Shared life and death experiences build bonds. No doubt part of why the four partners have grown into a surprisingly cohesive team. An autistic genius, a go-with-the-flow slacker, and two brothers with an unspoken history are fresh off an East Coast tour sticking it to one drug lord. The vacuum they created in the southeast drug corridor is sucking the partners into an ever-deepening hole. They can’t count how many are trying to kill them. The distraction of romance may be the coup de grace. They survived by their toenails the first time around. Not looking good the second.
SEEker2Chapter 1~Iwas never supposed to be face-to-face with miscreants. That was the idea. That’s how my relationship with the Muellers was proposed. But that lasted about as long as a sweet tea after mowing the lawn on a summer day in Tampa. I could have said no. I’m pretty sure Michael’s familiar with the concept. But only one of the partners ever overrule Michael. And Augie was particularly gung ho with me staking out the sidewalk today. I wonder why.Did he even suggest it?I can’t remember. I have to admit I pretty much zone out when the three of them start strategizing how to nab one of Goldman’s fleet-footed bond skips. With what we earned pulling in Scarface and his slugs last month you’d think Michael would be ready to sever the Goldman connection. But after ten years, maybe Michael’s in a rut.That’s funny.Michael Mueller in a rut. One of the Dynamic Duo, in a rut. The man is a cross between Fabio and the Hulk. With his swagger and tattoos, looks more like a Greek god, incapable of anything less than perfection. I hate him. No man should be so good looking. Especially an old man. And his supposed-brother Roger is no step down, less the long hair and tats.I still haven’t broached the “brother” subject with either of them. No way they’re brothers. Michael’s in his late fifties. Six years in the Marines, three in the police force, three executing this insanity…okay so Roger’s older than he looks. Has to have passed thirty. But they can’t be brothers.So why the whole, brother game?Dang, my mind wanders during a stake out. I need to start paying attention during our planning sessions. Maybe I wouldn’t get stuck hanging out on Seventh Avenue in the July heat. I’ll bet Roger found some shade in the back parking lot.I turned to identify the approaching clack, clack. A youngish female, late-twenties maybe, hard to tell with her broad sunglasses, measured her distance to the storefronts with her extended, white cane as she strode down the sidewalk. Reddish hair flowed over both shoulders, which under her sleeveless smock looked as though they’d seen plenty of reps on a lat bench. Her black, Spandex shorts like they wear playing volleyball made her legs look a mile long, ending in hikers, had to be Merrells. That’s all Roger wears outside the gym.“What are you staring at?” she shouted.I jumped, and a little extra heat soaked my face, above what the three o’clock heat provided.“Excuse me?” blurted across my vocal cords. “Just because you think I’m blind it’s okay to gawk like an idiot?”“I, I—”“You jerk!” She was only six feet away now and not veering. She raised that cane. The red stripe toward the tip flicked through the air.Ah, crap. She was swinging it at me? I cringed with the downward motion of her hand, but a clatter preceded the disintegration of her weapon. I followed the six red and white segments flutter in front of my eyes before they snapped back in place, into a single, rigid line. She laughed as she stubbed it into the sidewalk. The laugh was more a bark. Nothing like Chica’s yip. Chica is our new companion. The sweetest Pit Bull in the world. Anyway, the red-haired chick’s laugh exploded out of her mouth.“I wish I could read your expression,” she said. “I’ll bet you look as big the fool as you act.”I opened my mouth, but there were no thoughts to build words with.“You were too,” she snapped.“Were what?”“Gawking. Admit it. You were gawking. Didn’t your momma ever tell you it’s rude to stare?”“I, I—”“Slow witted, are you? I guess you have an excuse then.”“I’m not—”“Don’t deny it.”I looked up to gaze into her sunglasses, below the bill of her black cap. I still slouched from cringing from her attack. I stood up straight and found I still pretty much met her eye-to-eye. At six-two, I don’t look eye-to-eye with many women. Sweat dripped off her nose. I realized her thin cotton smock was plastered to her flesh, which darkened the material in tantalizing places. She’d been doing some serious, power walking in this heat.