Nash and Jagger were skating around with a few other kids playing inline hockey. Casey was off surfing with a few of his old friends, and while Brax wasn’t too thrilled with a couple of those guys, he was glad to see Casey having fun.
Heath was off somewhere, being Heath, but Brax knew he had nothing to worry about. His brother knew how to act, and knew that while Brax would always take care of him and love him and have his back, there were definite conducts that he would not allow.
Brax, for his part, was enjoying a lounge out front of the Braxton house. He could see the twins a bit as they played and was able to just relax.
That is until he saw a police car pull up in front of his house.
Brax frowned as Buckton stepped out of the vehicle. He smirked, enjoying watching her as she neared him. But he remained serious. It was never a good thing when an officer of the law made a house call.
“We’re always the first port to call for you coppers, aren’t we?” Brax leaned his head back in his seat. Buckton frowned. “Still, I rather a visit from you than one of the boys at Yabbie Creek. You’re a bit easier on the eyes.”
It was a compliment, and he certainly meant it, but Brax knew that the officer was going to get bothered by that kind of attention.
“Where were you between three and five am this morning?” she asked, straight to business.
Funny thing about kids. That previous night, the twins had seemed on the brink of death or a least a hospital visit. They were fevered and puking and miserable. That morning, Brax had finally managed to get some shut eye around four. He had sent Casey to bed at his usual time and Heath a bit after two. Looking at the twins now, you wouldn’t even know it.
Not that he was going to say any of that to Buckton.
“Asleep,” he sighed instead.
“Can anyone verify that?”
Brax grinned. His brothers could all attest to that, the twins particularly, but he tried to avoid any of the Braxtons involving themselves with the police unnecessarily.
“Not last night,” he shook his head, stealing a glance over to the street, where Nash was glancing his way as the game continued in front of him. “No.”
The look on Buckton’s face was amusing though. As if the thought of him in bed with someone was bothersome. If he hadn’t been so sleep deprived, he might have made a comment on it.
“And your brothers?”
“Well, you know, I’m not their mother.” Not that Cheryl Braxton, wherever the heck she had been the previous night, would have bothered to check on anyone. “I don’t get up in the middle of the night and check they’re still in bed,” he lied.
At least, not most nights. Some nights, he would wake up and some memory or fear would have him walking from the couch he slept on and into either room the others were in. Especially the twins. He tried not to panic if Heath wasn’t home, but as for the younger kids, he was always aware of their activities and whereabouts.
Buckton continued to question him, but Brax knew that he was right in his statement. Something had occurred and the River Boys were always the first to take the fall.
“You want to tell me exactly what you’re trying to pin on us here?” he asked, taking her own straight to the point approach.
So he heard her out.
No one would be so stupid as to toss a brick like that! Especially knowing that Brax was trying to do business in Summer Bay.
It had to be a Triad member, closer to the Summer Bay’s own. While Brax wasn’t the kind to snitch, tossing light towards another gang (not that the River Boys were a gang, at least not in his eyes) was another story.
“Always a pleasure to have a policewoman standing over me,” Brax said over his shoulder to her.
“In fact,” Brax turned away, pleased once again at his ability to get under this woman’s skin. “If you insist on visiting so often, I’ll have a seat ready for you next time.”
She looked annoyed, and Brax was glad. He would likely never have the sergeant lounge around like that, but the thought of seeing her relaxing and away from the blue uniform was tempting.
Watching her walk away was a treat of its own, but Brax turned his attention where it truly mattered, towards the kids that were playing on the street. As Buckton got back into her police cruiser, he sighed and shook his head. His life wasn’t an easy one, and he wasn’t sure whether antagonizing a cop was a good idea, but sometimes he didn’t want to be Brax Braxton, head of household or Brax the River Boy, brains behind the boys. Sometimes it was nice to pretend he was something more, someone maybe worthy of more than an interrogatory conversation with the likes of someone as smart, independent and beautiful as Charlie Buckton.
Back at Angelo’s, which was becoming something of a daily thing, Brax got a good look at the damage that window that the Summer Bay Surf Club as blaming on them now.
He headed up and got a beer at Angelo’s.
“Look,” Angelo said. “All I know, since you guys have been around, business has been going down.”
“So let me help you,” shrugged Brax, offering his assistance for the fifth or such time.
“Look,” Angelo said again. “There’s no way I could, or would, influence Miles to drop the charges, alright?”
Brax scoffed. As bothersome as the charges against Heath were at the moment, it wasn’t the ‘be all end all’ that everyone seemed to think it was. Brax was certain that the matter would get resolved. He didn’t quite know how yet, but he knew that he could handle it.
Getting his feet into Summer Bay business however, was proving to be a much more difficult task.
Especially since the whole Heath deal and the beloved teacher, it wasn’t exactly painting any River Boy in a good light.
