The Very Gates
“Hello, Modified Logistics, how may I help you?”
“Hello, may I speak to the person in charge of accounts payable?” Ryan Rogers said.
“That would be Dave Grant, I’ll put you through.” Ryan hung up the phone and wrote down the name Dave Grant, and reached around behind his computer to turn it on. Once it booted up, he clicked on the word processing icon and then called up a template.
“Dear Mr. Grant” Ryan typed. “It has come to our attention that an employee of yours has run up roaming charges for cell phone account #780-555-2121 in the amount of $492.00 during a recent trip to Las Vegas. This amount is past due and must be paid to avoid termination of service. Please forward a cheque to the above address made out to Rogers as soon as possible. Sincerely, Joe Hayes”
“Beautiful, just beautiful.” Ryan Rogers said to himself. He fed the special ‘Rogers’ stationary into his printer, printed up the letter, then added the letter to an envelope he had previously printed up with his own address which was marked ‘overdue accounts’, then slid both into an official looking “Rogers Communications” envelope, and put it on a pile with many more just like it. Just as he completed this task, a loud knock came at the door which made him shut off the computer, rush to put his letters away and collect himself before answering the door.
“Carlin, son of a bitch!” Ryan said when he opened the door. “Why in the hell do you knock so loud?”
“What do you do in here that’s so secret?” Carlin asked. “You say that every time I come here. Why don’t you just put a phone in here so people can call you when you’re doing your business?”
“You don’t get it do you? The cops can put a tap on any phone, any cell number. You don’t even have to pick up a land line and they can hear everything in the room. You think I’m that stupid. I’ve got a good thing going here.”
“You must, you go through more of this nose candy than anyone I supply. Maybe you’re just getting into the stuff too much, getting a little paranoid.” Carlin said as he eyed his surroundings. “So anyways, the boss said you have some letters to mail and that I should do you a favor so you don’t have to leave the house and mail them for you. What’s up with that?”
“Nothing Carlin, I just need some letters sent and I can’t get out to do it today. Things to see, people to do. Here.” Ryan went around to the back of his desk, opened a drawer and took out the pile of letters he had hidden when Carlin knocked.”
“You gotta let me in on this Ryan, I’ve known you a long time. What’s up with all the mail and the hiding in this dark little room all day when you got a swimming pool and girlfriends at your place all the time?”
“Well, unless you’re pretty stupid you’re going to know one way or another soon enough, so I might as well tell you. See, I got this idea off TV. Some guy over in England went and registered a business that already existed only he registered it in Hong Kong. So then this guy gets stationary printed up and invoices and starts sending out bills to different companies and different people. So I do the same, only it’s easier for me because my last name is already the name of a big company. Instead of grubbing for nickels and dimes I send bills to big companies, all I need is the name of the accounts payable guy and he sees the letterhead and just figures everything is nice and legal, and he cuts me a cheque without even thinking.”
“You know, if you really pull in the bucks on this,” Carlin said, “I might have a need for someone like you. You can be our money man, all you do is provide a little help here and there when we can get a good bulk deal on our products.” Ryan always thought it was funny how drug dealers used words like ‘products’ and ‘clients’ instead of what they were. Drugs and users. “In return we not only give you preferred rates, you get tons of cash. I’ll have to run it by the boss, but we know you’re solid, so that would just be a formality. What do you say?”
“I think it sounds pretty good. I was kind of wondering when someone is going to figure out I’m not the owner of Rogers Communications.” They laughed. “Besides, I kind of hate the idea of being called “Mr. Rogers anyway. Maybe I will change my name to Mr. Caterpillar. There’s a lot of money tied up in those big machines. But seriously, I’ve got a couple hundred thousand set aside. If your boss wants me in, I’ll give it a shot.”
“Just watch how much of that stuff you do. The last thing we need is dead friends. You come on board with us and we like to take care of you. We can even get you into the best rehab around if you ever want to clean up.”
The two men smiled and shook hands, exchanged pleasantries, and then Carlin left and Ryan sat down and marveled at his good fortune. Then he carefully laid out four lines of cocaine and snorted them with a rolled up five dollar bill. The stuff was pure, not the 80% cut stuff they used for desperadoes. The ecstasy he went through, feeling his heart pounding harder and harder, feeling the rush of adrenalin. He also fantasized himself as some kind of God when he did this stuff. The only thing that sucked was coming down, when he would get paranoid and sometimes hear whispers that he later realized weren’t there. He solved this problem by trying to stay high all the time, but it kept on taking more and more of the stuff to do that.
