Authors: Simon Gould
‘Patton, hey Patton, come in. Over’. I recognised the voice as that of Jon Walsh, one of the officers searching the Cherry Street garage, which was the lot situated on the edge of the Harbor Freeway.
‘Walsh, its Patton. What have you got?’ I prayed he had something.
‘We’ve got a battered Pontiac here, real piece of shit rust bucket’, he sounded excited. ‘But here’s the thing; it’s got British plates. They’re definitely British plates’. It sounded promising, but my knowledge of cars is virtually non-existent. For all I knew Pontiac could also have a British manufacturer and this car could be genuine. I didn’t think the type of people who were watching Masters Of Puppets were the type of people who could afford the high-end car range. I voiced these opinions to Walsh, who cut me off mid-sentence.
‘There’s one more thing, Patton’, he told me. ‘The plates are on upside down. This
to be the car’. Taking that information into account, I had to concede that he was probably right.
I left my team to complete the remainder of the search in our lot, and I radioed Balfer to leave his team to do the same, and to rendezvous with me in Cherry Street garage, where Walsh was under explicit instructions not even to approach the car that we suspected was the one left for us by Sarah Caldwell.
Strictly speaking, the bomb squad should have got their second call from me in as many days to secure the scene, but I didn’t have the time for that. I knew that if they had to secure the scene, I would lose vital time that might cost my daughter her life. I also held off telling Captain Williams that we had a possible vehicle sighted, just in case he felt the need to over-rule me on the bomb squad call. Not that I would have listened. There wasn’t a man on earth that would be able to keep me from inspecting that car before the bomb squad arrived, so if that was what Williams would tell me, it would be futile. Although he’d had my back throughout, well not just the last couple of days, but the entire time we’d been chasing The Chemist, he’d still be riled if I purposefully disobeyed a direct order from him. I was keen to avoid that entire scenario if possible.
It was still daylight outside, with dusk still a couple of hours away. The sun had begun to lower, but it was bright, and the rain from earlier in the afternoon had long since subsided, leaving just traces here and there of the downpour that had swept through the city earlier today.
The brightness of the sun disappeared in a flash as we entered Cherry Street garage, which descended to the bowels of the Staples Centre foundations. It was well lit, as you would expect, but was a sharp contrast to the daylight outside.
I ran towards the team searching this lot, radio to my right ear as Walsh gave me directions to where they were standing. It was a deceptively large lot, which had looked fairly small from the descending ramp but still, it took me a few minutes to find Walsh. I could hear rapid footsteps echoing behind me, which I presumed was Agent Balfer, although it could just have been my own footsteps bouncing off the walls as I ran.
Finally, I reached Walsh, who had kept the remainder of his team searching, but he stood transfixed, watching the stationary car, which was parked in the far corner of the lot. The light directly above it had been smashed, making that particular corner considerably darker that the rest of the lot. It had also been smashed recently; I could see, even from where I was standing, fragments of the glass glisten as what little light there was made them shine like diamonds. Walsh hadn’t, as I had instructed, approached the car and he was motionless. He looked almost in awe at the Pontiac, as if he knew this was a significant piece of The Chemist’s puzzle; which I believed it was.
He was also right about the plates. They were certainly British and certainly on upside down. I knew this was the car.
Balfer arrived just behind me, and giving the car a quick glance just looked at me and nodded. ‘Your call’, he told me. ‘What do you want to do?’
I drew my gun without saying a word and Balfer followed suit. Slowly, I approached the car, the inside of which was not visible due to the angle it had been parked at and the darkness that the smashed light provided, like an umbrella over the car.
As we got nearer, I couldn’t make out anything significant in either the front or the back seats. I circled the car, twice, Balfer staying close behind, after which I stopped at the passenger side front door. I put my hand to the handle and glanced at Balfer, who nodded again. Gently, I pulled the handle and opened the door.
