Beard Up(2)

By: Lani Lynn Vale



“This is the only way I’m getting out of here,” I countered. “If I can’t fucking work out, I can’t fucking fight my way out of this hellhole.”

Dr. Ruben didn’t bother to correct me.

“I like your determination,” he informed me. “But, if you’re not careful, you’re going to end up hurting yourself worse than when you started.”

I gave him a blank look.

There was no way that I could look that bad. I’d seen the pictures. I saw the hideous burns on my body. I saw the way I’d looked—which, might I add, wasn’t pretty.

One man had called me the melted man. There had been burns on my face, neck, hands and forearms. All of which, including my face, had been reconstructed.

No longer was I the man that I was before—and I knew the man that I used to be.

I knew that I wasn’t ever going to look the same, and if I was being honest, that was likely a good thing. The old me was dead. The old me, the one that had a wife and kid, was gone. He would never be a threat to that family again.

Why?

Because I made a deal with the devil.





***


Another six months later

I stared at the man through my scope.

I couldn’t do it. I really couldn’t do it.

There was no way in hell that I could do it. This man had been like a second father to me. He’d been my backbone for three years. He’d taken care of my wife and child for the last year while I’d been recovering.

While I’d been dead.

I dropped my head to the ground, uncaring that there was a large rock denting my forehead.

“No. No, no, no, no, no,” I swallowed the bile threatening to make its way back up my throat.

I lifted my head and stared through the scope one last time.

One last final time, then pulled the trigger.

The man jumped, then fell.

But then he got back up and didn’t stop running until he was out of my range.

“You’re dead.”

The gun at the back of my neck felt cold, but I knew that it would be okay.

The man I’d missed just moments before would continue to watch over my wife and child.

I closed my eyes and made my peace with the man above.

Then waited for the shot.

It didn’t take long.

In fact, it happened so fast that I’d barely finished saying ‘amen’ inside my head when the gunshot sounded.

But no pain was forthcoming.

I opened my eyes and stared at the dirt beneath my face. There was gravel and a small amount of glass mixed there.

“Get up,” a man’s voice ordered, the tone hinting to me that the man at my back was more than willing to blow my head to pieces if I didn’t step very carefully.

I stood up, being certain not to make any sudden movements, and turned to study the man at my back.

It was only when he lifted the light to shine it in my eyes that I got a glimpse of the face, and realized who he was.

Stone. He was the president of the Dixie Wardens MC Alabama chapter. A man I’d met multiple times throughout the years, and a man I’d once called friend.

He didn’t look so friendly now with that gun aimed directly at my face.

“Let me see your hands,” he ordered, his voice low and menacing.

I showed him my hands.

Secretly, I wished he’d kill me. I wanted him to pull that trigger. To take me out and make this constant pain I felt in my heart go away.

But I knew he wouldn’t, not as long as I didn’t react or do anything stupid.

And I wouldn’t. With that little piece of shit, who’d been my babysitter anytime I was out of my room for the last year, now dead, there was no one keeping me in line anymore. No one to tattle to Daddy that I wasn’t following his orders.

That, and I wouldn’t do it to Stone. Once in the brotherhood, I was always going to be in the brotherhood, and that meant I wasn’t going to do a damn thing to hurt any one of them. Not to this man. And especially, not to him. Not to anyone.

“Turn around and lean your hands against that tree. Don’t fuck around, or I’ll be forced to do something I don’t want to do.”

I did as instructed, placing my hands on the tree, pushing harder than was necessary to give me a little bite of pain. A bite of pain that I needed to keep me present in the here and now.

My eyes went down to the ground where my babysitter now lay, a puddle of every-growing blood spreading out underneath his blown apart head. And smiled.

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