Three Calumet County police cruisers roared over the wooden bridge crossing Michigan Ditch, turned onto a gravel road, and accelerated, kicking up a storm of dust and rocks. Their sirens echoed in the draw, scattering the mule deer and crows. Halfway up the road, they nearly ran down a mountain biker who managed to avoid a catastrophe by lunging off the berm and crashing into a patch of dried thistle. The CCSD procession climbed up and over a swell, then swerved wildly to avoid the mailman’s delivery Jeep. They continued on, tearing down the final leg and coming to a sliding, screeching halt in Monte Turcot’s gravel driveway. The sirens fell silent. Five deputies and Sheriff Ellison exited their cruisers and drew their pistols, shielding themselves behind their doors. The dust cloud they had churned up dissipated into the trees to the east. Monte’s trailer was still and silent.
“Should we get on the PA and order him to come out?” asked Kennesaw.
Shaking his head, the sheriff raised a hand and signaled to two of the other deputies. With their weapons at the ready, the men quickly darted out of cover and circled around to the back of the trailer.
“Are we waiting for the feds?” Kennesaw continued. “They’ll be here any minute.”
“No,” Ellison answered. “I’ll tell you what I want; you take my cruiser back down the road to the bridge and block it off.”
“I don’t want those hothead feds screaming up here all locked and loaded. Who knows what they might do.”
“Got it, Boss.” Kennesaw stepped into the sheriff’s cruiser through the passenger door and slid over to the driver’s seat. Ellison moved aside and watched as the vehicle backed out of the long driveway towards the road.
“You’re in the open, Sheriff!” shouted one of the other deputies. “You want us to come up?”
“No,” Ellison replied. “Stay right there. I’m going to see if he’s home.”
Cautiously, the sheriff approached the trailer door, his pistol drawn and held at his side. Above, the sun shone bright in the icy blue sky. The air was cold, crystallizing each exhalation, and the breeze carried the smell of burning pine. The grass was flaxen, littered with pine cones. The ravens cawed and gurgled in the trees. One swooped down and perched on the edge of the rain gutter over the front door of Turcot’s trailer, clicking as Ellison approached before it flew off over the trees.
“Monte!” Ellison called out as he reached the door and put his back to the siding. “You in there?”
Drawing his pistol up to his chest, the sheriff knocked on the door with his free hand. “Monte!”
Ellison looked back at the two deputies. They had their guns aimed at him, or more accurately, aimed at the door. He hoped that they would not unload their magazines at the first loud noise. Bracing himself, he knocked again.
“Monte! You in there?”
Ellison heard the distant roar of vehicles coming up the gravel road. They would run into Kennesaw’s roadblock at any instant. Hold them off, Ken, he prayed.
“Monte! We need to talk. You home?” he shouted one last time, then paused to listen. The sound of the approaching vehicles had stopped. Ellison shot another look at the two deputies as his breath poured out in short puffs of fog. He glanced down at his watch.
“I’m here,” a raggedy voice answered from inside.
The sheriff was both relieved and terrified. “Come answer the door. I need to talk to you.”
“It doesn’t look like you came here just to talk!” Monte shouted back.
“What do you think I came here for, then?”
It was a weak trap, intended to cause suspects to slip up and admit their guilt. The vast majority of crimes are solved by confessions of one sort or another, but Turcot was no fool.
“I’ve no idea, Sheriff,” Monte snapped. “Shouldn’t I be asking you?”
Ellison realized that he had not only insulted his suspect, but had damaged the trust between them as well. He decided that it was time to come clean.
“I’m here to arrest you.”
“Somebody shot an agent. The DEA thinks it’s you. Were you down at Perks this morning?”
“My lawyer said never talk to police.”
“But we’ve already talked before, Monte.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” snapped Monte, “but if it’s a DEA agent who got shot, then I won’t be shedding any tears.”
“And they won’t be shedding any tears for you, Monte. They’re coming, and they’ve got revenge on their mind.”
“Then they’re coming to the wrong house, again.”
“Monte, you need to come with me. You need to come right now. You may be in danger.”
“I’m calling my lawyer.”
“There’s no time for that. I’ll call him for you on the way. I’ve got Deputy Kennesaw holding the feds off, but there’s no telling how long we’ve got.”
There was no response. Ellison cursed to himself as he pondered his next move. He heard shouts and cursing from further up the road, and hoped that he hadn’t sent Kennesaw into harm’s way.
