DROWNING IN A SEA OF MARIJUANA - PAPERBACK

SCREAMING BATFISH BLUES

SNORTING THE DEVIL'S DANDRUFF

SAILORS SHOOT HORSE! DON'T THEY?

Monday, May 6, 2013

TURN IT UP!

LOVE, LIFE, AND DEATH, SOUTHERN STYLE
BY
RON ECKERMAN

Join tour manager Ron Eckerman as he reveals the rigors of life on the road as Lynyrd Skynyrd takes the world by storm in 1976, and the ironic turn of events preceding the tragic plane crash in 1977. A crash survivor, Eckerman explores the personalities and characters of Ronnie Van Zant and company as they rip their way across the USA, and describes the horror of the crash itself.
(FROM AMAZON.COM)
I'm a huge fan of the original Lynyrd Skynyrd, I actually got see them perform over in Honolulu when I was over there doing time in the Navy. And I mean the original band, not the tribute band that tours under the name today. Don't get me wrong, I've seen the tribute band numerous times and they jam like a motherfucker but Johnny Van Zant is no Ronnie Van Zant even though he seems to think he is. And there is only one original member of the band left and that's Gary Rossington - and in several of the concerts I've seen the band old Gary seems pretty damn disinterested in the show  going on. Everyone else from the band that that were fired or survived the crash are either dead or are stuck in some sort of rock and roll purgatory. Allen Collins is dead from booze, drugs, and a broken heart. Leon Wilkeson is dead from drugs. Billy Powell is dead from both drugs and a bad ticker. Ed King is alive but has had heart issues and a transplant. The drummers are alive but the first drummer, Bob Burns, went bugshit back in the 70s over in London after supposedly dropping acid and watching The Exorcist and Artimus Pyle and is not allowed on stage for various reasons but the main reason is for probably calling out Johnny Van Zant in several publications as a "Fucking Punk!" There is bad luck and karma being associated with this band, a fact that is detailed in a fantastic article written back in the 90s about the group in MOJO magazine. The article even claims that someone slit bass player Leon Wilkeson's throat when he was sleeping in the tour bus while touring with the current tribute band.
That being said I've read about every book written about the band and I have to tell you that majority of them have fucking sucked! Gene Odom, a friend of Ronnie Van Zant, and who worked security for the band has written several books about the group and the results have been books that you can read on the shitter for a morning or two and be done with - quick reads with little information other than how much he loved Ronnie. FREEBIRDS by Marley Brant is the worst. She fawns over the band with such gusto that it makes you want to fucking vomit! The book is virtually unreadable. The most entertaining but full of the most bullshit is THE UNSOLVED MURDER OF LEON WILKESON by Dale Bowman. Bowman is a dude who claims Leon lived in his basement and was killed because members of the current band wanted his cut of the concert take.
TURN IT UP! LOVE, LIFE, AND DEATH, SOUTHERN STYLE by Ron Eckerman is the exception  here. Eckerman was the tour manager during the final days of the Skynyrd and he cranks out some pretty cool behind the scenes information here, the most notable being the background about the infamous plane that crashed (Eckerman was onboard the plane) in Mississippi that killed Van Zant along with Steve and Cassie Gaines and split the band apart for years before it eventually reformed. He also gives graphic detail about the flight itself (bone chilling actually) and the days after. Other than Van Zant, the character of the  members of the band isn't really fleshed out in the book other than they were a bunch of hell raising southern boys with enormous tastes for booze, drugs, and pussy. No shit? Isn't that one being in a rock and roll band is all about? But where the book really stands out is the background information about how seedy the music business is. Skynyrd toured virtually non-stop from its inception until the plane crash - selling out arenas and stadiums and selling millions of albums yet family members of the band complained that they couldn't even pay their bills. Promoters, friends, hangers-on, groupies, drug dealers, managers, it seems that everyone had a share of the take. Eckerman does drone on quite a bit on how managing the band took a toll on his personal life but other than the book is informative and really quite enjoyable to read.
On a side note, since I've spent quite a bit of time in Pensacola I really enjoyed the part of the book where Allen Collins was busted with a shitload (I mean a Raiford prison amount) of speed while the band was in P-Cola for a concert. Eckerman contacted an attorney who made a few phone calls to the local constables and after greasing a few palms Collins was released with all charges dropped. Things never seem to change in the Florida panhandle.   

