Jax smiled slightly as he parked his bike in the driveway next to black Cutlass that had once belonged to Tara’s father. It was nice coming home to her – definitely something he was finding it easy to get used to.
Tugging off his helmet with one hand, he pulled his cigarettes out of his pocket with the other. When he paused to light his smoke, he took note of the unfamiliar truck and silver Mercedes parked along the curb. The truck was an older model Ford, faded blue with several dents in the side and easily fit into the neighborhood. The Mercedes, however… the make wasn’t too common in Charming, let alone on his block.
Jax took another long drag on his cigarette and carefully scanned the yard and street. All seemed quiet and still at the late hour. Nearing his front door, he blew the inhaled smoke out in one long breath. Once again his nerves prickled, his attention on edge. He cocked his head, his brow creasing in concern. The muffled sounds on the other side of the door alarmed him. He tossed the butt behind him and drew his .45 out of his kutte.
Slowly he pressed the latch down on the door handle, surprised yet relieved to find it unlocked. He cocked his pistol then shoved hard, the door hitting the wall with a solid, loud bang.
The scene in his living room brought him up short. It took only the space of a heartbeat for it to click, for him to understand what he had just walked in on. Instantly a red-hot rage surged through him, igniting his every nerve, coloring his vision, and muting all sound.
He pulled the trigger.
The bare-assed man on his knees fell forward, the blood from his head wound spraying across the carpet and on the woman splayed beneath him.
Jax turned his gun on the masked man standing to the left and fired again. The bullet caught the stranger in the arm as he turned to run. He stumbled at the impact but remained on his feet, clumsily darting around the corner to the kitchen. He raced toward the side door with adrenaline enhanced speed.
Hesitating only a split second to choose his next target, Jax lunged over the body of the dead man. He tackled the third man as he rose from where he had been kneeling, holding the woman down on the floor. The biker slammed the pistol into the man’s temple once before dropping the gun to the side. Ripping off the white rubber mask, Jax used his fist to pound the man’s face again and again, throwing his weight solidly behind every punch.
It was the smallest sound, a gasp, followed by his name in a hoarse whisper that broke through the rage. Jax slowed and finally stopped, ramming the man’s head into the carpet with one final punch. Panting heavily, he shoved his hair out of his face and looked over his shoulder.
Behind him, Tara had struggled out from under the dead man and was on her hands and knees.
She made a small sound, and sucked in two deep gasping breaths before retching violently, throwing up in part on her attacker.
“Tara, babe…” Jax repeated softly, his rage rapidly shifting to fear and concern. He picked up his gun, and used the barrel to nudge the man beneath him, checking for signs of life. The offender let out a broken breath as Jax came to his feet, his eyes raking over the guy in search of some kind of identity, some meaning to all this. When his gaze lit on the unbuttoned pants, the biker’s rage resurfaced. With his jaw clenched and his eyes narrowed, Jax aimed and shot the man in the kneecap. “Just so you don’t get any ideas you’re gonna be goin’ anywhere.”
Shifting the gun to his left hand, Jax kept it aimed in the general direction of the man now sniveling at his feet while he used his right to fish his phone out of his pocket. He flipped it open as he stepped back and hit the familiar keys to dial one of his most frequently called numbers. He knew the sequence without even looking – a skill that often came in handy.
“Chibs? I need you, man. Bring Hap, the van, and anyone who’s half-sober.” Bobby’s party had been going on for several hours; the chance of many of the guys being less than shit-faced drunk by now was slim.
Taking another step back, Jax turned and looked at Tara. His heart ached and his stomach churned on seeing the love of his life battered and naked on the floor.
“Yeah, my house. Now.” He flipped the phone closed and shoved it back in his pocket.
Bending down, he pulled out his knife and cut away the duct tape that still bound Tara’s hands together. He reached for the zebra stripe blanket on the back of the couch, and wrapped it around her carefully. Scooping her up in his arms, he settled her in one corner of the black leather sofa, and tucked the edges of blanket around her curled form.
“Babe… I’m gonna check on Abel.” He brushed a kiss on her head and placed the .45 on her lap.
Tara swallowed hard and looked at the gun before slowly lifting her green eyed gaze to the intense blue one scrutinizing her with such concern.
“He moves, he blinks or does anything you don’t like, shoot him.”
