Orlando General Hospital
I looked down at my niece, so beat up and helpless in her hospital bed, yet her eyes showed steely determination. “I know what you want, Crash. I know how upset you are, because we are too. They took them from us in a way that no one should ever experience, and they will pay for it.”
“I sense a ‘but’ coming, Uncle.”
I nodded. “Club first. Always has been, always will be.”
“Harleigh, the entire Club is in lockdown right now. We’re bringing all the families in, because we are all in danger.”
“How? They want me, not the Club.”
“You’re one of us, just like your parents were. There are a bunch of Sons riding towards us, and at least one who is still in the area. Cops only left our clubhouse yesterday, and we’re under surveillance by them all the time. I’ve got dozens of men coming from other Chapters to help us out, and I have to find a way out of this without more of us getting hurt. The cops have DNA evidence tying Jose to your parent’s murder, and Florida has the death penalty. As much as I’d like to take him out to the swamps, the safest thing for the Club is to let the system handle it.”
She scowled, then grimaced as pain shot through her. She needed to rest and recover, not worry about revenge right now. Three Tequila squeezed her hand, helping her ride out the pain. When she relaxed again, my wife continued. “You aren’t the only one who wants vengeance. The man we visited with a few minutes ago was the DEA supervisor who recruited your father and was his contact while undercover for years. He’s personally invested in this because Sean was his friend and he feels responsible for him being retaliated against.” She moved aside as the nurse came in with her pain pills. When she had taken her vitals and left again, she continued. “You are in no condition to do anything, Harleigh. What the Club needs from you is to heal. Everything becomes much easier when we can take you out of here.”
“That’s three days away,” she said with a sigh.
“Three days if you behave and rest,” I said. “I have to get back to the Clubhouse, we have Church soon. We’d like to schedule the memorial for your parents on Saturday, so all the Clubs that want to pay their respects can attend.” Saturday gave us enough time to prepare and for her to get out of the hospital, and it made sense to do the service when we already had a lot of people coming to help.
“Is that a good idea? I mean, we’re on lockdown, right?”
“We’ll never have more people around to protect you than when everyone is here for the service, Harleigh,” my wife said. “Your Mom left instructions for what they wanted; a memorial service at your Church after they were cremated. A blowout party at the Club, then their ashes cast into the ocean at sunrise. Is that what you want?”
She nodded. “Mom saw a documentary on what embalming is, and swore she’d never allow that to be done to her. She also didn’t want a grave to visit, she didn’t believe in that either. She always told me that she would be with the wind in my hair as I rode by the water.”
“We’ll make the arrangements and run them past you to make sure you are all right.” I got up to leave, kissing my wife.
“Mongo?” She looked at me with tears in her eyes. “I don’t know if I can go back to my house knowing what happened there. I sure as hell can’t live there anymore.”
“You can live with us or take one of the spare rooms at the Club. Well, you can right after I install four deadbolts and an alarm system to keep the boys away,” I teased.
She snorted. “You’ve scared them all away, I could walk naked through the clubhouse and none of them would dare look twice.” I just smiled, knowing I’d done well by her. “Clubhouse for now, I need my Ladies around. Can you send someone to get my clothes and stuff out of my room?”
I nodded. “There’s no hurry in dealing with your parent’s stuff and the house, Harleigh. We’ll take as much time as you need.”
“It’s just a house, and I’m never going to live there again.”
“We’ll help you sell it then. You’re going to be fine, Harleigh,” Three T said. “The house was paid off and they had good life insurance policies for you. You can buy a house where you want, you can pay for school, whatever you need. When you’re ready, we’ll go through it with you.” She was the executor of her sister’s estate, and their wills left everything to their daughter.
“Can I just leave everything to you to handle? The house, the stuff, the insurance? I just don’t know if I can deal with it all right now.”
“Of course,” she said. “We can have the lawyer draft a power of attorney to allow me to cash out the assets. I’ll just need to know if there is anything specific you want to keep, other than photos and the like.” I didn’t care if we had to move it all to a storage facility so she could go through it, there was no way I’d let her see where her parents had been slaughtered. “I’ll talk to him in the morning.”
“You just rest,” I said. “I’ll be back in the morning.”
“Bring some real food for me,” my wife said. I kissed her again and walked out the door.
