Queens of Crooker County

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic

Valerie will do ANYTHING to become one of the Queens. When her uncle goes missing, Valerie promises to find out the truth. What she finds, might alter her understanding of the motorcycle club she has grown up knowing.

The day I found out my uncle Vince went missing wasn’t like you’d expect. In light of everything I know now, I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner. You see, my family isn’t like most others. We’ll start with my aunt Millie, Vince’s wife, my mother’s sister.

Millie isn’t a normal woman. She can pound tequila, fight and get into more mischief than anyone I’ve ever met. She’s the leader of a motorcycle club called The Queens of Crooker County. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be like Millie. I always wanted to be a part of the club too.

Something about the way they looked, strapped in their leather gear, wind whipping their hair. The rumble of the engine intoxicated me from an early age. Even before I knew what they were, I wanted to be a part of them. I used to pretend my ten speed was a motorcycle, making the engine noises with my mouth.

My mother Donna Burnham is a former member. She’d ridden a bike back then and allegedly gotten in just as much trouble as Millie before the heroin sunk its talons, that sort of deflated her membership. Her bike crowded up a corner of our garage for a long time and she refused to sell it to me, but we’ll get back to that.

The day my mother called to tell me Vince was missing I’d spent the whole morning at the courthouse fighting a ticket. Sheriff Randall Molder, the man in charge of our slice of hell, threw the book at anyone affiliated to the club. He’d had it out for us since the dawn of time.

After my court appearance I drove to Millie’s house, minding the speed limit and keeping my eye out for Molder. It wasn’t unlike him to follow people out of the courthouse and catch them speeding again. He was an asshole like that, especially to people like us.

My car sputtered to a stop, coughed a couple of times, but thankfully didn’t stall. Millie’s soft tail sat in front, where it usually did when she was home and Vince’s ugly F-150 took up the garage. Johnny Cash blared through the thin walls of the trailer.

The strong scent of reposado assaulted my nostrils as soon as the door opened. Millie’s eyes were puffy, and her makeup had run. “Valerie!” she shouted, getting up from her spot at the kitchen table. The beer bottles and ashtrays, which were now one and the same, shook as she got to her feet.

Millie wasn’t a small woman, and she wasn’t a runner up for any beauty pageant. If she’d been a debutante, hell might have frozen over. She was a rare breed, as American as apple pie and as gentle as an earthquake. The only thing more iconic than her USA tattoo was the mullet of black hair.

“Are you ok?” I asked.

She lifted the bottle of tequila off the table, holding it by the neck and drank. She let out a hiss and the bottle thumped back down. “We’re doing a search party today. The girls and I are going to ride around and see what we can find.”

“When was the last time you saw him?” I asked.

“Last night he swung in here to pick up some stuff. He said he was going on a big hunting trip. I guess he didn’t lie about that because Georgy called this morning looking for him.” She hauled off another drink, making a sour face. “Wouldn’t be surprised if the police find his bike wrapped around a tree,” she muttered, shaking her head.

“Why would you say that?” I couldn’t imagine what would make her think such a thing.

“Because he drove like an asshole.”

I’d never spent much time watching him drive.

Crushing gravel disturbed our banter. I looked out the window to see a cruiser coming down her unkempt driveway. It took a second before I saw the ugly face of the Sherriff behind the wheel and grimaced. “Molder.”

She moved with the grace of King Kong as she got to the door. “What does that fat sack of monkey spunk want?”

He’s probably here to apologize about your husband. Even as I thought it, I didn’t believe it. He wasn’t that type of sheriff. If anything, I expected him to have a backhanded comment about how he wasn’t surprised Vince took off.

The screen door banged against the trailer like a shotgun as Millie walked down the stairs. “How can I help sheriff?” Formality came from her lips, but not her expression.

He swung the door open, wheezing as he got out of the car. “I thought you’d want to know that we found motorcycle tracks down by the river. We haven’t found the bike, or a body yet.” He actually took off his hat. “I’ll let you know if there are any updates,” he said, climbing back into his squad car.

