The two guys at the door look like washed-up linebackers, but the guy behind the table just looks scrawny and mean. When the big guys deposit Finn in front of the table, the scrawny mean man stares long and hard at him.
“Uh, I have a bag for somebody,” Finn says. “I told them at the door, but they didn’t seem like they cared. If I can just leave this with you, I’ll—”
“Bag,” the scrawny man interrupts, holding out his hand. Finn looks at the goons on either side of him before passing the crumpled paper bag from Jay over to the man behind the table. The man doesn’t look up at Finn as he pulls a huge stack of hundreds out of the bag. Finn tries to control his face, but nothing about Jay’s request for a favor had prepared him for this amount of money. He’d thought a few hundred, maybe even a thousand, in tens or twenties. This is easily in the upper thousands, and suddenly Finn realizes why Jay looked so nervous.
“So, can I go?” Finn asks.
“Where’s the rest?” The scrawny man asks.
“The rest?” Finn repeats back.
“If this came from Jay, he’s in for another 2k,” the scrawny man says, “so I expect you’ve either got that cash or the product.”
“Product?” Finn parrots.
“Jesus Christ, fucking college kids,” the scrawny man says, rubbing his temple with one hand. “Just give me the rest of the money, and get the fuck out of my warehouse.”
“I don’t have any other money. This is all Jay gave me,” Finn says.
“Then Jay shorted me by a couple thousand, kid.”
“Oh. I’m sorry. I’ll tell him next time I see him,” Finn says, trying to back towards the door. “I didn’t know. He just asked me to bring it here as a favor.”
“Yeah, and now I’m asking you to do me a favor,” the scrawny man says, standing up. The two big guys pull guns from holsters on their belts, which Finn hadn’t even noticed. “I need you to take something back to your friend Jay for me.”
Finn tries to take another step back, but one of the big guys moves to block his path. “He didn’t say anything about—”
“Will you shut up until I fucking tell you to talk?” the scrawny guy says. “You’re going to take this product to Jay for me. You’re going to bring back the money for it, plus the 2K he already owes, and you’re going to do it by the end of this week. You got it?”
“What kind of product?” Finn asks, though he’s starting to suspect.
“You ask one more fucking question and I’m having Boritz here put two in your skull,” the scrawny man says. The big guy on the right puts the muzzle of his gun against Finn’s head, and Finn has to clamp down everything in his body fast so he doesn’t piss himself.
The scrawny man makes a ‘come here’ gesture, and a guy with tattoos on his neck puts another paper bag down in front of him. At a second gesture, Boritz and his gun shove Finn forward, and Finn tentatively reaches for the bag. Scrawny man nods, Finn picks up the bag, and before any more words are exchanged, Finn’s being shoved face first out of the warehouse and into the sludgy grey snow of the lot.
“Garza wants you back in a week,” Boritz says.
“You mean, he wants Jay?” Finn asks, pushing himself up out of the slush, his jeans and coat soaked.
“I know I didn’t fucking stutter,” Boritz says before slamming the warehouse door shut.
Finn continues to crouch in the dirty, wet snow, the paper bag in his hand slowly getting damp. He doesn’t know whether to run or cry or call the police, though he has a reasonable suspicion that that last one isn’t exactly an option anymore. Before standing, he looks into the paper bag. It’s full of dozens and dozens of tiny baggies, some filled with whitish crystals, others with powder that looks like brown sugar.
“Shit,” Finn says softly, rolling up the top of the paper bag again. “Oh shit. I’m screwed. I’m so screwed.”
By late February, Finn’s in it for Jay’s 2k, plus another 7K for that first paper bag of product, because Jay’s gone now, taking the product with him and leaving Finn on the hook for it. Even though Finn has been taking deliveries to a half-dozen other people around Lima and the surrounding towns for the last couple of weeks, Garza’s made it clear that Finn’s nowhere near working off the debt. Finn is truly and royally screwed.
The deliveries keep getting bigger, more product to more people, and after the last pickup from Garza and his guys, Boritz suggests that Finn needs to start carrying. When Finn asks, “Carrying what?” Boritz tosses Finn a non-descript black gun with deep scratches on the side.
“Hope you’re less of a stupid shit than you look,” Boritz says.
Finn is absolutely sure he is, in fact, much more of a stupid shit than he looks, but he takes the gun and the large paper sack of product, and he gets gone from the warehouse as fast as he can without attracting any attention. He hates sitting on that much product, hates that he’s now got what he can only assume is an illegally obtained gun in the car with him, but if there’s a way out of this, Finn can’t see it.
More than anything else, Finn wishes he could ask Puck for help. Puck could probably come up with three or four ways out of this, but asking Puck for help would mean telling Puck about the product, the gun, Garza and Boritz, and maybe it would just end up with Puck as deep in it as Finn. Right now, as far as Garza and his guys are concerned, Finn’s only real friend at U of Lima is the missing Jay. He’s careful not to mention any other friends or family, and while he’s sure Garza could find Finn’s last name easily, the fact that he’s a Hudson and the rest of his family are Hummels, one of them Congressman Hummel, might at least keep them beyond Garza’s reach for now.
Finn stops calling home. He ditches his phone and replaces it with a prepaid, and that’s the number he gives Garza’s guys. Going home is out of the question, as is pretty much any other social activity. He gets fussy about his stuff, snapping at Puck for going through his desk for paper or for stealing his damn hat again, because the last thing Finn needs is Puck coming across a bag of product or, worse, the gun. Puck looks hurt, but he’s still Puck, so he brushes it off with a comment about how Finn’s wound way too tight lately, and how he probably needs to get laid or take a lighter load next semester or both.
