CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED and THIRTY
Monday evening — 9:30 P.M. Middle of Denver, CO
“Wait,” Troy said. “What’s that?”
Jumping up from the table, Troy ran toward the big screen television.
“What is that?” Alex and Max followed Troy toward the screen. “Raz?”
Raz clicked the satellite to zoom in.
“That’s a person,” Troy said.
“Blackened face, clothing, just hanging out in that tree,” Max said.
“Must have to trigger the explosion,” Cian said. “He’s got to watch for the right moment.”
The ex-PIRA explosive expert, Cian Kelly, moved toward the screen. He pointed to an object in the person’s hand.
“This explosion must be big,” Cian said. “He wants to blow the whole thing at once. He wouldn’t want motion to set off one part and have to wait for the next. This is going to be a blood bath.”
“He’s built a little platform,” Matthew said. “He’s probably been there for hours.”
“He’s far enough upstream to avoid detection,” Alex said. “Did you get the phone numbers of the guys we know?”
“Dialing now,” Raz said.
“Colin, I need an assessment of damage and medical response,” Alex said.
“On it,” Colin said.
“There’s a motor bike under the tree,” John said.
“Where?” Alex asked.
“There,” John said. “You can barely see it.”
“That’s a dirt bike,” Troy said. “Trip the explosion, slide down the tree and escape on the bike. Clever. He’s been planning and preparing this adventure for a while.”
Everyone turned their attention to Raz.
“I can’t get through,” Raz said. “Cell access is blocked.”
“Let’s unblock it,” Alex said.
Max nodded to Alex and went to work on Troy’s laptop.
“We can do that?” Troy asked.
“We can try,” Alex said.
“Got it,” Max said.
“Yes sir, I have a priority message from a friend for a man who wears an F. Yes sir, I’m aware of that,” Raz said. “The perpetrator is in the trees about a half mile northeast of your location. Please relay the information. Yes sir, I’ll hold the line.”
Covering the mouth piece, Raz nodded to Alex.
“Excellent,” Raz said. “Also, we believe the entire region is lit with explosives. Yes. And sir? This conversation never happened. Thank you.”
Raz listened to the SWAT officer for a moment, nodded and hung up.
“They have him in their sites,” Raz said.
The SWAT Commander ran into the river to speak with Seth. The two men began to argue. Seth pushed the Commander. The Commander grabbed Seth’s arm.
“This is exciting,” Alex picked up a bowl of popcorn.
Monday evening — 9:35 P.M. In Sandy’s Salon on Colfax Blvd, Denver, CO
“No Seth!” the children yelled. “Stop!”
The children’s voices brought Pete down from the apartment above.
“What’s going on?” Pete ran down the stairs.
“Seth’s going to die!” Noelle said.
Noelle began to cry. She threw her arms around Teddy’s neck. Overwhelmed and unsure of what to do, Teddy attempted to comfort her. Charlie moved his hands away from Noelle’s behind.
“I can’t watch,” Noelle said.
“Look that guy stopped him,” Nash said.
“Grabbed his arm,” Charlie said.
The men continued to argue. From the bank, Delphie began to run toward Seth. The uniformed police officers tried to stop her but she managed to slip their grasp. She had just stepped into the river when they heard a muffled crack.
“What’s that?” Nash asked. “It sounded like…”
“A gunshot,” Pete said. “Probably silenced.”
The shooter fired again. Then once more. There was a sharp boom and Seth fell into the river. Delphie ran to him. Riveted to the screen, they watched Delphie hold Seth’s head out of the water. They saw her laugh and pat Seth’s chest.
At that moment, the whole area erupted with activity. The uniformed police officers ran up the river. The SWAT team on the North side of the location ran north. In the distance, they heard the sharp whine of a dirt bike starting.
“That’s a dirt bike,” Teddy said.
“Or an ATV,” Nash said.
The SWAT team began to fire. Outside of Nash’s control, the satellite picture moved back to be able to watch the entire field. They saw twenty or more men and women moving northeast up the river.
“Looks like it’s all over,” Pete said.
“What happened to Seth?” Noelle asked.
Her tears still streaming, she leaned forward to look at the laptop. She pointed to where Seth and Delphie were lying in the river. From the position of the image, they couldn’t see them.
“Can’t tell,” Nash said.
“I think that’s enough,” Pete said. “You’ve seen the main event. It’s time to turn it off.”
“Pete!” Nash and Teddy whined at the same time. “That’s not fair.”
“I agree with Pete,” Charlie said. “Plus, if we turn it off now, we still might not get noticed.”
“That’s unlikely,” Pete said. “Turn it off. Now.”
Nash glared at Pete but did what he was told. Pete picked up the laptop from the table.
“Hey! That’s mine,” Nash said.
“Do you think I’m stupid?” Pete asked. “You’re going to turn it back on the moment I’m not looking. Right?”
