But this arrival by their leader was not met with the same jubilance as before. Things had changed around the ranch since Gary’s death. The Family seemed to be split into two groups - the ones who Knew and the ones who didn’t - and besides the rift, a kind of strange paranoia permeated as well, one that now needed to be fuelled by weapons and weapons training sessions; not the picture of free love, folk music and LSD orgies for which The Family had once been known.
Charlie stopped the old truck in front of the boardwalk and was quietly met by a few very tense looking Family members. He had some of them take his latest Family addition, Stephanie, on a tour of her new home as he got caught up on the news from the home-front.
The girls didn’t have anything good to say.
They unceremoniously reported to Charlie about Bobby’s arrest for the murder of Gary Hinman.
Before old Charlie had a chance to digest the news and come up with an angle that could at least temporarily spring Cupid from jail, Sadie said,
“Hey Charlie, Leslie, Mary, Squeaky, Sandy, Linda and I have come up with a full-proof plan on how to get Bobby unhooked from all this. Why don’t we off some Pigs and make it exactly like Gary’s death and then the cops will know Bobby is innocent and pin it on the Black Panthers instead, just like Bobby did at Gary’s place?”
“Sadie, are you crazy? That ain’t gonna work! You guys do anymore people for your lousy drug-deal f--- ups and my ass will be hauled right back to prison, sure as shit! I’m not into what you’re playin’ at, no way! You try this shit and I’m outta here for good. I’m not taking the fall for a bunch of screwed-up kids.” Charlie shouted.
“Charlie, it’ll work, I promise ya! All we gotta do is make it look just like the scene at Gary’s; put writing on the walls and slash the Pigs but good, and put it all on Blackie’s fuzzy head, just like you told us.” Sadie said, as she so skilfully threw Charlie’s own words back at him.
“Charlie you can’t leave us now. Not when Bobby’s in jail and we’re so close to living that desert dream of yours.” Leslie pleaded.
“We’ll keep you out of all this and we’ll get Bobby back and then we can pack up for good on the money we’ll get from Gary’s cars and be gone before anyone knows shit.” explained Linda.
“Whatever you do or don’t do, I don’t want to be in on it.” Charlie hissed, as he saw Stephanie return from the tour of the ranch. Charlie left Sadie, Leslie and Linda to their “plans” while he and Stephanie walked off in search of Sandy, Squeaky and Mary - his three main girls - Charlie felt the need to confer with them before any decisions were made.
Charlie quietly discussed Sadie’s plan with Sandy and Squeaky (the what, the who, the where and the when) while he had Stephanie and Mary retrieve the stash of stolen credit cards from the Family coffers Bruce managed, so that Mary and Sandy could go into town and get the needed “supplies” for Sadie’s “plan”.
Waiting for the girls to return from their shopping spree, Charlie regaled the Family members with his week-long adventures up north – acquiring a huge stash of drugs from friends in Santa Barbara to placate the SS, taking the baths at Esalen, the acid trip with Stephie on the beach - as the gang ate Brenda’s Garbage-Bin Goulash. The relaxed meal soon turned very tense when Squeaky came running into the saloon, whispering in Charlie’s ear that Mary and Sandy had just telephoned from jail, that they had been arrested at the
San Fernando Valley Sears department store with the stolen credit cards.
This news was more than old Charlie could absorb in one day. First the shooting of Crowe, then the drug burn accusation from the SS, Bobby arrested for Gary’s death and now two of his favourite girls locked up for credit card fraud.
Charlie instantly stood up, threw his white-washed wooden chair across the room and stormed out of the saloon. He stamped down to the creek where an
old weather-beaten oak stood, and he hit that trunk like it was a punching bag at Gold’s Gym.
What had begun in ‘67 as a celebration of his freedom had morphed into an uncontrollable chain of events that he wanted nothing to do with but would forever be linked to him just by association.
All Charlie knew when he got out of prison back then was that he’d never allow himself to get into any situation with anyone which would land him right back in a 8x12 foot cell.
But in less than two years time, he had done just that.
And what’s more, he couldn’t bring himself to take off now and protect his own skin when that would have been the only way out of this mess. His carefree attitude with all the kids he had met had somehow fell by the wayside and was replaced with actual affection, caring and an odd dependency, and losing two of his main girls was more than he could bear.
That moment at the old oak was the breaking point.
And someone was going to have to pay.
His temper tantrum safely subsided, Charlie trod back up the hill and found Tex in the back house, high as a kite on something but lucid enough to listen to his leader;
"Tex, you know how I saved your ass with that Crowe deal, well, it’s time for you to return the favour. I want you and Sadie and, ah...yeah, you and Sadie and Katie, I want you guys to get into some dark clothes and borrow Johnny's Ford and go “off” some pigs tonight, some high-priced pigs and get all their loot so we can free the girls, get Cupid off the hook for Gary and get outta town before the Panthers pounce, you dig." said Charlie.
