Reunion Series-




Chapter One


Life was good as now Cassie and Peaches had their dream. They both had good men and a new life filling their houses with love and laughter. They had come from nothing and now they had everything. They had been through hell together. But they had their own families and were part of something much bigger.

 The most astounding of it all was that they weren’t afraid anymore. No more looking over their shoulders, no more being afraid of the dark, no more pain or going hungry. They had dared to grab that brass ring and hang on. They had dared to take that ride and now they had it all.

Cassie smiled as she thought of how her life had turned out while she buckled her babies into a twin stroller and looked at the clock. It was the last day of school. She, Reva and Peaches had made plans to pick up the kids from the school bus then take everyone out for ice cream as a treat for getting through a year of school. Her second set of twins, Christian and Nicky were six months old now as they were seeing their world growing every day. 

Sam and Jemmia were in kindergarten this year while Piper was in preschool. They were finding school to be a great experience. Alaina, Jackie, and Benny along with Jesse, Elliott, and Tiffany. Reva had left her youngest with his daddy, as this was an outing for just the kids.

Cassie rushed the stroller out of her front door and walked along the parking lot, making her way slowly to the front gate. She was early but Reva would meet her soon enough. She took a deep breath of fresh, clean air and she had to smile.

When she got to the front gate, she punched in the code and the gate opened. Passing through it, she punched the code to close it again before she started up the long driveway. Today was going to be a great day among many that she had been blessed with.

She seemed to be paying attention to her children or she might have seen the older man standing in the trees, watching her walk down the drive. She missed seeing the malice in his eyes and his clenched fists as he growled under his breath.

He waited until she got to the turn off before he moved. He needed to back up and hike through the trees surrounding his compound and go to the far side where he had parked his truck this morning. He’d been coming here for a week now just to watch the routine of the compound and make sure the men he once knew were still here. 

As soon as he saw Deke and Gator, a rage inside grew. 

After all this time, most of the men he knew were gone but it had been twenty something years since he’d been here last. When he got to his truck, he got behind the wheel and raised his hand to rub his forehead. His finger rubbed across an old scar and his head began to throb. He hissed as the pain inside his head grew but he tried to tamp it down. He had other things to do right now and this would be his first strike against his past.

Starting the truck, he tried not to hear the engine rev up. He would have rather it been his cycle revving up but this was the best he could do at the moment. He couldn’t be seen in this area because some people had long memories and he didn’t want anyone to know he was back just yet. He checked the highway for traffic and didn’t see anyone coming or going, so he knew he had to make his move now.

He pulled out on the highway and caught sight of his prey. He aimed his truck in her direction and pulled out slowly. As he got closer, he stepped down on the gas pedal and his truck rushed forward. 

Cassie turned and the look of fear on her face fed the rage inside him when his truck slammed into her as she flew up in the air. The stroller tipped and he heard the babies cry out but he was too busy watching their mother hurl over the side of the road into the ditch. He stomped on the brakes and put the truck in park then got out to see what the damage was.

 Rushing over to the side of the road, he peeked down into the ditch. The woman was lying in the tall grass, not moving. Her head was tipped at an angle. Blood was most definitely present as she seemed to be sleeping peacefully and her pillow was a rock.

So now, he smiled.

Suddenly, he heard babies screaming and turned to see them. The stroller laid tipped on its side, so he walked over to it and released the babies. When he picked up one of the boys, he tisked under his breath as he shook his head. With an evil glee filled grin, he said, “I think I’ll take you with me for a while. That will drive your daddy completely round the bend, wondering what happened to you. Yeah, I think I’ll just do that. Oh, but don’t worry baby boy, you won’t be gone long. I can’t stand kids, especially damn whiny babies. I just want your dad to know that life is short, too short sometimes.”

He looked down at baby number two still crying in the stroller and sneered. “You stay here with your mama.” Shaking his head, he called her out, “Imagine that your mom is sleeping on the job. She should be taking care of the pair of you instead of being out cold.” He sniggered.

Again, he stared at the baby in his arms. “You both look like your daddy, damn. Come on kiddo, let’s get the hell out of Dodge while we still can. I don’t want your dad to know I’m back just yet. He has to learn a lesson here. One that has been coming to him for a longass time.”

With the crying baby in his arms, he lumbered over to the truck to put the baby in the front seat and buckled him in then went around to the driver’s side. Getting behind the wheel, he started the truck engine again and this time, he tore out of the area. 

Reva slowed her car down and stopped beside the crawling child. She opened her door and called out, “Christian, what in the world are you doing out here alone?” 

Christian was crying as he struggled while the dirt on the side of the highway hurt his knees but he crawled along anyway. He was just learning to crawl so he took his time but eventually got quite a ways away from where he started. 

 Reva scooped him up and dusted him off then noticed all his scratches. “What in the world happened, baby?” she asked him softly. Christian was crying again and snuggling into her. Reva felt fear race through her.  “Where’s your mom and brother, little man?” Her breathing grew rapid as panic set in

Confused and afraid, she looked up and down the highway again. Finally, she saw something in the distance. Narrowing her eyes, she began walking toward the object. As she got closer, she saw it was Cassie’s twin stroller tipped over and wrecked.

Reva started into a run toward it. When she reached it, she realized it was empty and there was no sign of Cassie or Nicky.

She gazed down at the child in her arms and asked, “What happened baby? Where is your mom and your brother?” Then she turned and began to call out, “Cassie? Where are you, girl?”

She walked up and down the highways her heart pounded so loud she could hear it in her ears. She desperately kept looking for any sign of Cassie or Nicky. A car or two came along and she stepped out of the way. “Cassie, where are you?"she kept calling out over and over again. "Cassie, answer me, where the hell are you honey?” Tears were now rolling down Reva's cheeks.

Just then, Christian leaned over Reva’s arm and she couldn’t straighten him out again. She turned and that was when she saw Cassie down in the ditch. “Oh, my God…” Reva shouted in fear as she noticed Cassie was out cold and she wasn’t moving. She covered her mouth with her hand as she rushed back to her car and grabbed her phone. With trembling fingers, she dialed 911 and told the operator to hurry, there had been an accident, and Cassie Tory was lying in a ditch unconscious.

Then she took a deep breath and adjusting Christian in her arms, she tapped another number.  Her body wouldn’t quit shivering as she had trouble not dropping the phone. Christian was sobbing again while Reva waited for Gator to pick up her call.

Finally, he answered. "What's up, babe?

“Gator—?” She couldn’t speak right for a second as she swallowed and tried again, “C-come quick and bring Deke w-with you. Cassie’s been hurt.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” Gator demanded. “Where are you?”

Reva swallowed hard one more time as her throat was swelling with sobs. “I-I’m on the highway b-by the turn off for the— compound and…and I found Christian crawling on the highway. He was alone and there was no sign of Cassie or Nicky. K-kept looking for her when Christian leaned over my arm trying to jump out of my arms— and I saw Cassie in the ditch. S-she’s hurt Gator. I don’t know how bad but I called an ambulance then I called you. Y-you need to bring Deke and get here fast.”

“We’re on our way honey,” Gator assured her and then the line went dead.

Reva was sobbing by now as she looked down at Christian and shook her head. “Oh baby, where is your brother? Your dad is going to have a fit and lord help us all if your mom is hurt too bad. This is terrible, just terrible.”

Christian sobbed in her arms and he couldn’t say anything. Reva now cried with him as she couldn’t control it anymore.

Only moments later, Gator and Deke pulled up along with about half the MC. 

Then right behind them the ambulance siren screamed as a red and white vehicle pulled up. EMT’s and medical personnel poured out, rushing over to where Reva stood. She pointed down into the ditch before anyone cold ask her where Cassie was. The EMT’s scrambled down into it.

 Deke and Gator reached her now. 

Deke glared at Christian sobbing in her arms, so he took the baby from Reva and tried to hush him.

“What’s going on, baby?” Gator asked her as he wrapped his arm around Reva's shoulders.

Reva shook her head as she cried. “I-I was supposed to meet Cassie at the gate to meet the school bus then w-we were going to take all the kids for ice cream as today is their last day of school. But when I got this far, I saw Christian crawling along the highway and I stopped to pick him up. Then I found the stroller and it was completely destroyed. B-but I couldn’t find Nicky or Cassie.”Her hands shook badly as she took a deep breath. “I walked up and down the highway, finally Christian saw his mom and then I found her. Oh God, Gator! I think she got hit by a car! A-and I still c-can’t find N-Nicky.” Reva sobbed and planted her face in her husband’s chest. 

“Reva,” Deke growled. “This isn’t your fault, we just have to pray that Nicky is close by and he’s all right.”

Gator paused to look at his friend. “Are you okay, man?”

Deke shook his head violently. “Not even close brother, but I’m holding my son and I don’t know how his mother is or where his brother is. I want to hit someone.” He stared down into the ditch.

The EMT’s were working on Cassie. They already had a neck brace on her and they were loading her onto a gurney. Finally, they were coming up the slope of the incline and hurrying toward the ambulance. 

Deke handed Christian to Gator and rushed over to the ambulance. “How bad is she hurt?” he demanded.

The EMT glanced over at him and said, “Her head landed on a rock before her fall  stopped. We won’t know how bad that is until we get her to the hospital. You can meet us there.” The EMT slammed the door shut and the ambulance took off with the siren screaming as it made a turn. It took off toward the hospital.

Deke stood there for a moment and found he couldn’t breathe. His mind had gone blank.

 Gator shook him then slapped him on the back. “What the hell are you waiting on, brother? Go find her. I’ll send Reva home with the baby and we’ll meet you there.” 

Deke came online again as he shook his shocked daze away. “No, get the men and search for Nicky. Cover every fucking inch of this highway.”

Gator nodded.

Then Deke paused to look back at his son and nodded. “Thanks brother.” He literally ran for his bike… a moment later, he turned his cycle around and roared off to the hospital.

Wiley and Deacon joined Gator.

 “What the hell happened here?” Deacon asked.


Chapter Two

Deke rushed into the emergency room just as they were taking Cassie back to be examined. He was left to cool his heels but soon, other members of his MC joined him. Gator and Peaches arrived at the same time.

