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I've been all over the place lately. At the beginning of the summer I was plowing through the Needles, Names, and Numbers drafts, ultima...

Saturday, August 20, 2016

On the Farm

This is the follow-up to my first fictional story called "A Brand You Can Trust." You can find that story just under this one. 

“Ugh… Fuck.” I moaned to myself as I woke. The lumpy trap house couch was far from a tempur-pedic, and sleeping on it was killing my back. As I rolled back over I heard a loud pounding noise on the back door upstairs. BOOM-BOOM-BOOM-BOOM-BOOM. It was a rapid, hard knock… A cop knock.

I leapt to my feet, picked the revolver up off the table, and tiptoed to the bottom of the stairs. BOOM-BOOM-BOOM-BOOM-BOOM! Again. No voices, just the knock. Are we getting robbed? SMASH! One of the windows broke. I ran upstairs and saw a gloved hand fumbling for the back door doorknob. I closed one eye, held the revolver up to the figure, shot, and missed. “Fuck!” I shouted as the figure retreated into the yard.

“Get back here motherfucker!” I screamed as he ran into the woods. I tried to get a good look at him as I got closer, but his features never grew more defined. He remained a silhouette, a shadow person. I tripped on a root before I could catch him. I got to my feet, and suddenly, I was in the clearing. A layer of fog licked the forest floor around me as the temperature plummeted. My hands shook as I held the revolver up, turning around and around, but I lost him. “Come on out motherfucker!” I shouted. A twig snapped in the distance. I whipped around, but the fog was getting too thick to see. As I struggled to maintain my vision, a freezing cold hand grabbed my shoulder. I turned around and saw the dead bootlegger, bullet holes still fresh in his face and chest.


“AAHHH! FUCK! FUCK!” I jolted upright in bed, my t-shirt soaked with sweat. Connor stared at me from his bed. “I knew it.” He said. “Knew what?!” I replied defensively. Connor smirked at me as he pulled the revolver out from under his pillow. “The fuck do you still have that for?!” I asked. “What, you think I was gonna leave it in the car? You can’t melt these things, stupid. Plus, it’s got sentimental value. I wanna fire off the last three rounds before I retire it.” He replied, closing one eye and pretending to shoot me with it.

An older woman in a sun hat and overalls greeted us downstairs. “Connor! How have you been?” She asked as she gave Connor a hug. “Hey Donna, I’ve been great. I don’t think you’ve met our new brother. This is Adam O’Leary. I’m uh… mentoring him for the festival season.” Connor explained. “Oh! Welcome to the family brother! I’m Elliot’s wife Donna.” Donna said as she gave me a hug. “We ate breakfast earlier but I put aside a couple plates for you guys. We’re gonna be out all day tending to the plants, so you know where to find us if you need anything!” “Thanks so much, Donna. I’m gonna show him around after we eat.” Connor replied.

After breakfast Connor led me through the garden and vegetable fields through the forest to the outdoor grow op. “Not much farther now…” He said as we walked through the brush. “Smile!” He said, pointing to a tree branch above us. There, camouflaged in the tree, was a camera. The tiny red light on it was all that separated it from its surroundings. “There’s no booby traps or anything I gotta worry about, right?” I asked Connor. “Nah, there’s no need for them, really. Derek owns all this land and then some. There’s nobody else for miles. Here we are!” Connor picked up the pace as the forest ended abruptly, giving way to a massive clearing. The smell of weed was so strong I felt like I was hotboxing my mother’s car in high school again. The plants went a solid six inches over my head in spots, and were sectioned off by indicas and sativas. “They’re fuckin’ beautiful…” I said to Connor as we walked the perimeter of the clearing. “You ever grow?” He asked me. “Nah. Nothing like this, anyway. I tried growing a couple plants at a park by my house when I was in high school, but they died before I could harvest ‘em…” I replied. “Hehe, I feel like everybody tries that once. Come this way, I wanna show you something.” Connor laughed.

We walked another path that took us to a grassy cliff that overlooked a small pond. “I wouldn’t swim in there if I was you. The view is nice, though.” Connor said as he lit a cigarette. I lit one of my own and took it all in. I could still smell nothing but weed. Connor pulled his flask from his pocket and downed a few swigs. “Want any?” He offered me. I shook my head. My liver was begging me for a night off the sauce. “Just gonna stick to weed today. Give myself a little detox.” Connor nodded. “Good thinking. I go full tilt when I’m on the road… But I get my shit done, so Derek really can’t say shit. Even though it drives him crazy…” Connor pulled the revolver out and turned it over in his hands. “I know it’s nothing special, but this was my first piece. Bought it when I was 17, from Mickey Conley’s younger brother Jimmy. Hehe, well, I didn’t really buy it. I traded it for five OC 80’s. He wanted ten for it but I talked him down ‘cause he was jonesin’. Mickey was fuckin’ pissed…” Connor started laughing to himself as he closed one eye and stared down the barrel. We sat down as we smoked and looked at the water. Connor grinned as he held the gun in his free hand. 

“Can’t count the number of times she saved my life.”

“How many, uh…” I started to ask him.

“Hehe, why do you wanna know? You got a ways to go before you beat my high score, kid.”

“Just curious, I dunno. I like hearing people’s stories.”

“I gotta think… Hm…” Connor squinted and exhaled his smoke, flicking the butt into the pond.

“Three? Yeah, three. Maybe four. Me and my boys raided a dope house in the hood. Hit a nigga in his leg, but I dunno if he ever pulled through.” Connor spun the barrel and flicked it back into place as he held the gun.

“I had a nightmare about it last night.”

“Hehe, I know you did. It’s natural. They’ll pass, if you let ‘em.”

“What do you mean?”

