I woke up at 5:30, my old habits were hard to break. I stretched as I got out of the bed in the guest room at the clubhouse, thankful to have a nice place like this to crash in. I dressed in running shorts and a Marines T-shirt, putting on socks and lacing up my runners. Running and riding were my escapes, my thinking times, and there was nothing like running before everyone else was up and moving to get to know an area.
I went downstairs, the place was still empty. Last night I learned that breakfast started at 6:30 and went to 8:30, long enough for people to drop off their kids at the Club daycare and get to work. I pushed out the doors, stopping by the entrance to do some stretching for a few minutes. The air was cooler, less humid than I was used to, still in the 40’s at night. Perfect running weather.
I started out at a comfortable pace, watching the places come to life around me. I had searched the Internet the night before, so I found the route I wanted to take. Running north from the industrial area the Club was in, I picked up the trail on the south side of White Bear Lake. The circuit of the whole lake would be a fifteen-mile run for me, something to work up to. Instead, I was going to take a trail northwest through Lakeside Park, cutting between White Bear and Goose Lakes, then roughly paralleling Highway 61 to another park on the northwest shore before turning back the way I came. Before the chemo, I would have done the fifteen, but I was still building up my strength and endurance. The doctors told me to be patient, that it would come, but I was always pushing myself.
The trails were busy with early risers, and the babe index was high. I was shocked by the number of hot blondes I passed on the trail, everything from high school students through MILF’s to a few pushing fifty. Minnesota had a lot of Scandinavian and German heritage, and it showed. I shook my head as I found myself admiring a woman, then shaking her off because she couldn’t hold a candle to Eve. That girl… still in high school, Dad in the Club, the President looking at me like he’d kill me if I touched her, every logical thought told me to stay away.
But, those weren’t my only thoughts. I had stroked myself off in the shower last night to the image of her bounding down the stairs, and my obsession with her was only growing.
I tried to focus on my running, picking up the pace a little to punish myself for my mind straying. I was breathing hard by the time I hit the loop and headed back towards the clubhouse. I started to think more about where to live and what to do next as I started to push through the wall, my legs starting to burn with the effort.
I was feeling better as I left the trail to head back to the clubhouse. I was about two blocks away when I heard the Harleys coming; they passed me quickly, two in front, a big SUV, then three more behind. They were all Knights, except the woman in her forties on a yellow Sportster. The car doors were just opening as I sprinted through the gate, they were running this like a protective detail and I wanted to see just who was being protected. Snake jumped out of the driver’s seat, a Rider I didn’t know, big guy, got out the other side. Everyone was gathered around the backseat doors, and I saw them lifting a body on a blanket, the blood stains showing as it was lifted out. “Shit, who’s hurt?”
One of the Knights stopped me from getting any closer. “Stay back, buddy, I don’t know you.”
“I’m a friend of Donuts, I’m staying here for a bit,” I said. “What are… fuck, that’s Eve!” I moved past him, pulling away from his hand as it went to grab me, trailing the group of people carrying her in. She was lying on her stomach, her shoulder was in bad shape, her hip as well. “Wait, she needs a hospital, why are you bringing her here?”
The guy I moved past was now joined by three others who blocked me from moving forward. The leader looked me up and down; I gave off a vibe that I was not to be messed with, but he sniffed me and walked away. “You need to mind your own business, buddy. Go get a shower and come down for breakfast.”
The men had disappeared up the stairs with her, so I followed behind. They were standing outside a room at the end of the hall as I ducked into my room. I did my post-run stretching, then took a hot shower and changed into jeans, a T-shirt, and motorcycle boots before going back downstairs.
The place was still full, but it wasn’t the fantastic breakfast they were used to. I could see the kids, they were looking at cereal and oatmeal like it was nothing. “What’s going on,” I asked the prospect who was serving tables.
“Snake’s busy this morning so no hot food,” he said. “It sucks. Hey, I’m Tony.”
“Mitch.” I shook his hand. “You have a problem if I jump back into the kitchen? I can whip up some pancakes, eggs, you know, as long as I can find the stuff.”
“You can cook?”
“Hell yes, I was a cook at Perkin’s in high school before I went into the Marines.”
“Go for it, man. We usually get about forty through here in the morning, but we’re halfway through. I’ll let people know hot food is coming.” I went back into the kitchen, it was small but well-equipped. Going to the refrigerator, I pulled out eggs, cheese, milk, some sausages and bacon. I found the pancake mix and made up a batch in the big mixer, while I was frying up the sausages and eggs on the big grill.
“Hey Tony, how do you serve this stuff?”
