Authors: Dez Burke
Copyright 2014 Dez Burke
The elderly judge banged his gavel on the stand and stood up, signaling the end of the court session. Public defender Flint Mason smiled and leaned over to shake his client’s hand, a young Hispanic woman whom the jury had found “not guilty” of charges of child endangerment.
Like most of his clients, her verdict was based on how well the jury understood her desperate situation. Faced with the difficult choice of making her three small children walk two miles with her to the nearest grocery store or leaving them alone for an hour, she’d chosen what she thought was the least dangerous option.
Unfortunately, her neighbor had called the police and now here she was, left to the mercy of a jury who was most definitely not made up of her peers. The young woman seemed slightly confused and Flint realized she didn’t understand she was free to go.
“It’s okay,” he said, taking her arm to usher her out of the courtroom. “You can go home now.”
Relief broke across her tired face as his words finally sank in. “Gracias!” she cried, squeezing him in a quick hug before hurrying out the front door of the courthouse.
Flint rubbed the back of his neck and headed to the closest drink machine. Thankfully, Maria Lopez’s case was the last one on his docket for the day. He’d defended five clients in court since early that morning. Two were found guilty and got sent back to the county jail while the other three were free to go. He figured that was pretty good odds, considering the fact that he barely had time to read their files before representing them as their court-appointed attorney.
The truth was, most of the time his cases fell into a gray area of guilt anyway. After two years of working for the Public Defender’s office, he really didn’t want to know if his clients were innocent or guilty. He’d learned things were much easier that way. Always assume the client was innocent, make sure they didn’t tell him otherwise, and do his job without asking too many questions.
Some days Flint couldn’t remember the reason why he’d chosen to be a public defender. Years ago, he’d been young and idealistic; he thought he could change things and make a difference. Now he wasn’t so sure. The system was broken and he was just another spoke in its wheel.
He grabbed a soft drink out of the machine and checked his cell phone. The screen blinked with three missed calls and several voice messages. Flint swore softly. He never gave out his cell phone number to clients, and only a handful of people knew it. He quickly checked his voicemail and listened to the first message.
“Hey Flint, it’s Jesse,” the deep-voiced caller said, as if he wouldn’t recognize his own brother’s voice. “Call me. It’s urgent.”
The next message said the same thing. Flint checked the three missed calls…all from Jesse as well. With a growing dread, he played the last message. “Flint, it’s Jesse again. Listen man…it’s about Tommy. I hate like hell telling you this over the phone but since you aren’t returning your damn phone calls, I don’t have a choice.” Jesse’s voice cracked. “They got him, Flint. Those son of a bitch Liberators finally got him.” There was a long pause and Flint wondered if Jesse had hung up before he continued. “His mom set the funeral up for Sunday. You need to come home, Flint. Tommy would want you there. We all do.”
Flint clicked his phone off. He leaned his forehead against the cold cement wall of the hallway for a moment before rushing into the restroom and splashing water on his face. Breathing deeply, he struggled to get his emotions under control and failed. “Goddammit!” he yelled at his reflection. “Motherfuckers!”
He leaned over the sink and drew in several deep breaths.
Why did it have to be Tommy?
Of all the members of the Steel Infidels motorcycle club, Tommy was the one Flint was the closest to. They’d grown up together as childhood best friends and then had ridden together side by side for years before Flint had left town.
He wondered if Tommy had ever forgiven him for leaving the motorcycle club. Now he’d never know. And now he would never have a chance to patch things up with one of the few people in the world he’d ever truly cared about.
Once again, the Liberators had destroyed something dear to him. Anger rushed over Flint, filling him to the brim with an overwhelming desire for revenge. There was no way in hell he was going to let them get away with this.
Thirty minutes later he arrived at his tiny apartment. Rushing inside, he quickly threw a few clothes together into a duffel bag. He searched through his closet until he found what he was looking for: an old pair of faded jeans, white t-shirt, leather boots, and a black leather jacket that he hadn’t touched in years.
Closing his eyes and inhaling deeply, he held the jacket to his nose. The smell of the leather brought back memories, so sharp and vivid he could almost touch them. Memories of home, family and friends, memories of good times and bad.
He stripped off his dark suit, blue tie, and long-sleeved starched white shirt. Carefully concealed underneath the business attire was the hidden link to his past; a large black ink tattoo covering his back and upper shoulders.
It read simply in big bold letters:
It was time for Flint to go home.
Six months later…
Flint never looked back once the decision was made to return home to the Steel Infidels. Surprisingly
after the funeral, the motorcycle club accepted him readily back into the fold, breaking one of their firmest and most steadfast rules
if you left the club, you never came back.
He knew the vote to allow him back in wasn’t unanimous. Of the twelve remaining voting members of the MC, there were two votes against him: Rocco, a convicted felon and owner of a shady car repo business and
Flint wasn’t too upset about it. He suspected the main reason Rocco voted against him was
his deep mistrust of anyone involved in the legal profession. Allowing a lawyer into the club’s most private and secret dealings would be a bitter pill to swallow. And unfortunately, Rocco wasn’t smart enough to appreciate how much the club could use Flint’s expertise in the legal field, especially considering some of their mo
Flint hoped the brothers would eventually come around. The strength of the MC depended on the solidarity of its members. While the majority ruled in voting situations, every individual vote was still taken solemnly and seriously.
