Sunday, December 20, 2009

L.E.O. -- Chapter Thirteen

"Jesus, it's cold," Enano complained as he belted himself into the unmarked's passenger seat.

"It's above 20," Johnny said. "We'd consider that warm for this time of year."

"What's this 'we'?" Eric grumbled from the back seat. "I'm with the G-man on this one."

County lockup wasn't far away at all -- a few minutes by foot. Ordinarily, Johnny would just walk over, but he was glad he'd taken a car. He'd hate to hear Eric and Enano's bitching if they had to brave the weather.

"Good job on White Liberty," Enano said as they drove. "Pretty sure you've broken their back, at least locally."

"Good to know. Just wish it'd helped me out on my case," Johnny said.

"You don't think Travis Stahl will tell you anything useful?"

"I think he'll feed me some bullshit and hope I can cut his sentence down. I wouldn't put it past the guy to make something up now that he's looking at serious prison time."

"I doubt he'll talk to me at all. I'd guess he's not a fan of Asians. Still, orders are orders, so I get to spend a day listening to unimaginative racial slurs," Enano said.

"We should probably talk to him first," Eric said. "Before you piss him off."

"Good plan. There somewhere I can observe you guys?"

"Yeah, there's an observation room," Johnny said as they parked at the County lockup and got out. "I'll get you set up."

"Appreciate it. Maybe he'll say something that's useful to both of us," Enano said.

The three of them walked into the lockup, and Johnny signed them in. Johnny showed Enano to the observation room, then he and Eric took seats in the interview area and waited for Stahl's guards to bring him.

When he arrived, the young skinhead looked terrible. One side of his face was purple and swollen, and his right hand had a cast on it. He was missing both shoes. Johnny actually felt a little sorry for him, but made sure not to show it.

"Better have something good, kid. You dragged me away from my nice, comfy office," Johnny said.

"I don't know if it helps you, but I'll to risk it if you can help me out. If what I have for you is good, I need you to get me moved into a holding area with some of my guys," Stahl said quietly.

"No promises. Let's hear it."

Stahl shrugged his shoulders and sighed.

"Do you know about Vassily? The Ukranian?" he asked, looking at Eric.

"I knew a gunrunner down in Tampa years ago by that name."

"That's the guy. Shit got too hot for him in Florida about two years back. Now he runs outta Chicago, but he supplies for most of the midwest. He's where we get our gear, and he's in town right now."

"Interesting. Why should I give a shit?" Johnny asked.

"We met with him day before yesterday. He said something about us being easy to pull for. Handguns and shotguns. Not like the new client he's just met with -- guy who wanted full-auto, hard-to-get stuff. I asked who that guy was."

Stahl touched the side of his face and winced.

"He wouldn't give me a name, but he said the guy 'wanted the guns to go kill Hajis.'"

Johnny nodded slowly.

"Anything else?" he asked.

"All I got," Stahl sighed.

"Right. I'll talk to the guards for you."

Johnny motioned for Eric to follow, then got up and left the room. As soon as the door closed behind them, he turned to Eric.

"OK, Eric. Assuming Stahl's not full of shit, can you find this Ukranian guy?"

Eric nodded.

"Yeah. Shouldn't be too hard. Think it's important?"

"Assuming Stahl's not full of shit, can you find this Ukranian guy?"

Eric nodded.

"Yeah. Shouldn't be too hard. Think it's important?"

"If Stahl's telling the truth," Johnny said, opening the door to the observation area. Ellie and Frank had joined Enano in the room.

"We heard most of the interview," Ellie said. "Think it's for real?"

"We'll find out. Eric used to know the Ukranian Stahl mentioned."

"Enano? We get you anything?" Eric asked.

"If the Ukranian pans out, that's a nice tidbit. I'll still have to talk to him, though."

"He's all yours," Johnny said. "Find your way back OK?"

"Yeah, get back to your casework. I have a feeling I'll be here a while."

Johnny and Eric shook hands with Enano, then walked with Ellie and Frank out of the building.

"Who's the suit?" Ellie asked. "Looks FBI."

"Yeah, Domestic Terrorism. Old buddy of Eric's, apparently. Ready to see what the lab geeks have for us?" Johnny said.


The lab was in the downtown OPD headquarters only two blocks away. Ellie and Frank had already parked there, so Johnny drove everyone over. When they got to the lab, they saw that their forensics team did look like they'd been up all night. Taub waved tiredly as they arrived.

"We've got a lot of info to dump on you guys. I'm gonna start with ballistics, since I've got that in front of me," Taub said, yawning. He picked up a file from his desk and opened it. "We recovered all six bullets. Initially, I thought they were Winchesters -- normal .308s. Garden-variety rifle slug. But these were just a little bit different."

Taub held up a small plastic bag with a mangled bullet inside. To Johnny, it just looked like a smashed bit of metal, but judging by Taub's sudden animation, it was something much more interesting.

"It took some research, but I finally found out what this little guy's called. He's a NATO 7.62x51mm round. Really close to the Winchester. Interchangable, even, but the NATO round's not commercially available."

"Military ordinance?" Frank asked.

"Or black market," Taub said. "The other interesting thing we've got is a print. We lifted hundreds, but they all belonged to the family. Then we found this one."

Taub shuffled file folders and pulled out a blow-up of a single thumbprint.

"Where'd you find it?" Ellie asked.

"Back patio door. Inside, on the glass. I ran it and got a criminal hit that I'm probably gonna mispronounce," Taub said, squinting at the paper in the file. "Tariq al Waziri. That name come up in any of your interviews?"

Ellie looked at Johnny, who shook his head. Rawlins' legwork was done. That particular name hadn't popped up.

