I cranked the spark plug wrench on the weed eater while Glew’s phone played on speaker. I stopped and rubbed my shoulder. That catch might not ever go away. I cranked the wrench.
Glew said, “Easy with the wrench.”
I feinted a jab toward Glew who backed up with his ear pointed toward his cell phone which lied face up on my work bench. I set the weed eater on the floor and pumped the fuel bubble a few times. Then I grabbed the cord. Glew said, “Fairfax, please.”
He cranked up the volume on his phone. He’d placed a bug in the back of a dive bar that fed right into an app on his phone. We listened.
First Voice: Yeah. For real. When we walked in, I thought that dude was going to tip over and crack like a china plate.
Second Voice: Man, I know. I know. But you have to take advantage. I’ve been telling you that.
First Voice: Yeah. For real. We gotta take a week off and live it up now.
Second Voice: Nah. We should sell it, man.
First Voice: Not me, player. That Chippendale’s wide open. We can hit him again when we get low. What’s he gonna do?
I looked at Glew and mouthed the word ‘Chippendale’. Glew nodded and held his finger to his mouth.
Second Voice: Gotta play it smart, man. We can’t know that. And ain’t no way I’m hitting him any time soon. You know how it’s done.
First Voice: Yeah. For real. Let’s get to it. So we can get off and do our thing. The green dragon gonna take us places!
Glew lowered the volume. “Damn, man. I hope this isn’t true.”
I said, “Who’s ‘Chippendale’?”
Glew picked up his phone. “I’ll show you.”
I tried the weed eater a few times. I’d replaced the old gas with new and cleaned the carburetor and now I’d replaced the spark plug. The old girl still wouldn’t come to life. I huffed a few times and then I accompanied Glew for a country ride. Glew didn’t say much for a while, dabbing at his temples and puffing a thin cigar. “’Chippendale’ may and I stress that it may-
I said, “Right.”
Glew blew a smoke ring through the window. “It may be my buddy ‘Chipper’. I went to school with him. Really poor kid but he was smart. His real name is Chase Powell, but he had these buck teeth and everyone called him ‘Chipper’ like a chipmunk. He really didn’t mind, but you know, I felt for him.”
I said, “You would.”
Glew waved a hand. “I know, Fairfax. Bullies are good. They toughen kids up and yada yada.”
I smiled. “All right. So he was a smart kid. Now he’s a dealer?”
“Just pot. He works at some place out north on their computers. He’s a nerd who lives by himself and likes to smoke a little weed. It’s legal so many places now. Tennessee just needs to catch up.”
I tilted my head back. “Civilization is so convenient…until they attack something you happen to like. I mean, that’s what we’re talking about, right? Chipper’s your dealer?”
Glew turned up a Bob Marley song. I chuckled. Glew swayed with the rhythm and puffed that cigar like he was in slow motion. What all did he have packed into that cigar?
We arrived at Chase ‘Chipper’ Powell’s place. It was a quaint little blue house in the sticks. Kind of like something you might see in an old Claude Monet painting. Shrubs covered the windows nicely and the front lawn could definitely use a trim. Who knows? Maybe I could put the old weed eater to use once we got this done. After all this marijuana talk, “weed eater” gave me a different image in my head besides a lawn tool.
I followed Glew up to the front door. He rang the doorbell. No one answered. I peered through the shrub covering the front window as best I could but I saw no movement. Glew rang the doorbell again but nothing happened. I eased around the side of the house until I reached the back porch. Shrubs and vines concealed the back wall of the house, leaving a sliver of blue exposed. A sandal stuck out past a vine. Glew walked up to me. I pointed toward the sandal. Glew took off his hat and walked around. I followed.
The sandal shot back. Glew threw up his hands. “Hey. Whoa! Take it easy now, Chipper. It’s me, Wally.”
