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Somehow, Joe Fontaine had always pictured a 'drunk tank' as
sort of round like a fuel oil tank, with a handful of inebriated
individuals inside lying on cots and sleeping off their inebriation.
Instead the 'tank' that greeted Larry and him at the county jail was a
large open cell, perhaps thirty feet by thirty feet, with cinderblock
walls and barred windows on three sides and the fourth side all bars
facing a corridor. There were a few flat benches, without backs,
bolted to the floor, and in one corner an open toilet without lid or seat,
available to anyone who could stand the stench and the lack of
privacy. The flush lever was operated from the other side of the
adjacent wall by a jail guard who entered a 'control room' there every
half hour for that purpose. But flushing failed to remove the mixture
of vomit and urine on the floor surrounding the bowl.
While a handful of the cell's thirty-or-more inhabitants
be trying to nap, using their hands to shield their eyes from the bright
lights overhead, most of them were in various degrees of agitation:
some pacing back and forth talking to themselves or to anyone who
would listen, some arguing with their neighbors and exchanging
occasional shoves or punches, and others engaged in animated
conversation in small groups. It soon became apparent that not all
were drunk. Perhaps half of them were drug users, evidently on
'uppers,' or simply emotionally unstable rowdies locked up for the
night to calm them down.
The whole hubbub quieted down for a moment when the deputy
sheriff opened the metal door and ushered Joe and Larry into the
corridor. The deputy used the momentary silence to make an
announcement while removing their handcuffs.
"These here fellas are from Massachusetts," he
"They're the ones who kidnapped that boy out of the hospital."
Hoots and hollers went up from among the inmates as a second
guard, entering the control room, pushed a button causing the cell's
barred door to slide open, and the deputy prodded Joe and Larry into
the cell. The door clanged shut behind them, followed by the metal
door at the end of the corridor as the deputy and the guard made
Inside the cell the small group conversations failed to
the men who had been arguing with each other now found common
cause against the newcomers who obviously didn't belong. Struck
with fear, the two found themselves being poked, pushed, yanked and
shoved from one person to another across the cell and back, like
dancers in a morbid square dance.
"So, you kidnap little boys!", a tough street-fighter charged.
"Child molesters!", echoed another.
"No," Joe protested, "we are law-abiding
Christian men, Jehovah's
Witnesses. We were helping the boy's parents find alternative
treatment for their son, instead of a blood transfusion."
"Yeah, sure!," a toothless vagrant hissed in Joe's
face, and then
turning to the others, asked, "You ever seen a Jehovah Witness in
here? I never seen no Jehovah Witness in here."
"What's the matter, faggot?," a young tough asked
Joe, flexing the
tattooes on his bare chest and muscular arms. Although the names
Lulu, Wendy, and Suzie appeared among the decorations on his biceps,
the huge Eddie engraved across his pectorals no doubt served as his
identification. "Isn't Pretty Boy here good enough for you? You had to
have a young kid instead? I ought to show you both what a real man
is like." Planting five fingers in the middle of Joe's chest, Eddie shoved
him into the wall and then turned toward Larry. Gently caressing
Larry's cheek with the back of his hand, the hoodlum continued in the
"You can tell a real man when you see one, can't you,
you like to be with a real man tonight?"
Larry leaped for the bars and, grasping them with both hands,
shouted, "Officer! Officer!", at the top of his voice.
"What's the matter with you, punk?", his unwanted
demanded, using Larry's shoulder as handle to spin him about. "You
never call the jailer on another inmate." He punctuated his sentence
with a slap on the same cheek he had been caressing. "I said never!",
he added, turning Larry's other cheek for him with a powerful
Joe recovered from colliding with the wall and stepped forward
rescue his friend. "Hey! Take it easy! We don't want any trouble," he
"You should'a thought of that before you booked
this hotel," Eddie said slowly, rubbing a clenched fist with his other
hand as if polishing a poisoned apple. "You two don't even know what
trouble is!" He continued, polishing the fist menacingly in front of
Joe's face. "But tonight you're gonna find out."
A quick sucker-punch left Joe slumped against the bars, the
knocked out of him and unable to inhale.
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