vain_glorious: (vala)
[personal profile] vain_glorious
Title: The Cook Emeritus
Author: [personal profile] vain_glorious 
Fandom: Justified/Breaking Bad
Wordcount: ~7,000
Rating: PG-15
Characters: Raylan Givens, Jesse Pinkman, Loretta McCready, Boyd Crowder
Genre: Gen, AU from Breaking Bad 5X15 - (5X16 never happens.)
Warning(s): Spoilers for all but one episode of BB, Spoilers for season 1-3 of Justified (vaguest of spoilers for season 4), Canon typical violence, Drugs like whoa
Notes: Familiarity with at least one show suggested.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Summary: The Nazis use Jesse to settle a debt with an old crime lord acquaintance in Kentucky: Boyd Crowder. Or, Boyd receives the gift of a talented meth cook from acquaintances in New Mexico: Jesse Pinkman.

Loretta McCready arrives at the U.S. Marshals' office while Raylan is typing up a report on the most recent fugitive transport job. He’s gotten to the part where the prisoner tried to steer the vehicle off the road, and Raylan had to break his nose. Somehow, it always sounds worse than it was.

He sees Loretta drifting around the office entrance, the expression on her face not all that different from the times he’s been around her when she’s had to do something she doesn’t like. Raylan frowns, wondering what she’s done. Loretta casts a couple furtive glances at the door, like she’s considering leaving.

Before she can, Rachel catches sight of her and ushers her inside. Shortly, she’s at Raylan’s desk. By the time she gets there, Loretta has adopted her usual teenage poker face.

“What’s up?” Raylan asks, casually. He gestures to the chair next to his desk, since if she’s pretending it’s normal for her to show up at his workplace, so will he.

Loretta takes a seat, slouching to the side. She purses her lips, hunching her shoulder.

Raylan stares at her. “You kill someone?” he demands, keeping his voice hushed so his officemates won’t hear.

“What?” Loretta sits up straight. “No.” She glares at him.

“Then stop acting like it,” he says. “What did you do that couldn’t wait ‘til Saturday?”

Every Saturday, or thereabouts, he takes her to brunch. They eat waffles.  Loretta bitches about her foster home and Raylan regales her with the discouraging comeuppances of various drug dealers. He counts it as a few hours where she definitely can’t be building a marijuana empire of her own.

‘I didn’t do anything,” Loretta says, after a moment. Now, she acts offended. But also like a liar.

Raylan looks at her hard.

“Just don’t be so pissed at me,” she says.

“That’s what people say when they did something I’m gonna be pissed about,” Raylan says. Loretta shrugs, nods in agreement.  But then she doesn’t say anything. “You wanna go someplace more private?”

“Yeah, I guess,” Loretta says.

Raylan rises, takes her by the arm to an interview room. Loretta, evidently, didn’t think that’s what he meant.

“Hey.” She tries to halt at the door, but he lightly shoves her inside.

“I can yell in here without the other Marshals coming running,” he says.

Loretta sits down on the bench, scowling at him. He drops next to her, waiting.

“You can yell,” she says, finally. “But please don’t tell my foster family. I don’t want to have to move.”

“Okay,” he agrees. “Spill.”

“I, uh,” Loretta begins, “was asked to consult on a project…”

“A social studies project?” Raylan interrupts, dismissively. “You’re in a high school.”

Loretta glares at him. “An agricultural project,” she says. “Based on my professional expertise.”

“Speaking in riddles is grounds for police brutality,” Raylan starts, leaning in on her before it dawns on him. “Professional expertise…you mean pot farming.”

She nods. “You should give yourself more credit, you got it pretty fast.”

Raylan ignores her. “And you declined, because you’re a law-abiding citizen, and minor, who goes to school and doesn’t grow reefer anymore.”

Loretta scratches her neck. “It wasn’t really an invitation I could say no to,” she says, for the first time looking a little scared. “But I tried, okay?”

Raylan frowns. “Then why do you think I’m gonna yell?”

“Because I’ve been going, like once a week, to help them out,” Loretta says. Her gaze wavers around the room, past him. But when she’s done talking, she looks him straight in the eye.

“You’re right,” Raylan says. “I don’t like that.”

But she still looks scared, and worried about something other than a scolding.

“And you’re telling me this now, why?” he prompts.

“There’s a meth cook,” she says, “working for them, too. And he’s being held hostage.” She holds Raylan’s gaze. “I want you to help him.”

“Who’s they?” Raylan asks.

Loretta looks away again, pauses before she looks back. “Boyd Crowder.”

~

Five Months Earlier

“Uncle Jack said this would settle his debt,” Todd says. The kid is bizarrely polite and mild-mannered. Boyd remembers his uncle as mean as all hell.

Boyd scowls. “I’m the one that determines that.” He peers at the figure in the backseat of Todd’s car. “This is eastern Kentucky. I can’t take my dick out to piss without hitting a meth cook. What’s so special about him?”

