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Trash and the Deathburgers

by Gary Clifton

Group Supervisor Clarence Pool was livid. “You lost what, for God’s sake? Three hundred damned dollars is more than the both of you are worth!”

Hector stammered inanely, “We’ll catch him, boss.”

Kobock thought he sounded less than resolute.

“You clowns handed this skel three bills of taxpayer cash and let him walk away. I’ll enter you two in the National Idiot of the Year Contest. You’re a cinch to win.”

Kobock spoke up. “Clarence, seems I recall we hadda deal go south around here last year where somebody let a doper get away with ten grand. And he was never busted. We’ll find this guy.”

“Yeah, Kobock, but that was not a damned dime-bag buy-bust deal.”

Group Supervisor Clarence Pool was widely adjudged by squad room banter as crazier than a fruit-orchard boar. He was neither a reasonable nor a sympathetic man. Tall, bald, fifty, his eyes frequently struggled to stay in focus, and that appeared to be happening now.

“Kobock, trying to use that ten thousand-dollar accident as an umbrella is gonna leave you out in the damned rain. With a tad of luck, I might be able to get you two transferred some place where the mail comes monthly by camel. Now get outta my office and find this guy. And our three hundred bucks. Two weeks, then you pay the three hundred yourselves.”

Fifteen years earlier, Hector Morales and Davis Kobock had sat next to each other in the DEA Academy in the swamps of Glynco, Georgia. In a small world where the players were constantly recycled like worms squirming in a galvanized bucket, the future was hard to predict. For the past year, they’d been assigned to the Dallas Field Office as partners.

As they strode back across the squad room, Morales said, “He’s chewed my butt enough I might qualify for a disability pension.”

“Can I call you Half Ass?”

“Kobock, we got no chance of ever seeing that cash again.”

“Yeah, partner, but when we bag the doper, Ol’ Clarence in there will forget all about the three hundred. You recall, his memory span is only about forty-seven seconds.”

A lifetime earlier, Kobock had played middle linebacker for a small college in Iowa until the grade monster had rejected him. He was big, fit, and not a lick happier at losing three hundred dollars than Group Supervisor Pool. Kobock didn’t have anybody he could chew out about it.

Hector Morales had been a middle-distance runner for a college in Southern California. Still skinny enough to stand under a clothesline and avoid rain, he had not swallowed a morsel in twenty years that wasn’t junk food. Hector survived totally on what Kobock called deathburgers. The way Kobock had it figured, Hector was a goner, sooner or later, from acute deathburger ingestion.

Hector and Kobock had recruited a snitch; a pimp known on the street as “C.J.” which didn’t make a hell of a lot of sense because his name was Sylvester Robertson. C.J. had put them onto a biker dope dealer named “Trash,” who had offered a Thompson sub-machine gun for sale on the street for $1500.

That sticky hot August morning, they’d signed out the Yellow Cab for cover and found Trash in a pool hall on South Buckner, in the Pleasant Grove district. He was stumbling drunk at 10:00 a.m. C.J. had called and said two gangsters from Detroit were coming to see him. Or at least he said they had called.

“C.J. sent us,” Hector said, trying to stay in dope-purchaser, gangster character.

Trash was one of the more appropriately named screw-ups Kobock had ever met. Atop the appearance of having slept in a sewer in his blue jeans and sleeveless denim jacket for at least a month, that image was backed-stopped by body odor like two dead cats.

If he panicked and bolted for the door, Trash’s fat-encrusted heart would have failed and Emergency Services would have needed a bulldozer to get his carcass outside. Busting this guy was going to be easy pickings, or so it seemed. They’d need only a heavy-duty bus to move him to jail.

“Yeah, okay, Mr. Mafia guy, I got a Thompson, but y’all ain’t thinkin’ I’m dumb enough to keep it close by, are you?”

“Be hard to sell it if you can’t show it,” Kobock suggested, struggling not to ask the guy just exactly how stupid he was.

