We begin chapter two with Marshall rushing off to the police station to rescue Bernice, who has been arrested during orgy night. The streets are quiet, primarily because the po-po have arrested half the townspeople for drunken debauchery. Specifically, they’re all “dopers, vandals, rowdies, drunks, and no-goods […] in what amounted to an overcrowded zoo”. Faced with arrest and pending incarceration, packed into cages – there usually aren’t many holding cells in the station, after all – the criminals get a jump on gambling for cigarettes and try “to outdo each other’s tales of illicit exploits”, with “young bucks” making “obscene comments to a cageful of prostitutes” (in smalltown middle America, no less).
While this may seem silly and cartoonish to you, good readers, that’s because you make the mistake of assuming the people depicted in a Christian novel are complex characters with motivations and emotions. They’re not. There are two types of person in this particular mindset: the Good and the Unsaved. The Good don’t swear, drink, or smoke; the Unsaved would rape their grandmothers before settling down to a meal of fresh sauteed baby if only nobody was looking. In a world as stark as that, of course a town of 12,000 has enough prostitutes to make up a cageful. After all, anyone who isn’t purely chaste until marriage, whose first kiss comes before “I do”, is bound to end up as one anyway. The smart ones are the ones that know to charge instead of giving it away to any man who asks for free.
Contrasting this excessive immorality is the Good, here presented in the form of Jimmy Dunlop, the new deputy. He gives Marshall a little trouble, claiming he hasn’t got permission from upstairs to release anyone, until Marshall points out his phone is off the hook. Jimmy misdials twice trying to call upstairs, which makes Marshall cynically point out he matches the town: “Cute, maybe a little dumb, kind of like a bumbling kid who always got himself into jams”, and apparently, who once a year throws a giant orgy in his basement bad enough to make a big-city man like Marshall cringe.
Bernice is, to Marshall’s horror, locked in with the prostitutes. She got picked up for soliciting, it seems; trying to get a “scandalous lead”. “What else was there to write about?” she asks. Given that their next biggest story was a barbecue thrown by a bunch of women, I’d suspect anything would be good enough, but apparently, giant festering orgies are so common she has to look for an angle to cover them.