Jesus Correria’s POV
Near US-Mexico Border, East of Nogales
The Chapter Presidents had been trickling into the parking area of the National Forest that we used as our meeting place all day. I sat on a picnic table, eating a burrito I picked up before leaving Nogales, as Manuel tore into his bag of fish tacos. The Denver President was last to arrive, Pedro driving into the lot in a Prius. “Really? A fucking Prius,” I yelled as he got out.
“Nobody is going to look for a biker club President in a Prius,” he said. “Plus it gets fifty miles a gallon.”
“You smell like a hipster,” my father said. “You getting a man-bun and a murse next?”
Some of the others laughed. “Very funny, let’s spend more time figuring out how to end this shitshow instead of busting on my ride.”
“We found the mole,” Alejandro said; he was President of the Bay Area chapter, and had the most to lose with this visit with the Cartel. It was his Chapter that lost the shipment. “My Vice President gave us up; the warrant names him as their informant, and the DEA let him go after the raid. We picked him up as he was trying to run with his family. He’s been moved to a quiet place until I get back.”
“Why would they let him go,” I said. “It’s too easy. If they have a cooperating witness, he and his family would be in protective custody. They had to know we’d kill him.”
Manuel spoke up. “Unless they want us to take him. They know we won’t kill him until we know everything.”
“FUCK,” Alejandro said. “They know they didn’t capture the leadership, so they’re using him as bait! I’ve got to warn them.”
“We’ll get word to your Master at Arms in a few minutes,” I said. “The Brotherhood is as much of a problem as the Feds. You heard on the news that they found the tunnel from my Clubhouse to the building two blocks away?” Heads nodded. “What they didn’t say is that they found anything but dead bodies there. That was our money drop, a shipment was supposed to go out this morning. If the Feds had it, they would be posing with the money on the news right now. No, the Steel Brotherhood is behind this. They worked with the Feds to set up the raids, then took the money for themselves.”
“Bastards,” one of the men said. “Do we know who?”
“Manilo met a Nomad member at the memorial service, a guy named Chase Nygaard and his wife, Rori King. He asked for background checks because they are both werewolves.”
“Wait, the Brotherhood has Packs working with them?” The Houston President looked shocked; we had no werewolf Packs in our territories, except the ones in the Rocky Mountains.
“At least one. I don’t know what Manilo found out before he died, but we had four panthers disappear after going up to Minnesota to find Harleigh Ryder. Manilo was convinced the Pack had taken her up there, we don’t know why. I sent a dozen men up there; he’s got a young wife and infant children. If they don’t kill them all, they’ll take his family, and we’ll use that to get Harleigh and the money.”
“A dozen isn’t much against a Pack,” the Denver President said.
“It’s what I had to send, and I couldn’t risk calling you guys.”
“We all have people hiding out, they may as well go to Minnesota and help out,” the Dallas President said. “It’s a twenty-plus hour drive for us, but we’re closer. The boys could use a diversion.”
“Well said, we’ll get the word to all the Chapters,” Manuel said as everyone gathered around. They figured out a place to meet, a hotel in Duluth, and a contact number. “Let me get Oracle on the line.” Our Club had emergency procedures in case the cops tried what they did this morning. Every Club officer had an escape plan, including an identity, transportation, and housing. We knew the Cops could hit the Clubhouses, so they were kept clean or able to be sanitized quickly. For my chapter, we had laptops and the tunnels. The cops could search all day and not find anything that could hurt us.
All of us had left our Chapters after the Oakland raid, and were on the road when the Clubhouse raids went public. I’d listened to the news as I drove through the desert; I was angry at the number of dead, but no senior people were listed. The Attorney General’s press conference told us they were using RICO statutes to go after my Club. The attacks in Florida and the drug smuggling were the two crimes they needed to invoke the charges.
The humans in the club were expendable; they always had been. They were the muscle we needed. The heart of the Club was around me, all Panthers, all family.
Manuel finished dialing the Oracle. No one knew who she was or where she was; each Chapter was given one phone number to use in an emergency, and only called it from a phone not traceable to the Club. You would call in with your status and needs, and a number you could be reached. The Oracle was the link between the people, gathering the information and passing it back when directed. It was slow, but secure. A woman picked up. “Identification code?”
“Jaguar One Five Two Delta.”
“Voice match. How may I help you, sir?”
“All units have checked in from alternate locations. Primary locations are all under hostile control.”
“They brought in outside teams, and the locals we owned are compromised. Frank Grimes was the source and ran the Oakland and Los Angeles raids. Raids on the Chapters were due to bank transfers linking them to the operation.”
“No.” He gave her a message to pass to the chapters about helping up in Minnesota and warn the Bay Area chapter, then gave her a contact number for another phone. When he hung up, he crushed the phone in his hand and tossed it in the trash can. “BY THE GODDESS I WILL HAVE THEIR BLOOD IN MY TEETH,” Manuel yelled to the darkening sky.
“Yes, and Nygaard.” He looked at the sun setting over the mountains. “Time to go, boys. We need to get across the border fence.”
