I am happy to say that the second installment in the Nightshade series will be available for purchase on Amazon within the next twelve hours or so.
Here’s a sneak peek at what’s in store for them.
“You want another?” The pass-around behind the bar was a new face, young and perky in every way possible. “Or would you like something else?” She leaned forward to give a better view of her tits, which were set to spill out of her tank top with the slightest motion. “I’d be real glad to help you out.” Buster appreciated the view because there was no denying that she was hot. He’d heard fantastic things about the abilities of her mouth, but he’d also heard she was fishing for an old man. “I’ll take another drink.” Buster slid his empty glass towards her. “Aside from that, I’m good for tonight, honey.”
“You let me know if that changes.” She poured the drink and got lost right after. She knew the ropes, and he’d gained a reputation in the past six months of being somewhat of a dick. It wasn’t totally untrue. Taking over the presidency had been harder than he’d thought. Toss in the weeds with Joseph Miller and most of Nightshade being unemployed without Davenport Development and Royal, and he was pretty damn surprised that he didn’t have ulcers.
It finally felt like things were changing, like they were turning a corner. Nightshade had started another construction and demolition company, equally owned by all of them. They finally had clients and were bidding on a job that could feed them for months. The jobs for Joseph Miller were slowing down. It seemed the man’s injuries were taking a larger toll from him than expected, and that was fine by them all.
Buster finished his drink, set the glass down and got to his feet. “I’m heading out,” he told Train, who had the bartender on his lap.
“Want me to ride with you?”
“Nah.” Buster shook his head. “All is quiet. I’m good. You just enjoy your night.”
“Oh, I’m going to.” Train looked absolutely gleeful, and Buster remembered a package coming for the man earlier. “See you tomorrow.”
Everyone was having a good time, so he didn’t make a fuss as he left. He didn’t want any of them insisting on riding with him and cutting their fun short. Buster was a big believer in grabbing the fun in life when you could. Life was too short for anything else. It was a nice night for a ride. The weather had started to get warmer. He wouldn’t freeze his dick off tonight if he took the long route.
It was a route that wound him through town, past the parts where it seemed like nothing had changed to the neighborhoods which were now home only to memories. His home had been in a neighborhood like that until a bunch of friends from out of town purchased three houses on the street. Now there were signs of life, and Nightshade had just gotten two additional houses on the same block for dirt cheap at auction. The city would never be the same, but it would be reborn. It would grow and people would return, just like his neighborhood was coming back to life and Nightshade was starting a new chapter.
Buster barely paid attention to the scenery. He was on a bit of autopilot, deep in his own thoughts. A flash of color on an abandoned storefront caught his attention. He slowed the bike for a better look. It wasn’t just a random flash of color, it was a tag. WC in ornately drawn letters. “Fucking kids.” He kept riding and gave it no more thought.
He turned onto Spencer Street, slowed down once again as he noticed the lights on in Baked and in the apartment above. He saw Wayne behind the glass counter and lifted his hand in greeting. Wayne must not have seen or heard him because he didn’t respond. After a few more random turns, Buster headed home. It felt good to shut the front door behind him and hear nothing but nothing. Silence could never be found at the bar, which was now their office, or at the job sites where everyone seemed to gossip more than teenage girls.
He took a hot shower, grabbed a cold beer from the fridge and settled down in front of the television for some mindless watching. Buster realized he could use a few more of these quiet nights. Nothing to do but pick something to watch, enjoy his beer and maybe even have a snack before bed and getting to sleep in his own comfortable bed instead of at the bar. Yeah, he could get used to nights like this.
The next thing he knew, he was waking up to the sound of a ringing phone, his phone. Calls in the middle of the night were never good, so he was wide awake as quick as he could bring the phone to his ear. “Talk to me.”
“Buster?” The voice on the other end of the line was female. Familiar but he couldn’t place it.
“No. No, this is Caroline. Caroline from Baked? I’m sorry. I know that it’s late but I…”
“What’s going on, Caroline?” Buster rose to his feet, stretched and started for the stairs. Something was going on. She’d had his number for the better part of a year and never used it, no matter how much he’d found himself wishing that she would.
“I… Wayne is… he’s crazy. Like crazier than usual. He was downstairs, started tearing everything up and now he’s pounding on my door. I think he’s high. I don’t know why I called you. I just didn’t know what else to do.”
