B.T. gave him a thumbs-up salute. "Now you're talking, Judge."
"On Saturday afternoon there will be a very special, one-of-a-kind auction at the Star Sign Gallery in Denver. We have dealt with the proprietor of that establishment before; Mr. McCracken is a trustworthy man and has lined up a large number of potential buyers from Germany and Japan. These patrons are solely interested in purchasing Anasazi merchandise, and they don't ask questions. McCracken intends for this auction to be the grandest private sale of this type ever held in the west. Our collection will be the largest of the Lot. I will, of course, handle all of the details involved with the actual sale of the artifacts, while you, Mr. Saunders, will be responsible for procuring the Anasazi artifacts."
The Judge took a sip of his drink. He used a cocktail napkin to dab lightly at his oily mustache and cleared his throat before continuing.
"We have four days to work with and we can not afford any deviations from the schedule. I want no loose ends. That is why I will expect you to personally handle all collection details." The Judge picked up his palm pilot and consulted his notes. "How many men will you need for this mission?"
"Three should cover it."
The Judge punched the information into the computer. "And whom do you plan on using?"
"Well, obviously we should go with Otis. He knows the area and he's as loyal as they come. Since he's a minority partner in the overall business, it only makes sense to include him in a dig that's right in his backyard."
"Agreed," replied the Judge. "I had already assumed that Mr. Stiles would be a member of the team. That leaves two."
"I've been thinking about this since we talked last week about the possibility of a big score. I think my biker buddies from the Verde Valley would be perfect for this job."
The Judge frowned. "Mutt and Jeff?"
"Look, I know you don't care too much for my friends, but they did us right on those Sycamore Canyon digs last June, and proved they know how to keep their mouths shut. As long as you watch over them and don't let 'em get too messed up on the drugs, John and Billy Ray are top hands. They work like fucking dogs. And that's really going to be the key with this dig. With only three days to put together a major shipment, we'll have to work around the clock. We're talking about back-breaking manual labor, and the only way a person can bust ass for three straight days without a break is with some artificial stimulation. I hate to tell you this, Judge, but you just can't find normal people to do this sort of dirty work." B.T. took a long pull on his Bud and stretched his legs out. "And hey, the price is right. These boys work cheap, Judge. We pay 'em $25 for every marketable artifact they uncover, plus they get a couple grams of coke for every day on the job. Christ, you get the blow from your Mexican friends for what? Fifteen thousand a pound? Shit, at that rate we're not even paying minimum wage. How much do you figure we can make off a shipment this large?"
"Well, using round figures, I'd say we can expect to get $10,000 a pot and $20,000 a basket. Of course, the price will undoubtedly go as high as $50,000 in some instances. How many items do you anticipate we could recover from the Paria digs, Mr. Saunders?"
"Ohhh, I'd say we'd probably find somewhere in the neighborhood of 200, or so. It'll be slow going with shovels. Shit, if we could hit these Paria sites with a bulldozer, we'd be rolling in pots. But that wouldn't work. We'd never get a dozer up on that plateau – the road's too goddamn sandy. Plus, the locals would notice something like that. They might not seem all that smart, but those Mormons don't miss much."
"Two hundred would do rather nicely," said the Judge. "When combined with the 200 items we have already recovered from the western ruins, that gives us at least 400 items for sale." He did some quick calculations. "The gross value of the entire Lot would be approximately six million dollars."
B.T. whistled. "And our cut?"
The Judge typed rapidly as he spoke. "The dealer will get his standard fee of 30%. That comes out to $1.8 million for Mr. McCracken. I will take my 40%, $2.4 million, and in return, I will finance all of the logistics, including the helicopter. You will receive your usual 25% – approximately $1.5 million, along with the two ounces of cocaine per day for you and your motorcycle colleagues. Of course, I will pay their actual salaries – that should come to no more than $5,000 apiece. Mr. Stiles will get his 5% share, which in this instance should net him about $300,000, undoubtedly more money than the man has ever seen. I do hope you will explain to him the importance of being discreet with such a vast sum of money."
"Don't worry, Judge, Otis will be careful how he spends his share. Being a convicted felon in southern Utah is like living under a goddamn microscope. His Mormon brothers and sisters like to keep a close eye on Otis. He's learned how to hide what he's thinking, what he's doing – everything."
"He'd better, my friend. He is, of course, your responsibility, as are the other two deviants."
"We're birds of a feather, Judge. And I'll make sure none of them touches or breathes on you," kidded B.T.
The Judge didn't see the humor. "Fine. Let's review the real particulars of this operation."
"Fire away," grinned B.T.