GODS & MONSTERS: MYTHBREAKER
by Stephen Blackmoore
AFTER YEARS of doing everything from smoking crushed-up Quaaludes in a Skid Row homeless camp to snorting cocaine with Miami “businessmen,” Fitz has come to one inescapable conclusion.
Getting high is a huge pain in the ass.
You’d think it wouldn’t be that hard. Doesn’t matter if it’s pot, opium, ecstasy or Viagra; it all works the same way. You take a thing, and put it in your body. It goes up your nose, or down your mouth, in a vein, up your butt. Simple, right? But no.
People, man. Fucking people. Got to make everything complicated. Pipes, domes, vaporizers, spoons, butane torches, screens, papers, irons, ash catchers, straws, grinders, nails, syringes, chillums, hookahs, clips, masks.
Not that that’s ever stopped him, of course. Whether he’s popping prescription anti-psychotics or doing opium out of a glass pipe, it’s all worth it. To keep the voices out of his head.
“Gimme a hit,” Marty says. He leans into him on the bed, wraps his leg around Fitz’s own. They fucked the sheets off the mattress an hour ago, their clothes scattered across the floor.
Or is it Matty? Marvin? Fitz can’t remember. That’s fine. He’ll be gone by morning, and he’ll never see him again. Dark brown hair, thin to the point of ribs showing, eyes a shade of green that makes Fitz think of the ocean. He’ll remember those eyes, even if he never remembers his name.
Fitz passes him the pipe, runs the lighter underneath until the dab of opium dissolves into a little dark pool. Marvin sucks down the vapor, holding it in for a moment and then blowing it out through his nostrils.
“Oh, I like that,” Matty-Maybe-Marvin says.
Last week there was a girl. Patty? Pamela? He did a lot of coke with her. And the week before was a couple of Mormon missionaries who weren’t quite as devout as their nice white shirts and straight black ties would suggest.
“It’s good, isn’t it?” Fitz takes the pipe from him, packs another dot of opium into it and lights up. He sucks in the vapor and his mind goes still.
If it didn’t, there wouldn’t be much point. He’s not in it for the high. He’s in it for the way it shuts his brain up. All the backchatter and noise. Like being in a crowded bar. And the sights. Images that crowd out his own vision, sometimes; make it hard to tell what’s real and what isn’t.
A mix of anti-psychotics and benzos does the trick most of the time, shuts things up enough where he can function. But sometimes it gets too much. Everything’s too loud, too bright, too everything. And that’s when he goes out, gets himself a nice little brown ball of pure joy and a twink like Matty here and spends the weekend in a hotel room getting fucked up and sucked off.
“I’ve never tried it before,” Marty says. Dammit, maybe it’s Michael? “It’s... different. What’s the craziest stuff you’ve ever tried?”
“Toads,” Fitz says, his voice hazy like smoke.
“Bufo alvarius,” he says. “Colorado river toad. They secrete a toxin on their backs that’s like doing acid. It’ll really fuck you up.”
“So, like, you suck the toad?”
“No. God, no. Eew. They taste nasty,” Fitz says, remembering when he’d heard about the toads and tried exactly that. “You squeeze it. And when it starts to secrete the toxin you slap it against a windshield and smear it all over. You get this gross, goopy gel. And then you let it dry in the sun and scrape it off and smoke it.”
Marty shudders. “That’s disgusting. Seriously?”
Fitz shrugs. “No idea, really. I just smoked the shit.”
“But what about the stuff we just did? You got any more? I want another hit.”
“Pace yourself. This shit ain’t for amateurs. And it costs more than you do.”
“Fuck you,” Matthew says, less admonishment than suggestion. “I’m plenty expensive.”
“My point exactly.”
He trails a long fingernail from Fitz’s neck to his cock, his fingers wrapping lightly around the shaft. “What’ll it take to get another hit?”
“That’s a good start.”
“How about I smoke your toad?”
“Is that what we’re calling it now?”
He kisses his way down Fitz’s chest and stomach until he’s taken him in his mouth. Fitz rides the high of the opium, the feeling of lips around his cock. Drifts away on the sensation.
