Authors: Jerry B. Jenkins
Tags: #FICTION / Christian / General, #FICTION / Religious
Boone made one more call before he left. “Jack, I need another favor.”
“You're pushing the envelope, Boones.”
“I know, but you love me, so you can't help yourself.”
“Yeah, yeah. What now?”
“I need you to run a plate for me.”
“What are we, back on the street? Why can't you do this?”
“You said yourself I shouldn't be related to this case. By the way, how'd your one o'clock meeting go with Pete?”
“How'd you know about that?”
“I'm a detective, Jack. I know everything. You taught meÂ well.”
“It was no big deal.”
“I didn't say it was.”
“It went fine.”
“Good. Run this number for me, will you?” He recited it.
“Okay, but then can we be done with this?”
“I'm seeing it through to the end.”
“I never thought I'd say this, Boones, but I'm going to be glad when you go under the knife again so you'll be off the streets for a while.”
“That's cold. I was kinda hoping you'd take over in my absence.”
“C'mon, Jack. I know you're a justice freak, and what's happening here is not just.”
“So all the evidence against Haeleyâ?”
“Is turning out to be bull.”
“No bias on your part.”
“You know better than that.”
Jack was silent awhile. Then, “I like Haeley. You know that. But Pete and I go back to the academy, before you were born. It's awful hard to question his judgment.”
Now it was Boone's turn to fall silent. How he wanted to tell Jack even a little of what Pete had told him. And about the property and cars Pete seemed to own. A hundred fifty to two hundred grand a year was nothing to sneeze at, but was it enough to buy those things? Besides, Pete hadn't always made that, and he had put kids through college. But Boone knew with all that was in him that these houses were going to prove to have been paid off. “I know, Jack,” he said finally. “Can we just mutually agree to keep open minds and let the evidence tell the story?”
“That's all I ask, Boones.”
Again Boone laid his cell phone open on the passenger seat, ready to punch Answer and Speaker if necessary. Then he headed to a parking garage near the US Customs building on Canal Street. Among other things, the structure housed the Chicago division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's gang crime unit and crime lab.
Boone was woozy and weary as he made his way through the frigid garage to the elevators, trying to tell himself he already had enough to take suspicion off Haeley. But he wasn't completely sure himself. Just before emerging near the crime lab, he took a call from Jack.
“New Toyota Avalon registered to Thelma Johnson, West Oak Street, Chicago. Significant?”
“Might be. Thanks. You don't happen to be sitting in front of your computerâ”
“Yes, what?” Jack said, sighing.
“Just by chance, does she own other vehicles?”
Boone heard keystrokes, then a whistle through Jack's teeth. “Hmph. Two others. Good call. Couple of brand-new Bimmers, both 760Li's, one black, one white. Has 'em listed at a different address, though. Naperville.”
“What would those go for, Jack? It should be there in the stats.”
More keystrokes. “Hmm. She got a deal. They retail in the high 130s. She got the two for a quarter million even, tax included. Whoever this is is well heeled, Boones. She paid without financing.”
“Wow.” He tried to sound nonchalant with his thanks but apparently failed.
“What's all this about?” Jack said.
“I don't know yet. If it starts to make sense, I'll get back to you.”
“Can I stop playing secretary now?”
“Only for now. It's kind of fun having you at my beck and call.”
“Ooh, if you were here right nowÂ .Â .Â .”
“What, Jack? What would you do to your favorite protÃ©gÃ©?”
“How does a nice playful smack on the shoulder sound?”
Dr. Ragnar Waldemarr met Boone in the foyer outside the crime lab, and it was obvious he was troubled. “You're not going to be happy, Detective.”
Boone followed the doctor to an anteroom of one of the largest evidence caches in the city. Two cardboard boxes lay on the table, each with its lid set off to the side. A short stack of paper sat in front of the boxes.
“We have evidence missing, Drake.”
“Don't tell meÂ .Â .Â . the Glock?”
“And the shell casing.”
“But they're both still listed on the sheet, right?”
“And you have a record of who has been in here?”
“You know we do.”
“Then it should be easy toâ”
“If someone hadn't gotten to the recordings, yes.”
“You have got to be kidding me.”
“I wish. The problem is that the DVDs for the last two weeks are blank. As you can imagine, we've had dozens of personnel in here to study evidence, and each is logged in and out with a record of what they are looking at. We rarely, if ever, have occasion to check our tapes. But clearly the equipment has been malfunctioning for a long time. I only just now turned it to Record, so you and I can smile for the camera.”
