Quandary

by Vincent Maertz 11 days ago in fiction

A fictional look into my old behaviors

Quandary
Me, the author. I wanted to upload several of my real mugshots and drawings relevant to the story, but Vocal requires pictures to be of a certain size.

1

It was after midnight but the place was lit up like a baseball stadium. I had planned for this unwelcome deterrent by paying an employee to steal a janitor uniform from an unsecured locker inside the bus station days earlier. I had purposely not shaved or showered that day to look as unkempt and in the role as possible. This was going to be a quick score but the getaway would be dangerous; we were going to steal $100,000 from my drug dealers boss.

The plan started forming weeks earlier when I went to the flop house to pick up my usual supply from my main guy. I had put in a lot of low level work, and had built up a reputation with him over the past year because I was always on time, always had what I owed, or communicated with him if anything wasn't right. I was going to leave that house with a quarter pound, or 112 grams of meth. By itself, it's possible to pick up 10 years Federally if I were caught with it. Have that quantity near a pistol or a sizable amount of cash, 20 years no problem.

This particular night my guys boss was there making his weekly delivery. I knew him by his nickname but we had never been formally introduced. King was a giant Native man that had been in and out of prison and in the game his whole life. He stood to introduce himself and towered over me by what seemed like a foot. Covered in Native tribal tattoos from head to toe, he looked deep into my eyes. Was he reading me? I struggled to maintain myself but I was able to keep my cool. He was a very intimidating man, but he said he had heard good things about me and wanted to show me something.

He pointed to a gym bag on the floor and motioned for me to get it for him. I obliged, half expecting a gun in my face when I turned around, but he just took it and set it on the couch. He unzipped it and I saw what looked like emerald city inside. Two kilos of meth, almost five pounds, was just sitting there. I wasn't nervous or afraid even knowing if the cops came through the door right now, all of our lives would be completed from behind bars. He said, “Now you have access to anything you will ever need. You’ve proved yourself time and time again, and you have earned this opportunity.” He went on with the standard talk about me being brutally murdered if I ever fucked him over or ratted him out to the cops. He said he knew a lot of my friends, and could easily have people find my family if I were ever to go astray and spend his money on my desires. We locked eyes again and I nodded, and we shook hands.

I left the house with a pound of methamphetamine. I slinked out the front door and around to the unlit back alley which I would take down the block to my car which I parked far away from the actual meeting location as to not arouse suspicion from police with traffic coming and going from the stash house.

It was so dark it was nearly impossible to tell in which direction I was walking. Aside from the usual paranoia of being up for too many days, I was sure I was being followed. Somebody pacing me. Maybe it was just my echo bouncing off of the bushes aroun-- That’s when I felt a blinding pain on my right temple. I tried to run but I was already crumpled in a heap on the cement. I knew who and where I was, and I knew what I had. My first and only thought was that I was getting robbed but I couldn’t even fight back because my arms and legs were limp. It was quiet, but I could hear somebody or something pacing around me. Whatever it was it was breathing excitedly, like a hyena circling an injured gazelle. And then he said, “Listen very carefully, and do everything I say or I will gut you right here.” I felt cold steel against my stomach. I was fucked.

2

Darkness. There was no difference in what I saw with my eyes open or closed. I opted to keep them closed because I was in excruciating pain. I felt blood trickle down from my temple through my greasy hair and down to the ground from my nose. Immediately above me, a man with putrid breath was breathing erratically, searching for his words. A moment of silence, then he spoke. “I know they call you Vinnie.” He began to feel around for my pockets and quickly found my wallet and removed it. “Now I have all of your information, just in case. With this I can find everybody in your family, all of your friends, and even get access to your financial records if necessary.” At this point I didn’t think there was any point in mentioning that none of my credit cards would ever work and there was no driver’s license in the leather tri-fold.

“I work with an organization that has beef with your boss. Yeah, I know King is in there. Right now there are two choices you can make. You can listen to what I have to say, leave, and follow my instructions and live and maybe work for us one day. Or, you can listen to what I have to say, leave and go tell King what happened tonight, and I promise you and he and your families will be dead in less than a day.” This was the second time in twenty minutes that somebody had threatened me and my family with murder. I wasn’t really scared for myself, but I never wanted anything bad to happen to my family because of the stupid life I had chosen, so I listened.

“I’m sorry I had to hit you, it was the only way I know how to make sure somebody really pays attention. And now that I have your attention, I need you to listen carefully.” In the distance I could hear the escalating noise of a vehicle driving toward the alley. It seemed like days since I had seen light, and now it was fast approaching from the side street. The vehicle turned in and I was momentarily relieved and hoped that the man would run in fear and I would be able to escape into the darkness. It became clear that this car was part of the plan. “You and I are going to get up and get in the car. When we get in, you are going to take off all of your clothes so we know you don’t have any weapons. Capiche?” I nodded. I was really nervous now, I had over $10,000 in drugs on me that I still owed for and I knew they would find it.

The car drew near and I opened my eyes again to see what was going on with the added light. I caught just a glimpse of what appeared to be a robot before the headlights went out. Night vision. The guy was wearing fucking night vision goggles! God damn tweakers. It made sense now that he was able to see me so well to follow and incapacitate me. These guys were really organized.

He shoved me toward the car and the back door opened up and I was forced in. I hadn’t even hit the seat before I had a 9mm shoved in my face. On the other end of the gun was a shirtless, fat, bald, skin-head looking man with a giant swastika on his chest. In my head I named him Dumpy. Dumpy was a very angry man. He yelled, “Take yer fuckin’ clothes off, man!” Goggles got in the passenger seat and the car pulled away. Slowly I began fiddling with the buttons on my shirt. The meth was in a giant Ziploc bag against my back in my waistband. Dumpy said, “Hurry up!” I knew there was no point in delaying, so I undressed as quickly as I could. I didn’t even try to hide the bag; I knew that would just agitate the situation. I threw the bag at Dumpy and said, “There you fuckin’ go. That just sealed my fate.” Goggles turned around and said, “That’s not even close to what we want.” The car stopped in another alley a few blocks away and I was ordered out at gunpoint. Quickly my shirt was used to tie my hands behind my back and I was thrown into the trunk. The lid slammed shut and I was alone in the dark again. For only a moment, there was complete silence and I actually felt safe.

There was a small amount of light coming from the running lights sso I could see my surroundings. Right in front of me were three shovels.

3

Darkness, the recurring theme of this traumatic evening. I’d had a gun and a knife pointed at me, I’d been hit in the head with an unknown weapon, and I’d been tied up and thrown in a trunk. I had also been drugged but that was of my own choosing so that didn’t count. The meth coursing through my system was probably the only reason I wasn’t sleeping soundly during the ride to terminus mysterious.

At least it wasn’t a bumpy ride, I mean as far as trunks go, this one was quite roomy. The three shovels had me concerned, I mean where the hell would we be going that they would have enough time to dig a fucking grave, we’re in Rochester, MN not the fucking desert. And why would they kill me? Maybe this was just a scare tactic; something to make it look like they were serious. I believed them.

We drove for twenty minutes or so at highway speed and started to slow down. I had done enough drug dealing and driving to recognize that we were probably in one of the smaller towns surrounding the big city. There was a series of turns followed by a gradual incline of what I assumed was a driveway. A bump. Another. Then the car shifted gears to park and the engine was turned off. I heard the distinct noise of an automatic garage door being shut, followed by some muffled words. They were probably saying something about letting me go with all of my belongings and forgetting the whole thing. Or something like that.

The trunk opened and I was expecting a gun or a grenade or a packet of anthrax to be thrust in my face, but it was just Dumpy, this time with a shirt. I thought it was funny how he looked like a computer programmer now versus a gun-toting racist just a short while ago. It’s amazing what a little cotton can do. Dumpy said, “Alright, you can get out.” He offered no assistance and I had a difficult time with my hands tied behind my back. Everything seemed to get in the way of every part of my body trying to maneuver myself out of the cargo hold, but I finally made my way out. He turned me and pushed me toward a door that lead into a house.

