I used the first couple of hours back to catch up with the film crew. None of my customers knew how to find me, so there were no messages about that part of my life. Without those contacts, all I could do was just make hootch and move it.
The film crew wanted to tell me some good news. Because I was exhausted I had them come by the next morning at 9AM.
I took a long hot soak and washed my hair twice to remove any blood that might have gotten on me when I cut the guards throat. I left the box opener because I knew I would never be able to remove every trace of blood from it. I had also knew that if two men had come through the door, of the family suite, I would have died. That was too sobering a thought for a bathtub, but it had to be admitted, I just got damn lucky. Maybe I should be content running moonshine, or run for Sheriff, and forget all about Swamp Thing,
But I never felt alive till I was putting it all on the line. I had been afraid out of my mind, but I had also been thinking a mile a minute. It was exhilarating beyond words. I knew for better or worse Swamp Thing had what was left of my soul, and the money wasn’t bad. Laundering money was how most people Got caught. It was always follow the money. I could live my simple life on the pension I received from the state.
I used the liquor money to buy more liquor and other supplies. I also had a plastic shoe box full of cash. I kept it in a the bottom of a plastic tool box. It wasn’t much of a place to hide it, but it had to do for a short term hiding place. I still had ten thousand in bug out money hidden in the car. My problem was the same as every other person selling an illegal product. I had way too much cash for the lifestyle I could afford on paper. Fortunately, I did it for the thrills not the cash. I still lived the same as I always had. Even so it still accumulated.
I put a wad of cash in the sink and covered it with Dawn dish washing soap and half a cup of bleach. Then when it dried, I put it in a new envelops that was never handled by me without gloves. I did some thing not to many people in the liquor business ever though of doing. I dropped the envelop in the collection box of the Salvation Army. Another time, I bought several cases of corn beef hash and put them in a collection box for a food pantry for Warren County’s homeless. Even so I still made liquor runs, and the money still accumulated.
It was the beginning of winter way to soon. We were forced to shut down the shine business, because no one would be making it again until late summer and into the early fall. I had not had any work from Swamp Thing either. Even though I had done everything right, I figured that were pissed at me for some reason. So fuck them, I thought.
By November their was no more shine to buy. The leaves were off the trees, so stills were easy to spot from the air. And the weather was cold, making it uncomfortable to work in the open. Also the supply of corn had pretty much been exhausted, There were people who operated sill year round, but I didn’t know any, and I was ready for a break by the end of November anyway. I had been mixing and selling shine for since July and I knew that I had been damn lucky.
The buyers told me how much they hated to see me shutdown, when I saw them that last time. I explained it all and they knew what it was all about. My shit was real shine, not the crap they would be getting from now till we opened again. What they got in the winter would be weak sugar liquor and it would have a different taste.
I decided I had money I couldn’t spend, and money I could get to if I had to bug out in a hurry. I needed to concentrate on the money I couldn’t spend. I watched those god awful reality shows. One of them sort of interested me. It was one of the storage locker shows. I became fascinated with it and realized I could use it to laundry money.
I still had my state buy out money in addition to my pension. I had received a lump sum form the state and had not invested it at all. Because I hadn’t there was almost no gains for me to pay tax on.
The reason I had never considered doing anything with the money, was I had no idea what I would do if if I lost it. I would have no seed money at all in that case. I was getting money from all over I could use for seed money, but I couldn’t really use it because is was gray market money.
I had lived in the apartment long enough. I wanted to own a house but the pension wasn’t enough income to buy a house. There just wasn’t enough money for large enough down payment. What I needed was enough money to make a large down payment, while still leaving some seed money in the bank. To do that and keep the feds off my ass, I needed to clean the money I had.
As thing usually do for us all, it kind of all came together at one time. I could take money out of my illegal stash and buy some coins. Say I bought $1.000 worth of gold coins with stash money. Then I went to an auction for abandoned storage lockers. I could buy one piece of shit locker for under a thousand bucks. I could salt it with those coins. Then I could sell them on the open market and bank that money legitimately. The first one would be coins, after that it could be anything of value. I could lose a little money and still make money on paper because it would be legal and I wouldn’t have any real overhead.
