Page 8 of Ford County

Calvin, in a plastic chair near the front door nervously flip- ping through a magazine with one eye on the dying addict, heard a loud noise in the back but thought nothing of it.

Cold water and ammonia brought Aggie around, and he even' tually managed to crawl onto one of the beds where a tiny Asian lady with her mouth covered by white gauze began explaining, in a thick accent, that he was going to be fine and there was noth' ing to worry about. "Keep your eyes closed," she said repeatedly.

"I really don't need fifty bucks," Aggie said, his head spin-ning. She did not understand. When she placed a tray filled with accessories next to him, he took one look and felt faint again.

"Close eyes, please," she said as she scrubbed his left forearm with alcohol, the odor of which made him nauseous.

"You can have the money," he said. She produced a large black blindfold, stuck it to his face, and suddenly Aggie's world was completely dark.

The attendant returned to the front and Calvin jumped from his chair. "Follow me," the man said, and Calvin did so. When he entered the square room, and when he saw the woman in the hiking boots on one side and Aggie wearing a strange blindfold on the other side, he, too, collapsed and fell hard near the spot where his friend had landed just minutes earlier.

"Who are these bozos?" asked the woman in the hiking boots.

"Mississippi," the attendant said as he patiently hovered over Calvin and waited for him to come around. Cold water and am' monia helped again. Aggie listened to it all from behind his shroud.

Two pints were eventually extracted. A hundred dollars changed hands. At ten minutes after 2:00 a.m., the battle-scarred Dodge slid into the parking lot of the Desperado, and the two wild bucks arrived for the final hour of the party. Lighter on blood but heavier on testosterone, they paid the cover charge while looking for the lying bouncer who'd sent them off to Lutheran Hospital. He was not there. Inside, the crowd had thinned and the girls were exhausted. An aging stripper went through the mo-tions onstage.

They were led to a table near their first one, and, sure enough, within seconds Amber appeared and said, "What'll it be, boys? Three'drink minimum."

"We're back," Calvin said proudly.

"Wonderful. What'll it be?"


"You got it," she said and vanished.

"I don't think she remembers us," Calvin said, wounded.

"Plop down twenty bucks and she'll remember you," Aggie said. "You ain't wastin' money on a lap dance, are you?"


"You're as stupid as Roger."

"No one's that stupid. Reckon where he is."

"Floatin' downriver with his throat cut."

"What's his daddy gonna say?"

"He should say, 'That boy was always stupid.' How the hell do I know what he's gonna say? Do you really care?"

Across the room, some corporate types in dark suits were get' ting plastered. One put his arm around the waist of a waitress, and she quickly jerked away. A bouncer appeared, pointed at the man, and said harshly, "Don't touch the girls!" The suits roared with laughter. Everything was funny.

As soon as Amber delivered their six glasses of beer, Calvin couldn't wait to blurt out, "How 'bout a lap dance?"

She frowned, then said, "Maybe later. I'm pretty tired." Then she was gone.

"She's tryin' to save your money for you," Aggie said. Calvin was crushed. For hours he had relived the brief moment when Amber had straddled his enormous loins and gyrated happily to the music. He could feel her, touch her, even smell her cheap perfume.

A rather large and flabby young lady appeared onstage and began dancing badly. She was soon unclothed but drew little attention. "Must be the graveyard shift," Aggie said. Calvin hardly noticed. He was watching Amber as she sashayed through the club. She was definitely moving slower. It was almost time to go home.

Much to Calvin's dismay, one of the corporate suits enticed Amber into a lap dance. She found the enthusiasm and was soon grinding away as his friends offered all manner of commentary. She was surrounded by gawking drunks. The one upon whom she •was dancing evidently lost control of himself. Against club policy and also in violation of a Memphis city ordinance, he reached forward with both hands and grabbed her breasts. It was an enormous mistake.

In a split second, several things happened at once. There was the flash of a camera, and someone yelled, "Vice, you're under arrest!" While this was taking place, Amber jumped from the man's lap and yelled something about his filthy hands. Since the bouncers had been watching the suits closely, they, the bouncers, were at the table instantly. Two cops in plain clothes rushed forward. One was holding a camera, and the other kept saying, "Memphis vice, Memphis vice."

Someone yelled, "Cops!" There was pushing and shoving and lots of profanity. The music stopped cold. The crowd backed away. Things were under control during the first few seconds, until Amber somehow stumbled and fell over a chair. This caused her to wail in an affected, dramatic manner, and it also caused Calvin to rush into the melee and throw the first punch. He swung at the suit who'd groped his girl, and he hit him very hard in the mouth. At that moment, at least eleven grown men, half of them drunk, began throwing punches in every direction and at every target. Calvin was hit hard by a bouncer, and this brought Aggie into the brawl. The suits were swinging wildly at the bouncers, the cops, and the rednecks. Someone threw a glass of beer that landed across the room near a table of middle-aged bikers, who, until that moment, had done nothing more than shout encouragement to everyone throwing punches. However, the breaking glass upset the bikers. They charged. Outside the Desperado, two uniformed cops had been waiting patiently to help carry away victims of the vice squad, and when they were alerted to the excitement inside, they quickly entered the club. When they realized the fight was more like a full-blown riot, they instinctively pulled out their nightsticks and began looking for a skull or two to crack. Aggie's was first, and while he was on the floor, a cop beat him senseless. Glass was shattered. The cheap tables and chairs were splintered. Two of the bikers picked up wooden chair legs and attacked the bouncers. The melee roared on •with loyalties shifting rapidly and bodies falling to the floor. Casualties mounted until the cops and the bouncers gained the upper hand and eventually subdued the corporate suits, the bikers, the boys from Ford County, and a few others who'd joined the fun. Blood was everywhere - on the floor, on shirts and jackets, and especially on faces and arms.

More police arrived, then the ambulances. Aggie was unconscious and rapidly losing blood from his already diminished supply. The medics were alarmed at his condition and rushed him into the first ambulance. He was taken to Mercy Hospital. One of the suits had also received a number of blows from a cop's nightstick, and he, too, was unresponsive. He was placed in a second ambulance. Calvin was handcuffed and manhandled into the rear seat of a police car, where he was joined by an angry man in a gray suit and a white shirt soaked with blood.

Calvin's right eye was swollen shut, and through his left he caught a glimpse of Aggie's Dodge pickup sitting forlornly in the parking lot.

Five hours later, from a pay phone in the Shelby County jail, Calvin was finally allowed to make a collect phone call to his mother in Box Hill. Without dwelling on the facts, he explained that he was in jail, that he was charged with felony assault on a police officer, which, according to one of his cell mates, carried up to ten years in prison, and that Aggie was in Mercy Hospital with a busted skull. He had no idea where Roger was. There was no mention of Bailey.