Serve & Protect
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Seattle Police Lieutenant Rodriguez is worried about a growing number of domestic violence calls where the accused is a gun hoarder. Worried enough that he gives Mac Davis a call one morning at 2 a.m. to the house where a man just shot his wife and two children.
Mac Davis, a local cop reporter and former Marine who might qualify as a gun hoarder himself, doesn't like 2 a.m. calls to crime scenes. He especially doesn't like it when he watches them haul out body bags that are obviously children.
It isn't the first case.
It won't be the last.
Someone is building a network of white-collar weekend warriors. Someone wants a bunch of angry white men with large arsenals.
He's called Sensei. And he wants Mac to join up. If not? Well, then he has other plans for him. Plans Mac won't like.
The third book in the Mac Davis thrillers set in a Seattle newsroom.
Release date: June 7, 2021
Print pages: 320
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Serve & Protect
(Seattle, Washington, Monday, April 28, 2014)
Mackensie Davis — Mac — hated early mornings, although this could be viewed as a late Sunday night. He considered that. Nope. He’d been asleep. That made it morning, although he conceded that at 2 a.m. it was a stretch, because it was as dark as Hades out here. And at 40 degrees and raining for the third day in a row, it was a miserable time to be called out on a news story.
Mac wasn’t fond of cops either. He considered them an unpleasant necessity of his job as a cop reporter at the Seattle Examiner. Something he had to put up with, like early morning deadlines. Which was about how most of the cops thought of him. He reconsidered that. Well, most of them didn’t see why they had to put up with him at all. He shrugged. He hadn’t lost any sleep over what cops thought of him when he was a teen running the streets of Seattle. He didn’t see why he should care now.
But combine a wet, early — really early — call out and cops? A dozen cops maybe more? And he was in a foul mood.
A really foul mood.
And that was before he saw them carry out the victim, victims actually, and from the size of the body bags, he knew it was a woman and two children.
“Shit,” Mac said.
Lt. Nick Rodriguez looked at him and grunted. Rodriguez was a big man, mid-40s, carrying a few more pounds than he should. “Hate these,” he said.
Mac, scowled. He matched Rodriguez in height, 6-foot-1, but at 29, he was leaner and went to great lengths to stay that way. “Who are they?”
“Elena Martin, 29, a daughter, age 10, and son, age 6. Neighbor heard shots, called it in. They were dead when cops arrived. We’ve got a BOLO out for her husband, George Martin, 34, blond hair/blue eyes, 5-foot-9.”
“So why was I called out here? Why are you out here?” Mac asked. “Those are details I could have gotten at 6 a.m. when I make my blotter calls.” This was the seventh set of gunshot deaths this month. Mac didn’t like it, but gunshot deaths weren’t page 1 news.
Rodriguez was silent. Grim. Mac wondered what was going on with him. Of all the cops Mac interacted with, he found Rodriguez tolerable. He thought it was probably mutual — a combination of begrudging respect and shared battles.
Last fall’s battle had been ugly: Army of God had attempted to blow up seven Planned Parenthood clinics in the city. Rodriguez had been instrumental in limiting the damage. Half of his supervisors were praising him for his fine work. The other half? Split between those who blamed him for not stopping the catastrophe completely and those who thought he’d gone outside his job description and resented his interference. And a few detractors may have been helping out the Army of God. Maybe.
The attack also revealed a growing problem of white militants within the police department. Cops lost their jobs over it — those who hadn’t shown up to back up other cops. Those who abandoned their surveillance posts. And in one case, a cop who had violated procedures to release a suspect from the holding pen — a suspect who later attempted to take several civilians hostage.
Mac had been afraid Rodriquez would just quit. But the man was a good cop. He’d been a cop since he was 18, and he really couldn’t envision being anything else. It appeared he was toughing it out.
And his supervisors couldn’t fire him. Seattle residents saw him as a hero, in large part due to Mac’s reporting. That made Rodriguez uncomfortable.
It wasn’t something Mac was comfortable with either.
“Come out back,” Rodriguez said finally.
