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Smokin' Hot Cash
About the Author: David M. Hamlin is the author of two mystery novels, Winter in Chicago and Winter Gets Hot as well as three non-fiction titles and occasional short stories and commentary articles.

Bart Booker wasn’t the most sophisticated drug dealer in his neighborhood—maybe not even on his block—but he knew the lady was a cop the minute she walked in the door.

The sign taped to the storefront door window facing Washington Boulevard featured a small green cross—like the Red Cross only not—said:

Dr. Booker’s Medicinal Marijuana

Shake & Vape, Oils & Edibles

M-F 11 AM to 4PM

Members Only – Buzz for Entry

If he had any doubts, they vanished when the woman flipped her jacket open to reveal the badge clipped to her belt next to a holstered silver revolver. She looked stern, she oozed authority and control and, although she wasn’t notably large, she radiated strength. He quickly evaluated the reasons she might be in his shop, thinking, right off the bat, no way she’s a new customer. She was carrying a battered brief case and somehow that eased his tension. Business, not crime, he figured.

Bart Booker had been an itinerate botany teacher, driving from one community college to another several days a week lecturing disinterested students, half of whom were gardeners trying to get a leg up on the thousands of competitors driving pick-ups all over greater L.A. His wife Brenda worked as a temp, usually catching assignments three, four days a week; their budget was slim but not scary. He had liked his life when he didn’t focus on the fact that all he ever wanted to do was nurture plants; when he thought about that, it made him miserable.

When California legalized medical marijuana, Bart Booker moved in a hurry. He spent most of their meager savings on the equipment necessary to create a grow room in the garage behind their rented Craftsman bungalow. He taught for one more semester while his crop matured and he established a rotating system for planting and harvesting. By the time the state’s system for purchasing medicinal pot took full effect, smart entrepreneurs were ready to go. Dozens of small shops, each with a steady clientele who “joined” a collective, allowed the proprietors to increase the volume they could produce and sell. When they opened their doors, Bart had product for them.

“Wicked fine weed,” said the first co-op owner Bart contacted.

“Best grow I’ve sampled since we opened,” said the next. “You got the touch, buddy.”

Soon enough, pot stores all over L.A. were calling him and Bart had more demand than he had room to grow. He and Brenda discussed moving from the garage to a more expansive space until Brenda said, “Why don’t we open our own shop?”

They rented a storefront, walking distance from their bungalow on all but the most inclement days. Brenda tidied the place up some and they spent a little on some display cases. Using black out curtains, low benches and a jerry-rigged ventilation system, Bart created a grow space in the back of the shop which greatly expanded his output. At the same time, he painstakingly completed every single form the state and the City of L.A. required and got one of his college pals—a guy who’d been in law school while Booker was earning his Ph.D.—to check and double check all of it.

His L.A. business license, his approved state application, his membership records and reporting system were all in place when the cop entered the shop, so Bart wasn’t worried; perplexed, perhaps, but not worried.

“Hello, Officer. How can I help you?”

“It’s Detective, sir. Detective Sandy Swift. I’m with LAPD’s narcotics division.”

“No hard drugs here, ma’am,” said Bart, smiling weakly, “just pot, although technically, I guess the Federal government calls it—”

“I know, I know,” she said. “I’m part of a Task Force, we’re reaching out to all the collectives in town. It’s part education, part enforcement. Do you have some time to talk with me?”

Bart smiled again, opening his arms, palms out, gesturing to the empty room.

“No need to take a number,” he said.

“Good. Alright, then, let’s start with the paperwork. I need to see your certificate, forms, DBA. You have employees?”

“Just me. And my wife, but she doesn’t work here, she just bakes. All our forms, they’re in a file in the back room,” he said, “I’m happy to get them for you.”

This story appears in our APR 2018 Issue
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Reader Discussion

Fooled me!
By Susan Rickard

It is a well-written story with plenty of specific details - the author had done a great job in researching the topic! And I LOVE the twist at the end - it is awesome!
By Tatiana Claudy

Wow!!! The Story is good! Very good! Written extremely well and the research is impeccable. I'm impressed, the story pulled me along, and had me itching to figure what was going on. My guess was right! Keep on writing and entertaining us readers!
By Nina Ritter

I liked the story and didn't see the twist coming until they started talking about money. After that, I found the rest a bit anticlimactic, but everything else about it is very tight and controlled, good dialogue etc.
By Mo Bock

Overall, I enjoyed the story. Well written, well researched.
By Tyra Masters-Heinrichs

Great story and a fun twist.
By Alex Hamling

It was a good story. I had a feeling that the gal wasn't really a cop, don't know why. Cops don't usually stop at small businesses and rag on them about security to that degree...The ending didn't surprise me. I liked the buildup of tension within the story
By Frances Dunn

I liked your story, the thing I figured out that the lady with the badge was a thief, her manner was telltale of her being a thief and the ending confirmed it for me. I liked the story with its contemporary setting and issues! Thanks for the story again!
By John Omar Larnell Adams

My thanks to one and all for the kind comments -- it's really gratifying to learn that people not only read my work, but like it, too. Just in case you missed it, Smokin' Hot Cash is the second story about the Beech family. The first, The Beech Boys Run Amok, also appeared in Mystery Weekly, so if you'd like to read the Beech's first foray in crime, check out the magazine's archives. Thanks again -- you've made a writer quite happy!
By David M. Hamlin

Good story David I enjoyed it too, just read it today. I'll be sure to track down The Beech Boys Run Amok..
By Oliver James

Enjoyed this! I was a little suspicious — but not suspicious enough. Good story!
By Elizabeth Varadan

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