Authors: Susan Fanetti
Published by Susan Fanetti at Smashwords
Copyright 2015 Susan Fanetti
Knife & Flesh © 2015 Susan Fanetti
All rights reserved
Susan Fanetti has asserted her right to be identified as the author of this book under the Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988.
Cover image: Atlas. Detail of the ceiling fresco by Hugo Ballin at the
Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles, California.
© 2015 June Lockhart-Triolo
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
ALSO BY SUSAN FANETTI
The Night Horde SoCal Series:
Strength & Courage
, Book 1
Shadow & Soul
, Book 2
Today & Tomorrow
, Book 2.5
Fire & Dark
, Book 3
Dream & Dare
, Book 3.5
The Pagano Family Series:
, Book 1
, Book 2
, Book 3
, Book 4
The Signal Bend Series:
(The first Night Horde series)
Move the Sun
, Book 1
Behold the Stars
, Book 2
Into the Storm
, Book 3
Alone on Earth
, Book 4
In Dark Woods
, Book 4.5
All the Sky
, Book 5
Show the Fire
, Book 6
Leave a Trail
, Book 7
To life’s warriors.
Wishing you strength, whatever the war you fight.
At what moment does the knife wound sink so deep
that the flesh begins to weep with love?
~Anaïs Nin, from
Fire: From ‘A Journal of Love
The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin, 1934-1937
Lakota, the club Secretary and Treasurer, went around the table, handing out thick envelopes to each of the men around it. Trick didn’t turn around for his; he simply lifted his hand when Lakota held out the envelope over his shoulder and pulled it down to the table.
Some of his brothers opened their envelopes and thumbed through the bills. Trick didn’t. He knew it wouldn’t be light, and he knew what his cut should be, so he knew how much was in it.
At his side, Ronin, too, simply pushed the sealed envelope forward on the table, out of his way. Near the head of the table, Connor, Trick’s best friend and the club’s SAA, set his envelope aside and sent Trick a quiet smirk. They’d talked about this, what it meant to count your cut at the table. Trick thought it was bad form—at best, he thought it meant you were in it for the money; at worst, it meant that you didn’t trust your leadership. But Connor was the only one he’d ever said such a thing aloud to.
Money was coming in at a regular clip and in substantial quantity, so nobody paid dues out of pocket anymore. Lakota simply took dues out of everybody’s cut. Trick suspected that some of his brothers—some that liked to thumb through their envelopes—had stopped keeping track of how much money was actually going into the pot or moving around the club. The numbers were big. Bigger than ever before in Trick’s experience.
Of course, he hadn’t been wearing a patch during the heyday that most of his brothers remembered. He’d been a Prospect during the demise of the club that most of the Night Horde SoCal had started in.
Trick paid attention to the money. Not because he was greedy, but because it made him nervous, and he’d learned during his military service that things that made him nervous deserved extra attention.
When Lakota sat back down, Hoosier, their President, leaned in and said. “That’s it for…old business. Jesse…you got…something new?”
Hoosier was recently back at the head of the table after months away. He’d been badly hurt in a fire the previous autumn, suffering burns, internal injuries, and head trauma. They’d almost lost him. He was riding a trike now and taking occasional hits off an oxygen tank he dragged around with him, and his speech and memory were still recovering. But he was back, and all the Horde had felt a new ease come over them when he’d returned.
Bart, their VP, had led well in Hoosier’s absence, but he had not wanted the role permanently—not yet, at least. Bart had kept his VP’s seat during meetings, so there had been a literal gap at the table where Hoosier belonged—a gap they had all felt, whether they were at the table or not.
Responding to Hoosier’s question, Jesse leaned forward. “Yeah. Titus is looking to prospect.”
“Which one is Titus?” Demon asked.
Connor answered with an uninterested drawl, “Long hair. Got that shitty mermaid on his arm that looks like a drunk baboon got hold of a Bic pen. Can’t say much more about him made an impression. Not with me, anyhow.”
“We’ve been rolling with one Prospect now for about a year,” Jesse answered. “At the same time, we’ve been expanding our runs and doing more business outside the shop. It’s been a squeeze. And Jerry’s coming up on his year. If he gets his rocker, we’ll be out of Prospects. We need new blood.”
“Do we?” J.R. asked. “You think Jerry’s gonna pass a vote first time? I don’t. The kid’s a moron. And every new body at this table eats into our cut.” J.R. was one who counted his envelope.
Trick didn’t like to start shit at the table—or at all, really, unless it was absolutely necessary—but he was irritated. He’d been getting irritated a lot more often lately. In the past year or so. “You got your hand on about twenty-five K there, brother. And that’s just the first cut this month. How much bank do you need?”
