The Leftovers: Coping Mechanisms

Last night’s second episode of the third and final season of The Leftovers started off funny, was anything but funny for most of the episode and then ended on a bizarrely funny note. Which in some ways makes it like a lot of other episodes in this series. There was some speculation about whether or not the show would change opening themes again and that mystery was revealed……..the same sequence from Season 2 was shown with the theme song from 80’s sitcom “Perfect Strangers” playing over the top of it. You can’t make this stuff up. This would not be the last “Perfect Strangers” reference in the episode either.

This week got back to a familiar episode structure, following one character around for a majority of the episode, allowing their story to play out and really feel an emotional connection with that character. It was one of the best qualities about series co-creator Damon Lindelof’s previous series, “Lost” and it has really helped “The Leftovers” stand out from other large ensemble dramas. This week Nora took center stage and it resulted in a really emotionally heavy episode. It started off with the death of “Pillar Man”. His wife, whom he hadn’t spoken with since climbing to the top of the pillar, waiting for God to have him depart like 2 million before him, was insisting to Nora that he had departed, despite the viewing audience clearly seeing him have a heart attack and fall to his death. Nora quickly realizes that her brother Matt had something to do with not only the man’s wife but other town’s people believing he had departed. Matt admitted to Nora that he had buried him but had done it because he “deserved a legacy”. When Nora began pointing out similarities between the marriages of Pillar Man and his wife to Matt and his wife (who had indeed left town with Matt’s son) it became clear that Matt was thinking just as much about himself as he was this now deceased man. The question is: what is the legacy Matt feels he deserves?

Nora’s journey really takes off after that scene when she receives a phone call from “Perfect Strangers” star Mark Linn Baker saying that if she ever wanted to see her children again – children that had departed – she needed to meet him at a hotel in St. Louis. One of the great things about this show is how they turned an ongoing gag (in previous seasons it had been discussed that Mark Linn Baker was the only one out of 4 stars in Perfect Strangers to not depart) into something deeply emotional and powerful. Nora does go to St. Louis and listens to the actor’s sales pitch about Swedish scientists who think they’ve discovered how to reunite people with those that have departed. Nora very astutely calls Baker out on being suicidal but still takes the information about following through with what Baker was selling.

Nora’s story continues with a detour to a children’s playground where we quickly realized she was watching Lilly. Nora gets out of her car to confront another child who stole a toy from Lilly. When she gives Lilly the toy back, the little girl looks up at Nora and asks “Who are you?” in one of the most heartbreaking scenes the show has ever produced. Lilly’s birth mom, Season 1 character Christina approaches Nora and asks what’s she doing her, giving the impression that there’s tension between Lilly’s birth mom and the woman who raised her for a few years. From here Nora heads to meet up with Erica, who we discovered left Miracle and her husband John after the death of Evie and John’s refusal to believe that she’s gone. Watching Nora drop her guard and open up to Erica in a way she opens up to almost nobody else was nice to see. Nora spends so much of the show trying to be the strong one, bottling up her pain that seeing her relax (if only for one scene) was a great change of pace.

Nora’s return home started with an awkward encounter with Tom, who had obviously received a call from Christina about Nora’s visit. From there it was onto her home where she walked in on Kevin with a bag taped over his head just like last week. He explained to her that he didn’t want to die, he just wanted to feel. In that moment she sprang to life and ran to his side. She knew exactly how she felt. She related. When Kevin said “We should have a baby” she broke into hysterical laughter. She wasn’t laughing at him. She was laughing at the irony of doing the same thing again: trying to replace children she had lost with another child. The source of her pain. She wasn’t about to do that again. When her phone rang with instructions on how to follow up on Mark Linn Baker’s proposal, it included a $20,000 fee and it was in Australia. Nora said yes without hesitation and when she told Kevin she was going to Australia for her job, he asked if she could come with him and she replied agreed.

The ending of the episode was once again in Australia and this time featured a less than friendly chief of police also named Kevin. He was on his way home for the night when he encountered four women on horses – one of which we met last week. When he told them his name was Kevin, they sedated him, kidnapped him and drown him, thinking that he would resurrect. Alas, this man wasn’t Kevin Garvey and he did not return from the dead. The final scene was Kevin’s dad running out, asking the ladies what they were doing.

