Dispatcher: 9-1-1, what is your emergency?
Caller: Uh, I’m on West Portal, between Ulloa and Vincente, and … there’s a man carrying a woman over his shoulder, just, just walking down the sidewalk like that. And she’s not moving. And, and it looks like he’s got, like, blood on his face.
Dispatcher: He’s on W Portal, moving from Ulloa to Vincente?
Dispatcher: OK, I’m sending someone now. Can you describe the man?
Caller: Uh, he’s White. Tall. Wearing, like, a suit jacket. He’s got dark hair. I didn’t really get a good look at him.
Dispatcher: Does he know that you saw him? Did you say anything to him?
Caller: Uh, no, I don’t think so. I didn’t say anything.
Dispatcher: Good. Stay away from him. Do not try to approach him, or say anything to him until Police arrive.
Lark was starting to get frustrated. What started as exciting and mischievous was quickly becoming dangerous. He couldn’t find his Jeep.
I should have studied the map better, he told himself, looking up at the nearest street sign.
“Uh, sir? Sir, what are you doing?”
Lark had been so distracted, he hadn’t even heard the car pull up. He turned to find an officer behind him, stepping out of his car with a hand on his gun. He was tall and lanky, and didn’t look too bright. Lark had the officer sized up in seconds. He quickly spun to turn from the other direction.
“Well, Officer…” he leaned forward and squinted to read his name, “Ford, I’m just walking to my car. Uh,” he turned back to the street sign, “I think it’s this way.”
Lark took a few steps, continuing on his journey. Ford hurried in front of him, holding out a hand to stop him.
“Sir, you have a woman over your shoulder.”
Lark had to fight the urge to burst out laughing. “Oh, yeah, I know. She – uh – she had a bit too much.”
“Sir, there’s blood on your face.”
Reaching up, Lark found the place on his cheek where Persia had scratched him. The blood was already dry, and flaked off on his fingers.
“And your hand,” Ford added. “Is that a –” before he could finish the question, he realized that it was, indeed, a bite mark. “Sir, please put the woman, down – gently, please.”
Lark looked around for a decent place to set her down. “Can I lay her on your car,” he asked, walking backward toward the vehicle.
Ford’s mouth flapped for a moment, before he said, “Yeah, sure – gently.” He followed Lark to the back of his patrol car. Lark shifted her on his shoulder. Ford reached out to make sure her head didn’t hit anything as he moved to lower her from his shoulder.
Excruciating pain in Ford’s leg and a sickening crack sent him to the ground with a cry. Before he could lean up or grab his gun, Lark was standing over him, one foot raised over his head. All he felt for an instant was pressure, then nothing.
Officer Ford had been considerate enough to leave the door of his patrol car open. Carefully, Lark leaned in and sat Persia in the passenger seat. There was still blood trickling down her face from the abrasion on her forehead, when he had slammed her head into the ground. Looking around, he found a pair of expensive utility gloves tucked between the seats. He fished them out, and pulled them on.
Settling into the seat, he pulled the door closed and shifted into gear.
“What the Hell just happened?” Remington asked. The dash cam footage rocked with the car as the door slammed shut.
Sergeant Woodall glanced down at the clipboard in his hand, at the report from the witness who had called 9-1-1. “The suspect broke Officer Ford’s knee with a kick, stomped on his head, then stole his patrol vehicle, and reversed it over him.”
Remington seethed with rage as he turned back to the recording. The cruiser drove a few blocks, complete with stopping at stop lights and indicating turns, then pulled over for a moment. They could hear rummaging in the cabin.
“Now, we believe the suspect was searching for Officer Ford’s street map.”
“He’s not familiar with the area,” Steyer observed.
After a moment, the car pulled back out, made an illegal U-turn, and drove a couple of miles. He slowed down next to a line of cars that were parallel-parked along the sidewalk.
