Saturday, January 17, 2009


“Top Dog, I am in the house and the game is on.  We can burn the candle at both ends.  First, I’ll set up shop here.  We’ll need 4 or 5 pigeons.” 

A pigeon is a person who gets food stamps or some kind government check but is in need of booze or drugs.  I would front them what they wanted and put them on my books.  When their check came in at the end of the month, damn near all of it would go to me.  During this time, food stamps were distributed in books.  Each book would contain stamps of different monetary values, totaling about $120.  I would buy entire books at about 50 cents on the dollar.  I knew some older ladies who would buy these food stamps from me at or near cost.  You can avoid paying taxes on your groceries when using food stamps, so these women trusted me and saw this as a deal.  I would use the rest of the food stamps to buy groceries for us, like pork chops, steaks, and hamburgers.  I would also buy large boxes of chicken quarters and bread.  I’d take the cash I made from the old women to buy cases of cheap beer and liquor.  On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, people knew to come by the rooming house to get a hot chicken sandwich and some cheap drinks.  Jewel would be cooking up the chicken, Top Dog would sell the drinks and I’d be inside cooking up coke and bagging it.  We would always close shop around midnight.  Lots of people would come to us because I would sell to them on credit.  I knew how much everyone got paid and I would never credit them more than they would make.  I’d collect as soon as they got their checks and I never had any problems getting my money.  Some people like to go to a place where everybody knows your name, but here at the Honeycomb Hideout nobody gave a fuck what your name was, as long you had your dead presidents at the end of the week or the first of the month. 

On a typical Friday or Saturday we’d make around $500-$800.  We made a little less on Sundays, because I absolutely would not sell coke on Sundays.  I was just getting back in town and I thought I was doing some kind of justice by not selling on Sunday, but in reality I was hiding out from the law…and myself.

In no time at all, I had made enough money to set up shop in New Jersey.  I would have to go up there and wait for 3 or 4 days until Mr. Speaker contacted me with a new job.  Before I went, I wanted to make sure I had enough money to give the appearance that I was doing well.  I didn’t want my former employer and coworkers to know how low my life had become.  But of course, I couldn’t bullshit Speaker; he knew. 

Nonetheless, I was able to get my same job back with the same benefits and all.  I was moving cars from city to city during the week, while Top Dog was handling business at the Honeycomb Hideout.  I was always tired.  Everything was foggy.  I would sometimes get to my destination, not remembering a damn thing from the trip there.  Not because I was high, but my mind was someplace else.  I’d throw 80’s soft rock into the CD player, and listen to Kenny Loggins, George Michaels, the Eagles and of course Rick James as I drove from state to state in a trance.  Even though I would be on the road for 10 to 12 hours a day, it was as if time stood still.

I was making money, but I was still lonely.  Why did I keep Shy Shy around?  What was I running to or running from?   I wanted to go home.  But where was my home? 

Some weekends I would drive out to the country to visit my family.  I would always go alone and never bring any of my business with me.  Money never really did me any good, but maybe it would help my brothers and sisters.  But I knew I would have to tell a lie, because I could not tell them where or how I was getting this money.  Not only was I ashamed but I also wanted to protect them in case anything went wrong.  As far as they knew, I was working out of town for a contractor. 

It was good to go home.  This was my place to escape.  I would take long walks through the woods and reflect on what I was doing.  Could I build a paradise like Mr. Speaker from a run down rooming house?  Or did I really want this life at all?   

Back at the office it was business as usual.  Top Dog and I would always have these heart to heart talks.  Sometime it was good business strategies, and sometimes it was intellectual bullshit.  The money of course was good, but he kept reminding me that my black ass was still hotter than a two dollar pistol. 

“Ricky, you need to think about getting the hell out of here and starting a new life.  You know you can always go underground in Florida or Jamaica.”

I took a long sigh and said, “Yes, I knew this day would come.  Instead of Florida or Jamaica I was thinking about going out west.  Maybe something like Oklahoma where the land is wide open.”

“What about your job with Speaker?”

