Brand fumed, handcuffed in the back of the unmarked cruiser, the ride to the downtown precinct slow and silent. Gunmen attacked his house, one friend lay dead, the other crytical in the hospital, and the detectives, Walgreen and O'Brien, were wasting time dragging him downtown like one of Canada’s most wanted. Bullshit, Brand's anger slowly burned. The more he thought about the shootings, the madder he became. He wished that the yahoos in the front seat would drive faster and get to the station. Once this misunderstanding was ironed out, he could check on Jerry's condition.
The detectives led Brand past the booking sergeant, through a room lined with desks and into an interview room. Brand stood by the table while O'Brien released the cuffs off one wrist and pulled Brand's arms to the front, running the restraints through an anchor bolted to the tabletop.
"Have a seat," O'Brien barked.
"Do you think this is necessary?" Brand raised his hands, tugging the cuffs against the anchor.
"Four men were shot at your house. Yeah, I think it's required." O'Brien answered.
Walgreen and O’Brien left him locked in the interview room for the better part of an hour. Resting his head on his hands, Brand tried closing his eyes, but the sight of Dave lying dead on his kitchen table and Jerry wounded and writhing on the floor, kept replaying in his mind.
Brand’s anger grew with each passing minute. Walgreen and O'Brien returned and resumed their questioning. The next couple of hours ticked by slowly. The investigators accomplished nothing by the redundant questioning and Brand tired of the same repeated answers.
By four in the morning, Brand was fighting to stay awake. The adrenaline and beer, combined with a lack of sleep, were taking its toll on him. At one time, when he dozed off, Detective O’Brien slammed his fist on the table, startling him awake. Brand eyes snapped open. Detective O’Brien raised his voice.
“Frank, I believe Mr. Coldstream is playing us for a couple of simpletons, what do you think?”
Walgreen looked at his partner and then back at Brand. “Yeah. Probably. His house and friends get shot, and all he’s worried about is taking a nap.”
“Maybe we should offer him a room where he can sleep it off. When he’s rested, maybe he’ll be more cooperative,” O’Brien replied. “We’ve got some very nice accommodations for him down in the basement, O’Brien, don’t we?”
“What the hells going on?” Brand asked. He didn’t like where this was heading. The detectives had offered no information, and their reason for detaining him was flimsy at best.
A smirk curled O’Brien's lips while he stared Brand. “I think that whole episode at your house is a lot more complicated than you’re letting on. We’ll let you rest up in a cell with others of your kind. That should clear your head.”
“Hey buddy, since when do the police lock up innocent people.” Brand came fully awake with the realization of what was about to happen. “Besides, you haven’t charged me with a crime, somebody is going to wonder what the hell is going on!”
O’Brien glanced back at Walgreen. “Shit. Did we forget to log in our guest at the front desk when we arrived, Frank?"
Walgreen sat hunched over the table playing with a token from a casino. The hefty detective gave the coin a spin nodding to his partner. “I’m afraid we might have overlooked that.” He looked at Brand. “According to the log at the front desk…you’re not here.”
Brand stared at the detectives in disbelief. “I guess my calling a friend is probably out of the question then?”
“A comedian and obstructing an investigation…a couple hours in the tank might improve your respect for the law.” O’Brien scowled. “Give you some alone time to think over your situation,” O’Brien said, cuffing Brand’s arms behind his back.
The two Calgary police officers marched Brand to the back of the precinct and down a set of stairs to the basement. A sour, musty smell filled the air. Holding cells lined the walls. Walgreen and the uniform stationed guarding the entrance huddled together in a hushed conversation. The night guard slid a key across the desk to Walgreen. The detective stepped in front of Brand leading deeper into the lockup area. A few cells down the hall, Walgreen unlocked a door.
“I hope you're a God fearing Christian?" O’Brien spoke quietly to Brand. "You may want to say a little prayer.” The detective pulled the handcuffs off Brand’s wrists and pushed him into the cell. To the men already detained in the chamber, O’Brien raised his voice.
“Gentlemen, help this poor fellow. Clear some space on the floor for him and maybe let him have one of those mattresses for a rug.” O’Brien mumbled to Brand, pointing with his finger, “I believe East is that direction,” he said. “I know you’re late for prayer.”
O’Brien raised his voice speaking to the other lockups. “You boys be accommodating. I’ll be back in a couple of hours to check on him.”
Brand stumbled a couple of steps into the cell when the detective shoved him from behind. He stood facing his cellmates. His ears registered the clanging of the cell door slamming closed and the sliding of the bolt locking the door. His over tired brain accessed the situation. This won’t be good, he realized.
Brand remained by the door intently studying the faces of the men in the cell. Three men sat crowded on a bunk in front of him, and two more sat on a stained, thin mattress to his side. A couple of the guys were scrawny drug types. Another looked to be working off a hangover, and the last two glared at him, their heads shaved. The pair sported scraggly beards and tattoos, both clad in stained wife-beater t-shirts, typical white power types. The first three, Brand dismissed. The other two stared at him, apparently bothered by the detectives parting words.
