Thursday, December 15, 2016

Dope (Part 4)

     Lucas Burton rolled by Crystal's house for the eighth time that day, his shabby Ford F-150 pickup moving at trolling speed.  Crystal's car was gone, it always was during the day, but the Subaru her space cadet sister drove stayed in the driveway.  Lucas wanted to case the house, try and find a weak spot for entry, then toss the place for anything of value, but particularly dope.  Crystal, that new wave bitch, was now not only dealing, but dealing in volume and providing product light years better than anything else out there.  The bitch had shit, she had money, she had a good car, and it all had seemed to just materialize out of nowhere.  Not even Lucas imagined just how much volume Crystal was moving weekly, but he knew that locating her stash would be worth it.  Then again, Lucas was the sort who would do a second story job on a house in order to steal a single twenty sack of shit and a clock radio.

     If "fuck-up" was a unit of measure, Lucas would not be in Camptonville.  No, he would be sitting in a vault in France, next to the kilogram.  He had never done prison time, but had spent erratic stints in jail in Nevada and Yuba counties, for stupid things like trying to steal the quarters out of a newspaper rack with an axe.  In broad daylight.  In front of a Safeway.  His sentences would always have time tacked on, due to his apparent inability to show up for court on the days he was supposed to.  Lucas would turn up four days later, claiming he hadn't been able to find a ride into town.  The judge would point out that Lucas had had four to six weeks to solve that problem, so he (the judge) wasn't feeling terribly charitable.  Lucas's newest Failure To Appear would be included in the case against him, and add a couple extra weeks stay at the hotel with the striped sunlight.  He once hit the jackpot for extended time, an extra four months.  He showed up in Nevada City (three days late) for court.  Stepping up to the security check, he shoveled all the vast amount of crap he had in his pockets into a basket and put it on the conveyor belt for inspection.  Some of the little treasures the deputies at the security check found were about a half gram of dope in the cellophane from a cigarette pack, a glass pipe, four rounds of .22 caliber rimfire ammunition, a throwing star, two feet of detonation cord, and a Visa card with the name Norah Findlay on it.  When the deputies asked about the card, Lucas said, "Oh, um, that's my mom's card."
     One of the deputies looked down at Norah Findlay's name and said with a smile, "Your mother's name is Rachel Carlson?"
     "Yeah, yeah, that's her, like it says on the card."
     "Sir, please step this way and lean forward against the wall, with your hands out and your legs spread."
     Lucas was banned from the local market after he'd tried to shoplift two forties of beer by shoving them down the front of his Wranglers.  This made him walk as though his hip joints had fused.  He stopped at the register to buy cigarettes.  The clerk got as far as saying, "Hey buddy, what's in the front---"
     Lucas yelled, "Motherfucker, don't call me no thief!  Fuck you!"  He pulled out the bottles and said, "I had these with me when I came in here!"
     A tall burly log truck driver who was also standing at the counter looked at Lucas and said, "Aw, bullshit."  He gently grasped the bottles and set them on the counter.
     Lucas glanced at the bottles, the clerk, and the logger.  Then he yelled, "Motherfuckers!" and ran out the door.  Ten seconds later he sprinted back in, snatched up his cigarettes from the counter, yelled "Motherfuckers!" again, and ran out.  The clerk and the logger rolled their eyes and continued their conversation.  Three minutes later Lucas walked back in and asked, "Hey, does anyone have a pair of jumper cables?  My truck won't start."

     Lucas parked at the end of the street, in front of the post office, and sat there.  From his position, he could see the foot of Crystal's driveway.  After forty minutes, Crystal's hippie sister --- who had a stupid name like Mojo --- appeared and walked down the street, towards him.  She turned up the hill.  Perfect, thought Lucas, the fucking Deadhead is headed to a friend's house.  He fired the pickup and pulled in front of the house, then walked up the driveway.  From the street, the house was completely obscured by trees and overgrown hedge.  Lucas could case the house without being seen.
