By Cindy and Walt
It took a while to get a crop to the point of harvest. Since it was winter and the nights got close to the plant’s dormant temperature, we relied on several clear plastic water tanks running along the edges of the green house to maintain the overnight temperature. Passive solar, the man who sold me the system said.
We also started the pot in a climate controlled area in one of the green houses. When the seeds sprouted and took hold, Hannah carefully replanted them into the beds in one of the three green houses.
The plan was to plant a house every three months, then have time to harvest and groom the product for sale. We wanted to completely turn a greenhouse every four months to maintain a constant income year round.
“If I come up with another potalot, we might do more outside in the summer and turn all the houses to a winter plants only,” I said to Hannah at the start. “I really don’t know enough to make a good plan.”
Each acre harvested brought in about $100,000 during a fall harvest. But each acre brought in $125,000 when sold from December to June. During that period we weren’t competing with local growers. We were competing with legally imported Marijuana. That means that we made at least two hundred thousand dollars more per year, because we added a winter growing season. In other words the farm was almost a million dollar grossing business.
The short term loan I had sign onto got paid off quickly. I was enjoying the new project as well. I was making plenty of money, and so was Bart. I was surprised when he asked me out to breakfast just eight months after the break up of our partnership. I had thought he would give me even more time to cool off.
“Watch him Rose, I don’t trust him,” Liam said while I was driving into town.
“No shit,” I said. “He is hanging out with Rita so how could I trust him?
I saw him sitting at a table by the window in the Diary Queen burger joint. He had a cup of coffee in front of him but no food.
“So tell me what I can get for you?” he demanded.
“Bacon, egg, and cheese on a biscuit,” I suggested. “Order me a coffee and I’ll fill the cup while they make the order.”
We were half way through the egg on a biscuit with trimmings when he said, “I got a call last night from Sylvia. You knew that Sylvia was one of our biggest tea customers?”
“I don’t know which one but it wouldn’t surprise me,” I suggested. “So what did she want. If she called, she wanted something.”
“Believe it or not it was a courtesy call,” he said.
“I don’t believe it. If Sylvia called there is something in it for her,” I said.
“Of course there is. She is running an op and needs some pot to show to a mooch,” Bart said.
“You fucking give it to her then,” I said.
“All I have is stems and stalks,” Bart replied.
“Then have her steal it from the DEA. Everybody knows they have the best dope,” I suggested.
“That’s who she’s trying to sting,” Bart replied.
“Holy shit,” I suggested. “How do you sting the DEA and why would you want to?”
“Sylvia wants a cooperative agent there for an operation in South America,” Bart explained.
“So why does she need pot and why can’t she just buy some in a government store?” I asked.
“I don’t know all the particulars, but I do know she needs fresh cut and greenhouse grown. I have a feeling she had your pot in mind when she devised the sting,” he said.
“Blackmailing an asset is not all that unusual,” I agreed. “I don’t want to know anything about it. So how much does she want and what’s she willing to pay?”
“She wants me to negotiate with you, so take it easy on me,” he said. “I need a price for a kilo of fresh cut pot wrapped to keep it fresh.”
“Two grand and I am going to use your license number for an end user,” I suggested.
“That’s fine,” Bart said obviously disappointed that I was going to do paperwork on it. If this went sideways Hannah was likely to go to jail. I knew she was dealing a little pot to guys at school. Probably why she was suddenly popular with the boys.
If the DEA ran a sting on me, they might find Hannah’s side line. I had been careful that I not know about it. I paid her well but I expected her to pick up a few grams to pass around to get laid. If she was selling it for cock that was her business not mine.
When I got back to the farm Hannah was weeding the plants. Our greenhouses didn’t get many weeds, but there were a few. Once a week on Friday she weeded all the houses. I didn’t bother to explain I just went to the greenhouse with the plants nearest to harvest, where I pulled up two. I carried them to the processing shed to pull the leaves and manicure the plant completely.
When I finished I made sure the package contain an excess amount of pot. I was compensating for a weight loss as it dried out some. “Hannah, I’m going to make a delivery. I should be back in a couple of hours as the most,” I said.
Bart and a young woman of Hispanic origins waited. She sniffed the packet and nodded to Bart. He handed me 20 one-hundred dollar bills. We said less than twenty words total. The meeting consisted of them taking the pot, and me taking the money, then leaving quickly.
