Ashes to Ashes
Behind building next to burning Clubhouse
Laura had shifted and had her “working dog” vest on, while Brent was in a bloody shirt and pants, no shoes. “Chase, Charlie, and Bonnie are in sight. They need to take the jaguar and Connie away. We can’t let them run DNA tests on them.”
The answer didn’t take long. “You’re right, better the questions than the proof. Charlie, head west a block and come in the back lot. I’ll go back to Nate and the others. Rori, you take everyone home. Get the private plane and stay out of sight.”
We always kept extra clothes and sandals in Pack vehicles, so that would be easy. The evidence had to go, though. “I’ll be back in a minute. I’m going to get Jose’s clothes, no point in raising more questions.”
He turned around, and as soon as Charlie stopped, he had the tailgate down. He spread a tarp in the back and laid Connie’s wolf down, right as Brent and Laura tossed the big Jaguar into the back. Bonnie passed them the key cards to their hotel rooms so he could check them out and retrieve their things. I came down the ladder from the roof and tossed the torn clothes I’d collected in the back. Covering everything with the tarp, Chase gave me a quick kiss. “I’ll be back home in a few days, love.”
“Bye.” I got into the Suburban, and we drove away. There wasn’t time for more; we had to get out before the police set a perimeter. I looked back at the black and grey smoke that was rising from the clubhouse, and I cried. I cried for Tom, who was cut down without warning. I cried for those who died in the attack, I cried for the clubhouse that was burning, and I cried because I was going home while my mate had to straighten this mess out. He got the short end of the straw because this attack by the Sons put all shifters in danger.
“Chase, find those hackers the Brotherhood used, and have them delete the video surveillance of the buildings in front before the Feds get it,” I told him. “If they can’t get it remotely, you’ll have to have someone break in.” The last thing we needed was a video of us shifting, or of a wolf and a jaguar fighting in the back lot.
“With the fire and the investigation, I’ll do that myself,” he said.
I pulled out my phone that I’d rescued from my torn clothes. Finding the number, I called the pilots of our charter jet and told them to be ready to leave for Two Harbors in an hour. They said they’d file a flight plan and prepare to leave as soon as possible.
Then I made the call no Alpha wants to make, made worse by the fact that these weren’t our Pack members. Nate and Connie had volunteered to help us since our new Pack didn’t have many warriors yet. I never imagined this job would cost them their lives. “Hello,” Alpha Michael answered.
Everyone had cleaned up by now and put some clothes on, but not clothes appropriate for Northern Minnesota in December. I saw the sign for a Wal-Mart and told them to drop Bonnie and me at the front, then drive somewhere they could dump the bloody clothes. “What about the cat,” Bonnie asked me.
“It needs to disappear. I don’t think we’ll find that in town, we’ll have to take it back with us.”
It took us twenty minutes to get everything we needed. They didn’t have winter coats, but at least we got jeans, socks, shoes, flannel shirts and hoodies for everyone. While Bonnie finished getting all the clothes in the cart, I took another back to sporting goods. I found more tarps, duct tape, and two some super-sized coolers with wheels and handles. At checkout, I bought forty pounds of ice and put the bags in the bottom of the coolers. Sending to Charlie when we were ready, Bonnie put all the clothes in the back seat while I put the coolers in the back. “Drive somewhere no one will see us,” I said.
It took a while to find a dead-end street with no one around. We unloaded the coolers, then moved Connie’s wolf into one Igloo and the jaguar into the other. Charlie and I taped them closed with duct tape and the latches. We couldn’t afford to have one to pop open during the flight.
We arrived at the airfield and drove to the hangar where the pilots were waiting. They were used to our demands for privacy and said nothing as we loaded the two big coolers into the cargo bay. “We’re loaded up and leaving, my love,” I sent to Chase as the pilot closed the door. “How is it going?”
“It’s a clusterfuck; they found three dead cops. It’s like a police convention around here.”
