Monday, December 9, 2019


I will be resuming work on the project after the new year, as the writing itch has fully taken hold of me and I feel as I've gotten past the major writer apathy that had me in its grips. Expect to see more frequent updates and new content in January. I have an idea for the sequel to Cigarettes & Mirrors, as well as a prequel idea. Stay tuned friends. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Cigarettes & Mirrors - Chapter Thirteen

As I stepped out of Mr. Silas’ car, I had but a solitary thought in my head. Holy hell am I in pain. I waved to Mr. Silas as he pulled away and patted my back pocket for my cigarettes but then realized they were still up in my apartment with everything else. I grimaced and opened the steel fire door of the building, preparing for my journey up the stairs. I knew it would hurt like a motherfucker and I’ll tell you something: it fucking did.

As I reached the top of the stairs and pulled my keys out of my pocket, I noticed the large bloodstain in the wispy grey carpet right in front of my apartment door. Intriguing. It must be from when the pig cracked me in the head with the butt of his pistol. Now I’m a part of this shithole building. I unlocked my door and stepped into my apartment, slamming the door behind me and locking my three deadbolts. I was safe, for the moment anyway. But just because I was out of police custody, it didn’t mean that I might couldn’t suddenly fall victim of a tragic “accident”. A red Ford truck driven by a drunken volunteer fireman might suddenly lose its brakes as I crossed the street, mowing me down. I might be the target of an armed robbery by a gang of fiending crackheads armed with tire irons and broken bottles. Or maybe the police will issue a formal kill contract on me and a team of Russian mercenaries will wire the building with explosives and bring the entire fucker down, collateral damage be damned. All might happen, or maybe I’m just spouting abstract craziness because of the concussion and blood loss. Who knows. 

I moved gingerly to my couch and sat down, picking up my pack of cigarettes and lighting one. The smoke burned the open wound on my lip, but fuck it. I need the nicotine before I go for something stronger. I moved my head backwards, resting it on the couch as I take a couple drags. A loud series of knocks come from my front door as I take another puff. For fucks sake, now what? Is the Russian Grim Reaper at my door? Perhaps a SWAT team ready to blow my lungs out of my asshole? I ground out my cigarette into the overflowing ashtray and picked myself up, walking slowly towards the door to peer out the peephole. Thankfully, it’s just Carla. Dressed as usual in her black dress and red lipstick, a cigarette dangling out of her lips. I unlocked the deadbolts and swung my door open.

“Well hello.” I said, grinning.

She looked at me and drew on her cigarette, exhaling above my head.

“You look like shit boy.” She said as she stepped inside.

“Hello to you too dear.” I said, closing the door behind her and locking it again.

I gestured to the couch, and she took the hint, sitting down gingerly and crossing her pale black booted legs as she looked at me. I sat down on the other end of the couch gingerly, groaning as the pain in my back spiked.

“Fuckers really did a number on you, didn’t they?” Carla said, taking a last drag on her cigarette before she put it out into the ashtray. I shrugged my shoulders, but immediately wished I hadn’t, because it sent lances of pain radiating throughout my back.

“They probably would have beaten me to death eventually, but thank Christ you got that fancy lawyer there to rescue me.”

She smiled at me in her creepy yet adoring way.

“I’m glad you had the instinct to text me before they got their hands on you, otherwise we might not be having this conversation.”

I grinned at her again, lighting another cigarette.

“I might need another favor. I went too far assaulting that cop. Newark isn’t safe for me anymore. Well, it never was, but now it really isn’t. Cops or worse will be after my head, just looking for a way to pop me.” I took a long drag on my cigarette and exhaled slowly, resting my head on the back of the couch again.

“What do you mean doll?” Carla said, an eyebrow raised.

“Meaning I’m gonna have to get the fuck out of Dodge before too long, or the only trace of me left will be that blood spot out in the hallway.”

Carla grimaced as if my words were an unpleasant smell invading her nose.

“So, you’re going to pack up and leave me in this hellhole?” She said, her brow furrowing, an icy look in her eyes.

“I don’t have a choice. It’s either a temporary goodbye or a permanent arrivederci for me.”

She kept looking at me, her eyes were like ice chips as her gaze went right through me. I shivered involuntarily. I hated it when she looked at me like that.

“I know. But it doesn’t mean I have to like it.” She said, looking through me like an x-ray. I shuddered again. 

“I can talk to some people, and see if we can get you out of here in the next few days. Sooner, perhaps. Sound good?”

Indeed, that did sound good.

“Time and time again you come through for me dollface.” I said to her, sitting up a little more, taking a final drag from my cigarette and grinding it out. She smiled finally, uncrossing her legs and pulling her phone from her bag.

“Let me talk to some people and we’ll see what happens. Meanwhile, you need to go clean yourself up. You look like hammered shit.” She said, her eyes flicking upward at the dried blood all over my scalp.

I stood and shrugged, again wishing I didn’t. Motherfucker did my back hurt. A shower and some pharmaceutical bliss are in the cards for me. I walked into the bathroom and flipped the switch awakening the fluorescent demon above the cracked mirror. Wow, Carla was not kidding. My face was even more gaunt than usual. My bottom lip had a hole in it where one of my teeth went through it and there was blood matting the hair of my goatee, plastering it to my chin. The top of my skull had a nice pattern of bruises and a long gash, covered with dried blood. Probably needs stitches. I don’t have 12 hours to sit at the Emergency Room, only to be arrested and get the shit beat out of me again. The hospital automatically runs a police and credit report for everyone they give care to, so I’d be right fucked if I went there. No thanks, I choose freedom.

I gingerly pulled my clothes off and turned the shower on, praying for some hot water. In typical Newark apartment housing fashion, I was gravely disappointed. A halfhearted stream of lukewarm water was my only salvation. But, I’ll take it. It’s not like I have a choice. Ten minutes of piss warm shower later, I’ve at least got the blood washed away. It’s a start. I stare into the mirror and realize at the very least my lip wound will need stitches. Fucking rad. Ten minutes of some shaky needlework later and my lip wound is haggard looking, but it’s stitched closed at least. I walk into my bedroom and put on a worn grey t-shirt and another pair of black jeans with my combat boots. I’m sure I still look like shit though.

“You still look like shit, but at least it’s slightly better-looking shit now.” That’s Carla’s greeting as I walk into the living room.

“Yeah yeah yeah.” I said, reaching down to grab a cigarette. Damn, last one.
I lit it with a flick of the zippo and inhaled the dense smoke deep into my lungs. Still makes my lip sting, but oh well.

