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A Scanner Darkly - Phillip K. Dick

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What his transaction with Donna, like all those before, added up to was an attempt to thread a path upward via Donna to the supplier she bought from. So his purchases from her gradually grew in quantity. Originally he had coaxed her--if that was the word--into laying ten tabs on him, as a favor: friend-to-friend stuff. Then, later on, he had wangled a bag of a hundred for recompense, then three bags. Now, if he lucked out, he could score a thousand, which was ten bags. Eventually, he would be buying in a quantity which would be beyond her economic capacity; she could not front enough bread to her supplier to secure the stuff at her end. Therefore, she would lose instead of getting a big profit. They would haggle; she would insist that he front at least part of it; he would refuse; she couldn't front it herself to her source; time would run out--even in a deal that small a certain amount of tension would grow; everyone would be getting impatient; her supplier, whoever he was, would be holding and mad because she hadn't shown. So eventualy, if it worked out right, she would give up and say to him and to her supplier, "Look, you better deal direct with each other. I know you both; you're both cool. I'll vouch for both of you. I'll set a place and a time and you two can meet. So from now on, Bob, you can start buying direct, if you're going to buy in this quantity." Because in that quantity he was for all intents and purposes a dealer; these were approaching dealer's quantities. Donna would assume he was reselling at a profit per hundred, since he was buying a thousand at a time at least. This way he could travel up the ladder and come to the next person in line, become a dealer like her, and then later on maybe get another step up and another as the quantities he bought grew.

One time before he got solely into undercover work he had taken a deposition from a pair of upper-class well-off straights whose furniture had been ripped off during their absence, evidently by junkies; in those days such people still lived in areas where roving rip-off bands stole what they could, leaving little. Professional bands, with walkie-talkies in the hands of spotters who watched a couple miles down the street for the marks' return. He remembered the man and his wife saying, "People who would burglarize your house and take your color TV are the same kind of criminals who slaughter animals or vandalize priceless works of art." No, Bob Arctor had explained, pausing in writing down their deposition, what makes you believe that? Addicts, in his experience anyhow, rarely hurt animals. He had witnessed junkies feeding and caring for injured animals over long periods of time, where straights probably would have had the animals "put to sleep," a straight-type term if there ever was one--and also an old Syndicate term as well, for murder. Once he had assisted two totally spaced-out heads in the sad ordeal of unscrewing a cat which had impaled herself within a broken window. The heads, hardly able to see or understand anything any more, had over almost an entire hour deftly and patiently worked the cat loose until she was free, bleeding a little, all of them, heads and cat alike, with the cat calm in their hands, one dude inside the house with Arctor, the other outdoors, where the ass and tail were. The cat had come free at last with no real injury, and then they had fed her. They did not know whose cat she was; evidently she had been hungry and smelled food through their broken window and finally, unable to rouse them, had tried to leap in. They hadn't noticed her until her shriek, and then they had forgotten their various trips and dreams for a while in her behalf.

"Did you also have dope in your car?" he said. "Because once they got you for the tape rip-off, they'd impound your car, because you'd be downtown looking out, and the car would be routinely towed away and then they'd find the dope and send you up for that, too. I'll bet that wasn't locally, either; I'll bet you did that where--" He had started to say, Where you don't know anybody in law enforcement who would intervene. But he could not say that, because he meant himself; were Donna even busted, at least where he had any pull, he would work his ass off to help her. But he could do nothing, say, up in L.A. County. And if it ever happened, which eventually it would, there it would happen: too fan off for him to hear or help. He had a scenario start rolling in his head then, a horror fantasy: Donna, much like Luckman, dying with no one hearing or caring or doing anything; they might hear, but they, like Barris, would remain impassive and inert until for her it was all over. She would not literally die, as Luckman had--had? He meant _might_. But she, being an addict to Substance D, would not only be in jail but she would have to withdraw, cold turkey. And since she was dealing, not just using--and there was a rap for theft as well--she would be in for a while, and a lot of other things, dreadful things, would happen to her. So when she came back out she would be a different Donna. The soft, careful expression that he dug so much, the warmth--that would be altered into God knew what, anyhow something empty and too much used. Donna translated into a thing; and so it went, for all of them someday, but for Donna, he hoped, far and away beyond his own lifetime. And not where he couldn't help.

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