Tonight’s 1971 Episode: “The Head Shop”
Back in the ‘60s and the ‘70s independent entrepreneurs filled the need for small stores that catered to the counter-culture. These shops sprouted up in towns across America and the world.
Along with independent record and tape stores, these clothing boutiques, second-hand stores, bookstores, and head shops became peaceful fun refuges where people with like minds could shop, and co-mingle with others.
“Head” Shops got their name by providing the essential accessories and smoking paraphernalia that the Psychonaut, Hippie, Counter, and Drug Culture “Heads” needed. Head Shops also provided an important cultural service; a welcome place to visit. There was a warm, fun, and slightly exciting feeling that Head Shops automatically had when one entered the door. It was as if leaving the monotone street life reality, and walking through a doorway into a world that looked and sounded like another reality, a colorful, mind-expanding reality.
These shops mainly served as quick stops for rolling papers, roach clips, and pipes, and also provided a casual spiritual explore of the vast array of ethnic cultural items, Rock posters, belts, beads, lava lamps, Indian tapestries, newspapers, magazines, and underground comix. All of this amidst the smell of rich patchouli incense and Ravi Shankar sitar background music, or the owner’s choice of mellow Rock.
William Trent was casual friends with a couple local head shop owners; these guys, record store managers, and drug dealers, were the best source of current and past counter-culture info, bordering on gossip.
Will walked into “The Head Shop”, an unoriginal name, but precise, and probably got more calls from the Yellow Pages than “The Temple of Good Dreams”, which was the other local head shop.
The owner of The Head Shop, Fred “Big Kahuna” Johnson, was a blonde guy with a dark tan who claimed he was Hawaiian, no one believed it. His shop was very cool; all decked-out with bamboo pole accents, palm trees, and a painted mural at one end of the shop that took up the whole wall. It was as if there was a sandy beach, then the surf, and then the ocean and blue skies. It was a small place but that mural made it seem to go on forever.
Big Kahuna had given Will info that while correct, was not complete, this was why Will had a black eye and is why he was ready to turn him in if he answered wrong.
BK: “Aloha kakahiaka, Will.”
Will: “Good morning BK.”
BK notices Will’s black eye but does not comment.
Will: “See this.” He points to his eye. “This is your fault.”
BK looks astonished: “My fault?”
Will: “You know that bit of info you gave me about Sid? Well, you left out the part that Sheila wasn’t his wife, she was his girlfriend.”
Will: “Sid’s wife took it out on me and she has a mean right.”
BK: “Sorry ‘bout that, Mate.”
Will: “Unfortunately, that led me to question your involvement.”
BK’s guilty looks contribute to the vibe Will was getting; BK was involved in some criminality beyond the Sid and Sheila incident.
BK starts to run a line of bullshit but realizes Will probably already knows and is just testing him.
Will, putting the incident with Sid and Sheila aside: “What? What’s goin’ on?”
BK confesses: “It was a way for me to make some money, like equal to six months of profit income from this place, and business has been good, for me anyway. And I could get that sailboat, you know the one.”
BK pauses, caught up in his dream of sailing “back to” Hawaii.
BK snaps out of it: “It all seemed innocent at first.”
BK explains his minor involvement; he met some guys who made him an offer to keep four wooden crates in his store room in the back for about a week.
Will: “And that didn’t seem suspicious to you?”
BK: “Brother, I love you, and this town, and all the people, even the local cops know I’m cool, but this was it, my ticket back to Hawaii.”
Will plays along: “I get it, so, what happened?”
BK: “I was at Toes.” “But it was flat so as I was leaving these two surfers came up to me and starting talking about my shop which is painted on the sides of my van.” He pauses and says with a proud smile: “You know, mobile advertising.”
Will: “I get it, and . . “
BK: “. . . and they made me this offer, gave me half cash up front and dropped the crates off later that day.”
Will: “Where are these surfers?”
BK: “I don’t know, they contact me.”
Suddenly, Will gets a vibe as two customers enter the shop.
BK moves to behind the counter: “May I help you?”
Will knows the play, and thumbs through the boxes of used tapes.
