Killing Time on the Highway
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. As November was well past cabin season in Minnesota, this afternoon rush hour had little of the Friday cabin traffic that usually clogged the roads. This was the time of the year that 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 that were in the right lane looking like they were standing still, indistinct shapes to be avoided at all costs. Just as you might expect, the more open road you had, the faster you could go. When a trooper calls in, “Officer needs assistance,” speed is absolutely essential.
An east metro Highway 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 just several miles up the road when the call went out over the radio. Other troopers were en route, but they were several minutes farther out than Cade. As cops know, those few minutes could be the difference between life and death.
Cade saw the trooper and the hulking biker across the median as he crested a hill. Wearing a black leather jacket with his gang name stitched across the back, the man stood a good six inches taller than the trooper. Several other bikers were just climbing off their Harley’s 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 control. Cade left the vehicle facing the wrong direction in the outside lane when he threw the unit into park and quickly climbed out.
Pulling out his Glock 23 pistol, he approached the struggling pair with his weapon leading the way. Cade saw the trooper had out his ASP tactical baton and was defending himself. The baton has become a mainstay in law enforcement as a method to combat an unarmed suspect without resorting to using sidearms. The officer subdues 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 to an aggressive suspect, causing them to stand down—similar to the sound of a pump-action shotgun which will freeze any sane individual in their tracks. It ran through Cade’s head that this biker shouldn’t be classified as sane.
The biker, roughly twenty-five pounds heavier than the trooper, was aggressively trying to punch and grab the officer. However, the trooper was holding his own against the larger man. 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, like he couldn’t believe this smaller man was standing up to him.
With one fluid motion, the biker reached for his waist and came up with a hunting knife. Shit, traffic stops aren’t supposed to go down like this. There’s no way in hell another officer is going to die on his watch. Not again. Cade had his weapon trained 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 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 that lunge. The trooper, apparently not getting his training from the movies, sidestepped to his right, leaving the biker just missing the trooper and flopping to the ground.
Cade’s heart was pounding, his hands felt shaky 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 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.”
Houston shook his head. “You know, some officers go their entire career without shooting anyone or even pulling out their sidearm. You just start with us and look what happens. Shoot out 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.”
You never know when your time is going to be up.
State Patrol officer Tom Fletcher often thought about this as he drove the Minnesota roads. He’d seen accidents, both horrific and deadly. Been punched by an irate businessman, angry at Fletcher’s nerve for pulling him over while the businessman was hurrying to get to his appointment. He had actually once been hit by a drunk driver’s Pontiac during a traffic stop. Fletcher’s survival skills have been honed by the years on the job. Anticipating the problems before they reared back and bit him had kept him alive. So far.
The semi trailer truck was cruising westbound on Highway 94, coming in from Wisconsin. Fletcher saw it as he was passing the rest stop entrance. The blue Peterbilt was pulling a plain white trailer, traveling ten less than the posted 65 miles per hour. Unusual. As Fletcher passed the cab, he glanced up at the driver. The driver quickly looked away, the truck’s speed slowing a bit more. Highway Patrol troopers made many drivers nervous, but not usually the professional over-the-road drivers. Hauling freight for a living across the country means they’ve seen it all and troopers were just part of the scenery. Fletcher slowed and pulled in behind the semi.
There was a taillight out …
Fletcher activated his vehicle’s emergency equipment, toggling on both the front lightbar as well as the rear-facing strobes. He didn’t want to become a target for the Friday commuters coming home from Hudson. When the cruiser’s emergency equipment is activated, most people don’t realize that a dashboard camera is turned on to record the traffic stop. Having a record of the stop is a good idea, as people do some strange things when they are pulled over. Fletcher once had a man exit his vehicle and proceed to fake a heart attack. It’s funny how quickly someone can recover when you tell them you are calling an ambulance—and a tow truck to take their Mercedes to the impound lot.
“SP-387,” Fletcher calls out to dispatch, giving his unit number, “10-38 at mile marker 12, westbound 94.” 10-38 was a suspicious traffic stop—a ten-code that Fletcher would normally never use—calling for a 10-38 meant that some extra attention would be focused his way, possibly another unit joining him if one was nearby. Something here was raising a warning flag in him.
As the daylight continued to dwindle away, Fletcher exited the squad and walked along the side of the semi truck with his flashlight, feeling the drafting of the passing vehicles tugging at him. Semi trucks have been used to move drugs in substantial quantities in the metro area before. Fletcher had been involved in a recent joint DEA/State Patrol bust of a marijuana-laden semi truck with a street value of over $1.3 million. There was something just not right about this driver’s actions that reminded Fletcher of that bust.
When Fletcher swung up on the truck’s running board, the driver was talking excitedly on a cell phone. He tapped on the window, startling the driver. The man was dark complected, possibly Latino. He had a scarf over his longish hair, a face that had seen many tough miles. He was sweating. Sweating? It wasn’t hot out—not in November, certainly not in Minnesota. The driver was off the phone and rolling down his window. “Here’s my paperwork,” he said, handing over his license, medical card, log book and bill of lading. “These circuit boards need to be over to 3M within the next half hour or I lose my window. Just give my ticket.” Fletcher stepped down turning toward his squad—and paused.
This didn’t feel right. There weren’t the usual questions, no ‘what’s the problem officer?’ His instincts—he never liked calling it his intuition—were screaming at him to slow down, dig a bit deeper. 3M could wait. He turned back to the cab. Shit, the driver had a pistol in his hand. Fletcher’s hand went for his own gun, pausing to hit the little red button on his belt. The button sent out an emergency signal to dispatch and opened the microphone on his radio. “Gun,” he said calmly, though later, the incident tape would bear witness to him shouting, “Gun!” Funny how the mind works under high stress.
Fletcher’s Glock was up and pointing at the driver in a heartbeat. He had practiced that in his kitchen many times after his wife had gone up to bed. It had seemed like a good idea, kinda fun actually. However, there wasn’t anything fun about this real-life situation.
The driver just froze, like he was expecting something. Just on cue, a black Tahoe screeched to a stop blocking the traffic lane. DEA agents here for a drug bust? Three dark figures climbed out carrying automatic weapons. A second Tahoe, pulled up behind the first, more men, more automatic weapons. They didn’t say a word. No, not DEA. Fletcher glanced back at the driver. His pistol had come up, pointing at Fletcher’s head, tensing for the kill shot. Fletcher squeezed off a pair of rounds into the driver’s chest and sprinted for the front of the cab.
“I need back up now!” Fletcher yelled for dispatch through the live microphone handset as he ran. “Six or seven perps, armed with automatic weapons, one man down.” Fletcher dove around the front corner of the semi, using the truck as a shield.
The dispatch center, located in Roseville, was a huge operation. It was also an extremely efficient operation. The dispatcher immediately began to coordinate a massive response. “SP-387 needs assistance. Shots fired. Location is approximately westbound Highway 94 at Manning.” Almost immediately, troopers started calling in.
“SP-377, northbound Wakota Bridge.”
“SP-343, eastbound 694 at Highway 5.”
“SP-399, eastbound 94 at 61.”
Troopers giving their unit numbers and where they were coming from. That way, the other troopers could get a sense of how far away assistance was, and it always helped the troopers to know if there was someone coming their way at high speed. It didn’t look good to have two squads running into each other. Especially if lives were in the balance.
The dispatcher also notified the local police, Woodbury in this case. As she was doing this, she heard the sound of automatic weapons fire. Fletcher’s voice sounding ragged, “I’m under fire out here. I need assistance.”
The dispatcher: “SP-387, be advised, assistance is en route.”
Thinking about it, she notified the Washington County Sheriff’s Department as well. The more assistance she could get for Tom Fletcher, the better. It sounded like he could use all he could get.
Fletcher crouched and looked under the truck. Seeing legs at the front of the driver’s side, he took a quick shot and rolled to the end. He must have hit the gunmen—he was falling and Fletcher put another round into him. Hopefully this would buy him some time.
The first unit to arrive was a Woodbury officer, followed in quick succession by three State Troopers. The troopers crossed the grass median at speed, bottoming out and bouncing up into the westbound lanes. The Woodbury officer angled his unit across the lanes, blocking them to keep traffic out of the equation.
One of the gunman started hosing the lead Patrol vehicle with his gun, a MP9 set on full auto. The Swiss manufactured MP9 held a 30 round magazine and fired a frightening 15 rounds per second. Taking heavy fire, the unit swerved sideways, offering the empty passenger side to the shooter. The trooper rolled out and took refuge behind the car. The other two units stopped well behind the ruined Patrol cruiser. Both troopers grabbed their shotguns and M-16s from their vehicles and met up at the back of the vehicles.
“We gotta get Fletcher out of there. Start putting down fire to keep them hunkered down.”
“Let’s do it.”
The troopers ran bent over, loaded down with their weapons to the lead vehicle. The SP-343 trooper was there with his pistol.
“Damn it. I can’t get to my M16.” The trooper had a wild look in his eyes.
“Just hang on, this’ll be over in a minute. Take my shotgun,” he said handing over the weapon. “Let’s go on three.”
The unit was still taking some fire, though at the moment it was mostly sporadic, not a concentrated barrage. The Patrol unit was going to need a new paint job.
The gunmen had spread out, some were behind the first Tahoe, two more were crouching behind the second Tahoe, and several more were at the rear of the semi trailer. A helicopter joined the scene and was circling overhead. On “three,” the troopers started firing. The Woodbury officer, crouched by his front bumper, was using his M16, also adding to the chaos.
It was crazy, it was deafening, it was far more spectacular than how Hollywood would dare portray it. Dueling bursts of assault weapon fire, pistols, shotgun, yelling, the roar of the chopper blades all intermingling into a symphony of death.
And then, it was over.
A haze of gunsmoke blew across the deserted traffic lanes. The troopers moved across the westbound lanes, weapons up, looking every bit the posse from the Wild West. As it turned out, there was no need for the guns. There was a lot of blood, however not much in the way of survivors. The gunmen’s bodies were strewn around the vehicles.
By this time, half of the Twin Cities law enforcement and paramedics were either on their way or just arriving at the scene, the evening air was alive with the sound of approaching sirens. There were a lot of bodies that needed attention.
They found Trooper Tom Fletcher face down in the ditch. He was alive, but just barely. He’d taken rounds in the shoulder and neck. There were three more in his vest.
It was going to be a long evening.
Cade arrived just as the last of the smoke was blowing across Manning Avenue, a quarter mile west of the killing scene. There were more emergency vehicles in one location than he’d ever seen. They continued to arrive: State Patrol, Woodbury, Oakdale, Bayport, Washington County sheriff, both ambulance and EMT vehicles, Woodbury fire and many unmarked vehicles. These were most likely the feds: ATF, DEA and FBI. The first of the television trucks was just arriving. There would be many more.
Cade Dawkins, an investigator with the Minnesota State Patrol, is one of two full time plain-clothes investigators working out of the east metro division. The thirty-one year old had already spent nine years in law enforcement and was a recent transplant to the State Patrol, having been with the BCA previously. Since this was the reverse of most planned Patrol career paths, there was much speculation about Dawkin’s ‘fall from grace.’ He didn’t really care.
Standing just over six feet, Cade was solidly built from years of soccer and had blondish brown hair that always seemed a bit messy for his peers in law enforcement. He strode confidently toward the scene, pausing to pull out his Nikon, squeezing off several pictures of the scene. He shoved the camera back in his duffel, confidant that in the commotion no one had noticed.
The troopers were just starting to get organized, setting up the crime scene, establishing a perimeter. Cade held up his ID, and headed for the scene. There were paramedics working over what looked like a half dozen bodies on the roadway. By their lack of urgency, it appeared that most were beyond hope. An ambulance was just leaving the scene, its emergency system activated. That meant someone had survived the carnage.
Cade walked up to group of officers standing near the rear of the semi. “Hey,” he offered as a greeting. Patrol Lieutenant Ruhland brought him up to speed. Cade let out a low whistle when Ruhland walked him through the final shootout. They both agreed that this was definitely out of the norm for Minnesota. Drug shipments coming in on Interstate 94 weren’t that uncommon, however this wasn’t Miami, and well armed gunmen engaging law enforcement in shootouts was quite uncommon.
“Let’s get the trailer open. See what this is all about.”
Cade moved up to the rear deck of the trailer, a bolt cutter coming out of his duffel bag. The two troopers flanking him had their matching Glocks out, standing in the classic two handed firing stance. A third trooper, Houston, leaned on the hood of Fletcher’s squad, steadying his M16, ready. Cade nodded to him. He received a nod in return. Lt. Ruhland crouched in the corner of the trailer’s deck, out of the line of fire.
With a loud snap, the bolt fell away from the lock. Cade held his breath, lifting the door of the trailer. He gave the garage style door a big tug up and quickly hopped down. He would rather avoid getting shot by his fellow troopers if at all possible. Stranger things have happened.
Lt. Ruhland announced the all clear. Cade stood up and peered in sweeping his flashlight beam around the trailer’s interior. There were two wooden crates, roughly three feet tall sitting in the middle of the otherwise empty trailer. That was it. Sure was a lot of death over two crates. Cade hopped up and walked around the pair of crates, his flashlight methodically panning across each crate. There was some writing stenciled on the wood, but the words were cut off, like the crates were assembled from pieces of other crates. He knelt down and examined each of them carefully. There were no wires that he could see. They were just ordinary looking crates. There could have been oranges, antiques or computer components inside. Cade was guessing that wasn’t it, though.
He held up a hand to quiet the troopers that had climbed up onto the trailers liftgate. Cade put his ear to the first crate. It was quiet. The second one was just as quiet as the first.
He reached into his duffel. Looking for his crowbar, paused, and pulled out the Ion Scanner. The scanner would pick up traces of drugs and explosives. He ran it over the outside of the crate. It hummed, the frequency modulating until he pulled it away. He studied the readout—a trace of drugs, which sadly, wasn’t all that uncommon, but no explosives. He grabbed the crowbar. The other officers crowded around the crate. Cade wedged the tool into a seam and using his weight, pried the cover loose. He lifted the lid off and let out a low whistle. “Holy shit,” another trooper exclaimed.
The crate was filled to the brim with neat stacks of currency. Cade looked back to the troopers, “Looks like Christmas came early this year boys.”
Saturday, Day two
“Bullshit. How much really?” Daisy Capistrano was Cade’s fellow investigator with the Minnesota State Patrol. She wasn’t one to accept much at face value. They were discussing yesterday’s currency seizure following the shootout.
“$388 million. In Euros, all in 500 notes.”
“No shit.” Capistrano leaned back, lost in thought. $388 million would change a lot of things.
“You’ve been doing this job for a while Capistrano. Why Euros?”
Capistrano pulled herself out of her thoughts. “Several reasons. The first is the ease of money laundering. In the old days, if you sold cocaine in Spain, you wound up with pesetas, which pointed to where the crime was committed. So you pre-washed your loot into, say, German marks, and from there moved into dollars. You spun that money in and out of secret bank accounts to erase the paper trail and across borders, and eventually brought the money out the other end disguised as legitimate income. Done properly, it’s next to impossible to tie your income to your crime.”
She continued. “The Euro is the criminal’s currency of choice because it short-circuits much of the laundering process. Legal tender for 313 million citizens living in 12 European Union states, four other European countries, two territories in the Balkans, plus a group of smaller jurisdictions around the world, euros automatically separate the currency from the crime, eliminating the need to pre-wash. No one then knows if your Euros are the result of drug trafficking in the Netherlands, car thefts in Germany or people smuggling in Italy.”
Daisy leaned back, arms folded. “Secondly, the 500 Euro note—which is roughly $760 U.S.—allows a lot of money to be shipped without taking up a lot of space. Just last March, a man was arrested at LAX carrying a leather duffel bag on a flight from Chile. Inside the bag was more than $1.9 million in Euros. You can’t stuff a bag full of twenties and hundreds and get to $1.9 million—and if you did, you certainly couldn’t lift it.”
Cade agreed, “Makes sense. Obviously this currency isn’t from a legitimate source. Not with the amount, and definitely not with the shooters involved. This leaves us with more questions than we have answers. Whose money is it? Where did it come from? And what were they going to do with it?”
“For me, the big question is, how bad do they want it back?” Capistrano stated. “I mean, even for the largest of criminal organizations, $388 million is a big hit to take. This goes way beyond a major annoyance for the bad guys. This is crippling, this could possibly be enough to put them out of business. We’d better make damn sure this currency is locked up tight. If I were them, I wouldn’t roll over dead. I would find a way to get my money back.”
Daisy was used to dwelling about the motivations that drove people into doing some really bad and stupid things. As a seasoned investigator, Daisy found that motive is primary to finding solutions. Find the reason, find the idiot behind it.
Many people meeting Daisy Capistrano for the first time found it difficult to imagine her with a gun. Handcuffs maybe, but not a gun. Daisy stood about five and half feet tall, had long dark hair and curves that caused her own traffic jams. Her Asian features were strikingly beautiful. She fit into the law enforcement world by sheer willpower. She didn’t take shit from anybody and kept up with the male trooper’s sense of humor by being one of the guys.
They were sitting in the Patrol investigators war room. The television was on, the KSTP anchor talking about the great Highway 94 gunfight, as the media was calling it. Cade and Capistrano moved in by the TV. “…a total of eight suspects are confirmed dead. One state trooper is at Regions Hospital in critical condition. Reporter Susanna Song is live at the scene.”
A woman reporter was standing on the shoulder of a busy highway, cars and trucks crowded together in the two outside lanes. “Everyday, hundreds of semi trucks cross the border from Wisconsin into Minnesota. Dozens are pulled over each day for a variety of reasons. Yesterday, a semi truck was pulled over, supposedly another routine traffic stop. Behind me is the aftermath of that traffic stop gone horribly wrong.”
A state trooper came onto the screen. “It was like the scene in that Tom Hanks movie about the invasion at Normandy. There were bullets flying everywhere.”
Reporter Susanna Song: “It was rush hour, just before five o’clock, commuters filling the busy Highway 94 freeway near Woodbury. State Patrol trooper, Tom Fletcher had pulled over a semi trailer truck. It appears that the driver then pulled a gun on trooper Fletcher, who shot and fatally wounded the driver. Officials are calling it self-defense.
“What happened next, however, went from strange to bizarre. Two vehicles arrived at the scene and suspects emerged firing automatic weapons.”
“State Patrol dispatcher, Abbey Nicole.” A woman was on screen in a busy command center. “I was terrified for Tom. The assault weapons were so loud. His microphone was live and you could hear it—feel it even. I was never so proud when our road troopers called in saying they were on their way to help Tom.”
Reporter Susanna Song standing in front of a bullet-ridden State Patrol cruiser: “Three state troopers and a Woodbury police officer arrived on the scene in minutes. As you can see by the damage to this first responder vehicle, they came under heavy automatic weapon fire.”
“Minnesota State Patrol Crash Scene investigator Bill “Crash” Simpson,” a fifty year old trooper kneeling down by the damaged vehicle. “There are 42 bullet holes here, 42! I had to count them all—twice. Amazing that none of our guys were killed or even hurt.”
Reporter Susanna Song: “The ensuing shootout killed all eight suspects, none of which have been identified by law enforcement officials. Veteran trooper Tom Fletcher was shot twice, once in the shoulder and once in the neck. Doctors at Regions Hospital have listed his condition as critical. What was the truck carrying? Officials are quiet about the truck’s contents for the time being. Speculations abound: drugs, explosives, guns and a whole lot of cash. One thing is for certain, a story this big can’t stay under wraps for long.”
“Reporting in St. Paul, this is Susanna Song.”
Cade looked over at Daisy. “I really don’t want the currency seizure to get out. It could cause us some problems. That much money makes some people pretty crazy.” Daisy nodded thoughtfully and looked back at the television. Another story was on.
“…in a first of its kind, an English Premiere League soccer team is moving to the Twin Cities. The Chelsea Football Club is moving their reserve team here to play in the US professional soccer league, the MLS. Chairman Andrew Bishop.” An intense looking man standing in a pub, the on-screen graphic reading Live at the Local, Minneapolis. “Our club has always made an effort to market to the American audience. There’s so much potential here. We saw what a terrific response there was to the David Beckham exhibition games. And with the dollar being so weak, this seemed like the perfect time to bring the world’s most popular sport here to the U.S.”
The camera pulled back to show a televised game with Chelsea playing the Manchester United team. “And you future season ticket holders shouldn’t think of us a minor league team. These are the upcoming stars of one of Europe’s top clubs. With the MLS season running during the Premier League’s off-season, what better way to have your players get ready for the season, than playing in league games over here? I personally guarantee that you will see some world-class players playing right here in Minnesota. Come on Twin Cities, support Chelsea America.”
Reporter Rusty Gatenby: “This will definitely change the face of Twin Cities sports. Having a team like Chelsea playing here will bring the celebrities that follow the English game. Time will tell if Minnesota will get on board with this English football as well.”
“Reporting in Minneapolis, I’m Rusty Gatenby.”
Daisy looked at Cade, a smirk on her face. “You have a bit of drool in the corner of your mouth. This has to be the best news you’ve gotten all year—well, except the news that you’d be working with me. With you being such a soccer guy and all, this has to be big news.”
“Are you kidding? I was sitting in $175 field seats at the Beckham game. I would love to see Chelsea play every week. Where do I get my season tickets? That Bishop guy is my new hero.”
They agreed to meet up later in the day. Daisy was headed for the medical examiner’s office to see what was uncovered with the shooters. Establishing their identities would go a long way to finding out who was behind this.
Cade walked down to the property holding area. The currency was being held in a floor-to-ceiling safe that had been emptied of its former contents. Typically, it was confiscated drugs, weapons and cash that were secured here—though confiscated cash had a very short shelf life here, as the cash was usually deposited quickly into the Patrol’s account. Conventional Patrol wisdom was that it was safer to have it in the bank than holding it here. Standard procedure was that seized currency was never counted by law enforcement personnel—you didn’t want it counted and then find out later at the bank that the totals didn’t match. It was just too much liability for the officers if there was a discrepancy—especially a shortage—when the bank counted with their currency counting machine. So, the money was placed in plastic bags, sealed, marked as currency and then brought to the bank.
However, the currency in this case would be held here due to the ongoing investigation. Patrol Lt. Dickey had made the call, his feeling was that because the currency was in Euros, it would just as secure here. So, the currency had been literally squeezed into the safe, with no room to spare. Logistically, this was a lot of currency to secure.
Cade checked the security arrangements. Besides having it warehoused in a law enforcement facility that was used 24 hours a day, the room itself was secured with a keycard system that only Cade, Capistrano and the Captain had access to. As an added measure to compensate for stolen keycards, the property room also had a thumbprint scanner installed. The safe was a Centurion, a combination vault well respected for its solid steel construction. In addition to being too large and heavy to move, the safe had been anchored with concrete. Cade headed back upstairs, confident the currency was locked and secure, totally safe.
Like most areas in life, it was all about the money. Despite the focus of the public statements that law enforcement agencies typically made, the seized money was vitally important. At the end of the year, a law enforcement department would announce how many criminals they sent to prison and the quantity of drugs they took off the street, but what was really important was the amount of assets that were seized. For a small police department, seizing even $40,000 was a big deal. It could mean the hiring of another officer, a new patrol car or an upgraded communication system. The money could have a profound impact.
However, the politics of asset seizure were a bit tricky. If the state was involved in the forfeiture, thirty percent was taken directly off the top for the state to keep. The local department would get the rest. And if there were several departments involved in the bust, they would bicker for the percentage they believed had been earned. Because the county encompassed a number of cities, the sheriff had authority over the individual police departments and the request would end up with the sheriff. The sheriff would often hold onto the funds doling out the percentages as he saw fit. Not a lot of people realized the power the sheriff held. In Washington County where Cade worked, the sheriff ran the jail, as well as the courts. Being sheriff is like being the king. And this king controlled a lot of money.
Money is always the issue. If the amount of the seizure were larger, the local department would not bring in the state authorities, but would call in the DEA instead. The Drug Enforcement Administration, being a federal agency, would take only twenty percent; instead of the thirty percent the state took. If the amount of the forfeiture were $100,000, for example, the local law enforcement would get an extra $10,000 for just using the DEA. It was not unusual for the DEA to get called in to seal the currency in a bag and take it to the bank—no agents involved, no investigation needed. It’s all about the money.
Cade went back to his desk, thinking for a case this high profile, he had better show some progress soon. The dead shooter’s cell phones were labeled and spread out on his desk. Cell phones are typically a good place to start collecting information on suspects. Every cellular phone has an electronic serial number (ESN). When customers buy phone service, they receive an additional number, known as a mobile identification number (MIN). Together, these numbers make each cell phone unique; in essence, they serve as the phone’s fingerprint and are transmitted by the phone as a means of identifying itself within the system.
Cade requested thirty days of phone tolls from the phone’s service provider. He would download all of the calls, both incoming and outgoing for each of the phones and then obtain an administrative subpoena to get the subscribers for each of those calls. After that, he would run criminal histories on each of the subscribers. For the driver’s phone, he would break down every call received to build a timeline of his journey. The cellular towers would give a close approximation of where the driver was when he took the calls. The time and location would add more pieces to the puzzle. This should give Cade ample enough information to trace the people that were behind the runners that were laid out in the morgue.
Many of the vehicles that were used in crimes were found meticulously swept of evidence by the perpetrators—except for receipts, oddly enough. For whatever reason, receipts were often found in the vehicles. The vehicle search had yielded some receipts, mostly fast food places like McDonald’s and Burger King. These would also help with the timeline re-creation. Interestingly enough however, Cade had found a receipt from a Heathrow Airport shop for a pack of Dunhill cigarettes. He checked the inventory form, a pack of Dunhill cigarettes was found on suspect #5, a label given to the as yet unknown deceased suspect.
Cade wasn’t a smoker, and was only marginally familiar with the most popular cigarette brands. So, it was time to check in with the fine folks at Google. Cade opened a browser on his computer and within a few moments, the search yielded some interesting information. Dunhill International cigarettes are one of the most expensive brands available, made exclusively with Virginia tobacco and are among the only Dunhill cigarettes sold in the United States. Dunhill (minus the “International”) are a more expensive version produced by British American Tobacco Company, and are sold in European countries. The only way the cigarettes were found here was because they were carried from England. Cade also noted with some amusement that Dunhill was the brand of cigarettes favored by Hunter S. Thompson, the gonzo journalist. You gotta love the internet.
Next, Cade pulled up the ATF database, searching for the guns used by the shooters. The MP9, manufactured in Switzerland, was a serious weapon for a serious killer. The brief notation in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives database spoke of primarily European-based criminals using the MP9. Cade had seen all sorts of weapons used during his nine years in the BCA, however, the MP9 was not typical of the guns used by the usual dirtbags that he came upon. Foreign manufactured automatic weapons were rarely seen in Minnesota; most suspects were armed with garden-variety Smith & Wesson .38 pistols or some variation. Even the drug dealers, who tended to be better armed than average—status after all, was a huge part of their culture—didn’t carry an exotic weapon like the MP9. However dealers weren’t what you would consider an exotic criminal. Most of the dealers he had dealt with were from the Minnesota area, with a few coming up from Chicago or Milwaukee. An occasional LA gangster would show up on his radar, but definitely not international criminals. And according to the ATF database, that was exactly what he had.
He glanced up to see Lt. Dickey staring at him.
“Can I help you Lieutenant?” Cade did not like him. At all.
“You’d better not screw this one up, Dawkins. After your fuckup with the BCA, this is your last shot. I didn’t want you here. I‘ve gone on record saying that the Patrol doesn’t need someone like you. I give you sixty days tops, and you’ll be gone.” Dickey stared down Cade, daring him to say something.
“I hear that the Cloquet division needs an overnight road trooper,” Dickey continued. “You’d like it up in Cloquet. With all the paper mills located there, you can hardly breath the air, not that you’d want to, with the rotten egg stink in the air. I think it’s just the place for a screw-up like you.”
Cade took a deep breath and slowly stood up, putting his full 6’2” frame in Dickey’s space. His voice slow, measured, menacing. “Coming from the lieutenant in charge of paperwork, what you think doesn’t mean shit to me, sir.” He emphasized the “sir.”
Dickey stared back, his face going a red that matched the ketchup stain on his tie. He glanced around at the others in the room, the admins and the road troopers, gauging their reaction to this challenge. He pointed a finger at Cade, paused and then abruptly turned and stormed off to his office, slamming the door.
Nobody dared say a word. Except Cade, who muttered, “What a dick,” and turned back to his computer. Somebody stifled a laugh.
He logged into the DMV database. The truck and trailer had been registered to a leasing company out of Miami. The lease was in the name of a Johnson Holding Company with a Miami Beach address. The address was for a restaurant, a dead end.
Just before 2 p.m., Daisy walked in, dropping in the seat across from Cade. “Well, that was a lot of fun. None of the deceased had an authentic ID on them. Their fingerprints are going into the IAFIS, so hopefully we get a hit and get something back tomorrow.”
The IAFIS, the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System, is a national fingerprint and criminal history system maintained by the FBI. It is the largest such database in the world, containing the fingerprints and corresponding criminal history information for more than 55 million subjects in the criminal master file. The IAFIS made life a lot easier. Just a few years ago, substantial delays were a normal part of the fingerprint identification process, because fingerprint cards had to be physically transported and processed. A fingerprint check could often take three months to complete.
Daisy stood up and stretched. A St. Paul Pioneer Press newspaper was sitting on the counter that she leaned on. The lead story was the highway shootout. Capistrano read the article and looked at the photo accompanying the story.
“So, how does the photographer get there so fast, and how do they get so close to the scene?”
The photograph was of the scene, a paramedic working on a body, several troopers looking on, a haze hanging over the carnage. It was professional and very close.
Cade shrugged and said good question. Changing the subject, he asked if Daisy ever had run-ins with Lt. Dickey.
“Occasionally. He can be kind of an officious little prick,” she said. “Dickey’s always going on about how brilliant he is, his career, his education, his money—even his wife.” She mimicked Dickey: “My trophy wife is so awesome, last night she made my favorite dinner, then did the dishes and me.”
Cade laughed. “I’ve seen his trophy wife. I’m just not sure if the trophy was for first place.” The room broke out into laughter.
Sunday, Day three
Cade had an early appointment with his realtor. It was well past time to move out of his cramped apartment. The thought of spending another winter living in the bleak, dorm-sized apartment was sucking the energy out of him every time he thought about it. He was lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, the other morning and had a minor revelation. His circumstances were never going to change unless he did something about it. He had found an interesting house online and had called a realtor recommended by one of the admins at the district office. Cade was going to meet her at a renovated farmhouse just north of downtown Stillwater.
He stopped at the local Caribou shop to get his morning coffee. He enjoyed the atmosphere here. It was more than just the great coffee smell, people were always cheerful here—maybe it was even the thought of getting their morning caffeine was enough to lift them from their stupor. He watched the barista making his drink. He was moving pretty quickly, his hands confidently performing the tasks. Maybe a bit too fast, as some of the drink spilled over the side.
“Shoot,” he said, slipping the paper holder off the cup. He set the original cup inside a new one. “I just need to get you a new clutcher.”
“Clutcher? I had no idea those things had a name,” Cade said, accepting the drink.
“Everything’s gotta have a name,” the guy said with a smile. “It would be complete anarchy without them.”
Cade left smiling. The kid would go far in life.
He pulled up to the house on 4th Street, parking behind the realtor’s car. Cade stepped alongside the candy apple red Jeep Liberty—nice vehicle—and rapped on the window. A pretty blonde turned and smiled at him. She stepped out and Cade shook her hand, introducing himself. Her name was Kim Lindahl, a very pretty, five-foot three blonde. She had an easy manner about her that made Cade feel comfortable. Her smile added a bounce to his step, and he thought to himself: behave.
He followed her up the walk. She told him that the house had been built in 1882, and had been recently renovated. “You’ll like the distinctively designed addition. It creates a library with 2-story windows. And the master suite opens to a lofted office with expansive seasonal views of the Stillwater river valley.”
“Sorry, that’s realtor-speak. In other words, during half the year, there are trees that block your view of the river.”
Cade laughed and stepped inside. The house was stunning. There were three rooms on the main floor, the kitchen, dining room and living room. The living room was spectacular, it had hardwood floors, crown molding, a fireplace, and beautiful windows with views of the tree filled lot. The dining room had hardwood floors as well, chair rail molding, built in china cabinets and a ceiling with exposed beams. The kitchen was painted a bright white and had an island with a stove. A large stainless refrigerator/freezer combination dominated one wall.
“This is really something,” Cade said. “Though I don’t think the stainless really keeps to the character of the house.”
“I agree, though I think you’d enjoy the benefits of the newer appliances.” She nodded at the Wolf built-in oven. “I really like the woodwork in the dining room. The historic touches have been kept; while at the same time have been updated. The colors are a great example. It’s a fine line to walk when you work on an historical house. In an older town like Stillwater, many of the homes are listed in a historical register that helps maintain the historical integrity of the homes.”
They walked down a hallway and stepped into the addition. It was a library that featured floor to ceiling windows on two sides and a wall of bookshelves on the third side. There was a ladder on wheels to reach the top shelves. Cade glanced at some of the titles, and was happy to see several by his favorite author, John Sandford.
“Good taste,” he said. “I always feel better about what I do after reading one of his books.”
Kim looked into his eyes. “What is it that you do?”
“I’m a cop, well, actually an investigator with the State Patrol.”
“I like a man in uniform,” Kim said playfully.
“That’s too bad, I’m in plainclothes.” They both laughed. He enjoyed the sound of her laugh. It was full of joy. She had a spirit about her that just glowed.
Off the kitchen, they took the stairs to the upper level. Cade was enjoying the view as he followed his realtor up the stairs. Behave, he told himself again.
Each of the bedrooms was unique, with a different character from one to another. Cade especially liked the master bedroom, with an exposed brick fireplace in the corner. The surprise was the addition off the bedroom. There was a cozy office that overlooked the library. Kim said that cozy was realtor-speak for small and they shared a lingering laugh.
Kim said because the house was empty, the owners having been transferred overseas with 3M and leaving power of attorney to the realtors, he could close with just a day’s notice and move in.
As Cade walked Kim to her truck, they talked over the details, what he liked about the house, what she liked about the house. Her upbeat perspective enthralled him, he had become used to the cop’s cynical take on things. There was an edge to their humor; sarcasm ruled the day. It came with the job; cops were used to looking for the worst in people. Here was an attractive, professional woman with a sharp intellect, and a disposition that was as sunny as a July day on the lake. Cade just never met women like this. He had known in his heart that they were out there; they just never seemed to present themselves.
So, here she was. Do something. Cade thanked her and said he “would think on it,” and would call her in a day or two.
Driving away, he mentally beat himself up. I’ll think on it? What the hell was he thinking? He shouted alone in his car, “Why didn’t you ask her out?” Like that, all the way back to his cramped, lonely apartment.
He wasn’t an evil man. He didn’t set out to cause harm, to kill or maim for revenge or even sport. Andrew Bishop was a businessman.
In the world of international business, the risks and challenges were immense. However, so were the rewards. There was money to be had. Opportunities abounded if you were willing to take risks. There were even more if you were willing to break some rules. If ethics were not a motivational factor, well, you could make a killing.
His drive to succeed was all consuming. He’d learned that from his father. Trevor Bishop had known no boundaries in his own drive to succeed. His father had owned an employment service in the depressed High Wycombe area, outside of London. His father had not been happy when new competition moved in a half kilometer away. Late one Tuesday afternoon, his father and some of his mates had stopped by the competitor’s for a visit—with masks, lead pipes and serious attitude. They proceeded to rip the phones out of the wall, terrify the staff and beat the owner. Even after the damaged owner checked out of the Wycombe General Hospital, the business never reopened.
He’d also seen his father’s business fail due to increasing government regulation. The loss of his business had really hurt his father, driving him away from his family. The subsequent alcohol excesses led to Trevor’s death, by his own hand.
Bishop learned a lot from his father and was smart enough to learn from both his father’s successes, as well as his failures. As he made his way through the business world, Bishop would do whatever it took, there was no room for failure. If someone got in the way or perhaps a law or two became inconvenient, he would deal with those obstacles in his own way. It was just business after all.
Bishop looked out his window at the Minneapolis skyline. The view from his office was inspiring. Because he had the entire top floor of the building at Highway 280 and University Avenue, he had a view of the downtown St. Paul skyline as well. Being in close proximity to these twin cities gave Bishop a sense of power and control. Control was especially important to him.
Vanessa, his personal assistant stepped into his line of sight; he wasn’t sure how long she had been standing there. Striking and coolly efficient, Vanessa was Welsh born. She was eloquent, intelligent and cunning. Everything one would desire in a personal assistant. Well, almost everything.
“Smithson and Harris are ready for you sir. Supper will here in an hour, from Bella Napoli.”
“Very nice, thank you, Vanessa.” They walked side by side, down a well-appointed hallway, the walls decorated with traditional oil paintings. He stepped into the boardroom.
There were two men waiting at the conference table. Neither looked as if they had experience in corporate America. However they did look like they were experienced: a rough trade perhaps, the docks maybe, loan sharking definitely. These guys had the look and absolutely the eyes of someone who could break a leg to prove a point. Setting these two on an innocent would be like watching a tornado heading for a trailer park. You knew what the outcome would be—and it wouldn’t be pretty.
Bishop spoke: “Where do we sit?” No prelude, no social graces. All business.
The older of the two men, Smithson, didn’t look pleased. He didn’t look as if he had cracked a smile in a decade, unless it involved causing someone else’s pain and suffering. To call it a mean streak, would be to seriously underestimate the extent of meanness he could call into play. “The currency is gone. The support team is dead.”
The other man in the conference room, Harris: “So we’re fucked, basically.” Not a question.
His name was Andrew Bishop and he wouldn’t roll over dead for anyone. He had invested too much damn money, too much time and too much of himself to let this become a failure—and that was not part of his vocabulary. He was positively glowering.
“The power is here, not with those state assholes. They do not have a fucking clue of what they have, no idea of what they’ve stirred up. We are going to strike them so hard they’ll be reeling and have no time to figure out what was happening in the first place. They’ll be running in every direction, but ours. And then, we are going to get my money back.”
