Chapter Eight of Wings like Eagles

Chase stopped in the parking lot of the Crete clinic. Before the car engine died, tall, lanky Red Ellis approached the station wagon, his long legs carrying him directly up to Chases’s side of the car.

Rain noted old Red wore his usual beat-up black cowboy hat and he hadn’t shaved in days for salt and pepper grizzle covered his nar-row face. He was dressed in his faded jean jacket and his equally faded Levi jeans, and looked every bit the rancher that he was.

Red leaned on the driver’s door and gruffly growled, “That bastard Baxster is actually doing his job for once! Maybe on account of your boy, he’ll drop these goddamned charges against Ben!”

Chase didn’t quite understand what Red was saying. “My boy?” he asked. “The Sheriff ain’t getting no report from Rain here.”

“Your other boy,” Red said. “Baxster’s in there grilling him–”

“Hell!” snapped Chase, nearly throwing Red off his feet as he swung his door open and sprang out of the car.

Rain sat there watching his dad angrily taking long strides toward the clinic.

“What the hell’s his problem?” Red asked, glancing at Rain as he opened his own door and climbed out of the station wagon.

Not particularly liking the cantankerous old rancher, Rain simply shrugged. “Have to ask him,” he muttered.

Red fell in beside him as he made his way toward the clinic doors. “This is damned serious!” snapped Red. “That ass-hole of a sheriff has Ben brought up on some serious charges–”

“That’s bullshit!” Rain said as the two of them reached the doors.

“Damn right it is!” Red said. “You and I both know that Long Soldier doesn’t even drink!”

Reaching for the door, Rain stopped. He turned his head slightly, saying, “You . . . and . . . I?”

An old rage came boiling to the surface. Especially since Red Ellis tried to make it sound as if he and Rain were friends, when they were anything but that. Not since the incident that took place on the Ellis ranch last summer. An incident that left Rain and Chris despising the cold-hearted son of a bitch named Red Ellis. After that day, it would be a cold day in hell before Rain ever considered himself friends with the old coot.

The you and I that Red spouted struck a nerve in Rain, and he took issue with the fact that Red made it sound as if they were on the same sides. Even if they were both wanting to clear Ben Long Soldier of any wrong doing in regards to the bus wreck.
Rain and Chris had stood mute as Red Ellis shot and killed the one and only horse out of the three-hundred others who stubbornly defied every attempt Ben made to tame him. Although Ben never gave up on any horse brought before him, after three weeks of trying over and over to convince the wild stallion he was only looking out for its best interest, Red made the call to put the horse down. He claimed the three weeks were a waste of Ben’s time. Time that could have been spent taming other unruly horses.

After the shooting, Ben had cremated the unfortunate horse and while the boys looked on, he had scattered its ashes to the four winds in a most solemn ceremony that left the two boys openly weeping for the slaughtered horse.

For such cruelty on Red’s part, Rain would never forgive the man.

The old rancher swung the door open, ushering Rain inside the clinic. “Ben don’t deserve to be falsely accused,” Red said, “of any-thing let alone drunk driving and motor vehicle homicide!”

Rain fell speechless for long moments as he and Red moved down the hallway toward the ER. “Homicide?” he managed to ask. “What do you mean?”

Red removed his dusty black cowboy hat. He ran slender fingers through the long strands of hair that at one time had been red, but now looked like sun-baked straw, with gray dominating the gold in his ragged curls. “The Morris boy?” he said. “Bobby? The one who broke his leg? He had a punctured artery. The snapped bone in his leg pierced it and he bled to death before they got him here.”

Rain felt dizzy. The same sick feeling that overcame him back on the bus when he’d seen Chris’s bone sticking out of his arm stole up over him. He reeled to one side of the hallway.

Red caught him before he could fall. “Whoa, son!” the old rancher said, gripping him with strong fingers. He carefully guided Rain over to a chair in the ER waiting area. “Sit yourself down there, boy.”

“Little Bobby Morris?” Rain asked, his vision blurring for several seconds. He sucked in a gulp of air. “Bled to death? He’s dead?”

“Yep,” Red said, seating himself in the chair next to Rain. “Here, take a couple of deep breaths. Maybe even put your head between your legs to steady yourself some.”

Rain shrugged Red’s gnarly hand off of the back of his neck. “No,” he said, weakly. “I’ll be okay now, just shocked me with that news. Can’t hardly believe Bobby is dead.”

