Michael Otey learned early in life that people outside the ranks of family and close friends were not to be trusted. They were the kind of folks who would use you right up, betraying and throwing you away once your usefulness was exhausted. At sixteen, life nearly derailed in a moment of rage, he was presented with two impossible choices. He selected a track, prayed it was the right one, and set foot on the path of honor, because even at such a young age, he knew honor mattered.
Almost immediately things started looking up in his life. The Army molded him into a soldier, giving him no choice but to excel. Through years of service, the men in his unit forced him to become a leader, moving him to that role by demonstrating with every action that they believed he was trustworthy. Brothers in arms.
That was when death and destruction once again rocked his world, forcing another impossible choice. Pierced through with a thirst for vengeance, raging and alone, he gravitated towards the kind of men who shared his feelings. Hard men, but ones filled with an unshakable sense of honor. Members of a motorcycle club who were not afraid to wreak devastation in support of the found family they shared. The Outriders MC. Brothers in spirit.
To escape the ghosts haunting them both, his older brother had launched his own club, filled with veterans and soldiers. His brother’s stories about his members set up a longing deep inside him, and Mike found himself reaching towards the forgiveness and peace his brother had found. But, in an atmosphere drowning in blood and hate, peace was hard to find. Determined to start fresh, it wasn’t long before Mike, now known as Watcher, followed his brother west, finding a true home as a Southern Soldiers. Brothers in truth.
Then, on what should have been a routine run into Old Mexico, Watcher was confronted by both loss and hope. He saved a doe-eyed beauty from a life branded by pain, but in turn lost the last close link to his family. In her it seemed he found a reason for carrying on, even perhaps a chance at love. As he rebuilt his life, he vowed to keep her safe and the club strong, promising to protect everything that mattered. Brothers. Family. Honor. To do that, Watcher would need to open long-tattered connections to Kentucky, reaching far into his pain-filled past and calling on Davis Mason and the Rebel Wayfarers MC.
“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.” – Nietzsche
Club. Family. Honor.
Watcher was scrubbing at the chain grease under his nails, knowing from experience he wouldn’t be able to get it all and for a moment he was struck by a memory. From when Mela first came to live with them, sitting in the yard out by the bikes, back when she asked if she could stay forever. Make you clean again, he remembered telling her, wiping his hands with a greasy rag. Mama’d like her, he thought, smiling down at his hands as he scrubbed them together under the running water.
Would Ma be proud of me?
The thought came out of left field, and he glanced up, catching his own startled gaze over the half-glasses he wore to read the Sunday paper. Would she be proud of the man I’ve become? He took a breath. Would Darrie? Tabby? Would Pa? Would he understand how I got to where I am?
Looking down, he finished washing his hands and picked up the cotton towel laid on the edge of the sink, slowly drying them. No longer thinking of the bikes or the grease or even Mela. He was stuck on the ideals his father had left with him. The lasting legacy of a man he revered more than anyone else on this planet. Family and honor. Something Watcher had stretched to also cover his claimed family, the brotherhood on which his life was built. Club.
Watcher idly finished wiping the last droplets of water from his hands and leaned back, shoulders to the wall behind him. Staring into the mirror, he crossed his arms over his chest. The stark white of the towel loosely gripped in his hand contrasted strongly with the dark tan of his arms. The things I’ve done, I’ve done for the right reasons. His mother, always pushing him to be more, to do more, to strive for something higher.
He remembered the framed diploma over her desk, wondering not for the first time where the desk had gone once he had to leave for the military. Aunt Loretta made sure Tabby had everything from her room, and saved some of the pictures which had survived the destruction of their home by the madman who had murdered his mother, but he didn’t know about things like his mother’s desk or rocker. Still, he had the memories of her sitting in the rocker, reading letters from home. Memories of her seated at the desk, looking out the window at Tabby playing in the yard, smiling as she composed her own letters he hoped had been filled with contentment.
I did my best, he thought, shifting uncomfortably. For Tabby. Did everything he knew how to do to keep her safe. Might not be an accident, Preacher’s voice ran through his thoughts, and he shook his head, dislodging the idea. Did right by Juanita. Chin lifting, he stared at the reflection of his eyes. And by Mela. My Bella. The near-on thousand women and countless children rescued on his orders. Family. An honorable legacy.
Pa would understand about the club, too. Watcher sighed. Pa made his own hard decisions back in the day, and Watcher remembered more than one moonlit trip through the hollers with him. Sitting in the back of the truck, Mikey would hold the clear bottles upright. Stopping at bridges and mailboxes, shadowy figures coming into view. Pa swinging out of the truck, leaning over the side rail and passing along the order for one or two bottles, straight shine or apple pie. Exchanging mountain liquor for hard cash which could be spent in places the company script wasn’t welcome. Paying for Tabby’s midwife with hours of patient tending over a still. Cash crops, wherever we could find ‘em. Tobacco. Morels. Shine.
Leaning forwards, Watcher untucked his arms, hands to the sink, staring into the mirror. Craggy features he would never label as anything except hard. Scars trailing through his beard, now more gray than ever, the dark it had once been giving way to the advancement of age. Each mark a reminder of a mistake or misjudgment, each a reminder he was still alive to talk about it, which meant it was a story from the past. Got the Otey hairline, he thought, lifting one hand to ruffle his still-full head of hair. Also graying, but there. Lucky as hell Juanita wanted me. He tossed the hand towel to the back of the sink, turning as footsteps came running up the hallway past the door.
Mela’s voice lifted, sweetly shouting, “I’m out, Papa. See me latah!”
He grinned, pausing to see the reflected expression of joy on his face. Shaking his head, he grabbed the handle and yanked the door open, yelling, “Put your helmet on, Mela. Love you, honey.”
He got back the one thing he never took for granted, the one thing that kept him going. Didn’t matter which of his girls said it, it always hit him the same way. “Love you too, Papa.”
Copyright © 2016 – MariaLisa deMora