Got Your Number
I-5 South Towards Los Angeles
I hadn’t talked to my big brother in weeks, and he’d noticed. “It’s about time you called, Chase. I was wondering if Mr. Cable News was too big for us peon big brothers anymore.”
Some things never change. “I have had a lot more on my mind than whether the chalet has enough white wine to last the week, Mr. Ski Resort,” I retorted.
“We all have our challenges. What do you need?”
“I have a neighbor problem, a tough one. It’s in Los Angeles, and I am going to need some well-prepared brothers to help me straighten things out and keep their damn cat from coming into my yard.”
“How many cats are we talking about?”
“Could be a few, and the neighborhood is pretty tough. I think if we brought ten more, all well-equipped, things would go smoothly. I’ve got a few surprises in store.”
He paused a moment. “Do you want just me or is this a family thing?”
“Best to keep it within the family, I think. Things could get a little risky.”
“I understand. I know how busy you are, so I’ll talk to the others and get the jet fired up. We should arrive late tonight. What part of Los Angeles are you talking?”
“Long Beach. Fly into that airport, and we’ll pick you up.”
“Sure thing, Chase. You know you aren’t alone, we’ll always be there for you.”
“I know. Call this number when you know your arrival time.” I hung up and put the phone in my pocket. “The cavalry is coming,” I said.
“Your brother,” Spider asked.
“Probably several of my brothers and in-laws before it’s all over. Things have been pretty boring for them in the past year, so they’ll jump at the chance to get a little action.”
She just shook her head. “You’re the weirdest Doctor I’ve ever come across. Are you sure you aren’t an adrenaline junkie? Most people wouldn’t want to go anywhere near those animals.”
I just laughed. “I'm a psychiatrist, not a real Doctor. Maybe I’m just as much of an animal as they are, but domesticated like a sheepdog,” I said. “I’d rather not use violence, but this is personal. They’ve hurt my friends and family, and Club justice must be done. Any good that can come out of them dying is a bonus in my book. My brothers are worse than me; they love the action.”
“How come they aren’t in the Brotherhood?”
Honestly, they’d love it. “They don’t ride Harleys. They like dirt bikes, ATV’s and boats, but I was the only one who got into motorcycles.”
Her eyes got wide. “And I’m supposed to trust them?”
I shrugged. “It could be worse. They could be riding Kawasaki Ninjas in one-piece racing suits.” She visibly shuddered as I laughed. “There’s no one I trust more than them and the people they bring with them.”
“Why not people from back home,” she asked.
“Rori and my friends up there might be watched; I can’t take the chance. I figured my family in Oregon, Denver, and Texas won’t be watched like them. Also, if this goes well, I can trust them to do the right thing with the cash.” It wasn’t good enough to get away with the money; you had to get away with getting away with the money. That meant the people involved need to be disciplined and trusted. One person going around like they hit the lottery and the whole thing could crash down. “We need to warn Frank Grimes about the agents and cops you suspect are dirty. If he includes them in the takedown plans, the Sons will move it and we get nothing. I think we should turn over the list of phone numbers to them now, along with the list of law enforcement you suspect are on the payroll.”
“The list is pretty long, and I don’t want to email it,” she said.
“It will take a while, but I’ll text it to him. Names first, then the phones. If I do it by chapter, that breaks it down.” Her sleuthing had dug up every number in use by every club.
“You text, I’ll sleep,” she said. She climbed into the front seat, and I moved over, laying my legs across the back seat while she reclined. The burner phone was pretty basic, but it was the best way; I’d already talked to him, and there would be only one number. I sent him a text explaining what was coming. The evidence she had on the dirty cops was not conclusive, but it helped explain how they had kept this pipeline going for so long. With the list of about two dozen names sent, I started relaying the groups of phone numbers.
It took me an hour to send him everything.
DEA Agent Frank Donovan’s POV
Orlando Task Force Headquarters
I had turned in my report, and Commander Lindstrom had spent thirty seconds reading my executive summary at the three PM staff meeting. “So you have nothing,” she said.
“Nothing actionable at this time; there are rumors, but nothing is solid enough to get a warrant,” I had replied in front of everyone. “We know they are moving major quantities of product from the Bay Area inland, but we’ve never been able to figure out how. The surveillance efforts have come up empty, and we haven’t made a bust we can trace back. The Sons are tighter than the Cartels when it comes to loyalty. We’ve never been able to flip one of them, and none have ever taken a deal.” I looked over at Ramon Martin, the Assistant US Attorney from Florida who was on our team. “Ramon, did any of the Sons in prison help us out?”
“Every one of their men in prison refused to talk to us,” he said. “One of my colleagues walked in with a deal that would have shortened a man’s time from fifteen years left to time served, and he laughed at him, told him to stick his deal up his ass.”
“We’re not having much luck, are we.”
“No,” he said. “The Sons have distanced themselves enough from what Jose did that we are having difficulty justifying warrants. They’ve done nothing suspicious.”
The cellphone in my pocket buzzed. I ignored it, knowing how much the bosses hated it when people were looking at their phones during a meeting. It buzzed a dozen times over the next minute or two, each time I pressed the side button to mute it. I finally got a chance to peek at the screen, and it was a list of phone numbers. “Something important, Agent Donovan,” the FBI Commander asked, irritation in her voice.
