Hitless Dick paused to examine the package he had just picked up at Griselda’s house; a happy little lump of white with lots of tiny, shiny crystals gleaming back at him, almost begging to be vaporized and enjoyed. The crack was double-wrapped in little plastic bags and the ends of the bags were tied in tiny knots which had been melted for additional security. The careful packaging didn’t make any difference: Hitless Dick was going to steal some of it anyway.
This particular package was on its way to Pretty Boy, whose status as a friend and frequent customer did little to prevent Hitless Dick from applying his own, peculiar moral reasoning to the situation. Pretty Boy would have no way of knowing his crack was repackaged since he never weighed the crack he bought and so it’s really his own damn fault if Hitless Dick takes a little for himself. Pretty Boy was a good friend and he knew very well that Hitless was a criminal; it was his responsibility to be more careful.
Hitless Dick pulled over on a side street, opened the little bag of crack and cut out a couple of hits. He repackaged the now diminished delivery in new plastic, tied the little bag-knots and melted the plastic ends, just for additional security. He pressed a tiny chunk of the crack he had stolen into the little wad of Brillo in one end of his stem pipe, a small, unadorned glass tube. He applied the flame from his lighter carefully to get a good preliminary melt, wicking the molten crack along the strands of Brillo to allow for the low-temperature vaporization that makes for a good hit.
It was about 3 a.m. and he would be able to make good time to Pretty Boy’s place, which was across town, not far from the river. As was his custom, Hitless waited until he got to the on the freeway on-ramp before taking a hit. That way, Hitless Dick would have a good rush building from within to match his car’s acceleration. Speeding and rushing while in possession with intent to distribute seemed to be one of his favorite things to do, especially in the wee hours when traffic is light and the illuminated highway seems to float in space, suspended by the string of street lamps in the dark void of night. Hitless Dick once told me that breaking several laws at the same time made him feel free; It made him feel omni.
The ride to Pretty Boy’s house included a close encounter when Hitless was taking his second hit while waiting out a red light. A cop car pulled up next to him, just as he was lighting his pipe. They missed it, I guess, or maybe they thought Dick was smoking a cigarette or something. Hitless Dick was either oblivious to the danger of getting caught, intent on getting caught, resigned to getting caught or just didn’t give a damn either way. Nobody knew the answer and nobody felt safe riding with him.
“I’m way cool," Hitless Dick once told me as he demonstrated his well-practiced technique with the straight pipe, wafting the lighter flame over the loaded end while rotating the little tube of glass to keep the melting crack from settling. “It takes less than two seconds. I can get away with taking a hit in the police station if i want to.” Hitless Dick was full of the shit he so frequently served up, mislabeled as a serving of wisdom.
Pretty Boy called five times during the 20-minute drive. He and whoever he was with had run out of crack some time ago and were certainly Jonesin’ for a hit by now. Hitless Dick answered the calls only twice: once to remind Pretty Boy that phone calls wouldn’t make the car go any faster and once more to remind Pretty Boy that he had already told him that two minutes ago. One of Hitless Dick’s favorite rants was why he had no sympathy for impatient customers. “This phone bombardment shit happens all the time”, he would say, “People get antsy. Hell, here I am committing a felony to deliver crack in the middle of the night, getting a lousy $10 from Griselda to run the drugs for her and these people expect me to be faster than the ambulance they’ll probably need in a few hours. Fuck ‘em.”
When Hitless Dick got to Pretty Boy’s place, he delivered the package to two happily underdressed drug abusers who seemed to be in a hurry. Hitless hung around for a few minutes, stalling for the hit that Pretty Boy would have to give up in order to get rid of him. Stalling like this always works with customers and if the guy is with his girlfriend, you can usually get them to throw in extra little “hitty-poo” for the ride home. On several occasions, I heard him make the strangest act of inverted extortion ever: an offer that was almost impossible for customers to refuse.
“If you give me another hit I’ll leave.”
Actually, the woman was not Pretty Boy’s girl: she was the long-time girlfriend of another customer Hitless Dick delivered to. Hitless loved that part of the job. He knew every dealer and every ongoing affair and every bit of scandalous behavior within the local crack community. Hitless Dick was the soul of discretion, of course, meaning that he got to tantalize everyone with hints and broad grins when they asked him all those questions. Sometimes Hitless Dick made a little extra cash on a carefully crafted indiscretion but, for the most part, he stayed mum. His status as a deliverer was highly dependent on his ability to keep a secret.
This is a good place in the story to note that ‘Hitless’ was technically a misnomer. Dick almost always had a small rock or two in the little pillbox he kept hidden in his car but he never admitted to having any. Hitless Dick had an inquiring mind but he had only one question: “Got a hit?”
When Hitless Dick left Pretty Boy’s apartment the early morning light was just beginning to color the eastern horizon. It was the fourth dawn since his last sleep and he paused to savor the moment. The three twilights of dawn were Dick’s favorite times of day, as they were mine. During the glorious progression from astronomical to nautical to civil twilight, when most everyone is in bed, I’m still up and about, enjoying subtle hues and gentle half-light just before sunrise. When I’m strung out on a long binge it’s even better: the familiar and comfortable delirium of sleep deprivation combined with a touch of drug-induced psychosis provides a bit of surrealism to the scene and unhinges your thoughts, freeing your mind to wander in unexpected directions. You ride along on auto-pilot, neutrally buoyant in a cocktail of perceptions, real and imagined. The hallucinations can be vivid but are not a critical problem if you remind yourself that they are unreal and that they are, after all, just another part of the job.