Wednesday, January 20, 2010

L.E.O. -- Chapter Nineteen

"I swear, Sarge, I have no idea how that arm got there."

"You really don't want to say anything to me, Alex. Not to any cop. You want to stay quiet, get yourself a lawyer, and do exactly what he tells you," Johnny said.

"Sarge, I --"

"Really, Alex. Not a word."

Johnny slowly nudged his truck onto I-480. The snow was picking up, collecting on the roads faster than the plows could get to it. He was glad he'd taken his Ram rather than a Department cars -- when Rawlins arrived to secure Alex's place, he'd almost gotten stuck.

Rawlins had called Ellie and the overworked crime scene team -- once Johnny got Alex booked downtown, he'd drive back out and assist them. He supposed he should have had Rawlins ferry Alex to the station, but he felt it was something he should do himself -- like he owed Alex.

Alex did as he was told the rest of the way to the station -- he didn't say a word. Johnny escorted his prisoner to central booking. There were no other arrests waiting, so Johnny listened in as the clerk processed Alex.

"Name?" she asked.

"Kelley, Alexander S."

"Date of birth?"

"12 March 1983."

"Address on your license current, Mr. Kelley?"

"It is, ma'am."

"Where do you work?"

"Currently on Army disability."

"Any scars, marks, tattoos?"

"Bullet scars on right shoulder and hand, left lower torso, right leg. Knife scars on inside of right arm, right torso, left lower torso. Burn scars on upper and lower back. 75th Ranger tattoo on left shoulder. Staff Sergeant stripes tattooed on the upper sternum. Army SOCOM emblem tattooed on right shoulder. I think that's all of them, ma'am."

Johnny noticed the clerk's eyes had widened as she typed. She took his mug shot a few moments later, and Johnny signed off on the arrest. Two corrections officers appeared and moved to collect Alex. As he stood, Alex looked at Johnny.

"What's next, Sarge?" Alex asked.

"You'll be in holding for a little while. Use that time to call a lawyer. VA should be able to help with that. Then you'll be questioned."

"By you?"

"No. That'd be a conflict of interests. Just remember what I said -- say nothing without a lawyer present," Johnny told him. "When your lawyer does show up, say only what he tells you to say. We clear?"

"Clear, Sarge. I didn't do anything. I promise you that."

"See? There you go, talking to a cop without a lawyer," Johnny said, smirking a little.

"I know. I just wanted you to hear that now. From me."

Johnny nodded, and the two Corrections officers ushered Alex through the metal door at the end of the room.

"You know him?"

"Yeah," Johnny said to the clerk -- he didn't recognize her. She must have been new. "We were in the war together, in Iraq."

"Wow. What'd you have to arrest him for?" she asked.

"Suspicion of murder," Johnny said. He sighed as he headed for the door.

* * *

Johnny had stopped by the office for a moment to grab a battery for his BlackBerry. He was back in the elevator, watching the doors close. Just before they slid shut, someone jammed an arm between them.

"Ow! Fuck! Wrong hand!" Johnny heard Eric yell as the doors opened.

Eric walked into the elevator, rubbing his shoulder where he'd been shot.

"You all right?" Johnny asked, trying not to laugh.

"Yeah. I'll live. Glad I caught you, though. You heading to the crime scene?"

It bothered Johnny to hear Alex's place called "the crime scene." He tried not to show it, though. He nodded.

"Did what you asked. There isn't much out on Omega -- an FBI datasheet with your report."

"That's it?"

"That's all the official stuff. The Web site you had me check out last week -- the nutbag conspiracy one? He had some stuff."

"Anything that looked, you know, non-crazy?"

"He draws a link between Omega and The National Militia. Says they're working together. Of course, he also links them to the Illuminati, which he says is controlled by George Bush Sr., who is in turn run by aliens," Eric said.

"So, no on the non-crazy, then."

"Yeah, everyone knows the Illuminati are run by the ghost of Bon Scott," Eric grinned.


"Never mind. I'll have you know, though, that was fucking hilarious."

"If you say so. Find anything else?"

"Negative. Not a thing. Guess that's why they call it a covert operation."

"Good work. I'm heading to meet Ellie and Frank," Johnny said as the elevator stopped. "This'll probably be a pointless, but see what you can dig up on The National Militia. Enano seems to know a bunch about them," Johnny said.

"Will do. You think the conspiracy nut has something?"

"Just a feeling."

"I heard you might've got the guy, though," Eric said.

"I got a guy," Johnny said, "But I don't think it's the guy."

Eric walked him to his truck. Johnny held up his BlackBerry.

"Fully charged now, so shoot me an email with anything you find."

"Will do. I'll be in the office, so call if you need me."

"Copy that."

Johnny started up the Ram and pulled out of the garage into the street. The snow was falling faster now, covering the streets in white. He checked to ensure the truck was in four-wheel drive, then drove back to Alex's apartment. The street was now full of police vehicles. Johnny counted three cruisers -- Rawlins' and two OPD cars -- plus the forensics van and Ellie's unmarked. He parked his truck and got out. Frank met him in the narrow stairwell outside Alex's apartment.

"Hey, Johnny. Ellie's not too happy with you," he said, shaking his head.

"Yeah, I kinda expected that," Johnny said. "If I thought Alex Kelley was a lead, I would have shared it."

