The old Pontiac pulled up in front of Wesley Creek, a shitty outlet of apartments in the nowhere part of town. It was Morgan's place, and it made the lump of disquiet burn a little hotter in Brandt's stomach. Just being here seemed to confirm his theory that he was indeed a loser. It served to remind him that he was a hard luck man on the hard luck end of town. This was where teenagers went to see prostitutes spun out, sleeping in the streets. The kids would drive past, gawking or laughing, then drive back to happy land when they had had enough of skid row. For people like Brandt and Eric, and even Morgan, there was no happy land to go back to when they'd had enough. All you could do was go to bed, wake up and hope the roaches hadn't carried you away in the night.
Morgan's place was on the second floor. He had a balcony, but unlike the other second floor tenants, his was completely bare. Brandt couldn't rouse Eric, who was still out like a light. He might be that way for hours yet. And in the meantime, Brandt would have to be entertained by that shithead Morgan. Brandt hated Eric for those long hours in Morgan's place, but it came with the territory.
After a few minutes of shaking and a couple of slaps, Brandt gave up and unbuckled Eric. He closed his door and walked around to the other side. Hoisting Eric out of his seat, he kicked the door closed and carried Eric up the steps, knight-in-shining-armor style. It made him feel like a mixture of things, most of which weren't so heroic. Mostly, he felt like Eric's gay date, carrying him home after a night of hard drinking. Brandt had been the only one drinking tonight. It made him feel like a mother, but he wouldn't really know anything about that. His own mom had abandoned him for most of his life. Brandt forced himself to think of it as a paternal relationship, as it made him feel more comfortable about it.
He mounted the second floor and made his way through the hallway with Eric's head lolling back over his arm. Eric's neck was breaking out in acne due to inconsistent bathing. Brandt refused to give Eric a bath, as it wasn't imperative to his survival. Who cared what Eric smelled like, as long as he kept coming along with nice tidbits for Morgan. They weren't exactly living like fat rats, but Morgan made sure they didn't starve. He could at least do that much right. Brandt kicked the bottom of Morgan's door a few times and waited, occasionally checking to make sure Eric wasn't drooling on him. Sometimes Eric let loose awful amounts of saliva.
A few moments later, Brandt heard loud, clopping footsteps and expected Morgan at the door, but Laci answered instead. She was wearing Morgan's shirt and loafers and nothing else.
"Hey guys", she said, slurring and leaning on the door frame.
"Whatcha on?", asked Brandt, bumping Eric up like a baby because he was starting to sag down in his arms.
"I'm on the fucking alphabet. Did you want to come in?"
"Uh, no kidding Lace.", Brandt said, looking around inside for their boss.
He followed her inside and dropped Eric onto the couch. It looked like a meth lab inside, with scales and spoons and baggies of powder scattered over every flat surface.
"Just make yourselves at home. I'll rouse the master", Laci said, bouncing off into the bedroom.
Brandt watched her ass as she skipped away and grimaced, "Beggars can't be choosers, now can they Morgan?"
Everyone knew Laci was a dog, and dogs had fleas. Brandt entertained the idea of Morgan trying to scrape off the newly infected areas of himself with a brillo pad. He grinned and looked around for a beer. He was aching for some liquid refreshment. There was a sixer in the fridge and he popped one and sipped at it. Anyone who called Morgan "master" was definitely fucked up.
"Why not?", Eric muttered behind Brandt.
Brandt dropped to his knees and listened close. The words his catatonic patient was mumbling were hard to make out. It sounded like he was arguing with someone. Were there other people in his head? When Eric was awake it didn't seem like he was mentally ill. Brandt was leaning very close now. He could feel Eric's foul, faint breath on his ear, but didn't care about that. He always figured some precious morsel might come out of Eric's mouth. Maybe winning lotto numbers. Maybe the location of some lost treasure. Maybe the voice of someone long dead. Secretly he hoped for his father to somehow tell him something through Eric's trances. Of course, he had no reason to think anything like that could happen, but who knew if Eric saw the dead when he went wherever he went.
"Let me in! Please!", Eric shouted, and Brandt recoiled away from his mouth and landed on his rear, nearly knocking over the coffee table with all of it's baggies. He was panting now from that sudden adrenaline. Eric's eyes were open, and Brandt became aware of Morgan standing at his left, his head rolling around on his shoulders, stretching.
