Holding Area Near Former Orlando Clubhouse
With all the cops and Feds around, it seemed like everyone wanted to talk to me. Not everyone had seen action, and those who didn’t shoot or get shot were interviewed and released. My problem was that the authorities were quickly finding out that I was hiding something.
I had Mongo quietly spread the word that I was a Nomad with no permanent address. I couldn't afford to have them track me back. My problem was that the authorities knew about the dogs and the handlers.
I knew that five men had been killed by wolves on top of the buildings in front of the Clubhouse. I never even asked Brent and Laura how many they killed. People knew the handlers were with me because they weren’t Club members. I’d sent them all home, not allowing interviews, and that was going to create a problem.
So, I refused to cooperate and lawyered up, which pissed them all off. My identification was still from my Seattle area apartment since I hadn’t bothered to get a Minnesota driver’s license yet. I was still on the lease, so it was a valid address even if it was empty. Everything associated with the Pack was in Rori’s name, so I was a ghost. I’m sure they could find out if they looked hard enough, but I wasn’t going to make it easy. If my people had to disappear, I needed to give them time to do so.
When they found out I’d sent my people away as the cops were arriving, I was placed under arrest for obstruction of justice and destruction of evidence. The guys watched as I was cuffed and loaded into an Orlando Police cruiser. They took me to the Orange County Jail, where I was processed and given a phone call. I called Three Tequila, figuring she was probably out of holding.
I spent a few hours in a cell alone, which didn’t help my wolf any. He was missing his mate and upset that people who were in his pack were hurt and killed. Nate and Connie were officially part of Oxbow, but to allow the link to work they joined my Pack when they arrived. I felt it as if I had lost one of my own. I also felt helpless, which I hated.
The Club retained a criminal lawyer for me that they respected, and after a bland lunch, I was sitting in a room with her. The law said meetings with lawyers couldn’t be under surveillance, so I took advantage. I laid out what I could for Miss Juanita Lopez, Esquire, as she sat across from me.
“Why not just give them the names of the handlers,” she asked.
“I asked these people to protect my friends, not get in the middle of a gang war. You saw what the Sons did after three of their men were killed. What do you think they will do to my two men who killed at least FIVE of the Sons today? They don’t have a Club to protect them, and I’ve seen the photos of what these bastards do to people when they take them.”
She tapped the table with a finger as she thought. “They could provide sworn statements.”
“With their name and addresses, the information provided in discovery to defense lawyers working for the Sons? Fuck no. Even if they withheld the names for now, if it went to trial, they’d have to be named.”
I laughed. “How did police protection work for Harleigh Ryder?” I leaned back in the chair. “We did nothing wrong. My men were on patrols outside the fence, and one of them was the first to die. They acted in defense of others, taking out multiple shooters who were firing on people trying to flee a burning building. What I need from you is to get them off my ass. It doesn’t matter who killed the Sons or how, just that they are dead. We need them to focus on the ones that escaped. Nobody is safe until Jose Correria and his men are dead, or in prison.”
“The charges are weak and they know that. There’s no way they could charge the dog handlers, so charging you for obstruction is a non-starter. There’s no evidence of destruction of evidence that I can see.”
“Then you see it like I do, either frustration or pressure.” She nodded. “Arraignment is in the morning; I’ll make the motion to dismiss then unless I can talk the District Attorney into coming to his senses.” The locals didn’t want ANY biker clubs around, so we didn’t get any slack from them.
There was a knock on the door, and Miss Lopez opened it to find DEA Senior Agent Frank Donovan with a Sheriff’s Deputy. “I’m very sorry about this; it was not my intent to proceed in this way. I got here as soon as I could.” The Deputy was already taking my cuffs off. “The charges were premature and have been dropped. You are free to go, although I need to talk to you.”
My lawyer looked at me and shook her head no. I couldn’t help it. “Why the sudden change of heart? The cops were all too happy to haul me away a few hours ago.”
