Authors: Nicole Snow
“That's what we're here for. Both of us.”
I nodded, giving Dad my quiet support.
“Gotcha, dude.” Block looked at me and slowly grinned. Not a smile I wanted to return. Thankfully, the dickhead seemed too drunk to care when I looked away from him.
Dad cracked a beer while the creepy Pagan Rams President made the rounds, trying to rouse his men from their rooms in the back. He looked high and low for something I could drink behind the bar, but came up with his hands dusty and empty. He shrugged.
“Looks like these fuckers are all out of Coke and water. Last beer too.” He held up his bottle and shook it.
“How about a shot of something to take the edge off?” I said, looking over at the fresh bottle stacked up behind the bar.
“No,” Dad said quietly, taking his seat next to me again. “Need us both to stay focused. This little club's new to me, but their big brothers aren't. Grizzlies are serious enough fuckers to keep us both on our toes, Alice. Remember that.”
A chill crept up my spine. Living like we did, it was easy to forget that every one of these deals could easily go badly and end with both of us dead. I trusted Dad knew what he was doing.
He'd been screwed over a few times before, once when I was with him. He was selling weapons to some thugs in Portland. They weren't waiting out on the street where he'd agreed to meet them. I knew something was wrong when he warned me to duck, pushing my head down beneath the widow.
Instinct told him they were waiting behind a rusted warehouse garage door, waiting for us to pull close to ambush. Dad never got that far. He picked up the automatic between us and shot through my open window, riddling the door with bullets, sending the men behind them to their quick and dirty deaths.
I trusted him after that. There was no reason to think he wouldn't be able to handle these sloppy, drugged out bikers past their prime if things got dicey.
The four Rams didn't shuffle out until another hour passed. Then they sat at the dirty tables away from us, bullshitting amongst themselves. The way these crude, coarse men always talked about the women they fucked and threw away made my stomach churn.
I looked at my father warily. Did he say the same things when I was out of earshot? Or did he have more respect for girls because he had a daughter? Obviously, he'd been wild in his younger days, only tightening the leash because I'd been dropped in his lap to raise.
I shook my head. No wonder I was still a damned virgin at twenty-one. How could I want
to do with men when I'd grown up hearing old bikers and leering thugs talking about which hole they were going to fuck next?
Dating? Not in this life.
Good guys worth having relationships with were reserved for the normal, law abiding, civilian world. And that world was just as distant and strange as the idea of loving a man instead of just fucking him. Or, rather, being fucked by him, fucked and thrown away like an empty bottle.
Dad's ears perked up when we heard the rumble of motorcycles. He pushed away the empty beer he'd been nursing for over an hour and stood, giving me a serious look that said
look alive, hon. Here we go.
He was halfway to the door the Rams were all gathering around when several guys pushed their way in. Dad took one look at their patches and his smile melted.
“Slingers? What the fuck? You're another support club.” He turned to Block. “You told me full patch Grizzlies MC brothers were coming to cut this deal. Come on, Alice.”
He waved to me. “We're getting the fuck outta here. I'm not wasting my good fucking time dealing with more middle men.”
I'd never seen him so pissed. Well, not since he'd lost six figures one night in Vegas several years ago.
“Whoa, whoa, fuckin' whoa!” The tall bald man with the scarred face and the brightest SLINGERS MC patch threw out his hands and nearly hit my Dad in the chest. “What's the hurry, buddy? We just got here to party.”
The other Slingers and the Rams moved to block the door, smiling the whole time. Dad was a big guy, and he bowed up right away, unused to taking shit from anyone like this.
But he wasn't a fool. We were so stupidly outnumbered it wasn't even funny.
My heart leaped into my throat. These men from the other club weren't slow moving old stags like the Rams. They looked lean, mean, and seriously hellbent on getting their point across – whatever it was.
If things went bad...then I wasn't sure the luck we'd always had in these deals would hold.
It'll be okay,
I told myself.
You've seen him talk his way out of standoffs with gorillas bigger and more pissed off than these guys. Just keep it together.
