Dope

A memoir of love, thrill, and influence.

It was around three in the morning, sometime in 2007. I was in my car waiting for my homie “Staxx” to get home from his girlfriend’s house. Despite the piercing beam of the street light directly above me, I managed to sleep right outside of his house with my car still running. The “House” — which served as a living space for Staxx’s family and a drug space for those of us considered family — was beige-colored, complete with chipped paint, three bedrooms, an unfinished, collapsing porch, and a small front yard. The House was in one of the northeast ghettos of Kansas City, Kansas, right off of 7th Street Trafficway.

Thirty minutes into my dream, I woke up to the creeping sound of tires on top of broken glass and rocks in the alley that was right next to the House. I sat up, put my 1984 Buick Regal in drive and pulled off. I pulled a U-turn in the intersection of Stewart and Tremont and headed back towards 7th Street. Suddenly, unmarked Ford Tauruses, F-150s and Crown Victorias rushed out from the alley. I made a left and instantly, police lights blared in every mirror view of my car.

“Get out of the car now,” one agent screamed as the various vehicles cornered me in.

I cut my car off and slid out slowly.

“What happened?” I asked.

The first agent approached me with a look of disbelief. “It’s not him,” he said. “Move out.”

Another agent, dressed in a black polo shirt, dark shades, and blue jeans with a badge hanging from his neck, came closer.

“Where is he?” he asked in confusion.

“Who y’all looking for?” I replied.

“Caine.”

“I don’t know,” I said, and a feeling of relief calmed my racing heart.

With so many agents surrounding me, I was terrified. I started thinking of all the things I’d been involved in that may have led to this point. I knew this was serious. I had traffic warrants, weed on me, and a plethora of illegal activities I’d been involved with, but this didn’t matter to them. This was federal. They wanted Staxx’s big brother, “Caine,” or Cameron.

As I pulled off, I headed to my grandmother’s house on 11th and Cleveland. It was a safe-haven for me that night. I never sold anything there. I had a couple of people pull up for weed, but other than that, I kept my business away from her home. I woke up the next day and called everybody in our crew. I got up, showered, threw on some clothes and went back to the House. I walked in and told everybody there what happened the night before.

“Bro, the feds pulled up on me last night,” I exclaimed, as animated as I’d ever been.

“Swear,” Staxx replied.

“Yea, bro, they pulled up on me soon as I left here.”

“What happened?”

“They had F-150s, Crown Vics, the whole nine. They were looking for Bro.”

We all called Caine “Bro” because he was like a big brother to all of us. He taught us the “game.” From cutting and weighing crack on scales, cooking cocaine, saving money in shoeboxes, and more. The weird thing: Caine was serving a two-year sentence at the Lansing Correctional Facility in Lansing, Kansas.

“He already gone,” Staxx replied.

“I know, bro, they must’ve been building a federal case on him.”

We knew our neighborhood was “hot” — i.e. receiving a lot of attention from the local police — but we didn’t know the feds were watching. After that, everyone became more cautious with the way we talked on our burners (temporary cell phones) and how and where we did hand-to-hands (drug/money exchanges). Nobody was moving weight like Caine was — most of us tried to stay away from crack because of the heavy sentencing attached to it — but we were doing enough for felonies.

Caine was one of the toughest guys I knew. When I met him, I had four gold-teeth fronts, inspired by my cousins in Louisiana and Arkansas. The “I don’t care” attitude and street knowledge I developed from Caine. I was smaller, five-foot-four and 150 pounds, and had a reputation for being a dope rapper.

Caine was a rapper, too. I patterned my life after him. He had braids, tattoos, a muscular build (probably from various stays in juvenile prison and prison-like facilities), and a serious face full of street-life pain. He acted invincible. The way he carried himself around others was intimidating. He had a lot of respect throughout some of the worst neighborhoods in Wyandotte County. I had heard warlike stories of him, like escaping a closequarter gun battle that happened on the front porch, or beating someone bloody with a baseball bat. I’ve even seen him stand outside of a house that a group of drug dealers we didn’t know moved into on our block. He was equipped with a gas can, another homie of ours, and an assault rifle. I remember him saying something like, “Niggas ain’t gone set up shop on my block and make money without us getting some. I’ll burn it down.” A week later, the foreign group moved out.

