The solitary pledge biker left to guard the place was busy watching porn and they made it out of the biker compound without being seen. Jane stopped for a moment as they reached Hellas Café. “I’m going to get changed, and then let Alec know to come to you at the church.” She fished some cash out of her waistband and passed it to Isabella. “This isn’t much, but it’s enough to at least get you out of here. All three of you.” As the tall woman began to protest, it was Jane’s turn to press a finger against her lips. “Shush. I got it straight from Michael in exchange for preying on his paranoia. You take it and get out of here.
She turned, fighting the urge for one last kiss, and strode quickly to the door of Hellas Café. Jason was about to lock up, but scowled as she merrily tapped on the door and opened it slightly. Jane slipped in, giving him a quick peck on the cheek, but his scowl only deepened. “Figured you’d be resting in the arms of a posse of sated IncuBikers by now.”
She cocked an eyebrow. “You didn’t hear them all leave? I told them about a really great wild goose that was about to escape…”
That brought a grin. “Must’ve been some goose. Tony had a few dark and scary visitors in a black hummer. All of them went, you say? ” He looked at Jane thoughtfully. “That goose lay eggs of the golden variety? What did you tell them?”
Jane widened her eyes in an attempt to look innocent. “I have no recollection of those events, Mr. Jason, sir. I was busy. Either fisting a pretty Georgia Peach or washing Isabella Inamorati’s back, I’m not sure which.” She couldn’t resist a puerile leer, and Jason finally gave up trying to look mad and chuckled.
“Well, beats putting them in the hospital, I guess.” He gave her a solemn look. “I still haven’t figured you out, young lady.”
“I’m not as young as you think, buddy,” she wagged her finger at him and turned towards the stairs. “But if you ever do figure me out, please be sure to tell me. I’m sure I’d like to know.” She paused a moment, halfway up the stairs. “Is Alex here?”
Jason nodded. “Yep. Just got Joey to sleep.”
She frowned. “That’s too bad. Oh well. Say, you know what the kid’s favorite winter drink is?”
Jason answered with a puzzled tone. “Um…apple cider, with a cinnamon stick.”
She snapped her fingers at him. “Get one ready for him. In a to-go cup. Come to think of it, that sounds yummy-make two.” As Jason shook his head Jane continued up the stairs.
She knocked on Alec’s door but there was no response. She pounded louder, increasing the impact until the door opened and the angry father appeared. “Excuse me, my son is trying to sleep!”
Jane’s voice was calm, clear, and fast. “Alec, you have about five minutes to pack things up for you and Joey and get over to the church. Isabella is waiting for you there, and she has enough cash to get you out of here before the shit really hits.” She knew Alec had heard her, and waited as long as she could for the words to sink in. Alec just stood there, mouth open, and Jane sighed. “I’m sorry,” she said and slapped him across the left cheek. “Alec! Do you understand?”
He blinked, then, and the slap brought an angry flush of red to his face. His eyes narrowed suspiciously. “I don’t know you, lady, aside from the fact that you’re nice to my son – why would you help us? Why should I believe you.”
Jane swore softly and rolled her eyes. “Eris save us from the folly of rational men! Look!” She pulled at her chest. “Does this look like my t-shirt?” She pointed at the image of two small birds sitting on a branch, over the elegantly lettered word “Swallows.”
Alec gulped as he realized what Jane was saying. “That’s Isabella’s…” His eyes flashed as his brain finally caught up with events. “Five minutes, you say?”
Jane snorted. “Four now. Get crackin’!” He shut the door, but Jane stood there a moment longer, muttering. “Hey- this could be my shirt, you know! Just depends on – eh, never mind.” Turning, she strode quickly down the hall to her room.
She emerged three minutes later back in her leathers, brown chaps over gray denim jeans, a tight black babydoll shirt hugging her chest, festooned with tiny red letters. A harness stitched from dark brown leather stretched over her shoulders with small pouches under each arm. Her wrists were decorated with dark brown leather bracers, embossed with light designs. She carried her leather jacket in one hand with rucksack slung over her shoulder, leaving her left arm completely free.
