By J. T. Hilltop
The four of us were squeezed into the back seat having now had the first chance to actually see each others faces since the whole ordeal began. Every face was sullen, frightened, and slightly angered, as much at ourselves as our situation. Streak had a visible bruise on his temple, and Monty had a slight shiner of a black eye. The cops laughed and taunted us the entire fifteen minute ride in a misguided attempt to cheer us up, or maybe to make themselves feel superior and in control to compensate for any short comings they may possess. Fitch or Fatch or whatever tried to educate us in what life is like for a felon of our tender ages that get locked up in prison. He took a sadistic joy describing the details of the exact sexual activities we might be experiencing and his partner kicker cop just laughed. Their description of jail rape was frighteningly detailed down to a very expressive diatribe of the pain one feels as a new asshole gets torn in a more literal sense. I had little doubt they were feeling sexually aroused themselves just thinking about our fates, but even that couldn‘t cheer me up. Once we arrived at the precinct things seemed far too relaxed.
We arrived at police headquarters and were instantly separated into our very own personal interrogation rooms. Mine was a small room decorated in post modern minimalism with just a small table and a pair of folding chairs facing each other across the table. My fear impulse was pounding like a herniated migraine headache. I’d heard many stories about beatings with rubber hoses and hard punches using phonebooks so as not to leave any marks. I was hoping I had watched too many cop shows and movies and that shit like that didn’t happen in real life. But inside I knew that was being naïve. I stood there doing nothing as confused as a June bug in July. An idiot in handcuffs just standing still for what seemed to be a half hour. Finally a cop, a different one, came in my room. He walked behind me, removed my handcuffs and ordered me to sit down. He stunk of stale cigarette smoke mixed with too much English Leather cologne. He was much older than the cops who brought us in. I weighed the value of that, older and more paternal or cynically old and more adept at hiding interrogation bruises? “Justin Hilltop, possession of marijuana and distribution of controlled substance! I know your brother Randle. Worked with him a few times. He’s a good cop, a good man, why would you do this to him?” He stared at me condescendingly but I just cast my eyes downward. “It looks like we have a bit of a problem here Justin. I want to help you out here, keep your brother away from all this, but my partner hates drug users. Look son, someone here is guilty of a felony crime, and that somebody has to face the music. Its just a matter of time .We’ve talked to each of the other guys, Monty was caught with some pills and everyone swears you gave them to him. Not only that Justin, they also all claim that it was you that threw that bag of marijuana out the window. Your friends are willing to sell you down the river son. You say it isn’t yours but you see how looks don’t you? Your word against the word of three other kids. The brother of a police officer in position of felony weight marijuana. Not only are you screwing your brother, you may be heading off to Sing Sing.” What? No fucking way, they would never! My head was spinning with possibilities. Hope was melting like a mini marshmallow in a cup of hot cocoa. First business is the pills. I reckon I had to cop to that but its only two pills and I didn‘t sell them or anything, I’d think of a good lie for that, but the weed? Did all of them really say it was mine? That makes no sense. I sat in my chair dumbfounded. “Look Justin, here’s the deal. The other guys think because your brother is a cop you’ll get off easier. Personally I don’t think it was yours but someone has to go down and it looks the others chose you. Maybe we have an option though. Here’s what can happen. One, you admit its your marijuana and we book you, and off to jail you go. Case closed, you go to jail and your buddies go home. Two, you let us know who’s stuff it really was and we‘ll arrest him and see what we can do about getting you home, or three, I call your brother Randle and ask him to come in to the precinct and maybe you can tell him all about it. Know what? I need a smoke. I’m gonna go have one and give you a few moments to decide what your gonna do.” Without another word he got up leaving me alone in the room.
