No matter how tight Hawk and Tack were, that was the damned truth. Then again, well before Cherry, Tack had made a play for Hawk's now wife and the mother of his three kids. A play that was almost successful. Shit went down to make them brothers, but even brothers fought. Especially when women were involved. Both men were good with what they got. But no man ever let that kind of shit go.
"Someone talked, gave up Heidi," Hop put in.
"The one you tried to turn," Hawk replied to Hop.
"Could be any a' them. They all knew she gave it up to Joker," Snapper told Hawk.
"Right, and he was lookin' for a way to send a message and, I'll repeat, his return play was that," Hawk growled.
"Chaos made their play. They can't back down, Hawk, and you know it," Brock cut in. "And somethin' had to give, we all knew it," he said this looking at his partner and fellow cop, Mitch Lawson. "Valenzuela is greedy but he's careful, and we've all been lying in wait with nothing happening. He's gotta be tripped to make a mistake. Chaos pushed and we gotta hope he'll fall. For now, bottom line, no one is responsible for that woman in the alley except Valenzuela. Any of us could take that on, because all of us were a go with Chaos pushing. We just didn't know how Valenzuela would push back. It sucks, but this is war, and these fuckers don't fight fair. Not even close. So we gotta suck it up and keep on our path. Vigilance. Information. Message. Now can I go home to my wife?"
"I know I'm goin' home to mine," Tack said.
Lawson looked to the heavens.
He wasn't on board, Joker knew. Then again, he was a straight shooter. Or as straight as he could be, possed up to a commando, an ex-DEA deep-cover agent, and a biker with a mission.
But as much of a straight shooter as he was, he was a better man. A man who took his brothers' backs no matter what that meant.
So he might not be on board, but he was along for the ride.
The men broke up, but Joker caught the glances between the brothers, these emanating from Tack and his lieutenants, Hop and Shy.
No words were exchanged, but Joker knew.
Heidi might have been what Heidi was for reasons she had to be that.
But she'd backed Chaos, she was theirs.
Now she was dead in an alley, her baby dead inside her, with words carved in her skin.
So the expanded team had the goal of vigilance, information, and message.
But Chaos just added vengeance.
Several of his brothers stuck close to Joker as they walked to their bikes.
As he stood at his pulling on his gloves, he felt a hand on his shoulder and turned to see Shy.
"You good?" Shy asked.
"I'm good," Joker answered.
"Fucked up way to go, brother, sorry," Shy said.
Joker had no response to that because what Shy said was true.
"Listen to Lucas," Snapper, whose bike was next to Joker's said. "That's not on you."
He knew it wasn't. Time had passed. She was gone. Safe. Nightingale would find her, but he'd find her nowhere near Denver.
Valenzuela found her too. Dragged her back and laid her out for his message.
"Say it one last time," Joker said to Snapper but did it quiet, not pissed. "I'm good."
"Mount up," Hop called, already astride his bike
Those around him moved away and Joker swung his leg over his bike.
They started up, backed out...
Then as one, Chaos rolled.
* * *
Carissa sat in the bed, legs crossed in front of her under the covers, wearing his tee, lights on, and she stared at him.
Not surprisingly, she'd waited up for him.
Not surprisingly, when he got back, she asked if everything was okay.
Not surprisingly, she looked way fucking worried.
So sooner than he wanted to share at a time so deep in the morning he just wanted to go to sleep, he shared.
Or everything he knew his brothers gave to their old ladies. There were no lies, but that didn't mean old ladies weren't kept safe from some truths.
Some brothers shared more than others.
Needless to say, Joker didn't include the fact he'd just been to a crime scene where there was a murdered woman with his and his Club's names carved into her skin.
But she knew about Chaos history and their mission, their turf and patrol.
She also knew some history about Valenzuela.
Now it was after five in the morning, and she had all she was going to get.
"Butterfly, it's late. You got a shift in a couple of hours and I got a deadline. I just laid out a lot for you, and I don't wanna push, but I need you to talk to me so I know where you're at."
"So..." she started, stopped, started again, "You're..." again with the stop and then the start, "Essentially..." Her head tipped to the side. "Vigilantes?"
There really wasn't anything essentially about it.
"Essentially," he stated.
"And there's a bad guy who's mad at you because you saved Tabby's friend, who's a junkie, from being in a porno movie?"
He never in his life wanted to be discussing porn flicks with his good girl, Carissa, unless she got a wild hair and had a hankering to be seriously naughty and watch one with him.
He didn't get into that.
He just said, "Yeah."
"Are you in danger?"
"Cops are involved, so the hope is it won't come to that."
"But you're in danger," she whispered.
"Potentially," he hedged.
She fell silent.
"You're not. This guy knows his beef is with the brothers," he assured her.
"I hadn't thought of that," she muttered.
"Baby-" he began.
"I don't want to offend you by making the comparison," she said over him and kept going. "But Aaron defends criminals. You... don't."
That was good.
So he gave her more in hopes of making her understand.
"Like I said, Club was tied to some nasty shit," he told her. "Tack took over the Club, it was hostile, and he got them out. This was before me. But I hope it goes without sayin', I would not be a brother if that's where they were still at. That said, not sayin' if I knew where Tack was leadin' them, I wouldn't be all in to get the Club where it is now. We got two missions. Keep the store and garage thriving, keep our patch clean so that shit can't ever touch the Club again. I came on board knowin' both and givin' allegiance knowin' it. Chaos is not a club I'm a member of, Carrie. It's a part of me. That work is a part of me. And I need you to understand that."