Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Sergeant Brad Coulter placed his gun case into the Suburban and closed the door. He slid into the passenger seat and joined his partner, Sam Steele.
“Where to, boss?” Steele pulled out of the parking lot at Weaselhead Park.
“Head downtown,” Coulter said. “I need a coffee to get going.”
“Remind me again who decided we needed to start our shift at 0600 hours, with a six-mile run through Weaselhead?”
“If we left our workouts until the end of the day, you guys would bolt for home. It makes sense to start with a vigorous workout, then hit the street.”
“If the workout is so good, why do you need coffee?”
“Are we playing twenty questions already? Just get me to a damn cup of coffee.”
“You’re a grump before you get caffeinated.”
“Blame Jerry Briscoe. He got me hooked.”
“We work out more than Sergeant Knight’s team.”
“That’s why we’re the best tactical unit.”
“Does Knight know you say that?”
“Having two tactical teams that are competitive is good. We’re just better.”
“Can’t argue with that.”
The radio beeped and the dispatcher said, “All units, Bankview area. Reported shooting. 2413 19th Street Southwest.”
“That’s close,” Coulter said. “It’s only a few blocks from where that glue sniffer holed up two years ago.”
Coulter grabbed the mic. “Tactical Support 110 responding. ETA two minutes.”
“Roger, TS 110. Unknown situation. Hold back for backup.”
“Roger, dispatch.” Coulter turned to Steele. “Screw that. Keep going to the house.”
“All units,” dispatch said, “the neighbor says, two dead. Likely from gunshots. She took a baby to her house.”
“Roger, dispatch,” Coulter said. “Anything about the shooter?”
“Negative, 110. I have zone cruisers and other tactical units en route.”
“Those boys went for breakfast in the other direction.” Steele sped up. “They’ll be ten minutes at least.”
“Just you and me then,” Coulter said.
Steele pulled into the street and parked a few houses away. they exited, drawing their guns as they jogged across lawns to the side of the house. Coulter peeked into the living room window, turned to Steele, and shook his head. He pointed to the front door, and they advanced. They stopped on either side of the open door. Coulter listened for sounds of activity. Hearing none, he gave Steele a hand signal and they entered the house. Coulter stepped inside to the right, and Steele to the left.
Coulter walked through the empty living room and down a hallway. He stopped at a bedroom doorway and peered into the room. His jaw clenched, and rage burned. Two bodies—male and female—lay crumpled together on the floor between an empty crib and the door. Small entrance wounds formed a star pattern on the back of their heads. Gaping holes with exposed brain and bone, replaced their faces. Thick, dark red, almost black blood pooled under the bodies.
Shards of bone littering the floor reflected the light from the window. The pale blue walls were covered with dark blood, skin and hair. Coulter took a deep breath—mistake. The coppery taste of blood competed with the smell of shit and old diapers—the shit winning.
Thin white curtains fluttered in the breeze from the open window. Coulter removed his ball cap and scratched his head. This crap was happening too often.
Steele stepped beside Coulter and stared into the room. “Ah jeez. This is messed up.”
“Yeah.” Not messed up. Fucked up. He’d never erase this scene. The images would join the graphic memories of other crime scenes. Sleep would not come easily tonight.
“The rest of the house is clear, boss.”
A siren interrupted Coulter’s reply. He hustled down the hallway, Steele close behind.
Brakes screeched and boots pounded on the steps.
Constables Tina Davidson and Steve Gunther stormed the house, guns drawn.
Coulter held up a hand. “It’s okay. Guns away.”
“We didn’t hear from you, Sarge,” Gunther said. “We didn’t know if you were okay.”
Davidson stepped close, placed a hand on Coulter’s arm. “I was worried.”
Gunther peered down the hallway. “What do we have?”
Coulter slipped past Davidson. “Multiple homicides.”
“Really?” Gunther headed to the bedroom.
“I wouldn’t do that,” Coulter said.
“Bad?” Gunther halted.
Gunther shrugged and kept walking.
Coulter shook his head.
