This is the final part of this serial short story, which doesn’t have an overall title yet, but I’ll come up with it when I post the whole tale in one take in a day or so. The first five episodes, in order, were “Different Goals,” “A Taste for Mischief,” “All Fall Down,” “A Stroke of Smoke,” and “Nothing Witty About Regaining Wits.”
Officer Sam McMinn, who had much more to do than cater to the whims of a generous alum, nevertheless stopped by Doug Tussle Stadium to visit Jonathan McCutcheon ’81, a descendant of Calliham College’s founders. McCutcheon was quite drunk, as was his wife, and the son appeared to be quite humiliated being there. McCutcheon insisted that he had, get this, been drugged by a student who gave him a brownie that must have been doused in LSD or something.
A likely story.
McMinn figured that Mr. McCutcheon had enjoyed too much booze, showed his ass in front of other prominent alums, and now needed to come up with an alibi, albeit a rather hard one to believe, so account for his untoward actions. McMinn knew better than to suggest such a tack.
“Mr. McCutcheon, now you and your family need to get on home,” McMinn said. “I will launch an investigation. I’ve got two major situations to deal with right now. We got an unruly frat house that’s about to be busted for under-age drinking, and we got an off-campus party where the Sheriff’s Department is involved. Both of these things are going to happen in the next few minutes, and I’ve got to go to work. There’s a good chance that, during the investigation, I’m gonna come across some kid who knows something about this.”
“I’m gonna wait here,” Jonny said. “I want you to come back and tell me what you find, and I don’t care if it takes the whole goddamned night.”
“Suit yourself, Mr. McCutcheon, but I don’t really think there’s any purpose served by you just sitting out here in the darkness.”
“I got a son missing. My older boy. He’s enrolling next fall to play tennis.”
Oh, hell, McMinn thought. If he’s hanging out with that bunch, no telling what he’s into.
McMinn and his partner, Jay Eastwood, drove to the SAE house. McMinn let Eastwood out to help out with the arrests, and told him he was going to drive around campus once, maybe head up the hill where some of the off-campus housing was, and try to come up with something to tell Old Man McCutcheon.
Tripp McCutcheon had found his way to the house on Lake Road. Walking by the tennis courts had proved a wise choice because the Highlanders’ No. 1 singles player, Marty Halperne, had recognized him and given him a ride. Marty was headed to the house, too. In fact, he said he lived there. Everybody was headed to the house for a quick buzz on the way to other social engagements. When they got there, one bong was being passed in the living room, another at the kitchen table, and a third on the back porch, where some dude with a guitar was playing music.
Tripp made his connection. He had his wallet in his left-front pocket, his cell in the other, and, otherwise, his cargo shorts were crammed full of zip-lock bags full of weed he had purchased by counting out twelve hundred dollars in twenties to Joel Marconi. Our Redeemer Academy was going to be one happy place as soon as the gangsta, Tripp McCutcheon, a.k.a., Pablo Escobar on Snapchat, distributed his goodies. He was reinvesting his profits with his pal Joel.
Tripp was stoned and satisfied. He felt like a rich man. He felt like his father, only not as much of an asshole. He was reinvigorated after a day-long romance with half a weed brownie that had helped him stay clear of the complications of family life. Now he just had to catch a ride back to campus with someone, and that wasn’t going to be a problem because half the people there were just stopping off for a buzz, and maybe a little pickup, on the way to various other parties. He wasn’t quite ready to go. He wanted to savor his buzz. He walked out on the front porch and sat in the swing, wishing he had the cigarettes he’d given his brother.
Sirens started blaring off in the distance. Some serious shit must be going down on campus, Tripp thought. Trees blocked the view, but he could make out a little flicker of flashing lights reflecting through the branches. It sort of seemed like the sounds were getting closer, but he thought it must be his imagination. He was alone on the porch. Then Tripp noticed that the lights were getting stronger. The sound was getting closer, and now he could tell it was coming from the opposite direction of campus.
My God. The police are coming here. Shit. Me with enough weed on me to go to prison. I gotta get out of here, like, now. Shit. I’m not up to this.
He walked down the steps into the yard, cars parked everywhere. The ones that weren’t along the road, why, they’d be blocked in. He got out to the edge of the road, looked left. The sirens were getting closer. Tripp ran across the road. He knew it made a horseshoe. Perhaps he could cross through the woods and come out on the other side, but, for now, he just crouched behind a Volvo station wagon at the house across the street. The people who lived there came out on their porch, wondering what the commotion was about. Cruisers pulled up. County sheriff’s department. Two, four, six of them. Tripp took off running toward the woods. He didn’t know whether the man and woman on the porch saw him or not. He couldn’t get rid of the weed. He had all his money in it.
