Rylynn stood in front of the bed in a stale, stained roadside hotel. It was the classic, pay by the hour, hovel where hookers frequented and criminals hid. Perfect. She was hiding. She dumped the bag of crap she picked up at the pharmacy on the bed. She scattered the items around until her fingers hit the scissors. Taking them in hand she headed toward the sad excuse of a bathroom and pulled off her Grandfather’s old trucker cap. Her trademarked locks had been left on the floor of a bloody garage hundreds of miles away. What was left would cause a stir and draw unwanted attention. So, with little to know skill, Rylynn set out to straighten the mess that remained. She slowly snipped away the raw slanted edges until she could pass as a mess instead of a hot mess. She would stop in the middle of nowhere and have some chain salon fix the rest. She wiped away wayward tears as she tried not to revisit the events of the last 24 hours. “Push it down, lil Hammer. Shove it down deep. You’ll need it for later,” she told herself. She had to keep it together until she could get somewhere safe. Was there such a place? She was running from a motorcycle club that spanned the nation. She had to make a plan and make it fast. Rylynn indulged herself for just a few minutes when she stepped into the shower. She needed to wash away the remaining bits that still clung to her skin. She needed to wash away the vision of her grandfather’s blood. He was gone and it was her fault.
She squeezed the small amount of shampoo the hotel provided into her shaking hand; lather, rinse…not enough left to repeat. Cheap bastards. The water was not hot, but it was warm enough. Just warm enough to remind her of how cold she felt. Shivers over took her, but she was well aware that it was the adrenaline wearing off and not the lack of temperature. Rylynn squatted down and tucked her head low to get herself under control. “Get it together. You don’t have time for this shit,” she admonished herself. She did not have time for a meltdown. She had to stay ten steps ahead and that may not be enough. Rylynn road out the storm her body was weathering until the water grew too cold to stay in the spray. She wrapped the too short towel around herself and draped a hand towel over her head. She stepped into the bedroom and scanned her supplies as she towels off and dressed in old jeans and an even older t-shirt and then slipped her Wanderlust boots back on. “Always be ready, lil girl. Never trust that you are safe, ever. Be prepared at all times for what could happen even if it never does.” Her grandpa’s words whispered unending wisdom. Be safe. Be well. Be prepared. He was not an “end of the world” prepper. He was the “kill them before they kill you” kind. Grandpa did not give a shit about zombies. It was back stabbing traitors that he was always on the lookout for. We knew he was a piece of shit. We knew he was up to something shady. We were just a bit slow on the draw.
Rylynn checked the supplies that Hammer had left in his “Out” truck. There were two duffle bags, one his and one hers. Each contained enough clothes for a week. He taught her to blend while on the run. Keep nothing that can be recognized. Nothing that stands out. When Rylynn made it to the storage unit that held the Out truck and supplies she stripped out of the clothes she had been wearing and threw on the greasy mechanic’s jumpsuit that lay across the seat of the old beater truck. She threw on her boots and rolled up the sleeves to make them a bit more manageable. She pushed her Sportster to the back of the storage unit. Take nothing that stands out and everyone knew her bike.
There was a fire safe lock box that contained important papers, a sealed envelope with her name scribbled on it, access information to bank accounts, legal documents that she would have to look through later, and five thousand dollars in cash. It was time to get the hell out of there. Rylynn backed the truck out and then went back to lock the unit up tight. She did not feel in the clear, but she knew that her Grandpa would have told no one about this place. No one would look here, but they would be looking and she knew it. With the cover of darkness, an unrecognizable truck and her hair gone, she hoped she could just slip away into the night. All she had left of Hammer was the knowledge he forced into her head. “Be strong, lil girl. We got this. We are stronger and more prepared.” She was not prepared to be alone. Rylynn was without her guardian, her Grandpa, her savior. He taught her to run. He taught her to be prepared, but never gave her a destination to run too. She needed a plan.
She looked at her phone, but did not dare turn it back on. What if they were tracking it? She took the back off and pulled out the battery and then the SIM card. She slipped the card into a pay as you go phone she picked up at the pharmacy and hoped it would be compatible with the card. She needed to call the one person she could trust. The one person who would have her back as her Grandfather did. Once the card was in she fired up the cell. With her fingers crossed she poked at the buttons until her contacts started to appear on the screen. She scribbled down his number and then removed the SIM. She would commit that number to memory so that she would never have to depend on a device again. Once the phone was back together, Rylynn saved his phone number in her new cell.
