Authors: Kara Parker
“Do you have any idea where he could be?” Olivia asked Hillary. There was desperation in her voice and her eyes, and Olivia didn’t even try to hide it. She was done pretending and sneaking around and worrying about her pride. All she wanted was to know that David was safe. Even if in the end he chose the gang over her, Olivia still wanted to find him and know that he was alive.
“There are so many different places he could be. Mind if I smoke?” Hillary asked, and when Olivia shook her head
, the other woman dug around through her purse emerging with a white lighter and a pack of Virginia Slims. She lit the end and took a deep drag, inhaling the smoke and then releasing it from her mouth like a dragon.
“Can I have one of those?” Olivia asked, looking up Hillary.
“Of course, girl. I didn’t know you smoked.” She handed Olivia a cigarette and a lighter, and Olivia tried to steady her hands enough to light it.
“A little bit when I was in college and for a few stressful weeks at the academy.” The smoke burned her lungs, and Olivia resisted the urge to cough. However, as she exhaled the smoke, she felt that familiar lightheadedness that comes with an infrequent smoke. It made her body feel slightly numb, and it relaxed her. “It’s just a very expensive poison, you know?” Olivia said, gazing at the lit tip of the cigarette. “At a certain point in time, you have to start asking yourself why you’re paying so much for something that is so obviously bad for you.” Olivia had been lost in thought until she was aware of Hillary’s eyes on her and her face reddened with embarrassment. “I didn’t mean—” she began, but Hillary just waved her hand, both clearing away the smoke and the awkwardness.
“It’s fine,” Hillary said. “And you’re right, but quitting is hard for some of us.”
Olivia nodded in understanding. She had learned at the academy how dangerous drugs were and how addiction drove people to crime and prostitution and a host of other bad things.
“I’m so confused; I want to help David and the rest of God’s Reapers, but I know that they’re the reason that there are drugs in this town in the first place. I need to find David but then what? Do I throw away my job and my principles for him? Who will I be after that, other than someone’s girlfriend? I love him, but I don’t understand his loyalty to the club.”
“Did anyone ever tell you the history of the Reapers?” Hillary asked.
“No,” Olivia said.
“They started after the Second World War. The first members were all men who had seen combat. They were men who had spent months living in trenches and waiting for the bomb that was going to kill them to fall. They watched, as the men around them were killed without rhyme or reason. My grandfather used to talk about it; he told me once he had been shaving at a mirror with a buddy of his, he bent down to grab a towel, and suddenly he heard a thump and looked over and realized that his buddy had been shot. The bullet went straight into the brain. They had been standing only inches from each other, if even the tiniest of things would have been different, my grandfather would have died instead. They spent years of their lives on the edge like that, thinking every minute would be their last, until the next minute came. Can you imagine living like that for years?”
Olivia shook her head; she couldn’t imagine it at all.
“And then they came home, and they were supposed to just go back to work and be normal. Try to ignore the nightmares they had and the flashbacks. How were they supposed to go back to their normal, boring lives after they had just returned from months of professional killing? Some of them were airmen, and they missed that feeling of flying, of being high above the earth. Motorcycles were the closest they could get to that. So men started buying bikes and hanging out in their army buddies’ garages, fixing things and working on bikes. There weren’t any rules or anything like that; it was just friends who had been through the same sort of thing, brothers-in-arms and all that.
“Then, in the lean years after the wars, there was a lot of crime. Marina’s Crest was smaller then, the police force no bigger than three men and one jail cell. Criminals came in and started making short work of the few families that lived here. There were break-ins and robberies, people held at gunpoint in their own homes. People would rob and then run, hopping on the train and getting out of Dodge before the law could catch up with them. Then, one night, a pretty local girl was found out in the desert. When they found her, there was so little left that she could only be identified by her name written in her shoe. Horrible things had been done to the girl, and there was no one to serve her justice.
“So a few men got together, my grandfather included, and they asked themselves what they had fought a war for? They had spent years of their lives defending their country only to return to lawlessness and chaos and violence. But then they realized that it didn’t have to be that way. They were soldiers, and they were well trained and disciplined. They understood how to stay calm under pressure and how to face danger and death and keep everything together. So, they became the law. They patrolled the streets; people called them when they heard a strange noise outside their house late at night. Women working the late shift asked them to act as escorts, so they could be safe on their way home. People paid them however they could—some gave property, others money, others food. For a while it was a beautiful system.”
“So what happened?” Olivia asked.
