Sunday, January 1, 2017

Moving On

by Brian Joseph Johns

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.


This story is about a turnaround in the life of someone who by a great scare takes charge of their life and finds a new course. It involves mature issues and thus discretion is certainly advised.

“It’s been a year. A year to the day.” there was a long pause.

“I still think about it every now and then. Its hard not to.” another pause. “But then I just get busy, you know. Try to do something to take my mind off it.” she looked to the floor, and then back to the councillor whose face was painted with professional concern.

“It’s really hard you know.” she paused, tears welling up in her eyes like waves against a levy.

There was another long pause, the silence thickened the atmosphere and made it hard for her to breath as she sobbed.

“It’s ok.” said the councillor, in an attempt to alleviate the pressure.

“How do you think that you’re doing in this whole process?” asked the councillor, in a quiet voice, without pushing her too hard.

She reached for a tissue from a box on the table beside her and wiped her tears from her face, one streaming down the end of her nose where it fell to her lap.

“Good.” she replied, still looking down. “I’m doing good. Strong… you know and really good.” she paused looking at the councillor with all the composure she could muster. She struggled for a moment and the tears came again, a little harder this time. She cried for a few minutes, before she spoke again. She thought about the events that brought her here while councillor waited with patience.

“Measure progress by your own yardstick, no one else’s.” offered the councillor.

She wiped her eyes, grabbing another tissue.

Evelyn was already gone, deep in thought remembering her path, the one that lead to here and now.

She had been in counciling for a year, one of the grounds to her probation. This time, there seemed to be some real progress in her case. It had taken a long time to get to this point. A few false starts. A few attempts at fooling her councillors into thinking she was making progress. A few missed appointments. A run in with the police where she was picked up on breach of probation. Then one rainy night when she hadn’t made enough money for a hit, and she hadn’t had one for two days, she bottomed out. None of her supposed friends were there for her when she was hunched over a sewer grate, heaving her guts out from withdrawal sickness. None of her dealers, nor fellow addicts were there to carry her back to the stairwell that she had been crashing in for the last few nights. Her parents, who were on the other side of the country, had no idea that their daughter was hunched over a sewer grate, spewing bile from her guts as her body reeled from withdrawal. If they had known the severity of the situation, they would have been on the first flight out to the coast to get her and bring her home, although the distance that would have to be travelled to really get her, could not be measured in miles. Their world and hers were now as distant as the sun was from other stars. Nobody that mattered knew where she was or how she was doing. The people that did know were too busy with their own matters, which for the most part was looking for their own hit or next score. She had at that point moved from the point of being a person; somebody’s daughter, to being a statistic.

That night, she had slept in a shop doorway, where she managed to get a few hours of sleep, before the shop keeper had shown up and shewed her from the property. She had asked for some food, money or a bus token which the shop keeper wouldn’t give to her. Not because he was particularly cruel, but because in his experience, it was like feeding pidgeons. Another one would show up asking for handouts, and then another and so on. Besides, he paid taxes that were supposed to provide support for people in that situation. He understood what experience had taught him which was as much as he needed to know. She had told him to “go f#ck himself”, her street experience and withdrawal symptoms doing her thinking for her. She walked the short distance back to the neighborhood where most of the action was happening. Her thinking was that she might find something there from which she could get a hit. She did.

She made her way through alleyways to a valley behind a low income housing complex. The valley had long been a place where they would hang out for the day after they had made a few scores. It was empty when she had arrived, mostly due to the weather. She scoured the area for any “droppings” left behind from before the rain had hit oblivious to the stench in the air. She found a lot of empty baggies, some makeshift pipes, which were often pens, tiny perfume bottles or anything cylindrical and were generally easy to identify by their cracked ends and burn marks. She scoured a few for remnants, lighting one or two hoping for a free hit. She had no results in that matter. She came upon a large cardboard box, that had once housed a refridgerator, but was now flattened and spread out over an area. She grabbed one corner of the cardboard and flipped it over, hoping to find some forgotten leftovers protected under it. The dank waft hit her square in the face, making her keel over and gag like she had the night before. There lay a body, that judging by the stench, had been there for a few days, maybe a week. She fell to her knees, choking with nothing to regurgitate, her stomach completely empty. She lay curled in a fetal position for a long while, strained from the reflex cramps brought on by nausea. Ten minutes later, when she was able to catch her breath, she struggled to her feet, still coughing, a long strand of snot nearly stretching to the ground. She wiped her nose on her jacket, while getting the courage to examine the body. The body was face up, one arm at its side, the other bent at forty five degrees to the ground. The head, partially arched back as if in pain, was capped with a hat and the face was not one that she recognized. The eyes were partially opened and the greyed over like a film of wax. There was a bloody wound on the shoulder, and several others across the chest. The wounds had caked over days ago, and there was no trail or pool around the body. She estimated that the body was seven to ten days old, and was dragged to this location and hidden here under the cardboard within the last three days. She choked again and fell to her knees gagging and crying simultaneously.

