The sound of a shell being jacked into the shotgun's chamber and the press of the barrel into his back prompted Detective Bob Jordan to turn. "Goddamnit Mike, watch where you point that thing." The young deputy behind him in full battle dress raised the barrel and mumbled into his respirator mask. Jordan reached out and pulled it down from the man's face. "I told you to leave that off till we're ready. You wear that too long in this heat, and we'll have to call in the paramedics for ya."
He glanced past the young man. Sheriff Roy Speck looked back at him wide-eyed. Sweat poured down the tall man's forehead. He leaned close to Mike's ear. "Stay here while I talk to the boss."
After crawling around Mike, he checked Roy's body armor. "I know you say leaders lead from the front, but this time stay to the back. The rest have done this before, so you can see how it's done. Goin' through the door on a bust is a risk, but these Meth labs usually just go down quietly. We bang on the door, and the folks inside either let you in or come out. They don't want any gun play inside cause of the volatile fumes. It's valuable stuff, but it ain't worth dyin' for."
Roy nodded. His hand trembled as he popped a stick of chewing gum in his mouth. "How's Mike doin'?"
Jordan gripped an errant strap. Threaded it through the correct buckle then pulled it tight. "Well, he's eager I give him that."
"Yeah, reminds me of a pup I'm trainin' right now. Eager as hell for the hunt. Howls when I don't take him with the older dogs, but he can't hold a point. Wants to flush the birds right away."
Jordan shrugged. "I'll give him the word. Make sure he follows me and the DEA boys. He'll be all right. This is just his first bust workin' with me. Wants to put on a show for the boss."
After turning Roy around, Jordan checked the straps on the other side. Finished he moved around Mike.
The young man grinned. "Let's take down these mother fuckers."
Jordan turned to him. He pulled the man close, his lips to the young man's ear. "Act like you been here before. Listen, put that on safety right now and keep your finger outside the trigger guard. I don't wanna be pickin' buckshot outta my ass. You're behind me. So cool it. Okay?"
"Just sayin' man! I'm ready to Rock-and-roll."
Jordan sighed then crept up beside the DEA man scanning the scene with binoculars. Jordan took a deep breath and wiped the sweat from his eyes. He glanced up. The morning sky hazy, the grass still damp with dew soaked his clothes. Ahead a mobile home sat with a pickup parked beside it. "Got anything?"
The DEA man turned to him. "Nobody on guard outside. Pass the word. Watch for trip lines. They might have booby traps. Try to follow my footsteps."
Jordan returned to Mike and Roy. "Mike you follow me. Roy, you follow him. The DEA boys are leadin' the way. Try to follow in my footsteps. Watch for wires or fishin' line strung across the trail in front of you. Might have booby traps. Some might be deadly. We back up the DEA. If there's a fight, let them start it. Don't you guys do anything till I tell you? Got it?"
Roy grinned. "Ten-four, Bob."
Mike said nothing stared ahead. Jordan elbowed him in the ribs.
"Ow! Dammit. I got it," Mike whined.
All slipped on their respirators before donning their helmets. The group slipped up to the trailer. The DEA men stopped outside the door. The others fanned out behind, weapons trained on the door. Assault rifle in hand, the agent banged on the door. He pulled the respirator away from his face. "DEA, come out with your hands up!" He turned to his colleague at his side. "Door opens out. Rams no good we need the crowbar."
As the man replaced the respirator, no response came from inside. The other DEA man tossed the battering ram aside. As he pulled the crowbar from his tool belt, the battering ram landed and a string snapped. Hissing flame as it rose, a rocket launched behind them and burst with a loud bang. The two DEA agents dropped to the ground. Mike leaped around Jordan. At the base of the steps leading to the door, he yanked it open. An explosion roared. Mike's helmet with his pulped head inside flew backward. His headless body toppled back off the steps. Buckshot from the trap gun snapped branches in the surrounding trees as the blast echoed. Before the smoke cleared the upper part of another man's body tumbled down the stairs. Clad in heavy boots, his legs stood in the doorway.
