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I rubbed my eyes. I was tired, but also restless. My skin was literally itching to move the fuck on past all the fucking problems and move onto the solutions.

Like putting a fucking bullet in Eli.

Ideally I’d like to do it without even stopping the fucking car, and then hightail it back to Pup. Then, we can figure the Max thing out.

Together.

“You got any space left?” I called over to Bear, who was lying face down on the couch. We were in the apartment he’d built for himself in my garage. With no windows and only a single door in and out it made us feel less like sitting ducks than the main house.

Bear spoke into the cushion, listing the parts of his body that weren’t already covered with ink. “Some on my neck, the inside of my right arm, couple of fingers I think…and my dick, but you ain’t my type, fucker, so hands off.”

He can’t tattoo you’re dick, Bear. He doesn’t do micro portraits.

I laughed at the sound of Preppy’s voice in my head and took another hit of the joint Bear and I’d been passing back and forth. “What’s so fucking funny?” He asked, lifting his head from the cushion. His eyes rimmed in red.

“Prep,” I said, holding the smoke in my lungs as long as I could, letting it burn in my chest until I had no choice but to blow it out. “This is fucked up, but…I still hear him sometimes.”

Bear sat up and took the joint, taking three hits before leaning back on the couch with his arms spread across the back of the cushions. “I know what you mean. Me too. He’s always been there to break up all the heavy shit we’re all stewing in. Now that he ain’t here, it’s just all heavy shit…and no Prep.”

The plan had been to take a night and get some rest before going back to it. I’d tossed and turned for hours, knowing that until Pup was back in my bed that I’d never have a good night sleep again.

I heard Bear grunting, doing his own tossing and turning.

So finally, we’d just quit trying.

For three hours we’d been getting high, and for a while it was almost like old times when me, Bear, and Preppy, had spent many nights the exact same way. Except without Preppy. And just like those times, I’d broken out my tattoo gun.

“You ready to do this?” I asked, holding up the gun, using the foot pedal to make it buzz in the air.

“Fuck, yeah. Ink me, bitch,” Bear came over and sat on a stack of tires he used as a makeshift coffee table with his back to me. With his chin on his chest he reached behind his head, moving aside his hair. He touched his fingers to one of the few unmarked spots of skin on his body. “Right there man.”

I went in freehand and forty minutes later Bear had a new tattoo in big bold lettering.

PREP

He didn’t even ask to see it before he fell back on the couch. He lit a cigarette and poured out some white powder from a little bag onto the table, cutting it into lines with a razor blade, using a rolled up dollar bill he snorted two lines. Pinching his nostrils together, Bear chuckled. “Remember that time I jumped off the roof of the garage into the bay? Man, that shit was epic”

“I remember,” I said, shaking my head when Bear tried handing me the rolled up bill. “Preppy about had a coronary when you threw him in the water. Had his white suspenders dry cleaned three times that week.”

Bear looked as tired as I did but there was more to it than just a lack of sleep. I’d never seen him look so worn out. “What’s got you all inside out? You haven’t been right for a while. Even before shit when down with Preppy. What the fuck is up with you?” I asked.

Bear sighed, resting his hand holding his cigarette against his temple. “Pops wants to pass me the gavel.”

“Hasn’t that always been the plan?”

Bear shrugged. “Yeah, when he died or was like ninety. Even then part of me thought he would be buried with that fucking gavel in his stiff hands. But he wants to pass it to me…now.”

“I still don’t understand. What’s the fucking problem?”

Bear stood up and started to pace back and forth in front of the couch. “To be honest man? I’m just not sure I want it anymore. What made sense when I patched in don’t make much sense anymore. Shit’s changing. In the club. Out of the club. Things just ain’t how I thought they’d be,” Bear said, looking absently at the ceiling. He shook his head as if he were clearing the fog away. “Maybe I just need some pussy,” he said, “maybe when all this shit’s over I’ll text that British chick Jodi. She fucks like a champ and prefers it in the ass.”

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