Authors: KM Rockwood
“So you guys aren’t working?”
“There was some stuff we could do on the other side. So a couple of us stayed. But it’s pretty much done now, and we got the silt snakes where she says they got to be. Until that backhoe operator gets that slope the way the TCI wants it, we can’t work. That’ll take most of the afternoon. I’m gonna take off, too.”
So far he hadn’t paid any attention to me or Willis. “Hey, Funky Joe,” I said.
He glared at me, rubbing a bruise on his cheek. “What the hell you want?”
“Aaron here says somebody was looking for me?”
“Yeah. That girlfriend of yours. She was looking for somebody to give her a ride up to the clubhouse. Thought you might be up there.”
“Why the hell did she think that?”
A mean smirk covered his face. “I dunno. But I
Black Rose was up there. And she says if Razorback don’t put in an appearance pretty soon, she’s gonna see if she can’t hook up with you. So it might get interesting up there when them two bitches get together.”
My gut lurched.
Two women getting into it over me? One of them somebody I didn’t even know. What was going on here? Didn’t seem like that could happen.
Joe grinned. “I’d like to see
I’d seen plenty of fights in my life, most of them over something stupid. But I couldn’t even begin to imagine Kelly and Black Rose getting into it. Kelly, at least, was much too sensible. And wasn’t she supposed to be going to rehab for an injured shoulder? She’d be in no shape to take on anyone, even if she did outweigh Black Rose by maybe fifty pounds.
Unless somebody brought a gun or a knife to the fight. Kelly wouldn’t do that.
How well did I really know Kelly, though?
I thought uneasily. Not nearly as well as I thought I did. They say love is blind.
Love. Where did that come from? The word hit me upside the head.
Kelly? Was that what all this pain and anguish was about? I liked her, sure, and the sex was great. But here I was, hanging out with people who I knew could get me in trouble and thinking about doing stupid things when I knew a lot better. But I
to find out whether Kelly wanted to see me or not. Was that what love did to a person? Funky Joe was looking at me like I was some kind of insect he was thinking maybe he should step on.
I bit my lip. “You know what she wanted to see me about?”
He grinned again. “Nope. That’d be between the two of you. But y’know, a woman scorned and all that.”
I took a deep breath. “How long ago was that?”
“Not long. If she went up there, I bet she’s there now.”
Common sense said this might be a set up. For me, at least. “She know where it is? It can’t be easy to find.”
Funky Joe gave me a mean grin. “She had a pretty good idea. But I made sure she knew how to get up there.”
Thinking for a minute, I asked, “Old Buckles up there now?”
Funky Joe shrugged. “He took off as soon as he knew we wouldn’t be working a whole shift. But I don’t know where he went. I got nothing to do with none of this. Not with the cars and not with the broads.” He straightened up, spit on the ground, and went back to his lunch.
“Well.” Aaron rolled up the window. “I guess I got to get this car up there and see if they got anything else for me to do. You guys coming along?”
“I got nothing better to do,” Willis said.
The ache in my gut turned to a cold lump. Against my better judgment, I said, “Yeah.”
What was I getting myself involved in?
The twisting blacktop road narrowed and turned to gravel as it climbed into the hills.
A pickup pulling a trailer with a small backhoe on it passed us. The windows in the pickup were tinted, and I couldn’t see if it was Black Rose at the wheel. If it was, at least I wouldn’t have to worry about her and Kelly fighting while I was up there.
We crossed a bridge that had seen better days and made an abrupt left on to a wide gravel driveway. Inside the car, we bounced around. I was surprised such an expensive car didn’t have a smoother suspension, even on the rough surface. But I guess it was built for the German Autobahn, not Appalachian back roads.
After a short drive through the woods, we came out in a cleared area dominated by a huge cinderblock building, one side lined with garage doors. A rusting trailer with a sign that said, “General Trenching and Excavating” was off to one side. Sagging overhead wires led to both the building and the trailer.
Only two choppers were parked on the gravel apron in front along with a battered pickup truck I thought I recognized as Aaron’s. I hoped that meant there weren’t a lot of bikers hanging around. I could do without the group dynamics here, especially if Old Buckles wasn’t around to keep a handle on things.
Aaron drove straight toward the building and slammed on the brakes at the last minute, squealing to a stop just inches from one of the closed garage doors. One of these days his show-off driving was going to get him in real trouble. But I hoped it would be at a time when I wasn’t in the vehicle he was driving.
A man stepped out of the building, buttoning his shirt as he came toward us. His arms were massive and tattooed, a cigarette dangling from his fingertips. He stopped and crossed his arms over his chest, watching as Aaron got out of the car. I watched the cigarette with fascination. How did he manage to hang onto it without either dropping it or burning himself?
“Hey, Butch. Where’s Smokey?” Aaron asked.
Butch swayed slightly as he stood, reaching out one massive arm to steady himself on the doorframe. His unkempt beard covered half of his hefty chest, and he had a slightly disoriented look on his face. “He ain’t here. Who’d you bring with you?”
Maybe that wasn’t a straight tobacco cigarette in his hand? More likely a joint. Or even a wet, a combination of tobacco, weed, and angel dust. That could lead to pretty unpredictable behavior.
Aaron gestured back toward the car. “The one in the back seat’s Willis. He’s one of our spotters.”
“Yeah? And why’d you bring him up here?”
Aaron shrugged. “I dunno. See if there’s any more work, I guess.”
Butch gestured toward me and almost fell over. He must have been really wasted. “And the other guy?”
