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Authors: Francis Porretto

On Broken Wings

BOOK: On Broken Wings
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On Broken Wings



On Broken Wings

A novel

Francis W. Porretto

Smashwords Edition

Copyright (C) 1998 by Francis W. Porretto

Cover art by Donna Casey (

Discover other works by Francis W. Porretto at


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Part One:





At first, there was only darkness, and a dim sense of upward motion, like swimming through dark water. Then there was light, and noise, and incredible pain.

Christine half-remembered the crash, but had no idea where she was or what was being done to her. The flood of pain from her face blocked her rational powers. The perception of restraint threatened her sanity. A single phrase roared through the torture.

"She's coming awake!"

She surged upward against whatever was holding her. Strong hands pressed her back. Something metallic attached to her face, pulling upon it, tore loose and fell off to rest against her ear. Her scream could have shattered stone.

A needle pierced her arm. Her terror flew beyond any recall. She dropped back into the darkness, certain she would never see light again.


Christine awoke already crying. When she opened her eyes, the duty nurse was standing over her.

"Miss, are you in pain?"

The professionally kind, concerned face swam in a sea of her tears. She shook her head to clear her vision, and instantly regretted it. Pain shot through her as if from an axe blow to the skull.

She took several deep, gasping breaths before answering.


Tears ran down her face in rivulets. They soaked into her bandages and stung her in a hundred places.

The nurse pressed something against her lips. Pills. "Open and take these, Miss. I can't give you another shot till noon."

She opened her mouth to accept them. A straw followed, and she took several sips of room-temperature water. She swallowed with difficulty.

"Thank you." She closed her eyes again, tears still welling beneath the lids. She did not see the shudder that ran through the nurse's frame, just before she left the room.


Two men sat hunched over a small table in the dinette area of a large trailer. Both were short of stature and slender of build. One displayed the stolidity of a statue. The other radiated distress from every pore.

"What can I do?"


Louis Redmond gaped.

"That wasn't the question you wanted to ask, was it?" An observer that could ignore the weariness of Malcolm Loughlin's face and the hardness of his eyes might set his age no higher than that of his protege. But Loughlin's countenance showed eons of fatigue, and his eyes were chips of agate. "You want to ask if I can do anything. But the answer is the same."

The cold fear that surged through Louis had the vitality of a tiger. It was all he could do to keep it caged.

"Did you think your training would allow you to undo cancer, Louis? Or did you think it was just a trick I hadn't taught you yet?"

Louis stiffened. "Don't mock me. You haven't earned the right."

The older man's lips curved in the ghost of a smile. "That's better."

"Defiance at all times, Malcolm?"

"What would serve you better, now?"

Louis scowled, irritation washing over his fear. "Malcolm, you are too damned smart, and one of these days it's going to land you in trouble." He rose, walked the length of the trailer, and stared out the tiny end window at the dozens of acres of Onteora County, New York, mostly left to scrub oak and pine, that Loughlin owned. After a moment, he returned to the table and waved an arm jerkily. "Why don't you get yourself a decent place? A man can't pace properly in here."

Loughlin ignored it. "When does treatment start?"

"It's already started."

"Any nausea?"

Louis nodded.

"I was hoping you might be spared that."

Louis caricatured a show of surprise. "I didn't know you cared."

"Now who's mocking whom?"

An awkward silence descended. Louis was reluctant to break it. Presently, Loughlin spoke.

"What will you do?"

Louis shrugged. "I don't know. It doesn't really seem to matter."

"Why? Because you're dying?" Loughlin's voice turned harsh again. "You were handed your death warrant the day you were born. Do you really mean to say there's nothing worth your time or energy, just because you've been told you won't make your threescore and ten?"

Louis made a weary spare-me gesture. "From you, that has a very curious ring."

"Show some backbone, damn it!"

"What's the matter, Malcolm? Afraid you picked the wrong guy?"

Loughlin shook his head slowly. "Never."

Louis leaned back against the windowsill, caught and held his mentor's eyes.

Maybe he'll tell me now.

"Why me anyway?"

Loughlin scowled. "Do we have to go through this again?"

"This is the one thing I've always wondered if you were straight with me about. Why me? And after that, why anybody?"

