Authors: Kathryn Thomas
A little more than two weeks after Cain left, I was sitting in my office, trying to decide how to present what I had found to Peter. I had been watching the inventory for almost a month and I had collected enough evidence that is was clear that Tina was either skimming or giving away drinks without accounting for them, or both. It was policy to give away an occasional drink, but this was far in excess of what I would consider acceptable, and she was trying to hide it.
I was just about to get up and go find Peter to tell him what I had found when my phone buzzed. I looked at it and frowned. It was Cain.
“Alex,” I said as I took his call.
“Alex. This is Cain. Are you okay?”
“I guess. Why?”
“I want you leave. Right now. Don’t go home.”
“What? What are you talking about?”
“I don’t have time to explain. I want you to get your stuff and get out of there.”
“Cain, I can’t —”
“Goddamnit! Would you just for once do what I say?” he roared.
I looked at the phone as if had come alive in my hand. “You need to get a grip,” I muttered, in no mood for his shit.
“Alex, I’m sorry. But you may be in danger. I want you to leave. Now.”
I got that rarest of all thrills, the rush of impending doom. “What kind of danger?”
“I don’t know! One of our contacts, someone we use to keep track of the Bulls, said some of the Bulls had left town to hit a soft target. I’m afraid it could be you.”
“I thought you said nobody knew about me.”
“Nobody does! But I don’t want to take the chance.”
“Why would they come after me?”
“Because it has all gone to shit here. The Bulls are rattling their sabers after we screwed their deal. They haven’t hit us yet, but we think they may at any time. I need to come get you and bring you to Dallas so I can protect you. But first I need you to get away from there!”
“Hang on!” I said as I saw Peter walk by. “Peter! We may have a problem.”
Peter stopped and returned to my office. “What kind of problem?”
“This is a… friend… on the phone. He heard a rumor that someone may come in here and start trouble.”
“What kind of trouble?” Peter asked.
I repeated the question into the phone.
“I don’t know,” Cain said. “Only that the Bulls were going to move against a soft target. It may be nothing. It may not even be you. But I can’t take that chance.”
“Okay, hang on.” I repeated much of what Cain said.
“Josh and Randy can handle it,” Peter said with confidence.
“It’s what I pay them for. If someone comes in here stirring up shit, those two will break some heads.”
“Did you hear that?” I asked Cain.
“Yeah, I heard. But I still don’t like it. I —”
Just then I heard two loud pops, then two more in quick succession.
“Get down!” Peter yelled, pushing me back into my office before he shut and locked the door. “Under the desk! Move it!” he ordered as he pulled a nasty looking pistol from under his coat. As he crouched down behind the desk, weapon pointed at the door, I heard six more rapid shots. I could just make out the screaming of men and women.
“Someone is shooting,” I whispered into the phone, too scared to even cry.
“Are you okay?” Cain’s terrified voice asked.
“Don’t move!” Cain whispered harshly.
“Stay here!” Peter barked as he rose and slowly opened the door. The screams became louder as he moved out and shut the door behind him.
“Cain, I’m scared,” I whispered. I was cowering in the foot well of my desk, trying to make myself small, too afraid to even move.
“I know, baby, I know,” Cain whispered and I could hear the fear in his voice.
“Alex! Get out here!” Peter yelled as he threw my door open. “We have people shot! See what you can do to help!”
“I have to go!” I scrambled out from under my desk, killing the call and leaving the phone behind as I raced down the hall. As I entered the bar I saw Peter on the floor with Randy, his hands on his chest. I looked behind the bar and saw Tina, shot six times. I dropped to the floor beside her and checked for a pulse. Nothing. I rose and looked around, spotting Josh on the floor a short distance away. He was moving so I grabbed all the bar towels and dashed to his side.
“How are you feeling, Josh?” I asked as I pressed a towel to his leg.
“It hurts like hell, Alex,” he hissed as he grimaced.
“I know. Hang in there, okay? Roll over and let me look.” He gritted his teeth and twisted up onto the opposite hip and I dipped my head to look under the injured leg. There was no exit wound. “The bullet is still in your leg. Can you hold this?” He pressed down on the towel, holding it tight. “That’s it. Just hold it there. I need to help Pete.”
I picked up the other four towels and hurried to Peter’s side. “Josh is going to be okay. Tina’s dead. How’s Randy?”
“It’s bad. He’s bleeding badly.”
I pressed the towels to the wound in his chest, leaning into it. I had a little bit of knowledge, but he needed help and right away. “Has anyone called 911?”
“I had one of the girls call.”
“Hand me that other towel,” I said just as I heard the wail of a siren.
Peter handed me the towel then rose and opened the door, holding it open until the police cruiser howled to a stop.
