Imagine if you were in a situation where you turned your back on everything you held dear. You spend years of your life chasing something you’ve always wanted. You get close to guys that have no fear. You earn their trust and they let you into their “inner circle.” Then one day, you’re faced with the toughest choice of your life, and you decide that what you’ve worked so hard for and yearned for isn’t really what you thought you wanted. Unfortunately, I don’t have to imagine that situation. I’m living it. And things are about to get a little hairy. Let me put it this way; you never want to double cross an outlaw motorcycle club if you have plans to make it to your next birthday.
You might think being pinned down by gunfire behind a dumpster isn’t the most ideal time to analyze past mistakes and bad life choices. On the contrary though, I’m not sure there is a much better time at all. It’s not like you can go anywhere. Your bike is lying in a heap on the ground about fifteen feet away thanks to the surprise ambush you rolled into on your way to the clubhouse that morning. If you peek out from behind your cover, then you’re tempting your own fate by catching the business end of a bullet. It’s natural to think back about where you went wrong and all of the poor decisions you made to land you in such a tough spot. Thoughts about how your life could be so much different if you made just one decision differently. Nevermind the difference if you changed all of your previous choices that got you here. What? That’s not a scenario you can relate to? Must just be me then.
“Better get comfortable back there, you prick!” came a grizzled shout from inside the clubhouse, followed by a potshot meant to keep my attention and remind me that there was no turning back.
Maybe I should start from the beginning. My name is Will. I grew up with motor oil in my blood. My entire life has been spent in the seat of a motorcycle. My dad owned one vehicle for as long as I can remember – a 1948 Harley-Davidson Panhead. I was raised on the back of that Harley, and I thought I was untouchable. On the days dad was sober enough to drop me off at school, I would see all the other kids’ eyes get wide and they’d start whispering to each other as we pulled up to the curb at the bus drop-off zone. I would hop off, and stroll past all of them with my shades still on and my head held high. I was a badass…even in fifth grade. My dad would twist the throttle a couple times before releasing the clutch and rolling away, his Kings of Chaos patch showing with pride on the back of his jacket. It was his way of saying “See you later,” as well as his way of irritating the institution.
On days when dad had “important business” to take care of (or was too inebriated to drive) my grandpa would be waiting to pick me up outside of the school. He would weave his way through the idling school busses and park front and center on the sidewalk. Of course, this drove the teachers crazy because it was a “safety hazard” for the other students, but have you ever tried to tell a biker what to do? Of course you haven’t…nobody does.
So grandpa would roll up, drop his kick stand and lean back on his massive 1945 1,200cc Indian Chief. He never liked to talk about being in World War II, but he went on and on about the thrill of riding the military issued Indians overseas. To help with getting reacquainted with civilian life, the first thing my grandfather did when he returned from abroad was go straight from the boat to a dealership and buy an Indian motorcycle. He kept the machine clean, but you could easily tell that it was ridden regularly. Like he always said, “A clean bike is a sure sign you’re talking to a biker. A sparkling bike is a sure sign that you’re not.”
So you see, my family was raised in the biker boom in the mid-twentieth century. My grandpa came home from the war looking for something to give him a similar rush that he experienced overseas. That rush was found in the saddle of a motorcycle. With his pension from the military and a modest lifestyle learned from The Great Depression, he was able to spend all of his time in the wind, so to speak. Grandpa lived as a free spirit – he made sure that my dad was taken care of, usually at grandma’s expense, but then he lived his life the way he wanted to. He loved his family, and loved the quiet, alone time he was granted on his motorcycle almost just as much.
My dad, Lee, never served in the military but he grew up admiring grandpa’s freedom. Needless to say, dad wanted the same lifestyle with none of the work. He loved it almost to the same degree as grandpa, but liked a little more camaraderie between rides, which led him to spending a lot of his time standing still at a local biker bar.
After awhile of earning his reputation as a legit, badass biker, dad was approached by a member of the Kings of Chaos – the local motorcycle club that was known in the area for being loud, rowdy, rude, and generally unruly, inquiring if he would like to start the process of becoming a member of the club. We lived in a small rural town, so the club was well-known among the locals and law enforcement alike. The undesirable behavior from the club was typically overlooked since they provided a sense of “protection” for the neighborhood. Truth be told, most of the protection they offered came in the form of extortion of business owners. The club would approach a proprietor and offer to make sure their business was looked after. What they meant to say was, “Give us some money every month, or your place might get banged up a little bit.” However, the club was very protective of its turf, so if there was ever any fuss from outsiders, the club was always there to take care of their town.
