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Monday, February 28, 2011

("But it's alright why don't you tell me again How you'll still be there when the heartache ends…")…Rob Thomas…2005

Chapter Thirty-three


LVMPD…Tuesday, Feb 24, 2009…9:45pm

The clanging alarms blaring through the halls didn't bother me as much as all the squelching chatter from the two-way radio phones that everybody seemed to be yammering into. Something very bad had happened somewhere in the building and we were going on lock down. Since they weren't evacuating the place that meant there was a manhunt underway and likely whoever they were looking for was armed and dangerous. From what I could hear from the chatter as well the brief conversation Wally had with an unknown caller, there had been a shooting on site and an Officer was down. Pretty gutsy move by whomever the shooter was given the firepower around here! I wanted to get back to the Interrogation Room and make sure that Judy was alright but we weren't going anywhere for the moment. Wally was just ahead of me talking with a uniformed Officer. They were yelling into each other's ears trying to make themselves heard over the noise. Wally nodded, patted the uniform on the shoulder and turned to make his way back to where Iggie and I were waiting.

"Okay, here's the thing. Somebody popped a uniform down in the evidence room. It was professionally done, neat and quiet, no muss no fuss. You can't get to that room without credentials and a badge. It's not like the old days when all you had to do was turn the knob," Wally explained, his eyes darting around like a super ball in a concrete bunker.

He was giving everything and everyone one the once over. That could only mean we were dealing with a wolf in sheep's clothing. That worried me and I was determined now to get back to Judy and Becca sooner than later. If the perp was disguised as a cop he or she had the run of the place. It also meant that Iggie and I couldn't run around like we owned the place either, there were too many nervous triggers all around us, and a wrong move could prove fatal.

"Look Wally, we gotta get back up to where Judy is. I don't know about you but I'm thinking whoever plugged the Arab back at Cesar's is here to do likewise for Judy and maybe me and you as well," I said hurriedly, hoping he would see things my way.

"Yeah, I was thinking the same thing Roode, we're in a helluva a jam ain't we," he replied, rubbing his chin while he chewed on what I had said.

"Yeah we are, so let's freaking move out," I said, getting more agitated with every passing second.

"What do we know about this guy," Iggie asked, breaking the tension?

"Look who's suddenly cop of the walk," Wally said turning his attention toward Iggie for the moment.

"Good question Detective Ingram. Actually we do know a couple of things. Number one is he is male and in an LVPD uniform. Number two is he's short, almost too short to qualify to wear said uniform. Number three, he's Asian, we have some glimpses of him from several surveillance cameras. No full on face shots, he's too smart for that, but we captured enough features to peg him as Asian," Wally said filling us in.

"So which way did he go," I asked impatiently?

"Don't know, we lost him in the evidence room," Wally answered shrugging.

"Lost him, how can that happen, did the cameras malfunction?"

"Look Whitey, I don't know, it's like he vanished into thin air!"

The three of us just stared at one another for what seemed like several minutes. We were having the same flashback and formulating the same theory from a long ago memory. Without saying a word we simultaneously looked above to the ceiling. We had a three way epiphany and whispered our theory out loud together.

"TUNNEL RAT!"

"Has to be, how many of those little bastards did we smoke outta their holes in the jungle," Iggie blurted.

"Too many," Wally said, shushing us with a chubby finger pressed to his lips.

He motioned for us to follow him and he led us into an empty room, closing and locking the door behind us. Wally looked at the ceiling and then took a knee like a football coach at practice. We followed his lead and huddled up with him. It felt like old times in an era I had mercifully left buried in the darkest recesses of my mind, I didn't like the memories and the ghosts that were being conjured and by the look on Iggie's face, neither did he.

"Alright girls; the evidence room is on the ground floor so if we do have a rat in the vent system he has no place to go but up. If Judy Looney is his target he'll have clear sailing and a head start. None of us can head him off; we're all too fat and too goddamn old. We need a volunteer, a tiny, petite, pistol packing volunteer, any suggestions?" We said it together, "BECCA…"

LVMPD…Tuesday, Feb 24, 2009…10:15pm

Slithering like a 120 snake was child's play. Father had taught me these skills as a boy. He'd send me on errands from camp to camp up and down the Ashau Valley taking messages to our glorious soldiers fighting the invaders of our homeland. My father was a Colonel in the People's Army, a very important man, and he had been promised many things once the country was rid of the American devils, and united again. But every one of those promises was broken by Communist Leaders drunk with power after Saigon fell in April of 1975. I was ten years old when we were forced to flee like cowards. From that day forward I hated my father for making us run, exiling us to a land where we could never fit in. With every taunt or thrashing I took at every school I ever attended or neighborhood I ever lived in, my hatred of him increased. And one day I drew pleasure from the act of my first kill, suffocating him on his sick bed in the quiet south London suburb of Bromley.

