Chapter 1 - Business as Unusual
Oh Lord, please grant me the strength to change the things I can change, the patience to accept the things I can’t change, and the wisdom to stick my head in an over and turn on the goddamned gas if I have to listen to any more of this bullshit! Now, I’m pretty sure all of you are intelligent, sensible people. Intelligent and sensible enough to know that you don’t stab your husband in the back twice because he ticked you off! This dumb bitch came within two inches of making herself a widow and a murder suspect in one fell swoop! Her husband is over in the hospital getting patched up. She’s in here in our interrogation room, bitching and moaning about how her hubby never listens to her. A word to the wise: nearly killing someone is not a good way to get them to listen to you! It’s impossible to pay attention when you’re bleeding all over the floor and gasping for breath because you’ve got four inches of sharpened steel jammed in your lung! But try telling that to this rocket scientist! She hasn’t stopped whining about her lousy marriage since we got her here. While I can empathize with a woman who married a total dickface, attempted murder is another thing entirely. That’s where I come in. I carry a badge. Dum-da-dum-dum! Yes, I’ve seen Dragnet. Most cops have.
It’s your old friend Allison Rane here. Police detective, divorce victim, and as of four months ago, a certified sniper. I’m sure you remember that part. I’m still alive, still on the job, and still a detective. I’ve just got two nasty little scars to remember last summer by. I’m sure you remember how I got them. Right now, I got roped into this case because – drumroll please – I’m a woman detective and the guys seemed to think that having a woman in here questioning this dork would somehow make her more willing to cooperate. If the charges against her weren’t so serious, I’d say the guys were playing a practical joke on me. I don’t have a connection with this crazy bitch unless wanting to strangle her counts as a connection. What? Do you think I’m being too hard on her? Try taking a look at her prior record: three counts of ADW, six counts of battery, and one count of vandalism by arson. She torched her former boyfriend’s four-by-four after they had an argument. She’s a real quality individual, don’t you think? You have to wonder why her husband married her in the first place. Something tells me it wasn’t for the wild sex. She doesn’t seem like the type, you know?
“Tanya! My name is Tanya! I told you that!”
Not according to your driver’s license and birth certificate, but what the hell? What’s in a name, right?
“Fine. Tanya it is. Look, Tanya? You’ve already done time twice for violent crimes. You’re on parole. You stuck a paring knife into your husband while he had his back turned to you. You…”
“He was trying to choke me! It was self-defense!”
“Tanya, he was standing at the kitchen counter, opening a can of Spaghetti-O’s. You stabbed him in the back. Twice! And the scrape on the side of his face tells me you kicked him while he was on the floor. This wasn’t self-defense. This was you letting your temper get the best of you. Again!”
“What the fuck do you know about it, sweetie? How old are you? You look like a fucking coed! Are you really a cop?”
I’m beginning to think I can’t wait until I’m thirty. No, it probably won’t help. I’ll have to wait until I’m forty.
“Do you want to see my badge again?”
I’d like to show her the business end of my gun right now! Fortunately, that’s in the gun locker. They don’t let you bring your weapon into the interrogation rooms. Too many incidents of suspects trying to take an officer’s weapon from them. There’s a uniformed officer watching through the one-way glass. If a suspect tries anything, he comes in and shoots the suspect. It’s happened twice since I’ve been on the job. Both fatal. I think the assbags have gotten the message.
“Look, honey! That son of a bitch had it coming! Do you know what I have to put up with every day since I married his ass? Do you have any idea what it’s like to be married to a motherfucking good-for-nothing sack of shit?”
“As a matter of fact, I do. But that doesn’t mean you get to stick a knife in his back.”
And that, my friends, is what passes for logic in the Puma Lodge trailer park. Yes, that’s where they live. It’s so bad, even the meth dealers moved their labs out of the place. It’s really saying something when the place doesn’t come up to meth dealers’ standards, isn’t it?
“Hold that thought. I’ll be right back.”
This is going nowhere. I’m done! Jose and Marcus are the detectives assigned to the case. They can deal with her bullshit. I don’t have the time or the inclination. I was supposed to be off an hour ago. There they are. You’ll notice they weren’t looking through the one-way glass to see what was happening? Yeah, they knew this was a complete waste of time.
