~ 1 ~
“You boys heading out tomorrow?” Vin asked, his hard gaze on us. The man had a soul as black as they come, and he made no excuses for it. “You did good on that last job and there’s more work here if you need it.”
I was sitting in the chapel of the Devil’s Highwaymen Montana Chapter clubhouse, with four other brothers from the club—Buddy, Semi, Skate, and JP. Vin, the president of the club, was sitting at the head of the table, with Skate to his right since he was VP, and Buddy to the left of him. Crank and I had been there a couple of months, and it had been a good run. The club was small—much smaller since the deaths of two of the men last year, which was why we’d been called down to help out for a while.
The blinds were twisted closed and I knew Crank was itching to get out of there. Not just out of there—the club—but out of this town. The work was easy—too easy, in fact—and both Crank and I were getting restless again.
We’d been nomads for longer than I could remember, and we loved the life. After leaving our club so many years ago that it made me feel old to even think about it, we’d been traveling back and forth across the country, working for various clubs and earning our way. But this last couple of months had been quiet. It was always good when there weren’t any club problems—no wars, no fighting, no blood being spilled—but this was different. It was like the Highwaymen were on the verge of something, the precipice just out of reach, and we were just waiting for the shit to hit the fan. In some ways, I’d be glad when it did. It was a long time coming, whatever it was, and it was touching every club, so far as we could tell.
“Yeah, think it’s time we stopped in on our own club. It’s been too long,” Crank said, leaning back in his chair.
“I hear that,” Skate replied. “Could use a little more help on this final run before you head out though. JP and Buddy have gotta keep ahead on the situation happening down in Georgia, so we’re short two guys for this one.”
A heavy silence fell over us all. The reason they were two men short was because two brothers had died last year. Every time it was brought up it brought it to the surface again. Death was a part of this life, and in many ways, it was a way of this life. It still sat heavy in everyone’s hearts when it happened though. Especially when the brothers in question had had families.
Skate was younger than most of us, and I wasn’t sure what his story was, but he had burns all over his hands and arms. His hair was short at the sides and long on top, doing nothing to hide the scars across the left-hand side of his skull. Fucker had a story to tell, no doubt.
I looked over at Crank. “I’m down with one more job.”
He nodded and stubbed out his cigarette. “Same as the last time?” he asked, looking back at Vin. His fingers drummed restlessly on the table in front of him. Brother was always restless—had been since the shit that went down when he first joined the club.
Vin leaned forward in his chair, his green eyes flicking between the two of us. “Yeah, same as always. But listen, we’ve had word that ATF are all over our asses on this one, so you need to keep your noses clean on this job.”
“Always,” Crank laughed, and Vin shook his head and smirked. The only vice Crank had these days was cigarettes and pain, but he’d been clear-headed of drugs and drink for long fucking years now.
“Brother, I’d be less worried if you did get drunk,” Vin laughed. “Never known someone stay clean for as long as you.”
“Not sure I could do it myself,” Skate said, dipping his hand into his cut pocket and pulling out one of his cigars. He clipped the end off and lit it before blowing out a mouthful of smoke. “You’re a better man than me.”
Buddy laughed, pushing his shirtsleeves up his arms to reveal more of his tattoos. “Any man’s a better man than you!”
The room erupted into laughter as Skate flipped Buddy off. “Fuck you, motherfucker.”
“So, what’ll it be?” Vin asked. “Got other shit to talk about than you two sorry sons a bitches.”
I chuckled and stood up, offering him my hand. “I’m in.”
Crank did the same and we shook hands, agreeing to one last job before we headed back out to Nevada. Wasn’t sure if it was a good idea or not, but the money was too good to refuse. Besides, part of the deal with being a nomad for the Highwaymen was that we went where we were needed, and this club needed us.
Back out in the clubhouse, Crank and I headed to the bar. He grabbed himself a Coke with a shit ton of ice in it and I grabbed a large beer. The day was hot, even for June, and I had a feeling that Miles City would be hitting some new heatwave record this year. The good thing about Miles City, though, was the rain. It might be toast-a-racoon-on-your-motor hot, but it would drop a bucket of rain on your ass at the same time.
A took a mouthful of beer and nodded at Buddy as he came out of Church. He slapped some sweetbutt’s ass as she walked by and he headed over to the bar to us. One of the women behind the bar smiled at him and shuffled off to get his drink.