“Mostly,” she muttered, twisting a belt at her waist. A sport bottle came into view off her hip. A very curvy hip. The Lycra clung to her muscled glutes, dipped between her ilium and pelvis. I’m staring again.“Mostly what?” I asked.“Mostly blind, but I can make out shapes in bright light.” She uncapped her bottle and took a swig. The suction sound of an empty bottle preceded her curse. “You can make up your slight by buying me a Gatorade.”“What slight?”“Being a rude shit.”Potty mouth. My Mom would give her a ration of grief.“The deli—” She shrugged her thumb at the shop one door down. “I’ll wait here for you.”“I, I—”“You stutter all your life?” she asked.“I don’t—”A blaring car horn interrupted me. I turned. Augie barreled across the street from where he’d been lounging at the outside café, without looking before he crossed the street. The car with New Jersey plates gave Augie a second and third, irritated blast. Augie didn’t even look toward the driver much less wave an apology. He held his laptop across his chest with both hands.“Augie! Look before—”He managed a bored wave my way, before re-clamping his mitt around his computer. He jumped over the curb with an uncharacteristic sense of energy. His eyes weren’t executing their Cylon programming, meaning they focused high, without the nervous left to right twitch.They were pasted onto my recent antagonist.“You are,” Augie gushed, “You’re Denise Abana.”He was lately on a kick testing out contractions again. He hates that we notice.“That a statement or a question?” the female of his attention asked.“Observation. A word you use too much,” Augie said.Augie knew this woman? “Use too much?” I asked.“I’m Augustus Nellis.”The woman’s expression turned from irritation to strong ire. “Oh, God!” She shouted. “You live in my city. You son of a bitch. I hate you.”“That’s mean,” Augie and I said together.She turned more my way. “I’ve almost quit blogging because of this A-hole. He a friend of yours? Another reason not to like you, and I was about to accept your apology.”“I have nothing to apologize for.”“You consider undressing me with your eyes couth behavior?”“I’m excited to get to meet you.” Augie’s eyes were back to Cylonning. If I didn’t know better, I’d say his eyes were going from one of Denise’s breasts to another.Maybe they were.“Didn’t you get the hint when I stopped approving your comments?” She didn’t sound very happy.“As a writer I’d expect you to be more open to honest critique.” Augie’s tone sounded a little bit like a corrected four-year-old.“Writer?” I asked.“In private!” I flinched from her shriek.“Give me your frickin’ criticism in private!”The three of us stood in an uncomfortable silence for four seconds.“He’s heading east. He’s heading east! He’s heading east!”Augie didn’t need to shout the third warning. The second heading east connected with my synapses, even if my body hadn’t yet reacted. I turned and caught our skip heading away from the cigar shop, a front for a modest pot distributor, which we were staking out. How did I miss him entering?“Crud,” I muttered, frozen for lack of a decision. Michael is going to be pissed I didn’t warn him and Roger to get in position. The man never met a grudge he couldn’t grasp for eternity. I didn’t look forward to his anger. I had to do something. I sprang into a sprint, even though I had no idea what the hell I was going to do. In my ear bud, Augie was informing them after the fact, adding that I was being stupid.Good ole, Augie.He has a way of summarizing a situation succinctly.Our skip looked over his shoulder, evidently in response to my footfalls, or my feverish self-muttering. Maybe he sensed my panic. He didn’t run. That was great. Or was it? He turned to face me, his expression turning a little murderous. I think I lost a little energy in my stride. No. I lost a lot of vim in my pursuit. Made sense. No reason to run after him if he wasn’t running away.When I was within conversation distance, he drew back a fist that rushed to meet my face with amazing speed. I had to have hurt his hand good, because I felt myself stumbling backward, though I couldn’t see a thing since day turned to pitch night. The earth tilted and my shoulder and head connected with firm surfaces probably forged in Detroit by the tinny sound in my head, before it clearly executed a final landing into hard, hot concrete.Chapter 2~Augie loomed over me, his expression twinged with disrespect. “You going