“I’ll be there in ten minutes. You just stay inside. Lock yourself in a room if you think he’s going to get through the front door.” Buster took the stairs two at a time. Wayne was known to get high, mostly weed, and tearing his own store apart definitely wasn’t his usual behavior.
“Yeah. I can do that. Thanks.”
“It’s not a problem, Caroline. I can’t talk and ride, so I’ll be there real soon, okay?” Buster heard that she was scared. Her voice trembled, but he ended the call anyway. He didn’t even think to dial Train; the man very well might be too tied up to come to the phone. Instead he called Ace, told him to get over to Baked with whoever was around.
Buster knew that he was going to catch some shit from whoever showed up. All the guys liked to bust his balls over, as they called her, Bakery Girl. It kept up even when he’d realized that nothing was ever going to happen with Caroline. He wasn’t heading out tonight because he wanted to get in her pants; he was heading out because a there was a scared woman asking for his help.
When he got to Baked he saw that all the cases inside were broken. The windows remained intact. He didn’t bother going into the restaurant; instead he went around to the side where the tenant entrance was. It was quiet. Too quiet for the drug addict having a meltdown that Caroline had described, so he moved up the stairs as quietly as he could.
The apartment was trashed, and she stood in the middle. Obviously she’d been intending on going to bed; she wore a pink robe with what looked like flying unicorns on it, with bare legs and worn slippers on her feet. “Caroline?” Her hair was a light brown this week; she liked to change it. It framed a face with lips that just begged to be kissed and brown eyes that mostly always showed humor. Tonight there was no trace of humor, only fear.
“He broke down the door, came in here and tore everything up and then he just left. Someone called him. He answered and he left. I’ve seen him high before but never like that.” Caroline ran her hands up and down the arms of her robe. “Thank you for coming. I appreciate it. I didn’t know who else to call.”
“It’s good that you did.” Buster thought it was also good that Wayne had gotten a call. From the extent of the damage to the apartment, he’d have hurt her if he’d found her. “Did you see him do anything today?”
“A little coke, like every morning he actually shows up for work. He stayed for a couple hours, left and was back just after closing. He wanted privacy, I came upstairs. I cleaned up, had some wine and watched a little television. I was just dozing off when I heard him start freaking out.” Caroline jumped at the sound of footsteps on the stairs.
“Easy, that’s just the other guys.” Buster had heard the sound of their approach and was a little surprised that she hadn’t.
“Everyone good in here?” Ace stepped through the door, and she visibly relaxed even when Edge followed him. It made sense. She knew them all from coming to the bakery.
“Yeah. We’re good. Wayne isn’t.” Quickly Buster filled them in. “I’m thinking we should find him before he hurts someone or himself.”
“I’ll make a couple calls.” Ace stepped back out into the hall.
“It’s not a good idea for you to stay here tonight, Caroline. He could come back, and you don’t have a door.”
“I can lock myself in the bedroom. Besides, you guys will find him, right?” She drew the robe tighter around her. Buster’s mind wandered and wondered just what she was wearing beneath it.
“We will, but still, it’s not safe for you to stay here. Why don’t you call up one of your girlfriends?” Buster knew that they’d find Wayne eventually, as well as he knew that it was possible the man could come back while they were out looking. It was too much of a risk to leave her there, especially with the easy access front door.
“It’s the middle of the night,” Caroline protested.
“Why don’t you just go to Jillian’s house?” Edge suggested.
“She’s working tonight,” Caroline replied. Buster hadn’t realized the two women knew each other, but it made sense. They were both about the same age and lived in the same neighborhood. It was a bit of a surprise that Edge had never mentioned it, especially when he always joined in to bust Buster’s balls about her.
“She’s not working nights.” Edge frowned. “She hasn’t been on nights in a month at the diner. Even if she was working, she’d want you to come over. I can drive you. Just grab some stuff and I’ll call her now.” He pulled out his phone.
“I really don’t want to bother anyone. Come on Buster, I’ll be fine,” Caroline protested even as Edge took out his phone and started to dial.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea, Caroline. It’d be a shame if Wayne came back and hurt you.”
“She’s not answering. She must be asleep. It’s alright. I’ve got a key.” Edge shut the phone and slid it back into his pocket. “Don’t get stubborn. It’s either Jillian’s place or the bar. I think you’ll be a lot more comfortable with my sister.”
“Fine. I’ll grab a change of clothes.”
“Might want to scoop up anything particularly valuable, since you don’t have a door,” Edge suggested. “I can go and get my truck if you’ve got a lot of stuff.”