She blinked and looked at man huddled on the floor, then back at Jax. She licked her lips and gave the smallest of nods; had Jax not been watching her so closely he wouldn’t have seen it.
He cast a narrowed glance at the trespasser wheezing on his carpet. Satisfied that he wasn’t a threat for the next few minutes, Jax hurried down the hall and into the baby’s room. Abel’s face was pink from an earlier bout of crying and he had kicked off his blanket, but despite the commotion he had settled back to sleep. With a sigh of relief, Jax adjusted Abel’s bedding and returned to the living room.
Kneeling in front of Tara, he cupped the back of her head and gently stroked her face with his thumb. Her attention seemed far away, her gaze on something in the distance. “Hey…”
Tara blinked, her eyelashes fluttering several times as she seemed to be trying to bring him into focus. “Hi,” she finally whispered in reply. “Abel?”
“He’s fine. Sleepin,’” Jax answered softly. He brushed a kiss on her forehead and smoothed her hair, trying in any way he could to take away her fear, her pain.
“Good,” she nodded but her eyes began welling with tears and her lip started to tremble.
At the first sign of her tears he didn’t hesitate. He pulled her into his arms and turned in one move, sitting on the couch and settling her in his lap.
Curled against Jax’s chest, his strong around her, she finally felt safe, the terrors of the night over. The sobs she had smothered for so long escaped, and her body shook as she cried.
“It’s okay. You’re okay,” he crooned softly, stroking her hair gently and tucking her tightly against him. Jax could feel the warmth of her tears along his neck and it made his heart break a little more. He wanted to cry himself, but Tara needed him now , so he tucked those feelings aside.
He eyed the man on the floor critically. He would find all of those responsible for this transgression and make them pay.
“Oh Je-sus Christ,” Chibs exclaimed as he and Opie burst through Jax’s front door. Juice gave a muffled curse when he crashed into Ope, not expecting the big biker to stop short. Happy followed in behind them, a dark scowl creasing his face at the scene in their VP’s living room.
No one asked what happened, there was no need. One man was dead on the floor, his pants around his ankles; another man, beaten and bloody, cowered nearby. Tara’s torn clothes were strewn on the floor, her bruised and tear-streaked face just visible from her position in Jax’s arms.
“I need to get her to the hospital,” Jax said in a low voice, glancing down at the still form in his arms. Her tears had finally stopped but she had grown so quiet he thought she might have fallen asleep. At the very least, she was in shock.
“Not like that,” Ope stated flatly, his eyes skimming over them.
Chibs brows quirked up and he nodded, “He’s right.”
Jax stared at his friends for a moment before catching their meaning. He and Tara were both splattered with blood – blood that would not easily be explained away even with what happened.
“Cops are on their way.” Nick, one of the new prospects, shouted from the door. “Anonymous 911 call – shots fired.” He had been monitoring the police band while he waited outside and watched for any unwanted activity.
“Shit,” Jax murmured, his mind racing. Seeming to come to a decision, he stood abruptly with Tara still in his arms, and started toward the door. “Yeah, okay. Juice – grab Abel and the keys to my truck. Call Gemma and have her meet me at her house. Somebody call Unser, see if he can call off his dogs. Hap-”
“I got it,” the tattooed biker interrupted, holding up one hand. No more words were needed with his club brothers; they understood what needed to be done.
Without another word, Juice went to the kitchen to retrieve the keys. Opie flipped open his phone and started to dial the number he knew he could use to reach the Charming police chief. Happy began barking directions at the prospects, and one of them raced to the van to retrieve the tarps inside.
“Go. Take care of your girl,” Chibs said he picked up Jax’s .45 from the arm of the couch. He pointed at the door.
He had just settled Tara in the passenger seat of the truck and was about to close the door when he heard his name in a soft whisper. She gave him a small, pained smile as she reached for his hand. “I need some clothes.”
“Yeah, babe, okay,” Jax agreed with a contrite nod; he should have thought of that. Pressing a quick kiss to her hand, he closed the door. He jogged back into the house, glancing quickly at Juice when he passed by with Abel secured in his carrier for the car seat. “Put him in the back. And stay with Tara.”
