Outside in the clinic’s parking lot, Rain actually offered his injured little brother shotgun for once, refusing to claim it in light of Chris’s broken arm. He had even closed his door for him, then taken his place in the back seat, and out of reach of Chase’s swat in case he decided Rain needed one for his defiance inside the clinic.
Not one word was spoken by any of the three on the drive back to the small town pf Sprague. The two brothers sighed in relief when Chase stopped the car in front of the driveway and without saying a word, gestured toward the wrap-around porch of their two-story wood frame house situated on two wide lots.
Rain climbed out of the car, opening the front door for Chris. He helped him out, being careful not to bump his cast on the door as he exited the front seat. Both boys froze as Chase cleared his throat. “You boys do your chores,” he said. “I’m heading down to the fire pit to prepare it for church tonight.”
Rain said, “Dad, could we sit in on church? That way we’ll understand why we have to keep our mouths shut about the bus crash.”
Chase looked over at both boys, his eyes softening slightly. “You know better, Rain. Church is club business, not yours. See to your brother. Get him some aspirin as I imagine that arm is going to be throbbing soon. Let Bandit out. Later, I’ll take you boys down to the Bluestem for some late night fishing. I’ll explain things to you then.”
Chase then drove the car into the driveway, past the Nelson house, and continued down into the wide, open field where the large stone fire pit was situated.
As Rain and Chris reached the porch, Chris said, “That was ballsy, asking Dad about us attending church, my brother.”
“It was a fair request,” Rain told him as he opened the front screen door, “someone has to let us know why we can’t even tell the truth about that damned bus crash.”
He ushered Chris inside and added, “Besides, when Dad’s being so secretive, it would take someone with balls as big as mine to confront him and get to the bottom of this bullshit.”
Chris burst out laughing. “You?” he snorted. “The last time I knew you were using two peanut shells and a rubber band for a jock strap!”
Rain grinned and said, “You’re lucky your arm is broken, or I would kick your ass!”
When they entered the kitchen they found Bandit, the family’s black rat terrier seated on the lap of Cal Roberts.
Cal sat there in a chair, one hand holding the small dog by the scruff of his neck, while in the other hand he held a knife up to the shivering dog’s throat.
Chris bolted forward. “You creepy bastard!” he cried even as Rain stepped in front of him and blocked his path. “No, Chris,” he said.
He used one arm to keep Chris in place. “What are you doing in our house?” he asked. “What the hell do you want with us?”
Bandit began to squirm, wanting nothing more than to greet the two boys, but Cal took a firmer hold on the back of the little terrier’s neck, causing it to yelp as he clamped down hard.
“Stop that!” Rain demanded. “You got something to say to us, then do it! Just leave our dog out of it!”
“Knock off the tough guy shit, kid,” Cal said. “Say one more thing that offends me, I will cut this mutt’s head clean off. Understood?”
“Yes!” Chris sobbed as he buried his tear-streaked face against Rain’s back and leaned into him for support. “Just please don’t hurt our dog. Please, leave our dog out of this.”
Seated there looking like a homicidal maniac, Cal Roberts started to make chopping motions toward Bandit with his long hunting knife. “Now listen closely to what I got to say,” he said. “This smelly mutt lives or dies, depending on how you react.”
Chris raised his head, looking up and over Rain’s left shoulder. “We haven’t said anything to no one,” he sobbed, his voice catching with a hitch on his last word.
“Good,” Cal said, planting the sharp edge of his knife directly on Bandit’s neck. “You boys keep your mouths shut about this whole damned wreck. So far, the blame for this crash has settled quite nicely on that Indian’s shoulders. Since alcohol was involved, he’s looking at an automatic ten year prison sentence, but now that the Morris kid died, he’s gonna be nailed with a lot longer term.”
Rain felt Chris’s hot breath blowing on his shoulder as he leaned against him. He heard a quiet sniffle come from him, as well. He wanted to rip that knife out of Cal’s hands and plunge it into his heart for threatening to kill Bandit with it, but he knew he didn’t stand a chance against the bearded loon in the chair.
