"Don't sample the product," Burke hissed to himself as he mocked his father. "He's always talking down to me." He fingered the bag of pills in his jacket pocket. "And Sublime is the gayest name I've ever heard."
"Hey!" a tattooed youth yelled a few feet ahead of him. "You gotta problem with Sublime?"
"Do I have a...how do you even know about Sublime?" Burke responded as he stepped closed to the younger man. His free hand brushed against the gun that was tucked between his waist and his jeans.
"Man, ‘Santeria' is my favorite song ever! How are you gonna talk about a dead man's band like that?" His moved so his nose was just below Burke's.
"Oh," Burke laughed. "That Sublime. I love Sublime too man, it's just my dad wants to name this idea of his Sublime is all."
"Oh shit, that is lame!" The youth said as he stepped away. He extended his hand to Burke. "Sorry about the mix-up holmes, you go tell your dad there's only one Sublime and that's that!"
Burke dapped the young man and moved his hand away from his gun. "Yeah, I'll do that." He continued along the street until he reached a busy intersection. The street lights had begun buzzing to life and the evening traffic was picking up. "Stupid walk lights never work!" Burke yelled as no cars gave him an opportunity to cross. He punched the nearest pole out of frustration. "Ow!" He fell to a sitting position on the sidewalk and cradled his wounded hand.
"Life got you down Burke?" a voice asked from above. Burke scrambled to his feet and took a few steps back. The voice belonged to a smiling man, who looked like he had just stepped out of a business meeting. His tie was loosened and he had his jacket draped over his shoulder in one hand.
"Do I know you?" Burke asked.
"No," the man replied as he extended his hand. "I'm Thomas Jacobs. Nice to meet you." Burke shook his hand but still kept his distance. I know you because you are your father's drug errand boy."
"Hey! Do you think you can keep it down? I'm not trying to go to jail here!"
"Sorry Burke, sometimes the words come out before I think about what I'm saying. What I'm saying to you now is, your days of running errands are over."
"What are you talking about?" Burke asked as he sat on a nearby brick wall and lit a cigarette.
"Word on the street is, you have the newest designer drug in your pocket."
"How do..." Thomas raised a finger.
"I just know. See, for years your father has been thinking small time. Nickel here, dime there." He sat down next to Burke. "That's why he never has any money. He never breaks even. Aren't you tired of that?"
"Yeah," Burke replied.
"How about this? I'll give you one hundred thousand dollars right now for the baggy. I'll let you keep enough to still make your club run tonight and bring daddy home a few dollars. And from now on, whatever of this dandy little pill your dad hands you, you sell to me for top dollar. Soon, you won't have to be daddy's errand boy anymore."
"Now that is business I can relate to! You got yourself a deal, Mr. Jacobs."
Thomas pulled out his check book and quickly filled one out. "You can cash this at your leisure my boy." He handed Burke the check and was passed the baggy in return. "And please, call me Thomas." He stood up and began walking down the street away from Burke.
"Wait," Burke called after him. "How do I contact you?"
"I'll contact you my boy, I'll contact you!" he yelled. He turned the corner and was gone.
Burke stood up and smiled to himself. "This calls for a celebration!" He reached into his pocket, grabbed one of his remaining Sublime tablets, and popped it into his mouth. He looked at the intersection that had betrayed him earlier, only to find a break in the traffic. "Yes!" Once he was safely across, he raised his arms in triumph. The movement caused his muscles to naturally flex and his muscles tore through his jacket. Burke's eyes grew to the size of fifty cent pieces as he looked at his newly swelled arms.
"What do you mean we can't get in?" Jasmine yelled. "It's been half an hour!"
"We're almost at capacity," a large man in glasses replied. "You either wait or leave."
"Capacity?" Ariana cried. "There's barely fifty people in there!" The bouncer turned to face the two women.
"Look," he bellowed as he folded his arms across his chest. "This establishment is very grateful for the fact that you put on your tight dresses, your high heels and your thongs and brought yourself here to celebrate you first night as college students." He pulled his glasses down briefly to give them a closer look. "And I," he licked his lips, "especially appreciate it. But I'm telling you right now, I don't care if you have gold between your legs, I cannot let you in right now. Are we clear?"
