Authors: Sally Beauchamp
Tuesday Night Publications
Iron Mountain, MI
This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright 2015 Tuesday Night Publications
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, Tuesday Night Publications, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.
Tuesday Night Publications
Iron Mountain, Michigan
For Don Larson, a.k.a. Butch. You are greatly missed by us all, and I know if you were here, you would be very proud of your little sister. We’ll celebrate together on the other side.
To my husband Doug, a.k.a. Rambo, for his inspirational story that sparked this novel.
And to our son Ross, who had to give up his “mommy time” while I wrote the manuscript and then had to edit it.
I owe a very special thanks to my good friend Lori Mellon, my editor-in-chief, who finally agreed to take on this project. She spent many hours retaking college English so she could edit with authority. The two and a half years we spent editing
The Word of a Liar
was good therapy in helping her deal with the loss of her youngest daughter, Jill. I’m sure Jill is waiting to celebrate with us, too. I also need to thank Mike, Lori’s husband, for putting up with us. The questions we asked him at times were quite personal. Thanks for all the wine, nuts, chocolates, and the scrumptious luncheons during the summer months and the great laughs. You’re the best!
Thanks to my sister Dixie Brown, beta reader, editor, and supporter. She has this story memorized. Thanks to my sister Tammy who became “Mom No. 2” so I could get this book finished, and thanks to my sister Sherry for allowing me to use her and her daughter Katie’s story.
Another thank you needs to go April Durham of Durham Editing and E-books. Her suggestions and critiques were invaluable
. The Word of a Liar
would never be this good without your help.
A big “thank you” also needs to go to Daren Jenson, a.k.a. Preacher, of Free Riders Press. He believed in the story before anyone else did and gave me a chance to get the story out there. You are awesome, and I’m so glad I got to meet you, your family, and your biker friends.
Thanks to Chris Abraham, the cover model. His “come hither” look is going to sell me a lot of books. And to Tabatha Hines of Breathless Designs who put the whole thing together and made a cover that has it all--mystery, sex appeal, and biker toughness.
Last, but not least, a big thank you to Bob LeMere, the owner of the Woodward Bar, for allowing us to use his establishment for the photo shoot. It was a blast!
With the thick heel of Spider’s steel-toed boot wedged in the back of his neck, Mason Hackett, aka Rambo, struggled to lift his chin off the ground to spit the dirt from his mouth. Tasting blood, Mason didn’t think the source to be a broken tooth, more likely a split lip. Spider’s boot squashed his cheek into the brittle grass.
“What the hell you thinkin’, Rambo, inviting a stranger to our rally? I’m the president of this motorcycle club. No one does anything without my permission, especially a little piss ant like you! Don’t you ever forget it! You follow the rules, or you get your ass kicked.”
The barrel of Spider’s rifle dug into Mason’s sculpted shoulder blade. Blood blasted in his ears. Damaged pride spurred the need for retaliation. If he brought his left arm back and grabbed Spider’s ankle, Mason was certain he was strong enough to topple the man to the ground. Such a move, however, might cause Spider to inadvertently squeeze the trigger on that Sharp’s rifle digging into his back, and Mad Dog’s close proximity could get him in an even bigger mess. No, calm was in order. He needed to think so he wouldn’t lose the trust of these men that he had worked so hard to gain.
“I told you Jack won’t be a problem. I’ll take full responsibility if he starts anything.” Mason licked the blood and dirt from his lip. “You both know I wouldn’t put the Sons of Thunder at risk. Now let me the fuck up!”
Moonlight fell upon the toes of black harness boots. The pressure on Mason’s neck eased. The gun barrel lifted from his shoulder. Mad Dog seized Mason’s arm, jerked him upright, and then rammed his fist into Mason’s solar plexus. Immediately, Mason doubled over, clutching his abdomen. Lungs begging for air, he stubbornly fought down the urge to puke. He lifted his head.
“You two done now?” he rallied, each spoken word feeling like a stab wound.
“You’re lucky we like you, Rambo, and agreed to keep your mistake to ourselves. We’re saving your ass from the boot line. But the next time you fuck up, you’re out of the club: you understand?” Spider jabbed his finger into Mason’s chest.
“Yeah I understand.” He brushed the dirt from the front of his black T-shirt and his jeans. “But it’s a good thing I like the two of you because if that’s the hardest you can hit, you’re lucky you have me to protect your girly little asses.” With a great deal of effort, Mason grinned.
Mad Dog slapped Mason’s back. “That’s what I like about you, Rambo; you always got a come-back.”
“Get the fuck down to the end of the road and relieve Monk!” Spider tossed Mason his M16. “Mad Dog and I will patrol up here. I’ll send someone down to relieve you when I can stomach your ugly face.”