"It's my contribution. My ground rent."

"You don't owe anybody."

The old warrior shrugged. "You're right, I don't. So?"

"So why?"

"It's what I want to do. I've been doing it for a long time."

"And why me?"

Loughlin leaned forward over the table and perched his chin upon his folded hands. "I could almost understand why you'd ask that before your training. But why now? I've told you a hundred times that you're the best I've ever had. No one else has ever beaten me at anything. You've beaten me at
. You're a better fighter, a better analyst, and a better strategist. I suspect that no one with gifts like yours has ever walked the earth before."


"So why question my judgment now? Even if it were nothing but intuition, hasn't it been borne out a hundred times and more?"

"I still want to know, Malcolm."

"Not today."

"When, then?"

"When you've done something for me."

Louis straightened up at that. Loughlin had never asked him for anything. "What do you want from me, Malcolm?"

Loughlin sat back and turned away. When his eyes returned to Louis's, they were unreadable.

"Select and train your replacement."


At the intersection of Lumberjack Road and Arnulfson Way stood an old Army barracks. It was a simple clapboard structure, thrown up in a hurry to house the draftees being mustered for service in World War II. After the war, it had been abandoned. It was of no use except to a gang of men on their way to somewhere else. Such a gang had claimed it.

In its largest room, the motorcycle gang that called itself the Butchers had gathered at the command of its leader. He stood six-four and weighed two hundred fifty pounds. All of it was muscle and bone. His sand-colored hair was cropped so close to his skull that it was difficult to find his hairline except by touch. His habitual costume was heavy black leather, scarred here and there by the caress of the road or the kiss of a weapon. None of the twenty-two other riders in his pack knew his birth name; it had cost one of them three teeth merely to ask. They called him Tiny.

Tiny was upset. He had lost a middling-good friend and an incredible piece of ass in one accident. They had been riding the same bike. They'd found the friend spread thinly over a concrete bridge abutment, and surrounded by Onteora County cops. The slut had simply disappeared.

"Who saw them last?"

From the front of the gathering, Tommy Lekachmann spoke up hesitantly. "Boss, Tex's carb was barking like he had a problem. He couldn't keep pace, so he dropped back to the tail of the formation."

"And you didn't drop back with him?" Tiny watched the young biker's face flush as he realized his mistake. "Tommy, how many times have you heard me say that whoever's got Christine does not ride tail?"

Tiny hadn't shouted, hadn't intended to, but in the silence of the barracks his voice seemed unusually loud even to him. Tommy lowered his head and chewed his lip. The other Butchers remained silent.

Tiny would miss Tex, who had been a good drinking buddy and handy with a knife or a bicycle chain. Tex had been a Butcher as long as Tiny himself. They'd spilled a lot of blood together, little of it their own. But it was the loss of Christine that truly pained him. They'd captured her here, a disoriented, incoherent girl with an incredible body and no memory, who'd wandered into their barracks completely naked ten years ago that month. She'd seemed like a gift from the cycle gods. He'd been looking forward to celebrating her tenth anniversary as their pet pig in a special way.

Tiny could see how badly his Butchers wanted to disappear until he had calmed down. Yet not one of them would move until he'd dismissed them. He'd made the consequences of his displeasure lethally clear to them many times. As he raked them with his glare, he mused over how to emphasize their failure.

He snorted and spat into a corner of the room, not quite missing Rollo's booted foot. Rollo didn't twitch.

"Get out of here and get drunk. Keep your eyes open. She comes from around here. She's not likely to run off, at least not right away."

The room emptied in less than ten seconds. When the roar of overbored, unmuffled cycle engines had diminished to nothing, the biker lord stomped into the sergeant's quarters he'd taken for himself, dropped onto a filthy sofa and hunched over in thought.

He'd been herding them to Buffalo to join forces with another gang, a spinoff of a more famous pack. Its leader was a friend, and had proposed some profitable-sounding plans in which Tiny would have been pleased to include the Butchers. It was of such things that the Butchers' travel agenda was composed. But now he was unwilling to leave Onteora before he knew what had become of Christine.

BOOK: On Broken Wings
12.49Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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