“You sure I can’t convince you two to stick around? You know the club would have you as full members in a heartbeat, right?” He grabbed the whiskey that was put in front of him and threw it to the back of his throat. “Always after more brothers. After losing Scotty and T-Man last year it’s been hard going, and now this shit going down with the club in Georgia.” He shook his head. “Sad fucking times.”
Scotty and T-Man had been killed in a bike accident the year before. The roads had been slippery and they’d gone off, hitting each other’s bikes at such speed that they’d only been able to be identified by dental records. It had shaken the entire club up and they still weren’t over it. Neither were the two old ladies that had been left with kids and no man to back them up. Still, the club had supported them every step of the way. We always supported our own.
“What’s happening down in Georgia?” Crank asked, crunching the ice in his Coke. I punched him in the shoulder and he turned and laughed.
“Quit that shit, you know it goes through me.”
Buddy laughed. “Hardy called last week, said there’s some serious beef going down with the Reverend. Looks like he’s trying to take over business up there.” He shrugged. “No one’s too worried. It’s fucking Hardy, after all. Man is not one to be fucked with.”
Crank’s jaw twitched and he shook his head. We knew all too well that Hardy wasn’t to be fucked with. Over the past couple of years, we’d had various run-ins with the man. Can’t say I’d ever liked him or the way he ran his club, but he was the national president of the Highwaymen, so it wasn’t up to me to like him, only to respect the man. And I’d be crazy not to respect him.
Hardy had two sons and an old lady, though you wouldn’t think it if you met him. Barely acknowledged any of them, not to mention the way he treated his woman. I didn’t like it, but I wasn’t paid to like it either.
I was glad I wasn’t part of that club though, and we only got called on once a year, if that. Still, it was a real shame since they had so many brothers up there. Big club, lots of families involved, and if shit was going sour with the Reverend, it was something we all needed to be worried about.
One of the club women—Sydney—came over, draping an arm over Crank’s shoulders. He wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her in close, and she laughed and ran a hand up his chest. Her shorts were barely shorts at all and were more just a scrap of material, and the old Guns N’ Roses T-shirt that she wore hung from her shoulder loosely.
He’d been fucking Sydney on and off since we’d been there, which was unusual for Crank. Since the whole Hope and Maria mess years ago, he hadn’t gotten close to any woman. We’d hit the road and he’d gone sober, streamlining all his guilt into working, riding, and fixing up his bike. He’d had women over the years—some club bitches, other women that would have happily stayed in his bed and become his old lady if he’d asked them to—but he’d never let himself get close. To see him taking up with a woman more than once was a surprise, but to see him taking up with her more than twice was a goddamned miracle if you asked me.
“I gotta go take care of my business,” Crank said, shaking hands with Buddy before pulling Sydney away with him. “But I’m good being free to the road for now, brother, but thanks for the offer.” He grabbed Sydney around the waist, lifting her up, and she obediently wrapped her legs around him and giggled.
I turned back to Buddy, who was still watching them.
“She’s good for him,” he said with a jerk of his head. “Real good.”
“Yeah,” I agreed. It was true. It was the third time we’d stopped by that club to help out over the years, and it was the first time that Crank had really smiled. Brother was normally all business, but for the past couple a weeks he’d been less business and more pleasure. “Shame it won’t last though,” I added on.
“It could. Little nudge from you and he’d stick around.”
I looked over at him, the implications of what he was saying to me visible. It was true; I probably could convince Crank to stick around. Probably long enough for him to see Sydney as more than a quick fuck too. But I’d seen what sweetbutts were like first-hand and I knew that the jealousy would more than likely creep in eventually and fuck his head up, driving them apart. And that was all Sydney was: a sweetbutt. Someone for the brothers to fuck whenever and however they wanted to.
Sweetbutts could never be old ladies.
I’d learned that the hard way.
I looked away from Buddy and finished my beer. I patted him on the shoulder and walked away. No point arguing about this again. We’d already been through it a couple of times; it was one of the reasons Crank and I had been ready to move on. This club was small, much smaller than most, and they desperately needed new members. But Crank and I were happy as we were, free to the road.
Unfortunately, Vin and Buddy didn’t see it that way. They’d been working on us laying roots with them since this all began. Couldn’t seem to take no for an answer. If it wasn’t for the money being so good, and loyalty to the club, we would have moved on already. As it was, we had one last run to do before we could move on.
“Can’t blame a man for trying,” Buddy laughed behind me.
“Can’t blame a man for wanting the open road either,” I returned.