Daren slammed on the brakes as the rocket soared overhead. As he peered ahead, an explosion roared.
"Shit!" After slamming the gearshift into reverse, he backed up to the highway. His foot stomped on the accelerator, and he raced down the road to a driveway of an abandoned house. Stopped behind the house, he clutched his assault rifle as he leaped from the vehicle then sprinted back down the road.
What had gone wrong? He asked himself as he moved to the site. He placed the rocket outside to give them a warning in case somebody snuck up on the property. Harvey said other gangs might hear about their operation. Might move in. Take their product. At first, the cook, Beau, laughed when he rigged up the trap gun. Said if he wanted to catch some 'z's while Daren ran to town to fetch their lunch he would just use the lawn chair outside. Beau had never experienced the gnats and skeeters in these parts before. He soon realized sleeping in the out of doors would not be an option unless he wanted the bugs to carry him away. Today he had not laughed as Daren rigged the booby-trap.
Daren chuckled. Now maybe he would see I was right. Give any other gang invadin' our turf a real nasty surprise. If that didn't send `em home lickin' their wounds it also gave Beau a warnin'. Wake him up from his nap, grab his gun, and stand his ground. Give me a chance to move in from behind. Teach these encroachers a lesson.
At the gravel road, he hopped the fence and dashed through the corn. As he neared the trailer, he slowed. Controlling his breathing, he listened. A moaning came from ahead. On his belly, he crept to clearing's edge and peered through the grass. DEA and Sheriff's men stood outside the trailer. One agent sat on the steps moaning and rocking while staring straight ahead. The trailer door stood open, but he could not see inside. The Sheriff wretched behind the trailer. Another Sheriff's man scanned the perimeter as he talked on a phone. Beau, the cook from Biloxi, was not in sight. As Daren backed away from the scene, sirens wailed in the distance. After creeping away, he rose to his feet and sprinted to the gravel road then jogged back to his truck. An ambulance and a Sheriff's car roared by the abandoned farm their sirens wailing. Daren's truck roared out of the farmstead in the opposite direction. As he drove down the highway, he kept below the speed limit. He pulled out his cell phone hit one on the speed dial, the other end answered at once. "Daren, you better be callin' me to arrange a delivery."
"We gotta problem."
"DEA and the locals just busted the lab."
"No pig fucker. You gotta problem. I loaned you my best chef and all the finest ingredients. You promised me a shipment tonight."
"But everything was at the lab. I'm sure they've got it."
"Hey man. You wanted to be the big guy. Enforcer for Jergen's County. You supposed to bring me solutions, not problems."
"Man they got the cook. I gotta get him out before we can make a batch. That's gonna take time. What I was gonna bring tonight would have been about two grand worth. How `bout I bring you the money. Then you can make up for the shortfall from your other suppliers."
"That two grand is wholesale. Now you're sayin' I gotta go out on the retail end to make up for it?"
"Okay. How about three?"
"I want ten."
Daren gasped. "Ten? I can't pay more'n five."
"Like I said you gotta problem. I'll take five now as a down payment. The rest next month. If we have a problem, then I'll send Frankie up. He'll straighten it out in person."
"Listen what about the ingredients? I'm gonna need more. I'll need equipment too. The law's got all of mine."
"Your problems are givin' me a headache. Next, you wanna take out a thirty-year loan?"
Daren sighed. "No, I'll talk to the old man. Maybe he needs work done. Just let me know how much I'll owe, and I'll have it for you."
"You gonna cross your heart and hope to die? Or give me the Boy Scout promise?"
"Let's say If we're not square at the end of the month Frankie will come up and charge you a finger. Your run out of fingers? Well, you got toes. Now get lost before I lose my temper." The other end cut off the call.
