I continued, "It's not even just the recent fake news story. Cecil came to tell me that someone got ahold of our corporate credit cards and is charging shit all over town."
Everyone nodded and murmured. Sax was the first to speak up. "Maybe that's why the bank texted me. They were curious why someone had charged thirty copies of World of Warcraft from Rwanda."
"I got the same thing," said Knoxie. "Someone was trying to rush order some penis weights from Sierra Leone."
I pointed at Knoxie. "See? That's the exact thing that not only tries to make us look like assmunchers, but rips us off into the fucking bargain. I had a charge for twelve hundred bucks for ten model Ford Torinos. The charge went through because of my name."
Faux Pas, Duji, Speed and Gollywow nodded sagely. But Roman asked, "Your name? Because it was a toy model Ford?"
"A Torino," explained Duji. "Ford was nicknamed Torino by, ah..."
"His father," said Faux Pas, almost in a whisper.
The silence this time was uncomfortable, with everyone looking everywhere except at each other. Slushy tapped a pen on his desk and sucked on the inside of his mouth. Wolf broke the silence by going,
"What's a penis weight exactly? Some kind of bondage thing?"
Everyone laughed with relief. Lytton, the resident bondage king, said, "Not at fucking all, man. Not that I know the details, but I believe it's some kind of—"
"Penis enlargement device." Knoxie was bold to say that, because it cast him into a questionable light. "I know, because I had to deal with the bank for an hour straightening it all out. It's definitely someone trying to make us look like dingbats."
"And steal our money at the same time," I added. "Wolf, you're in charge of shredding all the accounting and other paper at the Citadel. Don't you have an industrial strength shredder in your parts shed?"
Wolf looked like he was watching a tennis match. A shady look if ever there was one. "Well, sure," he said uncertainly. "I bag up most of it and this recycling company hauls it away after it's shredded so no one can sit there putting the pieces together again."
"But, ah, see, we've started up this organic garden outside the Unexploded Ordnance shed."
I wasn't sure I heard correctly. "What?"
"The hippies always out there meditating by the vortex gave me the idea."
"And me," said Slushy. "I'm all about the organic."
"Especially eggplant." Duji kissed his fingers. "I make the finest moussaka around."
"I thought you were Italian," said Faux Pas.
I couldn't fucking believe it. One, that they had an organic garden outside the Citadel. Two, that I hadn't noticed it. I'd been so fucking busy lately, I rarely looked at, much less answered, my texts. My bank had probably texted about the strange charges, too. What else had they charged on my corporate card? A shipment of butterfly vibrators? "So what does this have to do with the shredded documents?"
"Well," said Wolf, "the hippies gave me the idea to start a compost pile. It's really awesome, actually! But you need a certain amount of greens, water, dirt, and paper. You need to get the balance just right. Lytton helped me with the science of it all, and—"
"You put our shredded documents into your fucking compost pile?"
"They get wet! And dirty! And bugs come to eat them, and—"
There was some rustling outside the closed office door. Wolf eagerly looked at the door, glad for the interruption. But I shot him a look that said "I'm not done with you yet." I'd make him clean the bathrooms for another year, always the Prospect's job. Wolf had done it for a year. Now he'd do it for another. I couldn't believe these fucking guys. Even my old-timer brothers from the shorts pants days were acting like a bunch of hipster goofballs. Where did we live, Marin County? Sedona? They were more concerned with their intestinal flora than with the fact someone was obviously trying to push up on us.
At last, it was fucking Tobiah Weingarten in all his nerdy glory. He slammed shut the office door behind him in a rush, squeaking over in his tennies. He pivoted on one heel in the center of our chairs as though about to do a standup routine. In fact, he did grin under that eagle's nose of his and point dazzlingly at Wolf. "Sorry I'm late. I ran into Tracy in town and we had a nice chat."
The ire in Wolf's face seemed to imbue the entire room. He'd been sitting backward in his chair, and now he half-rose, gripping the seat back, and bashed the chair angrily. "Where the fuck—"
See, they'd been having a rivalry over this chick for quite some time. Tracy wasn't totally eye-banging, but those two nerds had it bad for her. First, she'd lived with Tobiah. Then she'd lived with Wolf. I guessed she was currently with Wolf—not sure, really. I knew I should take more interest in the ins and outs of my brothers' true lives, but fuck it. I was a busy man.