Peaches went over to Deke and asked, “Is she gonna be okay?”

He could hear the fear in her voice and he for once had no answers for her. “We don’t know yet.”

“Do you know what happened?” Deacon asked.

Deke shook his head. “When Reva reached them Christian was crawling along the highway, Cassie was down in the ditch and there was no sign of Nicky at all. We still don’t know what happened to him.” Deke's voice broke at the thought of his youngest son being missing. He turned to Gator, “You have the men searching for him, right?”

Gator nodded at him. “There's a dozen men out there scouring the whole area, Deke.”

Peaches shivered. “Oh, God. Nicky… that’s gonna kill Cassie.” Her voice broke as tears rolled down her face.

More and more people had joined them, including Amos, Frankie and a couple of others from Redemption House. 

Cassie’s mom, Jemmia rushed in too. She went over to Deke and hugged him hard. Then she cupped both sides of his face and whispered, “She’s tough, she’ll pull through this. You have to believe that. She’s got every reason to come back from this.”

Deke nodded. “Oh, I know that. But this is out of the blue. If it was an accident, why didn’t whoever hit her stick around and help her? And where is my son Nicky?”

Jemmia gasped as she raised her hand to cover her mouth. “Oh, nooo…”

Peaches wrapped her arm around Jemmia’s waist as she was sobbing now. Peaches kept wishing that Iceman were here instead of being in Boston. “I thought we were beyond this. For the first time in so long, I thought we finally put our past behind us. Now this? When will this be over?” Shaking her head, she whispered, “Haven’t Cassie and I paid enough?”

“You don’t know yet if it is that, Peaches,” Deacon patted her arm. “Let’s wait to see if…this was just an accident.”

Just then Paige, Gambler, Max and Peggy arrived. 

Paige came over and asked, “Is it true? That someone hit Cassie and the boys?”

Gator looked over at them. “We don’t know what happened, but when Reva found them, Christian was crawling along the highway, Nicky was missing, and Cassie was in the ditch unconscious. We don’t know any more than that at the moment.”

“Poor Cassie,” Paige whispered. “Have you found Nicky yet?”

Deke just shook his head.

At that moment the doctor came out of the hall and walked over to Deke. “Mr. Tory, I have an update on Cassie’s injuries.”

“How is she doing?” Deke asked as he looked white in the face.

“Well, the thing that concerns us at the moment is the fact that when she fell she hit her head on a hard surface. She has a concussion and she’s still unconscious. It looks as if she was hit by a car and thrown from the road. She’s bruised badly all up and down her left side but we took x-rays and nothing’s broken but she’s going to be hurting for a while.” He shook his head. “Her lower back and left shoulder is deeply bruised but like I said, nothing is broken.” He paused then said, “As soon as we get her into a room, you can see her, but I’d like to keep her here at least overnight or until she wakes up, whichever comes first.”

Deke nodded. He felt more than grateful for the small stuff but he still hated that she was hurt at all. He looked over at Deacon and glared, “Find the bastard that hit her.”

Deacon just shook his head. “How do you propose I do that? There aren’t any cameras out there.”

“Just find me something.” Deke exhaled. Running his hands over the back of his head, he growled. “I can’t just sit here with my thumb up my ass when someone out there hurt my wife and stole my child. I just can’t…” He looked away.

“Man, we got men out there looking,” Gator said. “They will find Nicky.”

Sam and Melora arrived during Deke’s rant.

Sam frowned and asked, “Someone hit her?”

Deke turned his head to glare at his father. “Yeah dad, someone hit her with their car and just left her unconscious, crumpled up in a fucking ditch.” He took a deep breath and said, “The worst part of it? She had the boys with her and now Nicky is missing and we can’t find him. Cassie is going to go ballistic…When and if she ever wakes up.”

Sam grabbed Deke by the back of his neck and hauled him close. “Kid, get your head out of your ass and listen up. Cassie has been through hell and survived. When Peaches was taken, she never gave up trying to find her, she never gave up trying to find her family, and she has never given up on you. Now she has you and her kids and that’s all she ever wanted. She found her sister, her uncle and her life has meaning now. You think she’s going to give up and curl up and die? I don’t fucking think so. She’ll fight with everything she has left to get back to you and her kids. Don’t you give up on her.  I won’t hear it. She’s gonna need to lean on you big time until your kid is found and you can get the ones responsible for this. She’s got you to lean on and you better not disappoint that woman or I’ll kick your stupid ass, you hear me boy? I’ll kick your ass.”

Deke just stared at his dad. “Yeah, I hear you Bones. I wasn’t giving up on her, I just need to find the bastard that hit her and took my son. And right now I have no idea who did this or why.” Then he pulled away from his father and snarled, “As far as you kicking my ass, only in your dreams old man, only in your dreams.”

Sam snorted but noticed Deke’s attitude had changed slightly and that’s what he wanted. He and everyone else needed Deke in fighting form, not feeling sorry for himself.

Just then, the doctor rejoined Deke and frowned as he noted how big the group had gotten since his last visit. He looked over at Deke. “She’s in her room now and I think she’s trying to wake up. I need you to talk to her and bring her around again. I understand the police are coming to talk to her to try and make sense out of what happened.”

Deke nodded. “I think we all need to know what happened and she’s the only one who can tell us.”

The doctor just shook his head. “Well, I hope she can actually tell you what happened. Some people in her situation can’t remember the actual trauma. Come along then.”

Deke looked over at Peaches and held out his hand to her. “She might need both of us.”

Peaches brushed her tears away and joined Deke. They walked down the hall together. When they entered the room, they halted as they saw her hooked up to monitors and wires were running everywhere.

Peaches sucked in a deep breath of shock and leaned on Deke.

Deke assisted her closer to the bed and stared at Cassie. She was lying on her side, so he went around and lifted the sheet to see how badly her back was bruised. He hissed at the dark coloration on her skin. Black and blue streaks and dark sections were plain to see from her midthigh on her left side half way up her back. He also saw more bruising on her shoulders and neck. It took everything he had inside to keep from opening his mouth and screaming at the top of his fucking lungs.

Just then, Cassie groaned.

Peaches sat down and reached for her hand. “Cassie girl, are you there? Can you hear me?” she asked her softly. She watched and waited, then she saw movement behind Cassie’s closed eyes. “Come on sweetie, open your beautiful eyes, and show me you’re awake. Please…”

 Cassie groaned again in pain and tried to open her eyes. “Too b-bright,” she whispered.

Deke walked over and shut off the lights.

The dimly lit room didn’t show too much as Peaches leaned in and whispered, “Try again honey. Deke dimmed the lights. Come on Cassie, open your eyes.”

Cassie tried again and this time, she cracked her eyes open. “Peaches? Is that you?”

Peaches smiled. “Yeah my girl, I’m here. Deke’s here too.”

Cassie sighed then she winced. “Deke, where are you?”

Deke moved over and said, “I’m right here, baby,” he told her quietly. “I’m right here.”

Cassie groaned again. “What the hell happened? God, I hurt all over.”

“You were hit by a car,” Deke told her. “Do you remember anything about that?”

Cassie nodded then she winced and lifted her hands to her head. “Damn, that hurts.”

“Yeah, you smashed down on a rock when you were thrown off the—road.” Deke’s throat swelled up and he could barely speak.

 Cassie suddenly stilled then her eyes popped and she looked panicked. “T-the boys? Are they o-okay?”

Deke looked down at her and his lip trembled, as he just couldn’t tell her anything. He knew this would hit hard, fuck he knew that well.

Peaches grasped her hand a little tighter and spoke to her very softly, “Reva found Christian crawling along the road but there was no sign of Nicky anywhere. Did you hear or see anything that could help us find him?”

Cassie choked out a sob and whispered, “N-Nicky’s—missing?”

Deke nodded. “Yeah baby, he’s missing.”

Tears welled and spilled down her cheeks. “Where did he go? They were strapped in the stroller. The truck that hit us stopped, then I could see a man get out. He picked up Nicky and then I don’t remember anymore. I must have passed out.”

Deke frowned. “You saw a man and he had Nicky in his arms? Are you sure?”

Cassie cried out as she pressed her hands against her temples. “I think so. Damn! Why can’t I remember any more?”

Peaches leaned forward. “Cassie girl, your head hit a rock. The doctor says you have a severe concussion.”

Cassie opened her eyes and stared at her best friend with bloodshot eyes. “Nicky’s life is at stake, Peaches. I have to remember. I— have to. I can’t lose m-my son!”

Peaches leaned closer and put her forehead on Cassie’s. “I know, baby girl. I know. But you need to calm down. Getting all worked up isn’t going to help. Don’t fight this. Slow it down, take a calm healing breath and just breathe for a moment. Do what you always tell me to do when I’m stressed. Just breathe. Calm down, take a deep breath and just breathe slowly, ok?.”

Cassie gazed into her sister’s eyes and tried. She took a deep breath and just breathed. Then she closed her eyes and took another deep breath and exhaled slowly. She reached out one hand for Peaches and the other hand for Deke. As they held on, she took another deep breath and exhaled slowly.

A minute or two passed, then she opened her eyes and looked at Deke. “I think I remember now. I heard a truck coming behind me, I turned and saw it. It was dark blue and had some kind of sticker in the windshield. I think it had a coiled snake on it. It was coming up behind me fast and then at the last minute, it turned toward me. When it hit me, I went flying and I heard the babies crying and then I tumbled down into the ditch. My head hit something and the pain was terrible and that was when I passed out, but I fought it. I was so scared for the boys but I opened my eyes and saw the man standing at the top of the road. He had picked up Nicky, holding him in his arms and he stepped closer to look down at me. I think he was really close, because I could hear him talking? I’m not sure why but he was close enough so I heard him…” She choked on a sob and had to take a minute to speak again. “....H-he was telling Nicky, he had to come with him. That it would drive Deke crazy not knowing where your son was. He said it would torment you bad not knowing whether Nicky was dead or alive and that would make his job that much easier. That this would soften you up enough so when the kill shot came, you wouldn’t even see it.” Cassie paused, as she looked confused and scared. “What did he mean, Deke?”