To Smithson, Bishop said, “Get the Hazard brothers and Crane and Wentworth. This will be right up their alley. Bring them over here now.”
They spent the next hour planning and throwing ideas around. There was a lot of anger going around the conference room. The food didn’t even start to mellow him, it just focused him. Bishop excused himself after awhile and returned to his office. He sat in the dark, mulling over his options. After a few minutes, he picked up his phone. He dialed a number that he had hoped he wouldn’t ever need again. It was answered on the second ring, “Martin Clements.”
“I have need of your services.”
Monday, Day four
As one might suspect, they came in the middle of the night. A private jet landing at Holman field—the small airport just to the east of downtown St. Paul. The airport is used primarily for corporate jets and the Minnesota Army National Guard. Not too busy at 4 a.m.
Four men stepped out of the jet into the cool night air of Minnesota. The climate really wasn’t that different from the U.K. Cool, damp with a little mist of rain coming down. The weather wouldn’t be a problem for them, they weren’t here to vacation. The jet was met by a single vehicle.
Angus and Kieran Hazard were the first two to the Tahoe. The brothers had been in many scrapes with the law in their hometown of Middlesbrough. They were more likely to refer to it as “Miserablebrough.” Skilled jobs were few and far between; dead end jobs were the norm. The level of education was appalling. There was a culture of hooliganism, not much else to do for fun than to have a few pints and get into a fight on the weekend. Both brothers have done time for assault, drug possession and theft. And that was what they had been arrested for. Angus had beat a man close to death for saying some disparaging words about the local football club, currently towards the bottom of the Premiership. Kieran was no better, often bitter about the class difference with the professional office workers in Middlesbrough; he’d taken out his resentment with several vandalism incidents to expensive autos parked near his haunts. He would often stare down a bloke that was dressed up for work and punch the guy for flaunting his superior status.
Cullen Wentworth was the guy who gave the English football games a bad name, with his tendency to drink and brawl. Saturday night’s all right for fighting, after all. It was right there in that song. He was tall and slender, but deceptively quick. His eyes were like the eyes of a rat, small and cunning. He was not one to fight fair.
Brian Crane wasn’t much of a thinker. He was big, pushing six feet four and two hundred twenty pounds. He followed the crowd, which for him wasn’t too good considering the crowd he ran with. He was typically used as the muscle or the lookout. If he was told to hurt someone, that’s what he did—quite effortlessly. His mates figured him for more broken bones than any four people they knew. Big and stupid had been working for him so far.
They climbed into the SUV, tossing their bags into the cargo area. Smithson, who was driving, turned around and greeted his old friends. He filled them in on the situation, telling them about the need to create chaos on the freeways. The goal was to incapacitate the Highway Patrol, to keep them off balance and divert their attention to something more pressing. There was an atmosphere of excitement in the truck. This was something they could do very well. The amazing thing was that they would be paid for this, quite well in fact. Most of them would have agreed to do this for free. They had a passion for causing trouble, after all. This would be fun.
They were worked out the details, with the Hazard brothers tasked with acquiring a truck to use for their first activity, as Smithson referred to it. They headed for Bishop’s office to prepare.
Martin Clements gave the Northwest flight attendant an appraising look. A stunning redhead, slightly taller than average, with a beautiful smile, and possibly the best legs he’d seen since arriving in the U.S. two days ago. He smiled at her and lifted his empty champagne glass. She made her way over to him right away. The service in first class was so nice.
“More champagne sir?” Her smile warmed him possibly more than the champagne.
“Please call me Martin,” he said with own practiced smile.
“Would you care for some more champagne Martin?” Ahh, much better.
“Thank you Bridgette, I would love some. These international flights leave me so parched.”
Martin thought he would enjoy this trip. He always tried to add as much pleasure to his business trips as he could squeeze in. Stopping in New York for his layover on his way from Heathrow in his native London, to Minneapolis had been a pleasant diversion.
He’d caught up with an old acquaintance, Emily, sweet Emily, A transplanted Londoner, Emily had moved to Manhattan to run a major magazine. A petite blonde, lucky if she made a hundred pounds, Emily had this great long, curly blonde hair and eyes that you could lose yourself in. Martin had lost two days, actually.
Martin, dressed in his finest custom suits from Savile Row, cut a stylish path wherever he went. Today he was headed for Minneapolis, Minnesota. Martin knew little about the area, other than it was cold and the home of Prince. He loved Prince’s music, having danced away many nights to it at London’s swankest clubs. The cold however, was something Martin was dreading. His contact in Minneapolis had said something about seeing a penguin at the birdfeeder that morning. Martin was hoping he had been kidding.
Martin pulled out his PDA and scrolled through his research. The currency had been secured at the Minnesota State Patrol headquarters in Oakdale in the east metro of the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. That much cash—even if it was Euros—was a lot for an agency like the Patrol to be responsible for. Odds are that the money would be transferred to the DEA quite soon. The Drug Enforcement Administration was used to confiscating large amounts of drug money. They had the infrastructure to deal with it. The Patrol would not have transferred the Euros just yet; it was still part of an on-going investigation. If Martin was a betting man—and he was—then he had a little time yet.
The flight arrived a few minutes behind schedule. Martin had a few minutes to chat with Bridgette before the cabin doors were opened and the passengers would push their way through the narrow cabin. He left with a smile, Bridgette’s number tucked in his breast pocket. He might yet find a way to stay warm here.
His leased Land Rover was waiting for him when he stepped out into the brisk morning air. No snow yet anyway. The LR3 was an exquisite piece of British engineering. Martin signed for the vehicle, generously tipping the automotive dealer deliveryman. He drove out of the Lindbergh airport and headed east.
It was late morning when Angus and Kieran pulled into the dealership. It had been a straight shot up highway 280 and a mile on 36 to get there. They parked near the service area, so some bloody wanker of a salesman wouldn’t come out to meet them at their car. It wouldn’t do to leave a trail for the cops to follow. Kieran headed for a bright yellow Hummer.
“Kieran …,” Angus started.
“Look, if you’re not gonna go big, why go at all?” Kieran flashed his brother a big grin. “This’ll be more fun anyway.”
Walt Kiefer saw the two men walking around the Hummer. November was not the busiest month for selling cars, but not the slowest either. December through February could be lean months in this business. You had to get your sales in while the customers were still coming to the lot. When it’s snowing like crazy and the temperature drops below zero, people are not out looking for cars. Walt didn’t blame them either. In January, he would much rather sit in his comfortable chair, surfing the internet and sip his coffee than be out in the lot, freezing his ass off.
The two men were looking through the driver’s side window. Walt liked having several people to sell to, rather than just one individual. You start out by having them feel like they were joining a rarified club, and then, if you could get one of them to start agreeing with you, that one would often lead the other down the right path—his path. Selling a $40,000 vehicle would be a good way to start off his day. Maybe he would invite Erika from financing to lunch if he got this sale. It could be his lucky day.
Walt walked up to the two men, “Howdy,” he said. “You like? This is the brand new H3T. It just came out in August. You get the Hummer and a full-size pick up all in one finely crafted driving machine.” He paused, waiting for a response.
Kieran spoke first. “This is quite the auto. I’ve always wanted to drive a Hummer.”
Walt noticed the accent right away. Here in the upper Midwest, where the Scandinavians ruled with their uptight passive-aggressive Lutheran ways, a British accent was the ultimate in sophistication. Although, these two didn’t look any too sophisticated. But these days with the new economy, they could be some kind of internet millionaires and still look like dock workers. You just can’t tell anymore.
Walt launched his spiel. “It takes the right kind of man to drive a Hummer. It’s not just the $40,000 price tag; it’s the rarified air of those with the privilege that comes with the cachet of driving one. Have you ever noticed the looks that a man gets when he is behind the wheel? Other men want to be him. And the women…,” he paused. Wait for it.
“The women?” Angus had bit.
“I’ve seen it a hundred times. Whenever I take a new owner for a test drive, I always make sure he stops at the Rosedale Mall to get out and look at the vehicle. Just get him out to look at something, the rear vision camera or something. When he steps out, women are always sizing him up, sensing the power that emanates from a man with the cojones to drive such a vehicle. They really can’t help it. Maxim magazine ran a study recently that said that it was something subconscious—something primal—that drives women to the Hummer man. Is that the kind of man you are?” He looked directly at Angus.
“When can we go for a test drive?” Angus did look a bit anxious. Got him, Walt thought, as he swung back into the office to grab the keys.
Angus was behind the wheel. Damn, this was what it felt like, he thought. So what if it’s pissing more money a day in petrol than I make in a week. You only live once and you never know when your times gonna be up.
He took the cloverleaf at 35E and came back west on 36. Exited at Snelling, headed for Rosedale. Gotta see if the women thing was right. They pulled up in front of Macy’s Department store and got out. Two women were strolling towards the entrance. They had that impossibly blonde, almost white hair that came from expensive salons. They were dressed in expensive clothes, with high heels and model-like looks. These were the kind of women he always wanted and could never get until now.
They glanced at the Hummer and then Angus.
“Small penis,” one of them said to the other and they both laughed. They continued on into the department store.
Angus was furious and turned to Walt Kiefer. “Want to see the rear vision camera?” Walt quickly asked.
“Okay,” Angus said. They walked to the rear of the Hummer. Walt bent over to the bumper, thinking he still might have a shot here. “The camera is mounted in the bumper.”
Angus grabbed Walt by the collar and slammed his face into the bumper. His nose went with the first blow. Blood streamed out of the wreckage that was his nose. The second blow knocked him unconscious. It might have been the third, fourth or fifth blow that killed him. The six and seventh blows were just icing on the cake.
Dropping the car salesman to the ground, Angus bent down and rolled Kiefer to his back. Angus snatched Kiefer’s wallet from his breast pocket and went through his other pockets until he found a cell phone. He tucked both items in his own pocket and said, “Lets roll.”
They stopped at the Bakers Square restaurant a block down from the dealership. Parking in the back, they went in and had a quick lunch, which was picked up by Walt Kiefer. Afterwards, Kieran walked back to the dealership and retrieved their car. No one was out in the lot. No one saw him.
Back at the restaurant, they transferred their gear into the Hummer and left their car in the parking lot. They drove back down highway 280, taking the University Avenue exit. They drove the Hummer down into the underground parking lot of the office building. Kieran parked it in the back section, behind a panel truck. No one would see it unless the panel truck was moved. Kieran took out his knife and stuck it through the side wall of the panel truck’s front tire, hesitated, then went around to the passenger side and punctured the tire on that side as well. This panel truck would not be moving anytime soon.
Cade stood in the parking lot of the Patrol district headquarters. Daisy leaned on the hood of her car, the engine idling. They were discussing the fingerprint results. “Well, the U.K. citizenship makes sense, with all those Euros. Still the big question for me is, where was the money headed?”
Cade nodded. “It’s a question for me too. I’m sure with all those millions, they could be buying a lot of something.”
He paused. “So, what would you do with a million dollars?”
Daisy laughed, “If I had a million dollars, well… let’s say life would be different.”
Cade nodded. “You know when someone wins the lottery and they get interviewed on the news. What do they say? ‘I’m not going to let this money change my life.’ Well, screw that noise. They should take the money right back and give it to someone else. That much money is supposed to change your life. Forever.”
Daisy looked off into the distance. “It sure would change mine,” she said quietly, almost to herself.
Martin Clements had scouted out the east metro area of the Twin Cities. His plan called for setting up a base of operations where he could stage his recovery operation. He found a realtor online that could offer some assistance. He had agreed to meet her at the Caribou coffee shop in downtown Stillwater to discuss commercial properties in the area. The realtor, Kim Lindahl, was a petite blonde around Martin’s age and he was impressed from the moment he saw her.
“Stillwater is the oldest city in Minnesota. It was built by the lumber barons. Many of the homes were built in the Queen Anne, Second Empire, and Stick styles of the 1800s, as well as the Prairie style of the 1900s. For sheer charm, I like the Victorian homes best. I’ve lived here my whole life. The river, the boats, the antique shops, the nightlife, there just is a lot going on here for a small town. Personally, I think Stillwater is the most beautiful city in the state,” Kim said.
Looking up from the swell of her breasts, Martin had to agree. He smiled at her, “As I was raised in one of the oldest cities in Europe, a sense of history has always been important to me.”
“What line of work are you in, Mr. Clements?”
“Please, call me Martin. I own a recovery business. You could say I specialize in recovering items that are difficult to get at.”
A light seemed to go on in Kim’s face. “Oh, I just read about a data recovery firm in Forbes. A bank had a complete computer system crash. A crash like that can cripple a company. Then this firm rides in like a white knight and saves the day. Are you a white knight Martin?” She asks this with a lilt in her voice—a flirtatious lilt. Martin liked that.
If she wanted to believe that he was here to rescue data from wayward computers, he was fine with that. He fixed her with his best smile.
“I’m always willing to rescue a damsel in distress, especially such a beautiful damsel.” He held her eyes for a long moment. There was something … here he felt. Most of the women he saw were fairly disposable. Kim didn’t feel disposable.
After a few more minutes of small talk, Kim said that she knew of the perfect place for Martin. “It’s a little on the expensive side, but it has a lot of history and a lot of charm. Plenty of room for you to work and live. You should trust me on this.”
“As my estate agent, I would hope that you keep my best interests in mind,” Martin said. “Can we go straight away?”
“Estate agent? I think I like the sound of that.” She smiled and led him out into the sunshine.
Steepletown lofts turned out to be a renovated church, originally built in 1884. There were stained glass windows, a gorgeous kitchen and plenty of room. The view of the St. Croix River was breathtaking.
“All this for $2,000 a month, and you could move in immediately” Kim said confidently. She knew she had him.
“Done,” he said. “Where do you want go for dinner?”
Just before 4 p.m., Kieran and Angus walked into the ramp with Wentworth and Crane. Each of the four were carrying a duffel bag and piled into the Hummer. The panel truck was still parked with its flat tires hiding the stolen Hummer. Kieran piloted the H3T onto 280, and went east on Interstate 94. The three men were checking their weapons, organizing the magazines. Angus set a Brugger & Thomet MP9 submachine gun next to his brother. “Here’s yours,” he said.
Interstate 94 in the Twin Cities is the major thoroughfare between Minneapolis and St. Paul. Near downtown St. Paul, 94 merges for several miles with another interstate, 35E. Even in the middle of the day, 94 is crowded with thousands of cars and trucks on the road. At rush hour, the lanes are jammed.
Just past the Dale street exit, Kieran swung over to the shoulder. Angus rolled down his window and shoved his gear bag up next to the door. He stepped up on the running board and grabbed onto the door frame with his left hand, his MP9 in his right. Wentworth and Crane tossed their gear bags into the bed of the H3T and climbed up. Each grabbed an MP9. Crane slapped the side of the cab and yelled, “Go, go.”
Todd Anderson was on his way to meet with a prospective client. Anderson sold insurance, and while the hours could be rather random, he enjoyed meeting with new people. He was running through his proposal in his mind when he was cut off by a large yellow Hummer. His coffee slipped from his hand as he hit the brake and pulled the wheel violently to the left. He narrowly avoided the rear of the Hummer and reflexively hit the horn. A figure loomed in the truck’s bed, pointing something at him—a gun? As the first of the bullets scored his windshield, Anderson threw himself down, still holding onto the wheel. The car lurched for the right shoulder, and with his foot off the accelerator, the Lexus slowing down considerably. These two things are probably what saved his life.
The Hummer continued.
It was a scene right out of that Mel Gibson movie, Mad Max. Crane was hooting and spraying vehicles with bullets. Wentworth was laughing, while placing controlled bursts into as many cars as he could. Angus was being a bit more discriminating, targeting only luxury vehicles. A BMW here, a Mercedes there. He let out a whooping yell when he saw a Cadillac Escalade in front of them. Angus gripped the door a bit harder, steadying himself. He put three or four rounds into the back window. The Escalade braked and headed for the shoulder. As Angus was pulling even, he put rounds every foot or so starting in the back moving towards the driver. A frightened face loomed in the Escalade’s window. Angus punched a round through his forehead. The Escalade slued to the side colliding with a Passat.
Kieran gunned the Hummer and cut to the left, clipping a gray sedan. He skillfully avoided the tangled vehicles. The scene behind him was one of utter devastation.
“911, what’s your emergency?”
“I’ve been shot. Help me!” A woman sobbing.
“What is your location? How bad are you hurt? Are you still in danger?” The operator smoothly went into her training, asking the questions calmly, poised to act.
“I’m on 94, by downtown St. Paul. A man shot me—in the shoulder, he was shooting at a lot of cars. I can’t see his truck anymore.”
“Hang on, help is on the way. We are getting a number of calls, it must be pretty crazy out there.”
Cade was still in the Patrol lot hashing out the case with Capistrano when his cell phone chirped. Daisy’s rang immediately after his. Uh, oh.
It was dispatch, “Cade, we have multiple reports of automatic weapons fire on Highway 94. Some dirtbags in a yellow Hummer are shooting at commuters near the state capitol. Troopers are en route.”
“Get in, I’ll drive,” Daisy said and slid in behind the wheel. Cade hesitated and Daisy looked through the windshield at him, giving Cade the ‘come here’ gesture. He rolled his eyes and climbed in.
Kieran sideswiped a Honda Accord, pushing it into a Camry. He steered away from the crash and gunned the Hummer enjoying the roar of its powerful motor. The scene behind him was utter chaos. There were countless crashes, many chain reaction crashes caused by the vehicles fired upon. Traffic on interstate 94 was absolutely stopped. Sadly, more than a few cars had come to a dead stop.
Cade was holding onto the dashboard, bracing himself. He couldn’t help it; he kept stealing glances at the speedometer. Daisy was pushing the Patrol cruiser past 100 mph, to 110, and then 120 mph. They were whipping by the other cars, they were just a blur.
“What?” Daisy said to Cade without taking her eyes off the road. She had to raise her voice, the emergency system’s siren was loud in the vehicle.
“You know you’re doing 120.” Cade said.
“Well, so are you. I guess I don’t know what your point is.”
“Very funny. I would hate to have the last words I hear be your smart ass comments.”
“So, why would my speed make you so nervous?” Daisy braked hard, cutting around the stopped traffic, driving on to the shoulder. Clearing the cluster of tangled cars, she gunned the large motor. 80, 90, 100. Cade’s knuckles were definitely white.
Putting the emphasis on the first word, Cade said, “I don’t have any issues when I’m driving, so I’m guessing it must be a control issue.”
“Great, We’re having a therapy session at 115 miles per hour.”
“125 miles per hour,” Cade corrected.
“Whatever. Any erotic thoughts about your mother you’d like to share?”
“I think I’d rather have your full attention on the road, thank you. Maybe another time.”
They could see the crash scene as they hit the curve just before the Marion Street exit. It was more than a few cars. Spread out over a three quarter of a mile stretch on the eastbound side were several dozen crashes. It was unusual as far as freeway crashes go. Most were serial pileups as vehicles plowed into the preceding vehicle, with no time to brake. What Cade saw was a tangle here of wrecked vehicles, a cluster there of interlocked vehicles, none of them moving. They took the Marion exit and came around on the entrance to eastbound 94. St. Paul police were there in force; firefighters as well. This was their backyard after all.
Daisy pulled up to a pileup of cars at the shoulder. There were no other emergency vehicles at this scene yet. Cade hurried to the green Camry lying on its side. Daisy headed for the minivan with its nose buried in the guardrail. The Camry was rolled on the passenger side. Cade went up to the shattered driver’s window. At least the driver was wearing her shoulder harness. She appeared to be unconscious, and there was a lot of blood. As he focused on her face, he saw the gunshot wound just below her right eye.
Daisy saw the bullet holes on the side of the van. She could hear a child crying inside. That was a good sign. She opened the driver’s door, a woman with blood on her face, looking dazed. Daisy leaned in, glancing in the rear of the vehicle. A small boy was buckled into a car seat. He was the source of the crying she had heard. The boy looked unhurt.
“Ma’am, are you all right? Are you hurt?”
The woman didn’t turn her head. “My neck, its messed up. I can’t move it. Help Jake please, he’s all alone back there. Help my boy.”
Daisy let her voice go smooth, calming. “He’s fine; the car seat did its job. I‘ll get him out to safety. Let me get you some help.”
She stepped back from the minivan, waving down a paramedic vehicle that was winding its way through the devastation. She quickly briefed the EMTs and walked over to a pair of SUVs that had collided. There were two men leaning against the rear bumper of the Denali. One of the men was rubbing his left collarbone, no doubt the shoulder harness leaving its mark. Otherwise, they looked relatively unhurt.
“Gentlemen, are you injured?” They shook their heads.
“I guess we got lucky, as lucky as you can get anyway in a situation like this. Just get those pricks in the Hummer.”
Daisy stepped closer. “Tell me what happened.”
The man with the seatbelt rash spoke. “There was a Hummer, one of the new ones—the one with the pickup bed—a yellow one. There were two men in the back shooting at cars.”
The second man spoke up. “I saw another man hanging on the outside of the passenger side, shooting as well. It sounded like they were using machine guns. Sounded like the guns the terrorists were using in the first Die Hard movie.”
The first man interrupted. “They weren’t terrorists, they were thieves.”
Daisy looked confused. “How would you know that?”
“I saw the movie. They were pretending to be terrorists, but they were actually breaking into the vault at Nakatomi Plaza.”
She shook her head. These two were morons. “The Hummer, so what happened next?”
The first man said, “They weren’t only shooting at cars, the driver was also ramming them with the Hummer. Shame too, the Hummer still had a new car sticker in the window.”
“We now take you to Susanna Song, who is reporting live at the scene of breaking news. This further team coverage is possibly linked to our top story.”
The camera showed Song, standing in front of an overturned State Patrol vehicle. There was smoke drifting from the engine compartment.
“I am standing on a cloverleaf near Highway 36 and 694 in Mahtomedi. This was the scene of a violent altercation that led to the hospitalization of a state Patrol trooper. The Patrol vehicle you see behind me is the result of that altercation. Witnesses describe a yellow Hummer driving aggressively on eastbound 694. The as-of-yet unnamed trooper was driving on the ramp when …”
Three figures were coming into the scene behind Song. They were approaching the overturned cruiser. Song had not yet seen them. She was facing the camera.
“… the Hummer was last seen driving off at a high rate of speed. That vehicle matches the description of the vehicle being sought by police for the freeway shootings in St. Paul.”
The figures were now distinct enough to make out that they were men. Men with assault weapons. The cameraman had enough presence of mind to zoom in on the men.
John Mason, the KSTP anchor: “Uhh Susanna, can you tell who those men are?”
Reporter Susanna Song: “Men…?” She recovered quickly and turned around. She was a professional after all.
“Excuse me, gentlemen. Can I ask you…”
She was interrupted by the tallest of the three. He roughly grabbed her by the arm. The other two flanked her, the one on the right leveling his weapon at the camera.
This is when things became really interesting. A yellow hummer roared up, driving up over the grass median. The last thing the camera recorded was the flash of light coming from the gun, the sound of automatic weapon fire and the chaotic movement of the camera quickly flashing across the scene and then stillness. The camera clearly not being operated any more.
Pandemonium at the station. The producers had cut back to the studio. Off camera news people were shouting. Anchors John Mason and Leah McLean were obviously unsure of what to say. There was no prepared copy for this eventuality.
Anchor Leah McLean: “Dear God … we will get updates on this as they become available. Please pray for Susanna and Randall, our photo journalist.”
Anchor John Mason: “Next up, a heart warming story about a dog named Lucky.”
Susanna Song hadn’t heard the men approaching. When she was in her zone, nobody in the twin cities television market could match her focus, her passion, her ability to emote. She was truly experiencing the sadness and the peril that the hospitalized trooper was feeling. Each word spoken carefully to convey the intensity of emotion she had in her repertoire. What she didn’t realize was danger was hurtling in her direction like Jack Bauer chasing down the latest terrorist.
She was a bit surprised when Mason had interrupted her live report. While she hoped to be an anchor herself someday, they weren’t always as professional as most people would think. It could get quite silly during commercial breaks. Susanna had seen one anchor pour her latte in her co-anchor’s lap seconds before returning to the air. His face had been particularly expressive during his segment on the Canadian goose problem.
The men walking toward her were carrying weapons. Federal agents? “Excuse me, gentlemen. Can I ask you…”
It became obvious quite quickly that these were the men that every cop in the Twin Cities had been hunting for. The tall, big one grabbed her roughly. She saw the man to her left, his weapon coming up. Susanna was startled by the roar of the Hummer as it drove at them. Her scream was caught in her throat as he fired a stream of bullets at Randall. He went down, still hanging on to his camera.
Things happened fast after that. Susanna was roughly thrown into the rear seat, followed by her tormenter. He climbed in, his ugly weapon pointing at her. He didn’t say anything. Another one climbed in from the other side, trapping her between them. Susanna fought back her terror and the urge to cry. Help would be on the way soon—after all, half the Twin Cities had just seen her being kidnapped on live television. Well, 42 percent anyway, if the latest ratings were to be believed.
She forced herself to look at her captor. He was big, big like a football player. There was a rough quality to him. Susanna had seen men like him in her native Chicago. They worked at the docks by day, and if she saw one out at a Chicago bar, they were either the bouncer at the door or brawling with the other idiots inside.
The third of the three men had climbed in the front across from the driver. He glanced back at Susanna and said something to
the driver she didn’t hear. They took off quickly, fishtailing as they hit the pavement. The driver took them onto the median, making a u-turn, getting back on the ramp for westbound 694. The Hummer was moving quickly now, passing through a group of vehicles. Susanna could hear the horns of the offended drivers who had been cut off.
The man in the passenger seat turned and stared at Susanna for a long moment. She didn’t really care for the way he was looking at her. Angus took a deep breath and said, “Look, we’ve nothing personal against you. You were just in the wrong spot at the wrong time. Happens all the time. Maybe next time you should report on the latest fashions; getting involved with the news these days can get you killed.”
Susanna felt her temper rising. She had worked too hard to become a “fluff” reporter. She had a brain, damn it. And that was more than she could say for this lot. “Thanks, but I don’t think you should be the one giving out career advice. Long term thinking doesn’t really seem to be your forte. Have you thought about what happens when the police catch up to you?” She was angry now and she was rolling. She didn’t pause to wait for his answer.
“And believe me, they are looking for you. After that stunt you just pulled back there, they will hunt you down. You almost killed one of their state troopers. Cops don’t put up with that shit. Believe me, you won’t get to see the inside of our American prisons.” Susanna had noticed his British accent.
“The next time anyone sees you on my television station, you’ll be face down in the mud. Shot down like a rapid dog. You don’t deserve anything more or anything less.” Susanna folded her arms, fuming.
“So what’s next in your master plan? Rough me up? Shoot me? Run over a litter of puppies?” As Susanna said it, she felt a bit of doubt creep in. Had she pushed her luck too far?
Angus spoke up, “What happens next doesn’t really involve you—that is, if you don’t act like a bloody fool. There is more going on than you would know. You are just a small part—a very insignificant part, I would say—of something far larger. Behave, and you might just read about it some day.”
Susanna accepted the shot he took at her. She didn’t think he had a very long shelf life. His expiration was coming up soon.
Cade was talking with an insurance agent who had gotten a good look at the suspects before his car had been shot up. The guy seemed to be pretty relaxed about his Lexus being totaled. Cade suspected he was relaxed about most things and decided to have a little fun with him. He looked at the wreck and said, “I suppose with you being an insurance agent and all, your company will take care of you right away. The only problem would be that Minnesota is a no-fault state, which assumes that you are fifty percent to blame. Maybe you shouldn’t have flipped him off and provoked all this.”
Cade paused, waiting to see if the guy was going to take him seriously.
Todd Anderson gave him a look. “Actually, I’m not in auto insurance. I sell life insurance. I should get you my card, because I have a feeling that if anybody needed life insurance, it would be you. There must be a lot of people out there wishing you harm. I’m not saying I would condone it, of course, but I do understand it. And I always say, you can’t ever have enough insurance. That way, your family can benefit from your death—as well as the rest of us.” His face broke out in a big grin.
“It’s always a pleasure to meet a state employee who still has their sense of humor,” Anderson said.
Cade’s cell phone chirped. “Dawkins,” he said. It was dispatch, with the news of the kidnapping. He glanced around to look for Daisy, she was on her cell as well. They both sprinted for her Chevy Impala. Cade angled for the driver’s side.
“I’m driving,” he stated.
“Whatever,” Daisy said, throwing him the keys.
He lit up the tires, enjoying the roar of the engine. He steered through several tangles of vehicles, with nearby emergency vehicles parked askew. He could see the moon faced officers look up as he roared through. After he cleared the last of the pileups, he had the whole freeway to himself. The highway had been closed back at the Lexington exit.
He took the left lane, heading up 35E. Cade pushed the powerful Impala, closing in on 130 miles per hour. His emergency system was activated, the light strobing the unmarked unit’s interior. The siren’s wail dominating the sound of the radio in the rushing vehicle.
After they passed the Pennsylvania ramp entrance, cars were now entering the freeway. Most of the cars were sliding over to the right, but some were clearly oblivious to the approach of the emergency vehicle. Cade knew it would take a tank with flashing lights to get some drivers to notice an emergency vehicle approaching from the rear. They worked together, Daisy calling out the obstacles ahead as Cade steered through them.
The highway seemed to close in on them as they flew up the interstate. The adrenaline flowed through Cade as he tapped the brake and went around a vehicle that tried to pull off to the left. They were coming up on the ramp for eastbound 694. He slowed to a reasonable 85 miles per hour as they took the ramp. The Impala’s suspension keeping them firmly on the road. He dropped the hammer and brought the car back up over 120 after he merged onto 694.
Traffic was heavier than they encountered on 35E, but other than a short stretch driving on the shoulder, they encountered little in the way of obstacles. They flew past Highway 61, White Bear Avenue and then Century Avenue. Cade could see the lights ahead as they approached Highway 36. He braked heavily and took the ramp toward Stillwater. He could see an overturned vehicle and several emergency vehicles at the side of the cloverleaf.
They climbed out and approached a Washington County sheriff’s deputy. The deputy had a weary look to him. It had been a long day, one that would feel a lot longer before it was over. Cade held up his ID and asked him, “What do we have?”
The deputy shook his head. “It’s not good. First we had an apparent vehicular assault on a trooper. The trooper is at St. John’s, banged up, but she’ll make it. The vehicle appears to be the same one that started the rush hour war zone down in St. Paul. Looks like the suspects didn’t clear the scene, but waited for the response to arrive. Now we have a dead cameraman and one kidnapped television reporter. We’ve put out the vehicle’s description, but so far we’ve heard nothing.”
Daisy nodded and said, “Damn, we didn’t need this. Not today. The media is gonna chew our ass on this one.”
Cade had to agree. “You should run point then. Cause I’m guessing they’ll like yours a lot better than mine.”
The deputy started to cough. Daisy swung her head around and caught the deputy’s eye, daring him to smile. Cade could see the muscles in the deputy’s jaw working, apparently biting his lip. It must have worked, because he kept a straight face. She glowered at Cade, who stared blankly back.
“What?” he asked as innocently as possible.
“You’re an asshole,” Daisy spat. “Don’t you mess with me.” She turned and stormed away.
The Hummer swerved around several turns, driving into an industrial area on the west side of St. Paul. The man in the front seat had grown quiet and was no longer talking to her. Actually, all the men had settled down, the tension leeching from their bodies, their surge of adrenaline having passed. Susanna felt that the immediate danger to her had also passed.
As they went across Highway 280, she recognized the area they were in, it was not far from the television station where she worked. They cut into an underground parking ramp connected to an office building. Susanna’s favorite breakfast spot was located in the same building. The Hummer went to the far corner of the underground ramp. Angus, the man from the passenger seat climbed out and opened the rear door. The man to her right stepped out and the large man that had grabbed her gave her a push and told her to get out.
The one that shot Randall had his weapon pointing at her again. Trying anything in this quiet garage wouldn’t get her anything other than dead. She stepped down from the Hummer and waited for their cue. The large man grabbed her upper arm and pulled her away from the vehicle, propelling her towards an elevator. The man with the gun climbed into the front of the Hummer and it pulled out quickly heading for the exit.
The elevator had only one button. One of the men pushed the solitary button and they rode in silence to the top floor. The door opened to an office suite that was quiet and dark. There would be no help here for Susanna. She was led through the reception area, around a turn, into an expensive large office. They pushed through a subtle door that was tucked in next to a bookcase. This opened into what looked like living quarters.
Susanna had worked in and around corporate America for years. Hubbard Broadcasting, who owned the KSTP television station where she worked, was a large rambling building that had been renovated and added on to for decades. It’s countless nooks and corners held many treasures of Twin City history. When Susanna needed to find something unusual for a story, she would ask one of the station’s long-term employees who would then lead her through the maze-like corridors to find exactly the item she had been seeking. She was continuously amazed at what the building held.
However, beyond an occasional couch, she had never found complete living quarters at the station headquarters. Finding the living quarters here was quite unexpected in this modern office building. The space was large, with a sprawling living room, a kitchen and several bedrooms that were off the living room.
Susanna was led to a couch and released by the large man with a gentle push. “Sit down,” was all he said.
The man she assumed was the leader spoke up. “Tell me your name.”
Pausing, Susanna ran it through her head: nothing to gain or lose by withholding her actual name. “Susanna,” she offered.
“Well, Susanna, you’re going to be here for a few days. If you behave, you will be fine. On the other had, if you make a scene, try to escape or give us a hard time, Cullen here will be giving you a hard time as well.”
He gestured towards the tall, slender man. She did not like his eyes. The leader continued, “I’m Angus. That’s Kieran,” he said pointing to a dark haired man with pale skin. Kieran had a resemblance to the leader, Angus.
Pointing to the large man, Angus said, “And that’s Crane. Stay out of his way.”
The man just glared at Susanna. Cullen was playing with his pistol and watched her. He was the one that she was the most apprehensive about. The others, she felt, could be reasoned with. This one was just an animal. A mean animal. She would have to be very cautious around him. You don’t want to let your guard down around a predator. You just might find yourself dead.
Tuesday, Day five
Cade scanned through the radio stations, listening for media coverage of yesterday’s events. He’d been up at five and was already finishing his morning coffee at 6:15 as he drove towards the office. He paused at a talk station, when he heard the morning drive team, a married couple, Ian and Margery, discussing the kidnapped reporter.
“So far, there hasn’t been any word on Susanna Song from KSTP news. As many of you know, our station is owned by KSTP and Susanna has been a frequent contributor to our Balanced Breakfast morning show. Besides being part of the same broadcast family, I also consider her to be a good friend. Susanna is the rare broadcast journalist that can empathize with people of all different walks of life.”
“I agree, Susanna has a great heart. I’ve been in the news business for a dozen years,” Margery said, “and I have to say she is very sharp and very tough. The people who took her are going to have their hands full.”
Ian laughed. “I expect that if the police don’t catch them first, the kidnappers will be turning themselves over to the authorities soon.”
“So what are the police doing about this? Are they doing anything? First it’s the freeway shootout on Friday, then we have another shootout yesterday, with a Hummer taking out twenty-something cars.” Margery was picking up speed. “Now, Susanna Song has been kidnapped during her live report and one of our photojournalists gets shot to death. I feel like we are living in Detroit or Miami.”
Ian enjoyed questioning most ideas and commonly held assumptions, however questioning authority really energized his mornings. He was good at stirring up the listeners. “Let’s open this up. Do you think our highways are still safe? Does just driving to work make you afraid? We’ll take your calls after the break.”
Cade took a lot of pride in the job the state Patrol performed. The Twin Cities roads were a vital lifeline and the Patrol was responsible for keeping them safe. It wasn’t just about issuing speeding tickets like some people thought. The Patrol pulled unsafe vehicles off the roads. They also pulled the unsafe and dangerous drivers off the road. And there were some extraordinarily dangerous drivers on the road. Road rage has become more common, with the increased congestion. Road rage is often caused by one driver offending the other driver’s sense of entitlement. People feel like they own the road, someone gets in their space—sometimes just trying to merge on the freeway—and the offending driver tries to deliver his own brand of justice. Cade had witnessed scenes of escalating violence: throwing things between vehicles, bumping, fistfights and even the use of guns. People took themselves way too seriously these days.
The Patrol also disrupted the flow of drugs into the Twin Cities. The interstates brought millions of dollars of illegal drugs into the Twin Cities each year. There were Patrol officers trained in drug interdiction that had the ability to sniff out signs of drugs being transported on our roads.
The State Patrol also responded to each and every accident on the highways. The troopers usually are the ones to give first aid to accident victims at the scene. The accident scenes could be horrible, especially during the winter months. The icy roads meant unchecked speeds and that made for some real tragedies. Most troopers Cade knew looked forward to the coming of spring for just that reason.
Cade’s attention was pulled back to the radio. The on-air personality re-capped the recent events affecting the highways.
“Okay, Julie, where are you with this?”
“To tell you the truth, I am scared to drive on the freeway. It’s like the Wild West out there. Criminals are shooting at innocent drivers, people are being kidnapped. You read about this type of thing going on in third world countries, like Columbia. Not here in the Lutheran capital of the world. And don’t we have a police force whose sole purpose is to patrol the highways? Where is the Highway Patrol during all this? I’ll tell you: they’re stopping law abiding citizens, who are just driving to work, and giving them tickets for driving five miles over the limit. Five miles over the limit. Now that’s a crime. The governor should fire the lot of them.”
Cade already had his cell phone out and was dialing the station. The show’s producer answered and asked him to hold.
Radio host Ian Punnett: “We have Cade, who I understand has a very different opinion from Julie.”
“Ian, you’ve got that correct. I‘m an investigator with the Minnesota State Patrol. We have two Patrol officers in the hospital right now because they were out there, doing their jobs, putting their lives on the line trying to stop these criminals. Our entire force has been put on high alert, and there is mandatory overtime to put more troopers on the roads. Our sole purpose is to keep the roads safe. And we take our job very seriously. As far as us being out there just to harass drivers and give out tickets, I have to tell you, your last caller must be a terrible golfer.”
Ian took the bait. “A terrible golfer? Why would that be?”
“She obviously doesn’t know her asshole from a hole in the ground.”
