By Mark Mellon

Twilight wrapped the green Adirondack hills that ringed the broad, clear lake in swaths of deepening purple. Oncoming darkness was flecked by specks of light as lighters flared and fireflies winked, the air pungent with the sickly-sweet stench of marijuana. Amid the peaceful hippies, blissful on drugs and wine, a wolf lurked.

John had found the campsite when Phish played the ’02 Moose Horn Fest. Just over a mile from the bandstand, they pitched their tents in a hollow, well off beaten paths, hidden by thick stands of birch and pine. The shrooms, chopped fine by Merelyn and washed down with Chardonnay, had kicked in about an hour ago. Sweeney watched yellow and red flames sway and interweave, convinced they were under his control.

“Quit staring at the fire and finish rolling that joint,” Tisha said, drinking more Chardonnay.

Sweeney started, shook his massive head of curly red locks, and giggled.

“Oh, yeah. Stone forgot,” he mumbled.

“Bad pun,” Merelyn cackled.

Sweeney looked at his girlfriend, tried to smile, but failed and put the fat joint rolled from the festival bag to his mouth to lick the gummed edge.

“Excuse me, but what are you doing there?” a deep voice asked from the darkness.

The unexpected challenge frightened the hippies. They jumped to their feet, eyes wide open, crouched defensively, hands held before them as if to ward off some unknown threat. A man walked into the campfire’s light. He wore a short-sleeved khaki shirt and slacks and black uniform shoes. A nightclub, handcuffs, and a flashlight hung from a utility belt. A large silver badge was pinned to his left chest pocket. Jet-black hair cut in a buzz, the crest thrust from his forehead, a defiant point.  About their age, his upright bearing, muscular build, and humorless demeanor made him seem decades older.

“I’m Officer Trent, New York State Park Police. Did you know fires are illegal in this park?”

Tripping balls and scared witless, the hippies stood silent, desperately eyeing each other, hoping someone would say something to get them out of this mess.

At last John pushed back his blonde hair and said, “Uh, gee, no, Officer, we didn’t. I mean, we’ll put it out right away, sir.”

“Do that. Now. And you. You. Where do you think you’re going?”

Sweeney had edged backward toward his tent, hands awkwardly behind his back.

“Please don’t insult my intelligence. I know what you’ve got. Come here. Hand it to me. Now.”

Trembling, knees knocking, flannel shirt a-flap, Sweeney walked to the cop and handed over the festival bag, packed full of thick, red-orange buds. The cop took the large plastic freezer bag.

“You guys brought enough. Plan on getting the band and everyone else high?”

“You got no right to treat us like this,” Merelyn snapped, courage recovered to her friends’ horror. “We’re not bothering anybody. Why can’t you just let us alone? You had to follow us out here to hassle us.”

“Just doing my job. It’s illegal to camp in Cranberry Lake State Park without a permit. This is a designated fire hazard area. You made a basic mistake lighting a fire. Might as well draw me a map, it’s that easy to find you.”

He held up the festival bag.

“This is even more serious. One or all of you could do several years for this much marijuana. Not just possession, distribution. There’s at least two pounds here.”

“Look, officer, it’s just for us,” John said. “We didn’t plan on selling any; we just like to get high a lot ourselves.”

“Shut up, John,” Tisha said. “I’ve never been arrested. Please don’t. My parents don’t even know I’m here.”

The cop stood silent. He scanned their faces, considered them, judged them.

“I should arrest you, zip cuff you, and leave you in the dark to wait for back-up to get you when they feel like it. But maybe this is your lucky night, after all. There are a lot more idiots to chase from the park tonight and I don’t feel like taking the time later on to write up your arrest reports. So just get out of here. Pack your stuff and leave the park. And don’t hang around for the show either, because if I spot you again I will haul you in for sure. Go back to Columbia or Harvard or wherever it is you waste your time. Just don’t stay here. Got that?”

Heads bobbed in assent.

“Yes, officer, we’ll be, yes, thank you, thank, right now, thank you very much, going.”

“I’ll check back in fifteen minutes. You’d better be gone.”

He left. John, Tisha, and Merelyn fell to packing. Sweeney stood immobile, adrenaline still racing through his bloodstream as waves of relief fought surging anger, until he could restrain himself no longer.

“That cop took the festival bag.”

“Shut up, Sweeney,” the others said in unison.

* * *

Kurt undid two buttons, slipped in the bag of dope, and rebuttoned his shirt.  It was probably over two pounds, prime bud too; enough to keep him and his skating buddies high for weeks. Until now pickings had been sparse, a few stray hippies with tiny bags of weed and worthless trash like herbal Ecstasy. Irritated by such miserable results, Kurt made them scatter their pitiful excuses for drugs in the woods. About to conclude this particular venture would be a flop like some before, he smelled the fire while patrolling a previously reconnoitered route in darkness, footsteps sure, hearing sharp, night vision keen, just like he was trained.

