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Chapter 9

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"I'm a little nervous," Hysko said.

Caleb pulled open the weathered barn door for their meeting. "I agree. There's a lot to be nervous about. We screw something up, and we'll end up deader than shit."

Hysko, the treasurer of the Devil's Hand, followed Caleb inside. Hysko had been a part of the club since the beginning. He had more gray than black in his beard and more forehead than hair on his head, but he was all lean muscle and sinew. It was a body honed by years of surviving all kinds of tough situations. Well respected, Caleb would need Hysko's full support if his plan was going to work.

The barn still smelled of animals, hay, manure and other remnants of its working past. Scanning the room, memories from Caleb's childhood came flooding back to him. Some of them were even good like getting to ride and brush down the horses. But they also included the bad one too. The time where he lost faith in everything which made him the man he was today. Leaning with his back against a square wood column, Caleb pointed to a rickety milking stool. Hysko sat down in the offered seat.

Caleb lit a cigarette and inhaled deeply. Tapping another cigarette from the pack, he offered it to Hysko. "Smoke?"

"Nope. I'm trying to quit."

"Really? Since when?"

Hysko shrugged. "Since yesterday."

"What? You want to live forever."

"That's the plan."

"Maybe I'll quit too," Caleb said, taking a long drag on his cigarette.

"Why don't you start with the booze? Your face looks terrible. You really got that falling out of bed drunk?"

"That's what I said." Caleb absently brought a hand to the side of his face, stroking the bruise. "So, what do you think of this place? Does it fit the bill?"

Hysko looked around the barn. Four wooden walled horse stalls lined one side. Ropes were strung across the stall openings to keep in animals that were no longer alive. The other side of the barn, held a workbench, scrap tires, and other junk. At the far end of the barn stood a rickety ladder leading to a loft littered with forgotten hay.

Nodding, Hysko said, "I like the location. It's very secluded."

Caleb thought that secluded was an understatement. It is surrounded on all four sides by factory farms and thirty miles further southwest from where he'd iced that stupid backstabbing accountant.

Hysko got up from the stool and paced between the horse stalls. "You said it used to be your uncle's place?"

"Yeah, my Uncle Jim died twenty years ago. The farm changed hands a couple of times since then, but I was able to buy it in secret. No one in the club knows about it."

"Not even Sonny?"

"Nope. He's clueless."

"Good. What are you going to do with the place afterward?"

"Nothing. When I retire, maybe I'll fix everything up and live here. I might even grow my own crops."

"Retire?" Hysko laughed. "We don't get to retire but all the bodies will make great fertilizer for somebody."

Caleb smiled. "You got that right. All we need to do is to let things come to a boil. Then they'll all play right into our hands."

"You think it will be that easy."

"I do." Caleb took a final hit from his cigarette and threw it to the floor. He ground it out with his boot with extra vigor. "You aren't having second thoughts are you?"

"No. Of course not. I wouldn't have agreed to this if I didn't think you weren't the better man for the job."

"Good, because you know it's too late to back out now. Things are in motion."

Hysko leaned against a post, sticking a hand in his pocket. "I know. But Sonny's smart. What if he starts to figure it out?"

Caleb spit on the floor. "He isn't half as smart as everyone thinks he is. Trust me, he won't see this coming."

The hand remained in Hysko's pocket. "But what if he does?"

"I've got a contingency plan. It won't be ideal, but we can take him out ahead of time if necessary."

Pulling out a tin foil packet, Hysko extracted a piece of gum and popped it in his mouth. Between snaps, he asked, "Jodi?"

Caleb nodded.

"Probably better if I don't know all the details."

"Probably," Caleb agreed.

"The Outsider's won't screw this up?"

"No. Alex's keeping it small. Only two or three guys are in on the secret from his club."

Hysko chomped on his gum. "Speaking of which, I think we should add one more guy. There is a lot of people to kill with just the two of us."

"You think?"

Hysko shifted uneasily from foot to foot. "I'd be happier with one more gun."

Caleb walked to the far end of barn, stopping in front of the tack room. He didn't want to add one more guy. In his gut, he knew it was a bad idea, but he had included the older man for his insight. He slapped his thigh and came back to stand in front of Hysko. "You've seen a lot and done even more, so I'll trust your judgment. Do you have someone in mind?"

Hysko smiled. "I've been thinking about Larry."

"Hmmm, Larry. Are you sure he's our best option?"

"I'm sure. He isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer, but you don't have to be smart to pull a trigger."

"All right. Let's do it." Caleb glanced down at his watch. "We should get back to the club."

"Yes," Hysko draped an arm over Caleb's shoulder. "We do have to keep up appearances a little longer."

Both men snickered, and they headed outside.

They parted. Hysko spit out his gum. Caleb took a final look inside before he pushed the heavy doors shut. He set the old oak board into the brackets on the outside of the doors as Hysko climbed onto his bike and hit the starter. The Harley's engine roared to life. Hysko put on a pair of large sunglasses. Caleb jumped on his and did the same.

The men sped away from the old barn, kicking up gravel and dried dirt under the blazing yellow sun.

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