After he’d left, I turned to Millie. “That was strange, wasn’t it? I mean, after all the hell he’s given us?”

Johnny had long since turned into Waylon and we watched as he backed down the driveway. She seemed to watch him go, deep in thought.

She sighed deeply, face softening. “Randall and Vince grew up together. They used to play football at the high school. It’s not as simple as good guys and bad guys when you have as much history as we do.”

Good guys and bad guys. It certainly seemed like a strange way to see things when the cops weren’t always good, and the motorcycle club did more for the community than any charity. The lines between good and evil were as thin as singly ply shit tickets.

Before she could say anything else, she swung inside the trailer and grabbed her vest from the hook by the door. The front door banged shut and Waylon’s voice got softer but didn’t disappear.

I whipped around. “What are you doing?”

“I’m going to the river,” she said, sliding on the vest. The rickety porch squealed as she walked down the steps and I got a good view of the patch on her lower back The Queen Of Crooks.

The Harley roared to life.

“You’re not going without me,” I shouted, whether she heard me or not, I’m unsure. I fired up my car and peeled dirt to keep behind her. The fact that she wasn’t in shape to drive a bike crossed my mind, but that had never stopped her before. She’d drank half a bottle of tequila and drove straighter than half the people on the road, which scared me.

Envy ran deep as merrow as I watched her go. I’d wanted to be a queen for as long as I could remember. I’d had dreams of it, literal dreams. My hands gripping the bars, engine rumbling below, wind blowing through my hair. For some reason I’d always been riding my mother’s old bike in those dreams.

It didn’t take long for us to get to the river and when she killed the engine, we were engulfed in silence. Not even the crickets were chirping. The kickstand squeaked.

“Stay close,” she said around an unlit cigarette.

The trickle of water rang clearer as we got closer. The wind rustled the branches above our heads.

The metallic flicker of the zippo caught my attention. A couple of puffs had the cherry bright red and smoking. Whisps rolled up and she blinked her eyes away from the fumes. “That’s it, right there,” she said, pointing down to a skid mark that broke between the road and the river. 

It felt wrong for me to be so blunt, but I couldn’t stop myself from saying it anyway. “Strange that the brake marks are so far back.”  

She smirked, or perhaps she choked back a sob. “Like I told you, he drove like an asshole. Folks in Massachusetts don’t drive as bad as Vince did.”

Branches snapped. That’s when I spun around to look behind me. There wasn’t anything there, but Millie must have heard it too because she’d reached for her waist. No Jack would have stood a chance against the Sig Sauer she kept tucked in her belt.

“Vince,” a voice called from the woods.

We both looked at each other.

“Vince?” another voice broke from deeper in the trees.

Millie instantly moved down the trail, large feet pounding the dirt. That’s when we saw them. A whole slew of people were walking in a line, most of them wearing bright orange. They were calling his name and poking at the ground with sticks.

I’d never seen a search party in real life before, only in the movies. Millie looked confused, then she looked moved. I reached out my arm to put it around her shoulder and that’s when the tears started. “That many people didn’t give two shits about him when he was alive,” she said.

My aunt, my rock, started to weep and so did I. She’d remained strong for so long. She’d always kept it together. I had no memories of her crying, ever. She collapsed into my arms and wept into my shoulder.

Her cellphone rang, interrupting. She fished through her pocket and picked it up. “Yep?” she asked, wiping the tears away. “We’re down by the river. You can’t miss us.” A pause. “My niece Valerie is here with me.” She hung up.

“Is everything alright?”

“The girls are coming down to help us look,” she said.

When my aunt referenced the girls, she meant the rest of the Queens. I’d grown up around them and knew all of them by name. They knew me too, although not all of them were friendly. I wondered if they didn’t like me because of my mother’s feud with the club all those years ago. No matter what I did, it felt like I couldn’t escape her shadow.

The motors sounded like thunder as they got closer. I had to admit they looked cool when they pulled up in a group. Their engines one by one muted to nothing. The first to get off the bike was a woman named Tina. She had fiery red hair that had started turning grey around her ears.

