"Four Echo Seven Seven, requesting backup and bomb disposal at 2253 West 107th Avenue," Frank said into Johnny's radio.
"Copy, Four Echo Seven Seven," the OPD dispatcher's voice crackled over the radio. Johnny switched the frequency back to the Sherrif's band. He'd already been on the phone to Nathaniel, and had asked his boss to question Alex Kelley as soon as possible. His lawyer had yet to show.
"How much longer until we get there?" Ellie asked from the back seat.
"Normally? Ten minutes," Johnny said. "In this shit? No clue."
Johnny waved his hand at the windshield, indicating the howling wind and blowing snow outside. Their visibility was down to fifty feet. Johnny carefully piloted them around a Lexus sedan that had slammed into a lightpole just in front of them. He handed the radio to Rawlins. "Call it in, Deputy. Get some units and medical out here," he said.
Rawlins took the radio and reported the accident to the station.
"They're on their way," Rawlins said.
"Fuck. I thought we were only supposed to get a couple of inches," Ellie spat, scowling.
"Maybe we'll luck out and they'll have closed down the mosque due to the weather," Frank said.
"I don't think so," Johnny told him. "I've seen devout Muslims brave firefights to get to prayer. Their faith isn't a casual thing. The mosque's definitely open for business." "Yeah, let's just hope it's standing when we get there," Ellie mumbled as Johnny swerved around a Chevy S-10 spinning its tires in the snow.
The drive should have taken twenty minutes, tops -- it took forty. As Johnny predicted, the lights were on and the doors were open.
"Anyone see the bomb squad van?" Ellie asked as Johnny parked the truck.
Johnny looked around, but saw nothing but snow.
"Not yet. Frank, you mind getting on the radio and getting an ETA?" he asked. "The three of us will head in, try to explain the situation.
"Yeah. I'll join you when I find out where they are," Frank said, nodding. Johnny zipped up his coat and opened the door. The cold air blasted him. He felt like it had simultaneously turned his skin to ice and sucked all the oxygen out of his lungs -- the wind was just intense, cutting. He gave himself a second to adjust, then walked with Ellie and Rawlins to the front door of the Midwest Center for Islam. They went inside.
It was almost as hot inside the mosque as it was cold outside. The three cops looked around and spotted one young man sweeping the floor. Johnny waved him over, and the young man came running.
"John Teal, Douglas County Sheriff's Department," he said, showing his badge. "Detective Jarvis, Deputy Rawlins. We need to speak to the Imam, immediately."
The young man nodded and ran off.
"Imam?" Ellie said.
"He's the man in charge," Johnny told her. That answer seemed enough for Ellie -- she nodded and didn't ask anything more as they waited. Frank came into the mosque a few minutes later, shaking snow off the shoulders of his black overcoat.
"Bomb squad van got in a head-on. Some guy in an S-10 jumped the median on 72nd and smacked right into 'em," he reported.
"Fuck. Is everyone OK?" Ellie asked, frowning.
"Yeah, no injuries. But the engine's totally destroyed," Frank said. "Dispatch sent out the SWAT truck to pick 'em up and bring 'em in. They've linked up on 72nd and are loading the bomb squad's gear now."
"ETA?" Johnny asked.
"Not long, man. SWAT's got a mean vehicle. Snow's not gonna slow it down any," Frank said. "Anything short of a head-on collision with a train won't even slow it down. Ten minutes."
"Good enough," Johnny said, nodding as the man returned with his Imam.
"Officers? How can I help?" the Imam asked, looking them over.
Johnny bowed his head slightly as he answered.
"Imam. Sorry to bother you while you're preparing for prayer, sir," he said.
"It's all right. And please, call me Siddiq."
"Siddiq, then. We have reason to believe someone may have planted explosives in the mosque."
Johnny kept his voice as quiet and calm as possible so as not to alarm Siddiq, but the tall, thin, dark Imam showed no signs of surprise. He simply nodded slowly and looked around.
"And you are with the explosives ordinance division?" he asked.
"No, sir," Johnny said. "We're an investigative unit, but the bomb squad is on the way."
"Has anyone you don't know been here in the last week? Maybe a service tech, someone new on the cleaning crew?" Ellie asked.
"We had a problem with the heat on Tuesday," Siddiq told her. "A young man came by to fix it. He was here for a couple of hours."
"Did you have eyes on him while he was working?" Frank asked.
"Not really. We mostly left him to his work."
"Can you describe him to us?" Johnny asked.
"Indeed. Younger man. Dark hair, dark eyes. Bit of a beard. Perhaps five eight, five nine?"
Ellie held up a picture. Johnny recognized it as the one from Iraq she'd found at Alex's.
Siddiq took the picture from her and studied it for a moment. His eyes flicked up at Johnny, then back down to the picture.
"Yes. That could definitely be him on your left, Officer," Siddiq finally said, handing the picture back to Ellie. Johnny nodded, swallowing hard. That wasn't the answer he'd wanted to hear.
"Can you show us where this man was working, sir?" Frank asked.
"Of course. Follow me." They followed Siddiq to the back of the mosque, through a nondescript door and into what looked like a small office.
"He started in here. He worked on that panel for a few minutes, then moved on to several other places."
