Gabe found Chance sitting in a plastic chair in the lobby of the ER, up against a wall and isolated from anyone else in the room. His friend was leaning forward in the little chair with his fingers clutched in his hair. He’d been crying when he called Gabe earlier, sobbing, and it was a sound that Gabe hadn’t heard from his friend in years. He’d been terrified as Chance searched for the words to tell him what had happened, especially when he heard sirens in the background. Chance got out enough for Gabe to figure out that something had happened to Sharon, but he couldn’t understand what, or how bad it was. The sirens kept growing louder and Chance’s words got harder to understand until at last he heard him say, “Over here! She’s in the bathroom. Hurry!” And then the line went dead.
Now Gabe stood there just watching Chance, not necessarily in a hurry to find out the rest of the story. His mind often went back to the night that he and Chance had chased one of the Mad Men into the Manchac Swamp. He knew the guys thought he was goofy, and maybe even a little crazy sometimes, so he rarely spoke to anyone about it…even Chance. But he had thought about it a lot, and he’d spoken to his Maw Maw about it on more than one occasion, and that morning after Chance’s call…he’d finally told his old lady Patrice his fears. He could tell as he looked into her pretty blue eyes that she wasn’t making fun of him, but was genuinely curious when she’d said, “You really believe any of this has to do with a woman…a witch…who has been dead for a century?” Gabe hesitated to admit it, even to her, but he’d reminded himself that she loved him, and he’d admitted to her then that he did, indeed, believe he and Chance had somehow left the swamp that night with a curse on their heads and a target on their backs.
Too many things had happened since then for there to be any other explanation. If it had only been the fact that Gabe had been attacked by a gator and had his leg almost completely ripped off, he could write it off to the dangers of hanging out in the swamp at night. But so many other things had happened since then in only a few short months. Gabe’s leg had healed but the scars and the stiffness in it every time he got out of bed in the morning or rode his bike for more than a few miles were stark reminders of what had happened. Chance had his head beat in that night, with a lead pipe. Once he recovered from that he had found out that his old lady was pregnant by one of the Mad Men who had raped her. A couple of months later, he’d been shot in an ambush that never should have happened. Now something else was going on, and by the sound of his friend’s voice on the phone earlier, it was bad. And then there was what he’d seen on his race to get to the ER…someone from their past who could only have been there to make Chance’s life even more miserable. Gabe hadn’t had time for a confrontation, but he knew it would have to come, and soon.
Gabe knew that running with an MC was dangerous, especially an MC as rowdy as the Jokers…but the superstitious Cajun in him couldn’t help but wonder if he and Chance needed to go back out to that swamp with some holy water or something and make amends with Julie Brown, the old witch that legend said haunted that part of the swamp. He was almost 100% convinced they were both carrying around some kind of curse for disturbing her that night…and that conviction only grew stronger by the day.
Gabe finally started toward Chance and was only a few steps away when his friend pulled up his head. Gabe had seen him beaten and shot, sad, scared, and angry. He’d seen his best friend in just about every situation possible…but nothing had terrified him the way that the look on Chance’s face did right then. His green eyes were almost swollen shut from crying and his pale skin was red and splotchy. His bottom lip was swollen, and bleeding from where he’d been chewing on it, an old habit from his childhood that only reared its head when Chance got himself into a situation he was unable to control.
“What the hell happened?” Gabe said. “Is she okay? Sharon…?” Chance stared at him for the longest time before finally in a hoarse whisper he said:
“The baby died.” Gabe felt sick. He knew, and everyone else in the Jokers clubhouse knew, that baby inside of Sharon was created by her rapist. But in the months after her rape as her belly grew and she told her eight-year-old twins they were having a baby brother or sister; she had come to love it. Gabe knew that Chance struggled sometimes with whether he’d be able to love a child of Gregor’s, a man who was now dead, but had been scum of the earth when he was alive. But Chance loved Sharon, and her children, and Gabe knew that his friend had done everything to convince her and himself that everything was going to turn out alright.
