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Vince headed for the squad room as soon as they got back. “Go get a cup of coffee or something while I make a couple of calls,” he told his rookie trainee.
“Yes sir,” he sighed in disappointment that Vince didn’t trust him enough to let him listen in to the conversations and resolved to build his training officers confidence in his abilities. He wanted to be a part of nailing this jerk.
Vince picked up the phone and dialed the operator, a moment later the nasally voice responded.
“What city please,” it inquired.
“Los Angeles…The LA county fire department headquarters,” he said. A moment later the phone at the other end began to ring.
“Los Angeles County Fire Department,” Woman’s voice replied.
“Yes ma’am; this is Officer Vince Howard with the LAPD.”
“Yes sir?” The voice questioned politely.
“Could I speak with whoever keeps the logs on the department’s runs,” he asked.
“Can I ask what it’s in reference to?” She pressed, not wanting to bother the chief if someone of lesser status could answer the officer’s question.
“Yes…I just need access to station 51’s logs for their runs for last night and this morning,” he explained without giving any further reason.
“That would have to be cleared by Battalion Chief Hayes and he’s not in yet,” she informed him. “Would you like to leave your number and I’ll have him return your call.”
Vince sighed in disappointment. He really wanted to put this to rest as quickly as possible and get to station 51 before Johnny headed for home and possibly disappeared for a couple of days as he was prone to take off to the mountains often. He just had a few questions to ask to clear up the mystery of why this victim had his name plate. “Uh…Yes ma’am; um…what time does he come in?”
“He’ll be here by eight,” she assured him.
Vince looked at his watch. 7:28, he noted. He had a half hour and Gage would be getting off duty soon. He didn’t want to call him on the off chance that he was wrong and John wasn’t on duty. While Vince would never believe the young paramedic capable of such acts of violence, it could compromise the investigation if he gave him warning that he was a suspect before he could talk to him. He blew out a frustrated breath before answering the woman’s question. “Yes ma’am; could you have him call me at 555-2341,” he asked.
“Certainly,” she agreed.
Vince hung up and stroked his chin with his fingers as he contemplated his next move. He stood up and walked rapidly down to the break room where Doug stood with a couple of other officers, listening as they discussed the stalker case. He couldn’t resist the chance to boast a bit.
“Well my partner and I have a suspect,” he bragged excitedly, stopping the conversation as the others looked at him skeptically.
“DOUG,” Vince barked sternly.
The rookie gave him a sheepish glance. “Yes sir?” he questioned.
“Don’t jump to conclusion…Let’s talk to him first shall we… BEFORE we decide he’s a suspect,” he growled.
Doug looked deflated. “Yes sir,” he muttered unhappily.
“Good,” he replied, waving him away from the others, certain he’d gotten his point across. “I want you to drive over to station 51. It’s on 223rd Street. Tell John Gage not to leave. I want to talk to him. Tell him I have to wait for a phone call but I’ll get there as soon as I get that call,” he clearly instructed the younger man. “I’ll handle it from there,” he added.
“Yes sir,” he said enthusiastically, glad that Vince was planning on letting him help with the investigation. He set his cup down and snapped the keys to the patrol car from Vince and almost ran from the room.
One of the officers turned to Vince. “What do you wanna talk to Gage for?” He asked curiously.
“He’s not your ‘suspect’ is he?” Another laughed in disbelief.
Vince grinned at the teasing tone. “Not really but we did find his name plate in our last victims hand,” he explained.
Their mouths dropped open in shock. “Johnny?” One almost squeaked. Several others shook their heads doubtfully.
“There’s no way Johnny is involved in this,” another said with certainty.
“I know Scotty,” Vince replied. “That’s why I have to wait for that phone call. I’m pretty sure Gage was on duty last night but I need the log books to corroborate that and then see if Johnny can give me some idea how his name plate got into this guys possession. Maybe it’ll give us a place to start looking for the guy,” he explained.
“Maybe he treated her at some other time and lost it then,” someone suggested.
“It’s possible,” Vince admitted. “But one of my victims said the guy was wearing a uniform and that it didn’t fit him right, so I figure this guy got a hold of Gage’s uniform,” he explained.
“And that will give you a suspect pool,” another said with a nod of approval.
“Good…Cuz there’s no way I’d believe Gage would hurt anyone,” Scotty added.
“Me either,” Vince agreed as he headed for the door to return to the squad room. He pulled his notebook from his pocket as he walked. He flipped through until he found the phone number for Mr. Morrisey; grateful that Doug had at least managed to get that from the man. He slid into a chair and picked up the phone.
A few seconds later the older man’s voice answered. “Hello?”
