“Damn, fucker, look at you!” said Lenny, laughing. His shoulder length hair hung thin and straight, like a curtain framing his face. He’d worn his hair like that since freshman year in high school. Dave was unnerved to see threads of gray in it and a few lines around his eyes.
“You got big, man,” Lenny said, appraising him. “Grew out your hair—and those tats!”
He took a moment to study Dave’s arm, entwined with roses and skulls.
“Got those a few years back,” said Dave. “You look pretty much the same.”
“Yeah, well, clean living. Come on, buy me a beer,” Lenny said.
Dave ordered their drinks then they got a table out back on the lawn by the fence. There was a band that night, but they wouldn’t be staying.
“So what’s up, man,” Lenny asked. He whipped his hair back with a toss of his head.
“I’m in deep shit, man. I mean so deep I don’t know if I can dig out.”
Lenny frowned with concern and said, “Ok, lay it on me. What’s goin’ on. Whatever it is, I’ll help you out.”
Dave said, “Thanks, I mean it. I called you out of the blue and you came down, no questions.”
“Of course,” Lenny said with a shrug.
Dave took a deep breath and then a long slug of the cold beer. He told Lenny about the biker who recognized him at Redwood, and the meeting coming that Friday with the two MCs.
“Do you get the significance of this?”
Lenny paused to think it through. Dave knew he was married now, with a little boy. He’d gotten out of the weed business and gone straight, working as the night shift manager at a Safeway.
“Yeah, I get it. What I don’t get is what you mean to do about it. I . . . don’t know, I mean, what can you do?”
“The Ghosts will send guys up here—they’re probably already on their way—to find out if this shit is true. I told them it wasn’t but they have to have proof. I know this. Which is why we have to go now,” he gestured to the beers on the table, “after we finish these, to Bend. We need to talk to the people that my brothers might talk to.”
Lenny shook his head in confusion. “Who, man? You plan on going to the P.D. and saying, ‘Hey guys, if some biker gang comes in here asking about Dave Devine, tell ‘em you never heard of me? Pretty please?’”
Dave chuckled grimly.
“No, fucker. I want to talk to Candy and Kelly find out who’s still around, find out who would remember me. See, I know how my guys think and where they’ll go to hunt down info on me. And it won’t be the police department.”
Lenny nodded. “Okay, I get it, sort of. But I got to say man, this seems kind of a heavy, you know? These guys coming after you with guns or something?”
“I don’t think so. But I can’t be sure. What I’ve done has consequences, as they say. If I’m found out. Listen if you want, it’s cool if you go now. I get it.”
Lenny blew out a sigh. “No. I’m good,” he said, and took another drink. “Well let’s see. I know Candy married some douche last year, some plumber. She quit the P.D. three, four years ago I think. And Kelly—she’s still cocktailing at the 2 A.M. Club. As far as I know.”
Dave checked his watch. “Ok, let’s go to Candy’s house first. It’s still early enough. Then we can hit the bar later.”
Lenny shook his head. “This is fucked up, man. Me and her didn’t end up on good terms, you know?”
“I was messing around. She found out, went all crazy.” Lenny finished his beer and pushed up from the table. “Haven’t talked to her since.”
“Do you know where she lives now?”
“She’s still got her parents’ ranch. I’d bet a hundred bucks she lives there with her new man. She’d got like three kids now.”
“Ok we’ll head there. Maybe I’d better go in alone—you can wait outside.”
“Maybe so,” Lenny said. “That chick’s got a temper on her like no one else.”
NEAR SUNSET, on his way into Klamath Falls, Oregon, Joker went to shift down and noticed a linkage bolt had rattled loose. He rolled into the nearest gas station and got some wire from the garage. Then he called 8-ball and told him he was getting a room at a Motel 6. They agreed to meet at a diner about an hour’s ride north in Chemult at seven the next morning.
He checked into the motel, called in a pizza delivery and then went out to the parking slot in front of his room. He had a tool kit and went to work on his bike. He was just finishing up when he heard footsteps.
“Looks like you could use a cold beer,” he heard a female voice say behind him.
He closed his eyes and made a wish to the biker gods.
When he turned around, he thought, Thank you.
Because she was just his type: 40s, dyed raven hair, t-shirt and cutoffs over tanned skin. Body that’s had two, maybe three kids but hasn’t given up the gym. No make up because she’s sick of that and doesn’t fucking need it anyway.
She held out a can of Coors and took a drink from her own. The sweat beads on the can matched those on her smooth throat.
“Oh yes,” he said. “I could use some of that.”
IN SPITE OF his worry, Dave enjoyed the ride to Candy’s. In the glow of the sunset, the air was warm and humid, and the road wound through scenic farmlands. Memories—from his childhood and his youth—drifted in and out.
Back in the day, he’d been to her ranch many times with Lenny. Dave had dated Kelly, Candy’s younger sister, and the four of them had hung out all the time, drinking beer and getting high down by the creek, target shooting in the field. He’d loved the smells of the horses and the sun-warmed hay, the baked earth.
It was finally dark as they rolled down the dirt driveway and parked about thirty feet from the house. The roar of the motorcycles had the dogs running to them, and the front door opened. Candy came out and stood there with a baby on her hip.
Pretty and blonde, she looked mostly the same except she’d doubled in size. Her turquoise dress fitted her like a smock and the light behind her outlined her plump limbs.
“What the hell?” she called.
Dave hung his helmet on the handlebar and strolled up to porch and up the steps. Lenny stayed sitting on his bike, helmet and sunglasses on.
“Dave Devine. You’ve got to be kidding me,” she said.
“It’s me. Candy how the hell are ya?”
“I’m okay, I guess. What’re you doing here—what’s he doing here?” She peered around his shoulder to glare at Lenny.
“I need to talk to you. You alone?”
“Aside from my three kids, yeah I’m alone. My husband’ll be home soon, though. And he won’t like coming home to you two. What the hell happened to you anyway? I heard you went to California.” She eyed his tattooed arms and vest. “You some kind of biker now?”
“Something like that. Listen, I’ll be quick. Candy, I need some help. Some guys are looking for me and I need to cover some tracks.”
“Okay. Well what am I supposed to do?” she shifted the baby, drooling over her wrist, to her other hip.
“Who works at the police department from when I was there? People who’d remember me?”
She frowned. “I don’t know—a lot of us moved on after you left, but the captain’s still the same, and Doug, and Rory. Susan, she’ll be there until she croaks.”
The baby started to squirm. “What’s up, Dave? Why you asking me this?”
“Like I said, some guys are looking for me and might ask around. I just want to know who still remembers me from the department. Who might say something.”
“What kind of guys?”
“Guys on Harleys.”
She scowled as the baby began to whimper. From inside, a child’s voice called “Mom!”
“I don’t want anything to do with this shit. You hear me? You guys shouldn’t have come here. I’m sorry for whatever’s going on—I always liked you Dave, you were good to my sister, but you can’t be here when my old man gets home.”
“Okay, I get it. We’re gone but first, where’s Kelly? I need to talk to her too.”
“She might be working tonight. I don’t know.”
“At the 2 A.M. Club?
“Can you give me her number?”
She nodded and recited it while he put it in his phone. “Thanks, Candy. One more thing. If anyone talks to you—asks if you knew me from the department back then, tell them you never heard of me. And don’t mention I was here. Okay? I was never here.”
“Thanks, I mean it. We’ll leave now.”
She nodded, expressionless, as she watched him leave. Before they even started up the bikes, she was in the house with the door shut and the porch light off.
Part 4 next month…