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

LOCKED UP IN LA MESA




TRUE STORIES FROM THE WILDEST PRISON IN MEXICO
BY
STEVE PETERSON AND ELDON ASP
In the freewheeling '70s, La Mesa Penitentiary was a prison unlike any other, a colorful little pueblo on the east side of Tijuana that was home to the worst criminals imaginable—and their entire families. Everything was controlled by the inmates, and the world they created was a bizarre reflection of the one they'd left behind: There was a bustling business district complete with stores and restaurants, a prison laundry staffed by transvestite hookers and a babysitting service run by a schizophrenic murderer. Weekend fiestas brought drunken partiers to the prison, along with masked wrestlers and strolling mariachis. It was a temple of vice where the inmates had better guns than the guards, a place so out of control that people from the outside would actually visit the prison to score drugs. And at the very top of the food chain were the capos, an elite class of drug lords and gang bosses. While the average inmate lived in a makeshift shanty made of scrap lumber and cardboard, the capos had two-story casas complete with offices, harems, and Jacuzzis on the balcony. La Mesa at the time was both a deadly powder keg and a nonstop party. "Locked Up In La Mesa" is the true story of Steve Peterson, a young California surfer dude caught smuggling pot in the hills outside Tijuana. In thirty-four short stories of black humor and bittersweet humanity, Steve, together with writer Eldon Asp, recalls his hilarious adventures and scary close calls inside the most notorious prison in Mexico... 

(Book description from Amazon.com)
This book is never going to be on the New York Times bestseller list but that doesn't mean that it's not a damn fun read. This dude Steve Peterson got busted back in the 70s trying to smuggle a shitpot of weed across the Mexican border into the United States. He gets stuck in Baja California State Penitentiary in Las Mesa without going to trial for over a year before he eventually bribes his way out of the prison and across the border to freedom.
The book is really just a collection of the wildest stories he experienced during that year. Mexican prisons are totally different than prisons here in the States. Here in the good old U.S. of A. when you get sentenced to the joint you get three hots and a cot and a very good chance of getting ass raped if you don't have any gang connections. In Mexico when you do time if you don't have any connections, cash, or drugs you're basically homeless inside of a small city surrounded by walls that is run by Mexican drug lords with the assistance of corrupt prison guards and you are forced to survive by your wits. Steve Peterson survived a year in that environment and some forty years later tells his tale with a combination of black humor and bittersweet humanity.

Highly recommended!

Back in 2002 or so I wrote a short story that started out in La Mesa.

I called it:

 BLUE REPTILE
La Mesa is down by Tijuana. It's probably the worst prison in Mexico, maybe in the whole goddamn world. I was getting close to my third anniversary there and I was still relatively in one piece. I'd been pretty lucky so far since I hadn't been shot, shanked, turned out, or even had my ass kicked.
I had just come back from the weight pile and was relaxing in my casa, sipping a Corona and sharing a joint with my cellmate, Javier, a huge biker doing a life bit for murdering a rival gang member by hacking off his head with a machete. When the Federales pulled him over they found the head in one of his saddlebags.
Doing time in Mexico is a helluva lot different than it is back up in the states. In the good old U. S. of A. you can go to the joint and still expect to get three hots and a cot even if you don't have a damn dime to your name. In Mexico if you don't have any jack you're going to be sleeping on the floor in a communal cell with about fifty other indigents and shitting over an open hole while all your cellmates watch. And you're going to be over that hole a whole lot because your diet will consist mostly of beans, rice, and if you're lucky a bit of horse or donkey meat. All mixed together.
My stay was being bankrolled by my employer in the states. My inmate account had a check deposited like clockwork in it every month. It paid for my double cell which I shared with Javier, a semi-comfortable bed, a sometimes flushing toilet, decent chow, and if I watched my cash, some cervaze and a bit of smoke to tide me over.
Like I said before, I had been in La Mesa for close to three years. I had yet to even see a judge.
Javier was squinting through the smoke while wrapping a couple of rubber bands around his tattoo gun, getting ready for an appointment. Javier had been his gang's tattoo master on the outside and had kept up his craft while in the joint. I had become his advertising billboard. Whenever he came up with some new flash he asked me if he could try it out on me and if I agreed, would reward me with a case of beer, some weed, or get me a whore for the monthly communal visit. Problem was I was starting to run out of space. Javier was currently in the middle of a huge job that was putting him on edge, tattooing an intricate Virgin Mary onto the back of very well connected, very dangerous cocaine dealer.
I was standing over the toilet draining out some of Mexico's finest when I felt the barrel of the rifle pressing against the base of my skull. The pressure continued until my forehead was flush against the sweating wall.
"Put your dick away, ese, and put your hands behind your back."
Shaking it off, I put my hands behind me and felt the cuffs snap on tightly. A set of leg irons followed and a pair of hands roughly frisked me down. A couple of goon squad guards twirled me around and walked/dragged me past a wide eyed Javier, down the cell hall, through the yard past hundreds of gawking convicts and vendors, passing through a enormous medieval looking metal door, and into the back of a waiting prison van.
I figured the long wait for my trial was finally over.
The van raced off in typical Mexican driving style, about a 120 miles an hour. I was sitting on a flat metal bench and whenever the driver took a hard turn I was thrown onto the floor. After what seemed like forever we pulled into a town because the driver slowed down to about a hundred. Suddenly the van screeched to a stop, throwing me straight into the metal screen separating me from the guards. Blood was pouring from a nasty gash over my eye.
I had rolled over on to my knees when the back door opened. Two gigantic U. S. Border Patrol agents who looked like their entire diet consisted of horse steroids and protein shakes, were standing behind the Mexican guards, dwarfing them. They stepped back and watched through their mirrored sunglasses as the guards extracted me from the van and removed my restraints.
The biggest agent stepped forward, punched me in the stomach, grabbed me by the shoulders, and threw me spread-eagled over the hood of their Suburban, and handcuffed me again, seemingly all in one motion. Snatching me by the elbow and back of my belt, he did a neat little pirouette and literally threw me into the back seat of the vehicle and slammed the door.
"Stay the hell down, asshole!"
Gasping for air and trying to sit up at the same time, I saw that we were at the Tijuana-San Diego border crossing. Cars were backed up a hundred yards waiting to cross back into the states and tourists were gawking out their windows at the display they had just witnessed. The driver drove up to the border checkpoint station, honking his horn, and forcing his way into the line and through the checkpoint without stopping. We pulled on to U. S. soil.
I couldn't fucking believe it!
"Hey! What the hell is going on? Where are we going?"
The guard in the passenger seat glared over his shoulder at me. "Didn't I tell you to stay down, shitbird? I have to say it again you're gonna get a taste of this." He was brandishing a large canister of pepper spray.
Taking his advice, I tried to make myself as comfortable as you could with your hands cuffed behind your back, and tried to watch the San Diego scenery drift by, but it was rather hard from my vantage point. Soon the drone of the tires on the road and the sweet comfort of the air conditioning lulled me into a semi-deep sleep.
"Get the hell out of the truck."
Before I had time to open my eyes, someone had grabbed me by the ankles and pulled me out of the truck and on to the hard packed ground. I was rolled over on to my stomach with a knee jammed into the middle of my back while my hands were freed of the cuffs. The guard also taking the opportunity to step on my head.
"Stay down until the truck is in motion, convict!"
The truck fishtailed off, spraying me with sand and gravel. I stood up slowly, spitting sand out of my mouth. They had left me somewhere out in the desert. The sun was blinding. About fifty yards away stood a battered old Quonset hut. As I walked towards it a door opened.