One summer day in 2004, I’d seen him take a pistol away from a guy after daring him to use it. He then challenged him to a regular fist fight. The guy and his brother both declined.

“My nigga,” Caine said. I pulled up to the House in my 1994

Corsica. “Take me around the corner real quick.”

“Where we going?” I inquired.

“8th Street.”

As we pulled up, I saw a familiar house.

“Park right here,” Caine stated as he took off his long white t-shirt (tall tee), a style made famous in urban communities by drug dealers and rappers.

“Which one of y’all took the tags off my car?”

“Caine, chill out, Caine,” the first brother sitting on the porch pleaded. It was like he knew he was in trouble.

“Don’t ever come to my house and take nothing without asking me,” Caine replied.

As he stormed up to the porch, the guy’s brother came outside holding a small handgun. I stepped outside of the driver’s side.

“What you gone do with that?” Caine questioned him angrily.

He then took the gun from the second brother. “Nothing, like I thought.”

After cussing them out and making a scene out of his loud, violent, high-off-cocaine-like actions in public, like he had a part in the movie Scarface, we hopped back in my car and left. I was totally confused. When we got back to our block, Caine explained what that was all about. They let him borrow some tags for his car until he got it tagged. As months went by, the brothers thought Caine was taking too long and decided to come take the tags back without letting Caine know anything.

Caine had a passion for flashy cars; a passion I’d learn to thirst after. In 2005, a couple years before his sentencing, he started a new project. It was a “hood” staple: a four-door “box” Chevy. I bought a four-door, 1980 Buick Century. It had soft white insides and a flawless shape that was ready for paint, all-gold rims and beat (loud sound system). After priming his Chevy, he saved up the money and got it painted. It was clean. I remember when he first pulled up on block with it: black-cherry paint with silver flakes and several clear coats. To top it all off, he bought matching 22-inch rims to go with it. He completed it with the aroma of tobacco smoke (Caine didn’t smoke weed at the time) and empty liquor bottles.

One day that summer, Caine was checking prices on an adaptor piece that could connect his rims to a separate rim that would spin while the car was not in motion, rims known as “spinners.” As he left to go meet with somebody who was helping him, he asked if I wanted to go. We left the House and headed to Juniper Gardens, “the projects.” We pulled up on 1st Street and picked up one of his friends. As we headed back towards the House, a K-9 police officer pulled us over.

“Man, what the fuck,” Caine said.

“What you do, bro?” I replied.

“Y’all got anything on y’all?” Caine asked both of us.

He was a huge believer in never riding with drugs on you, and we were all clean. The officer approached the vehicle and got information from everybody. He ran my name and came back to the car.

“Mr. Handy, you have warrants,” he said sternly. “Do not run, my dog will catch you.”

“Ok,” I replied.

I’ve run from my share of police, but a trained K-9 was a bit different, so I didn’t run. Ironically they didn’t put me in cuffs. I was shocked. He just wrote me a ticket for a new court date and told me to “stay put.” He let the other guy go and told him to walk home.

As the first officer told Caine to step out of the car, a mysterious man walked out of a nearby alley with binoculars around his neck. What the hell? I thought. He obviously knew who Caine was as he approached him smiling and talking to someone else on a walkie-talkie. He had on a Miami-style buttoned-down shirt, some khaki-colored cargo shorts, and a pair of casual dress shoes. He looked like a rich suburban teenager, not a police officer. He didn’t even have a visible badge. We knew instantly: he was federal.

“You got any drugs or weapons on you?” the fed asked Caine, smirking.

“Naw, I ain’t got nothing,” Caine replied.

They placed Caine in cuffs and stuffed him in the back of the K-9 police vehicle. The K-9 officer asked if anyone could come and get the car. I volunteered to drive, but he denied me and told me to walk home as well. Ten minutes later, I arrived at the House and found Caine’s mother.

“They just pulled us over and took Bro,” I told her.

