“1939?” Tigger asked, for the third time at least. Ryder rolled his eyes. The kid was probably getting a headache trying to do the math.
“38-39. She’s 80 years old.”
“Damn, that’s older than my grandma.” Tigger chuckled and then said, “Grandma was a wild one, married five times…three of them were Hell’s Angels. There’s probably a lot of jokes in there…”
Ryder chuckled and said, “Don’t worry, I’m not going there.”
“So, no offense, but what’s so special about this bike?”
He was trying to be patient with the prospect, but the kid was jumping up and down on Ryder’s last nerve. He talked too much. Ryder wasn’t a talker, never had been. It was one of the reasons that he and Garrett were such good friends. They’d met in the army and found out they were both from Vegas and they both had more than a passing interest in motorcycles, but they both knew when to talk and when to keep their mouths shut. When a man had a handful of original, eighty-year-old parts…there was something reverential about that, at least in Ryder’s eyes. It was like being in church, and he wished the choir would shut the fuck up so he could pray in silence. He tried to gather what was left of his patience by reminding himself that he was a prospect once too, and he had learned because someone had been patient with him.
“Right after I got out of the army I met up with Garrett in Henderson, Nevada. We went into this dealership to get some shit for his bike and I saw her there. She was on a chrome platform and there were gold ropes around her. She was the prettiest thing I ever saw. It’s like the sky opened up and the heavens were shining down on her. I fell in love,” he snapped his fingers, “just like that.”
Tigger squished his pimply face up and said, “Sorry, I don’t see it.”
Ryder had been bent over. He rose up to his full six-foot-three and looked down at the skinny boy. Tigger actually looked nervous. Ryder had a mean face. People got nervous around him all the time, even when he was trying to be pleasant. Sometimes he thought about shaving the beard, but then he remembered that only made him look like a mean twelve-year-old. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” Ryder told him. “Besides, look at it this way…say a guy introduced you to his old lady right when she first woke up in the morning after a night of doing tequila shots and dancing on tables. Her mascara’s smeared all over her face and her skin’s all splotchy and that hair…” He held his hands up around his head, “You know, that wild, angry-looking hair with maybe a bit of dried vomit in the hairline?” Tigger made a face. “Right? Then imagine you run into some of the guys that were at the party the night before and they’re talking about a whole different woman. This one was dressed to kill, her make-up was on point, and her hair was long and smooth and sexy…same girl, different situations. You see, Edith…”
“You wanna hear the rest of the story, or you wanna piss me off by talking shit about my old girl’s name?”
“Nah, man, sorry.”
“Like I was saying, Edith has had a long, hard life. That day in the dealership there was this plaque that told all about her. She was, in her day, a unique, experimental Harley Davidson. Edith was one of the actual Bill Harley, experimental, second generation, 52-cubic-inch overhead valve prototypes. She is only one of five produced. She came with aluminum heads and barrels, and a 1938 lower end, overhead valves, and a 1937 oil pump.”
Ryder could hear the excitement in his own voice, but he couldn’t help it. One thing he did do a lot of talking about was Edith. There was just so much to say about her. “Edith’s motor…this motor right here…was made just for her. She’s got narrow cams and an oversized cam cover, lifter blocks drilled to the channel, and they vacuum the oil from the OHV heads. And look at those wheels. One-off narrow stepped hubs with spoke wheels. Damn, I almost get a hard-on just looking at her. She ain’t what she used to be, but she will be again someday. It took me a while to save up enough cash to get her shipped out here from Vegas, and now it’s gonna take a while for me to save enough to finish buying the original parts and paint that I need to restore her, but when I’m finished with her, Edith will shine again just like it’s 1939.”
“She get burnt?”
“Not burnt so much as smoke damaged. See, that night, after I saw her, there was a fire at that dealership. It was the whole block, really…some drunk hit a pole that sent up a big spark and ignited all kinds of shit. But something saved her…maybe it was divine intervention, what do you think?” Tigger shrugged, and Ryder said, “Anyway, you know what her price tag said that first time I saw her?” Tigger shook his head. “Two hundred and twenty thousand dollars.” The kid whistled through his teeth and Ryder said, “I know, right? Dude, no ordinary man could have bought her. She would have ended up in some rich casino boss’s collection…but since she was smoke damaged, and the owner of the dealership was gonna collect the insurance anyway, he auctioned her off about a week after the fire.”
“So how much did you pay?” Tigger asked.
