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Thursday Edition


Trying to Find His Way

By K. Randall "Bandit" Ball

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Chopper Charlie was in a jam, he knew it. He stepped into too many dark alleys with the wrong guys. He told his old lady to pack everything she owned into her Buick Roadmaster station wagon and get ready to split.

Melanie did as she was told. A tiny, bubbly thing, as cute as a button, she stood by her man unless another man came along. Charlie wasn’t a big guy, maybe 5’8” but he curled 50-pound dumbbells and bench-pressed over 300 pounds. With skinny legs, tight biceps and a barrel chest, he worked in the back of a notorious bike shop run by a four-man 1%er club called the Question Marks.

With a thick mop of curly short amber hair, Charlie was on a mission to make something of his life, but he didn’t know how, as he cleaned the little machine shop for the last time. He knew the shit was gonna fly. The brothers were about to turn on one another and he would be smack in the middle.

The shop, located on the edge of downtown Daytona Beach was just a couple of blocks from the old Robinson’s Harley-Davidson brick building. The factory recently pulled the franchise. The dealership, one of the last remaining old school franchises hadn’t invested in the gentrification process. Times changed rapidly and they didn’t want to have anything to do with the costly upgrades.

The clubber shop down the street handled the chopper riff-raff and local FXR riders. Unfortunately, the 1%er club for the region was all Outlaws M/C and they didn’t cotton to any other 1%ers in the area. These four guys dodged a Hells Angel takeover in California and escaped to Florida. That wasn’t exactly the best choice. They could have lit in any number of low-population states in the Midwest without a problem.

Something about Daytona called to brothers all over the north who wanted action and fewer cold climes. It also called to brothers who never experienced beaches, ocean front and chopper life aside from Hollywood. Daytona, a strange place lured lots of brothers, who quickly picked up on the drug scene, the slimy streets, the bugs and humidity. It wasn’t Miami.

There was nothing slick about Daytona, except the race track, and the car crowd stayed mostly in Orlando. The houses in Daytona were cheap, run-down and rented by drug addicts. His girl, Melanie, abandoned by her addicted mom belonged to one of the four members. He kicked her out and she was glad. He was the most violent of the bunch and took it out on her on a regular basis.

She smiled and packed her meager belongings in the car she inherited from her dead mom, the drug whore from Oakland, who was never really her mom. She timidly returned to the Bay Area, picked up the car, paperwork, signed for it and split with just enough funds to drive completely across the country to the east coast to have her ass handed to her. Fatbob didn’t want her to own anything, so he would have absolute control. She had to go. There was always another stripper, or homeless drug addict he could torture.

She lived in the car for two weeks until Charlie, riding his high-bar flathead noticed her and offered her a place to stay. She immediately crawled into his bed and they became an item.

A week later, Bondo Juan, one of the four, the skinny Hispanic called Charlie to the front counter. “Fatbob wants to talk to you,” Juan said and handed Charlie the phone.

“Yeah,” Charlie said.

“Don’t give me that bullshit,” Fatbob said and petted one of his angry pitbulls. “Are you fucking my girl?”

“You kicked her out,” Charlie returned. “She was living in her car.”

“I don’t give a fuck if she was living in a dumpster,” Fatbob said. “She’s mine. You’re toast if you don’t send her home.” The short round clubber didn’t want her back. He was just fucking with Charlie because he could. He also chose to fuck with anything legit the club did. They were supposed to be outlaws, always living on the lam, stealing, taking money from strippers or selling drugs.

The phone went dead and Charlie set it back in the cradle. Bondo Juan, who was somewhat dark skinned with long wavy hair and little facial hair except for a dark soul patch under his lower lip, looked at young Charlie and lifted an angular jet-black eyebrow. Nothing was said, so Charlie returned to the back of the brick building under a single 100-watt bulb and a wooden bench where he rebuilt an old Tillotson carb for a customer he never met.

That night he rode his flathead chopper sporting an extended XA springer back to his small, single guest house pad behind a stucco home on the edge of town. Melanie kissed him as he entered and handed him a chilled Corona with a slice of lime. “Hi baby,” she said. She wore a set of loose overalls and nothing else. He reached inside the suspenders and down around her plump soft ass.

