Authors: Jerry B. Jenkins
Tags: #FICTION / Christian / General, #FICTION / Religious
“Dead serious. But you have to be healthy. And I mean totally. No residual damage, no little things you can't do in the heat of battle.”
“Talk about incentive. That job is every cop's dream.”
“You bet it is.”
“But I can scotch it by getting involved in Haeley's case.”
“Jack, are you bribing me to stay out of it?”
not. Somebody might be.”
Boone shook his head and sighed. “I can't imagine anything else in the world that would even turn my head. I was born for that job.”
“Tell me about it.”
“I'll tell you something, all right. If Haeley turns out to be dirty in thisâand I cannot fathom thatâI won't even want to be a cop anymore, let alone chief detective in the Major Case Squad.”
The Safe House
Thursday, February 4, 11:00 p.m.
The Chicago PD had added a couple of K-9 units to the old dogs the previous owner of the junkyard included in the sale. They came with human officers, of course, or they might have torn to pieces anyone who breached the twelve-foot-high razor-wired gate.
While the old dogs were apparently asleep, the young and muscular German shepherds assigned from downtown rushed the fence and stood ready to pounce when Boone and Jack emerged from the squad. Interestingly, they made not a sound, clearly waiting for a cue from their trainer.
“Hey, Chief,” the buff plainclothes trainer said, then said something in German. The dogs immediately lost interest in the newcomers and settled in at their master's feet. “Officer Williams here.”
“Nice to meet you, Williams,” Jack said. “Say nice things to your dogs about us, hear?”
Another officerâalso in plainclothesâopened the gate, locking it behind the visitors as soon as they were inside.
Boone was mellow from the drugs, though the late-night air stung. He also found himself distracted by the plum Jack had dangled. He thought it naive of Jack to think the job might be attractive to Boone even if everything he was sure he knew about Haeley proved false. But he wasn't even entertaining that possibility.
Chief detective of the Major Case Squad, Chicago PD. Now that had a ring to it.
The dilapidated Quonset hut that had been fashioned into a safe house for Pascual Candelario and his mother and son had been left untouched on the outside. It looked for all the world like a storage unit for a junkyard. Rusty. Paint peeling. There was even a snowdrift that hid a shoveled walkway. Boone and Jack had to find their way around it to reach navigable ground.
The two cops who met Boone and Jack inside the building were also dressed like anything but police officers. It was unlikely anyone would ever breach security that far, but if they did, they would find two scruffy-looking characters on plastic-covered chairs behind a disintegrating counter under two hanging bare bulbs. The wall behind them was cluttered with dusty bric-a-brac no one would want.
But that proved the extent of the ruse. Once the inside guys had identified Boone and Jack, one of them, who introduced himself as Officer Unger, pressed a button under the counter. A section of the shelving behind them spun on its axis, just like in an old horror film, and opened to a short, dim, cavernous passageway with sheets of cloudy plastic hanging at both ends.
Unger held the plastic back, and as soon as Boone and Jack stepped inside, the wall closed behind them. When they pushed aside the plastic drape on the other end, it emptied into a large room that had been turned into a dining area. Tables, chairs, refrigerator, sink, everything.
Then, through a normal door, they came upon a corridor that led to several other doors. “PC knows you're coming,” Jack said. “We'll stay clear of the family's living quarters. He hangs out down here after hours.”
At the end of the hall Jack knocked twice and the door immediately swung open to reveal the man mountain who was Pascual Candelario. Boone had to stifle a laugh. Every other time he had seen the man, he had been dressed the way you'd expect the most powerful gang leader in the US to look. Besides the requisite prison tattoos, PC had always worn a lot of bling, the latest basketball shoes, high white socks, oversize athletic shorts and jerseyâvariously White Sox, Blackhawks, or Bears.
