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Authors: Lorenzo Carcaterra

Apaches (9 page)

BOOK: Apaches
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“I’m glad you’re alive, Mom,” Frank said, standing up and moving closer to the bed.

“I am too, sweetie,” Mary said.

“Dad says now things are gonna be different,” Frank said. “Better, you know, than they used to be.”

“Because I can’t be a cop anymore?” Mary asked. The sound of the words hurt more than saying them. A tear formed at the side of her good eye.

“You’ll always be a cop, Mom,” Frank said, touching her hand.

•    •    •

finally alone, she leaned her head back against the pillow, closed her eyes, and, for the first time since she was a child, began to cry. Her tears went beyond pain and past anger. They were filled with a sense of loss and a knowledge that something besides blood had been left back in that narrow alley.

The man with the knife had ripped away at more than just her body. He had torn into the deepest parts of her soul and walked out into the darkness holding what mattered most to the woman who loved being called Mrs. Columbo.

He had stripped off her badge.

Mary Silvestri was no longer a cop.


under the altar of the church, staring at twelve sticks of dynamite. They were taped to a marble slab and set to a one-hour timer that was wound around a blasting cap. All about him, members of the Brooklyn Bomb Squad raced through the church, laying down heavy detainable mats and moving aside statues and votive lights. The front and back doors to the church had been sealed minutes before, and a dozen uniform cops in heavy vests and pith helmets stood guard.

Lopez ran his index finger alongside the dynamite sticks, checking their moisture level, careful as hell not to nudge the array of red, green, and blue wires wound around the hardware store timer.

“How much time?” Gerry Dumane, the Bomb Squad commander, asked as he knelt down next to Lopez.

“Not enough,” Lopez said, eyes never moving from the device. “Closing down to twelve minutes.”

“How strong?”

“Could take out half a block. Maybe more. Depends how fresh the dyno is and what else he packed in there.”

“Jesus,” Dumane said.

Lopez turned away from the bomb and looked over at his commander.

“Don’t have to look too far,” Lopez said, pointing to a large crucifix hanging above the altar. “He’s right behind you.”

•    •    •

, Delgaldo Lopez had already put in six years of service on the Bomb Squad. He joined the PD after an eighteen-month tour of army duty, where he earned his Special Forces stripes as a munitions expert. Delgaldo had always been fascinated by explosives, from his earliest years. His father, Carlos, a Puerto Rican merchant seaman, would help satisfy his son’s curiosity by bringing home books and different forms of fireworks from his various travels. His mother, Gloria, a half-Cherokee, would keep her only son up past the midnight hour, telling him folk stories and battle tales passed down by her grandfather.

When he was ten, Delgaldo built his first explosive device out of rubber bands, baking soda, the face of his father’s old Timex, powder from two boxes of firecrackers, and blue strands of wool from his mother’s knitting basket. He brought it into science class, set the timer at two minutes, and dismantled the piece in less than thirty seconds. His teacher gave him an A for the project and two days of detention for frightening the entire class into silence.

In his teens, Delgaldo gave some thought to going on to college and studying to be a chemist. But a laboratory was too tame a place to spend a life. It wouldn’t be enough for him just to know all there was about bombs and devices. Delgaldo was not meant to be a bystander. He had warrior blood and felt a desire to carry on what his mother had always called a family tradition.

He also needed to see the bombs in action. He wanted to be there when the ticking was down to the quick, where one slip of a cutter would mean victory for the bomber and destruction for everyone else. It made Delgaldo Lopez, a tall, muscular young man with thick black hair and eyes so dark that staring into them was like looking at a blank screen, the perfect candidate for the Bomb Squad. He was the one who took the
danger calls, who didn’t sweat the risks, who never flinched as the final ticks of a timer echoed through an empty room.

To the other members of the Bomb Squad, Delgaldo Lopez, the cop they called Geronimo, was indeed a warrior.

•    •    •

play it?” Dumane asked, rubbing the back of his neck, looking around the boarded-up church.

“It’s a simple mech,” Geronimo said, still studying the bomb. “Won’t take more than two minutes, three at the outside, to shut down.”

“So what’s the problem?” Dumane said. “Do it and let’s get the hell outta here.”

