On the top floor of the Millennium Casino, Quintin Rojas stood, his head bowed in front of his boss. The subject of a heated conversation between the two men was the shooting of Roy Thundercloud earlier that evening.
“We had to act fast. He left the acreage with Coldstream and a few men.” Rojas replied. “When the guys saw him leave the restaurant, they opened fire.” Quintin Rojas searched for the words to explain his actions. “You wanted the Wolves spirits broken. Thundercloud is the head of the pack. We took him out.”
Rojas’ boss stared at his underling, disappointment in his eyes. “Still. You should have cleared the attack with me. Your rash decision may make the Wolves dig in their heels in harder.” The boss chastised.
“Shore ain’t gonna help our cause.” He paused then conceded the fact that there was no undoing the shooting of the Wolves leader.
The Cartel boss changed subjects. The open shooting of Roy Thundercloud caused a need to accelerate his plans. “How many men do we have in the city? Cartwright’s bikers and our men from the coast, I mean?”
“The Manager has probably pulled in a couple hundred of his bikers and wannabes from across the mountains…his vagabundo, together with our men. I think we have plenty of manpower.” Rojas did the calculations as he spoke. “Thundercloud’s Wolves have been depleted. His men either shot up or arrested. The remainder are said to be laying low. I have reports that only a few were sighted, and these are mainly protecting his establishments. None of his men were seen working the streets the past couple of days.”
“I have a bad feeling.” Rojas’ boss interrupted. “Something doesn’t feel right. I never expected the Wolves to run at the first sign of a fight. Still, we are gaining ground, but we have to be careful. One wrong move could expose us." The boss sighed with disappointment. “With Thundercloud out of commission, now is the time to flood his territory and run the Wolves out of town.”
The room went quiet as both men gave thought to the looming conclusion in the war against the Wolves of Satan.
“Notify the men. I want them ready to move on the Wolves territory before the week is done. Ratchet up the pressure against all of the Wolves remaining clubs and squeeze them from the streets. Don’t give Thundercloud’s men a chance to think or plan. The longer we prolong their demise, the better the chance that that big Indian will pull something together.”
The Moreno boss steered the conversation away from the evening’s troubles. “Any word on my phone or what Coldstream is up to? I was hoping the fool would intensify his search. What. With the threat you’re holding over him?” Rojas' boss stated.
A smile grew on Rojas’ face. “I haven’t heard back from the man since I made the call to Thundercloud. Coldstream left the restaurant after the shooting and we lost him. Could be he’s not the tough guy you think he is, and if the phone is not recovered, so be it? Soon it won’t matter.”
A fist slammed the desk rattling the surface and making Rojas step back.
“I CARE!” His boss screamed. “I have spent years building my cover. My attempts to remain anonymous, well, it’s made running this Cartel a lot easier. I move around with out looking over my shoulder. The anonymity has allowed me to cross borders freely and undetected.”
The boss paused. The anger on his face resided as he fought to regain control of his anger. “… Because of that, I’ve made a nice life in this city, and free of suspicion, I've built my business right under the nose of the law. I like the fact that I don’t have to worry about the cops or some low life rival trying to end my life.” He calmed down. “I shouldn’t have to explain…”
“Find the FUCKING phone.” The boss leaned on the desk inches from Rojas’ face. Through clenched teeth, he spoke. “I should never have dropped my guard and let that phony fishing guide get so close; then he would never have had the opportunity to blindside me.
But he was smart. Not for a second did I suspected Halperson of being an undercover narc. Not until my phone went missing.”
The boss took a deep breath then slowly let the air escape his lips. "Unfortunately, the man is dead, and you have yet to recover the only proof of my involvement. So squeeze Coldstream harder. In his day, he was a top-notch investigator. Make him do our work for us. Convince him of the urgency regarding my situation.” The Moreno Cartel boss glared at his subordinate. “And do it quickly! When the phone is in my hands, you are free to deal with the man however you like."
Brand turned off the gravel road onto Highway 2. The quiet of night disturbed as the truck’s engine rumbled. At the bridge crossing the Bow River, Brand found his mind drifting. A scattering of moonlight reflected off the current in the water. Thoughts emerged of better days floating the river, of drift boats and fly lines, fleeing Rainbows and bullish Brown trout. Brand pushed the distracting memories away. Shaking his head, he tried to refocus on the highway and the task lying ahead.
The multi-lanes of the busy thoroughfare were free of traffic at the late hour by the time 18-wheeler crossed into the city limits. The journey before him a rash decision brought on by a mixture of anger and revenge. Struggling to hold his emotions in check, Brand stared out the truck's windshield, his thoughts in disarray.
The Cartel, the Warriors encroachment on Roy's territory, and the loss and injuries to his friends all weighed on his mind. The only concrete fact he arrived at was that he had to do something. Time had come to go on the offensive.
There was much he needed to learn, and the urgency of collecting the information from someone at the top of the organization. He knew too little about the Colombian calling the shots for the Warriors. Where the man lived, who he surrounded himself with and if Rojas was holed up at the casino, what type of protection would stand in Brand's way? How to get to the Cartel was the problem.
