Saturday Night Special (10 page)

BOOK: Saturday Night Special
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As they walked in the front door, he was assaulted by thick, rancid cigarette smoke and the twanging sound of country music blaring from a pair of speakers in the corner.

A few tough-looking guys by the bar took his measure before he made it five steps inside, then their gazes landed on Riley and he could see the surprise on their faces. No man with half a brain in his head would bring a woman like Riley into a bar like this.

For the hundredth time since they’d left the hotel, he wondered what the fuck he was doing.

78

Saturday Night Special

It was her face as she’d looked at him, as she’d asked him not to leave her behind that had sealed the deal on his insanity. She was worried about him. Some foolish part of him had thought if he brought her along, let her see that he could handle himself in dives like this, she wouldn’t worry as much when they returned to Baltimore and he returned to work. While that idea seemed a sound one in theory, the reality of bringing her to Jacko’s was proving to be the most asinine thing he’d ever done in his life.

She tugged on his sleeve and pointed to the end of the bar. Through the haze of smoke and the crush of smelly bodies, she’d managed to spot Johnny. There was no missing him. Johnny Sparks was exactly as Bubbles had described and in the dim lighting, Aaron would swear he was looking at Wayne Newton in the flesh.

“Come on,” he said. “Stay close.”

He stepped up to the bar, catching the bartender’s attention. He gestured for two beers, trying to decide where the safest spot for Riley was. If he put her in front of him, she’d be protected from all the men in the room, more than a few of whom were definitely checking her out. However, that would put her closest to Johnny. Deciding he could defend her against one rather than many more easily, he put her on the stool next to the pimp, while he stood behind her, pressing his chest against her back.

“Worry much?” she teased and he narrowed his eyes. One look at her face proved that while he was a nervous wreck, Riley was soaking up the atmosphere and already adapting. He reached over her shoulder for one of the beers the bartender delivered, trying to figure out the best way to engage Bella’s pimp without tipping their hand too soon.

“You Johnny Sparks?” Riley asked, and Aaron fought back a groan.

The man narrowed his eyes before turning to look at them for the first time. Aaron spotted the same surprise on Johnny’s face as he’d seen on the other customers in the bar when he saw tiny, clean-cut, pretty Riley sitting next to him. One quick glance around the bar confirmed that the only women who frequented the joint were either hardened hookers or tattooed amazons who could hold their own.

79

Mari Carr

“Who wants to know?” he asked and Aaron gripped Riley’s waist, warning her that he was supposed to be questioning the man.

“I do,” she said, her tone pure smartass.

Johnny didn’t seem to know how to respond. “Who the hell are you?”

“Riley Collins…er, Young.” She put her hand out for a handshake and again, her actions seemed to fluster the man. He reached out and accepted her hand. “Nice to meet you. We’re friends of Bella’s.”

“Riley,” Aaron muttered. “I thought I was going to handle this.”

“You know Bella?” Johnny asked. “You seen her lately?”

Riley shook her head. “I don’t really remember ever seeing her, but apparently I met her last night. Unfortunately I was sort of trashed.”

It appeared trashed was a state Johnny could relate to and understand. “You don’t happen to remember seeing her with some big shot gambler from out of town, do you?”

Riley snorted. “Big shot gambler? Trev?”

Aaron tightened his grip. He’d lost control of this situation in less than five minutes. Johnny’s eyes narrowed when she mentioned Trevor’s name.

“Trev?” Johnny asked. “Is that the motherfucker’s name?” His tone had crossed from bored to pure, pulsating anger. “You know him?” His eyes narrowed and he leaned closer. Suddenly Aaron was regretting putting Riley in front of him.

“Listen, Johnny—” he began quickly, trying to divert the man’s attention from his newlywed wife.

“Shut the fuck up,” Johnny said menacingly. “I’m talking to the woman.”

Aaron felt Riley’s back stiffen. “Don’t you talk to my husband that way.”

Johnny’s face darkened with fury. “Listen you little whore, if you know where my Bella is, you better start talking
now
.”

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Saturday Night Special

Riley attempted to lean toward the furious man but Aaron held her back. Jesus, now he had two pissed-off loose cannons to deal with. Yeah, coming here had
not
been a fantastic idea and he could see Tris taking a swing at him if he ever found out.