“It’s a complete loss. The police wouldn’t let the fire trucks approach until they had verified there were no more active threats. By then, it was too late.” I felt horrible for the Club, that place had so many memories, and now it was gone. “Most of the motorcycles are a loss too; the flames were too hot to go back for them.”
“Help them out, love, we have the money.” Our Pack was doing well, and who knows how long it would be until the insurance would pay out.
“I have to go. The detectives are starting to do interviews.”
“Love you, my mate. I’ll kiss the babies for you.” I closed the link and belted myself into the comfortable leather seat. I was asleep before takeoff.
Outside Orlando Clubhouse
I was numb.
The police had evacuated a two-block radius from the Clubhouse, which was still burning. Tensions were high as three police were found executed at close range in their patrol cars. It didn’t matter that we were a law-abiding Club, or that the attack had killed thirteen Club members and injured another seven. All they saw was a gang war between the Sons and us.
All of us who had evacuated the burning Clubhouse gathered in a fenced parking lot of a nearby business. Police surrounded us, and basics like water and shade weren’t available. I went to the Sergeant, who appeared in charge. “Get back with the others,” he said as two more officers flanked him.
I stopped a good five feet away. “Look, we have women and children here. They’re scared, tired, and hungry. You can’t keep us locked in here.”
“You’re all suspects in a murder investigation,” he said. “Get back now.”
“No. I want to talk to your supervisor.”
My attitude ticked him off, but the news helicopters were already circling overhead. He made a call on the radio, and a few minutes later a man in a suit approached. “What’s the problem here, Sergeant?”
“The problem is you have a bunch of fire victims held captive here who are scared to death, and you aren’t letting them go home.”
He looked at our group. There were Steel Brotherhood and Steel Ladies wearing their cuts, but also a couple of dozen children. Not everyone was fully dressed, a few were barefoot and wearing only shorts. Huddled into groups, the Moms were comforting their children as they sat on the curb. “We need to interview the witnesses before we let you leave,” he said.
“Most of these people were stuck inside and saw nothing,” I said. “Let me get them home, or to a hotel.”
He turned back and talked to a few detectives before he turned back to me. “Have those who didn’t witness any criminal acts line up and my Detectives will get their contact information and ask a few questions. How are you getting them home? Your motorcycles are all back by the fire.”
“Give me a location where I can send cars to pick them up.”
He pointed out a pickup spot a block away, behind the police line that was keeping the press away. I walked back to the group, quickly organizing them as the Detectives started to collect their information. Those of us with phones called for rides to get the local people home. The visiting Club members were getting hotel rooms calling their home clubs for help.
“What about the rest of us,” I asked after the process started.
“The rest of you will have to go downtown and be interviewed.”
I shook my head, no. “My men are taking care of their families. We can give our statements here; then we are going home.”
“Not happening. We’ve got sixteen homicides including three police officers, and you’re all suspects.”
“We were fucking attacked while I was sleeping!”
“Then put that in your statement, President. You’re lucky, our officer at the hospital pulled through, or your club would be responsible for four funerals.” He looked back to where a bunch of black Suburbans was arriving. “Great, the Alphabets are here.” Sure enough, a dozen men with dark suits and red ties stepped out, sunglasses in place.
“DEA Senior Agent Frank Donovan, leader of the Tezcatlipoca Interagency Task Force. The Task Force is taking over the investigation,” he said. “What’s going on here?”
The Lieutenant was flustered, then his Chief came up and stood next to Frank. “We’re taking statements from those people who didn’t see anything. We’re prioritizing the women and children,” he said proudly. Like it was HIS fucking idea.
“My men will pair up with yours for the interviews. Any statements they’ve already taken are to be shared with us,” he said. “Chief, our command post is being set up now. You and your senior men should join me there.”
“I’ve got three dead cops,” the Chief said.
“Plus thirteen dead people with the Steel Brotherhood and eleven dead members of the Sons of Tezcatlipoca,” Donovan said. “When the crime scene guys finish, we’ll get your men properly escorted out. In the meantime, I have to head off a multi-state gang war here.”
