Blade Connor cruised along Route 54 on his Harley Davidson disregarding the speed limit, and oblivious to the stationary patrol car which was parked up ahead.
“Sheriff … it’s Joey,” the young Patrolman radioed. “A Harley Chopper has passed here doin’ ‘bout eighty ….”
“Rider description?” Sheriff Raynor asked.
“Big guy,” Joey responded, “maybe mid-thirties, long blond hair, tied with a red bandana, an’ he’s wearin’ the ridin’ colours of the local chapter.” He paused briefly. “Should I give chase?”
“No, Joey,” Raynor replied. “Let him go.”
“Joey,” Raynor said. “Let him go, son.”
* * *
It was ten minutes after passing the speed trap when Blade eased his machine off the hot Arizona highway onto the sand outside a remote building.
The Iron Bar was the clubhouse of the Sandstone Chapter of an internationally renowned motorcycle club. Already parked were forty bikes of varying vintage, but each one was a Harley Davidson.
Blade parked in a space close to the entrance. He dismounted, and as he went into the building, nodded to the riders standing on the porch. The others followed him as if they had been sucked inside.
A man of Blade’s age and build, but with long dark hair and a beard, strode between his leather-clad brethren. He extended his right fist to greet his leader. The clenched fists of the two big men met briefly knuckle to knuckle. On the back of their hands, both wore a tattoo of a winged number 82.
“Talk to me,” Blade said.
Mad Dog Mitchell nodded in response, and turned to lead Blade to a prepared briefing. A map was spread on the table, held in place by full ashtrays, and empty bottles. Blade looked down at the map, and was reminded of his final bloody mission in Iraq in ’91.
An eight-man team from 82nd Airborne had gone in to rescue a diplomat. Blade had demonstrated his knife skills. They got the man out, but only Blade, Mad Dog, and one other soldier survived.
Now in Sandstone, Arizona, it was a different situation. Blade made the rules. The primary one being he rarely gave quarter to an opponent. He watched Mad Dog mark the map with a thick red marker.
Mad Dog said, “He’s got her in an upstairs room of this hotel.”
“Actions so far?” Blade didn’t take his eyes from the map.
“I got twenty riders workin’ in pairs. They’re coverin’ every road in or out o’ town,” Mad Dog paused. “I got two riders outside the hotel entrance.”
Blade nodded. “Good work.”
“One more thing,” Mitchell said, and the two men made eye contact. “The Sheriff’s Department has a car parked across the street from the hotel entrance.”
“Anybody in it?”
“Raynor,” Mitchell said, and his beard twitched as he gave a crooked smile.
Dimples appeared on Blade’s scarred cheeks, and his right eyebrow rose briefly.
* * *
Blade’s briefing lasted twenty minutes, and a mass of men and machines roared along Route 54. Forty-one armed riders sped towards Sandstone in file. A lone bike out front, and two long lines of mean machines, side by side, ridden by equally mean men. They passed a lone patrol car on Route 54.
When the noise died down, and Joey regained control of his lower jaw, he lifted his handset.
“Sheriff, it’s Joey,” he paused, and gazed at the disappearing riders. “You ain’t gonna’ believe this ….”
“Go ahead,” Raynor said. He listened to the report. “Thank you, Joey.” The sheriff lit up a cigarette as he waited.
In his car, Joey stared at his handset, opened his mouth to speak and thought better of it. The patrolman looked at the surrounding desert, and shook his head in disbelief.
“The guy has balls o’ steel,” he muttered, as he clipped his handset to the dashboard.
* * *
The only vehicle parked within one hundred yards of the Carlton Hotel was Sheriff Raynor’s car. When the chapter arrived on the main street, they parked in front, behind, and opposite Raynor. Blade alone parked outside the hotel entrance. He went in, nodding to the two riders at the door.
At reception, a pretty blonde in her twenties eyed the approaching hulk, with more of a personal than professional interest. She put down her nail file, and displayed even white teeth.
“Good morning, sir. How can I be of service?” she purred, with sincerity—and hope.
Blade looked down dispassionately into her bright blue eyes, as he withdrew his billfold.
The girl’s teeth slowly disappeared behind her quivering, glossy, red lips.
“This is for the rug cleaning,” Blade said. He placed a $100 bill on the counter, before turning towards the staircase. Taking the stairs silently, two at a time, he quickly reached the second floor, and made his way to Room 102. He stood one pace back, facing the door and flexed the fingers of both hands before arming himself.
* * *
Out on Main Street, Mad Dog was observing the sweep hand of his Rolex. He raised his right arm in the air, knowing he was watched by every rider. Mad Dog’s arm flashed downwards, and forty powerful motorcycle engines revved in unison. The thunder lasted for five seconds.
During this time, several things happened simultaneously.
A Starbucks customer lifted his Americano, before it danced off the table.
An old lady lost control of her spaniel—and her bladder.
Sheriff Raynor squinted up at the windows of the hotel.
In Room 102 of the Carlton Hotel, an unshaven man in his forties parted the drapes, and looked down at the street. Behind him, pretty eighteen-year-old, Sally Connor was gagged, and tied to a wooden chair.
On hearing the engine noise, Sally narrowed her eyes, half-turned to look at the door, and her eyes opened wide. She launched herself, and the chair to the floor.
The kidnapper turned with furrowed brow and lost valuable seconds looking at Sally.
The door of 102 flew open, and the kidnapper found himself looking down the business end of a Magnum .357. His brow relaxed; eyes opened wide, and jaw dropped.
The kidnapper was still staring at the approaching barrel when the hunting knife was buried to the hilt in his abdomen. His eyes screwed up tight, and his teeth clenched together.
“Kidnap that!” Blade said, as he twisted, and removed the huge, serrated weapon.
* * *
Blade stepped out onto the street, with his right arm around his sister’s shoulder. While Sally climbed onto her brother’s bike, Blade looked across the street at Sheriff Raynor.
The lawman touched the brim of his Stetson with his right forefinger in a casual salute. A winged 82 tattoo was visible on the back of the sheriff’s hand.
Selected from Smoke & Mirrors: and other stories