Authors: Emily Stone
This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons--living or dead--is entirely coincidental.
Devil on My Shoulder @ 2014 by Emily Stone. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embedded in critical articles or reviews.
Devil on My Shoulder
Paxton Keller made several quick motions with his left hand and then pulled his motorcycle into the parking place in front of
the Wild Kat Bar. Jimmy and Short John, his wingmen, pulled their bikes in alongside him, making sure, as he had, to keep the bikes pointed out toward the street in case this was a trap. Tommy, the front buffer, continued on around the block to look for signs of trouble. Dave, who had been riding back buffer, also pulled into the parking spaces, but his bike faced outward in the opposite direction of the others to give him a clear view of traffic approaching from the rear.
Pax sat astride his bike with his left foot holding him in balance. Out of habit, he revved the engine several times as he waited for Tommy to return. The Wild Kat wasn’t a biker bar—it was a college bar near the University of Arizona campus in Phoenix—but that didn’t mean it was safe. You didn’t have to be at a biker bar for it to be a trap. You didn’t have to be on enemy turf for them to kill you.
Short John put down his kickstand and dismounted. He stood beside his bike looking carefully at the surrounding streets and buildings. Rooftops were clear. No windows were dark and open. No vans were parked nearby.
Short John was almost six-four, but the former president of the Camden Knights was known as Long John, and so Short John, although much taller, was stuck with the name.
Actually, Long John was short. He was only about five foot eight. There were many women who believed that Long John’s name was accurate, but referred to a totally different aspect of his anatomy. The truth was, however, that it had nothing to do with height or physical endowment. When Pax and John were in grade school together, one of their teachers made them read Treasure Island. Since John’s last name was Silverman, he immediately became Long John Silverman after the pirate of a similar name in the book. Later he grew into his name, so to speak, and became somewhat of a legend in high school.
Now Long John was dead. It was an accident, or at least that was what the official police reports had said. Pax wasn’t so sure. Yes, it was a dangerous curve. Yes, the impact with the trees had been at high speed. Yes, it had all the signs of someone who had lost control on the curve and careened off the road into the trees. But something wasn’t right. If Long John was going off the curve into the trees, he would have dropped the bike. But the bike didn’t slide into the trees as if it had been laid down. It went into them head-on.
Maybe it was an accident. Motorcycles aren’t so much dangerous as they are unforgiving. Long John might have made some minor mistake that at lower speed in a wider curve wouldn’t have been significant. But at speed in that tight curve, it had been fatal.
Or, maybe it wasn’t a mistake. Maybe it was just shit luck. Maybe a deer or some other animal had run across the road in front of him. He could have even hit a bird or flying debris as he went into the curve. It could have been anything. It could have been an accident, but late last night Pax had received a whispered phone call that said: “If you want to know who killed Long John, be at the Wild Kat Bar at seven o’clock tomorrow night.”
That was all it said, but that was enough. So, tonight Paxton Keller, President-elect of the Camden Knights Motorcycle Club, waited outside the Wild Kat Bar while his bodyguards scanned for unknown enemies in the shadows around him.
Actually, his primary enemy was already known... the Hell’s Marauders. They were more of a protection association for the Hispanic community, but any power without accountability becomes corrupt. The Knights had.
The Marauders’ president, Theo Johnson, tried to keep them in line, but many of his members had relatives in Mexico and therefore access to drugs. They wanted to emulate the Camden Knights in bringing product north through the deserts of southern Arizona. Long John’s death could have been an attempt by the Marauders or some of their members to take over the Knights’ lucrative business. The Knights didn’t sell, and they didn’t buy. They just transported, but there was a lot of money to be made in that type of transportation when you were as good at it as the Knights were. They had never yet lost a shipment.
the Wild Kat Bar, bartender Sammie Johnson set down the glasses she was putting away and cocked her head to listen to the noise from outside. Four--or perhaps five--motorcycles were at the curb. One or two were slowly revving their engines. What puzzled Samantha was the sound of the engines. They weren’t hogs. They didn’t have the characteristic kah-poca, kah-poca, kah-poca of a Harley. But at the same time they didn’t have that higher pitched sound of the Japanese bikes favored by the local college students. And yet, they were modern bikes; they didn’t have the chuff-chuff of the old Indians or Nortons. Even the modern models of those bikes had a somewhat hollow sound to them. These were big bikes with big mills, but what were they?
Then an image of a policeman popped into Sammie’s mind, and almost immediately she said aloud, “Goots.” They were Moto Guzzis, popular in California, Texas and even Arizona as a police bike because of their large engines, power, and speed. Something told her, however, that these were not policemen gathered out in front of the bar.
That was verified when Short John stepped into the bar and looked around. He carefully scrutinized the few patrons who were there. He also looked carefully into the apparently empty, darkened corners of the bar. Then he stepped back outside.
As he turned to leave, Sammie could see the large K with a lance protruding from its center emblazoned on the back of his jacket. The K was the beginning of the word Knights, which was written in large, white gothic script across the back of the jacket. Beneath Knights, it said in red, “Camden.”
So, she thought, the Wild Kat was being visited by the Camden Knights.
A few moments later the biker returned, followed by a young man who appeared to be just shy of thirty years old. He, too, was wearing blue jeans and a black jacket that undoubtedly carried the Knights emblem. This one, however, was much more handsome and had an air of authority. He was a leader, and something about him attracted Sammie in a way that she had never felt before. Another Knight entered behind him.