“You gotta accept the fact that what you did had to be done. That you did nothing wrong. Don’t get 
caught up in the how or the why or the what if’s. Just forget it. Sooner, rather than later. Derek’s gonna expect you to bounce back quickly from this. Why you think he threw you 20 large?”

I nodded and stared out at the water.

“This gig allows you to have a lot of fun. Getting fucked up is practically a fuckin’ requirement. But don’t start using the drugs to run from the job. I know it’s like pot callin’ the kettle black or whatever, but you know what I mean. I’m a fuckin’ boozebag, but I cover all my bases. When it’s time to be straight I’m straight. Otherwise I’d be at the bottom of that fuckin pond, hehe…” Connor said.

Connor fired off the last three rounds in the revolver. He took off his shirt and wiped the prints off it, and threw it as far as he could into the middle of the pond.

“I’ll miss that fuckin thing…” He said.

“What do you think about the search?”

“Don’t fuckin’ worry about it. They’ll call it off soon, if they haven’t already. We covered our tracks. 
You ever see that fuckin’ show First 48? If they don’t catch the guy in two days they’re fucked. It’s three days, and as far as anybody else knows, it’s still a missing person’s case. No bodies, no case.You’re good.”

“I fuckin’ hope so. I’m having too much fun…”

“Hehe, this is only the beginning, brother. By the way, if Elliot or Donna asks you about why we’re here, keep it vague. Don’t say shit about the search, the two kids, nothin’. Far as they know, we’re just here laying low because a shipment got intercepted.”

“Alright, but why? You guys don’t trust ‘em?”

“Nah, nah. It’s not that. Elliot and Donna were in this shit while we were still in diapers, when Derek’s father was running things. Which makes them part of the old regime. They’re pacifists, y’know? If they were to hear about that shit we did in Maine, even if it was just business, it could rock the boat. Keeping them in the dark is for the best.”

“Alright. I’ll stick to the script.”

“I know ya will, brother. Now let’s head back to the house. I need a fuckin’ refill…”

Connor was topping off his flask when his burner started going off. “Yo! Nothin, I was just showing Adam around the farm. We’re already fuckin bored out here man, any updates on that thing? Yeah? Well no news is good news I guess. Really? I got a feeling I know what he wants. Yeah, I ain’t going anywhere. Bye.” Connor clicked his burner off and had a seat at the table with me. “No word on the situation, far as we can tell. Derek’s on his way now. I gotta go with him to see our coke connect.” Connor explained.

“Cool.” I replied.

 “Yeah. You’re gonna have to chill here while we see him. I don’t think Derek gives a shit but that fuckin’ spic redefines the word paranoia. For good reason. He’s with Los Ganchos.”

“They a gang or something?”

“Hehe, are you shitting me? They’re a cartel!”


“Those fuckin’ beaners are ruthless, I tell ya. Public executions, cop killings, women, children, they 
don’t give a fuck…”

“What’s Derek doing working with a cartel? Kinda conflicts with the whole… agenda, doesn’t it?”

“You can’t move as much coke as Derek does without going through the Ganchos. I hear ya, though. It is hypocritical. His father’s probably rolling in his fuckin’ grave right now…”

The front door opened and Derek stepped into the dining room. “You ready to go?” He asked Connor. “One sec.” Connor said, standing up and refilling his flask. Derek scowled at Connor. “Don’t gimme that fuckin’ look. You know I hate tequila.” Connor replied. “Adam, you’re gonna have to hang here for a while. We’ll be back in a few hours. See if you can make yourself useful, help out Donna and Elliot in the garden.” Derek said to me. “You got it.” I replied.

I found Elliot in the massive greenhouse tending to the plants. The higher quality of the indoor crop was apparent as I walked through the rows of UV lamps and purple plants. I cleared my throat loudly to get Elliot’s attention as he trimmed one of the plants. “Adam! What can I do for you!?” He asked me, smiling. “Well, I kinda came here to ask you the same thing. Derek came and grabbed Connor for an errand. He told me to make myself useful while I’m here. I’m not much of a gardener, though…” I began. Elliot smiled. “No problem! Everyone has to start somewhere! If you don’t mind, a lot of these guys are still thirsty!” Elliot picked up a watering can and handed it to me. “It’s pretty simple, really. You give each plant three seconds worth of water. You can refill it with the hose over there. I’ll be right here if you have any questions or anything. Thanks for lending a hand, brother!” He instructed me. I walked up and down the rows of plants sprinkling water over each one while Elliot trimmed them delicately. He was clearly a skilled craftsman, squinting through his John Lennon circular-lensed glasses as he made each deliberate cut.

After we took care of the plants I joined Donna and Elliot for some lunch. “Elliot and I are vegetarian, but I grabbed some cold cuts at the store for you and Connor. I’ll let you know next time I go into town and you guys can give me a list of whatever you want.” Donna said. “Thanks a lot, Donna. I appreciate the hospitality.” I replied. “Think nothing of it, brother. You’re family!” Elliot said, putting a hand on top of mine.

“So, uh… How long have you guys been a part of this whole thing?” I asked them as we ate.

“Hehe, well before you were probably even born! How old are you brother, if you don’t mind me asking?” Elliot asked.

“26.” I replied.

“Donna and I met Derek’s father back in 1968. I was 18, Donna here was 16.” Elliot said, flashing Donna a smile.

“It goes that far back?!” I asked, curious.

“The Family was still in its infancy, it was much different back then. We were a community, not that we aren’t now, but it was just a handful of us out in San Francisco in those days. We grew our own food, herb, mushrooms, and some of us cooked LSD.”

“So you guys were at Woodstock?” I asked.

“Of course!” Donna added.

“We gained quite a few members at Woodstock. God, what an incredible experience. You have to understand Adam, the world had never seen anything like that before.” Elliot explained.

“I couldn’t imagine.” I replied.

“So, how did you meet Derek?” Donna asked me.

“Believe it or not, through the internet.” I said.

