Red Market - Bonus Content

Author's Note: This is a bonus chapter that takes place years earlier when Jinx and Avery first met. BTW, Avery Byrne also has her own series

January 3, 2016

“What if she hates me? What if they all hate me?” Avery asked Bobby Jeong when they pulled into the Village Inn parking lot. A chilly winter rain beat down on the car’s windshield, turning the outside world into a dreary watercolor mess.

She was sixteen and had spent years on the streets of downtown Phoenix after her father had kicked her out of the house. She’d only been living with Bobby and his wife, Melissa, her foster parents, for a few months. Living a semi-normal life again, surrounded by people who loved and accepted her as she was, still felt a little strange.

For starters, she wasn’t like most people. She was a transgender girl and a goth.

Then again, her foster father wasn’t exactly normal either. He was a serious Star Wars geek. The man had dolls from the movies, though he insisted on calling them action figures. His proclivity for quoting characters from the shows was both annoying and endearing. Like dad jokes.

He was also a professional tattoo artist, something that Avery dreamed of becoming one day.

Of the three of them, Melissa was the normal one. She worked in an office, dressed professionally, and was an amazing cook, although it had taken Avery a month to get used to Korean food. So much of it was spicy.

“Why would they hate you, youngling?” Bobby asked as they continued to sit in the car, staring at the restaurant.

“Because I’m weird.”

“We’re all weird in our own way. And if there’s a group of people who get weird, it would probably be the Phoenix Gender Alliance. I spoke with this woman, Jinx Ballou, on the phone. She seemed very nice.”

“You think everyone’s nice.”

“No, not everyone.”

“You thought I was nice when you caught me breaking into your tattoo shop.”

“That was different. You didn’t strike me as a hardened criminal. You were just a kid trying to survive. And in the two months you’ve been a part of our family, you’ve proven that you are very nice. What do you say? It’s a new year. You’re starting a new life. How about meeting some more people like you?”

“You’re not going to embarrass me by quoting Star Wars movies when we’re in there, are you?”

“I’ll try to resist the urge,” he said with a smile.

“Do or do not,” Avery caught herself saying. “There is no try.”

He belted out a laugh. “I see I’m starting to rub off on you.”

“Must be one of your Jedi mind tricks.”

“Come on, let’s give this Ballou woman a chance. Besides, it’s cold sitting here in the car.”

Avery studied her reflection in the vanity mirror on the back of the sun visor. She straightened her Bettie bangs and took a deep breath. “Fine.”

Her primary concern wasn’t that they’d think she was weird. What worried her was that they might find out about her past. People were dead because of her.

The rain felt like icy needles when Avery and her foster father stepped out. Bobby had looked for an umbrella before they left home, but it was nowhere to be found since the last time he’d used it months earlier.

“Two for dinner?” asked the hostess brightly when they stepped inside.

Bobby pointed at a woman sitting in the corner booth. “I think I see our party back there.”

The hostess grabbed a couple of menus, then led them to where the woman sat.

She had been watching them from the moment they walked in. Black hair, tied up in a ponytail. Piercing eyes that looked right through you. She wore a dark-blue sweatshirt with the words Fugitive Recovery printed in yellow-gold letters in the upper corner. Was this lady a cop? She had a distinct cop vibe about her. Had Bobby set her up?

“Ms. Ballou?” Bobby asked.

“Call me Jinx. You must be Bobby and Avery. Nice to meet you. Have a seat.”

The hostess took their drink orders and disappeared.

“Why do they call you Jinx? You cursed or something?” Avery asked.

“Ave, don’t be rude.”

Jinx chuckled. “It’s okay. I get that a lot. It’s a nickname a friend of mine gave me. It’s short for Jenna Christina. Did you choose the name Avery?”

Avery shrugged. “It was always my name.”

“You’re lucky, having a unisex name like that. My deadname definitely wasn’t.”

Avery wanted to ask what name she’d been given at birth but knew that was inappropriate. They called it a deadname for a reason.

“What made you want to join the Phoenix Gender Alliance?” Jinx asked.

“I came out a few years ago. My father…” She glanced at Bobby. “My bio dad kicked me out of the house when I told him. Bobby recently became my foster dad. He’s cool with the whole trans thing. As for the group, I guess I wanted some friends who were trans.”

“Are there other young people in the group?” Bobby asked.

“Some. It’s about two-thirds adults. We’re thinking of starting a side group for minors.”

“That would be great, wouldn’t it, Avery?”

It sounded cool. But still, Avery wasn’t ready to trust this woman. “You a cop? You look like a cop.”

Bobby shot her a scolding look, but Avery didn’t care. The woman either was or she wasn’t.

“I used to be a long time ago, but I quit.”

“How come?”

“Long story. Wasn’t a good fit. I’m a bail enforcement agent now.”

“So a different kinda cop.”

“Not exactly. I’m not with the government. I work for myself. Basically, I’m a bounty hunter. I only go after people who jump bail.”

“Like Dog the Bounty Hunter.”

Jinx smiled. “Yeah, but without the mullet. You have an idea what you want to be when you grow up?”

Despite her misgivings, Avery found herself liking this woman. “I want to be a tattoo artist like Bobby.”

“Really? That’s quite a skill.”

“She’s very talented,” Bobby said. “Take off your coat, Ave. Show her.”

Suddenly, Avery felt very self-conscious. She didn’t like strangers judging her art. But then again, this woman wasn’t like most strangers.

She pulled off her jacket and watched Jinx study the tattoos she’d created on her own arms.

“Wow, is that Peter Pan and Wendy?”

“Sort of, only I made Pan a girl. So they’re lesbian.”

“Interesting. I like the goth style you gave them. Sort of a Tim Burton look.”

“That’s what I was going for,” Avery replied, feeling a little less insecure.

“Bobby’s right. You got some serious skill.”

“Thanks.” Her face warmed from the praise. She really did like this woman. Bobby was right. It was a new year. Time for new beginnings. “Tell me more about this group.”

When Fugitives Run, Jinx Brings Them to Justice

Meet Jinx Ballou, a tenacious ex-cop turned bounty hunter, pursuing fugitives across Phoenix, Arizona's mean streets and unforgiving desert. Available in ebook and signed paperback and hardcover. 

Fans of Sons of Anarchy Will Love Shea Stevens

Ex-con Shea Stevens has tried to put her criminal past behind. But her criminal past isn't done with her. When innocent people are threatened, Shea will stop at nothing to bring the criminals to justice. Available in ebook and signed paperback.

Tattoo Artist By Day, Vigilante By Night

Goth tattoo artist Avery Byrne navigates the seedy underbelly of Phoenix, Arizona to protect the people she loves and wreak vengeance on those who hurt them. Available in ebook and signed paperback and hardcover.