Stepping through the tape line that night I felt the trickle of sweat under my jacket. Time was you needed an overcoat for a May night in this city. Mine had hung in the drycleaner’s plastic for a couple of years now. Well, if the climate was changing, humanity’s criminal fringe was depressingly constant. Violence. Drugs. Futility. Wasted lives. The ones that never amounted to anything. The ones that ended early in a torn mess over nothing very important. The ones spent taking out society’s garbage instead of doing something better.
Sammy had been a childish ne’er-do-well, a two-bit hood. Like all his kind he’d gravitated towards the drug scene. Now he was facing his Maker who I hoped would be kind on a messed-up kid. His earthly remains lay before me. Your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. At times like this I wished I’d never read that book. Now Sammy’s blood was crying to me too.
This wasn’t about heroin. There wasn’t much of that on the market here these days. The last few years the Afghan poppy harvest had all but collapsed, and the bottom had dropped out of the world supply. Heroin and the other opiates were practically designer drugs now. No, the corpse formerly known as Sammy was far more likely to have been carrying coke.
When the rising temperatures squeezed the cool-climate poppies into smaller areas, they had the opposite effect on the tropical plants like coca. Now you could grow the stuff further up the mountains, in harder-to-reach places. It also meant North Queensland could rival Latin America in the growing stakes.
We knew Sammy, of course. He was one of the many bit players in the city’s growing drug scene. He’d followed the same sad predictable path as so many others. It started with a well-to-do home and two overachieving parents who’d thought having a child meant a brief maternity leave hiatus and not much more. Sammy drifted away sometime in his early teens and found drugs, late night delinquency and other kids just like him. One too many cop shows and he thought he was ready for street life. Sammy had lasted about two years since we first busted him for break-and-enter. He’d made it to the dizzy heights of running for a local coke gang. Now he lay before me on a dirty pavement posing for a chalk outline.