After his pick-me-up snort, Ryan left the dark confines of his den and went out to see that he had house guests. One was asleep on the couch and the other was playing a video game.
“Who might you two be?” Ryan asked, eager to let them know that indeed, all this was his.
“Oh, hey dude. We’re Patricia’s friends. We got loaded at the club last night and she didn’t want us to drive home.” Said the young man who had been sleeping up until a minute ago. The other guy, who was playing the game didn’t even turn around.
“I see you like to race.” Ryan said to the video game player. There was nothing Ryan liked better than playing racing games when he was high on cocaine, feeling the energy of the sights and sounds of the tracks and the simulated fast cars. Not to mention that he could react about ten times better when he was on coke and kick just about anyone’s ass at just about any game.
“Yeah man, I love it.” The electronic racer said. “I’m Jason by the way. Feel free to jump in with me, we can race each other.”
Ryan sat down, grabbed a controller and blasted through computer generated scenery and in and out of lanes of traffic, just barely keeping a lead on his young friend. They played for what seemed like hours and then Ryan asked for a break.
“You two into coke at all?” Jason laughed a stoner laugh when Ryan said this.
“Man, coke rocks. That would be so awesome right now. Pete here isn’t into it but then he isn’t into anything but women.”
“Well Jason, I suggest you and I retire to the den for a little fresh air.” Ryan said.
The two went into the den and were gone for a while. Jason’s friend Pete couldn’t find anything edible in the fridge so he went into the den to see if there was any food around. When he went in, Ryan and Jason were doing lines off the glass coffee table in front of Ryan’s desk. They looked up at him through bloodshot eyes and smiled and laughed at him like he had just said something incredibly funny.
“What’s up with that stuff? Doesn’t it make you push rope when you’re with a chick?”
“It can do that,” Ryan said. “But at the moment you don’t have a chick to worry about those things with and I will add that sometimes it can be a hundred times better than chicks. Give it a try, I guarantee you’ll be good to go with the girl of your choice by night time.”
“I don’t know man. I’ve smoked pot and shit and even tried crack…”
“Crack my son is a poor man’s drug. Coke is for the elite.” Ryan said.
“Yeah man, give it a shot. You snort up a little, do a line or two and in seconds you’re in heaven man. Nothing like it, all the pain, all the bad shit in your life gone, you feel better than anything you could imagine, just like you just scored the phone number of the hottest chick on the planet.”
“Ahhh, maybe I’ll try a little. Push over Jase.” Pete said and sat down.
The three of them each did a few lines, and Pete got the sudden urge to dive into the pool and swim a couple of laps, but in just a couple of minutes he was back to playing video games with Jason and Ryan. Pete really seemed to get off on the whole racing thrill the video game gave him and the double hit of being euphoric as he raced. As the day wore on, Jason wanted to start drinking and so they sent the girls on a beer and pizza run. Soon the party was back in full swing, more people came over and Ryan started to get pretty drunk. Jason, maybe wanting to show his new rich friend a good time or maybe just being a little stupid, put some LSD into one of Ryan’s beers. He drank it without noticing at first, but soon started to trip out.
The music was blasting, the midsummer sun was shining, people were having a good time drinking or getting high. Then all of a sudden Ryan had the sensation that everything was slowing to a crawl. He didn’t see the other party goers as people anymore, he felt he could see into their soul. It was like their eyes were the windows and their bodies were just containers of pure love. He stumbled up to Jason, and tried to hug him and said, “I love you man.” To him and everyone started to laugh. Just as they began to laugh, they all seemed to turn into frightening demons. He freaked out and yelled a little bit but he seemed to lose the functioning of his legs and kind of ‘melted’ into the floor. A couple of guys took him into his study and laid him down on the sofa in there and left him talking about the universe and how he could touch the stars, and that they are all love and love is everything…
About a half an hour passed and slowly Ryan began to sense a bit of normality creeping back in, but still his mind was somewhat warped from the acid. He figured the best thing he could do would be to get some more cocaine into his body to jolt him back to thinking more clearly. He didn’t know how he got so messed up but he figured a little white powder would get him back functioning so he could party with the people in his house.
