Detective Marcus Jackson’s POV
Two Days Earlier
I responded to the Steel Brotherhood clubhouse as soon as the “Shots Fired” call came over the radio. As a member of the Orlando Police Gang Task Force, I figured I might be needed.
As I drove, I wondered what they had gotten themselves in. The Brotherhood was a biker club, not a gang. They loved to go to the range and shoot, but a shootout at the Clubhouse was unheard of. They weren’t involved in drugs, or intimidation like the outlaw clubs, and their membership included several former law enforcement and military. I was friendly with them because I loved to ride and they were a fun group to party with after the ride was over. I wasn’t allowed to prospect with the Chapter, as their bylaws wouldn’t allow active law enforcement to be members or prospects. Conflict of interest, they said, and they were right. No matter how many friends I had there, my job wasn’t compatible with the loyalty the Club demanded.
I parked at the perimeter, almost two blocks from the Clubhouse in an industrial area of Orlando. Getting out, I made sure my shield was hanging from my neck as I pulled on the lightweight suit jacket. The place looked like a cop convention. As I walked to the crime scene tape, I spotted Sargent Grimes directing patrol officers. “Jason, who’s in charge,” I asked.
“Lieutenant Reynolds,” he said. “Stand back; the ambulance is coming out.” I saw the ambulance pulling out of the open gates of the Clubhouse as officers held them in place. I didn’t see any Club members outside, but there were two bodies on the ground covered with sheets. Two news helicopters were already circling overhead. Three motorcycles were on the pavement outside, and I caught a glimpse of one more by the Clubhouse. One man, a Hispanic male in his forties, was being loaded onto a gurney by a second ambulance outside the gate.
They watched one ambulance leave, lights flashing. “Who’s in there?”
“Teenage girl. Looks like she was fleeing from the three other gang bangers here.”
I shook my head, wiping the sweat off my short-cropped hair that was starting to grey. At six-foot-four and two hundred and twenty pounds, I wasn’t much heavier than when I played linebacker at UCF in the nineties. I could still play the intimidating black man when I needed to. “What gang?”
“Sons of Tezcatlipoca. You know them?”
Oh yeah, I knew them. A gang out of Mexico, they were active from Texas to California and north as far as Denver. They weren’t in Florida, at least not yet. If they were moving in, the outlaw gangs we DID have wouldn’t like it. It didn’t make sense to go after the Steel Brotherhood, though. They didn’t hold territory as the outlaw club did.
Unless they wanted to set up shop close to them?
I thanked him and went to find the Lieutenant. He was standing near the clubhouse entrance. “Mr. Reynolds, could you use my help?”
He looked at me with the disdain of a Homicide detective. They were the top of the heap, and they knew it. “Detective Jackson, what are you doing here? Homicide has this, go back to kids standing on the street corners,” he said.
“If I could have a moment of your time alone, sir.” He sent two of his men inside the clubhouse, which was awful quiet. He walked towards the gate, and I followed. “I think it would be helpful for me to be in this case, sir.”
“Why? Everyone, including you, tells me this club isn’t a gang, so I don’t need you.”
“With due respect, sir, you’re not going to get a lot of cooperation from them if they don’t trust you. They are more likely to clam up, find the guys themselves, and take care of it their way.” He nodded. “Two things. The guys who are lying dead out there are from a gang I know of. They aren’t active in Florida, but if they are moving in, my unit needs to know.”
“I can keep your boss informed,” he said.
“True, but you’re not going to be able to get the cooperation of this club that I can. I know them, I’ve ridden with them and spent time with them.”
His eyes got wide. “You’re in the club?”
I shook my head. “I’m a hang-around. I know most of them, but active police aren’t allowed to prospect. Still, I’m your best chance at getting these men to talk to you. The other benefit is that they trust me, so they are more likely to stay back and let us do our jobs.”
He thought about it. “Do you know the victims?”
“I don’t know who the victims are, I just got here,” I said.
“There’s more than one crime scene. It started up in Winter Park; police there responded to shots fired. They entered the house to find two victims. The male tortured before being shot in the face, the female raped repeatedly before being stabbed to death in front of him. The daughter must have walked in on them. She fled here, and the Club shot the guys up. It’s a mess.” He looked over to the gate. “The victims were Sean and Kelly Ryder, and their daughter Harleigh. She just left in the ambulance, they shot her once, and she crashed into the clubhouse.”
Oh fuck. “County Attorney Kelly Ryder?” I had met the couple a few times. They were good people and their daughter had just turned eighteen and was a great kid. “You need to get the Feds involved sooner rather than later.”
“Why? This is a local thing.”
“They raped his wife in front of him, so it’s probably him they were after. He’s retired Drug Enforcement Agency, and the Sons run drugs. You have to wonder if this had something to do with his time on the job.”
His jaw dropped. “Oh, fuck.”
“Yeah. If this is the Sons of Tezcatlipoca getting revenge, you’ll be getting a lot of help you didn’t ask for.”
He thought about it and made a call to my boss and got me assigned to work the case. “You have contacts in the DEA?”
“Good, give them a call. I need to know if this is bad blood from decades ago or something else. If you’re done, meet me inside. I’m going to see where we are with the interviews.”
I found the contact information for a man in the Los Angeles DEA office I had met at a task force a few years earlier. I hoped his cell phone hadn’t changed as I called the number. “Special Agent In Charge Donovan,” Frank said.
