Billy: twenty years ago…
Billy glared at his mother as she said goodbye to Rae Lynne. His little sister was making a nuisance of herself. Nuisance was his new word. It meant pest. Rae was crying and clinging to mama, she didn’t want her to go to work and leave them at Aunt Suzy’s. He rolled his eyes. Girls were a nuisance. He didn’t care. He’d heard them fighting again last night. His mom and dad. He hated it when they fought. He hated her. It was all her fault. She should just stay home with them, then Rae Lynne wouldn’t be crying.
“Come on Billy,” his cousin John urged. “Let’s go to the canal and catch tadpoles.”
He nodded and turned to follow.
“Billy,” his mother called. “Aren’t you going to come say goodbye to me?”
Marisol Grimes was a beautiful woman. Even as a boy, he’d known she was something special. It was one of the reasons his parents fought so much. His dad knew men would want to take her from him. Billy shook his head and ran off with his cousin.
He woke from the dream wishing for the millionth time that he’d hugged her one last time. That he’d begged her not to go. He wished he could have seen her one last time. Billy rose and went to the bathroom. He’d finished the remodeling and was pleased with the results.
Tonight, was the New Year’s Eve ball. He’d invited Melanie to go with him but was kind of regretting the decision to do so. He didn’t want her reading more into the relationship than there was. He liked her. They had fun together. She was pretty good in the sack, but they didn’t have that much in common outside of the bedroom. He was kind of surprised that it mattered. He wasn’t jealous of his sister, but he had to admit, he saw what she had and found himself wishing for something similar. He knew he’d never have that kind of relationship with Melanie.
Thoughts of his mother plagued him. He changed into running gear and hoped a run would dispel the melancholy that was becoming his new norm. She’d been just a few hours away for all of these years. They could have passed her on the street. His feet hit the pavement, the rhythm driving home the loss. Murdered because she knew something that could tear the Barton-Bryant foundation apart.
Jake needed to start focusing on the case instead of his love-life, Billy thought. Now you’re just acting like a jealous ex-lover. He knew he’d screwed up with Dana. She was a forever girl and he’d treated her like one of the disposable women who passed through his life. He’d never made promises, but he’d known she’d wanted more from him.
As his heart rate increased, he tried to think of what else he could do to help catch his mother’s murderer. He’d failed her and he’d failed his sister. Seems he was forever failing the women in his life. Maybe he was better off just having the disposable women in his bed, no chance of letting them down if all they wanted was a good time.
Chapter 1: Melanie, Into the Fire
New Year’s Eve
Melanie gripped the steering wheel, her knuckles turning white. Panic turned to dread as the realization of what had happened to Jonas finally hit her. She pressed the gas. The little clunker sputtered as she sped towards her ex-boyfriend’s farm. “Boyfriend,” she snorted. Tears blurring her vision. She’d met the biker outside Jacksonville, Florida at the hole she’d been working. He’d been handsome and kind. He’d seemed like the perfect knight to rescue her from her life of waiting tables and giving guys blow jobs in the backseat of their cars for extra money just so she could have enough money to pay bills and feed her kid. Out of the frying pan into the fire as her grandma would say. She should have stayed with Jonas’ daddy. He wasn’t that bad. He was controlling and he’d hit her but…
Her head connected with the roof of the car as she hit another pothole. She cursed the long winding dirt lane that passed for a road. This one was big enough to bury a dog, a very big dog. She prayed she didn’t mess up the car before she reached Midas. Cursing, she swerved around another pothole and swiped at the blinding tears. “That sorry son-of-a-bitch has a lot to answer for.” The pistol in her purse shifted as she jerked the wheel to avoid another pothole. She grabbed the purse to keep it from sliding out. This road was not designed to be taken at top speed, but Melanie had no time to lose. She’d wasted too many precious hours already. Her stomach lurched as fear threatened to consume her. The phone call with her ex-husband kept playing in her mind. “How could you lose our son?” She couldn’t allow her fears to freeze her into inactivity. Guilt, fear, dread mingled with the exhaust of the ragged little car. She would not be ill. She would have answers tonight or someone was going to die. A shiver ran up her spine. She knew by confronting Midas at his farm, she would probably be the one to die but she hoped she wasn’t alone.
