Which, well, was fair.

Were this any other day, I would absolutely have one on me.

I also didn’t come across as anyone’s upstanding citizen, bearded, tatted, currently sporting one of those inverted triangle prison bodies speaking of too much time on my hands and too much energy to sit on my ass and play fucking cards all day long.

“Great,” I rumbled, fingers tapping as he counted the cash like a six-year-old learning money for the first time.

“Want to double-check?” he asked as I took the finished pile, folding it, tucking it into my back pocket.

“Nope. I trust you,” I told him, choosing not to tell him that I could tell you how much cash was in a pile by fanning it, having no need to count every single bill out. “Give that watch a good home,” I added, throwing myself back outside, making my way to the convenience store, getting the phone, the card, a bag of chips – barbecue, as if there were any other kind worth your time and taste buds – and a soda, heading up to the counter.

“Hey there,” the girl behind the counter (heavy on the tits, maybe a little short on the brain cells), but pretty in a small-town kind of way, greeted, eyes running over me. Almost three years of being behind bars came at me hard and fast, making me wonder for a second if I could fuck her over the counter before the next customer came in.

“Hey, babe,” I greeted, tapping my finger on the glass cabinet. “Two boxes of those,” I told her while reaching for a lighter, tossing it with the rest of my shit.

“I’ve never seen you around here,” she informed me as she reached for the cigarettes.

“That’s because I spent the past three years behind bars,” I told her as she rang the items through quickly.

“Oh, wow. I can’t imagine.”

“You don’t want to,” I told her, tossing some cash on the counter, gathering up my things. “Keep your pretty ass out here where all us poor fucks can admire you when we come out,” I added, giving her a half wave over my shoulder as I made my way out.

I could barely make it out the door before I was freeing a smoke, getting it between my lips, lighting it up, taking a deep drag that managed to immediately ease some of my agitation.

Why they ever outlawed cigarettes in prison was beyond me. I’d bet they’d have a lot more laid-back a convict population if they offered cigarettes and conjugals.

“Bus stop is that way,” a surly voice snapped at my side, making me turn to find two older fucks leaning up against the wall, eyeing me, sizing me up, finding me dangerous. They had no idea. But they were right in wanting me out of their town as quickly as possible.

“Mhmm,” I agreed, nodding, refusing to move. Just out of spite. Just because I never really took kindly to authority. It was a miracle I managed to get my ass through high school, let alone not get my ass constantly whipped by the corrections officers I had a tendency to smart-mouth when they got on a power trip.

Smoke between my lips, I reached for the soda, twisting off the cap, taking a long swig, wishing it was whiskey. Hell, I’d settle for a beer. But there would be time for drinking. Once I tracked down my brothers, once we got a minute to talk shit out.

Like how that motherfucker managed to stage a coup right underneath my nose.

Like how he got my baby sister in on it.

Like how every single one of those bastards I employed, protected, provided for like any good president would, decided to take their loyalty from me and offer it to that douchebag.

Even just thinking about him made my hand curl into a fist as I decided the old guys were right; I needed to make it to the bus station. Because I was primed for a fight meant for another man several hours away, but I would be all-too-happy to settle for a stand-in to get some of the rage out.

Turning, I walked back down the street, sun beating on my back, checking out the schedule as I set up my phone, trying to calculate how long it would take to get back home.

Six hours.

Six hours on fucking buses full of stale air and body odor.

But, I guess, it wasn’t all that different from prison.

And it was just six more hours.

Six more hours, and maybe I would have some answers.

Climbing on the first bus, I sat down in the back, trying to call my brothers’ cells. With no success.

I had only heard from them a handful of times since I went in. First, to let me know they would hold shit down for me until I got out. Then an emergency call to say something was wrong with the club, something was going on.

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