DRUG CITY, USA
By Calvin Beauclerc
(discovered by Rob Kroese)
Drug City, USA was published in 1983 and epitomizes the anti-drug hysteria of the era. It probably also holds the record for the most unsuccessful attempts to inject new slang terms for drugs (e.g., “cloud powder”) into the English language. ROB KROESE picked up a copy of Drug City, USA at a flea market in Stockton, California, along with a poster of John Taylor from Duran Duran (“for a friend”) and a complete set of Jarts.
From the thin volume Authors Named Beauclerc: A Compendium:
Calvin Beauclerc, a bakery truck driver who lived his entire life in rural Indiana, was once detained for several hours by the local police for threatening to blow up his neighbor’s collection of garden gnomes with what turned out to be a two-liter bottle filled with brown sugar and Pine-Sol. Drug City, USA was his first novel. It was followed by Drug City, USA 2; Drug City, USA 3: Escape from Drug City; Drug City, Canada; and Drug City 4: Return to Drug City 2. Beauclerc also wrote at least six of the seventeen entries in the popular D.R.U.G. F.O.R.C.E. series for teens. Intended as anti-drug propaganda, it concerned a group of teenagers whose experimentation with drugs goes horribly wrong when a bad batch gives them superhuman powers. The books are still banned by most public school districts in the United States.
The sign said “Averyville, population 9,184,” but Dax Maxwell knew it by a different name: Drug City. And the population was about to go up by one. And then, with any luck, it would go down quite a bit—because a lot of those 9,184 people were bad, and Dax planned to kill them.
Dax hitched his pack up his shoulder and strode into town. Averyville looked pleasant enough: on Main Street, pedestrians milled busily between brightly lit stores with professionally designed signs. But Dax knew that looks could be deceiving. Just as the drugs produced in Averyville’s drug factories lured their victims into a waking nightmare of unquenchable drug-thirst, the cobblestones of Main Street led inexorably to avenues paved with the cracked asphalt of broken dreams. Dax stopped in front of the plate glass window of a drugstore and lit a cigarette. He shook his head, reflecting ruefully on the series of events that led him to this moment, his mind going back, back, back ….
It had all started when his uncle got him that chemistry set for his tenth birthday. After that, Dax was only interested in one thing: mixing up chemical concoctions. Dax’s grades suffered from his obsession with chemistry, and he was frequently getting in trouble for his ingenious but dangerous experiments, like the time he mixed dry ice and Pop Rocks in a blender and came dangerously close to creating a cold fusion reactor.
After high school the only job he could get was working for a local gardener. Dax’s job was to spray weed-killer on a vacant lot, but the lot was so big that by the time he had killed all the weeds, a whole new batch had started to grow. Determined to make a better weed-killer, Dax mixed up a concoction that was so effective it turned every plant on the lot brown in a matter of hours. The next day he got a call from a colonel in the army, who was interested in Dax’s weed-killer. They drafted Dax and used his weed-killer to clear the jungle foliage that provided cover for America’s enemies in a little-known country called Vietnam. They called it Agent Burnt Umber.
“There’s no smoking in Averyville,” said a gruff voice behind him. Dax shook himself out of his reverie and turned to see a lanky man dressed in jeans and a plaid shirt. He wore a wide-brimmed hat. A revolver hung from his belt and a silver star glittered on his chest.
“This is a free country, last time I looked,” said Dax.
“City ordinance,” said the sheriff. His name tag read “Parsons.”
“Well, that’s a real cute rule for a place known as Drug City,” said Dax, dropping his cigarette on the cobblestones and grinding it out with his boot.
“No littering either,” said Sheriff Parsons. “I’m gonna have to take you in.”
Dax shrugged. He knew guys back in the Nam who could have dropped a knuckle-dragger like Parsons with a karate chop to the throat before the signal to pull the trigger could even get from Parson’s test-tube-sized brain to his finger. But that wasn’t Dax’s style.
“All right, Sheriff,” he said, moving toward the car. “I don’t want any trouble.”
“Drop the pack,” growled the sheriff. “Slowly.”
Dax did as he was told.
“Turn around,” barked the sheriff. “Gimme your hands.”
Dax turned around, holding his hands behind him. The sheriff clamped a pair of handcuffs on him and shoved him into the car. Dax smiled grimly, looking at his reflection in the police car window. What he saw was a man who had been in far worse fixes than this. Those experiences came rushing back to him, just as surely as the photons of his image bounced off the window glass and struck his retinas.