Trash suddenly produced a plastic-bagged wad of white powder from his dirty jacket and waved it in Hector’s face. He should have known flashing the heroin to strangers was dumb and outside the rulebook of proper dope peddling. However, the odds were good that Trash hadn’t done much thinking since his last trip to the joint.

Trash never flinched when Hector pulled out his Marquis Reagent Kit and field-tested the swag on the tabletop. The little vial turned jackpot-blue. The stuff was real. If ol’ Trash had possessed one lick of common sense, he’d have tried for the door at the first sight of that reagent kit. But bad guys are smart only on TV.

Kobock had often thought Hector looked like a cop. Today, however, he looked like an escaped mental patient. But Trash, light-years from mental giantism, would have sold his swag to a uniformed Northwest Mounted Policeman at the first sight of a Yankee dollar.

“Three hundred,” Trash demanded drunkenly.

“Lookit, homey,” Kobock broke in. “We came all the way from Detroit to buy that Thompson. We can use the dope, but our boss, Don Portobello, is gonna be very angry if we don’t bring that gun back.”

In their haste to score the Thompson, they handed the ape $300 of taxpayer money for the dope. They let him waddle away with the solemn promise of returning in one hour with the submachinegun.

Any exception to the buy-bust policy required written approval in triplicate with the Director’s signature and his fingerprint in blood in the lower left corner of each copy. Anybody who had been on the street more than fifteen minutes. should have had that rule embroidered on his underwear.

Several hours passed. Hector ate two double bacon Swiss burgers at the joint across the street. Trash didn’t show, and they had to confess the glitch to Group Supervisor nutball Pool.

That was why their appointed leader often appeared to be trying to decide between whether to have a nervous collapse or clamber to the roof and take hostages. Today was a command performance of management instability.

Neither the money nor the hysterical supervisor were the problem. Three hundred bucks was small change, and insane supervisors were common. The real problem was squad-room ridicule. It was waterboarding with hydrochloric acid. Hector and Kobock had made a dumb, rookie error. They had to find Trash and that Thompson or they were ruined men. They would never, never get invited to police barbecues again. The lady in the lobby coffee shop would snigger when they walked by. They’d have to use the back door. What a horror.

* * *

Armed with an arrest warrant charging Trash with sale of a controlled substance, Kobock and Hector quickly got busy kicking in doors in Pleasant Grove, mangling the Fourth and Fifth Amendments in equal parts with friends and relatives of the accused.

A week dragged by. They broke Trash’s mama’s door, threatened his brother’s life, pried open his uncle’s car trunk, stuffed faithful snitch C.J. in a public commode in Lansing Park, and spread general mayhem. Hector got dog-bit twice. Kobock stepped on a six-penny nail in a dark alley.

Visiting more houses than any mail carrier did in a month, they’d seen a bunch of dirtbags in their natural habitat and some of the most poorly decorated home interiors imaginable. But what they didn’t see was Trash.

It’s true. Folks with eating disorders, when stressed, or in despair, or when in love, or on a routine Sunday afternoon turn to food. Hector was eating so many cheeseburgers, colon failure or coronary occlusion were locked in a dead heat to see which ended Hector’s problems first.

Kobock remarked one sultry evening, “Hector, it’s not hard to see why you stay so skinny. All that chewing is serious exercise.”

As the clock ticked heartlessly toward the two-week deadline, Pool not only cut them no slack, he assigned them to drive over to Gilmer, Texas. They were to locate and arrest a wanted man from Chicago. In the exigency of the moment, nobody asked how a guy from Chicago had found his way to Gilmer, Texas.

Kobock’s mind-set that day, was to find and murder the Gilmer fugitive and return to Pleasant Grove to continue the search for truth, justice, Trash, and that damned Thompson. Of greatest importance was to renew that priceless commodity: their coply reputations.

Gilmer was a nice enough town, a hundred or so miles east of Dallas. The place was also the site of at least one of every type fast food restaurant known to man. So there they sat in Big Ralph’s Burger Palace. Hector was inhaling a pair of Double Specials. Kobock was looking at a salad, which appeared to have been under the counter since Easter. The place was lunchtime full.