“I don’t know yet,” I said. I opened the screen and backed up the messages to the first one. My eyes got wide, especially at the warning NOT to share the list of dirty cops with the Task Force. After that warning was a list of phone numbers, ordered by Chapter. “My office just sent me more names and phone numbers associated with the Sons of Tezcatlipoca in Mexico,” I lied.
“Anything I need to know?”
“Director Grimes said they were uncovered in support of an ongoing investigation, but he doesn’t have enough evidence to get warrants.”
“Forward the numbers to me,” Al Perkins said. “I’ll see if there are any numbers we haven’t checked already.” The meeting went on for another ten minutes, and when it broke up, I followed Al into his office. “Got those numbers?”
“Forwarding them now.” I copied and pasted the messages into an email and sent it to him.
He looked at it for a moment. “This is a much longer list than you had before.”
“Frank said his source gave him not only the accounts registered to known Sons members but also anyone linked to the club. The burner phones have asterisks at the end; those are the priority.” He raised an eyebrow at that. “Their source must have used tower data to detect every phone used in the area of the Clubhouse, then worked backward to eliminate ones not related. This list is what could not be eliminated.”
“This is good stuff,” he said. He forwarded the email on his CIA laptop to someone else, then closed it down.
“What do you do with that stuff,” I asked.
“You know what Echelon is?”
I nodded. “It’s a system the National Security Agency developed. It monitors all electronic communications, including email and phone, and can listen or search for keywords.”
“Pretty close. The NSA collects this stuff and stores it in huge data centers. If you’ve made a phone call or sent a text or email in the last ten years, they have it stashed in memory. The hard part is accessing it. There are rules about spying on US citizens, and Echelon data has never been subject to subpoena or used as evidence. The intelligence guys don’t like mixing with law enforcement; we have far different operating rules.”
“Like how you can’t operate domestically.”
“Exactly. You gave me these numbers, but if you want to listen in, you have to get a wiretap. These are US citizens, at least some are, so I can’t do anything with it either.”
“So why did you want them?”
He just smiled. “Echelon is just a database; the computers that query the database to get the information are the ones to exploit it. We worked with the British, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand to develop the system. Intelligence agents in those countries can access the database, and I just forwarded those phone numbers to my counterpart in Canada. He will start with those burner phones and then move to the others. When he’s listened to the intercepts, he will send me an intelligence summary. There are cases under the Patriot Act when foreign intelligence reports can be used to get domestic warrants.”
I looked at him quizzically. “This is a gang war, not terrorism.”
“Presidential Decision Directives to target money laundering and drug smuggling fit within the Patriot Act guidelines because they are used to fund terror operations,” he said. “The lines can get blurred. Just relax… in a few days, I’ll have a summary of what we have from those phone numbers, including transcripts of relevant conversations. You guys package that into a warrant, then you go after them as normal.”
“But we can’t use the intercepted communications directly in their prosecutions since they were obtained without a warrant.”
“Now you’re catching on. The other part of this is that my boys can go after any part of this criminal conspiracy that is outside the United States. That means anything linking back to the Sons in Mexico or Central America, any Cartel connections, and the money laundering in overseas banks. Working together is going to be a lot of fun. Trust me.”
I walked out of his office, feeling a lot better about things. I needed to talk to Director Grimes, and I couldn’t do it around here. “I’m heading out,” I told the others in my area. “See you in the morning.” I walked out to my car and made the phone call as the air conditioning was kicking on. “Director, it’s Frank,” I said.
“You got my messages?”
“Yes, sir. I passed the phone numbers on to our CIA contact; he’s going to run them through Echelon. He said it would take a couple of days to get the results.”
“That’s good, but it’s not soon enough. You saw the names?”
“I did. Damn, sir, I had no idea the Sons, and the Cartels had so many on the payroll. And to have the corruption go all the way up to Director Phil McClintock, that’s a blow.”
I could just imagine how he felt; these men had betrayed us all for money. From his voice, he was pissed. “I was shocked as well, especially since the DEA Director in San Francisco has such a good operational record. I bet the Cartel was using him to take out the competition while leaving their supply line alone. Our source has been a godsend; we’re preparing a raid in Oakland right now.”
“That’s what you didn’t want me to mention the names.”
“Exactly. Where there are twenty, there are likely more. Chase gave us detailed information on a smuggling operation in progress right now. I’ve spoken to the DEA Director and the Homeland Security Director already; we are bringing in an outside team for the takedown, and we aren’t alerting local law enforcement or Federal assets in the region of the operation. The men are flying in from Washington right now, under complete radio silence.”
I thought about this; agencies and police were very territorial, and a raid like this was going to ruffle all kinds of feathers. A different thought crossed my mind. “Wait, would a Director have sufficient access to personnel files to see who had performed undercover work in the past?”
“That thought has crossed my mind, as well. If Phil is the one who has exposed Sean and the other agents, God himself won’t be able to save him.”
I believed him. This whole thing had been deeply personal to Frank Grimes. “What can I do?”
“I need you to be with the Task Force when this goes down. I’ll call you once the attack is underway. Observe the reactions, and keep your Commander from doing anything stupid. I’m hoping that one of them calls one of these phone numbers we got with a warning for the Sons. If it happens, we find another compromised agent.”
Layers upon layers. “All right, I’m going to grab dinner and get back to work. I’ll be waiting for your call.”