As Larry fiddled with the model of the new development, he thought about his partner Jason's murder without grief or remorse. "I'm just glad I thought of it first," he said to himself. "If not he'd be the one fiddling with this model of the new development." He sighed. Instead, Jason fed the fish somewhere off the Gulf Coast. God only knows what kind of accident Jason might have arranged for him. Parker didn't have any hobbies or interests besides fast women and money. He chuckled. Maybe Jason would have had him fucked to death. He hadn't disliked Jason, but business was business. They had been partners in other projects. Gotten rich together since their early twenties. He had even been best man at Jason's wedding. Once over a single malt Jason said they were like brothers. Parker clapped him on the back and laughed, "Like Frank and Jesse James? They only stole from the rich. Some say we steal from everybody."
Like Northfield, Minnesota had been for the James's Gang the Tunica casino had been a ride too far for the duo. Problems with the site caused compromises in the construction. The downsizing forced by the construction changes prompted their investors to bail. Close to bankruptcy their assets finally saved by their Partner Life insurance.
The authorities believed Jason disappeared on a fishing trip in the Gulf, but Larry knew otherwise. Even though the accident left him free and clear of financial debts, again, he felt fortunate to have remembered the policy before Jason. It meant he owed a debt to his new partner, but at least he could still make the deals. The intercoms buzz interrupted his thoughts.
"Mr. Parker the fire chief just called. Said there's a serious incident on the Clovis property and you might want to go out there right away."
"Did he say what was goin' on, Marie?"
"No, Sir. Just that some people got hurt out there real bad. Might have been Sheriff's people."
"Shit! That's all I need" he thought to himself as he strode to his car. A lynchpin for his new development. It had taken him months to secure the property from the Clovis estate. With the deal closed, he thought his problems would be over. He hoped the incident occurred on the farmstead. He wanted no part of that, and its abandoned buildings. He advised the probate attorney to let that part go back to the county for back taxes. Let the citizens of Jergen County cover the cost of cleaning up that mess. After all his planned development would bring employment and income to the folks of the county. So while making him and his investors wealthier they would reap a windfall from it as well.
As he roared out of the parking lot, he tossed the blue flashing light on his dash. One perk of being Chairman of the Board of Supervisors. On emergency county business the light ensured he could travel well above the posted speed limit. After all swift executive action saved the county money and lives.
As he came to the gravel road leading to the property Parker swerved when a pickup emerged from an abandoned farm on the paved road. Intent on his turn ahead he failed to notice the driver, just flipped him the bird in his rearview mirror.
After turning on the gravel road he slowed. Dust hung in the air from the passage of emergency vehicles. He passed the DEA, and Sheriff's vehicles parked on the road then turned into the farmstead. He parked behind two ambulances and a sheriff's patrol car. All had their light bars flashing.
Paramedics attended to the Sheriff and one DEA man. Jordan talked to a paramedic with a black body bag at his feet. The coppery odor of blood, feces, and vomit filled the air. A severed torso lay on the trailer's wooden stairs. Inside the doorway stood two bloodied legs encased in work boots. His stomach churned as he approached the others. He focused on the Sheriff, pushing the sight of the torso and legs from his mind. As he approached, Roy rose to his feet. He stumbled as he made his way to Parker's side. "What happened Roy?"
The tall Sheriff ran his fingers through his hair and surveyed the scene. "I'm sorry Larry. It's been a shock." He nodded to the body bag. "DEA found a Meth Lab here. We backed `em up on the bust. We lost Mike. Trap gun inside the trailer. Killed a guy inside as well."
"Meth lab!" Shit! I told Bill he had to get on this tax forfeiture down here six months ago. Knew shit like this would happen if we didn't tear stuff like this down. I'm sorry about your man. Anybody else hurt?"
"DEA man kinda shook up. Blast almost took him out. I got sick, but the guys here gave me a shot. I'll be okay."
"Well call me if you think the Supervisors need to get you anything. Okay?"
"Thanks, Larry. Will do."
