“Dude, did you fuckin’ fall in or something? Do you need a life preserver? Your beer’s getting warm and church is gonna start in like five minutes.”
“Sorry man. I had some messages to answer,” grumbled Wraith as he debated with his thumb. Call Ry or wait?
“Come on. Let’s down a few before we have to deal with the reality that shit is totally FUBAR.”
Brick tossed a glance over his shoulder as he was walking out of the locker room, “Fucked up beyond all recognition.”
“Rings true,” agreed Wraith as he put his phone in his pocket and followed Brick to the bar.
Brick lead the way to where a beer waited and his brothers paced. Titan’s Hammer had suffered a major loss in its National President which brought in chapter presidents and reps from across the country. Wraith held the Sergeant at Arms post in his chapter, but was close to the people most affected by the past days’ worth of events clearing the way for him to represent his chapter. The Hammer had been murdered in cold blood on Titan territory. He had been shot in the head and left in one of the bays at the garage that he ran for the club. Rylynn did the books for the garage and the club. Cameo, the Sergeant at Arms of the national chapter, and Pez, his pill popping crony, claimed to have found Hammer in the garage in a pool of his own blood the night before. Cameo explained how he had to punch out a window to get to Hammer and that was when they realized Rylynn was missing.
After getting that voice mail, Wraith was starting to wonder what was what and what was real. He knew she was not with the Lynch Men and that she was not seriously injured as Cameo assessed, but he had more questions than answers and needed to fill in some of the blanks. He would call Ry when church was done and he had some questions answered. Wraith locked his phone and left it in the box by the door to the meeting room. Electronics were not allowed in church.
Wraith stopped cold in the doorway to the meeting room. In the middle of the table was something that he would recognize anywhere. Balled up in a mass on the table in front of Cameo’s seat was Rylynn’s braided hair. Wraith was jockeyed out of the way and pushed closer to the table as members attempted to enter the room behind him. The room that held the blood encrusted blonde knot. He found his hand shaking as it reached out to touch the matted mass, her hair, when a fist slammed down smashing Rylynn’s locks beneath it. Wraith’s eyes crawled up the arm, across the shoulder, up the thickly veined neck to the cold eyes of Cameo.
“Back off,” sneered Cameo.
Wraith’s nostrils flared, “She is my…friend; has been for years.”
“I don’t give a fuck. You never bothered to claim her, but I will. She’s gonna be my property when I bring her back. That trumps friend in my book.”
Wraith knew Cameo was full of shit. He and Ry spoke at least once a week about everything and everyone. Wraith talked to Rylynn more than his own mother and they lived in the same town. Ry was in the North-East and he in the Mid-west. They had states between them, but were as close as ever. Wraith knew how Ry felt about Cameo. She referred to him as, their very own, Eddie Haskell. He was charming when needed, but mostly he was a slimy, shady piece of shit, douche bag who only showed his face when it would make him look good, hence the name, Cameo.
Cameo leaned closer to Wraith so that no one else could clearly hear the vile words that followed, “I will get her back and when I do, you can watch me claim that sweet piece of ass and then,” he sneered with a perverse twinkle in his dead eyes, “I’m gonna wear her old man’s patch.”
Rage gripped Wraith, but he had to remain in control. He ground his teeth so hard it hurt, but he needed even more answers now. He needed to know who the traitor was. But, truth be told, he knew the target stood right in front of him.
Capt. Jack stalked into the room and the voices ceased. Capt. Jack was the Vice President under Hammer. He made his way around the table and took the seat that sat next to the open space left by Hammer’s massive void. No one would claim that seat unless or until they were voted in. No one would touch Hammer’s position until vengeance was taken in blood.