The drive to the clubhouse didn’t take long, and the changes were readily apparent. A police cruiser was parked a half block away from our gate, the engine running to keep the air conditioning going inside. The gates were closed, and trucks were parked behind it to keep cars from ramming it. I could see two men on the roof with rifles, and three more by the gates. We’d checked with the lawyers, and they couldn’t stop our armed patrols as long as we stayed on our own property and didn’t threaten our neighbors. I pulled up to the gate, which was already opening as I had been recognized by the prospect. I saw a few guys I didn’t know who weren't wearing cuts, and one had a huge black dog with a “WORKING DOG” vest. “Who’s that?”
“This Nomad brought the handlers and their dogs with them an hour ago. Name was Frame, his old lady is hot as hell.” I laughed, of course they brought dogs. I just hadn't expected Chase and Rori Nygaard to fly down from the North Shore of Minnesota for this. I parked my Harley in my spot, marveling at all the guests we had. It took a long time to get inside, since I had to greet and thank those who came to help.
When I got in the clubhouse, I looked around for my favorite redhead and found her over by the Memorial Wall with her Old Man. “Canvas!”
“MONGO!” She ran over and gave me a hug as Chase shook my hand.
“What are you doing here?”
“Where the hell else would we be, Mongo? Your niece in the hospital, her parents dead, threats from a violent gang?” She hugged me again. “And do you really think I’d let anyone else add to the Memorial Wall?”
“No way in hell,” I said. “I had the Plexiglas put over it so nobody would mess it up. I love your work that much, Rori.” I looked to the doorway where the handler and his dog had just come in. “What’s with the working dogs?”
“Extra protection. I brought six warriors and three will stay in wolf form,” she whispered. “Their senses will help detect threats, and they are more intimidating than a biker in a cut. One pair just scouted a four-block radius around your property. We’ll have at least one team on duty 24/7 for you.”
Three Tequila and I both knew that Chase and Rori were werewolves, but only a few Chapter Presidents and their Old Ladies were privy to that information. For the rest of the Club, the pair were members and hosted a week-long get-together on their lake property in Minnesota.
Rori had started in this very Chapter, being hired to paint the wall of fallen Club members when she was sixteen. She had become a Steel Lady and met Chase a few years later, finding out that she was a Werewolf and he was her mate. She’d had a rough time for a while, but I could see on her face how happy she was now.
“Isn’t that overkill?”
“We can’t talk here,” Chase said.
“Come on, let’s go to my office.” I led them back behind the bar and into my office by the conference room. Shutting the door, I grabbed the bottle and poured three glasses of whiskey. “Why was it so important to bring warriors down here?”
Chase took a drink. “This biker gang, the Sons of Tezcatlipoca. The leaders of it, they aren’t quite human.”
My jaw dropped. “Are they werewolves too?”
He shook his head. “If they were, I’d be handling it Alpha to Alpha. We aren’t exactly friendly with their kind. What is on their cuts, Mongo?”
Oh fuck. “Jaguar heads.” This wasn’t good. “These guys are cat shifters?”
“Only a few of the leaders. Jesus Correria is for sure, his son too. Their strength and senses allow them to stay on top of the humans working for them. The warriors have marked the territory now, so they will know it is under our protection.”
I was very glad they’d come now. “What do I need to know?”
“You have to worry about more than just a snatch and grab or mass attack. Jaguars are solitary stalkers, very active at night. Your fences and watchmen mean nothing to one of them.” He pointed to a bag stashed in the corner. “Those are very sensitive infrared cameras with motion sensors. They are wireless and your tech guys should be able to add them to your surveillance system before dark. Also, there are night vision goggles and rifle scopes for your men.”
“Why don’t we just light the place up like an airport if we’re worried about them sneaking in?”
Rori just smiled. “We will. Except for one area which will be left dark, and that’s where my Pack will keep watch. If one comes in jaguar form, they can’t hide their scent or their heat signature, and that’s where we find them.”
It made sense and it was a good strategy. Show them what appeared to be a weak spot while secretly reinforcing it and leave the humans where they could do the best good. “Are you going to be in Church, Canvas?”
“No, I’ll be working on the mural. The Ladies will be having their own meeting, we have to get food, sleeping and child-care arrangements figured out.” She lifted her bag with her art supplies. “I haven’t had much time to paint lately.”
“Where are the babies?”
“With Grandma, of course. Possum won’t leave them, and that means Roadkill is stuck up there, snow blowing and plowing while you have the nice weather. I had enough milk saved to get them through the weekend.”
