Brand sat on the bike, the engine running. How in the hell was he going to find a phone that’s been missing for weeks? The possibilities of it being anywhere in the city, from a bum’s pocket to the landfill, ranged within that realm and if he found it, how relevant would the video be. The police had to know who the ringleaders were and have done nothing. Would the evidence urge them to act? Probably not, he reasoned.
Brand revved the bike's engine and cut into traffic. The bar at the strip mall was only the first of the places Jerry remembered carrying the phone. Brand pushed the worry aside. The search was a long way from over.
The sun was high in the sky when he pulled the bike into a small gravel lot fronting a stand-alone bar. The busted neon sign over the entrance flickered the name. Oscars. Although between the flickering lights and the grime and dust covering the cracked plastic sign, faint outlines of lettering were close to that, it was hard to tell.
The exterior of the building reflected the age and neglect of the building. Exposed areas of black paper and wire showed against old, yellowed stucco. Rusty security bars protected dusty, cracked windows added to the décor.
Brand rolled the bike in front of a split, weather polished rail, aged and splintered by the elements, the battered rail protecting an old crumbling sidewalk. Pushing the kickstand out, he climbed off the bike and removed his helmet, hanging it by a strap from the handlebars.
Standing beside the motorbike, Brand eyed the bar. He wasn’t an expert on the Warriors, but he was certain that this bar was among the ones they haunted. A quick look at the back of the building eliminated the need to search. From where he stood, there wouldn’t be any reason for a person drinking at the establishment to wander out back. A tangle of unruly shrubs crowded tight to the building separating the gravel lot from the back area. The bottom of the bush littered with discarded garbage collected in the tangle of stems. He didn’t think that the grown bush was even penetrable.
Brushing the dust off his jeans, Brand ran his fingers through his hair then headed up the crumbling sidewalk and pushed aside the door leading inside. The bar's interior was a slight improvement over the exterior. The dim lights hid the packed, worn carpet covering the floor. The layout was typical of these types of run down joints. Sets of stained circular tables surrounded by wooden chairs with torn backs under out-dated chandeliers throwing a dull yellow cast.
A grey Toyota Pathfinder slowed alongside a curb, half a block down from Oscar's bar. The car came to a stop, partially hidden behind a small cluster of overgrown Poplar trees, the engine shut off. Detective O’Brien parked with enough of the windshield exposed to allow him a view of the parking lot and the bar’s entrance. He’d been on Coldstream’s trail since earlier in the day, following him around at a discreet distance. He watched Coldstream enter the bar then settled in, waiting for the adventure to continue.
Ten minutes into O’Brien’s vigil, a pack of bikers roared past the car and into the parking lot. He watched the group roll up to the wooden rail flanking Coldstream’s bike. The men dismounted, removed their helmets and stretched, then chatted while leaning on their machines, five additional pairs of eyes watching the bar’s entrance in the same manner as him. With the arrival of the bikers, the afternoon should prove interesting, O’Brien thought, as he palmed the police radio, his thumb hovering over the call button.
Like the pub before, the bartender and waitress were huddled by the cash register. Their conversation paused by his presence. He scanned the interior walking toward the old beat up bar on the opposite side of the room. Choosing a stool in the middle of the counter, he sat down and waited for the bartender to amble over. Naturally, the conversation the bar’s employees were having took precedence over service, because the bartender took his time taking Brand’s order.
“Bud and juice.” Brand called as the man made his way over. The bartender nodded stopping beside a bank of pull levers labeled with various types of draft beer. Brand pulled crumpled bills from his pocket front pocket and waited for the beer to arrive. Brand flattened a few twenties and shoved them toward the bartender when the man set the beer and clamato juice on the bar top.
I’ve got a few questions.” Brand said to the bartender, his hand holding the spread twenties flat on the bar.
The man looked back with dull eyes. “What kind of questions?” He asked flatly, no curiosity involved.
“Nothing serious.” Brand replied tapping his fingers over the bills. “A friend of mine lost his phone, and I’m trying to find it?” He toyed with the money. “One hasn’t been found or turned in, has it?” He lifted the glass of clamato juice and poured some into his beer while letting the bartender think.
“Keep your money. I don’t know about any lost phones.” The man said and grabbed a twenty heading for the till. “Tell your friend to buy another phone.” He mumbled over his shoulder.
Noticing the waitress eavesdropping, Brand tapped his hand over the money then raised his voice so she could plainly hear his words as well.
“I told my friend that exact thing, but it seems he’s partial to this phone, says all his contacts are on it, and he doesn’t want the fuss of replacing them.” Turning his attention back to his beer, he waited, letting his words sink in. People in bars talk while they are drinking and he hoped that maybe the waitress overheard someone talking about it. Looking back at the woman, he watched her face, but she seemed as puzzled as the bartender about the missing phone.
Pulling his phone out of his pocket, he scrolled the screens until the picture of Jerry and Dave appeared.
“I’ve got a picture of my friend. Would you two mind taking a look. Maybe you’ll recognize the face. Might jog your memory? The phone is pretty important to him.” Brand stood to show the picture.
