Johnson staggered to his feet and crossed to the library, hesitated and looked over his shoulder. I said, “Go ahead.” I already knew where his stash was, but it had seemed too petty to mention. Everyone in Garberville had a stash.
He came back to the sofa, put bud and papers on the coffee table and built a cigarette. He sucked it in fast, controlling the smoke between puffs, holding his breath as long as he could. When it was gone, he said, “I really love this stuff. I wish I didn’t.”
“She’s killing you, isn’t she.”
He nodded. “She is worse for me than pot, and harder to get loose from.”
“Do you really?”
“Oddly enough, I do.”
I sat down across from Johnson and said, “Tell me about her.”
“Oh, God. I’ve known her all our lives. We grew up together. I fell in love with her when she was twelve and I was sixteen, and I have never gotten over her.”
“Here. She had four brothers. Two of them were killed – three of them now. Only Crazy Alan is left. And Susyn, who is as crazy as all four of them put together, but cold. Thinking. Mean, sometimes. And sometimes the sweetest, kindest thing that ever lived. But you never knew, any time you saw her, what way she was going to be.
“Carter – her oldest brother – got killed in a territorial dispute. Someone raided one of his fields, so he raided back. Got the wrong field, hurt a woman who was taking care of it when she tried to stop him. This woman’s old man was just back from Viet Nam. A Marine, unreconstructed. A lot of the unreconstructeds end up in these hills. He caught Carter in a bar down in Leggett and put a knife in him. Susyn was fourteen at the time. Her Daddy, Cameron, the old bull of the woods, put out the word and the Marine who killed his oldest boy disappeared. The cops never found him, and his family never saw him again. Me either; but Susyn told me she went to the shed where Cameron had him taken and saw the body after they had finished with it. If must have been really ugly. Susyn wasn’t herself for months after that.”
Johnson rolled another joint before he went on.
“Susyn was close to all her brothers. Worshipped them, really. She took Carter’s death hard and when Deke got killed a few years later, it really put her over the edge.
“Deke was the second brother; the smart one. He was the one the old man was grooming to take over the family business. Sent him to college down in Sonoma. Made him into an accountant.
“Deke was up in the Sierras. Cameron had expanded his operations, and it was just after harvest. They had a cabin back in some valley somewhere, with a couple of tons of pot getting trimmed out by some itinerants Deke had hired. Deke was cutting corners, using some of that fancy bookkeeping he learned in college to cheat the trimmers. They beat him up, stuffed him into the trunk of his car, and took off for Sacramento. Nobody knows what they had in mind, but they took one bend in a mountain road too fast and went three hundred feet down into a ravine. Burned. Some rangers pulled the bodies out two days later and got a big surprise when they checked in the trunk. more tomorrow