"I only talk to you."
She did. He had no clue why. Except she'd tried it on with him a couple of times, looking to replace Brent, who had zero balls and a meth habit, with a man whose cock she hoped to suck to get her out from under the thumb of a lunatic.
Her problem was, Joker might fuck empty pussy, but he didn't fuck greedy pussy.
"Got a lock on another girl we can turn?" he asked.
"Maybe, for one large."
"You give a name, she gets us solid info, you'll get your bonus."
"Now, you're here, I'm here, you got anything for me?"
"I think Benito is saving the best for last. He's still concentrating on the Ruiz patch."
This, they knew.
Benito Valenzuela was a pathological drug-dealing, porn-producing pimp who saw an opportunity when a couple of major players in Denver shifted out of the felonious into something that increased their life expectancy.
He went with it, claimed turf, did it easy, and got himself a complex that he was unstoppable.
He also got himself a mission.
Take over Denver.
All of it.
Including Chaos, the five-mile area surrounding Ride that Chaos decreed was free of drugs and whores. They decreed it but they also made it so by patrolling-brothers going out every night to keep their patch clean.
They'd been scuffling with Valenzuela for a while. Chaos attention turned to other issues. Valenzuela's attention turned to other turf. But they'd had skirmishes, including invading a porn set to free Tabby's junkie best friend who was paying her debt to Valenzuela by making her film debut.
Valenzuela did not take this kindly.
Since then, he'd been dormant where Chaos was concerned, doing his usual, sending dealers and whores into Chaos, causing headaches, but nothing extreme.
But the extreme was coming. Every member of the Club made it their purpose to know everything they could know about Valenzuela through every means available.
He hadn't forgotten Chaos.
Their problem wasn't just him. It was that with each move he made, he got more money, which meant more firepower.
No one was unstoppable.
But part of the past and future Joker had learned about his Club included learning that Valenzuela had once been a nuisance.
He was now a viable threat.
There was a day when Chaos would have moved at any time during the past few years to neutralize this threat.
But Tack had guided the Club from hostile negotiations that led to aggressive takedowns that could get bloody for all concerned to defensive maneuvers that centered solely on their patch.
If Valenzuela threatened them directly, the Club would move to take him down.
Until then, they kept their shit clean and their families safe from blowback.
This was the beef Rush had with his father. Because even if Tack had pulled the Club out of maneuvers that started antagonistic and led to violent, Tack was still set on doing whatever they had to do to keep their territory clean.
Rush felt the Club should leave the policing to the police.
Until that moment, Joker hadn't given a shit what the Club did. Whatever it was, he was all in.
But standing in an alley with a whore instead of exploring the many ways he wanted to make Carissa Teodoro whimper on her couch, he now had an opinion
And until that moment, Joker didn't understand why Tack didn't work out his beef with his son.
But standing in that alley the day after he made the decision he should have made years ago in a car park outside a hospital, he got it.
Because Joker was standing in an alley with a whore. What he was not doing was exploring the ways he could make Carissa whimper, something he didn't know where it would lead, he just knew where he wanted it to go.
And Tack had led his Club away from a dark path through blood then vengeance to clean.
He'd earned his scars.
Now his newer brothers, who had not walked through fire to turn Chaos around, were the future of the Club. They needed to prove their grit and earn their scars.
Tack would someday step down.
And the Club would be at the mercy of what he left behind.
But Tack knew you couldn't lead without knowledge. You couldn't demand respect without earning it. You couldn't understand without experience.
Fuck, the man had it going on.
"You alive in there?" Heidi called.
He focused on her. "Need you to grab your friend and get off our patch."
"Same drill," she mumbled.
He didn't confirm because it was a waste of breath. She was right. Chaos didn't allow whores on their patch. She'd been told more than once. So had her friend.
"Get me the name of your replacement before you disappear," he demanded.
He studied her a beat before he advised, "Girl, you get loose, you take a desperate couple for a ride by dangling precious in their faces, you stay loose. Get the fuck outta the life."
"Nothin' else I know how to do," she returned sharply.
"You got a brain. Learn," he shot back.
She saw her shot, and as usual, she didn't hesitate to take it.
She moved in to him, the hard shifting out of her face, something false she didn't know rang that way shifting into it.
"You could take that ride with me. I'd share the proceeds and stay outta the life for a decent guy."
Joker stepped back. He didn't say anything; he let his actions do his talking.
She tipped her head to the side and whispered, "Sure you can do better?"
He'd have had to think about that question the day before.
Nine years ago, he'd known the answer down to this gut and it wasn't a good one.
Right then, the touch of Carissa's soft skin still on his hand, the feel of her fingers against his scalp, the vision of her corny wave goodbye burned in his brain, he still wasn't sure about the answer.
But he was leaning a different way.
"Take care of yourself, Heidi," he said to end it, even in saying it, knowing she would. She'd do anything to take care of herself.
Even sell her baby to do it.
"Got no choice, Joke," she replied.
She moved off, got her girl, and they took off.
His brothers joined him.
"Not a big fan of hangin' in an alley with pussy for hire waitin' for the queen bee to get her favorite subject to stand attendance," Boz declared irately.
"Not the queen bee," Joker shared. "Bitch is pregnant. She'll vanish by daylight. But she says she'll arrange a replacement."