“So, did you talk to your people doll?” I ask as I sit gingerly onto the couch.

“Yes, I did actually. He can get you a set of new papers and a plane ticket to wherever you like. Three grand.”

I coughed and gagged on my lungful of smoke and flicked the cigarette onto the coffee table.

“Three fucking thousand dollars? Is he fucking high?!” I roared, eyebrows raised, an incredulous look plastered over my features. She just kept staring at me, smiling.

“Yes, that’s the going rate. However, I’ll cover the expenses for you. Think of it as a parting gift boy.” I squinted at her, picking my lit cigarette from the table and dragging on it.

“You just did that for my reaction, didn’t you?”

Her wide eyes and smile were answer enough. I rolled my eyes and slowly stood up, walking back to the bathroom and opened the medicine cabinet. Painkillers, painkillers, ah yes here we are. I shook two red capsules from the dull orange bottle and swallowed them with a gulp of water from the faucet, an involuntary shiver coming over me as they went down my gullet. Contrary to my intense appetite for drugs, I actually don’t like swallowing pills. Even as a kid I never did, but this shit isn’t something you can snort, and like I said I’m not one of those sick fucks that stick the junk up their asses. I can’t pronounce most of the ingredients that are in this damn thing, but I know it’ll kick in within about fifteen minutes. There’s a little bit of amphetamine analogue mixed in as well, so the pills dull the pain but don’t put me to sleep.

I walked back out into the living room after I stared at my reflection in the mirror for a few minutes, trying hard not to blink. My reflection just looked back at me, unmoving.

Carla was standing at the door, tapping her foot.

“Pack some essentials, and we’ll get you out of here tonight. Only the essentials, you understand? I’ll have some people empty the place and cover your tracks sometime today.”

I nodded and returned to the bathroom, grabbing the bottle of pain capsules from the cabinet. Stepping into my bedroom, I grabbed the dull green duffel bag from the closet and started packing. Three pairs of jeans, three of my least worn out shirts, some underwear and socks, and the bottle of pain capsules went into it. I opened my desk and took out my envelope of money, looking into it. I had about four grand in it, I think. I grabbed the small silver vial of Methamphetamine shards, and my black switchblade, and tossed everything into the bag, zipping it tight. Just the essentials, yes.

Stepping back out into the living room I tossed the bag down to the floor and picked up my Army jacket. I checked the pockets, finding my silver mirrored shades and the baggie of methylphenidate analogue. I picked up my zippo from the coffee table and slipped it into my pocket. Looking around, I realized this was the last time I was ever going to see this shithole of an apartment. If you’re expecting me to get teary eyed, you’re in for a surprise. I set my mouth into a straight line of defiance, picked up my bag, and turned to Carla.

“I’m ready doll. Let’s hit it.”

She nodded and undid the deadbolts, opening the door wide. I stepped out after her and closed the door behind me with a snap. I started to walk away, but then turned back and locked the door up again. I may not be coming back to this cabbage fart smelling hellhole, but I don’t want anyone messing with my shit. 

We both went down the stairs to street level, going out onto the broken sidewalk. The steel fire door closed behind me with a thump of brutal cold finality, and it only made me grimace more. The sky was tinged a lightening blue, the vestiges of night sliding away into the beginning of the new day. I chuckled to myself. What a sign if there ever was one. We walked silently then to the parking structure down the street and to my truck before either of us said anything.

“Well doll, I guess this is it.” I said, turning to look down at her.

Even in her heeled boots, she was still a head shorter than me. Her eyes didn’t look so much like ice chips anymore, but there was still some coldness there. She wasn’t going to forgive me for leaving, even if she understood the reasons.

“I guess so. Give me your apartment key. I’ll have my people put your shit into storage before they cleanse the place.”

I took the key from the ring and handed it to her, and she placed it in her bra. She looked up at me, blue eyes unblinking. But there was still emotion there, despite her best attempts to appear cold. She opened her mouth to say something, but I put a finger to her lips, and leaned down and kissed her. I think she was startled by it, but she accepted it, putting her hands on my lower back as I put mine on her shoulders. I pulled away and looked her in the eyes for a moment before I kissed her forehead.

“I love you Carla.”

“I know.”

I smirked at her, opening the truck door and tossing my bag in, and closed it again as I turned to look at her.

“Your ticket will be at the counter by the time you get to the airport. Where are you going to head?” She asked, looking up at me. I smirked again.

“I hear Detroit is nice this time of year.”

She wrinkled her nose at me, rolling her eyes.

“Bigger shithole than Newark if you ask me.” She said, an eyebrow raised.

“Maybe so, but the cops and the gangs don’t know me there. I’ll be at least a little bit safer.”

She just rolled her eyes at me and shook her head.

“Get going boy.”

I kissed her forehead again, before I got into my truck and started the motor with a throaty roar. I blew her a kiss through the window and waggled my eyebrows at her, and she just shook her head at me and made a shooing motion with her hands. I grinned and backed out of the parking spot, before pulling away and out into the street, squealing the tires as I sped up the street and towards the airport. My face was set like stone, my mouth a line of quiet defiance again.

Carla stood staring after Erich’s truck, watching it pull out onto the street and roaring away. As it disappeared up the street, the sun broke over the buildings across the way and rays of light shined in onto the floor of the parking structure. She stood there, until a single tear welled from her left eye and rolled down her cheek. There wasn’t any coldness left in her eyes anymore. 

Friday, March 24, 2017

Cigarettes & Mirrors - Chapter Twelve

After retiring from the Royal Air Force in 2015, Mr. Silas immigrated to the United States with his pension and found work as an accountant in Newark. After doing that for a short time, he became a private investigator downtown. But he soon grew tired of that as well, and left the business in 2019. Around this time he reignited his boyhood passion for theater and quickly became an accomplished stage actor at the Performing Arts Center in Newark. After his masterfully crafted performances brought a much-needed infusion of revenue to the Center, they were more than happy to grant him a small amount of office and living space in the backstage area. Rent was deducted from his paychecks for the living arrangements, and the executives of the Center asked no questions. He was rather happy with the arrangement. He came into the information broker business by chance one night, providing the police information on several actors and stagehands that had some less than savory habits. He relished the thrill of collecting information, and soon made it his side profession. Now he had contacts throughout the city in all walks of life.
Mr. Silas was currently seated at the desk in his office, poring over a book of Edgar Allen Poe writings. He looked up when he heard the five quick knocks, and three short knocks on the stage door. “Suddenly there came a tapping, as of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door…” he said to himself quietly with a small grin. He stood up and smoothed the front of his shirt as he walked to the door. He unlocked the triple deadbolt, and opened it a crack to see his visitor. 