“I think you’ll be satisfied.” Todd pulls his hand out of his jacket pocket and extends his palm out to Boyd. Even in the darkness, Boyd can see the blue-tinged crystal in the tiny ziplock bag. “You probably recognize this?”

“I do,” Boyd admits, after a pause. “What’d he do to get fired?” he asks.

“He’s not fired,” Todd says. “He taught us the cook. I can do it now.” He puts the Blue Meth back in his jacket.

“And you’re giving him to the competition because…”

“Uncle Jack wants to resolve his debt,” Todd repeats. “You’re too far away to be competition. And it would probably help us out with the cops, if Blue Meth started showing up some place else.”

“Help you,” Boyd corrects. “The DEA and I have a long-standing hostile relationship.”

Todd shrugs. “I really think you’ll like his product,” he says. “Jesse, come here.”

The guy in the backseat takes a second to get the door handle. Once the car door opens, he swings his legs outside and stands up. Jesse takes a couple hobbled steps towards Boyd and Todd, which is confusing until Boyd sees shackles glinting in the car headlights.

“What the hell?” he says to Todd. “That doesn’t look like a gift; that looks like a hostage.”

“He hasn’t tried anything in a really long time,” Todd says, reassuringly. “You don’t even need those, I don’t think. Not anymore.” He reaches into his jacket pocket again and hands Boyd something else. It’s a photo printed on computer paper, hard to see in the darkness. “Just call us if he does anything wrong; he knows what will happen.”

Boyd squints at the picture, makes out the face of a person. A young kid.

“I’ll do whatever you want,” Jesse says, suddenly. He lurches forward in the shackles. “Please. Just don’t kill anyone else.”

~

“Boyd’s not in the meth business,” Raylan says.

“Yeah, he is,” Loretta says. “They talk about him on all the time. It’s a real brain trust,” she adds, when Raylan looks incredulous.

“So you’ve never seen him?”

“I know who I’m working for,” Loretta begins, then pauses when he glares at her. “Intimidated into helping,” she corrects, belatedly.

“You’ve accepted payment,” Raylan says.

Loretta looks guilty. “You know, it’s legal in a lot of states, now. It’s like an internship.”

“It is not,” Raylan tells her. “You’re lucky this is an office park without trees, because otherwise I’d send you out back to get your own switch.”

“You can’t whoop a foster child,” Loretta says.

“Oh, I think I could,” Raylan retorts. “I’m going to pretend you came to me out of the goodness of your heart, because you understand this is criminal behavior, not because you’re in love with some hillbilly meth cook got himself in the wrong with Boyd Crowder.”

“They’re going to kill a kid,” Loretta interrupts.

“He’s a minor?” Raylan asks.

“Not him. Not Jesse. His name is Jesse.” Loretta heaves a breath. “There are neo-Nazis in New Mexico who will kill a kid if Jesse tries to escape or anything. A little boy. His name is Brock. He’s eight-years-old.”

Loretta reaches into her bag, pulls out a piece of paper inside a ziplock baggy.

“If you have meth in there…” Raylan begins.

“This is Brock Cantillo,” Loretta says. “They had it in the meth lab as a reminder to Jesse that they’ll kill him. He gave it to me because I promised you’d help him.” She stops. “I didn’t take any meth, but I can get some if you need more proof.”

“That’s the worse idea I ever heard,” Raylan says, because for an otherwise smart girl, in the past five minutes Loretta has demonstrated just about the worse sense ever.

“I thought it would make you mad,” Loretta says. “And they weigh the product real careful.”

Raylan pictures her in a meth lab; stops because it makes him want to smack her. He takes the plastic baggy from her, examines the picture of a young Latino boy. Half the picture is scratched out with angry black ink.

“There should be fingerprints on that,” Loretta pipes up. “Jesse’s and some from the neo-Nazis.”

“And Boyd?”

“I dunno.” Loretta shrugs. “Jesse didn’t say. Maybe?” She makes a face. “He…kinda likes Boyd.”

“You know, this could be a lie. That kid could be his. Taken by CPS, not neo-Nazis. Maybe that scratched out part is the babymama he’s pissed at,” Raylan says. “It’s a nice story to get in your pants. Is he also whispering sweet nothings about reefer in your ear?”

Loretta rolls her eyes. She leans back against the wall. “You’re right about the picture. She was the kid’s mom. The neo-Nazis shot her in the head when Jesse tried to escape.” She looks accusingly at Raylan. “Jesse started crying so hard he choked on his own snot when he talked about that part. I don’t think he’s lying.” She frowns when Raylan doesn’t react to that. “Look, I know you want to bust Boyd for anything. Can’t you just do that?”

Raylan opens his mouth, but Loretta interrupts: “I know there are fugitives working in the lab and the farm. They talk about their warrants. That’s your jurisdiction, right?”

“Possibly,” Raylan allows.

Loretta glares at him. “I thought you’d help me,” she says, exasperated.

“I am helping you,” Raylan replies. “Whether or not this kid exists, whether or not any part of Jesse’s story is true, I am getting you out of the drug business.”

Silently, Loretta blinks at him. He can see the wheels turning in her head as she considers it.

