"Deputy Teal, I need a favor," Nathaniel sighed, yawning as he stepped off the elevator into the Criminal Investigations office.
"Of course, boss," Johnny said.
"Not that I mind being called into the office at two a.m. to help process an arrest," Nathaniel said. "But I can't help but notice you seem to be solving every crime in the city except for the one I originally tasked you with."
"Copy that. But I believe this Vassily Tarkova will be the key to solving both the Hassan and Waziri homicides," Johnny said.
"I certainly hope so. You don't want to know the pressure we're getting from the mayor's office. I'm not sure how long we can keep this quiet," Nathaniel said.
"We're getting there, boss."
"Get there faster. I've already had to start dodging calls from a reporter at the World Herald."
"Shit. Marisa? The police beat reporter?"
"How long can you stall her?"
"Maybe another day or two. As I said -- work fast."
"Detective Jarvis and I were just about to question Tarkova," Johnny said.
"Don't let me keep you. I'll get a jump on your paperwork. Any news on Eric?"
"Patched up and staying overnight at the hospital for observation. He's expected to make a full recovery," Johnny said.
"Well, some good news, anyway. Get to it, Deputy."
Johnny nodded and headed for the interview room as his boss went to his office. Ellie was waiting outside the interview room with a cup of coffee in each hand.
"Coffee in your station's better than in mine," she said.
"Really? That's fucking frightening. The only place I've had worse coffee than this was the Army," Johnny said, shaking his head.
He took one of the cups from Ellie and took a sip as he opened the door to the Interview room. Vassily was inside, handcuffed to the table. The young Ukranian was still smiling, the bright fluorescent lights in the room making his gold teeth shine.
"Finally," Vassily said. "You are here. I was beginning to think you had forgotten me. Your coffee is terrible, by the way."
"See? Told you," Johnny muttered.
"I think you've got a lot more to worry about than the quality of the coffee you're drinking," Ellie said. "We've got you on some nasty shit. Probably time to start talking."
"And if I do, you'll reduce the charges against me?" Vassily said, laughing. "Don't bother, Officer. I know there's no way I won't spend at least the next 50 years in prison. You have nothing to offer me."
"In fact, I might," Johnny said. "You answer all our questions, I can guarantee you'll face no charges from either of our offices."
Ellie and Vassily both looked shocked. "You're willing to put this in writing? In the presence of a lawyer?" Vassily asked.
"Fuck yes, I will," Johnny said. "I'll call one now."
"Deputy Teal, can I speak to you for a moment?" Ellie said, her eyes wide.
"Not now. Dialing," Johnny said, pulling out his BlackBerry.
The first lawyer Johnny tried -- a criminal attorney named Pete Dunwick -- answered on the second ring.
"Johnny Teal," Pete said.
"Hey, Pete. Sorry to bother you this late," Johnny said, idly wondering what the guy was doing up at 2:15 am.
"No worries, bro. What can I do for you?"
"Well, this is kind of an odd request. . ."
Pete lived in a loft downtown, so he was at the station in minutes. He was dressed in jeans and a sweater, and was shaking snowflakes off his shoulders when Johnny met him at the elevator.
"Hey, Pete. Thanks for coming down. When did it start snowing out there?" Johnny asked.
"Just a minute ago. They say we'll be getting six inches. Not too bad yet, though. So, where's my guy?"
Johnny led Pete into the Interview Room, where Ellie was keeping an eye on the Ukrainian. Pete walked over to Vassily and stuck out his hand.
"Pete Dunwick, Attorney at Law," he said.
Vassily shook his hand as best he could. His hands were still cuffed to the table.
"And you are lawyer, Pete Dunwick? Not cop?"
"That's correct, sir. My card," Pete said. He placed one of his business cards in Vassily's hand -- the young Ukranian squinted as he read it.
"I assure you, sir, I'm a lawyer. I'm in private practice, which means I don't work for the Sheriff's Department, OPD, or the State of Nebraska."
Vassily set down the card.
"Then I suppose you will do," Vassily said, sighing.
Ten minutes later, Pete had drafted up an agreement. Johnny was true to his word. In clear, simple language, the agreement stated that Vassily would not face charges from the Sheriff's Department or OPD if he cooperated. Ellie shook her head as first Johnny, then Vassily signed the agreement. Pete notarized the paper and went off to make a few copies.
"Right, then. Time to talk," Ellie said, shooting a glare at Johnny. "Who bought the military hardware? The guy who said he was going to –"
" -- to go kill Muslims. Yes, I know what you're getting at. I do not have a name for him, of course," Vassily said, grinning widely. "Not a real one, anyway."
"Fine. Then what can you give us?" Johnny asked.
"About five foot eight, five foot nine. Dark hair, eyes. Beginnings of a beard."
"White guy?" Ellie asked.
"Da. About 35, 36 years old. American -- from the South, I think. Ex-military."
"How the fuck do you know that?" Ellie spat.
"In the same way as I know your partner is ex-military, lovely girl. Little things. The way he stands, how he moves. His boots, the way he wears his clothes. I have much experience with Army types, my dear. Much experience. Russian Army officers are some of my best suppliers," Vassily said.
"Anything else?" Johnny asked.
"He's not been out of Army for long. Two, three months tops. Not like you, Deputy. Five years?"
"Lucky guess," Ellie scoffed.
"Indeed it was not, my dear. My client's boots were still mirror-shined, his hair still short, his posture rigid."
"That sounds just like Johnny," Ellie countered.
"No, he's right. There are subtle signs," Johnny said.