     Front door, locked and bolted.  Same with the back door.  Bay windows on the living room that didn't open.  The kitchen windows were latched.  First bedroom --- obviously Crystal's, only a punk rock cunt like her would have a giant Agnostic Front poster on the wall, he thought ---- also had latched windows.  The hippie cunt's windows (Jefferson Airplane poster above the bed) were also latched.  The kid's room....  Score.  The window slid up a couple inches, but there was a problem.  To get it up that far, he was holding his hands above his head, the house was on the side of a hill, there was a good sex feet difference in elevation between the front and the back.  He tried jumping up and pulling himself in, no luck.  The sort of chronic long-term abuse of methamphetamine Lucas had engaged in meant he was malnourished, and once the body runs out of fat to burn, it starts to cannibalize itself, eating away at muscle.  Lucas couldn't have done a pull-up with a gun pointed at his head.
     Lucas quickly hunted around the back of the house, looking for something to stand on.  Perfect, a milk crate.  Standing on it, he got the window open further, then launched himself up, hooking his elbows on the window frame.  He pulled himself in and fell in, hitting his head on the floor.....  But not quite.  His skull took the impact on a small pile of Lego, opening up his scalp.  He stood up and swore as he felt a trickle of blood run onto his forehead.  Fuck it, that only put him more in the mood to toss the place.
     Living room first.  Dude, score.  A VCR and a Nintendo system sitting under the TV, and the Nintendo was one of the new ones.  The VCR was a brand new Sony, shit, the old one --- some bargain brand garbage with a name like Hanamanaguchi or whatever --- was leaning sideways against the wall, a two for one.  Lucas pulled plugs and stacked up his treasure by the back door.
     He poked around the kitchen cabinets, looking for the stash.  The new wave cunt was dealing, there had to be a stash.  No luck there.  In Crystal's room, oh yeah, fuckin' score.  A sack that must have had over a half ounce of shit in it tucked in her underwear drawer.  He'd take some of her panties, too, something to jack off with.   He placed the bag of dope on the kitchen table, with the intention of doing some up before he left.  The closet held the jackpot, an Ohaus triple-beam scale.  And a safe.  A big one, a fancy one, with a numbered keypad instead of a dial for putting in the combination.  And locked.  Fuck.  Fine, he'd  take it with him, and figure out how to get into it later.
     It wasn't anchored, but shit, the damn thing must have weighted 250 pounds.  He began slowly walking it out of the closet and towards the door.  He'd get it to the kitchen door, then get into the bed of the truck.  Getting it in the bed would be a challenge, but he'd figure out something.  Love would find a way.  Heft, another two inches,  Heft, another two inches.  Heft, another two---
     All of a sudden, his head exploded.  He rolled, and was vaguely aware of Birkenstocks, and toes, and ankles.  He tried to roll for a better view, and his head exploded again.  Out like a light.
     Mojo stood above Lucas's unconscious body, the baseball bat still in her hand.  Precious, Crystal's six year old daughter, looked at them both, wide-eyed but silent.  Mojo looked down at her and said, "You remember how we taught you to page Mommy, right?  Do it now."
     Precious did as instructed, and the phone rang three minutes later.  Mojo picked up and heard her sister's voice say, "What's up, Mojo?"
      "There is a man.  Here in the house.  I hit him with the bat, and now he's asleep.  He was trying to take the, uh, the, uh...."  Mojo couldn't cogitate the word "safe" right then.  ".... The big important metal box in your closet.  He was going to take the game box and the movie box from the TV, too, they're sitting by the kitchen door."
     "Are you and Precious okay?"
     "We are," Mojo replied.
     "Okay, good."  Crystal paused a moment.  "Listen, Mojo, in the drawer of my bedside table is a pair of handcuffs.  Get the man face-down and put the handcuffs on him, behind his back, good and tight.  If he wakes up and tries to get up, hit him with the bat again, but not in the head.  You don't want to kill him, okay?  But hit him really hard on his body with the bat a few times, and tell him you'll keep doing it unless he lies there and stays still.  Do you understand?"
     "I do."