Will didn’t need eyes in the back of his head, he could sense one of the men facing him, arms folded, and watching Will’s every move. This guy was good, he was a pro, which told Will how deep BK was in.
Will continued to seriously check out the tapes, pulling them out and reading the track listings as BK suffered a serious verbal lashing by the other man.
Although the Tongue Lasher kept his venom low and inaudible to Will, the vibe was clear, BK was just given a time limit, that if not met, is when the torture starts and only stops at death.
The two Men left. Will kept looking through the cassettes and counted off the seconds, BK stayed behind the counter.
At thirty seconds another customer came through the door. It was the Pro, checking to see if Will was something other than a customer. The Pro turned and left.
Several customers came in, BK put on a vinyl classic, Dick Dale and his Deltones “Surfers Choice”, as Will worked his way to the counter.
Will under his breath to BK: “How much time did they give you?”
BK, not amazed at the question coming from Will: “24 hours.” “They think I ripped them off or that I know who did.”
Will moves to the side of the counter: “What was in the crates, coke?”
BK: “Yeah, probably a dozen kilos in each, but only three, I had to move them around to make room for my own inventory and one had a muffled metal to metal sound.”
BK: “That’s what I figured, but still, all I had to do was store them for a week.”
Will: “And one day you went back there and they were gone?”
BK hangs his head: “Yes.”
A customer makes a purchase, and Will resumes: “So give me something, what do you know? Who were these surfers, ever seen them before?”
BK: “No, I didn’t know who they were, it didn’t matter, they knew me, my shop, there were no names, and the offer was harmless, with cash up front.”
BK continues: “Other than that, I have a lean staff, I basically live here, so I have a couple trusted part timers who fill in. No one has access, except . . .” he slowly realizes and looks up, “through the roof.” BK looks sheepishly at Will.
A couple other customers approach the counter, ask questions, and purchase some incense.
Will: “OK so we know how, now who?” “Someone else knew, or found out about the stashed crates; it had to be one of your ‘trusted” part-time employees.”
Will got their names and addresses from BK and paid them a visit. Of the two, the girl was oblivious to the fact that the crates were even there, she ran the counter and rarely went in the store room. The guy was a bust from the moment Will brought up the crates; he spilled the beans with no coercion, he said he was basically a plant working right under BK’s nose for Michael “Murph the Surf” McMurphy, the owner of BK’s competition, The Temple of Good Dreams.
Will drove back to get BK, he wasn’t doing this alone.
BK was just closing up The Head Shop when Will pulled up and told him to get in the car.
Will: “How long has this been goin’ on? This feud between you and Murph. You guys are playing a dangerous game.”
Will heads for The Temple of Good Dreams.
BK questions: “It was Murph?” Then realizes: “It was Murph.”
Will: “You guys stepped over the line, if you want to set this straight you need to get those crates back.”
Will: “This stunt by Murph could get you both killed, even if you can return them.”
BK: “There goes my sailboat.”
It was about midnight, the moon was full and had a crisp silver tint. Everything was lit up but in black, white, and gray tones; a surreal world of the ‘50s with the tamped-down colorful ‘60s fighting to be seen. Within this gray world action looked creepy and shadows cast distorted yet distinctly scary images.
Will wasn’t interested in bloodshed so they hid and waited until Murph and a goon left.
Will knew that there was at least one goon inside the Temple. He looked at Big Kahuna.
Will: “You, a, know any hand to hand combat skills?”
BK: “You mean like Karate or Jujutsu?”
Just then a second goon came out onto the back patio, Will snuck up behind, and knocked him out.
He motioned for BK to follow him in the shop – there were the crates, all neatly stacked in the back room. They hauled all four out in two trips to Will’s car.
Just before they got in the car a third goon came out of nowhere, walked up and decked BK. Will walked up and kicked the goon full force in the balls, the goon keeled over to the ground near unconscious with pain.
Will, helping BK up off the ground: “I thought you knew some fighting skills?”
BK: “Yes, I knew of them, but not in practice.”
Will does a mental eyeroll.
As they pulled out of the driveway onto the street, Murph pulled up and recognized Big Kahuna riding shotgun. The chase was on.