“Well, the government isn’t too keen on people who aren’t cops acting like cops. It turns out that one of the men the Reapers had run out of town, a man who had been drunk more than he was sober and had crashed more than two cars, was the son of a very well-connected man. That man called another man, and before anyone knew it, the county was installing a real precinct and calling for the Reapers to be disbanded. God’s Reapers had done the government's job for a decade, and then when the government finally got involved, did they thank the Reapers for a job well done? No, they were called criminals and warned that they would be immediately arrested if found.
“By now most of the old guard had aged out; they were too tired to fight any more wars. But their sons and grandsons had spent their childhoods watching their fathers and grandfathers ride away on their bikes. They wanted in on the action; they wanted to be brothers. More importantly, people wanted drugs, and they didn’t understand why the government was so opposed to them smoking a little pot or taking some speed. There was a demand, a growing one. Plus, there were bikers who felt cheated; they had done the government’s job for them and received nothing. Selling some drugs to an eager group of people created a perfect little circle.”
“So the Reapers didn’t start out as drug dealers?” Olivia asked. “Their history is one based in protecting people.”
“Yup,” Hillary said.
“So why couldn’t they go back to that? I mean, not the protection thing, but some other non-illegal activity? Why does everyone throw up their hands like change of any kind is such an impossible idea? I’ve asked David to do it, and he just always says he can’t but never says why.”
“Change is hard. It’s harder on men,” Hillary said with a shrug of her shoulders. There was a chime somewhere; it was the sound of a cell phone going off. The noise pulled Olivia back to earth, back to the here and now.
Hillary stood up and went to her phone where it had been plugged in and charging on the wall.
“So, cop,” she said, looking over at Olivia. “You really want to know where Creely is?”
“Yes,” Olivia said, half rising out of her seat.
“To arrest him?”
“No!” Olivia said. “I’m on suspension, and I can’t arrest anyone. I just want to talk to him and know that he’s safe.”
Hillary sighed and put down her phone. “I don’t know where Creely is, but I know where Mike is and he would know. But do you know what he would do to me if he found out I was telling a cop where he was?”
“There’s no warrant for his arrest,” Olivia explained. “Someone who’s been arrested must have been convinced to take the charges for him. I couldn’t arrest Mike if I wanted to. I’m not the Reapers’ enemy; I keep trying tell people this, but they see my badge and they make these assumptions and nothing I do seems to change anyone’s opinion. I was suspended for helping David. I could lose my job; I could go to jail; and I did all that for David. What more do the Reapers want from me?”
“It’s hard to trust a cop. It’s hard even for me, and you’ve saved my bacon twice now,” Hillary said. “There’s no way to explain it. Some kids are raised being told to call the police if there’s ever trouble. Other kids are taught to run away when the police come. It’s a hard-learned habit, and one that’s not easy to quit. But I like you, Olivia. The clubhouse has been re-opened. It looks dark, but the remaining members are all there right now, trying to figure out what to do.”
“Is David with them?” Olivia asked, jumping up out of her seat.
“Don’t know if he’s there, but they know where he is.”
“Thank you, Hillary,” Olivia said, crushing the woman in a strong and fierce hug. “I won’t let you down.”
“See that you don’t,” Hillary called after Olivia, who had already run out of the door and was headed to her car.
Rick’s proposal hung in the air between the two men.
He seriously thinks that I would join him after what he’s done?
David opened his mouth to tell Rick to go fuck himself when he remembered where he was: Trapped in a basement with no way to contact anyone.
“I...I don’t know, Rick,” David said, as his mind struggled with what to do. He was never actually going to work with Rick. However, he did need to get out of this basement and find Olivia and make sure she was ok.
“Well, now,” Rick said, putting his hands behind his back and pacing slowly in front of David like some poor imitation of a college professor. “You did just try to betray me yesterday. So I would need some proof of your loyalty before you could officially join the business.”
“What proof would you need?” David asked, honestly curious what a man like Rick would expect.
“Something big, David. Something very big,” he paused ominously and stood in front of David, his face solemn and grave. “You would have to kill for me, David. And I mean that quite literally. That cop with the short hair, Waters. She insulted me, got in between a fight with me and my woman. I want her killed and her body dumped in the desert in such a way that it will never be found.”
Rick’s words were replaced with a buzzing noise, as David tried to comprehend what was just said. Rick wanted Olivia dead because she had insulted him. That was it. Not because she was a good cop or a threat, but just because she had embarrassed Rick in front of a woman.
“Sure, Rick,” David said, his voice surprisingly clear of any inflection. “I can do that for you. And in return, you’ll make me rich and keep me out of jail?”
