Chapter 1

Friday, day one

The unmarked cruiser sliced in and out of the sparse afternoon traffic; the speedometer’s needle hovering just north of 120 miles per hour. With November well past cabin season in Minnesota, the afternoon rush hour had little of the Friday traffic usually clogging the roads. This was the time of the year Minnesotans tried to enjoy the last handful of warm days, all the while knowing winter was bearing down on the state like a runaway truck bringing a brutal five-month stretch of cold, ice and snow. It could be a time of both hope and dread.

The shrill siren combined with the roar of the powerful engine added to the adrenaline rush as State Patrol Investigator Cade Dawkins shot past several vehicles in the right lane looking like they were standing still, indistinct shapes to be avoided at all costs. Just as one might expect, the more open road you had, the faster you could go—and when a trooper radios, “Officer needs assistance,” speed is absolutely essential.

An east metro State Patrol trooper had pulled over a motorcycle on northbound Highway 52, just south of downtown St. Paul, and the biker was pushing around the trooper, a scuffle in the making. Cade had been several miles up the road when the radio call went out. Backup troopers were en route, but were several minutes farther away than Cade. As every cop knows, those few minutes could be the difference between life and death.

Cade saw the trooper and the biker across the median as he crested a hill. Wearing a black leather jacket with a gang name stitched across the back, the hulking man stood a good six inches taller than the trooper. Several other bikers were climbing off their Harleys behind the Patrol cruiser. Not good. One antagonist was bad enough. Jamming his brakes, Cade swerved into the center median and cut diagonally across the traffic lanes, causing several cars to swerve out of his way. He left the vehicle facing the wrong direction in the outside lane and threw the unit into park, quickly climbing out.

Cade paused, seeing the trooper had out his ASP tactical baton and was capably defending himself. The ASP baton has become a mainstay in law enforcement as a method to combat unarmed suspects without resorting to using sidearms. The officer subduing the suspect with baton strikes to non-critical areas of the body. Often, just the sight and sound of extending the baton is psychologically intimidating enough to an aggressive suspect, causing them to stand down—similar to the sound of a pump-action shotgun. A sound that’ll freeze any sane individual in their tracks.

The biker, roughly twenty-five pounds heavier than the trooper, was aggressively trying to grab onto the officer wanting to tie him up. Cade watched as the trooper spun out of the biker’s grip, and in the same motion swung the baton striking the biker in the left shoulder. The biker looked enraged as he reached for his waist and came up with a hunting knife. Shit, traffic stops aren’t supposed to go down like this. Cade pulled his weapon from its holster. There’s no way in hell another officer is going to die on his watch. Not again. Cade trained his weapon on the biker’s chest and yelled, “Hold it. Drop the knife. You’ll be dead before you make another move.”

The biker glanced dismissively towards Cade and lunged at the trooper, his knife angled up towards the trooper’s abdomen. Cade squeezed off two rounds into the hurtling biker, both rounds catching him just below the collarbone. It’s not like in the movies, where a single bullet will send a man flying back off his feet. If a 220-pound man is lunging at you when you shoot him, he is still going to complete his lunge. The trooper, obviously not getting his training from the movies, sidestepped to his right, the biker missed the trooper and flopped to the ground.

Cade’s heart was pounding, his hands shook and he thought he might lose his lunch. He was bent over, hands on his knees. Cade glanced up, saw the trooper reaching for his radio and speaking into the handset, but no sound was registering. He felt completely disorientated. It was as if Cade was in some sort of tunnel, sitting ten feet back from the edge. He saw the trooper kneeling by the fallen biker, checking for a pulse on his neck. The trooper appeared to be moving quite slowly.

The gunshot snapped him out of it. Cade felt something whiz by his head, the bullet not missing by much. He dove toward the cover of his vehicle. The bikers fired another round, hitting his front quarter panel. Damn, they just gave me this squad, he thought.

The trooper had rolled over to his unit’s front bumper. Stealing a quick glance toward the shooters, he held up two fingers to Cade. He nodded.

Holding the trooper’s eyes, Cade counted off with his fingers. On three, they both came up, identical Glocks trained on the bikers. The suspects were out in the open, advancing toward the squad car with their pistols leading the way.

“Drop your weapons,” yelled the trooper.

Despite the warning and the Patrol’s superior position, both bikers fired.

In a moment, it was over. The bikers were down face down in the gravel of the shoulder. Cade had gotten off three rounds and the trooper had fired twice. They moved to the bodies, kicking the pistols away from the fallen figures. Sirens were in the air, getting closer.

The trooper looked at Cade. “Thanks. You came at just the right time. You’re the new guy, right? Dawkins?”

Cade nodded. The trooper’s nameplate read ‘Houston.’ Cade held out his hand. “Yeah, Cade Dawkins. There was no way I was going to let him get near you with that knife.”

“My wife and future children thank you.” Houston shook his head. “You know, some officers go their entire career without pulling out their sidearm. You just start with us and look what happens. Shootout at the O.K. Corral.”

“Tell me about it. I thought I was going to lose my lunch back there.”

Houston smiled wryly. “That was a hundred year storm. You won’t see a traffic stop go south like that for another century. Things like that just don’t happen here in Minnesota.”

They were both nodding when Houston’s radio squawked, “Officer needs assistance.”

Continue with CHAPTER TWO.