She lay there unmoving for half an hour, unsure of what to do. It was when she thought of searching the body for a hit, that her old self intervened for the last time that it would have to.

“That’s enough. That’s it! I’ve had it. Get this crap out of me you f#cker.” she screamed, waling and crying again at an imaginary assailant. She lay on her side crying and then stood up in a rage, and kicked the body several times, screaming at it. The body didn’t respond with any answers or apologies, it merely lay still eminating the vile aroma of death. She stumbled back to the cardboard which she grabbed and flipped over onto the body. Careful not to take the same path, she climbed the hill up to the housing complex that would bring her out onto one of the main streets. She trembled all the way up the hill, still cursing some imaginary foe as she did. When she arrived in the parking lot, she was startled by two men getting out of their car. They wore dark suits and black trench coats and had cop written all over them. They approached her with professional calm.

“Excuse me m’aam. What were you doing down there?” one of them inquired, reaching into his jacket and producing a badge.

She instinctively closed up when she saw the badge and continued walking as if she didn’t hear.

“Hold it!” the badge holder exclaimed. “We need to ask you some questions.” spoken this time with full authority. He was at arms length from her, but he didn’t reach for her, and she didn’t run. She stopped, keeping her back to them, sobbing as she did. She thought about her father. She thought about calling him and asking him to come and take her away from this mess, like he used to when she was still his little girl. No matter what problems she would get into or what monsters would find her, he would always make it better, get her away to safety.

“I want to go home.” she said, sobbing. “I want my daddy.”. The man with the badge closest to her recognized it as infantile regression syndrome, brought on by the stress of the situation. It was a defense mechanism the mind had when it was overloaded by a situation too difficult to deal with.

“…We need you to come down to the presinct with us. We have to ask you some questions. Please don’t make this difficult for yourself. Follow our lead.” the officer said, pocketing his badge after he had presented it to her reaching for his cuffs.

After they notified her of her rights, the officers guided her carefully to the back of their car and cuffed her. They did this for her protection, which was unapparent to her. They got into the car. The driver stated that no one was going to hurt her and talked calmly to her while the passenger radioed to base giving a report which was mostly given in code. The car sat for a short period of time, and the sound of sirens could be heard approaching from the distance. As the first car arrived, a police cruiser, the passenger got out and approached it, giving instructions to the occupants. They got out and proceeded to the trunk, retrieving a tool box and then heading down into the valley. Other cruisers approached, followed by a van marked Forensics Unit. An ambulance even pulled into the now crowded parking lot. Residents in the town homes, peered from drawn curtains into the scene unfolding. The officer in the passenger’s seat stepped out of the car, presented a badge and barked orders to a few more of the other officers, and they quickly got themselves organized and into the valley. The passenger returned to the car, and it pulled out, driving over a curb and down a sidewalk in the complex in order to make it around the ensemble of cars in the parking lot.

She had fallen asleep in the back of the car, completely exhausted and well beyond the hysteria of the situation. She dreamt that the body that she discovered had spoken to her, still dead, its breath stinking and a coldness that no warmth could find. It told her that it had been there a short time, and that it was bored and wanted some company. She tried to run from it only to find herself back on the street throwing up where she had the night before. The shop keeper completely ignored her this time while opening the store. She sat there in front of it while everyone using the shop was completely oblivious to her existence. One by one, patrons entered the store, and left again passing her without the slightest regard. The only person that did pay her any attention was the body, that had hobbled down the street to the store, waving at her. It entered the store, greeting her as it did. It came out again with a bag of goods, and handed her some change and a bus token, waving to her as it stumbled back down the street.

