I couldn't figure how or why at the time, but I sure could see that things had taken a turn for the fucked. One day I was a guy climbing the ladder like a pro. A sweet, easy deal came along from Mr. G, and I grabbed it. How hard could it be to drive a few guys from New York to Los Angeles and keep an eye on them? Then next thing I knew, there I was, in some fleabag hotel in downtown LA, with one guy tied to the bed, one guy off on the lam, and one guy doing a pretty good job of squeezing off my air supply.
I was starting to see those little flittery lights, like minuscule fireflies swarming right in front of my eyes. I knew if I didn't get Cheddar to let up soon, I'd be in the soup without a ladle. But Cheddar's hands were strong as hell, once a guy went snowman on you, it was trouble with a capital T, unless you could get enough dope into him, and fast.
I could hear Milky shouting something from the bed where I'd tied him down, but my ears might as well have been filled with jello, all I could make out clearly was my own banging heart. That Milky, he'd been shouting ever since he woke me up, first pounding on my door, then pleading with me to help him. "Something's wrong, Marty, I took double my dose, but I'm still fading, I think something's wrong with the pills!"
I pulled him in the room and shut the door quick. I tried to get him to shut the hell up, but he was frantic. He grabbed me by the shoulders with hands that were stronger than they had any right to be and squeezed."You gotta help me, Marty. Don't cut off my head, Marty, I'm not gonna eat you, just don't cut off my head!"
Jesus H., I thought, I sure named this one right, milk toast little coward. Then I turned on the light. He looked pale all right, but it was the eyes that told me he wasn't kidding. Cloudy white film spreading out from the pupils, just like Mr. G's instruction pamphlet said. He was in stage one withdrawal.
He looked around the room wildly, grabbed one of my ties off the back of a chair and laid down on the bed with his arms up over his head like it was standard procedure, and grabbed the iron bed frame. "Tie me down and give me a shot, I won't try nothing, I promise, just get me a shot, quick!"
I tried to talk him out of being tied up, told him I could see he was still in control and it was good he came to me for help before it got too bad, but he was set on the idea, so I tied his hands and got busy making him an emergency dose out of the watcher case. Snowflake wasn't meant to be mainlined, it was supposed to be taken in pill form, but every watcher was given a small doctor's kit with syringes and concentrated serum to be used in emergency situations.
He kept on babbling while I got his dose ready, said he'd gone to Ray's room to see if he was having trouble too, but Ray had cleared out. "Cleared out?" I said, setting the full syringe down and picking up the rubber strap to tie off his arm with. "What do you mean, cleared out?"
"I mean he's gone, him and his stuff too," he said.
"What about Cheddar?" I said, but I needn't have asked, because that's when Cheddar busted in the door and wrapped his hands around my throat. He was worse off than Milky, he was stage two.
I'd managed to get two fingers up between my sweaty neck and Cheddar's hands, and I pulled out with all my might making it possible to breath just a little and try to talk the guy down.
"Cheddar, stop it, listen to me! I got what you need over there on the table! If you take it outta me raw, it won't do you any good! Let me help you!" I managed to choke the words out, but I couldn't figure if the guy understood, Cheddar's eyes had gone chalk white, the pupils tiny black dots with no sign of human emotions in them.
The little bit of blood that made it back to my brain allowed me to make out what Milky was yelling, "Move him over here, get him down on the bed!"
It didn't make no sense, him being tied up and all, but I did it anyway, heaving my body sideways and catching Cheddar off balance enough that he went down with me. He was still squeezing my neck though, and now he was on top of me. I was fucked.
Next thing I knew, Milky had his legs around Cheddar's head in a scissor lock and I felt the grip on my neck come loose. Cheddar thrashed and I got out from under him and over to the syringe, weasel fast. Milky was using the bed frame for leverage and had Cheddar fixed tight. I don't know how I got that needle in a vein, but I did, and drove the shot home.
The effect wasn't immediate, but Milky held on while I fixed another syringe for him. As soon as Cheddar's body started to relax, I took care of Milky. "High school wrestling team," he said, with a dreamy, wistful expression as I untied his hands, "I don't get to use those moves enough anymore..." Then his eyes rolled back and he crashed.
I left the two of them to sleep it off and did some investigating, still coughing from Cheddar's choke hold. Ray was gone all right, and my car with him, but what was worse was that he'd emptied out Cheddar and Milky's Snowflake capsules and filled them with powdered sugar. It didn't make no sense, he was fully sponsored, he didn't have to steal.
When I realized how bad it was, the sweat started pouring out of me like rain. Something had gone awful wrong with Ray, he was out on the loose and even with the extra Snowflake from the guys, he'd run out at some point and become a dangerous monster.
I had no choice. I was gonna have to call Mr. G.