It was just a regular house. Actually it was a really big, beautiful, modern home. The only things that seemed off were the closed blinds and a tied-up, naked, bleeding man now standing in the kitchen. Dumpy untied my wrists and motioned toward the sink before saying, “You can clean yourself up a little. If you make any attempt to escape, you will regret it.” Fair enough. I nodded and grabbed a few paper towels and tried to soak up the blood on my head but it had already dried. Add water, repeat.

I looked around for an obvious escape route just in case some miracle occurred and I found an opportune moment, but all I saw was Goggles looking at me. He cocked his head, “Don’t even think about it. You’ll never make it out of here. Come put your clothes on and have a seat.” I obliged, as if I had a choice.

I dressed myself which I do almost every day. I felt around for my wallet, a pound of meth, but they were nowhere to be found. I heard a light thud on the coffee table in the center of the room. “Hey! There’s my meth!” I try to have a sense of humor everywhere I go. For the first time the driver spoke, “For now, let’s call it “our” meth.” He smiled and pointed to a chair in which I believed he wanted me to sit.

Driver was a pretty normal looking guy compared to the other two. Goggles, as it turned out was a fairly dainty little man with rotten teeth and a crooked smile that framed them perfectly. He wore a tattered wife-beater and had veiny sinuous muscles that flexed frantically with his every sudden jerky move. His eyed darted around constantly and one of his eyes seemed to always be catching up to the other. Driver on the other hand appeared to be well groomed. If I had to guess, which I did, I would say that this was his house, and his family was gone for the night, probably in some hotel while business was attended to. His hair was neatly coiffed, skin toned, and he wore a shirt with no holes or dirt. He also had all of his teeth.

Driver recited his words internally before speaking, “First I want you to know that we have no problem with you. We actually chose you because you are known for being a little bolder than some of the tweakers out there-- a risk-taker. Sorry about the head, Mike can get a little carried away when he gets a kidnapping job.” Mike was surely an alias for Goggles. Driver continued, “We didn’t put you through all of this for a pound of meth. Actually, we have no intention of taking anything from you at all. If you are cooperative, and we believe that you will follow the instructions we give you tonight, you will get to leave with everything you had on you when you left King’s place. I’ll get right to the point; we need you to steal your boss’s supply money.” They wanted me to steal from the most dangerous man I had ever met before tonight. And it looked like I didn’t have a choice.

I sat, quietly puzzled. I understood what he had said, but I couldn’t comprehend how he could think that I had a set of balls that big. Stealing king’s money would be a death sentence for me. And if I opted to not follow through with whatever plan they had, my fate would be equally wrapped. Pensively, I waited for Driver to continue. “We know a lot about King and his people and his movements. At this point, we can guess roughly when he takes the bus down to Arizona to get his shit, how long it takes, and how much he has when he comes back.”

He was making sense, I knew that the meth I had been selling for about a year was coming from Arizona, which is why I got it for so cheap. I got lucky in that aspect because in the meth world it’s nearly impossible to find a reliable, good quality supply. Mine came without any cut, straight from the Mexican border on a bus delivered to my friend’s house. My guy didn’t get high so I never worried about being shorted or finding any “extra weight” in my bag. I had often thought of taking the trip myself because realistically, I could spend $150 on a round-trip ticket and less than $300 per ounce which I could turn around up here for $1,200 each with no problems. And taking the bus was safe; there was no x-ray scanner or baggage check to go through. The only problem was I didn’t know anybody in Arizona so I never went.

Driver could tell I had lost my concentration and cleared his throat. “Now, we don’t know how well you know King, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that you can tell us when you drop your payment off with him, and how much he shows you he has left. We know he likes to show off his kilos. That’s all you have to do for now. As soon as we’re comfortable with the information you start giving us, we will move forward. We believe that within two weeks, he will have over $100,000 in cash, and that’s what we want.” Dick. “In order for us to trust you and let you go tonight, we need you to do something.” He picked up a laptop from an end table next to a plush leather chair. It was a cheap knock-off that looked brand new. I guessed that it would serve whatever purpose it was going to serve tonight, and be thrown in a river somewhere. He opened it up, turned it on, and set it in my lap. “We need you to show us the addresses of two family members.” Shit. I wish I had been born with a common last name like Smith or Anderson, but my last name Ztream. It would be impossible to look up people with that last name that I wasn’t related to.

For the first time that night, I was actually afraid; this had become real. I wasn’t afraid, nor have I ever been afraid for my own life. I had been in and out of jails and institutions my whole life, and on more than one occasion, I had tried to end my own life with and without the aid of considerable measurements of medications. I was afraid that I would fuck something up like I always do, and that somebody in my family, somebody I should be close to, somebody I hadn’t seen for years would be injured or worse. My hand began to tremble imperceptibly, and I could feel my skin tighten up around my eyes. If I had spent the last ten years properly hydrating myself, I would probably have broken a sweat. I got the feeling they knew my paradigm had shifted, and they let it sink in. It was almost as if they had some compassion for a moment, they knew how difficult this would be for me.

4

I had to do something, and I knew if I evaded them in any way, they would sniff out my deception and take quick action. I remembered the shovels in the trunk, and I figured they had my last name from the credit cards in my wallet, so I poked at the keyboard. “This is fucked up,” I said in anger, “these people have nothing to do with me anymore.” It didn’t matter, my objection was only met with silence. I did a Google search on my family name and was shocked at how fast they gave up information for my mother. She had moved since the address was updated on the web, but I didn’t mention that. Next we scrolled through a bunch of mugshots of me that had accumulated over the years, and they had a good laugh at some of them, and at the bottom of the page was my uncle Steve Ztream. I hadn’t seen him in over a decade, but I knew he had two children and had been in the same house since the last time we met. It didn’t immediately show his address, but there were hundreds of links that offered to show me his every detail with the input of a prepaid credit card which Goggles happily furnished. They were prepared, I’ll give them that. Driver copied down all of the necessary information and said, “Now we will only use this stuff as a last resort. Obviously we will come after you first, but it puts our minds at ease to have this written down. I assure you that I do not want any harm to come to you or your family, this was just necessary as backup in case you try to screw things up for us.” I was hardly paying attention, these guys really had me by the balls.

Driver took the laptop from me and set it aside. He then surprised me by handing me my wallet, my phone, and my drugs which appeared to have been unmolested. “Do you want to get high?” It was a loaded question, I’m an addict, it’s all I ever want. But even meth is a social drug, and it can be fun smoking a pipe with a circle of friends. But I had no desire to share anything with these guys, I wanted to burn the house to the ground and shit on the rubble. I felt a burning anger deep inside. I stated quite matter of factly, “I need to take a shit.” Goggles laughed, and Driver said, “Give me the phone back, and the bathroom is down the hall on the left.” I did as he asked.

Walking down the hall I saw pictures of his wife and baby boy. I wished I recognized her, but I didn’t. I felt hatred toward the still frames. I wanted to rip them off the walls, I wanted to punch through the glass frame and impact his family. The hall seemed to narrow and I thought I was going to pass out. I made it into the bathroom and turned on the light and the fan and shut the door. I twisted the handle on the faucet and waited for the hot water while I stared at myself in the mirror. I saw a hollow man, void of all life and feeling. I wanted to fly into a fit of rage, I wanted to smash everything I saw, and make them take my life right there because I did not give a fuck a long time ago, and I certainly didn’t give a fuck now. If I trashed what I could before they got to me, maybe somebody would notice, or question something about these people or the house. But then maybe they would kill my uncle and his kids anyhow. I grabbed a towel and soaked it, and then my face. There was only one way out of here, I had to do as they said for now, and think of something when I was under less pressure. I calmed myself, dried my face, and opened the door.

When I came back into the living room they were all standing by the door waiting for me. “It’s time to go.” Driver pointed toward the way we had entered. They had all of my things gathered together in a bag and Goggles handed them to me. Driver said, “I’m sorry about this.” Everything went black. Just before I was knocked unconscious, I had the thought that I was floating. For the first time since this ordeal started, I felt free.