“She’s nuts. You knew that, didn’t you? I’m done trying to get anything out of her. Charge her with attempted murder, ADW with GBI, and the parole violation. She’ll make a deal with the DA to drop the attempted murder charge. Case closed.”
And the way they’re both snickering tells me they knew this was a total waste of time. I was right: they were playing a practical joke on me! Very fucking funny, guys! I think Marcus was the ringleader on it. Look at his face!
“You handled it like an old pro, Allison.”
“No, I didn’t. She’s still alive and she’s still got all of her teeth. An old pro would’ve fixed both of those. I’m end of watch. Don’t call me in later on. I’m tired, hungry, and frustrated. That’s a bad combination for a woman with a gun.”
“You’ve still got your rifle, right?”
Once you get a reputation as a sniper, it never goes away. Sometimes it’s a bonus. Other times? Not so much.
“Yes, and I still know how to use it. Good night!”
Time to check out with the lieutenant before I get roped into something else. Halloween’s in two weeks. The crazy season around here. I could definitely get roped into something if I don’t hurry. We’re already experiencing our usual share of pre-holiday mischief. Not to mention all the other crime that’s going on.
There he is, at his desk. Adios, everyone! I’ve got a date with a dog and a TV dinner!
“Lieutenant? I’m done. I’m not going to get anything out of that crazy woman. She doesn’t want to talk to me. She doesn’t want to talk to anyone. She just wants to bitch about her husband.”
“Something you can relate to, I suspect.”
Yes, everybody knows my divorce was a disaster. I’m just glad it’s over. I was no fun to be around while it was still going on.
“Dickface husbands? Yes. Stabbing a dickface husband twice in the back and kicking him in the face? Only in my dreams. Do you need me for anything? If you don’t, I’m EOW.”
“It’s pretty quiet right now and you’re not on-call tonight. Go home and take a load off. How’s your back?”
He asks me that at least five times a day. I understand why, but it gets old pretty fast. I’d just as soon forget about it, but he keeps reminding me of it.
“The same as yesterday and the day before: I’m fine. I’ve still got a weird sort of numbness, but the doctor says that should pass over time.”
“Just let me know if it gets worse. Have a good one.”
He’s still feeling guilty because I got shot; hence the scars. I don’t know why. It wasn’t his fault. There was nothing he could’ve done to prevent it. I guess it’s the whole “commanding officer” thing. I get it. It must be tough on him. Sometimes I think it’s tougher on him than it was on me. If so, that’s really saying something! Believe me!
Home again. The casa de la ass-end of a divorce, as I’m sure you’ll remember. It may not be beautiful, but it’s home. It’s got electricity, running water, and an air conditioner that works. And a soft bed. Never underestimate the value of a soft bed after a hard day’s work. And I’ve still got Beefy the pit bull. He’s parked on the couch, waiting for my dinner to get out of the microwave. He thinks he’s going to eat half of it. Think again, big boy! I’m hungry! I missed lunch today. That chicken and rice is all mine! I’ll throw him a few treats. He’ll still sulk, but I won’t feel as guilty about not giving him any of my food. Think of it as my counter-strategy to his overwhelming force of pouting and looking at me with that big sad face. He’s got that part down to a science.
So while the feast is cooking, I’m sure you’ve got a bunch of questions about what happened over the last four months. When you last saw me, I was in the hospital with a pretty big gunshot wound to my back. It went in my right side and came out right next to my spine. It was horrible, as I’m sure you’ll recall. I spent nine days in the hospital before they let me go home. I’ve been in physical therapy ever since. They only recently cut it down to twice a week. Considering how painful it can get, that’s a real improvement. I’m doing a lot better now, and to see me walk across a room, you’d never know I took a rifle bullet that could easily have killed me. If this strange numbness would go away, I might actually be able to forget I was ever shot. I’m very much looking forward to that day. I’ve got a whole laundry list of things I’d like to forget, and that one is right up near the top of the list. Not even a masochist would enjoy what I went through with that one. It was just too painful and too scary.