I looked online and found a storage auction, in a town less than a hundred miles away. It was on the weekend, five days away. So I drove to Dobson purchased two coins for five hundred each. The seller had asked a few dollars more but came down because I bought two.
Then when the time came, I rented a rather large panel truck. I drove it the hundred and twenty miles to the sale. I picked a locker that looked like it was full of old furniture and bought it. I didn’t bother to check anything I just hired on of the other bidders to help me load it on the truck. It took about twenty minutes and I paid him fifty dollars and had him sign a receipt.
Then I took the locker’s contents to the back of a thrift store. The store employees and I sorted through the stuff that had been in the locker. I donated everything except a couple of paintings, two folding chairs, and a small jewelry box comple with cheap costume jewelry,
That is where, I said I found the coins. I sold them to a dealer in town for $470 each. I was able to put $600 and change in the bank legitimately. I got a donation tax credit for $300. I was no accountant but it looked like not such a good deal.
Mary Ellen got wind of the donation to the thrift store, so she called me. Sylvia honey, I hear you are out buying storage lockers,” she said.
“I tried it Mary Ellen, but to be honest I think once was enough,” I said.
“That’s because you are doing it all wrong,” she said to me. “Why don’t you come to see me, I think we can work out something.”
“Alright, I’ll be right down,” I said.
I rode the bicycle down to her shop. It was the Friday before thanksgiving. As soon as I saw her I smiled, then I spoke first. “Oh so now you are going to tell me how to do it right,” I asked.
“Yes I am, you need a partner. One who knows how you can move that much merchandise quickly, one who has a truck, and one who has a building where you can sort through it at your leisure, and store it till it can be sold.” she suggested.
“Oh and I bet her name is Mary Ellen,” I said.
“That’s right baby. You obviously have some money and some time to go to the auction. I have the truck the service station that belonged to the end of the world nut case. I can unload that junk and give you half the sales price. I will pay the sales expenses out of my half, if you buy the merchandise out of your half. I don’t even care what you buy. I have a couple of college students who will take it to the flea market for us.” she said.
“If I do this, I get first pick of anything in there that has a high value and you get to sell the rest on the deal you suggested.”
“Anything we don’t sell between one locker, and the next, we donate to the goodwill for the tax write off,” she suggested. “It is a lot more elegant plan than running a high overhead boutique.”
“We need to do a few test runs to be sure it will work,” I suggested.
“Of course, I leave the actual buying up to you. I will handle disposal and give you 50% after expenses.” She said.
“Wow, you said you would pay the selling expense, if I paid the purchase price,” I said.
“That was before you suggested, I let you cherry pick the items. You are no antique expert, so you are using the lockers as a way to clean money, or something like that. It is genius and quite worthy of your talents,” Mary Ellen said. “I know you have other outside sources of income, like the acting fees I pay you. Speaking of which, we haven’t made a film lately.” she said.
“I’m in no hurry to do another film,” I suggested.
“So what do you say, you want to do the deal or not?” she asked.
“Not under those terms,” I said.
“What terms do you think you can live with?” she asked
“The business I have now is that I cherry pick for things I can sell on line. I am donating the rest to Goodwill. Now if you loan me your truck, and get someone to help me load and unload it, you can sell everything for which I don’t see an easy opportunity to sell online fast. I just want a 25% cut of the sales price on all the rest.” You can have all the donation tax deductions. It will be as if I’m not involved.” I said.
“Done,” she said. I extended my hand she took it then used it to pull me to her then she kissed me with a lot of tongue. When she pulled back she said, “Now that’s a hell of a way to seal the deal.”
“Yes but you know it is strictly business,” I replied.
“Nothing is strictly anything,” Mary Ellen replied.
“For right now, this is business and nothing more,” I said. I smiled when I said it. The truck and one of her friend’s sons, who would help me load and unload, were the most important things she brought to the table. She had agreed to pay the kid not me. Then Mary Ellen and I would sort through the junk at her storage building. It would save me having to give away things which might have some value. It sounded good, if I could trust Mary Ellen I had to trust her before, so I wasn’t to worried about it. She had kept my secret then so I expected she would keep this little secret at well.