“Ah, dearest Carla. Come inside love.”  He said, smiling widely now. He slid back the chain lock and swung the door wide, letting her into his office.

“How’re things with you tonight love?” He said, closing the door behind her. She settled into the chair in front of his desk, and sighed. Something was amiss. 

“Is everything okay?” He asked, looking over his glasses with concern.

“Unfortunately, no, everything is not okay. You remember my friend Erich, right?”

“The chap with the shaved head and the angry disposition? Indeed. What’s he done now?”

“I’m not entirely sure. He sent me a text saying he was getting arrested about an hour ago, I don’t know what he did, or where they took him, but I need to get him out. He asked me for help.”

Mr. Silas sat behind his desk and steepled his fingers for a few moments, looking pensive.

“I might be able to find out for you love, however…”

“Yes, the matter of your payment. I have it right here.”

She pulled the bottle of Carphedon from her bag and set it gently on his desk, tapping the lid with her finger as she set it down. Mr. Silas grinned, and swept the bottle into a drawer.

“Thank you dear. Now, let’s see where your friend has gotten himself swept off to.”

He turned to his computer and worked quietly for a few minutes, his brow furrowed as he rapidly typed information into several different windows. Carla lit another cigarette, smoking it rapidly, her feet tapping up and down with anxiety.

I woke up in quite a lot of discomfort. I opened my eyes and immediately closed them again. Fuck! Bright fluorescent lights lined the ceiling, instantly blinding me. The light was like needles, stabbing directly into the lobes of my brain. I opened my eyes again and blinked several times, clearing my vision. My entire body was sore, and I had a searing pain in my bottom lip. I gingerly sat up, and wished I hadn’t. My lower back screamed in protest as I sat up, and I nearly screamed myself. My spine felt like a piece of $2.00 steak that had the shit hammered out of it to make it palatable. I tried to stand up, unsteadily wobbling as I got to my feet, falling against the wall with a groan of pain. My back screamed in agony again, nearly making me collapse. Where the fuck am I? I looked around at my surroundings as I slowly worked the soreness out of my joints. Bare concrete walls, a steel door, a camera in the corner. Oh, right, the cops beat the fucking shit out of me. I looked around and sat down on a low steel bench, groaning in pain again. I looked down and noticed a small pool of drying blood on the floor. I reached up to my face, and felt the ragged hole in my lower lip. Hm, must be where my tooth had gone through. I swept my hands over the top of my head and felt a long gash there. Must have been from getting pistol whipped. I leaned backwards slowly, resting the back of my head against the cool concrete.

I looked around as the steel door opened, and a very pale officer stuck his head in, a serious look on his face. I just stared back at him. “What the fuck are you looking at, piggy?” I said, spitting on the floor. He let out a barking laugh and shut the door again, locking it with a hard clunk sound. Fuckers. Trying to psyche me out. I looked around the room again. No windows, no discernible features. Just white painted concrete walls, a steel shitter, the bare steel bench, and a camera in the corner watching my every move. I smirked and gave the camera the finger as I leaned my head back and closed my eyes.

“Got it. I found him my dear.” Mr. Silas said, leaning backwards in his chair. Carla exhaled slowly, a look of relief on her face. She stood up and came around the desk, looking at the screen. 

“Where is he?”

“According to this, he’s in holding cell F at 3rd Precinct headquarters, on Market Street.”

“How the hell are we going to get him out of there?”

Mr. Silas just smiled.

“I have a friend among the men there, a Mr. O’Brien. He owes me a favor from a few years back when I saved him from a bollixed up misunderstanding with the lads in Internal Affairs once upon a time.”

“Will he be able to get Erich out?”

“He ought to be able to help, since I just fiddled with their servers and wiped his records out. Let me make a call to an attorney friend of mine, and we’ll get this little plan in motion.”

A short phone call later, and Mr. Silas replaced the phone in the hook. He looked at Carla with a smile, and steepled his fingers again.

“I don’t much care for attorneys, but Maxwell isn’t just any attorney. We were in the RAF together, he immigrated here a short time after I did to set up his practice. He works miracles, this Mr. Loeb does. Your Erich has nothing to worry about.”

Carla stood up and smiled at Mr. Silas. It wasn’t just an upturning in the corners of her mouth, it was a full smile that came from her eyes.

“Thank you, Mr. Silas. I owe you a debt of gratitude, truly.”

Mr. Silas smiled and waved his hand dismissively as he stood.

“Nonsense my dear. I’ve simply played my part. Good luck to you.”

Carla walked to the stage door and opened it, walking out into the parking lot and closing the door behind her with a snap.

“I’m sorry, but who are you again?” the officer asked. He had only been on shift for 15 minutes, and this attorney had just appeared out of nowhere. His coffee wasn’t even finished yet.

“My name is Maxwell Loeb, of Loeb and Falken, Attorneys at Law. I represent the man that you currently are holding on suspicion of murder, a Mr. Erich Black? Check your records and I think you’ll find something very interesting there. I’ll be happy to wait.”

The cop at the desk arched an eyebrow and sighed, turning to his computer to pull up the records. His brow furrowed a she examined the screen. What the hell? Where did the warrant go? Where did the records go? The officer looked up at Loeb and narrowed his eyes.

“The warrant is missing. There isn't even an Erich Black listed.”

“How very interesting. If there was no warrant issued, then you are holding that man unlawfully, and I know for a FACT that he was brought here. I demand you release my client from custody and remand him to me immediately or I’ll have you all brought up on false arrest and unlawful imprisonment charges. You’ll all be working security at a bloody McDonalds when I’ve had my say.”

The desk officer sighed and leaned back in his chair. He knew when to yield. The watch commander was going to rip him a new one when he found out. He lifted his phone and spoke into it for a few moments, then set it back onto the hook.

“I’m having him brought out to you in a few minutes. You’ll have to sign his release papers.”

“Seeing as how he was illegally held with no charge, you’re all in a quandary aren’t you? I could bring those papers to Judge Clark in the morning. He’d have a right fit and then you’d all be bollixed.”

The cop sighed again and sipped at his coffee.

“Right, fine. Black will be out momentarily. You can take a seat on the bench.”

