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Patient Zeroby Jonathan Maberry
When you have to kill the same terrorist twice in one week, then theres either something wrong with your skills or something wrong with your world.
And theres nothing wrong with my skills.
Ocean City, Maryland / Saturday, June 27; 10:22 am
They came for me at the beach. Nice and slick, two in front, one big cover-man behind in a three-point close while I was reaching for my car door. Nothing flashy, just three big guys in off-the-rack gray, all of them sweating in the Ocean City heat.
The pointman held up his hands in a no-problem gesture. It was a hot Saturday morning and I was in swim-trunks and a Hawaiian shirt with mermaids on it over a Tom Petty t-shirt. Flip-flops and Wayfarers. My piece was in a locked toolbox in the trunk, with a trigger guard clamped on it. I was at the beach to look at this years crop of sun-bunnies and Id been off the clock since the shooting pending a Monday morning officer-involved discussion with the OIS team. It had been a bad scene at the warehouse and theyd put me on administrative leave to give me time to get my head straight about the shootings. I wasnt expecting trouble, there shouldnt have been trouble, and the smooth way these guys boxed me was designed to keep everyones emotions in neutral. I couldnt have done it better myself.
“Detective Ledger,” I said to be pissy.
No trace of a smile on the point-guys face, only a millimeter of a nod. He had a head like a bucket.
“Wed like you to come with us,” he said.
“Badge me or buzz off.”
Bucket-head gave me the look, but he pulled out an FBI identification case and held it up. I stopped reading after the initials.
“Whats this about?”
“Would you come with us, please?”
“Im off the clock, guys, whats this about?”
“Are you aware that Im scheduled to start at Quantico in three weeks?”
“You want me to follow you in my car?” Not that I wanted to try and give these fellows the slip, but my cell was in the glove box of the SUV and it would be nice to check in with the lieutenant on this one. It had a weird feel to it. Not exactly threatening, just weird.
“No, sir, well bring you back here after.”
I looked at him and then the guy next to him. I could feel the cover-man behind me. They were big, they were nicely set –even with peripheral vision I could see that Bucket-head had his weight on the balls of his feet and evenly balanced. The other front-man was shifted to his right. He had big knuckles but his hands werent scarred. Probably boxing rather than martial arts; boxers wear gloves.
They were doing almost everything right except that they were a little too close to me. You should never get that close.
But they looked like the real deal. Its hard to fake the FBI look.
“Okay,” I said.
Ocean City, Maryland / Saturday, June 27; 10:31 am
Bucket-head sat beside me in the back and the other two sat up front, the cover-man driving the big government Crown Vic. For all the conversation going on the others might have been mimes. The air conditioner was turned up and the radio was turned off. Exciting.
“I hope were not going all the way the hell back to Baltimore.” That was more than a three-hour ride and I had sand in my shorts.
“No.” That was the only word Bucket-head said on the ride. I settled back to wait.
I could tell that he was a leftie from the bulge his shoulder rig made. He kept me on his right side, which meant that his coat flap would impede me grabbing his piece and he could use his right hand as a block to fend me off while he drew. It was professional and well thought out. Id have done almost the same thing. What I wouldnt have done, though, was hold onto the leather handstrap by the door like he was doing. It was the second small mistake he made and I had to wonder if he was testing me or whether there was a little gap between his training and his instincts.
I settled back and tried to understand this pick-up. If this had something to do with the action last week on the docks, if I was somehow in trouble for something related to that, then I sure as hell planned to lawyer up when we got wherever we were going. And I wanted a union rep there, too. No way this was SOP. Unless it was some Homeland thing, in which case Id lawyer up and call my congressman. That warehouse thing was righteous and I wasnt going to let anyone say different.
For the last eighteen months Id been attached to one of those interjurisdictional taskforces that have popped up everywhere post 9/11. A few of us from Baltimore PD, some Philly and DC guys, and a mixed bag of Feds: FBI, NSA, ATF, and a few letter combinations I hadnt seen before. Nobody really doing much but everyone wanting a finger in the pie in case something juicy happened, and by juicy I mean career beneficial.
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