“Mr. Morrisey, this is Officer Howard from the LAPD.”
“Yes sir,” he replied curiously.
“Yes Mr. Morrisey….My partner spoke to you about the event on the highway.”
“Yes sir,” he agreed.
“I just have a quick follow up question if you don’t mind?” He asked.
“What can I help you with Officer?” Morrisey asked.
“The vehicle the suspect was driving? You said it was white?”
“Yes sir…A White pickup truck,” he asserted.
“You’re sure it was a pickup truck?” He asked.
“Oh yes sir,” he replied.
“Not a land rover?”
“Nope…Saw it clear as a bell…A white pickup,” he assured him.
“Thank you sir,” Vince replied in relief.
“Anything I can do,” he promised. “You just call me if you think of anything else you need to know,” he offered.
“Thank you sir,” Vince answered before hanging up the phone. Now he just needed to wait for Chief Hayes before he headed over to talk to John.
The station control unit began to tone at 7:00 AM sharp. The crew of station 51 rolled out of bed. Feet slid into boots and bunker pants were pulled into place as they trooped tiredly out to the kitchen.
John was tugging his uniform shirt into place over his suspenders while Marco headed over to make the coffee. Chet followed his friend while Mike, Hank and Roy flopped tiredly into their seats and slumped down to wait for the coffee to brew.
They’d been called out to a warehouse fire at 4:00 AM. Thankfully there had been no victims, but the crew as well as the two paramedics hadn’t returned until almost six. They were all still tired and reeked of smoke.
Johnny shuffled to the back door to retrieve the paper from the stoop and turned to head back to the table. He unfolded the paper to find the sports section, anxious to see how the Rams had done.
Chet reached out and snapped the paper from his colleague’s fingers. “Thank you,” he taunted his young crewmate.
“HEY!” John protested angrily.
“Gotta find the comics,” he said with a grin.
“Tough…I wanna check the sports section,” John argued.
Chet waved the paper at him. “Possession is nine tenths of the law,” he quoted.
“You stole it,” John shot back.
Chet giggled but made no effort to return the paper.
“Caa…ap?” John complained barely short of a whine.
Hank ran his hands over his face tiredly. “CHET! Give John the sports section and both of you SHUT UP!” He barked, too tired to play referee between these two at this hour of the morning.
“What a grouch,” Chet taunted his young friend, but he pulled the paper open and got the sports section, handing it to Gage.
“Thank you,” John growled, before he went and sat down and began to read.
Roy picked up the main body of the paper. His blue eyes scanned the front page for anything of interest. They stopped on the headline. ‘NEW INFORMATION ON HIGHWAY STALKER’. Roy began to read. His heart began to pound as he read the part where the attacker was dressed as a paramedic. “Oh nooo,” he groaned.
The crew glanced up. “What is it pal?” Hank questioned worriedly.
Roy glanced up at the others. “We got trouble,” he said somberly.
Detective Frasier pulled up in front of a rundown looking farmhouse. He glanced at the license he held in his hand and then at the mailbox. This was definitely the right place.
A truck that looked even older than the one the victim had been driving was parked in the driveway. The door stood open and there was a cooler and a sleeping bag sitting beside it.
Someone was obviously getting ready to set out on a camping trip and he was grateful he’d arrived before they left.
He hated this part of his job, but it had to be done. He heaved a sigh and climbed from his car. The detective made a slow trek up the driveway toward the door. He was halfway there when the front door opened and a middle aged man stepped out.
He was wearing a camouflage print jacket and a floppy hat and sported a rather scruffy looking, graying beard. He held a rifle in one hand and a crossbow in the other.
Frasier and the man both spotted each other at the same moment and stopped in their tracks. Frasier broke the silence first. “Hello…Are you Mr. Grady?” He asked warily, after all they’d just found the man’s wife murdered and Lance didn’t want to find out the hard way that it hadn’t been at the hands of the Highway Stalker.
“Yeah,” the rough looking man replied. “Who are you?” He questioned gruffly, his gray eyes narrowing warningly.
Frasier was sincerely glad he was wearing a gun and a badge and wasn’t selling Encyclopedia’s door to door. His blue eyes took in the weapons in the man’s hands nervously. His free hand came to rest on his holstered gun while his other reached into his coat and pulled his wallet free. He flipped it open and showed it to the man.
“I’m Detective Lance Frasier with the los Angeles Police Department,” he introduced himself. “Could you put those weapons down please?” He suggested, his tone warning the man that it wasn’t really a request, but an order.
