When the line between right and wrong becomes blurred, one must choose a side...
|The Outlaw Had Mercy (Vengeance Version)
"What?! Kerry, I--"
"I said, 'get out!'" She stared, stunned and hurt. Slowly, she put her clothes on and walked to the door. She turned as she reached for the doorknob.
"Do I at least get to know why?" Kerry Flanagan looked away from her and gazed at the nightstand, shame burning his ears.
"....Because you're not her."
Midday found Kerry sauntering downtown in Dublin, making his way to Taylor's Pub. A relatively short walk from his residence, he still managed to run into several people asking him where Brianna was. He avoided their questions as best he was able, then ducked inside the door at Taylor's.
And was immediately met with a shotgun pointed at his face.
"Ya go' a lotta nerve showin' up 'ere, Flanagan. After what you pulled."
"After what I pulled? Hey, we decided that wasn't my fault, remember?" The bartender kept his steely gaze on Kerry a moment longer.
Then he lowered the gun, grinning.
"Ah, get ov'r 'ere, ya filthy taig." Kerry grinned at the insult. He hadn't had a full-blooded Irish ancestor for two generations. Kerry had come to Ireland six years ago and risen to President of the Original Northern Ireland chapter of the Archangels Motorcycle Club. He'd been looking for a way out from his deteriorating American life.
An escape from his shattered heart. AMCONI perfectly filled the void his wife had left.
As he walked across the room, he was greeted by several familiar faces.
"Shut up and pour me a glass of O'Hara's Celtic, ya bar rat!"
"Alexa, get her up, we have to go!"
"And don't talk back, mom said you have to listen to me!" Alexandria Walker just rolled her eyes at her older sister and made her way to their mother's bedroom.
"Ma, let's go. Stacey's gettin' impatient." Shealyne sighed, staring at the ceiling, then slowly got to her feet. Thirty-eight years of living were starting to take their toll on the Walker matriarch. The last few had been extremely rough, raising a pair of teenagers single-handedly. Stacey and Alexandria were now twenty and seventeen, respectively. It was good to have them finally acting like responsible adults, even if Alexandria was still a few months from being one. Lord knew they didn't get that from their father. The thought of her husband made Shealyne angry and depressed all at once. She'd evicted him half a decade ago and he'd responded by severing all ties to his family.
"Poor bastard," she muttered.
"Mumblin' bout Da again, Ma?"
"Yes. And stop talking like that, he abandoned us."
"You kicked him out."
"He ran away from his family for that harlot in Dublin!" The room got deathly quiet as Shealyne, tears in her eyes, realized her daughters were staring at her with wide eyes. She looked between them for a moment before the tears fell. Alexandria and Stacey rushed across the room as Shealyne fell to the floor, fully in tears now.
"Mom, what's wrong?"
"I... I miss your father...." Stacey exchanged a worried glance with Alexandria. Shealyne hadn't said anything of the sort since the day he left.
"What did you mean about the... Woman... in Dublin?" Stacey asked, trying not to speak ill of a stranger. Shealyne wiped her eyes on the back of her hand.
"I suppose it's time I told you. Your father... Your father isn't the man I married twenty years ago. He hasn't been for a long time."
"Flanagan! Phone!" Kerry walked to the telephone and took the receiver from the bartender.
"Kerry Flanagan, who's this?"
"Shea?!" Kerry looked around, but no one was listening. "You haven't called me once in six years, what do you want?!" Despite his bravado, his pulse quickened.
"Great way to greet the mother of your kids, Kerry," Shealyne shot back, "You talk to Brianna that way?"
"Look, if you're just gonna insult me, hang up."
"...You're right," Shealyne sighed, "I'm sorry. That's not why I called. I thought you should know that I told the girls the truth. About us." A cold weight settled into Kerry's stomach.
"All of it?"
"Just the part about Brianna. I couldn't keep it from them anymore, Kerry. They needed to know." A burning tear came to Kerry's eye as he glanced at the floor.
"I... I told them today... That I miss you..."
"You don't miss me, Shea. You miss the innocent kid I was twenty years ago. I'm a criminal. We both know the old Kerry died a decade ago."
"But why? Why can't you be that Kerry again?"
"I just can't, okay? It's not who I am anymore."
"...Kerry, come home. Please, if not for me, for the girls."
"Ireland is my home, Shea. I belong here."
"You belong with your family!"
"The Archangels ARE my family! I can't just leave them!"
"You left them before! Request a transfer! Have them send you to the charter in Spartanburg, we're only fifteen minutes away!"
