Best Laid Plans
Middle of Arrowhead Lake
It was one in the morning, and I had to take a piss. The coffee had gone through me, and my fucking prostate was the size of a walnut.
Getting old sucked.
I had Fence with me, sitting in the SUV we’d driven up. We had been on the lake since eleven; we found a cluster of ice houses about a half-mile off the Point as our lookout post. We had parked so the passenger side window was the only thing showing between the closely-set ice fishing houses, and removed the dome light so it wouldn’t go on when we opened the door. The rest of the lights, and the engine exhaust so we could stay warm, were hidden behind the shacks. The other two vehicles were covering the front and rear entrances.
It wasn’t like Chase and his buddies were hiding. I could see five fires going, and I’d counted forty men around them. A couple of snowmobiles were patrolling beyond the bonfires, but not coming out this far. All of the ones outside had rifles slung on their shoulders or leaned against nearby vehicles. Add in all the people I could see moving around in the homes, and the defensive emplacements they’d created, and this was a suicide mission. It pissed me off that we were going after a target that KNEW we were coming and had hours to prepare.
It was almost like they wanted us dead, but who? Pocket was the guy getting the orders, and he didn’t say who they were coming from.
“I’ve got to take a whiz,” I told him. He had the spotting scope taped to the divider between our seats, elevated so he could look through it without bending over. He sat back, reaching for his jumbo coffee. We’d each bought a thermos and filled that up too.
I grabbed a flashlight before I opened the door and stepped out onto the ice, cursing my lack of proper winter gear. It was colder than a witch’s tit in November; behind the storm was Arctic air, and the gusty north wind blew through my clothes as I walked to the back of the vehicle. My hands were freezing already, so I found a spot somewhat out of the wind and pulled my zipper down. It was such relief to be letting it go, and I looked up at the sky as the flow hit the corner of the ice house. It was beautiful; there wasn’t light pollution up here, so you could see the band of the Milky Way, and the green dance of the Northern Lights. I finished and zipped up, then pulled the gloves back on. Everything was cold and I needed to get back into the car. I took the flashlight out of my teeth and turned.
I took two steps towards the door and hit a patch of ice. My left foot slipped, I couldn’t catch myself and ended up landing hard on my back. “FUCK!” I banged my head against the snow and ice, making me see stars. I sat up slowly, the ache in my back and shoulder making me groan. “GodDAMMIT!” I had dropped my flashlight, but I could see it shining from behind the rear wheel. “Shit.” Getting down on my stomach, I reached for it and grabbed it with my hand.
As the beam moved over the undercarriage, something black caught my eye. It was a box, maybe four inches square with a wire hanging out, stuck to the frame by the rear wheel well. “The FUCK?” I worked my way a little closer, and grabbed it; it pulled off when the magnet let go.
It was a tracking device.
I checked the rest of the vehicle carefully, finding nothing else. I backed out, standing gingerly before attaching the tracker to the door of the ice house. Moving back to the car, I got back in. “Get us out of here,” I said. “Drive back to the public boat launch, then head west on the escape route we had planned.”
“Someone put a tracker on our car. We’re aborting the mission and getting the fuck out of here.” He put it in gear as I used the phone to send a group text. My other two cars and Pocket back at the hotel were on the list. “ABORT. TRACKER UNDER CAR. REMOVE AND GTFO.”
We were almost to the boat ramp when I got confirmation from Wrench in the car by the main entrance. “US TOO, LATER.” By the time we were on the road, Tuna Fish had replied with, “ME THREE SEE YA.”
I didn’t wait for Pocket to reply; the other chapters were on their own. Someone had been followed, and they must have tagged all our cars in the parking lot of the hotel. If they knew we were all there, there was no telling what else they knew. I broke the phone in half and tossed it into ditch as we turned onto the road. “Don’t stop for anyone or anything, Fence. If they aren’t tailed or arrested, we’ll see them in Hibbing at sunrise.” We’d made our escape plans before we left. We’d leave by different routes, knowing that it was safest for us to meet up far from the scene.
Captain Mark McCluskey’s POV
Duluth Police Headquarters
All the chess pieces had moved into position. Hostage Rescue, backed up by Hennepin County SWAT, was in place on a deserted stretch of road west of Two Harbors. It was the likely route from Duluth towards Chase and Rori’s compound on Arrowhead Lake.
Duluth SWAT, Ramsey County SWAT, the Minneapolis Bomb Squad, and SWAT teams from three counties were staying out of sight around the motel the Sons were staying. When the Sons started to move, Ramsey County would move ahead of them. Their job was to make sure they didn’t continue through the town of Two Harbors. They would cut off the road to the north, forcing the Sons west and into the trap. The Duluth and County SWAT teams would follow well behind the group until they were near the trap, then they would speed in and cut off their retreat.
We’d had another status meeting around midnight, and all was going well. The tracking units were in place on all their vehicles, and the GPS locations displayed on a large screen in the conference room. Most were still around the motel, but three surrounded Rori’s home; one by each entrance, and one out on the lake. The Sheriff had two cars on each, staying out of sight so we didn’t spook them. As soon as we sprang the trap, they’d move in and take the men down.
I’d warned her hours ago about the threat. With the number of Brotherhood fighters they had coming in, they could hold off an army.
You know what they say about plans, though. Few survive the first shot.
It was just after one in the morning when the first call came through, from a Lake County Deputy. “Command, Lookout Three is on the move. They just came off the ice.”
