Chapter 7: Northwoods riders
It took most of the day to drive down to the Twin Cities from the North Shore. With the loss of Daylight Savings Time and the rapidly shortening days, it was well past dark by the time I found the clubhouse. It was a non-descript warehouse in an industrial area, surrounded by auto dealerships and repair facilities. Other than the address, the only label on the outside said “Northwoods Riders, PRIVATE PROPERTY, NO TRESSPASSING.” I parked in the lot, which had a few dozen vehicles parked in it. The building had an office door at this end, farther down there were a few overhead garage-type doors. The whole building was surrounded by an eight-foot-tall chain link fence with razor wire on top, and the entry to the parking area had a gate that was open.
I turned off my truck and sat there for a moment; I had hours to figure out what to say to them, but still had no idea. How can I tell them what I’m running from without telling them my secrets? It doesn’t matter what is going on, every werewolf knows that humans can’t know of our existence. I will have to be careful to control my wolf.
I grabbed my purse, leaving my bag for now. I needed to talk to Viper before I go find a hotel room or something. I locked the truck behind me and walked to the red metal door. Knocking loudly, I waited only a few seconds before the door is opened and I’m pulled inside, squeezed breathless against a big chest. “Holy shit, DOC IS HERE!”
I’m spun around and when I am finally set down, I’m pulled into another broad chest, then another. I catch glimpses of the inside of the building as I go from man to man, the smell of their human and the leather of their biker cuts making me smile. Viper is the last to pick me up and spin me around, and he doesn’t let me go. Instead, he lifts me under my knees and carries me to a table where another familiar face is sitting. “Hammer!” Viper lets me down to my feet and I go to give him a hug.
He smiles but doesn’t get up, he doesn’t have to. Two boys and a girl, aged between two and six, latch onto my legs as a blonde woman in a Harley Davidson T-shirt pulls me into her ample chest. “Thank you,” she says as she starts bawling.
“You’re Daddy’s angel?” The little girl is about five, her little voice rises up to me, and the woman loosens her hold enough for me to kneel down to see them. I didn’t even know he had kids or was married.
“I’m DeWalt, but my real name is Doctor Vivian,” I said with a smile. “What is your name?”
“I’m Meghan, this is my big brother Carter and my little brother Cash,” she said. She jumped into my arms, her little arms wrapping around my neck. “Daddy said you saved him. Thank you.”
I picked her up with me. “I’m a Doctor, it’s what I do,” I said. Viper had pulled out a chair, so I sat down next to Hammer and shifted his daughter to my lap. He reached over and gave me a big hug. “How are you recovering?”
“Slow as hell,” he said. “I’m still getting headaches and dizzy spells, and they won’t let me drive or ride yet.” His wife sat in his lap. “This is Teri, my wife, and you’ve met my children I see.”
I bounced Meghan on my knee. “I see you told them about me.”
He laughed a little. “I can barely remember anything after that damn deer jumped into my bike. The boys told me everything, though.”
“You weren’t really lucid when I got to you.” I looked at his glass. “You’re not drinking, are you?”
He shook his head. “Doctor’s orders, no alcohol. Teri’s got me drinking fruit juice. I can barely hold my head up in this place.”
“But you have a head to hold up.” I looked around the room, it looked like a nice bar with a bit of a family vibe, not what I had expected from the outside or from a biker club. There was a long bar on one side, a bunch of tables in the center, and darts and pool tables in the back. There was a walled-in area for the smaller children to play in, and arcade games and televisions around the room. Most of the men in the club had their women with them, many with children. I could see a pass-through to a kitchen, someone was cooking burgers and fries back there. “This place isn’t quite what I expected.”
Viper laughed, along with a couple of the guys. “What, you expected some dive biker bar, naked girls dancing on poles and sweetbutts under the table?” Teri smacked him, glaring at him for his language. “We’re not that kind of club. We aren’t outlaws, we are family men, veterans, men and women who just love to ride. We formed this club and built this bar because it’s a good place for us all to hang out.”
“Beer’s cheaper than at a bar, too,” Doc said as he sat down. “And as a private club, it doesn’t have to shut down so early at night. The back area is storage, and a full motorcycle garage. Most of us do our own repairs, some of us do restorations. I sleep in an apartment, but I basically live here,” he said.
Snake set a tall beer and a huge burger with a mound of fries in front of me, giving me a hug before he went back behind the bar. It smelled amazing. “Eat up, girl, we all had dinner earlier,” Teri said. “Did you drive straight down here?”
I nodded as I took a bite, a little shocked as the liquid lava of melted cheese almost burned my tongue. I looked at the burger, the cheese was coming from the inside! Hammer noticed my puzzled look. “It’s called a Juicy Lucy, it started in a bar near the airport. You put the cheese inside two thin patties, squeeze the edges together then cook it. The cheese melts and stays inside.”