With dad’s attitude toward the lifestyle and craving the recognition the club would provide, he took no time to agree to become a hang around with the Kings. Being a hang around is the first step of the initiation process to become a full patch member. Hang arounds are required to be at every club function, but are not technically members in the sense that they wear no patches with the club’s logo and they’re usually not even permitted to attend official club meetings, often referred to as church. Essentially, as a hang around, dad was simply getting to know the members and earn their trust. Since that was basically how he earned the opportunity to be an official hang around though, that period didn’t last long. Within a matter of weeks, dad’s trust and level of commitment were clear and unquestioned.
In an uncharacteristically quick decision for a motorcycle club, they gave dad his prospect patch after only 3 weeks as a hang around. This was the next step in the initiation process, and along with it came the first of three patches, known as colors, for the back of his leather jacket, or cut. This phase required even more loyalty and servitude. At this point, my dad basically became the club’s servant and had to submit to anything any member of the club wanted at anytime. If the club wanted to go for a long ride but didn’t want the hassle of worrying about breaking down and being stranded on the side of the road, then dad was forced to leave his bike behind and follow the pack in a pick-up truck and trailer. If the Kings threw a party and their clubhouse got trashed, then it was up to dad to be the first one in the next morning to get it all cleaned up…only after he stayed outside for the entire party acting as security. And he still wasn’t allowed to attend church or generally have a voice on club matters.
That was all way before I was born. By the time I entered the picture, dad was a full-patch member. That meant that the back of his leather jacket featured 3 patches – the top rocker that displayed the name of the club, the large middle patch that showed the skull wearing a V-Twin crown logo of the MC (motorcycle club), and the bottom rocker that stated the location of the club or that particular chapter. There was also a fourth, small, unofficial patch that was worn with just as much pride. It consisted of the outline of a diamond shape that simply stated “1%er.”
That little patch along the side of the club’s colors demanded attention. Its significance was garnered following the Hollister, California riot in 1947. The American Motorcycle Association released a statement following that incident claiming that 99% of motorcycle riders are good, upstanding, law-abiding citizens…implying that the other 1% were outlaws. Those who were deemed to be part of the 1% embraced the saying whole-heartedly. Essentially, that diamond-shaped patch loudly screams to everyone in the vicinity to show the utmost respect or leave the club completely alone altogether.
As you can imagine, being a member of an outlaw motorcycle club includes doing things that most people would shy away from. Those things could include busting up a shop in order to extort money from the owner, transport and/or sell drugs, guns or other ill-gotten merch, assault somebody for any given reason, or even worse – like shoot at former club members that piss them off. (Sorry, that’s not something that’s easy to forget and move on from.)
That’s just an example to give you a small idea of what a day of the club’s “business” might include. It’s not all bad though; a day in the life could just as easily be spent in the clubhouse having drinks together and sharing and reliving stories from the past. Sometimes business is even good – several times per year, the club will organize fundraisers for local charities and children’s organizations. They have helped clean up debris and fallen branches after severe thunderstorms, repair damage to the local VFW building, and scrub graffiti off the face of their town’s small library. In a weird sense, they really do care about the community and are mostly embraced by its citizens.
The club was good at conducting most of their business on the outskirts of city limits or at least in the dark shadows of an alley. The more attention they brought on themselves, then the more heat they had to deal with from negative publicity and worse – local law enforcement. They stayed out of the limelight for the most part, which in turn kept them out of jail.
“Hey asshole! You’ve made your dad reeeeeal proud!” came another shout from the clubhouse, each word dripping with sarcasm. Just to confirm my suspicion that nobody was proud of me, a bullet whizzed by my head and hit the gas tank of my bike. Fortunately, I had at least a little luck on my side as my bike didn’t immediately burst into a giant fireball. “Why don’t you step on out here and get dead real quick?”
“Hey! Take it easy on my bike! What did it ever do to you??” I yelled back. They don’t own sarcasm, and I opt to use that as my number one defense mechanism.
