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Then there is "the Old Lady," a 55-year-old retiree who lives with another woman. Maestro likes her because she always buys a half-ounce, which translates into a lot of cash at once, about $400 with the price break he gives her for quantity. When she calls around midnight, the anticipation in Maestro's voice rises as he reassures her he'll be there within minutes. Stopping by his house, he steps into his bedroom and walks past his gigantic home theater, heading for the top drawer of his desk. Hidden under a sheaf of paper and computer disks is about an ounce of cocaine with a street value of $1100. He pulls out a small electronic scale and, using a tiny spoon, begins to chip off the tiny powdered rocks that, with a little applied pressure, crumble into a fine powder. He then weighs it into small plastic bags. (The compression used to pack the original smuggled shipment causes the cocaine to form these rocks that resemble a pale brick. For the coke connoisseur it is preferable to buy a Baggie with more rocks than powder; it's a sign the product hasn't been cut by adding cornstarch or some other inert substance.)
Maestro leaves his house and heads south to the Old Lady's duplex, which is a little beyond Cutler Ridge. She calls him several times, and each time he spins a new and plausible story to explain his tardiness. With four eightballs in his pocket, he's driving carefully not too fast and not too slow. This will be his last run of the night. Someone else calls him for a gram, but the customer is on South Beach and Maestro won't drive that far unless it's for an eightball or more. Besides, after collecting from the Old Lady, he'll have more than enough money to relax and play poker all night.
Pulling up to the Old Lady's home, he flashes his lights at her window. Mere seconds later, as if she'd been eagerly peering out, she steps forth, drops the cash in her dealer's lap, and engages in small talk while Maestro digs for her Baggies. It's over in less than a minute. "The Old Lady invites me in all the time, but I can imagine what that would be like," Maestro says. "She'd start telling me her life story and shit. I don't want to hear that. I'm in and out. It's better that way."
Maestro's supplier is an "old-school cat," a middle-age Latino who lives in the Cutler Ridge area. According to Maestro, he moves a lot of weight, mostly coke, but also some "elbows," or pounds of pot. Although the supplier offers his sales team credit by allowing them to pay for the drugs after they've sold them, Maestro always pays for his up front. He doesn't want to owe money to anyone, thus avoiding potentially disastrous misunderstandings. Over the course of a week, he will typically sell about two ounces of coke, which cost him $1200. That will leave him with a tax-free profit of between $800 and $1000.
No stranger to the legal system, Maestro has been arrested three times for drug possession, two of them with intent to sell marijuana, but has never been convicted. After one of those arrests, in which he was caught with a large amount of weed, he crossed over to cocaine because it's easier to conceal and more lucrative. "The butter will never go out of style here," he quips. "It's everywhere and people want it. They'll either get it from me or someone else, but it's here to stay."
All dopers have stories to tell. Maestro launches into one of his: "One time I was riding out by Miami Lakes with three other friends in the car when all of a sudden I saw flashing lights behind my car. I guess they saw that I had [an arrest] record, so they pulled us all out of the ride and started to search the car. I hid all the Baggies in my left shoe, thinking they wouldn't check there.... They started searching my friends and, one by one, made them take off their shoes. At that point I was like, 'Yeah, I'm going to jail.' Sure enough, the cop tells me to take off my right shoe and checks it, but just then his partner calls him over, and when he came back, he said we could go. He never checked the left one. I was one shoe away from being locked up for a pretty long time, but what are you going to do? That's the nature of the business."
Back at the card game, the players are perspiring, sniffing, and twitching, their eyes dilated. Maestro reaches for his cell phone to call a couple of escorts he knows will accept cocaine rather than cash for their services. It's a tradition at this game that the person who walks away with the most money foots the bill for the ladies of the evening. Maestro is planning ahead. He's certain he'll be tonight's winner.