The experience wasn’t new, done enough times it should grow old, but he always enjoyed how his mere presence petrified hippies. Like other young hippies he braced, they fit the pattern; high, therefore readily intimidated; unsophisticated; easy to manipulate; but most of all white, affluent, and sheltered in elaborate cocoons constructed by doting boomer parents, thus all the more terrified by the threat of arrest and imprisonment, visions of thin gruel and interracial anal rape dancing in their heads.

“Silly shits,” Kurt thought.

Like a lot of punk kids, Kurt inherently disliked hippies. He thought their music was boring, formless shit and hated what he saw as their snide, exclusive attitude, as if they were the only ones with a patent on being hip. So it came as something of a surprise two years ago when Little Ernie suggested as a goof they hang out at the Garden State parking lot while the Grateful Dead played.  The crank had kicked in, the day was fine, Kurt itched to move, and so he went. At first he was ready to be entertained by the bustling atmosphere under the warm sun, more like a market than a parking lot, rows lined with stands where hippie entrepreneurs peddled food, drink, and various wares from elaborately carved, impractical pipes to psychedelic salt and pepper shakers to Balinese men’s skirts.

Only after a hammered Little Ernie passed out under a convenient shade tree and Kurt continued on alone did his distinct effect on hippies become apparent. Scrawny, bearded men in overalls and hairy women in crude, but revealing leather halters shook with fear when by chance he met their wide-eyed stares with his own pinpoint pupil gaze and threw controlled substances into handbags and pokes in pathetic attempts at concealment.

“Jesus,” one hippie said, “What is that guy doing here?”

“I can’t imagine,” his friend answered. “Think about running into him in a dark alley.”

Bemused by these remarks and the hippies’ behavior in general, Kurt didn’t bother to take offense. Instead, he gathered up Little Ernie, carried him to the car, and drove back to Brooklyn. Only later that evening in Dick’s Bar did the experience start to make sense with the benefit of an older man’s hard-earned wisdom. He was talking to the owner, a dark-eyed, hook-nosed, grinning Bronx badass, one of the few older people Kurt spoke to outside of work.

“I don’t get it, Dick. I never scared so many people in my life, even trying. What’s up with those hippies?”

“It’s the punk vibe, you know, that ‘don’t-bother-me’ attitude you radiate,” Helen said, his girlfriend at the time.

“No way. Little Ernie’s got a Mohawk and face tattoos. He didn’t freak ’em. I have to look straight to work at the parking garage. Me, they flee like a leper.”

“I’ll tell you what it is, Kurt,” Dick said. “Two years in the Marines. That’s what scares them.”

Kurt grinned. “OK, so I got used to standing up straight while I was in the Crotch. Does that make me a cop? No, hell, no. Where’s my gun, my badge, all the other stuff a cop uses to scare people?”

Dick mopped the bar and poured Kurt another round.

“Look, kid, something you got to understand about hippies, especially ones nowadays. Silliest bunch of goofy potheads you’ll ever meet. How do you think they stand that music? Why do you think they dress like circus clowns? Their heads are packed full of crude, received notions. In their two-dimensional perspective, any guy with military bearing and some upper body strength must be the Man. You hold your head up; you look people straight in the eye. They mistake that for real authority.”

Dick scrubbed some glasses and set them out to dry.

“A guy with no scruples could fleece those humps like sheep if he wanted. Roust ’em, you know? Need another refill, Helen?”

Later, at the tail of a long night when Helen and Kurt stumbled home arm-in-arm, he thought that drugs were hard to come by on a garage attendant’s pay.  Every time a hippie saw him, a deafening siren screamed “COP!” in his unkempt head. After a careful inventory despite being drunk, he decided he had no scruples. The conclusion was obvious.

The next day, he took the subway to the Lower East Side and bought a fake badge, a large, authoritative looking silver affair with a black vinyl case. He had a barber crop his hair in the old Marine buzz and searched the Internet at a public library for information about New York police procedure. The first experiment was in Central Park, a hunt through wooded nooks and dells for smoking hippies to shake down. He bagged half an ounce of Mexican brown and a tin of high potency bud. Kurt went back to Brooklyn, smoked a joint while GG Allin barfed obscenities over the stereo, and never looked back.

Although he never admitted it, Kurt had been diligent in the service. He applied the same work ethic to his new calling. To aid the deception, he needed to be as professional as possible. He added new equipment and uniform items, even getting a name engraved on the badge. He studied policemen, watched them work and later, at home, tried to mimic them, even their expressions.  What he didn’t do was get a gun. If they ever caught him, real police were sure to frown on his independent law enforcement activity. With a pistol, they’d put him away for years.

Kurt’s friends got used to his mysterious absences; spring and summer “business trips,” certain upon his return he would share marijuana, cocaine, Xanax, and Ecstasy. They knew not to ask questions. Outsiders with the gall to ask were fended off with vague references to “kind friends.”

This was one of the biggest hauls yet. He should call it a night and go back to the motel to get high. But Kurt liked to push his luck. The park was full of chuckle-headed hippies, stoned to the gills, flush with trust fund money, easy pickings. One more bust for the night would do it.