So where was I? Oh right, my family and the club. By the time I was old enough to start piecing things together, dad had grown distant from me and our family. The questions that I badgered him with incessantly might have had something to do with that. That left me to basically fend for myself. Mom had split long ago, and by the time I was old enough to take care of my basic needs, dad decided he was done doing it for me and left it up to my grandparents to look after me. But even that was done from a distance.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I was abandoned and left to survive on my own. Dad just left my life up to me. I knew how to clean, dress and feed myself. I also knew what hurt, what was dangerous, and how to avoid those things. Assuming that I had a little common sense, dad didn’t see the need to interfere with nature…I could figure the rest out on my own. Even when dad was around physically, his mental state was a completely different story. There were two typical scenarios whenever I got to spend time around him. Either he was completely distracted from working on his bike, or he was beyond too-drunk-to-care what was going on around him. The former of those situations was my favorite, because it offered about the only time that I ever got to see my dad as a mentor of sorts. As long as I stayed back and didn’t block the light, then he would let me watch and try to teach me everything he could about working on the mechanics of a motorcycle. Naturally that helped fuel my interest in the subject.
By the time I was tall enough to sit in a saddle and have my feet touch the ground, I started learning how to ride. “The faster you go, the more stable the bike is,” was the best (and worst) piece of advice my dad ever told me. “At slow speeds, you have to pay more attention to your balance so you don’t drop the bike. Once you get going, everything evens out and the bike rides smoother,” he advised. “Think of it as a spinning top; the more speed it has, the more upright it sits. Once it starts slowing down, then it starts wobbling until it eventually tips over onto its side…that’s bad – don’t do that.”
Also at this time, dad was a lot less worried about hiding his activities from me. On any given night he would bring home any one (or more) of a handful of girls that were passed around between club members. The girls liked riding and partying with the club, so they accepted their unofficial position. I also started noticing that beer and whiskey began having company on our coffee table with marijuana and cocaine. Dad also seemed to have a lot more money than we were accustomed too, and with that came the addition of a gun or two…or seven.
Fast forward a bit to my teenage years. Somehow, I managed to escape my pre-determined destiny of hooligan, degenerate biker. I ended up leaving the area that I was born and raised, and the only place that I ever spent any time of my life in. The prospect of moving on to something completely new to me was a little scary, but in the back of my mind I knew that staying where I was would be even scarier…it was only a matter of time. I left our small town in the lonely hills of Rough River Falls, Kentucky for much greener pastures in the United States Air Force.
The further I got away from my roots, the clearer my head became. I started seeing an accurate portrait of my family for the first time. I saw how other people were raised in stable households with parents that actually paid attention and cared about their children. The longer I stayed gone, the more resentment grew in the pit of my stomach. Not resentment toward my father or grandparents, I think they did the best they could with what they knew. Dad was raised in a home with a loving mother and a father who didn’t realize how detrimental his absence – both physical and mental – was. That upbringing created my dad who turned to motorcycles and the MC to serve as his extended family because that’s what he knew. He wasn’t raised in a typical household, so he didn’t know how to create one for me. No, it was my resentment for the club life that grew stronger by the day.
Without the Kings’s influence, maybe my dad could’ve figured out how to be a real-life parent. Maybe my mom wouldn’t have left. And maybe, just maybe, I could’ve played little league baseball with friends from school, or even just had friends from school. You can probably imagine how few parents are willing to allow their offspring to hang out at a druggie, biker’s house. Thanks for helping me fit in, dad. That’s where my stellar personality and people skills stem from.
Seeing the importance of structure and order, I ultimately turned to a career in security forces while in the Air Force. For multiple reasons, it was a match made in heaven. It helped me escape the deviant lifestyle that I was raised in. On top of that, I had a chance to make a difference for others who were in similar situations to what I went through. I could relate to them and I knew what they were going through, so I knew how to help them. Further still, it gave me the adrenaline high that I had gotten so used to from riding.
“Miller!” I barked in a whisper. “On 3…2…1…GO!” On my mark, my patrol partner stepped from the side of the door frame we were flanking and kicked it in with authority. I charged in, weapon drawn. “HALT! DON’T MOVE!” I commanded to the lone airman, sitting on the couch in his on-base apartment. He was caught totally off-guard, but displayed no signs of surprise. I think I saw a flash of awe in his eyes from the total bad-ass moment Miller and I just had, busting through his door. Or maybe I just saw that because that’s what I wanted to see. No way to tell for sure.
Our bust went smoothly. The suspect never gave us any trouble, already knowing he didn’t stand a chance of talking his way out of the current predicament. He was on property owned by the federal government with pot plants stashed in his linen closet. What an idiot.
“Did you see the look on his face when we broke through the door, gangbusters style? I was waiting for him to make a move; make a run for it or at least try lying his way out of it…something,” Miller said, taking a sip from his coffee cup. “But once I saw the look on his face, I thought the most he might do was shit his pants!” he spat out before laughter took over and he couldn’t say anything else.
