Cat froze and turned around. She looked a little scared, but mostly confused. "Nona, I was just going to get you and Ralph each a Blue Dog." Cat said, sounding more like she thought Nona was being silly, than that she actually felt any danger.
"Now now Cat, this isn't about soda." Nona said. "This is about money. And by my guess you and Sam have ten thousand dollars in the house. And what you don't seem to understand is I'd kill everyone here for five."
I had used this time, while she was distracted, to pull my own weapon.
Knowing Cat would never stand for me pointing a gun at her grandmother. Even though that same granny was currently pointing a gun at her. I aimed at Ralph and said, "You're not shooting anyone. Or robbing anyone, Nona. Not unless you want me to open a hole in your partner."
Nona glanced at me, "Ralph is no partner of mine. He's an employee and a poor one. Shoot him. Shoot him twice, I don't care. I'll shoot him myself. I was certainly including him in the 'everyone here' that I'd kill for a fin."
I knew 'fin' was an old timey word for five dollars. So I guessed she was using some drug slang. Like how a 'nickle bag' cost five or fifty dollars, depending on the drug. I guess in her world a 'fin' was five thousand.
"Please Nona, if you need some money I'd be happy to loan you some." Cat said.
"Listen here, you babbling twit. You will give me all the money you have in the house. The 60% cut I'm entitled to and a little extra to make up for trying to cheat me out of what's mine.
I kept the Bloods and the Crips out of this neighborhood. I shot the leader of the Latin Kings' pecker off and now they all work for Nona. What made you think you were immune? Cause you're my granddaughter? Family don't mean that much to me, kid. Not if they steal from me. You work my town without givin' Nona her taste and you're a stranger. And strangers get dangers, little girl."
Cat was starting to cry. "Nona," (sniff) "I don't know why you're being so mean to me."
I'm not gonna say the old bitch looked guilty, or concerned. I think I was learning those feelings didn't register with her. But she did give my girl just a hint of a smile, with shades of the Nona we knew around her eyes. "Cat sweetie, this isn't personal. It's business, and business is the same for everybody, granddaughter or not. Now be a good girl and get Nona her money. The sooner we get square the sooner we can put all this behind us."
Cat went dutifully into our bedroom and returned with a paper bag. "Here Nona."
"Is it all there Cat? I don't think I need to tell you what I'll do if you try to cheat me." Nona asked.
"I know Nona. You'll shoot me, then chop me up and force Sam to eat me. Then, when she poops me out you'll use Nona voodoo to bring me back to life and kill Sam and make the poop-me eat her. And then you'll chop up the poop-me and use it to fertilize the lawn at Elderly Acres. Don't worry, both of us are terrified." Cat ranted.
Nona smacked her in the face with her gun barrel. "Don't get cheeky with me, young lady."
I ran to Cat to comfort her and make sure her split lip wasn't too serious. While Nona rifled through the bag.
"There's gotta be closer to fifteen thousand in here. Good girl." She said. "One...two...three." She found three hundred dollar bills and dropped them on us. "Here's a little something for supplies. See, I'm not an unreasonable woman. Just don't try to cheat me out of what's due me." She started to leave with Ralph tagging behind. Intentionally putting his cane down on my toe as he passed. Right before she shut the door, Nona turned and said. "I'll be back Friday for my cut of the week's take."
Once the door was closed Cat laughed so hard she started her lip bleeding worse.
"Ten thousand. We've been back in business for almost a month. Ten thousand is what we'd've made if we were selling it at the price it was when it was legal. The fifteen I gave her is just over a third of what we had. And if she thinks that's 100% of our profits we can give her ten and tell her it's sixty and she obviously won't know.
And that's just for now.
Because apparently, business is business, family or not. Which to me is practically the same as asking us to cheat her and plot to take over her whole operation." She laughed. Really laughed a bit louder and longer than I was entirely comfortable with, given the subject matter. But I knew she was a spunky playful sort when I signed on for a life with her.
"So how much do we have left?" I asked.
"Twenty-eight, twenty-nine thousand." She replied.
"Good. You should have let me shoot her though." I said.
"Oh Sammi-lamb, you're so violent and shooty." Cat said, in that playful 'isn't my homicidal girlfriend cute?' way she has. "Business may be business, but family is family. And I am not the kind of girl who lets her girlfriend kill or maim her Nona, no matter how crazy or dangerous her Nona may be."
The next two weeks we made and sold Blue Dog. Calling it Perro Azul in a reverse of how 1930's government had called cannabis by the mexican slang term marijuana to push through legislation to make it illegal. Even though cannabis sativa had been put in dozens of over the counter medicines up until that point. Using American ignorance and isolationism to hide something illegal rather than to take away something that had always been perfectly lawful.
Even though it wasn't a perfect strategy it worked well enough to be a little sad in a city with as many Hispanics as Los Angeles.
Then one day Nona invited us out for dinner at a steakhouse popular with her friends where Cat and I had shared some very sexy dinners of our own.
The first part was almost like dinners with Nona used to be. Both she and Cat were working hard to make things seem as normal as possible. But finally the old girl got to the point.
"I know you girls think the five to seven thousand we make in a week is a lot of money." Nona said.
We tried not to laugh or do anything that gave away the fact that we made three or four times that as we nodded attentively.
"But that's just small potatoes to me, barely worth getting out of bed for. I was thinking we need to move more product. If you two can make more than a hundred cases a week we need to sell more than a hundred cases a week. And if you can't, we need to bring in more people so you can."
We could make a hundred cases a day if we were working all day at it, but neither of us had any interest in sharing that.
"But if we're going to really make big with this, we need to add a little incentive." Nona said
"Nona, what do you mean incentive?" Cat asked.
"Insurance. Something to keep the people coming back. Something the soda they can buy cheap and legal doesn't have. Coca-Cola used to have cocaine, but that's too expensive. Meth would certainly get them addicted. But, with the chemicals in it, it tastes like something you'd use to disinfect a robot whore's rubber cooze with. Then it hit me. 'What's the most addictive thing there is?' I asked myself. Smokes. Nicotine and the other shit they put in there to keep the people buying them. And in the amounts we'd need... just like a cigarette's worth in every bottle. It might add some bitterness, maybe numb the tongue a bit, but nothing that would stop people drinking it. And the taste at least, we could probably tweak the formula to mask it."
Cat looked incensed. "Nona I am not gonna sell cigarette soda to kids."
"Oh Cat sweetie, I thought I made it clear. You'll do what you're fucking told and you'll be happy to do it. Now you mind your Nona. I thought you two understood. I'm letting you keep working the biz because 'why not?' And I like you. But I will shut you out faster than piss and do it all myself if you can't play ball."
"I'm sorry Nona. You're right. I'll play ball." Cat said in a voice that I recognized as her placating and planning tone. It really was the most dangerous of her moods. Usually only found when she forgot to take her 'special vitamins'. But Nona had been pushing her pretty steady since this whole mess started.
But apparently how much one really earns in the illegal soda biz was not the only thing Nona didn't know and underestimated.
Because where anyone who knew my girl would be backing away slowly with their hands in plain view, repeating, "I'm sorry Cat. I'm sorry, Cat..." Over and over. Nona just patted my girl's hand, saying. "Good girl. See, I knew you were smart." in the most patronizing tone I had ever heard.