The snow almost made Johnny's job too easy.
Once the first smoke grenade popped, he broke from the pack at the SWAT truck. It didn't take long to find the SUV the shooters had come from -- it was the only car not covered in snow. Footprints led away from the SUV. Johnny followed the tracks easily -- the shooters hadn't even tried to cover them. The footprints led up a small hill to the tree line.
He caught sight of the shooters just as his friends below started chucking bullets up the hill. Three muzzle flashes lit up in response.
The three shooters had set up in a row behind the trees. They were all crouched next to each other -- Not very tactical, Johnny thought. All their fire seemed to be concentrated on the SWAT truck -- they must not have seen him coming.
Johnny crept up close to the shooters. He pulled a taser from his belt with each hand as he moved, silently creeping to within five feet of the shooter on the end of the line. The three men were dressed in commercial insulated jumpsuits and ski masks, he noticed as he took aim at the second and third shooters.
He waited for the shooter nearest him to run out of ammo -- when he did and moved to reload, Johnny fired both tasers at the same time.
The electrified barbs hit their marks, catching the second shooter in the neck and the third in the chest. Both men twitched and went down. The first shooter, still reloading his weapon, turned to find Johnny's boot headed for his face.
He brought his rifle up just in time. Johnny's boot missed the shooter's head but slammed into the AK-47, knocking the weapon up and away. The shooter was on his feet instantly.
Johnny grabbed another taser from his belt, but the shooter was fast -- he tackled Johnny before he could fire, knocking both men down. The snow cushioned his fall, but Johnny was on his back with the shooter on top of him. The shooter pulled out a huge, wicked hunting knife.
Johnny rolled to the side as the knife came down, simultaneously bringing his knee up into the shooter's groin as hard as he could. The knife stabbed into the shoulder of his leather jacket, missing skin by millimeters as the shooter howled and rolled off to the side.
Johnny pounced on the downed man, planting his left hand on the shooter's chest and driving his right fist hard into the man's jawbone. He felt the bone crunch under his fist, and the shooter's eyes closed.
Johnny rolled off the unconscious man, sitting down in the snow. He felt blood dribbling down his face, and ran his hand under his nose. His fingers came away red-- the shooter had smacked him in the face. Johnny hadn't even noticed. He guessed it'd happened when he'd been tackled.
Johnny wiped his hand on his pants and grabbed his radio.
"Rawlins, you hear me?" he said, pulling the knife out of his coat with his left hand.
"This is Rawlins. I copy, boss."
"Great. Get up here with some cuffs before these guys wake up, yeah?"
"This is Ellie," Ellie's voice crackled over the radio. "You OK, Johnny?"
"Never better," Johnny radioed back, wiping more blood from his nose. He felt along the bridge with his fingers -- definitely broken. It wasn't the first time he'd busted his nose, so he wasn't worried. One of his buddies in Iraq, a medic, had told him once how to fix it.
As he heard the other cops making their way to him, he grabbed a pen from his shirt pocket. He pushed the pen into his left nostril. He pushed hard to the right, setting his nose with a muffled "crunch" just as Ellie made it to him.
"Broken nose?" she asked, frowning.
"It's taken care of," Johnny assured her, slowly getting to his feet. "Wanna help me wrap these guys up?"
Ellie pulled out her cuffs. She quickly handcuffed the shooter nearest Johnny, and Johnny moved to cuff one of the tased suspects. Frank arrived and cuffed the other.
"Hey, Johnny, look at this," Frank called. Johnny walked over to the older detective, who nodded at his shooter's exposed wrist.
Just under the metal of the cuffs, Johnny could see a tattoo. He moved the cuffs aside and rolled up the suspect's heavy sleeve.
"Hmm. That's. . . interesting," Johnny mumbled.
The tattoo showed a bald eagle's profile over a backdrop of an upside-down American flag.
"This one's got the same ink," Ellie said, holding up her suspect's limp right arm. Johnny checked -- same tattoo on the third shooter.
"Could be a gang thing, but I don't recognize the design," Frank said.
Johny pulled out his BlackBerry and started the camera application. He snapped a few pictures of the tattoos, then emailed them to Eric. As soon as the emails were away, he dialed Eric's office number.
"Hey," Eric answered. "Your email is coming through now."
"Great. You recognize the design at all?" Johnny asked.
"You sound funny. Everything all right out there?"
"Busted nose. I'll live."
"To answer your question, I know the design. It's still up on my screen."
"Of course it is. I just sent it to you," Johnny said.
"No, I mean, it's still up on my screen from earlier this morning," Eric said. "From the research you had me doing. That's the symbol of The National Militia."
"Is it, now? Good work, Eric. Is Enano there?"
"Yeah. He's watching Nathaniel interrogate your guy Alex Kelley."
"Pick his brain, see if he knows what these National Militia guys are up to."
"Will do. You have someone set your nose already?"
"Did it myself."
"That's pretty hard-core, man. All right, then," Eric said. "I'll convo with Agent Enano and see what I can find out. I'll call you as soon as I have something."
"Appreciate it, Eric," Johnny said.
"You Midwesterners. You guys pay me, Johnny. You don't have to thank me for doing my job," Eric laughed.
Johnny chuckled and hung up.
"The National Militia? What the fuck are they doing shooting at my SWAT team?" Ellie asked.
