William Morgan is about to bust the biggest drug boss in California, Silas Botwin, who's been in the business for fifteen years, since his teens. But Morgan doesn't know what he's getting into.
He wakes up tied to a wooden chair, in a concrete room. There are boxes all around him, and he thinks they're probably filled with pot. After all, the biggest dealer in northern California must have a pretty big stash sitting around, ready to be shipped out.
To be honest, Will is pretty surprised he's been allowed to live this long. Silas Botwin has a rep for being more tolerant of law enforcement investigations than others, but Morgan just figures that was because the man was a freaking ghost. Sort of. He has credit cards and a birth certificate and everything, and a record from a few harmless incidents in his youth, but according to the official story, the man has cleaned up his act and become an upstanding citizen.
Y'know, except for the whole biggest-pot-dealer business.
William Morgan was a week away from busting Botwin big time. After a fifteen-year investigation, they finally have enough dirt on the man to put him away for the rest of his life, and half of his operation with him. Morgan has to admit; whoever Botwin has covering his tracks (and it can't be Botwin himself, because Silas' psych profile says he's reckless and sometimes careless) has done an excellent job. The DEA have had to bend the law in dubious ways multiple times just to get as far as they have.
And they still don't have him for pot dealing, just about a dozen other minor illegal things that add up to about fifty years in prison, by far long enough for his empire to crumble.
And then Will had been ambushed getting out of his car in front of his home. A bag thrown over his head, two people pickinghim up and putting him in a trunk, and then the car driving quietly away. It was pointless to struggle, because the lid wasn't going to pop open, but Morgan made as much noise as possible in the hopes that it would irritate his captors some.
And then something had happened, and he woke up in this warehouse. Or maybe it was a basement of some sort. Will can't see anything more than crates and shadows in the gloom. He is painfully aware of the duct tape keeping his wrists together behind the chair's back, and more tape holding his legs to the chair's.
A light flares on overhead, but they have thankfully skipped the bare-bulb cliche and gone with a standard covering. As his eyes adjust to the bright light, Morgan can see a figure approaching. Finally the light fades to normal intensity, and he sees that it is Silas Botwin himself. Will doesn't know exactly what is coming, but he's sure he's not going to like it.
"William Morgan." The thirty-two-year-old man says, arms folded, lazily. "You have a wife, don't you? And a kid, Steven was it?" He starts to speak in a conversational tone of voice. Like he hasn't just practically threatened Will's family.
Morgan feels cold all over, and it's not because of the temperature in the room. "Leave them out of this." And he just barely holds back 'please'.
Silas, the bastard, smirks at him. "Contrary to popular belief," He drawls out. "All drug dealers are not heartless bastards."
Will snorts, and he wonders what sort of game Botwin thinks he's playing. "Yeah, and contrary to popular belief, cigarettes don't give you cancer, and AIDs really is a myth."
Botwin's smirk doesn't fade. "Will--I can call you Will, right?--let's get something straight here. I'll even put in terms a DEA agent can understand. Me, jailer. You, prisoner. This means you don't backtalk, it means you don't ask questions, it means if you do everything I tell you to you may just live to see that lovely family of yours."
"It doesn't matter what you do to me." Morgan nearly spits at him. "The case is made and you'll be behind bars pretty soon."
"See, now, that's where we don't really agree. Because you, Will, seem to think you've got my organization all figured out."
"Are you telling me I don't?" Will asks, incredulous at what is obviously an outright lie.
"I'm telling you that you know nothing about my business." Silas laughs, and for the first time Will is truly worried that he might not be lying. "For instance, you seem to be under the impression that I'm the top of the tower."
The chilled feeling before has nothing on the metaphorical bucket of ice water that has just been dumped over William Morgan's head.
"I'm the grower, William Morgan. I'm not even the first floor of the tower. I'm the foundation. The green thumb churning out ton after ton of weed. You know nothing." Botwin whispers, relishing the dawning horror on Will's face. "Take me out and nothing will change, because I have successors ready and gunning for my job. And then you'll have to start over from nothing, because there will be all new people."
Morgan takes a moment to collect himself. Silas Botwin might be impulsive, but he's not stupid. He wouldn't be telling Will this unless it was for a purpose. "Are you volunteering to rat out your bosses for reduced time?" He asks, because that's the most likely and logical thing he can think of.
Silas never does answer that question verbally, but he pulls out a gun, points it at Morgan, and kneels to rip off the duct tape keeping the man's legs captive. Morgan stays frozen, knowing there's no way he can kick Botwin and run before he gets shot. Then Silas goes around, pulls up on Morgan's bound hands, and he stands. Will is marched out of his section of the room, and finds a set of wooden stairs leading up to a door. He is aware of the gun pressed to the small of his back, insurance that he won't do anything he's not supposed to.
At the top of the stairs, the door is opened for them when Morgan kicks at it as per Silas' orders. An Indian man comes into view around the door, sees Will and Silas behind him, and steps out of the way. "Becka came looking for you while you were busy. She wants to ask you something about the weed in Growhouse Six."
Silas thanked him, and moved on.
Morgan knew who Rebecka Botwin was. "You let your ten-year-old child grow pot?" He asks, only slightly surprised.
Will just knows the man is smirking again when he says, "It's the family business. She's good at it, too, responsible for her own growhouse already."
And the rest of the walk is done in silence.