Moving back and to the side, Brand stopped when his back contacted the iron bars. He waited to see what the two beards would do. The two watched him but remained seated. He slid down the bars and squatted on the floor. He averted his eyes and focused on his boots. The fatigue from earlier returned. His leg throbbed from the bullet crease.
He must have looked quite the site, he thought. His clothes stained with blood, his hands and arms still smeared red from moving Jerry to the couch earlier in the evening. A large splotch of blood covered the lower part of his pant leg, circling the wound from the attackers bullet.
Movement from across the cell caught his attention, forcing him to lift his head. The skinheads mumbled between themselves and then with built up bravado, stood up and glowered in his direction working up the nerve to approach him. Brand’s mood went from bad to right pissed off.
“You guys are better off sitting back down. It’ll be a lot easier on all of us,” he said by way of warning.
“Is that a fact?” One of the beards, a big guy, at least thirty pounds heavier than Brand, spoke, his partner was shorter, maybe five and a half feet tall and no more than one fifty soaking wet.
“I figured we’d oblige the detective and help put you close to the floor. could be we'll even turn you east so you can pray.” The bigger of the two growled.
Brand flexed his shoulders, easing the soreness from his dive across the kitchen table a few hours earlier. The leg with the bullet wound was stiff, but he doubted that it would hinder his movements much.
Staying crouched against the metal bars, Brand's body tensed as the skinheads edged closer, the shorter of the two lagging a step behind the bigger man. Brand mapped out his moves, systematically calculated scenarios as the skinheads stepped closer. If and once, trouble started, he would remove the bigger man first. He breathed slowly. The pair walked within kicking distance. Using his legs like pistons, Brand launched from the floor, his shoulder connecting with the big man's chest.
Taking the man by surprise, Brand forced the skinhead back until the metal cot along the far wall stopped their progress. The skinhead fell backward. Brand followed with a combination of blows to the man’s jaw. When he heard bones crack, he twisted, facing the second skinhead. The smaller man stood frozen, his face a confused, unbelieving mask, his eyes wide as he gawked at his buddy. Brand anchored his weight on his wounded leg, rotated on the ball of his foot allowing his free foot to slice through the air. The hard leather toe sank into the pit of the smaller man's stomach, doubling the man over.
Spinning around, Brand faced the remaining inmates in the cell. Brand waited, his body tensed. Hangover looked like he was sleeping and the two druggies cowered on the bunk, avoiding his eyes. Taking a step toward the cot, he bent over the bigger, moaning skinhead. Brand grabbed a handful of t-shirt around the man’s neck and threw the skinhead to the floor. With the cot clear, he sat on the stained mattress. He sat hunched over, lost in thought when a detective appeared at the cell door.
O’Brien shook his head. “You’re nothing but trouble, aren’t you?”
O’Brien unlocked the cell door and motioned for Brand. “You’re definitely a miserable cuss” The detective commented securing the handcuffs on Brand’s wrists before leading him back to the interview room.
With Brand's hands safely secured to the ring on the interview table, Detective O’Brien began his questioning. “So, from the beginning, what happened at your house…unless you need more time to think? I know a few other guys in lockup, men who think they’re pretty tough, too. I imagine they could provide you with hours of entertainment.”
Brand stared up at the detective. Fatigue and concern for his friends peeling away his restraint exposing a thinly held temper.
“You’re a grade ‘A’ jackass, O’Brien. They vote you the head clown in this ragtag circus.” Brand’s resolve waned. The two men locked eyes, both falling silent.
Before either man broke the standoff, the door to the interview room swung open. Walgreen's elbow pushed the door aside as he entered, three coffees squeezed precariously in his hands. The detective shuffled toward the table, setting a Styrofoam cup within Brand's reach. Vapours of the hot dark liquid steamed from the top.
Brand nodded his thanks, his tension toward Detective O’Brien subsiding. Focusing his attention on the steaming cup, he sniffed the coffee before raising the Styrofoam lip to his mouth. The coffee smelled old and burnt, the forgotten dregs that linger in the pot hours longer than necessary. The coffee tasted like shit, but Brand welcomed the break holding the cup up to his mouth. He took a second, longer sip, the distraction helping to calm his emotions.
Brand regarded the coffee cupped in his hands, enjoyed the few moments of silence. Lowering the cup to the table, his vision fell on a manila folder lying opposite him. The file was upside down, but he had no trouble reading his name printed neatly on the label of the folder’s tab.
“What’s really going on? Gunmen attack my house, my friends dead and wounded, and you’re busting my chops like I’m some underworld kingpin?” He raised his eyes to the two men across the table.
“Calm your heels hot shot!” O’Brien replied. “You and your friends screwed up. You know that. Now you want us to believe that you're the victim. This routine isn’t going to get you far. We’ve investigated a rash of these home invasions over the past year. You little league traffickers, or whatever the hell you guys think you are, all eventually screw up. What was it? Thought you guys were smart enough to cheat your suppliers, or maybe you got caught skimming profits.