Red sat there, holding his hat. “Doctor said he shouldn’t have been moved,” he said. “Says on account of him being jostled around like he was, the bleeding became more severe. Guess, Ben is taking the blame for that, as well–”

“No,” Rain whispered, finding it too hard to speak properly in his condition. “Wasn’t Ben who moved him. It was Baxster. Ben even told him to leave him alone until the ambulance could get there.”

This news seemed to annoy Red. He settled his hat back on his head and offered Rain a piercing stare with his light blue eyes. “If in that is true,” he said, “then this whole thing appears to be a snow job to set the blame on Ben. God damn! That pisses me off! You and I both know Long Soldier is a good man!”

Rain leaned back against the soft cushion of the chair. “There you go,” he muttered, softly, “with the you and I again.”

A few minutes later, Chris walked out of the ER, being careful not bump his cast against the double doors as they swung open.

Rain felt relief wash over him that his little brother seemed to be okay. There he stood almost a carbon copy of himself, small, slender, long unruly hair, only Rain’s was raven black and hung just past his shoulders, while Chris’s white-blond hair hung to his collar.

Must be on pain-killers, Rain thought as Chris walked up to him, grinning. “Want to be the first to sign my cast, Rain?” he asked.

“Sure,” Rain said, pulling himself to his feet and looking directly into Chris’s glazed yes. Yep! he thought. Someone has him all doped up! He’s feeling no pain!

Red offered Chris his seat. “Here you go, son,” the old rancher said. But Chris, much like Rain, did not care for the man on account of him killing that horse last summer.

“No, thanks, Red,” Chris said, not in total disrespect because that just wasn’t in the kid’s nature. “We’ll be leaving soon as Dad sets Sheriff Baxster straight.”

Red peered coldly at the ER doors now standing closed before them. “What did the Sheriff want with you, son?” he asked.

It wasn’t Chris who answered him, however, as Chase and Baxster came bursting out through the swinging ER doors. “All I needed was information from the kid, Chase!” growled Baxster. “So far, I’ve got Long Soldier being responsible for the crash due to his intoxication. Then there’s that Morris kid, dead because of rapid blood loss! If your boy might add something more to what happened out there, perhaps Judge Saunders won’t throw the book at the Indian come Monday morning in court!”

Chase wheeled around to face the big, brawny Sheriff, and Baxster took a step back in sudden alarm. For a moment, Rain thought his dad was going to perform an ass-whooping on the overweight Baxster. He could clearly see that Baxster thought so, too, as his hand dropped to the butt of the pistol holstered at his ample waist.

Chase glanced down at the meaty hand of Baxster as he fumbled with the strap holding his pistol in place. “Oh, knock this shit off, Clyde,” the ex-president of the Outlaws said. “I’m not a threat to you, but I can see, though, I made my point. My boys are not answering anymore of your questions.”

It was Red who caused both big men to turn the tension down a notch as he said, “Let your boys tell this redneck sum bitch what they know of this so-called accident, Chase. Any thing they can do to clear Long Soldier of wrong doing is a win in our favor.”

The lanky old cowboy gestured at Rain, saying, “Seems there’s some discrepancy over who moved the Morris kid and got his leg to bleed so badly. Maybe if this idiot of a Sheriff heard the whole story from Rain’s point of view, he might have a different take on things. Maybe even clear Long Soldier of these ridiculous charges.”

Red glanced over one bony shoulder at Rain. “Go on, tell your Dad what you told me just now, son.”

Rain opened his mouth to speak, but Chase snapped, “Not a word, Rain! Not one damned word, got it?”

“But, Dad,” Rain said, “this whole thing about Ben drinking is a lie. Ben doesn’t drink, ever. He’s been sober for ten years.”

Chase narrowed his eyes. “Rain?” he sternly said. “You and Chris get yourselves out to the car!”

He snapped his fingers and lifted one thick arm to point toward the clinic’s doors. Chris immediately walked toward the doors, but Rain stood his ground for one long minute, holding a stare down with Chase. The large ex-biker president offered his son a fiery glare, and Rain turned and followed his little brother.

As he approached Chris standing there holding one of the doors open for him, he heard Red snap, “What the hell’s your problem, Chase? Who put a bur under your saddle? Last summer you were all for my Indian working with your boys, and now look at you, refusing to help clear him of any wrong doing? Why?”

And as the doors swung closed behind them, Chris and Rain heard their dad mutter, “I’ve got my reasons, Red. Reasons that don’t concern you and your Indian.”

Chapter Seven: Wings like Eagles

Chapter Seven

Chase drove the old Chevy Impala station wagon out of their small town of Sprague, population 110. The town’s business district consisted of five buildings, three situated on the main street, and the other two sitting on two adjacent corners.