“Just wait a second, you have to hear the whole story so you can understand how I knew Edith and I were meant to be. See, about a week after the fire Garrett and I had the day off and we were hitting the bars on the strip pretty hard. We met these girls in a bar on Fremont Street. Hot girls, and they were pretty drunk too. So Garrett and his girl took off first and me and mine were doing some gambling because she seemed a little hesitant. Dude, I hit a twenty-five thousand dollar jackpot on one of the progressive machines.”
“No fucking way!”
“Fucking way, man. That girl was already horny but when she saw all that cash, it was on. We got a room and a bottle and damn, that was some fine pussy. Almost the best I ever had.”
“And her name was Edith?”
“No. Will you just let me tell the story?” Tigger nodded, and Ryder said:
“So, we got it on all night and the next day about noon we got woke up by a pounding on the door. I opened it and there was this MILF…I mean, she was hot. She was all dressed up fancy, huge tits spilling out of the top of her dress, big hair…nice, let me tell you. But the weird part was that she had a wedding dress in one hand and she was pulling Garrett’s chick by the ear with the other.”
“Yeah, seems my little girl was late for her own wedding. She was getting married to some rich Wall Street guy. She whined but Mama Edith whipped her butt into shape really quickly. She sent her off to get ready…and while the girl was doing that, Edith and I got to know each other better.”
Tigger was laughing. “Fuck! That’s an awesome story.” Ryder knew it was and he loved telling it, especially since it was all true.
“Yep. So, after Edith left to see that her little girl became Mrs. Rich Wall Street Guy, I’m cruising downtown on my way back to the house and I pass this auction yard. I happen to see this ‘fire sale’ sign and since I’m still flush with the cash I’d won the night before, I stop, and I’ll be damned if this beauty isn’t on the block just as I walk through the gates. It was fate. Edith and I were meant to be.”
“Like soulmates,” Tigger said.
“Now you’re just making it weird.” Tigger’s face turned red and Ryder laughed. “I’m just messing with you, kid. Go get me a beer, will you?”
“Sure.” Tigger headed off toward the back of the shop where the refrigerator was and Ryder squatted back down next to the bike. He’d just picked up the cloth and polisher he was using when he heard:
“Ryder, you in here?” It was Garrett.
“Yep, over here.” He stood up again and saw his giant friend coming toward him. Ryder hadn’t wanted to return to California when he got out of the army. He was okay with visiting his family from time to time, but he didn’t have to live down the street. Instead, he’d gone to Vegas and Garrett had gotten him into the club he rode with as a prospect. They were both nomads, and that suited their lone wolf lifestyles, but as the club president began putting more pressure on Garrett to do things that were tormenting his soul, Garrett met a woman and decided to make a lot of changes in his life. The biggest one…besides his girl Paige, of course…was leaving Vegas and joining up with the Skulls in Boston. About six months later in one of their monthly phone talks, Garrett told him that Dax Marshall was recruiting men skilled in hydroponics. Ryder fit that bill and had grown restless in Nevada…so here he was on the east coast and wearing the Southside Skulls colors on his vest.
“Hey, I hate to interrupt your time with Edith,” Garrett chuckled. “I need a favor.”
“Sure, what’s up?” Tigger was back with the beer. He handed one to Ryder and Garrett took the other out of his hand. Ryder smiled. He figured the second beer had probably been for Tigger himself, but he wasn’t about to tell the giant biker that. The prospect scurried off to get another and Garrett said:
“Dax asked me to go into town to the bar tonight and pick up the receipts. I was gearing up, but Paige started having pains…”
“She’s in labor?” Garrett’s old lady was pregnant and about to pop, from the looks of her. Garrett already had a little girl that he shared custody of with his ex. He thought the sun rose and set on that little girl, and Ryder thought it was really something to see his friend, a former army sharpshooter and assassin, on the DL kissing boo-boos and teaching his little girl how to ride a bike. He was a good dad, and when he found out Paige was having a boy, he was walking on air.
“I’m not sure. They’re still kind of far apart but since we’re a ways out from the hospital, her doctor told her to go in and get checked. So, I need someone to go get the deposit and receipts from Carolyn.”