“Let’s go, Riley,” he said, leaning down to speak in her ear to be heard over the loud music. “He doesn’t know where she is. This is a lost cause and I think we’ve overstayed our welcome.” A quick survey of the room proved a couple of men were getting brave as they started to move closer. In about two minutes, he suspected things were going to get very ugly.

Riley shrugged off his hand as he tried to pull her off the barstool. “Did you call me a whore?” Riley asked.

“Tell me where Bella is.” Johnny stood, his voice raised over the din in the room.

The two men who had been approaching them took one look at Johnny and turned around. Great, Aaron thought. The regulars were afraid of the pissed-off Wayne Newton wannabe. This wasn’t good.

“Or what?” Riley taunted. “You gonna order up a hit on me too?”

Aaron closed his eyes briefly and prayed for the patience not to turn Riley over his lap right here and spank her ass for real. “That’s it. We’re fucking leaving.”

“A hit?” Johnny seemed completely taken off-guard by her comment.

“A friend of ours said you ordered a hit on the last guy Bella took off with.” Aaron shook his head. Jesus, Riley sucked at the subtle art of interrogation. She’d just blazed her way across the bar and asked what she wanted to know. His first instinct was to pick her up, throw her over his shoulder and get her the hell out of there.

Johnny’s response, however, pulled him up short.

“A hit?” Johnny repeated, this time roaring with laughter as he said it. Aaron looked around and noticed the room full of drunks almost seemed to release a sigh of relief. He wished he felt as comforted. “Holy fuck. That is so twisted and stupid, it’s funny. How the hell could I order up a hit? And what dumb cunt told you that?”

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Mari Carr

Riley looked back at him and gestured as if to say, “
He
gets to use that word”, and Aaron narrowed his gaze. “What happened to letting me handle this?”

“You take too long. Hell, we’d still be sitting here sipping our beers if I’d left it up to you. I’m sort of horny. It
is
my honeymoon, remember?”

Aaron shook his head. “This is my job, Riley. There’s nothing wrong with erring on the side of caution, Riley. Taking your time to feel out the situation.”

She rolled her eyes at him. “Jaysus. I can tell you right now, I’m not gonna spend my life waiting around for you to make decisions. I do
not
have time for that shit.”

“Listen, sweetheart…” He dragged out the term of endearment, lacing it with as much sarcasm as he could muster. “All I’m saying is—”

“Who the hell
are
you two?” Johnny’s laughter had subsided, but at least his anger hadn’t returned. Aaron began to get a sense the man wasn’t as dangerous as they’d been led to believe. Despite his odd attire, he looked as though he could just as easily be sitting at the end of the bar in Pat’s Pub, shooting the shit over the latest sporting event with Riley’s pop and brothers.

Riley turned and gave Johnny an exasperated look. “I told you. I’m Riley Young.

This conversation is going to take too damn long if I have to keep repeating myself.

Your…” She paused and Aaron assumed she was searching for a polite word for prostitute. “Lady friend, Bella, was last seen with our friend Trev. Trev’s wife is here now and she’s looking for him. We said we’d help because she’s just found out she’s pregnant.” After a brief pause, she added, “With Trev’s baby. We were hoping you might know where he and Bella are. Maybe you could help us find them.”

Johnny shrugged. “And why should I try to help you find this man for his knocked-up wife?”

“You do
not
want a pissed-off, hormone-imbalanced Johanna Blankenship running around Vegas. She makes this room of roughnecks look like a bunch of choir boys.”

For the first time since they’d engaged the man in conversation, Johnny’s gaze landed on him. “You married this woman?”

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Saturday Night Special

Aaron nodded wearily.

“Voluntarily?”

Aaron barked out a brief laugh as Riley put her hands on her hips. “Oh, that’s rich.

You’re sitting here dressed like a washed-up goddamn Vegas singer and you’re criticizing my husband’s choice for a wife?”

“Wayne Newton is far from washed up!” Aaron could see Johnny’s previous anger was nothing in comparison to his sudden fury now. Obviously, Riley had attacked him on a very personal level. “Where the fuck are you from? Wayne Newton has performed over thirty thousand shows here in Vegas—at the Tropicana, the Stardust. He has a street named after him. He was on
Dancing with the
goddamn fucking
Stars
. Jesus, they call him Mr. Las Vegas, for fuck sake! Where’s your respect?” His voice and his body had risen throughout his recitation of Wayne’s resume until he was towering over them, and quite a few of the people sitting nearby moved away.