The bottom line is, idiots like you don’t get any smarter, do you? Tell us why a gang of bikers have you on their radar and we can work out a deal, offer you some protection even,” Detective O'Brien threw in.
“I think this shitty coffee is rotting what little brain you have.” Brand shot back. “I’ll tell you again. The three of us were taking advantage of some unscheduled time off. The weather’s been too shitty to guide on the river, so we met to have a few beers and tie some flies.”
“Tough guy and a storyteller, boy that’s original. With an imagination like yours, you should write a book." O’Brien looked at Brand, his face a mask of disappointment. O’Brien stared at Brand, but spoke to his partner. “Frank. Those bikers arrested the other day, they still in lock up?”
“Yeah. Pretty sure.” Walgreen mumbled.
“You think the boys would mind consoling Mr. Coldstream? He could probably cry on their shoulders, tell them story’s like he’s feeding us.” O’Brien smirked, “You might like these guys Coldstream. They’re not pussies like the fellows in the other cell.”
“You two are making a huge mistake and wasting time that you could spend tracking the gunmen who shot up my friends. I am sure and the hell not involved with illegal drugs or biker gangs.”
“Coldstream. We may have misled you at your house when we told you we didn’t know the dead gunmen. We held back so as to not to discourage you from coming downtown to have this little chat. Those dead men at your house, we’ve gotten to know them very well. The whole police force is aware of their activities.
Those men are...excuse me, were imported muscle from the coast. They’re in town acting as enforcers for their associates, the Hell’s Warriors. A gang of bikers, who set up shop in the province a few years back, and are attempting to take over the drug trade in the city.
We believe, that the bikers are the business end of a Columbian drug cartel. The gang is handling the distribution and collections for the Columbians.”
“Those two sure and the hell didn’t look like bikers. And why my house, why shoot a pair of innocent men.” Brand looked to the detectives for an explanation. “Unless, as I figure, they had the wrong address?” He paused, “I know most of the people on my block, and I can’t imagine any of them seriously involved with bikers or drugs.”
“No, unless you and your friends were the reason for the visit to your neighbourhood." O'Brien cut of Brands train of thought. "Here’s what I’m thinking. These Warriors discovered you guys trying to, what, scam them; run your own deals, whatever. When push comes to shove, you guys had no choice but to fight back and now, you sit here and pretend that you are the victim…come on Coldstream…” Detective O’Brien leaned over the table and rested on his arms looking Brand in the eyes.”…We’ve dealt with hundreds of scumbags just like you. Small fry like you three getting in over your heads and expecting the police to come to your rescue.”
“I sure in the hell don’t need dickheads like you two protecting me. I am fine on my own.” Brand replied defiantly.
“Yes. We noticed. Three dead and one wounded. You certainly know your way around guns.” O’Brien responded.
Brand nodded toward the file lying on the table. “You guys have obviously read up on me. You know what I used to do. Do you think that my life is so pathetic I have to resort to dealing drugs?
“Yeah. Crazy isn’t it. A retired officer of the law who turns his back on his old life and joins the same people he used to throw into jail. Na, that’s never happened before, has it, Frank?” O’Brien sneered at Brand.
“Let me tell you a sad story, since we’re all being honest here.” Detective Walgreen tag teamed with his partner. “The men you killed at your house were very dangerous. This gang has carried out similar attacks, like the one at your house. In the short time this gang has operated in the province, they have killed or driven out most of the competition.” Walgreen stated, pausing to let his words sink in, his fingers busy twirling a casino chip. “We figure that if these men showed up at your house…well, I’ll let you draw your own conclusion.”
“Yeah…the only conclusion I come up with is the gunmen had the wrong address.”
“We are dealing with professionals they don’t make mistakes. They are, if nothing else, a very well run organization. They shoot first and ask questions later, if anyone is alive to answer. They like to discourage people from cheating them.” Walgreen’s eyes locked on Brand’s face. “We’ll give you one more chance to come clear and make a deal. What do you have that’s so important to them?”
“Well…I think both you, and those assholes are crazy. I told you, the three of us were having a few beers, that was the only action at my house.”
Detective O’Brien cut back into the conversation. “Coldstream, you know that we are well within the law to hold you for a few days before charging you, after all, you did kill two, three men. But, I think, instead, we would be smart to let you go and have your pals deal with you. It doesn’t matter to me. After all, we will eventually catch those bastards and shut them down. What do you figure, Frank. Lock him up or let him go and play tough guy?”
“No use holding him; he is obviously disruptive. Let his biker buddies or the Colombians put the heat on him. Who knows, he might be more willing to cooperate after they take a few runs at him and if they do succeed in killing him, maybe they’ll screw up, and we can be there to catch them.”
“Alright.” O’Brien conceded. “I'll have a patrol car drive you home. Good luck Mr. Coldstream. We'll keep an eye on you, but honestly the next time we see you, it'll probably be your death we're investigating.”