As Parker made his way back to his car, he felt a bounce in his step. This incident might be just what he needed to get the change they wanted in the Sheriff's Department. "Yep," he said to himself, "Roy Speck's days might be numbered."
The tall man behind the counter peered into the box before him. The obese man on the other side wore a cap turned backward. As he removed it the man sighed, ran his fingers through his hair then pointed at the box. "Mr. LaPlage those dishes been in our family for generations. They's antiques."
LaPlage snorted. As he looked up, he fingered the shoulder straps on his bib overalls and studied the man before him. "Lester, I can buy ones just like `em at Walmart for no more than ten bucks for the box."
The man reached into the box. Pulled out a plate. After turning it over, he pointed at the bottom. "See that? Made right there in England. Real China. There's the date. See?"
"If they're worth so much, maybe you ought a sell `em on eBay or one a them other places. Hell, next week the auction house is havin' a sale. That might get you more."
"But I need the money now for my kid's school lunches."
"Lester, if that's the deal, school'll give the kids lunch for free. You just gotta talk to `em."
"My people don't take charity, rather have `em go without."
LaPlage shrugged. "Tell you what. How `bout I lend you the money. You leave this here for security then you pay me back in a month. Course there'd be interest."
LaPlage ran his fingers through his snow white pompadour. Fifty bucks at ten percent a week compounded."
Lester thrust out his hand. "It's a deal."
LaPlage stared at the man's hand yet made no move to shake it. "Course we gotta fill out the paperwork." LaPlage set a form on the counter. As he filled in the blanks, he talked aloud. "This says I agree to loan you fifty dollars for thirty days at ten percent interest. Your offerin' up this box of dishes as security for the loan. Should you default, that's fail to pay back the money. I get to keep the dishes and dispose of them as I see fit. Also, I can have these here things insured in case somethin' happens. Like my place catches fire or someone breaks in and steals `em. If that happens, you don't owe me a cent. It's five dollars for the coverage. I deduct it from what I give you today. Course it's not required, but if this stuff is as valuable as you say it would be worth it."
"That sounds steep. Let's gamble on it."
LaPlage pointed to the form. "Just check off here then initial it that I offered, and you declined then sign it."
As the man signed the paper, LaPlage counted out the money on the counter. After the man left, LaPlage carried the box to the back room. He seated himself before a laptop. As his fingers raced across the keyboard images of china dishes appeared on the screen. As he clicked the mouse, he held a different piece up to the screen.
"Bless your heart, Lester. You were right. Got twenty-five pieces here. Ten plates at two hundred a piece. Soup tureen. WHOO wee! Five hundred. Gravy bowl `nother five hundred. Covered butter dish, three hundred. Salt and pepper shakers, a grand. Ten napkin rings at twenty-five a piece. Four thousand three hundred. The entire ten piece matched set worth twice that. But at auction, the price may be higher."
He carried the box to a section by the loading dock. As he turned around Daren strode through the door. LaPlage shook his head. "Heard on the scanner `bout the mess out at the Clovis place. They're sayin' got two dead. Didn't say who, but I think one's a cop. What the hell happened?"
"Beau'd been up all night cookin' so while he took a nap, I ran into town to pick up food. Cops showed up before I got back."
"The folks in Biloxi are blamin' it on me. Told me I gotta cover the cost of the loss. Ain't built up enough cash flow yet to cover it."
"How much we talkin'?"
"Ten total, but they agreed to five right now, and the rest paid as we get back in production."
LaPlage made a wry face. "These the folk's in Biloxi? Those Crown fellahs?"
Daren nodded. "Yes, Sir."
"When they need their five grand?"
LaPlage shook his head. "You sure you ain't gettin' in over your head?"
"No Pa. Honest, it seems like a great chance for me to make it big."
"Even though you're only my stepson, I feel an obligation to help you along. If nothin' else to please your Ma. But there ain't no handouts. Man's gotta work for what he gets."
