“Only a peck of trouble?” You could count on Luis to never use discretion, especially when he needed to most. The cop’s partner — they looked like twins modeling for a Marines recruiting poster, square-jawed, beefy and blue-eyed with about the IQ of a tree stump — told Luis to shut up.
The cop asked Keith, “What you got to say for yourself?”
Whatever the agenda was, either they hadn’t found any drugs or weren’t looking for any. Or the cop would’ve said something. If only Luis would keep his trap shut, Keith might be able to reason a way out of this. Started to say, “Officer—” then looked at the stripes on the cop’s uniform. “Sergeant, I don’t know what to say for myself.”
The cop nodded with sly smile. “Good start.” Then quit smiling. “But we ain’t finished. We far from finished.”
“Uh,” Luis said, “how near or far are we from finished?”
“Your friend not smart, is he? Looking for a fat lip.” If either of them, the sergeant or the officer, raised a hand to Luis, Keith knew, they’d both be waking up with black eyes, busted lips and headaches. And the tour would get not exactly the kind of publicity Helen and Alena had counted on.
Keith said, “This is my developmentally disabled cousin. Please, don’t pay him any mind. He…,” glaring at Luis, “doesn’t…know…any…better. But he’s going to shut up from now on.” He added, still staring at him, “Isn’t he?” Luis visibly seethed. Kept silent.
The cops looked at Luis, both well pleased. “How can we make this go away?” Keith asked. “Pay a fine?”
The sergeant rubbed his fingers together. Keith reached in his hind pocket. The cop put a hand on his gun. Keith slowly took his wallet out and handed it over. The other cop nudged Luis. Who, Keith thanked God, gave him his billfold. Keith and Luis never saw that money again. Or the wench.
When Helen came around after the cops left, she was not happy. “What was that all about?” she demanded.
Keith didn’t want to get his buddy fired. But had to say something. “Misunderstanding,” he muttered.
“Misunder—!” Helen looked back and forth at the both of them. Knew she wasn’t going to get a straight story out of either one. “Do I have to babysit?”
Luis, job on the line or not, couldn’t resist. “Waa-waa.” And put a thumb in his mouth.
Keith gave up and put his head down. Silently nominating Esme for sainthood. Helen stalked off in disgust. Keith crawled back in the rack. “Man—” Luis started.
Keith cut him off: “You do know there’s a rubber room and straight jacket waiting somewhere. With your name engraved over the door.”
Luis nodded. “Yeah.”
Keith then said, “You my man and the whole nine. But, pack your stuff.”
“What, I’m fired?” Luis was enraged.
Keith didn’t bat an eye. “No, but you ain’t ridin’ with me.” He leaned over and looked closely at his friend. “Bunk in with Helen. Or the girls.”
“Aw, man, come on.”
“Luis, I’m havin’ your back to do this much. Look at what’s goin’ on. As it stands, we got stopped by the law and it probably won’t hit the press. Unless and until that chippie gets it in her mind to make a real mess of this. Odds are, she’ll come back wanting money to keep quiet.”
“I ain’t payin’ her nothin’.”
“Yeah, well, you won’t pay her on another bus. I don’t need the headache. Not now.”
Luis understood. Keith and his woman were on the mend. Keith didn’t need Lesli getting bent out of shape about some groupie.
Luis’ problem now was who’d take him in. Angry as Helen was, he didn’t dare beg at her doorstep. “Uh…Jax?”
Keith heard him thinking. And let him squirm. “Yeah?”
“Think you could put in a word with Sam and her friends?”
Next week: Luis moves in with Lola.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.