My pager had been screaming at me for two hours, and I couldn't ignore it any longer. I told Bekka I had to get to work, so we headed to my apartment, where I could switch to my car. I returned calls from my apartment and got an idea of amounts, picked up, weighed out, and began making deliveries. A pound of speed plus quite a bit of Ecstasy. I ended up playing a hunch and cleaning out Boss of all his MDMA: something told me it was going to go fast.... And I was right. My customers were increasing their amounts on the spot, especially when I told them I'd cleaned out my connection. (Sure, he'd be back in stock in 48 hours, but they didn't know that.) Five hundred hits turned into thirty-five in two and a half hours and I'd replenish everyone's high.
The doormen weren't completely stupid, only partially so.... I got sneering looks when I showed up, paid the door charge, and immediately began scanning the room, rattling six pills in my hand. I located Dutch, Ellen, and Tawny in a booth near the back. They must have been watching, because Chip and Bekka appeared from the dance floor, where they'd been irritating people by doing the Swim. I dropped the pills on the table and Tawny's handbag on top of the pills, then waved to the waitress for drinks. Various drinks appeared and pills were swallowed.
Then I realized how careless I'd gotten, especially with a minuscule amount like like a lousy six pills. I hadn't thought about the booth behind me.
Some sporto put his hand on my shoulder and said, "Duu-ude, you got 'X'?"
"No idea what you're talking about."
"C'mon dude, I just watched you hand out drugs to all your friends. I got cash, I can pay for a few hits."
"Oh! Those were just vitamin pills, so we don't get dehydrated dancing tonight."
"I took a Vicodin earlier, but it's probably well-digested. I can bring it up if you want me to." (This from Dutch, who'd been complaining of a headache so I'd given him one of mine.)
"Dude, you guys are so fucked! All I wanted was a couple hits of 'X' fer me and my girlfriend...."
"And jocko, you're an idiot, if you think that --- even if I had it --- I'd sell Ecstasy to a complete stranger in a public club, officer. Dutch, you bored here?."
"Pretty much, yeah. There's an industrial party downtown, wanna see if everyone's up for that? It's danceable and you and we will dig the music."
We passed the word around the table and dancing to industrial mixes sounded like a good plan to all involved.
I hadn't realized how drunk the jock was, or how short-tempered. As we walked past his booth he stood up, snarled "Fuckin' faggot!" at me, and punched me.
In the ribs.
On the right side.
The pain dropped me to my knees, it was like getting shot all over again. I was simultaneously disappointed and relieved Boss and Chet and the boys weren't there, they'd have literally put him through the nearest wall head-first. As it was, Dutch shouted, "Asshole, he's hurt!" and gave the jock a good shot to the face, and then the bouncers came charging up trying to figure out who to punch. They were considering Dutch, being the most punk rock looking person there, he was the prime target.... Until they got a good look at me. My stitches had opened up and I was bleeding, and more than a little.
Tawny stepped up and punched the jock, yelling, "Asshole! He's injured!"
"I didn't do that, I couldn't have!"
"So what did you punch him for!?"
"Because he ---- " And he wanted to finish the sentence, "....wouldn't share his Ecstasy with me!" but that would have caused a lot of grief for him, so he just sort of trailed off.
For my part, I was trying to figure out how to stand up. It was proving a difficulty; I could get up on one knee and attempt the second knee, but the pain was too severe. I motioned to Chip and Dutch and told them, "You're gonna have to lift me up, and I'm probably gonna scream when you do it. I figure if I can get my legs underneath me, I'll be able to straighten up on my own, lean on the table or something." Blood was soaking my shirts and pants, but it had to be done.
"Okay, on three. One, two,THREEEAAAAAAAGGHHH...." I started to black out, so I leaned on the table and waited for the floor to hold still.
"Shit! Dude! You okay?" Apparently I turned the same hue as copy paper when I straightened up, and was staying that way. There was some discussion of carrying me to the Falcon --- I wasn't going to even pretend I was able to drive --- which I was vehemently opposed to: the twisting and bouncing would have been torture. Using Chip and Dutch as crutches, I'd make it okay. Up the hill into Hillcrest to the ER entrance at UCSD Medical Center, and let them work their magic. (The jock and his girlfriend, meanwhile, had slid out the front door, with no one to stop them.)
I said to the bouncers, "If it's all right, I'd like to get a couple clean bar towels to pack my ribs." I lifted my shirt to show them what was going on; one said, "Oh shit," turned green, and sprinted for the bathrooms. Couldn't stand the sight of blood, I guess. I said, "Is that all right?"
"Are you sure you don't need an ambulance, sir?" asked the remaining bouncer.
"I've got a fast car and --- oww --- a good driver already here. It'll be quicker. Listen guys, who knows how long they'll hold on to me, so go ahead to that --- ow shit --- warehouse party, no sense in you waiting on me."
"That's bullshit Lenny, we ain't goin' dancing while you're laid up in the ER. I'm meeting you there. I'll bomb ahead and and let 'em know you're coming. With me, Tawny?"
