A perfect introduction to the first in the backpacker series, The Traz by Eileen Schuh
Although she felt safe with Shrug, she definitely didn't feel relaxed. Shrug had become increasingly short with her. He seldom grinned and never chuckled. She sensed his quiet conversations with select bikers in secluded spots had something to do with his testiness. His recent behaviour had made her extra nervous and Stack's brash presence nearby wasn't making her feel any better.
"What's cracking up your ass, Stack Jacobs?" Shrug said, pausing to look up at Stack.
"That fucking little prick!" Stack repeated as he strolled toward Shrug.
Stack reached for Shrug's handlebars, but Shrug swatted his fingers. "Uh, no touch."
Katrina didn't like Stack. Though he didn't ogle her as Gator did, hidden under the bushiest eyebrows she'd ever seen were his weird eyes. The closest she could come to naming a colour for them was black. She thought Stack must be the guy Shrug was thinking of when he mentioned men who had the devil for a soul.
Last week, one of the bikers had come home with a puppy that he'd found in the ditch. Stack had cuddled it for a minute and then wrung its neck. In front of them all. She'd watched. Hadn't cried or cringed. Shrug had said she had to be dead inside to survive here. She'd told him she was.
"The Blue Torpedoes," Stack continued. He shoved his thumbs into his pant pockets. "Shucking their meth right outside the Trickster, for Christ's sake. Pepper, here, told him to get his ass off our path and he spat at me. That stupid son of a bitch!"
"The Blue Torpedoes?" Katrina asked. "Lukas?"
"You know him?" Stack queried.
Gator, who was kneeling beside his bike a couple of meters away, rose like an entranced cobra and stared across at her. Katrina knew instantly she'd said something wrong. Shrug stepped sideways to block Gator's view of her.
"She's heard me say his name," Shrug said.
Katrina knelt and ran her fingers through the dirt, pretending to look for something, holding her breath, and listening to her galloping heartbeat. For Shrug to lie for her must mean she was in very deep trouble.
"You know him, Shrug?" Pepper asked in his chirpy little voice.
"Yeah," Shrug said, wiping his palms on his overalls and keeping his eyes on Gator. "I know him."
"Friend of yours, Sarina?" Gator called out boldly. "Boyfriend?"
"I told you," Shrug said menacingly. "She's heard me speak of him."
"You lie like a sidewalk, Shrug." Gator's low, gravelly voice sent chills down Katrina's spine.
Silence followed. Dark silence. Katrina stilled her hand and closed her eyes against her rising panic. She was terrified and she didn't know why.
"Meeting tonight!" Gator's voice finally rang out. Katrina heard his footsteps breaking the frost on the grass as he walked away.
When Gator was out of earshot, Pepper asked, "What's cracking up his ass?"
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