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Книга A Scanner Darkly. Содержание - 4

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Charles Freck sighed. “Colors the stamps blue.” He did not like Barris, really. Freck wished he were elsewhere, maybe scoring from the first person he ran into or called. Maybe I should split, he said to himself, but then he recalled the jar of oil and cocaine cooling in the freezer, one hundred dollars’ worth for ninety-eight cents. “Listen,” he said, “when will that stuff be ready? I think you’re shucking me. How could the Solarcaine people sell it for that little if it has a gram of pure coke in it? How could they make a profit?”

“They buy,” Barris declared, “in large quantities.”

In his head, Charles Freck rolled an instant fantasy: dump trucks full of cocaine backing up to the Solarcaine factory, wherever it was, Cleveland maybe, dumping tons and tons of pure, unstepped-on, uncut, high-grade cocaine into one end of the factory, where it was mixed with oil and inert gas and other garbage and then stuck in little bright-colored spray cans to be stacked up by the thousands in 7-11 stores and drugstores and supermarkets. What we ought to do, he ruminated, is knock over one of those dump trucks; take the whole load, maybe seven or eight hundred pounds—hell, lots more. What does a dump truck hold?

Barris brought him the now empty Solarcaine spray can for his inspection; he showed him the label, on which were listed all the contents. “See? Benzocaine. Which only certain gifted people know is a trade name for cocaine. If they said cocaine on the label people would flash on it and they’d eventually do what I do. People just don’t have the education to realize. The scientific training, such as I went through.”

“What are you going to do with this knowledge?” Charles Freck asked. “Besides making Donna Hawthorne horny?”

“I plan to write a best-seller eventually,” Barris said. “A text for the average person about how to manufacture safe dope in his kitchen without breaking the law. You see, this does not break the law. Benzocaine is legal. I phoned a pharmacy and asked them. It’s in a lot of things.”

“Gee,” Charles Freck said, impressed. He examined his wristwatch, to see how much longer they had to wait.

***

Bob Arctor had been told by Hank, who was Mr. F., to check out the local New-Path residence centers in order to locate a major dealer, whom he had been watching, but who had abruptly dropped from sight.

Now and then a dealer, realizing he was about to be busted, took refuge in one of the drug-rehabilitation places, like Synanon and Center Point and X-Kalay and New-Path, posing as an addict seeking help. Once inside, his wallet, his name, everything that identified him, was stripped away in preparation for building up a new personality not drugoriented. In this stripping-away process, much that the lawenforcement people needed in order to locate their suspect disappeared. Then, later on, when the pressure was off, the dealer emerged and resumed his usual activity outside.

How often this happened nobody knew. The drug-rehab outfits tried to discern when they were being so used, but not always successfully. A dealer in fear of forty years’ imprisonment had motivation to spin a good story to the rehab staff that had the power to admit or refuse him. His agony at that point was mainly real.

Driving slowly up Katella Boulevard, Bob Arctor searched for the New-Path sign and the wooden building, formerly a private dwelling, that the energetic rehab people operated in this area. He did not enjoy shucking his way into a rehab place posing as a prospective resident in need of help, but this was the only way to do it. If he identified himself as a narcotics agent in search of somebody, the rehab people—most of them usually, anyhow—would begin evasive action as a matter of course. They did not want their family hassled by the Man, and he could get his head into that space, appreciate the validity of that. These ex-addicts were supposed to be safe at last; in fact, the rehab staff customarily officially guaranteed their safety on entering. On the other hand, the dealer he sought was a mother of the first water, and to use the rehab places this way ran contrary to every good interest for everyone. He saw no other choice for himself, or for Mr. F., who had originally put him onto Spade Weeks. Weeks had been Arctor’s main subject for an interminable time, without result. And now, for ten whole days, he had been unfindable.

He made out the bold sign, parked in their little lot, which this particular branch of New-Path shared with a bakery, and walked in an uneven manner up the path to the front door, hands stuffed in his pockets, doing his loaded-and-miserable number.

At least the department didn’t hold it against him for losing Spade Weeks. In their estimation, officially, it just proved how slick Weeks was. Technically Weeks was a runner rather than a dealer: he brought shipments of hard dope up from Mexico at irregular intervals, to somewhere short of L.A., where the buyers met and split it up. Weeks’s method of sneaking the shipment across the border was a neat one: he taped it on the underside of the car of some straight type ahead of him at the crossing, then tracked the dude down on the U.S. side and shot him at the first convenient opportunity. If the U.S. border patrol discovered the dope taped on the underside of the straight’s vehicle, then the straight got sent up, not Weeks. Possession was prima facie in California. Too bad for the straight, his wife and kids.

Better than anyone else in Orange County undercover work, he recognized Weeks on sight: fat black dude, in his thirties, with a unique slow and elegant speech pattern, as if memorized at some phony English school. Actually, Weeks came from the slums of L.A. He’d learned his diction, most likely, from edutapes loaned by some college library.

Weeks liked to dress in a subdued but classy way, as if he were a doctor or a lawyer. Often he carried an expensive alligator-hide attaché case and wore horn-rimmed glasses. Also, he usually was armed, with a shotgun for which he had commissioned a custom-made pistol grip from Italy, very posh and stylish. But at New-Path his assorted shucks would have been stripped away; they would have dressed him like everyone else, in random donated clothes, and stuck his attaché case in the closet.

Opening the solid wood door, Arctor entered.

Gloomy hall, lounge to his left, with guys reading. A pingpong table at the far end, then a kitchen. Slogans on the walls, some hand-done and some printed: THE ONLY REAL FAILURE IS TO FAIL OTHERS and so forth. Little noise, little activity. New-Path maintained assorted retail industries; probably most of the residents, guys and chicks alike, were at work, at their hair shops and gas stations and ballpointpen works. He stood there, waiting in a weary way.

“Yes?” A girl appeared, pretty, wearing an extremely short blue cotton skirt and T-shirt with NEW-PATH dyed across it from nipple to nipple.

He said, in a thick, croaking, humiliated voice, “I’m—in a bad space. Can’t get it together any more. Can I sit down?”

“Sure.” The girl waved, and two guys, mediocre in appearance, showed up, looking impassive. “Take him where he can sit down and get him some coffee.”

What a drag, Arctor thought as he let the two guys coerce him to a seedy-looking overstuffed couch. Dismal walls, he noticed. Dismal low-quality donated paint. They subsisted, though, on contributions; difficulty in getting funded. “Thanks,” he grated shakily, as if it was an overwhelming relief to be there and sit. “Wow,” he said, attempting to smooth his hair; he made it seem that he couldn’t and gave up.

The girl, directly before him, said firmly, “You look like hell, mister.”

“Yeah,” both guys agreed, in a surprisingly snappy tone. “Like real shit. What you been doing, lying in your own crap?”

Arctor blinked.

“Who are you?” one guy demanded.

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