Cowboy Bikers MC Lawmen by Esther E. Schmidt
– FRANKIE –
I fill my lungs with the deepest of breaths and take in the stunning surroundings. We’ve been riding for almost an hour and it’s exactly what I need. The sun is about to set and it makes the whole experience perfect. Atticus has been chatting about the ranch, his MC, the work, and the case we’re working on.
At first, I thought he was going to hold back information about his club, basically because I’m an outsider, and because he held back in church earlier. Though, he surprised me by talking freely. It’s weird to know these guys have formed a team where they have computer experts, profilers, weapon experts; they basically have everything a criminal taskforce needs.
To say I’m impressed is an understatement. Add the fact these guys also run this ranch? My mind is truly blown how they keep everything up and running. And yet riding over their property and taking in the scenery it’s a no-brainer this ranch is what gives them the perfect balance to keep sane. Well, that’s my opinion because the last hour I’ve felt the stress and tension leave my body.
The horse I’m riding, Baby, is a real sweetheart and I might consider asking Atticus if I can either ride her on a frequent basis or even go so far as beg him to sell her to me. She’s a bit of a spitfire when it comes to speed but at the same time so freaking relaxed underneath me; she’s everything I would like a horse of my own to be.
Feeling Atticus’ eyes on me, flaming my body with unprofessional feelings, I try to steer us back to the case. “Do you share the opinion of others about RedBorder? How he must have worked for or is involved with law enforcement?”
“Because of the lack of evidence? The outline that’s rare in modern investigations?” He gives a shake with his head and shrugs. “Nah. Everyone who watches real crime shows and shit calls himself an expert these days.”
“Right,” I muse. “That’s why I think the outline is more like giving a fat middle finger to the system. As if he’s making a statement, telling the justice system ‘Do better,’ or ‘Fooled you once, twice, and I’ll keep on doing it,’ ‘I’m hiding in plain view,’ or something along those lines.”
From the corner of my eye, I notice Atticus is bringing his horse to a stop. Gently leaning back I bring mine to a stop as well and swing my head in his direction.
“What?” I question.
“You’re thinking he’s taking revenge on the system? Might even be a crime scene investigator or employed in law enforcement?”
I turn slightly in the saddle to face him. “It’s just some thoughts I’ve been having. My father and I used to talk about it because the outline is what the media has used to give the serial killer his name. It’s very distinct and to be honest? Why would he use something modern investigators don’t use? My dad looked into cold cases to see if there have been cases from years back. You know, maybe RedBorder’s parents were murdered, his mother, maybe? The justice system failed him or all around him because he works with it every day or whatever. Revenge is always a good motivation. Like I said, sometimes letting your brain rattle on might lead to insane thoughts that don’t make sense, or it gives a lead to check out so you can move forward.”
“Some of these fuckers don’t give meaning to everything they do. The cutting of their hair for instance. He doesn’t take anything with him or whatever, he just–” He makes a cutting scissor movement with two fingers. “Snip.”
“Yeah, or it could be a hint just like crushing the trachea. But it could be his twisted way to fuck with all of us and enjoy his own brand of insanity. And that right there shows how hard it is to catch a serial killer.” I hate the tight nod of agreement Atticus gives me after my statement so I add, “But with a team like yours and of course me joining you guys…we’re obviously going to nail this fucker.”
He throws his head back and I watch, enthralled, as laughter ripples from this man. He spurs his horse to move forward, the beautiful animal underneath me falling in step beside his.
“Who has the bigger ego now, huh?” Atticus says, amusement still tinging his voice.
I roll my eyes but internally I’m smiling. I was hoping to lighten the mood. Working hard cases there always needs to be a balance; light and dark, good and bad. All of us walk a fine line and sometimes you need to be dragged over to the other side of that line to be reminded of the fact life simply is what you make of it.
A husky chuckle flows by me. “Glad to have you on the team, Enid.”
The smile he gives me is one I return and the both of us head back to the stables. We each take our time to give the horses the attention they need once we’re back and I’m actually sad our time is over once we’re walking back to the clubhouse.
“Thank you for the ride and your time,” I eventually tell him when we’re standing in the middle of the main room of the clubhouse.
