“Sure.” Cappy quipped.
“Hey Charlie! Chow’s ready. You comin’?”
“Yeah, call the others. I’m headin’ to the creek to wash up first, okay.”
“Okay Charlie, I’ll tell Brenda.”
The other guys were told and they followed Charlie to the creek. Zero, Bruce, Tex, Bobby, Clem and Danny. They stripped, jumped in and washed off the days roadway dust and mechanical grease with a couple of old, well worn bars of soap, and with some effort and allot of splashing and good-hearted frolicking, the gang got clean and headed back to the saloon for the evening meal.
As they all took their seats at the long white-washed kitchen table, the girls followed suit and everyone dug into the meal. Brenda was the Family genius when it came to whipping up a wonderful meal from the daily garbage run of fruits and vegetables, adding just the right amount of spices and tofu to the mix the girls had bought at the Chatsworth market earlier that same day.
The girls could sense something was up and ate quicker than usual so they could leave the men to their meal and conversation. Cleaning up the kitchen was abandoned and the girls headed outside for a toke and a walk up to the rocky hilltop to view the lights from the valley below, now aglow with the setting sun.
In the saloon, things were far more tense for the men.
“Listen guys, Bobby’s goin’ to Gary’s tonight to ask him if he wants to join us in our move to the desert. Bobby thinks Gary has came into some dough that could help us get there quicker and away from all this Panther business. You guys see that newscast this morning? A Black Panther reported shot and dumped at the entrance to a Pig Hospital? That’s got to be Crowe so we need to jam outta here right quick. Bobby, are you plannin’ on talkin’ to Gary about this SS drug shit, too?” asked Charlie.
“Yeah, I’m going to talk to him about it, but Hell, Charlie, I can’t force him to refund the bikers when they didn’t give me back the tabs, you know. That’s bad business. But I will ask Gary if this poison shit was possible and get what I can from the dude to humour the guys. I’m a dumbass for gettin’ involved in this deal to begin with. What the f--- do I know about drug-dealin’ anyways?! You got some other idea, Charlie?” asked Bobby.
“Listen, you got some hard shit to go over with Gary and getting him all firmed up won’t help the confab, if ya know what I mean. Why don’t you take Sadie and Mary with ya. Bruce, you drive them over in the truck. Just go over there lookin’ like you wanna party with the dude and maybe all this will go down better, ya know. Maybe, Cupid, you can sweet-talk the dude so we can get outta here before this Panther shit blows up in our face.” said Charlie.
“Sure, Man, no problem. I’ll go round up the girls. Gary’s a great guy and he loves Mary. I don’t see nothing wrong with this. Hell, he’s told me how he loves the desert and loves our free life. He’ll probably be thrilled we want him to join. I just hope he sees things my way about the tabs, too, as I don’t need no SS assholes on my case, that’s for sure.” stated Bobby.
So after the meal, Bobby hollered at Mary and Sadie all three climbed into the truck with Bruce at the wheel, headed for Topanga. They arrived just as the sun melted for good behind the Canyon hills. All was dead quiet and only Gary’s VW and Fiat were parked below his front staircase so they knew they’d have Gary all to themselves tonight.
As the three of them got out of the truck, the girls headed straight for the stairs, Bruce stopped Bobby and slid him a 9 mm Polish Radom automatic, and when Bobby looked puzzled, Bruce said, “Just for insurance, eh?” Bobby shrugged his shoulders, took the gun and slid it into the small of his back, forgetting he had it as soon as he did.
Bruce, the smart guy that he was, wanted nothing to do with this “party”, fearing it may not be the smoothest one to attend in Topanga. And as Bruce skidded the tires on the gravel drive, he left a trail of dust which washed over Bobby as he watched Bruce drive away. Seeing the girls, who knew little of what was to transpire, at the top of the stairs chomping at the bit to see Gary, Bobby trudged up the same flight and rapped on the wooden frame of the screen door. Music could be heard coming from inside. The girls were in a partying mood but Bobby’s shoulders seemed heavier than usual. Before he could assess why the door gave out a creak and opened with Gary and his smile in the threshold.
“Hey, Bobby! How are ya, Man? What you guys doing here?” asked Gary.
“Hey, Gary. We were just jawin’ about you after dinner at Spahn’s and we said, Hell, let’s crash his pad instead of talkin’ about the dude, so here we are. Hope it’s okay, Man?” Bobby said.
“Yeah, sure, come on in. I was just smokin' and jammin’ on the piano when you knocked.”
As the girls gave Gary a hug and Bobby followed them through the door, the guys sat down to beers at the metal kitchen table while the girls put on tea for themselves. Only a light on above the stove and a sheet music light over the piano keys in the living room lit the house allowing the pot smoke Gary had made to be seen hovering in a silent, slow moving haze. Initially, all that could be heard if anyone was listening, was the start of a great night of jawing and partying.
But no one heard a thing at Gary’s place that night.