"This isn't before, I can't do that! You wouldn't understand..."
"Then help me to!"
"Shea... It's not that simple. Things aren't as easy as you seem to think they are. I... I told Brianna to leave this morning."
"If you want me to be sad, I'm not, but... Why?"
"Because she's not you, okay?! Is that what you want to hear?! Because I still love you!!"
"Then come back to Carolina! I don't understand the holdup here. The girls are grown, but they still need their father, Kerry."
"I... I'll think about it. I need to discuss this with the club too. I can't make any promises, Shealyne. You know that."
"I know. Just come back to me."
"I'll call back Sunday night."
"Alright. I... love you, Kerry."
"...I love you too, Shea. Kiss the girls for me."
"I will." Kerry hung up the phone and walked back to the bar.
"Wot was tha' about?"
"We need to have a meeting tonight. Get the Crew together, meet at the table in two hours." Kerry, a dark shadow clouding his face, strode from the bar, heading toward the clubhouse.
Stacey stared at a computer screen in the dark, not noticing the world pass by around her. It was late. Shealyne and Alexandria had already gone to bed. Stacey's eyes were starting to hurt, partly due to the fatigue, but also partly due to the tears threatening to ruin her mascara. As she kept reading, she jumped when a knock came on the doorframe.
"Alexa, what are you doing up? You have school in the morning."
"I could ask you the same question." Stacey smiled weakly.
"I suppose you wouldn't believe me if I said 'looking at porn'?"
"No' a chance. What's goin' on?"
"I was reading... Some heavy stuff."
"Yeah. And didn't mom tell you to stop with the accent?"
"Aye, she did, but I can't help it, sis. We're Irish. Don't you ever find yourself doing it?"
"Not for a long time. Not since...."
"Since Dad left."
"...Yeah... I miss Da. I wish Ma would let him come home."
"Hey, that was pretty good." The sad smile on her sister's face was a bit disconcerting. "I miss him too, but I still don't understand why he left..."
Stacey turned the laptop around to face her sister.
"Read this, Ma wrote it all down right here." As Alexa read it, Stacey watched her sister's face fall.
"Ma was right, he's not the same man."
"Yeah... I'm... I'm gonna call it a night... We'll continue this in the morning."
"Good night, sis." Stacey kissed her little sister on the cheek and watched her walk back to bed. As the door closed, she let the tears fall.
"...My daughters learned yesterday what kind of scum their father really is. I need to be there so that they understand why I did what I did. I put the request in to transfer to AMCARR, they've accepted, it just depends on this table's vote. So let's vote it: one transfer request for Kerry Flanagan to the Archangels Motorcycle Club American Rebel Riders charter." The nods of assent went the whole way around the table, until they reached the VP. Six years of history passed between Kerry and Steven Taylor in a single glance. The greying bartender had become the best friend a man could ask for in just over half a decade. A slim smile slowly formed on Steven's lips.
"Go get ya girls back, son. Aye." Kerry grinned in response.
"I pass the President patch to my VP, wear it with pride and honor, bar rat."
With the vote decided, the AMCONI members filed out to say their goodbyes.
~TEN YEARS AGO~
"Do it, Kerry! He sold AMCAIN out!" The young man stood in front of the traitor, gun leveled at his head.
"For God's sake, Kerry, he killed Riley, shoot him!!" The gun wavered as the tears seared Kerry's eyes. He matched the traitor's fear filled gaze.
"Ya shot my brother, my best friend..." He cocked the gun and pointed it again between the man's eyes. "...Run. Don' ever show yer face in New Salem again." The man stood and ran like his life depended on it (which, of course, it did). Meanwhile, the man behind Kerry grabbed him by the shoulder and spun him around.
"What the hell, Flanagan?! Why'd you let him go?!"
"Needless bloodshed, Brad. Haven't we killed enough of our own?"
"Not yet." Brad moved to take a shot at Kerry, but he wasn't quick enough. Kerry pulled his .357 up and blew a hole in the would-be assailant's chest. He stood over the man, heart racing. The club's Vice President lay bleeding out in front of him.
"K-Kerry. When the... MC... Finds out... You're dead."
"Ya tried ta shoot me, it was self-defense."
"And I'd... Do it again..." Brad sputtered, coughing up blood, "In a heartbeat... You let... That prick--" he never finished the sentence as Kerry finished the job with a slug to the head.
"Way ta go, Flanagan," Kerry muttered to himself, "Let the traitor live and off'd the VP. Great. Bloody great." Kerry hefted the body into his arms and carried the dead man back to the clubhouse.