“Maybe you should finish your beer and go search somewhere else?” The bartender said motioning toward the exit with his head.
Brand shrugged. How many phones were left behind in bars like this each day by drunks and why would these two remember or care about this one specifically, he wondered. Needle in the haystack.
He looked at the twenties spread on the bar. “Keep the cash.” He told the bartender and swivelled in the direction of the door.
Brand squinted his eyes when he stepped into the bright sunlight as he crossed from the dark interior to the outside. He hesitated, letting his eyes adjust to the light. A loud rumble of powerful bike engines assaulted his ears. Blinking his eyes into focus, he traced the sound to the group of bikers parked out front.
“Shit.” He mumbled out loud as he looked down into the parking lot. Warrior patches adorned the biker’s leathers.
The group of bikers stared up at Brand standing at the entrance while he stood looking down on them. One by one they pushed up off the bike seats. By the twinkle of sunlight gleaming off the accessorized jewellery the group was wearing, knuckle busters and chains, Brand couldn’t imagine that talking was going to help avoid the situation.
Like any wild animal, if you showed fear they would attack, so Brand slowly descended the steps in the direction of his bike. He had no weapons on him. Even his helmet was hanging beside the men on the motorbike's handlebars. If he managed to get his hands on that, he could do a little damage or at the very least protect himself for a while.
Brand continued moving toward his bike, his eyes shifting between the biker’s faces waiting for them to telegraph their first move.
“Howdy boys. Not a bad day for a ride?” He broke the silence, getting a feel for the situation and buying time to grab his helmet. He was probably going to get a good beating at the very least, so his thoughts turned proactive, searching for a way to dish out some punishment of his own before the group overwhelmed him.
The Warrior’s remained still as he closed the gap. When he reached across the railing for the helmet, the biker closest to him stretched out a hand to stop him. Acting on adrenaline, Brand scooped up his helmet and swung it at the biker’s head. The smack of the helmet surprised the man toppling the man into a bike.
Catapulting over the wooden rail feet first, Brand slammed into the bikers on one side driving both the men and machines to the ground. He rolled off the tangle and landed shoulder first into the packed gravel of the parking lot, a cloud of dust rose. He came up swinging his helmet as the bikers recovered and surrounded him. Knocking one man in the face, he rushed forward trying to keep the others off balance by surprise.
A chain bit into his back sending him back to the ground. Rolling to avoid another hit from the chain he began to rise and regain his footing. A blow struck his shoulder. Brand raised his arms protecting his head as blows started raining down. A foot caught him flush on the side of his head sending a jolt of fire through the length of his body.
Desperately, he fought to remain alert. Darkness began to push him away from consciousness when the assault to his body eased. Blinking wildly, Brand waded through the fog overwhelming his brain. Pain soared from his nerves leaving him wasted and dazed. Sirens replaced the ringing in his ears. Through blurred vision, he watched the tangle of arms and legs of the bikers pull back. Harsh voices filtered into his ears in muddled waves. Shortly, the jumbled words took form, their meanings growing clearer.
The blue attire of city police officers replaced the leather-clad Warriors. Past the line of uniforms, the bikers stood in a line. One officer bent close and looked at him. On the policeman's face, a look of surprise before recognition turned the man's features to disgust.
“Hey, Charlie. Have a look at this guy. Isn’t there a BOLO out for this bastard’s arrest?” The officer continued glaring at Brand. “Yeah. Isn't this the son of a bitch who gunned down Detective Walgreen? He’s a god damned cop killer. Maybe we should let the bikers loose and have them finish what they started. Give this asshole everything he deserves?”
Another cop stepped into Brand's line of sight and glowered. Brand shook off the results of the biker’s blows and started to rise from the gravel only to have an officer raise a foot and push him back to the ground. He lay there.
The angry tone of the officer’s words sent a chill down his spine. Trapped, he searched for means of escape, his vision roaming the faces of the cops. The bikers would have been easier to deal with than a group of police who believed they stumbled across a cop killer. His mind raced amid shouts of the police telling the bikers to climb on their bikes and get the hell out of the area before the lot was arrested and taken downtown.
The roar of the bikes deafening, the wheels of the bikes crunching gravel, passing close to Brands head while he remained on the ground. Before the roar of bikes receded, a boot thudded into his chest. One of the men in blue stood with the barrel of a gun pointed down in Brand’s direction.
“We should do the world a favour and end his miserable life instead of letting another murderer holiday in jail while some asshole defence lawyer tries to get him released.” The cop holding the gun knelt and swung a fist into Brand’s face. Soon more officers joined the fracas, a second barrage of fists and boots pounded Brand.
Detective O’Brien watched in disbelief. As the officer’s anger increased, he jumped from his car. When he called for backup, he had forgotten that Brand was the main suspect in Walgreen's death. O'Brien had intended to stay in the background to continue following Coldstream, but the time for discretion was over. These uniforms looked like they might just finish what the Warrior bikers had started.