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A Shot In The ...

A Shot In The ...

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A Shot In The ...

Länge:
491 Seiten
7 Stunden
Freigegeben:
Nov 6, 2010
ISBN:
9781458183453
Format:
Buch

Beschreibung

Walt and Mel are investigating the murder of a tattooed man. Mel leaves to take evidence into the lab, since the forensics team is busy at another site. Next thing she knows, her partner has been shot, so has the Medical Examiner, and a number of the forensics guys that finally showed up while she was stuck in traffic. Who stole the body? Mel swears she'll find the shooters and who's behind them.

Freigegeben:
Nov 6, 2010
ISBN:
9781458183453
Format:
Buch

Über den Autor

The love of my life, Linda, is deceased. There will be a few more books us, since more are written, they are not edited yet. In her honor I will try to get them edited and out to the public, but it's not easy for me. I have a new writing partner now, as well as a partner in life. No it will never be the same, nor should it. To those that review my books. I would greatly appreciate it if you actually READ the entire book before you write the review. Skimming it and posting a review just minutes after you buy it doesn't give a full understanding of the work. One person did this with "Grumpy Old Spy" and totally missed the entire story, and got what they did catch all wrong. I don't appreciate that. If you're not going to do an honest assessment after reading the entire book, don't bother to review it at all. In fact, if that person would contact me, I'll give them their money back for the book, providing they pull the cheap shot review.


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Chapter 1

Walter Banks, and his partner, Melissa Younger, stand back watching the M.E. examine the body of a mature man. The body is lying in the middle of an otherwise empty warehouse near the Los Angeles waterfront. Walt asks, What killed him Doc?

Hard to say, Walt. He's got a gunshot wound, knife wounds, a large piece of skin removed from his back, and shows signs of being poisoned too. Somebody, maybe several somebodies, wanted to be damn sure this guy was dead.

Melissa asks, Any ID on the body?

Nothing issued by the state. There are lots of tattoos to check out. Offhand, I'd say the guy was a sailor of some sort, probably a merchant seaman.

Mel replies, Nobody would buy this ugly guy's semen.

Walt scolds mildly, Oh, Mel, knock off the jokes, I'm not in the mood for them.

Oh you never are, you old sourpuss.

Get busy searching the place, don't forget those dumpsters out back.

Let the crime scene guys do that. I'm supposed to be a detective now, not the resident dumpster diver.

They're busy on another big murder scene over in Beverly Hills. You think they'll be anxious to leave some swanky joint in the Hills to see our two-day stinker of a dead body? I don't think so.

You go dumpster diving then. I just had my nails done.

You can wear gloves, don't give me that. You wanted Homicide you got it. You're the rookie you get the scut work. You know that's how it goes.

No breaks because I'm a pretty woman?

"Especially since you're a pretty woman. I can't treat you any differently during working hours than I would any other Homicide rookie. Now get busy before I write you up for insubordination."

You would too, you old bastard.

I've only got five years on your thirty-five years, age wise, but ten as a Homicide detective. Get to it. Melissa trudges out to their car to get her dumpster diving gear on. The plastic coveralls, gloves, booties, goggles, facemask, and cap make her look like a creature from another planet.

Mel searches the office portion of the warehouse first, putting off dumpster diving as long as possible, hoping the crime scene guys will show up before the dumpster dive. She notices the lid to the copier is slightly raised. She lifts the lid, there is a piece of skin on the glass, she's looking at the bloody side. She carefully hits the copy button several times with the tip of a pen, so as not to smudge any prints. The copier starts whirring, soon the first copy slides out. It's a map of some sort, but it's reversed from the look of it … a mirror image so the man it was tattooed on could see it in a mirror, no doubt. He won't be seeing it again, that's for sure.

Hey Walt, come in here!

Walt enters the office on the double, What have you got, Mel?

I'm not sure, but this is what was cut off our victim. Looks like a mirror image of some kind of map to me.

It sure does. Leave the skin where it is, let me have most of these copies. Good catch, now get on with the rest of the search, inside and out.

Yes sir, bossman Mel gives him a one finger salute, yeah that finger.