Because of the tape delay, he heard his offending word beeped out, but it didn’t matter. He had made his point.
At headquarters, Cade checked in with Daisy. There still weren’t any reports on the Hummer and Susanna Song. There was however, a report of a brutal murder and subsequent theft of a Hummer from a dealer in Roseville.
“I’m on it,” Cade said grabbing his keys. “This could give us something to work with. It puts us in a bad position to always be reacting, instead of following up on our existing cases.”
He paused for a long moment. “You don’t suppose, do you, that yesterday was all for our benefit? To keep us busy and reeling?”
Daisy shook her head. “I don’t see what their gain would be.”
“I suppose you’re right. Sometimes I get a little paranoid. But you know what they say about paranoia.”
Daisy smiled. “If everyone’s out to get you, paranoia is just good thinking.”
“Exactly,” Cade called out as headed for the door.
In the car, the radio was still on the same talk station. The show hosts had moved on to a new topic. An author had written a book about lost opportunities and regrets, and had collected a variety of people’s stories. They were interviewing the author.
Radio personality Ian Punnett: “So what you’re telling us Professor, is that for most people, a lost opportunity is something that people will carry with them to their deathbed.”
“Exactly. For a lot of us, we carry these regrets with us always. And surprisingly, they don’t tend to motivate us to do it differently next time. It sets a pattern that will, sadly, define us.” The author had a definite academic sound to his voice, almost like he worked to sound that way. Cade thought the author must be a professor of psychology or social studies at some junior college.
Radio personality Margery Punnett: “That’s fascinating and so counter-intuitive. I would have guessed that most people would have learned from their regrets.”
Radio personality Ian Punnett: “Why do you suppose that’s not the case?”
“Let me ask you Ian, have you ever wanted to date someone and for some reason, you never did ask her out?”
Radio personality Ian Punnett: “Well, sure, but Jessica Alba always seemed to be a bit out of my reach.” Ian was laughing.
Margery, also laughing, “Professor Levine, I don’t know if we’d be your ideal test case. Ian better not be having any regrets about not dating someone from his past.”
“Don’t worry honey, my only regret is that I didn’t get to know you earlier.”
Professor Levine plowed on, “For a lot of people, there is a real fear of failure that is attached to their regrets. And even more powerful, is their fear of success. What will happen to them if they succeed? Will it change them? Fear can rule their life.”
Radio personality Ian Punnett: “Thank you Professor Levine. So there you have it. Don’t let your regrets rule your life. If you’ve been thinking about asking someone out on a date, maybe you should. What’s the worst that could happen?”
Cade already had his cell phone out and was dialing. He could take a hint.
“Hi Kim, this is Cade Dawkins.”
The Hummer dealership was located in Roseville, less than a mile from Interstate 35, north of downtown Minneapolis. As Cade drove down the row of massive Hummers, he thought that this must be their monument to testosterone. At first when Arnold drove one, they had some cachet, but not anymore. Now, he thought they were just big trucks for men with obvious shortcomings.
He was met by the dealer’s general manager, Ron Futcher. A large man, with good taste in suits, Futcher carried himself with confidence. They shook hands and Futcher said, “I’m not sure how I can help. Walt wasn’t found here, he was found at Rosedale, outside of the Dayton’s department store.”
“You mean Marshall Field’s, don’t you?” Cade ventured.
“Wait, it’s Macy’s department store now. Shit, they changed it again, didn’t they? He was found outside of Macy’s. His face was beaten to a pulp and they just left him lying in a pool of his own blood. That just isn’t right. Walt was a good man. He’d been on a test drive with one of our new H3T models. Which hasn’t been seen since, by the way.”
“Actually, we have seen it. It was the vehicle used in the freeway shootings yesterday in St. Paul. And in the kidnapping of the television reporter after that.” Cade looked at Futcher with an intensity he hadn’t shown before. “We want that Hummer in a bad way.”
“Just get those assholes,” Futcher said. They walked into the large showroom. A group of salespeople leaned against the hood of a red Hummer. They stopped their conversation and watched Cade and Futcher.
Nodding towards the sales staff, Futcher said, “Walt was their friend. They’re taking his loss kind of hard.”
“We’ll get them. The Twin Cities isn’t that large. And to tell you the truth, they don’t seem like the kind of guys that just go away and hide. They’re living big, and they’ll go down big too. Guys like that don’t have a long life span.”
Cade pulled out his notebook. “Did you get identification from the driver for the test drive?”
Futcher was shaking his head. “It doesn’t work that way here. Because of the high value of our vehicles, we don’t get a driver’s license, because the salesman always rides along during the test drive. We find that our salespeople get more accomplished by spending the extra time with the potential buyer. Walt knew what he was doing, he had his route laid out perfectly. He gives them some curvy road to feel the handling, some freeway time to feel the rush from the Hummer’s acceleration and a quick stop at Rosedale Mall to feel the Maxim effect.”
Cade could feel Futcher’s deliberate pause. He was being played by a sales professional. Futcher wanted him to ask —needed him to ask—about the Maxim effect. Cade wasn’t going to play his game.
“Did any of your people see the men? Was the lot busy yesterday?”
Futcher shook his head. “I was here yesterday, but I just saw Walt talking to two men. They were over there,” pointing at the end of the row near the entrance. “From here, you can’t make out any more than that. I couldn’t tell you if they were tall or short, or even their ages. Sorry. I never made it out to the lot until after noon. The lot wasn’t any too busy yesterday; weekdays are like that in the morning though. The traffic doesn’t start to pick up until later in the afternoon.”
Futcher paused. “Don’t you want to know what the Maxim effect is?”
Homey don’t play that game, Cade thought to himself. He jotted down a brief note and looked up. “No, not really. How about cameras? Do you have any surveillance cameras covering the lot?”
“We do, but the distance and angle from the camera to where Walt met them won’t give you much. I looked at the tape this morning.”
Cade asked to see the tape anyway, and they walked back to the office area.
“I thought that you might want to see this, so I had the tape cued up,” Futcher said. He put the tape in and hit the play button.
The monitor showed three figures that were on the far side of a row of large vehicles. The image was black and white and grainy. There was a time and date stamp in the lower left of the image, showing Monday’s date and a time of 11:17 a.m. Cade could make out that one of the figures had a cap on, and another had messy hair. Walt had his back to the camera. The three men talked for several minutes, then Walt separated from the other two men and walked toward the camera. He walked underneath the camera and disappeared from view. After a brief moment, he retraced his steps and met up with the men again. The man with the cap climbed into the driver’s seat, while the man with the messy hair climbed into the passenger seat. Walt got into the rear passenger seat. After a brief moment, the vehicle drove straight out of the lot, turning left, away from the camera.
“That’s it,” Futcher said as he hit the stop button. “I wish we had a digital system, but the owner doesn’t want to pay for the system upgrade. If we had that, you could zoom in and maybe get some detail. Sorry that this wasn’t any help.”
“Actually,” Cade said, “it does raise several questions for me. Where was their vehicle? How did they get here?”
Futcher was grabbing another tape. “This should cover the parking area. We put the customer parking up near the building so we could readily see when we get customers.”
He took his finger off the fast forward control. “This should be just about the right time.” The time stamp read 11:15 a.m. They watched the parking spaces. Nothing moved.
“Go back further,” Cade requested, “maybe they had parked nearby and just walked into the lot.”
Futcher rewound the tape to 11:10 a.m. The tape rolled forward again. This time Cade was looking at the edges, looking for movement. “Wait, go back a bit.”
Futcher backed up the tape. “There,” Cade said, pointing to the upper left of the monitor. There was a flash of a vehicle driving from right to left.
“Where would that vehicle be going? What’s in that direction?” Cade asked, pointing to where the vehicle had disappeared.
“Our service department would be just around the corner from there,” Futcher said, gesturing at the top left corner of the monitor. “We also have a camera aimed at the service entrance.” He grabbed a third tape.
The tape had a wide view of the service entrance. They could clearly see a vehicle pull in a half dozen spaces away from the entrance. Two men climbed out, one was wearing a cap.
“Gotcha!” Futcher said. “It looks like a sport utility vehicle of some kind, maybe a Denali, a Tahoe or a Yukon. Definitely not a Hummer.”
“It looks like a Tahoe, notice the taillights. One thing about being with the State Patrol, you see a lot of vehicles from the back end. That’s definitely a Tahoe. Too bad that the license plate isn’t clear.”
There was a moment of silence, the men lost in thought and then Futcher held up two fingers. “You said that you had several questions. What’s the second question?”
“Where was Walt going when we saw him walking away from the men?”
Futcher smiled, “That’s easy. He was grabbing the keys for the test drive.”
“Where do you keep the keys for the vehicles?” Cade asked.
Futcher pointed out the door. “Kirsten has the keys. She’s our office manager.”
They walked up to a counter with a pretty brunette talking on the phone. She was involved with her conversation. Nice smile, Cade thought. She glanced up and ended her call.
Futcher nodded to Cade. “This is Cade Dawkins, an investigator with the State Patrol. The stolen Hummer was used in the freeway shootout yesterday.”
Speaking to Cade, Futcher said, “Kirsten was here yesterday.”
Cade reached over the counter and shook her hand. “When Walt picked up the keys, did he say anything about the men he was taking for the test drive?”
Kirsten smiled at Cade. She did have a nice smile. “Well, he usually flirted with me a bit. He was always harmless, but still a little flirty. You know how sales guys can be.” She glanced over at Futcher who smiled back.
“He called me sunshine, and then asked me about my lunch plans. The only thing that he mentioned about the test drive, was that he was taking some guys out in the new H3T. He grabbed the keys and left. That’s the last time I ever saw Walt,” she said her voice choking.
Cade thanked her and was walking out with Futcher when Kirsten stopped them. “Walt referred to them as … something,” she paused. Kirsten pursed her lips and said, “I think he called them a couple of Brits.”
Back on Highway 36, Cade called Daisy. “Hey, I got something at the dealership. The victim had referred to the killers as Brits, right before he took them for the test drive.”
“Really?” Daisy asked. “What’s the odds of having two separate cases with an international angle in the same week? Must be quite the coincidence.”
“It does strain the limits of probability just a little bit. But do you know what might actually strain those limits to the breaking point?” Cade asked. He was enjoying this.
Cade could hear her impatience in the silence. “What’s that?” she asked finally.
“How about the fact that those two Brits were driving the same make of SUV as the shooters from the great Highway 94 gunfight in Woodbury?”
“I guess I would have to say that your earlier paranoia is good thinking after all,” Daisy answered.
Susanna woke up to voices. They were coming from outside her closed door. The voices had a cadence to them that was different, foreign. It took a moment for her groggy mind to comprehend her situation. She was being held, having been taken by force by these men: their accents British, their ways, rough and uncultured. She had been conditioned by the media—the irony wasn’t lost on her—that the British were all sophisticated and charming. Apparently these men were the lower class that didn’t make the movies.
The events from yesterday flashed through her mind. The sudden appearance of the armed men, their weapons…Randall. Her breath caught in her throat as she recalled seeing Randall going down in a hail of bullets, still holding his camera. Things had moved fast after that; Susanna had been shoved into the Hummer and hadn’t been able to see Randall. She had no idea how bad he’d been hit or if he was even still alive.
Randall had been the best photojournalist she’d worked with. He had a knack for anticipating big moments and had guided her on a number of occasions to talk to this person, or to ask that question. Some of her biggest moments had resulted from Randall’s guidance. As a team, they complimented each other’s abilities seamlessly. She could always count on him to be there for her. Now, when he needed her support, she couldn’t be there. She prayed he would survive this.
The door opened, a large man filling the doorframe. This was not one of the men who grabbed her yesterday. He looked at her appraisingly. His eyes appeared intelligent, if not a little dangerous. There was something familiar about him and Susanna was sure she had seen him before. The feeling had a recent quality to it. Had he been in the news recently?
“My apologies for holding you here,” he said, his voice low and accented. “It became necessary to knock the authorities off balance, to take their focus off other matters. It is in my best interest that they concentrate their investigation on your disappearance and yesterday’s shootings during rush hour.”
Susanna glared at him. “Your best interests? People died yesterday. What about their interests? What about Randall, my photojournalist? One of your thugs,” she spat out the word, “shot my friend. I don’t know if he’s alive or dead, and you go on talking about your best interests. Like this is all just a business negotiation.”
His eyes flashed at her. “This is business. The stakes are just higher than you’re used to seeing. And just like most business deals, there is an objective that we are trying to meet. When our objective is met, you’ll be released. It’s that simple.”
The large man turned to leave. Pausing at the doorway, he glanced back at Susanna. “All you need to know to ensure your survival, is for you to stay out of the way. You cooperate, don’t try anything stupid and you’ll remain an asset. Remember, that in business, assets are desirable. You do not want to become a liability. Becoming a liability will get you dead. Simple.”
He left. Another man took his place, this one, the tall slender man from yesterday. Wentworth, she recalled. He tossed her a shopping bag.
“Vanessa picked up something for you to change into. Clean yourself up and let’s go. Time to get something to eat.”
Wentworth walked up to her, towering over her. “My pistol will be on you the entire time. You wouldn’t be the first person to get shot by this,” he held up his weapon.
“I get it,” she said. “I’ll behave.” Susanna thought she might have the opportunity to pass a message or alert somebody if they were out in public. It wasn’t going to happen while she was held here. She would have to be alert to any opportunity, as well as being extremely cautious taking advantage of the opportunity. She didn’t doubt this man would take her life with absolutely no hesitation. She reached for the shopping bag. At least it was from Saks.
Cade was back on the road and the talk radio station had switched hosts and was now on to an entirely new subject. It was something about the bonding that women do when they share the love of the same character on a reality television program. Cade couldn’t switch the station quickly enough. Chick stuff. It reminded him of the old joke: how do you know if you’re watching a chick flick? When you wake up, your wife is crying.
He found the sports talk station and relaxed a bit. They were talking about the new soccer team that was moving to the Twin Cities. Now, this is a subject that was near and dear to his heart. Cade had played soccer in college, and continued to play soccer in the summer rec league. It was a great way to stay in shape and also a good excuse to go drink beer after the game with the boys. That’s how boys bonded—at least the older boys. Hashing out what happened in the game over beers, talking about the great passes, the near misses, and it should-have-been a goal opportunities, now that was fun.
The unfortunate thing about this station, was that it was
populated by self-proclaimed sports purists. And they just didn’t get the game of soccer—it wasn’t a sport to them like football and baseball. Yet they would talk endlessly about table tennis, mountain unicycling and long driving (“basically, a bunch of apes on a driving range whacking balls to see who hits it the farthest”). The subtleness of soccer was lost on them.
The host was on his rant. “Okay, this Bishop guy has promised us the team will have world-class athletes like Beckham. Everyone is getting so excited; the papers are doing daily feature stories, and the television stations are carrying stories about it every night. But the point that the media people in this town are missing is that the team will still be playing soccer. Who’s going to want to go see that week after week? I know it’s a big deal over in Europe, but aren’t these the same people who like cricket and obviously hate the dentist? Not the sharpest tools in the shed.“
He continued, “What is so exciting about a game without any scoring? You talk to a Brit, and they’ll go on and on about the exciting football match they saw. Of course, when I ask what the score was, you know what they’re going to say. Nil to nil. No goals? What were they doing for an hour and a half? I would go nuts having to sit out in the damp weather watching this drivel. I would rather watch a whole afternoon of The View. Maybe not when Rosie was on there, but you get the idea. England, what a country: bad food, bad weather and bad sports. Remember this is the country that has the national paint drying festival.”
The co-host jumped in, “You made that part up.”
“Just to make my point. A little creative license.” Cade had enough and turned off the radio. Seriously, he would have to go back to his iPod. This guy was a moron.
Interestingly enough, he’d heard the term Brit now twice today. It was funny though, to have another coincidence involving his cases. However, this one he wouldn’t be sharing with Daisy. No point in giving her any more ammunition to tease him with.
Cade’s cell phone chirped, pulling him from his thoughts. Dispatch was on the phone; 911 had received a call from someone claiming to be Susanna Song.
“Do you want me to put her through?”
“Please, and make sure the call is recorded.”
Cade heard several clicks and then a female voice spoke in a raised whisper.
“Hello, is there anyone there?” The voice had a hint of desperation to it.
“This is Cade Dawkins, investigator with the Minnesota State Patrol.”
“This is Susanna Song from KSTP. I’m calling from the restroom at the Perkins restaurant on University. I borrowed a cell phone. They’re waiting outside for me, so I only have another moment.”
Cade hit the toggle activating his emergency system. He braked hard and swerved into the center median. Grateful for the sparse traffic this time of day, he gunned it back onto westbound Highway 36. It was a few miles to Highway 280 and then a few more miles south to the University Avenue exit. He could be there in less than five minutes.
“I’m on my way there, Susanna, just hang on. What can you tell me about the men who did this? Are they British?”
“Yes, they are—how did you know? Wait, I need to know about Randall, my photojournalist. How is he?”
Cade was on 280 now, weaving in and out of the traffic, pushing the speed past 100 miles per hour. Three more exits to go. “I’m sorry, Randall didn’t make it.”
Susanna’s voice was choked with emotion. “I knew he had been hurt bad. I have been so worried about him.”
“I’m not letting these guys get away with what they did to him. I’m right at University and 280. I’ll be there in a minute.”
“Be careful, these are not nice men. They really seem to enjoy hurting people. This may sound overly dramatic, but I think evil has found a home in their hearts. Oh, I have to go—”
Cade could hear some loud noise, like the phone was being jostled. Then the call was gone.
He flew down University Avenue. The restaurant was a half-mile west of the highway. Cade had to brake hard as he approached a stoplight. Making sure that the cross traffic was stopping, he gunned the unmarked Impala through the intersection. He used the radio to contact dispatch and requested backup. Cade asked that the St. Paul police establish a perimeter a half mile out.
The Perkin’s restaurant was at a busy intersection near the University of Minnesota campus. He dumped the Chevy on the street a half block down and started running.
Cade slowed down as he reached the entrance. He glanced up and down the block, and then checked the lot for any sign of Susanna Song. He knew he could recognize her from her news reports. She wasn’t outside the restaurant. Just as he turned to go inside, he saw furtive movement in the parking lot. Hand on his holster, Cade looked in the direction of the movement.
He could see a figure crouching beside a vehicle at the far edge of the lot. He took a step to his left and recognized the blue of St. Paul’s uniforms. He pulled out his badge and ID and held it up. He could see there were two officers kneeling beside a pickup truck. Cade trotted over and knelt down next to the pick up truck with the two St. Paul officers. The older of the two, a sergeant, said that they also had just arrived. “No one has left the restaurant that we’ve seen. Our orders are to hold this location until SWAT gets here. They’re about five minutes out.”
Cade was shaking his head. “I don’t think she has five minutes with these guys. I don’t want to risk her anymore than we have to. I’m going in.” He stood up.
The sergeant didn’t look at all happy about it, but he didn’t say anything.
Cade trotted back to the restaurant. There were definitely some advantages to working in plain clothes. He could walk into the restaurant without drawing a lot of attention. He stopped to buy a Pioneer Press newspaper from the box at the entrance. It would help give him some cover. He pushed the door open and walked in.
Straight ahead of him was the counter where the hostess normally would be stationed. There wasn’t anyone there. He approached the counter and looked out into the seating area. Approximately three fourths of the tables and booths were occupied. He was looking for an attractive Asian woman with two or three men. Cade could only see into the first section, as there was a chest-high section divider that blocked his view into other sections.
“Table for one?”
An attractive college age hostess stood in front of him. She was blonde and remarkably tan for November in Minnesota. Her nametag said Alyssa.
“Actually Alyssa, I’m looking to meet up with a colleague. She is Asian and about your height. She is probably with several men who might have English accents.”
Alyssa got a little wrinkle between her eyebrows. “I did seat a party like that. They did seem a bit … uncomfortable with each other. They sure seemed to be sullen group, usually people are happier when they come to lunch.”
“Where did you seat them?” Cade asked. He tried not to look too anxious.
“Lets see, Janna had just come on, so it would have been in section three.”
Trying not to roll his eyes, Cade asked, “And where is section three?”
Alyssa pointed to the back. “It’s along the far wall there. Would you like me to take you?”
Cade shook his head. “No, I have to stop by the bathroom first.”
He first checked the men’s room, but it was empty. At the women’s restroom, he pushed the door open a few inches and listened. It didn’t feel occupied. “Hello,” Cade called, “Maintenance.”
Not waiting for an answer, he pushed in. The stalls were empty. Cade wasn’t sure what he expected to find, blood possibly, a body maybe. There wasn’t anything out of the ordinary.
Cade walked out into the restaurant and moved slowly towards the back section. He shifted the newspaper to his other arm and rested his hand on his holster. His jacket covered the Glock. He looked just like a typical office worker stopping for lunch.
As he moved down the aisle, he scanned both sides looking for his target. He could feel his pulse racing. Though this was just a reconnaissance mission, he could feel the adrenaline surging. It would not be wise to try to take them here, with no backup inside in the busy restaurant.
He reached the end of the row without finding Susanna. He walked down the aisle in the next section over. Then to be sure, he walked the front section. She wasn’t here. He couldn’t have missed her by much, no more than a minute or so. He pulled out his cell phone and called dispatch. He updated her on what he had found and requested that the perimeter be moved out another half mile.
On a hunch, he asked the dispatcher for the number of the cell phone that Susanna Song had used. Cade went up to Alyssa’s hostess station and did the need-a-pen gesture. She handed him her pen and he jotted down the number. Punching in the number, Cade took a stroll through the restaurant. He heard a burst of tinny music behind him—sounded like “You Can’t Stop the Beat” from Hairspray, Cade thought. Cute.
Hanging up his cell phone, Cade walked over to a woman putting down her cell phone. She was about 18, with light brown hair and a jean jacket. She looked up as Cade approached her and he pointed to his cell phone.
Cade held up his ID. “That was me on the phone just now. Did you loan your phone to someone a few minutes ago?”
The young woman nodded. “I was in the rest room and I heard someone come in to the stall next to mine. A woman asked if I had a cell phone she could use. She said it was very urgent. Her hand was reaching down for it, waiting. So, I passed my phone to her.”
“She talked for a maybe a minute or so. She wasn’t talking very loud, so I couldn’t make out her conversation. I’m guessing she got some bad news though, because her voice sort of broke up. You know how you can tell when someone is upset without actually hearing the exact words? It was like that.”
Cade needed to keep her talking; he wanted her to remember it as it happened. To facilitate her recall, he kept his prompts at a minimum. “Uh huh.”
“I heard a man’s voice from inside the rest room, telling her it was time to go. Just as her toilet was flushing, my phone came sliding across the stall floor to me. I didn’t think I should go right out, so I waited a moment or so—maybe 30 seconds—and then came out. There wasn’t anyone in the rest room and I didn’t see anyone that looked like a woman in distress when I came out here. Of course, all I saw of the woman was her hand. Nice manicure, though.”
He had her go through it once more, but didn’t learn anything new. “I don’t feel like I’m much help,” the woman said. She looked dejected.
“What’s your name?” Cade asked.
“Natalie,” she said.
“Well, Natalie,” Cade said, “I think you did really well. You kept your cool, helped out a kidnap victim and were able to remember a lot of the details. For most people, that’s a pretty good day. We’ll catch up to these guys soon enough. They’ve been having a run of luck avoiding the police. But if there’s one thing about luck, it always turns.”
Back at his desk, Cade was paging through phone records. They were downloaded from the cell phones recovered from the bodies of the driver and shooters at the shootout that had started the investigation. All the cell phones had a Miami area code. And unfortunately, these phones were prepaid cell phones and the anonymity they offered was not a benefit to Cade’s investigation. The local Dade County authorities had come up with bogus names and addresses. These were professionals who were exceedingly conscious of their security. This could be another dead end.
To be thorough, Cade looked for patterns in the calls. The calls themselves were short in duration and were made between the three vehicles, the semi truck and the two chase vehicles. The obvious pattern Cade saw was that all the calls seemed to be made in pairs. The driver of the semi truck would call one of the chase vehicles, quickly followed by a call to the second chase vehicle. It went like that, with hour or so breaks between further calls.
He almost missed it. On the driver’s phone call log was a single call to a different number, the same Miami area code, but a different number. The date and time of the call would put it maybe twenty minutes before the driver was shot and killed. Had he made a call to announce his arrival in Minnesota?
Who had the driver called? There was a way to find out. The paperwork for the administrative subpoena took just a few moments. The subpoena would yield the subscriber’s information within twenty-four hours. Chances are, the driver had called another prepaid cell phone with a bogus name attached. But, as in life, you played the cards you were dealt—and sometimes you get a break.
Cade was driving towards home, enjoying the changing colors. Fall in Minnesota was spectacular; it was too bad it was so damn short. Before you knew it, the snow was flying and it got so cold, the wind chill would freeze the nuts off a snowman. But today was a beautiful afternoon and it was great to be out cruising. He had his window down, Bob Marley on his iPod. He let his mind wander, stretching out a bit. Cade did some of his best thinking behind the wheel. He sang along, without even thinking about it. “Don’t worry about a thing, ‘cause every little thing gonna be all right.”
The call came in, pulling away his thoughts from the case. Cade usually kept his radio on, scanning through the local police frequencies. Even though it would be on in the background and he was listening to his own music, his ears would pick up the change in intensity when something was happening.
Washington County was in pursuit. A drunk refusing to pull over, the sheriff requesting back up. Cade could hear the siren in the background as the officer gave his location. The chase had been moving up Manning Avenue towards the small airport, with the high school another mile further. That could be dangerous, with school just letting out. Fortunately, the suspect had taken a sharp turn onto 30th. They would be intersecting Lake Elmo Avenue about four miles ahead of Cades’ position. Cade responded to the dispatcher giving his location. He would be backup; Washington County would be primary on the chase. He activated his emergency system, the lights strobing the interior. He jammed the gas pedal to the floor, feeling the engine surge. God, he loved the adrenaline.
The trees were a blur as he whipped down the avenue, the lake on his left. Traffic had pulled to the shoulder yielding to the emergency vehicle. He glanced at his speedometer; he was fast approaching 120 miles per hour. The vehicle could do around 140, but he’d run out of road before he could attain that speed.
The fleeing Chevy truck was closing in on Lake Elmo Avenue, where it would have to turn either right or left, there was no going straight. A minivan was at the stopsign, a soccer mom headed for the elementary school several miles to the north. The Chevy truck swerved around the stopped minivan, and turned right, towards the elementary school.
Cade was just a block behind the intersection. He saw the Chevy truck make the turn, barely keeping all four wheels on the pavement. The Sheriff’s car made the same turn, but with the cruiser’s superior suspension, it hung low, making the sharp turn with little difficulty. Cade braked hard, not wanting to overrun the chase. He quickly closed up the distance to the Washington County unit.
The officer came on the radio, saying the busy Highway 5 was a mile ahead, the school at the intersection of the two roads. The Washington County Sheriff said he was going to go around the suspect and attempt to slow him down. The Sheriff’s squad made a move on the Chevy truck’s left, and cut in front of him. The Chevy was not going without a fight and rammed into the rear of the Washington County Sheriff’s squad car. “Holy shit, he’s ramming the squad,” the deputy excitedly called out over the radio.
The Chevy driver was losing it. He surged ahead and rammed the squad car again. The squad moved a bit to the right. The truck swerved to the left grazing a parked van. The driver’s side mirror popped off and rolled into the street. Almost immediately, the truck swerved to the right, cutting off the sheriff’s squad car and hopped the curb. The Chevy was driving down the sidewalk now. Cade saw an older woman on the sidewalk in front of the post office, scrambling to get out of the way.
This couldn’t continue. Cade gunned his squad aiming it between two parked cars directly at the Chevy truck. He impacted the truck just behind the driver. The truck rolled once, twice and came to a stop rightside up. The truck’s roof was smashed down a bit, but having maintained it’s structural integrity, the cab hadn’t totally collapsed.
Cade was out in a flash, his Glock in a two handed firing stance. He ran to the Chevy, ordering the driver to exit the vehicle. An abusive tirade of curses the only response from the driver. Cade grabbed at the suspect through the shattered window. The Washington County deputy was at his side, a second Washington County Sheriff squad pulling up flanking the overturned vehicle. Cade and the deputy were pulling at the driver, swearing right back at him. The driver had his legs wrapped around the steering column, refusing to give up. The second Washington County deputy joined the fray and went to the passenger side in an attempt to free the driver’s legs. With a lurch, the driver came free, and was violently pulled through the window and was pushed to the ground.
This is the dangerous part of a hot pursuit. Adrenaline surging, tempers flaring, potent emotions boiling over. This is when the response can go over the top, when officers can cross the very line they have sworn to uphold. However, today would not be the day when the line was crossed.
Cade put his knee into the man’s back, the other cop restraining the struggling suspect’s arm so handcuffs could be secured. With his arms immobilized, the drunk deflated, the life drained out of him. Cade fell back into a sitting position, his heart pounding. His siren was still blaring, adding a feeling of surrealism to the already chaotic scene. He was sure he was going to throw up from the adrenaline. Now that would not look good for the dashboard camera recording the scene. Though, The World’s Most Amazing Police Chases television show would probably love it. Cade took a deep breath and the feeling passed. Thank God.
Kim Lindahl lived in a loft apartment above an antique store in downtown Stillwater. Stillwater was an antiquer’s paradise. Walking along the main street in Stillwater, one would find an antique store, then a bookstore, another two antique stores and then a bar. After that, the pattern would repeat itself. Cade thought that if he were going to design a town, this would be a good way to start.
A little anxious, he took the stairs two at time. It had been a while since his last date. Probably a year and a half now. He’d met a lot of women, but not the right kind of woman. They tended to be too jaded, too needy, or just too much of being a cop. He refused to date cops.
Kim was ready and waiting for Cade. She looked absolutely stunning. She had on a simple, but elegant floral blouse, a black skirt and heels. Her blonde hair was pulled gently back, emphasizing her Nordic cheekbones. Cade’s breath was taken away. Kim was well worth the year and a half wait.
She smiled and said, “Don’t you clean up well.” Cade was wearing a sportcoat over his favorite H&M sweater and jeans. A little dressy, but not too much. When you first start dating someone, there’s a thin line you have to walk. You don’t want to look like you’re trying too hard, but on the other hand, you don’t want to come across as taking things too casual. From Kim’s reaction, it looked like he nailed it.
He gave her his most mischievous grin. “Well thank you; I think you’re hot too.” That made her laugh, and that was a good thing.
“So, where are we headed?” she asked.
“How about you pick the restaurant, and I’ll pick the dessert spot?” Cade ventured.
“Works for me,” she said, “I know the perfect spot, but you have to love Italian.”
“We’re set then, Mama Maria’s it is. It’s a one-of-a-kind restaurant in Hudson, not a chain restaurant. The ambience simply lifts you up and transports you to Italy, and the food…” Pausing for effect, “…is authentic and fabulous.”
Driving over the Stillwater lift bridge into Wisconsin, the lights of Stillwater reflecting on the St. Croix river below them, Cade and Kim talked about the real estate market. “Overall,” Kim said, “the market in Stillwater is still going strong; the homes are charming and there really is a strong arts culture for the town being so small. People want to live in Stillwater.”
“Do you think the Stillwater market is so strong because people don’t want to leave or is it that people are moving in from other areas?”
Kim said, “I have seen that people will watch the historic
homes and when one comes on the market, there is a lot of movement. Trading up, basically. On the other hand, buyers are looking to move into Stillwater as well. In fact just recently,
I had a client that moved to Stillwater from quite a long ways away.”
“Where was your client from? Wait a minute, I thought I was your only client.” Cade laughed, “Just don’t tell me you had dinner with him too.”
He looked over at Kim. She looked up at him, with an “oh, please” look on her face.
“Never mind,” Cade said. “I was just teasing.”
Mama Maria’s was set off the two lane County 35 highway in North Hudson. It didn’t look fancy from the outside, but there were quite a few vehicles in the lot. Inside was busy, with a group of people waiting to be seated in the entrance way. After a brief wait, they were shown to their table, a booth wrapped around the long end of the rectangular shaped table. The nice thing about the seating arrangement, Cade thought, was that it forced them to sit side-by-side, definitely cozier this way.
The waiter greeted them from across the table. “My name is Gregory, I’ll be your server this evening,” he said. Cade thought he seemed pleasant enough, though a bit snooty, as he offered the list of the evening’s specials. As with most higher end restaurants Cade had visited, the specials were relayed with an almost orgasmic enthusiasm, the sensual descriptions bordering on soft porn.
Kim was reading the menu as he spoke, ignoring Gregory’s enthusiastic renditions of the specials. As he finished, Kim
looked up and asked him what was in the chopped salad. He
gave her a look that split the difference between incredulousness and rudeness. “I had just finished that very description,” he stated.
Gregory rolled his eyes and proceeded to run through the list of chopped salad ingredients. “I’ll be back in a few moments,” he said, turning on his heel and was gone.
“Great, you just pissed off the waiter,” Cade whispered to Kim.“Not a minor infraction at $50 for a plate of spaghetti. I’m guessing he’ll stick his thumb in your soup.”
“As long as that’s the only thing that he sticks in there, I’ll be okay,” she said with a twinkle in her eye. Kim’s comment dropped his jaw. Not much surprised Cade anymore, after all, he’d been a cop for almost ten years. But she had surprised him, though. He liked that.
Gregory was back to take their order. He looked at Kim expectantly. As she didn’t want to further offend Gregory by asking any additional questions, she ordered the Grilled Italian Chicken Sandwich. While he appeared irritated with her order, his comments made it quite clear. “How often do you eat chicken at home? Do you really want chicken on a bun? We have some of the best cuisine in the area and you want chicken on a bun?” he said with distain.
“Okay, okay, what would you recommend?” Kim asked, trying to be cool with the other diners now looking on.
“I’ll put you down for the Cannelloni Classico,” Gregory said.
Gregory turned to Cade. A look of superiority on his face, which Cade wanted to wipe off in the worst way. “I’ll have the chicken on a bun.”
Cade thought he heard someone snicker, but he couldn’t be sure. Their server, not to be outdone, shot back with a sneer, “I suppose you want fries with that?”
“Yes, Gregory, I do.” Cade gave him his best ‘fuck you’ smile and handed back the menu. Cade felt oddly satisfied with the exchange. Yes, it was definitely a snicker he was hearing from a nearby table.
The rest of the meal was enjoyable. Kim had many interesting stories about the Stillwater area and what it was like to be a realtor. Cade was on the edge of his seat as she told him about a haunted house that she had shown in the last year. The way she related her stories enchanted him so much, he was actually disappointed when she asked about his work.
“Well, I’ve only been with the State Patrol for a month or so. I like it though; being an investigator is fascinating work. I like the puzzle solving aspect of the job: finding the pieces, the clues, the motivations, and then fitting them together to get the big picture. And the best part is putting the bad guys away for a long, long time.”
She smiled at him. “So fighting for truth, justice and the American way is a good gig.” It wasn’t a question.
“Except for the spandex tights they make you wear.” Cade was enjoying himself.
“Do you have to wear your underwear on the outside like the other superheroes?”
“It’s optional, but I consider it a lifestyle choice that I believe in. Also, I get less wedgies with it on the outside.”
Kim laughed holding his eyes. She sipped her wine, a nice bodied vintage from Portugal. “Where did you work before the Patrol? Were you a cop?”
“I was with the BCA—the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension—as a special investigator. We worked a lot of violent crimes and a whole lot of drugs.” Cade didn’t usually dwell on his BCA days. The wound was too raw still.
“I’ve heard of the BCA. Has it been around long?”
“Actually, the BCA has been around since the twenties. The BCA is known in law enforcement circles for their forensic labs.”
“Like the CSI television show?” she asked.
“Exactly. Believe it or not, the first case ever solved through the use of DNA was by the BCA here in Minnesota. Now you hear about it all the time. I was there for almost seven years.”
Kim studied Cade for a moment. Her eyes locked with his. He felt like she could see right into him. “Tell me what happened.” She didn’t need to say anything further, she just held his gaze with her own.
“We—my team with the BCA, that is—were working a drug case in Northern Minnesota, investigating a high-level drug trafficking organization. They were bringing cocaine and marijuana down from Canada. The pipeline from Canada isn’t nearly as constricted or watched like it is from the south. We were working jointly with the DEA and US Customs, who apparently had the dealers under observation for some time. Working alongside the other agents, observing the systematic flow of drugs coming into the states, I started to see some patterns that just didn’t have the right feel. The drug organization had to be getting some sort of help from law enforcement—or at least cooperation—in order for their system to being working as well as it did.
“I picked one guy to watch. He was a senior customs investigator. It was an educated guess; he didn’t act suspicious or drive a Mercedes. I didn’t have anything that I could point to at the time. My gut said that if this organization was being so successful, they were getting some help. And that help had to be coming from someone senior. So I picked a likely candidate.
“I parked myself on his tail, just far enough away as not to raise his suspicions. Whether he was guilty or not, it would have looked really bad for it to get out that I was following one of my fellow law enforcement officers.”
“I’d imagine,” Kim said. “So you were careful.” A woman of few words.
“I was. I’ve had enough experience tailing suspects. Maybe not too surprisingly, people are really creatures of habit. With just a little variation, people have a routine and they stick to it. Do you drive to the office the same way everyday?”
Kim paused, “Except for the occasional stop for coffee or to pick up my dry cleaning, yeah, it’s the same route.”
Cade was nodding his head. “Exactly. You can follow someone for a few days and you get a sense of what they’re about. You know their routine. I could go back three months later and I’ll know where to find them if I need them.”
Pausing to take a sip of his wine, Cade said, “So, I followed this senior investigator. Nothing too interesting—at first. However, on the third evening, after I thought he was down for the night, he turns off his lights and slips out. I almost missed it; I was just getting ready to call it a night and leave myself.
“I had to be extremely cautious, so I wait to give him some space. It’s quite a bit more difficult to follow someone after dark, especially when it’s pretty quiet out. If it’s busy, the lights from the other cars can cover you some. But when it’s quiet, the flash of your headlights can raise a flag quicker than a cat covering something up.”
Kim choked on her drink. “Say what? A cat covering something up?” She was laughing.