“Hang on, Randy,” I whispered as I fought against my tears of fear and frustration. I knew I had to slow down the bleeding, but I didn’t know if I was doing the right thing. I was so frightened I couldn’t think.
It seemed like only moments later that hands shoved me roughly aside. I fell on my ass then scrambled backwards as the paramedics went to work on Randy, tearing open packages and barking orders to each other.
I was still sitting on my ass, knees up with my arms wrapped around them, unable to move, when an officer stepped up to me. “I need you to come with me. They will take care of your friend.”
I looked up and the officer was holding a gloved hand down to me. I took it and he helped me to my feet then shepherded into the far corner of the club with the other girls.
It took almost two hours before the police let me go. Since I had been in the back room with Peter when the shooting happened, I was of little use to them. As we waited I had watched them rush Randy out, a second paramedic team taking Josh out a little later.
As we stood around, the girls told me what happened. Four guys had walked in, shooting Randy as soon as they stepped in, and then shooting Josh a moment later when he turned toward them. They then walked up to the bar and killed Tina, one man shooting her six times, before they left without a backward glance.
That was supposed to be me. The Bulls thought they had killed me. Tina and I looked enough alike that a cursory description, tall, dark hair, working behind the bar at
The Cat’s Claw,
would fit us both.
The police had allowed me to wash my hands while I waited my turn to be questioned, but I stopped in the bathroom to scrub them again. Then a second time. I wasn’t sure I would ever get my hands clean again. I forced myself to not wash them a third time and wandered in a daze to my office. I sat in my chair and stared at nothing, thinking over what had happened.
I looked at my phone on the desk. There were two missed calls, both from Cain. I had to go. I had to get away. I picked up my phone, my purse, and left, not even bothering to shut the door to my office.
I arrived home and went straight to my suitcase. I struggled not to cry in desperation as I threw a few items into the case. I had to get somewhere safe, somewhere where I could protect myself and my unborn child.
I tossed my gun on top of the clothes and zipped it shut. I was almost out of the door when the nausea hit. I dropped my case and ran for the bathroom, just making it before I threw up, emptying my stomach of my lunch. I fell to my knees, gasping and retching. There had been
blood, and Tina’s eyes, the way they stared at me. I heaved again, gagging and choking.
I knelt on the floor, panting and fighting the heaves, until the nausea passed. I rose and washed out my mouth. I had to hold it together. I had to protect my baby. I gritted my teeth in determination, spat out one last mouthful of water, and walked out of the bathroom. I picked up my bag without even slowing as I walked toward the garage.
“Alexandria? What are you doing here?” Grandpa asked as I opened the door to their house.
“I’m in trouble. Bad trouble.”
“What kind of trouble?” Granny asked as she appeared from the back of the house.
“Someone tried to kill me today.”
“What?” they both cried in unison as they looked at each other.
“Are you okay?” Granny asked as she hurried to take me into her embrace.
“Yes. They mistook someone else for me.” I gasped, but I couldn’t stop the tears. “It was so awful!”
“What happened?” Grandpa asked, guiding me to a chair.
“Cain called. He said someone may be on their way to kill me. I was —”
“Why would someone want to kill you?” Granny asked.
“I don’t know. It was a rival club or something. Cain’s club and this other club are fighting over territory or something. I don’t understand it all. But he called and said the Bulls… the black…” I paused as I struggled to remember the name he had called them. “The Blacktop Bulls. They are trying to take away the Hellhounds…” I paused again. I had given Cain my word that I wouldn’t tell a soul. But did that matter now?
“The Hellhounds?” Grandpa asked, and I saw the way he looked at Granny.
“Yeah. Why?” I waited a moment, but Granny and Grandpa just continued to stare at each other. “What is it? Tell me.”
“Oh, Alexandria, the Hellhounds…that was the club your father was investigating when he was killed,” Granny said.
“What?” I shouted.
“It’s true,” Grandpa added.
“The Hellhounds killed my parents?”
“That is what we think. I know the cops said it was an accident, but…”
“Cain said they don’t kill people. Especially cops. He said it brings down too much heat. Are you sure?”
“No. Nobody is sure. But only a day or two before the accident, he told us that he was closing in on the Hellhounds. He didn’t say what they were doing; only that they were smugglers, and he was going to bust their operation wide open. He was so excited about it. He was the lead investigator and he thought that the case would be enough to get him his Lieutenant bars. Then…they had the accident. The police started an investigation, but then suddenly closed the case. They said it appeared to be an accident. That’s what they said publicly. Privately they said it was the Hellhounds. But they couldn’t prove it.”
I sat in stunned silence. I had finally believed in Cain, that they weren’t a bunch of killers, and his club had killed my parents. “What about his case?”