Now here he stood, with no jewelry, a baggy sweatshirt, blue jeans, slippers, and all covered by a massive, open, white terry-cloth robe. Except for his huge size and the tats, one of the scariest men on the planet looked like a middle-ager about to watch the newsâthough it was probably too late for that. Somehow the gangbanger responsible for multiple murders and countless other crimes lookedâBoone searched his mindâcuddly.
In a move way out of character, PC opened his arms and gathered Boone in. Just as it seemed he was about to complete the bear hug, Boone said, “Careful of the shoulder!”
Pascual immediately backed off and raised his hands. “Sorry, bro!” he said with his thick Spanish accent. “Come in, come in. Sit.”
What the CPD had done to this space was nothing short of miraculous. How they had turned the place into comfortable living quarters in such a short time was incomprehensible to Boone. It wasn't palatial, but it was new and more than adequate.
“This is where I hang out when my
and my son are asleep. Bored out of my mind, man.”
“I can only imagine.”
“No, you can't. I mean, I'm done with that life and have been a long time. But that kinda work gets a man up in the morning. Now I play with the kid, read, watch TV, talk to lawyers, work with your pastorâthanks for that, by the way. He and I speak the same language, and I don't mean just Spanish. But then, all I got is time on my hands.”
“I'm glad Francisco's taken over for me,” Boone said, as PC took their coats and led them to a long couch. “I don't really know enough to be trying to teach anybody the Bible.”
PC held up a hand as if he had something to say and needed silence to get it framed in his mind. “I got to tell you something. The more I think about this whole thing, the more I realize what you did for me and my family. You took a bullet for me, man. You coulda been killed.”
“Doing my job,” Boone said. “Something happens to you, our case is out the window.”
“Yeah, but you didn't have time to think about that. You just got between me and the shooter.” Suddenly the big man stood and went and got his Bible. “Listen to this,” he said on the way back, picking through the Post-it-noted pages. “I mean, you probably know this already, but your pastor showed me this verse and I been trying to memorize it. John 15:13. âThere is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends.'”
“Of course, that's what Jesus did. I'm sure Francisco told you that.”
“Sure, but you know what that means? You were like Jesus to me when you did that. I mean, you didn't die, but you could have. That makes us friends.”
“We were friends before that.”
“Yeah, maybe, but not really. We were working together, that's all.”
“We were brothers in Christ, PC.”
“I know. But I got a lot of brothers and sisters in Christ, and I don't know too many of 'em I would call my friends. And I only know one who was willing to die for me.”
Boone was certain his action had been trained into him, that he had responded out of instinct. But he didn't want to spoil the moment by assuring Pascual that he would have done the same for anyone he was charged with protecting.
“There's something I got to admit to you, Boone,” PC said. “I feel really bad about it. It even makes me emotional sometimes, like when I think about what you did for me.”
“Admit to me?”
“Yeah. I had a funny feeling when I saw the guy, the shooter. Something didn't feel right, and I should have said something.”
“You recognized him?”
“Sorta, but not really. I just knew something was up. And I know that if I say something right away, like, âCheck that guy,' he never gets off even one round, you know?”
“That's me too,” Boone said. “That's what made me turn and give him one more look. If I hadn't, neither of us might still be here.”
“What'd you notice?” PC said. “You didn't know he was Jazzy's nephew, did you?”
“No, I just noticed he was out of dress code. Cornrows.
you recognize him?”
PC shook his head. “I don't think I ever met him, but he looked familiar. When I see pictures of him now in the paper and on the news, I can see Jazzy. My instincts used to be real good like that. I could see stuff before it went down. Maybe it's good I'm out of the game.”
“Maybe?” Jack said.
PC laughed. “You know what I mean.”
Boone leaned forward. “Pascual, I've got to ask you something.”
“Boones,” Jack said, “careful where you're going now. IÂ don't want to hear stuff I might have to testify to later.”
Boone sat back. “I think this is a logical question under the circumstances. You want to leave the room to protect yourself?”
“Just proceed with caution is all I'm saying.”
“What's up?” Candelario said.
