Harry sat slumped back in his favorite armchair, munching on a donut and thinking. That was about all he was good for these days - thinking - though he accomplished little with it. He thought, he ate, he slept, and he thought some more, but nothing changed. All that thinking had not produced any brilliant inspirations to resuscitate his life. It had only depressed him, by reminding him how limited his options were.
Tonight, he didn't feel any pressure to come up with revelations about his future. He felt too relaxed and generally content to worry. It was a lovely, soft, summer evening, with the smell of cut grass and flowers in the air, and a gentle breeze blowing through the open curtains. The kind of evening he had never gotten to enjoy, as a busy police officer.
He couldn't quite repress a sigh, at that thought. Six months ago, he would have been working late at the Chapel, with Fuller and Hanson and the others, his nose buried in a file and his head full of some case or other. He wouldn't be free to smell the summer air, but he also wouldn't be bored out of his mind or wondering what his future held. His future...a future that seemed to hold nothing, anymore, beyond sitting in this apartment, eating donuts, and pondering the meaning of the universe, as it applied to everyone but himself.
Shaking off his sudden melancholy, he jumped to his feet and headed for the door. He absolutely refused to brood tonight. That could wait for tomorrow, when the world was a little less beautiful. Snagging his jacket from its place on the coat rack, he checked to be sure his keys and sunglasses were tucked in the pockets as he shrugged it on. He started to pick up his cane from its usual spot on the hall table but changed his mind. He wasn't going very far, and he had every step of the terrain from here to the park memorized. Maybe he'd go feed the rest of his donut to the ducks.
He whistled softly between his teeth, as he strolled down to the sidewalk. He and Penhall lived in a quiet, fairly well-to-do neighborhood of tree-lined streets, small houses, and sedate apartment buildings. Three blocks away, across two streets and around one corner, was a small city park with a fountain and duck pond. Harry spent a lot of time there these days, sitting on a bench, talking to the ducks and thinking. The ducks viewed him as one of the family. Several of his neighbors knew him by sight and stopped to talk to him, when he ventured out of doors, making him feel like very much a part of the neighborhood. Harry liked that feeling, especially after his years of isolation as a young urbanite who didn't even know the people living next door to him, but he preferred the ducks. They had fewer expectations, and they didn't care what he said or did, as long as he brought food. With half a donut in his hand, he was assured of a welcome.
He didn't have to concentrate on counting his steps from the curb to the first corner. He'd walked this path so many times that it was programmed into him, and he came to a precise stop beside the street sign, his right hand lifting unconsciously to catch the sign pole. No cars moved on the street at this time of evening. Harry started across without his usual caution.
Suddenly, he heard tires squealing and an engine straining. The sound came from very close - much closer than the low hum of traffic on the nearest busy thoroughfare. Harry froze, trying to pinpoint the location of the sound and the direction the car was moving, but the noise echoed deceptively off of buildings, confusing his directional sense. After a breathless moment, he started walking again, as quickly as he safely could, toward the far curb.
He was still several steps short of the sidewalk when the car slid around the corner, all four wheels locked and all four tires howling in protest against the pavement. Harry felt a surge of panic, as he tried, in that split second of awareness, to decide what to do. In the next second, the car slammed into him and tossed him into the air. He landed on the hood, rolled across the buckling metal, and fetched up against the windshield just as the vehicle came to a screeching halt.
The impact left him stunned and shaken. He lay on the hood, staring blankly at the darkening sky and wondering what body parts he'd lost this time, while his nerves slowly recovered from the shock and informed him that they were not happy.
"Oh, man," he groaned, to no one in particular, "that hurt!"
A car door slammed, and footsteps pounded against the pavement. "Holy shit!" It was a woman's voice - strong and fluid, with a huskiness to it that caused a strange prickling up his back. "Are you all right?"
He started to sit up, but a firm hand pinned his shoulder to the hood.
"Don't move. Let me check you over."
Harry glanced in the direction of the voice and frowned. "I'm fine...I think."
"Trust me. I'm a doctor."
He groaned again. "Just my luck." Shrugging off the restraining hand, he sat up. His head spun sickeningly, and he clutched at it with both hands, muttering, "I hate doctors."
The voice chuckled, though there was little humor in it. "I guess I can't blame you, if they all run you down in the street. But seriously..."
"Seriously, I'm okay." He slid off the hood, landing a bit unsteadily on his feet. "See?"
Before the doctor could answer, the sound of another car engine reached them, and she swore under her breath. "I don't believe this. What the hell am I going to do, now?"
"What's wrong?" Harry asked, promptly.
Her voice took on a faintly desperate edge. "I can't walk away from an accident I've caused, not without making sure you're all right, but if that car finds me..."
"Here." Harry caught her arm and started to walk across the street with her, but he came to an abrupt halt after he'd taken only a couple of steps. "Rats. I'm lost."
"Which way to the south-east corner?"
"That way," she answered, dubiously.
Harry grinned at her, no trace of embarrassment in his empty gaze. "Pointing doesn't help. Just walk."
"Holy shit," she repeated, as she started obediently across the street. "I just ran over a blind man."
"Don't worry about it," Harry responded, calmly.
"I'm gonna lose my medical license for this!"
"Good. There are too many doctors in the world." They stepped up on the curb, and Harry paused momentarily to orient himself. "Over there...the big apartment building with French windows." He pulled the keys from his pocket and held them out for her. "Run. Wait for me inside the lobby."
"Go, or that car's gonna find you!"
Without further argument, she grabbed the keys and sprinted for the building. Harry waited till he judged that she'd reached the walkway leading to the apartment building, then he started strolling down the sidewalk. He had not taken more than three steps, when he heard the deep, rumbling note of a large engine idling along. The sound turned the corner and abruptly stopped moving. Harry kept walking.
After a brief moment, the car rumbled up beside him, and a meaty voice called, "Hey, kid!"
He halted and turned a polite, questioning smile on the voice.
"You see the broad who got outta that car?"
"That car," the voice growled, irritably.
Harry pasted on his best helpless, baffled expression and fixed vacant eyes on his interrogator. "What car?"
"Christ! Come on, Lou, let's cruise the block. She couldn'ta got far on foot." The engine note deepened. As they pulled away from Harry, he heard the meaty voice grumble, "Just our lousy luck! The only person on the whole damned street is a dumb-ass blind kid."
"Nice to meet you, too," Harry murmured pleasantly after the retreating vehicle. As he continued down the sidewalk, he mused to himself, "She may be a doctor, but she's sure got better manners than those two. Of course, she did hit me with her car..."
His neighborhood radar told him that he'd reached the front of his building. He hesitated, listening intently for any sound of the big car returning, but the street was silent. With a satisfied smile, he strolled up to the front door and knocked lightly on the glass. The door flew open, and a familiar strong hand grabbed his arm to pull him inside.
"Are you okay?"
"Sure. Nothing to it." He smiled sweetly at the woman. "You've got nice friends."
She shuddered, and her voice dropped to a hunted whisper. "I don't know who those guys are, and I don't want to find out!"
Harry gestured toward the elevator. "Then we better not stand around the lobby. Come on upstairs."
She considered his offer for a moment, then asked, cautiously, "Why would you want to help me, after I hit you with my car?"
"Because you may be a bad driver, but you're lots nicer than those goons."
"Goons?" she said, sharply. "Were they goons?"
Harry stepped into the elevator and waited for her to join him. As he punched the correct button, he commented, "Well, they sounded like goons. One of 'em was named Lou. Have you ever met a Lou who wasn't a goon?"
"I don't think I've ever met a Lou, period. And speaking of names...If I'm going to accept your hospitality, don't you think I'd better know yours?"
"H.T. Ioki." He held out his hand, and she shook it. "But you can call me Harry."
"Doctor Martin," he corrected her, in a gloomy tone.
She laughed. "But you can call me Tyrrel. Maybe you'll forget about the 'doctor' part, in time."