Buster realized, with some annoyance, that Edge was doing his best to flirt with her. It shouldn’t have mattered. He shouldn’t have cared, but he did. “I don’t think she needs to pack the entire apartment, Edge. Some things for tonight will do. We’ll put a new door up with new locks for you tomorrow.”
“Thanks. It’d be great if you didn’t give Wayne a copy.”
“Of course not,” Buster told her. “You good with Edge taking you over to Jillian’s?”
“Yeah, I’m good.” Caroline replied. “And thank you, all of you, again.”
“There’s no need for that. Is the number you called from earlier your cell number?” Buster asked, and she nodded. “I’ll be in touch when we find him. Let you know when it’s good for you to come back.”
“Great. Again, thank you,” Caroline told them. “Give me two minutes to grab my stuff.”
When she left the room, Buster nearly turned to Edge and told him to keep his hands off. It was a knee-jerk reaction, so he swallowed it back. “Get her settled and then hit the streets. Put out the word that we’re looking for Wayne.”
“Got it, Boss,” Edge replied. He’d seemed so young to Buster when he started prospecting, and in many ways he still seemed young but there was a hardness to his eyes that couldn’t be denied. Being Nightshade had made him a man.
Buster left the apartment, his mind on Caroline as he made his way downstairs to go and find Wayne. And he would find Wayne and the man would be sorry that he found.
They found Wayne Chandler easily enough. Ace spotted his car in an alley about three blocks from the bakery. He was behind the wheel, as dead as dead could be. From what Buster could tell, it was an overdose; there were no signs of blood or a struggle.
“He hasn’t been dead long.” Train had been called as soon as they found the body since he was the closest thing they had to a medical examiner. “Rigor hasn’t set in yet. There’s no obvious injuries. No defensive wounds on his hands.”
“Overdose?” Buster asked.
“That would be my guess,” Train replied. “I wonder what he was on. I’ve never seen him violent before. Can’t even remember him ever fighting.” He moved to the back seat, began rummaging around. “There’s empty baggies in here. Looks like coke. Pill bottles, empty of course. What’s the play, Buster?”
“We’ll call it in,” Buster answered. He’d had everyone else go back to the bar; they didn’t all need to stand around staring at the corpse. Better that they keep things low profile because Buster was starting to wonder if this was just the tip of the iceberg.
In recent weeks there had been several overdoses in and around the neighborhood. So far they’d all been hardcore junkies who survived by squatting in abandoned houses. Now here was Wayne. The question now: was it a bad batch of drugs or a new drug they hadn’t seen before? Either way, it was certainly in Nightshade’s best interest to take a look into it, and that was what he was going to tell his brothers. It was what they would vote on tonight, even though it was late. “Wrap it up, Train. We’ve been here long enough. It’s late, let’s not keep the others waiting.”
Buster called the body in to a dispatcher who sounded half asleep and exceptionally bored. She informed him that there was a car in the area, it would be there soon and he should wait there to give a statement to the officers. Somehow he managed not to laugh at her. If there truly had been a cop car in the area, they didn’t see any sign of it on the way back to the bar.
They didn’t speak of anything until they were down in the basement; there were too many people partying upstairs. Buster waited until they were seated. The ride back had given him time to think about what he was going to say. “I’m beginning to think that we’ve got a problem. Either there’s a bad batch of something out there or something new. Wayne is the fourth overdose I’ve heard of in the past few weeks. We all know where the majority of the drugs in this town come from, the Street Kings. We need to know what we’re dealing with or more people are going to die.”
“Manuel is not going to take kindly to us poking around and asking questions,” Danny pointed out. “Especially if we’re implying that he’s putting out the corrupted drugs.”
“I’ll talk to Manuel,” Buster replied. “He’s a reasonable man. If it’s part of their supply, they need it found or they’re going to run out of breathing customers. For now, while I set up the meet with him, let’s see if we can’t figure out who was dealing to Wayne and what his last purchase was. Sound good?” Everyone agreed. If they hadn’t, it would have gotten taken to a vote and any misgivings voiced. One thing Buster was adamant about was every single man having his say. “Alright, everyone get out of here. I’ll see you all in the morning We’re going to have a busy day.”
Buster waited until he was alone in the basement to send a text message to the only number he had for Manuel. He’d get a message back with the time and place to meet, he was sure of that. It could take days or it could take an hour, depending on what was going on. There was no way he was waiting around the bar for it, though. He was ready for some real sleep in a real bed, in his bed.
