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No. I tell myself sternly. But of course, because I already know I will, because even if by accident my feet managed to bring me here inconspicuously without my knowing it, I would have ended up finding my way myself, despite my best efforts to avoid this place at all costs. I couldn’t stay away from Jeb’s house for more than a few days, even if I wanted to. My fingers curl around the knob on the door and I hear a faint clicking sound that tells me it’s open, as usual.
I hear the sound of several voices coming from the living room and for a moment I wonder what so many people could be doing here. Then I remember. Today is Friday. Today, of all days, Jeb would have the most customers. I make my way down the dimly lit hallway, taking note not to touch anything. Jeb hated people tampering with his place, though I could never understand why seeing as it was always a mess anyway. But I knew better than to ever question Jeb, so it’s with great care that I trek through the piles of trash bags, empty beer bottles and left over pizza boxes.
By the time I make it to the living room, I have been so pre-occupied with my mission-impossible-fiasco I don’t even realize the entire house has gone completely silent. All eyes fall on me as soon as I manage to free my leg from the last pile of garbage. “Love what you’ve done with the place.” I mumble to Jeb, who is standing in the middle of the room, looking somewhat irritated. There are six other men with him, but their attention has now shifted to me.
“I thought you had a session, kid?” Jeb asks, clearly annoyed at my being here.
“They let me out early,” I reply coolly. “On account of my impeccably good behavior.”
“Good behavior?” Jeb sneers. “That’s rich, coming from you.”
“Oh please Jeb, because you’re such a saint.” I counter. “Aren’t you even going to introduce me to your friends?”
At the mention of their presence, the six men grow steadily uncomfortable. One of them leans over and whispers something into Jeb’s ear. He was tall, much taller than Jeb and has to bend over quite a ways to meet him. For a moment Jeb listens, then seems to nod in agreement with the man. “Alright, fine.”
The man signals for the remaining five to follow him and they leave through the back door of the living room.
“Not very friendly.” I comment absentmindedly, throwing my backpack on the floor and taking a seat on the couch.
“What do you want, Jay?” Jeb asks, crossing his arms over his chest.
“You know what I want Jeb.” I reply evenly.
“Forget it, kid.” Jeb says shaking his head. “You already owe me for the last one.”
I get up from the couch, digging into my pockets. I pull out a very fine, very expensive looking wallet and hold it out for Jeb to see. “I think this should take care of that.”
Jeb stares at me incredulously. “Who did you steal it from this time?” He asks somewhat curious.
“My shrink is terribly neglectful.”
“You stole this from your doctor?” He asks, disbelievingly.
“Technically, I found it.” I reply curtly.
“Where? In his pocket?”
“No, in his desk.” Jeb gives me a disapproving shake of his head and I feel the need to defend myself. “Oh come on Jeb, it’s not like he doesn’t have plenty more where this came from and besides, aren’t you the one always telling me I shouldn’t buy what I can get for free?”
“Yes, but now I’m beginning to wonder if you do your job too well for your own good.” Jeb reaches into his pocket and pulls out a cigarette box. I hadn’t realized it until this moment, but his hands appear to be shaking.
“Are you okay?” I ask.
Jeb pulls out a cigarette and doesn’t reply until it’s lit and he’s taken several drags. “Those guys you just saw,” Jeb starts, “They’re not customers.”
“Who are they?”
“They work for a guy named Marcus Drum. Ever heard of him?”
For a moment I’m sure Jeb can see the flash of recognition in my face at the mention of that name, but he seems too worried about something else to catch it, so I shake my head.
“Good, then maybe it will make this easier.” Jeb pauses, as if deliberating what he should say next. “I have a job for you, Jay.”
“Forget it.” I reply. “You can’t just expect me to –”
“Jay, I’m not asking you to do this favor as a friend, as your boss I’m telling you to do this job.” Jeb’s voice is all business. His tone is so curt and severe I take a step back, somewhat surprised. But I quickly compose myself because I have to remember no matter how much Jeb and I poked fun at each other, no matter how much like friends we acted, Jeb was my boss. The type of boss people just didn’t say no to.
Unless of course, they had a death wish.
“Right.” I say, nodding my head. “What kind of job did you have in mind?”
“This guy Drum, he’s going to be selling me some,” Jeb pauses. “Supplies for my business.”
“So what exactly do you need me to do?” I ask.
“I need you to come with me for the deal.”
This strikes me as odd. “I don’t get it, why not just get one of your guys to do that?” I wasn’t seeing Jeb’s logic in sending me to be his body guard on one of his business deals.
Jeb hesitates before replying. “Because your . . . skill could come in handy. And you work cheap, kid.”
“Do I ever have a choice?”
“No addict ever has a choice. They do whatever it takes to get a hit.” Jeb replies.
“Is that why you hired me?” I ask, somewhat irritated.
“I hired you because you’re good at what you do.”
“What if maybe I don’t like what I do? What if maybe I want to quit?”
For a moment, a flash of anger crosses Jeb’s face and he has to take several drags on his cigarette before finally regaining control of himself. “You won’t quit, Jay.” He says, quietly. “Like I said, you’re too good.”
“So when do we meet this guy, Drum?” I had lost the argument before it ever started. There was never talking Jeb out of anything once he was decided.
“Tonight?” I ask, surprised. “How am I supposed to convince Reese to let me out on a Friday night unsupervised?”
“She doesn’t have to know. It can be our little secret.”
“There are eleven kids in that house. There are no secrets.” I reply. With that many kids in one house, there was no way of being certain I wouldn’t get ratted out.
“I’m sure you’ll think of something, Jay.” Jeb replies coolly. “Aren’t you the one always saying you’ve got a plan?”
I would certainly have to think of some plan because as it was, I could barely stand the fact it had been more than a week since my last hit. After Reese found a needle in my backpack three months ago she nearly flipped and immediately called my social worker Ms. Golding. After deciding she didn’t want to deal with me herself, the agency ordered I was to receive treatment for my addictions from a professional and every month I would also be tested for anymore use. It was incredibly annoying having to go full weeks without using. Not that using ever made a difference. Not that saying no to Jeb would have made a difference. He was right. I had a plan to follow. “Where should I meet you?”
“There’s a warehouse down by the docks in Newark. Do you know it?”
“Yeah.” I reply. The warehouse used to be a medical supply plant, but it was closed down several years ago. Too many junkies breaking in and stealing needles after hours. Not that I would know anything about that.
“Meet me there at midnight.”
I nod my head and make for the front door.
“Jocelyn,” I hear Jeb call. Turing around, I see Jeb’s outstretched hand. “You forgot something.”
“Right,” I reply, remembering the wallet still curled around my fingers.
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