“Haha, Donna and I are absolutely horrible with computers. When Derek told us he was going online, we thought he was crazy! But apparently it’s legitimate… Or, as legitimate as something like that could be, I suppose.” Elliot said.

“It’s crazy, isn’t it? Anyway, I was ordering from the Family page online and moving the product locally back home. Festival season rolls around and I opened up shop at Grass Roots, it’s a very small festival, out in the sticks of western Mass. Mostly local bands and shit. But yeah, I start selling, and word gets around that I got Family product. Little did I know, Connor and a couple other guys from The Family were there hustling…” I explained.

“Oh, I see. That’s incredible, isn’t it Donna?” Elliot asked. Donna nodded.

“Hehe, yeah. I gotta admit, when Connor first took me aside to his camp, I was shitting my pants…” I said.

Elliot and Donna chuckled and exchanged confused glances.

“Why?” Elliot asked.

“Well, y’know, I thought he was pissed at me for stepping on his toes…” I said.

“Ha! That’s odd, I never got that impression from Connor! When he’s sober anyway. It hurts my soul to see him drink like that…” Elliot said, shaking his head and frowning.  

“Not to mention the fact that Derek’s a pacifist. He would never lower himself to violence or intimidation, it goes against all of his father’s principles!” Donna added.
I took the final bite from my sandwich and smiled.

“Yeah. It’s silly now, looking back at it.”

Elliot and Donna insisted that they didn’t need help with the rest of their work, so I got high and kicked back on the farm for a few hours. I underestimated the quality of the weed and quickly fell asleep in a hammock out in the yard. The hard slamming of a car door and someone shouting woke me. I checked my burner phone, it was just before 8 PM. I got out of the hammock, stretched, and headed inside to see Connor.

I found Connor smoking at the dining room table, empty bottle and a full glass in front of him. He took a few big gulps from it and let out a very satisfied sigh. “Elliot and Donna go to bed?” I asked him. Connor shrugged and ashed his cigarette. He seemed pissed. I pulled up a chair and sparked up the sniped joint I’d smoked earlier. Connor gulped down the rest of the whiskey and shook his head. “I’m still fuckin’ shakin…” He mumbled.

“How’d the meeting go?” I asked him.

“We gotta go to a bar.” Connor replied.

“Huh? Why?”

“’Cause somebody drank all the fucking booze when I was gone.”

“I didn’t touch it. Those two don’t drink either, so…”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever. I need a drink. Let’s go.”

“We don’t have a car.”

“We’ll take Elliot’s. What’s theirs is our’s. We’re family.”

“You sure they won’t mind?”

“Would you stop with the fucking questions!? They won’t give a shit! Let’s fucking go!”

I took Elliot’s keys from the counter and we took off. Besides giving me directions, Connor was silent for the whole ride. He was fidgety, chain-smoking and squirming in his seat. He fucked with the radio, but the only options seemed to be top 40 and classic rock. “Fuckin piece of shit… Cock sucka!” He shouted, punching the dash board. “Take it easy, you’ll trip the fuckin’ airbag.” I said sarcastically. “How much longer ‘till we get there?! I need a god damn drink…” Connor said. “I dunno, remember?” I replied, confused. “Shit. Fuck, I’m sorry. My head’s not on straight. I need a god damn drink… Fuck. Pull over!” Connor groaned, covering his mouth with his hands. Just as I got to the side of the road, Connor threw the door open and puked. He dry heaved, closed the door, but he wasn’t finished. He opened the door again and a thin dribble of stomach bile fell from his mouth. “You alright, man? You must  be dehydrated…” I said. “Yeah, yeah, I’m fuckin fine. I just need a god damn drink…”

We finally made it to a shitty dive bar called Lucky’s. A couple of old guys sat at a bar that went around half the room in a horseshoe shape. Other than a few vacant tables, the place was empty. “You guys need menus?” The middle-aged bartender asked us. “I’m not hungry, you?” I asked Connor. “Nah. Just really thirsty. Two shots of Jameson, please.” He said, slapping a 20 down on the bar. “And for you?” The bartender asked me. “Gimme a Jack and coke.” I replied. So much for detoxing today…

Connor pounded his two shots and switched to mixed drinks. He took a deep breath as the liquor restored order to his insides, wiping the sweat from his forehead with his newly steady hands. “Fuck me, I almost shit my pants like six times on the way here…” He said as he rubbed his temples. I didn’t know what to say, so I just laughed. Connor got up to presumably take a booze shit and I decided to check the news for any updates on the Maine situation. I got no reception on the farm with my smart phone, which was odd, since my burner worked just fine. I entered the keywords and scrolled past several articles that I’d seen days before, with no new ones in sight. No news is good news…

“That meeting with the beaner was a fuckin’ shit-show…” Connor said as he stepped outside of the bar. Connor peered around as he lit his cigarette before he said anything else, but the street was empty besides a couple cars and a gas station that had closed up shop hours ago.

“He calls us all the way out to some fuckin Mexican joint two hours away just to tell us he’s raising the price again.” He told me.

“He give a reason?” I replied.

“He had some horseshit story about a shipment getting seized… but Derek lets him walk all over him, and it’s fucking infuriating to watch. He doesn’t know how to deal with a guy like that.”

“Did you tell him that? I mean, he brought you along for a reason, right?”

“Of course I fucking told him. But he just acts like I’m disrespecting him or something. I tell him he can’t apply that hippie dippie hand holdin’ coombayah bullshit to the fucking coke trade…”

“If the price is gonna keep going up like this, he’s gonna have to start cutting it, right?”

