Mist rolled gray and thick over the small coastal town of Sunset Cove, Oregon. Perfect weather for what needed to be done. Ordinarily he left it up to his manager to oversee the operations. But not tonight. Well, morning actually. It was nearly 3:00 a.m.
Though he’d worked with the same crew for over a year, he didn’t trust them, any of them. He’d gotten word that one of his dealers was skimming—and worse, stealing controlled drugs from local pharmacies. Of course, most dealers skimmed a little, but J.J. was getting far too greedy, even thinking about setting up his own business. He should know better than to pull a stunt like that. Nobody double-crossed Duke and got away with it.
Duke. Humph. A rich name for a rich dude. That’s all they knew about him, and that’s all he wanted them to know. Not even his manager knew who he really was or what he did.
He rolled his thick shoulders and massaged his neck muscles through his black turtleneck. He’d had a rough week. Not that it mattered, of course. For him, one day faded into another. But it wouldn’t always be like that. Two more years and he’d retire, at least from his day job.
Catching a glimpse of his reflection in the window, Duke smiled. To look at him, no one would suspect that he was anything but an upstanding citizen.
He left the window, moving silently to his closet, where he took the polished wooden case off the shelf. Opening it, he lifted his .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol out of its velvet-lined case, shoved in a magazine from his stockpile, and slipped the gun into his holster. He then lifted the silencer out of the case and dropped it into his right pocket.
His lips curled in a sneer. These babies were rare, and the government kept close tabs on who had them. Not his though. The previous owner was six feet under. When Duke was sixteen years old, after years of abuse, he’d finally gotten the upper hand over his father. And he’d been lucky enough to stash the silencer and the gun before the cops had shown up.
Duke looked down at the gun. He could’ve skipped the silencer. Sunset Cove’s finest would be too far away from the docks to hear anything, and most of the residents would be asleep. But he wanted the added insurance.
He donned a drab olive rain slicker and jammed his feet into iron-toed work boots. The jacket stretched tight across his shoulders as he tied the laces.
Ten minutes later he entered the condemned brick building and made his way to the far end, through what had once been an office, and out to the dock. The old dock rocked and moaned in protest as he moved into the darker shadows of the building, where J.J. wouldn’t be able to see him. While he waited, Duke watched the lights across the bay and up the hill where Sunset Cove’s wealthiest residents lived. Some day.
He sniffled and used the back of his hand to wipe his nose—blasted fog always made his nose run. He didn’t like having to be out here in the open and so close to where the drugs were stored. Didn’t like having to deal with these punks on a personal level.
But Duke couldn’t help chuckling quietly to himself. J.J. would think he was coming up in the world. Maybe, if the kid believed in God, he would be going up. Doubtful though. The guy had done time for messing up his girlfriend’s face with a knife, among other things. J.J. wasn’t exactly what you’d call religious. But then neither was Duke.
Duke stiffened when he heard the pilings groan. He drew the .45 out of his holster, attached the silencer, and released the safety.
“Don’t come any farther,” Duke warned, lowering his voice to the familiar growl he used when he talked to these punks. His godfather imitation.
The kid sounded nervous. Good.
“Word come down you wanted to see me. What’s happenin’?”
Duke liked watching the kid squirm, just like he’d enjoyed watching his father plead with him. Too bad. He had the upper hand and intended to keep it.
“Somethin’ wrong?” J.J. reached inside his jacket.
Duke tensed, then relaxed, when J.J. pulled out a pack of cigarettes. “You tell me.”
J.J.’s hands shook as he held the lighter to his face. The whites of his eyes glowed yellow. “This don’t sound so good.” He took a drag and blew smoke out of his nose. “Somebody been rattin’ on me. Cause if they have—”
“You got the money from last night’s take?”
“Yeah.” He lifted a pack off his shoulders. “Seventy-five hundred.”
“Hey, man, what’re you saying?” J.J. set the bag on the dock and took a step away from it.
“The usual take for a weekend night is ten grand,” Duke reminded him.
“You thinking I kept some of the money? Cause if you thinking that, you’d be wrong, man.”
Duke stepped out of the shadows.
J.J.’s startled gaze went from the gun to Duke’s face. “You set me up, man. You’re the . . .”
The look on J.J.’s face escalated to terror, then froze as a bullet tore into his chest.