“Fatbob called today,” Charlie said and continued to be affectionate, kissing the soft-as-silk nap of her neck. He could immediately sense the cold tension rushing through her body.

“He wasn’t good to me,” she said, pulling away and looking deep into Charlie’s green-as-emeralds eyes. “I can’t go back.”

“Tomorrow will tell the tail,” Charlie said and it did. By noon he lost his job and another Question Mark showed up at the shop, Ringo who pulled a foot-long straight blade out of an engraved leather sheath on his side and followed Bondo into the back. He wore shades and an all-black vest. He looked like a biker hitman--all business.

Bondo Juan walked to the back, opened a tool box and retrieved a 14-inch long chromed crescent wrench. Resting its cool hard surface in his skinny hands, he stared at Charlie in a strange threatening manner, as if someone told him what he had to do. Charlie, meticulously reassembling a Panhead lower-end on a motor stand clamped to the vice on the tattered wooden bench turned toward the two menacing brothers. It didn’t look good.

“Fuck,” Bondo Juan said, slinging the large crescent wrench and slamming it against the bench. “Women,” He said. “You’re supposed to fuck them and take them back to their car. You heard what Fatbob said. You need to make a choice…”

“Fuck that,” Ringo said. “No choice, do or fucking die.”

That wasn’t all. Charlie received a summons notice in the mail yesterday. He was being subpoenaed for running drugs in Florida. He didn’t deal but helped another biker in an alley and it didn’t go well. The Man was also coming and he needed to move on, fast.

Charlie could tell this wasn’t going anywhere but to hell. Ringo wanted to fuck with him right then and there. He swiped the knife back and forth as if it was his weapon of choice and he wanted to get it done.

“Okay,” Charlie said gathering his tools and gauges.

“That’s not fucking good enough,” Ringo said preparing to strike with the large blade.

“I’ll take care of it,” Charlie spat and looked at the two 1%ers in the dark space. Everything was scary and cornered Charlie wanted out. He turned to his small canvas bag of gauges, micrometers and tools. The bench held an old vice in the center bolted to large 2-by-12 planks and supported by a thick steel plate under it, which was arch welded to the frame 30 years ago. He put his hand on the vice to unbolt the engine from his motor-stand. Juan erupted as if Charlie wanted something that didn’t belong to him.

“That belongs to the shop, asshole,” Bondo said and stepped forward distracting Ringo. He took a baseball stance with the crescent wrench and started to swing.

Charlie suspected that if he turned his back on the two, they might pounce. He was right.

Charlie looked at his old canvas bag from his service years and then past it to the wooden slat rear door with slivers of light penetrating the sketchy surface. He let go of the slick, greasy vice handle as if reaching for his bag, but just beyond it rested a seemingly harmless 3-foot chunk of galvanized plumbing pipe, except it was threaded on the ends, capped and filled with lead shot.

Charlie made it his with an odd, pipe threaded chromed cap on one end, which he brazed to a sharp triangulated brass piece forming a deadly point. The brass casting contained the form of a sitting Buddha less than 2 inches tall. He snatched it off the bench surface and pivoted, crouching as Juan swung the wrench. Charlie’s biceps flexed into action. The loaded pipe hit Juan in the neck with brutal force, breaking his neck instantly. The man’s dark eyes questioned as he attempted to reach for his neck, but it was too late.

Charlie repositioned his footing still crouching and brought his weapon back along his right side from the left swing and drew it into a thrusting position.

Ringo wasn’t trained and knew very little about knife fighting. He usually had the drop on his victims or attacked from behind, but he wasn’t afraid, a violent freak who usually had brothers holding down his prey. Stunned he hesitated, then lifted the knife above his head in a stabbing motion. Big mistake!

Charlie thrust forward at the taller man and drove Buddha’s spike into Ringo’s throat, let go of the deadly rod and turned left, capturing the knife hand with his left hand and punching his forearm with his right releasing the knife. He slipped it under his thick leather belt and returned to his plumbing pipe javelin and Ringo’s bulging eyes. He wasn’t dead, but the second jab finished him as if he was shot with a 12-gauge slug under his left ribs, just below his heart.

