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Warren Ullom: Death, drugs and rock 'n' roll, Part I

A talented musician. A beautiful woman. A fatal cocktail of heroin and cocaine.

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It was nearing midnight when Rachel's ride turned off Highland onto a side street and pulled to the curb. Warren crossed the pavement to meet them, a gaunt and pretty figure cutting through the late summer night, dressed only in a pair of jeans. Rachel said goodbye to the guy behind the wheel, and she followed Warren into the darkness.

By June of 2008, Warren had been doing business with the Sweet Man for about a year. A mutual friend of theirs, a knockout blonde with a syrupy drawl, had introduced them the summer before at Sweet's old house in Kirkwood. Warren was there to buy coke, and the blonde piped up that Warren was also into heroin. Recently, he'd been scoring "boy" in the Bluff, the virtually open-air heroin market in bleak and blown-out west Atlanta. Sweet had a taste for boy, too, but he only sold blow. Still, he was happy to hook Warren up with his trusty heroin dealer, who was willing to meet clients at less sketchy locations. That was a much safer venture for a skinny white guy than the risk posed by trolling the Bluff.

Within a few months of Sweet's offer, Warren was buying heroin daily from his and Sweet's mutual dealer, "Batman." Sweet says the following spring, Warren helped Sweet shoot up. According to Sweet, it was only the second time he'd injected heroin. Up until then, he'd only snorted the stuff.

It was no surprise that things went downhill for Sweet from there. For a while, he held a decent, legit day job as a carpenter and could at least create the illusion of being a decent, legit guy. But by the time June 5, 2008, rolled around, he believed he'd hit bottom.

He'd lost his house that day and decamped to his workshop near Moreland Avenue and Memorial Drive. He was hoping to land a spot in an out-of-state drug rehab center, but when he called, they said they wouldn't have room for him for a few weeks. He'd have to float until then, to try to exist without consequence until he could get help.

He fell asleep at midnight, around the time Rachel's ride turned off of Highland Avenue.

At 3:30 a.m., he was awoken by Warren's call.

When a person ODs on heroin, there are several methods — some proven, some not — for bringing her back.

To the layperson, the most memorable of those (though far from the most advisable) is a shot of adrenaline straight to the heart, a bit of drug lore dramatized in Pulp Fiction. Upon receiving the injection, a brink-of-death Uma Thurman bolts upright, hypodermic dangling from her chest, and responds to the command "If you're alright, then say something," with a rattled "... something?"

Adrenaline is essentially speed. So is cocaine. And a junkie's logic can allow for a certain leap in which he can convince himself that a shot of cocaine could do wonders to revive the victim of a heroin overdose in the same way adrenaline can.

Heroin depresses the central nervous system. It slows your pulse and your breathing, which can kill you on its own. But it can kill you even more easily when mixed with other drugs, particularly cocaine.

Cocaine increases your pulse, often resulting in an uneven heartbeat. That abnormality, coupled with the slowed heart rate brought on by heroin, can create extraordinarily erratic blood flow to the body's internal organs, including the brain. For that reason, cocaine doesn't necessarily counteract the effects of heroin. Often, it complicates them.

Warren didn't know about any of that when he woke the Sweet Man that June morning in 2008. According to Sweet, Warren's hope, his grand plan, was to bring her back with cocaine — which meant he needed Sweet to supply some.

Sweet would later say he was reluctant. He'd been doing drugs all day and was worn out. But he would claim that Warren was convincing. Warren promised to pay Sweet well — a somewhat uncharacteristic claim, considering that, to Sweet's knowledge, Warren was usually pretty broke. Sweet told Warren that he was in no condition to drive. Warren countered that he'd cover Sweet's cab fare.

While waiting on the cab, Sweet grabbed two tiny pink baggies of cocaine, a half-gram each. He also pocketed some heroin and cocaine for himself.

Fifteen minutes later, Sweet stepped out of the cab. As promised, Warren was waiting and paid the cabbie. Sweet would later say that when he walked inside, this is the sight he was met with: Rachel on the couch, pale and unconscious, clad only in her panties. On the end table near the couch, there were a few small blue baggies — blue for boy. They were the kind Batman used to package heroin.

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