About the Author

Don Easton

Don Easton spent his career in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as an undercover operative who worked in foreign countries. He lives in Victoria, British Columbia.

Don Easton's premise for writing this novel came from personal experience. He was a former RCMP undercover operative who had been sent to El Paso where his investigation then took him into Juarez. Some of the events in this novel are shocking, made even more so when told by someone who has been there. Birds of a Feather is Easton's sixth Jack Taggart Mystery, following Loose Ends, Above Ground, Angel in the Full Moon, Samurai Code, and Dead Ends.

Books by this Author
A Delicate Matter

A Delicate Matter

A Jack Taggart Mystery
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Above Ground

Above Ground

A Jack Taggart Mystery
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tagged : crime, suspense
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An Element of Risk

An Element of Risk

A Jack Taggart Mystery
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Excerpt

Chapter Two

Corporal Jack Taggart and Constable Laura Secord were both members of the RCMP assigned to an intelligence unit in the headquarters building in Vancouver. Their mandate was to target sophisticated organized crime rings, particularly those who operated on an international level. At the top of their list was the Satans Wrath Motorcycle Club.

Satans Wrath operated in more than forty countries and included an overall membership of several thousand members worldwide. Most countries had numerous chapters, with larger cities being divided into more than a couple of chapters. Each chapter was overseen by a president, and a national president oversaw each country.

The club was responsible for a multitude of crimes, including murder, drug importing and exporting by the tonne, prostitution, corruption, identify theft, credit card fraud, and basically any other criminal activity imaginable.

Both Jack and Laura had been specially trained as undercover operatives, but their primary aim was to develop high-level informants. Undercover operatives, surveillance, and wiretaps could be important tools, but having someone on the inside was much more valuable.

Three months previous, Purvis Evans, who’d been the national president of Satans Wrath in Canada, was murdered after making a fatal mistake — he’d threatened Jack’s family. A high-level informant Jack had cultivated within the club claimed that Evans had disappeared after meeting some Russian cocaine importers whose real identities were never discovered by the bikers. This informant was certain that Evans had been murdered. Jack was more than certain. He knew.

After speaking with his informant, Jack submitted an intelligence report advising what his informant had told him. The truth was that, unbeknownst to the informant or anyone else in Satans Wrath, Jack had assumed an undercover role and tipped off a small band of thugs who were about to be murdered on orders from Evans. He then arranged for these criminals to murder Evans and make it appear that Russian criminals were responsible — Russian criminals who did not exist.

Evans’s murder, coupled with several arrests orchestrated by Jack and Laura from tips received from their informant, hindered some of Satans Wrath’s criminal ventures within British Columbia … but not all. Some crimes, regardless of how deadly, were allowed to continue to protect the identity of their informant.

Monday was the start of a new week and Jack took a sip of coffee and eyed Laura over the top of his mug. Her desk butted up to his and he’d noticed she’d been reading intelligence reports submitted from other parts of Canada. “You’re quiet this morning,” he noted. “Anything good?”

Laura frowned as she dipped a tea bag into her mug. “I don’t know if you’d call it good. I’m reading a report from the Canadian Intelligence Service out of Ottawa about Italian organized crime in Montreal and Toronto.” She took the tea bag out and gazed at it as it spun on the string before putting it aside. “It’s been a long time since our unit has taken a look to see how much influence the Cosa Nostra has out west.”

“Thinking we’ve stalled Satans Wrath a little and should take a look ourselves?”

Laura made a face. “You and I don’t have the time. Stalled is the right word, but it won’t take them long to recover. With our friend on the inside, we’re still going to be busy. I don’t see us getting the chance to take a long hard look at anyone else, which is the problem.”

Jack put his mug down. “We’re getting an increase in staff soon.”

Laura’s face brightened. “Yes, a new sergeant’s position and two constables.”

“That should help.”

“The promotion board is supposed to sit next month. I’m certain you’ll be the one selected to get your third stripe.” Jack pretended to eye her suspiciously. “You’re hoping I am so you’ll have an opportunity to move into my spot and pick up your corporal stripes.”

Laura smiled. “I wouldn’t turn down a 10 percent pay increase.” “Likewise,” Jack replied. He took another sip of coffee as he thought about the possibility of Italian organized crime evolving in B.C. “I don’t think we need to worry about the Italians at the moment. Our extra manpower, when we get it, could be used in other areas.”

