Tip of the Week:
Write.Publish.Repeat – an end-to-end book on the business of being an indie author. Get it! It’s good.
And now, let’s get into The Problematic Virtue, Part 2!
Two: December 2002
Wiles laid the mass of cash on the table and began to separate the individual bills by denomination. Britton had worked his ass off at the Red Hot Chili Peppers concert the previous night, and delivered a fat roll of bills early this morning. In the two years since Britton first delivered the envelope for Wiles, he had proved himself valuable, most of the time. He made many stupid mistakes and was often careless about selling meth out in the open, but Wiles had been working on keeping Britton under control, and the kid had responded well lately.
With Connelly moved down to Denver, Wiles had more of that area covered for weed sales. The trick had been making that dumb kid think that it was his idea, which was easy since he had just flunked out of school. Despite all his bitching and moaning, Connelly was good enough at what he does that Wiles just had to endure all the extraneous stuff. From time to time, Wiles had to get heavy-handed to keep him in line. Just the cost of doing business.
Once the bills were in piles of matching denominations, he picked up each pile and went through them again, this time turning the faces of the bills in the same direction. Not that this was necessary to spending any of it, but Wiles liked having clean money. Wiles wished that he knew someone into counterfeiting. Seemed that life would be so much easier if he could literally make money instead of all this daily hustling.
She came out of the bathroom, drying her hands on the motel towel. She smiled at him as she walked across the room to her purse, moving her hips from side to side with each step. He smiled back at her, not because he wanted to, but because she wined whenever he was in “a bad mood,” as she claimed. Whatever.
“I’ve got to go meet the girls,” she said.
“Yeah, that’s cool, I’ve got my own shit to do.”
“I had a lot of fun with you today. Will you call me later?”
Wiles took in her face. Once, she had been pretty, maybe even beautiful, but in just a few short years, she had changed. She looked tired all the time, and she didn’t take care of her body the way she used to. As soon as he started hooking her up with a cocaine regularly, she seemed not to give a shit about any of it and let herself degrade into just another one of those girls.
What do I care, though, she’s not my girlfriend. Just a chick that blows me for coke.
“Heather,” he said, “you know I hate it when you do that shit.”
She smiled, and it actually exposed some wrinkles at the corners of her lips. The girl was too young to have wrinkles. “I know, baby, I’m sorry. You go do what you gotta do and we’ll hook up later. No big thing.”
She then made her coy head-dip, and Wiles knew what was coming next. She didn’t even have to ask for it. “Fine,” he said, “you can have a little to-go bag. But just a half gram. It’s all I can spare right now, so you got to make this last.” He opened a box on the table, careful to keep the contents out of her sight. Sifting through dozens of pre-weighed baggies, he picked out a small one for her and held it out.
She pouted, but reached for the cocaine anyway. It was worth it, just to make her leave the room. “Maybe you’ll have me over your house next time and I can finally see where you live? I don’t like always meeting up in these motel rooms. It makes me feel cheap.”
He pulled back the baggie. “No,” he said. “We meet here.” He extended the baggie again and she took it.
“You don’t want your hot little roommate to know what we’re doing?” she said.
Wiles laughed. “I don’t give a good fuck what that bitch knows.”
Heather dipped her pinky nail into the baggie and lifted a dollop of powder, which she snorted. “Okay, baby, whatever you want. I’ll see you later.”
She turned and left the room, switching her butt from side to side the whole way, as if he needed more reminders of her sexuality. Back when Connelly was dating her, she was something special. She was the kind of girl that everyone wanted, and everyone envied Connelly for having. Now, she was just another coke whore who looked as if her best days were behind her.
Wiles checked his watch. He had been invited to a frat party tonight, and needed to finish counting this money so he could go make some more.
Two years after sleeping with Chris Wiles for the first time, Megan sat on the basketball court behind the Sigma Nu house, hugging her knees to her chest. Clay Richmond, the cute boy from her Developmental Psychology class, had talked her into coming to the house’s dead week party, and she had agreed. Now, while the late-night party still raged inside the house, she and Clay sat on the dark court alone, with an empty six-pack ring in-between them.