As Pax stepped further into the Wild Kat, Sammie called out from behind the bar, “Corner booth, no windows behind it, solid wall, with view of both entrances plus the door to the kitchen.”
He smiled at her in response and asked, “What makes you think that I would want the corner booth?”
Sammie matched his smile and answered, “I have no idea what you want, but I am sure that your bodyguards will insist on the corner booth.”
“You got that, lady,” answered Short John curtly.
“Be nice,” said Pax to Short John, but intentionally loudly enough so that Sammie could hear him at the bar.
“No waitress tonight,” she announced. “But if you’ll just be seated, I will come over and get your order. Or one of you can come up to the bar. We have any drink you could want and just about any food that can be warmed up in a microwave, including slices of pizza.”
“Double Jack on the rocks for me,” Pax said as he approached the bar. “And a Pepsi and 7-Up for my ‘friends.’”
He set his hands on the bar and stared into Sammie’s green-blue eyes. “They’re driving,” he added with a slight laugh as he took in her beauty.
Pax was captivated by this stunning girl. She was in her early to mid-twenties, and had lost that early bloom of beauty so common to Hispanic women. Most girls of her heritage bloomed early and faded quickly into a darker-skinned version of Pax’s own German grandmother, who was built somewhat along the lines of a stout barrel.
He read her name tag. Sammie had acquired the size of a post-bloom Hispanic girl, but she was definitely not barrel-shaped. Her ample body was rounded in all the right places and narrowed slightly at the hips to highlight her DD breasts. Had she been wearing a loose-fitting outfit like most women her size wore, her curves would not have been visible. But her tight, University-of-Arizona-blue stretch pants with an equally tight red top hugged and showed off every curve. And there were a lot of them. Obviously, she was proud of her voluptuous body.
Pax laid several twenties on the bar. “Reverse tab,” he said. “We might be here a while. If we leave early, you get a bigger tip.”
Sammie took the twenties and put all but one of them under a heavy glass next to the cash register. She rang up the three drinks, put the twenty in the drawer, and put the change in the glass. “I never work an open drawer,” she said to Pax. “Keeps me honest.” She set the drinks in front of Pax, smiled, and added, “Besides, if the owner saw any of us not ringing something up or not closing the cash register, he would throw our asses out of here.”
“And such a beautiful ass it is,” replied Pax, waiting to see her reaction. Some girls would be offended; some would be embarrassed; Sammie just met his eyes and said “Thank you.”
“What’s a beautiful Hispanic girl like you doing here?” he asked, suddenly reddening as he realized how stupid and corny that sounded.
She just laughed slightly and answered, “My family—especially my father’s family—have been in this area or a little west of here since before the Gringos came up from Texas to steal the land from Mexico.”
Then she looked Pax directly in the eyes and asked, “What brings a bunch of Guidos from the Jersey Shore out to Phoenix?”
Paxton laughed. He liked Sammie. She stood her ground, but wasn’t angry or offensive. “Not everyone in Jersey is Italian,” he answered. “Most of the Knights are from German families. We started getting together in high school to ride together and work on our bikes together. We were just a bunch of friends that liked motorcycles. We became the Knights because we would sometimes race each other on the streets of the Lansing Square neighborhood. One day a little old lady turned onto the street in front of us and Long John and I ended up barely missing her. Nobody got hurt, but she wrote a nasty letter to the paper complaining about all these hooligans roaring around the street and demanding that the police do something about the gang of young thugs that had charged at her like knights in armor on motorized horseback. From then on we were the Knights.”
“Long John designed the emblem,” he explained, turning to show Sammie the back of the jacket. “Originally the end of the lance was shaped like a penis, but that was a little too obvious, so he changed it back to an ordinary lance. But if you look at where it comes out of the K, the intent becomes pretty obvious. And before you ask, the reason it doesn’t specify New Jersey is that for people who grew up in those neighborhoods, there’s only one Camden.”
“And why did the Knights leave Camden?” asked Sammie.
“Cities change. Cities die,” answered Pax. “Even before the Navy yards closed, industry was dying out. Most of the whites left to find jobs elsewhere. The blacks and Hispanics stayed because it doesn’t make much difference which city you’re unemployed in. Long John had an uncle who died and left him some property here in Phoenix. It was a rather exclusive club way back in the 40's. Now it’s our clubhouse and grounds. Almost all the Knights came west with Long John and me and found ways to make money out here in the desert.”
“I won’t ask how,” said Sammie.
“And I won’t tell you. I’m not proud of a lot of it, but I have ideas of bringing the Knights back a little closer to legitimate. There are ways of making money that don’t involve the risk of going to jail for life... or getting run off the road by a rival gang.”
Pax hadn’t realized how angry and bitter his last words had sounded until he saw Sammie suddenly turn cold and start to walk away. “I’m sorry if I upset you,” he said suddenly.
“No, that’s all right,” she answered stiffly. “I just have to get back to work.”
Pax wasn’t exactly sure what he had said wrong, but he was very upset with himself by the time he sat down with Short John and Jimmy. He took a hurried gulp of his whisky. Short John leaned in toward him and said softly, “I walked around. No devils on anyone’s neck.” The members of The Hell’s Marauders had a small red devil with black horns and a black goatee tattooed on their necks. The Knights had a similar tattoo, except it was a K with a lance.
“You did look on the left side?” he asked. Most biker tattoos were on the right side, but Mexican superstition says that an angel sits on your right shoulder and a devil on your left, each whispering in your ear trying to guide your life. So, the devil's on the left side.