Duluth Police Captain Mark McCluskey’s POV
With the storm rolling in, the Chief had canceled all vacation and put the Duluth Police on mandatory overtime. I’d been working since noon, and it was now one in the morning. I tossed my jacket onto the hook on the door, and removed my gun belt and put it in my desk drawer.
We were no strangers to bad storms up here, but this particular storm was nasty. The winds now sustained over forty miles an hour, heavy snow, and dropping temperatures were making travel difficult. I’d just turned over to my night shift counterpart before returning to my office. I wasn’t planning to risk the drive back to my lonely apartment on the West Side of town, I was going to stay warm and sleep on the cot I kept for times like this.
I pulled a Subway sandwich and cookies out of the fridge behind my desk, along with a tall Diet Coke, and sat in my desk chair. Not everyone listened to the warnings to home, and the plows had been pulled off the roads at five in the afternoon. The snow now coated the steep roads leading up to the bluff above Lake Superior. Once you started sliding, there was no stopping; the storm was turning cars into balls and streets into Pachinko machines, bouncing off parked cars and curbs until you got to the bottom. We had responded to five dozen accidents since three in the afternoon, and nightshift was dealing with four ‘accident with injury’ calls when I handed over the duty.
I streamed the late local news on my computer, listening to the storm coverage as I ate my Spicy Italian sandwich. I was halfway through when the phone rang; it was the Desk Sergeant. “McCluskey,” I said. “I’m off. Kelly has the nightshift.”
“I know, Captain, but he’s busy, and this sounded important. Can you talk to her?”
I rolled my eyes; I was dumb enough to answer the phone, and now I was stuck. “Sure.” There were a few clicks. “Captain Mark McCluskey, Duluth Police,” I said.
“Hi Captain, this is Lucy Johnson, assistant manager of the Dew Drop Inn Motel up on 61? I think I have some, I mean they say if you see something, say something, you know? I’m not a racist or anything, but this isn’t right. The other guy brushed me off, but I had to tell someone, right?”
Great. I get the weirdos. “Why don’t you relax and tell me what you know, Lucy. Facts only, I don’t want to know what you think about them yet. Once we have the facts down, we can talk through your suspicions.”
“Sure. Where to start… OK, this morning just after eleven, a man came in to rent a room for two nights. He was in his thirties, Hispanic, and heavily tattooed. When he parked, the cameras showed there were another five guys out in the SUV he drove. I have to scan in his driver’s license and credit card, plus get his Colorado license plate number.” She gave me the information, and I wrote it down. “He was nervous; he wanted to pay in cash, but I told him we needed to hold a credit card on file. If he wanted, he could pay in cash when he checked out, and I’d refund the amount. He didn’t like it, but he took the room. As he turned around, I’m pretty sure I saw a pistol in his waistband, but I can’t know for sure, you know? He and the guys parked in front of their room and haven’t come out since. They had pizzas delivered, I mean a LOT of pizzas, about a dozen for six guys?”
“I’m not seeing anything criminal, Lucy.”
“There’s more. Four more groups like this showed up before two in the afternoon. One group from Houston, one from San Francisco, one from Las Vegas and one from Laredo. Each group in one car, four to six people, and rough looking. Tattoos, scars, and some of them looked ill-prepared for the weather. We’ve got a winter storm coming, and one guy shows up in a short-sleeve shirt and a leather vest. It looked weird, and when he turned around, I figured out why. It’s a cut, a motorcycle gang cut, turned inside out. I could see the stitching for the patches, and the label. He had this big tattoo on his left arm, a big spotted cat crawling down a branch, and words in Spanish on his right. I’ve been watching on camera as guys will run out of one room and go into another.”
“Why didn’t you call earlier?”
“I didn’t have any proof, you know? I can’t just call the cops any time I see someone who makes me nervous. I’ve been watching the cameras, though. When one of the guys went to another room about twenty minutes ago, I saw a man holding a rifle as he opened the door. I don’t feel safe, so I called.”
It couldn’t be. “Do you have information on those other men?”
“Yeah, I have it all right here.”
