Authors: Kathryn Thomas
I picked up my phone and dialed Cain. I could call him for once, and I was anxious to hear his voice. He refused to tell me what was bothering him, only that the Bulls were making his life miserable, but I was in such a good mood that I was going to cheer him up tonight.
“Hey, Alex,” he said quietly. His tone was like a slap in the face.
“Good to hear your voice, too. You don’t sound glad to hear from me.”
“Sorry. I just have a lot on my plate at the moment.”
“I don’t like the sound of that.”
“Yeah. It sucks around here. We got raided by the cops this morning. They had a warrant to search for weapons.”
I went cold. “Did they find anything?”
“No. Thank god. We don’t do the assembly at the clubhouse anyway, and the customer picked up the shipment last week. But they
. Somebody tipped them. We’re trying to figure out who did it. Well, we think we know who, but we are trying to find out for sure, and why.”
“Yeah. That’s what we think, but we don’t know why. That is something you just don’t do. You don’t inform…not on your own club and not on anyone else’s. You just don’t do it. It’s like they are pushing us to start a war, but that’s crazy. They can’t win. We’re twice their size and we are on good terms with all the other clubs. The Bulls would be standing alone. It doesn’t make sense.”
“What are you going to do?”
“I don’t know. Thad has called a meeting of all the other clubs to see if any of them know what the hell is going on. He’s going to try to put together a coalition and try to shut down the Bulls before it gets bloody.”
I felt a chill pass over me. “Do you think he can?”
“Put together the coalition? Yes. Like I said, we’re on good terms with the other clubs. We help each other out and nobody likes the Bulls. They stir up shit that lands on everyone. Will they back off? I have no idea. It’s like they are spoiling for a fight.”
“What if they don’t?”
“I think everyone is tired of their shit. As the dominant club, and because we are the ones they are fucking with, we’re going to have to be the ones to deal them. I had just joined the Hounds the last time the Bulls had to be dealt with. We put a few of their guys in the hospital as a warning. I don’t think they’re going to get another warning.”
“Does that mean what I think it means?” I asked, gripping my phone tight.
“Better you not ask.”
“Cain…I don’t —”
“Alex, I know. I don’t like it either. But there are rules and obligations about shit like this. We have to do this. Nobody wants to, but we
to. If we don’t, the other clubs are going to get ideas. Look, we’re going to try to do this without bloodshed, okay? That’s why Thad is talking to the other clubs. Getting into a war brings a lot of attention that nobody wants. So we are doing everything we can to avoid it.”
“And if you can’t?”
“Then we will make it as quick as we can. Hit them hard and fast, and end it once and for all.”
I sat quietly, trying to absorb everything he had said.
“I’m here. I’m just thinking.”
“It will be okay. Don’t worry. With all the other clubs backing us, I don’t see it coming to that. The Bulls would have to be crazy to try to take us on. They can’t win and they would become outcast.”
“Members without a club. They would be easy pickings for the other clubs because nobody would give them a home. It’s why the clubs work together and don’t get into wars. It’s bad for everyone.” I heard a click on the line. “Let me call you back, okay? Thad is on the other line.”
“Sure.” I sat my phone down on the couch beside me. I had called to cheer him up, but now I was in a funk. All my fears were coming true and I didn’t know if I could trust what Cain was telling me. All I knew was that his world sounded dangerous and I knew I couldn’t raise a child in that kind of environment.
I was still fretting over what he had told me when my phone played its happy little ditty of a ringtone. I looked at the display. It was Cain calling back. “Hey,” I said softly.
“I have some
news,” he said, his excitement clear in his voice. Thad and the rest of the Presidents from the other clubs met and everyone is on board. If anything goes down, the Bulls will be standing alone. Thad is going to send them a message that their shit ends
He wants to talk to me tomorrow about how we can put the screws to them to drive the point home.”
“What does that mean?”
“That means we are going to figure out how to fuck them in the ass without bringing the heat down on us.”
I sighed in relief. “That’s good news.”
“Yes it is,” he said. “I’m looking forward to sticking it to them long and hard.”
I giggled. “Long and hard, huh? Wouldn’t you rather do that to me?”
He woofed out a laugh. “A different type of fucking, my dear, a different type of fucking.”
I was about halfway through the previous night’s receipts when my phone buzzed. I was going to catch that bitch Tina with her hand in the till if it was the last thing I did, and when I did, I was going to fuck her up good with Peter. I liked Peter and I didn’t like the fact that she was skimming. I glared at the phone in annoyance, marked my spot, and picked it up. It was Cain.
