The vast castle loomed black upon the hilltop, not a spark visible about it.
Late in July, the Republicrat, Voodoo-Papist gang lords of the Place of Overflowing Shitholes demonstrated for all to see that they had even less respect for the law than we did.
Their minions blockaded the property, stopping everyone coming from, going to, or merely attempting to get past it. Any male motorist who was casually attired or not recently barbered was ordered to park on the side of the road while he and his vehicle were searched for proscribed substances. One of Jackie’s friends from town was arrested for possession of a few shreds of the lesser sacrament after he exited the pedestrian entry under the Gatehouse. Several drivers whose cars didn’t come up to the sheriff’s exacting standards were arrested on such charges as “dirty license plates” or “obscured windshield.” I was at the Big House when the first reports of these events came in, and Tim and I rushed down to the Gatehouse to see for ourselves. Sure enough. It looked like a military operation. Cars were pulled off the road all around the T-junction of Route 44 in front of the Gatehouse, and every vehicle that came along was halted for inspection by sheriff’s deputies standing in the road. Radios crackled. Police cars came, picked up prisoners, and left. Where was Wendy? Our car was parked under the Gatehouse arch, but her bicycle was gone. Tim was worried about Jackie. He was out there somewhere too.
“Listen, Art,” Tim said, “you call Noel Tepper and keep on calling him until you reach him. And call the papers and the ACLU. I’m going out there and find out what’s going on.”
Tim then demonstrated consummate theatricality under pressure by picking a flower in Swami’s corner and sticking it in his hair before he opened the gate and crossed the road into enemy territory. After a brief exchange with the cops, he was ushered into a patrol car which then sped away toward Millbrook.
I went upstairs and called Noel. He would be right over. He would call the ACLU and ask them to send observers. I called the Poughkeepsie Journal. They would send a reporter and a photographer right away. I went out in front of the portcullis, but not over our property line, to wait for Noel. Some of the cops waved to me. I waved back. They were, after all, merely working stiffs doing their jobs as ordered. If they went no further than that, I bore them no personal animosity.
When Noel arrived, he had his wife Elly with him and an ACLU friend. Two more ACLUers pulled up next to them in another car.
“This is unbelievable,” Noel said. “I stopped at the courthouse in town and it’s an absolute madhouse. Apparently they’re just arresting anyone whose looks they don’t like. Did you know they got Wendy?”
“What for?” I asked. I was stunned. Wendy never carried anything illegal with her, and she didn’t have the car.
“No visible means of support,” Noel said. “She was just riding her bike and they arrested her because she didn’t have any identification papers or money on her.”
Noel nodded. I had heard him right. And Tim had been arrested on a bad check charge. Two or three other residents had been picked up, but most of the arrestees were strangers who just happened to be passing by. Tim’s bad check, for $8.11, had been provided by an ex-cop who owned a sporting goods store in the Place of Overflowing Shitholes. We needed about $300 for bail, Noel estimated.
I drove up to the Bungalow. Billy and Tommy and Aurora were all, hmmm, away. Suzanne, who looked terrified, and who can blame her, wrote out a check for $300. Noel and I circled the property to survey the ACLU posts. We saw one “squirrelly liberal” with binoculars perched on the branch of an apple tree just inside the west gate. Then we drove to town.
A small crowd surrounded the courthouse, a one-room, storefront affair on a residential side street. Noel went in and I walked over to Merritts Books with Suzanne’s check. The always genial owner cashed it and vehemently expressed his disapproval of Sheriff Quinlan’s conduct, as did several other wide-eyed locals who were standing around. Was this Russia, or what? A sixteen-year-old bicyclist, daughter of a prominent local family, had been stopped and questioned at length. Several other town residents had been given the same kind of treatment.
I handed Noel the cash. Wendy pleaded not guilty and Noel put up the $50 bail the judge had ordered. On the following Tuesday Wendy pled guilty and was fined the amount of the bail, as were most of the other people against whom kangaroo-court charges had been laid. Tim was discharged when he showed that he had covered the check.
The blockade continued until evening. When it was over, Tim, Rosemary, the Teppers, Wendy and I drove to the Place of Overflowing Shitholes and had dinner at Howard Johnson’s. It was clear to all of us that this was just the beginning. We had to make plans. When drinks were ordered, I passed, much to Tim’s astonishment.
“I’d better lay off,” I explained. “Who knows what the morrow will bring? But you people who can handle it should go ahead and slosh it down to your heart’s content.”
There was unanimous consent to all the principles Haines and I had advocated for months. One would have wondered, listening to the unanimity that prevailed, how we could possibly have become so disorganized in the first place.
From now on, only invited visitors would be allowed on the property. We would put a sign on the portcullis saying so. Tim, Haines and I would meet regularly to check people out. All sacramental substances would be stashed outdoors. We would try to convince Billy to put Noel on a retainer to represent all of us. We would try to convince Billy to make judicious “campaign donations” at the county level. We would try to convince Billy to do all sorts of things.
“But Billy is … at sea,” Tim said, grinning at the double appropriateness of the expression. Billy was at sea. A little yacht trip in the Caribbean, as a matter of fact.