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Authors: KM Rockwood

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BOOK: Buried Biker
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He shifted his massive weight uneasily and peered at me from under his shaggy eyebrows. “I know it ain’t really none of my business, Jesse, but you know, I been working with Kelly for years. I was real upset to hear somebody’d done that to her.”

I took a deep breath. “I know what you mean.”

He squinted at me, his small eyes piercing. “
Did
you have anything to do with it?”

“No. I wasn’t anywhere near her when it happened.”

“I thought you two was an item.”

Wiping my hands on my blue jeans, I said, “Not really. We saw each other sometimes, but you know, her dad got out of prison, and he was using her place as his reported residence. I can’t associate with convicted felons, and he’s sure as hell a convicted felon, too. So I was staying away.”

He nodded. “Was her dad hanging around a lot?”

“I think so.”

“And how about them bikers he rides with?”

“Them too.”

“Don’t they got a clubhouse up in the hills? Out behind that excavating business some of them run? Nobody cares what they do out there.”

“I don’t know about the excavating business, but Kelly did say they had someplace outside town they could go. I think Kelly wasn’t real happy having them around her kids so much.”

“Why hang out at Kelly’s place in town? That’s just asking for trouble.”

“Wondered that myself. I didn’t think Old Buckles, her dad, was on home detention, but sometimes the parole officer springs that on you at the last minute. Then he’d have to wear an ankle bracelet, be in his little circle around the transmitter at Kelly’s place for maybe twelve hours a day, probably like seven PM to seven AM.”

Hank shook his shaggy head. “You think it might have been one of them did her?”

“Might be. But I’d have thought Old Buckles would have put the fear of the Lord into them. He still thinks of Kelly as his little girl.”

“Some of them guys, they get real high. They don’t think. And they certainly aren’t afraid of the Lord. Or anyone else.”

I nodded. I knew some people like that.

“Well.” Hank gathered up the papers. “Anything I can do to help the little lady, let me know.”

Not too many people would think of Kelly as being a “little lady” any more than they would “little girl,” but I guess that next to Hank’s hulking form, she was.

“If I hear of anything,” I said, “you’ll be the first to know. But I doubt I will. I’m kind of out of the loop.”

Most of the shift had their lunch from exactly 4:00 to 4:18 a.m., while those working on a continuous operation, like the platers or packing line, took staggered lunches when they could be relieved. I had no desire to sit down with anyone else, so I kept working through the regular lunch and told John I’d grab mine at the picnic table back in the shipping room when I’d made sure all the work was caught up.

About four forty-five, I picked up my lunchbox from near the time-clock and went to find Jim to tell him I was going to lunch if it was okay with him.

He was deep in conversation with the security guard who patrolled a regular path through the plant and grounds. I eased the forklift over and waited for them to finish talking. Although we were away from the production floor and the din of machinery was muted, I couldn’t hear any of what they were saying.

I got down to talk to Jim as the security guard started to leave.

He did a double take as he passed the forklift. Reaching behind the seat, he lifted the purse.

“Where the hell did you get
that?”
he asked.

Jim stared at the purse and then turned to look at me.

“Back in the warehouse,” I said.
Why the hell hadn’t I turned it in when I first found it?
“It was behind a pallet, by the root basket rings.”

The security guard examined the purse but didn’t open it. “And why didn’t you give it to somebody?”

I knew I should have. I said, “I was gonna give it to Jim at the end of the shift. Or turn it in to the lost and found in the timekeeper’s office.”

“Sure looks like the one I was telling you to keep an eye out for,” the guard said to Jim. “Fancy it turning up just like that, after being missing for two days.”

Jim shook his head.

“Be interesting to see if the car keys are still in it,” the guard said. “The owner can look when she reports for work in the morning. Mind if I lock it up in an office?”

“Sounds like a plan to me,” Jim said.

We watched him walk away, purse dangling from his bony hand.

Jim turned to look down at me. “Did you really find it in the warehouse?” he asked.

This whole thing couldn’t look good. I swallowed. “Yes.”

“Did you open it up?”

“No. I thought about it, find out who it belonged to, but then I decided it was better to let somebody in authority look for ID or something.”

“So you don’t know whose it is, or if it’s a wallet in it or keys or anything.”

“No, sir.”

Jim sighed. “It went missing a few days ago. Probably from the office. Or maybe the ladies’ room up there. And yesterday, the owner’s car was stolen from in front of her house. I don’t suppose you know anything about that, either, do you?”

“No, sir. What kind of car was it?”

“A fairly new BMW. Her husband just caught a glimpse of someone driving it away. A skinny white guy with brown hair.”

That description came uncomfortably close to me. “I don’t have a driver’s license.”

Jim cast a disgusted look at me. “You think anybody who’d steal a car would be worried about driving it without a license?”

When he put it like that, I had to say, “No, sir.”

I wasn’t hungry any more, but I knew I should eat. I drove off and parked the lift back in shipping. I had no sooner poured the coffee into the cup and unwrapped the sandwich when someone slammed a couple of cans of soda and a bag from a takeout burger joint on the table next to me.

Aaron. He was a kid who worked the packing line. When he showed up for work. He was a drug abuser and often made my life miserable, trying to get me to hook him up with sources of meth or crack. Or both. He thought I was connected because of my record, and I hadn’t been able to convince him I wasn’t a drug user and never had been. He just didn’t believe me.

He
was another skinny white guy with brown hair. Real skinny.

