Tuesday, April 30, 2013

                                  CHAPTER 6
                                        DEADLY HARVEST

                                   Rafter's Redemption
                                                By Dave Stancliff
  Christmas 1973. Smiley, Jenny, Sundance, and Rafter inside the trailer. A small live spruce in a pot, decorated with tinsel and tiny silver star ornaments stood next to Rafter’s cot. 

  The room was warm, thanks to propane. It was snowing outside. They sipped Jack Daniels and opened presents. Sundance, still wearing an elves hat, slept in his crib. He was a sound sleeper and they didn’t have to whisper for fear of waking him.

  The trio tried to adjust to the piles of money on the bed. After paying a $5,000 commission they had $120,000! They were elated to see so much money laid out before them in $100, $50,$20, $10, and $5 bills.

  It was the most money Rafter and Jenny had ever seen in one place. Smiley had seen Rick’s payoff the year he worked for him. It amounted to $500,000 and came in a suitcase. Still, seeing their money in piles by denominations was awesome. It was proof they could make a living growing marijuana. 

  It meant they could continue to live on the mountain and pursue a peaceful way of life on their own terms. They all felt strongly about their personal freedom. They divided the money as agreed, Rafter got half, and Smiley and Jenny the other half.

   “Toast!” Smiley said, holding up his glass - a mason jar. “To another successful season as farmers!”

  They touched glasses and repeated, “To another successful season as farmers!”
  “I have a proposal for next season’s profits,” Rafter said.

  “What?” Jenny inquired.

  “I think we should divide them three ways next time. I feel guilty about getting so much and you two having to split the same amount. We’re all partners, aren’t we? Jenny will be as just as busy as we will, if not more so because she’ll be taking care of  Sundance too. I’d feel better if we split it three ways. What do you guys say?”

  Smiley immediately raised his glass, “Bravo Rafter! Gotta hand it to you bro…you’re a good man! I agree. Let’s split it in three.”

  “I don’t know what to say.” Jenny blushed furiously. Her face felt hot. “Thanks.”

  “Today we celebrate. Tomorrow we can make some decisions about upgrading our living quarters,” Smiley suggested. 

  Getting permits to build was a drawn out process that required going to several locations and dealing with bureaucrats. Rafter hated going to the court house, which stood next to the county prison, and to the County Planning Department a few miles away. He couldn’t expect Smiley to take care of everything. So he went along and let Smiley do most of the talking.

  Smiley didn’t seem to mind haggling with people and always maintained his smile. Rafter secretly would get pissed off at a clerk’s stupidity and his heartbeat would increase. He also grew more uncomfortable around groups of people. He sat with his back to the wall when they ate in restaurants.
  His sense of being on guard was heightened in public situations in spite of himself. The hell of it was Rafter didn’t know why he felt that way. He seldom found something humorous, despite Smiley’s constant jokes and funny observations.Rafter found himself forcing a smile at times. His old rubber face was now a rigid sculpture with a scar. All he wanted was to go back to the mountain and spend time in the woods. His only joy was Sundance. 

  He was glad he had found Smiley and realized he would never have made this kind of money in a factory. Just the thought of being trapped inside four walls, eight hours a day, made him sick. What would have happened if Smiley and Jenny hadn’t picked him up that day? Where would he be now? The realization that he probably would have been homeless sobered him. Smiley and Jenny had become his best friends. They all respected each other’s space and enjoyed being together. 
  “Tracers and screams. Fernandez tried to pull Enriquez to safety by his arm while firing his M-16. They were engulfed by black bodies savagely bayoneting them…Sgt. Borgalac stared sightlessly into the night…his head cleaved wide open…suddenly he sat up looked at Rafter and demanded his Scotch!”

  Sweat poured down Rafter’s face as he gasped and woke up from the nightmare. He lay there with heart beating fast, adrenaline coursing through his body like acid, and wondered when the nightmares would go away.