Deke growled. “I don’t know but I’ll find him before he finds me and I’ll be the one to give him the kill shot, not the other way around,” he vowed. “I may not know who he us right now, but I will find him if I have to look under each and every rock in this fucking town. Someone just declared war on the Sin’s Bastards. But we will find him and rip his heart out of his chest before we’re done. He better hope Nicky’s not hurt or I will burn him out and send his soul to hell.”

Cassie just stared at Peaches and slowly shook her head as tears rolled down her pale cheeks.


Chapter Three


Deke walked back out to the waiting room and everyone gathered around him.

“What did she say?” Deacon asked.

“She said a truck came up behind her, then he aimed his vehicle at her and hit her on purpose.” Deke growled. “She said it was a blue truck with some kind of sticker of a coiled snake in the windshield.”

One of the older brothers raised his head and stared at Deke. “A coiled snake?” He looked white as a sheet. 

Deke snapped his gaze over to him. “What do you know about this, Breaker?”

Breaker shook his head and admitted, “Not much boss.” He hesitated then shook his head again. “It’s just that the coiled snake brings up bad memories, that's all.”

Deke frowned and snarled, “What kind of bad memories?”

Breaker shook his head. “That’s just it, it was so long ago, I guess I’d forgotten. Or I wanted to forget? Bear always liked the coiled snake. He even had it tattooed on his chest. He also used to have a sticker on the windshield of his bike.”

Deke looked troubled. “But Bear died a long time ago.” He remembered when he and Gator told Reva about this….

9 years ago...

…. Deke stared at the pond then his gaze moved to a spot just to the left of the water. Neither he nor Gator had ever told anyone where they’d buried the body of a young girl all those years ago. They felt a secret wouldn’t stay a secret long if too many people knew it, so this was a secret only they shared.

Gator reached out and took Reva’s hand. “Honey, this place is very special.” He glanced over at Deke and they stared at each other then Deke gave him a brief incline of his head.

Gator took a deep breath and said, “Sweetheart, twelve years ago when we came here, this club was a mess. I never brought you around it, because you wouldn’t have been safe. The leader was an absolute bastard who treated women like whores. No one deserved that.”

Reva stared at him then at Deke. “But you guys changed all that, didn’t you? I mean you took over and made this club into something you could be proud of.”

“But that took more than we wanted to give,” Deke replied. “We were ready to walk away from this place and get back on the road until we found what we wanted.”

“What happened?” she asked softly.

“I couldn’t let their leader rape a young girl.” Deke’s softly spoken words shattered the quiet. “I stood up to the bastard and he killed her.”

“The bastard killed her with a knife to the back. That was after he beat her and almost raped her,” Gator grumbled.

Reva raised her hands to her mouth in shock as she looked from one to the other of them. Finally,  she whispered, “What happened then?”

“One of his own men shot him right between the eyes.” Gator growled. “But at least he saw it coming. He didn’t get it in the back like a coward.”

“What happened to him?” Reva asked.

“I told his men to drag his sorry ass out to the woods and let him rot,” Deke stated…..

Breaker kept staring at Deke as they stood in the hospital waiting room. “I can see you remember it now.”

 Gator shook his head. “But that was well over twenty years ago.”

Deke nodded. “I know and we got the rest of his brothers too. Well, us and the Sinners in Boston. We took down the whole Long family.”

“If it is Bear, where the hell has he been all this time?” Breaker wondered aloud. “I mean he was mean enough back when he ran the MC he wouldn’t have just walked away if he did survive the bullet?” Shaking his head, “No not Bear, he would have come right back shooting anyone who stood in his way.”

Deke growled. “If it was Bear, he damn near killed my wife and he’s got one of my sons. Nicky is a helpless baby. If he hurts him. I’ll burn him alive.”

Breaker took a step back and just stared at Deke. Twenty something years ago when he and Gator showed up he was the only one of them that tried to stop Bear. Breaker remembered what happened that night like it was yesterday…

It all came to a head when Gillian tried to leave the compound. The club was partying which wasn’t uncommon but Bear’s demands on Gillian were getting worse. He’d had enough to drink that night when he grabbed her and began dragging her to his bedroom. Gillian refused and tried to break his hold but couldn’t get away from him. 

No one was paying any attention to her. 

Deke tried to stand up to assist her.

 Breaker, Bear’s second in command, held him back and shook his head. “You don’t want to do that.”

Deke couldn’t believe he’d said this. “Why not?” he demanded.

Breaker just shook his head. Then he looked away and picked up his drink, not saying a word.

“You mean to tell me you’re going to let him rape that girl and do nothing to stop him?” Deke fumed.

Breaker shrugged but couldn’t meet Deke’s eyes. “It will hurt her less if she cooperates.”

Deke pursed his lips together as he looked furious. “She doesn’t want him. I think she’s made that clear enough.”

Breaker shrugged again. “But he wants her and right now, that’s all that matters to him. He’ll lose interest quick enough.”

Deke pushed his chair back and got to his feet. Looking around the room, he glared at every man sitting there. 

No one could meet his eyes. They could all see what was happening, they could all hear her screams and not one of them had come to her aid.

Looking over at Gator, Deke saw his rage, then he swung his hard gaze to Breaker. “That’s bullshit and you know it. Not one of you here deserves the rank of being called a man. I always thought an MC meant something to the members. That being part of an MC meant being part of a brotherhood but this is not what a brotherhood means to me. You are letting a bastard of a man bully you into submission and that’s worse than being a snake. He’s got each and every one of you by the short hairs and you allowed that to happen. You people make me sick.” Growling, he walked toward the bedroom Bear and Gillian had gone to.

Moments later, they all heard the sounds of a fight. Then they saw Bear flying through the doorway as Deke tossed him back into the main room. Bear got up off the floor and charged back into the bedroom then they heard more thuds against the wall. Bear flew out of the bedroom again, followed by Deke as they fought their way into the open space of the main room. Both men were bleeding and it seemed as if Bear would win the fight as he had Deke down on the ground. But Deke managed to throw a fist that stunned Bear. He nailed him in the groin with the first blow, then in the head with the second hit.

Bear dropped to the ground and didn’t move for a moment or so. Deke got up slowly bending at his waist and took several deep breaths. Blood dripped on the floor from his broken nose.

Now Gillian slowly emerged from the bedroom. Blood ran down her chin and her clothing was torn. Tears rolled down her face and she could barely walk. She hugged the wall as she passed the spot where Bear laid. Before she could take more than a step past him, he got to his feet and pulled the knife from the sheath at his hip. He grabbed her by the hair and pulled her backward. She screamed and struggled to break free. Growling, he shook his head as if to clear it and stabbed her in the back.

Her screams were cut short as she fell to the floor.

 No sound was heard from anyone as they’d witnessed what Bear had done.

Bear just stood there glaring at the girl while breathing heavily. His eyes were glazed over and he didn’t seem to care that he’d just killed someone.

Deke growled and pulled his fist back in order to drop the other man when suddenly, a gunshot barked out.

Everyone watched as a wound burst open and blood sprayed from out of Bear’s forehead. His eyes crossed and he dropped to his knees, falling forward to lay on the floor next to Gillian….

 ...Breaker didn’t know where he’d gotten the courage to take Bear down back then but Deke’s words had sparked something in him at the time and it made him want to fight back for the first time in a very long time. Deke’s words back then made sense to him and some of the others. 

Then after everything was said and done, they asked Deke to take Bear’s place as head of the MC and things finally turned around for them. Deke was tough but fair and for once, the members had a voice. Deke brought law and order to the MC and many of them were grateful but a few objected, as one of Deke’s rules was no more drug dealing. But Deke gave them a choice too. If they wanted to deal in drugs they had to move out of Troy and leave their colors behind. Harsh but fair.

Breaker moved away from the main group and reached for his phone to make a call. “Sweenie, we got a problem.”

“Damn Breaker, what’s wrong now?” Sweenie asked him.

“Someone just hit Deke Tory’s wife and kidnapped one of his kids.”

"Shit, do they know who did it?” Sweenie asked.

“Someone with a coiled snake sticker in the windshield of his truck,” Breaker told him.

Silence came over the line for a few seconds, then Sweenie swore with fear in his voice,“Oh, fucking hell…No way, Breaker. It can’t be him. He’s been dead over twenty years. It can’t be him. We left him in the woods for the wolves, behind the clubhouse, didn’t we?”

“I thought we did then, but now? I don’t know.” Breaker sighed heavily. “If he is alive, he could just be starting his revenge and you know he’ll make his displeasure known to anyone he thinks betrayed him. We gotta watch our own backs here too.”

“Yeah, we do,” Sweenie agreed with him. “But we also gotta try and find him and get that baby back. Deke is going to tear this town apart to try and find him if we don’t. And you know Bear, he’ll kill that kid just because he can.”

“Yeah, I know, but we don’t know for sure this bastard is Bear. How could he have survived that bullet?” Breaker admitted. “It could be just about anyone.”

Sweenie growled. “Well, we can get word out on the streets and see what we can find out.”

Breaker sighed hard. “If I know Cassie’s friends over at Redemption House, they can find out for us.”

Sweenie snorted. “Yeah, that girl has her own network, don’t she? All vets too. They can find out, that's for sure.”

“Yeah, our MC sure has changed this town, for the better too,” Breaker pointed out. “Bear was running us down into the ground but that all changed when Deke Tory took over. Under Bear, we were losing our balls but Deke gave us our manhood back and treated us better than Bear ever did or ever would.”

“We have to figure this out brother, hopefully before whoever he is wreaks any more havoc,” Sweenie claimed.

“Damn right we do,” Breaker acknowledged. “Deke is about ready to wreak his own havoc and if he does that Troy might not survive the aftermath. The attack on his woman has made this personal and God only knows what he’ll do.”

“I’ll get the word out on the streets and pray we can find out before Deke goes off.” Sweenie sighed over the cell.

“Well, if this is Bear, he’d know the way to get to Deke is to hurt his family,” Breaker said.

“You know what that means, don’t ya?” Sweenie asked.

“Yeah, I know what it means,” Breaker admitted. “It means Bear has been here awhile, watching us all. And this might be only his first strike.” He paused and growled, “Hell, for all I know we all might be in his sights before this is over.”