     "Um, shit, I'm in North Columbia right now, give me fifteen minutes and I'll be home.  Do not call the police, okay?  Do you know who it is?"
     Mojo stared down at Lucas.  She said, "I know him.  I have seen him, you know him too.  I don't think you like him.  Um, I know I don't like him either, but I can't remember why...."
     "Okay.  Fifteen minutes and I'll be home.  Tell Precious to get some grapes and a cheese snack out of the fridge, then go in her room and start any schoolwork she has.  Remember, if he tries to get up, beat him with the bat really hard, just not in the head.  Thank you, Mojo, I'll be right there."  Crystal hung up.  Mojo did the things she had been told to.
     Sitting on the bed, Mojo stared down at Lucas with curiosity.  He knew she didn't like him.  In fact, she was sure she hated him.  This puzzled her, and made her feel ashamed.  In her time following the Grateful Dead, people always talked about how everyone should free themselves of feelings like hate and anger, we should love each other.  But she knew she hated this man.  She probed around her LSD-fried brain, looking for a reason, but couldn't come up with one.
     Lucas stirred.  His head felt like the seven plagues.  He turned his head and saw Mojo sitting on the bed.  He tried to stand up, but this was highly difficult with his hands trapped behind his back.  Moving around seemed like it would make his head hurt worse, anyway.  He grunted at Mojo, "You goddamn hippie cunt...."
     Hearing his voice triggered memory for Mojo.  She still couldn't remember his name, but now she remembered why she hated him....  and realized that it was okay, she was allowed to hate him, it was a special exception.  Her eyes, which were always open a bit too wide anyway, got even wider.  Her brow creased into a frown.  She felt something she had not felt in a long, long time, had almost forgotten about: rage.
      "I know who you are," said Mojo, in her normal quiet spacey voice.  "I remember now.  We were at a party in the woods.  You got me alone and made me drink...."  She hunted for the right word.  ".... Whiskey.  I got sick.  Then you had sex with me.  I didn't want sex, but you made me.  I tried to get away, but you held me down and you hit me.  And when you were done, you said you would kill me if I told anyone we'd had sex.  I know who you are now."  She paused.  "I hate you."
     Mojo stood above Lucas, bat in hand.  "I will tell you what you told me, when you made me have sex: if you yell or make noise, I will kill you."  Then she began whaling away on him with the bat.
     Lucas was obedient.  Even when he felt his humerus and radius bones break on the right side, even feeling his ribs snap, he was mostly silent.  He had seen the look on Mojo's face, and self-preservation made him keep quiet.

     Crystal tore up the road.  Tyler Foote Rd. to Oak Rd. to Highway 49, and to home.  She was clean except for what was in her blood stream, and didn't worry about small details like numbers indicating posted speed limits.  The Taurus SHO grabbed the asphalt with its front wheel drive traction and powerful motor, although she did throw the ass-end around locking up on a couple hairpins.  It was a sixteen mile trip from North Columbia to Camptonville, and she covered it in fifteen minutes.  A professional driver would have gone over the route covered and dismissed the time as insanity.
     She went in the back door, hand in her purse, resting on the .32 Ruger she'd picked up --- legally --- in Yuba City.  "Mojo?" she called.
     "In here," came a voice from her bedroom.
     Crystal walked into her room and wasn't surprised to see Lucas on the floor, she thought she recognized the truck sitting on the street out front.  She looked at Mojo and said, "I'll be right back, I have to talk to Precious.  Keep an eye on the motherfucker."
     From the floor, Lucas yelled, "Fuckin' weirdo cunt, lemme go!"
     Walking back to Lucas, Crystal pondered him briefly, then kicked him in the face.  "We don't use language like that in this house where my daughter can hear it.  Shut your fucking pie-hole."  She went out.
     Her daughter was sitting at her small desk reading Dr. Seuss.  Mimeograph paper to one side indicated she'd completed the basic arithmetic practice she'd been assigned.  Noticing her presence in the doorway, Precious jumped off her chair and ran towards her, arms out for a hug.  "Mommy!"