It was otherworldly. The lights of the sirens bounced off the leaves on the trees like strobe lights. Tripp ran downhill, lights blinking, tree trunks flashing into view and then disappearing in unison with the blue and red lights. He started stumbling, then, adrenaline, replacing the rush of the ganja, led him gradually into a pattern where he ran a step or two, pointed himself between trees, and leaped through the air, sometimes landing on his feet but more often, rolling in the leaves that were still shedding because it was mid-autumn. Somehow he made it back to the road and tumbled to rest on its edge, heaving with exhaustion.
A car stopped. A siren came on. The passenger window came down.
“Well, you’re a sight, son. In a hurry?”
Tripp was breathing too hard to speak properly.
“I’m … not … sir … gimme a minute … catch my breath.”
Sam McMinn got out of the car and walked around it. He just looked the boy over. His face and arms were scratched from running through briars. He also had a scrape on his forehead that probably came from a glancing blow on a tree trunk. Sam gave him a minute to get his breathing under control.
“I don’t recognize you, son. You a student at Calliham?”
“Not now. I’ve … visiting. I’m … being … recruited to play tennis.”
“Tennis team, huh? No telling what you’re into with that bunch. What’s your name?
“One more time. What’s your name, son?”
“Tripp … McCutcheon.”
“Tripp McCutcheon. I don’t suppose you would be related to a Jonathan McCutcheon?”
A ray of hope. “Yes, sir,” Tripp said. “He’s my father.”
“Small world,” said Officer McMinn. “Get in the car.”
They drove around the big turn, past the bust going on at the house where Joel Marconi and Marty Halperne lived. McMinn pulled into the next driveway, backed out again, made his way between the cars parked on both side of the road and headed back to campus.
“What are you going to do with me, Officer?” Tripp asked.
“Be quiet, son,” McMinn said. “I’m thinking.”
Even though sirens could be heard from across campus, Trent McCutcheon knew when his friends were near. He could hear the throbbing bass beat of the Lil’ Wayne that was playing from the Toyota Land Cruiser that Riggs Laughlin had somehow managed to borrow from his old man. Trent had arranged for his buddies to come get him while his mother bitched at his dad, and his dad got angrier and drunker. Trent had to go. This was ridiculous. All hell had broken loose in his family, and he was the only one who wasn’t raising it. He just had to move.
He got up from his chair, said, “This sucks. I’m gone,” and took off running. He just blocked out his mom and dad’s yelling and hoofed it to the road. Riggs had three others with him as they pulled out. The middle doors opened. Damn. Smoke was coming out. Goddamighty.
Trent slid into the seat.
“Where’s your brother, man?” Riggs asked.
“I don’t know. I ain’t seen him since before the game ended.”
“I hope he’s got some fucking weed,” Darin Grant said.
“I’m sure he does. He’s probably out somewhere partying with Marcy.”
“We’re gonna be out before long,” Riggs said.
“Let’s just get the fuck out of here,” Trent said.
“I’d say we didn’t fuck up,” Charles Dough said, holding Marcy Trask, whose head rested on his shoulder.
“Man, I could use a joint right now,” he said. “Believe it or not, I’ve actually got one more pot brownie, but I can’t handle another one of them things at night. Fucking sirens everywhere, man. I don’t need to be staggering around. I just need a little short-term buzz, you know.”
“You want a cigarette?” she asked.
“No. The funny thing is, I don’t know, it must be something about smoking weed. Since I ate it, I haven’t even thought about a cigarette. Must be some kind of oral fixation or something.”
“Well,” Marcy said, “I do have, like, this half a joint, maybe a little more, in my change purse.”
She pulled it out of her jeans, just a little leather pouch, fastened by interlocking metal. All it had in it was her driver’s license, a couple dollars of change, and a joint charred on one end.
“I love you, Marcy Trask. Let’s burn that thing. Then we can go get married.”
“Let’s not and say we did,” she said, pulling her lighter out.
Officer Sam McMinn pulled back into the VIP parking lot. A van blocked part of the opening. A small stack of Budweiser cans were on the ground, having been dropped out the passenger window.
Poor guys. They’re waiting for the McCutcheons to get the hell out so they can clean up the place and knock off.
“You stay here, young Tripp McCutcheon.” The boy had insisted on riding in the back, though McMinn had offered him the front seat. McMinn suspected it had something to do with the smell coming from his cargo shorts, a smell that McMinn had been professionally trained to recognize as marijuana.
McMinn walked out to the tent and McCutcheon’s huge SUV, an Escalade. The other son was gone.
“Can I have a word with you, Mr. McCutcheon?”
“I didn’t you were coming back, Officer …”
“McMinn. Sam McMinn.”