Carolyn ran the bar that the Skulls owned in the city. Surprisingly, it was kind of a yuppie bar where Boston’s young, hip businessmen and women spent their time after work and on the weekends. Dax had bought the bar in the name of one of his dummy corporations and not many people even knew that the Skulls owned it. It was called 92 Proof and a lady named Carolyn Myers had been managing it for the five years that the Skulls owned it. Carolyn was a great lady, if not a little rough around the edges, and she was meticulous with the books. Once a week Dax sent Gunner or Garrett to collect the “deposit” and the receipts. Carolyn didn’t like the idea of turning over all that cash to anyone but the bank, but Dax had his own way of doing things and most of the Skulls’ “deposits” didn’t happen in the traditional sense. Despite expecting someone to show up to collect them every Monday night, however, she still went a little batshit crazy if anyone she didn’t know showed up and asked for them. A few of the guys had to wait for hours until she could get a hold of Dax before she’d release them, and one poor prospect got held at gunpoint when he tried to say fuck it and leave anyway. Luckily, she knew Ryder because he’d gone in with Garrett several times. She also knew Paige was expecting, so she shouldn’t have a problem with Ryder going in alone tonight, he hoped.
“Well, of course I’ll go get them for you. Let me know what’s going on when you get to the hospital.”
“I will, thanks, brother.” Garrett handed Ryder a set of keys and then Ryder gave him a bro-hug and told him to give Paige his love before he left. Then Ryder tucked Edith in for the night, got on his 2004 HD Softail, and headed into town. An hour later he was pulling up in front of 92 Proof. It looked pretty busy for a Monday night; there was no parking out front and it looked like people were spilling out the front door. Ryder parked his bike in the back and went in through the kitchen door. He’d just stridden past the big stainless-steel dishwasher when he was suddenly looking at the business end of a baseball bat.
“Take one more step and you’re a dead man.”
Ryder’s eyes followed the Louisville slugger down to the woman holding it. The well-worn wooden bat was a sharp contrast to the innocent face of the woman clutching it like she was waiting for the perfect pitch. Her brow was creased tightly and her pretty pink lips were curved downward in a frown. She had long blonde hair and it was pulled back into a thick ponytail. The neckline of her shirt was just low enough to show off a bit of cleavage and the edges of a colorful tattoo. Ryder thought it might be some kind of flower, but he was afraid if he stared at her chest for too long, she might take a swing at his head. “Whoa there, little lady…”
“Don’t little lady me, I’ll take your head clean off!”
He tried not to smile, because she looked like she just might try. Ryder was looking directly at her face now and he decided quickly that although the rest of her was pretty, it was her eyes that made her beautiful. They were hazel, more green than brown, and surrounded by long, dark eyelashes…but it was the passion in them that made them so unique. They were like looking into two big, round orbs of fire. Of course he knew the passion in them at the moment was borne of the fear that some bum had just walked in through the alley with sketchy intentions…but it was still hot. It gave the impression that she was the kind of woman that life might bend but never break, and although he could probably easily take the bat out of her hands, she wouldn’t give it up without a fight. Again, hot.
“I’m here to see Carolyn,” he said. The little blonde narrowed her eyes even further on his face.
“And do you always come in the back door when you come to visit Carolyn?”
“Not always, no. Tonight, I happened to have the key.” He held up the keys Garrett had given him up. She let her eyes flit to them and then back to his face.
“Are you a friend of Carolyn’s?”
“Business associate,” Ryder said. “You can just tell her I’m here for the bank deposit.”
“What’s your name?”
“Ride Her More?”
Ryder laughed. “Well, I’ll be damned. Most people don’t get that so quickly. You’re good.” He was impressed. That was exactly why the guys called him Ryder…and he wasn’t kidding that most people weren’t clever enough to figure it out.
She rolled her eyes. “Figures, you look like a player.”
“Storm! Where are those glasses?” Ryder didn’t take his eyes off “Storm’s” face even as he saw Carolyn push through the swinging doors a few feet behind her. The middle-aged brunette stopped in her tracks, put her hands on her slim hips, and said, “What the hell is going on?”
“Hey there, Carolyn.”
“Ryder, what the hell are you doing in the kitchen and Storm, why are you holding a bat on him?”
“I came to pick up the receipts. Paige might be in labor; Garrett took her to the hospital. He gave me the key to the back door. It was crowded out front, so I thought I’d just slip in this way.” He smiled at Storm then and said, “Now you go.”
Storm slowly lowered the bat to her side, but she continued to glare at Ryder. “I’m sorry,” she said, not sounding sorry at all. “I thought he was breaking in. I’ve never seen anyone come in that door…”
Ryder was just about to accept her feeble apology when the sound of a scream and shattering glass cut him off and sent a chill down his spine. He reached back for the gun resting in his waistband just as he heard the unmistakable metallic sound of a shotgun being cocked. “Fuck me,” he said in a whisper as he made his way toward the swinging door that separated the kitchen and the bar. “Garrett better at least give that kid mine for a middle name.”