After being drafted by the army, Dax worked for Colonel Randers, the head of Special Chemical Division, on a variety of top secret projects—from formulating truth serum that could make a VC spy spill the beans on his own mother to devising nerve gas that only worked on Communists. Yet he was troubled by reports that Agent Burnt Umber was making American troops sick, and he insisted on being deployed on combat duty in the jungle to prove that the defoliant was safe. He saw a lot of men die in country, but not from poisoning—unless it was lead poisoning, from being riddled with bullets. Dax became a formidable soldier on top of being a genius with chemicals, and his squad mates called him “The Chemistrator” because of his jury-rigged explosives, smoke screens, and other chemical innovations, often concocted entirely from raw materials Dax had happened upon in the jungle. Once, he had exploded an underground VC stronghold using only bat guano and mango juice.
But that was a long time ago.
Dax stared out the window of the cop car. The pleasant boulevards making up the public façade of Averyville gave way to seedy neighborhoods populated by drug-addled crazies wearing dirty, mismatched clothing and shouting confused obscenities at invisible tormenters. In the distance, a series of factories belched black smoke into the air. Whatever household goods these factories had once produced, Dax knew that they had been retrofitted into drug factories for producing drugs.
Dax winced, knowing that these nefarious facilities were operating according to his own blueprint: the chemical recipe for synthetic synapse-incinerators that he had devised. Lost in a world of his own thoughts, he closed his eyes and reflected on how that had come about.
After the war, there was no place for men like Dax. His country wanted to forget they had ever needed a man who could kill a hundred men with only his hands and naturally occurring substances on the jungle floor. Unable to find work, Dax used his knowledge of chemistry to create a synthetic form of cocaine that was eighteen times as powerful as the real thing. And the kicker was that it was completely legal: because Dax’s drug was a chemical compound that was unknown to science, there were no laws against it. The drug had many street names: Bolivian blizzard, Nicaraguan nostril nuke, Colombian corn flour.
Dax became a rich man. He got married to a model named Stephanee and they had a daughter together. They named their daughter Argonia, after Dax’s favorite noble gas. The plan was to live happily ever after.
But Chico Juarez, a local drug lord, had other plans. Angry with Dax for stealing his business, Chico Juarez sent his thugs to shoot up Dax’s house, killing his wife and his daughter. Dax only escaped with the help of a noxious smoke screen he concocted from Clorox and leftover packets of Arby’s Sauce. That night, huddled alone on a park bench in the cold, Dax swore that he would never again use his knowledge of chemistry for evil. He found a job in another city as a high school janitor, determined to make an honest living for himself.
“Here’s your cell,” growled the sheriff, shaking Dax out of his reverie and shoving him into a cold concrete room that smelled like urine and hopelessness and more urine. In place of a bed was a pile of old newspapers. They reminded Dax of the time he found an old newspaper on the floor at the school, where he worked as a janitor, months earlier. The headline had read:
Synthetic “Snow” Storm Unstoppable?
“Drug City” Floods Eastern Seaboard with Cheap, Legal Cocaine
Police Say Their Hands Are Tied
“If only someone would put a stop to this,” says teary-eyed mother whose drug-addicted son went on a drug-fueled killing rampage to get drug money to buy drugs
That article was like a catalyst in a chemical reaction in Dax’s soul, even though Dax knew that souls didn’t really have chemicals in them. Thinking about them as if they did, though, made it easier for him to understand, because Dax knew more about chemicals than souls.
It was bad enough that Chico Juarez had killed his wife and daughter; now he was using Dax’s own drug formula to make millions by turning decent Americans into cloud powder junkies. Dax had unfinished business in Drug City. It was payback time. Time to even the scales, like a chemist weighing out the chemicals of justice.
So here he was, stuck in a cell in Averyville, with no way out. Or was he?
Dax waited for the sheriff to leave, pretending to sleep. When he heard the door to the police station close, he jumped to his feet, pulling out a small plastic bag of green powder that he had hidden in his rectum. Opening the bag, he rubbed some of the powder in rings around the bottom and top of one of the bars to his cell. Before his eyes, the steel rusted away. After a few seconds, he gave the bar a powerful kick. It broke loose, flying across the police station. Dax slipped through the opening and grabbed his pack, which the sheriff had left on his desk. Where he was going, he was going to need it.
Dax paused to remember how he had first come into possession of his pack. He had been on his way home to be with his family when he had spotted the pack in the window of a store, not unlike the window of the drugstore that he would later look into and remember how he got his first chemistry set when he was ten. Looking at the mottled brown cotton bag, he knew he had to have it for his chemicals, which he always carried with him. That was a habit he had picked up in Nam, while working for Special Chemical Division. “Be prepared,” he murmured to himself, recalling the Boy Scout motto. He’d never had time for the Boy Scouts, because he was so busy mixing chemicals as a kid. Maybe if he’d joined the Scouts, things would have turned out differently for him. Maybe if he hadn’t stopped that day to buy the pack, he would have been home in time to save his wife and daughter from Chico Juarez’s thugs. But maybes didn’t put food on the table, and they sure as hell didn’t bring the dead back to life.