I let out a chuckle before I took a drink of sweet tea. Miller and I usually hit up the same little diner outside of the confines of Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas after work to wind down from our shift, and tonight was no different. Our waitress brought our regular orders of BBQ brisket sandwiches, mashed potatoes and gravy, and sweet corn. “Man, Miller, we’ve been on a helluva roll lately, huh?” I asked. Without waiting for his response, I continued, “tonight’s bust, the car that was riding dirty through the East Gate last week with all those pills, The airman we caught selling guns to unauthorized civilians a couple weeks before that, and those two civilian BX employees we chased across base for stealing from the Base Exchange before that. I don’t know if all this shit is normal or it’s just us being good at what we do, but it’s been nuts lately. Sarge called me in to talk to me about everything a few days ago. Asked how me and you keep ending up in the middle of everything. Has he said anything to you?”
“Actually, he caught me in the locker room the other day after PT. Basically asked me the same stuff and wondered how I liked working with you. Come to think of it, most of his questions were about you. Who took the lead on most of our stops; who called the shots on our busts; if I felt comfortable taking your orders; or if I ever felt in danger from your decisions. I didn’t think much of it at the time with the way he sprinkled other conversation in, but now that I think about it it was a pretty pointed conversation,” Miller concluded.
I hadn’t given it a thought before then, but after hearing Miller my mind kicked into overdrive. Was I overstepping my boundaries as a Senior Airmen; upsetting my superiors? I’ve always followed the chain of command – when I got information about the airman cultivating pot plants in his barracks, I went straight to my Staff Sergeant. I never asked Miller to do something I wouldn’t be willing to do myself, and I don’t think I’ve ever held my rank over his head, since he’s a pay-grade below me. I’ve always tried to exemplify the standards and expectations of my superiors, which has up until now always garnered respect from them. Now it seems I may have brought some unwanted scrutiny my way.
After we picked our plates clean and finished winding down from the adrenaline pump from our bust, we called it a night.
Another couple months passed without anything particularly noteworthy happening. The end of my 6 year commitment was approaching fast, and I planned on separating from the Air Force to see what kind of job I could find at a civilian police department. I appreciated everything the Air Force had provided for me, but I didn’t care much for the idea of having to relocate and not having much input as to where.
“McGee,” barked my Senior NCO from his desk as I walked by his office. “A word?”
“Yes, Senior?” I asked as I entered his office. My casual response came from the familiarity of a good working relationship, but I still stood at parade rest out of respect while he addressed me.
“I heard you started the separation paperwork. What are your plans after this?” he inquired. I filled him in on my intentions of looking into the public sector of law enforcement. “I’m sure you’ve heard that people have been asking about you lately,” he continued. I nodded along. “When you began the separation process, the DEA started looking into you. They were aware of your work and were hoping to get their claws into you as soon as they could. Anyway, they came calling; asking me about your abilities, work ethic, strengths, weaknesses, leadership – all that crap.” Suddenly, the conversation I had with Miller several months ago was starting to add up. “I was asked to give you this business card when the time came. They are expecting your call once your service ends.”
“Thank you, Senior,” I said as I spun on my heels and marched out of his office.
Luckily, my last couple of weeks on active duty went by relatively quickly with no real action. Admittedly, my mind had been wandering.
“Listen Will, I don’t want to beat around the bush,” came the voice from the other end of the phone. As usual, I had followed orders and put in a call to the DEA agent that my sergeant had given me the card for. The beginning of the conversation had been slightly frustrating until this point, with me being questioned about loyalties to people from my past and my opinions of my hometown and the locals – meaning the Kings. The agent had to be careful to test my allegiances, but not give away any sensitive information in case I couldn’t be trusted. Finally, I had thoroughly convinced him that I was not particularly fond of the club or their activities and was on board with whatever he had left to discuss. “I’m not sure how connected you’ve kept with things in Kentucky since you’ve left, but I have no doubt you’ve heard about the mishap with Representative Olsen’s son overdosing on cocaine. Due to the high profile nature of the case, we’ve felt a lot of pressure to make a bust, but it’s not like we can just walk into town and start arresting people. I think we all know where the cocaine came from, but we have no way of getting the information we need.”
“Which is where I come in,” I finished his thought for him. “With my history and past connections, you think I can get into the club quickly and without suspicion. I probably can – no problem there. But how do you suggest I get my information to you?”
