Twenty-Four

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Red, blue, and orange flames licked upwards into the blackening sky. Smoke in thick gray plumes drifting off only to dissipate in the victory of release. The wood crackled and popped at the base, embers casting an orange glow on the faces of the boys gathered around.

They were all bundled up in coats and hats thick in preparation for the approaching Montana winter. They had no regards for the hows and the whys of such weather. Just that it was cold and nasty and something new to complain about when conversation ran dry.

Still, silent, all of them watched the flames with a sick interest. They weren't picturing them in such a scale as a bonfire however. Those boys were thinking big.

"The police issued out a word that warrants were still a possibility but I think they're stalling. I think... they're scared." Eben let his gaze roam around the gathering of his closest buddies and the one newbie. He took a greedy sip of his beer and wiped his chapped lips on his sleeve. "You know what that means."

"Means we gotta' take matters into our own hands." Harvey stared into the fire without looking up, entranced.

"That's just right, my friend." Eben's grin was wide and toothy.

"What does that mean?" All eyes looked over to the new boy. Dark hair looking messy even beneath his stocking cap. His eyes were shadowed in the dim light.

Eben's grin fell serious as he looked across the nearby lake. It was shrouded in darkness but you could still tell it was there. "Well, Mitch, it means your girl's boyfriend is gonna have a little encounter with heat. I've been thinking on it awhile-" He looked pointedly at Mitch "-pay attention here because this is a lot on your scrawny shoulders and boy if it leaves this circle..."

Boys dropped their eyes in weak fear of this son-of-the-ruler's persona as it impersonated power. Money always meant power.

Eben was dangling a knife in front of Mitch's face, staring into his dark eyes and watching him oggle the blade. He knew revenge brought him here. Eben knew all their motives because he had to and he was a smart boy. They wouldn't open their mouths, but he had to be sure.

Or just have a little fun in the meantime.

"Dead. You'll be dead." Grin was wild again as he strolled around the other side of the fire and stared back through the flames. "To answer your question, Harvey and I mean that we have to do our own thing. It's time to right some wrongs, my friends. Nothing is off limits when I have all the power to erase any of our tracks. No one likes those people on the other side of the lake anyways. And if you do?"

Eyes drifted around, blinking smoke away.

"You're dead too."

---

A long stretch of road framed with long rolling hills of farmland, chasing the mountains to the east of the route as the truck headed at a slow curve towards their middles where Hatcher's pack lay tucked away.

It was less than a five hour trip to get to the town that settled in a little nook of a valley. Population... Scanty. Like all the towns he passed through, you blinked and you missed it. He had traveled a hundred miles and only came across one gas station.

Kale had already called Hatcher, telling him of his departure from home. The journey consisted of a long, lonely drive to a ghetto strip club in the mountains called The Night Crest. Alpha Cody didn't have anymore to say about it besides his mate's barely audible growl in the background.

After hanging up, his mind was a blur of memories like it usually became when he was alone with his thoughts. Images of her appeared in every setting. The scariest thing was that after only a few weeks, he was starting to lose all that tied him to her; completely. His mark was fading, her scent was distant and dissipating. He was even losing touch with what she looked like. When he saw her in memories and dreams, she was merely an idea. Face blurred and disappearing around corners as they seemed to play an evasive game.

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