National Church Day
Chase Nygaard’s POV
I’d gotten the text with an arrival time of one, and waited inside my air-conditioned rental SUV for the private jet to return. Beta Teri was a computer expert, so I knew the number would lead the Feds nowhere. My rental had been swept for bugs by one of the brothers, and I didn’t get tailed on the way here. I was wondering who Rori had sent back down.
The jet stopped in front of the hangar, and the pilot lowered the stairway. I broke into a wide smile as I saw who came out. “Mom,” I said as Possum led the way out. Roadkill was right behind her, both of them carrying their bags.
“Hi Chase,” she said as she hugged me, then a kiss on the cheek. “Rori misses you, so do the babies.”
“I miss them too.” I pulled back and gave Dad a quick hug. A third man I didn’t recognize was coming down the stairs, and I looked at him curiously because he was a wolf I didn’t know.
He stopped near us. “Alpha Chase, I’m Pack Warrior Vic Knightly. Your mate accepted me into the Pack this morning and sent me down here.”
I shook his hand, sizing him up. “I’ve heard of you, Coral mentioned you once.”
“It’s a pleasure to work for her again. She sent me down here with this,” he said. He opened up the Igloo cooler he was carrying; inside were two blood bags, a plastic bag with fabric inside, and a few test tubes.
“We’ll talk on the way back to the hotel,” I said. “Come on, let’s get you two out of the heat.” I opened the back door, and Mom got in, Dad going around to the other side. Vic rode shotgun, and I started asking questions as soon as the doors closed. “Are Rory and Harleigh all right?”
“They’re fine,” Roadkill said. He filled me in on everything that had happened since Harleigh had arrived. “She’s healing up, and after seeing the news of the attack, she’s beside herself with grief. She blames herself for the deaths, even though we’ve told her no one else does. Rori said she’s determined to get her revenge on the Sons for what they did to her family.”
“We, meaning the Club and our Pack, are determined as well. Maybe we can find a way to let her get her revenge without getting herself in danger again.”
“How? She’s human like us, and these cat shifters are dangerous,” Vic said. After their Pack induction, Rori gave them the same Alpha orders about the Pack guest. “That’s why she sent me down her to watch your back, Alpha. I am the only Warrior in the Pack with experience getting rid of cat problems.”
“You’ve fought jaguars?”
“No, mountain lions. We had a few try to set up territory near our Pack about a century ago. It takes a whole different tactic to fight them; you have to coordinate your attacks. Rori had it right when they took out Jose, and I’m going to teach you.”
“Is Jesus coming?”
“We haven’t heard that he is yet, both the Sons and the Feds are watching him closely. Your mate isn’t willing to take a chance.”
I knew Coral wasn’t either, and I’m sure she was the one who suggested backup. “So what’s the deal with the blood?”
“Well, the bags are what the Doc at Oxbow was able to extract from Jose’s body before they burned it. The tubes are Harleigh’s blood, and inside a baggie is her hospital gown. Alpha Rori thought you might be able to use them to throw the Feds off track.”
I nodded. “It would be better if everyone believed Harleigh was dead. I’m not sure I want the pressure off the Sons quite yet.” I looked in the rearview mirror at Roadkill. “I need you to follow my lead on this. I’ve convinced Mongo and the others to let me handle the Sons on my own.”
“The club agreed to that?”
“So far. I need the Presidents to trust me with this, like they trusted Rori after Aces got beat up. We don’t need the Club getting pulled into a war with supernaturals that they’ll lose. I’ve got the senior DEA man on board with the plan. We can use the Feds to keep the Club out of the crossfire.”
“It makes sense,” Roadkill said. “From the news, they’re leaning on the Brotherhood already.”
“They are. Mongo and his Chapter will be the first to pay the price if violence breaks out again.”
There was silence for a minute until Possum broke the quiet. “Do you know how long you’ll be down here, Chase?”
I shook my head. “As long as it takes. I’m not leaving any trails leading back home. I said I’d bring Nate back home, but I have bigger problems now.”
“She understands, Chase. She misses the hell out of you, but she understands.” I dropped the two off at their home, then drove to the hotel.
I offered to get Vic a room at the hotel, and he turned me down. “Your mate told me you were my responsibility to protect, so I am going wherever you are. I don’t care if I have to curl up in wolf form on the floor.”
“You don’t snore, do you, old man?” He laughed, and I talked to the front desk, upgrading my room to a suite. I sure as hell wasn’t going to share the bed with him. We took the new key, and he helped me grab what little I had and move it into the new room. “Come on; we need to get to the new Clubhouse.”
Early this morning, the police let Mongo walk through safe parts of the old clubhouse with his insurance agent, detailing the damage so they could start the claims. The garage area had collapsed, but he got enough photographs. It was arson, but not by the policy owner, so you’d think it would be a simple claim. It wasn’t.
Mongo met with us afterward and gave us the bad news. If the insurance company determined the fire was the result of illegal activity, such as a gang war, then they could deny the whole thing. If attacked by criminals, it would be covered. It was yet another reason why the Club had to stay lily-white and let me do this.
