Finally I am making good on a promise. Better late than ever. That look Tamie gave me from the window of her friend’s house said it all. So, like I promised myself since the beginning, I stay away from Tamie. I have hurt her deeply for the millionth time so the best thing I can do for her is to let her be, forget about me and move on like I should have done from the moment I brought her back home to Iris.
“Lil’Ed?” I speak into the phone.
“Yeah, man,” the thrall seems alert.
Good. When I picked him to keep an eye on Tamie, I did it because I trusted that he is a military man that given an assignment would see it through. I did of course warn him to keep his distance and not even talk to her or I would bury him so deep, no one will ever find him.
“Where are you?” I ask instead of asking where she is.
“I am guessing she is looking for work. She is in some coffee shop near the college and talks to the owner.”
I grit my teeth in anger. Tamie hasn’t been back with the Riders or even her sister after that day. She lives with Lauren, stays in most of the day and only attends her classes. And now she is looking for work. She shouldn’t be working, I would have taken care of all her needs, let her focus on her studies, make her dreams come true.
But I understand. She wants nothing to do with us. She is angry at me and even angry at Iris. To her, we all knew and played along in a scheme to ridicule and diminish her. Thinking that I made her feel anything less than the radiant person she is makes me boil inside.
“Make it subtly clear to the owner who that girl is,” I order Lil’ Ed and hang up.
I put the phone in my jacket and get off my bike. I make sure my gun is loaded yet with the safety on before I look around outside the striptease club in the most infamous area in Oakland. I am ready to enter when I hear a car pull up behind me with screeching tires. I palm my gun but relax when I see Magdalene get out from her SUV.
“What the fuck are you doing here?”
“Some thing you do,” she shrugs.
“Well, get back in the car and leave.”
“You are stupid enough to come here without sharing the info you got but that doesn’t mean I am letting you walk in there without backup.”
“How the hell did you find out?”
Magda raises her eyebrow. Ava. That bitch has managed to somehow track me. I swear to god those Valkyries will be the death of us all.
“And why are you here and not one of my brothers?”
“As if Ava and I would go around telling the Riders we can tap into their communication at any time and alert Stig of the fact. Tor would have a stroke. Which doesn’t sound like such a bad idea if you ask me.”
“I don’t need backup, little sis, so back off.”
“Fuck you, big brother,” Magda says with her dangerous smile. “Tamie thinks that we had a hand in this, that we betrayed her. Iris is inconsolable and none will have that. Least we can do is make sure Tamie is safe till she her anger is gone. So, I am coming whether you like it or not. And be glad it’s me and not Ava cause she is seriously pissed at you and wouldn’t hesitate sticking one of her notorious hairpins in your jugular.”
I sigh and shake my head before I go for the door. It’s still early in the evening but I am sure the man I am here to see will be in.
“How the hell did you find out about this?” Magda asks as I push the door open. “Ava was trying to find a connection with locals and newcomers for days.”
“She should have gotten out, walked the streets, beat the shit out of several pimps and then she’d have what she needs.”
“Finesse and discretion are not your style, huh?” Magda says.
I eye her seriously.
“No, I like it,” she shrugs. “It’s not my style either.”
We enter the club and we face the huge bouncer that sits up the moment we step in. I ignore him and walk through the door to the main area. I have dropped my cut cause here in Oakland I am behind enemy lines but I am not sure that people won’t know who I am.
The place is half empty except from some lame drunks that are sitting around the catwalk with the pole where a far too skinny girl pretends to be dancing in her most sexy way. I make for a booth close to the bar and Magda follows my lead.
“OK, Stephen Carrens is a bad apple,” Magda focuses on the task at hand. “This joint is a front for a lucrative trafficking ring and he is considered the king of pimps in the city. What makes you think he has something to do with Tamie? Is he the one...?”
“No,” I look at the girl coming to take our order. “But word out there is that there was a crew coming in from Texas.”
“That’s where Tamie was held.”