I stopped at the Diary Queen for a cup of coffee before I returned to the farm. I did hope that Sylvia didn’t intend to try roping me back in. If she did try, she would be in for a large surprise. I absolutely did not need her money or the excitement.
I went back to the farm and I forgot all about the transaction. Hannah and I finished the harvesting house number one. It was the largest of the houses. We pulled all the plants, then put them onto a small trailer. We used it to transport twenty or more plants at a time to the processing shed.
When I bought the place the processing shed was just another three sided building with an open front and a door cut in the rear. Just as soon as I determined that we needed a processing room for grooming the plants, I had the front closed with a clear plastic wall just like a green house.
The tiny three wheel vehicle we used for moving the pot around was stored in the third shed. The front of the third shed had one large over head door and a bunch of plastic siding on either side. That shed was where the tiny four wheeler was stored. The tiny four wheeler, which had been made by a Chinese guy, was electric. It was electric because we didn’t want gasoline exhaust in a closed greenhouse. That wouldn’t be good for Hannah and I for sure and probably not good for the pot either.
The electric vehicle was made by Lin Woo alright, but Lin lived in Mobile Alabama. I made sure it was a three wheel scooter made with small bike wheels and on a bike frame. The wheels and hub motor were such that the little bitch could climb mountains. Hannah used it to pull a couple of small tools designed by her. They were also made by Lin Woo. They had specific purposes and were used for no other purpose.
After the second house was harvested and the product sold, we invested in a portable spritzing device. We used it for twenty minutes each day in each greenhouse. It was an experiment in how to best hydrate the plants. Some grow room had tubes everywhere that dripped water onto the plants. That seemed like way too much shit to go through especially since I didn’t have to grow my plants in a five gallon bucket. The spritzer was on wheels so that it could easily be moved through the green houses hydrating the plants in all three houses in less than half a day. For that first year it was mainly my job. I did it while Hannah was in school.
Hannah, as a high school senior with a source of pot, quickly became a very popular young lady. I knew she took some of the product, but I marked it up to lost in production.
“As long as you keep it down to a sandwich bag during the harvest of the houses, I can live with it. I have to warn you though, you do not have my permission to take that pot. If the police, or I ever find out you are stealing from me, you are out of a job. I also will be sure to mention the fact to any future employer. I want you to know I can not help you with the police. That said you can come to me with any problems being in this business creates for you. If you do, I will do whatever I can. I warn you don’t lie to me. I can’t lie for you, if you lie to me.
Hannah was a sweet hard working girl, who just wanted to be loved. I knew that, but I couldn’t have her screwing me, just so she could get screwed. The pot got her invited to the best parties. I knew that for sure.
By the end of our third harvest we had the kinks worked out. I was the one who bought technology, rather then hire more staff. I adhered to advice I got from someone back in my early years, ‘machines don’t eat, people eat’. It was true for whoever the person was and it was true for me.
That would explain why I had a tiny hay bailer just outside the potting and grooming shed. We threw all the stalks and stems and other cuttings into it, and out came bales of crap for the tea plant. Not only did it make square bales, it also covered them with a plastic netting so nothing fell out of them.
I could understand why most growers turned the trimmings under. They were in fifty pound mini bales and were worth $500 per bale at the time of our third harvest. Ten dollars a pound versus $700 per pound for pot. The $700 was when it was sold to the government. Black market pot was worth $1100 a pound at least.
After the first plants flowered Hannah introduced bees into the houses. I paid for the bees and all the equipment necessary for their care. Hannah took care of them and collected the honey. I was the one who suggested she sell it to her family and local friends. Those sales were totally legal. She made a few buck and it helped to germinate the crops.
After the harvest of a house, she put the seeds aside and began working on the beds inside the green houses. After she ran the machines over the soil to break it up and then flatten the loose soil she cleared the potting area of plants. It took her more or less two days to plant a greenhouse.
After the potting house was empty of the little trays with seedlings, she prepared them for the seeds. It was a cycle that we never planned to change. It was successful with only minor changes now and then.
After the sale of the pot to the government buyers, who always gave us their best prices, I gave Hannah a bonus. I gave her one percent of the sales price in addition to her salary. Add that to her salary, the sale of the honey, and the pot she found on the floor, the bonus of almost a thousand dollars was a nice bonus. Hannah without a doubt was most likely the best paid farm hand in the country.