“Thinking of leaving?” Atticus murmurs and eyes the keys I retrieve from my pocket.
His phone gives a notification of an incoming message and he quickly checks it before shoving it back into his jeans. He looks frustrated and I’m thinking whomever sent him the text didn’t give him good news.
I give him a tiny smile. “I’m sure you guys have a lot on your plate. I’m going home to dive into some of the boxes of my father’s stuff to see if I can find anything useful. Though I’m sure you guys have his notes and his original files and such.”
“Come on, I’ll take you home and we’ll go over it together. Put those keys away, your car is safe here.”
“What?” I question and don’t think I’ve heard him correct. “Leave my car here?”
His hand is on my elbow and he’s already guiding me out the door in the direction of his bike. His sudden change of mood puts me on edge.
I pull away from his grip and come to a stop in front of my car. “I’ll do no such thing. Listen, I’m all for diving full force into a new case and not coming up for air until we have a few solid leads, but this is bordering on insanity. I’m going home. Alone. I’ll be back here bright and early tomorrow morning and if I find any pressing leads, which I don’t think I will since my father’s partner went over everything in his office after he died, then I’ll call or text.”
He’s grinding his teeth and suddenly snaps, “Fine. Text when you’re home,” spins on his heels and stalks back inside the clubhouse.
“All righty then,” I mutter to myself and slide inside my car.
The fifteen-minute drive home doesn’t do anything to get my thoughts in order. Details of the case are popping in and out, which is normal, but they are mixed with distracting thoughts about Atticus.
The overbearing moment we shared right before I left the clubhouse is not something I’m used to. And I’m sure the long horseback ride is also something he wouldn’t do with any other agents he brings on cases they work on. Or is it his routine?
Gah. See? I made the right decision to go home alone and create some distance. The case we’re working on is too big and a high priority; it needs our full attention. I have no clue what Atticus’ play is but it’s distracting to say the least.
I park in my driveway and when my gaze hits the front door, my hand freezes on the car key and I leave the car running instead of turning it off. It takes two breaths for my brain to act and with my phone connected I only have to press a few buttons to connect a call through the speakers of my car.
“Home?” Atticus grunts.
“My front door is slightly ajar and I’m pretty damn sure I locked it. Could be nothing, could be a burglar. I’m just letting you know before I go in,” I tell him. Agent or not, I shouldn’t go into a situation alone without any form of backup.
It’s weird how my first call is to Atticus. Before today I would have followed procedure but somehow coming on the case with this MC and returning home to find a door open doesn’t strike me as a coincidence, hence the first call to the man who wanted to come home with me. Was this the reason why he didn’t want me to go home alone? What the hell did I get myself dragged into?
“Don’t. Almost there, stay put,” he growls into his phone.
Almost there? Was he following me? I disconnect the call and turn off my car. I pop the trunk, step out, and silently shut the car door. I quickly take out my bulletproof vest and strap it on, gently closing the trunk as I palm my gun and assess my surroundings before moving closer to the front door. Taking a peek through the window, I don’t see any movement but still aim my gun as I shove the door fully open and slide inside my own home.
“Anyone who is stupid enough to break in my fucking home better get out here with your hands on your fucking head,” I bellow and whip my head very fast around the corner to take a glance into my living room.
I hear a breaking sound and glass shattering at the back of my house. Without thinking twice about the consequences, I give chase. The glass crunches underneath my boots when I rush out of the backdoor and straight through my garden. I get a glimpse of someone rounding the corner but I’m stuck with shoving my gun back in its holster so I can jump the freaking fence. Once I’ve rounded the corner, there’s no one in sight.
“Dammit,” I bellow and backtrack to my garden.
Jumping back over the fence, I notice movement coming from my house and instantly palm my gun.
“It’s me,” Atticus snarls. “Why the fuck didn’t you wait for backup?”
I decide to ignore his outburst and want to stalk past him but he grabs my arm and angrily demands, “Answer me.”
“Prez,” Fisher rumbles from behind him. “She’s no ordinary civilian, she’s a special agent, it’s her fucking house, and she’s wearing a damn vest. Neither of us would have waited for backup either.”
He drops his hand but whirls around to face his VP.
“She’s mine,” Atticus growls through gritted teeth.
