Sunday, November 18, 2012

NaNoWriMo Day 18

Not even Misty knew about the secret stash, even though she was the only one allowed to know where the drugs and front money were. Chalmers had known her since high school. She'd come to him as a customer, and he invited her to stick around and smoke with him after a buy. He seemed sweet, if gruff, she thought. All man. Not like those other pussies into their emo music and woe-is-me attitude. Fellow addicts, though Misty had a hard time thinking of herself as one.

The game was in a bit of a lull when Chalmer's cell phone buzzed. He pulled it out of his pocket. The fucker was going to leave a message. Why not just text? He blew out a long breath of disgust as he dialed his voicemail. The voice on the message was mousy, high-pitched, nasal and distant, as if he wasn't talking directly into the receiver. As soon as Chalmers got the gist of the message. It was from Davie, a regular, asking if he was around. He sent a text message reply: "Am here. Stop by."

"See? That fucking simple." Chalmers said as he threw the phone next to him on the couch. Just as soon as he did, the phone buzzed again - once - a text. Chalmers flipped open the case, thinking it was Davie again, but it was another customer, a number he didn't recognize, asking if he was around. Before he could reply, two more texts came in.

"Jeezus," Chalmers said. "They're fucking coming out of the woodwork."

He gave up on the game, throwing the game controller down in disgust. Two more rounds and he would have made the bunker. But that would take another half an hour at least, and he wanted to get everything set up before Misty and the rest came home. He got up from the couch and walked to the bedroom door.

He opened it and saw Bea and Megan sitting on the floor, playing with dolls.

"You two, get the fuck out," Chalmers said, stepping aside to let the girls out. "Bea! Your brother's full of shit -- again -- do you know how to change his diaper?"

Bea nodded. She'd done it a couple times before. Mommy had shown her how. But she didn't know where the diapers and wipes were. She started to ask Chalmers, looked up at him and started to speak, but then stopped as a sound barely lurched out of her.

"What?!" Chalmers asked.

"Nothing." Bea said. "I'll find it."

Chalmers was in the bedroom, weighing and bagging various bags of heroin and marijuana, estimating his customer's needs without specific knowledge of their requests. Chalmers was paranoid about having any record of his transactions, given their illegal nature, so demanded that all specific discussion be done in person, and ideally in the side room off the bedroom. Chalmers didn't know if Hartwig or anybody else had placed bugs in the living room or bedroom, but the side room, little larger than a closet, with floor to ceiling shelves, had been checked thoroughly. Chalmers kept the lion's share of his stash in the bedroom closet, but when dealing with his customers kept a small shoebox with the goodies needed for the moment. As Uncle Donovan said, "The more layers of protection you got, the better. This business is a fucking fiefdom. You need moats, my boy. And sharks. Or least shit that looks like sharks. And if need be, some boiling oil, if you know what I mean." Donovan had made a gun symbol with his right hand, cocking back his thumb hammer with the ring and middle fingers of the other hand.

Donovan was the mentor. He'd been there. When Chalmers was in the stir, the stuff Donovan told him had saved his life. Hell, it had steered Chalmers towards the Chicago outfit and set him up in his current situation. Uncle Donovan had told him, "find somebody who looks important and become good friends with him." At Joliet, the big man was Dominic Iasparra, a Hispanic Italian immigrant with ties to both Sicily's old money and Mexico's drug cartels. During his two year stint, Chalmers became Iasparra's enforcer, beating down anyone who crossed the fat man's path or otherwise did something Iasparra didn't like. Once, Chalmers broke an inmate's nose just because the inmate had nudged Iasparra's food tray in line, mixing juice from fruit cocktail with mashed potatoes. When he wasn't hanging out with Iasparra in the yard, Chalmers lifted weights, adding bulk to his 6 foot two inch frame, and had homemade tattoos added to his face and neck. The large swastika on his shoulder and the SS lightning bolts were all done with pen ink and a needle. The larger the tattoo, the more respected one was in prison. Homemade tattoos were a long and painful process. Doing them right took longer, and were thus more painful. Chalmers was proud to show off his prison tats. Onlookers marveled, supposing them the work of a professional, and done in a parlor.

After Chalmers was released, three years ago, Iasparra had him stay with a member of his outfit in Joliet while he served out the orders of his parole. When that was done, Chalmers was sent to Bonneville to fulfill a "market void," as Iasparra called it. No one had told him what had happened with Chalmers's predecessor, and Chalmers never asked. He knew the risks of dealing, and could only cover his bases as best he could, save up as much as he could, and then eventually get the hell out.

Chalmers was almost finished with getting everything ready when he heard the double knock on the door. After the first couple of transactions, Chalmers taught each of his regular customers a particular way to knock on the door, just to let him know who was there and so he didn't have to freak out, putting everything away, if it happened to be the police or investigators from the Department of Children and Family Services.

Misty was on public aid, necessitating the visits from DCFS. Chalmers wanted her to get off the dole, but she insisted, not wanting to be dependent on, and thus slave to the whim of, Chalmers's generosity. For his part, Chalmers allowed this because it allowed at least one part of the government to keep tabs on his whereabouts and doings without drawing the attention of other entities. It was better for someone focused on the welfare of children to ask him about his work and life prospects than for a parole advisor or any other government agency that might take a keener interest in Chalmers alone.

