The shotgun slug passed within inches of Johnny Teal's right ear, blasting the side mirror off the police cruiser. As shattered glass rained on his head, Johnny admitted that this wasn't the way he'd seen his vacation going in his mind. The young cop on the ground was still breathing, but it didn't look like he was going to be getting up anytime soon. Blood stained the short stretch of pavement between him and the officer a red so deep it appeared black under the moonlight.
Johnny reached behind his back for his Glock .23, but his hand found nothing in the spot where his holster usually sat. He reached across the twitching body of the young cop and lifted the Sig Sauer .40 out of the kid's hand -- the poor guy hadn't even fired. In one quick, practiced movement, Johnny thumbed off the safety and popped up from behind the cruiser, pulling the trigger as he rose.
His first round went well wide of his target, a huge white guy with a mullet, handlebar mustache, and a nasty-looking 12-gauge pump-action. Before Captain Mullet could fire back, however, Johnny sent a slug though the Neanderthal's left eye and into his brainpan. As the huge redneck crumbled to the pavement, Johnny drew a bead on his second target, a much smaller man in a trucker cap, and fired again.
The hat flew from the redneck's head as Johnny's bullet augered into his upper chest, knocking the hick back against a parked car. Johnny fired twice more, both rounds slamming into the man's chest. The redneck dropped to the ground and stopped moving altogether. As he stood to his full height, Johnny scanned the parking lot, his borrowed gun up and at the ready, his finger hovering over the trigger. He'd only seen two, but that didn't mean there weren't more. His eyes darted across the parking lot, but he saw nothing moving. After a few seconds, he reached down and toggled the radio extender on the fallen cop's shoulder. "Officer down," Johnny yelled.
Before he could give the dispatcher his location, a spray of bullets slammed into the side of the cruiser, forcing him to hit the ground.
"Say again," the radio crackled as Johnny slid out from behind the car, firing in the direction of the latest burst of gunfire. He caught the third gunman in the legs -- the young man screamed and dropped his AK-47 clone, throwing his hands up as he hit the ground.
"Don't shoot! I give up!" the young man yelled, rolling around in pain but still keeping his hands held high in the air.
"How many more are there?" Johnny shouted back, checking the clip in his pistol -- five rounds left.
"No more! Just us three!"
Keeping his weapon in front of him, Johnny reached down and grabbed the cuffs from the officer's belt. He checked the cop's pulse -- weak. Still, better than no pulse at all.
"Hands behind your head! Move and I promise you it'll be the last thing you do!" Johnny yelled.
He rose from behind the cruiser and saw that the man he'd kneecapped was wisely following his instructions. Slowly, Johnny crept towards the sprawled-out thug, still ready to throw his last five bullets at anyone he caught making a move.
"My knees --" the prone man groaned. "You blew off my knees."
"Yeah, yeah. Stop bitching. You were aiming for a lot more than my legs."
After quickly cuffing the man's hands behind his back, Johnny made his way back to the injured officer. He heard sirens not far away.
"Doubt you can hear me, kid, but hold on. Your pals are on the way," Johnny whispered to the cop.
The sirens were much closer now. Johnny popped the clip out of his gun, ejected the last round, and set the whole mess on the pavement as he sat down to wait for the police.
* * *
As soon as he tasted the coffee they brought him, Johnny decided there was no way he could take the Cary, NC Police seriously. Police-station coffee was supposed to be bitter, overbrewed, full of grounds -- in a word, horrible. Like Army coffee. The inky liquid in the Styrofoam cup a young officer had delivered to Interview Room 3 tasted like a fresh-made $5 Starbucks Grande.
Also, they hadn't kept him waiting long. Three shootings and an officer down, and this department seemed to have all the time in the world. Johnny was alone, uncuffed, in the Interview Room for less than five minutes before a friendly female Lieutenant came to see him.
"I trust I didn't keep you waiting too long, Deputy Teal," she said, flashing him a smile. Her namebadge read "Hansen." Johnny smiled back.
"Nah. Only been here a few minutes. How's the kid? He gonna pull through?"
"Officer Gable is going to recover, thanks. Look, Deputy--"
"Call me Johnny."
"All right, then. Johnny. You can call me Kate. Look, Johnny. . . I need you to tell me just what happened tonight."
Johnny nodded and took a sip of his coffee. Damn, that's good stuff. Wonder where they get it? he thought. He cleared his throat.
"Think I could get a cigarette?"
"There's no smoking in here."
"Isn't this North Carolina? Where the cigarettes come from?"
"We like to think we're more than that," Hansen said, frowning.
"Right. Of course. Um, back to your original question --"
"Yes. Last we heard from Officer Gable, he was heading to the Holiday Inn Express on Dillard Drive because someone reported a suspicious vehicle."
"That was me. I saw a Taurus in the parking lot there -- rear suspension was riding pretty low."
"And you think that meant something?"
"Yeah, as a matter of fact. I'm 95 percent sure it was a car bomb."
"And what made you think that, Deputy Teal?"
Johnny couldn't help but notice Hansen had gone back to calling him "Deputy." She'd been suspicious of him since he was brought in, he knew. She just wasn't bothering to hide it anymore.
"I've seen more than a few car bombs in my time. I know what to look for," Johnny said.
"And how would you know that?" Hansen asked.
