Sam whistled. “She’s loaded.”

Mick split the cash with Sam.

“Thanks, bro.” Sam peeled off two bills and tucked them between Lisa’s enormous boobs.

Mick nodded and opened the second zippered compartment. He pulled a driver’s license from the clear pouch. Hannah Barrett lived in Scarlet Falls, New York. He stared at the thumbnail-size picture of the blond bitch. Not the most beautiful woman in the world, but even in the crappy digital photo, there was something about her that made a man look twice. Confident and intelligent, she was the kind of woman who hung from rich dudes’ arms.

A stack of business cards bulged from an outside slot. He took one out and read it aloud. “Hannah Barrett, Attorney-at-Law, Black Associates.” Office and cell phone numbers were listed, as well as her e-mail address.

Mick contemplated his options. He glanced at the license and business card. He knew where she lived. Finding her wouldn’t take any longer than plugging her address into Google Maps.

On the sofa, Lisa climbed onto Sam’s lap and ground down on him, her giant tits right in his brother’s face.

Watching them, Mick got hard, but he wanted new and shiny. The blond was cool, aloof, untouchable. She was exactly what he deserved.

He opened his laptop and accessed the map function. Taking turns driving, he and Sam could drive straight through to New York in thirty-nine hours. But first things first.

Mick took his phone and computer into the kitchen for privacy. He called Mr. K’s well-paid contact in the Vegas PD. While he waited for a callback, he accessed his spreadsheet and entered his income totals for the week. Emptying his pockets, he counted the total cash income, took his cut, and stuffed the rest in an envelope. He saved his file and e-mailed it to the boss’s accountant. Then he made the call requesting the recycling of one of his assets. Jewel would be gone by Tuesday.

Thirty minutes later, his contact called him back with the information. Hannah Barrett had given the police a decent description of him, but Mick had successfully avoided surveillance cameras. She was expected to sign her statement and head back to New York ASAP. The detectives would call her if they needed her to ID a suspect.

Like Mick was going to let that happen. If the police managed to finger Mick, Hannah Barrett’s eyewitness testimony would be the key piece of evidence in their case.

Mick closed the computer and went back into the living room. “Hey, Sam. How do you feel about a road trip? We’ll make the drop and take off right afterward.”

Sam’s eyes brightened. “I’ll get my stuff.” He pushed Lisa aside and disappeared down the hallway.

Mick turned to Lisa. “You’ll have to handle business for a few days.”

“Sure.” Her nod was quick and eager. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d left her in charge. Mr. K required girls to be recruited out-of-state.

He opened his tin and took out a bag. “There’s enough in there for you to have a little party when you get home each night.”

She reached for the coke.

Mick lifted it out of her grasp. “If you don’t make the totals each night, I’ll be taking the money out of your hide when I get back. If you do a good job, you’ll be rewarded. Understand?”

She nodded, eyes locked on the baggie.

He dropped it into her open palm. Her greedy fingers closed around it slowly, as if she couldn’t believe it was all hers.

“Follow my rules, do your job, and there’ll be more when I get back.” He reached out and lifted her chin until her gaze lifted to meet his. “If you don’t, I’ll know.”

Her eyes widened. Fear rimmed her irises with white. “OK, Mick.” Her voice shook.

“Jewel is being picked up Tuesday night. Make her clean up, and keep her alive until they come for her,” he instructed. “But just barely. I don’t want her to be too energetic.”


“I’m going to pack.” He went into his bedroom and pulled out a duffel bag. Everything he owned fit inside. He grabbed his jacket from the back of the closet. New York would be cold. On top of his clothes, he tossed the kidnapping kit: zip ties and duct tape. He grabbed an extra box of bullets and a flashlight from the top shelf of the closet. He patted his pockets. Gun, knife, check.

He paused, looking back at the bed. Just in case . . . He slid his hand under the mattress and withdrew a bundle of cash. He’d been saving his cut for months, plus skimming a little off the top each week. He tucked it in his bag.

Sam was waiting in the living room, a small duffel bag in one hand, his usual backpack in the other. “Ready.”

