Tales of J. … Missing Persons

by SB J. (Mendocino Bonobos)

[Not your usual Jungle fare, but this was written back in 1981 and the world had its own kind of edge then. Appreciate it for its artistry and craft. Tomorrow we’ll publish videos of silly apes doing funny things. SB SM]

Here we are, Larry. It’s been over a week. Your sometimes employee and your teenage son and I are here in your carpet cleaning shop, wondering, “Where the hell are you and Venita?”

Here we are, in the middle of the night, frantically throwing possible evidence into a black suitcase – our hearts racing against phantom cops and creditors, against robbers, thugs, and murderers. Against time and life itself.

It’s a familiar feeling, that feeling about you, and your business. A certain edgy urgency. A certain dark brutality lurking behind the scenes.

What did they do to that roly-poly body of yours in prison? The first time? The second time? What did they do to that petty-thieving young mind and attitudes, back then? You never like to talk about it, except to say there’s rules and orders, same as in the jungle. And that it ain’t no party in there. And that you either fight or get fucked in the ass. And how you’d damn sure be dead before they ever got you back in the joint. In that horrible black hole again.

Your only son is in the next room, Larry, packing tools into the pickup truck you always promised him when he turns 16 next year.

Here among your paraphernalia is the telling token of your philosophy – three monkeys sitting on a log in their familiar “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” poses. And here’s your wallet, left behind, complete with driver’s license and stuffed with scraps of paper bearing your scribbles. Why’d you leave your wallet behind, Larry? Here some weed, there some weed. A silver spike – my God, Larry, what were you doing with that? Weed and speed dust in the desk drawers and under the blotter. Here and there. Nooks and crannies. Everywhere. How can we possibly get this place clean? What a mess you’ve left.

Should we stash the pile of overdue bills, final notices from creditors, letters from the county prosecutor’s office? Should we souvenir the business license with the photo of your demolition derby car stuck in the corner? Should we keep the deck of cheesecake cards, bent and worn from waiting for the business phone to ring? And should we hide your appointment book?

Larry, why doesn’t your appointment book show anything scheduled for anytime after the night you vanished? You and Venita. Said you’d be gone eight hours. Gone to finally get that new-fangled truck-mount carpet cleaner: the one that was going to save the business. The business that was going to make you legit. Successful. Happy. “Ex-Con Makes Good”. The business that was your American Dream. The business that was going to work for you. The business just starting to get on its feet when it burned down. Uninsured. The obsolete, broken and bankrupt business attempting a last gasp recovery, just in time for this damn recession.

I can’t stop my mind from screaming, Larry, “Where the hell are you?” I keep seeing your round and balding head, your pock-marked paleface and little bloodshot eyes. I keep hearing your jive-ass laughter at the world’s madness, and your own madness. I keep seeing that little 300-pound body, shifting from foot-to-foot, and your fat hands rattling the small change in the size-48 pocket while your jaw rattled with the latest get-rich-quick scheme — $1000 pyramids, chain letters, and the secrets of spinning straw into gold. The great dope deal in the sky. “Two weeks from now we’ll be in clover”. Sure, Larry, where the hell are you now?

Maybe the speed got him. The crank. The methadrine crystal nose powder. Yeh, that musta been it, I suppose, after listening to your son and your sometime-employee talk of your latest imaginings – stealing police uniforms and holding up pot growers; buying a big boat and sailing off to the South Pacific islands; getting your own pot plantation in Alaska …

Here’s your book of phone numbers. Into the suitcase for sure. And here’s your marriage license. Your runaway marriage to Venita, your flaming redhead running from a pocket-sized hometown deep in the Montana mountains. Running from an imprisoning first marriage and into the hands of the California law. And into your arms, Larry. Where’d you guys run to this time?

Didn’t you tell me if you didn’t make it this time you were a dead man? Two-time loser at marriage and business. Two-time felon. “Dead man”. Weren’t those your very words, Larry?

How disappointed were you, Venita, to learn he couldn’t deliver on your dreams? How trapped and dying did you feel? How desperate, that you grasped at one-night affairs with sadist bikers? Now I understand your sudden urgency to get married, Larry. Your desperate need to make it out of this free enterprise prison.