Tina slung an arm around Millie. “Are you alright? I came as soon as I heard.”  

A sadness enveloped her voice. “It just didn’t feel like a typical Vince stunt. It didn’t feel like the time he’d gone to the strip club and spent all our money.” The tears started again.

The second off her bike, a woman named Gail. The quiet one of the group. She had long, straight blonde hair and didn’t look like she belonged on a bike at all. She slid out of her helmet and wrapped an arm around Millie. Then, she turned and did the same to me. I embraced Gail only after a split second of hesitation. She’d caught me by surprise is all.

Sophie, the skinniest woman I’d ever seen on a motorcycle climbed off last. She too didn’t look like she belonged on a bike, but she’d always proved her spot in the club. A vague memory of Sophie bashing a mans nose in with her helmet came back to me. I shook my head to free myself from the gory flashback.

Millie stood in front of them like she did at their meetings. “Thanks for coming girls. The search party has already started. We saw them in the woods about twenty minutes ago. I think we should go behind them, rather than try to catch up to them. They could have missed something, happens all the time.”

I expected there to be a conversation, but when they were supposed to be asking questions, they laid down their helmets and gear. Everyone started walking for the woods, just like that.

Before we disappeared into sticks, Millie stopped by the bank and showed them the tire tracks. They didn’t seem to have any questions. We were only a few feet into the woods when I heard something else. Two guys rode down the river in canoes, flashing their lights and moving intentionally slow. I had a feeling they were looking for the bike, or the body, or both.

The leaves and branches crunched below our feet as we trekked into the deep woods. Vince’s name bounced off every tree, but nothing came back. The sun set around us and we had to go back to the bikes in defeat.  

After the girls were gone and we were tucked back into Millie’s trailer, she picked up where she’d left off with tequila. Not even an hour later she was falling down drunk, blaring Shania Twain. It wasn’t what I’d expected. In my mind it had gone a little more like a hallmark film. We sat around talking about the good things in life and happy memories of Vince, but in retrospect I should have known better. We’d never been that type of family.

Seeing those girls on the bikes brought back all those dreams and fantasies that had been prevalent in my mind for years. I already knew where she stood on the subject, but I thought I had a chance to sway her while she was three sheets to the wind. “I want to join the gang,” I shouted over the music.

She turned around and looked at me, eyes wide. “What did you say?” We both knew she heard me. She either wasn’t prepared, or she didn’t like what I’d said.

“Listen, I want in. I’ll pay my dues. I will buy a bike. I want to be a Queen.”

She flopped down on the couch, bottle in hand. “I never wanted this lifestyle for you or your sister. You should take a note from her book and go to school somewhere far away.”

That wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I didn’t want to leave. “We both know I’m not cut out for school.”  

She slammed the bottle down on the table, shaking the contents. “You’re not cut out for the club either.”

That wasn’t what I wanted to hear either. I could see myself as vivid as ever when I closed my eyes. I could imagine myself riding right beside her, leather vest and all. It did bother me to think about the violence. I’d never had to beat a guys face in with a motorcycle helmet before.

I marched over to her. “C’mon Millie, tell me why I can’t be in the club. Give me one damn good reason.” I snagged the bottle out of her hand. “I can drink.” I slugged down a mouthful of tequila and tried my best to fight back the face that followed. “I can ride a bike.”

She put up a hand. “Stop. You look pathetic.”

“I could fight if I had to.”

She got louder. “Stop. You don’t want to be a part of this.” She rubbed her eyes.

I took another haul off the bottle of tequila to settle my galloping heart. “I do, though.” A frog lingered in my throat and I tried my best to swallow past it. “It’s all I’ve wanted for a long time.”

“You mother-.”

“I’m not my mother. I’m not Lindsey either.”

Millie walked over to me, looked me deep in my eyes and grabbed the bottle. She took a giant swallow and held it down by her side. “I think it’s time for you to leave, Valerie.”