An alternative solution would be to flush out the Warrior's top man, the Manager. His whereabouts were unknown to Brand and with Roy temporarily out of the picture, finding the Manager’s location fuelled his late night drive. Brand would begin the search with the simplest means, the most obvious starting point a clubhouse in a northwest community Calgary.
The city was dark as any major metropolitan center could be at this late hour. Lighting a cigarette, Brand guided the truck across the deserted streets, angling for the western edge of town. He was thankful for the lack of traffic due to distracted thoughts and the skills required to manoeuver this train of wheels through miles of city streets.
Blocks from the Warriors clubhouse, Brand brought the truck to a stop and shut off the engine. The loud, rumbling motor an unwanted disturbance in the peaceful neighbourhood. He climbed down from the cab, crushed his cigarette under foot, scanned his surroundings then clinging to the shadows, walked a couple of blocks down the street toward the biker clubhouse.
Across the road from the biker’s fenced off yard, he leaned against a wall and studied the place. The driveway leading onto the property was clear of vehicles, but the height of the gate and fence blocked his view of yard inside. The sidewalk in front of the compound, deserted.
Brand slowly swung his head, his vision following the divided asphalt road in both directions as they led away from the clubhouse. A side road, a half block down and opposite the gate, ended in a t-intersection. Brand wished he had a better view of the property inside the confines of the fence. He rejected the thought of scaling the top of the fence for a look. Good chance cameras were planted around the property to notify the clubhouse of unwanted attention.
He shrugged off the concern, forcing doubt away. If anything lay in his way, the worst obstacles to be encountered would likely be a scattering of motorbikes littering the lawn between the perimeter and the house. Hopefully not too many, he found himself thinking as he walked back to the truck.
Sitting behind the wheel, he chain-smoked another cigarette and reviewed the consequences of his actions. What he was about to do was reckless, but he was past the moment of giving a shit.
The truck roared to life at the turn of the key. Brand placed his hand on the gear selector, shifting the transmission into low gear. Columns of black diesel smoke floated above the cab. With pressure on the gas pedal, the truck lumbered away from the curb.
The big rig rolled slowly past the clubhouse. Brand pressed easy on the gas, aware of the loud echo of the exhaust stacks in the quiet evening. At the corner, he turned wide. Two hands played the wheel, steering the rig onto an adjoining road then back around the block until the tractor-trailer lined up on the street ending with the t intersection. Brand’s gaze momentarily passed over the passenger's seat. The crowbar from the Quonset sat waiting.
Throwing his cigarette out the window, he pressed the gas and worked the gears. The rig gathered speed. Forcefully working the clutch and gas pedal simultaneously, he pushed the protesting engine. One hand shifted through the lower gears with the rhythm of the motor's rpm's, building momentum. His left hand gripping the oversized steering wheel as the truck and trailer rolled closer to the gate protecting the Warriors clubhouse.
The truck's engine screamed while the RPM’s climbed. The big rig lurching forward with each gear change, 18 rubber wheels hissing on the pavement, gathering speed.
At the intersection, Brand swung the truck close to the curb, straightening the truck’s path to the tall metal gate.
The speedometer flashed 60 km as the truck crossed the street and rolled over the curb. The screech of tearing metal exploded into the night as the rig’s chrome bumper pushed past the gate. The truck lurched and swayed, the powerful machine crushing abandoned motorbikes under its large rubber tires.
The seatbelt caught, holding Brand tight against the seat. He ignored the whine of crushed metal and bone crushing jolts as he pushed the truck over the row of bikes, the speed nearing seventy, only inches from the wall of the clubhouse.
Bracing for the impact, Brand watched the front window of the house dissolve into shards and the vinyl siding on the buildings exterior wall give way. Brand crushed the gas pedal to the floor. Startled silhouettes danced behind the flapping curtains covering the shattered picture window.
The impact from the collision of the tractor-trailer meeting with the frame of the house whipped Brand forward. His forehead glanced off the steering wheel before momentum snapped his upper body back into the cushioned backrest, the straps of the seatbelt biting into his shoulder pinning him tight to the fabric of the seat, the rigid straps unforgiving.
Brand cursed from anger and the new found pain. His fist smacked the wheel in retaliation for the whack on his forehead.
A shower of glass and wood preceded the grill of the truck as it came to rest a cabs length into the house. The front roof sagged dangerously, feet above the nose of the tractor, the buildings wooden supports shattered.
Brand shook his head to clear the cobwebs. A sharp pain radiated in his shoulder and chest from the restraint of the seatbelt, the discomfort melting as rage coursed through his veins. He searched for the tire iron on the passenger seat. The sudden stop tossing the metal bar onto the floor of the cab. He fought to release the seatbelt's grip, reaching over the center console. With the reassuring feel of the hefty metal bar in his hand, he kicked open the driver's door.
Semi-darkness surrounded the cab of the truck and the destroyed front room of the clubhouse. Wires ripped from their wooden supports adding to the failing electrical system that greeted him. Steam from the truck’s radiator hissed into the room from under the twisted engine cover, the sweet odour of overheated coolant mingling with dust and the flickering house lights. In the obscure lighting, Brand carefully stepped from the truck’s running board onto what remained of the main floor.