In less that 30 seconds he cut the Question Marks’ membership in half. With a shop rag he wiped clean his heavy pipe, grabbed his canvas bag, kicked open the always locked, 3-foot-wide wooden rear door and stepped out into the fading sunlight, rounded the corner, strapped the bag and his weapon to his chromed sissybar and returned to the scene long enough to get paid from the old, stained cash register and retrieve the engraved leather knife sheath with the Question Mark logo emblazoned to the side.

Charlie slipped his leather belt through the sheath, kicked his ’48 UL to life and peeled down the street to where he was destined to hook up with Melanie in a parking lot behind the Ocean community center as the sun slipped into the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic went dark. Without a word he followed her north on Highway 1 to Flagler, cutting east on Highway 100 to the 17 and into the lowlands.

They rumbled through 35 minutes and into the dark marsh areas out of harms way, without incident and she carefully maintained the speed limit. Charlie kept his distance and stared at the single bulb, limited lighting on the unlit dark highway bordered by swamp. Clamoring with gators, notorious, hard-as-rock armadillos crossed the dark highway with abandon, like miniature tanks slithering onto flat lanes to take out bikers.

Charlie’s mind ripped with thoughts of prison and death. He couldn’t ponder anything but dread, except for his temporary Nirvana and softness in the station wagon ahead, but he knew better than to trust. His only hope was escape the state as quickly as possible, but his peanut gas tank wouldn’t allow him to get any farther than 100 miles, before refueling.

That’s when the trooper’s light-bar lit up in an LED flurry of red, white and blue madness behind him. The bullhorn blared, “Pull off the highway up ahead.”

Charlie thought about the two dead Question Marks and the arraignment demand in his vest pocket. He couldn’t out run the cop unless on a suicide mission to hell. Melanie rolled ahead of him off the highway into an old dilapidated, independent gas station with limited lights, flickering fluorescents, rusting galvanized tin siding and a single bulb above the door to the office. The shop roll-up doors were closed.

Melanie pulled past the pumps and parked at the edge of the lot, but with easy access to depart. She twisted the wide review mirror, so she could monitor the action.

“Stay on your motorcycle with your hands on the bars,” the bullhorn barked, but the officer didn’t depart his cruiser. Charlie wore stained and tattered denims, his leather belt, that foot-long straight blade in the Question Mark M/C leather sheath with 1%er diamond logo added to the art. He wore a black T-shirt silk screened with the shop name and his tan canvas long-sleeve shirt and his old black leather vest over it. He also wore engineer boots with another stiletto blade tucked in a sheath with a stainless spring steel clasp pushed hard against the rim of the boot shank.

The officer was more likely than not, running his numbers for a stolen motorcycle. Ten minutes passed and Charlie began to fidget and shuffle his grease-stained boots against the stained concrete. It wasn’t the cop he was concerned about. It was the brothers, Fatbob and Bullet, both of which were 1%ers for over three decades.

Bullet, the leader of the bunch had a thing for not messing around. He was big, with massive arms and trained constantly. Nobody talked about him, but from time to time he delivered a satchel of cash to the shop but didn’t say much. He was the only one who seemed to have savvy and funds.

At 6’4” with long Viking blonde hair and driving a black, late model Lincoln, Charlie wondered what the hell he did, but it wasn’t drugs. Charlie knew the Outlaws M/C controlled the girls and the drug scene. He couldn’t figure it out, maybe he performed violent attacks and hits for the Outlaws. Perhaps that was the reason they were left alone.

The officer, a tightly dressed and pressed 28-year-old got out of the cruiser and approached Charlie from the rear. “Your tags have expired,” Officer Washington said rounding the motorcycle so he was between Charlie and the idling cruiser. “Do you have a license and registration?”

Charlie started to stand. “Don’t move,” the black officer snapped. “Where are the papers?”

“In my wallet,” Charlie said. “Can it get it?”

“Keep your right hand on the bars,” the officer instructed causally. Reach for your wallet with your left hand.”

“It’s on a chain,” Charlie said and the image of the Question Mark’s knife flashed into his mind. He sensed he was fucked. It was just a matter of time.

“Pull the wallet around front, slowly,” Officer Washington said and put his right hand on his 9mm semi-auto and moved slightly toward the front of the motorcycle, but he wanted to keep an eye on the station wagon.