Shit, only eleven? Frame told me they killed five on the rooftops out front. They had over twenty in Ocala, so half of their group was still out there. I needed to warn my people. I turned away, only to have Donovan ask me to stop. “Mongo, you have multiple Chapters here?”
I nodded. “I had representatives from six chapters and the Southeast Region President. He was out in the parking lot with his old lady when the attack began. Both died in the initial gunfire. The Fort Lauderdale President, Granite, he was taken away by ambulance after being shot trying to break out the front door. He can’t feel his legs.”
Donovan winced a little, losing so many people were going to make a negotiated peace very difficult. For a guy like him, we were a problem to be contained. “I’d like to speak with the senior representatives of your Chapters. Alone.”
“I’m not sure that’s a good idea, Agent Donovan.” I looked over at the men who were standing around. They were mourning the good people lost and plotting their revenge. “The three cops who died weren’t here to protect us. They were parked blocks away, too far away to help and not close enough to deter the attack. The locals set us up as bait, and we don’t appreciate losing men because of it.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean we all knew the Sons might retaliate for the loss of their men, and the police kept us from properly defending our people. We lost Harleigh in the hospital because you wouldn’t allow my Club to keep members with her. We couldn’t even go inside; our guys had to sit in the parking lot where they couldn’t stop a thing. Then here, we’ve got women and children on lockdown inside, and the cops can’t even park a cruiser by the gate. The Chief was the one who told us to stay inside the gates, or we might get arrested. You’ll have to forgive us if we aren’t overly trusting of the authorities right now.”
He looked back at the Chief. “There’s going to be a lot of 20/20 vision in the rear-view mirror on this one,” he said. “I’d still like to talk to them.”
“Fine.” I walked over to where the men were gathered and walked back with the senior men left from the five Chapters that had responded plus our Nomad, Frame. “Where can we go?”
He took us over to the corner of the parking lot, away from everyone else. “Look, I know you think the cops are to blame on this, but we got played too,” he said. “My task force hit the home in Ocala, where the Sons of Tezcatlipoca were staying. It had been under surveillance since they arrived.” He opened his iPad and showed us a photo; it was an infrared shot of a home, with maybe two dozen bright spots inside. “This was taken by a drone last night. All their rides parked in the pole barn and all of them inside the house. Early this morning, a van arrived with a female driving. Our stakeout got an infrared shot. It showed a person in the back sitting and another lying down. We thought it was Harleigh, so we put together a team to take it out.”
“Why didn’t you stop the van before it got there?”
“No time. There was a delay in finding Harleigh missing, and by the time the Marion County Sheriff got the alert, the van was already inside.” I just shook my head. We weren’t fast enough either; we’d gotten a text after the attack from the guys we sent to Ocala saying the cops were everywhere. “We hit it at nine this morning.”
“Five minutes after the attack started here,” I said.
“Yes. The place was empty, the motorcycles still in place, and no sign of Harleigh. They slipped out of there, probably thinking they could hit your Clubhouse and get back while everyone thought they were there.” I had to hand it to them, it was a ballsy plan. “We’re still identifying the men you killed, but the ones we have so far are all known members of the Sons of Tezcatlipoca.”
“I could have told you that,” I said. “Even without cuts, their tattoos give them away.”
“We know the men who were in Ocala. Warrants for their arrests on arson and murder charges are being prepared now by the State, with the exceptions of the ones you’ve killed. Jose Correria just made the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list, and the manhunt for him and his associates in this state is winding up. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is involved on a Federal level now because the weapons they used included full-auto AK-47’s. The DEA and FBI are still involved due to the death of a former agent and the kidnapping of her daughter. The full weight of Federal law enforcement is going to fall on this Club and its members. Florida has the death penalty, and the Federal Government does as well.”
“Eventually,” Frame said. “Maybe ten or twenty years from now.”
“This is as friendly a warning as you are going to get. Your Club isn’t an outlaw Club, and you’ve done nothing more than protect your own. I understand that and I respect that, but if you do what you’re thinking of doing right now, you’re going to be taken down as well. You have no idea of the pressure coming down on us to stop this gang war. Right now, I’m focusing on the Sons, but step one foot out of line and your Club will get stomped on too.”