“Forget that,” he frowned. “The cheap booze is a legitimate offer. With the cops that hang around this place, there’s no way I’d try and fence stolen goods to ya.” The Duh was implied.
“The answer’s still no, Brax,” Angelo stated.
The guy was too hell bent on maintaining his once copper air. Even though everyone knew that most of the cops still resented the man for killing one of their own.
“Seems like a shame, eh,” sighed Brax. “Great place. Must get lonely. No costumers. No girlfriend.” Brax grinned. Angelo did not. “Alright,” he said, picking up his beer bottle. “Thanks.”
Brax turned towards the door. He hadn’t even really done anything to the place. It was one of many that he had contemplated on, but the fact that Angelo was so hell bent on saying no to him, just because of who he was, made Brax want to not just get his foot in the man’s business; he was determined to pull the whole thing from under the man’s feet.
Wouldn’t that be a treat? He would get his own business, able to have a hold on a real income. And he would keep the name. Then every time that Angelo Rossetti passed by, he would know that Brax had outsmarted him.
Brax walked over to the beach. He had left the twins there, with a few of the Boys, Brody, Chuck and Mick. Brody was a bit loudmouthed, Chuck was wildly uncoordinated, and Mick was an idiot, but he’d known them a long time. The twins would be safe there.
Seeing him approach, the twins waved goodbye and ran over.
Brax tossed the mostly full bottle into a garbage can.
“Who’d you go to see?” Jagger asked, coming to stand beside him.
“Can we go home soon,” Nash sighed. “This place is weird.”
“Weird how?” Brax frowned, trying to ignore the first question completely. The less those two knew, the better.
“People look at us differently,” Nash shrugged. “And they don’t really like the guys at all.”
“They talk and glare,” Jagger added. “And one old guy told us we should watch out for the guys because they’re bad and told us to “Run home.””
“You shouldn’t talk to strangers,” he said instead, leading them over to his car.
“We didn’t,” shrugged Nash. “We were just tossing Mick’s ball around and he came to us.”
“I thought people were supposed to be friendly here,” Jagger frowned.
“They look out for each other,” Brax stuck his hands into his vest pockets. “I think the guy was just trying to look out for ya.”
“Doesn’t even know us,” Nash shook his head.
“Or the guys. How could he call them bad?”
Maybe the twins were being too naïve or they were just too young to understand. Maybe they really didn’t notice all of the things that their oldest brothers were up to, and Brax might actually be able to keep those two out of the line of fire, so to speak.
“People feel threatened by things they don’t understand,” he said instead. “Don’t worry about it. You trust me?”
“Sure,” Jagger frowned.
“Course,” shrugged Nash.
“Then trust that I’m looking out for you, for this family, and for the Boys as much as I can.”
“We know that,” Jagger pulled the backseat door opened.
“Wouldn’t all that be easier back home,” Nash insisted.
Brax grinned. The kid was used to Mangrove River. Even Casey’s expulsion and growing violent tendencies didn’t shine light on the fact that their beloved Mangrove was a bit of a hotbed for trouble.
Brax wasn’t about to break it to them just then.
“Get in,” he said instead. “I’ll take you lot to the diner.”
The kids were easy enough to please, and even easier to feed. They looked over the diner’s menu for a good five minutes before they both ordered burgers like Brax knew that they would.
“Not bad,” Jagger glared at the burger with one bite now missing in it. “It’s no Famous’.”
“It’s not McDonald’s either,” Nash scoffed.
“Eat up,” Brax groaned, trying to ignore their continuous banter.
“I bet they do the mass by hand,” Nash bit a second time.
“Definitely not frozen,” Jagger agreed.
As the two ate up, Brax with his own plate of pie and a side of newspaper, he started to relax enough that he almost didn’t see when Officer Buckton entered.
“You guys want to go ahead and check what they’ve got for desserts?”
The fastest way to the twin’s heart was with sweets.
“I think I saw an ice cream cart outside,” he tugged out a few dollar bills and into Jagger’s eager hands. “Give me a minute, will you? And don’t talk to strangers!”
The last bit, they just rolled their eyes at him. Standing, Nash and Jagger headed out of the dinner to the pre-offered treat.
And just in time too, as Buckton turned from making her lunch order to glancing over the diner patrons and spotted the eldest Braxton. With a deep breath and straightening her back, she headed over to his table.
“I’ve been meaning to speak to you,” she said, causing Brax to look up from his newspaper.
A statement like that could mean anything, and Brax, wisely, said nothing.
“We arrested and charged someone this afternoon regarding the incident at the Surf Club.”
“Aw,” Brax tried not to sound overly pleased, though the triumph wasn’t hard to find in his voice. He was equal parts pleased that he had been right about the real vandals against the local business venture and that she hadn’t approached him regarding any of his brothers or the Boys. “So you caught the Triad surfer then?”
