One Step Too Close

By: K.A Merikan

Wolver nodded as Ripper spoke. They were the oldest men in the club, both Coffin Nails for over forty years, and Dad had told Ryder that a lot had changed in the last decade. Some arrangements broke off, and with money drying up, they sometimes had to resort to muling drugs, which wasn’t what their club was about. They needed solid deals, and men who could handle their shit.

Ripper massaged his chest absent-mindedly and looked straight at Ryder. “Love our younger boys to bits, but this club is getting a bit too shitheaded lately. That’s where you come in.”

Ryder took a deep breath and tried not to look too eager, but he was proud to be entrusted with all this responsibility at a time when their chapter was not doing all that well. He’d seen it too, the endless parties that frequently went out of hand, thousands of dollars burnt on nothing. Club life was about freedom, but there were rules even to the life of the free. Otherwise, what they had now could be lost. Ryder’s new position was to be as much of an honor as it was a burden.

“I’ll do what I can.”

Wolver snorted. “Your position hasn’t been filled for too long. You won’t be popular,” he said with a wide grin.

Ryder smirked, even though an invisible hand tightened around his throat. “We’re all brothers, and brothers fight sometimes.”

Wolver shook his head. “You’d be the first one to know that.”

“Go on, get back to celebrating,” Ripper said with a wide smile.

“Just one more thing,” said Wolver and ducked underneath the table, only to come up with a bottle of liquor. He took a long swig and presented the bottle to Ripper, who drank just as eagerly. Ryder could only follow their example as they patted him on the back. The whiskey burned, but it felt good, like new fuel in his gas tank.

He returned to the clubhouse and immediately went outside, seeking Jed, but in the place where he had sat just twenty minutes ago, Bert was fucking his old lady with so much vigor Ryder expected them to fall to the ground soon.

“Okay?” asked Jess, grabbing Ryder’s hand and pulling him closer. He scratched his head and leaned down, kissing her sweet-smelling hair.

“Yeah. Have you seen Jed?”

“Oh, he left with Tom, maybe five minutes ago.”

Ryder frowned as he looked around. A number of people seemed to have gone. The type of crowd that usually hung out at their parties—midnight was much too early for them to leave. He spotted Dana in a faraway corner, staring at her phone.

“Hey,” he called out, trying to put himself into a civil mindset. It made him crazy that out of all the girls Jed could have, he chose this cold bitch. “Where’s my brother?”

She looked up at him, her face illuminated by the pale glow from the phone. “He’s racing again.” Dana rolled her eyes as if it was no big deal.

Ryder looked at her, taken aback. “He’s fucked up on speed and beer. Why didn’t you stop him?”

She blinked and stepped back, as if shocked by his tone. “He told me to stay here.”

Ryder groaned, out of ammo. “Where is this idiot?”

“On the outskirts of town, by the former tanning factory.” She looked back at her phone, and Ryder’s blood boiled when he saw that she was playing fucking Candy Crush.

At that point, Ryder was positive that this woman had no heart beating in her chest. He turned around and rushed inside the building, looking for the towering figure of his father. Even in a crowd so thick, Wolver was easy to spot due to his impressive height, and Ryder promptly made his way through the lounge, all the way to the kitchenette, where Dad was talking to a very flushed Axe, who seemed to stand upright only thanks to the two girls at his sides.

“Jed’s out racing again. He’s doing it in town, as if there were no other fucking roads out there!” yelled Ryder through the music. His brain was itching with the need to mount his bike and go. Grab that idiot by the nape and lock him in the basement for a whole day, until he was sober enough to realize how stupid he’d been. “He’s still on probation!”

Axe waved his hand. “Give the guy a break, nothing’s gonna happen! Let him live a little.”

But Ryder’s father wasn’t that dismissive. “I’ll get Ripper. This is fucking bullshit. I knew we shouldn’t have helped him steal that Honda.”

Ryder nodded and quickly made his way outside. He tried to run past Jess so that she wouldn’t notice, but of course she did. She even yelled after him. He was intent on pretending that he couldn’t hear her through all the noise, but the insistent sound of her light, fit body running toward him in high heels was like the noose tightening around Ryder’s neck.

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