“What was it set on when you got to it?”
“That makes no sense.”
“Well, at the very least it's going to be hard to prove it was malfeasance. It could have easily been an accident. But it makes for quite a coincidence that we also have evidence missing. I mean, I checked the discs only because of that. As soon as I got the boxes down, I knew. A box with a gun has a certain heft to it. But see for yourself.”
In the box marked
Weapon, shell casings, crime scene photos, garage diagram
lay a full velveteen sack.
“I just checked that,” Waldemarr said. “It contains all twenty shell casings from the two Beretta M9 service pistols the officers emptied into the shooter. The single shell casing from the Glock is gone.”
Boone pulled from the box a thin manila envelope. Inside was a folder containing photos of the garage where the shooting had taken placeâfrom the stairwell door to his blood on the floorâand a dozen pictures of the riddled body of the bad guy. There was also a rough, hand-drawn sketch of the area indicating where the shots had originatedâboth from the assailant and from the responding officers.
The other box, marked
Blood, DNA, clothing,
Among the stack of documents was a long list of those who had signed in and out for the privilege of studying the evidence. It included Jack, Pete, Friedrich Zappolo, various evidence technicians, members of the court, and personnel from the US Attorney's office.
“You'll want to add your John Henry, Drake.”
Boone studied the list as he signed. “Who's this?”
Waldemarr leaned in. “Antoine Johnson. Works out of the 18th, lists himself as an evidence tech. May be called to testify, I guess. But wasn't the shooter killed?”
“Yeah, but we're looking at conspiracy here. The gun could help with that.”
“Oh, there is the GSR I mentioned.”
Waldemarr retrieved a small envelope that contained a clear pouch with what appeared to be tissue scrapings. “From the shooter's trigger hand. The residue is consistent with the makeup of the bullet from a Glock .45.”
“Let me see the specs on the gun.”
Waldemarr pulled out a card. “This means nothing without the hardware.”
“It didn't happen to be a 30, did it? The subcompact?”
The doctor shook his head. “Full-size. I want to say a 39 with the .45 GAP caliber.”
“Good memory,” Boone said, studying the notes. “But like you say, we're in trouble trying to connect this to a conspiracy without the hardware.”
“Not totally,” Waldemarr said. “You're forgetting they'll call me to the stand. I bring a modicum of credibility.”
“But you would be biased toward the Chicago PD.”
“My notes are based on my personal examination of the weapon the evidence techs delivered. It proved to have fired one round. And we had the shell casing for that.”
“And now all we have is you, Boone.”
Boone laughed. He
“Just make sure your surgeon delivers to me what he pulls from your shoulder. If it doesn't match up with a Glock 39 with .45 GAP bullets, I'll throw in the towel.”
Monday, February 8, 5:30 p.m.
By the time Boone had parked Mrs. Lamonica's car a few blocks away, so no one would connect him with the vehicle, and finally reached his apartment, he was so weak he could barely put one foot in front of the other. And he realized that he had not eaten anything at Fletcher Galloway's party. A piece of cake might have tided him over. But also nothing since? And no meds? What was he thinking?
Boone knew better than to medicate himself on an empty stomach, so he staggered to the kitchen and pawed through the refrigerator. All he found were sandwich fixings, and having to prepare something seemed the worst idea he could imagine.
Above the fridge was a half bag of corn puffs, which strangely appealed. He'd been working out regularly and eating well before the shooting, but now he just wanted sustenance. And had that been a bottle of chocolate milk in the refrigerator? With a shudder he sat on the couch and found both weirdly satisfying.
Boone turned on the news, then took his meds. Before he knew it, the news anchors' heads were swimming, their patter making no sense, and he had collapsed to his right side.
About twenty minutes later he was awakened by his phone. It was Haeley.
“Oh, I'm so glad you called,” he slurred. “I didn't want to leave it the way it was.”
She sounded flat. “I don't want to feel like I have to convince you, Boone. You're more than my lawyer's investigator. At least I hope you are.”
“I am. Believe me, I am.”
“What's the matter with you, anyway? You sound drunk.”
“You know better'n 'at.”
“Just now taking your meds?”
“Get some rest. You need me to come over there? Because you know I will. Mom's here, andâ”
“I'd love that, but FranchâFranzâFrâFffâPastor Sosa's coming later.”
