“Hey, Kimber, darlin’, can you get me one of those blueberry muffins?” Kimber was new to the club. One of the guys brought her home one night and she just never left. She was a pretty, petite little blonde and after a few months of being on the ranch hadn’t caused any trouble that Dax knew of, so he didn’t mind if she stayed.
“Sure, Dax.” She never looked him directly in the eyes. She was always polite and courteous, but when he looked at her, she looked at the floor and when she spoke back, it was barely above a whisper. That told Dax she was probably well-controlled, abused, or both at some point in her life. She wasn’t much over eighteen either, maybe twenty, twenty-one. When Dax got a break from all the shit that had been going on lately, he’d probably sit down and talk to her. He wasn’t sure why he so desperately wanted to save them all, but it had become almost a compulsion.
His real job was calling, though. He was sitting at a table in the bar with stacks of invoices in front of him. The IRS had decided to do an audit on the bakery they owned in town. Dax knew it was the Feds’ way of getting them for something, since nothing else they tried to get them for ever stuck. It pissed him off, especially because the accountant didn’t know the difference between the real invoices and the ones that they used to launder money through the business. Maybe that meant the IRS wouldn’t either, but Dax wasn’t willing to take that chance. He was going through each one of them individually and separating them out before the agent showed up later that afternoon.
“You know, back in the eighties they came out with these really cool things called computers. You just scan or type all your information into them and boom, no stacks of paper. You should get one.” Dax didn’t even look up at Handsome. He just raised his right hand and his middle finger. He heard his VP laugh before sliding into the seat on the other side of the table. “In all seriousness, why is that all on paper?”
Dax sighed and looked up at him. “Because hard drives can’t ever be erased. If it was computerized we’d need two programs and the second one would be a hell of a lot harder to shred than these papers will be, smart-ass. Now, how about you help instead of just talking a bunch of shit?”
“I’d love to, Boss, but you told me to ride up to Mystic with Wheelie today, remember?”
Dax rubbed the back of his neck. Another shit storm was going on in Connecticut simultaneously. Some days he wished that he had an office job. “Bring that fucker back here with you,” he told Handsome, narrowing his blue eyes. “In one piece.”
Handsome grinned. “Is it okay if his pieces are a little bruised and torn?”
Dax chuckled. “Yeah, but seriously, save some for me. If that motherfucker doesn’t have one hell of a good explanation as to why the shipment was thirty thousand dollars short…well, you know.”
“Here you go, Dax.” Kimber had slipped quietly up to the table and set the muffin on a plate in front of him. “Would you like some more coffee?”
“Nah, darlin’, I’m good.”
“You?” she asked Handsome. He grinned and ran his eyes up and down her body in a way that would get his ass kicked by his old lady Callie. Dax just rolled his eyes as Handsome, in a whisper, said:
“I’d love some coffee, beautiful. Thank you.” Kimber’s face reddened and as she turned and walked away, Handsome’s eyes stayed glued to her ass. When he turned back and saw Dax looking at him he said, “Just because I’ve already got my entree doesn’t mean I can’t look at the dessert menu.”
Dax just shook his head at his friend. “What time are you and Wheelie taking off?” Wheelie was one of Dax’s newest pledges. He was a prospect for almost two years before they patched him in. He’d given Dax a lot of room for pause in the two years he prospected and if he hadn’t cleaned up his act over the past year, he wouldn’t be wearing the Skulls patch now. The first six months he was a prospect he completely screwed up taking a luxury car out of the garage they fed out of a lot. He didn’t get caught, but the valets were alerted how they were getting in and out, and so that lucrative well dried up that night. About a month after that, he was fucking some girl behind a bar in Boston. He got arrested for public nudity.
At least that was an interesting story. But the last time he got into trouble was the worst. He’d been drunk in a bar with several of the other brothers. He got into a fight with a blue-collar guy over a woman and in the middle of the fight, he pulled out his gun and pressed it into the guy’s forehead. Luckily for him and everyone else, the safety stuck. Dax’s guys pulled him out of there before the police arrived, and they were able to hide him out until it all blew over. But as part of his punishment, Dax got together the most gruesome photos he could find of men with half their heads blown off. Then he made him go to the prison on Sunday and visit every one of the Skulls incarcerated there for murder. They each told him a story about what life in prison was like.
After that, Wheelie settled down some. He still liked to smoke, drink, and fuck, but those things Dax could handle. What he wasn’t going to tolerate was some little shit self-destructing and taking the club down with him along the way. He knew his guys weren’t angels, but they knew that if they wanted to swim in shit, they needed to do it far away from the ranch.