To me this episode was all about coping mechanisms. When Nora introduced that term while interviewing Pillar Man’s wife, something clicked in my mind. Then we saw people flocking to the idea that Pillar Man had departed – a coping mechanism for all of the doom and gloom in the air perhaps? Kevin’s coping mechanism involves taping bags over his head. As he said, he just wants to feel but in a life like Kevin’s that is seemingly the only thing he controls. Nora’s coping mechanism is self inflicted pain (breaking her own arm, shooting herself with a bullet proof vest in the first season and now apparently paying $20,000 for what seems like suicide wrapped in a veil of reconciliation).  Could coping mechanisms be what the core of this show is all about? How we as humans attempt to explain the unexplainable? How we try to take control back in our lives when we feel as if we have none? What do we put our belief and faith in when the going gets tough? I have never thought that The Leftovers is a show designed to answer all of its own questions but rather to take us on emotional journeys with characters we care about. Could the final six episodes be about letting go of the coping mechanisms and actually healing, even with the world seemingly following apart? We shall see……..Thanks for reading.

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The Leftovers: The Book Of Kevin

The long-awaited return for the third and final season of The Leftovers was last night. All of the promotional material promised beards, Australia, 70’s pop music and Kevin Garvey continuing to die and come back to life-like the Shaman Priest he seems to be. More on that later. What we got was something slightly different from we’ve come to expect. The season 3 premiere was just as much about catching up with all of our characters in the 3 year time jump the show introduced as it was about introducing new questions ( a page taken straight out of co-creator Damon Lindelof’s previous show, “Lost”). In season’s past, The Leftovers has actually been pretty big on self-contained episodes while allowing larger mysteries to linger. Last night there was no resolution, just questions. That’s not a bad thing at all, just different.

 

The episode opened up with a look back to an unnamed religious cult in the 1800’s that much like the Guilty Remnant that we came to know and love over the past 2 seasons was waiting for a departure. This entire scene played out perfectly with no dialogue – just creepy music and depicted the faith of the cult shattering as a departure never happened. It didn’t turn out well for them or for the G.R. as well. In our next scene we see the aftermath of the Season 2 finale where the G.R. was the recipient of a drone attack courtesy of the United States government. Are Meg, Evie and the rest of the non speaking, all white wearing chain-smoking gang dead as we’re lead to believe? With this show you never know.

 

The action picks up 3 years later and while I won’t go through all of the story, there are a few major plot points brought up. Kevin seems to be the Chief of Police in Miracle with his son Tommy also an officer. Nora has a pretty prominent position. Jill is off to college, only briefing making a cameo. Kevin’s ex-wife Lori is now with John romantically (the same John who shot Kevin in the Season 2 finale and was married at the time. A lot changes in 3 years). John and Lori have taken up bogus palm reading in an attempt to help people, even going as far as to shred their money when the reading is over. Kevin’s old dog shooting buddy from Season 1 shows up and has seemingly lost his mind. Or has he? We’ll never know because after Kevin didn’t believe his conspiracy theory about dogs taking over human bodies and running our country, he attempted to kill Kevin. Tommy struck first however, shooting the would be murderer in the head and saving his father. Kevin attempting to console Tommy afterwards by telling him of killing people in the line of duty (although it wasn’t in this life) was surprisingly tender. Kevin, an emotionally broken man was doing his best to be there for his son, despite how hard it was for him.

 

One of the most talked scenes from the episode was Kevin taping a bag around his head in what appeared to be a suicide attempt before leaving his house for the day. The first thought that came to mind was that perhaps dying and coming back has become the new normal for Kevin over the past 3 years. To a man that damaged, that unstable he has to have something that is a constant in his life to keep him sane. Perhaps death and coming back is that. Hopefully more is revealed on that one. During Jill’s before cameo at her brother’s surprise party, she asks if Nora ever talks about baby Lilly – the child that showed up on Nora’s doorstep at the end of Season 1 and that Kevin and Nora are raising in Season 2. Baby Lilly is nowhere to be found in this episode leaving the question of what exactly happened to her unanswered.