“Hi Frank, it’s Detective Marcus Jackson out of the Orlando Gang Unit. We met two years ago at the San Antonio conference?” We had sat at the same table and had a few beers at night, so hopefully, he remembered me.
“Oh yeah, how are you doing Marcus?”
“Good, but this is a business call. There was a double murder in the area today, and it looks like a revenge killing by the Sons of Tezcatlipoca.”
“Shit, what are they doing in Florida? They aren’t that far east as far as I know.”
“It gets worse. They raped the wife in front of him before killing her, and they tortured him for hours before killing him. It was Sean Ryder; he’s retired DEA, and his wife Kelly. They shot the daughter, too. She just left in the ambulance.”
“SONOFABITCH!” I heard him yelling for someone, and I could hear him walking before a door slammed. “Marcus, I’m in the Director’s office. Tell us what you know.”
I went through what I had so far, with the two crime scenes. “Harleigh got away from her house after being shot and fled to the Orlando chapter of the Steel Brotherhood. Sean had joined after he retired, and Kelly and Harleigh joined the Steel Ladies. She crashed into the clubhouse, and the Club killed two of the Sons and injured one. The last one got away.”
“Do we have the dead and injured identified?”
“I don’t know; it’s still very early. This only happened maybe thirty minutes ago.”
“Marcus, this is Director Frank Grimes. I’m catching the next plane out to Orlando.” We exchanged information so he could get picked up. “Let your bosses know I’m coming, and I’m bringing some people up from Miami. If this is related to Sean’s work the way I think it is, this is going to become a Federal matter quickly.”
“I understand, sir. Is there anything we can start looking into now?”
“Protect the girl. Jesus Correria vowed to wipe out Sean’s entire family after his wife was killed in a shootout with the DEA. I have to find out if he’s out of jail now.”
This just got worse and worse. Jesus was one of the founding members of the Sons of Tezcatlipoca. He had been given a 40-year sentence in Federal prison. “We’ll keep her safe.” I thanked Frank and hung up.
The second ambulance had taken off, and the techs were working the crime scene. I walked over to the side of the clubhouse where Harleigh’s motorcycle still lay against the brick wall. I could see the skid marks where she tried to stop, and the scrapes where she laid it down. There was blood on the sidewalk, and her jacket was sitting in the rocks where it had been tossed. There was a bullet hole just below and right of the Steel Ladies patch on the back.
I walked out the gate, stopping where the closest dead biker lay, his Harley a few feet away. “What do you have,” I asked Tammy as she lifted the sheet for me.
“Single thirty-caliber rifle round to the upper left side of the chest with a large exit wound through his spine. Dead instantly,” she said. “We recovered this from the base of the tree back there.” She held out the bag with the bullet; the bullet had mushroomed out to the point that only the base was still at original size. “Shooter was on the roof of the clubhouse based on trajectory.”
“Nice shot,” I said. Considering the bikers were approaching at high speed, someone had taken them out almost surgically. It was a far better outcome than the “spray and pray” drive-by shootings I have seen. The exit wound was right out the eye of the jaguar patch on the back of his cut. The motorcycle had Texas plates and a club decal on the tank. “How about the other guy?”
“Shotgun at close range, buckshot damn near took his head off.”
I looked at where the body was and where the bike ended up. “They had someone out here?”
“Behind that truck based on the pellets that hit the garage door over there. The guy who was injured was taken out with a small-caliber rifle, multiple shots, likely an AR-15. There was a fourth guy; you can see the skid marks, there are bullet holes in the area we’re still mapping. There’s blood spray, so they hit him, but he got away.”
“At least three shooters, one of which had positioned himself behind the cover up the street. They had warning they were coming and set up an ambush,” I said.
“It happened quickly, too. The only biker who turned was the one who got away.”
The Club could shoot, I would bet that at least one of the defenders was prior military. It was time to talk to the boss about the help coming his way.
He and the other detectives were coming out of the Clubhouse as I walked through the gate. He waved me over as they gathered in the lot. “The Club is lawyering up,” he said. “Four men have stated they fired at the bikers in defense of Harleigh Ryder but refused to say more until they are represented by counsel.”
“We have recovered over a dozen weapons so far, but we don’t know which were used,” a detective said. “They are armed to the teeth.”
I just laughed. “You realize for some of these guys, that’s the upstairs gun safe.” He was one of those ‘only the police should have guns’ types. The Homicide guys stared at me like I didn’t belong.
“Detective Jackson is on loan to this investigation due to the biker gang angle. What did you find out from the DEA,” Lieutenant Reynolds asked me.
“Whatever he did on the job, they think it has to do with his death. The Los Angeles division director is flying here personally. He did say we need to protect the daughter. One of the Sons of Tezcatlipoca founders was captured in a raid that accidentally killed his wife. He vowed to wipe out Sean’s family.”
The group took in the new information. “Jackson, I want you to talk to the guys in there. Make sure they know that this has nothing to do with their Club, and we will not tolerate any retaliation.”
“I’ll tell them, but I can’t promise they will listen.”
“I’ll set up a protective detail at the hospital. I don’t want any bikers hanging out in the hospital,” he said.
“I’ll work it out with their wives. Harleigh doesn’t have family around that I know of.” He waved me off and I walked in the door. It was going to be a long day.