Had I been lying to myself?
“Let’s go to the apartment now,” Horse said. “Remember, lay low. You need something, call my cell. Don’t come looking for me or anyone else. I already talked to Em, she’s packing up some clothes and shit for you.”
He took my arm, opening the back door and leading through the hallways to the stairs. I saw a few new faces, male and female, and the palpable air of tension everywhere sickened me. Nobody said hi or even looked me in the eye. We climbed the stairs to the third floor, where they had remodeled the original offices to make studio apartments. I got the smallest, all the way at the end. There were bars on the windows and Horse told me to keep the shades drawn.
I sat down on the queen-sized bed, alone.
I pulled out my phone and sent an urgent email to Jeff’s anonymous account. Then I started making phone calls to as many of his friends as I could find numbers for. I had to reach him, although I wasn’t sure what I would tell him. Could I really trust the Reapers if he came in?
I wasn’t so sure about that.
Church was standing room only. Picnic presided, the visiting presidents from Portland and LeGrande flanking him. Horse leaned against the wall, eyeing Max across the room. He hadn’t forgotten what he’d done, but he’d paid his price and was back in the fold. He might not like the guy but he was still a brother—and if war came, they needed every man.
“We’ve lost three shipments so far,” said Deke, the Portland president. Horse had spent a lot of time visiting that charter, and he knew Deke didn’t f**k around when it came to security. If someone was hijacking their product, things had gotten bad. “Couldn’t figure out how they were getting their information. Devil’s Jacks aren’t exactly the brightest ass**les in the bunch, but it’s like they’re reading our minds or something. This last time we caught one. He didn’t talk much, but we searched his cell and found some contacts. That’s how we learned about your boy.”
“What’d you do with the guy you caught?” Picnic.
“Got him at a safe house,” Deke replied, giving a feral smile. “Holding on to him for now. Figured it might be useful to have him, goddamn bastards are loyal, if nothing else. That’s more than I can say for this Jensen guy. Business is out of hand, Pic. Why didn’t you take him out?”
“That’s my fault,” Horse said. “His sister’s my old lady. The man’s got incredible skills, really thought we’d be able to turn the situation around and keep using him. Obviously I made a serious error in judgment.”
“Whole club made that decision,” Duck said. “Mistake? Maybe. But you go around putting talented people down all the time, eventually you run out of talent. In this case we f**ked up. Could’ve gone the other way just as easy. And we all know the Jacks have been looking for a way to move in on us for years. We’d be facing this sooner or later no matter what.”
There were grunts of agreement all around the table.
“So how’s he getting his information?” asked Deke. “That’s the real question here. You know him. What are we missing?”
“I have no idea,” Horse said, shaking his head. “Hacking? Only explanation I can think of, although it’s a long shot. We aren’t stupid, not like this shit is on a spreadsheet or something. The other explanation is a rat.”
The room grew quiet. Then Deke spoke.
“We do business online all the time, banking, transfers, you name it. Money’s gotta move somehow, can’t do it all in cash. That’s the reality. Someone could be giving out clues without even realizing it.”
“Maybe texts or personal emails?” Ruger piped up. “We all got burners for business, but we’ve got personal phones too. Email. All that shit. Can’t get by without it and I’m thinkin’ someone’s gotten sloppy. Could even be a kid or a woman, no idea what they’re doing. We need to lock information down, take it from there and see what happens.”
“Marie’s upstairs trying to get in touch with him,” Horse said. “I gave it to her straight. She knows this is serious. If she finds him, she’ll let me know.”
“Can we trust her?” asked Picnic, scratching his chin. He looked tired. “You know I like her, but shit like this would f**k with anyone and she’s new to the club. She might tip him off.”
“Even if she tips him off, that’s better than letting things stand,” said Max, surprising Horse. “She tells him he’s putting her in danger, he might back down. He’s doing this because he’s scared and he’s trying to help her. Must not’ve been able to pull the money together so he’s playing a new game. I’ll bet he has no idea the shit storm he’s creating.”
“I’m keeping her here until this is handled,” Horse said. “She’s up in the back apartment. Anyone have a problem with that?”
Picnic rolled his eyes, and Ruger shook his head. Deke laughed and pulled out a knife, picking at his fingernail with it.
“Got no problem with that, brother,” he said. “She’s club property. We don’t share with anyone, don’t care how or why they want her. It’s about all of us now.”
Horse felt the tension in his chest loosen. He knew Jeff wouldn’t harm her, but the Jacks? He’d seen what they could do to a woman.
“We still owe those cocksuckers for Gracie,” Deke added, his face grim. “I know we took action, but I still say it wasn’t enough. We need to show them who owns this land, throw their asses so far out of our territory that the fall back to earth kills ’em. We stop Jensen, great. But I think we should consider taking the fight to them, finish what we started ten years ago. I don’t give a shit about this guy, I want to take them down.”
“Fuck yeah,” muttered one of the Portland guys. Horse nodded, understanding. The Oregon charters had suffered over the years and a threat to one of the club’s women would hit them harder than most. He didn’t want war, but if it came he wouldn’t be holding back. They owed the Jacks for a lot of things.
“So here’s how I’m seeing it,” Picnic said. “We reach out to all the charters, in person. Tell them to get ready. Make sure their information is locked up tight. New phones, new codes. Women and children taking safety precautions. Marie may be the one with the bounty on her head, but they’re all vulnerable. Might wanna consider bringing them in for the duration, especially you guys down south. You think Marie can make contact with him?”