Morgan is led up another flight of stairs, and the path between the two flights winds through a kitchen populated by people talking amicably, who barely even notice the man being led at gunpoint through the room, and a living room full of kids doing various activities. One even calls out to say hello to Silas, and Morgan has to wonder just how desensitized these children are. Will somehow senses he's in the hub of this whole organization. Like this is the hive to which all bees must eventually return.
Then he is up the stairs and the noise is just a background buzz, one he realizes he heard in the basement as well but didn't really recognize as voices. Up another narrow flight, Botwin turns him left, and then right, through an open door that shuts behind them right away.
There are three more people here, spread about the room on couches and cushioned chairs.
"I told you my people could get him." Silas says, pushing Morgan forward lightly.
"So you did, honey. I'll never underestimate you again." She tells him.
"You know you will. You worry too much, Mom."
And Morgan knows with sudden clarity that he is not leaving this room alive.
The family resemblance is obvious now that he is looking for it. The younger man is twenty-seven, Shane Botwin, Silas' kid brother. The older is Andrew Botwin, ex-brother-in-law and husband to the woman, Nancy Botwin.
It's the family business.
Morgan did not know the amount of truth in that statement before now. He knew the Botwin family's official history; Nancy marries Judah young, he dies, leaving her with their two sons. She flounders for a while, trying to keep their lifestyle what it was, Andrew moves in, and they eventually move farther north. There, she finds her calling and settles in well, raising a security consultant and a drug lord. She eventually marries her brother-in-law, though rumors say there's no love in it. A little known fact is that she and a DEA agent were married for a few months before he died.
And there was so much missing from the official story it looked like the teaser on the back of a bad novel compared to what was really going on.
"Hello, Mr. Morgan." Nancy greets him. "As I'm sure you already know, I am Nancy Botwin, this is my husband Andy, and my son, Shane. Everyone, say hello to the man who's trying to put away Silas."
Morgan gets a grudging word of greeting from Shane, though Andy seems pretty cool with having a DEA agent in the house. He suspects that Nancy is the boss, the top of this tower. And because he is being allowed to know this, he also knows he will never be able to tell another living soul.
"Now, Mr. Morgan." She smiles sweetly at him, and her eyes seem to see right through him to the wall beyond. "Tell me what you think we do here."
"I think you traffic and distribute and grow illegal drugs here." Morgan says, feeling bolder now that he knows his fate.
"Do you.... Well, you're right by your standards. But we also bring people happiness, bliss, a way to get away from the horrible world. I've checked the area's crime ratings since we set up business here--they've dropped a bit, but if you take out the amount of pot-related crimes from the equation, you find that it had fallen by fifty percent. Do you know why that is, Mr. Morgan? It's because people like our product, and when they would otherwise being out shooting each other and robbing stores and joining gangs, they are instead sitting at home, stoned out of their minds, happy little people who can cause no one harm.
"We bring peace here, Mr. Morgan."
To be truthful, Will had never thought to check the crime rates and connect them to the Botwins' rise to power. In a karmic balance way of thinking, this made up for about a fourth of the bad karma they had no doubt amassed.
But Nancy Botwin was not yet done shattering his view of their world.
"Not only do we occupy potential criminals with less destructive habits, all of our workers are willing and loyal people. The ones you think are informants report directly to me. They are so loyal because we rescued them from various horrible fates. Noble and self-serving, that's our family motto.
"By now you might be wondering how I got into the weed business. Well, my early years were trying and fraught with peril, but then I started to get the hang of things. I accepted that dealing and growing is a lifestyle, not a job, not something you can keep out of the home. It went so much easier after that. I'm lucky, though. I have a son who can grow the best weed in the world, another who can hack any computer and sets up our entire security system, and a husband not afraid to kill for me.
"And if you think for even a second I'm going to let you tear my family apart, you're going to join all the other assholes at the bottom of a seven-foot hole."
William Morgan faintly wonders, through his terror, why he could ever have thought Silas would want to turn this woman in.
"Now, Mr. Morgan," Nancy says in a kinder voice. "You know far too much to be allowed to walk out of this house, even if you could never prove any of it. So you have some options. Die here and now. Give us some dirt on you and wait around a day or so for my son to see if it checks out. Give us your son as insurance that you won't talk. Or... make this case go away, and you can walk out of here right now, go home to your family, hug them and know they will never have to do what I did to survive after my husband died."
There is really no choice. Maybe it is the reasonable way she explained their business, or maybe it is the last comment about family, or maybe it is the happiness on the faces of those children in the living room, but Will knows what he has to do.
So the next morning, William Morgan walks into the office, destroys all the damning evidence on one Silas Botwin, and drops the case coldly onto his superior's desk. Then he asks for reassignment to a less dangerous field, like chasing down murderers.
He goes home, hugs his son and his wife, and he knows they will never have to do what Nancy did.
William Morgan is killed in a car accident two years later. His wife doesn't have a job, and she doesn't know how she is going to support herself and her son.
A letter comes in the mail.
The money in this envelope goes to the family of William Morgan. He was a good man. You will be taken care of.
She cries. She never does figure out who the money is coming from, but then, she doesn't try very hard to find them.
I've been wanting to write this for a long time, and I finally got around to it. It was actually far easier than I thought it would be; practically wrote itself. Finished it in just over two hours. Yay, another one for the ridiculously small amount of Weeds fiction on this site.