Finally, she pulled into the yard. A line of motorcycles stood in front of one of the old barns. The bikers had converted several of the outbuildings into barracks. One served as a brothel. Melanie shuddered knowing she’d barely escaped that fate. Winston, before he’d become Midas, hadn’t been that bad. It was only after he’d joined the bikers and started working his way up that he’d truly became an asshole.
Only a half dozen or so bikes were out at the barn. That was good news, maybe she could survive this night. She wondered where the rest of the bikers were. It was unusual that they all weren’t celebrating the holiday together. She didn’t have time to worry about biker politics as she sped into the clearing that served as parking for the mildewed, old doublewide. Stopping the car inches from the front porch, she threw the shifter in park and pocketed the keys. Snatching her purse from the seat, she started towards the porch only to have her way blocked by Midas’ second in command, Nick Golden. She would find it funny that a man who called himself Midas would have an enforcer called Golden, but she suspected that there was a link between the two, and at the moment, the only thing Melanie had time to think about was her son. Pulling the pistol from her purse she pointed it at Nick’s chest. “I got business with Midas. If you try to stop me, I will shoot you.”
Nick put his hands in the air and called out, “Midas, company. Mel’s here.” He grinned at her showing surprisingly white teeth. “And she’s pissed.” He stepped out of her way and nodded for her to proceed him into the trailer.
Shouts, laughter and fireworks came from the field beside the house. The bikers were drunk, but she had no illusions, if she threatened their boss, they wouldn’t hesitate to kill her. Melanie’s heart sank, she didn’t regret dying to avenge her son, she only wished she could have seen him one last time. If I’m not getting out of here alive, I’ll take as many of them with me as I can. Even if someone heard a gunshot, they’d just think it was part of the New Year’s celebration.
A young blond had her head in Winston’s crotch, giving him a blow job. Mel rolled her eyes and dropped her gun into her purse. She walked over and kicked the girl in the foot. “Leave.”
The girl looked up, her dark eyes startled. She couldn’t be more than fourteen. Melanie’s stomach heaved. The child hesitated. Midas pushed her away. “Go on, we’ll finish this later.” He didn’t bother to put his dick in his pants. He watched the young girl go and asked. “You planning to take her place. You always were better at giving head.” He leaned back in the well-worn recliner.
“Fuck you Midas, where’s my son?” Melanie tried not to let her fear show.
He shrugged. “How should I know?”
“I just got off the phone with my ex, he’s been deployed for the past ten months. He’s not seen or heard from Jonas. So where is my son?”
Midas, real name, Winston Jarvis, righted his clothes and stood. “I told you Mel, I don’t know. I sold the kid…”
The crack reverberated surprising them both. Melanie didn’t remember moving, only the sting in her hand and the imprint on Midas’ face gave proof that she’d slapped him. With a shuddering breath she demanded, “When? When did you sell him?”
Rubbing the side of his face, Midas shrugged. “Right after you went to the hospital.”
Tears filled her eyes. “You bastard.”
“Yeah, what else was I going to do with a kid? I’m not into boys.”
Melanie pulled the pistol from her purse. “Who did you sell him to?”
“Put your toy gun away Mel, you know I have bigger guns and more of them.” He nodded behind her, but she refused to look.
Keeping the pistol trained on Midas she demanded, “Who has my son?”
He laughed. “Well see, that’s the thing, we don’t know. My buyer got misdirected and the person who bought him, well, they still owe me money…”
She felt the air shift behind her and pulled the trigger.
“I can’t believe you let her bring a fucking gun in here,” she heard Midas scream as the butt of a gun connected with the side of her head. The pain in her head exploded in a blinding light, then everything went dark.
Phil cursed and reached for the computer monitor.
“Is that my mom?” Jonas asked.
Cringing, Phil nodded.
“Is she hurt?” He moved to the computer shifting the mouse around to get a better angle on the cameras.
“Yeah,” Phil said and sighed. He knew what was coming next. As soon as he told him why his mother was at Midas’ house, they’d be in the van heading to her rescue.
“Why is she at Midas’ house?” Jonas asked.
“Get the drones we need to hurry, I’ll tell you everything I know in the van.” He began packing up guns and explosives while the kid grabbed the drone cases.