"Let you into where, Eric?", Morgan asked.
"Yeah, where?", Brandt wondered out loud.
"Shut up a second, Brandt. The grown-ups are talking", Morgan said calmly.
"Oh fuck you"
"Fuck yourself, Brandt. Maybe I lost your pay, hmm? Bite the hand, and you'll get the boot. Eric, you were saying?"
Eric looked Morgan in the eyes, his voice was hoarse from dryness and disuse, "I can't say. I've been trying to gain access to some new information , and I can't go there for some reason."
Morgan cracked his knuckles, "Did you learn anything useful to me?"
Eric smiled a bit, "I learned it's a hard world out there, man. But really, one of your customers is about to leak some information. She was arrested for public intoxication and they found an eightball on her."
"Oh really?", asked Morgan, frowning and sitting down on the edge of the coffee table that Brandt had almost jumped onto.
"Yeah, she didn't say anything yet, but they're bargaining with her and she's getting weak. Deal with it as you see fit, I'm just the messenger."
By this time, Brandt had become disinterested in their conversation. He was looking at Morgan, eyeing him up and seeing all the things he hated about the man. Morgan had a little mustache that ran into a tiny beard along his jawline. It was what some people called a pube-stash. With a little pube beard to top it off.
"Is that all, Eric?", Morgan asked, trying to be patient.
"Yeah, I'll try to have more next time."
Morgan looked over at Brandt, "If you'll excuse me, I have an appointment coming over. I can't have you two hanging around. You too, Laci."
"Huh?", Laci asked, coming back from spacing out.
"Brandt, drop her off, will you? I'll throw in an extra fifteen bucks", Morgan ordered, pulling $365 from his money clip.
He handed the money over to Brandt, "There you go. And here's five hundred for you, Eric."
"What about me?", Laci asked, practically falling over on downers.
"I paid for your ride, now be a peach and leave with the boys", Morgan said, ushering them all out.
They all climbed into the Pontiac, Laci falling asleep in the backseat right after Brandt managed to get her address from her. She lived in the good part of town. She was only about 20, so she was either someone with money's wife or daughter. Either way, Brandt wondered how she ended up becoming an addict. Not that it mattered after he dropped her off. After that he wouldn't have to look at her anymore.
"I don't think Morgan's going to be the same after tonight", Eric said quietly, staring out the window.
"Why's that?", Brandt asked, not really caring.
Eric looked over at him, "The appointment he mentioned. He'll change afterwards. I'm sure of it."
"Does it matter really?", Brandt replied, reclining to rest his shoulders on the back of the seat.
"It might. We may not be safe after this."
"Were we ever?"
"Yeah, well. Just keep your eyes open, okay?"
Brandt grinned tiredly, "You're the eyes, remember?"
By the time they dropped Laci off, Morgan's appointment had arrived with a gym bag. They drove on in silence. Eric felt awkward, but Brandt was used to it. Eric not talking was common enough, since he was catatonic most of the time. Brandt dropped Eric off at his apartment and drove home. His apartment was only a few blocks away, which made checking in on Eric easy enough. He had a spare key, so he could go in.
Brandt walked into his place and found his most recent ex, Sally, passed out on his couch. She reeked of cheap liquor and Brandt wondered if she'd still be there when he woke up. He realized he didn't care, so he went to the cabinet. Beside a box of Raisin Bran was a gallon of ten dollar a gallon whiskey. He took a couple shots straight from the bottle. He fetched a glass and filled it about half with coke and the other half with the cheap booze.
Brandt took a seat at the table and drank away the nasty feeling in his guts. Sal showing back up was part of it, but what Eric had said was the other part. Morgan changing for the worse? Who knew what that meant? Eric was never wrong though. It made him want to drain his glass and get another started. He might go through three tonight and wake up feeling like shit in the morning, but what did it matter? He went to get a refill.
By the time Brandt had a good drunk going, Morgan was made an offer that he readily accepted. He shared a meal with a dead man and became one himself. He joined the ranks of the limitedly immortal and eternally lost. He ceased to feel pain and loved it more than anything. It was as though he had found one last ultimate drug he had never bothered to try.
Brandt vomited in the sink and felt better afterwards. He went and laid down with Sal who, in her deep slumber, put her arms around him. She smelled like puke too. Before dozing off, Brandt wondered if smelling like vomit was the only thing they had in common.