“Shit! Fuck!” Jake spotted the patrol car in the rear-view mirror, “Cops.”
Ethan stopped mid-sentence.
“What do we do?”
“Be cool,” Jake looked around the car, “What’d we have?”
Sal stared at Jake and pulled a joint out of his shirt pocket. Then, with a shock of memory, he reached into his front pants pocket and took out the tab of Orange Acid he’d scored at Newport the night before. Jake turned to Ethan who held out his hands palms up.
“Sal, drop the tab and eat the joint,” said Jake in a voice that was startlingly calm. Jake’s hands were steady on the steering wheel.
Is there a smile on his face? Thought Ethan.
Sal swallowed the tab and pushed the joint into his mouth. Ethan looked at Jake.
“What about your stash?”
“We’re good. I only kept a little from the deal. They’ll never find it.”
Jake pulled the van over to the side of the road while checking Sal’s progress in the rear-view mirror. “Ok, everybody, stay cool.”
The trooper’s footsteps crunched over the gravel, rapping an ominous rhythm.
“License and Registration.”
Ethan could see Jake’s reflection in the cop’s Ray Bans.
He’s so fucking calm.
Sal couldn’t keep still; his eyes blinked uncontrollably, his mouth clamped tight. The Cop took Jake’s papers and walked back to his cruiser. The three boys watched the movie unfolding in the van’s rear-view mirror. Time stood still.
Sal spoke first. “We’re fucked.”
Then Ethan. “No, we’re not.”
Jake interrupted. “Shh. He’s coming back.”
The Trooper stood next to the window.
“Step out of the car please.”
Jake tried to be casual. “What for?” The Trooper moved back a few paces.
“Please step out of the car, now. Put your hands on the roof of the car please.”
A second cruiser pulled up, its siren blasting and lights flashing. A bigger, older, even more ominous looking State Trooper stepped out. Meanwhile, Jake thought the better of waiting and decided to do what he was told. As he raised his hands and turned to face the van, he dropped a small glassine packet on the ground. Sal and Ethan both saw it. Jake took off his sunglasses.
“Look officers, I’m sorry if we were speeding. We’re all on vacation and I guess we were in too much of a hurry.”
“Just keep your hands on the roof and spread your legs a little. Any of you carrying any weapons?” Jake turned to face the cops.
“Now come on, officer.”
“Turn around and put your hands on the roof!”
Jake turned around again, this time kicking some dirt over the glassine bag.
“Fuck!!” Sal said out loud.
“Don’t worry, and stay cool,” Jake whispered, “they just wanna jerk our chain a little.”
“Okay boys, we’re gonna take a little ride to the station.”
“Where? What about my van? Are we under arrest?”
“Nope. Not yet.”
“Then what? Why are you taking us in?”
“Son, we’ll go over all that when we get to where we’re goin’. Right now, I want you two,” the trooper pointed at Sal and Ethan, “to get in that vehicle,” he motioned to his cruiser.
“And you,” he nodded toward Jake,” you get into that one there.”
They were screwed and they knew it. There was nothing to do but get into the cars. The second cop moved so close to Sal that he could feel his breath. His voice was surprisingly friendly.
“I’m not gonna cuff you, so you better behave.”
“What about my van?” Jake’s voice cracked.
“We’ll get it towed back to headquarters, don’t worry.”
“Shit,” Sal said out loud again, but only Ethan heard him.
They got into the back of the patrol car. It smelled of new leather. The Trooper got in, picked up the CB, and said a few words that Ethan couldn’t make out — the bullet proof partition made it hard for him to hear. He finally sat back and stared at the man’s large head, the back of which had been shaved to an eighth of an inch around his massive neck. He seemed to take up the whole of the front seat; a giant head on a giant body.
Sal was scared—he was worried about the acid. It was his worst nightmare. He looked around the back of the cruiser. Ethan smiled encouragingly.
“It’ll be fine Sallie, ” he whispered, but his face told a different story.