Mason sighed, shaking his long, black hair. He’d spent the whole afternoon working security at the end of the road. Not eager to return, he stalled. “I need to ride… settle my nerves, el presidente.”
Repentant, Mason lowered his gaze.
Spider’s dark eyes narrowed. “Make it short… real short, Rambo.”
“I will. You have my word.” He stifled a smile. Spider’s permission meant he wasn’t as angry as he let on.
Mad Dog and Spider left Mason standing alone. Bits of laughter and music broke the stillness and bonfires speckled the field below. Mason groaned, rubbing his lower back. It hurt to breathe. He knew his disregard of club protocol demanded punishment, but if the boot line was the consequence of endearing himself to Jack Nelson, it would be well worth the physical pain. Still, he hoped no more would be forthcoming. Turning in the direction of the barn, he went to retrieve his motorcycle and then took to the highway.
Hot air pelted Mason’s damp face. His chest and back throbbed, but he ignored it, allowing the solitary road to clear his head. The throaty roar of his Harley shredded the silence. The headlight ripped apart the stagnant darkness, chewing up the black bottomless river of highway. Like so many other troubled times, Mason’s bike gave him back his soul and set him free. He read the speedometer: sixty. He pushed it to seventy. Bugs struck his forehead and beard and splattered against his chest as the wind slapped against him.
Soaring past miles of indistinct forest, Mason barely noticed the car on the side of the road. He didn’t think about stopping. Bikers don’t do that. Continuing on, however, he began to wonder if maybe some undesirables were looking to break up the Sons of Thunder’s little party. After all, the five clubs attending the rally weren’t exactly all law-abiding citizens, and it was no secret they carried scars from previous encounters. Who else would be out on this desolate road so late? He eased off the throttle, leaned to his left, and turned around.
Ellen shone the flashlight on the dead engine. A mosquito buzzed. She waved it away. She wondered why she was bothering to check the engine again. She knew nothing about the workings of a car, and it only added to her frustration.
“Shit! Shit! Shit!” Ellen cursed aloud.
Here she was, an educator for ten years, and a newly hired principal, and she didn’t have the sense to heed Ron and his wife’s advice to wait until morning to leave their cottage. If Ron, her new colleague, knew of her predicament, he’d probably be shaking his head and wondering if she was intelligent enough to be the new leader of Brookfield Alternative High School.
Ellen rechecked her cell. Still no reception. The time “12:35” illuminated the darkness. She’d been stranded on this lonely highway for nearly three hours without a single vehicle driving by. Perspiration rolled down her slender back in the close, humid air. Eerie night sounds caused her to shine her flashlight on the surrounding forest. The last thing she needed to encounter was a skunk or a bear. Gnarled branches clawed at the shadows. Ellen shivered and pulled her thin jacket over her shoulders.
Sitting on the bumper, she scanned the horizon for any sign of a potential rescue, but the highway appeared to lead into an endless darkness. She removed the clip from her long brown hair and shook it loose. Opening and closing the clip, she tried to keep the memories at bay. But in the blaring absence of human sound, the nightmare of the car accident seven years ago resurfaced.
Ellen could still see her late husband Paul’s contorted face, the blood that splattered the car’s interior, the hair of the dead deer, and the shattered glass covering her and her husband. She could still hear her son’s terrified screams from the backseat and feel the dense darkness and soaking rain. She looked up at the stars trying to find the Big Dipper, the only constellation she knew. She wondered if Paul could see her now, if he was up there somewhere in another part of the universe and was trying to help her.
A loud rumble shook lose the stillness. Ellen looked in its direction. A weak halo of light crested the hill.
“Finally,” Ellen sighed. “I hope it’s a woman driving that car.”
The rumble grew to a roar and a lone headlight split the darkness. It was a motorcycle. Ellen’s relief morphed into apprehension.
It’s probably a man on that bike, not a woman. I need to play it safe and get into the car.
Slamming down the hood, Ellen scurried back into the car like a frightened field mouse and locked the door. She rummaged through the glove compartment for her can of mace and then quickly tucked it into her jacket pocket. She flicked off the flashlight. Locked inside her car with her hand wrapped strategically around her mace and the heavy flashlight by her side, Ellen felt fairly secure.
The thunder of the bike intensified. As Ellen watched the garish headlight grow more distinct, her certainty that she wanted this person to stop faltered. She gripped the mace tighter as the rumble grew closer. She held her breathe in anticipation of the slowing of the motorcycle, but like a brilliant flash the bike zoomed by.
Perturbed, Ellen slammed her palms against the steering wheel.
I can’t believe the only vehicle I’ve seen in three hours doesn’t even slow down. Now I will probably have to wait until morning and walk back to Ron’s cottage. JD is going to be frantic because I can’t call him at 9:00 like I promised, and my sister is going to be worried because she can’t get a hold of me.
