Authors: Kathryn Thomas
She softened slightly toward her brother. “He has given so much, Will. He... had a tough tour in Iraq, and then to lose his two best friends like this.”
“Tough tour, how?”
“Not my story to tell. But he is still suffering for it... and yet he still gives everything he has to the club, and by extension, Vallecito.”
“Do you love him?”
Jamie thought over the question. A question she has asked herself more than once over the last couple of weeks. “I don’t know. Maybe. But I do care deeply for him.”
“Does he love you?”
“You would have to ask him.”
He released her hand. “Okay. The fact that you leapt so passionately to his defense, to the whole clubs defense, tells me a lot. I’m sorry for what I said. I should know better but—”
“You always did have a thick head,” Jamie interjected.
“—I always did have a thick head,” Will finished as if that was what he was going to say all along.
“Just give them a chance, Will. That’s all I ask. If you don’t like them after that, then that is your business.”
“Jamie tells me you were EOD,” Leo said as he and Jamie escorted Will through the room at the community center. The party was a low key affair, hosted by Lima 6 but open to the public to welcome home one of Vallecito’s favorite sons. Lima 6, at Leo’s request, was on their best behavior… only members and their old ladies... and only socially acceptable amounts of alcohol consumption.
“Could you tell?” Will asked as he held up both hands with a couple of fingers folded down.
Leo chuckled. “It wasn’t the fingers… it was the sag in your trousers.” Will looked at him curiously. “Big brass ones,” Leo added and then grinned when Will broke into a smile.
“It’s not as dangerous as you think,” Will said, but then leaned in conspiratorially. “But don’t tell the women that,” he said in a stage whisper.
Jamie smiled. Despite Will’s attitude on the drive home this afternoon, he had been nothing but charming with his hosts all evening. Because she wouldn’t leave his side, and Leo was rarely gone from hers, Leo had taken it upon himself to introduce him around and do everything he could to make him feel comfortable with the members of the club. Much to her relief, Will was either an Oscar caliber actor or he and Leo were hitting it off. Having the two men most important in her life getting along would make everything
“Had any luck finding anything?”
“Not yet. I’ve got feelers out. Dallas PD has expressed some interest, but no interview yet. The FBI is nothing but a deep black hole. Your resume goes in and is never seen or heard from again. I have applications in at a few other places, but there isn’t a lot of call for my expertise.”
Leo shrugged. “No… probably not. But when you need someone with your skills, you need them
Do you have your FEL?”
“FEL?” Jamie asked.
“Federal Explosives License,” Will explained. “Yes. I got all that sorted before I got out. Why?”
“If you’re interested, I might have a little work for you. I won a contract for landscaping in a new high end development that is going up out near the park. Part of what I am doing is building a series of walking trails. I may have to do some light blasting to make the paths wheelchair accessible. I am not licensed, not to mention that I don’t know what I’m doing, but if you are interested…”
Will smiled. “Thanks Leo. Let me know when you are ready.”
“I’m several months out on starting the nature trail. I have a few houses to do first, plus the entrances, rec facilities and the golf clubhouse. But I can show you what I need pretty much any time. Give you a little walking around money at least. Of course, if you don’t mind throwing shrubs around, I could always use another hand. This job is stretching me pretty thin.”
Will grinned. “Thanks, Leo. I may take you up on your offer. Listen, can I ask you something?”
“Jamie was telling me a little bit about what else you guys do. How you helped Vallecito with its drug problem. Is that on the up and up?”
Leo looked at Jamie, who smiled in return and give him a slight nod. “I don’t know what she told you, but we’re just concerned citizens trying to help where we can. Why?” he asked, guarding his words carefully.
“Just wondering. I well remember how it was. There were places in town you just didn’t go after dark.”
“I have been told Vallecito was a pretty rough place, but by the time I joined, the town was pretty much as you see it now. Like I said, we’re just trying to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.”
“I also understand that I owe you a special debt of gratitude for saving Jamie’s life.”
“I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.”
Will smiled at Jamie. “Modest too,” he said with nod at Leo. He held out his hand. “Thank you. Thank you for everything that you and Lima 6 have done for Vallecito, and a special thank you for being in the right place at the right time. If there is anything I can ever do for you, you just ask, okay?”
Leo took the man’s hand and shook it firmly. Before he could respond, the clear ringing of a bell, the sound coming from Ron as he tapped the side of his glass with a knife, called their attention.
“To William Clancy Boyles… The United States Marine Corp’s loss is Vallecito de Grande’s gain,” he said loudly as he hefted his glass in salute.
A rumble of “
passed through the crowd as Leo and Jamie touched their glasses to Will’s. “Welcome home, Will,” Leo said softly.
“Thank you everyone,” Will answered just as loudly, then hefted his glass toward Ron. “And a special thank you to the Lima 6 Motorcycle Club… for making me feel welcome… and all they have done for Vallecito de Grande to make this homecoming special.”
