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.
There were a few other escapades no less bizarre during this time, but I won’t recount them here. Like the infamous naked, midnight go-cart ride over and through some very nicely landscaped yards of the Lake Charles rich and famous. Well, rich anyway… “Don’t start Lance. Get on with the pot smuggling story.”
After several more ‘adventures’ as described above, Kim and I decided we needed to go to McAllen to expedite things with the Mexicans. We took our partner Kirk with us for balance and also because he had some friends in San Antonio we could hang out with before we drove south to McAllen. We ended up staying in San Antonio for several weeks before making our way south. Long story why and not particularly exciting, so I’ll skip it.
We arrived in McAllen late one sultry Saturday night and having nothing better to do until morning when we were to hook up with Pablo, we decided to drive into Mexico and visit ‘Boy’s Town’ in Reynosa. Kim had been there before and told us how the deal worked:
“Before we go, we have to make sure the car is clean. No pot, no guns, no nothing. If we get busted they will put us in jail for a w-h-i-l-e.”
So, we snuck all the way back down to the storage room and just as we had finished getting ‘dressed’, we got busted. Appearing in front of us, blocking the exit, was this security guard, a very bulky and tall black man.
“What’re you boys doing in here?”
“Uh…we’re here to see our friend.”
“Your friend ain’t here.” (This much I knew)
“Uh…we got lost.”
The fact that we were dressed as hospital orderlies didn’t seem to amuse him. I deduced this instinctively and immediately. I decided “The Truth” would be our only best hope.
I explained we just wanted to come visit our friend who had been very sick and that, yes, we had been drinking a little, and yes we are sorry, but could you please take us to his room so we can say hello and then split, quietly.
Thank God he quickly developed a sense of humor and he did exactly that. He took us up to the room, left, and while we were visiting with Joe, the guard apparently found our bottle of wine in the storage room and actually brought it to us! I almost fell out of the chair I was sitting in. He brought us that wine. Unbelievable.
We stayed way too long in Joe’s room and realized it was now daylight when the nurse came in. We were just as drunk as when we had arrived hours earlier, and now didn’t have the dark of night conceal our escape. This was a bad situation. Our friendly night shift security guard was long since gone and we had to pull ourselves together long enough to get away without being arrested. In spite of all that, it really should have been easy.
But it wasn’t.
We left Joe’s room and did just fine until we exited the elevator on the ground floor. There were people everywhere! Kim decided a song was in order, so as I was helping him walk, our arms over each other’s shoulders, best-buddy-like, he burst into song. Perfect. I couldn’t make him shut up. People, who up until that point had been ignoring us, starting staring, pointing, and laughing. I hustled us out of there as quickly as possible, but I was certain there must have been someone who was not particularly amused by our antics. The police were bound to be summoned.
Once we got outside (mind you, we were dressed in gym shorts and t-shirts from the night before and really stuck out amongst all the hospital staff coming in from the parking area dressed for respectable work), I stopped holding onto Kim and turned to look for our car, actually Joe’s car, a Monte Carlo. We had ‘borrowed’ it while he was near death in the hospital; didn’t think he would be needing it anytime soon…if ever.
I could not for the life of me spot the damn car now that the parking lot was full and of course I couldn’t remember anything about where we had parked the night before. I turned back to ask Kim if he remembered, but he was gone!
I knew I had to get away from the entrance to the hospital quickly and find the damn car. I started walking all around the perimeter of the parking lot, looking now simultaneously for the car, Kim, and the cops. I turned a corner and saw a security guard. He spotted me and began pointing and yelling. I lit out in the direction I had come from and was really hauling ass. Directly in front of me was Kim, running just as full-force but directly toward me. And he was Naked!
He continued to head toward me, laughing and almost tripping on something as he ran. I had lost my sense of humor and did nothing to acknowledge his impromptu streaking other than to point back over my shoulder at the security guards or cops I was certain were right behind me. They must have been, because Kim’s smile disappeared instantly as he flew past me. I didn’t even risk turning around to see if he had run straight into them. I just kept running, now looking only for the car. I planned to find Kim again later. If I could.