"Kerry!!! Good Lord, what happened?!?!" The club's President, Jack Hurst, crossed the parking lot, running to meet him.
"Table. I'll explain there. Help me get him taken care of first."
"Get the others, I'll worry about him." Kerry stared at him a moment, then nodded, handing the body over. As he walked toward the clubhouse, he whistled loudly, summoning the rest of the club members to follow him in. Once everyone was in their places, Kerry put his hands on the table and took a deep breath.
"Wot I'm about ta tell you is no' pleasant. And it's no' something I planned ta happen." Kerry told them the truth of what had happened that day, leaving no detail out.
"I don' expect any of you ta believe or forgive me. If the death penalty is my punishment, I'll take it." Jack stared at his Sergeant At Arms, a mix of emotions clouding his face.
"You killed an officer of this club, Kerry. And freed a traitor on top of that. Death is the only reasonable response. With that said, I'm making an executive decision. I'm exiling you from the Archangels Motorcycle Club American International North charter, and you never return to New Salem. Otherwise, we WILL kill you."
"I accept that," Kerry said with a nod. The gavel slammed and the club filed out, leaving Kerry and Jack alone.
"Go home and thank your family," Jack spat as he stood and started to walk out, "They're the only reason I spared you."
"Shea, I'm home." Kerry's wife walked to the kitchen to meet him, followed closely by his two daughters. As Kerry watched them, he realized that in ten years, he'd hardly gotten to know his kids at all. The club always pulled him in the other direction.
"How long are you home for this time?" Kerry took his leather off and sat down at the table.
"Permanently. Don' get excited, after I tell ya wot happened, ya might no' be so happy."
"Daddy, you're no' leaving anymore?" Kerry stood up and stooped down to look his oldest daughter in the eye.
"I'm no' going anywhere, Stacey. I'm staying right here with you and Alexa and Mommy." Shealyne frowned at her husband.
"Would you stop talking in that ridiculous accent? Our ancestors may have been Irish, but you're an American. And the girls are doing it now too."
"Sorry. Force of habit," Kerry replied as he stood up. "I love you, Shea."
"I love you too, Kerry." They shared a brief kiss before the man of the house led the family into the living room, notebook in hand.
"Shea, we need to talk," Kerry whispered as the girls slept soundly.
"About today. I'm home, but not of my own choice."
"What do you mean?"
"I was forced into this position. I... I killed a man today." Shealyne's hand flew to her mouth.
"That's not all. It wasn't just a rival club beef. It was internal."
"Kerry, you didn't...."
"I didn't turn on the club. But Brad is dead because I reacted in self-defense."
"Oh my God. Kerry, what happened?!" The young man took a deep breath before looking his wife in the eye.
"We were set to execute a traitor today. The guy that shot Riley. The responsibility fell to me, but I couldn't do it. I made him run for his life. I had mercy. Brad didn't see it that way and brought his gun up to shoot me. I didn't think, I just fired. He was still babbling about the club killing me in return... I put a round in his head to shut him up. Jack spared my life for your sake, and the girls'. But I have to leave New Salem. That was his one condition."
"What are we going to do? I can't just pull the girls out of school..."
"Let them finish this year, we'll find somewhere else to go before the next school year starts."
"Kerry," Shealyne sighed, "Why does the blowback for your mistakes with the club always hit this family?"
"I... I don't know. Shea, I don't know how long I can keep this up either. My life has just been one series of mistakes after another. The only good things I've ever done were marrying you, and creating those two miracles in the other room."
"You'll be alright, Kerry. Your family loves you. I'll start looking for places to move to tomorrow," Shealyne said as she stood up. "What are you going to do in the meantime? If the club sees you in town, they'll kill you."
"I.... I'll get out of town for now. There's an Archangels charter in Spartanburg, South Carolina. I'll see if they'll take me in. I know it's not what you want, Shea, but it's safer for all of us."
"Kerry.... You're right, it's not what I want. But if it'll keep the girls safe...."
"It will, I promise."
~FOUR YEARS LATER~
"Kerry, I'm home." Shealyne walked through the house but there was no sign of her husband. "Kerry? Where are you?" Still no answer. Shealyne sat at the kitchen table and dialed his cell phone number. It rang four times before the voicemail kicked in. Shealyne hung up the phone, highly confused. It wasn't like Kerry at all to be unreachable. She walked into the living room and sat in the recliner, trying to come up with where her husband could be.
Then she saw the notebook sitting on the table.