I gave her my email address and got her direct phone number back. “Send me copies of the driver’s licenses and the license plate numbers, and I’ll call you back.” I hung up and opened my computer, logging in to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center database. I put the first man’s name in, and alarm bells started to go off in my mind. Lucy was right; he was a member of the Denver Sons of Tezcatlipoca, and the FBI had an active warrant for his arrest.
I saw the email notification, clicked on it, and printed it out. Checking the other names, each showed up as affiliated with the Sons or had active warrants out. I printed those out; all listed the contact number for the Sons of Tezcatlipoca Task Force the FBI was running. I leaned back, wondering why the hell a Mexican biker gang would be showing up in Duluth, in force, in the middle of winter.
I logged out and called Lucy back. “Lucy, I need you to listen carefully to me. You were right; those men are armed and dangerous. Do not go near them, and do not contact them. How many other people are in the hotel right now?”
“We’re full from the storm, have been since four,” she said.
Shit. Armed and violent gang members, hiding out after they avoided the coordinated FBI raids on their Clubhouses, now holed up for the storm in my back yard. This wasn’t good. “I want you to copy and send anything you can find on them to my email. Surveillance recordings, photos, anything you can get me without endangering yourself. Under no circumstances are you to seek them out.”
“What if they call or show up at the desk?”
“Remain calm and act like a manager. I’ll call you when I know more.” I hung up, then called down to the FBI field office in Minneapolis. That went as I expected; they didn’t have any agents in Duluth, but I should call the Task Force. Thanking the duty officer, I made the call to the number listed on the warrant.
“FBI, Special Agent Kinnick,” a woman answered.
“This is Captain Mark McCluskey of the Duluth Police Department. I’ve got a bunch of your fugitive Sons holed up in a hotel up here.”
“Wait, WHAT? Hang on.” I heard her yell for the office to be quiet and then the background noise changed. “You’re on speakerphone, Captain McCluskey. Deputy Commander Virgil Solozzo is the senior member present.”
“Short version is I received a call from a manager of a hotel at the north end of town off Highway 61, the Dew Drop Inn. She reported five separate groups of Hispanic males arrived during the day; the men who rented rooms looked dangerous, had extensive tattoos and one appeared armed, while another was wearing his cut inside out. Eight rooms rented, twenty-four men. She saw a man with a rifle on camera in one of the rooms, and she called me.”
I could hear a flurry of activity in the background. “Duluth, Minnesota? Holy shit, this is bad. Have you identified any of the men?”
“Give me an email, and I’ll forward what I have.” I typed it in and hit send. “I ran the names through NCIC, all showed affiliation with the Sons, and three have active warrants.”
“Let’s get Minneapolis FBI up there, Hostage Rescue Team, right now,” someone said.
“That’s not happening, folks. We’re in the middle of a bad winter storm; airports are shut down, roads are emergency only, and it won’t let up until tomorrow afternoon. You can’t get here by land or air, don’t even try.” There were groans and more talking in the background. “That isn’t all. The weather left the hotels packed. I’ve got no way to get the civilians out, and nowhere else to put them.”
“You’re right, this is bad. I’ll alert Hostage Rescue and have them on standby for when the airports open again. How are your local assets?”
“We’ve got sixteen officers on patrol tonight, and an eight-man SWAT unit with an armored vehicle if I can get dayshift back in here,” I said. “County might get me another six to eight men, including two snipers. I can’t pull everyone off patrol, either. We’re dealing with a lot of accidents and emergency calls. We barely have numbers even if I get the whole department in on this.”
There was silence for a bit. “You’re right; it’s a bad situation to try and effect an arrest. If you can keep track of the men until our teams arrive, that would be a big help.”
I thought about it; I could do that. “I’ll start moving men into position around the motel and planning for a contingency raid. What I want to know is what the hell these guys are doing way up here? Are they trying to get out of the country?”
“We think they are going after Chase Nygaard and Rori King, two members of the Steel Brotherhood who they blame for some of the deaths in the Orlando attacks.”
I’d heard of it but hadn’t been following the story; all the stuff going on in Florida and California was far away from my problems. “I had no idea the Steel Brotherhood was up here. We’ve seen them touring through in the summer, but they didn’t cause trouble.”
