Merry Christmas, Austin Conrad fans! Today I have a small gift for you, to thank you for your support in having read my first book, No Time To Bleed, and for your patience in waiting for the next installment in Austin’s adventures. Below is an excerpt from the next book, Blood Out, which I’m working on now and hope to have finished within a few months. Many of you have sent me comments or written in your reviews that you can’t wait to read what happens next. Hopefully this small taste will tide you over.
This passage is taken from the prologue of Blood Out. It’s actually set before the end of No Time To Bleed’s timeline, at the moment Austin Conrad hangs up on Tillman (when he spoke with him on the phone after beating up “Goatee” AKA Dice), but from the other end of that conversation. While it won’t tell you much about what happens next in the story, there are some hints. But the most interesting thing about the passage is that it fleshes out more background. We learn more about Tillman, and a little bit about Wayne Conrad, Austin’s father who died years ago. It’s a fun look into a small slice of the history of the Rattlers MC, and does a bit more table-setting for the mayhem that’s coming when the adventures in Blood Out get going in full swing!
Note that this excerpt is grabbed from the draft manuscript, its not fully edited, and some things may change before the final version in the published book. But I thought you might enjoy this sneak peak. And if you haven’t read No Time To Bleed yet, I’d recommend doing that first (although you can still enjoy this short passage by itself). No Time To Bleed is available on Amazon or through all the other eBook retailers. Or you can download it for FREE by joining my email list at this link!
I hope you enjoy it, and would love to hear your feedback on it (feel free to drop me a line with your thoughts, at firstname.lastname@example.org).
Thanks for reading, and once again Merry Christmas! Now, let’s unwrap that gift…
“God damn that Austin Conrad!” Tillman yelled as he flung the phone across the room.Sunny ducked as it flew past his head and struck the wall behind him, exploding into a dozen pieces and knocking a framed Easyriders magazine cover off the wall. Glass shattered as the frame struck the floor of the clubhouse
“What the fuck, boss? It’s me! You coulda took an eye out!” Sunny reached down, picked up the broken picture frame, and placed it on the meeting table.
Tillman’s eyes were full of rage, but focused on something a hundred miles away. Sunny was a tough man, but that look on the boss’s face always gave him the chills. He looked like he was trying to bore a hole in the cinder block wall with his eyes, his lids twitching but unblinking. When Tillman had that look, things could blow up in a heartbeat. And when that happened, you didn’t want to be anywhere near ground zero.
The Rattlers’ clubhouse occupied a nondescript building on the back lot of Simpson’s Ready-Mix, in the industrial outskirts of Riverside. It was flanked on one side by a large metal maintenance building, and on the other by a row of broken down cement trucks awaiting repairs. The front half of the clubhouse consisted of a dimly lit social area with a bar, a few stools and tables, dart boards and a small stage. Sunny and Tillman were in the meeting room, which was down a hall at the back of the building along with a couple of flop rooms, a shitter and shower, storage room and a small kitchen. The rest of the building was empty at this hour of the morning.
“Boss?” Sunny asked, trying not to sound too pushy.
After a moment Tillman’s gaze swam back into the room. His eyes swept left and right, and finally focused on the broken picture frame sitting on the table. He picked it up and studied the magazine cover within it, the features on his unshaven face softening just a little. He cleared away a few broken shards of glass, then sank into his chair at the head of the table.
“Wayne and I built this bike,” he said in a somewhat milder tone, placing the broken frame back onto the table.
Sunny breathed a sigh of relief, as the worst of the storm seemed to have passed—for now. He reached over and picked up the frame to look at the magazine cover. It showed a sparkling chopper parked on a desert highway, with a voluptuous, bikini-clad Latina draped over it. “Austin’s old man?”
“Yeah. Fucking Wayne…” Tillman shook his head slightly as his voice trailed off. After a moment he sighed, then continued. “Neither of us knew what the hell we were doing. We’d never built a bike before. But we had this old hardtail frame layin’ around, and we got a wild hair one day. So we bolted it to the top of a workbench in Wayne’s garage and just went at it.”
“What’s that got to do with the shit that went down out in Amboy, boss? We takin’ a trip down memory lane?”
Tillman looked up, his eyes beginning to smolder once again. Sunny shrank slightly, as Tillman said, still in a somewhat calm voice, but now laced with venom, “Shut. The fuck. Up.” Sunny took one of the seats along the table
After a moment, Tillman continued. “Austin was still just a kid at the time. But his old man and I were just coming up in the MC. Both of us thought we needed to do something—something big—to establish some cred. I mean, what kind of hard core biker rode around on a store-bought bike?”
Tillman’s fingers grazed the surface of the photo, testing the sharp edges of the broken glass. “Wayne had that old FLH that he’d been tinkerin’ on, and I had some shit-box, I can’t even remember what it was. But I remember that I HAD to wrench on it constantly just to keep it running. So we started working on this chopper.”
Sunny stayed quiet. Maybe the old man would get to some sort of point soon. He knew there was shit to do, not the least of which was mopping up that mess out in Amboy he’d overheard Tillman talking to Austin about on the phone. And of course, Austin himself was another mess that needed to be cleaned up, for good this time. But Tillman had the floor, so all Sunny could do was sit back and let him spill.
