Chapters 13: A Swarm of Hogs
Then the main plot takes over again with Axel driving his Escalade and surrounded by bikers. (The phrase “a swarm of Hogs bearing down on him” (130) I must admit made me laugh.) The bikers push him off the road and Axel knows what to expect.
…there would be a representative goon out there. Axel understood the job of the enforcer all too well. It was a role he’d taken on with every team he’d ever played for (131).
I feel that this might be trying a little too hard to shoehorn in the similarities. Plus, there’s a whole herd of biker surrounding Axel’s car, so aren’t they all enforcers?
The “representative goon” tells Axel to follow them or they’ll go back and hurt Jennifer, so they all drive on and end up in some run-down suburbs and a convenient, boarded-up warehouse. Because of course they do. As they approach the Warehouse of Clichés, Axel can hear the guitar riffs of Stereotype Southern Rock. From this formulaic Biker Land appears Jaako Latt, apparently the long-time boss of the Helsinki branch who speaks in sentences that are presumably meant to show off that English is not his first language but which sound like Generic Foreigner. Some examples:
“The internet is not secure for our business, I do not think” (132).
“You will pay to keep the crimes of your past a secret from your American fans and the woman you kiss on television. This way, you protect your endorsement deals, yes?... One time payment. Cash. Say, three million?” (133).
Axel is about to agree, mostly to keep Jennifer safe but also a little bit because he thinks Jaako is right about the endorsement deals. Given how long ago Axel’s ‘crimes’ were and mitigated by the context of his youth, I have a hard time thinking that he’d lose all that many deals. He’d be celebrated for turning his life around and making good. I really don’t understand the biker gang’s thought process on what they think they have hanging over Axel (except Jennifer, but she showed up on their radar after they’d started threatening him.)
Speaking of Jennifer, she answers for Axel, having randomly shown up at the Abandoned Warehouse of Biker Clichés, having been captured by a biker who found her in a tree. Yes, in a tree. She was trying to film what was going on, but apparently though a boarded-up window. I’m a little unclear on how she planned on succeeding, but I’m also unclear as to how the “half-wit teenage biker” (133) found her in the tree.
Jennifer immediately starts pointing out that even though they have now broken her camera, all the data immediately uploads so she has evidence of blackmail. I know that back at the beginning of the book we covered the fact that the video cameras immediately upload all data, but that was at the practice rink which I assumed was set up with wi-fi. I have a hard time imagining that the Run-Down Suburban Abandoned Warehouse of Motorcycle Gang Stereotypes is particularly set-up for high-speed uploading. But sure.
Jennifer’s claims, regardless of their veracity, don’t bother Jaako, King of the Helsinki Bikers. He points out that she won’t use the film because it would ruin Axel’s career. See above re: my point that I personally don’t believe it would hurt it his career all that much but whatever. Jennifer believes it and immediately backs down. On the bright side, she was clever enough to call the police so they’re apparently on their way.
But all of Jennifer’s self-recriminations, which she briefly castigated herself with about becoming a liability in the situation, are short-lived because Axel finally declares that he’s going to go “public with [his] past” and points out that even if he doesn’t make it back safely that night, Kyle will go to the media with the information. He goes on to explain, although frankly this hardly seems the time as they are surrounded by heavily-armed biker clichés, that he’ll use his background to help kids stay out of similar trouble.
Then the police sirens start and the bikers flee. Axel grabs Jennifer and forces her to crouch with him behind the Suburban Abandoned Warehouse’s makeshift bar. She’s all confused, thinking that he’s hiding from the police, but then gunfire starts and Axel protects her body with his.
As soon as said gunfire ceases, which as far as I can tell is pretty much immediately, all Jennifer wants to know is if Axel wants to be with her. Seriously, lady? You couldn’t wait until you aren’t hiding behind broken crates, maybe a few more minutes since you and Axel were threatened at gunpoint. You couldn’t maybe more about how he is physically or emotionally, having faced his past’s boogeyman? Nope. But she doesn’t get an answer because the police actually use a bullhorn to announce at them “Come out with your hands up!” and the chapter ends (136).