At a sudden noise behind him, Cal shot a hasty look over one shoulder. Rain and Chris looked past him to see several bikes pulling onto the vacant lot. Mike, Doug, Denny and the bikers riding in behind them all nodded cordially to Chase standing before a roaring blaze in the center of the field.
“You done now?” Rain asked, causing Cal to look back around, a bit of panic in his eyes. “If anyone of those guys found out you were sitting here in our kitchen holding our dog hostage with a knife–”
“You,” Cal said, “ain’t heard the best part of the story yet.”
With the knife still pointed at Rain, Cal clamping down on Bandit to keep him from squirming in his lap.
“You see,” he said, “since the Vietnam war started, drugs have been making the mob very rich. Speed, acid, coke, heroin, and magic shrooms. Ever seen a farm boy whose got nothing better to do than ride his tractor around plowing up fields? Add a pill or blow to hun-dreds of bored farm boys and pretty soon you’ve got thousands of farm boys looking to you for that next high. It’s spread like wildfire through the state, and with biker clubs distributing it, the Irish and the Angels share in the wealth.”
Cal chuckled, raising his knife slightly so that the tip was only two feet away from Rain’s chest. He jabbed at Rain with his knife, sternly saying, “I am a major player in these sales, so in order for me to stay in that position, both of you need to keep your damned mouths shut about the bus wreck. Understood?”
“Yes,” Chris said, nodding vigorously. Rain, however, glanced up over Cal’s shoulder, his eyes focusing on the back screen door.
At once, Cal also glanced back, alarmed by the wide-eyed look in Rain’s eyes.
It was at that moment that Rain snatched up the large cast-iron frying pan situated on the front burner of the nearby stove. He then brought it around in a full swing, catching Cal in the side of his head with the flat bottom of the heavy pan.
The knife in Cal’s grasp tumbled to the floor and Bandit sprang off his lap. While Chris kneeled down to comfort the squirming little terrier, Rain raised the iron pan for a second swing, but Cal simply slid from the chair and collapsed in an unconscious heap in the mid-dle of the kitchen floor.
Chris gasped, “Geeshus, Rain! You killed him!”
Rain said, “He’s just out cold, Chris. I whacked him pretty hard.”
Bandit excitedly fidgeted beneath Chris’s free hand, whining and carrying on in appreciation of being freed from the biker. Chris continued to comfort the dog, while Rain gathered up an old clothesline from the back porch and tied Cal up with his feet and hands pulled up snug against his back while he lay face down on the kitchen floor.
“Rain,” Chris asked, “what are we going to do with him?”
Straining to pull the plastic coated wire of the clothesline snug and tight, Rain grunted through clenched teeth, “Wait until church is over, then tell Dad we got a trussed pig laying on the kitchen floor.”
After letting Bandit outside in the front yard to pee, Rain and Chris decided they had as much right to hear what was being said at church as any Outlaw did. In fact, they had more rights to listen in for they were the ones being forced to remain silent about the real cause of the bus crash.
Putting a leash on Bandit and checking one last time on Cal still out cold on the kitchen floor, Rain led the way over into Mister Weston’s backyard which lay adjacent to the field where the council fire burned bright against the night sky. Once the boys snuck into their elderly neighbor’s yard, they crept along the thick hedges there blocking them from the view of the crowd occupying the field.
At the edge of the yard, Rain plowed a pathway through the tightly clustered bushes there and opened a clear walkway for Chris to pass through. He did so, following behind his brother, holding the cast on his left arm high to avoid snagging it on branches. In his right hand, he held tight to Bandit’s leash, pulling the small dog along behind him.
Rain went on ahead and was forced to belly-crawl another ten feet to a stockade fence bordering the field. If he’d simply walked across the open ground, there was a good chance that someone in the field would have spotted him.
Chris hesitated, lifting his heavy cast to indicate he was going to have a difficult time maneuvering across the wet grass on his belly. Rain crawled back, told Chris to lay on his back, and proceeded to pull him across the open ground by slipping his hands under his arm pits. In this way, the boys managed to remain unseen as they took cover behind the stockade fence. Rain pointed at Bandit, and the dog scurried across the open ground so low to the ground that he, too, remained undetected.
There, only twenty yards from the huge fire, both boys found peep holes in the rotten boards of the fence and settled onto their knees to watch and listen to the proceedings as the Outlaws attended church.
Chase Nelson stood between the fire and the gathering of sixty-some club members seated in lawn chairs or log seats.
“You all know me,” Chase said, his voice carrying across the field. “You all know I have always taken a hard-line to these drugs that thousands of fools snort or inject. I don’t have a problem with weed, but I do have a problem with these hard-core life-wreckers that our rival clubs are making gobs of green on. This drug trade is only going to get worse. Drugs are going to be the ruin of our country one day.”
He glanced over at Mike and said, “So far, Mike here has taken the same stance in regards to these stronger drugs, out of respect for me. He had to make a statement, too. He beat the hell out of some dealer in Crete. Had he known at the time when he caught the poor smuck selling blow in Crete, that he had the backing of the Angels, Mike would not have fractured the guy’s skull.
“When word got to them that Mike had made such a mistake, he and I rode up to Omaha to have a sit-down with the Angels and the Irish. I have strong ties with the Irish, and they forgave him, but not the Angels. They gave Mike a serious beating, leaving me as former president of the Outlaws, a firm warning. The Angels in Omaha told us just one more phone call reporting any more interference with their drug deals, and they would send some maniac known as the Nomad down here to clean house on the Outlaws.”
He turned toward the fire and grimaced as he said, “Daws Roberts was at this meeting and he was assigned the role of watchdog on the Outlaws. One phone call from him and the Nomad shows up here.”
It was Denny who spoke up then, saying, “A single man is supposed to put fear into the Outlaws? Let Daws make his call, we’ll deal with this Nomad when he gets here.”
Chase peered hard at Denny, then scanned the faces of the crowd gathered before him. “This Nomad,” he said, “is notorious in Callie, where he took out an entire gang, killing them one by one. He first started on their president. Later, his crew found him with his balls in his mouth for shock effect. So, if you don’t want this maniacal killer paying us a visit, we need to keep the peace between the Outlaws and the Guardians.”
He paused, then added, “I just thought you boys should know about the trouble we could be facing.”
A loud commotion carried across the field. Some club members were angry at the threat, especially when it depended on Daws Roberts to make the call that could send hell’s fury their way. Others were slightly unnerved by the fact that a cold-blooded psychopath might be stalking them.
Doug and Mike got into an argument, and Denny and three other hard-cores backed Doug. Seven more members extremely loyal to Mike supported him, and as the shouting match between Doug and Mike continued, Chase shook his head, and started across the field toward the house.