Motherfucker did I have one blinder of a headache. My back felt like tenderized meat, and my lip had a fucking hole in it. Wonderful. Just fucking wonderful. Fucking pigs really did a number on me. I spit a wad of blood and saliva on the floor and let out a single bitter laugh at the whole situation. Fuck… I sighed and leaned back against the wall slowly, resting my head against it again. The cool concrete blocks were a much-needed relief to the searing pain throughout my body. Why the hell did I have to roll that cop? Fucking dash cam saw it all…
I looked around as the steel cell door opened again, and the same pale officer as before walked in. He just stood there looking at me, a hand on his gun. I raised my eyebrow at him and met his gaze, unblinkingly. We sat that way for nearly a minute before he spoke.

“Black. My name is O'Brien. Your attorney is here. You’ll be released into his custody.”

About fucking time. I stood up and stretched very gingerly, and grinned at the officer.

“Lead the way officer.”

The cop turned around and walked into the hallway, then turned around waiting for me. I walked into the hallway slowly, careful not to move my back or legs the wrong way, lest I collapse screaming. The cop shut the cell door with a solid clunk noise, and waved me forward. I made my way into a small office where a lieutenant in a white shirt was seated at a desk, looking at me like I was a hunk of dog shit on the bottom of his boot. The ghostly cop pointed to a low wooden bench against the wall facing the desk. I took the hint and sat down slowly, looking directly at the white shirted man. We both stared at the other for several moments, before he turned to a printer and pulled several pages from it, slapping them into a clipboard. He looked back over to me, and tossed the clipboard to the floor in front of me.

“Sign your release papers, punk.”

“I’d like to see my lawyer before I sign anything.”

He just stared at me, and hocked a loogie in his throat.


The lieutenant kept staring at me for a few more moments, and nodded at the ghostly officer. He walked out of the office and returned moments later with a balding man in a subdued blue suit that I didn’t recognize.

“Ah, Mr. Black. I’m Maxwell Loeb with Loeb & Falken. I’ve secured your release, and you’ll be released to me tonight. Are these officers giving you a hard time?”

Huh, a Limey. Interesting. I grinned slyly, shifting slightly to relieve some pressure on my back.

“Actually, they are Mr. Loeb. I do believe the lieutenant here was going to forcibly attain my signature upon those forms on the floor.”

Loeb looked down and retrieved the clipboard from the floor, glancing at them briefly, before holding them to his side. The look he gave the lieutenant could have peeled the paint from the hood of a car.

“Mr. Black has been held here unlawfully and I will be bringing these papers to Judge Clark in the morning. I warned your sergeant at the front desk about this. You’ll all be brought up on unlawful arrest, unlawful imprisonment, and battery charges. Good night.”

He gestured to me and I stood up gingerly, my spine screaming in protest. The lieutenant and the ghostly pale officer simply stared, sitting unmoving at their desks. I followed Mr. Loeb from the office into the lobby, and out the front doors.

“So, Mr. Loeb. To who do I owe the pleasure of this service?”

He grinned at me as we walked down the steps of the building and onto the sidewalk, rummaging in his pockets for his keys.

“You can have your friend Carla to thank for that Mr. Black. A mutual friend of ours contacted me and told me of this dreadful business. I owed him a favor, and here I came to free you from your bonds. Here we are.”

We stopped next to shiny black Lincoln parked at the curb. I slowly bent over and opened the door, sliding very lightly into the front seat as Mr. Loeb got in on the other side. Fucking hell did my spine hurt…

He turned to me and looked me over, grimacing. 

“You’re in a right awful shape there boyo. Do you need to go to the hospital? I’m required to attend to you until you return home.”

“You’re most kind Mr. Loeb, but no thank you. I’d like to be taken home. Mulberry Street.”

Mr. Loeb nodded and started the car, shifting it into gear and pulling out onto the street. I rested my head on the cool glass and closed my eyes.

Free at last, free at last…

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Cigarettes & Mirrors - Chapter Eleven

Four body armored cops at my door, guns drawn.

That’s not good.

I pull my phone out quickly as they hammer on my door again. Gotta text Carla, quickly. “Cops at my door, getting arrested. Need some help. Lova ya.”  I toss the phone on the coffee table, and steel myself. If I don’t open the door, those motherfuckers will just kick it in, and be even more pissed. They must have seen the dashcam footage. Shit!
I take a deep breath and walk to the door and yell “Who is it?”

“Newark Police! Open this fucking door right now!”

Another deep breath. Thank fucking god for the Xanax I just popped. 

Here we go…

I unlock the deadbolt and open the door. Before I can saying anything I take a face full of mace and a kick to the back of my leg, dropping me to my knees. Another blast of mace and the blows start raining down on my head and shoulders. I put my arms to my face to protect myself but they just start kicking me in the legs and back while screaming random nonsense at me. I hear the words “cop killer” a few times. Finally, the blows stop as I curl into the fetal position, my entire body aching. Blood and drool is leaking out of my mouth and nose, and I think my tooth went through my bottom lip. I feel hands roughly grab me under the arms and haul me upright. A cold pair of cuffs go around my wrists, as my vision finally starts to clear, just in time to see the pistol coming towards me. It cracks against the top of my head and my vision goes black, my entire body sagging.

Carla was sitting on her couch, boots on the coffee table, relaxing with an ice-cold martini in her hand. The buzz of her phone going off on the table grabs her attention as she takes a sip. Who could that be? She thinks to herself. A quick glance and she sees it’s from Erich. Opening it, she quickly reads “Cops at my door, getting arrested. Need some help. Lova ya.” Fuck! She sat up quickly and set the martini down on the table roughly, spilling some of it in her haste. Fuck, that’s not good. Calm yourself girl. Where would they take him… Even in her business as a drug dealer, she mad managed to keep off the police radar in the years she’d lived in Newark. She’s at a loss for a few minutes, feeling completely helpless. Where is he? Is he okay? Fuck, what can I do? Aimlessly, she got up off the couch, smoothed her dress and readjusted her boots, and downed the rest of her martini. But then she has an idea. She may not know where the police took Erich, but she knows who certainly would know.

Mr. Silas.

Mr. Silas was a quietly acerbic type of man who possessed a razor-edged wit and had his tendrils into Newarks underbelly. Currently, he was a stage actor, an accountant, and a private investigator, and probably many other things. But Carla knew him as an information broker. If you needed to know something, he knew it already, or could find out. He had hundreds of contacts throughout the city, thanks to his wildly varying lines of work. Politicians, cops, hot dog vendors, the Russian mafia, chemists, dock workers, cab drivers, bankers, and many others. He knew many things before even the press knew, sometimes before even the mayor knew. Carla knew that he might have information on Erich’s whereabouts. But she needed something to grease the wheels a bit. Throughout her dealings with him she had supplied him with his favorite vice, the prescription drug Carphedon, which is a non-stimulant memory and cognition enhancer, primarily made in Russia. She acquired a supply of it for a song from the Russian Mafia once upon a time. She walked into her office/storage room and grabbed a bottle of it on a shelf in one of the storage lockers. She walked out of the room, taking care to lock the steel security door behind her. She grabbed her bag from the floor, and tossed her phone and the pill bottle into it, then slung it around her neck.