He grabbed a chair and motioned for me to sit. “We don’t have to do this,” Juanita said as the Deputy left us alone in the room. “We should walk away.”
“I have a relationship with Agent Donovan that predates this. I’m curious as to why the lead investigator of a major crime like this wants to talk to me. I understand that I am no longer under arrest, and I will only remain here listening until my Counsel says to go.”
“I already did,” she said under her breath, but I still heard her.
“The Club closed ranks after your arrest, which never should have happened. My agent was supposed to work with the police, but he’s new and let the Orlando detectives take the lead when he should have brought it to me. All of a sudden, no one is saying more than their name and how they want a lawyer.” I snorted at this; it was a Club thing. Mess with one, and you mess with us all. Motorcycle clubs didn’t trust cops much to begin with, even if we were law-abiding, because sometimes the locals would jack us up just for riding through wearing our cuts. “The evidence was pretty clear that the Sons attacked you while you were inside the Clubhouse, and your actions were in self-defense. I wish you’d taken more of the bastards with you.”
“So where do we sit now? I mean, other than me leaving and grabbing an early dinner with my lawyer as we discuss events in a more relaxed environment?” There was no way I was going without legal counsel now, but there were some things I had to do alone. I’d talked the Club into letting me handle the Sons, and it had to start here.
“I’d like to bring you back to the office and take a detailed statement. Director Grimes is on his way, he should arrive in a few hours.”
“Yeah, that’s not going to happen,” I said. “Go, come back in a half hour with a couple of Cokes and some decent sandwiches. I’ll see if I can work with my lawyer to give you a statement.”
He knew not to push it. “Any preference on the sandwiches?”
“Lots of meat and no mayonnaise,” I said. I hated that stuff. My older brothers tried to trick me after I made my hatred of the sandwich topping clear. They made their sandwiches, wiped the knife with a paper towel, and then made mine. Even at six years old, I could detect the traces at part per billion levels.
“Veggie wrap and a diet coke,” Juanita said. He left, and she looked at me. “You want to do this?”
“I need to manage the situation. There are things I can’t afford for them to poke around in, and to avoid that I am going to give them something now.” I talked through what I would say, then wrote it down on the pad. We finished a minute before the knock on the door.
He read it while we were eating, interrupting only to ask clarifying questions. “It’s consistent with the other statements we’ve gotten from everyone inside the clubhouse when this started. May I ask a few other questions?”
“If she allows,” I said.
“Jose Correria is the suspected leader of the attack. Did you see him after you exited the clubhouse?”
“No, as I said, the fight was over in front of the building when we broke out, and others went around the sides of the building. I got the gate open, so everyone could get out.”
“Your hands tested positive for gunpowder,” he said.
“I bet everyone did. There was a lot of shooting as we busted out of there to give us cover. You recovered my pistol, which I have a permit for, and it hadn’t been fired. I expect it to be returned to me.”
He waved his hand like it was a minor detail. “How may I contact you?”
“You can contact my lawyer,” I said as I got up. “Look, I know this is a shit show, but it isn’t my Club’s fault. Things would go a lot better if you and your people would treat us as attack victims instead of criminals.”
“I made that same point before I left,” he said. I shook his hand, passing him the scrap of paper I’d torn from one of the pages. He walked out, casually putting his hand in his pants pocket as he turned. I was taking a big chance here, and even my lawyer couldn’t know of it.
If he showed up in the pool at my hotel tonight at ten PM, I’d know he wanted to play ball.
I looked over at Juanita as she put everything back in her briefcase. “Well, he bought us lunch, so should we go to your office?”
“Go back to your hotel and call home,” she said with a grin. “I’ve got a lot more work to do. You aren’t the only member of the Brotherhood who wants a lawyer. You were the only one in lockup.”
“They clammed up, huh?’