“Well, I don’t know about you brother but I’m not quite ready to meet my Maker yet.” Sweenie growled. “Especially not at his hands.”

“Hell, we don’t know it’s even him yet,” Breaker told his old friend.

“What I’d like to know is how he survived a bullet to the head,” Sweenie muttered in confusion. “It’s more than likely he went straight to hell and the devil didn’t want his black soul and kicked him back upstairs.”

“You got that right,” Breaker agreed. “But let’s find out for sure. You get in touch with the other brothers, the ones that stayed in Troy after Deke took over and warn them of what’s going on. That way they can keep an eye on the streets and if anyone sees him tell them to let us know. We have to figure this out before Bear can get to us too. Cuz you know as well I do that if this is him, he’s gonna want all of us dead.”

Sweenie snorted. “Yeah, I’ll check out where we buried him and if his bones aren’t still where they should be, I’ll start warning everyone.”


Chapter Four

Sweenie parked his vehicle along the road the compound was on. He sat in the seat for a few minutes. This was something he never thought he would be doing. Only him and Breaker knew that they hadn’t thrown Bear to the wolves. They had decided to bury him. Yeah, the man was evil, cold and a killer, but he had been their Prez for many years. They both decided to honor him better by at least burying him in a grave. A shallow one but a grave nonetheless.

Finally, getting out of the truck, Sweenie grabbed a flashlight and a shovel from the back. Then made his way into the woods. The whole area was quiet when he reached the place they had buried Bear, twenty something years ago. He couldn’t believe it but he was actually here, checking on the Bear’s bones.

When he reached the exact spot where they had dug the shallow grave, he began digging. Then he hit something other than dirt and he knelt down to brush the loosened dirt away. That was when he found the skull.

He kept digging and found the neck and shoulders. Sitting back on his feet he studied the skull closer and then he halted. What should have been just a hole in the skull was now a completely shattered skull. “What the hell?” Sweenie said aloud as he studied the skull. He stared at it then he noticed something else, there wasn’t a hole where Breaker shot Bear. Sweenie scrambled back a bit  while this revelation went through his mind with possible reasons but none of them made any sense to him.

He grabbed his phone and called Breaker, “Yo Breaker boy, I think we are in trouble here, kid.”

“What do you mean?” Breaker asked.

“I went to the woods outside the compound and checked on the spot where we buried Bear…”

“And…?” Breaker interrupted him.

“I found something that don’t make sense,” Sweenie told him. “You shot him in the middle of the forehead, right?”

“Yeah, we both know that…so?” Breaker said.

“So this skull is missing half the bones of his head but there’s no hole in his forehead.”

“Oh, fuck,” Breaker grumbled. I think we should bring this up to Deke. At least warn him, don’t you think?”

“And just what do we tell him?” Sweenie argued. “That we didn’t feed the man to the wolves? That we buried him and now a dead man is causing all this havoc. I mean the last thing we knew Bear was dead.”

“I’d like to know how he survived a shot to the head.” Breaker snarled. “Ok, so we need to start looking for the man, you know just to be sure he’s really here and alive.”

“Not me, brother,” Sweenie objected. “If Bear sees me, I’ll end up dead in some abandoned alley somewhere. Nope, I’m staying out of this. You go ahead and tell Deke if you want but me and Bear, we got a history, and I don’t feel like dying today.”

Breaker growled. “You old bastard. Bear could be watching us even as we speak. You don’t think he’s already got a list of the people he wants to see dead? Hell, I’m the one who fucking shot him! We don’t know for sure how long he’s been back here, watching all of us. For all we know, he’s had eyes on us for years, waiting for the time to be right to make his move.”

“Well damn, I ain’t dead yet and I don’t plan to be for some time,” Sweenie stated then he paused. “Wait a minute… what was that?”

Breaker waited in the eerie silence then the next sound he heard was the crack of a rifle shot. Then he heard a thud and he knew something bad had just happened. He hung up the call and broke out into a sweat. His hands shook as he made another call.

Cassie’s hospital room…

Cassie groaned as she moved around in her bed.

Deke was there and he tried to help her to lay differently. She had shifted to her back and he sat down again in the chair next to the bed when he finished.

She looked up at him and asked, “Is there any word on Nicky?” she whispered.

He shook his head but didn’t say a word. He felt just as crazy about their missing son as she was but he was trying not to mention it.

Cassie closed her eyes and said a silent prayer, praying he was all right and that he would be home soon. She looked up at her husband. “I can’t just sit here and do nothing, Deke. I want to go home.”

“I know baby, but the doctor wants to keep you at least overnight to make sure you’re okay from hitting your head. I want to go home too, but we can’t.”

Cassie shook her head as a lone tear rolled down her face. “Who did this to us and why?”

“Cass, you know I'm the head of an MC. We have enemies out there for any number of reasons.”

“But what kind of monster hurts an innocent baby?” Cassie cried out. “He could have killed both the boys when he hit me!”

Deke leaned forward in his chair and grasped her hand. “Baby girl, you have stop thinking that way.”

“I can’t help it, Deke!” She cried.

“Babe…” His voice was full of anguish.

Cassie reached for her call button and pushed it. She had to get home and tend to her other children. They needed her more than she needed to be here. When the nurse came in, she demanded to see her doctor.

Deke just shook his head.

When the doctor showed up, she told him, “I’m awake and other than a headache, I feel fine. I want to go home. I have four other children to take care of and I can’t stay here.”

“Don’t you have anyone else who can watch over your other children?” the doctor asked.

“Yes we do, but right now, they need their parents.” Cassie growled. “And their parents need them.” She pushed the covers off her and sat up while trying not to show her pain as her sore muscles protested. It had been years since she hid her pain but she hadn’t forgotten how. “If you refuse to allow me to go home, I’ll go against doctor’s orders and just walk out. I don’t feel safe here, where just anyone off the street could walk into this hospital and try to finish what he started when he hit me on the highway.”

The doctor just stared at her for a moment. “Mrs. Tory, I don’t like this at all but I’ll tell you what. If you can get up and walk to the door and back without help, I’ll allow you to go home.”

Deke let out a sigh as he slowly shook his head. The doctor didn’t know her very well if he thought for one moment that she wouldn’t do just that, but Deke didn’t say a word as he watched her get to her feet and take her first steps.

 Cassie moved carefully as she walked slowly but she made it all the way to the door and back while only breaking out into a small sweat.

The doctor just shook his head. “Very well. I am doing this against better judgment but I’ll allow you to go home. I’ll bring the paperwork in shortly.” With that said, he turned around and left the room.

Deke looked up at his stubborn wife in concern. “Are you okay?”

“Not even a little bit,” she assured him as tears of pain spilled from her eyes. “But we’re going home aren’t we?” She swiped the tears away as her face looked pinched and red.

Deke just shook his head. “Damn it, Cassie.”

“Well,” Cassie argued. “Can you say you have everything under control from here? You need to be at the compound too, and I need to be with our kids. We’re going home, so find me my clothes.”

Deke knew he and the doctor had lost control of this, the minute the man had challenged her. He found her clothing and he had to help her get dressed but then they were on their way out.

When they walked out to the waiting room, Peaches just stood there in shock. “And just where do you think you’re going?”

Cassie stared at her and said, “I’m going home. I need my babies and they need me right now. Besides, Deke and the others have work to do and they can’t do it here.”

Peaches shook her head as tears gathered in her eyes. “Lil Cass, you are the most stubborn woman in this world, you know that right?”

“Yup, I know but if you were in my place, you’d do the very same thing,” Cassie reminded her.

“Damn right I would, but you were always stronger than I ever was. But I hear ya girlfriend, I hear ya.” Peaches wrapped her arm around Cassie’s arm and they walked out together.

Deke then looked around the waiting room. “You heard my woman, let's go home and find the dirtbag that hurt her and kidnapped my son.” He growled.

The whole waiting room emptied as the doctor just stood there and shook his head. He looked over at the nurse and said, “Heaven help the man who hit her cuz, I have a feeling they will not stop until they run him straight to hell.”

The nurse nodded. “More power to them, I say. I hope they succeed.” She headed away to get back to work.

Shortly after that, Deke pulled into the parking lot and found mayhem waiting for him. Men were walking around the perimeter armed and the front gate was locked up tight. He got out of his truck that he’d sent for and he went around to help Cassie out. Looking over at Gator, he asked, “What the hell is going on here Gator?”

“Let’s get everyone inside first Deke, then I’ll explain,” Gator replied. “There might be something you need to know and Breaker is inside, waiting to tell you.”

Deke stared at him with a glare in his eyes then he gathered Cassie closer to him and went to the front door.

When they got inside, Reva gasped and rushed over to her. “Are you okay, honey?”

Cassie nodded when walked slowly over to the table and sat down carefully.

Reva shook her head in disgust and looked over at Deke. “Why isn’t she still in the hospital?”

Deke shrugged. “You know her, she wasn’t going to stay if she wanted to be here. She also knew I needed to be here too and she convinced the doctor against his will to release her. He told her if she could walk to the door and back, he would release her. Well Cassie has learned how to hide her pain from the whole world, as you know. She got up and walked to the door and back and he had to keep his word.”

Reva looked troubled and grumbled, “That woman.”

Deke looked around the room and finally found Breaker in the corner. He caught his gaze and kept it on the long walk over to the other man. “I’m told you have something to tell me.”

Breaker nodded but kept his silence for a moment.

Deke growled, “So tell me then.”

Breaker raised his head and stared at him. “I know who did it.”

“Who?” Deke snapped. “And how do we find him?”

Breaker shook his head and swallowed hard. “You ain’t gonna like to hear the who, boss.”

“For God’s sake, just tell me,” Deke growled heavily.

“Sweenie and me think it might be Bear,” Breaker told him. “When all this started, I called Sweenie cuz he’s been with this group as long as I have. This sounds exactly like something that fucker would have done. But shit, you know it’s been a long time since we even had to think of that bastard. Anyway, Sweenie went to check on the place we buried Bear—”

“Wait a minute…Buried?” Gator interrupted him. “I thought he was thrown to the wolves?”

