I didn’t actually see Lucky get stuffed into the trunk of the cop car.
But Greer did.
“Kenny, get up. Come on.” She tugged on my right hand where the
knuckles were scraped raw from the parking lot pavement. I could see
Greer’s cheeks, shiny with tears, from the streetlight. The smell of
exhaust still hung above us and I could hear light rustling in the
bushes from the field mice collecting their dinner.
“Ow! Ow!” I was pretty sure I had a couple of cracked ribs.
“Will you get up? They took him. I saw them. Did you see them?” She
paced above me her voice a tinny wail in the dark. I rolled over onto
all fours, and accessed new pain points. Then Greer’s voice came low
and soft. “They put him in the trunk.”
She wasn’t making sense. But then she was Greer, and Lucky wasn’t
going out with her for her sense-making.
I pulled myself up using the handle on my brother’s Dodge truck. The
truck the three of us had been “borrowing” all summer. “I wonder why
they took Lucky and not all of us?” I said, still digesting the small
marijuana cigarette I’d swallowed when the police car first pulled into
the empty parking lot.
“It wasn’t like that. Like a real arrest. Something’s wrong.” Greer
was like a frenzied shark in a tank. Back and forth, back and forth.
She was making me dizzy.
The cop who’d made a dent in my kneecap with his boot had asked me,
“What do you know?” And I began to wonder if there was more to that
“Get up. We have to follow them,” Greer stomped her sandaled foot.
“Oh, yes. So they can finish what they started with the rearrangement
of my face.” Luckily I’d left my glasses back at work and wore my
contacts, or I’d be blind and broken. This way I was just broken.
“Kenny!” Greer’s voice bordered on hysteria.
“Listen, if he’s been arrested then we’ll just go down to the police
department and get him. Okay?”
But what Greer said kept echoing in my mind. Something didn’t fit with
her words. Greer’s words. The word: trunk.
Cops arrest people and put them in the back seat, not the trunk. And
cops don’t beat teens up just for hanging out at Strathmen Park on
Labor Day weekend, right?
“Right Kenny?” Greer hadn’t stopped chattering. Or moving.
I spewed saliva on the pavement below me, the unmistaken taste of blood
on my tongue. “Listen, are you okay?” I remembered seeing Greer
shoved up against the door of the Dodge by one of the two cops and
hearing him suggest they needed time “alone.” “I mean really okay?”
She ignored me. “Where’re the car keys?”
“It’s a truck, not a car.”
When I finally teetered to a standing position, I grabbed her and held
her close, feeling her body wiggle and squirm. “Look in my eyes. Are
She wasn’t. Greer slumped against me, and if I hadn’t been holding her
she would have fallen to the ground. I hugged her for a long time.
Until she was quiet and stopped moving. Finally she looked up into my
face. “What just happened?”
I shook my head. “I don’t know. But you’re right about one thing.
Something is wrong.”
“Maybe they’re not real police?” Greer moved away from me, calmer now,
and leaned against the truck.
“Maybe,” I said. I remembered at the restaurant earlier, where Lucky
and I both worked, that he had said he had something to tell me. I
didn’t think much about it at the time, but now I wondered if I should
have paid closer attention.
“Listen,” I moved toward Greer. “Did that cop, you know, touch you?
Like, should we go to a doctor, or, I don’t know, something?”
The corners of her mouth actually turned up in a tiny smile. “I’m
fine. He was definitely stepping over the line, but, nothing I can’t
handle.” Greer retrieved a cigarette from her shoulder bag, which
she’s never without, lit it and took a deep drag. She shrugged. “We
have to go to the police station and get Lucky.”
“Yeah, but will he be there?”
Frogs bellowed their loud croaks from the small pond inside Strathmen
Park. I’d been coming to this park my whole life and now it looked
totally different. Forever.
“We have to try.” Greer dropped the practically whole cigarette on the
ground and twisted her foot on top of it.
“Yeah, sure. We have to try.” It felt like I might be broken in half,
and a knot on my head ached.
“So, let’s go,” Greer said putting the shoulder bag strap over her head
and across her chest.
“It’s just,” I felt my chest wall throb. “I should take a shower, you
Greer’s face crumpled and her eyes narrowed. “You should do what?
You’re best friend just got kidnapped, and you want to freshen up?”
I knew she was right. I knew it was lame. “Yeah, it’s, let’s think
about this just a little. Kidnapped is a strong word. And if he did
get kidnapped, he’s probably not at the cop shop, and if he’s not,
where is he? And,” I could feel the momentum of my confusion gathering
inside me. “And if they aren’t cops, who are they? And if they are
cops, even worse for us.”
Her eyes opened wide. “This is just like you, Kenny Panteria. Always
worrying about yourself.”
“Well, excuse me. I just got the crap beat out of me, can we take a
moment to process what just happened?” She adjusted the shoulder strap
about eight hundred times. “I just think we need a plan, that’s all,”
“Okay. As long as you’re not ditching on your best friend.”
“Me?” Ever since last year when Marty Carter got caught smoking dope
outside the gym, and I didn’t go and defend him, telling Principal Lyon
that Carter was holding it for someone else (like anyone would believe
that!) I’d been tagged a wuss and someone “not to be trusted.” It’s
true; I don’t like to get involved. But this was different. I think.
“Look,” I brushed gravel and twigs from my hair and shirt. “We go
home. I take a shower. And we form a plan. Because if those weren’t
real cops, and Luckys not at the police station, we need to figure out
where he is. Right? And we can’t just go marching into something
without a plan. Right?”
Greer paced. Four steps forward, turn, four back. “Wait, what about
Greer didn’t ask about my father because the entire town of Walburn
knew he sat in a jail cell for the murder of a policeman in our
restaurant eight years ago.
“Mom’s at the hospital with Ben. House is empty. Of course, if you
don’t trust me alone with you,” I spread my hands. Greer and Lucky had
been going out for about six months. She drove me crazy with her
constant talking and asking questions, and I wasn’t sure Lucky was in
it for love. But Greer was cute. She had long dark, almost black hair
that made her skin look like cream and bright blue eyes. She was more
than cute. But the chatter was definitely a drawback.
“You? What’s not to trust? Besides, I’d tell Lucky if you tried
anything,” and as soon as she said it we became quiet.
“Let’s go,” I said, digging the keys out of my pocket. Greer went
around to the passenger side and pulled the door open.
We drove down the streets of Walburn without talking, which for Greer
was a pretty amazing feat. Tomorrow it was back to school, and I would
face it with a body of bruises, and maybe no Lucky.
“Maybe I should go back to the restaurant and make the night deposit
now?” I said, idling at a stop sign four blocks from home. I’d left
all the money from the weekend in a drawer in dad’s desk.
But when I turned to look at Greer I could see that was not at all a
good idea. She grabbed the door handle and I had to grab her and pull
her back into the cab. “Okay. Okay, I get it.”
Our house was dark when we pulled into the driveway and I began to
worry. Were the cops here waiting for me? Maybe they’d meant to take
me at the park, had to leave quickly, so they came to get me at home.
My head throbbed, and I was tired of working the broken flap of skin at
the corner of my mouth. “You know, you can lay down in my brother’s
room and rest while I take a shower and get cleaned up.”
Greer nodded but her eyes were shiny and I think we both knew she
wouldn’t be able to sleep. “I just can’t get that picture of him being
thrown in the trunk of the car.” She shivered.
I shivered, too. “What do you know?” The cop had asked me before
grazing my cheek with his fist. What do I know?