Max Parker: The Missing Prescription Pad by Jason Brown
Same dream again. Evelyn is gagged and tied to a decaying post on a sinking pier. All I can do is watch while my feet are cemented to the harbor floor. This time Photi is on the pier. He is trying to help Evelyn escape. As the water fills my lungs, I wake and relax my jaw. I am covered in sweat. I can feel loose granules of teeth in the pits of my molars. Bruxism is apparently caused by eating sugar before bed (along with a host of other reasons). I will have to cut out the late night Sour Patch Kids.
The sound of sirens outside my window reminds me how insignificant one man’s nightmare is in Baltimore. The city feels more ruthless everyday. When I was growing up, there was an order to crime in the city. Nowadays, it’s every gun for himself and the cops can barely keep up with the parking violations. Besides the jobs I do are too dirty for the boys in blue.
Believe it or not, I used to be one of the good guys. Sometimes I still am. I respect what the law claims to represent; a protection of individual freedom. It just seems the system has lost sight of that. It’s nothing but an industry now. Trust me, I worked for the DEA for nine years. The last four I spent undercover, and that’s where everything went wrong. I can’t say I was entirely innocent, but I didn’t do half of what I stood accused of. Needless to say, I got some time. But all that’s over now. I have found my own way to set a small part of the world right: the forgotten sector. It has its rewards.
Photi told me last night (after three hours of beer and darts) that I am a desperate man’s last resort. I specialize in those the police refuse to help. The ex-con, the illegal immigrant, the wanted criminal; the discreet disenfranchised if you would. What is most rewarding about these clients is my ability to gouge their pockets. I also wind up with a number of cases that people are afraid to present to the official authorities. They come to me when their problem needs discretion. I turn down some, but for the most part I just price out the bad cases. Sometimes I get myself stuck this way.
For example: two weeks ago, Big Charlie (a heroin smuggler and a union longshoreman) walks into my office and asks me to find fifteen kilos of raw dope. Usually, I would say no; but Big Charlie doesn’t like that word, and he is not someone to upset. So, I did the math on fifteen kilos (turns out to be worth over a million bucks), and decided that a hundred grand would probably be twice what Charlie was willing to pay. Especially considering that I get half up front, regardless of the outcome. This bastard says “you got it- just find my shit!” Now, I am nursing a bullet hole that went clean through my left shoulder. Fuckin’ with Big Charlie. Although I did buy a really nice yacht from a friend’s chop shop with the hundred grand. Got it docked down in Canton. I plan on moving the office there as soon as this shoulder heals up. Currently, my office is set up in a slum section of Park Heights, over by Pimlico racetrack. I live in a loft above it, pretty much all I could afford when I got out of prison last year. Great for balancing my income with horse racing on the slow days. Who the hell is knocking on my door at this hour?
“Is this Max Parker’s office?” The voice suggests femininity.
“Yes, but it’s a little late; office closed over six hours ago.”
“Max, it’s me- Evelyn.”
How did I not recognize that voice? Suddenly, a wave of nostalgia comes rushing over me. I open the door and her red hair spills into my office like a wildfire in search of oxygen. The rest of her ivory essence follows subtly. Her big green doe eyes catch me off guard.
“Oh, Max, it’s been much too long.”
“I was just thinkin’ the same thing. How ya been Ev?”
“I been better, things got all screwed up when you went down. Honestly, I have wanted to come see you since I heard you were out over six months ago, but I have been too scared. I kept imagining that you wouldn’t want to see me- that I was all part of your cover, that Max Parker could never really love a loser like me.” Evelyn is about to fall to pieces, I can hear it in her voice.
“Listen babe, my life undercover really started to take over my actual life and that had a lot to do with you. I tried to remain objective and do my job, but you changed everything for me. And you know what, seeing you here now makes it almost worth it. C’mere Ev.” We embrace and there is a sense of relief that neither of us has felt in years. We kiss and every time that we have ever kissed happens all over again. Every sensation I had forgotten is awakened. Every spark I worked so hard to smoother, flares like the fourth of July. I recoil, afraid of the repercussions. Evelyn always comes with baggage.
“So, what’s the deal sugar? You need something else or just come over to see me?”
Evelyn says nothing. She just smiles and grabs my cock. So much for resisting. We ascend the spiral staircase to my loft above the office. It is a whirlwind of dirty clothes and wrinkled papers. Evelyn doesn’t seem to mind as she clears a spot on the bed. We take each other places we wish we had never left. Evelyn eventually falls asleep on my chest, curled into my side. I forgot how radiantly warm she is.
