By Cindy and Walt
I thought our last words had given Rita some incentive to nip the bullshit charge in the bud. I also thought that Hannah was going to have to go. I knew the Feds would keep an eye on her from that point forward. I also knew that she was a really good worker and would be hard to replace. However she would always be tempted to skim off some of the pot. I could afford the skim, but not if it caused me to lose my potalot. That was always a possibility, so I had to take it into consideration. Hannah and I both needed the charge to just go away, I thought.
Rita and I returned to the police station where a magistrate had been summoned to set bail. Where the female magistrate had been at midnight, I had no idea. She wasn‘t supposed to be on call, she was supposed to be on duty. That was part of the justification for a Federal Law Enforcement takeover. They were supposed to be fully operational 24/7 no matter which station you were taken to.
She set bail at $50,000. I put it up so Hannah wouldn’t have to spend the night in jail. Once she was out on bail, her mother came for her.
“Don’t talk to Hannah about the details of the case,” I warned her mother. “She needs to get everything straight before she tells the tale.”
I awoke the next morning, then pulled out the trike. I needed to ride. Frankly I needed the workout to clear my mind. Riding in the chilly morning air did that for me. I also needed the ride to wake me, because I was operating on very little sleep.
I saw a black trike just like mine at the Dairy Queen. I looked at my multifunction watch and noted that it was 6 AM. I don’t suppose I was surprised to see Bart. He had said he wanted a trike like mine. I had no idea he planned to ride it to my morning place as well.
“Where is the shyster?” I asked.
“You should have known she would sleep late. You did keep her up most of the night,” Bart said.
“Hell tell her to send me a bill.” I thought a minute then added, “Actually I should send her one. She loved rubbing my nose in her smarts. That had to be worth something,” I said.
“She might be gloating after she wakes up, but unlike you she can’t operate on two hour sleep,” he said.
“Not many of us can,” I said.
“Play nice,” Liam said.
“Did she do okay,” he asked.
“She did very good indeed,” I said.
“I can’t believe you said something nice about Rita,” Bart said.
“Just giving the devil her due,” I replied with a charmingly sarcastic smile.
I went back home and began to work in the houses. I knew three days without any help and I would be begging Miss Sadie to find me some more bodies. By noon I was pretty far behind. What was worse was that by the end of the week the schedule called for me to pull plants and groom product.
If something didn’t come along I was going to be fucked big time. I struggled through the day and found myself a half day behind after having worked my ass off. I sat down at 7 PM with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and glass of Diet Coke to assess my day. I could only conclude that it hadn’t been a disaster, but by the end of the next day I would be a full day behind and from there it could only get worse.
I reached for my cell phone to call Rita. Bart answered. “Bart I need to speak with Rita,” I suggested.
“Yes Rose,” Rita said as she picked up.
“Rita, is there any chance that Hannah can come back to work for me?” I asked.
“I’m working on a plea bargain. The deal will require one year’s probation. One of the conditions is she not be found in possession of any listed drugs. That includes Marijuana. If some cop found a leaf in her car in a pocket or anywhere near her, she could do five years,” she said.
“What if the punk who rolled on her didn’t testify?” I asked.
“Don’t even think that. Especially don’t talk to me about it. You don’t need to be under suspicion. You don’t want to come up on any law enforcement radar. Remember homeland security had a stop for interview on anyone with your New York ID. You are still not home free on that,” Rita said.
“Then I have to let her go?” I asked.
“Neither you, nor Bart can afford to have her around. Nor can she afford to work for either of you. It would at least be risking a violation of her probation.”
“Shit,” I said.
“I know Bart says the same thing,” Rita replied. “If I were you I would look for a replacement.”
“All right,” I said.
“You know, let me do some checking. I think I might find some way to help you out while you can do some good.” Rita said.
“Oh how is that?” I asked.
“Let me check around some first,” she said.
I put the phone down then went back to work. I spent the evening working on the records just in case we had a government inspection. They wanted to be sure nothing was leaving through the back door. They could never hope to catch a half pound that Hannah skimmed from the records but if the sales amount to the government went down significantly they would be all over me. That’s why the office work took so much of my time. All the purchases, salaries, and equipment were figured into the operating cost which were then deducted from the sales. If all that crap had any spikes in any area, I had better have documentation to prove it was on the up and up.