Chipper rubbernecked around a shrub at me. His auburn hair was trimmed very short. His face looked like a boy’s-incapable of facial hair. A pair of sunglasses with green rims covered his eyes. He stared straight at me like a cornered cat. I scratched my beard. “How you doing?”
Chipper said, “Not…um…just not…not so good…not cool, man. Not cool.”
Glew said, “Take it easy, Chipper. I was just out in the area and decided to stop by is all. It’s been a while.”
I stepped around for a better look. Chipper wore a long sleeve pullover. He pulled his sleeve down in a hurry but I spotted a bandage. Chipper kept his eyes on me. Glew said, “How’s it been going?”
Chipper rubbed the back of his neck. “Not so…not good, man. What do you want here?”
Glew said, “I don’t know. Maybe a little snack?”
Chipper pointed at me. “I don’t like this guy.”
Glew said, “Chipper. Come on, man. This is George. He’s my friend. You know a friend of mine is a friend of yours.”
Chipper looked off and lit a cigarette. I turned away from them, peering out over his backyard and then up at the sky. Glew made small talk. After ten minutes or so, Chipper said, “Hey, man.”
I turned back toward him. He held his hand out. I shook it and he gave me some kind of shake that required five moves. I went with it as best I could. Chipper looked at Glew while pointing at me. “This man right here needs a snack. Mellow him out a little.”
Chipper fell into a laugh that took off slow and sped up. Glew pointed at him and winked at me. We entered Chipper’s humble abode. Glew handed him some cash. Chipper studied me over. Glew patted his shoulder. “He’s cool.”
Chipper went to a back room, followed by Glew. Chipper came back out carrying a dragon-shaped bong. Glew said, “Oh wow, man. Don’t you have two of these?”
Chipper didn’t answer. They sat and enjoyed some smoky intoxication while I tapped my fingers on the arms of the plush chair I sat in. His house contained no beaded curtains or posters of Bob Marley and I didn’t see any Jimmy Buffet or Willie Nelson music although he did own quite a few old records. With their business conducted, Chipper thanked us and walked us out. With his sunglasses off, the sunlight revealed a small bruise developing under his eye. When we got back into Glew’s car, he said, “No doubt about it.”
We drove over to the dive bar. After an hour at the bar, I had counted two waitresses, one bartender and three fellows in the kitchen. Our voices on that recorder had to be two of those kitchen fellows. The bartender sounded like a grizzly bear with cold.
So we returned to his car and waited it out. When one of the fellows in the kitchen left, we walked over to him, putting on a drunk act and asking for directions to a motel. The guy told us everything he could. His squeaky voice did not match the voices on the recording. So we thanked him and retreated to a spot behind the dumpster in back.
We waited for over an hour. I moved my shoulder around, working out a cramp. “Damn.”
Glew said, “Why so stressed, stud? You should have toked with us…man.”
I shook my head and massaged my shoulder until it loosened up a little. The back door opened. I ducked down.
The other two kitchen workers headed for a white Camry. I pulled on my black ski mask. Glew followed suit. We stepped around the dumpster with only twenty feet between us and the thieves.
The back door opened again. One of the waitresses ran toward the kitchen guys. She jumped into the bigger one’s arms. They shared a long barrage of kisses while the other one played on his phone. We ducked back down. I removed my mask. Glew did the same. The two guys talked for a while. Without a doubt, these were our guys. However, they climbed into the Camry along with the girl and fired it up.
Glew stayed hunkered down and ran to his car in the next parking lot. I followed behind him, not looking at the kitchen guys. By the time we got into his car, the white Camry turned out of the lot.
Glew cut off a truck pulling in on his way out. The driver laid on the horn and yelled a string of cuss words at us. Glew lit a cigar and drove a comfortable distance behind the Camry. We traveled a few miles down the highway until the Camry pulled into an apartment complex on the north side of town. The shorter of the kitchen guys got out and walked up the stairs. I slid out of Glew’s car and headed on up. Glew followed the Camry back out onto the street.
