Heavy Is The Crowne by Cathleen Cole
Bullets pinged off the metal building at my back and I watched helplessly as I was cut off from my guys. Hush and I were trying to get to them, but we’d run into cops along the way. It was suspicious how quickly they’d gotten here. Someone had to have notified them before Riggs and the others had confronted Eric for them to be converging on this spiderweb of alleys right now.
More squad cars screamed past our hiding spot. Sweat dripped down the back of my neck, adrenaline pumping through my system. They had to be Thornton’s men. The others wouldn’t be shooting at us; they’d have no reason to. Even if they were on Thornton’s payroll it didn’t mean we could respond to them the way we would any other enemy. Killing them would start a manhunt that we’d never be able to outrun.
Back at the clubhouse, I’d decided to ditch the plan. Staying behind while my brothers went to confront Eric hadn’t sat well with me. Something hadn’t felt right and I wasn’t going to send my men in alone. That decision was the only reason Hush and I were here, in the middle of this, right now. Even so, I was about thirty minutes late. It’d been a trap and we weren’t in a position to be able to help the others.
Grinding my teeth in frustration at being stuck down an alley while my men raced to escape a large police force, I kept moving. It was all I could do. I’d get to them or die trying. More rounds flew through the air, forcing me to duck and run for cover behind a dumpster. My hand closed in on my phone, nearly crushing it in my grip. Murphey’s voice played out over the recording for her voice mail.
“Fuck!” I hissed. Taking a deep breath, I left her a message telling her where we were and what was happening. I fucking prayed she got it in time. It seemed like the entire Austin PD force was barreling down these alleys, chasing us.
I needed to get to the others. Glancing over, I saw Hush peeking around the dumpster. There was a pause in the barrage of firing, so he was taking advantage. I did the same. I couldn’t tell where the shooters were staged. Taking a chance, I ran from behind the can, down the alleyway.
Hush was hot on my heels, we took random turns and somehow managed to lose the shooters. It felt like we’d been running forever and both our chests were heaving as we tried to catch our breath. It wasn’t hard to find our brothers. We followed the sounds of yelling to a place where the back alleys met in a junction.
There, in the middle, confronted by cops on every side, were our guys. They had their hands up and were waiting. I started to move forward, but Hush grabbed me by the bicep.
“You can’t just go walkin’ in there,” he said in a low voice, being careful not to draw attention to us.
“I’m not leaving them.”
Hush pointed and I turned my head and watched as a black SUV squealed to a stop outside the barricade of police cruisers. Relief was a crushing weight as I saw Murphey and Zane jump out and run into the fray. I didn’t know how she’d gotten there so quickly, but I knew she’d sort this shit out. I still wasn’t sure exactly what’d happened, only what Riggs had managed to tell me before they’d had to run.
Ghost’s brother had killed a cop. He must have called it in to Thornton’s guys, or the Commissioner himself, for so many cops to have jumped on it so quickly. For all I knew they were already on their way when my brothers entered the building.
Hush and I crouched down near a police car and watched. Murphey was taking control of the situation in her usual belligerent manner, and for once my guys were behaving. Hope that they’d make it through this mess unscathed was an ever brightening ember in my chest. At least someone here was acting rationally, since I wasn’t capable of that at the moment. It was dashed seconds later when one of the officers started shouting at Riggs. He was yelling for my VP to stop moving. Only, Riggs wasn’t moving.
“What the hell is he-” My question was cut off as the officer backed up, drew his pistol, and shot a round at Riggs. Both Hush and I watched in horror as Steel jumped in front of his brother and caught the bullet in his chest.
“Fuck!” I started to lunge forward, only to be tackled by Hush.
We fought for a few minutes before his words registered. “You can’t go out there. Thornton’s men will kill you on sight. They kill you, and it’s all over. Everyone’s done then.”
“You don’t know that,” I growled, but I wasn’t fighting his hold as hard anymore.
The bastard was strong and had gotten me into some kind of position that prevented me from bolting toward the others.
“I do know it.”
“How?” I asked as I went limp in his arms.
“That’s what any of us would do. Take out the leader,” he said as he released me. His body was tense as he watched me. He was being cautious, making sure I wasn’t going to try and bolt again.
Damn him, he was right. That’s exactly what I would do. I looked out over the scene. People were scurrying around like ants preparing for a winter storm. All of my men were handcuffed on the ground, except Steel, who was being loaded into an ambulance. It must have arrived while Hush and I fought.
Through the chaos, no one had noticed us yet. Our luck wouldn’t hold out forever, though. My heart beat a hectic rhythm. Fear and fury were thick in my throat, making it hard to swallow.
“We have to get out of here,” Hush said.
Again, he was right. My wits were coming back now that things were calming down. I could only hope that my men made it to a jail cell and Murphey could help them. And I could only pray that Steel lived. I wanted to burst forward and cut these bastards down on sight. The need was so great my chest burned with it. I couldn’t because doing so would get not just myself killed, but they would take that opportunity to kill Riggs and the others.
Then I wouldn’t be able to do anything to fix this. I wasn’t helping anyone squatting here beside a cop car. There were too many things to do.
Riggs’s head snapped up and over in my direction, as though he felt my stare boring into him. Our eyes locked and I saw him mouth one word. Leave. I tried to reassure him with a single look. I’d get them out and finish this once and for all. Somehow.