"Let me answer your question with a question," Johnny said, finishing off his coffee. "How long are you gonna ask me shit when you already know the answers?
Hansen looked genuinely surprised.
"Come on, Kate. Any half-competent cop would have pulled my police and Army records the second she got a positive I.D. Am I right?"
Hansen nodded. Her friendly smile was long gone. Johnny continued on.
"So you already know -- Tikrit, 2005."
Hansen nodded again.
"Look, I'm happy to tell you what I know. Just don't treat me like some dumbass homeboy you picked up for shoplifting, all right?"
"Thank you. Like I said, I suspected the Taurus was riding heavy, so I called you guys. Gable was there in five minutes. I met him outside the hotel and told him my suspicions -- he started a visual examination of the vehicle."
"This was about what time?"
"Approximately 0230. Not two minutes later, your three suspects came running out of the hotel, all of them carrying weapons. Big ones."
"Did they say anything?"
"Nope. Just came at us. Gable identified himself as police and drew his weapon, but he didn't get a round off."
Hansen jotted a few quick notes as Johnny spoke.
"Two of them immediately opened fire. Gable took a shotgun blast to the chest. I grabbed him, pulled him behind the cruiser. Then I commandeered his weapon and returned fire."
"Did you identify yourself?"
"Didn't see much point to it. I'm a little out of my jurisdiction anyway."
"If you realized that, then why did you shoot back?"
"It was either that or let them come finish off your officer and ventilate my skull. Wasn't thinking of the ensuing paperwork at the time."
"Of which there'll be plenty, I can assure you. Go on."
"I neutralized the first two suspects and attempted to call for backup. That's when suspect number three decided to unload his AK at the car. I took out his legs -- he surrendered pretty quick after that."
Hansen looked up from her notes.
"That's when your people showed up. I identified myself as an officer and surrendered to them."
"Nah, that about covers it. Your people confirmed my I.D., I drank some of your coffee. Then you came in that door."
Hansen closed her notebook and stood, heading for the door.
"I'm going to ask that you hang out here for a bit. There are a few points in your story I'd like to check out."
"Yeah, I kinda saw that one coming. Something I'd like to check out, too. If you don't mind, that is."
"What'd you find in the Taurus?"
Hansen shot him an angry look. Johnny suppressed a smile. Her expression answered his question well enough, but he still smirked when she told him.
"A couple more guns. Militia literature. About five hundred pounds of heavy explosives."
Without another word or even a glance in his direction, Hansen stalked out of the room.
Johnny knew they'd probably keep him on ice for a few hours, at least. He'd saved their officer, but he'd also put them in a rough position. The paperwork alone on a visiting cop fatally shooting two suspects and wounding another was going to be a nightmare for this department.
Considering the paperwork, Johnny found himself wondering about several basic but important questions Hansen hadn't asked him. What was he doing in North Carolina, several states away from his own jurisdiction? Why was he up at 2 a.m.? Had he been drinking? These were all questions Johnny would have asked a suspect in a fatal shooting, law enforcement officer or not. Why hadn't Hansen?
Boredom set in fast as Johnny sat alone in the Interview Room. They'd taken his BlackBerry when they'd arrested him -- no Internet or email. Nothing to keep his brain occupied -- he couldn't even send a smart-assed "sitting in a police interrogation room" message to Twitter.
Having his BlackBerry would have let him contact his buddy Eric back home and have him monitor Cary PD's informational requests. He knew Eric would still be awake, and though he didn't have access to the Cary department's computers, Johnny knew Eric could hack them. He wouldn't have minded knowing just what information these cops were trying to dig up.
* * *
Johnny wasn't detained for even an hour. About 45 minutes after Hansen left -- just as his boredom was reaching critical mass -- an Asian man in a nice suit walked in the door.
"Deputy Teal? I'm Special Agent Enano, FBI domestic terrorism task force. Sorry to keep you waiting so long -- you're free to go," he said.
"Thanks. Called in the big guns, did they?" Johnny asked, standing from his chair and stretching.
"Kind of in our wheelhouse. Plus, it's been a while since this department's had to deal with any fatal shootings. We're always happy to help out," Enano said, grinning.
"Yeah, kinda got the impression they weren't too sure on how to handle this one."
"Second-lowest crime rate in the country. Not a bad thing."
"You need anything else from me?"
"Not unless you've got something you didn't tell the Lieutenant," Enano said.
"Nope. Told her anything relevant."
"Much appreciated. Can I give you a ride to your hotel?"
Johnny knew what Enano really meant. Years in law enforcement had taught him that offering a ride meant Enano wanted to keep an eye on him. Still, it beat walking.
After Johnny collected his effects from the desk sergeant, Enano led him to an unmarked gray Crown Victoria with government plates. t was a standard-issue FBI fleet vehicle, but Johnny noticed it wasn't Enano's usual ride. A commercial GPS unit hung from the windshield. Enano also adjusted his seat and the mirrors before he entered the hotel into the GPS.
"Not from around here?" Johnny asked.
"No, sir. Just flew in from Tampa. Got in less than half an hour ago."
"A lot of trouble to go to for a few rednecks with a bomb."
"Would be a lot of trouble if I was here just for them. Truth be told, I wouldn't have dragged my ass out here if your name hadn't flagged."
"Indeed, sir. We've been watching you for more than a year now," Enano told him, smiling as he started the car.