“I’m thinking about getting out of all this shit, man, and just sitting back on my ass for a while.  And the best I can really do for Shy is to get out of her life and leave her some money to go to college or something.”

“Hell Dog, you’re not a cowboy or a buffalo soldier!”

“Fuck that shit.  I’ll be free.”

“How would I contact you out there?  Or how would you contact me”

I smiled and said, “Hell, I’ll send you up a smoke signal.  I think it would be best if I left in a couple of weeks.  I think it would be good for you to start thinking about leaving as well.  Let’s take the money and run.”

With his head hung low like an old mule, Top Dog said, “Yeah, I guess your right.  We’ll no longer be in the criminal business I guess.  We’ll become upright citizens.”

“Hell, it’ll be more boring than a Sunday night in Raleigh.” 

“Be the change you wish to see in the world,” said Eddie.  “Do you know who Gandhi was?”

“Some old white man from some damn where.  Fuck a Gandhi.”

“Rick, the man is dead.”

“Okay, I understand, but back to business.  In a couple of weeks I’ll be making reservations to head out west.  I’ll wrap things up with Mr. Speaker.  Maybe I’ll get a bonus for this and I’ll give some of this money to my family.  I will see if he can contact his people out west and maybe there I can go underground and start over again.  I want to live a normal life again.  But hell, what is normal?”

“Have you saved enough to live out there for a while?” 

“Yeah, I’ll be fine.  I’ll move from reservation to reservation until things cool down.  I can always come back and visit my family.  Eddie, I don’t know if they have a statute of limitations, but let’s keep it real.  If I am caught, the most they can give me is two or three years.  They can lock me up, but they can’t eat me.”

But in my heart I knew that this lifestyle had already eaten away a big part of who I really was; a simple country boy caught in a game of cat and mouse.   

Saturday, January 10, 2009


That afternoon, I called Mr. Speaker.  I told him that I needed work.

Mr. Speaker was an old, white man with plenty of money; dirty money.  I met Mr. Speaker in 1989 at a restaurant bar.  Like myself, he also grew up a farm boy.  From that we connected in many ways.  Mr. Speaker used to be a stock investor.  He also owned several car dealerships in New Jersey.  He lived out on a big farm in the country and had a single engine plane.  One day he invited me out to his farm to fly with him. 

“I would love to fly, “I told him.  “It has always been my dream.”

“Dang,” he said.  “Not many country boys want to fly.” 

“I don’t like being called ‘boy’, ‘homeboy’, ‘my nigger’, or any other bullshit.  Call me by my name, please,” I told him. 

“I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean anything by that.  I like you, Rick.  I can call you Rick, right?”

“Yeah.”  Smiling, I said, “And you can call me for that plane ride too.”  

“You have my word, Ricky.  I don’t tell lies.  I don’t lie to you or anyone else.  Maybe I can show you around the farm, and show you some ways to invest your money.”

He called me the next Thursday, as he promised.  “Can you meet me Saturday morning to take a flight around the farm?”

“Sure,” I said, not knowing where this flight would lead me. 

On Saturday, I met him at his large house.  He told me that he owned about four hundred acres of land.  Some he inherited from family, some he had bought himself.  We talked about stocks and how to make money.  I told him that I knew very little about stocks.  He said, “Rick, you are a very smart, young man because you listen very well.  Would you accompany me outside?”  We walked out to his large pool and patio.  “Look Rick, I made all of this happen,” he said as he waved his hand over his property, “because I believed in myself, and I worked hard.  And sometimes a man has to take a risk in order to succeed.  I’m coming to you straight, Rick.  I made some of this happen with dirty money.  And with that comes some heart ache and pain.”

“I don’t read you,” I said. 

“I didn’t think you would.  I have one son who you will meet today.  He’ll do the flying, I’ll do the talking and you’ll do the listening.”