Hush and I began backing out, but the initial chaos was over and some of Thornton’s men saw the movement.
For the second time that day we ran from the spray of bullets. Despite how many uncorrupt cops were back at that scene, Thornton’s men still tried to shoot us as we ran. That was very telling. He was getting desperate. He needed to kill us, decimate my family, and bury what we knew.
It destroyed me to turn my back on my brothers, but Hush was right. The only way I could help them now was to leave. To plan. To come back stronger and attack while they were at a disadvantage. I just didn’t know yet how I was going to do so.
We made it back to our bikes, started them, and tore off away from the sirens. We barely made it to the main street when we ran into another roadblock.
They were trying to corner us, force a shootout. It would be a death sentence for us and a valid reason for them to kill two bikers. There were already four cops waiting for us, positioned behind their doors with guns drawn.
I nearly laid my bike down spinning it around in a tight turn. For the first time in my life I wished I was on a crotch rocket and not a Harley. The extra speed would’ve been a bonus in this situation. Hush followed close behind me as we accelerated away as fast as we could.
The police didn’t care who was around, or that we were fleeing, they opened fire. They only stopped once the police from the alley burst out of it. My side mirror exploded into fragments of glass as they chased us. I ducked my head and swore as we tried to get as far away from the cops as we could. Traffic was pulling over for the lights and sirens, clearing a path for us. Unfortunately, it gave the police a direct line as well.
Fire exploded along my ribs. “Fuck!” Hush didn’t hear me over the sound of our bikes. My blood pounded in my ears as my hand moved reflexively to press against the bullet wound. My hand came away wet. All it took was a quick glance down to see that I was bleeding profusely. I had no idea how bad it really was, but there wasn’t time to stop. I pushed through the pain and kept racing down street after street as we zig-zagged, trying to lose our tail. The adrenaline spiking through my system kept me from feeling too much of the pain.
We darted down a side street, leading us through some alleys that were too tight for the cops to follow us. Once we were on the other side and back on another side street we rolled out the throttles and brought our bikes to full speed.
We continued down side streets and alleys, avoiding traffic cameras and major roads, until we were able to hole up under a bridge near the I-20 overpass. Hush leapt off his bike and ran over to me.
“You’ve been hit.” He reached under his cut and started ripping off a strip of his shirt. Wadding it up he pressed it into the wound, forcing my hand over the material to hold it in place.
Gritting my teeth against the flood of pain as Hush pressed against my side, I breathed heavily through my nose.
“Hold it tight while I wrap this around your waist,” Hush ordered, tearing off another strip of his t-shirt. “Can you ride?” He efficiently tied up the wadded material to help soak up some of my blood.
I nodded and hissed out a breath as I straightened my bike and the movement caused another searing flash of pain. Ignoring it, I kicked my bike to life and waited until Hush pulled up alongside me.
“We have to get you back to the clubhouse. Ming can patch you up.”
Fuck. Going back to the clubhouse meant telling the others what’d happened. All I could think about was having to tell Remi about Steel.
Could we even go to the clubhouse? Surely they were on their way there as well. We had no other choice, it was the only place for us for now.
Hush pulled his phone out of his pocket and had a quick conversation. It was like I was in a fog. I could hear him talking, but the words weren’t in focus.
“Let’s go,” Hush growled, and I realized he’d hung up.
We tore out from under the overpass and got on the freeway, heading away from the city. Jurisdiction wouldn’t stop Thornton from hunting us down, but we had to get out of sight.
Fuck! How did it all go so wrong so fast?
Almost the entire club had been arrested, and were on their way to jail. Steel had been shot and I didn’t know if he was alive. I was wounded too, and although Hush had bandaged me, it wouldn’t buy me much time.
I could feel the chills that came with blood loss. The cold crept over me like a fog over the ground on a winter’s morning. The thirty-minute drive south felt like a never ending task. My hands were losing color, and it was getting harder to hold the throttle down. I was going to dismantle Thornton’s empire for bringing this fight to us. For hurting my family.
If you can get back to the clubhouse without dying first.
The outskirts of San Marcos loomed before us. I frowned as my vision began to blur. Shaking my head slightly, I tried to jar everything back into order. There were two roads at the moment and despite the fact that my thoughts moved with the speed of sludge, I knew that wasn’t right. We took the exit off the highway and nothing was in front of us but open desert. We were almost there.
We’d successfully lost the police within the city limits and despite the likelihood that every officer in Austin was searching for us, we’d managed to sneak our way south. Hopefully the chaos would keep them in the city long enough for us to find a new place to hide out.
Just a few more minutes.
I tried to gun the throttle, but it was already pegged. The edges of my vision were blurring again, I had to fight to keep the bike upright. I was going to pass out. We were only a few miles away from the clubhouse, but I wasn’t sure I could make it.
My hands shook as I held onto my control and consciousness by the barest thread. As soon as we pulled into the parking lot, I slowed and managed to get the kickstand down before I slumped in my seat.
Blackness threaded its way through my vision. Glancing over I saw Drew, Trip, and the women running toward me. Hush’s voice echoed around me and I felt his arms grab me as I fell.
I tried to hold on. There was too much to do for me to pass out. My body didn’t give a fuck. I’d wrung out every ounce of energy I could muster just getting here.
Hush and I collapsed into the gravel. I heard the others calling my name as the darkness swallowed me.