“We’d drool over the bikes in that rag every month, and thought we could build something worthy of some ink. We had all kinds of crazy ideas. Twisted wrought-iron, huge-ass chrome sissy bar, ape hangers, whole nine yards. Problem was neither of us had a clue what we were doing and figured we’d just fuck it up if we tried to get into too much heavy fabrication. So we settled on raking the forks a few extra degrees, bought a fancy springer front-end for it, and built that rat’s nest of exhaust pipes you see there in the photo. We had to use Earl over in Rubidoux for that because neither of us could weld for shit. But we fucked with that thing for about six months before we finally called it good enough. Then we tore it down to paint.”
Sunny was staring at the bike on the magazine cover, sitting in the twisted picture frame under broken glass. He could almost see a younger Tillman and Wayne Conrad fussing over that bike as they were building it.
Tillman stood up and walked to the cabinet at the back of the meeting room. He pulled a bottle of 12-year Glenfiddich from a shelf and dropped a few cubes of ice into a rocks glass. “Scotch?”
Sunny shook his head, so Tillman poured just one drink, walked back to his chair and sat. He savored a sip before continuing.
“The bike itself was nothing special, but we scraped together enough cabbage to have ol’ Sloan give it what we thought would be an epic paint job. Huge metal flake had gone out of style back in the 70’s. By the mid-80’s only hillbillies were painting their bass boats like that. But we had this bright idea to bring it back. Retro before retro was cool. So that’s what we did. And I’ll be damned if that ain’t what got it onto that cover.”
Sunny was growing impatient. “I get it, boss! It’s a ‘teachable moment.’ Life lessons and all that shit. You did something big and got some props, and everyone finally took you seriously—it’s a beautiful story.” Sunny stood up, his eyes wide, as if to say can we go now?
Tillman leaned forward, staring Sunny in the face. “You don’t fucking listen. That’s always been your problem. Now sit the fuck down.”
Tillman took another sip of Scotch, set the glass back on the table, and leaned back in his chair. “That bike didn’t do shit for us. It was a fluke we even made it on the cover of that fucking rag. Everyone just laughed and called it the “glitter bike”. It didn’t buy us shit for cred. We were fools to think it would.” Tillman looked up, his eyes fixed on Sunny.
“But we were naive, so it took us a while to figure out the joke was on us. We took that piece of shit to Laughlin that year to show it off. We had to take turns riding it, it was so god-damn uncomfortable. We’d swap between it and Wayne’s FLH whenever we’d stop for gas or a piss. Like idiots, we thought we might get some pats on the back for it over there at the River Run. But we were wrong. Everyone just laughed at it there too, even our own brothers.” Tillman mocked the last word with air quotes.
“It was just a big fucking joke. We tried to laugh along with them. I could tell Wayne was just waving it all off. It slid off his back like water off a duck. But not me. I’d laugh it off to their faces, but inside I was boiling.”
Tillman drained the rest of his scotch, and jiggled the glass to make the ice clink against the sides. He thought a moment, staring at the glass, before continuing.
“After a few days of eatin’ shit, we finally headed for home. Wayne was just like Austin is now, always wanting to take those fucking back roads. So we were somewhere out in butt-fuck Egypt, I don’t remember where, exactly. Maybe out on Rice Road or something, when that piece of shit glitter bike starts giving us fits, coughing and fartin’, acting like it had a fuel line clog or something. I was riding it at the time, so I pulled over. There were only three of us: me and Wayne and some prospect on a Sportster. But everybody with half a brain had taken the freeway. Anyhow I was hunkered down next to the glitter bike with my head poked into the carburetor, when these two Satan’s Bastards rode up next to us. At first I figured they were just stopping to see if we were OK. There’d never been any beef between the Rattlers and the Bastards. At least not back then.”
“But when they came to a stop, they weren’t asking what was wrong. They were laughing, and pointing at the glitter bike.”
Sunny was now listening intently. Tillman’s voice had dropped an octave, but the bitterness in it had ratcheted up a notch.
“I stood up from the bike and turned toward them. Pulled out my shitty little Lorcin .380 and shot one of them in the face. Put a hole right between that shit-eatin’ grin and his fucking nose. Dropped him like a sack of rocks. I remember it like it was yesterday.”
Sunny was still.
“The other one went for his knife, but Wayne had stepped up behind him and put him in a choke hold. He was yellin’ ‘what the fuck Tillman?’ But like a good brother he had the guy trussed up tight. So I pulled out my own knife and gutted the Bastard like a hog in a slaughterhouse.”
Sunny’s eyes were wide. Tillman was staring down at the photo in the broken frame.
Tillman laughed, a quiet little sound that made Sunny’s skin crawl. “Wayne and the prospect were shitting bricks. Hollerin’ why’d I do it and what are we gonna do now. Whining like a couple of bitches. I looked ‘em both in the eye and said we weren’t gonna do nothin’ but leave ‘em to the vultures. We dragged them and their bikes off the road, out into the desert a little bit. But we knew they’d be found. I wanted them to be found.”
Tillman looked up from the picture. “And that got us some cred. Well, me anyhow. The pigs never figured out who wasted those two Bastards out there. Probably didn’t really care, to tell the truth. But the Rattlers knew, the ones what mattered, anyhow. And they looked at me differently after that, now that they knew what I was made of.”
Tillman set the broken picture frame back down on the table, looked up at Sunny and said, “Some of ‘em were proud. The rest were scared.” Tillman leaned forward. “Which are you? Sunny?”
Sunny held his gaze a moment, swallowed, then said “Proud.” It was a lie.
“Good. Now find me another phone, I need to call up to Barstow.”