My feet come against the hardwood floors of the clubhouse in loud, alerting steps.
The moment I get within an inch away from the front doors, a big motherfucker is standing in my way. He’s got that type of stone-cold face you know without a doubt could put you in your grave standing alone. One look at the patch on his cut and I recognize who he is to the club instantly. That’s also why I do the smart thing and stand down.
“Lockwood,” I say, introducing myself with a short nod rather than a handshake. Trivial things like that build relationships. Closeness. I have no intention of sticking around long. Getting through this while being as cold as possible is for the best.
I’m not here in McDermott to make friends. I’m here to settle a score that should have been put to rest a long time ago. One that was dredged up by my father and must end with me. Whatever that entails... I’ll readily give up.
“What are you doing here? Club is closed.”
I glance behind him, noting the few other bikers roaming the halls. Every single one of them carries a heaviness that I know personally.
“I’m here in place of the Founder,” I tell him, glad to cut through the unnecessary shit.
The guy’s features turn icier, eyes grow darker. If I hadn’t fared my own share of tough motherfuckers like him, I would have expected a thunderstorm to roll in by his influence alone.
“He was my father,” I explain. “The responsibility was left to me in his will. You guys are up shit creek. I’m here to help and then I’m gone.”
That wasn’t all my father had given me either. Along with the club I’ve hated since I could speak, he gave me fifty grand in debt and a worn leather cut with the Fallen Reaper’s patch sewn in. Wearing that to the clubhouse might have been a good idea, if only I could have stomached it.
“Grave,” the Reaper’s VP states, nodding as I did and making no move to take the introduction any further. Good. And despite knowing that’s his club name, I can’t help but think that yeah—this will more than likely end with me in an early grave.
Without another word, I’m led to a large meeting-style room. The few bikers that were lingering around see us and take their seats.
One is left empty. I don’t take it. Even if it’s my right to. I won’t lay claim to anything that I don’t intend to stick around for.
I eye the six or so men around the table. They’re all tough-looking sons of bitches. In their life, I know first hand you have to be or you end up with a knife in your back. If you’re lucky, a mouth full of asphalt and a one way trip to hell.
The first to speak up is one of the larger men, he sits at the left of the prez’s empty seat, Enforcer patched beneath his name on his jacket. “We’ll fill you in on what we know. Prez won’t be here for the foreseeable future since he just lost his wife.”
So I heard.
About a week ago, I was riding through town after making a last visit to an old friend when the explosion of the local bar along with dozens of casualties hit the news. No one took it easy. It was a big fucking hit and not just on the clubs that were affected first hand. It was a warning to every rider in the state. And a final call to me.
Bogie was my last stop on the short list of people I wanted to have one last ride with. I was already heading here to McDermott. The destruction of the Cann and an entire club of bikers was the final kick in the ass I needed to start atoning for my mistakes.
That’s why I’m here a week later. I had a list of wrongs to right, from little things to more serious ones such as apologizing to a mother whose son I had murdered without a second thought. There’s not an easy way to knock on a stranger’s door and confess that, “Hey, I put a bullet between your son’s eyes.” Not one that doesn’t result in a bloodied face or a warning in the sound of a shotgun being cocked.
I guess there isn’t a way to tell anyone you ripped the person they love from their life. But I tried. Because that’s all I can do for the simple fact that not a bone in my body holds a single ounce of regret. And maybe, just maybe, I might have saved them the slightest grief by giving them a person to put the blame on. If they knew the true reasons I’d ended the lives of their loved ones, their entire worlds would crash down on them like a tsunami.
Regardless of my reasons, I killed men. People. Living beings. Every time I close my eyes, I see their final expressions as the result of their actions dawned on them. And then I hear the final words that slipped from their lips and fell on deaf ears. Because make no mistake, I always pull the trigger.
This will be the last time that I am that man. And I won’t fight if there’s a moment that my life is on the line. I’m prepared for death. How else am I to atone for causing so much of it?
“I understand,” I nod. “Keep doing things as you would. I’m only here for the ride.”
The final name to tick off the list.
My father had wanted nothing more than to see his son ride with the Fallen Reapers. I chose a different life and sidelined every dream or hope he had for me. Me going off and becoming a mercenary was an ultimate smack to the face, and I had reveled in it back then.
The Fallen Reapers MC was daddy’s precious baby. Precious enough to drag his wife through the heartache that the late nights and lifestyle brought on. Before long, precious enough to lose his family over. I’ve long since forgiven that. The majority of the reason I’m here with the Reapers is for my mother. She loved my father through it all and to the very last ride.
“About two months ago a few of our guys were jumped while riding through Knight territory. One’s dead, another’s missing and the last is in hiding until we figure this out.”
I nod and he—Switch—continues. The names on their jackets are worn above their patches.
Seeing those reminds me of the last time I spoke to my father. It had been a long night. Dad was out late and mom was up even later. I’d long since grown tired of seeing bags under her eyes and that lost expression. So I’d waited up for him as well.
We argued. Fought. He chose his patch. I packed my bags at just sixteen that night and left home for good.
“Whoever the guy is,” Switch goes on. “He’s after as much territory as he can get on our side.”
“And needs it bad enough that he’s willing to piss off every club in Montana,” I add.
“There hasn’t been any other incidents or leads since the bar attack. An entire club was taken out in that explosion. It’s possible that he’s got the territory he needs,” Grave suggests.
I turn my attention to him, noting the hard expression. “You don’t really believe that.”
He shakes his head. “No. Their territory was old, half of what it used to be. I think they were easy targets but I don’t think whoever’s behind this is done.”
I nod my agreement. “I don’t think so, either. So what’s the plan of attack?”
Silver, wearing the club Sergeant at Arms patch, snorts with derision. “Plan of attack? Ha. We merely have an aim to attend a local bar, have a few rounds.”
“No,” he scoffs. “Thing with this local bar is it’s in neutral territory. Always crawling with people, bikers... Riffraff. We have somewhat of a lead, and chances are, the person we’re looking for is going to be in that bar.”
I look to Switch. “Lead?”
The Enforcer’s lips draw up at the corners, diffusing his otherwise stoic expression. A long, sharp blade is abruptly pulled out and embedded into the table. “We recently did a little interrogating for our Prez. The guy was a part of the crew that stole some of ours, and so... I cut him until he sang like a canary. ”
Grave cuts in then. “He didn’t know a damn thing aside from a sure way to identify the guys working for the man who hired his crew.”
A picture slaps onto the table in front of me. I eye it, taking in the winding serpent of the man’s blood sodden arm. “Gang symbol?”
“Yes,” Silver confirms. “There’s been talk of a girl at this bar, the Diggs, sporting one of those. Considering lots of people copy tattoos wanting to be cool we would pass it up, but...”
“It’s too much of a coincidence,” I fill in. If the girl was any place else, she wouldn’t be our target. But for her to have the tattoo and be so close makes it impossible to write off as chance.
“On that note, we’re riding out later tonight.” Switch nods at me. “Are you riding with us?”
“Without a doubt.”