The hub of community activity took place at The Saloon, where all the local farmers spent time drinking, shooting pool, and jawing about crops, their families, and the war in Viet Nam. Old Bob, owner of the tavern, had an old black and white situated in a corner just beyond the bar, and the moment any news announcer came on its screen, the patrons of The Saloon would hush up and listen to reports about the war taking place thousands of miles away from small town Nebraska.

George Kramer, Rusty Hicks, and Big Hob Nash all had sons drafted into that war. George and Rusty were proud fathers, too, bragging up their sons’ willingness to fight for the United States Marine Corp. Big Hob Nash, however, did not condone a war that had nothing to do with America. He was not pleased that his son was being made to serve in the jungles, rice patties, and hill country of an Asian country that had been at war longer than America had been around. Hob was outspoken about his resentment, too.

“Thirty thousand lives so far,” Hob one day declared in the middle of a drinking binge, “and for what purpose? To free the South from the North? What the hell does that have to do with our boys? How many more boys have to come home in body bags before we call it a victory and get the hell out?”

Hob had sloshed beer all down the front of his bib overalls, too, as he ranted, “If my boy ends up dying over there, I’m marching up to that White House in Washington, and demanding an apology in person from that goddamned President Nixon!”

And yet on Sunday mornings, in the second largest building taking up the opposite corner of The Saloon, Hob Nash remained stoically silent as Pastor Connors led the congregation of the Sprague Methodist church in prayer, pleading with the Lord to support the troops and loudly declaring that the United States’ involvement could only lead to victory in the coming days ahead.

After most Sunday services, Big Hob could be heard spouting off about the war again in his garage located at the center of the block, with the Methodist church on the north side and The Saloon on the south side.

The other two buildings, the Sprague General Store and the old two-pump Gas station sat on adjacent corners from The Saloon.

Rain loved visiting the gas station, owned by Petey Nicks, because on Fridays when Petey went fishing down at the Bluestem, Rain and Chris were left in charge of the old two pump station, taking care of the five or six folks who pulled in there needing gas.
Chase claimed Petey Nicks was a cheap ass, because he only paid the boys in a six pack of Dr. Pepper and once in a great while Cherry flavored Goody pop. Rain and Chris didn’t care. They were in a hog heaven each Friday evening when Petey returned to close up shop. They usually drank all six bottles of cold pop as they sat on the old dusty boards of the General Store, a favorite hang out for their older brothers Outlaw biker club.

As Chase gunned the old wagon, taking them out of Sprague, the rolling farm fields passed by Rain’s sights in a blur. With summer fast approaching, those fields were dotted with farmers planting seeds on their trusty John Deer tractors. They passed by the place of the accident, and already the school bus had been hauled away by Grady in his tow truck.

Rain swiveled around in his seat to survey the badly damaged hog of Cal Roberts, but, it, too was gone. Someone had used a lot of muscle and effort to haul the mangled Harley out of the ditch, then load it up in either the back of a pickup truck or a flatbed. Rain figured the Daws and his Gladiators had picked up his brother’s bike and hauled it off to where someone would spend hours, days, and perhaps weeks, repairing the damaged beast.

Five miles down the road they passed by the Blustem, a favorite fishing spot for most local farmers. Rain and Chris had camped out there many weekends during summer breaks.

The lake made Rain think of his little brother and he said, “You should have seen Chris, Dad. He handled himself like a man, hardly cried at all with that bone sticking out of his arm. He even walked by himself up onto the roadway. It must have hurt him something awful, but Chris sucked it up and didn’t lose it like most kids would have done. You would have been proud of him.”

Chase glanced over at Rain, his hound dog eyes unreadable. “The bus crash was unfortunate, more so that Chris had to suffer for it. But I want you to be honest with me, Rain.”

Rain sat there, uncertain where his dad was going with this.

“Red Ellis called me,” Chase said, “down at the Saloon. He told me he has to post bail for Ben Long Soldier. Sheriff Butler locked him up in jail on account of him crashing that bus while driving intoxicated–”

“Bullshit, Dad!” snapped Rain, clearly agitated that Ben was being falsely accused of drunk driving. “It was Cal Robert’s who caused that wreck! He was drunk off of his ass when he swerved over in front of us! Ben lost control when he tried to avoid running his sorry ass over! I swear, that’s the truth, Dad!”

Chase glanced over at Rain, offering him a stoic, solemn look. “Not just saying that to stick up for your friend, are you?”