“Take a nap, love, will you?”
“Jus' for you.”
“I do want to see you, Hael.”
“If I'm not in jail,” she said.
“Anything new on that? I wasn't able to get back to Fritz today.”
Haeley hesitated. “He's sounding pessimistic, frankly. You up to hearing this?”
Boone sat up, trying to focus. “Yeah.” He wanted to tell her that what he was finding would keep her out of jail. But he wasn't so sure.
“I can't leave Max again, not even with my mom. And if I wind up heading back to a place like County, I might run first, and I'm not kidding.”
“Don't say that.”
“Boone, I'm dead serious. I will not go through that again. I have never been more scared in my life.”
“But, Haeley, I know better than anyone that no one can run anymore. There's too much technology. People can run only so long, and when they're caught, they're guilty.”
“Even if they're innocent. Or Zappolo would say not guilty.”
“They're guilty of running.”
After a pause, Haeley said, “You know I'm not really going to run. But I swear if I had to go back to jail, I don't know what I might do.”
“I hear you.”
“I want to be heard.”
Boone felt himself about to collapse again. “I want to be careful to underpromise and overdeliver. But if what I've been uncovering starts coming together, we're going to get through this.”
“Oh, my. I know you're trying to be encouraging, but you know what I'm hearing? That if the evidence doesn't come together, we're
going to get through this.”
“Haeley, you need to hear me. The meds are really kicking in. The only thing that could get between you and me is if I found out you were not who I thought you were.”
“Sue me. What am I supposed to think? The people out to get you make a living at building cases, being thorough, being convincing. We've got our work cut out for us.”
“I'm ready. For Max. For us. Are you, Boone?”
Boone awoke to the doorbell, wondering if he had answered Haeley or even hung up. His phone was open and on the floor.
“Just as I feared,” Francisco said as he breezed in. “I woke you, didn't I?”
“You want to just go to bed?”
“I'm looking at an empty bag of corn puffs and an empty bottle of chocolate milk. You ought to be glad I'm not yourÂ dad.”
“Trust me, I'm glad.”
“We're going out.”
“Oh, Pastor, no.”
“Unless you can show me something nutritional around here that I can whip together, I'm not taking no for an answer.”
“Busted. I've got nothing.”
Sosa pointed to Boone's coat and waggled a follow-me finger. In truth, Boone liked the idea.
I can sleep when I'm dead. Which may be soon.
He retrieved his shoulder holster and apologized for refusing Sosa's offer to help him with his coat. “Gotta do this myself. Unless you're moving in.”
“Fair enough. You carry the weapon everywhere?”
“We all do. Goes with the job.”
As they headed out the door, Francisco said, “You want me to turn off some lights?”
“No. I don't like to advertise I'm gone. Let people think I'm here.”
A few minutes and four blocks later, Boone and Francisco slid into a booth at a diner, and the pastor did the ordering. Boone couldn't imagine a healthy meal there, but Francisco mixed and matched and found him protein and vegetables. “I think you covered the carbs and dairy earlier.”
The good food cleared Boone's mind, but he knew he still needed sleep. He spilled everything to Sosa, admitting that he had his doubts about Haeley.
Boone shrugged. “Now at least I know what we're up against.”
“Don't be so hard on yourself, Boone. I've been disappointed by people I would have vouched for.”
“What am I going to do if the evidence is irrefutable?”
“God is just. Remember that. Maybe it's time you quit trying to teach Pascual and let him teach you. Just look what's becoming of that man. Spiritually he's growing like a weed. Are you?”
“I feel stalled. I was doing okay until the shooting.”
“Rehab ought to help you focus.”
“The meds kind of get in the way.”
“I'm not buying it, Boone. Don't hide behind your pills and your pain. Don't hide behind what's happening with Haeley or Pascual or your parents or your boss or even your surgery. There is such a thing as the survival of the spiritualâ”
“You keep telling me that.”
“So start hearing me. Your relationship with God is on you. You know he's doing his part. He's not going anywhere. You stay in the Word. Maintain your prayer life. Stay in church. You don't have to feel your best; you don't even have to feel sane. Just do your part. Stay at it. Everybody who depends on you deserves that. You deserve it.”
“I don't deserve anything.”
Pastor Sosa sat back and seemed to study Boone. “I stand corrected. You're right. You don't deserve anything. None of us does. But the unsearchable riches of Christ are available to you. What kind of fool would you be to not partake?”