     Crystal dropped to her knees and hugged Precious, giving her a big kiss and a warm smile.  Six months ago, her daughter had been an obligation.  Now despite --- or because of --- her current entrepreneurial endeavor, Precious was the center of her life.  Her perspectives had changed.  Perhaps for the first time in her life, Crystal felt genuine maternal love for her daughter.  She would do anything for her.  Her new income meant Precious would never want for anything, she would always have nice things to wear, and toys, and good food, no more food bank crap.  By the time Precious hit puberty, Crystal wanted to have kicked her habit, and have made enough money they could live comfortably without dealing.  Precious would enter adulthood proud, healthy, and clean.  That was the goal.
      Precious said, "Mommy, who is that man?  Why is he here?  Why did Auntie Mo hit him?"
      "I know who he is," said Crystal.  "He's a bad guy.  A real, real bad guy.  That's why Auntie Mo hit him.  He came to steal our stuff and hurt us, he's bad."  She paused.  "Listen sweetie, you need to do two things, and they're both really important.  First, I'm going to go out of your room, and when I do, I'm going to close the door.  It doesn't matter what you hear outside your room, you stay in here, no matter what, until I come and get you.  Do you need to visit the baffroom?"
     "No, mommy."
     "Okay.  I promise I won't be long, but you stay in here.  Then we'll go to the bar for dinner, okay?  Would you like that?"
     Precious beamed.  "Can I have a cheeseburger?  An' onion rings?"
     "Of course," Crystal smiled back.  "We'll even share some pie.  Anyway, the other really important thing is that you don't tell anyone this man was here.  Not your friends, not your teacher, no one.  Pretend this was a normal day.  You came home with Auntie Mo, you did your school work, then I came home and we had dinner.  But no one must know this man was here.  Do you understand?"
     "'Kay, Mommy, I get it.  I'll read and play music.  Can I listen to that one tape of yours I like?"
     "Of course, I'll get it for you.  Then after that, you stay in here until I get you."  Crystal trotted out and retrieved Devo's "Duty Now For The Future" from the tape rack in the living room.  She delivered it to her daughter, then shut the door to her room.
     Crystal went in her room.  Mojo sat on the bed holding the bat, scowling vacantly at Lucas, who, out of boredom, was trying to visually probe under Crystal's bed for any sign of impressively-sized sex toys.  On her entrance, Lucas mewled, "Hey, Crystal, I didn't mean to call you a cunt, I was just pissed off, y'know?  Okay, lemme go, I'll stay out of your path from now on, if we see each other, it's total coincidence.  I'll be cool with you, lemme go."
     "Let's get this shitbag into the kitchen," Crystal said to her sister.  "Stand up, Lucas."
     "I can't!  Your bitch acid-head sister broke my ribs! And my arm!"
     Looking at Mojo, Crystal asked, "Did you?"
     "I don't know," answered Mojo.  "I remembered why I hate him, so I hit him with the bat.  A lot.  He made me have sex with him and I didn't want to, he forced me, he hit me and held me down.  He hurt me, so I hurt him back."
     "When was this?"
     "Um....  About two years ago, I think."
     Regarding Lucas evenly, Crystal said, "You raped my sister.  You try to steal from me.  As near as I know, you've probably tried to steal from everyone we know.  Shit, if you told me the sky is blue, I'd assume you're lying.  Get on your feet, we're going in the kitchen."
     Lucas was slow in moving, so Crystal grabbed him under the arms and lifted him.  He shrieked with pain.  Crystal smacked him on the head and said, "Shut up, you'll disturb my daughter."
     Marched into the kitchen and sat down at the table, Lucas said loudly, "Shit, your fuckin' daughter is going to a foster home.  We're all going to jail tonight.  Okay, I get picked up for breaking and entering, but your sister is getting popped for assault and battery, and you're nailed for dealing dope, big time.  Your goddamn daughter will end up in some foster home, and fuckin' Uncle Pervy will be shoving his dick in her mouth within twelve hours.  Fuck you, cunt, lemme go now, and maybe I'll just tell the people at the ER I fell off a ladder, that's why I'm so fucked up.  Stupid bitch, I got the upper hand in the long run."