Breaker paused and admitted it, “No, we buried him. He was a motherfucker, we knew that better than anyone else, but he was still the President of the Spawns. So we dug a shallow grave for him.”

Both Deke and Gator glared at him, then Deke said, “Go on, tell me.”

“Sweenie and I thought he would find his bones but when he dug up the grave, all he found was a mess. When he dug up the skull, the whole face was messed up. Well, most of the face was cracked. What he didn’t find was the hole I put in his forehead. Nope, his forehead was intact.”

“So? What does that mean?” Deke glared at him.

Breaker broke the news he dreaded to bring forward, “The man in that grave wasn’t Bear. Not sure who it was but it wasn’t Bear. He somehow survived being shot in the head that day. And the man we thought we’d buried… is still alive.”


Chapter Five

“But that’s impossible,” Deke whispered as he sat down hard at Breaker’s table. “We all saw him fall.”

Breaker nodded. “We dragged what we thought was his body out into the woods and we buried it. Granted, it was a shallow grave but still we buried his body. Like I said, Sweenie went out there and dug it up then he called me with the news that Bear wasn’t there, then I heard a rifle shot and Sweenie never answered my call.”

“Breaker then called me,” Gator explained. “So we got everyone to the clubhouse and waited for you to come home. We went out to the woods but we didn’t find anything. Well… we found the open grave and some bones but we didn’t find Sweenie or his body anywhere. We did find a shitload of blood though. We suspect foul play so now we have to find Sweenie and Bear if this is really him.”

“So who is this Bear?” Cassie asked.

Everyone swung their gazes to her.

Deke shook his head. “He used to be president here a long time ago.”

“And what’s his beef with you guys?” She wanted to know.

“Twenty three years ago, when Gator, Reva, and I came here we looked into this club,” Deke told her. “At first, we were ok with the way they did things but the longer we stayed the more we found that we didn’t like what they were doing at all. The men here had no power or opinions they could voice. What happened was on one man’s shoulders and he was mean as a rattlesnake. Anyway, he picked up this young girl somewhere and brought her back here when she thought he was taking her home. He got drunk then dragged her kicking and screaming into his bedroom and no one here tried to stop him. Well I wasn’t going to let him hurt her and I began a fight with him. I would have won that fight but the man had to cheat. When she tried to get away, she had to walk around him as he got up and he stabbed her in the back. That’s when a shot rang out and he caught a bullet in the forehead. We all thought he was dead, so Sweenie and Breaker dragged his body out in the woods. They elected me president and the rest is history. The changes I made only made things better around here. We all thought Bear was gone forever.” He ran his hands over his head in frustration. “Guess we were wrong. Now he’s back and he’s looking for payback.”

Deke looked over at Breaker and asked, “How did you figure this was Bear?”

Breaker shook his head. “I was hoping it wasn’t true but when I heard the truck had a coiled snake sticker in the window I called Sweenie to see what he thought. He was here under Bear too and Bear used to have a sticker of a coiled snake on the windshield of his bike. It was his trademark so to speak.”

Deke growled. “Did he have a place outside of the compound that he stayed at?”

Breaker shook his head. “Naw, this place was his palace.”

“We have to find him.” Cassie growled. “He’s got our son and I want him back.”

 Deke turned to face her and vowed, “Honey I will hunt him down myself and send him to hell this time. But we have to find him first.”

Cassie looked at Deke and said, “You’re gonna need some help with finding him.” She reached for her phone and called Amos. “I need you and your men to find a man, Amos. He should have died twenty three years ago.” She paused and looked over at Breaker. “Just a minute,” she spoke into the phone. Then she looked up at Breaker again. “Can you describe him to me? We need a sketch or something of the man.”

Breaker nodded. “He would be older now, but yeah.”

She nodded at him then spoke to Amos again, “I will have someone bring a sketch of the man in about thirty minutes, okay?” She listened for a minute then said, “I need you guys to look under every rock and stick in the city and find the bastard who took mine and Deke’s son. We think this Bear guy is still alive and he came back here to get revenge.” She then paused to listen.” Oh… so you know what he looks like?” She shook her head.” Ok, well keep you posted, Amos.” She tapped her phone and ended the call.

Breaker snorted. “Amos already knows Bear. They had some run-ins before Deke got here. He was a new man in town and Bear tried to run him out on a rail. Bear always said he never liked Vets and wouldn’t have them in his town because they were too damn nosey and wouldn’t let him run his empire without trouble.”

Deke’s head snapped up and he glared at Breaker. “So Amos knows about Bear?”

Breaker nodded. “Oh yeah, he knows. Amos came here to settle down a long time ago and right from the start, Bear started giving him shit. Bear saw Amos and a few of his friends setting up and he didn’t like it. He didn’t like the uniform they wore or the flag they hung. Amos and his friends owned a warehouse on the east side of town and one night Bear rode over there with some of the MC and tore up the place. He threw a few cocktails at the building and tried to burn them out. So when that didn’t work, he tore their flag down and lit it on fire. Amos and his friend couldn’t stop it from burning and Bear just laughed at them. He had the audacity to call them cowards. Amos and his guys didn’t take that well.” Breaker shook his head. Then he chuckled a bit. “Bear would get his own back though a few days later. Those guys came in and took every single bike they could find and they hid them all over town. Bear was pissed about that but he never knew who did it.” Shaking his head, Breaker admitted, “We didn’t find out for years that Amos was behind that raid. Bear was dear or at least back then we thought he was.”

“So what you’re saying is that if this is Bear, he could target Amos and his friends too.” Cassie shook her head and groaned.

Just then, Deke’s phone rang and he answered it. “Hey Amos, what can I do for you?” He listened for a moment then said, “His name is Bear and I think you know him from years back.” He listened again and nodded. “Yep, same stupid son of a bitch you remember.” Deke shook his head then hung up his phone. He looked over at Cassie and said, “He said he would run him down for us, in fact it would be his pleasure.”

“Oy vey.” Cassie shook her head only this time, she didn’t move too much. She still had a headache. She looked over at Reva and asked, “Where are the kids?”

“Sam and Melora have them down at your place. I think they are planning on spending the night there. T-Bone and Shaw are there as well.”

Deke nodded. “Good, at least we know they are safe.”

Gator nodded. “Most of the brothers are inside the fence. We don’t know if this bastard is around or not but we aren’t taking any chances.”

“You did good, Gator. I don’t want anyone caught unaware.” Deke stared at him. “So you found no sign of Sweenie? I have to wonder what happened to him.”

“No clue brother but if Bear took him with him there’s a chance he’s still alive.” Gator shook his head.

“Or that he wanted to make sure he was dead.” Breaker growled. “Bear is just that ornery, he would want to know Sweenie died from his wounds. He would want to be there when Sweenie took his last breath.”

“Why?” Cassie asked.

“Because Bear would want Sweenie to know that he didn’t have to die if only he had stood up for him instead of letting him be shot and put out in the damn woods. Bear would never forgive that. He knew there were wolves in the woods and that he would have been dug up at some point and then he would have been wolf kibble and that was one of Bear’s biggest fears.” Breaker shook his head.  “He had orders that if he ever died to make sure he was buried deep enough he wouldn’t be dug up by some damn animal.” He shrugged, “At the time, we did what we did because he had been disrespecting us for so long we just didn’t care what he wanted. Oh, we buried him but with no honors, as he did in fact deserve to be a wolf treat.”

“And we still don’t know if this is actually Bear or someone else do we?” Gator growled.

“Who else could it be?” Deke frowned.

Gator slowly shook his head. “No fuckin’ clue brother but all we have as evidence is the sight of a sticker on the windshield of a truck that matched the one he had on his ride.” Gator growled. “Well other than the fact that Sweenie didn’t think it was Bear in the grave.”

“Well, if it isn’t Bear who else could it be?” Cassie wanted to know.

No one said a word almost as if their minds were made up that the man targeting them was Bear. 

“Well, I guess we’ll find out sooner or later,” Deke stated, as he still looked angry.

“I’d rather it was sooner than later,” Gator grumbled. “I just want this over.”

“We all do,” Cassie agreed. “I want Nicky back home safe and sound and I want the man responsible to be held accountable. I want to see him broken and bleeding in the dirt.”

Deke just shook his head. “Babe—”

“—don't you babe me, Deke.” Cassie shook her head. “Not about this. Nicky is just a baby and he’s not at home with us. He’s out here in the custody of a man who likes to hurt people. I just want him back, safe in my arms.”

Deke got up and walked over to her. He cradled her gently in his arms and tried to reassure her, “I want him home too, Cassie. We got everyone working on that but it might take time to hunt this bastard down. But I know the men and they will turn every stone over to find him. They won’t quit until they do.”

Cassie planted her face into Deke’s chest and wept. “I know. I have all the faith in our men. I know they’ll find him, but my skin is crawling at the thought of what could be happening to Nicky.  He’s just so small and can’t protect himself. I just want him home with me and you.”

“Honey, we’ll find him and we’ll bring him home. You just need to be patient, that's all,” Deke assured her.

Cassie sniffled and raised her head up to look at him. “I think I want to go home and be with our kids. I need them right now.”

Deke nodded. “That is a good idea and you still need to rest.”

She glared at him and opened her mouth to make some retort.

Placing his fingers onto her lips, he said, “Cass, you were hit by a fucking truck today. You and I both know that you hijacked your way out of that fucking hospital. You let Reva and Melora help you. I mean it.”

She stared into his eyes and quietly nodded. 

Reva stepped up and said, “Come on kiddo, I’ll drive you home. The guys got stuff to do.”

Cassie nodded. “Ok.” She turned to Deke and kissed him softly. “You do what you have to do baby. I’ll be okay.”

Deke watched her leave and he shook his head gently. “Lord help me find our son and if it's Bear, let me find him too. So I can crush him,” he growled the prayer.

Gator just shook his head. He heard Deke’s wish and while he agreed with part of itn he also knew the second part of it probably wouldn’t happen.  He was going to say something but then his phone rang.

 Mountain was on the other end of the call, “Gator, we got trouble out here.”

“What kind of trouble?” Gator asked as everyone turned to hear what was going on.