The government had taken all the fun out of growing pot. I heard that from all the old time growers. Since I was new to it, it was just the way it was in my eyes. Petty bureaucratic bullshit defined it best.
Even so I worked on reconciling the books with the company’s bank statement. I worked on making sure every entry on one was supported by an entry on the other. The company’s books were in order, so I went to play on the computer then I went to bed.
I didn’t care how much shit I had to do. When the day began at 5 AM I rolled the trike out. I took off pedaling till I got to the road, then I turned on the motor and pedaled along where it was possible. It took me forty five minutes to get to the Dairy Queen. I found Bart’s trike out front. It sort of reminded me of Jeremy and Alice. I would like to see them, but I had Bart. No matter how hard I tried not to, I made friends everywhere I went. Most of the time Swamp Dog followed me. The damn thing was like a virus.
After Bart and I talked business a little I saw Hannah come into the place. It was way early for her but everyone in town knew I came to the Dairy queen for breakfast. I had no idea who she came to see.
I motioned her over with her tray of oatmeal. “So how you doing girl?” I asked.
“Not too good. I hear from mom and dad almost every hour how I let them down,” she said sadly.
“Yeah, parents are like that,” I said. “Am I the devil’s spawn in their eyes?”
“No they are upset because I let you down. They know the government is going to be checking you real close because of me,” she said.
“Don’t worry kid my books are in good shape. There is nothing they can do. If they audit the company I will have two accountants and two lawyers with me. We can sling as much bullshit as them,” I said with a smile to comfort her. Truth is nobody wants to raise big brother’s interest. Putting them in their place is an expensive proposition.
“I hoped to find you so that I can apologize. Rita said I couldn’t work for you again while I was on probation, even if they make a deal,” Hannah suggested.
“Yeah, I’m getting pretty far behind so I asked her about that myself.
I don’t know what I’m going to do,” she said. “I wish I could help you but I have my hands tied right now,” she said.
“I will settle up with you, if you want to stop by. I still owe you some salary.”
“Honest, I didn’t come here for that. I just came to apologize,” she said.
Bart, who had been quiet during the whole conversation, suddenly came to life. “You know what this area needs?” he asked then went on to answer. “We need a pickup and delivery service. I don’t need anyone full time but I do need someone a couple of days a week to make deliveries. I bet I could get Rita to work out an exemption for you to open a courier service. Even if the customers were pot growers and processors. Everything comes sealed and you can get the recipients to check the seals. That should satisfy the court.”
“I think that is a hell of an idea.” It wasn’t really a great idea for me but I could throw some business her way.
“I don’t know anything about running a courier business,” Hannah said.
“You are plenty bright, you can figure it out as you go along. You can always ask Bart or me, if you have any questions,” I said to her then turned my attention to Bart. “This was your idea, I expect you to take the lead. I’m already a day behind on the Catfish Farm and can’t see how I’m ever going to catch up.”
“No problem but you will find a way. I have faith in you,” Bart said.
What I was not going to do was work night and day to grow pot. I was making more money than I would ever spend in my lifetime. So I make half as much, maybe then I could spend all I made. I know there were huge farms growing pot. They would buy up every small potalot that came on the market. They grew it all over the place and some of it was on consolidated farms. Those must look like a jungle, I thought.
A couple of the farms sold scrap to Bart. It didn’t matter since I was the only one who had scrap all year round. There were no other greenhouses in the area simply because they were a lot of work, and required a lot of maintenance. No one with enough potalots would bother with greenhouses. The large growers were probably going to try putting people like me out of business. Let them try, I thought. I could take care of myself.
“Yes you can old girl. You do know that was the reason for so much interest in Hannah. It was all because she worked for you,” Liam said.
“I hadn’t thought of that but you might be right,” I said.
“I’m always right. I can see into their fucking souls, ” Liam replied.
“Okay what is Rita cooking up?” I asked.
“It’s a surprise, but you will like it I promise,” he said.
I worked like a slave for three more days, even so I was at least two and half days behind when Sylvia called. “I’m sending someone up to help you. He has a good work ethic, if you can control him.”
“What do you mean, if I can control him,” I asked.