Charlie carefully slipped his wallet free from his pocket using the brass twisted-link chain. The long wallet was engraved, “Live Free or Die,” with skulls etched into the leather. It was rounded from the stuffed contents, his ass and molded to his pocket.

The officer approached and drew a long, blued Mag Light and shinned it in Charlies face, studied his eyes, his grease-stained gloves and nodded for Charlie to slip off his glove and open the wallet. Charlie began to sweat.


Fatbob’s angry curiosity piqued when he called the shop and no one answered. He called Bullet and within 20 minutes the two cruised past the shop where the lights were still on and the OPEN sign still hung in the front door window. They cruised around back and two Harleys were parked in the lot beside the grubby brick building.

They pulled up behind the building where the rear door swung wide on rusting hinges.


The dense humidity didn’t help as Charlie handed the officer his license and the motorcycle registration. “Insurance?” Officer Washington asked, while eyeing the tattered and stained documents. He cringed. He liked everything tight and military disciplined. He returned from the Marines and immediately dove into the local police department.

Charlie looked up at the officer, sweat beading on his brow and cringed. He didn’t have proof of insurance. “It expired,” Charlie said.

“And your license is suspended,” Officer Washington said. “I need to call a tow truck.” He reached for the mike on his right shoulder.

“Wait,” Charlie said. “There must be a way.” He stammered and stared at the dilapidated tin gas station and the surrounding tropical shrubs, vines and trees ready to gobble it up. He thought maybe he could leave the motorcycle at the station, but nothing about it looked inviting. Then he noticed the brake lights flash on in Melanie’s station wagon. “Can I talk to my girlfriend?” Charlie asked.

“Stay put,” Officer Washington said. “I’ll talk to her.”

Charlie sat back down on his seat and put his ungloved hands back on the bars. His molded leather wallet hung at his side. His nerves were unfolding as he pondered the two Question Marks members coming for him, more cops and Florida prisons.

“Keep your hands on the steering wheel,” the officer ordered as he approached the 35-year-old station wagon. He kept one hand on his revolver and the other guided the massive flash light as it illuminated the rear of the dusty vehicle. It contained a couple of old suit cases, Charlie’s duffle bag and his canvas satchel of tools.

The light moved to the passenger seat. I contained a small cooler and not much else, and then he approached the driver’s window, which was down. He leaned slightly and Melanie looked up at him and smiled. She had the face of a 14-year-old child and her smile could melt steel.

The officer didn't like the precariousness of the situation. He preferred to keep the action simple. One or two folks in their vehicle, tight and manageable. But Melanie’s smile took a modicum of dangerous edge off the situation. How could anyone be treacherous and have a sincere expression like that. He knew soft female reasoning was bullshit, but still a warm smile brought hope.

She handed him her license, registration and insurance proof. She contained no signs of drinking, drugs or abuse, just warmth and kindness.

“Thank you,” he said and backed away. “Stay in the car.”

Officer Washington strode back to his cruiser to run the paperwork, but this time he checked out Charlie’s bike more carefully. It was a ’48 UL flathead bobber. It wasn’t flashy, but it was classic. The tall black officer knew a little about bikes and suddenly dollar signs glistened in the chromed upswept fishtail pipes. Familiar with the tow yard crew, he knew the chances of the bike ever leaving with its owner.

Washington returned to his blinking cruiser with its rumbling 425 horsepower engine, the flashing LED light bar, the dash and flashing communication system and the crackling of the radio with constant reports. He requested data on the young woman with the kid’s face. Ten minutes later, she came back clean.

The tall man unfolded himself from the police car and started to walk past the motorcycle checking it out, then past the pumps, across the lot to where the Corvette powered station wagon was parked. He handed Melanie the paperwork and said, “You’re good to go miss.”

“But what about Charlie?" Melanie’s brow wrinkled into a frown.

“He can go with you,” Officer Washington said. “But the motorcycle is going to the tow yard.”

Charlie listened intently and reacted. “Wait, wait, can’t we discuss this?”

The officer left Melanie and returned to the pump more relaxed. “What’s there to discuss? I’m calling a tow truck. You can leave, but the motorcycle is going to impound.” He picked up the mike off his shoulder and called dispatch and was transferred to the impound yard who called a local tow-truck service.