“Don’t give me your commie shit, T. I stand in fire for this cut. I earn it all.”
“We all do, J.R.” Muse’s voice was quiet but sharp. “More men means less risk.”
risk,” Trick countered. Despite arguing with J.R., he wasn’t keen on adding to the table, either—but not because of the money. “We have more secrets now. More secrets means more vulnerability. We bring new people in, we need to know they’re solid. If we’re asking ‘who’s Titus,’ then how do we know he’s solid?”
Jesse was shaking his leg so hard that the table rocked—a sure sign he was pissed. “I know him. I’m saying he’s solid.” He turned to Hoosier. “Hooj, I’ve been sitting at a table with you for fifteen years. I’m in charge of keeping up our rep”—Jesse was the Public Relations Officer—“Doesn’t my say count for anything?”
Hoosier pulled on his beard, sitting quietly for a few moments. Trick had noticed that after he took these pauses, his speech was more fluid. “It counts, Jess. But this is a democracy. You make your case, and then we vote. You got more to say about…about…”
When that pause lasted, Connor supplied, “Titus.”
Though his hand clenched, that was the only sign of Hoosier’s frustration with himself. He nodded at his son and went on. “Titus. There more we should…know?”
Sherlock, the club Intelligence Officer, said, “I ran him. Got a long juvie record—mostly kid shit, but he did two years at Los Pinos for armed robbery. Aged out there.” Trick shifted his attention to Demon, who also had aged out in juvie. But Demon was staring at the table, listening but not reacting. He tended to be quiet in the Keep.
“His adult record is spotty,” Sherlock continued. “Did a couple of years at Lompoc, armed robbery again. The rest of it is petty jail time. No affiliations. Seems like he’s a loner.”
“What’s he do for work?” Muse asked. “Can he work the shop?” The Horde liked to employ all of their men in straight work—if not in the shop, then through their entertainment support business, which provided bikes, technical advisors, and stunt riders for television, film, and commercials.
“He works the warehouse of that plastics factory in Rialto. I don’t know if he’s got any skill with a wrench.”
“Does he even ride?” J.R. sneered.
Jesse nodded and then sighed. “He rides a Ninja.”
The table erupted in laughter. “Jess,” Connor chuckled. “Dude. Then no, he doesn’t ride.”
Jesse sat up straight, as if he were presenting formal evidence. “He can buy a real bike. He’s a solid guy. Steady. He won’t blink at the shit we’ve got to do. I’ve known him a while, since he started hanging around. And I say we need the help. I’ll sponsor him.”
“Thirty-three is old to prospect, isn’t it?” Fargo, one of the newer, younger patches, threw in. Though he was still wet behind the ears, he’d never been reluctant to get involved in Keep discussions. Keanu, the newest, youngest patch, still had the stink of intimidation on him, and he kept quiet, except to vote.
“Nah,” Hoosier answered, shaking his head. “We been…recruiting young…a long time. But there’s something…to be said for…a man with his head on…straight. Been around the…block.”
Bart nodded. “What we do, it’s not boys’ work.”
Trick met Bart’s eyes and held. “I was blowing Taliban heads off before I was twenty years old.”
Bart didn’t blink. “You saying that was boys’ work?”
“I’m saying you don’t start that shit when you’re looking for a second career. You do it young, when you don’t know anything else. Knocking over gas stations for fix money is nothing like what we do. If Titus aged out in Los Pinos and did a couple in Lompoc, what’s he been doing the rest of the years he’s been outside? Why’s a petty crook loner want this life now?”
Bart turned to Sherlock, who looked at Jesse. Jesse sat without answering, giving off a vibe that was defensive and hostile.
“I don’t think we’re ready to put leather on this guy’s back, Jess,” Connor said.
“No,” Hoosier agreed. “We’re not. But let’s…take some time. Get his measure. We’ll…bring him up again. Okay…Jesse?”
Jesse sat abruptly back in his seat. He looked angry—angrier than Trick thought was warranted. “Yeah. Doesn’t matter what I think, anyway.”
Trick was in a mood after that meeting, and Connor’s old lady was off work tonight, so his friend wasn’t sticking around for the party. They were getting married in a few weeks, and Trick had an image of them spending the night filling out place cards or something otherwise ridiculous. J.R. and Jesse were both vibing, and Demon and Muse had their old ladies with them. Hoosier always cashed in early now. It was a shit night, party-wise. The rest of the Horde were in their usual form, but, between the men who had old ladies and Ronin, who’d always left early, parties in general had gotten downright subdued lately.