“Hey, what are you doing?” barked a deputy who had just walked into the police station, shaking Dax out of his reverie.
Dax dropped him with an uppercut to the jaw. Sometimes the best chemical reaction for the job was the firing of neurons that caused a fist to slam into a face. Dax picked up his pack, noticing a desk calendar underneath it. Today’s date was circled, and inside the circle was written:
9PM MEET CHICO JUAREZ AT MAIN DRUG FACTORY
BIG DRUG SHIPMENT GOING OUT
That was just the sort of intel that Dax had been hoping to find when he deliberately got himself tossed into jail. He checked his watch. It was 8:30 p.m. He hoisted his pack onto his back and walked out of the police station. Dax had a party to crash. A drug party.
Dax lay on a warehouse roof, surveying the arrival of six eighteen-wheelers behind a factory with a sign that read “Apex Lawn Furniture.” Dax knew that the sign, like the rest of Averyville, was a lie. The Apex Lawn Furniture factory didn’t make lawn furniture. It made drugs. Drugs that were made with the chemical formula that Dax had formulated. Everyone knew that Apex Lawn Furniture made drugs, of course, but new signs cost money. And drug dealers didn’t have to advertise. Drugs sold themselves. How many lives had Apex Lawn Furniture ruined with his formula, wondered Dax. How had things gotten so out of control?
Dax closed his eyes and reflected on how things had gotten so out of control. There wasn’t any moment he could pinpoint, however. It had been a gradual process. He probably shouldn’t have started selling drugs, though. That was definitely a mistake.
Dax opened his eyes to see that Sheriff Parsons had arrived to greet the trucks. A limo pulled up next to him and a tall, brown-skinned man with dark, slicked-back hair, wearing a dark suit and mirrored sunglasses stepped out. Chico Juarez. All the players were here. Time to mix it up, like a chemist mixing chemicals in a big chemical mixing machine.
Suddenly, something whacked Dax on the back of his skull, and everything went black. Blacker than carbon, thought Dax, which was ironic because carbon’s chemical symbol was C, and he couldn’t.
Dax regained consciousness when someone emptied a bucket of cold water on his head. He was inside the factory, tied to a chair. Around him were dozens of pallets holding plastic bags of crazy candy. Women wearing nothing but g-strings and steel-toed boots loaded the pallets into the trucks on forklifts. Sheriff Parsons, Chico Juarez, and several of his goons stood over Dax.
“Enjoying the view?” asked the sheriff.
“I am, actually,” said Dax, taking a good long look at the warehouse personnel. Either there was a correlation between bust size and forklift proficiency that Dax wasn’t aware of, or these women had been hired as much for their centerfold-quality bodies as for their warehousing skill.
“Women are better workers,” said the sheriff. “We keep them nude so that they don’t try to steal any product. And also so that they are nude.” A stunning redhead walked past with a clipboard, and the sheriff slapped her on the behind. She scowled playfully and went back to work.
“Well, three cheers for equal rights,” said Dax. The sheriff grinned. But Chico Juarez wasn’t in a jovial mood.
“Joo theenk joo can just walk een here and blow up my merchandise?” growled Chico Juarez, in a thick Hispanic accent. He was holding Dax’s pack, which was filled with his custom-made bombs. “Who do joo theenk joo are?”
“Name’s Dax Maxwell,” spat Dax. “I’ve got a score to settle with you. Those are my drugs.”
“Your drugs!” exclaimed Sheriff Parson. He and Chico Juarez laughed the hysterical laugh of evil men.
“How do you figure?” asked the sheriff.
“I came up with the formula,” Dax said. “I’m the only one who has the right to sell that brain-busting bromide, and I’m closing up shop.”
“I remember joo,” said Chico Juarez. “Joor wife screamed like a leetle girl when I killed her. And so deed joor daughter.”
“My daughter was a little girl,” growled Dax, straining against his bonds.
Chico Juarez laughed again. “Well, chereeff, maybe we chould let Meester Maxwell sample some of hees drugs.” Chico Juarez sneered at Dax, his eyes hidden behind the mirrored shades. Looking into the sunglasses, Dax saw his own reflection, and he reflected on the time he had seen his reflection in the front window of the drugstore earlier that same day, reflecting on his childhood and wondering where it had all gone wrong—and at that point, things hadn’t gone nearly as wrong as they had in the hours since. Or had they?
Laughing, the sheriff grabbed a plastic bag full of fairy flakes from a nearby palette, sticking a knife into it and pulling out a knife-full of the demonic dust. He stuck the point of the knife into Dax’s left nostril.
“Dios mio!” cried Chico Juarez. “That cloud candy is dieciocho times more powerful than regular cocaine. That much will keell him!”
“That’s the idea,” said the sheriff. They both laughed. The sheriff put his hand over Dax’s mouth. “Take a deep breath!”