     Crystal considered Lucas silently.  A plan began to formulate.  She turned to Mojo and said, "Do me a favor, go hook the VCR and Nintendo back up.  Or just hook up the Nintendo, and play Legends of Zelda for a while.  Him and I need to talk privately."
     Mojo silently scooped up the two machines and went into the living room.  Lucas eyed Crystal with a look of victory on his face.  "Ready to bargain with me, bitch?" he said.
     "Bargain with you?"
     "Yeah.  You cut me loose, and you kick me down some shit.  Then I won't tell the cops what happened here."
     "Oh, Lucas...." Crystal chuckled.  She set her purse down on the kitchen table and sat on the table next to it.  Then she removed the Ruger.  "You are not in a position to make any demands."
     Lucas grinned, but it had a nervous quality to it.  "So, what, you're gonna kill me?  With your sister and kid here in the house?  Bullshit."
     "You're a worthless piece of shit, Lucas," Crystal sighed.  "You're thieving garbage, you apparently raped my sister, I've put up with your comments about my tits for years now...."  She began unbuttoning her dress shirt, removing it.  Her bra also came off.  She sat topless on the kitchen table.  "You've always wondered, now you know.  Aren't you happy?"
     Despite himself, Lucas got a hard-on.  Not much to get hard, but it did.  After a bit more thought, Crystal kicked off her shoes, then got off the table and removed her black Levis and panties.  She sat back on the table, purposely parting her legs so Lucas could see her pussy.  Lucas smiled at her.
     "So you're gonna fuck me?" asked Lucas.  "Okay, that and some shit, and I'll keep quiet."
     "Actually, no.  If I shoot you, I'm putting a bullet straight in your head.  Head shots gush, and I don't want to get any blood on my clothes.  Lucas, you're fucked, but not in the way you were hoping for."
     Crystal held up the bag of dope sitting on the table.  She said, "You went through my drawers, I see.  So why did you leave this sitting here, and not shove it in a pocket?"
     "I was gonna do some up before I took off," Lucas answered.
     "Would you like to get high now?"
     "Hell yes."
     "Me too."  Crystal grabbed her fix kit out of her purse, along with a spoon.  There was a bottle of distilled water sitting on the table.  She tipped a bit into the spoon, then knocked about a twenty weight in and used the end of a sharp to dissolve it.  She pulled her belt off the jeans, wrapped it around her arm, and began working her fist to get the veins to stand up.  Lucas watched her with interest and wariness.  He said, "I don't do my shit like that."
     "I know.  And I wouldn't waste a sharp on you, anyways.  I won't share mine, I've got hepatitis C, and I'm humane enough that I wouldn't make someone else sick.  Your turn is coming."
      In went the needle, in went the dope.  Crystal let go of the belt and let the rush hit her, staring at the Nagel print on the wall opposite her.  Dope always made her feel hot, if she hit big enough, she would come without even touching herself.  She toyed absently with a nipple, knowing full well Lucas was enjoying the view.  Hey, she was a porn star now, being watched by men was part of her life.  She stopped and grabbed the bag of shit.
     "Ready, Lucas?" she asked.  She began pouring dope onto the Formica of the table.  And kept pouring.  And pouring.  She stopped when she'd eyeballed about four grams in a pile.  Then she grabbed her keys out of her purse, along with a pen.  The pen got dismantled and set down.  She selected the right key and let Lucas out of his handcuffs.  Then she picked up the Ruger and held it against Lucas's head.
     "Start snorting," Crystal said.  "And don't stop until it's all gone."
     "Whaa...?" said Lucas.  "No way."
     Crystal pulled back the hammer on the revolver.  "Get going, Lucas.  I'm only giving you five minutes to get rid of that pile.  I'm home early today, and I want to spend time with my daughter, not fuck around with the biggest loser on this mountain.  And don't think I won't pull this trigger.  This is a .32, so it doesn't go bang, it goes crack, just a small sound that no one will pay attention to.  You always brag about how you can handle anything that comes your way, well, let's find out if that's true.  Start.  Snorting.  Now."