One day I would crash and burn, but that day I was going flying.  Speaker’s son, Pete, flew us over and around the farm.  It was my dream come true.    As I looked down at his beautiful home and large farm I thought, damn this is nice.  I knew that getting involved with Speaker was wrong, but as I gazed at all he had, I wanted the same.  Maybe I could get into this for a little while, make a little money and move on.  I didn’t know what kind of plan Speaker had for me, but I knew it would change my life, and on this day I was excited but confused.  I was faced with so many questions but I couldn’t deny this opportunity for wealth and power.  Where do you draw the line between right and wrong?  Between dreams and reality?   I felt like I was putting a price on my own head; a very high price that I wanted there.  If it meant taking a risk, so be it.  The greater the risk, the greater the reward.  And Batman was wrong: crime does pay.  But at what price?    

After about an hour in the sky, drinking brandy and sniffing cocaine, I had to come back down to reality.  After landing, Pete and I walked into his father’s office.  There, I met a Spanish fellow named Rafael.  He was a car salesman and drug dealer.  Pete and Rafael explained how I could get involved in their business.  Pete would make the connections for the hot cars.  Raf would do the fake paperwork, the drug deals, and the logistics.  My role was to transfer the cars.  It was the most successful job interview I had ever had.  No resume, no background check.  I immediately had a part time job.  I still had my regular 9 to 5, but now I would be transferring cars on the weekends.  And the pay was great:  $1,500-$2,000 every Sunday with fringe benefits.  Not the kind of benefits you’d find at IBM, but crime benefits; enough drugs and women to keep the employees sufficiently entertained and sufficiently locked in.  How could anyone turn this down?

This was my weekend job for the next year.  I would drive hot cars to and from Florida, New Jersey and North Carolina.  At first Rafael would follow me in another car with drugs, money, and usually what Rafael referred to as his “hot commodities”.  These weren’t the chicken heads you’d find on the streets.  These were high end prostitutes; girls who would make about $1,200 a night.  Mr. Speaker would transfer these girls around from city to city to keep things fresh for his clients.  Eventually, I worked my way up to driving and delivering on my own.  It was a job I took very seriously.  The only thing I ever touched on the car was the steering wheel.  You never touched the drugs, the money, and especially the “hot commodities”.  It was all business while on the road.    

Once a delivery was made, and the drugs and money were in Mr. Speaker’s hand, you’d get paid immediately.  Some of the other drug runners would take off.  Mr. Speaker would always ask me to hang around and make overtime to learn more about the business.  The compensation for his overtime would always be the fringe benefits hard for any man to turn down.  Hell, Mr Speaker and I were like Hugh Hefner and Rick James partying it up at the mansion.

“Are you saving any of this money, or investing in stocks like I told you to?”  Mr. Speaker asked me one night during overtime. 

“Yes, maybe next year I’ll buy a small house and a farm.”  He knew I was bullshitting my money away.  “I’m only buying small things right now.  Hell, you know I have a regular job, and I don’t want to raise any suspicion.” 

“I know.  This is a business, not a fucking game, Ricky!”  Whenever Mr. Speaker called me Ricky, I knew he was serious.  “Save the money, you will need it one day.  You are not looking at the business aspects of this, Ricky.  You are gambling, drinking, and smoking that shit too much.  Just take some time off both your jobs.  I’ve got a place in the mountains and you can stay there.  You have to learn where to draw the line.”  I did take some time off, but the only line I ever drew was another line of cocaine. 

I had a lot of respect for Mr. Speaker and the game.  He’d call and check in on me.  Of course I would tell him a lie, saying that I was doing fine.  I was fucking up everything I touched.  My drug addiction had taken over my life.  I felt like I had let Mr. Speaker and many others down.  I was too ashamed to go back to this man who had helped me so much. 

“I’ve been there, Rick,” Mr. Speaker told me one time during one of his phone calls.  “I’ll pay for you to go to a treatment center.  You need help.  Ricky, I feel like it was my fault.  But I can’t help you unless you allow me to help you.  Call me Ricky, if you ever need me for anything.  I’ll always be there.” 

I should have taken the treatment, but pride and addiction got the best of me.  Years went by and I never called him.  But now I was a fugitive on the run, hiding out in a fucking, cramped rooming house, calling Speaker for help.  Like a child running back to his parents.  A hard head makes a soft ass.