“Oh God,” she replied. “What happened?”

“We were going to get some rims and stopped in the projects. Soon as we left, a K-9 cop pulled us over. Then an undercover cat came out the alley. He had binoculars, a walkie-talkie, and didn’t even have a badge on. He was dressed like a regular person.”

An hour later, we got a phone call from the Wyandotte County Adult Detention Center. It was Caine. He was wanted for missing a court date for his first offense, possession of “Opiates, Opium or Narcotic Drugs.”

“Put Sauce on the phone,” Caine told his mother. She handed me the phone.

“Ay,” he started.

“Wassup, Bro,” I answered. “That was crazy.”

“I need you to do something for me.”

“Wassup?”

“I need you to go downstairs, look for my pack (bundle of drugs) and keep moving it. 0.2 grams is 10 dollars, 0.4 is 20 dollars…” as he kept telling me the prices by weight, I started rumbling through his room, looking for everything I needed.

Caine had a pretty impressive clientele who would come to the side door of the House. Every day, until he got out, I was at that door. White people, Black people, old and young, male and female, all came to get “work” (crack). I don’t remember how long he was in the county jail or how much I made, but he was proud and ready to get back to the streets when he got released. At that time, Staxx was only 15 or 16, and Caine didn’t want his little brother following in his footsteps. And since I was 18, he did everything related to drugs with me or some of his older friends.

I grew more close to Staxx though. After Caine got sentenced in 2005, Staxx, a group of others in our neighborhood, and I all started our own thing. “567” was the name, a gang of sorts. It meant 5th Street, 6th Street, and 7th Street, the area all of us lived at or grew up on. I grew up on 5th and Quindaro Blvd. Staxx grew up on 6th and Stewart Ave, a couple blocks off Quindaro. Staxx and I would get high together (even though Caine didn’t want him smoking), go to parties, and just chill. I originally met Staxx — real name George — in 2004, through “D.” D brought me to his house one day and we connected like brothers. They both were selling five-dollar, pre-rolled blunts at Wyandotte High. I had just graduated from Wyandotte, and though I was a bit older, the three of us started selling weed together. One day we were chilling at Parkwood Pool. I forgot why we went, but I had driven. After thirty minutes there, I got a call from one of my girlfriends. I left to see her and told Staxx and D that I’d be back. I asked Staxx to hold a pack of weed for me so I wouldn’t have to ride dirty, like Caine taught me. An hour later, I got a phone call from his mother.

“Wassup, Momma,” I answered.

“The police got George,” she said hysterically. “They picked him up at the pool.”

“What happened?”

“I don’t know, they said he had weed on him.”

Somehow, Staxx had gotten in some trouble and the police came. They searched him and found weed on him. They took him to the Wyandotte County Juvenile Detention Center. I went back to the house and met up with D and Momma. Caine was pissed.

“Who gave my little brother weed?” he asked while staring at me and D. We both acted like we didn’t know anything.

“I don’t know,” we each replied.

Some days later, Staxx was released and validated our story — telling Momma and Caine that the weed was his. This turned into many years of us covering for each other. That meant me buying liquor and tobacco for them because they were too young, or them lying to my girlfriends about my whereabouts, etc.

I had developed a love for Caine and his family. Everything we did was for family. While Caine was in prison, I’d help pay bills, run errands, take Momma to work when her car was down and I spent most of my nights there. If Staxx was beefing (having problems with other people, usually resulting in physical violence), I was in it, too.

In 2006, a couple years before I changed my life and got out of the streets, I was “doing bad” (low on money). Caine was gone, but we were still in the streets. I was selling crack, weed, wet (pcp), guns, and thizz pills (ecstasy). I’d seen someone murdered, shot at people, been pistol-whipped and held at gunpoint, gotten in fights in clubs, been in high-speed car chases, foot chases, and other activities that should’ve made me a co-conspirator and felon. Staxx and I were always looking for “licks” (quick or easy ways to make money). From dice games (craps), hustling, picking up odd jobs to support our hustle, and plotting to rob other dealers and serves (drug customers).