“What makes you think we don’t need to worry about them?”

“What criminal activity do you think Satans Wrath is not involved in?”

“Is not involved in?” Laura appeared to think hard on the question. “None that I can think of. Drug trafficking, prostitution, not to mention corruption, infiltration of labour unions, elected officials, the judiciary, the ports…” She looked curiously at Jack. “Why?”

“In other words, anything that Italian organized crime would touch would also have to be in collusion with Satans Wrath. If they didn’t, we’d be finding bodies, either bikers or Italians, or both.”

Laura nodded. “And our friend would know about it,” she added.

Jack was about to reply in the affirmative but stopped when their boss, Staff Sergeant Rose Wood, entered the office. Looks ticked … what now?

“Hi, Rose. What’s up? You look like you inhaled a bug.”

Rose didn’t bother to pull up a chair as she glowered at Jack. “I bumped into Lexton out in the hall a moment ago. She asked if our section has come up with any Russian organized crime factions in the city yet.”

Crap! Assistant Commissioner Lexton was recently promoted to the position of being the criminal officer in charge of the Pacific region. She wielded enormous power and was someone whose attention he wished to avoid.

“Not coming up with anything doesn’t exactly put our office in a good light,” Rose said.

Damn it. I was hoping Lexton would forget about that.… He looked up at Rose. “I reported at the time that my informant believes the Russians were not from here and moved on after Evans disappeared.”

“Alleged Russians,” Rose retorted. “I get the distinct feeling that Lexton doesn’t believe your informant.”

“He’s always been reliable in the past,” Jack noted.

“Yes, I told Lexton that.”

“How’d she respond?”

Rose stared at Jack a moment, “That perhaps your informant was fed misinformation and Satans Wrath only believes it to be true.” When Jack didn’t respond, her face hardened. “What do you have to say about that?”

That Lexton is a smart lady.…

“Well?” Rose prodded.

“I suppose it’s possible,” Jack replied.

“Yes, it certainly is possible,” Rose replied bluntly before trudging back out the door.

Jack stared after her.

And Lexton isn’t the only smart lady.

The accused, nineteen-year-old Ronald Forsythe, belonged to a neighbouring gang based out of Abbotsford called the Death Heads. The two gangs had been in a turf war for over two years and were vying for control of the lucrative drug and prostitution trade.

The gangs were primarily comprised of adolescent males. Approximately fifty members made up the Death Heads and there were perhaps a dozen less in the United Front. Even the leaders were younger than thirty years old.

It was their age that made them so dangerous. A lack of maturity, coupled with inexperience, decidedly limited their ability to reason, let alone envision the consequences of their actions or feel empathy for any unintended victims.

The wanton disregard for life exhibited by both gangs had been appalling. Drive-by shootings were occurring on crowded sidewalks, in restaurants, and in parking lots. Car chases with shots being exchanged had become outrageously common.

The trial was receiving a lot of attention from the news media and citizens, not to mention the gang members themselves. Security was tight, and those intent on attending the trial were subjected to the same intense screening one would receive at an airport.

During the preliminary trial, which had taken place months earlier, the defence lawyer, fearing that the presence of fellow gang members might have a negative influence on the judge, had strongly suggested to his client that he tell his fellow gang members not to show up in court. Any who did show had been requested to dress appropriately and try their best to look like choir boys. The same suggestion had been made by Ana for those who sided with the victim.

The gangs took the suggestion to heart and usually limited their support, sending only the leader of each gang along with one or two followers. When gang representatives did show, the two gangs were kept separate.

Harold Borman, the leader of the Death Heads, was delegated to sit on the right side of the courtroom, while Jarvis Thibault, leader of the United Front, sat on the left. Despite the heavy police presence, the tension was palpable.

Ana knew it wasn’t only the tight security that aroused attention. The citizenry, stirred by media coverage of the ongoing shootings, were rightfully scared, angry, and keenly interested in the outcome of the trial.

Her case was also receiving rapt attention from her own superiors. She’d been selected to prosecute because she was a seasoned veteran with a reputation for being savvy, but she knew the respect she’d earned through years of dedicated work could vanish in an instant. Any slip-ups on her part would have serious ramifications for her future.

