Friday, October 11, 2019

Practical Demonkeeping Chapter 33-34

33 RIVERA During the drive to Pine Cove, Rivera was nagged by the idea that he had forgotten something. It wasn't that he hadn't reported where he was going; he had planned that. Until he had physical evidence that there was a serial killer in the area, he wasn't saying a word. But when he knocked on the Elliotts' front door and it swung open, he suddenly remembered that his bullet-proof vest was hanging in his locker back at the station. He called into the house and waited for an answer. None came. Only cops and vampires have to have an invitation to enter, he thought. But there is probable cause. The part of his mind that functioned like a district attorney kicked in. â€Å"So, Sergeant Rivera,† the lawyer said, â€Å"you entered a private residence based on a computer data base that could have been no more than a mailing list?† â€Å"I believed that Effrom Elliott's name on the list represented a clear and present danger to a private citizen, so I entered the residence.† Rivera drew his revolver and held it in his right hand while he held his badge out in his left. â€Å"Mr. and Mrs. Elliott, this is Sergeant Rivera from the Sheriff's Department. I'm coming in the house.† He moved from room to room announcing his presence before he entered. The bedroom door was closed. He saw the splintered bullet hole in the door and felt his adrenaline surge. Should he call for backup? The D.A. said: â€Å"And so you entered the house on what basis?† Rivera came through the door low and rolled. He lay for a moment on the floor of the empty room, feeling stupid. What now? He couldn't call in and report a bullet hole in a residence that he had probably entered illegally, especially when he hadn't reported that he was in Pine Cove in the first place. One step at a time, he told himself. Rivera returned to his unmarked car and reported that he was in Pine Cove. â€Å"Sergeant Rivera,† the dispatcher said, â€Å"there is a message for you from Technical Sergeant Nailsworth. He said to tell you that Robert Masterson is married to the granddaughter of Effrom Elliott. He said he doesn't know what it means, but he thought you should know.† It meant that he had to find Robert Masterson. He acknowledged the message and signed off. Fifteen minutes later he was at The Breeze's trailer. The old pickup was gone and no one answered the door. He radioed the station and requested a direct patch to the Spider. â€Å"Nailgun, can you get me Masterson's wife's home address? He gave the trailer as residence when we brought him in. And give me the place where she works.† â€Å"Hold on, it'll be just a second for her address.† Rivera lit a cigarette while he waited. Before he took the second drag, Nailsworth came back with the address and the shortest route from Rivera's location. â€Å"It will take a little longer for the employer. I have to access the Social Security files.† â€Å"How long?† â€Å"Five, maybe ten minutes.† â€Å"I'm on my way to the house. Maybe I won't need it.† â€Å"Rivera, there was a fire call at that address this morning. That mean anything to you?† â€Å"Nothing means anything to me anymore, Nailsworth.† Five minutes later Rivera pulled up in front of Jenny's house. Everything was covered with a gummy gray goo, a mix of ashes, flour, and water from the fire hoses. As Rivera climbed out of the car, Nailsworth called back. â€Å"Jennifer Masterson is currently employed at H.P.'s Cafe, off Cypress in Pine Cove. You want the phone number?† â€Å"No,† Rivera said. â€Å"If she's not here, I'll go over there. It's just a few doors down from my next stop.† â€Å"You need anything else?† Nailsworth sounded as if he was holding something back. â€Å"No,† Rivera said. â€Å"I'll call if I do.† â€Å"Rivera, don't forget about that other matter.† â€Å"What matter?† â€Å"Roxanne. Check on her for me.† â€Å"As soon as I can, Nailsworth.† Rivera threw the radio mike onto the passenger seat. As he walked up to the house, he heard someone come on the radio singing a chorus to the song â€Å"Roxanne† in a horrible falsetto. Nailsworth had shown his weakness over an open frequency, and now, Rivera knew, the whole department would ride the fat man's humiliation into the ground. When this was over, Rivera promised himself, he would concoct a story to vindicate the Spider's pride. He owed him that. Of course, that depended on Rivera vindicating himself. The walk to the door covered his shoes with gray goo. He waited for an answer and returned to the car, cursing in Spanish, his shoes converted to dough balls. He didn't get out of the car at H.P.'s Cafe. It was obvious from the darkened windows that no one was inside. His last chance was the Head of the Slug Saloon. If Masterson wasn't there, he was out of leads, and he would have to report what he knew, or, what was more embarrassing, what he didn't know, to the captain. Rivera found a parking place in front of the Slug behind Robert's truck, and after taking a few minutes to get his right shoe unstuck from the gas pedal, he went in. 34 U-PICK-EM The Pagan Vegetarians for Peace called them the Sacred Caves because they believed that the caves had once been used by Ohlone Indians for religious ceremonies. This, in fact, was not true, for the Ohlone had avoided the caves as much as possible due to the huge population of bats that lived there, bats that were inextricably locked into the destiny of the