As you’ll recall, our mad sniper – Corporal Corey Faisse – shot me during a showdown in an empty field that he orchestrated as the final act of his murder spree. Sergeant Varanasi and I managed to turn the tables on him and I shot and killed him with one bullet to the head. The Sarge took a full-power hit to the chest that cracked his armor plate, shattered two of his ribs, and he ended up with a collapsed lung. I swear to God, it was like he made a full recovery in a month! I was still using a walker while he was out jogging in the desert and training our SRT guys! Don’t think I wasn’t absolutely green-eyed with jealousy. Every time he came strutting over to me while I could barely bend over and tie my own shoes, I wanted to strangle him. Life just isn’t fair. It’s more unfair to some of us than others, wouldn’t you say? I sure as hell would!
There was a whole circus atmosphere surrounding the case; particularly after Faisse was dead. There were a thousand questions that we never found the answers to, and after about a month the naysayers and nitpickers came out of the woodwork to lambaste us. That’s the right word, isn’t it? Lambaste? Yeah, that’s what they did. The gist of their concern – more like outrage, actually – was the whole “militarization of the police” bullshit. There wasn’t much of it here, but in other cities? It was a living nightmare. One suck-butt magazine found a picture of me in my tactical uniform with my sniper rifle and stuck it on the cover with some bullshit caption about how the very essence of democracy was being threatened. A lot of the naysayers mistakenly thought I was a member of the SRT unit – that’s Special Response Team, in case you forgot – when in fact I wasn’t. Not yet, anyway. When they figured it out, they backpedaled at first. Then they came back saying it was even worse that I wasn’t a member of SRT. They made me out to be some kind of vigilante cop. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t, aren’t you?
There were no protests here, or anywhere else for that matter. That didn’t surprise me. Faisse was a mass-murderer who terrorized the entire city. He shot twelve people to death. Only the Sarge and I managed to survive, and we got damned lucky. I killed him because I had to; not because I wanted to. I didn’t want to do it. He just gave me no choice. But the more “cerebral” critics went a little nuts over the idea of me training in military sniper tactics to take him out. I did it to understand him and maybe get inside his head, but it turned out to be what saved my life. Our critics didn’t seem to understand that, or maybe they didn’t want to understand. They just wanted to criticize. Fortunately, it didn’t last very long. People moved on to other things and the department decided to find the money for better tactical training for our officers and detectives. I suppose you could say we benefited from it, but it cost us dearly. Twelve people died, Faisse’s girlfriend committed suicide in the lockup, and the Sarge and I were both nearly killed. Yes, it cost us dearly. Sometimes I think we’re still paying for it. Something like that leaves wounds that don’t heal for a long time, and I don’t mean the physical kind.
Physically, I healed up. I still wrestle with the psychological impact of it. I’d never been in a shooting before that nightmare. By the time it was over, I’d been in four of them: three with Faisse and one with some conspiracy dork who got caught in the switches. Faisse killed him, too. I’m sure you’ll remember that. He blew his head into a million pieces while he was standing right next to me and the Sarge. Don’t think I’ve forgotten what that was like. That’s something you never forget, too. Just like I’ll never forget how scared I was every time I went up against him. I never had any control over it. Twice, it was a wild stroke of luck and the third time, he prepared it. He was controlling the whole show right up until I put his lights out for good. It took me a while to shake the fear that he was going to come out of nowhere and put a bullet through my skull. I know now that he won’t, but even after he was dead I spent a lot of time looking over my shoulder. If there’s a saving grace in it all, it’s that we haven’t had a copycat. We were really worried about that happening. We still haven’t ruled out the possibility.
So life is pretty much back to normal around here. I’m still a detective and I’m still working Homicide, though I haven’t decided whether I’m going to stay on the Homicide desk. I might transfer to Robbery. We’ll see. I only got back to full duty two months ago. In two months they’re holding the sergeant’s exam and I plan to take it. I kind of miss being in uniform and I could really use the bump in pay. I still haven’t dug myself out from under my financial situation, thanks to my divorce. My stupid ex? Yes, he’s doing just peachy, thank you very much. His restaurant is the talk of the town and I’ve seen his picture in the newspapers three times in the last four months. I haven’t seen him since our last court appearance. He didn’t even call when I was in the hospital; not that I expected him to. I never want to see his worthless face again and I’m sure he feels the same way about me. What a dickface!