I took my steps with a gentle motion. The kitchen guy reached the second story and walked to the first room on the right. I made it to the door. The kitchen guy held the door open, staring at me. There was no need in pretending anymore. I threw a jab at his face, figuring he’d step back. I actually caught him with it though, and then shoved my way inside. He drew back to hit me but I shoved him into the wall behind him. He pushed back with the strength of a mouse. So I gave him a big shot in his gut which dropped him to the carpet. I turned and closed the front door. A set of keys dangled from the lock. So I snatched them up and slid them into my pocket.
I dragged him to the living room and shoved him down onto the sofa. “Where’s the duct tape?”
He leaned over, holding onto his stomach. I grabbed his black hair and leaned his head back. “Duct tape?”
With his mouth ajar, he pointed toward the kitchen. I let him go and backed to the kitchen. Searching through the drawers with my hands, I prodded along until I felt a roll of duct tape that was nearly used up. I turned my eyes to it for a split-second. The kitchen guy rushed to the front door.
I bolted across the living room and grabbed his shoulder before he could get out. He wrestled away from me. So I dove onto his back. He went down just outside the door. He yelled, “Help! Somebody-
I dragged him back inside by his belt and then placed my knee into his back. From there, I took the duct tape and wrapped his wrists. My shoulder ached when I wrapped his mouth. I placed him on the sofa and pulled on the tape roll. It was empty. So I peered around the room. The guy said something underneath the tape. I grinned. “Naw, naw. You got rabbit in your blood, son.”
I found a lamp in the corner and unplugged it and wrapped his ankles with the cord. “I don’t blame you. If anyone tied me up, I wouldn’t think of anything but getting free. However, I wouldn’t take what isn’t mine either.”
Not anymore at least.
“So just point to the stash you took off of Chipper earlier today.”
He looked at me like I spoke Chinese.
“Don’t make a jerk out of me. Just motion with your head toward which room it’s in and I’ll get on out of your way.”
He didn’t change his expression. I sighed. “Okay. I’ll just tear the place apart then.”
Despite his mumbling and yelling beneath the tape, I entered the first bedroom down the hall where I found a pipe and a bong and a Bob Marley poster. Still, though, I found no stash.
When I came out, he yelled at me through the tape with large eyes. I took a few steps toward him. He nodded as if I were bringing him water after a trek through the Sahara. I turned and walked to the back bedroom anyway.
Inside, I found a queen-sized bed with his picture beside it. Another picture hung on the wall of him standing beside an older lady. A closer look revealed an undeniable resemblance. This was his mother’s bedroom. I chuckled. Ah, but he could have placed it in here. So I rummaged through her chest drawers and her closet and underneath her bed. I don’t see any need to tell everything I found in those places but I didn’t find any weed stash there either.
When I came back out, he beat his head against the sofa and stomped the floor, still staring at me with bulging eyes. I walked over and removed the tape.
“Ah! Damn, man. That’s my mom’s room.”
I said, “Yeah. Now tell me where it is.”
“Dude, what are you talking about a stash? I smoke a little weed sometimes. Yeah, but I haven’t ever stolen anything. I swear, man. You got the wrong house, dude. I swear.”
I replaced the tape over his mouth. He leaned back and rammed his head toward my head with all he had. I drew back in time and then I jabbed him in the jaw. He fell back and then shook his head, stomping the floor again.
I checked the last closet in the place and under the sink and a few other places. Glew sent me a text message, letting me know he’d returned with a smiley face icon beside the message. So I walked to the door and looked at the guy on the sofa. “We got you now. And leave your dealer alone. Just smoke a little weed like a nice boy. Because if I come back, I’ll take a lot more than the stash back.”
He still gave me the same scared eyes like he didn’t know what I talked about. I bolted down the stairs and climbed into Glew’s car. “So he had it. Huh?”
Glew swallowed. “It wasn’t up there?”
