tagNovels and NovellasBeyond Limits Ch. 03

Beyond Limits Ch. 03


Lexi didn't seem to be ready to forgive me for that session of lovemaking where I'd tried to dominate her. She came over the next day in the bright and melting snow and was civil enough but cool, and it was quite frankly painful. She knew it was painful too, and even apologized for the way she was acting but claimed she couldn't help it. The way she felt was beyond her control and she'd need a couple days to settle down after such a traumatic upset. There was really nothing she could do about it.

In any case she thought it just as well because Founder's Day was coming up, an extended weekend when the college closed and a lot of people left or had drunken parties or weird, immersive, experimental seminars. Lexi was going to be very busy with Cormac and the play because he was using the break to schedule such a special, extended, intensive rehearsal session and she'd be spending almost all her time at the theater building, and also going out to dinner with Cormac on Friday night, something I wasn't very happy about, although Cormac had dinner with all the leads in the cast and crew, his way of getting to know them all. She'd just stopped by to get some clothes, including her gray skirt and jacket that I loved so much, the one that made her look so lovely and feminine, and hearing about this more than anything else probably decided me then and there:

"I'm going to Chicago for a couple days with April. Nothing suspicious. She's in some trouble and she needs my help."

Lexi could still be jealous, though not as jealous as I would have liked. " April Louterbeck? What kind of trouble?"

I really had no secrets, so I told her. "She has a cousin in the army who sent her a whole shitload of dope and she doesn't know what to do with it. I'm going to take her to Sandra and see if she can take it off her hands." Lexi knew about Sandra. She knew all about that phase of my life. As I said, I had no secrets from her.

"So you're going together? Where are you going to stay?"

"At Sandra's, probably. Everything will be fine. I told you about Sandra."

Sandra was a high-functioning addict and a lesbian and an old, old friend of mine. High-functioning means she was a basically a junkie, but able to function just fine in society, and in fact thrive in it. She was, in fact, the executive assistant to the vice president of a very large and lucrative medical insurance company in downtown Chicago and a very together woman with a huge condo overlooking the lake on South Lake Shore Drive. She had connections in the upper class heroin circles in Chicago and dealt to commodity traders, doctors, lawyers, and other professionals only. She'd been my connection back in the day, before she'd struck gold and when we'd both been small-time users, and we'd always stayed close.

Lexi looked at me. "I remember Sandra. I thought that part of your life was over."

"It is," I said. "Sandra's just an old friend, and she can help us. Besides, I haven't seen her in almost a year."

"April's hot for you, you know."

"I know. And you're hot for Cormac."

She squinted as if I'd passed something foul-smelling under her nose. "He's attractive, but he's not my type."

"He had you eating out of his hand the other day."

"What are you talking about?"

"When he was abusing you on stage. You were just standing there and eating it up like a masochist. Like a little submissive."

She turned away to get some underthings out of a drawer. "Give it a rest, Russell. You're obsessed."

"You told me you got off on it."

"I did. On his insights, his critiques. He's a great, great director, a great critic. In three seconds he can tell you what's wrong with a reading. Yes, I get off on that."

"No. He's got your number. I was there. I saw it."

She threw her underwear into her backpack. "You'll never believe me that I'm just not into that D/s crap, will you? You just won't give it a rest. Just because you're consumed—"

"No I won't. Because everyone's into it on some level. On some level everyone wants it, wants to rule or be ruled. When you get down past all the sweetness, love is sex and power—"

"Well maybe I'm all sweetness, Russell! Maybe I'm all fucking sweetness!"

I didn't have to say anything to that. We glared at each other for a moment and then her face fell. She embraced me, two pair of panties still in her hand.

"Oh baby! I don't want to fight! Why are we fighting? I love you so much, Russell! Is it really so important you tie me up and play lord of the manor with me? That's what this is about, isn't it? That's what it's always about. Is that really what you want?"

I held her, her breasts against my chest, the smell of her hair in my nose. I thought of what she'd given to me—everything. Everything except that one thing—and suddenly it seemed so trivial. I melted.

"No, baby, no. No. In the big scheme of things, it's really not important."

"Then why are we fighting?

"Because I'm jealous of Cormac."

"Oh God, Russell! Don't be jealous of that shmuck! Please! Are you kidding?" She held me and started to laugh or cry—I wasn't sure which—and I held her tight.