The morning brings boisterous knocking that Evelyn and I are not prepared for. That knock, it’s either the police or Photi.
“C’mon Max, open the door- it’s just me.”
Photi, great. The police would be more welcome at this point. Photi is my partner, but mostly we just drink and play darts together. We crossed paths tracking a wanted criminal about six months ago. Photi is a bounty hunter, and I was “locating” someone of interest for a client. After I realized that he could be bought, Photi and I became dear friends. Last time he was at the office, it was the same routine. Twenty minutes after the office is supposed to open and I am half-naked with company. That’s all I need is for him to threaten to pull his license again. Technically, the whole business is his because it’s impossible to get a proper investigator’s license with a record. Fortunately, Photi’s bounty hunter license serves the same purpose. On paper, I am just his greeter.
“Coming old friend, slept in again. Sorry about that.”
“Is there someone upstairs? I hear the floor creaking and the water running.”
“Quite the detective you are turning into, Photi.”
“Who is the lucky girl today?”
“You mean the one that you called mentally unstable and asked me to keep you away from?”
“No that must have been someone else,” I interject quickly and loudly.
Evelyn comes down the stairs in nothing but a t-shirt and red panties. Her white thighs gleam in the morning light. Photi and I look away long enough for her to descend and retain a shred of modesty.
“Photi, Evelyn; Evelyn, this is my partner, Photi.”
“Guess Max has already told you all about me, huh?” Evelyn says with pursed lips to boot.
“Just that you two used to run together I think. Max don’t gossip too much.”
Thank you, Photi. He must want me to pay for lunch or something.
“So, Evelyn, I have some business to discuss with Photi, should I call you a cab?”
“Sure, just give me a minute to dress, and, oh yeah, there was one other thing.” Here it comes, I knew there would be a catch.
“What is it dear?”
“Big Charlie wanted me to thank you for doin’ a good job.”
“Oh yeah, so you’re his new thank you card huh? I will have to remember that.”
“It ain’t like that Max, he told me you had been shot and I really felt bad for you. I told you already how difficult this has been for me. Don’t make it any harder please, Max. Charlie takes care of me.”
“I’m sure he does, babe.”
“I did this for you Max! Quit bein’ such a jerk, what’d ya think I fuck every guy he asks me to?”
“No sugar, probably just the handsome ones.”
Evelyn begins to cry. What am I saying to her? I am such a jerk. She is doing the same thing I do, whatever it takes to survive comfortably. That’s partially my fault for conditioning the girl to a lifestyle well beyond her means. Now she works for Big Charlie. Out of all the redheads in Baltimore, he had to pick mine. The hole in my shoulder begins to throb. I am suddenly nauseous and no longer interested in lunch. I pick up the phone and call Evelyn a cab.
Photi and I go out for lunch, my treat. I owe him at least that much. If it weren’t for his timely arrival, who knows how long Evelyn and I would have played out that unending charade?
“Watcha thinkin’ about? Her, huh?”
“Photi, you know me well.”
“So to get this straight, she’s been workin’ for Big Charlie since you went down?”
“Yes, but going down implies I did something wrong. Can we just say since I was fired?”
“Sure, but gettin’ fired usually don’t involve doin’ five years in prison.”
“It was only five on paper, I was out in half of that with my exemplary behavior.”
My phone vibrates and fortunately averts my attention from recalling the twenty-nine months I spent locked up in Hazelton, WV.
“Hey it’s Charlie, how’d ya like seein’ your old broad again?”
“Yeah, she sure is somethin’, huh?”
“Well, listen I know you are healing up still, but I got a real easy one for ya in Delaware if you’re interested.”
“Okay, this friend of mine, Dr. Titan, is a pain doctor and let’s just say he gives people what they want. So, of course, the feds have been looking into his practice for years. Suddenly, he starts noticing these prescriptions coming back that he never wrote. He realizes some junkie has stolen a prescription pad and is forging his signature for all kinds of shit. Fortunately, the feds haven’t picked up on this, but Doc knows it is only a matter of time. What we need is someone to discreetly find the pad and return it.”
“Well, as always, it comes down to the price tag.”
“Right, I told him you were expensive and he said that he will pay whatever it takes to save his practice.”
“How much are we talkin’?”
“I can give you ten grand here, and he can settle with you on the rest when you get the pad. You will have to work out the details when you get to Delaware.”
