A Story – Chapter 4 – Burning The Candle

The buzzing of the alarm clock was piercing.

The noise was reverberating in my head, over and over again, throbbing, almost painful.

I slowly opened my eyes, rolled over, and switched off the alarm.  5:00 a.m.  I groaned.  I needed to be at the hospital for morning blood rounds at 6:00.

My hand went straight from the clock to the small, brown bottle sitting next to it.  I sat up, opened the bottle, scooped the miniature spoon into the white powder inside and rapidly inhaled a heap of magic white dust through each nostril.

Super-charged!  A lot more powerful than coffee.  Eyes wide.  Heart pounding.  I swung my legs over the side of the bed and was up and dressed in a flash . . .


It was hard to believe a week had passed since I had gone through my tool box to see what Mike had concealed.  Stolen.  Yet there would be no record of its existence.  No one could track it, and if found, those responsible would have just as hard of a time explaining how it fell into our hands as we would.

It seems while Mike and I had been engaged in our small-time pocketing of C IV drugs from the hospital pharmacy, the “big wigs” had been playing on their own with more dangerous drugs than we had access to.  Much higher stakes.  But they didn’t care because they also had the power to make problems go away.

It seems the top administrators of the various hospital departments were having their own private cocaine parties.  Only the licensed pharmacists had access to drugs that strictly controlled, the C IIs and C IIIs, which were locked and counted and weren’t even supposed to be handled by the techs.

Cocaine was a Schedule II drug, “dangerous with high potential for abuse that can lead to physical or psychological dependence.”

The chief pharmacist brought the drugs to these events and others brought prostitutes, or other employees, willing to engage in sexual exploits once they were high.  It seems, they partied with reckless abandon until it was time for the hospital to renew its accreditation.

Yep JACHO was coming.  The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.  And if they checked the count, the hospital would be found short an ounce of uncut, pure pharmaceutical cocaine.   This was bad news for the bosses.

But no worries, the chief pharmacist had his buddies at the drug companies and he could make an under-the-counter deal.  He’d buy X number of that company’s products for X amount of time in exchange for X amount of untraceable cocaine.  The big wigs figured this was an opportunity to get even further ahead of the game so the order was for double the missing amount – 2 ounces.  They’d replace the missing cocaine, plus come out ahead with an ounce for their personal use.

But the devil was in the details, and the details included figuring out how it would be shipped.

Controlled substances, when legally sold, must be shipped in separate containers that are specially marked, hand-delivered, and they must be signed for by a registered pharmacist, properly counted and entered into the hospital’s inventory.  A record of all sales had to be kept with the feds.  Plus, there was the matter of how to explain the need to replace something that shouldn’t have been missing in the first place.

So, this shipment had to be made without an invoice.  No record of its existence.  No need for special packaging.  No need for hand-delivery.  No need for a signature from a registered pharmacist.  No accounting for the amount and no additions to the hospital’s inventory.  The company concealed it in the bottom of a package with routine stock meds and shipped it off.

Problem solved.

But what they failed to predict was the day that package would arrive and if the right person would be there to receive it.  Too many moving parts to this machine.  Too many variables to control.  They had gotten cocky and that was about to bite them in their asses instead of their noses.

The package arrived on a Saturday.  Minimal pharmacy staff.  One tech, being Mike, and one pharmacist who wasn’t in the loop and didn’t know to be looking out for any old box of non-controlled stock meds.  Tylenol, aspirin, cough syrup – nothing to see here.

The pharmacist on duty passed the box off to Mike to unpack and when Mike was about to discard the box, he noticed something underneath the normal wrappings.  When he pulled back the extra packaging materials, he discovered two, one-ounce bottles of cocaine without proper packaging and without any invoice.

Being the opportunist he was, Mike immediately took a break and snuck the bottles out to my car and hid them in the tool box in the trunk.  Smart move on his part.  Not only would he not have access to such drugs in the fist place.  If they were found in my car, he’d be totally in the clear and I’d be sitting in a cell all by myself.

I could barely believe my eyes when I opened that tool box.  Two ounces of 99.9% pure pharmaceutical cocaine.  The bottles read “28.35 grams – Small Fluffy Crystals.”

Cocaine on the street was usually stomped down to around 7%.  So this amount of cocaine, at that point in time, had a street value close to $100K!  God only knows what that would be worth in today’s dollars.

And we weren’t going to stomp on it or give up one small fluffy crystal of it.  This was a once and life-time haul and we planned on consuming every speck of it.

Sure, we could spread a little around.  Share a little with friends.  But this was like the God-particle in in quantum physics – an invisible energy field only dreamed of theoretically for years prior to its actual discovery.  While we wouldn’t be winning any Nobel prizes in physics, we’d be small-time heroes to a select group of small-time criminals.  And the results of this experiment would not be reproducible.

The following Monday brought terror to the administrators.  The company rep had called the CP to make sure he received the goods, but they had gone missing.  And there was nothing they could do since this cocaine didn’t exist in the first place and since no one but a registered pharmacist could have even had access to it.  There was simply no way for it to go missing.

Their miscalculation, our bonanza!


Everyday had become a jet-fueled routine.  Wake up and snort.  To the hospital to work for 4 hours.  Snort some more.  Off to college for 4 hours.  Snort some more.  Back to the hospital to work another 4 hours.  Snort some more.  Home, change clothes, grab a bite to eat and then hit the bars.

Cocaine mixed with downers to take the edge off, mixed with alcohol to boost the downers.  Dance that racing heartbeat away.  Find a cute woman to invite home.  Two to three hours sleep, max.  And the alarm clock starts buzzing again.  Day-in, day-out.  Until the weekend, when it became a non-stop forty-eight-hour high.

We didn’t burn the candle at both ends, we napalmed it!

We were young.  We had strong livers.  And we were going to take this to the limit and beyond.

Of course, as time wore on, succumbing to the effects of the drugs, we became a little bit crazier.  Bullet-proof, yet paranoid.  Untouchable with imaginary super powers.

We bought handguns, for protection of course, and would regularly be out in the woods someplace target shooting.  I remember practicing fast-draw shooting and discharging my .357 a bit early.  Right after I got it unholstered.  Put a bullet in the ground right next to my foot.  I probably wouldn’t have felt it if I had shot myself.  I didn’t even pause or blink, as I was too busy laughing hysterically with the next round – blowing an old soup can out of the stream I had tossed it in.

It became common place to drive around town with enough drug and weapon firepower to get put away for a very long time.   If we ever got caught.  And we could care less because that was never going to happen . . .


More to come 🙂

Disclaimer: The same disclaimer made in Chapter 1 applies to every chapter of this story.  *Parts of this story may be based in truth or fiction, or possibly a mixture of both.  Any similarity to any actual event or to any person may be totally coincidental.  Also, it’s easier to write myself into the story to tell it in both first and third person 🙂

Photo: A timed exposure as a candle burns, losing its clarity as the flame flickers with the shutter open.  Mesmerizing.  A slow burn compared to the fast burning characters of this story.  But it’s blurry nature fits the theme of what happening as brains cook under the influence of powerful substances.

Prior Chapters:  You can find the first three chapters of this story here:

A Story

A Story – Chapter 2 – Bad Chemistry

A Story – Chapter 3 – Occupational Hazards

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