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In the dark corner of a seedy bar, the fiery, orange tip of a cigarette cast Lucas’s face in a dim glow as he inhaled a long drag from his cigarette. He lifted his chin, blew the smoke upward, then dropped the still-burning butt into an empty Club Colombia beer bottle where it sizzled in the last few drops of amber liquid.

Tucked away in the darkest corner, the booth was private, and far enough from the beat-up jukebox so as not to be blasted by the music. Most importantly, it kept his back to the wall and gave him a full view of the interior of the bar.

All of the locals knew not to sit in that booth. They also knew to leave him alone when he was in one of his moods. Tonight, he was definitely in a mood. Courtesy of the two scumbags on the far side of the room drinking tequila and grabbing at the young waitress every time she walked by.

The Alcarez brothers—Ignacio and Mateo—were responsible for a level of pain and misery good and decent people could never comprehend. But Lucas understood it all too well—he’d lost the most important person in his world to people like them.

Ignacio was the older of the two by three years, and was easy to recognizable, thanks to the deep scar bisecting his left eyebrow. Mateo was only five foot seven and was mean as a badger because of it. The guy had a chip on his shoulder the size of a Mac truck.

“Better enjoy those drinks while you can, boys,” he growled under his breath.

“What are you stewing about, mate?” The bar owner, Felix, plunked a fresh beer down on the scarred table, and foam overflowed from the top and dripped down the sides of the bottle. He followed Lucas’s piercing gaze across the room. “Ah, yes. I take it those two fine fellows are to be your next target?”

Felix Bartholomew Leicester the third owned Locals Only. And yes, the bar’s name was meant to keep tourists away. His family was titled and distantly related to the British royal family, and he grew up in luxury on a massive estate in the rolling hills of the Cotswolds region southwest of London. He’d hated every second of the snobby lifestyle and had a great disdain for the people who went with it, so on his eighteenth birthday, and against his father’s wishes, he’d joined the Royal Navy.

He retired as a Warrant Officer Class 1, the equivalent of a Command Master Chief Petty Officer in the US Navy. Everyone knew those guys were the ones who really ran the Navy. He’d packed a couple of bags, moved to Colombia, and purchased this old building. He renovated it just enough to legally open a bar. To say Felix embraced the seediness of the old place would be an understatement. He’d said it was a sure deterrent to the kind of people he grew up with.

The only reason Lucas knew that much about the gruff old guy was because they’d gotten hammered one night and Felix had turned into a chatty Cathy. Before that, other than a grunted word here and there, he’d only ever heard him talk to his adored British bulldog, Bully.

Felix was the only person he’d ever spoken to about Norah. After hearing the details of what had happened to his wife, the man was willing to do whatever was necessary to support Lucas’s mission to rid the world of the people responsible.

Lucas picked up the beer and chugged half the contents in an effort to drown out the images and memories that threatened to flood his mind. It never worked, but he wasn’t a quitter, so he made sure there was always a shot, a beer, or both close at hand.

“They work for the Trianos.” Nothing more needed to be said.

“Understood.” Felix was fully aware of the scourge of the Trianos.

After the fall of the Muñoz cartel, the Trianos empire grew and they were elevated to the point of becoming one of the most powerful cartels in Colombia. Illegal drugs, including fentanyl, bootleg alcohol, forced protection, prostitution, and human trafficking. You name it, if it was illegal, the Triano’s bloody fingerprints were all over it.

“What do you need me to do?” Felix continued to glance over at the two men as he wiped a wet rag over the spilled beer.

“I suggest you keep your eyes on that new waitress of yours.” Lucas could tell from experience she was their next victim. “At least until I can take care of those two.”

“I can do that.” He straightened. “Just try not to break so many chairs this time, will ya?”

“Can’t make any promises.” Lucas slid out of the booth and stood. “Time to take out the garbage.”

Felix leaned over the bar, reached down, and when he turned back to Lucas, he was holding his trusty Louisville slugger. “I’ve got yer back, mate.”

Lucas nodded, happy to have the backup, then dribbled some beer on his tacky, floral print shirt, undid a couple of buttons, and ruffled his hair. He drooped his shoulders and staggered his way toward Triano’s men. They would never think a disheveled drunk would be a threat to them.

 

They would be wrong.

Lucas wasn’t drunk and he was definitely a threat.

He stumbled into Ignacio and bumped his arm. As expected, the big guy was not happy that his brand-new beer was dumped down the front of him.

