The mountains along the western rim of the Calumet Valley form a fourteen thousand foot granite levy, thwarting the storm fronts that surge in from the west. The moisture-laden clouds get trapped behind the jagged peaks and drop their snow and rain outside the valley. Once relieved of their loads of moisture, they float upwards and over the ridge, leaving the valley mostly arid. Some refer to the valley as Colorado’s “Banana Belt”, but although the microclimate is dry and temperate, it cannot support tropical plants. Heavy snowstorms are not common, but occasionally, when a sufficiently massive front crests the ridge, the laden clouds spill down and get trapped in the giant bowl. This typically happens in the spring, when the waxing sun is high and powerful enough to fuel the storm. Such a storm was predicted by meteorologists to hit Calumet in three days.
At the moment, the U.S. attorney general was conducting a weekly conference call with Inspector Weathers in his room at the Sumerset Motel. Agent Acevedo was in attendance as well. The predominant item on their agenda had to do with the disposition of Sheriff Bear Ellison.
“My preference,” offered Acevedo, “is to take him at the department. My agents will back up the marshals. They can arrest him and hold him at the federal pen until he’s transferred. I say we do it today.”
“I understand your position,” replied the attorney general, “but we need to cool things down there a little.”
“What do you mean?”
“The governor’s been talking to the president about this.”
“The president? I don’t see how this concerns him.”
“It’s politics, Vince.”
“Politics doesn’t have anything to do with this.”
“Politics has everything to do with everything.”
“What did the governor say?” asked Acevedo.
“This Calumet situation has implications regarding the governor’s future.”
“The governor has political aspirations: a cabinet level post, maybe veep.”
“What does that have to do with our problems out here?”
“He’s done favors for the president. He delivered the state in the election, but it nearly cost him his own position. Colorado’s a purple state, Vince. The party’s hold is tenuous. The governor can’t afford to let the rural opposition get energized – all those BLM ranchers and gun nuts and right wingers. If you go in there and take that sheriff down, there’s gonna be blowback. Those folks up there are going to feel like they’re being pushed around by Big Brother. They’re going to demand that the governor take a position, and he doesn’t want to take a position. Do you follow me? If he sides with us and authorizes you to go after that sheriff, he’ll probably lose re-election. Then he’s tainted, with no future for him in DC. And if the governor sides with his county, he’ll lose PAC funding. The New York boys aren’t going to funnel money into a rogue governor’s campaign. Any position he takes is a loser, so he doesn’t want to take any position…and he doesn’t want to be forced to take one, either.”
“What does the president say?” asked Weathers.
“The president owes him, and he personally doesn’t want another Waco or Ruby Ridge during his term, so he wants us to back off.”
“So I have to sit around and do nothing while Ellison plays cowboy? No way. I’m bringing him in.”
“Calm down, Vince.”
“This is bullshit!”
“Do I need to have you reassigned?” asked the AG. “I didn’t say to do nothing. Just back off from the sheriff for the time being. Go do some police work. Your boys have nothing to do at the moment. Go find out where Turcot is and make the arrest on your own. That would be the ideal scenario for everyone involved.”
“Ellison is obstructing justice. He needs to be in jail,” said Acevedo.
“There’s nothing to be gained by locking him up. We’ll deal with him after the general election.”
“I can’t believe you politicians. You’ll be the end of us all.”
“I’m sorry, Vince. It’s the president’s recommendation. He’s accounting for the blowback.”
“Yeah…have you thought about the blowback if we don’t do anything?” retorted Acevedo. “Whatever happens – we get Turcot or we don’t – Ellison ends up looking like a hero. How many hillbilly sheriffs are going to get crazy ideas after they see him strutting around? Have you thought about that blowback? Have you thought about all those redneck sheriffs disregarding and disrespecting the authority of the federal government? You’re talking about unleashing chaos in half the country.”
“Let’s not go off the deep end, Vince. I can assure you that Sheriff Ellison is not going to come out of this looking like any hero. When we get our Turcot conviction, Ellison’s going to look like someone on the wrong side of history. The media will feast on him. He’ll be friendless and isolated. We’ll even push some money down to make sure he loses his re-election.”
“You’re just going to have to deal with it, Vince. The mission here is not the sheriff. Let that go. Go find Turcot. Weathers, are you still there?”
“Do you understand the objective?”
“Yes sir. We’re working on it. There’s a lot of places to hide out here. It’s possible he’s left the state.”
“That’s unlikely,” Acevedo said. “He couldn’t have gotten far…not without cash.”
“Unless the sheriff’s bankrolling him,” Weathers suggested.
“I doubt it,” replied the AG. “Ellison isn’t that brazen. I don’t believe he’s that committed to Turcot. He’s just committed to being a pain in your ass, Vince. You really screwed up your relationship with him. What did you do?”
“I was doing my job,” Acevedo answered.
“Weathers, I thought you said one of the Calumet deputies knows where he is.”
“We believe so,” answered Weathers.
“Ken Kennesaw,” barked Acevedo. “I say we bring him in for questioning.”
“Have you spoken with this Deputy Kennesaw?”
“I doubt he’ll reveal anything to us,” explained Weathers.
“Are you tailing him?”
“He knows when we are.”
“Then maybe you should be tailing him in a less conspicuous manner.”
“I know what you mean, but we’ll need a warrant for that. Could we even get it? The courts aren’t very cooperative out here, and I’m sure the local sheriff’s department, here, would get wind of it.”
“If necessary, I can go to the FISA court,” answered the AG. “I’ll make it a national security issue.”
“Great, but I’m sorry, how is this a national security issue?” asked Weathers.
“Terrorism is practically the definition of ‘national security issue’.”
“It doesn’t sound like terrorism to me,” Acevedo remarked.
“Terrorism is defined as ‘the intent to intimidate or coerce a significant portion of a civilian population.’ Turcot fits this bill. He can easily be portrayed as a domestic extremist. And we have reason to believe Deputy Kennesaw knows his whereabouts.”
“Do you think the court will buy it?” asked Weathers.
“Yes,” answered the AG. “The court’s definition is broad, and they err on the side of national security. Plus, my boss appointed them.”
“Maybe we should try to motivate the locals to give Turcot up,” suggested Weathers. “Maybe we could offer a reward.”
“You might be on to something. But I don’t think a reward will work on its own,” answered the AG. “It’s tough to get people to snitch purely for selfish gain. We’ll need more.”
“What do you suggest?” asked Weathers.
“Propaganda. Turn Turcot from a hero into a psychotic killer. Play that up every time you talk to the media. Create fear and panic. I’ll make some calls and get the Quantico people to cook up some crazy psych profile. Maybe we use the suicidal mass shooter template. We’ll throw in some racism or religious fanaticism or sexual deviancy for good measure. We’ll use the FISA warrant to turn the NSA loose on him. They’ll find something in his internet searches and emails and metadata – contextual or not, they’ll find something. Then we’ll leak it to the press and let them build a public safety hysteria. Psychotic, suicidal, fanatic, pervert, Nazi – that should get those sympathizers out there second guessing their loyalties.”
The AG signed off.
“Well there you have it,” Weathers said, turning to the agent.
Acevedo’s phone buzzed. “I have to go deal with something,” he said, and excused himself.