"Maybe..." He didn't sound convinced.
They stepped out of the elevator at the top floor, and Harry guided her to the right.
"May I ask you a personal question?" Tyrrel said.
"What have you got against doctors?"
His answer came in a flat, humorless tone that told her she didn't want to pursue the topic. "They work in hospitals." He stopped in front of a door and held out his hand for the keys. "Here we are."
She dropped the key ring in his palm. He quickly unlocked the door, reached inside to flick on the hall light, and stood aside to let her enter. She murmured her thanks as she moved past him into the dim apartment.
"Make yourself comfortable," Harry suggested. "I'll make some coffee." With that, he headed into the kitchen.
Tyrrel moved into the living room and turned on the lamps that stood at either end of the sofa. With the shadows chased away, she found herself in a large, spacious, high-ceilinged room, with tall many-paned windows open to catch the evening breeze. It was sparsely furnished and scrupulously clean, no clutter anywhere and absolutely nothing out of place on the floor, but it had a rumpled, lived-in quality that felt welcoming. A pizza box sticking out of the bookshelf, a worn patchwork quilt folded over the back of the sofa, a swimsuit model calendar hanging above the phone, mismatched armchairs with frayed pillows thrown into them - these touches warmed and softened the room.
As she looked around, she couldn't help wondering how Harry fit in here. The apartment didn't quite seem to suit him. Unconsciously, her gaze turned toward the kitchen and the man who moved so unhesitatingly around it.
He was a small, compact person - possibly shorter than Tyrrel herself, without his boot heels adding an inch to his height - who moved with the unconscious grace of a trained athlete. She watched him snag a couple of coffee mugs from the cupboard, and she couldn't help marveling at the surety of his gestures. Something about his manner told her that he had not lost his sight so long ago, that this was still a new reality for him, but if that were true, then he had adjusted to an amazing degree.
One clue that he had not always been blind was the way he dressed and carried himself. This was a man who knew how he looked in his clothes. From his oriental-cut, black silk jacket to his silver-chased cowboy boots, he was dressed both comfortably and stylishly, without a trace of self-consciousness to mar the results. Even the earring, silver bracelet, and shoulder-length mane of midnight hair only added to the aura of careless chic that clung to him.
Another clue was the way he fixed her with that direct gaze when he spoke to her. He knew where she was and spoke to her, rather than past her. His dark, almond-shaped eyes sparkled with a mixture of intelligence, humor and mischief that she found fascinating. And when he smiled, it was like someone had switched on a floodlight.
These fanciful thoughts played behind her face, as she watched Harry go through the routine of making coffee for his unexpected guest. With a start, she realized that she was letting her imagination run away with her, and she ruthlessly tore her gaze away from her host to find some less perilous focus for her attention.
Her eyes fell on a collection of framed photographs that stood on a table under the window. The array of attractive faces drew her closer and sparked her curiosity. This elderly Asian woman must be a relative of Harry's, but the portly man with the beard could hardly be a member of his family. And these younger people looked like friends or coworkers. She recognized Harry in a few of the pictures - standing with his arm around a stunning black woman, clowning around with two other men, posed with the whole group at what appeared to be a Christmas party. In yet another photo, the woman was standing in front of a banner, wearing a police uniform and flashing a huge, brilliant smile for the camera. Tyrrel picked it up and turned it into the light to get a better look.
Harry came into the room and hesitated by the sofa, as though trying to locate her. She obligingly spoke up.
"I'm just looking at some of these pictures."
He smiled in her direction and continued on his way to the armchair. "The coffee'll be ready in a minute."
"Who's this gorgeous woman in the uniform?"
"That would be Judy Hoffs."
"A friend of yours?"
Tyrrel looked up from the picture in her hands, a quizzical smile on her face. "Harry, are you a cop?"
"I used to be."
"Now, I talk to ducks," he answered, a touch ruefully.
Tyrrel chuckled. "And rescue damsels in distress."
"Only when they hit me with their cars."
"I'm really sorry about that. I wish you'd let me check you out and make sure..."
"I'm fine," he insisted, cutting her off. "You're the one being chased by rude goons name Lou. What's going on?"
"Nothing... Nothing you can help with, anyway."
"You might be surprised."
Now it was Tyrrel's turn to look thoughtful. "So far, everything about you is surprising."
Harry pulled a grimace at her, as though he didn't relish the implied compliment. "I'm just an ex-cop who trips over the furniture."
"And talks to ducks."
"Yeah. And you're changing the subject."
"All right." She sighed heavily, and the laughter drained from her voice. "The truth is that I don't know what's going on. I was driving home from work, minding my own business, when I saw this big, black limo following me. I wouldn't even have noticed, except that he was tailgating me. So, I turned off on a side street to get away from him, but he followed. That's when I started to wonder. I made a couple of random turns, tried cutting down an alley, parked in a gas station for a few minutes, and every time I turned around, he was right there. Then he took a shot at me. I panicked..."
"...and ran into you."
"Hmm." Harry got to his feet and headed for the kitchen. "I think we need some coffee."
Tyrrel watched, bemused, as he poured two large cups of coffee without spilling a drop.
"Do you take cream or sugar?"
He returned to the living room and handed her a cup. "Now we can think better."
"Harry, I really don't th..."
A firm knock on the door cut her off. She shot Harry a panicked look, though her rational mind knew that the goons could not possibly have traced her here. He gestured for her to stay quiet, as he set down his coffee and moved over to the door on cat feet. The knock sounded again, and a familiar voice called,
"Harry? Doug? Anybody home?"
"It's cool," he assured Tyrrel, "he's a friend." He flipped the deadbolt and swung the door open. "Hey, Tom."
"Hey. Is Doug here?" Hanson asked.
"I thought he was with you."
"Nope. Mind if I come in and wait for him?" When he saw Harry hesitate, he murmured, "I'm sorry to barge in, Iokage, but it's kind of important."
Ioki promptly stepped aside to usher Hanson through the door, warning him softly, "I've got company."
Tom halted in mid-stride. "Then I'm outta here. Tell Doug I'll call him later..."
"No, it's okay." He shut the door and waved Tom into the room. "Come on in."
Hanson moved reluctantly into the apartment, his eyes scanning the room in mingled embarrassment and curiosity. When his eyes touched Tyrrel, he pulled up short in surprise. An appreciative smile lit his face, and he gazed at her with patent approval. "I thought I knew all of Harry's friends," he remarked, in his low-key but confident way. "Obviously, I was wrong. Where's he been hiding you?"
Harry gestured toward the bombshell seated on his couch and said, "Tyrrel Martin, Tom Hanson. Tom is a cop, so we can trust him."
"Trust me with what?"
Tyrrel pushed herself to her feet. "Don't worry about it. You two obviously have things to talk about, and I should be getting home, so..."
"No, wait!" Harry said. "You can't go home!"
"Look, I'm really sorry I butted in here," Tom hurried to assure her, "and if anyone's gonna leave, it should be me."
"You're misunderstanding the situation..."
"I feel like a total jerk!"
"I shouldn't have come up here, in the first place, but..."
"Hold it!" Harry shouted. The other two obediently fell silent. "Everybody sit down, and let's start over."
Hanson shot Ioki a shamefaced smile, then ventured, "Think I could have some of that coffee, first?"
Ioki laughed, shattering the tension and chasing the last of their reserve away. "Sure. Help yourself." As Hanson traipsed into the kitchen to pour a cup, he asked, "What's up with Penhall?"
Hanson gave a tired sigh. "Nothing new. He was almost an hour late for a deposition today. Said he had errands to run and forgot. Can you believe that crap? Most of the time, I don't even know where he is, and when his body's around, his brain is off on another planet."
"What did Fuller say about the deposition?"
"I didn't tell him." Tom dropped bonelessly into a chair. "But I'm getting pretty tired of covering Doug's ass."