The first dumpster she tries, the one closest to the back door, is a gold mine of evidence. Luckily, it had recently been emptied, the only things in it are just what she's looking for, a small, cheap, automatic pistol, a vial labeled arsenic, a bloody knife, and three sets of rubber gloves. Sometimes, criminals are very stupid, and she's glad of that. She bags and tags it all, happy that there was no garbage or creepy crawlies in the dumpster, for once. She shows her find to Walt, Get those over to the lab right away, the prints inside those gloves might give us the perps, if they're in the system. Take a couple of these copies with you, get them into a computer and reverse them, then print them out.

Grateful to be getting out of here, at least for the time being, Mel heads out to the car. Being the gopher isn't always a bad thing.

She strips off her gear, placing it in the trunk where she keeps it. It's not exactly standard issue, but being the rookie she knows she'll get all the dirty jobs, so she keeps the stuff with her.

She takes her time driving to the lab, the traffic is always a mess in LA. There's nothing to do about it, other than put on the lights and siren, but that's against policy, and in this mess, it would be of little or no help if she was in a hurry, but she's not.

At Parker Center, Mel hand delivers the evidence to the crime lab. She needs the ladies room, so she steps in the one near the crime lab to take care of that little problem. Before she leaves the ladies room, she holds one of the copies up to the mirror. It is a map, but an old one. The area she thinks it might be, wasn't much more than empty land back when this guy had it tattooed on, or … well maybe … it was probably tattooed onto him off an old map at a later date. Time will tell about that.

Mel marches through the bullpen to Walt's office, one of the few perks of being partnered with one of the top detectives in the city is he rates his own office, with the tools of the trade. As his partner, she gets to share the office, more often when he's not around than when he is. She boots up the computer they share, unbeknownst to Walt. She has a desk and ratty old computer at her cubicle in the bullpen, but uses the more up to date one here whenever Walt's not around. She found his passwords in his desk. For a police detective, he's not very careful about his own security.

In very little time, she has the copy scanned, then uses an older version of Paint Shop Pro to mirror the image. She prints out six copies of it, three to go with the various reports that will be filed, two to work with, and one for their own files. She also saves it in the computer in case they need more copies later.

She puzzles over the map. An online search of city records tells her that the original map must have been made any time prior to 1890. That guy certainly wasn't over a hundred and twenty years old, so it had to have been tattooed on him off a very old map. A treasure map, perhaps? It must be some sort of treasure, why else would the guy have it tattooed on his body? It's certainly not a pretty thing. Then again, he wasn't either. The murderer or murderers must have thought it valuable enough to kill for, then go through the gruesome task of cutting it off the body.

She ticks through the things she knows about the methods of murder: Poison is generally a woman's weapon of choice. A gun is a weapon used by both sexes, slightly more often by men. A knife is predominately a man's weapon, but is often used by women in the heat of the moment, not when the murder is preplanned. Could the perps have been women? That hardly seems likely. Sure, they may have killed the guy, but they would have probably settled for taking a picture of the map, or maybe if there were three of them to do the heavy lifting, they would have put the whole body on the copier. Cutting it off like that is too gruesome for most women. I found three sets of gloves, there must have been three of them. Why in hell did they toss the weapons and gloves where they would be so easily found? Why wouldn't they take that piece of skin with them, so we wouldn't find it? This mess makes no sense. Oh well, Walt will figure it out, he usually does. Oh lordy, I best get back to pick Walt up.

The ringing of Mel's cell phone stops her in her tracks. She looks at the readout, it's Walt. He's probably wondering where the hell I am. At least traffic in this city always provides a good excuse. Hey Walt, I was just heading out to start back that way.

Don't bother, I'll catch a ride with the crime scene guys. They finally showed up. Figured any thing… Just then Mel hears gunshots through the phone, lots of them. Suddenly the phone goes dead.

Chapter 2

Melissa is driving hell bent for leather back to the warehouse. She notified Jerry Samuels her captain. He had the SWAT guys flown there in police choppers, the scene should already be contained. She's driving hard out of worry for Walt, Doc, and the crime scene guys. This time she has the lights going and the siren wailing. She's not the only one, there is a high-speed parade of police vehicles from Parker Center behind her. They're having trouble keeping up with her, she dives onto the sidewalk or cuts through parking lots when the traffic is at a standstill in front of her. Nobody better get in her way, if they know what's good for them.