“Now,” Raylan says. “I’m going to send you off to get that switch we discussed. But instead, you’re going to use all that ill-gotten money I know you have, to hire an attorney. Once your lawyer has worked with the DEA and the federal prosecutors to grant you total immunity, you’re going to come back and re-tell your story so that we can identify the fugitives working for Crowder and go arrest them.”

“Oh,” Loretta says, slowly. “Do we really have to involve the feds?” she asks.

“I am the feds,” Raylan retorts. “But as I am often informed, I am the arm of the law not the brains. I’d like to do lots of things I’m not allowed to.” Loretta scowls. “For instance, I am not allowed to whoop the stupid out of an idiot wannabe druglord foster child.”

“Okay,” she says.

Her hand creeps out towards the photo. “I’m keeping that,” Raylan corrects. “See if I can check Jesse’s story out, identify the kid. I’ll run it for prints once you’ve made your deal.”

~

Four months earlier

Boyd’s pot farmers are the dumbest people Loretta’s ever met. She calls them Dumbass and Dumberass, since they (in the only indication of any kind of intellect) decline to share their Christian names.

First, they drown half the plants. They lose the instructions she wrote out, possibly because they used them as rolling papers. Two weeks later, the surviving crop is dry and drooping, seriously under-watered.

After a series of denials wherein they pretend like marijuana is supposed to look like that, Dumberass eventually spills that they’ve been using most of the water supply for the meth operation on the same property.  There’s no plumbing set up here – the water is trucked in weekly.

Now, Loretta doesn’t know meth. But she knows it doesn’t need to be watered.

It takes another idiotic conversation, but in the end she figures out that neither Dumbass nor Dumberass are in charge of that operation. Obviously, because they’d burn the place down with their combined stupid.

“Let me talk to the cook,” she demands.

“You ain’t supposed to talk to no one,” Dumbass says. “And neither is he.”

Eventually, she persuades them that their boss – who she pretends not to know, so doesn’t name – will be all kinds of murderous if his marijuana crop fails because they wouldn’t listen to McCready family expertise.

They can’t argue with that, and they finally take her to a sad little tin cabin on the periphery of the property.

“You never talked to him,” Dumberass warns her. “You never saw him.”

“Never grew pot,” Loretta agrees. “Never ever.”

The inside of the cabin is dim and dirty. For a second she thinks the meth cook is living in the lab, and tries to breathe more shallowly. Dumbass turns on a light bulb and the light cast shows only a cot and a mini-fridge.

Loretta sees a lump under an Army surplus blanket. She also notices a thick metal chain running along the floor near the bed. That’s weird and creepy.

“Hey,” Loretta says, since her escorts seem to think that taking her here and turning the light on is all they’re going to do.

The lump under the blanket wiggles and shrinks away from the light with a grunt.

“Ugh, fuck off,” the cook says. “I’m sleeping here, yo.”

Loretta steps on the blanket where it falls of the edge, drags it with her foot until the cook has to grab it to keep it on the bed.

“Hey!” The cook sticks his head out from under the covers. He’s cleaner and healthier looking than a meth cook should be; it doesn’t look like he’s using. “Who are you, bitch?” he yells, locking eyes with Loretta. “I’m sleeping! I can’t cook ‘til the next truck comes.”

Loretta sighs. “Hi,” she says, waving with one hand. “I’m the reefer farmer trying to grow here.”

“What are you, in 4th grade?” The cook stares at her, yanking the blanket until it comes back up to his shoulders. “What the hell?” he asks Dumbass and Dumberass.

“You’re using all my water,” Loretta continues, directly. “I need that.”

The cook sits up, self-consciously wrapping himself in the bedding. “So do I,” he says.

“No,” Loretta corrects. “I know fire is scary, but I’ll have these guys get you some nice new fire extinguishers and you’ll be good.”

The cook twists up his face. “What the fuck?” he asks. “You think I’m starting fires?”

“Educated guess,” Loretta says. “The other was some meth-fueled fantasy about a hot tub…”

“I don’t start fires, bitch.” He’s clearly deeply offended.

“My name’s Loretta,” she says, “Bitch. What are you using my water for, then?”

“Purity,” he says, tilting his head angrily. “I gotta clean the lab or it won’t be pure, it won’t be blue, and then everyone will die.”

~

Later, Loretta tells the Marshals, she found out the cook’s name was Jesse Pinkman. They came to a compromise about dividing the water shipments up. Raylan glowers at her and shakes his head.

She did as ordered about the attorney, so that’s all he can do now.

“So, you got to talking to him every time you visited the farm?” Rachel asks, after Loretta has recounted the story she already told Raylan, plus a few more details that mostly incriminate her own immunized ass.

“No one else to talk to,” Loretta says, a little defensively. “Except those dumbasses.” She points at the mug shots of Dumbass and Dumberass spread across the table.

“Both of whom,” Raylan interjects, “are federal fugitives with multiple warrants, each.”

“Most of your colleagues are,” Tim adds, frowning at Loretta. “Including Pinkman.”