The bartender stepped closer and looked at Aaron. “Did you just insult Wayne Newton in front of Johnny?”

Aaron shook his head.

Johnny pointed at Riley. “No. She did.”

“They call him Mr. Las Vegas?” she asked. “Seriously?”

Shaking his head, Johnny resumed his seat on his barstool. “Fucking tourists. Yes.

That’s what they call him.”

“Well, that’s pretty cool. Sorry I called him washed-up.”

Johnny just stared at her and Aaron sort of felt a bit of sympathy for the man. Riley could wear out the most patient of souls. “I don’t know where your friend is. I wish I did. Bella—” Johnny’s voice cracked on the woman’s name and Aaron realized they’d found the chink in the man’s armor.

“You love her.” Her words weren’t a question, but a simple statement.

Johnny nodded. “Course I do. Been asking her to marry me for months now.”

83

Mari Carr

Aaron felt the same confusion he saw written on Riley’s face. However, while
he
figured out they’d misinterpreted the information Bubbles gave them, Riley didn’t make the leap as quickly.

“Wow. Never heard of a pimp marrying one of his girls.”

Aaron groaned and feared her comment would set Johnny off again. He tried to divert the disaster. “Um, Riley. I don’t think—”

“Pimp?” Johnny asked. His body shook with laughter and for several minutes, they could only sit and wait as the man struggled to regain his composure. Each time Aaron thought he’d pulled himself together, he’d begin wheezing with laughter that turned into a coughing fit that ended once again with laughter. His face was purple with merriment and there were tears streaming down his face.

Riley looked back at Aaron. “I think maybe we jumped to the wrong conclusion after talking to Bubbles.”

“What was your first clue?”

“I’ve sort of fucked this all up, haven’t I?”

Aaron shrugged. They weren’t dead. They hadn’t been robbed. Johnny wasn’t the mob-connected pimp they’d feared. Really, the only bad part of this little excursion was they still didn’t have a clue where Trev was. “Yeah, you did, and yet, in typical Riley fashion, you appear to have emerged unscathed.”

“Sorry we bothered you, Johnny,” she said, starting to rise. Discovering they were leaving, Johnny sobered up, his peals of laughter dying down.

“Where you going? The night’s still young. Let me buy you two a drink and you can tell me where you got the fool notion I was a pimp.” Speaking the word
pimp
caused Johnny to chuckle once more.

“That’s okay,” Aaron started, but Riley resumed her seat as Johnny waved the bartender over.

Fuck. They’d been so close to escaping.

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Saturday Night Special

“I think we just sort of misinterpreted something our friend Bubbles said,” Riley explained.

“Sounds to me like you misheard everything that stupid cow said. What makes you think I can put a hit out on somebody?”

The bartender brought another round of beers and Aaron pulled an empty stool over, placing it right up against Riley’s. She gave him a look that told him to back off, but he ignored it. Despite the fact Johnny appeared to be harmless, that didn’t mean the other men in the bar were.

“Bubbles said the last time Bella ran off with a guy, you put a hit on him.”

Johnny grinned and Aaron was taken aback by how much the guy really did look like Wayne Newton. In this dim lighting, hidden behind the haze of cigarette smoke, he was actually a dead ringer.

“Bella didn’t run off with that guy and I didn’t
put
a hit on him. I
hit
him. With my cab.”

“Cab?” Riley asked.

“I’m a taxi driver, not a pimp.”

“And you hit a guy with your car?”

Johnny shrugged. “It’s not like I killed him or anything. Fucker was climbing out of our bedroom window—mine and Bella’s. Guess they’d heard my car pull up to the curb. Caught a glimpse of him coming out of the house and I gunned the engine.

Chased the prick for two blocks before I was able to clip him from behind and knock him down. Got out of the cab, beat the shit outta him and then went home. That’s it.”

Aaron was suddenly grateful for his job on the force in Baltimore. Though Maryland had its fair share of crazies, Vegas seemed to hold the current record.

“Good for you.” Riley raised her glass to toast Johnny.

Aaron looked at her with disbelief. “Good for him? Riley, he chased the guy down with his car.”

BOOK: Saturday Night Special
13.84Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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