Chapter 1: October 2017. Harlem, New York.
The road behind her continued to fade away as Tess Crenshaw drove her bike down the highway. It was an image of the life she was leaving behind, she thought to herself as her long, black hair whipped around her neck. She was pressing on, though the winds were picking up. A storm was approaching off in the distance and she knew she'd have to stop before it became too dark, but she had wanted to put as much distance between herself and the past that she could in that first day.
Up ahead, Tess saw a building loom over the road. As she got closer, she saw that it was a motorcycle club, surrounded by homes and other small buildings in a gated area. Tess pulled her bike up to the gate where a guard met her.
"Evening, miss. Rough night for a ride," the man commented as he turned his green hues towards the impending clouds. His head was shaved and he wore a vest that revealed several patches, most of which Tess had seen before. The rank he wore was "Enforcer".
"Yeah, sure is," Tess answered, telling herself not to stare. "Not a motel in sight either. To be honest, I have no idea where I am."
"Well, you're in Harlem, honey. This here is the home of Paradise MC. You seem to know your way on that bike."
Tess blushed and looked down at her purple crotch-rocket. It was nothing fancy, but her father had given it to her when she got her license two weeks ago. Before her world collapsed around her. "Harlem, huh? Great. I leave Philly and barely get far before I have to stop."
"Philadelphia, huh?" The enforcer looked her over and nodded. "You know of the Rebels MC?"
"Yeah," Tess said with a sigh. She hadn't worn her cut, but it didn't seem to matter. "My father is the president."
"No shit! Well, come on in then. I knew your brother Andrew way back in the day. They call me Butch. I'll hook you up with one of the ol' ladies and you'll stay for the night."
It felt more like an order than an offer, and Tess hated using her family to get ahead, but at this point she had no better option. She followed Butch into the compound and heard the gate clang shut behind her as the rain began to pour.
Tess parked her bike in a spot marked "visitor", in the lot in front of the clubhouse. The enforcer had called in another member to resume guard duty and led her towards the designated parking area. Each spot was labeled with a different title for each position in the MC. There was a row of spots in front of the clubhouse for the Prez., VP, Sgt. Arms, Sec., Treas., and R.C. Another row was for enforcers, another row members and prospects, and another row for visitors. It seemed like everyone was parked in for the night and bikes were covered to protect them from the storm.
Her guide came over and handed her a spare cover. "Wouldn't want anything to happen to that bike, darlin'. They call me Butch, by the way."
"Tess." She reached out to shake his hand, wincing a bit from the firm grip. "Thanks for letting me stay the night. I'll try not to be in the way."
"Please... we welcome guests, contrary to how it may appear by our front gate." He led her into the clubhouse and said, "Actually, there's a Halloween event going on right now. A maze. You interested?"
Tess hesitated and looked around. The foyer of the club was decorated with pictures and the club's colors. She recognized none of the members, but then she hadn't been too involved in her father's MC. "Yeah sure, why not?" She finally replied to Butch.
Butch led her through the hall and up the stairs to the second floor. There was a long, white hallway with four doors on either side, and white double doors at the end of the hallway. "Welcome to the maze. On the table there is a clipboard. In each room there's something you have to find. A member will be there to help if you get stuck. Come and meet me and the president in those double doors there when you've got everything!"
With that, Tess was left to herself, staring at the hallway of doors. A phone rang from the desk which also held the clipboard. Tess went over to take the clipboard and got started.
Each room was set up like a mental hospital room with different themes, and a different fear the patients had. The fears included just about everything, all sorts of fears that you could possibly imagine. Everything from snakes and spiders to witchcraft and clowns. While some things were disturbing, it helped provide a much-needed distraction from Tess's own fears and worries... namely like what she was going to do with the rest of her life.
The MC was friendly, welcoming, and very helpful. Even just being around other people who loved bikes, but who weren't pressuring her for commitment and involvement, was oddly liberating. For the first time in a while, Tess felt like she could be herself, and not who her family, the elite Crenshaw's, had wanted her to be.
Entering the double doors when she'd had found everything, she was greeted by Butch and an older man. He had a strong Dutch accent and was very friendly as he greeted her. "It is good to meet you, Tess. Butch has been telling me about you. I am the president here, Abe Stenton. Please make yourself at home. Our Road Captain, Rachel, will be here soon to take you to the women's quarters."
"Thank you, Sir," Tess said as she shook his hand firmly.
"As a prize for finishing the maze, have this vest to wear. Whether you put our colors or different ones on it, we hope you feel welcome here anytime."
"I already do, Sir. Thank you." Tess reached out to take the vest, inhaling deeply. She hadn't worn a vest in a while, but she was starting to feel like she could be safe with it wrapped around her shoulders again, even if it was currently colorless. She had a feeling that she was on her way to finding her place again.