I rounded another corner of the building and stopped under a little side entrance-way to look about and catch my breath. There appeared to be no one chasing me now. I figured once they saw Kim, running bare-ass naked through their parking lot at 7 a.m. on a weekday, I had become just a mediocre prize and they must now be focused solely on him.
As I stood there, panting, I looked up and saw The Car! It was parked under some trees kind of off by itself and a more beautiful sight I had not seen in some time. I walked briskly to it as I pulled out the keys, hopped in and started trying to navigate to the exit. I found it, but there was one of those wooden barriers across the road and one of those boxes you slide a card into. I did not recall that being there the night before and I certainly didn’t have a fucking card to slide into the box. So I simply drove through the barricade.
Having secured the car, I started driving around the hospital looking for Kim, while also looking for flashing lights and cop cars. No Kim to be seen. By the time I had made three laps around the hospital road I was about to give up and go home to give John the happy news that we might have to come up with some bail money. As I was driving on the road behind the building, (a narrow service road with the hospital on the left and a cemetery on the right) I saw that red ginger afro pop up from behind a tombstone. I stopped the car, leaned over, opened the passenger side door just in time for Kim to hurl himself in (He had put his clothes back on at this point).
I saw two police cars directly in front of us as they turned onto our road, but at least 40 yards away.
“Step on it!” He yelled.
Remaining calm, or at least trying to, I said, “Hold on. They’re looking for two guys on foot. If I don’t make any sudden moves, they’ll probably ignore us. Get down on the floor board and hang tight.”
I drove straight ahead slowly toward the cops and pulled onto a service entryway, allowing them to pass. As soon as they did, I pulled back out and drove off, pretty as you please.
“Well, that was slick, Mr. Cool,” Kim said as he positioned himself back in the seat.
Barbara was no dummy, and she really didn’t want to know, nor did she care about what her husband was doing with me and Kim, and she genuinely liked me and Gerry, although she could not stand Kim, mainly because he was not good with animals, especially Charley-the-cougar, not to mention she just didn’t like his arrogant personality.
Barbara was a vivacious redhead, bright green eyes, slightly stocky, about five-seven. And she had a temper. Best not to fuck with Barbara. Her husband loves telling a story on her. While she was still working the oil rigs and had just started dating John, they went out to eat one evening after flying in from a rig. The establishment was just a hole-in-the wall bar on the coast. Barbara ordered a double cheeseburger, an order of fries, an order of onion rings and a pitcher of Budweiser. (“That Gal can put away some groceries!” John would say.)
They were seated at the bar, John on the left and another roughneck on the right of Barb. When the food arrived and Barbara was flooding her fries and onion rings with ketchup, the roughneck (who should have known better), thought he’d fuck with Barbara. He picked up her cheeseburger and feigned taking a bite.
“Look you son-of-bitch,” she said, “Put my burger back on my plate right goddamn now.”
The guy switched the burger to his right hand and said, “Or what Barb?” He had his left hand resting on the bar top.
In a flash Barbara grabbed her fork and stabbed the guy’s hand, damn near nailing it to the bar.
“Or that!” She said.
The burger fell to the bar top unharmed.
Having come to the agreement with the Mexicans, all we had to do was wait for them to prepare the shipment for pickup. John and Kim would fly to McAllen, pick up the marijuana (125 pounds) and fly it back to Lake Charles where I would be waiting with the Impala to transfer it from the plane. We could not find a good landing zone in Lake Charles after several days of diligent searching and heated debate between me and Kim. Out of necessity I decided we would land the plane behind the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s department. There was a very large empty field there, nice and flat and good enough John said to land on. Now, you may wonder why land right in the backyard of The Law, but actually it made good sense. No one in his right mind would try to land a plane full of pot behind the Sheriff’s Department. No one except us. They would never suspect a thing. (I hoped not anyway).
Everything was ready on our end. It was now mid-summer. We waited for word from our boys in McAllen/Reynosa.
We had several telephone conversations with Pablo during this time and he kept assuring us that things would be just fine; just a little longer… perhaps mañana …
Things were beginning to become unbearable around the house for Barbara. She did not understand (and rightly so) why Kim and Gerry and I were living there and not working (Me and Kim anyway)–just hanging out—waiting on some ‘business deal’ to come through.