She woke up with a start as the car pulled into the presinct parking lot. The car parked, the officers got out and proceeded to the rear doors to retrieve the girl. They escorted her into the building and once inside, removed the cuffs. They escorted her to what looked like an interrogation room in an effort to keep her hidden and sat her on one of the chairs. One of the officers left while the other took the chair opposite her. He withdrew a pen and pad from his jacket and thumbed through its pages until he found what he was looking for.

“Alright honey. I need you to give me your name.” he spoke softly, in a fatherly like manner. She sat motionless for a minute, then shifted her weight in the chair.

“Could I have something to eat?” she asked.

“Let me get your name first, and then we’ll get you something to eat. Sounds like a good deal to me.” he inquired, a sincere smile crossing his face.

She paused a moment before replying: “Evelyn Sonnet”. She eyed him coyly, waiting for the other end of the bargain to materialize.

“Evelyn. That’s a pretty name.” he finished writing in his book. He put the pen inside the pad and then both into his jacket.

“I’m Detective Grady. But you can call me Dan. Now I‘ve got a deal to keep if you‘d excuse me.” he said, winking as he got up.

She acknowledged with a nod.

“If you need anything while I’m gone. Just push this button and someone will be with you.” he indicated a button on the table.

“Just like a fancy hotel?” she asked.

“Just like home for now.” he replied.

“Do me a favour and don’t touch anything except the button while I’m gone.” he said firmly but still bearing a friendly smile.

She nodded again.

He left the room, the door closing behind him.

She waited in the room for about twenty minutes. Again she lay her head on her arms on the table and slept. She didn’t dream this time.

Twenty five minutes had gone by when Dan opened the door bearing a restaurant takeout baggie in one hand, a hot drink in the other and a file folder pressed under his arm.

“I hope you don’t mind burgers.” he placed the bag on her end of the table and the file folder on his end and sat down taking the lid from the cup and cooling it before taking a sip.

She turned the bag over, dumping the contents out onto the table. Two burgers in wrapping hit the surface of the table, followed by a box with onion rings, and a can of juice. She quickly devoured the burgers, washing them down with the juice. Detective Grady browsed through the file, stopping briefly to read a paper here and there, bundling it back up into the folder and tapping it on the table when he was done.

She placed the empty can on the table.

“Ok. Now we’ve got to talk. Except I want you to do more of the talking. If you don’t want to answer anything, or you don’t feel safe or comfortable, I want you to put your fingers on your left ear lobe and wiggle your hand a little. I‘m going to ask you some questions for a while. It‘s going to take a bit of time, but we‘ll take a break if you need to. Do you understand?” he looked at her, this time his expression was one of dead seriousness. Not a threatening manner, just one of illustrating the importance of this session.

Feeling much better than she had before she ate, she agreed.

He opened the file, leafing through a couple of pages, then finding the one he wanted, he started, seemingly unrehearsed.

“Now I know that you’re pretty smart, Evelyn. Smart enough to attent University. Smart enough to attend the forensics program there. Why‘d you leave?” asked the Detective.

“I dropped out.” she said blandly, almost like it was a painful memory that had lost its sting over time.

“You dropped out.” he said, mocking her, perhaps purposely. He frowned looking at the file and shaking his head in a forced sense of shame.

She sat quietly, hoping that the kind fatherly man that brought her here wasn’t an illusion.

Still looking at her file, he posed another question.

“What have you been doing in the time since you dropped out?” asking though he already knew.

“I don’t know. I do whatever. Whatever I need to do.” she said defensively, looking visibly agitated.

“And what is that? How have you been getting by?” he asked again, a bit more gruffness in his voice.

Her bottom lip started to tremble.

“I don’t know.” the tears streamed down her face. “I don’t know.”

“That’s not what it says here. Do we have the right person? Is this mistaken identity?” he asked, a little more sarchasm apparent in his voice.

“I’m Evelyn Sonnet! I told you already!” she screamed, tears flowing.

“We‘ve got that part right. That‘s good. That‘s a start. So is what we have here right?” he asked, this time drawing back.

“I was a… I was a…” she caught her breath coughing and sobbing.