5

As a child I would often fall asleep on car rides. I grew well out of that phase by the time I had become a drug dealer, with the exception of a few incidents that occurred as a result of a lack of sleep. There was still something comforting about the open road. There was a rhythm to it that I could get locked into for hours, something soothing that perhaps reminded me of my virtues long since lost. I would drive with no radio, no passenger, and sometimes with no specific destination in mind. Being alone out on the road was calming for me. But not this time.

Once again I found myself locked in a trunk. My head was pounding and I could feel a fresh lump growing on my right temple, accompanied by that old familiar sting of a knockout punch. I knew I would be getting looks from people for a few days. I wasn’t tied up this time but it didn’t really matter, I had no time or reason to try to escape. I thought about what lay ahead for me and the fact that within two weeks there was a good chance that I would be dead.

I had only just formally met King, but my guy whose name I will never mention for reasons I will discuss later had always been good to me. I couldn’t see myself taking from them what they had earned in an illegal, yet authentic fashion. As far as the drug world goes, there aren’t many good people at any level. “The game” as we called it was filled with deception, paranoia, treachery, betrayal, and there were rats at every turn. I considered myself to be one of the good few, and I held my guy and King in the same regard. It was at that moment that I decided that I was going to hatch a little plan of my own. They were giving me time to go about my regular business, and that would be plenty to come up with something. For now, I would keep my eyes and mouth shut and try not to throw up on myself in the trunk of the car.

In just a couple minutes, the car slowed and made a few turns and eventually stopped. I heard the doors open and shut, and I heard the trunk pop. It was completely black outside, I guessed we were in the same alleyway I had been taken from. Dumpy said, “Ok this is your time to shine!” Again, he offered me no help getting out of the tight space, but at least there wasn’t a gun pointed at me. I crawled out and wanted to sprawl out on the concrete but stood instead. “Are we back in the alley?” I asked. Goggles replied, “Yep! This is right where I knocked you down the first time!” Fuck you. Their faces were dimly lit by the indirect light from the trunk. An unnerving glow was cast across one side of their faces, I envisioned them burning alive but they wouldn’t stop smiling even in my fantasy. One of them handed me my belongings and an additional cell phone and Driver said, “We’ll be in touch.” And just like that, they got in the car and slowly pulled away, making sure not to turn on any lights until they were far enough away so I couldn’t read the license plate. I stood there in quiet reflection for a moment, gathered my bearings and wandered down the alley toward my car. It had been a long night and I wanted to curl up in a bed somewhere for a few days but I knew I had a lot to plan and nowhere to call my own.

The only thing I could think of was getting a cheap motel room where I could get high and make some money. Selling out of a motel was dangerous business, but I didn’t care. At this point being arrested would be welcomed, and at the very least, I would have a place to sleep for a while.

I found my car and put my supply in the trunk. I stood over the empty cavity for a moment and wondered what it would be like to be stuck in there. My trunk could hold a few bags of groceries and the special spare tire that was half used and freely moving around when I drove. Everything was covered in dust and various fluids that had leaked out of partial bottles that would never be used. I really wanted to fit all three of my new enemies in there. I had that thought that maybe with the aid of a chainsaw that would be possible.

I closed the trunk and cleared my mind and got in the driver seat and started the engine. I thought about going back to my friend’s house to tell him what had happened, but I wanted more information before I did. So I signaled and pulled slowly away from the curb. When you’re carrying that much meth, you follow every law so you don’t risk being pulled over. I knew too many people in prison as a result of a tail light out, speeding, or failing to signal a turn. Once pulled over, it’s pretty easy for a cop to find probable cause to search the vehicle, I was good at following the road rules.

6

I drove down Broadway and pulled into the parking lot of a run-down motel. I forgot to look at myself before I walked in and got a long stare from the clerk. I saw my reflection obscured and elongated in the convex mirror above the register and could see blood on my face. I took a risk and asked, “Can I get a room for two nights?” There was a long pause before he replied, “I’ll need a credit card.” Of course he would. I looked through my wallet for show and paused, and stared in astonishment. There was the prepaid credit card Goggles had used to pay for the Google search. I handed it to the guy behind the desk and couldn’t believe it when he said, “OK, sign here and here is your key.” Thanks guys.

I took my key and went to my car to get my things from the trunk. I had been up for four days at this point and desperately needed a nap but there was no time. The hallucinations hadn’t quite come on yet, but my eyelids were heavy and there were split-second blackouts in which my knees would buckle if I stood still for too long. I needed to keep a good amount of meth in me at all times from this point on, and I needed to change my method of ingestion to keep my body and mind from shutting down. I opened up the room and turned on the lights and shut the door. I looked around for something to chop up my dinner and found it as always in the microwave. The glass turntable had served as a chopping tray countless times before, and it would do it again tonight. I opened up my huge bag of meth and pulled out a chunk and put it on the tray.

I pulled out a dollar bill from my wallet and covered the shard as best I could on all sides. I crushed it down first with my finger, then went over it several times with a lighter until it felt flat. I took my credit card and scraped the bill off and fluffed up the pile that was stuck to the tray. I wanted to get it as fluffy as possible so it would act quickly. I rolled up the bill and snorted the whole pile. It burned.

Meth is a crystal, and no matter how much you break it down, it will remain a crystal until it is dissolved in some way by a liquid. When you chop it up so to speak, you’re turning one shard into a million little jagged pieces of glass. The chemicals inside the drug react quickly with human flesh and immediately cause a terrible burning sensation. That feeling alone was enough to wake me up. It felt like somebody poured Drano down my nose and into my throat, I loved it. And two minutes later, I felt the drug begin to take hold.

With a fresh buzz and a new motel room to do business, I made the usual calls. I always liked how people answered the phone so quickly for me. Usually one ring followed by an excited greeting. I never gave any specifics over the phone other than a location, business could be discussed in person.

A few of my regulars came and went, all of them looked suspiciously at my fresh wounds, probably because I still hadn't bothered to clean myself up yet, but it didn't interrupt their routine and they quickly went about their business. About an hour after my last runner left, there was a knock at my door. I felt some relief for the first time in a while. Seth had arrived.

I had known Seth for most of my life. We were best friends and accomplices in nearly every crime we had ever committed. He was an ally that I would need in the weeks to come.

I opened the door. His gaunt figure slouched in the doorway, his form a silhouette outlined by the red glow of a high-pressure sodium lamp in the parking lot. He had been through a lot in his own life, just like me. We had been selling and doing meth for over a decade, and our battle wounds were plentiful, his in particular.

7

A few years back I got a shipment of particularly strong, old-school biker crank. This shit could wake up a corpse and keep it moving for a week. Seth liked to take things apart and he was the first to get his hands on the stuff and he spent four straight days in the dead of winter disassembling and reassembling the engine of an old Chevy truck. Halfway through the second day, he had lost all feeling in his extremities and by the end of the process had lost all ten of his fingertips to frostbite. He never went to the hospital so the ends sort of just shriveled up and withered away. Even as his best friend I had trouble looking at his hands, ten purple nubs that hung off of the second knuckles. He always had his fists clenched when he walked or was around people he didn't know as to avoid attention, but I always saw them when we got high together; his mangled fingers carefully turning the pipe back and forth.

Seth had no fear of any person or thing, and I always knew that no matter what, he had my back. He looked up at my face and said, "What's his address?" I knew that if I had known the location of my assailants and given it to him, they would all have trouble walking, possibly for the rest of their lives. "It was your mom." We smiled at that and I let him in.

I could now see him in the light. His short blonde hair looked like it had been washed in oil a week ago. I asked, "Been taking motors apart again?" He raised his deformed middle finger in my direction, he knew that would shut me up. Seth made his living as a drug dealer as well. Unlike me, he had his own house in a small town south of Rochester. He never did business there because the locals would surely notice any irregular traffic or odd hours. "I haven't been home for a week. I've been out making you money." He pulled a mangled wad of bills from his front pants pocket and threw it on the bed. I looked at him, and I knew he would be instrumental at getting me out if this jam. I decided to tell him everything.

This is how I remember Seth. He liked to play with his cigarette smoke, carefully twirling it out of his mouth while he was thinking.