"Look at all those tats! You look like shit, Negro!"
An unusual statement since he was black, and although I had a great tan that comes naturally from hanging out in the yard of a Mexican prison for three years, I still considered myself to be from the white persuasion.
"Agent Lawrence, nice to see you again. Always expected a visit but you must have been busy." I was being sarcastic.
Jameel Lawrence was as always, even in the oppressive heat of the desert, dressed impeccably. Matching cream colored shirt and pants, silk tie, brown alligator skin shoes, pork pie hat with a little feather, razor thin mustache, and hanging from his right hand, a chrome 9mm with pearl handles. A weapon I had once told him only a pimp would own.
He stepped back into the warehouse and beckoned me in with a lazy wave of his free hand.
"I'm sorry about that, Buck. But it wasn't too long after you got popped that some assholes in the media got wind of our operation in South Central. Took a while for that shitstorm to die down. I was having to lay low until I could pay off a couple of those wetback judges and get you released into our custody."
"And now what?"
He shrugged his shoulders. "You're a free man. I got you a little pocket money to get you back on your feet." He pointed over to a comer of the warehouse. "You're Jeep is under that tarp. All tuned with new rubber."
I walked over and pulled off the tarp. There sat my old battered Jeep. In the front seat was a leather valise with some clothes. I turned around and faced Lawrence.
"Three years! Three fucking years in the worst shithole you could imagine and this is how I get paid. All the dope I muled for you assholes over the years and I get new tires and a little spending money."
"Well, cry me a fucking river. What the hell did you think was going to happen if you got busted with a thousand pounds of horse? Community service? Shit, man. Grow up. I could have let you rot in that prison. You were goddamn lucky I was around for you. If it hadn't been for me you wouldn't have lived as good as you did when you were locked down." He reached into his back pocket and threw a envelope to me. " 15 large. We're fucking even."
I opened the envelope and ran my fingers over the bills. 'Fifteen thousand! You guys spend that much a week on snitches." I threw the envelope in the Jeep. "They would've had to let me go sooner or later anyway. There was no evidence."
Lawrence sighed wearily. "What can I say? You lost over five hundred kilos of heroin and a Cessna 310 in the bust. You earned close to a million dollars with a us and you were taken care of when you went inside. Who knows what could have happened if it had gone to trial? The Agency feels it's done enough for you." His eyes softened. "Just go home, Buck. Start over. It could have been a lot worse. They found your buddy Norman wearing a Colombian necktie in a fleabag in downtown Tijuana. Horrible sight."
He turned to go and hesitated. "You still like to sample the products?"
"It helped pass the time."
Lawrence reached into his shirt pocket and tossed me a glass vial. Inside was a blue colored gel caplet. "Some new mind expanders from the boys in the lab, if you know what I mean. Wait till you get home though. You don't want try to drive after you take this shit."
He headed out the door. "They call it Blue Reptile. Later, Negro."
Fueled by caffeine, greasy burgers, cigarettes, and a bottle of Jack Daniel's, I made it home to Minnesota in just under thirty hours. My old Jeep had run like a dream.
With my smuggling earnings I had bought five acres of wooded land just outside of Moose Lake and built a nice little cabin on the property, both cash on the barrelhead. Having been gone for three years I didn't know what to expect. The cabin was heated by a combination of solar power and electricity and I paid the electricity bill by direct deposit so there was a good chance that the power was still on. But for all I knew it could have burned down or been ransacked.
I turned down the dirt driveway and stopped at the gate. The chain still held it shut and the lock was intact. I opened it up and continued on up to the cabin. Amazingly from the outside it looked good though the yard resembled a jungle. When I walked in, other than the musty smell, the place looked the same as it had the day I'd left to fly the load out of Ensenada. The VCR was flashing 12:00 so the power was on.
I walked through the rooms hoping not to find a body. Bongo, my big tomcat, had been left to fend for himself after I had been busted and my wife left. His gravity feeder which held twenty pounds of food was long empty. Water was no issue since he either drank out of the toilet or out of the stream behind the cabin when the weather was decent. He could come and go as he pleased through a little door in the back porch. He either had split after growing tired of waiting for me or had fallen victim to a wolf or some redneck's deer rifle. Bongo was the only remaining connection to my marriage. I swallowed down a lump in my throat.
I put away the groceries I had picked up in town, pulled my Colt .45 down from it's hiding place on one of the crossbeams, then laid down on the bed and slept straight through the next two days.
It took a few days to get the cabin back to living shape. When the job was finally done I was sitting on the front porch, drinking a beer, and grilling some chicken. It felt so good to be free. It had all happened so fast I hadn't had time to think about it. There were no more counts, no worries about some gangbanger trying to run a shank through me in the yard, no perverts hitting me up for sex, no guards to pay off, it was all over. Now I was enjoying a nice breeze coming in off the lake and birds chirping in the trees. Maybe Jameel was right. Maybe it was time to start over.