She walked into the hallway and closed her apartment door, locking both deadbolts securely. Can’t trust any of the Asian hoodlums living in the building. One brisk walk down the stairs later and she was out on the sidewalk. She lit a cigarette with a flick of a match, and made for the mile and a half walk up to the Performing Arts Center, where Mr. Silas currently operated from. I’m surprised that place hasn’t become a crater yet… she thought to herself as she prepared to take a left at Halsey and Hill Street, headed east towards Broad Street. Newark was interesting in that no matter how many terrorist bombs or police shootouts or crashed airliners might have blown apart buildings and streets, Broad Street was still the central vein that it had always been.

Sergeant Carlo Forelli was bored. He had been assigned guard duty at City Hall along with 40 other officers, thanks to the explosion in the West Ward earlier. The Mayor was a paranoid man thanks to an assassination attempt last Christmas, and had taken no time in securing extra security for City Hall. Ten officers patrolling the perimeter, snipers on the roof, two gunships on standby, four surveillance drones floating above the city, and a SWAT team staged in the small bank building next to City Hall. Forelli took the last puff of his cigarette and flicked it into the gutter, noticing an extremely pale girl a little way down the opposite side of Broad Street. It was hard to miss her, she almost glowed she was so pale. Something about her felt... off. A rumbling in his gut, something he never ignored. He frowned and pulled his radio from his coat. Feinberg was on the roof of the bank building, right?

“Feinberg. Copy?”

“Yeah Sarge, I copy.”

“You're up top the bank right? You got eyes on the pale girl just down the street?”

“Yessir, I see her. You want an officer to tail her?”

“Yeah. Something about her is off, I'm sure of it. Pull a plainclothes from your crew and I’ll have him relieved. Have him keep eyes on her but not too close, yeah?”

“That’s a 10-4 Sarge, sending him out in a bit. Out.”

Forelli replaced his radio and kept an eye on the girl as she walked by. Shortly after she passed, a plainclothes officer in a trenchcoat emerged from the bank and jogged across the street, and started following the girl at a respectable distance. Satisfied, Forelli lit another cigarette and went about on his rounds.

Carla noticed the cop on the sidewalk in her peripheral vision immediately as she passed City Hall. He heard him mutter something into his radio and assumed it was about her. Fuck, now what… She kept walking, but felt a presence behind her. She intently listened behind her as she walked, and slowed down minutely. She heard the footsteps behind her slowdown in tune with her own. Tail. Great. She kept walking at her normal pace, lighting another cigarette to calm her nerves. She went past Market Street and noticed the McDonalds a little bit off Broad was still open, so she crossed the street and walked inside. This McDonalds was special compared to most McDonalds locations, which were usually poorly constructed shitholes. It was in an old pawn shop building, with former apartments and empty space above it, mostly used by the restaurant for assorted storage.

She walked across the street, flicking her cigarette onto the parking lot and headed inside. She ran a hand through her hair and walked up to the counter and ordered a coffee, pulling out a few singles to pay for it. She heard the door open again and in her peripheral vision saw the cop in the trenchcoat come in and stand in line behind her. He was trying to look inconspicuous but he was failing miserably. Carla had excellent cop and narc radar, especially useful in her trade. Warning bells were going off in her head. She got her coffee a moment later and walked across the restaurant, seeing her friend Haley at a table by herself, eating. Carla sat down in the seat across from her and smiled. She looked up, eyes half open and grinned. “Carla, heeeey girllll…” She said languidly. Haley was a streetwalker, bedecked in a white leather coat over a black tanktop, a criminally short skirt and 8-inch platform heels. She had been in and out of rehab for several substances in the past few years and was one of Carla’s best customers, currently having a taste for Xanax. Carla didn't normally associate with her customers, but Haley was good for eyes and ears on the street. Haley pulled an orange pill bottle from her pocket and popped one of the pills inside into her mouth, swallowing it down with a sip of soda. Carla smiled. The girl put down bars like they were Skittles. Carla leaned her head in close and Haley did the same, munching on a few fries. In a low voice, Carla looked Haley in the eyes and said, “Haley, do you see the guy in the trenchcoat sitting by the counter? He’s a cop, he’s been tailing me.”

“Nooo waaay, what’s he on you for girl?”

“No idea, but I think I know how we can skip. Is that ceiling tile still loose in the bathroom?”

“Uhhhh, yeah girl I think so. I stashed some stuff in there last week, it was all good then.”

“Right, finish your food and we’ll head in there, yeah?”

“Okay girl, it’s on.”

Haley quickly wolfed down the rest of her food while Carla chugged her coffee that tasted like it was from yesterday morning. They stood up at the same time and struck up a loud, bubbly conversation as they walked into the ladies’ room. Carla pointed to the deadbolt as the door closed, Haley nodded and locked it slowly. Carla opened the stall door and stood on the toilet, trying not to slip as she pushed up on the bit of broken ceiling. She gave a little shove and pushed it up and over onto the tops of the ceiling, grabbed the I-beam holding up the upstairs floor just above the drop-tile ceiling and hauled herself up into the dark room above, Haley quickly following a moment later. Carla leaned down and replaced the tile in its place and they both stood up and looked around. They were in an old one room apartment judging by the looks of it, with two dingy windows looking out onto the street. Carla walked over to the empty door frame and looked out into the other larger rooms, spotting the ladder to the roof in a large storeroom. She gestured to Haley, who snapped out of her spaced out daydream and walked over to her. “You first doll.” Carla said, pointing up. Haley mounted the ladder, struggling a bit. Platform heels are not the best footwear for climbing up ladders. She made her way up to the hatch not without a little difficulty, and pushed it open. Carla listened intently to make sure there wasn’t anyone else up there, hearing only her breathing and the noises of the ity outside. Satisfied, she climbed the ladder and made it up to the roof, closing the hatch behind her and placing a cinder block on it to impede any pursuit. 

“Girl, you’re serious about getting outta here huh?” Haley said, pulling her jacket close.

“Yes, I am. I gotta get out of here. A friend of mine is in trouble. Let’s get down to street level and take off okay?”

“Whatever you say girly, I’m right behind you.”

They both walked across the roof slowly to the ladder that led down to the parking lot, descending quickly. Looking around, Carla saw no one in the parking lot, and thankfully didn’t see the cop anywhere either.