"Baby," I said. "Baby, I know. I just get crazy sometimes."

She looked at me and gave a tearful little laugh. "The weird thing is—you're right., The son of a bitch does do something to me and I hate it. I don't feel anything for him, nothing at all—it's nothing like that. Aside from being a great director he's an absolute asshole. That's why I can't understand it. It makes me furious, makes me sick with myself, but when he bitches at me, it does something weird to me, like he reaches inside and touches something I didn't know I had...."

I felt chills, felt dizzy, felt rage uncoiling in my stomach like a poisonous snake. For a second I wanted to slap her, wanted to beat her and choke her, but the moment passed as she hugged me and pressed her cheek against me, wetting my shirt with her tears.

"I would never do that, Russell. I'd never leave you, not the way I love you. No one could be what you are to me. It's just a weird thing, a quirk inside me. It must be something I got from my dad yelling at me."

"Hell," I said. "I'll yell at you."

She smiled up at me. "You're too sweet. You love me too much. It wouldn't work with you."

And that's all we said about the matter. That's all she said about me and April going to Chicago together and all I said about her going out to dinner with Cormac in her gray dress and jacket while I was gone.

Dinner and drinks afterwards, it turned out, and then something more.

* * * * *

We put the heroin in a bag of dirty rags and threw it in the trunk of my car and drove it into the city. I left the key in the trunk as an alibi. A bad one, but it might help if we were pulled over. We stopped at several places where someone might have planted dope on us, enough to hopefully create a reasonable doubt should we get stopped and should we ever be taken to trial. It was crazy thinking, a crazy plan.

In any case we had no trouble. The trip was quiet. The whole way I thought about Lexi and Cormac, knowing they were out to dinner together in Belpierre. We made it into Chicago in ten hours, hit the expressways at eleven o'clock, fueled by April's coke. Sandra was expecting us.

On the way in, April was deferential. There was no mention of the other night, no mention of her feelings for me. We talked a little about the play, about some things in school, books, about Sandra. We'd both brought bags with a change of clothes. It was understood we'd be staying at Sandra's but we didn't talk about the details. If April was worried about staying at a lesbian's apartment, she didn't say anything.

Either you don't know your fellow junkies at all or you're like brothers and sisters with them. The life is like that, and Sandra was like a sister to me. We'd just always clicked, always knew each other deeply. We'd both been special toward each other and special toward the drug, able to maintain a certain distance from it. I'd like to say it was because we both had sense, but I think it was actually because we both were cowards. We'd seen too many people go over the edge. Sandra was strange. She had an iron discipline in some aspects of her life, practically no control in others, as if it were an all-or-none proposition. She discipline her use strictly. Me, I just got scared, backed off and left whenever I wanted more.

I'd known Sandra back in the days when she was struggling to make ends meet, working at a fly-by-night insurance agency and living over a Polish deli on Fullerton. The agency had gone bankrupt and she'd met her new boss in court. He'd taken a shine to her, thought she was sharp and she was. When he landed a job as an up-and-comer in the home office of the insurance company he called her and she never looked back. She was amazingly efficient when it came to other people's business, canny and well-organized. When it came to her own she was dizzy and disorganized, life streaming by her in a haze of confusion. She was all business for David C. Redman, and she boosted him to the top of Eastland United Medical Liability and rode his coat tails along all the way, and no one ever knew about her use.

Lake Shore Drive slid like a serpentine hiss along the edge of Lake Michigan, and there, well south of the lights of downtown and the Museum and the knot of activity by Grant Park, a series of sinuous buildings were tucked into a curve of the Drive, standing like sentries, and that's where Sandra lived. We took our things from the trunk and I took the laundry bag and the key as well and gave the car to the door man who would park it in the underground lot. Sandra lived with Bonnie, a nurse at Northwestern Memorial, and I didn't know if Bonnie would be home or not. She wasn't.

"Russell, love! Come on in!" She eyed the laundry bag but said nothing. "And this is your friend April? I'm so glad to meet you."

Sandra was wearing jeans and a sweatshirt and was still shapely. Part of how she kept her job was her shape, model thin, due to a junkie diet of yoghurt, lettuce, and water, that kept her hips and cheekbones prominent. Anything else made her sick. Sandra was dark and had the look of an AmerIndian about her, though she was really Italian and Lebanese, a strikingly beautiful woman.

