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"We wanted to have nice things," Chris remembers. "We came from a good home — it'd be a lie to blame it on a broken one. We just wanted to provide for ourselves and for our mom the way she worked to provide for us. We wasn't the type to let mama buy us a car. We wanted to buy mama a car."
Still, Chris was surprised when Quentin wanted into the game. "He was the responsible one; I was the one who was wild with it. If it would have worked out that it wasn't in his face all the time, all those distractions, he could have made it other ways. But it's the company you keep, I guess."
Their first try at hustling might as well have been by accident. Walking by the banks of the Missouri River, the brothers found a patch of marijuana growing among the weeds. They cut it and took it home.
"It wasn't good," Quentin says with a chuckle.
Quentin had heard that you had to cure marijuana, so he got a bottle of Tanqueray and soaked the stuff. "It looked like coffee when that was done," he says. He had also heard that you needed to dry it out, so he wrapped the wet leaves in aluminum foil and put them in his mother's clothes dryer. After the cycle was done, they started rolling their find into thin joints, which they sold on the corner for $2 apiece. They spent the money on shoe polish, food and any other little thing that caught their attention at school.
"We kind of felt like we had the upper hand," Quentin says. "Grown people are buying joints from us. We felt like we was needed. Plus, we had more money."
They learned fast. "We went to the corner and got somebody to make runs for us, and it was on from there," Chris says. The best way to earn money was to sell large amounts of crack to other dealers who would cut it and sell it again. Suburbanites also made good customers. The Carters could meet a middle-aged white guy in the parking lot of the Independence Apple Market and easily sell him $200 worth of coke for $400. They were careful and mostly avoided the law, except for the time Quentin was caught with two bags of dope in his pocket and spent a few months in juvenile detention. When Quentin was 18 and Chris was 16, they bought their first house on the north side. The plan was to stack their money and move on to other things.
At the height of their dealing, when it was a matter of course to owe someone on the East Coast $70,000 for a drug shipment, and their mother was finding automatic weapons in the house, Chris still saw his brother as an even-tempered man — he'd rather beat someone than shoot him — with one big weakness.
"He was something else with the ladies. He'd disappear on me for a few days and come back with all these new clothes."
Although he would father four children with four women, Quentin met the woman at a gas station. Danika Acklin was a 23-year-old nursing student four years older than he was. She was there to pick up some food for her mother. He thought she was checking out his shoes.
"I go to school," she told him. "You ain't in college?"