Connor rolled his eyes disgustedly. “You don’t know how many fuckin’ times I’ve tried to tell him that shit. I don’t give a fuck though, it’s his problem. He don’t wanna listen to me? Fuck him, watch what happens to this thing without me. He knows, deep down, he knows… It was me who took this shit to the next level…”

“I checked on the situation in Maine. No updates either way. Did Derek say anything to you?”
Connor nodded as he exhaled smoke. “Yup. He gave us the green light to get back on the road. He can’t afford to keep us cooped up on that fuckin’ farm. Plus, it’s better that we’re moving around. I don’t think we got much to worry about, though. If something was gonna happen, it woulda happened already.”

“Hell yeah! I was worried I’d be doing fucking yard work the whole summer. What’s the next fest?”

“Eh, don’t get too excited. It’s a fucking EDM festival. Hydrotechnics. A bunch of douchebags playing shit off laptops all night. Not a fucking instrument in sight. They got a water slide and pool, but after day one that shit gets fuckin’ disgusting.”

“I wouldn’t mind rolling face and seeing some DJ’s.”

“That robot horseshit is nails on a fuckin’ chalkboard to me. But the money’s way too good to pass up. You’re gonna have to be on your A-game. We been working that fest for years, so we got an idea of how much shit we can expect to move. Rolls, K, and coke are our bread and butter there. Derek’s gonna expect a fat envelope by the end of it all.”

“Where’s it at?”

“New York.”

 “Huh. Surprised I never been there before.”

“We hit the road tomorrow night.”

Connor flicked his cigarette and stumbled back into the bar. I savored the last two drags of mine while visions of dollar signs swirled in my head. I haven’t been to a proper rave in a while. I might have to buy a new brain and liver by the time this summer’s over. I chuckled at the thought as I stomped my butt out and rejoined Connor.  

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

A Brand You Can Trust [FICTION]

 Whomp… Whomp… Whomp…


Whomp… Whomp… Whomp…


Whomp… Whomp…. Whomp…


I put the 500th Ecstasy pill into a plastic freezer bag and let all the air out before sealing it up. The pristine white party pills look like pearls, each one emblazoned with the Family crest, a capital “F” in cursive. In the corner of the poorly lit basement, an old printer is hard at work spitting out a shipping label for a very big package.

“You sure you counted it right?” Connor asks me.

“Yeah. Twice. They’re all there.” I reply.

“Alright. Watch this…”

Connor ties his long red hair back into a ponytail and picks up a large, shiny, silver plastic bag. He slides the opening of the bag towards a vacuum sealer and turns it on. He repeats the process until the package has been vacuum sealed three times over.

“This way the dogs can’t smell it. Nine times outta ten you never have to worry about dogs unless you’re shippin weed, but it’s better to be safe than sorry…”

I sip a glass of whiskey as Connor explains the whole process. A single hanging lightbulb illuminates the room. A “burner laptop” sits next to the printer on a small desk, running Linux off a USB drive that contains The Family’s darknet vendor page information. I’ve been buying drugs from these guys through the darknet for a year, and it’s cool as Hell to see the process from the other end.

“OK. Now that it’s all sealed, we’re gonna box it up…” Connor says. I hand Connor a first generation Playstation 3 that’s been gutted from the inside. Connor unscrews the shell and the vacuum-sealed bag of drugs fits snugly inside. He screws it back together and shakes it gently, pressing his ear to the console. “This part’s important.” He says. “If you hear ‘em rolling around in there, you could break the pills.” The console is a perfect fit for the shipment, and Connor lays it inside a cardboard box between two thin layers of packing peanuts. After taping it up, he grabs the shipping label from the printer. The return address reads: Kyle’s Retro Game Spot, 224 Main Street, Norridgewock, ME.

I put the package and ten other priority mail envelopes full of various amounts of LSD and MDMA into a duffel bag and get in the car. The car rumbles along a thin dirt road that seems to go on forever. I have to drive ten minutes before I even see another house, and another five before I reach pavement. I could never live out here, but it is a great place to put a stash house…

I pull over to the mailbox and make the drop. I rush to the town’s only pizza joint before it closes at six and grab our dinner. Thankfully it’s next to the liquor store, which also closes at six. I grab two handles of Jack Daniels and a carton of Marlboros and head back to home base.

“Let’s eat outside. It’s fucking beautiful out.” Connor says to me when I return. I put a card table between two folding chairs while Connor sets up a wireless Bluetooth speaker. I get right into my pizza, as it dawns on me that I haven’t eaten all day. It’s just been water, cocaine, and whiskey since I woke up at noon.

Connor chugs from the handle of Jack and lets out a satisfied “Ahhhh…” as he pours himself a stiff drink. Connor is the biggest drunk I’ve ever met, but also one of the most high-functioning. He starts every morning with a whiskey and coffee, and maintains throughout the day. I don’t get how he never passes out.

After dinner Connor and I indulge in a few lines of Family coke. This shit is like a different drug compared to the shit I used to get back home. Raw, straight from the Mexicans. Easy on the nose, clean, and euphoric. Derek won’t let us cut it, even though we’d triple our money that way.
“The one thing I’ll give this place… That fucking sky, man. It’s so clear. You don’t see that shit at home. Too much fuckin’ light pollution and shit.” Connor says.

“Yeah…” I reply, playing with the small pile of cocaine in front of me.

“How you been sleepin?”

“As good as that fuckin’ couch lets me…”

“Fuck the couch, brother. You know what I mean. Is it fuckin you up?”

“Nah, man. I mean… It is what it is…”

“You don’t have to play hard ass. You dream about it? You feel… Anything?”

I sigh and take a few long hauls off the Jack bottle. I light a cigarette, kick back and look at the setting sun.

 “I guess I was just… surprised. I mean, I done my share of dirt. But I had never even held a gun before I did it. I knew I’d have to do cut my teeth, pay my dues, whatever. But I didn’t expect to have to do something like that, y’know?”

“You never held a gun before?” Connor asks, surprised.

“Nope. Had a few pulled on me, but I never bothered with ‘em. That mandatory minimum shit is no joke.” I reply, shaking my head.