“They must have made a deal with Carrenscause they run some jobs for him and he seems to provide them with protection and info.”
“Info on the Riders and Tamie?”
“I don’t know but I think it’s too much of a coincidence. That Logan boy is a recruiter for Carrens, a pretty boy to lure girls in. He was sent to take Tamie and he was the one to attack Tanya. If I get my hands on him, he will suffer. I should have killed him when I had the chance,” I hiss.
“Can I get you anything?” the girl has finally decided to drag herself over to us.
“Two beers and your boss.”
The bored look on her face drops and panic sets in. I had no doubt that Stephen Carrens was not a loving, caring employer.
“Tell him that we have a very lucrative deal for him,” Magdalene hastes to add and turns boldly to the security camera closest to us with a wide smile.
To be honest I feel grateful to have Magda here with me. She can handle herself though her looks may be deceiving. I was going for a more brutal approach but she – contrary to what she had claimed – she seems to have adopted some of Ava’s cunning ways.
The beers come and we both sip carefully looking around. It’s not long before a man without a visible neck comes up to our table.
“You want to see Mr.Carrens?”
“We do,” I take the lead.
“A friend,” Magda interferes. “You are here to make your boss a proposal he can’t refuse.”
The man tips his chin and beckons us to follow him. Magda looks at me reassuringly and gets up. I am pretty sure they will check us for weapons but I sure hope they won’t. Especially if they are onto us.
We go up the stairs to where the dressing rooms are. The man leads us down the hall to a reinforced thick door with two more men of the same body type as him. Both get up as we approach and they get ready to frisk us. Shit.
The man searching me finds the gun easily and places it on the table next to him without even blinking. I am guessing Carrens has a lot of visitors that carry. Magda surprises me and comes in clean. I know that Magda is lethal with her body but to come in completely unarmed strikes me as odd. When I look at her she winks and I glance at her gathered hair. A silver, big hairpin holds her blonde hair up. Ava!The Queen of the Riders is rubbing off everyone. I wouldn’t be surprised to see even Chiara carry a semi-automatic at some point.
The door opens and we enter the office that – surprisingly enough – looks like a real business office to the point I look back to make sure I was just in a strip club.
“Welcome,” Carrens looks exactly like his mugshot.
He is a huge, round man with a pulped nose and big ears that can do nothing to hide since he has no hair on his misshaped head. He is not a handsome man but his eyes look at us with sharp intellect. Perhaps, Ava should have come.
“Mr. Carrens,” I take the hand he extends to me. “This is my associate,” I turn to Magda.
Right on cue, his eyes roam the Valkyrie’s body and I am happy Runner is not here. Carrens doesn’t even hide his lustful thoughts and fortunately Magda keeps her smile on her lips.
“And who might you be, darling?”
“Does it matter, love?” Magda has used her looks to trap men before. “We are here to make you a proposal.”
“I am all ears.”
“I’ll get straight to the point,” I am not Tor to prepare some elaborate scheme. “You are trying to open a club in San Francisco but you have hit a wall.”
I may not be Tor but I am always prepared. And I made it a point to know what Carrens wants. And he really wants to cross the bridge to the big city. The Mexicans are not ready to let him. Fortunately, they owe the Riders and if done in a beneficiary for all way, they will allow him to do as he wants.
“And you can help me take down that wall?”
“I wouldn’t be here otherwise,” I nod.
“Where are the Texans?”
The room goes cold. I feel the tension and though I don’t turn to look, I know Magda is on her toes.
“What do you want them?”
“That is none of your concern. You point me to the right direction and then you forget about them. You will busy picking the name for your new club after all.”
Carrens leans back on his chair and looks at me, measuring my proposal. He doesn’t ask if I can deliver what I promise. Maybe he knows who I am, maybe he doesn’t. But he knows I am not talking bullshit.
“One of those Texans,” Carrens places both elbows on his desk, “is family. A cousin of sorts.”
