected and always managed to get assigned as the sole protector of that section. He kept his distance to avoid scaring off customers, but remained close enough to call Dale on his cell phone if one of the few Oceanside police officers assigned to the show happened to wander his way.
As usual, Dale planned to start dealing as soon as the warm-up act kicked off. He would quit around the third or fourth song of the headliner, then watch the show and troll for latecomers and those who wanted to double their pleasure. Business was brisk during the warm-up act and the break that followed. Two of his regular customers had bought him beers, which he finished just after the headliner took the stage.
On his way to Leatherneck Park, CK stopped his car in front of a vacant elementary school. Pulling his backpack up from the passenger seat floor, he removed his USMC shirt, and attached his beard with spirit gum. He then made sure his wig was straight, added the tie-dyed headband, and tucked the Marine shirt and cap into his bag.
He arrived inside Leatherneck Park 45 minutes after the warm-up was slated to begin. He immediately ordered two beers and began cruising the concourse. After a few minutes he found what he was looking for – a group of three girls in their late teens. They were dressed in bee costumes, that is, if bees suddenly decided to adopt a sexy look and spend the day at the beach.
“Hi girls,” he said.
“Want to help us get our buzz on?” asked the queen bee.
CK shared one of his beers and asked if they knew where he could score some X. They told him they weren’t into it, but would pay him to buy them more beer. He told them he could get in trouble for that, but allowed them to keep the one they were passing around.
A few minutes later he hit the jackpot. He saw two girls wearing glo necklaces and sucking on lollypops shaped like baby pacifiers. His online research told him these items were very common among ecstasy users. For a mere two sips of beer he was directed to the playground and told to say: Heather said to get me rolling.
By the time he got over there he could hear instruments being tuned and knew that the break was nearly over. He stood in the concession line nearest the playground and thoroughly inspected the surrounding area for security cameras. The only one he could see was aimed at the concession stands, so he pretended to reach for his wallet, checked his other pockets, and left the line without angling his face toward the camera.
Surveying the playground, CK saw about 10 people crowded around the swing, so he veered away and found a spot that was reasonably well lighted and away from the crowd. He pulled a piece of paper from his pocket and studied his notes on the names and opening lyrics of the headliner’s top songs.
As the band started playing he saw several people leave the playground area. Concerned that the dealer might close up shop to see the band, CK took another pass by the playground and saw three people bopping to the techno beat next to a playground swing. He decided that techno music made him feel less like dancing and more pressed to get on with his mission.
After glancing at his notes once again he saw a Halloween reveler with gigantic lips and teeth painted across his face emerge from the bathroom. CK backed off and waited. He discretely removed the cigar tube from his ponytail, then slid a capped syringe from the tube and put it in his pocket. When the next song started he recognized it as the third one on his list, and certain to draw the fans into a sight-line to the stage. Sure enough, he saw four people run from the playground.
As CK entered the playground he saw a guy of about his same age sitting on a swing. He was aware of CK’s presence, but acted very casual.
“Heather said to get me rolling,” CK stated with a smile.
“Step into my office,” Dale said, gesturing toward the restroom.
“Don’t mind if I do.”
When they got inside, Dale asked, “Straight X, or would you prefer kitty flipping?”
Time constraints trumped CK’s curiosity about the nature of kitty flipping. “Straight X.”
“They’re fifteen each. How many do you want?”
“Two ought to do me,” he replied. “But, before we do this I gotta ask you a question. I’ve been having a problem getting my girlfriend to put out. Do you think your X will do the trick?”
Dale replied, “You want some advice from the love doctor? Hang on a minute. I gotta take a piss.” He then turned his back on CK and stood in front of the urinal. As soon as the dealer faced the wall, CK removed the syringe from his pocket and pulled off the cap.
Dale said, “Your girlfriend wants it just as bad as you do. She’s just being controlled by the guilt that her parents are laying on her. The X will make that guilt roll away.”
“I gotta piss, too,” CK said, as he approached Dale.