The first thing I noticed after he closed the door was a huge mirror on the wall. I had seen enough movies to know it was a two way mirror. Assuming I was being watched my survival mode kicked in and I went into acting gear, pacing the floor with what I hoped was a panicked look on my face. I pounded my hand and started talking to myself to enhance the performance. Starting of in a low unintelligible voice as if I were reasoning with myself I gradually began speaking louder and more clear so the cops could hear me. “I can’t believe those guys would say it was my stuff, why would they even do that. It wasn’t even ours. Oh man, oh Jesus shit man I’m in big trouble now. I did give Monty the pills but its not like I sold them or anything, I just gave em to him. Oh fuck man, the old man is gonna freakin kill me. I’m gonna get the beating of a lifetime, I’m as good as dead man, what am I gonna do?” I continued on like this for a few minutes before good cop came back in with his partner.
“Well Justin, we need to start talking the truth here son.” Before I could even respond the new cop, just as old and weathered with a battling cologne of perhaps Old Spice snarled at my direction, “Just lock his dirty hairy ass up in the back. Let old man Rheingold make friends with a nice young girl. Is that what you wanna be, a girl?” Now it was directly at me and his voice gained momentum, “Cause if you wanna be a girl with all that hair you’ll fit in real well in lock up, they love girly boys in there. And once they find out you‘re the brother of a cop thay’re gonna treat you extra special, maybe even give ya ass a sweet gang rape. You ready to spread your cheeks there ya smelly, dirty little hippie-shit pussy boy.” Wow! He was pushing every button on the intimidation elevator. Not especially articulate but playing bad cop a bit too well. I opted to give my attention to good cop, “Look I admit I gave the pills to Monty, but I swear to God I have no clue if anyone else had more pot than the joint we smoked. I wanna help, I really do, but I just don’t know where that bag of pot came from.” Good cop stared at me as bad cop began pacing and making harumph noises. Bad cop looked like he wanted to kick something, or someone. Good cop looked over at him, “Marty, wancha go check on old man Rheingold while I finish with Hilltop here.” Bad cop gave me a purposeful distained glare as he left the room slamming the door behind him. “ I told you my partner don’t like no drug users, he’ll be okay. Look Justin, here’s what’s gonna happen now. I’m gonna take your statement down about the pills, Martys gonna talk to your brother Randle, and then we will decide what to do with you from there. And that’s it, unless you have anything to add. Think hard about whether you got anything to say boy, I have no idea what the Sarge will choose to do with you. but I’ll tell ya one thing, he sure don’t like marijuana smokers.”
My head was spinning, so much going on. Before I knew it I was sitting at a desk with good cop who was asking questions and writing things down as I answered. “Okay Justin, what kind of pills did you sell Richard and where did you get them?” I was taken aback, “Wait, what? I didn’t sell them to Monty, er I mean Rich, I gave them to him!” I felt like I pleaded my case well but good cop was not feeling it. “Oh sorry Justin, I thought you knew. The law see’s no difference between giving and selling when it come to controlled substance. Its called distribution. It doesn’t matter whether you accepted money or not, legally you distributed illegal drugs. So lets start over, tell me where you bought the pills.”
I felt completely busted, they tricked me into confessing and I knew I had to give them something in order for them to back off about the baggie of weed. Thinking fast I came up with a story about an unattractive older woman who gave me the pills as a way of gaining my sexual friendship. They ate the story up believing they were on to a sexual predator. Or maybe they were getting off on it, but it worked. I’m not sure how long it took for them to give up searching for a heavy set dirty blond thirty something woman in Cold Spring Bay driving a Pontiac Firebird and surfing for young boys with a vial full of pills. Actually, thinking about it would really suck if anyone was hassled over my fable, but I had to do what I had to do. They finally relented on the marijuana charge, I thought I threw them but found out later that Streak admitted to owning the wicked weed. My brother came to the precinct to take me home which sucked, because it meant a long lecture and an extra few cc’s of disappointment guilt serum before going before the firing squad in my house. This too shall pass.