The Detective turned to the camera in the corner, and made a gesture with his hand over his nose.

A moment later there was a tap on the door, and it opened, a man appearing with a fresh box of tissue. He placed it on the table and left the room, the door clanging behind him.

The Detective gestured to the box, trying not to lose their momentum.

She ripped it open indiscriminately and tore out a handful of tissue, blowing her nose furiously into it. She threw that on the ground at him, then drew another handful and wiped her eyes, rolling it into a ball in her hand.

“How did you know him?” he continued, looking her square in the eyes.

“…I …he didn’t… I didn’t know him.” she answered, caught completely off guard by the question. She remembered her dream about him and started shaking.

“He didn’t know you, or you didn’t know him? Which one is it?!!!” he asked without breaking stride.

“We didn’t know each other you f#cking @sshole!!!” she screamed at him, throwing the ball of tissue at him. She curled up in a ball on the chair, sobbing to herself, mumbling curses under her breath.

He watched her unblinkingly for a moment. The sternness in his face never leaving for a moment.

“So he wasn’t your dealer? Who was?” he continued, keeping the pressure on.

“What the f#ck are you talking about?” she asked in an attempt to turn the tables.

“Where‘s that University education gone? Is that kind of language part of the English Lit. course?” he countered.

She paused for a moment, then started giggling, a little at first, then uncontrollably. She had remembered a lecture that she had attended titled: For Use in Carnal Knowledge, Our Favourite Four Letter Word. It was a highly controversial lecture at the time, which discussed the history of one of the most popular four letter words and the place of such words in the evolution of language. There she had learnt that the word, was the second most common last word for the dying, preceded by another four letter word that began with s and ended with t. Local partisan groups attacked the school and the lecturer for holding such a class. It divided the lecture circuit for a short time as well. Oddly enough, she had never used that word, either growing up, nor in school, not even after that lecture. She had gained her colourful use of language as a degree in street life, long after she had dropped out of school.

She continued to giggle.

“So do you think our John Doe used the second most common word, or the most common word when he died?” he said, in an almost uncanny feat of ESP (Easily Spoofed Psychology as they called it in homicide division).

“You certainly know your stuff. Is that in your file?” she asked, feeling like she had wrested some control of the situation from him and feeling less afraid.

“So what’s our John Doe’s name?” he continued, unwavering from his line of questioning, not even a hint of a smile on his face.

“Whaa? I don’t know. We didn’t know each other.” she answered, this time keeping her emotions in tact.

“Who knew him?” he asked, firmly planting the question as he intended.

“Nobody knew him. I‘ve never seen him before.” she answered.

“Who is nobody?” he shot back, still keeping his focus.

“What? No one. I’ve never seen him around the streets before.” she continued, unsure of where he was leading her now, which she knew he was doing.

“You‘ve been on the streets a while. Who do you know?” he asked, glancing to his file, and picking a particular page that he had marked with a piece of tape.

“There‘s different people all the time. You never see the same person twice.” she replied confidently.

“So our John Doe could have been anyone of them?” he raised an eyebrow, like he had admitted her into the Detective’s club.

“I didn’t say that.” she replied, trying to keep her cool.

“How good is your memory? How good is it after you’ve had a hit?” he asked, lowering his eyebrow, and the gate to the Detective’s club.

“What do you mean?” she asked, mustering up a practiced expression of bewilderment.

“Who can you remember? How are you at remembering faces? Are you one of those people who can remember equally well, whether you’ve had a hit or not?” he asked again, looking down the page at a list of items as far as she could tell.

“I can’t remember nothing.” she lied, exaggerating her ignorance.

“But you can remember something?” he countered, flipping the coin to the other side.

“What about him?” he pulled a couple of manila envelopes and held up a file photo for her to see.

“What about him.” she answered, neither confirming nor denying her knowledge of the man in the picture.

He placed the picture back in the envelope and withdrew another.

“And her?” holding the new picture up.

“I don’t know. Who is she?” she asked, trying to get some information out of him.

He replaced the picture in it’s envelope and pulled another.

“So you know him then.” holding up the photo.

She sat quietly looking at the photo.

He withdrew the photo, putting it away. He grabbed another.

“You must know her. C’mon. Everybody knows her.” he said, getting friendly again.