Then the visions slam into him like a truck through a convenience store window. They punch through the opium haze, sear into his brain.
Panic and howling winds. Angels and demons fucking in mid-air, tearing into each other with swords of fire. A raven-haired woman in green pulls the still-beating heart out of a man’s chest and holds it high, before tearing dripping chunks from it with razor teeth. Bulls and bears battle in a pit of money while high above them the sky fills with clouds of numbers in an unending stream of data that watches and waits and passes judgment. The images tear through him, fill him like an empty basin, crack and burst through the sides.
And through it all is the high, keening wail of someone screaming like they’re on fire, like their skin is being flayed from their bones, their eyes being put out with nails.
It isn’t until the police break down the door that he realizes it’s him.
Hospitals. Full of sick people. The old, the frail, the dying. The constant stink of disease and antiseptic, of rot and bodily fluids seeping out of holes that should never leak. They die in their beds, bleed all over them. Shit in them, too. Beds just like the one Fitz is currently lying in and handcuffed to. He’s wearing nothing but a badly fit gown that’s cut too high and leaves his ass exposed. His head hurts, and when he reaches up to touch it he feels a bandaged lump on his forehead.
But there is good news, as good news goes. He overheard a cop and a doctor outside his room talking. Fitz isn’t being locked up on a 5150, an involuntary psych hold. It’s happened a few times and he’s narrowly avoided doctors admitting him for a longer stay so they can turn him into a case study. He’s not schizophrenic, they say. He’s too lucid, they say. He has hallucinations, but not delusions. He’s not bipolar, not depressed, not manic. They don’t know what he is, though they all agree ‘crazier than a shithouse rat’ is a pretty good description.
If only that was a listing in the DSM-V.
But of course, there’s bad news, too. He’s probably going to do some time for the drug charge. He’s got a record, and judges don’t like records. He got picked up for heroin a while back and avoided an eighteen-month stint in the state penal system by going to rehab. He’s probably not going to get that again.
Even with a good lawyer, he’s probably going to do a stint in County.
This is a problem. A very big problem.
“Louie Fitzsimmons?” the doctor says as he comes in through the door. He’s young, like Doogie Howser young. Asian, with wide, dark eyes. Is this what happens when you get older? You see people in their twenties and they look like they should still be at their mother’s tit?
“Far as I know.” He’s having a hard time remembering everything he saw when he freaked out in the hotel room. Mostly he remembers blood.
The doctor chuckles. “You’re doing better than you were. Can you tell me what you were on? The young man you were with didn’t say.”
“Benadryl. Maybe some Advil. You know. I had a headache. And I got allergies. Must have had a bad reaction.”
“Right,” the doctor says. “And this Advil it was, uh, smoked, was it?”
“Don’t know what you’re talkin’ about, doc.”
“Uh huh. I hope those allergies clear up, Mister Fitzsimmons. I don’t think you’re going to be getting any Benadryl for a while.”
“How about some Advil?”
“Sorry,” the doctor says. “We only do Tylenol here.” He closes his chart, heads to the door. Stops when a six-foot-plus wall of muscle steps in his way. He looks up at the giant woman standing there.
“I don’t think you’re supposed to be in here,” the doctor says, his voice suddenly very small.
Samantha Kellerman looms. At six-foot-five, with eyes like carved jade and a shock of bright red hair, Sam can’t help but loom. It’s built into her DNA. She is not fat, she is big-boned. This only explains her girth because those bones are wrapped in two-hundred-and-twenty pounds of densely packed muscle built doing MMA before she lost a bout in a bad way. She is big-boned surrounded by big-meat.
“Cops said I could,” she says, pointing over her shoulder with a thumb.
“Oh,” is all the doctor can seem to get out. “Okay, then.” He edges past Sam and scuttles away down the hall.
“What’s eatin’ him?” Sam says. She slings a backpack off her shoulder and onto the hospital bed.
“I think you scared him.”
“Don’t know why. I’m just a big ol’ teddy bear. You doin’ all right?”
Fitz holds up his left arm as far as the cuff securing him to the hospital bed will let him. “Been better. How’d you get in here, anyway?”
