“So what all can you tell me about the Warriors and the cartel they are in bed with?” Brand asked. “I made my way down to the Millennium last night. Wandered around the floors checking out the action. For the most part, the casino looks legit, but the poker tables. I noticed one guy losing his shorts.” Brand explained. “Curious, I kept an eye on this guy. Security pulled the man from the table and escorted him from the building. I followed the pair to the Warrior’s clubhouse.”
“Not surprising,” Roy interceded.
Brand continued. “I talked to the gambler. He drives transport truck. He’s making an unscheduled run into B.C. tomorrow. Figured I’d go along for the ride.”
Brand watched his brother’s face for a reaction, a cloud of concern, darkened Roy’s features. The two men sat across the desk in Roy’s office, a bottle of whiskey perched between them.
The fight at Esmeraldas, from earlier in the day, Brand left out. He didn’t need Roy thinking he was overly violent.
“Sounds like you have a pretty good idea. The casino rigs the games. The scam is simple. When a potential mark joins the tables, the dealers shuffle the cards accordingly. Once the losses accumulate, the house offers a loan, a show of faith and the chance for the mark to recoup his money. That never happens, of course, and the casino owns the debt, making the marks easier to control.
From there it’s simple, a heavy-handed approach in some backroom, either cough up the cash or...an option of debt forgiveness for favours” Roy locked eyes with Brand. “ These are some very dangerous vermin, brother.”
“Crazy white men, local to the limit, if you want my honest opinion,” Roy emphasized. “The Warriors have cops and lawyers, even judges, in their pockets, protecting them. Now they roam the city like they’re untouchable. You’re walking into trouble if you go up against them.”
“No worries…I’m only going along for a ride tomorrow. Get a feel for the way this organization operates; maybe find a flaw that I can use to my advantage.
I need to play this out, Roy; I can't stand on the sidelines. I need to discover what went missing, why the desperate search. And unfortunately, the only person who might be able to help is laying in a hospital bed in a bullet induced coma.” Brand brushed off his brother’s concern.
“Susan out at your hacienda, I didn’t see her when I walked in?” Brand changed the conversation.
“She’s fine. She’s at the house. Some of the boys escorted her to the hospital earlier today.”
“You take good care of her, Roy. She certainly didn’t ask for this bullshit. She shouldn’t have to suffer.” Brand reiterated and thanked his younger brother before leaving. He still planned to stop by the hospital and see Jerry before the day was over.
Brand strolled into the hospital, past the information desk and caught the elevator to the third floor. There he stood at the nursing station waiting to inquire about Jerry’s condition before heading into the room. Lunchtime, the nurses, and attendants were scurrying about delivering food to the patients through hallways crowded with carts and equipment as the hospital workers wove around the hallways attending to their duties.
When a nurse returned to the station Brand asked about his friend. The nurse lifted a chart from the desk and after briefly perusing it, said Jerry was still in a coma, his vitals were stable, but he hadn’t woken up yet, it was all wait and see, nothing anyone could do for now.
Brand thanked the nurse and walked the short distance to Jerry’s room. Opening the door and sliding the curtain out of his way, he moved a chair close to the head of the bed and sat quietly, watching the old man sleep. Brand remained motionless for a time, and then he started talking out loud, explaining his thoughts on the shootings and even though he knew Jerry couldn’t hear him, he sorted out the few facts he had, mixed with his speculations on the matter.
“…When I first started looking into the shooting, I was certain Dave was the target, but now, as I dig deeper, I no longer believe that to be true. My way of thinking was wrong. Dave may be an innocent bystander.
The more people I talk to, the more pieces that come together, I'm beginning to wonder if you’re not responsible. I’m not sure how yet, but maybe it was you, not Dave, who got into money troubles. Some of the staff at the casino recognized you.” Brand paused, pondering this train of reasoning.
“I can’t wrap my head around you involved with drugs or even friendly with a group of asshole bikers, but I suppose stranger things have happened, old friend.” He stopped talking, sorting his thoughts. “…I wish you could help me out…why would bikers, or the cartel target us. The reason would have to be very serious. I mean, the way they’ve torn apart our houses, it certainly isn't any cache of drugs they’re looking for…it has to be something else…something a hell of a lot smaller, something important enough that they’re forced to take rash actions, but what?”