Most of the border included a tall fence with a patrol road, but the terrain was too rugged in some areas for the fence to go through. We shifted and made our way along the ridgeline, single file, clothes and our stuff in small bags hanging around our necks. The Border Patrol used drones and cameras on the areas the fence couldn’t cover. When we got to the border, we went across singly or in pairs, moving quickly along the rocks and scattered trees. It was almost four in the morning before we arrived at the meeting house in the mountains northwest of Santa Cruz.
We shifted and pulled our clothes on, then walked to the gate of the estate. The adobe structure was large and well-protected, armed men on patrol on the fences and top of the house. The guards, all Cartel gunmen, searched us before letting us in. We were fed and given rooms to sleep; the housekeepers would wake us before the Cartel heads arrived.
I showered and slept, waking just after eleven. My clothes had been laundered and were folded neatly in the hall outside my room. I walked next door where my father was getting ready. “How are we going to play this?”
“It’s a setback, but we are handling it. The Club might be taken away, but we will rebuild the organization and continue on as usual. As long as we have our contacts, we will be all right.”
“I’m nervous, Pops. We shouldn’t be away from our Chapters when we are in a crisis like this.”
He patted my shoulder. “The men are pawns, they won’t tell them anything. It is a smart move for the Cartel to move us all here until things settle down. Now that we are here, we can move up our plans,” he said as he sat down. He expanded the link to all the other Presidents. “After today, we will no longer dance to the tune of the human Cartel masters. It is time our people move beyond Clubs and into true money and power. The three top men in the Sinaloa cartel will be meeting with us today. Our family in Mexico is waiting for the signal to move on Cartel captains and lieutenants across the country. Play it cool, do not rise to the bait or the taunts. When I kill Juan, shift and kill everyone in the house. Before we leave this house, we WILL be the Cartel.”
They wouldn’t know what hit them.
President Manuel’s POV
I was sitting at the center, my son to my right and the other Chapter Presidents filling our side of the long conference table. I heard a helicopter land outside, but we stayed seated. Armed Cartel men stood in the corners and along the wall; I smiled at their ease. They thought because they had the guns, they were safe, but our jaguars would tear them apart in seconds. It wasn’t long before the door opened, and Juan Jose Esparragoza Moreno came in, flanked by his two top assistants. I bit back my disgust for this man, smiling and opening my arms as he came around to greet me. “Manuel, welcome to my home,” he said as we embraced. “Maria, Tequila!! We toast our friends.”
He and his men moved to the other side of the table as the maids brought in trays of tequila glasses and two fancy bottles. They passed out the glasses as Juan showed us the bottle. “Clase Azul Tequila Ultra, two thousand dollars a bottle,” he said as he opened one up. He poured a glass and passed it to his left, while his son opened the other and passed the bottle to his right.
We all poured a full glass, and I set the bottles back on the table between us. I took my drink and held it up. “To the Sinaloa Cartel, may our enemies fear us and our customers pay us,” I said with a smile. We drank it down and slammed the glasses back on the table; the tequila burned, and my eyes started to water. I could feel my lips going numb, and I sat down in my chair as my legs started to shake. “What did you do,” I said.
“I’m taking care of business,” he said. His men moved forward, handcuffing us to the chairs as we struggled to take control of our bodies. “You and your men were sloppy and unprofessional. Your son allowed his vendetta to harm my business, and you stirred up a hornet’s nest with law enforcement. My people compromised, people working for me in law enforcement arrested, and my drugs seized. You’ve cost me millions, and destroyed intelligence assets that took decades to develop.”
I struggled, but my body didn’t want to play. “How?”
“The glasses contained a poison called Tetrodotoxin. It is extracted from pufferfish and is going to give you a prolonged and painful death. The burn on your lips and the excess saliva is the start; soon there will be seizures, and death in a few hours as your body shuts down. You and your men are all dead; nothing can stop that now. You may only bargain for the lives of your families now.”
I looked at my men; they were struggling as I was. The neurotoxin was naturally deadly to large animals, and our Jaguar side couldn’t fight it any more than our human side. “What do you want?”
“I want my money,” he said. “My sources tell me gunmen hit your Los Angeles warehouse, not the Police, and your shipment of cash is gone. The drugs I shipped to you in Oakland are gone. You owe me twenty million dollars, Manuel. Pay me what you owe, and I won’t kill your families.”
I linked with the others; we’d seen our fortunes change quickly. As long as our families lived, we would see our revenge on the men who had killed us. The offshore accounts would be lost to our family; my son was the only other person who had the codes. “I’ll need a computer.”
Manuel snapped his fingers, and a laptop was brought over. I was in handcuffs, but I had the information memorized, and one of his men logged in to my account. My eyes got wide when I saw the balance. “THE FUCK,” I said as I looked at the emptied account.
It had less than twenty dollars in it, and the account was frozen. My money was gone, my cash was gone, my drugs were gone, and my Club was gone.
“I guess that answers the family question,” Juan said. “Take the men and throw them in the dirt with the snakes. I don’t want them shitting on my carpet when they lose control of their bowels,” he said.
“When they die?”
“Cut off their heads and pack them in coolers,” he said. “Gentlemen, enjoy each moment of your painful deaths. I have other business to attend to.”
I tried to stand, but ended up on the floor. I watched as Jose walked out of the room, leaving me drooling on the carpet and cursing his family.