“Fuck,” Gabe said, sinking down in the chair next to Chance. “How?”
Chance sucked in a shaky breath and let it out before he said, “She thinks I did it on purpose.” He buried his face back in his hands and his entire body began to shake. Gabe wasn’t sure what to do. He wanted to comfort his friend, but he knew Chance well enough to know that touching him, especially at a time like this, was a bad idea. Chance had PTSD about being touched, thanks to the monsters who raised him, and Gabe knew enough to understand why.
“I don’t think that’s…”
“Don’t. Don’t say you don’t think it’s true, because you’re wrong. She told me so…fuck, man, I would never hurt her…or an innocent baby. I already started thinking of that baby as mine, you know that. I thought she knew that too.” He sucked in another sob and Gabe felt it all the way to his core.
“You want me to call Blackheart?” Chance was already shaking his head before Gabe had finished the question.
“No. Don’t call him…I can’t…” He stood up and began to pace. “I just can’t talk to anyone else right now. She won’t even see me. She’s in there all by herself and she told me the twins are staying at her sister’s…like she thinks I might hurt them too…” Tears were rolling freely down his cheeks, and Gabe hated himself for not knowing what to do. He opened his mouth again, about to try when suddenly there were two men standing in front of them, men in cheap polyester suits and shiny shoes. Fucking cops.
“Mr. Le Blanc?”
“That’s me,” Chance said, quickly wiping at his face. Gabe’s heart hurt for the embarrassment his friend was feeling for showing his emotions.
One of the detectives turned toward Gabe. “And you are?” Gabe stood up and said:
“His friend, Gabriel Broussard.” The cop looked him over, like he was looking at a bag of trash alongside the road. Gabe was used to it. Even before he wore a leather kutte that announced to the world he was a Joker, he’d been considered trash by most of it. Chance had it a little better. His movie-star good looks had always made people treat him differently. At least outside of his own family. Gabe never resented Chance for it, though; he always told his friend that it wasn’t his fault he looked like fucking Brad Pitt.
“Mr. Le Blanc, we need to speak with Miss Cole, but we’d like you to stick around because we’ll need to speak with you afterwards.” Chance nodded and Gabe said:
One of the cops lifted an eyebrow at him and Chance reached out and put his hand on Gabe’s arm. Looking back at the cops he said, “I’ll be here. Just remember please that she’s been through hell today and don’t push her, okay?” Neither of the cops responded to that. Chance and Gabe watched them show their badges to the girl behind the Plexiglas and then the door to their right buzzed and the men disappeared through it. When they were gone Gabe looked at Chance and said, “Okay, man, I need you to tell me what the hell happened.”
Chance dropped into the chair again and ran his hands through his already wild hair. With a heavy sigh he looked up at Gabe and said, “It was a fucking freak accident, man, I swear. I’d never hurt her…”
Sitting down next to him Gabe said softly, “I already believe you, man, just please tell me what happened.”
His hands were shaking, and he clasped them together tightly like he was trying to get them to stop before saying, “The twins stayed with their grandma last night. Me and Sharon had this nice dinner that she cooked, and we watched a movie…she’d set the whole night up because things have been so bad between us…”
“Bad? You didn’t tell me things were bad.”