I still train with the Sarge. I developed a whole new appreciation for the tactical aspect of the job during our training sessions and I got really good at it. The Sarge wants me to apply for SRT once I make sergeant. I think he’s jumping ahead a bit, but he does that a lot. It’s that damned unshakable confidence of his. Too bad it’s not contagious, right? If I made sergeant and got onto the SRT unit, it would be a really big bump in pay. That certainly appeals to me, but I don’t know if I want to become an SRT sniper. In case you forgot, snipers don’t shoot to stop like most cops do. They shoot to kill. I’m not at all sure I ever want to find myself in that situation again. We’ll see. I haven’t made any firm decisions about it. Right now, I’m just glad to be back on full duty. I was going crazy riding a desk and answering phones for a living.
So I’m home with Beefy the pig and I’m trying to relax. It’s been pretty stressful at work lately. If you’ll recall, one of the things that came of the sniper shootings was a full-blown outlaw biker gang war. Remember how Faisse shot a member of the Black Order outside of a biker hangout and they thought it was a rival club? They literally started their war with the Storm Wraiths two days after I killed Faisse and it’s still going on. Outlaw biker wars don’t end in a week or two. They can go on forever. Literally! Some of the major clubs have been at war with each other for decades. This one isn’t like that, but because they’re local clubs, it’s like they feel as if they have to do more damage in order to make a name for themselves. In the four months since it started, we’ve had eight homicides because of it and a whole bunch of near-misses. About two dozen guys on either side have wound up in the hospital and we’ve got a whole bunch of buildings that have been torched. These assbags went from zero to full-on overdrive in about two seconds! I’ve heard of bad blood before, but this is just ridiculous!
And that beeping is the oven. My dinner awaits. Another TV dinner. I know: pathetic! But I’m too lazy to cook and I’m not very good at it. Three cheers for instant food, right?
“Forget it, big boy! This is mine! You can lick the tray when I’m finished! I’m eating this one myself! Deal with it!”
And now begins the Beefy the Dog ritual for scamming food out of me. First, he sits right beside me and remains freakishly still except for the wagging tail. Then he moves back a bit and makes these short “woof!” noises. If that doesn’t work, he starts to howl so I know it’s breaking his heart. That’s usually the point where I cave and give him half of it. I’m trying to be extra-strong tonight. I mean, I’m really hungry!
“Forget it! You’re not getting any! Eat your dog food! This is the only meal I’ve had since this morning!”
Uh-oh! He’s stepping up his game. He’s gone straight to the whining. Stay strong! Don’t let him break you! I’m going to eat this in peace!
“I’m not listening to you. I know you’re faking. You’re not starving. I’ve seen how much you eat, remember?”
Oh, no! Not the paw on the knee! He knows that just kills me! How the hell did he get so manipulative? It’s because he knows I’m a total sucker!
“Go away! My food!”
And here we go! Whining, leaning against my leg, and the paw on the knee! It’s not fair! I really wanted this!
“All right! Go get your bowl and you can have a third of it! And don’t press your luck! You’re not getting any more!”
And he grabs his bowl in a flash! Rotten, greedy dog! How did I ever get to be such a soft touch? He’s got me wrapped around his little dewclaw and he knows it!
“You really stink, you know that? Stink!”
Here you go, fatso! Enjoy it! Now I’ll have to walk down to the store and grab something. And if I do, I’m going to eat it on the way home so he can’t have any of it!
“Just for that, I’m going to watch a movie that you hate! And I won’t take you for a walk until it’s over!”
He’ll go nuts if I don’t take him out soon. Good! Let him go nuts! I’m tired, my feet hurt, and I just want to sit here and veg out before I go to sleep. So what should I watch? Do you remember how I told you I have to stop watching bad movies? That they’re having a negative effect on me? Well, it turns out more people realized that about me than I thought. One of them was the Sarge. When I got out of the hospital and had to stay home for a month while I healed, the Sarge bought me a big boxed set of Roger Corman films. If you don’t know who he is or what kind of movies he made, try Googling it. These are some of the worst films ever made, and every one of them is considered a classic by film freaks. Attack of the Crab Monsters? Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet? A Bucket of Blood? Those are just a few of his masterpieces. The boxed set has sixteen films that he either directed or produced and I binge-watched them over a period of thirty-six hours because the medication I was taking made me too sick to sleep. Don’t tell anyone, but I loved every minute of them. I admit they probably cost me a few IQ points, but I really liked them. Part of me is embarrassed as hell that the Sarge knows me so well, but the other part thinks it’s kind of cool. Anyway, Beefy hated them. Too much scream-queen screaming in most of them.