Then it happened. Hector, mouth stuffed to capacity, suddenly sprang to his feet, red-faced, his eyes nearly ejecting, and mumbled, “Glub, glub, glub.”

This is it, Kobock thought. Hector is about to expire from acute cholesterol and grease poisoning. Of course, that would leave Kobock to push on alone in the pursuit of Trash. What a sorry excuse for a friend. “You can’t die right now, Hector. Want I should call an ambulance?” Kobock said, always anxious to protect and serve.

“Glub, glub, glub,” Hector replied.

“Uh, I already got that part, Hector.”

“Hootenanny Hell, it’s him,” Hector spat hamburger and fries on the table plus a little bit on this longhaired guy in the next booth. “I’m gonna go kill him.” His eyes, still slightly bugged out, were fixed in a death-stare toward the counter.

“Kill that snitch C.J. while you’re on a roll,” Kobock said.

The longhaired guy in the next booth, uncertain exactly whom Hector aimed to kill, fled, clawing an unsightly glob of partly chewed cheeseburger and fixin’s from his hair.

And there, in downtown Gilmer, Texas, as big as life, stood Trash himself. He was at the counter, fetching up a pair of double deathburgers of his own.

“Hector, he just ordered in. Let him eat or we’ll have to buy his lunch. We don’t have enough cash between us to fill him up. You wanna brutality by starvation charge? Sit down.”

“Kobock, I forgot my credentials,” he slapped his pockets like they were full of fire ants. “And my pistol.”

“Maybe you spilled mayonnaise on them and had them for dessert?”

Hector was the volatile type who didn’t take readily to long lines or heavy traffic. “What if he sees us and runs?”

“Since he weighs about three-fifty, I don’t think he’ll make it thirty feet. And if he does, you can outrun him. I’ll hold him while you donkey-stomp him. You can slap him around, rub dirt in his face, and then I’ll feed him this salad, but we gotta let him eat first.” Kobock’s smile was maniacal. Payback time was seventeen feet away. Kobock felt like he’d just been baptized.

Hector suffered mightily for the three and a half minutes it took Trash to inhale the deathburgers and several pounds of fries. As he choked down the last bite, Kobock walked across the room and tossed his badge on Trash’s table.

Trash looked up with surprising poise. “I knew you two clowns was cops.” He looked down at Kobock’s credentials, then started to stand up, badass style. “Kobock? That a Merkin name?”

“Trash, you gotta know the drill. You get in my face, and I’m gonna break a few of your fingers. Maybe an arm. You won’t be able to pick your nose for six months. Sit the hell down.”

Obviously, no beginner in the procedure, Trash collapsed back on the chair, cautiously studying his pudgy fingers. Then he looked thoughtfully into space, squinted his scraggly face. “How the hell did you find me?”

“Well, Trash,” Kobock did his best John Wayne. “We’re Federal officers. We know where you are at all times. Man, they sewed a satellite implant in your butt cheek the last time you went to the joint. And we know that Thompson is out there in the trunk of that junker you drove up in. Let’s have the keys.”

“It’s my brother’s car,” he protested feebly. “Y’all ain’t got no warrant.”

“I’ll get you a consent to search form to sign so we don’t have to get a warrant and cut that sucker up with chain saws,” Kobock responded.

Hector commenced making mock chain-saw motions, growling a little for sound effect.

“Holy matrimony!” Trash spat and handed up the keys. “Gestapo tactics!” He craned his neck to attempt a look at the butt implant. “Which cheek?”

Kobock winked at Hector. Trash was a defeated dirtbag.

Hector handcuffed the arrestee behind and smiled for the first time in a week. “Kobock, I didn’t finish lunch. Sure could use a double bacon Swiss.”

“S’pose y’all could get me one too?” Trash said, expectantly. “And super size the fries?”

Thus was another tentacle sliced off the wretched, relentless arm of organized crime. Group Supervisor Pool was so flustered that they had captured Trash and negated his chance to discipline the intrepid pair, he forgot completely about the fugitive from Chicago.

Copyright © 2015 by Gary Clifton

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