Will, as he drives: “Murph hears about it from his “inside guy”, one of your “trusted” employees and figures that he can eliminate his competition and come up on a score. What he doesn’t know is that he wouldn’t be able to unload any of it, and if he tries, he’s dead.”
Will heads for BK’s Head Shop with Murph still on his tail. Will’s vehicular expertise left Murph in the dust.
Will parked down the street from the Head Shop.
The stillness of the gray world was broken by the sound of a Woodie, a wood-paneled station wagon, coming into view. It pulled over and two guys got out.
BK whispers: “It’s them, the Surfers.”
Will: “They’re here early, shit, they’re just gonna break in and wait. A few minutes sooner we’d have unloaded, been outta here, and this would have been over.”
BK: “Look who else is here.”
Entering the well-lit gray world was Murph’s pick up truck.
Will was watching a clusterfuck being formed. This is when the simplest solution will turn into a bloodbath.
Will knew that as soon as Murph entered that back door his mere involvement meant his death. Will grabbed one of the crates out of the trunk, turned it vertically and used it as a shield as he walked out to stop Murph.
The Surfers came out the back into the parking lot.
Will heard Morricone’s “the Ecstasy of Gold” play in the background soundtrack of his mind.
Surfer: “Where’s Big Kahuna? And you with the crate come over here,”
Will was acutely aware to timing, timing that may never come again. The Other Surfer that circled behind him had a gun.
Will walked toward the Surfer and at the perfect time acted as though he was setting the crate down, when actually he used his crouched position as a spring, lifting the crate back up by the end handle and using the upward motion to execute a quick lateral swing with great momentum that not only knocked the gun away but glanced upside the surfer’s head – he crumbled.
Will spun around to face another gun still using the crate as a shield.
Will: “This crate, and the other three are ready for delivery.”
Will continues: “Murph and Big Kahuna will load them in your Woodie.”
The Surfer looked around, assessed the situation and at gunpoint watched them load the crates into the Woodie’s spacious back end.
Will helps the downed Surfer up on his feet, backs off and turns to the Surfer with the gun: “Where’s Big Kahuna’s balance due?” “In the end he owned up to his part.”
Surfer, with a sneer: “What’s keeping me from offin’ you three right now?”
Will: “Do you know where you are?” “Look around, look closely.”
There from seemingly every window were the silhouettes of people backlit from TVs and lamps all looking, seeing, watching, waiting.
Will: ”You fire a gun you won’t make it out either end of the block, you’re in Ghost Town.”
The Surfer reaches in the car’s glove box pulls out an envelope and hands it to BK.
The Surfers got in their Woodie and left.
BK to Will: “Wow, thanks Man!”
Murph: “What do I get?”
Will: “Something priceless, your life.”
Murph grumbles, gets in his truck and leaves.
Will to BK: “I’m goin’ home, I’m beat.”
BK: “Will, would it be alright if I bunk at your place tonight? I’ll replace the locks tomorrow.”
Will didn’t like being “Hobo Hotel” but under the circumstances he agreed.
BK followed Will back to his place and after sharing a righteous bowl of marijuana they crashed out.
The next morning Big Kahuna was gone, but he left an envelope filled with cash and a note that read: Here’s your daily fee and expenses and a bonus. BK
Feeling refreshed Will decided to hit the beach and take a natural saltwater ocean bath and then lay on the cool morning sand as it heated up by the minute.
THREE MONTHS LATER . . .
Will is sifting through his mail and sees a glossy color postcard that says “Greetings from Hawaii”, he flips it over, and scribbled in ink it says:
I made it, I sailed here and have made friends already. Come visit.
Thanks Man you made it happen,
Love, Big Kahuna
P.S. My sister runs the Head Shop now, her name’s Gwen, stop in and say high, make sure she’s OK!
Will smiles while reading the postcard, but his attention is drawn away to another piece of mail, it was addressed in cursive and in dark red ink, but not ink, blood turns a dark brown on white cloth or paper, this was dark brown. There was no return address.
Will opened it and unfolded the letter inside.
There was one word written in blood: HELP!
Copyright 2018 00individual TLL
Written spontaneously over a few hours during July 12 – July 14, 2018 with only The Stoned Private Eye, The 1970s, Head Shop, and a Noir Vibe as inspiration.