«

Chapter 7

“The Stodgy Inquisition of Waylan Dwight Jessup III”

Evening

Hollywood Police Station

Detective Stack put the bag of frozen peas to the knot swelling on his forehead. He glanced around the frigid room for any would be allies, but came up empty. “So do I get to find out who’s been holding out on everyone with the peas?”

Detective Ransic gently placed his sidearm across the table from Stack and took a seat, sighing heavily. “It was that or a Healthy Choice Lobster Cheese Ravioli.”

“Sounds delicious,” Stack replied.

“Shut up.”

“Have you tried the Lean Cuisine Butternut Squash Ravioli? I feel like you get more pasta when you—”

The Chief walked in.

“Shutting up.”

The Chief’s name was Waylan Dwight Jessup III, but everyone knew to call him “The Chief” to further blur the lines of fiction and mythology. Had the Chief really broken a man’s hand with a can opener during an interrogation at a creamed corn factory? It didn’t matter as long as the rookies coming in believed it enough to fly right.

Stack put his hand out and offered Chief the chair that Ransic was currently sitting in. “Have a seat, sir.”

The elongated six-foot-five frame of Ransic stood up and glowered his untidy unibrow back in the direction of Stack, who was smiling through a bloody visage of deep cuts and frozen peas.

The Chief slowly maneuvered about eighty pounds of excess weight into the seat across from Stack. “No, please, go on about low-carb microwaveable meals in light of six of your fellow officers losing their lives today—with one more in intensive care that won’t last the night.”

Stack glared at Ransic before turning back to his superior officer. “Totally out of line, sir. My apologies. I had a hell of a day.”

His superior motioned to clear the room. Ransic put up a stink for a moment before deciding to go outside the door and wait. When all personnel had left the two alone, Chief spoke in hushed tones. “You did have a hell of a day, didn’t you?”

Stack nodded, knowing he was not about to be portrayed in a positive light.

“Now, you’re going to have to connect the dots for me as you’re not just the only credible witness we have to this PR nightmare, you’re also the only witness we have period,” the Chief inquired.

“Mulkey didn’t make it?” Stack asked in disbelief.

The Chief took a moment to respond, “that kid put up a hell of a fight. Once his liver failed, the kidneys followed. There was nothing the doctors could do.”

Detective Stack looked through the observation window at Ransic standing on his tiptoes, trying to glean information from the conversation. He turned back to the table, “how bad is it out there?”

“Well, you know the Feds. They were here with actionable intel before I knew which next of kin to notify—the bastards,” Chief often said of the FBI. “Homeland Security showed up after. Then the jurisdictional circle-jerk began. I believe the phrase they were parlaying was, ‘an act of domestic terrorism.”

“I can’t say I disagree with that assessment, Chief. They came in with a purpose—and that was to kill everyone in the building,” Stack responded with a swallow.

Chief grimaced and tightened his fist on the table. “I will not stand by when my men were murdered and let the Department of Homeland Security point at whatever they want and call it ‘terrorism.”

“Sir?”

“Well think about it, Detective. What the hell is ‘domestic terrorism?’ We’re not talking about religious zealots halfway around the world, we’re talking about anyone committing a crime at home.”

Stack took a moment to consider the words of a man he trusted with his life. “Well, sir. I think the difference between murder and terrorism is preparation. These men were stacked and ready to kill everyone in the building.”

The look on the Chief’s face took a turn for the bitter. “And these men were so well-prepared that you managed to kill every single one of them?”

“I had help.”

“You mean you released a murder suspect from his cell and armed him with your sidearm—the same gun he used on one of the attackers, whose rifle he also took, before jumping to a neighboring building and holding an innocent family at gunpoint?”

The Detective bit his lip and checked to see if Ransic was watching from the door and relishing every moment of this. “Yes, sir. I mean that.”

The Chief slammed his fist onto the table, “Come on, Stack! I got you on felony aiding and abetting a fugitive charges—that’s not even calling into account the line of cops around the block ready to take you down!” he fumed. “Give me something, here.”

Stack sighed and knew there was no way to talk his way out of everything that had occurred the night before. “I found myself in an extraordinary situation that required the use of unusual tactics. I would be dead if not for Alex’s aid—”

“I would leave the casual first-name basis stuff out of your report, lest you desire Home-Sec putting you in a tiny cell in Cuba for the rest of your life.”

“Sorry, the suspect was my only hope of survival and the only reasonable way to stop the attackers once they had entered the police station.”

Chief made a face, there were at the station that referred to it as ‘that face.’ “You know the next thing I’m going to ask you.”

“Yes sir, I do.” Stack took a deep breath and knew that the moment he answered the Chief’s question, his days as being a police officer in the country were over. To protect the returners, he did what he thought he had to.

“The ten assailants that you two killed.”

“Alex escaped after the sixth went down. I believe he killed the seventh in his getaway.”

Chief put his hands through his hair in disgust. “Which leaves only you with all ten bodies before we were able to gain safe entrance to the building.”

Stack was sweating profusely. “Yes, sir, that’s accurate.” Here it comes.

“We are still waiting on basic forensics to return, and it will return, but care to explain how all ten attackers had all of their teeth knocked out, their finger prints burned off and their faces so badly disfigured that we can’t correctly identify a single one of them?”

Because they’re all the same person and you’d shit an entire house worth of bricks, he thought to himself. “I can’t answer that, sir.” Stack said instead.

Chief went ballistic. “You’re going to have to do a god damn lot better than that, Stack!”

He felt the Eliot Ness he used to be stand up in the back of his mind and start pushing. Detective Stack stood up from the table and leaned across the table to his portly Chief inspector. “It’s not going to matter.”

The Chief’s face turned so red that Stack thought he might suffer a third heart attack. He was cut off before speaking.

“Before you blow up, Chief, you need to understand how this is going to go down. I understand that you are dealing with a logistical nightmare with a seemingly endless array of questions—these  questions seem to all hit a brick wall at me. Would you say this is a fair assessment?”

Chief nodded. He looked like a tomato that was about to faint.

“I’m going to keep my mouth shut that you failed to send in SWAT for a whole twenty minutes after they knew there was no explosives wired into the building.”

“I knew of no such thing,” his boss stuttered out in furious disbelief.

“Doesn’t matter if the press gets a hold of it.”

“That would never stick.”

Stack began pacing around the room in far better control of the situation. “You will hold me for three days, announce an extended debriefing period, and award me the Los Angeles Police Medal of Valor, which I’ll accept on stage in crutches—for effect.”

Chief threw his chair across the room in revolt.

The detective ignored the aggression and continued, “Before the ceremony, you will cremate all ten terrorists on suspicion of exposure to lethal chemical weapons. While it was certainly a close call, the people of Los Angeles have been spared a terrifying attack on US soil thanks to the tireless efforts of officer Stack—”

Stack felt the last word slip out as a burly forearm smashed into his windpipe, knocking him against the wall. “Why the hell would I do any of this?” the Chief spit out in utter disgust.

Choking the words as they escaped, Stack could feel the room going lighter. “Listen. We both know your job depends on a controlled situation here.”

“And?”

And if you plan on escaping this with your pension and your job intact you’re going to need something.”

The Chief pushed harder, barely containing his fury. “What? What the hell do I need from a traitorous piece of crap like you?”

“A way out.”

»