“Hey,” I said, my smile coming through in my voice. I had gone from not wanting him around to looking forward to hearing his voice in just over a month.
“Hey yourself. I have a question. Have you seen any strangers around? Anyone that didn’t look right?”
“Cain. First off, I work in a bar. Secondly —”
“Alex,” he barked. “I’m serious.”
“Secondly,” I continued, “I’m in the back now. I don’t see anyone except employees anymore. Why?”
“Nothing to worry about. I’m just checking in on you.”
Something in his voice set off alarm bells in my mind. “Cain, what’s going on?”
“Nothing you need to be concerned with.”
I rose from my desk and shut my door. “Don’t. Don’t you dare shut me out again. You need to tell me what’s going on.”
“Maybe nothing. Probably nothing. I don’t want to worry you for no reason. I just heard some things that made me think, that’s all.”
“It’s the Bulls. I told you how we’ve gotten into a pissing contest with them? Just more of that, that’s all.”
“And that affects me, how?”
“That’s just it. It may not. I just don’t want you to get… splashed. Look, I have to come down to New Orleans tomorrow to do some business Friday morning. I will tell you all about it then, okay?”
“But I’m not in any danger, am I? Or you?”
“No. Not that I know of. It’s just that the Bulls are sometimes… unpredictable. Just keep an eye open for something that doesn’t look right. And you might want to start carrying your gun.”
I felt the cold hand of fear grip my heart. “Now you’re scaring me.”
“Don’t be scared. It’s probably nothing. And I think you should carry your gun, always, anyway. Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.”
I thought about what he said. “You’re not lying to me are you?”
“No, Alex. I would never do that. Trust me, okay? I just don’t want to take any chances.”
“Okay. When will I see you?”
“Tomorrow. I’ll leave in the morning. I should be there when you get off from work. I’ll be in a white box truck.”
“A box truck. You’ve seen them. They have the big square cargo box on the back. You probably have the booze for
delivered in one.”
“Oh! Those. I didn’t know that was what they were called. Are you coming alone?”
“No. There will be four Hounds as escorts, but they are staying at a hotel.”
“So I will have you all alone?”
“Looks like it.”
I smiled. “I like the sound of that.”
“Yeah, me too,” he said, but his tone said something different.
“Are we okay?” I asked.
“I don’t know. You just don’t sound like yourself.”
“Just tired, that’s all. This shit with the Bulls is wearing me out. Nothing to worry about.”
“Okay. So long as that is all it is.”
“That’s all it is. I’m looking forward to seeing you.” This time I could hear the smile in his voice and I relaxed.
When I rolled up to my house on Thursday, there was a white truck sitting at the curb and I smiled. As I drove by I could see Cain sitting in the driver’s seat, apparently asleep. After tucking my car away in the garage I walked out, picked up my mail, and rapped on the door of the truck with my knuckles. He lunged awake and made me grin in delight.
“Enjoy your nap?” I asked as he blinked himself awake.
“Yeah,” he mumbled as he opened the door. Just like the last time I saw him, he looked like hell, but even worse this time. He looked unkempt in a way that he never had before.
“Is everything alright?”
“No,” he said as he locked up the truck. “I am
out on a limb here.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, I’ve convinced Thad, the President, to back a play to hold onto our client. We are going to lose our ass on this shipment, but it buys us some time to figure out what the hell is going on. That means no payday, for anyone, this month – next month too, probably. Everyone is pissed off at me about it. They think I’ve lost the touch.”
I closed the garage door behind us as we entered my kitchen. “Why are they mad at you? Sounds to me like you are doing everything you can.”
“I am, but how would you like it if your boss came to you one day and said you weren’t getting paid because one of the waitresses convinced him to give away free drinks for a month to boost traffic?”
“Oh. I see your point.”
“Worse, when the Bulls find out that now I’ve screwed
deal, they’re not going to be happy about it. But I figure they have everything they got wrapped up in this deal, and if I can squeeze them out, then they may just implode. It accomplishes the same thing as wiping them out, but without the mess.”
“Is that what the phone call yesterday was all about?”
“Yeah. The Bulls are a little more rough and tumble than we are.”
“Rough and tumble?”
“Let’s just say they don’t mind getting bloody. They are quicker to want to fight, and kill, than we are.”
