Life’s a Beach and then You Die
Sometime soon, somebody will discover an abandoned hippie van with links to three dead people. Traces of drugs and semen and god knows what all will be found among the carpet fibers of this four-wheeled wagon of sin. SATANISTS INVADE FLORIDA! Might be the headline in the Baptist Weekly.
I stick poor Dorie inside Bagley’s sleeping bag and clean out the van. I throw a pair of Bagley’s tennis shoes, shorts and a T-shirt, into the crashing surf. I leave behind Bagley’s wallet and Elton Kirby’s wallet, keep Keith Waverly’s wallet. Then I stuff all forty-five kilos of coke and some clothes into two military duffels and throw them in the trunk of the Chevy.
Just before I drive away, I remember to go back and close the curtains on the van and say my farewells and regrets to Dorie.
I mean, what was I supposed to do? I really had to kill her. I could never have become partners with the heinous likes of her. And I couldn’t have faced the responsibility of loosing Dorie on an unsuspecting world, with her in possession of massive quantities of cocaine and a loaded handgun. Again, I’m providing a public service. Born to serve—that’s me.
Dan Bagley and Dorie, I figure, were like two peas from the same pod, except Bagley had the good fortune to be born rich while Dorie, on the other hand, had to learn to lie and cheat out of necessity.
I’m beginning to see a new path. The seventies are fast approaching a horrible end and I can see an inkling of the new way.
It is time to be done with spiritual angst and uncertainty. The time is right for worshipping a new god, the god that the so-called successful people are already bowing and scraping to—Money. Covetousness dressed up as Enterprise.
With cash as your guide, there is no guilt or agonizing soul searching. No one wails or gnashes his teeth, unless the stock market crashes. One simply accumulates—always going forward—come hell or federal investigation. And after accumulating, you consume. Then you discard. It’s as easy as one two three.
Feeling spiritual, I anoint my new Holy Trinity.
MONEY, SEX and DRUGS form the new Godhead.
These are things that you can feel and experience. Not pie in the sky and self-denial. This time around, I’m not going to get caught short. I’ll be riding high on the crest and running the shoot, hanging five on a golden surfboard.
First things first, though. I have to get back to Tampa without getting caught by the cops. Then I need some cash, a new mode of transportation and an outlet large enough to handle mucho kilos of Peruvian Marching Powder. Talk about your millstones.
If I think about it too much my head starts to spin. I have no choice but to take it one step at a time. I decide to wait on the beach for a while; in a couple of hours it will be dark.
After five minutes of vacant staring, my stomach is flopping so bad I have to leave.
I continue down the frontage road until it winds its way back to Highway 19. I turn right and head south through Homossa Springs until I hit State Highway #98. I turn east, roll through Brooksville and then all the way to the freeway.
It’s a soft evening with no wind. Sun is falling, red as blood. As the roadside lights start popping on, the sky turns gray and then black and I’m swallowed up in the swarm of traffic. Just another white-trash night for the guy in the maroon Chevy.
I’m strangely relaxed; emotion seems to have left me for the time being. The drive is surreal, like I’m floating on air and the only sound is the hiss of the tires. Like a homing pigeon, my instincts are bringing me back from whence I came. Or at least to the general vicinity of my lousy apartment.
Why am I going home? I’m really not sure. I only know that I must get rid of the Chevy—find somewhere to dump it—and the only area around here that I know is near Twin Lakes. One thing in my favor: there are so many complexes and parking lots in the area and—correspondingly—so many cars—that one more decrepit sedan can disappear in the crowd without much trouble.
About a quarter-mile from Twin Lakes I turn into the parking lot at Palm Gardens: a vast, fern-surrounded, apartment complex that stretches across an entire square block. I park and walk the remaining distance to Twin Lakes through the buildings. All logic has left me. I’ve become a hound following some long-ago scent. I walk on until I get to the laundry room behind my apartment. That’s when something makes me stop.
Voices seep from the glow of the laundry room. I change direction, walk behind the laundry building and down to the next breezeway, which takes me to the far side of the pool area, directly across the water from the glass doors and living room window of my old place.
I step out into the open and sit down in a poolside chair. I can see inside my former home; the curtains are open wide. Mike is on the couch watching television. I can’t move, no matter how much I want to.
Envious of the seeming peace inside that warm light, I hope that they’re at least a little worried about me. At least Mikey. But then again, what am I to them but an occasional interloper who always seems to run off when the going gets tough?
A slight breeze kicks up, carrying laughter from the second floor. Something wells up inside me but it isn’t the same familiar pain, only a spasm from a memory. Not really longing but more a confusion that leaves me numb and wondering, more curious than hurt.
I sit in the chair until I see Carole come to the window and look out. Looking right at me but not seeing. She seems to search the darkness for a moment then pulls the cord and the drape slides closed. I stare at the orange glow behind the curtains for a long minute and then get up and walk away.
Breathing deep and rhythmically, I try to concentrate on the task at hand. I have business to do. There is nothing left for me here and I need to get hold of Ted. He’s the only one who can help me. The only one I know that might save my ass.
I move quickly down the dim sidewalks and into the dark space between complexes. As my feet hit the grass, burning tears and barely suppressed sobs come pushing out. They last until I get to the next complex; then abruptly stop.
That’s the last time I will cry about anything.