“I didn’t know that,” she says, crossing her arms. “And they forced me, remember?”

“Said all kinds of mean things,” Raylan says, sarcastically. “I’m sure.”

Loretta scowls. “So you’re going to help Jesse, right?”

“We located Brock Cantillo in New Mexico,” Rachel assures her. “He and his grandmother have been taken into protective custody, though they didn’t seem to be in any immediate danger.”

“Okay,” she says.

“But your neo-Nazi story checks out, to an extent. There were fingerprints from some really unsavory characters on that photograph,” Raylan tells her. “Your friend Jesse may have helped them kill two DEA agents.” He looks at her pointedly. “Maybe he’s the wrong crowd.”

“Jesse wouldn’t kill anyone,” Loretta says, immediately. “Seriously, he catches flies that get in to the meth lab and lets them go outside.”

“Ask him what’d he’d do with DEA flies,” Tim suggests, which makes Loretta frown.

“Jesse’s friend Heisenberg, the creator of the blue meth,” Raylan explains, “definitely killed a lot of people. The DEA in New Mexico is very excited to talk to Pinkman about him.”

Loretta makes another unhappy face.

“Sorry if this ruins the fantasy where you swoop in and rescue him on a white horse,” Raylan continues.

“He just wanted you to rescue the kid,” Loretta retorts. “He didn’t care about being arrested or anything.”

“That bodes well for him,” Tim says.

“Okay,” Loretta says, “I get it.”

“I don’t think you do,” Raylan tells her, since she oh so clearly doesn’t.

Loretta scowls at him some more.

“We just need you to give us the location of the meth lab – slash – pot farm where Pinkman’s at,” Tim says. “And we’ll raid it, scoop up all these fugitives, and, of course, your little boyfriend.”

Loretta ignores that. “I don’t know where it is,” she says.

“What?” Rachel says.

She shrugs. “Somewhere between Harlan and Lexington. Closer to Harlan, I think. But they put a blindfold on me when they pick me up.”

“You didn’t mention that,” Raylan says.

“Sorry,” she says. “It seemed less important than saving the eight-year-old.”

“That’s going to be a problem,” Tim says.

“Not really,” Loretta says. “I go every week. Can’t you just put a GPS or something on me?”

“We don’t like sending minors into meth labs,” Rachel says. “General rule.”

“Or being in raids,” Tim adds, pointedly.

“You got a better idea?” Loretta asks.

The silence that answers her speaks for itself.

“They search you?” Raylan asks. “When you get there?”

“Depends on who’s driving,” Loretta says. “Not usually. I don’t like them touching me.”

“No wire,” Rachel says. “Too dangerous and we don’t need it.”

“Don’t want you touching me, either,” Loretta says.

“Then stop growing pot,” Raylan suggests.

“She can go like normal,” Rachel says. “With a tracker. We’ll raid it next week, or the week after. When she’s not there.”

“Make a show of arresting her,” Raylan adds.

“Who’s going to see it?” Tim asks, confused.

Raylan shrugs. “I just wanna do it,” he says.

~

The GPS tracker is barely the size of a fingernail. A technician puts it inside the sole of Loretta’s sneaker, covers it up with a piece of gum.

“High tech,” Loretta mutters, as she takes her shoe back and puts it on.

“Don’t lose it,” Raylan orders. “That’s theft.”

Loretta slants her eyes at him. “Why would I do that?” she asks. “I’m helping, remember? I didn’t have to come tell y’all anything. I’m helping arrest Boyd Crowder. You’re welcome.”

“I might say thank you when he’s actually arrested,” Raylan says. “More likely, though, I’ll just tell you you’re an idiot reefer farmer some more.”

Loretta does some more eye-rolling.

“Besides,” Raylan says. “You came in to save that kid, you’ve done that.”

“Yeah?” Loretta says. “I thought that was a good thing.”

“Oh, it was,” Raylan agrees. “But I can’t figure out why you want us on your little friend, when you said Boyd doesn’t even keep him chained up anymore. It seems a lot more like us catching him than rescuing him.”

“Okay,” Loretta says, evenly. “How do you propose I get him out of this? Because I am all ears.”

Raylan nods, suspicions confirmed. “Well, if it comes to you, let me know.”

~

Loretta does the usual rounds at the farm. She’s irrationally nervous as she goes through the motions. It’s pretty likely that the Marshals followed the van, regardless of the tracker in her shoe. Dumberass was visibly stoned and he wouldn’t notice a tail when he was sober.

She is sure the Marshals won’t raid while she’s here, which is something. Also, nothing so far gives Raylan cause to arrest Boyd Crowder, which is what he really wants. So, they’ll probably wait until they can lure him out here or get a dumbass to flip on him.

“I need to check the soil Ph,” she tells her escort. It’s not true, but he also has no idea what she’s talking about.

He leaves her alone at the desk in the empty dry house, wandering off to smoke or something. Loretta waits a couple minutes, then sneaks out the back to go visit Jesse.

“Hey,” she says, slipping inside Jesse’s little house.

He’s pretending to sleep, because he sits up right away.