 

The most memorable parts of the episode revolve around Matt’s fixation with Kevin and the final scene. Starting with Matt, his church seems to be well attended with the topic of discussion being the upcoming seventh anniversary of The Sudden Departure. Matt speaks of the significance of this particular anniversary and then warns that if anything happens, it will probably be here in Miracle. End of the world fever is spreading strong and Matt is at the height of the hysteria. Matt’s obsession with the end of days and his believe that this town is special is costing him his family: His miraculously recovered wife and healthy son are moving back home without Matt. While he does seem to care he seems to be more preoccupied with writing a sequel to the New Testament: A new religious doctorine cenetered around Kevin Garvey and his ability to return from the dead. When Kevin learns of this, he demands and explanation and Matt, flanked by John and John’s son attempt to speak to Kevin on exactly how important his role in the world is, how important he is to the post departure world. Kevin will hear none of it. Kevin takes the book and stops just short of burning it when an ominus message written in the sky about the end of days catches his attention.

 

In the final scene we are in Australia, the long rumored home for the show’s third and final season. We see an older women capturing carrier pigeons and delivering them to another woman. In the final seconds, its revealed to us that one woman is Nora, going under the name “Sarah” and is wearing old age makeup. The other woman asks her” Does the name Kevin mean anything to you Sarah?” Old age Nora responds “No” as the show goes to credits. What does this mean? Is this a sign that the end of days is not coming, as alluded to in the opening scene? Does Kevin become a mythical figure due to Matt’s telling of his story? How far in the future was that scene? A thought provoking, jam packed hour of television that left us with more questions than answers, the Leftover’s return was certainly worth the wait.

Love and Heroin Part 3

Johnny and Katie drove all night, only stopping when Katie literally begged him to and even then, it was for the briefest of moments. The danger they were in was written all over Johnny’s ghostly white face. She asked him few questions mainly because she already knew the answers. She knew he had killed at least one of the bikers he was selling drugs for – the blood he was covered in and the fear he exuded gave that much away. She could only assume it was for drugs because that’s all he cared about anymore. She couldn’t even remember the last time he mentioned their soon to be born child. They were a long way away from that night at The Roadhouse, when “Fade Into You” played as they danced under the blue bar light and she dreamed of the future they could have. Reality was nothing short of a nightmare.

Eric also drove all night with no direction in mind. He had stopped for gas once but other than that he drove straight through the night. He didn’t know where he was going and had no plan in mind. He hadn’t seen anyone following him yet but he knew it was only a matter of time. He had no thoughts running through his mind – just deafening static. Exhaustion, crashing from the adrenaline high, fear and a sense that his life was over either in a mortal sense or that he was going to prison had created this cocktail of emotions that was too difficult to process. It was too much to concentrate on anything except the endless yellow lines on the road in front of him. He needed something to distract him. He flipped through radio stations until he finally found a song…..of course it had to be this song. David Bowie’s voice sent chills down his spine as he remembered everything. Buying the ring. Emily not answering the phone. Walking into the house and finding her there, lifeless on the floor. Eric remembered the tears, the pain and everything he had been suppressing. He remembered how much he loved her and how much she loved him. He remembered how hard she fought but she couldn’t escape the deadly cycle of heroin abuse. He remembered her note, her final words to him, speaking of perhaps finding him in another life. Eric pulled over his car and knew what he was going to do. He was going to end his life and find her, if he could. As Bowie sang “Is there life on Mars?” Eric said aloud, “I hope so” and reached for his gun.

“Johnny, what the hell are you doing?” Katie screamed as Johnny pulled over on the side of the road. “Katie, I’m sick. I can’t keep driving unless I do a little to get me well and I have to keep driving or we’re gonna get killed. They won’t care that you’re having a baby either. These fucking guys don’t care about nothing but money. I’ll just be a minute and we can get back on the road”. Johnny reached in his pocket and pulled out the dope and started to prepare his shot. Katie couldn’t take it anymore. “Fuck you Johnny! Fuck You! What happened to the guy that was gonna take care of me and our baby? What happened to the guy that used to lay and stare and the stars with me? Who the fuck are you? A killer? A junkie?” Katie bust into tears and hurried away from the car as Johnny fumbled to get out. In the distance, Eric listened in. He saw the whole scene and was disgusted. He saw a man who had everything he wanted and was throwing it away for drugs. Eric made up his mind. Before he took his own life, he was going to take Johnny’s too.

