I’ve always been loyal. If you ask anyone, that’s what they’d say about me. I’ll stick by your side. It’s that loyalty that did me in.
Rick and I were best friends. I’d known him since we were both kids, our families went way back together - but I think I grew up faster than he did. He was always scheming on a dream, trying to come up with the thing that was going to make him rich. Foolish to think, getting rich in a broke town like ours, but ol’ Rick was always convinced that this next plan was the one, it could never fail. I was always wary, but I stuck by him. Like I said - loyal.
Most of these plans were some degree of larceny, mind you. But Rick did have a knack for spending less time in a cage than most people of his actions and general moral compass could be expected to. Kiting checks, pretend slip-and-fall lawsuits, watering down whiskey and selling it to bars… he could’ve done years for any of them, but even when he did get caught, he somehow managed to be back out on the street in a couple of weeks each time.
And, like a fool, I’d be there waiting for him.
I think this gave him an undue sense of his own invincibility. You see, some people would view a string of luck like that as a warning that their number’d come due sooner or later. That they were fortunate to have escaped consequences, and they’d best get their act together in case they weren’t so lucky the next time around.
Not Rick. Each time he skirted experiencing true repercussions for his misdeeds, he just became more convinced that he never would.
Now, that’s one thing when you’re dealing with the small-town cast of characters that we’d been accustomed to. Most people ‘round here, if we’re being totally honest, would be content to just give Rick a good beating and toss him in the gutter to lick his wounds. We’re not big on involving the law, and nor are we so cold-blooded as to do anything worse. Rick should’ve beared that in mind when he got involved with those boys from down South.
These fellas had a pipeline going from Florida to Canada - runnin’ one kind of contraband north, and another back south. Rick got in as a courier - he knew the territory, and he knew who in local law enforcement he could trick, who he could bribe, and who he needed to steer clear of. He’d drive the car for his leg of the journey, swapping out the plates at each end, and pass it off to the next guy without ever seeing the payload or knowing what it was. Get a healthy cut.
It was dangerous, but it was doable - and I figure that’s why it wasn’t enough for him.
We were riding at night, headlights off, trying to make the handoff before dawn. Rick was driving, and I was sprawled out on the backseat trying to sleep.
“What you think they got in here?” he asked.
“Drugs, rick. Car’s full of it.” He looked back, his eyes bright.
“You think so??”
“I’ve got a nose for this kind of trouble, buddy. We’re playing with some hardcore people. I think we should make this run, take the the money, and get out before we get in over our heads.”
He was already pulling off the highway and into a supermarket parking lot.
“What are you doing, Rick?”
“BE RIGHT BACK”, he said, almost sprinting into the store.
He came back about ten minutes later, arms straining with plastic bags. “There’s gotta be three or four more guys running this route after us. They’ll never know we made the switch.” He showed me the bags - bricks of biscuit flour.
“You’re out of your damned mind, Rick, and you’re gonna get us both killed.” He was in the trunk, pulling up the false bottom.
“No, listen, here’s what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna swap out the real stuff. All but one bag. Bury it right here-” he gestured to the grassy field beyond the supermarket - “and make the handoff.”
“You don’t think they’re gonna notice when the car gets there and it’s full of flour instead of drugs?”
“It’s not gonna get there. Right after we make the drop, we’re gonna call the cops. Cops won’t care if there’s one brick or twelve in the car. Next guy gets nabbed, the boys down South blame him. Cops aren’t gonna tell ‘em the rest was missing. We come back here, dig it back up, and sell it on our own. We get out of town for good.”
It was a bad plan, but if anyone could weasel their way through it, it was Rick. And he wasn’t giving me much choice in the matter. He finished packing the car, and made our way to the handoff. Pulled into a darkened rest stop, where a man in black was waiting, his lit cigarette the only thing lighting his features. He looked serious, hard - this wasn’t just another small-time courier like Rick.
“Accident about 50 miles south,” Rick stated, a hint of nervousness in his voice. “Highway was backed up for miles.” The man flicked his cigarette on the ground, stomped it out.
“Alright. Which one of you’s comin’ with me?”
“What?” Rick looked genuinely shocked.
“Maybe we didn’t tell you. When we got new guys runnin’ a load, we make sure one of you rides all the way to the end. That way nothin’ turns up missing. Other one of you can run the other car back south.” Rick was sweating. There was no way out of the plan now - the drugs were buried in a field an hour south. He was going to be riding to his end.
So I volunteered.
“I’ll do it. Always wanted to see Canada. Hear they got some funny kind ‘a bacon up there.”
Rick looked stunned, but he couldn’t argue without getting us both killed. I hopped back in the car, and he climbed into the other one, his eyes wide with fear, regret, and apology. I could still see his eyes pleading with me as we pulled out, the man in black driving, me riding shotgun.
I don’t know if Rick ever found out what happened. I don’t know if the boys down South ever caught up with him. All I know is, that car never made it to Canada, and that driver never saw another sunrise.
I hope my friend started a new life. Changed his look, went undercover. Went somewhere people wouldn’t expect to find trouble. Went somewhere where people knew better than to think they could beat the boys down South.
That’s what I did.