The old man was tired now. Feeling dehydrated and bleached. Drunk and out of gas. It looked like his wife had passed out in her chair.
They walked over to the squad car, a Dodge Charger. McMinn had left the lights on. McCutcheon likely couldn’t see his son sitting in the back seat, given the glare of the lights.
“All right, bear with me,” McMinn said. “We’ve had a couple major, uh, incidents, one at the SAE house here on campus and another in an off-campus house rented by students. The incident off campus is being handled by the Kuykendall County Sheriff’s Department, but it involves Calliham students, and the two departments, ours and there’s, have kind of an … unofficial … arrangement in incidents like these. They let us handle the students, and we let them handle those who aren’t. What happens is, we have a little swap. For instance, some of the kids we just picked up at the frathouse aren’t students. They’re from other campuses. They’re visiting friends from their hometowns. Now, most of the ones who were busted at the off-campus house are students. Nobody does the paperwork until we swap off. As I said, technically speaking, we’re not supposed to do this, but it works pretty well for both parties.”
“What’s this got to do …?
“Let me finish, Mr. McCutcheon.”
“Please call me Jonny.”
“I’m Sam. Now … Jonny … I’ve sort of pulled a fast one here. I found out the Sheriff’s Department had your son in custody, and so, I grabbed him out of the line, had a little conversation with a friend of mine who’s a deputy sheriff, and I got him and took him with me, and I’ve brought him back to you. He’s a little the worse for wear.”
“And what about the young man who drugged me?”
“Well,” McMinn said, “I think it might be a good idea to just let that go.”
“You see, Mr. McCutcheon, I believe that whatever happened, well, I think your son may have kind of set it up, because, uh, he was trying to get away and, well … you see what I’m saying. If you pursue action against another student, what might come out could incriminate your son.”
“Where is he?”
“In the back seat of that car.” McMinn said. “Tripp, you can get out now.”
As best he knew, most of what Sam McMinn had just told Jonny McCutcheon was a lie, but Sam had a hunch there was a fair amount of truth mixed in with it.
“You see, Jonny, your family means a lot to the college, and you’re getting some really special treatment as a result of it. What say let’s just pretend most of this never happened?”
“Agreed. I appreciate it … Sam. Can I do anything …”
“Nah. It’s just my job … Jonny.”
Charles Dough and Marcy Trask walked through the little gates with the gap in the middle, thus enabling walkers and bicyclists to pass through but denying access to automobiles. A full moon reflected on Lake Highlander. They both felt tender and in love, and it was heightened because they were high.
“Do you have a stick of gum, Marcy?”
“I think so.”
“Could I have one?” Charles asked. “There’s a car coming, and I think it might be the campus police.”
The Dodge idled around the corner, in front of several little cabins that had something to do with the lacrosse teams that played on the field behind them.
“Charlie Dough, Charlie Dough,” said a voice from inside the squad car. “I have somehow managed to save your ass again.”
Charles loped over to the cruiser. “Be right back,” he yelled over his shoulder to Marcy.
“Charles. Get in.”
“What’s on your mind, sir?”
“I’d say we’re even now.”
“I never thought it was a matter of payback,” Charles said. “I thought it was just friends looking out for each other.”
“Oh, cut the bullshit, Charles. Have you had a merry time at Homecoming?”
“Oh, very much so, sir.”
“I don’t supposed you’d play a practical joke on somebody, uh, just for the hell of it.”
“No, sir, not just for the hell of it.”
“Who’s the good-looking girl?”
“Oh, someone I picked up today at the game. She’s a very nice girl. I believe we’re in love.”
“Ever heard of Jonathan McCutcheon?”
“No,” Charles said. “Does he have anything to do with the residence hall where I live?”
“I think so. Do you know his son, Tripp McCutcheon.”
“I think I met him today.”
“Uh, Officer McMinn, the girl I’m with …”
“Uh, I think, she might be, or at least was, the girlfriend of Tripp McCutcheon.”
“Goddamighty, Charles. Please tell me you used a rubber.”
“Oh, yes, Officer McMinn. I’m vitally committed to safe sex.”
“One of these days, Charles, you’re not going to have me around to look out for you. Get the hell out.”
Charles got out, shut the door, and leaned back in the window.
“Thanks, Sam. I’ll figure out a way to make it up to you. I will.”
“You better hire me one day, Charles. You are always going to need somebody to clean up your messes.”
“When I get elected president, Sam, I’ll make you Chief of Staff.”
“Well, it won’t be President of the United States. I’ll be president of something, though.”
I’ll post the whole short story in one piece soon. If you enjoyed this and other short stories, there’s no telling how much you you’ll enjoy my novels, The Audacity of Dope and The Intangibles. You can buy them and most of my non-fiction books here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1415634579&sr=1-1