Ellen sighed, resigning herself to the fact she’d be sitting in the car until day break. She reached for her bottle of water and tried to drink the last drops when she heard the deep rumble of the motorcycle again. She threw the bottle to the floor and squeezed her can of mace. Brilliant light reflecting off the rearview mirror blinded her. She shielded her eyes with her hand. The bike rolled up behind her and then a hush strangled all sound.
Sweat trickled along Ellen’s hairline. Terror squeezed the air from her lungs. She glanced out the side mirror. A shadow dismounted the bike. It moved in on her. She tried to take a deep breath. She listened for his footsteps like a deer heeds the sounds of a hunter. A man’s face peered through the window. Long, wind-swept hair toppled over his broad shoulders and a dark, closely cropped beard covered his jaw. Intense, blue eyes held her hostage. The whoosh of Ellen’s heart throbbed in her ears. He rapped on the window. Ellen screamed.
“Easy, lady,’’ a deep voice called out. “I’m not going to hurt you. I came back to see if anyone needed help. Are you okay?” The man straightened, holding his hands out to his sides. “Look, I’ll go if you want, but you’re pretty far out. There’s nothing around for miles.”
Ellen didn’t move.
“Okay, I’m goin’.” He shrugged, turned, and then started back to his motorcycle.
Glancing into the mirror, Ellen’s eyes followed him. The risk of what might happen if she opened the door to this stranger trumped being left alone on this lonesome road.
She stumbled out of the car. “Wait! Don’t go!”
He turned. The headlight of his motorcycle outlined his daunting silhouette. Ellen closed the door. Knees weak, she leaned against the car. She squeezed the mace so tightly that her fingers felt numb. The stranger walked back toward her, his arms out to the side like Jesus in worn, dusty denim.
A friendly smile cut across his jaw. “My name is Mason. Mason Hackett.”
“I’m Ellen Abrams.” Looking him bravely in the eye, Ellen noticed his brow furrow in suspicion. She wondered why and mentally scolded herself for leaving the flashlight in the car.
“So what in God’s name are you doing out here by yourself?”
Like rain to a swollen river, his simple question burst the dam of nervous energy that had been swelling within Ellen for hours. Words escaped in a rush. “I was visiting a friend and his wife at their cottage on Bass Lake, and when driving home, I heard a snapping noise, and my car suddenly went dead. They told me to spend the night, but I had to leave because JD is going to be calling me at nine o’clock tomorrow morning, and if I don’t answer, he’s going to panic. And now—”
“Whoa! Slow down, will ya? I’m still at the Bass Lake part.”
She looked up, shaking her head.
“I’m sorry. I tend to talk too fast when I get nervous.” She cleared her throat and then patted her chest. “My throat is so dry. I drank all the water I brought with me.”
“Don’t move! I’ll be right back.” Mason headed for the bike.
Ellen watched him. A patch with
Sons of Thunder
written in cryptic font decorated his back along with a large center patch of a skull embossed over a flaming motorcycle. This man was exactly the sort of person Ellen worried her students would turn out to be—an outlaw on two wheels. Returning with a small flask, he unscrewed the cap, and handed it to her. “Here, drink some of this.”
“It’s only water.” He grinned.
Ellen took the flask, sniffed, then took a sip. The water eased the tightness in her throat. “Thank you,” she murmured, handing it back. “You don’t happen to be car savvy?”
“I can take a look under the hood, although I’m not all that good with cars. If we were talkin’ motorcycles….” Mason shrugged. A half-cocked smile revealed white teeth, and Ellen found herself smiling back at this formidable stranger. “Fortunately for you, I know a licensed mechanic, and he happens to be camping a few miles down the road. If I can’t figure out what’s wrong, he’ll know. Pop the hood.”
Mason walked over to the front of the car.
Calmer, Ellen opened the car door and pulled the hood release. She grabbed the flashlight. Mason didn’t seem dangerous, but she’d already made a grave mistake in judgment that night. She decided it was better to err on the side of caution and kept one hand near her pocket and the flashlight in the other. Joining Mason, she offered to shine the light where he instructed.
“I’m not positive, but I think your alternator belt broke. Looks like I’ll have to go fetch Mad Dog after all.”
“Mad Dog?” Ellen repeated, raising an eyebrow.
“His real name is Mike O’Donnell, but everyone calls him Mad Dog. Ever hear of O’Donnell’s Auto Repair in Brookfield? It’s near Milwaukee. He’s the owner.”
“Afraid not. But I just moved—” She stopped, realizing her error.
Mason straightened and scrutinized her. “Where did you come from?”
Ellen inhaled deeply. She couldn’t tell this man she had just moved to Milwaukee and had never been this far north. “I mean my husband takes care of all the car maintenance: that’s all.”