Loretta can’t see him, but she doesn’t turn on the light because they’re trying to be stealthy. They’ve never caught the attention of the dumbasses before with the light, but she doesn’t want to risk it tonight.

“What happened?” Jesse asks, sounding more apprehensive than hopeful.

“Brock and his grandmother are safe,” Loretta says, since that’s the part that he cares the most about. “The feds took them into protective custody."

“Oh, thank God.” The mattress creaks and the blankets flutter, and the next thing Loretta knows, Jesse emerges from the darkness to hug her. He’s warm and solid, despite being a skinny little methhead.

She awkwardly pats his back.

“They know about the Nazis now,” she adds. “They got fingerprints off the picture, and it sounded like they knew other stuff.”

Jesse’s chin lifts off her shoulder as he tilts his head back. “Good. I hope they kill those motherfuckers.”

Loretta wants to ask about the DEA agents and the other stuff Raylan was flinging at her, but Jesse is so happy and relieved. She doesn’t bring it up.

“So, they’re arrested,” Jesse says. “Right?”

“I don’t know,” she admits. “It sounded like they needed you. I’m sorry,” she adds.

Jesse’s exuberance fades, and he withdraws slowly from their awkward embrace.

“Yeah, whatever,” he says. “Fuck it, I knew it.”

“It’ll be like next week,” she says, even though that’s one of the things she wasn’t supposed to tell him. Raylan isn’t here to hear it. “And they think you might run.”

She’s about to explain further, when they both hear a car engine nearing Jesse’s house. It doesn’t sound like Dumbass’s noisy clunker.

“What’s-”  Loretta begins to wonder.

“That’s Boyd’s truck,” Jesse says.

Loretta stands there, confused.

“You need to get out of here,” Jesse says, half-whispering and half-yelling. “I’m not supposed to talk to anyone else.”

“He’s going to hear you,” Loretta hisses. “I’m not supposed to talk to you, either!”

“Get out of here!” Jesse says again, even though there’s just the one door and it sounds like Boyd is parked right outside of it.

Loretta throws her hands up, even though he can’t see her. “I can’t!”

“Hide,” he growls at her.

They have about two minutes, and the only furniture in the room in Jesse’s messy bed.

Loretta starts to crawl under it, but it’s a damn cot and she won’t fit. Jesse hauls her up by the arm and drags her down with him. Then he piles the blankets - which he’s gotten more of since the first time Loretta was in here -  on top of them both.

“I’m not a child molester, I fucking promise,” he says, as he shoves her head lower.

Loretta curls up to stay beneath the bedding, but the size of the cot forces her up against him. If Boyd weren’t right outside, it’d be funny because Raylan specifically told her not to end up in Jesse’s bed.

But Boyd is right outside, and Loretta launched a federal investigation into both his pot and meth businesses. So this isn’t funny at all. Loretta hasn’t seen him here once. Why tonight, of all possible nights?

“Shh,” Jesse says. “Act like we’re sleeping.”

His arms are still kind of entwined around her, and she can feel the tension pulsating through him.

She says nothing, tries to find air to breathe somewhere between the blankets and his body.

Boyd knocks loudly on the door.

“Huh?” Jesse says, trying to sound sleepy. Loretta doesn’t think it’s very convincing. She hears the metal door swing open and footsteps on the floor. The light comes on next; she can see it through the blankets. Hopefully, Boyd can’t see her.

“Oh, hey,” Jesse says, partially sitting up on the cot. Loretta is still squashed against his side and he’s holding the blankets around her.  “Boyd, er, sir. Hey. Hello.” He sounds wide awake and nervous as hell.

“Hello to you,” Boyd returns. “I didn’t mean to wake you, thought you might still be up.”

“Uh no.” Loretta feels movement like Jesse is rubbing his head. “There’s not much to do here besides sleep. And cook.”

“That’s what I’m here about, actually,” Boyd says. “Changing your living arrangements.”

“Living…” Jesse says, nervously. “That’s okay, I like it here. I can stay here.” Loretta feels his breath catch.

“I’m not talking about killing you,” Boyd says, sounding amused.

“Okay.”

“I’m moving the cook site, too,” Boyd continues. “This was always gonna be temporary. I have another operation on this property.”

“The pot,” Jesse says. He halts, like he wasn’t supposed to know that. “I seen it is all,” he continues. “I didn’t take any.”

“With how much money you’re making me,” Boyd says, graciously, “You can have all you can smoke.”

Jesse nods, the movement traveling down his body. “Thanks, that’s awesome.”

“Gonna move you to Audrey’s,” Boyd says. “You can have an all-access pass there, too.”

“Who’s Audrey?” Jesse asks.

“It’s a whorehouse,” Boyd replies. “I forget you’re not from here. You’ll like it.”

“Pot and pussy,” Jesse says, still sounding way too nervous to Loretta. “Those are my favorite things.”

“Blue meth is mine,” Boyd says. “C’mon, let’s go.”

“Moving tonight?” Jesse asks, and it’s such a dumb question it makes Loretta tremble.