The prospects had already wrapped the body of the dead man into a tarp and were preparing to carry it out to the van. Opie was still talking on the phone while standing guard over the other man, though it was questionable if the badly beaten offender was going to survive, much less run.
Chibs followed Jax down the hall and into the bedroom.
“There was another guy,” Jax stated tersely as he pulled his black backpack out of the closet. “I shot him but he got out through the kitchen.”
“We’ll find him, brother,” Chibs emphatically confirmed. He watched as his club VP pulled some of Tara’s clothes from the closet and stuffed them in the bag.
“The dead guy had Ford keys in his pocket. Probably the blue truck out front. Means the other guy is on foot. I’ve got one of the prospects checking around.”
“There was a silver Mercedes out there. It’s gone,” Jax replied. He hadn’t even been aware that he’d noticed the missing vehicle until that moment.
“Shit,” Chibs sighed. Attackers driving Mercedes did not bode well.
Jax scanned the various clothes before slamming the door shut and crossing the room. He opened a drawer with his t-shirts and grabbed a dark blue SOA shirt that he knew Tara often wore and added it to the bag along with two of his hoodies, one black, one grey.
Opening another drawer, Jax paused. The selection of lace panties reminded him of the torn ones on the living room floor. He gripped the edges of the drawer tightly as a rush of anger swept from his gut along his spine until it felt as though it seized his brain and possessed his entire body. Closing his eyes, he clenched his jaw.
Chibs waited patiently. He’d known Jax practically his entire life, and could tell how hard the younger man was working to control his anger. He also knew how much Jax loved Tara, had seen it when the boy was just sixteen. And at base, he understood the anger. His wife had not been so violated, but she had been taken from him in a manner that had stirred his temper to madness.
“Keep that guy alive. Have Hap work him over, but I want to be the one to cut his balls off,” Jax said without looking at this friend, and sometime mentor. “Cut that other assholes head off. I want to return him to whoever is behind this with his dick in his mouth and his head up his ass.”
“Yeah, all right,” Chibs replied with a lift of his brows and a grimace. Jackson Teller angry was difficult. Jackson Teller in a rage was nearly uncontrollable. This palpable ferocity was a new level, one that the Scottish biker had not yet seen. Whoever had done this… they had no idea what kind of hell they had just unleashed.
“You need to go.” With a nudge, Chibs urged Jax to finish packing. “Take care of Tara. We got this.”
Jax sighed heavily. He chose a few lace undergarments from the drawer and added them to the bag. With a nod, he patted Chibs on the shoulder and headed out the door.
“Those two guys…” Tara murmured, breaking the silence in the cab as they sped through the streets of Charming. Her voice was still a raspy whisper, her throat raw from earlier screams. “They said… something about a delivery…”
Jax glanced at Tara then back at the upcoming streetlight, hoping it would stay green but not really caring either way. Running red lights on empty streets was the least of his worries tonight.
“Like they had something. A package, or… I don’t know.” Tara trailed off, looking but not seeing the familiar buildings they passed. “That’s why I opened the door.”
His knuckles where white from his grip on the steering wheel as if the tight hold would somehow keep his emotions in check.
“It was just the two of them… at first. The third guy…” she continued before he could reply. “… he came later, after the first one had already…”
Jax scarcely dared to breathe, wanting both to hear and not to hear what she was going to say next. He knew and yet … there was a part of his brain that didn’t want to it be true.
She dropped her head back against the seat, her gaze scanning the roof of the cab for a long moment. “… raped me.”
His stomach rolled, and he tried to focus on the road. He wanted again to howl with rage at what they had done to her. He ground his teeth, then clenched and unclenched his jaw, searching for a measure of calm.
“The last guy… he yelled at the other ones, saying something about wrong place… or… house, or not at his house.”
Jax cast a quick puzzled look at her. Wrong place? His house? It had been planned then, not a random act of opportunity. But then in some part of his mind he had known that from the minute he opened his front door.
“One of them said there had been … a change of plans… but then they said it didn’t matter,” Tara sighed, twisting the edge of the blanket. “The last guy… he said that I … that I have to deliver a message… that I should tell SAMCRO to stop selling guns to color…” They also threatened to do it again if she didn’t pass on the message, but she decided not to mention that, not tonight.
“Jesus Christ,” Jax cursed softly, his eyes flitting between the road and the woman beside him.