Ari put a stupid grin on her face and scooted back in line. Jasmine decided to be bold and placed her hand on the bouncer's bicep. "Maybe we could work something..."
"Are. We. Clear?" his voice boomed in Jasmine's ear. She covered her ear in pain and nodded her way back in line next to Ariana.
"What a loser," Jasmine sighed as she leaned her head against the wall. "You know, we always could go to Lucky Nights. I've heard good things."
"No way," Ariana replied. I want Club Hell and that's what I'm gonna get!"
"I'll give your fine ass hell all night baby!" a man spoke from behind her. Ariana turned and was greeted with a blast of whiskey soaked breath. "Damn!" the man continued. "I thought you was fine from behind but the total package is off the chain! My name is Sam and I am all the man you need."
"And she, is not interested and leaving!" Jasmine shouted as she pulled Ari back towards her. "Come on girl, you don't want this one, he still has some growing to do!"
"You can't ignore the gift God is giving you girl!" Sam continued. "Why don't I give you a little sample of what I got?" He raised his hand above his head and swung it full force against Ari's rear end.
"Oh hell no!" Jasmine screamed. "You don't disrespect a lady like that! You don't treat a lady like that! Who the hell do you think you are?!" Ari grabbed her arm.
"I can handle myself J," Ariana said. She turned around and faced Sam.
"Yeah baby! That's what I'm talking about! I knew you'd come around!" Ari smiled and stepped closer to him.
"Is this what you want?" Ari asked as she gestured towards her body. Sam nodded enthusiastically. "Okay," Ari said as she leaned closer to his face. Suddenly, her left hand shot up, grabbed Sam by his face, and slammed his head into the brick wall behind him. Before he could recover, her right hand met his jaw, dropping the stunned drunk to his knees.
"Oh shit!" Jasmine shouted.
"Didn't you mother ever tell you," Ariana said as she tried to shake the pain out of her hand. "Not to mess with a Russian?" Another man came running up to help his fallen friend.
"I am so sorry," he apologized. "He did a little too much pre-gaming before we got here and he tends to get a little full of himself." He held his still dazed friend with one arm.
"A little?" Jasmine chimed in.
"That's okay," Ari said. She leaned towards Sam's face again. "But do not let it happen again, Sam!" She poked him in the chest to drive home her point.
"Don't worry, I'm taking him home," the friend responded as he pulled himself and Sam out of line. They were out of sight within seconds.
"Where did you learn to hit like that A?" Jasmine asked with a huge grin.
"When you live in Gotham City, you either let the city keep hitting you, or you fight back."
"Excuse me ladies," the bouncer interrupted. "But you can go in now."
Ariana took Jasmine by the hand and brushed by the bouncer. "Thank you very much."
"I think he's just afraid you'll hit him," Jasmine joked as they headed up the steps that led inside of Club Hell.
"How much?" a young man with a Dodgers hat on asked. A puff of smoke blew into his face.
"Twenty," Burke answered. He towered over the other man, his white t-shirt barely able to contain his newly formed muscles. The buyer produced a wad of five dollar bills and pushed them into Burke's hand. Burke dropped one tablet of Sublime into the youth's waiting hand.
Burke unfolded the bills as the youth walked away hurriedly. "Hey!" Burke called as he moved to catch up. He waved three fives in the air. "Are you trying to fuck me?"
"Fuck you, muscle head!" the smaller man yelled as he broke into a run. He barely had gotten his third step when he was lifted off of his feet. Burke reached over and tore the pocket off his prey's jeans, sending the pill flying into the nearest sewer grate.
"Obviously, you're not ready for that high grade material you just tried to rip me off for," Burke sneered into the younger man's face. "All of this for a lousy five dollars." His free hand sliced through the air and was greeted with the sound of ribs being crushed. A tailbone joined the bone symphony as it hit the ground with a sickening crack.
"You son of a bitch," the buyer hissed through his teeth. "I think you punctured a lung."
"Well, I think, you should go see a doctor," Burke laughed as he tucked the fifteen dollars into his own pocket. He exited the alleyway where he had led the youth a few minutes earlier and slipped into the over eighteen line for Club Hell.