“Who called it in?” Davidson asked.
“Neighbor.” Coulter pointed down the street. “Concerned no one was up in the house. She walked over to check on them. The front door was open and a baby wailed nonstop. She went to the baby’s room. She saw the bodies, grabbed the baby, and dashed to her house. Called 911.”
Gunther raced past them out the front door where he leaned over the porch railing and puked.
“Rookie?” Steele asked.
“Pussy. He’s been my partner two years.” Davidson said. “He still pukes every couple of months. You get used to it. I ignore him.” She turned back to Coulter. “This neighbor woman…”
“She’s either a brave woman or really stupid.”
“Got guts, that’s for sure.” Coulter glanced at the railing. “Stay here. Babysit your partner. I need you guarding the house till the homicide geniuses get here. I’m going to talk to Mrs. Gable. Steele, wait for the medical examiner.”
Coulter stopped on the first step and scanned the neighborhood. Nice area. House maintained and the grass mowed. Kids’ bikes and toys littered several lawns. The horror inside was out of sync with the tranquility outside. That was about to change.
Two cruisers raced up the street, sirens wailing. Cops jumped out.
Coulter keyed his mic. “Dispatch. Stop sending cars to the 10-32. I need the medical examiner and homicide detectives.”
He gathered the cops. “Davidson and Gunther are securing the scene. Take a step back. A couple of thirty-twos.”
“Jonesy, take your partner and canvas down the right side of the street. Brooks, take your partner to the left. We need to know everything that happened in this neighborhood since late afternoon yesterday. The 911 call came from that blue house. I’ll go there.”
As the cops spread out, a faded blue Dodge Duster entered the cul de sac and parked behind a cruiser. The driver got out of the car and scanned the scene.
Coulter smiled. Detective Tommy Devlin of narcotics. Devlin had a scraggly beard; his long hair was tied back in a ponytail. He wore ripped jeans, a faded grey t-shirt, a jean vest, mirror sunglasses and black boots. Devlin and Coulter were teammates in TSU until early this year when Devlin went back to narcotics.
Devlin ambled toward Coulter, taking the last pull on a cigarette before tossing it away.
“Hey, dirtball. Get back in your piece of crap car and take off.” Coulter stood, arms crossed and legs spread.
“Why don’t you kiss my hairy butt, you Nazi Stormtrooper.” Devlin glared at Coulter.
Neither spoke. Neither blinked.
Then Coulter said, “What brings you out before dark?”
“Your vics. I know them.”
“You mean knew them. Why do you care?”
Devlin pointed to the house. “Narcotics is interested.”
Devlin slid his sunglasses up onto this head. “Who arrived first?”
“Steele and me.”
“How’d you get here first?”
“We were the closest.”
“You have backup?” Devlin asked.
“We’re TSU. We don’t need no frickin’ backup.”
Devlin laughed. “Yeah, I bet you don’t. You like to live on the edge.” He pointed to the house. “Bet it’s Randy and Denise Sutton.”
Coulter shook his head. “No bet. That’s the names the neighbor gave dispatch.”
“Randy and his brother Nelson were bikers and drug dealers.”
“Bikers? In this neighborhood?”
“That was Denise’s idea. Better for the kids—better schools, I guess.”
“Gypsy Jokers. Full patch members.”
“Okay, they’re badasses. Like a Mafia family or something.”
“Yeah, that’s the short version.”
“Where’s his brother Nelson?” Coulter asked.
“About six months ago, the brothers decided to freelance in the southwest,” Devlin said. “Not much biker activity here. Within three months, they had high school kids in the area distributing drugs. Then Nelson goes missing two months ago. Gone. No note. No nothing. No Nelson.
“Randy doesn’t get the message and increases drug sales, competing with the Jokers on the north side of the river. Two weeks ago, he spread the word he’ll pay two thousand dollars for information on his brother. Jokers spread the word anyone tries for the two thousand they’ll disappear like Nelson. Then a week ago, Randy ups it to four thousand.”
“You don’t say.”
