HWY 550, Rock Point, Book Three
Special Agent Luna Roosberg lives and breathes her job. Who needs a personal life when work is so rewarding?
When a new case sends her to investigate a local motorcycle club, covering as the president’s new flavor of the week, the lines between professional and personal quickly start to blur.
Although the Arrow’s Edge MC stays mostly on the right side of the law since Ouray took the gavel, the appearance of the feds at their gate can still rattle his cage.
When a string of robberies points squarely in Ouray’s direction, he’s forced to cooperate and put the blonde, prim and proper half-pint on the back of his bike.
With pressure mounting both in—and outside—the club, Ouray no longer knows who he can trust, except the woman who is shaking up his life—and stirring his blood.
“Just picked up some interesting chatter on the scanner. There was another one last night.”
I look up as Jasper saunters into the office, carrying a bag of sandwiches from the small deli a block over. Starved, since I never really got around to breakfast this morning, I snatch up my order and have my mouth full with the first giant bite before I respond.
Jasper wipes the crumbs I accidentally sent airborne off his shirt.
“Jesus, Luna. Feeding you requires a hazmat suit.”
“Sorry,” I mumble, this time behind my hand. “Hungry.”
“So I gather. You really need to start eating like normal people, you know…Anyway, yes, a store in Silverton. Mostly the same MO—maybe ten minutes before closing, two masked guys, both armed—but this time they left a calling card.” He takes a bite of his own sandwich and leaves me hanging.
I wipe my mouth before talking this time. “And?”
“As before, one covered employees while the other ransacked the place, but apparently he dropped his gun and never picked it up.”
I have to think on that for a bit. Seems strange that after pulling off a string of robberies with near perfection, these guys would suddenly do something so stupid.
“Seems out of character,” I observe.
“Maybe they were spooked. I’m pulling the full report now.” He shoves half his lunch in his mouth and turns to his computer screen.
Jasper is our resident techie slash hacker, and although I can hold my own in a pinch, I have nowhere near the practiced ease with which he extrapolates information from the web. Especially information not meant for the public eye.
We first heard of these robberies about a week ago, when we received an internal memo from David Aiken, head honcho of the main FBI office in Denver, to keep an eye out for any similar cases popping up in our backyard. In our case that backyard constitutes the southwest corner of Colorado: Archuleta, Dolores, La Plata, Mineral, Montezuma, and San Juan counties. Bordering three other states, our field office is generally a busy place, but luckily we have a good relationship with local law enforcement. Much easier to work with friends than with adversaries.
SAC Damian Gomez, my boss, immediately got in touch with Durango PD and the various sheriffs’ offices to give them a heads up and to see if there’d been any reports that would fit the bill. So far nothing. At least not in the past month or two, and nothing quite as professional as these recent robberies. From all accounts, these guys made off with not only a good haul of cash, but enough marijuana bud to set up a respectable distribution network of their own.
“Apparently they pistol-whipped one of the employees without much provocation, according to other staff, dropped the gun, and hightailed it out of there,” Jasper paraphrases from the report he’s reading off his computer.
Crumpling up my napkin and tossing it in the trash on passing, I walk up and lean down to read over his shoulder. “Holy shit! Fifteen grand and another ten in high-grade product in one take? Nice haul, Silverton isn’t as big as some of the previous ones they hit.”
“That’s well over a hundred grand cash in total, on top of at least eighty-five thousand street value in product,” Damian announces, coming out of his office. “They’re making their way through Colorado in a highly profitable way, and geographically, guess what’s next on the map?”
“Right here.” I knew that when I heard Silverton. These guys look to be making their way south, and even though there are some dispensaries between there and Durango, nothing that would net a decent return. They could score big in Durango.
“Exactly, so let’s see if we can get ahead of these guys. Start contacting every last dispensary in town, see what their security measures are, and encourage them to upgrade. Make a list from most vulnerable to least. Jas, work on those with cameras and do what you need so we can tap into those directly.”
It’s past seven by the time I get out of the office after spending all afternoon cold-calling pot stores. On my best day, I’m not the most sociable person, and this afternoon required me to use up my quota of nice for the week. People are stupid, on the whole. They don’t heed warnings, because they think shit will pass them by. Well, I have news for them, shit doesn’t pick and choose, it just hits randomly. I should know. Not only from personal experience, but also from what I’ve seen in my years with the Bureau. Bad stuff happens to good people all the damn time.
I’m about to turn left to go home, to a hot shower, my eclectic collection of brews, and an unhealthy addiction to Netflix—all of which are meant to help me get to sleep, but won’t—when I spot the sign for a yoga studio I’ve been eyeing for months.