"New one on us," Ellie said.

"Guy's got a record -- burglary and assault," Taub said, looking up. He handed Ellie a printout with Waziri's file. "Last known address on there's only a couple miles from the crime scene.

"Good work, Taub. Anything else for us?"

"Not yet. We're still working it, but the scene was almost surgical. I'm surprised we found this much," Taub said.

"Thanks, Eddie. Call us if anything else turns up. And get some sleep, man. It'll take us a while to run this stuff down," Frank said.

Taub blinked and nodded slowly, as if the idea of sleep had just occurred to him. He looked around the empty lab.

"Not a bad idea. I sent everyone else home a couple of hours ago -- I'll go as soon as I finish my reports."

"Go ahead and go home now," Ellie told him. I won't get a chance to look at the reports until tomorrow, anyway."

Taub nodded slowly again, then picked up his coat and walked out.

"All right. Looks like we've got some work ahead of us. The Ukranian and the bullets might be connected," Ellie said.

"Most likely. Unless Stahl was bullshitting us, those bullets probably came from someone like Vassily," Eric said.

"Then there's Waziri," Frank said. He flipped through the file Taub had printed.

"We're definitely gonna want to talk to this guy."

"No disrespect to you guys," Eric said. "I'll find Vassily if he's here, but I'll be able to do it a lot faster on my own."

Johnny nodded.

"Looks like the three of us, then. Where's Waziri's last known?"

"168th and Maple, that area," Frank said.

"That'll take 35, 40 minutes in this traffic," Ellie said. "I'll call Rawlins. He's on patrol out that way. I'll have him keep eyes on Waziri's place," Johnny told them.

"Outstanding. I'm driving. You can have the back seat this time, Deputy," Frank said, grinning.

* * *

"No motion since you called me, boss," Rawlins said. The young Deputy had found the perfect spot to park his cruiser -- a block over, but with a clear view of Waziri's place between two houses. The angles worked out perfectly -- unless Waziri came out of his house and walked across the street, he wouldn't see the police car at all.

"Good work, Deputy. I'm going to ask you to stick around for a few minutes in case we need backup," Johnny told the young man.

"Right. I'm on hack five. I'll keep on monitor," Rawlins responded.

Johnny walked back to the waiting OPD unmarked and got into the back seat.

"My guy says nothing moving in the last 45. Waziri could be out, or not even awake yet. I know I'd still be in bed if I could," he said.

"Right. I just got off the phone with my boss -- we're OK to take this guy in for questioning," Ellie said.

"Well, let's knock, then. See if this guy's in a helpful mood," Johnny said.

Ellie started up the engine and drove the last remaining block to Waziri's house.

Waziri's house was actually quite nice -- one of the newer McMansion-types that had been built during the early 2000s Omaha housing boom.

It had gone slightly to seed, though, unlike the other houses around it -- the lawn had died off, leaving great bald patches of dirt. The driveway was dotted with oil stains and the pavement was just starting to crack.

"Neighborhood association must love this guy."

Frank kicked a half-flattened basketball out of his way and shook his head.

"Yeah, he's made this look like a crackhouse," Johnny agreed. "So who wants to knock on Cracky's door, then?" Ellie asked. "And before you say anything, no, it's not me. I got the last redneck."

"I'll do it. Let's just hope the guy's not sitting behind his door with a shotgun," Johnny said.

Frank and Ellie fell back slightly. They took up positions just behind and on either side of Johnny, ready to draw their weapons if Waziri was, in fact, waiting to shoot him.

Johnny rang the doorbell and waited for a few seconds. There was no answer, so he rang again. Several seconds passed, and still nothing.

Giving up on the doorbell, Johnny pounded the center of the heavy wooden door with his right fist. It was an impressive sound he made. Eric had taken to calling it Johnny's "open up, it's the po-lice" knock.

Several attempts with the loud knock still brought no answer. Johnny turned around to face his colleagues.

"Doesn't seem like our guy's at home," he told them.

"I'll pop around back," Frank said. "See if I can get a look at what's going on inside."

"We'll stay here and keep eyes on the front," Ellie said.

Johnny toggled his radio.

"Deputy Rawlins, why don't you roll on up, keep an eye on our backs," he said.

"That's affirmative, sir," Rawlins' voice came back. As Frank unlatched the house's back gate, Rawlins' cruiser purred up the street and stopped at the end of Waziri's neglected driveway.

"You think someone tipped him off we were coming? Maybe he cleared out?" Ellie asked.

"Kinda doubt it," Johnny said, shaking his head. "Even we didn't know we were coming until about an hour ago."

Ellie nodded. Her radio crackled on her hip.

"Can't see much in there. Lights are all off. Gonna go around to the side and see if I have better luck," Frank's voice reported.

"Copy that, Frank," Ellie said. "Be careful."

The radio went silent for a few more seconds.

"We have an employer on file for this guy?" Johnny asked.

"Nope. Kinda doubt he had a job, at least in the conventional sense," Ellie shook her head.

"Ellie, come in," Frank's voice broke over the radio.

"We read, Frank."

"You're gonna want to get in there. I'm seeing bodies through the windows."

Johnny immediately kicked in the door. The smell hit him hard -- the bodies must have been sitting inside the house with the heat running for days. Johnny brought up his weapon. Behind him, Ellie did the same. Rawlins fell in behind them, and the three officers made their way into the house, covering each other.

In the living room, they came across four bodies, all shot through the head, just as at the Hassans' place. One body was laying face-up. Johnny recognized him from the picture on his police record -- it was Tariq al Waziri.

His right arm had been cut off.

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