Chad swung the Eighteen-wheeler onto a deserted lane of blacktop and followed the short side road past ditches lined with cedar and pine trees. Asphalt gave way to gravel as the semi rolled through a gate. A one-story building appeared.
The warehouse was discretely located a few miles outside the city of Castlegar. The compound sat on a piece of land carved from a thick stand of trees, the dense bush sheltering the business from unwanted prying eyes. The property, a gravel parking lot, and a relatively obscure one-story building crouched in the clearing safeguarded by a chain link fence.
To one side of the building, a scattering of personal vehicles gleamed under the midday sun. Four large overhead bays faced the property’s entrance waiting to receive trailers, three of the doors occupied.
Chad shifted into lower gears, slowing the speed of the truck then expertly began turning the large tractor-trailer unit, lining the back of the truck with the empty overhead door. Slowly he inched the 54-foot trailer until it made contact with the rubber bumpers protecting the dock.
Dust rose from the gravelled lot when the truck’s air brakes released. Brand remained in the cab letting the dust settle.
Chad flicked off the ignition, sitting with his hand on the keys. Moments had passed before he glanced in Brand’s direction. “What now?”
“Do what you’re told,” Brand replied. The trip allowed him a lot of time to think about this moment. His original idea was to ride along, have a look around and gather Intel to use at a later date. Those thoughts seemed to fall by the wayside once the forest road opened up revealing the biker’s compound. Flashes of memory from the night of the attack at his house and his friends lying unconscious after being shot, surfaced, along with a smoldering rage. What exactly he planned to do, he didn’t know. The men inside the building determined today’s outcome.
He pushed open the cab door and jumped to the ground. Stretching, he looked skyward at the blue sky, and bright sun then gave a cursory glance at the exterior of the building. Tucked under the eaves, the tell tale lens of high tech security cameras. Made sense, he thought, considering the type of products the warehouse stocked.
The day was warm. The sun beat down into the few acre lot, the surrounding trees blocking the wind, allowing the heat to build.
He walked around the cab to join Chad. The driver’s boots crunched on the gravel as the man stepped from the truck and walked toward a set of metal stairs leading into the warehouse. Brand grabbed the ball cap tucked in his back pocket, flattened the brim as best he could and pulled it low over his head. He then slouched to make himself seem less imposing, put a big grin on his face and loped behind Chad, projecting the impression that he was a few litres short of a full tank.
A blast of cold air greeted the pair. A man in jeans and a t-shirt, with a vest displaying his biker colours, met them at the door, an automatic rifle cradled in his hand. He stood in their path and stared, unmoving. Loud words poured onto the concrete dock from behind the biker. Brand peered from under the brim of his ball cap.
A small man, with bronze tinted skin, and slicked back black hair appeared at the biker’s side. South American, Brand noted, no doubt Colombian. The Latino’s expensive suit and polished footwear, noticeably out of place in the surrounds of the warehouse, and in stark contrast to the biker’s attire of jeans and a t-shirt.
“Who are you?” The Colombian demanded, the words rolling rapidly off his tongue, his accent heavy.
“The Manager gave me the address. Told me to be here today.” Chad rattled nervously. He shoved a crumpled piece of paper at the men with the warehouse’s address. “Said you would have a load of produce destined for Calgary.”
The Latino ignored the paper in Chad’s hand and glared up at Brand.
“This is…my swamper…Duane.” Chad stammered.
“We weren’t informed you’d bring a helper.” The Latino scowled. “Search them.” He instructed the gun-toting biker.
Brand giggled as the biker patted him down. The biker finished and looked at Chad. “Your buddy here…he’s seems kind of special.” The biker said through a malicious sneer. Chad nodded and glanced at Brand. His skin grew paler thinking about the amount of trouble facing him.
The Latino walked over to a closed door at the side of the loading dock, and pushed it open, barking orders to the men sitting in the room.
“Get off your butts and load this truck.” He shouted through the open doorway not waiting for the workers to respond. “You two wait outside,” he said to Chad. “I’ll let you know when they've finished loading your trailer.”