“Right?” Pete asked.
“Good boy,” Pete said. “I’ll hold onto this. It’s way past your bedtimes, but I promised you could stay up until Seth or Delphie came back.”
“I think we should stay here tonight,” Teddy said.
“Me too,” Nash smiled his most manipulative smile.
Unwilling to respond, Pete shook his head and began walking up the stairs.
“The Xbox 360 is set up on the TV there,” Pete said. “If I were you, I’d be playing it when they arrive.”
Stunned, the kids’ eyes followed Pete up the stairwell.
“Now,” Pete said.
Charlie ran to the television to turn it on. Nash turned on the X-Box and began looking at the available games.
“Where did this come from?” Nash asked.
“It was a present. To me,” Charlie said. “You have Play Station at the house.”
“From who?” Teddy asked.
“Sandy,” Charlie said. “For getting glasses and…you know.”
Teddy and Nash nodded. They had been helping Charlie with his reading.
“What games did you get?” Nash asked.
“Halo, Madden NFL, Batman: Arkham Asylum…” Charlie said. “Noelle and I played Fable III after school today.”
“It’s very fun,” Noelle said. “Charlie let me beat him.”
“Do you have Call to Duty?” Teddy asked.
“Black Ops?” Nash asked. “That just came out.”
“How…?” Teddy started. Nash hit him to stop him from talking. They shared a look that could only mean Charlie stole it.
“I didn’t steal it,” Charlie said. “Aden bought it for me.”
“Dad did?” Nash asked. “I didn’t get anything!”
“Horseback riding, archery… You went to Elitch’s today. Noelle got some fancy art thing…”
“A new easel,” Noelle nodded.
“It’s my Rachel gift,” Charlie shrugged.
“You need to guilt that man into getting us more cool stuff,” Teddy said.
“Indeed,” Charlie said.
“Who’s playing?” Nash said.
Teddy grabbed a controller and sat down. Charlie plopped down next to Nash and snatched Nash’s controller from him. Nash got up to get another one.
“Noelle?” Nash asked.
“Is it violent and awful?” Noelle asked.
“Yes,” Nash said.
“Oh,” Noelle said. “Maybe I’ll draw for a while.”
Nash smiled to encourage Noelle. She nodded and got her bag. Sitting down next to Teddy, she took out her sketchpad while the boys started their game. When Noelle looked up again, the boys were engrossed in the game.
Monday evening — 9:48 P.M. Downtown Denver Police Station
Ava loved working the night shift. She had the lab mostly to herself and uninterrupted time to explore whatever treasure the Crime Scene Investigators left for her. Her little corner of heaven included her hip hop music streaming from Pandora, and a couple lab techs to keep her company.
She was only called out of the lab for real, true and interesting cases. Most of the really nasty stuff happened after the bars closed and she was off work. The day team worked those crime scenes when they got in. Through the power of no interruptions, she processed more work than the three daytime forensics officers combined.
At twenty-three, she’d used every single one of her father’s connections to get this job. She only knew it was time to prove herself. ‘Prove it or lose it,’ her boss had said. She wasn’t about to lose her dream job.
Tonight, she was working on Saint Jude’s precious trophies.
The lead forensic officer had already extracted the DNA from each of them. The day team was working on identifying the trophies. At night, Ava’s task was to find the killer’s DNA. She set her last sample into the centrifuge and turned it on. Going over to the computer, she checked her results again.
So far, she’d found three specimens with identical alien DNA - one from the kid Jeffy’s necklace and two from the trophies. She liked the word, ‘Alien DNA’. It brought a whole Roswellian aspect to the work. In forensics, it only meant that the DNA didn’t belong with the sample and was not in the Colorado or Federal system. Yet. She put her finger to the screen with her wish that this was in fact the killer’s DNA. She and Seth would find this man and bring him to justice. Ava smiled.
Seth was picking her up after work.
“Amelie!” A lab tech yelled over Rhianna’s ‘What’s my name?’ “AMELIE!”
Looking up from the computer, Ava turned down the music.
“You’re working the O’Malley’s case,” the technician said. “Right?”
“Yeah,” Ava nodded. “Why?”
“He’s been shot.”
Shock and fear echoed through Ava’s body.
“What?” she whispered.
“Dispatch just announced it. O’Malley’s been shot,” the technician said. “They’re calling for CSU. The lead officer asked for you by name. They think they have the killer’s blood.”
“Is…” Ava cleared her throat. “Is Detective O’Malley dead?”
“Magic O’Malley? No way,” the technician said. “You want us to go with you?”
Ava nodded. Finding her voice, she added, “Get ready but I’ll call CSU and see what they need. If the assholes haven’t trampled the scene we might get DNA. And…”
“With DNA we make the case.” The technician smiled at Ava’s favorite saying.
“Keep your fingers crossed,” Ava said.
