The Manager stopped at the door to his office. Quintin Rojas, the Colombian underboss’s voice echoed from the room. Rojas stood on the business side of the custom crafted desk. The small man’s back toward the door, strings of rapid Spanish spoken angrily filled the quiet of the room, words borne of a heated conversation. The flow of the Colombians conversation lost on Cartwright, his understanding of the language limited to a Taco Time menu.
James Cartwright, a.k.a. The Manager stood in the doorway debating walking farther in the room or allowing his unwanted guest some privacy. He remained in the opening, his face impassive, his features barely veiling his dislike of the outspoken Colombian. The office, this city, was his turf and these foreign sons of bitches set up shop and took right over.
Cartwright leaned against the doorframe. He found himself longing for the simpler life left behind over the passing years. A time before the Cartel blew into town. A time when Satan’s Warrior’s and Thundercloud’s eastside bikers coexisted, each group claiming parts of the city in an uneasy truce.
The Manager let his eyes roam the office interior, the headquarters of his operation floors above the noisy gaming rooms of the Millennium Casino. At one time, he lorded over the west end of the city, running his operation from a fortress-like clubhouse. Drugs, extortion, prostitution were the mainstays of his clubs activities. Occasionally, people got hurt, maybe killed and disappeared when running afoul of the Warriors but those incidents were rare. With the partnership of the Cartel, the body count climbed indiscriminately.
When first approached by the Cartel to partner with their organization and handle the drug distribution east of the Rockies, the Manager saw the deal as a way to bring power and wealth to his Warrior members and a way to crush his cross-town rivals.
The cash that followed the increased drug trade was more than his gang was capable of procuring. With the surge in profits, the violence escalated. The Colombian’s proved they were not shy to brutally remove any obstacle in their way. His lack of understanding of how the Cartel operated soon put things in a different perspective.
It became all too evident that what the Cartel wanted, they took, and his role in the partnership clear. Another pion caught in the Cartels expanding collective. His organization’s efforts to build and fight for their share of the drug trade in the city and surrounding area now in the hands of his Colombian partners. How much longer would they pretend that he was a valuable partner?
And the damn Spanish they spoke. Cartwright had no idea what the hell they were talking about, and the Colombians showed little respect, freely conversing in the language while in his presence. Nor did he trust them. James Cartwright dropped his chin to his chest. Times were changing violently, and he was becoming irrelevant. The Cartel was conniving and ruthless, and his future began to look uncertain.
Rojas slammed down the phone, the sudden noise busting through the Managers dark mood. Cartwright caught Rojas looking in his direction; the man’s face dark and surly. Rojas motioned Manager into the room, pointing to a chair at the foot of the desk.
“Why have we not heard from that big Indian, the leader of the Wolves?” The Colombian underboss asked angrily. “Have we not destroyed enough of his businesses yet for him to realize the trouble we bring?” The diminutive man dropped into the stuffed leather chair and swivelled facing the Manager. Rojas’ coal black eyes locked on Cartwright, the Colombian’s anger bubbling out in his words.
“He’s a stubborn man. I don’t think he scares as easily as you think.” The Manager stared right back at the seated Cartel man. “I warned you against such rash actions.”
“Are you scared, Parcero? Maybe you have no cojones.” Rojas braced the Manager. “If you are easily frightened, I can find a real man to do your job.”
“This isn’t some backwoods South American country,” The Manager calmly replied, “where all the cops and politicians are corrupt and people scatter at the sight of your big bad Cartel.
Sure we have cops on the payroll, but they’ll draw the line at you killing Roy’s men and torching his buildings. Here the consequences are great and the police fear going to prison more than they fear you. And Roy Thundercloud, never underestimate the man.” The Manager placated. His words meant to dispel the tension in the room. “We have to plan our moves carefully.”