This is how Chalmers "worked the system." He chuckled as he thought about how he could "get one over" by sitting on his wealth, eating fast food delivered daily, not having to work, and rolling in it. The rooming house was a perfect front for his dealing because the heavy foot traffic seemed less suspicious in a house with 10 rooms and with three different entrances. Chalmers always asked his customers to hang out in the common area dining room. If they needed to shoot up, he let them, in the side room, right where he was dealing. If they wanted to smoke weed, he'd provide it, a bowlful or two, or a joint, and they'd share it in the common area. As a result, boarders who liked to get high would come hang out in the dining room when they saw certain of Chalmers's customers come in.

Details mattered to Chalmers. Uncle Donovan had told him as much. There was ingress and egress. Ingress was less important. He took a train into the city every two weeks, went to a certain house on the west side, placed bundles of cash in a sliding drawer and received a package wrapped in brown paper and string. Chalmers took a different route each time he walked to the house, wore different outfits, and made sure he wasn't being followed. Although he had met a member of Iasparra's outfit once, when he was being considered for the Bonneville post, he knew the man only by a first name, and hadn't seen anybody since. This was the nature of the beast. Anonymity was key, and it was a lifesaver. If Chalmers got busted, he knew that his life wasn't on the line. No one was worried about being ratted out. He knew what he knew on a need to know basis. This, again, was part of the layers of protection his uncle had told him about.

Egress was another issue. Take this Saturday as a case in point. Many of the numbers on his phone were unfamiliar to him. He took that to mean they were friends of friends. Many of his customers were also new or one time only. This always made him nervous, had him wondering if a mole would try and wiggle their way into a bust. About the only thing he could do to control his customer base was to use a phone that could not be tracked to him. He changed his number every month, sending out a text of his new number to whoever had called him at the old number. It was a pain in the ass to friends and family, and made them suspicious, but, alas, it was just another price of doing business.

A town as large as Bonneville, which had a stable population of about 20,000, but ballooned up to twice that when school was in session, could support about 8 or 9 full-time dealers. About 20 percent of the population were regular heads, hippies of all stripes and ages. Ten percent were hardcore into the other drugs -- 'scrips, heroin, ecstasy, methamphetamines, crack and powder cocaine, and, rarely, in certain seasons, usually at the end of summer, magic mushrooms and LSD. Chalmers could guess, almost to within the ounce, the monthly needs of Bonneville's residents. He thought it funny, considering the indiscriminate ways of human nature, that people's drug intake needs could be so closely calculated. In Chalmers's words, "People are fucking sheep." And drug hungry sheep at that.

Every two weeks, when Chalmers came home, he would divvy out what the other dealers needed, and send out Benji and Tyler to make the delivery. These other two men, the only two to know about the larger nature of Chalmers's dealing, were all lifetime friends. They were the only men in the business Chalmers knew he could trust. And all except a few rules, such as the location of his money and stash and, of course, the secret stash, didn't apply to those two. They were the only two Chalmers partied with. The only two around whom he could let down his guard. Even though Misty was his de facto wife and bore his two children, he regarded her as little more than a customer, a good fuck, eye candy, and housekeeper.

Chalmers was almost finished when he heard the tell-tale knock on the door.

"Be right there!" he yelled. Bea was still changing Jeramie's diaper when Chalmers walked into the living room. Jeramie was running around naked in front of the TV set, laughing, doing his best to escape Bea.

"You ain't fucking done changing him?" Chalmers asked. "Jesus! He fucking stinks."

He opened the door. Davie was there, but before he could let him in, another customer came to the door.

"Who the fuck are you?" Chalmers asked.

"I just texted you a few minutes ago," the man said. He was a little taller than Davie, but still a good four inches shorter than Chalmers, who looked him over, judging him to be a college student by the preppy nature of the man's shoes. The man wore loafers.

"I didn't ask what you did," Chalmers said. "I asked who you are?"

Davie cast Chalmers a nervous glance.

"You can go hang out in the place." Chalmers said to Davie, who ducked as he passed under Chalmers arm.

The preppy newcomer also looked nervously at Chalmers. "Look, man, I just got your number from Jo Beth. She's this girl I know lives over around Jonas Street. She said you could hook me up."

"Where you from?" Chalmers asked.

"I live out by Greek Row," preppy said.

"Ha! I had you figured to be a college student. What the fuck you doing on this side of town? Don't, you know, have somebody closer to home?" Chalmers asked, thinking about Higgins. And then came the realization. Shit, he thought. I bet the fucking townie cops got to Higgins. No doubt Higgins was in jail or out on bail, too scared to get back in the biz.

"Didn't you hear about it?" preppy asked.

"Hear about what?"

"My guy, some dude who lived in a frat house, got shot down yesterday by the cops."

"No shit!" Chalmers said. He closed the door behind him and stepped out into the dining room. "What the fuck happened?"

"I guess he shot a couple cops. Killed one, too. And they fucking blew his shit apart after that. Man, it's in all the papers. Dude was my man, too. This shit fucking sucks."

"Holy fucking shit!" The blood ran out of Chalmers face. He considered, for a moment, his own role in the death of another man, and hoped somehow, some way, that this didn't come back to bite him in the ass.

"Well, you don't look like too much trouble, man. Why don't you come in and we'll set you up," Chalmers said, opening the door.

"Thanks, man. My name is Dale, by the way." Dale reached out his hand.

Chalmers looked at the offered hand and then looked up at Dale. "Like I give a fuck. C'mon man. Let's go."

But before he could close the door, another man showed up. He didn't look familiar to Chalmers either.

"Let me guess," Chalmers said. "You came from Greek Row."

The man nodded, eyes furtive, glancing from side to side.

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