He didn't like cops.
His attitude had deep roots, and stemmed from spending his formative years dodging them, outrunning them—usually—or being hassled by them when his feet weren't fast enough.
He'd picked his share of pockets by the time he'd turned twelve and knew the best and most lucrative channels for turning a hot watch into cold cash.
He'd learned back then that knowing what time it was couldn't buy happiness, but the twenty bucks the watch brought in paid for a nice slice of the happiness pie. And twenty bucks cannily wagered swelled into sixty at three-to-one.
The same year he'd turned twelve, he'd invested his carefully hoarded takes and winnings in a small gambling enterprise that centered around point spreads and indulged his interest in sports.
He was a businessman at heart.
He hadn't run with gangs. First of all he'd never had the urge to join groups, and more importantly he didn't care for the pecking order such organizations required. Someone had to be in charge—and he preferred it to be himself.
Some people might say Jonah Blackhawk had a problem with authority.
They would be right.
He supposed the tide had turned right after he'd turned thirteen. His gambling interests had grown nicely—a little too nicely to suit certain more established syndicates.
He'd been warned off in the accepted way—he'd had the hell beat out of him. Jonah acknowledged the bruised kidneys, split lip and blackened eyes as a business risk. But before he could make his decision to move territories or dig in, he'd been busted. And busted solid.
Cops were a great deal more of an annoyance than business rivals.
But the cop who'd hauled his arrogant butt in had been different. Jonah had never pinned down what exactly separated this cop from the others in the line of shields and rule books. So, instead of being tossed into juvie—to which he was no stranger—he'd found himself yanked into programs, youth centers, counseling.
Oh, he'd squirmed and snapped in his own coldblooded way, but this cop had a grip like a bear trap and hadn't let go. The sheer tenacity had been a shock. No one had held on to him before. Jonah had found himself rehabilitated almost despite himself, at least enough to see there were certain advantages to, if not working in the system, at least working the system.
Now, at thirty, no one would call him a pillar of Denver's community, but he was a legitimate businessman whose enterprises turned a solid profit and allowed him a lifestyle the hustling street kid couldn't have dreamed of.
He owed the cop, and he always paid his debts.
Otherwise, he'd have chosen to be chained naked and honey-smeared to a hill of fire ants rather than sit tamely in the outer office of the commissioner of police of Denver.
Even if the commissioner was Boyd Fletcher.
Jonah didn't pace. Nervous motion was wasted motion and gave too much away. The woman manning the station outside the commissioner's double doors was young, attractive with a very interesting and wanton mass of curling red hair. But he didn't flirt. It wasn't the wedding ring on her finger that stopped him as much as her proximity to Boyd, and through him, the long blue line.
He sat, patient and still, in one of the hunter-green chairs in the waiting area, a tall man with a long-legged, tough build wearing a three thousand dollar jacket over a twenty-dollar T-shirt. His hair was raven-black, rain straight and thick. That and the pale gold of his skin, the whiplash of cheekbones were gifts from his great-grandfather, an Apache.
The cool, clear green eyes might have been a legacy from his Irish great-grandmother, who'd been stolen from her family by the Apache and had given the brave who'd claimed her three sons.
Jonah knew little of his family history. His own parents had been more interested in fighting with each other over the last beer in the six-pack than tucking their only son in with bedtime stories. Occasionally Jonah's father had boasted about his lineage, but Jonah had never been sure what was fact and what was convenient fiction.
And didn't really give a damn.
You were what you made yourself.
That was a lesson Boyd Fletcher had taught him. For that alone, Jonah would have walked on hot coals for him.
"Mr. Blackhawk? The commissioner will see you now."