With the number of treatment options and detox beds in Massachusetts decreasing, demand for black market OxyContin skyrocketed. Nearly 150 commonwealth pharmacies were robbed in 2002 alone. Hickey won't discuss specifics about heists he may have been involved in (and that are dramatically portrayed in Oxy Morons). But in 2003, then–attorney general Tom Reilly's Special Investigations and Narcotics Division charged 12 individuals (including a Suffolk County deputy sheriff) with ties to Charlestown for six armed robberies of pharmacies across three counties. Sean Noonan, a good friend of Hickey's, received a 10-to-12-year sentence for armed robbery and trafficking in Oxycodone. (This past June, seven years into his bid, Noonan hung himself with a bed sheet at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley.)
Hickey was spiraling downward when, on November 30, 2003, less than four months after his release, he was partying with friends at the Marriott off I-93 in Quincy. Jammed on Oxy, he didn't care about some punks who threatened to jump him for hanging with a local girl who had a boyfriend. Hickey was cocky, he recalls, his pockets brimming with illegal gains, and his head swollen with intoxicated courage. So when a Quincy kid slapped a girl in front of everyone, Hickey, a self-described momma's boy, voiced loud disapproval despite being on unfamiliar turf.
Kicked out of the hotel for fighting, Hickey and his three friends were not surprised to see several carloads of post-teens speed into the parking lot. Before Hickey could orchestrate a defense, his masochistic five-foot-and-change friend Mikey charged into the thick of adversaries and swung until his arms became bound in the white hoodie pulled over his head. Within seconds, the sweatshirt turned dark red.
Hickey always packed a knife. So with Mikey in trouble and a third friend retreating, he ordered his younger cousin who was with them to get into their car, then brandished his weapon and lunged forward. After losing the blade, Hickey landed a few haymakers before getting tackled inches from an 80-foot quarry on the parking lot's perimeter. It would have been just another brawl for the Townie pugilist; despite being outnumbered, Hickey even managed to stand back up. That's when someone bashed him in the back of the skull with a small boulder, and forced him over the edge. Hickey plummeted into darkness.
LIVED TO TELL The despair that bleeds through Oxy Morons is no exaggeration. Hickey lived to tell his story, and this was how he planned to do it: revisiting the shooting galleries, prison riots, and clashes with crooked cops of his Charlestown past.
GOING STRAIGHT — AND UNDERCOVER
Johnny woke from a medically induced coma one week later. But despite having a torn urethra, a ruptured bladder, and dislocated hip, he says that he refused morphine at Boston Medical Center. "I knew that if I let them load me up with drugs I'd walk out of there an addict," says Hickey. "I was in a lot of pain, but it was probably one of the happiest times in my life, too. Not only did I live through the whole thing, but I realized that it was time to make some serious fucking changes."