“That is the deal,” Rick said. David looked at the man in front of him, looked him up and down. How had he never noticed how pompous Rick was? This time a month ago, David would have taken a bullet for Rick, would have gone to jail for him, and would have considered him a friend. The David of a month ago was starting to look like a real idiot.
“No problem,” David said. And all of the sudden he wanted to laugh. He wanted to laugh right in Rick’s face and then pound his face into the floor. However, he kept his cool and remained almost otherworldly calm. In a lot of ways, this was perfect. Olivia was safe, and she would continue to be safe because David would have died before he hurt her. “So what’s the business? Weed, heroin?”
“David, my boy. That’s not the half of it,” Rick said. David stared at him and thought that if Rick called him ‘my boy’ one more time in that patronizing voice, he wasn’t sure if he could contain his fists.
Just get out of the basement
, he reminded himself.
There is still the bald guy with the gun up there, and I’ll need to get past him before I can escape.
“Drugs are one end of our operation. Women and guns are the other.” Rick looked down at David with an expression that was so disgustingly proud of itself that David didn’t know what reaction he should have in response to it.
“Women?” David asked.
“Yes, pretty young things. They are so desperate to come to our great nation, and we do them the service of bringing them here, giving them a place to live, and putting them to work. They, of course, have to pay us back on our investment, but we have a good repayment plan,” Rick said with a disgusting smile on his face. “Although, David, I do have a rule that the men are not allowed to sample the merchandise for free. They can, however, have it at a reduced rate.”
David nodded numbly. He felt sick; he didn’t think he could stand to hear Rick talk about women as merchandise for another second. “Yeah, that’s all good, Rick, but I would really like to get out of this basement if you don’t mind.” His mind slipped back to that night so long ago when he had escorted Rick to the safe house, when he had thought he’d heard a woman crying. Rick had promised him there were no women in there, but he had clearly been lying. David felt like he was going to vomit when he realized that he had a hand in moving those women. If only he had gone inside and investigated. If only he had never trusted Rick.
Rick squinted at David. “Can I trust you, David? Will you swear your loyalty to me, discard the Reapers, and join me?”
“I thought you didn’t believe in loyalty oaths,” David said. “You just said that they were old-fashioned and useless.”
“But you are also rather old-fashioned—although far from useless,” Rick said. He was holding out his hand, and David didn’t hesitate. He stood up from the bed and shook the other man’s hand.
He looked Rick in the eye and then said, “I swear my loyalty to you above all others, Rick. You’re one of my oldest friends, and you’re clearly smart and have a plan. I am with you.” He didn’t blink or look away; his voice stayed even, as he lied through his teeth. He had never thought he could be the kind of man who could take an oath and then throw it away, but he had never experienced anything like this. He needed to do what was smart; he needed to get out of that basement and have Rick arrested. Then, he needed to find those women and make sure they were let go.
With Rick leading the way, the two men walked up the stairs and into a sparse and rather dirty kitchen. A window unit was pumping air into the house, but it was still warm. Bill was sitting on the table, a crossword puzzle half done in front of him.
“Bill, David is on board. Isn’t that wonderful news?”
“Sure is. We need some more hands around here,” Bill said. “The ladies come in tonight; we’ll need a place for them to go the bathroom before we separate ‘em and send them north,” Bill said absentmindedly, more focused on the crossword than the conversation.
“Well, you’ll have to handle that. David has something he has to do for me first. Don’t you, David?” Rick said, clapping David on the back.
“Yeah,” David said, his voice still sounding detached and emotionless. “Big night, loyalty points to earn.” David took a deep breath. He felt better, or maybe he was just getting used to running around half beat up all the time. However, his headache was gone, his belly was full, and he was ready to destroy Rick, to bring him down. But how?
“Where are we?” David asked, looking around the house. He wanted to get a good look at it to see if anyone else was inside. There was a very good chance he could end this whole thing right here and now. He had Rick’s trust; now all he would need to do was incapacitate Bill and take Rick to justice.
“A house a friend owns,” Rick said. “But I don’t yet trust you to give you all my secrets, David. Do what I asked you to do, and then we can talk. Your motorcycle is out back; you should go now.”
“Yes,” David agreed, but in reality he was thinking about Bill’s shotgun that was only a few paces away. He could make a break for it and try to go for the gun, but he was still outnumbered, and he would be defenseless while he lunged. It would be too easy for Rick or Bill to sucker punch him and lay him out. He could try to take the two men in a fight, but they were just plain bigger than he was, which gave them an advantage. Plus, he was still pretty battered and bruised.
So David decided to wait, to bide his time. He wasn’t leaving that house without Rick.