“That’s right, asshole,” Deputy Buddy Turnage muttered around a considerable chaw, “just turn that hippie van around and get the fuck out of here. Go find someplace else to drink your beer and smoke your pot and throw your goddamned Frisbee . . .”
His Caprice cruiser baked in the late afternoon sun, baked like chicken at the entrance to the park, a source of comfort for families and law-abiding folks looking to enjoy the beautiful spring day, an effective deterrent for the hard-partying crowd seeking diversions of a less than savory nature.
Turnage raised a plastic cup to his mouth and unleashed a torrent of brown spit. Eyes concealed behind mirrored aviators, he watched the van with satisfaction, smiling as the long-haired driver executed a U-turn in the parking lot and headed back to the highway.
No doubt the long-haired driver and his long-haired commie freak friends were up to no good. Otherwise they would’ve come right on in, easy as you please. Good old fashioned police presence had put the kibosh on their plans. As well as the sign recently posted at the entrance gate: NO COOLERS ALLOWED. The sign had been his idea. A mighty fine one, too. Now troublemakers had to go somewhere else to get their kicks, preferably across the county line where they would be somebody else’s headache.
Turnage’s stomach growled. His was a large stomach, an incredibly bloated belly which stretched the seams of his shit-brown uniform shirt. He ate garbage and hadn’t gotten a lick of exercise since his high school football days. Dr. Buckhalter had given him a stern warning at his last checkup. “You’re a heart attack waiting to happen,” the doctor had said. Turnage had promised to do better.
But damn if those jumbo pulled pork sandwiches heaped with coleslaw down at Dax’s Drive-In weren’t the closest thing to heaven on earth. In fact, he could go for one right about now. The iced honey bun he had washed down with his morning coffee had worn off hours ago. He needed fuel to get through the remainder of his shift.
Turnage cranked the cruiser and pulled out onto the highway. He wasn’t even halfway to Dax’s when his mouth began to water.
After eating lunch Turnage had spent the afternoon running radar on the short stretch of I-20 within his county, a fruitful undertaking as he had netted three speeders and helped a stranded motorist with a flat tire. Now, fresh wad of Beech-Nut tucked in his jaw, he returned to the park at the brink of dusk, one final drive through before heading back to the station.
The parking lot was empty.
With one exception.
Turnage grinned when he saw the hippie van.
He wheeled in beside it and climbed out of his cruiser, hitching his trousers as he walked to the rear of the van and saw the California plate.
Should’ve known, he mused.
Land of fruits and nuts.
He walked around and peered through the passenger side window. Nothing incriminating within view. But that didn’t mean diddly squat. He could see them down there by the lake, a group of five long hairs with their backs turned to him. They hadn’t even seen him pull in. At least he didn’t think so. Probably stoned out of their gourds, he thought. Well, this was his park, a family-friendly park, and that kind of thing just couldn’t be tolerated, not on his watch.
Turnage stepped off the asphalt and descended the grassy embankment. It wasn’t steep, but his knees popped just the same. The hippies were some sixty yards away. Turnage walked with purposeful strides. One of them turned around when he was halfway there, setting off a chain reaction. Turnage saw pale faces framed with long, stringy hair parted in the middle.
He reached the party and stopped, towering above them with his hands on his hips. His smile became a sneer when he saw their red and white Coleman cooler.
“Can you folks read?” he asked.
“We can read.”
Their spokesman, Turnage thought. He saw three men and two women. They looked older than he had suspected. These weren’t college kids. And that made it worse. These folks should know better. Strangely enough, he didn’t see any beer cans, nor did he smell the pungent odor of weed. The speaker and one of the women were smoking cigarettes. The cooler lid was closed.
“Coolers are prohibited in this park,” Turnage said.
“We didn’t know,” said the smoking woman.
They wore old jeans, threadbare T-shirts, battered dollar store sneakers. They were unwashed, unkempt, transient. Turnage saw paper plates, napkins, plastic forks, everything spread out atop a dirty blanket.
“You folks having a picnic?”
Nobody said a word.
“I bet that cooler is loaded with beer. I hate to break it to you, but this here is a dry county. We don’t allow—”
“No beer,” the spokesman said. “Just sodas and food.”
“Sodas and food, huh?”
Turnage eyed them warily. “Mind if I take a look?”
“We’d rather you didn’t.”
“And why is that?”
“Leave us alone,” said the other woman, the non smoker. “We haven’t done anything wrong. You’re harassing us.”
Turnage got a kick out of that one. He stepped closer and placed his boot atop the cooler. He moved his foot back and forth, agitating its contents. Ice rattled.
“It’s a fine day for cold beer. Yes, indeed. Unfortunately you all picked the wrong place. But I’m a reasonable man. Pour the beer out and throw away the cans and I’ll let you go about your day without so much as a ticket. How about that?”
“There’s no beer,” said the spokesman.
“We don’t even drink—”
“Don’t lie to me.”
“I’m not lying.”
“Enough of this bullshit!”
Turnage had had enough. He kicked the cooler, fully expecting an avalanche of ice and 12 ounce cans. It took several seconds for the whole thing to register, the contents of the cooler spread out atop the blanket—the upper portion of an arm, a muscular thigh, a pink tongue—
“Jesus!” Turnage reached for his sidearm.
Much too late.
They attacked, five against one, an all out blitzkrieg. They took him to the ground. Turnage didn’t stand a chance as he felt a knife plunge into his gut.
The cult made short work of the deputy.
And ate good for two whole weeks.