Brand arrived at the mall with time to spare. He parked along the side of the large supercentre near the location Walgreen designated for their meeting, walked around to the front of the building and followed a group of women, kids in tow, into the box store. Mid afternoon and the store was doing a brisk business. There were a hand full of products he required and taking advantage of the few free minutes, he walked the aisles in search of the items he wanted.
Brand spent more time than he wanted combing the shelves.
Glancing at his phone he noticed that the time was running away on him. Taking the items, he sped up his pace only to be stuck in a long line at the check out. Impatiently he waited as the line crawled forward. When his turn came he passed the cashier money, grabbed his purchases and made his way out side, walking directly to his truck. He planned to leave his purchases in the truck and then set out to find the detective.
Brand stood at the side of his truck, his fingers ready to punch the code into the door keypad to unlock the truck. Peering through the truck windows, he was distracted by a movement a few aisles over. Brand watched a man walk from the back of a van and stop in the middle of an aisle, staring over the roofs of parked cars at something in the distance. Curious, Brand followed the man’s gaze. Detective Walgreen lounged against the hood of a car, the detective’s attention focused on a phone in his hands.
Detective Frank Walgreen sat on the hood of the unmarked police car in the parking lot of the mall off of Deerfoot. His eyes riveted on his phone as he double-checked the latest sports scores from the night before. Unbelievable, he fumed. A sizable amount of his money was riding on several games and it looked like he hit another losing string.
His gambling addiction had all but consumed him. It seemed like every time he placed a bet these days he went farther into debt to those damn bikers. Several times he had tried to walk away from his past, but he fought a losing battle. How much money he was in debt to the Outlaws, he no longer kept track.
When they first approached him to do small jobs for them he balked, what little conscious he had at the time slowly dissolved with every illegal task they assigned him. At first he walked a thin line between right and wrong but now he was limboing well under that line, no longer able to even walk close to it. He couldn’t care less. His story was going to end one of two ways. Spend the rest of his life in jail, if and when his illegal deeds were uncovered, or die at the hands of the bike gang when he was no longer useful. Until that time, he held little hope that his luck would turn, though that never kept him from trying.
He thick fingers were manoeuvring the small screen display through the ball scores when he heard someone yell his name. Forcing his eyes away from the scoreboard, he scanned the crowded parking lot for the person hollering. His eyes landed on Brand Coldstream, and then, as his head rotated, he spotted another man a few aisles over. This man was also looking in his across the lot at him.
Several heartbeats passed before he realized that the second man had a gun pointed over the car roofs in his direction. Before he could react, a bullet pounded into his chest, knocking him back onto the hood of his car. His gambling problems ended, his eyes frozen open to the glare of the midday sun, but beyond seeing as he slowly slid off the hood and sagged onto the asphalt covered ground.
Brand turned back and looked at the man by the van. A gun materialized in the man’s hand. In the seconds it took for Brand to comprehend what was about to take place, before he could warn the detective, a shot rang out. The bag in his hand dropped to the ground. Brand spun his head back to where the detective had been standing earlier, his sight settling on the fallen detective. A couple turned into the end of the aisle, cell phones in their hands.
“Call nine-one-one.” Brand yelled at the couple as he raced in pursuit of the shooter. Leaping over a small car to gain ground, Brand closed the distance. One aisle away from the gunman, Brand squeezed between the mirrors of two closely parked vehicles and stepped into the same aisle the gunman was retreating, only a few steps behind.
His breath coming in ragged gasps, he moved still closer and started reaching for the man when a car racing in his direction collided with the back of his legs. The car pushed his legs together and sent him spiralling to the side, his upper body bouncing off the hood of one parked car and into another. Soon the parking lot was filled with the whining and bleating of car alarms. With out stopping to check for injuries, he scrambled to his feet in time to see the shooter climbing into the very car that had slowed his pursuit.
Making a mental note of the licence plate, Brand sat on the hood of a car breathing in ragged breathes. With his heart rate slowing down, he stood to return and help the detective. His leg buckled. Pausing on the asphalt, he did a quick check on his leg, bruised not broken, and then carefully stood up. Using parked cars as support, he hobbled back in the direction of the detective.
Still a distance away the mid day traffic; noises were drowned out by the sounds of sirens approaching. Stopping in front of his truck, Brand watched a crowd of people gathered around the fallen detective some helping, others talking excitedly on their phones and a couple others taking videos of the calamity.