"The convulsions have stopped but he's not breathing now," Tim said as he put his ear to Burke's mouth. "Tell them to turn the music off!"
As the DJ cut the power on his turntables, the lights came on, causing an already on edge crowd to jump once more. Kayla watched as Tim pushed his jacket underneath Burke's head.
"Tim, look at him," she said. "He looks overdeveloped."
"I saw that, but right now I need to get him breathing!" He pinched Burke's nose closed and breathed quick breaths into his open mouth. "I need more room people," he said as he began pushing on the victim's chest. 1, 2, 3... He pinched his nose closed again. More breaths. "Come on dammit!" 1, 2, 3, 4... He pinched Burke's nose again. Burke responded by turning his head and coughing.
"You did it!" Kayla said. The crowd erupted in applause as the paramedics pushed through to Burke. In a matter of seconds, Burke was on the stretcher and heading out of the club's rear doors to the waiting ambulance.
"I'm going to follow them to the hospital," Kayla said. "A reporter's job is never done."
"Yeah," Tim replied absent mindedly. "I think I'm going home. My night's kinda been ruined." Kayla kissed him on the cheek.
"You saved his life Tim," Kayla said as she walked away. "I wouldn't say that's a ruined night."
Tim watched her go and then looked at his watch. "The night is still young," he smiled to himself.
"Why are there two Tiffanys now?" Ives asked as he stumbled forward. He never imagined doing a keg stand, let alone three in one night. And after that fourth tequila shot, he probably should have stopped, but he just had to have a few cups of jungle juice. It's no small miracle he was still conscious.
"Ives, I need to get you home," Tiffany laughed as she stopped him from running into a wall. She put her hand to her head. "But maybe I should just call us a cab."
"We could always walk," Ives suggested as she led him out the door. "It's a beautiful night."
"And exactly how many pairs of stars are you seeing up there?" Tiff joked. She pulled her car keys from her purse and pressed the unlock button on her key chain. "You can't even hold yourself up." She leaned him against the car as she dug in her purse for her phone. "Shit."
"What's wrong?" Ives asked through half-closed eyelids.
"I dropped my phone somewhere," she answered as she opened the driver's side door. "Sit here until I get back, it should only take a minute." Ives slid into the seat.
"Okay Tiff," Ives slurred. He barely noticed the door slamming closed inches from his nose.
Tiffany turned back towards the house and walked briskly to the door. I think it's safe to say there is such a thing as too much Sex on the Beach. She stopped at the steps in an effort to collect her bearings, then she ambled up the stairs and back into the house.
"Ha, ha! That's right homie; I just sold a pound of that sticky icky!"
"Jerome, you're full of it. You didn't have that much on you."
Jerome reached in his pocket and pulled out a small chain with a Saint Christopher medallion attached to it. "I didn't until I ran into dude, Tyrone"
"Dude who?" Tyrone asked as he inhaled the contents of a tightly rolled joint. He sat on the hood of an almost new Mercedes.
"That fool that calls himself Heisman." Jerome replied as he took a nearby seat. "The one that said he was running our neighborhood? I snuffed him."
"You killed him? Dog, you know you're on probation..." Tyrone began.
"No stupid," he growled as he snatched the joint away. "I saw him around the corner. Talking as usual. So I pistol whipped him and robbed him. Then I sold what he was holding on him."
"Wow! That is so dope! I bet he won't be talking anymore!" Tyrone said as he began clapping his hands in appreciation.
"Yeah," Jerome coughed. "I think I saw him crying a little bit too."
Suddenly, the joint was blown out of Jerome's mouth and rolled away.
"You dropped the joint Jerome."
"Uh, yeah," Jerome answered. "I told you I liked blunts better anyway." He reached down to pick the joint up when he felt a gust of wind behind him. "What the hell Tyrone?" he asked. When he turned around, Tyrone was gone. Confused, he stood and pulled out his gun. "Ty? Where are you?" He spun around with his arm extended. "I don't know who you are, but I don't like the games you're playing!"
"No one is playing games Jerome."
"Who said that? I'll kill you!"
"I don't think so," Robin said as he appeared behind Jerome. He pulled him by the shoulder, turned him around and grabbed his wrist. The firearm clanged to the pavement and slid away.