When Dale started to zip up his pants, he glanced over his right shoulder just in time to catch sight of the syringe. His right forearm caught CK just below the elbow. Dale pivoted on his left heel, and tried to spin away. But he was pinned against a small tile wall that separated the urinals from the sinks.
CK used his legs, left shoulder and arm to hold Dale against the wall while he gripped the syringe in his fist with his thumb on the plunger. Dale put his right foot against the wall behind him and pushed. He expected his assailant to back up. But 18 years of farm chores built a lot of muscle mass. All Dale’s move managed to accomplish was to cause a blue drip to form on the tip of the needle, which was now just an inch from his eye.
“Take the cash and the stash. You know I’m not gonna report you,” Dale said in a strained voice.
“Not interested, pusher,” CK replied.
“You’re that girl’s brother. You can’t blame me. She told me she was buying the ten hits for a party. I couldn’t know that she’d take them all herself. You gotta believe me!”
CK lowered the syringe a couple of inches. “So, you’re not just a pusher, you’re also a murderer. The devil’s got a special place for guys like you.”
Dale desperately tried a head-butt move that he had seen in 100 movies. CK responded by pulling his head and shoulders back while keeping his hands in place. He also instinctively closed his eyes and turned his head. Before they reopened CK felt a tremendous weight pull his hands down.
For a moment he couldn’t comprehend what had happened. The pusher briefly convulsed on the floor while facing the tile that was at his back. A final spasm whipped the pushers head around and CK saw the syringe sticking out of his nostril. Dale had impaled himself on the needle as he finished the head-butt.
“That must be the kitty flip.”
CK peeked out the restroom door, then returned the syringe to the cigar tube and stuck it in his pocket.
He then removed a note that said X=V from a back pocket, and dropped it on the floor. After adjusting his wig in the mirror he glanced at the dealer and said, “Nice doing business with you.”
Aside from the Hooters detour, the evening went very well. I convinced Kelly’s friend that she nearly threw my heart into arrhythmia when she came out of nowhere in makeup and clothes that made her appear to be a pre-Technicolor, black & white zombie. She was as elated as an aspiring actress could be over her rave reviews.
Kelly and I discussed our domestic spat shortcomings over dinner, but in a positive way that made us feel like we were moving forward in our relationship. After dinner we stopped for a couple of drinks at Dick’s Last Resort, where the people-watching on Halloween weekend made the Star Wars Bar look pedestrian.
We were home before midnight and headed straight to bed. Normally, Kelly’s prep routine takes twice as long as mine and I’m in bed long before she emerges from the master bathroom. But I let her know I was taking the dog out to the backyard to be sure she was in bed first.
Earlier in the day I found a Big Bad Wolf rubber mask in the garage. After a little digging I also found the Granny outfit that Kelly wore in a school play last year. While Colonel Hogan did his business, I put on the outfit, cued up an old Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs CD, and put the CD remote in the apron pocket. I left the mask off until the last possible second, since prior experience taught me it didn’t take long for a rubber mask to make my face look like I just ran the Calcutta Marathon in record time.
After a couple of minutes the main light in the bedroom was replaced by Kelly’s blue meditation light. When Batman sees the Bat Signal he knows to get ready for some action. Kelly’s meditation light was my Bat Signal. Yes, I knew I’d be getting lucky with or without the costume and soundtrack. But, as any guy who’s ever taken his girlfriend to the back row of a drive-in for a horror film will tell you, a well-timed scare can be a powerful aphrodisiac.
I turned off the rest of the lights, moved to the left of the bedroom doorway, pulled the mask over my head, and pressed play on the CD remote. Right after Sam the Sham sang, “Who’s that I see walking in these woods? Why it’s Little Red Riding Hood,” I pounced on the bed and let rip with a powerful, “Aaaaahhhhhooooooooooooo!”
Kelly shrieked the scream of an amused participant. A second later the phone rang three feet to her left and it scared the shit out of her. I was hoping Caller ID would allow me to stay with Plan A. I’d been dying to launch into my parody as Sam sang “What big eyes you have” but it was not to be. Detective Walter Shamansky would only be calling at that hour for only one reason.