“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.
“WE HAD A DEAL, MAN!!!!”
“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.
“’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?”
“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.