Chapter 2 – Thieves
I first met Doug when I was still in junior high. Me and Craig Pitre were thieves. I know. I'm not proud of it. But we were dumb kids.
It's kind of funny, really. The first thing we did was steal twelve triple-beam scales from school. It took almost a week. We'd each take one out of the science lab every day in our gym bags. We traded them for an ounce of weed every night from Bero, this black weed dealer we knew.
He sold to kids, so he had no problem accepting stolen goods. We had no idea that they were worth three dollars each. We got forty apiece for them, basically.
From there, we progressed to robbing camps. There are two types of residences in Maurepas, where we lived. Louisiana. Most people lived there year-round, but some people had fishing or hunting camps that they might only visit a few times a year, at most.
So we'd break into them and trade what we stole to Bero for weed. Skis and guns, mostly. We also got a lot of liquor and gas. We always needed gas for Craig's boat. Which leads me to a funny story, and how I met Doug.
I was considered the pussy of the bunch, because I was a Yankee, technically, and didn't grow up in the swamp. Plus I was probably the smartest one in the school. It got me in a bit of trouble, in this case.
We had just dropped off a load of gas and liquor in one of our hiding spots in the woods. It was an assortment of gin, vodka and tequila, plus a full keg, which we were really proud of. There was going to be a big bonfire that weekend, and we worked extra hard at hustling supplies for it.
We were hauling ass in his boat, as we always did.
He died a few years later from the same sort of speed demon shit. Bero was with him. It was sort of ironic. He had wrecked three Buick Regals, which, at the time, were the fastest luxury car on the market. Rich kid.
But he and Bero were coming back from Gonzales, and as they passed the big Catholic church in St. Amant, a log truck lost its load and dropped some on them. They went into the river and drowned.
So Craig has his boat's little Evinrude motor wide open. Maybe we were fucked up. Had to be. The boat hit a wake or something. I didn't think much of it. But when I turned around, he was gone. And the boat kept going.
It was my inexperience that got me fucked over. I panicked and jumped back there. Instead of backing off of the throttle, I turned the handle slightly, and got thrown slap out of the boat along with Craig.
It kept going, of course, but it was no longer going straight. It cut a wide arc, and hit a houseboat. Doug's houseboat, as I would find out later. Put a hole in it.
We swam over to it, a little shaken, but otherwise okay. He turned the engine off, and we pried it from the hole it had made and wedged into.
No one came out, so we just left. Laughed the whole way home.
A few months later, I came up on a house back in the swamp. Just a tar-paper shack, really. But I couldn't resist breaking into it.
I knocked, first. A pretense to make sure it was unoccupied. When no one answered, I went inside. In retrospect, I should have known it wasn't a camp. Otherwise, it would have had a lock on it. Stupid.
So I went in. There was no electricity, of course, and the cypress trees shaded it pretty well. When my eyes adjusted, all I saw were books. Hundreds of them. It was crazy, like a small library hidden in the middle of the swamp. Except the books were just in huge stacks on the floor.
There were two other rooms, but I didn't get to see them that day. Drug Doug walked in from the back without making a sound and pointed the scariest looking gun I had ever seen before at me. A CZ Skorpion, I found out later. Modified for full auto.
“You...shithead motherfucker,” he said. “First you wreck my boat, then break into my house? Didn't your parents raise you right?”
The enormity of what I had been doing struck me just then. Not so much the boat thing, which was part of it, but robbing camps. Prior to that moment, it was all abstract. But we had been stealing real things from real people that they had bought with real money.
I'm happy to say I never stole again after that, and not because I had a gun pulled on me. It did make me think, though. And I still had to deal with.
I stared into the semi-darkness, unable to speak.
“I ought to use you to bait my crab traps.”
He put the gun in his waistband, and I breathed a silent sigh of relief.
“You owe me...” He paused and calculated an amount. “Three hundred dollars. Understand?”
I nodded vigorously. I had two hundred from my recent Confirmation, which took place at the very church Craig later died in front of.
“I can get you two hundred now,” I croaked. “Please don't kill me.”
“Shit, boy. I prolly wasn't gonna kill ya. Just making a point. A man's home should be his castle. Inviolate. Understand?”
“Yes, sir,” I said.
“You do realize that under Louisiana law I could legally kill you, right?”
“Fucking legal as shit. Napoleanic code. If a person is deemed a threat in your home or on your property, you can kill them and get off. Sure, you'll be arrested. But the charges will be dropped.”
“What the fuck are you robbing camps for? You're not a scumbag. I mean, ya kinda are. But you're a little kid. You have an intelligence about you. I can see it in your beady eyes.”
I explained to him about Bero and weed, the scales, the skis and guns.
“You little idiot. Y'all were the ones getting robbed. You should have gotten a quarter pound each for the triple-beams alone. You'd have more weed than you've probably ever seen.”
I nodded in understanding, and considered how dumb we'd been.
“No thing,” Doug said. “We all do stupid shit as kids. So, you swear you'll pay me?”
“Yes, of course.”
“I believe you. You're an honest thief, I think. Smoke a joint?”
I never needed to get high so bad in my life. My heart was still racing.
“That'd be great.”
Doug pulled a fatty from behind his ear and lit it up. Before we were even done, I was fucking baked. I'd never smoked primo weed before, or even knew such a thing existed.
I did pay him the two hundred the next day, and apologized again. The other hundred took me a month of saving lunch money and allowance, plus I mowed some lawns. I guess you could say we were friends after that, and have been ever since.
So that's the story of how I met Drug Doug. The rest didn't happen until years later, and I'll get to that next.