Rojas regarded the Manager before speaking again. “El jefe is very displeased about the loss of our warehouse and the missing shipment. He wonders why nobody has been made to pay for these atrocities. He wants, no, he demands that we end this problem swiftly and leave no doubts that further disrespect will be punished severely.
The Indian and his pack of wolves, along with any future roadblocks that interfere in our business are to be…how do you say…removed with extreme prejudice. Our boss demands respect, and we will roll over every crook or cop to get it.” The Colombians nostrils flared as he sucked in a deep breath when he finished his speech. A cold smile appeared on Rojas’ face. “We will help you rid the city of these serpientes.”
Rojas’ thin lips curled into a smile, his tone growing friendlier.“Call the big Indian…what was his name, Thunder…?”
“Thundercloud, Roy Thundercloud,” Cartwright interjected.
“Yes. Mr. Thundercloud. What an odd name. Tell El Lobo that if he surrenders the man responsible for the destruction and theft of our property, we may leave him enough scraps to continue his way of life. If not, he can die along with his gang of mutts or get out of town! And his threats,” Rojas referred to the injured Jander Valera and Roy’s message, banged his fist on the desk to emphasize his words,“ are useless. Tell him,” Rojas slid the left-hand sleeve of his jacket up revealing a diamond-studded watch, “he’s got until 6:00 tomorrow night to accept.”
“One more thing,” Rojas added. “I want every cop under your thumb to start arresting El Lobo's men? We’ll deplete his manpower, help make his decision easier.”
“The cops can’t hunt and arrest the Wolves without cause. Their actions will draw suspicions.” Cartwright tried to reason. Quintin Rojas regarded the Manager. In the growing silence, he reached across the width of the desk and fumbled open an intricately designed humidor. Lifting the lid, the Colombian ran his fingers over the collection of exquisite cigars before choosing a thickly rolled Cuban. Beside the humidor, he slid a decorative guillotine cutter along with the cigar.
Rojas took his time inspecting the cigar before clipping the end and scratching a wooden match across the desk’s surface. The match flared, burning off the sulphur, before settling to a mesmerizing yellowish flame. The Colombian closed his eyes as he touched the lit match to the tobacco. Puffs of smoke escaped his mouth before he reopened his eyes.
“Tell the policìa to do what we ask. Otherwise they are no use to us and become disposable. Those who stepped across the line in our service only have death or jail in their future as an escape. Remind the corrupt men in uniform why we pay them, and…of the family members they will be unable to protect.” Rojas paused letting Cartwright digest the words of his thinly veiled threat. A cloud of dark grey smoke filled the air. “They take our money; they do what we ask!” Rojas banged the desk again ending the conversation, the smile no longer twisting the man’s lips.
The Manager clenched his jaw, fighting down the urge to call bullshit to the Colombian’s insidious orders. Threatening the freedom or the lives of the cops or worse yet, the cop’s families, was well beyond any type of action Cartwright was willing to undertake. Where would the madness stop?
The bloodshed and loss of gang members and cartel soldiers from the previous evening still stung the Managers pride. Without his advice, Rojas had orchestrated the attack on Thundercloud and his club. How the Colombian even knew that the Warrior leader would be there, Cartwright still didn’t know. The police presence at the club and today’s media coverage brought the simmering drug war into the open. Publicity that was never good for business.
The Manager allowed his head to move slightly in wonder. He felt the grip on his operation and now the war building between the rival bike gangs spinning out of control and the Cartel seemed more then eager to hasten it along.
Cartwright sat watching the Colombian. He dared not further enrage the man, but he sensed the need to rationalize with Rojas before bodies began cluttering the streets. A knock at the open office door interrupted the two men.
“Boss. I’ve got a bartender from the Lucky 7 on the line. He says that a man showed up this morning asking about a phone some old drunk lost. Probably nothing, but he insisted on talking to you.” The man said and handed Cartwright a phone.
“Cartwright.” The Manager snapped then listened as the caller updated him about the visitor at the bar and the questions asked. Cartwright grilled the bartender. The Manager’s eyes widened as a picture of the man formed in his head from the bartender’s description.
