The Perfect Enforcer

Published October 13, 2004

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"It's over. Now are we going to get a buzz on, or what?" Ricky asks, pouncing on the change of subject.

"I shouldn't take you there." I waver as common sense battles my addiction. I don't have time for this banter.

"I'm cool, man, really. You can have my gun," he offers.

We're four houses from the Pit. I'm waffling and I know it. I want to trust him.

"That's not it. Everyone there knows you!" I'm at my breaking point. "All right, fine!" I shout. "Gimme your gun. If you're going to party, you're not going to need it. If you're not, I'll have your piece." My instincts are screaming as my jones takes over and I turn into the alley in the middle of the block.

The two-story house is a dilapidated husk of what it once was. All the windows are blacked out and the yard is fenced in. It doesn't want to be part of the neighborhood.

"Come on, give me your piece," I say as we approach the backyard gate. "I don't want you thinking of any monkey-business while we're in there. We're going in for a buzz and some stash and that's it."

"I don't see any problem with that. Here." He hands me his revolver and I shove the cold steel into my waistband.

Descending the few steps to the basement door, I turn the knob and push. A horrible odor spills out to greet us from an area that's blacker than midnight. I fumble for the switch and flip it on. The room is an enclosed junkyard filled with decrepit furniture and scattered crap.

The odor is overwhelming, but I don't see anything that could cause a smell this thick. Ricky covers his nose with the collar of his shirt. "Does it always smell this bad?"

"Not usually," I say, as my addiction pulls me in.

"Man, you junkies sure stink up a place."

I ignore his comment and walk to the stairs. As I ascend, the carpet feels damp and sticky under my shoes. The sound is nauseating and the smell is getting worse. Ricky climbs behind me. The house reeks in the summer, but not this bad.

The door to the first floor is shut. I open it and recoil from a pungency so awful my eyes water. I pull my shirt up to cover my nose and mouth, but it doesn't help. My instincts know what it is, but I ignore them again and look for the light switch.

I can't see anything as I take a step. My foot catches on something and I pitch forward. "What the fuck?" I exclaim as the hallway fills with light. My eyes clear just enough to make out Gary's death mask. I scream and roll off the body. I look up to see Ricky standing at the top of the stairs, his hand on the switch.

"What the ...? I say, backing away.

"I told you I wanted to get high, man. I just didn't tell you I did it a few days ago."

"You did this?"

"Nope. You did. You have the gun."

"What!? What the hell did they ever do to you?"

"Junkies took my brother away. Every time I got him clean, one of you bastards shot him up again. He wasn't the smartest kid in the world. You knew he'd OD sooner or later. Well, you won."

"Did you ...?" I ask, not wanting to know.

"Everyone who was here. They don't even know the difference, man. They were almost dead when I got here. Nobody protested. They just stared at me as I pulled the trigger."

"So why did you want to come here with me?"

"Because you turned him on to this shit. I came here looking for you."

I reach for the gun he gave me. Ricky watches me squeeze the trigger. I could've had more effect with a cap gun. He pulls out his .38. I'm at the mercy of a vindictive, cold-blooded killer. The perfect Enforcer.

I don't know if it's the smell or the realization that I'm trapped, but I retch. Ricky laughs as gallons of bile erupt from my mouth.

pull quoteFurious, my mind is clear as I concoct a plan. Standing straight, I whip the revolver at his face and hit him in the eye. I run at the man and, jumping, land my foot in his chest and knock him down the stairs. He falls in slow motion, fingers grasping for a handhold, but his hands find nothing to stop his fall.

Retrieving the revolver, I descend. Ricky lies motionless on the floor but I see in his good eye that he is terrified. I wipe the revolver clean and close Ricky's fingers around it. I pull the .38 out of his waistband and remove my shirt. Wrapping it around the barrel, I aim at Ricky's chest and fire twice. He expels one final breath as his heart stops pumping anguish through his veins.

Walking outside, I'm nine blocks away from the lake where I can dispose of the gun and clean myself off. Worse still, I'm bare-chested, making the handle visible above my jeans, and the shirt I carry screams guilt.

I think of Ricky's pain over losing his kid brother. What it drove him to do. Two things hit me simultaneously: My father might get that upset over me, and I'm no longer jonesing.

Standing next to Lake Michigan watching the waves, I throw the gun into the forgiving sea and dive in. The shock of the cold water catapults me into full consciousness and I realize what has just happened, accepting the consequences of guilt and loss. Not only am I a murderer but I've killed the only brother I'll ever have. It was in self-defense but, had the decisions I made in the past been more intelligent, this never would have happened. Ricky never passed judgment on what I did. He loved me despite what I did and I never saw that. He loved me until his little brother died from doing the same shit that had overtaken both our lives; his in protecting the distributor and mine in being a hopeless addict.

My body passes through the yielding liquid and I rise to the surface, my eyes are closed but my mind is open. A myriad of thoughts and images race around my head and are replaced by the face of one man. It is to him that I owe my life and a rapidly approaching death through my own choice of destruction. My father does what he does through his own sense of right. My acceptance of his actions makes them right. My rebellion has been painfully long and enormously expensive.

I emerge from the placid water and see the city staring at me from behind a thousand windows. I'm a soaking wet, skinny man with clear eyes and a new purpose.

I rip my shirt into shreds and leave the pieces in a garbage can. A few blocks later, my shoes stop squishing and my pants are dry. It's ten miles to my father's house and I have no idea what time it is.

I start running.

The End

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