“Guess this where we part. Stay safe Haley.”

“You too girl. Peace out.” Haley said, flashing a peace sign and a grin, and walked off towards Broad Street. 

Carla went the opposite way and walked up the alley behind the McDonalds and the row of buildings next to it, walking up to Clinton Street. She pulled out a cigarette from the case in her bag and lit it with a kitchen match, flipping the spent match onto the sidewalk and taking a deep drag, exhaling the smoke out of her nose. She sighed as the burst of nicotine flooded into her system, calming her nerves some. Right, enough dawdling. Gotta get to Mr. Silas, she thought to herself, taking another drag and sticking to the alleys behind the rows of buildings on the east side of Broad Street. Carla didn't want to risk the trenchcoat or any other cop seeing her, so the logical step was to head to the subway station.

She made it the Military Park station a few minutes later, breathing deeply from her brisk pace. She went down the stairs to the underground platform and sat on a bench, glancing at the clock on the wall. 4:37. Sunrise in just over 2 hours.

She tapped her boots on the concrete, anxiety coursing through her veins. The train arrived a few minutes later, much to her delight. Carla jumped up from the bench and ran inside, crashing onto a bench and letting out a breath. She looked up to her right and saw a uniformed transit cop looking right back at her, eyebrow raised. Carla momentarily panicked, then raised her left arm and tapped her wrist several times, grinning. The cop smirked and walked up the train to the next car without a word. Carla let out another breath again, her nerves on full nuclear meltdown status. 

Close call girl… she thought to herself. 

The train lurched and made its way to the next station on the line, the Performing Arts/Centre Street Station, which was only a few blocks from the PAC. Barely five minutes later the train made its way there and stopped with another sudden lurch. Carla rose much more calmly this time and walked out of the train onto the platform, walking up the steps to street level. Breathing deeply a few more times to calm herself down, she lit yet another cigarette and dragged on it as she walked up Centre Street right to the alley behind the building. The doors back here led to offices and the backstage area, where the actors entered and exited the building. She walked a short ways down and saw the correct entrance. She walked up to it, knocking on the chrome door five times quickly, and then three times slowly, just as Mr. Silas always instructed.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Cigarettes & Mirrors - Chapter Ten

After suffering far too many terrorist attacks for a solid 20 years after the events of 9/11, in 2021 the federal government decided to take the policing of the state of New Jersey into its own hands. All city, county, and state police departments were folded into the New Jersey Department of Justice. The NJDoJ enjoys an $8.83 billion per year budget, included in the federal defense budget. The department possesses drone technology, armored vehicles & tanks, chemical and biological weapons, and five Keyhole imaging satellites for space based photographic intelligence. The department boasts a force of around 187,000 uniformed officers and over 60,000 civilian personnel. Newark itself, as the relocated state capital and largest population center, had over 63,000 officers stationed in the city to police the roughly 7 million people living there.

Deputy Inspector Mark Colombo was one of those officers, stationed at the 3rd Precinct station on Market Street. He was currently driving southbound down Broad Street, having just come on duty at 3 am. Barely half an hour after midnight, a known narcotics dealers house had blown sky high in the West Ward, and debris had killed an officer. It wasn’t his beat, but he still felt the same murderous rage when he heard the call about Officer Eric Dades death when he first walked into the station. Deputy Inspector Colombo, like every other cop on duty in Newark tonight, wanted blood. Details were sparse this early on, but early word from the forensics boys revealed thermite residue on the foundations of the house. This made it fairly obvious that it wasn’t just some two-bit hood responsible for the explosion. This reeked of organized crime flavor. Since he was assigned to the Organized Crime Unit, Colombo was the one responsible for finding him. Driving in a rage, it didn’t matter who he found.

Someone was going to receive punishment tonight.

Colombo took a left and stopped at the light at the intersection of E. Kinney and Mulberry Street. Looking to his left, he saw the streets were mostly empty, except for a solitary individual in a camouflage jacket, smoking a cigarette. The man was walking towards him, looking slightly harried as he sucked his cigarette down quickly. Inspector Colombos brow furrowed as he lifted his radio from the dash. “Dispatch, 10-21 Charlie.” A few seconds later, the radio squawked back. 

“!0-21 Charlie, Dispatch, go ahead.”

“Dispatch, I have a suspicious individual on Mulberry Street, headed southbound. Caucasian male, mid 20s, maybe 6 feet, 220 pounds, shaved head, wearing dark jeans and a camouflage jacket.” 

“10-4 Charlie, do you require assistance?” 

“Negative dispatch, will question individual and advise. Out.”

“10-4 Charlie.” 

He placed the radio back on the dash, turning left onto Mulberry Street as the light turned green. He was watching the man in his rear-view mirror as he drove slowly up the street. The man had turned to look at the car, smoking his cigarette. He tossed it into the gutter and went back to walking down the street, as Inspector Colombo drove up the street. He quickly made a right onto Cottage Street and flipped his car around quickly in a 180 turn, pulling back out onto Mulberry, facing south this time.

Fucking pig, what are you looking at? Cops tend to make me nervous, especially tonight. The Mex-amphetamine isn’t helping matters. It has me on edge, my heart pounding its way out of my chest at a million miles an hour. Sweat is running down my lower back in sheets. The cruiser went up the street, but I heard it turn around at the corner behind me. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck! Okay, just be cool kid. Kool and the Gang, you’re okay. Relax.

Inspector Colombo was about 200 feet behind the the man, creeping slowly down the street. The man on the sidewalk didn’t turn around, but kept walking southbound, hands in his pockets. I don’t like this guy… 

“Dispatch, 10-21 Charlie. Request another officer to my location, Mulberry and Kinney.”

“10-4 Charlie, additional unit en-route. ETA 10 minutes.” 

Fuck, he thought. Hope this punk isn’t armed…

He flipped his lights on and squawked the siren twice as he pulled closer to the man. He stopped walking, an inquisitive look on his face as the police cruiser came to a stop at the curb, right at the opposite corner that Inspector Colombo had first seen him at. Colombo set the parking brake and stepped out of his car, putting his duty cap on, and keeping his left hand close to his service pistol.

“Evening sir. May I see your ID please?”

Ah, shit. Here we go.

“Of course, it’s in my left pocket.”

I know cops get jumpy when people make sudden moves. I’d prefer not to get a couple hollow points through my chest tonight. I pulled my wallet out slowly and slipped out my license, handing it over to the cop.