Now she just had to figure out what to say. How do you tell someone that your life has imploded and you need him to help you clean it up? This was not a little favor. This was a “can I put your life in danger and maybe kill everyone you have ever loved” kind of favor. We had made promises to one another over the years, but he was a big bad biker now. Did promises made as awestruck teens mean anything to a 26 year old man? They were still friends. She still carried a blazing inferno of a torch for him. Could she call him to his possible death? No, but she could ask him to help hide her.
She tapped the call key that highlighted Willem Ferro’s name and waited for the ringing to begin. Had word gone out about Hammer? What was said about her? Shit! What should she say? The call had been ignored. She knew because it had rung twice before going to voice mail. She was calling from an unknown number. He would have instinctively sent it to voice mail to check out the caller later.
“Um, hey, babe. It’s Jewel. Um, my teddy bear of a guardian was killed by someone we thought was a friend. I am feeling pretty…vulnerable. I, um, I needed to get away. You know? Can I come visit? Call me when you can. Please.” Rylynn ended the call and hoped that he would understand what she was trying to say.
She could not be sure someone else would not hear her message. He would hopefully recognize her voice and catch on to what she was trying to say. She was several hours away from where he called home which would put her nearly twice that many hours by road away from her starting point. If she was not welcome there then she could always continue on. Tentative plan set. Step one would be to get a few hours of sleep before heading out. She moved to the mini fridge and pulled it away from the wall. She unplugged it and shoved it in front of the flimsy excuse of a door. She then jammed the metal pipe her grandfather had in his go bag into the window sill to prevent from being opened from the outside. She tugged the smoke encrusted curtains tight then laid down on the back breaking bed with her Glock 17 within arm’s reach and her boots firmly in place. She leaned back against the headboard contemplating opening the letter her grandfather had left for her in the box. She ran her fingers over her name in his hand writing on the front of the envelope. She tucked her finger under the flap releasing the seal and then pulled out the single page that was tucked inside.
Just thinking about writing this letter sucks more than I thought it would, but if you are reading it then I guess I should say good-bye. I love you, sweet girl. I tried to love you in the purest way I could within the Hell that was my life. I have a few regrets; one being the loss of your mama before making things right and having to raise you up in the MC life. I guess I get a chance to make things right with her now, but for you, I can’t change things and I am sorry. If I could have given you a better life I would have, but even the other side of your family were in the life deep.
Stand true to yourself and to the club. You know they will have your back now that I’m not there to protect you, but watch your back as always. You have grown to be a wonderful young woman and I am so proud of all you have done. I want you to find a good man who will take care of you in the way you want. If that means walking away from Titan’s Hammer then I clear you of any guilt. Be happy lil’ girl. The happiest times I ever saw with you were when you were with Willem. If that still holds true then reach out to the boy and be happy together. You have been my heart all these years. We kept each other sane and happy, well, you kept me sane and happy.
I don’t know the circumstances behind my death, but if I went out in a shit storm then this letter may help you. If it went down in a way that will fuck over the club and/or put you in danger then you are gonna need this information. Over the years I mentioned my friend Jig-saw. If you are in trouble, ever, call him. But, it is a one-time only kind of call. He owes me one and this letter will allow you to collect on his debt. So whatever is going on you need to be sure it is bad enough to bring him in and his crew. He would never do you harm, but wouldn’t hesitate to take out anyone else if he believes it is warranted. Call this number when you know the full extent of what is going on. Talk to Capt. Jack and see if he is on board with making the call. I trust him, lil’ girl, about as much as I trust you.
When you call Jig-saw he will not answer so be prepared to leave a message. Just like all of us he won’t answer an unknown number. Tell him that you are calling in his debt to me cuz my dumb-ass ain’t around to claim it. He won’t get back to you right away. Knowing him, he will be doing some recon on you before he decides if he is willing to help.
I am so sorry, Rylynn. I love you more than I even loved myself.
