Every once in a while the boss would give Smoker an early day, and this was one such day, so he decided to drop by Billy’s for a cold beer.
Billy’s had become sort of a hangout for Smoker since he returned from Seattle a few months earlier. He was just about finished with his drink when he heard the sound of a bike pulling in to the front parking area. He didn’t recognize the bike’s sound and being that regulars on bikes parked in the back, he was sure this was someone he didn’t know.
The guy that came in the front door was typical of Billy’s customers – at least those that rode motorcycles. Tall and lean, and if the condition of the leather jacket he wore was any indication, had been on the road for a while.
Wearing faded jeans, a dark t-shirt with the name of some band across the front, and the old style “KD” sunglasses that many “old timer” bikers wore, the stranger would have fit in at Billy’s any night of the week. Smoker tried to see the guy’s eyes when he took the KD’s off, but his effort was halted when Billy came out of the kitchen in the back.
The stranger hung his leather jacket on the back of a stool and sat down like he’d been there before and as usual, at least what seems usual at Billy’s, Billy already had the guy’s sandwich built and a beer poured and sitting on the counter by the time the guy sat down.
Billy always seemed to know what you wanted, before you even mention it. It was some sort of trick; at least that was what Smoker had always figured. But like Billy would always say; it was his bar and he knew everything he needed to know about anyone who walked through his front door.
“JD”, said Billy as the stranger sat down.
“Billy”, replied the stranger.
For the next few minutes the only sound was JD eating his sandwich and sipping his beer. Billy was never big on unnecessary small talk, so the quiet was no surprise to Smoker. And when Smoker’s glass was empty, Billy picked it up and refilled it as he usually did.
When JD’s glass emptied the second time Billy didn’t move to refill it. Smoker thought this was strange. The stranger, JD as Smoker understood him to be, had finished the sandwich by then and he just looked at Billy as if expecting another round.
“Good roast beef”, said JD. “You always did know how to make a real sandwich.”
“Thanks JD”, responded Billy. “Can’t have you going around and telling people I was trying to starve you.” Billy paused for a moment. With a far away look in his eyes, Billy, in a low almost whisper said, “You gotta know they ain’t far behind”.
“Ya, I know….”, said JD. “I ain’t here to cause you any trouble, just needed something to eat and drink. I’ll be on my way now. See ya down the road sometime,” JD exclaimed.
“See ya JD,” said Billy.
Picking up the empty plate and glass, Billy put them in the dish container on the back counter and turned around to see JD stand up, put on the KD’s, and walk out the door.
A moment later the motorcycle fired up, and then came the long roar down the road that faded into the distance. Smoker sat there wondering who “they” were and why they were after JD. That’s when he noticed the leather jacket was still hanging on the back of the stool.
“Hey Billy”, Smoker started to tell him about the jacket when Billy held up his hand like a traffic cop signaling stop. Smoker stopped talking and then heard the sound in the distance.
It was the low rumble that only comes from a group of bikes, Harley motorcycles, riding together in a pack. As they roared past Billy’s, Smoker tried to separate the engine sounds and guess how many there were, but couldn’t, there were just too many of them. They continued passing for what seemed like minutes. Whatever JD had done, it had made a lot of people mad…real mad.
Finally the sound of the last bike faded off into the falling night. Smoker watched Billy walk around the end of the counter to the stool where JD had sat. Billy looked at the leather jacket hanging there and he reached out as if he were afraid it wasn’t real, a ghost jacket or something. Billy took the jacket off of the stool back and carried it over to the old fashioned coat rack he kept behind the bar next to the cash register.
As he hung the jacket, Billy’s hand seemed to linger for a minute and then he walked the length of the bar and started cleaning the counter.
Smoker raised his hand and signaled for another beer. He didn’t know what JD had done, or if “they” would catch him. And if they did catch him, what would happen.
His curiosity getting the best of him, Smoker figured he he’d stick around awhile and see if anyone came back for that jacket….
Hell, he really didn’t have anywhere else to be.