“He’s looking for his girlfriend. Somebody told her he was up here. So he come to get her. Or something.”
I got out of the car. “Is she up here?”
“If she is, she came ’cause she wanted to see us
Not you. So you can just get going.”
I squared my shoulders and looked straight into his watery bottomless eyes. “I’d like to talk to her.”
He rocked back on the heels of his boots and put the cigarette or joint or whatever back in his mouth, not saying anything. He inhaled deeply.
A whiff of ammonia mixed with the combined scent of tobacco and marijuana from his smoke. More likely a hand-rolled blunt than a cigarette.
Were they running a meth lab up here? Wouldn’t surprise me.
A female scream came from inside the building and resonated through the clearing. It didn’t sound like Kelly’s voice, but I’d never heard Kelly scream.
“I’d like to talk to her,” I repeated.
The guy shrugged. He pinched out the end of his smoke and said to Aaron, “You best be putting that car inside.” Then he turned to me and looked me over.
I didn’t flinch.
He shrugged. “What name you want me to give?”
Raising his eyebrows, he said, “That’s it?”
“Wait here.” When Aaron got the garage door open, Butch stepped through and disappeared into the dimness inside.
I stayed where I was, but peered into the gloom.
A number of newish cars stood around in various stages of disassembly. A chop shop. Aaron had been stupid to bring other people up here. And I’d been stupid to come.
No wonder Old Buckles didn’t want to spend time up here. Even if he wasn’t worried about violating parole himself, he wouldn’t want his PO to come sniffing around.
I needed to get out of here. Fast. If that
Kelly who screamed, I was going to get her out of here. Assuming she wanted to come.
Another garage door opened, and Butch came out, dragging a woman by the arm.
Not Kelly. Carissa.
Talk about being stupid. Once I’d found out it wasn’t Black Rose who was looking for me, I hadn’t bothered to make sure they were talking about Kelly.
was talking about?” the man asked.
I looked at Carissa. She was sobbing, mascara streaking down her face. Her mini dress was ripped, exposing a miniscule frilly bra, which was pulled askew and wouldn’t have covered her breasts if they’d been any bigger than mosquito bites.
She’d managed to hang onto something she clutched in her hand. A cell phone? I was willing to bet she couldn’t get a signal up here.
“Not really. I was thinking Kelly Mathias.”
He snorted. “Old Buckles’ girl? She don’t come up here. He prob’ly wouldn’t let her if she wanted to.”
That made more sense to me. I felt like a weight had been lifted from my chest.
But here I was, in a very awkward place and situation for no good reason I could think of.
“You want to take this one anyhow?” he asked. “She said she wanted to party, but she’s not much fun. Them long fingernails can do a number on your face. And we got a lot of work to do.”
Carissa launched herself at me, still sobbing wildly. “Jesse! You’ve got to get me out of here.”
She slammed into my chest and started to slip to the ground. She was wearing only one of her spiked heels.
I put an arm around her to hold her up. “I guess,” I said. Even though I wasn’t entirely sure how I was getting out of here myself, I didn’t see how I could leave her. Eventually they’d get done with whatever they were doing—looked like removing salable parts from stolen luxury cars—and more Predators would show up. Then they’d be likely to put some effort into holding Carissa down for the “party” she’d asked for.
Although now that she had some idea of what she’d asked for, it was pretty obvious she didn’t want it.
She buried her face in my shirt. I only had a few decent shirts, and I wondered if the makeup would wash out.
Aaron came out of the garage, Willis trailing behind him.
“You got wheels?” I asked him.
“My truck.” He nodded toward the battered blue pickup.
“Let’s get going.” Before the bikers thought better of letting us leave.
“Only room for three people in the cab,” Aaron said, looking at the four of us.
I shoved Carissa up into an uneven standing position. “Willis, you ride in the truck bed.”
A very appropriately frightened look crossed his face, but Willis stepped up on the rear bumper and heaved himself in.
Carissa tried to brush the tangle of hair out of her face. “I need my other shoe and my coat.”
“You probably got more shoes. And another coat. We don’t have enough time to get them, so just forget about them.”
She’d been battered and probably sexually assaulted. Why couldn’t she understand how precarious our situation was? We needed to get out of there.
Aaron stood uncertainly, his keys in his hand. A drop of blood trickled from one swollen and reddened nostril. “But I haven’t got the money for delivering the car. Can’t I wait until Smokey and the other guys get here?”
“You can pick it up later. Get in the truck.” I hoped he could drive. We’d have to chance it.
He walked around to the driver’s side and climbed in.
I opened the passenger door. Carissa just stood there. I picked her up and shoved her onto the seat, then got in beside her and shut the door. And locked it.
Aaron fumbled with the keys.
Two other men stepped out of the garage, one of them zipping up his pants. The other one held a shop rag held up to his face. It was turning red with blood. “Where’s that damn bitch?” he asked.
I said to Aaron, “Start the damn truck and let’s get out of here.”
“Huh?” He looked up at me.
“You want me to drive?” I didn’t have a driver’s license, and I could get in a lot of trouble if I was caught behind the wheel, but I had a feeling it would be nothing next to what might happen if these three guys thought through what was going on. Or if more of the Predators showed up while we were still here.
“Nah.” He finally got the key in the ignition and shifted into gear. We lurched forward, the truck threatening to stall.
The engine finally caught, and we careened down the driveway. I held onto Carissa to keep her from bouncing into Aaron as he drove. I hoped Willis had found some way to hang on, but I wasn’t going to ask Aaron to stop the truck so I could check.