The first week of December, 1988
It was just as she pictured it.
The small, quiet, western Maryland town of Hagerstown was exactly the way nineteen-year-old Georgia had always imagined it would be.
For as long as she could remember, she'd heard stories about Hagerstown and its residents from her so-called father. He'd never had one kind word to say about anything or anyone that had to do with the town, which was how she knew it'd be a wonderful place.
Just from what she'd seen out the window of the Greyhound bus she'd arrived on, Georgia knew that if the circumstances were different, if she was clean and respectable and capable of living among decent folks, this would be the place she'd choose to live.
But she couldn't stay.
Her father had grown up here; certainly there were a lot of people in town who knew him--knew what kind of man he was. If anyone found out about the kind of life she'd been leading and the things she'd done, they'd do everything in their power to distance themselves from her. She didn't want that; didn't want others to see her the way she saw herself every time she looked in the mirror.
No, there was no place for her here.
It was probably for the best, though; Hagerstown was a dangerous place for Georgia. She knew that if her presence was discovered, she'd have a lot of explaining to do, explaining that would be a waste of time because no one would believe her anyway.
Remaining onboard the bus during its six hour layover and then traveling straight through to California would've been much safer than venturing into town. But Georgia was leaving the east coast for good, and the pull of this town--a town that had always felt like home even though she'd never been here--was just too strong to ignore. She had to check out at least some of the place where she had family--three people in particular--although she had no intention of talking to them.
She just wanted to see them.
Find out what they looked like.
Burn their faces into her memory so that whenever she felt alone, she could put faces with the names of the ones who, without knowing it, had comforted her and kept her company.
She'd been nervous about venturing away from the safety of the bus station, afraid she may get lost, or worse, be spotted by those who were never meant to know of her existence. But it had taken her well over a month to muster the courage to leave the life she'd been leading in southern Virginia, part of her decision being made for her when the landlord threw her out. She wasn't about to waste this one and only opportunity to satisfy her curiosity.
Wanting to take in as much as she could in the short amount of time she had, Georgia had positioned herself in a vacant lot across the street from a red brick building with a large sign out front that read: McCASSEY'S GARAGE.
Wearing only her brand new flannel coat, she'd been there for hours, shivering in the freezing, late-fall temperatures, huddled beside a dumpster, watching.
During that time, seven mechanics and a tow truck driver had worked steadily. Although she couldn't see much with two of the three bay doors closed, Georgia was still able to get an occasional glimpse of the men inside.
Sometime just before dusk, they'd all ventured out into the empty part of the parking lot, each one wearing nothing more than a pair of navy blue coveralls, and played a three-on-five pickup game of touch football. Georgia was too far away to be able to make out anything they were saying, but she couldn't help wondering if the three men who'd taken on the other five were the men she'd heard so much about, the ones she'd been longing to see.
When the game ended, five of the players got into various pickup trucks and left, leaving just the three men who'd been on the same team standing alone in the lot.
As she wondered if they were Blackie, Judd, and Rebel, Georgia yawned, wiped her watery eyes, and closed them, trying hard to concentrate and recall every detail she'd heard about the brothers.
She knew Blackie was the oldest and that Judd and Rebel were only ten months apart. Blackie, who she'd heard was a former outlaw biker known as 'The Devil', had been in and out of prison since he was eighteen years old. If Georgia had done her math correctly, she figured he was now somewhere around forty. Four years younger than Blackie, Judd was the middle brother; a follower, her father had called him. And Rebel, the youngest, was supposedly some kind of great leader. During one of his frequent rants about the boys, her father had actually seemed jealous when he mentioned that people apparently looked up to Rebel. All three men were married and had children.
Squinting in the near-darkness, Georgia came to the conclusion that the largest of the men, the menacing looking one who wore a Fu Manchu mustache and had long, dark brown hair halfway down his back, had to be Blackie. The question was ... which one was Judd and which one was Rebel?
Georgia sighed when she glanced at her watch and noted the time. Her bus was due to pull out in an hour. Needing a fix, she kept wishing the men would hurry up and leave so she could do what she needed to do and still have time to walk over for a closer look at the garage.
Finally, after another ten minutes of standing around and talking, they got into three separate pickup trucks and pulled out of the parking lot, all driving in the same direction.
Georgia allowed another few minutes to pass before venturing out of her hiding place. She stood slowly and raised her arms above her head to stretch, then knelt and unzipped her small duffle bag. Searching inside for her stash, she breathed a sigh of relief when her hand came into contact with the shoebox she'd carefully packed at the bottom.