So far, the case was going as she wanted. The preliminary trial had gone well, but that being said, the real battle was yet to come.

Now, as she drove her white BMW out of the parkade, she went over the testimony she’d heard that afternoon and thought about the questions she’d ask when court reopened the next morning.

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Angel in the Full Moon

Angel in the Full Moon

A Jack Taggart Mystery
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Art and Murder

Art and Murder

A Jack Taggart Mystery
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Birds of a Feather

Birds of a Feather

A Jack Taggart Mystery
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Corporate Asset

Corporate Asset

A Jack Taggart Mystery
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Dead Ends

Dead Ends

A Jack Taggart Mystery
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Jack Taggart Mysteries 7-Book Bundle

Jack Taggart Mysteries 7-Book Bundle

Corporate Asset / Birds of a Feather / Dead Ends / and more
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Jack Taggart Mysteries 8-Book Bundle

Jack Taggart Mysteries 8-Book Bundle

The Benefactor / Corporate Asset / Birds of a Feather / and more
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Jack Taggart Mysteries 9-Book Bundle

Jack Taggart Mysteries 9-Book Bundle

Art and Murder / The Benefactor / Corporate Asset / and 6 more
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Loose Ends

Loose Ends

A Jack Taggart Mystery
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Subverting Justice

Subverting Justice

A Jack Taggart Mystery
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Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE
It was early afternoon when Corporal Jack Taggart slouched back in his office chair, massaging his temples with his fingertips. Unfortunately the images he’d seen a few hours earlier remained — along with any chance of erasing the knowledge of what had taken place next.
Three people had been tortured and murdered where they lived, in a farmhouse an hour’s drive away. The atrocity was horrible to see, and when he thought his brain couldn’t handle any more, he learned that a fourth murder had taken place at an unknown location somewhere else within the lower mainland. That victim was Damien Zabat — a man who’d recently given Jack infor-mation in exchange for keeping his wife and son out of jail. Damn it, Damien, I’m sorry. I never meant for this to happen.
Staff Sergeant Rose Wood cleared her throat as she entered his office, and he sat up, hoping to hide his emotions. She was his boss and in charge of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Intelligence Unit in Vancouver. She was also a person he respected and liked, someone he protected by not sharing all the details of the methods he used — methods Jack referred to as the grey zone.
Rose’s arrival caused him to worry about someone else — Laura. She was more than his subordinate. She was his partner and his close friend. Both worked undercover together and she was not someone he hid details from. Their survival often hinged on their ability to instinctively know what the other thought and how the other would react when the unexpected happened. He glanced at her empty desk, then looked at Rose and raised an eyebrow.
Rose’s face expressed her concern. She sat down in Laura’s chair. “You were right to have me check on her. When I first went into the washroom she was hiding out in a stall. I could hear her sobbing.”
Pure E, you son-of-a-bitch. You’ll pay for this.
“I calmed her down. She’s quit crying but isn’t ready to come out yet. She’s still in shock … trembling.”
“Not to belittle your master’s in psychology, but should I go in and talk to her?”
“No. Definitely not you.” Rose’s tone was sharp.
“You say that like I’m to blame.”
He watched as Rose paused, as if she was unsure of how to respond.
Maybe it is my fault.
“I’m not blaming you,” she finally said, “but let me explain. Laura’s suffering from feelings of helplessness, intense fear, revulsion —”
“She said that?”
“Not in those exact words, but we discussed what you two have been through in the last week.”
In the last week? Try this morning.
“Her feelings were pretty obvious.” Rose appeared to study Jack’s face.
“What is it?” he asked, touching his face. “Blood on me from the crime scene?”
“No, but the dark circles and bags under your eyes say something. How much sleep have you had in the last couple of days?”
“I don’t know. Maybe three hours Tuesday and another three last night. Laura likely didn’t get much more.”
Rose shook her head. “That’s insane. Especially when you were undercover with someone who commits murder without hesitation.”
“It wasn’t like we had a choice. We did a UC with his associates Tuesday night in Vancouver. That set up our meeting with him in Victoria. Last night we did the arrest. By the time I did my notes, then caught the first ferry back … well, I’d hoped I’d be taking today off — until all hell broke loose.”