She was also capable of running the whole damn farm. That I especially liked. I never went anywhere that first year, but I was glad she could be trusted.
I sold my pot to the government buyers. The department of agriculture then sold it to the manufacturers. That was how the legal weed business worked. Trimmings did not work that way. They were unregulated so they were open market items. They were not as profitable, but they were also easier to sell. I called Bart, he sent a truck driver with the money in his hand.
The government forced me to deliver the pot to them uncompressed. They wanted to sift through it and run all kinds of test on the shit. So we filled plastic garbage bags with the leaves of the plant, then put them into the truck and drove it to the government agricultural department warehouse. There was a buyer there from 9 AM to 5 PM everyday. He was some kind of manager. You really couldn’t dispute the price, because the government was the only legal buyer. They paid about 75% percent of the black market price just to keep it off the black market. The other 25% of the black market price was for the risk factor I thought.
The risk was in growing it totally illegally off the grid and going to prison. The risk was much less for Hannah ripping off a baggy every month. There were also some licensed growers who dealt a small percentage of the crop out the back door. I always felt the risk wasn’t worth the rewards. Of course I ran a much more profitable operation. Since I still hadn’t developed a taste for the lavish lifestyle, I didn’t feel that I needed the hassle that went with dealing out the back door.
One thing I did invest in was a first rate security system. It was laid out by one of the swamp guys Bart knew. He had a remote electric lock on the gate, alert stations in the woods around the farm, infrared sensors and sound detection devices spread all around. Unlike home security systems, it cost me fifty grand to install and almost a 1000 a year to have it monitored. There were cameras with night filming abilities everywhere. The people monitoring it knew the difference between a deer and a man.
I was the final line of security. I had a shotgun with a trench length barrel to hold the bad guys off till the cops got to the farm. Actually I had four identical shotguns, each with a bandoleer of shells. I stored one in each shed and one in the greenhouse nearest the gate.
The only thing I didn’t have was exploding land mines. What I did have was a siren with pressure triggers planted every few feet in the woods around the farm. When I activated them they could be set off by a deer. Only I could reset them.
I usually got a false alarm notice from the monitoring center before I could investigate it. So I seldom went into the woods at night. It was a good thing since I hated guns in general.
I was always sure the system could be defeated. However the men would sneak in to kill me for a single harvest were unlikely to have the resources. The siren should scare off some street thug. If not the load of buckshot should discourage him or her.
It was much more likely that Hannah would pass the pot out the back door so to speak. Which was one of the reasons I paid her well. Of course I couldn’t pay her in cock, so I tended to watch her carefully.
I wasn’t all that surprised to be called to the rural police station where Hannah was being held. I figured she got caught.
I decided that since I am in the legal pot business with the Government I better revert back to my Rose Seabold persona in case Hannah tries to involve me in whatever they have arrested her for and they decide to investigate me.
“My name is Rose Seabold, I was called by a Hannah Harmon. She said an investigator here wanted to talk to me before they would release her,” I said to the desk Sergeant.
“That’s not exactly true,” a man in a cheap suit suggested. “We asked if there was anyone we could call for her and she gave us your number.”
“I see. What is she being charge with,” I asked.
“Maybe we should start by telling you that you have the right to remain silent and to an attorney and to have him present during any questioning. If you can not afford one, one will be appointed for you by the court.”
“Then I am a suspect in some crime involving Hannah?” I asked.
“I’m sorry Miss Seabold, we ask the questions here,” he said.
“Then I invoke my right to counsel. If you are going to arrest me please do so now and let me call my attorney,” I said reaching for my cell phone. I had Rita who I detested on speed dial. I pretty much detested all lawyers, but at least Rita understood the business.
“Why don’t you come into the interrogation room and talk to Hannah,” he suggested. “My name is Detective James Wilder.”
Hannah was sitting in a chair with a glass of water in front of her. “Hannah are you okay?” I asked.
“Yes, I don’t know what is going on,” she said.
“Hannah you remember the black lady at the tea company?”
“Yes, her name is Rita,” Hannah said.
“That’s right. I’m going to call her to come down here. Please do not answer any further questions until she arrives,” I said.
“Hey I didn’t bring you here to have you impede my investigation,” James said.
“Oh that is telling. You think that giving Hannah her constitutional right to an attorney would impede your investigation? So I suppose you are going tell her that you will offer her a deal, but you won’t if she has an attorney.”