“Here! Death Race 2000! Not the lame remake, either! The original classic! You can look at the cars and pretend to chase them!”
No scream queens in that one, but I like the custom cars. They’re really cool. And they get points for running over hapless pedestrians. As a former traffic cop, that has a special place in my heart. What? You think that’s sick? Hey, you try scraping a half-dozen stupid jaywalkers off of the pavement and then tell me you wouldn’t start rooting for the cars!
And now my phone’s ringing. I hope they’re not calling me in. I’m not on the rotation for tonight. No, it’s the Sarge. Even though I’m almost completely healed, he still checks up on me like a mother hen. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not annoyed. Far from it, in fact. He’s the only human being who’s ever given a damn about me. My mom? She didn’t even call when I was in the hospital, and unless she’s living under a rock, she saw the news stories about the sniper and how I got shot.
“Hey, Sarge. What’s up?”
“Just calling to see how you’re doing, Rane.”
You’ll notice he still doesn’t call me Allison. It’s like he’s genetically incapable of calling anyone by their first name. It’s a wonder he doesn’t call Beefy by my last name. Rane Junior? I wouldn’t put it past him.
“I’m fine, Sarge. I have another appointment with the physical therapist in a couple of days. To be honest, I think training with you has done me a lot more good than that guy ever did.”
“Of course it has! There’s nothing better for the mind and body then strenuous tactical training! How many times do I have to tell you that?”
None, actually. He tells me every day we’re out there in the desert crawling around in the sand. It’s tattooed on my brain by now. You just can’t see it because my brain is now officially camouflage colored.
“Unfortunately, the department insists I complete the whole regimen. I heard you were out with the SRT guys today. Anything I should know about?”
“We served a warrant on the Black Order’s motorcycle garage. We were looking for three of their chieftains who were named in an indictment yesterday.”
And I’ll bet they were nowhere to be found. Those assbag bikers all know when they’re wanted and they know how to make themselves scarce. We’ve got at least nine of them still on the run and we know they’re around somewhere. We just can’t find them. It’s like they never sleep in the same bed two nights in a row. How the hell they manage to communicate with each other is a mystery to me. They’re sure as hell not calling each other on the phone. We’ve got most of their phones tapped and we’re not getting a thing.
“And I’ll bet they were GOA. What about their secondary clubhouse? The one by the plumbing warehouse?”
“You guys are still trying to get us a warrant for that one. What’s the holdup?”
If I had to guess, it would be Duran. Detective Duran isn’t the most…how should I put this without sounding incredibly insulting? Oh, fuck it! He’s as dumb as a box of rocks and as lazy as a guy on Demerol!
“I’ll take a look at the warrant application tomorrow morning. You just be careful. Those guys are getting pretty desperate. You know they opened fire yesterday on one of our patrol units, right?”
“I know. And as soon as we figure out who they were, we’re going to rip them a new asshole! And I expect you to be there with us!”
He’s still harping on me to apply to SRT as soon as I make sergeant. I’ve told him I’ll think about it at least a hundred times. Shouldn’t I at least wait to see if I pass the exam first? It’s not the easiest test in the world, you know.
“Just give me enough advanced notice and I’ll be there with my rifle. But you might want to rent a tank for that place. I think the walls are at least two feet thick.”
I’m not kidding. That place used to be a block house that made machine parts of some sort. Then it got bought by a bunch of assbags from Idaho who used it as a meth kitchen. It was a huge operation. They reinforced the walls to the point where it could probably withstand a nuclear blast. They all went to prison two years ago and the Black Order rented the place to make it their auxiliary clubhouse. I don’t think any of us has ever seen the inside of it since they took over.
“Don’t worry, Rane. We’ll take it down. You’ll make sure nobody tries shooting through the door at us. Anyone points a weapon at us, you’ll take them out.”