Katie turned around to see if Johnny was coming after her when she saw Eric approaching Johnny with his gun aimed. Johnny was preparing to get high and was the last to notice. “Johnny, he’s got a gun!” Katie screamed. Johnny reached for his weapon but Eric was already next to him and told him not to think about it. “Get out of the car” Eric calmly said. As Johnny slowly got out, the sounds of motorcycles in the distance were heard by all. “Are they coming for you?” Eric asked as he looked over at a very pregnant Katie. From the opposite direction, police sirens were getting closer and Johnny asked, “Are they coming for you?”

A single bullet flew by coming from the biker’s direction, an obvious warning shot. Eric screamed for Katie and Johnny to get down. “Kiss your girl goodbye Cowboy. This isn’t going to end pretty.” Johnny looked at Katie, who had tears streaming down her face. He kissed her cheek and whispered something in her ear. “Just do it Katie. I love you. I know you’re gonna be a great Mama”. Katie burst into uncontrollable tears as Eric and Johnny exchanged a look and without saying a word, began opening fire at the bikers. The police were rapidly approaching from the other direction but not quickly enough to prevent any blood from being shed. Katie prayed they would hurry. She just wanted to go home.

Five Years Later

Katie looks around an office, staring at awards and certificates framed and hanging all over the walls. She looks at a picture on the desk of a blond headed, blue eyed little boy with the funniest smile. She looks out the window and sees a woman pacing, obviously distressed and crying. “Tell them I kidnapped you. Make something of yourself Katie. Don’t pay for my sins. Tell the cops I forced you to come with me. I told you I was gonna take care of you and our baby and well, blaming this all on me is about the only way I can still do that”. Johnny’s words played through her mind. He had given her a way out, given her a second chance and she was making the most of it. She walked outside to the upset woman and brought her inside. “My name is Katie and I’m a counselor here. I’ve felt the way you feel right now and if you let me, I can help you”.

 

Mistakes I’ve Made, New Projects, 2016

2016 is in its final hours. While this year more than most has had a certain negative stigma surrounding it, a new year always brings about new hope. Changes people speak of making, resolutions that will either become goals or afterthoughts. As humans we like to think of things having a beginning and an end – it’s comforting in some way to us. I thought of writing some kind of year in review for 2016 but I ultimately decided against it. Instead, I have a few topics I’m going to combine into one post that includes saying goodbye to my least favorite part of this year.

The biggest mistake that I made in 2016 was one that literally defined my year: having a one track mind, which lead to anger, which lead to isolation, which lead to resentment. To make a year long story short, I began 2016 unemployed and feeling very down on myself. When I did return to work in February after 8 months of being at home, I was a machine. Proving my worth, my commitment and my value to my new company become my source of self worth. I never wanted to repeat how low I felt being out of work and I obsessed over being the best at what I did. Working 7 days a week, going above and beyond the call of duty and then keeping that same machine like mentality in the rest of my life became problematic.  I convinced myself that I didn’t have time for anything besides family and work. Anger festered within me and when I felt like I was right about something, I didn’t want to think about other perspectives. I distanced myself from a lot of people, vocalized my opinion about anything and everything all day long and resented people that didn’t champion everything I said. Like the old saying goes, “You can’t see the picture when you’re in the picture”. It took slowing down recently to realize how distant I’d become from a lot of people and how angry I’ve been. It feels good to let that go and to feel more like me again. My goal for 2017 is to still be there for my family and be a hard worker but to also take care of myself internally better.

New Projects: This blog has served a great purpose to me over the past few years. It’s where I began writing again, after years of abandoning that dream due to my addiction. I’ve gained a lot of confidence here and have tried out a lot of different writing styles. I’m ready to focus on two styles: fiction and writing about recovery. To achieve my goals of having my fiction one day published and the recovery articles to reach their target audience, it’s time to give them their own pages. I’m pleased to announce that I’ve already started a new blog for my short stories and that I will be working with at least 3 (maybe more) other writers on a new recovery related blog. Hoping to unveil both new pages in January. I’m not going to shut this page down – there’s so much I love on here. I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to do with it but it’s time for the new projects to get their chance to shine. Lost dreams awaken and new ones become entirely possible. Really excited to be chasing my dreams and seeing what comes out of it.

