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Chapter 10

Jackie Dunlop and his Memphis Mafia touched down right on schedule, and Meredith met them at the terminal door and smiled and nodded at each one of them, but she was really there for her lover, Peter the pilot, and when he finally deplaned, she stuck her tongue in his mouth and then told him about Lou Damiano and the easy thirty-two-fifty. That’s swell, babe, he said. Let’s celebrate. How about Babette’s?

The waiting Fleetwood carried Jackie and his bedraggled crew straight to Graceland and right after he was told of the event, he bent over and puked. He got a little spittle on his snug slacks. This was in the back parking area because Donna respected Jackie’s tendency to vomit when given upsetting news. He cleaned out his mouth with the hose and stomped up the back stairs, wondering if the intruders crept up them like elegant international gentlemen thieves.

They all stood in the bathroom and gaped down at the empty space. Shocking. Like seeing your mother naked. Always happens to someone else. The cutout in the shag carpet resembled a key shape and it gave every last one of them the thought of a murder scene’s chalk outline.

Man, it’s like two deaths up here now, one of the boys said. What in the dern heck’s going on? another asked hands on hips to the baffling universe. That’s exactly what I’m going to find out, said Jackie.

He called a meeting for all the people who were there that night and all the people who were not there that night. That meant everyone. All but Jackie crammed into the jungle room with cocktails and cigarettes and milled and chatted about Marc Bolan, some San Francisco shootout and Bama losing at Nebraska. Rutledge had five interceptions. Who the fuck can win on the road at Lincoln with five fucking interceptions? Tell me that. The gals did not mention Johnny Scaglinardi nor cocaine nor any anal anything, and likewise, the boys did not mention their exceedingly boring conversation with Warren Beatty at the bar at Perino’s. Some picture about some asshole from Oregon who falls in love. Or some shit.

Jackie finally marched in and the crowd parted and he stood at the waterfall and the trickling water became louder as the crowd of everyone hushed. Jackie looked up, to the shag up top, to collect his thoughts.

Jackie spoke. Tight ship. Get it together. Quit fucking around. House business. Monkey business. Mentions of security, armed guards had been hired, the bank man wants detailed inventories for insurance and, While we’re on it, he said, the downstairs toilet’s running. I called a plumber. So, what do you gals have to say for yourselves?

Donna spoke up with a vigorous defense and said they heard something but, We thought it was a squirrel.

That was only them stealing away! raged Jackie, and after a long few minutes of ridiculous accusations and vicious counter attacks, Jackie said, Fuck it. We’re going public. Call Freddy down at the Q. Hell, call ’em all. Get ’em all out here!

The media vans pulled up exactly 10 minutes later. Microphones got jammed into a wood stand, and the cameras rolled, and Jackie stepped up to talk as the rest of the Mafia stood back with the gals.

Thank you all for coming. It has been a hard, difficult time. There’s been a lot of work, and stuff to do, and you know, it’s just been hard. But now, it’s got more harder. Jackie breathed deep, bowed his head for a moment and then shot his look heavenward, as if to address the exiled King himself, to fill him in. Graceland… has been burgled.

Burgled?! gasped a reporter.

That’s right, burgled. Sometime last night, a perpetrator, or per-puh-tray-tors, stole onto the grounds, gained entry into the mansion, and here he waved his hand across the house like a cool real estate agent, and made off with, uh, with… Jackie paused and looked at the trees for a long moment, his face completely blank, fully expecting to hear something. But he didn’t.

Jackie, what’d they steal?! a reporter shouted.

Jackie had no words. He looked back and then moved to Donna who whispered in his ear. Jackie nodded and approved and returned to the mics and said, A priceless piece of porcelain.

A priceless piece of porcelain?! shouted the reporter from WHBQ.

A priceless piece of porcelain, that is correct. Extremely priceless. And, porcelain, and sentimental, too. A token, or totem, of a sort, that, we, uh, … Now, we really want this piece back and we are willing to…

Like a figurine?! interrupted another reporter. Again, Jackie leaned back to Donna who whispered in his ear. Jackie approved of Donna’s quick words, but he also felt a deep ache for her love, for she always knew what he wanted – and in this case, needed - to say before he did. True love. Perfect love. Except for Johnny Scaglinardi and that crap about schoolnight huggers. Yes, like a figurine, he said into the mics. Now, we really want this porcelain figurine back…

What kind of figurine?! A figurine of a person, or a guitar? A cat?! Is it a cat?!

How priceless?! How much it worth?!

What color is it, Jackie?! How big is it?!

They spit their questions rapid-fire. Jackie got confused, flustered, words flying in like knives wanting to carve him to bits for all the juicy details. How quickly he got in over his head. Donna just shook hers.

It’s black, god damn it, and I done said it’s priceless! And no, it’s not a person! Or a fucking cat! It’s just, you know, yea big and yea long and what have you… he said using his hands to show the approximate dimensions of a toilet.

Hey, Jackie, no swearing on TV! This got a roar from everyone, but Jackie played it dry.

You dumb son of a bitch, if you even know how to operate that TV camera, I’ll eat my drawers! Everybody laughed hard and nodded and agreed and felt a real post-crisis camaraderie. But Jackie continued, Look, that’s not the point. The point is to get the priceless piece of porcelain back and bring decapitating justice to the perpetrators.

Hey Jackie, how would Elvis feel about one of his priceless porcelain pieces being nabbed?!

Dang, I sure do miss him. And I wish to god he was here because… and then he drifted off, as if struck by a force so powerful and calm and cosmic that he seemed to float above the scene, hover over the others, and all existence itself went silent, made complete sense, and then he could hear nothing but softly ringing bells, and he watched the humungous mouths of the press moving in slow motion but nothing came out and then he found himself high in the stratosphere and a voice from within and without told him the single most important idea he’d ever, germinated… and then he dropped like a rock back to earth, found himself fully conscious at the mic stand, and the next thing he heard was, Hey Jackie, you think E would forgive them their sins?!

What? Jesus fucking Christ that is a stupid question, and will you guys stop yelling! God damn it! I’m standing right here!

Donna stepped forward, took Jackie by the arm and whispered in his ear for a long time. Jackie nodded in agreement and then said into the mics, To the thieves, and his tone became baleful, apocalyptic. If you cooperate with us, we’ll be cool with you. You have my word. But forget this not, you know who you are. And soon, I will know who you are. Thank you, that is all.

With that, the entire Graceland contingency marched up the steps and disappeared into the house. As everyone made their way to the kitchen for more food and drink, Jackie pulled aside three of the boys and said, I got it. I fucking got it. Hit me a like a shot of truth syrup. You wanna bring the King home? The three recoiled their heads in confusion, but Jackie pressed on: I’m bringing the King home. Here’s what you’re gonna do…

Just then, a sneaky little reporter in a trench coat with a hook nose and beady eyes, tapped Jackie on the shoulder. Jackie spun, looked over the little man and then down and said, What?

Inside job? he whispered. Was it an inside job? I didn’t want to bring it up back there cause of the, you know, personal nature, but it was an inside job, wasn’t it? Wasn’t it? Yep, I knew it.

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