The car parked next to the Pontiac was parked as such that I couldn’t fully open the door as much as I would have liked, to enable me to see inside, but Balfer provided adequate cover and had secured the inside of the car almost before I had pulled the door open as far as it would go. And more to the point, nothing had exploded which was as much a relief to Balfer as it was to me.
I circled round the car again, by which time Balfer’s head was back out of the car. ‘Nothing’, he said, shaking his head. ‘We’ll get forensics down here but there’s nothing in here’. He stood fully upright again, as we both instinctively made our way to the rear of the car.
‘Trunk?’ Balfer said, and I merely nodded again. Was Katie in there? My blood was pumping round my body far faster than I could ever remember. I almost didn’t want to open it, just in case. Balfer must have seen the fear in my eyes because he took the lead.
I heard a click, as the latch opened and Balfer slowly lifted up the trunk to reveal its contents. Balfer turned away instantly and I thought I heard Walsh, who had come to stand just behind us, wretch as his stomach heaved.
Mercifully it wasn’t Katie, and even as I stood, looking into the trunk in horror, I said a silent prayer thanking God for that. It’s safe to say, however, that even if you had given me a hundred guesses as to the contents of the trunk, I wouldn’t have even come close.
Leon Reno was breathing hard, perhaps fully comprehending for the first time what he had been instructed to do by Conrad Conway. He didn’t so much ask him as tell him, and he knew better than to refuse. Leon had once seen the senator lose his temper with a vagrant on the street who had been harassing him for change. It had been one of the rare times Conway had ventured into their neighbourhood, unable to contact them by phone. He had beaten the unfortunate beggar to within an inch of his life. For all they knew, he could have died from the injuries he’d sustained at the hands of the volatile politician. That wouldn’t have surprised Leon one little bit. If the vagrant had survived he had spent the next several weeks, maybe months, in excruciating pain, he knew that much.
The kafuffle that surrounded McCrane and Burr as they exited from the police station was still quite a distance away but despite it being busy, with traffic whirring by at a steady rate and several commuters walking on by, he covered the distance quickly, not knowing how long his window of opportunity would last. Brett Silverman watched him at the wheel of a recently stolen car, procured especially for this occasion half an hour ago. Brett kept a discreet distance behind his buddy, although his vision was slightly blurred due to the vodka he had drunk to steady his nerves for the senator’s bidding, just after they had received his telephone call. He had sunk around a third of a bottle but it hadn’t impeded his driving to the degree of attracting too much attention. Not yet, anyway. He was ready to collect Leon when the time was right, which should be any time now.
Leon, drawing closer to the gathering outside the station, watched calmly as the reporters fell relatively silent as one of them, either Burr or McCrane; he didn’t know which, settled himself in to address the news people, giving an authoritative speech, which he could hear clearly as he approached the back of the gathering.
‘Let me be the first to denounce the appalling lies’, McCrane stated, ‘that were reported today in the LA Times’. Several flash bulbs went off as he spoke. ‘It goes without saying that both myself and Mr. Jameson Burr are offended by this ridiculous slander and will be looking to take appropriate legal action in due course’, he continued, now into his stride. ‘Both Mr. Burr and myself have worked tirelessly as board members of this fund for the past several years, and have not only donated our time and money to ensure it’s success but have also been instrumental in obtaining large charitable donations from organisations such as the Farrington Network in order that this fund may operate to it’s full capacity, carrying out sterling work throughout the entire city. Helping and housing the impoverished, needy and desperate’. McCrane paused for a moment, letting the reporters digest that last part. If he said so himself, that had sounded world class. Particularly name-dropping the Farrington Network. He was sure that Robert Farrington would be watching and although he had passed Farrington’s name to the police, he was keen to appear to still be supporting his colleague to avoid arousing suspicion.