She picked it up, glancing at the chicken scratch handwriting. As she read it, a mix of emotions welled inside her. She finished it and set it down, her hands shaking. Silence kept her company until Kerry walked in, following Stacey and Alexandria into the house.
"Kerry, we need to talk." He looked at the girls for a moment.
"Go play, I'll join in soon."
"Okay, Da!" They rushed off as Kerry sat down across from Shealyne in the living room. He could see that she was rattled as she looked at him.
"What is this?" She asked as she picked up the spiral bound paper.
"That would be a notebook."
"Kerry, I'm not joking. Who is Brianna? Why are you writing this.... Love letter.... To her?!" Kerry stared at her for a long moment.
"I'm not gonna lie to you, Shea. The trips I've been on for business, haven't all been purely business." He watched the tears about to burst from her eyes, but knew he had to tell her the rest. Still, he couldn't bear to watch her cry.
"Brianna is a girl I met in Ireland, about five years ago. She meets me at a hotel halfway between here and the destination," he finished as he hung his head. To his surprise, Shealyne spoke.
"I want you out of the house."
Kerry looked up at her. Her eyes were watery, but the tears remained unshed.
"Shea, I told--"
"Tomorrow. Say goodbye to the girls tonight, I'll tell them what happened tomorrow."
"Shea... Please, just... Don't tell them the truth about me. I don't want them hating their old man, and deep down, you don't want that either."
"I should tell them. You want that Irish whore, you can have her, but you won't have her around my family."
"I won't, Kerry! I'll keep your filthy secret, just... I need you to..." She couldn't finish the sentence as the tears finally fell. Kerry left her to cry as he went to spend what little time he had left with his daughters.
"Ma, where's Da, goin'?"
"He's leaving. And stop talking like that."
"Why's he leaving?"
"Because I told him to." Shealyne turned and walked back in the house, her resolve wavering. Stacey watched her father's motorcycle disappear into the distance as Alexandria followed her mother back into the house. Stacey stood for a moment, staring and listening to the echoes of the engine fading. Then, tears stinging her eyes, she joined her family inside.
As a black motorcycle trimmed with teal came to a stop in front of the house, Stacey Walker stared at the rider, arms crossed. The design was standard for the outlaw Archangels Motorcycle Club. She watched him dismount the bike, then stand near it, gazing back at her. Slowly, Stacey stepped off the porch and walked toward the man. They stood face to face for the first time in six years, their matching jade eyes passing half a decade's information between them. As the door opened behind Stacey, she embraced her father, never wanting to let go again.
"Dad?!" The footsteps behind Stacey quickened and she just got out of the way in time to avoid being crushed as Alexandria came running to them. Consequently, the wind left Kerry's lungs in a rush instead.
"It's good to see you, too, Alexandria," he said when he could breathe again.
"Daddy, don't ever leave again, I missed you so much, Mom missed you too, even if she won't admit it..." She paused to catch her breath, looking up at her father. Her sapphire eyes, so much like her mother's, sparkled with tears. "Is it true? What Mom said about Ireland and the.... Girl.... There?" Kerry looked into her eyes, knowing what he was about to say would hurt them both.
"Even the thing about the old charter in New Salem?"
"Yes. It's all true. We need to talk about it tonight." Kerry looked up as Shealyne stepped outside. "All of us." Shealyne didn't say a word as she walked up to Kerry. She stood just behind her daughters, a stony look masking her emotions.
"Girls, go back inside."
Stacey and Alexandria did as they were told, leaving their parents alone in the front yard.
"Shea, I'm so sorry, I--" Shealyne silenced him with a rib-crushing hug.
"Shut the hell up, Kerry. I'm glad you're home."
He hugged her back but broke the embrace suddenly.
"Don't be so happy, Shea. I'm back, but I still have a duty to the club. You know that."
"I know," she said, letting the tears fall. "I just want you here, even if it's only a fraction of the time." Kerry smiled wistfully and reinitiated the embrace.
"Let's take this inside..."
"Gents, y'all know the infamous Kerry Flanagan! Welcome home, brother." Kerry sat at the tail of the Archangels Motorcycle Club American Rebel Riders' table, the formal confirmation hearing just beginning. His introduction was met with a chorus of laughs and applause from the other members. The vote was a mere formality; AMCARR was excited to have Kerry join their ranks.
"Hey, Flanagan, you ain't gonna shoot me, are ya?" The VP said with a laugh. Kerry returned with a Han Solo-esque grin.
"No, sir, I never draw first, but be sure I'll draw first blood."