Dax bit down hard, his incisors puncturing the sheriff’s hand. The sheriff jerked his hand away. The flesh tore, spilling blood on the factory floor. The sheriff screamed, and the goons raised their guns. Dax sucked air in through his mouth and made himself sneeze—a trick he had learned in Nam. A cloud of djinn dust exploded from his nose. As it did, Dax bit down hard on a fake molar and breathed out, blowing a red gas into the cloud. Dax clamped his eyes shut as the two chemicals reacted with a brilliant flash, blinding everyone in the room.
“Nice treeck, Meester Maxwell!” cried Chico Juarez. “But joo’re going to need more than magic treecks to get out of thees one!”
What Chico didn’t know was that the trick wasn’t over yet. The rabbit was out of the hat, but it hadn’t yet transformed into a beautiful dove. Dax had worked for months perfecting the formula for the chemical in his tooth. His eyes still closed, Dax reflected for a moment on the long hours he had spent in his lab, feverishly working on the perfect mixture. It had taken him weeks, barely sleeping, subsisting on a diet of glucose, caffeine, and his own urine. It was probably the most difficult thing he had ever had to do, except for seeing his wife and daughter killed in front of him. That was rough.
The flash disappeared, leaving behind a thick gray cloud that made it impossible to see. Chico Juarez’s goons fired wildly. The cloud’s corrosive properties proceeded to eat through the nylon rope binding Dax’s hands, and soon he was free.
Dax put on a pair of infrared goggles he had hidden in his rectum (behind the bag of corrosive powder he had extracted earlier) and made his way through the maze of blinded goons. Topless women screamed as he ran past, but Dax kept going.
The cloud cleared. “Stop heem!” yelled Chico Juarez.
Dax dove behind a row of barrels as the goons opened fire with their AK-47s and AK-48s. Bullets ricocheted around Dax as the men converged on his position. There was no escape. He was surrounded. Dax began to wonder if he’d gotten the formula wrong. Could it be? After all the hours he had spent in his lab, checking and re-checking all of his calculations, drinking a little urine, and then re-checking them again? Having briefly opened his eyes, he closed them again, re-re-re-checking the calculations in his head. He cursed himself for not bringing any urine with him—but despite its balloon-like elasticity there simply hadn’t been room in his rectum.
Just as the goons were almost upon him, it happened: the corrosive vapor ate through the plastic wrapping around the cocaine on the nearest palette and the contents spilled out. When the pernicious powder made contact with the vapor, it exploded in a flash. Then the rest of the palette exploded with a massive roar, tearing several of the women in half. The bottom half of one woman ran past Dax frantically, spurting blood from her severed abdomen. Dax shook his head. He’d seen a lot of topless babes in his day, but nothing like this.
He had to remind himself that as gorgeous as the women had been before being torn apart, they had gotten themselves into this. Chico Juarez hadn’t shown Dax’s wife any mercy, and Dax wasn’t about to alter his plan to save a bunch of drug-pushing floozies, even if they were knockouts with boobs like giant Bunsen burners.
The blast knocked the goons near Dax off their feet, and Dax got up and ran, making his way past the trucks and into the night. Behind him, a chain reaction was occurring, one palette after another exploding with a deafening roar.
“Noooo!” he heard Chico Juarez cry. Dax turned to see the once-powerful drug lord on his knees, shaking his fists at the heavens in despair, his precious pallets of gutter glitter exploding before his eyes.
“Adios, muchacho,” said Dax, as a stack of pallets behind Chico Juarez erupted, ripping Chico Juarez to pieces.
Dax Maxwell stood in the rain, regarding the gravestones grimly. “I did it, baby. I got ’em. For you and Argonia.”
There was no answer, but Dax didn’t expect one. His fingertips traced the lettering on the cold stone, and Dax thought about the acid the gravestone maker had used to etch his wife and daughter’s names into granite. A simple chemical reaction, thought Dax. That’s all it took to mark a piece of stone forever. That’s how his heart felt, a piece of stone forever marked by his memories of Stephanee and Argonia. He had tried to live a normal life, but you couldn’t live a normal life when your heart was made of stone, and it was etched with the names of the dead.
A newspaper fluttered in the wind, coming to rest against his daughter’s gravestone. The headline read:
Son of drug lord Chico Juarez elected mayor of Los Muertos, Mexico
Promises to provide employment for thousands in new lawn furniture factory
Chiquito Juarez swears that factory is not secretly a drug factory for making drugs
So, thought Dax. Drug City has moved south. I guess that’s where I’m headed too. He hitched his pack up his back.
The Chemistrator had work to do.
Rob Kroese is the author of the Mercury Falls and Mercury Rises. The conclusion of the Mercury Trilogy, Mercury Rests, is being published by 47North in October.