We had almost made it to town when I saw the ambulance coming our way. Locking up the brakes, swerving a little as we slowed, I saw Meghan’s face as she recognized us. By the time we had all turned around, she had pulled over at the side of the road. As soon as I stopped behind her, she was jumping down from the cab and running towards me. “Viper!” she cried as she jumped into my arms, tears rolling down her face.
“Oh Meghan,” I said as I held her tight. “The guys?”
“At the hospital,” she told me as she moved her head from my chest. “They took them out of the ambulance, you said not to say anything, so I just drove out of there before they could ask any questions.”
I kissed her head, she had done well and I told her that. “I’m sending you home, kid.”
She looked horrified. “NO, Daddy needs me, he’s hurt!”
I hugged her again as I motioned for Shakes and Tiny to go to the ambulance. “I know, but you were seen bringing them in. It’s too much of a risk to have you visit them. Our story is paper thin, your dad is safest with you back home.”
She looked at me, but she could see in my eyes I wasn’t going to change my mind. She’d grown up in the club, she knew how things worked, how sometimes you just couldn’t risk the others. “Fine,” she said as she looked over to Crash.
“Crash will take you in the car, I’ll stay here for the guys and make sure they are taken care of,” I promised her. “Crash, you guys put some distance from here before you stop. Swap drivers when you can, it’s best if you don’t get a hotel. If you have to stop and rest, choose wisely,” I ordered.
“We will.” He gave Meghan a hug and led her to the car. “I’m the lucky one, I get to drive the hero home!”
She bumped hips with him. “Can I drive?”
“Oh, come on, it can’t be harder than driving the ambulance!” I just laughed a little to myself as they got in the car, still bickering. She was a great kid, but Hammer and Teri’s worries were just starting. They were going to have their hands full as she got older. I thanked God she wasn’t into boys… yet.
I woke up as I was being rolled down the hallway. My head felt like there was an iron spike through my eyes, and when I opened them the light was blinding. I moaned in pain as I moved my head to see where I was. “Sir, you’ve been in an accident, you’re at Sheridan Hospital,” a female voice said. “I need you to relax, we’re taking you to get a scan of your head.”
“Viv?” I could barely say her name. “Vivian?”
“I don’t know who that is, sir. Just relax, we’ll take good care of you.” I closed my eyes and drifted back to blackness.
Ten minutes later I had parked at the hospital and ran into the emergency room. I rushed to the desk, an older lady was there. “Hi, I’m looking for my friends, I think they were brought here? Henry Jenkins, William Hardigan and Dan Worley?”
“We had three people brought here a few minutes ago, but I haven’t got their information yet.”
“Can I see them?”
“You’ll have to wait, sir, they are all being examined right now. Are you next of kin?”
“To William Hardigan, he’s my son-in-law,” I said. She tapped on the keyboard. “OK, none of them are in the system yet. Take a seat, you’ll have to wait.”
“I need to speak to the police as well,” I said. She didn’t even look up, she just dialed 911 and handed me the phone.
“911 dispatch, what is your emergency?”
“I need Sheriff and ambulance, my friends were attacked and killed by a bear,” I said.
“A bear? Where are you, sir?”
“I’m at the Sheridan Hospital emergency room, three were brought here. Three of my friends were killed, though. They are at the old Smith Auto Repair lot on County 74,” I said.
“Deputies are responding now, sir, please remain at the hospital and one will be by to take your statement,” she said before I hung up.
I went back outside, not wanting anyone to overhear the conversations I was about to have. My first call was to Kelly. “Hello?” She sounded dead tired.
“Kelly, it’s me.”
“It’s four in the morning, Viper.”
“I know, baby. Sit down…”
“Oh God…. No…”
“The attack didn’t go as planned,” I said. “While we were at the Pack, some of their warriors circled behind. They found Vivian and the others.”
“Viking, Scrape and Stain are dead, as well as Uriel and Maalik. Vivian was taken by the Sheridan Pack, I’m waiting to hear back from Gabriel.” I heard the phone drop, it hung up. I frantically called her back, she picked up after a few rings. “Baby?”
She was barely understandable through the crying. “The… Snake? Meghan?”
“Snake, Hammer and Dagger were all hurt badly, Meghan is all right. I sent her home with Tiny and Crash, I’m here at the hospital now. I know Meghan got them here alive, but I don’t know anything more yet.”
