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459

“Just because because you shot Jesse James, don’t make you Jesse James.” Mike Ehrmantraut

Hey, a junkie will steal whatever isn’t bolted firmly to the floor, including infamy.

459 by William E. Wallace




George Adams leaned against the kitchen counter. A trickle of snot dripped from his nose to the floor and he trembled as his arms and legs began to cramp.

He stared at his reflection in the mirror next to the refrigerator. The pasty, skinny bastard that peered back at him looked like an extra from a George Romero movie.

Junkie motherfucker, he thought, staring at the sweat beads dotting his forehead. You look like shit.

It was the smack he’d shot up the day before: the damned dope was real but it had been stepped on as many times as a Macy’s escalator, until it was more horse shit than horse.

He’d felt fine for the first couple of hours after banging, but the high was gone before midnight, leaving him in the first stage of withdrawal: watery eyes; muscle and joint aches; chills and fever; nausea that would soon have him puking up his guts.

He needed to get well but he was dead-ass broke. That’s why he was ransacking the house in Diamond Heights, looking for something—anything—he could hock to feed his jones.

Big screen TVs and stereo gear were out. He’d have to cart what he stole down the hill to his 1989 Cougar, so he needed small, valuable items that would fit into pockets: silverware, jewelry, antique coins.

Plus he had to find them before he started seriously kicking: it is bad form for a thief to pass out on the floor of the house he’s burglarizing. People go to prison for that shit.

He pushed himself away from the counter and rummaged through the kitchen without success. The silverware in the dining room armoire was plate, not worth hauling to his car. There was some good crystal, but it was too bulky.

He did better in the master bedroom upstairs where he found an unlocked jewelry case. As he stuffed gold chains and rings into the pockets of his army surplus field jacket, he felt his gorge rise. He barely made it to the shitter in time to blow chunks.

The nightstand next to the bed was fat city: more than $200 wrapped with a rubber band, probably a secret stash set aside to purchase a gift.

“That’s more like it,” he muttered, dropping the bills into his jacket next to the jewelry.

The real show-stopper, though, was in the nightstand on the other side of the bed: a big semiautomatic pistol with two full magazines.

He scooped the extra clips into his coat pocket, then hefted the weapon and sighted down the barrel. The name “Beretta” was stamped on its side. Its solid feel and weight were seductive: despite twenty years as a junkie and a thief, he had never held a gun.

Still, he’d seen them in movies and TV shows. It took him only a few minutes to figure out how to remove and replace the magazine, load a round into the receiver by pulling back the slide, lower the hammer and toggle the safety. He could do it even though his hands shook so badly he could barely control them.

When he was satisfied he could fire the Beretta without shooting himself, he stuck it in his waistband. He liked the feel of the metal wedged against his sweat-slick belly.

Adams was no expert on guns, but the pistol seemed valuable: Beretta was a famous brand. The gun would probably sell for at least $500, even without the spare magazines or ammo. That was a lot of money to a junkie.

Still, he felt like holding onto the gun for a while. The pistol seemed to graduate him from pissant addict to honest-to-God outlaw, like Jessie James or John Dillinger. It made him dangerous.

Besides, the gold jewelry had to be worth quite a bit, maybe thousands. The cash alone would buy enough skag to last a few days. He could always fence the gun later if he needed dough.

*

He was halfway down the stairs when he heard someone unlock the front door and saw a man standing in the open entrance, just a shadow against the hazy morning sun.

“Hey!” the man said with surprise. “Who the hell are you?”

He wanted to answer, “the guy robbing your house, of course,” but he said nothing.

With an angry look on his face, the man started up the stairs. He probably had forty pounds on Adams and looked trim and fit.

The Beretta found its way into Adams’ hand, and without thinking he pointed it at the stranger, releasing the safety.

Maybe the guy didn’t see the pistol; maybe he was so mad he didn’t care about it. With a yell he rushed Adams.

He pulled the trigger, twice.

The automatic’s shots were louder and flatter than guns in movies Adams had seen. He’d expected them to throw the man backward and send him cartwheeling down the stairs like a stunt double in an action movie. The homeowner simply sat down, leaning against the wall with blood bubbling out of his chest and air hissing back in to take its place.

Adams jammed the gun under his belt and stared at the homeowner’s slack face as he stepped over his legs. The man’s eyes were empty and dead, like the junkie Adams once found OD’d in his hallway with the BD sharp still sticking out of his biceps. It wasn’t until he was sitting in the Mercury and had its engine running that Adams realized he was shaking with excitement.

He had started the morning as a heroin addict and petty thief. Now he really was an outlaw, a real killer, just like Jessie James.

But he’d think about that later. Outlaw or not, he was still an addict.

He still needed to score.


William E. Wallace has been a cook, dishwasher, journalism professor, private investigator and military intelligence specialist. He received his bachelor's in political science at U.C. Berkeley and for 26 years he was an award-winning investigative reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle. Since taking early retirement in 2006 he has written two detective novels, The Jade Bone Jar and The Judas Hunter; a novella, I Wait to Die!; a western, Tamer; and a collection of horror and fantasy stories, Little Nightmares. He lives with his wife and son in Berkeley, California. See more at Pulp Hack Confessions.