Thanks as always for reading and Happy New Years!

Love & Heroin Part 2

Eric’s plane touched down at LAX in the middle of a rainy afternoon. Turbulence had been terrible on the flight and he was already anxious before the flight. He was here on work but the itch was all over him. He had murdered close to 20 drug dealers in the past two months and it had been a few days. The thought briefly occurred to him that perhaps this was what junkies felt like in between fixes. Perhaps this is what Emily felt like. Eric had a pretty strict schedule between conferences and meetings but he knew he had to make time for his new passion. He thought this dealer he picked up last Tuesday. Mid 30’s, scruffy hillbilly type. Eric was looking for someone who might put up a fight on that particular night and that’s exactly what he got. He still had the black eye to prove it. He admired the guys fight but that didn’t stop him from cutting off both of his thumbs before shooting him between the eyes. Despite his excitement, he still felt like his killings were justified. He couldn’t wait to bring his brand of justice to a new city. He would find time tonight.

Katie and Johnny were still in the Nevada desert and Katie was nearing the end of a very rough pregnancy. She hadn’t seen a doctor in months, had no plans for the delivery and nothing prepared for when the child was born. No clothes, no bottles, no crib. Nothing. She kept bringing it up to Johnny months ago about how they needed to prepare. As Johnny got in deeper and deeper with the bikers he sold drugs for, the more he was gone. Sometimes she would spend days alone in the run down motel room they called home. She would stare at the phone and wish that she had the courage to call her Mama. What must her Mama think? That Katie was dead? That she ran away from home? Did she think Katie and Johnny had something to do with the murder that caused them to leave town? That was usually the point when she convinced herself not to pick up the phone. That she deserved this life. How was she gonna take care of this baby though and was Johnny gonna be the dad she had once dreamed of him being?

“Baby, we gotta go!” Johnny yelled as he burst through their motel room door, blood all over his hands and his white tee-shirt. ” We gotta go now!” Katie knew this was no time for questions but her heart sank even further than it already was. How could their lives get any worse? What has Johnny done this time and were they even gonna make it out alive? Johnny filled a bag in mere seconds and took Katie’s hand, leading her out of the depressing motel that was the closest thing she’d had to a home since they left Texas all those months ago.

Eric found himself obsessing about this evening’s prey all throughout his meetings and conferences. He knew he should have been paying more attention – his bosses surely would have questions when he came home but he didn’t care. His mind was one track at this point. As he circled the unfamiliar streets the thought occurred to him that it was going to be a lot harder to get away with murder in Los Angeles – a city he’d only once visited as a child prior to this. The overconfidence and obsession beat out any logic as he parked his car and snuck up on the unsuspecting dealer, putting one silenced shot in the back of his head. “Freeze! Drop the weapon!” Eric knew he was in trouble. “You just shot an undercover cop motherfucker!” Eric’s mind was flooded with guilt but he knew he had to act quick. He wasn’t going to jail. He laid down his weapon and as the officer approached, Eric pulled a second gun from his shoe and shot the officer dead. He knew he was on the run now. His life would never be the same again.

Love & Heroin Part 1

Emily pulls her long blondish brown hair into a ponytail and takes a long look in the mirror before reaching for her lipstick. She used to take such pride in her appearance – past the point of being vain. She used to sit in front of this same mirror for what seemed like hours at a time, meticulously making herself look the way she wanted the world to see her. Confident. Beautiful. Ready to take on whatever the universe was going to throw at her. When did it all change? She briefly saw the woman she used to be until the fantasy was gone. All that was left was the sunken cheeks, bags under her eyes and the absence of spirit. She saw pain, she felt guilt and shame and the thought of who she used to be vs who she is now was too much for her to deal with. She walked over to her kitchen counter and pulled out a pad of paper and pen. “This is going to be the one that kills me” she started her letter before crumpling the piece of paper up. She put her hands over her face and wanted to cry but there were no more tears. She put on the song of choice, “Life on Mars” by David Bowie and figured out what her final words should be. ” If there is another life – a life somewhere else – I hope we find each other there. Things could be different next time around.  I’m sorry for everything I put you through and what you’re about to go through. I love you”. Emily pulled out a black bag and unzipped it, pulling out everything she would need for her final high. She thought to herself “Please let this be it” before plunging the needle deep into her arm.