Keeping the stupid ass grin on his face, Brand let his eyes roam the interior of the building before exiting behind the truck driver. Two men at the front door, three from the other room and he only spotted one other guy deeper inside the building, among pallets of vegetables lined up in rows on the dock. The man guarding the front door held the only visible weapon, but Brand had no doubt the Latino was probably packing a concealed gun, the others, if they were armed or not, he couldn’t be certain.
Outside, the two stopped in front of the cab of the truck. Brand turned his back to the warehouse, dropped the grin and lit a cigarette. He thought about the building sitting in the clearing of trees, private, and no other businesses around for miles. Only a few men on the premises, at least a couple guns and a building constructed mainly from wood. These things he could work with.
He continued leaning against the cab of the truck as the men inside busied themselves with loading the trailer. The whining of propane powered forklifts filled the quiet afternoon air, moving skids loaded with cardboard boxes of vegetables. The trailer rocked and bounced r as pallet after pallet was carried inside and placed carefully against its neighbour. Chad leaned against the trucks chrome bumper, he stood silent, his face a sickly grey from fear and worry.
An hour and a half later, the man in the suit and the armed biker walked from the building and met the two at the front of the truck. The Latino handed Chad a slip of paper.
“Deliver this load to that address.” He instructed and turned, the biker following.
“Wait here.” Brand mumbled to the truck driver. Putting the stupid grin back on his face, he rushed after the retreating men. “I gotta use the can.” He called out.
The boss turned and looked at him. “There are three acres of woods, pick a spot.”
“No.” Brand whined. “I need a seat, badly.” He protested.
The suited man sighed. “Escort him to the bathroom.” He instructed the biker before climbing the metal stairs into the warehouse.
“Hurry up.” The biker growled walking inside the building. “Over there.” he pointed with the barrel of the gun at a room partially hidden in the back corner. Brand loped in the direction indicated, the biker following close behind. Brand moved slowly. Under cover of his cap’s brim, he ran his eyes across the warehouse floor searching for the three men who loaded the truck.
The concrete loading area was silent except for the ringing of boot soles echoing off the cement floor. Brand increased his speed passing behind skids of stacked produce boxes, the biker forced to increase his stride to remain a close step behind. At the bathroom door, Brand planted a foot and abruptly stopped.
Brand felt the other man’s knuckles dig into his back when the biker, not anticipating the sudden move, collided with him.
With an unexpected quickness, Brand twisted, focused the weight of his body and drove his elbow back into the biker’s face. The biker hesitated, his hands rising awkwardly to block the blow. Brand spun, his fingers reaching for the weapon in the biker’s hands.
The surprising move and a knee placed to the man’s groin allowed Brand to wrench the long gun out of the biker’s hands. In the shelter of the pellets, Brand swung the gun, and using the rifle’s solid stock as a club, drove the end into the biker’s head until the man fell unconscious.
Brand paused, hidden behind the boxes of produce wary for signs of running feet or any indication the commotion may have attracted the attention of the other warehouse employees. The building remained quiet, so he crept from behind the cover and made his way to the rooms near the entrance. Muffled voices, relaxed talking met his ears, the men evidently unaware of his presence.
He skirted past the partially open door and hesitated at the side of the entrance of the small Latino’s office. Taking a deep breath, he held the gun, his fingers wrapped around the stock, his finger hovering near the trigger, his free hand on the doorknob.
Flinging the door opened, his head followed the metal gun barrel as it swept across the room’s interior. His eyes and the barrel stopped at a desk behind the door. The small man was slow to act. When Brand met the Latino’s eyes, the man had his hand on a handgun inside his coat.
Brand steadied the rifle and fired. The bullet struck the Latino in the chest driving the smaller man back into the wall. With out slowing, Brand stepped away from the office door and moved to the opening of the second room. The workers looked away from a television in the corner, caught off guard by his appearance. He raised the rifle, bracing the men as they began to react.