“Damn it. You got to be kidding me.”
Glew rubbed his nose. “He went to the girl’s place and followed her inside but he only stayed a minute. Then I followed him to his apartment a few miles down the street. I searched the whole place but I couldn’t find a thing. There was barely any food in there even and the kid denied everything.”
I said, “Mine did, too. Are you sure they did this?”
“Hey, you saw Chipper.”
I said, “And the bug you had on was the one in that bar? You’re sure?”
“You heard the voices. They match up.”
I said, “Let’s hear it again.”
Glew played the recording on his phone again. I shook my head and had him play it another time. I cracked my knuckles. “Okay, they rob Chipper. Then they have to stash it somewhere. In the bar you think? The dumpster maybe?”
Glew pulled out of his parking spot. “We’ll go check it out.”
A fifties green Ford Fairlane passed us. The woman driving glanced our way. I said, “Stop the car.”
Glew stopped. “What is it?”
“Green dragon. The one guy said that they’d get there with the green dragon.”
Glew snapped his fingers. “The dragon bong. They took the other one.”
I said, “Did you see it at the guy’s apartment?”
“Um…no. Was it in there?”
I shook my head. “The green dragon is that car. That’s the guy’s mom. I saw her picture in there.”
I pulled the guy’s keys from my pocket. There was one old Ford key on there. The woman was nearly in the apartment. I ran out of Glew’s car over to the Fairlane. I shoved the key in the trunk lock and turned. When the lid rose, the street light illuminated the plastic that encased the stash in the corner of the trunk. I grabbed it and then shut the lid and tossed the keys across the lot. When I reached Glew’s car, the woman raced down the steps. Glew made it to the exit but a string of five cars rolled by. The woman raced toward us. Only her eyes looked a hell of a lot scarier than her son’s did. “Damn you, Glew. Get moving.”
“And get hit?”
The woman beat her palms on the passenger window, yelling, “What did you do to my son? What kind of animals are you? I’ll get you! I will get you!”
The final car passed. Glew tore us on out of there. The lady yelled after us and pulled out her phone, trying to take down Glew’s license plate number. Glew said, “So they had green dragon take the stash to them. That’s actually pretty clever.”
“And incredibly wimpy. Getting your mama to take all the risk.”
Glew coughed. “Well, yeah. Man, look at it just lying there.”
I turned my eyes to the brick of weed between us. “I reckon Chipper’s going to be a happy man.”
Glew said, “Shit. Like we’re giving it back.”
I watched Glew. He peered at me out of the corner of his eye. “I can take my cut. Right?”
I grabbed the stash and held onto it. Glew said, “Ah geez, stud.”
We rode out to Chipper’s house. At midnight, his house looked like a hovel eaten up by black vegetation monsters. When we handed him the stash, his mouth dropped. I thought he might have been having some kind of spell. Then he jumped into the air over and over like he had an invisible pogo stick beneath those sandals. He bowed before us like we were gods. We tried to leave but he insisted on giving Glew a cut of the stash. While he separated the portion, Glew wouldn’t look at me. “Don’t say it.”
I said, “Uh-huh. How do you feel now? The job is the reward itself, Glew.”
“Well, geez, stud. We help a lot of folks. There’s no reason we can’t take a little something for ourselves.”
Then Chipper returned with Glew’s reward and insisted on giving me something. I turned him down on pot, a cool rug and a few old records but when he showed me his brand new weed eater, well, I gave in. Glew dropped me off and said, “Feels good to get a little reward. Right?”
I admired my new weed eater. “You know, it actually does.”
I enjoyed a good night’s rest. The next day, I woke up at the crack of noon and after breakfast, I took a look at the weeds protruding from the ground around my shop and smiled. “It’s about to be all over for you.”
I primed my new weed eater and massaged my shoulder for a moment. I gave it a crank. Then I gave it several more cranks but nothing happened. I sighed. “I knew it.”