Ignacio hopped up so quickly that his chair teetered and fell to the floor. Hey, at least it wasn't broken. Not yet, anyway.

“What the fuck!” He swayed slightly as he shouted in Spanish. “You stupid pendejo.”

“S-s-sorry, man.” Lucas slurred his speech, tripped, and planted his hands on their table. “Oops.”

He gave him a drunken smile and grabbed the metal napkin dispenser.

“Here, le’ me help you.” He tucked the napkin dispenser under his arm so he could tug out a handful, then started patting them against Ignacio’s shirt. “You’re really wet, dude.”

"Get your fucking hands off me!" Ignacio batted Lucas's hands away.

 

Mateo pointed at his brother’s wet crotch and let loose with an annoying hyena-like laugh.

“Shut the fuck up!” Ignacio picked up his brother’s mug and tossed the beer in his face. “There, how do you like it?”

Mateo sputtered and cursed as he wiped his hands across his face.

Ignacio turned and grabbed Lucas by the collar. “You owe me a beer, cabrón.”

“Whoa, whoa.” He held up his right hand in surrender. “Okay, okay. Relax.”

“And you owe my brother one, too.” Ignacio released his grip on Lucas’s shirt and shoved him away. He turned and leaned down to pick up his chair, and that was all the opening Lucas needed.

He tightened his grip on the napkin dispenser, drew it back, and brought it down hard on the back of Ignacio’s head. The satisfying sound was like a coconut hitting the hard ground. The asshole’s arms went limp at his sides, he teetered forward like a tree being felled in the forest and landed smack in the middle of the table. There was a crack and a snap before the legs gave out. The whole thing collapsed to the floor, taking Ignacio with it, and sending peanut shells and dirt flying up around him.

Mateo was stunned. He wobbled as he looked at his brother, then back up at Lucas.

“You’re about to die, motherfucker.” Mateo flipped open a switchblade and lunged.

Lucas shifted sideways to avoid the blow and swatted Mateo's hand away with the napkin dispenser.

The knife flew from the drunk idiot's grip, slid across the floor, and came to a stop against the toe of Felix’s boot.

 

Lucas slapped his makeshift weapon against the side of Mateo's head and he spun three-hundred-sixty degrees. When he stopped, he gave Lucas a confused look before his eyes rolled back in his head, and he collapsed on top of his brother.

Felix picked up the knife, closed it, and dropped it in a bucket with some others behind the bar. He was getting quite the collection.

“Let’s get these pieces of shite out of my bar.” He reached down, grabbed a handful of the back of Mateo’s collar, and started dragging him toward the back door.

Lucas squatted down and rolled Ignacio onto his back. Blood dripped from the back of his head onto the floor and mixed with the discarded peanut shells.

He wedged his hands beneath Ignacio’s armpits and followed Felix. The heels of the man’s boots cleared a path through the mess on the floor.

The waitress they’d been bothering earlier rushed over to him. “Gracias, señor.”

He nodded and headed to the back of the bar.

Lucas hadn’t been there for Norah when she needed him, but at least he’d been able to save this girl.

Felix held the door open for him until he got Ignacio all the way outside. He bent down and grabbed his ankles and Lucas grabbed his wrists.

“On three.” Lucas counted down and they began to swing him. “One. Two. Three.”

They flung him up into the back of Lucas’s old truck and he landed next to his brother. Lucas hopped into the bed, secured their wrists behind them with heavy-duty zip ties, and put them around their ankles, too. He ripped off two long pieces of duct tape, pressed one over Ignacio’s mouth, and wrapped it around the back of his head. Then he did the same to Mateo and threw a canvas tarp over them.

It was the same piece of canvas Norah had used to cover the floor of her art studio. There were splotches of bright paint all over it from when she’d gotten carried away creating one of her pieces.

“That should do it.” He jumped down, lifted the tailgate, and slammed it shut.

“Thanks for your help.” Lucas shook his friend's hand and climbed behind the wheel. He closed his door and propped his arm on the window frame.

“You bet.” Felix patted the roof of the truck a couple of times. "Be careful, mate."

Lucas nodded once, put the truck in gear, and gave him a thumbs up as he drove off.

In the rearview mirror, he could see Felix standing there, watching him disappear into the night yet again. These weren’t the first men he’d dealt with that his friend knew about. Yet, he never asked questions, never pried or pressed to find out what happened to any of them, and Lucas never volunteered the information.

Total deniability was important.

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