     Lucas started snorting.
     After three minutes he was gagging and coughing.  His ears rang, he felt like he was vibrating, and his esophagus and stomach felt like he'd been drinking from a car battery.  He said, "Please, lemme have something to drink."  He was a bit hard to understand, as his jaws were clenched together so tight they ached.  Crystal grabbed a bottle of Anchor Steam --- an indulgence she'd picked up from Lenny --- and set it down, open, in front of him.  He grabbed it and began chugging, spilling beer down his chin and shirt.  Then Crystal knocked him in the head with the barrel of the revolver and reminded him he wasn't done, the pile wasn't gone.  He looked up at her, his eyes red and bulging, and kept going.
     Then the pile was gone.  Lucas sat there, panting as though he'd just run a mile in three minutes, staring at the blue Formica of the table, fascinated by the pattern.  Only there was no pattern, it was a solid blue.  His mind was racing a thousand miles a second, but he kept clinging to one thought: hospital, hospital, I've got to get to the hospital.
     "How are you feeling, Lucas?" asked the naked woman above him.  Her name escaped him at the moment, so he just stared at her.  He barely processed that he was looking at a naked woman.  She disappeared from his line of sight, and seemed to appear just a second later fully clothed.
     "It's time for you to get the fuck out of my house," Crystal said.  "I don't give a shit where you go, and I don't give a shit what you tell people.  Just go away."  Lucas sat there panting, so she yelled, "Get out!  Now!  Leave!"
     He still didn't move, so Crystal grabbed him by his left arm and pulled him upright and began pulling him.  He stumbled along, trying to remember what it was he had to do, it was important.  Oh yeah, hospital.  His ribs and arm barely hurt, he was so spun, but he didn't feel good at all, he felt ill in a way he'd never experienced before.  Hospital.  Go to the hospital.
     Ruger still in hand, Crystal walked Lucas to his truck.  He got in, still unable to speak.  He had no use of his right arm, so he fired the engine and got in gear left-handed.  Get to the hospital, get to the hospital.  He trounced on the gas and shot up the street, turning around at the end and coming back.  Everything had a fragmented look, as though he was staring through window screen.  Through town and onto the highway, pointed south towards Grass Valley.  Get to the hospital.  Hospital.
     Lucas sped along the highway.  He knew he was in a hurry, but had to keep reminding himself why.  Hospital, get to the hospital.  He vomited going past Peterson's Corner, violently.  The lower half of the windshield was obscured by puke with a chemical reek to it.  He turned on the wipers, and was vaguely annoyed when they did no good.  He took his hand off the wheel and swiped at the glass.  Better, but it was hard to say, his vision was playing tricks on him.  Like he was looking through a cracked prism.  Faster, get to the hospital.

     "Something's approaching fast," commented Hank, looking in the rear-view mirror of the Taurus.  He and Cheetah were just approaching a long downhill straightaway that led into the gorge of the south fork of the Yuba River.  This was the last place to pass before going into the tight twists of the highway as it ran through the gorge.  Cheetah twisted in his seat to look behind them.
     "I swear it's that asshole Lucas coming," Cheetah said with a chuckle.  "Wonder who he's running from this time?"
     "We'll know if a few seconds."
     The old grey Ford F-150 shot past.  "Jesus," said Hank.  "He's gotta be moving eighty-five.  Lucas, you dumb-ass tweaker....  He'd better back off, he's headed straight for that first curve...."
     Alarmed, Cheetah exclaimed, "He ain't slowing down."
     "Oh shit...."
     They both watched with horror and amazement as the pickup shot through the guard rail like it was tissue.  In a bit of comic morbidness, they finally saw the truck's brake lights come on while it flew through the air, then began falling.  Hank slid the car into a turn-out right before the first curve, and they both ran to the edge of the cliff, where the hole had been made in the guard rail.  Looking down, they could just see where the pickup had impacted with a giant boulder jutting out the side of the gorge 300 feet down, smoke or steam rising up.  Hank and Cheetah looked at each other.
