Suspended, Pending Investigation
DEA Director Frank Grimes’ POV
By the time I got back home, I was exhausted. I’d been up for almost forty hours, the short naps on the plane hardly counting. The raid in Oakland and the revelations about the agents the Cartel bought would have been enough for the whole week, but then Chase showed up.
His information was a gold mine, and we’d acted on it. As I thought over the raid, I wondered if we had done the right thing by hitting all the Chapters in coordinated raids. The Sons behaved like they were warned of them, and they were ready. We’d lost good men, and that knowledge ate at me as I took my shower.
I didn’t have any more answers when I got out, and it was almost noon. I was asleep seconds after hitting the pillow.
I woke to a banging noise on the door. “FBI AGENTS! OPEN UP!” I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes, looking over at the clock. It was four-twenty and still light out, so it was the afternoon. I grabbed my glasses, pistol, and badge off the bedside table. I hung the badge by its chain over my head.
“COMING,” I said. I pulled on the suit slacks I’d tossed on the chair when I got home and padded my way to the door. My back hurt, and I was exhausted, the combination becoming more common in my mid-fifties. I looked through the peephole of the door; there were two men there, both in FBI jackets with badges hanging. I set the pistol down on the table next to the door, then unlocked it. “What’s going on, gentlemen?”
“I’m sorry we have to do this, Director Grimes, but we have a search warrant for your home. Please step outside.” He handed me a piece of paper.
I looked behind them, there were two FBI Suburbans and a truck parked there, and a dozen agents were coming up the path to my porch. “What the hell is this about,” I asked as I walked over to the hanging chair on my porch. As soon as I was out of the way, the people moved inside.
“GUN,” one of them said.
“No shit? Gee, you’d think he was an agent or something,” another man said.
I ignored them, looking at the warrant with my bifocals. The search warrant was based on phone records that showed I had texted an unknown number an hour before the raid, with the information of the start time. There wasn’t much else, but I could guess.
The raid had gone south, and failure always meant finding the scapegoat. I’d just been volunteered.
Another man in a suit came up to me, it was my Deputy Director, Terry Jimenez, and he didn’t look happy. “What’s going on, Terry,” I asked as he came up to me.
“The Director flew in this afternoon, and Justice and some other heavy hitters were with him. The State and County are raising hell, wanting to know why their men died. The Director has suspended you pending the results of an investigation into the events of the past day,” he said. “I’m sorry, Frank, but this is becoming a shitshow. I have to take your gun and your badge.”
I just shook my head. “It’s the way it is, Terry.” I pulled my badge over my head and handed it to him. “My gun is on the table just inside the door, if the FBI hasn’t bagged it already.”
He nodded. “The FBI and Justice want to talk to you. Can you come downtown with us?”
I looked down at the search warrant in my hand. “We’re a little past that point now.”
He looked at the agents already removing my computers and other stuff, all sealed in evidence tape and carried to the truck. “Yeah, I expect so. Everything is moving so fast; I can’t believe they didn’t even interview you before this.”
“They must think they have enough already.” I looked down at my wrinkled pants, bare feet, and wifebeater. “See what you can do about getting me some clothes plus my wallet, phone, and keys. If they aren’t arresting me, I want to talk to a lawyer.”
“You know anyone?”
“I’ve got a good idea.” He handed me his phone, and I looked up the name of a lawyer I knew from his work defending an agent against an excessive force complaint. He specialized in law enforcement officers facing criminal charges. Five minutes later, I had an appointment with him at six at his office downtown. A few minutes after that, Terry led me back to my bedroom with an agent watching my every move. I shaved and put on deodorant, then dressed in a suit and pocketed my stuff. The agents had checked it all before I put it on.
As we walked out, I pointed at the key hanging near the front door. “That’s the extra key, lock up when you’re done,” I told him. “Try not to wreck too much.”
“I’ll do what I can, but I have my job too,” the FBI man said.
The search of my car was already over; I didn’t keep much in it. I unlocked it as Terry shifted nervously. “The office is yours, Terry. Take care of it,” I said as I stuck out my hand to him.
He shook it. “For now. This shit will blow over, and you’ll be back in charge again.”
“I don’t think so. I’ll be in tomorrow to clean out my desk and file my retirement papers. It’s about time I spent some time with my grandchildren.”
“I hope they are coming out here, boss. North Dakota in December is a frozen wasteland.”
My son was a pilot in the Air Force, flying B-52 bombers out of the Minot Air Force base. He was three years out of the Air Force Academy and had nine years left on his service commitment. The B-52 he flew was older than I was, but it was still a formidable plane. Since they only fly out of Minot or Barksdale AFB in Louisiana, he’d chosen to get the winters out of the way early. He was married and had twin daughters that were now ten months old. “It’s about time I spent some time with them. Let the Director know for me? I just… I was thinking about doing it soon anyway, and I don’t want to leave you in a bind, wondering if I will come back.”
“Sure thing. I’ll see you tomorrow.” I drove off, heading downtown. Traffic sucked, and I was running late by the time I arrived at the office building. I walked into his reception, where a striking young lady smiled at me. “Hi, I’m Frank Grimes,” I said to her.