Hanson threw him a sharp glance, his eyebrows scaling up his forehead. "Aren't you the one who told me he needed time to pull himself together?"
"He's had six months. Maybe what he needs now is a good, swift kick." Harry paused, then remarked to his coffee cup, "Fuller would be happy to give him one."
"So would I." At Harry's startled look, Tom added, "I think it's time we all faced it, Iokage. Penhall just doesn't want to be a cop anymore. His priorities are...elsewhere."
"Has he been talking about El Salvador, again?"
"You can't blame him for wanting his family back."
"I don't blame him. I understand better than...better than I want to. That's what makes it so hard to keep doing this damned job, when my partner has checked out on me and my team is gone..." Tom broke off that thought and fixed dark, melancholy eyes on the floor. He didn't want to look at Harry's face and see the disappointment there. It made him feel intensely and irrationally guilty, knowing that he had the freedom to make a choice that Harry did not, and that his friend would willingly sell his soul to get back a job that Tom didn't want. Lately, he'd begun to wonder if he was staying on the Police Force simply because he couldn't face telling Harry that he'd quit.
Throwing off his gloom, and mustering a cheerful tone for Harry's benefit, he turned to Tyrrel and asked, "What, exactly, did I interrupt?"
Tyrrel had taken Hanson's measure inside the first minute, and she knew from Harry's attitude toward him that he could be trusted, so she answered easily enough, "We were discussing goons."
"Named Lou," she added.
A wide, laughing smile spread over Hanson's face, and he turned eyes gleaming with mischief on Ioki. "What are you up to, Harry?"
"Just taking my evening walk. Hey!" His face brightened. "Maybe you could help us!"
"Not if there are goons involved."
"They're little goons, and kinda dumb."
"Harry, please!" Tyrrel protested. "Don't drag Tom into this! Neither one of you should be involved in my problems!"
"What problems?" Hanson demanded.
"Goon problems. A pair of them in a black limo are chasing her, and we need to find out why. Then stop them, of course."
"Oh, of course."
Ignoring the sarcasm in Hanson's tone, he continued blithely, "They followed her all over town this evening, and even took a shot at her. It's their fault she ran into me, so I figure I owe..."
"Wait a minute. Ran into you? Ran into you how?"
"With her car."
"What?!" Tom jerked upright in his chair, all trace of humor gone from his face. Turning a distinctly hostile glare on the doctor, he snapped, "This had better be a joke!"
"No, he has a right to be upset," Tyrrel insisted. "What I did was inexcusable."
"Will both of you please cut it out? You didn't hurt me, and it wasn't your fault, so let's just drop it!"
Hanson frowned at him and demanded, "Are you sure you're okay?"
Tyrrel smiled ruefully at the disgruntled cop. "If it's any consolation, I feel awful about it."
"But I've been keeping an eye on him, and he doesn't appear to have suffered any injuries. I'm a doctor, you see," she added apologetically.
"A doctor! And he actually let you in the apartment?" Hanson shot Ioki an amazed look. "It must be love!"
Ioki flushed painfully and turned a sour glare on his friend. "Can we get back to the goons?"
"Okay, okay. Somebody better tell me what's going on."
Tyrrel repeated what she'd told Harry about the men in the limousine. When she got to the part about running over Harry, Hanson started glowering again, but he couldn't resist the humor of the situation for long. By the time she finished with her dash to the lobby and Harry's distraction of the goons, he was grinning in appreciation.
"You two ought to take that act on the road."
"I'm glad you think it's so funny that people are shooting at her," Ioki groused. He obviously had not forgiven Hanson for his ribbing.
Tom turned his most beguiling smile on his friend, batted his long lashes playfully, and said, "Be nice, Iokage, or I'll change my mind about joining your goon hunt."
"Maybe I don't need your help. Maybe I can catch them by myself."
"I'm sure you can, but why not improve the odds? What goon stands a chance against the pair of us?"
"Guys, I really don't..." Tyrrel started to protest, yet again, but both men fixed her with long, quelling stares, and the words died in her throat.
"Good. Now that that's settled, we can figure out our next step."
"First off, Tyrrel can't go home," Harry stated. He got to his feet and began to pace restlessly around the room, as he continued, "It's too easy for the goons to find her there. I think she needs to stay someplace they'd never think of looking. Someplace unconnected with her normal life..."
"How about here?"
Tom gave that due thought, then shook his head. "Once we start investigating, we'll be targets, too. Then she wouldn't be any safer here than in her own home. No, it needs to be someplace totally unconnected - from us, as well as from her."
"You're right," Harry agreed. "Bad idea."
"I can stay in a hotel," Tyrrel offered. "I'll just pick one, randomly, that I've never even set foot in. They can't trace that."
"Good idea. Hanson can drive you."
"I've got a car right outside. Remember?"
Harry came to a stop in front of her, his hands planted on his hips. "You're not thinking like a target. The last thing you want to do is drive around in your own car!"
"I'll be happy to drive you anywhere you want to go," Hanson assured her, "but don't you think we ought to figure out who these jokers are?"
"I honestly don't have a clue!"
Harry started pacing again. "You said they followed you from work?"
"Then that's how they found you...where they know you from. Where do you work?"
"County General, in the ER."
"That doesn't sound very sinister," Hanson commented, a touch maliciously.
Harry ignored the dig. "Have you ever seen that car, or one like it, before today?"
She thought about that for a long, quiet moment, then said, "We don't get a lot of limos in the ER, but I do remember seeing one...last week, I think. It was parked at the ambulance entrance, and the security guard wanted to have it towed."
Both Hanson and Ioki moved closer to her, their eyes alight with curiosity.
"Did you see who was in it?" Hanson asked.
"Well...I couldn't swear to this, but...it might have been Mr. Trumbull."
"Laurence Trumbull? The mobster?" She nodded, bringing a low whistle from Hanson. "You saw Laurence Trumbull in the hospital?"
"Sure. He came to see one of my patients. But I didn't see him get in or out of that car," she hurried to point out.
"Forget the car. Who did he come to see?"
She frowned in concentration and answered, slowly, "I don't remember the patient's name. He was a big guy - Harry would call him a goon, I guess - who had been shot twice in the chest. We were trying to stabilize him, before he went up to surgery, when Trumbull came in. We wouldn't let him talk to the patient, not that the guy was in any shape for conversation, so he hung around in the ER for a while."
"Nothing much. He cornered a couple of nurses and asked them some questions. Then the police showed up..."
"You called them?" Harry asked.
"Yes. Standard procedure, with a shooting." The two cops nodded understanding. "I didn't see Trumbull leave, but when I'd finished answering the routine questions about the shooting, I looked around for him and he was gone."
"So you never talked to him?"
"Did he know that you treated the gunshot victim?"
"This is important, Tyrrel. Could he have known? Could he have learned your name, from one of those nurses?"
"Certainly, he could have. Whether he did or not, I don't know."
Ioki and Hanson exchanged a meaningful look. "It's a place to start," Tom said.
"Can you get away from the office tomorrow?"
"Then we can head over to the hospital and ask some questions." Harry grinned at him, with a distinct sparkle of excitement in his eyes. "Officially."
"You never give up, do you Harry?"
"Nope. Once a cop, always a cop."
Tyrrel watched this exchange, wearing a troubled frown. "I'd like to say something, here."
"Are you going to fuss at us, again?" Harry demanded.
"I don't fuss. Listen to me, Harry, please. I know you want to help, and believe me, I'm grateful! Tonight has taught me a painful lesson - I am woefully unprepared to deal with this kind of thing, and I need all the help I can get. I also know that you and Tom are experienced professionals, who deal with exactly this kind of thing all the time."
"But I don't want you to get hurt. You're not a police officer anymore. This isn't your job. Let me go down to the station with Tom in the morning, tell them my story, and get this straightened out the correct, legal way. Without getting you involved."
