Fiddlestix ran toward the river less than a mile away. There was a special place there she had always gone when she was upset. Her feet carried her there automatically, tears streaming down her face. Collapsing into a heap on the damp bank, she heard footsteps following her, but she did not look up, assuming it was Karl.
“Hey, chica,” Blacksmith’s voice was so unexpected, she stopped crying. “Listen, we gonna go now, or what? The men are asking about you. Let’s get out of here, okay?” He helped her stand up, eyeing her appraisingly. “He meant a lot to you, huh?”
She nodded, not trusting herself to speak.
His smile was gentle, warm with understanding. “There’s other men out there. Maybe you’ll find another one who’ll treat you right, eh?”
“Do you ever have regrets, Dario?”
“I have many. What kind?”
“Where you wonder what it would have been like to settle down and have a family?”
He laughed sardonically. “Sometimes, when I am very drunk, I have these thoughts. Then I find a pretty girl, have lots of sex and tequila and I feel better. We aren’t meant for that kind of life. Other people live like that. Not us.”
They had returned to the bikes and found themselves surrounded by muscular men dressed in camouflage uniforms. Karl was sending his best men with them, and for that, Fiddlestix was grateful.
Karl kissed her cheek, hugging her tightly to him, not wanting to let her go. “If you need me, you know how to contact me, Hannah,” he whispered before releasing her.
“Hannah, I’m sorry….”
Fiddlestix pushed him away, turning abruptly from him. Flinging her long leg over the motorcycle, she kicked it into action. The Harlich men flanked the companions. Once they were on the road, she approached the man in charge, talking to him on her headset, explaining what had happened the night before with the Noir. His perfunctory nod punctuated the conversation.
“So, Hannah,” he said finally, switching to a private channel. “Does this mean you’re coming back?”
“No, Dirk, I’m not.”
“Because of Karl?”
Dirk had been Karl’s best friend in those days. He knew about her disgrace, though many didn’t.
“I can’t go back to how things were. I’d fooled myself into thinking I could recapture my past. That doesn’t work.”
He nearly whispered into the microphone. “Do you still love him?”
“I thought I did, but no.”
“There are many other men around, Hannah. You don’t have to be alone unless you want to.”
She chuckled, making a rude gesture at him. “True. What’s funny is I’ve already had an invitation from someone else today, other than Karl, I mean.” She pulled ahead of him.
Puzzled, Dirk gunned his motor, trying to catch up. She wouldn’t reestablish conversation, no matter what he asked her.
They took side road, heading south. They would catch the remnants of I-95 and ride north, around the Noir territory. It was relatively safe here, as Château Noir had no hold on this area, not yet challenging the Harlichs for control. Given the hazards, the Noir didn’t really want it anyway. Alligators, snakes, panthers, sinkholes, quicksand and bogs made it one of the most dangerous areas in the county if not the state. The road was good, maintained by the Harlichs.
© 2018 Dellani Oakes