Things were finally starting to go right.
As Brax drove away from Summer Bay High, after having dropped Casey off, he headed straight over to the Surf Club. Taking in one of the liquor boxes to Angelo’s was almost as gratifying as having heard the man the night before accepting his help.
And not just because it was nice to see the former officer asking him for help.
Angelo, was not pleased.
“How’d you get your hands on it so fast?” Angelo asked as he turned and spotted Brax approaching.
“I’ve got it stored,” Brax answered honestly. “There’s more to come. Just thought that you might as well start selling it.”
“Well, problem is, I haven’t got the cash to pay for it yet,” Angelo said, shaking his head slightly. “The insurance check hasn’t come through.”
Where Angelo saw a problem, Brax saw an opportunity.
“Well, just give me a percentage of the bar,” he shrugged. “Until you pay me back.”
“Yeah,” Angelo placed his hands on his hips. “That wasn’t part of the arrangement.”
As if Brax didn’t know. It hadn’t even been a full twelve hours since the two had spoken.
The more that Angelo tried to talk Brax out of it, without actually really saying no the more sure Brax was that the man was going to say yes. The mere fact that he had taken Brax up on his offer let the River Boy know that the man was in fact, pretty desperate.
Brax couldn’t help but smile.
Heath Braxton couldn’t escape his luck.
Most nights, he tried to stay out and enjoy himself, one way or another. Whether he was out partying or out on a date, he found that more often than not he wouldn’t be crawling himself back home until just after sunrise.
As long as he gave Brax some indication that he was alive during the night (well, alive and out of trouble) he was usually left to his own devices.
This day had been no different.
He had arrived home just in time to see the twins head out for school. Brax had already taken Casey towards Summer Bay and Cheryl hadn’t been seen for a few days, so he doubted she was home.
He had gone in, taken a shower and made himself a sammie, sitting down to play a video game.
Some days he was so busy, he couldn’t think. Brax could have him running a dozen or so errands and his own meet-ups with the boys left little time for him to do nothing, but today he had a few hours to himself.
And then he had heard the banging on the door.
It was so obviously the police, that Heath almost completely ignored them. He was in the bathroom and he could hear movement outside of the house. As he glanced out the front, he saw the blue cruiser and knew that there were coppers on the property.
With a quick glance confirming that nothing was in sight, Heath headed out the back door. Sure enough, two of Yabbie Creek’s finest were standing in the backyard, about to go inside the shed.
Brax would not be pleased.
“You alright there?” Heath asked, startling them as he spoke from behind. “That’s private property officers.”
“Heath,” Buckton said, coming out of the shed. “Hi.”
The guilty looks on their faces were visible for a moment before they tried to look like they hadn’t just been trespassing and caught. Heath knew that they were looking for something, coppers always were, and he was careful with his words. (Believe it or not.)
“What can I do for you lovely ladies today?”
“We want to know where you were last night?” Buckton, straight to the point.
“I was home,” Heath nodded. “Mum will tell you that.” And lies, a Braxton specialty. If they were ever able to locate Cheryl Braxton, she wouldn’t tell a cop a thing. She was worse at telling the truth than all of the brothers combined.
“I bet she will,” Buckton’s partner, Watson, smirked.
“What do you know about a van being taken from the Summer Bay caravan park?”
Heath kept the calm look on his face. He had no idea what Buckton was talking about. He had been partying and had passed out at Gordo’s place, woken up around seven from his dog’s slobber. But Heath wasn’t about to say any of that. He wouldn’t involve his friend, and he couldn’t see how it would help him anyway.
“Really?” Buckton sounded suspicious. “It’s funny then, because one was dumped just up the road from your house.”
There was an idiot somewhere, Heath was sure, and they would have the pleasure of his displeasure if someone was trying to set him or his brothers up.
“Nothing to do with me,” insisted Heath.
“What about Brody?” she asked. “Know anything?”
“I don’t know,” Heath smiled. “And not to do your job for you, but, maybe you should just ask him, yeah?”