The local tow truck driver was a skinny 28-year-old with a six-pack and a meth issue. He was less than 6-foot, pale as an albino, acme scarred face and hair that was little more than a wisp scattered around his alabaster skull. He climbed into his flatbed with a new, cold, 6-pack of Coors Lite when his radio clattered with the info about the motorcycle to be picked up about 40 minutes away.

Slimy Steve popped the top on a can of beer and drank nearly half of it. He finished off two lines of Daytona crude in the head of the gas station and was ready to rock, but something caught his attention, something that could save his ass. Seriously in debt with the Outlaws over his drug use and dealings, he used more than his fair share and shared it with girls to enhance his chances. Without the meth his sexual encounters were nil. An ugly, scrawny, no-count sonuvabitch, he wasn’t worth the powder to blow him to hell, and the girls knew it.

But he recognized the pick-up address as the Outlaws distribution point and potentially their meth lab. He snapped open his phone and started to make a call. Just then a flashy black Lincoln pulled into the gas station abruptly and two biker thugs burst out of the sedan. One was a monster of a man, the other a long-haired, over-weight angry sort who drug a snarling, scarred, brindle Pitbull out of the passenger seat.

Due to the intense humidity, Steve’s windows were rolled down when his radio crackled. “Are you set to pick up the motorcycle at the corner of 17 and Fishhook Lane?”

Fatbob hauled ass to the tow truck at the corner of the lot under the lights. The short-legged diabetic yanked by the growling pitbull, stumbled. Steve noticed his flapping vest over the stained white T-shirt with the red swastika silk-screened in the center and the long- barreled, 44 magnum flapping in a shoulder holster.

“Where’s that goddam motorcycle?” Fatbob snapped trying to hoist his weak ass up onto the footboard. Steve was relieved, the dog couldn’t get to him.

“It’s up the highway, why?” Steve said.

“None of your fucking business,” Fatbob spat. Steve recognized another ugly piece of shit in the snarling 1%er. The guy obviously didn’t have a lot going for him. Steve didn’t recognize the little silver question mark badge on his tattered leather vest. On the other side a stained patch announced Vice President. But he did recognize the stained black with purple lettering 1%er patch.

“Do you know what kind of bike it is?” Fabob quizzed.

“I think it’s a Harley,” Steve said terrified. The meth drove his anxiety level through the roof. He downed the other half of the beer and popped open another can.

“When are you leaving?” Fatbob jammed him.

“Now,” Steve said nervously and turned the key on the ignition.

“We’ll see you there,” Fatbob said. “That motorcycle is ours.” Fatbob jumped down and tripped again. He was obviously in pain from his swollen ankles. The stocky fireplug of a dog pulled him toward the Lincoln.

As the flatbed pulled out of the parking lot and rumbled toward the highway, Bullet finished filling the sedan with high-test, no Ethanol fuel, went inside, paid the tab and then returned to the Lincoln with solid black leather interior. “What’s up,” Bullet asked.

“The cops pulled over our guy up the highway,” Fatbob snapped. “I know where, let’s fucking go.”

Steve grabbed his cell phone as soon as he rolled onto the highway. He hit his speed dial to the Daytona Outlaw boss.

“You have the cash?” the voice answered.

“Sorry no,” Steve’s voice trembled. “But…”

“I’m going to hang up,” Wolf said, a giant of a no-nonsense man with scars and long thick wavy hair and a massive beard. “We’re having church.”

“Wait,” Steve said. “There’s trouble at the station house.”

“Well?” Wolf inquired.

“I’m on my way with a flatbed,” Steve said and he swigged another half a beer. “I was called to pick up a motorcycle. Do you know the Question Marks? Never heard of them.”

Wolf was surrounded by members of the Daytona chapter of the Outlaws MC. They were more a family than some other gangster clubs. They looked after one another and didn’t fuck with citizens or bully other bikers. When they needed heavy work handled, they had a select number of members to call, otherwise they rode, worked on motorcycles and drank too much beer.

Of course, there were a couple of them who cooked meth and supplied the club with cash to keep their appearances up and parties strong. Sure, a couple more ran strip clubs and tattoo parlors, so they always had girls around.