"Rawlins, go with the Imam, will you?" Johnny said. "Mark off any location this guy visited. Siddiq, if you wouldn't mind?"
"Of course. This way, officer. Or is it Deputy?" Siddiq asked.
"Either is fine, sir," Rawlins said as he followed Siddiq out of the office.
"Right," Frank said after they left. "First trouble spot. Should we see what's behind the panel?"
"I wouldn't," Ellie said, shaking her head.
Frank looked at Johnny.
"You were in the Army. They had to teach you something about bombs, right?" he asked.
"Indeed they did," Johnny said.
"Great. What'd they teach you?"
"First step, identify the bomb's probable location. We've done that," Johnny said. "Second step, call EOD. Third step, wait for EOD."
Ellie chuckled, and Frank looked a little disappointed.
"I know, Frank. You're a man of action. You want to do something," Johnny said. "I get that -- I respect the hell out of it. But I've been blown up before. Not an experience I want to go through again, really. Trust me. It's no fun."
"I get you," Frank said, nodding slowly. "I just hate waiting around, you know?"
"You and me both, pal," Johnny said. "But let's leave this to the professionals. Let the bomb squad guys earn their paychecks."
As if on cue, Frank's radio crackled to life. "Four Echo Seven Seven, this is SWAT-1. Got your ears on, Uncle Frank?" the voice poured from the radio on Frank's belt.
"I read you. They got you driving the school bus these days, Will?" Frank radioed back.
"His nephew. Sniper on SWAT," Ellie explained, her voice low.
"Heard the bomb squad boys needed a lift. I wasn't doing much, so I figured I'd go pick 'em up," Will replied. "We're rolling up in two. You already square us with the locals?"
"That's affirmative," Frank said. "Come on in, Will."
He put the radio back on his belt.
"Gary's boy," Frank explained. "Good kid. Hell of a sniper, too. Ex-Marine."
"Oh. A fucking jarhead?" Johnny groaned playfully.
"Yeah, yeah. I hear him bitch about you grunts all the time too," Frank shot back.
The two men shared a laugh. Ellie just shook her head.
"I just don't get military humor," she sighed.
Frank's radio crackled to life again.
"This is SWAT-1!" Will's voice blasted. "We're half a block to the East of your position, taking heavy fire!"
Johnny could faintly hear it outside -- automatic weapons fire. And not a small amount of it.
"Hang tight, Will! We're coming to you!" Frank radioed.
Johnny already had his Glock in his hand.
"Let's move!" Ellie yelled, leading the way out of the office.
Johnny grabbed his radio.
"Heard it, boss. On the way. Coming out the side door," Rawlins radioed back.
Johnny, Frank, and Ellie cleared the front doors and spotted the SWAT truck instantly. It was just at the end of the street, and both tires on the driver's side had been shredded. Bullets pinged loudly off its metal skin.
"How much armor does that thing have?" Johnny asked as Rawlins joined them.
"Plenty," Frank said. "It can take a hell of a pounding."
"Even against armor-piercing rounds?" Johnny asked.
"That, I'm not sure about. Can you see where they're firing from?" Frank asked.
"West side of the street. Elevated position. We should be able to get close if we stay behind those parked cars," Johnny said, pointing.
"Right. I'm on point," Frank told him, setting off before anyone had a chance to argue.
Johnny shrugged and followed the older man. Ellie went next, and Rawlins brought up the rear. Bullets slammed into the cars as they crawled behind them to the truck -- they'd been seen.
Rounds were still slamming into the SWAT vehicle, as well. Multiple shooters, Johnny thought. Outstanding.
The truck was close now. Frank made it there first, and swung open the passenger door. Inside was a kid a few years younger than Johnny, thin and blonde-haired.
"Hey, Uncle Frank," the kid smirked, casually loading rounds into a Remington 700. "Nice to see you."
"You OK, Will?" Frank asked.
"Walkin' on sunshine, Uncle Frank," Will laughed. "Though I bet this is scaring the shit out of the crew in the back."
"Hey, Devil Dog. You get eyes on any of the shooters yet?" Johnny asked.
"At least three, sir. They got out of a black SUV and ran up the hill, there. Firing from behind the trees," Will told him.
"Good eye. Got a couple extra tasers in that truck?" Johnny said.
"Good. Give me three of them."
The young SWAT sniper looked confused, but he dug out three tasers anyway and handed them ovet to Johnny. Handing his Glock to Ellie, Johnny tucked the three extra tasers into his belt.
"What are you up to, boss?" Rawlins asked, frowning.
The volume of fire slamming into the SWAT truck dropped off for a moment -- Johnny guessed the shooters were reloading.
"I have a plan. I'll need you guys to make a lot of noise," Johnny told them. "Tear gas and smoke grenades if you've got 'em first. Then open fire at them. Throw as many bullets in their direction as you can, but shoot above and below."
Johnny took both of his spare clips from his belt. He handed them to Ellie.
"Due respect, sir, but I can take them out," Will said.
Johnny shook his head.
"We can't question corpses. I'm going to get in and see if I can take them out."
"That's suicidal, boss," Rawlins said.
"You're absolutely right," Johnny said. "Which is why they're never going to see it coming."