 After Sundance was born, Jenny started thinking about marriage. She was afraid to approach the subject with Smiley, as much as she loved him. The idea of being rejected at any level was too painful to contemplate. The idea of getting married never passed through Smiley’s head. 

  Rafter wondered if they would marry someday, but since they never talked about the subject he assumed neither was interested in matrimony. Even when Smiley talked about “his son” marriage didn’t come up. Sundance’s birth affected Rafter deeply.

  For reasons he didn’t understand, bringing Sundance into the world had changed him. Life seemed to suddenly have a purpose. The miracle of birth was a stark contrast to the deaths that continually reoccurred in his nightmares. He felt he’d been given a chance to redeem himself. His heart easily made room for this new person in his life.

  Alternative lifestyles were becoming the norm in parts of Humboldt County. The “back to earthers” invaded the hills to escape San Francisco’s failed hippie paradise, and they weren’t the only ones who fled to the backwoods to escape urban madness.

  Vietnam veterans seeking distance from those who hated and feared them in the cities found rural living suitable. Most of them hated and distrusted the government that had sent them to Southeast Asia to die for no good reason.

  They were survivors who found themselves outcasts in society. Men like Smiley and Rafter. Each had a story, but the common denominator was distrust of government. Any government. So when a chance came to make money illegally, on their own terms, they took it. 

  Other Vietnam veterans came to southern Humboldt County with the “back to earthers” and adopted their communal lifestyle. They learned to grow fruit and vegetables. They raised bees, goats, cows, and pigs. Many built crude shelters that were never approved by any planning department or county commissioners. 

  The rare Vietnam veteran visionaries like Smiley and Rick, prided themselves on building safe compounds with secure perimeters. That meant they worked with the “man” so their structures wouldn’t be torn down by anal  authorities. 

  The plan was to become totally self-sufficient, and still have some conveniences. Big generators were the key to softer living. Smiley and Rafter copied Rick’s idea and installed solar panels on the roof of their new three-bedroom house. Solar power was still in it’s fledgling stage, but people did obtain solar panels, often secondhand.

  Smiley and Rafter dug out the foundation and paid a local contractor, another Vietnam veteran, Justin Stillwater, to pour it. Stillwater also helped them frame the house. The Redwood plank walls and the cedar and pine floors were milled at Rick’s ranch. His portable mill often came in handy. 

  The Redwood tree came from Smiley’s land. It was highly unlikely anyone would notice. It wasn’t an ancient Redwood, but still stood 80-feet tall. The cedar and coastal pine also came from Smiley’s property. This helped keep construction costs down.

  When they finished the house, a true labor of love, they invited Rick, his girlfriend, the 10 members of the commune near Rick’s property, and their contractor friend Justin over for a house-warming celebration.
  Several members of the commune played instruments and they partied through the night, smoking weed, drinking booze, and dropping LSD. The big open living room easily accommodated the visitors. Little Sundance slept through most of the night and only woke once for a quick feeding and change.

  September 1975. Smiley and Rafter sat near the wood stove in their new home. They were both dirty and tired from the day’s labor in the woods. Their camouflage shirts and pants still had mud clinging to them. Rafter still wore his boonie hat. Smiley’s hat hung from his neck, down his back. 

  Jenny was making dinner in the kitchen. Two - and-a-half year old Sundance ran through the house with a truck in one hand and a race car in the other, making high pitched machine noises. His Mario Andretti t-shirt was on backward and he was barefoot. His long blond hair flowed down his back as he raced from room-to-room in noisy glee.

  Following closely behind him was Rafter’s new puppy, a Pug named Mogli. A 4 ft. by 8 ft. safe stood in one corner of the room.. In it, stacks of money from the last two harvests, almost three million dollars, were divided into thirds. Each third was in a leather suitcase with a combination lock. There were also two Winchester repeating rifles, and the ammunition for them.