“Huh… Well, I can promise you this: you won’t have to do that very often. What happened the other night was… an exception. Most people have the common sense not to try and rip off the brand like that. ‘Cause they know what happens when ya do….” Connor points his burning cigarette to the woods.

 “Truth is, I don’t feel a whole lot. Just kinda like… numb. And I wonder what that means, y’know? I should fuckin’ feel something, right?”

“It means ya got balls. That’s all. Listen to me, brother. They knew what the fuck they were doing. They knew what would happen if we caught ‘em. If anything you did ‘em a fuckin favor by getting it done quick like that. I dunno what they put on those pills and tabs, but it sure as shit wasn’t the real deal. You definitely saved some lives. Focus on that.” Connor says.

“You got a point there. I just thought, y’know, with all the brother and sister coombayah shit…”

“Hehe, don’t let the tie dye fool ya. We’re still drug dealers. I gotta piss…”

As Connor gets up and staggers over to the bushes to relieve himself, his burner phone slips out of his pocket. I wouldn’t have even noticed it if the screen wasn’t flashing and ringing. I pick it up and read the screen: 4 Missed Calls: Derek, Derek, Derek, Derek.

“Derek’s been blowing you up, dude.” I say to Connor as he walks back over. “Fuck does he want?” Connor asks, irritated. Connor stumbles around in circles as he calls Derek back. “Cocksucker calls me four times and now he doesn’t wanna answer his god damn… Hey! What’s up? I don’t know. I mean, I don’t fucking know. We’re out in east bumfuck Maine, asshole, we’re working off burners, we can’t just turn on the fuckin’ news… What do you mean? Just tell me what happened, Derek, enough of this vague horseshit…. Oh. Yeah, yeah, I think I know what you’re talking about. Shit. Alright. Alright, brother. See you soon.” Connor looks worried as he hangs up the phone. “We should head inside for the night.” He tells me, suddenly growing serious. “And…?” I ask. “Pack up, we’ll talk inside.” He replies.

We have a seat in the dining room as Connor thinks to himself. He downs a glass of whiskey and quickly pours another. After a smoke and a line, he finally opens up.

“Alright. Derek couldn’t get into too much detail over the phone, but it sounds like things are heating up out here. He’s gonna be here tomorrow morning to plan our next move. Do me a favor, go and pull the car around the back of the house. Make sure it’s outta sight. You got your real phone with ya right? Not the burner, ya smart phone.” Connor asks. “Yeah, yeah, I should still have it. Long as I didn’t lose it over the weekend. It’s just gotta charge up.” I reply.

I bring the car behind the house as my anxiety begins to sober me up. Connor peers through the blinds and paces around as my phone slowly boots up. “What do I put in?” I ask him. “I dunno, how bout, ‘Maine kids disappear’…” He replies. Naturally, our remote location makes our service agonizingly slow. As the little blue bar on the top of the screen finally reaches the top, my jaw drops…


“Jesus Christ…” Connor says as he reads the article. I shake my head and pull at my hair as I drink, smoke, and sniff. “The fuck are we gonna do, man!?” I ask nervously. “We gotta keep it together. We knew this was gonna happen. Long as we play it straight we’ll be fine. Let’s pack up everything. We’re obviously gonna be hitting the road once Derek gets here. Let’s just pray we don’t get a knock at the door before then. Pack up all ya shit you’re not gonna need tonight and leave it by the door. Then meet me downstairs.” Connor replies.

Most of my shit is already packed from being away at Jam Camp all weekend. All I really gotta get together is my money, leftover shit, and some clothes. I take a moment to have an impromptu accounting session. One thousand, two thousand, three thousand, four… Five thousand, six thousand, seven, eight, nine, ten… ten and a half. It’s only been two weeks. Ten g’s in two weeks ain’t bad, but it’s hardly a down payment for the kinda lawyer I’m gonna need for a double murder charge…

I bag everything up and stash it in the car. Connor waits for me downstairs, cleaning the fingerprints off of a .38 revolver and a 12 gauge shotgun. “We’ll have to toss this in the water somewhere tomorrow… You all packed?” He asks me. I nod. Connor puts on a pair of gloves and loads the shotgun. “I’m not saying that you should be worried…” He says, as he pumps it. “But you never know…” He takes the shotgun upstairs to his bedroom and I lay down on the couch.

I stare at the ceiling as my stomach churns. There’s no way in Hell I’m gonna sleep tonight. I eye the bottle of Jack on the table beside me, but what if they come? I won’t stand a chance against them shitfaced. But would I even stand a chance sober? Fuck it, this could be the last drink I take for a very long time…

Connor shakes me awake a few hours later. “Come upstairs, Derek should be here any minute.” I follow him up to the dining room, have a glass of water, and sit down at the table. Meeting the boss is always nerve-wracking for me, even if I’m not in trouble. My anxiety and hangover meet, forging an alliance against anything that might potentially settle my stomach. Connor makes himself a whiskey coffee and sits down next to me. “I’m gonna need a stiff one today, I can feel it…” He mumbles.  

Five minutes later Derek’s black Tesla Model X pulls into the driveway. “Good morning brother.” He says, shaking my hand and giving me and Connor each an awkward hug. Derek sniffs the air as he pulls away from Connor. “You’re drunk?! It’s 8:30 AM! How the Hell could you be drinking at a time like this!?” He barks at Connor. “Chill the fuck out, alright? I’m just maintaining. I’m not shitfaced. I think we got bigger things to worry about right now than my god damn drinking.” Connor quips back. Derek sighs and has a seat at the table with us. With his well-groomed beard and shoulder length brown hair tied back into a ponytail, he looks more like a business casual hippie than a kingpin. He wears a collared blue and white striped shirt, tucked into black pants with black dress shoes. Though he’s somewhat soft spoken, there’s a firmness in his voice that speaks to his power. He turns to me and strokes his chin. “Alright, Adam. I just want you to tell me exactly what happened. Step by step. Don’t leave anything out.”


