By: Jayne Blue

“Well, I’m glad you found some clarity. Tell me what you know.”

Ricky shrugged and fingered the edges of the photo. “College Boy. Can’t tell you his real name, but he’s been in a couple of times. Sticks out like a sore thumb. So I’d say, hey, College Boy, what are you drinking? Three or four times maybe over the last six months or so I seen him. One time he came by himself. Then he met somebody. It’s not good, Brax, whatever he’s into. Kid’s a dumb shit if he can’t figure that out on his own.”

“Who’d he meet, Ricky? I’m kind of trying to figure out what kind of trouble he’s messing with. Is it local? You think he’s selling or just using?”

Ricky raised his eyebrows and his face twitched. There was something he didn’t want to tell me. That meant he was worried enough his talking to me about this might get back to someone. That was bad mojo right there.

I pulled the other slip of paper Nicole gave me out of my pocket and stabbed a finger over the names she’d written. “You recognize any of these guys? I didn’t. But you know dealing was never our scene.”

“You think it’s mine?”

I put a hand up in surrender. “No. Shit, man. No. But you’ve got eyes and ears. I’m asking you to use them. Give me a little help here. This kid might be a dipshit but I’m thinking real strongly he’s in over his head with something. I haven’t decided how deeply I want to get involved. You may be able to help me make up my mind.”

Ricky chewed his bottom lip as his eyes darted over the paper. He rubbed the skin on the back of his neck before slowly bringing it down and pointing to the second name on the list.

“Hodges. Daryl Hodges.”

“Never heard of him.”

“That’s the guy College Boy met here one night. You need to stay out of this one, Brax. That piece of advice is on the house.”

“Why, Ricky?”

Ricky shook his head and whistled through the gap in his teeth. “Young blood. Small time so far but you don’t wanna go there.”

“Goddammit, Ricky, out with it.”

“He was a hang-a-round. Big on words. Small on brains. But he came in here a few

times with Garth Kincaid, Brax.”

My heart turned to stone as I let out a slow breath. Ricky nodded, seeing my reaction.

“Now you want my opinion, they’re lowering their standards with a guy like Hodges. But the last time I saw this Daryl fella, he was wearing a cut. Not fully patched, but he’s a probie, Brax. Hodges is with the Red Brigands.”

“Fuck.” I slammed my fist against the bar. Ricky’s face went white, but he crossed his arms in front of him and nodded. Fuck, indeed. Of all the things Ricky could have told me, he’d just laid out the one situation where I couldn’t offer Nicole a damn bit of help. And it probably meant her brother was already dead.

Chapter Four

Ricky made another offer to pour me a bourbon and this time I said yes.

“You’re one hundred percent sure?” I think I’d asked him that ten times.

Ricky pursed his lips together as he poured the shot and slid it across to me. “Sorry, man. I guess you gotta decide how bad you really want to help this friend of yours.”

I downed the bourbon, lifted the glass to Ricky then set it down on the bar bottom-side up. “Thanks for the tip and the drink. And that cash you just pocketed buys you keeping your mouth shut that I even asked.”

Ricky nodded. He knew the drill. I scooped up Nicole’s photo and paperwork and stuffed it into my back pocket as I headed out the door.

I slid my helmet over my ears and straddled my Harley. A crisp spring breeze lifted the hair off my collar. I stabbed my fingers through my leather gloves as I tried to figure out what to do.

“Son of a bitch!”

I wasn’t afraid of the Red Brigands M.C. Not by a long shot. They ran their operation more toward Indianapolis and mostly stayed out of our shit. But I’d be lying if I said things were easy between their club and ours. Never an all-out war, but the Brigands and the Wolves had a precarious truce. We stayed out of their backyard. They stayed out of ours. Their shit was bad shit. Drugs. Prostitution. One of the reasons the Lincolnshire P.D. tolerated the Wolves, even under the old regime, was because we kept worse elements like the Brigands out of town. So if Doug Ridley was mixed up with them, it told me two things, neither of them good.

First, if Ridley was dealing for them and begging Nicole for money, he was probably already in too deep to save. Second, it made me wonder what the hell the Brigands were doing sending a prospect up this far into our territory. The first thing I couldn’t do much about. The second thing could mean something God awful for my town. It could also mean something far more dangerous to Nicole if her brother tried to drag her into his shit even further.

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