  Several pieces of valuable jewelry belonging to Jenny were in a gilded box with silver pot leaves adorning the four sides. A gold watch lined with tiny but perfect diamonds, nestled next to it. A gold necklace with a ruby pendant, and matching ear rings completed the set. 

  “So what do you think? Four more weeks?” Rafter asked Smiley.

   “Sounds about right. We’ll call Jesus after the harvest. This year let’s call him on November 28 and arrange the meet. He was pretty eager to get his hands on our bud last Nov. 21st. Making him wait another week ought to give us another ace-in-the-hole when we discuss price.”

  “I’m thinking we could bump it up two hundred a pound this season. My friend Lenny has been keeping me up on the street prices for quality weed and our buddy Jesus is making a killing,” Rafter said.

  Smiley pulled out a wooden pipe from one shirt pocket and reached into the other for a plastic baggie of bud. Carefully selecting a sticky nugget he pressed it into the pipe bowl. His Zippo lit the pungent ingredients. After taking a deep hit, he passed the pipe to Rafter. Rafter took a toke, and Smiley said, 

  “We got $1,500 per pound last season and I did kinda feel like we gave it away. I’ve heard our bud is the biggest seller in Porterville and the Loco Park gang has a growing reputation. If you know what I mean.”

  Rafter passed the pipe back and nodded, “Yeah. 

  They’re apparently showing off their wealth in cars and jewelry lately. Other gangs are envious of Loco Park’s good fortune.”

  Smiley exhaled a cloud of smoke that drifted lazily across the room. 

  “Everything points to $1,700 a pound then, bro. So be it.”

  Jenny called, “Dinner’s ready! Where’s Sundance?”

   Just then, Sundance raced into the living room and tackled Rafter’s leg! They played for a minute before Rafter picked him up and carried him into the dining room, squealing with delight. “I want ice cream!” Sundance demanded.

  Jenny was happy. Sundance was her main source of happiness. She loved Smiley and Rafter. One as a lover, the other as a brother. She loved her beautiful house with its double gables and a front porch made out of redwood. 

  She was proud of the pretty white picket fence around the foundation, hiding the fact that the house was on piers and had a crawl space beneath it. She enjoyed all the electrical devices in the house that made her life easier. All possible because of their newest and biggest generator.

  Jenny loved the spectacular scenery surrounding the house from the large picture windows. She smelled the fresh air. Her parents had got over the shock of her having a baby out of wedlock and actually grew to love their grandchild. Aunt Susan was her confident and best friend. She could buy anything she wanted. She’d say, “What more could a girl ask for?” And that was the problem.

  Despite pushing her feelings for Rafter into a hidden space in her mind, she thought about him at odd moments. Wondered what it would be like to be with him? Somehow her love for him was breaking through her barrier of daily denial and changing from the kind for a brother to something entirely different. 

  He made her heart  and stomach flitter unexpectedly, even when Smiley was nearby. He seemed to like the things she liked, unlike Smiley who was mostly interested in having sex. 
She and Smiley seldom talked anymore. Smiley was always too busy. Or drinking booze. 
  Rafter, who was just as busy, found time to talk with her and play with Sundance. Smiley’s father instinct appeared sparse if existent. He certainly didn’t have enough patience to deal with a rambunctious two-and-a-half year-old. Even his own two-and-half year old. The two never seemed to have made a connection.

  Rafter and Sundance, on the other hand, were as close as father and son. Sundance followed him around like a faithful hound dog. Rafter always seemed to be there for Sundance’s firsts. When he walked. When he talked and said 

"Da Da" to him. 

  When he fell for the first time and scuffed his knees. Smiley didn’t see their bond as anything unusual. He would correct the baby, and point at himself and say “Da Da.” The thing was, Smiley didn’t enjoy doing things with Sundance. He had no patience with him. To himself, Smiley admitted he had little or no interest in Sundance. He didn’t know why. He tried at times, but his efforts always came off flat and awkward. It made him feel guilty.  
  Rafter certainly didn’t appear interested in Jenny as a lover and seemed content with their platonic relationship. Jenny spent her days and nights conflicted. 
  The diner was empty except for the four men who sat at the rear table. The waiter in the small Mom & Pop diner poured out four cups of coffee. Two of the men were Hispanic and sported heavy gold chains dangling from their open madras shirts. One blue and the other brown.