I actually laughed at my therapist the first time he suggested yoga to help me relax. My attempts to accomplish that usually involve a good session at the shooting range, where I visualize faces on my targets, or a good romp with Jasper or Dylan, my other teammate, in the ring at the gym, but nothing quite as noncombative as yoga. Maybe it’s worth a try.
Without thinking too hard, I turn right instead.
Joomba Yoga Studio. What the fuck kind of name is that? More like something you’d see on a daycare center. The more obscure boxing gym adjoining looks to be more my speed. The building looks to be an industrial warehouse. Its only redeeming feature: the large garage doors I can just see around the back when I park, open to the Animas River running by.
The promise of sleep and the draw of the river stronger than the urge to run, I grab the sports bag I always have at the ready in the back of my Jeep and aim for the entrance marked as the yoga studio.
“Can I help you?”
The tall, svelte—and damn her—stacked woman behind the counter when I enter, greets me with a wide smile.
“Yeah, maybe. Do you have a class I could try out? This is my first time here.” I hate feeling like a newbie, but I doubt I can pass for seasoned in this place. Next door I could probably hold my own, but yoga is alien to me.
The woman checks the clock before turning back to me. “I have a novice class starting in five minutes, if you’re looking for something right away. Can I sign you up for a membership, or would you prefer to pay as you go?”
“Pay as I go,” I answer quickly. Memberships make me nervous. Any kind of commitment other than my job has me break out in hives. I don’t like predictability, it can be dangerous, which is why I don’t live in one place longer than maybe six months at a time, and I rarely share where I live.
I pay the woman the amount she quotes, and follow her directions to a locker room, where I quickly change into bike shorts and a fitted tank top. It never occurred to me most of the people joining this class would be women. In fact, the only man in the group appears to be the instructor. It’s fine by me, I’m used to working with men, I’ve learned how to read them much better than I do women.
I’m told to grab a loaner mat from a rack on the wall—most people have brought their own it appears—and roll it out in a spot to the right of a woman who looks like she’s done this before. I follow her suit and lie down on my mat, waiting for further instructions.
This is not comfortable for me: I feel vulnerable, I can’t see everything from this vantage point, and lying on my back, I’m at a distinct advantage in case of an attack. Of course I’m not quite sure who’d have any interest in launching an offense on a bunch of women in tights, but still.
Then the instructor starts talking about breathing and how it has to be the center of our focus. Through the nose and on a long steady loop, in and out without interruption. When the class starts collectively humming, I’m about ready to make a run for it. Not one thing about this is particularly relaxing. It’s just…weird.
I’m glad when we’re told we can sit up, I can see the whole space in the mirrors.
“Stretch your legs out in front of you, your arms over your head, hands reaching for the sky, and breathe in through the tips of your fingers, all the way down to your toes.”
Last time I checked, my lungs weren’t attached to either my fingers or my toes, so I’m not sure what to do with that.
The last straw comes when I’m trying to copy the woman next to me on something called Balasana, on my knees with my upper body bent forward, hands spread and flat down on the mat. I’m concentrating so hard on my neighbor, trying to get all the mechanics right, I don’t hear the instructor approach until I feel hands pressing down on my shoulders. In one move I have the man on his stomach on the floor, his arms pinned under my knees and his head torqued back in an uncomfortable chokehold.
Needless to say, that doesn’t go over too well.
Mumbling apologies, I slink back to the locker room, shove my feet in my boots, and grabbing my bag walk out with my head high, throwing what I hope is a casual wave at the woman behind the counter.
Ramped up on adrenaline I need to get rid of, I push through the door of the boxing gym next door, hoping for release on a punching bag or on a training partner in the ring.
I don’t even notice the motorcycles parked out front.
“Paco, Rowtag, you two are with me. Kaga, take Lusio with you and check on the apartments. Rest of you, head home—Momma probably has a massive pot of something waiting.”
I just pulled the crew off the road before the turnoff up the mountain. We’ve been on the road for a couple of days, coming back from a bike rally in Morrison, just outside Denver. That event is usually the first of a number of rallies we annually attend, and every year these long rides seem to get harder on the body. Since we’ve been gone for a good week—only Nosh, Momma and the younger cubs staying behind—we need to check in on a couple of our properties in town.
I wait until my second-in-command takes off with Lusio, wave the rest of them up the mountain, and lead the other two guys straight across the road to the gym.
“Do we got time for a quick workout?” Rowtag asks when we park our bikes.