“He was guarding an American embassy for us. A couple of our guys died and he didn’t. He has some survivor guilt and PTSD. He has a short fuse,” Sylvia said.
“Do not send me a head case,” I said.
“You need help and he will work cheap. Not only that you won’t have any trouble with those gangs,” she said.
“What gangs?” I asked.
“Read the paper. There is a nationwide epidemic of local gangs raiding pot farms. The black market is alive with that shit,” she said.
“I don’t have any trouble now,” I said.
“That’s not what Rita said. One of your people got lured into providing pot to them. It was on a small scale but they were playing her to see your response,” Sylvia said.
I see well maybe I better rethink using her to deliver the product to the government sales office,” I said.
“Or maybe you need to send Steve along. Rose honey, there a war coming you need to be prepared, and I need a place to let these people heal. The really bad ones we hospitalize. There is always the walking wounded to deal with. So what do you say?”
“Send him and I’ll give it a try,” I said.
“He thinks he is a guard, so work him into the farm easy okay?” she asked.
“I’m no shrink, but I’ll do what I can,” I said.
On Monday of the next week I buzzed in a twenty something young man. He stepped from a beat up old pick up truck like the ones people all over the county drove for work. Unlike the laborers around Mossberg, he was so clean cut it was disgusting. He also walked like a professional soldier, or someone with a stick up his ass.
“You must be Rose,” he commented.
“I am. You must be Steve?” I asked.
“Yes Ma’am,” he replied in a very soft voice.
“Well Steve I got a few papers you need to fill out for me, then we can get you to work. That is if you have work clothes?” I asked.
“Yes Ma’am Sylvia said to bring some jeans and work shirts. She said you needed looking after,” he said.
“I think we are going to look after each other,” I said. “Now let’s get to it.”
“Where do I toss this gear?” he asked.
“Right beside the cabin there is a brand new twenty foot camping trailer. It belongs to Swamp Dog Enterprises. It was sent down here by Andrew at Church Camp for you to use. You are going to have to take care of it yourself, there is no maid service. It has a water tank that needs to be filled and a sewage tank that will need to be emptied. There is a Propane tank for the small furnace and cook top. A tanker truck stops by to fill it up now and then. It’s a two hundred gallon tank so it shouldn’t need it too often. You do want to keep track of the valve on top, it will tell you when it’s in danger of running out.”
That’s better than I’m used to,” he replied.
“Yeah I’m sure, so let get all this paperwork done, so we can get to the farm work that has been falling behind,” I said. Monday afternoon was spent on applications and background information forms. It was a pain in the ass but a necessary one.
“I’m afraid I sleep a lot,” Steve said after a dinner of frozen pizza shared by the two of us.
“Are you telling me you find me boring?” I asked with a laugh. “Don’t worry Steve, I am boring.” With that he made some remark to ease the moment then went to bed. In spite of what he said, the lights in the camper burned well past midnight. I even saw his shadow pass the window several times.
“You need to leave him alone,” Liam said. “If he needs to talk, you just be willing to listen. Otherwise let him work it out. He will open up to you sometime maybe.”
“Well you should know, since you are dead,” I suggested laughing.
“Be careful around him, he is going to have a hair trigger for a while,” Liam added ignoring my smart ass answer.
Five AM came, I checked the trailer but it was dark. I figured Steve finally got to sleep. So I quietly rode the trike out of the Catfish Farm compound.
“So what’s he like,” Bart asked.
“Too fucking young to have done what Sylvia said,” I replied.
“They just look young till you look at their eyes,” Bart said. “I’ve never seen your place. I’ll have to come check it out.”
“Sure bring Rita, she might like a younger man, someone closer to her own age,” I suggested.
“Now that was a low blow,” Bart replied.
After I ate my breakfast, I got a biscuit with bacon, egg, and cheese to go. If Steve was still sleeping he could reheat it later. Of course I was going to wake his ass up soon anyway.
When I got back to the Catfish Farm, the light was on in the trailer. So I knocked on the door. When he answered, Steve was wearing work boots and jeans, not much else.
“Time to get ready for work. I brought you breakfast, but it’s the last time,” I said smiling. “If you need coffee come to the cabin I’ll have some ready soon.”
