The first thing Massey did was watch Anne’s hair flow in the brief wind, the color catching light from the street lamps and turning auburn. She was buzzing with anger. Globe had called. She smiled when she realized she messed up again. The Major wanted Joaquin found and brought to him. For what reason Anne didn’t elaborate, and Massey didn’t inquire. They had things under control. There was reassurance, a plan set to be executed. So they went their separate ways, each with their own role to play. The next thing Massey did was to spur into action without thinking, dodging traffic to reach Andy’s place, praying to whatever totem brought luck to cops that Anne had enough strategy to stall Globe’s lackey and slow down the search. Then they’d be good. Then they could start their attack against Globe’s rising power. He tried to call Andy’s phone a dozen times, but no one picked up. A feeling of dread settled in Massey’s gut. The windows on the street were all ablaze. They cast brilliant white stars on doors and windows overlooking the street. Flashing reds and blues confirmed his fears as he turned onto the street where Andy’s apartment was.
A fire truck was parked horizontally blocking the street. The hose wiggled on the asphalt like a python struggling in the heat of the still smoldering air. Once released the water rained like silver crystals against the black skyline full of smoke and desperation. The night-lights were gone, choked in the background of the death curtain. Massey stepped out of his cruiser, hand pressed against his mouth to cut out the smoke from entering his nostrils. By instinct, his dry mouth tried hungrily to inhale the ashes floating in the air. He recognized the apartment that was the sole attention of the crisis. The charred shape on the façade reminded him of a giant moth, a nuclear shadow imprinted on the side of the building. The notion made him dizzy, one monstrosity atop another. He elbowed through a small but growing crowd of odd-lookers. They stood around, mouths agape in their bedclothes, tightly hugging large frames and small frames in robes both tattered and luxurious. No one seemed to care how he or she looked or even who they were. They just wanted to see the dead and burned, the destruction that always followed the flames.
Outside of the crowd and into the danger zone Massey quickened his pace and ducked under yet another yellow police tape. His pace turned to a near jog to the ambulance and the body being loaded into it.
“Is he going to live?” Massey heard himself ask looking down at Andy’s bleeding face. He didn’t dare look around for a second body, his mind instantly questioning whether Joaquin was impervious enough to survive a fire, or an explosion, but then he recalled that duplex fire that was the source of him tracking the youth. He allowed himself a small sigh. If Joaquin hadn’t tried to carjack him, he would be one of the sheep bleating to the favor of Major Jacob Globe.
The paramedic pulled himself into the back of the ambulance grabbing for the doors. “He has sustained a few more serious injuries, but he’ll live. He was lucky your colleague pulled him out before he suffocated.” A gesture of the head made Massey swivel.
He stared at a middle-aged man standing by one of the police cruisers covered with a blanket to scatter away his shock. He measured how much bloodied and bruised his face was. The blanket slipped and uncovered his black jacket emblazoned with the yellow FBI letters. Massey breathed in deep ignoring the warmth in the air close to sweltering in the proximity, close to catching a swift drive down his throat. He had to get away before the agent saw him.
“Was there someone else injured?” A shake of the head was the proffered response. That was all Massey needed to know. Joaquin was in the wind for better or for worse.
“You can follow in your car, but it’ll be some hours before you can question John Doe here.”
Massey’s mind was astray for a moment his darkest thoughts orbiting his heated head. He felt like he had a brain tumor, noises and voices brimming at the top of his consciousness none of which he could or cared to hear clearly. He was in deep shit. Anne was in deep shit. And Joaquin was gone.
“I’ll catch up,” he managed to mumble.
He walked away maneuvering past firefighters quenching now invisible flames. Possible gas leak someone muttered, but Massey waved his badge and pushed his way through. The stairs to Andy’s apartment hadn’t caught the fire that had destroyed his home, but Massey focused on his work and saw the bullet holes dug in several places on the wall. His brows furrowed, the fire becoming a murder scene, a purposeful attempt on someone’s life, possibly Joaquin’s.
There was nothing to see in the tiny apartment past the broken down door and the signs of struggle, the dents in the wall, and dappled powder burns. The desk with the computer was an elephant’s foot without the radiation, a melted sculpture of gray and black smelling like a gutter in the summer. Pieces of paper were scattered on the floor. Most of it was burned beyond recognition, others, however…
Massey picked one unburned triangle, large letters spelling the abbreviation “SPD.” The file was in tatters and the proof… well, the proof whatever it had been was gone in the fire, or gone with Joaquin. He’d need to be some kind of literature detective to gain any information from the pieces no larger than filthy flakes of ash. Was all the important information going to disappear with Andy? Massey’s hands balled into fists. If Globe got to him first just out of spite, just out of curiosity he would learn what he needed, and he would end Andy’s life. Anne wouldn’t be able to intervene. The path ahead felt hopeless.
Massey knew he had to get to Andy before they did. He had to be one step ahead if they were to have any chance of doing this thing. Any last chance to save humanity from a madman.
Next: Hot Dog Heaven