LaPlage pointed to the stack where he had placed the dishes. "You take that stack down to our warehouse in Biloxi. That job oughta be worth five grand easy."
"Is this a burglary?"
LaPlage scoffed. "Less you know the better. Just load it up right after dark. Should be able to make Biloxi in good time."
Wearing latex gloves, Jordan sat at his desk holding the rat trap. Charmain had not called last night. Gone for two weeks, he had become accustomed to her daily calls. He hoped everything was okay. Living together only a few months it still felt like a honeymoon. He worried about the change he had noticed in her. She tossed and turned and cried out in her sleep. Also, little things startled her. A lot of trauma in the last year and a half. More than most have happen in a lifetime. Attacked by a former boyfriend, kidnapped by that serial killer. She denied problems, but Jordan sensed a change.
He snapped the trap's jaws. The bent part struck the spent shotgun shell on the primer. He had witnessed what it could do earlier. He looked up just as Roy shuffled into his office and dropped in the vacant chair across from him. Roy's usual ruddy complexion still looked pale.
"This the first one on your watch?"
"You stay in this business there'll be others. Believe it. In the line of duty, accident or maybe just do it themselves."
Roy stroked his chin. "Jesus. Such an eager kid. Was a student when I was principal at the high school. Just like that, he's gone."
"Well, at least he went quick. Probably didn't feel a thing."
Roy hung his head. "His mom's the only family around here, and she's Alzheimer's. Kept callin' me, Mike." He pointed at the trap in Jordan's hand. "That's it? That's what did it?"
Jordan passed a box of gloves to Roy. After Roy slipped them on Jordan gave him the trap. Roy pulled the shotgun shell out of the metal pipe that protruded through the base of the trap. "So this pipe holds the shell and gives it a short barrel for firing?".
Jordan nodded then pointed at the others on the desk. "Six of `em. Loaded with double ought buckshot. Run a string from the door to the trigger. Like three miniature double-barreled shotguns. Cook musta been takin' a nap when we knocked. Probably gettin' ready to disarm it when Mike yanked open the door and triggered it."
"No shit! Blew the cook in half and still had enough force to blow off Mike's head."
Roy's hand covered his mouth. "Oh Jesus! What a mess." He shook his head. "Plus here I am the Sheriff barfin' my guts out. Paramedics had to give me a shot for Christ's sake. Then Larry shows up. It'll be all over the county."
"That DEA guy was pretty shook up too."
"But, shit Bob. Not you."
"I've had my moments. You gonna be all right?"
"Yeah, just gonna head on home."
A bald man with a brown fringe of hair appeared at the door. After rapping on the doorway, he pulled his trousers over his substantial paunch. He leered at Roy. "You okay Boss? Heard you got kinda shook up out there."
"Yeah, Curt I'll be fine. Did you call Tunica?"
The man leaned against the door. "Don't know why you don't just let me do the investigation."
Roy snapped around toward the man. "We lost a man, Captain Peterson. Even though we didn't fire a shot, I want nobody sayin' later it was some kinda cover up."
Peterson nodded. "Yeah, you're right somebody just might bring that up come election time. Anyway, they said they'd be here tomorrow. Said you and Jordan ought a just sit around and do nothin' till it's done." Roy glanced at Jordan. He said nothing just shrugged.
Roy turned back to Peterson. "Okay. Tell Bill he's in charge. In the meantime, you get somebody to cover Bob's cases."
Peterson scowled. "Bill's kinda busy you know? Runnin' the jail."
Roy shrugged. "He's number two on the T.O. He'll just have to get more out of his people for now."
Touching his forehead with a two finger salute, Peterson turned and left the office.
Roy turned back to Jordan. "Asshole's already running for my job."