It had been a hot one that day and Gary had all his picture-framed windows open to the Canyon breeze. From the living room windows you could see the odd house light from homes down the Canyon and hear the odd wave of music waft up from the Topanga and the Coast highway 101 intersection, no doubt from parties well under way at the Spiral Staircase and other Malibu and Canyon haunts.
As the girls handed the guys two more cold beers from Gary’s fridge and Gary leaned forward to offer Bobby a toke, Bobby put his hand up and said, “Hey, Gary, listen, before we sit back and enjoy the evening, can I talk to you more about this SS drug deal?”
“Yeah, sure, Bob. They still beefed up about this, are they?” asked Gary.
“Yeah. I get that it’s bad business for the SS not to return the stuff to us. But was there any way that your tabs could have been bad?” asked Bobby.
“Yeah, there’s one way. You see, when you called me up wanting such a large supply, I had to give ya a combination of some new stuff I had made plus some older tabs I had stored in the cold room in the basement. And the chemical composition of mescaline is such that it can decompose over time into a baseline form of strychnine. I checked this out at UC the other day. Unfortunately, I gave you all I had of the older tabs and the SS didn’t even supply you with one I could examine, so I can’t know for sure if this is what happened, you know?” said Gary.
“Man, you talkin’ way above my head now, Gary. Is there any way we can refund them part so our reps stay good and we get the SS off my ass and away from the ranch? Do you have any of the two grand left?” asked Bobby.
“Shit, Bob, I used that money to buy my return tickets to Europe the day after you gave it to me. I leave in under three weeks and they’re non-refundable. I got nothin’ for you, my Man, sorry.” said Gary.
“Ah shit, Gary. They’re hasslin’ the girls and Charlie at the ranch even when I’m at my apartment in Hollywood. I need these guys off my back. I should have never did this deal in the first place. What the Hell do I know about dealin’ with the SS or any biker outfit, for that matter. Geez.” Bobby said with a sigh.
“How ‘bout this Gary. You take up Charlie’s offer to join his group up at Barker, sell your tickets to someone you know at UC and hand the money over to me. I’ll give half to Charlie and the other half to the SS. How ‘bout that, Man? Can you see your way to helpin’ me and Charlie out of these binds with the Panthers and the SS?” Bobby said, as he leaned forward on the black and chrome metal kitchen table, almost pleading with Gary now.
“I can’t change my plans now, Bobby. I’ve scheduled another girl to take over my piano lesson clients and have quit my internship at UC for this trip. And all I got to go on is close to $200 in the bank for spending money unless I’m able to make and sell another batch of tabs before my departure date. I got nothin’ to offer ya, Man.” said Gary.
“I gotta do somethin’, Gary. Listen, you’re going away, right? How ‘bout you hand me over your two cars and when you get back, you and I can turn over some more tabs and get a replacement for you then. How ‘bout that?” asked Bobby.
With his head down and his arms crossed on the same kitchen table, Gary pondered the idea for a moment and then shaking his head, he said, “No f---ing way, Bobby! Those are the only things of value I own! That’s not fair, Man! I didn’t f--- up that drug deal. You made me deal when I wasn’t ready and I still don’t think the shit was bad anyhow. No, It’s your bag. You deal with it!“ insisted Gary.
And as the last of the words left his mouth, Gary rose from his chair and pushed it away and was about to leave the room, when Bobby over-took him with a head lock and started pistol-whipping him with the Radom.
Thump, Thump! Whack, Thump! Whack! Whack!
“Jesus, Bob, what the f--- are ya doin’ Man?!” Gary yelled to Bob as he pried his head out of Bobby’s hold, his fingers finding a warm trickle of blood running down his bruised and battered forehead as he did so.
“Listen Gary. I’m sick of all of this. I don’t care about your plans. I care about my life! Sign over those pink slips now before you make me do something neither of us wants me to do!” yelled Bobby.
“I’ve heard on the streets that you’ve come into $5000 worth of an inheritance, or something. You know I hear stuff, Gary. I know what’s going on. You ain’t just goin’ to no Europe on no lousy $200, Man. We need what you got to get us away from L.A. and up to Barker for the winter. Mary, Tex, Katie, Lulu, Darling, me, Hell everyone has chipped in when they joined Charlie. Why should you be any different?” said Bobby, as Gary plunked back down in his chair, silent as the grave.
With no immediate reply in the offing, Bobby changed tactics and said, “You’re a goddamned greedy sonofabitch, Gary. The least you could do is help Charlie and me. Charlie wants outta town cuz of the Panther hit, I want to clean up this SS deal and we all want you to join us at Barker and chill out for the winter. We plan on refining our music up there so we can be ready when Gregg schedules another recording session in the Spring. You could be apart of all this Gary; it’s going to be great and we could use your music writing talents. You’d be in on any record deal we end up making with Jakobson, of course, Man.” said Bobby, putting on his sweetest sell yet.
“Look, none of this is like you, Bob. I don’t know where you’ve heard this shit but your info is bogus, Man. I’ve got no extra dough. I’ll sign over one of the cars to ya for the SS shit if that’s the only way out of this thing but then you leave me alone, dig? I don’t want to be part of Charlie’s crumby Family or any goddamn record deal. I just want to live my life peacefully, ya know? Gary said, almost pleading now.