“That’s the tricky part,” was his reply.
Yeah, no shit.
“Since it’s such a small town and everybody knows everybody, it’s not like we could just assign a support team to move in without throwing up some serious red flags for any locals who might be paying attention. We kind of hit the jackpot with your separation from the Air Force and your desire to live somewhere familiar. My proposal is once we get you processed in to the agency and placed back in Rough River Falls, then you will act as your own unit. You won’t have any handlers. You also won’t have any backup. You’ll be on your own on this. You will collect all the intel you can and send updates at regular intervals. Once you have everything tied up in a neat little bow, then you’ll get the hell outta Dodge and we’ll send in a team to handle all the dirty work.”
I liked the idea of having control over where I’d be working. I’d be on my own for fear that having a handler nearby would result in my cover getting blown and probably getting both of us killed. I was required to send status reports which had its own set of problems – I couldn’t have the postmaster making comments about me sending mail to the DEA. In small-town, Kentucky that would be something worth talking about and I don’t need my business being leaked through the local gossip channels. I also couldn’t sneak off on a regular basis without some sort of plausible excuse in case anybody got curious, so I ended up dropping packages at various places around town at all times of day and night in order for unknown travelers to gather on their way innocently through town.
All in all, it wasn’t a bad gig. I was able to live some place familiar, which was nice, and I also got to focus on taking down the organization that derailed my family.
“Will McGee?? Holy shit, man! Is that you? I think I just saw a ghost! Where have you been these last few years?” came a grizzled voice from behind me.
That was the first thing I heard as I stepped into my hometown’s Gas N’ Go. I turned my head and shifted my eyes around to see who was addressing me while I topped off the fountain drink that I was currently pouring. Once I sucked down a little of the foam off the top and popped a lid on the cup, I spun around and saw a behemoth standing a couple of feet away. The gravelly voice fit the physical description of this guy perfectly.
In front of me was a bear of a man standing 6’4” tall and weighing in around 275 pounds, with a full grown beard that a mountain man would be proud of. Not that his beard would be outdone, there was just as much arm hair and back hair sprouting out of the openings of his leather vest. “Good Lord, Griz, you’re uglier than ever,” I responded without having to look at the name patch on the front of his vest. He gave me a hard stare, not sure what to think or do before the tough façade broke and his face brightened with a big smile and he gave me a warm hug.
Griz, short for Grizzly, is a patch member of the Kings and I’ve known him my whole life. He was given the nickname by the club due to his size and overall appearance resembling a grizzly bear. Picture a prototypical biker and there’s your mental image of Griz – beer belly hanging over his belt, open leather vest with no t-shirt (but enough hair to resemble a sweater), tattoo covered arms, blue jeans, boots, fingerless leather gloves, and a thick brown beard down to his collarbone. He was always involved with whatever my dad got into.
“How the hell have you been, man? I haven’t seen you since your old man passed,” Griz asked delicately.
My dad died a couple years back from liver failure. Did I not mention that earlier? Sorry, I guess it’s just not something that seems like that big of a deal to be honest with you. What else can you expect when you dump alcohol and chemicals into your body like it’s going out of style? Not that I wasn’t sad when it happened, but we were never that close to begin with so the mourning phase was rather short-lived. That mentality toward my father probably plays a large role in my disdain for the club.
“I’ve been okay. Ya know, surviving. Just finished up my time in the Air Force and decided it was time to come home. I guess I just wasn’t meant to wander too far,” I answered.
“Air Force, huh? Your dad had mentioned you were serving but he never had many details. You could tell he was proud of you though. What did you end up getting into?”
Without giving away anything specific, I kept my answer short and sweet. I couldn’t lie to the guy because he’d spot it from a mile away, plus that would just be one more thing that I would have to remember later on. “They just had me guard stuff. Did my 6 years and decided to call it a day. Didn’t want to end up on some other continent, and kinda heard this place calling me back, so here I am.”
“You should swing by the clubhouse. The guys would be excited to see you. What are you riding these days?” Griz inquired.
“To be honest with you, I haven’t ridden for quite awhile. I sold my bike after dad died. It seemed like a bitter reminder that I didn’t want to live with, ya know? The old man did leave me his Panhead though. It’s just been sitting in storage since he passed, but it might be about time to dust it off. Could be a nice tribute to him to clean it up and get it running again…probably wouldn’t take much either. Fresh gas and new tires should just about do it with the way he always kept it. Worst case scenario, I might have to rebuild the carburetors if there’s any gummed up gas that’s been sitting in them but it shouldn’t be any worse than that I wouldn’t imagine.”