“I'm wondering,” Boone said, “from your perspective, where did Jazzy's nephew get his information? How was it that he was in the right place at the right time when we were keeping such a tight lid on it? I mean, if Jazzy told him, how did Jazzy know?”
“You thinking I said something?”
“No! You'd have been writing your own death warrant. Anyway, you're way past trusting Jazzy, even if you were cohorts for a lot of years.”
“You got that right. Plus, if you remember, you didn't even tell me all the details. I couldn't have told anybody even if I wanted to.”
“Then what do you make of it?”
“I'm no cop, but you gotta go back to square one and figure out who knew. Couldn't have been too many people, right?”
Boone nodded and glanced at Jack, who was shaking his head. “Let's not start listing the only people we know of who had inside information. There's no future in that.”
“I'm already getting the drift,” PC said. “Had to be a leak, eh? Inside job? But why? Who would do that to a case like this and to somebody like you?”
“If I'm you,” Pascual said, “I'm wanting to get to the bottom of that, and right now.”
On their way out, Boone was dragging and couldn't hide it from Jack. Keller stopped him before they got to the secret exit. “Let me suggest something,” he said. “This place has a lot of roomâ”
“Hear me out. You give me your apartment key, tell me everything you need, and I bring it back. You're about to drop where you stand.”
“Jack, I want to get back to my own place, really.”
“You know I have to call the 11th and trigger the block patrol for your apartment 24-7.”
“Not on my account.”
“Regardless, it has to be done.”
“I need my own car and I need to be close enough to help Haeley and Zappolo, maybe even Haeley's mom.”
“You're about to collapse.”
“So let's go.”
“I'm going to have to follow you home to make sure you make it.”
“Isn't that what friends are for?”
“Don't flatter yourself, Boones. Besides, PC is your new best friend.”
“Then let him follow me home.”
“Just get going.”
Friday, February 5, 12:41 a.m.
Despite his pain and exhaustion, not to mention the heavy meds he took before retiring, Boone found sleep elusive. His mind roiled with questions, puzzles, leads.
For more than an hour, as he struggled to find a position where the raging pain didn't push through the anesthetics, Boone racked his brain for any hints from his history with Garrett Fox.
Garrett was the kind of cop that other cops largely couldn't stand. Oh, he was built for the job and had the requisite tools. Squat and muscular, he was about five years older than Boone. He had worked undercover for the Organized Crime Division while Boone was learning the ropes on the streets of the 11th precinct.
Long before they met, Boone had formed an opinion of the man. He was known as a big talkerâlargely about himself. That was not a prescription for success as an undercover cop. Jack Keller had once been undercover, and for a lot longer than Fox. He'd planted seeds still being harvested years later. And yet Boone had been Jack's partner and protÃ©gÃ© for a long time before he knew Jack had ever been undercover.
That's how it was supposed to be. A cop infiltrating bad guys for a living was on the edge every minute and was expected to keep that from even his loved ones. Jack eventually told Boone that he had gone through “my second and third wives during that time, and they still don't know I was undercover. I left the house in suit and tie, had a place where I changed into street clothes, and changed back before getting home. 'Course, the hours were so lousy and unpredictable that no woman in her right mind would believe paperwork kept me at the office till the wee hours.”
Garrett Fox, though he seemed to relish the undercover role, talked his way right out of his assignment. Those in the know said that Pete Wade finally had enough of him and told him that if he heard one more story of Garrett blabbing about his workâeven just to other copsâhe'd put him back in uniform in the toughest district in the city, the 11th.
When it happened, Garrett told everyone it was his own choiceâthat he was burned out and wanted a normal life again. No one bought it, particularly Boone. After his own personal crisis and Jack's reassignment, Boone found himself temporarily with a new partner: Fox himself.
From the first day, he found Garrett so obnoxious and mouthy that he wished he could say the man wasn't a good cop. Trouble was, in many ways he was very good. He was one of those by-the-book guys you could trust to have your back. He never backed down, never took any guff from punks, and he was good about doing his own paperwork.