She knocked on Alec’s door as she headed towards the stairs. It opened and Alec filled the hall with a large duffel over his shoulder and a sleepy Joey in his arms. The boy rubbed his eyes and managed a tired smile when he saw Jane. “Miss Jane! That’s a cool shoulder thingy! What’s in the pockets? What’s your shirt say? You’re smallerer than my mom.”
Alec shushed his son embarrassedly at this last, and Jane laughed as they went down the stairs. “Thank you, Joey. My pockets have what all good pockets have- surprises and secrets. My shirt says ‘Trust me, I have a merit badge in this,’ and yes, your Mom is bigger than me in some delightful ways. She’s a very nice lady.”
Before Joey could reply they were at the bottom of the stairs and he was distracted by Jason handing him a cup of cider with a lid. “Careful there, young man,” the barista admonished the child. “Take it slow.” He handed a similar cup to Jane. “I’d tell you the same if I thought you’d listen.”
Jane smiled. “Ah, Jason, someday perhaps I’ll show you just how wonderfully slow I can be. But not tonight.” She nodded towards the back of the cafe. “We need to go out back. Any ideas for creating a distraction out front.”
Jason smiled. “Oh, you finally need me to do something besides make coffee and breakfast?” He nodded at Jane’s serious expression. “Yeah, I can do that. No problem. Need the cameras taken out too?” Jane nodded, and he rubbed his hands excitedly. “Oh, yeah. I got the perfect thing.”
Jason’s manic glee was out of character, and Jane frowned, suddenly a little worried. She shook her head and decided to go with the flow. “Um…ok…glad to oblige, Jason.” She motioned for Alec and Joey to follow her and headed towards the back of the café. “Let’s go, men, Mommy’s waiting.” She cast one last concerned look back towards Jason before opening the back door. He was doing something with some bottles near the deep fryer.
The back of the café opened deep in the Incubiker’s alley. Jane kept them close to the wall until they reached the dumpster. She motioned for Alec to crouch down, hidden from the T.S. cameras, while they waited for Jason’s distraction.
A moment later they heard the front door of Hellas Café open, and Jason pushed a handcart out, a huge barrel labeled “FRYER GREASE” balanced on the lip. The barista had a large cigar in his mouth and the cherry glowed bright orange as he puffed with the exertion of the moving heavy load. Jane’s eyes widened as she realized what he was about to do, and she breathed softly “Oh! You beautiful man! I never knew you were into fire play…”
Alec nudged her and whispered, “I don’t get it – what is he going to –” He was cut off by Jason’s loud whooping shout as he teetered cartoonishly on the curb, his arms flying up in exaggerated alarm. The barrel tilted over into the street and a dark liquid spilled out. Jason fell spectacularly to the ground, managing to land safely outside the circle of liquid, Jane noticed. His moustache fluttered as he let out a coughing exhale, his orange-tipped cigar flying out and landing in the middle of the spreading pool.
There was a whoosh as it ignited, the street turning suddenly bright as day from the flames. Thick black smoke began billowing up. The wind blew most of it directly towards the shiny facade of KTS, obscuring the cameras.
“That’s our cue. Let’s move.” Jane took Alec’s hand and pulled him and his son further down the alley. As they went around the corner she spared a moment to wink at Jason, who was calmly watching the fire as he lit another cigar. The three of them quickly moved on down St. Antoine street towards the church.
The chapel was a tall gothic cathedral topped by three spires with crosses. A large rosette stained-glass window decorated the front of the building above the three pairs of thick oak doors at the top of the marble steps. There was no light from inside, and the segmented glass glittered with a black iridescence from the flames roaring up the street. Jane couldn’t help but feel it was somehow glaring down at them like some cyclopean insect, luring them in.
As they crossed the street and started up the stairs Jane heard the sound of motorcycles. She motioned Alec and Joey to move to the side of the entrance. The shadows hid them as the IncuBikers rode by, returning from their mission to the junkyard. Jane saw that Theo had a slumped passenger riding bitch bike and swore under her breath. Alec pulled her sleeve. “What is it?”