With his attendance record, he should have been fired. The only explanation I could come up with for why he hadn’t been was because he was a police informant, and the company had been asked to keep him on. Not long ago, a fairly sophisticated drug and fake ID distribution had been uncovered in the plant, with the contraband going out shrink-wrapped and hidden in shipments on the trucks. It had been orchestrated by an executive. The management seemed to discount that little fact and was more interested in what we laborers might be doing in the shop than what might be going on upstairs in the offices.

“Hey, Jesse,” Aaron said, slipping his pencil-thin legs over the picnic table bench and plopping down beside me.

I certainly didn’t feel like talking to anybody, much less him, so I just looked at him, then turned back to my lunch and started eating.

“So what happened to Kelly?” He pulled a cold greasy burger out of the bag and dumped some limp, slimy fries right on the grungy planks of the table top.

Maybe if I ignored him, he would leave me alone.

Fat chance. “So now you’re not talking to me?” he said. “Why? ‘Cause she beat you up? Is that what happened to your face?”

I wanted to get done with my lunch and get back to work, even if I cut my break short. I shoved an entire half of the sandwich in my mouth.

That’s not a good idea when it’s dry bread with plenty of peanut butter on it. I choked on it and started coughing. Reaching for my coffee, I knocked the cup to the floor.

“Hey, man. Have this.” Aaron opened one of his cans of soda and shoved it toward me. Then he started pounding me on the back. “You want I should try the Heimlich maneuver?”

“No!” I managed to gasp out. I coughed again. He stood up. I grabbed the soda and downed a big swallow, washing down the lump stuck in my throat. “I’m okay now. Don’t touch me!”

“Okay.” Aaron sat down again. “You want the other soda?”

“No thanks. There’s still some left in this can.” What I had didn’t taste like any soda I’d ever had. I looked at the can. Grape soda. What adult drank grape soda?

“Want me to get you some water?” he asked, starting to get up again.

“No. I’m fine.”

Aaron grinned. “You don’t
look
fine. But maybe it’s just your face. What
did
happen to you? Wasn’t Kelly, was it?”

I sighed. After he’d been willing to help me, I couldn’t continue to just ignore him. “No. Got my face slammed into the hood of a cop car.”

“Must have been pretty hard.”

“It was.”

He laughed. “Did it dent the hood?”

I had to smile at the thought of leaving a dent in the hood of Montgomery’s otherwise pristine ride. “Didn’t look, so I don’t know.”

“So it didn’t have anything to do with Kelly?”

“Nah.”

“Or when you went to settle with the guy who did her?”

“I don’t even know who that was. Yet.”

“What
did
happen to her?”

“I dunno. I wasn’t there.”

“Who was?”

“If I wasn’t there, how am I supposed to know?”

A depraved, hungry look came over his face. “You think she really got raped?”

My gut twisted. “That’s what I heard.”

“You gonna do anything about it?”

“What’d ya mean?”

“She’s
your
woman, ain’t she? So you gonna go take care of whoever moved in on you?”

I shook my head. “First of all, she ain’t
my
woman. We’re not married or engaged or anything. No commitment.” My mind reeled. Married? Me? Where did that thought come from
?

Taking a deep breath, I told him the same thing I’d told the bikers. “She’s her own person. She can do what she wants with anybody she wants to do it with.”

“Including screwing them?”

“If she wants to. But that don’t give nobody the right to do anything to her she don’t want them to.”

“So you gonna take care of it?”

“Don’t you listen?” But I knew the drugs had addled his mind to the point he forgot a lot of things. “I don’t even know
who
it was did it. So how’m I gonna do anything about it?”

“She didn’t tell you?”

“She don’t want to see me.”

Aaron pondered that for a few minutes. Or zoned out. Hard to tell.

I retrieved the cup to my thermos from the floor. The spilled coffee soaked right into the old wood planks, so I didn’t bother trying to wipe it up. I gathered up the wrapping from my sandwich and tossed it into the trash barrel.

“Say.” Aaron shook himself and turned his bleary eyes on me.

“What?”

“You know Old Buckles, the biker?”

“Yeah. He’s Kelly’s dad. He’s just got out of prison. He’s using Kelly’s place as his approved residence for parole.””

“Really. Anyhow, he been asking about you.”

“What about me?”

“When you get off work, where you stay at, that kind of stuff.”

“He could just ask Kelly.”

“Maybe he don’t want Kelly to know he’s asking.” Aaron scratched a scab on the back of his hand. It bled, but he didn’t seem to notice.

I snapped the top on my lunchbox shut. “No secrets about my work schedule. Easy enough to find out. He could even ask me.”

“You seen him?”

“Yeah. The other night at the hospital. He can find me whenever he wants to. My schedule’s pretty predictable.” When I wasn’t being hauled off to jail, that is. “He don’t need to ask you.”

“You’d think so.” Aaron looked around and lowered his voice. “But he
paid
me to tell him.”

“Paid you? How much?”

“Couple of rocks of crack.”

“You’d better stay away from them bikers. The Predators are in a whole different league than you.”

Aaron smirked. “That’s what
you
think.”

I really didn’t want to know what Aaron was getting involved with now. Just so long as it didn’t have anything to do with me. “What did you tell him?”

“Where you live at. Like you say, it ain’t no secret. And that you get off of work at eight a.m.”

“So should I expect him to be waiting for me when I punch out this morning?”

“I don’t think so. Unless it rains.”

BOOK: Buried Biker
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