  Their shoulder length jet black hair was combed back and looked carved into place. One wore a diamond earring. When standing, you could see the sharp center pleats in their baggy brown trousers. They wore Italian designer shoes that reflected the light. 

  Sitting across from them were two tall thin white men. Neither wore jewelry. Both had long hair pulled back in ponytails and wore bright multi-colored Hawaiian shirts and levis. They wore hand crafted logger boots. Smiley’s baseball cap had a Smiley face on it. Rafter wore a brown felt fedora. He also wore a pair of blue-tinted circular sunglasses, despite the muted lighting in the diner. 

  They ordered breakfast and casually ate, sharing small talk. None of them wanted to appear in a hurry. That wouldn’t have been cool. After three years of being partners Rick and Oscar had developed rituals for negotiation day. An hour passed before Oscar opened the negotiations.

 “How was your season?” he politely asked.

   “We had challenges. The weather was good. The quality is top shelf,” Smiley assured him.

   “How much do you have for me?” Jesus blurted out. 

  The others looked at him with disapproval.

  “Hey Homie…where’s your manners?” Oscar asked.

    Jesus reluctantly apologized. “What’s the pound price this season?”

   “Everything considered, we believe $1,700 per pound is reasonable. Especially with the reputation our buds are making down south.”

  “What the hell? I paid $1,500 last year! That’s a two hundred dollar increase!” Jesus sputtered angrily.

  “What’s the matter with you homie? This is business. Prices change according to the market. You’re embarrassing me,” Oscar growled menacingly.

  Tension filled the air. Rafter and Smiley shifted in their seats. Jesus stared at Smiley. Oscar scowled at Jesus. A minute passed in sullen silence. Finally Jesus spoke,

 “All right. $1,700 per pound. How much do you have?”

  A sigh of relief escaped Oscar who knew his hotheaded cousin could be an ass. He wondered for the thousandth time how Jesus had managed to take control of the Loco Park gang. He could be dangerously unpredictable.

  “We have 125 pounds dried and cured,” Smiley said, staring steadily into Jesus’s eyes.

  Neither man had taken his eyes off the other since the flare up.

  “Good…then I need to know when and where the transaction will be,” Jesus replied, returning the stare.

  “Two days from now. Here’s a map to the shopping center where we’ll meet in Willets,” Smiley said.
  He pulled out a folded piece of paper from his top pocket and handed it to Jesus.

  “We’ll meet at 10 p.m.” 

  “We’ll see you then, my friends.” 

 Oscar stood up.

 “I’ll get the tab.”
  Two days later.

  It was dark and the lights in the middle of the parking lot caused car and people shadows that stretched toward the supermarket and across the small strip of stores. It was warm and people wore shorts and tee shirts.

  A black King Cab pickup truck was parked in the center of the lot. Two men sat inside impatiently waiting. The radio played, “Money” by Pink Floyd,

  “ Money, it's a gas - grab that cash with both hands - and make a stash…” 

  “We never brought weapons before, Smiley. Why now?”

  “Listen bro…like I told you before, I have instincts that some people don’t. It’s why I survived out in the jungle. I wouldn’t be surprised if our pal Jesus decides this is the day to end our partnership and reap the profits from our labors.”

  “If you really believe that, maybe we should call this transaction off. Talk with Oscar and let him know your concerns.”

  “Okay…let me put it this way. We really need to sell our weed. I’m not 100 per cent sure he’ll try anything. I’m feeling the need for caution. There’s nothing wrong with that, is there?”

  “No. But borrowing Rick’s 9 mm seems like an abundance of caution.”

