Evil Empire

Page 5 of 12

Weaving through the dancers, he made his way to the bedroom; Shaun locked the door behind them. Inside, Marcus says, there was a "pile of powder" on the bedside stand. Shaun then took out a deck of playing cards, Marcus remembers, cut the deck repeatedly until he found the Queen of Hearts, and used the card to shovel out a dose of E onto a rave flier on the bed.

"I'd never heard of anyone snorting E, at this point, right? . . . But one of the glitter girls sort of sees me looking a little freaked out, and she goes, It's E. It's good. Do it.' So I put that shit up my beak and it burned like a bitch for about 30 seconds, and then the rush hit me and I was all good, you know? All of a sudden I was the coolest person in the world and so were they. I was used to taking E in a pill, where it takes 30, 45 minutes to kick in. So snorting it, I was like, Damn. Okay. This guy knows his drugs.'"

For the next two hours, Marcus and Shaun talked, while the glitter girls played with one another's hair on a velvet love seat, constantly arranging and rearranging styles, taking turns on one another.

"Shaun was mister congeniality, you know, mister polite manners and charming accent," Marcus says. "We talked about music, about the scene in Phoenix, about the party that night. . . . And then at one point he tells me, Well, let's get back to business for a moment.'"

Marcus explained his current arrangement to Shaun: He was getting 50 pills for $750 from his current supplier, but the quality of the drugs was inconsistent. English Shaun, he says, saw an opportunity — to recruit a new seller while hobbling his competition.

"So Shaun tells me, I can do you better, but here's the thing: You work with me, and only me, from now on.' I got the sense he'd decided to go head-to-head with this guy, you know, and he was like a headhunter from a rival stock company, trying to hire away a top broker."

Marcus says Shaun promised consistent, high quality, and a much better price. But Marcus would have to buy more pills at a time. "He told me the way his operation worked was, he liked to buy larger amounts every once in a while — you know, the fewer deals on the whole, the better for everyone — rather than making a deal every two weeks. And he said if you bought his E to sell, you had to do the same. Meaning I had to buy 500 hits a time instead of 50, except that instead of paying 15 a pill, I'm paying 10. And if all goes well, he'll drop it to 9 in six months. You know, like I was on probation for a new job or some shit."

Soon after his E-fueled meeting with English Shaun, Marcus put everything he had, including a cash advance on a Wells Fargo student credit card, to buy in: $5,000 for 500 pills.

"After we set the price and I agreed to his terms, he pointed at the glitter girls and sort of went, Which one do you favor?' I didn't answer, and he sort of called out to one of them." Her name was Heidi.

"He said, Heidi, love, why don't you spend some quality time with Marcus here?'"

Heidi smiled at Marcus, then ran her tongue all around her lips, got up and took him by the hand, and led him back into the living room, where they kissed and felt each other out for hours. At one point he had her pressed into the speakers, grinding her from behind.

She leaned her head back to lick his ear, and said to him words that seemed to intertwine with the music: "You're so cool, you're so cool." And he remembers thinking to himself, "I've got it made. I'm in."

While Marcus was moving in, Coen was trying to move out. By 1997, he had severed his ties with Shaun and had moved from E dealer to rave promoter, throwing monthly raves, sometimes handling weekly club nights at night spots in Scottsdale, downtown Phoenix and Tempe.

But later that year, when Coen wanted to do a couple of raves featuring A-list DJ talent, Shaun heard he was looking for investors and offered to both invest in the raves and get him a deal through promoter connections in the U.K. His DJ connections never came through, but Shaun's money did. Coen says Shaun's investments were legitimate. But thinking back, he remembers: "Shaun always wanted to be paid in checks drawn on a business account, rather than in cash."

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Susy Buchanan
Brendan Joel Kelley