“What’s that?” Mick nodded toward the duffel.

“Just a few toys.” God—or maybe the devil—only knew what Sam had in that bag.

Mick reached for it, but Sam pulled it behind his back. “It’s a surprise.”

“OK.” Mick backed off. His brother had always been short-tempered, but after Iraq . . . Mick had learned it was better to let some things go. Once Sam went apeshit, there was no calming him down until his rage ran out of steam. Mick swiped the manila envelope of cash from the coffee table. “Let’s go.”

Sam followed him out to the garage. Mick unlocked the door and raised it. His hand trailed along the shiny black fender.

Sam whistled softly. “Badass car.”

Mick unlocked a wooden storage bin in the rear of the garage. He took out two assault rifles and a box of ammo Sam had bought off one of his ex-military pals. He put the firepower in the trunk and covered it with a tarp. Then he slid behind the wheel and settled into the black leather seat with a satisfied groan. The engine started with the satisfying rumble of a V-8. He grinned at his brother through the open window.

Mick backed out of the garage. Sam opened the back gate, closing and locking it with the chain and padlock after the Charger passed through. He got into the passenger seat.

“No smoking in the car.” Mick stroked the steering wheel and inhaled the new-car smell.

Sam sighed. “OK, Mick. Gonna be a long drive, though.”

“I’ve barely driven her. She isn’t even broken in yet.” Mick thought about the cool blond waiting for him in New York. He couldn’t wait to break her. “Tell you what. When I’m done with the blond, I’ll let you have a crack at her before I kill her.”


“You bet. We’re family, right?”

“Right.” Sam’s eyes lit up as if he were eight, and Mick had promised him a new bike.

He checked his phone. A text message showed on the screen. Every week the drop was in a different place, which wasn’t revealed until thirty minutes prior to his drop time. He opened the message. The address wasn’t familiar. Mr. K never used the same location twice.

“Plug this into your phone.” He read the address to Sam.

“It’s in an industrial park. Turn right at the light.”

Mick cruised through the residential streets, more slum than neighborhood. He followed Sam’s directions, and fifteen minutes later, he pulled up in front of a vacant warehouse. Litter piled up against the bottom of a Dumpster. There were no people in sight, but Mick knew they were being watched. A member of Mr. K’s inner circle was nearby, waiting to pick up the cash. He drove around the building. In the far corner of the lot, in the middle of a flat, open space with absolutely no cover, huddled a blue Goodwill donation bin. Mick pulled the car up to the receptacle. Leaving the engine running, he stepped out of the car. A cool night breeze swept across the flat and empty space.

Goose bumps rose on his arms, and the hairs on his nape lifted. Eyes were definitely on him. And maybe the crosshairs of a sniper scope.

His bowels clenched as he walked to the blue bin and dropped the envelope in the chute. The drop landed with a dull echo. As always, he pictured a little red dot between his shoulder blades and half expected a bullet to strike his back. But nothing happened. He turned and walked the four strides back to the car.

Back in the driver’s seat, he slowly turned the vehicle around and headed for the exit.

“Those drops are freaky,” Sam said.

“Mr. K doesn’t screw around.” Mick turned onto the access road and made his way back to the highway. His sweat-dampened shirt clung to his back. Every week when he made his drop, his balls wanted to crawl up inside his body. “You know what? I’m sick of this shit. What would you think about not coming back?”

Sam scratched his belly. “Rules are getting old.”

“I’m tired of giving away eighty percent of our money.” Mick punched the gas pedal. “You leave anything important back at the house?”

Sam shook his head. “What about Mr. K?”

The brothers had been recruited after they’d robbed a convenience store, and Sam had beaten the clerk to death with his bare hands. The cops hadn’t solved the case, but Mr. K’s men had come calling with a job offer. There hadn’t been an exit clause, but Mick and Sam were very good at disappearing.

“Won’t miss us until the drop is due next week. By that time, we’ll be on the East Coast.” Mick changed lanes. “We can grab a few girls and start our own business.”

“No rules.”

“No rules,” Mick agreed.

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