“It’s too easy,” Geronimo said. “Guy goes to all the trouble of putting one in a church. Even calls it in, lets us know where it is and how much time is left. Then he leaves this, something a kid with a scope and scissors could take down?”

“Whatta ya sayin’, G?” Dumane asked. “Maybe he’s just not that good.”

“Or maybe he’s better than we think.”

Geronimo was on his feet now, scanning the empty church, searching for the shape of a bomb, the scent of the powder, his mind no longer that of a cop, but of a lone man bent on destruction.

“The crew peel through the church?” Geronimo asked, eyes looking up at a silver organ in the balcony.

“They stopped when they found the device,” Dumane said. “Why?”

“I’ll take this one down,” Geronimo said. “But have them check everything else while I do.”

“You make me so fuckin’ nervous when I hear you talk like this,” Dumane said. “Whatta ya tellin’ me?”

“He laid in two, Commander,” Geronimo said, looking
at Dumane. “The other one’s the blaster. This one’s just here to keep us busy.”

“You sure about this?”

“We could take a vote,” Geronimo said. “If you think we got the time.”

“Dummy this one,” Dumane said, running from the altar. “I’ll send for you if we find another.”

“If I’m not here, I’ll be up there,” Geronimo said, pointing to the balcony. “Up by the organ.”

“Why there?” Dumane shouted over his shoulder.

“I like organs,” Geronimo said with a smile.

•    •    •

vacations losing himself in the hills of Arizona, hiking and horseback riding through the ragged terrain of the Sedona red rock region. He went for weeks at a time, alone, seeking to keep alive the ways of his Indian ancestors and to hold on to a promise made to his mother the year he first became a member of the Bomb Squad.

“You now live among the violent,” his mother told him on that day, her voice a lyrical mix of Ponce and prairie. “Your mind and body travel in their circle. Keep your spirit strong and alive. Put it in a place it cannot be touched by evil hands.”

“I will, Mama,” Geronimo said, gently stroking the thick skin of the old woman’s face. He looked in her eyes, dancing to their own flame, and saw in them the beauty of her youth. He didn’t need the strength of the spirit world to know how easy it must have been for his father to fall in love with her.

“You visit the lands where the spirit still roams,” she said, holding his hand to her face. “Let them show you the way. It is what will keep you safe. And make me know that I will not lose a son as I have lost a husband.”

“I miss him too,” Geronimo said. His father had suffered
a stroke and died halfway through what would have been his last voyage on a merchant ship. It took three weeks for the body to make its way back home. As he had requested, Carlos Lopez was cremated and his ashes scattered about the family farm in the tropical hills of Puerto Rico.

“You have your memories,” his mother said. “And I have his heart.”

“I should go,” Geronimo said. “Won’t look good to be late on my first day.”

“Before you go, take this,” Gloria Lopez said, opening the hand that rested on her knee. Curled up in her palm was a medallion in the shape of a horse hung from a thin gold chain.

“What is it?” Geronimo asked, holding it up to the dim light of the shuttered apartment.

“Put it on,” his mother said. “And never take it off. Promise me.”

Geronimo took the medallion from his mother and hung it around his neck, tucking it inside his sweater collar. He leaned over, kissed her cheek, and held her close. It was the body of an old woman, and he would not have her for much longer.

“Promise, Delgaldo,” his mother said. “You will never take it off.”

“I promise,” Geronimo said. “Till the day I die.”

•    •    •

was packed in solid, wedged between a foot pedal and the base of the organ. Thick strips of retainer tape were wrapped around its center, insulated rows of coiled wiring folded over the sides. At its base were thirty-six pieces of heavy dynamite, the flex timer at the center surrounded by a six-pack of nitro vials. Six different-colored wires were all meshed together, each inserted into the silver lid toppings of the nitro.

Geronimo was on his back, under the organ, staring at the device. He followed the paths of the wires, each embedded in a batch of dynamite sticks, each alone holding enough power to destroy several city blocks. He admired the sheer simplicity of its design and wondered about the caliber of man he was dealing with, someone whose only pleasure came from turning loose such a force on the innocent.

He closed his eyes, both hands feeling for the medallion hidden under his bomb-resistant vest. He heard Commander Dumane squeeze in alongside him, stripped down to a T-shirt and bomb gear.

“Whatta ya need, G?” Dumane said. “I’m here.”