As the police cars wove their way through the crowded parking toward the crowd, Brand bent down to retrieve his bag from the store, unlocked his truck and threw the bag on the seat. He hobbled closer to the scene only to be pushed back by the growing crowd, the cops taking control of the area and moving everyone away. Brand tried to get the attention of one of the officers, but was repeatedly rebuked. As the adrenaline rush from the chase subsided, pain flared in his side. Having enough of the crowd, he wrote the plate number of the shooter’s car and handed it to one of the bystanders.
“Give this to one of the cops if you get a chance.” He said without further explanation and limped back to his truck. He wasn’t sure of the fallen detective’s condition. He noticed a sizable pool of blood under the man before he was forced back with the rest of the crowd. He thought of the detective as he opened the door to his truck. Hopefully Walgreen was going to be all right he thought, even an asshole like him deserved better. Brand made a mental note to ask the pain in the ass detective the next time the two talked, besides there wasn’t much he could do for the man. Backing the truck out of its stall he merged into traffic and headed back to his hotel.
Random thoughts crowed his mind as he drove. He wondered who else knew about the meeting other than Walgreen? Brand wasn’t foolish enough to believe that the detective would allow himself up to be set up and shot. The man was stupid but that would be pushing it.
The grey Toyota and its owner came to mind, at the hospital where Jerry was abducted and now this. Coincidence. Was O’Brien so deeply involved with the Colombians and the Warriors? And the question was would he stoop to have his own partner gunned down?
Brand stood in front of the bathroom mirror and gingerly peeled his t-shirt over his head. A glance sideways in the mirror showed a large inflamed bruise climb from his thigh upwards. His shoulder was tender when he raised his arm. With his hand, he brushed away a coating of dirt and gravel that clung to his skin. His leg was badly banged up, but his ribs took the brunt of the beating from being thrown into the side of the parked car. A dark purple colouring surrounded the bruises and lines of dried blood blended with the scrapes down the right side of his body.
Nothing broken, only bruised, along with his ego. He underestimated the Colombian cartel’s ruthlessness. He gave his head a shake. Age had made him careless. He was messing with a dangerous group. One, who along with the Warriors, wouldn’t be troubled if they killed him and like an idiot, he stumbles in front of a car while chasing a man. Maybe he was getting too old to play this game. The thought disappeared as quickly as it surfaced. No, he justified. They had to pay. No organization was infallible. Everyone had a weak link to be exploited. He just had to stay alive to find it.
Brand soaked under a hot shower, his mind occupied by Jerry’s disappearance, the detective’s shooting and the supposed video on a lost phone that started this mess.
Before leaving the hotel room, he placed a call to Roy. Minutes later he left the hotel and drove to one of Roy’s favourite watering holes. A bar, slash, nightclub the Wolves owned off of Sixteenth Ave. Parking behind the building, Brand crossed the dimly lit alley and knocked on a door hidden by the deepening evening shadows. A bouncer opened the door, his bulky frame blocking the entrance as he questioned Brand. After a few minutes, the man escorted Brand down a hallway, stopping to knock on the door to a back room.
Roy and a hand full of bikers glanced up watching Brand as he squeezed past the bouncer. The men sat on couches surrounding a cluttered coffee table. Bottles of beer and several open bottles of liquor covered the top of the table. Roy nudged the man sitting next to him motioning the biker to vacate the seat for Brand. The other guys in the room kept their eyes on Brand as he limped across the floor
“We were just contemplating having supper. You hungry?” Roy said, lifting a menu from the table. Turning to the man who surrendered his seat, Roy suggested the man go to the bar and grab Brand a rye and Pepsi. No ice, he stressed.
“Hell, bring him the whole damn bottle. The way he’s moving, it looks like he could use it.” Roy stared at Brand.
“What happened to you Kemosabe?” Roy asked a smile playing on his face but his eyebrows furrowed with concern.
Brand passed the menu back to his brother and remained quiet. He watched as a 26 of rye and a 2-litre of Pepsi landed on the table in front of where he sat. Leaning forward, Brand ignored Roy’s inquiries and mixed a stiff drink. The muscles on his face contracted as he winced from the pain in his side. Leaning back into the couch cushions, he tested his drink then turned to look Roy in the face.
