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!