Trial Run, available soon.
The sky was beginning to darken, taking on a purple hue topped with an orange layer of whipped clouds, when a sharp trill came from the house.
“Phone,” Jason said and hauled himself out of the pool. “Bit early for Amelie,” he said as he sprinted to the house.
The conversation can’t have lasted more than seconds. In a flash, Jason ran back out and waved his car keys at Rob.
“You wanna come along?”
“I won’t lie,” Jason said as he unlocked a shiny new SUV parked by the roadside, just outside the green arch formed by the aging banyan trees. “I might need you for the muscle.”
“You’re taking me to a brawl?” Rob chuckled. “Feels like yesterday...”
Jason laughed as he peeled out and drove faster than the legal speed limit toward Boca Raton. “Only that fight had nothing to do with Amelie.”
“I couldn’t close my right fist for two days,” Rob said, flexing his fingers now, as he remembered their last fight together when, aged just eighteen, they’d walked away relatively unscathed from an encounter with the Ramos brothers. Well, apart from the deep gash in Jason’s thigh and Rob’s split eyebrow and grazed knuckles. They were lucky the patrol car arrived when it did, and the fact that there was a warrant already out for the brothers’ arrest didn’t hurt either.
Rob squinted as Jason turned down a less well-cared-for street. Most houses displayed signs of neglect here, and not all street lights functioned. Jason stopped the car in front of a property set back from the road, bordered by tall hedges and with a blinking neon sign over the double door.
Black Tulip Tattoo and Piercings, it read, and there were two black stylized tulips painted straight onto the white wall by the door. An offending odour permeated the space surrounding the house, and Rob sniffed twice, trying to place its origin. Chemical... antiseptic with a slight charring whiff, maybe.
“Watch my back,” Jason ordered and burst through the front door.
The small reception desk hid a girl who couldn’t have been more than fifteen. She took one look at Jason and shrunk back into her chair.
Rob gestured to her to get out, and she didn’t have to be told twice. The door swung shut behind her at the same time as Jason’s shout came from the room at the back. Rob sprinted over and caught the fist that had missed Jason’s face by a hair’s breadth. A quick twist and shove, and the pierced skinhead who’d launched it crumpled to the floor. Rob’s heel to the gut made sure he’d stay there for a while.
To his right, Jason was sinking his fist into the tattooist’s stomach, but that didn’t hold Rob’s attention for long. Because on the cot in the middle of the room the most perfectly shaped woman lay naked on her front, her peachy and flawlessly tanned ass cheeks glowing in the light of the overhead projector. Two parallel stripes of white powder marred the round contour of her right ass cheek. The projector’s light outlined the word SLUT on her upper back. Only the S and part of the L had been inked, Rob realized with relief.
Relief was not the expression she wore when she turned her head around to see what the commotion was about. The scowl on her face deepened when she saw Jason bent over the tattooist, and then she sat up, scattering the coke, and turned to the door. Her ice blue eyes locked on Rob.
“Amelie?” he whispered, his heart skipping a beat.