When Melissa skids to a stop at the warehouse, the choppers and ambulances are leaving in a hurry. Some of the SWAT guys are standing guard out front, protecting the scene. Melissa realizes their choppers have been used to evacuate … whoever was wounded severely enough to warrant it. Melissa has no idea who is hurt yet. The feeling in her gut tells her it's bad, very bad.

Mel puts her badge on her belt, so that it can be seen. Nobody in their right mind would try to stop her now, having the badge visible will keep the officers from getting their asses kicked if they try it.

Mel surveys the scene in the warehouse. Six punk gangbangers are lying dead near the entrance. The blood pools around the bangers tell her they won't be going anywhere other than the morgue. The smell of burnt cordite still hangs thick in the air. Several other blood pools indicate where her brother officers were located when shot, apparently they're still alive, being taken by ambulance or chopper to the hospital. Empty shell casings are all over the place. She picks one up with a pen. It's from a nine millimeter, but unless she misses her guess, it was fired from a Mac Ten, or more likely the cheap imitations the gangbangers have been getting hold of lately. The dead perps look to be gangbangers. She notices no weapons lying near them, the SWAT guys have secured them already. Numbered tags are put in their places. That's one of many things the SWAT guys are known to do. They won't leave weapons lying around, so that anyone could make off with them, or worse yet, use them to attack from behind. The crime scene guys' kits and equipment are still sitting around the warehouse, wherever they sat them down. From the look of it, they're undisturbed by anyone other than the techs themselves.

She looks around for the one body that should be here. It isn't, the sailor's body they were investigating in the first place is missing. Near where it should be, a cell phone is lying on the concrete floor, busted into several pieces. There is a small pool of blood too. Oh my God, I hope Walt isn't dead or severely wounded. Obviously he is to some degree.

Mel struggles to maintain her composure. Breaking down in front of other cops won't do. She's worked hard to get this prime spot in Homicide, she can't let them see her as just an emotional woman. She continues into the office portion. The skin that was in the copier is gone, the copier is shot up so that it can't print from its memory files.

What the hell goes on here? Why would some gangbangers want that map? What does it lead to that could possibly interest them? Money, maybe, but they have plenty from their drug deals and other activities. Perhaps they're just hired help for somebody else? This all makes no sense, at least not yet. I'll get to the bottom of it, if it's the last thing I ever do. From the looks of things around here, it might be.

Within minutes, the place is swarming with crime scene techs. The rest of the officers and brass that have shown up, wait out front, they don't want to disturb the scene any more than it already has been. Mel stops to talk with the SWAT commander, to ask what they found when they arrived.

What did you find when you got here, Lieutenant?

Most of our guys were down, wounded. Luckily, they all were wearing their vests, most of the wounds aren't too serious, they'll live, though it might be rough for a while. Two of the crime scene guys are more seriously wounded, we won't know about them for a while, I think.

How are Walt and Doc?

Walt has a bullet in his leg, and another in his right arm, but he'll live sure enough. Whether or not he'll have any permanent damage remains to be seen. Doc was bending over the body when these guys attacked, he caught one in the ass.

Did you guys put down the six gangbangers?

No, they were down when we got here. We'll have to wait and see just who put them down, but all of our guys had their weapons out. They're bagged and tagged, in the crime scene guys' van along with the rest of the weapons we found.

Imitation Mac Tens?

Yeah, the usual. I'd sure like to find out where the hell the gangbangers keep getting them.

Me and you both. Any idea as to how the perps that survived got out of here, with the original body that was here? How'd they get out so fast?

I have no idea. I figure they had a van or something of their own, maybe two of them or more. We don't have any idea how many guys hit this place or why. You have any ideas about that?

Yeah, but only rough ideas, nothing solid. The original body had a map tattooed on his back that was cut off and placed in the copier when we got here. I took copies to Parker Center. Why they took the rest of the body I haven't figured out yet. There were other tattoos on it, maybe they have something to do with it. I also took in some other evidence I got from the scene originally. Apparently, there are at least two groups of players in whatever murderous game this is.

Keep us in the loop, will you? We'll be happy to help all we can. When brother officers go down, you know we all bust our humps to get the bastards.

I have a feeling these gangbangers were just hired help, but I've got nothing concrete to go on yet.

Yeah, these are the Westies, we think. They're known to hire themselves out as gunslingers and muscle if the price is right. I have a hunch they didn't know our guys would be here, I think these six were the first in the door and were caught off guard.