“Things just got more complicated. They got to the truck in time and they got Tony, as well. I’d really rather they didn’t have a chance to compare notes.” She thought for a moment, then pushed Alex towards the door. “It doesn’t change the fact that you and your wife should be out of here now. She’s inside, probably seducing the priest. Go save her from God’s anointed, if you can.” She pulled Alec to her, roughly, and kissed him hard and deep. Joey let out a giggle, but Alec just looked dazed. Jane patted his cheek. “That was for her, not you. Tell her she still owes me position 3.”
Alec looked confused, then shook his head. “Um…ok. Thank you, Jane. I still don’t understand why you’re doing this. But thank you.”
Jane’s expression turned serious, and Alec had the sudden feeling that she was far older than she appeared. A lot of life was in those deep eyes. Her voice was flat. “I’m doing it because it needs doing.” The moment passed, and suddenly her gamine grin turned her back into a manic sex pixie. Playfully she pushed Alec. “Go! Be a family. I’ve got some more buttons to push over at the Clubhouse…or maybe Kitten’s. Not sure yet.” She shoved him harder. “Git!” She watched them go into the door, then turned and made her way towards the fading sound of motorcycles and the glow of the flames.
The yellow flicker and black smoke was punctuated by the revolving red of the Detroit fire department. “Wonder if the boys bothered to pay off the fire guys, too?” Jane mused. She saw Theo park his bike safely away from the flames, and roughly pull Tony from the back of his bike. The Australian’s hands were bound in front and he staggered as Theo shoved him along. Michael was talking with the fire department’s incident commander, looking professional and respectable even in his biker leathers, helmet in hand. The rest of the IncuBikers split up, some staying to watch the fire and the rest heading into the clubhouse. They were all obviously in a good mood, slapping each other on the back and grinning.
She casually followed a couple of them into the clubhouse, smiling and laughing with them. Grabbing a red solo cup near the keg on the bar just before one older Incubiker, she smiled at him as she filled it and handed it to them. “Sounds like you fellas pretty much fucked the prom queen tonight. What happened?”
“It was fucking beautiful!!” the biker, a grizzled man of about forty with “Stumpy” emboidered on his vest. “Theo said we had the advantage, see, cuz all we had ta do was – no, wait, all that fucker Tony had to do was not get the – aw, fuck, I don’t know that part, but we fuckin’ blew that rig to shit!”
“What the eloquent Stumpy is trying to tell you, Ms. Jane, is that we didn’t have to recover the recording device – we just had to make sure no one else did.” Michael’s voice came from behind her, as he moved into the club, having finished with the fire department. He shrugged out of his leather jacket. “I only supervised, though. My brother deserves the credit.” He smiled indulgently at Jane’s interested expression. “Pipe bombs and homemade napalm can be pretty effective when it comes to covering things up.” He looked down at Jane, his expression changing slightly. “Burns a lot like that grease fire out in front of Hellas Café, in fact.” He looked at her narrowly. “I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a grease fire in the street, though. Have you?”
Jane shrugged. “Can’t say I have, but then again, I haven’t burned a lot of grease in my day. Not my kink, but hey, who am I to judge?” Michael chuckled, but the humor never touched his eyes. Jane thumbed towards the doorway where Theo had taken Tony. “OK, so you torched the truck – how’d you manage to nab sunshine boy?”
Now Michael did smile. “Again, the wondrous nature of fire. When the thing lit up, we saw him huddled down behind a Pinto in the yard. I sicced my boys on him, and we ran him down somewhere between the Hondas and the Isuzus.” He pulled a smartphone out of his pocket, showing Jane the “KTS” logo embossed on the back. “We’ll crack this, then we’ll break him, and then decide what to do next.” He tossed it to the table and it landed with the sound of a gunshot. Both Jane and Michael jumped at the louder-than-expected crack of impact, staring at the suddenly suspicious phone. When a second gunshot rang out they realized it wasn’t the phone. The noise came from the room where Theo had taken Tony. Michael was out of the chair in an instant, running towards the door. It burst open. Tony stood there, looking harried, a small pistol held in his cuffed hands. Michael skidded to a stop as his rival stepped out of the door and raised the pistol inches from the IncuBiker leader’s face.