Handsome looked at his phone and said, “He was supposed to meet me here fifteen minutes ago. Did he stay here last night?”
Dax sighed and looked up at his VP. “You think I’m managing curfews now on top of all this other shit?” Kimber was there again with Handsome’s coffee. He blew her a kiss and thanked her. This time as he watched her ass while she walked away Dax said, “Focus, man. You need to find Wheelie and get out there before Captain Bligh hears we’re coming and disappears.”
Captain Bligh was really Captain Blout, a fifty-something-year-old ship captain that had come highly recommended to Dax for the transport of certain merchandise out of the New England ports. The first two trips went smoothly, and the captain sent his man to the ranch in Massachusetts with the package he’d brought back. Each package should contain a hundred grand. Dax had gotten a package the day before that contained seventy. He’d called the good captain first, but the crook wasn’t answering his phone. Dax found out where the captain was staying in Mystic and he was sending Handsome and Wheelie to escort him back to the ranch to answer for the missing thirty grand. The old bastard was going to need to have the thirty grand on him, or he was going to wish he’d drowned himself at sea.
“Yeah,” Handsome said, taking a gulp of the hot coffee and making a face. “I’ll…” Before he could finish that sentence, a piercing scream or cry came from upstairs. It sounded like someone was being killed. Dax and Handsome were on their feet and up the stairs in seconds with the rest of the guys that had been in the bar trailing behind them. There had only been that one scream, but now that they were at the top of the stairs they could hear a man’s voice repeatedly saying, “Oh fuck! Oh fuck! Oh, motherfucking Christ!” It was Wheelie’s voice. They followed the sound and when Dax tried the door it was locked. He slammed his hand against it.
“Wheelie! Open up! What the hell is going on in there?”
“Dax! Fuck! I didn’t do this! Fuck! Oh God!”
“Open the fucking door, Wheelie, or I’m kicking the motherfucker down.”
The lock disengaged, and the door opened slowly inward. Dax had seen a lot of shit in his life, so nothing much shocked him. But he hadn’t been expecting the sight of the naked brother, saturated in blood…most of it dried.
“Jesus Christ, Wheelie, what the fuck did you do?”
The kid was crying, and the wet tears caused the dark, scarlet blood to flow down his cheeks, over his chin, and across his neck and chest. He had his hands palms-up, and blood dripped down his wrists. “I didn’t,” he said, shaking his head, harder. “I swear, Dax, I didn’t.”
“You didn’t what? What the fuck didn’t you do?” Handsome had already walked into the room. Dax watched as he pulled the comforter back on the bed and cursed. Handsome left it that way and went into the bathroom. Dax could see the blood-soaked sheet that the comforter had been hiding. Between that blood and what was all over Wheelie, there was no way whatever had spilled it was still alive.
“Dax!” Handsome yelled from the bathroom. “You better come see this.”
“Dax…” Wheelie reached for him with his blood-drenched hands but thankfully caught himself before touching his president. “I didn’t do that. Please, when you see…oh fuck, I didn’t do it!” Dax drew his eyes away from the hysterical kid and headed for the bathroom. He could hear him still crying and protesting behind him. He knew that he didn’t want to know what Wheelie didn’t do, even before he stepped into the small bathroom and was instantly nauseated by the smell. Dax had smelled death many times and without seeing what Handsome was staring down at in the tub, he knew that was what he was smelling. The shower curtain had been white, but a dark red, bloody handprint stained it now as it lay torn from the pole on the floor next to the tub. The tub had been filled too full, and water had sloshed over the sides. Dax looked at Handsome before finally turning his eyes downward on the grisly scene.
“Oh Jesus.” Handsome had his hand over his nose and mouth, and Dax did the same as he stared down into the tub. It was more blood than water, but that wasn’t the horrifying thing. A young woman was soaking in it. She was nude, at least as far as Dax could see where the scarlet water didn’t cover her. One arm hung limply over the side of the tub. Her hand was facing upwards and covered in cuts surrounded by dried blood. Her head was lying back against the porcelain tile, tipped at an odd angle to the right. The hair that was plastered to her face and shoulders looked like it used to be blonde, but now it was red in places where the blood was wet and almost black where it had dried. A deep gash was drawn across her throat, almost ear to ear, and it was obvious that was where the blood that filled the tub had come from. Her green eyes were open and staring up at them, and her mouth was shaped in a perfect “O” like she had died screaming. Why the fuck hadn’t anyone heard her? “Wheelie!” The kid appeared in the doorway, now with a blanket wrapped around his shoulders. He was shaking from head to toe, but Dax doubted that it was from being cold. “Who is she?”