I whirled on him. “And you think they may come after me? Damnit! This is exactly what I was worried about. ‘Nothing to worry about’ you said. ‘You’re blowing the risks all out of proportion,’ you said. Well…it sounds like I have something to worry about now. Goddamnit, Cain! I should have never gotten involved with you. Fuck!”
“Alex, it will be okay,” he said as he tried to pull me to him, but I shook off his hand.
“It is? How? Tell me how, Cain! How is it going to be okay? You want me to start carrying my gun, for Christ’s sake! That doesn’t sound okay to me!”
“That’s just a precaution.”
“Against what?” I shouted. “Against me being killed?”
“Then what?” I raged.
“Nothing! I just wanted you to be safe. I don’t know of any threat against you. So far as I know, you are perfectly safe. I just wanted you to be prepared, that’s all.”
“Prepared for what? Some kind of attack? There must be something, otherwise why did you even mention it?”
“I’m just trying to protect you, okay? If you would just come to Dallas I wouldn’t be like this. I worry that I can’t protect you so far from home. It’s just a precaution. That’s all it is. The Bulls, as I said, are unpredictable. They may decide to try to hit us, make a grab for the brass ring. I don’t know. That’s the problem. When they find out that we are not going to just stand by and let them muscle us out of the way, I don’t know what they will do. It could be anything from nothing to a full-scale war. I just don’t know. That’s why I want you to be prepared.”
“That’s not making me feel any better, you know. I have another life to worry about.”
“I know. Look, you should be safe. Nobody knows about you. I haven’t told anyone that you are carrying my child. So far as they know, you are just another woman that I bedded and you mean nothing to me.”
“Do I? Do I mean anything to you?”
“Yes. You mean more to me than my own life. You and the baby both do. I will do anything I have to to protect you.”
“You could leave the club. You could leave the club and leave all the guns and violence behind. Move to New Orleans. You could move in with me. We can make a go of it, I know we can.”
“We’ve been over this.”
“That was before you were going to war with the Bulls!”
“I know. But nothing has changed. If I leave the Hounds, I’ll have nothing. How will I support you and the baby?”
“How will you support me and the baby if you are dead?”
“Nothing is going to happen to me. Nothing is going to happen to you either. If anything goes down, it will be in Dallas. You should be safe here. We just have to get through this rough spot and then things will get back to normal.”
“Until the next time,” I said bitterly. I turned my back to him. “Maybe you should go before we get in too deep.”
He said nothing and I finally turned to face him. “That is where we are again? You said I could trust you.” He looked at me, his face a mixture of sadness and anger.
“That was before you put my life in danger.”
I watched as he seemed to collapse in on himself. “I would never do that.”
“Sounds like you already have, otherwise why are you worried? Why do you think I should carry my gun?”
“Alex, it’s not like that.”
“No!” He looked at me and I could see the sadness in his eyes. “I thought I could trust you. I thought you trusted me. I see I was wrong. Perhaps this is for the best.”
“Maybe it is.”
“When I get the Bulls problem sorted out, I will be back.”
“But what about the next time? And the time after that? What then, Cain?”
“I’m sorry. I really am. I thought maybe we had something. But I guess not.” He stared at me a moment, then pulled a card from his pocket. “Send me a picture now and then?” he asked as he offered the card.
I took it, but I felt so alone and vulnerable. I didn’t want him to go, but I was afraid for him to stay. “Get your life sorted and then call me. I can’t live like this, Cain. I just can’t.”
“I know,” he murmured. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry I got you pregnant and I’m sorry to put you through all of this. I’m…just sorry. I will keep sending money for as long as I can.”
“If you can, okay. But if not, I understand,” I said. This was for the best! So why did I feel so torn?
He took my face in his hands and held me gently, looking into my eyes, staring at me as if to memorize every detail of my face. Then he kissed me, a sweet, gentle, kiss, a kiss without heat but much promise. He held his lips to mine and then breathed deep as he stepped back. He looked so sad that my heart broke for him, but I steeled myself to not waver.
“When you are ready, when you have your life in order, when you are free of all this, I will be here. But don’t wait too long. I won’t wait forever.”
He said nothing, but pulled me into tight embrace, holding me a moment, before he stepped back, kissed me once more softly on the lips, and stepped out of my life.
I watched through the front door as the truck clattered to life and pulled away. This was for the best! I knew it was! So why did it hurt so much?