Harry stared thoughtfully at his own toes for a moment, his brows drawn together in a frown, then he lifted his strangely direct gaze to her face. When he spoke, his voice was soft and serious. "Would you believe me, if I told you that I need to do this?"
She met his eyes, reading the sincerity of his words in them. "Yes."
"Then please let me help you. Let us help you."
Tyrrel realized, too late to save herself, that she could not withstand the pleading in those frank, empty eyes or the wistful note in his voice. Heaving a resigned sigh, she flung her hands up in a gesture of defeat. "Okay."
A brilliant smile swept over his face. "You won't be sorry."
"I think I already am." Pushing herself tiredly to her feet, she asked, "Can we postpone the goon-hunt till I get a good night's sleep?"
"Sure! Just tell Tom where you want to go."
"First, I want to go to the bathroom. Do you mind?"
"Down the hallway, first door on the left."
"Thank you. Excuse me, gentlemen."
As she disappeared into the dark hallway, Hanson moved up beside Ioki and followed her with speculative eyes. "We may be putting our foot in something nasty, here."
"Maybe, but she still needs our help."
"And they say chivalry is dead." Hanson dug him in the ribs with an elbow and murmured, affectionately, "You were born in the wrong century, Iokage."
Harry flashed a wry smile at him. "Tell me something, Tom."
"What does she look like?" Hanson gave a shout of laughter, causing Harry to blush again and hiss, "Shhh! She'll hear you!"
"I knew it wasn't just your sense of civic duty."
"Give me a break. The woman ran me over with her car! And she's a doctor! I'm just...curious. Her voice is nice...kinda low and...well..."
"Yeah. And from the way you were flirting with her, I figured she must look as nice as she sounds."
Tom clapped him on the shoulder and said, laughingly, "Better!"
"She's a knock-out."
"But what does she look like?"
"You're gonna have to figure that one out for yourself, pal. But I will tell you one thing. That is one smart lady. She looks at me like she's reading my mind, and I wouldn't bet that she isn't! You get mixed up with her, you better watch yourself."
"I'm not getting mixed up with anyone."
"Yeah, right. You're going after a sleaze like Laurence Trumbull for kicks."
"Don't ride me on this, Tom, okay? The lady's in trouble, and I want to help her out. That's all there is to it."
The serious tone in his voice told Hanson that he meant it, and the young cop stifled his baiting response to answer, simply, "Fair enough. If you want to help her, count me in."
Tyrrel's return put an end to their conversation. She sat down with the phone book and quickly chose a hotel from the Yellow Pages listings. Hanson called to verify that they had a room available, then he ushered her gallantly to the front door. It became clear that she wanted to speak to Harry alone, so he went ahead to call the elevator, leaving her standing in the doorway with Ioki.
When she looked at her combined victim and rescuer, Tyrrel was briefly grateful that he couldn't see the expression on her face. Something very strange had happened to her tonight, and it had nothing to do with limousines or gunfire. She needed time and space to work it out, but she also needed some kind of assurance that this would not be the last time she ever laid eyes on Harry Ioki.
"Thank you for everything, Harry," she murmured. "If I hadn't run into you tonight, I don't kn..."
They both realized, at the same moment, what she had said and broke out in matching sheepish grins. Harry held out his hand and waited till she slipped hers into it, then he gave her fingers a quick squeeze and said,
"Don't worry. Tom and I will catch the bad guys, and we won't let anything happen to you."
'Too late,' she thought, but she kept that to herself. To Harry, she said, "Oddly enough, I believe you."
He gave her a sparkling smile. "Tom said you were a smart lady."
"But you have your doubts."
"Well, you are a doctor."
"I'm going to get to the bottom of your doctor-phobia, one of these days."
"One of these days, I'll tell you about it. But not tonight."
"No." On an impulse, she leaned over and dropped a chaste kiss on his cheek. "Good night."
He waited in the open doorway, until he heard her footsteps turn the corner to the elevator. Then, he stepped back into the apartment and softly shut the door. As he wandered into the kitchen for a fresh cup of coffee, he unconsciously lifted his hand to brush his cheek where she had kissed him. Another smile tilted the corners of his mouth, and he thought, 'Wait till I tell the ducks about this one!'
*** *** ***
The new headquarters for the Jump Street unit, or "The Shop" as it was generally called, didn't feel right. Ioki noticed it every time he stepped inside, and it bothered him. For one thing, it was too small for all the people and equipment it housed, so the noise level was almost painful, and there never seemed to be enough oxygen to go around. For another thing, it smelled powerfully of fixative and machine oil. But it was the voices that really bothered him - the voices of all those strangers. That was the main reason he didn't come here very often. He felt out of place and uncomfortable, and he couldn't make himself adjust to the changes in his old squad room.
Of course, he'd have an easier time if he'd just admit that it wasn't his old squad room. It wasn't even on Jump Street anymore. When the Department had started up the undercover unit again, two months after the big quake, they moved it to an empty print shop on Humboldt. A few veterans, like Fuller and Penhall, still referred to it as the Chapel out of habit, but most of the kids on the team had never seen the inside of the old church. And no one liked hearing references to the building that had fallen down so spectacularly and caused such public embarrassment to the Department. The few team members who remained from pre-quake days were looked upon as relics by the younger cops, and Ioki was relegated to the status of Family Ghost.
Harry knew exactly how the latest batch of eager, cocky, baby-faced rookies viewed him, and he could usually laugh about it - in a sort of world-weary, cynical way. But he still tended to avoid coming here. It reminded him of too many changes in his life - changes he had been forced to make - and too many decisions that still hung over him.
As he paused just inside the doorway to orient himself, he heard a familiar voice hail him over the din of daily business.
"Hey, Harry!" Dean Garrett came bounding up to him, radiating energy and good humor. "How's it goin', man? It's been a long time. You lookin' for Penhall?"
"Hanson. Have you seen him around?"
"He's in Fuller's office. Been there most of the morning."
"I don't know. The Chief's ticked about something...and don't bother asking me what, 'cause nobody tells me squat! I could go in there and tell 'im you're waiting..."
Ioki winced. "Fuller would love that. No, I'll just hang at Tom's desk 'til he's finished."
As Harry started threading his way between the desks toward the back corner that Hanson called home, Dean chirped, "Want me to get you some coffee? I made it this morning, so it's pretty good!"
Harry bit back a sour reminder that he could pour his own damned cup of coffee, and said in a deceptively bland voice, "No thanks." Then he continued on his way and settled gratefully into Hanson's vacant chair. At least it was quiet enough to think, back here.
He didn't have time to do much thinking, though, before the clump of booted feet on the floorboards announced Hanson's arrival.
"Hey, Iokage." He sounded tired and depressed. "You're early."
"Nope. You're late."
Hanson glanced at his watch, then sighed. "Great. I just wasted the whole morning. Come on, let's blow this joint before Penhall sees us."
Ioki raised his eyebrows at that but made no comment. He knew things were strained between the two men, but he heard more in Hanson's voice than the usual frustration with his partner. Harry wanted to ask him about it, maybe offer some advice on handling Doug, but this was neither the time nor the place, and Tom wasn't likely to accept the advice.
Hanson had a weird way of dealing with problems like this. He let you know exactly how he felt, but he didn't talk about it - just laid all this attitude on you and left you to figure it out for yourself. This approach worked perfectly with Penhall, who could ignore the attitude for days or weeks, 'til he was ready to deal with the underlying problem, then jump his partner unexpectedly and goad him into talking. Ioki had a harder time with it. He could neither ignore the attitude nor confront Hanson about the problem. His own basic reserve made it difficult for him to violate another person's mental space that way. So, Tom didn't open up to him, and he kept his thoughts largely to himself. That was okay. That's how their friendship had worked for more than four years. But at times like this, Ioki wished he knew how to push the right buttons and get Hanson talking.
