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Pirates still roam the seas.

In the drug smuggling heyday of the 1970s and 1980s, Miami was considered the drug capital of the world, and much of the drug cartels’ inventory came into the state through the Florida Keys. Coastlines are hard to patrol, and the Florida Keys were particularly inviting due to the number of areas a boat could dock, as well as the Keys’ proximity to the Caribbean and South America.

Despite the best efforts of law enforcement, drug dealing is still profitable and the trade is nowhere near eradicated, although it has subsided some. Every year, boaters find plastic-wrapped bales of marijuana or brick-sized bundles of cocaine, floating in the waves off the Keys. Dubbed square groupers, these floating bales may have washed overboard in bad weather or been intentionally dumped by smugglers trying to avoid apprehension by law enforcement. Some smugglers chalk up the loss as the cost of doing business. Plenty others try to retrieve their missing inventory.

Recovery numbers are difficult to track due to the multiple local, state, and federal agencies that have overlapping jurisdiction in the Keys—and not all bales are brought to the attention of the authorities. According to a Miami News Times article dated March 28, 2017, at least 600 pounds of marijuana and cocaine, worth approximately $5 million dollars, was turned in within the past several years. Imagine how much wasn’t.

Some people consider finding a bale of drugs a windfall and attempt to profit from the illegal booty. Key Largo often goes years between murders, but in 2015, the small island experienced a double-homicide. The source of conflict?

The recovery of a square grouper.

Chapter Two~

They weren’t out of danger. Not yet.