She stared at the photo trembling, afraid of betraying her friend.

“Just one big happy family, aren’t you? Looking out for each other like a family should.” he smiled again.

She thought about her withdrawal the night before, throwing up nothing but bile. Nobody there to rescue her. Not even her sworn street family. She gagged at the thought but remained quiet, looking around quizzically, catching herself before she did. You could be sure as jack the bear that that they would have been there if she had a score with her. Everyone and their friends would have, with their pens and other makeshift pipes and gone again when the stash was done.

“Just one more, for you to look at.” he put the previous picture away and pulled a last one from the file. He held it up like the trump card.

She looked at it, visibly perturbed by this latest picture. She said nothing.

“I thought so.” he put the final picture in it’s envelope.

She wasn’t sure if he was satisfied with the results of the questioning or not. She just sat quietly, nibbling on the remaining onion rings one at a time.

He put the file together piece by piece, closing it when he was content that it was orderly.

His face had relaxed a little since the questioning. He then showed what looked to be a little disappointment. He drew his hand to his face and rubbed it.

“That’s it, we’re done here.” he said, sounding disappointed.

She sat still, feeling strangly energized by his disappointment.

“Do you have a place to go? A home?” he asked, visibly hoping she would say yes.

“Yes I do. At Credit Street.” she replied, a bit more relaxed about her lie.

“You mean the group home there? Or one of the other houses there?” he asked. The other houses there were low cost rooming houses commonly rented to dealers and addicts. The group home had some semblance of stability and a great program but being so closely situated to the source of most of the problems, left its residents as prey to the regulars living in the loop as some had called it. In one door, out the other and on to the next. The Credit Street tour.

“One of the houses there, I’ve got a room.” she lied again.

There was no way for him to phone and verify this, none of the homes had phones. It was cellular all the way for everyone. No way to track down the home owners either. That was a futile piece of work in itself. A chain of subletting that often saw forclosures by the bank on Credit Street houses, pushing the mortgage and tenancy insurance through the roof. These houses were all investment and no return, unless you had something to sell.

He had been through this before, a number of times. Enough to know that the time invested following leads in that mess rarely resulted in case closing evidence or information. The return on investment for an investigator following leads on Credit Street faces similar risk to those seeking a mortgage there. All investment, no return.

He also knew that it was a pit for the addicts who ended up there. If she left here and took up living there she would be done for, despite the precautions they’d taken to conceal her. She’d die an addict. No more daddy’s little daughter, just another statistic among statistics. The problem lay in the fact that there were so many daddy’s little daughters in that kind of a mess, tucked away on a street that no one ever saw, that nobody knew about these people. Some of the daddy’s had been addicts themselves, passing on their family legacy to their offspring in another one of life’s cruel ironies. A lot of them poor, and nobody to pull any strings and rescue their daughter’s (or sons) from the Credit Street tour. Then there were those who were satisfied with how things were, and didn’t want it to change. They were the most dangerous to those who could be liberated from this social disaster. Everyone there was at one time was a “daddy’s little girl or boy”. The real injustice the Detective knew, was the people who got caught in the trap, and wanted to leave but couldn’t.A whole economy had evolved to support this little mess. A system of dropping people to the depths of it's pit. A system of hiding people and keeping them hidden. People on the run from the law, the bank, creditors, loan sharks you name it, they were concealed there somewhere. A system of keeping anyone who had something that could be stolen or syphened from them, like a talent or an ability were kept there, often unknowingly against their will, while others around them would take credit and notoriety for their efforts, even pretending to be them. There was even an addiction for some to the theft of the notoriety of others. Thieves of a kind that the rest of society didn‘t even have a name for. Some had the choice, some didn’t and some didn’t want the choice at all, or change for that matter. All of this created a market for girls and hard drugs. Anything that somebody needed to escape for a time and a price. As rare as they were amongst all of this, there were still diamonds in the rough.

This rested heavily on the Detective’s shoulders every time he had to question someone from that walk of life. He rarely did, for him to speak with the people from that walk of life was a risk to theirs. There were some who knew of Detective Grady. There were some that wouldn’t take too kindly to anyone who associated with him even if no information had changed hands. He thought carefully before he got up and left the room.