“Yep. The club suddenly learned to ask the question, ‘Am I being detained,’ followed by ‘Then I’ll be leaving.’ If that didn’t work, they asked for me.”
“Good.” I watched her walk out to her car while I collected my stuff. The first thing I did after I got out was order an Uber. I wanted to call Rori, but I needed to maintain the communications blackout. The last thing I needed to do was draw attention to her while she had Harleigh and company as they traveled back to our home.
I called Three Tequila instead while the driver took me to the hotel. She had opened her home to everyone who didn’t have a place to stay; there were over a dozen in that situation. I told her I’d take care of it and be there in an hour. Heading to the hotel, I packed up all the clothes and things from the three rooms the pairs had been staying in and moved them all into my room. I rented ten more rooms for the next week, gathering the keys before going out to the SUV the rental company had just delivered.
It was dinnertime before I pulled up to Mongo’s house. I was greeted warmly as I walked in, and the place was full of Brothers and their Ladies. “I have hotel rooms for those who need them,” I said. “I can take you over when you’re ready.”
“Thanks, Frame,” Mongo said as people came up and took them. “It’s a mess. You missed out on all the fun this afternoon while you were taking your tour of Orlando with your guides.”
I snorted. “Yeah, I always wanted to see the County Jail. Thanks for the lawyer, T,” I said as I hugged her. “How are they holding up?”
“They’re pissed. At least Granite is out of surgery now.”
“Good.” I looked around and noticed things were pretty subdued. “What do they need other than rooms?”
“Their rides,” she said. “All the Harleys are totaled. They were too close to the fire, and it spread to them.” I had heard the stories of the destruction while we were herded into that fenced area, but hadn’t gotten close enough to see the damage. “They said it could take days to get them back, and then the pain of dealing with insurance claims and the loans for the new bikes. They’re upset that they may be without their Harleys for a week or two, maybe more.”
“I got this,” I said. I Googled the phone number and spoke to the manager; he was more than happy to keep the place open for us. “Gather round, brothers,” I said as I walked back into their living room where most were hanging out. “Who can’t ride because they lost their motorcycle in the fire?” Almost all did. “We’re fixing that tonight. The Harley dealership is staying open for us. If they have it in stock, you’ll be able to drive a new one out tonight. If you have to order it, we’ll get it here as soon as we can.”
“You’re buying us motorcycles?” One of the Fort Lauderdale members looked at me in shock.
“Sort of. I’m cutting through the red tape. Buy the motorcycle you want, and pay me back with your insurance settlement. Canvas and I will cover the difference.”
Jaws dropped, that could be ten, even twenty grand for the difference between insured value and a new ride. “Seriously, Frame?” Mongo couldn’t believe it.
“Yeah. The home that Possum was in down in Jupiter, it ended up being transferred to Rori at the end of the court case. She won’t keep a house where her Mom was raped, so we sold it last month. We were trying to think of a way to use the money to help the Club, and this is one way we can do it. Mongo, we’re also going to help kick-start the clubhouse rebuild, so you need to decide on a rebuild or a new location.”
“You’re sure about this,” he asked. His pride and joy, a 2019 Harley Ultra CVO, had been parked by the front door and had been consumed by the fire.
“I’m sure. Let’s go.” We piled into my rental car and a few others and headed across town. The next few hours were more fun than Christmas morning with a bunch of kids around, as the guys picked out their next motorcycles. The owner was so thrilled with the cash sales that he offered me a 10% volume discount.
“No,” I said. “Give 15% of the sale in free gear. They lost helmets, leathers, clothes, damn near everything in the fires.” He eagerly took that deal since his markup on gear was higher than that on the motorcycles. Each of them embraced me before driving off, and I smiled with each departure. I knew Rori would be smiling if she could see it.
I ordered two new Harleys to replace the motorcycles we stored in the clubhouse garage. That section had collapsed in the fire. Six other members had to wait, their new motorcycles being special ordered or being shipped in from elsewhere. We still hadn’t bought a Pack House down here, so I arranged for our Harleys to be delivered to Roadkill’s place when they arrived.