“Exhaustion compounds how Laura’s feeling, increases the stress she’s under.”
“Exhaustion, yes. But you said she felt helpless? She’s anything but helpless. Believe me, I couldn’t do what I do without her.”
Rose studied Jack’s face. “What you do is part of the problem. Six days ago you staged being shot — something Laura was against, despite her loyalty to you. But she felt helpless to put a stop to it because you’re her boss. And then when it did happen, it didn’t go according to plan and she thought you’d been killed.”
“I know, I know,” Jack muttered. “I feel bad about that. She made it clear from the beginning that she was against the idea.”
“As I’d have been … if I’d known,” Rose replied icily.
“You have to admit it worked. Damien thought Vicki tried to kill me. He never suspected she was my informant.”
Rose’s face hardened. “Don’t even go there. I told you what I’d do if you ever pulled a stunt like that again.”
“I know.”
“Then there was last night at the marina in Victoria. Laura heard the shot and again thought you’d been killed.”
“She thought the bad guy had fired. It was the cover team who let off a round.”
Rose sighed in exasperation. “Put yourself in her shoes. She was watching with binoculars when he pulled his gun. When the shot rang out, you dropped from sight below the gunwale on the boat. She thought you were dead.”
“I tackled the guy. I was fighting to save my life and there was —”
Rose put her hand up to silence him. “Jack, quit being defensive. I’m trying to explain to you why Laura feels helpless and why I want you to give her some space. In my opinion you’re in shock yourself. Yes, Laura was crying, but at least she’s able to express her emotions. You’re trying to bury everything.”
I’d like to bury Pure E.
“Being in denial will complicate and worsen your emotional well-being.”
Jack glared at the staff sergeant. “How do I deny that without proving your point?”
“I wasn’t making a point. It’s an observation. We’re discussing Laura. Twice within a week she thought you’d been killed.” Rose stopped for a moment, as if giving him time to let her words sink in. “Of course she felt helpless. Then there’s this morning. As soon as you get off the ferry you’re both taken to that farmhouse. How revolting was that? A man you set up to look like your informant murdered in that manner.”
Jack closed his eyes. Burned hair and blackened flesh — the smell is all over me. Wish I could go home and get these clothes off and shower.
“How do you feel about that?” Rose asked.
“How do I feel?” Jack was surprised by the question. “I’m angry! Three people tortured to death and later a fourth murdered because his own wife set him up. That was after he risked his life to save her. Damn right I’m angry! Aren’t you?”
“It’s upsetting.”
“Upsetting?” Jack exclaimed. “That’s an understatement. I expected Neal to be killed, but I’d no idea that Pure E would order the torture and murder of his brother and sister-in-law.”
“Neither did Laura, which adds to her feelings of helplessness, not to mention revulsion.”
“Her feeling of helplessness will pass once we do something about it,” Jack replied.
“And if you can’t do anything about it … how will she feel then?”
Jack was incensed. “Can’t do anything about it? You know me better than that!”
Rose’s face hardened. “I don’t like your tone — but will attribute it to exhaustion.” She paused, then added, “Don’t let anger cloud your judgment. You’re better than that.”
Cloud my judgment? It’ll hone it like a knife.
“Furthermore, I suggest you display a more professional attitude when we meet with Assistant Commissioner Isaac.” She glanced at her watch. “Which will be shortly, so get it together.”
Jack sighed. “Okay, I admit I’m tired. It’s difficult to stop thinking about the farmhouse.” Who wouldn’t stop thinking about it? Two grotesque figures … blackened and twisted, tied to chairs. The third disembowelled … He looked at Rose. “It makes me feel nauseated just thinking about it.”
“The same feeling I’m sure everyone has.”
Not Pure E. He ordered it.
“It’s bad enough hearing what happened in that farmhouse. You and Laura saw it. The both of you smell of … well, you know. If we weren’t meeting with Isaac, I’d send you home. I am sending her home right away — or at least as soon as she calms down.”
Jack nodded in agreement.
“Then there was the message left at the crime scene,” Rose added. “Seems right out of a horror movie.”
Yes. The 4 U JT painted across the wall with a broom dipped in blood. Jack felt his rage rise to the surface again. “Pure E made it personal. That’s something Damien would never have done.”
“Purvis Evans,” Rose said. “The new national president of Satans Wrath. After what happened, I’d say his nickname ‘Pure Evil’ or ‘Pure E’ is deserved.”
“‘Sick Bastard’ would suit him, too,” Jack replied bitterly.