“Someone just firebombed the garage,” Mountain told him. “The cameras caught a dark blue truck driving by and the bastard driving it, hurled two flaming bottles of booze at the garage. We were close enough that we caught it right away but the fire did some damage.”

“Well, damn.” Gator growled. “I’ll let everyone here know, you guys be careful ok?”

“We will,” Mountain assured him. “Hopefully this will be the end of it, at least here.”

Gator ended the call and looked over at Deke as he let out a disgusted breath. “That was Mountain, the garage got firebombed tonight. They managed to catch it before it destroyed too much, but they got hit. They did get the dark blue truck on tape as the driver threw the burning bottles at the garage.”

“Damn him to hell.” Deke growled as he gritted his teeth. “He wants a war, we’ll give him a fucking war.”



Chapter Six

Deke looked at Gator and said, “Start a calling tree for every business with our name on it or people we’re associated with. Call Amos back and let him know he has to protect Redemption House. At least give them some warning.”

Gator nodded and reached for his phone. After the call he looked over at Deke and said, “Yeah, Amos said he would keep enough men back to protect the House. He said he would put them on the roof and they could watch over from up there.”

“Good, now we wait and protect what’s ours.” Deke growled. He walked down the hall as he raised his cell phone and tapped a number. When the other man answered he growled, “You know a man named Bear?”

Iceman growled back, “No not personally but you told me about what happened to you guys when you showed up all those years ago.”

“We think he’s still alive and coming back for revenge against us,” Deke told him.

“Well damn.” Iceman grumbled. “Peaches called me about Cassie, but she never told me that. We had some trouble over there too. I just now got back and the trouble had to do with Bear or Brayden Long.”

“What kind of trouble?” Deke wanted to know.

“Seems this Bear was a lowlife all his life,” Iceman informed him. “Twenty three years ago, he kidnapped a woman from her college and took her hostage, he used and abused her and then dumped her in Kentucky. He didn’t care if she lived or died. She was found and spent four months in a coma and when she woke up, she found herself four months pregnant with his kid. She carried the kid to term and gave birth to her then she gave the baby up. Well now, that woman is full grown and she came looking for her dad.”

“Holy fuck,” Deke swore under his breath. “Did she find him?”

“Not yet and we’re hoping he doesn’t find her but right now, his brother Micah is staying at the Sinner’s compound. His other brothers have been dealt with so Micah is all that’s left of his family. Well, other than Angelia that is. If she knows her dad is still around I’d hate to think of what he’d do to her and her mother.”

“Well, you better let Hawk know that Bear is still alive as far as we know, so he can watch over the situation,” Deke reminded Iceman. “If they see him, tell them to shoot him on sight. The lousy bastard took Nicky.”

“We’re going on lockdown here, until he’s caught.”

“We got Amos and the boys out looking for him but we just got word from Mountain that he tried to burn down the garage,” Deke told his friend.

“Damn,” Iceman swore. “How is Cassie doing?”

“She walked out of the hospital against doctor advice,” Deke replied. “She’s just about crazy, worrying about Nicky.”

“I can about imagine,” Iceman grumbled. “I would be worried if one of my kids was missing and in that madman’s hands too.”

“Tell me about it.” Deke grunted. “I just wanted to give you guys a head’s up on what’s going on, glad as hell that you got back already.”

“Yeah, I left early because Peaches called me but I’m glad I came home now.”

“Ok, well this is just a heads up. Call me if you have any trouble tonight. We need to find this bastard and soon.” Deke ended the call and just sat there staring into the nothing as he thought about the events of the day. He got up and walked over to the window overlooking the back of the compound and wondered where Bear was at the moment, if this was Bear. If it wasn’t, he had no idea who threatened his family, his MC and probably himself on a personal level.

If this was Bear, where the hell was he?

Meanwhile in an abandoned warehouse on the east side of town, Sweenie groaned as he came to for the second time since he’d been shot. He looked around the dimly lit room and didn’t see anyone else there. He had to wonder if Bear had left him alone to die in agony. Then he heard a sound he wasn’t used to. It sounded like a baby sobbing. Sweenie reached down and grabbed his belly and when he did, he felt something wet. Raising his hand, he saw it was stained with something red. Blood. He then peered down at his stomach and saw it was covered in blood, his blood.

The older man groaned again at the sight of his blood on his shirt as a fresh wave of pain washed over him. Then he heard the baby crying again and he tried to lift his head and look around.

He caught sight of the kid wiggling trying to free himself from the blanket that had been wrapped around him holding him down tightly. Sweenie shook his head as he recognized Deke’s son Nicky.

Sweenie had been surprised earlier at the grave. He heard the rifle cock and when he got to his feet and turned to face him, he saw Bear standing there in person with the rifle in his hand. He dropped the phone and held his hand out as if to stop what he knew was coming but Bear just glared at him and pulled the trigger. Sweenie felt the flash of hot lead enter his belly and he dropped to the ground. He couldn’t even scream as pain ran through him and then it went dark as he sank in oblivion.

He had come to the first time when Bear dumped him on the floor and walked away but he didn’t stay conscious very long. Now the second time he woke up, he could see him and the baby were alone in this dirty warehouse. Sweenie wondered if Bear was coming back or if this place would be where he died alone except for a helpless baby.

Then he heard a truck engine coming toward him and he closed his eyes to listen. The truck stopped a few feet away from where Sweenie was laying but he tried not to move as he heard Bear cursing from inside the truck.

He heard the door open.

When Bear got out he was still cursing and swearing, “Just who do those jackasses think they are? Shooting at me? Fuckers wrecked the side of my truck and almost got me too. Those stupid bastards. I’ll show them, I’ll keep hitting them until I get em.”

Sweenie cracked his eyes a slit and was watching him.

Suddenly, Bear laughed. “He kicked out at Sweenie and growled, “And you my friend, are going to help me do just that.” Bear squatted down and spoke directly to Sweenie, “Hey brother, you still alive?”

Sweenie groaned when Bear poked him in the belly where he was shot. “Yeah you’re still alive. That’s good. I need you alive for a few more minutes. You’re gonna help me now.”

Sweenie opened his eyes a little wider. “And just what am I gonna help you do, you fuckin’ butcher?”

Bear’s smile grew wide but the glee never reached his eyes. “I got a plan and you and the brat are gonna help me achieve my goals tonight. You just wait and see if you don’t.” Bear got up and walked away. He went over to the table and began looking around a bit. Then he grabbed a roll of duct tape and returned to Sweenie. He pulled off a strip of the tape and the sound echoed in the warehouse then he slapped the tape down on Sweenie’s belly. Sweenie groaned but Bear didn’t care. He ripped off more of the tape and again, smacked it down to cover his belly.

Sweenie began to sweat and finally he screamed as Bear tamped down another strip and covered the hole his bullet had made. Sweenie passed out, as the pain finally got to be too much.

Bear cackled as he sneered at him. “Useless years ago and still fucking useless.” He kicked out again at the now unconscious Sweenie. When he didn’t get a response, he grunted and dragged him over to the truck. He growled at the sight of the bullet holes marring the side of his truck until he got to the back. Leaning over, he grasped Sweenie by the shoulders and moved him up to the back of the truck.

Grunting and groaning he pushed the large man into the back of the truck. Finally, he got him in and growled, “For fuck’s sake Sweenie, lose some fucking weight, you lard ass.”

Then he went over to where the baby was laying and he found the kid was wide awake. He had tear tracks down his cheeks. Bear sneered at the sight of the baby but he picked him up and carried him back to where he had put Sweenie. He placed the baby on the inside and shut the truck tailgate. He snarled and snapped, “You better hang on kid, the road home is gonna be rough.” Then he smiled, “Well maybe not, since you ain’t going home quite yet.”

Bear moved to the front seat of the truck and hoisted his own weight up behind the wheel. He started the engine and looked down at the floor on the other side of the truck. He had nine bottles of gas with rags stuffed down into them and he could smell the strong scent of gas in the truck. He backed out of the warehouse carefully.

When he got outside the late afternoon was waning, and he knew it would be dark soon enough. He drove to the alley behind the old schoolhouse. Then he parked and waited. Checking out the area, he saw less than the normal count of people around. He checked the roofline and was surprised to see two men up there and what looked like guns in their hands. Had his plan been discovered?

He had been watching the entire city for a couple of weeks now. The sign outside said Redemption House, but he knew Deke Tory’s wife worked here. He even recognized some of the men both in and outside the place. One of those men was Amos. Bear never bothered to learn his last name as it never mattered to him before. The fact that Amos was here everyday and seemed to live here as well made this place a target for him.

Bear waited impatiently for the shadows to get thick enough to cover his tracks. Then about midnight, he felt it was time. He backed his truck up, so he could roll Sweenie out without killing himself.

Sweenie hit the ground with a thud and he whimpered as Bear kicked him out from under his feet. Sweenie shifted to lay on his back and watched as Bear grabbed the kid and laid him next to Sweenie. The baby wasn’t moving and Sweenie feared he was close to death. The poor kid hadn’t eaten anything all day and Bear had duct taped his tiny arms to his belly and had tape over his mouth. Bear had heard the kid screaming and had taped his mouth shut, Sweenie was worried the baby couldn’t breathe.

Bear saw Sweenie was awake again and he kicked the other man in the side. Sweenie groaned and curled up as pain washed over him. Bear he leaned down and growled in the other man’s ear, “Why don’t you just fucking die? I guess you ain’t long for this world at any rate but for now, you’ll get to watch the place burn to the ground. But when you meet my old enemy Amos in hell, you make sure you tell him who sent him there. You tell him Bear paid his way to hell.” Then Bear slapped him on the back of the head and went to the truck where got three bottles of gas. He then lit one after the other and then he tossed one into the dumpster and pushed it closer to the building.

He tossed the second and the third one against the side of the building then paused to watch as the whoosh of the flames spreading out made the whole place come to light. Bear smiled a happy smile as he got into his truck and sped away. He had more work to do tonight while the shadows would cover his vengeful spree.

Sweenie turned and watched the fire burn. The smoke was getting thicker now and he began to cough. It took everything he had in him to crawl over to the baby as he grunted and tears rolled down his face. He curled his body around the kid to try and create a barrier between the fire and the baby.