Another rumble of appreciation passed through the crowd… and Jamie thought her face would break from her smile.
“Are you going to be okay tonight?” Jamie asked Leo as she and Will prepared to leave. “You don’t have to stay away just because Will is home.”
“I know. And I’m not. Well, not really. I just don’t want to make it awkward for you or be in the way. But yes, I will be fine tonight. Go home and catch up with your brother. I’ll pop into HNH tomorrow, okay?” He was going to miss her, but his voices have been subdued of late.
“Okay, if you’re sure. But we’re not going to make a habit of this, understand?”
“No. I wouldn’t like that either.”
“Okay then… so long as we’re clear. He’s my brother, not my father. Actually, it wouldn’t matter if it were my father, either.” She reached up and touched his face softly, her heartwarming as his face relaxed at her touch. As she pulled her hand away she raised up onto her toes, offering her lips.
“Will’s watching,” he teased as he lowered his lips to hers.
“Let him watch,” she whispered as their lips met.
“So… what do you think?” Jamie asked proudly as she flipped on the lights in
He’s Not Here
the next afternoon
“Holy moly! Would you look at this place?” Will gushed as he took in the bar. “Jamie… this place looks fantastic. Has dad seen it?”
“Yes,” she said sadly. “But it was one of his bad days and I don’t think he knew where he was.”
“You need to bring him back on one of his good days then. I can’t get over how different the place looks. Just look at his wood!”
Not long after Will had left after his last visit, she had closed the bar for a week and had all the wood redone, removing decades of age and damage. Now the bar was a temple to oak, glass and light. She had to dip deep into her rainy day fund, but the investment had paid off in spades, and within weeks of reopening, her traffic had started to rise… and it hadn’t stopped yet.
He’s Not Here
place in Vallecito to come for a good time.
Will stepped around behind the bar. “I have to try it. Where are the mugs?” he asked as he looked around.
“Between the taps, in the freezer.”
“Frosted mugs? That’s just awesome! Get ready to catch it just in case,” he said as he sat a mug on the bar, slid it back and forth to get a feel for the bar, and gave it a push. Jamie caught it as it sailed by before it could go off the end of the bar.
“Shit! The mugs slide
“Amateur,” Jamie said with a grin as she stepped behind the bar and filled the mug. “Last stool,” she said as she let the mug go. It glided to a stop almost dead center of the last stool, without a drop being spilled.
“Obviously, I need more practice,” Will chortled before he stepped to the end of the bar and picked up the beer. “Damn, that’s good. What is it?” he asked as he pulled it from his lips.
… a microbrew out of San Antonio. That’s something else I’ve changed. I’ve got four different microbrews on tap that I change out throughout the year. I’ve got four more that are on tap year round, but if you want a
you have to get it in a bottle.”
Will took another pull of beer and savored the rich and complex flavors. “Good. I’m glad you made the change… but it must have come as quite a shock to all the discerning palates around here.”
Jamie snickered. “I eased it in over time. But now, it’s part of my draw. If you want
on tap, go to
You want a
beer, you come here.”
Will sat the mug down with a grin. “What else you got back there? I might have to try them all.”
She started to answer, but then changed the subject. “Want to work tonight?”
“I don’t think you need my help.”
“No… but I thought you might enjoy it. Remember helping dad?”
“Yeah, I do. He always thought I would take over the place.”
“Yeah, I know. But he got over it.”
“Did he? He never really said. I know I really hurt his feelings when I told him I didn’t want to stay and work the bar -- that I wanted to join the Marines. I think he thought it was a slap at his job.”
“He’s very proud of you, Will. He always asks about you.”
“Almost always. Sometimes he’s a little confused, but he’s still proud of what you have done with your life. When he’s having a good day he wants to know when you are coming home, so he knows what you are doing. Well, what you did.”
“You wouldn’t mind if I helped behind the bar tonight?” he asked, his eyes bright with unshed tears. “I would like to do it for dad.”
Jamie struggled not to tear up. “I would like that. I’ll get some pictures for dad. Tonight would be a good night too. Thursdays aren’t normally that busy, so you can get back in the groove.”
“It’s been a long time. I’m going to need some help.”
“I’ll be right here.” She paused and then grinned. “But if you break all my mugs, I’m taking it out of your pay.”
He slid the half empty mug back toward Jamie… the mug stopping six feet short. “Maybe I will just hand them their beers.”
“That might be best,” she snickered.
“You ready?” Jamie asked as she turned on the open sign and unlocked the doors.
“No,” Will said. They had gone shopping and he was dressed in black pants and a crisp white shirt to match the rest of the staff.
“You’ll be fine. I’ll hang out here until you get going, okay? Bobi will be here in an hour to help you out.”
“What’s the cook’s name, again?”
“Tim. You don’t have to worry about him. Bobi, and Rachel if she were here tonight, take the food orders directly to him. You just have to worry about the drink orders.”
“Got it. Sounds like you have the place running like a well-oiled machine.”