Theo came to the doorway swearing angrily and froze as he saw his brother in danger. Jane leaned against the table near the Tony’s smartphone, a curious smile on her face as she watched the standoff. Every Incubiker looked twitchy, hands trembling near hidden weapons. None of them dared to move as the panting Australian held their leader at gunpoint.
“Now, you fucker, you’re going to show me the door out of here!” Tony growled at Michael. His usually debonair tone was gone, his voice harsh with desperation. “Or I’ll send you to hell with your brother and that other arsehole!”
Michael’s face was impassive. He shifted his gaze past Tony’s shoulder to where Theo stood by the door, holding a hand over his shoulder, which was bleeding. “Tony. Before you do anything rash, you need to know two things.” Michael’s voice was conversational, but his posture was filled with a tense energy. “One, your aim was a little off. You ok, little brother?” He risked a nod towards his brother standing in the door behind Tony.
Theo grimaced. “No problem, o adelfós mou. Fucker can’t aim for shit. Grazed my shoulder. Ryan’s dead, though – I think the asshole was aiming for his foot, caught him in the head.”
Tony had winced at the sound of Theo’s voice behind him, but his aim didn’t shift. The barrel of the pistol was inches from Michael’s left eye. “Fucked up aim or not, you think I’m going to miss this shot, fucker?” He sneered at Michael. “What’s the other thing, you leather poofta?”
Michael’s focus shifted from his brother back to Tony. “Oh. That.” He moved suddenly, chopping Tony’s grip upwards with one hand while slamming down on him elbow joints with the other. The Aussie’s hands folded in and sudden the pistol was pointed directly at his own forehead. Michael continued to speak calmly. “The second thing is that when you’re holding a gun on somebody, you should never get within arm’s reach. Go ahead, Tony, pull the trigger, Ryan’s old lady will appreciate it.”
Tony stared cross-eyed at the barrel a moment, then swore and glared at Michael as he loosened his fingers. The gun fell and Michael caught it deftly. He pushed Tony roughly to the floor. Looking at the gun as he released the hammer and thumbed the safety. He swore. “Fuck. This was Ryan’s ankle gun, wasn’t it?”
Theo nodded, and motioned towards a couple of Incubikers. They roughly carried Tony back into the room as Theo walked over to Michael. “Yeah. The idiot was kicking the little prick, and it got grabbed.” He flexed his shoulder and winced. Michael looked concerned.
“You need to go to the clinic?”
Theo shook his head. “Nah. Just antibiotics and a bandage, I’m good to go.” He looked over at Jane. “Your information paid off. Big time.”
She looked towards the room where they’d taken Tony. The sounds of the bikers beating him came through the door. Jane shrugged. “Good for everyone except Tony, I guess. And Ryan. Sorry about that.” She walked over to the men and gently touched Theo’s shoulder. “Bandaging that one-handed is gonna be a bitch. Want some help?”
He looked at her thoughtfully, then at his brother. “You gonna pump Tony?”
Michael nodded. “Yeah. I’ll just let Isabella know that I’ll be later than I thought.” He started towards the golden door at the back of the room, and Jane silently tensed. Michael stopped then, and turned back towards the room where the sounds of the beating continued. “Eh, I’ll just text her. She’s probably still in the shower anyway.” Jane relaxed and stifled a grin.
Michael also grinned, wolflike. “Gonna be a pleasure asking him questions. I might even let him answer a few, just to keep it interesting.” He nodded towards Theo as he walked past them towards the room where his prisoner waited. “Don’t be too long, brother.”
“I won’t,” Theo assured him. As he felt Jane press her body against him, he added softly, “I’ll be just long enough, I suspect.”