"You bet, babe." The others concurred, with Ellen joking, "If we're desperate enough to dance, we'll fire up someone's car stereo and get it on in the parking lot!"
The bouncer brought the towels and, using Chip and Dutch as crutches, I slowly made my way into the parking lot, where Bekka already had the Falcon idling. Fortunately, the Falcon sat high enough that I was able to sit down and pivot into a normal position. As soon as Dutch saw me close the door, he turned the screws and shot towards Hillcrest, Bekka coming from behind, the others not even pretending they'd be able to keep up. Chip rather graciously piloted my Honda up to the UCSD lot, in the hopes I'd be driving myself home that night.
Each bump in the road was an orgy of pain: I'd forgotten that when riding in the ambulance in San Francisco, I'd been unconscious --- blissfully --- in back. That, and ambulances are built for a pretty cushy ride, Lincoln-smooth. The first half of the trip I was afraid I'd pass out, and the second half I was afraid I wouldn't.
We slid into the emergency entrance and Dutch, Tawny, and an EMT were already waiting. Dutch had apparently told them at the desk, "Blood gets your attention around here, right? Well, in about two or three minutes someone's gonna have your attention, so get all the fuckin' toys ready, my friend's showing up in a '64 Falcon, you'll hear him coming, and he's leakin' pretty bad." Tawny expanded, "He got shot a week ago, chunked up his ribs, hole in his lung, he had eighteen cross-over stitches and he just just blew most of 'em. He's leaking like a sieve, Sparky, rev up."
In their patented tone of voice, the guy at the desk said, "Unless he's choking or bleeding heavily, he'll be seen in order. Sorry, but it's how we do it here."
"Prepare to shift things around," said Tawny, hearing Bekka's tires squeal, "he's just arrived."
With a sigh, the triage nurse followed Dutch and Tawny out to the Falcon, pausing to tell Bekka, "You can't leave your car here, this is ambulance only." Then he walked around to my side, took one look, and ran for a wheelchair. My pants, my shirt, and both towels were pretty much wringing wet with blood, I was in less pain because I was greying out, and the triage guy got a second nurse to help lift me into the chair. I remember making a strange bleating noise from the pain, and blacked out when I hit the chair. I don't remember how they got me onto the gurney because I was unconscious, waking up to the sound of Dutch insisting he be allowed to stay with me....
"....Screw the rules, he's my friend, he's an awesome guy, I wanna be here for him. I ain't afraid of blood."
"Dutch," I croaked, "everyone else is gotta be here by now, I'll make sure they keep you knowin' what's up." I turned to the various scrubs-wearing personnel," Guys, I got some friends waiting on me outside. Keep 'em in the know, okay? Promise? They're my friends, the most righteously important people in my life. They aren't just buddies or pals, they're friends. Get me?
They promised to keep everyone informed, and Dutch and Tawny somewhat begrudgingly went out to the waiting room.... But not before I whispered the location of the drugs in Dutch's ear. Dutch said he doubted they'd need them, everyone was rolling from the Ecstasy good and strong still, but if it got to be four in the morning with no constructive news, a pick-up may be in order.... Although if it got to be that hour, everyone should have gone the hell home, they wouldn't miss anything they couldn't find out in the morning. "Seriously, there's nothing for you guys to do except sit around being bored. I'm sure they'll let me call----"
Shit. Boss. I promised him $3500 by midnight. I needed a phone, like now.
Much begging and pleading got me a access to a telephone, although I forget what I told them. I couldn't exactly say, "I promised my connection several thousand in cash by a certain hour, and I could be a repeat customer if he doesn't get it," so I think I said something about "my uncle" should be informed. They were less than amused at my insistence on privacy while I talked, and damn suspicious when I tried to get them to hold off on working on my until he showed up. They simply refused that request, so I begged them ninety seconds with Bekka. I whispered, "Boss is coming, he's got business in the stash box, just let him in," and promptly passed out.
Boss made it from outside Santee to Hillcrest in about fifteen minutes.... A highly illegal speed. It wasn't greed, either: to Boss, I was the brainy nephew he never had, all he knew was that I was in the ER, and that meant trouble. If I'd called and told him I was getting laid, he'd have laughed and told me to have the money by noon or so..
He put his custom soft-tail on the sidewalk next to Dutch's Ducati (the security guard having given up on getting Dutch to move his bike: "I'll move it when I know my friend is okay") strode in, and began damanding where his "nephew" was, a difficult task as he didn't actually know my last name, nor I his. Bekka stepped up next to him and said in her honey-sweet voice, "Boss baby, it's Bekka." His behavior did a one-eighty; he turned to her and smiled, saying, "Hey lil' girl, yer a sight fer sore eyes! Kin ya tell me what's goin' on, sugar?"
"We got some business, so we can walk and talk, big guy." They went out to the parking lot and got in the hidey-hole, where Boss counted out his money. I trusted Boss, Chet, and Gary implicitly to count out my money: I was worth too much to them for any thousand-dollar thievery.
