Ebenezer Reilly was already beginning to wake from a deep sleep when the call came from the police station. He raised himself stiffly onto one elbow and fumbled to reach for the phone which was ringing on the nightstand beside him. It then took him a few moments to understand that he was being asked to come and pick up his partner, Joshua O'Sullivan, who was about to be released from custody.
It wasn't the first time that Joshua had got himself into trouble on a trip into town. In fact, there had been a period when Ebenezer had frequently been called upon to bail out his errant partner after run-ins with the law. But that was all many years ago. The sports car in which Joshua used to speed had long since been traded in for a reliable truck which the men used to collect supplies from the agricultural merchants in town. As for bar room brawling; it was no longer necessary to remind Joshua to keep his temper in check and his hands to himself. Since he turned sixty, Joshua had finally accepted that he wasn't going to win any fist fights with younger men.
It felt like a return to the early days of their relationship as Ebenezer set out on a rescue mission. Nowadays he was unable to drive himself into town; his eyesight had deteriorated to the point where he'd had to surrender his driving licence. Instead he telephoned for a cab and asked to be taken to the office of the California Highway Patrol. On arrival Ebenezer's eyes were drawn to the military vehicle parked beside the squad cars. He could just make out the words El Dorado County Explosives Ordinance Disposal Team painted in large letters along its side. As he entered the building he hoped he could take his partner home immediately; it looked like there could be some sort of security threat in town.
Joshua was sitting with his head bowed, his elbows resting on his splayed knees and his hands clasped tightly together. He was so overwhelmed with misery that he didn't immediately realise that his partner had arrived in the holding area. It was only when the duty officer called a greeting to Ebenezer that Joshua raised haunted eyes to encounter a look of exasperated amusement from the man who had been his lover for nearly thirty years.
"What's my boy been up to this time?" Ebenezer enquired of the officer. His tone was light and he expected a bantering response from the patrolman who was the son of one of his oldest friends. It was a surprise when the young officer turned away in some confusion and started to shuffle through the paperwork on his desk.
"You'd best ask Josh to explain it himself. I'll just get the formalities completed so you can recover your truck from the pound."
Ebenezer went and sat down beside his partner and placed a firm hand on his shoulder. "How come the truck ended up in the pound, Josh?" he asked quietly but firmly.
"I was parked in a no parking zone on Highway 89," Joshua admitted. "I hadn't left the truck," he added urgently, "I was just sitting there. But it was four o'clock in the morning and the highway patrol stopped to see what I was doing."
"What were you doing?"
"I was just breaking up the block of salt lick I bought in town. I thought it was too big to give to the herd all at once. I was cutting it with a penknife. The patrolmen seemed to have a problem with that. They've impounded it for tests."
Joshua seemed genuinely confused by such an inexplicable outcome. Ebenezer glanced up and exchanged a brief look of comprehension with the duty officer.
"Then you'll be in the clear as soon as the tests results come through. They suspected you of being a drug dealer, love."
"Oh, that explains… I couldn't understand the questions, Eb."
"Never mind, Josh. As long as you told the truth."
The blush which spread from Joshua's cheeks right down his neck told its own story. Joshua had never been able to lie or cover up his misdeeds; his body always betrayed him. Ebenezer had no trouble interpreting the agonised look which his partner directed towards him. It told him as clearly as if Joshua had spoken aloud that his partner was guilty of telling an untruth. It also conveyed a desperate plea that any further discussion be reserved until the two of them were alone.
The intervention of the duty officer worked in Joshua's favour. "I've completed your paperwork," he announced. "You just need to collect your belongings and sign for them. Then you're free to go."
The two men stood up and approached the desk. Joshua's belt, shoelaces, wallet, watch and loose change were returned together with an item in a clear plastic evidence bag which Ebenezer had no difficult in recognising. He frowned with annoyance that Joshua had removed a sex toy from the privacy of their bedroom, exposing himself to embarrassment during a police search. Ebenezer picked up the evidence bag and pocketed it, resolving to have very firm words with his partner when they got home.
Apart from a few neutral observations, they journeyed back in silence. Joshua concentrated on driving the truck, sticking carefully to the speed limits. Ebenezer spent the time considering how best to get Joshua to tell the truth when they got home. In the event, the whole story soon came pouring out of his distraught lover who had held it together on the drive home, only to collapse in tears as soon as he had parked the truck and walked into the kitchen.