"Your man probably did a tour in some sort of special unit, too," Vassily said. "Go ahead," Ellie sighed after a moment's silence. "I know you're dying to tell me how you figured that one out."
Vassily laughed loud.
"I like you, Detective. You're spunky," he said. "The HK-117s. He was adamant about getting his hands on two."
"So?" Ellie said.
"Those aren't weapons the Army regularly issues," Johnny explained. "The M4s, sure. That's the Army's standard rifle -- but not the HK-117s. Guys in Special Ops outfits love 'em, though."
"That is correct," Vassily said. "It's like you hardly need my help at all, officers."
"Don't get too confident, pal. We're not done asking questions yet," Ellie warned.
"Of course, my dear. Ask away."
Ellie glared at him.
"Cutting out the 'my dear' crap would greatly benefit your health, Chief," Johnny said, fighting back a smirk.
"Indeed," Vassily said. "I'm starting to think of breakfast, anyway, so let's finish this up, yes?"
"You said you don't have a real name for the guy," Ellie said.
"That is what I said."
"But he gave you a name, didn't he?"
"Yes. It was an odd one. First name is Irish, I think. Ronan."
"And the last name?" Johnny asked.
"It wasn't a name. It was a number. Six."
"How were you supposed to contact him?" Johnny said. "A number. Cell phone. My people were running it down, but then. . ."
Vassily sighed and spread his hands as wide as the cuffs let him.
"You have the number somewhere?" Ellie asked.
"Yes, Detective. Right here in my magnificent skull."
Ellie pulled out her notepad.
"Go," she said.
"402-555-9433. He doesn't answer -- it's a message number."
"Eric came in with muscle. What about this guy?" Ellie said.
"Heh. No, Detective. This man clearly didn't need it. He's not as big as the Deputy, here. . . but he has a definite vibe. Very much a don't-fuck-with-me feeling about the man. Even my men were wary around him," Vassily said. He shuddered almost imperceptibly. Johnny could see that this man had bothered Vassily, too -- and the Ukrainian had to be used to dealing with intense, dangerous people.
Ellie turned as she heard a knock on the door. She opened it, and Pete came in.
"Three copies for you, three for me," Pete said, smiling. He handed copies to Vassily. "Three for the files of each department. We're all set here."
"And you, Deputy? Anything else to ask?" Vassily said.
"Yep. I know you had him followed. Where's he staying?"
"Ah, you're clever. I did indeed -- but he lost the man I sent. He was driving a black Ford Edge, but the plates came back as counterfeit."
"Ellie? You got anything more?" Johnny asked.
Ellie just sighed, put her hands out to the sides, and shrugged. Johnny rose and shook Pete's hand.
"Thanks again, Pete," he said.
"No problem, Johnny. I owed you one anyway," Pete said, smirking.
"Like hell you did," Johnny said, smiling as Pete left the room. "Sit tight, Chief. I'll have your paperwork processed in just a minute."
Vassily nodded and pulled at his cuffs attached to the table. "Not like I'm going anywhere," he said.
Johnny reached over and undid Vassily's handcuffs. The Ukrainian smiled and rubbed his wrists.
"Two minutes," Johnny told him, heading for the door. Ellie followed him, and as the door closed behind them, she grabbed his shoulder.
"All right, Teal. What the fuck was that about? Signing a legal document saying neither department could bring any charges?" she hissed. "Without even talking to me first? What the fuck were you thinking?"
Johnny motioned for her to follow him into the office, and she did. Three men in suits were standing next to Johnny's desk, their backs to Ellie and Johnny as they approached.
"Agent Enano," Johnny greeted. "Hope I didn't drag you out of bed."
"Not at all, Deputy," Enano said, turning to face them. He wore a huge smile.
"He's all yours. Wrapped up, waiting in the Interview room," Johnny said.
"Boys, you want to grab our Ukrainian friend and put him in the car?" Enano said.
The two agents next to Enano wordlessly headed for the Interview Room, one of them pulling a pair of handcuffs from his coat as he went. As they rounded the corner, Enano pulled a chair from another deputy's desk and sat down.
"Appreciate the present, Deputy," he said.
"Not a problem, Agent. Figured you and the ATF probably had a few questions you'd like to ask him," Johnny said.
"Oh, sure," Enano said. "We've got a file on him that's longer than. . . well, it's pretty damn long. Guy has connections to a number of terrorist organizations. Al Queda and The National Militia, just to name a few."
"I've never heard of that second one," Ellie said.
"Your pal Johnny sure has. He took out a couple of 'em on his last vacation," Enano told her.
"Huh. Is that who they were?" Johnny said, shrugging.
"Indeed. How'd you manage to track him down? We've been looking for him for years. Guy's a ghost."
"Well. . ." Ellie said. "We didn't, exactly."
"Our boy Eric?" Enano asked.
Johnny just nodded.
"Keep that guy around, officers. He'll make your careers for you," Enano grinned.
Enano got up from his chair, waved slightly with his right hand, and headed for the Interview Room. Johnny heard swearing in Russian. A few seconds later, the swearing receded down the hall, then cut off altogether. Vassily was gone, now in the Federal Government's hands.
"You know, Deputy. . . you're a lot smarter than you let on," Ellie said. "I owe you an apology, it seems."
"No, you certainly don't. I should've let you in on what I was doing, but we got pressed for time. I'm the one who owes you an apology."
"Call it even?" she said. "You think anything Vassily said will help us?"
"I'm pretty sure his customer is the guy we're looking for," Johnny said.
"Oh, yeah? What makes you say that?"
"Remember that weird NATO 7.62x51mm slug the lab guys found?"
"The HK-117 uses that same ammo."