They're not that stupid, Lieutenant, they had to have seen the crime lab van out front.

Not necessarily, it's parked over there between those two other warehouses. We almost didn't see it ourselves, and we were looking for it.

Okay, that makes sense then. Anything else you can tell me?

No, not that I can think of at the moment.

Okay, I'm going … what hospital did they take Walt to?

Olympia, I think.

I'll be at Olympia if anyone asks for me.

What's your full name?

Detective Melissa Younger.

All right, I'm Lieutenant Henry Glazer, be sure to keep us posted. Here's my card, call the cell number. Let us know the condition of our guys as soon as you can.

Sure thing, Lieutenant.

Mel gets in her car, maneuvers it past all the other police vehicles, then burns rubber out of here. She puts on the siren and lights, regulations be damned. Tears form as she drives toward the hospital. She does her best to rein them in, they'll make it too difficult to drive if she lets go now.

Chapter 3

Mel slams down on the brakes, makes the turn into the parking lot, then burns rubber up to the main entrance. Some security guard tries to stop her, while telling her she can't park there. When he reaches out to grab her, she judo flips him onto his back. She puts the barrel of her pistol in his face. Apparently, you think that security badge trumps my detective's badge. Get it straight right now, it doesn't. That car had better be there whenever I decide to leave, or your balls are mine. Keep a close eye on it, don't let anyone mess with it. She backs off, holsters her pistol, then marches inside.

Mel marches up to the information desk. Her don't mess with me attitude is brimming over. The lady at the desk runs in back, not wanting anything to do with her. In a moment, an older gentleman appears, his face stoic. May I help you m'am?

Where's Walter Banks? He was brought in not long ago.

One moment please. The man clicks some keys on the computer, looks at the screen then clicks a few more. He peers at the screen for a long moment, then replies, Apparently, Mr. Banks hasn't been admitted yet. I suggest you try the emergency room. Those files aren't accessible by these computers."

Very well, how do I get there from here?

Just follow the red line down the hall, it's on the other side of the building.

Okay, I should have come in that way, but I haven't been to this hospital before. Thank you. You can tell the lady that ran in the back it's okay now. Bye. She marches off down the hall.

Mel finds her way to the emergency room. It's more like a madhouse than an emergency room. The place is swamped with various injuries and illnesses. If she had a flashbang, she'd use it to settle the place down, people are clamoring at the desk to be treated, those at the desk are not paying them any attention. They're going about their business as if nobody was there. They must really be used to this.

Rather than try to bother them, Mel starts searching the exam rooms herself. The guards on duty have their hands full up front. Between the badge hanging from her belt and her don't mess with me attitude, nobody dares to get in her way. In the fourth exam room she tries, she finds Doc, lying on a table pillows under his belly, his bare ass in the air, a nurse is bandaging his wound. Doc, where's Walt?

Zeeze rount eer ompace.

Jeez Doc, good thing I worked the drunk detail for a while, I think I understood that. Nurse, do you happen to know where Walter Banks is?

I'm not sure, we have so many today. I take it he's another officer?

Detective.

Bullet wounds?

I heard he had one in the arm and one in the leg.

Oh, that guy. He's two exam rooms down on the left.

Okay thanks. Damn, I wish I had my camera, I'll never let Doc live this one down.

Zoo wyke rye rass? Rayree rye row roo rye rar rater.

No Doc, I don't like your ass, and you won't show me your scar later. Mel turns, then marches on down the hall. She finds Walt two doors down on the left, just like the nurse said. He's got his right arm and leg bandaged, and an IV running into his left arm. Nobody else is in the room at the moment.

Walt, how are you?

fatz a rum rerstern, rye ren rot, row raw ruck roo rink rye ram.

They must have some drug that makes people use too many R's. Yeah, I know it's kind of a dumb question, but I want to know what the docs say, will you be all right when you heal up?

Row ra ruck rood rye row?

Haven't the doctors told you anything?

Row, ray randrage re rup, raid rye raff roo ret rurree rater.

So you'll have to get surgery later?

Rah, rats rit.

Okay, Walt, you look like you'll live, heard anything about the crime scene techs?

Row, ray ras rucked rup rad. Rook rem roo rea rers riari.

