The radio in the squad car crackled, a burst of static ringing out into the silence of the cab. Our dispatcher’s disembodied voice followed the static. “Attention all units. Disturbance reported at 856 Wagner. Available units please respond.”
With my spine snapping straight when I recognized the address of my brother’s garage on the call, I reached for the radio and pressed the faded red button on the side. “Unit 2 responding.”
I hit the lights and sirens on my car and raced down Main Street in the direction of Evan’s shop. Unlike in other jurisdictions, we rode patrol alone in Cypress Creek. The town’s police force simply didn’t have the manpower to have us partnering up.
“Okay, Sonny,” our dispatcher replied, dropping the formalities. “Radio in when you get to Evan’s. Sounded like someone was shouting in the background when his apprentice called it in.” Zach was a friend who happened to serve as our main dispatcher and did double duty as the force’s public information officer. He stayed busy to say the least.
Using one hand to execute a sharp right turn, I radioed back with the other. “You got it. Give me two minutes.”
More static preceded his curt response. “Stay safe.”
None of the other officers out on patrol responded to Zach’s call. I wasn’t surprised. In a town the size of Cypress Creek, everyone knew just about everyone else. We lived in the community we served. They all knew Evan, and they all knew I would handle this call personally. If they were needed, I could always radio for backup. Until then, this call was all mine.
Traffic was light as I sped down the wide, tree-lined streets of downtown Cypress Creek. I got stuck behind an old red truck, but the driver quickly made way, and I barreled past him.
Five minutes later, I was pulling up outside of Evan’s garage. My brother was a mechanic, and a damn good one at that. In recent years, he’d expanded his storefront and now had two commercial garage doors leading out onto the street from his workshop inside.
Evan was waiting outside, leaning against the wall between the two doors. His shaggy brown hair, which teased the edge of his shoulders, was pulled back today. Even I had to admit, he looked badass standing there with his square jaw and his arms crossed over his chest.
The truth was that Evan was easily the most laidback, carefree brother out of the five Lovett boys, but I wouldn’t have said it looking at him now. He pushed away from the wall as I pulled up and walked to the curb.
“I told Jason not to call you.” Irritation flared in his light green eyes, but otherwise, his demeanor was calm and quiet. “We had it handled.”
“Yeah, well. He called.” I shut the squad car’s door behind me. “Since I’ve already come to your rescue, I gotta file a report. Want to tell me what happened?”
Evan sighed, shaking his head as he glanced at the shop. “The kid overreacted. A customer came in to collect his car. He got upset over the price of the repairs, started making a scene. Threw a couple things around. Nothing serious. I didn’t need saving, especially not from my kid brother. Already got rid of the customer. No harm, no foul.”
Peering over his shoulder into the shop, I saw a nervous Jason pacing around, darting looks in our direction every so often. “Jason doesn’t seem nearly as calm as you are, which begs the question, why are you so calm? You did the work, and the customer comes in and makes a ruckus. I would’ve been pissed.”
He shrugged, hooking his thumbs into the pockets of his jeans. “Already told you, it was nothing to worry about. Seriously, I’m okay. Jason’s okay. Everyone’s fine. It’s not the first time a customer’s thrown a tantrum trying to get a discounted price for repairs. Sure as hell won’t be the last time.”
Shifting my shoulders, I tried to relieve some of the tension bundled in my neck since hearing Evan’s address on that call. I rolled my eyes at my brother and felt my lips twitching up into a grin. “Cool as a cucumber on a winter’s day. Don’t know why I was expecting anything else.”
Evan’s posture relaxed too. He jerked his thumb to the store, cracking a smile. “You don’t call me Mr. Cool for nothing. I get you have to file a report though. Want some coffee while we do it?”
“No one calls you Mr. Cool.” I made sure the squad car was all locked up and then nodded. “But I’ll never say no to coffee. That fancy machine of yours still working?”
“I fix machines for a living. Do you honestly think I’d let the one that gets me through every day die on me?” He led the way into his shop, hitting the switch to close the garage door behind us. Its soft electronic whirl was almost inaudible over the sounds of his guys getting back to work after the incident.
“Good point,” I muttered. “Probably not.”
The inside of his workshop smelled like motor oil, chassis grease, brake dust, and solvent. We crossed the concrete floor, stained with the evidence of years of repairs, and entered the back where Evan kept a small office.
He squinted when we stepped inside, pausing at the door. “Let me grab some clean mugs. I’ll be right back.”
He ran a tight ship at the garage, but like Jeremy and Beau, another two of our brothers, tidy organization wasn’t his strong suit. Drawings of custom designs he was working on littered his desk, while his administrative paperwork was scattered here and there.
A slim new laptop sat on his cluttered desk. The laptop, his ergonomic chair and the nifty coffee maker he’d purchased a while back were the only indications that this room was someone’s office and not just a backroom to shove papers.
Evan didn’t keep any personal belongings in here. No family photos, and no personal knick-knacks. His office was a reflection of the straightforward, no bullshit guy he was.
We were all like that, to a certain extent. Even more so since the one dirty little secret in our family, which had been kept hidden by our father, came tumbling out a couple of years ago and took our family down in its wake.
As it turned out, our upstanding citizen of a father had allegedly been embezzling money and extorting people. Well, not allegedly anymore. He’d been convicted of his crimes after a trial that shook our sleepy little town to its core and turned our long-respected family name to one to toss around in the churn of the town’s gossip mill.