Rylynn swept away the tears that blurred her vision. She carefully folded the paper and slipped it back into the envelope that protected it. The future begins at daybreak if not sooner.
Wraith dropped the kick stand on his ride then draped his brain bucket over the seat. He ran his finger over the small sapphire sticker that adorned the right side of his helmet. He sent up a rusty prayer to the Gods above, below and sideways that his Jewel was okay.
“Wraith!” He turned at the sound of his name to see Brick striding across the parking lot. That was a man you did not piss of on a construction site. He smashed in a man’s face with a paving brick who bad mouthed his work. Cheap bastard was trying to get the price down by talking shit. He was not talking much after that, at least not for about four months. “Good to see you, brother,” Brick growled as they did the obligatory man-hug-back-slapping bullshit.
Brick’s head dropped and shook as he eyed his dust covered boots, “Nothing yet, man.” Brick looked at his friend, his brother in colors, “She’ll be okay. She’s blood to them too, ya know. I just don’t know why they would take her the way they did, bro. It just doesn’t make since. I don’t think they will hurt her.”
Wraith nodded at his friends words and hoped that he was right. “I need a drink to wash down the grit before church. This one’s gonna suck hard.”
“First round’s on me,” Brick said as he tossed his arm over Wraith’s shoulders and lead him into the home of the national chapter of Titan’s Hammer MC. Titan’s Hammer was an up and coming national motorcycle club that protected its own and the communities they lived in. The building was plain in appearance, but housed an impressive interior. The exterior cinder blocks were painted a deep gray. The massive wall that contained the entry proudly wore the colors of the members inside, two crossed Titan’s hammers with a skull over laid and for added intensity it was all set within a hellfire blaze. There was no doubt where you were when you stood in the fenced parking lot.
Brick and Wraith weaved their way through dozens of bikes and their riders making their way to the door. Greetings were given in passing, but not stopping their trajectory.
“I’m gonna hit the head. I’ll meet you at the bar. Get me a beer,” droned Wraith as he split off from Brick in favor of the direction of the locker room. There were two signs that hung above adjacent doorways, one declared “Bikers” while the other wore “Bitches.” He turned left and passed under the “Bikers” plaque where he was happy to find the locker room empty. He claimed a stall and did his business. He found himself standing in front of the sink with water coursing from the tap as he white knuckled the porcelain like his sanity depended on it. He could not wrap his head around the fact that Rylynn was missing and Hammer was dead. Hammer and Wraith’s father, lil John, had been friends for years. It did not matter that there were two plus decades that separated their ages. Mutual respect and fellowship were key in the MC world. They had it in spades. You needed to trust your brother and he you. This building and the people in it were the building blocks of Wraith’s childhood before his old man helped spread Titan’s Hammer to the mid-west, leaving behind his friends and Wraith’s other half, Rylynn. Wraith walked over to the lockers and took a seat on one of the benches and pulled out his phone to check for messages. There were a few from club honeys that he skimmed and deleted. How they got his number was a question he would have to ask when he got back. As he flipped through and deleted their sad attempts at claiming a heart that had been promised to someone many years before, he remembered sending an unknown number to voice mail several hours earlier when he was stopped for fuel. Sliding his fingers along the screen he tapped the icon and put the phone to his ear.
“Um, hey, babe. It’s Jewel.” Wraith was on his feet the moment he heard her voice. His hand clung to the edge of the wall of lockers as he let her voice wash over him. He knew the message had come after word came that Hammer was dead and Rylynn was taken. Yet her voice was greeting him. It washed over him like a warm rain. He tipped his head back and let her words soothe the ache he felt. She was his, his Jewel. “Um, my teddy bear of a guardian was killed by someone we thought was a friend.” She couldn’t be talking about Nox. No, she was trying to tell him something. Did that mean that someone in house had murdered the National President of the MC? That’s a serious accusation to make, but so was the lie that she had been taken by another club. What other lies were there? She was on the run from someone she had trusted or at least someone that had been brought into the club. “I am feeling pretty…vulnerable. I, um, I needed to get away. You know? Can I come visit you? Call me when you can. Please.”
“Yes,” he whispered, but before Wraith could push the call back option Brick flung open the door allowing it to slam against the wall.