The house was a nice, two-story Seattle-style bungalow: Big front porch with river rock pillars, wood siding painted a sage gray, with trim painted in two or three colors. It wasn’t that different than the house Mac shared with his aunt on Queen Anne. Mac’s home was on a slope, and the garage was under it facing out to the street. This house was on Capitol Hill and on flat ground. The two-car garage was separate from the house, and set back along the left side. The two men walked silently back to the garage, and Rodriguez opened a side door, and flipped on a light switch.
“They were killed out here?” Mac asked puzzled.
“No, they died inside the house,” Rodriguez answered. “Go ahead, take a look here. Then I’ll show you the house.”
Mac stepped inside the garage. “Shit!” he said looking around. Every inch of space on the walls held weapons. Rifles from AK-47s to an old shotgun as well as countless handguns. He tried to estimate the number of weapons, 40? Maybe 50? More?
“Was he a dealer?” Mac asked thinking about the guns he had. His aunt rolled her eyes and teased him about the number of guns he kept hidden about the house. His 4-Runner had a special hide for some of them. When he had to rescue his kidnapped boss last fall from an isolationist community, he outfitted his team without having to borrow any.
And even he didn’t have this many guns. He had better quality, though. This was almost like a hoarder. He considered that and filed it away.
Rodriguez shook his head. “Doesn’t seem to be,” he answered. “He’s an accountant. Works downtown for one of the big accounting firms. His wife was a school teacher. He just liked — likes — guns, I guess.”
“Are there more in the house?” Mac asked, as Rodriguez closed the garage door. Was the door even locked? Mac wondered.
Rodriguez nodded, and led the way from the garage to the back door. A bicycle was locked up next to it. Mac took a deep breath and exhaled. He hated it when his stories involved kids. Except for the occasional Officer Friendly story — which he also hated doing — when kids were involved in his stories, they were victims. All too frequently, they were dead victims.
Rodriguez handed him gloves and booties. He put them on, and followed him into a mud room, then into the kitchen. Again, very much like the Mac’s own home — it was an iconic craftsman bungalow style. Mac liked them.
Rodriguez nodded at the kitchen table. Someone had been in a rage. The table was turned over, chairs thrown.
“Best we can reconstruct, he was gone for the weekend. Came home late, found divorce papers on the table. He lost it, killed the kids and then her. Made her watch,” Rodriguez’s voice was a flat monotone. Mac wasn’t fooled. Rodriguez was tamping down the rage he felt that a man could do that to his wife and kids.
“A bit cold to serve papers that way,” Mac observed. “But damn. Take the papers like a man.”
“The papers were in a folder next to her purse. Looks like she came home with them Friday, set them aside, because he was gone,” Rodriguez said. “We’ll know more about that when we call her attorney.”
“So, you wait to call her attorney until business hours, but me you drag out at O-dark-30?” he groused.
Rodriguez smiled briefly. “Anything I can do for the press,” he said.
Mac followed him through the house. There was a display case of weapons in the living room. A crime scene team were going over the room. There was a pile of weapons on the coffee table. A woman was carefully tagging each and putting them in a box.
Down the hall. The photos on the walls were of men posed together, holding rifles. AR-15s. Figures, Mac thought sourly. He pulled out his camera and took some photographs of the framed photos. He turned back and took a few of the people working in the living room. Rodriguez just waited.
There was something about the photos on the wall though that nagged at him.
“Was he in to re-enactments?” Mac asked. “No, those are AR-15s. So not hunters either. Some kind of gun club?”
“Come see the rest,” Rodriguez said. Mac followed back into bedrooms. More crime scene team members. Mac reconstructed the events in his head: He comes home, grabbed his wife, beat her up, he’d guess, and then dragged her into their daughter’s room. Shot the girl. Dragged the wife into the boy’s room, shot him. Then shot the wife. And fled.
Rodriguez was just watching silently as the crime scene team did their job. The boy at age 6, had his own rifle in a wall rack. A nice .22. Starting him young. Not the daughter, oh no, Mac thought bitterly. Let’s not give weapons to the women. Too bad the wife hadn’t grabbed one of his own weapons and shot him. There were several in their bedroom. Handguns in the nightstand drawers.
“OK, Lieutenant,” Mac said. “Why am I here?”
