For petty criminals who skirt the edges of the drug trade, Ray and Manny have a sweet deal going. With a tip from a friend, they move in on small-time drug operations wearing DEA jackets, taking down local dealers and escaping with the spoils, in drugs or cash: “Everyone was high. Everyone was stupid. Everyone had guns.”
At thirty, Ray is starting to consider the end game, what the future holds when he finally runs out of options. But the future is irrelevant after their last hit, a meth lab where unhappy tweakers let loose a torrent of gunfire, Ray and Manny pursued by a man near the farmhouse who was watching in the dark.
Most of the time, the guys have stolen indiscriminately from their marks when deciding who to rip off. But this last score is a whole different thing; the weak link is a junkie who knows their names and will surely give them up. Before they can formulate a plan, Ray and Manny face the fact that they may pay dearly for this last heist. They have crashed the wrong party and will suffer the consequences.
Kind of a strange environment for an epiphany, but Ray is on the verge of change, questioning the path his life has taken. Dragging along a duffle bag filled with money and drugs, Ray doesn’t have any answers this time, but ever since the big score he has been aware that this business is more dangerous and less attractive with each passing day.
Caught in a downward spiral, Ray has to tough it out, to figure a way through the heavyweights on their trail as well as the stranger who was watching the hit. Tafoya does nothing to romanticize this story, from the tattooed meth heads to life on the run, where every shadow hints at menace. This is life in the short term, the end as close as the next bullet.
More from luck than brains, Ray’s narrow escapes prove the futility of the lifestyle he has drifted into: “Old feelings and resentments were just beneath the surface of his skin, like barbs he couldn’t get out.” With only the memories of his dead girlfriend and the love of his stepmother for comfort, Ray inhabits a no-man’s land that few survive, jail time or death the usual fate.
There’s not much humor in this book, just the ugly, seamy side of the drug world; but for all the pain and stupid violence, there’s a lot of wisdom in Ray’s character: “You lock up the good and bad and sometimes both in the same person.”