I made the call right in front of him. “Bart this is Rose. Have your smart ass girlfriend come to the Williamston Rural Police Station I need her. And yes it galls my ass to have to ask for her.”
“Alright Rose are you in trouble?” he asked.
“I don’t know the local cops read me my rights. Of course they didn’t think I would invoke them,” I said.
“Rita is getting dressed now. You know she is going to love this,” he said.
“Yeah, I know. I only called because I wouldn’t let my lawyer defend me from a spitting on the sidewalk charge. Tell her to hurry.”
I hung up the phone and then said to Hannah, “Not another word.”
We sat staring at each other for the thirty five minutes it took Rita to make it to the station. “So who am I representing the cop outside said you weren’t under arrest,” Rita said almost sadly.
“It’s Hannah here. The police haven’t told me anything yet, so I don’t know why she is here,” I explained.
“Let me guess. Once you called me they stopped talking to you period.” Rita guessed correctly of course. I simply nodded. You need to leave Rose. Hannah and I will have a talk, then I will tell you what I can later.”
“Did you have the cops turn off the recorders?” I asked.
“Yes but I’m going to record it myself, just so I know what was said before the police come back into the room,” Rita explained.
“Miss Seabold, the duty captain would like to speak to you,” a uniformed sergeant said.
“Sure why not,” I said following him to a private office where the Detective in charge was seated. “You going to read me my rights again. I guess I will have to call the local lawyer if you do. It seems my regular shyster is already representing Hannah,” I said angrily.
“No we just want to tell you what is going on. Bring you up to date as a courtesy,” the captain said.
“Sure why not, I’m going to hear Hannah’s side pretty soon,” I informed them.
“We busted a low rent gang banger who had some pot in a baggy, so we brought him in for it. Seems he wanted to make a deal,” the captain said.
“Bullshit,” I said.
“What do you mean,” The detective said indignantly.
“What I’m saying is a gang banger, no matter how low rent, is going to be intimidated by a possession of marijuana. My guess is he wants a walk on something else by dealing his black market connection. It would give you a slam dunk instead of a chancy prosecution for say a gun charge. He testifies against Hannah in exchange for a walk on the gun, or whatever. Giving you her is a trade down, so you must be planning to go after me. So let me assure you I’m going to be a hard bite to swallow. I have been intimidated by the best of them and I didn’t crack. So guy, give it your best shot.”
“We can get the girl, as you said it is a slam dunk. Our questions are just that we want to be sure to get everyone involved,” the captain said. “We mostly want to shut it down.”
“I see well good luck,” I said. “Are we finished?”
“Yes I guess so,” the captain said.
Rita took another ten minutes before she came out. When she did she was careful to greet me, but not to say anything. “I want a waffle, how about you?” I asked.
“I would love a waffle, one of those greasy ones though, not that puffy shit,” Rita replied.
She followed me to the Waffle and Egg on the outskirts of the highway plaza. Once we were seated with the waitress gone, she spoke. “How much do you know?” She was being cagey.
“You wired,” I asked.
“Give me a dollar,” she said. “I’ll represent you till there is a conflict, then I go with Hannah.”
I gave her the dollar. “I suspected Hannah was doing a little less than thorough cleanup when we harvested the pot. I thought she might be coming back later and being a little more ambitious.”
“How much do you think she was skimming?” Rita asked.
“A couple of ounces every couple of months,” I said.
“It was less than half a kilo. It started out like you said, but it grew,” Rita said.
“I thought she was taking scraps to supply her friends at school so she could be one of the cool kids. I really didn’t look too hard at her,” I admitted.
“I told her to tell the cops the truth, but to lower the amounts. She just got caught up in being one of the cool kids. There is no sense making it a felony amount. They offered her a walk to say you were involved in the illegal sale of pot,” Rita said.
“I did make one back door sale to our friends from the swamp, but that’s all. I would bet my ass they can’t trace that back to me. The swamp people are too smart for that,” I said.
“They are but Hannah saw you package a kilo and leave with it,” Rita said.
“Did you use it to deal?” I asked. “Because I have that transaction listed as a sale to your boyfriend.”
“No but I don’t know that she will keep quiet,” Rita said. “If you are asked, your story should be that you carried it home for your own use, period forget about Bart.”
“You get no guarantees. Make it go away counselor,” I enjoyed that way too much, I thought.