The view from her place was fantastic, the lights of the city to the north, the aching darkness of the lake to the east with the moon in the sky making the living room feel like it went on forever.

"You want something to drink?" Sandra asked. "A beer, some wine? A diet coke? Anything? We've got it all, Russell. April, you?"

I took some wine just to be polite, and April surprised me by asking for a Jack Daniels on the rocks. Sandra raised her eyebrows in approval, always glad to see people get high, and brought her the drink, then poured some wine for herself too and came into the living room, asking about our drive. Without further ado, she produced a hash pipe and lit it.

It was too fast for me. I was still nervous about the heroin and I declined. April did too.

"You two are going to make me look bad, aren't you?" Sandra said, drawing in her breath and holding it. The minty, brown scent of the hash filled the air.

Sandra let her breath out and her eyes began to shine.

"Where's Bonnie?" I asked. "Working tonight?"

"Yeah. Twelve hour shift. She left just before you got here. Gets off at ten tomorrow. So tell me, Russell—is this the one you've been telling me about? This April?"

I felt a rush of embarrassment and April hid herself in a sip of her drink.

"No, actually. That one's name is Lexi. April's a student of mine. And a friend. She came to me with that problem I told you about. Lexi's still back at school."

Sandra nodded slowly. "Oh. I am the stupid one, aren't I? I'm sorry, April. That was awfully dumb of me."

"It's alright," April said. "I'm flattered really."

Now I colored. To change the subject, I said, "I brought it with, Sandra. It's right here. You want to see?"

She finished her hit on the hash and put the pipe in an ashtray.

As I say, Sandra trusted me totally. I wouldn't have opened business with anyone else like that. Of course, I wouldn't have gone into anyone else's house with a kilo of heroin either.

"Alright," she said. "Might as well. Let's see what you have."

The dope was in a white trash bag down inside the laundry sack and I fished it out and stood it on the coffee table. I peeled back the plastic and revealed the four quarter-kilo packages and Sandra's eyebrows went up. She picked one up and squeezed it.

"Mmm. Can I cut one open?"

April looked at me and I nodded, so she said, "Yes."

Sandra got up and went to a desk and got a pen knife and opened a blade, came back and selected a brick and made a v-shaped cut in the plastic wrap, peeled this back and touched her little finger to the white powder, then tasted it.

"My," she said. "That tastes very clean. Very clean indeed." She looked at April, then at me. "You've tried it?"

"I snorted some."


"Yeah. It's very good. Some of the best I've ever had, I'd say."

Sandra tasted her finger again. "You've weighed it? Confirmed the weight?"

"No," I said. "I don't have a scale. But I have no reason to doubt it. But if it is a key, what do you think it's worth?"

"God if I know right now," Sandra said. "To the people I'd sell it to? They don't know you. Don't know where it comes from or who they're dealing with or where you got it, if it's stolen from someone else or what. Whether there'd be any more or if you're feds or what's going on. It's very dangerous, Russell, doing business like that, you understand?"

"Yeah, I understand. But still, Sandra, you must have some idea."

She pulled her nose. "If it's all real, and if it's a key, and if there's no word out that someone's missing a brick, I could probably get you maybe fifteen, seventeen thou. Any more than that and you're asking for serious trouble. Guns come out, bad people start asking questions..."

I looked at April who was pale, sucking on an ice cube. "You want that, April? It's your stuff."

"God," she said. "What do you think Russell? You know more about this than I do. I'd take it!"

I could see April was no negotiator.

"I'd want to cut an ounce out for me," I said. I don't know why I said it. Greed, nostalgia, a sick sensuality, a memory of the other night with April. I just couldn't pass on all this good stuff.

"Of course, Russell," April leaned forward. "You get a finder's fee. I was going to give you ten per cent, at least."

"Okay," Sandra said. "You want me to see what I can do? I'll tell you what. I can give you twenty-five hundred right now in cash on one of the bricks for a deposit. You take the rest of them back with you. I'll talk to my people tomorrow and see what they'll offer then get back to you in a couple of days. Russell knows I'm good for it."

I shook my head. "I don't want to take these back with us, Sandra. I want you to keep them all."

"As you wish, baby. But all I have is twenty-five hundred."

"I trust you."

