If I wanted to be a big pot grower today, I would have lots of little plots of land scattered all over the area . . .”
“Like the seventeen plots owned by the Davises.”
“Yeah, only maybe more so. You know of seventeen. How many are there you don’t know about? Anyway, I wouldn’t want to have too much direct contact with the farming. I’d be management. I’d supply the means, pay salaries, and skim my take off the top.”
Rusty stopped in mid-sentence, then looked at me sharply and said, “Mostly, Gunn, I’d enforce discipline. If your man could do that, he could make millions. But he would have to be ruthless. A guy like that couldn’t hesitate at a few killings.”
Rusty wiped up the last of his eggs with a piece of toast and asked, “How are you armed?”
I told him about the Bulldog. He just shook his head and said, “Wait.” He headed off downstairs to his shop and five minutes later came back with an ancient double-barreled shotgun. It was a basket case. Apparently someone had let it rust and then had sanded the rust off. Instead of having it reblued, they had covered the metal, and half the stock, with black spray paint. The stock was wrapped with duct tape.
Rusty was polishing it with a rag. Not to make it look good; he was removing his fingerprints. He handed it to me along with a couple of boxes of shells.
“I took this in trade, thinking I’d rebuild it in my spare time. It’s old, and it’s never been registered. It’s sound, despite what it looks like. I’d like to give you something better, but you need something that ballistics can’t trace. I’m giving you double-ought buck and in case things get real serious, slugs. They aren’t accurate past twenty yards, but they’ll stop a grizzly in his tracks.”
I headed north across the Golden Gate and took Highway 101 through the oak and gold clarity of a Marin County morning. Choosing a speed was a delicate task. The last thing I needed was to be pulled over while I was carrying a pair of unregistered weapons. Cars were slamming past me in true California fashion, going eighty and ninety. Fifty-five miles per hour was the law then, but it would have been suicidal, so I kept pace with the slowest traffic at just under seventy.
I was heading into country that I knew only by hearsay. During all my years in San Francisco, I had not had the leisure or the money to explore the state. I had been to Sacramento a number of times, on business for Joe Dias or doing research for my thesis, but I had only gone as far north as Mendicino once, on a fishing trip. Garberville was about fifty miles inland from there, and further north.
I came off the freeway about noon and rolled through the town from end to end to get a feel for the place. There wasn’t a lot to see. One main street ran north and south, a second dead ended into it and carried traffic back toward the freeway. Restaurants, gas stations, a lumberyard, two hardware stores, a movie theater, two grocery stores, an antediluvian five and dime still hanging on long after the main chain had died, and four or five video rental stores. Since it was California, there were also two health food stores, a new age bookstore, and a palm reader. more tomorrow