Good heroin makes your head tingle. The first time Collins had tried it he was hooked, but that was the way it typically went. All the good things you hear about heroin are true. All your pain and worries melt away into a tingling warmth that fills your body and a mild itchiness. Collins spent all of us his money on heroin, every penny that he could. He had had a corporate job at this point, with his salary and flipping 14 credit cards every few months he was barely able to pay his rent and support his habit.
He needed a shot in the morning to get out of bed, a shot during lunch, and a shot when he got home to enjoy the evening before passing out. The lunch time shots were particularly tricky, especially if a needle clogged or he had trouble hitting a vein. He would be in the office bathroom for half an hour as people knocked, wondering what the hell he was up to. He would come out guilty and high looking, or at least looking not quite right. He worked for a construction firm, there were a lot of Irish and a quite a few ex cops.
He often noticed the ex cops looking at his hands in the break room, trying to trace the faint signs of track marks running up his arms. Collins was bad at shooting as most beginners are. He also started at a time when it was illegal to get syringes at pharmacies without a prescription. He had to go to the needle exchange, which was time consuming and annoying. This meant re-using needles over and over, some were so dull it was a miracle they ever worked at all. Still, Collins somehow got by.
He eventually joined the methadone program to subsidize his heroin use. The methadone could relieve him of 2 out of 3 shots a day. This worked for a little while, but eventually the walls started caving in. He was straight enough to see that his accumulated debts were impossible to escape so he stopped trying. He started using and drinking again heavily. He figured he might as well go out now rather than as a decrepit old homeless bum. He had accepted death, was looking forward to it, when suddenly he won the lottery. He had bought a handful of tickets one night when he was particularly drunk.
Suddenly everything changed. He could afford doctors to test his blood, tell him exactly what concoctions he was putting into himself. The better class of dealers found him, worked their way down to the riff-raff Collins was used to dealing with. He was sitting alone in some dive bar when Jesus first approached him. Jesus looked like he had nearly as much money as Collins. The heroin was much better, one shot could hold him for a day or two. It was as expensive as hell, but that meant absolutely nothing. Collins had no friends, hobbies, or other fringe expenses aside from drinking. He would have piles of heroin until the day he died.
He paid his debts, quit his job, and had no idea what to do with himself now that he was free from the never ending hunt for money for heroin. And oddly enough, he seriously started thinking about quitting heroin for the first time. Even with all his money, he wasn’t really free. He couldn’t take a cruise or go off to Paris, not that he wanted to, but he liked the idea of being able to.
So for now he wandered around NYC, began to enjoy it for the first time. NYC could be a lot of fun when you had money. Bars and restaurants never closed, and there was always a movie to catch or some park or bridge to bum around.
Harris reviewed his thoughts on Collins as he drove upstate into Liberty, NY, a small dump of a town. Lana Parks had grown up there. It would be more difficult to figure her out, with her being dead and such, but one look at the town began to tell the story. It was a shithole and she had wanted out, something better for herself. She was a good looking girl. Good looking enough to find a respectable man to latch onto, someone with money who could take her out of here, give her a decent life in the city or anywhere else. Somehow she had gotten mixed up with Collins instead.
Half the buildings in Liberty looked like they had just burned down. They were still smoldering. The other half were decrepit, cheaply built shacks for poor yokels. Some of the houses had inflatable kiddie pools out on the front lawns, many occupied by fat middle aged men in shorts drinking beer. It was about two in the afternoon. Harris finally reached Lana’s old house, another crumbling shack atop a treeless hill surrounded by dirt and patches of crab grass. Harris didn’t want to get out of the car. He felt like getting out would make him dirty.
The house looked abandoned but there were curtains in the windows and a line out tied between a scraggly old bush and one of the posts supporting the dilapidated porch. Some old linens and nightgowns were hung from it. Harris could feel a bitter presence emanating from within the house. Most likely an old woman once saddled with a worthless husband and too many brats, but all of that had passed and she was still miserable and spiteful with only regret to keep her company. Harris drove up the gravel driveway. He felt like he was making a mistake, but he opened the door and got out.
TO BE CONTINUED…