Reaper's Property(2)

By: Joanna Wylde

Then I screamed.

My baby brother knelt in the center of the room, beaten raw and dripping blood all over the carpet. Four men wearing Reapers’ cuts stood around him. Picnic, Horse and two I didn’t know—a big, built hunk of a man with a mohawk, tattoos on his skull and about a thousand piercings, and another who was tall and cut, with light-blond hair in short spikes. Horse studied me with the same cool, almost blank expression he wore when we first met. Detached.

Picnic studied me too. He was tall with short, dark hair that looked far too stylish to be on a biker and bright blue eyes that pierced right through a girl—I’d met him at least five times. He was the club president. He had a great sense of humor, carried pictures of his two teenage girls to flash whenever he got the slightest opportunity and had helped me shuck corn the last time he’d come to visit.

Oh, and he also stood right behind my brother with a gun pointed at the back of his head.

June 16—Twelve weeks earlier

“Marie, you did the right thing,” Jeff said, holding an ice pack to my cheek. “That cocksucker deserves to die. You will never, ever regret leaving him.”

“I know,” I replied, miserable. He was right—why hadn’t I left Gary earlier? We’d been high school sweethearts, married at nineteen and by the time I hit twenty I already knew I’d made a terrible mistake. It took until now, five years later, to realize just how terrible.

Today he’d backhanded me right across the face.

After that, it only took another ten minutes to do what I hadn’t managed in all our time together. I threw my clothes in my suitcase and left his abusive, cheating ass.

“I’m kind of glad he did it,” I said, looking down at the scarred formica table in my mom’s trailer. She was taking a little vacation at the moment in jail. Mom’s life is complicated.

“What the fuck, Marie?” Jeff asked, shaking his head. “You’re fucked in the head, talking like that.”

My brother loved me, but he wasn’t exactly a poet. I offered him a wan smile.

“I stayed with him for way too long, just taking it. I think I might have stayed forever. But when he hit me, it’s like it woke me up. I went from being terrified of leaving to just not caring anymore. Honestly, I don’t care, Jeff. He can keep everything—the furniture, the stereo, all that shit. I’m just glad to get out.”

“Well, you can stay here as long as you need to,” he said, gesturing around the singlewide. It was small and dank and smelled kind of like pot and dirty laundry, but I felt safe here. This had been my home for most of my life, and while it might not have been a picture-perfect childhood, it hadn’t been too bad for a couple of white-trash kids whose dad took off before they hit grade school.

Well, good until Mom blew out her back and started drinking. Things went downhill after that. I looked around the singlewide, trying to think. How was this going to work?

“I don’t have any money,” I said. “I can’t pay you rent. Not until I get a job. Gary never put my name on the bank account.”

“What the fuck, Marie? Rent?” Jeff asked again, shaking his head. “This is your house too. I mean, it’s a shithole, but it’s our shithole. You don’t pay rent here.”

I smiled at him, a real smile this time. Jeff might be a stoner who spent ninety percent of his life playing video games, but he had a heart. Suddenly I felt such incredible love for him that I couldn’t keep it in. I dropped the ice and launched myself at him, giving him a fierce hug. He wrapped his arms around me awkwardly, returning it even though I could tell it confused and frightened him a little.

We’ve never been a touchy-feely kind of family.

“I love you, Jeff,” I said.

“Um, yeah,” he muttered, pulling away from me nervously, but he wore a little smile. He walked over to the counter, opened a drawer and pulled out a little glass pipe and a baggie of weed.

“You want some?” he asked. Yup, Jeff loved me. He didn’t share with just anyone. I laughed and shook my head.

“Pass. I’ve gotta start job hunting tomorrow morning. Don’t want to flunk a drug test.”

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