“Look, I need you to stay right here for a while, maybe an hour while I look into some things.” he said, deadly serious.

“I’m going to have them bring a bench in here for you to crash on for the time being. It doesn’t look like much, but I’ve slept on it before and its more comfortable than it looks.” he winked and nodded to her before leaving.

She sat in the chair for ten minutes until two big men each with empty service holsters and badges affixed to their service webbing, carrying a wooden bench, with some makeshift bedding and a pillow on it for her.

She thanked the men, one of them joking:

“Don’t ask for a bedtime story.” They both laughed as they left.

The room was surprisingly quiet, while the offices outside were bustling with activity. A few regulars from Credit Street were now in some of the questioning rooms. They were receiving a similar questioning to the one experienced by Evelyn earlier. Detective Grady’s partner; Detective Adner was doing the questioning. While this was going on, Grady was simultaneously piecing together the newly gathered information. He was balancing this with trying to find arrangements for Evelyn, that wouldn’t bring her back into that environment. He had called a couple of contacts he had in the social system and grilled them while he organized the file for the current murder case. He was aggressive enough on the phone, but not in a manner that was intimidating to the social workers he spoke with. Eventually he found an enticing prospect, but it would come with a few strings attached that would require a few commitments from Evelyn.

She slept soundly on the bench in one of the questioning rooms for more than two hours. They were sound proofed so the Detectives could avoid crosstalk between them, that is one questioning room being audible from another. Detective Grady knocked twice, then quietly entered the room, waking Evelyn from her slumber. He was carrying a cup ‘o joe for her. She rubbed her eyes and leaned up, accepting the cup, slowly sipping it.

“Ok. Here’s the scoop. Now this is going to take a commitment from you, a big commitment. This is the chance to turn your life around” he said, looking at her with urgency.

He continued:

“We’re not going to run this through the system, so you won’t be nailed with a breach of probation, but you will have to agree to these conditions.”

She sipped from the cup and nodded.

“Ok, you have to agree to take part in a program, a rehabilitation program, geared to recovering addicts who fall within certain guidelines, that you fit into nicely. They have a very strict policy, so no room for messing up. That means no leaving the property for any reason, no substances, none whatsoever. You have to attend their therapy program which consists of sixty hours of one on one sessions and thirty hours of group sessions over the course of a year. You will be required to participate in daily chores, that will be agreed upon in advance by you and the management. You have to be in bed by a certain time, and wake up at a certain time every day. Your weekends are a little more relaxed but you still have responsibilities like your chores. They’ll explain it in more detail once you arrive. If you agree to this, you have to promise me that you will give it your best shot at succeeding in this. Don’t get tricked by the same kind of people that tricked you out of your education and your life so far. They don’t give a hoot about you in the least. I think that you know that now. They’re friends when you have a score and scarce when you don’t. You don’t need people like that in your life. You have to be strong enough to make your own decisions in the face of those influences though, or you’ll relapse. Am I getting through to you?” he stopped, staring intensely waiting for an answer from her.

She looked at him for a long time before she answered.

“I can do that. I can make it for that long and longer.” she answered, nodding her head.

“I know you can. You’ve just got to prove it, to yourself.” he responded, hoping that it was getting through.

“Stay here for a moment. I’ll be back in a minute, then we’ll get going. Oh yeah. No, and I mean none. No more trips to Credit Street, ever. You got it?” he asked again, fixedly and firmly.

“No more trips to Credit Street. None.” she nodded again affirmatively.

He turned to the door, left and returned a short time later. She signed a couple of papers, while he retrieved his gun and his badge from the Duty Officer, and they left the building, returning to the car that had brought them there earlier this morning. It was two in the afternoon, the sun was still hidden behind a bank of clouds, but the rain had stopped. They pulled out and started the trip to her new home.