“They all… raped me… the guy… the one you shot… in the head,” she added the wound location as an afterthought, as if the clarification was somehow necessary. Exhaling deeply, she hugged her arms to her chest. “He was taking a… second turn.”
Slowing the truck, he eased around the curve on to Gemma and Clay’s street and within minutes pulled into their wide driveway. Taut and edgy, he didn’t move after shifting the gear into park and cutting the engine. Tara had been hurt to send a message to SAMCRO. She had been hurt because of him, because of his involvement with the club. This was his fault.
“Jax,” Tara murmured, once again breaking the silence. “I have to see a doctor. I need-“ her voice broke and she paused, searching for the words but finding none. She hoped he understood because she didn’t want to elaborate on her fears – her attackers hadn’t worn condoms.
“What?” he asked, his voice unintentionally harsh when he turned back to face her.
Tara blinked at the sharp tone. From the severity of his expression and the obvious tenseness of his body framed by the streetlight, she was reminded that his loyalties and responsibilities would always be first and foremost to the club. The hospital meant police; it was standard procedure under the circumstances. While she had no intention of telling anyone other than Jax anything that connected this to SAMCRO, assumptions would be made because of her involvement with the club VP, and there would be questions. And questions of any kind that would bring scrutiny to the MC not be welcomed.
She took a deep bracing breath. “I’ll dress. You can drop me… somewhere, anywhere. I’ll call a cab…and go to the hospital.”
With no mother from a young age, and a drunk for a father, she had long been capable of taking care of herself. She could do so again now.
Jax frowned and tilted his head, his brows drawing together in confusion.
Tara met his intense gaze with a steady, unwavering one of her own. “So you… don’t have to be involved,” she clarified, her voice brittle with control.
He caught the coolness in her tone and was immediately filled with remorse; she had misinterpreted his reaction. She was trying to be strong, she was thinking to protect him – and the club – and offering him a way out, if he wanted it. And he loved her that much more for it.
“Hey… babe, no… no way.” Leaning across the cab, he cupped the back of her head and pulled her to him. He bent down and touched her forehead with his, stroking her hair.
“I know… I know that you need to go,“ Jax whispered almost desperately, his voice full of emotion. And he understood the reasons why, but he too, didn’t want to put words to his fears. “I’m gonna take you. I’m gonna to take care of you.”
She tried bravely to smile, which made his heart ache just a little bit more.
“God damn, you scared the shit out of me!” Gemma blurted as soon as her son stepped through the door. She stubbed out the joint she had been smoking and came to her feet.
She knew Jax hadn’t stayed long at Bobby’s party, which hadn’t exactly pleased her. She would prefer that he make more than just an appearance at SAMCRO events as the club’s future President, but she attributed his current distraction to the fact that he was still adjusting to life as a single father. When Chibs gathered up several guys and they left in a hurry, she had been surprised but that quickly elevated to alarm with Juice’s call that Jax needed her to meet him at her house. Without any further explanation, her imagination had run wild and she had been nearly crazy with worry this last hour.
She hurried across the room, her piercing gaze missing nothing as she took in the angry look in her son’s eye, along with the blood splatter on his skin, his clothes, and the swollen and bruised knuckles on his hand. She ran a hand over his hair, cupping his cheek, “Sweetheart, are you all right?”
“Yeah, Mom, I’m fine.” Jax answered, shaking off her touch. He was too edgy and fraught with emotion tonight to have patience with her often overbearing style of mothering.
Cocking her head, her brows winging up in annoyance, Gemma dropped her hand. She stepped back and crossed her arms over her chest. It was only then that she finally acknowledged Tara’s presence, tucked under Jax’s arm and wrapped in a blanket. Her gaze flitted between them. “What happened?”
“Tara was attacked,” Jax replied in a low voice. He stepped into the kitchen and placed Abel, still in the car seat carrier, on the center island. The baby was fussing which meant that a rousing cry was imminent.
“We’ve gotta clean up and go to the hospital. I need you to watch Abel.”
Gemma gave a small sniff as she raked Tara with her gaze. The younger brunette had clearly been hit in the face, her lips swollen and split, and bruises already forming on her cheek and around her eye. Attacked? Raped, she’d bet by the look of things. And from the blood and marks on her son, he’d probably gotten in the middle of it. Still, she nodded and turned her attention to her grandson. Unsnapping the buckles, she plucked him out of his carrier.