We spent two hours getting high and talking about what had happened so far that night. The first blue light of morning crept through the drawn shades as the birds began their morning songs, and something popped into my head.

"Holy fuck!" I shouted in disbelief. I rifled through my empty pockets and looked around for my phone. It hadn't been shut off during the ordeal, and that could be a huge mistake for Dumpy, Goggles, and Driver. I found my LG on top of the microwave and tapped the screen a few times. I waited patiently for the information I wanted to fill my display. And there it was.

"Seth, you aren't gonna believe this. I know where this guy lives." Google location history had finally served a purpose.

8

“What do you think we should do?” I asked Seth. “Kill ‘em.” I knew he wasn’t joking. In a spot of luck, Google had automatically recorded my whereabouts of the evening including a 45-minute stay at an address in Chatfield, about 12 miles south of Rochester city limits. I knew this was good information, but I didn’t know how I was going to use it yet. I had to keep Seth calm and I couldn’t give him the address or something bad would happen, and I wasn’t ready for that.

We agreed to go about our normal lives for a few days and think about the best way to handle things. I didn’t want to arouse any suspicion by sending a tweaker to surveil the house, and even though I fantasized about it, it wasn’t time to set the house on fire. Seth left with a pocket full of meth, enough to keep him busy for a while and hopefully keep his mind off of this situation. I shut the door behind him, and stood in silence for a moment.

My body ached, particularly my face. When you go days without sleep or even so much as a nap, your body really feels it. I bolted the door and undressed. I grabbed the bag of new clothes that I had brought in from my car and headed for the bathroom. It had been three days since my last shower and the hot water burned every inch of my skin. As always, I used the small complimentary bar of soap to clean my body and my hair, I didn’t care about smelling fancy, I just wanted to get the dirt off. I let the water beat down on me and I liked the pain, it kept me awake. This was day five and I knew that soon the hallucinations would begin to take hold and things would get sloppy. I had to keep focused and the only way to do that was to keep getting high. If I went so much as two hours without snorting a line or hitting the pipe, I could drop like a rock wherever I was, no matter what I was doing.

I got lost in my head and drifted off under the calming hot rain and lost my balance. I reached out for support but just grabbed air and fell to the shower floor with a thud. “Fuck!” That was the other way to wake up; sudden jarring agony. I sat there for a minute in a daze. The snowflakes started to float down under my closed eyelids. Little white spots that drifted toward me from nowhere when my eyes were closed would eventually appear when my eyes were open. It was the first sign that my mind was starting to slip. I had to get out of this room or I would fall asleep for days and risk losing a lot of money and time.

I dried myself off slowly and got dressed. One nice thing about not having a home is never having to do laundry. I made enough money to buy a new outfit every day, and I just tossed the old stuff in the trash. I hid the drugs under the sink with the aid of a little duct tape, and removed all paraphernalia from plain sight. Small motel managers had a propensity to be nosy. They would often inspect rooms even when people were staying in them. I knew at some point after I left, the guy who carefully looked me over during my check-in would peek his head through the door and I didn’t want to give him any reason to call the police.

The transition from a dark, cavernous room to bright, cheerful daytime was annoying. I guessed that it was a weekday because of the amount of traffic this early in the morning. I wanted to go take a look at Driver’s house, but it would be a mistake to be seen anywhere near there. And I knew that in order for me and my family to be safe, I would have to kill all three of them at the same time.

9

It was snowing in my mind. The size of the little white dots would vacillate with each bump on the road. I had the windows down and the radio cranked to keep me from falling asleep. Before I left the room I had made a few capsules filled with meth so I could eat them on the move and I swallowed one down with a chug of cold coffee I had from who knows when. Ingesting meth would add on to the visions but keep my body stirring.

I knew a girl in Chatfield and I had the thought that maybe she might know Driver because all tweakers in small towns seem to know each other. Her name was Crystal, all of their names are Crystal. We knew each other from working together at an old bar in the small town of Fountain a few years back. I knew right when I met her that she was a heavy drug user, and my instincts were spot on. I knew her only fifteen minutes before we were smoking a crack pipe in the bathroom. She had a weird habit of clicking her teeth repeatedly after a good hit. It reminded me of those wind-up chattering teeth with a face around it. But she was cool and she was a loyal customer, and I helped her transition from crack to meth which was a considerably less expensive habit. I selected her name from my contact list and tapped.

About a minute later I caught myself drifting off and cursed the man who made the lines so fucking straight on the road. I looked at my phone and understood why I didn’t hear any ringing; I hadn’t actually pressed a button. I hate smart phones. This time I clicked the green send button and stared at the screen until I knew the call had sent. It rang. Enthusiastically she answered, “Hey!” Too cheerful for my mood I thought. I replied, “Hey, Crystal. I have a question for you. Do you know a guy on Union street up toward the hill?” I knew the city well enough to describe the location in a way as to not give up an address quite yet. “Uhhh. Do you mean like us?” She was a paranoid person and would only ever allude to drug use over the phone. “Yes. Like us.” She continued, “Well I know a couple people over that way but they aren’t like us.” She then continued in a whisper as if that were somehow safer, “I mean they don’t get high.” I understood the first time. Fuck. I suppose there was a chance that Driver wasn’t a user, or that she just didn’t know him, and I didn’t want her asking anybody else anything so I cut off the line of questioning and proceeded with the usual conversation. “You want to meet up?” She screamed, “YES!”

I met her at a little gas station between Chatfield and Rochester, she didn’t bring up our other conversation so I assume she had already moved on. Perfect. It was a dead end but it was worth a shot I thought. Anyhow, an hour had passed and I was still awake. I had to get through day five. It always seemed easier to stay awake after you crossed a certain threshold, but this was always the worst. My muscles were on fire from being constantly tensed. My senses were all jumbled in a state of synesthesia, and my stomach was aching from two full days without so much as a drop of water or bite of food. Eating now would surely put me to sleep, I had to put that off for at least another day. There was one thing I could eat, another capsule. I did, and I could feel the burn of the meth when the thin dissolvable container burst open in my mouth. It made my teeth hurt and I winced in pain.

I drove around for another hour until the time came for me to call my guy. I had enough money in my pocket to make it worth a trip to his house. I looked like I had been in a fight with a dump truck, and he would be pissed that I hadn’t slept. But I had to keep things on a normal schedule or he would worry. You don’t want to make dangerous people worry.

Trying desperately to stay awake behind the wheel was often a losing battle, but I pushed on.

10

I made the call. I told my guy, I’ll call him Mason Doty which is completely made up, that I was in the neighborhood and could see him if it was necessary. That was simple code for me having enough money to make it worth me stopping by his house. “Yeah, come on over, man.” He said in a raspy voice. I would imagine that at 7am I had woken him up. Funny thing about money, it has a way of making people not care about the little things in life. I told him I would be there in ten minutes.

I looked in the rear-view mirror. My face was a mess; bruises on the front, side, and I’m sure the back of my head. I ran my hand through my hair and still felt the moisture on my scalp from my shower. There was no point in trying to hide anything now, I thought. He’s gonna be pissed at me, but he probably won’t kill me.

There was another reason he trusted me, about six months ago he made me help him bury a body. It’s not exactly what I had in mind for that night, but it’s what I had to do to stay alive.

I was at his house to pick up when there was a knock at the door. Mason looked surprised and looked at me as if I knew who it could be. “Who the fuck is here?” I shrugged. We both knew it wasn’t the C.O.P.’s. They have a way of being very sneaky, and then very loud when they come into your house, I had seen that before, too, but that’s another story.

Mason stood and went to the door, “Who’s there?” his voice was tense. “It’s Ryan, I need to talk.” Mason mouthed a word that I couldn’t make it out, it kind of sounded like bocksucker. He unbolted the door and let in the new guest. Ryan appeared around the corner and I could tell he had had a rough day. I didn’t really know him but for what Mason had told me about him which was very little except for that he had a bit of a gambling problem and he really liked to get high. Mason shouted, “What the fuck are you doing here without calling?” Ryan replied, “I lost my phone. I lost everything.” Ryan started crying and told a cheap story about being robbed at gunpoint in the parking lot of Walmart. Even I didn’t buy it. Without warning, Mason flew into a fit of rage and began pummeling him in the face until he hit the floor at which point he got on top of him and started to choke him. And he just wouldn’t stop. There was a little struggle but I saw the lights go out almost immediately; the blood to his brain was cut off and it shut down his body in sort of a survival mode. Of course the brain knows it’s dying, it just has a really stupid way of telling the rest of the body.