Boyd sounds suspicious when he speaks. “Unless you got plans. This is a shithole, let’s go.”

“Okay.” Jesse awkwardly gets out of the bed, trying to do so without drawing the covers back and revealing Loretta. She can’t see what he’s doing, but she knows it looks weird and is taking too long.  The cot feels empty and less warm, but Loretta is sweating from the nerves.

“Thought you’d be excited to leave,” Boyd says, coolly.

“I am,” Jesse says.  “And thank you for the pot and the hookers. I’m just not good with, like,  change, yo.”

Boyd is silent for a second. Loretta can’t see what’s going on, but she knows it’s bad.

“You want to make your bed for the next cook,” Boyd prompts. “Don’t got housekeeping here, yo.”

Jig is up. Loretta doesn’t move. She doesn’t know what to do. All of a sudden, she desperately wants Raylan and the Marshals to burst in.

“Please don’t kill her,” Jesse says, fervently. “Please, it’s not her fault. It’s my fault. Don’t kill her.”

Loretta hears a gun cock. She’s afraid she’s about to get shot under the covers, and rockets upwards through the blankets.

Jesse jumps on top of her, landing hard and knocking the wind out of her. His arms are spread, and she realizes he’s blocking her from Boyd.

“Don’t, don’t, don’t,” he begs. “Please. Shoot me.”

Boyd grabs Jesse’s arm and throws him off the cot, gun aimed straight at Loretta’s face.  Jesse lands on the floor, still screaming pleas. Helpless, Loretta raises her hands in the air.

He doesn’t shoot her.

Instead, Boyd tilts his head and looks very confused.

“You’re…” he says, slowly. “That girl who killed Mags Bennett.”

“She killed herself,” Loretta says, trembling.

“McCready,” Boyd say, as it comes to him.

“Loretta,” she says.

On the floor, Jesse is quiet and fearful.

“What are you doing here?” Boyd asks, lowering his gun. He doesn’t holster it, but Jesse exhales in relief.

“Uh,” Loretta says. He doesn’t know about Raylan or the Marshals or the federal warrants she’s caused to be drawn up on this place. That’s immediately clear. “I would think that’s obvious.” She tries to look embarrassed. “You need a lock,” she says to Jesse, like this is about privacy.

“Sorry,” Jesse says, catching on.

“How old are you?” Boyd asks, glancing at Jesse.

“Age of consent in Kentucky is 16,” Loretta says, “But I thought you didn’t much care for following the law.”

“We’re not talking about me,” Boyd says. “You know each other?” He still looks confused.

“Biblically,” Jesse says, from the floor. “I didn’t know I had to ask permission. Does she work at Audrey’s?”

“Shut up,” Loretta says, playing the part of offended. “Don’t talk like that.”

“No,” Boyd says. “Aside from what is in all likelihood statutory, what are you doing here?”

“Working for you?” Loretta answers, since he genuinely doesn’t seem to know that. “You called me into consult on the reefer.”

“I most certainly did not,” Boyd says.

“That’s not what I was told,” she says, mirroring his confusion. She doesn’t have to act. “Someone you pay is paying me to provide the McCready expertise.”

Boyd holsters his gun. He is scowling, but not at her or Jesse.

“I do appreciate the McCready expertise,” he says, shaking his head.

“They killed half the crop before they got me, and even after that,” she tells him. “I’m not sure they can read.”

“I do not appreciate,” Boyd says, “how cozy I recall you being with a particular U.S. Marshal.”

Loretta shrinks back against the cot, worried again.

“We’re not cozy,” she says. “He wouldn’t let me kill Mags. Even though she killed my daddy.”

“He is a know-it-all asshole,” Boyd agrees. “He’s not keeping tabs on you?”

He sounds like he might already know the answer.

“Not the kind you’re thinking of,” she says. “He does check on me every week, to tell me that drugs are bad.” That part’s true. “I don’t tell him I’m back in the family business. He’d be a dick about it.” Also true, least that last part.

“You don’t work for me,” Boyd says. “Because he would be a dick about it, among many, many reasons. You’re fired.”

Loretta makes a noise that she hopes passes for disappointment.

“Jesse,” Boyd orders. “Get in the truck.”

Jesse scrambles off the ground, looking worriedly at Loretta.

“Don’t-“ He begins.

Boyd interrupts. “You forget who’s in charge here?”

Jesse shakes his head.

“Get in the truck,” Boyd repeats.

“Okay, I’m going.” Jesse casts a sidelong look at Loretta. “Can she visit me at Audrey’s?”

“No,” Boyd says. “I don’t turn out children. Get in the truck.”

Jesse drops his chin and walks out of the cabin. Loretta hears him get in Boyd’s truck and slam the door.

“I’m not a child,” she says, going for sullen.

“That pervert is lucky he makes me so much money,” Boyd tells her.

Loretta hugs her knees to her chest, looking down.

“I’ll give you a generous severance package,” Boyd continues. “But I don’t ever want to see you around my reefer again.”