“You know who did it? And the hospital… is that a good idea, baby? You know they’ll ask-”
“Not now, Mom.” Jax curbed his frustration. He didn’t want to revisit that topic after the conversation with Tara in the truck only moments ago. Nor did he want her warnings, opinions or advice, and he didn’t want to explain. Not now, not about this. He knew his mother didn’t approve of his relationship with Tara so her suggestions were unlikely to be in his old lady’s best interest. And tonight, after everything that had happened, he was feeling fiercely protective.
“Ok, baby. I’ll take care of this baby,” she conceded as she pressed a kiss to her grandson’s cheek. Abel whimpered and squirmed, kicking his legs. Her mind was racing with questions, but Gemma knew her son and his moods too well – she wouldn’t get any answers from him tonight.
Knowing the effort it took for his inquisitive mother to layoff her questioning, Jax gave a grateful nod. When Abel began to cry with gusto, his lips curved up in a small smile. That would keep Gemma occupied for a while. Without another word, he swept Tara along with him to his old room.
“Dr. Knowles, can you tell me what happened?” The nurse pointed to an open bed as Jax carried Tara through the doors and into the emergency bay. She wanted to walk but he refused to let her since her shoes had been forgotten in his hasty packing.
“I was… raped.” Tara replied, her voice quavering slightly. She inhaled, bracing herself for the ordeal ahead. The violation itself was beyond bad, but recanting of the ordeal to the doctors, then again in excruciating detail to the police would be salting the wounds. Then there would be the pitying looks, followed by the gossip – this was her place of work, after all. She knew people meant well but it would be hard to take just the same.
Jax grimaced at the words, hating the men responsible more every time he heard them. He placed Tara carefully on the indicated bed, but stayed at her side, holding one of her hands. Tara was still clinging tightly to his shirt with the other.
“You’ll need to wait in the lobby,” the nurse directed coolly, looking up from the chart she where she been scribbling her notes. She stared distrustfully at the tall biker. She’d bet money that he was responsible for Dr. Knowles’ injuries. Domestic violence wasn’t uncommon in Charming, and many women, regardless of job title, status, or relationship, often refused to report it. And biker gangs… they had their own rules about what they did, and how they treated their women.
Tara relaxed her grip, letting the flannel of Jax’s shirt slide through her fingers. She nodded and tried to smile, to let him know it was all right to leave her.
“Yeah, okay.” Reluctantly Jax stepped back, brushing a kiss across Tara’s knuckles before releasing her hand.
As he backed into the hall, he pressed his fingers to his lips and held them out to blow her a kiss. He mouthed the words “love you” just before the doors closed, blocking her from his view.
“Hey, man.” Opie handed Jax a cup of coffee from the vending machine and dropped down next to him on the bench just outside the hospital entrance.
“Hey. Thanks,” the blonde biker exhaled, a trail of smoke escaping his lungs in white cloud. He took a big drink of the tepid coffee and grimaced before setting it on the ground at his feet.
“Getting through it,” Jax replied as he sat forward, bracing his elbows on his knees. He studied the bits of broken glass and dirt framed by his shoes. “The cops are in there now.”
Opie made a small sound of acknowledgement, almost a grunt. “You talk to Hale?”
They sat in silence as a voices from a father and son exiting the hospital were heard, the bright white of the son’s new arm cast almost gleaming in the light and the father mumbling something about no more playing Superman from the second floor balcony as they crossed the parking lot to their car.
“Hap’s got the guy at the cabin. Busted up pretty good… broken nose, jaw. Missing some teeth,” Opie finally said, his tone without censure. He’d be surprised if the guy would be able to talk without medical help, and he wasn’t likely to get that at the cabin.
“May not be able to get much out of him. Juice was going to get prints of both guys to Trammel. Maybe we’ll get something there.”
“Yeah, okay.” Jax dropped the spent butt on the ground, and tapped another cigarette out of the box. He was frustrated that the guy might not prove to be more useful, but he had no regrets.
It was several seconds before Ope spoke again. “How are you doin’?”