 

“Hey Emily, its me Eric. I’m just a few minutes from home. I know you’re not feeling well but I thought maybe we could go grab something to eat? Maybe getting out will make you feel a little better? You don’t have to call back, I’ll see you soon. Love you”. Eric sat his phone in the passenger seat of his car and picked up a bag. He pulled a small box from the bag that contained the engagement ring he had just bought for Emily. She used to talk about getting married all the time. Eric knew she was battling her demons but thought proposing would show her that he was standing right beside her and believed in her. He knew in his heart that she could get clean and they could have the life they used to talk about. As he pulled into the driveway he hid the ring inside his coat. He didn’t know when he was going to propose but it certainly wasn’t going to be tonight. As he opened the door he heard the sounds of David Bowie wailing and he knew something was wrong. “Emily!” he yelled, turning the corner into the living room and that’s when he saw her, slumped over on the couch. He ran to her but he knew he was too late. “NO! Emily wake up! Emily, NO! Emily!” Eric grabbed her lifeless body and held her close, sobbing uncontrollably, not knowing what to think or do. As Bowie continued to sing on repeat in the background, Eric saw the box with the engagement ring he had just purchased laying next to the dead body of the woman he loved and that’s when the room began to spin………….

 

Somewhere in Texas, the same night as Emily’s death………………

 

“My mama is gonna chop your dick off when she finds out. It’s a good thing my daddy is dead and gone or there would be a shotgun pokin you in the chest right here on this porch”. Katie, a 5 foot nothing, sassy 18-year-old with eyes as blue as the ocean and Shirley Temple like curls was standing with her hands on her hips as her boyfriend Johnny kept looking away. Johnny tried a little too hard to get the sleaze Cowboy look down, with too much grease in his hair and his flannel shirt always half way unbuttoned. ” Katie, we can be good parents to this baby. We can get married and we might have to stay in my Aunt Carrie’s trailer for a while but work will pick up soon and we’ll…..” The look on Katie’s face told Johnny it was time to shut up. He was always coming up with big plans but unless it involved whiskey or more recently, the pills he’d been taking for his back Johnny never followed through. Katie loved him – she had spent years waiting for him to notice her. Now that she had him, she doubted him. Could he be a good father, keep a job and one day be a good husband? She didn’t know. “Take me dancing Johnny” Katie said, changing the subject. She was scared out of her mind at the thought of being pregnant – let alone having to tell her mama. She needed to escape. ” There’s a good band playing at The Lodge tonight” Johnny said, relived that she changed the subject. “No, take me to the Roadhouse. I can’t be around all them people.”

 

The car ride to the Roadhouse was only about 10 minutes but it felt like an eternity. Neither of them said a word, both lost in their own thoughts. Both scared. Johnny parked his beat up convertible close to the door and Katie grabbed his hand as they walked in. “Gimme some change for the jukebox” she whispered. Johnny ordered a beer and slipped the bartender extra cash. The bartender put a small bag in his hand. “What the fuck is this?” Johnny said. ” Time to graduate kid. Cheaper than the pills, helluva lot better high too”. Johnny was about to put up a fight – he’d never done heroin before but known plenty of people who had – but Katie was walking up to him. He slipped the bag in his pocket and said “Fade Into You, huh”. Katie smiled and said “I’m in a slow dancing kinda mood”. She buried her head in his chest as they swayed to the dreamy music. Katie thought to herself that maybe this could work. Maybe Johnny could get back to work and he could be a good husband and daddy. She looked up at him with her big blue eyes and asked “Still love me?” Johnny stopped thinking about the pain in his legs and churning stomach long enough to smile back and say ” Even more than I love the Dallas Cowboys”. Katie laughed and playfully shoved him. She started to sing to him and for a moment he got lost in her eyes.  The song ended and Johnny kissed Katie before heading to the bathroom, ready to try something he swore he’d never do so he could stop feeling so sick……..