Instead, he followed Hanson down the stairs in silence. They made it outside and across the alley to the Mustang, without running afoul of Penhall. As Hanson slipped into the car and shut the door, Ioki could feel the tension melt. They had made good their escape. Now Tom was free to enjoy himself, and from the hint of laughter in his voice, Ioki knew that Hanson was enjoying their little goon hunt as much as he was.
"Time to brave the Lion's Den, Iokage. You ready for this?"
"I'm ready for anything!"
"Even the hospital? Man, you must be bored!"
They kept themselves occupied through the drive with an exchange of light-hearted insults and banter that fit their mood as perfectly as a pair of old shoes. By the time they pulled into the hospital parking lot, Hanson seemed to have forgotten all about his partner troubles. He hopped out of the car and started eagerly toward the Emergency entrance, with Ioki beside him.
They had almost reached the building, when Tom abruptly halted and muttered, "Limo at two o'clock."
"Anybody in it?"
"Can't tell. The windows are smoked. We'll have to get around the front and look through the windshield."
"If these are the same goons as yesterday, they'll recognize me."
"Nah, they won't...will they?" Ioki nodded emphatically, and Hanson sighed. "Yeah, they will. Can't you learn to be a little more...nondescript?"
"Hey, nobody's less descript than me!"
Tom shook his head in defeat. "I'm not even gonna try to explain to you how weird that statement is. Come on. Let's try to get inside without being spotted. We can deal with the limo on our way out."
He started forward again, keeping his eyes on the door and totally ignoring the limo parked nearby. The car remained blank, silent and impassive, even when the two men strolled past it, close enough to touch the bullet-proof panels. Once through the automatic glass doors, Hanson risked a quick glance over his shoulder. He could make out the silhouette of a man in the driver's seat, but the passenger seat was lost in shadow.
"We have visual confirmation on one goon."
At that moment, a tall man in surgical-green scrubs spotted them and headed in their direction. Tom whispered, "Here we go. Play along, and try to look pathetic."
"Yeah, just like that." Harry jabbed him in the ribs with an elbow, forcing a surprised squeak from him. He tried to cover it, as the man reached them, but his eyes were watering with the effort not to laugh.
"Can I help you?" the man asked.
"We're looking for Dr. Martin," Tom answered.
"She's busy, at the moment, but I'm the Triage nurse. Everybody who goes in there has to get through me. So what's the problem?"
"No problem," Ioki cut in, before Hanson could spin some outrageous story to embarrass him. "She's expecting us. Could you tell her that Harry and Tom are here?"
"Sure, I'll tell her. Have a seat." With that, he vanished back into the bowels of the ER.
They found seats in the nearly empty waiting room and sat down, but Hanson was clearly laboring under a strong sense of injury. He glared out the glass doors at the limo, then over at his irritatingly smug friend and grumped, "You ruined my perfectly good cover story."
"I know. You were going to make me do something stupid."
Since Tom couldn't legitimately argue with that statement, he wisely opted to keep quiet. Luckily for his self-restraint, they didn't have long to wait. The nurse returned in very short order, and they found themselves in the Staff lounge, being greeted enthusiastically by Dr. Martin.
She gave them each a hug and exclaimed, "I can't tell you how relieved I am to see you two! Those goons have been parked outside all morning. They give me the shivers!"
"Okay," Tom said, "the first order of business is to identify your patient."
"Done. I pulled his ER chart and his records from upstairs, along with the personnel roster for that shift." She pointed to the files lying on the table, next to a telephone.
Tom grinned at her appreciatively. "You're good at this."
"Anything to get those behemoths out of my hair!"
For the next hour or so, they worked out of the lounge, talking to nurses and security guards and going through the patient's file to reconstruct the events of last Thursday. They found out little more than Tyrrel had already told them, with the addition of a few useful tidbits. First, the patient, Lester Gordon, was dead. Second, Laurence Trumbull had not spoken to him in the ER, but he had succeeded in gaining entrance to the ICU, after Gordon came out of surgery. No one could tell them what Trumbull and the dead man discussed, but since Gordon was on a respirator at the time, the conversation must have been one-sided. Third, only two people had been alone with Gordon in the ER - Officer Charles Davenport, who took his statement, and Dr. Tyrrel Martin. And Dr. Martin had been present while Davenport was taking the statement.
Hanson slumped back in his chair and stared at the page full of notes in front of him, pondering the significance of this last item. Across the table, Ioki chewed thoughtfully on the rim of a styrofoam cup. Neither man said anything for several minutes, 'til the door swung open to admit Tyrrel. She breezed in to check on their progress but pulled up short in the middle of the floor when Hanson demanded, abruptly,
"What did Gordon tell the cops?" She blinked at him in surprise. "In his interview with the police officer. What did he say?"
Ioki spat out a piece of styrofoam and said, "He was awake, wasn't he?"
"Yes, but he wasn't very cooperative. He swore a lot."
"Were you there the whole time?"
"No. I left them alone for a while, then the cop came out of the room and said he'd finished. That's when we sent Gordon up to surgery."
Ioki glanced over at Hanson, his eyebrows raised. "Trumbull must be worried about what Gordon told the cops."
"Looks like. We better find Davenport before Trumbull does."
"You think he'll try to kill that police officer, too?" Tyrrel asked.
Harry pushed back his chair and stood up. "It's a safe bet. You and Davenport talked to Gordon alone, and you heard some of what he told the police. Even if it was nothing but four-letter words, Trumbull won't know that. By the time he got to Gordon, the guy was on a respirator."
"Which means, he couldn't give Trumbull the standard promise to take his secrets to the grave," Hanson pointed out.
"What secrets? What does Trumbull think I heard?"
"That's what we intend to find out," Tom fired a melting smile at her, as he scooped up their scattered files and notes, "before he kills anyone. Come on, Iokage. We've got goons to catch."
Ioki paused in the doorway to remind her, "Don't leave the building. We'll pick you up at the end of your shift."
"So we can all get shot at," Tom called cheerfully from the hallway. Tyrrel's answering laugh had a nervous edge to it.
The two young men went through the glass doors without breaking stride, headed straight for the limousine. They knew that they would not get past the car unnoticed, so they wisely decided not to worry about it. They were still a few steps short of the driver's side window when it slid down to expose a burly individual in a truly hideous plaid sports jacket.
Hanson halted Ioki with a hand on his arm, then turned an inquiring look on the goon. The man stared fixedly at Ioki, a frown gathering on his brow and his jaw working in time with his grinding thought processes. Finally, he twisted around to shout at the large figure in the passenger seat, "Shit, Jackie! It's the kid from last night!"
Ioki did a theatrical double-take. He slid his glasses down his nose to fix a gaze full of innocent delight on the goon. "Lou? Is that you?"
"Shit!" Lou repeated, at a loss for any more eloquent words.
"This is so cool!" Turning to Hanson, he added, "Lou and I are old friends."
That set Lou glaring and sputtering, as he tried to come up with some threat to wipe the cheerful smile off Ioki's face. The best he could do was, "You're gonna be sorry you stuck your nose in this, kid!"
"Shut up, Lou!" Jackie snarled. "Close the window!"
"It really is too bad," Hanson confided to Ioki, "that they can't follow us."
"Yeah. I always like to know the thugs who are chasing me. Makes it more friendly."
"Me, too. But since they only have one car, and they can't leave the Good Doctor unguarded...well, you see the problem."
Ioki shook his head mournfully. "I wish there was something we could do. I hate to make it so hard for Lou."
"Ain't nothin' hard about this!" Lou howled, throwing the door open. "I'm gonna squash you bugs with my bare hands!"
"Right outside the hospital?" Ioki turned his wide-eyed gaze on the goon, and asked, seriously, "Do you think that's a good idea?"
From inside the vehicle, Jackie called, "Get back in here, you moron! Don't pay any attention to those pricks! They're just tryin' to rattle you!"
Lou subsided, but he looked none too happy about it.
"It's okay," Ioki assured him. "You'll have lots of chances to squash us, when there aren't so many people around."