“It’s damn good,” I said. Big, too, had to be over a half pound. It didn’t matter, I almost inhaled the dinner, I was so hungry. Gas station food was not to be trusted, so I hadn’t eaten much all day.
I enjoyed the night a lot, it reminded me of my home Pack; the atmosphere, how much everyone cared for each other and their families. The place started to empty out as the wives started taking tired children home, and I’d had way too many beers placed in front of me. Hammer’s kids gave me another hug before Teri took them home, as Meghan told everyone that she was going to be a doctor someday just like me. I smiled as they left. “I need to use the bathroom,” I said.
“Back there,” Hammer said, pointing to the doorway past the pool tables. “And when you get back, you can tell us why you showed up here all of the sudden.” My heart dropped as I got up, I was going to have to tell them something. I went back, taking my time and washing up. I looked in the mirror, asking myself if I was all right putting them in danger by my presence.
I didn’t really have a choice. I’d give them enough to understand I needed protection without being clear on why.
When I came back out, Viper was waiting for me. “Come on, this seems like something best handled in church,” he said. He led me down a hallway past the kitchen and his office to a large conference room with couple dozen chairs around it. All of the chairs except two were filled by club members, wearing their distinctive cuts with the emblem of a wolf howling to the moon, pines in the background, while riding a motorcycle. He pulled my chair out before I sat, then sat next to me. “I got the feeling this isn’t a social call,” he said.
“You’re right,” I said. “I wouldn’t leave my home, my job and my friends behind and just show up here on a whim.” I started to tear up a little, I hadn’t really processed my emotions from this morning on the drive. My wolf was hurt by the rejection and the uncertainty. Viper noticed I was breaking down and pulled me into his lap, his big arms holding me while I tried to get control of myself again.
I wiped my eyes, then looked up again, not wanting to leave his comfort. He reminded me of my father, he was strong and supportive. “I got in trouble back home,” I finally said. “I live apart from others, you probably saw that,” I said.
“Yeah, we were wondering why you took us to what was clearly a guest house when it was supposed to be your home,” Dagger said. “Your real home is farther back?”
“Yes, in the compound,” I said. “I grew up in the Way, my parents were members. You’d call it a cult, but I didn’t know any different. Everyone I knew was like that, and until I went to college I didn’t know better. They don’t trust others, and they needed a doctor. They paid for my education, and in return I signed a contract to live at the compound and provide medical care for ten years after graduation.”
“These guys, they aren’t dangerous, are they?” Hammer was leaning forward.
“I never thought so, but I was never close to the leadership. I ran the clinic, worked relief shifts in some local towns to earn my own money. I figured I’d do my time, then leave.” I looked at my hands. “I guess Clark had other plans.”
“This Clark guy, he runs the place?”
“Yes. He’s the spiritual and family leader, you could say. Everyone does what he says. If you don’t, you might be punished, even exiled. Nobody who has been kicked out has ever been heard from again. I did some searching on the Internet, they were all found dead somewhere, the death blamed on accidental causes.”
Viper pulled me a little closer. “Why did you stay?”
“I had a contract, I had a job, and they pretty much left me alone,” I said. “There are good people there, too.”
Snake tapped his finger on the table. “What happened today to change things?”
I put my arms over Viper’s, needing the comfort. “Clark’s wife was pregnant, and it went bad. They brought her to the clinic this morning, while Clark was in town doing some business. They… they both died. There was nothing I could do.” I let a few tears go. “Clark blamed me for their deaths, for his son not making it. Said I was of the devil and couldn’t be trusted, that I should be ‘purified’ before I poisoned his flock and caused more damage.”
“Fucking bastard,” Hammer said. “Did he hurt you?”
“No. One of the women called, warned me he and some other men were coming for me. I grabbed what I could and jumped in my truck. I barely made it out,” I said. “I didn’t know where else to go. They have friends, people in law enforcement. If they find me, they’ll drag me back there, even kill me.” I broke down completely, thankful for those drama classes in college I had taken.
“You’re safe here,” Viper said as he hugged me. “There are a couple guest rooms upstairs, Snake can show you. Get some sleep and we’ll talk tomorrow,” he said.
“Before I go, I move that Doc be granted the protection of our club. I won’t see her hurt,” Snake said.
“Seconded,” Hammer said.
“All in favor?” Everyone raised their hands. Viper set me on my feet. “Doctor Vivian DelMara is under the protection of this club. Snake, show her the way.” Everyone stood, and I hugged Viper and all the others before I let Snake lead me out. As the door closed, I could hear Viper talking about what he wanted the others to do.
The upstairs was clean and functional, the guest room was small but had its own bathroom and shower. I cleaned up and got into bed, letting my emotions go as I thought about everything I had lost today.
And everything I had gained.