There was no last breath until finally Mason let go. Then sort of a gargled wheezing escaped from his chest, and his head tilted toward the floor. What I didn’t expect was his eyes flying open and his tongue slowly start to stick out at the same moment he released his bowels into his pants. It was comical, and I couldn’t help but laugh at him and the situation. “He shit his pants!” Mason looked at me and I got the feeling that he wasn’t a first timer. It also wasn’t the first murder I had witnessed, and Mason knew that so I think that may have helped me survive.

I was defenseless against the weaponry he had at his disposal in his home. He quickly got up and grabbed a knife from under his mattress and came toward me. He grabbed my collar and looked in my eyes and said, “Give me your hand.” Fuck. I knew I was going to get cut, but I knew I wasn’t going to die. He made a deep gash in the palm of my hand, not too deep for stitches, but deep enough for a good release of D.N.A. He then told me I had to stab Ryan’s body a few times. He knew he didn’t need to get any of his guns out to make me comply. I used the handle of the knife in my hand to stop the bleeding as best I could, and I got up and positioned myself over the lifeless body. I gave it all I had. One, two, three times I stabbed deeply into the corpse. There was still enough pressure in the body to allow for bleeding, and soon there was a terrible mess before me. I thought it was odd how easily the human body could be penetrated, and I wondered if I was capable of doing this to a living person. I turned around to find Mason standing there with a tarp. “We need to get him in your trunk while we can still fold him.” It made sense to me.

I was covered in blood but it was dark out, and I had to run through the alley to get my car and park it out back of his house so we could drag the body out. I backed in and shut off the lights. We made the trip with relative ease and I took off my shirt and threw it in the trunk. I took a quick shower in his house and he gave me a fresh set of clothes before we headed out to the darkness surrounding Rochester.

We spent three hours digging a deep grave for the now stiff body. My hand was a bloody, blistered mess and would need medical attention but never receive it. In with the body went the knife and my bloody shirt: incentive. I would never tell the cops anyhow, but I’m sure Mason felt better about me being alive, and that’s what mattered. It took another two hours of filling in the hole and carefully landscaping the area over the former pit to make us comfortable enough to leave. The car ride back to his house was a quiet one, not even the radio could clear our minds of what we had just done.

I had that murder in my mind every time I went over to Mason’s house and this would be no different. The big exception being that I never came over with excuses, only money. He might be upset that I was in bad shape, but $9,000 in my pocket said he would laugh it off. I was wrong.

11

I parked in my usual spot less than twelve hours since my previous arrival. Mason and I had a predetermined amount of cash that would prompt the phone call for my visit, and I was well over the line. There was nothing I could do to hide the bruising, and I hadn’t spent any time coming up with a story to explain it and there was no time left. I knocked on the door.

He opened it up and pulled me inside with brute force. He slammed the door shut and pushed me up against the wall, grabbing me by my throat. “What the fuck is wrong with you coming here like this!?” I replied with a lie, “I got into a fight man, it happens!” Quizzically he looked me up and down, “That’s it?” I nodded. I felt his grasp loosen and finally he let go of me. I wondered if I had made a stool in my pants. Mason said with tension in his voice, “Shit man you scared me, I thought you were gonna tell me you got robbed or something. I’m sorry, people are fuckin’ me over left and right lately, I should have known you were good.” More like amazing, I thought. “You look like shit though. You get in a fight with a girl again?” He beamed; I returned the gesture less proportionately and retorted, “Yup. You should see her, not a scratch.” I laughed at my shot at comedy.

I pulled a well-organized wad of folded money out of my pocket. He liked how I always faced my money, and how the number I gave him always matched what was actually there. He always counted it anyhow, it wasn’t a sign of disrespect, it was customary in the drug trade when dealing with any number over $100.

While he was counting the money, I was recounting the evening in my head. What the fuck was I going to do? I had been threatened, beaten, tossed around, and put in a trunk, twice. My mind was full of half ideas, fractured thoughts, and vengeful plans. None of those would get me out of this mess. There was only one way out: murder.

And just as my head rolled back in the same direction as my eyes, the burn phone in my pocket that Driver had given me vibrated. It scared me and my whole body jolted awake. Mason could hear the vibrating but it was expected that I wouldn’t answer the phone while I was there so I let it keep going. Silence. I really had to answer that phone, but I couldn’t. Why would they be calling already? I just wanted to sleep. I got up to use the bathroom and when I shut the door behind me I reached into my 5th pocket and grabbed the last meth-filled capsule and washed it down with a handful of warm tap water. I stood and gazed at the man in the mirror. He was sweating and his eyes were a solar eclipse; two giant black marbles circumferenced by two bright white rings. I realized at that moment why sunglasses were really invented. He had been through a rough twelve hours, and the pressure would not be relieved anytime soon. The only thing he could not do was fall asleep.

I went back out to the living room to find Mason weighing out a bag for somebody I had never seen before. It was a small bag so I assumed it was nobody of importance. We greeted each other with a simple bow of the head. I sat there patiently and I felt the phone begin to vibrate again. Shit. I looked at Mason and asked with a gesture of the thumb if I could leave and he gave me the thumbs up. I stood and exited his house and reached into my pocket for the phone.

It was Dumpy. “Why didn’t you answer yer fuckin’ phone?” I cringed at the sound of his voice. “I was busy, what do you want?” He spoke very clearly, “We're at your hotel room. We need to talk.” Fuck.

12

They must have been following me after I left the night before. I can’t believe I didn’t keep an eye on my tail, but I was fairly distracted by visual and auditory hallucinations, and the pain covering every inch of my body. It was hard to focus on any one task or situation and it was getting worse. Keeping my eyes on the road wasn’t too difficult, but the road seemed to wobble at times and what I saw coming at me was hard to comprehend. I managed to make it back to the hotel in one piece. I pulled into the lot and shut down the engine.

As I approached my room I didn’t see the three demons anywhere, but I knew it wouldn’t be long before they knocked on my door once I got inside, and I was right. When I opened up, all three of them were standing there smiling at me. I motioned for them to hurry up and get inside for fear the manager would see these suspicious characters and call the police. They came in and I sat on the bed. I pulled the loaded meth pipe from under the pillow and began to heat the underside.

It was a cool process watching the crystal turn to liquid then smoke. Carefully twirling the pipe with my fingers as to not burn the stuff, I inhaled and then released an enormous cloud of toxic vapor. Within fifteen seconds, the remaining liquid in the pipe returned to its original crystal form, and I held the glass bubble in my hand, staring at the new shape of the once broken shards. Repeat. Repeat. I did not pass the pipe to my assailants. I felt a tingle in my brain as the drugs began to work. Switching it up helped.

Driver broke the awkward silence, "You look like shit." They all had a good laugh at that. He continued, "We just wanted to let you know we had our eyes on you. Did you see King today?" I shook my head. "I just met him, he's not even my guy. I went to Brad's house but he wasn’t there." I made up a name in case they didn't know Mason's. “Show us your shit.” Dumpy said matter of factly. I started to remove my shirt and did a little dance, a move that was lost on them. They would want to see how much progress I had made throughout the night to judge some sort of timeline for the heist. I got up and went to the sink and reached under and with a loud tearing noise removed my remaining hoard. I softly underhand-tossed the bag to Driver and he measured it with his eyes and hand. “Looks like you’ve been busy. How much cash did you drop off this morning?” I responded, “About five.” I lied. Dumpy looked at Goggles and stated, “He’s slow. How long are we gonna have to wait?” Goggles looked at me and said, “As long as it takes.”