That, however, didn't stop him from talking constantly. He seemed to never take a breath, even to let his partner get a word in. Not only did he regale Boone with all his heroic exploitsâsome so embellished that they couldn't stand the light of scrutinyâbut he also bragged of all his prowess with, and conquests of, females.
Boone's memory of the months riding with Garrett had to do with endurance. He tried tuning out the constant dinânot only all the stories, but also Fox's penchant for reviewing and critiquing every move Boone made. It was common knowledge that, though young and inexperienced, Boone was already a better cop than Garrett Fox would ever be. But that didn't stop Garrett from exhorting, counseling, advising, criticizing.
Rather than cause a rift that would make for even more horrible eight-hour shifts, Boone would look out the window and offer a few grunts and uh-huhs. But when Fox would ask what he thought and Boone hadn't been listening, he had to fake it.
Boone had to admit, despite all that, he and Garrett had also had some choice moments on duty. Even in the middle of the night, wishing he could turn off his brain and rest his ravaged body, Boone found himself chuckling aloud at the memories.
One snowy night they had been called to a liquor store to break up a domestic disturbance. “That's a new one,” Boone said. “They brought their fight out in public?”
Fox shook his head when the name of the couple was announced. The two cops glanced at each other. They had been called to Barry and Barbara's home for the same reason more than once. But now at a liquor store?
Barry was a skinny little unemployed man known to have girlfriends on the side, while Barbaraâthe breadwinnerâlooked like a walking fire hydrant. She wasn't more than five feet tall but weighed more than two hundred pounds and was a long way from pretty. Both were known drinkers and substance abusers. No cops ever knew which to take to jail after one of these calls, because while Barbara would call to report he had hit her, Barry always looked like he had taken the worst of it.
So Boone and Garrett pulled into the parking lot of the liquor store, only to find Barbara ranting about her husband being “in there with some whore!”
Garrett told Boone, “Let me talk to her. You find hubby and whoever.”
As Boone headed for the door, he could hear Barbara raging about what she was going to do “to both those dirtbags!” Garrett was trying to calm her.
To Boone's surprise, he found Barry and a nice-looking young woman casually perusing the shelves. “Hey, Barry. Can I talk to you for a minute?”
“I know she's out there, Officer. I heard the man call you guys.”
“Then can we get this sorted out? We can't have her disturbing the peace.”
The young woman said, “Tell her to get herself gone.”
“Ma'am,” Boone said, “you'd be advised to stay out of this.”
“Stay out of it? I'm the reason for it.”
“That may be, but we're here to calm the situation, and that's what we intend to do.”
“With her out there? Good luck with that.”
Barry said, “If you were me, would you want to go out there?”
Boone fought a smile. “My partner should have her calmed down by now. It's only fair to this establishment that we take the discussion elsewhere, don't you think?”
“Can I at least buy my hooch?”
“You probably owe it to this guy.”
Boone noticed that the cash for the alcohol came from the girl's purse. When the two followed him out, a crowd had gathered, and it was obvious Garrett Fox had had little success mollifying Barbara. As soon as she saw them walking between the cars she spun away from Fox and charged, screaming, “I'll kill both y'all!”
Boone extended both arms like a safety patrol officer and said, “No, Barbara! Stop!”
With that she punched Boone square in the mouth.
“Barbara! Don't make me cuff you!”
And she slugged him again. Barbara, two; Boone, zero.
Though he knew he could knock her into the middle of next week, Boone was not inclined to hit a womanâthough just then her resemblance to one was not clear.
Fox was rightly trying to control the crowd, and Boone was worried that Barry might suddenly come to Barbara's aid. That made no sense but happened often in such situations. Boone pulled his cuffs from his belt, hoping to simply get Barbara subdued and into the back of the squad without giving anyone cause to charge police brutality.
Barbara was having none of it. She came right out of her shoes in the snow, attacking Boone as he tried to grab her flailing arms. She scratched his face, gouged an eye, ripped his shirt, and somehow her blouse tore open. Not a prettyÂ sight.
