The taxi dropped him off but didn’t stick around.
After Blaine provided his bona fides to the man in the booth, he had to fill out the paperwork, balancing the clipboard on his knee as he sat in a folding chair under gray skies, on a dreary Tuesday evening. Once he had that filled out, he signed a release form, and the man got out of his booth, putting up a “BE BACK IN 10 MINUTES” sign, and led Blaine across the gravel to the chain-link fenced area full of cars of all types. The man swiped a white plastic card on a battered black box; a red light turned green and a sharp click indicated the fence was unlocked.
“Thanks, man. This must be a boring job, huh?” Blaine tried some small talk. He felt overdressed in his navy suit and tie. His dress shoes crunched especially loud on the gravel.
“You might not know this,” the man said, “but I’m an officer of the law.” The man was wearing a polo shirt, jeans, and running shoes, but when he lifted the hem of his untucked shirt, he showed a badge hanging from his belt.
“Oh. Oh, I didn’t. I mean, I know this is a police impound lot, but.” Blaine stammered.
“Technically you should be calling me Officer.” The man stepped through the gate. Not looking back, he said, “I had to go to Police Academy, too. Had to pass DPSST Certfication and everything.”
“Geeze, I’m sorry, man, I mean, Officer. It’s been a long day, long week, even. Had my car stolen, had to take the bus for, like, three days… I don’t know what DPTS or whatever is. I didn’t mean any disrespect. I mean, ha, ha, you’re not carrying a gun or anything…”
The man stopped and turned around. “They took my gun away when I killed that kid.”
Blaine’s mouth moved but no sound came out.
“Sorry. Little joke.” The officer turned around, began walking again. “This is probably the most boring police job in the city. Here’s your car.”
The silver Chevrolet parked there was in bad shape. Covered in dirt and mud, with a crack in the windshield, and scratches and dents in the hood. One hubcap was missing that Blaine could see, and the driver’s side window was shattered entirely. He walked around, and found that the trunk had been forcibly opened and then tied shut with several white plastic zip ties.
“Oh, my… This is how they found it?” Blaine saw that the seats were filthy and he hoped it was just mud. There were fast food wrappers on nearly every surface inside, including in the driver’s seat, where they had been apparently compacted into a mosaic of waxed and foil-lined paper of various shades of red, white, and gold.
“Yup.” The man walked away.
“Wait, wait, this is it? I just get in and drive away? What about my car?”
“We’re done. That’s your car. Your insurance will probably cover everything. You’ve got insurance, right?”
“Of course I do, but. OK. Right. It’s… it’s safe to drive now, right?”
“As far as I know. I’ll hold the gate for you.”
Blaine opened the driver’s door, which creaked alarmingly, and caused little bits of safety glass to tumble out. He grabbed handfuls of the trash on the seat and pulled it out, ready to drop it to the ground, made eye contact with the man, whose name he still did not know, and then tossed the trash into the backseat. There was a sweet but musty odor in the car; he dutifully ignored it. The engine started, but he immediately noticed it was nearly out of gas.
“Of course,” he said. On his way out, he asked the man for the nearest gas station, the man just shrugged.
“We got gas here but I can’t let you use it. It belongs to the department.” The man waved Blaine on.
The gas station attendant gave Blaine some serious side-eye, prompting Blaine to stammer out “It was stolen. They gave it back to me like this. Can you imagine?” which softened the gas station attendant’s skepticism.
“That’s some shitty good luck,” she said, as Blaine handed her his debit card.
With the window broken and the windshield cracked, he didn’t want to risk running it through a car wash, so he drove it straight home, parking in the driveway. Changing into shorts and a t-shirt, with the October light fading to nighttime but the temperature still in the 70s, he brought some garbage bags out to collect all the trash.
In the passenger footwell he found some used needles.
The only gloves he could find were his wife’s gardening gloves, which barely fit, so he found some zipper lock plastic bags to handle the needles with. He drained a bottle of beer, after scrubbing his hands until they were red under hot soapy water, and put the baggie of needles in the bottle, and then tossed the bottle into the trash bag.
He was taping a plastic bag over the driver’s side window when his wife walked up, having taken the bus to work herself.
“Looks good. I’m so glad we got it in the two tone: brown and silver,” she said.
“Jesus, would you look at it? And the cops think this is OK? I’d almost rather not have gotten it back at all! You wouldn’t believe what I found in there! When they stole it they must have had some kind of party. It’s tainted, Yvonne. This car will never be the same.”
