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Whatever it Takes

Ron Lewis

It’s 1974, and to become a member of Mountain Thunder Motorcycle Club, Quentin Graves, must carry out an unspeakable act.

In 1947, in Hollister, California, a bike rally, sanctioned by the American Motorcycle Association, spiraled out of control. Many more riders made their way to the event than planned. The Independence Day event erupted into a riot.

After restoring order, the town returned to normal. With a badly tarnished reputation, the American Motorcycle Association released a statement, “99% of all motorcycle riders are law-abiding citizens.” From that day forward, most of the clubs, which weren’t part of the 99, proudly displayed a patch, 1%, along with their colors.

The following year, one such group, the Mountain Thunder, was organized in Denver, Colorado.

The original president, Philip, ‘Thunderstruck,’ Chandler, and founder of the club, went to prison in 1962. He served life without the possibility of parole and was murdered in prison in 1965. Thomas, ‘Wildcat,’ Monroe took over after Chandler’s confinement. The handpicked protegee, a veteran of the Korean War, tried to clean up the club’s involvements and move them away from the hardcore criminal activities. This proved to be an exercise in futility.

Whatever it Takes

Denver, Colorado 1974

In May 1974, 21-year-old Quentin Graves walked into the Mountain Thunder bar on East Colfax Avenue in Denver, Colorado, looking for work. He wore a leather jacket without colors, leather chaps, and riding boots. A cigarette dangled from his lips; the smoke curled around his face as the young man sized up the room. Locking his eyes on the man behind the bar, he sauntered up to him.

“I need a job,” he said.

The bartender, somewhat amused, leaned on the bar, “And what are you willing to do to earn the job.”

“Most anything, legal or not,” Quentin said.

About a dozen men lounged in the bar, half a dozen women, and one girl about his age. The collective group watched and listened to the conversation, wondering who this kid was.

“Where you from?” the bartender asked.

“I was born in a filling station in Slapout, Oklahoma. But the location was an accident. I lived on a ranch north of Hooker, a small town in the panhandle. Moved here a few weeks ago. Listen, I need work. You gonna hire me, or should I go somewhere else?”

“You ride?”

“Yeah, I have a 1973 Electra Glide, right outside.”

“How can a kid, like you, afford a Harley Hog?” the bartender asked.

“I didn’t buy it. I won the bike in a card game at Hanson’s last night. I also have a 62 Panhead Chopper, with an American flag, gas tank, which belonged to my father.”

“He was there last night,” Ben, ‘Kickstand,’ Taylor said, “I was in the game. He won Charley Samson’s bike.”

“Really, way to go, kid,” the bartender said.

“Do me a favor, don’t call me kid,” Quentin Graves said.

“Okay, Panhandle, I won’t. What’s your goal?”

“Looking for a job, you know, my goal.”

“Yeah, well, this is the Mountain Thunder Motorcycle Clubs bar, we own it, we run the joint, and I’m damn particular who I hire.”

“Mountain Thunder, I heard of you guys. Sign me up,” Graves said.

The bar erupted in laughter.

“I’ll hire you. But you can’t join up just because you want to be a member,” the bartender said. “You can ride with us, sure, Panhandle, but you’re only a hanger-on for now. One day, when I learn to trust you, I’ll have you do something. I’ll invite you into the club if, that is, you do the job well. Wear no colors on your jacket, not till I tell you to, understand?”

“Yes. So, I have the job?”

“Yeah,” he said, pulling a book from under the bar. “I’m Thomas Monroe; you can call me ‘Wildcat.’ The girl over yonder, she’s Tracy Kathleen and my daughter. Keep your mitts off, comprendo.”

“Yes, sir,” Graves said.

“Okay, Panhandle, give that a read.”

“Mixology?”

“Yeah, bartenders need to know how to mix drinks. Now, take your jacket off, strip out of them chaps, put an apron on, and get to work,” Wildcat Monroe said.

After some time, Wildcat grew to trust Quentin. Everyone liked him. Graves didn’t take crap from the men. He drank little, didn’t do drugs, was polite, but could handle himself. One of the club members said he had the hardest eyes he’d ever seen. While Tracy said, his eyes were the kindest she’d ever gazed into. It was inevitable the two young people would be drawn together.

When a rival gang invaded the club one night, Graves took on the three men, disabling them with fancy footwork. The invasion was over before it started, and the beat-up trio went away, licking their wounds.

A few days later, Wildcat called Quentin into the office after closing.

“Panhandle, you’re working out pretty good. Where’d you learn the Karate shit?” Monroe said.

“Actually, Kung Fu, a form called Praying Mantis. My uncle taught me. My parents died in ’64, and afterward, I lived with my aunt and uncle. Still on the ranch, just moved into their house.”

“Not being idiots, either of us, you realize everything we do isn’t legal,” Thomas Monroe said.

