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There were more than a dozen motorcycles in front of the motel. Most of them were parked diagonally in a row, like military machines lined up for inspection. The remaining four were still in motion, circling and crossing chaotically, making the whole area as frightening as the touchdown point of a cyclone. The riders were shouting and whooping and laughing, standard motorcycle-gang uglies, all of them, in leather jackets and chains. One even had a polished Wehrmacht helmet. In the middle of the lot an injured dog was squirming. Jack Wales, the motel owner, was crouching over it, glancing around fearfully at the bikers.
I stopped the police car and hissed at Sam, my German shepherd, to stay where he was. He's trained enough that he could have fought any one of the riders and won, but if all four of them tried to run him down, he wouldn't stand a chance.
I left the car window open so he would be only two seconds from me if I needed help, and got out. Wales looked up at me. "Look what these bastards've done, Chief. He's dying."
The guy in the German helmet swung his bike around and gunned it between us, nearly hitting Jack. He was roaring with laughter.
I asked Wales, "You see who hit him?"
"No," he said miserably. "I was inside and they all pulled in to the coffee shop." He jumped with alarm as the four riders re-formed and zoomed by again, trying to make us run. They weren't scared. They had fourteen men against the whole Murphy's Harbour Police Department, me.
I crouched by the dog. He rolled his eyes up to me and whimpered. "I think his back's broken, Jack. He's finished," I said. One of the bikers came close enough to reach outand almost tip my hat off. I ignored him. "Is he your dog?"
"No, he's a stray," Wales said. "He comes around to get fed. I don't think anybody owns him. He'll just die in pain unless--" He stopped and looked at me. There were tears in his eyes.
The bikers had reached the end of the lot again and were lining up to come back. I pulled my .38 and cocked it. The bikers saw me and diverged, all going separate ways now, wondering what was next. I patted the dog's muzzle and put the gun about six inches from the killing spot in the center of the skull, just behind the eyes. "Good-bye, old son," I said, and pulled the trigger.
I stood up now, looking around at the bikers. They had surrounded me, back about thirty yards, quartering me so I couldn't cover them all. Then the one with the German helmet gave a roar and came straight at me.
I've seen guys like that before. I'd canceled out his fun with the dog. Now he was going to play with me instead, making me jump out of his way, run if possible. But I knew if it started they would all do it and I could never get free of them. Even if I got back in the car they would zoom around me like mosquitoes. They would own me and my whole little town. My only comeback would be legal action, summonsing them for dangerous driving. They thought.
I let him accelerate for a half second, locking eyes with him until I could see he meant to run right over me if I didn't move. Then I raised the Colt and put a bullet through his front tire.
The tire turned into a streamer, flapping black and flat for a moment until the wheel jammed. His bike jinked sideways, tossing him over the handlebars to land on his back in front of me. His helmet had come off, and his long hair spread out over the dirt. I moved ahead and stepped on the hair, close enough to his scalp that he couldn't even bring his hands back to hurt my leg. Any movement would have torn his hair out.
"Hold it right there," I told him. Then I took out my pouch of six spare shells, broke the gun and tipped out the spent cartridges, keeping my thumb over the good ones, and pushed two replacements into the chamber. I didn't intend to do any more firing. Legally I had already overstepped the guidelines laid down for use of the gun. It's supposed to be used in defense of your life. He hadn't meant to kill me, just break me up a little.
Behind me the door of the motel coffee shop burst open, and the rest of them tumbled out, all shouting and swearing, heading for their bikes. All but one, who walked up to me.
"You're Reid Bennett," he said. I glanced up, pushing the gun back into the holster but not fastening the flap. The guy on the ground suddenly got his breath back in a great howling whoop.
"Yes," I said, and smiled at him as if he were a tourist asking directions. He was the standard biker, five nine at most, but meaty, squarely built from his barrel chest down to the beer belly that strained at the wide belt he was wearing. He was about thirty, I judged, dark haired and carrying a full set of whiskers that were turning gray on him. He was wearing a leather jacket with the sleeves torn off over a T-shirt and had crude jailhouse tattoos up both arms.
"I heard about you," he said, and grinned, showing a space where two front teeth had been in his good old days.
I said nothing. Behind him the other bikers had all started their machines and were moving out to circle us. He lifted one hand, and they all stopped, as disciplined as a bunch of marines responding to a drill instructor. "Yeah," he said, and showed me his gap again. "You worked in T'rannah one time, right?" I said nothing, glancing down at the guy on the deck. He was trying to pull his hair free from under my boot. I prodded him with my other toe. He looked at the leader, then relaxed again, trying to make it look like his own preference.
"Yeah," the leader said again. "You was the cop who killed two Black Diamond Riders one time. No gun, nothin', just your hands."
I still said nothing. Behind me Jack Wales swallowed nervously. He was afraid. He knew my record; the whole town did. He was wondering if it made me a marked man, if he was in danger now for having called me. He could be. I wasn't sure yet.