“Faster than a hobo on a ham sandwich?” Cade was laughing now too. “Oh man, now I’ve become my dad. My dad always had these crazy expressions. They didn’t always fit the situation, but they sure were funny. Oddly enough, he couldn’t really tell a joke though. He would go on these long rambling sojourns and by the time he got to the punch line, there was nothing. My brothers and I would just look at each other, wondering if the other had gotten the joke. My dad sure was laughing though.”
Kim leaned forward, “Tell me one, if you remember them still.”
Cade was smiling, “Okay, you asked for it.” He paused, clearly enjoying the moment. “There was this rich man who decided to build a red brick barbecue in his back yard. So he called up the Red Brick Barbecue Company and orders 1,000 red barbecue bricks. After they were delivered, he decides he’d better count them because they were so expensive. He counts them and only comes up with 999 bricks. He gets angry and calls up the Red Brick Barbecue Company. ‘I ordered 1,000 red barbecue bricks and I only received 999.’ The man says, ‘well, one must have been lost along the way.’” Cade stopped and waited.
Kim looked confused. “That’s it? I don’t get it. Really, that’s all?”
Cade was laughing now. “You see what we went through all the time?” Kim joined him, laughing.
Gregory arrived with their dinners as they were laughing. “Cannelloni Classico for the lady,” he said as he set the plate down. “And for you, chicken on a bun.” Gregory reached across the table setting the plate down with a thump in front of Cade. Serious attitude, Cade thought. It would have been more effective, however, if Gregory hadn’t knocked over the vase of flowers, spilling the water all over the table.
Cade and Kim could hold back their laughter for only so long, breaking out as Gregory stormed off.
After dinner was over and they were walking out—leaving a surprisingly decent tip for Gregory—Cade paused. “My dad told this one too: There was this little old lady who was waiting for a bus. She had her little dog with her. When she got on the bus, it was very crowded. The only seat left was next to this old, cranky looking man. He pulled out a cigar and started to unwrap it. The old lady said, ‘Excuse me sir, I’m allergic to smoke. Could you not smoke your cigar now?’
“He said, ‘Look, I paid $20 for this cigar and I’m going to smoke it.’ She was intimidated and just sat there as he lit the cigar up. He blew his smoke at her and she said, ‘If you don’t put out your cigar, I’m going to throw it out the window.’
“He said, ‘If you throw my cigar out the window, I’m going to throw your dog out the window.’ He kept smoking.
“But now the smoke was getting so thick, even her dog was coughing. She reached over and plucked the cigar out of his mouth and threw it out the window. He grabbed her dog and threw it the window. They pulled up to the next bus stop. And there was her dog. Do you know what it had in its mouth?” he asked as he led Kim out the door.
“His cigar?” she ventured a guess.
“Nope. A red barbecue brick.” They were both laughing as they stepped out into the cool night.
Cade drove south on Wisconsin 35 through Hudson. Hudson was an older town, a lot like Stillwater, with many great older homes. Kim was taking in the exceptional architecture and asked where they were headed.
“We’re going to try this music club called Doc’s. It’s open only the first Saturday of each month, like a lot of the rural antique shops out this way. Doc’s always bring in these great artists. It may not be someone you’ve heard of, but they’re always outstanding. The club has a loyal following of music lovers.”
Kim was impressed. “It sounds great. And I thought we were just going to head for DQ and get cones.”
“Not tonight, besides I need to save something special for our second date.” He grinned at her.
She looked back at Cade and said, “Tell me more about the BCA drug thing.”
Cade took a deep breath. “I followed the customs investigator from a distance. There was a motel on the outside of town, the Morningside, I think. He pulled around the building, parking on the end. There were several cars there and a semi truck from a Canadian shipping firm.
“I ditched my car on the opposite side of the motel and walked around the back side. I was able to get close enough to see the customs officer, talking with a group of men. I came up alongside a ridge of spruce trees. From my new vantage point I could see two of the drug dealers we had watched on the first day we had arrived in Grand Marais. I shifted a bit to get a clearer view. I couldn’t believe it. There were two of the DEA agents from our investigation there also.”
Kim had been looking straight during his recollection. She glanced over, concerned. “What did you do?”
“I had to play it carefully. I got out of there and talked it over with my two teammates. We thought it best to contact the DEA regional office in Minneapolis. Maybe the agents were undercover and hadn’t wanted to share that with us—a sometimes competing agency. The normal protocol on an active investigation with cooperating agencies would be full disclosure of all undercover personnel, so no one could get in harm’s way from the other good guys.
“Minneapolis had no idea what I was talking about. I eventually spoke with the head guy after several transferred calls. He emphatically stated there would be no one in a deep cover situation during a cooperative investigation. That’s what I thought as well. Before he hung up, he said he would look into it.
“A few days passed and the intel was that a shipment was coming in that night. After my little surveillance operation, we thought it best not to alert the local DEA or Customs. My team was going to take down the truck ourselves. We followed the trucker as he drove through Grand Marais and into a rest area near Lutsen. Just as we were staging our raid, a delivery van meets up with the truck. The same three officers from our task force step out. They obviously are acquainted with the driver. They receive a duffel bag from the driver.
“At this point we are thinking that we are going to have to take them down as well. Just as we are going to make the arrest, two black SUVs arrive on the scene. We hold back to see what’s going to happen. Several people exit the vehicles, armed with M16 rifles. They have windbreakers with bold writing on the back.”
Cade paused, “This is the bad part.”
Kim was riveted. Cade continued. “There was no arrest, no warnings. The Customs investigator, the two DEA agents and the driver were executed. There was no warning given. The agents had no chance to defend themselves. My two partners broke for the killing scene, weapons drawn, calling for the shooters to stand down. As I was on the far side of the semi, I was a good twenty yards farther away than they were. Before I could announce my BCA status, the M16s were turned on my partners. I was horrified to see these two men that I shared everything with, shot down in cold blood. I slipped and dropped to my knees. The last thing I remember is looking up as the butt of a M16 came down.”
Kim was shocked. “What happened?”
“When I came to, the Cook County sheriff’s department was on the scene. My partners were dead, as were the earlier victims. Agents from the DEA were just arriving—oddly enough, in black SUVs. The funny thing is they had on the same windbreakers as the shooters.
“I guess the DEA takes care of their own. In the aftermath, I was accused of screwing up a simple drug bust. It seemed the most intelligent course of action to accept the blame, not tarnishing the slain officer’s reputations—they all had families that would need their pensions. Besides, who would believe that there was some sort of federal death squad involved? So, I resigned from the BCA. I wanted out after that, anyway. So now, I’m on the highways, keeping them safe, while I fight for truth, justice and the American way.”
Kim was angry. “They can’t do that to you. Can they? Will they come after you if you talk?”
“The feds can do pretty much whatever they want. However, they crossed a major line by taking out my partners. I have the feeling these guys know both sides of the line very well. As for me, there’s no percentage in it for them to hurt me. I haven’t said anything, and I won’t either. I’m not naïve enough to believe that if I came forward, anyone of importance would either believe me or act on the information.”
Kim paused, working it through her head, the impossible situation that Cade had been in. She obviously was having difficulty with his acceptance of it. “So…you’re just going to let it go? I’m not judging, I just don’t know how I could live with it, the knowledge that there are people like that out there, people who work for our government.”
Cade glanced over in her direction. “Just think of it as a cooling off period. I haven’t forgotten what happened—and I won’t ever forget seeing my partners lying on the ground, lifeless. There will come a time where I will be in the right place and I will see those guys again. Then, they’ll remember me, and what they did to two good law enforcement officers.”
Cade shook his head. “I sound like that guy from the Princess Bride movie.” He spoke with a very bad Spanish accent, “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” Maybe it was the tension, but he broke out laughing. Kim picked up on it and joined in.
Doc’s was an old fashioned roadhouse in Hudson. Word must have spread, the lot was packed full of cars. The sign at the entrance read, “For one night only: Denver and the Mile High Orchestra.”
“Denver and the Mile High Orchestra,” Kim read aloud. “Never heard of them. This doesn’t look like a typical venue for a symphony orchestra, though.”
Pushing through the doors, there was one great room, with booths on the sides, tables just to the inside of the booths and a dance floor directly in front of the massive stage. There was an energy to the place, the crowd packing the dance floor. A large band was on the stage, a dozen or so musicians wearing double breasted suits. Trumpets, trombones and sax players were all spread out in a row at the front edge of the stage. The lead singer, standing in the middle of the horns, was wearing a red suit. In the back was the rhythm section: keyboards, bass and electric guitars, as well as a drummer. The group was playing an amazing arrangement of a blues song, the horn’s choreography adding to the energy. Cade was quickly caught up with the enthusiasm of the crowd, these guys could really play.
They stayed to the end, both enjoying the music. Kim was able to get Cade out on the dance floor for the last half of the evening. She was a good dancer and was gifted enough to get Cade doing some of his best dancing at the same time. Before he knew it, the night had flown by and he was pulling in behind her building.
She looked so intoxicating sitting across from him; it was as if his brain was swirling in a mist. She was in mid-sentence, though he hadn’t registered what she was saying. It was almost primal what he was feeling, the ache, the longing for her. He pulled her close, his fingers tangling in her long blonde hair. His lips found hers. And he was lost.
Wednesday, Day six
Martin Clements piloted his Land Rover along the scenic Highway 36 outside of Stillwater. He was enjoying his time here; the city was charming and his rented loft at Steepletown was perfect for his needs. Martin had set up his computer equipment in the front room with the view of the river. He had started with research on the State Patrol headquarters in Oakdale. The Patrol facility was located a stone’s throw from the highway and several miles from interstate 94. Even better, it was just a few miles from his base of operations. That would simplify things. Simple was good when he could get it. Much of the coming work would be quite complicated, but that just went with the job. And as far as jobs go, it paid quite well. Money was not an issue these days. The projects that Martin had completed had been quite lucrative. It was the challenge, the gamesmanship that drove him now. Figuring out the puzzle of how to recover such a remarkable amount of currency that was under such a tremendous amount of security—now that got him going.
His last ‘recovery’ effort had tested his skills to the max. He had been hired to recover a stolen car. Not too much of a problem, he had thought at first. The owner was a car collector from the south of France, who by virtue of his large, lucrative illegal gambling business, couldn’t go to the authorities. The first complication was the car itself. A beautifully restored Duesenberg Convertible SJ LA Grand Dual-Cowl Phaeton from 1935. This was one vehicle that commanded attention wherever it went. The Duesenberg was beyond valuable. Forget the fact that only a few hundred were built some seventy years ago. And forget the fact than less than a handful had survived the years since. The masterfully designed Duesenberg was built a hundred years before its time. There’s never been a car built to its equal since.
Martin knew that there were few who had the resources to get past the Frenchman’s fortress-like security precautions. After a brief search, he had found the man who had pulled off the very daring theft. Breaking into the thief’s communication system in his Berlin office had led Martin to Belgium, and to a woman who was connected like no other. She knew everyone and had business dealings with most of them.
The trail led to Los Angeles, to a collector who kept an extensive collection of restored vintage automobiles. The owner was famous in the United States for hosting a late night talk show. Martin had devised his plan to take advantage of the collector’s Hollywood connection.
Martin hired a film production crew to build a set on an abandoned airfield in the desert. Posing as an Australian film director, Martin had secured the services of a Hollywood casting firm, and several promising young actors were hired for a scene in the production. He had promised an extra percentage to his lead actress if she could get the collector and his newest acquisition, the 1935 Duesenberg, for the scene. She turned out to be as persuasive as she was beautiful.
The scene was set immediately after the Pearl Harbor attack and the United States had committed to joining the allies in World War II. The cast and crew were staged up outside the Army Airforce’s barracks. The Duesenberg was placed prominently in the shot, while the collector played the crusty old base mechanic. Martin arranged for a director’s cameo, where he would be a walk-on, saying a brief line of dialogue and then driving the Duesenberg across the field into a hangar. The scene was to continue for another minute after the car was driven off.
The plan had played out perfectly. It was simple, really. Martin had hired a large Sherpa military transport aircraft. His hired flight crew had the transport’s ramp down allowing Martin to pilot the vintage auto up into the belly of the aircraft. The pilot started the engines immediately, the crew securing the Duesenberg as the plane taxied out to the runway. The takeoff was spectacular, the large craft lifting off rapidly. Martin had wished he had been on the ground with the crew to see their faces—especially the collector’s face as it dawned on him that his prized Duesenberg would not be coming back.
The memory brought a smile to Martin’s face as he pulled the Land Rover into the parking lot of the Home Depot store. You would be hard pressed to find a store like this in the U.K. If you have the money, America has much to offer. The sheer quantity of products sold here was staggering. He should be able to find most of what he needed to get the job done. He went through the store, throwing a laser leveler, saw and diamond blade, workman-style vest, flashlight, clipboards, and some buckets in his cart. Martin went through his list, stopping to add a few more items to the cart on the way to the checkout.
“I think you’ll find that the Hollingsworth Avocado will warm up the room more than the Northampton Putty,” Martin said with his best smile. Walking by the paint department, he had noticed an attractive blonde woman with glasses. She had been holding several paint sample cards up to a decorative pillow, a look of frustration on her face. She was dressed in a white blouse and a black skirt cut just above her knees with black stiletto heels. Very nice, very classy. She also had an amazing figure.
She looked up at Martin, taking in his accent, his expensive suit and his lack of an orange vest. “Oh, do you really think so? Are you a designer? Have I seen you on the Trading Spaces television show?”
“I’m not a designer by trade, although my business has taught me quite a bit about color and the value of proper presentation. I would have guessed,” Martin paused to give her an appraising glance, “that you were the television star, not me. You look every bit the star.” He held her eyes for a long moment.
The woman was blushing from Martin’s attention. She tucked some stray hair behind one ear. “I’m only in sales, and believe it or not, I sell toilet paper.” She went a bit pinker.
“And I’m sure you’re quite brilliant at it as well. I would venture a guess that if there was one product that you didn’t have to worry about the demand going away, you have found it. Brilliant again,” he said enthusiastically. Martin put out his hand, “I’m Martin Clements.”
“Nice to meet you as well, I’m Tonia.” Martin enjoyed the firmness of her handshake.
“Why don’t you tell me about your home and how you’ve envisioned it to look when you’ve finished with your redesign project.”
Tonia was quite eloquent on the subject. They walked and talked together as they moved through the store. She was comfortable with Martin as he subtly leaned into her space. That was a first-rate indicator of her attraction to him. Martin took great pleasure in the little touches Tonia gave as they talked about her home. He thoroughly enjoyed the time they spent, especially the tour of her home. It was a warm place to spend the morning indeed.
Cade walked in to the East Metro Patrol headquarters with his morning cup of coffee, still feeling the intoxicating glow of his night out with Kim. The boys were all there. Swanson, Curtis, Molski and Javier. Four guys with just one brain between them. Discussing their so-called sex lives was a daily occurrence. Just because Cade didn’t want to discuss his, it didn’t necessarily mean he didn’t have an active sex life of his own. It was a totally irrelevant fact that he didn’t have a sex life at all. And the fact that before last night, he hadn’t even been on a date in almost two years—besides being utterly depressing—was hardly worth mentioning.
Curtis was elaborating about his latest conquest. “So you boffed her,” Molski interrupted, finishing Curtis’ thought. Remember, one brain between them.
“Well, that’s not how I would put it,” Curtis replied.
“Played hide the weenie.”
“Gave her the old hot beef injection.”
“Doing the Mattress mambo.”
“Two in the pink, one in the stink.”
“Crashing the custard truck.”
“Parking the beef bus in tuna town.”
Cade had enough. “Why can’t you guys just say sex?”
Curtis looked at Molski, who looked over to Javier. Swanson finally spoke up, “I don’t know, it just lacks flavor.”
Cade shook his head “Welcome to the shallow end of the pool,” he said and headed out the door.
The East Metro State Patrol headquarters shared a facility with the Washington County Department of Transportation in Oakdale. It was off the highway a quarter mile and set back from a busy thoroughfare in a fenced-in compound. The Patrol office occupied the west portion of the facility, while the DoT had the eastern front section. Martin turned his vehicle into the DoT parking lot.
He had on a pair of jeans, an open collared dress shirt and a casual blue blazer. He had a camera slung over one shoulder and a pencil tucked behind his ear. Martin looked every bit the journalist. He walked up to the entrance carrying a clipboard. The clipboard, he had found on many occasions, lent him an air of authority. If you had a clipboard, you had a purpose, a reason to be somewhere. People tended to defer to you. And they most certainly didn’t ask you questions that you preferred not to answer.
He walked into the reception area, purposely studying his clipboard. Although he could feel several eyes on him, Martin steadfastly kept his attention away from the DoT staff and made several notes on his clipboard. He reached for the camera and took off the lens cap. It was only then that he started to look around. A woman hesitantly stood up at a desk.
“Excuse me, can I help you?” It was like she hadn’t wanted to interrupt Martin, but her curiosity had gotten the better of her.
“You certainly can,” Martin paused, fishing out a business card from a side pocket in his blazer. He walked over and handed it to the forty-something clerical worker. “I’m with the State Journal of Facility Care. We cover the state and local government facilities, from an architectural and quality management perspective. Our role is to report on the excellence that is present at only the most exceptional government facilities. This is in an effort to inspire and lead the other facilities into the 21st century. As you probably know, most of the government facilities were last updated in the 1970s.”
Martin looked back at his clipboard for a moment. “Your facility has been nominated for our annual year-end journal of excellence award. I just need to document a few things and get several pictures for our review board.” Martin flashed his best grin at her. “Don’t you think winning this award will go a long way to improving your superiors outlook on the fine job you’ve been doing here all along?”
The woman was almost instantly joined by two of her fellow clerical workers. They were most effusive in their offers to give Martin whatever assistance he needed.
Martin had the ladies show him around the offices. He stopped them a few times to jot additional notes onto his clipboard. At the far end of the DoT facility, he asked what was on the other side of the wall.
“That’s the State Patrol headquarters. They share the facility with us.”
Perfect, Martin thought. He pulled out his camera and had the women pose against the wall. They were giggling as Martin snapped their picture.
He walked up to the most senior of the women. “I had no idea this was a dual-purpose facility. That alone will qualify you for the prestigious Anderson Green Efficiency achievement award. Do you think you could show me that half of the facility as well?” He looked at her with his passionate blue eyes. I do believe she swooned just then, he thought.
The woman was most eager. “I would be honored to show you off, I mean show you the way there. We’ll have to walk around though, there isn’t an entrance way from here.”
Martin smiled and extended his hand, gripping hers with both hands, “Thank you so much, I’m Martin, by the way.”
The woman actually giggled. “Mine is Shirley. Let me just grab my coat.”
They took the Land Rover around to the State Patrol headquarters side. The entrance was a level higher than the DoT portion of the building. Martin assumed it was a two level facility, with the common wall between them on the lower level. He would have to see the lower level to make sure that was the case.
After some shared whispers, giggles and glances in Martin’s direction, Shirley introduced him to Joyce, the senior administrator, a woman approximately Shirley’s age. She was most effervescent with her greeting.
Martin pulled out his camera and posed the two women together. “This would make a great cover shot,” he told them. “I can see the headline now, ‘Beauty, grace and excellence: this facility has it all.’ I can’t wait to see the rest of it.”
As he was shown around the Patrol facility, Martin generously praised the layout and the obvious energy efficiency that made the facility unique. The party turned a corner and walked into an area with several uniformed highway Patrolmen. They looked up with mild curiosity. Best to go big, if you’re going to go at all, Martin thought.
“Gentlemen,” Martin said, as he walked over with his hand outstretched, “I am so honored to meet you. My name is Martin Clements, with the State Journal of Facility Care. We are doing a feature article in our annual year-end journal of excellence awards issue on your fine facility.”
He enthusiastically shook each of the officer’s hands, repeating their names from their uniform name badges. “Men of bravery, fighting the good fight. I will write of your heroic deeds.” He had them at ‘bravery.’ After that, they accompanied Martin—who was now leading the tour—as he took them down a flight of stairs. They went down a hall and came to a steel door with a keycard reader. Directly above that was a smaller scanner device. Due to the lower height it was mounted at, Martin assumed it was a thumbprint scanner, not a retinal scanner. The door was labeled with a sign that read ‘Property.’
“We must have taken a wrong turn,” Martin said, gesturing at the heavy door. “This looks like it belongs in a bank vault.” The Patrolmen looked at each other and smiled.
One of them, Curtis, spoke up. “Actually, there are times that this is a bank vault. We sometimes confiscate large amounts of currency when we make an arrest. And every once in a while, we confiscate an extremely large sum of currency.”
“Hundreds of thousands?” Martin asked.
“Millions,” Curtis said with a self-important look on his face. “Locked in our secure safe on the inside.”
“Amazing,” Martin replied. “I must get your photograph.”
He arranged them around the outside of the door. Martin took several pictures of the troopers, one with their arms folded, another with their fists at their waists—the classic superhero pose. Not wanting to push his luck too far, Martin thanked them for their time and quickly made his way out of the building. He dropped Shirley off at the DoT portion of the facility and turned the Land Rover onto Hadley Avenue. Mission accomplished, Martin thought.
Cade found himself driving west on 694. He enjoyed being out on the road. For Cade, being an investigator was the best of both worlds. He had the freedom that the road brought. Yet, he wasn’t chained to his vehicle either. If he were to work for a corporation—lost in a sea of cubes—that would be enough to drive him insane.
It took a special breed of person to be a state trooper. While it certainly helped to be an adrenaline junkie, you also had to have the capacity to operate on your own for eight hours a day. The loneliness of the job was a surprise to many of the troopers just starting out. Other than a handful of traffic stops with less-than-happy motorists, most days consisted of little human contact. Cade believed that to be a trooper, you better have your own house in order. You sure were going to have a lot of time to dwell on it if it wasn’t.
He took 35E south towards downtown St. Paul. This might be a good time to check in with his old friend, Dan Miller. Dan has been with the FBI going on 18 years now. Dan had steered him through some political headaches over the years. Cade could handle the investigations no problem. He was tough enough to deal with the worst that came his way. The political intrigue was something all together different. That was where Dan came in. He knew where all the bodies were buried. Not only that, he knew who put them there and how best to use that knowledge to advantage.
He speed dialed Dan’s number, and after some small talk, arranged to meet him for a late lunch. They chose a quiet lakeside restaurant in Oakdale. In the summer, Toby’s by the Lake would be hopping. Toby’s was located near the 3M headquarters, so the weekday lunch traffic was good. It was a great place to sit out on the deck and enjoy the view of Tanner’s Lake. Not a giant lake, it was however, a busy lake. In the summer, speedboats would be pulling skiers and wakeboarders and in the winter the lake was home to snowmobile races. November was a completely different story. After one p.m. the restaurant was quite quiet. Just the place for some needed privacy.
They shook hands and took a table near the window. The lake was grey and choppy. Dan studied Cade for a long moment. “So, how are you doing? No bullshit. It’s me, and my BS detector is as fine-tuned as they come.”
Cade laughed. “For as being as full of shit as you are, not much gets by you, does it? Life with the Patrol isn’t always easy, but on the most part, I’m enjoying it. Lt. Dickey can be, well, a dick. There’s no better word for him. I’ve spent considerable time thinking of other suitable names, but I keep coming back to dick. Who the hell thought this guy should be promoted?”
Miller was nodding. “I’ve had several interactions with Dickey over the years. As a cop, he makes a good bureaucrat. I don’t think he could detect or police if his life depended on it. Not the sort of guy you want backing you up on the street. I’d imagine he’s not too much fun to work with either.”
“You know,” Cade ventured, “some people are like Slinky’s, they’re not much fun until you push them down the stairs.”
The waitress, Andrea, stopped by with some menus and some pleasant banter about the imminent coming of winter. She mentioned that it was getting so cold, that the politicians had their hands in their own pockets. Both men laughed. She left with the promise to be back for their orders in just a moment. They studied the menus in silence. Cade glanced out towards the lake and saw several seagulls at the edge of the shore. The gulls were the only sign of life out there on this gray afternoon.
Andrea stopped back and took their order. Pausing while writing their orders, she smiled and said that she’d been walking around in downtown St. Paul earlier today. “It was so cold today, I saw a cab driver saying something to a pedestrian and his middle finger froze.” Dan Miller was drinking and laughing so hard that Cade thought he was going to have a nose-out. She was definitely more cheerful than Cade’s last server, Gregory.
After placing their orders, Miller asked Cade, “So, you must be quite busy these days. The highways are getting a little crazy for my taste. I’m thinking about taking the bus to work, safety in numbers you know.”
Cade held up a finger.
Miller laughed. “Very nice. For being smarter than most of us, your vocabulary is a bit limited.”
“Why use ten words, when one finger will do?”
“Touché,” Miller said with a smile. “You know, the case that I find most interesting is the currency seizure. That’s a lot of walking around money.”
Several dozen other gulls had joined the original seagulls. They seemed to be fighting over something on the edge of the shore.
Cade turned back to Miller. “You’ve been around dealers and their money for a long time. What do they do with it all? You can only buy so many cars and Armani suits. Where do they put it so the IRS doesn’t come asking for their fair share?”
Miller leaned back in his chair and folded his arms. “Hiding money is a real art. There are hired guns that specialize in moving currency—remember that the drug trade is a cash business—to off shore locations. The money needs to get moved around and cleaned up before it can be spent here. But did you know that money is also coming in to this country as well? Every day, American Airlines Flight 914 takes off from Bogotá, Colombia, at 8:20 a.m. and touches down at the Miami airport at noon. In the jet’s cargo hold are usually bags and bags of euros that our investigators say are part of a huge $1.4 billion cocaine money-laundering scheme.
“So far, despite nearly four years of investigation, we have apparently been unable to build a strong enough case to stop it. It’s a complex arrangement involving money exchange businesses in Colombia, commercial jetliners from the U.S. and Britain and financial firms in Miami and London. When the circle is complete, the Colombian drug cartels have hidden the true source of millions of dollars.”
Cade was nodding, “And that money buys ownership and legitimacy.” Not a question.
“Exactly. I know a national chain—one that I guarantee you will be familiar with—that was started to launder drug proceeds. It wasn’t supposed to make money. The owners were quite surprised when the chain actually started making money. No doubt the ownership has changed hands a number of times since then,” Miller said.
“They probably sold the business, making out well enough to retire on their private Caribbean island. Legitimate business owners, hah,” Cade laughed.
“A computer manufacturing company—again one that I’m sure you’ll know and possibly even have one sitting on your desk—was started as a way to move drugs. They would ship components with the drugs. Eventually, they started assembling the components into computers. Oddly enough, the computers started to sell. And there you are, another legitimate business.”
“I sense,” Cade ventured, “that you might be suggesting that the money we confiscated could be used for business. That somebody could be trying to buy their way into legitimacy.”
Miller nodded. “Could be,” he said.
“The thing is, Cade, that much money usually has a lot of power surrounding it. You will need to carefully watch where you step with this case.” He stared at Cade. “I can’t emphasize enough the need to tread carefully.”
Andrea was back and dropped off their lunch. She was smiling again. “It sure was cold today,” she said.
Dan Miller picked up on her bit. “How cold was it?” he asked.
“It was so cold that Al Gore returned his Nobel Prize.”
This time it was Cade laughing so hard that the other patrons were looking over at him. Her blue eyes twinkled at him. Hmmm, Cade thought. Pretty and a sense of humor.
“Earth to Cade. You still with me buddy?” Miller asked with a smile.
Cade pulled his eyes back to Dan. “Sorry,” he said.
Miller laughed. “It’s fine, don’t worry about it. She is hot though.”
“Hey, you’re the old married guy here, not me.”
Miller looked pleased with himself. “I can still look at the menu as long as I eat at home.”
“The thing is, Cade,” Dan said, now serious, “power doesn’t respect law enforcement and it sure won’t respect a state Patrol investigator. It doesn’t respect anything but more power. You have to remember, money is power. Extremely large amounts of money will bring in people—people that you would normally trust—like a moth to the flame. And when those people are so close to the flame, that’s all they see. Friendships, ethics, morals, all fall to the wayside. They want that power and will do whatever it takes to keep it.
“You know probably better than I do, that even law enforcement will do whatever it takes to protect what’s in their own self-interest.” Dan Miller had stopped eating. He looked around; most of the tables had left. He leaned closer to Cade.
“I’m not saying that you shouldn’t continue with your investigation. What I am saying, is that the money you are now sitting on could be a big deal to a number of people. While your looking into this, just watch your back. You don’t know who might be there.”
Cade felt a chill run down his back. He looked out towards Tanner’s lake. The gulls were gone, the lake looked cold and desolate. There were times that doing the right thing could be a lonely path to walk.
Martin steered the Land Rover onto the ramp to downtown Minneapolis. He had an idea. While Martin was never at a loss for ideas, he thought this one in particular was one of his better ones. He was going to need a diversion to make his plan work. Not just a little one, but a diversion that was huge, showy and audacious. Martin liked his diversions to be the way he lived his life. The need for this diversion had brought him to Minneapolis.
After his second turn, Martin was driving on Washington Avenue. He took that into what the woman had called the warehouse district. Despite the abundance of one way streets, he found her office relatively easy. The idea for this diversion had come fairly easy as well. He’d been hearing the news media discussing the Chelsea reserves setting up camp here in Minnesota. As a native of England, he was raised on football. Even though the game was called soccer here, it was still the game he had played since he was a young lad. He could use that knowledge, his accent and the public’s curiosity to his advantage.
The Meredith Agency was a modeling agency that came highly recommended by both of the advertising agencies that Martin had used in his research. They specialized in commercial and print models, although the agency also provided most of the event models for the larger functions that were held in the Twin Cities.
Katelyn Meredith looked as if she had just stepped off the runway herself. Wearing a light green dress, she looked absolutely magnificent. She stood about 170 centimeters in her heels. Her light brown hair was swept up in an elegant updo. A few stray curls hung down giving her a sexy casualness to her otherwise put together look. Martin was thoroughly captivated.
Her hazel eyes beamed as she greeted him. “It is my distinct pleasure to meet you, Mr. Clements. I’ve been hearing so much about our new soccer team. I think it’s a great thing for the Twin Cities.” Katelyn made some small talk as they walked through the upscale agency. She asked Martin where he was from and how he was enjoying the area. His answers were charming and altogether false.
When Martin had called the Meredith Agency, he had introduced himself as the marketing manager for the Chelsea America team. He talked about the need to have a major media event that would introduce the team to the Twin Cities. He had also mentioned having a rather sizeable event budget to work with. This had resulted in his swift appointment with the agency’s owner, Katelyn Meredith. He still had time enough to print his new business cards.
She led Martin to a conference room with a view of the downtown area. There were two people, a man and a woman, already seated. Katelyn introduced Martin to Rafe, the agency’s event planner and to Anne, described as the agency’s relationship manager. Martin thought her title sounded grand. Given her obvious qualities, he definitely could manage a relationship with Anne as well.
“Here’s what I’m up against,” Martin said, as he leaned back in the expensive leather chair, “soccer is not as popular here as it is in the civilized world. I need to project that this is a fun family sporting event. While at the same time, I need to appeal to the younger trendsetters. What they’re looking for is a global connection, excitement and sex appeal.”
Martin was up and pacing now. “I’m looking for an event that will lend credibility to our organization. But I want it to be a spectacle, an event that will be talked about in years to come. We’ll need cheerleaders. There should be plasma screens with clips of the team. Can you hire a band, the louder the better?”
Rafe nodded, furiously jotting down notes into a laptop.
“I also would like to have many—twenty or thirty, if possible—team representatives, from your service to greet the attendees. They should be as attractive as humanly possible. Could I see some photographs?”
Rafe nodded again.
“Oh, and one more thing,” Martin grinned, “my team is still playing in England. Can I hire a soccer team for the appearance?”
Martin slid into his Land Rover, pleased with himself. So far, so good. Next, he needed to meet with his new public relations agency. For that meeting, Martin would be a representative for the City of Oakdale, the city that just happened to be hosting the welcome celebration for the Twin Cities newest soccer team. The plan was, that the city of Oakdale would be the site of the soccer rally. Martin had met with city officials, posing as Chelsea America’s marketing director. He had convinced them the exposure the city would receive—as well as the $50,000 donation—would generate a tremendous amount of good will for not only the city, but for the city officials, as well. Martin made a mental note to make sure the team is contacted by the PR agency and invited to attend their own celebration. After that, he could relax and enjoy his dinner out with Anne.
Susanna Song sat in her prison cell. Though for a prison cell, she didn’t exactly have it rough. The room, where she was confined, had a bed, a reasonably comfortable arm chair, as well as some books and magazines for her to read. Probably the best thing about her cell though, was that she was separated from her captors.
While they weren’t going out of their way to be mean to her, Crane—the large ox of a man—liked to push her around a bit too much. He looked liked he enjoyed dominating her. The tall, skinny one, Wentworth just stared at her. A lot. It was difficult for her to read him, to gauge his intent. His eyes conveyed nothing. Was it lust, curiosity or contempt? She couldn’t be certain.
During her time here, they had settled into sort of a routine. She stayed in her room until meals were brought in and she was summoned from her room. They had not left to go out for food since yesterday when she had made the call in the restaurant restroom. She also hadn’t had any further opportunities to escape or make contact with the police. They were pretty strict; if she had to use the restroom, she was to knock and then was escorted to the nearby bathroom.
Susanna had become quite familiar with every inch of her room. At first, Susanna had thought she could find a way out, a way to signal for help—something. She thought she’d once seen a movie where the kidnapped character took apart a phone jack and was able to signal for help by crossing the wires. However, after a thorough search there was no phone jack to be discovered. Being an office building, the windows weren’t built to be opened. And if they were, what could she really do from the tenth floor?
What did intrigue her was that from her window, Susanna looked down into someone’s back yard. She thought that if the homeowner was out in their yard and happened to look up, she could signal for help. Her moment of hope lasted for about as long as her first on-camera standup: ten seconds. First, the windows would be reflective and second, nobody would come out and just happen to look at her one window in the building’s sea of windows. Even if that happened, how could she possibly catch their attention and communicate her distress?
With a sigh, Susanna resigned herself to watching the German Shepherd pace back and forth endlessly in the yard’s outside kennel. She knew exactly how the dog felt. Trapped.
Her door opened, startling her. “Come on.” It was one of the Hazard brothers and she followed him out. He pointed to a chair.
Wentworth, Crane and the other Hazard brother were sprawled in chairs around the living room. Bishop and his two shadows, Smithson and Harris, were sitting across from the others. They stopped their conversation when she came into the room. They just looked at her, making Susanna feel uncomfortable under their scrutiny.
After a long moment, Bishop spoke. “We require your assistance. I’m going to hand you a phone in a moment. I want you to call the police and identify yourself.”
Confusion and hope ran through Susanna’s head.
“You will ask for the lead investigator on your kidnapping case,” Bishop said, “and you will tell him that you are at the Sam’s Club in Woodbury and he has exactly seven minutes to get there. Tell him the police should not be called in or we will be gone. Forever.”
“You will tell the investigator that we will be watching. Get his vehicle description, make and color. Once we are sure he has arrived alone, we will call to give the meeting location. Let him know we are through with you and we will release you after our demands are met. Understand?”
Bishop leaned forward looking intently at Susanna. “If you say anything different or try to get a message across, my large friend here,” he nodded towards Brian Crane, “will spend the next two hours with you in your room getting to know you. Do you understand my implication?”
She nodded. Time alone with Crane should be avoided at all costs.
Bishop stood up and said to Wentworth, “You stay here and monitor the call. I’ll call when we are in position.”
Susanna glanced around. “But I’m not going with you?”
No one answered her. She watched the men preparing, assembling a small arsenal of automatic weapons. Smithson had what looked like a deer rifle in his hands, adjusting the scope. She had her answer. This was to be a hunting party and she was not invited.
Cade was at his desk, looking through his notes on the case. It had become apparent that all the shootings had a common thread. The Hummer shooters were British, but also drove a Tahoe, the same SUV that the freeway shooters had driven. The weapons they used were European and so was the seized currency.
The currency was central to the case. Dan Miller as much as suggested that the money could be used to buy a way into legitimacy. How much does it cost to buy a business? $388 million should do the trick. You could buy a lot of Dairy Queen franchises for that. Possibly even a few MacDonald’s as well. Most cops that Cade knew, would take the money and retire to someplace like Mexico, a ranch in Utah or just buy up some lake property up in northern Minnesota. They wouldn’t be buying a large business.
Cade paused, feeling he was on to something. Cops wouldn’t be buying their way into legitimacy, because they were already legitimate. They would take the money, which is something they never had much of, and use it to buy their retirement. The people behind all this have not been legitimate, and they were used to dealing with money—lots of it. They wanted what they didn’t have. Legitimacy. He wasn’t sure how to use this insight now, and mentally filed it away, knowing it may be useful later.
Checking his email, Cade saw that he had the results of his subpoena for the subscriber records for the unknown person the driver had call shortly before his arrival in Minnesota. Damn, it was another prepaid cell phone. It was a different name, but they had used the same address as one of the other phones. Some times you can’t catch a break.
Nick Javier stopped by Cade’s desk. He was with a younger looking trooper, built very tall and very thin. The trooper looked so young, Cade thought the guy must get carded at R movies. “Cade Dawkins, meet Hollis Stuart. Hollis is starting his rookie training today. He’ll be riding with me for the next month. Might as well be learning from the master.” Javier had a smug look on his face.
Cade stuck out his hand. “Nice to meet you Hollis. Good luck with your training. Javier is someone you should look up to—if he wasn’t so short. He’s the only trooper who has trouble seeing over the steering wheel. Just make sure your seatbelt is cinched up nice and tight, in case he slips off his phone book and hits the gas petal.”
Javier flipped him off and was gone. Hollis followed him, laughing as he went.
Still in a good mood from their interchange, he decided to pick up the phone and give Kim a call. She was just finishing prepping a house for a showing tomorrow. She sounded happy to hear from him and Cade arranged to meet her for dinner in a half hour.
But first, Cade had an idea. Maybe it was the adrenaline talking or his surging hormones, but it got him thinking. Why not call the number for that unknown cell phone call. It looked like a dead end. What did he have to lose?