 

“You sure you’re feeling ok baby? You’re sweating something awful” Katie said as they getting in Johnny’s car. “I am feeling kinda sick. Care if I drop you off at home and get some sleep?” “Of course baby” Katie lied. She was hoping to spend the night with Johnny, laying under the stars and dreaming of the life she wanted to have. Maybe it was the music, maybe it was wanting to try but she was in a much better mood than before they got to the bar. She was rubbing Johnny’s thigh as he pulled out of the parking lot down the pitch black road in the middle of nowhere Texas. He looked over at her and smiled, trying to play it cool. He was freaking out in the inside and couldn’t wait to drop her off. He had only done a little of the dope but he loved it and couldn’t wait to try some more. “Baby, what are you doing” he said as he looked over at her. She had a mischievous grin on her face and was about to speak when they heard a lot thud. “Johnny!” she screamed. He slammed on his brakes and realized that he’d been driving without lights. He flipped them on and looked over the hood of his car. Katie began screaming uncontrollably. Johnny looked over at Katie and said “He’s dead. I just killed a man”.

Six Months Later

“I want to go home Johnny”, Katie demanded as they stood on the side of an empty highway 50 miles outside of Reno. “Katie, we ain’t never going back. The only thing waiting for us in Texas is a pair of matching orange jump suits and we ain’t never seeing each other or our baby again” Johnny replied. They had fled the scene of the crime that night after they realized Johnny had run over that man. They were long gone before the police found the body, who in an ironic twist of fate was Katie’s Uncle Billy – the same Uncle Billy that drunkenly came onto her when she was only 13. Katie never forgot trying to fight him off and screaming until her Mama heard her and kicked the door in. It was no easy feat – her Mama was tiny too but had always been protective over her only baby girl. Katie missed her Mama and wanted nothing more than to go home to her, despite how mad she would be about the pregnancy, Johnny and God forbid she found out about the dead body.

Johnny had always dreamed of California. He’d seen it on TV growing up: the sunshine, the ocean, the trees. To him California was a whole new world and a place to escape all his problems. He’d felt that way as a young child forced to listen to his Daddy beat on his Mom and older brothers. He’d felt that way when his Mom died, brothers moved out and it was his turn to catch his Dad’s wrath. He felt that way now, broke, scared, running away from a murder he accidentally committed, child on the way and strung out on heroin. After trying it that first night, he couldn’t stop. He didn’t want to stop. At first he hid it from Katie. When the first bag ran out, he stopped at a bar right outside of San Antonio and scored some within minutes. He kept stopping at bars along the way to get his fix until they briefly stayed in a small New Mexico town for a few weeks. Within their first two days there, Johnny was selling heroin and he couldn’t keep his secret from Katie anymore. He didn’t care either.

It had been 6 months since Emily had died and Eric hadn’t cried since that night. He was never good at dealing with his feelings but this was some next level shit. The woman he loved, overdosing on purpose, on the night he bought her an engagement ring. A DEA officer losing the love of his life to heroin. Not only was the pain of losing her too great but the professional embarrassment made it almost too much to deal with. He got back to work. He lived in the gym when he wasn’t working. Soon he found that working and working out wasn’t enough for him. So he started taking late night drives to rough parts of town. He scouted the low level drug dealers – the guys way off his professional radar. The kind of guys that probably sold Emily drugs. Eric watched these street dealers night after night until that wasn’t good enough either. He quietly got out of his car one night and followed a dealer in an ally. As the kid – a baby faced barely 18 year old wannabe Scarface went to speak, Eric pulled out his service revolver and stuck it in the kid’s mouth. “On your knees you piece of shit. Slowly. Don’t make a fucking sound or it will be the last sound you ever make.” Eric looked at how scared the kid was and liked it. The pleasure changed to anger within seconds when he asked himself if Emily ever bought drugs from this kid. Eric stood him up, cuffed him and read him his rights but arresting him wasn’t his plan. Eric quickly devised a plan on how to get rid of the body as he walked the unsuspecting young drug dealer to his car, the first of many times Eric would go on to do this.