"Aren't you on the wrong coast punk?" Jerome asked as he tried to free himself from the Boy Wonder's grip. "Or are you on summer vacation?"
Robin slammed his knee into the hood's back and moved his arm around his neck. "I only have a few questions and I'll know if you're lying." Jerome's hands tried to pry Robin's arm from his neck to no avail.
"I ain't no snitch, man! Why don't you let me go and make this a fair fight?" Robin turned his arm and allowed his gauntlets to slightly press against Jerome's neck.
"You're not in a position to make demands Jerome," Robin reminded him. "Now, what do you know about Venom?"
"Venom? The comic book character?"
"No, the drug," Robin growled as he tightened his grip. "Apparently, it's hit the streets. I need names."
"Names?" Jerome whispered. "I only deal with weed man."
"Not what I'm looking for Jerome," Robin replied. He squeezed harder.
"Don't kill me!" Jerome was barely audible now. "It was only some sticky man, only some..." Robin released his sleeper hold and pulled the limp body next to Tyrone's on the nearest set of steps.
He's not lying. After seeing that guy in the club tonight, there was no doubt in mind he had taken Venom, but apparently whoever has the hook-up is keeping the info to himself. It hadn't taken him long to run into Jerome beating another dealer senseless once he had left Club Hell and he had hoped following him would lead to something. Tonight is a bust, he thought as recalled his last words with Kayla.
The sound of sirens filled the air. Robin had alerted the police about the drug deal and had timed their arrival perfectly with his interrogation. He faded into the shadows as the first cruiser pulled in front of Tyrone and Jerome.
"You go ahead and go in first Josh."
"Are you sure, Will? You did slip that little something in that last cup she had." The two of them stood in front of a bedroom door at the house party.
"No, that's okay. I know you've had a thing for her for a while now. I'm gonna make sure the rest of the house is clear." He started to walk away. "Have fun buddy."
Josh opened the bedroom door and closed it behind him. He walked over to the twin size bed, where Tiffany's prone form lay and began sliding his hand up her thigh. "Oh, yeah. Fun is definitely on the menu tonight. Right Tiff?"
Outside, Ives had found his way out of Tiffany's car and onto the nearby grass. He was on all fours and had been vomiting in the same spot for the last ten minutes. "Oh god," he heaved. "I think that's everything." He moved into a sitting position and tried to gather his breath. "Yuck," he said in disgust. "My hands are filthy." He managed to stand and headed back towards the house.
He had just stepped back inside when he ran into Will. "What are you doing, man?"
Ives held up his hands. "I made a bit of a mess on myself. Can I use your bathroom?"
Will covered his nose and mouth with one hand and pointed with the other. "Down the hall to the left," he mumbled.
"Thanks," Ives said as he shuffled away. He closed the bathroom door, washed the vomit off of his hands and realized how underrated peeing had been in his life until now. After another hand scrubbing with anti-bacterial soap, he searched for something to dry his hands off with.
Then he heard a low voice.
"I'll do you a favor here Tiff and I'll take off my own clothes," Josh joked as he stepped out of his pants. He crawled onto the bed over Tiffany's near lifeless body. "Don't worry baby, this won't hurt at all."
The door opened behind them. "Too late Will, you had your chance to go first. So get out." When he didn't get a response, Josh whirled around, ready to berate whoever had intruded.
He was greeted by a baseball bat. The blow met perfectly with his forehead and he fell on top of Tiffany in a heap. Tiffany stirred from his landing and spied her savior over Josh's shoulder.
"Ives." Her voice was weak. "Did you get that cab yet?" Ives pulled her from under Josh and helped her to her feet.
"No time," Ives replied as he shifted his weight to support her better. "Can you walk?"
"I think so," she answered. She wrapped her inside arm around Ives' neck as he led her out of the bedroom. "What happened? I came in here for my phone and next thing I know, this guy is begging me to have one more drink with him."
"I don't know, but we have bigger problems," Ives concluded as he led the way back outside. "I'm sorta sober and I can drive, but I don't have the slightest clue which way will get me or you home." He took them past Tiff's car and almost into the road.
Tiffany pushed her cell phone into his hand. "Call Kane's Cab. Pick a direction, look for street signs and give them one of those." Ives did as he was told and headed to the right. "And Ives?"