“This,” Woodall jumped to point at a black Jeep Cherokee, “we believe, is the suspect’s vehicle.” It disappeared as the vehicle made another illegal U-turn, drove over the median, then pulled to a stop in the middle of the lane. They could hear the suspect get out, then pull Persia Papyrus out of the passenger seat, but they could not see anything else. Not even the black Jeep Cherokee as it drove away.
“Clever,” Steyer muttered. Woodall looked up with a raised eyebrow. “Ever since Ford walked up on him, he seems hyper-aware of the fact that there might be a camera on the vehicle. He’s constantly facing away: turning the other way, backing up to the car, turning it away from his vehicle. We don’t have tags, or know which way he went. Hell, we don’t even know if it is actually the Jeep.”
“Here,” Remington said, tired of hearing how clever this killer was, “can you rewind it to where he turns to Ford?”
Woodall rewound the recording. The man had only turned a fraction, and only for a second. Steyer and Remington leaned close to the screen in vain hope that they might be able to get a better look.
“I hate these fucking cameras,” Remington growled. “You can’t see shit.”
“Watch your mouth, Agent,” Steyer muttered. Leaning up, he said, “Let’s send this in and see if we can have it cleared up a bit.”
“That’s going to take forever.”
“Do you have an alternate suggestion?”
Remington scowled at Steyer’s cool expression, then shook his head. “I guess it’s the best we’ve got right now.”
“Get us a screenshot of that,” Steyer said, turning to Woodall, “then email it to us.”
“Yes, sir,” Woodall replied, sitting down in front of the computer. “I will… as soon as I get our Wi-Fi working again, apparently.”
Steyer closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Remington clapped a hand over his face and shook his head. They both listened for a moment as the sergeant tapped the keyboard and clicked away, all efforts ending in a frustrated huff.
“As soon as possible,” Steyer told him, pulling open the door and stepping out.
Remington followed his new partner through the station. He opened and closed his mouth several times, feeling the need to say something clever and relevant, but nothing would come to him. He had realized quickly that one of the major differences between Violent Crimes and Organized Crime was the timeline: With organized crimes, as long as the suspects weren’t onto you, they would continue to do what they were doing. This guy, however, could be gone in two weeks, leaving behind five dead bodies and a pile of ashes.
As soon as they were out the front door and in the open air, Steyer turned on him. He did it so quickly, and Remington had been so distracted, that he almost collided with the old man.
“I would appreciate it,” he said, “if you made an active effort to improve your professionalism.”
Heat rose in Remington’s face. He clenched his jaw. He wanted to find a reason to be angry about this request, some point to argue over. Once more, nothing would come to him. Steyer watched the young man’s anger, and his cool expression slowly softened into sincere concern. After a moment of staring at one another, Remington sniffed, and looked down at his shoes. When he looked back up, the anger was gone. He nodded mutely.
“Thank you,” Steyer said. They turned to the street, looking up and down the sidewalk for somewhere to grab lunch. Everywhere seemed crowded. A stream of people was constantly breaking around them.
“That was very reckless,” Remington said suddenly. Steyer turned to him, thinking he was referring to his request. “He didn’t even know where he was in relation to his vehicle,” the younger agent continued. “He didn’t know if there was an internal camera in the car, or if backup was on the way.”
“Internal cameras are not all that common,” Steyer pointed out.
“Still,” Remington shrugged the comment off, “it’s the same with the other woman – Elliot. He snatched her in broad daylight. How could he know that one of the meathead neighbors wouldn’t be jogging by? That no one saw him break the window and called the cops?” Huffing, he looked back down at his shoes.
“Miss Papyrus was taken late at night,” Steyer said, “Miss Elliot early in the morning… there aren’t many people active at those hours. Almost like, a lull in traffic.”
“So, it’s a calculated risk. He’s not being insanely reckless. He’s taking risks, but only to a certain degree.”
“That can’t end well for him,” Steyer mused.
Oh, my, Lark thought, I might want to cut that out.
Pulling the bill of his baseball cap lower over his face, he passed within a few inches of the younger agent. Entering the police station, he walked up to the front desk.
“Somebody called about the Wi-Fi?”