“As in a claim or jurisdiction wise? ’Cause I hate to remind you about the fact you haven’t signed any papers yet to officially bring her onto our team.”
I’m watching these two bikers eyeballing one another and I have no clue what’s going on or why Atticus is reacting this way. I easily slip by them unnoticed since they’re still going head-to-head and jog back into my house.
The kitchen seems untouched, minus the backdoor of course. When I step into the living room, I notice several drawers have been pulled out, cabinet doors are opened, the desk trashed; the person who broke in was clearly looking for something.
My heartbeat picks up and I rush to my desk, quickly glancing in the drawer and my heart sinks when I notice the little jewelry box from my mom is missing. One of her rings along with her necklace was in there. I blink hard to push the sting in my eyes away; crying doesn’t help, I need to focus.
Stalking into the hallway, I notice the connecting door of the garage is standing ajar. With my hand on my weapon, I push the door further open and glance inside. The boxes I had piled up against the wall are knocked over, papers are scattered all over the place.
“Any idea what they were looking for?” Fisher rumbles from behind me.
“Holy fuck.” I gasp and place a hand–the one I had a steel grip on my gun with–on my chest. “You scared me there.”
“Sorry, Frankie.” Fisher sure doesn’t sound like he’s sorry. “So, do you? Have any idea what they were looking for?”
“I have no clue but I just noticed my mother’s jewelry is missing from one of the desk drawers in the living room. But a burglary in broad daylight in this neighborhood? Okay, it’s early evening, but why now? It doesn’t make sense,” I grumble, getting pissed at having someone go through my stuff, make a mess, and take things from me.
Things like my mother’s ring and necklace, personal items with a load of memories and emotion tied to them which makes them irreplaceable items.
“Where are the notebooks from your father?” Fisher suddenly asks.
I’m stunned by his question and mutter, “Come again?”
He points at the boxes scattered all over the garage. “We were following you because I wanted to get those notebooks. You mentioned they were in those boxes. Are they still there?”
He takes a step forward and I can feel my own eyes widen when his words hit me. “You think Red-freaking-Border was in my house? Going through my dad’s stuff and tried to cover it up by making it look like a damn burglary? Why? How? I only mentioned those notebooks when I was standing inside your clubhouse.”
I take a step back and let my hand instinctively go to my gun. This man’s old lady was killed by the serial killer. He was the one who wanted to come after me and get those notebooks.
Did he know someone was going through my stuff? Did Atticus send someone ahead of me to get them? Because he wanted to get me on the back of his bike and leave my car. Maybe he would have taken a detour to let that fucker take his time to go through my stuff.
“Prez,” Fisher bellows. “You better get in here. Your woman has crazy eyes.”
Atticus steps inside the garage, coming to a stop next to Fisher and I aim my gun in their direction while I grab my phone and call for backup. Normal backup. Something I should have done in the first place. I’m so freaking stupid.
“Mind not shoving a gun in my fucking face,” Atticus snaps.
I quickly rattle off the details and shove my phone into my pocket when Atticus steps forward. “Why the fuck call it in? We’re already here and handling it.”
“Uh, Prez? I’m guessing she thinks we had something to do with it,” Fisher brilliantly states.
“Are you going to deny it?” I snap. “No one knew about those boxes.” I jerk my chin in the direction of the mess scattered over the garage floor. “You wanted to follow me for those notebooks and this guy right here wanted to bring me home himself, controlling the time when I’d be arriving at my house.”
“Fuck, she’s smart. This is why I wanted her on our team,” Fisher mutters underneath his breath to Atticus but I still hear him.
“Now is not the time, VP.” Atticus releases a deep sigh and brings his hands, palms up. “Listen, Enid.”
“No, you listen to me,” I tell them in an eerie calm voice, quite the contradiction to the havoc flowing through me. “I want the both of you off my property right now.”
“Not happening,” Atticus states.
“Better tell her, Prez,” Fisher mutters and I narrow my eyes at him.
“Tell me what?” I question. Atticus is now glaring at Fisher. “Someone better start explaining right freaking now or I swear I’ll start shooting.”
Fisher points at me while looking at Atticus. “See? Crazy eyes.”
I growl low in my throat and Atticus releases a string of curses. “Okay, dammit. Put the fucking gun down. Fisher here sent a prospect over to your house to go through your things.”