“Bring it by the shop. I’ll clear off a lift you can use. You’ll have free run of the place – whatever tools you need, just pick up the tab for any parts. Between us and the club, we should have that thing breathing fire in no time.”
“Sounds good, Griz,” I replied. “Just do me a favor…don’t tell anybody I’m around yet. Let it be a surprise when I show up with the old man’s bike, huh?” And just like that, I had my foot in the door.
I turned toward the cashier to pay for my fountain drink while Griz waited patiently to pay for his gas. Unfortunately, the next guy that walked into the small convenience store wasn’t as patient. We hadn’t noticed the BMW that had been sitting by the lone working gas pump during our brief little catch-up until the driver stepped through the door. He looked at the two of us with an irritated glare and looked down to his shiny watch. You could tell he wasn’t a local with his luxury sedan, fancy watch, and nice clothes. His hair had gel in it, if that tells you anything – Rough River Falls, Kentucky isn’t a place for guys with hair gel. Once Griz stepped up to the counter, the guy made some snarky comment about the gas pump not being a parking spot as he shoved through the door on his way back outside. Big mistake.
Griz peeled away from the counter and followed the yuppie outside toward the gas pump. The out-of-towner wasn’t aware that he was being stalked, and as he rounded the hood of his car to get in and wait for Griz to leave so he could pull up next to the pump, a giant callused hand grabbed the back of his neck and “encouraged” him along. Griz yanked the car door open and threw the stranger into the driver’s seat, all while explaining that patience is a virtue. At the end of the exchange, Griz smacked the guy’s cheek. Hard. You could tell the visitor didn’t know what to say, do, or think. He just sat in his car with a shocked look of disbelief on his ever-reddening face. For all I could tell, he might’ve peed a little bit. As Griz mounted his Harley at an intentionally slow pace, glowering at his new friend, the guy took his first notice of the Kings of Chaos Skull King patch emblazoned across the gargantuan leather vest. I could see the realization in the guy’s face, and I think he knew how incredibly dumb, and lucky, he just was. I just shook my head as I climbed into my truck.
A couple days passed before I finally decided that I needed to leave my apartment and get some fresh air. Now that I was back home, I wasn’t nearly as excited to be there as I thought I would be. Regardless, I was on the job and couldn’t just sit in my living room all day. I didn’t want to rush over to the Kings’ clubhouse and seem too eager and pathetic to establish a connection with them but I didn’t want to wait too long either, in case Griz couldn’t keep our secret.
On the way to my truck, I glanced in the open door of the apartment next to mine. There was a small, disheveled child running around in nothing but a diaper, his greasy hair matted to his head, and dirt smudges all over his face, arms, and chest. The next thing I noticed was the strung out woman passed out on the couch with her half-burnt cigarette dangling from her snoring mouth. I stopped for a split second until a scrawny male threw the storm door open and walked right past me on his way to the piece of crap motorcycle parked in front of the building…his Kings of Chaos patch staring right back at me, taunting me. The scumbag hopped on his hog, fired it up and rode away without a second thought about the little boy or his fire hazard of a mom. My disdain for the Kings multiplied tenfold in those few seconds. My family had been broken due to the club, and seeing it happen all over again to another helpless child was all I could take.
As I pulled into the parking lot for Griz’s Garage (you bet that’s the name of the place, and why wouldn’t it be?!) I received several curious stares. Some were faces I’d never seen before, but then there were the regulars I was looking for standing inside an empty garage bay. They all had on the familiar black vests with the black and blue Kings of Chaos patches. As I pulled up in an unfamiliar truck, the old-timers barely paid any attention to my presence, until my truck swung around and they caught a glimpse of the precious cargo on my flatbed trailer. The recognition registered on their faces the second they saw dad’s Harley Davidson – before any of them even recognized me personally.
They started approaching the truck as I slid out from the driver’s seat when the leader of the older trio slowed his pace and took a step back, squinting his eyes behind his sunglasses. “Will??” came the question in complete disbelief. Apparently, Griz hadn’t let our surprise slip and didn’t say anything as this little scene played out either.
“What’s it take to get a little help around this shit-hole?” I asked half-jokingly. I started cracking my knuckles to calm my nerves. I could tell that my identity still hadn’t been completely recognized. “Hey RJ, Griz told me to swing by and get some help getting this old junker running again,” I said thumbing toward the classic bike that would hardly be considered a junker in any sense of the word.