I knew I had some form of control over the timeline as long as I lied about weights and dollar amounts. I knew that King was in all reality probably close to $100,000 any day of the week, I just needed to delay as much as possible until the final plan came to me, something that would get all three of these beasts in the same spot, somewhere far away from prying ears and eyes. I said, “It’ll be a few days until I can go back there for anything so there won’t be much going on for a while. I can’t speed up the process or do anything out of the ordinary because I don’t want to detour from business as usual. These guys are just as dangerous as you, and I have to protect myself in all of this, too.” There seemed to be some silent form of agreement between the three.

It was a quick visit, and they opened up the door to leave. The brightness of daytime was shadowed by the short form of a hotel manager who had a key in his hand and was a second away from opening the door from the other side. He was surprised at the three guests I had leaving and pretended to feign disinterest, but he couldn’t help staring at Goggles. I shut the door behind everything and went back to the bed. This was finally time for me to recharge. I took out my phone and set the alarm for 12 hours in the future. I don’t remember my head hitting the pillow, I just remember black.

13

The dream was vivid. It was a version of me I hadn’t seen in too many years. There was a genuine smile on my face because I was surrounded by family and friends. I don’t ever have conversations in my dreams that I can remember so all I can recall is sitting in a room greeting people, some of whom I didn’t remember, but whom I had known before the drugs. There was persistent babble all around and it sounded like we were under water, but nobody was talking. Then I pulled out a meth pipe and started smoking it and everybody started to dwindle away. They weren’t mad at me, I could see them smiling as they faded into the black, but very quickly I was alone. The last person to leave was my mom. She was walking away and she turned back to look at me. She was still smiling at me when she turned into nothing.

14

I lay in the bed for a few minutes trying to analyze what happened in my dream. My alarm had gone off and I was fortunate enough to have had enough sleep to wake in a state of awareness. The thing I really cared about in the dream was my pipe which I reached under the pillow for. The only time the drug really had any effect on me was after a decent slumber, and a few hits made me tingle. I sat up in the bed and judged my surroundings. I saw my giant bag of crystalized methamphetamine sitting out in the open at the foot of the bed which was cause for concern. I’m not positive the manager poked his head in at some point, but I decided it was time for an early check-out.

The only things I ever made sure I had when I performed the evacuation procedure at a hotel were felonies which included my phone, drugs, and all paraphernalia to include scales, pipes, and the glass turntable from the microwave. I didn’t actually take the turn-table, I just washed it off because I didn’t want to be responsible for an accidental poisoning. I opened up the door to darkness. It would prove to be another clean getaway for Vinnie the meth dealer.

I hit the road, this time with a buzz that would keep me awake for a few hours. I grabbed my fully charged phone and dialed the only number I knew by heart. It rang only once and was answered by a cheerful voice, “What the fuck do you want?” I replied to Seth, “Your sweet arse.” Silence. I continued, “We need to meet up. I have some ideas on how to deal with my little problem.” He sounded excited, “I assume you mean we get to kill them?” I let out a sinister laugh, “You’re God damned right we do!”

About 45 minutes later I pulled into Seth’s driveway in Fountain. I had lived in this town many years before and I always enjoyed reminiscing as I drove through. There was the Broken Hammer Bar and Grill that I had worked at for a number of years, the place I had met Crystal. There was the grocery store where I would buy the only bacon that I ever became addicted to. And there was the apartment above the pizza place where my life as a criminal began again many years ago. As I drove by I saw a camera I had mounted to the roof in a state of paranoia years ago. That camera had night vision which is how I saw the camera the police had mounted and faced toward my apartment a block down, the reason I left the town for good.

Seth’s house looked like everybody else’s house in the neighborhood except for the lawn décor. He had a number of used vehicles for sale in his driveway and on his lawn. To my knowledge, he had never sold one, but he was always working on them. I got out of my car and found him under the hood of an old Corolla. “Let’s go inside, we’ve got work to do.” He closed the hood and we headed inside.

The inside of his house was immaculate, and you could probably eat off of the floor if you ever decided to eat. We sat on his couch and suddenly a dog was in my lap and licking my face. It was if she appeared from thin air. I tried speaking through the K-9 assault, “Setrh, I nbeed a pristol.” I succumbed to the affection of the dog and rolled her over on her belly and gave her a good scratching. I repeated, “Seth, I need a gun.” He pulled a large caliber revolver from his waistband and handed it to me.

I don’t like violence, and I hate guns. In this case, I believed the two were necessary to save the lives of many innocent people. I held the heavy steel revolver in my hand. “What is this like a 9mm?” Seth stared at me and shook his head. He knew the extent of my knowledge of guns and I could tell he was unsure if I was serious or not. He said, “Yep, and it’s fully automatic so be careful.”

I had accidentally stopped petting the dog and she stood up and whimpered to remind me to continue. I obliged with my free hand, and I started laying down the plan I had developed in my head on the drive to Fountain. I had gotten away with a few small lies to the three idiots as I had cleverly nicknamed them, and I would need to get away with a few more in order for this plan to work. It was all going to go down tonight I decided.

I left Seth’s house with a pistol and a loosely knit plan of attack. I pulled out the phone that I had been given the night before and dialed the only stored number. Driver answered, “What’s up?” I hated how he answered like a friend would. I couldn’t wait to smash his face open with the butt of the gun. “I just got a call saying I have to bring all money I have over to my friend’s house A.S.A.P. You can probably guess what that means.” That seemed to rattle his cage a little bit. “You mean he’s going tonight?” I replied, “I don’t know, I just know that I need to bring a bunch of money to a certain spot right now. If I get there and I can’t leave with any more shit, that means that he’s going tonight I would imagine.”

We exchanged a few more words and I left it at me calling when I knew more. I really didn’t know anything at all, I just had to make it look like I did. I called another friend that I knew worked at the bus station as a janitor and asked if I could borrow his uniform for a little trade of meth. He was all for it. I made up a story about a costume party or something but he didn’t care, he was just excited to get high for free. I wanted to wear the uniform when I went into the station to take the brief case from King. I knew the three idiots would be watching from somewhere, and I knew they would like that I had come up with this much of a plan.

In reality, I had no idea how much money King had, or where he was, or even if he had any more drugs. With a little luck, Mason and King would never even know about this whole thing, and life would be back to as normal as it ever got for me, which was pretty fucked up. It was hard to think that all of this was set in motion just two days ago, and that already I had made these guys move up their plan to suit my desire to be done with them.

I drove around the city in circles for a while. As always, the road helped me clear my head. I needed to get another hotel room to set up in for a night or two. I had been running out of options for a while switching up spots every few days. I longed for the days of resting my head on a pillow that I owned and having friends that came over to hang out, not just for the drugs. Seth was the only friend I had left and I decided right then that I couldn’t drag him any farther into this. He would be tremendously upset with me if he wasn’t able to put a beating on these guys, but I knew I was going to take it all the way, and I couldn’t risk having him lose his life over these idiots.

I found a dump of a motel along Highway 52 and I found a place to park in the back. This place was the classic dope hot-spot. As I turned the mirror away from the shattered face I didn’t want to see anymore, I could see drapes parting only slightly in the ground-level rooms behind me. This was a betraying sign of a tweaker inside checking me out. You never know when the cops are coming, but they normally don’t drive a ’97 Sunfire. My only thought was that if this were a normal day, I could strum up some quick business here. Not today, I had a gun and I wouldn’t risk doing serious time over a $20 bag. I put the pistol in my waistband and stepped out into the afternoon sun.

I walked around to the front office and a clerk cheerfully greeted me. False. He buzzed me in through a solid steel door only after I passed $200 through a small slot in a thick glass window. This motel, unlike most others, ran on a cash-only basis. Of the $200, $150 was a deposit that I would get back if I didn’t trash the place. I thought it was funny that there was only $150 worth of damage I could possibly do in the room. I collected my key and headed back to my car which I had already parked close to the room I had requested. I got my bag out of the trunk, and continued up the stairs to the second floor.

The first thing I noticed was that I could never do $150 worth of damage to this place. There was no T.V., no air conditioner, and only a twin mattress on a queen box spring. This would do. I flipped a switch that activated somewhat of a strobe light effect, then a constant buzzing light. It was at least as bright as the dome light in my car. By contrast, the light in the bathroom was bright enough to be the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. I’m glad it was bright enough to show me that this was not the proper place to shower or have a bowel movement. No matter, I only needed a place to store my things while I went to take care of business.