Minutes ticked by before Cap slammed his thick hands down on the meeting table with a growl. He pushed up from his seat and draped his hand over the back of Hammer’s chair. “Someone murdered our president.” He reached across the table and slid the wad of hair away from Cameo’s then spread it out for all to see. “Someone took our lil Hammer. Someone left this as a twisted fucking message for all of us,” he hissed as he held her bloody chopped hair in his hand. “I want that someone dead, not hurt, not bleeding, I want them dead. I want their heads on fucking sticks and I want them paraded through their fucking territory. I want our lil Hammer home where we can take care of her as Hammer would have wanted.” Wraith looked at Cameo and Cameo to Wraith at those words. A sick sneer spread across Cameo’s face as Wraith shook, but held himself in check. “Now, word is that the Lynch Men were spotted near the garage that night,” Cap stated as he dropped Ry’s hair to the table where Wraith’s eyes were drawn. “They have always claimed that lil Hammer is one of them, blood, but they have no shame if they did this to her,” he barked snatching up her hair again and waving it above his head for all to see. “They claim she needs to be back in their fold. What kind of family would do this to their own? Killing Hammer was just a bonus in their book. Find them. Kill the mother fucker’s who did this and get Hammer’s lil girl home where she belongs.” Grunts and roars followed the demand. Fists pounded the table, walls and any other surface strong enough to support a massive fist. Hammer would be avenged and Rylynn brought home, but Rylynn was not where they thought. Rylynn was not missing. Rylynn was running from one of their own and Wraith would protect her with his life.
Plans were being made for the retrieval of lil Hammer when Wraith posed a question, “Did the Lynch Men leave a message or something to let us know it was them? How do you know they took Ry?”
Cameo snarled, “Of course they took her! I saw two Lynch Men and a van on the road as I was heading to the garage to see lil Hammer. I was taking her to dinner,” he added with a snide grin. “When I got there I found Hammer in the bay and lil H gone.”
Wraith noted that Cameo’s left hand was bandaged, “That’s when you punched in the window?” he asked as he pointed to Cameo’s gauzed paw.
Cameo jerked his head in acknowledgement. Wraith nodded and slid back into listening mode. He watched Cameo and Pez shared looked that no one else noticed. The brother’s mapped out their attack while Wraith did some planning of his own. He needed to talk to Ry and see if there was someone they could talk to on the other side of the lie. The Lynch Men needed to be warned of an impending war that they didn’t know was coming.
Church was let out and some prospects were ordered out on recon duty. The remaining members found their way to the bar to talk over beer and shots. Wraith kept to the outside of conversations opting to listen when topics ventured toward Hammer, Ry, or Cameo. One and one were not making two, but Wraith did not know who he could trust. Wraith needed to talk to Rylynn before a war broke out over the actions of a traitor. Wraith retrieved his cell from the box by the office and stepped out into the parking lot. His mind drifted to a Summer’s day when he could see the way the sun use to highlight the gold in Rylynn’s hair. Long was not the right word to explain her hair. It danced around her waist in waves. The color was as pure and clean as wheat. Now, it sat in a mat in the middle of the meeting room table encrusted in blood. Was that blood hers? He needed answers that only she could provide, but not there. Wraith mounted his ride to find a safe place to make a call. He needed to reach out to the missing to discuss the dead.
Dawn had been much closer than Ry had hoped. She peeled her dry eyes open when the alarm on her phone sounded. Sleep had not come quick or easy and the dreams were harsh and tinted in red. Staying another night was not an option. She had to move on. She would be running on coffee, fear, and questions. Her burner phone showed no signs of calls or messages from Wraith. It was still very early in the morning for the sun to have fully risen so she gave him his excuse for not calling. She prayed he would call and soon. She did not want to be alone in her grief and left to flounder in her own fear.
Rylynn gathered up her things leaving the room as cold and empty as it was when she turned the key just a few hours ago. She left no sign behind; not a finger print, not a scrap of trash. There was no sign that she was ever there. Only her nightmares seemed to linger and she hoped to leave them, but knew better.
She checked out and set out for safer places when her phone began to ring. There was only one person it could be and it was the one person she needed now more than ever.
“Hello,” she squeaked.
“Thank, God,” he sighed. “Are you okay? Are you hurt, Jewel?”