"Listen, Roy, nobody's gonna fault you on this. The kid was just over eager. If anything I might have fired him up by tellin' him that they rarely get violent. All I can figure is that maybe they'd been ripped off by rivals and this was their way of protectin' themselves when they weren't cookin'. This thing goin' off then would a blown the whole place up. I'm sure if they'd been cookin' at the time they would have disarmed it."
Roy sighed. "If Urich had been here it wouldn't have happened. I'll bet your missin' her.
Jordan scoffed. "A little. She's smart, and we make a good team, but, God I don't miss the naggin'. Maybe after she gets this wedding, all done she'll be easier to deal with."
"Heard anything from her?"
"Yesterday. Her and Paulo should be back next week. He's gotta show startin' rehearsals."
Roy sighed. "Well, who knows how it's gonna shake out. This is my department. Mike was one of my people, and now he's dead. What about you? Goin' home?"
"Nah. Nobody around."
"New York. Flew out to do some interviews. She's a big star since the Gingerbread man. Saw her on Colbert last night."
"How's the book comin'?"
"Finished. Christ, she's got an agent, and they're talkin' about makin' it a movie."
"Who'd play you?"
Jordan shrugged then smiled. "Probably some worn out hack they dug up out of the cemetery just for this role. Urich says she doesn't care who plays her as long as it's someone mean and sexy."
Roy shook his head and chuckled. "I suppose I should still be pissed about how you two just went behind my back on that."
"Why? Along with the farm equipment thefts and nabbin' the chicken rustlers we're makin' your department look good."
Roy stood. Stretched. Jordan joined him on his feet. "Let me walk you out boss."
As they strolled across the parking lot, Jordan looked up at the sky. Thought about young Mike, his puppy eagerness. All of it gone just that quick.
Roy sighed "I'd invite you out for a drink. God knows I need one, but..."
"That's all right Roy have one for me."
"How long's it been now?"
"Be six months next Tuesday. Not good to count though. Today's today. That's all I got. See you in the mornin'."
As he watched Roy leave he hoped the man could sleep tonight. Close his eyes without reliving the bust. Roy needed a drink, Jordan needed a meeting.
As her agent paid the cab driver, Charmain studied the man. Taller than her his black hair spiked on top gave him the look of the trendy New Yorker. His black-framed glasses failed to hide his handsome, chiseled features or his gray-green eyes. On his arm, they entered the restaurant. "You'll love this place. It's the place to be right now in the city."
After tossing her long black hair over her shoulder, Charmain squeezed his muscular arm. "Does that mean there'll be lots of famous people there?"
He arched his eyebrows. "You mean besides yourself?"
She chuckled. "Look there's a long line."
"Shouldn't be a problem."
Charmain smiled as the maître d stepped from behind his podium to greet them. As he unfastened the velvet rope closing off the entryway, he pulled two black menus from beneath the stand. Several in the waiting line turned. Some nodded in their direction. Others nudged their companions. A murmur filled the air from the waiting crowd. Charmain stared back wide-eyed while her escort appeared unfazed. A balding man standing at the head of the line scowled. "We've been waiting for over an hour."
After giving the man a withering glance, the maître d re-clipped the rope then turned to them. "Your usual table tonight, Mr. Dorne?"
Dorne glanced at Charmain. "How about something closer to the back? The young lady and I have business to discuss."
The maître d turned back to Dorne, arched his eyebrows then leered. They followed as the man led the way through the dimly lit dining room to a table away from the crowd. After pulling the chair out for Charmain, the maître d gave Dorne a wink as she settled into the chair. "Would you care for a drink while you study the menu?"
Dorne turned to her. "How about it? We've had a lot of success in the last few days. I believe a party might be appropriate."
Charmain took a deep breath. "Gosh, Mr. Dorne."
He held up a finger and grinned. "Please. It's Eugene, Gene, Honey! Anything but Mr. Dorne. Comes from when I was a kid. Grown-up calls you that, you knew you were in trouble."
"Eugene. I'm not much of a drinker anymore."
He leaned back. "You have a problem?"
