Bossman by Vi Keeland

Chapter 14

Chase – Seven Years Ago

“Another Jack and Coke.” I held my hand up to the bartender. I was usually halfway through my first drink by the time Peyton showed up, but starting on my second one was late even for her. Picking up my phone, I thumbed off a text.

Chase: You’re later than your usual late.

Peyton: I’ll be there in ten minutes. If I’m not, read this text again.

I chuckled.

She showed halfway through my second. Her arms wrapped around me from behind. “Can I buy you a drink?”

“Sure. My girlfriend is on her way, but she’s late, so I could use some company.”

She smacked my abs. “Some company, huh?”

I reached around, hooked my hand on her waist and pulled her from behind me to my lap in one fell swoop. She giggled, and any annoyance about her being forty-five minutes late was instantly gone. Again.

“What’s your excuse this time?”

“I had some stuff I needed to take care of.” She looked away when she said it, which told me I needed to pry more.

“What stuff?”

She shrugged. “Just some stuff. For the shelter.”

I squinted. “Like…unpacking boxes of donated food? Or cleaning up the dishes after dinner service?”

“Yep. Just some errands. Stuff like that.” She quickly tried to change the subject. “What are you drinking? Is that a Jack and Coke?”

Now I knew she was up to something. And I was pretty sure I knew what it was. “Yep. Jack and Coke. You want your usual?”

She hopped down off my lap and pulled up the stool next to me. “Yes, please. How was your day?”

After I called the bartender over and ordered her Merlot, I swiveled her chair in my direction. “You followed him again tonight, didn’t you?”

Her shoulders deflated, but she didn’t even try to lie. “He had a black eye today. And the gash on his head was re-opened. He probably should’ve had stitches the first time. Now it’s worse, and it looks infected.”

“I love how much you care. I really do. But you need to let the police do their job.”

Wrong thing to say. “Do their job? That’s the problem. They don’t think keeping homeless people safe is part of their job at all. The only time they pay attention to them is if they sit down in a neighborhood that’s too nice. Seriously, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Upper West Side installed metal spikes up against buildings, like they do on train trestles to keep pigeons from making nests.”

“I don’t want you following homeless people to parks where it’s dangerous at night.”

She huffed. “I only wanted to find out where he was going so I can go back down to the police station tomorrow and ask them to patrol the area better.”

“What park did you follow him to?”

“You know that old bridge they restored uptown? The one people walk across up near 155th Street?”

“You went all the way up to Washington Heights?”

“It might look nice from the bridge, but underneath hasn’t been cleaned up. I guess the politicians just shook hands and took pictures on the top while underneath it was filled like a junkyard. Did you know there’s a whole little city of people under that viaduct?”

“Peyton, you gotta cut this shit out. I know you want to help, but it’s dangerous in those places.”

“It was still light out, and I didn’t actually go into the camp.”

“Peyton…”

“Seriously. Everything is going to be fine. I’m going to stop in at the precinct closest to the park tomorrow. Hopefully the cops up there remember their job is to serve and protect all the citizens of this city.”

“Promise me you won’t pull shit like this again.”

She smiled and leaned over to wrap her hand around the back of my neck. Gently grazing her fingers on my skin, she said, “I promise.”

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