Devlin glanced at the house. “What’s it like inside?”
“Not good. Follow me.” Coulter headed to the house. Devlin’s boots crunched in the gravel a step behind. Coulter led him past Davidson who was guarding the door, to the baby’s room, then stepped aside. Devlin stepped into the doorway.
“Mother Mary and Jesus.”
Coulter waited in the hallway—the images already seared into his memory.
“Headshots,” Devlin said. “Execution style. They made a show of it. Wanted Randy and Denise to think they were gonna kill the baby too. They killed Denise first. Her arm is under Randy.”
“Yeah, I saw that too.” Coulter leaned against the hallway wall. “They wanted Randy to know he’d screwed up big time.”
“A message to other bikers—cross us, and this is what you can expect.”
* * *
Coulter and Devlin climbed the front steps of the neighbor’s house. Coulter pounded on the door. A face peeked from behind the living room curtains.
A short, thin man in his mid-sixties pulled the door open and stood aside. He blinked and pointed to the living room. “Mornin’, officer.”
Coulter stepped in. A heavy-set lady the same age stood by the window, holding a sleeping baby in her arms.
“Good morning. I’m Sergeant Coulter. This is Detective Devlin. Are you Mrs. Gable?”
“We’d like to talk to you and…” Coulter peered at the man.
“Elmer.” Eloise rocked the baby in her arms. “This is Bobby.”
She gave Devlin a good once-over. Her eyes narrowed, and her chin rose. She pointed to the couch. Coulter took off his ball cap and sank into the cushions. He struggled not to be consumed in the soft cushions. Devlin sat down with more caution.
Elmer flopped into an overstuffed chair. Eloise stood, rocking Bobby.
Coulter pulled out his notebook. “You called 911?”
“What made you think something was wrong?”
“I’d finished my coffee and glanced out the front window. I’m not normally at the
“Today I noticed their car was parked in front of the house. Randy always leaves early. I thought maybe Bobby was sick. I help out sometimes. He’s a good baby, but sometimes he’s cranky at night. I take him during the day while Denise sleeps. I told Elmer I was going to the house.”
“What time was this?”
“About 7:30, I guess.”
Coulter made a note. “Go on.”
“The front door was open. I called in—no one answered. Bobby was crying. I stepped into the baby’s room. I saw them…Randy and Denise…on the floor. Blood everywhere. I was almost sick. Bobby was screaming. I grabbed him and ran.”
“We didn’t see any footprints in the blood,” Devlin said.
Eloise examined Devlin. “I’m not a complete idiot, you know. I spent my life as a nurse. Seen lots of trauma, I have. More than you, I expect. I stayed to the bedroom wall. Got Bobby and left. Didn’t touch anything.”
“That was smart. What else can you tell us?”
“Never liked Randy. Told Denise that. She deserved better.”
“He was shady. One of those bikers, you know. No good.”
“Anything else? Anything suspicious?”
Eloise turned toward the window, pointing to the street. “There was a van there late last night.”
Coulter glanced at the window. “What time?”
She turned back to them. “They drove up about 10:30.”
“What type of van?”
“I didn’t see much. I mind my own business.”
Elmer coughed again.
“Anything you saw might help us,” Coulter said. “This is important.”
“Well, I only caught a glance, but it was white, like the Ford van Elmer drove as a plumber.”
“Anything else about the van?”
“Oh, it was too far away. As I said, I only peeked out the window for a second.”
Coulter waited for Elmer’s cough, but it never came. Guess he figured two coughs were enough.
“Nothing else?” Coulter sat back and sank into the couch.
“Well, when they left, the van passed under the streetlight and there was something on the side. Like a picture.”
“A picture of what?” Coulter slid forward to the edge of the couch.
“A lightning bolt.”
“Anything else?” Coulter asked.
Could have mentioned that sooner.
“Who was in the van?” Devlin asked.
“A couple of guys.”
“Can you tell us anything about them?”
Eloise glared at Devlin. “They were both big—not fat, big.”
