Malik felt his cell phone vibrating in his pocket.
“Why are the police waking me up?” his mother asked, exhaustedly, angrily.
Malik swallowed, and gave her the abridged version of what happened—of what, come to think of it, was still happening.
“What were you thinking?” she wanted to know.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I’m sorry.”
“Well, your father is outside.”
“What? He is?”
“He’s been out there for 45 minutes, Malik.”
Democracy is essential. This is hammered into you each and every year, kindergarten through high school. Ladd wanted the opinion of everyone before he officially announced the surrender, so he headed back up to the attic to take a poll.
“I’m not going anywhere!” someone, who had a personal stash of beer, shouted. “I want to stay here forever! Fuck the police!”
Here was the problem with trying to be fair: The masses were speckled with numskulls who could be disproportionately influential. But not this time: Ladd had his consensus, and went downstairs to open up the door.
But when he reached the landing, police officers were already inside—someone had opened the door (mysteriously, no one remembers who). Officers were coming in from all sides, shouting—
“You have to be kidding us!”
“I can’t even start with how disappointed I—no, all of Rye—is with you kids.”
“What the hell was running through your heads?”
“The entire town went unprotected. Do you realize that?”
MacBride’s friends left his room when they heard the shouting. He was alone now, seated in his recliner, and for a moment he tried to revel in the moment. It had passed far beyond the realm of the humorous, past the absurd, and into some new territory heretofore unexplored. He was like a gangster, he thought, seated here, calm among the chaos. When he heard a cop demanding, “Who’s house is this?” he stood up and entered the fray.
The officer pulled MacBride into the bathroom, and began with a brief lecture: “What were you doing? You know, if you’d just let us in, none of this would’ve happened.”
Which was difficult to process. After all, the whole point of going into the lockdown was to prevent this from happening, and, surely, in some corridor of his mind, the police officer was aware of this.
Three police cruisers, six uniformed cops, about twenty seriously miffed parents—this is exactly the scene no teenager wants to witness at three in the morning. A few parents couldn’t control their tempers, but for the most part the mood was somber, tense, the police methodically confiscating the I.D.’s of everyone as they emerged from the house—to be picked up tomorrow at the station, where everyone would be treated to a speech about morality, responsibility, and the law.
Every so often one of the older detectives would look a kid in the eye and proclaim, “Twenty-four years on the force, and never—I mean, never—have I seen such blatant disrespect from teenagers.”
The parents were asked to hang around outside for a moment—the police wanted them to see firsthand what their children were up to. But not so fast—first they’d have to inspect the premises.
MacBride stood in his living room, the only kid in the house now, watching an officer quietly write up violations that would lead to MacBride’s being arrested a few weeks later on charges that included providing alcohol to someone under 21. (His case is still pending.) This was confusing. Everyone brought their own drinks; he didn’t know where they got them. Also, being from Ireland, where you can drink legally at 18, he was still adjusting to America’s schizophrenic culture: Party all the time, except don’t.
But what can you do?
Then it got weirder still. The police were having trouble accumulating evidence because the house was already cleaned up. So when the officers reached the basement and spotted the black trash bags lined up against the wall, neatly tied and ready for disposal, they untied them and begin dumping the empty bottles and cans out onto MacBride’s white carpet. Then the parents were brought inside and directed to the pile of empties (“That’s really not so much beer,” one whispered) where an officer pronounced, “Do you see what they’ve done?”
Alone in the garage, Paxton had been waiting patiently. He now crawled out from under the car, carefully walked to the rear door in the kitchen, slipped unseen into the backyard, and ran home.