“Couple of the cops are Blake’s customers. They gave me a few minutes.”
“He got any prosecutors in his pocket?”
Sam shrugs. It’s like watching a mountain shrug. Fitz half expects to see boulders tumble to the floor. “Used to. But these days? Dunno.”
“I gotta get out of here, man,” Fitz says. “I am not going to do well in prison.”
“Jail. The prisons are all full up. And you know you won’t do a full stretch. Blake’ll take care of you, man. He always does. They gotta get you squared away here and then book you. Then they’ll probably move you to County for a few days before they get you in front of a judge.”
Any other time that would be a relief. Fitz and Sam have known each other, and worked together, for almost twenty years. Fitz to cook books and hide money, and Sam to break legs and hide bodies. All in the service of Blake Kaplan, a record producer who moved into selling drugs when his boy bands didn’t quite get there. Wasn’t much of a stretch; he was supplying his kids with enough coke to frost the Alps, so moving into a wider distribution was a natural progression.
No matter what happened, Blake always took care of his boys. Then, as now, whether it’s getting someone out of jail, fixing a parking ticket, scoring some Zoloft and Haldol for Fitz to take the edge off, Blake’s always come through.
But as soon as Blake figures out a couple of things Fitz has done, that’s all going to stop, and Fitz needs to get out of here before it does.
“Yeah,” Fitz says.
“Oh, come on. Why so glum? You’ve done time before.”
“I got a suspended sentence and rehab,” Fitz says. “I was in for a weekend.”
“And that’s what this is. Three days max and Blake’ll post bail.” Sam pulls up a chair. “So what happened? You have another one of those episodes?”
Those episodes. Explaining to Sam that when they hit it’s like having his mind turned inside out and poured down the drain is like trying to teach a dog orbital mechanics. Sam’s good as murderous thugs go, but anything outside of MMA, craft beer and the best places in Los Angeles to hide a body never seems to fully register with her.
“This one was pretty bad.”
“Huh. Well, Blake wanted me to tell you he’s got you covered. He has all the updated passwords, right? He’ll take over the books while you’re out of commission.”
“He can’t do that,” Fitz says a little too quickly, trying to hold his panic down.
“I need to clean a few things up. The numbers are off. I think I transposed some digits. They won’t add up.”
“I don’t know what any of that means,” Sam says. “But Blake’ll figure it out.” She gets up, pats Fitz’s hand. It feels like she’s slamming a Christmas ham across Fitz’s knuckles. “We’ll get you taken care of. I know you don’t want nobody to help you with these episodes, but if they’re getting this bad, you need to see somebody. Like, for real this time. Not that dealer in Koreatown you keep talking to.”
“I mean it. Like a real doctor. But right now, don’t worry about it. Oh, before I go.” She unzips the backpack, pulls out a shirt, pants, socks, shoes and a jacket. “They said they brought you in naked. So I hit your place and grabbed you some stuff. I wasn’t gonna touch your underwear. Figure if you’re going to lock-up you should at least have something to wear besides a hospital gown for the ride over. There’s nothing else in there. I had to promise the guys outside I wasn’t sneaking anything in and I don’t want them gettin’ into trouble.”
“You’re the most honest crook I know.”
“Thanks. So take care and don’t worry. We got your back.”
Fitz waits until Sam disappears through the door before he really starts to lose his shit. Blake’s going to look at the books. And when he does he’s going to figure out that things aren’t adding up. It won’t take him long to see it.
After all, it’s hard to hide fifteen million dollars.
Not that Fitz hasn’t tried. He’s been skimming from Blake for almost ten years now. He doesn’t want to be an accountant the rest of his life, after all. He’d like to retire sooner rather than later. So he’s taken a little bit here, little bit there. Funneled it all into an offshore account in the Caymans and covered his tracks.
But in the last few months he’s gotten more aggressive about it, and just a week ago he grabbed nine million out of some of Blake’s own offshore accounts and he hasn’t figured out how to hide it all yet. When Blake goes looking, he’s going to find it.
And the next time Fitz sees Sam, she’s not going to be bringing him a change of clothes.
Gods & Monsters: Mythbreaker is out in the US December 2nd 2014.