Kurt stopped. He inhaled, tried again to catch the phantom scent he detected. There, the unmistakable chemical smell of marijuana laced with PCP. His nose wrinkled in distaste. Useless, a waste of reefer. He’d roust them hard just for rotten taste in drugs. In the slow, exaggerated motions of the combat creep learned in recon school, he approached so not a twig broke or leaf stirred.

“That’s it, baby,” a deep voice growled, “take another big hit so you get the full buzz.”

“I don’t know; I’m dizzy already. I’ve never smoked pot like this before.”

“This is primo, woman,” another, drunk man slurred. “Get you higher than you ever been.”

Petite lips drew air, distinct in the quiet forest.

“There. I’m plenty high now. Thanks for getting me stoned, guys, but I think I better get back to the bandstand. Les Claypool’s coming on soon.”

“Now hold on, momma,” the sober one said. “You don’t think we turn you on and you just waltz out of here without some proper gratitude.”

“What do you mean? I said thank you, didn’t I? Look, I don’t know what you guys’ trip is, but I gotta go.”

“Ass, gas or grass, baby, nobody rides for free,” the drunk snarled.

The other man chuckled. “And you ain’t got the last two.”

“Hey. Let go.”

Kurt listened in the darkness.  Despite his training, his heart pounded. He shook, unable to stop trembling.

“Not your affair. Turn around and go,” he thought.

“Stop it,” she screamed.

Kurt ran at a crouch. He entered a clearing, right eye tightly shut, and flipped on the flashlight. The beam caught two longhaired, middle-aged men in matching leather vests with Harley wings embroidered on the back. Kurt hated bikers even worse than hippies.  A slender blonde in a yellow sundress struggled in their grasp, one white breast exposed.

“Police. Let that woman go. Now. Let her go and get down on the ground, hands behind your heads. You’re both under arrest.”

“Hang onto her, Tiny,” the sober one said.

He let go of the sobbing girl and confronted Kurt. Kurt put the flashlight beam full in his face. The biker grimaced at the bright light. He took a long look at Kurt. His thick, greasy beard was split by a sneering grin.

“My ass, you’re a cop. You’re just some rent-a-cop or a wannabe. All you got’s a nightstick. You ain’t even got a gun. Not even a peashooter like this one here.”

He reached into his vest and pulled out a Smith & Wesson .32.

“Now you’ve seen this, why don’t you just go back to minding your own business, huh, citizen?”

“Lie down on the ground with your hands behind your back. The easy way or the hard way.”

“Sure. Right after I pop a cap in your ass.”

Kurt switched off the flashlight. The biker cocked the hammer with a loud click. Kurt ran full tilt, right eye open now, still night accustomed, able to see the biker as he charged. Blind in the sudden darkness, the biker fired wildly. Kurt slammed the nightstick into his head just below the left ear.  Concussed, the biker fell to the ground.

Kurt turned to face the other one, but the drunk tackled him. They sprawled in the dirt, wrestling, each desperate to gain advantage.

“You mmmff—” the biker snarled, breath stale from Genny Cream.

He pulled his boot knife free and stabbed Kurt in the side. The blade sank into the festival bag, the blow blunted by the tightly packed buds. The tip nicked Kurt.

He slammed a knee into the biker’s unguarded crotch and rammed the nightstick’s handle into the soft skin just below the biker’s chin.

The biker fell back, stunned. Kurt rolled to his feet. He hit the biker full on the temple with the nightstick. There was a sickening crack. The biker lay still. Kurt hunched over him, nightstick hanging loosely, gasping for air.

He held the bag of marijuana against his wound as a sort of rudimentary bandage, wondering how badly he was cut and if he had to stitch himself him up before he drove out of there. Were the bikers dead or just unconscious? Either way, their brothers would look for whoever did it. The police would have questions too. Somebody probably heard that gunshot. He needed to leave fast.

The girl ran to Kurt, clothing readjusted, the heavy scent of patchouli matted with fear sweat. She was cute, even for a hippie.

“Oh, officer, thank God you came, I’m so grateful. I thought those guys were all right and –”

She broke into tears. Kurt dropped the nightstick and comforted her with one arm.

“Thank you. Thank you,” she cried.

“That’s all right, ma’am. Just doing my job.”

Mark Mellon is a novelist who supports his family by working as an attorney. His short crime fiction has appeared in Noir Nation, Thuglit, and Criminal Class Review.  He has published four novels and over forty short stories. ROMAN HELL is currently in print from  Amber Quill Press. His novella, ESCAPE FROM BYZANTIUM, won the 2010 Independent Publisher Silver Medal for fantasy/science fiction. He recently completed a new, Civil War crime novel, THE CONFESSIONS OF SEPTIMUS P. NASBY. Mark is a member of the WWA and HWA. A website featuring the author’s writing is at

Copyright 2014 Mark Mellon. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited. OMDB! and OMDB! logos are trademarks of Over My Dead Body!
Return to Fiction.