“Yes ma’am,” the lab technician left Ava’s lab.
Ava stared into space for a moment before recovering herself. She made a quick telephone call to confirm where they needed to go. Setting the phone down, she pulled off her gloves and rubbed her face.
“Amelie?” another lab technician asked. “We’re ready.”
Ava nodded. She picked up her field case and followed them out to the Crime Scene Forensics SUV.
Monday evening — 10:05 P.M. Sand Creek Greenway
Lost in thought, Seth sat in the doorway of an ambulance with a blanket wrapped around him. He was cold and remarkably hungry. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he could hear a melody begin to push forward. He looked up to see Delphie walking toward him. Her flowing flower covered skirt was wrinkled and sandy from their splash in the river. Someone had given her a thick blue jacket with Denver Police stenciled on the back. Noting his look, she gave him a bright smile. She carried a Styrofoam takeout container and three Styrofoam cups. She had clearly charmed someone into taking her to Sapp Brother’s for coffee. He wasn’t sure why he was surprised. That woman could talk a shark out of its last meal.
“Are we expecting someone?” Seth asked.
“My friend Ava is on her way,” Delphie said. “I thought she’d like some coffee. Her name is Amelie, but I call her Ava. Have you met Amelie Vivian Alvin?”
Delphie blinked at Seth. Shaking his head, he chuckled.
“It’s not a secret or forbidden,” he said. “It’s just new. Best not to advertise.”
She smiled at him and opened the take out container.
“Oh God, warm apple pie,” Seth said. “Bless you.”
“How are you?” Delphie asked.
“Not great,” Seth said. “I want bourbon. Lots. Like an ache in my soul. I haven’t felt like this since Bonita and…”
He stopped talking to keep from tearing up.
“There’s a piano and a lovely young woman waiting for you at the end of this night,” Delphie said. “In the light of day, we’ll sit down and go over everything.”
With blank eyes, he looked up at her.
“Eat your pie,” Delphie said.
Delphie pushed a fork into his hand. She guided his hand into the takeout container. He took a bite and grunted. For the next few minutes, Seth was completely absorbed by the apple pie.
“I have to do a briefing,” Seth moved to get up.
“Finish your pie,” Delphie said. “They can wait.”
Seth took a long drink of his coffee.
“You restore me,” Seth said.
“Everyone here thinks you were shot and magically survived,” Delphie said. “That’s why they’re avoiding you. They don’t know…”
“What a klutz I am?” Seth laughed. “I have no ego investment here, Delphie. I don’t care if the world knows I slipped.”
“Amelie?” Delphie waved. “Over here!”
“Do you know her?” Seth asked.
“And her parents,” Delphie said. “Sam and I go to all those ridiculous charity parties in the fall. We’ve sat with them a few times. They are pleasant enough. Her mother is a trip. You’d know that if you ever went.”
“Good Lord,” Seth said. “I usually have seven or eight better things to do. Like solving murders or washing what’s left of my hair.”
“Or writing Concertos,” Delphie smile. “Sandy thinks the new one is a masterpiece. Your agent is already making plans.”
“I’m excited to hear it,” Delphie said.
Ava ran toward the ambulance. Delphie met her a few feet away. With her bright chatter, and cup of coffee, Delphie kept the impulsive young woman from embarrassing herself. When Ava was calmer, they moved toward Seth.
“We rushed to make the field briefing,” Ava said.
“We’ll start in a few minutes,” Seth smiled at her. She blushed.
“I heard you were shot,” Ava said.
“Shot at,” Seth said. “We were making a big show in the middle of the river to draw the killer out and I slipped on a slimy rock. The bullet went right past me. CSU think they found it in a tree.”
“You slipped?” Ava’s face brightened with laughter.
“And fell in the river,” Seth said. “Delphie saved me from drowning. I’m sure I’ll have a huge purple bruise on my backside.”
Ava opened her mouth to say something provocative then decided against it.
“Ready O’Malley?” The SWAT team commander said.
“Ready,” Seth said. “I’ll see my two favorite ladies later.”
Delphie helped him stand. He smiled his thanks then followed the SWAT team commander to the briefing. Delphie snatched at the blanket and pulled it from Seth’s shoulders. He nodded to her. The filthy and exhausted uniformed police officers, SWAT teams and CSU applauded as he approached. He waited for them to settle down before starting.
“I know you’re all exhausted,” Seth said. “So I’ll keep this to bullet points. We’ll fill in the details over the next week or so.
“First and most importantly, a child lost his life tonight,” Seth said. “The coroner believes the child was dead prior to the phone call that originated our action tonight. Her immediate assessment is the same poison that killed the other boy. Before we move on, I’d like us to take a moment of silence for this young man. He would have been seventeen in a month. He had just committed to turning his life around. He’ll never have that chance now. Please. A moment.”