Leaving the downtown core was both a relief and saddening at the same time. She had come to this city for her education when she was twenty and dropped out when she was twenty three. She had two more years to finish her degree and with the grades and momentum she had built up, she was well on her way to a Post Honours Degree. That was when the stress had started to get to her, and she had experienced a decline in her grades. She had been trying to balance a social life, with an academic life and before long, the balance had been exceeded. Her partying had started to chip away at her grades, and it wasn’t until her midterm report that she had noticed the decline. By that time it was too late. She was regularly missing classes, staying out with her new friends. Their lives seemed a lot riskier than the one that she came from. The people seemed more dangerous and mysterious. They definitely were dangerous, and they were playing her like a toy. To them she was a prize trophy. She was a symbol of a middle class family that had no idea of what really happened at the street level. Some of the guys would even joke about how they were able to manipulate her despite her education with her daddy’s money. To some it just fun to mess with an upper class woman, who was really more middle class, with parents who had worked hard to end up relatively mortgage free near their retirement age. Welcome to the jungle. These friends had known her for one twenty-fifth of the time that her family had known her. In that time they had been able to undo what twenty years of child rearing, guidance, nurturing, schooling, and tender loving care had made her into, a beautiful and intelligent woman who was career motivated and looked forward to a long happy and productive life. Some of her new found friends tried to warn her. One of them, who was wise and compassionate beyond his years, even tried to scare her away from that circle of people by staging a brawl at a party and pulling a fake gun during the altercation.

In the end, her grades and attendance continued to decline. It was around that time that she got her first score and had her first hit. It was from her fourth hit, that she could be considered hooked. It wasn’t long before her entire part-time income was spent paying for her habit, and her school attendance and tuition took a back seat. Everything took a back seat in the end. Her family, her lifestyle, her belongings and her housing. It took only a year for her to go from honor’s grades to her first tour on Credit Street. Her years in the loop were mostly a blur, probably her subconscious’ attempt to shield her, but she could recall every detail if she needed to. Lacy, one of her best friends on her tour through the loop, had grown up near it. A pretty girl, from a poor family, that was perhaps unable to recognize their daughter’s talent or were pragmatized enough to undermine its value. None of that was their fault, nor anyone’s for that matter, she was a casualty just like Evelyn, each from different sides of the street. Lacy was a savant, though she rarely spoke of her life at home, or of her ability. People who knew that of her became threatened by her, and often treated her differently. This was the case from a young age. Often shunned by others on the basis of her exceptional ability. This ultimately played a factor in her plight, much to the disappointment of her school teachers. In the end, she found solace amongst friends who she feared would have cast her out if they knew of her ability. For the most part, few were really her friends. Just like with Evelyn, they were friends when you scored and scarce when you didn’t. Evelyn and Lacy had bonded as friends from the get go. Lacy, who was more withdrawn than Evelyn, had been Evelyn’s guide and protector through the Credit Street tour. Lacy had a tinier frame than most, but her intuition was almost always dead on. That afforded her a lot of forewarning when a situation was about to go bad. She had rescued Evelyn from many such situations before the risk of harm became material.

She ultimately became separated from Evelyn and had lost contact with her. Evelyn had been saddened being unable to find her friend but too deeply into the Credit Street life to tear herself free to find her. The streets went by through the window of the cruiser just as the years had passed on Credit Street. One night on Credit Street, she had been without a hit for a couple of hours, and thought she would go out on a scavenging tour. One thing that the addiction afforded her was the ability to spot a pipe or a enough for a hit, in virtually any terrain, indoors or out. She had been crossing the non-existent lawns of each house on the street, examining with a thoroughness that would have given Sherlock Holmes the willies. She stumbled through the dark area then through those exposed by street lamps in hope of finding something. She got to one house that was nearly always dark, that nobody ever hung around. She had never seen anyone venture onto the property to her best recollection. This seemed like a good motivation to search the grounds for hit. She anticipated that she would find plenty. The house appeared just like all of the other houses on Credit Street, unkept lawn, siding in need of repairs, parts needing to be stripped and painted. No cigarette butts though. None. She stepped onto the lawn and started her search. As she got closer to the veranda, a bright motion sensing light exposed her effort. A moment later a curtain was drawn back, and in that moment someone had outright tackled Evelyn throwing her from the illumination of the motion sensing light’s beam and onto a dark patch of tall grass.

“You never, ever go on that property. Never!” Pugs exclaimed in a whisper, his eyes wide with urgency.

Evelyn kept her head down, nodding to Pugs in acknowledgement. Pugs was another local from Credit Street. He had kept free of the scourge of addiction but was often a runner for some of the local “businesses”, and sometime acted as a fence.

