Deke sighed, and shook his head.
“Like I said, doesn’t add up,” Pic continued. “We know they’re our enemies. They know it, too. So why the f**k would they be here? Death wish?”
“Setting us up,” Ruger suggested. “Trying to get us to relax? Either that or a mind f**k.”
“Your situation in Seattle, they give you any shit about it?” Pic asked him, although Ruger knew he had the answer already.
“Nope,” he replied. “Fuckwad was theirs to punish, no problem with that. Made our lives easier. Damned civil about it, too.”
“Exactly, and you ever know a Devil’s Jack to be polite?” Picnic continued. “Fuck, didn’t think they knew how. These guys are young—different—and none of us has ever seen them before this year. Roseburg boys say there’ve been dustups in northern Cali. Something’s happening in that club, and for once I think it might not be about screwing us over.”
Deke slammed down a shot, then leaned back, arms crossed, face grim.
“They don’t change,” Toke muttered. “Doesn’t matter what games they’re playing, doesn’t matter who’s in charge, none of it. They’re Jacks and they belong in the ground. Period. Every day they’re livin’ in my town, it eats at me. I want to end it.”
“You got one-track minds, both of you,” Horse said, pulling up a chair to join them. “I swear, we’re goin’ in f**kin’ circles here. Slide just texted. Jacks are in the parking lot. Just the two of ’em, no sign of anyone else. Don’t do anything crazy until we finish talking, okay?”
Toke nodded, eyes narrowed.
Shit, Ruger thought. They shouldn’t have let him come along. Man hated the Devil’s Jacks, and with good reason, but he was like a damned grenade without a pin.
The door opened, bright sunlight framing two figures Ruger recognized. Hunter and Skid—the same bastards who’d come up to collect their former brother in Seattle the weekend before. Both were big, although Hunter was the taller of the two. He was young, probably no more than twenty-four or twenty-five. Nomad, so he didn’t have a home chapter. No official status, but the man carried himself with instinctive authority.
If the Jacks had a serious power-shift in progress, Ruger would bet a thousand bucks Hunter was at the center of it.
The music changed and a new girl strutted out onto the stage. Ms. Personality hopped on down, but she didn’t bother coming over to their table trying to sell lap dances. She might not be enthusiastic about her job, but apparently she wasn’t entirely stupid.
None of them stood as the Jacks approached. Ruger kicked a chair over to Hunter, who caught it with a smile that was anything but friendly. He flipped it backward, straddling it casually. Skid dropped down next to him.
“You ready to talk?” Hunter asked, looking between the men. “I’m Hunter, by the way. With the Devil’s Jacks. Motorcycle club, may have heard of us? This is Skid.”
Deke’s eyes narrowed, and Ruger had to bite back a grin. He wasn’t sure yet if Hunter was an idiot or not, but the kid had balls of f**kin’ brass.
“Picnic,” the Coeur d’Alene president said. “My brothers Deke, Horse, Toke, and Ruger. Deke’s the president here in Portland. Gotta say, he’s a little hurt you haven’t dropped by to introduce yourselves before now. You might not know this, but Portland belongs to the Reapers.”
Hunter held up his hands, palms forward.
“No problems there,” he said. “My rocker says Nomad, not trying to claim Oregon. Your town, your rules.”
“You’re breathing our air,” Deke said, his voice cold. “Generally we charge for that. I think we discussed this with one of your boys last winter. Stayed with us for nearly a week, if I remember right.”
Skid’s eyes narrowed, but he kept his mouth shut. Hunter shrugged.
“These things happen. We get shit’s not good between the Jacks and the Reapers,” he said, his tone mild. “But we’re here today because you helped us out. Been wantin’ to meet up for a while now. This opened the door. We wanted to offer our thanks and talk to you about a truce. Asshole you handed over up in Seattle—he was a problem for us. Serious problem, more than you realize. Now the problem’s gone. We appreciate the gesture, that’s all.”
“Really?” Deke asked. “Because we’ve got some problems, too. You truly appreciate the favor, we could use some help resolving those. You get me?”
Hunter’s eyes darkened.
“Yeah, I get you,” he replied. “That was a bad business—”
“No, that was my niece,” Deke said, slamming his hand down on the table. “Cute kid. Never gonna have kids of her own, though, what with the way your boys ripped her up from the inside out. Spent a year on a f**kin’ psych ward. Still scared to leave her house.”
Toke grunted, pulling out his knife and laying it on the table. Hunter leaned forward, his face every bit as intense as Deke’s. He ignored the knife.
“That problem’s been solved,” he said. “We offered proof.”
“Proof wasn’t good enough,” Deke replied. “Dead is easy. They needed to suffer, and I needed to be the one making them suffer. You stole that from me.”
Hunter glanced at his friend, then nodded to the waitress, gesturing for her to come over. She approached their group cautiously, clearly reading the tension.
“Another round for the table,” Hunter told her. She scuttled off, and silence fell. The girl returned with the drinks, and Hunter picked up his beer, sipping it thoughtfully. Ruger joined him, wondering how this would play out. He’d stand by Deke and Toke—still his brothers, right or wrong—but attacking some kid who’d had nothing to do with the incident wouldn’t accomplish much. Finally, Skid spoke.
“Things are changing with the Jacks,” he said. “Lot of things in play. What happened to your niece? There’s no excuse for that and no way we’re trying to say it was okay. None of us were down with it, and we took care of the men involved. Only two were our brothers. The rest were hangarounds, and all of them are gone now.”
“We should’ve brought them to you,” Hunter added. “We get that now. At the time, we just took care of business, because your girl was the last straw in a much bigger, much uglier situation, so wrap your head around that. Figured we’d minimize your risk and haul out our own garbage. I can’t travel back and fix what happened to her. Can’t give you a shot at them, either. It’s done. What I can do is try to move forward, make sure it never happens again. We’re tired of this.”