The legal part of the ordeal was over. Randle explained to me that my friend Jack (Streak) had admitted to owning the pot so Jimbo and Monty were released to our parents and I was given the added bonus of being released to my very angry older brother. I begged him not to say anything to Mom and Dad, trying the old it will kill them routine, and he told me to wait in the car as he went in to talk to them. It was a weak argument but I had to give it a try. When he called me inside I knew instantly he told them by the look on both my parents faces. They had somehow been able to register an array of emotions on their faces. Anger, disgust, profound disappointment, sadness, the feeling they failed as parents, the feeling their son is a drug addict, and more anger. I didn’t know it at the time, but once I became a parent I would possess the same super power of making a child feel like shit just by shape shifting the expression on my face.
As for the four of us delinquents, we got scoffed at by school mates for being idiots but also acquired a bit of street creds for being arrested. We avoided each other over the next few days, none of us knowing what the others went through, but once we finally did speak our tales were remarkably similar. The cops took us each aside and dangled the “everyone else told us it was yours” bait in front of us, and just as I assumed Monty and the rest sold me out for the pills, Streak was sure we had sold him out as well. In retrospect the cops were not as stupid as we thought them. We miscalculated believing them to be dim witted asshats but they fooled the shit straight out of all four of our pants to get to their “truth”. I was grounded for the remainder of my teen years which actually sounded fair, but I knew it wouldn’t last because they would grow tired of me constantly moping around complaining about where my friends were and what they were doing. I grew tediously disenchanted with television and snuck joints up in my room among other things to help pass my home incarceration sentence. All in all I learned a valuable set of lessons. One, always have an escape route when getting high, two, if a level headed member of the group suggests a place to be unsafe hear him out, and three, if ever again I get pulled into the station for a crime, remember that the cops are smarter than they look, they lie their faces off, and cannot be trusted about anything. Oh yea, one more thing, always keep a stash of something hidden in your room in case you ever get grounded for life.
In the end no real harm was done other than our parents finding out we smoked pot and Streak having to get a lawyer to go to court. Streak received an ACOD, adjourned in contemplation of dismissal, meaning if he got in no trouble for six months the charge and conviction were stricken from the records. Streak never really treated me or Monty the same, even after hearing that the cops tricked us by telling each of us the same thing about everyone else saying it was ours. I think he always had doubts. Jimbo and Streak however remained close friends, maybe Jimbo’s sound mind quality made him more believable. Time passed and life continued to happen. Jimbo and Streak eventually cut off all ties with me but I was leaving town soon anyway so I lost contact with pretty much all of my Centerlawn friends. Even now in the Facebook reunion age Jimbo wants no correspondence with me which is fine, some parts of our pasts are best left behind and forgotten. As for Monty, I went my way, Monty went his, I have no idea where or how he is but we parted as friends. I am certain of one thing though, if I were to somehow get in touch with Monty he and I would get a big laugh reminiscing over this tale and other assorted teen age escapapades we shared. Monty and I remained friends even after our being memorialized in the Long Islander newspaper Police Blotter section. Not like BFF best friends maybe but a friendship that traveled beyond schoolmate acquaintances. A friendship unchanged. As I stated, the bust have a lasting effect on the shattered friendships of my other two compadres. Once childhood friends now a casual friendship built on distrust and tension. Jimbo remained the sound voice, forging his life as one of Centerlawn’s upstanding citizens to this day and by all accounts he’s happy, but as I understand it Streak found himself on the wrong side of the law later in life in a much more serious capacity. I think about three of those compadres every now and again, and especially the night our heinous disregard for law and order altered our relationships. One night, one incident can have a ripple effect on our universal existences, turn friends into acquaintances, but in the end we really only need to answer to ourselves. As for me, well I continued my evil pot smoking ways for a long time to come, had my own minor brushes with the law, but in the end if its true that a persons measure is in their deeds and character, then I’m okay with myself. My deeds, counseling of youths, and assistance to others in need far outweighs all of my minor mistakes. Life is not always easy and all four of us had our share of dark times, but then again, sometimes you need to feel around in the dark for a while in order to appreciate the light. Peace