Hanson flashed Lou his most charming smile, then grabbed Ioki's arm and started away from the limo. "Have a nice day, gentlemen!"
Ioki pushed his glasses back up, waved to Lou, and fell into step beside Hanson. They strolled away, leaving the goons staring helplessly after them. When they reached the Mustang, Ioki settled into the passenger seat with a contented sigh. Hanson grinned over at him and shook his head.
"You're really enjoying this, aren't you?"
"Y'know what? I'm starving. Let's go get some lunch."
"Okay. What did you have in mind?"
"Rocket Dog. A day like this deserves a Rocket Dog!"
Hanson gave a shout of laughter, as he cranked the engine. "Rocket Dog it is!"
*** *** ***
Laurence Trumbull sat at his enormous mahogany desk, chewing on a fat cigar and glaring at the photocopied pages in front of him. From his bald head to his creaking leather shoes, he looked every inch the stereotypical mobster, and he wore a frown that would have struck fear into the heart of a Corleone. His shoulders hunched in frustration. One ham-sized fist crashed onto the desk top, making the entire structure tremble.
An underling stuck his head around the door. "Somthin' wrong, Boss?"
"Nothin' that wouldn't be fixed by giving all of you damn idiots lobotomies! I'd get better results from fuckin' orangutans."
"I got Lou on the phone. You wanna talk to him?"
"Speakin' of orangutans... Of course I wanna talk to him!"
"Right." The underling ducked back out of the room, and a moment later, the phone on the desk trilled for attention. Trumbull snatched it up.
"Did you get her?" he demanded, before Lou could open his mouth.
"Sorry, Boss. She's got help. Couple of guys who showed up an hour ago."
"It's an Emergency Room, dickhead. How d'you know they aren't sick?"
"They tried to make it look that way, which is why we didn't spot 'em sooner. But they ain't even pretending now. Walked right up to us and started shooting off their mouths about how we couldn't follow 'em 'cause we had to stick with the Doc. Real smartasses. And Boss, one of 'em's the kid from last night."
"Son of a bitch!"
"He musta helped her get away. Man, I'd like to knock that shit-eating grin right down his throat."
"Be my guest. In fact, make that an order. I want you to find out who those bozos are and waste 'em, understand me?"
"They were right about one thing, Boss. We can't do nothin' when we gotta sit here and watch the Doc."
Trumbull lowered the phone so he could mouth a long string of curses without the plastic getting in his way. When he'd exhausted his supply of obscenities and repeated most of them a few times, he said to Lou, "You can't do anything 'til you know who the fuck they are, either! So sit there 'til the Doc comes out, grab her pretty ass, and ask her their fucking names!!!"
"Okay, Boss. So...you don't want us to drill her yet?"
Trumbull let out one more explosive curse and slammed the phone down. "What the fuck did I do to deserve this?" he asked no one in particular.
*** *** ***
Tyrrel stuck her head between the front seats to shout over the rumble of the Mustang's engine, "I think they found us!"
Hanson glanced in the rearview mirror and saw the big, black limousine sliding through the heavy traffic, moving fast. He promptly spun the car into a tight right turn, tumbling Dr. Martin onto the back seat. She gave a shriek of protest, which changed quickly into an approving chuckle.
"Nice move! I think you lost them!"
"Not for long." Tom checked the mirror again. The limo swung quickly into view, and now it had no other vehicles in its path. "Time to pray for horsepower."
Ioki grimaced at him. "I don't like the sound of that."
"We could use the Deuce, right about now," Hanson admitted, excitement shining in his eyes. "Too bad she's buried under a ton of rubble."
"Who or what is a Deuce?" Tyrrel demanded, from where she sprawled on the back seat. She levered herself up on her elbows, but another bit of evasive action on Tom's part dumped her on her back again.
"Better fasten your seatbelt," Hanson advised.
"I'm trying!" she shouted, as he stomped on the gas, and the g-forces pressed her into the seat.
The limo was gaining on them, now that it had a straight shot at catching the smaller and more agile Mustang. It roared up behind them, filling the rear window with its ominous bulk. A head shaped like a bowling ball popped out of the passenger window, followed by a very large gun. Tyrrel peered over the back seat and caught sight of the weapon. She let out a frightened squeak.
"Are we gonna die, now?" Harry asked, conversationally.
Tom answered, in the same unnaturally calm way, "Looks like a safe bet."
A pistol report underscored his words and brought another yelp from Tyrrel. Hanson raised his eyebrows at her reflection in the rearview mirror. This was the first time he'd actually seen the doctor look afraid. He fired her a reassuring smile, then spun the wheel to send the Mustang careening around a corner on two wheels. When the other two tires hit the pavement again, he slammed the accelerator into the floor, and they sped off down a narrow side street.
"I guess you don't like guns," Tom commented to his pale, sweating passenger.
"Not when they're pointed at me!" She risked another look out the rear window. The limo rounded the corner behind them, but it had lost several car lengths. "Can't this old heap go any faster?"
"This is a classic," Hanson informed her, severely, "not an 'old heap.' Be nice, or you'll find yourself walking home."
With that, he threw the car into a screaming J-turn that carried them through the open gate of a construction site. Hanson began weaving through piles of building materials and heavy yellow machinery, while the cloud of dust thrown up by their tires thickened by the second. Once again, Tyrrel voiced her approval of his tactics.
"A smoke screen. That's very clever."
"What we really need," Hanson said, through gritted teeth, "is some switchbacks to slow up that tank. They can outrun us, but they can't outmaneuver us."
A spray of bullets from the limousine underscored his words.
When he could make himself heard over the gunfire, Harry asked, "Why aren't they hitting us? How can professional gunmen be such lousy shots?"
Another flurry of shots flew past the car. From her huddled position in the back seat, Tyrrel shrieked at Ioki, "You're complaining about this?!"
"Not complaining. Wondering."
"Maybe they aren't trying to kill us," Hanson suggested, as he pulled around an Andy Gump and made a dash for the gate.
"They're wasting an awful lot of ammunition not killing us."
"And they're tailing us in a limo as long as a city block. Does that tell you something about the average IQ back there?"
Ioki grinned over at him, his eyes sparkling. "I told you, they're little and kinda dumb."
Hanson thought about the mammoth in the plaid sports jacket and retorted, "Well, you're half right."
Listening to this banter with half an ear, while her eyes stayed glued to the enormous vehicle behind them, Tyrrel couldn't quite smother a groan of despair. For much of this bizarre day she had managed to convince herself that the whole thing was some sort of game. Yes, the goons lurking outside gave her the creeps, but they had stayed outside while she stayed safely inside. Then Harry and Tom had come to liven things up. Their constant jokes and careless manner calmed her, while their air of competence inspired her trust. When they had whisked her out of the hospital at the end of her shift, she had assumed that her troubles were over - at least until she showed up for work tomorrow. But even the dumbest goons occasionally got a clue, and these guys had picked an awkward time to wise up.
Somehow, Jackie and Lou had spotted them, even though they left the building by a back exit and parked the distinctive Mustang out of sight. This sign of intelligence in her pursuers, coupled with their tenacity, large supply of bullets and superior horsepower, brought the true dangers of her situation home to her. And suddenly, the silly humor of the two boys in the front seat didn't seem so charming. Or so reassuring.
Sticking her head between the seats again, she snapped, "Now would be a good time to do something, gentlemen!"
Both men turned to look at her in surprise, but it took them only a heartbeat to recognize the fear behind her sharp tone. Hanson shifted his eyes back to the road, while Ioki smiled understandingly at her and said,
"Don't worry. Tom can out-drive anybody in the city. Except me," he added, after a moment's consideration.
"Oh, please!" Hanson protested. "You couldn't drive a go-cart without wrecking it!"