Geronimo opened his eyes and looked at the timer.

He had eleven minutes to defuse the bomb.

“I need a miracle,” Geronimo said. “Got any handy?”

“What’s the main contact—the nitro or the dynamite?” Dumane asked.

“Both,” Geronimo said. “One feeds into the other.”

“You could clip the wires at the center. Defuse both at once.”

Geronimo shook his head. “Timer’s connected only to one. And there’s too many wires to tell which.”

“Shit. I ain’t seen a job like this in all the years I been snappin’ bombs.”

“It’s a copycat,” Geronimo said. “Been used before.”


“German terrorist outfit, Baader-Meinhoff gang, used to plant them,” Geronimo said. “Back in the early seventies.”

“How’d they take them down?” Dumane asked.

“Best I know, no one ever capped their bombs,” Geronimo said. “German police just killed all the gang members.”

“Why don’t we ever think of shit like that?” Dumane said.

Geronimo looked at the timer, now down to six minutes, and pulled a small pair of pliers from his kit. He wiped thick beads of sweat from his upper lip and forehead and took in a long, deep breath.

“How much of the neighborhood is clear?” Geronimo wanted to know, holding the pliers in his right hand.

“Three blocks up and down, both sides,” Dumane said. “Every building and store’s emptied out.”

“This’d be a good time for you to split too,” Geronimo said, giving him a meaningful look. “In case I fuck up.”

“You selfish bastard,” Dumane said, smiling. “All you care about is glory. Well, Chief, I got bad news. This bomb you’re gonna have to share.”

“I’m gonna click the blue wires first,” Geronimo said.

“Why blue?”

“Just a hunch,” Geronimo said. “After that, if you and me are still here, I’ll move the nitro off the timer and hand them over.”

“I need a place to put ’em,” Dumane said, looking around. “Where they won’t move.”

“Up on the altar,” Geronimo said. “Might be a chalice. Should be wide enough to hold the bottles.”

“I ever tell you I hate bombs?” Commander Dumane said, crawling out from under the organ. “Only took the damn job ’cause they told me it was a temporary transfer. Ten fuckin’ years later, I’m still here, waitin’ for some out-of-work psycho’s erector set to blow me to pieces.”

“I ever tell you I love bombs?” Geronimo said, more to himself than to Dumane. “Nothin’ but me and the device. You can never beat a bomb. You just stop it. Till the next time.”

Geronimo put the pliers on the first part of the blue wires, waited a second, and then clipped them apart. Dumane was next to him, hands wrapped around a chalice, eyes on the bomb.

“Two sets of reds, two blues, and two whites,” Dumane said. “The guy’s a regular George M. fuckin’ Cohan.”

“Blues are dead,” Geronimo said. “Gonna clip the white next.”

“Another hunch?”

“It’s all I got to go on, Commander,” Geronimo said. “Unless you got a thing for red.”

“Your call, G,” Dumane said.

Geronimo rested the pliers on a long strand of white wire. His hand was steady, eyes were calm. All the tension was internal, buried inside nerve endings, heart beating at such a furious pace, he could feel it pounding against his vest.

He snapped the white wire and held his breath.

“It’s the red,” Geronimo said. “That’s the main hookup. Once I give you all the nitro, take it to the truck. I’ll meet you outside.”

“There you go, tryin’ to get rid of me again.”

Geronimo turned to look at his commander, less than three minutes left on the timer, and smiled. “I’m trusting you with the hard part,” he said. “I don’t like nitro. Makes me nervous.”

“I’ll try not to trip down the steps,” Dumane said.

“Ready?” Geronimo asked, setting the pliers down on his chest and reaching for the first bottle of nitro.

“No.” Dumane removed the lid from the chalice and gripped its base with his left hand. “But don’t let that stop you.”

Geronimo’s hands were steady as he lifted the first thimble-size bottle of nitro from its sleeve with two index fingers. He handed the bottle to Dumane without looking at him, his eyes never veering from the device, afraid to turn away. Dumane took the bottle with one hand, slowly rested it inside the chalice, and readied for the next.

Geronimo lifted the second nitro bottle, had it halfway removed, and then stopped. There was a thin copper wire attached to the base of the bottle, the other end connected to a sixty-second timer that started ticking down as soon as he touched the bottle.

BOOK: Apaches
13.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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