Couldn’t I just…I don’t know…put on a hot bathing suit and knock on the door? They’re all horny straight guys, right? They’d all come out and chase me. As long as our guys took them down before any of them grabbed me, I’d be all right with it. It would be a hell of a lot better than having to get into another shootout, wouldn’t it? He does remember the last time we did that, right? Shattered ribs? Collapsed lung? He can’t possibly want to go through that again.
“Let’s hope we can take them without any gunfire this time. Are we still on for tomorrow?”
“Of course! I’ve got a few surprises planned for you. I want to get you some more practice engaging multiple targets. With the way this biker gang war is going, you’re going to need it.”
I hate to admit it, but I think he’s right. Both sides are getting seriously ticked off at the police for ruining their fun and games. One of our units got shot at driving past the Throttle Go! Bar and Grill the other day. That’s the Black Order’s favorite hangout. There’s a stay-away order in effect right now unless we get a call there, and if we do, there have to be at least four units responding. Biker gang wars are just a barrel of laughs, aren’t they?
“I’m looking forward to it. I’ll see you in the morning. Right now, Beefy and I have a date with a Roger Corman film.”
“You’re really starting to worry me with that shit, Rane. You’re a young woman. You need to get a life.”
Easier said than done, Sarge. Easier said than done.
“I’ll look into it. I’ll see you in the morning. Goodbye. And thanks for checking in.”
He’s going to have me running around out there, shooting at three targets at once. There was a time when I’d have been lucky to hit one of them in the allotted time, but now I can practically do it with my eyes closed. I’ve become very tactically aware, as the true gunfighters on the job like to say. Maybe I should try out for SRT? There are only two women on the team. They could use another one. And the hazard pay bonus is nothing to sneeze at. I’ll probably try out. I just have to pass the sergeant’s exam first. I’ve been studying like crazy for it. But do I really want to be a sergeant? I’m not sure. I really miss the camaraderie of patrol. It just doesn’t seem to exist among detectives, or at least not as much. We’ll see. Right now, it’s movie time. Time to erase a few brain cells without touching a drop of alcohol. How else can you do that and still have a good time, right?
Back at the station. It’s just after six in the morning. I want to take a look at that warrant application for the Black Order’s secondary clubhouse. If I know Duran, he fucked up the application. The man has zero attention to detail. He leaves off critical information and the application gets rejected all the time. And don’t think for a minute that we get any feedback from the DA or the judge. All they ever tell us is “You haven’t got enough for a warrant.” Then somebody else has to go over the application with a fine-toothed comb to find out what he missed. It’s a total waste of manpower – or womanpower, as the case may be. I’ve been a detective for a year and I can do a better job of it with a hangover than he can sober. Don’t ask me how he ever made detective. The rumor around the station is he paid somebody to take the test for him. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised.
And what’s this on my desk? A follow-up with a named suspect. One of the Storm Wraiths who’s now wanted for attempted murder: Kenny Robert Murchester, a.k.a. Badger. A member of their Nomad chapter. Nomads tend to be the most hardcore of all. They live on the road. They’re constantly moving around. They’ll ride over a thousand miles in a year. So what did he do? It seems he shot a man in the face at point-blank range. Nice guy, huh? The victim’s condition is grave. He’s not likely to survive. So who did he shoot? Not one of the Black Order, it seems. No, he shot a gas station attendant, but not in a robbery. What did he go and do that for? It doesn’t say. What a total dick! Since he’s wanted up in his usual stomping grounds, the state police think he might be in our fair city as a part of the war. That makes sense. We’ve got word of at least half a dozen safe houses that the Storm Wraiths are running around here to infiltrate their troops. The worst part is, just being holed up in a house or an apartment isn’t cause to get us a warrant. This guy’s got one, so we can arrest him if we find him. It’s the “finding him” part that’s not easy. A guy who literally lives on his motorcycle? It’s not like he’s got a fixed address.
