‘Breaking Bad meets Nip/Tuck’ in a vodka-soaked and cocaine-infused crime drama deep in the searing Mojave desert, where we follow a Hollywood plastic surgeon on the run from Russian mobsters, a family of dirty cops, a breeched Witness Protection program that's as deadly as the Bark Scorpion, and ultimately...himself.
CHAPTER 1. THE BRIDGE
The silver plane caught the sun, its metal tube flashed a blink. It was smaller now against the big sky. The
car was smaller against the road. The blue-black sky fell around us. The earth rotated. The axis held. He moved along rail. He looked at me. And then he put both feet over and he sat. Then he slowly leaned forward. He stood up. I ran to him. He left. I ran to the place where he stood. And I wanted to jump, too. To rocket straight down through the air, flying straight to him before he hit the concrete that used to carry water to
Two years later I was on another planet waiting for him to come home and pick up his room. I had folded his dirty clothes and wrapped them in a heavy, light brown butcher-block paper. I folded the paper sharply with hard, tight creases, precisely and exactly like points on an honored flag. I had taped the seams, stacking the paper packages and placing the bundles in the plastic rubber hamper that sits just over there, in the corner
of my trailer. His room is clean. Forever.
The warming chill of the vodka rinsed and bleached and cut into my bones.
CHAPTER 2. IDENTITY.
And so was I. But I was lucky. I had my own bridge in that beastly medicine chest stocked with ready ampules of liquid cocaine along with the entire library of the mind-numbing FDA alphabet. Not quite Wikipedia; slightly smaller than the Library of Congress. My own bridge nudged me over the side. And my spiral of year-long binging catapulted my Gehry-inspired manse into a ground zero for the glitterati who were spectacular at fawning over a surgeon with a notoriously generous script pad signing off Demerol, Oxycontin, Morphine, Methadone, and Percocet. If you liked dropping into the deadening, syrupy, and sexy warming of the Quaalude, I wrote for Methaqualone. The young, slouched, A-Listers, who found a certain artistic romance in chipping horse, graded my compound as the righteous heroin substitute. No reason to cop your cartel tar over on Melrose; I was the man with the medical degree. I was legal. I was a physician. Everybody loved me. Until the volume of pharmaceuticals flagged the attentive DEA agents who decided that I had become a very bad man.
CHAPTER 3. JACK.
“Before we start hiding cash maybe you should tell me about that leg,” I said. I popped a Nicorette. Jack
looked at my cigarettes and the pack of Nicorettes on the table. Maria came by with my Bloody.
“In my line of work, people get shot.”
“Good to know.”
“Sometimes the wrong people.”
“Somebody pushed the barrel of a gun into my thigh and someone happened to pull the trigger.
Nearly caught the—“
I finished Jack’s sentence. “Femoral artery.”
“I owed some guys a favor.”
“Sounds like quite a debt.”
“The kind that can get you shot.”
“Seems excessive, but what do I know.”
“I failed to deliver on some paperwork. Visas, passports. Handy travel necessities one might need on a trip, say, if you’re Russian and the Viking Riverboats cruises are all booked and you need to get out of the
country without a travel agent.”
“What kind of money is paperwork like that worth?” I asked, assuming my poker face and trying to only
sound mildly interested.
“It’s all cash."
“Put me in a ballpark, just so I can see where we’re playing.”
“Hundred thou.” He looked around and leaned forward. He took a smoke out of my pack on the table.
“I’m the agent in charge, the fucking force majeure.” Jack grabbed my lighter and lit it. I did the same.
We exhaled together.
CHAPTER 4. MAXIM GETS SOME WORK.
Seventy-two hours after our beachside happy hour, Jack and I were sitting in my Bel Air clinic with the big fish, Maxim, and his wife, Darya. The Gorikavs seemed like a nice couple, particularly because Maxim had a slim, silver aluminum Halliburton parked by his side. A big beefy, man, pushing maybe 5’10, packing a dense, stocky poundage that was broad in his belly and chest and up along his shoulders. One could still make out the profile of a younger, stronger man who had at one time offered a commanding presence. Now he only looked stressed and the pounds and years had pushed him over to the typical aging Russian mobster side of his life—not quite golf four times a week, but he was, as I would soon discover, definitely trying to stay off the grid. He wore a shiny, silk black shirt under a charcoal and black suit—a size 52 by my eye—pricey, maybe even bespoke, draped loosely to his black, supple, cross-weave Magli slip-ons; the Italian shoes were a smart wardrobe choice for Maxim and his expanding girth — he could avoid the struggle of bending over and tying his shoes; easy in, easy out without breaking a sweat.