“Hell, no!” Rain said, adamantly. “After Cal caused the crash, he even attacked Ben with a knife. Ben simply defended himself and Cal ran when he heard Butler’s siren. Before he disappeared in Miller’s field, he threw a bottle of liquor directly through the bus window to make it look like Ben had been drinking. That’s the truth.”

Nodding, Chase said, “You best keep that truth to yourself until I get this sorted out. If Cal was to blame, Daws is gonna be gunning for anyone who can testify about what you just told me. Outlaws have enough trouble right now with the Gladiators and their allies, the Bandits, the Disciples, and the Association. Hell, one wrong word to the Angels out of Omaha, and those other four clubs will crush the Outlaws, and put an end to us.”

He drove in silence for several moments, a troubled look on his bearded, craggy face. “Things are tense right now, son” he said, quietly. “Mikey has to be careful how he treads around this. I started a precedent back in the day, and now as president of the Outlaws, Mike Shade has drawn a line, as well. That line has us crossways with the Hell’s Angels, the Italian Mob, and even the Irish. The whole thing is set to go off like a powder keg. And we certainly don’t need to set off any sparks to ignite the whole damned mess.”

Rain stared at his dad, confused. “So, what am I supposed to do?” he asked. “Keep quiet about that asshole Cal Roberts, covering for him while Ben Long Soldier takes the blame for the crash?”

Looking uncomfortable with Rain’s blunt assessment of the situation, Chase slowed for the light ahead marking the first intersection into the small town of Crete, population 1500. “Look,” he said, “I know you and Chris consider Ben your friend. In the past two summers, that Indian has taught both of you boys a lot about horses and how to handle some of the wildest of the lot. But I’ve always thought Long Soldier a little off balance, the way he talks to those horses while he’s breaking them–”

“Ben doesn’t break them,” Rain declared, heatedly. “He redirects them! He repairs the wild in them, inviting them to reinvent themselves. To become different in a particular way, without permanently changing their essence or characteristics. He offers them to switch from one mind-set to another. Ben harnesses the wild in them, asking them to lay it aside while he transforms them, using powerful medicine to still the whirlwind within them!”

Flicking on the signal to make a right into the clinic parking lot ahead, Chase remained silent, aware that Rain was glaring at him not at all liking the fact he was being told to stand down from helping his friend.

“Oh, I get it,” Rain said. “Let the drunk Indian take the blame, right? Because everyone will believe that story, that Ben Long Soldier was drunk as a skunk while driving the school bus! That just ain’t right, and you know it, Dad!”

Wings like Eagles: Chapter Six

Chapter Six

The three Outlaws pulled up beside the Sprague General store and Rain angrily leaped off of Doug’s bike and strode over to the dusty old porch. While the thunder of the three Harleys slowly faded, Rain firmly planted his butt on the rickety wooden bench situated there and looked squarely at Doug.

“That wasn’t fair!” he said. “Ben wasn’t drinking! Cal was! And he tossed his bottle through the window of the bus to make it look bad for Ben! How would Grady even know alcohol was involved, unless Cal told him when he called his tow service? The whole thing was a setup!”

Doug was about to respond to his little brother’s tirade, but it was then that Mike slipped his kick stand down, dismounted his Harley, and walked over to Denny. “Get off your bike,” he said, flatly.

“Why?” Denny asked, defiantly.

Mike glowered and glanced over at Doug. “Because,” Doug said, “he doesn’t want you dumping your beast in the street, you fool.”

Denny shook back the tangles of raven hair, stuck out his chin in a show of obstinance, and said, “You gonna hit me for not backing down from Daws and his bullshit?”

“No,” Mike said, coldly. “I am gonna hit you for not shutting your mouth when I told you to.”

Stubbornly refusing to get off his bike, Denny snapped, “Go for it, then! Take your best shot!”

Without hesitating, Mike Shade let loose with a swift round house punch, his knuckles slamming into Denny’s startled face, sending blood spurting from his torn bottom lip.

From his place on the porch, Rain winced as he watched the brutal assault take its toll on the wiry form of Denny. Staggered by the blow, he planted his booted feet on the gravel-covered street, but finding no purchase, his boots slid out from under him and Denny began to topple over, his heavy bike destined to crash to the street.

Rain sprang up off the porch, and leaned into his falling brother, lending him just enough support to gain his balance and replant his boots firmly on the ground. Managing to keep the Harley upright, Denny grinned at Rain.

Blood pouring from his split lip, he said, “Thanks, little brother. I owe you one.”