Another failed attempt to get in the club. Going home without approval hurt. I didn’t even want to walk outside because I felt like I hadn’t accomplished what I set out to do. Two steps toward the door and I stopped. I turned back. “What if I find him? Then will you let me in the club?”

She laughed. “If you find Vince, I’ll roll over and kiss a pig.”

Again, I swallowed at the frog, which had now grown to the size of a dragon. “Seriously. If I find Vince, then will you let me join?”

Millie sloshed down the remainder of the tequila in one giant gulp. The bottle slid from her fingertips and landed on the carpet with a loud thump. “Yes.”

The screen door screeched on its rustic hinges and slammed shut behind me. Shania had turned into Carrie Underwood and Millie had tossed me out. When I walked toward my car, I could have sworn I heard her singing along.

As I drove home, I thought about all the things I could remember about Vince. He wasn’t a great man, not in any sense of the word. He’d done time and gotten all of his tattoos in prison. He had a smile that made you wonder if he’d been chewing on a brick. I couldn’t see what Millie had seen in him, but they’d fallen in love all those years ago and she stuck by his side no matter what.

I’d watched enough CSI to know that I would have to return to the scene of the crime when the sun came up. There had to be something there I missed. Also, among my other thoughts, I wanted to get ahold of the police and see what they had. I’m sure I’d be as welcome as a colonoscopy to them, but I had to see if they had any leads. Getting them to share their secrets could prove to be difficult.

As I pulled into my driveway, I thought about the detective shows. I wished I’d had their training and some of their equipment because I didn’t have a clue. My only advantage, persistence, and a strong desire to belong.

My mother sat in her rocking chair by the window, watching as I traversed the steps. Her hair had turned from blonde to gray. Her face had gotten wrinkled and saggy. She’d looked horrible going into rehab, young and sick. When she came out, she looked old but healthy.

The rocking chair creaked as she leaned forward. “Did you find him?”

“No. There are tracks down by the river. The police seem to think he went in.”

She sipped at her bottle of water, looked up at me. “We’ve got a lot of history, Vince and I.”

“That’s what someone says when they’ve dated. Did you date Vince before Millie?” The thought hadn’t crossed my mind before she said that.

“Nothing like that, but I’ve got to tell you that he wasn’t the man you might have thought he was. He did some pretty terrible shit. We all did.” She patted the couch for me to sit down. “I’ll tell you the story if you want.”

Club history lessons were rare. Nobody inside wanted to talk about that stuff, probably because the statute of limitations hadn’t run out on all their crimes. That, and I’m sure they wanted to escape some of it.

“You were just a little girl back then. I don’t expect you’d remember, but your uncle pulled a malicious crime. He paid the price for it too. You know why sheriff Molder hated Vince so much?”

A handful of reasons ran through my mind. Vince happened to be one of those guys. He always had his finger on the criminal pulse, which didn’t make him favorable to law enforcement. He did a bunch of dumb shit. He drank too much, fought, cussed like a sailor and spoke his mind without a filter.

“A long time ago Vince and Millie came into some financial trouble. Vince tried, but he couldn’t seem to pull it together. For a while, Millie worried they were going to take the house. Vince pawned nearly everything he owned and still couldn’t catch up. That’s when he decided to snatch the sheriff’s kid for ransom.”

“Holy shit.”

“Obviously they didn’t kill him, but they didn’t take him directly to jail either. You see, back then there weren’t dashboard cameras. His trip was directly to the hospital. The police had beaten him within an inch of his life and said that he’d resisted arrest. They also claimed he had a weapon.”  

“Whatever came of it?”

“Nothing. The court system sort of looked the other way. The media didn’t pick up the story because they didn’t want to make the town look bad. As far as everyone in town was concerned, he’d had it coming. I’d be lying if I said they were wrong. Anyway, they covered it up pretty quick and Vince was never the same.”

Looking back, I’d thought he’d been in an accident. He did drive like an asshole after all. “I thought he walked with a cane because he’d been in a motorcycle accident.”

My mother shook her head, a painful grin written on her face. “No ma’am. Three cops busted his leg up with clubs. I guess the judge must have taken pity on him because they sentenced him lightly.”