Suddenly remembering the vial that he had given me, I decided to celebrate. Walking out to the jeep I opened the glove box and found the vial where I had left it. I popped the vial open and dropped the caplet into my hand. I held it up to the light and looked through it's clear aqua blue color. I had taken LSD manufactured by the CIA several times before. Always in small doses. It was a very different kind of trip. Very intense since it was engineered for interrogation or mind control, definitely not the kind of shit brewed up by some hippie in his basement. I washed the caplet down with a swig of beer.
Within minutes I knew I had made a huge mistake.
Everything was suddenly lit up like it was made out of fluorescent neon colored lighting, my whole body felt like it was made out of rubber, my hearing was so tuned in that I thought I could hear ants crawling across the floor. I closed my eyes and vivid flashes of color were popping and flashing like flashbulbs. Opening them back up I looked over at the radio. Led Zeppelin was jamming on Rock and Roll, the notes of the music were pouring out of the speakers and pooling on the floor, the volume overbearing. In a rage I took the radio and smashed it to pieces against the wall. I felt incredibly nauseous, staggered over to the railing and projectile vomited a geyser of molten lava that rolled down the incline of the yard like it was bubbling from a volcano. When I looked up a horned, winged demon was staring at me from the woods, giving me the finger as he crouched down and stroked his barbed penis with his other hand. I grabbed my pistol and fired madly at the devil but only succeeded in shredding a white birch to shreds. Every time a round hit the tree's trunk it exploded in a techno-color blaze. The demon shot to his feet and flew off into the woods. A red hot ejected piece of brass flew over my shoulder and went down the back of my shirt. I felt it melt into the back of my neck and exit out at the base of my spine. I threw the gun down and puked again. A rocket ship or some kind of UFO came screaming over the cabin at tree top level, setting the tops of the trees on fire.
Staggering into the house I collapsed on to the couch and covered my head with a blanket. I heard a loud banging and looked up at the rafters. An enormous multi-colored woodpecker was hammering away at a beam, then suddenly flew straight at the wall and exploded, turning into a large blue lizard with bright red eyes.
Curling up in the fetal position I covered my head again with the blanket and prayed for this nightmare to end. My skin was crawling and my insides felt like I had eaten a bowl full of spiders.
When I came to, everything was deathly quiet. Uncovering my head I saw the lizard was still crawling lazily across the wall, his tongue lazily snapping in and out. I looked at the clock, five hours had passed. The room was filled with a pleasant golden glow and a toasty fire burning in the fireplace that I didn't remember lighting, was warming the air. Silver butterflies filled the air. Seems the worst of the trip was over.
Bongo, my orange Tabby, was sitting on the coffee table looking at me with a big grin on his face.
A grin?
"How ya doing, Buck? It's been a long time."
Obviously I was still quite high. I sat up and stared at the big tom. "Bongo?"
"Never knew I could talk, huh?"
I laid back down on the couch and roared with laughter. "Jameel was right, this is some crazy shit!"
Bongo jumped from the coffee table to the foot of the couch and sprawled out. "I'm glad you're back, dude. I was sick of eating garbage and vermin. Where you been?"
"Prison. I got busted on a load and was locked up down in a Mexican jailhouse." I rolled off the couch and walked over to the refrigerator to grab a beer. My legs felt like they were ten feet long. I slammed a beer down in three long gulps and popped another. I opened a can of tuna and put it in front of the big cat.
"I can't believe I'm talking to a cat." I giggled again. "Guess I'll have to roll with it
The cat shook his head in disgust. "Drugs again. It's ruined everything" He glared at me, eyes filled with fury. "It drove Zoe away."
Zoe being my ex. Just hearing her name made me weak.
"I'm sorry, Bongo. But I miss her too."
"Not so much that you couldn't give up the smuggling and dope when she wanted you to. If you had quit all that shit she'd still be here."
I lit up a Camel, and laid back down on the couch. These incredible, orgasmic like, weird rushes were going up and down my body. Looking up at the skylight I saw a tree frog like creature looking down at me. The UFO must have landed. I was glad my pistol was still out on the porch or I would have been replacing a skylight. "I couldn't quit then if I had wanted to. She just didn't understand."
Bongo finished his tuna with a loud belch. He started washing his nuts, stopped suddenly, and looked up at me.
"I don't understand you. You had everything and pissed it all away. What's been eating you up inside all these years?”
I flicked my cigarette at the cat, missing his head by inches. "What are you, my fucking shrink?" I screamed at him. "You're just a part of the trip! A hallucination! When I wake up in the morning you'll be back to being a goddamn alley cat! I don't have to listen to this shit!"
Bongo's eyes turned a bright red as he arched up and hissed. His head expanded to the size of a cougar. It was a frightening display and almost literally scared the shit out of me. I was still feeling pretty queasy.
Shivering, I closed my eyes and gave into the acid. My voice sounded like it was a thousand miles away.
My old man was working at HormeL The company that makes SPAM and that shitty tasting chili that you use to always like when I ran out of cat food. It was just him, me, and my grandmother. My mom had run out on us years ago, the old man never told me what happened to her. It wasn't bad though. We had a lot of fun. Dad treated me more like a pal than a son. Hell, he got me a six pack and a hooker on my sixteenth birthday.