“You won’t have any reefer without me,” Loretta says, obnoxiously. It also happens to be true.

~

Dumbass drives Loretta back to Lexington. He’s nervous and distracted, so much so that he forgets to blindfold her. If the GPS fails, Loretta can tell the Marshals right where to go. Except it’s a little dark, and Jesse won’t be there any longer.

She doesn’t know where Dumberass is, and she vaguely hopes Boyd isn’t going to kill them for this.

Dumbass should be yelling at her for talking to Jesse and allowing Boyd to discover everything. But he doesn’t say a word, and leaves her safe and sound at her car.

Loretta gets inside and rests her head on the steering wheel. She breathes deeply and tries to get over the adrenaline surge that’s lasted the entire night.

The passenger side car door opens while she’s exhaling and Loretta doesn’t need to turn her head to know it’s Raylan.

“Rough night?” he asks, looking concerned.

She nods, leaning back against the headrest.

“You okay?”

She nods again. “Boyd fired me,” she says.

“What?” Raylan’s brow is furrowed. “I thought you said he was never there.”

“He wasn’t.” She exhales again. “Before now. He doesn’t know anything,” she adds. “He didn’t even know I was working for him.”

“Hm,” Raylan says. “Yeah, I thought that was unusually dumb on his part.”

“He thinks you’re a dick,” she says. “If I can’t get a job in the reefer industry because of you, I’m gonna be pissed.”

“I’m okay with that,” Raylan tells her, smugly. “Everything else the same, with Pinkman?”

Loretta nods. “Yeah,” she lies. “He’s there.”

 ~

When the feds raid the farm the following week, Jesse Pinkman isn’t there. There’s no evidence of a meth lab on the property. A large and healthy pot crop, precisely as described by Loretta McCready, as well as the several wanted fugitives that are tending to it, is all that’s there.

None of the employees will flip on Boyd Crowder, and none of the evidence ties him to the operation. His fingerprints were on the photo Loretta smuggled out, but that alone does nothing.

Pissed, and half-suspecting that Loretta managed to do something to warn them in her last visit, Raylan checks out the little cabin where Pinkman was supposedly living. It’s small and sad, but Raylan imagines it was pretty much perfect for the cook given the copious amounts of ice and weed at his disposal.

There is a thick chain anchored to the cot leg, the kind that Raylan guesses would attach quite nicely to a human limb. But Loretta says it was only ever used the first time she met Pinkman. Raylan figures Boyd persuaded the kid to stay of his own volition a long time ago, no matter what Loretta would like to think.

An evidence technician begins stripping the cot and cataloguing everything. As she pulls out the chain, a sheet of paper flutters along the floor.

“What’s that?” Raylan asks.

She shrugs, but makes him snap on gloves before picking it up and handing it over.

The paper is a map. Hand drawn in strikingly detailed pencil, quite neatly, and its subject is immediately clear: two graves in place called Tohajiilee. Raylan’s never been there, but he bets someone who has could follow the map he’s looking at. He remembers the story about the missing DEA agents.  Raylan flips it over, checking the other side. There’s no drawing on the back, just two angry swastikas bookending a header of “fucking Nazis” and a list of names beneath it.

“Bag this up,” he orders.

~

“I don’t suck cock,” Jesse announces, when Boyd visits him at his new trailer home at Audrey’s. “Just so we’re clear, yo.”

“You can suck anything you like,” Boyd says. “Except jailbait tits,” and Jesse looks worried. “You’re here to cook for me, not fuck for me.”

“You let Loretta go, right?” Jesse checks. Unlike the Nazi fucks, Boyd has never threatened him with others' lives. But he has to be sure.

“I did,” Boyd promises. “And seven days later, U.S. Marshals raided the farm. I lost the entire reefer crop. Think that’s a coincidence?”

“Maybe she was pissed ‘cause you fired her,” Jesse says. “She was real bitchy about doing reefer right.”

“I could respect that,” Boyd agrees, almost laughing. “But it’s a good thing I moved you that night, huh?”

Jesse shrugs. “Yeah, dude. Except for my blue balls.” He’s been sticking with that story, though he’d never touch a kid like Loretta.

“Maybe blue is just your destiny,” Boyd says, then moves on to business. “Supplies are coming in tonight; you ready to cook?”

Jesse nods. He likes it here. The hookers are friendly and free, and they all know he’s Boyd’s special pet so none of them are bitches to him. He’s also got a steady supply of ice for them. It’s nice to be around people, again, even if they all have annoying as fuck accents.

Two of the ladies have kids, a toddler girl and a five-year-old boy. Once they trusted him, Jesse gets to play with them while the moms are working. It’s kind of fucked up, but the kids aren’t around fucking or drugs. It could be worse.

On Boyd’s instructions, he’s growing his hair and his beard out, so he less resembles the wanted posters still circulating. Jesse’s even trying to learn the stupid southern asshole accent. So far, everyone laughs their asses off at him, though. They’re trying to come up with a better alias than “Jesse Blueman,” which is the only one Jesse likes.

