Brand stood by Susan’s side, talking with the detective then standing silent while O’Brien patiently walked Susan through the confrontation. The detective wrote furiously in his notebook with each answered question. When O’Brien finished, Brand walked Susan away from the house and the scene of the attack.
Light grey clouds filled the sky, drops of impending rain began to fall as the two crossed the overgrown sidewalk and stepped onto the street. Brand’s truck remained parked in the middle of the street, police cars lined up behind the bumper, red and blue strobe lights colouring the raindrops.
“I’ll drive you to a hospital,” Brand said helping Susan into the truck. “Let the docs check you over then we can think about what to do next.”
Susan raised her face. Traces of tears and smudged mascara marked her cheeks. “I’m fine. A little shook up but…I’ll be okay, honest.”
Brand watched the police cars and Jerry’s vandalized house grow smaller in the rear-view mirror. He steered the truck with no destination in mind, only to put distance between Susan and her father’s house and the memories of the attackers. He drove in silence, his thoughts on where to take Susan, one where this nightmare wouldn't touch her again. His house was obviously no use, and he questioned the security of a hotel.
Driving aimlessly through the streets, Brand deliberated, his eyes continuously roaming the streets ahead before studying the truck’s mirrors, alert for the tell-tale signs of being followed. His mind sorted through different possibilities to keep his friend's daughter safe. With the police convinced of his involvement, counting on their protection for Susan’s safety was doubtful. Where did that leave him? If the cops were no help, then maybe the solution was to look in the opposite direction.
All of his reasoning circled back to the single option that remained open, one he would have preferred to avoid. Leaving the community of Bowness, he steered the truck east, his destination the outskirts of the city, the far, eastern edge. The journey started off in silence, both he and Susan lost in their thoughts. Susan eventually broke the silence.
“Those men at dad’s house. They kept asking me where it was. I asked what they meant, but they refused to say, they just repeatedly asked where 'it' was hidden. I tried to tell them that I recently arrived in the city and had no idea what they were talking about.” She went silent again. After a couple more minutes she resumed. “I was afraid they were going to kill me. What do they want? What are they after, Brand?” She glanced across the seat. Tears rimmed her eyes.
Brand was slow to reply. He checked the mirrors, then looked at the street ahead. He carefully thought through his answer. At a red light, he looked Susan in the eyes.
“The police believe, that your dad and I, and a friend of ours are involved with a biker gang who run the local drug business.” He said more out loud than to her. “I was at the apartment of this friend, the one I told you about; the guy killed at my house the night your dad took a bullet… somebody had trashed his place, also.”
“The drug angle the cops are chasing doesn’t make much sense. I have my doubts that Dave was involved in the drug business, but after being at his apartment, I’m not so sure anymore. None of this makes sense, though. If these bikers are looking for drugs, the thoroughness of their searches seems to be a lot more than one would expect. Anyways, I’ve got to find a safe place to take you. I can’t protect you while I figure out what’s going on.”
Brand pulled the truck onto the shoulder of a road alongside a heavily fenced acreage. Susan’s eyes widened as she looked out the window. The building sitting off the road was a mixture of house and fort. The fence surrounding the property, built tall and firm, more for security than curb appeal. The wall was thick and reinforced, partially blocking the view of the house and yard. What she could see of the property was not overly inviting either; solid shutters guarded the windows, no trees or shrubs occupied the space, and the ground was brown and dusty, void of grass. She watched, scared, as milled about the barren yard, some with large dogs at their sides, others leaning against motorcycles.
She glanced over at Brand, her brows knitted in confusion, her mouth open, disbelieving, waiting for an explanation.
Brand stared out the window at the house. A large banner hung over the door, the words ‘Mahihkan Manito’ printed over a picture of a pack of wolves, the beast’s eyes a fiery red. Blood dripped from their snarling mouths.
Brand’s knowledge of the Cree dialect faded over the years. Still, he remembered enough of the language to translate the wording on the banner, "Wolves of Satan". He hadn’t driven this road in a lot of years and had sworn never to return. He glanced at Susan. Instead of explaining they had driven to the property, he curtly told her to stay in the truck with the doors locked.
“I won’t be long,” he assured her and opened the driver’s door, looked back at the hanging banner, then reluctantly climbed out. He stood beside the open door, quiet and unmoving while contemplating his next move.