One day that year, I received a call from some serves who stayed in Olathe, Kansas. D was one of the first of us to set-up a spot (drug house) and bring us the “white” money from that area. He also racked up a lot of felony charges from selling out there. My phone rang and instantly I told Staxx, “Bro, this might be something right here.”

“Yo,” I answered.

“Hey, Sauce, we’re trying to get something,” they replied.

“What you need?”

“Some beans.” This meant ecstasy pills.

“How many?”

“A jar.”

“A jar? how much y’all got?”

As the conversation came to an end, I agreed to get them a jar (a large quantity, usually delivered in a jar of some type) for $500. I was only thinking of robbing them. I had about 10 pills of my own left and couldn’t supply the need, so we set-up a plan.

“Bro, I got a lick,” I said with a smirk.

“What is it?” Staxx replied.

“Something easy from them Olathe niggas. Imma set ’em up and act like I’m taking ’em somewhere to get pills. I just need you to drive.”

“How much?”

“$500, maybe more. I’ll split it with you.

“Well, let’s go!”

I had Staxx park on the opposite side of some abandoned low-income apartments near 8th Street. I knew they were squares (people not involved or ignorant to the street-life), and I wouldn’t even need a gun to do it. I had the serves pick me up and take me to the other side of the abandoned apartments. They gave me the money. As I counted I said, “Park right here, Imma run in and run out. They don’t like people they don’t know coming in.” I was scheming them whole time. I got out the car, and as I made it out of their view, I ran through some high grass in a field between the apartments and the alley Staxx was parked at. I jumped in the passenger seat, and he burned rubber as we pulled off.

That was just a small piece of the crazy things me and Staxx did while Caine was in prison. Everyone knew Staxx as “Caine’s little brother,” so we didn’t have too much trouble navigating the concrete jungle, at least in our area. Staxx was becoming just like his brother: same face, long braids, tattoos, but just taller and bigger in weight. He was his own man, but he was falling into all the things his brother wanted to keep him away from. He set up his own licks, started buying and selling his own drugs, and more.

One time he was planning to rob a gun deal and ended up getting shot at on 71 South Highway in Kansas City, Missouri. The shooting made the news. Without knowing the cause, reporters warned drivers of a gas-leak that trailed all the way back to the House. He made it back, and we noticed multiple bullets holes in the back of the Jeep and one in the gas tank. Through it all, he made it back with the money and the gun.

During the summer of 2007, Staxx bought a sawed-off shotgun and was looking to resell it. We found ourselves driving through the projects looking for possible buyers. Suddenly, police lights started flashing behind us. We had the shotgun, pills, and a couple of ounces of weed on us — something Caine would never approve. I was panicking, thinking that it was a felony case waiting to happen. We threw the shotgun under the backseat, hid the drugs in the glovebox and locked it. We then decided who would take responsibility for the items if caught. There was no way we were going to snitch on each other.

The officer came to the car and got Staxx’s information. Then they came to my side and asked for mine.

“Do you have any identification on you,” he stated.

“No,” I replied.

“Do you have any warrants?”

“Yeah, just traffic.”

As he returned to his vehicle with our information, Staxx pushed the gun further up under the backseat, and we both calmed down, waiting for the verdict. The officer returned.

“Because you have warrants totaling over $500, I won’t be able to let you go this time. Please step out of the car.”

“Come get me, bro,” I told Staxx as I stepped out.

The officer searched me, cuffed me and took me in. I thought of it as a sacrifice. Once the officer had me in custody, he let Staxx go. He didn’t search the car or anything. I was happy the officer took me in on traffic. I was released on a signature bond, with a new court date. The county jail was on 7th Street maybe two miles away from the House. Staxx picked me up as I was headed back to the block. We both laughed it off. Just another story to add among our many Caine-influenced journeys.

We used to visit Caine in prison every Sunday. He was released in 2008 and hasn’t been back since. He cleaned up his life, works a regular job and from what I know, stays out of trouble. Me too. I’m thankful that I didn’t get what I deserved in that lifestyle. And to this day, I don’t know if we called him Caine because of all the drugs he sold or because he was so “dope” to us.