Chapter Seven

Sweenie heard someone yelling as he was choking on the smoke and the flames were coming closer. He could feel the heat from the fire heating up his back. 

The baby started coughing in his embrace.

 Sweenie looked down at the little guy and tried to soothe him, “Hang in there kid, company’s coming,” he whispered.

He heard a huge commotion behind him and then water was being showered along the ground. It began soaking his shirt and jeans as he shivered when he had been burning just a minute ago. The next thing he heard was the blaring sound of fire engines coming round the back of the building. Then he heard the shouting that someone had seen them. “Ok, Nicky, you are gonna be fine now.” The next thing he knew, someone was turning him over on his back as he held the child in his arms.

Someone was shouting the baby’s name.

He could close his eyes now as he felt his heartbeat slowing down. The baby was gonna make it. He’d lived a good long life, but the boy hadn’t even gotten started. This was the only thing Sweeinie cared about now. Bear did not get his ultimate revenge, at least not on the poor kid. The bright lights from the firetruck hurt his eyes and he just wanted to let go of this thing he called life. Then someone was shaking him awake again. He gazed up at the face above him. 

Amos tried to give him a smile, only it looked lopsided at best. “Stay with us Sweenie. Don’t you die on us now. You hear me? You stay with us. We got an ambulance coming for you and Nicky.”

Sweenie tried to speak but his voice was gone. His throat was too dry and filled with smoke. He tried to say it but nothing came out. Damnit to hell, he needed to at least tell them. He had to. He swallowed hard and tried again. He did manage to get one word out and that word was… Bear.

Amos sat back and frowned then he glared at Sweenie. “So, it really is Bear? That’s doin’ all of this?”

Sweenie grunted as he seemed to have trouble taking a breath. “Bear,” he whispered again and closed his eyes just as the ambulance got there. 

The EMT’s rushed over to him. They immediately got to work on him and the baby. 

Amos and Frankie stood by. After checking him over, the EMT’s released Nicky to Amos. He gladly took the baby in his arms and both men watched as the EMT’s worked on Sweenie.

“Did he tell you who did this terrible thing?” Frankie asked his friend.

Amos nodded as he looked over at Frankie and whispered, “Bear did this.”

“Bear?” Frankie looked stunned. “You sure that’s what he said? Bear’s been dead for years.”

Amos nodded. “That’s what he said and I believe him. Bear is just the type to fake his own death and plot this comeback for all this time.”

Frankie shook his head. Then he stared at Nicky and said, “I’d better call Deke and tell him we got Nicky. He’ll be so happy we got his boy back.”

Amos looked up at the back of the House. “I’m just thankful we got the fire out before he killed everyone inside.” He shook his head. “We can always rebuild it but we can’t replace the people ya know?”

Frankie nodded “Amen to that, brother. Amen to that.”

 They both watched as the EMT’s loaded Sweenie into the ambulance. One of the paramedics came over and took the baby from Frankie’s Arms. “We have to take him in too. He needs to be seen by a doctor.”

“Let’s go, we have to get to the hospital.” Amos growled.

 Looking frightened, Jemmia joined them. “What on earth happened?’ she asked. “Was that Nicky?”

Amos nodded. “Come on woman, let's get to the hospital. Cassie and Deke will meet us there.”

Moments later, they arrived right after the ambulance.

 Deke and Cassie were right behind them. 

Cassie went up to Amos with tears in her eyes. “You said you saw Nicky? Where is he?”

Amos wrapped his arms around her and told her, “He’s here, honey. They brought him in by ambulance. When the fire started at the House, we rushed outside to start hosing down the building. Then the fire truck arrived. When they stopped, we saw them on the ground in the headlights. Sweenie had been shot and when we turned him over, we found him wrapped around the boy. He was protecting Nicky from the flames and the smoke. The EMT’s took him to get checked out by a doctor.”

Deke joined them and listened to everything. He looked over at Amos and growled, “Did Sweenie say who shot him and took our son?”

Amos nodded. “Yeah boss, he told me who did this. I’m not quite sure how he did it but I have a feeling he did. Sweenie only said one word, Bear.”

Deke glanced over his shoulder at Gator and the look on his face was pure rage. Looking back at Amos, Deke stated with a growl, “So it was Bear. He has declared war on the Sin’s Bastards. That fucker is gonna lose this war and it will be my pleasure to take him down hard. This time, there won’t be a shallow grave. He’s gonna be bare bones when we are done with him.”

“But first we gotta find him,” Gator reminded him.

Amos snorted. “Don’t you worry about that. Even if we gotta turn over every rock and every stone in the city, we’ll find that prick.” He paused then rubbed his jaw. “We owe him now.”

Just then, a doctor came out to call out for Cassie and Deke. 

Deke helped Cassie walk beside him and all three disappeared into one of the exam rooms. 

Cassie cried out as she tried to hurry over to the exam table.

 A nurse was having a hard time trying to hold baby Nicky down. But this baby was mad. When his mother came into his sight, he shut off his screaming and held out his arms to her. 

Cassie scooped him up in her arms and hugged his tiny body to hers. “Oh baby, I’m so happy to have you back where you belong!” She was crying and hugging her son. She turned to Deke as she wept and said, “We got him back, Deke! We got him back.”

Deke was battling his own tears as he wrapped his arms around both his wife and his youngest son. “Thank God,” he whispered in her ear. 

The nurse smiled at the sight of the family reunion and said, “He’s fine.” 

The doctor joined them and smiled as well. “Yes, we examined him and other than being in one diaper all day and not getting anything to eat, Nicky is fine. He wasn’t hit or didn’t sustain any other injuries, but he has a slight rash on his bottom and he refused to eat anything. Maybe you can get him to drink a bottle.”

Cassie laughed through her tears and nodded. The nurse handed her a bottle and Deke assisted her over to a chair. Cassie sat down and put the bottle to her son’s mouth and Nicky began to suck greedily.

When he was almost done Cassie looked up at Deke and said, “I know you’re going to hunt down the man that did this. I hope you find him and bring him to some kind of Justice. When you do, I want to be there. I want to look that bastard in the eye and spit in his face. I am an adult, I can handle this pain but what he did to an innocent baby is inconceivable. I can’t get revenge, I know that, but I want the chance to tell him what I think and I want to wish him well on his way to hell.”

Deke didn’t think she knew what she was actually asking of him but then he saw the look in her eyes and changed his mind. She would look pure evil in the eye and send him to hell. Deke smiled for a moment then nodded. His Cassie would be alright, she wouldn’t go back into the darkness she had to endure as a child. She had gotten stronger and had overcome most of her fears. He’d been glad she was growing as a woman but he still worried he might lose her one day. It had scared the holy fuck out of him when she had gotten hit by that truck. So he already knew if that day ever came, he would lose his own damn mind. She was truly his better half and their hearts beat as one. If he ever lost her, he would be lost himself. 

He looked down at his son and he knew if they had lost Nicky, it would have taken her from him. He had to do a better job of protecting his family. Reaching out, he touched Nicky’s head. The boy opened his eyes at his father’s touch and the look he gave Deke just about melted his heart. It was a look of pure trust. Deke knew at that moment he would always be there for his children and he would die to protect them all.

Nicky’s small hand reached out and wrapped around his dad’s finger. Deke caught his breath and closed his eyes for a moment as he vowed his children would never be put in this kind of danger ever again. He opened his eyes and stared at the doctor. “Can we take him home with us?”

The doctor nodded. “Yeah, there’s nothing wrong with him and like I said other than being dirty and hungry, he’s just fine.”

Deke nodded. “That’s good. What about the man that was brought in with him. “John Sweede. Is he going to be all right?”

“Sweenie is a whole other story. Another doctor is working on him. He was shot in the stomach earlier in the day and he’s been festering that bullet wound for hours. He’s in surgery at the moment but he’s lost a lot of blood. He’ll be touch and go for a while yet.”

Deke nodded. “My men will be around to watch his back then. We need to know who shot him and who started the fire that almost wiped out Redemption House tonight.”

The doctor nodded. “As I’m sure the police will want that information as well. I’m sure they’ll be here soon.”

“I’m sure they will.” Deke again looked down at his son. “But right now we don’t know anything, do we? We have a pretty good idea of who did this but we don’t know any details for sure. Not until we can talk to Sweenie.”

The doctor got an alert and when he looked at his pager he frowned. “Your arsonist struck again and it looks as if he’s focusing on your MC group.”

Deke stared at him as his gut clenched. “What does that mean?”

“He hit the Cycle repair shop that’s associated with your MC. He also hit your dance club. There were injures in both places.” 

Cassie gasped and looked over at Deke. “Oh dear God, no. The Cycle repair shop belongs to Iceman and the others. Peaches…” She gasped as her face went white.

Deke turned and ran for the waiting room, yelling for Gator. 

Cassie bundled her son up and followed him. 

Gator looked up and saw Deke. He shook his head then motioned to the ambulance area at the back of the ER. 

“What the hell happened?” Deke asked.

“I just got a call from Iceman," Gator explained. "He said he was already home when he got an alert from the security that said someone was walking around the area. He tried to get a picture of the man but the guy threw three cocktails at the garage. The place burst into flames almost immediately. He called the fire department right away and the cops. One of the injured was Sabbath. He’s one of Bone’s guys.” 

“I remember.” Deke nodded. “He was the one that took Cassie the night Bones came in to stop the wedding. And the dance club?” he asked.

Gator shook his head. “Hal was making sure there was no one left in the club and when he went out the back door, someone shot him. He’s on his way in.”

Deke growled. “Fucking hell. Better warn Mountain his place could be next.’

“I already spoke to Mountain," Gator replied. "He’s got all of his brothers on alert. He said so far, they’re good.”

Deke nodded as the first ambulance came roaring in. It was Hal. Deke and Gator watched as they unloaded the gurney and wheeled Hal inside. They took him straight into surgery.

Deke looked over at Gator. “Damn brother, he didn’t look good.” 

Gator let out a heavy sigh. “I saw that. Man, he's been with us for years.”