The snoop at the bar had to be Coldstream, and the Manager could guess why Coldstream was interested in the phone. Ending the call, Cartwright related the details of the conversation to Rojas. The man seeking the missing phone is none other than the very person they had framed in the detective’s murder.
“So he must know about the video on that phone, why else would he be interested? This man undoubtedly has a death wish.” The Colombian scowled at Cartwright. “If that phone is anywhere to be found, we have to find it. It’s vital.”
“Why. What the hell is so important about the video on it? So a few cops get busted for taking our money, maybe even some of your guys get arrested. What’s the deal?” Cartwright failed to understand the unnecessary waste of time and the urgency of worrying about a lost phone, which may or may not contain secretly recorded videos of illegal transactions.
Rojas continued glaring at the Manager wondering how much he should tell the man. If he knew what was at stake, would the Warriors try harder to locate the phone? The Colombian sat quietly debating whether to tell the Manager exactly why the video on this phone was so important.
“The head of the Moreno Cartel has, for many years, remained anonymous to law enforcement in any country. He grows concerned that some of the videos might contain footage exposing his identity. He would very much like to remain anonymous. He finds operating with anonymity helps him travel and expand his business without the worry of the police and competitors.” Rojas stopped. “Very few people know what el jefe looks like, so, find the bandida who stole our product and locate the damn phone.”
In an industrial park on the south side of town, the doors to a strip club opened. A group of bikers exited the bar, the men joking with each other. Laughter erupted from a drunken joke. The men clinging to open bottles of beer huddled under the club’s awning, a pack of cigarettes appeared and was passed around. Lighters flared as the drunken men howled loudly from off colour jokes and tugs of strong beer.
Blast of police sirens dampened the mood. The group turned their backs to the club wall watching and wondering why the cops would venture into this section of town on a quiet Saturday afternoon. The police officers sprang from the squad cars with guns drawn, pointed at the surprised men. Beer bottles smashed on the sidewalk as the Warriors raised their hands.
Roy Thundercloud had just gotten off the phone concerning a similar incident in the far south when his phone rang again. The call from the strip club in the industrial park was the third of it’s kind that day. News of arrests trickled into the clubhouse all day. Roy lost track of exactly how many members were detained by the police but the count was climbing.
In between these calls, he worked the phone passing word through the city for his men to find shelter from the storm. Other calls went out to his lieutenants for a meeting at the secure acreage on the outskirts of the city.
Obviously his warning to the Warriors and their Cartel partners went unheeded. Crushing a man’s hand and sending him running home with a mouth full of words rarely had an effect on serious matters. The threat levelled at the Warrior alliance after the altercation at the nightclub was his first warning, time to change course.
Roy paced away the day. A cell phone glued to his ear as he planned and talked to the vast number of Wolves bikers spread across the east side of Calgary. As the day passed, Roy recalled men to acreage. Others moved to undisclosed locations around the city with orders to remain out of sight. The acreage itself was out of the city cops jurisdiction, besides, he didn’t think there were enough police in the province to mount an attack on his fortress.
He walked the floors, receiving updates on the assault of his territory, mulling over strategies for retaliation against the Warriors and their Colombian partners. The east side of the city, the territory that the Wolves had lorded over for years was slowly crumbling to the Warriors Bike gang.
The time for action was now. Roy realized the truth in this. Quick and brutal strikes against the enemies might satisfy the rising anger his fellow Wolves hungered for but at what cost? And if he proceeded in a haphazard fashion the price could be too steep. No. He had to push aside the growing fury and methodically assess the enemy and their battlefield tactics. The war wasn’t the typical biker throw down. The Colombian Cartel changed that scenario.
In order to for him to suppress the onslaught against his turf, the city would pay a huge price. The war between the city’s two largest outlaw gangs wouldn’t only mean dead bikers but would include unintended casualties.