I dropped them back at the hotel, then showered and changed into my suit and headed down to the pool. I was drinking a beer in the hot tub when I saw Frank Donovan come in with DEA Los Angeles Director Frank Grimes. Both were wearing suits and joined me in the tub. “You wanted to meet in a place I couldn’t wear a wire, Chase?”
“I’m careful, and my lawyer doesn’t know about this.” I looked at the two men. “I need to know how badly you want to take down Jesus and the Sons.”
“There’s not much I wouldn’t do,” Frank Grimes said. “The real question is what the Club is going to do.”
“Donovan, go swim some laps,” I said. “Maybe grab us some more beers from the bar.” He looked at the Director, who nodded at him, then he got out and moved to the pool. “I don’t know him, but I know your relationship to Sean, and because of that I’m trusting you with this.”
“We want the same things,” Frank said.
“We do. Off the record on all this.” He just nodded. “I’ve convinced the Steel Brotherhood to hold off on retaliation for a while and let me handle it for them. I have contacts in and out of the Club that I’ll use, including you.”
“You’re going after the Sons?”
I nodded. “They killed my friends in and out of the Club, and they threatened my family.”
“If you kill them and get caught, I won’t be able to save you.”
“I wouldn’t expect you to. As far as you know, my vengeance will be limited to providing information to law enforcement that may be pertinent to ongoing investigations.” I looked over at Donovan; he was starting to do laps. “I’m one of the members of the Club, but being a Nomad gives me advantages in how I deal with things. I don’t share the cultural idea that says vengeance only counts if the Club deals it out in a public fashion. I’m more pragmatic; dead in a police raid or languishing on death row is vengeance enough. I know how much pressure there is on you to get these men off the street, and I’m offering to help you where I can.”
“Unofficially, I take it from our meeting here?”
“It’s not a secret from the leadership, but this Chapter has deniability. They’re going to be squeaky clean to keep the locals off their backs. I got them to promise to focus on rebuilding and protecting, and the other Chapters will follow suit. There will be no open warfare in the West that starts with the Brotherhood.”
“I appreciate that. I take it this option has an expiration date?”
“Things can change, but if they see the Sons dismantled, I can keep them from getting involved. That’s what I need from you. Focus on the Sons of Tezcatlipoca since they are the bad guys here. I will be your single point contact with the Club, and I’ll pass you actionable intelligence when I get it. You can’t use my name; it’s too dangerous for my family.”
He nodded. “You don’t trust the DEA.”
“You have a mole problem, Frank, you said so yourself. That’s why I couldn’t leave Harleigh with you.”
His eyes got wide. “You have her?”
“People I can trust are protecting her, people with no ties to the Clubs or the Government. It was the only way to keep her safe from a threat the locals weren’t taking seriously enough. I’m sorry about the overdose. The sleeping pills were supposed to knock him out after a few sips, but he damn near chugged that coffee.”
He looked over at the pool, thinking about what I just told him. “I should be pissed, but you’re right. She’s safe this way.” He looked back at me. “What do you need from me?”
“I don’t want the investigation crawling into my affairs or those I brought here to defend the Clubhouse. Make it clear that the priority is finding the Sons. The more scrutiny you place on my family and me, the harder it is to help you and keep Harleigh safe.”
“I can do that. Any other bombshells for me?”
“Jose Correria is dead. The Sons don’t know this yet, so don’t tell anyone. It’s an advantage I plan to exploit.”
He did the double facepalm. “You don’t fuck around, do you Chase?”
“I’m giving you information that you need to know, but you can’t trust anyone with it. Find your mole, Hank. Find that guy, and you find the person responsible for the deaths of four DEA agents and their families.” I got out of the tub and walked away, grabbing my towel from the chair as I passed.