“Ah, Mr. Grimes, I’ll let Thomas know you are here.” She spoke into the phone, then escorted me into the twentieth-floor office of Thomas Carpenter. I gave him a summary of my day, and signed a form and a check for his retainer. This defense wasn’t going to be cheap. Four hundred dollars an hour adds up real quick.
Over the next two hours, I laid out everything to him. I didn’t have to hide what happened since attorney-client privilege protected me. “Can I summarize,” he finally said.
“The Sons of Tezcatlipoca found out the name of your friend and former undercover agent and killed him and his wife, then expanded the war to the Steel Brotherhood by going after their daughter, then the Clubhouse. Chase Nygaard approached you with a deal; he would get you information that would allow you to take down the Sons while keeping the Brotherhood from escalating this into a gang war. He came through, giving you information on the drug pipeline through Oakland, then offshore financials that tied all the chapters to the drug trade. Correct so far?” I nodded. “The Oakland raid went off perfectly, but Chase asked you to give him a heads up before raiding the Long Beach clubhouse because he had an asset there he needed to get out of the way.”
“That’s what he told me, and I believed him. We’ve never been able to turn one, but he’s not a cop.”
“Do you know what he is? Why he would have such reach?”
I shook my head. “I’d never met him before Orlando. What I do know is that the Brotherhood trusts both of them. He had resources we didn’t, and the information he provided proved that. Our accountants lit up like Christmas trees when they started looking at the bank statements he provided, and everything about the drug pipeline was confirmed. I’m not involved in investigating the compromised law enforcement agents, though, so I don’t know how accurate that was.”
“Well, let’s just say that you aren’t the only agent looking for a lawyer right now.” He picked up the search warrant. “They’ve already executed a search warrant on your phone. Is there anything else on there I should worry about?”
“No, all the information Chase sent me came as a text and I forwarded it. We never spoke directly; when I met with him after returning from Oakland, it was because he was waiting for me on my front porch. Since I sent him the text with ‘go time 0600’ I haven’t heard from or spoken to him.”
“You can’t burn him,” he asked me as he looked up from his notes.
“No, I gave him my word, and he’s sure as hell held his end up.”
“I had to ask. You know the drill with the suspension?” I was very familiar with the process, though this was my first time on the receiving end. I nodded. “When they call the hearing, I will be there to represent you. We are saying as little as possible; you were protecting a confidential informant and will not disclose further details. Given the reputation of the Sons and their recent attacks, it’s reasonable to think that the information would only come if you gave your word that their name would remain secret.”
“And I gave him that.”
“If there isn’t more for them to find, they don’t have probable cause to arrest you for anything. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” Thomas said.
“What do I do now?”
“Clean out your desk, file your papers, and take some paid time off while you are on suspension. While you are out, assume your electronics and phone are under surveillance, your car has a GPS locator on it, and you are being watched everywhere you go. Don’t do anything suspicious.”
“What if Chase sends me more information?”
“Forward it to the acting Director immediately. Don’t hide anything, and hope Chase is smart enough not to do anything that lets them know who or where he is.”
I left the office feeling a little better about things. I grabbed dinner in a restaurant downstairs, turning on my phone again. It had blown up with text messages and emails from friends and colleagues, dividing into two subjects. One was congratulating me for taking down the Sons, the other shocked that I’d been suspended. I read through them but didn’t respond to any.
I went to the Los Angeles Times website and started reading the coverage from the day I’d slept through. The coverage of the raids focused on the loss of life on both sides; the SWAT team leader said they had run into more difficulty making entry than they expected, and praised the driver for getting his men out of the kill zone. There were photographs and profiles of the dead Deputies, and my hand shook as I read about them. It was my operation, and men had died. I felt horrible about that.
I was shocked to see the pictures of the escape tunnel we discovered after the fact. The building it came up in was registered to a shell company out of the Bahamas. The company was linked with “overseas banking transactions linked to the Sons” according to sources within the investigation. That was an understatement. The information Chase gave me had been enough to get warrants for the entire Club and would take them down on RICO charges. No matter what happened with the investigation or my suspension, I felt good about it. We had taken down a violent biker gang and shut down a drug pipeline.
The tunnel and the lack of senior leadership in the raids keyed the FBI and Justice Department to look at me. Well, that and the evidence of the Sons being ripped off at the same time. There were seven dead Sons in the warehouse, from five different chapters. They were all long-time members, the senior man being the Treasurer of the LA chapter. That was too bad; it would be perfect if he would have flipped. What no one knew yet was what the other building was for. Drug dogs didn’t hit on it strongly, and the search came up empty.
Whatever it was, it was attractive enough for a team to hit it hard and quick. The drone footage was intermittent, but the robbery team was in and out in under three minutes. They had timed the robbery perfectly, using our raid of the Clubhouse as a distraction.
This conclusion left a bad taste in my mouth. Chase had taken advantage of me, using me so his own Club to take their revenge. He’d taken something important from the Sons, and I was paying the price.
I would let things quiet down for a while. I was going to show up on his doorstep unexpectedly, and I wasn’t going to leave until Chase gave me my answers.