“Molly, Acid, K, Bud, Coke! We got what you need!”

“Molly, Acid, K, Bud, Coke! Right here!”

Connor and I shouted our pitch from our campsite as wooks and custies walked past us on their way to the main stage. “This shit better pick up soon, brother. I’m trying to catch Government Mule later…” Connor said. “If we still haven’t moved it all by then you can go, I’ll hold down the fort. I don’t give a shit about any of these bands.” I replied. Connor shrugged. “Suit yourself. You really don’t know what the fuck you’re missing.” A customer approached us as we fucked around. “You guys got L? Let me get a strip…” He said, clearly paranoid as he looked over either shoulder.

I went into our tent to retrieve the strip when Jimmy, the curator of the festival, pulled up to our campsite in a golf cart. “Oh fuck!” My customer yelped before darting off into tent city. “What the fuck Jimmy?!” Connor shouted angrily. “Do we not have a fucking arrangement!? You can’t be scaring away my fucking customers like that you asshole!” “I’m sorry, but I got something I think you’re gonna wanna see…” Jimmy said. Something about Jimmy’s expression told Connor it was urgent. “Alright, where at?” Connor replied. “Staff lodge. I’ll meet you there.” The golf cart drove off, leaving a trail of dust behind it. Connor stroked his beard, took a final haul from his cigarette, and stomped it out. “Let’s go.” He said.

In a back room marked in the back of the staff lodge marked “security”, Jimmy was waiting for us. Two guys in their mid-20’s sat in folding chairs, staring at the floor. A young, college-aged staff member stood in the corner, watching us. “My friend William here caught these two hustling in the campgrounds.” Jimmy began, pointing to the other staff member, and then to the two guys in the chairs. “We went about it like we would anyone else, until we got a good look at what they were pushing…” Jimmy dropped two ziplock freezer bags onto a small table and pushed them towards Connor and I. The bags contained Ecstasy pills and Acid tabs that shared the Family crest. Only problem was, these two guys weren’t Family.

“Look bro, we’re not Family, ok!? Those are fakes, made with research chemicals that are unscheduled in the state of Maine! That means they’re completely legal! You don’t have shit on us! So unless I see a fucking lawyer in the next hour you’re all looking at kidnapping charges!” One of the seated guys shouted.

“I know you’re not Family. These pills are too big, and these tabs are too small…” Connor said. The other bootlegger stood up suddenly. “Are you guys cops or what?! Let’s see some badges. If not, let us go, we’re done here.” He barked in Connor’s face. Connor stared back at him, his pale blue eyes looked into the bootlegger’s soul as the latter tried to keep up the tough guy routine. He sat back down and Connor looked towards Jimmy. “You and your boy wanna take a walk?” He asked Jimmy. Jimmy and William headed for the door. Just before they left, Jimmy leaned into Connor’s ear. “Don’t do it here.” He said before he left.

Connor locked the door to the security room before proceeding. “We’re not cops. We’re the guys you’re trying to rip off…” He snarled, pulling a .38 revolver from the back of his waistband and smacking one of the bootleggers with it. His friend got up but I pushed him back down into the chair. I had no idea he’d brought a gun with him. “Take this, make sure these two don’t get any ideas. I gotta call Derek.” Connor said, handing me the revolver. He put the burner to his ear and waited for Derek to answer.

“Hey. Listen. Me and the kid are alright, but Jimmy brought an issue to our attention. There’s someone here selling fake t-shirts. You want me to do something about it? Ok. Got it.” Connor hung up, took the gun from me, and aimed it back at them. “We gotta move quick. Go back to the tent and grab my main bag, the black duffel bag. Grab all your essentials. We’re ditching the rest. Then go get the car and bring it around here.” He instructed me.

“You guys are Family, aren’t you!? Oh fuck, oh fuck…” One of the bootleggers cried.
“Hey! There ya go! I knew you’d put it together eventually…” Connor said as I shut the door. I ran back to the campsite, wheezing as years of cigarettes and pot smoke caught up with me. I hastily stuffed my cash, drugs, and clothes into my backpack and Connor’s cash, drugs, and cash into his bag and slung them both on my shoulders. The table, tent, EZ-Up tent, and other camping gear would be abandoned for the first wook bold enough to claim them.

“No cars in the campgrounds, bud. Sorry.” The lot attendant told me as I pulled up. “I’m a friend of Derek Ashton.” I replied. “So?” The attendant sho back, confused. “Call Jimmy, he’ll know what I mean. It’s an emergency.” I pleaded with him. The attendant rolled his eyes but decided to humor me. “Yeah, kid here says he’s friends with Derek Ashton? I told him there’s no cars on the campgrounds… Oh, oh, alright. Sorry… Yeah, go right ahead man…” The attendant waved me through the parking lot and into the main campgrounds. I pulled in front of the staff lodge and called Connor.

Bootlegger number one walked in front of Connor, who had his arm slung around the shoulder of bootlegger number two. The three of them stuffed themselves into the back seat. Connor pulled the gun back out and pointed it at one of their crotches. “Gimme your phones, both of you. Burners too.” He ordered them. One of them turned over a smart phone and a burner. The other ran his pockets but found nothing. “I don’t have mine, I swear! It’s back at my campsite. We got money there too, man! It’s all yours if you let us go! Please!” Connor turned off both phones and tossed them onto the empty passenger seat next to me. “I’m glad we’re on the same page. Why don’t you tell my friend here where your campsite is. Maybe we can work something out after all...” Connor said.