I’ll worry about him later. Right now, I need to see that warrant application. Let’s see…here it is. And the facts stated for the request are…practically nonexistent! What the fuck is this bullshit? “Members of the Black Order have been reported in the vicinity of the building.” Big deal! That’s not a crime! And who reported them? It doesn’t even say they’ve ever gone into the building! What a waste of paper! Duran, you idiot! Nobody would give you a warrant based on the crap you’ve got in here! If they were seen at the zoo, would that get us a warrant to search the zoo? For God’s sake! I’m going to have to rewrite this whole thing! Where are those reports on that clubhouse? They should have enough information on it to allow us to piece together something useful. This is interesting: some of our patrol units interviewed a bunch of Black Order guys at the location who aren’t from the local chapter. They were seen coming out of the building. Hmm. Out-of-towners. Gee, I wonder what that could mean? Do you think they’re here for the war? They’re sure as hell not here to see the sights. That could definitely help with the search warrant. It’s circumstantial evidence, but it’s the kind of circumstantial evidence that persuades a judge in these cases.
“Allison? You’re in here early.”
Lieutenant Jutras. He’s usually the first one in here. I’ve heard he goes to sleep at about nine at night and gets up at four in the morning. His wife must be thrilled with that schedule.
“I’ve got a training date with Sergeant Varanasi. I wanted to come in and take a look at the warrant application for the Black Order’s other clubhouse.”
“You mean the one Duran screwed up?”
See? It’s not exactly a secret around here.
“That’s one way of putting it. He didn’t even mention that Henry Harris signed the lease on that place.”
In case I didn’t mention it, Henry Harris is the current Treasurer for the Black Order. It’s pretty obvious he rented it for the club.
“And I take it he didn’t mention that the rent is being paid from an account that the club controls?”
Arlo’s Auto Body. Yeah, everybody knows that place is a front business for the Black Order. They’ve even got their insignia painted on the wall inside the place. Just what you want to see when you’re getting your car fixed.
“No, sir. It’s almost as if he wanted to get the application rejected.”
I don’t think Duran was trying to help the Black Order. He’s screwed up plenty of these over the years. Even when he was on the Burglary desk, uniformed officers tried to avoid going to him with information for a warrant. They knew he’d screw it up. I certainly did. In a couple of cases, I went directly to the judge rather than go to Duran. I knew I could do a better job of making the case for the warrant than he could.
“Sir, let me go over the eight-fourteens and put together something that’ll pass muster. I think we really need to get inside that place. We’ve searched their main clubhouse how many times already? We didn’t come up with anything. If there’s anything to be found, it’s got to be in there.”
“I agree. Put together a draft before you leave for the training. I want to have something to take to the judge by tomorrow morning. The longer we wait, the more chances they have to clean the place out.”
And they’re very good at that. We’ve heard accounts of entire chapters moving overnight. We don’t want that to happen. It’s not enough to get a warrant here and a warrant there for one or two guys. We need to make a case for conspiracy by the entire club. It’s the only way we’ll be able to shut this war down. It’s been four months already and all we’ve got to show for it is a bunch of dead bodies and a bunch more people in the hospital or in jail. The clubs keep charging on, though. And none of them will talk. Not ever. They won’t talk, they won’t cut a deal, and they’d rather die than rat out one of their club brothers. The mafia could learn a thing or two about the code of silence from the outlaw biker gangs.
“I’ll have it on your desk before I leave. Did you see this BOLO notice on Kenny Murchester?”
“I saw it last night. The state police think he’s here somewhere. We need to find him. This guy is bad news.”
He’s an outlaw biker. They’re all bad news!
“Why did he shoot that gas station guy?”
“From what I heard, he wanted a Coke and all they had was Pepsi. They had words and Murchester pulled a gun and shot the guy in the face. The kid’s on full life support. They’re debating whether to unplug the machines. They don’t think he’s got a prayer of recovering. He was all of twenty-four. Married with a one year-old boy.”
Like I said: nice guy, huh? I’ve got a feeling one of our officers is going to end up putting his lights out. He doesn’t sound like the type who goes quietly. I don’t think I’m going to miss him. Neither will anyone else.
“We should have a special code for people like that: shoot on sight. That’s what we did with the sniper.”
“We had a special code for the sniper, but it didn’t specify the ‘shoot on sight’ part.”
“It didn’t have to, sir.”
It was common knowledge on the force: if you saw him, you shot him and you kept shooting until you were sure he was dead. If his head hadn’t exploded the way it did with my first shot, I would’ve put another one in him just to be sure.