After a short walk to the other side of the parking lot, she sat on the ground under a streetlight, removed her coat, and pulled her left arm out of her shirtsleeve. She tied the rubber tourniquet just below her bicep, using her teeth to help pull it tight, and tapped her fingers against her upper forearm looking for a good vein--a feat that had become increasingly difficult lately. Finally finding one, she picked up the needle she'd prepared and inserted it into her arm, emptying the syringe.
Georgia closed her eyes as the familiar sense of euphoria washed over her, glad to feel numb again, happy that at least for the next few hours, she could forget about who and what she really was.
Tossing the needle to the ground, Georgia untied the tourniquet and shoved it into the box, which she then put back in her bag. She glanced at her watch again, knowing she didn't have much time. A quick look at the garage was all she'd have time for.
She stood, slung the duffle bag over her shoulder, and casually made her way across the vacant lot. After pausing for a car to pass, she crossed the two-lane road and came to a stop in the middle of the garage's parking lot.
Much larger up close, she stared at the building in awe. Her body swayed just a little as she stared at the McCASSEY'S GARAGE sign, burning every line of every letter into her memory.
Wishing she had more time to look around, Georgia turned away from the building and, on her way out of the parking lot, stopped in front of the black tow truck; staring at the phrase McCassey's Garage written in script on the driver's side door.
Lost in thought as she traced the letters with her index finger, she nearly jumped out of her skin when someone's hand painfully grasped her wrist.
She didn't like to be touched ... by anyone.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" the man asked.
Immediately shifting into survival mode, Georgia began struggling. "Let go of me!" When she looked up to face her captor, she noticed that the person who'd grabbed her was one of the three men who'd been last to leave the garage. His little-too-long, loose and unruly, curly brown hair looked very much like her own.
Stunned, she stilled, unable to take her eyes off him. "I--" she started to say, but couldn't think of an answer quickly enough. Instead of trying to talk her way out of it, she yanked her wrist from his grip and turned with the intention of fleeing across the street. However, she made it no farther than her first step, colliding with the largest man she'd ever seen.
The one with the Fu Manchu and waist-length hair.
Blackie; it had to be.
"Oh no you don't," he said, closing his large hand around her upper arm in a powerful hold, "you ain't goin' nowhere."
Georgia closed her eyes and tried to think of what to do. While she was happy to finally see her brothers up close, she knew she'd screwed up. Because of her carelessness, she'd been discovered.
They wanted to know who she was, and by the harsh sound of their voices, weren't going to leave her alone until they got their answer.
She couldn't tell the brothers the truth; it would ruin everything for them and their families.
Judging by the angry looks on both men's faces, Georgia knew she should be terrified; and had she not been high, the slight panic she was now feeling would've been ten times worse. Not sure what to do, she again began to half-heartedly struggle, trying to break free, knowing full well she wasn't going to be able to go anywhere.
"Hold still, goddammit," commanded the man as he tightened his hold; his voice laced with such authority that she found herself doing as she was told, despite feeling the same revulsion she did every time a man laid a hand on her.
"My brother asked you a question," the other man yelled, "and we'd all like an answer. Who the hell are you, and why were you sittin' across the street watchin' the garage all day?"
What? She hadn't moved a muscle the entire time she was huddled against the dumpster. How had they known she was there?
Unable to stifle a yawn, Georgia wiped her eyes and, with the intention of speaking up to defend herself, slowly tilted her head to face him. Although it was dark and she couldn't see too well, the scowl on his face was not only quite visible, but intimidating, as well. So much, in fact, that she couldn't bring herself to utter a single word other than, "Um--"
"Um?" he mocked sarcastically. "We catch you tryin' to break into our garage, and all you have to say for yourself is 'um'?"
"Hey," said the other man, "I'm freezing my ass off out here. Can't we do this inside?"
The one holding her arm looked from her, to one of the bay doors, and back again. "Fine. Open the door, Reb."
Reb? Did he mean Rebel? She hadn't seen anyone else but the two guys standing on either side of her, but sure enough, yet another man, this one almost exactly the same height as the one who'd originally grabbed her, emerged from the shadows. He strode to the middle bay door, reached down, and pulled on the metal handle until the oversized garage door opened enough for them all to fit under.
After she was dragged inside, the door was closed and she was not-so-gently shoved into a metal folding chair in front of an old square card table.
"Hey!" she yelled, grabbing for the duffle bag that the biggest man had ripped off her shoulder and thrown to the ground.
When a light was turned on, Georgia momentarily shielded her eyes until they adjusted to the brightness. Wondering how she was going to explain herself, she turned and looked up at her captors, only to discover that they were the ones who were now speechless. The looks on their faces--faces that looked very familiar--told her all she needed to know.
They see the same thing I see.
Now I'm never going to be able to talk my way out of here without telling them what they want to know.