Chapter 10 – Gamble
This time, we brought two suits to the valve station. Doug and I removed the insulation carefully, so as to not damage it, while Shannon and Tommy sat in the boat and pretended to fish. What they were really doing, of course, was keeping watch.
Once we had the new valve on and re-covered, he filled the blaster with gas again.
I thought it was a stupid idea, myself. I didn't want to try it on anyone I knew. Doug's argument was logically sound, however. We needed to know the effect on humans, and it had to be done in a controlled environment, lest it get out of hand.
I had no idea what he was ultimately planning, though. I should have guessed, or inferred, rather. Or just asked him... To be honest, I thought it was more or less crazy talk.
Silly me. It was crazy talk. But damned if we didn't do it. I'm not sure that I don't regret it, now. I lost my family, of course. Most of us did. On the other hand, we're free. There's an excess of everything. It's paradise, in a lot of ways. At the same time, it's a sadder, more somber world.
Back at the camp, Doug said, “After this, we need to find the source of the pipeline. It's all for nothing if they can just turn a valve and cut us off. Tommy, I want you and Shannon to do that. Boats, cars, four-wheelers, whatever it takes.”
“Man, I got work,” Shannon said. “I only have two more days off.”
“I gotta take a load to Mena tomorrow,” Tommy said.
“Oh, yeah. I forgot you still work for the Mafia,” Doug said.
Tommy drove for J.B. Hunt. Doug maintained that they ran drugs, primarily coke and heroin. They were the most heavily monitored drivers in the industry. Even their bathroom breaks had to be cleared with dispatch.
Mena happened to have a “Free Trade Zone” airport. That meant international flights could refuel there without having to deal with Customs. Tyson Chicken, Wal-Mart, and Hunt were all headquartered there. Doug said that Tyson brought dope in from Mexico in frozen chickens. Wal-Mart was the Chinese connection. J.B. Hunt drivers moved it from there to Chicago, and all points beyond.
“Work is canceled. So is school,” he said to me.
“Aw, fuck that, man,” Tommy said. “I got a mortgage.”
“Mortgages are canceled. Look, I understand your concerns. But I'm going through with this, with or without you guys. Tell you what. I've got, oh, a little bit of cash saved up. I'll cover your expenses for the indefinite future.”
“Define a little,” Shannon said. “We both make serious jack.”
“Roughly a hunnert and forty thousand.”
“Motherfucker,” Tommy said.
“So, are we cool?” Doug asked them.
“You make it difficult to say no,” Shannon said.
“We're golden,” Tommy said. “I hate sitting in that cab all day.”
“How about you, college boy? Can you skip a semester?”
“Yeah, of course. I'm pretty disillusioned with the educational process, at this point, anyway.”
“Boys,” Doug said. “This is the most important thing any of us will ever do.”
They went back to the deer camp to get supplies, while Doug and I made preparations to test the gas on him. We went to Ace Hardware in Gonzales and picked up a length of chain, and a few padlocks.
“If I can get out of that,” Doug said, “Shoot me. Because you're definitely fucked if you don't.”
I nodded, and considered this. On the way back, I called the boys and had them meet us.
Back at the shack, he said, “Look here”, and unlocked a chest at the foot of his bed.
“Come on, man. This was for my special lady friend.”
He pulled out a pair of handcuffs and handed them to me.
“Even the strap-on?” I asked, laughing.
“Goddamnit, that was for threesomes. Here we go.”
He removed an off-white piece of canvas from the bottom. A straitjacket.
“Really?” I asked.
“She had some, uh, peculiar fetishes.”
“What happened with you two, anyway?”
“Dope. Dope happened to us. She started shooting it in secret. Stole from me. I'd have her make drops, and the packages would be tampered with. I pretended not to notice, of course. But I knew.”
“So you left her.”
“Huh? Fuck no, man. I loved her more than I thought was possible. Still do. She left me.”
“Let's just say it was a combination of factors. Her family was a big influence. We were both hooked hard. But part of it was that the sex got too freaky for her, too.”
“Too freaky, for a girl who was into that kind of stuff?” I said, indicating the footlocker.
“When you do dope to that degree, your inhibitions go right out the window. Some of the things we did and said started to trouble her.”
“So she just up and left you one day?”
“Oh, no. Much worse. She left me when I was locked up. Pretty much the ultimate betrayal.”
“Wow. That's rough, man.”
“Tell me about it. That's why I stay single, now. If your soulmate can stab you in the back, what hope is there for anyone else?”
“That's a depressing thought.”
“Yeah, well. We've got other concerns, now. Have them boys come in. Let's get started.”
I went and got Tommy and Shannon, while Doug took a leak. When he came back out, we helped him into the straitjacket, buckled it up, and put the cuffs on him.
“Too tight?” I asked.
“I've had tighter.”
“So how are we doing this?”
“I guess I'll sit up. Mainly because I'm afraid that if I don't, I'll aspirate into my lungs and die. That'd kinda ruin the test. Just wrap me up good, and nail the shit out of the ends of the chain to the floor and wall. That's prolly the weak part of the whole set-up.”
We wrapped him up like Houdini, arms, legs, chest. Each end was nailed down with as many nails as a link could hold, with a few extra links nailed in for good measure.
“I guess we're good,” Shannon said.
Tommy nodded. “A man that could get out of that would be a force to be reckoned with.”
He patted the pistol he had holstered.
“You scared, boy?” Doug asked me. I guess he could see it on my face.
“How could I not be? You might get shot, or you might be a zombie forever.”
“Or I might chew your throat out.”
“You better be bulletproof,” Shannon said. There was no tinge of humor in his voice, at that point. The atmosphere was deadly serious.
“Even if you come out of it alive, we're still facing a nightmare scenario,” I said.
“Yeah. But knowledge is power. If it's gonna happen, we'll be prepared.
“Ready?” Tommy asked.
“Ready as one can be, given the circumstances,” Doug said. “Let's go.”
None of us had any response to that. We walked outside and I suited up.
“Dose him up, then turn on the fan and get out,” Shannon told me. I had never seen him so grim or serious before.
I took the bayou blaster and left the door open. We were about to witness something that possibly no one outside of a government research lab had ever witnessed. And it went off without a hitch.
I was shaking. To Doug's credit, he showed no apprehension at all.