“The case could take up to a week depending on how long it takes me to find the patient who stole the pad.”
“I never said it was a patient, Max.”
“I know this, but an employee would be too smart and who else goes in the back at a pain specialist’s beside patients? A patient’s family member perhaps, either way- I am looking for a patient.”
“Listen, a week of your time is a lot I understand, but this won’t end up like the last case- I promise. I will write ya a check and have it delivered to your office today. Then I will call Dr. Titan and tell him you will be there tomorrow. The two of you can work out the details in person.”
“One last thing Charlie, you still owe me ten grand for the GBMC medical bills for this bullet I took.”
“Okay, ten and ten make twenty, you got it. Take care Max.” I push the red “End” button on my phone and turn to Photi. My shoulder is thumping like the pulse of a frightened rabbit.
“Something weird about this one, Photi.”
“You aren’t seriously considering taking another of Big Charlie’s jobs, are you? Max, C’mon. He stole your woman, got you shot, and you run off to help him?”
“Usually I would price him out or gouge him. But he has awakened my curiosity, and I would like to talk to this Dr. Titan. Not to mention I am almost out of my Roxies, and this shoulder is throbbing. Besides, Big Charlie is up to something and I have to know what it is.”
“How do you know he is ‘up to something’?”
“He has contacted me three times in two weeks, which is unprecedented. I have sparked his interest for some reason. I have to see this through, Photi. Try to understand, there is still a lot I haven’t figured out about my arrest. It seems that Evelyn and Charlie could help shed light on what exactly happened three years ago. This is more personal than anything. Don’t want to get you mixed up in any of this, in case things get messy.”
“Max, you know I don’t shy from danger, just don’t do anything stupid. I don’t mind risking my life for the right cause.”
“I don’t need to you take any risks over this saga Photi. All I need you to do is stay close to the office in case I need you to look anything up. I’ll go to Delaware tomorrow and find out what Charlie’s scheming. You up for some darts tonight?”
“With a hole in your shoulder?”
“I take back everything I have said in favor of your deductive abilities. I’m right-handed Photi. The bullet went through my left shoulder!”
“I know you’re right-handed, just couldn’t remember where you got shot.”
“So you’re just unsympathetic, that’s a relief.”
The next day I stagger through the beer bottles and darts strewn about the floor of the office. My shoulder is throbbing. I find the bottle of Roxicet just in time. One left. The refill is two weeks away. Gonna have to get to Delaware and talk to Dr. Titan, soon.
“Photi, I’m headed to Delaware. You all right cleaning up and watching things for a few days?”
“I told you, I got this. No problem.”
With that, Photi hits the snooze button and rolls back over on the couch. I step out into a warm spring breeze that refreshes my outlook. Two hours to Delaware and then this shoulder stops throbbing. I open my Volvo up and get there in ninety minutes.
The office is a rancher with a wooden sign out front. I park and make my way into the rural temple of relief.
“Hello, Max Parker here to see Dr. Titan.”
“Have a seat, he will call you back, Mr. Parker.”
The receptionist’s name tag says Alice. She is definitely in Wonderland. This office is a zoo of reprobates and delinquents in search of their next fix. A few people look like they have legitimate pain, but most of this sweat-clothes covered motley crew are here for the high.
“Mr. Parker, please come back.”
Dr. Titan is a short man with a tan complexion. His bald head and stoic smile make him appear intelligent, but there is something off about him. He escorts me back to his office.
“Have a seat, Max- You don’t mind that I call you Max, do you?”
“No, Max is fine. I guess Charlie told you I was comin’?”
“He did. I understand that we need to work out a payment arrangement before you begin trying to locate the missing prescription pad.”
“Yes, about the payment. Well, I took this bullet a few weeks back for our friend Big Charlie and the doctor in Baltimore didn’t give me enough to kill the pain. I ran out of pills this morning. Think we could work something out?”
“This sounds very feasible. What would you like to have?”
He begins fumbling with a locked drawer on his desk and I sense relief is near.
“Those will work.”
“These are Fentanyl patches, they are very strong.”
“I know what they are. How many of them can you spare?”
“I will give you twenty now and I can send you another twenty after the job is completed. They are worth over two thousand dollars on the street altogether. I will also hand you a check for five grand when you hand me the prescription pad. With Charlie’s ten, that is seventeen grand. Do we have a deal?”
“I guess so, since this patch is already stuck to my shoulder.”
