The Chief - Cover

The Chief

Copyright© 2011 by Robert McKay

Chapter 21

With cops all over the country looking for el Toro Loco – putting the information into NCIC and VICAP had turned up the name Fidel Ramos – and the car he was in the last we knew, we were sort of at a standstill. Forensics went over the house with a fine tooth comb, vacuuming everything they could, gathering dust from corners, doing everything but dismantling the house nail by nail. The reports that came back, over a period of days – I'd told 'em to rush matters – only came up with one really crucial piece of information.

There was blood in the kitchen. Someone had wiped the floor down good, but blood had soaked into the wood, and Luminol and a black light had revealed that. There were runnels of blood here and there in the joints of the floor, and the crime scene people were able to collect enough to determine that it was Rodríguez's type. DNA testing would take longer, but none of us doubted that we'd found where the man died.

And one day Mills and Cecelia came into my office. I leaned back in my chair, for I'm always glad for an excuse to forget about paperwork. "What can I do y'all for?" I asked.

"Officer Carpenter has a request, which I told her we needed to bring to you."

I looked at Cecelia.

"Given the status of the investigation," she said, "it seems to me that I have served my purpose as a temporary investigator, and am now a supernumerary." Her word reminded me of a British phrase I'd encountered in Ian Rankin's novels about Edinburgh cop John Rebus – surplus to requirements. "I therefore request that you release me back to patrol, where I can serve a useful purpose rather than sitting around the squad room going over reports."

"Goin' over reports is part of the job," I said.

"That is true. But Officer Mills can do that as well as I can. I only came into this investigation to gain experience with this facet of police work, and I have gained as much practical experience as I can. Perusing reports is not a skill requiring great ability, nor will voluminous practice improve my dexterousness. It is time for me to resume my uniform."

"An' you look good in that uniform too," I said with a smile. Usually uniforms of any sort are unflattering, especially to women as narrow as Cecelia, but she'd done some seamstressing and it did indeed look good on her. "What do you think, Allan?"

"She could help me go over the file again, or help me with other cases, but I have to admit she's right. Four investigators is the right number for us – we all have plenty of work, but not too much. Five, especially when one's just working on one case, is too many."

"Yeah, that's what I thought. Okay, C, you're back on patrol. You'll need to check with the Chief of Patrol to get back on the schedule. An' of course I'll need to get the paperwork from him an' the lead investigator."

"I'll have the paperwork for you by the end of the day," Mills said.

"And I shall speak with the Chief of Patrol forthwith," Cecelia said, leaving me to wonder whether the fancy word for right away was hers naturally, or a bit of Red Hawk cop slang she'd picked up.

"Scat, then," I said, and went back to my desk while they scatted.

As it turned out, maybe putting Cecelia back on patrol was what broke the case. She was working the day watch on a Monday. I'd noted, in the back of my mind, her calling in for "7" – Code 7, meaning lunch; she had picked up the codes in spite of herself – and then calling in available again afterward. Any good cop learns to pick the calls that concern him out of even busy air. I was working away at my paperwork – just then trying to find money in the budget to repair two cruisers that had gotten into accidents within the same week.

And suddenly I sat straight up and listened to the call on the scanner that sat behind me. "Dispatch, Unit 24, hot shot." That meant that Cecelia's call was important and she needed clear air for it.

"All units, stand by. Go, 24."

"I'm about to make a traffic stop," Cecelia said, and she described the vehicle we were looking for in the Rodríguez case. "One male occupant, generally fits the description of the suspect."

"10-4, 24 – use caution. I'll roll backup."

"10-4, lighting him up now."

The dispatcher acknowledged that, and then I heard her dispatching another unit to back Cecelia up. Usually we didn't do that, but with this suspect we weren't going to take chances.

I sat for a couple of minutes, and then, "He shot me, he shot me!" I've heard Cecelia angry, I've heard her in sorrow, I've even heard her – rarely – afraid, but I'd never before heard her deep voice go shrill with absolute terror. I stood up and grabbed my radio all in one motion. "Dispatch, Unit 1, I'm rolling. Put out an 'officer needs help'," I said. That would get every single patrol car to the scene at high speed, and would call an ambulance too.

I ran down the hall toward the back door, nearly bowling over the watch commander and Sergeant of the Watch as they too headed for their cars. I didn't bother with my seat belt, just threw myself into the seat and took off, with lights and siren going. As I fishtailed into the street I got on the radio. "Unit 24, Unit 1 – how are you?"

"He shot me! I'm okay!"

That sounded contradictory, but at least she was alive and talking. "Everyone's coming – stay there."

"10-4," she said, and her voice, while still much higher than I'd ever heard it, wasn't at that piercing peak of terror.

I knew where the shooting had happened, for I'd been listening to the call. I pulled up behind Cecelia's car, but I wasn't the first one there. Unit 12 was parked in the traffic lane, pointed the wrong way, and the guy driving it – Billy White, I remembered, a Cherokee Indian from up around Tulsa – was squatting beside the driver's seat talking to Cecelia.

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