Wolf thought long and hard. He knew about the Question Marks. They stayed out of the fray, but Wolf knew they would ultimately need to move on. The boss was some sort of badass, bill-collector for hire and they ran a small chopper shop in town. Bullet handled collections, but for loan sharks, some mob guys and Porta Ricans hired guys like him. He was seriously intimidating.

“How close are you?” Wolf asked.

“I’m just pulling onto the highway,” Steve voice shook. “It will take 40 minutes, but those other guys are hauling ass. They’re pissed off.”

“Okay,” Wolf said and hung up before Steve could ask what they intended.


Charlie was about to shit his pants. “Listen,” he said to the cop. “This motorcycle is all I have. Can you do anything?”

The officer, offered back-up from the station declined. He liked the solid ’48 flathead 74 cubic inch driveline. It was nearly all stock, except for the ratchet top transmission that allowed him a hand clutch and foot shifter. The bike was clean, but not fancy, no metalflake and lots of satin black with a little chrome, and those highbars looked as if they would fit his tall frame.

He didn’t want to get a bunch of senior cops involved, who might like the bike as much as he did. “There’s nothing I can do for you,” Officer Washington said. “The tow truck is coming.”

Charlies mind spun with nothing but negative thoughts. He was fucked. Without his motorcycle, he was a worthless piece of shit without wheels. “My girl is clean, right?” he asked.

“Yes, but…” the officers replied.

Charlie still had his tools in the back of the station wagon. “What if I could break the bike down and stuff it into the station wagon?”

“Well…” Washington started.

Suddenly, Melanie was at Charlie’s side. “Ya gotta cut him some slack,” she pled with the officer with her soft blue eyes. “Please. Charlie’s not a bad guy, just behind in his paperwork.”

Charlie wasn’t drunk and she didn’t appear to be abused. Washington, was young, sorta ivy league, and still had a heart. She was clean, cute, not over made-up like a stripper.

“Okay,” Washington added. “If you can get it loaded and on the road before the driver gets here, I’ll let you go.”

Charlie didn’t hesitate, but asked Melanie to back the car under the pump lights where he pushed the chopper and thought about how he could make this happen. He opened the tailgate and grabbed his soiled canvas tool bag which he reached into on the tailgate and sorted some tools in groups like screwdrivers, sockets, open-end wrenches, crescent wrenches and pliers, needle-nose and vice grips.

With the bike under the dim fluorescent light above one of the non-working pumps he flew at the project. He suspected, if he could dismantle much of it quickly, the officer might not change his mind. Plus, he didn’t have the slightest whether the tow-truck was near or far and how fast it was coming.

“Baby, can you fold the passenger seat down?” Charlie asked.

She immediately set to trying to find a latch. Buick Roadmaster station wagons were mini-bus long, heavy duty and fast. Who knew why Buick chose to build a station wagon that could outrun a muscle car while pulling a 30-foot vacation trailer?

Charlie removed all the controls from the handlebars, then removed the bars. Melanie fought with the seat latch and officer Washington came to her aid as Charlie removed the left rider peg. He wanted to lay it on the primary side.

That’s when the slick black Lincoln slid into the ancient station, cracked asphalt, parking area and Fatbob and his pitbull scrambled out of the passenger side. Bullet jumped out of the driver side as the big sedan vibrated and settled. He laid a 4-inch barreled .357 magnum on the roof of the car. The dog snarled and charged toward Charlie while pulling Fatbob.

Officer Washington stood bolt upright and yanked his 9mm Browning out of his leather holster and shot the dog between his eyes. The yelp could be heard for a quarter mile. Fatbob fell to the pavement and grabbed the dog as its split head bled profusely.

Washington re-aimed his weapon at Bullet who only hesitated because Washington was a police officer. Charlie yanked his pipe weapon from his sissybar and jumped into a defense stance. For uncertain seconds the only sound was the wind rustling through the surrounding Florida jungle. Other than the flickering fluorescent 4-foot tube and the single incandescent bulb over the shop office door it was as dark and foreboding as a Vietnamese jungle in the dead of night.

“Lower your weapon,” Officer Washington said directly. He had a military background, but still he wasn’t comfortable with this situation in the least.

“Don’t touch your mike,” Bullet said and held fast his loaded and cocked revolver laying over the roof of the car.