But for your two teenagers left waiting in fear and confusion at the apartment, the situation is impossible. Why did you hand them $500 in borrowed cash the night you guys disappeared? Why the $400 in checks to the business? Why did you tell them the money was to bail you and Venita out “if necessary” – your final worlds to them before vanishing into the black heart of that November Sunday night, driving an unregistered car you’d gotten in trade for a jar of 500 imitation “beans”. Vanished with your two pounds of stolen weed and a rumored block of speed, stolen from an oversized and addicted Indian with connections to shiny shoes and hardware.

What did you mean by telling your neighbor you had over $10,000 in cash on you that day? You never saw that much money in one place in all your life.

Couldn’t pass it up, Larry? Couldn’t resist the temptation to steal that crystal block of methadrine, still warm from a basement laboratory here in our little town; complete with paid protection. You knew what you were getting into, eh? Couldn’t resist your imagined cleverness, could you? Made your run for paradise, didn’t you?

Or did you tell too many people about your nearly good fortune? Perhaps one of your underground creditors caught wind of it and figured it’s payback time.


The cops found your car today, sitting inconspicuously among the half-dozen lease vehicles at our little town airport. Venita’s jacket and purse – complete with driver’s license, cash, and a half-ounce of weed – in the front seat. A rope and chain in the back seat. The key sticking out of the trunk. A fresh scrape across the bottom of the gas tank. And not one fingerprint anywhere.

“Just between you and me and the wall”, the detective told me on the phone, “My guess is they got it while trying a drug ripoff”.


Your son’s hero-worshipping eyes are red and wet all the time now, Larry. But he’s hangin’ tough. Like his old man. Waiting for you to come back and get him, like you said you would if you ever decided to disappear.


I had this nightmare last night.

Blood. Thin blood, mixed with water. Larry with a bullet hole in his head. His neck. His arm. White-faced, cold and still. Venita’s last terrified expression.

And the cold killer. Killers. Their cruelty. Their conscience. Their consciousness. Their existence. Here. Now.

Gray circles under the eyes, and going out for a pack of cigarettes. World of shadow and deception. Red-eyed paranoia-peddlers and black-eyed women with broken noses and closed mouths. Shiny cold steel bullets of death.

I bolted awake.


I remember you always operating like your number was coming up one way or the other in two minutes. The hustle and jive vibration. Your fidgeting hard-luck stories, wheeling and dealing the blue-collar blues. Your yellow-eyed glance over the shoulder. You rat.

Why aren’t there any pictures of you in existence, Larry? Your ex-wife doesn’t even have one. The newspaper wants photos. Missing persons.

Where’s the will and the insurance policies for the kids you always talked about. Where are they?

The kids are at the apartment – waiting, fearing, hoping, wondering. Fragmenting each day. Startled by phone-bells. Sleeping in chairs in front of the 24-hour tv. A blind-drunk teenage party till 2am. A household disintegrating. Those few hundred bucks disappearing like you, and the electric bill already overdue.

Two kids, truant during the days and loose on the streets at night. A confusion of fear and pain and anger in their hearts. An empty refrigerator and memories of you.

They wait in fear of the landlord’s knock on the door. Then it’s all over. Then it’s to Mom’s. To a cancer-riddled Mom and her unemployed and alcoholic husband who hates them. But at least he doesn’t beat them.

Oh, Larry, your daughter told me about the beatings. Oh, Larry, where the hell are you, you dumb shit? You dumb stupid shit. I loved you like a brother. Jesus, have I been living in Disneyland all these years? A babe in the woods. You hid your dark side from me, didn’t you? Did I never really see it?

But here it is, and where the hell are you, my sometime friend?


Ukiah residents Larry and Venita Cape were murdered last October and left on Cow Mountain according to the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department.

The badly decomposed bodies were discovered Sunday by pig hunters. Examination showed that both victims had been shot in the head, execution-style.

Ukiah Daily Journal, 12/8/81

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