  “Bare with me bro…everything’s probably going to be fine. I just feel the need for an equalizer.”

A black Riviera pulled up next to them. Then a black Ford van pulled up on the other side. The van’s side door opened. Both doors on the Riviera opened and two men got out. Jesus and a stranger with two brief cases. Smiley immediately suspected foul play when Oscar wasn’t there, but opened his door and stepped out. 

  Rafter opened his door and walked around to unlock the truck’s camper. The stranger set the two brief cases down on the cement. 

   “Where’s Oscar?” Smiley calmly asked.

   “He got sick and asked Jorge to come in his place. They’re homies,” Jesus said.

   Rafter unlocked the camper. Then he came around the side of the truck where Smiley was, stopped a few feet back, and waited to see what would happen next.

   Unseen by either party, a homeless man blended in the outer shadows. He shambled along, wrapped in a dark blanket. His street instincts were pure and when he saw the black pickup, the Van, and the Riviera in the center of the parking lot, he stopped. His eyes focused on the emerging figures. He slipped further into the shadows behind a stall of shopping carts. 

   He was young and his hearing was good. So was his eyesight. His name was Smokey. Not his real name, but his street name. 

  Normally he had a hand-rolled cigarette hanging out of his mouth. He was a stoner who depended upon his friends to get him high. Now he perked up his ears and listened: 
  “No phone call. That seems odd to…” 

  Smiley broke off mid sentence as Jorge reached under his long-sleeved blue checkered shirt for a gun! 

  Smiley was faster and shot Jorge in the head before he cleared his .38  revolver. Jesus fired a quick shot in Smiley’s direction and jumped inside the Riviera. Smiley rolled on the ground towards the car. 

  The car’s engine started. Smiley rose, took aim and fired three quick shots into the driver’s side. Two struck Jesus in the head and he pitched sidewise striking the horn which blared angrily as the engine raced. 

  The van door slammed closed and it came to life, screeching across the parking lot towards the main highway. It’s occupants obviously didn’t  want to continue the fight. Rafter, who hit the deck when the shooting started, got up and ran to Smiley, who grabbed the brief cases. 

  “Are you all right, bro?” Rafter asked.

  “We have to move fast. Let’s get out of here.”

  The car horn blared away. Smokey stared. He had never seen someone get killed before. This was so out of his normal existence he was stunned. Shocked. He couldn’t move, even when the Van’s lights hit him and it looked like the driver was going to barrel into  him! Then the pickup truck passed and Smokey stared at the passenger and driver. He got an especially good look at the passenger just before they turned onto the road.

   Rafter and Smiley peeled out toward the highway heading north. Rafter drove. Smiley opened one of the brief cases and swore, 

   “It’s full of newspapers! The sons of bitches!” he roared.

  The incident was a game-changer. Smiley had killed two men and was paranoid about the law catching up to him so he stayed drunk. Rafter worried about witnesses, but a week after the shootout it became apparent the law had no solid leads.

  The shooting was sensationalized in newspapers across the country. Two known gangsters shot by an unknown person or persons. No leads. Authorities baffled. No trace of drugs found. No large wads of cash concealed in the Riviera. The two hand guns the gangsters used were clean of identification and provided no clues. It would go on to be the story of the year in Willets;

 “Who shot the gangsters?”

  The ramifications of the shoot-out came to them a week later when Rick stopped by in his camouflaged Jeep.

  “That was a really bad scene bros…what happened?” he asked without the usual amenities like “hello,” or dapping. 

  “They set us up, Rick,” Smiley scowled.

   “Your friend Oscar wasn’t there bro…” Rafter said, as if that were explanation enough.

 “Where’s my 9 mm?” Rick asked.

   “I took it apart and threw the pieces into the Eel River,” Smiley said. “I’ll buy you another one.”

  “I mainly wanted to know that no one else would find it,” Rick explained. “Might have caused me some trouble.”

  “Now what?” Rafter asked.