A million questions came into my mind, but my mouth could only provide one at a time. “So, you think that the police did it?”

She crossed her arms and sighed deeply. “I’m not saying they did, only that it wouldn’t surprise me. He had a lot of enemies. I don’t know for sure, but if I had to guess, the police would say justice had never been served.” She adjusted herself in the chair. “He had other enemies too, another club.”

Lying in bed, everything swirled in my head, but sleep got to me first.

As soon as my eyes opened, my hand jumped for the phone near my bed. I dialed Millie’s number and listened to the tone in my ear. She didn’t answer.

Throwing on some clean clothes, I ran downstairs to ask my mother a few more questions. When I got to the bottom step, the strong scent of pancakes hit me.

“Well, don’t you sound like a herd of elephants coming down those stairs. Where are you off to in such a hurry?” She flipped a pancake.

“I wasn’t leaving yet. I had a couple more questions and then I plan to talk to Sheriff Molder. That’s if I can get him to sit down with me.”

She pointed at the table where a place had already been set. “Sit.”

Donna didn’t look much like the mother I remembered growing up. She’d replaced her leather vest for a flannel robe. Her skin cleared up, but she looked old enough to be my grandmother now. She turned in her Miller Lights for Dasani and stopped going to club meetings. Now, she only went to the Narcotics anonymous meetings at the church.

I did as I was told.

“Coffee?”

“Please.”

The coffee sloshed into a mug as she put it on the table. I watched as plumes of smoke rose from the cup and circled in the air. After a little shuffle, she dropped the fixings on the table too. “There’s still a lot you don’t know.”

Just from what I could remember, he wasn’t a very likeable guy. He’d been an ass to everyone I could think of at least once, myself included.

I drank a strong sip of coffee and said, “Vince kidnapped Molder’s son. If that isn’t a good enough reason for murder, I don’t know what is.”

She too sipped and met my gaze. “You’re not wrong. The problem with that theory is the amount of time in between. Hell, Jacob is a full grown man now. He likely doesn’t remember a second of it. You could go down to the garage on Smith Street and ask him yourself. Last time I had an oil change he did it.”

I drank further from the coffee cup. “So, you don’t think he did it?”

She pushed a piece of sausage around with her fork. “It doesn’t make sense. Why wait all this time to get your revenge? Who are we kidding? Half a dozen people or more had motive to kill him.”

Two bites of the pancakes were all I could take before I swung the front door open. My little Honda jutted to life with a couple of spats.

The woman at the station said they couldn’t patch me through to him, which I thought was total shit. If I run down Main Street as fast as I can, he will come to me. I hung up the phone. “Here piggy, piggy, piggy,” I called into the empty car.

With a little detective work of my own, I found Sheriff Molder hunched over the counter at Mimi’s diner. He had a cup of coffee in front of him and the sports section of a newspaper.

“The damn Jets lost their hats again?” he asked the guy next to him.

“Yea, real blowout,” the guy said in return.

“Can I talk to you?” I asked.

He ruffled the newspaper, folding down a corner to look at me. “Can’t you see I’m busy?”

I scoffed. “I’d ask if you’re busy finding my uncle, but you couldn’t find your prick with both hands a bottle of Viagra.”

The man sitting beside him stifled a laugh with a hand. He quickly sipped his coffee, looking in the other direction.

Molder set the paper down and stiffened on his barstool. “Listen.”

“No. You listen. You have some information that might help me find him.”

He got up from the barstool, grabbed me by the sleeve and pulled me to a nearby booth away from the crowd. He wasn’t gentle about it either. I took his cue and fell onto the red cushioned chair.

His face had gone red. His gray mustache turned downward in a sad clowns frown. “I’ve told you everything I know.”

“No, you haven’t. You didn’t tell me that my uncle took your son,” I said maybe too firmly. Then I thought, you lied to me you little prick and I want to know why. Squirm copper, squirm.

He slid into the booth across from me, changing his tone. “That was a long time ago.”