“I’m going over to Teri’s now. We’ll be there as soon as we can be, baby.”
“Do you want me to call Teri now?”
“There’s nothing she can do, I’ll be there in twenty minutes. Call me if you hear anything more.”
“Baby?” I waited to make sure she was still there. “Don’t let Teri take off. Meghan is going to be home by tonight, and she’ll need her Mom there.”
“All right. Call me back, I’m not going back to sleep. And Viper?”
“Find out about Vivian.”
“I will. I love you, Kelly.” I hung up, seeing the Sheriff’s car pulling into the parking lot, lights on. The Deputy got out of his cruiser and walked toward me. “Deputy,” I said quietly.
“Did you call in the attack, sir?”
“I did.” We spent the next twenty minutes giving my statement, which basically said I didn’t know anything. I told them we were meeting up in that lot to go hiking in the morning, and when I arrived, I found the three dead men. “I figured the rest might be here, and here I am,” I said.
“Go inside, sir, I’ll be with you shortly.” I left him out there as he was talking over the radio to Dispatch; they had found the three dead men in the lot, and the report was it looked like an animal attack.
Hopefully the other guys would be smart enough not to say anything until we had our stories straight.
The flames were burning down when one of the Elders came to see me. “Alpha, there is a matter requiring your attention,” he said. “We got a call from the county coroner; he’s human, but he has helped us in the past. He said he picked up three bodies from a deserted parking lot, wanted to know what to do with them.”
“What to do?”
“Yes, he’s been on our payroll for years. This isn’t the first time someone showed up with their throat torn out. We can’t have our men autopsied, but we do need birth and death certificates, he’s how we take care of that human paperwork.”
“Lead me back there.” On the way back to their Pack House, I called Viper. He picked up after a few rings. “Viper, it’s Gabriel, can you talk?”
“Not long, the Deputy Sheriff is right outside.”
“We got a report on three bodies out at the lot. What do you want the death certificates to say?”
“Bear attack, it was tragic,” Viper said.
“I’ll make it animal attack. Viper… I’m sorry. Vivian is dead.” I could hear his reaction, it was like he had been gut punched. “She managed to kill Alpha Stanton after she was brought to him, but his widow, Lisandra, she stabbed her.”
“I’m so sorry, Viper. She was a good woman.” I waited, he didn’t say anything for a long time. “You know the bodies are burned, we burned her with the others. I’ll add her to the list of death certificates we need the Coroner to sign,” I said. “How is Snake?”
“I don’t know, I haven’t gotten updates on any of them.”
“I’m taking my men back to St. Paul,” he said. “With the Blessed One gone, we have to focus all our efforts on keeping Eve safe.”
“I’ll see you there,” he said. “I have to get my guys out of here first.”
“I’m so sorry for your loss, Viper. Her last words were to make sure we protect her baby.”
“Thank you.” He hung up, and I walked into the house to the Alpha’s office. I didn’t know how much they were paying this crooked coroner, but I thanked Luna he was helping us take care of this mess.
Five Days Later
Kelly came into my room where I was looking out the window, holding the urn with Vivian’s ashes in it to my chest. “It’s time,” she said. I wiped the tear away and she helped me to my feet. I slowly moved over to the wheelchair, sitting down slowly as she helped. “How are the headaches?”
“Not as bad today,” I said. I had spent three days in the hospital in Sheridan, I had suffered a nasty head injury and had post-concussion syndrome. It left me with headaches that could be incapacitating at times, dizzy spells, and balance problems. I had been brought back on a bed in the back of the SUV, and spent most of my time in our bedroom, resting or sitting with the lights off.
My Vivian was gone.
Three of my brothers were gone.
Today we were having the funerals, and I didn’t know if I’d be able to cope.
She wheeled me out into the hallway to the freight elevator, down to the ground level by the loading dock. She pushed me out to the SUV that was waiting, Viper was there making sure Vivian’s motorcycle was secure on the trailer behind us. Her picture was secured between the handlebars, and floral arrangements were on each side. Viper had asked me what I wanted to do with her Harley, and I told her it was Eve’s now, for when she was old enough to ride herself.
I got in the back seat, next to the car seats that held Eve and Andrew. Looking back, the tears were flowing. The bodies of Viking, Stain and Scrape were all going to be buried at Fort Snelling National Cemetery, as they were all former Army. We had arranged a joint service at the Fort Snelling Cathedral for the three of them and Vivian.