  “I don’t know. I’ve been trying to contact Oscar and he’s not returning my calls. That’s not a good sign. One of the guys you killed was his relative. A cousin or something.”

  “Yeah, I know. Jesus had it in for me though. What else could I do? I was defending myself. If I hadn’t borrowed your gun, I wouldn’t be here now. That’s a fact.”

  “What I want to know is why wasn’t Oscar with him? That broke our agreement,” Rafter asked.

  “I hear you bro…I just don’t have the answer right now. All I can say is, lay low and don’t leave the homestead for a while. Get rid of your truck. Buy a new one. I’ll do what I can to find out what happened. Just be glad you live up on this mountain. You don’t have to worry about your neighbors ratting you out,” Rick reasoned.

 They talked for nearly an hour before dapping and parting.

  Jenny was hysterical when she heard what happened. She clutched Sundance to her chest and stayed in her room for several days. She couldn’t bear to talk with either of them. Smiley had killed two men!

  He was up front about it and expected her to understand. She didn’t. The whole business of growing pot had taken a deadly turn and she didn’t like it. The killings upset her world. She never expected anything this horrible would come from gardening. 

  They were just farmers. Not gangsters. She’d worried about the money connection from the start. It was a necessary evil, they assured her. They would make sure there was no trouble. Rick’s connection was tight. It was just business.

  Sure. A business that went bad. Now death was a by-product of their hard work and peaceful existence. The real world interrupted their happy little haven. Now the stink of sticky buds came with the stink of death. The two would be associated in her mind now. 

  She knew what Smiley had done in the Nam. She forgave that and wrote it off as doing his duty. This was different. The man she thought she knew was still very much a killer under his smiling mask. He was more complex than she realized. 

  It didn’t surprise her that Rafter wasn’t involved in the shoot out. That he didn’t kill anyone. He was a Vietnam veteran too, and had faced what Smiley did, but no blood was on his hands this time. 

  Rafter often shared his regrets with her about the people he had killed overseas. Smiley never showed any remorse for what happened in the Nam. It bothered her at times, but she knew people reacted differently to stressful situations. How had it come to this?
  When Rick finally reached Oscar on the telephone, the first thing out of his mouth was, 
  “What happened? Where were you?”

   “Easy bro…I’m dealing with a lot of angry home boys right now. They want to find your friends really bad. Some are asking me to sever ties with you, my friend. I wasn’t there because Jesus called and said it was postponed for a day. He lied to me.”

   “Sever ties with me?”

   “They’re your friends and right now my homies want blood. One white boy would be as good as another. Especially since you know them. We have to stop doing business bro. There’s no way around it.”

   “Can’t say I’m happy about this, but I know you’re right. Maybe someday down the line we’ll meet again and have a bottle of Jack Daniels.”

   “And smoke some of your loco weed too,” Oscar added.

  The phone line went dead. Rick looked around his living room as if searching for something. The walls were bare. The room was sparsely furnished. The wooden rocker he sat in. A small brown couch. An end table. He was comfortable with the Spartan look.

  He felt a sense of loss at this parting that went beyond financial. They had some good times back in the Nam. He’d never forget them. Now he had to deal with this new reality; he didn’t have a buyer for this year’s crop.

  Rafter and Smiley decided they had to reach out and do some sales work if they hoped to get rid of  their 125 pounds of pot. Rafter called Lenny, who was now a junior at Cal State Fullerton, and offered him a way to make some serious money. Lenny realized he had a built-in customer base at the college and selling top-of-the-line weed would make him a quick profit. 

  Rafter started him with one pound and he advised Lenny to bag it up into ounces, and quarter-ounces, to sell. He gave Lenny the pound on a Friday morning. By Sunday, Lenny called to say he had sold it all and could he have two more pounds? In three months Lenny sold 25 pounds.

