Lowlifes

Chapter Thirteen

Kate drove me to my regular Tuesday addicts’ group and stopped her car across from the marina.  A group had taken over one of the small marina building for its meetings.  Today was my one-month anniversary since getting into a twelve-step program and I’d be receiving my chip to commemorate the event.   Kate hadn’t pushed me into the program.  No one had.  I’d entered the program willingly.  I had a reason—Victoria.

Jennifer was looking down the barrel of a prison term for her part in Grieves’ plot.  How much prison time was dependent on how mean the DA was feeling.  She’d supplied the gun responsible for two murders.  That put her in deep.  I was using what little pull I had to get any charges dropped to the bare minimum.  Grieves had played her and preyed on her weaknesses to get to me.  I’d gotten to see Jennifer a couple of times.  She was full of remorse and I couldn’t abandon her.  We had loved each other once and I couldn’t let her flounder, not now.

Naturally, Jennifer lost custody of Victoria with the judge awarding sole custody to me.  I had to stay straight for Victoria.  Kate offered her support.  She’s been a rock and Victoria’s taken to her.  We aren’t together, but there might be something in our future, as long as I don’t screw it up again.

“Just call me when you need picking up?” Kate said.

“Will do.”

She leaned over and kissed me.  I’d never tire of that.

She tooted her horn as she drove away.  I waved.

I walked into the meeting.  There was a healthy crowd clustered around the coffee and cookie table.  The group was an eclectic mix of business professionals and blue-collar workers who’d gotten in way over their heads at some point.  I dropped a couple of bucks in the basket and poured myself a cup.

The meeting got called to order and I took my seat along with everyone else.  The supervisor, a nice guy called Jed who'd survived a cocaine addiction that would make your toes curl, went through the preliminaries before calling everyone to take their moment of contemplation.  I needed more than a moment.  The aftermath of the shootout at Pier 45 was still working itself out.

Grieves hadn’t survived my bullet.  He made it to the ER, but no further.  The Reaper and Cuban Heels survived.  They were a pair of well-connected drug dealers named Luke Corrin and Jeff Spivey.  Both of them were plugged into the Echeverri Cartel.  Grieves had gone to Corrin and Spivey to broker the deal with the Mexicans.

Naturally, Corrin and Spivey spilled everything and were now the FBI and DEA’s star witnesses.  A joint agency taskforce had been wrapping up the cartel’s people for weeks.  They wouldn’t get everyone.  They never did.  It was the end of one cartel, but it would no doubt resurrect itself in another form.  At least the damage was done for now.

Naturally, I wasn’t asked to join the taskforce.  I was a hero and a villain.  Pill-addicted cop takes down corrupt cops.  It was hardly a headline worth broadcasting.  The SFPD hierarchy did the best for their political image.  They suspended me pending an internal investigation.  I wasn’t bitter about it.  I’d misappropriated evidence, worked while under the influence of an addictive barbiturate, and had Jon’s murder on my hands.  Charges hung over my head although the DA was expected to drop them.  I was kind of a hero—along with Joseph Rawlings.  His church had grown in leaps and bounds.  If he could lay off the alien invasion conspiracy, he could do some real good in the community.

No one blamed me for Jon’s death, although I blamed myself.  I needed something like the twelve-step program to keep me straight.  Twenty-four hours a day to think about what I’d done and the pain it brought was too much of a temptation.  I needed purpose.  Luckily, I had it.  I had Victoria, Kate, the group and a possible future as a private investigator.  Lauren Ortega and I had started talking.  Officially, I still belonged to the SFPD, but I’d been doing a little off-the-books consulting for her.  I liked Lauren and the possibilities of us joining forces.  That was enough to keep me straight.

Jed went around the room asking everyone to say a few words.  He finally got around to me and I stood.  I found it easy to admit to things in front of these people.  They knew and understood, having gone through some of the things I was going through.

The first time, I talked about Jon instead of my addiction.  The guilt I felt for Jon’s death was something that could keep me hooked on pills.  I’d come to a meeting the day after Jon’s cremation.  The city took care of indigent remains, but I owed Jon more than a cheap cremation.  I claimed his remains and paid for a proper resting place.  I held a service for him at Kate’s food bank.  Hundreds came.  Not just the homeless, but the people who'd gotten back on their feet thanks to Jon.  It was a good day and a bad day.  It could have all been prevented if I’d answered his call that day.  Talking it out in front of strangers helped.  It helped me live with the guilt.

Since that first meeting, I’ve talked about things that give me hope and the things that scare me.  I admitted to temptations.  I reflected on the past and theorized on the future.  I told them about everything except for the 500mg of oxy in my pocket.  I want constant temptation.  Abstinence is one thing, but pretending I don’t know oxy exists is another.  I need to know that I can look temptation in the eye and kick it to the curb.  And if I fall off the wagon, I deserve to pay the price.  God willing, these 500mg will remain in my pocket, never to be used.

The End