This, inevitably, launched them into a discussion of their various vehicular adventures, while Hanson led the goons on a wild ride through the streets. Tyrrel gave up trying to get them to focus, since the conversation didn't seem to impair Hanson's performance behind the wheel. She scrunched down in the rear seat to avoid stray bullets, closed her eyes, and pretended she was on a roller coaster instead of fleeing for her life.
When the car plunged suddenly into darkness, she opened her eyes. She saw only concrete walls and sulphurous yellow lighting. The Mustang slowed to a gradual stop against a curved wall, and Hanson cut the engine.
"Where are we?" Tyrrel whispered, cowed by the unexpected quiet.
"City Hall. The underground Police entrance to the court house," Hanson said.
She formed an 'O' of surprise with her lips and turned an admiring look on him. "They can't shoot us here."
"Well, they can, but it would be pretty stupid, even for those two. And since they didn't see us turn into the gate, they don't know where to point their guns."
Tyrrel leaned over the seat to plant a kiss on his cheek. "You're brilliant. I take back every nasty thing I said."
"You didn't say anything nasty," Ioki pointed out.
"Okay, I take back everything I thought. What now?"
Tom smiled a little shyly at her and murmured, "Nothing exciting. We lay low in here 'til Jackie and Lou get tired of looking for us. Then we check you into a hotel and put landmines outside the door."
"Isn't that a little drastic?"
Hanson glanced over at Ioki and saw him shake his head. Obviously, they shared the same doubts about the situation.
"Not if you want to stay alive," Hanson answered, grimly.
*** *** ***
Lou wiped the sweat from his palms and reached for the car phone. When he heard Trumbull's growl on the other end of the line, he flinched. Jackie shot him a sympathetic look but did not offer to help him out.
"Hey, Boss. It's Lou."
"You better have good news for me, or your carcass is gonna be stinkin' up a city block!"
"Well, I got some good news..."
Trumbull sighed heavily. "Tell me."
"She got away again. Those two guys."
"What'd they do? Sprout wings?"
"Almost. One of 'em can really drive, and he's got a car with some horses under the hood. Anyway, they shook us. But the good news is that I got his license number."
Silence met this announcement, and Lou felt the sweat trickling into his eyes. Finally, Trumbull said, "That's gonna promote you - from fertilizer to still-breathing. Gimme the number."
Lou read the license number off the slip Jackie handed him, then added, "It's an old blue Mustang fastback. Maybe a '68. Cherry. And like I said, the dude can drive it."
"Okay, get your asses back here. I'm gonna find out who this guy is and where he lives, and I'll have our boys out lookin' for that 'Stang. He won't get very far. When we find 'em, it's your job to take 'em out. You do this and do it right, or you, the Doc and her two friends are gonna be playing Go Fish at the bottom of the river. Got it?"
"Got it, Boss."
*** *** ***
Hanson pulled up to the curb but did not cut the engine. Throwing a frowning glance at Ioki, he said, "You'll leave a message at the Shop, as soon as you find a hotel, right?"
Ioki grimaced. "I hate when you call it that. It sounds like you work for the CIA or something."
"Yeah, and working at 'the Chapel' made us sound like altar boys. You'll call me, Iok?"
"I don't like leaving you guys on the street this way."
"It's safer than driving this car up to the door of a hotel. It's kinda hard to miss."
"Okay." Tom rubbed his eyes, trying to banish a blossoming headache. The minute he'd realized that the afternoon's fun was over and he'd have to face Penhall, he'd stopped smiling and started hurting. "Just be careful. I'll be on a stake-out with Penhall and won't be by the phone, so if you get into trouble, call downtown. They'll find me."
Ioki couldn't see the frown on his face, but he heard the tension in his voice clearly enough. "Don't worry about us. We'll be very nondescript."
Hanson couldn't help grinning at his choice of words. "Take care of her, man. I'll be there to back you up as soon as I can."
With that, Ioki and Dr. Martin piled out of the car, and Hanson reluctantly drove away - back to the Shop, his job, and his disgruntled partner.
Tyrrel watched the Mustang disappear around a corner, then turned to Harry and said, "I'm starving. Can I buy you dinner?"
"I never turn down a free meal. But let's do take-out. I don't want to be stuck sitting in a crowded room, if Jackie and Lou find us."
Tyrrel shuddered slightly, at the mention of her goon shadows, but she shook off the mood quickly. She looked around at the array of restaurants that lined the street. "Okay. We've got Italian, Greek, basic burgers, Yuppie coffee shop and...looks like Thai. What's your pleasure?"
"D'you like Thai food?"
"I like all food."
"Then I vote for Thai."
Ten minutes later, the ex-cop and the fugitive doctor sat down on a bus bench to enjoy their meal. Tyrrel ate in single-minded silence, too hungry to worry about anything as trivial as her own attempted murder, until she'd taken the edge off her appetite. Then she licked the sauce from her fingers and asked, around a large mouthful of noodles, "Did you guys find Davenport?"
"Don't tell me...he's dead."
"Nope. He's on vacation. A very long vacation."
"What does that mean?"
Harry popped a piece of shrimp in his mouth, chewed thoughtfully for a moment, then answered, "Trumbull bought him off. Sent him to Tahiti, along with whatever Gordon told him."
"But he didn't kill him. That's good news, isn't it?"
"That's how Trumbull works. He doesn't like killing cops, so he buys them instead. I had a long talk with one of the guys from the Organized Crime unit downtown, and he figures Trumbull paid for Davenport to falsify the statement, then make himself scarce."
"There was no need for him to falsify the statement."
"Trumbull doesn't know that. Neither do you, really. You weren't there the whole time."
"True." She helped herself to a shrimp, then said, mournfully, "So we're no closer to figuring out what big secret Trumbull is trying to hide."
"No, but we know more about Gordon. He worked for Trumbull. Lester "Blackjack" Gordon, goon, enforcer and keeper of ugly secrets. The O.C. unit has a file three inches thick on him."
"Blackjack, huh? Are any of these guys just named George?"
Harry grinned. "Would you be scared of a guy named George?"
"If he was waving a gun at me, yes."
"Now, explain something to me, Harry. If Gordon worked for Trumbull and made a living out of keeping his secrets, why would Trumbull suddenly be afraid that he's spilling his guts to the police? That doesn't make any sense."
"It would if Trumbull had Gordon shot."
"Oh, Lord. I really didn't need to hear that."
Harry continued with unruffled calm, "Gordon does something to make the boss mad, and the boss orders him killed. But it gets screwed up, and Gordon makes it to the ER alive. Now he doesn't have any reason to protect Trumbull - he's a dead man anyway, right? - and he's kinda upset that Trumbull turned on him, so maybe he tells the police a couple of those ugly secrets. Or maybe not, but Trumbull isn't gonna take any chances. He makes sure Gordon is really dead this time, then he pays Davenport to file a worthless statement, sends him far, far away, and tries to kill you - the only other witness."
"And now he knows you and Tom are involved, so he'll add you to the list."
"He'll figure out who we are and try to buy us, too."
"You're not a cop, Harry. That makes you fair game."
Ioki shrugged. "I can take care of myself."
Tyrrel shuddered again and cast a suspicious glance at the nearest pedestrians. "All of a sudden, I feel as though I have a big, red bull's eye painted on my back. Do we have to sit out here in plain sight?"
"Course not. Let's go find a hotel and call Tom."
She got up and began collecting the remains of their dinner from the bench. "Good. Any place with a solid door between me and Laurence Trumbull!"
Harry refrained from pointing out that no hotel had doors solid enough to stop a bullet. That was one reality check she could do without. He helped her pick up the trash, then faded into the crowd beside her, in search of a safe place to wait out the night.
*** *** ***
"He's a what?!" Trumbull bellowed.
"A cop," Jackie repeated, holding out the sheet of fax paper for his boss to read. "Officer Tom Hanson. He's assigned to a special undercover unit, over on Humboldt. Nobody's supposed to know about it."