“You’re stressed out. It’s been a tough week. Have you called our insurance guy yet?”
“No. I have not called the insurance guy yet. I’m still adjusting to this.” He sighed. “It’s late. I’ll call them in the morning.”
“What the Hell did they do to the trunk?”
“It’s zip tied shut, apparently. They drilled holes in it.” Blaine opened the garage door and when he emerged he had a pair of diagonal cutters. Snip, snip, snip.
“Are you sure you should do that? How are you going to keep it closed?” Yvonne asked.
The trunk lid popped open. More trash filled the trunk, almost overflowing.
“It’s almost like they were hiding something,” Blaine said. He began stuffing the trash into his garbage bag. Suddenly he stopped.
“There’s something in here. Something solid.” He frantically scooped the remaining trash out onto the driveway, and uncovered a soft, plastic wrapped yellowish brick about the size of a milk crate.
“That’s heroin. It’s got to be. What the Hell is a giant brick of heroin doing in the trunk? Didn’t you get it back from the police?”
Minutes later, with the car safely in the garage, Blaine sat on a stool in his kitchen, on the phone to the police non-emergency line.
“Hi. So, my car was stolen, and it was recovered, and I picked it up, but, well, the thieves have left some things in the car. Yes. Well, funny thing. Mostly trash, and some bio hazard needles and things, and… I don’t really know how to say this, because it kinda feels incriminating, but… Yes. I’ll hold.”
Yvonne handed him a beer and she drank from one herself. “This is insane. Maybe you should call a lawyer first? Do we have a lawyer?”
“We have a lawyer. Wait. I have a lawyer. From my first marriage. But that’s a different special – Yes, I’m still here. I’m trying to report that there’s something in my car. My stolen car. No, no, no, I’ve got it back. Yes, the police, your department. Listen, this is super complicated but it doesn’t really have to be. I just have a question. What should I do with something that the thieves who stole my car left in – Yes. I’ll hold.”
Yvonne leaned against the center island. “Blaine. Are you on hold?”
“Yes, goddammit, I’m on hold. What?”
She smiled, her brown eyes lighting up under her brunette curls. “What do you think that brick is worth?”
“Jesus, Yvonne!” Blaine whispered to her, covering his entire phone with both hands. “I’m on the phone to the police right now!”
“I’m just saying. It’s got to be worth a lot. It’s, what, 10 pounds. 20 pounds?”
He waved his finger at her and listened to the phone again, turning away from her, hunching over. “Yes, I’m here. Look, this is simple. This may be a crime but I’m not confessing. Whoever stole my car left a substantial amount of drugs in the car. I don’t want it. Can I return it to the police department? Is there some kind of, of, drug impound, like there was a car impound? Surely this happens from time to – Yes. I’ll hold.” Blaine was softly but firmly pounding his fist on the counter, expressing his frustration, but his voice was affectless and calm.
Meanwhile, Yvonne had been typing things on her own phone. She looked up. “There’s a lot of variation in the results, and the latest information I can get is from 6 years ago, but heroin is, was at that time, I mean, at least $80-100 a gram. How many grams in a pound, Blaine? A lot, right?” She was whispering, too, but she was talking quickly, while still typing out searches on her phone with her thumbs.
“I’m here, officer, I’m here – Oh, sorry, ma’am, I just assumed. I met the guy at the impound lot and he was kinda pissy about it. I mean, I’m sorry, I’m proud of our police and all they do, but can I just find out where I can take this package I found in my trunk? Uh huh. Yes. OK. Really? Really? I… I guess. OK, then. Thank you. You, too.” He tapped Disconnect.
“If that’s 20 pounds, then we could be looking at almost a million dollars of heroin, Blaine. And it just fell in our lap.” She walked around the island, took his chin in her hand, and looked him dead in the eye. “And you just told the police that we have it. Why the fuck did you do that, Blaine?”
Blaine’s face was pale, but his voice was soft. “It doesn’t matter. They don’t want it. She said it was too big of a hassle. They don’t want it, Yvonne. I think I was just talking to some receptionist or something, because she, she brushed me off. That was a brush off. She didn’t want to bother a superior, and she never got my name or anything, and she told me to just destroy it myself.
“They don’t want it. It’s ours. Our problem, as she said.” Blaine sighed. “Can… can we just dump it somewhere? Would that be illegal?”
They sat and looked at each other for a long moment.
“Well,” Blaine said, “we are going to need some money to get the car fixed up…”