The waiting was killing me and Kim. The two of us, and with our history, just hanging out with nothing to do, was a recipe for all sorts of boredom induced mischief and it didn’t take long to become manifest.
One night as we were all leaving an Italian restaurant and heading toward the car parked out back, Kim says, “Hey Lance, Y’all wait up.”
“What’s up?” I asked.
“Just hang on a sec,” he said, as I saw him heading back over to the building and a small door off to the side.
As I watched him disappear into the building, uneasiness came over me. “Now what?” I whispered to myself.
Kim reappeared, or at least his head did from behind the door (Kim had red kinky hair and he kept it long in what could best be described as a ‘Ginger Afro.’) and motioned for me to have John bring the car around. After our car pulled up, I followed Kim back inside the building and discovered I was in a storage room of the restaurant. There must have been fifty cases of Italian wine. Just sitting there. With our names on every box. I don’t have to tell you the rest. One thing you may be curious about however, how did Kim know of the place and why wasn’t it locked? During the course of our meal, Kim had excused himself to go to the bathroom. He was gone for quite a while, but no one noticed (or cared). Apparently he had discovered the storage room entrance when he had gone to the bathroom, had gone in and broken the lock to the outside. After that everything else was a foregone conclusion in his mind and I didn’t chastise him about it either. Money was, after all, getting very tight and good wine is always appreciated.
During the long hot summer days Kim and I would play chess, watch Daytime TV (The Gong Show became our favorite and we never missed a single episode), go to the gym, play with the cougar, and otherwise just wait for John, Barbara, and Gerry to come home in the evenings. I hate to say it, but Kim and I had become ‘housewives’ to the other three. We just didn’t do any of the housewife stuff, although I did mow the yard from time to time. It was certainly a strange situation and actually, aside from the uncertainty of what we were waiting to do, it was a calm period in my life. Well, sorta…
Our friend and partner, Joe, had been stricken suddenly with some horrible medical malady and he damn near died. They put him in ICU at one of the hospitals in Lake Charles and as soon as he was well enough, Kim and I made plans to go for a visit. We finally got the go ahead late one afternoon, but just before we had planned to set out for the hospital we began drinking some more of the wine we had liberated from the Italian restaurant. Several things happened to delay our trip, not the least of which was about 3 bottles of good red wine. Along about midnight, we decided to go and visit Joe. We were slightly inebriated. Actually, we were shit-faced, but still full of the pent up energy from our ‘waiting game’ with the Mexicans.
We arrived at the hospital, carrying one of the bottles of wine we had not finished off, and as we were walking toward the main entrance it dawned on me that visiting hours were probably over for the night. I told Kim we would have to wait until morning to see Joe. He would have none of that, so I said, “Well, Einstein, what do you want to do, sneak into the hospital to see him?”
He did, in fact, intend to do just that. So, being the veterans we were of breaking into Honey Grove High School upon numerous occasions, we reconnoitered the building for access points and quickly found one that seemed suitable. We gained entrance to a room which was slightly below ground level. Turns out it was a storage room for hospital uniforms and scrubs. We made our way out of there and stealthily to the third floor where we knew Joe’s room was located. To that point, we had gone unnoticed and were quite proud of ourselves and we still had the wine we intended to share with Joe. As we were walking down the empty corridor counting down the room numbers looking for Joe’s we came upon something that made our hearts sink: There was a bloody nurse’s station just across from what we determined must be the room we sought. We did an about-face and hid behind a corner.
“Shit!” I said, “Now what?”
“Why don’t we just casually walk on in?” Kim said.
“Yeah, right. We’re drunk; we have a half-gallon of wine, and we’re Texans in Louisiana. Any more brilliant questions?”
Kim was quiet for a minute. I took a slow drink of wine from the bottle. Then he announced, “I got it! You remember that room we came into on the bottom floor?”
“Kim, no, no, No. Hell no!” I said, a little too loudly.
