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I went through the plan with Kim in great detail for what was to happen once he and John landed. He was not to look for me, shout, or do anything that might look unusual. It was going to look unusual enough just having a private plane touching down behind the sheriff’s headquarters. I made Kim repeat all the steps back to me about a million times. John assured me he could land the plane and stop quickly. He and Kim would throw the duffel bags out and Kim and I could have them in the car in less than thirty seconds. John would begin his take off as soon as the last bag left the plane.
Total time on the ground: less than one minute. “Beautiful. I hoped it actually turns out that way,” I remember saying to them both. If you’re wondering what happened to Kirk, well he’d had enough of the Lance and Kim Show, and decided to hang it up. No problem; we really didn’t need him anyway. Ditto for Joe after his release from hospital and we returned his car to him.
The day before the flight, I made Kim take the Impala to the shop and purchase new tires. He balked at this, but I explained to him that I did not want to be driving around Lake Charles with over a hundred pounds of pot and have a blowout. He took the car and bought the tires. I had satisfied myself that all was in order and had made several final recons of the landing site just to make sure someone had not decided to begin a construction project in the middle of my runway. No one had. We were set.
The next day Kim and John took off for McAllen. About an hour before they were due to arrive back I drove to the rendezvous point and waited. And of course they were late. Very late. I believe I waited there for almost three hours and it was getting very late in the evening. I was worried that darkness would catch them and then we would have real trouble. Just as the sun was about to set, the plane came swooping in. John was a damn good pilot. He set her down just as pretty as a picture and I was getting in the Impala to drive out to meet them before his wheels even stopped. In an instant Kim was on the ground, shouting and waving his arms like a lunatic.
So much for all my coaching.
Oh well, nothing to be done about that now. I drove up and we made quick work of tossing the bags out of the plane and into the Impala. Kim and I jumped in and watched John taxi off as we drove away, apparently unnoticed by anyone except maybe a couple of stray dogs. Success!
We got back to the house and put all the marijuana into the garage. We had custom made duffle bags and they stacked neatly on the floor. A real first-class act, if I do say so. Barbara didn’t really know what was going on, or at least she didn’t say. Anyhow, we had rented some storage space from one of those places that rent such and the next morning we took it all over there and dropped it off.
Now that we had our supply, it was time to start liquidating our asset. We did so with a vengeance, sometimes selling 10-15 pounds at a time. We had moved up from retail to wholesale and this was a good thing: overall less people to deal with.
I wanted to unload all of it as quickly as possible and get the hell out of Lake Charles for a while, but Kim was enjoying too much, The LIFE. I told him over and over, to stop with the flamboyant shows and talking too much shit to his friends, some of whom had friends, or cousins, or brothers on the police force. It was like talking to a concrete wall and I was getting nervous. It was now mid October 1977.
I had made my own friends in Lake Charles over the months I had been there, and one of them turned out to be the best friend I ever had. He came to see me one day and told me the cops were onto Kim and were planning a bust. He also told me no one knew who I was and many didn’t even know I existed. I could have bugged out right then, but I would not do that to Kim (It’s a Texan thing). It was mid-morning when I received this tip and naturally, I tried to locate Kim. No luck, so I just started throwing all of our stuff into the car while all the time watching the window. I saw a police car drive by at least four times during the time I was packing. That was enough for me. I called Barbara at the pet shop, and praise be to Allah, Kim had just walked in. I told her to tie him up because I was coming to talk to him and it couldn’t wait. She understood and I drove off to speak with Kim.
It took me at least twenty minutes to convince him it was time to split. We had not sold all the marijuana, and the only way I did finally convince him was to promise to return with him in a few months to finish selling the rest of it. Of course I had no intention of ever setting foot back in Lake Charles if I made it out of there with my young freedom still intact, but that little lie was worth it.
I got him into the car and we headed for Texas. Didn’t even go back to the house. John and Barbara would be fine, we had not had any drugs in their house since that night we first unloaded the pot there. I had made damn sure before I left that there were, in fact, no traces of marijuana at all. The place was clean.