"Let's see, my drunk detail language skills are a bit rusty. Did you say they were bad off, and they were taken to Cedars Sinai?

"Rye raid ray ris rucked rup rad, ray rid rake rim roo rea rers ryearye."

Okay, Walt, I'll have to wait on finding out about them. The rest of the guys going to be okay?

Ras rar ras rye row.

Mel plants a gentle kiss on Walt's forehead. She grins at him, then leaves the room. The second she leaves the room, the grin she pasted on for his benefit leaves her face. She finds a restroom. Once safely locked inside, she sits down, then lets the tears come. She stays until she's cried out, then the anger replaces it again. She's going to make sure the gangbangers pay dearly for this, hopefully whoever is behind it all too.

Chapter 4

For once, Mel doesn't have to beg and cajole the guys in the lab to put her evidence first. They're working on it as fast as they can, while still being as accurate as possible.

The prints from the rubber gloves are done, they come back to nurses that work at a dentist's office. The vial of arsenic, the pistol, and knife had no prints whatsoever. None were found on the mag or remaining rounds in the pistol. That's odd, that's one thing a newbie always forgets. It's probably a dead end, but I'll check them out when I have a chance. No stone will be left unturned.

The one piece of evidence she has that might be worth something is the map. She's working with it, using what she can find online to determine exactly where the map leads to. The problem with that, is it might be any of six or seven places in the area, if it is a map belonging in this area. It could be a map to someplace in China, for all she knows now. If it's around here, it has to be off a very old map, like she thought.

She's already mentally eliminated one site as a real possibility, the X would mark the spot right in the middle of the La Brea tar pits. There's no way to get anything out of there without a major production, special tools and equipment. Even then, it's very dangerous and difficult. Some skeletons have been removed from there over the years. They were near the surface, and still very dangerous and costly to remove. At least that's what her online investigating tells her.

The computer makes a bell sound, telling her she's got email. It has to be from the crime scene guys, they'd be the only ones still up at this late hour that would have the email address on the private system.

She opens the email, it's from Duffy, her favorite lab tech. The email tells her the crime scene photos are attached. She opens the attachment.

The first photos are of the crime scene after the shootout, they tell her little at the moment. Farther down, she gets to the photos that Doc took. They show the scene, with the body framed in the center. There are close ups of the body, zeroing in on the various tattoos. There are even some shots of the back where the skin was cut off, and the surrounding tattoos. She has a hunch that some of the other tattoos, or all of them, tell the whole story, but she can't figure it out now. The pictures begin to blur, she's hit the wall, she has to get some sleep.

It's very late, nearly three a.m. She can't see driving home to come back fighting traffic all the way, in three or four hours. She heads to the locker room. She gets out an oversize T-shirt and a pair of gym shorts. She'll wear those to sleep in the bunkroom they have set aside for such occasions. She's not the only one here, of course, the night shift is toiling away, a few of the dayshift guys working this case are already getting some rest in the bunk room.

She has a change of clothes in her locker for tomorrow, so she's all set in that regard. She's learned the hard way to always keep a spare set of clothes handy. Drunks and druggies are likely to puke on her, or she might get into bloody messes that require a change of clothes.

She tiptoes into the bunkroom, being as quiet as possible. She finds an empty bunk, then crawls in. Her mind is a mess, she knows she can solve this riddle, but can't think straight right now.

Chapter 5

Somebody set the alarm for six this morning. As much as she'd like to stay asleep, Mel gets up, then flap taps to the ladies locker room in her flip-flops. After a quick cool shower to open her eyes, she gets dressed in her spare clothes, then has to wait in line to get some coffee. Somebody already brought in the traditional donuts, not her usual breakfast fare, but today she doesn't care about sugar, calories, cholesterol or anything else like that. She takes three donuts.

The morning briefing is of little real help. Nobody knows much more than she did when she went to sleep. They are sure the gang involved was indeed the Westies, but that's about it.

Mel gets another cup of coffee, and takes yet another donut. If I'm going to be bad diet-wise, I might as well go for it. Some extra calories won't hurt today, even if they are empty ones.

She makes a decision she has no right to make, she sends the map, and the pictures of the rest of the tattoos to her friend Marge, an FBI agent. She has no authority to request formal assistance. This will simply be a friend helping a friend. It could still get her in big trouble with the brass, they hate to go to the Feds for anything, off the record or not. It's all Mel can think to do with the stuff, she simply has no idea how to figure it all out.

