After they have been roughly searched to the squat little hippy's satisfaction he beckons them further in with a churlish nod towards the back. He is a creature at odds in appearance with long, greasy hair, large lamb chop sideburns, and an even larger and protruding gut. At odds in that his eyes are cold, cruel. Also the large caliber revolver tucked in his frayed and stretched elastic waistband fails rather to generate the serenity and love attitude of the peace sign on his faded and dirty t-shirt. His smile is scary and full of holes.
Inside is rather more spacious than imagined, most of the seats having been removed. The hippy nonchalantly guides them past some broken school desks, a cracked chalk board with multiplication tables on it, some shelving units filled with clothes and tools and bric-a-brac leaning against the sides, Sabo dragging the suitcase in a demonstration of acting skills Stanislavski would have approved. They are led past a kitchen type area with shelves and hotplates, into the back area separated by a curtain of rough cut fabric.
This is jerked aside brusquely by the little lamb-chopped hippy. Trinkos keeps nervously eyeballing the big handgun protruding from that overly stretched waistline. He impatiently holds the curtain open, shakes it, and they are ushered in though an emitted cloud of rolling grey smoke, paling progressively. Two of the bus's original two seater seats remain in place, with two others unfastened and turned around, propped up on crates facing them. A small linoleum covered kitchen table inhabits the space in between. Seated are three, a very bulky and large Native American, a very slim and tall Asian woman, and a very small statured black fellow in cornrows.
They pass around a rather large joint.
'Gentleman. We have been waiting for you. Care for a puff of the peace joint before we begin?'
The little guy offers the joint, which Sabo declines.
'Be seated anyways. Please. I am called Manaba Billy and these here are my associates.'
'Associated with getting fucked up, anyways, eh Manaba?'
This sends the little Asian lady into hysterics, which denigrates into a fit of coughing as she has trouble exhaling the potent smoke.
'Shut the fuck up Shorty.'
They slide in, our intrepid heroes do, Trinkos adjusting himself with some embarrassment and discomfort. The leader, Manaba Billy, is displeased. He pulls on the long braids on each side of his head in consternation, crosses them over his chest. Shorty has indeed shut the fuck up. Manaba Billy glares at him anyways, and he straightens up. There is an awkward silence.
'Hey, you like got all the races here. Like that Disney ride in Orlando.'
'Shut up Sabo. Jesus.' ~ Trinkos.
'So, you guys wishing to sample this dope or what? I am a busy man. Don't got all day here.'
The joint is thrust Trinkos's way and he takes a haul. He coughs, passes it to Sabo who declines.
'You got the money in that bag there?'
'You have the quantity we talked about?'
Manaba Billy nods in the direction of what was once the bus's toilet, now apparently the drug storage locker. A cheap padlock is on the door. The joint is passed back and forth and the smoke wafts and curls, unwilling to leave just yet. Everyone is at least on the way to getting as high as hell, even Sabo.
'Where do you grow then? Seems to me that you can't grow so good, or much in a swamp.'
'It wasn't always so wet.'
'Stupid fucking global warming.'
'Yeah, stupid white people's god!'
Manaba Billy takes another massive inhalation. He silences his cohorts with a raised hand.
'Let's not get into the blame game. We don't grow it here anyways, to answer your question mister curious question man. This is where we live. What if some assholes like you guys came and then sold us out?'
'I guess that would suck.'
'Yeah that would suck. You think we're stupid?'
'We are getting rather ridiculously, insanely, massively high.' Trinkos states languidly, passing the joint off. 'Everyone lay off the aggression.'
'Damn Trinkos man.'
'Would you like a beer? It mellows the buzz.'
Outside in the distance Trinkos sees some of the sketchier park dwellers walking with hubcaps, a familiar bumper. A moment later another two roll along some tires. Familiar tires.
'I wonder if our car is okay.'
'It's fine. Don't be worried about that. But I do have some other, kind of bad news for you guys.'
'Oh yeah, what's that?'
'Show them Shorty.'
Shorty gets up and opens the 'drug storage closet', which is decidedly empty of drugs. Manaba Billy's laughter is lacking in mirth, tinny, metallic. The little Asian and Shorty don't laugh. They are staring hard to see what these fools gawking in front of them are going to do.
Trinkos smiles inanely and Sabo shifts and looks around and shakes his head.
'What's so funny Bill?'
'Well, the joke is we are still going to keep your money mister curious question.' ~ Deadpan from the Asian. 'How the fuck you like that?'
'Shit, now everyone calm…'
The little Asian lady is suddenly pointing a sawed off shotgun which has materialized out of nowhere at the two. Lambchops, with some effort, pulls out his hand cannon, Manaba Billy a twenty-two.
'Yes, for serious. Now give us no trouble and you might not die slow.'
Sabo and Trinkos exchange a glance. Things are not good.
'Man, you trailer gypos are cold'
'Yeah man, cold as yesterday's potatoes.'
'No hard feelings. It's the economic downturn. It makes everyone more business motivated. You see? Now hand over the case and don't do anything stupid.'
The fat ass joint continues to burn in an ashtray shaped like Rita Hayworth on the table. The bus is thick with intoxicating, hazy, lazy, smoke.
'We understand that, eh Trinkos. Business is business'
Trinkos nods. 'We can relate.'
'Even so, we are gonna have to kill you now. Sorry, but business has been slow, and well, business is business. On the bright side you don't have to dig your own grave. Swamp takes care of that.'
'So I guess you can thank global warming,' says the Asian, and Shorty grins.
'Now hand over the case'
'Better give them the suitcase Sabo.'
The suitcase flies through the air and through the smoke, flies open, obscuring, distracting, as Trinkos and Sabo are reaching into their nether regions, pulling out what had been so uncomfortable, namely, socks. Heavy socks, stuffed with rolls of pennies it turns out. Mean weapons in close quarters. Trinkos is a little slower, a little behind the rapid quick Brazilian who slams his fist of cloth covered metal into Lambchop's forehead on a downswing, also clubbing away that gun in the same motion. By the time Trinkos has pulled his sock of nickels out Sabo has crunched another blow into Shorty sending him down hard to the ground, as Manaba Billy bats the suitcase out of the air, fails to grasp it, loses his gun. Trinkos diving now underneath the table as the woman fires the sawed-off, getting thrown back into the wall by the force of the blast, taking out the emergency exit, herself out for the count from the impact.
'Trinkos, come on! Fuck it man. Run now before we die! I am not getting buried into no fucking swamp!'
Sabo scrambling in the haze and smoke, pulling Trinkos up . Trinkos grabbing the suitcase and they are diving out the back, the bus's emergency exit, as the twenty-two pops several times and glass explodes around them.
Running out the door and to the car, only quickly discovering the car has already been half dismantled and keeping on running now and to the left after and down and into the swamp, avoiding pools of water and hiding under logs as men run past, then up and back and into a deepening mist, soaked and scared and half deaf from the proximity to the gunfire. Back in the direction of the trailer park Manaba Billy is screaming and others, and an occasional gun firing can be heard.
to be continued...