The other ten members had voted yes more out of loyalty to his older brother, Jesse, the current president of the MC, than to him. There was no doubt that at some point, the crew would demand Flint to prove his loyalty to the club. When that day came, he would be expected to do whatever task was given to him without question or hesitation. He was ready and willing though he knew the task might be brutal and would definitely be illegal.
He’d made the mistake of turning his back on the MC once. No matter what, he wouldn’t let them down again.
The receptionist knocked gently on the door before opening it a crack and sticking her head inside. “Dr. Shaw, you have a phone call.”
“I’m a little bit busy here, Jan,” Dr. Kendra Shaw replied. She grimaced as the hawk she was holding tried to dig its sharp talons into her hand. “Squeeze in here. I could use another set of hands to help hold Malone while I examine him. He’s looking for any opportunity to shred my fingers if I let him.”
Jan moved quickly to the veterinarian’s side and held the hawk’s feet firmly while Dr. Shaw examined his wings.
“The caller sounded panicked,” Jan continued. “He claims he has a bald eagle corralled in his shed with a suspected gunshot wound to his wing. He wanted to know if you can come pick it up.”
“A bald eagle?” Dr. Shaw replied. “That’s unusual for North Georgia. How much do you want to bet it’s really a vulture? He can’t bring it here himself?”
Jan shook her head. “No. He said it’s flopping around and he doesn’t want to risk injuring it more. He’s on hold since he insisted on speaking with you directly.”
Dr. Shaw let out a tired sigh. “They always do.” She carefully turned the hawk over and placed him back into his carrier. “There you go, boy. Jan, you can take him back out to the raptor aviary,” she said before washing her hands and picking up the phone.
Never in her life had veterinarian Kendra Shaw been able to turn away from an animal in need. This time wasn’t any different. After the phone call, she’d dropped everything, rearranged her schedule for the afternoon
and jumped into her truck to go pick up the eagle.
people brought the injured wild animals and birds into the Shaw Wildlife Center themselves. Occasionally
she had to go out and get them. Most of the time the pickups were animals people were afraid to touch for fear of rabies, like raccoons, skunks, or foxes. Every once in a while
she’d receive an oddball call about a baby black bear or orphaned coyote pup.
A bald eagle wasn’t something she treated often, so she didn’t hesitate about offering to drive over herself for this one. She tried to think back. It had been at least a couple of years since she’d had an injured eagle come in for rehab. She hoped this one wasn’t hurt too badly. There would be hell to pay if she found out who shot him. Not to mention probable jail time and a huge fine as well. The phone number of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife was on her speed dial and she would be in contact with them the minute she returned to the clinic.
She downshifted the gears in the truck as the gravel road going up the side of the mountain grew steeper. Light sleet pelted the windshield. According to the weather report she had checked before heading out, a winter storm was due to blow in later.
She wasn’t concerned. If things went well and the eagle was cooperative, she would have plenty of time to get him safely into the heated carrier in the bed of the truck and head back to town before the roads became slick.
In any case, she hoped the cabin wasn’t too much further up the mountain. The male caller had given her very specific directions on how to get there, but she hadn’t expected it to be so far out in the middle of nowhere.
It had been at least ten miles since she’d seen another house. The gravel road had first turned to dirt then gradually narrowed to one lane barely big enough for her truck. Like most of the mountain roads in rural north Georgia, there weren’t any guardrails preventing cars from sliding off the side of the road with a single wrong move.
After carefully maneuvering the truck around a couple more tight switch-backs, she spotted the rustic log cabin tucked into a small clearing. She pulled up in front of the house and leaned over to grab her medical bag. Before getting out, she took a quick glance around the premises. She didn’t see a shed. Surely she didn’t miss it on the way up?
The oak front door swung open before she made it to the top step of the porch. A tall, burly man with a scraggly beard in a black leather jacket stepped outside to greet her.
“Thank you for coming in such a hurry, Dr. Shaw,” he said, not meeting her eyes. “I appreciate it. Come on inside.”
“Where’s the eagle?” she asked, suddenly feeling uneasy. It occurred to her that in her haste to rescue yet another animal, she had agreed to meet a strange man in an isolated cabin. Miles and miles from anyone.
Smart move, Kendra
, she berated herself. “Is he still alive?” she asked.
“Yeah, he’s okay. Let’s go in by the fire and warm up a minute. I’ll tell you how I found him,” the man replied, motioning for her to walk through the door in front of him.
Kendra smiled politely and tried not to show her irritation or unease. As a general rule, the Good Samaritans who found injured animals always wanted to tell her the whole story about the animal before they hand
it over. They seemed to feel the need to tell her the tiniest details of everything they’d done for the animal so far as well as all the research they’d found on the Internet. When every minute counted to save an animal’s life, it could be a tad bit annoying at times. She always tried her best to be patient though, knowing their hearts were in the right place.
“It’s probably better if you take me straight to him,” she said firmly. “There’s a storm blowing in and the sooner I can safely transport him back to my clinic, the sooner I can take care of his injuries and hopefully save his wing. You can call me later to check on him if you like. I’ll give you my cell phone number. I don’t mind if you do.”
“Alright,” he said, stepping inside and shutting the door behind them. “Let me get my gloves.”
Kendra took two steps inside the small cabin and stopped dead in her tracks. “What the hell is going on here?”