caves. The first human occupation of the caves came in the 1960s, when a down-and-out farmer named Homer Styles decided to use the damp interior of the caves to cultivate mushrooms. Homer started his business with five hundred wooden crates of the sort used for carting soda bottles, and a half-gallon carton of mail-order mushroom spores; total investment: sixteen dollars. Homer had stolen the crates from behind the Thrifty-Mart, a few at a time, over the period of weeks that it took him to read the pamphlet Fungus for Fun and Profit, put out by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. After filling the crates with moist peat and laying them out on the cave floor, Homer spread his spores and waited for the money to roll in. What Homer didn't figure on was the rapid growth rate of the mushrooms (he'd skipped that part of the pamphlet), and within days he found himself sitting in a cave full of mushrooms with no market and no money to pay for help in harvesting. The solution to Homer's problem came from another government pamphlet entitled The Consumer-Harvested Farm, which had come, by mistake, in the same envelope with Fungus for Fun. Homer took his last ten dollars and placed an ad in the local paper: Mushrooms, $.50 lb. U-PICK-EM, your container. Old Creek Road. 9?C5 daily. Mushroom-hungry Pine Covers came in droves. As fast as the mushrooms were harvested, they grew back, and the money rolled in. Homer spent his first profits on a generator and a string of lights for the caves, figuring that by extending his business hours into the evening, his profits would grow in proportion. It would have been a sound business move had the bats not decided to rear their furry heads in protest. During the day the bats had been content to hang out on the roof of the cave while Homer ran his business below. But on the first night of Homer's extended hours when the bats woke to find their home invaded by harshly lit mushroom pickers, their tolerance ended. There were twenty customers in the caves when the lights went on. In an instant the air above them was a maelstrom of screeching, furry, flying rodents. In the rush to exit, one woman fell and broke a hip and another was bitten on the hand while extracting a bat from her hair. The cloud of bats soon disappeared into the night, only to be replaced the next day by an equally dense cloud of landbound vermin: personal-injury lawyers. The varmints prevailed in court. Homer's business was destroyed, and once again the bats slept in peace. A depressed Homer Styles went on a binge in the Head of the Slug. He spent four days in an Irish whiskey haze before his money ran out and Mavis Sand sent him to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. (Mavis could tell when a man had hit bottom, and she felt no need to pump a dry well.) Homer found himself in the meeting room of the First National Bank, telling his story. It happened that at that same meeting a young surfer who called himself The Breeze was working off a court-ordered sentence he had earned by drunkenly crashing a '62 Volkswagen into a police cruiser and promptly puking on the arresting officer's shoes. The farmer's story touched off an entrepreneurial spark in the surfer, and after the meeting The Breeze cornered Homer with a proposition. â€Å"Homer, how would you like to make some heavy bread growing magic mushrooms?† The next day the farmer and the surfer were hauling bags of manure into the caves, spreading it over the peat, and scattering a completely different type of spore. According to The Breeze their crop would sell for ten to twenty dollars an ounce instead of the fifty cents a pound that Homer received for his last crop. Homer was enraptured with the possibility of becoming rich. And he would have, if not for the bats. As the day of their first harvest neared, The Breeze had to take his leave of their plantation to serve the weekend in the county jail (the first of fifty – the judge had not been amused at having barf-covered police shoes presented as evidence in his courtroom). Before he left, The Breeze assured Homer that he would return Monday to help with the drying and marketing of the mushrooms. In the meantime, the woman who had been bitten during the debacle of the bats, came down with rabies. County animal-control agents were ordered to the caves to destroy the bat colony. When the agents arrived, they found Homer Styles crouched over a tray of psychedelic mushrooms. The agents offered Homer the option of walking away and leaving the mushrooms, but Homer refused, so they radioed the sheriff. Homer was led away in handcuffs, the animal-control agents left with their pockets filled with mushrooms, and the bats were left alone. When The Breeze was released on Monday, he found himself in search of a new scam. A few months later, while incarcerated at the state prison in Lompoc, Homer Styles received a letter from The Breeze. The letter was covered with a fine yellow powder and read: â€Å"Sorry about your bust. Hope we can bury the hatchet.† Homer buried the letter in a shoe box he kept under his bunk and spent the next ten years living in relative luxury on the profits he made from selling psychedelic mushrooms to the other inmates. Homer sampled his crop only once, then swore off mushrooms for life when he hallucinated that he was drowning in a sea of bats.

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