Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Stub 5.4: Homebrew

Croyle and Tony Spada verbally agreed to do business. There are many things that are too sensitive to commit to writing or electronic media. Croyle’s project was one such thing.

Croyle did nothing until confirmation arrived that the first $5 million had been deposited in his working account in a US based bank.

Croyle quickly deduced that the strain of C. botulinum used by Azrael Industries was a commercially available strain curated by the University of California, Berkeley. It had been a simple matter of buying a low-level lab-tech from Azrael Industries Cosmos at the local pick-up bar and letting her talk about how important her job was.

The particular strain, UCB-257nte (University California Berkeley, 257, Neuralogical Toxin Enhanced) had been chosen by Azrael because it had resistance to the penicillin and tetracycline families of antibiotics and because it was a prodigious producer of the toxin used in wrinkle-elimination therapies. It was also desirable because it had a unique DNA profile that allowed technicians to identify when the production strain had mutated sufficiently to justify a new “starter” culture from the UCB lab.

It was a simple matter to find a technician at University of California, Berkeley lab who had a gambling problem and to purchase 5 ml of UCB-257nte culture. Croyle assured the tech that he represented a pharmaceutical giant that was investigating new product lines and wanted to develop the technology on the Q.T. Croyle also took the tech’s resume and assured him that he would be among the first to be hired when the pharmaceutical giant opened its facility.

Croyle then flew to Chicago and rented a car. He proceeded to visit DeKalb, Illinois, Bowling Green, Kentucky, Muncie, Indiana and Kalmazoo, Michigan. He visited the shops that specialized in the home-brewing of beer. He placed a help-wanted ad in each shop after chatting a little bit with the manager.

Croyle changed his appearance with brilliant blue contacts, black-rimmed eye glasses.  His hair was cut high-and-tight and he had it grayed.  He also wore a heavy, gold University of Wisconsin class ring proclaiming him to be a proud member of the class of 1999.

These communities had been selected because they all hosted mid-level Universities that churned out far more graduates with Biology degrees than the local economy could absorb. He chose home-brew shops because he was looking a certain skill-set and inclination.

Then Croyle waited for future developments. He was not idle. He discretely collected information on the optimum cultures and protocols for culturing C. botulinum. Then he researched sources and prices.

His first nibble was from Russelville, Kentucky. Hunter Clifton was in the final year of his Master’s program at Western Kentucky University and was shocked to learn that nobody was impressed with his 3.35 GPA. The best he could hope for was a $14/hour job at the local VD clinic and he would have to beat out a dozen candidates to get that position.

Hunter was desperate. His live-in girlfriend had their second child on the way. He owed a pile of money for student loans. He was interested in “side jobs.”

Croyle learned that Hunter lived in a large, old, shambling home with few neighbors. He also learned that Hunter was an accomplished brewer of beer. Croyle decided to meet with Hunter and get the project kicked off.

The interview in the local cafe went better than Croyle could have hoped for.

Hunter was slavishly thankful that Croyle was picking up the tab.

Croyle learned that the Cliftons of eastern Kentucky had been moonshiners since Moses wore diapers.

Croyle said that he had never heard of any famous moonshiners named “Clifton” and Hunter primly informed him that GOOD moonshiners were never famous. It was simply a matter of valuing profit over fame.

Croyle hired Hunter. He gave Hunter a Bill-of-Materials and pre-paid card with $2000 on it. Empty pop bottles, whey protein isolate and the ingredients for phosphate-buffered saline don’t cost much.

“Give me a phone call after you have it set up and validate the temperatures. Then I will come back down and give you the starter culture.” Croyle said.

At no time did Croyle ever have to dust off his cover story of being associated with a pharmaceutical giant. All Hunter needed in the way of credentials was the fact that the waitress verified that the pre-paid card had a balance of $2000.

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