"Yeah, really?…Well…Hell, okay, sure Charlie, no problem. I know I owe ya big for Crowe. You know I’d do anything for you and the girls. What place you got in mind, Man?" asked Tex.
Grabbing Tex by the shoulders, Charlie looked at him straight in the eyes, his pupils like black daggers now as he hissed to Tex;
"Listen, and listen good. I don't want no part in how you do it or where you do it, or who you do it to, just do it and get it done…now! 'Cause if you don't do it then I'll have to move on it and I can paint some pretty bad pictures, you dig?!" Charlie yelling now, his voice a thundering boom, the tenor of which Tex knew all too well.
"Yeah, yeah, Charlie, no problem, Man. I'll take care of everything. You just go be with Stephie and we'll get you the dough. Just one thing though, should we take Linda along as a driver? 'Cause she's the only one with a license, you know?" asked Tex.
"Take her, don't take her, I don't give a shit. Just make it like Gary's scene. Talk to Sadie; she knows the deal." Charlie said as he bent over and pulled out his favourite gun from the holster he always carried under that leather tunic of his;
"Take the Buntline, it's loaded and grab some more shells from the gun-room. Don't use it unless you gotta as it'll attract unwanted attention, Man. Use the cutlass instead and get knives for the girls. Nice and easy does the trick, no loud noises, you here, Boy, just keep it nice and easy." ordered Charlie.
"Just keep killin’ Pigs until you get enough money so we can free the girls and Cupid and get the Hell outta here, okay?!" Charlie yelled at Tex as he stormed out of the backhouse in his quest to find Stephanie and some "rolled gold" to get the tension out of his shoulders and relieve his simmering temper.
Tex leaned his head back on that moth-eaten, dusty, old couch and took a few moments to get himself together and assess, in his acid-fuelled stupor, what he needed to do next. He pried himself from his perch, staggered to the doorway, squinting hard in the searing sunlight, and slowly wandered up to the boardwalk, kicking stones as he did along the way.
He spied Sadie leaning against one of the wooden posts talking with a couple of the Straight Satan boys. Tex grabbed her by the shoulders and hauled her aside for a con-flab as he had Danny grab three small folding Buck knives and Charlie's cutlass off the wall in the gun-room.
Despite the absence of Mary, Sandy and those extra “supplies” (and Charlie’s mental health!), Katie was roused from her acid-fuelled sleep in the children's trailer, Linda was made to go get her driver's license and Sadie ran around, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, like she was on a K.O.A. camp counsellor’s treasure hunt, grabbing all the dark-coloured clothes she could find at the ranch, even ringing up Barbara at the back house for more.
While Katie and Linda got into their murder “uniform”, Tex and Sadie ran off behind the corral to snort some meth/cocaine powdered courage, the kind Sadie kept hidden under the bunkhouse floor-boards in a glass baby-food jar; and the same kind Charlie would have freaked out about had he known some of his Family members were using it. Their noses properly wiped, the duo were rarin’ to go now and returned to the boardwalk to prepare for the night’s events with more glee than one would expect from Slippies.
Sadie gave Katie and Linda a shiny new Buck and as they got into the Ford, Tex placed the wire-cutters on the floorboard in the back, slid the Buntline into the glove compartment, and dropped the cutlass and rope on the floor in front of him as he got behind the wheel of the car.
The sunset had long ago melted into darkness, and before anyone could spell
the old Ford Fairlaine Galaxie 500 motored away from the ranch frontage, spewing a small cloud of dust as it slowly made it’s was onto Susana Pass road, headed for the copycat killing spree in which Sadie and the girls had put so much faith.
The last anyone saw of old Charlie was as he squatted in front of the boardwalk, a Mona-Lisa smile on his face, his eyes glinting in the light of an over-hanging lantern, and his right hand meekly raised as he waved goodbye to his posse.
It didn’t matter that the reason for this plan was because the gang had screwed up; it didn’t matter that they were to punish entirely innocent strangers for their own misdeeds; all that mattered was that someone more fortunate than themselves would pay the price for their follies and pay in a way that would hurt far more than the bleeding knuckles on Charlie’s fists.
It was around 11:45 p.m., August 8, 1969 and by the time the headlights of that Ford shone on the
Cielo Drive sign post showing the way to 10050, it would be after midnight, on the hot sultry, summer night in Benedict Canyon, August 9, 1969.
The night was so still, you could hear the pages of calendars on lamp lit desks in the canyon flip over to the next day….