Ryan took out the package Carlin had dropped off and opened it. There was a lot of coke in there and he carelessly poured all of it on top of his desk. He was having trouble controlling his muscles and so he just stuck his nose in the pile and breathed in. The coke hit him like a sledgehammer, it could have been really pure stuff, it could have been just too much. But right after he snorted it, the drug took full effect and he could feel a sharp, stabbing pain in his chest and left arm. He was messed up, but he knew what was happening. He was having a heart attack.
Ryan slumped forward onto his desk and the pain in his chest was unbelievable. He cursed himself for not having a phone in his den, he tried to make himself heard over the sounds of the party outside the room but no one heard him. His felt everything slip away as his heart pounded seemingly out of his chest and the blood became constricted on its’ way to his brain.
Dean never recalled that he had lived a life before this one. All he could remember was being a five year old child, playing with friends and having the most loving parents imaginable. They would read to him, they would play board games with him and all get together every night for supper. His dad worked hard and his mom kept a clean house and drove him to and from school, packed his lunches for him and always made sure he knew he was the light of their lives. Dean grew up and in high school decided he would study art and in University he met a beautiful young woman named Lorna who he could talk with for hours and share everything in his life. One of the things he liked most about her was that she loved her parents and they were just as incredible to her as Dean’s parents were to him. When they graduated University, at a ceremony with a few friends and a lot of relatives, they were married. Two years later Lorna gave birth to a blue-eyed baby boy.
Dean and Lorna had great role models who were now grandparents who taught them all the right things to do, plus both of them put a lot of time and trouble into doing the right thing at all the critical times. They taught their baby sign language so he could express himself before he could even talk, they made sure that they had him off the bottle at the right time and when he was old enough they took an active interest in his school. When he was learning to count he got software for the computer to help him. When he was learning multiplication Lorna would grill him with flash cards. They had no exact, laid-out direction for their baby, but they wanted him to have all the options in the world open to him until he was old enough to decide which one he wanted to take.
Time wore on and as their beautiful blue-eyed baby they had named Robin got older, parenting seemed to get more difficult for some reason. The boy would throw fits sometimes, and would not only hit other children at school, he would scream, yell and hit his mother. They kept loving him and kept trying to teach him better ways to act as best they could and hoped it was all just a phase. Sadly it wasn’t. Soon he learned how to swear and his parents had no idea where he was getting the words from. When he got to be 12 years old, he was caught stealing and Dean and Lorna tried taking him to see a Psychologist. Then when he was 14 Dean came home early and Lorna was out and Dean caught Robin smoking cigarettes. He didn’t get angry, he didn’t forbid it, he did what he felt was the best he could do, he talked to Robin about the health risks, told him he didn’t have to steal to buy cigarettes and that he would love the boy no matter what. In a year he was doing drugs.
At fifteen the final blow came down. In a fit of anger, Robin punched his mother, giving her a black eye all because she wanted him to turn the TV off and start on his homework. There was no more they could do. They charged him, and with tears rolling down their faces, told him he had to leave.
As the years passed Dean and Lorna heard little of the boy they had loved so much. One Christmas he called up and asked to borrow money to come home to see his parents and his Uncle and they sent the money but he never showed up. Finally, five years after last hearing from him, Dean and Lorna got word that he had died while in jail during a riot. Lorna lost all control and seemed to lose all functioning. Her heart was broken and from then on she only spoke to Dean. She stopped going out, she stopped talking to her friends, even her neighbors. In just that short period of time, Lorna seemed to age a hundred years and passed away herself in just two more.
Dean somehow kept on living, but he developed a problem. He became paranoid and started hearing voices. The voices were calling out to him, but not his own name, they were calling out for someone named Ryan. Some of them sounded like accusing voices, some of them were gentle and peaceful voices that told him things hadn’t ended for him, that God still had plans for him yet. He talked to his doctor about the problem and the doctor told him he likely had developed either schizophrenia or early onset dementia. He was given medications and started seeing a psychiatrist who seemed to give Dean more pills each time he went to his office.