“Okay,” he continued. “Look, Monte, I don’t know who did what. I’m not judge and jury. All I know is that an agent got shot at Perks, and I heard they were coming to get you. They’re convinced you did it. These guys are real hard-asses, Monte. I cannot guarantee your safety with them. I don’t trust them. Worst case scenario, it wouldn’t take much for them to surround this place and burn it down with you inside. They could say that you fired at them from your trailer or something.”
“Monte, do you want me to come inside?”
“Monte? You aren’t doing anything stupid in there, are you? We’ve got the back covered. There’s no way out of here except with me. But if you try to run for it, those deputies out back, they’ll probably start shooting. You won’t get far.”
“Monte, I’ll make sure you’re safe. You have my word. I swear. Just come out now before the feds get here. We’ll keep you at the station where we can protect you. We’ll bring your lawyer down.”
“Monte, I’m coming in.” Ellison tried the doorknob, and was surprised to find it unlocked. “I’m opening your door. Don’t shoot me.” He pushed the door open about a foot and peered in, allowing his eyes to adjust to the interior darkness. As he listened for sounds from within, the sheriff opened it the rest of the way and waited, then raised his gun and stepped inside.
The living room was empty. Ellison moved towards the far wall that separated it from the kitchen, noticing a hole from the bullet that had taken the life of Mrs. Turcot. He peered around the corner of the wall and saw an empty chair, an olive green refrigerator, and a dinette table. Monte Turcot himself sat silently at the far end, his hands flat on the surface of the table.
“Monte?” Ellison addressed him carefully.
Monte looked up, but did not answer.
“Are you armed, Monte?”
“Are there any firearms in this house, in this room in particular?”
“Where’s that Kel-Tec I saw you shooting the other day?”
“I got rid of it.”
“If we looked around here…if we looked real hard…would we find it?”
“I told you,” answered Monte. “I got rid of it.”
“Okay, that’s fine. Can I have you stand up for me nice and slow?”
Monte stood up.
“Can you do me a favor and put your hands on your head?”
“Okay, I’m going to frisk you. It’s not that I don’t trust you, Monte, it’s just something I’ve got to do. It gives me peace of mind.”
Ellison removed Monte’s cell phone and wallet from his pockets and set them on the table. He patted the suspect down, but found nothing else.
“Okay. I’m going to put these cuffs on you,” he explained, “and we’re going to walk outside and put you into a cruiser. Then I’m going to sit next to you in the back. Understand?”
“One more thing.”
“You’re under arrest for the murder of DEA Agent Kevin Sniggs,” declared the sheriff as he fastened the cuffs around Monte’s wrists. “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. You can decide at any time to exercise these rights and not answer any questions or make any statements. Do you understand each of these rights?”
Ellison led Monte out of the trailer. Once they were outside, the sheriff escorted him out to the nearest cruiser, helped him into the back seat, and slid in beside him.
“What are you doing back there, Sheriff?” asked one of the deputies as he sat down in the driver’s seat.
“It’s my responsibility to make sure my suspect is safely transported,” answered Ellison. “Let’s go.”
The two sheriff’s department cruisers backed down the drive, turned around, and drove out onto the gravel road towards Kennesaw’s road block.
“You’ll be all right,” Ellison said reassuringly, but Monte just stared out the window.
Up ahead, about an eighth of a mile down the road, stood a wall of nine black Tahoes. More than a dozen agents stood along the roadway, all outfitted in body armor and dark glasses. The men carried an assortment of M&P 4s and Glock 22s, and appeared to have prepared for a raid on some immense compound full of armed drug dealers, rather than a single trailer and a single man.
“What should we do, Sheriff?” asked the deputy as he slowed the cruiser.
“Call Kennesaw,” replied Ellison. “Tell him to make way for us. We’re not stopping.”
“Just do it!”
Reaching for his radio, the deputy relayed the order. Kennesaw’s lone white cruiser heeded the command and moved to the side, but the agents promptly filed into the road, forming a human blockade.
“Put your flashers on,” Ellison ordered.
“Do you have the dash cam on?”
“It’s on. What if they don’t move?”
“That’s my order. Do it.”
“All right. Whatever you say.”
“Step on it!” shouted Ellison. “Go! Go!”
The sirens screamed as the white cruiser accelerated towards the agents, kicking up stones and dust. The agents held their ground and raised their weapons. The deputy jammed on the horn.
“If you stop, we’re dead!” Ellison shouted.
At the last instant, the agents scattered like pigeons. The cruiser shot between them, barreling down the road as the remains of the roadblock grew smaller and smaller behind it.
“Get us to the station,” the sheriff ordered. “Keep them sirens going, and don’t slow down for anything.”