The instant I said his name, his face softened and his approach quickened. (Outsiders don’t call bikers by their road name.) He met me, along with Griz and one other member, with a big hug and then started in with the small talk. In a matter of minutes we were all caught up and they had made their way to my trailer. “Prospect!” RJ beckoned. “Get this bike unloaded…and you better not scratch it!”
RJ serves as the club’s Vice President. He’s an original member, and his founding father status is highly regarded through the ranks of the club. He took the VP position when the club’s second President was elected. RJ had no desire to run the club, but his wisdom and experience made him a perfect mentor for a slightly younger, first-time President. As the VP, he can keep the club from getting too side-tracked at times, but doesn’t have the headache of having to make all the calls.
To his right is a shorter guy everyone calls El C. Short for El Capitán, this is the guy who’s in charge of organizing club events such as charity rides. Appropriately, his nickname is derived from his status in the club as Road Captain. He is responsible for communicating with everyone behind him in the pack. Using hand signals, it’s up to him to warn other riders of hazards in the road, sudden stops, and if there are any cops lurking ahead. Because of these duties, the only people who ride in front of El C in formation are the Prez and Vice Prez. El C has been around long enough to know my old man, and his bike, but not long enough for me to be too familiar with him. He patched in maybe a year or two before I joined the Air Force.
As I was getting a little more acquainted with El C, the prospect that RJ had yelled for had jogged over and hopped up on my trailer. He had his back to me, kneeling down to unfasten the tie-down straps that were securing the motorcycle in place. Once he stepped around to the other side of the bike to roll it off the trailer, I couldn’t help but recognize a familiar face from high school. I decided to keep my focus with RJ, Griz, and El C for the time being so they wouldn’t feel disrespected by me acknowledging the prospect in the middle of our conversation. The hierarchy in a motorcycle club is very rigid, and respect is the number one priority during any interaction with a club member. Write that down – you never want to disrespect an MC or member in any way…it’s an especially bad idea to approach them with a hidden agenda, but we’ll get back to that soon enough.
Through our conversation, I picked up on a little more information about the club’s current structure, but it’s not like the guys were blurting out everything I wanted to know. Club business is for club members. Period. Honestly, they were probably sharing more with me than they should have been just because of my historical connection. I was able to glean the other sitting officers, and how big the club had grown – that second bit of information is something that is NEVER given out…club’s always keep their numbers confidential so rivals don’t know who or how many people to expect if something goes down. Officers usually aren’t given out either, but all you have to do is look at a few vests to see what their patches say…it’s not like it’s confidential intel.
To no surprise, I learned that RJ is still serving under the same Prez: Riot. That is pretty standard business. It’s typical when a new Prez is elected then there is usually a whole new regime change. The sitting Prez wants to be sure to surround himself with people that he knows, feels comfortable with, and trusts completely. When I saw the VP patch on RJ’s vest, I didn’t have to wait to hear who the Prez was because I already knew.
Other than Griz, I learned that there was one other “official” enforcer: Mack – the Sergeant at Arms. When Riot took over, Mack would have been the natural choice for VP, but he lacks the organizational and general leadership skills required to be second in command. I’ve known him just as long as I’ve known Riot, since they both prospected at the same time when my dad was still around. My familiarity with them is somewhat limited though due to my absence. What I do know is that Mack will never go against Riot and will support him through anything. Mack also serves as Riot’s unofficial confidant, so I’m sure he knows more about the club than he’ll ever tell anybody. If I’m smart and careful enough, that could come in very handy.
Something that caught me a little by surprise was how much expansion Riot had focused on lately. It doesn’t seem anybody knows his motive, but over the last couple of years he has introduced and approved more members than normal, and some of the old-timers haven’t been too thrilled about it. I guess he’s taken in some guys that don’t really fit in, with his focus on quantity over quality. Not that the club is massive by any means, but compared to the original six, the current roster seems like quite a lot in such a small town.
I had spent a few nights tooling on dad’s old Harley and was about ready to reassemble everything that I’d had to tear apart. Several of the Kings had stopped by and offered a helping hand since I had shown up, but Riot had been noticeably absent. Since my arrival, I’m not sure the sitting Prez had even made eye contact with me. He wasn’t putting out a very welcoming vibe, so I’m sure he wasn’t thrilled about the other members hanging around and visiting with me…none of which stuck around more than Griz.
