long road ghost - part 4 of 9

As it turned out, Alex wasn’t too shabby a rider. He still had a bit of the squirrel in him, but it was nothin’ time and experience wouldn’t take care of. By the time we got back to the bar, the sun was torchin’ the sky and Sleepy Hollow was just wakin’ up. Alex – I just couldn’t bring myself to go for all four syllables of his name – went home and I played barkeep ‘til closin’ time.

We rode a few times, Alex and me. Sometimes once a week, sometimes more or less than that. And from the bug-eating grin he started getting on his face instead of a constipated terrified look, I could tell he and his overpriced Harley had reached that symbiotic point in their relationship. Surprisin’ly, he was a good man to ride with. Low key, able to keep up with me as we cruised down the long road and made the wind jealous. And those times we talked? I appreciated ‘em for the fact that for all his education, he didn’t talk down his nose to a rube like me, who only finished high school because daddy would’ve walloped me otherwise. Even more surprisin’ was that the mumbles of a teacher’s rebellion were getting all the more quiet. As it turned out, he took the stick out of his ass and showed, of all things, a talent for teachin’ some likened to a pastor in a gospel church. Even Katrina seemed on the calm side of things.

Or so I thought. One night, I was behind the bar, pourin’ my little heart out to every poke with a dollar, all the meanwhile keepin’ my eye out on Alex. He’d taken to nursin’ a beer in a corner table, right by the pinball machine, while Katrina sat at the bar chattin’ with Brom. Every so often, Nasty Nasty would try to muscle in on the conversation, only to get tapped in the face and scolded with a pointin’ finger. A confrontation with Sick Jimmy – so-called because the broomstick had a rep for mutilating animals with the butterfly knife he was always playin’ with – would’ve gotten mean if me and my old ridin’ buddies hadn’t thrown our weight around.

Alex, of course, was none too thrilled about the attention his wife was gettin’ – and givin’. He eventually grew balls of a certain size, gettin’ up from the table and marchin’ past a group of visitin’ rice rocket riders in weirdly colored popinjay leathers until he got to the bar.

“Would you like to dance?” he said. Someone had picked “Unchained Melody” on the juke – I hated that song ever that movie with Patrick Swayze came out. Katrina gave him a weird look – at least, I couldn’t figure out what it meant – then shook her head. Maybe there was some truth to the rumors that his willy was non-functional and she was sufferin’ from a lack of gettin’ any.

“Well how about sitting down with me. Have a drink? I’m your husband, damn it.”

Katrina looked really torn about it, but of course Brom had to throw in his two bits.

“The lady’s talkin’ with me, jack.”

“She’s my wife, asshole.”

“Why don’t we let her decide who she wants to talk too.”

“How about you mind your own business, jack.”

Now I’ve been in enough fights to know the look of a man about to throw a punch; Alex had that look. Thing is, Brom also knew a thing or too ‘bout fightin’ – I’d seen him take on bigger guys them him outside Sleepy Hollow – and he recognized the look too. So he threw the first punch, knocking Alex down to the ground. Given that Alex got a split lip out of it, he got off easy. But Brom knew the rules and, damned if it wasn’t true, he toned things down when Katrina gave him a funny look; he just looked at me and shrugged.

“C’mon, let’s get,” he said to Katrina, headin’ out the door without waitin’ for her answer.

Alex was fightin’ mad. Katrina looked at him as if she expected him to get up and challenge Brom to a duel. Now, I’m not sayin’ he did the right or wrong thing, but given how unlikely it was for him to take on a tough like Brom, he probably saved himself a world of hurt by stayin’ down. Then again, maybe Katrina would have respected him more for riskin’, and getting’, a major beatin’ if only as a matter of pride.

When things calmed down a bit, the gap left by Brom was suddenly filled by his boys. They started out with trying to scare Alex with tales of the headless rider. When they got bored with that, they followed with dirty suggestions that piqued Katrina’s interest, despite her efforts not to show it, and pissed the hell out of Alex, who wasn’t about to take on three guys at once. I considered throwin’ my weight – my bar, my right – but figured it wouldn’t help Alex look any more manly in Katrina’s eyes. After a while, it wasn’t an issue. Alex stormed off, tellin’ Katrina that he’s trying his best for her but if that ain’t good enough, well…What worried me was that the Bone Riders followed pretty darn quick.

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