He moved to a quiet conference room. Using a simple recorder, Cade would have everything that was said by the mystery person—just in case he slips up and confesses to the whole diabolical plot. Clearly, he’d been watching too many police shows on television.
Dialing the number, thinking the phone was most likely in a dumpster somewhere by now, he was astounded to hear a voice pick up on the third ring.
“Yes.” Cade couldn’t gleam anything from the one-word answer. He had to get him talking.
Thinking fast, Cade says, “I need ten seconds. You’re in an expensive restaurant. You have a business meeting with a prospective female associate. When she shows up, you are stunned by her resemblance to Angelina Jolie. Looking quite hot, she asks that you buy her a soda from the bar. Quick: which soda do you buy for her?”
It was a gamble, but you had to take risks in life. “Soda? Do you mean a fizzy drink?”
The voice was unmistakably British. Cade had never heard the term fizzy drink before, but when one is improvising, you never put up a roadblock by saying no.
“Exactly. A fizzy drink.”
There was a pause, and then he was gone. Hmm, fizzy drink.
They met at a trendy Mexican restaurant in Maplewood. Kim was dressed casually, wearing jeans, heels and a bright top. Although the top was cut nice and low, Cade was convinced that she would look good in anything. He leaned in to give her a hug and somehow his lips found hers. Warm and soft, he could have stayed there all evening.
Baja was crowded, too crowded. After being informed of the hour wait for a table, Cade suggested they try the Lake Elmo Inn. Kim was familiar with the restaurant, having had their brunch on several occasions. Kim offered to drive, mentioning that he might enjoy not having to drive for once.
They had just pulled on to the highway in Kim’s Jeep Liberty, when Cade’s cell phone rang.
“Sorry,” he said to Kim. It was dispatch.
“I’ve got a call to patch through to you. It’s the reporter, Susanna Song. She asked for the lead investigator.”
“Put her through, Abbey. Thanks.”
“This is State Patrol investigator, Cade Dawkins.”
“I’m Susanna Song, from KSTP television,” she said. Her voice sounding shaky.
“How are you?” Cade asked quickly.
“Can you help me?” She asked. “The men that are holding me want to release me, but only to the lead investigator on the case. They said that if the demands are met, they would release me and leave the country.”
She paused. “I know we’ve never met or spoke before, but you have to trust me.”
Huh? Cade’s inner red flag went up. “I want to help, no matter what. And I do trust you. What do I need to do?”
Sounding slightly robotic, Song said, “We are in the Woodbury Sam’s Club parking lot. You will need to be here in the next seven minutes. Do not send the police here, they will be watching. When you get here, I will contact you with the meeting location. I need to ask about the vehicle you are driving.”
“It’s a Red Jeep Liberty.” Kim glanced over at him quizzically.
“Okay,” Susanna said. “Hurry.” She was gone.
Cade swore and looked over at Kim. There wasn’t time to stop to drop her or to switch drivers. “How fast can you drive? I need you to floor it, we’re going to Woodbury.”
She nodded and gunned the Jeeps’ motor. He would notify the Patrol, of course. Going in without backup wasn’t smart—especially when this was most likely a trap. Even though we’ve never spoken before? It sounded like she was trying to give Cade a warning. He’d watched her news reports enough times and had thought she could think on her feet.
He would have the troopers stage on Highway 94 at Woodbury Drive, just a block from Sam’s Club. If he needed them, they would be on the scene in a moment. He called dispatch and laid out the plan. He gave the details and his concern about the possible trap. It wasn’t going to be the safest thing he’d ever done, but he couldn’t take a chance on Susanna Song’s life.
Kim was weaving the Liberty in and out of the traffic on 694. There was a look of intense concentration on her face. Cade glanced at the Jeep’s speedometer. It was hovering at 100 miles per hour. Not bad, he thought. If the real estate market kept tanking, he would suggest she try the State Patrol.
Jamming on the brakes, Kim cut into the line at the exit ramp. A horn blared behind them. She passed a Toyota sedan on the curve of the ramp onto 94 east. Cade glanced over to see a very surprised face in the Toyota. Two miles to go.
The ramp had a half mile merge lane that intersected with traffic coming from northbound 694. This was often jammed up all the way to the next exit, Radio Drive. A poor design that often frustrated drivers, Cade included. Kim cut to the left, crossing over the median and the white lines. She swung out several lanes and moved into the left lane. The Liberty quickly picked up speed under her heavy foot.
“I always wanted to do that. I’ve hated that ramp forever. Besides, merging is for weenies.”
There are times in a cop’s life when the stress and tension can get almost overpowering. They show it in different ways: anger, sullenness, recklessness. And sometimes they release the pressure with humor. This was one of those times. Cade burst out laughing at Kim’s comment, barely able to control himself. Kim picked up on it and was laughing too. They were still laughing when they came up on the Woodbury Drive exit.
The shots came from the left, from the wooded ridge overlooking the highway across Highway 94. The first shot took out the window directly behind Kim. It was quickly followed by a second shot that punched through the door next to her. The bullet tore into the seat directly behind her. Cade grabbed the wheel and wrenched it hard to the right. The Jeep jumped the curb, went over the grass and plowed through a cyclone fence. The fence was no match for the speeding Jeep. The Liberty bounced hard as it came down on the frontage road next to a Wells Fargo.
Kim had control of the Jeep as she steered it towards the intersection a block to the south.
“Are you all right?” Cade asked Kim. She nodded.
“And you thought our first date was exciting,” Cade said. He had his Glock out and on his lap.
Cade grabbed his phone and called in. “Officer needs assistance; shots fired.” He gave his location, as well as the location of the shooter.
At the light, Kim asked which way should they go. Cade pointed ahead towards the Sam’s Club lot. “We should still check it out just in case. She might be there.”
The large discounter shared a parking lot with a sporting goods store. Business must be good; the parking lot was full. They drove along the far side, peering down each row looking for any sign of Susanna Song and her captors.
Cade glanced behind them and saw a large vehicle closing at a fast rate of speed. The lights appeared brighter than normal as they came up quickly behind them. Kim cranked the wheel to the right, turning the Jeep down a row of cars. The sound of gunfire could be heard over the engine noise.
“Go, go!” Cade yelled. Cade looked back to see a yellow Hummer just miss making the same turn. The Hummer’s driver made the right turn at the next row over.
“Keep a row of cars between us. They’re going to be better armed than we are.” Kim nodded.
Rolling down the passenger window, Cade swung up and out sitting on the window ledge. There were two men hanging out the Hummer’s windows on the passenger side. He rested his elbows on the vehicle’s roof, lined up the sight on the Glock and squeezed off several rounds. The man in the front dropped out of sight. Cade thought he had hit him, but couldn’t be sure. The Hummer continued down the row.
Kim jammed on the brakes, throwing the Jeep in reverse. She gave the truck gas, the engine whining under the strain. There were people in the lot running and screaming. He could see people crouching down between the cars. She swung the rear out to the left on the main drive and shoved the Jeep in drive.
The Hummer was starting down their row now. Kim floored the accelerator pedal and swerved into the next row over. This had to be ended soon. The odds of a bystander getting injured or killed were increasing by the second. Cade had the Glock supported and timed his shot when the two vehicles were across from each other. He put a round into the driver’s window. The Hummer swerved to the right, away from Cade and clipped several vehicles. He could see a face in the rear of the vehicle, but couldn’t make out if was a man or a woman.
A State Patrol cruiser had entered the lot from the far north side. It came to a stop, parking diagonally across the road near the fast food restaurant, its emergency system strobes pulsing across the parking lot. The Hummer had come to the main road and had turned in the direction of the trooper. It then swerved down the back set of rows moving away from the Jeep. Cade thought he must have hit the driver, the driver was oversteering every turn now.
Two Woodbury patrols came screaming into the lot from the south. They made a beeline for the yellow Hummer.
Kim had swung the Jeep around and was also headed after the Hummer. The driver seeing his escape routes closing off, headed for the Caribou coffee shop, which was on the end of the strip of retail stores. Cade assumed the Hummer was looking for a shortcut out to Woodbury Drive. From there, it was a brief quarter mile sprint to the interstate.
For once, Cade was glad it was November, because the outside patio at Caribou was deserted. The Hummer jumped the curb, drove onto the patio and plowed into the metal patio furniture. A table was launched through the plate glass window into the coffee shop.
The driver over-compensated after hitting the furniture and swerved to his right. Unfortunately, to the right was a steep hill leading down to a large runoff pond. Despite the Hummer’s wide wheelbase, the speed, angle and sharp turn caused the vehicle to tip over. Once it started to roll, it kept rolling down the steep incline until it landed wheels up in the icy cold water.
Kim pulled the Liberty to the curb next to the coffee shop’s patio. The officers were out of their vehicles, flashlights and guns braced for the ready. Cade held up his ID. He recognized the woman Woodbury officer, Olivia, from a case that he had worked with the BCA several years back. She’d been whip-smart and full of drive. He nodded to her and followed the officers down the incline.
He glanced back, Kim was several steps behind. She’d been through too much to deny her seeing this to its conclusion. The night air seemed alive with the sound of approaching sirens.
They came to the Hummer at the bottom. The water wasn’t more than several feet deep, but that meant the windows were completely covered by the water. Nobody was stirring on the inside. The male officer tried the front passenger door, but the door refused to open. Olivia already had her ASP tactical baton out and quickly broke the window glass. She reached through and grabbed the arm of the passenger. The other Woodbury officer was on his knees, the water up to waist, helping pull the man from the wrecked vehicle. Cade had his Glock out and ready.
When the man’s shoulders cleared the window, Cade realized that his first shot had been a good one. The bullet had entered just above his left eye. There was nothing they could do for him. The Woodbury officers let go of his arm. They moved to the rear window.
Olivia held the flashlight, while the other officer went in through the broken window. In a moment he squirmed back out. “The driver looks alive, but this one back here is gone. I think his neck is broken.”
They moved to the other side and again Olivia broke out the window. The driver had been shot in the neck, but was still alive. They pulled him from the vehicle and carried him to the water’s edge. A paramedic was waiting and immediately attended to the driver’s neck. He glanced up and said, “He’s going to need surgery if he’s going to make it.”
The paramedic got on the radio asking for a medical chopper. When he was done, he said the chopper was five minutes out. He went back to working on the man’s neck.
Woodbury fire and rescue arrived on the scene and powered the doors open on the Hummer. They pulled the two dead men from the vehicle. There was no sign of Susanna Song.
Cade called in and learned that while a second vehicle was used at the sniper’s location across the highway, it was gone now. A few casings from the rifle shells were found, but that was it.
Nothing else to do. Cade looked over at Kim. “Still hungry?”
Later, over dinner, Cade asked, “So, is the house still available and can I move in on Friday?”
Thursday, Day seven
“My ex-wife needs a kidney transplant. But I’m not worried, she hasn’t rejected an organ in twenty years.” The room broke up in laughter. Curtis was going on about one of his favorite subjects, his ex-wife. Cade kept walking and shook his head. This guy was a goofball, but he was funny.
Daisy was on the phone; Cade leaned against a desk waiting for her to finish. When she hung up, he asked what she knew. “We’ve identified the men, all three are—or were—British nationals. The driver died in surgery. There were two brothers, Angus and Kieran Hazard. The driver was Angus Hazard. Both had extensive criminal records in the UK. Some prison time as well. Small time stuff, though. Robbery, assault, theft, drugs, assault.”
“You already said assault.”
“They really liked assault.” Not noticing Cade rolling his eyes at her, Daisy continued, “They both are believed to be involved in several murders, but there were not any witnesses that wished to come forward. These guys didn’t have the brainpower to mastermind anything, and certainly not anything like this.”
Cade asked, “What about the third guy?”
Daisy was shaking her head, “From what I learned, Brian Crane was lucky to have an IQ that would reach three digits. He was a brawler, plain and simple. These guys were small time hired muscle.”
Cade was thinking. He held up a finger and Daisy paused. “Small time hired muscle doesn’t get imported from across the Atlantic Ocean. That is, unless they have worked with the person behind this on other occasions. So then we have to assume our ‘evil genius’ is British as well. But why come here? Why Minnesota? Is Minnesota the typical place where the British dream of retiring to?”
“I always thought the British went to Spain for their holidays,” Daisy replied.
“Exactly,” Cade said. “The money is not being used to run away. The part I don’t get, is why they don’t make their life better at home?”
Daisy Capistrano was nodding. “Suppose you have millions of dollars,” she said. “Suppose you came by it by means that aren’t strictly legal. You can’t just trade in your Chevy S10 pickup for a Rolls Royce. And you can’t trade your denim for $2,000 Brooks Brothers suits. People will notice, and they definitely will start asking questions. You need to put a lot of distance between you and the people you know.”
“And,” Cade said, “$388 million can buy you a lot. Most likely, you are looking for something that you don’t already have. That much money can buy you power and possibly legitimacy. I would venture my slightly educated guess that the people working with the hired muscle—that are now lying dead in our morgue—are clearly not used to walking on the legitimate side of the street.”
“So,” Cade went on, “we should be looking for someone who is British, with a criminal history, or at the very least, ties to the criminal element across the pond. How difficult can that be? We should have this case wrapped up by lunch.”
Daisy smiled. “I take it you’re a glass full kind of guy.” Not a question.
“Glass full, glass empty, it doesn’t matter. By then, I’m pretty much just looking for the waitress,” Cade said with his own smile.
Daisy reached for a file and started paging through it. Without looking up, she said, “I meant to ask, I saw you were with your realtor again last night. Has she been showing you anything interesting lately?”
“Very funny. I’m just lucky she enjoys people shooting at her. Who could have guessed?”
“I’m glad you have that figured out,” Daisy said. “Most guys have no idea what women want.”
“Oh, I know what women want,” Cade replied. “They want security. In fact, every time I approach a woman at the bar, she calls out for security.”
This time it was Daisy rolling her eyes. Cade continued. “I never seem to pick up on the subtle cues women give out. I don’t realize the relationship is over until the restraining order comes in the mail.”
Daisy smiles, “This I can believe.”
Andrew Bishop was a busy man. But he’d always been a busy man. Running a business was a time consuming proposition. However, lording over a criminal empire meant burning the candle at both ends. It didn’t exactly lend itself to a normal workweek. And it had been quite far from being a normal week. Life had become quite stressful of late.
He was in the process of purchasing the Chelsea reserve team and moving them here to the United States. The Chelsea owners were quite excited to gain the inroad in the U.S. market. Many of the top European clubs were building relationships with their American counterparts. They were embarking on American tours to raise awareness and marketing their teams as a global brand. Having a team playing in the U.S. soccer league was a major coup for the Chelsea organization.
The deal was also a great one for Bishop. Owning a team of Chelsea’s status was quite an achievement, even if it was the club’s reserve team. The price was certainly reasonable, especially considering the reduced cost of the money he was laundering for the Colombians. It helped to have friends in low places.
This was a deal that could make Bishop a lot of money. It was more than that though. This would give him standing in the international community. It would allow him to move with a different crowd, a different class even. It could allow him access to possible ownership in some of the world’s most prestigious clubs. His father would be proud.
Respect was something Andrew Bishop had thought about a lot. It could be bought, maybe not directly, but would come with his purchase of the team. The public had always respected the owner of football clubs, and back home, those owners were positively revered. Bishop had gained the respect of his business associates and competitors through fear and intimidation. But it wasn’t the same and it just wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t real respect if people were frightened by you and he didn’t want to live his life in the shadows, associating only with other members of the same element. He wanted the spotlight. He wanted to be a pillar of the community. He craved their admiration so intensely; he just might kill for it.
Bishop had worked hard to make this deal happen. Fortunately, he had signed a letter of intent and was allowed to start setting up the team’s infrastructure as well market the team. Interest was high in the community and soon he would be able to sell season tickets and sponsorships. It would be a relief to have some money flowing in for a change. And that would go a long way to making this feel real. The deal would be complete with the transfer of funds scheduled in four days. It was those four days that were bringing so much stress to Bishop.
The problem, of course, was that his funds had been seized and were being held in a secure location by the local law enforcement authorities. The only saving grace was that he had employed the one person who could recover his money. Martin Clements had earned his reputation for accomplishing the impossible.
Bishop was doing his part to keep the authorities occupied. The state Patrol had to be absolutely reeling from the chaos on the highways. It was a shame that last night’s misadventure had not only failed to take out the lead investigator, but cost him three of his men. They were good men, ones that had served him well over the years. However, they knew what they were getting themselves into, and were well paid for the risk.
The possibility of a connection being found that would lead the authorities back to him concerned Bishop. He had considered it to be an acceptable risk, if it helped to get his money back. After all, the money was everything. He couldn’t buy the team without it. But this close to the end game, it did worry him. He wouldn’t give it a lot of thought, though. No point in worrying about things you can’t control.
One thing about being in business, was that it taught you to put your trust in the right people. You can’t do everything yourself. Having said that, it was also a good idea to give them all the support you could possibly lend. He had spent some time and much money to cultivate the right support. He dialed a number, let it ring three times and hung up. In exactly three minutes, he dialed the same number once again. This time it was answered on the first ring.
Bishop spoke in strong, measured tones. “I have need of your assistance. The sort of assistance that only you can provide.”
The voice on the other end was quiet, hesitant. “What do you need?”
“I need to make sure that the vault is …, well, accessible.”
“I can’t touch the thumbprint scanner or alarm, that ties directly to my identity. But I can help with the vault itself.”
“That’s all I need, my dear,” Bishop replied, “That’s all I need.”
Things were falling into place, Martin Clements thought as he stretched. He had woken up worrying about the details that still needed to come together. However, Martin’s plans were laid out and the details were being worked out without any major issues. With any luck, he ought to be on the plane back to London on Sunday afternoon. The hand-off to Bishop should go down without any difficulty. He had dealt with Andrew Bishop on one previous occasion and had found him to be a man of his word. He would receive his negotiated price without any complication. The opposite would hold true for Bishop: there would be no complication for him as well. There are some less-principled individuals, who given the extremely large amount of currency in play here, might face overwhelming temptation. Not Martin.
Martin considered himself to be a man of principle, which might seem odd considering the line he often crossed. His reputation was quite important. He wanted to be the best, and desired to be that with high style. He felt confident that so far he had lived up to his own high standards. The fact was, that Martin’s reputation was made on his ability to deliver. There would be nothing to gain for him by not delivering as promised. He had more than enough money to live—quite comfortably, in fact—for the rest of his life. Actually, if he lived to 150, he would still have a sizable reserve left over. Though he had serious doubts that he would make it past ninety, as he already had a rather large group of jealous boyfriends and husbands looking for him. Such was his life.
With two days left before he would be able to recover Bishop’s currency, he was feeling a bit bored. It was rather an odd combination to be both bored and at the same time feel his adrenaline creeping up. It had to be the anticipation of all his planning coming together. Sitting around in this loft for any longer would drive him over the edge. He felt the urge to stretch a bit and headed for his truck.
Martin enjoyed cruising around in the Land Rover. He drove along the St. Croix River, enjoying the countryside. It must be stunning in the summer, he thought, though this cold, gray weather reminded Martin of home. After an hour of more or less aimless wandering, he stopped by a coffee shop. It was a small neighborhood establishment that had a nice cozy feel to it. There was a fireplace with overstuffed chairs surrounding it.
He ordered a chocolate flavored coffee and sat by the fireplace. There was a stack of newspapers on the table next to him and he saw the feature on the Chelsea America team. He wondered if it was his public relations agency that had placed the story. It couldn’t hurt to learn a bit more about the club, given his upcoming diversion. He picked up the paper and leaned back in the comfortable chair. He was absolutely stunned when he read the second paragraph.
Andrew Bishop was the owner of the team? Amazing! He wondered if he should cancel his diversion? Time was critical here. He was on strict notice that the funds had to be in Bishop’s hands on Sunday at the latest. There really wasn’t time to put together another diversion. Certainly not in two days time.
Another question intrigued him. Should he discuss his diversion with Bishop? Let him know that the welcome Chelsea America event on Saturday was a sham, just a diversion for his recovery effort? There were advantages either way, but it came down to the importance of having Bishop acting natural. If this was to play out to Martin’s plan, Bishop would need to play his scripted part. And it would be a brilliant alibi for Bishop, though if things played out properly, Bishop would not need the alibi.
“Here’s your Chocolate Steamed Nirvana.”
Martin looked up to see a beautiful brunette holding his drink. The woman’s hair was pulled back into a ponytail, her green eyes captivating him, while her smile seemed to light up the entire room. He accepted the cup she offered him.
He held out his hand. “Thank you, I’m Martin, by the way. And you are …?”
“I’m Desirae.” Her eyes held his.
“Desirae, that’s French, I believe. What does it mean, do you know?”
She nodded. “My mom tells me it means ‘much desired.’”
Martin smiled. “I have to agree with your mum. Brilliant woman, to be sure.”
Desirae blushed. “I like your accent. I take it you’re from England?”
Martin gestured to the open chair across from him and said, “I am. Could you sit for a moment?”
Desirae looked around as if to gauge how busy the shop was and then sat down across the table from Martin. She tucked one leg beneath her. “I suppose I could sit for just a moment. I do have a question for you, if you don’t mind.” Martin nodded his approval.
“Having never been to England, I was wondering if all the gentlemen over there are as forward as you?” She was smiling.
Martin leaned towards her. “I like to think of it as being charming.”
She laughed, and Martin thought her laugh was delightful, absolutely brimming with sunshine. He’d met a few women in his travels—okay, a lot of women—but there was a purity, a vitality that Desirae had that he hadn’t found before. Martin knew how the Hollywood movie directors must have felt when they discovered the next star working at the local diner.
She was asking him a question, though he had missed the first part. “ …live here now?”
Martin shook his head. “My business was hired to run a project here. I just came over a week ago. Though I really am enjoying my stay here.”
“Are you working with the new soccer team that came over from England? I like soccer a lot,” she added.
“Actually, I am,” he said. Funny how things work out. “I am putting on the soccer rally celebration for the team this weekend. I think it will surprise a lot of people.”
“Great,” Desirae said. “I hope the team does well. So, tell me Martin, where is the most exotic destination you’ve traveled to? And where is your favorite place that you’ve visited so far?” She had a whimsical smile on her face.
Martin was usually the one to ask the questions. Chatting up the birds, as they call it back home, was best accomplished using strategic questions laced with overt compliments. It doesn’t sound like it should work, but you can’t argue with the results Martin has had. However, Desirae was throwing him off his game with her questions.
“Well,” Martin said, stalling for time. He was actually a bit flustered. “I think the most exotic location had to be my trip to New Zealand. Beautiful countryside, that. As for the favorite place I’ve traveled to, it has always been the Lake Como region of northern Italy. The snowy alpine peaks, the villas, the picturesque lake, ahh magical. But now it has to be the …” He glanced at the side of his cup. “…the Dunn Brothers coffee shop in Woodbury Minnesota. Clearly, the most stunning scenery I’ve seen.” He was working hard to take back his edge from Desirae.
Smiling, Desirae said, “That’s just the caffeine talking. I’ve served way too many espressos to believe a line like that again.” She eased herself out of the chair and extended her hand. “It was a pleasure to chat with you Martin. Please stop by again while you’re in town.”
With a quick smile, she turned and was gone.
Martin was speechless. It didn’t usually go like this. He was the charming one, the one who mystified and enchanted the opposite sex. Now here he was, adrift, dwelling on about the much desired Desirae. He walked out to the parking lot and climbed into his Land Rover, thinking that perhaps there might be a way to extend his stay in America. It would be dangerous, but Martin had lived his life seeing the positive side of taking risks.
He must have outweighed Cade by a good twenty pounds and was running straight at him full speed. During the soccer game, Cade had been watching him try his moves on the other defenders for the last ten minutes. No way, no how, was he going to get by him. Knowing that the opposing forward would attempt his fake to the outside, and then cut the ball over to the inside, Cade shifted his weight to his left side. Cade stuck out his right foot, getting his cleats on the top of the ball and pulled it away from the very surprised forward. Shifting the ball to his left foot, Cade sprinted up the sideline.
He loved this. Beating the arrogant forward players at their own game, stealing the ball away and taking the ball on an attacking run was what made this game fun. In soccer, most defenders broke up the attacking plays and passed the ball up the field, starting the attack with a pass to a midfield player. Cade liked to take the ball away and sprint for goal, leaving a trail of beaten players in his wake. Maybe he had some long-standing issues with authority, but he really enjoyed putting the oh-so-superior forwards in their place.
The stocky midfielder slid over to cut off Cade’s path up the field. As Cade had hoped, the man made a desperate attempt at a tackle, going to the ground, his leg outstretched. With a flick, Cade lifted the ball over the man and simply hopped over him. That bought him some space to run.
As he approached the outside of the box, Cade slowed a bit. The defense shifted over, with two of the defenders moving to close him off. He bobbed his head to the inside and accelerated to the outside. Just as the two defenders were starting to recover, he pulled the ball back and moved to the inside. This brought the sweeper over as well. The sweeper is the leader of the defense and the last line of defense. With this third player now closing in him, Cade glanced over to his right, seeing Peter making a run towards goal. He slotted the ball between two of the defenders onto Peter’s feet.
With one touch, the ball was in the back of the net. The goalkeeper never had a chance.
Peter acknowledged Cade’s assist with a thumbs up sign as they jogged back for the kick off. They played for a few uneventful minutes before the referee blew the whistle for halftime. The players grabbed their water bottles and sat in a group on the sideline. This was their last game of the fall season and Cade was taking it in, enjoying the moment. They were lucky to be in the middle of a rare Indian Summer this week. Many of the games at the end of the season were often played in the cold, with rain or even snow adding to the fun. Not this year.
Peter sat down next to Cade. “That was some brilliant work out there,” Peter said. “Drawing the defense over like that left me with an open path to the goal. You made it easy for me. Thanks.”
Cade nodded. “I was just glad to see you put the shot on goal. How many times have you seen a guy get an open shot at the goal and kick it as hard as they can, launching it ten feet over the goal? You took the shot calm and cool like a professional. Maybe you should turn pro. You need a real job anyway, no more of that prissy modeling shit.”
Peter smiled. “Funny you should say that. Believe it or not, I have a modeling gig on Saturday and I’m posing as a Chelsea America player for the soccer festival in Oakdale.”
“Really?” Cade asked. “Posing?”
“Yeah, there’s a bunch of us and we’re being introduced as the team. I get to sign autographs even. I have to sign as Nigel Pierce, though.”
“And this didn’t strike you as odd?” Cade asked.
“I just figured that the real team couldn’t make it. I mean after all, they are in the middle of their season over in England.”
“You mean that if there is a buck in it, its okay by you.” Cade held his eye and then broke into a smile.
“Well, yeah,” Peter was laughing as well. He stood up and held out a hand to Cade.
“Let’s go get them. One more half and the season is history.” Such was the way fall rec soccer was organized. You had your ten league games and that was it. No playoffs, no trophies, just bragging rights. Soccer just for the fun of it. That’s the way it should be.
They were at the bar after the game. Half the game was played on the field; the other half was replayed in the bar afterward. The mood was rowdy, they had positively crushed the Sting. Cade had completely owned the left side of the field.
Peter was on his third beer, and his arm on Cade’s shoulder. “Are you coming to get my autograph on Saturday?”
“You’re not charging for it this time, are you?” Cade asked with a grin.
“Only for the guys, the women get it for free. I’ll sign yours at no charge, though.”
“All right, I’ll be there. I had been thinking about checking out the festival anyway. I better run, I’m closing on my house in the morning.” Cade shook hands with his teammates and headed for the door.
“See you there,” Peter called.
“See you, Nigel.” Cade was still laughing as he went out the door.
Friday, day eight
Looking around his apartment in the morning light, Cade knew he wouldn’t be missing his cramped home of the last two years. It had served its purpose as his place to sleep and store his stuff. Though it was sad to look around and see how few boxes he needed after all these years. Other than some favorite books and music, he tended to not be sentimental and avoided accumulating possessions the way many others tended to.
Of course, living the life that he had, Cade didn’t have a lot to be sentimental about. When you see the worst of humanity and then the tragedy that often befalls the other half, life can feel quite somber, not really worthy of celebration. Having a job in law enforcement could bring you down. Especially when you began to feel no matter what you did, and how many people you take off the street, others just step up and take their place. The trick was, you either keep your sense of humor or you become jaded. The ability to laugh at life’s absurdities and injustices could be the last defense of a cop’s sanity. Cop humor was gallows humor—a dark attempt to keep life’s events from staining their souls.
Living this way often made it difficult to find something to look forward to. However, for the first time in years, Cade had that feeling again. Hope. Hope that life would be better, hope in tomorrow, and hope in humanity. It helped just knowing there was someone out there that was thinking about him. He found himself thinking about Kim Lindahl frequently. In just a brief amount of time, she had made quite an impact on his life. It wasn’t just the near constant raising of his blood pressure, but the feeling that a troubled chapter of his life was coming to an end.
This morning’s closing on his new home felt like a brand new chapter of his life was starting. Moving to Stillwater into a beautiful old home felt right. It was funny how the house had made him feel: like he was right at home. The feeling was the same with Kim. It was immediate, warm and comfortable—but at the same time, there was a passion that they both seemed to feel. The lust between them was obvious, but so far unrequited. So far.
Cade met Kim at the Caribou in Stillwater for breakfast, planning to ride together to the mortgage company for the closing. She was happy to see him, kissing him tenderly. After they sat down, Kim talked about what to expect at the closing. She promised the closing paperwork would go smoothly.
“After all, the mortgage officer and I are trained professionals, educated in the nuances of real estate transactions. No detail is too small, and no client need will go uncared for. You, my prized client, are in good hands.” Kim looked proud of herself.
“Actually,” Cade interjected, “I never had a doubt about being in the right hands. Anybody that can drive the way you did the other night, keeping us out of harms way, can certainly navigate their way through a real estate deal with no problem.” He gave her his best smile.
It worked. Kim beamed at Cade. As she took a cell phone call from her office, Cade leaned back, sipped his Mint Condition coffee and studied Kim. She was confident and personable as she animatedly carried on her half of the conversation. Dressed in a heather gray suit, skirt and black heels, she looked both professional and sexy. There was something distracting about the way her blouse strained against her large breasts that kept pulling his eyes downward. He glanced up, realizing that she had busted him, the focus of his attention obvious. The smoldering look in her eyes let him know that she hadn’t minded a bit. Life is good, Cade thought.
The rest of the morning was a whirlwind as they completed their final walk-through of the home and then moved to the mortgage office.
Cade’s cell chirped just as they were sitting down with the mortgage closer, a stack of forms rivaling the tallest stack of pancakes he’d seen in a long while. The phone never seemed to go off at an opportune moment. However, these days it wasn’t as if he was sitting around, waiting and wishing the phone would ring. Life had become busy, busy with purpose and that was good.
Fishing it out of his jacket, Cade glanced at the caller ID. Intrigued to see it was Dan Miller, he answered the call with a “What’s going on?”
“Where are you?” Miller’s voice sounded tense, clearly there was some urgency to this call.
“I’m in Stillwater, closing on my house.” Cade couldn’t help but feel some joy at the mention of his new home.
“I’m forty minutes out, I’ll call you when I’m close.”
“What’s going on?” Cade asked for the second time in the brief conversation, but Miller had already hung up. It was obviously something sensitive if Miller hadn’t wanted to discuss it over the phone. Miller was not one to yank a person’s chain and get everyone excited for nothing. He would have to wait for him to call again.
Forty minutes later, rubbing his hand to relieve the writer’s cramp he suffered signing the multitude of forms, Cade walked out a new homeowner. The call came as they were walking to his car. Cade gave Miller the address and said he would be there in five minutes after dropping Kim at her car.
During the short drive from the mortgage office, Kim offered to help Cade settle in to his new home. They agreed to meet at Cade’s the house that evening. “A women’s touch is just the thing you need,” Kim offered.
“I couldn’t agree more,” Cade said with a smug smile as he pulled in next to Kim’s Jeep.
Kim punched him in the shoulder and said with pretend exasperation in her voice as she climbed out, “You know what I meant.”
He did, and headed his vehicle back to the mortgage office with a big grin on his face. Cade pulled in to the relatively empty section of the parking lot away from the building. The traffic on nearby Highway 36 was steady as he watched the cars cruising by while he waited for Miller. Surprised by the number of semi-trucks on this county highway, Cade knew many entered the state from Wisconsin via the older Stillwater lift bridge. Truckers would jam up the traffic in the picturesque downtown due to their desire to avoid the weigh station on Interstate 94. This was becoming a larger issue as more truckers sought to avoid fuel taxes as well as vehicle inspections and driving log checks that came with weigh station stops.
Miller pulled alongside Cade’s vehicle, facing the opposite direction. Cade rolled down his window and gave Miller a nod. Getting right to the point, Miller said, “Your friends from the Grand Marais disaster are in town.”
Stunned, Cade said nothing, waiting for Miller to continue. “I warned you the amount of money in your case would draw the flies. Large amounts of money bring large problems.”
Cade was waving a hand trying to get Miller to slow down. “Questions. I’ve got questions. The hit squad is in the Twin Cities?”
“Are you telling me these guys are in town to steal the money from my case?”
Now Miller is shaking his head. “Look, I know they’re in town, but that’s all I know. We’re not friends and not exactly on speaking terms either. I have to assume it’s the money that brought them here, the timing is too coincidental otherwise. Having said that, I’m not privy to their motivations. What they’re up to is for us to find out.”
“I’ll give you a hand—as a friend. You were given a raw deal up in Grand Marais. I can’t imagine the pain of having your partners gunned down in front of you. It’s time for some karma to rear its ugly head and bite these guys in the ass.”
Cade was beginning to feel the slow burn of his rising anger. “I’m looking forward to seeing them again.” His tone flat, words slow and measured. He needed to remain in control.
Miller agreed. “I would if I were you.”
“So theses DEA guys, how did you know they were here?”
Shaking his head, Miller ran his fingers through his thinning hair. “They are not DEA.”
Cade was stunned. “I’m sorry, you’re going to have to back up. How do you even know who these guys are?”
Miller smiled. “Hey, I’m a fed. We know everything—at least since the Patriot Act was enacted, anyway. After your bad bust in Grand Marais, I quietly looked into flights in and out two to three days around the incident. Less than 24 hours before the shooting, three men arrived at the Minneapolis St. Paul airport on a Delta flight from Miami—though they originated from D.C.”
Cade nodded. “There were three shooters.”
“They stayed that night at the Chambers in downtown Minneapolis. And that was the only night I could find them at any hotel within 500 miles.”
Listening intently, Cade prompted Miller to continue.
“At first I couldn’t find them flying out of the area, but after widening my search, I found the three of them on a flight out of Thunder Bay. This was the morning following the shooting. Actually, I first found them on a flight from Detroit back to Washington D.C. and wondered how they got to Detroit. That’s when I found they had flown out of Thunder Bay.”
Thunder Bay sits on the shore of Lake Superior, just across the Canadian border, roughly an hour and half north of Grand Marais. Cade had once flown out of the small, but well kept Thunder Bay International airport.
Miller reached across the divide between the two vehicles, handing Cade a single photograph. Obviously a surveillance camera photo, the date, time and location were stamped across the bottom. It showed the three men walking side by side, carry on bags slung over their shoulders. The man on the left wearing a baseball cap pulled low, was looking off to the side. The man on the right, no better—a handkerchief obscuring his face as well. The man in the middle had his head down, however his eyes looking directly into the overhead surveillance camera, clearly knowing the camera was there.
“That could be them,” Cade offered, “the body types fit. Two beefy men and a taller lean third. The man in the middle… feels right.” He handed back the photo.
“The fact that all three look to be deliberately obscuring their faces kept me searching for more,” Miller said. “This photo was from Detroit. Thunder Bay was a bust, their airport security a joke. However, as you might imagine, the opposite holds true in Miami: they take their security seriously. With so much drugs, money and persons of interest moving through the Miami International airport, there are cameras everywhere.”
“And all you feds would know this,” Cade replied.
“True,” Miller responded, twisting in his non-descript government issued sedan. They must have had some business in Miami or they would have flown into a less secure airport. They were just as careful going through all the Miami checkpoints though.” Miller handed over a small stack of surveillance photos. With some variations, each of the photos showed nothing of the subject’s faces, as hats, hands and handkerchiefs were successfully used to hide from the cameras.
“Okay, I’m sold. These are the guys,” Cade said handing back the photos.
“I want you to be sure,” Miller said, a hint of a smirk creeping onto his face. Another photo was handed across to Cade. This photo clearly showed two of the three men, though the focus was on a mid-twenties man of possible Somalian descent. The two suspects were standing a few feet behind and to the side of the Somalian.
Miller continued. ”Believe it or not, this was actually taken at a MacDonald’s in the Miami terminal. Surprisingly for a fast food chain, MacDonald’s has invested extensively in digital closed circuit television security systems. This particular camera is linked to the cash registers, and is automatically triggered when a cash sale involves a bill of $50 or over. Corporate security—who can monitor each location remotely—has identified larger cash transactions as having the highest loss potential from both internal and external sources. The gentleman in the foreground is paying for his $7 order with a fifty dollar bill. Our suspects happened to be having their conversation within range of this camera, a camera with an amazing depth of field that can keep everyone in focus. The terminal site map shows a restroom nearby, so they may have been waiting for their partner.”
“These are the shooters, I would know their faces any where. Bastards.”
“Got lucky finding this shot. I owe a big Mojito to my counterpart in the Dade County field office for his efforts,” Miller said.
“We owe MacDonald’s for being so security conscious—though I still wouldn’t eat there.”
Miller laughed. “Me either. At my age, I couldn’t do that to my body. You shouldn’t mess with perfection.”
“Uh huh,” Cade replied, holding his tongue. “By the way, you said these guys are not DEA. So you know who they are?”
Nodding, Miller handed over a dog-eared manila file folder. Cade noticed the coffee spill covering half of the front. Inside were three one page dossiers and Cade glanced at the names, not recognizing any of them. Something about the forms themselves caught his eye. They were personnel forms from … “No shit? These guys are your guys? FBI?” Cade asked.