“It has been a first class shitty day so far.” He said. “It started by my going to the hospital. I went to talk to Jerry, try to jog his memory about his missing phone…” He paused. “Jerry has disappeared…his clothes and other belongings are still in the room…” The rye glass emptied in a couple of swallows. Brand leaned over the table again and mixed another drink before proceeding.
“A detective O’Brien was at the hospital. He believes that Jerry was wheeled out on a gurney, by what the detective said, looked like a pair of Latino men.” Brand paused thinking again.
“I was supposed to meet with Detective Walgreen earlier this afternoon. That went sideways when some asshole with a gun showed up. Almost caught the shooter but his accomplice clipped me with a car, helping the guy escape.” Brand downed the second drink. “I’ve had better days.” He finished and poured a third drink then fumbled in his pocket for his cigarette. Stopping before he lit up, he asked Roy if he minded. Roy looked at him with an exaggerated look of indignation.
“I am an Indian, and I own this place. Indian territory. White man’s rules don’t apply.” He said with as straight a face as he could muster.
“Cut the crap.” Brand replied and lit his cigarette.
“That cartel is coming at us with everything they’ve got.” Roy switched became serious. “Three of our clubs have been attacked and burned so far. We’ve lost a few guys along the way.”
“Sorry I got you involved.” Brand told him.
“The war was inevitable. This fight over the city was coming to a head sooner than later. The Warriors have been pushing the boundaries for several months now. I guess, with their South American friends backing them, they’re feeling brave.”
“You got the man power to fight them?”
“For now. There have been rumours floating that the Colombians are bringing more guys from the coast to help out. I’ve had talks with the leaders of some other gangs. We think that now might be a good time to call a truce and combine our forces. A lot of these gangs are beginning to feel the heat from the Warriors, Cartel merger.”
As Roy was telling Brand about the other bike gangs, Brand’s phone rang. Hitting the call button, Brand placed the phone to his ear. The caller spoke before Brand said a word.
“Coldstream. Detective O’Brien. We need to talk.”
“You’re already talking, keep going.” The last thing Brand wanted was another meeting with a detective after today’s shooting.
“Detective Walgreen was shot today. Know anything about that.” O’Brien asked.
“What kind of stuff are you asking about?” Brand shot back.
The detective hesitated. “I’ve got video and witnesses who swear they saw you running away from Detective Walgreen after he took a bullet.”
“Yeah. I was supposed to meet Walgreen.” Brand defended. “I spotted a man with a gun lurking in the parking lot, his attention on Walgreen. I tried to warn the detective but the guy fired. I almost caught the bastard, but he had a buddy whack me with a car. The pair got away.” Then Brand remembered. “I left the plate number with one of the bystanders. Check with your uniforms; I’m sure one of them will have it.”
“That’s a pretty sad story. Is that your official statement?” O’Brien replied. “We found a gun not far from the scene. When we ran the prints through AFIS, do you want me to explain what AFIS is?”
“I know what AFIS is. “ Brand replied angrily. “Is there a point to this call or do you just miss the sound of my voice?”
“There’s a point, asshole. We were unable to identify the prints and then I had an idea. I remembered our little sit down at the station the other day so I asked one of our guys to check the ones on the gun against your prints from that night. The gun that killed Walgreen is yours; your prints are all over the gun.” O’Brien yelled into the phone. “Why in the hell would you kill him? Was he on to you and your buddies?”
“Go get stuffed O’Brien…I didn’t shoot the man.” Detective O'Brien's words bore into Brand's brain. "Wait. Did you say killed? Walgreen's dead? I didn't shoot the man." Brand yelled back and ended the call. He sat staring at the phone in his hand. The gun stolen from his house, apparently, it wasn't missing any longer. Pressing the power button, he stared at the phone's screen until it darkened. He knew how easy it was to track cell phones and he needed time to think. Time to figure what the hell was going on. The Colombians were stepping up their game. They obviously didn't care who died, and that was a bad thing. If they were brash enough to murder a police officer, no one would be safe in this war.
The room remained silent. Brand poured another drink then dug out his smokes lighting one and throwing the pack on the table. “Son of a bitch.” He muttered. Speaking to Roy, he said.
“I may need a place to crash for a while. It seems that Calgary’s finest think I killed one of their members.” All the while his thoughts returned to earlier when he was wondering if O’Brien didn’t have something to do with Walgreens death. He didn’t like coincidences.