Rodriguez gestured with his head toward the way they’d come. They walked silently back out the door to the back yard. Mac made a mental note to snap some photos of the arsenal in the garage.
“This is the third gun stash like this we’ve found in the last month,” Rodriguez said.
Mac frowned. “Third shooting death?”
Rodriguez shook his head. “No, one was an ‘accidental’ death.” Neither Rodriguez or Mac considered those kinds of deaths accidental. Negligent. Someone had been negligent and a kid died. Mac hoped the police charged that fucker. “A kid with daddy’s loaded gun,” Rodriguez continued. “The other was a burglary. Someone broke into a man’s stash and stole a bunch of them. He had a nice detailed list of all his weapons, with the stolen ones flagged for us. For insurance purposes, he said.”
“OK,” Mac said slowly. “Three different gun stockpiles. But that’s not illegal. You can own as many guns as you want in this state.”
“No, it’s not illegal,” Rodriguez agreed. “But there was something weird about them. This guy’s an accountant, right? No military service, no connection to law enforcement. The kid who killed himself? His father was a banker. No military, no law enforcement. Same with the guy who got burglarized. A desk jockey for the Port Authority.”
“So middle class, middle-aged, white-collar men,” Mac said, his eyes narrowed in thought. “OK, that’s a bit unusual. But what’s bugging you?”
“Bugged you too,” Rodriguez observed. “Those photos on the wall. Why did you study them?”
Mac thought about it. His instincts made him take notice, he acknowledged. He had good instincts for danger — trained by the best Uncle Sam could provide.
“I don’t know,” Mac admitted. “But alarms went off when I saw those photos on the wall. Something’s not right.”
Rodriguez nodded. He shoved his hands in his pockets and looked around the yard. Dawn was approaching and you could actually see something. Tulips blooming, a swing set.
“Something’s building,” he said at last. “And God help me, I trust your instincts. As you say, nothing illegal about gun stockpiling. But, Mac, these aren’t preppers. No food stash, no extra vehicles. They’re not veterans who just feel safer if they have a few weapons in convenient locations. Not gun dealers. Or drug dealers for that matter. So, what are they?”
Mac thought about that. “Does it matter?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” Rodriguez admitted. “These people died because an angry man had a ready weapon at hand. But hell, if it hadn’t been a gun, it could have been the butcher knife. The 4-year-old kid died because an asshole didn’t practice good gun safety procedures. And yeah, I found something to charge him with because I was pissed. That 4-year-old should still be alive.”
Mac gestured toward the garage, and Rodriguez nodded. Mac took some photos for the newspaper. He glanced at his watch. He needed to get into the office.
“So, you have a twitch,” Mac said. “And you want to make my instincts twitch too? Thanks a lot.”
Rodriguez didn’t even smile.
“Yeah,” he said. “Where are they getting all these weapons, Mac? And why? And what’s with the photos on the wall? And yes. The dead kid scene? Photos there too, although I didn’t think much about it at the time. I wasn’t at the scene of the burglary, I just heard about the stockpile and thought, ‘that’s odd’.”
“A gun club for weapon collectors?”
“Would you consider that a collection?” Rodriguez asked. “I wouldn’t. There’s nothing special about them. There are duplicates. No, I wouldn’t call them collectors. They’re stockpiling. And I want to know exactly what they’re stockpiling weapons for?”
Mac nodded slowly. He shot his photos of the garage. Checked his time again. “Let me know if you catch the guy,” he said. “I don’t suppose you have the name of the guy who got burglarized?”
Rodriguez smiled. “At the office,” he said. “I’ll get it to you.”
Mac parked in his usual spot in the parking structure at the Seattle Examiner. It was right in front of the parking attendant’s booth, and only steps from the stairs to the third-floor entrance of the Examiner’s newsroom. A bit of courtesy to the attendant kept the spot free for him and he kept an eye on his rig as well.
The 4-Runner wasn’t a high-demand target; Mac wasn’t worried about it being stolen. But he did not want anyone to go through his vehicle. He thought briefly about the weapons stashed beneath the spare tire in a locked box. Was he any different than the gun-stockpile guys Rodriguez was concerned about?
Well, for all he knew, Rodriguez was concerned about his weapon stash too. Or would be, if he knew about all of it.
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