Ignoring Gary’s pleas for the time-being, Bobby handed over the 9mm to Sadie, knowing full well Sadie wouldn’t shoot Gary but the inference would be “out there”, as a warning for Gary to behave while Bobby searched for the airplane tickets to re-sell for cash. As Bobby left Gary, Mary and Sadie in the kitchen for his quest, he heard Sadie scream,
“Bobby, come quickly. Gary’s got the gun!”
And as Bobby ran back to the kitchen, he saw that Gary had wrestled the gun away from Sadie’s hands and was about to turn on his heels towards Bobby when Bobby jumped him for the gun. As the two struggled, someone got hold of the trigger mechanism and the next thing they heard was,
…as a bullet ricocheted around the small kitchen, the foursome ducking until the bullet finally found a home under the kitchen sink.
“Listen, you snivelling asshole, sign over both the cars to me right now! I didn’t come over here to get f---ed by you and your bullshit! Give us what you got, now, or the next shot will hit more than your friggen kitchen sink!” Bobby yelled.
“That’s all you came for, isn’t it? You weren’t over here to party. You just came to rob me for the SS deal we both know probably wasn’t bad. That’s cold, Man, really cold. After all I’ve done for you guys. Okay, okay. I’ll sign over the goddamned cars if you just leave me alone!” yelled Gary.
“Fine, we’ll do just that. I don’t want anymore shit on my ass than you do. Those cars out there will probably come to a grand and that’ll probably get the SS off of my back as they know they’re partially up the creek in not returning the shit to us anyway.” Bobby told Gary, as the two of them headed out the front door and down the steps to the VW van and the Fiat in the driveway to retrieve the pink slips. Both men realized this situation was getting out of control and they just wanted the night to be over.
As the guys returned to the house and Gary walked over to a small desk to sign the slips, Bobby heard a car drive into Gary’s driveway at a high rate of speed, skidding its tires on the gravel road as it came to a sudden stop.
Without a word of warning or reason why, Bruce and Charlie showed up at Gary’s door and before any of them could even say “Hi”, Charlie swung open the screen door, walked into the living room, and from behind his back, out came the 15 inch cutlass blade the SS had given him and,
…Charlie sliced a deep gash right through Gary’s left ear and cheek with that pirate sword, without saying one word and without any known reason.
Blood came spurting out like so much red coloured syrup from a macabre horror movie, and instinctively Gary lifted his hand to the wound, screaming as he did. The force of the blow and the resulting pain sent Gary falling to the living room floor, the blood soaking into the carpet as he eventually curled up into the fetal position.
“Give Bob every goddamned thing you own or die, your choice!” Charlie yelled to Gary. “That’s how to be a man, Bob.” said Charlie to Bobby, in a kind of cold, low, condescending hiss.
“Charlie, what the Hell?! You stuck me, you goddamned sonofabitch! All I’ve done for you and Mary and Bobby and this is what I get?! How ‘bout you take your gang and get the Hell outta my house before I call the cops! You’re as mad as a hatter, Man, and I want nothing to do with you or your crumby group, Charlie. I wouldn’t join you now even if it was you who was offering me five grand! Get the Hell outta my house and get f---ed!” Gary screamed between the pangs of pain.
“Charlie, what are you doing, Man? I had this situation all under control before you showed up. What am I supposed to do now?” asked Bobby.
Mary and Sadie ran in from the kitchen on hearing the yelling and as they did, Charlie turned to Sadie and said, “You and Mary take the truck and go get some first aid shit to take care of Gary.” as he pushed a $20 bill into her hand, the threat to kill Gary obviously forgotten as soon as he had uttered the words.
As the girls ran out of the house, Charlie led Bobby to the kitchen while Bruce went and got a towel for Gary’s ear.
“Listen Bob, Sadie called the ranch from here and told me there was trouble; that Gary had the gun Bruce gave ya and was about to use it on you guys. What was I to think, Man? Why can’t you take care of this shit by yourself? I can’t continue to clean up other people’s messes for them. Crowe dead cuz of Tex and now Gary sliced up cuz of you and none of these deals were mine! I’m not going back to the joint for nobody, you dig. I need you to take care of Gary once the girls come back, get whatever money he’s got and then bring him back to Spahn’s so we can make sure he ain’t no snitch to the fuzz while he heals, you dig. Can I count on you to finish what you started here, Man?” asked Charlie.
“Goddamn Sadie! I had this all taken care of before she got into it. Yeah, I’ll clear this all up with Gary and we’ll be over to your place soon. He’s agreed to sign over the cars to me but he says he ain’t got no inheritance and he’s not interested in joining you guys.” explained Bobby.
“Look, I don’t give a shit about all that now. Just get things done and get’em done now. We can work on Gary once you get him to Spahn’s. I can’t be apart of anything you need to do here to clear all this up.” were Charlie’s last words of warning to Bobby.
It was 12:07a.m. July 26, 1969…2009…