“She’s been really moody lately. I just figured it was hormones. But she cries a lot and when I try to comfort her, she tells me that she knows I hate the baby, that I’ll never be able to think of it as anything other than Gregor’s spawn…” He hesitated. Gabe waited, but he couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He’d never heard Sharon talk to his friend like that, or anyone for that matter. She was always so sweet and quiet. “I started out trying to tell her she was wrong, but she wouldn’t believe me, and it got to where we had the same stupid fight almost every day. I even started sleeping on the couch. We hadn’t had sex in over a month…I just kept telling myself it was hormones and it would all be better after the baby was born in two months. So anyways, she set up this whole romantic night for us. She actually cuddled up to me when we were watching the movie…it’s been so long since she even touched me…” He hesitated again and Gabe was wishing he’d hurry and get to the point. He was uncomfortable hearing so much about their intimate, private moments. The two men shared a lot, but not things like that. “So, after the movie, we had sex…it was good. I fell asleep thinking things were going to finally go back to normal. This morning I woke up to the smell of bacon. She made me breakfast and we ate together out on the back patio…” Tears were rolling down his face again and Gabe had to stifle the urge to shake him and tell him to just spit it out already. Every word he pushed out seemed like it took effort, and it was hard for Gabe to stay patient…but he did.
“After breakfast she went to take a bath and I went out to the garage to work on the chopper. I’m not sure how long I was out there…maybe an hour. When I went back in the house, I called out to her and she didn’t answer. I went into the bedroom and she wasn’t there, so I knocked on the bathroom door. She didn’t answer then either, but I could hear her crying. I tried to get in, but it was locked. I spent a fucking long time banging on the door, but she wouldn’t open it, so I went around outside and wrenched open the bathroom window. It was fucking ridiculous, trying to get my big body through that window, but I could get inside far enough to see that she was sitting on the floor, naked, and she was bleeding. I freaked out when I saw all that blood and ran back inside…. I was scared. I didn’t know why she was bleeding, and she wouldn’t talk to me. I should’ve called 911 right then. I should’ve called somebody…” He stopped then, and when it was apparent that he wasn’t going to go on Gabe said:
“What did you do?”
Chance started sobbing again and every one of his sobs tore at Gabe’s very soul. Gabe didn’t know how many minutes passed before Chance finally found his voice again, but when he did, he said, “I broke the door down. I told her I was coming in. I yelled at her to move a few times before I hit the door…she just started screaming at me then, telling me to stay out, saying it was all my fault. The door splintered when I hit it…I swear, Gabe, I swear I didn’t want to hurt her…” Shit. His friend was falling apart, and this time as his body was wracked with sobs, Gabe reached over and put his hand on Chance’s back. After a few minutes he softly said:
“I know you’d never hurt her, Chance. I’m sure she does too…”
“That door landed on her, and most of my weight did too. I don’t remember a lot after that except for getting everything off of her and calling 911…and you…but when they put her in the ambulance she was crying hysterically, and when I tried to get in with her she screamed at me. She said it was my fault. She said the baby was dead and it was my fault and she told the EMTs she didn’t want me anywhere near her. I just got on my bike and followed her here. I told the nurse in the ER I was the baby’s father, so they’d let me back, but as soon as she saw me, she started freaking out again and they threw me out, threatened to call the cops. She thinks I did this on purpose.”
“No,” Gabe said, trying to keep his voice as calm as possible. “She’s probably just saying those things because she’s upset about losing the baby. I’m sure she doesn’t mean…”
The door opened and the two detectives stepped out and approached them again. One of them said, “Mr. Le Blanc?” Chance stood up and he said, “I’m gonna need you to turn around and face the wall. I’m guessing you know the position.”
“Wait, what the fuck is going on?” Gabe yelled.
“Your friend is being arrested for assault,” the cop said. “Maybe even murder depending on how they decide that baby died. If you don’t want to take a ride downtown with him, I suggest you back off…now.” Gabe opened his mouth again, but Chance said:
“Don’t, Gabe, please. Go home, okay?”
“I’m going to tell Blackheart. He’ll call the attorney. Don’t say anything until he gets there. It’ll be okay, bro. We’re going to get you out of there…” The cop was already reading Chance his rights. Gabe’s pain for his friend turned into rage and he knew he had to get out of there, or he would be the next one in cuffs. He turned and all but ran for the door, not stopping until he got to his bike. He took out his phone then and called Blackheart. As soon as the president answered he said, “Boss, we have two…really big…problems.”