William Doonan

I write books and stories.

MedicineLand: Chapter Twenty-Eight

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Adam parked at the Sacramento Amtrak station and hailed a cab.

“Are you serious about this?” the driver asked when Adam showed him the address. “This is deep in Oak Park.  Are you a cop?”

“No,” Adam said.  “I’m not, so there’s no chance of entrapment.  Talk with me.  I’m looking to buy some drugs.”

The driver turned.  “Maybe I could help.  What do you want?”

“A couple of joints.”  Adam unbuttoned his pants to make the ride more comfortable.  “And three grams of Candlestick meth.”

“You’re just yanking my chain,” the driver said.  “Big fellow like you has no business with no Candlestick.  How about you pay me in advance for the ride?  Union says I can ask that.”

“Tough but fair.”  Adam slipped two twentys into the Plexiglas drawer.

Ten minutes later they turned onto Martin Luther King and came to a stop in front of a pornography store.

Adam entered and bought six tokens from the clerk.  He stepped into a booth and fed the machine.  A mechanical window opened onto a room where a blond black woman sat smoking a cigarette and reading Vanity Fair.  Adam frowned.  He knocked at the window.

“In a minute,” the woman said, turning back to the magazine.

Adam waited, then knocked even harder.  The woman held the magazine up and squeezed her breast half-heartedly.

“This is a rip-off,” Adam said loudly.

She gave him the finger.

When the tokens were used up, the window closed and Adam left.

He walked past two hard cases loitering near the door.  They called out for some money but they didn’t look to have any fight in them.  Adam kept walking, passing a 24 hour barbeque chicken place that was closed.  Next door was Eastern Thoughts, a bookstore dedicated to meditation and philosophy.  The incense hit him when he opened the door.  Nag Champa and some rosewood. Near the back of the bookstore, a young man played a sitar to an audience of two.

Adam perused the prayer mats.  Most were too small.  In karmic desperation, he selected the largest, one which promised support and serenity, a bargain at nineteen dollars.  He took it to the cashier and asked to speak to Baker.

“Mr. Baker is in meditation,” the woman said.  “He’s not available.”

“He’s expecting me.”  Adam unbuttoned his sleeve to show her the tattoo he had agreed to under duress some years back- a poorly-inked image of a little sheep next to the word SUBA.  “I need to see him.”

The woman frowned  “We try to make a living here.  People like you…”

“Look,” Adam interrupted.  “I’ve got a lot of karma to burn off.

She made a quick call on her cellphone, then she stared at the prayer mat.  “Do you really want to buy that?”  When he didn’t respond, she gestured toward a door.  “You’ll find him in there.”

Baker was sitting in the lotus position surrounded by stacks of twenty dollar bills.  “Look what Shiva dragged in.”

Adam sat heavily.  “Your security sucks.  I could be packing.”

“Are you?”

“Yes.  I got this sweet little automatic pistol from my girlfriend’s ex.  It’s tiny, but if the online manual can be trusted, it packs a punch.”

“Put it over there on the desk,” Baker said.

“I just sat down,” Adam told him, “so let’s agree that I won’t take it out.  Anyone could have walked in here, you know.”

“Not anyone.” Baker fastened a rubber band around the last stack of twenties.  “The cashier, Asoka, she did eleven years for manslaughter.  She’d have cut you down if you didn’t have reason to be here.”

“Good to know.  So hey, someone is tampering with your product.”

Baker stood.  “I know that much.  That’s why I came to you.”

“It’s being cut with an obscure complex of proteins.”  Adam removed a card from hiw wallet.  “I wrote it down for you.  Most of the components are inert, but the two active ingredients are a kind of psychotropic fig, and something called Tetrodotoxin, it’s a protein that comes from a pelagic blowfish.  It’s also got a little Datura mixed in.”

“What is a pelagic blowfish?  I’m thinking a blowfish is one of those fish that can puff up, but pelagic is a hard word.  Does it mean stripped of leaves?”

“No,” said Adam.  “Pelagic means deep sea.  It refers to a fish that swims around the world.”

“Why is that significant?”

“I have no idea,” Adam answered.  “Something that can swim around the world can be anywhere.”

“What does the fish do?”

“It mostly just swims around and puffs when threatened.”

Baker nodded.  “What does the protein do, Adam?”

“It suppresses the central nervous system.  Its use was popular in West Africa some centuries ago.  In the 1790s, slaves in Haiti used it to repel Napoleon’s forces by poisoning half of them and scaring the shit out of the other half.”

Baker closed his eyes.  “You heard about the junkie at the hospital, right?”

Adam shook his head.

“Man checks into Sacramento Medical Center, dies, and then comes back.  My guess is he was enjoying our product.”

Adam shifted on his cushion.  “What are you talking about?”

“Don’t you watch the news?”

“I do not.”

“A meth junkie OD’d.  He was declared dead, then he bolted awake in the morgue.”

Adam stared.  “Do you have anyone there who can help us?  I’d love to get a bloodscan or a toxicity report.”

Baker shook his head.  “No, but let’s just say it’s probably our product.  What do I do?  Who is doing this?”

“You gave me three samples,” Adam began.  “The first was from the SUBA kitchen, my old kitchen, where Fremont Wicket is now chief chemist.  That sample tests fine,  so Wicket is still cooking pure Candlestick methamphetamine.  The second sample was street product in Seattle, the third was street product in Oakland.  Oakland is fine; Seattle is cut.  What’s more, it’s really well cut.  Somebody used a centrifuge to introduce the additive components.  So whoever is doing this is well-trained.”

“Could Wicket be doing it?” Baker asked.

“How would I know?  Hard to see the point though.  Maybe you have a competitor who got into your internal Ops.”

Baker nodded.   He picked up five stacks of twenty dollar bills and tossed them to Adam.  “I appreciate your help,” he said.  “I’ll convey the substance of this conversation to Butcher.  He’ll be pleased that you helped out.”

“So I guess this is goodbye.”

“Yes.”  Baker folded himself into an awkward lotus position.  “Meditate well, Adam.  We must be mindful to think about our eternal souls.”


Written by williamdoonan

March 28, 2013 at 2:12 am

Posted in Fiction, MedicineLand

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