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The Benefactor

The Benefactor

A Jack Taggart Mystery
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The Grey Zone

The Grey Zone

A Jack Taggart Mystery
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Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

“I’m eight, ya know. I should be able to ride in the front and not sit in the back like a baby.”

Jia Chung braked to a stop. Their estate, which overlooked the ocean, was about a one-hour drive from Vancouver and she paused to look in the rear-view mirror. It was mid-May and the afternoon sun had broken through the clouds and shone on the Japanese plum trees lining the driveway behind her. The trees were in full blossom and petals were falling, giving the appearance of pink snow swirling down.

Out on the main road she drove slower than the limit. Her car was a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, which her husband, David, had purchased for her last month.

“Mom … did you hear me?”

She glanced in the rear-view mirror again and focused on her son. “Tommy, we’ve talked about this. It’s safer in the back. Maybe when you’re ten.”

“My friends ride in the front with their moms and dads and they’re eight.”

Jia thought it funny that his voice sounded so matter-of-fact, almost mature. She hid her smile. “You’re still a little smaller than your friends.”

Tommy was silent for a moment. “Yeah … I know.”

“Children don’t always grow at the same time. I bet you’ll have a real growth spurt soon.”

“Do you think so?” He paused. “That’d be good. The boys tease me at school.”

“What do they say?”

“That I look like an elf. That I got elf’s ears and have hands like a girl.”

Why are children so cruel?

“I know Chinese are smaller, but none of my Chinese friends are as small as me.”

She looked in the mirror and saw the forlorn look on his face. Poor little guy.

He appeared to read her thoughts. “It’s okay, Mom. I don’t let it bother me.”

Jia hid her concern. “Your time will come. As far as your hands go, none of your friends can play a piano as well as you.” His face brightened. She turned off onto a residential lane that meandered through the neighbourhood, then added, “You’re really good.”

“You have to say that. You’re my mom.”

“It’s true. Ask Mrs. Finch. She told me you’re her favourite student.”

“She said that? Her favourite? Really?”

“Yes, but don’t tell any of the other students. It would be unkind.”

Jia braked for a stop sign, but the jolt of her car being bumped from behind ended the conversation. She glimpsed in her rear-view mirror at a white van. Damn it. Wonder if there’s any damage?

An old man pounded the van’s steering wheel with his fist in apparent self-recrimination before getting out. Briefly he stood holding the open door. Grey hair stuck out from his fedora. It, like the long dark top-coat he wore, had seen better days. His eyes peered at her from behind glasses with thick black frames and his legs were wobbly as he clutched the door, seemingly afraid to let go.

“Stay in the car,” Jia ordered. “I’ll be right back.”

She glanced at her rear bumper as she passed. Is that a ding? Or just dirt? The old man bent over the driver’s seat. Probably looking for insurance papers.

She tapped him on the shoulder. “Are you okay?”

He turned, grabbing her wrist with one hand while jabbing something into her stomach with the other. “Keep quiet and get inside. If you make any noise, we’ll kill you and your kid.”

Jia gasped when she saw the pistol. His voice was much younger than he looked. He’s wearing a mask! She was startled further when the side door of the van slid open and another man, wearing an identical mask peered out at her.

“My purse is in the car,” she replied in panic.

“We don’t want your fucking purse,” said the man from inside the van. “Get in here or you’ll never see your kid again.”

She glanced at Tommy peering out her car’s back window, unaware of what was happening, then swallowed nervously and looked inside the van. It was made for hauling cargo and the only seats were up front. She put one foot inside, but was then shoved. Seconds later, she was face down on the floor with the man’s knee on her back.

“Stay still and keep quiet,” one of her attackers ordered.

“Please, don’t hurt me,” she begged in a whisper. “Go ahead. Take my car. The keys are still in the ignition. I’ll get my son out and you can have it.”

“I’ll get your kid,” the man who’d been driving said. “You stay put. I’ll tell Tommy you want to see him.”

Oh, my God! “How do you know his name?”

“We know everything about you. Now shut the fuck up while I go get your kid.”

Jia’s worst fears were confirmed. The men had something much more horrific in mind than stealing her car.

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