Tobiah held out a calming hand. "Sorry to shit on your campfire, Nerdulent." Everyone burst out into a hearty round of laughter, seeing as how Tobiah was way nerdier than Wolf. Wolf at least dressed the part of a brother at heart. Tobiah wore white belts, skinny velveteen jeans, and turtlenecks. "We just had coffee. Nice girl, though! Pretty green eyes—"
Before Wolf could rise like the Incredible Hulk, I put the kibosh on this whole affair. "Enough! Tobiah! Explain your findings. Who's behind the fake news stories?"
"Well!" Tobiah was always glad for a chance to be the center of attention, and now he literally was. His X-Files belt buckle flashed in my face when he turned. "Turns out it's some guy named Noodlum. I know, I know, not much to go on, is it? But I delved deeper into the mystery. Turns out the postings were coming from near the Discovery Channel Telescope—"
"My house!" cried Lytton.
"That's what I thought, too. I thought oh great, someone's making it look like we're stabbing each other in the back to create dissention among our ranks. But no. Upon further investigation, the culprit was high up in the mountains, more toward Long Lake."
Now everyone was confused. They all had that resting bitch face as they drew back and looked at each other suspiciously.
Could it be? The Cutlasses hadn't caused trouble in quite a while. Seemed they'd burned out and faded into the rearview since my brother had taken out a few of them. Sure, we'd stolen their workers. But what jobs did they have going on, anyway? They hadn't tried to jack a truck in months.
"Cutlasses," a few men murmured.
I said, "But who's this Noodlum asswipe? I know Doug Zelov, the Prez, as we all do. Is he their IT guy?"
Toby shrugged. "That's where the trail went cold. But you can bet dollars to donuts it's the Cutlasses behind it."
"Muldoon," mumbled Wolf, looking at his phone.
He looked at me. "Muldoon. That's Noodlum spelled backward."
"Muldoon!" cried Fox. "I knew a sociopath named Muldoon in my travels." Fox was a former hit man for the Jones cartel. If there were sociopaths to be known, Fox was our man. "Damn, that guy was a few clowns short of a circus. He once left twenty legs as a warning for Ortelio Jones. Just the legs, all arranged in a neat row like can-can dancers. And yeah, they were all womens' legs, all Mexicans, probably trafficked. There were rumors he was into toon porn because once, when we almost hit him, he had to leave so fast he left a full-on bunny suit behind."
"That would be furries, not toon porn," said Speed, ever knowledgeable. "They dress up in furry costumes and bump uglies in the night."
"No, it was toon porn," Fox said with authority. "We found a video showing that Family Guy's wife getting pile-driven, the usual animé, and Judy Jetson giving George a skull job."
Duji shook his head with wonder. "Kids these days."
"He wasn't stupid," said Fox, "which made him more dangerous. He just had splinters in the windmills of his mind, if you know what I mean."
I did. "You think he's working for Zelov now? Why else would he be up there? That's where their feeble shack of a clubhouse was, last I heard."
"Hot Stuff. Tread lightly with this Noodlum," said Slushy. "A pile of Mexican legs is a good sign that you don't want to get all up in his shit."
"They're up in ours," I said darkly to our lawyer.
Wolf exploded with a lip fart so resounding it made a few guys jump in their chairs. "Holy motherfuck! Ford! This guy has crossed the fucking line, man!" He stretched his arm out to hand me his phone. I whipped it from him and read:
Woman Wearing Too Much Makeup Mistaken as Clown, Attacked by Angry Mob.
Highlighted with a photo of my wife, Madison.
It was a photo taken from her hospital's website, but she wasn't wearing anything that would identify her as a nurse. She was just smiling from the shoulders on up, her little chipmunk features all shits and giggles, and she definitely didn't have too much makeup. The article went on, and I read aloud.
"Madison Illuminati, the wife of Bare Bones MC Prez, Ford Illuminati, was taken into custody last night in Cottonwood when her makeup scared bystanders into thinking she was a menacing clown come to lure their children into the woods."
That's how far I got before I slammed Wolf's phone into the wall, and my men erupted onto their feet.
Some punched walls, too. "Men, men!" shouted Slushy. "Calm the fuck down!"
Duji waved a finger in my face. "That's the limit, Ford! That's the fucking limit! These motherfuckers have pushed us over the edge!"
Sax shouted, "This is their first fucking inroad, and you know it won't be their last!"
Faux Pas intoned between clenched teeth, "We need to have a sit-down with these dirtbags."
Everyone was making too much noise for me to talk. I just closed my eyes and thought Yes. We're having a face-to-face.
We were all going to the wall for each other. Someone was going to pay for this libel. God would do the accounting when it was over.