We drove straight to Texas and probably didn’t say a single word to each other until we were safely across the border. The first thing we did after crossing was to look at each other and bust out laughing. Hysterically too as I recall.
We drove all the way to Commerce that day. I dropped Kim off at the KA fraternity house and I went to look up an old girlfriend I knew would put me up for a few days. I crashed there and slept as if dead. The next morning I drove over to Greenville and E-Systems to check on that overseas gig in Sinai I had been trying to get since forever. They were decent enough to grant me a brief interview and when I told them I had applied over fourteen months prior, and had been in to see them at least a dozen times over the months since, (Save during my stint in Lake Charles, which I did not intend to mention on my updated résumé) they raised their eyebrows. They told me there still were no openings, but did I have a phone number where I could be reached? Not having a phone, I gave them the number of the liquor store where I used to work in Ladonia. The owner, an elderly widow named Ruth, considered me her son, so I had no reservations in giving them her number.
After I left Greenville, I decided to drive to Honey Grove and check in with my father, just for the hell of it. I had to pass through Ladonia on the way, and of course I wanted to see Ruth, so I pulled in just to say hello. She was overjoyed to see me, hugs all around from her, and Mamie, the old black lady who helped her run the place. After all that business, she said, “Oh, Lance, someone from E-Systems called looking for you about an hour ago.”
“What??” I was shocked.
“Oh yes. He said they wanted you to come in for a follow-up interview.”
Well, I knew exactly what that meant. They were going to send me to Sinai after all. I kissed her right on the lips and I thought she was going to swoon before she regained her composure enough to ask me what the hell was that about. I explained the Sinai deal to her and told her I would be back the next day with the happy news.
Since it was too late to head back to Greenville, I went ahead to my father’s house. I had not seen him in over a year. I announced to him and Gloria that I would be leaving for Egypt very soon and I had come back to say goodbye. They were not impressed and frankly, I was too happy to give two shits one way or the other.
I stayed there long enough to use their phone to call Barb in Lake Charles. She told me that on the afternoon of the day Kim and I left, the police had come and searched their entire house top to bottom. I said, “Yes, I know. Sorry about that.” They didn’t find anything of course, so at least there was some good news.
I went back to Commerce and stayed again with the old girlfriend then went to E-Systems bright and early the next morning. They hired me right away and began processing me for my passport, medical exam, shots, et cetera.
One week later I landed in Tel Aviv.
A footnote to this story:
About a year and a half after I began working in the Sinai, I was home on R&R and ran into Kim in Commerce. We had a nice visit, and then the next day he called me up and told me he had to see me and it was urgent. “Here comes the trauma drama,” I said as hung up the phone.
Well, it was trauma and it was drama.
We met in a bar in Commerce, sat down, ordered some beers, and I asked, “So, what is this urgent urgency?”
“Barbara is dead.”
“What?” I said, almost choking on my beer.
“She was brutally murdered in the house. And the Lake Charles Sheriff’s department has me as the prime suspect.”
“Well, did you kill her Kim?”
“Okay then. I believe you. So who did kill her?”
“Man. I have no idea. Maybe John.”
“No fucking way!” I protested. “I know he was a Nam vet and all, but no way would he murder his wife.”
“Well, they were having some problems and…”
“Yeah, that we caused,” I interrupted.
“Well, I’m in trouble. I think Gerry told them that Barbara and I didn’t get along.”
“Yeah, Gerry always told the truth,” I said bluntly to get his attention. (He was pissing me off. One of my friends was murdered and all he was concerned with was that he was in trouble.) “You should’ve stayed with that girl; she was good for you.”
I don’t believe Kim did the deed. Anyway, the murder was never solved and last I heard (Around 1984) was that John had sold the pet shop and moved back to Texas.
This concludes my Little Not-So-Short story.
I hope y’all enjoyed it. This fictional account of something that could have happened back during the more laid-back Seventies was fun to invent.
Thank you all for your time.