     Hank said, "We gotta flag somebody down, get 'em to go use the phone at Milhous Feed.  We're gonna need some law, and maybe an ambulance."
     "Maybe an ambulance?" queried Cheetah.
     "The plunge he just took....  Even if he was wearing his fuckin' belt, I dunno...."
     They walked onto the roadway and flagged down a good ole boy in a Dodge Durango.  They explained what had happened, and the good ole boy burned up the road to the feed store to make the call.  Hank tucked his pipe and seal of dope under the carpet in the trunk of the Taurus, expecting they'd be talking to cops in a short while.  Then he and Cheetah lit cigarettes and sat on the hood, waiting for the sheriffs.

     It was five hours later when the F-150 was finally resting back on level ground.  (In years past, the authorities would have just removed the body and left the truck to slowly rot under the Sierra sun and snow.)  They'd simply brought Lucas up at the same time.  He hadn't been wearing a seat belt, but because of the angle at which the truck had hit, his body had remained in the cab.  He was dead as granite, and had been that way since a couple seconds after impact.  Hank and Cheetah hadn't been held up as long as they'd expected: they were able to provide the accident victim's name, Lucas Burton, but beyond that didn't have much to tell them.  Lucas was just some dumb yahoo from Camptonville who'd passed them at a high rate of speed, then gone off the side of the gorge.  They went and continued on with their plans, which was dinner and some bowling.  They were feeling distracted, though, their scores sucked.
     Heading back home, Hank and Cheetah stared at the flatbed wrecker that was just now dragging the wreckage of the Ford into place.  They didn't slow down.  Cheetah said, "Think he was drunk?"
     Hank considered this and said, "Naw.  I'd spotted him in my mirror when he was coming past Tyler Foote Road, and he was hauling ass then.  Drunks will put on bursts of speed, but they won't run wide open like he was.  Tweakin', maybe?"
     Cheetah replied, "Maybe....  Although he was the type who'd get paranoid when he was tweaking.  If he was high, he was really fuckin' high, he didn't seem to mind doing an A.J. Foyt impression."
     "Or Evel Knievel," said Hank.  Despite themselves, they both laughed.
     News of the death of Lucas Burton spread quickly.  Upon hearing the news, the usual response was "Huh."  Nobody declared that it was a shame, nobody suggested it was a tragedy he was cut down at the age of twenty-nine.  Lucas was well-known, but not in a good way.  His funeral was sparsely attended, just family.  There was no community memorial service/party like there would be for most folks.  Lucas would not be missed.
     For the Sheriff's Department, his death held a lot of mystery.  There were no skid marks approaching where he'd launched into the gorge, and he'd gone through at a high rate of speed.  His ribs were cracked, but not from the impact.  His broken arm was an even bigger source of curiosity.  His shirt was soaked with beer and puke, the puke stank of meth.  No big surprise, toxicology showed he had an insane amount of methamphetamine in his system, a suicidal amount.  The fact that he had five pairs of women's panties shoved in one pocket also aroused consternation.  Officially, his death was proclaimed a road accident.  Unofficially, it was considered a  suicide.  Lucas had two warrants out for him, one in Nevada County, one in Yuba.  Both were for car theft, which would send him to prison, not his usual stints in county lockup.  In both counties, the deputies shrugged.  Lucas Burton was a fuck-up, and didn't feel like facing the music for what he'd done, and had taken himself out.  OD'ed himself, then drove off a cliff on purpose.  It was the only rational explanation.
     Three nights after the death, Crystal left the house around midnight, heading for the fifth-wheel trailer Lucas had called his home.  It was situated above Marysville Rd. on property his aunt (who was also something of a fuck-up, a total tweaker) owned.  She parked a couple hundred yards down the road and walked up to the trailer, armed with two cans of red Krylon spray paint.  On the side of the trailer facing the road, she wrote three words, in huge letters:


     Let people make what they wanted of the message.

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