What followed was a night of pure fun. First the karaoke bar...
...then at some crazy, underground night club where Rusty DJ-ed part time.
Their bromance was one of epic proportions. Rusty was really the first friend Tuck had since Zane.
They finally crashed at the amphitheater, faces aglow from the evening's hijinks.
"Man, I forgot how good this feels," Tuck laughed. "You have a family, Rusty?"
"Nah, just me."
"You're lucky," he told his buddy wistfully. "I love Ramona and the kids but to be on your own with nothing but the wind on your back...I feel like I can do anything."
Rusty snorted. "That's probably just the coke talking."
"Maybe you're right. But I feel like...I feel like this is the first time in my life where I don't have to worry, where I can laugh and do anything I want. I've never felt like this. I know why---" he faltered.
Tuck sighed, thinking of his mother. "Never mind."
They both must have drifted off to sleep then because the next thing Tuck knew, was he was back in the house he grew up in. It was daytime but the living room was dark and the curtains were drawn. He was once again a small boy and his mother lay napping on the couch.
"Just a few more minutes, Tucker," she sighed, rolling over on her side. "Mommy isn't feeling so well today."
The eight-year-old version of himself kicked the carpet angrily. When did she ever feel well? Remembering how all of the times she disappointed him stirred up old feelings of resentment.
"Dude, we gotta get you home before Ramona wakes up."
Tuck yawned, not quite himself. "Okay, man, ready whenever you are."
* * * * * * *
After that night, the two friends developed a fool-proof plan to supply their increasing drug habit. After all, Dante never touched money or merchandise, so that he would be free of any incriminating evidence. Tuck was the Holder of the money and Rusty was a Worker. They would get fronted an ounce, take a ball, skim off a small amount, cut the rest with baking soda and separate it into 6 grams then sell each gram for a third of the price for a ball. It was a "free" habit. The trouble was, as time went on, their cut grew bigger and bigger, and they couldn't peddle baking soda without Dante hearing about it.
"Don't worry about it," Tuck assured Rusty. "I got this."
But Tuck had no idea just how deep he was in and even worse, how much further he was about to fall.
* * * * * * *
"Have you seen my necklace?"
Tuck walked over to Ramona's vanity, scratching his head. "What necklace are you talking about?"
She frowned. "You know, the one my grandmother gave me. I wanted to wear it but it's not in the drawer."
He shrugged his shoulders. "Don't worry, Ram. I'm sure it will turn up soon."
She smiled. "I'm sure you're right, Darling."
* * * * * * *
Six months in and Tuck and Rusty owed $6,000 to Dante. They had no idea how the amount had accumulated so rapidly, but the truth was, they weren't even selling these days. Every bit of product was going up their noses.
Tuck's eyes widened, hoping he didn't have any telltale white residue in his nostrils. "Umm...Rusty says his customers are good for it and will pay some time this week."
"Why do yous trust these shitheads? Dante wants his fucking money."
"Relax," Tuck told him. "Everything will be fine."
"You sure as shit better hope so. Yous don't want to get on his bad side."
Tuck grinned. "Just leave everything to me."
* * * * * * *
"I'm so glad you made it, Rosalind," Ramona hugged her friend.
"Of course, Darling. How in the world have you been? How is your vacation going so far?"
They got their drinks and sat down at a small table. Ramona pursed her lips. This wasn't going to be easy. For the past month, their home had been receiving crank calls and threatening letters in the mailbox. She was scared, even though Tuck had told her there was no reason to be. Going with her gut instinct, she had invited Rosalind Savaglio out under the pretense of "vacationing" in Lucky Palms for a weekend.
"So why is my family being threatened?" Ramona blurted out.
"What?" The blonde lady feigned surprise. "What ever are you going on about?"
"Oh don't play dumb with me, Rosie. Not when my family's safety is at stake. Spill everything you know."
* * * * * * *
So, thousands of dollars were missing and Savaglio was convinced that Tuck and Rusty were responsible. Rosalind seemed quite confident that her husband would not hesitate to kill the two men if he did not receive his money. However, driving around Lucky Palms after her meeting with Rosalind, Ramona realized she had one more ace up her sleeve.
"Why, Ramona Whitney, I must say this is a pleasant surprise," Jay Caldwell drawled. "What are yous doing in my neck of the woods?"
"Jay, I know that Tuck really fucked up and your men are out for his blood and I promise I can fix it but I need some time. Could you please give us a few weeks to sort things out?"
He scratched his head. "What do yous take me for, the Red Cross? This ain't no charity. Your husband fucked up and will have to pay one way or another."
Ramona gulped. Okay, time to switch up strategies. "Jay," she smiled flirtatiously, "maybe we can work out a solution of our own? I know that there must be something I can offer you." She worked at the collar of her trench coat, allowing him a brief glimpse of what lay underneath.
He narrowed his eyes. "You'll let me fuck you in return for Tuck's safety?"
"I know you've been wanting me for a long time now, and I'm prepared to do whatever it takes to ensure my family's safety."
"You'd really do that for that shithead."
She nodded. "I really would."
However, all of her bravado failed once he had led her into his bedroom. Standing before him in nothing but a lacy bra and panties, Ramona felt quite exposed.
Grabbing her and throwing her roughly on the bed, Jay climbed on top, straddling her. "This isn't going to be quick and you're not going to enjoy it. You're asking for a big fucking favor and I plan on milking this for all it's worth.
* * * * * * *
"What do you suppose they want?" Rusty asked Tuck as they walked over to the warehouse in Lucky Palms.
Tuck shrugged. Jay had simply said on the phone that he was up for negotiations.
"Evening, gentlemen," Andrey sneered at them. "We're here tonight to relay a message from Dante. He wants his fucking money."
Rusty had a bad feeling about all of this.
"As you wish," the Russian snarled.
Lightning quick, the gun was whipped out of Andrey's jacket and aimed straight at Rusty's chest. For one moment, he glanced helplessly at Tuck and before he could be saved, the trigger was pulled.
Tuck gasped. "Weren't we supposed to be negotiating?"
Jay cackled. "You said to get it over with. He dies and you live. You have one week to get the money."
Andrey smirked. "Pleasure doing business with you."
Andrey and Jay slinked into the shadows, leaving Tuck with the dying man.
Tuck held his only friend as the life quietly faded from him.