“I bet it’s still fresh in your mind. You’ve probably thought about how you were going to get your revenge for the better part of a decade, huh? You’ve been waiting for the right opportunity.”

He sneered. “You’ve got it all wrong. Yes, your uncle took my son and he did some time for it too. As far as I’m concerned, he paid his debt to society. Besides, it isn’t like he hurt Jacob. He’d convinced him they were going on a fishing trip.”

“You’re trying to convince me that he just took your son, and you’re ok with it? That’s bullshit.”

He sighed. “Listen, Valerie, you seem like a bright young girl. There’s a lot of bad blood between the people in this town and your uncle, but I promise you it wasn’t me. I’m out there investigating, trying my best to find him.” He shuffled in the seat. “You might find this hard to believe, but we were friends once.”

“Aunt Millie told me that.” Another voice chimed in from deep in my psyche. Your mom also told you about how Molder and his cop buddies beat the shit out of Vince too.

He leaned in closer, elbows on the table. “I hate to be the one to break it to you, but you’re looking in the wrong direction. You should be looking into your aunt. Over the years I’ve gotten a dozen calls about him getting belligerent and smacking Millie around. There are a ton of women who get tired of being beaten up and turn to murder.”

That hadn’t even crossed my mind. “You’re actively looking into this theory?”

He gave me a look that I couldn’t judge. “We searched her place about an hour ago, nothing came up.”

All along I’d painted the sheriff guilty without even hearing his side. Looking back, the signs were all there. I knew they weren’t happy. I knew something had come between them but couldn’t for the life of me figure out what it had been.

“It’s easy for your family to make me out to be the bad guy, but I assure you I’ve always wanted what’s best for both of them. Like I said, Vince and I had been close once upon a time. Although, that seems like a lifetime ago now.”

As I got up from the booth, I heard the rumble of motorcycles through the thin walls of the diner. It didn’t take a detective to determine who’s bikes they were or why they’d come. I headed for the door, taking a look over my shoulder at the sheriff. I tried my best to imagine him and Vince together, but couldn’t even picture them in the same room.

Her kickstand sprung out and her bike rested on it as Tina killed the engine. The other Queens followed her lead. Dressed in her leather vest and mean scowl, she got off her bike.

“Having a little rendezvous with Molder?” she asked. “He’s a little old for you, don’t you think?” She spat on the ground.

“It’s not like that.”

She snorted, huffed a snot rocket onto his car. “For a girl who so desperately wants to be part of the club, you’re fraternizing with the enemy?”  

The girls agreed.

They weren’t exactly wrong. “I’m trying to find my uncle, in case you forgot.”

Tina snatched the front of my shirt and pulled me in close. She stared deep into my eyes, hatred blossoming from her expression. “You think that sad sack of shit is going to help? He’s probably the one who did it.”

An ounce of fear sparked, but I tried my best to suppress it. “I think you’re wrong.”

She let loose of my shirt. “Well, I don’t give a flying fuck what you think. I know about your deal with Millie and I hope you never find him.”

I didn’t like the way Tina had handled me. I could take matters into my own hands, but I didn’t think it would go over well. She had ten years on me, but she also had fifty pounds and nearly a foot. It seemed possible she could squish me like a mosquito.

The girls all watched idly, unsure of what might happen next. I could fight her, but I didn’t think the odds were in my favor. The bigger fear was that if Millie found out, she wouldn’t let me in the club.

“Stay out of my way,” I said to Tina.

The heat of their gaze trailed behind me until my Honda sputtered to life and I could pull away from them. Even after I’d turned into traffic, I had a fear they might follow me. As I drove back toward the river, I had this fear that I’d hear the motorcycles and maybe, just maybe, they’d run me off the road.

Driving through town, I thought about everything my mother had told me about the history of the club. They’d really fought their way to the top. They’d earned respect the hard way. I suppose in some ways it’s that respect I want, but also the comradery. The intoxicating feeling of being in danger all the time. The feeling of power and freedom.