She decides to check out this dentist and his nurses, or assistants, whatever they are called. She really doesn't give a rat's ass what they prefer to be called, she might call them much worse things if she gets the slightest inkling they have anything to do with this mess.

Younger, where the hell do you think you're going?

Mel whirls around to see her captain glaring at her. To check out that dental office where the prints come back to. It's a good thing all the healthcare professionals have to be printed to be licensed.

Not by yourself you're not. You're technically still a Homicide rookie. Kaminski, you're with Younger now, until Banks is back on duty.

Ah boss, she doesn't need a babysitter. I'd rather not work with a woman, I'll have to pass.

"I didn't hear anyone asking you."

Screw you captain, I don't work with women, and that's that, you want the damn badge, you can have it.

Okay, Kaminski, go put your papers in, you might still get your pension if you hurry and get down there before I start making calls. You're a dinosaur, we don't need that kind of attitude in the department.

All right, so be it. Have fun, kiddies. I'm going to relax on the beach. Kaminski stomps out.

"I guess you are on your own, Younger. I don't have anyone else to team you with. Grab a uniformed officer from downstairs, take whoever you pick with you as back up. You can have them wear civvies if that will help."

I don't need it, but all right. I'll see who's available.

Just grab somebody, if their watch commander doesn't like it, have him take it up with me.

You got it, boss.

When Mel gets downstairs, she knocks on the frame of the open door to watch commander Captain Charlie Taylor's office. Come in, Melissa. Long time no see. What do you need, I know this can't be a social call, not today.

I need to borrow one of your uniformed officers, preferably one that has some civvies handy. I find myself without a partner, so my captain told me to borrow one of your people. Who's your best shooter?

Pistol or long gun?

Pistol most likely, but some experience with a long gun would be nice to have on my team.

I'll let you have Mike Terrano. He's good with a pistol, and fantastic with a rifle. He's military trained as a sniper. He's destined for SWAT once he has his required time in patrol division under his belt.

That sounds great, Captain. I hope he won't mind working with a female.

He better not, that's grounds for dismissal these days.

Yeah, I've seen that first hand already this morning.

Oh, Kaminski and your captain? They do that dance every once in a while, he'll apologize after a day off, then he'll be back on the squad.

I don't know about that. I think he picked the wrong day for it this time.

Maybe so. Hang tight a minute, I'll go round up Mike. Captain Taylor leaves the office. In a few minutes, he's back, with a tall, blonde, good-looking man of about thirty years of age. Detective Younger, this is Mike Terrano, Mike, Detective Melissa Younger."

Hi, Mike. Mel proffers her hand for the traditional handshake. He gives her a firm, but not too firm shake. Mike, do you have civvies in your locker?

Not really, only a T-shirt and jeans, nothing that would make me look like a detective.

Great, go get them on, be sure not to forget your badge and ID, your weapon and get a long gun out of the armory.

No thanks, I have my own rifle, tuned just the way I like it.

Bring it, if it's got a case.

Yes, it breaks down into a plastic, waterproof case.

Great, go get changed, then meet me in the motor pool. I'll be trying to get us an inconspicuous ride today.

Yes m'am.

Stop with the m'am jazz, just call me Melissa or Mel for short. Never call me Detective or anything like that so long as we're working this particular case. I have a hunch we'll need to be very low key to get anywhere.

Yes, M … Mel. Mike heads to the locker room.

Will he do, Mel?

I think so, if he can drop the military bearing down a notch or two.

Okay, keep him as long as you need him.

Oh, don't tell a poor lonely gal something like that, Captain.

"I don't want to have that discussion, get out of here."

Thanks, Captain, see you later.

Just nail these bastards, will you?

I'll give it my best, Captain, you know I always do.

That's a fact, now skidaddle before I rethink putting such a newbie in your hands.

Aye aye, Captain. She gives him a mock salute then strides off, headed for the motor pool.

Chapter 6

The sergeant in charge of the motor pool tries to palm off a slick on her. It's a regular police car, with the usual paint and decal, the only thing it doesn't have is the light bar on top. It's a leftover from the previous police commissioner's bright idea of how to get more marked cars on the street.