With Viper driving, Tiny took the lead motorcycle position with Gabriel at his side. We were next, behind us another SUV driven by Teri, her family in the car. Hammer’s injuries had been repaired in surgery, they were hopeful for a full recovery of his arm and shoulder function, but it would be spring before he could ride again. Dagger was in the car behind them, along with some friends and family members who weren’t riding. As we pulled away from the clubhouse, I could see all the members of the Northwoods Riders and Knights of the Moon falling in to the procession.
All of them except Zephaniel, the man Vivian and Meghan had saved from the gunshot wound. When we got home, we found out that Zephaniel had called his little sister to warn her we were coming, and that they would bring her home. She immediately told her mate that we were coming, as well as how Vivian was going to be bringing an ambulance to the area to care for any wounded. The ambush of our men was no accident, and Gabriel had kicked him out of his Pack then killed him.
The parking lots at Fort Snelling were already full, but a large area up front had been reserved for us. Viper pulled us through a spot, and we waited until all the procession was here. At Tiny’s signal, all the engines were cut at once. I opened the door as Viper went around to get my wheelchair, Kelly already coming to pick up Andrew. “Hi Meghan,” I said as she appeared at my door.
“Snake, can I take Eve in?”
“Of course, Meghan.” I popped the latch on the baby seat and handed a sleeping Eve to her in her carrier. Viper got the wheelchair ready for me, and we led the large group into the crowded church. It was packed, I could see cuts and familiar faces from a dozen or so Metro area clubs. The outpouring of love and support was amazing; these four had affected many people in their lives. I saw some active duty soldiers standing near the front, all had served with the men. I shook many hands and received many condolences as I was wheeled to the front row, where I placed her ashes on a stand underneath a large picture of her. It was one of my favorites, taken when we were in Florida. Her black hair moving in the wind, eyes sparkling, she was so alive in this photo taken as we stopped for dinner following a long ride.
The church went quiet as the doors opened and the pallbearers, a mix of Club members and uniformed military, brought Viking, Stain and Scrape to the front. Viking’s mother was loudly sobbing, her husband holding her, while Stain’s girlfriend just looked lost. Their caskets were covered with American flags.
The tears kept falling during the service, a combined effort of the Base Chaplain and Crash. I expected to hear some smartass comment from him, but this was a somber occasion he wasn’t going to ruin. All too soon the service was over, and the pallbearers were taking the three back out for their final ride. Viper wheeled me forward, I took Vivian’s ashes in my hands and we followed them out.
The caskets were loaded, then we went to the cars. We had a police escort for the short drive to the National Cemetery, and the line was almost a half-mile long with everyone that had joined us at the church. We wound through the rows of headstones to where an honor guard was standing by three empty holes in the ground. We stopped, and all of the bikes behind us were routed so we surrounded the big block completely. Tiny led the Last Rev; every bike was revved at full speed for a few seconds, then when his arm dropped every engine was cut at the same time. It was a way to let God know that a Biker was on his way home.
I sat by the graves during the burial service, Vivian’s ashes on my lap. When they were all ready, I stood for the Honor Guard firing their 21-gun salute, followed by the bugler playing Taps. The flags were carefully folded and presented to the families present, and then they were lowered into place.
My friends were at rest.
We weren’t done yet, though. I had given a lot of thought to what to do with the ashes Gabriel had brought back. They weren’t guaranteed to be hers, after all there were a few dozen bodies in that pyre, but he had scooped the ash the next morning from the area she was placed. The rest had been scattered into the Wyoming wind. I thought back to her family, and there was only one place her ashes belonged.
We went back to our vehicles and the procession headed back onto the freeway, joining Highway 52 South to Zumbrota. Her old Pack land had been sold, and was now being developed into single-family housing, but the trail along the river remained open to us. We parked by the side of the road, and did one Last Rev for her. Viper pushed me down the trail, everyone else walking behind us, until we reached the rocky point over the river. I got up, and Viper helped me get up the trail to the top. I waited until everyone was up top. “Dr. Vivian Hardigan was the love of my life, and on this place where she scattered the ashes of her family, she joins them today.” I was led to the edge, the wind at my back, I opened the urn and the plastic bag inside. Holding it up to the breeze, the white and gray ash was carried over the river until it was all gone. I dropped to my knees as Viper pulled me to him as I broke down.
If it wasn’t for Eve, I would have found a way to go with her.