Buckton’s eyes looked displeased at his statement, and for a moment he thought that she was going to deny it, or just ignore him. He didn’t know what to expect from her most of the time, but he was pleased that as much as she tried to make herself appear tough and authoritative, she was still human and vulnerable to his charms.
“Yes,” she said instead. “It was a local. His car got towed from the Surf Club car park. I guess the brick through the window was his way of protesting.”
Brax nodded. Idiot Triad pulling an idiot move; sounded right. If any of the Boys had pulled that shit, he would’ve personally shown them a thing or two about what he thought about being stupid and impulsive. He had enough dealing with Heath’s, and he loved his brother. Brax wasn’t about to take it from someone else.
Without a comment from him, Buckton seemed to have nothing else to say. She turned instead and walked back over to the counter, grabbing and paying for her take away lunch.
After a second, Brax got up and followed her, smiling at the register girl as he paid for his and the twins lunches. Luckily, the sergeant had been too distracted to notice the extra plates on the table. Or maybe she thought that he had eaten from them all.
“So that would be the second time us River Boys have been questioned for everything. Making a habit of this, sergeant?”
Buckton sighed. She hated thinking that she was falling into some kind of prejudice bubble. She had worked in the city, worked hard to be one of the youngest in her position. Worked hard to live up to her father’s good name. Now she was becoming a mindless Summer Bay drone. Dare she even think it!
“Just the same,” she rolled her shoulders. “It’s always good to get the person that’s responsible.”
“Yeah,” Brax was quick to agree. “Even when they’re not who you’re expecting them to be.” Brax certainly had enough experience growing up with mediocre and bad cops taking his and his friends’ ever move as an offense. “It’s good to think outside the box.” Brax handed his money over, a good sized tip along with it. He didn’t need the bad mouthing of his name soiled her. He had actually enjoyed that pie. It wasn’t often that he was able to have one, and certainly not one that actually tasted like it had been made from – dare he say – scratch.
“Nothing like a bit of curiosity, to help you find what you were looking for.” And with those words, Brax turned and walked out of the diner.
The twins had found themselves some ice cream, cookies, and a bottle of soda each. Brax shook his head, knowing he hadn’t given them enough money for all of that.
He glanced over at the beach and down the pier, wondering where the unfortunate kids were that his two little demons had taunted.
“Don’t remember saying you could have all these sweets,” he frowned at them, tugging the massive cookie from Nash’s hand.
“Special offer,” Jagger shrugged, not missing a beat. “Here,” and she handed back over two dollars.
Brax scoffed. No way that got all of that with just three.
“What have I told you about stealing?” he frowned at them.
“Didn’t,” Nash quickly shook his head.
“Not from the store,” he corrected for them.
“I told you,” Jagger frowned at him.
Brax crossed his arms and frowned back. You wouldn’t think it, looking at the kid, but she was a terror. Casey hated babysitting them by himself and Heath was more likely than not to give in to them, afraid of what this evil genius would do in retaliation. But Brax wasn’t afraid. Not of two little kids he had bathed and diapered and raised. Like Heath and Casey, those two knew when to fall into line.
“You lying to me?”
Anyone would’ve thought he was teasing, or that he didn’t care. Anyone passing by wouldn’t be able to tell from his leaning, loose demeanor how quickly he could and would let hell loose.
Jagger’s frown lessened, but her eyes didn’t lower. The twins sat up on the rail, putting them at eye level with their eldest brother. Brax was leaning beside them, turned towards the water, but his head was turned enough to look the kid dead in the eyes.
Braxtons didn’t lie. Not to each other.
And especially not to Brax.
“Not what I said,” Jagger amended.
“Want to try that again?” Brax raised a brow.
Nash glanced from one to the other, wondering how far they were willing to take it this time. Those two always had something to prove, though it always ended the same way. No matter what Jagger did or said, Brax was always going to have the upper hand. She couldn’t ground him or take his things away or spank him, but he could and would do any of that to them.
“You know how desperate Jag can look,” Nash stated.
“I gave you enough money for the ice cream I told you to get.”
“I saw a better opportunity,” Jagger smirked. “You’re always talking about seizing moments and making the best of things. And we saved you money. I’d say, you should be thanking us.”
“You would,” Brax scoffed, reaching out and tugging the preteen off of the rail. He reached out and smacked the back of her head, hard, before tugging off her nearly identical twin and doing the same.
“Really,” groaned Jagger, rolling her eyes at him.
“Mind your tongue,” he chided and started to lead them back to the ute.
“You are so not getting a cookie now,” Jagger added with a shake of her head.
Brax turned and noted for the first time the small paper bag that the twins had had between them. Snatching it out of Nash’s hand, he found another five cookies, each almost as big as his hands, and another bottle of soda. With a skyward glance and a groan, he turned towards the car and led the way without another word.
They were going to be the end of him.