The big bear had spent several hours over those night shifts with me, helping clean out the carburetors and replace all of the old gas lines, mount some fresh tires, and install some modern upgrades like electric start and a more comfy saddle…I think working on the bike made him feel a little closer to a lost brother. I have to admit, I felt a decent amount of bonding between him and I over the blood and sweat that was being poured into that bike. No tears though; real men don’t cry. It was nice to see the big guy soften up a little. He also shared stories of my old man that I’d never heard before; like how one night when they were leaving the bar, they pulled out of the parking lot and drove up to a red light.
“Apparently, we had a little more to drink that night than I realized because when we came to a stop, you could tell that your dad never even considered the idea of putting his feet down and his bike tipped over with him on board!” Griz exclaimed before breaking into a fit of laughter. “His ankle got pinned underneath the bike making him unable to get out from underneath it, and I was too busy laughing my ass off to offer much help, so he just had to lie on the ground until I could regain enough of my wits to lift the 800 pound monster off of him.”
I couldn’t help but chuckle a little bit from the mental image of somebody pulling up to a red light and slowly tipping over because they’re too sloshed to put their feet down.
“Another time, Lee was messing with Riot when Riot was just a prospect – making him stand perfectly still while your dad shot the ground in front of Riot’s feet just to see how close he could get without Riot flinching.”
Guns, drugs, and alcohol don’t go together, folks.
“Evidently, your old man got a little too close with his last shot and blew a hole in the tip of Riot’s leather boot. Luckily, the boot was a little big and had just enough space that the bullet went completely through without hitting any flesh.”
That might explain why Riot hasn’t shown any interest in chatting with me much.
“Riot keeps those beat up old shoes on a shelf behind his chair in the meeting room at the clubhouse. I think he uses them to serve as a reminder of his unflinching dedication to the club and his position.”
It was about that time that Griz and I heard the tell-tale sound of chain-link fence rattling. Griz gave me a quizzical glance, and without even thinking my instincts and training kicked in. I took off around the corner of the garage in a dead sprint and locked my gaze onto the back of an average built male. It only took a couple seconds and a matter of fifty feet for me to catch up and tackle the intruder. As I got within a few feet of him, I lowered my shoulder and lunged for his lower back, sending him face first into the far corner of the building. He bounced off of the concrete structure like a rag doll, hitting the ground with a moan, his face gushing blood from a shattered nose.
Once I had him on the ground, I flipped him over onto his back so I could see who I was dealing with. After being gone for six years, I probably wouldn’t have recognized very many people in the first place, but since this dude appeared to be all of 18 years old, you can bet there was no way I had a clue who he was.
On the other hand, when Griz finally caught up to all the action, there was no hesitation identifying the young intruder. He reached down with his huge, bear-like paws and snatched the kid up by his shirt collar. “I’m pretty sure I’ve given you clear instructions to stay off my property. What wasn’t clear when I said, ‘Stay off my property’ the last time I caught your ass?” The grizzled biker reached into the kid’s front pocket and pulled out a bag of white powder. He opened the bag and dumped the contents onto the ground.
“Hey man! That’s mine!” was the only contribution the guy made to the conversation. Before he could get much further, Griz ripped into him once more.
“I told you once I better not catch you around here with this shit anymore, didn’t I?” Griz didn’t wait for a response. “This is strike 2. If I EVER see you around my place again, you’ll leave in an ambulance.” Faster than my brain could register, Griz threw a tremendous right hook to the left side of the kid’s face. I swear I could hear his cheek bone crumble. I’m no doctor, but I’ve been in enough fist fights to know the sound of bone fracturing. The young punk crumpled to the ground like a sack of potatoes with a moan that was barely audible.
“Will, help me get this piece of trash off my property,” was the last thing Griz said about this little encounter. He grabbed the kid under his arms, I picked up his feet and we heaved the poor bastard back across the metal mesh that he had just climbed over a couple moments ago. That’s when we walked back to the garage and left the dude there, lying on the ground in a heap.
I knew going in that I would have to turn my morals way down, it’s not like I was going to be selling Girl Scout cookies, but I was not prepared to witness a kid’s face getting caved in and being left to take care of himself. I knew this club was a cancer to this town, but seeing the effect first-hand was jarring. Possibly the most surprising thing to me was how little I felt about what had just happened. Maybe the club was already affecting me, or maybe it had something to do with the kid being a druggy, but normally I would at least make sure he wasn’t choking to death on his own blood.