Dark grey clouds hung from the sky. The rain showers from earlier in the day left the air humid, thick with the promise of more rain. The odd drop fell from the threatening sky while Brand stood alongside the truck. He tilted his head looking at the clouds, then down the short, paved approach and the security gate before glancing back at his friend’s daughter.
“Keep the doors locked.” He repeated, slammed the door shut, and moved toward the reinforced gate.
Men dressed in biker leather, crests sporting the wolves with red eyes stitched to their vests, stepped in front of the gate, challenging, as he approached.
“Private property, mister. You’d be better off to climb back in your truck and drive away.” A large biker warned. Brand studied the man and then took stock of the other bikers in the group.
I’m here to see Roy.” Brand spoke, undaunted by the warning.
“Roy’s busy. He doesn’t talk with unannounced visitors. Leave a card; I’ll book you an appointment.” The man said for the amusement of his friends.
“Geez…I didn’t know Roy began inviting comedians to join his gang.” Brand sarcastically commented to the biker. “I need to speak with him. Tell him Brand Coldstream is here.”
The bikers moved, threateningly, in his direction. Brand stared at the men; he held his ground as the group tightened around him. He hoped this gamble paid off; he wasn’t in the mood to get into a slugfest with a group of greasy, leather-clad bums with tattoos.
The large biker’s face lit up. Days of hanging around the clubhouse led to boredom, the unexpected arrival of this man might provide a little entertainment for the lot of them.
Brand waited while the bikers circled him. None of the bikers seemed inclined to contact the house and speak to the man he drove out of town to see. Brand assessed the situation. The mouthy biker would be the first one he dealt with; the man seemed to fancy himself as somewhat of a leader. Brand watched the man edge closer, tracking the remaining men with his peripheral vision.
Realizing his only chance of getting to the house may be through this group, he prepared himself. His breathing slowed, muscles tensed ready to release a sudden world of hurt on the men standing in his way. The last few days had been bad, frustration and anger that built up inside ready to be released.
The bikers walked closer, glancing from one to another, smirks plastered on their faces as they sensed an easy target. Anxious seconds passed.
Brand backed against the hood of his truck, his patience draining. The bike members crowded each other closing his escape.
“Jimmy. You and the boys back the hell up and leave that man alone.” A harsh, growling command rose from the now open gate ending the standoff. The bikers stopped, their confused faces collectively turning toward the gate and voice. Brand’s eyes followed the bikers turned heads toward the voice.
Standing with one hand holding a section of gate open stood a bear of a man, nearly a foot taller than Brand’s six feet and surely twice the weight. The man’s face, clean-shaven and pock marked with scars. Furrowed eyebrows wrinkled the broad forehead and a pair of intense coal, black eyes glared back at Brand. An arrow straight nose centered above a mouth, frozen in a vicious snarl and covering the giant head, crow black hair was pulled tightly to the back and tied in a ponytail.
The leather vest the man wore stretched bulged over the man’s massive chest. A t-shirt stretched past its limit, partially covered his upper arms and black leather motorcycle chaps draped over lace up leather boots finished the man's attire.
Brand stood, unfazed, regarding the giant staring back at him. The massive biker pushed through the gate and ambled onto the gravel driveway. To Brand's eyes, the man had grown in size since the previous time the two met. So much time had passed, Brand recalled. A lot of years went by the wayside, since his last contact with his foster brother, Roy Thundercloud.
“How are you, Roy. It's been a while.” Brand looked up at the man, his right hand extended. Roy Thundercloud grabbed Brand's arm and pulled him close. A mixture of emotions rushed over Brand as his brother's massive arms wrapped him in a crushing bear hug.
Memories of a long past childhood embraced Brand with Roy’s crushing show of affection. Memories, some buried since a young age, deep in the recesses of his mind floated to the surface.
As a six-year-old kid, his life changed dramatically. His parents were the victims of a horrible house fire. Fragments of that fatal night surfaced. He saw the little boy, standing in pajamas, barefoot in the snow packed yard on the street in front of the burning house. With a tear-stained face, he recalled looking up at the burly firefighters, grown men returning the little boys stare, their soot covered faces streaked by emotion, as he cried for his mother and father.