I looked up at the screen, which showed the vehicle labeled L3 in the same place as always, in the middle of the lake. I picked up the phone. “Are you sure that is them? We don’t show them moving.”
“I got a plate, sir, it’s them. We’re following at a distance. They could get away if we don’t take them now.”
The Sheriff and Chief looked at me. “Maintain surveillance. Units 243 and 87, move in and get a visual on your targets.”
It was a tense minute before the calls came back. “Lookout One isn’t there, sir. We don’t see anything.”
“Lookout Two is gone as well.”
Son of a BITCH! GPS showed them in place, which meant they had found and removed the tracking devices. “They know we’re onto them, sir. We need to move in immediately.”
The Chief looked up at the screen which showed half of his SWAT teams up near Two Harbors, a good fifteen minutes away with lights and sirens. “You sure, McCluskey?”
“They removed the trackers and disappeared Chief. We have to move now, or we’ll lose them.”
“Dammit.” He looked at the video feed of the motel, where Sons were leaving their rooms. “Send them in, surround the motel. Don’t let any of them leave.”
I nodded and picked up the radio. “The Sons know we’re on to them. All units, move in when ready and make arrests. Duluth SWAT, take control at the motel and take them down.” It was our worst nightmare; we would have a gunfight in the city. Our assets were scattered, and we didn’t have overwhelming numbers. “Hostage Rescue, Hennepin County SWAT, Code 3 return to the motel to support.”
I moved to a desk and dialed Rori’s number. “Rori, it’s Captain McCluskey. The Sons got spooked, and we’re moving in now. There were three cars watching you. One left from the north end of the lake, but the two watching your entrances took off.”
“They aren’t coming our way, Uncle Mark. It’s quiet here. You stay safe.”
“Bye.” At least she would be safe. “Boss, I’m taking everyone available to the motel to back up SWAT,” I said.
“Support only, keep the civilians away and be ready to pursue any that escape our lines,” he said. “Set up police lines two blocks in all directions.”
“Yes, sir.” I sent out an “All Available Units” to meet two blocks south, as I ran downstairs to my cruiser. Lights and sirens on, I led four cars north. I dispatched a unit to each intersection, to block traffic and set up police lines. When I parked and got out, I could hear the gunfire like it was firecrackers on the Fourth.
I listened to the radio calls, and it was pandemonium. The Sons had run for the vehicles, taking cover behind them and removing the trackers. We had the motel surrounded, and the crossfire cut half of them down in the first few minutes. The rest realized they were in the kill zone our SWAT teams and police had established.
The smart ones made a break for it. Three vehicles tried to drive out of the lot, drawing fire from the SWAT snipers and police. Everyone focused on the drivers, and except the sniper from Ramsey County who shot the engines out with his big Barrett Fifty. Once the vehicles were disabled, they were vulnerable.
The Sons in the cars returned fire with automatic weapons, but their doors and windshields provided scant protection against our gunfire. Shots rang out from all directions as the high-powered rounds cut them to pieces. Those men died while the fourth and fifth cars managed to get out of the lot. “Two heading southbound on 61, in pursuit,” came the call.
They were coming right to me.
“Stay behind cover and make your shots count,” I yelled over to Officer Jenkins as we crouched behind the hoods of our cruisers that blocked the four-lane road. Seconds later, the first Suburban came into view. I opened up with my patrol rifle, one of the Army Surplus M-4 rifles we’d received in the war on drugs. I pushed the selector to three-round burst fire and opened up on the driver’s side headlight. The burst fire causes the second and third shots to climb up and left, so this walked the bullets into the windshield. I fired one, two then three bursts before the big SUV swerved to the right and crashed into a parked car.
“Bailing out,” I yelled as the survivors opened the doors. The pop-pop-pop of our rifles was answered by the louder, full-auto fire of AK-47’s. I ducked down as the bigger rounds slammed into my cruiser. Changing my magazine, I stood back up and took aim at a man who was running for a storefront.
I felt something hit my throat, and I dropped my rifle as my hands went up to touch it. Something else slammed into my helmet, and I dropped to the ground. Like a switch, it all went dark.
Officer Jessica Jenkin’s POV
Highway 61, South of Motel
My heart was racing as the big Suburban came towards us. I checked my patrol AR-15 one last time, then took position behind the front tires of my Ford Explorer Police Interceptor. I had my spotlight pointed up the road, hoping to blind them.
“Stay behind cover and make your shots count,” Captain McCluskey told me. When he started shooting, I did too. I focused on the driver, putting rounds into the windshield until I couldn’t see through it. It swerved into a parked car, and guys started bailing out the doors on the far side. I couldn’t get a clean shot, so I aimed low. Skipping rounds off the frozen pavement under the car, I heard someone scream. I must have hit his feet because he fell to the ground, and the next three shots I fired hit his chest.
I switched targets as the full-auto fire of their rifles barked out. I took careful aim and squeezed the trigger, hitting the shooter in the head, and dropping him like he was hot.
Just like that, it was quiet. My ears were ringing, my hands were shaking, and I could see the lights and sirens coming towards me. “We did it, Captain,” I said as I turned to him.
He was on his back, the blood pooling under him already. “NO!” I ran towards him, dropping my rifle as I slid on my knees to his side. It was hopeless; a rifle bullet had gone through his throat, another through his forehead, and the back of his head was gone. “OFFICER DOWN,” I said into the radio, giving out our location.
Sitting on the frozen road, I held his head in my lap and cried as help arrived too late.