Shit. That makes everything more complicated. I say nothing, just look at Carrens. My only bet is that he is the greedy bastard I have pegged him to be. And as his look deepens in a calculative manner, I know that we may come into an agreement.
“Distant cousin,” he says.
“How can we make that distance even greater?”
Carrens smiles widely.
“I know you, Rider,” he says with a satisfied sigh and leans back. “Very lucrative business you got there with the escort. I would like to open one here too.”
“I will have to talk with the rest of the Riders about this,” I grind my teeth.
“That’s all I ask.”
Tor would be so much better at this. He is a master negotiator and would easily make that bastard give us what we want and make him think he got the best out of the deal while the Riders make a significant profit under his nose. There are some things I am good at. Killing someone at a long distance is one of them. Negotiating a deal isn’t.
I get up and lean over the table. I am not in a good place right now and all that can make me feel good is pulp the face of the men that threaten the only person that matters in my life.
“Now,” I hear the gravel in my voice, “you will give up that cousin of yours.”
“I will do as long as I know we are in an agreement.”
I move faster than his goons could even see. I pull him out of his chair in a handle that can break his neck just like that. Magda is up by my side.
“Easy!” She says. “Let the gentlemen come to an agreement.”
“Listen to me and listen good, you sleezy motherfucker,” I hiss in his ear as he is struggling for breath. “I could easily break your fucking neck and then look for your asshole of a cousin on my own but be glad I am in a bit of a hurry. Where is he?”
He chokes a bit more.
“What was that?” I push.
He hits my arm in surrender and I release him. One of his bodyguards goes for his gun but I push his hand and aim for his nose with the wide of my palm. A crack and the man is against the wall holding his nose. I go for his knee and break it with a swift kick. Behind me, Madga has clocked the other goon and holds her sharp hairpin against his throat. I turn to Carrens that is still struggling for breath.
“My patience is thinning,” I warn him. “Where is he?”
He throws me a vicious look. That motherfucker is testing me. He will regret it. I grab him by the collar to my face. I see his tough façade drop when he meets my eyes. I was not fucking around. I will kill him now for screwing with me and then I will find those bastards and make them pay.
“Mr. Carrens,” Magda elbows the goon she has pinned to the wall and he drops on the floor unconscious, “I would strongly suggest that you answer the man’s question. It would be more to your benefit.”
Carrens tries to open his mouth but I beat him to it and choke him harder. Then I turn to Magda.
“I said get out!”
I do need everyone knowing this. I will do this alone. I have to do this alone. All my anger, my misery, my self-pity will rain hell on those assholes. I don’t want anyone coming in and help out. I will not share the fun.
Magda studies me for a while and seems to know me well enough because she shakes her head eyes the two goons and goes for the door.
“I will be right out” she warns and get out.
I focus back on Carrens. I bring him close to my face and I almost beg he doesn’t talk so I can beat the shit out of everyone in here and finally get some release.
“Anything other than an address coming out of that fucking mouth of yours and I will be seriously pissed.”
He shuts his mouth and then opens it again.
“Paramore Motel. Room 4,” he whispers.
I drop him back on the desk and straighten my cut. I warn him one last time and get out of the room. Magda is gathering her hair up with that murderous pin. One look on my face and she knows I got what I need.
“Nice doing business with you,” Magda smiles her fake smile.
“Alert them and you are dead,” I warn him knowing all too well than to trust a man like him.
We rush out and I go for my bike right away.
“Are you going to tell me?” Magda asks.
“No. Stay out of this!”
I am itching to go there right now and fill my head with something else than longing for Tamie. But since stalking for prey is one of the things I am good at, I decide to play it safe. Safe for Tamie mostly. I need to get them all at once. I can’t risk any of them surviving and going for my... Motherfucker! I hiss as I rev my bike. My asshole of a brain can’t seem to realize that Tamie is no longer mine.
I say nothing to Magda and I ride. I get Rage. Only killing can make me feel better now.