Running into Knox Tavern, I’m out of breath and out of patience. I’m here to find my late brother’s best friend. My brother died while he was serving in the army. He stepped on a bomb and was gone from us forever. He and his best friend, Johnny, had joined together and it’s been one year since my brother died and Johnny’s life fell apart. He was also hurt in the explosion and was honorably discharged. He hasn’t been the same since and sometimes I think he wishes he too had died.
I’ve tried to help him, but I’m worn out now. First, little things were missing from my house. Today, my laptop and television were taken and before I call the police I’m going to get it back from Johnny. I’ve tried to help him. My brother would want me to help him, but I know he wouldn’t want me to put up with this. And in all honestly, I know it’s not Johnny doing this. It’s the drugs that have got a hold of him and dragged him down into this abyss he can’t crawl out of. If he was himself, he would never do this. He would never hurt me like he has.
Looking around, I approach a waiter carrying a tray to the table. “Hey, is Johnny here?”
He throws his finger up and points to the back of the restaurant. I start walking in that direction and a tall, good-looking man walks out through the kitchen door.
“Hello. Can you tell me if Johnny is working?” I ask him.
He looks at me with distrust in his eyes. “He no longer works here.”
Exasperated at this point, I now know why he ripped me off. If he was fired, he’s not bringing in tips. No tips means no money and no money means no drugs. If only I can convince him to go to rehab. “What did he do this time?”
“You know I can’t tell you that.” He starts to walk away from me.
“Are you the owner?” When he merely nods at me, I say, “Please, don’t call the police. He has a problem and I’m just trying to help him. Did he take money?”
“How did you know that?” he asks me suspiciously, like I had something to do with it.
Putting my hands up in front of me, I explain, “He was my brother’s best friend and they served in the army together. They were both hurt from a bomb but my brother didn’t make it. Johnny is all I have left of him. He got mixed up with drugs and I’m just trying to help him. He stole from me this morning while I was in class. That’s why I’m looking for him.”
He looks at me and I hope he sees the sincerity in my face. “You shouldn’t be mixed up with him. It’s only going to get worse. He has to want help.”
Defiantly, I snap back at him. “You think I don’t know that? I do. Look, can I just pay you what he owes you and you leave the cops out of it?”
He stares back at me for a minute and then tells me to wait here, he’ll be right back.
When he returns, he has a large man with him. They are both tall, but his friend towers over him. He has on a black T-shirt and black pants. He has tattoos down his arms and his shirt has a logo on it that says Alpha Security. His muscle under the logo twitches at my scrutiny. My eyes fly up to his and he’s looking at me so intensely I can’t look away.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t get your name,” the owner asks me.
Blinking, I break the connection with Alpha Security guy and look back at the owner of the restaurant. “Sierra,” I say and try to train my eyes on him instead.
“Sierra, I’m Brody. And this is Ryder, one of the owners of Alpha Security. He is here changing locks and updating our security since we had some money and keys stolen.”
I can’t stop myself from cringing and thinking, Oh, Johnny, what have you gotten yourself into now?
He continues, “I am not going to press charges on your friend. However, if he comes in here again, my decision will change.”
I thank him appreciatively, but my eyes keep straying over to Ryder and I see him watching me intently.
“However, there is a catch…” Brody adds.
Instantly, I back up and look between them. “I brought Ryder out here because I think you need to talk to him about a security system. I know you are trying to help a friend, but I’m afraid this may get worse.”
I look over at Ryder and his face is drawn tight. He still hasn’t said a word.
“I really don’t think I need a security…”