I pulled the phone out of my pocket and dialed. Again, Driver answered. “Hey!” Fuck you.

“Listen, I just left my friend’s house empty handed. King was there and the last thing he said was ‘See you in four days.’”

“Holy shit. So he’s leaving tonight? Are you ready to do it?” He asked.

“Look, I just want to get this over with. I already checked the bus schedule and there’s a bus that goes down to Arizona tonight, and it leaves at 7:00pm.”

There was a moment of silent reflection on his end and then he said, “Well. Let’s do this.”

15

It was set. Tonight I was going to pull off a daring robbery of a man who would surely kill me if the plan was real. King wouldn’t be anywhere near the crime scene I assured myself. The only thing I needed to make sure of was that none of the three idiots came inside the bus station with me.

I secured my valuables to the underside of the sink again with duct tape, and exited my room. I drove to the station to check the place out and to drop off a brief case that I would carry out later. I had seen in movies that they often have long-term lockers at bus stations and I hoped that was the case here. This was all feeling like some sort of terrible B-movie, or a work of fiction by a brilliant, well-versed, attractive, smart, author. Most likely an author with a giant penis.

Anyhow, I pulled up to the place and was a little thrown off by how small it was. I guess in a town of only 100,000 people, you don’t need a bus depot the size of an airport, but this place was like a damn fishing shack. It would complicate things, but I thought it would work for what I had to do. The important thing was that I could not see the inside from the outside.

I parked and strolled through the door. I realized immediately that I had forgotten about my face. Everybody turned and looked at the same time like I had walked on stage. Fortunately, everybody that worked there was just three people. There were maybe another five or six people wandering around looking at signs, and I assumed waiting for the next bus to Vegas. The walls were painted in many layers with the highest-gloss white enamel I’d ever seen. Every ten feet or so were signs pointing out the dangers of riding or being near a train including my favorite, “Never stand on tracks when a train is approaching!” Brilliant. I guess this was a former train station. I didn’t want to appear any more suspicious than I already did so I went to the counter and inquired about tickets to Florida. She asked, “Train or bus?” I guess this still is a train station. Now the signs made sense, I should heed their warnings. I bought a train ticket to Miami for the following morning and asked if there was any place I could put my case overnight. She pointed to a small bank of lockers and said, “It’ll cost you one token to get the key out.”

“How much for a token?” I inquired.

“A dollar.”

“Do they have any monetary value?”

“Yeah, about a dollar.” She smiled at me.

“Can I use the tokens anywhere else, like, say, Chucky Cheese?” I asked.

She replied, “You could try, but they don’t take kindly to token fraud.”

“Hmmm. I guess I’ll just take the one for now then.”

I put the gun in the case in the locker with the token that actually cost $1.07, and I left the small building. I didn’t see tracks anywhere, which was confusing at best, but I didn’t have any plans to take a train anywhere anyhow.

I hopped back in the car and pulled away from the station. I decided I would need a clever disguise for my face for when I came back. I had to get a fake mustache, that would throw everybody off.

I needed to get high. I already felt the effects of sleep deprivation again. I had left everything illegal back at the room because I was carrying a gun, and the two never mixed well with police. I had to go back. So I went.

Just the excitement of knowing I was going to get high was enough to give me a small adrenaline rush. I took the flight of stairs in two leaps and found my room. I opened it up, went inside, and chained it, bolted it, and even clicked the little button the knob just in case. I looked at the door. Even with all of that security I could still see light through the frame. What a joke. I didn’t really care; it was just something to be negative about.

I grabbed my pipe and a small bag of crystals I kept separate for private use, and loaded it. I spent the next half an hour alternating between breathing air, and inhaling noxious meth fumes. I could feel a layer of shit building up on my teeth, and my mouth went dry. This is probably about when most people would throw up, but my tolerance was high, and I didn’t even bother to brush my teeth; I could lick off the layer of grime later and maybe get a small residual buzz from it.

I sat in the quiet, poorly lit room. My foot was tapping the floor at an alarming rate, and my mind was making sense of nothing and everything. I had to call the bad guys and lay down some kind of plan that would get me and them somewhere far away, and alone. I picked up the phone.

Driver answered, “What’s up?”

“I need you to be my driver tonight, I can’t risk having King see my car anywhere.”

“Alright, that makes sense.”

“And after it’s done, we need to get out of town fast. Somewhere safe, like where we had our first talk.”

There was a moment of quiet. “Yeah, I guess we’ll want to make sure you aren’t trying to fuck us over. We will keep you with us until we get there and see what you have for us.” Fuck, this was too easy.

16

Nightfall was upon the town of Rochester. The overcast sky cast ominous shadows on the tall buildings of downtown. I was driving down Broadway Avenue with my head out the window trying to keep it together. I had left everything back at the hotel and I had the thought that I may never get back to retrieve it. This night was going to the last for three depraved souls. Maybe more.

I had only an hour to kill before I was to meet Driver at the predetermined spot in the Walmart parking lot and I wished I had the desire to eat food. The only real urge I ever had those days was to get high. I did bring three more capsules and a small package I would need for a payment with me. I would take all three capsules right before showtime, to take the edge off.

Over and over again in my head I replayed the things I would say and do. Unfortunately, every time it changed, whether in the order or the words, it was never the same. In my fantasy, I left the three dead amigos in the car while I walked away with the briefcase full of money and the girl and the car exploded and even though I was still kind of close to the explosion, I wasn’t injured by shrapnel or flame. And as I walked away I would say something cool and trendy like, “Suck an egg!” But in real life, there wasn’t even a girl in the story, and I’m almost positive I couldn’t make a bomb or get it to explode on time. But it killed time, and that’s all I was trying to do.

I had to make a quick stop at a tweaker house to visit a chick I knew that would be able to help me out with one small problem. I offered her a quarter gram to put makeup on my face as to not attract as much attention. Of course, as with all tweaker projects, it could go really well or horribly wrong. I arrived at the house and knocked at the door and was greeted by Erika Haugerud, a street prostitute and self-proclaimed makeup artist. She gestured me inside and I took a seat on a couch next to her husband Jeremy who was passed out in a recliner with his mouth agape. He was covered and surrounded by cheese puffs and I cocked my head inquisitively and turned to look at Erika. “Well, his mouth is open and he’s been sleeping all day and I got bored.” It made sense. She looked at my face and went into another room to grab her supplies and came back and sat down next to me. Ladies, I don’t know how you do it, but I sat there for almost half an hour getting “made-up.” It was a horrible feeling having that crap on my face, but she was good. I looked in the mirror and for the first time since my teens, I looked healthy. There was no time to reminisce now so I paid her and left for good.

It didn’t take long before I was at the Walmart on the south end of town. I had done more drug deals in this parking lot that anywhere and I was familiar with the layout, and more importantly, where all of the cameras were. I drove all the way through and parked against the large East wall and I waited. And I waited. I started feeling a little anxious and I realized it was because there was supposed to be a timeline for all of the events about to transpire. I settled myself down knowing that none of it was real. Well, some of it was real, but only I knew which parts.

I saw a guy that looked like he was about to shit his pants pull in next to me. I had parked backwards so we were face to face, and our windows were down. It was Driver, and he looked scared for the first time. I liked that.

“So, everything lined up?” He asked with a quivering voice.

“It is what it is, and everything is going to happen the way it unfolds. I’m not doing this willingly, and I didn’t exactly have a lot of time to plan things out.”

He nodded, then looked closer. “you look… good.”

“Fuck you.”

Driver didn’t like the way I was talking to him but I didn’t care, I was well beyond that. It wasn’t a good idea to prod him any further right now, though, there would be plenty of time for that later. I got out of my car and as I walked around to the other side of his car, I swallowed the capsules. It wouldn’t be long before I had nerves of steel.

He asked me what he wanted him to do when we got there. I had slipped on the janitor’s coveralls when I got in his car and I told him he needed to stay really close to the building because I would be in and out in under a minute. He just kept nodding. I flipped down the visor and took one last look in the mirror. I looked like a completely different person, this disguise would work.