The police officers heads bowed as they contemplated the life lost.
“Thank you,” Seth said. “No matter what else happens, we need to never forget why we show up every day.
“There are only three more items,” Seth held up a finger. “Even in the dark, our bomb team has found enough explosives to blow this entire region. The killer planned to take us all out tonight. Our SWAT team’s quick thinking and great eyes are the reason we’re not dead.”
The crowd applauded for the SWAT team. The team pushed the man who spotted the killer forward. He waved away their acclaim.
“Next,” Seth held up another finger. “The perp watched us the entire time. He’d built what looks like a hunting platform to stand on. Evidence shows that he’d been there most of today. He had a dirt bike at the ready. SWAT shot the tank but he still managed to get away. We found the bike about a mile from here. There are vehicle tracks, possibly a truck or a van, leading away from the bike. We’ll know more as soon as it’s light.”
“Third,” Seth held up a third finger. “Our SWAT team hit him at least once. We believe he might have been wearing body armor so was able to survive our fire. CSU believe they found droplets of wet blood on the platform and on the bike. We believe he took one, if not two, bullets. We have teams at every local hospital waiting for him. We sent information to every medical center including the military bases. If the killer shows his face for treatment, we’ll catch him.”
“A round of applause for each of you,” Seth said. “It takes a lot of guts to be out here in the middle of the night looking for a killer. I couldn’t work with finer people.”
The police officers began to clap.
“Did the perp shoot you?” a voice yelled from the back.
“Shot at me,” Seth said. “In the melodrama with our SWAT Team Commander, I slipped and fell into the river.”
The men and women laughed and cheered.
“We have more work to do,” Seth said when they settled down. “Forensics is here to collect the blood. Let’s give them every assistance. Don’t fuck this up people. If we get DNA, we will have a case when we find this guy. And I promise you. We will find this guy. He’s killed twice. According to the Coroner’s extensive work, he will retreat for at least a month now. We need to work, and work hard. We have bodies to find. We have evidence to process. We have witnesses to talk to. When this bastard returns, I expect us to be ready.
“That’s all I have,” Seth said.
He waved as they clapped then walked toward Delphie. She met him and walked with him back to the ambulance. She touched Ava’s arm as they passed. Ava followed them back.
“Ava?” Delphie asked. “Would you mind taking a look something?”
“Not at all,” Ava said. “What’s going on?”
“You’ll need a light,” Delphie said.
She pointed to something on Seth’s body armor. Seth scowled at Delphie but Delphie gave him a firm look. Ava took out her head lamp to take a closer look.
“Oh my God,” Ava said. “You were shot.”
“I was?” Seth said.
“Hit your vest. Look at the angle. Must have happened while you were falling,” Ava said. “Were you pushed?”
“I don’t think so,” Seth said.
“Don’t move,” Ava said. “I need to take it out here. We can’t risk it falling out.”
Ava took a pair of forceps from her kit. She deftly extracted the bullet from the body armor and put it in an evidence bag. Holding it up, she smiled.
“This is great,” she said. “A bullet, maybe two, to play with. With any luck, we’ll get a fingerprint.”
“Amelie?” The lab technician yelled. “Our ride’s here!”
“Got to go.” Unsure of how to say ‘good bye’, Ava raised a hand and ran after the lab technician.
“She loves you,” Delphie said.
“I know,” Seth said. “I should cut it off before she gets hurt.”
“She’s a perfect match for you,” Delphie said. “Tough, smart, funny, independent…”
“I know,” Seth said. “But she’d be a perfect match for anyone.”
“You are an idiot,” Delphie said.
Monday evening — 10:15 P.M. Outside Sandy’s Salon, Colfax Blvd, Denver, CO
“What are we going to do to them?” Raz asked.
Standing outside Sandy’s salon, Raz, Alex and Max watched the kids through the large glass windows. With her head on Teddy’s lap, Noelle was asleep. The boys were engrossed in the video game.
“I don’t know,” Alex said.
“On the one hand, they hacked a government satellite,” Raz said.
“A very bad thing,” Alex said.
“On the other hand, they saved at least a hundred uniformed police,” Max said.
“How do you figure?” Raz asked.
“If they hadn’t hacked the satellite, we wouldn’t have been watching,” Max said. “Kaboom!”
“A very good thing,” Alex said.
“Do we have to do anything to them?” Max asked.
“We have to do something,” Alex said. “We can’t let them get away with stealing from us.”
“We could scare the bejeezus out of them,” Max said.
“They’re already terrified of me,” Alex said.
“We have to do something,” Raz said.
“What?” Max asked.
“No idea,” Alex said. “Look at them. They’re just kids.”
“Let’s sleep on it,” Raz said.
“You’re right,” Max said. “We’ll know what to do in the morning.”
Alex nodded. Raz put his arm around Alex and they walked back to their car.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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