“Thought you should know,” Boyd says, before he leaves. “The guys I got you from were busted by the DEA yesterday.”

Jesse goes cold. “Busted for what?” he says.

“Well, meth,” Boyd says, obviously. “Guns, too. Murder charges, I think.”

“Huh,” Jesse says, keeping his face as blank as possible. “Good. Fuckers.”

Boyd grins at him. “Makes Harlan the new Blue Meth capital,” he says. “And you’re the mayor.”

Jesse scratches his neck. “You know, anyone can make Blue Meth,” he says. “They just gotta pay attention and apply themselves, yo.”

“You don’t want to be mayor?” Boyd asks.

“Not really.” Quickly, Jesse goes on. “I’ll teach anyone you want. And I’ll cook, too. I really appreciate you hiding me from the cops and all. I don’t want to be ungrateful.” He looks at Boyd, hopefully. “I could be a consultant, like Loretta.”

“You want to be meth cook emeritus,” Boyd asks, looking incredulous.

“I don’t know,” Jesse says, since he doesn’t know what that means. “But I don’t want to be mayor.”

~

The feds are able to use the Pinkman map – that’s what Raylan calls it, though the author is technically unknown despite being covered with Pinkman’s fingerprints – to find the bodies of the two missing DEA agents. The physical evidence from their graves, coupled with whatever the New Mexico authorities already know, leads to the arrest of a bunch of neo-Nazis for the DEA agents’ murders and assorted other felonies.

To Raylan’s extreme disappointment, they don’t even get an indictment against Boyd. Not even with Loretta’s testimony. Four of his henchmen go down for him.

He doesn’t get to beat Loretta. But she does have to switch foster homes, because for some reason her current family doesn’t want a nascent drug lord staying with them. Raylan feels slightly sad about this, but not nearly as bad as he would if he didn’t think she knew where Pinkman was.

Kentucky DEA tells the Marshal Service that the Blue Meth associated with Pinkman is still flowing throughout the state. Raylan advises them to look hard at Boyd, but of course, there’s no evidence. He also tells them he’s happy to help at any time.

Several months later, he finds the time to go visit Boyd and harass whatever Harlan operations he can.

For how profitable the Blue Meth is supposed to be, Boyd’s empire is as dirty and decrepit as always. His employees are still thugs and meth heads. The most overt crime, of course, is still the bustling business at Audrey’s. Raylan wonders if the hookers have been provided blue party favors.

In Ava’s absence, there’s a new proprietor. It’s a man Raylan doesn’t recognize, one with a mass of beard and long hair that obscures how young he is until he actually speaks.

“Can I help you, yo?” the guy asks, in a weird approximation of a Harlan accent. “You want a date?”

“Not with you,” Raylan says, moving his jacket so his badge is visible. “Just taking attendance. You’re new here. What’s your name?”

“Meritus,” the guys says. “You must be Raylan. I heard about you. Boyd says you can get the fuck out of here, bitch.”

“That doesn’t sound like Boyd,” Raylan says. “Your name is Meritus? Meritus what, exactly?”

“None of yo damn business,” Meritus snarls. “Unless you got a warrant, get the fuck out, like I said.”

“I’d like to see ID,” Raylan says, moving one hand to his belt. He expects Meritus to take off running, but the man just reaches into his back pocket and pulls out his wallet.

“Your name is Emeritus,” Raylan corrects, reading the shiny, perfect Kentucky driver’s license. “Emeritus McCready.  Imagine that.”

“What I said,” Meritus says, taking his ID back.

Raylan’s still staring at him, impossibly irritated by whatever paper hanger made that driver’s license for him. But before he can consider taking any action, a toddler runs out of the nearest trailer and all but climbs up Meritus’ leg.

“Huh,” Raylan says, closing his jacket to hide the gun. “What a great environment for kids.”

“It is,” Meritus retorts. “I got a sweet set-up for them in the trailer. You can see the daycare  if you want.”

“Daycare?” Raylan echoes “Well, it’s nice to meet you, Emeritus. I’ll imagine I’ll get to know you quite as well, as I’m here often.”

“Good for you,” Meritus retorts. “Bi—Big man,” he censors himself, adjusting the kid on his hip.

“And I’ll be here way more often,” Raylan promises, “if I find out the other McCready is here, ever.”

Meritus, or Jesse Pinkman, freezes for a second. “She ain’t,” he says, after a second. Then, he realizes he’s blown his cover. “Dick,” he says, softly.

“Watch your mouth around the little ones,” Raylan suggests. “No blue streaks, Mr. McCready.”

“I would never,” Jesse says. “I’m retired,” he says. “I don’t swear no more.”

“Emeritus,” Raylan repeats, getting it. Clearly someone has to explain the meaning to its bearer.

“That’s me.”

“All the same,” Raylan says, warningly. “I look forward to working with you.”

The toddler is tugging on Jesse’s clothes, pulling him towards the trailer. Jesse watches Raylan warily, but Raylan dips his hat and turn to leave. He’ll come back for Pinkman, later, when he can also get Boyd.

~the end~

~Please feed the author~
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