Chapter 8 – The Friday Night Party
Thursday evening, after work, Barry was on the corner where Hugh had told him to wait. Depot was down the street, and he watched the nearly unmarked door keep a steady traffic going in, even this early. Barry was surprised that a club would ever be that busy on a weeknight, but he found himself thinking about the dance floor again, thinking about how he’d almost gotten lost there, but lost the feeling instead. That sense of doubt almost made him abandon his plan, but he held on. Hugh showed up a few minutes late, and they walked down to a bench outside a rather unkempt park, and chatted.
“Alright, so here’s what you asked for,” Hugh said, and passed him a little baggie with two pills in it. “Have you used those before?”
“No!” Barry said, a bit defensive.
“I’m not in the shame business, calm down. Look, it’ll take a bit for them to kick in, and when they do, he’s going to be, well, useless. You have a plan on how to get him to the lab?”
“I was gonna get him to my car and drive him.”
“And when people notice?”
“I mean, it’s not perfect, but it’ll do, right?”
Hugh dug around in his pocket with a little smirk. “Alright, I had a chat with Ian, and he agreed to let me slip you a little something extra. If you play your cards right, you might not even need the roofies. Here.”
Barry looked at the vial Hugh pressed into his hand, and it was similar to the shimmering dust he’d sampled back at the house, which had given him those…visions of being a little club twink. “I don’t think he’ll be doing coke at the party, if you want me to try and give him this shit.”
“It’s not for him, it’s for you. It’s not that club drug you sampled before. Ian has all kinds of homebrew back in the lab. Most of it is just, well, waste product, I guess you could say. Little bits and pieces from his work that get pulled out with everything else. The buyer might not want them, or they might not fit in afterward, so he’s left with the stuff. Ephemera is what he calls it. Some of it works…like a vision. That was what the dust at the house did for you. Other stuff he makes gives you little boosts, or temporary shifts. I keep telling him to market the shit, call it Prestige or something, but he says he can’t guarantee supply, so whatever. His loss, your gain.”
“So what’s it do then?”
“It…makes you important. People want to listen to you more, they’re more willing to do what you say. You can’t make someone jump off a building, but I don’t think you’ll have a hard time convincing your friend to take a ride with you if you’re on it.”
“How long will it last?”
“That should get you through the whole evening, no problem.”
He paid Hugh for the drugs, and was assured that if he didn’t end up needing the roofies, he could return them for a refund later. All day Friday, it was impossible to focus. He couldn’t believe he was really considering this, that any of this was really possible. He’d considered taking a little bit of what Hugh had called prestige that morning, just so he could get a grip on it, and figure out if it would be helpful, but chickened out. Part of him sensed he was going to chicken out tonight too, that he wouldn’t make an opening, that he would, once again, sabotage himself like always.
Anticipating the party, most everyone at the office was taking an easy day, getting a little work done, but mostly chatting and planning out their weekends. Richard seemed to mingle with all of them so easily, and knew more about some of them than Hugh had ever bothered to learn, and he’d only been with the team for a week. It was effortless for him. But then, Hugh had always felt like he needed to guard himself, hide part of him away out of shame. He couldn’t really talk about his family, or what he got up to on weekends, because no straight person would look at him the same way afterward. No wonder they’d picked Richard over him. They all probably thought he was an asshole who didn’t want anything to do with them, when really, he was the one terrified of them all.
He almost bailed at that point, and skipped the party entirely. What drove him to push on was fear. It wasn’t really the promotion he wanted. It wasn’t even really the respect. It was the fact that, if he didn’t pursue this, if he didn’t follow through, he knew he’d be right back with Ian, agreeing to cash it all in. He’d spend the rest of his life as some stupid circuit bunny, without a thought in his head other than the pulse of the beat, and maybe he’d be happy. Maybe. But he’d never be satisfied with that. It was time to swallow that fear and seize something for once in his damn life. Maybe it was time for these straight fucks to be afraid of him, instead.
They went to the bar near the office, the same sports bar they always went to for events like this. It was just as despairing as every other straight bar Barry had ever gone to. He did his best to mingle and fit in, but it was clear he’d already been frozen out. Word had gotten around that he’d been turned down for the promotion, and it seemed like everyone was rather pleased about it. He suspected that the dislike from them he’d always thought might be paranoia was more likely real. Again, his resolve shook, he ended up in the bathroom, making a line of prestige on the counter, knowing that this would probably be his only shot.
After all, none of those people would let him just take Richard with him. They’d all probably think he was going to rape him or something. He snorted the line, expecting a sensation similar to the one he’d had at Ian’s office, a vision of…something, but instead, he just felt this warmth suffuse him. It wasn’t a rush, and it wasn’t a high. He just felt centered, and confident. In the mirror, he straightened his jacket, and realized he hadn’t had a jacket on a second ago. He was wearing a rather sharp suit now, and while he recognized his reflection well enough, his face was just a bit sharper. His jaw was a bit more defined, the pimple on his nose had disappeared, his stubble gone, hair filled with highlights. He looked damn good. Like Hugh had said, he looked important.
He stepped back out into the party, and it was like meeting a bunch of strangers, somehow. They all gravitated towards him, wanted to talk to him, wanted to be seen with him. The conversation came easy, and Barry found that the forced congeniality Richard had been treating him to was stripped away, replaced by a genuine curiosity. He ordered a round of pitchers that came on the house, and everyone drank at his urging, especially Richard, who never had an empty glass. Just like Hugh had said, he didn’t even need the roofies. The party ran longer than they usually did, and as he made his way around the room, multiple people confided in him that they thought he should have gotten the promotion, not Richard. He just didn’t have the same charisma. Barry was always gracious, but just that little bit of ego stroking made him eager to move onto the next step.
Richard was nearly falling over, and in no shape to drive. Barry, who hadn’t been drinking at all, offered to drive him home, and everyone thought that was a great idea, he was so kind and generous, a terrific human. He just smiled, nodded, and helped Richard out of the bar and into his car, and they drove off.
“Don’t you need my address?” Richard asked.
“Don’t worry about it, I’ll get you there just fine.”
“You know, I…didn’t really like you at first, Barry. I kind of thought you were a stuck up asshole. But you’re a real good guy, you know that?”
“Thanks Richard, that’s nice of you to say,” he said.
“Are we heading into town? I live out by Butte Creek.”
“This is a shortcut, you can trust me.”
A few minutes later, Barry pulled into the little driveway in front of the house where Ian ran his business, and drove around into the back yard. Ian and Hugh were waiting for him there, and helped Richard out of the car, and down into the basement. “I don’t…where are you taking me?” he mumbled, but couldn’t put up much of a resistance.
“Don’t worry Richard, the real party is about to get started,” Barry said, and followed them down into the lab.
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