State patrol Minnesota State Patrol investigator Cade Dawkins takes on the case of a lifetime when a bloody highway shootout leaves behind eight dead bodies—and $300 million in cash. After his last assignment, a disaster that left his partner dead and his career on life support, Cade jumps at the opportunity for redemption, recognizing this will either be his biggest case—or his final case.
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. The Friday afternoon rush hour was typically jammed with people headed for their lake cabins, however November was well past cabin season here in Minnesota. 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 was 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 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.
He 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, leaving 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‑just like the sound of a pump-action shotgun 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 if 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.”