One day Dean got up out of bed, took his pills, then fixed himself a breakfast of eggs and bacon, ate them and then went to lay down on the couch to watch morning television. Then for some reason the voices came really strong, they started to yell, but they were yelling for Ryan. “Come on Ryan, don’t do this!” He heard one voice say then he felt a pounding with a sharp pain where his heart was. The pain was really bad and it made him pass out, but when he was under, it all started to come back to him. His name wasn’t Dean, it was Ryan. He had an image of people who loved him, he had a sensation that his parents were out there somewhere, but they weren’t the kind and loving parents he knew as Dean. It was his alcoholic father who used to beat him and his mother who took him and left to hook up with a string of different men. He wasn’t an aging father of a dead young man, a widower with no family, he was a wealthy criminal living off people’s trust, but somewhere in the core of who he was there was some kind of good left, some kind of love. His dear Lorna was gone, his life with Robin was a failure. But somehow he reached deep down inside of who he was and in the darkness he willed himself to wake up.
Feeling much like one does when they swim to the surface of a pool after diving far under the surface of the water, Ryan opened his eyes and sucked in a lungful of air, coming back to life. His girlfriend Patty was there next to him and there were two paramedics over him. He realized he had been unconscious and that he had a heart attack and that he was now in an ambulance. Tears ran down Patty’s face and he gasped desperately to stay conscious.
“Stay cool Ryan, everything’s going to be okay.” One of the paramedics said.
“Provided you stop getting high that is.” The second lifesaver said.
“I thought I… I was… I was some place else. I wasn’t here.” Ryan said.
“Just stay cool, you were out for quite a while, you need to relax. We’re going to give you some Oxygen now.” Paramedic number one said and covered Ryan’s face with a mask.
Ryan spent the next few days recuperating and his health returned rapidly. Luckily, his doctor had told him, he had a strong heart and a will to live. When he was released from the hospital, he took a cab directly to the Police Department.
“I’d like to turn myself in.” Ryan said to the desk Sergeant when he went in the downtown Edmonton Police Headquarters.
“What kind of crime did you commit?”
“It’s kind of complicated. My name is Ryan Rogers, and I registered the Rogers name as a business and fraudulently sent out invoices to companies and was sent cheques which I was able to cash with my ID.”
“Crap, wish I thought of that.” The desk sergeant said under her breath. “Just have a seat Sir, we’ll have someone come down and speak to you.
Ryan spent the next two days in jail and since he wasn’t a violent criminal he was released on bail. The first thing he did was walk right to the downtown Detox Centre and check himself in. He went a little antsy going off everything all at once and nearly had a seizure or two, but he made it through. After a stay there he set himself up to go to the publicly funded rehab and, while he was waiting to go there, he kicked everyone out of his house and put it up for sale. He said little to anyone, never seemed to smile and didn’t even thank any of the partygoers for saving his life.
Although he successfully went through rehab, sold everything he owned to pay back the people he had ripped off, there was just too much evidence of illegal activity for the judge to let Ryan off without a sentence. He ended up getting two years less a day, which put him in the Provincial system whereas the harsher Federal system held people who had 2 year or longer sentences, and he served his time mostly keeping to himself, attending church services and mopping floors.
When his jail time was done, Ryan got a job as a janitor with a local school and gave a portion of each paycheque to the church he attended now that he was on the ‘outside.’ One day by chance he met a teacher who needed help with changing a tire and before he knew it he had his first respectable girlfriend. She was a Christian as well, and inspired him not only to start his own janitorial company, but to give talks at schools and churches and anywhere people gather about what he had been through and the change that had occurred in his life and how it came about. Some people thought he was crazy, some people didn’t want to listen to a person who had done all those horrible things. But Ryan would speak to them regardless.
Not too long after that, Ryan married his girlfriend Tina and they had four children, all of whom grew up not ever knowing the things their father did or ever thinking he was even capable of such things. Time passed and their children grew up, Tina and Ryan one day became proud grandparents and Ryan kept getting up each day to spend his working days running his business and cleaning and his free time speaking, especially to children at risk. He died at a ripe old age of 78, a loved and happy man.
After passing quietly in his sleep, Ryan found himself before Saint Peter and a host of angels. He walked up to where Saint Peter stood with the Lamb’s book of life and asked if his name was in it.
“Ryan Rogers, yes, your name is here. This is funny, we almost thought we lost you.”
“You mean when I had my heart attack and I was still living in sin?”
“Heart attack? You had a drug overdose and you died. There was nothing we could do. You were in the domain of the evil one. The devil really tried to get you, he took you down to hell, tested you in every way he could. He even had one of his fallen angels pretend to be your son and turn on you. But you got out, you escaped the fires of hell you proved you had a true heart despite that your life hadn’t gone well for you. God had a plan for your life, and he has loved you just like you loved your own children. Come past the gates now Ryan, you are finally home.”