Steve steps in from the garage. He forgets to close the door.
“What did Brad say on the ride home?” Brenda rushes at him.
“Something strange happened today. I’ve been thinking about it the whole ride home.”
“Is it something bad?”
“No.” Steve looks at her oddly. He walks into the kitchen and stares out the window as he sits at the table.
“What’s happening?” Brenda asks and sits with him.
“It was the weirdest thing.” Steve reflects on the phone call he received. “I heard the craziest story from an old friend.”
“Who was it?”
“His name is Rick Cagos. I hadn’t talked to him since we were in college.”
Brenda stands up, irritated. “We should be talking about Brad. I don’t want to hear about your old college friends – we’re losing our son, and you’re worried about your friends.”
Steve looks in her eyes, “Be patient. If you rush moments like these, you might miss what God is trying to tell you.”
Brenda squirms in her seat. “Then hurry up, so we can get back to what’s important.”
Steve reflects on the day. “He called because he saw the story about Brad in the news. He said he probably knows what Brad is feeling like, because he was in prison for a few years.”
“My God – Prison!? What did he do!?”
Steve glances out the window, trying to remember his college friend. “Rick was always a little crazier than the rest of us. We all pushed the limits, but he was the only one who wasn’t afraid to go past the limits.”
“What limits are you talking about?” Brenda asks.
“Well, we all partied and experimented with drugs, but he was the only one who went past the experimentation stage. I lost track of him after college, but he said he moved to New York, and then to Miami, and that’s where the big trouble happened.”
“What did he do?” Brenda asks.
Steve takes a deep breath. “After college, he moved to the East Coast, and after bouncing around New Jersey, he eventually landed in New York City. While working in a night club, he made new friends who were on the cutting edge of the drug scene. Before he knew it, he said he was doing drugs he’d never heard of before. This was right around the time when prescription drugs started becoming popular on the underground market.”
“Because he was a friendly, likable guy, Rick became introduced to all of the big drug-dealers his friends knew. He said it was a lot of fun at first to hang out with them. They seemed rich, and powerful, but as he began to climb higher in the drug-dealing world, it became difficult to tell who his true friends really were.”
“After partying with these new friends for a couple of months, he started getting addicted to the pills that were going around. He said it was the first time in his life he wasn’t able to say “no” to a drug. The dealers started seeing the addiction in his eyes, and they began to use him to expand their networks into Midwest cities in America.”
“But how could they use him?” Brenda asks. “Wasn’t he already an active member of this drug scene?”
“Rick was always a likable guy who was respected by a lot of people.” Steve replies. “And he probably was like this even as an addict. So when the dealers learned that he had a lot of friends in Midwest-cities like: Chicago, Cleveland, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis; they offered him free drugs to call these friends and offer them a new drug they should try. His reputation created a lot of interest, and he basically opened an entire new market for the dealers to get his friends addicted to the drugs they had.”
“It always started with pills. Thousands – maybe even millions – of prescription-pills started flowing into the hands of people who had never been addicted before, and even though Rick wasn’t selling them, he considers himself responsible for many of the first big deals that were made in Midwest cities. Once he realized what was happening, it was too late for him to stop it.”
“He saw that the big dealers were just using him to set up the addictions necessary to create demand for a much stronger and more profitable drug. The suppliers knew that if they could get good people; with good jobs and paychecks; addicted to the pills first, then they could flood the market with heroin and that addiction would spread across America like wildfire.”
“How did he escape from it?” Brenda asks. “Or is he still addicted?”
Steve glances out the window. “He was at a meeting between his dealers and a Mexican drug cartel that was starting to import cheaper, synthetic forms of heroin. The DEA raided the entire operation and he immediately knew he was in big trouble. But at the same time, he said he was almost grateful because he knew the police were his last option to save his life. That was the end of his drug life. But unfortunately, that’s also when his prison life began.”
“How much time did he have to do?”
“Four years. The leaders of the gangs each got 20 years to life. But because they had no evidence that Rick was part of the selling, he was only found guilty of being party to the crime.”
The clock ticks on the wall; they sit in silence. Brenda leans back in her chair. “How long has he been free?”
“He was released from prison eight years ago on his 30th birthday. He called us because he said he saw Brad’s case on the news, and he doesn’t want Brad to experience the same nightmare he experienced in prison.”
“Do you think he’s still a criminal?”
“I don’t know, but he recently bought a house on Woodfish Lake. He also owns his own landscaping business. He said he started it at the perfect time as the western suburbs were expanding, and the business now does about ten-million dollars in sales a year.”
“Woodfish Lake?” Brenda looks surprised at Steve. “That’s one of the premier residential areas in the city. He must be doing well to live there; unless he’s still running a drug ring and using the landscaping business to launder his money. Do you trust him?”
“I don’t know. He never lied to me when we were friends.”
“When was the last time you saw him?”
“I was moving out of the house I was renting on my last day of college, and he showed up with some LSD, a bottle of rum, and directions to a music festival in another state. He wanted me to go with him, but he looked like he hadn’t slept in days and I had grown out of that stage. I lied to him and I said I was busy. He shrugged, walked away, and that was the last time I ever heard from him, until today.”
“Why do you think he called you twenty years later?”
“He said he wants to help us and Brad any way he can. He invited us to his house at Woodfish Lake next week for dinner.”
“If he’s still involved with drugs, I don’t want him in our life.”
“Maybe he could help us –”
“Maybe, but how can we trust him?”
“We’ll never know unless we go and meet him.”
Brenda looks at her husband suspiciously. “If we go, I’m going to be looking at everything. If I see any evidence that he’s still involved with drugs, I’m leaving immediately, and I’ll never talk to him again.”
Steve nods. “That’s fine. I feel like we have nothing to lose; I’ll call him back and say we will meet him.”