Taking a deep breath, Miller said, “Sadly, they are FBI. However they’re not special agents operating out of field office. They are part of a federal trouble-shooting unit. A unit that has been given way too much autonomy. Normally the unit has been tasked with ferreting out corruption within the federal government generally and within the intelligence and law enforcement community specifically.”
“I have to say their methods of ferreting out corruption seem a bit extreme.”
“Obviously,” Miller agreed. “There is an entire division within the unit dedicated to prosecution—although they appear to be left out of the loop from time to time. Looking around, I’ve found several cases that involve possible corruption where the suspects have simply been found dead. I won’t stake my reputation on it, but I would guess these guys have killed before. Having a rogue unit within the FBI would not be good for business. Because the director himself has oversight of this unit, the fallout could topple some very good people if this gets out.”
Jonathon Harkes had been the Bureau’s director for three years now, having moved up the old fashioned way: starting as a field agent and moving up through the ranks. Loved by the agents in the field and effective at lobbying with politicians for the Bureau’s needs, this was not a political fatcat director to be sacrificed. “I don’t know how you can avoid this getting out, but if Harkes is going to have oversight on this, he’d better get his eyes checked and start using that oversight,” Cade said.
Miller looked concerned. “Now that you have this information, what are you going to do with it?”
Pausing, Cade ran through some options. He’d thought many times about what he would do when he had the shooters in his hands, but not so much about how he would get them there. “I’m going to have to draw them out before I can do anything.”
“How are you going to accomplish that?” Miller asked.
“Give them what they want.”
“A corrupt cop,” Cade said coldly. “After that, it’ll be just like moths to a flame.”
Behind the wheel, cruising down Highway 5 in Lake Elmo, Cade checked in with Daisy. “What do you know?” he asked.
“I know now that you’re house-poor, you’ll be living on nothing but macaroni and cheese,” Daisy said. Cade could hear her laughing.
“Not a chance, I’ve skimped for too long to have to suffer through endless meals of that yellow muck.”
“Are you kidding me?” she asked. “There’s no accounting for your taste, Dawkins. I love mac and cheese. I was raised on it.”
“Obviously, the poor nutrition you received during your important childhood development years really explains a lot. So that’s why they had to bring me in: to help you figure shit out.”
“Exactly. So far you’ve figured out shit. Nothing. Nada.” Daisy could give as good as she could get. She was clearly enjoying the exchange.
“Oh yeah?” Cade asked, “Well the day is early yet.”
She laughed, “That’s the best comeback you’ve got Dawkins? Once again, I’m left wanting more from a man.” She laughed loudly and was gone.
The exchange with Daisy hadn’t left any room for serious discussion, leaving Cade little choice but to head for the Patrol office to talk with her in person. The place was bustling with activity, the result of a trooper pulling over a speeder who was switching lanes without using his turn signal. When the trooper stopped the speeder, they saw a glass bowl used for smoking marijuana on the front seat. The driver was obviously upset and said that he was chasing a thief who just stole his Apple iPhone and three bags of marijuana. A vehicle search yielded 15 individually packaged baggies of marijuana and 13 ecstasy pills.
Daisy told Cade the speeder would be charged with possession with intent to deliver, possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia—and with careless driving and failure to wear a seatbelt. “Idiots sure make our life easier,” she said with a smile.
Pulling Daisy aside, Cade quietly told her he needed her help. They walked out the entrance and leaned against the railing. “Daisy, something’s come up and I need a favor.”
“You remember that federal death squad I ran into on my last case with the BCA?” Daisy was the one person Cade had shared the story with at the Patrol.
“Yeah …” Daisy’s expression was unreadable.
“Well, they’re in town and I need to give them a dirty cop. I was hoping it could be you.” A range of emotions moved across her face, everything from shock, surprise, anger, fear—they all seemed to be there in varying degrees. She looked both conflicted and speechless.
“I didn’t say it would be a small favor. According to Dan Miller at the FBI, these three men are part of a special FBI unit tasked with ferreting out law enforcement corruption. These guys have gone way over the top and skipped right over the prosecution step to become the executioners as well.”
Daisy’s color seemed to be coming back. Cade continued. “What I want to do, is point them in your direction because you have access to the recovered currency. I know you’re wondering “why me?” but you’re the only one I trust here. You won’t have to do much of anything. All you’ll need to do is act a little suspicious, a little paranoid and I’ll do the rest. When they make their move on you, Miller and I will be there.”
Daisy looked unsure. “Cade, I don’t know…”
Cade moved directly in front of her. “Daisy, these guys killed my partners in cold blood. They need to go away forever.”
Her eyes held Cade’s for a couple of long beats. He had the sense that she was trying to read him, looking for any sign that he wasn’t being straight with her. At last she sighed, and quietly said, “Fine. Just don’t jeopardize my future for your past.”
Cade put an arm around her, attempting to give Daisy a hug. “Thank you.”
Daisy’s arms were still at her sides, not making an effort to reciprocate his hug. She cleared her throat. “Umm, Dawkins? Cops don’t hug each other.”
Awkwardly releasing her, Cade gave her a grin, “C’mon, where’s the love?”
Walking away shaking her head, Cade heard her muttering, “Dawkins, Dawkins,” as she went back into the building.
There was a busy combination gas station-convenience store located right off the freeway by the patrol headquarters. As there was always a lot of traffic through the place, Cade was relieved to see the drive-up pay phone was not in use. Most people had cell phones these days, so there were fewer and fewer pay phones for the itinerant and those under probable federal wiretapping surveillance.
The conversation was brief:
“It’s a go.”
“Full court press?”
“Let’s bring it on.”
After 9/11, lack of communication was condemned throughout the entire intelligence community. Going forward, timely, accurate, objective and relevant intelligence being the key ingredients to our nation’s security. The sharing of intelligence became vital, not only between the various agencies, but also within the same agency. It seemed that in many cases the right hand had no idea what the left hand was up to. It was thought that open communication of intelligence should prevent a repeat of 9/11.
To further this end, a little used information sharing form was revived and updated from the old days of the bureau. The SAN form—though insiders call it the Suspicious Action Notice, what the letters originally stood for is long forgotten. It details actions, behaviors and people that may make others in the intelligence community sit up and go “hmm.”
Misuse of a SAN could be a career ender in the buttoned down world of the FBI. On the other hand, it could be a very efficient tool for disinformation within the federal government. A SAN noting the unusual wire transfer of $500,000 into a law enforcement officer’s personal bank account would raise a flag. The bank of origin for the transfer being located in the cartel-heavy area of Miami would elevate that flag even further. Dan Miller completed the online form and clicked the Distribute button, saying a little prayer for leniency.
Cade had loaded up the U-haul with the help of his teammate, Billy, cleaned up the apartment and happily turned in the key to the apartment manager. He spent the next several hours hauling in boxes and furniture.
During a break, using one the confiscated shooter’s Miami-registered cell phones, Cade dialed Daisy and waited for her to answer. After the third ring, Daisy picked up. “Capistrano.”
“The moon rises over the lost.”
A pause on her end. Come on Daisy, don’t miss your cue. “Morning, early morning.”
“I always have preferred it in the morning,” Cade said disconnecting the call with a grin on his face.
Setting up his bed, tiredly looking forward to using it, Cade heard the confiscated phone ringing out in the kitchen. “Yes,” Cade answered.
“The fish flies at dawn.” It was Daisy. And she was gone.
Cade texted Daisy to meet at the 3M parking lot. She was waiting for him when he pulled up alongside her vehicle. Cade rolled down his window and she did the same.
“Hey,” she said.
“You doin’ okay?” he asked.
“It’s kind of fun actually. I drive around in circles, doubling back, looking over my shoulder a lot. Trying to play the part.”
Cade handed her a small red shopping bag. “I need you to go to the Maplewood Mall food court at 7:30 tonight. Get yourself something to drink and sit at a table for five minutes. Pretend to take a cell phone call and leave the bag under your chair. I’ll have someone there to pick it up as soon as you step away. If you’re being watched, it’ll give them something to think about.”
Daisy’s cell chirped. “Capistrano.” Her brow furrowed for a brief moment and she caught Cade’s eye, nodding. She put the call on speaker.
“… transfer of the assets, the Columbian fruit baskets will happen in the morning.” It was Dan Miller, using an accent that Cade couldn’t quite place. It might have been a Spanish accent, if you had grown up listening to Cheech and Chong records.
“Six baskets in the morning.” Daisy held Cade’s eye.
“They have pretty pink ribbons,” Cade interjected.
Daisy shot him a stern look.
Miller continued. “500,000 acres of fruit trees have been sold.”
“I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts,” Cade said.
She shot him the look again. Shaking her head, Daisy replied to Miller, “Yes, I received the paperwork. Thank you. Anything else?”
“Location is always important,” Miller answered.
“That’s why realtors always say it three times.” Cade grinned at Daisy.
She held up a single finger. “Imation headquarters.”
“See you then. Hasta manana.” Miller was gone.
“Pasta banana,” Cade echoed.
Daisy shook her head. ”You are seriously retarded.”
Smiling, Cade said,” It’s a gift. But seriously, fruit baskets? For a field agent, Miller has been out of the field for way too long.”
“By the way, you probably should leave headquarters with some bags in the morning, just in case eyes are watching. You have to sell them that the bags are heavy.”
Daisy agreed. “I’ll grab some gear bags from the property room, stuff them with newspaper and drag them out to my car.”
“Miller will be watching with a team in case they try for you at headquarters or on the route over to Imation.”
“It’s a possibility,” Daisy said, “however, that’s not the way they worked it in Grand Marais. They waited for both sides to be present before they moved in. That way, all the loose ends are tied up.”
“All the loose ends except for me, anyway. While Miller is watching your ass, I’ll be going to Imation a couple of hours before the meeting to scout it and get in position. I want to be ready for them.” Cade looked grim.
“Just stay professional on this. Your feelings will only lead you down the wrong path.” Daisy’s concern was evident on her face.
“No worries,” Cade said. “That’s why the FBI is involved. They’re always in control.”
“Have you forgotten Waco?”
“Ancient history, Daisy. Ancient history.” He reached across and touched her outstretched fingers. “Thank you.”
Cade held her eyes for an uncomfortable moment, and then drove off. “Pasta banana,” he called.
Kim arrived just before the pizza was delivered. She walked in, having changed into jeans and a long sleeve shirt with the band U2 on it. She still looked hot, Cade thought as he handed her a beer.
“Welcome to my new home.” He pulled her close, smelling her perfume. She gave him a lingering kiss.
“Mmm, now this is how a woman likes to be greeted.”
“I knew you would like the beer,” he said quickly covering his shoulder. “Too quick for you. You see, I have your moves all figured out.”
Kim looked deep into his eyes. “I’ll let you in on a secret. I have moves you’ve never seen. Ever. And if you play your cards right, I might just show them to you.”
With a glance out the front window, Cade said, “I can’t even find the box that has my cards. How about some food? I can at least offer you some pizza.”
The doorbell rang; the chimes reminded Cade of a churchbell. It was oddly comforting.
Kim was still giggling as she opened the pizza box. “You sure know the way to a girl’s heart.”
Late in the evening, Andrew Bishop was sitting alone in his office. A solitary lamp the only light in the darkness. His phone rang, pulling him from his thoughts.
“Tomorrow’s the day,” a cultured voice announced, the British accent prominent. “And you and I will make our exchange on Sunday morning.”
Martin Clement laid out the details of the transfer. It was obvious to Bishop that Clements had thoroughly scouted out the location.
After Martin Clements had hung up, Bishop thought that he’d made the correct choice by hiring him. With Clements’ detailed planning, there was nothing left to chance, and that would keep them both out of trouble. Talk about being dead wrong.
Saturday, day nine
Four a.m. The sky filled with stars, the promise of a sunny start to the weekend evident. Cade swung his unmarked cruiser through the Imation headquarters parking lot to get a quick feel for the place. Although spun off from 3M, Imation never seemed to reach the potential its founders had planned for. The headquarters grounds were expansive with multiple buildings and multiple parking lots. The building furthest to the west remained empty and unused, not even a security vehicle in the lot.
Across the four lanes of Highway 5 was a new 24 hour fitness club. Cade parked near the entrance so as not to stand out. Grabbing the gear bag from the trunk, he hustled back across the highway at just under a full sprint. His time in the BCA had taught him the importance of getting to a meeting early. You need to arrive first to get the lay of the land and get into position undetected.
Knowing where Daisy would meet Miller for the pretend money transfer gave Cade the tactical advantage over the hit team. They would have to react to the arriving vehicles, moving into a position that Cade would already have covered. Looking at the site map, basically an overhead view of the facility, showed the three buildings spread out east to west in the center of the circular layout. The main entrance along with several parking lots was on the south end at 6:00. Smaller parking areas were located at 3:00, 9:00 and 11:00. The 9:00 parking lot was chosen because of the empty west building, limited vehicle access and the cover offered by the tree-lined ridge that overlooked the lot. Cade had a dark thought: the hit team could make the same assumption.
Keeping low, Cade slowly moved through the cover of the dense trees. He chose a spot where he could effectively watch Daisy and the overlooking ridge in case an approach on foot was used. However, Cade and Miller both agreed the most likely approach would be using vehicles to block Daisy and Miller’s cars, as they did in Grand Marais.
Cade pulled out a Kimber Advanced Tactical rifle from his gear bag. The Kimber can hit a target at 1,000 yards with a .308 round, which was more than four times the range he would need. Getting into a prone position, Cade supported the stock with a sandbag and sighted through the night vision scope. He focused on the near corner of the parking lot where the meeting would take place, noting the great sightlines. He tracked the rifle back toward the lot’s entrance, checking for any obstructions should he need to engage them further back. It was clear.
Next, Cade sighted the rifle at the far end of the ridge. Target acquisition through a night vision scope was an exercise in patience, so it was best to sight in probable locations in advance. Cade slowly tracked inward from the far edge looking for likely positions where the team may seek cover if they chose to approach on foot. Roughly 15 yards from the outside edge Cade stopped and held his breath. Something low to the ground had moved. It took a few moments to register what he was viewing through the green tinted scope. Apparently, he wasn’t the only one out here early. There was someone looking back at him through a riflescope.
Rolling hard to his left, Cade needed to get out of the sniper’s view. Crack, the distinctive sound of the high velocity round sounded like a thunderbolt in the still morning air. He heard the impact just inches to his right. Abandoning the rifle, Cade kept rolling through the dense underbrush, feeling the prickly barbs tearing at his clothing and exposed skin. Confident he was clear of the sniper now, Cade held still, listening. There were furtive sounds of someone moving towards his location; the stealthy movements of someone stalking him. Cade reached for his pistol, thankful for the reassuring feel of the grip in his hand. Trying not to alert the stalker to his location, he slowly moved the weapon up in front of him. Cade was on his stomach, his outstretched hand holding the Glock, anticipating movement. He heard a muffled snap of a branch roughly 20 yards ahead and to his right and shifted his aim in that direction.
The sudden vibration of his cell phone almost caused Cade to pull the trigger. He could feel his heart race as he reached down with his free hand fumbling for his phone. He moved it up by his face, seeing Miller’s name on the I.D. He flipped it open to quiet the vibration. Miller spoke, “All quiet here. Daisy has the bags in her trunk and we’re headed your way. Be alert, they’re going to be at your position—if they show at all.”
Keeping his voice to a harsh whisper, Cade spat into the phone, “They are here. I’m on the overlooking ridge. They’re shooting at me. I need back up.”
“I can’t hear you buddy,” Miller replied. “We’ll be there in five minutes. Stay alert.”
Cade got a glimpse of a beefy figure stepping around a tree as Miller was talking. The man was a lot closer than Cade would have guessed. At the moment, he was looking beyond Cade and to his left. He would be noticed at any second though. Cade squeezed off a round as he dropped the phone, still hearing Miller talking. The shot took the man in the chest and dropped him out of Cade’s view.
Miller was shouting now, and even though Cade couldn’t make out the words, he got the gist of it. Another shot rang out, this time from behind. Getting his legs underneath, Cade dove for the cover of a large oak. Reaching around, Cade took a few shots in the shooter’s direction hoping to buy some time. His phone had to be abandoned for the moment; his rifle and a back up pistol in the gear bag were also out of the picture. Help was coming, however Cade seriously doubted they would be here soon enough to make a difference. He was going to have to make this work on his own.
Cade fired another shot from the edge of the tree and furiously backpedaled crawling away from the tree. Putting some distance from where they thought he was hiding would give him a little advantage. When you’re crawling around in the dark and someone is shooting at you, you need as much advantage as you can get. Several trees back, Cade stopped his backwards movement and started to go to his left. From his new angle watching the oak, Cade saw the man approach. He was moving warily, his M16 sweeping in front of him, seeking its target. And as the intended target, Cade was grateful that his misdirection had worked.
Cade’s Glock was tracking the man’s steady progress towards the large oak, when Cade said quietly, “It’s over.”
The stocky man froze, only his eyes moving as they shifted to Cade, clearly evaluating his options. It was obvious that this man was a professional, his training winning out over the fight or flight impulse that would overwhelm a less experienced field operative.
“I’m not ready to relinquish my only advantage,” the man said evenly. “Perhaps you would consider allowing me to walk away.”
It was an attempt to delay the situation, allowing his partner to gain position on Cade. There could be no good that would come from his scenario. They wouldn’t allow Cade to walk away a second time.
“You have five seconds to stand down,” Cade said. “Drop your weapon, on your knees and put your hands on your head. I’ll put a bullet through your head—you have three seconds left.”
Time slowed. Cade saw the man’s eyes flick up and focus behind him. Two scenarios ran through Cade’s head in a brief nano-second: either he wants me to believe someone is behind me so I’ll turn around or there really is someone behind me. Either way I die.
A third option came to Cade as he watched the man’s jaw muscles tighten and the barrel of the M16slide toward him: stick to the plan. Cade squeezed off a single shot that snapped the man’s head back with such force that his entire body left the ground for one final moment.
Rolling hard to his left, Cade swung his Glock up, searching for someone behind him. No one was there.
Adrenaline pumping, breathes coming in ragged gasps, Cade made a supreme effort to slow down. If he were to make it through the next 20 minutes, he would need to stay silent and locate the third and last player in this deadly game. Listening carefully, Cade couldn’t detect the sound of movement, only the sound of semi trucks from the nearby interstate.
Slowly getting up to his knees, he crawled over to the body. Picking up the man’s M16, Cade got to his feet and tucked away his pistol. He slowly retraced his route looking for his cell phone and was relieved to find it after a brief search. It could get quite hairy not being able to communicate when Miller’s cavalry descended on the area.
Any good hunter—whether a deer hunter or a sniper—will tell you that stealth is everything. You have to move slower than Grandpa driving to church on a Sunday morning. Listen. Step carefully as you slowly shift weight to your front foot. And then stop, listening again. Its patience that will allow you undiscovered access to your target‑or keep you alive when you’re on the wrong end of the gun.
Cade reached the spot where he was first shot at, finding his discarded gear. The Kimber safely back in his hands, Cade grabbed his gear bag tucking in the confiscated M16. Moving ten yards north, he poked the scope through a tangle of growth looking to see if the last surviving member had stayed put. It would greatly simplify things if he had. He hadn’t.
Cade needed to know where the other members of the team were located. He didn’t want anyone killed by confusion. Miller answered on the first ring. “Jesus. Where are you?”
“I missed you too old buddy. I’m up on the ridge, in the south end. You?”
“I’m just below the ridge—also on the south end,” Miller replied. “Come find me.”
Cade switched his Kimber for the M16 and slung the gear bag over his shoulder. It took several minutes of the listen-step-stop-listen mode of travel, but as he moved further south, Cade got the feeling he was headed away from trouble and he quickened his pace. He spotted Miller, who was attempting to seclude himself behind a stand of trees, however it didn’t look as if he tried too hard. Cade thought a nearsighted girl scout out on her first nature walk could have picked him out in a heartbeat. As Cade emerged from the cover of the ridge, he gave Miller a wave. Miller, looked behind him as if he was surprised that Cade had picked out at all, let alone so quickly. Cade pointed at Miller and nodded, yes you.
Waving him up to the ridge, Cade watched Miller step out with a M16 of his own slung over his shoulder. He moved stiffly, awkwardly stepping over the uneven ground. Miller just didn’t look like he belonged in the field. After many years as a desk jockey, an agent loses their edge and a return to the field is in no one’s best interest. It couldn’t be helped this morning. Cade glanced behind Miller and scanned the perimeter looking for Daisy and Miller’s team. There was no one in sight. This field team must be well trained, they were nowhere in sight.
Miller gave Cade a shoulder slap, relief on his face. “Glad to see you. You had me worried there for a while.”
“I was worried for awhile there too. I don’t like being outgunned and shot at. It’s not how I like to start my weekend.”
Miller nodded. “So, what happened?”
“I got here early, real early to get a jump on them. I had my Kimber and was sighting in probable target locations when I saw they had me in their sights. Literally. One of them was watching me through his sniper scope. I got here early, but they must have been here all night.”
“That could be. There’s a reason they’ve been successful so far,” Miller said. “How do you suppose they knew where we would be in the complex? One of the reasons we chose this place, was it’s so sprawling they would have to react to us rather than get set up for an ambush.”
“I thought about that as I was getting in position actually. There really was only one area of this complex that afforded cover and limited access. Their educated guess was based on solid tactical observation.”
“So go on,” Miller requested. “What happened?”
“I made a tactical retreat to get out of the crosshairs.”
“You ran away,” Miller observed.
“Did not, I moved into a superior strategic position. He almost got me too. After that, they separated and came at me from different angles. I was on the phone with you when the first one found me.”
“Scared the shit out of me,” Miller said shaking his head.
“I gathered that by your shouting,” Cade said with a grin. “Both him and his partner are done, out of the picture. As for the third man, the one with the scope, I haven’t seen him since.” Looking around, Cade said, “Where’s Daisy?”
Miller pointed north, toward the far end of the ridge. “She’s gone around to the far side.”
Cade grabbed Miller’s sleeve. “Let’s go. She might be in danger. She’s headed for the shooter.”
They started at a light jog moving over the uneven terrain of the western edge of the ridge. “Where’s your team?” Cade asked.
The answer stopped Cade right where he was, Miller continuing for a moment. Cade was stunned. “There is no team?”
Miller shook his head. “If I brought in our tactical team, there would be no way to keep this quiet. And when word gets out, how long do you think it would be before the senate sub-committee on intelligence would be calling for our director’s resignation?”
“Yeah, I get that. But you really put our lives at risk by not being open with us,” Cade said squaring off, poking his finger in Miller’s chest. “You feds always put your own interests first. Never mind what’s right or fair. I suppose that’s how you’ve lasted so long in the bureau.”
Now it was Miller’s turn to get angry. He pushed Cade’s hand away. “Fair? I didn’t have to, but I pulled you in on this because of your history with these guys. Don’t bring your chip-on-the-shoulder attitude. What’s done is done.”
Cade pulled out his cell phone. “I’m not sacrificing Daisy for this. I can have backup here in a New York minute.”
Miller held his eye. “Think about what you’re doing. Think about the implications. You just shot two men. So what if was self defense? What happens when a law enforcement officer discharges his weapon? There’s an inquiry. Now how about when he shoots a suspect? A longer investigation, right? How long do you suppose the investigation will be when two federal officers are killed?”
Cade looked at Miller, feeling the early morning chill for the first time. “I’ll be alright. They’ll find it justified, my use of lethal force.”
Miller folded his arms, his hostility obvious. “Maybe so, but you’ll lose your case. You will be on suspension pending the outcome of the investigation. We both know a shooting this complicated will take at least six weeks to sort out. Your case will be taken away from you—the biggest case the patrol has had in easily a dozen years. If that’s okay with you, make the call.”
Cade lowered the phone. “Damn you, Miller.”
“It’s not my doing.”
“Effin’ politics,” Cade spat out. “Lets go.” He took off at a run leaving Miller to catch up.
Daisy was on the ground, the tall man standing over her unmoving body. Struggling to get enough oxygen, he was breathless as he took in large breaths. Looking at him, bloody streaks covering the left side of his face, it sure didn’t look he won the fight. Cade stepped into the open, his M16 pointed at the man’s head.
“You’re done,” Cade said between his clenched teeth. Cade watched him flick his eyes around, taking inventory of his surroundings and gauging the distance to his rifle that was lying nearby. To dissuade him a bit, Cade squeezed off a round that impacted the ground near the rifle. It seemed to work, as the man stopped looking around and gave Cade his full attention.
“You’ve killed too many of my partners,” Cade told him.
“It couldn’t be helped. Your partners were involved in a northern Minnesota drug trafficking operation. Don’t look surprised, I know who you are. Corrupt cops like them have no place. Period.”
Cade moved forward, closing the distance between them. He felt his anger coming to the surface. “You just don’t get it, do you? You’re such a sanctimonious prick Newell. Yeah, don’t look surprised either, I know who you are.”
“We both know who you are,” Miller’s voice said behind him.
The look on Newell’s face was priceless as he went from arrogant to surprised, followed by a brief second of confusion that quickly shifted to a whole new paradigm of understanding. “Oh fuck. This is a set up.”
“Uh huh,” Cade said as he nodded. “By the way, my partners and I were just moving to for the arrest when you executed them in Grand Marais. What did you expect them to do when they see their suspects cut down right in front of them? Some of us take our oath to uphold the law seriously. My team was just doing their job when you turned your guns on them.”
Cade looked down at Daisy’s body, her dark hair cascaded around her head. He felt his finger tighten on the trigger of the M16. Miller touched his arm, which was enough to ease his pressure on the trigger. “She was just doing her job too, you dumbass.”
Newell looked confused. “She’s not dead.” His hands went out, palms turned up. “Just unconscious.”
Letting the rifle slip from his fingers, Cade was beyond caring where he was. He dropped to his knees, gently rolling Daisy to her side. Tenderly, Cade swept her hair from her face. Not seeing any blood, Cade moved two fingers to her carotid artery in her neck checking for a pulse.
“I’m alive,” Daisy said, her voice sounding gravelly. “Are you sure you know what you’re doing? I’m not really enjoying being poked in the neck.”
Jerking his hand back, looking everything like the boy caught with his hand in the cookie jar, Cade started, “Daisy …”
“Hey, hold it,” Miller shouted. The burst from his M16 set on full auto was deafening. Cade glimpsed up to see Newell cut down by Miller’s rounds. His body went down, sprawling face up just beyond Daisy. One of Newell’s hands was caught underneath his back, his dead eyes staring skyward in the crisp morning air.
“He was going for his gun,” Miller said. With Newell’s arm caught behind him, he certainly could have been going for a pistol concealed in his waistband. Cade stood up helping Daisy to her feet. Grabbing his gear bag, they started towards the cars. He didn’t need to know if Miller was actually correct about Newell’s gun. He didn’t really care.
“Hey,” Miller said, “you guys take off. You don’t need to stay—in fact it would be better if you were never here in the first place. This is a FBI deal.”
“Fine,” Cade replied over his shoulder. “And good luck keeping this quiet.”
Feeling dead tired, Cade glanced at Daisy. “He’s not going to call anyone, you know. I guess you can never know who to trust,” he said wearily. They walked along in silence, as the morning sun peeked over the tops of the trees.
Autumn in Minnesota can be a funny thing. It can turn viciously cold and windy, forcing the beleaguered residents to bunker down for the long, cold, winter months. For most, outdoor activities consist of shoveling snow from driveways and running from their cars to their destination. Of course, there are those really hearty souls, with anti-freeze coursing through their veins that live here also. You’ll find them out on the frozen lakes, drilling holes to go ice fishing, all the while drinking cold beer. Minnesota can be a strange place.
On the other hand, autumn could bring some of the most glorious days of the year. The occasional airflow coming from the pacific brings in welcome balmy air. The humidity has receded and the mosquitoes have gone wherever mosquitoes go this time of the year—no doubt carrying off smaller animals to feast on for the winter.
Today was one of those glorious days that Minnesotans dream of, a day to linger outside in the sunshine, where the memories of this warm jewel of a day would be enough to keep them warm for months to come. The sun was shining, with a warm breeze blowing in from the southwest. The leaves, though past their prime, were still a beautiful shade of orange. Children were out playing in the yard, parents were getting in their last lawn mowing session of the season, or some were actually putting up their Christmas lights before the weather turned on them.
Cade woke up to the sunshine coming through his blinds. He was momentarily disoriented waking up in his new surroundings. As he became more alert, Cade smiled, thinking it was very nice to wake up in his new bedroom. This house had felt like home from the very first moment he had walked into the foyer.
He lay there on his back, arms and legs outstretched, just taking it in. His feeling, though difficult to express, was one of grounding. Having a home of his own settled him; giving Cade what he hadn’t realized he needed. His life and career had been in turmoil for so long that he hadn’t had anything to hold on to.
He hadn’t even had a relationship that brought him stability. However, his budding romance with Kim had sparked a light in him. The smile of a beautiful woman could bring a little bounce to your step. And when she smiled just because she enjoyed being with you, well, that could be life changing.
He was still thinking these warm thoughts when she came in. Her blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail, wearing a t-shirt and a smile. “Good morning, sleepyhead. Where did you run off to earlier this morning?”
He yawned. “I couldn’t sleep, so I just got up for awhile and took care of some unfinished business. It feels good to put the past behind me.”
Kim climbed in bed next to Cade. Crawling on top of him, she gave him a slow, lingering kiss. “I have an hour or so before I need to be at a showing. Are you hungry?”
Cade rolled her over so he was on top, looking into her eyes.
“Not hungry in the least,” he said, leaning in close.
Martin was also awake. He’d been awake now for several hours, the adrenaline surge taking him as soon as his eyes fluttered open. Today was the day. The long awaited day he would complete the job. And there was no question about it—he would complete it. Desperate men paid Martin large fees for that very reason: he always completed his jobs.
As ever, the money wasn’t his motivating factor. He thrived on the challenge, the audacity of it all. When it came together, the feeling was like no other. The sheer complexity of Martin’s plan would panic many men, but not Martin. That’s why he was as good as he was.
To make sure he was as sharp as he could possibly be, Martin thought getting a little caffeine couldn’t hurt. There was only one obvious choice for this destination. He hoped that Desirae would be there, now that would be Nirvana.
His Land Rover was packed with his equipment, as well as his belongings. Depending on his results, he may not make it back here to his Stillwater loft. He would miss the place. There was a comfort to it, as well as the palpable charm the older building had. He doubted that the authorities would be able to put enough of the pieces together to lead them back here. Of course, he had taken great care in wiping down the place. In his previous recovery efforts, the law enforcement community had been left with just a few of the pieces, and was never able to come close to Martin.
Meticulous planning, as well using blind agents—such as the modeling agency—who had no idea of their part in Martin’s plan—ensured he would be untouched. Martin was only touched when he wanted to be touched.
The Dunn Bros Coffee shop was busy. Martin noticed the variety of people that were there. Women out for a morning chat and lattés, dads with their children and sweaty looking people obviously coming from a local gym for a post-workout energy boost. Waiting in the line, three people in front of him, Martin caught Desirae’s eye and smiled at her. She smiled back at him and Martin knew this would be a good day.
“Good morning, Martin,” she said, her eyes twinkling. “Good to see you again. I heard that you were having David Beckham at your festival today.”
“Looks like all the handsome British men will be there,” Desirae continued. “I might have to try and catch the end of it. Chocolate steamed Nirvana?”
Martin nodded. “Whipped cream?” she asked.
“Always,” Martin said. “Pierce Brosnan won’t be there.”
“Pardon me?” She jotted a note on the side of his cup.
“Pierce Brosnan won’t be there,” Martin repeated. “You said all the handsome British men would be there.”
“He’s too old for me.”
“Jude Law couldn’t make it either,” Martin said.
“Too much of a ladies man,” Desirae said with a smile. “And he’s losing his hair.”
“Orlando Bloom and Ewan McGregor had other commitments.” Martin folded his arms, looking confident.
“Their loss, not mine. Anyway, all the handsome British men that I care about will be there.”
Martin watched her make his coffee. “I had no idea you were such a big David Beckham fan.”
“I’m not.” She handed him his drink. Desirae smiled at him and went back to helping the other customers. Walking out, Martin glanced at the cup and saw a telephone number scribbled on the side. It was going to be a good day.
Arriving at the site of the soccer festival, Martin thought it was perfect. Richard Walton Park in Oakdale was a sprawling recreational area covering 80 acres of land in the heart of the suburban city. It includes a four-field adult regulation softball complex, a four-field youth baseball/softball complex and a full-size football field, all under lights; three tennis courts; two basketball courts; a regulation-size hockey rink; three picnic shelters; a children’s playground area; and a band shell that hosts the city’s summer concert series. It was also quite close to the State Patrol headquarters.
The scope of the festival had grown rather large in the last few days. The coup of the David Beckham appearance had pushed the event over the edge, so now this event—this diversion, actually—was the talk of the town. The Governor had actually declared today “Chelsea America day.”
The brilliance was that everybody thought someone else was behind the festival. The city of Oakdale and the modeling agency thought the team was the driving force. Though, to their credit, they got behind the event in a big way. The public relations agency and the Chelsea America team itself thought the city of Oakdale was behind the event. Martin had seen a television interview with Andrew Bishop talking about how honored the team was that Oakdale has offered to host the festival. The same reporter had interviewed an Oakdale official who had talked about the privilege of hosting the celebration for the new Chelsea America soccer team.
Martin thought that, oddly enough, he had done more for soccer in Minnesota than anyone had done previously.
The remainder of the morning was a whirlwind. He checked in with Rafe and Anne from the Meredith Agency. Anne was looking fantastic, and returned his smile. He then met with his project manager from the public relations agency. Stephanie had her team assembled in a tent just behind the band shell. She said that all the television stations had run features previewing the event last evening and both of the major newspapers had front page stories this morning. She said that fortunately Saturday’s were slower news days and at least three of the local news stations had committed to having news crews at the scene. The more the merrier, Martin thought.
Stephanie had been on the phone with Bishop earlier and he had told her that he had flown in a half dozen of the authentic Chelsea players to go with the agency’s model players. “He was most excited by all the attention. He almost seemed a bit manic. This must mean a lot to him,” she said.
“More than you know,” Martin said with a wry smile.
By two in the afternoon, the park was completely packed. A band, The Jonas Brothers, was playing to a wildly enthusiastic crowd of mostly teenagers. Parents watched from the crowd’s fringe, thankful that the music was safe for younger ears. They were plenty loud, though.
There were inflatable jumpers for the little kids, soccer skills demonstrations, numerous plasma screens with rock video-like clips of Chelsea highlights, and some of the most amazing looking cheerleaders wearing some of the most provocative uniforms you were likely to see in a Midwestern state like Minnesota.
Chelsea replica jerseys and caps were being given away at all the park’s entrances. Several radio stations were broadcasting live reports from the event. The big news was that at three, Beckham was scheduled to introduce the team. In fact, a caravan was on the way from the airport with David Beckham and the entire team. Beckham’s escort was a fleet of State Patrol troopers. You can’t take a chance these days with the dangerous state of affairs on the highways.
The State Highway Patrol was not only providing the Beckham escort, but were dealing with traffic at the 10th Street exits on Highway 694. Both were backed up for a quarter mile. Traffic was also tied up for a mile around Richard Walton Park. People from all over the metro area and western Wisconsin were descending on Oakdale. Based on how many officers he saw, the entire Oakdale police department appeared to be working today. The Washington County sheriff’s were on hand as well. They were kept busy, and not just at the park, but the nearby intersections required traffic direction also.
Cade was pleasantly surprised by the turnout at the park. This had to bode well for soccer in Minnesota. Cade had seen another
professional team come to Minnesota a number of years back and then fold after three seasons. He had been heartbroken for months when the team left. The Chelsea team had better stick around here. The European clubs had lifelong fans; you cheered on the team that your father supported and of course he was cheering on the team his father had supported. When you had generations of supporters, you did not just pick up the team and move it to Dallas or wherever. It was more than business. It was a passion.
As Cade walked through the park taking it in, he wished that Kim could be here too. She was working, showing houses to a young family that had recently moved to the area. It was quite the week with Kim; Cade had been impressed with not only her driving, but also her fearlessness during the chase on Wednesday. She was tough and hot.
The night with Kim was unbelievable. He could not get enough of her. She …
Cade was pulled from his thoughts when he walked into a couple that had stopped in front of him by the edge of the crowd near the bandstand. He offered what he thought was a lame excuse for not paying attention. The announcer on stage said that David Beckham and the team was on the way and would take the stage shortly. The energy from the crowd was electric as the band resumed playing. Cade was feeling it too.
Martin swung the Land Rover into the deserted parking lot of the DOT. He backed it up to the rear of the building. Back here, he was out of sight and far away from any ears that might hear him. If someone came upon him, he was confident that he could talk his way out of whatever jam he was in. His accent typically carried an air of authority on this side of the pond. Chances are, if he was spotted, he wouldn’t be challenged—Martin was dressed to blend in. He was dressed in your basic highway construction worker uniform: jeans, work boots, white t-shirt and vest. If it came down to it and he couldn’t bluff his way out with bluster and bullshit, he could at least stall long enough to make a break for it.
There were thieves that resorted to violence to achieve their goals. If someone stood in their way, too bad. Unlike these more common thieves, Martin couldn’t hurt anyone. He wouldn’t carry a gun, though while he lived just a bit on the other side of the line most people didn’t cross, violence wasn’t a part of him. He was too smart, too sophisticated for that. Besides, it would take the fun out of it for him. He lived for the game, the thrill of it. Violence wasn’t going to add anything for him.
Martin brought out his duffel bag and approached the side entrance. There was a card reader mounted on the door frame of the employee entrance. Martin’s unofficial entrance card was connected to his laptop. Rather than swiping the card, he held it in place and hit the enter button to start his cracking program. It wasn’t like the movies, where numbers flashed across the screen and three seconds later the password was figured out. And for some reason, the hacker guy always said, “We’re in.”
Martin’s program penetrated the software and queried the database. It looked for the most recent entry and duplicated it.
It was a long forty seconds, but it worked. The light went green and the door lock clicked open. He smiled and said to himself, “We’re in.”
Slinging his duffel bag over his shoulder, Martin lowered the bill on his cap—his new Chelsea America cap—and entered the building. The lights were off, but there was enough light coming through the windows to see what he needed to see.
