One Step Too Close

By: K.A Merikan

Jed laughed and pushed Ryder’s hand away, but that gesture made the sleeve slide beneath Jed’s wrist and revealed nasty red burn marks between his index finger and thumb.

“I don’t think Jess would appreciate a revival of pranks.”

“Yeah, well, she wouldn’t be included,” said Ryder and grabbed Jed’s hand, pulling it hard to take a look at the circular wounds.

“Don’t,” Jed groaned, but wouldn’t catch Ryder’s gaze. It was as if the temperature rapidly dropped. “It’s nothing.”

“This isn’t funny. And it’ll look shit,” sighed Ryder before smacking the back of Jed’s head.

Jed snorted. “It’s just my hand. Must be the speed, ‘cause it doesn’t hurt much.”

“You’ll fuck up your skin,” said Ryder. If Jed were a bit younger, Ryder would have insisted to patch up the burns somehow. He stroked the inner forearm along the line of dots that sprayed the otherwise perfect skin. Of course Jed would do something stupid while he was on drugs. Better this than trying to fly off the rooftop. Ryder needed to keep an eye on him tonight and make sure that he wasn’t doing anything even more brainless.

“Chicks dig scars.” Jed smiled and pulled his hand away. Always trying to turn everything into a joke.

“Not like these. Those are like the emo knife scars,” chuckled Ryder, shaking his head.

Jed’s lips parted, and he hid his hand in the sleeve again. “Fuck you.” He took a long drag of smoke. “Not like the one on your chin, huh? No, that’s super-fucking-manly, ‘cause it’s from a knife fight? Whatever.”

Ryder laughed. “Doesn’t count if you do it to yourself. You could have at least had a road accident, right?”

Jed opened his lips for a longer moment, looking over Ryder’s shoulder. “Jess is waiting for you.”

Ryder looked up to see his girlfriend calling him over with broad gestures. “What’s up? We’re talking,” he responded, but she shook her head.

“They want you in the office,” she yelled, sitting down with a drink.

“Crap.” Ryder rolled his eyes and looked at Jed. “Sorry. Can’t say no to that.”

“Congrats, man. If someone deserves this patch, it’s you.” Jed patted Ryder’s arm.

Ryder lingered for a few moments, not sure how to respond, but in the end, he rushed all the way back to the clubhouse, brushing his fingers over Jess’s soft shoulder on the way. As nice as she felt, he still felt the burn from where he touched Jed. The music was a pleasant buzz in his head as he made his way through the lounge, pressing between countless bodies. He finished his beer before reaching the door to the office and handed the bottle to a random hangaround.

Down the corridor from the common area, behind double doors, Ripper, the prez, and Ryder’s dad, Wolver, who was the VP, were waiting in beat-up brown leather chairs. Both men looked like bikers, the old-fashioned way. Ripper’s horse-shoe moustache gave him the look of an aged male porn star whose prime had been in the eighties. Wolver on the other hand sported a long gray beard that looked fitting with the round stomach hanging over a pair of legs that were average in size.

Ryder closed the door behind himself and sat down opposite them both.

“We have news on the Man from Colombia,” Ripper said in his raspy voice created by years of abusing alcohol and cigarettes.

Ryder leaned forward, his brain sobering up. Was he on the in now? Would he get intel before everyone else? He cherished the trust put in him, and he could see pride reflected in his father’s eyes, but the weight of what he might hear made his stomach clench slightly. What was so important that they felt the need to talk to him during a party thrown in his honor?

“What about him?” Ryder asked, looking between the two older men.

Ripper lit himself a cigar. “He goes by Toro, and he might come over at some point. Apparently, there’s a price on his head, so he keeps delaying to keep his whereabouts vague. Nothing is set in stone yet, but I thought you should know what the deal’s about. We don’t want everyone just running around and yapping about it, because Toro’s a private man. We’ve come into possession of ten Soviet rocket launchers. They’re stored away, and he will come over to view them. We might have a route to get more. He’s paying good money, so we want to build a stable partnership with him. For now, his associates will be taking the rifles we acquired lately, but we want to keep things quiet to the rest of the club. They’d want to spend the money, and we need to re-invest it, not run around with empty pockets, barely paying for the fucking free beers the hangarounds are leeching off us.”

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