“Don’t you see? It’ll be perfect. We dress up like orderlies from the stuff in that room, you hide the wine underneath you outfit, and we’re good to go. We just waltz right on past those nurses. Easy.”
“Why do I have to carry the wine?” I asked, and by so doing, de-facto agreed to the foolish plan.
“You’re bigger than me. Easier for you to hide it.”
So we set about the business of selling marijuana in earnest while looking for a way to increase our volume to meet the ever-increasing demand in Lake Charles. The first order of business was to find a pilot. As I was the ‘behind-the-scenes-guy,’ Kim took on this assignment. I knew that if there were a candidate anywhere within one hundred miles, he would find him. Within two weeks, I was being introduced to John Byrd, who, along with his new bride, owned a pet shop in town. Barbara, (A veteran of the off-shore oil rigs—really. She was an ex-roughneck) ran the place. John was flying roughnecks back and forth to the oil rigs out in the Gulf of Mexico when they met. He was a three-tour Vietnam vet chopper pilot—First Cav—and he was bored. We, well Kim, had found our man, but Kim would not tell John anything about our business or his potential role in it until I had met him and given my blessing. At least, at this point, Kim was following my rules. This would change later.
We ‘hired’ John one night over beers, pizza, and loud music at one of the local hang-outs and our next task was to find a contact with contacts in Mexico who could turn us on (pun intended) to a supplier. South Louisiana and South Texas had no shortage of Mexicans (Generally referred to as “Meskins” in the Texas vernacular, but not by me, finding that a little too much “country when country wasn’t cool”) then or now, and it wasn’t too terribly long before we had our contact. His name was Pablo (I swear) and he lived with his family down around McAllen, on the southern Texas border. He also had family in Reynosa, Mexico which was just across the border from McAllen. Things were looking very good for us.
After we made all the contacts, had everything set up (too easy, in my mind), and were making plans to move forward, two things happened: Our local supply dried up and our money ran out. We were losing the apartment, the Harley, and some of Kim’s ‘good friends.’ The last didn’t upset me at all.
On the night before we were forced to move out, I sat down with Kim, our other two partners (the ones who had been living in the apartment with us), and while Kim’s girlfriend cooked supper and we drank, I explained to all the seriousness of our situation. No real need to explain to anyone other than Kim, but we were ‘a team’ and I wanted complete understanding and agreement from everyone for our path forward. Kim was still in denial over his ‘empire’ crumbling, or at least in bad need of repair. The only one missing from the meeting was our pilot, but I had already spoken to him, and since he was the oldest and most mature, I had no trouble with him understanding.
The path forward was a simple one: Joe would move back in with his parents (wealthy Lake Charles family), Kirk would move in with his girlfriend, and Kim, Gerry (Kim’s girlfriend with a “guy” moniker—never did ask her how that came about) and I would move in with John and Barbara. Gerry and Barbara had become instant fast friends the first time they met, so this was an easy deal and a no-brainer.
We would all lie low while Kim and I sorted out the mess and tried to convince the Mexicans to give us marijuana on credit. A lot of marijuana. In fact we figured the plane John was planning to lease could hold well over one-hundred pounds, so that was my goal. I probably don’t have to tell you that asking for one hundred pounds of pot on credit from Mexican drug dealers was ludicrous, but I have always been cursed with a little too much self-confidence and cock-eyed optimism and I just didn’t see how we could fail.
We made arrangements to fly Pablo and an associate from McAllen to Lake Charles for a ‘face-to-face.’ After they arrived, we took them over to John’s house for drinks and food (We had told Barbara we were bringing some friends over from Texas: ‘William and Paul’—Gerry already knew the score) and laid out the plans for our, certain to be, prosperous and profitable business venture, of course partnered up with them. They spoke English well enough for me to make them understand how very professional we were. Kim lathered on his charm and had them laughing and joking with us before it was all said and done, sealing the deal. Immediately after they left Barbara asked her husband, “How come William and Paul are ‘Mexican?’”
John said without hesitation, “Honey, I suppose their parents are Mexican.”