The bootleggers led us to their campsite. We drew stares from everyone as we slowly drove through the tight rows of tent city, taking care not to mow down any passing spunions. “I’ll go get it!” One of the bootleggers said as we pulled up. He went for the door handle, but I mashed the lock button down a second earlier. Connor pulled the other bootlegger in towards him, pistol whipped him, and put the revolver in his mouth. “Stay in the fucking car, asshole! My boy will get it. Tell him where it is.” Tears rolled down the second bootlegger’s face. He mumbled something, but it’s hard to talk when the barrel’s in your mouth. “Alright, alright! Fuck! The blue backpack has the cash in it. The phones are in the front pocket. Is this really fucking necessary!?” Connor pulled the gun out of the other bootlegger’s mouth and re-positioned it at his crotch. “Adam, go get that shit. Be fuckin’ quick, we’re causing a scene here.”

I ran into the tent and grabbed the blue backpack. Sure enough, there were the phones and cash. I threw the bag over my shoulder and tossed the rest of the tent for more. A fat wad of cash in a rubber band tumbled out of the pillow case and onto the tent floor. I knew these assholes were holding out on us…

“It was all there. I found more cash in a pillow case.” I told Connor as I got back into the car. “Good thinking. Let’s head back to the house. I wanna interview these two copycats.” Connor said. “What?!? No, no! You said we were gonna work something out! We gave you the fucking money!” One of the bootleggers cried. “Ah, ah, ah! We just need you two to answer some questions. You tell us whatever you know and we’ll let you go. And you better not fucking lie to me again. You grabbed the booze, right Adam?” Connor asked me. I nodded at him in the rearview and began to drive.

Connor brought the two bootleggers down to the basement. I was tasked with preparing their drinks. I figured we could all use a stiff one, given the circumstances. I poured four glasses of JD, gave ‘em each a splash of coke, and walked down to the basement where Connor had our guests at gunpoint on the couch. I dropped the drinks on the table and took a big sip from mine. “You guys must be fucking parched…” Connor said before chugging his drink. Both of the bootleggers shook their heads and stared at the floor. Connor sighed. “Suit yourselves.” Connor pounded both of their drinks and began the interrogation.

 “Alright. You guys answer these questions for me truthfully and you got my word I’ll let you go…” Connor said. Bootlegger one sniffled and cried to himself as he stared at the basement floor. The other was gritting his teeth trying to keep himself together.

“Who you workin’ for?” Connor asked them.

“Nobody.” The more composed bootlegger replied.

“If you’re gonna keep lying to me I’m not gonna help ya…”

“You’re gonna kill us either way…” The crying one moaned.

“Hehe, nooo! I’m not gonna kill ya. Not unless I absolutely have to. You know how much work it is to hide a body these days? With DNA testing, all that CSI shit? I don’t wanna work tonight. You wanna work tonight, Adam?” Connor turned to me.

“Nope.” I replied as I sipped my whiskey.

“That’s what I thought. So tell me what I wanna know and I’ll let you go.”

“We’re just college kids, man. I fucking swear. We-we… We read about you guys, online. The stories. People on campus, they go crazy for the Family shit. We couldn’t get the precursors to make real MDMA, real LSD, but we could make other shit... We didn’t think we’d actually run into you guys…” The composed bootlegger explained.

“Just outta curiosity. What’d you put on the tabs and the rolls?” Connor asked.

“Analogue chemicals. Obscure shit that’s easy to make…” He replied.

“Is that true?” Connor asked the crying one.

“Yes… Please don’t fucking kill us!” He screamed.

“So these counterfeit tabs and rolls start and end with you? When we let you go, it stops?” Connor asked them.

Both bootleggers nodded their heads quickly. “Yes!” They said in unison.

“Alright. That’s good to hear. You boys don’t seem the type to pull something like this again. We in the Family view violence as a last resort. Thing is, by being here, we’ve technically broken one of our own rules. We brought two outsiders into one of our stash spots…” Connor told them.

“We won’t say shit!” The crying one shouted.

“Calm the fuck down, I know you won’t. But, just to make sure, we’re gonna take the back road out. There’s a path through the woods out back that leads to the campgrounds of Jam Camp. It’s one of our smuggling routes. Makes it so we can’t get pulled over with weight on us.” Connor told them.

The two bootleggers nodded. Connor turned to me. “Go upstairs to my room, go into the black bag, and grab me the two bandanas. There’s a red and a purple one.” He instructed me. I went upstairs and retrieved the two bandanas.

Connor used the bandanas to blindfold our guests. “My boss wanted me to kill you guys. Like I said, I don’t wanna do that. But in order to let you guys go, I gotta make sure this whole thing won’t bite me in the ass. I just shook you down for all your cash and drugs. If I was you, I’d be pretty fucking angry. When I get angry, I do stupid shit. I don’t need you coming back here, or sending the cops up here. Just relax, and walk. Single file. My guy here will be walking in front to make sure you don’t trip. Adam, take the lead.” Connor said. I walked to the bulkhead door and opened it, carefully leading the two bootleggers up the steps and out into the backyard. Connor followed them at gunpoint. “Stop, we gotta lock the doors.” Connor said. I went to lock the doors, but Connor pulled me stopped me. He pointed to a shovel leaning against the back of the house. I picked it up and we kept walking.

We walked aimlessly through the woods for twenty minutes or so. The two bootleggers tripped constantly. Eventually we hit a clearing. “Stop.” Connor said. The crying bootlegger had started up again. “Derek wants you to do it.” Connor said to me, handing me the revolver. “Oh god, oh god, oh god, fuck!” The crying one stammered, pulling his blindfold off. Without thinking I pulled the trigger, and his body fell forward. The other bootlegger’s hands shook as he pulled his blindfold off slowly, and stared at his dead friend in disbelief. “We had a fucking deal, man!” He shouted before I shot him in the chest. I put another in his head when he hit the ground. My hands shook and I felt dizzy as I realized what I’d done. Connor patted me on the back. “Phew! I thought for sure you were gonna freeze up and we’d have to chase ‘em. Good job, brother! Now dig the hole, quick.”