A heavyset woman with frizzy hair and a scrunched face arrived and walked him away from the house, his parents and even the brave firefighters who pulled him from the burning home. At the young age of six, he was an orphan. With no extended family to care for him, Brand was alone in a world he was too young to understand. Social services took responsibility for him, and he became a ward of the province, then from the government shelter to an older couple and a foster home.
His new family was a childless couple, a hardworking husband and caring wife, decent, God fearing, but not ones to spare the rod. His foster parents taught him to follow the rules; sometimes the lessons were learned the hard way.
Brand was the only child in the couple's care, and through tough, emotional times, the couple helped him deal with the emotional realization of parent’s deaths. Slowly, the three became a family. A few years down the road, the hard working couple accepted another foster child into their home. Roy Thundercloud came into his life.
Roy was younger than Brand, an easy-going kid with a rebellious spirit, who gravitated through trouble with a smirk and a shit-eating attitude. The years passed and a bond developed between the two, orphaned boys. Roy referred to Brand as his big brother, which Brand, even to this day, found funny. Roy, since a young age, towered over him. With only each other to rely on, the two became inseparable. Fights at school, trouble with the police, the duo helped each other out of the many tribulations that followed them through adolescence.
Brand recalled the look of betrayal and sadness on Roy’s face when he decided to join the R.C.M.P. and left Edmonton to attend the police academy in Saskatchewan, the first time since kids that the two were apart. As the years marched forward and Brand moved up in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and then into the intelligence service of his country with the Canadian Security Intelligence Agency, Roy’s future ventured in the opposite direction. It soon followed that wherever Roy went, trouble wasn’t far behind.
Roy had a terrible temper, which Brand was witness to over the years. On the outside, Roy was as gentle as a teddy bear, until someone would push or cross the man. Then a streak of violence would rain down on that person. The only ones spared Roy’s violence were Brand and their foster parents. Everyone else beware.
After several minor run in’s with the law, Roy became involved with a local bike gang. Roy already had a growing sheet of misdemeanours and found his name on several police watch lists, so Brand tried to steer Roy away from the seedier side of the law. A difference of opinions drove a wedge between the inseparable brothers until Brand backed away from being his brother’s keeper.
Reluctantly and out of love and respect for his brother, Brand turned a blind eye to Roy’s outlaw life and only occasionally the two talked. The lifestyles the two men had chosen marched them in different directions.
After serving a short stint in jail, Brand convinced Roy to join the Army with hopes the change of venue would convince his brother of a better life. Roy enlisted and served several years overseas before being honourably discharged, the results of a wound he received in combat, metals adorned his chest from the same mission when he, after being injured, selflessly pulled members of his platoon out of harms way.
On his return to the country, Roy settled in Calgary where the draw of motorcycles and walking on the wrong side of the law was too powerful to ignore. After a short while, Roy founded his own biker gang.
Brand, through connections in the law community, kept tabs on his brother. Even against his morals he could never abandon the only family he had left. He refused to intrude in Roy’s lifestyle choices, but watched from the background, adopting the attitude that where Roy was concerned, what he pretended he didn’t know wouldn't hurt his brother.
Even after his retirement from CSIS, Brand maintained his distance. Once a cop always a cop, he felt, so he stayed away from the biker life Roy adopted, never voicing his concerns. The two rarely talked, never associated over the years because of Brand’s law career and Roy’s illegal activities. A decision made by Brand alone and the complexities he would never admit to his brother, but understood by both.
With each morning newspaper, every evening newscast, Brand expected to hear Roy’s name, either of his brother arrested…or worse. When it came to his brother’s well being, Brand’s apparent ignorance of Roy’s activities was only a thin façade, only mildly satisfying his concious.
The different lifestyles aside, Roy was still family. With that bond, Brand would go to his death watching over his foster brother. But now, in a time of need, he drove east of the city filled with recrimination for the years of self-imposed separation. With reluctance, Brand stood outside the fence of a place he once vowed he’d never visit, seeking help from a brother he avoided for his own asinine reasons.
The only person he could trust, without reservations, happened to be the very same person he willingly avoided, and now, here he was.
Other Brand Coldstream titles, Going Silent and Silent Crusade available at on-line book stores world wide and soon, the paperback version of The Ice Racer. The sic-fi novel is currently available on Amazon.