But there was one small problem. I was stretching the truth when I said my grandmother lived with us. She was with us in the house. But she was dead. A couple years back she had stroked out and the old man still wanted her social security checks so he wrapped her in plastic and dry walled her up behind a wall in the basement. He kept signing her checks for her.
Then one Saturday night the old man got tanked on booze and downers. Ran a stop sign at seven o'clock on Sunday morning. Killed a entire family on the way to church. He got charged with four counts of vehicular manslaughter, possession of weed, and burying his mother in the basement and cashing her checks. He got twenty to thirty in the state pen in Stillwater.
I had no, other family so I got sent to a youth work farm outside of Albert Lea
called Frank's Place.
Frank was a retired military man and a burly old alcoholic who ran a tight ship. He had around fifteen boys on his farm ranging in ages from twelve to seventeen. Even though I was sixteen I was roomed with another kid who was only twelve. His name was Stevie. Stevie told me that Frank was shitface drunk by eight every night and then he left an older boy named Randy in charge. In prison Randy would be considered your average predator.
At supper time, Randy, who was about six foot and two bills, told me to come to his room after lights out, he had to talk to me, set down the farm rules.
I had a good idea what the meeting was gonna be about so just before lights out I filled a sock with pennies out of Stevie's change jar and tied it off with a knot. I wrapped my right hand with tinfoil out of the kitchen and wrapped athletic tape around it.
At lights out I walked down the hall to Randy's room. I knocked lightly and walked in.
The lights were out but the moon was full and I could see Randy laying naked on his bed. He laid there looking at me as he played with his erect cock.
“Get in here and close the fucking door, bitch.”
When he stood up and walked to me, I swung the sock and smashed it against his head. The sock exploded spraying the room with pennies. Randy dropped to this knees. I grabbed him by the hair and punched him with my tinfoil covered hand as hard as I could for as long as I could. He dropped faced down on the floor. I kicked in his ribs for good measure. I could hear them crack like wood popping in a fire.
Frank found him the next morning and had him rushed off in an ambulance. No one ever saw Randy again. I ran the farm after that.
Two years later I joined the Navy.
"I never knew you were in the military."
Opening my eyes I looked over at Bongo. He had a mouse pinned down on the floor and was slowly torturing it to death. The mouse struggled to escape, his tiny squeaks as loud as the shattered boom box had been, but the big cat kept him pinned to the floor with his paw as he gnawed on the back of it's neck. "Shhh. Be quiet now." He looked over at me and grinned, blood pouring down from his fangs. I fought back the impulse to barf again.
"Yea, I was in the Navy. Remember that time you pissed all over my old sea bag in the closet and I chased you out the door with a broom?"
"How could I forget?" The mouse gave a final squeak as his skull was crunched by the jaws of his conqueror. "You told Zoe you were going to have me neutered if I did it again. I think you might have regretted that."
Frank signed the papers since he was my legal guardian. I went to boot camp in San Diego and then went to cook school right after that. Two days after I graduated from the school I was on a frigate going on a westpac cruise. I spent my first hitch on that ship and went on three westpacs. Second cruise I brought back five pounds of pot that I hid it in the galley cooler. Made a small fortune on it. So the next cruise I decided to expand. Brought back fifteen pounds of pure heroin. Had a connection who bought the whole load. When I re-enlisted, I got transferred to a weapons and biological warfare base in Indian Head, Maryland. I kept in touch with my connection in San Diego and every other month I’d fly out to the west coast and drive back a load of smack, blow, or grass in a old used car that I'd abandon in a parking lot somewhere in the District. Indian Head is close to Washington, D. C and I became the main source for quality H for the gangsters on the southern end of our nation's capital
It was hotter than the gates of hell and I was dropping off a load at my main customer's place in the projects up on Southern Avenue. Three pounds of smack in a gym bag. Sid was my connection's name and he was one weird dude, A black albino with only leg, the other one shot off in an old turf war, Sid was phobic about germs and noise. The inside of his place was sealed like a recording sound booth to keep the sounds of the street out and it was always kept at a chilly sub-sixty degrees.
Things felt wrong the minute I walked into the place. Sid's crew of four bodyguards was there, drinking beer and smoking crack, all of them wearing Redskins sideline jackets. The damn place was so cold you could almost see your breath. There was a naked chick covered in goose bumps that was giving out blowjobs as they hit the pipe. That was all normal.
What wasn't normal was the middle aged black man, dressed to kill, who was sitting in the kitchen with Sid. The kitchen table was covered with Glock 9 mils still in the boxes and what looked like some sort of machine gun. Sid introduced me to the guy. His name was Jameel. The whole deal felt wrong so I dropped off the gym bag, collected my cash, and split, ignoring the offer of a BJ on my way out.
Three fuckin' days later at work. I’m working the grill in the officer's mess and when I look out the window I see Jameel sitting with a table full of brass. Nothing but Captains and Admirals. When I throw a club sandwich up on the window he looks at me and smiles. After the lunch shift was over he met me out by my car.