Fox finally decided that the crowd was just there for show and that Barry was not going to be a problem, so he moved in to help. Boone was slipping and about to go down when Garrett grabbed Barbara by her hair, only to have her wig come off in his hands.
Barbara spun like a dervish, ripped Fox's shirt, and scratched his face as the two cops fought to drag her closer and closer to the squad. Boone had wrestled fifty-five-gallon drums with more success. Fox got the back door open, but now all three were thrashing and slipping.
Boone reached the transmitter at his shoulder and radioed for backup. For several minutes it was all Boone and Garrett could do to just keep Barbara contained. She never quit struggling.
Finally three more squads pulled up and four cops leaped out.
“Throw her in the car,” Boone said.
They did, and as soon as her door was shut, one of the cops said, “Who's next, Drake?”
“That's it,” Boone said.
“That's it, thanks.”
The cop looked at the mess Barbara had made of Boone and Garrett. He fell to his knees in the snow, laughing so hard he could hardly breathe. “She did that to you?”
Boone had still not lived that one down.
To cap it off, as they were about to get back into the squad, a tall, mean-looking guy emerged from the crowd pulling off his parka, pointed at Boone, and said, “I'll take you on right now all by myself.”
Boone squinted at him. “Ronnie, is that you?”
“That's my name. Ask me again and I'll tell you the same.”
“You didn't just say that.”
“Put up or shut up, pig!”
“Ronnie Hibbard, right?”
That stopped him.
“Yeah! What of it?”
“Didn't I just see a warrant for you yesterday?”
Ronnie's shoulders slumped. “Yeah, that's me.” His picked up his parka and put it on as he approached one of the other officers, hands before him and ready to be cuffed. “No sense gettin' all excited about it.”
Boone decided to give up trying to sleep for a while. He wanted to see Haeley in the morning and meet her mother later in the day, but she would understand if he had to sleep in. He gingerly rolled over and worked his way to a sitting position on the side of the bed.
Garrett. Where was he? He just had to know. Fox was the one guy with a motive.
Boone's career had almost ended prematurely when he slipped on the ice putting a drunk-and-disorderly into the back of the squad, grabbed the door to keep from falling, and nearly crushed the arrestee to death. Fox claimed to have seen the whole thing, while confiding to Boone that he knew he had lost his cool and done it on purpose. In some act of blind loyalty to a partner, Garrett lied under oath, only to have the truth exposed in the end by the victim himself.
Boone was conflicted. Here the guy had tried to stand up for him, misguided as he was. Boone had certainly not asked Fox to lie. Lying under oath to a police investigative panel had cost Fox his job. And Boone's acquittal had freed him to take the new role under Jack Keller in the Organized Crime Division.
To Boone's amazement, he discovered that Jack and the rest of the brass in OCD had been fully prepared to go another route if Boone had been convicted and dismissed from the force. They had another candidate in the wings. None other than Garrett Fox.
It made zero sense. With Fox's background and reputation, why would anyone think he would fit back into OCD, this time in a leadership role?
Maybe he was a pet of Fletcher Galloway, the OCD chief. Jack sure knew everything about Fox. Pete Wade had busted him back to uniform. Even Haeley had had her run-ins with him. He was one of many who had come on to her, and she had told Boone that he was the most egregious, the most inappropriate, the one who had made her feel the most uncomfortable.
Boone had seen Fox around the office now and then, and he was largely ignored. He liked to pretend he had just moved on, but when he lost his job, that seemed the end of him. Boone knew he had landed some kind of security gig. But was it possible he was still able to get past personnel on other floors after hours and nose around in OCD?
It didn't seem likely. But he had to still be upset with Boone for not appreciating that he was willing to lie for him. He had to be devastated at not getting the job that had gone to Boone. And he was humiliatedâor should have beenâby Haeley's continual rejections.
If there was a disgruntled former employee with more of a motive for screwing up a major case, Boone had no idea who it would be.