“Good, where shall we start?”
I have his secretary compose a list of all the patients that came in the week that the pad went missing. I call Photi.
“Are you still at the office?”
“No, just over at the track though. Why, what’s up?”
“Can you still run the IntegraScan background checks?”
“Yeah, back at the office. They charge per inquiry, how many you got?” Photi hesitantly asks.
“Shit, he saw over fifty patients the week the pad went missing.”
“At twenty bucks a pop, this could take a thousand dollars and yield nothing Max.”
“It’s my only shot Photi. I hate to ask you to possibly waste hours of your time, but I really need to know if any of these patients have a record. I will reimburse you the twenty for each inquiry, along with a thousand for looking. If you find something good, I will split the five grand the doctor gave me with you.”
“How can I say no to that? Especially considering I just blew nine hundred on a “sure bet Trifecta” that missed. I’ll be at the office in five minutes, call you as soon as I find something.”
“Thanks Photi, I owe you big.”
I check into a Red Roof Inn, waiting for Photi to turn something up. They have an Indian buffet next to the lobby. After some lamb vindaloo and a mango lassi, I find my way to room four twenty-one. Just as I lie down, my phone begins to vibrate. I hope this is Photi.
“Hey Max, it’s Evelyn.”
“Hey there, how are ya?”
“I am fine, what are you up to?”
“Just waiting for Photi to call me with some info, on a job in Delaware. But you probably already knew that.”
“No, Charlie don’t tell me much.”
“Yeah, well the less you know the better off you are.”
“I guess. I won’t hold you up long, just wanted to tell you that I had a really good time the other night.” With that there is a click and the phone goes dead. I was about to say that I enjoyed it as well. Photi calls just as I was drifting to sleep. The digital alarm clock says nine p.m., those patches are strong.
“Hey Photi, tell me something good.”
“As groggy as you sound, you must already have something good.”
“Just some Fentanyl patches from the good doctor, a little stronger than I remember.”
“Jesus, be careful Max. People die from that stuff. Anyway, I found one kid with an interesting record, after about thirty inquiries. Adam Deveaux, convicted of prescription forgery when he was eighteen. That was almost two years ago, but he was locked up for nineteen months. He just got out about five months ago, lives in an apartment complex in Wilmington. I got an address, I’ll text it to you.”
“Thanks a million Photi. I owe you as usual. I was hoping you could do me one last favor and run Big Charlie through there. I know it won’t yield much, but I would like to know if there is a pattern to his charges. He usually beats ‘em, but they should still be listed on his record. I might find some dirt useful if there are any problems with Charlie.”
“Charles Monroe, listed union worker. Already found his date of birth. I’ll hit you back after I analyze his background check. Be careful out there Max.”
“Thanks again Photi, talk to ya soon.”
Thanks to gps, I find Adam’s building easily. His room is on the third floor, I take the stairs to be discreet. Room 321, it’s a countdown. I knock softly.
“Who is it?” The voice sounds groggy and monotone, definitely my man.
“Just doing a survey, you got a minute?”
“I guess, just make it quick, I got a meeting in an hour.” He says this while opening the door. I push my way in and he gets real startled.
“What the hell dude? Get the fuck outta here?”
“Listen, Adam, you are in a fuck load of trouble so I suggest you sit down, shut up, and cooperate. If I can swing it, you won’t be in jail tonight; just detox.”
“Jail? Detox? What the fuck are you talking about dude?”
“Dr. Titan knows you took his prescription pad. He hired me to find you and I found you quick. The feds are close behind, no doubt. If I can get the pad back to the good doctor, I may be able to convince him not to call the police. If I do this for you, you gotta do something for me.”
“This is fuckin’ bullshit dude!”
“Should I just call the cops now?”
“Listen to me Adam, you don’t want to go down this road. I have lived up and down it and it’s treacherous the whole way.”
I am such a fucking hypocrite right now, but what else can I say to the kid? Hey, keep getting’ high for the rest of your life, so you end up like me one day! Fuck, I hate it when I care.
Adam puts his head in his hands and begins sobbing in a way I can relate to. I tell him everything will be fine. It’s probably a lie.
“I have been to Kirkwood once, it wasn’t that bad I guess.” Adam finally says through the tears.
“Three days and I am out. I have probation on Tuesday, so that should work. Just let me grab some things. And here is the pad.”
