Crystal Moth Conspiracy Chapter 1

Crystal Moth Conspiracy Ash Born Book One by Konn Lavery

Everyone is a media watcher, zombified by the screen and unable to see through its lies. Lola learned this the wrong way. Sure, she’s been an outcast from society most of her life, but this isn’t some goth club filled with posers wearing black head to toe, criticizing the masses for being sheep. This is rock bottom with roughnecks. No more fictionalized fantasies of how reality functions. No more ludic loops for dopamine kicks. Goodbye shock news on the tube. This is actual survival.

Mom would be so proud, Lola thinks, clutching her handgun with her sweaty fingers. Mom. No. She’d best pay attention to the man sitting across from her. The cartilage is misaligned, covered in red, from whence she pistol-whipped him earlier. Cherry liquid drips from his nose, falling onto the unfinished wooden table, soaking into the grain.

Her mother, it’s why she’s here. It’s why she dragged this man onto the second floor of the abandoned warehouse and zap-strapped him to the chair.

His narrow beading face tightens into a sneer under the clear lightbulb dangling by a chain. That’s hate. He cannot see Lola’s face as she hides behind the lamp, casting intimidation as best as she can.

“As you know, this ash stuff is taking the world by storm.” The man says with an attempted tough-guy tone, reverberating in the darkness. His pitch is too high for the attitude he projects, but he tries. “And no one knows where it comes from. I still don’t know where they got it or what the hell it is. Since that night, I just sell it. No way have I tried it. I’m clean now. My kid doesn’t need a deadbeat father. Most of the time, I grind it up to disguise it, which makes it look like some charcoal or . . . ash.”

“Okay, Chen, how much does it go for?” Lola asks, her voice faking a silvery calm tone. Truthfully, she’s as scared as him. She’s never interrogated anyone before. His pencil stash above his lip and tacky faded tattoos scattered across his arms make him less of a threat than some of the criminals she’s encountered. Though, the white rag tied to his bicep represents the dangerous beast he comes from.

Chen says, “Well, a gram can be two-fifty. It depends on supply and where the cops are at.” A pause. The moment holds. “Look, I told you names, everything. We change our meetup spot every time.”

Lola slides her gun off the splintered table, away from the open black bag. She tucks the firearm behind her back and reaches for the black bag. The light hints at her pallid skin and the blonde wig that boils her scalp. Chen’s eyes squint, trying to get a good look at her. Lola will reveal her face when she wants to.

Her hand goes into the bag and pulls out a flat, leathery, diamond-shaped object. She holds the ash into the light. The diamond is brittle along the edges, and some parts are about to flake off. The core is thicker, stretchy, and holds hydration.

“You said organic?” Lola asks. Despite the brittle edges, it’s fresh enough that she can spin the ash between her thumb and index finger. Amazing this was not around until the summer, she thinks. Changes my whole strategy.

“Yeah,” Chen says.

“A leaf?”

“Well, I don’t know. It sure as hell isn’t made in a lab.”

 “It’s a scale,” Lola says.

“A scale? Like a reptile?”

“Yes, dumb shit. You can have them as pets. They are in the wild?”

Chen shifts in his seat, upset that she is belittling him. He says, “Okay, lady, why hasn’t the news said anything?”

Lola smirks, placing the ash diamond on the table. She drags the wig off, resting it on her sombre grey cargo pants beside the open burner phone. The cool air touches her sweaty, short hair as she pushes the light away, letting Chen get a good look at her.

He analyzes her up and down. His mouth hangs open, surprised at who she is. Maybe he expected someone older or a little more grizzled and not a girl kicked out of university.

Lola says, “The news knows, but they’re part of the game. Everyone is fabricating this bullshit fairytale we live in. Give it time, and some leaks will find their way on the web.”

“You’re clearly not a cop. What do you want?” Chen asks.

She leans forward. Now, Chen’s gaze locks onto the nasty bullet scar on her chest, underneath the left black tank top strap. Lola could have kept her jacket on, but she wants him to see. She wants this lowlife scum to be the message to his employers so they know she’s coming for them.

“You street dealers have no idea how deep the Crystal Moths run,” Lola says.

Chen doesn’t blink, glued to the scar. “Hey, you’re that girl, aren’t you?”

Lola lets go of the light and sits still. The chain moves in a pendulum motion, casting sharp contrasts on her stone-cold face. Back and forth. Without looking, she grabs the burner phone and dials 911 with her thumb.

“Yeah,” Chen says in a deep exhale. “You exposed the cops out west with the video. The Crystal Moth bust in Edmonton with that hashtag YEGman. Fuck me. I almost don’t believe it.”

“Believe what you want.”

“I do. You’re the reporter kid with that website people go to. Lola Cabello.”

Lola tosses the burner phone onto the table while standing. She throws her leather jacket over her shoulder and clutches the wig. “Cops are on their way,” she says.

Chen’s face is frozen, looking at the phone. Now, he is aware of its dual functions displayed on the screen. One: dead center of the display shows the dialling of the police. Two: the recording text beside a flashing red dot and a microphone icon in the upper portion of the screen. His skin must be ice cold now, knowing how much he spilled.

She turns and walks towards the dark exit at the far end of the warehouse. With each step onto the cold concrete, the leather boots leave a high click.

“Hey!” Chen shouts.

Keep walking, Lola thinks, exhaling a wave of relief.

“Hey!” Chen shouts again.

She reaches the door, pushes it, and slips into the dust-covered stairwell.

“Don’t go west!” Chen’s voice is muffled by the door. “They’ll kill you!”

She keeps walking under the night light shining through the broken glass windows. The distancing Chen curses her name. Lola’s heart tries to climb out of her throat. She can’t stop now, for she put this mess into motion. Chen isn’t going to be alright. The cops are like the news with profound Crystal Moth influence. That failed recognition started the snowball she’s frozen to.

Lola pushes the exit door and hurries down the alleyway, coated with fluffy snow. She slips into her leather jacket and tucks the wig onto her head. Sirens blare, increasing in volume throughout the night metropolis. She’ll escape in time, and the cops will take Chen in. They’ll hear the whole recording, and with a sliver of luck, an authentic law enforcer will get the evidence.

The probable scenario is a Crystal Moth plug will take care of Chen and the evidence, it’s happened to her before, and that is okay. Chen isn’t responsible for what happened in Edmonton. He is the message. Every one of these pricks is going to pay for what happened. Lola will make sure of it.