“I can explain,” Charlie said and watched Fatbob stand his hand dripping with his dog’s blood.

“I’m afraid you’re way beyond explaining,” Fatbob said. “You’re dead and your motorcycle is mine.”

Charlie’s gaze shifted to Bullet. “Fatbob threatened me and sent his brother to do his bidding over Melanie, who that bastard abused and kicked out.” Charlie hated to be a snitch, even during this dire situation.

This was one of those moments, when everything could go wrong and Bullet knew it. Evidently the cop didn’t know about his two dead brothers and Charlie’s involvement. He also knew Fatbob, who always wanted trouble no matter what the odds were or the potential outcome. He couldn’t figure out how he survived this long without going to prison.

His outlaw spirit told him to win or die. He couldn’t just crawl back into the Lincoln and leave. Or could he?

“It doesn’t matter,” Bullet said. “We will always be coming for you. You could catch a break right now by leaving that motorcycle for us. Make up your fucking mind, take the broad and leave.”

Charlie was on the spot, again. The motorcycle or the girl. He faced that decision several times in the past but not at gun point. He tried to play the situation out in his mind. “Officer Washington said I could take it, if I could tear it down and load it before the tow truck arrived. It’s ready to be loaded, if you guys would give me a hand.”

“Are you out of your fucking mind?” Fatbob spat and started to come for Charlie.

Officer Washington watched his chances of obtaining a classic flathead chopper slip away. He pondered his odds. The outlaw behind the Lincoln was as big or bigger than he was and was still holding the pistol aimed at him.

“Come on, guys,” Charlie said. “This bike is all I have and my tools. Just help me load it and everyone goes home in one piece.” He looked at Fatbob who still approached and suddenly pulled a knife. It was a folding unit, but a 4-inch razor sharp blade, which he snapped open with a flick of his wrist and lunged at Charlie. Charlie backed away slightly, just out of harm’s way and Fatbob followed.

Charlie had no choice, he stepped forward with the lead-filled pipe and swung it taking out the knife and breaking Fatbob’s wrist. Fatbob was boot tough and rattlesnake mean but was in no shape for a fight. He dropped to his knees, grabbed his wrist while writhing in pain.

“He didn’t need to do that,” Charlie said. “Get him to a hospital.

The radio in the officers car cried out for a response.

Bullet didn’t want to have anything to do with shooting a cop. His life would be over. More than anything he wanted to be far away from this situation, and he sensed more cops coming.

Charlie sensed the same. His life flashing before his eyes. “Give me a hand,” he plead with Bullet.

Bullet shoved the long-barreled revolver into his shoulder holster and scrambled around the car, but he didn’t come to Charlie’s aid. Charlie removed the front 21-inch 40-spoked chromed wheel with a star hub and brake drum. He set them alongside the station wagon and returned to the downed motorcycle. He couldn’t lift it by himself and hoist it onto the tailgate.

He heard a large click and the passenger seat folded down flat.

Bullet ran to Fatbob’s side and hoisted him up to help him to the blacked-out sedan just a few feet away. Officer Washington hadn’t holstered his weapon but moved sideways along the scene between the office and the pumps towards his cruiser.

Melanie came to Charlie’s side, “Can I help?”

“You may have to,” Charlie whispered. “There’s a .38 in my tool bag. Just bring me the bag quick and get in the car and prepare to lie down.

Melanie’s sparkle faded, but she moved quickly to the tailgate to retrieve the canvas bag. It was only 4-feet away, so she was back in a flash.

“Go,” Charlie said quietly and motioned her back to the car.

The boss of the Outlaws monitored all the police frequencies. He knew more about what was transpiring than any of the crew at the gas station. He gathered his band of toughs and military guys and headed out, but not by the highway, the backroads through the pitch-black swamps. They knew the dank roads like the backs of their hands.

He knew the cops would swarm the place quick, if they didn’t hear from Washington soon.

“Fuck you lowlife mutherfuckers,” Fatbob screamed in pain as Bullet engulfed his torso with massive arms and started to lift. “You little bastard, I’m not done with you and that whore.” He started to squirm and kick and with his free hand yanked his .44 and shot Washington before he could recalculate what was happening.