Jameel had a offer for me that I couldn't refuse. From now on I delivered the product straight to him. The money was better but the risk was higher. Jameel wanted double the load every time I made a run. He even provided me with a bodyguard. An ex-Green Beret named Norman who had served time in Leavenworth for dealing dope in Germany. Things were out of my hands now. Jameel was with the Agency. CIA. If I said no to the arrangement it would be either the brig or a slug in my brain pan. It didn't take long to figure out what he was up to. He was moving dope to get guns. The guns were going somewhere down to South America.
"When it came time to re,-up, I got out. The money was better on the outside. Jameel sent me to flight school, set me up with the Cessna, and I started flying loads in and out of Mexico twice a month. Jameel had moved his operation to Los Angeles to concentrate on dealing with the gangs there. LA gangs were getting more juice than the Mafia. Norman would meet me in the desert north of San Diego and load the plane for the flight to Mexico and he'd be there to meet me to offload when I came back. Guns out, dope in. It was a cash business for me. I owned a Corvette, the Jeep, a Harley, a boat, and bought the cabin. I still had so fucking much money that I stuck it in plastic drainage pipes and buried it in the barn.
Bongo was chewing on my forearm! Trying to tear apart the tiger that was permanently inked on there. I tried to slap him across the head but my reaction time was way off and he bounded away, laughing hysterically. Blood was pouring from the tiger's mangled head and I stared in amazement as the gaping wound suddenly disappeared.
"Those tattoos look like shit. You look like a fuckin’ punk." Bongo had jumped up on the kitchen counter and I swore was now dressed in a tuxedo and a top hat. His long fluffy tail was clutching a cane.
"You're the second person in the last three days to say that, Mr. Peanut." I laughed, relieved that my arm wasn't actually mangled.
The lizard had crawled on to the ceiling and was now directly over me. Looking down with sparkling diamond shaped eyes. I was desperately craving another beer but didn't think I could figure out how to open the refrigerator once I walked over to it. This shit would not wear off, felt like it was gaining strength.
"If only Zoe could see you now. She'd be sickened."
"You know, Bongo, when I first met Zoe she was flashing her tits at a strip club in Minneapolis, so she has no room to be too fucking judgmental."
"I know what she did for a job, dipshit. Remember I was around before you were.
My voice softened. "I remember the night I met her. I thought I was big time. I had more money than I could spend and a unlimited supply of blow. I was hitting the Minneapolis night scene, hanging out with pro wrestlers, actors, rock and rollers, even players from the Vikings. I saw her up on that stage and swore to God that I had to have her. When we went back to her place that night you were curled up sleeping in her laundry basket. You were about as big as that can of beer. Just a little ball of fur."
Bongo jumped up on to my chest and curled up. His motor started running as I scratched the top of his head. "I wanted her to stay, Bongo, I really tried hard. But it drove me crazy knowing she was showing her ass to all those scumbags at the club and she wanted me out of the Life. We fought all the time. She didn't understand that I couldn't just walk away. Jameel had me by the nuts. I wanted to make one more big score and we could take off. Go to Tahiti or somewhere where no one could ever find us.
I met Norman out in the desert. He looked like shit. Partying way to hard. All of Norman's cash was going out for hookers, heroin, and Johnny Walker Red. He had had some run ins with the cops and had to be bailed out several times. I thought he was becoming unreliable but Jameel didn't agree. He had a load of Mac10s for me to fly down. So many of the goddamn things I could hardly get the Cessna off the ground, barely clearing a bunch of cactus plants at the end of the runway.
What neither Norman or Jameel knew was that I wouldn't be coming back to meet Norman. Once that heroin got loaded in Mexico, I was flying balls to the wall straight to a little airport just east of San Diego. Sid and his boys would be waiting for me there. Sid had been more than a little pissed when Jameel had moved his operation to LA and started doing business with the west coast enemy. It hadn't taken me too much convincing to get Sid to take the whole load at a huge discount. After I collected my cash from Sid the plan was to catch a commercial flight to Minneapolis, pick up Zoe, and head off to points unknown. A fresh start
I landed west of Ensenada, the contacts waiting with a old U-Haul truck with five hundred kilos of pure smack. As they offloaded the guns, topped off my fuel tanks, and loaded on the horse, I wandered over to the side of the truck to take a piss and get a drink of water. As I was zipping up, I glanced up and saw what seem ed to be flash of light from off of a piece of something shiny, like a mirror or a hunk of metal, way off on a hillside. Looking behind me I saw dust rising in the air from the direction of the only road coming in.
Tearing ass back to the plane I fired up the engines and started to taxi down the runway. I was halfway down it when shots started ringing out. The passenger windows exploded in a shower of glass and a slug passed through tail of the plane, passed over my shoulder, and knocked out the front windshield just as the wheels left the ground. Machine gunfire strafed the bottom of the plane. I could hear the tires on the landing gear blow out.