“Hands on your heads.” He shouted motioning the workers out. Brand held the gun on the men as he cleared the room. The rifle held in one hand, Brand patted the men. No weapons, only keys, wallets and cell phones. He pocketed one of the phones, throwing the rest of items in a stack on the floor.
Glancing around the loading dock, he spotted a short roll of poly, the type used to wrap boxes securely on the wooden pallets for shipping.
He spoke to the men. “One of you, grab that roll of plastic. You other two,” he pointed to where the biker lay unconscious. “Drag your buddy over here.” Brand held his finger on the rifle’s trigger covering the men as they obeyed his orders.
“Stand him up.” Brand instructed the men carrying the biker.” To the third man holding the roll, “wrap him tight. I don’t want him moving.” With the job finished, Brand barked new orders. He wanted the biker and the roll of poly taken outside. He followed a few paces behind the dockworkers as they struggled to move the unconscious biker out into the sunlight.
He marched the small group past the tractor-trailers, and away from the building while he called to Chad. In the middle of the parking lot, he stopped the men instructing them to stand facing one another with their hands hanging by their sides, the biker, held up by the three men, in the middle.
“Grab that roll and wrap them tightly,” he ordered Chad. “Stop when the roll is empty. We don’t need any surprises.
Brand watched until Chad was well into the roll, confident that the men couldn’t move and then headed back into the warehouse. He slowly approached the office where he had shot the boss and peered in. The man was lying on the floor behind his desk. Brand grabbed the man’s gun and then checked for a pulse. The boss was still breathing.
Grabbing the man under one shoulder Brand dragged the man out to where the others were bound and asked Chad to put a couple wraps around him. Chad showed Brand the empty roll. Brand shrugged.
“Keep an eye on them. I’ll be right back.” He said and headed back into the building.
Checking the office first, he scooped up the Latino’s laptop. He wasn’t talented enough to crack passwords, but what the hell, he’d take it anyway, it might come in handy down the line, and he had friends who could make short work of the computers security system.
Rifle in one hand and laptop in the other he searched the warehouse. A quick look through the wrapped pallets on the dock floor revealed nothing but produce, so he explored near the far end of the building. In the back, he found a false room hidden discreetly inside a large freezer drive-in freezer. Opening the door carefully, he entered, the barrel of the gun leading the way.
Two men worked hunched over in the hidden room, stuffing plastic pouches containing a white powder, into partially empty boxes of vegetables.
Brand marched the two men outside, stopping long enough to have one of the men grab another roll of poly. He watched Chad bind the two before walking back into the warehouse for the last time. Taking his time, he removed the propane tanks from the pallet jacks and stacked them beside the freezer with the hidden drugs. While gathering the tanks, he kept a clear path to the front door. Finished, Brand poked his head out the door, warning to Chad to start the truck and drive it away from the building.
Brand waited as the truck rumbled across the gravel lot. He turned his attention to the bound men. “You might want some distance between you and the building,” he warned and watched with a bitter amusement as the groups waddled like penguins, scrambling toward the perimeter fence.
Brand took a final look around. Satisfied, he walked toward the wooden structure. In view of the camera, he lifted his hand, the middle finger raised. Climbing the metal stairs, he focused his attention back to the warehouse interior. Raising the rifle’s stock to his shoulder, he sighted down the gun barrel aiming for the stack of propane tanks. He drew a breath, tightened his finger on the trigger and prepared to launch out the door to safety.
The bullet left the barrel striking the center of the closest tank. The container erupted like a bomb, followed shortly by a deafening explosion as the remaining tanks ignited. The wave of air from the first explosion blew Brand the top step outside the door. The concussion from the second blast blew the building apart, debris flying skyward and outward.
Brand dragged himself to his feet, and with an arm covering his head, ran for the cab of the truck. Carrots, potatoes, jagged pieces of lumber and tin from the roof of the building rained down all around. Jumping onto the step of the truck, he flung open the door and scrambled in.
“Drive.” He hollered at Chad.