"No clue. I've got Eric looking into it. Rawlins, call a wagon for these guys, will you?" Johnny said as they dragged the three unconscious shooters down to the street.
"On it. I'll keep an eye on 'em until it gets here," Rawlins said, propping his suspect against the damaged SWAT truck.
"I'll keep you company. My ride's busted up, anyway," Will said, smirking and slinging his Remington over his shoulder.
Frank led the bomb squad into the mosque. The four-man team looked a little shaken up, but uninjured. Johnny and Ellie followed them into the building, where the Imam was waiting.
"Are you all right, officers?" Siddiq asked. His voice was filled with concern.
"We're fine, sir," Johnny told him.
"No, you're not. That's a broken nose if I've ever seen one," Siddiq said, shaking his head.
"It's fine, sir. I've already set it," Johnny told him.
"I'll go get you some ice, Deputy. Then I'll finish showing your men around."
Frank had already shown the bomb squad into the office. One of the men was examining the panel -- Johnny walked up and leaned against the office's door frame.
"Definitely tampered with, guys. I can see very recent tool marks on the wall, and this thermostat's a dummy," the bomb tech said.
"Guy was all over the place, apparently. The Imam will show you where in a moment," Johnny said.
"I understand y'all found a blueprint at the suspect's house," the tech said.
"Yeah, it's what led us here in the first place," Frank said.
"Mind if we take a look?" the tech said.
Frank reached into his jacket. He pulled out the blueprint, which was now in a clear plastic evidence bag. The tech looked it over briefly, then handed it to another tech. The second tech looked it over, then whistled slowly.
"Yep. That looks bad," the second tech said, nodding at the blueprint.
"Bad? As opposed to a good bomb?" Ellie asked.
"What he means is, this plan's set for minimum explosion, but maximum structural collapse. Several small charges on structural points," the first tech explained. "Whoever set this up wanted to hurt people, not destroy the building. Your guy wants people crushed to death, trapped in rubble -- not blown up. He wants people to die suffering."
Johnny held back a shudder. He knew Alex was dealing with some rage issues, but he couldn't imagine the young man having this much hate for anyone. This was vicious.
Siddiq returned with a plastic bag full of ice, which Johnny placed on the bridge of his smashed nose.
"Good morning, sir. I'm Vince. My guys here are Tony, Aaron, and Ryan," the lead tech said, holding out his hand. Siddiq shook it.
"Gentlemen," Siddiq greeted evenly.
"Sorry to interrupt your day, sir, but we need you to show us exactly where this guy who came to work on the heat went while he was here. Anything you can remember about him -- his equipment, tools -- would be helpful," Vince said.
"Of course. This way," Siddiq replied. The bomb squad filed out, leaving Johnny, Ellie, and Frank alone in the office.
"So. . . I guess we're essentially dead weight, now. Anyone want to go search the suspect vehicle?" Frank asked.
"Probably should," Johny nodded, digging in his pocket for some latex gloves. He found a pair -- his last -- and snapped them on.
"You two have fun. I'm going to stay inside where it's nice and warm," Ellie smirked.
Johnny followed Frank outside, where Will and Rawlins were standing over the now-conscious prisoners. Their masks had been removed. Johnny noticed that all three men were white and in their 20s. Something about them -- mullets, bad mustaches -- screamed " trailer trash."
"Hey, man. Think I could maybe get a cigarette?" one of them drawled as Johnny walked past.
"No," Johnny said without slowing down.
"Sumbitch. Glad I broke your goddamn nose," the redneck muttered.
Johnny let the comment go and followed Frank to the black SUV.
It wasn't the black Ford Edge Johnny was expecting, he saw as he got close -- it was a Nissan Murano.
"Nice truck," Frank commented.
"Yeah, it is," Johnny agreed. "Frank, did those guys stike you as a little --"
"Inbred? Hickish?" Frank said.
"In a nutshell, yeah."
"I'm wondering the same thing. How do semi-retarded fuckups like that get military-grade weapons and model-year vehicles?" Frank said. Johnny shrugged and tried the driver-side door handle. It was unlocked.
The big truck was almost showroom-new, and very clean inside. The only evidence it had ever been occupied was a duffel bag on the back seat and a half-empty soft pack of Newports on the dashboard.
"Prison smokes," Frank commented with a grin. "I'll take the trunk if you wanna check out the bag."
Johnny nodded and opened the duffel. "Prison smokes," Frank commented with a grin. "I'll take the trunk if you wanna check out the bag."
Johnny nodded and opened the duffel. Johnny guessed a search of the suspects wouldn't turn up any identification, either.
"Trunk's clean," Frank reported. "Freakishly so. Just the spare tire, still has the instruction sheet attached. Truck has plates, but I'm willing to bet they come up fake when we run 'em."
"No bet here," Johnny said, shaking his head. "They must have been waiting for the mosque to go up -- make sure it goes as planned."
"Then they saw the SWAT van pull up, figured we made 'em, so they freaked out and started throwing bullets at us," Frank said, nodding.
"I found a couple of flip cams in their stuff," Johnny said, nodding at the duffel. "Which means they were going to record the carnage."
"Sick fucks. But that means they had to take the cameras somewhere. Which means --"
"Which means there's probably more of them," Johnny said.