“Just put it on these big plates, I bring the stuff out to the tables as they ask for it.” He pointed to the warming lamps. “If you can make up some scrambled eggs, that would be great.”
“Sure, how about some cheese omelets as well?”
“Great.” I got back to work, pouring out a dozen pancakes at a time before mixing up a big batch of scrambled eggs. I grinned to myself, all these years later and I could still break four eggs at a time. The food started leaving quickly, and Tony let me know what was needed as people ate it. When eight thirty came, I made sure I made myself a plate with five pancakes, eggs and bacon before shutting off the burners. I took it out to the bar, pouring a big glass of orange juice from the pitcher Tony had. “Thanks, man. With Snake gone, we don’t have a backup plan beyond cereal and toast before you reach the end of MY cooking skills.”
“It’s not a problem, they are letting me stay here, the least I can do is help out.” We talked for a while as I ate my food and he cleaned up the dishes. The kids had all washed up before going upstairs to day care, and most of the adults had left too. When he sat down, I figured I’d find out a few things. “How long have you been prospecting here, Tony?”
“Four months. I was a hangaround for six months, finally decided to go for it. I was Army Reserve, Big Red One. Used it to get through school and deployed twice to Afghanistan in four years. That was enough. Now I work security down at the nuclear plant, shift work, so I can spend lots of time here. The more you are here, the faster you can get patched.”
“Worth it so far? This a good club?”
“One of the best in the state. Good members, great facility, and they don’t mess with illegal stuff.”
I nodded, I had the same impression. “What’s going on with the Knights? I’ve never seen a club with so many OTHER club members around outside of parties.”
“Yeah, those guys are a little different. Intense, focused, I never see them partying hard or playing around with the women. The guys are like warrior monks or something, but they are loyal as hell and very tight with each other. They’ve been with the Club for a long time, they have run of the Clubhouse.”
“I saw them coming in with Eve this morning, and she left last night with a bunch of them. What’s up with that?”
He looked away for a minute, it was a tell, he didn’t want to say. “They protect her, that’s all I can say.”
“She’s not going out with any of them, is she?”
He laughed. “I think Viper would neuter any male who came near his granddaughter, and if a man hurt her, they’d never find the body. Snake, her Dad? Even worse, I think he’d go right to burying the guy deep in the woods.”
“Why? She’s eighteen, right? Can’t she make her own decisions?”
“Not eighteen for a few more months, but don’t think being of age is going to stop them from protecting her. Look, this place is a family club. There aren’t any club whores, sweet butts or skanks that hang around here, Viper won’t stand for it. My advice? There’s plenty of hot women in this town, have your fun, but don’t bring her to the clubhouse if you aren’t serious about her. There’s a bunch of patched women who can spot a skank a mile away.”
“So, what happened to Eve? She looked pretty bad when she was brought in.”
“No idea, Snake was already gone when I got here. Teri rode her bike back, it didn’t look damaged so she didn’t lay it down. They’ll tell me if they want me to know.”
I finished my plate and put it in the bus tray with the rest. “Come on, let’s clean up before Snake finds out I was touching his stuff.”
We brought Eve straight to the clinic room upstairs, knowing we’d need to take care of her injuries. Once she was set on the exam table and the soiled blanket had been taken away, I kicked everyone except Michael out. We cut her shirt off and moved her bra straps so we could get at the bandages. Removing them carefully, thankful the painkillers would help keep her out, we exposed the wounds again. “Damn,” I said as I shook my head.
“The rogue surprised her, took out her shoulder as he tried to knock her down. The hip he bit when she was running from him.”
“We don’t get that,” Michael said. “I cleaned as best I could in the field and basically pulled it together.”
“I don’t like how deep these are.” I pulled out my iPhone and opened up Facetime, sending a call to Doctor Meghan. It rang for a few seconds before she appeared, she was in the back of the ambulance, I probably woke her up. “Sorry Doc, I need you to look at something.”
“I figured you’d be calling, Snake. How bad is Eve hurt?” I talked her through the injuries, changing the camera so she could see. “You got in there and cleaned it out, Michael?”
“Yes, they weren’t bad, I got the dirt out.”
“All right then, her healing will take care of this, I just want to seal the skin up so it goes faster. Here’s what you need to do.” She talked us through cleaning the area, then using superglue to hold the torn skin together. She ended the call after we put gauze over the wounds to protect them.
I covered her up with a clean sheet and blanket, kissing her forehead before I went across and sat in the chair. Being in this room brought back memories, the weeks I spent here with Vivian as Eve fought to live, born at 24 weeks she was a miracle survivor. I had held her and rocked her in this very chair eighteen years ago. Michael told me he’d check on me in a few hours, and as I settled into the chair, I quickly fell asleep.