“I’m fine,” Jax sighed, lighting another smoke and inhaling deeply. He wished then for a joint instead of a nicotine fix; something to dull the sharp edge of his nerves appealed. He considered whether anyone outside the hospital at this late hour would notice or even care if he switched his choice of smokes, then recalled that the cops would want to talk to him soon. And Hale, he would care.
“Huh,” Opie acknowledged cynically, glancing sidelong at his VP. Jax’s face was shadowed under the brim of his black ‘Reaper Crew’ hat, but he knew his friend too well and for too long. He could tell that Jax was not just angry, but nervous and upset. He tossed his empty coffee cup in the nearby trash then reached for his own cigarettes and lit one. “What happened?”
Jax shifted restlessly, finally sitting back. He blew out a slow spiral of smoke before he answered. “Two guys showed up first. Said they had some delivery, something. Busted in when she opened the door. Third guy showed after.” He paused for several long seconds, as if considering his next words carefully. He toed at something on the ground, kicking it aside. “They raped her.”
“It wasn’t random, man,” he continued after another long pause and a drag on his cigarette. “They told her to deliver a message to SAMCRO – stop selling guns to color. The third guy – she heard him say something about the wrong place, or not at the house. I’m guessing they meant for it to go down elsewhere,” he finished furiously. He hated to think how much worse they might have hurt her, had it not been at his house and had he not interrupted them.
Opie’s brow lifted curiously but he had no words of consolation. He had already guessed what had happened from the scene at the house, but it was still hard to hear, and hard to accept. And that it was club related… he sighed.
“She knew. She knew I was gonna bring on something like this.”
“Ope, you didn’t bring this.”
“A banger shot my wife. I had nothing to do with that?”
He couldn’t stop the memory of their conversation after Donna’s death from surfacing in his mind. His wife had been killed because of his association to the club. Now this, with Tara. Something had gone really wrong with SAMCRO.
Jax sighed, glancing at his friend. His thoughts had taken a similar turn as Ope’s but he left the words unspoken. He shook his head, wanting it not to be true – that this had happened because of the club that he loved so much.
“So what do you think?” Opie finally asked, flicking his now smoked butt to the ground. He sat back, bracing his elbows behind him on the bench.
“I don’t know, man… all we know right now is that they were white.”
“Them caring about what we do – why now? They haven’t before.”
“We’ve been seeing more of the League around lately. White hate. One of Darby’s guys said that the new cigar guy is tight with them.”
“Why?” Jax shrugged, “It doesn’t make any sense.”
“Nothing does anymore.” Ope snorted. “So what now?”
“I gotta take care of Tara,” he looked away as he collected his thoughts. “I gotta find out who did this,” Jax added, toying with the SONS rings on his fingers. His words were soft but his body was taut, agitated.
Ope cast his friend a sidelong look. “Then what?”
Standing, Jax tossed away his cigarette butt. His gaze met Opie’s, his expression cold. His voice was soft when he spoke, but filled with deadly provocation, “We kill ‘em all.”
“Jax.” Hale nodded in greeting as he approached the biker in the hospital corridor. “I’m sorry… about what happened.”
“Yeah, me too,” Jax replied, adjusting his hat, his chin lifting in acknowledgement. Despite their differences, they had grown up together in Charming and there was a level of shared respect. He also knew that the Deputy Chief had feelings for Tara, though he’d never acted on them.
“What did she tell you?”
“Not much, man.”
Hale’s brow rose questioningly. He crossed his arms over his chest and waited for Jax to elaborate.
“She said she’d been raped. Guy wore a mask,” Jax clarified bluntly. He kept it simple so as not to contradict anything that Tara may have told the Charming police.
Hale studied the biker intently, noting the simmering anger. Not that he was in any way surprised. This act of brutality put a powder keg right in the middle of Charming.
“Eglee’s finishing the rape kit, but there won’t be much in the way of DNA evidence.” Hale’s voice was low, serious. Tara would have known that showering would have washed away hairs, fibers, semen… most anything that they could have used as evidence to find and convict her attacker. Yet he’d seen it plenty of times before; rape victims wanted only to wash away what happened. Evidence, future prosecution – it was a distant concern, if considered at all.
“I’d like to search her car, see if there’s any thing there.”
“It’s at my house.” Jax nodded with a slight shrug. There wouldn’t be, but he made a mental note to have the prospects thoroughly clean his truck in case Hale got any ideas to extend his search.