"It was awful, Eb," he sobbed. "I was stripped. They were going to send for medical personnel. I didn't know what they were going to do to me."
"You were strip searched? That's a bit extreme. I think we'll get our lawyer onto this. You weren't in possession of any illegal substance. I think that could be a breach of your human rights."
"You don't understand. It wasn't the salt. It was the vibrator."
"What do you mean, it was the vibrator? It's not illegal to be in possession of a vibrator… although I could wish that you hadn't shared the details of our sex life with the son of my best friend."
"It wasn't that I was in possession of it… I was…you know… I was using it…"
"Using it? How? What were you doing, Josh?"
"Don't be angry, Eb. I'd parked. It was so early. I was thinking of you still in bed. I was lonely and feeling turned on. There was no one about. The highway was deserted. I thought it would be okay. I didn't know I was doing anything wrong. I know I shouldn't have taken it out of our bedroom. I'm sorry, Eb."
After that breathless and disconnected recital Ebenezer was none the wiser. "What were you doing, Josh?" he calmly repeated.
"I'd inserted the vibrator, Eb. I wasn't going to drive with it switched on… honest. I was just having a bit of fun. I didn't know the patrolmen would find the wire."
Ebenezer sighed. It was all becoming clear. "When did they find the wire, Josh?"
"They searched me when they got me out of the truck. I had to put my hands on the roof of the squad car while they patted me down and searched my pockets. They found the wire with its on/off switch. When we got back to the CHP office I had to strip and they saw where the wire went." Joshua was getting more and more agitated. "They said they were sending for medical personnel to investigate. I couldn't have that, Eb. I couldn't let them poke around inside me. You do see that, don't you?"
"What did you do?" asked Ebenezer with resignation.
"I thought they'd leave me alone if I hinted that I was wired to an explosive device," confessed Joshua in a rush.
Accustomed though he was to Joshua's wilder exploits, Ebenezer was temporarily lost for words at this startling admission. Suddenly the presence at the police station of the Explosive Ordinance Disposal Team made perfect sense.
"You mean to tell me," said Ebenezer in tones which hinted at the effort he was making not to lose his temper, "that you would rather finish up in Guantanamo Bay than have a paramedic remove a vibrator from your anal cavity?"
"It was so embarrassing," whispered Joshua as though that explained everything.
Ebenezer was beginning to lose the battle with his temper. "So what did the EOD Team get up to then? Did they send in a robot to poke around up your ass?"
"No. And there's no need to be sarcastic, Eb. I didn't know they'd send for the bomb disposal crew. I tried to tell them there was no bomb but they evacuated the office anyway and then a guy in a protective suit stuck something up me. I didn't look round but I heard him tell the others that the area was safe. Then they sent for the paramedics who removed the vibrator… We'd better check it, Eb. See if it's still working okay."
"That's the least of our worries my lad! In pursuit of a cheap thrill you've got yourself arrested, told lies to the police, had the EOD Team called out and the police station evacuated. You were too embarrassed to be seen by a paramedic and so you pretended to be wired with explosives! If this story ever gets into the public domain you'll be a worldwide laughing stock. And if it's sensation in the rear end which you're seeking, I can provide for all your needs. Oh, and I'll be using a paddle… and you'll not be getting your hands on that vibrator for a very long time, if ever. Now, drop your pants!"
The incident began around 4:30 a.m. when a California Highway Patrol officer contacted a 60-year-old man in a “No Parking” zone on Highway 89 near Luther Pass, according to a CHP report. The officer arrested the man after allegedly finding what was believed to be methamphetamine.
During a subsequent search, officers found “a suspicious wire, with an on/off switch” in the man's front left pocket leading to his anal cavity, according to the report. Officers planned to have the device removed by medical personnel at Barton Memorial Hospital, but during an interview with the man at the CHP office, “the subject began to explain his knowledge of explosives and bomb-making,” according to the report.
The man's statements caused officers to become suspicious. They contacted the El Dorado County Explosive Ordinance Disposal Team and evacuated the office around 5:45 a.m. About 9 a.m., “the EOD team rendered the device safe and determined it was not an explosive device. The vibrator was subsequently removed and placed into property."