“So you still have the phones, their wallets, ID’s?” Derek asks. “Yeah.” Connor replies. Derek sits and thinks for a few agonizing seconds. “The cops were questioning Jimmy.” He says. Our eyes widen at the news. “You don’t think he’d say anything…” I say nervously. “Fuck no. He knows better than that. Cops are the least of his fuckin’ worries…” Connor interjects. “I suppose we can kiss our contract with Jam Camp goodbye…” Derek laments, pausing before continuing. “I know this looks bad, but as long as we take the necessary steps to insulate ourselves, this will blow over eventually. Adam, I wanna say how proud of you I am for handling this the way you did. If it wasn’t implied already, you’re in. You can consider this your…. Initiation. Welcome, brother.” “Welcome brother!” Connor says, raising his glass and downing it.

“We don’t know who saw the car. I say we find a spot and torch it with the phones and shit.” Connor suggests as we prepare to leave. “Good thinking. I’m gonna put you two up at the farm with Elliot for now.” Derek tells us. “Fuck that. Elliot’s a nice guy and all but I’m not wasting my time sitting on that fucking farm. We got a festival to work this weekend, we’re out of state either way, what difference does it make?” Connor starts, visibly grating on Derek’s nerves. “I’ll make sure there’s plenty of booze. It’s just until the weekend. On Thursday I’ll come over and see where we’re at. You don’t know who saw you, whether they have a sketch of your faces or not. It’s too dangerous to have you out working right now.” Derek explains. Connor rolls his eyes like a child as we continue to load our things into the car.

On a long stretch of empty road in New Hampshire, we come across an abandoned lot. The pavement is hardly visible and mostly overcome by tall grass and weeds. The rusted frame of an old car sits in the corner next to an old tire. Connor calls Derek as we pull over. “Yeah, here looks perfect.” He says before hanging up. We pull into the lot and hop out. Connor takes a gas can from the trunk and begins to drench the sedan with it. “You wanna do some?” He asks me, handing me the can. I dump the rest of the gas onto my side of the vehicle while Connor rolls up a newspaper. “Alright, stand back.” He says as he lights the newspaper up and throws it at the car. “Whoo!” He shouts, as the flames consume the vehicle. We stand around and watch the show until Derek beeps for us to get the fuck out of here.

“This thing’s got balls, huh?” Connor says to Derek mockingly as we speed away from the scene. “Zero to sixty in three and a half seconds.” Derek replies. “Beats a fuckin’ Prius, I guess…” Connor says, taking a swig from his flask. Every mile we put between us and the crime scene puts me at ease. With a few hours left until we hit the farm, I get comfortable and fall asleep.

“Hey, fucker, wake up! We’re here!” Connor slurs at me, his whiskey and cigarette breath stinging my eyes, nose, and lungs, jarring me awake. I stretch and get out of Derek’s car, taking in my surroundings. “Where are we?” I ask Derek. “Tunbridge, Vermont.” He replies. “AKA, east bumfuck.” Connor shouts over his shoulder as he takes a piss on the lawn.

“Connor, you know Elliot. Elliot, this is the newest member of our family, Adam O’Leary.” Derek says, introducing me to a thin, elderly man with long, gray hair in a ponytail. “Adam, nice to meet you brother.” Elliot says to me, shaking my hand and giving me a hug. Elliot looks at Connor and back at Derek. “Guess I’d better lock up the liquor cabinets, huh?” He says, laughing. “Haha, gimme a hug ya old bastard!” Connor says, grabbing Elliot. “You guys make yourselves at home, you’re gonna have to share a room, though. It’s upstairs, first door on the left.” Elliot says. “I call top bunk.” Connor says snidely as we head upstairs.

The window in our bedroom gives a gorgeous view of growing corn, tomatoes, and other vegetables. A massive greenhouse sits behind it. “Is that what I think it is?” I ask Connor, pointing to it. “Yup. And that’s just the indoor crop. You can smell it all the way over here. Tomorrow I’ll show you the outdoor one. It’s fucking huge.” He replies. Derek enters the bedroom as we get settled in. “You guys all good? You need anything?” He asks us. “Nope.” We reply. “Ok. Consider this a paid vacation. Just kick back, relax, wait for things to cool off. I’ll give you a call if anything big comes up. I live out in Burlington anyway, so I’m not far off. Oh, and one more thing…” Derek pulls an envelope from his back pocket and hands it to me. “That’s for you. A token of my appreciation. Light and love, brothers.” Derek says, waving goodbye. “Light and love.” Connor replies.

“Holy shit…” I whisper to myself as I count the money.

“How much he give ya?” Connor asks excitedly.

“There’s twenty G’s here… Is that… Is that what you get? For doing that?”

Connor nods. “Yeah. Ten a pop sounds about right. Unless you think you shoulda got more…”

I shake my head. “No, no! I’m just… surprised. I guess.”

“Well, you earned it. You took out some competition, which saved Derek a lot of money in the long 
run, it’s only right some of it trickles down to you.”

“Yeah… Yeah, I guess so.”

“Well, I dunno about you, but I need a fuckin’ drink.”

“Yeah. Yeah, me too.” I reply. 


So, what did you think? Some of you might recognize this story/premise/some of the characters from an older story I did on Reddit that I deleted out of shame months ago. I thought I might re-work the premise to its current form to gauge interest on whether people would like to see it expanded on or not. So if you could tell me in the comments what you thought of it I'd really appreciate it. I have a lot of ideas of where it could go but if it's a shitty idea I'll move on to something else. Also, expect a NN&N update this week. I know I've been slacking big time this month but I've been super busy lately and haven't had much time to write. Thanks for baring with me, and as always, for reading.