"No, it's not that. Someone I care about does. I feel like if I drink around them, it makes it harder. So I gave up the habit."
He set his menu down and made a wry face. "Well, they're not around now. You don't have to tell them if you do. So what do you say? It's kind of like Vegas here."
She leaned back, cocked her head. "You mean what happens in New York stays in New York? I might live in flyover land like that guy said at lunch, but what happens here gets spread all over the world. I'm not that naïve."
Dorne waved his hand. "I didn't mean to suggest anything more than a celebratory drink. Just meant that this person doesn't need to know everything. You're here. A normal person after the success we've had would want to kick up their heels a little." he shrugged. "What's the harm?"
"Well..." He paused her by placing his hand on hers. She rolled her eyes then giggled. "Why not?"
Dorne turned to the maître d. "How about a bottle of your best."
The man nodded, smirked, and whispered to a passing white-shirted waiter then exited.
After the waiter returned with a bucket on a cart, He removed the bottle from the ice-filled bucket and popped the cork. Clicked his heels as he gave a slight bow then poured each a bubbling glass. Dorne raised his glass in a toast. "Here's to our continued success."
Charmain smiled, touched her glass to his. The sweet liquid soothed her parched throat. She drained the glass. Limited by the hectic pace of the last few days, she had eaten and drunk on the run. Today she had only a few cookies at the publisher's offices. As soon as she set the glass down, the waiter refilled the glass.
"Would you care to order now?" the waiter inquired.
Dorne looked up from his menu. "What's your special tonight?"
The waiter grinned. "Your favorite. The grilled Sea Bass."
"Fantastic. And maybe the deluxe appetizer tray to start." He glanced at Charmain.
She smiled, nodded. "Sounds good." She tossed her long black hair over one shoulder before taking another sip of her champagne.
Dorne turned to the waiter. "And I believe we'll need another bottle."
Charmain smiled. "You're right. It might be time for a few guilty pleasures."
Jordan's stomach still churned from the carnage earlier. He skipped supper and drove straight to Harmon. As he emerged from his car, he studied the church parking lot, at least ten cars already here. Must have been a hard day all around. He told himself. The lots gravel crunched beneath his boots as he walked to the building.
The large, wooden church had a steeple on one end of its roof. Built into the side of a slight hill this provided the Church a walkout basement. The upper floor's windows were dark while light showed from basement windows. A broad, stone staircase led up to the main entrance. The stairs white stone glowed in the moonlight. He followed the sidewalk around to the basement entrance.
As he entered, he squinted as his eyes adjusted to bright lights. The aroma of fresh-brewed coffee filled the air. A line of people on his left stood next to a large coffee urn. Others carried metal folding chairs in one hand and steaming coffee cups in the other where a circle formed near the room's center. The air filled with the clatter of unfolding chairs, occasional laughter, and greetings. Jordan joined the line near the coffee urn.
"A day like you had would drive people to drink," a voice growled behind him. A tall, muscular man loomed over him. His hair swept back in a ponytail ran down his back. His T-shirt failed to conceal the tattoos that covered his neck and arms.
Jordan scoffed. "You gonna join me?"
The big man laughed. "Nah! You couldn't keep up."
Jordan shook his head. "Good to see you too, Hector!"
A woman with long black hair at Hector's side slapped the big man on his arm. "Oh, Hector!" As she turned to Jordan, the purple streaks in her hair sparkled in the light. "Soon as he heard the news, he was pacin' and callin' people right and left. Tryin' to find out if it was you got hurt."
Jordan scoffed. "Is that a blush I see peekin' out from under all that jailhouse ink?"
Hector turned to the woman and whispered in her ear. She laughed then slapped his arm again. Hector turned to Jordan. "Why don't you two get the coffee. I'll grab us some chairs."
The woman continued laughing.
Jordan turned to her. "What did he say, Mary?"
Mary snorted desperate to contain the laughter. "What kinda things do you think the big lug says? Just like always."