I was naked and ready for the shower when I heard the knock. “Come on in, you can find the coffee I’m sure. I’m in the shower.”
I slipped into the tiny bathroom before he got through the door. I finished washing my hair then toweled it dry while standing in the shower stall. I managed to work my way into my panties and tee shirt before I opened the door.
I was in full view while I pulled on my jeans and my blue work shirt. After that I went to the coffee pot without shoes. I had no shoes and hardly any hair. I finished by pulling on the shoes and drying my hair again, then sat down to coffee. “You ever worked on a farm?” I asked.
“No never done nothing like that. I grew up in Trenton New Jersey. Mostly I stole cars, till I joined the army,” Steve said.
“So which did you enjoy most?” I asked.
“Stealing cars,” he said with a laugh.
“That would have been my choice to, till I ended in jail,” I admitted,
“Yeah, I wasn’t too fond of Jail,” Steve said.
“Who is?” I asked not expecting an answer. “So my previous farm manager is going to help out a few hours today to show you the ropes. In the meantime let’s water the houses.”
I showed Steve how to set up the misting machine and tow it through the house using the small homemade electric greenhouse tractor. I had two houses already growing and one ready to replant, so he watered them all. He caught on very quickly even though I did notice he had no patience with himself. When I corrected him, he was very upset. He was upset with himself not with me,
“Go easy on yourself Steve,” I said to him. “This is all new to you. Start every chore brand new, don’t bring the past with you.”
“Okay, I’ll try,” he said trying to please me by saying what he thought I wanted to hear.
“Now, the number two house, the one in the center, needs to have the soil turned. Let’s go see what we can do. Hanna won’t be here till after lunch. She is the one who did this before,” I said. Steve just nodded. I was very impressed with him for it being only his first day.
Hannah came just after 1 PM. She brought lunch as we had agreed. She brought a bag full of Dairy Queen burgers. After the introductions, the three of us sat under a shelter that Sam had built for shade between the Catfish ponds. It was just a couple of posts with a metal roof. I had added the picnic table soon after I took over.
“So Steve, how much do you know about farming?” Hannah asked.
“I don’t know shit, he said to her. Hannah was barely eighteen, so she wasn’t at all shocked.
“Well Mr. Steve, we are going to fix that starting now,” she said with a wide grin.
“Okay,” he said trying to tone it down. They went off to start the planting of house number two. I went back into the cabin to work on the damn records. Always paperwork, I thought.
“Rose, I’m going to leave now. Steve will finish the planting in the mornings,” Hannah said. “He offered to take me to dinner, but I didn’t know how you would feel about it.”
“How I feel about it isn’t important, how you feel about it is. Do whatever you want hon, but be careful around Steve, he is going through a rough patch right now,” I said.
“Okay, I’ll be careful. I think I’ll wait a couple of days and see how he feels then,” she said.
“That’s very mature of you honey,” I said.
“Nothing like a cop knocking on your door and carrying you off to jail to make you grow up,” she said not smiling at all. “Should I tell him why I left?”
“That’s up to you. But he will hear it from someone I’m sure,” I suggested.
“You are right he will,” she said leaving.
I spent the evening on the computer. I researched the national news then checked in on the sites dedicated to the growing of Marijuana. I read the tip of the day, and then the comments. The comments were always about some conspiracy theory involving the mega farms. I had little interest in the farmer who wanted to fantasize about one of their crop failures. My favorite was black helicopters that came and sprayed the crops with mold spores.
When I went to bed I checked on Steve and found his light still burning. I also noticed the lights on my wifi gate flickering. Steve was obviously on the Internet. He was probably checking out the homely teenage porn site, I thought. I couldn’t help hoping that it was true.
I went to bed with Steve still awake and the light still flashing. When I awoke at 5 AM, the indicator light was burning solid. The solid light meant there was no one using the WiFi.
I rolled the trike from the equipment shed and started it moving. I was pedaling it past the house when I saw Steve open the trailer door. I pulled over in front of him.
“What’s up,” I asked.
“I’m just wondering if I can follow you to breakfast,” he said.
“Sure, but I go real slow,” I said.
“That’s fine. I’ll follow along behind with the flashers on. It should keep you safe,” he suggested.
“Sure, glad to have the company,” I said and meant it.