“Here you go.” Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck…

“Dispatch, 10-21 Charlie, requesting name search. First name Erich, Echo-Romeo-India-Charlie-Hotel. Last name Black, Bravo-Lima-Alpha-Charlie-Kilo. Criminal search and service check.”

“10-4 Charlie, checking. Will advise.”

Okay punk, are you free and clear, or are you some hood?

“10-21 Charlie, subject Erich Black is clear, no record.”

“10-4 dispatch. Out.” You might have a clear record punk, but you sure as hell aren’t free…

“Been to the West Ward tonight sir?”

“No sir, just been around here tonight. Just on a walk to clear my head.”

Inspector Colombo took out his flashlight and shined it into Erich’s face, looking at his eyes. “Been drinking tonight? Using maybe?”

“No sir.”

“Uh huh. Put your hands on top of your head sir, I’m going to search you.” Inspector Colombo stepped behind Erich and brought out a pair of handcuffs, readying to snap the cold steel bracelets on the punks wrists.

Fuck this. 

Before the cop could snap the pair of cuffs on me, I mule kicked him in his shin and felt it splinter underneath my boot. As I turned around, he fell to the ground yelling, trying to get his hand on his gun. I reared back and kicked him full force in the forehead with my steel capped boot. His forehead split open and blood poured down his face, his head falling back on the pavement, either unconscious or on his way to death. Makes no difference to me.

I pulled my jacket closer and ran back up the block to my apartment, bounding inside. The cabbage ass smell didn’t even faze me as I ran up the stairs two at a time and almost went through my door in my haste. Fucking locks, you’re just in my way! I pulled my keys out and unlocked the door, wrenching it open and slamming it shut just as quickly. My chest was ballooning up and down as I gulped down air, nuclear fire coursing through my veins.

“10-7 Romeo, officer requires assistance at Mulberry and E. Kinney.”

“10-4 dispatch, I’m en-route. 10 minutes.”

Officer Salvatore Riccio turned his car around on Market Street, flipped his lights on and went east down Market Street, towards Broad Street. Riccio was barely 2 months out of the police academy, still fresh faced and eager. He came from a family of police officers, except for his cousin Rocco, who had gotten involved with organized crime. No saving that boy, sadly. He stopped at the red light at Market & Broad, and lifted his radio off the dash.

“Dispatch, 10-7 Romeo. 5 minutes away from 10-21 Charlie.”

“10-4 Romeo, 10-21 Charlie is not responding to radio calls. Proceed immediately to his location.”

Oh fuck, not another one…

Officer Riccio flipped his siren on and floored it around the corner onto Broad Street, screaming down towards Kinney Street. He saw Inspector Colombos car at the end of the street, lights still on, and a dark shape on the curb. Riccio slammed on his brakes and jumped out of the car, pulling his service pistol immediately. He ran up the unmoving form of Inspector Colombo, and felt his neck for a pulse. It was still there. Weak, but there.


“Dispatch, 10-7 Romeo! Officer down, repeat, officer down! Mulberry and Kinney! Request backup, supervisors and fire rescue to my location, right fucking now!”

I was sprawled out on my couch, chest still rising up and down rapidly. I was still utterly geeked off my nutsack on the super pure methamphetamine. My chest was starting to hurt, maybe I shouldn’t have taken this shit… I jumped up off the couch, sweat pouring off my body in sheets, pouring down my forehead into my eyes. “Holy shit am I fucking spun out.” I said out loud to myself. I even sounded high, my words compressed into almost a single short bark. Too high. Need to come down.

I practically ran to the bathroom and flipped the light on, the fluorescent demon stabbing my eyes with its familiar syringes of pain. I pulled open the door of the medicine cabinet and grabbed the bottle of Xanax, popping it open and shaking 4 bars out. I turn the faucet on and take a swig of water and pop the bars and chew them up, swallowing everything. My mouth is already bone dry, and I’m still sweating like a whore in church. I turn the faucet on again and swig down mouthfuls of water until my stomach is full. I wiped my mouth on a towel and went back out to my couch, collapsing into it. The Xanax and methamphetamine are battling for control of my nervous system, but after a few minutes I can feel the Xanax winning. My muscles relax and I sink farther down into the couch, my eyes growing heavy. Sleep, I need sleep… I can feel myself almost fade away.
Until there comes a slamming in the hallway and a loud noise at my door. Who the fuck is knocking? I sit up, still sweat soaked. More pounding at the door, loud, rapid pounding. Who the fuck? I get up and stumble to the door, glancing through my peephole to see who keeps pounding. 

I feel my veins turn to ice, and my stomach drops.

4 uniformed cops are in the hallway, guns out, staring right at my door.

Oh, fuck me. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Cigarettes & Mirrors - Chapter Nine

“What are you talking about?” I said to her, my eyebrow still raised. She cocked her head slightly sideways and narrowed her eyes, staring right into my eyes. I hate when she gives me that look. She can always see right through me, like an x-ray. “I could smell the smoke when you opened the door boy. Don’t try to bullshit me.” She said, her head still cocked. I laughed nervously, and unlocked my door, waving her inside. She walked in after flicking her cigarette out the hallway window. I closed the door behind her, and locked it, looking at her. “Now, no more bullshit sweetie. What did you do?” she asked me. I laughed nervously again as I threw my jacket over the back of the couch and sat down. “Alright, so I was over in the West Ward. Some house blew sky fucking high when I was in the pub, cops said it was some kind of gangland attack.” I said casually, stretching out. She sat down in the recliner, crossing her legs, staring at me to continue. “Okay, you caught me. I did it.” I said, laughing as I fished a cigarette from the pack. She narrowed her eyes at me again. “Why the hell did you do that?” she asked sternly. “It wasn’t like I blew up a church or a bus of old ladies or something doll, it was just Antonio and his goons. Poof, nothing left.” I said, lighting the cigarette and taking a deep drag, exhaling into the air above me. “Some cop got creamed by a burning roof beam when the fire department tried to hose it down, but that wasn’t my fault at all.” I said, laughing. “Where the fuck did you even get the shit to do that? I saw the mushroom cloud from my apartment building. I swear I felt the heat from it.” She said, pulling her own cigarettes from her bag and lighting one with a flick of a match. “Where do you think doll? The hammerheads down by the docks. They always have an assortment of anti-social party favors for the fine denizens of Newark.” I grinned at her as I took another drag on my cigarette. She sighed and shook her head at me. “You’re something else. You know you smell like you were in the heart of a fire right?” She crinkled her nose, taking another drag of her own cigarette. If you haven’t figured it out, we both love to smoke. “You need a shower.” I grin and take a final drag from my own cigarette, stubbing it out in the glass ashtray. “Yeah, I know. Care to join me?” I say, standing up and waggling my eyebrows at her. She smiled at me, but stayed seated. “I’ll pass honey. Go get yourself cleaned up. You need something to eat too, by the looks of you. Go shower, I’ll make something.”

