For a kid with such low self-esteem, Lucas was feeling quite good about himself as they exited the church of the Den. Johnny’s reactions to finding his dogs inside his van was priceless.
As he dosed each of the dogs with attention, he said, “Rules were broken to even allow you in church. And the diplomatic skills you showed maneuvering your uncle into that deal over his dog. If some ghostly scribe is keeping track of biker history somewhere beyond the clouds, I’m sure his ink was barely dry on the page when you whipped out those hundred dollar bills, bringing Dom’s fight to the council table. And to garner the support of Gypsy and those other Den members? Amazing, kid, simply amazing!”
Most of his life Lucas had put up with his dad’s constant belittling, figuring that it just came with the territory of being the son of a biker president. Anytime he got into trouble at home or at school, Lucas knew he had coming whatever punishment his dad dealt out to him. Stone certainly had no parenting skills, nor was he the nurturing type, and yet very rarely did he lay a hand on him. He was not abusive, but still, he did a lot psychological damage addressing his son’s behavior problems with angry tirades that rolled around inside of Lucas’s head for days afterwards.
Lucas often sat in school, listening to his fellow classmates complaining about a scolding they received from their parents. Yeah, he thought, boo hoo! Try these words on, you big cry babies! Twisted. Mental. Wrongly wired. Stupid. Retarded. Betcha never hear that coming from your mom or dad. Happens all the time at my house. My dad is a real motivational speaker when he wants to be!
Lucas had never had anyone talk so positively about him like Johnny did. For a moment he was rendered silent, unable to speak as he fought hard to harness his emotions. “Thanks,” he finally managed to say, turning his head so Johnny couldn’t see how red his face was turning at such high praise. “Just did it for Dom.”
Kneeling in the back of the van, Johnny laughed. “And no dog had a better advocate for his cause, Lucas. You did good, kid.”
Bummer nosed Johnny’s left hand, while Talon wormed his way beneath his right one. Ghost, the black chow, simply barged his way in between the other two dogs to get his due attention. Johnny hugged each one, then turned to exit through the open side door.
Mace approached the van, carrying Goblin. “Can’t find a place for the pup on my bike. I was wondering if you might cart him to your house. I’ll pick him up later in my truck, son.”
Readjusting the pit puppy in his grasp, Mace glanced over at Lucas and added, “You seem to be inclined to pick up strays, right?”
Johnny climbed out of the van, closing the door behind him. He turned to take Goblin from his dad. “Sure. He can ride shotgun with Lucas. Where you headed now, Dad?”
Mace watched Johnny hand Goblin over to Lucas seated in the passenger’s seat inside the van. “Heading out to the dog compound to make sure the boys have a welcoming party set up in case any of these damned terrorists follow through with their sick plan.”
Upon seeing Gypsy walking toward Johnny’s van parked along the side street, Mace turned to leave. “See you later, Johnny Boy.”
Johnny quietly said, “Yeah, see you, Dad.”
He turned to face Gypsy as he walked up to the van. The warlord said, “You made it clear that Lucas has been placed in your custody while Stone is locked up. Now let me make this clear, the Den is parking an RV in your driveway in the next ten minutes. We are posting two club members inside for a 24/7 watch on Lucas. Anything less with this threat by Crow, and Stone will take it personal that the Den did not take this seriously enough. Agreed?”
Johnny said, “Fine by me. Although I have three dogs and a 9 mil pistol that would put a damper on any plans Crow Harper had for Lucas. I won’t let anything happen to him while he’s in my custody.”
Gypsy said, “No offense, Writer, but aren’t these the same dogs Nate stole from your place? I like my security detail better.”
Lucas peered over Goblin’s head. “Thanks, Gypsy. Bodyguards greatly appreciated. And that was cool of you in church.”
Gypsy nodded soberly. “You’re not the only one who loves dogs, Little Luke. If I had my way, I’d wrap Uncle Nate in bacon and throw him into the fight ring this Saturday night!”
On the drive back over to Johnny’s house, Lucas peered over Goblin’s head, eye-balling Johnny. “You have a 9 mil? What does a writer like you need with a gun like that?”
“That,” Johnny said, “is a long story.”
Lucas planted his chin on Goblin’s head and said, “I’m listening.”
Johnny said, “It all started on my tenth Birthday. Mine was July 9th. My best friend, Tommy Wolfe’s was July 4th. Our moms used to have our parties together. They invited about a hundred kids so Tom-my and I would get a ton of presents. Sweet deal, right?”
“And this has to do with why you have a gun?” Lucas asked.
“Getting to that,” Johnny said. “On our tenth Birthday, I got a bow and arrow. Tom bet me that I couldn’t hit a running target. He ran. I fired. And I hit him on the nose! He screamed like an Irish Banshee! His dad broke my bow over his knee, and ended our friendship.”
Lucas gave a chuckle. “That sucks.”
Nodding, Johnny said, “Not as bad as what Tommy Wolfe pulled ten years later. I grew up to be a drug counselor. He grew up to be a drug dealer. He got busted one night for breaking into a pharmacy. He gave the arresting officer my name and my date of birth. When he didn’t show up for court, they put out an arrest warrant on—”
“On you?” Lucas asked in disbelief. “No way!”
“Oh, yeah,” Johnny said. “Luckily, Captain Jake of the Narco squad knew me from my youth work. He personally walked me up to the City Prosecutors office. I was given the prosecutor’s card to use in case I was ever stopped. I had to use that card several times after that. Captain Jake suggested I get a pair of handcuffs, go out on the street, and track Tom Wolfe down. His exact words were, ‘Cuff him to a telephone pole! Call us! We’ll come and get him!’”
He laughed. “I got a pair of cuffs, but never did find Wolfe. But I met a lot of major dealers in my search. I even met the partner of a murdered narc named Kelly Drake. Her partner shared with me the whole story of her unsolved murder. Later, I wrote a book about her. Well, one night I got a call from a guy who said, ‘The bastards who killed that narc may come looking for you one day. If you don’t have a gun, I suggest you get one!’”
Lucas took several moments to mull this over, then said, “That’s why you have a gun, right?”
Johnny let out a long sigh. “Yeah. My dad, an Irishman to the core, claims this whole story is like a Celtic Hoop, one strand of fate inter-weaves with another strand, and like a snake chasing its tail, it keeps circling back to impact my life.”
Lucas thought about it some more, and finally concluded, “Great story, though. Too bad it had to be true.”
Johnny laughed. “Too bad I was such a good shot with that bow. If I had missed, none of those other things would have happened.”