“Half an hour, and I’m not waiting for your ass,” I bark, annoyed at the kid for keeping us waiting a few times on this trip, while he was out doing fuck knows what. I throw Paco a look he receives with a chin lift. He’ll be on the kid.
I take a minute, stretching my legs and getting feeling back in my ass, before I follow the younger men inside. Instead of going into the gym, I slip into Bubba’s office. Bubba Williams is the gym’s manager, a former pro boxer turned MMA trainer and in high demand with some of the young kids dreaming of making it big in the sport. He’s a decent manager too, keeping track of the day-to-day running and administration for the gym, the only drawback is he’s totally computer illiterate and does everything by hand.
That means I have to go in and physically scan the books, instead of taking a quick look on my laptop back at the compound. I do that with the other businesses, including the yoga studio next door. Happy as fuck about that too, I’ll avoid taking a step in there at any cost. Last time I did, I got suckered into something that took for fucking ever to get out of.
Bubba is on the phone and waves me to the visitor chair by his desk. Of course, before I can sit, I have to move a box of protein powder. Bubba’s office is a hoarder’s paradise. The one time he and I got into it was when I hired a girl to help him with filing and shit. He almost walked out on the spot. I’ve never messed with his management style or his office since, and as long as he’s bringing in the numbers, I never will.
Still yapping on the phone, he shoves his thick ledger across the desk at me, and I start flipping through the entries for the past two weeks. I have an issue with trust, something all of our managers know about me. If they can’t handle me keeping a tight rein on the wallet, I’m happy to show them the door.
Ten years ago, when I took over the gavel, and proceeded to move the Arrow’s Edge MC toward more legit business ventures, I promised the guys they wouldn’t lose out on income. The process hasn’t been without significant discord in the club at times, and we’ve had members leave because of it. But when pot was legalized four years ago, it justified my move away from the stuff. It doesn’t mean the pressure is any less to bring home the bacon another way, which is why I stay on top of the books.
“So how was Morrison?” Bubba finally asks after ending his call. His big frame bends the desk chair back farther than it was built to go, and he folds his hands behind his head.
“Good. Music was good, guys had fun. Can’t complain.”
“You know what you’re not saying is loud, right?” Bubba chuckles at my expense. “Getting old, my man.”
“Shit.” I run a hand over my face. “You’re not lyin’. I fucking feel every bone in my body. And the drinkin’, Jesus, I can barely keep up. Even that kid out there holds his liquor better’n I do.” I point through the dirt-covered window looking out on the gym. Rowtag is climbing into the ring where some other young punk is already waiting, getting ready for a spar. “What the fuck kind gear is that?” I’m referring to the tight shorts and top, the guy is…“Is that a girl?”
Bubba sits forward in his chair and the two of us watch Rowtag get the snot beat out of him by some girl, a head shorter than him.
“Sheeeeeit, that dumpling’s putting a hurting on your boy, Chief.”
There’s something familiar about the tightly controlled moves of Rowtag’s opponent. I walk out of the office and into the gym to get a closer look. Just in time to see Rowtag try to avoid the sharp snap of her gloves by folding her in a bear hug and trying to take her to the mat. That apparently wasn’t a good choice on his part either, because now she twists in his hold, grabs the back of his head, throws her hip into it, and flips him—easy as pie—on his damn back. The hooting and hollering is not going to go over well, as every set of eyes in the gym is focused on the bout in the ring. Although you can barely call it a bout, the feisty little thing is wiping the goddamn floor with him.
“Rowtag! Get your ass out of the ring,” I call out, walking toward them.
The girl backs off him, and the kid scrambles to his feet, ripping off his gloves and the protective gear from his head, flinging them into the gym. Bubba’s gonna have something to say about that, but Rowtag’s too pissed to care as he storms off.
Up close I can tell the woman in the ring is not as young as I thought she was. I watch her slowly turn to me as she pulls the headgear off. Dayum.
“Well,” I drawl, with a shit-eating grin on my face. “If it isn’t my favorite FBI agent. How are you doin’, darlin’?”
Her blue eyes squint at me as she shakes out her blonde shoulder-length curls, before she answers, a little smirk on her face.
“Fuck of a lot better now I got to take down that punk of yours.”
She slips between the ropes, throws her gear in the duffle bag, and stuffs her feet in a pair of cowboy boots that look ridiculous with the tight athletic outfit she’s wearing. With a toss of her hair, she flings the bag over her shoulder and marches right past me out the door, head held high.
Fuck if another taste of that feisty sprite of an FBI agent’s attitude doesn’t give me an instant hard-on.