Which didn't last long as another chorus of laughter broke out.
"Billy the Kid over here," The President, Duke Sampson said when he'd finished. As the laughter faded, the President raised his hands for quiet. "Alright, alright, but in all seriousness, Kerry, we're glad to have ya, now let's get outta here, there's a beer with my name on it waitin' in my ol' lady's hand at home!" All hands hit the table and the meeting was adjourned. As the other members made for the exit, Duke pulled Kerry aside.
"Just a second, son," he said in a hushed tone, "Look, I know what ya done in AMCAIN was for yer own survival. Ya ain't gotta be nervous 'round us, bud. What's done's done."
"Thanks, Duke, I really do appreciate that." The grin on the President's face spread once more.
"I do have one thing to say that's slightly troublin' though. We have a club tribunal comin' up in Gettysburg, a bit of an inter-chapter thing. Everyone that can, rides. That'll mean yer ol' friends in AMCAIN as well. I'll understand if ya wanna stay here." Kerry could feel the bile rising in his throat, but he took a deep breath.
"I know what I have to do. I'll be there."
"That's the spirit, son," Duke said with a smile. "AMCARR will all be there to support ya and so will yer buddies in AMCONI."
"Looking forward to it already." With a clasp of forearms, the two men parted ways for the day.
"Shea, I'm home." Kerry walked through the house to the backyard where Shealyne and the girls were sitting around a campfire. Kerry stood, leaning against the doorframe and watched them for a moment. He smiled and went back inside to start cooking dinner, trying not to think about what was going to happen the next day.
"You sure yer okay bein' here?"
"I'm fine, Duke, trust me. The AMCAIN fallout is ancient history."
"Arite, then. I just don't wanna see anything happen to ya. Them Northerners seem kinda... prevaricative..."
"Shifty, they seem kinda shifty." Kerry just laughed.
"Well, that's what I have you for." Duke laughed in return.
"Ya got that right. Let's go, we're late as it is." The two of them approached the meeting hall as a cadre of men stepped out of the building and blocked their path.
"Good to see you." Jack Hurst and his men stepped off the porch and stood directly in front of Kerry.
"I'd heard you came back from Ireland. Get tired of your whore so soon?" Duke shifted behind Kerry, standing to his full six foot three height.
"Jack, the past is gone."
"And so is Brad, thanks to you!"
"No, Kerry! Not this time. He wasn't just my VP. He was my son. And you killed him."
"...What do you want me to say, Jack? That it should've been me? That I failed not only you but the entire organization? Is that what you want to hear?"
"I want to hear my son's voice again!!" Jack just stood in front of him, eyes burning with pent up rage and sorrow. Kerry returned his gaze, never once flinching at the enmity passing between them. The air was tense. Duke, unfamiliar with Jack's temper, surreptitiously reached toward his kutte. Silently, three men stepped onto the porch behind Jack, guns drawn. The man in the middle nodded to Kerry, lining his sight up between Jack's shoulders. Kerry betrayed no sign that they stood there, just silently acknowledged them and stared back at his former President.
"Tell Riley I'm sorry," Jack hissed. The air exploded into motion as Jack fired his .44 into Kerry's gut. Kerry fell and before Jack could turn around, he caught a .357 slug in the chest from Duke. Steven and his men standing on the porch took out Jack's henchmen, then rushed to Kerry's side. Duke, being nearest the action, already knelt next to him.
"Hang in there, son, we'll get ya sorted out," Duke said, trying to stanch the bleeding. Kerry looked over at him, weakening by the second.
"Tell... Shea... I'm sorry... And... my kids..." A tear escaped his eye. "Tell the... Girls... I love them." Steven Taylor glared at his best friend.
"Don' you dare go ta see Saint Patrick before me, ya dirty sid."
Kerry managed a weak smile, and looked skyward.
"I can... See Jesus... I'll put in... A good word... For you wics..." And with that, he was gone.
A woman stood over a grave, gazing at the headstone. The sky was dark, but the rains had yet to fall. She was alone today, since her mother thought she was at work and her sister was at her own job.
"Is breá liom tú, Daidí," she said, picking the Irish tongue up as though it had been yesterday she stopped using it. She hadn't really spoken it in almost ten years. "Ba mhaith liom fhéadfaí tú a fheiceáil do gariníon," she continued, "Go mbeadh tú a bheith bródúil as sin." As the rains began to fall, her husband walked up behind her.
"Stacey, let's go. Karrie's getting restless." The young woman just wiped away a tear as she walked with her husband back to the car.