Even after being ordered to return to prison for owed time in March 2004 (he was still using a walker), Hickey stayed off drugs. But in September of that year, he was pulled over in the passenger seat of a white Cadillac with a gun in the trunk. He claims the firearm was not his; still the driver had a relatively clean record, and Hickey suspected that the blame would fall on him. He was right.

Meanwhile, Hickey enrolled at Bunker Hill Community College, learned how to write screenplays, and scraped his memory for images from his and Charlestown's landslide into ruin. Despite having moved to Gloucester, he spent months in the bricks that raised him, often taking notes on project rooftops, imaging scenes like the one in Oxy Morons when Hickey and his sidekicks plunge off the Tobin Bridge extension for kicks. It all came back through his pen: the shooting galleries he frequented, prison riots he survived, and the crooked authority figures who only made matters worse. Hickey lived to tell his story, and this was how he planned to do it.

For money, he took a job as hired muscle at the Comedy Connection in Faneuil Hall, where he made every effort to secure Hollywood contacts. Local stars like Lenny Clark and John Fiore read Hickey's script, and encouraged him to keep plugging away. He did, and within a year of working at the club, Hickey was helping book side and corporate gigs for comics (including Mauss, who was living in Boston at the time). If nothing else, he was earning a legitimate income and making friends who weren't seasoned criminals.

So when authorities began coercing Hickey to help fight violent crime, he recalls, he saw little choice in the matter. He had more to lose now. As he sat in the back of a maroon Impala outside of Lynn District Court in late 2004, speaking with two agents who instructed him to meet there, Hickey says he first obliged just to appease them. "But then I realized that I was going away," he says, "and I didn't want to run anymore. I was robbing people before and making enemies anyway, so I figured this way at least I could get some legitimate cash out of it. After a while, I was able to justify it since I was getting guns off the street."

By 2006, Hickey says, he was informing ATF, FBI, and DEA agents on gang activity in New England, and entering the field as an undercover operative. He was required to take drug tests and report to supervisors, but otherwise continued to conduct his day-to-day routines, and fathered a daughter in October of that year. Hickey won't tell me details about specific investigations he says he assisted in Massachusetts at the time — except to say that he never turned on anyone in Charlestown, or anybody he had history with. As for the anonymous drug dealers he exposed — Hickey does not express much regret.

"This is something I was meant to do," he says. At the end of Oxy Morons (spoiler alert), after Hickey's character, Danny, helps police nail a dirty detective, the shot returns to the Charlestown skyline where the movie started. This time, the voiceover challenges conventional stop-snitching rhetoric: "Any criminals out there can say whatever they want, but if the government came around and told them that they'd buy them cars and pay them thousands under the table to do some crazy and outrageous shit like I got to do, they'd do it in a heartbeat — especially if drugs did to their family what heroin and Oxy did to mine."

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Related: A Tale of Two Towns, Hickey's Current event, Boat people, More more >
  Topics: News Features , Charlestown, Tom Reilly, James Gandolfini,  More more >
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