Before he got home, he received a message back that Manuel would meet with him in half an hour down near one of the closed industrial parks. The quickness of the response was all he needed to know that his hunch was dead on. Buster debated calling someone to join him for the meet and decided against it.
The relationship with Nightshade and The Street Kings had once been an alliance, back in Buster’s prospect days, even if it was an uneasy one. There had been a falling out between the two groups shortly before Royal had taken the lead. He and Stark, the previous Street Kings president, had hated each other. That hate had cemented the rift.
The day after Buster took over, Manuel had shown up at the bar. He’d been alone, unarmed and looking for a conversation. He’d suggested that the two groups put the past in the past and move forward. The city was crumbling around them. Manuel had suggested that they’d all be better off if they could not only co-exist but cooperate.
Nightshade had taken the offer to the table. There was resistance at first. Train had a longstanding feud going with Hector. Ace had once slept with Manuel’s sister. The bad blood ran deep, but in the end, they’d voted to go ahead, with the caveat that if the Street Kings crossed them, they’d run them into the ground. But nothing had gone bad. Things had been smooth enough that Buster had no qualms about riding in alone and barely armed. He only had one gun with him, cleverly hidden in bike’s storage compartment, and didn’t bother to take it out when he got parked next to a black SUV.
The Street Kings were more a street gang than an MC. Not all of the members rode. Manuel hadn’t been on a bike since he’d laid his down and nearly died. Buster caught sight of him close to one of the abandoned buildings.
Manuel turned as he approached. The man look tired, but it was the middle of the night. “Buster, it’s good to see you.” They embraced with a brief one-arm hug. “I was just thinking about reaching out to you when I got your message.”
Buster wondered why but decided to focus on what was happening right now. He got right to it. “Wayne Chandler died tonight. It looks like an overdose. Before he died, he tore his place up and broke in the apartment upstairs. He went after the woman who works for him, but she locked herself in.”
“Caroline?” Manuel frowned. “She okay?”
“She’s good. You know her?” Buster didn’t know why Manuel knowing her name made something flare inside of him. Baked was a popular place, and Caroline was a beautiful woman, more than that, she was as sweet as the treats she baked.
“Yeah. My old lady loves that place. She has me stop in most days to pick up something.” Manuel explained. “She’s sweet, always asks about her and the kids. Anyway, Wayne doing all that doesn’t sound like him. Sounds like a bad trip. They’ve been going around, apparently.” He let out a dry laugh.
“Heard about a couple that ended with death. You know something I don’t?” Buster asked.
“I’ve lost two guys, Cross and Denny. They liked to party. Always joked that there wasn’t a drug on the planet they hadn’t tried. Last week, the got their hands on something new. Killed each other in Denny’s basement with the contents of his tool chest. Never seen anything like it.”
“Jesus Christ.” Buster couldn’t imagine losing two men to one another. “Do you know what they took?”
“No. I do know it didn’t come from my crew. They were clear it was new, and in case it wasn’t, I had everything tested. It’s not a bad batch. It’s some new shit that’s showing up, and it’s not ours.”
“Who’s pushing it?” Buster was inclined to believe Manuel. He’d always had a strong radar for when people were bullshitting him. Manuel wasn’t.
“That’s the problem, I’ve got no clue. There’s been whispers on the streets for a while about a new crew. No one knows anything for sure, though. I was inclined to think it was an urban legend. Obviously, now I’m not.” Manuel’s expression grew serious. “Cross was my cousin. I’m going to find out who these fuckers are and blow ’em off the map. Figured that Nightshade might want to join in the fun. This is about more than cooperation now, Buster. We need to work together on this one. The Kings are going after them either way. Talk to your guys, see what they say.”
“I’ll take it to them first thing in the morning.” Buster wouldn’t promise anything about how the club would vote but he had a good idea which way it was going to go. There really just wasn’t enough room in town for another crew. “I’ll reach out right after.”
“I’ll be waiting for your call. Ride safe.”
Buster remained in the warehouse complex after Manuel’s SUV was long gone. The quiet night he’d imagined wasn’t going to happen. There was too much on his mind for that. Eventually he got back on his bike. He took the long way home, past Baked, where he didn’t see any lights on. Disappointment rolled through him. If the lights had been on, he’d have stopped.
There was a reason that the guys liked to bust his balls about Bakery Girl. Even if she hadn’t shown any overt interest in him, he had an interest in her. It was why he managed to find his way into Baked at least twice a week.