The apartment was a very busy place. I could not figure out who was actually living there and who was just hanging out. There were certainly a lot of people about all the time. Guys and gals would just come walking in at all hours as if they had been living there forever. The girls were all beautiful and of course all belonged to the sister sorority of Kappa Alpha. Naturally the guys were all KAs. I was the only ‘independent’ around, but they didn’t really seem to mind. (I think Kim John told some of them that as soon as the fall semester began I was going to enroll in McNeese and pledge Kappa Alpha. He was shocked to find out a few weeks later that I had been telling all who asked me of this that No, I had no intention of pledging Kappa Alpha or any other fraternity, Not now, not ever.)
After I found a room which didn’t have too much of a lived-in look and got settled, I sought Kim Jim out and began asking him what was the scam. There had to be a scam because no way could he afford to live in such a place. Not the Kim guy I knew. Not the Kim dude who hated hard work above all other things on Earth. No ma’am. There had to be a scam.
And there was, in spades.
Kim James and some of his roommates (I had finally figured out who actually lived in the apartment—two other guys full-time and some girls who drifted in and out, “short time”) were tending bar at the largest joint in town. A University hang-out of course. And of course they were skimming the till. One of the guys worked part-time during the day at a convenience store and whenever there was a need for groceries or booze, or gas, or toiletries, or whatever else they had in stock, Kim Bill and the Gang would just roll up, load up, and leave. Very convenient, this convenience store. They had embraced the promise of the ‘Cashless Society’ long before it would become popular years later. Call them ‘Pioneers’ in this regard.
That explained some of Kim’s Bubba’s new found opulence, but not all. The take from the bar couldn’t possibly cover the rent, free food, booze, and gasoline notwithstanding. I confronted Kim James and told him that if I were going to remain in Lake Charles he must tell me everything that was going on. He had every intention of doing this and I knew it, but I also knew he wanted me to get a taste of the lifestyle for some days before he told me the whole deal. Kim Charles had never been difficult to figure out, at least for me, but then, I had known him since I first moved to Honey Grove years before. Backing up a little: Kim Sam and I had always flirted with, and engaged in, larceny during High School and had pulled many scams over the years. The practical jokes we played on Honey Grove ISD are legion (and legend) and still remembered to this day. There was the time late one night when we broke in and emptied all the books in all the lockers (almost 300 lockers) and piled them all in a long, narrow hallway running past the chemistry lab…took all the next day to sort them out. Classes cancelled… Kim Bart and Lance heroes (everyone knew who did it, but no one had any evidence)
Anyway, Kim Jim and I had always been bad boys. We planted marijuana all over my grandfather’s 100 acres in Winnsboro one spring, dreaming of a bountiful harvest making us, by my calculations, at least one-hundred thousand dollars. Our crop failed however and we had to figure out another way to make money. Since I have never been afraid of hard work, I took to hauling hay, a respectable profession, but hot and dusty and brutal work. I loved it. I worked on ranches year round after school as well. Kim Buford would never have any part of hard, honest work, so he muddled about best he could, usually borrowing money from me whenever he was in need. But we were never ready to give up on the potential profits of the pot business. We just put it on hold for a few years.
Since Kim’s Paul’s reputation in Honey Grove had become, shall we say ‘tarnished’, he decided to move to Lake Charles and begin anew. Lake Charles was perfect. Big enough for one to blend in (The necessity of which Kim he never did fully understand, nor could he have, even if he did), yet small-town enough to feel like home. By the time I arrived he had established a thriving pot dealing business. He was making money. A lot of money. But he wanted more, and his suppliers were not able to keep up with his demand. He explained in great detail how his operation had come to be and where he wanted to take it. Kim Gabe always sought my counsel because he knew I would keep him out of jail. I was the anchor: the guy who would force him to recognize folly, even though he generally traveled through life wearing blinders. He wanted me to remain in Lake Charles and help him grow his business. Having no good prospects at the time (I had been trying in vain to get an overseas gig in Sinai for almost a year) I told him I would stay and help him. My only requirement was that he took my counsel and when I told him something was ill conceived, poorly planned, or just too dangerous, he would listen and follow my instructions, and never “get stuck on stupid.” He anxiously agreed.
There is too much more, if anyone would like to read.