“What the actual fuck?” I gasp.
Atticus flashes his palms up once more. “I didn’t approve that shit, he did it while we were out riding. But I have to agree with him, we’ve never brought someone in on a case. Not to mention, it’s a personal fucking case and I’ve spilled some serious details to you already. We haven’t had the time yet to fully screen you so the easiest way was to send someone in to glance through shit to make sure you weren’t hiding stuff.” His head swings toward Fisher. “And why the fuck did he trash the place if you told me you only sent him to glance through her shit?”
“How the fuck do I know?” Fisher shrugs but he sounds agitated. “He’s new, I thought I’d check him out too.”
“Motherfucker,” Atticus growls.
I take a deep breath and take in the insanity of these two standing in front of me. Here I gained respect for them today when I saw and heard a load of promising things about these Cowboy Bikers MC Lawmen bunch but to be honest? They can suck monkey balls for all I care.
Placing my gun back in the holster I tell them in a very calm and determined voice, “I’d like for all of you to leave now. And you make that damn prospect bring back my mother’s jewelry or there will be hell to pay.”
“I’m not leaving until we talk this out,” Atticus says, his voice calm and collected.
“You are. And I can tell you right now we won’t be working together. Obviously, there are trust issues and this doesn’t give a good foundation to form a team. Now, as I said. Get. The. Fuck. Out. Of. My. Fucking. House.”
“Look,” Atticus tries again but Fisher grabs his shoulder.
“Prez, give her a little space and time,” Fisher says and pushes him out the door.
I follow the both of them outside. Sirens blare and I watch Jessy park his SUV behind my car. He jumps out when Atticus and Fisher straddle their bikes.
I grit my teeth and yell at Jessy, “False alarm, it was all a miscommunication.” Turning my attention toward Atticus I snap, “Remember what I said. And I want it back, ASAP.”
“Mind handing me the notebooks,” Fisher tries and I give a snort.
“Think again, asshole,” I reply, making Jessy’s eyes bulge. “And don’t try finding them again because they aren’t even in my house. I only mentioned where they were when I found them.” I shake my head. “Amateurs.”
I give them my back and walk into the house with Jessy following close behind me. When my partner is inside, I try to close the door and find the lock busted. Releasing another deep sigh, I grab my phone and begin looking for a locksmith to come and fix my freaking door.
“Mind telling me what this is all about?” Jessy questions as he glances around my living room.
“This is me trying to help and getting a blowback as a thanks,” I grumble and walk into the kitchen. “I need coffee.”
“They did this?” Jessy ask to clarify.
“Leave it, Jessy,” I mutter. “Like I said, it’s all a miscommunication. Do you want coffee? It’s the least I can do for calling you over here and you showing up so damn fast.”
“No, thanks. I just had some and I was in the neighborhood so it wasn’t any bother at all to swing by.”
“Good. Again, I’m so sorry,” I grumble, getting more agitated by Atticus by the second and he’s not even here anymore.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Jessy double checks.
“I’m fine.” I reach out and squeeze his forearm. “Seriously. Thanks again for coming over. Go on, hurry back to…what was her name again?”
Jessy snickers. “Yeah, I’m not telling you. I took her on two dates, it’s not serious enough yet.”
I shake my head. “Two dates is enough to know if you like a person or not, Jessy.”
Damn. I was attracted to Atticus with a flare of lust at first sight. It grew a little more during our horseback ride. Though, I have to say, it tempered down a nudge or three now.
“I’m a slow burn type,” Jessy states.
“Slow burn. So, no kiss on the first, second, third, or fourth date?” I raise my eyebrow in challenge.
Jessy shrugs. “We had sex before I took her on the first date.”
“Oh. My. God. You dog!” I burst into laughter and give his shoulder a push. “Mister ‘I’m a slow burn type’. No freaking way.”
Jessy keeps me company with small talk until the locksmith comes to fix my door along with someone to fix my backdoor. When everyone’s left, I slowly go through my house to see if anything else is missing and to clean up the mess.
At least I have a few weeks’ vacation to process all of this because I have little hope to cooperate with an MC who clearly lacks trust and doesn’t respect any boundaries.