Roy fought with the solution that made the most sense. He intended to let the attacks on his clubs and the police harassment die down. Ride out the storm before the Wolves would begin to reclaim the business they lost. He needed to buy time. Even with the advantage in manpower he had to tread carefully. With the appearance of the Colombians in this fight, his men stood small chance of success.
The increase in attacks was echoed by the news media causing an outcry from the city’s population. Demands for the police force to quell the rising tide of violence would in turn result in added law enforcement. If he pushed back immediately, he would find that his gang would be fighting the battle on two fronts; one against the reinforced Warriors and another against a determined police force.
Too many unknown variables involved, he thought, diluting any chance at success. What he needed was an overwhelming show of force to stomp out his rivals quickly and permanently, but that meant merging forces with rival gangs from around the province and country, some friendly, some not. If the Cartel weren’t stopped before they gained traction, the Colombians would roll across the country.
But his men were growing restless. The attacks were personnel. The men would rather fight in the open and take their chances with the law than hide like cowards. Roy worried that controlling their urge to take the fight to the enemy might prove to be as difficult a task as he faced in the years of heading the organization.
“What are you going to do?” Susan’s voice stopped his pacing. Roy set the phone down and after hours on his feet fell into an armchair. Tiredly smiling back at her, he scratched his head in thought.
“Those boys are not leaving me much choice.” He summarized his thoughts. “A strong show of force will bring the cops flocking to the city. People are scared with the recent gang shootings. It’s all over the news.” He stated.
“How can you possibly stop them? United with the Cartel, the Warriors don’t care who they hurt, what they destroy.” Her voice grew quiet. “You could leave. Save your men. Would that be so bad?”
“I don’t really see that as an option.” Roy replied. He tilted his head curiously at Susan’s thinking.
“What then?” Susan pushed.
Roy studied Susan’s face. “A good question,” he admitted then told her about possible talks with other factions of bikers. Joining forces to take back the city.
Late that evening while meeting with his men, his phone rang. The number seemed vaguely familiar. One he had seen before but couldn’t place.
James Cartwright reintroduced himself to Roy.
“How’s business?” Cartwright asked, the tension in the Manager’s voice palpable through the phone line.
“A bit of a pain in the ass.” Roy answered unperturbed. He punched the speaker button on his phone and set it on his desk.
“But you know how this business can be.”
“I can make this go away for you.” The Manager replied. “I just need a favour.”
“Now what kind of favour can I do for you?” Roy asked.
“The man who torched our warehouse, we want you to turn him over. The stolen truck with our shipment, that we can talk about later.”
“Not going to happen.” Roy replied and waited. Silence was his answer. Over the phone line Roy heard a curt exchange of words and then a heavily accented voice replaced Cartwright’s.
“Mr. Thundercloud. We are not asking. We are simply giving you a chance to remain alive and still retain a small part of your operation.” Quintin Rojas explained as if the deal the men were negotiating was part of any every day business transaction.
“Ah. Mr. Rojas. I’m going to speak very slowly so the language barrier doesn’t screw up the translation of my words…Enjoy your last days on this earth.” Roy said very quietly into the phone. "If you continue to screw with me, I'll personally introduce you to the devil."
“I’m sorry you feel that way.” The Colombian underboss paused. “ I have a message for Mr. Coldstream. And yes, we know who he is. Tell Coldstream, his old friend's every conscious moment will be filled with extreme pain until he agrees to meet. Perhaps I will send him a video as a memento. He’s not weak in the stomach, is he?” The Colombian laughed.
“I will leave a number for this purpose. His friend might appreciate the cooperation. Do not forget to pass on this message…” Roy motioned to one of his men to write down the number as the Colombian deliberately emphasised the numbers.
Roy sat still, a blank wall the focus of his eyes. He punched the end button on the phone and looked at his men and shrugged.
“Anyone know where Brand is?” He asked. The men looked at each other. No one had an answer.