Then the second ambulance came in and when they unloaded Sabbath, he was at least awake. The moment he saw Deke and Gator, he coughed and growled, “You tell Sam it was a man we used to call Griz. You tell him that. Sam’ll kill that bastard.” When they wheeled him past, Sabbath yelled again, “Tell Sam. Make sure you tell Sam!”

Deke looked over at Gator with a frown on his face. “Griz? What the hell? Who the fuck is Griz?”

Chapter Eight

Gator shrugged. “No fucking clue, never heard of him before.”

Deke reached for his phone and called his dad. “Sabbath wanted me to pass a message along to you.”

“I just got word the bastard that hit Cassie also hit the shop.” Sam growled.

“Yeah, he threw three cocktails at it and when some of the brothers were fighting the fire, Sabbath tripped and broke his leg. When they were bringing him in, he yelled at me to tell you it was Griz.”

Sam was quiet for a moment then said, “Griz? Are you sure that’s the name he told you?”

“Yes, I’m sure. He yelled it three times. Who the fucking hell is Griz?” Deke growled.

Sam sighed hard. “Back about 17-18 years ago, we had a brother join us in Maine and he said he was looking for a good club. He said his last club went to hell on him and he was lucky to still be alive. I know he had one hell of a scar on his forehead. He was a true one percenter and he never really fit in with the Bastards if you know what I mean.”

“Was he a bigger guy?” Deke asked. “Big pot belly, about 6’3”, long darkish hair and a dark red beard?” 

“How did you know?” Sam asked after a while.

“Because his name wasn’t Griz it was Bear, Brayden fucking Long,” Deke replied as he seethed with rage.

“Well, we knew him as Griz,” Sam insisted. “He didn’t stay with us long, just long enough to get his dumb ass kicked out when he decided to steal from one of the brothers.”

“Yeah,” Deke snorted. “That doesn’t surprise me much. He thought the money was due to him anyway from the guys because he allowed them to work outside the club.”

Sam scoffed. “You got that right. He was surprised when we called him on it.” He paused then said, “Come to think of it, the next week the brother he stole from had an accident and damn near died. Maybe we should have looked a bit closer into that accident than we did.”

“Yeah, you probably should have but it doesn’t matter now, it's too late,” Deke said. “The man is getting bolder and this time he’s not taking any prisoners. Now he’s taking back what he thinks is his own.”

“That fucker,” Sam grumbled.

“Yeah, he’s out loose and causing havoc. He almost burned Nicky and Sweenie up. We might be here awhile yet. I want to talk to Sweenie first. Then I want some of our guys watching over the survivors here at the hospital. I just wish Cassie and Nicky were at the compound first. I need them to be safe first and foremost.”

“You want me to send some men to pick her up and bring them home?” Sam asked his son.

“Yeah, but send more than just one ok? I want a solid escort to get them home in one piece in case Bear is out there watching.” 

 “You got it, son,” Sam replied. 

Deke ended the call and looked over at Cassie. 

She was looking back at him. “You want me home, don’t you?” She whispered.

Deke nodded then walked over to her and squatted down in front of her. Taking her hand in his he said, “I want you with our children, most of all I want my family safe from this fucking madman. There are men at the compound to look after the ones staying there.”

Cassie cupped his cheek with her free hand and said, “Just remember we need you alive and well at the end of this situation too. We can’t survive without you. I wouldn’t even want to try.”

 Deke smiled. “I’ll be there when this is over. I’m not going anywhere.” He leaned forward and brushed his lips over hers, then sat back on his heels. “Dad is sending some men to take you back to the compound. I want you with our family. I want you with our kids while we take Bear down.”

Cassie nodded. Then she scowled at him. “Iceman better watch over Peaches or he’s gonna deal with me.”

Deke smiled briefly. “He’ll also have to deal with her grandfather and father too. Don’t forget that. I think he knows what he has to do.”

About that time, several of Deke’s men arrived at the hospital and came over to where Deke and Cassie were sitting. 

Wiley looked at Deke and said, “Bones sent us to bring Cassie and Nicky home.”

Deke nodded then helped raise Cassie to her feet. She still wasn’t moving very well and she found getting up made her sore and she had difficulty moving. She leaned into his chest and holding Nicky close, she whispered, “Find that bastard and bring him to his knees before you send him to hell, baby.” She pulled away from him. “I’ll text you when I get there.”

 Deke hugged her close for a moment then released her and let her walk out of the hospital surrounded by his men while he stood there. He turned to Gator as the man always stood at his side, like always. “We have to get out there and find this bastard.”

“Amos and his men are working on that. We need to stay and speak to Sweenie as soon as he gets out of surgery.” Gator sighed hard. “Or rather, I should say if he gets out of surgery. That point is still up in the air at the moment.”

They sat down on the chairs and waited for a doctor to come out and talk to them about Sweenie. Both men had a feeling it was going to be a long night…

Frankie made his way along the darkened street. This side of town wasn’t known to be friendly and not too many people lived down this way, so he was keeping to the shadows. 

He could hear the fire sirens and the background noise of the city behind him, but all was quiet in front of him and that made Frankie feel more than a little nervous. Being on edge didn’t set well with him. He didn’t know why being here was making him nervous, he’d been in this area off and on for most of the time he’d lived here. This time though, something was unsettled about this area and he didn’t know why.

This street used to bustle as people hurried to work the factories in this part of town. One of the factories was a tile company that made ceramic tiles for kitchen and baths. The other factory recycled glass and plastic bottles. The plastic bottles were torn up and melted down to be reformed into fresh plastic bottles and the glass ones were broken and melted down only to be made into fresh bottles for reuse.

Now those factories were abandoned and they housed the homeless during the winter.

Frankie approached the smaller Tile company warehouse and halted when he saw the dark blue truck sitting in the shadows. His case of nerves heightened when he saw it and then he moved closer. He checked the windshield and saw the coiled snake sticker. Reaching for his phone, he texted Amos to tell him he'd found Bear. Then he pinged his location and slipped the phone back into his pocket.

Silently, he moved away from the building and went to stand under a tree to watch the truck. He could see a flickering light move around the warehouse but he really didn’t know if it was Bear or not. All he knew for sure was that he’d just spotted Bear’s truck.

His cell buzzed in his pocket. Frankie picked it up to read the text from Amos, he’d promised to join him in a few minutes.  Frankie stuck the phone back in his pocket and looked up again to watch the truck but the truck wasn’t there anymore. He hadn’t heard Bear start or move the vehicle. Frankie frowned and looked around as his adrenaline spiked. How? Then he stepped away and began expanding his search. 

He glanced back at the warehouse but no longer saw the flickering light moving around the lower level. Frankie had to wonder if Bear realized he was out here. He left the area backing away from the warehouse. He stayed in the shadows for a few more minutes but those nerves were shooting off the charts now. He carefully made his way down the street as he looked around for the truck. He was about to cross the street when suddenly a blinding flash of light came up behind him and he heard the revving of an engine. Frankie sucked in a deep breath as he tried to turn but the headlights blinded him and he raised his arm up to shield his eyes. 

With a hard slam, his body was thrown in the air as the truck slammed into him. Pain washed over him as he flew away from the vehicle then in what seemed like slow motion, he crumbled to the ground. He’d never felt such a blow in his life, as he couldn’t seem to even take a breath. Then just before he passed out from the pain he thought he heard evil laughter echoing over the empty streets.

Frankie didn’t know how much time had passed as he couldn’t seem to move at all. He was conscious on and off. He tried to open his eyes but he couldn’t get over the pain. Damn, I didn’t want to end like this, shoulda listened to them nerves.

 He slipped into unconsciousness again.

 Amos came up the street where Frankie said he was and when he didn’t see the truck where Frankie told him it was parked, he called out Frankie’s name. His gut clenched as he knew something was wrong here. Frankie should have come out of hiding to talk to him. Only, he wasn’t anywhere to be seen. Amos walked along the street slowly, so Frankie could see him. 

He kept looking around the area until he halted his steps. Staring at the limp of tangled mess that used to be Frankie, he gasped. Amos screamed his best friend's name and made his way toward him. Tears ran down his face as he got close to Frankie. Amos grabbed his phone and got onto his chat with his fellow Vets and with a shaking hand, he tapped into the chat 911 and pinged his location.

With a tight gripping in his chest, he stepped over to where Frankie was laying and fell to his knees as he looked the other man over carefully. “Frankie, Frankie, you still alive brother?” Amos whispered. He leaned forward and brushed Frankie’s hair away from his face. “Brother, you still alive?”

Frankie seemed to groan but it was just a slight sound as if heard his name being called out and he tried to come back. He tried to open his eyes and Amos saw that. Amos leaned down toward his face and called out his name again, “Frankie, if you’re there, don’t you die on me. We’ll get you some help. I’m calling an ambulance right now. Don’t you die on me.”

Amos tapped 911 into his phone and it dialed. When he was connected, he told the operator he needed an ambulance right away. 

Frankie must have heard Amos’ voice as he fought to come back to the land of the living. He opened his eyes and stared up at him. He tried to lift his hand but he realized his arm was broken. “Amos,” he whispered.

Amos saw his eyes were open and that he was trying to speak. Leaning forward, he said, “I’m here buddy. I’m here and help is on the way.”

“I s-saw the truck,” Frankie whispered with a breathless wheeze in his voice. “I saw t-that damn snake. It was Bear—I guess I-I made too much noise b-because he knew I was watching him. He snuck away but then came back and h-he hit me. He r-ran me down.”

“You just hush now,” Amos told him. “We’ll find that prick again and then we’ll send him to hell where he should be already. He’s already hurt too many people this time and I won’t stop until he’s on that train to hell.” Tears rolled down Amos’ cheeks.

“H-he’s sure got an evil laugh, t-that man does.” Frankie shivered a little as he winced. “He’s s-slipped over the edge and now—he’s j-just insane.”

Just then, Amos heard the sounds of several sets of footsteps running their way. He looked up and found several of the men they knew on the streets getting closer. He also heard the sound of a siren in the distance and the blaring of them got louder. He gazed down to see Frankie had passed out again, “Just hang on, Frankie,” he pleaded. “Help is on the way." Reaching down, he took his old friend's hand and gripped it, willing his buddy to just keep breathing.