I backed up, taking the furthest seat from the bar I could. The man with the bright red colors looked past Dad and smiled at me. If the devil himself decided to crawl out of hell and take human form, I would've guessed he'd smile a lot like this guy. It was a strange smile too, evil because his teeth sat so
in his scarred face.
“Relax. Bring your slut over to the table, friend. No secrets here. We're all gonna sit down like gentleman and hash this out.” He forced his hand on my Dad's and gave it a powerful shake. “Name's Nero. I'm the President of the Slingers MC, and I'm here to do business, just like Block told you. The Grizzlies are too busy with the cartels in SoCal to send their own boys out here. They need every man for the Mexicans. So, I came out with my main crew here: Shark, Wasp, and Hatter.”
He pointed to several big, bearded, and brutal looking men next to him. The last guy was leaner, twitchy like he'd had too much caffeine. He also had a crazy glint in his eye I didn't like one bit.
“You got my advance?” Dad asked, grinding his teeth.
I swallowed hard. He still wasn't backing down.
Nero smiled and nodded. “Yeah, man, of course I do. It's in my saddle bag. Two hundred big, just like Block said. It's yours – long as we cut ourselves a deal here today.”
Slowly, my father turned to me. I could see the rage boiling in his red face, tempered only by the possibility that things might not go straight to hell. If we played along and heard them out, maybe we'd walk out alive.
“Come on, Alice,” he said. “Let's sit down and talk.”
“Good choice, Mickey. You're smarter than you look,” Nero said, walking over to the big table the Rams had formed with several smaller ones pushed together.
“Go get the drinks, Reaper. We've got special beer for a special occasion,” Block ordered, tapping the man with the VP patch next to him.
We all sat down in silence, Dad and I taking our places across from the vicious looking Slingers. The Rams all sat on the ends, sans Reaper, who came back several minutes later pulling two huge kegs and a tray of heavy mugs. I watched him fill each glass from the tap, shifting to the second keg when he got to ours.
The beer landed in front of me. I started to drink it when I saw Dad doing the same. I guessed the earlier warning about staying focused had taken a back seat to mimicking these jackals across from us, all of whom were gulping down their brew in loud slurps.
Nero drained his mug and slammed it on the table. Dangerously close to Dad's hand. He wiped his mouth and smiled.
“Well, what's in the truck?” Nero lit a cigarette and looked at us.
Dad pulled a list from his pocket and began rattling off a long list of names. I'd heard the words lots of times, but I still had very little idea what these weapons were: AK-something-or-others and Kevlar vests, stun grenades and RPGs, guns and bombs with big numbers attached, only matched by the number of people they'd killed.
Nero's cigarette was half burned by the time he finished. He waited for Dad to stop, then exhaled a long snort of smoke, before replying.
“Fucking impressive,” he said. Dad's fingers tensed on the list in excitement, rustling the paper a little. “But I got a different deal in mind.”
We both blinked simultaneously. I looked at Dad nervously and saw the light go out in his eyes.
“Yeah? What kinda deal we talking?”
“The kind that lets me poach any weapons I want for free. You're the one guy in this biz who's got his supply routes tracked from Maine to California like nobody else. You know exactly what's coming and going, whether it's yours or not. I'm fucking impressed. I know you've got some way to keep track of everything. If you wanna hand over that pretty little map, we'll call it good and be on our merry way.”
Dad laughed once and slammed his fist on the table. “You gotta be shitting me! Did you know about this, Block? What's in it for your ass?”
He turned to the Rams' President. The heavy man shrugged, then nodded. “Deal's a deal. Everything you need to know's right in front of you. I've kept up my end to get you here talking to Nero.”
Dad's temple was throbbing. If he could've grabbed me by the hand and walked right out the door, he would've. But there was no easy way to stop all eight huge bikers from descending on us before we got a single step closer to our truck.
The nine millimeter I knew he had packed in a holster near his hip wouldn't do much good either. Not against so many bastards like this.
“Yeah? What the fuck are you offering?” Dad said quietly. “You're talking about buying out my whole fucking business and getting a price on my head if anybody ever finds out what I gave you. You'd better offer four – five times! – what I fucking talked about with Block.”