Buckton kept her gaze steady on Heath’s, though his own demeanor didn’t falter.
“We will. Thanks.”
Heath nodded, watching as the two ladies walked away towards the front and their car. “Officers,” he said in parting, smiling his charming smile as they left.
But the second they were gone, Heath headed over to the shed and went in, making certain that nothing had been taken or seen. It wasn’t that they were stupid enough to have anything hot at their house, it was just that, you could never be too careful.
He pulled out his phone, speed dialing Brax and bracing himself for the conversation. His brother wasn’t going to like this at all. When he couldn’t get a hold of him, Heath headed out to find him.
Finding Brax at Angelo’s was a relief. Unlike the rest of the Braxton brood, Brax almost never told anyone what he was doing or where he was going. And when he wasn’t answering his cell phone, like now, it was almost impossible to get a location on him. Luckily, Heath was aware of his brother’s intentions towards the small town’s restaurant.
“Oi,” he called out, taking off his sunglasses as he entered the nearly empty restaurant space to see his brother up at the bar talking with Angelo himself. “Been looking for you.”
Brax turned to look at him, instantly frowning at Heath’s demeanor. He could tell that something was up.
Angelo was not pleased to see him. Especially shirtless. Having two Braxtons in his place was definitely not good for business.
“Cops are hassling Brody again,” Heath informed him.
Brax sighed, moving to stand up. Brody was a good friend, a decent enough guy, and one of the longest Brax had known of the River Boys. In no way did any of that mean that Brody wasn’t a complete and utter idiot and destined for more than one stint in prison. He had been in juvie a few times growing up, once even taking the full blame for something that Brax had had his hand in. He knew the guy would take a bullet for him, trusted him enough that he knew about the twins even, but the guy was just plain damn stupid sometimes.
“You think about what I said,” Brax told Angelo as he stood up and moved towards the door.
Heath and Angelo shared a look, and Heath might even go so far as to want to hassle the guy himself, but he didn’t need the added trouble, especially at Angelo’s. At least not again. Unless he wanted not just cops, but Brax himself breathing down his neck. He gave the Italian a sharp nod and followed his brother out.
It wasn’t hard to find Brody, or the police, since they were all together with a handful of the River Boys.
“What you do then, Brody?” Buckton was asking Brody as the Braxtons approached.
“What’s the problem sergeant?” Brax asked, coming to stand beside the second officer, Georgina Watson.
Buckton turned towards them, quickly disguising her surprise. In the center of a circle of River Boys, he could only imagine how any woman would feel. The Boys wouldn’t be stupid enough to bother the officers, but that didn’t mean they wouldn’t be stupid.
“No problem,” she said to Brax quickly, turning and getting her focus back to the one River Boy that was in the center of the attention.
“Yeah, well, I’d like to help if I can,” insisted Brax.
“We don’t need your help,” scorned Watson.
“Yeah,” added Buckton. “Unless of course, you can tell us why your friend thought it would be fun to take Colleen Smart’s caravan to Mangrove River?”
Brody, the great idiot that he was, grinned. That was more than enough for Brax to know that he had done it. Not that he was going to rat the idiot out. That wasn’t how he handled things.
“I didn’t touch her van,” Brody insisted.
“How’d it end up there then?”
Brody just shrugged.
Beside him, Heath groaned. Brax wondered what his brother knew about the situation, or how Brody had even managed to get himself tangled up with old Mrs. Smarts. There was a story there, one that he didn’t want to hear. Honestly, Brax could care less about the lady in general, but there were rules. Rules that were put in place a decade ago to keep them out of the police’s reach. Rules that kept them from being the so-called gangs that they were portrayed as. They were ruffians, scoundrels, jerks, sure, and plenty of them were even bonafide criminals, but there were still rules.
Brax moved over, walking towards his idiot friend. He loved Brody, really he did, but most times he was more trouble than he was worth.
“Maybe she forgot to put the wheel brake on,” teased Brody.