We had Church at four with the national leadership, all of whom had flown in to deal with this crisis. Mongo hadn’t figured out the clubhouse situation yet, so we were using a conference room on the main floor of the hotel. Vic walked down with me, and I introduced him to Mongo. “He’s my security. I trust him,” I said.
“He can’t come in, Club only.”
I left him at the door as I followed the others inside. It wasn’t my first time meeting some of the leaders. I recognized the National President, Crankshaft, from last summer’s party at our property. “Frame,” he said with a smile as he saw me walk in. “Good to see you again.” He pulled me into a bro-hug, then introduced me to the other Regional Presidents. He gestured to a chair between them and the Chapter Presidents who were here from around the Southeast. “Mongo said you needed to talk to us.”
“I do.” I laid out my case for the Clubs to stay out of the war. I started with my conversations with DEA Director Frank Grimes and ending with the financial and legal considerations. “We aren’t an outlaw club,” I finished. “If we openly go to war with an outlaw biker gang, in the eyes of the public and law enforcement, we become an outlaw biker gang. We have dozens dead, including three cops. The pressure is on the Task Force to make arrests and keep the violence from spreading.”
“The Sons started this, we should finish it,” Snakeyes said. He was the Northeast Region President.
“We will, but we’ll do it in a way that doesn’t blow back on the Club. Officially, we fully cooperate with Law Enforcement as they seek those responsible for these heinous acts. We stay safe, but out of the way. The Brotherhood makes no retaliation, no posturing, no shows of numbers. Our Chapters in the Southwest stay away and stay clean. Make no mistake, gentlemen, we are being watched. Assume our communications are being recorded, our e-mails intercepted, our clubhouses surveilled, and our movements tracked. They probably are.”
“You think the Feds can get search warrants for us?”
“They had them in hours. They have a whole task force ready to fall on us like a ton of bricks. Instead of taking the whole Club down, I’m asking you to trust Canvas and me to do this for you.”
They all tried to talk at once, the objections coming fast and furious. Crankshaft ended that by slamming his hand on the table. “The Brother deserves a chance to explain,” he said.
“Rori and I are Club, but not identified with the Club. I swung a deal with Director Grimes. Their deaths are personal for him. He was the one who recruited Sean into the DEA and ran his undercover operation for four years. Sean and Kelly were his friends, and someone in the DEA gave them up to the Sons. He’s unable to investigate properly because he doesn’t know who to trust. We’re independent enough to work it from both sides; we have money, resources, and connections outside the club we can use. The best part is that if it goes bad, it’s easy for both sides to cut us off.”
Crankshaft considered me for a minute. “If we do this, you can’t be around, and we can’t be communicating with you.”
“That’s why you don’t talk to me. If you need anything, get a message to me through Possum. They can’t get search warrants to cover the Ladies. Let the women know that under Federal Law if they talk about women’s business for a few minutes, the cops have to stop listening.” They nodded. “Then let me do my thing. Big house or burial, I’ll make sure we end the Sons.”
The men challenged my plan for ten more minutes, asking questions that I couldn’t always answer because they couldn’t know. They kicked me out, then called me back in ten minutes later. “We’re going with your plan, Frame.” I let out my breath, relieved. “There’s one other thing we need to ask you. Nate, the dog handler killed in the attack, died protecting the Club but he wasn’t Club. We think he should be if you agree. He was your friend; it’s up to you.”
“His family would appreciate that.”
“Do you want members to attend?”
“No, the ceremony will be small and private. Roadkill and I will represent the Club and present his cut.”
Mongo pulled out a cut and handed it to me. “It’s an Orlando Chapter vest; we had a bunch made to replace those lost in the fire.”
“Thank you,” I said. They had other business, so I left the room. I didn’t say anything as we walked back to the elevator.
“What’s next, Alpha,” he said as he closed the door to our suite.
“Bring this,” I said as I handed him the cooler. “It’s time to lay a trail.” We left in my rental, heading out of town towards Ocala.
We started at the location of the Sons of Tezcatlipoca hideout and searched the satellite imagery from there. Finding a few possibilities, we set out towards the northwest. I pulled over when I saw what I was looking for, an old john-boat and trailer, and bought it for cash. We stopped at a hardware store and got a paint scraper and spray paint. We wore gloves the whole time to make sure we didn’t get fingerprints as we removed the registration stickers and added enough camo paint and dirt that it wouldn’t be recognized. Getting back on the road, we headed northeast of Ocala.
The place we had chosen was near on Charles Lake, a medium-sized lake surrounded by swamp and full of crocodiles. There was almost no gas in the tank so the boat wouldn’t run long. Using the blood bags, we left a pool of Jose’s blood between the two bench seats and some of Harleigh’s blood on the front seat and bow. We got the boat into the water, started the motor, then watched as it motored out onto the lake before beginning a turn downwind. “Let’s get out of here,” I said. We drove towards Ocala to a crowded lake, leaving the trailer in the back of the boat launch lot. We drove back to near the turnoff for the lake and dialed 911 on a burner phone. Vic changed his voice to sound like an older man and reported an empty boat floating on the lake.
We were back in Orlando by the time the Sheriff’s Department recovered it. The bloodstains would take a few days to run, and the results would rock the investigation.