“Sir, is there any chance of settling this war? Are they even talking to each other?”
“All negotiations broke down a few weeks ago. We think there’s some kind of outside interference, but we don’t know where it’s coming from. The mayor’s office is talking about reaching out to one of the major clubs to see if they’ll act as a mediator. I’m not crazy about the idea, but those guys have a lot of influence over the smaller clubs. But so far, nothing’s come of it. I don’t know if they’re going to want to get involved. You know what these outlaw clubs are like: they believe in settling disputes the old-fashioned way.”
Yeah, with machineguns, firebombs, and hand grenades. And a major club isn’t going to want to tell another club what to do. It’s against the biker code, or something like that. Unless their own interests are threatened, one club doesn’t like to interfere with another club’s business. And to these guys, war is just a part of doing business. We’ve been damned lucky that the major biker gangs haven’t thrown their hats in the ring. The big three are international, so they probably don’t think a regional war is worth their time. But what about the big regional clubs like the Scythian Legion? They’re the biggest in the southwest right now, but so far they’ve been sitting this one out. I hope that continues. They’re huge. We’d be overwhelmed if they ever got involved.
“Not to mention they’d have a marker with the mayor and the city council. They’d want to cash it in when it suits them.”
“There’s that, too.”
Don’t these jerks know we’ve got regular crimes to deal with? This war is taking away our resources left and right. We’ve got half our patrol units staked on the biker hangouts so they’re not available to handle calls for service. People are getting angry. And most of our detectives are involved in this thing in one way or another, so cases are getting backlogged. I’m telling you, this gang war is almost as bad as the sniper. And if it goes on much longer, the body count is going to go higher than with the sniper. We need to end this one way or another. Unfortunately, I’m all out of brilliant ideas for how to accomplish that.
“Sir, what’s the latest tally on the number of clubs involved in this thing?”
“Five. Maybe six. And there are rumblings that both the Black Order and the Storm Wraiths are reaching out beyond Arizona. If we don’t shut this thing down pretty soon, it’s going to look like the Sturgis Rally around here.”
And since our call to activate the mutual aid system didn’t work with the sniper, it probably won’t work with this mess, either. This is our war. Even though the Storm Wraiths are from out of town, for the most part the fighting is happening right here. It kills me that all of this is over nothing. Those two clubs hate each other because they use the same colors in their club insignias, but what set it off was when one of the Black Order got killed by the sniper and they were sure it was actually the Storm Wraiths who did it. No amount of proof to the contrary could convince either side. They were all determined to start shooting each other. I’m sure there’s some wise old saying about that, but if there is, it escapes me right now.
“Is there anything I can do to help? I haven’t been contributing much to this case lately. And please don’t tell me I don’t have to because I got shot. That was months ago. I’m all healed up. And I’m not the first officer to get shot, sir.”
“I’m not trying to baby you, Allison. I know you’re cleared for full duty. I just don’t have a lot for you to do on this one because there isn’t a lot for anyone to do on it. Not unless you want to try to infiltrate the Black Order.”
Uh, no! The only way I could do that would be to become one of their “old ladies,” and I know how outlaw bikers like to initiate their women into “the life.” I like sex – probably a little too much – but not the rough stuff with thirty guys at once. And definitely not with a bunch of sick motherfuckers. I’ll pass.
“I think I’m done with the whole ’extraordinary investigative approaches” thing. The last one got me shot and I’m still crawling around out in the desert even though the case is over.”
“That’s your fault. Varanasi’s never going to let you off the hook. You know that, right?”
“Yes, sir. He’s really pushing me to try out for SRT now that I’m a trained sniper. You know, I’m still not used to saying that about myself.”
I’m not sure anybody ever gets used to hearing the words “trained sniper” when they apply to themselves. It’s just…weird.
“You’d be an asset to SRT. You proved that already. But you know you’d have to be a sergeant to go there. They won’t take you as a detective. I don’t want to stand in your way, but I’d hate to lose you, Allison. You’re a damned good detective. I’m sure you’d make a damned good sergeant, too.”
Do you want to hear something weird? I’m sure of it, too. I’m a lot more confident than I ever was before all of this. That case and training with the Sarge did that for me. I’m still not used to that, either. Weird, huh?