Chapter Nine: Wings like Eagles

Chapter Nine

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.”

 

 

 

 

 

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!”