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Monday Edition


A Quick Ride to Nowhere

By Karl Skanlan with images by Bob T.

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The Harley was truly at home on the highway. The combination of the torquey, low-revving, four-stroke engine, and the low slung riding position, made for an almost perfect traveling machine. Karl installed a set of “highway pegs” that enabled him to stretch his legs out in front when he had a long stretch of road ahead of him. He opted not to install forward shifting and brake controls for handling purposes around town. He knew that the stock controls would enable him to throw the bike around in tight situations. A set of drag racing style handlebars, mounted on 10-inch risers, sat atop the front forks. The handlebars were wider than actual drag bars, again, to help with handling. They were about the width of Karl’s shoulders.

The seat was also a custom job. The manufacturer of the seat had dubbed it the “Gunfighter.” The bike was carefully customized, piece-by-piece, inch-by-inch, to fit Karl’s frame and riding style. When he rode on the highway, he felt like a jet fighter pilot in an F-16. With his hands sitting on the handlebars almost directly in front of his shoulders, and his legs tucked in alongside the cylinders of the engine, he felt like he was flying. All of his senses were heightened when he rode. He could hear, see, smell, and feel everything intensely.

Karl made a NASCAR style gas stop at a station on the outskirts of town. He was in and out in less than 5 minutes. He immediately hit the interstate and rolled on the throttle hard. After 30 minutes he backed the throttle down to an almost legal speed, so as not to draw attention to himself. He realized that probably very soon every cop in the state would be looking out for him, so he got off the interstate altogether and began to traverse the smaller back roads.

He was familiar with the desert and knew many roads that only served to connect ranching country. Some went for hundreds of miles, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Hopefully, he would not be noticed. He was nervous, almost paranoid, and constantly swept his gaze from side to side, looking for any sign of a police car or a motorcycle. His shoulder ached where the knife had opened the skin and cut to the bone, and he used his left hand to lift the collar of his coat and glanced down at it. It was not serious, and the bleeding seemed stopped, but he would give it some attention sooner or later--probably later. He was more pissed off about the damage to his coat than to his skin. The old leather jacket had been through a lot, and it was getting old and faded, but it had been well cared for and still had a few miles left in it. The coat fit Karl like a second skin, and he knew that good leathers were hard to find, and expensive.

Shoulda shoved that fucking knife up that old boys ass……Karl thought to himself.

As he rode, he began to relax. He decided that…fuck it…..if they catch me, they catch me, I have to think. First of all, why had the Skulls come for him? He had no doubt that they had planned to do him serious harm. He could tell that much by their demeanor and their reputation, so he had no remorse for doing what he did. He was just defending himself, but why? Did that cop set him up somehow? What the hell would he do that for? Nothing seemed to fit together. The entire club would be after him now, and they had eyes and contacts far and wide.

That shithead Deangelo had told him to call him if he had any contact with the Skulls, and you could bet this morning would qualify. Karl rode on, through the desert, thinking. He stopped for another tank of gas around noon, and picked up a sandwich from the deli from one of those gas station, mini-mart, restaurant, gift store, etc. conglomerates that seem to be everywhere nowadays. He felt suspicious of everyone he encountered. He knew he needed more distance before he would be comfortable.

He rode all day. The wind blew his mind clean. Sometimes he would let his mind go blank, and just relax. Other times he would feel himself getting worked up over the events of the last couple of days. Sometimes he dreamed. The bike didn’t care, it just churned along as if it could go on forever.

Dusk began to set in. The bike wanted to keep going, but Karl was weary. He stopped in a small town and purchased a couple of beers and a gallon of water. Another 10 miles down the road he found a dirt road that led out to a ranch somewhere far out of sight. He located a small gully out of sight of the road and pulled the bike in and parked it behind some desert bushes. The sun was just beginning to disappear and he watched a spectacular sunset while he built a small fire, just for company. He drank his beers, and stared into the embers of the fire until late at night. His mind was in turmoil. He knew he had to wait until the answers began to come to him. He decided that until they did, he would just continue to ride.

Dawn came early, the sun peeking over the horizon as if to ask, “Are you up yet?” Karl arose from his sleeping bag, feeling a little weary from the long ride the day before, but somewhat refreshed. He needed a cup of coffee.

Half an hour later he sat on a small picnic table outside of a ranching fuel co-op with a cup of java, taking in the morning sun. He still didn’t know what he was going to do, so it was back on the bike. He rode all day once again. He tried to stay off the larger roadways as much as possible, constantly keeping to smallest back roads. He passed through small towns, and even passed a couple of local cops, but none seemed to be interested in him. He began to wonder if the events of the last few days had been a dream, but his sore shoulder was a constant reminder of the reality of the situation.

In fact, every police station in the country had been faxed his picture and description.

He was many hundreds of miles away from where he had started, and he found himself heading up into the mountains. So he continued to ride, and that evening he ended up finding another small campsite, this time in a grove of huge sequoia trees in a mountain area. He was burned out on thinking, and tired. He crawled into the old sleeping bag shortly after dusk and slept like a dead man, with the smell of pine trees in the air. The next morning when he awoke he had the answer sitting right in front of his mind.

He would go back. He would just go back, pack up his stuff, and move the hell away from there. There was no other way about it. Maybe it was suicide, but maybe it would go down like nothing. He might just ride in, pack up, and take off. Never hear from anyone about this bullshit again.

In the back of his mind, Karl had little doubt that there was no way he was going to be able to roll up to his house, load up the truck and head out. The Skulls would be looking for him, and he knew that he had probably just been getting lucky the last couple of days, not getting jacked by the cops. He knew damn well that, by now, Frank Deangelo probably had an APB out on him (and he was right on that score). By the time he got within city limits, either the cops or the Skulls would get to him. It was just a question of which one would get him first. But what else was there to do? If it were only the Skulls that he had to worry about, then he would just re-locate and fuck them.

Karl still didn’t know what their problem was to begin with. But the cops was another matter. He wasn’t delusional. Anywhere he went, there would be police, and eventually he would have to answer to them. So far, he couldn’t see as they had a lot on him. He had no connection to the Skulls, that was just some bullshit that Deangelo dreamed up, and Karl tended to believe that even Deangelo himself didn’t really believe it. Karl felt that the fight was self-defense. The Skulls were armed, and they had a reputation for starting shit. Karl had struck first, but only because he knew that if he didn’t, he probably had no chance of leaving the gas station alive.

Now, did he believe that the cops would see it that way? He didn’t know, but he DID know that he wasn’t about to spend the rest of his life worrying about getting pulled over for speeding or something, and end up in prison. That was not his way. There was nothing else to do but go back and play it by ear. He figured that before he got anywhere near his house, he would have to deal with the Skulls or the cops, and one would lead to the other. But hey, maybe not, maybe nobody gave a damn about his ass. He made a deal with himself: if he made it to his house, loaded up his stuff, and left town un-molested, then by God he would just keep going, fuck ‘em all. But he knew that there was little chance of that happening.

He strapped the sleeping bag and small tent back onto the bike. He had a long ride ahead of him. Karl fired up the bike and headed for the nearest coffee. Time to go face the music.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, as it were………

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