The pathway from severe criminal addiction to flourishing clinical practice for me is something I’m frequently asked to articulate. Dark Horse: A Heroin Memoir is my long-delayed written response.
The plan I came up with from there was based on the kind of circular logic that only a dope-fiend could square: I’d go back, find the gun, and get a quick robbery in before at Jack’s Ice House would close in San Antonio a few hours later.
Then, if I couldn’t find the gun at the scene of the crime I had just committed, I figured, there was a shotgun there at the house that belonged to the guy my sister was dating.
And if I took the Guadalupe drag down to the center of Austin and it wasn’t there, I’d have just enough time to get to back to the house, get the shotgun, then get to Jack’s Ice House on the west side of San Antonio — another 45 minute drive — where I knew I could trade the shotgun for a couple balloons of dope.
I’d traded guns for dope before.
Why didn’t I just take the shotgun and head straight to Jack’s Ice House in San Antonio?
I mapped out the plan in my head.
Then I got out a city map and picked an intersection along Burnet road a full mile north of the gas station to park the car.
I got a clipboard, changed shirts, dusted the mud from my fall off the knees of my dungarees, and left the house just after dark.
It was Sunday, February 13, 1977, so that would’ve been around 6:30 p.m.
Jack’s Ice House would close at 10.
I took side streets as far as I could, parked the car, and walked quickly, clipboard in hand so as to appear like a student or some other person with a purpose greater than a dope-fiend looking for a Colt .45 at the scene of his own botched holdup.
It was full dark when I got to the corner where the gun had fallen out of my jean jacket and skidded off into the weedy easement.
My heart sank.
Of course it wasn’t there.
I walked back to the car and got in the car and thought: OK, I have just enough time go back and get my sister’s boyfriend’s shotgun and make it to Jack’s Ice House in San Antonio before they closed at 10.
To say that I wasn’t thinking is to say that the only thing I was thinking about —the only thing any junkie who hasn’t fixed in over 16 hours thinks about — was how to score.
And before I realized I wasn’t thinking about what I should’ve been thinking about — that I had returned to the scene of a crime I had committed only hours earlier to try to find the weapon I’d used to commit that crime in order to hock it for dope — I realized I was driving right down Burnet Road — right past the gas station I’d held up just a few hours earlier in the same car in which the man I’d robbed had probably seen me get away.
And I stopped at a light.
And to my left was a neon-lit coffee shop with booths in the windows.
And in one of the booths: two policemen having a coffee.
And there I was: caucasian; early 20s; dishwater blonde, shoulder-length hair, feathered; mustache.
Little white car.
They got up, jumped in their squad car and pulled me over.
I was shaking inside — off the Richter scale.
I remember the siren lights in the driver’s patent leather shoes as I watched him step of the squad car in my side mirror.
To this day I have no idea how I managed to calm myself down before they got to my car.
But need — true heroin need — (though it makes you stupid) has its own genius.
It takes over your mind and your body when it’s most threatened.
More importantly, it silvers the tongue.
It takes the loosest yarns of the truth and crochets them into blanket of lies you’d be proud to wrap around your mother.
Even today I’m baffled by how smooth and articulate I was.
They said: There was a robbery attempted in this neighborhood just a little while ago, and you very much match the description.
I had business cards in my pocket for my job in the family business, and I showed them the cards.
I’m a business man for goodness sake, I said.
They said: Our robber fell on his hands and knees in the mud, and you have crusty mud on your knees.
I said: We have a puppy at my house, and I was playing with him in the back yard earlier today. I was done with work and I didn’t bother to change.
I had explanations — elaborate explanations — for everything they had to say.
I had changed shoes.
But again — junkie genius — I’d left the sneakers I’d worn for the robbery back at my sister’s place.
They took the shoes back to the site where I had lost my balance in the mud and fallen to try and match them with the footprints that were left there.
By the time that they finished interrogating me — I was with them 20 minutes — there had to be four or five squad cars, all silent with their lights going.
And me, just internally convulsing with repeated, mini-mal seizures; my heart about to stop through all of it.
At the end of the questioning, they brought up a Polaroid camera and asked: May we take a picture of you?
I had the distinct awareness that if I’d shown even the slightest amount of resistance, they would’ve arrested me and taken me in for further questioning.
I wouldn’t’ve been able to weather it.
In fact, I know I would’ve confessed.
Instead, I somehow helped these officers feel guilty for even pulling me over.
They snapped a picture of me and said: Don’t leave town.
I said: Of course not. I’ve got a busy workday tomorrow. I have appointments scheduled, and I have no cause.
I went back to my sister’s empty house.
She was working a late shift.
Even if I’d taken her boyfriend’s gun, it was too late to make it to Jack’s Ice House now.
So I got on the telephone, rustled up some cash options with friends, and took off for the friends’ place, and ultimately the Greyhound bus station in San Antonio.