Martin made his way to the back of the building. He followed a series of offices that were along the side wall. The last office was the corner office, an office that also happened to back up to the rear wall of the facility. He read the nameplate on the door: Ricardo Sanchez, Human Resources Director.
No doubt Ricardo would be happy to loan out his office for a bit. Martin tried the door. Locked. There must be some sensitive personnel files that needed to be kept locked up in a secure office. It took him less than twenty seconds to get the door open.
Maybe he should find his friend Shirley’s personnel file and leave a letter of commendation for all her assistance. Something along the lines of, “I couldn’t have done it without her kind assistance. She went completely out of her way to help me case the entire facility.” Maybe not.
Martin stepped back out of Ricardo’s office looking for a maintenance closet. He found one along the rear of the building. This door was also locked. For a transportation department, this was a very secure facility. And oddly enough, this lock was more sophisticated than the human resources director’s. It took him a full thirty seconds to open the door.
Inside, Martin found two ladders, and he took the longer one. He needed to get up into the ceiling if he was going to be successful today. Back in Ricardo’s office, he moved a smaller conference table against the wall. The ladder was leaned against the wall that adjoined the Highway Patrol’s facility.
He took a moment to pick up a framed picture that had been on the table. He wasn’t sure if it was Ricardo’s wife or daughter, but she was quite striking. He gently placed the frame on the desk, touched two fingers to her lips and said, “This one’s for you.” He quickly ascended the ladder and pushed up the acoustical ceiling panel.
Martin’s flashlight lit up the confined space. This was going to be easier than he had hoped. There wasn’t any sort of divider between the two halves of the facility. Why would they need one? Really, who breaks into a police station? Martin could only think of one person. Balancing on the edge of the wall frame, Martin pulled up the ceiling tile and looked down into the State Patrol facility. It was dark. He took that as a good sign.
With the light of his flashlight, Martin saw he was in some sort of storage room. There were displays, possibly from some sort of exhibit. The headline reads “Just Slow Down.” It went on to say that people are driving too fast, especially in poor driving conditions. From what Martin knew of the varied weather in Minnesota, he thought that sounded like good advice.
Slowly, he retraced his route and went back down the ladder. If he went down into the Patrol facility, there would be no turning back. But were there any reasons, any signs that he should turn back? No. His planning had been quite thorough and quite bold. Martin thought it was a go. He grabbed his duffel bag and was back up the ladder in a flash.
He dropped the duffel in the storage room and lowered himself on to the shelving unit. He used it as a ladder and quickly reached the ground. From the duffel, he took out his mirror. The mirror was mounted on a short pole and was designed to help him see around the corner. There shouldn’t be anyone in the facility, but it always paid to be careful. He opened the door slowly, allowing his eyes to adjust to the bright light of the hallway.
Slowly and carefully, Martin reached the mirror out into the corridor. He saw that the hallway was clear. He rotated it to observe as much detail as possible. The property room was on the far end of the hallway, past the stairwell he had used during his tour. Rotating the mirror in the opposite direction, he looked behind the storage room’s door. There it was, mounted high on the wall, a surveillance camera. He had spotted it during his earlier reconnaissance. He had been careful to keep his face turned away from the ever vigil lens. Now he would have to deal with it.
His trip to Home Depot had prepared him for this. He pulled out the laser leveler he had purchased there. It was mounted on a mini tripod; he reached out and placed it on the floor directly in front of the doorway. With the aid of his mirror, he tilted the leveler upwards, adjusting the aim. It was a slow process, centimeter by centimeter, but there—he had it pointed directly into the lens of the surveillance camera. He had effectively blinded the camera.
Cade moved his way towards the front of the crowd. The band, too young for his tastes, was just finishing their song. Starting faint, but soon overpowering the applause from the crowd was the sound of a powerful motorcycle. The cycle swung up onto the sidewalk driving directly toward the stage. Cade had a momentary vision of the maniacs on the highway, but relaxed when he saw the local police clearing the path for the motorcycle. There was a ramp that ran from the left side of the stage down to the sidewalk. The driver of the motorcycle, wearing a black helmet and a black leather jacket with England stitched on the back, steered the large bike onto the ramp. The driver gunned it hard up the ramp causing the front wheel to lift off the ground. The crowd went wild at the sight of the wheelie.
Energized by the crowd, the driver goosed the throttle as the bike drove onto the stage. The band had retreated to the relative safety of the far end of the stage. The driver hit the brake hard causing the rear wheel to slide toward the back of the stage leaving the driver facing the crowd. There was quiet as the crowd took in this daredevil motorcyclist. The driver suddenly gunned the motor causing more than a few in the crowd to gasp or jump.
Sensing the power that he held over the thousands in the crowd, the driver quickly cut the engine and stood up. No one said a word. The driver reached up and started to lift off his helmet. Cade felt himself drawn into the moment, the sheer spectacle of it. The helmet came off and there was a collective gasp of excitement. Standing there smiling on this stage in Oakdale, Minnesota was David Beckham.
The crowd went wild.
Martin stepped out over the laser device, careful not to block the beam. Moving down the corridor, he paused at the stairwell to listen for a long moment. It was quiet. He moved down to the steel property room door. Besides the steel of the door itself, there was another keycard reader and a thumbprint scanner. Obviously, he would have little difficulty with the keycard reader. He could breach the thumbprint scanner as well—given enough time. But there was an easier way.
But first, Martin headed for the stairs. He went to the top and again used his mirror device. It was clear. He really didn’t think anyone was here; it didn’t feel occupied. But good habits stay with you. He called out using his best American accent, “Hey Bob, I found the short in the air conditioner unit.”
There was only the hum of the ventilation system. He was alone and could get away with making a bit of noise.
Back at the property room door, Martin pulled out his power saw. He plugged it into the nearby outlet and pulled on the safety goggles and work gloves that had come from his shopping trip on Wednesday. He had tested the saw blade and now double-checked that it was attached securely. This blade was the key to his entry. The diamond-studded blade could cut through nearly anything.
Martin looked at the imposing door, held up the saw, firing it up to full speed and took two steps to his right.
Rather than tackle the heavily fortified steel door, it would be immensely easier to just go through the wall. Martin ran the saw vertically along the side of the door. He then ran the saw across and back down creating his own doorway. The wall was constructed of cement blocks and the process was slow, messy and loud, but it was working. Martin was cutting his way into the property room.
The crowd was still cheering as David Beckham swung his leg around and stepped off the cycle. He dropped his helmet and ambled to the front of the stage. The intensity was picking up as the crowd noise grew. Arriving at the edge of the stage, Beckham paused, gave his trademark smile, and turned to face the back of the stage. He was wearing the waist length leather jacket, jeans and black boots. He made a show of slowly pulling the zipper down on the leather jacket. The crowd noise had become louder and distinctly feminine as the zipper reached the bottom.
Glancing over his shoulder, Beckham reached up and pulled the jacket down his shoulders exposing the Chelsea America jersey he was wearing. His nickname, BECKS, was lettered across the back. The crowd loved it.
The nearby dogs had to be barking from the girl’s high-pitched screaming, Cade thought. This must have been what it was like to be at a Beatles concert.
Chips of cement were pounding into Martin’s safety goggles, obscuring his vision. There were people that did this sort of work for a living. Unbelievable. He enjoyed the physical aspect of the work, but the noise and the sheer grime of it, he could live without. Not that they ran in the same circles, but if Martin ever met this sort of tradesman, he would buy the man a pint right there on the spot.
Using a crisscross pattern, Martin cut down several inches into the block. Setting down the saw, he picked up a sledge hammer chisel and knocked out the diamond shaped pieces of concrete. Maybe not with the finesse of an Italian sculptor such as Alessandro Vittoria, but it was effective. One more round with the saw and chisel, and he should have an opening large enough.
Five minutes later, Martin had the doorway open. He took a few extra minutes to clean up the edges, not wanting to catch his clothing or the money bags on his way out. When it was to his satisfaction, he carefully leaned his head into the property room to study the surroundings.
Directly over the new doorway, a camera was mounted to record the comings and goings in the property room. As Martin preferred not to have his visit recorded, he had a simple solution prepared. The can of Silly String covered the lens in a matter of seconds. Effective and bio-degradable as well.
The property room was a fairly large room, not unlike the size of Martin’s last hotel room. Shelves lined the sides of the room with a cage-like structure along the far wall. This apparently was where the seized weapons were held. From the look of things, criminals must be well armed on the highways. While not willing to carry a pistol himself, Martin had an appreciation for a finely crafted weapon. Of course, there were the blunt instruments of the criminal trade such as Smith and Wesson revolvers, pump action shotguns and ugly looking assault rifles, however Martin also saw a Beretta, a Walther PPK and the subtle elegance of the Israeli Bul Cherokee pistol. Oddly enough, there was even the Slovakian K-100 Grand Power pistol hanging in a place of honor on the wall. This had to be a rare weapon for the Minnesota law enforcement community to come across. For better or worse, the world was becoming smaller as everyone was thinking more globally.
The property room’s focal point for Martin, of course, was the safe. Standing just short of two meters, the steel gray safe dominated the center of the room. It was built into a pedestal of concrete and had large reinforced hinges. It was a Centurion, a safe with a solid reputation that wasn’t so much for its sophistication, as it was for being impenetrable. And if you paid big money for a safe, that was probably a good thing.
Unless you are the unlucky person tasked with breaking into the Centurion. Then, not so good.
Cade watched as Beckham moved to the microphone. “I know it’s not really me you came to see.” Lots of vocal protest from the audience.
“One man had the vision. One man had the courage. Only one man had the balls to take a British football club and turn it into an American soccer team.
Ladies and Gentlemen: that man is Andrew Bishop.”
A large man stepped out pumping a single fist in the air. Andrew Bishop was large, but not in an overweight way. He was built like a fighter, large shoulders and hands, an intense look to his face.
Bishop moved to the microphone stand. He held onto the microphone with both hands and looked out into the audience. The capacity crowd was cheering and clapping. Bishop seemed to be just savoring the moment. After a long pause, he smiled.
“Some people just dream,” he said, his British accent noticeable. “And there are those of us that will do whatever it takes to make that dream a reality. I want to thank you for standing up and supporting my dream of bringing world-class football—soccer—to Minnesota. Your team, Chelsea America, is the first step of bringing together the international soccer community. Here in Minnesota, you will have the chance to see international stars from England’s Premier League playing against the stars of the Major League Soccer every week.”
Bishop waved over Beckham who had stepped back relinquishing the spotlight to Bishop. He put his arm around Beckham. “David Beckham is an international star and he has brought considerable publicity to MLS soccer. The league has assured me that our first home match will be against David Beckham and the L.A. Galaxy. It will be an honor to have my team match up against your L.A. Galaxy team in May.”
The crowd was cheering. “What do you think about that?” he asked the crowd.
The crowd was going wild. Bishop waved them down after a few moments.
“There are some lads I would like you to meet. Boys …” Bishop waved over to the side of the stage. A group of young men, around twenty total, all wearing Chelsea America uniforms made their way to the front of the stage.
Bishop again: “Minnesota, this is your team. This is Chelsea America.”
Cade was caught up in the excitement. He was on his feet cheering with the rest of the crowd. Scanning the players, he picked out his friend Peter in the group. Peter had said there was a group of them posing as players. Looking around, many of the players could pass for models he noticed. It should make it easier to market the team he thought.
Bishop went to the microphone again. “The lads would love to meet you and sign autographs. They will be at the tables next to the merchandise tent. We have posters, jerseys, shirts and hats for sale. There are also refreshments available. So pick up a hot dog and a fizzy drink and come meet the team.”
Cade stopped. He didn’t move. Time seemed to swirl around him as his mind raced. That voice. That accent. That voice saying those words. “Fizzy drink.” Son of a bitch.
Martin had two very different strategies that should gain him access to the currency. ‘Should,’ only due to the fact that Martin had actually never encountered a Centurion before. However, the principles that worked on other makes of safes, should work here as well.
His primary strategy entailed using an autodialing machine to open the safe. Unlike the mythical Hollywood machines that can open a combination in seconds, the autodialer must cycle through thousands of combinations to open the safe. Martin had read about two students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Kyle Vogt and Grant Jordan, who had built an autodialer and found an unknown combination in 21,000 tries.
Fortunately for Martin, there also exists a device called a soft drill, that is like an autodialer except it listens to the lock and with the aid of a computer, makes logical decisions like a human manipulator might do. It has a success rate of 95 percent. It still took a bit of time, but Martin was thankful he had packed his soft drill autodialer.
Martin’s backup plan, should the autodialer didn’t get the job done, was more of a brute force approach, but it would work. It would be a cold day before Martin would let a safe—even a Centurion—get the best of him.
The liquid Nitrogen was stored in a vacuum flask. Despite its reputation, liquid nitrogen’s efficiency as a coolant is reduced by the fact that it boils immediately on contact with a warmer object—the safe in this case, enveloping it in insulating nitrogen gas. This effect is known as the Leidenfrost effect and applies to any liquid in contact with an object significantly hotter than its boiling point. Martin had a tray that he would place on the top of the safe. The trick that made this approach effective was that he used a covered tray to contain the nitrogen. As liquid nitrogen evaporates, it will reduce the oxygen concentration in the air and possibly act as an asphyxiant, especially in confined spaces—like a property room.
The tray keeps the nitrogen in contact with the surface of the safe, allowing the nitrogen to do its work and freeze the metal. After several minutes Martin would be able to use his sledge hammer and break through the now brittle metal on the top of the safe. Pretty cool.
The actual soft drill autodialer was an unassuming small black box with a large suction cup mounted to the rear side of the unit. It had two smaller detached suction cups that were the microphones. These sensitive microphones could pick up the softest clicks of the inner workings of the locking mechanism. Both microphones relayed the sounds back into the box, which worked in conjunction with the software program on Martin’s laptop. The two were connected by USB cable and the computer fed its educated guesses back to the dialer—an adjustable centrifuge powered by a small motor—which would spin the safe’s dial again and again. All in all, a very useful device for someone in Martin’s profession.
Careful to place the autodialer in precisely the proper position, Martin adjusted the spinner to fit the combination dial. It had to be centered perfectly as to avoid spinning the dial off center, which would cause added noise and slow the process considerably. Confident that he had it positioned correctly, Martin connected the cable to his laptop. He started his cracking program; the software would guide him on where he should place the suction cup microphones.
The dial started to spin, the quiet whine of the motor the only sound in the room. He placed the first microphone near the dial, and then slid it up and to the left. The digital bar graph went higher. He moved it a bit further to the left. The graph level creeped up a bit more. Martin slid it again, but this time the bar went down. After several more movements, he had locked in the optimal location for this first microphone.
The second microphone started just below the dial. Martin nudged it to the right. And then a bit more to the right, with a little more height this time. The graph went up a fair amount. He nudged it up a little more. The bar went up again. The trouble he was running into though, was the handle was in the way. It looked a little askew though.
Martin had an odd premonition. Suppose . . .
He grasped the handle and lifted it. There was a definite click as the handle went parallel to the floor.
Seriously? Martin had spent not just a little time on his preparation to open this safe. And it was unlocked? It just goes to show that you can’t plan for every eventuality. What if the currency had been moved, or even worse had been deposited into a bank? That was the standard procedure in most seizures of currency. This hadn’t been a standard case, so the money should still be here. Martin was truly afraid to open the safe. But he had to know.
The safe was absolutely stuffed with sealed plastic bags of Euro notes.
Martin felt like doing a little victory dance. Instead, he pulled out several folded canvas duffels from his duffel bag. He carefully packed the plastic bags into the duffels. When the first one was full, he clipped the shoulder strap into place and slid the large duffel over by the door. Bag by bag, he steadily emptied the Centurion safe. Before long, a second duffel was slid over to join the first.
It took a third duffel bag, one that he packed completely full, to empty the safe. Martin had once read about a thief in Belgium that had left an IOU note after emptying the contents of a bank vault. It never pays to get too cute however, when you are trying not to leave any clues behind. Martin carefully closed the door and removed his autodialer. He debated whether to lock it or leave it as he found it. Because it was so obvious that he had broke in—after all, he had cut through the wall—he just left it as he had found it.
With his tools stowed in his equipment bag, Martin picked up a money duffel bag and pushed it through the opening into the hallway. After the third bag was pushed through, Martin stepped out of the property room. The hard part was over.
Martin froze—there were voices coming from up the stairs.
Son of a bitch. Cade was angry. Andrew Bishop had dangled his dream of English soccer coming to Minnesota and Cade had bit. How ironic of all the cops in this Minnesota, that Cade would be the one to put the owner away, no doubt causing the collapse of the new team. Shit.
On the other hand, Bishop has it coming. He was a first rate scum bag who had caused a lot of pain and death in the Twin Cities. Cade smiled; he would enjoy taking this asshole down.
Martin moved against the wall. He slid over to the edge by the stairwell. There were voices drifting down.
The worst time to be discovered is on your way out after breaking in. There really isn’t a way to talk your way out of that situation. This could get interesting.
The voices—there were two of them—were having a conversation. At least that meant they weren’t here for him. As long as they didn’t have a reason to come downstairs, he should be okay. Listening, Martin could pick up what was being said.
“…just fill in your information and sign at the bottom. This protects the Patrol from liability should we happen to run into a concrete wall at 130 miles per hour during a high speed chase and you had forgotten to wear your seatbelt.” Martin heard laughter.
“Is this your first ride along?”
“It is. It should be interesting to see what goes on…” They were moving and Martin was losing some of the conversation.
“We will be spending most of our time this afternoon supporting the soccer festival.” Martin thought that sounded like a great idea.
“Do I get a gun too?” He wished he had caught the trooper’s response, however the gun question was the last of the conversation that Martin heard. It was quiet and deathly still now.
Martin waited for a full five minutes to make sure they had left.
Grabbing two of the money-stuffed duffel bags, Martin headed for the storage room. One by one, he tossed them into the room, careful not to interfere with the laser leveler. He made a trip back for the last money duffel and his tool duffel bag. After they were both tossed into the storage room, he stepped in as well.
Martin leaned out to retrieve the laser leveler. The trick was to grab it in one quick motion and get out of sight. No point in giving them any more photographic evidence to corroborate the video they had of Martin from his earlier reconnaissance. No problem, he had it and stowed it in his gear bag.
Starting with his gear duffel bag, Martin climbed up the shelves in the storage room. At the top, he heaved the bag up into the ceiling. Martin joined the bag in the ceiling, climbed over it, stepped onto the ladder and pulled the bag down with him as he descended into Ricardo’s office. It felt like hours since he’d been here in the human resources director’s office. Checking his watch, it had been only twenty minutes. Of course, when you were breaking into a secure law enforcement facility, twenty minutes was an eternity to be inside. He set the bag down by the door and went back up the ladder.
He repeated this up and down journey three more times. On his way down for the last time, Martin replaced the ceiling tiles. The bags were then shifted out into the hall, and leaving the office he touched two fingers to the striking woman’s lips in the picture frame. “Thanks for watching over me,” he said.
As Martin made the trips to the employee entrance carrying the large bags, he thought that there are times it would be nice to have a partner. Not only someone to help carry the load, but someone he could bounce ideas around with as he devised the plan and then later to celebrate with when the job was complete.
The problem with having a partner was that most people didn’t embrace risk the way he did. Having someone attempt to simplify the plan, taking out the most audacious components would be just wrong. The thrill would be gone. Might as well be a car salesman then. Martin wanted to feel alive, feel the adrenaline coursing through his veins. If you’re going to be alive, then you better live big. Living, surviving and prospering using his nerve, his wits and his sheer bravado made life fun. Settling for anything less would be just like giving up.
Martin had no idea where he got his own passion for living large. He loved and respected his father, but this was the man who lived each day exactly the same.
His father had been a good man, working at the machine shop for thirty years. Every day was the same. Same shit, different day he would say. There were only a few things that would get his passion up, and those seemed to revolve around football. If England was playing well, life was good. If his local team, Arsenal, was playing well, then there was a reason to celebrate with the boys at the pub. When Dennis Bergkamp notched another goal, he would parade around the house singing the team song, You are my Arsenal.
He was a good father and supported Martin as he grew up playing football. Martin could count on him being at each game, cheering the loudest of the fathers. He would never miss a game. There were stretches over the years where the hooting and hollering embarrassed Martin, but he grew to respect his father’s passion. His father would talk about the great footballers that played the game. The players who were not afraid to take on other players in one on one competition. The players that dazzled with their flair and imagination. The players that didn’t limit themselves by their fear of failure. These were the players that intrigued Martin the most. These were the players that had absolutely no fear of failure and refused to settle for being any less than God intended us all to be. We were meant for greatness, so why should we not let our light burn brightly?
Maybe he did know where he acquired his passion from, after all.
The laptop and card were again used to trigger the door lock to exit the department of transportation building. It took just a moment to get the bags stowed in the back of the Land Rover. After that, Martin was off and moving through the deserted lot. He turned left onto Hadley, and took another left onto Highway 5. Within a half minute, he was at the interstate. From here, Martin could go anywhere.
Cade watched Bishop carefully over the course of the afternoon. Bishop stayed with the players, obviously enjoying his time in the spotlight. He signed autographs, shared stories with the players and chatted with the waiting fans in the long line to meet the players. The press and several television stations interviewed Bishop, Cade watching as the big man flirted with the reporter from the Fox affiliate.
After David Beckham and the players left, things wound down fairly quickly. Bishop checked in with several of his people at the season ticket order tables and the merchandise tents. He looked like a man on top of the world. Not for long.
Cade watched as Bishop met up with two men at the parking lot. The men were waiting at a black SUV; however it was a Denali this time around. Bishop tossed in his brief case and climbed into the rear. The men looked around, a wariness in their eyes that was almost animal. When they glanced in his direction, Cade waved at a couple of women who were talking at the edge of the lot and put his arm around one of them as he joined them. The second woman, a college age woman with a jean jacket and a ponytail just stared at him.
“Please work with me here,” Cade said quietly, “I’m an undercover investigator and I need it to look like we’re old friends.”
Cade smiled at the ponytailed woman. “So,” he said with a dramatic pause, “how are you?”
Ponytail hesitated for the briefest of moments and then threw her arms around Cade. “Jeff, why haven’t you called?” she asked with the over-the-top air of a stage actor.
She leaned in and kissed Cade full on the lips. “Honey, it’s been way too long.”
Ponytail did have soft lips, but Cade pulled himself back. He glanced over towards the Denali. It was backing up.
“Always good to see you, let’s do breakfast again real soon,” he said to ponytail with a smile. Cade left her standing there, with a slightly dazed look, no doubt wondering what had just happened. He sprinted off for his car. Can’t lose Bishop now that he was finally on the trail.
Cade had left his car in the front of the lot. Most of the parking lot had emptied, leaving ample space for Cade to back out at speed and turn onto Hadley. The black Denali was roughly two full blocks farther, but it stood out from the sedans around it, leaving Cade little doubt that he could stay with it.
The SUV took him onto 694 briefly and then onto westbound Interstate 94. Cade hung back, falling in behind a red Accord in the right lane. The Denali was in the middle lane a good eighth of a mile ahead. Cade would be inconspicuous keeping behind the Honda. It worked for a few minutes. The problem was the driver of the Honda was drifting over the line occasionally and was being generally erratic with its speed. It looked like the driver was clearly over the legal limit. Damn, there’s never a cop around when you need one.
Cade laughed. There are times that you get so caught up in what you are doing and forget that you are actually a cop. This was not the time to get distracted from Bishop. However, he absolutely couldn’t sit behind this driver. It was driving him nuts. He pulled out into the middle lane and glanced towards the Honda. Damn, it was a high school age girl texting on her phone. Talk about driving while being impaired. He eased his Impala over as close as he dared, held up his badge case and held down the horn.
Her face was a flash of surprise. It looked like she dropped the phone and hit the brake at the same moment. The Honda slowed and was well behind Cade in seconds. Cade could almost guarantee that she wouldn’t be driving while texting any time soon.
Interstate 94 dipped down a steep hill as it approached St. Paul. The city was laid out in postcard-like panoramic view. The Cathedral was on the left towering over the city, while the state capital overlooked from the right. Cade could see the black Denali at the bottom of the hill. He continued to follow it as it turned onto Highway 280. Cade closed up much of the distance, not wanting to get separated. Bishop’s vehicle took the University exit and was waiting at the stoplight in the left turn lane.
Bishop’s vehicle came to a stop in an underground parking lot for a large office building. It was deserted—as one might expect late on a Saturday afternoon. Glancing around, Bishop and the two men exited the vehicle and took the elevator up to their floor.
Cade left his car on University Avenue. He recognized the office building, having been inside for several appointments in the past. It was a newer building, with offices on the upper three floors and restaurants and shops on the ground floor. There were elevator banks located on both the north and south sides of the building. It was an upscale office building located directly between the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Cade ducked into the ramp. It was quiet. There was none of the weekday hustle and bustle to break the silence. Staying close to the inside wall, Cade made his way though the mostly deserted parking structure. There were a few older model vehicles located just inside the entrance. Judging by their well-worn condition, they most likely belonged to the staff of the restaurant that was located just above the entrance. Moving further into the structure, there were a few scattered vehicles, but no Denali.
Because of the quiet—the street sounds didn’t carry this far in, due to the concrete barriers that segmented one section from the next—Cade heard the Denali before he saw it. The little pings of the cooling engine alerted Cade of its presence. He poked his head around the wall and saw the Denali by itself, sitting by an elevator bank. Listening, but not hearing any activity, Cade stepped around the barrier. There was no one there. He moved up to look in the SUV’s window, but the vehicle was clean and empty. The engine pings still the only sound in the empty parking structure.
Cade moved over to the entrance of the elevator bank, a sign marking this elevator as private. This elevator would surely take him directly to Bishop, but Cade was not yet ready to be that direct.
Knowing that Bishop was behind the money laundering was one thing, convincing a judge to issue a warrant based on his certainty and little evidence, was something completely different. Usually this would be the time Cade would request a subpoena for a wiretap. Gather more evidence, tie the pieces together and then move against the principles. It would help to get up to Bishop’s floor and have a look around. The elevator was stopped on the tenth floor. As he was looking at the floor indicator light, it blinked out. Then the light for the ninth floor went on.
He looked around, the only place with any cover was the Denali, but clearly that wouldn’t be the smart option. Looking over his shoulder, Cade saw the floor indicator was now on the third floor. Cade sprinted for the concrete barrier.
The elevator door was just opening as Cade dove behind the barrier. He rolled trying to cushion the fall. With his elbow stinging, Cade crept back to the barrier and ventured a quick look towards the SUV. It wasn’t Bishop. A different man, tall and lanky, was propelling a dark haired woman towards the vehicle. Susanna Song yanked her arm free and gave the man a piercing look. If looks could only kill.
The lanky man’s other hand was holding a vicious looking automatic weapon. Looking at the unique barrel and stock, Cade recognized it as an MP9, the same efficient killing tool the dead shooters had used at the great Highway 94 shootout. The man opened the passenger door and pushed Susanna inside.
Cade turned and sprinted. He had to get out of the parking ramp and to his car before the Denali drove away. With the close proximity of two major highways, they would be gone if he couldn’t get to his car and follow them. Cade could hear the Denali start and he pushed himself harder. Daylight was about twenty yards straight ahead. As he reached the entrance, Cade grabbed the edge, spinning himself around to the outside edge, flattening against the outer wall. The Denali roared by as it exited the ramp.
Turning right, the black truck roared down University Avenue, speeding past the Highway 280 exit. Cade ran to his vehicle and pulled a quick u-turn, cutting off a minivan, his spinning tires leaving behind twin black streaks of rubber. The chase was on.
Susanna Song stopped halfway between the elevator and the black SUV and looked at her captor. “Listen Cullen, we both know you have a dirty job to do.”
Cullen Wentworth stopped by the passenger door to the Denali. His hesitation negated the words that followed. “My job, my only job, is to drop you off. It’s all done, so there’s no need to keep you any further. You can go back to your prissy little life and forget this ever happened.”
He opened the passenger door and said, “Get in.”
The automatic weapon slung over his left shoulder forced her cooperation. She climbed in.
“Maybe,” Susanna said when Wentworth climbed in, “this doesn’t have to happen right away. Maybe not at all. I see how you look at me.” She held his eyes for a long moment.
Wentworth looked away, starting the truck. He put it in gear and pulled out of the parking space. They drove in silence as they headed for the daylight.
Maybe it was being out in the sunlight again after several days, but it brought out the desperation in Susanna. She could never just give up and die. It just wasn’t in her. She turned to face Wentworth. “Tell me what you’re thinking. A decision this important shouldn’t be made lightly. Cold blooded murder in the U.S. is taken seriously. I have to tell you that even though we don’t have the death penalty here in this state, our prisons are not a pleasant place.”
She plowed on. “I’ve been to our maximum security prison at Oak Park Heights. It’s built right into the ground. The entire prison population lives under the fucking ground. I know you don’t get much sunshine back in merry old England, but you will never see the sun again. And then you have to think about all the friends you will make. Oak Park Heights houses the worst of the worst. Your neighbor two doors down could be the man who slaughtered his family while they slept and then sat down to a breakfast of scrambled eggs and bacon. The cell between the two of you will hold the gang banger, the one who shot the girls at the schoolyard just because they stopped their game of jump rope and said hi to him. He felt they were mocking him for dropping out of school in sixth grade. Totally illiterate and egocentric, he never shuts up.”
“On the other side of your cell is the quiet man that moved in down the street at the corner. He was always pleasant to everyone in the neighborhood. Well liked, neighbors felt sorry for the widower living alone. They made every effort to include him in gatherings. That was until some of the pets started disappearing. People started asking questions about the new guy. When the toddler disappeared three doors down, you don’t want to know what the police found in his house, in his kitchen or in his stomach.”
“That brings us to your cellmate. A real sexual predator. He’s had forced sexual relations with school girls, with a thirty-something soccer mom while her children were in the room. He’s taken elderly women that were too weak to resist. He’s kidnapped and abused teenage boys. He’s been put into solitary a dozen different times for vicious sexual attacks on fellow prison inmates. And cellmates. Not very discriminating this new cellmate of yours. Or should I say, bunkmate?”
Susanna paused, “Just because someone else gives you orders, telling you what to do, does not mean you have to blindly follow them. Bishop will not realize the same consequences that you will. He won’t end up in the same place as you, and he definitely won’t make the same friends as you. Life is too short to not take the chance to make your life better. I’ve heard the definition of hell is having to repeat the same nasty, brutish obscene events over and over again. Can you imagine waking up each morning knowing that today will bring you more of the same hell that you barely endured the day before? The same psychological abuse, the same horrible sounds, the same smell that made you retch, the same physical abuse that made you want to hang yourself by your belt until your breath stopped, your swollen tongue hanging out, your dead body swinging from the ceiling of your cramped cell. If only they had let you keep your belt …”
Wentworth suddenly swerved the large SUV into a warehouse parking lot, headed for the rear of the dilapidated facility.
“Enough,” he croaked, his voice thick with emotion.
Cade followed the black SUV as it made its way down University Avenue. The area was heavily industrial, with more than its share of run-down warehouses and start-up business that didn’t care about curb appeal and needed the cheap rent. The driver was clearly not in much of a hurry, and in fact, appeared to be somewhat distracted. There were moments where the car drifted a bit over the outside lane line or moved up, tailgating the vehicle ahead and then braked too hard to back off. There was something going on the Denali. Hopefully, Susanna was okay.
This was the time to call in local backup to stop the Denali and rescue Susanna Song. Cade reached for his cell phone. Not good, the pocket was empty. He flashed back; chances are it was lying on the ground back in the parking ramp, behind the barrier where he had rolled on the ground. Damn, he’d made mistakes before—though none of them had been fatal. He prayed this one wouldn’t be either.
Cade could feel the momentum building, knowing this case would be over in a matter of hours. He would have to be careful, the other players would be feeling the same momentum. And moments like this can bring desperate actions. The SUV carrying the kidnapped Susanna Song suddenly swerved off University Avenue, heading for the rear of a sprawling warehouse complex.
Susanna held on to the dashboard as the truck swerved into the parking lot of a large rundown warehouse. She hoped she hadn’t pushed Wentworth too hard, forcing him to deal with her. Desperate people did desperate things. She really hadn’t a choice. She firmly believed there wasn’t a remote possibility they were going to proceed as they had promised. Why would they release her? They had to know she would go directly to the authorities. She couldn’t keep quiet. After all, Susanna was a reporter with an amazing story to tell. She had spent five days with them, learning their faces, their names, and their backgrounds. She had a pretty good idea of the reasons behind the crimes they had committed. Desperate deeds performed by desperate men.
Cullen Wentworth sped for the rear of the dilapidated building. The structure had the look of a ghost town. Weeds were coming up through cracks in the pavement, the few dirty windows were either cracked, covered with cardboard or both. The loading dock had several pallets and cardboard boxes by the side of the overhead door. It looked like the place hadn’t been used in years. The back of the lot had a fence, covered in vines and obscured by scrub bush, with railroad tracks just beyond the perimeter.
Wentworth skidded to a stop at the edge of the fence. “Get out,” he growled. “Now.”
Susanna didn’t hesitate. Stepping down from the vehicle, she thought this could end one of three ways; he could let her go. He could rape her and then kill her. Or Wentworth could just shoot her and leave her body in this deserted lot, to be found and fed on by hungry crows and small animals. With the imminent arrival of the first snowfall, it would be many months before her body would be found. Funny how fast the mind works under stress.
She figured she had a roughly thirty-three percent chance of surviving this, but the odds were clearly not in her favor. Wentworth came around the front of the vehicle, the brutal automatic weapon still in his hands. Her only thought was the odds have slipped to around ten percent.
They were both startled by the wrenching up of the warehouse’s overhead door. There were three men standing in the doorway. They had long hair and flannel shirts. One had an electric guitar slung over his shoulder and a cigarette hanging from his mouth; the other two held beers. Cullen Wentworth spun towards them, the MP9 tracking towards them.
“Whoa,” the guitar man said, his hands coming up in a placating gesture.
At just that moment, Wentworth was hit hard from behind with a full body tackle. Cade’s left hand went for the gun, knocking it loose. It was the same move the Vikings cornerback had used against the Bears last weekend. The trick was to hit him hard, and get your hand in to knock the football loose. Both men hit the ground hard and rolled, continuing their struggle.
Cade had seen the Denali swerve into the parking lot and head for the rear of the facility. Not wanting to drive head on into a storm of bullets from a machine gun, Cade had ditched his vehicle at the entrance. He had sprinted for the wall, pausing to glance around the corner to assess the situation. The Denali had stopped at the far end of the parking lot near the fence. The tall man was already out moving around the front of the vehicle, the distinctive automatic weapon in his hands.
Because Wentworth had his back to Cade’s position, Cade took the opportunity to break from the corner headed for the SUV. There wouldn’t be any cover should the tall man turn around. There wasn’t any other options; Cade didn’t feel he could risk a shot from this range.
He heard the door being raised up on the loading dock. The tall man’s attention shifted from Susanna to the three men standing in the doors opening. Cade picked up his pace, now was not the time for subtlety. He watched the gun move from Susanna, tracking towards the men. He was all-out sprinting now. One of the men said something, but it was beyond Cade’s focus and he didn’t catch it. All of his concentration was solely on the tall man with the automatic weapon. Just a few yards now. Cade dove at the man.
The tall man was a fighter. Rather than go for his weapon that had slid across the pavement, he started pummeling Cade with a flurry of punches. Cade rolled hard to his left trying to put some space between the two of them. None of the punches had caused any real damage, as the man had zero leverage punching from his prone position on the ground. The man growled, gathered his legs underneath himself and launched towards Cade. This guy is really pissing me off, Cade thought as he tried to twist around on the pavement. Cade swung his leg up like he was taking a shot on goal. Connecting hard with the man’s face, he felt the nose go as the man’s momentum was used against him. He dropped like a sack of potatoes, clearly down for the count.
“You all right?” Cade called over to a shaken Susanna Song. She nodded.
“Cade Dawkins, State Patrol Investigator,” he introduced himself. “I believe we’ve spoken.”
He struggled to his feet, wiping a smear of blood from his face. Kneeling down by the fallen man, he placed him in restraints.
“Your timing is impeccable,” Song said, looking surprisingly cool and collected.
Cade shot her a grin. “Hey, half of life is just showing up. Glad I could help.”
Cade bent over and scooped up the MP9, examining it briefly, before turning his attention to the men on the loading dock. They looked a bit shaken.
The guitar man protested, “Hey, we’ve got no beef with you guys. Didn’t see a thing.”
Cade shook his head and held up his ID. “I’m a cop. Say, any of you guys have a cell phone I could borrow for a minute?” All three held out cell phones.
Within a few moments, Cade was connected with the 911 dispatcher. St. Paul dispatched several squads to his location. Glancing in Susanna’s direction, he saw her talking animatedly to the men. They were sitting on the end of the dock, thoroughly engrossed with her retelling of her ordeal. She had always been good at telling a story.
Cade was transferred to Lt. Commander Larry Johnson of St. Paul’s SWAT team. Cade quickly outlined the situation, stressing the need for urgency as well as caution. They agreed to meet at Cade’s location to stage the assault on Bishop’s office.
Cade glanced back at Susanna, relief that she had survived her ordeal. She was talking on a cell phone, most likely borrowed from the loading dock men. Her family would be relieved to hear from her after the five long days of no word at all. He imagined what the conversation would be like, with the shock and raw emotion of hearing her voice suddenly over the phone. As Susanna handed back the phone, Cade walked over to her side. He gave her the man hug—one arm over the shoulder and a little squeeze.
“How are you doing?” he asked.
Susanna turned towards him, her green eyes looking into him. “I owe you my life. The real story here is your heroics. People should know that there are cops like you in the law enforcement community. Cops that don’t give up, cops that will risk their lives for a complete stranger. I think in these uncertain days, these troubled times, this would be very welcome news.”
She reached out and held his hand. Somewhere in the back of his mind, a flag was raised. His eyes were held by the intensity of her green eyes and the flag was forgotten.
The St. Paul squads arrived, followed by a State Patrol unit. Cade awkwardly separated himself from Susanna and her hand. The officers converged on the fallen man in restraints. The older of the four St. Paul officers knelt by his side, placing two fingers on the side of his neck.