I laughed, his dreams of Northwoods summers and Florida winters had evaporated when the twins were born. He stayed busy running the Pack garage, maintaining their fleet of trucks, motorcycles, boats, ATVs and snowmobiles. “Are you all still coming down over Christmas?” The Pack had bought a huge house near Fort Myers so they could escape the harsh Minnesota winters and watch the Twins play spring training ball. They would charter a plane and bring all those who wanted to go down for a few weeks. Most of the Pack made the trip, but there were still some women who didn’t like being around new men after all they had been through. Chase had his hands full dealing with the after affects of the abuse they suffered in their last Pack.
“That depends on what happens with the Sons,” she said. “Now go mingle, Church starts in ten minutes and you probably have a speaking part.”
It was going to be the opposite of what we normally did due to the number of men coming from other Charters. I had the Prospects, Rori's men and some of the low-ranking members of other Clubs take over the security outside and sent the Steel Ladies into the conference room. The rest of us took over tables in the bar area. We had a raised area for a band, and I stood in the center of that flanked by Eclipse, the regional President of the Brotherhood, and Granite, the Ft. Lauderdale Chapter President. The senior men from each of the six other Chapters present and Frame rounded out the leadership.
“Welcome, Steel Brothers, and thank you for coming,” I started. “On Friday afternoon, one of our brothers was brutally murdered, his wife tortured and killed in front of him. The men then shot his daughter, my niece and a Steel Lady, but she made it back here and we killed three of the men chasing her.” Nobody was moving or breaking the silence. “The men who did this were members of the Sons of Tezcatlipoca, and there are more out there and dozens more on the way. Our brother Sean ‘Easy’ Ryder retired from the Drug Enforcement Agency and joined this club five years ago. Since his death, I’ve learned he started as a deep cover agent working against outlaw biker gangs in Southern California. His death was in retaliation for what he did more than two decades ago, and the Feds are over this like white on rice. The Sons don’t just kill traitors, they kill their entire family. We don’t think they are done until Harleigh Ryder is dead, and our Chapter killed three more of them. The beef may have started before he was a member of our club, but his actions directly affected us. They killed our Brother, they killed a Lady, and another Lady is recovering from a gunshot wound and a motorcycle crash.” I didn’t mention the possibility of a mole in the DEA, or how they were found, it wasn’t important.
Eclipse stepped forward. “We’ve been trailing the Sons of Tezcatlipoca riders since they entered Florida. They are stopped for the night near Ocala. The cops are all over them, but they weren’t carrying contraband and the guys they sent don’t have warrants so they couldn’t do anything. They had the balls to say they were going to Disneyworld.” The crowd cracked up. “They have been warned to stay away from us, both from us and the cops.”
“Of course, we will be ready for anything. Tripod has made out a watch schedule,” he raised his hand at the front table, “and we need it filled out. We’ve got spots inside the fence, and we’ll have patrols of four or more Brothers. I want guys with carry permits for that, we will attract police attention and you have to be ready to defend yourself if these guys show up. Our main weapon is the cellphone; load this number into your phones. It’s the security room here at the Clubhouse, and the first call if you see something wrong.”
“What are we supposed to do if we run into these guys out there,” one of the Jacksonville men asked.
“Stay back, call us and don’t engage. Call the cops if they are doing something illegal, but don’t get yourself hurt. We protect the Clubhouse and our people.”
“What about Crash? She’s still in the hospital.”
Tripod stood up. “The hospital is a problem; she’s under police protection at her room, and they won’t let her have visitors except Mongo and Three Tequila. We also can’t carry legally in the hospital. The cops are scared shitless of a biker gang war and will stop and frisk as much as they can.”
I picked it up. “So, we’re going to have a visible presence at the hospital 24/7. If you have a Florida carry permit, you can keep a gun in your saddlebag, but you can’t have it on hospital grounds. I want four brothers there minimum, in the lot, in front of the entrance, even just sitting on the benches and watching the people go by. We’ll set up radios so you can talk to each other.” Everyone nodded, it was the best we could do for now. “One last thing. The memorial service for Easy and Peasy, Sean and Kelly Ryder, will be Saturday at seven PM at Living Word Church in Winter Park. Expect a heavy presence of law enforcement due to Sean’s former position in the DEA and Kelly’s position with the US and County Attorneys. We will ride in formation back here after the service for the wake. Sign up with Tripod if you can take security shifts while we are gone and during the party.” He would collect their cellphone numbers and coordinate everything. “Any other business?” No one said anything. “Stay alert and ready, I have no idea how long it will be until this is over.”