This links back to all the stories.
When the Apocalypse comes, it’s going to look twice as pretty in L.A. That’s the way Chet figures it. The smoke from the September brush fires have commingled with the smog and the setting sun, to make the most amazing collage of red, pink, gray, and…what’s the word?
Dennis moans, “Where’s my lucky vein?” as he flicks his left arm hard with his right middle-finger. “Are you sure you don’t wanna go first, Chet?”
“Ha. No, it’s your money, your stuff and your rigs. You get dibs.”
Dennis finds the well-worn vein and inserts the needle perfectly, in a manner that would make a hematologist envious. The plunger goes down and Dennis goes up, seeking the troposphere and beyond.
Red, pink, gray, and…damn it, what’s that word? Chet went out with a girl whose name was the same as the color. “Mauve,” that’s it. Chet digs Dennis, a bit of bonhomie, good company, and plenty of China White. Denny is a trust fund brat and as everyone around the way says about Dennis, “you can’t spell ‘trust fund brat’ without ‘r-a-t.’”
Still, Chet knows better. All junkies are self-centered assholes, only they are too spaced out to notice it. His friend may be moody to the point of psychotic episode every other hour, but he sure as hell doesn’t steal or screw you for your share when you pitch in for a buy. Jesus, he even paid for this posh hotel room off of Sunset Boulevard. Nothing is better than get your fix on without having to worry about being rolled or killed while you are floating.
“Hey, Chet? You and me are cool, right? We’re tight, yeah?”
“Better than brothers, better than family.”
“So, if the shit hits the fan and we got front row seats, can I count on you?”
“I'm down for whatever, Denny.”
“That’s all I wanna know, man,” Dennis says with a smile. He rises as best as he can, considering his condition. He reaches into an armoire drawer, pulls out a 9mm, and chambers a round. The next fifteen seconds seem like an eternity, as Chet tries to extricate the pistol from his unsteady volatile companion.
“Chill out, man, I was trying to give it to you.”
“Okay, it’s okay, Dennis.”
“No…it’s not okay. They are after me, I can feel it.”
“No one is after you, that’s the stuff talking.”
“No, it’s not the drugs, they really are after me. You’ve known me only for six months. It’s time for them to take me away…and if they do? I won’t survive, man. The things that they do to me? It’s crap that even the CIA would frown upon, guy. I’d rather be water boarded with my nuts attached to four car batteries. I…you don’t, you don’t wanna know. Truly, man, truly.”
Dennis turns even paler, which is quite an accomplishment considering he is already as close to a cadaver as humanly possible.
“All right, man, what do you want me to do?”
“You put three in me…don’t let them take me alive. What they have planned for me is far worse than dying slowly from a gut-shot wound.”
Dennis weeps and Chet embraces him, and nods. “You got it.”
Not that far away, the old man sits down at the front of The Ivy Restaurant. He has on an Edwardian suit, replete with a cane and white gloves. The thin black man across from him peeks out from under his sunglasses and mentally muses that all his elderly counterpart is missing is the ascot. But it’s too hot for ascots, and for perfunctory bullshit.
“Mister Minter, I presume. You can call me ‘Cryptic.’” He offers a handshake, but the old man refuses.
“If we are to do business, I will know your proper…”
“No, Mister Minter. The less we know about each other, the less that can be used as leverage against us by the law. Do you know where he is?”
“He’s at a boutique hotel off of Sunset.”
“Well, then by all means, give me the envelope under the table.”
Mister Minter discretely hands it to him and Cryptic takes the money, and fans it. He runs a counterfeit marker across them, and then tucks the money in his jacket.
“We’ll take my vehicle, Mister Minter.”
“Hold on,” Mister Minter says as he takes off his gloves to reveal burned hands. “Be forewarned, he can be resourceful.”
“So can I, Sir, so can I.”
Chet is happy. He’s forgotten Dennis’s troubles and he’s found his own happy niche. They are both passing up the stratosphere and orbiting with the satellites, zero gravity. The door swings open with a thump and a bang. There’s a thin black man with a shaved head pushing a laundry cart. It’s Cryptic and he has on a bellhop uniform, but no bellboy moves with that kind of speed and determination.
Chet rises as if he’s been jolted by defibrillator paddles. He stands up to the oncoming challenge and he panics, because he can’t remember where the gun is…until he realizes that it is in his hand. He points it at Cryptic and pulls the trigger.
Only there is no trigger to pull. The gun is out of his hand and pain shoots through Chet’s now-broken wrist. He tumbles to the ground in agony, and that agony is doubled as he hears his friend’s ear-piercing scream.
“Don’t let them do it, Chet! Don’t let them do it! Kill me, Chet, fuckin’ kill me! I would do the same for you, end it! Fucking end it!”
Chet crawls towards the pistol, only to have Cryptic kick it away. He is rewarded for his efforts with a stomp to his left hand. Cryptic picks Dennis up and body-slams him into the laundry cart. Chet lies on the floor, helpless and in pain. His friend is carted out into the hall and he can hear one last cry, “Fucking kill me, Chet. Don’t let them put me in rehab. Not fucking rehab!”