"You're not hearing me, Sarge. I want something inconspicuous, something that doesn't scream out cop to everyone that sees it."

I've got something like that, but inconspicuous it's not. Come with me. Sarge leads her outside to the back lot. He pulls a tarp off a bright yellow old Dodge Charger, the old two-door kind. It's got bumblebee style graphics on it. A blower with two big carbs and the scoop with the round holes is sticking out of the hood. It's got very wide tires in front, and super wide tires in back, on Cragar Classic chromed five-spoke rims. This baby certainly doesn't scream cop, but it does scream.

I bet it does Sarge, I'll take it. Do I want to know how you got your hands on it?

Oh, it got impounded, I couldn't bear to see it sold at auction, so I kind of hid it out. The plates will check out to the department if anyone runs it, so if you have to be really sneaky, you best change them.

I don't think anyone will ever notice the plates, do you?

Only cops looking to write citations.

I'll bet. Got the keys handy?

They're in it, let me get the gate for you.

Hold on Sarge, I'm expecting my new partner any minute. I'll just wait here. If you see a tall blonde guy in jeans and a T-shirt, send him back here.

All right, how will I know it's the right guy?

If he looks like that, send him back here regardless, I can find use for him, one way or another. She gives Sarge a grin and a wink.

I'll just bet you could. I'll unlock the gate, have this guy lock it back after you leave.

Sure thing, Sarge. Sarge heads over to the gate. Mel gets in the hot rod, pumps the gas pedal once, then turns the key. It fires right up, and sounds sweet, real deep and throaty. She blips the throttle a couple of times. It has a really quick response, and sounds better when it revs up a bit.

Oh yeah, I think I'll see if I can make this baby our permanent ride. I wonder if the air conditioning works. She turns on the air conditioning, in a moment, it's blowing very cold air. Oh yeah, that's nice, summer's coming it will be nice to have good cold air. I may not want to get out of this thing. I'm sure glad the department will be buying the gas, I bet this thing can empty a tank real quick. Nice of the Sarge to let me use it. Hey what's this? A hidden police radio, well, that's sweet, I wonder if there are any other gadgets built into this thing, there are a half dozen extra switches here. She plays with the switches, one is a siren, another is lights in the grill, she thinks, from the flashes she sees on the wall. Another lowers the thing down to the ground. Wow, it's a lowrider too?

She flips another switch, she notices nothing, same with the other two. They must do something, I guess I'll find out eventually.

Mike is heading towards her, carrying a military style satchel, and a yellow plastic case that almost matches the car. He has her pop the trunk lid, via a switch that's actually marked. He sets them gently in the trunk, then closes the deck lid. He marches over to the gate, opens it, waits for Mel to drive through, then locks it, without Mel having to tell him a thing. Sarge must have told him.

When he gets in the car, he buckles up, using the full harness provided. He looks around a bit, Hell of a ride, get buckled up before we go any farther, a ride like this, you never know, we might need it.

I'm wearing the lap belt. We may need to duck bullets, I don't want to have to fight the shoulder harness to do that.

You really think so?

We might, we're going to a dental office first, but after that, it's gang city.

You have a toothache or something?

No, the prints of three of the assistants that work there were found at the scene. I think it's a dead end, but we have to check out everything. I can't see a trio of dental assistants being involved in murder and cutting a piece of skin off the guy once he's dead.

Oh, you mean that map the guy had tattooed on him. That's circulating through the whole department.

Yeah, that one, they made copies by cutting it off the guy. After the shoot out, the skin was gone, and so was the rest of that body. They left several others behind though.

I heard. I see your point, after the dental office, I'll just wear the lap belt too.

All right. I wonder what's the fastest way over to West Sixth avenue today.

I don't know for sure, but stay off the freeways at this time of day, or we'll never get there. Why don't you try heading straight up eleventh, until it's time to go north up to sixth?

"That's as good an idea as any. They ride for fifteen minutes to make the five or six mile trip, the surface streets are busy already.

When they arrive at the dental office, in a building of its own, it's closed, the front is locked up tight. Several patients are waiting out front. Mel and Mike get out of the car and start walking to the entrance. Mel voices, What gives? They should be open by now. She's more or less just voicing her thought.

I don't know, but I sure don't like the smell of this.

What do you mean?

I mean that smell, don't you smell it?

"No, what

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