“Hang on; I’ll send you some information. Neither has a police record, but we’re running into lots of roadblocks on their backgrounds, and they have a lot of money we can’t explain.”
I looked down at my computer, an email notification popped up, and I opened it. Two pictures were attached; they were from a public event because I could see people sitting in the background and American flags. As I looked at her, I saw a young woman I’d seen before. Her hair was different, she had matured, but those eyes and her face I could never forget. “Oh geez,” I said as I pinched my nose. “Her name isn’t Rori King.”
“We suspected that, but we can’t find any records from more than three years ago.”
“You won’t. Rori’s real name is Treasure Olson, daughter of the late Captain Mark Olson of the Minnesota State Patrol. His wife was Dawn Olson, a nurse who worked here in Duluth. Treasure’s father died three years ago in the line of duty near Rochester. Shortly after that, she and her best friend were assaulted and nearly raped in the woods by her house. The men who did it went after her in the hospital; at least one of the men involved is still at large. Treasure and Dawn disappeared after that. I heard a rumor that she was given a victim protection identity change and left the state.”
“No wonder we can’t find anything older,” someone said.
“Her father was stationed out of this town for years before he moved to Rochester. He was my friend, and I used to go to their house and hang out. Is Treasure, I mean Rori, is she involved in something illegal?”
There was another long pause. “We have suspicions, but nothing concrete.”
“I need to make sure she isn’t hurt,” I said. “If the Sons are up here to harm her, I can pass the word to the County. The Sheriff can put a cruiser outside her house or something.”
“Fine,” the Deputy Commander finally said. “Forward everything you have to us, and we’ll do what we can. Do you have surveillance video?”
“I’m getting it soon,” I said. “I’ll pass it along.”
“Good. I need to know who all is up there, Captain.” He gave me a website and a passcode. “This is a secure videoconferencing system. It’s now 25 minutes after midnight Pacific time; we’ll convene again in 95 minutes, at 0300 Pacific. There will be a lot more people involved than just us, Captain. You should invite your Command as well.”
“Understood. I’ll call you back if anything changes.” I hung up and dialed the Sheriff’s Dispatch; I explained the situation and didn’t like the answer. The roads were impassable; visibility was not much better than your hood ornament, and you couldn’t even see where the pavement was with all the blowing and drifting.
“Look, Captain, if they are in Duluth, they won’t be coming up here until the plows clear the roads tomorrow. I’ll get a car out there when I can, but don’t hold your breath.”
“Thanks, Sergeant.” I checked my email; Lucy had sent me a half-dozen emails with stills and video picked from their security system. I forwarded them all to the Task Force, then called the number. “I just emailed the surveillance video to you. I talked to the Sheriff’s Office but didn’t have any luck getting a squad to sit on their house. They are reporting near-zero visibility and impassable roads. That also means I won’t get assistance tonight from them.”
“We’ll take care of warning Mrs. King,” the Deputy Director said. “Talk to you at three.”
Deputy Commander Virgil Solozzo’s POV
LA Task Force Headquarters
I hung up the phone as the others looked at me. “Nobody contacts Rori King or Chase Nygaard,” I said.
A few of the agents looked at each other. “Why? They are in danger, and they’re unprotected!”
“They don’t know they are subjects of an investigation, and until we have officers at the door serving search warrants, they don’t hear a thing. If they get wind the Sons are up there, they will bolt, and we might lose them.”
“What about Director Grimes? We know he’s up there, we could warn him,” our CIA rep said.
“He’s not supposed to know we’ve got him under surveillance.” I glared at them for questioning me. “You heard what the Captain said about the weather. Nothing is moving up there until the middle of the day tomorrow. Look at the damn map! The hotel is at the edge of Duluth, Rori’s house is almost thirty miles away. They aren’t in danger, and they won’t be. We need to focus on getting assets in place so we can take down the Sons at this hotel. Taylor, see if Defense can get a helicopter that can fly in that weather. Rodgers, get an update on Hostage Rescue. The rest of you, get back to your background searches on Rori King aka Treasure Olson. Find out where the money is coming from.” I stood up to go back to my office as they scrambled to get results. Irene was already pissed about the Dead Presidents being strung up on the fence; this news would send her over the edge.