naked rollout pass run option. We also have a pitch to the trailing back.'

Emo leaned over and looked down at the diagram painted in water on the chipped cedar table. Then he added a play of his own.

'You should tell your coach to put in a Z-Option off the rollout. You throw back to the wingback on the far side.' He drew the pass pattern and Chooch looked carefully at the play.

'Countermotion,' he said, and Emo Rojas nodded.

Shane thought this was just about perfect. He and his son were making the important, but difficult, transition from parent and child to buddies.

They heard the four Harleys pull in, but nobody paid too much attention. Darren Zook went to the restroom to tap a kidney. Shane went to get another beer from the bar. He had just paid when he heard angry voices coming from the other room.

'Do I look like I give a fuck?' he heard somebody shout.

Shane moved out of the bar and stood in the threshold of the dining room. He saw four scruffy looking bikers leaning over the booth where Emo and Chooch sat. Shane knew at a glance these were outlaws. One-percenters. Chooch was trying to get to his feet, but one of the large thugs had his hand on the boy's shoulder holding him in place. Hard to do because Chooch, at eighteen, had grown into a six-foot-three, 225-pound college football prospect. These four outlaws were patched. When one of them moved, Shane saw the Mongol's colors riding his back like a dangerous insult.

'This ain't gonna work, dickhead,' one of the Mongols said to Emo. He was big. At least two hundred and fifty pounds, with a red beard and deep-set eyes. He looked mean, but slow.

'Hey Rainman,' one of the other Mongols said to red beard, 'this kid ain't patched. Maybe he's a prospect.'

Rainman leaned in and glared at Chooch. 'Then you're prospecting for dead people.' He turned and growled at Emo. 'You wear the bottom rocker in our state, you eat shit and die.'

Chooch was still being held in place. But then without warning, he bolted up, spun, and shoved the Mongol behind him hard, using a forearm shiver. Suddenly everyone was moving at once. Emo Rojas ducked under Rainman's wild right and bolted out of the booth. Chooch scrambled out beside him.

A hard-eyed Mongol with geezer stitched on his pocket was holding the door. He pulled a cut-down out from under his three-quarter-length coat-a shotgun with a four-inch barrel.

Cut-downs were illegal in California, but these guys made their own laws. Geezer chambered the piece and everybody froze.

'You got one way outta this place,' Rainman said to Emo. He was smiling through his red beard, but his slit eyes offered little humor and no hope. 'You get down on your belly and ya crawl out the door. I'm gonna break you up, rip that bottom rocker off, and stuff it up your ass. Then if you suck this prospect's dick, I might let you run.'

Now a slight smile appeared on Emo's face. Adrenaline, or some form of street insanity. Chooch was on the balls of his feet and ready.

Shane left the bar threshold and moved quietly along an adjoining wall, then looped right and ran through the service door. Geezer didn't see it coming until it was too late. Shane dove over a table and hit the gunman between the shoulder blades, right in the middle of the ugly, snarling Mongol logo, taking the man to the ground. The shotgun flew from his hands, discharging into the air. It landed, then bucked out the door into the dirt.

How long the fight lasted was a topic of dispute for months. Darren Zook, who heard the shotgun blast and ran out of the can, said he thought he was only in the brawl for about thirty seconds. Shane and Emo felt it had lasted over three minutes- but to be honest, fish and fight stories always get bigger with each telling.

Most dustups end up on the ground, so the LAPD and the L. A. Sheriff's Department teach a version of Brazilian jujitsu, which is a ground-fighting technique. Tough guys and heroes like to stand toe-to-toe and trade punches, but Emo, Shane, and Darren all took their guys down fast, wrapping them up in arm locks and leg holds. Geezer screamed as Shane applied too much leverage and broke his right wrist. Rainman hit Chooch, who shook it off and countered with two sharp left hooks that dumped him.

Whether it took a minute or an hour, the end result was the same. Shane, Darren, Emo, and Chooch were standing over the four dazed Mongols. It was a moment that would bond them forever.

'Los Angeles Sheriffs Department. You're under arrest,' Emo said, as he flashed his deputy's star and cuffed Rainman.

Shane flashed his LAPD badge, then grabbed his cuffs and hooked Geezer up. Darren and Emo cuffed the other two, who called themselves Crash and Nasty, then went through the bikers' pockets and finally found enough meth in their saddlebags to add Possession with Intent to Distribute to the charge sheet. Afterwards, they escorted their captives outside and waited for the LASD transport van.

The Mongols shook their heads in dismay. 'You guys are cops?' Rainman asked. 'I thought you were outlaws.'

Darren said, 'Iron Pigs don't ask if they can wear the bottom rocker, because you gotta be a cop to join.' Then Emo reached out and tore Rainman's California rocker off his leathers and stuffed it in the trash can out front. He tapped his own club logo. 'These colors don't run.'

When the sheriff's van pulled away with the four Mongols, it was almost dark. Shane and Chooch said good- bye to Emo and Darren then walked back to their borrowed bikes. As Chooch turned to get on his Fat Boy, Shane saw that he had a cut on his eyebrow trickling blood. His lip was also beginning to swell.

'Your mom's gonna kill us,' he said.

'We didn't run, Dad,' Chooch said proudly.

'Yep. We hung solid,' Shane agreed. As he started his Harley he thought this boy had surely been sent to him by God.

Chapter 1


It was mid-september, hot and dry, the kind of hot that makes you think of frosty cans of Coors and long swims in the ocean. I was standing in a small, burned-out shack ten miles east of Palmdale in the high desert. There wasn't much left-a rock chimney and some blackened footings. My shoes were already covered with soot from kicking at scorched rocks and the remnants of charred furniture. It was ten on a Tuesday morning and the lizards had already abandoned their flat rocks to slither into the shady crevices between granite outcroppings.

This had been a Palmdale P. D. crime scene a month ago. Now it was mine. I'd driven out here in a primered Ford Bronco along with Sonny Lopez. The truck was his privately owned vehicle, known in police circles as a POV. Sonny was a sheriff's deputy working L. A. Impact, a multi-jurisdictional law-enforcement task force located in Los Angeles County, in Lancaster. The TF was a bad pork stew made up of LAPD and state cops, LASD, and a smattering of feds from the FBI, Customs, and ATF. All of them pretending to be a kick-ass unit, while at the same time trying to get past their deep jurisdictional prejudices.

Sonny Lopez was in his mid-thirties, tall, and movie-star handsome. He was working meth labs for L. A. Impact. This one had exploded and burned to the ground. At first it was thought to be a gas leak, but the county fire teams had learned to call the cops if they saw chemistry glassware in the ashes. When they were raking the debris cold, too many test tubes came up in the furrows. Since crystal kitchens tended to explode more frequently than Palestinian suicide bombers, the Palmdale P. D. did tests on the soil and found high quantities of methamphetamine. In fact, the dirt was so laced with amp, the site started to get nightly visits from local crankheads. They hauled away the soil, taking it home to mine it for meth. A dirt lab is what we called it. L. A. Impact did a lot of meth investigations, so they were called in.

I came from a far more depressing direction.

Two kids had starved to death in a house in Fullerton; fourteen-month-old Cindy and her four-month-old brother, Ben. Their mother, Paula Beck, was a crystal addict with half a dozen meth-cooking busts in her package. Paula was currently in the Sybil Brand Institute facing two involuntary manslaughter charges. The D. A. wanted to

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