She looked at me and smiled like a mother. "Isn't he the sweetest man?" Turning to April, she asked. "Is that okay with you, honey?"

"If Russell trusts you than I do too."

Sandra folded up the trash bag with the three bricks and left it there, then walked into the back room. We heard her shoes disappearing on the hardwood floor. April turned to me, her eyes shining with excitement.

"Fifteen thousand dollars!" she whispered. "My God! What am I going to do with that kind of money?"

"You're going to put it in ten different bank accounts and if anyone asks, you tell them you got it from selling collectibles on e-bay. Some special Barbie dolls or something. But no one's going to ask because no one's going to know. You're only going to spend it by the dollar, understand?"

"Yes. Of course. God! I never dreamed!"

The thought of the money made her face flush and caused her eyes to gleam. She suddenly looked bright and full of life. She drained the rest of her drink in a mouthful.

Sandra came back in and counted out twenty-five hundred dollar bills, right on the coffee table. Her hair hung down over her face as she counted, but I could see that she was smiling. She was pleased. She was making money.

Out over the lake a red light glowed on one of the pumping stations that supplied the city with its water, and above it a flashing white light marked where a plane flew through the night, somewhere between the horizon and the moon.

This is how easily it's done. Not with guns in dark alleys by desperate, wild-eyed men in torn tee-shirts, but by two lovely women with long hair and smiles, counting out clean, unwrinkled bills in a warm, luxurious apartment far removed from the sweat and anguish of the opium fields and the blood and misery of the shooting galleries. This stupid powder, the dust of flowers, the white soot of freezing dreams.

April looked elegant there with the money in her hand, like a child princess, too young and too blessed. Was she hot? Was she aroused? Sandra was. I could tell. Heroin replaces sex for most users. It's that good. But Sandra was a maintenance user, taking just enough to keep from getting sick from withdrawal. She wasn't like the others, and the excitement of being around that much dope and of being around April and me too (I think) affected her.

She sat down in front of the one brick. "We'll try some, alright?"

"No, not for me," I said.

April shook her head. "Me either. It really kind of scares me."

"Well how am I going to know what we've got?"

"Go ahead, Sandra. You're allowed."

"I am, aren't I? And this is for science, after all. April, the whiskey's in the kitchen, Help yourself."

April got up and made another drink and I watched Sandra. I thought she'd cook some up and inject it, but she didn't. She had more control than that. She scooped some out with her pen knife—just a neat little mound—and quickly inhaled it, one nostril then the other, then put the knife on the table and sat back.

"Oh Lord," she said. "Oh my. Wow."

She leaned back in the sofa and it seemed obvious she'd be occupied for a while, so I picked up the remote and turned on the TV, quickly found the volume and turned it way down. I clicked past some shows and late night talk till I found some ice skaters on a big spot-lit rink with flags. They looked like brother and sister and the girl reminded me of Lexi for some reason, something in her attitude. I watched the way her little skirt blew against her thighs, then up over her ass, then down and awkwardly half-up and half-down, fluttering like a flag. Sandra let out a deep sigh and sunk into the couch.

How many people were thinking about that girl's cunt while she was skating, I wondered? Nothing especially dirty or lewd, just wondering about it, about the things its arms and legs and brain were putting it through out there on the ice, the things all of our brains put us through for the sake of our cunts and our cocks. The beauty we watched ice skating for was basically a function of our gonads, wasn't it? The grace of the bodies arranged just so, speeding over the ice with the arc of an uplifted arm and the curved line of a trailing leg. The beauty of the body is a sexual beauty. It comes from our preoccupation with sex.

My being here tonight was sexual as well, as was Lexi's being in Belpierre, and April leaning against the sink in the kitchen nursing her drink. All these things had to do with our wanting love and comfort and power, and all of those things come from sex. No matter how you slice it or look at it, we're all driven under the lash of sex. Under the cover of love hides the machinery of sex.

Sandra was sighing, moaning almost, slumped down in the sofa, and I knew she'd really gotten off, more than she'd expected. Sandra's not shy about showing how she feels if she's with people she trusts. She usually operates within such tight limits that she instantly recognizes any deviation from the norm, and she was way beyond her usual parameters, wandering in the land of the truly intoxicated. It's not polite to look at someone when they're getting high, but I looked at her now because she was slowly shaking her head back and forth like a common stoner, something I'd never seen her do before.

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