Another week, another load of product, and even more delivery points, some of them as far as Toledo, several of them with guys who look a lot like Garza. They throw around the name ‘Salas’ without seeming to give a shit if Finn hears them or what he thinks about what he hears. They seem to know as well as Finn that if he breathes so much as a word about any of this to anybody, it’ll be among his last, along with maybe ‘no’ or ‘please god help me’.
Finn starts carrying the gun with him on every delivery, convinced he might actually have to use it at some point in the future, maybe even the near future. The fact that he has no clue how to shoot the damn thing presents a problem, but he figures out how to turn the safety off, and after that, he imagines it’s mostly a matter of pointing it in the right direction and pulling the trigger. Whether he could point the thing at another person and actually pull the trigger is a completely different question, one that Finn doesn’t have an answer for yet, but it’s been weeks since anybody heard from Jay, weeks since Finn’s felt like he can breathe without looking over his shoulder every five seconds.
He’s moved more thousands of dollars of product than he cares to think about, because following the thought train of ‘where does the product go?’ leads to ‘where does the money go?’ and he can’t worry about the answer to either question. He’s already in it so deep, it won’t be long before he’s all the way under and can’t take a breath without drowning.
Finn’s involved in his first exchange of gunfire in early March, about five weeks after meeting Garza. As he’s diving for his car, paperbag full of undelivered product clutched in one hand, the gun up and firing wildly in the other, he thinks to himself that somebody should make a thug baby book. Baby’s first gun fight. Baby’s first drive-by. Baby’s first stint in lock-up. Finn slams the gas pedal down, speeding away from the aborted delivery, aware that his first stint in lock-up is now something he should start giving some thought to. It feels like an inevitability.
Garza’s pissed about the failed delivery, screaming at Finn and then calling someone and screaming at them in Spanish, and when that call ends, screaming at Finn more.
“We rescheduled the delivery. Don’t fuck it up this time.”
Finn nods and doesn’t argue. Garza doesn’t like Finn to argue. He doesn’t even like Finn to talk, period. Boritz gives him a paper scrap with a time and place, plus a heavier sack of product than the one involved in the delivery-that-wasn’t, and a warning.
“If it don’t get delivered and you don’t come back cash in hand this time, this isn’t going so great for you, dumbfuck,” Boritz says. Finn nods again, because Boritz doesn’t really like Finn to talk, either.
Finn has just under twenty-four hours until the delivery, so he heads back to his dorm, stashing the product in his drawer and the gun under his pillow. It’s already late, and Puck is in his bunk, asleep with one arm dangling off the bed and his head at a weird angle on his pillow. Finn moves Puck’s arm back up onto the bed and scoots the pillow a little, then he sits back down on the edge of his own bed, one hand balled into a fist and pressed against his mouth.
“I don’t think I’m walking away from this one,” Finn whispers against his fist. “And I can’t even tell anybody goodbye.”
Sleep doesn’t come easily, and the sun is starting to rise as Finn finally succumbs to exhaustion. When he wakes up, it’s late in the afternoon, and Puck is gone, along with Finn’s hat. Even though it’s still chilly out, Finn can’t muster up any irritation. He hopes Puck enjoys the damn hat.
Finn tucks the gun into his waistband, sticks the sack of product in the car, then drives out to the Arby’s and tries to make himself eat, but mostly he just picks at his roast beef until it gets cold, at which point he throws it all away. He checks his watch every few minutes, making sure he doesn’t leave for the delivery point too early or too late, and when it’s the right time, he drives over to the old movie theater, parking on the side and walking around to the back of the building.
A late model SUV, black with heavily tinted windows, idles next to a rusting dumpster, and four men stand next to it. At least two of them are obviously the Boritz type, muscle and firepower. Finn approaches cautiously, one hand on his waist, where he can feel the gun through his shirt. Sweat rolls down his back, despite the cold, and he thinks to himself that he’s glad Puck took his hat, because Finn would be sweltering in it.
One of the men, the boss-type, not one of the Boritzes, calls out, “You Garza’s boy?”
Finn nods, holding up the paper sack. “Yeah. I’m just here to make a delivery.”
The Boritzes move forward, flanking Finn, as the boss-type approaches. “I’ll take that off your hands, then.”
“I need to see the cash first,” Finn says, because Garza has told him to always look at the cash before showing the product.
The boss nods slowly, turning to one of his Boritzes. “Show him,” he says.
The Boritz reaches into his pocket, withdraws his hand quickly, and then the world explodes, gunfire echoing off the back wall of the building as the Boritz fires. Finn hits the ground, fumbling for his own gun, product spilling out across the cracked concrete. He hears more shots, coming from behind him this time, and he’s sure he’s surrounded, that this is it, when the Boritz crumples to his knees, blood spurting from his abdomen.
“Drop your weapons! Hands up!” someone shouts over a megaphone or speaker. “Federal agents!”
Finn can’t figure out how to drop his weapon and put his hands in the air, not at the same time, so he puts both hands into the air, gun still held loosely in his right hand. Around him, another volley of gunfire kicks up dust and screams, and Finn continues to lie there on his stomach, hands held aloft, amidst shouts for him to drop his weapon.