I was barely a minute off the ground when the starboard engine started on fire. Shutting it down quickly I banked sharply to the left and headed out over the ocean in a northeast direction. I was going to fly out as far as I could and ditch the plane. Hopefully all the evidence would sink with it. About half an hour out I started to lose oil pressure in the remaining engine. Putting on a life jacket, I took the plane's fire extinguisher and knocked the remaining glass out of the windshield and started to make my descent.
The impact was incredible and I split my nose wide open when I was thrown into the instrument panel, but as soon as the cockpit began to flood I was able to pop my seat belt and swim out through the broken windshield. The plane and the heroin sank like a stone. Not one bale popped to the surface.
I don't know how long I floated out there, but when the Mexican Navy patrol boat found me I was in bad shape. Dehydrated and sunburned beyond recognition. Luckily the blood from my shattered nose didn't attract any sharks. I woke up in the prison hospital ward in La Mesa.
After I recovered sufficiently I was moved to a communal cell where I spent two days. I was the only white guy in there and spent the first day just trying to fight off getting robbed of my ostrich skin boots or getting ass raped. The second day Jameel must have finally located where I was and greased some palms because a guard came and moved me to my cell with Javier.
About a year later a letter from Zoe floated through the Mexican postal system and found it's way to my cell She was leaving me and wished me luck. I could keep the cabin and whatever was left inside, and the cat, you.
And that's where I've been for the past three years, Bongo. Killing time, lifting weights, letting Javier tattoo me, smoking dope, drinking beer, and waiting, waiting for my trial Hoping that a miracle would happen so I could walk out the gates of that Godforsaken nightmare.
"Bongo? Bongo?" I shouted.
It was morning. Sun was streaming in the windows and the open front door. The fire had burned out. Beer bottles, an overflowing ashtray, and a empty tuna can covered the coffee table. I walked out on to the porch and retrieved my pistol, popped in a fresh clip and put it down the back of my pants.
The blue lizard was no where to be found. Either was Bongo.
I showered, brewed some coffee to help try to clear my fuzzy head, opened another can of tuna for Bongo and put it down on the porch, and then tried to choke down a plate of eggs and toast.
The coffee seemed to help clear the fog some, so I poured another mug and settled down in front of the television that Zoe must have missed when she was cleaning me out. When I turned it on, Norman was looking at me from the screen, his throat was slit from ear to ear and his tongue had been pulled down so that it was hanging out of the wound.
"Better listen to Jameel or this is how will end for you!"
I ran forward and kicked the tube in with all the strength I could muster.
"Jesus Christ! How long can this shit last?" I screamed to the cabin.
I needed to get outside, away from the cabin. So I took a shovel out to the barn and dug up the floor, hoping that Zoe might have missed some of my hidden cash. After a morning of digging, sweating and cursing, I came away disappointed. Not a fucking thing.
When I opened the door to the tool room to throw the shovel inside is when I found Bongo.
I don't know how long he had been dead but his body was sort of mummified. He was curled up just like he had been on my chest last night, like he had died in his sleep.
I found a quilt in the cabin, wrapped him up in it, and buried him behind the cabin in the shade of a big maple tree. Sitting down next to his grave I contemplated how shitty my life was and how shitty my options were.
A familiar voice in my head began to chant, do it, do it, do it. With one motion I reached back, pulled out my pistol, and shoved it into my mouth, the taste of gun oil almost gagging me.
“That’s Jameel talkin’. That’s why he gave you the acid. That fucking spook knew what it would do to you. That shit will either fry yea outright, suck on a gun, or jump off a building.”
Pulling the pistol out of my mouth I turned toward the voice. Norman was standing there. His gaping throat wound was just a thing pink scar but both his eyes had eight ball hemorrhages. I could feel the drug, Blue Reptile, surging through me again.
“Jameel? Jameel wants me dead?”
“Not Jameel so much as our old buddy Sid. When you crashed that load of weed out in the ocean Sid lost all those guns you traded to the Mexicans for the dope. Sid’s not the kind of guy to take that shit laying down. He laid some cash on Jameel to get you out of the slammer so he could even things up. That’s why Jameel gave you that LSD. He knew it would knock your dick in the dirt and Sid and his boys could roll on in here without a fight.”
“But Sid was in on the deal to rip off Jameel. Why would Jameel help him?”
Norman shrugged his shoulders. “It’s just business between those two assholes, dude. They’re constantly fucking each other over and then forgetting about it the next a big deal rolls around. Look what they did to me after you left me out in the desert holding my dick.” Norman stretched his neck back and the cut split wide open. I threw myself to the ground, burying my face in the grass as he shrieked with laughter.
I must have laid there for hours, refusing to look up. Suddenly the quietness of the woods was offset by the low throaty rumble of a muscle car. I sat up and brushed the grass and dirt from my face. Norman was leaning against a tree grinning at me.
“That’s them coming up your road,” he nodded towards the sound. “Make up your mind quick. Either bust ass and get out of here or stand your ground.”
I picked up my pistol and opened the slide to make sure a round was in the chamber.
“I always thought that you were a no good bastard, Norm. But I’m sorry. I am sorry that I left you to take the fall.
Walking over to the driveway I planted my feet and sighted down the barrel at the Pontiac GTO coming down my driveway.
***