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“We’re gardening.” Preppy opened the door and stepped aside, allowing me to enter first. What I came face to face with was far more surprising than a three-ring circus. Rows upon rows of leafy green plants filled the small space. High tech machinery lined the walls. A ventilation system hung from the ceiling. A mister chirped out a puff of vapor every few seconds. Preppy pushed his way past me and set his backpack down on the floor. He opened it and took out some tools. Walking through the rows of plants he inspected each one. Occasionally he used magnifying glass to closely inspect the leaves.

“You’re growing pot?”

“BINGO.”

“In an old lady’s house, you’re growing pot. Why?”

“If you had to guess what it was I was doing here would this have ever entered your mind as a possibility?”

“No.”

“That’s why.”

“So Gladys, too?”

“And several others around town. We pay their mortgages or other bills, or just give them cash if that’s what they want, and in return they let us use a room in their house to grow our plants.”

“So, you aren’t a granny nanny?”

“Was that your second guess? Well, I suppose that’s better than hooker, but no, I’m not a fucking granny nanny. Although I do make it a point to be friendly with all of our greenhouse contributors. Keeps them happy. Keeps them wanting to do business with us. Keeps the law off our backs.”

“I think I liked it better when I thought you were a hooker.”

Preppy opened his arms wide and looked around the room with pride. “Kid, welcome to my brain-child. Welcome to Granny Growhouse.”

*     *     *

“So, that’s what you call your operation? Granny Growhouse?” We were back in the car after another three stops, and Preppy just announced that Betty had been our last stop for the day.

“That’s what I call it. King hates the name, but he hasn’t been back long enough to meet all the ladies and get a feel for it. He’ll come around.”

“You did this while King was in prison?”

“Yeah, kept getting fucked over by our main supplier who only wanted to deal with King, so I phased them out and started Granny Growhouse. It was how we earned while the big man was away.”

“Have you thought of getting a job?”

“What would you call this?” he asked.

“No, like a real job.”

“Fuck no. Never had a real job a day in my life. Don’t plan on it either. Fuck the man.”

“I don’t know if you are completely odd or oddly brilliant.”

“I can’t decide if you are always this blunt or just have a bad case of can’t-shut-the-fuck-ups,” he countered.

“It’s an always kind of thing,” I said honestly.

“King sort of has a real job with the tattooing. It’s how he stays under the radar. But he loves it, too. You should see some of his art. It’s fucking amazing. He’s been doing it since we were kids, using me as his human test dummy.”

It wasn’t until we arrived back at the house, car parked in the garage that I began to dread the reality that awaited me.

All six foot three of him.

Preppy saw me staring up at the house. “I know he’s a little rough on the surface, but he’s the best guy I’ve ever met.”

“Oh yeah? You must not know a lot of people.”

“She’s got jokes!” Preppy said as he pulled down the garage door. “But seriously, he’s not all bad.”

We started to walk toward the house when a large shadow passed over the far window on the second floor, sending shivers down my spine. “You should probably tell him that.”

Chapter Fourteen

Doe

Preppy made dinner, a delicious pasta with sausage dish. I think the old ladies were starting to rub off on him because we ate our meals on the living room recliners off of foldable TV trays.

After dinner, Preppy disappeared into his room and since I was a glutton for punishment, I went upstairs to look for King. Or maybe, I just wanted to find him before he found me. It wasn’t exactly the upper hand, but it was something.

A buzzing sound caught my attention. It was coming from the same room where I’d walked in on King with a girl.

The door was partially open. Inside was a girl with long, straight red hair straddling a low-backed chair. King sat behind her, but it was nothing like the scene from last time. King was perched on a stool, wearing black gloves. He held a buzzing tattoo gun that every so often, he would dip into a small plastic container before continuing on with his work.

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