Brand remained silent again, his brain searching for some small piece of information he might have missed.
“Dave’s dead because of this, the attack at your house involving Susan and my house is turned inside out by somebody desperately searching for whatever. Something. I’m missing something, but I can’t seem to put my finger on it. DAMN IT, Jerry. What. What the hell am I missing?”
“Anyway, I’ve got a lead. A trucker from the casino, the man, gambled his ass away and now, is in debt to the Warriors. He’s driving to Castlegar tomorrow and picking up; I presume a shipment of drugs hidden among a load of produce, to bring back to the city.”
“I’m going along for the ride…I’m going to get to the bottom of this one way or the other…” Brand stood up and returned the chair back by the door.
“Get better, old friend, I’ll stop in when I get back.” He said as he turned to leave.
“It wasn’t supposed to happen this way…” Came a weak voice from behind him.
Brand stopped, his hand on the door. Several thoughts rushed through his head. Slowly, he looked back at the bed. Jerry laid prone, his eyes still closed. Was his mind playing tricks, Brand wondered? Turning at the door, he softly walked back to the head of the bed.
“What wasn’t supposed to happen?” He asked quietly, then waited, hoping he’d get a reply.
“Nobody was supposed to get hurt…I thought I had it all figured out.” Jerry mumbled in a strained voice, his words barely a whisper. Brand leaned close to his friends face. Tears began rolling from beneath Jerry’s closed eyelids.
“I had lost scads of money, and they promised if I hauled their shipments, that over time my debt would be repaid and I would be free of them. That never happened, my debt hung over my head, and I was in too deep to get away.” Jerry sobbed as he related to Brand the nightmare he’d been living for the last few years.
“One day I had had enough,” Jerry choked out, “so from then on, whenever I met with them or picked up shipments, I recorded the conversations and secretly took videos on my phone. I bought one of those fancy Apple phones, the kind that you can do pretty much anything. A kid at the phone store showed me how to operate the phone.
After months, I thought I had enough evidence to incriminate them, I warned them to leave me alone, or the recordings were going to the cops, and I’d sing like a pigeon. I wanted to retire. Head home to the Maritimes. But I couldn’t, not with their threats hanging over me. They had me by the balls; you have to understand.” Jerry quit talking. Tears continued to roll down his cheeks and gather on the pillow beneath his head. Brand waited for his friend to finish his confession. Jerry remained quiet. Finally Brand spoke.
“That certainly explains some of the shit that’s been happening…where’s the phone now Jerry? Apparently, they haven't found it yet, or they wouldn’t still be searching.”
Jerry released a short laugh, or maybe a cry, Brand wasn’t sure.
“That’s...kind of a funny story,” Jerry mumbled. “I don’t rightly know…I …lost it.”
Brand waited for Jerry to explain. When no words came from the old man’s mouth, Brand prodded.
“Can’t it be found…if your phone is new, it must have one of those tracking features, doesn’t it?”
“I turned the app off. I didn’t want the Warriors to know its location.” Jerry answered.
“But you have a phone. I called you the other night.”
“I bought a new one. I couldn’t let the buggers know my phone was missing, that I’d lost my only bargaining chip, could I?”
“No idea where you lost it?”
“I’ve been laying here wracking my brain, trying to remember exactly where I had it last. I keep thinking, if I could find the phone and surrender it, the Warriors could leave all of you alone. I vaguely recall the last few places I might have left it. I was…well…I had been drinking at a bar one night, and the next morning I couldn’t find the damn thing.” Jerry admitted and then quit talking.
Brand found a piece of paper on a desk and coaxed Jerry into providing the locations of the places he visited when he was last had his phone. The two talked a bit more before Brand left. At least now he knew why the bikers were desperate. Another piece of the puzzle fell into place. When he returned after the trip west, he would busy himself with finding Jerry’s lost phone.