A lifetime of stories and tales that would shock the hardest of men.

He was one of the scariest motherfuckers walking on earth, not rotting in a prison cell where he deserved. Preacher was under no illusions about how bad he was as a man. He even knew he was a shit father, and when it came to Bishop, he’d fucked up big time.

It wasn’t his fault, not really.

No, that was passing the buck. He didn’t know how to be a father, a good man.

All of his life, he’d known the worst men could be. His own father, whom he never talked about, had been a monster.

Preacher knew real torture because he’d watched and suffered at the hands of a sadist. Only, he’d grown up in a world where all the abuse and violence were done behind closed doors. When hearing the sound of footsteps terrified because you knew without a shadow of a doubt what would follow those very footsteps.

The pain.

The humiliation.

Sometimes even the hunger.

He’d been starved many times throughout his childhood in order to be taught a lesson. It often surprised Preacher when he took the time to look back, which he rarely did, how big he got considering some weeks and months he was only allowed to eat stewed beans.

Damn, he hated the taste of beans.

Even now, he’d avoid them like the fucking plague.

Pushing those thoughts aside as he continued driving, he realized he would have to do better by Bishop. He figured him hanging around Robin would straighten him out, but all that had done was get Robin in trouble or hurt her.

Parking in one of the few available spots, he and Bear entered the diner.

Billy, like all the times before, sat low, baseball cap, sunglasses, looking like he was in some kind of conspiracy movie.

“Why do we put up with this shit?” Bear asked.

“Fun.”

He sat down in the booth, and Bear took the seat beside Billy, putting his arm around the cop, and pulling him close. He knocked the baseball cap off his head and laughed as he did. “Look at how cute and sweet he looks.” Bear gave him a kiss on the cheek, and Preacher watched, entertained, but he didn’t show it.

“Why all the secrecy?” Preacher asked.

“You know I don’t like to be seen.”

“Ah, Preacher, we’re the losers, and he’s the popular jock.” Bear held him against his cheek. “We are not worthy of so much attention.”

“Bear, enough.” He didn’t raise his voice, and Bear let him go. “Talk.”

“Milner’s getting replaced.”

This was news to Preacher. “Why am I hearing this now from you, and when does he get replaced?”

“End of the week. Milner couldn’t get to you sooner. His files have been taken, and they’re calling it early retirement. He thinks he screwed up, and well, they’re putting someone on the force who can’t be easily bought.”

“Any idea who?”

“No. I don’t have a clue. It’s all been very hush-hush.”

Sitting back in the booth, he looked at Billy. “What does Milner want me to do?”

“After the party, he’s requested you lay low for a couple of weeks. A few months maybe.”

Bear burst out laughing.

“I don’t believe that is possible, Billy,” Bear said. “You know our schedule. You know what we have planned.”

“Look, you can do whatever the hell you want. We’re not stopping you from doing what it is you feel you need to do.”

“But?”

“None of us know what is going on.” Billy looked around and leaned in close. “They’re checking out files. Trying to see a weakness. I’m telling you, for a couple of months, please, lay low. I’ll be your eyes and ears and we can meet, but you’ve got to give us time.”

Preacher stared at him.

If Milner was being replaced, he would watch his back. He and Milner went back over fifteen years. The old dog knew who he was dealing with, and even though he hated taking money from him, there was no way Milner and men could keep the town of Knight’s Bridge safe.

His reputation, even though he wasn’t in the town but based outside it, kept them all safe, even from rival gangs and clubs. All it took was a phone call from Milner, and he and his crew were there to wipe out the trash.

Sitting back, he looked at the worry on Billy’s face.

He liked the cop in front of him. He was a good man, had his head on straight and knew when to turn the opposite way.

“We’ll do it,” Preacher said.

Bear didn’t dispute him, and getting to his feet, he left Billy to fester in his costume of pretend.

He climbed on his bike, rode out of the diner’s parking lot, and headed toward their stop.

He put his jacket back on and looked across at Bear.

“Go on, say it.”

“No cop has ever made you take a step back before. Why this cop? Why now?”

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