That was, of course, a lie. The whole reason he'd gone to Alex's was that the young man matched Vassily's profile perfectly. He wanted to get there before anyone else. If he'd been able to establish an alibi before Ellie or Frank found him, so much the better. Unfortunately, it hadn't worked out that way.

"So what have you found so far?" Johnny asked.

"Apart from the arm, a whole shitload of firepower. Beretta M9s, Glock 35s, a Sig Sauer. And, of course, the prize -- an HK-117 with plenty of NATO 7.62x51mm ammo."

Shit, Johnny thought. That doesn't look good for Alex.

"What about the arm? Have we gotten an ID back on it yet?"

"Nope. Guys have scanned and uploaded the prints, but we're still waiting. Computers are slow today."

"Call Eric, he's in the office," Johnny said. "He should be able to get an ID for you pretty quickly."

"Will do. You heading upstairs, then?"

Johnny nodded.

"Eggshells, man. And an apology and explanation wouldn't hurt your case, either."

"Roger that. Let me know if Eric comes up with anything."

Johnny headed up the narrow staircase to Alex's apartment. The door was open. Inside, he could see the blue-jumpsuited forensics team crawling around, taking the place apart. Ellie was in the bedroom, her back to him.

"Hey, Ellie. On a scale from one to Nuclear Holocaust, how pissed are you right now?" Johnny asked.

"Oh, I'm down to about four now. I figure you wouldn't go around me and Frank just to snatch a collar for yourself," she said, turning to face him. "Tell me I'm right."

"You're not wrong," Johnny lied. "Alex is an old Army buddy. He just moved here, and I was checking in on him. Promised a friend I would. He was Special Ops before he got out. I was going to ask him if Ronin Six had any significance."

"I kinda figured as much," Ellie said. "Especially once the boys found this."

Ellie handed him a 5x7 picture in a cheap frame -- one of Alex, Riley, and himself in the desert. They were all in uniform, and grinning like lemurs at the camera. Alex was shooting a cheesy double-thumbs-up. Johnny remembered the photo. Edison and Holt had been behind the camera -- it was in 2005, two weeks before Johnny's unit was rotated out of Iraq for the last time. A month and a half after that picture was taken, Johnny was a civilian.

"Nice haircut," Ellie said, trying and failing to hide a grin. "Regulations," Johnny muttered.

"Right. Which is why the two other guys have good haircuts?"

"They're Special Ops. More freedom. Listen, I owe you an apology," he said. "I should have let you or Frank know where I was going, specifically. Got one of you to go with me."

"Yeah, you should've," she said, sighing. "But indications are we've got our guy, so I guess it all works out, doesn't it?"

"I guess."

"You sound about as unsure of that as you did that White Liberty was responsible," Ellie said, frowning.

"No, Alex fits, I suppose. I think it's more a case of not wanting to believe it than it is not actually believing it."

Ellie's expression softened significantly. Johnny saw her anger level drop from the admitted four to almost nothing within a couple of seconds.

"Were you guys close?" Ellie asked.

"Close enough that I trusted him to watch my back in a firefight. So, yeah. I suppose we were."

Ellie put her hand on his shoulder. She opened her mouth to say something, but she didn't get the chance. Taub burst into the room, a rolled-up piece of paper in his hand.

"Detective, Deputy -- you're gonna want to see this," he said, handing Johnny a pair of latex gloves from the pocket of his blue jumpsuit. Ellie was already wearing a pair, Johnny noticed as he snapped on the gloves and Taub handed him the paper.

"Oh, fuck. This isn't good."

It was Ellie who had said the words out loud, but Johnny had the same thought at the same moment -- she'd just verbalized it quicker.

The paper was a blueprint, and the top read "The Midwest Center for Islam." Several points on the structure had been marked with red Xs.

"That look like someone was planning places to set bombs to you?" Taub asked.

"Yes. That's exactly what it looks like," Johnny said.

"The place hasn't blown up, so if he's already placed charges, they must be on a timer," Ellie said. She looked at the paper a moment. "My guess is he'd want to do it with as many people as possible there. Anyone know the Muslim day of worship?"

"Friday," Johnny said. "Between 12:30 and 2 p.m. That's when there'll be a huge gathering for prayer."

"Today's Friday," Ellie said. "And it's almost 9:00."

"We'd better take my truck," Johnny said. "Snow's coming down pretty bad now. Can you get some of your people to secure this place?"

"Yeah. I've got two uniforms out canvassing -- I'll pull them in," Ellie said, reaching for the radio on her belt.

"Good enough. Rawlins!" Johnny called, spotting the young deputy outside on the staircase. Rawlins walked over to him in five large strides.

"Yes, sir?"

"Secure your vehicle. You're riding with us."

Rawlins nodded and headed outside to park his cruiser. Ellie replaced her radio.

"My guys are on the way back," she said.

"Good. How's your department's bomb squad?"

"Not bad, I guess. Yours?"

"Ours is one guy. And he's missing several fingers," Johnny told her.

"I'll call our guys and have them meet us there."

One of the OPD uniforms arrived. Ellie quickly explained the situation to him, and told him to secure the scene while the forensics team finished their work. He nodded.

"All right. Let's load up," Johnny said, heading for his truck. He, Frank, Ellie and Rawlins all piled in as Johnny started the vehicle. The Ram was an extended cab, so they all fit, though there wasn't a lot of room to spare.

"Let's hope we get there in time," Frank said. "Otherwise, we'll look pretty damn silly screaming up on a leveled building with full lights and sirens."

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