The other guys laughed. They were mostly enjoying the show. They didn’t get the grand picture, they never did. The guys that Brax trusted to have any kind of smarts weren’t the kind that were out in the middle of the day with nothing better to do. The guys who had any kind of head on their shoulders were working and actually taking care of their families at times like these.
Brax considered himself somewhere in between.
“You realize, this is an elderly lady we’re talking about?” Buckton cautioned, not seeing the humor in the situation at all. “You could have hurt her. Or even killed her.” The boys didn’t realize it, but Colleen was practically family to Buckton. When her father had married Colleen’s sister, Maureen, Colleen had been a very pleased ‘aunty’ Charlie and Ruby loved Colleen and having had the call about the van missing that morning had frightened her.
“He didn’t do it,” Brax stated.
“I don’t believe him,” Buckton told them straight out, causing Brody to shift and grin uneasily.
“Well, that’s all you’re going to get for now,” Brax injected. He had been dealing with police officers for longer than Buckton had been on the force. Some of his earliest memories were of one or the other of his parents getting hauled away or cops coming to their door to question Danny. Brax was cautious, always watchful. He hadn’t needed to be told the rules, and with Danny shoving out precautions down his throat and all of the stories he heard from kids at school, he had more experience than the women before him could hope for.
Not that he was proud about that or anything.
Buckton nodded. She could see that she was out manned. Perhaps with Brody alone, she would have managed to get him to incriminate himself. Brax however was another entity.
“Stay away from Colleen Smart,” she issued her final warning.
The women turned and walked towards their cruiser, Brody idiotically sending them off in mock salute.
Brax shared a look with Heath and shook his head. They all watched as the officers pulled away.
“What the hell were you thinking?” Brax turned towards Brody.
“Oh, take it easy,” Brody grinned, his unease from moments ago quickly vaporized. “It was just a joke.”
“Just a joke,” Brax scoffed. “What if that was your mum, or your nan?” Brax glared right at his friend. “Is it still a joke?”
Brody shook his head. Whether he could finally see that Brax was not taking this lightly or he was taking his words into account, it was hard to say.
“No, I’m sorry.”
“Little old ladies, kids. You know the rules, Brody.”
Looking nervous again, Brody started to fidget. They had all seen Brax lose his cool over one thing or another. Around them, the guys were either turning to leave or watching uncomfortably. Brody was a River Boy, and Brax would never turn his back on them. But he wasn’t a Braxton. However Brax felt like handling his brothers, he gave them a slew more leeway than what he accepted from the other Boys. It was part of the reason Heath got away with so much shit. No one wanted to be the one to tell Brax what he was up to, because while he would deal with Heath, they would get one hell of a thrashing.
And Brody knew what avenue he was heading down.
The Rules. It was one of the things that kept the River Boys together. They looked out for each other, they didn’t go after anyone that didn’t go after them first. They didn’t start trouble (usually), but they certainly didn’t stand with their tales between their legs.
“I won’t do it again.” It was a last ditch effort, but as calm as he looked, Brody had known Brax for thirteen years.
Brax glanced over, making certain that the officers were well and truly gone.
“Yeah, you’re right,” Brax grinned, taking Brody by the shoulder. The other guys, most of the younger ones, were probably at ease with the eldest Braxton’s smile and friendly demeanor, but Brody knew.
While they started goofing off again, Heath glanced at them, watching as they left towards Brax’s car. Brody would either remain silent, a smart tactic, or in true Brody fashion let his damn yap go nonstop and really force his brother’s hand. He shuddered at the thought, and was glad that he didn’t have to deal with things like that. The others might look at him like he was second in command or something, but Heath knew that he was nowhere near leadership quality. He was a risk taker, and had personally had his own head knocked in by Brax hundreds of times, but he couldn’t plan and see things play out before they did like Brax.
Heath turned towards the boys and let an easy smile come across his face. One of the guys had a football, the others had their boards and headed towards the waves.