The secret is in how one moves one's body. It isn't necessary to crawl like a toddler, propelling one's self forward on hands and knees clumsily. No, one must make one's self small, like a snake and transfer all of one's strength and power to one's hands and arms. Then it is merely a matter of doing a flattened push up, only instead of pushing one's body up, one pulls one's body forward a foot or two at a time. It is a slow process I grant you, but it is sure and effective. The elbow leading to the second floor was just ahead. When I reached it I would roll myself onto my back and rest a minute or two before dragging my body into the up shaft and onto the second floor where by my calculations the interrogation room housing Dr. Looney would be a straight run of about two hundred meters.

Pity that I will not have time to toy with her, but under the circumstances a quick silencing will suffice. It will just allow me to be on my way home to Nah Trang that much sooner. Those Russian fools Mei Li had involved us with had spoiled everything with their reactionary tactics. Bollocks then, what can one expect from peasants? I had taken years to groom my protégé for this life. We could have been royalty in the midst of an endless supply of Yankee dollars, all courtesy the aging dilatants obsessed with holding on to their youth by defiling the youth we brokered for them in their ridiculous attempt to cheat death. I will need to think of a new game while on hiatus.

LVMPD…Tuesday, Feb 24, 2009…10:30pm

I was relieved when Rebecca answered her cell phone on the first ring. A small part of me had prepared myself for another gory scene ala room 3023 at the Union Plaza. She listened to us carefully explain what was happening and what we wanted her to do. The tricky thing about volunteers is that they can always say no. Rebecca Tran was a brand new shield but from what I had seen so far she was no coward. If she gave her word she kept it, she new the meaning of loyalty and she embraced it. That's a rare quality these days in a society pampered to believe that when the going gets tough, the smart girls get the hell out of Dodge. It was another reason I was learning to admire the young lady. I already envied her future husband, lucky fella.

"Okay, I think I get what you want me to do, but how will I know which way to go," she asked.

"I've got a building schematic right in front of me Becca," Wally explained.

"Look, there is only one way to get to you from where he started, and if we hurry we can put you in the way before he gets that far, you got it?"

"Yeah, what do I do first?"

"Strip down to your skivvies and dowse yourself with something slick, lotion or oil. What have you got in your purse," asked Wally?

"I don't know, let me look," Becca replied reaching for her handbag.

"All I have is some Oil of Olay, will that do?"

"Maybe, if there's enough of it. Get undressed and ask Dr. Looney to rub you down," Wally instructed.

"Don't talk; just listen while Judy gets you nice and shiny."

"Okay."

"I said DON'T talk! Once you get up into the air shaft I want you to make yourself as small as possible, flat as a sheet of paper. Have your weapon cocked and ready to fire. Take long slow breathes and make NO SOUND. Listen carefully for him, he'll be moving stealthily but he's not expecting you up there, he doesn't think we're that clever. Are you oiled and ready now?"

"Becca, you can answer that question," said Wally snickering. Humor in tense situations almost always breeds courage.

"Okay, yeah I'm ready but I'm feeling pretty exposed here," she giggled.

"Alright sweetheart, last instructions, and by the way, at the inquiry afterward I never spoke these words. Once you're in position and when you've waited as long as you can stand it, remember, the closer he is the better, the darkness is your friend, I want you to empty your weapon. He'll be as flat as you are so aim low. That's it, God's speed Rebecca Tran, call me when the dickhead is dead," Wally said snapping his cell phone shut.

"Now we wait," he said to Iggie and me.

"Like hell we do, let's beat it on over there and help Becca out," I said moving toward the locked door.

Wally blocked my path, putting up both hands. "Wait, okay just wait a second. We don't want to spook this guy. We have a real chance to end this. I don't know about you, but I don't want to continue chasing a phantom. He's in the trap, we know that. Let him go for the cheese and get a face full of lead from Detective Tran. Come on Whitey, you know I'm right."