Nowadays, my brothers and I mostly kept to ourselves outside of work. We lived as privately as we could and kept things simple. There were no airs or graces about any of us. Not that there had been before, but the sheen of respectability our family had once carried had dulled.
Tyson, our eldest brother, was the District Attorney for Cypress Creek. At thirty-six, he ran his office with an iron fist. Since he’d been part of the team that prosecuted our father, he was widely respected and trusted by the community. He’d managed to salvage a bit of our family’s reputation.
To say the least, when Tyson spoke, people listened.
Beau came next in the Lovett brothers’ line-up. Thirty-two and a talented architect, he was very successful in his own right. Beau had always been a popular guy and could be whoever for whatever audience.
People loved Beau despite everything that had happened with our father. He was smart and charismatic. I doubted most people even remembered he was a Lovett in his daily dealings with them.
He lived and breathed for his job, and everyone knew he would get it done. Like Evan’s, his office and his house, for that matter, were constantly covered in drawings and designs.
Tyson and I were reminded on a near daily basis in one way or another of who our father was and what he’d done since we were in law enforcement. In some ways, the others had it easier. At least, it looked that way to me. Yet, I knew what I was getting into when I chose this career path. Despite the difficulties I faced for being my father’s son, I wouldn’t have changed my career choice for the world.
Evan was our middle brother and our shortest at an even six feet. His hair was the longest though. Personally, I thought he was trying to use the length of his hair to make up his lack of height, and I loved to give him shit about it. He wasn’t too amused.
Evan was calm and easy-going these days, but that hadn’t always been the case. He was muscular and brawny. Years ago, he’d been involved in a fight, and it ended with the other guy in the hospital. I hadn’t seen him lose his cool once since then. He didn’t let things get to him much anymore.
Though he’d never said it, I knew what happened back then had scared him straight, so to speak. No wonder he wasn’t worked up over a guy breaking a few things in his office. It would take far more than that to set him off.
Jeremy was the second youngest brother with me rounding out Mama Lovett’s boys. Jeremy ran a construction company in town and was the only one of our fearsome five who’d found himself a girl and settled down. Marie, his fiancée, and her five-year-old son Austin had somehow managed to capture my brother’s heart.
In doing so, Marie found herself alone on the female side of the Lovett family. Mama was gone and had been for years now.
I had sympathy for Marie. Being the one rose among five prickly thorns in this family couldn’t be easy. She was a trooper about it, but I respected the hell out of her for putting up with us all. She was a strong woman though, so I had no doubt putting up with us was probably easy.
Marie had been to hell and back with her ex a couple of months ago. She and Jeremy eventually made it through to the other side, but not without testing her strength and resolve.
Evan walked back into his office carrying two mugs. He set one down under the coffee maker’s nozzle, pressed a button, and turned to face me. “What’s been going on with you? Haven’t heard from you for a couple of days.”
I shrugged, pulling my notebook out of my pocket to deal with the report. “Not too much. Just been busy.”
The coffee maker hummed, a rich aroma scenting the air. Evan narrowed his eyes, skepticism stamped on his face. “Busy, huh? You’re a police officer in Cypress Creek. You’re never too busy to make a call.”
I flipped him off, but he wasn’t wrong. I was close to my brothers. We were all close, but I was the one who checked in with everyone the most often. No idea why, since despite Evan’s teasing, being a small-town cop kept me plenty busy.
I sensed he’d keep on me about not calling much lately. Since lying to my brothers wasn’t something I made a habit of, I decided truth was the best option.
I was a tad leery, seeing as Jeremy had plainly told me to back off, but I forged ahead to test the waters with Evan. “I want to look into Dad’s case.”
My breath caught as I waited for his reaction.
None of us, except for Jeremy, went to see our dad in prison, and we didn’t talk about his case. That was a can of worms we didn’t touch because of Tyson’s involvement with the prosecution, and fallout we all suffered after Dad’s actions became public.
As expected, Evan didn’t look thrilled. His green eyes darkened and his mouth twisted in a frown as he reached for the mug of coffee. “Why would you do that?”
“Because I think Dad’s innocent.”
Evan handed the coffee over to me. “Take a step back, Sonny. Dad’s in jail for a reason. Tyson wouldn’t have put him away if he was innocent. You know as well as I do, he’s not going to let dad see the light of day as a free man ever again. No matter how much it burns, Dad’s getting what he deserves.”
My fingers tightened around the mug. Annoyance thrummed in me that my brothers wouldn’t even hear me out. Evan’s reaction was as swift as Jeremy’s had been. “Something bigger is going on, man. I’m telling you. If I just—”
Evan held up a hand, shaking his head. “Don’t go there. What happened sucked, I agree, but you’re deluding yourself if you think he’s innocent. There’s nothing more there than what we know. The whole damn mess was all over the news. Face the facts.”
Shaking my head, I took a deep breath, letting it out in a heavy sigh and flipping my pen back and forth between my fingers. “It’s not the end, but whatever. Let’s just do this damn report. I need to get back to the station.”
Evan eyed me, no doubt wondering if it was worth it trying to lecture me some more. Lifting his mug of coffee, he carried it to his desk and sat down, clearly deciding to let the topic drop for now. “Fine, let’s get this over with then.”
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