“Thanks for loaning me the truck today. I had a hoot driving it around town. It was like old times. I learned to drive on that thing. Remember?”
“Yeah, I remember. So did the guy that had to rebuild the transmission,” she deadpanned before grinning.
Will chuckled. “I don’t remember it driving as well then as it did today. That thing is just amazing! I swear to god, could go swimming in that paint it is so deep.”
“Yeah… I like it too. I do most of my running around town in it. Everyone recognizes it. I don’t know if what I spent on it will ever get paid back, but it was worth it.”
“Should I even ask?”
“Almost fifty K,” she said, grinning at the shocked look on his face.
“Holy shit! I would have never guessed! You must be doing okay.”
“Not bad,” she admitted.
“I drove out and saw the new development going in. That is going to be a damn big place. How many houses?”
“Over a hundred, each set on an acre or thereabout. Leo will be landscaping the entire subdivision with the exception of the golf course.”
“A golf course in Vallecito… I wouldn’t have believed it. The dozen or so houses I saw going up are pretty big places.”
“Yeah. They start at a half-million, and go up from there. It is going to bring some serious money into Vallecito.”
“Shit… What did mom and dad pay for their house? Can you remember?”
“No… but it was like eighteen thousand, or something like that.”
Will shook his head. “Wow… times have changed. You still own their house?”
“Yeah. It’s a rental for me. Why?”
“Just wondering. Ever thought of selling it?”
“No. Not really. Why? You want to buy it?” she teased.
“Are you serious?”
“Maybe. Depends on what happens. But at least ask me first before you sell it to anyone else, okay?”
“Okay. But not much call for a bomb disposal expert in Vallecito.”
“No… but I hear there is going to be a new restaurant opening in town soon. Maybe the owner would like a partner. Or maybe just a manager.”
Jamie stared at Will. “Are you serious? Don’t tease, okay?”
“Maybe. It all depends. If I don’t get some offers… then yeah, maybe. I’ve been away enough. I don’t want to live in New York or Los Angeles, or someplace like that. I want to be close to home… and family.”
Jamie could feel her lower lip tremble as she pulled her brother into a hug. “The owner would love to have a partner, if it comes to that.”
“Okay,” he said as he pulled back. “I’ll let Leo know you are looking,” he said with a grin. “I saw him out at the job site today. He looks like he has a pretty big operation.”
“For around here, he does. Four full crews. He has the contracts for just about all the commercial property in town.”
“I talked with him a while. I like him. He isn’t at all like I expected. Last night I thought everyone was just on their best behavior, but Leo seems like a nice, normal, hardworking guy.”
“I told you! I think the Lima 6 thing is almost like a support group for ex-military. They have members come and go all the time. They join, hang around for a couple of years, and then move on. They have really been good for the town.
is the result of what they have done. There is no way something like that would have come into Vallecito before.”
“So how does this whole drug thing work?”
“I don’t know all the ins and outs. Like I told you, I’m not a member of the club. But I gather they have someone on the inside of the cartel that feeds them information. They catch the mules, destroy the drugs, and the cars are either dismantled for parts, or given to one of the ranchers that supports them for use on the ranch.”
“The ranchers support them?”
“Oh yeah! The mules were killing cattle and tearing up their graze. When Lima 6 started having success in town, Charles Vanderford got the rest of the ranchers together and they started…
with money and vehicles. Now Lima 6 has created a bubble around Vallecito, and most of the surrounding ranch land, and the mules know to avoid it. I think doing otherwise is dangerous to their health.”
“And you’re okay with this? Allowing them to police the town?”
“Well, first off, they don’t ‘police’ the town. They aren’t the law, and they don’t try to be. If you have a burglary, or domestic dispute, or even a small time drug deal, Lima 6 doesn’t get involved. They have made that very clear. Not long after they started pushing the drug traffic out of town, people started calling them on some of those kind of things, and their answer was always the same. ‘Call the police.’ They only worry about the drug traffic coming up from Mexico—and to some extent, illegals—because they sometimes get caught in the net.”
“What happens to them… the illegals?”
“The illegals get tossed back across the border. The Coyotes… I don’t think they get that option.”
“For someone not involved in the club, you seem to know an awful lot about what goes on. Is that because of Leo?”
“No. That is because they hang out here sometimes. Before Leo arrived, people used to tell me things they wanted Lima 6 to know, and I would pass it along. Then Lima 6 would tell me things they needed the town to know, and I would pass that along. It worked.”
“And since Leo?”
“Leo… he’s really changed their image. People aren’t so afraid of Lima 6 now. If they want Lima 6 to know something, they just call Leo directly.”
Will scratched at the side of his nose. “Why is it they come across as totally the good guys?”
the good guys. You remember how it was. The police couldn’t stop the trafficking and the town was dying. Now look at the place. We’re like Mayberry now. Instead of people moving out, people are moving
What they did, do, isn’t pretty, but it worked… and it
to be done.
“The killing of the mules and Coyotes… that still bothers me.”