I grin and walk into the hallway, pulling my clothes off and tossing them into the basket. She’s right, I do smell like a fire. Nothing a little Lava soap won’t take care of. I glance into the mirror as I turn the water on. Running my hands over my scalp, I realize I need a shave again. Damn hair grows too quickly. Ten minutes of ice cold shower later I feel like a new man, and hopefully smell like one too. Freshly scrubbed and shaven, I towel off and step into my bedroom pulling fresh clothes from the closet. Black jeans, crisp white t-shirt. I pull my boots back on and walk back into the living room to see Carla standing at the stove, pouring something from a saucepan into a bowl. “What’s that?” I ask, pulling a bottle of beer from the fridge next to her. “Soup.” She says simply, handing it to me. I quickly drink it down interspersed with sips of beer. Not bad. She was right, I do feel a lot better with something in my stomach other than alcohol and drugs. Sometimes I forget to eat. It’s been happening a lot lately. “So what now?” I ask, wiping my mouth after I take the last drink of beer. “Now, you drive me home and you come back here and sleep.” I grin, and grab my jacket. That’s fine with me. I’ll give her Ivan the Terrible another day.

Ivan the Terrible is my cock, if you’ve forgotten.

I slam the door shut and lock it as we step into the hallway. It smells like her perfume up here still, but as we walk down the stairs the cabbage fart smell prevails and it’s all we can smell. I’m pretty much used to it though. She isn’t, evidenced by her gag as we step onto the sidewalk. I light another cigarette and look across the city over to the West Ward. I can still see the smoke hanging over the crater formerly known as Antonios trap house. Interesting. “I’m not going to ask why you did it, but be fucking careful from now on, okay? Antonio might be dead but if his gang finds out you’re responsible, you’re in trouble.” She says to me as we walk down to the parking garage. “No problem doll, I think I can handle a couple crackheads.” I laugh. I’m still laughing when we walk into the parking deck. “Seriously, they’re just malnourished crackheads, what kind of a challenge could they be? A pretzel rod has more strength than three of them combined.” Carla laughed, and shook her head slowly. “You say some of the craziest shit, I hope you know that.” I nod as I unlock the truck and hop in, waiting for her to jump in. “Yeah, I may say some crazy shit, but I must be doing something right, you’re still here aren’t you?” She smiles as she clocks her seatbelt into place. “You’re a loyal customer and dick me down pretty well, of course I’m gonna keep you around.” I laugh again as I start the truck and pull out of the parking spot. I suppose I can’t argue with that logic. Twenty minutes later she’s safely in her apartment, and I’m pulling back into the parking deck.
As I lock my truck and walk out of the parking garage, I realize that I am still utterly wired. A few minutes later I throw open the heavy steel door to my building and trudge up the worn-out stairwell, my heavy boots thumping almost rhythmically against every step. I stand outside my apartment door for a second, and breathe in deeply. At the bottom of the stairs the cabbage smell is king, but up here, it still smells like her. I love that smell. I sigh, and unlock my apartment door, stepping inside and slamming it shut, quickly ramming the two deadbolts home.

Home again, home again, jiggety jig…

I toss my jacket onto the couch, and walk down the hall into my bedroom, turning on the light at my desk. I let out a sigh as I sit down, and I can feel myself start to come down. The first tendrils of exhaustion are starting to nip at my muscles. Not tonight. I pull open the top drawer of my desk and out comes the silver vial, a digital scale, and a small bag of empty yellow gelatin capsules. Inside the silver vial are a few large shards of ice. In this context, ice means extremely high purity Mexican methamphetamine from the laboratories of the fine folk at We’ll Cut Your Fucking Head Off Cartel, Inc. I open the vial and pour out the shards, selecting one that’s about half the size of a Tic-Tac. I set the scale and place the shard on it, waiting a few moments for the scale to figure the weight. 37mg according to the scale. I’m not a fan of snorting methamphetamine, as it fucking hurts like shit. I’ve already had my nose turn into a blood faucet today, so no thank you. I’m not of those sick fucks that stick the stuff up your ass, and I’m not one for needles either, so that just leaves putting the shit into a capsule. I wrap the shard inside a dollar bill and crush it with my Zippo until it’s broken down into a very fine powder. Opening the capsule and forming the dollar into a small funnel, I pour the now finely crushed methamphetamine in and seal it up. I clean everything off and put everything back where it belongs and step into the bathroom, taking a large drink of water from the faucet. I place the capsule into my mouth and swallow it all with a satisfying smack of my lips. Ah, sweet candy. I sit back down at my desk, and sigh loudly, staring out the window onto the street below. I start to feel the effects about twenty minutes later as I sit there, still staring down at the street. I couldn’t tell you why the street was fascinating me so much, but maybe the combination of everything today is making me paranoid. Fuck. What was that? I whip my head around, and look behind me. There’s nothing there. I swear I saw a shadow in my peripheral vision. God dammit, I don’t need any more shadow people today. I need to go for a walk or something.

I look at the digital clock on my nightstand. 2:30. I walk out of the bedroom and put my coat back on and step out into the hallway, closing the door behind me and locking it securely. With a sigh I start to descend the stairs, but stop halfway down. I can feel something. On the very edge of my awareness, I can feel a presence. Probably nothing. I cough and make it down to street level and out of the cooked ass cabbage scent, into the car exhaust and sewage smell of the city. There it is again. I look up and down the street, but I don’t see anyone. Just a few cars on the street crossing mine two blocks up. I pull my coat closer and begin my walk up the street, away from the parking garage. I pull out the pack of cigarettes and fish one out, lighting it quickly with a flick of the Zippo. Almost out again. The nicotine calms me a little, but I’m still winding up on the edge of being completely geeked. A police car makes the turn on my street and starts creeping down. The windows are blacked out, but somehow, I know they’re staring at me. Keep calm kid, you’re fine. I take another drag as the car rolls slowly past me, and turns the corner. Pigs would just love to turn me into the East Coast Rodney King, I’m sure. I take another few drags and flick the cigarette into the gutter and continue my walk down the block. The Mex-amphetamine is starting to intensify everything. Colors are brighter, everything is sharper. And I have the energy of a nuclear power plant going critical coursing through my veins.

Keep cool, just keep cool. You’re fine. Everything is fine.