“I met her at a party last night, the one I went to with Buzz. It was at this chick’s house in Dorchester…”
“Fucking Dorchester? What the fuck were you doing in Dorchester? You know…” Handsome stopped his rant when Dax put his hand up. The club was having problems with another club that had staked Dorchester out as their turf. They all knew they weren’t supposed to go there unless it was on Dax’s orders. But that wasn’t the important issue at the moment.
“Go on,” Dax told Wheelie, a hell of a lot calmer than he was feeling.
“I know we weren’t supposed to be there. I told Buzz, but we had already smoked some weed and both of us had a few beers. He said this house was out on the border where the rich people lived and there was no way we’d run into any of the Blades there…” He was talking fast, without taking a breath. “I know we shouldn’t have. Fuck!” He looked down at the woman. “Fuck…” He whimpered.
“Focus!” Dax snapped at him. “On me. Who is she?”
“She lived at the house. She wasn’t supposed to be at the party, it was her sister’s deal. Their parents were out of town and they were house sitting. I was smoking on the back patio and she came down and the next thing I know, we’re making out. Her sister came out and freaked out on us, so Buzz and I went to leave. I was getting on my bike out front and all of a sudden she was there with a backpack. She said she was sick of her parents and her sister treating her like a kid. She wanted to come with us. She was hot, Dax, and old enough,” he added quickly.
“Well, she’s not hot anymore, Wheelie, and she’s dead. So tell me how the fuck that happened?”
“I don’t know. I fucking swear to God I don’t know. I woke up covered in blood and I was freaking out. I got up to look for her and this is where I found her…how I found her. I didn’t do it, Dax! I swear to God!”
“Dax!” Handsome called out. Dax took a deep breath to steady himself. He wanted to drop the kid right there.
“Don’t move!” he told him before he went into the other room. Hawk had followed them up and now he was standing next to the mirrored dresser with a wallet in his hand. At least he had sense enough to put on his gloves before he touched it, Dax thought.
“You should see this,” he said, holding out the wallet.
“Um…Dax…” That was Gunner, Dax’s brother. He turned and looked at Gunner first. He was holding a towel in his hand; it was a white one like the ones the girls stocked the clubhouse bathrooms with. But this one was covered with blood and in the center of it, like it had been wrapped up, sat a hunting knife. The fucking knife was huge, with a serrated edge and a pearl handle. Blood covered the blade and the white handle was stained with it as well.
“Fuck, where was that?”
“Right under the edge of the bed,” Gunner said.
“Put it back.” He sighed and turned toward Hawk. “What do you want me to look at?”
Hawk flipped open the wallet. Dax didn’t have his gloves and he had no fucking idea how they were going to fix this yet, so he didn’t touch it. He was looking at a Massachusetts driver’s license with a picture of a beautiful woman with shoulder-length blonde hair and green eyes. She was twenty-one. He looked at the name on the license. Her name was Pamela Kent. Kent? Why did that name sound familiar?
“You see it, Boss?” Hawk asked. Dax looked at the license again, at the street address in Dorchester. He knew that address too. The name and the address…
“Oh my fucking God!”
Hawk for once didn’t have that smug or sarcastic look he usually carried on his face. He actually looked genuinely afraid. “This is Bartholomew Kent III’s kid.”
This couldn’t have been any worse, unless President Trump’s daughter had been visiting. Bartholomew Kent III was the Southside’s newest District Attorney elect. He had won the election on a platform of being tough on crime. Most specifically, getting rid of the gangs on the Southside, all of them, even the ones that rode Harleys and gave a big percentage of their profits back to the community. Bart Kent made a campaign commercial calling them out, and telling them this community didn’t want their “blood money.”
“Dax?” He heard Wheelie’s voice behind him. His temper was at the breaking point and the sound of that whine in a grown-ass man’s voice was what pushed him over the edge…at least that’s what he told himself. He spun around and let his fist catch the underside of Wheelie’s jaw. The other man was thrown backwards about two feet before he hit the floor. There was complete silence in the room. Dax stared at Wheelie for a few seconds as he rubbed his knuckles and then he said:
“Nobody touches any fucking thing else. Get him out of here and the rest of you get out. Church in fifteen minutes.”
“Boss, what are we going to do?” Hawk was the only one stupid enough to ask Dax anything while he was that pissed. Dax shot flames out of his eyes as he looked at the old man and said:
“We might as well drink the fucking poison Kool-Aid before the cavalry gets here. You and Wheelie go first.” He could hear Hawk laughing as he left the room. He wished he were kidding.