Clay lit up a joint and passed it to her. Megan shook her head. “No thanks,” she said. “I’m good. I’m a little buzzed. I mean, I’m more than buzzed. I never had Jell-O shots before.”
“Cliff makes them pretty stout,” Clay said. The steam that came from his lips as he spoke floated off into the air, then dispersed into nothingness. Megan snickered.
“What’s so funny?” he said.
“I don’t know,” she said. “I really don’t know.” Clay had a strong chin. She liked that. She liked his strong chin, which reminded her of a boy in high school she had lusted after. She smiled, and he smiled. She reached out with her index finger and traced the sharp curve of his jawline. His eyes darted back and forth between her eyes and her lips, and he leaned in to kiss her.
The kiss was wrong and right at the same time. Clay’s scratchy five o’clock shadow burned her cheek yet simultaneously excited her. The warmth of his face radiated through her entire body. Enticing, but she knew that it had to stop. She needed to tell him to stop.
She pulled away. “Clay, we need to stop. I can’t do this,” she said.
“Why? Did I do something wrong? I mean, don’t you want to?”
“Yeah, I want to,” she said. “You’re really sexy and I want to, but you know why I can’t. I’m sorry.”
Clay searched her face as if plotting his next move. He snuffed out the joint and stood up. “We’re out of beers.”
“You go on ahead,” she said. “I’ll stay out here.”
Clay spun around and left her alone on the court. Megan bit her lip, unsure if she had done the right thing. Hard to make decisions in her current state. Too many Jell-O shots.
Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed a moving red light. A cigarette cherry. Then she saw a black jacket, and a head covered in a black hoodie. She became aware that someone was on the court with her; some figure cloaked in darkness. She squinted. Wiles.
“Derek?” she said.
Wiles flicked his cigarette butt towards her. “I saw that,” he said. He turned towards the house, just as Clay reappeared with a fresh six-pack. Wiles stepped into the light.
“Who are you?” Clay said to Wiles.
“I’m the guy who’s gonna kick your ass,” Wiles said.
“Hey buddy–” Clay began, but Wiles flinched, and the stuttering jerk of his upper body caused Clay to trip and fall backwards before he could finish his sentence. Clay dropped the beers, which split from the plastic ring and rolled along the court. As Clay scrambled backwards, Wiles kept pace with him, hovering overhead. Wiles raised his fists and leered at the man at his feet.
Megan jumped up, waving her hands. A futile attempt to get Wiles’ attention. She considered leaping into the fray, but that might cause more harm than good.
Clay coughed and struggled to catch his breath. He held a hand out in surrender. “I’m sorry, man,” he said. “Please don’t hit me. I don’t know why you’re… just, please stop. I’m sorry.”
“Stop apologizing, you little dumbshit. Go the fuck inside,” Wiles said. “Just get out of here.”
Clay climbed to his feet. He held his hands out to ward off the attacker. He backed towards the door, gazed desperately at Megan, and then scurried inside.
Wiles then rotated towards Megan, a venomous sneer on his darkened face. “I can’t believe you. You did this, you stupid bitch.”
“What the hell, Derek,” she said. “What are you doing at a frat party?”
“I’m working. What the hell are you doing here?”
“None of this makes any sense. Why did you do that to him?”
“You did that to him. You need to understand that.” Wiles moved within a few inches of Megan’s face. He pointed a sharp finger into her shoulder. “If you ever do anything like this again, it won’t be him that I beat the shit out of.”
Wiles withdrew his finger and ran towards the chain link fence. He scaled it and dropped down on the other side, then sprinted down the street. Wiles disappeared into the darkness, his footfalls fading into silence.
The back door of the house opened, and Clay emerged with five of his frat brothers, ready to crack some skulls. Megan sat down, her eyes transfixed on the white paint that marked the free-throw line. She pulled her knees back to her chest.