"SHIT," I hissed, sliding down the wall and taking a seat beside Iggie.

"That's better, it'll be over in a couple of minutes," Wally said, holding his cell phone at the ready for Becca's call.

LVMPD…Tuesday, Feb 24, 2009…11:00pm

Rebecca laid on her stomach in a prone ready position, legs spread, the heels of her bare feet touching the sides of the narrow shaft. Her arms were fully extended in front of her and her weapon was cocked and ready to fire. She was too tense to be scared. Her eyes had adjusted to the absence of light but she still couldn't see a thing. She felt her stomach cramping and she worried about a growl or worse. Her eyes began to tear from the strain of trying to see in the dark and she suddenly wondered what if this guy has infrared goggles? If he did she was dead meat. She could feel the cell phone tucked into the back f her panties and couldn't remember if she turned it off or not? Oh man, what if her Mom called to say goodnight or something. It was too late to worry about that anyway. Wait a second; did she hear something, maybe? She slightly opened her mouth taking short, shallow breaths. Her eyes were getting in her way and she closed them tightly to heighten her other senses. She couldn't remember where she read about that but it made perfect sense right now.

She listened hard but heard no sound. Suddenly alarms went off in her brain. There was no sound, but she felt a slight tremor beneath her as if the building was moving. She racked her brain processing possibilities and then realized the obvious. The shaft was responding to the presence of a greater weight, the intruder was near! Becca counted to five and then emptied her gun.

BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM!

Her ears rang from the reverb off of the walls of the small space and the spent shell casings burned her flesh as they rolled around the shaft. She screamed and scooted backward too quickly breaking a pinkie toe in the process. She stifled a cry and bit the heel of her hand to transfer the pain. A bloody hand suddenly reached out and grabbed her by her hair. The grip was too strong for a dead man and she instantly recoiled in fear. Becca retreated back to the hole in the ceiling dragging whoever had hold of her along for the ride. A second later two strong hands grabbed her by the ankles and pulled her the rest of the way.
Wally pulled Rebecca down out of the air shaft and handed her to Iggie and me.

"Holy shit, look what we got here," he shouted as Judy helped us wrap a blanket around our brave little hero.

Detective Price pulled a bloody corpse from the shaft like after birth. He let the body drop to the floor and then climbed down from the table he was perched on while Iggie and me walked over to take a gander at the body. Wally strolled our way and turned the stiff onto its back with the heel of his boot.

"Good God," I gasped audibly when I saw his face, recognizing him instantly! It was Jai Lai, a dead man for the second time. What the hell was going on here I wondered? Wally saw my expression.

"You know him," he asked?

"Yeah, I went to his funeral actually."

"Nice trick, I wonder how Houdini here managed that," Wally said nonchalantly, completely nonplussed by the gore.

"Judy, you helped with the autopsy on this guy didn't you," I asked, looking back at her, puzzled? She walked over and took a look.

"That's not the Jai Lai I worked on," she said.

"At least not according to the dental and medical records we had," she added.

"Well its Jai alright, I've known him for years," I replied puzzled.

"Well one of you is wrong. Anyway, it doesn't matter much, their both dead now," observed Wally blandly.

"I guess not, at least not at the moment. We can sort all of that out when we get Judy and the microchip back to LA," I replied tiredly.

"You ready to go home Becca," I asked the rookie detective.

She was still shaking and I took that as a yes. Judy took my hand and we walked over to comfort Detective Tran together until the paramedics arrived. We definitely had a lot of explaining to do to Oscar when we got back. The pieces were already starting fall into place for me as the shock began to wear off. Jai and Sally November had been a team from the start. Somehow they got mixed up with Russian gangsters; they call themselves the New Russians. I'm guessing Sally was the key to that unholy marriage. I'm also guessing she got ambitious and started working a blackmail angle without telling Jai. I suppose if Hassan hadn't killed her Jai would have. The loneliest victim in all of this was poor Lu; he didn't deserve to be betrayed by either of the two people he loved most in the world. I suspect that at the end of the day a lot of people were going to regret our luck, Judy's and mine, if you can call it that. All I know is that Judy and I still weren't out of the woods, we had a date with some harsh reality and soon.

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