Story Excerpt

Chapter One

Even though high on ecstasy, I should have known the jig was up. Perhaps sensed something was off as I reached my hotel room door. But I was starving. Over the course of a crazy day of drug vending and partying I’d forgotten to eat. I slid my key card through the lock thinking only about devouring the barbeque on a to-go plate in my hand. With the swing of a door, hunger became the least of my problems.

Four uniformed cops seized me and introduced my face to the nearest bed. My wrists burned from shredding skin as they handcuffed me, but I felt lucky anyway. If I must be subdued by burly officers of the law, a pillow top mattress in a luxury hotel room was a pleasant place for the indignity. I cooperated with the buzz-kills in blue, avoiding a taser shock and earning a loosening of my cuffs.

I felt immense relief, bordering on gratitude. What awaited me was certain to be awful, but at least the stress of living a lie would ease. Perhaps my failed life plan could be corrected.

The Asheville cops that subdued me were dismissed by John Thornmartin, a plainclothes North Carolina Alcohol Law Enforcement officer. “Sorry y’all had to wait around all night, fellas,” he said as they left.

This pleased me. Better the police idle in my room for six hours than harass my Widespread Panic concert-going brethren, partying hard around town. I’d taken one for the team by accident.

Officer Thornmartin proved genial; a credit to law enforcement. “I’m starving,” I told him. “Who knows when I’ll be able to eat again?”

“Okay, fine.” His mute sidekick changed the handcuffs to my front, then I sat on a bed and endured questions as I chowed.

“Where’d you get the drugs?”

“I plead the fifth.”

“Are you working alone?”

“I want my attorney.”

My mouth was full for every response, which I found funny. I nearly choked from talking, and even laughing, while eating too fast. I started shaking my head in response. I welcomed the distraction, though, otherwise I might’ve broke down and cried.

“Hey, thanks for letting me eat,” I managed at one point. “Mind grabbing me one of those waters there?”

Thornmartin glared as I nodded towards water bottles in a cooler. “Now you’re really pushing it!”

The cop fished a bottle out of a nearby cooler, probably more to avoid a captive choking under his supervision than benevolence. Next to the cooler sat a large Tupperware container full of drugs. Twenty bags of high-grade pot, and forty-five grams of MDMA powder (a/k/a molly), which is over four hundred doses. Also found was an ounce of the supercharged psychedelic smokable DMT, non-prescribed Xanax, and various tools of the drug dealing trade like digital scales. My lawyer better be a hero.

Thornmartin soon lost his patience, realizing I didn’t plan to talk. He halted my greedy chow session and cuffed me behind the back again.

“But I’m not done,” I protested.

“We’ve been here for six hours,” he growled while nudging me towards the door. “We need our own fucking food.”

We passed through the plush hotel lobby, my first of several genuine Walks of Shame to come. Bystanders gawked, and it felt like each person I passed saw me as the shit stain I had become. Thornmartin shuffled me to an unmarked SUV, and his sidekick took off.  I headed to jail for the first time since a misdemeanor disorderly charge, twenty-five years earlier.

Thornmartin and I commenced a two-minute ride, me riding shotgun. I noticed my long arms and fingers allowed me to probe my back pockets and took advantage. I fished out several small zip-top packets of molly the cops had failed to find. I slipped them into the seat crack, undetected. I hoped the jailbird who next cleaned the vehicle enjoyed the powder as a tip.

I tottered into Buncombe County Jail booking around one o’clock, and into the modern hell of trying to recall a phone number. I had two for my lawyer memorized on the off-chance I was ever arrested. Both went unanswered, and the blocked jailhouse number prevented a call back. I stared at the phone with two others in the same predicament, under the pressure.

Snippets of cell numbers and those of old land lines bounced around in my head, but none worked. The cops refused to search a directory, and each use of the phone required begging. Disordered thoughts invaded and the fog of my fading buzz worsened my dilemma. How long would I be locked up if I never contacted anyone? A countdown began.

I needed to be sprung fast, to clean up my apartment in case a federal raid was directed there. I had a hotel room full of belongings. My car sat at the hotel with $6,500 stashed in it, earmarked for a potential resupply purchase. Oxygen seemed hard to come by.

With my fingertips freshly ink-stained, a cop barked at me to move to the next stage of booking. There, a phone number finally came to me as I watched my belongings being cataloged. An Atlanta restaurant owned by one of my best friends, Ted. I’d worked there years earlier and knew someone might answer the phone as three o’clock neared on a Saturday morning. My heart soared.

“May I please, please, please use that phone over there, officer?”

“After I’m done booking you in you can,” she mumbled. Minutes seemed like hours as I pictured the restaurant manager killing the lights and locking up.

I finally placed the collect call and spoke my name at the tone: “Ted’s friend Garrett.”

Eons of silence passed, followed by the sweetest voice: “Garrett, it’s Lauren.”

I knew her the best of all the managers. I spat out my dilemma. “Damn! Okay, I’ll call him right away. I know he’s still awake.”

In theory I’d be sprung quickly because Ted just gets things done.

In the meantime they stuck me in a holding cell. They call it the cooler, since it’s as cold as a goodbye from a cheap hooker. Hours passed as I sat with teeth chattering and my t-shirt pulled over my knees, confused by the delay. Had one of my best friends forsaken me? God knows my dealing partner Joe had. He’d ratted me out to the cops.

My thoughts ran to killing Joe and other dark places, including suicide. I beat myself up for my string of poor life choices. Any relief I felt about my arrest had left, along with my creature comforts. I was moved from the holding cell into the general population. I ended up with my own cell, so at least a menacing cellmate didn’t add to my worries.

The first time I entered the common area for a meal my eyes widened and my jaw dropped. There sat Joe, munching away. He saw me, dropped his plastic spork, and skittered back to his cell, leaving his tray sitting on the stainless steel table.

I felt like attacking the rat, but this would only worsen my problems. I could whine about how he broke the rules of The Game, but I was to blame. I should have kept my circle close and never involved him. I failed to instruct him about how to sell product in Asheville. My own stupidity and greed created the problem; Joe’s betrayal was a side effect.

Oh to return to six days earlier, when all seemed to be in order. . . .