  Smiley was busy too. He hooked up with some Hell’s Angels and successfully sold them 50 pounds before sensing they were going to rip him off on their next transaction. He was a survivor after all, and his instincts were as sharp as a Samurai Sword made by the fabled master Amakuni, who created the first one. The last thing he wanted was another shoot out. After two months of dealing with the Stockton Chapter of the Hell’s Angels he decided it was time to move on.

  Rafter and Smiley agreed there would be no crop that season. They still had 50 pounds left over and it would require more sales efforts. The time for planting was passing. Secretly Rafter was happy with their new arrangement. They’d made a ridiculous profit already. He didn’t need more.

  He had three full suitcases of money totaling over a one and a half million dollars in small bills. It was enough for a lifetime. After they sold the rest, he planned to tell Smiley he wasn’t interested in growing more.

  He knew it would mean leaving Jenny and Sundance. Perhaps that would be the best thing to do, despite the fact that he loved them both. She was Smiley’s woman. They didn’t have to be legally as far as he was concerned. They had a child together, and he didn’t want to come between them. 

  Still he would sorely miss them both. He admitted to himself he loved her more than was safe. He didn’t want to cause trouble. He had no right. They had taken him in and treated him like an  equal. He couldn’t betray either of them, no matter how much he desired Jenny and wanted to be with her and Sundance as a family.

  The easiest thing was to continue to funnel pounds to Lenny, who had branched out considerably. Rafter spent more time in Southern California, saying it was necessary to monitor Lenny’s progress. He finally leased a furnished apartment in Fullerton that allowed animals, and bought a new burgundy Chevrolet Monte Carlo.

  He spent most of his time in the apartment with Mogli, listening to music and staying high. Lenny sold the rest of their weed. Then one day Rafter was back in the jungle! He was cooking eggs and suddenly he was running through elephant grass so tall he couldn’t see where he was going!

  As the days turned to weeks, Rafter went outside less and less. Lenny stopped by once a week to give him money and report on his progress. He never stayed long. Rafter’s moods troubled him.

  A black veil settled upon Rafter’s soul and nightmares nagged his nights. It had been a while since they bothered him so often and they had never been as intense as now. His days became hazy. Unclear. A challenge to reality. He experienced flashbacks, forgetting where he was. 

  One day Lenny stopped by and got the scare of his life. Driving along the 605 Freeway. Lenny couldn’t believe how much money he was making. He couldn’t wait to tell Rafter he’d sold the last of his weed. He was concerned about where to get more. This was the last of Rafter and Smiley’s crop. 

  He knew Rafter had connections up north, and hoped he could supply him a new source. Lenny got out of his Mustang, grabbed the brown leather suitcase full of money, and headed for Rafter’s ground floor apartment.

  It was a warm June night and a full moon glowed in the heavens. Lenny knocked on the door, despite having a key. He heard movement inside. A dog barked excitedly. Seconds pass into a minute. Then two. 

  Finally Lenny pulled out his key and inserted it. He didn’t want to be outside too long with all that money. He opened the door. The only illumination in the room was a lava lamp. It cast an eerie red glow on Rafter who was huddled in a corner, snarling like an animal! Mogli barked at Lenny and charged him, nipping at his ankles. He meant to protect Rafter at all costs. Lenny was horrified.

  He’s never experienced anything like it in his young life. He froze after taking two steps into the room. The suitcase slipped from his fingers. Fear tickled his guts. Rafter’s eyes were pinpoints and his front teeth bared like a wolf‘s. Time stood still. Minutes passed and the only sound in the room was Lenny’s rapid breathing and an occasional grunt from Rafter. Mogli stopped barking and retreated to Rafter’s side.     
  “Rafter…it’s me, man. Lenny.”

   The silence was stifling. Rafter stopped grunting. Sobs replaced the grunts.
  “Rafter…listen to me, man. It’s Lenny. Everything’s okay.”

   “No,” was Rafter’s suddenly strong reply, 

   “Nothing is okay!”

Coming May 6th - Chapter 7 




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