"An undercover cop." Trumbull began pulling at his lower lip, a frown gathering on his brow. "Did you get this from our regular guy?"
"Yes sir, Boss."
"Hm. He's reliable. But he also told us that the Doc didn't report the shooting last night. So, what's she doing with a cop? And who's the other one?"
From his seat in the corner, Lou spoke up. "He ain't a cop. I can tell you that much."
Trumbull turned a fierce glare on him. "You can, huh?"
"They ain't hiring blind cops, Boss. The city ain't that hard up."
"As a post."
Jackie nodded in agreement, then mused, "Course, maybe he was fakin' it, so we wouldn't give him any grief last night."
"I don't think so," Lou said.
Trumbull's fist came down on the desk with shattering force. "Did you just say 'think'?! Whadda you know about thinking, you lame-brained pile of..."
"Boss?" Jackie interjected, hesitantly.
"I can find out if he's a cop, quick enough. I'll give his description to our guy downtown and see what he turns up. But what're we gonna do about this Hanson? You don't want us to kill a cop, do you?"
"You know the rules. We only kill cops if we got no other choice. We'll have to grab Hanson, find out what he knows, and put a cork in his mouth. If he plays ball, like Davenport, he can retire young."
"And if he doesn't?"
"One less cop in the world to worry about."
At that moment, the door opened to admit another goon. "We picked up the 'Stang, Boss."
"Parked outside a crack house on Mike's turf."
Trumbull and Jackie exchanged a troubled glance. "What gives?" Jackie asked.
The boss shrugged. "On the job, maybe. Who's in the car?"
The goon checked the notepad he held and answered, "Two white guys - real young - look like they ain't bathed in a week. They're eatin' Chinese and watchin' the house."
"Cops on the job," Trumbull declared, sourly. Turning to Jackie, he suggested, "Hanson and the mystery kid?"
Jackie shook his head. "Our mystery kid's an Asian."
"Which means our targets have split up. Okay, boys, here's the deal. We don't drop on Hanson 'til we know where his buddy and the Doc are, but we keep a very close eye on him. Maybe he'll take us to the others. Maybe not. If he's working, he may be at it all night, and we can't afford to let the Doc keep breathing that long. Every day she's out there, she's getting more people involved in this shit. So Jackie, get the Muntz Brothers over to Hanson's place. Have them look for any clues to the Doc's hiding place or the name of this annoying Asian guy. Keep Mike on the car, but tell him to be invisible."
"What about the precinct station, Boss?"
"We need something special for that. Put in a call to Red."
*** *** ***
The click of high heels against wooden floors broke the quiet of the Shop. Tony McCann looked up from the report on his desk to find himself under the scrutiny of the biggest, brownest, most beautiful eyes he'd ever seen. A fringe of dark lashes swept down over the eyes, then up again, and a smile curved the red lips beneath them. Mac swallowed the lump in his throat and smiled back.
"Can I help you?"
The woman walked toward his desk on long, long legs, her leather-clad hips swaying through just the right arc to set his pulse racing. He had ample opportunity to admire the picture she made in her tight red skirt, sleeveless silk top, and high-heeled shoes. Her dark hair hung in a flawless stream down her back, swinging in a fascinating counterpoint to the movement of her body. By the time she came to a stop a few feet away, he was feeling very much as if he'd been kicked in the chest by a horse.
"I'm looking for Tom Hanson," she purred.
"He's out on a case. I don't know when he'll be back."
She pouted slightly, and Mac's blood pressure rose another notch.
He got to his feet, a little more awkwardly than usual, and asked, "Is there anything I can do, Miss...?"
"MacPhearson. Red MacPhearson." She held out her hand with a heart-stopping smile. "Please, call me Red."
"Tony McCann." He took the offered hand and quipped, with an assumption of ease, "Shouldn't someone named Red MacPhearson be wearing a kilt and hurling tree trunks?"
Red fluttered her foot-long lashes again and laughed.
"Really, Tom won't be back for hours. Maybe not at all tonight. I'd be happy to help, if..."
"No, thank you. I'm afraid it's private. And very important. May I wait here, in case he calls? I must see him tonight."
"Uh...sure, sure. His desk is right over here."
Mac escorted her to Hanson's desk and pulled out the chair for her. It took him another few minutes to determine that she did not want coffee, juice, stale donuts or a magazine to read. Then he finally left her alone at the desk. Red watched him settle back down to work, her stunning face carefully schooled into a look of innocent curiosity.
Mac found it remarkably difficult to concentrate with those eyes turned on him. He didn't want to leave her alone in the squad room, but he needed to get out of her sight lines and let his pulse slow to normal. When he couldn't stand it anymore, he jumped up and headed for the bathroom. Maybe the cold porcelain would clear his head.
Red waited until the door had swung shut behind him, then she scooted her chair up to the desk and ran an experienced eye over it. Very neat and orderly - the desk of a control freak if she'd ever seen one. That would work to her advantage. It took her only a few seconds to determine that the files in his inbox had no relation to Mr. Trumbull or Dr. Martin. Next, she pounced on the stack of pink message slips paperclipped together beside the phone. The second slip in the pile intrigued her. It read, simply, "Harry 555-8373."
She tucked the scrap of paper into her purse, then went through the rest of the pile for good measure. Nothing else caught her eye, and a quick search of the desk drawers turned up nothing useful. By the time Mac returned, she had settled back in the chair again, the picture of innocent charm.
Ten minutes later, with a great show of disappointment, Red left the Shop. She climbed into her red sports car and speed-dialed Trumbull's line from the mobile phone. He picked up on the first ring. "Tell me somethin' I want to hear, Babe."
"Hey, Boss. I got a name and number for you to check out."
She read the contents of the slip to him, then waited for his reaction.
"That the best you got?"
"Could be a contact number for Hanson to find the Doc. And maybe this Harry is our mystery problem."
"Could also be the pizza delivery boy."
"Sorry, Bossman. That's all I found, and I went through his whole desk."
"Yeah. Okay, Red, get your sexy butt back here. I might need you again tonight."
"On my way."
In his wood-paneled office, Trumbull hung up the phone and glared at the door, where Jackie lurked. "Whadda ya want?"
"Got somethin' from our guy downtown."
Trumbull perked up at that. "Let's see it."
Jackie dropped a newspaper on his desk, the front page carefully folded to highlight one story. The goon jabbed a finger at one of the pictures just under the headline and said, "That's him. The kid."
Trumbull squinted first at the picture of a young Asian man with shoulder-length hair, then at the headline, which read, Cops Injured in Church Collapse: City Ruled At Fault.
"Then he is a cop," Trumbull grunted.
"Ex-cop. Take a look at the story."
Trumbull read in silence, his lips moving slightly, 'til he suddenly groaned and flung the paper down on the desk. "Beautiful! That's just fuckin' beautiful! What'd I do to deserve this?"
"He oughta be pretty easy to ice," Jackie ventured.
"Ice? We can't ice him, you moron!"
"But he's not a cop..."
"No, he's worse than a cop! He's an ex-cop celebrity-hero who won a fuckin' lawsuit against the fuckin' city for fuckin' blinding him! Might as well try to ice Mother fuckin' Theresa!"
"Please, Boss, don't talk about Mother Theresa that way. It's disrespectful."
"Oh, shut up. Wait a sec, what's this guy's name?" He snatched up the paper and scanned the article. "Harry Truman Ioki. Son of a bitch. Red was right." Shoving a scrap of paper at Jackie, he snarled, "Trace that phone number, then you and Lou go get 'em! I want the Doc dead, but bring our good buddy Harry back here... in one piece, Jackie!"
"Lou won't be happy."
"The put Lou on a short leash. The whole point of this is to keep our faces out of the papers - and out of jail - not to go down for drilling holes in some pin-up hero named after a goddamned President. And the same goes for his pal Hanson. If you find him there, I want 'im, but no rough stuff!"
"Right. Two cops, no damage."