I duck around the overflowing desk, putting some space between the charging women and myself, but it’s a wasted effort. They come straight over the damn thing, still hollering and shouting.
“What the fuck they saying?” I shout over the top of them.
“You’re asking me?” Carnie yells back. One of the women bites his shoulder through the white T-shirt he’s wearing; he howls in pain, and that’s enough for my boy. He pivots around and grabs hold of the two angry masseuses by the hair, one in each hand. “I’m gonna start breaking some of your rules if we don’t get the hell out of here, dude,” he yells.
I admit I’m losing patience, myself. So far my attackers have managed to scratch my face, and the most furious of the two is currently trying to go for my nuts. There’s one quick way to resolve this. I reach into my waistband and pull out my own gun, an AWR Hawkins 4.
The screaming women fall instantly silent. They back up, shooting both Carnie and me hateful glares as we sidestep out of the room. Once we’re out of the office and charging down the stairs, they start up with the screaming again, barreling at breakneck speeds after us.
“How fast can you start your bike?” Carnie calls over his shoulder.
“Faster than you, brother.” We burst into the main room of Hartley’s massage business—the legal, non-brothel part—and even more women start screaming. From there it’s a short distance out onto the street. The door nearly rockets off its hinges as we slam through. True to my word, my engine’s snarling before Carnie’s. We leave the women in the dust.
We reach the clubhouse just after nine, our faces still aching from laughing so hard. Set back off the road, surrounded by high fences, the clubhouse is a squat, industrial-looking building from the outside. The front yard is crowded with bikes—rows of shining motorcycles, old and new, lined up like a pack of guard dogs. Every MC has a business front—a necessary evil when trying to explain to the law where your money’s come from and what you get up to all day long. The Widow Makers are ink monkeys. We’re the guys who mark you up with that pretty little butterfly you’ve always wanted, seductively placed just above your hip. We’re the ones who tattoo the name of your boyfriend onto the curves of your cleavage one week, only to be the ones to cover it with someone else’s name the next.
A neon sign—Dead Man’s Ink Bar—sends electric blue reflections across meters of polished chrome as it blinks off and on in a steady pulse. Dead Man’s never closes, so that light is never switched off. We pull up and park underneath it, kicking back our stands, and swinging off our bikes.
“Hey, lookit,” Carnie says, pointing back over my shoulder. “V.P’s back.”
And so he is. Cade Preston, Vice President of the club, went on a recon mission for me three days ago with some of our boys. His bike, a dirty great big Star Bolt with an olive green tank, is propped up in its usual spot against the side of the building.
We had news that a club friend was being leaned on by Los Oscuros, a mixed breed cartel. And not just a club friend—my uncle. The fact that he’s a federal judge is something I overlook on account of the fact he made his house my own whenever my father got sick of beating my ass as a kid.
“Sweet. He must have squared everything away quicker than expected.” We rap my knuckles against the tank as I pass Cade’s bike—still warm. Inside the clubhouse, there are no celebratory shots of Jack being passed around. The place is full, nearly every single member of the club seated at tables, some parked on the edge of the pool table. There are a lot of stern looks on faces. Arms folded across chests. I spot Cade immediately, leaning against the bar. The look on his face speaks volumes.
“What? What happened?”
Cade speaks three words:
Raphael Dela Vega.
Before he’s finished saying them, before he’s had a chance to personally bring my world crashing down around my ears, I already know it. I already know my uncle is dead.
“I called it. I didn’t have any other choice.” Cade closes the door to my den behind him, shutting out the steely looks of the Widow Makers crew—there are twenty-three people gathered out in the bar, because they all knew before I did: we are at war with Los Oscuros. Cade saw my dead uncle’s body lying in the snow, and he handed over that bullet, just like I would have done. Except I would have given it to Raphael straight between the fucking eyes. “You okay?” Cade asks, as I slump into the seat at my desk.
No other member of the club would ask me if I was okay right now. They’re hard men, who deal with their issues the hard way: silently. Cade, on the other hand, has known me since I was eight years old. He knew me before all of the goodness got torn out of me. He knows I am not okay.
I just shake my head, staring down at the gun I’ve drawn from my belt without realizing and am now holding in my hands. “How did he die?”
“I don’t know.” Cade’s ominously silent for a moment. “But there was a lot of blood.”
I close my eyes, trying to fill my lungs with some air. It’s not working. “Okay.” I inhale. Exhale. Nod my head. “Okay.” The second time I say it, I’m closing a door. Ryan Conahue is dead. There’s nothing I can do to bring him back now, but there are a number of things I can do about his death. My first instinct is go take this fucking gun, climb onto my bike, ride all the way from New Mexico to Seattle, and torture that motherfucker until he begs to die. “Do you know where they’re staying?” I ask. “Hector and the others?” It’s not just Raphael that needs to die. His boss is the one who ordered Ryan’s death. He is as guilty, if not more so.