“Hold on a second. I’m gonna pull off the road.” Wraith waited as Rylynn maneuvered the truck off the road into a gas station out of the line of traffic. “Okay, yeah, I’m okay. No major injuries.”
“Look, I can’t be away very long. Who can we trust? I need to get answers to questions I can’t ask.”
“Captain, you can talk to him, but you have to be really careful or he won’t listen or believe. I’ll send you a text to show him and then just do what he says.”
“I saw your hair. Are you hurt, Jewel? There was so much blood. Tell me you are safe.”
“Blood? I’m not cut. I chopped my hair off to get away from Cameo. It was him and Pez. Pez…Pez shot my grandfather, Wraith,” she could barely choke out from behind the lump that was forming in her throat. “He heard me scream when Cameo snuck in and then grabbed me and ran out to help when Pez shot him,” she explained through a sob. “He’s dead, Wraith. The only person who loved me is gone.”
Wraith’s head dropped at her mournful words, “No, Jewel, not the only one who loves you. You got me, girl. Always.”
“I’m scared, Will.”
“I got you. I will always have you.” He wished he had her in his arms. He wished her tears were resting on his shoulder, but he had a battle to fight and she needed to be at a safe distance. “Listen, I need you to do as I say. I’m gonna call my club and make arrangements for you. I will have them put you up in my place and hide you from this shit storm. I will send you the info as soon as I get it. Use the name Julie, okay?”
“How far away are you?”
Ry scanned her directions and calculated, “About two hours.”
“I’ll make the call and send you what you need. Jewel?”
“Be safe. Be well and…”
“Be prepared. I know, Wraith. Do something for me.”
“Save Nox. Bring him home with you if you have too,” she begged then ended the connection.
Wraith looked at his phone and wished he could see her face. All that stared back from a blank screen was the reflection of his own eyes. He closed his eyes and demanded focus. He had a shit ton to do and only 8 seconds to do it. His thumb skated across the screen and tapped on a name.
“Sup?” Elvis answered with a grunt.
“Hey brother, I need a favor.”
Elvis sighed, “Favors ain’t free, man.”
“No shit! That must be why they call then favors and not free-vors.” They both chuckled at the lamest joke ever. “Look, man, I got a friend, a chick, who needs cover and cash. Is the House Mouse slot still open?”
“Yeah, I haven’t gotten around to filling it yet. She been around a club before? ”
“Yeah, she’s good on that front. She knows the game. Her name is Julie. I’ll have her meet up with you when you have the time. You can put her up in the condo while I’m gone. I’ll take care of her once I get back. I just need to keep her safe.”
He had Elvis’ attention with that last comment, “Safe from what?”
“Safe from shit.”
“What kinda shit, man? I ain’t bringin’ in some bitch that can bring harm to the club.”
Wraith growled at his disrespectful words. If only he knew who he was talking about he would never have said that shit, but Wraith could not tell him without fear of her being exposed. “You sayin’ I would cause a breach in the club? Fuck that. She needs help and we are gonna help her. I will explain when I get back, but I need more answers first.”
“Have her here in two hours and we’ll see.”
“It’s gonna take her that long to get there. Give her a little leeway. I’ll let her know and there won’t be any ‘we’ll see’ man. Look Elvis, she needs to stay off the fuck fodder list, too. She needs to stay under the radar for now.”
“Dude, you bring in fresh pussy and everyone’s gonna want a taste. How the hell am I gonna keep her off everyone’s radar?”
Wraith needed to know that she would not only be safe, but be his when he got back to her. “Tell ‘em she’s under my protection.”
Elvis laughed out right, “You gonna claim a pussy, bro? I thought you would never settle for just one slice.”
“Shut up, Elvis. She will be mine. I’m trusting you to keep her safe until I get my ass home.”
“Done. But, it’s gonna cost you.”
“It normally does. What do you want?”
“Hmm…I’ll let you know when I figure that out.”
Wraith tapped out a quick text to Jewel to tell her when, where, and who to meet. He tucked his phone back into his pocket and headed back to the club. There was a lot he had to figure out and the first was to see who he could trust. The first being Captain Jack.