Bekka explained how I'd been sucker-punched --- a blind shot, nobody could have stopped it, and the guy who did it pulled a powder while we were still trying to attend to Lenny. Anyone else delivering the news would have been witness to Boss yelling, swearing, and kicking holes in the fenders of cars. Not Bekka. She had a near soporific effect on Boss, her mere presence calming like a cat with cream. If I was his nephew, she was his niece, or something. She could calm him down in seconds.
"So where's this club, anyway?" asked Boss.
"It's this cheesy nightclub called Mony Mony's on Sports Arena Boulevard. If you were gonna look for the guy, he's long gone, he split while we were taking care of Lenny."
"Naw, just thought I'd see if anyone knows who he is, y'know?"
"Don't get in trouble, Boss sweetie." Boss fired up and headed out.
On the gurney, I was asked the usual questions.... I was greyed out and could talk without screaming too often, just an occasional shriek.
"Why did you get in a fight in your condition?"
"I didn't get in a fight, some guy punched me."
"Just out of the blue."
"That's --- oww --- right, officer."
"We're not trying to be cops, and we don't report to the cops. We just want a good grasp on what we're dealing with."
"Then you probably want to know about any recreational drugs I --- ow --- may have taken. That's assuming they won't get me landed in jail."
"They won't, we promise."
"You may find methyl-dioxy methamphetamine in my blood stream, consumed about ninety minutes ago."
"You look smart, I shouldn't have to give you the lecture about why that stuff is bad news."
"Personally, it's proven to be even worse --- ahh --- news to prevent rapes from happening in San Francisco. Somebody did explain why I'm bleeding so bad? When it stops hurting to breathe ---shit --- I'll tell you the whole story. Meantime, if you --- oww ---wanna grab the staple gun and close me up, that would be ow fuckin' peachy."
"You'll have to tell me. Meantime, we're waiting for the anesthesiologist so we can put you back together without you screaming. Tends to set the other patients off."
"Do me a favor in the meantime?"
"What's that sir?"
"Punch me in my wounded ribs. The pain will make me pass out and I won't hurt so much, y'know?"
Suddenly Dutch appeared in the doorway. "Dude, we were gonna make a run to Roberto's, you want anything?"
"Yeah. Gimme a chicken quesadilla with guacamole and green sauce on the side, and a Sprite...."
"None of which you can eat," said the guy in scrubs, "since you're about to have anesthesiology performed on you and we don't want you drowning in your own vomit. And how did you get in here?"
Dutch smiled and said, "I'm Peter fuckin' Pan! I flew in through the keyhole!" This only earned him a dirty look, so he explained, "Yer security dudes need more women in their lives. Between Ellen and Bekka flashing cleavage, I just waited 'till they were transfixed and waltzed on in. And I moved my motorcycle for you, we're dancing in the parking garage. So no food, huh?"
"Since our anesthesiologist just came in, no."
Nothing like lots of blood to get you moved to the front of the line at an ER. I'd stopped pouring blood, now it was just a heavy ooze, but they still needed to change out padding at a regular rate. The anesthesiologist gave me a series of shots along where the tear had occurred, and was muttering with the doctor about how to proceed. I was loopy as hell, either from shock or blood loss. The doctor asked me what happened.
"Well, I got shot in San Francisco about ten days ago.... Ten days? A week? Something like that.... And tonight some jock asshole punched me because ---- you won't tell, right?
"I won't tell."
He was pissed at me because I wouldn't share my drugs, but I didn't even have any drugs to share, and I wouldn't have anyway because giving away drugs even for free is an automatic bust, and--- "
"Are you on drugs right now?"
"Promise you're not just trying to bust me?"
"Only asking so we know how to proceed. We promise, no cops."
"Okay, I took methyl-dioxy methamphetamine a couple hours ago. Single dose, good quality."
"You took Ecstasy."
"That's the stuff!"
"You're aware how dangerous that can be...."
"Yes, had the lecture earlier This was very clean, as clean as you could possibly hope for, I trust the source."
"I'm still going to advise you to stop taking the stuff."
"And yet it wasn't the drugs that brought me mere, but some frat-boy asshole with booze in his system and a bad temper. If anything, lecturing me on avoiding alcohol would be the smart monkey move. Alcohol is what turns people into assholes, makes them dangerous and reckless. Get me? But we're not here to debate intoxicants. So what's going to happen?"
"Well, I hope you didn't have any plans on a modeling career, because we have to remove all the old stitches, or what's left of them, and replace them, plus cleaning the wound. And no more fighting."
I rolled my eyes. "I keep telling everyone, it wasn't a fight, it was me getting sucker-punched by some fraternity asshole. You can ask my friends --- ouch --- they're in the parking garage dancing."
"Your friends are in the garage."
"Yes. It's what we planned for the night, so why interrupt the good time? Ouch."
"Shall I ask about their current mental state? Should I bother?"
"Um. Nah. You'll hate the answer."