Hector casts his eye over the stacks, nods once, shakes hands with the obese man one last time, and then climbs back up the stairs toward me. “You go with him now,” he tells me. “And remember what I said. You open your mouth…” He doesn’t need to finish his sentence. “I hope I never see you again, Sophia Letitia Marne.” And with that, he vanishes back inside the house.

When I turn to face my fate, there are at least fifteen men staring up at me in the dark. The majority of them are leering, eyes already eating up my skin, devouring me whole, though the fat guy doesn’t appear to be even half as interested in me. He steps forward, gesturing me forward with an impatient beckoning motion of his fingers. “Come on, child. I have guests arriving at my home shortly. We have to hurry.”

Another thick Spanish accent. I think doing as he asks is probably the smartest thing I can do, and yet I just can’t force myself. My body will not comply. I want to go home. More than anything in this world, I want to be back in Seattle. The idea of voluntarily leaving with these men makes me sick to my stomach. If I do that, my whole world is going to change. I know that without a shadow of a doubt.

“Juan, go and fucking get her,” the fat guy says, talking to one of his men. I see the sneer spreading on Raphael’s face as a tall, thin man with one hand firmly gripped around a gun stalks toward me. I don’t have the courage to back away. I freeze to the spot, my mind racing. Juan climbs the steps, hooks one wiry arm around my waist and then half-drags, half-shoves me back down the steps after him.

“Put her in my car,” the fat guy says.

And that’s what Juan does. I am unceremoniously bundled into the back of the lead car—a dark sedan with blacked-out windows. Juan climbs in the front driver’s seat, and then the rest of his crew helps the fat guy lower himself into the back with me.

The doors slam, the sound of a shotgun ringing out into the night, and that is it—I am sold. People have taken longer to buy a pack of cigarettes. Juan starts the engine, and we’re moving within seconds. I swivel in my seat, turning to watch as the black, black outline of Raphael grows smaller and smaller behind us.

“So. You’re the piece of pussy who’s been causing all this fuss?” the fat guy asks. He lays a meaty hand against the bare skin of my thigh, grunting with approval. “You may call me Mr. Perez,” he informs me, as though entertained by the use of the English address, instead of the Spanish. “And now, I have some friends who would very much like to meet you.”

REBEL

Being the president of an MC is a lot like being the president of a small country. There are things to consider. Firstly, traffic laws. Convince your constituents to not ride around in their cuts. If they ride around wearing their cuts, people will be able to identify them. And where’s the common sense in that? Secondly, diversity is king. If your entire club is made up of white guys with shaved heads, you start to look suspicious. And besides, no one Widow Maker is better than another, regardless of the color of his or her skin. The only hierarchy we subscribe to is this: Prez’s word is final. If Prez isn’t around, V.P.’s word is final. Thirdly, gender equality. Ain’t a single man born on this planet without the good graces of a woman. Clubs that refuse women in their ranks are fucking retarded. After the cuts, what’s going to attract more attention than a bunch of angry-looking dudes riding around on motorcycles? Nothing. Throw a couple of women in the mix and suddenly you’re a hell of a lot less conspicuous.

The Widow Makers are black, white, Asian, Hispanic, male, female—you name it, we got it. Our bikes aren’t the kind of things you’d see being built on Orange County Choppers. Yes, a good percent of the Widowers’ rides are monstrous cruisers built out of chrome, exhaust pipes fatter than they have any sane reason to be, but we have street fighters too. Sports bikes built for speed and cornering quickly. Tourers built for comfort. Road-legal dirt bikes that can turn on a hairpin and jump a fucking mini van if they have to.

The Widow Makers aren’t your average MC. We’re a bit of everything. We blend into the background. We’re covert. We fly under the radar. We’re the only MC in the United States of America that operates like this. You may be asking yourself why we hide who we are from the prying eyes of the public. The answer to that question is simple:

We’re not just a motorcycle club. We’re criminals. And we’re really fucking good at not getting caught.

******

Julio’s Compound

Rebel

I hear the cars pulling up around four am. Carnie hears it, too. He was sleeping, silent, not one muscle twitching, but the low rumble of tires on hard-packed earth has jolted him awake. His Beretta—he calls her Margo. After his mother—is in his hand, ready to shoot. One of Julio Perez’s employees lifts his semi-automatic, aiming it at Carnie’s face.

“Calmate,” the Mexican says. He has the look of a stone-cold killer about him. There’s nothing going on behind those blank, dark eyes of his. Carnie winces up at the guy, shifting in his chair. Margo goes back into the waistband of his jeans.

“Do I not look calm to you, asshole?” he asks. Carnie hasn’t been prospecting for us for long, but he’s got fucking stones like bowling balls. He’s never really looked the part—tall and gangly, glasses, side parting. He’s basically a thirty-three-year-old hipster redneck. I found him half beaten to death just outside a bar in Midland City, Alabama. I wasn’t going to waste my time scraping him off the ground, but Cade went through his pockets and found out he had his light aircraft license. Not surprising, given that Midland City’s the location of Dothan’s regional airport. He was a crop sprayer for a living before we picked him up. Spent his time dusting fields with enough weed killer to deform an entire county.