“She didn’t say anything else? Where it happened?”
“Not where, not when? You’re sure, there’s nothing else?” Hale repeated skeptically.
“Walk me through where you were, when you got home,” the Deputy Chief asked. He knew Jax’s feelings for Tara and didn’t in any way suspect the SAMCRO biker, but he would follow protocol and ask the necessary, relevant questions.
“I went to Hayward to check on some parts, left there around 6. Stopped off at Bobby’s party for a few hours. I got home maybe ten-thirty, eleven. Tara was in the shower. When she got out, she told me what happened. We came here.”
The Deputy Chief studied the biker closely. There was only a very slim possibility that Jax hadn’t pressed Tara for details, and that would be out of consideration for her welfare. He’d want to know everything that would lead him to finding this guy. That is, if he hadn’t done so already; any bodies that turned up within a hundred mile radius of Charming in the next days or weeks would be likely suspects.
“What happened to your hand?”
“Dropped a bike,” Jax answered without hesitation.
After several seconds of consideration, Hale gave a resigned sigh. “If there’s something you’re not telling me –“
“Look man, I want to find who did this more than you,” Jax interrupted resolutely.
“Jax… You can’t go after this guy.” Hale declared flatly, shaking his head. He’d always believed that SAMCRO had hunted down the carnie that had raped Oswald’s daughter but there was no proof what had actually happened. he knew the bikers had been at Funtown shortly before the guy disappeared and then after… Oswald had stopped asking for updates on the case. This retaliation would be much bloodier than whatever had happened back then, of that he had no doubt.
The biker snorted derisively. “Then do your job.”
“Jax…” he warned.
His brows lifting in challenge, Jax rocked forward on his feet. “You done?”
Relenting, Hale nodded slowly. “For now.”
“I see there was a complication.”
AJ Weston looked up as Ethan Zobelle entered the room. He flinched as one of his lieutenants, doubling as doctor, tried again to extract the slug from his arm, but otherwise remained perfectly still.
“Teller showed up, killed Lacroix. Probably Ryan too,” AJ answered flatly. “You should have told me about the change in plan.”
“It was a necessary alteration,” Zobelle replied without explanation.
“You said Teller would be at some all nighter.”
“Hm,” the cigar shop owner sniffed.
Noting the complete lack of surprise on the leader of the League of American Nationalist’s face, AJ coolly asked, “You knew?”
Zobelle shrugged nonchalantly. “It was a possibility. It is his house.”
“This was supposed to be a quick and easy job,” Weston retorted sharply. “We should have grabbed her from the hospital like we planned.”
“It was a calculated risk,” Zobelle countered. He took a cigar out of his pocket and rolled it between his fingers.
“We lost two good men,” Weston replied, his tone hard.
“Yes, well, there are always sacrifices that must be made for the greater good.”
The extracted slug made a small plinking sound when the would-be doctor finally managed to extract it from AJ’s arm and dropped it in a nearby cup. He poured a healthy amount of alcohol on the wound and began to bandage it.
“You’re sure about Ryan?”
Weston grunted. “No, but it’s the best case.”
“Can they be tied back to you?”
“No, I don’t think so.” His guys were as well trained as the finest soldiers. They were also careful; they carried no identification and they used stolen vehicles. The only way they would be connected to the League would be through fingerprints, which would link to police reports and records that would list their known affiliations. Lacroix had been inside, so he would have a record. They’d have to clean that up, make it appear that he hadn’t been associated with the organization after his release in the event that SAMCRO did manage to get any prints identified. Regardless, in his opinion it was manageable.
“Good.” Ethan flicked his lighter, igniting his cigar. “Now we’ll see if the good doctor passes along the message and if the Vice President does as he’s told.”
“And if he doesn’t?” AJ rotated his arm, grimacing in pain as he checked the mobility with the bulky bandage.
“He will… it will just be messier and it will take longer,” Ethan Zobelle affirmed confidently. He had already dismantled two motorcycle clubs that had been in the way of his expansion plans. SAMCRO would either choose to get out of the gun business or they would find themselves in prison for a very long time, or perhaps both. In either case, Charming would no longer embrace the outlaws, his own organization would see to the town’s future growth and prosperity, and his personal bank account balance would continue to benefit.