Instead, he said, “We haven’t told Baxster about your involvement. Our dad refused to let us. So, you’re wasting your time out here. Just put our dog down and leave. If Dad finds you sitting in our kitchen with a knife to our dog’s throat, you won’t leave here alive.”
Cal frowned at this. “You mouthy little bastard! I warned you about lipping off to me!”
With that, he placed the tip of his knife against the side of Bandit’s head. The dog whined, but remained still as stone in the biker’s grasp.
“No!” wailed Chris. “Please, don’t hurt Bandit! Please! Please!”
Cal froze, the knife in his grasp an inch away from Bandit’s right eye. “It’s not Chase I am worried about,” he said. “He knows better than to incriminate me. He’s well aware of the consequences of such actions. It’s you two little punks that could sink my ship, and I am just making sure you’ll know better than to do such a thing.”
The grungy biker glanced over one shoulder, shooting a wary look at the open back screen door. From where they were standing at the center of the kitchen, both Rain and Chris could see the door, as well. All three of them stared for a moment at the sight of Chase three hundred yards past the door as he loaded logs onto a pile at the center of the fire pit.
Lowering his voice, Cal said, “Let me give you boys a little history lesson on the notorious Chase Nelson.”
Rain and Chris stood there, their brows furrowed in concentration as Cal related facts they knew nothing about in regards to their dad.
“At 16 years of age,” Cal said, “Chase started the Outlaws out of Lincoln, Nebraska, in the small suburb of Havelock. He built a solid crew of five members that grew to twenty, then thirty, until they branched out with chapters in forty small towns throughout Nebraska.
“Chase ruled his fellow club members with an iron hand, too. He incorporated rules that other bike clubs would never abide by. Besides dealing harshly with members who beat their old ladies, he also forbid his crew to bum rush a single rival biker, demanding one-on-one terms to settle disputes.”
Cal grinned as he said, “Your dad drove all the way out to Fort Robinson in the western part of the state to deal with some hot head who put his woman in the hospital. Drove out there all alone and put that guy in a world of hurt, placing him in his own hospital bed for failing to abide by your dad’s rules.”
Chris said, “Why you telling us this? Just let my dog go. We’ll still listen to you, just let Bandit go, without hurting him, Cal.”
The biker shook his shaggy maned head, saying, “You’ll pay better attention to me so long as I am holding your dog.”
Narrowing his eyes, the bearded biker pretended to saw on Bandits neck, holding the blade of his knife an inch away from the dog’s throat as he continued to tell the boys his story. “Long time back, Chase set a precedent. He rode solo into Angel territory up in Omaha to have a sit-down with the president of the Nebraska chapter. Chase asked him to leave Sprague, Crete, Martell and Wilber out of the loop in his state-wide network of dealing heavy drugs in the four small towns. While marijuana was the cash cow of the day, Chase argued that more powerful drugs such as coke, heroin, speed and acid posed a certain danger to those who used them frequently. Chase told the Angel president that despite the fact that he and his club members smoked weed, he didn’t allow his members to use the stronger drugs let alone sell them to make money.
“The president of the Hell’s Angels strongly disagreed with Chase. Although he respected the guts it took for Chase to ride solo into Omaha to plead his case for his drug-free policy in his little domain, he wouldn’t agree to his terms.
“So, Chase turned things up a notch by having a sit-down with the head of the Irish mob. Surprisingly, the leader of the Irish called for yet a third sit-down on the matter. At that table were members of a number of biker clubs, the Association, the Gladiators, the Guardians, and the Screaming Eagles.
“The leaders laughed at Chase’s objections to the stronger drugs. The Eagles said it was worse than prohibition to have such a stipulation on where they could sell their chemicals. So Chase challenged anyone of the leaders to a one-on-one fight to win his case. Our old man, then president of the Guardians accepted, and the fight was held in an old barn west of Omaha. Your dear old dad won that fight, and the Irish granted him that the four small towns would deemed a no-man’s land as far as the sale of these stronger drugs were concerned.”