It seemed like just a few seconds and I could see the bus station ahead of us. Driver looked at me and said, “Are you ready?” I looked at him dead in his eyes and smiled. “Are you?”

17

I pointed to the side of the building where I wanted him to wait. We drove right into the parking lot and he stopped. I didn’t hesitate getting out and turned back to him and said, “Fucking stay here and keep this thing running!” I slammed the door and walked briskly toward the entrance.

I walked through the doors and this time there was only one employee and no customers. Perfect. I could tell she had questions for me because I was sloppily dressed as an employee but I strolled right by the desk and headed for the lockers. She said something but I ignored her. I found the locker that had the same number as my key and I opened it up to find everything as I had left it. I took out the case and walked right back toward the door.

“Sir, can I help you?

“No ma’am!” I smiled.

“Uh, do you work here?”

“Yes!” I beamed. And I walked out the door.

As soon as I was out of view of the inside, I started running toward the car. Driver saw me and put it in gear. I hopped inside and we took off. Me calling him Driver notwithstanding, he really was a good driver. He had complete control of the 300 as we sped off toward the interstate. I realized that we wouldn’t be going to his house because I was conscious and in the passenger seat. My only hope was that we would make it to wherever Goggles and Dumpy were so I could kill them all. We drove on in the darkness.

I fumbled around the briefcase looking for the handle and the hasps. I slowly and silently clicked them open and opened the case only enough to get my hand inside. I felt the steel barrel of the revolver and carefully pulled it out of the case. Driver was focused on the road and didn’t seem to be paying much attention to me. That was good for him; he would live a little bit longer.

I was thinking about his thoughts, and wondering if anything in him was telling him that he had already eaten his last meal, and was only going to take one more shit. I laughed out loud when I knew that he was going to shit his pants soon. Driver looked over at me. I just smiled at him.

I asked him, “So, where are we going and when can I go the fuck home?”

“We’re going to meet the other two, count the money, and bring you back to wherever you need to go. But, we have to put you in the trunk again, I’m just being honest.”

I hung my head. I hoped I looked disappointed. “Great. Can I stay awake this time?”

“I’ll say something.” He said compassionately.

So, obviously I couldn’t go into the trunk and risk them looking in the case. So, wherever we were going, was where it was all going down. And I realized quickly that it was all going to happen in about a minute as we exited the highway and approached a gravel road where there was a car parked. And there they were, Goggles and Dumpy, wearing the same clothes they were the last time I had seen them. They didn’t know it, but they were about to die.

We pulled alongside the parked car and Driver powered the vehicle down. Dumpy put his fat head in the driver’s side window and asked, “Did we get it?” Oh yeah, he was going to get it, all right. Driver pointed at me in the general direction of the brief case which seemed to please Goggles because he grinned. If I were a gambling man, I would wager that Goggles did not own a tooth brush.

It was time for action. I needed to make a statement so I pulled up the revolver and pointed it at Dumpy’s head. I had already pulled the hammer back and it took surprisingly little effort to pull the trigger the rest of the way back. The gun kicked in my hand as the bullet exploded out of the barrel and through the skull and brain. I was temporarily blinded by the muzzle flash which I hoped also blinded and burned Driver. I knew I had to act quickly if I was going to get Goggles before he ran away. The report from the bullet also took my hearing away. I probably could have prepared a little better than I had.

My senses reeled, I grasped at the door handle and got out hastily. As my vision came back, I could see that Goggles was just standing there, staring down at his friend. Dumpy had fallen down right where he had stood. There was a lot more blood than I ever thought there would be because his heart didn’t stop when the bullet tousled his brain. It looked as if he were still breathing but I knew it was just spasms, his body didn’t quite know he was dead yet.

Goggles looked up at me and said, “You fucking killed him!” Good observation, bud. You get a gold star.

I decided not to waste any time so I raised the heavy gun at him and fired again. This time my aim wasn’t as good and the bullet tore through his cheek. There was a violent head movement, followed by a quick trip to the ground. I glanced over at driver but he was just sitting there, watching it all happen. I looked all around but all I saw was darkness aside from the beams that cast light over the gravel road ahead of the car. I walked over to Goggles and saw that he, too, was dead. Two bullets, two kills.

I thought that I would feel something by now. Some pain, sadness, or at least guilt. But there was nothing. I hadn’t had any real feelings for years other than anger and frustration. I had wasted all of my years as an adult committing a plethora of crimes and feasting upon every chemical I could get in my hands. I wanted it all to be over, and I knew there was only one way for me to be done with it all forever. Looking back, I think that’s why I was so reckless that night; I wanted to get caught.

I locked eyes with Driver and pointed the gun at his face. I maintained eye contact with him as I walked back around to the passenger side and got in. As I sat I could feel the nerves in the seat next to me. I could smell them, too. Like all good murders, this one summoned a good amount of fear from the next victim in line. He had seen his friends die, and he knew he was next, and he shit his pants. I just had a few words for him before I sealed his fate.

“You guys threatened my family, my friends, and you put me in a trunk. Twice. You just can’t do that to people without consequence.” I grabbed the handle of the briefcase and pulled it up to my lap and opened it up to show him the void inside. He looked over at the empty case and shook his head. I continued, “King was never going to be at the bus station, I have no clue what he’s up to. Now, are you ready?” He started to cry and shook his head. I raised the barrel up to his temple and squeezed the trigger.

18

I wasn’t thinking about my future that night. I wasn’t thinking about myself at all. I didn’t really even know if these guys were capable of hurting my loved ones, I just knew I thought so at the time. That story I wrote happened six years ago, and I’ve been locked up ever since with no chance of seeing the outside again. I changed some of the locations and names as to avoid prosecution of certain friends.

I hadn’t paid any attention to my surroundings when we drove up to the other two on that gravel road. As it turned out, we were less than 300 feet from a house, and those residents called the police as soon as the first shot was fired. An officer showed up about a minute after I emptied the contents of Driver’s head onto his own lap. I had already thrown the gun, and I was taken in swiftly without a fight.

I sat in the back of the cruiser for hours covered in blood and chunks of skull while the police surveyed the crime scene. Goggles had actually survived for a little while but eventually died at the hospital. All I wanted was a shower and a bed to sleep in.

I don’t know that I can say I would have done things differently if I were given another chance. I perceived a threat, and I acted on that. The police say that I should have contacted them, but that was never going to happen. Criminals solve crimes in their own ways, often with violence, and that’s what happened that night.

After a short trial I was convicted of all three murders in the 1st degree and sentenced to three 20-year terms to be served consecutively. That is a total of 60 years I will have to sit, including good time. If I’m still alive, I will be released under supervision in September of 2071.

My days in Moose Lake prison are very boring. I play a lot of cribbage and Monopoly 1M1B. My only visitor is my mom, and she only comes on my birthdays. I told her not to come more often because she just cries when she sees me. I’m not sure she understands the latent danger she was in, or that, for me, the whole thing was worth it if it saved her life. I try not to think about it all too much these days, but I wanted to get the story out so I could be done with it in my head. I feel a lot better having it all out on paper.

There’s one stipulation to you reading this: I’m dead. This letter was to be sealed and delivered to my mom only upon my death. I didn’t want to cause any more trouble for any of my friends, nor did I want my family to have to read this somewhere without first giving their consent. So, that’s it. That’s the story of why I’m in prison.

After serving 11 years in Moose Lake prison, Vince got into a fight with a guard and was immediately swarmed by nine C.O.’s. The official cause of death was ruled accidental strangulation when the weight of five officers crushed his windpipe against the arm of another. I wasn’t allowed to see the body but if I had to guess I would say that it was probably bruised and battered.

Vince made a lot of bad choices in his life, and that’s why I decided to publish this story on the internet. I hope that somewhere, somebody sees this and decides to avoid the toxic world of drugs and deception. I miss my son every day.-Mom

fiction
Vincent Maertz
Vincent Maertz
Read next: Chad Alan Lee
Vincent Maertz
See all posts by Vincent Maertz