"Don't let go of me..." Her body went limp in his arms.
"Nurse?" Kayla asked. "Is there any change in his condition?" She had been asking the night nurse the same question since she had gotten here shortly after Burke.
The nurse looked up from her coffee and rolled her eyes. "For the hundredth time miss, I can't give you any information unless you're family. And working for a college newspaper doesn't count as press." She picked up her tabloid and began flipping through the pages. "You can find out like the rest of us when the information is released to the real press.
"Fine," Kayla sighed as she hit her hand on the counter. She walked back towards her seat in the emergency room waiting area and picked up her purse. "Nothing like leaving with an empty notepad."
"You have a good night too young lady," the nurse said sarcastically. It was Kayla's turn to roll her eyes as she pushed her way out of the E.R.'s double doors.
Down the hall from the nurse's station, Burke was in critical condition. The Sublime had worn off and he had returned to his normal size, but he hadn't fully regained consciousness since Tim had revived him.
"Look at him. He's so peaceful," Thomas Jacobs commented from his bedside.
"He never listens to me. I tell him not to take the damn pill and he does the opposite," Burke's father said from the other side of the bed.
"Sons will be sons I suppose," Thomas replied. He got up and walked over to Burke's jeans, where he removed the one hundred thousand dollar check he had written him earlier. He produced a lighter and watched as the check burned to nothing.
"I do have to say he knows when to take a good deal," Burke's father commented as he stood as well.
"He should have guessed I would cut out the middle man and go straight to the source," Thomas said as he gazed out the window into the L.A. night. "Anyone with common sense would have skipped town and found a way to cash that check, but not your boy."
"You better not be lying to me, Jacobs," Burke's father warned.
"I already paid you for your supplier's contact information, in cash mind you. You get the rest once you secure the amount of pills we agreed upon."
"Right, right," the father said as he started for the door. "I'll be in touch."
"Wait," Thomas said rubbing his chin thoughtfully. "You do it."
"Do it? You want me to kill my own son?"
"Just to make sure you're not going to go back on our deal."
"Go back on our deal? I just sold out my own flesh and blood!" Thomas walked over to Burke's father and grabbed his collar.
"Kill him. Now." Thomas released the shirt, smiled, and walked out of the room. The father walked over to his son's bedside again, this time with a look of remorse.
"I'm so sorry I failed you, Burke. I've never been the father I knew you deserved. Always had to look out for myself first." He leaned closer to Burke's ear. "Some things never change." He grabbed the nearest pillow and pressed it against his son's face.
Burke's body fought the sudden lack of oxygen but he was still physically unable to fight back. A few minutes later he had successfully taken the life out of his son's body. He began crying as he picked his hat off of a nearby chair and placed it on his head.
"I love you Burke," he said as he opened the door to leave. "I always have."
"Excuse me, Nurse?"
"Look, if you're another news hound, you can go the same direction I sent that other one," the nurse answered as she looked up from her magazine.
"You'll have to forgive me if I don't dress the part," Robin said. The nurse jumped out her seat at the sight of a vigilante shrouded in a black and gold cape, especially at four a.m. "I need information about the overdose that came in here earlier."
The nurse seemed to regain her composure as she looked him up and down. "I'll give you what you want if you'll do something for me."
She shoved a pen and her tabloid at the Boy Wonder. "Can you sign this please? For my boys?" Robin managed a smile and took the pen.
"What are their names?" he asked as he hunched over the paper.
"Chad and Jordan." Robin carefully wrote the autograph and handed it back. "Thank you so much! They'll never believe this! Is Batman with you?"
"I don't mean to be rude, but I'd really like to get that information."
"Sorry," the nurse said as she turned to her computer. "The one from Club Hell right?"
"That's the one."
"He flatlined about a half an hour ago. We think he choked on his own fluids. Was it a bad guy?"
"I'm not sure who he was," Robin replied. The nurse punched a few more keys.
"They don't even know what he overdosed on in the first place..." The nurse looked up from the computer, but Robin was gone.
Next Issue: The trail has gone cold for Robin! What happened with Ives, Tiffany, Ariana and Jasmine? Plus, it's campus tour day!