“I’m not blind. I understand how things are. The club owns Hanson’s after-hours gambling joint. You guys sell dope, do robberies now and then, and Kickstand runs girls on the streets for the club,” Quentin Graves said.

“There’s other stuff as well, but yeah, you summed up what you’ve been able to see pretty good. But we have morals; the Thunder doesn’t sell dope to kids. We don’t traffic underage girls. And therein is an issue I need fixed.”

“Kickstand has young girls hooking, didn’t want to snitch on him,” Quentin said, surprising his boss.

“Misplaced loyalty, the club comes first. That kind of business, man, the cops will come down on all of us. Kickstand needs to take a trip that he can’t come back from.”

“Where you want him to go?”

“Your last name is Graves, the plural of a grave, understand? Can you do that? I hate to ask you, but you’ve asked me several times how you can become a member.”

“Sir, you know TK and I are, are,” the confession stuck in Quentin’s throat.

“Relax, I know. My daughter doesn’t keep secrets from me. I’ve been dad and mom for her since her mother died, back in 60, and I’ll tell you the truth, you’re the only guy I’d choose for her. And, I’ll promise you, she’ll never know. Are you willing to be a bad man, for me, for the club?”

“Yeah, I’ll do it.”

“Kill him, soon, bury him, and let’s all forget the,” he started to swear and thought better, “fellow like he never existed.”

“Okay,” he said.

“There’s a .357 in the safe,” Wildcat said, “the gun’s yours for the job. Take Ben, ‘Kickstand,’ Taylor for a ride. Also, in the safe, you’ll find a Polaroid camera, take a picture of him after, and bring me the proof he’s dead. I also need to know where you bury him.”

“No, sir, you won’t know, not ever, where I lay him to rest. I’m not that dumb, not even for you,” Graves said. “If I’m to be around for Tracy, I’ll not have anyone be able to say to the pigs, he did him, and this is where Kickstand is.”

“Smart boy, I mean man. Okay, just the picture,”

“And we burn the picture after you see it.”

“Like I said, smart man,” Thomas, Wildcat, Monroe said. “Hey, son, do you know why Kickstand got his moniker?”

“Yeah, Butch told me. He’s the kind of guy who forgets to put his kickstand down, and all the bikes take a fall because of it.”

****

“Where’s your head at tonight?” Tracy asked.

“What do you mean?” Quentin said.

“You’re like a million miles from here, from me.”

“Yeah, I know. Your father gave me a job. I have to do it tomorrow,” Quentin said.

“Don’t do it, just tell him, no.”

“I have to become a member,” Quentin said. “I have to do this thing.”

“No, we can leave here. You’re a smart man. You can do anything you want. Every single member of the club should be in jail, you know that. While I love my father, my mom is dead because of him, and I’ll never forgive him. As to you, I don’t want you to be like my father.”

“Listen, this isn’t what you think. I can’t tell you, not yet. You may end up hating me, but I have to become a member of the Mountain Thunder.”

The conversation ended for a short time. Then the couple talked of other things.

****

“You blew his face off,” Wildcat said, looking at the polaroid. “You blew his face right off. How can they have an open casket? How can his kids see this?”

“Sir, Kickstand doesn’t have a family, and no one is going to see him ever again.”

Thomas shook off the memory, rubbed his head, took a deep breath, and spoke.

“Oh, sorry, the picture brought back something from the war. This kind of stuff, this crap, is what I hate most. Having to kill someone, having someone kill another person. I shouldn’t have asked you to do this. I’m so sorry. I have to say, you did the job, right. Looking at this, there’s no doubt he’s dead. I can make him out, with his frigging nose gone; I can still see, this dead heap of humanity is Ben. You did good, son. You did a right good job. Where do we tell people he’s gone?”

“Florida, he always wanted to go to Florida.”

A year and six months later, the Denver police department arrested all but nineteen Mountain Thunder Motorcycle Club members. A series of charges were filed against various members. At the trial, undercover police officer Quentin Graves detailed all the illegal activities he’d witnessed. Even detailing his supposed murder of Ben, ‘Kickstand,’ Taylor. A bit of Hollywood magic created the dead body and blown away face.

Taylor testified as well, then returned to Florida where, under an assumed name, he served his sentence for pandering, solicitation for the purpose of prostitution, and the corruption of minors. He lived the rest of his life as Richard Spacey under the protection of the United States Marshal’s Service, in a humdrum job, in a dull as dishwater tiny Florida town.

In 1975 Quentin and Tracy were married. While not in attendance, her father blessed the marriage and issued an order of protection to the Mountain Thunder for the couple from his prison cell. Oddly, he was more than happy at how everything turned out.

Copyright © 2021 Ron Lewis

This is a work of fiction and not intended to be historically accurate but merely a representation of the times. The names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any similarity to any person, living or dead, is merely coincidental and unintentional. Historical characters used are strictly for dramatic purposes. This story contains some violence.

Previously published on Medium

Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in All Stories, Drama, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery/Thriller

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