“Yeah, about that...” Nero's voice deepened. He stubbed out his cigarette on the bare table. “We'll give you the two hundred big I brought with and something that's worth a whole lot more than ten mill – immunity from Slingers' raids. You get to keep on selling shit to the same assholes you've served for the last thirty years, and we won't stop you. Trust me, buddy, they're gonna need your business once we start draining their fucking inventory and turning it to gold ourselves.”
Dad looked defeated. Tired. The anger causing his leg to tremble against mine faded inexplicably. Actually, I was starting to feel pretty damned exhausted myself. Foggy, even, the same kinda sensation I had when I got my wisdom teeth out a couple years ago.
I tried to stay focused. Dad rolled his shoulders, as if he was trying not to fall asleep right there.
“Then what? You think I'm some kinda god damned dummy? There's no fucking future in that...not when you're fucking up the entire trade...Christ, you assholes are
than the Prairie Devils. I'm sorry I ever came.” His hand was spread out on the table, shaking to hold up his body.
Jesus, I was feeling sick, like something had tapped my veins and drained every ounce of energy I had.
What did they
“Whatever, dude. Had a feeling you'd turn us down.” Nero grinned, bearing his evil, perfect teeth. “It wasn't a serious offer. Don't worry, you won't be alive long enough to bitch about shit.”
“Fuck!” Dad roared just as the realization hit me in my heavy, heavy brain.
My chin slumped on my chest and I looked at my empty beer glass. Sneaky, sneaky bastards! They'd put something in there, something in the beer they served from the other keg. Dad jerked up, reaching for his gun, teetering like a big tree about to collapse.
“You mudderfuckhers!” He slurred. “Poiswon. Alish – run!”
The last word was perfectly clear. I jerked to my feet and got three steps out before the whole world went black. I hit the floor and rolled on my side, trying to scream for help, fighting to call out helplessly to my Dad one last time.
Whatever the hell they'd given us, it paralyzed my body, but left my eyes open just long enough to watch his luck flicker out forever.
Dad was still on his feet, rocking in a tight circle, but his fingers were too screwed up to pull his gun. Nero stood slowly, heavy mug in his hand. He looked at me and winked while he raised it high in the air, then brought it down hard on the back of my Dad's head.
The sick sound was like a rotten watermelon splitting apart. Dad went down.
I was still screaming bloody murder in my head when my vision blurred to pitch black, and all my senses numbed. The thick dark trail of blood spreading from the back of his head found its way to my cheek, too numb to feel anything except its warmth.
Then the darkness caught up to me, and I lost my mind forever.
Days passed in that dingy little room. I couldn't remember I'd been poisoned, couldn't remember where I was, couldn't even remember who the dead man underneath the sheet was on the bed across from me.
He was pale. Rotting. All I had was a name – Alice – the name of someone who'd been condemned to be forgotten like a ghost.
The corpse scared me. So did the gruff voices outside my room. Men were arguing about tearing a truck apart, searching for something. There were only bits and pieces, loud rasps and growls my screwed up brain tried to understand and failed to every time.
“Not here? How the fuck could it be anywhere else? That dead sonofabitch lived on the road! I ought to unload everything in that fucking truck on this shithole clubhouse and leave you assholes torched for the Prairie Pussies to find.”
“We did what you asked, Nero. Got him here. We delivered. Go ahead and kill us. The Devils will find out and come for your asses before you can shake your tails outta this state, if Fang and his Grizzles don't go after you first.” The voice was tense, artificially clam, like the man was hiding something.
“You know what? Fuck it. We're out. This whole fucking thing is a bust and I'm gonna have my guys comb his fucking house for the map. Come on, boys. We're done wasting our time here.”
“What about the girl?”
“Block...you dumbass. You really think we give two shits? You can have her ass. Payment for keeping your mouths shut. You're worth a cheap cunt, but I'm sure as fuck not paying you fifty big for holding out on us.”
“You're goddamned lucky I don't have time to shove my knife up your sorry ass. Remember, asshole, we were never here.”
A door slammed so hard it shook the entire building. Then silence. The deadly still lasted at least an hour.