I jerked the e brake in my Honda and stepped out into the wind. The rustle of the water and the breeze through the trees made me wonder if a storm was coming. That’s when I saw it. Off to the side of the road, opposite my car, sat a motorcycle. It wasn’t any motorcycle, but Millie’s.

As I wondered why she’d returned, I worked my cellphone from the pocket of my jeans. As quick as I could, I dialed her number. Only seconds after, I heard the jingle of a cellphone coming from her saddle bag.

I walked closer to the bike, listening to the jingle and wondering why she hadn’t taken it with her. I considered calling out to her but bit my tongue instead. Why had she gone into the woods alone? Which way had she gone?

We’d all marched through the woods along the river, on both sides. We hadn’t walked through the woods on the opposite side of the road, not that I knew of anyway. The sheriff’s words came back to me. “I hate to be the one to break it to you, but you’re looking in the wrong direction.”

Careful not to disrupt the crunchy leaves or scare the critters, I stepped into the woods. I moved slowly, watchful of my surroundings. The trees hadn’t become bare enough to see through them, but they were well on their way. I inched closer. One step turned into two, which gradually became fifty. I tucked behind a tree.

The steady weeping came from the distance and I scanned my surrounding until I found a figure hunched down. From the distance it only looked like a mound of black, but I knew that tarnished color of leather and the I knew the crying was Millie.

From behind one tree, I tiptoed closer, until I got a good visual of her. Where she knelt, I could see a patch of overturned dirt. I thought, but couldn’t be certain, I’d heard something through the gentle weeping. It sounded like, “I’m sorry.”

Like a movie playing in my mind, I saw her killing him. I watched as she butchered Vince with a knife, probably one she’d accumulated from a pawnshop or maybe even from his hunting gear. She dug the hole in the dirt and tossed him in, walked to the other side of the river and drove his bike into the water. She must have convinced him to go on a ride and tricked him into stopping out here, and why not, the traffic out here at night was always dismal.

I swallowed hard and said a small prayer before stepping out. I expected her to see me immediately, but it wasn’t until a couple of steps and a branch snapping under my foot, that she looked up. I’d gotten close.

She bolted up from her crouched position and drew the Sig Sauer. She pointed it at me. “What are you doing here?” She drew back the slide. “You can’t be out here Valerie.”

She stood straight, holding the gun up. The barrel pointed in my direction. Tears had traced down her face and she looked like a deer in headlights. The turned over dirt looked long enough to belong to a person, wide enough too.

The inside of my throat felt tight. I knew she’d get angry, but I hadn’t considered she’d kill me. “Wait.” I stepped closer, going against all of my fiery instincts, which told me to run. “You said if I could find him, I’d become a member. You said that.”

Her eyes were big, face covered with tears. She looked like a woman who’d gone through too much. She looked as if she’d only been held together with duct tape for the last few years. “You don’t understand,” she started.

“He beat you. Listen, your secret is safe with me. Nobody will ever know what’s out here.” I held my hands up to show her there were no tricks.

She chuffed, a wet, snotty sound. “I loved him. I loved him a lot, but the world is a better place without him.” She lowered the gun. Another round of tears came in.

We stood there in the woods, trees rustling around us. It appeared we didn’t have any words to say. She’d killed Vince, and true to my word, I’d figured out what had happened. After a long painful silence, she spoke.

“Where do we go from here?”

The following day, Millie kept true to her word. She’d handed over a prospect vest, which made me a member in training. It felt good to put on the leather. It felt right, like I’d gone my whole life leading to this single moment.

Tina saw me with my vest on during the initiation and she through a world class shit fit. As she went on ranting, claiming I’d be a mistake and the club had gotten soft, Millie shut her up. I thought that would be the end of it, but she turned over her vest and called it quits. By the end of the week, she’d packed up her trailer and shipped off to Vegas.

Much to her protest, my mother eventually turned over the keys to her bike. It took a lot of convincing and a little financial backing from Millie, but we got that thing back on the road and running like a top. Finally, I got what I always wanted, to belong. I feel at home in the club.


Submitted: December 30, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Clarence Carter. All rights reserved.

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