I didn’t like this a bit. My men wanted payback. “Club first,” Frame whispered in my ear.
“What can I tell my Club is in their best interests if we stay out of this,” I said.
“Well, the Feds won’t come down on you. The problem with investigations is that you can’t limit them. You go after Trump, but what does the Special Counsel get? Convictions of lower level people for tax evasion or real estate fraud, stuff they found because teams of people crawled up their asses with a microscope. Then we find something in your Chapter, and we have probable cause to look for it in your other Chapters. How many of you would stay out of jail with the IRS, BATFE, FBI, DEA and the States looking at you like there is blood in the water?” He was starting to piss me off. “Al Capone went to jail for tax evasion, not murder.”
“So, you’re threatening us,” one of the VP’s said.
He just put his hands up. “I’m trying to give you some good advice and keep you guys out of the shit storm that is building out there.” He looked over at me. “Sean was my friend; he was a stand-up guy, and he was a member of your chapter. I trust he wouldn’t have joined your Club if it was dirty. The problem is that I’ve got firebombs and dead bodies on television, and people think a gang war is breaking out.”
“Can you give us a minute?”
“Sure. I’ve got to talk to some people. I’ll be back in ten minutes.” He walked off and left us alone by the fence.
“What do you guys think,” I asked. The discussion brought out all the objections and the calls for retaliation.
Finally, Frame stopped everyone and looked at us. “Let me ask you guys a question. Is it more important that we avenge the men we lost, or that the Club is seen publicly avenging them?”
He had a point. If we openly went after the Sons of Tezcatlipoca, it could be the end of our Club. The DEA supervisor wasn’t kidding about how bad it could get. Many a biker gang had fallen to Federal investigations and RICO act prosecutions.
Chase looked in my eyes, then the others. “When those guys the year before last beat up Aces and left him with broken ribs, we didn’t go on private land and start a war. You trusted Canvas and me to make sure the guys paid the price, and we made sure they did.” It was true, every Chapter in the country had watched the video of that tag team beatdown finished by my mate. “You are going to have to be lily-white victims to stay out of trouble. Mourn, bury the dead, replace your motorcycles and rebuild the clubhouse. Do and say everything right; you’re letting the police handle it, you were just defending yourselves, look at what these outlaws did to our law-abiding clubhouse. Get the press on your sides, get the Feds off your back by cooperating, and save your club. Let the cops find and prosecute these guys; they’ve got a hardon for them because they killed cops before they killed our people. If they catch them, they’ll execute them for us.”
“And if they don’t?”
“You don’t worry about that. Let me deal with this, apart from the Club. Mongo, I hate to do this, but I renounce my membership as a Nomad in the Steel Brotherhood.”
My jaw dropped. “No! We need you in the Club, and we need Rori.”
He was determined to do this. “The first person who died in the attack was a friend of mine, not even in the Club. They tried to trap my wife and me in a burning building. I don’t have to be Club to find these fuckers and take them out, and I’ll do it in a way that doesn’t blow back on you. I need you to trust me and stay cool.”
I let out a breath. “You sure this is the play?”
“It’s the best thing for the Club, Mongo. I have contacts and resources you don’t, and I’ll get it done. I give you my word.”
I looked at the other men; they were nodding. “Fine. You can quit the club, but Rori remains a Steel Lady. There’s no way I’m giving up that week at the Lake after Sturgis every year.” The party at their land on the North Shore is a highlight of our Club calendar and was becoming the unofficial national get-together. “You need to get this done before then.”
“I’ll do my best,” he said. “As soon as Tom’s body is released, I’ll be flying him back home. You won’t hear from me again, but you might want to pay attention to the news.”
“I look forward to it.” We broke up and went back to the rest of the group. We’d have to bring this to Church as soon as we could get together again, and I’d have to talk to the National leaders. I just hoped they’d listen.