The undercarriage of the big truck stopped to rest on broken floorboards and torn carpeting. The front wheels sunken below the subfloor and framing, hanging down in the basement. Broken, jagged edges of plywood and joists protruded upwards, the furniture in the room upended and scattered.
Moans rose from the wreckage. Brand warily moved across the damaged floor, pulling aside disrupted furniture and chunks of building materials to check on the condition of injured men. Each face he studied carefully in the twinkling lights. A hand full of men laid spread throughout the room tangled in the mess of furniture and lumber.
Working his way around the carnage, he moved toward the back of the house. The Manager wasn’t among any of the injured at the front of the house. Shoving a couch that dared block his path to the hallway, he strained his eyes, peering through the dust and intermittent lighting.
A door at the back of the house opened. A man stumbled into the hall. Even in the poor lighting, Brand spotted blood covering the man’s head. The man’s face and exposed upper body coated with dust. The man staggered away from the room, extended a massive arm to steady his body, swayed, and then swung his head to peer down the hall, his eyes locking on Brand. The giant of a man, the Manager’s right-hand, Don Bakker stood scowling at Brand. A deep growl emanated from Bakker’s heaving chest
Brand cursed under his breath. Of all the people to remain on his feet, it had to be the giant. Just his luck, he thought. The way the man supported his body against the wall, the man's unsteady demeanour and the blood flowing from a wound on Bakker's head alluded to the possibility of a serious injury, that, coupled with the unbridled rage coursing through Brand's body, steeled his resolve.
Doubts of facing the giant faded. The thoughts chased by an adrenaline fed anger bubbling to the surface. Days of angst and frustration pushed logical reasoning from Brand's mind. His eyes narrowed as he stared back at the giant. His hand tightened around the metal bar. The iron bar smashed against the wall as both a warning and a starting point.
“I’m here for Cartwright.” Brand yelled at the giant. “Tell me where your boss is, and I’ll let you walk away.”
A glint of light reflected off the man’s teeth. Bakker’s mouth opened in a malevolent grin. The giant grunted at Brand’s offer, kicked debris aside and advanced. To meet the guy in the tight confines of the hallway wasn’t the way Brand had expected this evening to go, but it was too late now. Fear and common sense disappeared replaced by the unbridled desire to hurt anyone standing in his way.
Brand's nostrils flared as he waited for Bakker closed the gap. When the giant was in striking distance, Brand feigned a swing at the man’s head with the tire iron. Barker’s head lifted as his eyes followed the path of the tire iron, the man raising a massive arm to block the threat. With Bakker's attention drawn to the flight of the bar, Brand shifted his weight onto his back leg and lashed out. Barker might be immense, but a man was a man.
The toe of Brand’s boot connected with the crotch of the giant, the kick vicious enough to make the man bellow in pain before doubling over. Brand’s knuckled fingers shot upward into the soft flesh of the biker’s throat. He quickly followed the fist with an elbow to the side of the man’s head.
Bakker lashed out with the back of his hand. The power of his fist knocked Brand backward. Brand scrambled through the pain of the blow, and broken furniture littering the floor, to regain his footing. Bakker shook off Brand’s attack, a mask of fury twisting the giant’s features. Brand raised the tire iron and rushed Bakker. Between the bar and his fist, Brand delivered a flurry of blows to the giant’s head and body, Bakker's movements slowed by his injuries. Brand continued his assault, determined not to quit until the man was lying on the floor.
Barker stood solid as Brand’s attempts struck the big man. Finally, unable resist the assault, Bakker sagged against the wall and slid down to a sitting position. Grasping the tire iron in both hands, Brand pressed the bar against the man’s throat choking Bakker's air supply.
Brand leaned close to the giant’s ear and repeated his question.
“Where is Cartwright?” Brand asked. Bakker’s reply came in the form of a fist to the side of Brand’s head. Brand straightened from the impact. He took a step back, his feet tangling with the litter spread across the floor. He stumbled, the tire iron flying from his hand. Brand scrambled over the scattered furniture at the mouth of the hall to regain his balance.
A shower of small explosions rattled his brain. Darkness began edging the fringes of his consciousness. Shaking his head violently, he fought to regain his senses. Bent over the floor, he watched his opponent rise.
Bakker used a wall for support, inching his body upward on wobbly legs, the man's head covered in blood. The biker took a threatening step forward.
Brand sprang from the floor. The sole of his foot aimed at Bakker’s knee. The force of his weight buckled the giant's kneecap at a sickening angle. Brand followed the kick with a leap, hurtling feet first into Bakker’s chest, the impact driving the massive man over. Bakker’s head thudded into a doorjamb. The man sagged against the wooden frame then slowly slid to the floor.
With the biker down, Brand stepped close, delivering several more blows, ending the man’s ability to continue the fight. With bruised knuckles and gulping mouthfuls of air to feed his searing lungs, he stopped. Don Bakker lay collapsed on the floor; his back slumped against the wall, blood running down his battered face onto his chest.
“One last time.” Brand said in between rasping breaths. “Where’s your boss?”