Unholy: The Unholys MC
says. They’re about the guys who are giving the beatings. It’s about letting lose and getting rid of all that crap they’ve let build up and fester inside of them. It’s about walking away cleaner than when you walked in.”
    I frowned. That didn’t make sense to me, not really. How could beating the absolute crap out of someone be about walking away cleaner? I didn’t think something like that was possible and it must have shown on my face, because my mom gave me a sympathetic look and patted my knee.
    “Adam used to come home with these bloodied, bruised hands,” Mom told me, looking wistful as she always did whenever Dad dropped into the conversation. “It used to make me really nervous. My mom was one of those women who ended up with an asshole for a father and then, like an idiot, went and married someone just like him.”
    Mom didn’t talk about my grandmother much. Lucy was an alcoholic and a flake, but no one blamed her much for it because her life had been so terrible. Her father had taken to beating her with his belt over and over again when she was a child because he couldn’t hold his liquor or his life, and he had to take it out on someone.
    At sixteen, Grandma Lucy made a break for it. I heard all kinds of stories about what she did to survive—prostitution, dealing drugs, stripping, raising dogs to fight—but Mom never said for sure one way or the other. I did know that Lucy was pregnant at seventeen and no one knew who the father was. Mom didn’t care and didn’t ask, she said, but I felt like that had to be a lie.
    By the time she was nineteen, Lucy had married an attractive man who liked to beat her purple. But she put up with it because he was the kind who said he was sorry afterwards and bought her pretty things—or stole them, anyway.
    Whenever Mom was telling an anecdotal story, something with a point behind it that I was supposed to take away and apply to my own life later, she used Lucy as her example.
    “She used to tell me, ‘He’s a brutal bastard, just like the rest of them,’ but I never believed her.” She shook her head and it took her a while to come back to the conversation. She sat there and stared ahead as though lost in her own little world; I figured she was and that it was one with Dad sitting there with her. “I didn’t believe her, honey, but I thought coming home with blood wasn’t a good thing. So I confronted him about it—I was five months pregnant with you.”
    She poked at me a little, emphasizing her words. I pushed away her hand, though I smiled a little at her. “What did he tell you?”
    “Well, I asked him why he had to do all of this. Why couldn’t he just let the others do the beatings if they were so damn necessary and just come home to me as my lover and my husband? And he told me the truth. He said to me, ‘sometimes men have bad things in them. Sometimes they’ve got demons and they need to be exorcised. It’s not something any priest can do, only a man and his own hands. So we make sacrifices by using the new member to take out our demons on, but then he becomes one of us and he gets to exorcise his demons, too. So we can go home to our loves and our wives as nothing more than the men we are.’”
    I thought long and hard about that. Did I really believe it? Did I honestly think that men could just beat the shit out of each other and that somehow baptized them in blood, chasing off their demons like some sort of church exorcism?
    I thought of Johnny that night, the wild look in his eyes, and I thought maybe , but mostly I thought that I could see exactly why that was something my mother wanted to believe. It was better than the alternative: that they were all monsters.
    Shrugging my shoulders, I said, “I guess that makes sense. I just worry about Johnny.” And me, but I didn’t say that part.
    Smiling kindly at me, Mom told me, “He’s alright. Johnny’s a good man. He’s

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