The leader laughed. He turned around, and I caught sight of the back of his jacket. His insignia said Devil's Brigade, done in brass studs. Natty. "Hey," he called, then made a cutting motion with one hand, and all the noise died as the whole pack of them cut their motors. He looked back at me and smirked, like an uncle who's just done a clever card trick. I waited, and he spoke up in a growl that sounded like too many cigarettes or a lot of practice. "This cop's a brother," he said. "He done them two Diamonds in T'rannah that time."
I stood still, looking at him and waiting. That Toronto incident had cost me my marriage and my job as a Metro Toronto detective. I'd lost the first and quit the second when the media branded me a murderer. Now it looked as if it might be paying a bonus. The biker stuck out his hand. "They call me Russ."
I didn't hesitate. Bikers and police are oil and water, but I'm alone in Murphy's Harbour. If I stoked up a feud, they could tear down half the town before I could call in reinforcements from the Ontario Provincial Police. So far the honors were even. One dog down, one biker humiliated. I shook his hand. It was softer than I had expected. Maybe he wore gloves while he was running over dogs.
"Hi," I said. I didn't want friendship, just respect.
He didn't try to crush my hand, and none of his guys started their bikes or moved any closer. He just smiled at me, showing that ugly gap. "Now we're even," he said calmly. "If you hadn't greased them other guys, we'd take you apart, gun or no gun. Unnerstan'?"
I didn't nod or make any acknowledgment. Like stags in rutting season, we were establishing turf here. Maybe he had me figured for a mad dog, a guy who would have put bullets into six of his riders before they killed me. Or maybe he was genuinely glad I'd killed two of his rivals. I just stood my ground, like Gromyko at an arms conference.
He pointed to the man on the deck. "He can come with us. We'll send a wheel back for the bike."
"Okay," I said, and we let go of one another's hands, our eyes still locked. I took a step back, away from the biker's hair. He swore and sat up, rolling on one elbow and reaching for his helmet. Russ was cool, I thought. It must have looked to his crowd as if I were backing down. Cheap at the price.
He walked away, and one of the other riders started his bike and came over to pick up the Goering lookalike. He got on the pillion and spat, missing me. Then they all started their bikes and waited while Russ started his, a big Yamaha with upswept handlebars, and led them out of the parking lot and north onto the highway.
Jack Wales came out from behind me, as if I were a tree he'd been sheltering under. "Christ, Chief, they're evil."
I nodded. "That's the first time I've come across that crowd," I told him, "but bikers are all bad news." I didn't bother spelling it out for him, but motorcycle gangs are the biggest menace in the whole spectrum of organized crime. They run all the amphetamines and most of the cocaine in Canada. They also control the pornography business and most of the illegal guns. And they live by and for terror. If I was lucky, this would be my last look at this bunch. They would take their problems farther up the road, somewhere that had more policemen to deal with them.
"Come on, let's move this chopper out of the way." Wales helped me push the bike up on the patch of thin grass at the north end of the lot. Then I picked up the dead dog and carried it over to the garbage dumpster that stood beside the first motel unit. Wales held up his hand. "Hold on, Chief. I'll get a garbage bag."
He came back with the bag, slipped it over the dog and knotted it, then dropped it into the dumpster and we walked back to the coffee shop. Wales looked around at the litter of cups and spilled coffee the bikers had left as they ran out.
"Pigs," he said passionately. He reached under the counter and came out with a bottle of the Jamaica rum that's bottled by the Liquor Control Board, no-name rum, solid booze value. "I need a snort," he said. I could see his hands were trembling. "How about you, Chief?"
"I'll pass, thanks, Jack. Can I use your phone?"
Without speaking, he reached under the counter and brought out his telephone. I picked it up and dialed the Ontario Provincial Police. They answered, first ring, and I reported the name of the group and the way they were headed. "They're coming back later to pick up an abandoned machine. At the Muskellunge Motel," I added. "It's the division point between my turf and yours. Could you have a car drop by from time to time until it's gone?"
OPP told me they would. I thanked them and hung up. "Phone me if they show again," I told Jack. I didn't want to see them again any more than he did, but my oath of office tells me to protect the Queen's Peace. I thought she would approve of my coming back. Wales nodded and tried to say something but gave up and buried his nose in his rum. I left him and went out to the car. It was hot, early August. Sam wouldn't appreciate being kept in the car.
I got in and headed south on the highway to the turnoff that leads to Murphy's Harbour, my own personal bailiwick. This time of year it was packed with cottagers, soft pink people from Toronto or the States, anxiously turning red, then brown as they swam, fished for our big pike and pickerel, and tried to forget there were such things as offices to go back to in two weeks' time. I'd grown to like the place in the two years I'd been there.
Then the radio buzzed. It's the police-station telephone, coupled to the radio when I'm in the car. There was an anxious mother on the line. Her thirteen-year-old boy was missing. She gave me directions to the place she was staying, and I headed down there. I wasn't alarmed. Kids on vacation go missing a lot, usually playing somewhere that their parents haven't thought of looking. I get two or three a day at peak season. Only one of them had ever drowned. It didn't seem like anything to get excited about.
Copyright © 1987 by Ted Wood