“Did you see anything else that would help us identify them?”
“Too dark to tell. They had dark clothes. That’s all I know.”
“How long did they stay?” Devlin asked.
“’Fifteen minutes. About that long, eh, Elmer?”
“How would I know? You were the one glued to the window.”
“Yes, I’d say about fifteen minutes. I almost didn’t see them leave.”
“They didn’t turn on the headlights when they drove away.”
“Interesting,” Coulter said. “One more question. Does Bobby have any relatives we can contact?”
Eloise clapped her hand to her mouth, her eyes wide. “Omigod. Denise’s daughter, Annie. I forgot about her. She hasn’t been there long. Maybe a month. She’s fifteen, sixteen. From another marriage or another guy or something. I forgot about her. Is she…? Oh my God, no.”
Coulter held out his hands. “Calm down. She’s not in the house. Do you know where she’d be?”
“Maybe wherever she came from last month. A foster home of some kind.”
“Thank you, ma’am,” Coulter stood. “We appreciate your help. Someone from Child Services will come for the baby.”
Devlin followed Coulter out of the house. They stopped on the front lawn. Devlin lit a cigarette.
“Detectives are here.” Coulter grinned “You should go help them.”
“You’re such an ass.” Devlin blew a cloud of smoke at Coulter. “I’ll see what I can find out about Eastmont Electric.”
Coulter coughed. “What about the girl?”
“We gotta find her,” Devlin said. “Can you spare a crew to track her down?”
“I’ll send Davidson and Guenther,” Coulter said. “They can track the social services angle.”
“What are the chances of finding her alive?”
“Not good. If the Jokers have her, she might wish she was dead.”
* * *
That evening Coulter was finishing his workout in the large bay area of the TSU building when the back door opened. Devlin paused at the door and flicked a cigarette behind him. He sauntered across the bay area past the Suburbans and stopped beside an armored personnel carrier gathering dust. Two years earlier, when the Canadian Armed Forces downsized, Deputy Chief George Collins convinced them to donate the APC. TSU had used it once. It had stalled, belched black diesel smoke, and gassed everyone inside. It hadn’t moved since.
Devlin rubbed a hand on the Calgary Police Service decal on the side.
Coulter wiped the sweat off his face with a towel and headed to Devlin. “A dinosaur from another time.”
“Just like the deputy.”
“My grandfather said the most expensive thing is a free horse.”
“Smart man. I’m surprised you’re still here.”
“Busy all day helping you. My workout had to wait.”
“You guys looked ripped to me,” Devlin said. “You could skip a work out now and then.”
“I gotta work hard to keep up with the young guys.”
“Sure, cuz you’re so fuckin’ old,” Devlin said. “What? Twenty-eight?”
“Thirty-one last week.”
“Don’t look like you miss many workouts.”
Coulter patted Devlin’s gut. “Looks like you skipped a few workouts since you left TSU.”
“You’re an ass.” Devlin lit a cigarette.
“I get that a lot.” Coulter glared at the cigarette. “Really? You’re gonna smoke that here? Right after I work out? When did you start smoking?”
“It’s part of undercover work. I kicked it for TSU. Now I’m hooked again.”
“Yeah, well, we like it clean and smoke-free.”
“All right.” Devlin pinched the end and put the cigarette back in the package. “Any word on the missing girl?”
“Davidson and Gunther didn’t get anywhere locating Annie,” Coulter said. “She left the foster home two months ago to live with her mom. I guess social services thought a clean house and a nice neighborhood meant everything would be okay. They didn’t check too hard on Randy, I’ll bet. Annie didn’t go back to the foster home today and social services haven’t heard from her. Dead ends. Not at school either.”
“Shit.” Devlin said. “I need a favor.”
“Of course you do. I was doing your work all day, you might as well take my night too.”
“I got lucky on that Eastmont Electric Van,” Devlin said. “It was stolen three nights ago.
This afternoon I put the plate number out over the radio. Just got a hit. About that favor.”
Outlaw MC Coming Late Fall 2018.
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