“He’s alive, but out cold.” Looking at the blood on the man’s face and puddle of blood that he was in, he looked up at Cade.
“Where’s the 2 x 4 you hit him with? His nose looks like its been pulverized.”
Cade shook his head. “Not a 2 x 4, just my foot. The idiot dove head first right into my foot. Not too bright if you ask me.”
The St. Paul officer nodded and rolled the handcuffed man onto his side. He told his partner to call for a paramedic. The other officers started to collect statements from Susanna and the men on the loading dock. A siren started off in the distance, drawing closer. An emergency vehicle came around the building— followed closely by a television news truck. The truck was from Susanna Song’s television station. Cade turned on her.
“That was who you called?” The surprise and disgust dripping from his voice.
Again she held his eyes. “This story is too big to hold onto. Our community needs some positive news. And a story like this, well, it can make a real impact on a reporter’s career.”
Cade was shaking his head. His anger was threatening to boil over.
Susanna turned on him. “I do what I believe is the right thing. Not everyone looks at life through your lens. You can’t judge each individual by your frame of reference. People have different priorities and we each do things for different reasons. Do you think all of your co-workers,” she said pointing to the other officers, “have the same agenda as you?”
Cade folded his arms across his chest. “My lens, my frame of reference is all I have to work with. And yes, I believe, I have to believe, we are all working towards the greater good.”
A uniformed man stepped to the pair. Cade turned from Susanna. The officer stuck out his hand. “Commander Larry Johnson.” He nodded toward the new truck. “It looks like we are going to have move fast. Television news teams are not known for keeping secrets.”
Cade filled Johnson in on the details, with Susanna describing the layout and the men involved. Johnson looked at the news truck and back to Susanna. “Nothing personal, but this situation concerns me. I don’t want my men being unnecessarily placed at risk by the story getting out and tipping off Bishop.”
“Hold on,” said Cade, holding up his hand. He moved next to Susanna and put his arm around her.
“Okay, lets play nice. I’m willing to include you and a cameraman.”
“Photojournalist,” she interrupted.
“Okay, you and a photojournalist will follow the SWAT team onto Bishop’s floor. Your news team will get the exclusive story. And to make it a bit more enticing,” Cade paused, giving her his best smile.
“I’ll agree to an on-camera interview when it’s all said and done.” Cade held her eyes.
Susanna cocked her head. “Really?”
He nodded. “Really. You just have to agree to hold off on broadcasting the story until the good guys—that’s us—arrest the bad guys. On the other hand, you could go live right now with a report. Never mind that nobody watches television on Saturday evening. It is the lowest rated night of the week, isn’t it? Also, I could and would, have one of the other stations join the SWAT team for the biggest raid to ever happen in our fair state. And come to think of it, my mom would love to get a copy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press newspaper with my interview and picture on the front page.”
Susanna folded her arms, “Is that all you’ve got? That’s your hard sale?”
Cade held his ground. He looked her straight in the eyes. “Yep.”
If he said any more, he would be handing her the advantage.
She shook her head. “Oh, all right. Deal, but you better be interesting when I get you on camera.”
Cade laughed, “I’ll try my best. But I have only so much to work with.”
The plan was to have Johnson’s entry team take the entire floor from multiple entrance points. Susanna Song had detailed the floor layout, giving the most likely location of Bishop and his two remaining men. Because Bishop would be expecting his man to return using the elevator, one entry team would use the elevator. Other teams were coming in from both the south and north stairwells. Susanna Song and the photojournalist were standing by in the south stairwell, closest to the living quarters.
This had better go down sooner than later, Cade thought. Time is not on our side. If the news got out of her escape, these three heavily armed men would be extremely dangerous. He had swung into the garage the raid was being staged and had found his cell phone lying on the ground right where he had expected to find it.
Cade resigned himself to being a bystander for the operation. Being a SWAT guy had never interested him. Cade would wait out the raid on the ground level of the parking ramp. He backed his Impala into an open space just inside the entrance, parking among the restaurant patron’s vehicles. He was on the opposite end of the building complex from Bishop’s office, so he couldn’t even see the see the arrest. At least Johnson had been nice enough to leave Cade one of the team’s tactical radios, allowing Cade to monitor the raid.
He turned up the radio’s volume and placed it on his dashboard. Reclining his seat, Cade closed his eyes and willed himself to relax. In all likelihood, this case would be over in less than twenty minutes. It felt amazingly good to have the end in sight.
Johnson had a man scale down the south side from the roof to monitor the occupants. His heat imagining camera showed several bodies in the living quarters. It was a go.
Cade heard the GO command given over the radio. He could also hear the explosive breaths of the entry team as they ran.
Whispered voices called out “Clear.”
Then a single gunshot, followed by a succession of louder gunfire.
“Second one down.”
More breathing. “Clear.”
A long pause. “All clear. Command, be advised we have located two, repeat, two suspects.”
Cade sat up quickly, suddenly fully alert. Shit. There was supposed to be three men. Bishop and his two goons.
Cade’s cell phone rang. Bad news traveled fast.
“Cade, its Daisy. There’s been a break in. At headquarters.” Her voice was hurried, her words staccato.
This was not the bad news he wanted to hear. “Cade, they took it all. The safe, it’s empty.”
Cade’s head was spinning; he barely registered the flash of black as it shot by. It took a moment for it sink in. The black SUV, the driver’s face—it was Andrew Bishop. He had watched the man come out of the restaurant entrance without really noticing that it was the man everyone was looking for.
“Daisy, I’m going to have to call you back.” Cade hung up. His mind still reeling from the one-two punch he had just received, Cade pulled out after the fleeing SUV. This was getting to be habit. The question was, where was Bishop going to go? With his dream having just dissolved around him, and his support gone—his men were either in the hospital or the morgue—there were very few options left for Bishop.
Bishop piloted the SUV onto northbound Highway 280, pushing the accelerator to dangerous speeds. Cade hung back, not wanting to be spotted by Bishop. The black vehicle was still easy to track from the increased distance on the flat highway. Cade sensed that Bishop was just getting clear of the area, not necessarily moving with a destination in mind. After a few miles, Bishop backed off his speed, slowing down to around seventy miles per hour.
The by-the-book approach would be for Cade to call in for back up, allowing uniformed Highway Patrol officers to make the arrest. Of course, Cade hadn’t always been known for his by-the-book approach. He hadn’t been hired for his blatant disregard of the rules either. He’d been hired for his effectiveness as an investigator. If that meant playing on both sides of the line, so be it. The important point—one that he could always share with Internal Affairs at his hearing—was that at least he knew where the line was. Not every cop did.
If I were Andrew Bishop, Cade thought, I would be getting back to England as quickly as I could. England was where his network and support were. He could easily disappear with a little assistance when he got over there.
On the one hand—and this was a really big hand—it couldn’t be a coincidence that the money was stolen from the Patrol headquarters today. In other words, the money wasn’t just stolen, it had been stolen back.
The timing was interesting for Cade, as it made it impossible for Bishop to have stolen it himself. After all, he had a great alibi. Too good really. Cade had actually never came across a more air-tight alibi in all his years in law enforcement. Was the soccer rally simply one large diversion? That pointed to a third party being responsible for the break in.
And that left only one clear course of action for Cade. He had to stay with Andrew Bishop, because Bishop would lead him to the money. Losing both Bishop and the money would not be a good thing. As with most law enforcement agencies, seized money was of vital importance. And politics being what they are, losing that money could be the straw that could cost Cade his job. If he could take down Bishop, catch the man behind the break in and recover the money, Cade would be golden. Anything less would leave Cade’s future a little less certain.
After Highway 280, Bishop had traveled north on Interstate 35, and taken the 694 loop headed east. The leader and the follower had settled into a comfortable routine. Bishop was no longer weaving through traffic at seventy miles per hour, having slowed to just over the speed limit. Cade was trailing a quarter mile behind, staying with a pack of cars. From all appearances, Bishop had relaxed, believing that he wasn’t being pursued.
At White Bear Avenue, Bishop took the exit. Cade followed, forced to close up on Bishop with only a minivan between them. Bishop took a right turn and immediately moved into the left turn lane. Cade watched as he turn into a coffee shop and head for the drive through lane. This could be a long night if Bishop was taking the time to stop for some caffeine.
Cade pulled into the gas station across the street from the coffee shop. Without knowing how long they would be on the road, gassing up now would be a smart move. He would be in a good position to watch for Bishop from here as well.
Two minutes later, Bishop’s truck came around the side of the coffee shop. Cade notched the gas nozzle and quickly climbed into his vehicle, ready to pull out. Bishop crossed the street pulling in behind Cade’s vehicle. Not wanting to be obvious, Cade pulled out and drove the Impala across the street. After a brief internal debate, Cade decided that he would have time to grab a cup of coffee himself while Bishop filled up the SUV’s large gas tank.
There was a single car in line before him. Cade quickly started to feel impatient as the driver appeared to being carrying on a conversation with the order taker. Cade thought about bolting from the line, but the promise of caffeine kept him in place. When did he get so addicted to the stuff?
After getting his order and fearing the worst he swung around the building. There was no black SUV at the gas station. Andrew Bishop was gone.
Cade floored the accelerator, spinning his tires as headed for the freeway entrance. Unsure which direction to take, Cade took the first entrance, which was eastbound, praying that Bishop had continued in his original direction. The large engine roared and by the time Cade hit the freeway, he was moving over ninety miles an hour. Scanning the vehicles ahead, Cade saw a large black SUV a half-mile down the road. Throttling back, so as not to alert Bishop, he still continued to close the distance between the vehicles. He had to make sure he was behind the correct black SUV. Yes, thank God, it was Bishop. Cade slid over, tucking behind a Ford F150 pickup truck. Bishop drove on, blissfully unaware of the pursuit vehicle a quarter mile behind him.
They continued to make their way around the 494/694 loop that circled the Twin Cities metro area. By the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, Bishop exited again. Cade followed Bishop as he drove north on Post Road, which ran along the western edge of the airport. As Bishop slowed and pulled into a small parking lot, Cade continued past, turning into the second entrance. The sign by the entrance read, CELL PHONE PARKING LOT. Finding a spot that had a clear view of Bishop’s vehicle, Cade backed into the parking spot. He shut off the car, turned on the radio and waited.
A half hour later his cell phone rang. It was Kim.
“Hey, what’s going on?” Her voiced sounding oddly tentative.
A thought popped into Cade’s head. She’s sounding unsure because it’s the day after our first time sleeping together. This is exactly when she would be feeling the most insecure. Maybe it was a good thing I stopped for that caffeine, he thought, I’m not usually this perceptive. “You know, I was actually just thinking about you. I’m out by the airport, just sitting here in my car on surveillance. It looks like I might be here all night.”
“So you’re just stuck out there?” she asked.
“I am. By the way, have you had dinner yet?” He continued without waiting for her reply. “Why don’t you pick up some dinner and join me at the airport for a romantic dinner in my car?”
Kim laughed, a joyous sound. “You cops sure know the way to a girl’s heart. I’ll call you when I’m getting close.” She was gone.
Cade smiled; for once he had gotten it right. His track record with relationships was littered with the broken hearts of women that had suffered because he hadn’t understood their needs. Hopefully, Kim would be different.
Remembering to first hit the domelight override, Cade slipped out of the Impala. There was one drawback to having coffee on a stakeout. After using the porta-potty, Cade walked to the front entrance trying to get a look into Bishop’s vehicle. It appeared the money transfer wasn’t especially imminent—Bishop was sound asleep.
An hour later, Kim called and he directed her into his location. She pulled in right next to his unmarked vehicle and climbed in to his passenger seat, a large shopping bag in her hand.
“Hello officer,” she smiled. “I brought Chinese.”
Cade thought the smell of the food was heavenly. He put a hand to her cheek, kissing her tenderly. “Thank you for coming all the way out here.”
Looking into his eyes, Kim said, “I’m sure you’ll make it worth my while.”
“Oh, so you want me to pay for your gas?”
Kim punched his shoulder. “Goofball.” But she was smiling.
It seemed like a never-ending procession of little white cartons that emerged from Kim’s shopping bag. She said that she wasn’t sure what to get, but had wanted to make sure he got something he liked. She flashed him a little smile.
Kim turned out to be a master of the chopsticks. They positively danced in her fingers. Cade stuck to his fork; he had no desire to starve.
Cade leaned back in his seat. “That was terrific. Thank you so much.”
“There is desert …” She let the pause just hang there. “… in my truck.”
With a quick glance at the still-sleeping Andrew Bishop, Cade was out of the Impala in a flash. Kim gestured toward the passenger side. It felt like he was back in high school—but in a good way this time. He opened the door and was genuinely surprised. There really was dessert.
Laid out across her Jeep’s dashboard were two china plates with a thick slice of cake, cloth napkins and dessert forks.
“I hope you like dessert from Café Latte,” Kim said.
“Actually,” Cade said, “I’ve always heard good things, but I’ve never had the chance to try Café Latte.”
She smiled. “Looks like you’re in for a treat.”
Kim climbed over the center console, sitting on Cade’s lap. She offered him a bite of the chocolate cake. Her every movement slow, deliberate, sensual. Kim’s eyes held his as he opened his mouth, accepting her offering.
He reached for her, pulling her close, his lips brushing her neck. After a long moment, his heart racing dangerously fast, he pulled back from Kim. His eyes locked with hers. Starting with her top button, he slowly, ever-so-slowly, unbuttoned her blouse. The swell of her large breasts strained the fabric of her blouse, making it difficult to work the middle buttons. Cade’s eyes lowered, drawn to her breasts. Each button that was undone exposed more of Kim’s black lace bra. With the last of the buttons, Cade slid her blouse off her bare shoulders. Kim, caught up in Cade’s passion, reached back and undid the clasp of her bra.
Her breasts came free, surprisingly firm for their obvious weight. Cade cupped them, feeling their heft, his lust taking away his gentleness. Kim pulled his head to her breasts, a moan escaping as he flicked his tongue across her rigid nipples. She leaned backward, arching, her large breasts thrusting up into Cade’s mouth and hands. He devoured her.
Kim’s hands reached into his lap, feeling for him, setting him free. A loud moan escaping from his lips now. Kim’s skirt was riding up to the top of her thighs. Not willing to wait, he slid her panties aside as she guided him in. His moans drove her passion as she moved against him. The raw physicalness of his lovemaking igniting her inner animal as their mutual lust consumed them.
When the movement ended, their intense heat dissipating, the only sound in the Jeep was their heavy breathing as their bodies fought to regain oxygen. Cade gave her a playful grin, “Now I know why everyone’s raving about their desserts.
“Funny guy,” she said smiling brightly.
They talked of his career and her dreams, and just after 2 a.m., they made love again. This time it was a little slower, a little gentler. It was still amazing.
At 4 a.m., Cade said goodbye and walked back to his car as Kim pulled out of the lot headed for home. Glancing over, he saw that Bishop was still asleep in his truck. Apparently his conscience didn’t keep him up at night.
Sunday, day ten
A little after 7:30 in the morning, Bishop’s truck pulled out of the lot. Cade was behind him, grateful for some activity. Bishop led him down the Bloomington strip to a breakfast spot that looked like it was popular with both churchgoers and truckers. Bishop grabbed a newspaper from the paybox on his way inside.
Cade swung across the street to get a greasy breakfast sandwich and a cup of bad coffee from the drive thru. He found a spot in the restaurant lot and backed the unmarked Impala in next to one of the semi trucks, sticking out just far enough to have a clear sightline to Bishop’s truck. Cade flipped the radio over to the public radio station and listened to the announcers argue fiscal policy as he hungrily ate his breakfast.
After about a half hour of waiting, feeling his greasy breakfast sandwich expanding uncomfortably in his stomach and fighting some serious fatigue, Cade exited his vehicle. Maybe Bishop had the right idea, so Cade bought a newspaper from the paybox as well. Tossing it into the passenger seat, he leaned against the vehicle’s frame and stretched his legs. Sitting in the car for such extended periods can really take its toll.
Another half hour passed uneventfully, Cade having one eye on the Pioneer Press newspaper, the other on the front door of the restaurant. Bishop would be quite easy to spot, being so large. It was a busy place, with many people coming and going. A lot of them dressed for church.
He paused from his newspaper, something about the dark haired woman with the envelope leaving the restaurant. There was something familiar, something about the way she moved. She quickly glanced to her left—in Cade’s general direction—to check for traffic before crossing the parking lot. That was enough, you don’t work with someone every day without studying them, especially someone as striking as Daisy.
His mind racing, Cade was struck by the obvious question: what was Daisy doing here? It couldn’t be a coincidence, could it? She lived in St. Paul, in the Highland neighborhood. That was what, maybe ten to fifteen minutes away? There had to be closer breakfast spots. Cade could think of several in the Macalester area that consistently received great press and were probably within five minutes of her home.
Was she he by herself? Daisy hadn’t walked out with anybody. He hadn’t noticed her going in and he thought he certainly would have recognized her. She got into her personal vehicle, a blue Nissan Altima, and drove out of the lot.
Why was she here?
Bishop walked out, the newspaper folded under his arm. He walked slow and measured, his eyes scanning the parking lot methodically. Cade continued reading his newspaper, not wanting to move and draw attention to himself. He watched Bishop move to his truck and climb in. Apparently nothing triggered a warning for Bishop.
They drove out of the lot and made their way to 494, headed east. Cade keeping the distance a quarter mile between vehicles. In a routine surveillance operation, there would be a team of vehicles that would rotate so the suspect would not have the opportunity to identify an officer. However, seeing his partner Daisy—here of all places—raised too many questions. He couldn’t call for assistance, what if she was involved? Cade was clearly on his own.
Bishop made his way along 494, crossing the river valley just south of the airport. They stayed on the winding 494 highway through Mendota Heights, Eagan, South St. Paul, Maplewood and into Woodbury. Bishop took the interstate 94 exit, making his way west towards the city of St. Paul. As the interstate curved through the heart of St. Paul, where much the Bishop-directed carnage had taken place, Bishop took the Marion Street exit. He crossed over the interstate, heading in the direction of downtown, the Excel Center directly down the hill. At John Ireland Boulevard, Bishop signaled a right and turned, the imposing St. Paul Cathedral just up the hill. As they drew alongside the Cathedral, Bishop took another right onto Selby Avenue.
Sunday morning directly in front of the city’s largest catholic church, as one might guess, was a busy location. It looked to Cade like a service had just let out, with a second service following shortly. Cars were pulling out onto the already busy avenue, while other vehicles waited for their spots. Almost two blocks down from the cathedral, Bishop slid into a freshly vacated spot. Almost immediately Bishop was exiting the SUV as Cade cruised by. Using his rearview mirror, he saw Bishop making his way towards the cathedral.
Cade found an empty spot on the street a block further down. He hustled back towards the cathedral at a light jog, making up the ground between them. After a nerve-wracking minute, he picked out Bishop up ahead. Bishop was walking alone, hands in the pockets of his long wool coat, headed for church.
Perhaps Bishop’s conscience was getting the better of him. Maybe he’d had a revelation, a life changing moment during the night in the airport’s cell phone lot. It certainly had been a life-changing night for Cade.
A lot had happened to Bishop in the last week. If there was ever a week with drastic highs and lows, this had to have it. No doubt Bishop had felt like he was at life’s bottom after losing the money needed to realize his dream. Then to feel like he was back on top after being in the spotlight at the rally, all the while knowing his money was being recovered. Then finally Bishop would be back to feeling like he was at the bottom when his dream dissolved around him. Dramatic circumstances like this had broken other men, some finding solace in the Lord. Cade was pretty sure for Bishop, this wasn’t the case.
Picking a crowded public area for a sensitive meeting was usually good strategy. And from the looks of things, this had to be most crowded spot in the Twin Cities on a Sunday morning. At least until the Vikings game started at noon at the Metrodome, anyway.
Knowing that Bishop was meeting someone, and in all likelihood, it would be the man behind the currency theft energized Cade. He would be watching Bishop like a hawk. The transfer couldn’t happen here at the church. Logistically, the currency took too much space. One couldn’t hand over a half dozen suitcases on the steps of a church. No, the money would be transferred away from this many eyes, but something would be passed to Bishop. Perhaps a map, key or an address. Cade would be watching for the exchange.
People were heading for the entrance in droves. Checking his watch, Cade saw it was 10:30; the service would be just getting underway. Cade was about twenty feet diagonally separated from Bishop. Cade preferred to be diagonal from his quarry; it allowed a direct sightline and reduced the obviousness of his stalking.
Cade watched Bishop enter the sanctuary and moved to enter from the opposite entrance. Inside, he scanned the crowded room, finding Bishop right away. Leaning against the wall, arms folded and fidgeting, Bishop didn’t look comfortable at all. Cade checked his watch and thought there was nothing for him to do but wait. Glancing down, Cade saw that the night spent in his vehicle had left him worse for the wear. He was rumpled, wrinkled and in need of a shower. He didn’t exactly blend in with the church-going folks dressed in their Sunday best. They would just have to accept him as he was.
It had been a long twenty four hours and hopefully, this would all be over soon. He had felt like things had shifted recently and his luck had changed for the better. The turn of events yesterday had caught him by surprise and he wondered if the shift had started the other way again. His life was hanging in the balance here. Cade sincerely hoped he would still have his job when it was all over.
It was supposed to go down like this:
The arrangement was that Martin Clements and Andrew Bishop would meet just before noon outside of the St. Paul Cathedral, St. Paul’s largest church. The church would be just letting out after the busiest service of the morning. Martin was to park nearby along John Ireland Boulevard on the north side of the cathedral leaving the balance of the money—Martin had already subtracted his fee—locked in the trunk. Bishop was to park his car on Selby Avenue, which was around the corner. They would swap car keys and leave in each other’s vehicles.
The meeting would take place in front of the cathedral just after the service let out. There would be plenty of activity to blend in with.
Having never met each other, Martin was to wear a blue work shirt and an orange vest, the uniform of the church’s traffic control volunteers. He would be waiting at the bottom of the front steps. They would meet long enough to swap the keys and then go their separate ways. Just two friends meeting in a chance encounter, no suspicious transfer of large bags, just a handshake to pass the keys. Absolutely nothing to raise an eyebrow in even the most observant of bystanders.
It actually went down like this:
Martin arrived just after the 10:30 a.m. service had started.
Even though the street was lined with parked cars as far as he could see, Martin was able to park just around the corner from the Cathedral. Martin moved the orange traffic cones and the road construction sign that held his preferred spot and placed them in the roadway just behind his parked car. This would block the lane and effectively bring traffic to a standstill after the service let out, sending a thousand people out onto the local roads.
Martin locked his newly rented Ford Fusion; he hadn’t wanted to part with his Land Rover just yet. In just over an hour, he would pass this very car key to Andrew Bishop, completing his arrangement with Bishop. The money would allow Bishop to realize his dream of owning a world-class soccer team. Martin, for his trouble, would pocket approximately 20 million Euros. Not that he could possibly come close to having a pocket that would hold that amount of money.
But what about fulfilling his own dream? Martin didn’t think he had any dreams left to realize. He had a life that most people could only dream of. Travel to exotic destinations, the ability to take on the most difficult challenges using only his cunning, bravado and intellect. Martin had enough money, more than enough actually, after this job was completed.
So what was missing for Martin? He had loved the life he lived in London, when he happened to be there. The nightlife, the women, the constant go, go, go. But this was such a different place. The simplicity of life here appealed to Martin. If he could find something to keep him here, Martin could still enjoy his work when he traveled. Maybe he did have his dreams, even if they happened to be opposite of everyone else’s.
Martin made his way down to the corner of John Ireland Boulevard. The Cathedral was immense and took up the entire city block. Built over a century ago, it stands on the highest ground in the city of St. Paul. In his youth, Martin had been brought up in the Catholic Church. Though it had been years since he been inside a church, it was not difficult to get caught up in the memories of his youth. His family was a fixture at their local church, just outside of London. Each Sunday he would climb the front steps of their small church holding his father’s hand. Simpler times.
Martin slipped off his vest, neatly folded it and tucked it under his arm. Glancing at his watch, Martin saw it was 11:15 a.m. He went through the doors, crossed the atrium gathering area, and went into the sanctuary. The immenseness of the sanctuary was the first thing he noticed. The pews were full and there were a number of people standing in the back as well. Standing room only. Church was big business here in St. Paul.
Martin stood in the back, listening to the congregation sing. As in much of his life, he was an observer, not a participant. He was comfortable with that role, though. His careful observation and preparation had served him well over the years. And an important part of that was his observation, not only of the scene, but also of the people that were part of that scene. It allowed him to blend in and to anticipate their movements and reactions.
Martin scanned the crowd that stood at the back of the sanctuary. For the most part, it was individuals and most were males. They were of varying social and economic statuses—based on their appearances. Some even appeared to be homeless, drawn here for both the comfort of the religion and the warmth the large church offered. As he looked over the people, Martin found Andrew Bishop near the opposite entrance. The large man stood out. His arms folded, he was still wearing his overcoat. Bishop didn’t look as if he was comfortable there at all. He fidgeted, checking his watch every few minutes and kept glancing around. Martin fought the urge to move in behind the large sweat-smelling man next to him. Because Bishop had never met Martin, there would be no reason to hide from Bishop.
He forced himself to keep turned toward the front where the priest was giving the message. Some may find it odd that Martin wouldn’t remember a word the man was speaking. His thoughts solely on the plan that would be unfolding shortly.
What Martin did find odd was the man next to him. It looked as if his attention was not on the priest speaking in the front, but fully on the opposite wall. Right where a certain Andrew Bishop was standing. This man was one of Bishop’s men or he was a cop. Either way, a complication.
It was now 11:40, and time was growing short. Martin studied the man in his peripheral vision. Beside the unpleasant odor, he looked unshaven and rather rumpled. His clothes and shoes were in good repair, not like the half dozen homeless men scattered around the rear of the sanctuary. He looked like he had spent the night in his car. It occurred to Martin that this was exactly what he looked like after returning from an overnight surveillance. If he was a betting man—and he definitely was—he would say this was a policeman he was standing next to.
The priest was giving his blessing, the service drawing to a close. Several of the people that had been standing in the back pushed through the doors, leaving early to beat the rush. Martin left with a small group of twenty-somethings that were laughing and talking about getting some coffee. He stayed close, appearing to be part of their group.
Martin separated and moved to the side as they made their way out the front doors. He slipped into his orange vest and moved down the steps. The crowd was flooding out the front doors, a sea of people moving in a single direction.
From his vantage point at the bottom of the stairs, Martin saw the flash of recognition on Bishop’s face when he saw Martin’s orange vest. There was no hesitation as Bishop made his way quickly down the steps. Looking past Bishop, Martin saw the policeman also making his way down the steps.
Martin had the key in the palm of his left hand, ready for Bishop.
Bishop waved to Martin. “Thomas, old friend, how are you?” he asked Martin as came up to Martin.
They shook hands, Bishop pressing a key into his hand, while Martin’s key went into Bishop’s other hand. It was a quick exchange, not likely to be noticed by anyone, even the policeman that was quickly approaching.
“Life is good, my friend,” Martin said. “Stay safe,” he added. Martin moved a step away from Bishop, looking down Selby Avenue for the black Denali that Bishop had left for him. He was looking towards his escape.
Cade saw Bishop move towards the man in the vest. He looked like a road construction worker dressed in a blue denim work shirt and an orange vest. Bishop waved to the man and they shook hands. There was something about the way they shook hands, with both hands like old friends might do. Except Bishop would not have an old friend here, thousands of miles away from home. Something had passed between them, and Cade was sure about it. The man with the vest was starting to move away from Bishop.
“Hold on, you two. State police,” Cade called out, quickly covering the ground between them.
The man with the vest changed direction, darting behind a cluster of older women. Bishop spun towards Cade, a gun appearing in his hand.
A nearby woman let out a scream. Cade was jostled by a panicked man, pushed off balance falling head long down the remaining few steps.
Bishop’s pistol fired several times, the bullets hitting the concrete steps just behind Cade, his forward momentum saving him. He curled into a ball, his left hand protecting his head, his right hand firmly hanging onto his Glock.
As he hit the sidewalk, Cade yanked his pistol freeing it from his jacket. In slow motion he saw Bishop’s pistol tracking toward him for the killing shot.
No way, no how, was this asshole going to get the best of him. Cade’s thought was of the freeway carnage this man had caused as he pulled the trigger. The first bullet going into Bishop’s chest, the second catching the underside of his chin. The blood flow instantaneous, the death obvious as Bishop went down.
There were more than a few screams as the crowd panicked, many fleeing, many others diving for the ground. Cade looked to his left and saw a flash of orange as the fleeing man went around the corner of the Cathedral onto John Ireland Boulevard.
Cade quickly got to his feet, calling to an older, professional looking man. “Call 911 and stay here with him,” indicating Bishop, “until the police arrive.”
He sprinted for the corner, thinking that the vest should make this an easy pursuit. It wasn’t.
Cade stopped dead in his tracks. There were easily a dozen men in orange vests spread around the street. Though there was a road construction sign blocking half the street—which he didn’t remember seeing earlier this morning—it didn’t appear that any of the men were actually working. The men in vests stood around in small groups, appearing to be waiting.
Cade ran to the first group of men, scanning their faces. He couldn’t be certain, he had focused on the vest, not the man’s face—but he didn’t think the man was here. He spun around taking it all in. The sidewalks were full of people heading for their vehicles after church. There wasn’t anyone wearing a vest that was running.
He headed back for the corner and spotted an orange vest in the grass. This was a dead end.
Martin turned the Land Rover onto Highway 94. It had been a bit harried back there for a few moments, but as ever, Martin’s planning had saved him. Hiring the road construction workers had been a masterstroke of diversion. Earlier in the week, he had placed an ad on Craig’s list offering $28 an hour for a one-day project on Sunday. Working through a bogus Hotmail account, Martin had arranged for the men to arrive a little before noon. He had requested that the men wear blue shirts and orange vests. It had guaranteed plenty of suspects for the police to focus on.
There was another layer to Martin’s contingency plan. There were some things you didn’t want to leave to chance, like not relying on using Bishop’s vehicle. You wouldn’t want to get to your escape vehicle and find the gas tank on empty, for instance. At times, some of Martin’s clients have gone a bit wiggy during the stress of the endgame. So Martin had left his own vehicle—he loved this Land Rover—at the end of the block, near the entrance to the freeway.
And the money? Glancing back, it was safely stowed in the back of the Land Rover. He hadn’t planned on stiffing Andrew Bishop. The Ford Fusion’s trunk, though not containing the currency as they had agreed on, had a cell phone and a brief note: “Don’t worry. Call me: Press TALK twice.” Martin’s plan was to make sure Bishop hadn’t been followed and then meet up at the Farmer’s Market in St. Paul. There were plenty of exchanges being made there.
Now what? Martin was driving around with over $300 million and no one left to give it to. With Bishop in a pool of his own blood, clearly dead, Martin had no one to pass the Euros off to. He didn’t need the money. He would have to think about this. He piloted the Land Rover towards Stillwater. Towards home.
Monday, day eleven
The papers and television carried the story in great detail. The death of businessman Andrew Bishop on the front steps of the Twin Cities largest church sparked a lot of attention. As the details came out, and the fact that not only were both freeway shootings related, but the kidnapping of television reporter Susanna Song as well. And then the stunning news that Andrew Bishop was behind it whipped the media into a frenzy. The national media descended on the area in a wave not seen since the Republican National Convention was held in St. Paul.
Susanna Song was a star. Her face and story were all over the internet, television, as well as the newspapers and magazines. She was on Good Morning America, Larry King interviewed her, and People magazine had her on the cover—though she had to share it with Brittany.
And because the story involved one of Europe’s most prominent soccer clubs, the international media also took up the story. The BBC in particular liked the angle that the policeman who shot and killed Andrew Bishop was also a footballer (as they called a soccer player across the pond). Oh, the irony.
The Minnesota State Patrol went from being the goat in the story—with the killings taking place on the metro area highways—to being the darlings of the media. Cade Dawkins was consistently brought up as an example of what was right in today’s law enforcement.
Cade took some teasing from his fellow troopers, but on the whole, the other troopers were thankful for the appreciation that was being showered on the Patrol. The really interesting part was that state officials had decided—behind closed doors—not to release the news concerning the break in at Patrol headquarters. With the Patrol’s raised profile and standing in the law enforcement community, it was decided that it would be best if that part of the story didn’t get out. And after all, it was found money that had been, well, lost again.
Cade rolled over, pulling Kim on top. “My hero,” she said with a proud smile. “You really are a hero. All that worry last night was for nothing. I just can’t believe it, but they are just conveniently forgetting about the stolen money?”
With her on him like this, it was hard to keep his eyes on hers. He made what he thought was a superhero-like effort.
“At least publicly, anyway,” Cade said. “There is a team from the DEA quietly looking into the theft, but I have my doubts that anything will come of it. It was clearly the work of a professional, the few small clues we have point to a mysterious European thief for hire.”
He continued, “The ironic thing here is that because I’ve been front and center in all the media attention—the BBC interviewed me today, if you can believe it—is that I’ve now became bullet proof. A case like this can make a career, I’ve gained redemption, all my past issues have been forgotten.”
“You know it,” Cade said. “But no worries, I’ll be using my new found powers for good and not evil.”
Kim smiled, a warm smile that conveyed her adoration for him. Life is good. Cade went on, “The ironic thing—and by ironic, I mean totally hilarious—is that my number one nemesis at the Patrol, Lt. Dickey, has taken the fall for this.”
“Why’s that?” Kim asked, her darling forehead creased with bafflement.
“Lt. Dickey, my old friend, was responsible for operations at our facility. And because this happened on his watch, he’s gone.”
“They fired him?” she asked incredulously.
“Even better. He’s been transferred to Cloquet to work the overnight shift as a road trooper. Couldn’t have happened to a better guy.”
“But what about…” Kim started to ask, but quickly realized Cade’s attention had shifted south. She gave in to the moment.
“So what happens to the Chelsea America team?” Kim asked, now that Cade was clearly basking in the afterglow.
“It looks like we will be keeping the team after all. At the last moment, a businessman from London has stepped up to buy the team.”
“Really?” she asked, “All the way from England? It seems so unlikely that someone from, what, 3600 miles, would invest so substantially in a business here in Minnesota.”
“I know. But I read that the businessman, Martin Clements, had been over here recently on business and absolutely fell in love with Minnesota. He said that for sheer natural beauty, nothing beats the sights in the Twin Cities.”
Kim had a sly smile. “That Martin guy sure has good taste.”
Cade pulled back Kim’s sheet. “Can you imagine if he saw the sheer natural beauty I’m looking at? He probably would have bought the Twins and the Vikings too.”
They both were laughing, though possibly for different reasons.
A week later
Sitting in Cade’s unmarked Chevy Impala, Cade and Daisy were waiting for someone to pick up the Ford Taurus. The Taurus had left Gary, Indiana, two days ago driven by a retired couple. The authorities in Indiana had put it together: the bad guys find retirees struggling on a fixed income, pay them several thousand to drive a vehicle up to Minnesota. It’s dropped off at a Walmart parking lot a few miles inside the border. At some point, the car will be picked up to complete the delivery of illegal drugs to Minnesota.
The Taurus was dropped off almost two hours ago, having been followed by the Wisconsin state police and then handed off to Cade and Daisy at the Minnesota border. The retiree’s had taken a cab to the Mall of America and were shopping in the Sear’s store at the moment. Cade and Daisy waited near the Taurus in silence, their small talk exhausted in the first hour.
Daisy looked straight ahead, her voice coming out quiet and monotone. “Why didn’t you say something? I know you saw me.”
Cade paused a full thirty seconds, debating his response. “I thought you might have seen me. Something about the way you hesitated. I wasn’t sure why you were there and I didn’t want to throw my partner under the bus by asking awkward questions.”
“I appreciate that,” Daisy said, still avoiding eye contact.
Cade looked at his partner. “You get to know a lot about the people you risk your life with, week after week. At least you think you do. By now, I’m sure you know a lot about me. I suppose you know that I love photography and that I take a lot of pictures. I do know that you are aware of my love of soccer and how I excited I was about the Chelsea team coming to Minnesota. What you might not know is that I was at the Chelsea America rally on Saturday taking pictures. Taking a lot of pictures.
“After the case ended, I went through each picture, frame by frame. Bishop was still my hero when I was taking pictures at the rally, and he was in a lot of the pictures. Shortly before he came out to introduce Beckham and the players, I had used my zoom lens to try to get some shots of the players and Bishop behind the stage. Looking at these pictures, I saw Bishop. I also saw you in the pictures with Bishop. You were talking to him.”
Daisy was still staring straight ahead, a single tear making its way down her cheek.
Cade continued. “A man like Bishop doesn’t take unnecessary risks. He would always have a contingency plan or two up his sleeve. Business can get quite rough. You always need to have a leg up on your competition. You have to have the ability to know the things they don’t want you to know. And having someone on the inside could be a real asset. I would have to say, Daisy, that you’d be a mighty fine asset.”
Daisy was an emotionless wall, other than her tears. “You don’t know what I’ve been through. Don’t you judge me, Dawkins.”
She was pointing at him emphatically. “Don’t judge me.”
Cade was shaking his head. “It’s not my job.”
He gently took her gesturing hand and nodded towards the passenger window. Standing next to her window was a pair of DEA agents.
“Its their job to put you in front of a judge. Look Daisy, we’ve all made mistakes. You need to put this behind you and get on with your life. Now you need to own up to them. The thing is, the guilt can eat at you, it can kill you. You need to make things right. Now.”
Murphy had her in restraints, leading her to his vehicle. Daisy Capistrano stopped and looked back to Cade, her eyes searching his. “Why now?”
Cade shook his head, “Like I’ve always said, you never know when your time’s going to be up.”
Daisy nodded her head in agreement and allowed herself to be led away.
After a long moment, Cade looked up. The Taurus was still there waiting. It could be a long evening.
He reached for his cell phone and made a call.
“It’s me. Would you like to join me for another stakeout?” Cade asked. “I’ll make it worth your while,” he added, a big grin on his face. After all, life isn’t what happens to you, it’s what you make of it.