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By´╝ÜCandace Blevins

“Don’t blame you a bit,” said the Atlanta homicide detective, “but for some reason we’ve started out with the cons. As difficult of a pill as it is to swallow, there are pros to having them in the neighborhood.”

“We’re listenin’,” said Sheriff Beauregard.

“The local club’s compound takes up an entire city block,” the homicide detective continued. “The bike shop and bar across the street are theirs. If you want to talk to them, you go to one of the public places across the street, because the heavily fenced compound is treated like an embassy, their own nation.” He glanced at the DA. “Legally, when we’re on official business, we don’t go in there without a warrant. Ever. Tonight, some of us are invited as guests.” He took a breath. “However, they claim more than just these two city blocks. They consider their territory to go out six blocks north, south, and east, and nine blocks west. That’s a lot of ground, and they patrol it, heavily. There’s no visible prostitution, there are no dealers, no drugs, and rarely a break-in. Crime in their section of the city is almost nonexistent.”

The Atlanta sheriff leaned back and his deep, smoker’s voice rumbled, “Like it or not, we’ve developed a truce with them. On the rare occasion we need to arrest one, they don’t fight us. I don’t worry about one of them pointing a gun at one of my guys, and if they see a deal going down on the street where a drug dealer has a gun on one of my officers, they’ve been known to take Blue’s back. Keep my man alive.”

One of the local vice cops stood and walked to the coffee machine as he said, “I consider several of the men to be something close to a friend. They know I’ll arrest them if I catch them doing something illegal, and I know they’re never going to call me to report a crime because they’re going to take care of it themselves, most likely in a way I won’t approve.” He shrugged. “They’ve never once asked me to turn my back on my morals, and I promise you we’ve had some tight run-ins. I’ve arrested a few of them, charges have stuck a couple of times, fallen apart a few others, but when I go to their barbecue blow-out tonight, no one will hold it against me.”

“MC President’s son dated the daughter of one of my lieutenants last year.” The Atlanta police chief shook his head. “They were both adults, young twenties, but my lieutenant went off the reservation and messed up our truce. It reminded me why we’d agreed to it in the first place, and it took a few sit-downs to fix the mess.” His gaze narrowed in on Chattanooga PD Assistant Chief Keller. “If they come, don’t hassle them over bullshit. Arrest them if they do something criminal, leave the petty stuff alone. No pulling them over for going three miles over the speed limit or not using their turn signal. Show them respect and they’ll return it. Let them invite your men to their parties, find some goodwill. Once they’ve moved in, talk to the people in the neighborhood, get your own feel for how the residents see them. No one has ever offered me payoff to turn my back. If they had, I’d arrest ‘em. If a new member or prospect acts out of line, but not enough to arrest them yet, pick up the phone and call the president or one of his lieutenants. If you have to arrest them, pick up the phone and let the leadership know why.”

“You’re suggesting we work with vigilantes? Help them break the law?” asked Denny.

The vice cop who hadn’t spoken yet, finally had something to say. “Point is, this is a cohesive group of men who see themselves as guardians. I don’t agree with the way they go about it, but there’s only so many hours in the day, and so much manpower available — my time seems better spent going after the actual drug dealers, thieves, and murderers.”

“Not sure why this applies to me, or why I’m here.” Denny, the Fort Oglethorpe police chief, didn’t look at all happy.

The Atlanta DA smiled. “My forensic accountant tells me the MC already owns land in your neck of the woods. She stumbled on the fact two of the members owned houses on the same street, and eventually figured out all nine houses are owned by either a member, or an umbrella of the club.”

She tossed him a folder and he opened it to see a map printout, as well as pictures of the houses, cost, square footage, and a picture of the men who owned two of them.

The local police chief reached over and touched the map, his fingers landing on a large forested area adjacent to the homes, jutting right up to their back yards. “Here’s where we get into the fucking strange rumor portion of the evening. In every city, the club owns property next to a large, protected, forested area. Cop lore says it’s so they have a place to bury the bodies, woo-woo lore says it’s because they’re werewolves and need a place to run on the full moon.” He shook his head. “Doesn’t help much, their numbers are reduced the night before, of, and after a full moon. Hard to argue the notion a third of them are gone the first night, a third the second, and a third the last. Every fucking month, in every fucking city.”