Adam suddenly seems filled with energy and ambition. He unlocks a small lockbox and hands over what is left of the prescription pad. It is only about a third full, but something tells me that Adam might not have made it through those last thirty pages. The hollow twinkle in his eye says he is well aware of this.
I walk him into Kirkwood Detox Center to make sure that he checks himself in. I tell him to leave the crime behind and head back to the doctor. People have to start doing right for themselves at some point. I hope it’s Adam’s time.
I get to Dr. Titan’s office late, but he is still there waiting for me. I texted him and told him I had the pad hours ago. I hand him what is left of the pad and he hands me my check. I explain that Adam is getting some help and advise the doctor not to see him anymore. I am ready to get back to Baltimore.
I get back to the office around midnight. When I open the door and reach for the light switch, nothing happens.
“Photi, you here?”
Silence. Something is wrong. I pull a lighter from my pocket and the flame illuminates the mess. There are papers all over the place. The computer has been ripped out. Finally, I make out the shape of a body behind the desk. Fuck me, it’s Photi. His body is already stiffening. Two shots, one in the chest, one in the head. I know this was Big Charlie. But how did he know that Photi was checking him out? Evelyn! She must have bugged the office when I had her over the other night. Charlie has a habit of eavesdropping on everyone he can. This is all my fault, I got Photi killed. Only one way to make this right, gotta go after Evelyn and Charlie. I call and report a shooting at the office. I’d like to stay and explain, but I will be detained for twenty-four hours if I’m even at the crime scene. Murder scenes and felons don’t mix. Besides, I gotta find Charlie if there’s gonna be any justice for Photi’s death.
I head for the harbor. Big Charlie has a yacht down there, hopefully he is on it. I stop off at a storage area registered to Photi. It’s where I keep my gun. Now that I am a felon, I can’t go around packin’ all the time. Only when I know I will need it.
Once at the dock, I quietly sneak onto Charlie’s boat. I can hear Evelyn laughing below the deck. I bust into their cabin and point the gun at Charlie.
“I want answers, big man, now.”
“Max, what the hell’s this about?”
“You have been up to something for the past month and now Photi is dead.”
“I had nothin’ to do with that Max. Evelyn will tell you, we been on the boat since last night.”
“It’s the truth Max, me and Charlie been here on the boat all day.”
“Tell me something Evelyn, how long did it take after I got arrested for you to start trickin’ for dope again?”
“Actually, Max, I was trickin’ her out when you went down. You just didn’t know about it.”
“Charlie, you promised you wouldn’t tell him. Oh Max, I’m so sorry. I wanted to stay clean and be happy with you, but the clinic wasn’t enough. I started getting high behind your back and before I knew it, Charlie had me strung out.”
Things were finally starting to make sense. I was trying to save Evelyn, but all I did was ruin my own life. The prosecution used my relationship with Evelyn to seal the deal on my case. I always thought it would be worth it if I got out and she was doing better. Reality has a cruel way of shattering our dreams.
“See Max, junkies like Evelyn never change. People like you always get used. And I always get what I want. Shame for you, I wanted Evelyn so bad.”
“So bad that you hired me just to have someone kill me? And when that didn’t work, you sent Evelyn over to bug the office so you could keep tabs on me. Then you send me off to Delaware in order to kill off my partner, essentially shutting me down as well. Everything is crystal clear to me now Charlie.”
“Max, what evidence do you have for any of this?”
“None, but I do have a gun pointed at you. I was thinkin’ we would skip the trial and go straight to the sentencing.”
“Max, you aren’t thinkin’ clearly. You are just upset and irrational. Even if you are right, where does killin’ me get you?”
“Well, it will make me feel a little better about Photi bein’ dead. I don’t know if you pulled the trigger or not, but I know you had him killed. I can’t let that slide, Charlie.”
I take aim right between his eyes and blow a hole in the middle of Big Charlie’s head. He falls backward, onto his bed. Blood soaks his white satin bedding. Evelyn is screaming. She will always be a whore. I really thought I loved her. Time to put her down.
“Sorry Evelyn, this is the only way.”
I hug her close, sticking the nose of my gun into the back of her neck. I fire upwards through the top of her head. I feel splatters of blood and small chunks of flesh on my cheek. I gotta get the fuck outta here. Fortunately, my yacht is only a few piers away.
I reach my vessel before I see the lights from the cop cars over on Charlie’s dock. I quietly head out into the harbor. Plan on heading south, gonna have to lay low for a while after this mess. Got about fifty grand and eighteen patches left. That should be enough to get me where I need to go.