He released his grip on Evelyn when the curtain closed again, both quietly crawling a couple properties down to be sure.

“That’s a no no house. No one ever goes there. Don’t be asking why either.” Pugs continued, more calm this time.

Evelyn nodded again, adding a salute. Still thoroughly curious about the house, she left Pugs and continued her search on the other side of the street. Pugs never ventured onto that property, but he did get a glimpse of some of the residents. Some would come in with crates about once every few months, some would leave with a trunk, hauling it into a van, and every so often, to a dumpster, where it would be picked up by another shady fellow in a van. He never told anyone what he saw. He knew that it was big trouble to mess with that place. He never mentioned to any of the others what had happened six years ago, when Credit Street had experienced it’s eighth “changing of the hands”, those who held the mortgages to most of the houses on the street had “transferred” their mortgages to new owners, who were sometimes the same owners with different names. Pugs had known enough from experience that this was a time to remain neutral and very cautious. Of course there were those on the street who resisted that change. There were many evictions, and one of the particularly hot tempered and dangerous dealers was the target of one such eviction. Tripper as he was called, was known for his brash disregard for others and was only concerned with the almighty buck and his own reputation. He was small time in the scheme of things except that he had often bragged to some of the runners that he was going to own the show here someday. In the summer, he could be found pistol whipping anyone who might pose a risk to his pecking order. During the power change he had even approached the unapproachable house, and started screaming at it. Telling the house that it was him who was running the show. The house remained silent as it always did. No curtains were drawn to glimpse Tripper in his attempt to usurp the Credit Street power. Nobody came out of the house to challenge his declaration. He assumed that because there was no answer, that it was him who was really running the show. He was gone from Credit Street a week later. Completely disappeared without a trace. Anyone who knew what happened would never talk about it for the rest of their life. For many of them, that was less time than they had hoped for.

Evelyn had always stayed clear of Tripper. Always brash and foul mouthed, she knew he was trouble from the first time she had seen him. If she had ever needed anything from him, she would get someone else to do the purchase for her.

Evelyn coiled at the thought that these memories were going to be with her for the remainder of her life and that they somehow had to be integrated with whatever lifestyle that she eventually sought for herself. That was the biggest hurdle and the hardest part. They were a part of her now. Her family had to accept that. Her friends had to accept that. She had to accept that. That would be the case while she tried to make new ones. She suddenly remembered her first bicycle. She sat precariously balanced on the bicycle, toes barely touching the ground, her father pushing her and encouraging her at the same time, her mother cheering her on from the lawn. She rode ten feet in a straight line and then careened over on her side, crashing to the ground. She clasped her knee, wailing in pain, her father running to get her. He and her mother had consoled her and encouraged her, but she was afraid to get on the bike again after that. That bike sat in the garage, unused except for that first ride, as it still did now. She was still afraid.

They took the exit ramp out to Tenth Street, and drove for a few miles, where they turned onto Camridge Drive. They pulled up to a large building, and parked in the lot. He got out and let her out of the back seat. They ventured into the building together. Detective Grady asked her how she felt. Shaky, was her reply. He smiled, walking a little shakily in play. She smiled back. Detective Grady brought her to the admission desk, the interior resemling a school, but a much warmer setting. A comfortably dressed elderly lady stepped up to the counter.

“What can I do for you?” although she already had an idea.

“I’m the custodian of this lady. We‘re here to get her into the program.” he announced to the lady at the counter.

“Ok. I’ll need a few signatures from you for the transfer of custody.” she said walking to her desk, where she had already prepared the necessary forms.

He signed the forms, then produced a set of his own that needed her signatures. She signed in the like and he thanked her.

“Why don’t you take over from here? This is your life you know.” Detective Grady said looking to Evelyn.

“You do good, you hear? Do good for you. When you do, you‘re doing good for everybody.” Detective Grady offered a hand to her. She accepted it, shaking it as firmly as she could. He winked again and left the building.

Evelyn watched as he left, her eyes tearing up a little. She turned to the lady at the counter and introduced herself.

“I’m Evelyn Sonnet. I’m here to take part in your rehabilitation program.” she stood confidently before the lady. For the first time in a long time, she did feel like she was in charge of her life.

© Copyright 2011 Brian Joseph Johns

No comments:

Post a Comment