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Ride Steady


PAGE 110


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Valenzuela's mouth tightened and Joker dropped his head as he fought back a smile.

Hank being there would not have been his call. As much as Lee straddled the line of the law, doing what he had to do to get done whatever job he had to get done, Hank was like Mitch. A straight shooter. He could easily give up his badge and make wads of cash with his brother.

Instead he protected and served.

Valenzuela had assumed incorrectly that Hank was one with their crew.

Tack had brought in a ringer.

So that shit that just went down was funny.

"At those fights, Chaos recently sent a message."

At these words from Valenzuela, Joker's head came back up.

He felt a chill slide down his spine when he saw Valenzuela's eyes on him.

"I knew about Heidi," he said in a creepy, low voice. "Thought you were the man who'd get her out of the life. She'd do anything for you."

Joker's throat closed.

He didn't know that. He did. But he still didn't.

Valenzuela wasn't done.

"I let her do what she had to do. It made her happy, and Heidi did better work when she was happy. But everyone knew what she was up to. Everyone."

"Jesus, give it to us," Tack growled.

"Vendetta. Against Chaos," Valenzuela declared. "And who's left in Denver who has enough history to know about the calling card a former Chaos brother used to leave who also has that kind of vendetta and who is not me?"

"Monk," Joker whispered.

Hank stood ready to roll before Chaos did.

"This your word or you got more?" he asked.

"Tine handled the transaction," Valenzuela told Hank. "If you can find him, he might help you."

Tine was Monk's money man.

And Valenzuela had forced it out of him. So if he left him breathing, he was vapor.

Hank wasted no more time. He strode to the door.

"Hank," Tack called. Hank looked back, still moving. "Find him before we do."

Hank said nothing.

He walked out the door.

"I hear you've hung up your gloves, as it were," Valenzuela said, and Joker looked back to him to see the asshole had eyes on him. "If you ever want to fight for me, I don't mind having Chaos blood on my cement."

Joker just stared at him.

But he allowed his lip to curl.

Valenzuela smiled and pushed away from the table, saying, "I think we're done here."

He was two steps from the table before Knight spoke. "Benito."

Valenzuela turned back.

"You ever think of usin' me to negotiate your bullshit again without you sharin' with me you wanna negotiate your bullshit, rethink," Knight warned.

"Sebring, you're aware I don't act out of the kindness of my heart," Valenzuela returned.

"Seein' as you don't have one, yeah. That isn't lost on me," Knight stated. "But you told me you wanted peace and a safe place to share you weren't involved with what happened to that woman so Chaos wouldn't act on assumptions. You want a sit-down and me to keep that peaceful, you do not feed me a line of bullshit, or a player in this town who's keepin' himself to himself is gonna have to reconsider his position ."

Convinced he was made of steel, Valenzuela just smiled.

Since he wasn't, Knight knew it, and he liked disrespect about as much as Tack did, he added, "And stop sendin' your girls to work Chaos."

Valenzuela stopped smiling. "Is this keeping yourself to yourself?"

"You know about the girls," Knight said low, and Joker looked to Shy.

Shy's lips hitched up and his eyes lit.

Fucking shit.

Knight was throwing down.

"You do business your way, I'll do it mine," Valenzuela retorted.

"I get word your way is a way I don't like, we'll be having another meeting and it won't be as comfortable," Knight fired back.

"You don't wanna get involved in this," Valenzuela warned.

"Take care of your girls," Knight ordered.

Hop moved and Joker looked to him to see he'd again sat on the arm of the couch. He'd also dropped his head.

He did this to hide his smile.

In that moment, Joker knew.

Sebring was clearly using this meeting, and the way Valenzuela played it, as an excuse to wade in.

There were not a lot of pimps who went head to head with Knight. He might have been considering throwing his hat in the ring for a while.

But the time had come.

Joker wondered if Tack, Shy, and Hop knew before the meet, but it didn't really matter.

Whether they wanted him or not, Sebring was on the team.

Valenzuela didn't say another word. He and his soldier walked out.

When the door closed behind them, Joker announced, "I want Monk."

"Joke," Mitch said on a sigh.

"Hank'll take care of it," Brock put in.

Tack stood, eyes to Brock. "He's got a day."

Mitch looked to the ceiling.

Brock leaned forward to reach for his phone, muttering, "Best call Lee to get his ass with his brother before half our team is incarcerated, awaiting trial for homicide."

"I take it you just etched your name on the invitation list for our little coffee klatch," Mitch noted, now looking at Sebring.

Knight grinned. "I'll bring the pastries."

"Fuck me," Mitch muttered.

Hop smiled at Shy, who smiled back.

Joker did not smile.

Handshakes, gratitude, chin lifts, and nods were given and Chaos strolled out.

Joker waited until they were standing at their bikes before he repeated, "I want Monk."

Tack, head bent as he pulled on his gloves, sliced his eyes to Joker.

"Monk no longer exists."

Another chill slid down Joker's spine as he stared into Tack's eyes, seeing a look in them he'd never seen before on any man in his life.

Tack finished yanking on his gloves and swung his leg over his bike. Joker didn't do the same because Hop reached out a hand and wrapped his fingers around Joker's forearm for a beat before he let him go, this telling him to hold.

He held.

Tack roared off.

Joker looked to Hop.

"Hank'll get Monk," Hop said.

Joker opened his mouth to speak, but Hop kept going.

"And Monk will go down inside."

Joker shut his mouth.

"You'll be clean. Chaos will be clean. But we'll be one marker lighter," Hop finished.

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