The hollow point slug knocked the young officer off his feet and he was dead before he cracked his head against the gray asphalt.

Fatbob at a fat 5’6” of angry blubber broke free from big Bullet and stood holding the flashy polished stainless steel cannon in one hand. The kick from the last shot almost sprained his other wrist and pain shot up his arm, but he was madder than a wounded rattlesnake and turned toward Charlie, desperately reaching into his bag of tricks for something.

“You’ve got to go to hell,” Fatbob said. “You killed two of my brothers, stole my girl and broke my fucking arm.”

Blonde Bullet knew all the scores. A 1%er since he was 16, he experienced it all. He broke free from Fatbob and rounded the cruiser. He wanted out and away from this place.

The band of Outlaws were on their way, screaming up shortcuts, back roads in the dark on six FXRs. They were armed and on a mission. Wolf was concerned about the outcome. He wanted to clear the area quick before his station became part of the fray. If he lost it, his chapter’s drug income of a half-million a year would be gone. He had to give it hell or die trying.

Fatbob lifted the weapon gingerly in the direction of Charlie who grappled in his grease-soaked bag for something. “You got it all wrong, Bob,” Charlie said trying to catch a free moment. Kneeling and fingering a myriad of sockets, wrenches and screw-drivers he finally felt the wooden handle of the stub-hosed .38, which hadn’t be fired in over 20 years. The brass shells were tarnished and held only standard lead bullets.

What Charlie said inflamed Fatbob. He hated to be called Bob. He hated everything except madness and violence. He yanked the weapon to shoulder height.

Melanie, peering over the back of the driver’s seat, saw it coming and rolled onto the floor of the wagon. That .44 magnum rocket would rip through the entire car if it was coming for her.

“Fucking bitch,” Fatbob snarled and yanked the blued Titanium hammer back as Charlie stood in the line of fire, dropped his Canvas bag and yanked the .38 free.

He knew he didn’t have time to aim, so he just pulled the trigger and hoped something would happen. The weapon was seriously old, with a chipped handle. The tarnished bluing and finish scratched, it bounced in his bag of tools for over 10 years.

The stub-nosed revolver, like cops carried since 1936 fired. The first revolvers were built in 1899 but with longer barrels. The bullet hit the pavement in front of Fatbob’s engineer boots and smacked him in the groin.

Startled and in pain Fatbob winced and tried to re-aim the stainless cannon. Charlie had just enough time to raise his weapon further. The ideal situation for a .38 was close range and this was less than 25 feet.

The weapons fired simultaneously. Charlie spun as if hit, but the bullet came so close he could feel it. It took out the driver’s sideview mirror. He was concerned about Melanie and followed the bullet to the side of the car dropping the .38 on his way. “Baby, he shouted. “Are you okay?”

He yanked open the door to see her tear-filled eyes gazing up at him. He turned to witness Fatbob stumbling backwards and trying to lift the heavy .44 again. The roar of open-pipe performance choppers filled the air as six Outlaws slide into the station.

Wolf saw the blood gushing from the hole in Fatbobs chest, slid right up beside him, yanked the pistol from his grip and pushed the dead man standing toward the Lincoln.

He eyed the situation and told two brother to help Charlie load the wagon with his precious motorcycle. Charlie consoled Melanie as she climbed into the driver’s seat unharmed. He kissed her forehead gently and turned to assist the members.

Wolf hoisted the dead Fatbob into the Lincoln passenger seat. “Take care of him and start another chapter of the Question Marks in another state,” he ordered.

Two other members loaded officer Washington in the trunk of his cruiser and drove it into the jungle. Charlie picked up his .38 dusted it off and slipped it back into his bag of tricks. As he turned toward Wolf, he heard the station wagon start and Melanie peeled out of the lot toward the highway.

“Let her go,” Wolf said. “She couldn’t handle this and I don’t blame her. Bad shit tonight.” They heard the wine of multiple sirens in the distance. “We’ve gotta move. Ride Rick’s FXR there, quick.”

The members cleared the scene completely in less than two minutes. Charlie was impressed and in a blur. He lined up at the back of the small pack of riders as they flew back into the dense Florida jungle.

The last thing Wolf said to Charlie was, “She won’t get far, we’ll get your bike back. You're riding with us now.”

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