‘Not only will we be seeking substantial legal damages, which we will be donating to the housing fund itself’, oh what a nice touch that was, ‘but we shall be seeking a full and unreserved public and front-page apology from Mr. Britland-Jones and the editor of the LA Times, Mr. Vernon Beecher, ensuring that these ridiculous allegations are retracted’. Burr was nodding his approval throughout, echoing McCrane’s sentiments through his body language, appearing together as a united front.
Leon had heard enough. It was easy enough to make his way through the gathering, who had been jostling for position anyway, and as he eyed his escape route he saw Brett pull around. It would be difficult to make his way back through the reporters; he would have to be quick. He was pretty sure that in about ten seconds time everyone around him would be too stunned to react. He prayed that was the case.
He couldn’t get quite as near to the front as he would have liked but that didn’t really matter, he had a clear line of sight from where he was standing. He edged himself a few feet to the left, just to give him that extra leverage to his escape route, whilst maintaining his line of sight on the targets. Satisfied with his position, he reached into his waistband and pulled out his revolver. If anyone had seen it, they gave no indication; they were all far too absorbed in the speech that was being given and trying to get the best picture or the best position for any questions that might be taken afterwards.
The guy giving the speech saw the gun first. He didn’t quite stop speaking before the first shot was fired, but his speech certainly slowed down as he realised that amongst the microphones and cameras that were pointing towards him there was also a fully loaded firearm. Leon simply squeezed the trigger once, shooting his target in the face from a distance of maybe seven feet. He could have shot him anywhere, but why take the chance that he would survive?
The shot immediately sent everyone into a mass panic, no-one quite sure where the shot had come from; not even the people standing close seemed sure. Only Leon himself remained calm and focussed as people hit the ground, scrambling around trying to protect themselves. Jameson Burr simply looked horrified; covered in blood from McCrane, whose body lay on the floor, almost on top of Burr who had instinctively crouched down with everyone else when the shot had been fired.
People began to run, afraid they might be next, but Leon had Burr in his sights and squeezed off another two rounds, killing him instantly. He still didn’t think that many people, if anyone at all, realised he was the shooter, but mission accomplished he tucked the gun away again and sprinted to his awaiting getaway vehicle.
‘We did it man, we fuckin’ did it’, he announced triumphantly as he jumped into the passenger seat’. No-one was running after him, he noticed as he glanced back, which was definitely a good sign.
‘Fuckin’ A right we did’, Brett shouted back, hitting the gas as he spoke, just as eager as Leon to put some considerable distance between themselves and this police station. ‘We fuckin’ rule Leon man!’
Whether it was the vodka he had consumed earlier, or the eagerness to get away from the scene of the crime, or whether it was the sudden feeling of invincibility that came with the successful completion of their mission, or maybe a combination of all three of these factors, who could say? But a hundred metres or so from the station, where the two politicians now lay dead, Brett ploughed the stolen car forward, ignoring a the stop sign, directly into the path of a speeding Hummer, which collapsed the driver’s side door on impact, breaking both of Brett’s legs immediately. The stolen car flipped over three or four times as the driver of the Hummer slammed on the breaks, trying to avoid going over themselves.
The Hummer came to a screeching halt, the driver miraculously unscathed, bar some minor scratches and bruises, extremely shaken, but otherwise unhurt. As the getaway car flipped over for the final time, Brett plunged headfirst through the windscreen, shrieking in agony as his broken legs were wrenched forward and he was instantaneously lacerated by the thick glass which shattered as he was launched onto the sidewalk.
The initial jolt of the impact had snapped Leon’s neck back hard, breaking it, and his head hung at an awkward angle as he struggled for breath. He was vaguely aware of people running towards them, but his vision was fading and there was blood everywhere. Someone opened the door and a man’s voice spoke urgently.
‘Hey, guys, you ok? You alive? Hey, can you hear me?’
Hear the man speaking? Yes, he could just about, but he couldn’t speak himself, to answer.
‘Woah, fuck man! You guys shot McCrane and Burr!’ the stranger exclaimed.