Rain then found himself in the grasp of Mike who towered over him by a good three feet. “And you!” Mike growled down into his face. “What in hell did you think you were doing by defying me?”

“Sticking up for a friend!” Rain said, his skinny frame lifted so high by Mike that his tennies left the ground.

“Well,” Mike said, angrily, “do you think your friend is worth taking a beating for? Don’t think I am going to ignore the defiance you showed me out there, you little ass hole.”

He released Rain with one hand, holding it up very near his face, imitating the hand gesture Rain had performed so obstinately out there on the highway. “And if this don’t bring tears to your eyes,” he said, slapping him hard upside his head. “Then this surely will!”

He doubled up his fist preparing to deliver a solid punch to his face. “Mike,” Doug said, so quietly, that the other three looked over at him, surprised that he had spoken. “Enough. Rain got the point you were trying to make. Why don’t you back off a bit now. Or how am I going to explain the bruise you leave to my Pops?”

Mike froze, holding Rain up by the front of his wife beater, his fist cocked and ready to throw his punch. “I ain’t afraid of your old man!” he snarled, annoyed that Doug dared interfere in his business.

“You should be,” Denny said, spitting out a thick stream of blood.

Mike lifted Rain a few more inches off the ground, leaving just the tips of his tennies dangling there in the gravel. “This is gang business, stupid sons of bitches,” he growled, fiercely. “Chase would understand the discipline I must apply to keep you guys in–”

“Denny’s split lip,” Doug said, nodding, “Yeah. But Rain doesn’t even belong to the Outlaws. Pummeling him, would not sit well with Pops. I’d think that through before leaving a mark on his face.”

Shrugging, Mike said, “Fine. I’ll just plant one on his chest. It’ll be up to him to cover it up until the bruise fades.”

Slowly, Doug slipped down his kick stand.

“No,” he said, solemnly. “I think you’re done with Rain.”

Mike flung Rain away from him, sending him stumbling, tripping, and then clumsily falling, the palms of his hands creating deep fur-rows in the gravel-covered street as he attempted to break his fall.

Doug was off his bike, and stood ready for Mike to attack him. Mike lumbered toward him, his massive fists clenched tightly at his sides. Rain pulled himself to his feet, staring at his oldest brother in disbelief. This was unheard of under normal circumstances. Mike was president, and not one of the sixty-some members of the Outlaws ever defied him. Doug was clearly out of line, and Rain knew it was on account of him that his brother was drawing a line in the sand.
And Rain wasn’t certain Doug could meet the fury of Mike Shade, and still survive without getting seriously hurt.

“You’re just pissed,” Denny said, spitting another stream of blood from his mouth, “because of Daws’s threat, ain’t you, Mike? I’ve never seen you cow to no one before, and now that Daws Roberts brought up this threat to call the Nomad, he’s got everyone of us on edge. I say we call his bluff on his stupid phone call shit. I said it before, we should call church with the Angels out of Omaha, let them settle this and deal with Daws and his constant threat he keeps throwing in our face!”

Still intent on fighting Doug, Mike stepped closer to him, his fists slowly rising to start the exchange of blows they would soon rain down on each other.

To Rain’s dismay, Doug wasn’t backing down. He dropped into a fighter’s stance, his own fists raised, a spooky calm look in his eyes.

“Wait!” Rain cried out, placing himself between the two bigger guys. “This ain’t right! You’re gonna fight on account of me–”

“Out of my way!” Mike snarled, grabbing onto Rain’s skinny shoulders and flinging him to one side. He stepped up closer to Doug, a fierce rage in his heated gaze.

“This,” Denny said, “ain’t just about you, Rain. This has been building for quite some time. Mike and Doug need to settle this.”

Denny, uncertain himself about the outcome of a fight between his brother and the notorious Mike Shade, said, “Instead of putting a hurt on each other, let’s just push Daws and let him make his phone call. Save your wrath for dealing with that crazy bastard when he comes!”

Mike and Doug inched closer to each other, neither one taking his eyes off of each other, both fully prepared to go at it.

“There will be plenty of wrath left,” Mike growled, “when this is over! So just shut the hell up about this Nomad!”

He then let loose with a flurry of rapid-fire punches, which Doug effectively deflected. On Mike’s last swing, Doug blocked him with his left hand, and his right hand shot out, striking the startled Outlaw president directly on his chin.

Furious that Doug had plowed through his guard, Mike snarled a string of red-hot curses at him and attacked with renewed fury.

“Boys!” came from the doorway of the Sprague tavern across the street. “Knock that shit off!