Grady’s eyes narrowed as he squinted at the badge for a long moment before he shrugged and set the crossbow and rifle in the back of the pickup truck. “What’s the problem?” He asked belligerently. “I got a license for them weapons,” he said defensively.
“Yes sir,” Lance agreed, tucking his wallet back into his coat pocket. He walked over to where Walt was standing. “Could we step inside the house for a moment,” he asked quietly.
“Why? What’s goin on?” He pressed.
Frasier sighed. The man obviously wasn’t going to make it easy on him. “Sir…Is your wife Anna Leigh Grady?” He questioned gently.
Walt’s eyes grew wary once again. “Yeah…What’s a matter…She get in a fender bender or something?” He barked, sounding annoyed. Last thing they needed was a ticket or something.
“No sir…Not an accident,” he replied. There was just no easy way to say this. “We uh…We found your wife on the side of Laurel Road this morning.”
“Found her? She run out of gas or breakdown or something? Sometimes she forgets to fill the tank when she should. I told her not to go this morning but she…” His voice trailed off as he saw the somber look on the detectives face. His heart sank into his stomach. “You tellin me she’s hurt or something?” He questioned, finally looking worried rather than annoyed.
Frasier sighed. “Mr. Grady…I’m very sorry to have to tell you this, but your wife is dead,” he told him as gently as possible.
Walt Grady stared at him in dumbfounded silence for a long moment before he seemed to regain his senses. He’d never been a demonstrative man, but he’d loved Anna from the moment he met her in high school. “How? What happened?” He asked in shock, still reeling from the news and expecting to be told that she’d been killed in an accident.
“I’m sorry Mr. Grady…It appears that she was murdered,” he said quietly.
Grady’s mouth dropped open in shock. Who’d want to kill his wife? She’d never harmed a soul in her whole life. His face began to flush with color as disbelief turned to rage. “What did you say?” He growled.
“I’m afraid all the evidence points to that,” he said gently. “It appears that her truck broke an axle and she was stranded on the side of the road. Her head sustained a forceful blow…We think it was slammed against the bumper of her truck,” he explained.
“Do you have a suspect? Someone in custody?” He barked.
Frasier shook his head. “Not yet, but we do have a couple of leads. She put up a fight and there was blood under her nails and there were tire prints left at the scene. Those prints look similar to others found at a couple of other crime scenes in our area.”
“A couple of others?” He asked in disbelief. “Who is this guy?”
“We think she may be a victim of the man we are calling the Highway Stalker,” he told him quietly. He specifically didn’t mention the name plate, not wanting to cast that shadow on Gage until they’d had a chance to check it out. The last thing the fire department needed was someone jumping to conclusions and telling the papers that one of their paramedics was running around attacking women and scaring the public. It was bad enough that they’d already reported the suspect’s use of the uniform.
“I’ll kill him,” Walt growled angrily.
Frasier held up a warning hand. “Sir…I know you’re upset and you have every right to be but…”
“UPSET?” He barked angrily, interrupting the placating words.
“We’re doing everything we can to find this man and arrest him, I promise you, but you can’t take the law into your own hands,” he warned the angry man.
Grady pointed a finger at the detective. “Well then you better find him first, cuz if I do…All you’ll get is his body cuz his head will be stuffed and mounted on my wall,” he snarled, punching his truck, seeming oblivious to the pain that radiated from his knuckles up to his wrist.
“Please; please let us handle this,” Frasier pleaded, hoping it was just anger talking and that the man would calm down and let them do their job.
“You’d better and fast,” he warned the detective.
“Yes sir…Um…Mr. Grady; we will need you to go to the morgue and uh…Claim the bod…Uh your wife,” he corrected. “You’ll need to let the coroner know where to send her once the autopsy is complete.” Grady paled a bit at that but grew angry once again as he continued. “We’ll also need you to come to the station and take your statement about your whereabouts this morning,” he added.
“You think I did this?” He snarled.
“It’s routine sir…We have to eliminate you and any other enemies she may have as suspects.”
“She didn’t have any enemies…Everyone loved Anna and I was here with my daughter this morning,” he snapped. “She woke me up this morning.”
“Is she here?”
“No…She left to go to the beach with her friends.”
“Yes sir; well…we’ll need to talk to your daughter as well then,” he said. “Just to make it official,” he added placatingly.
“Fine,” he growled, angry that they were here questioning him while his wife’s killer was running around free out there, waiting to hurt someone else. “She’ll be back tomorrow,” he added morosely, realizing that he’d have to break this to her when she got home.
“You can’t reach her sooner?”
“No,” he said, shaking his head. “I don’t know whose house she’s at. You’d have to ask her moth…,” his voice trailed off and for the first time he looked ready to weep. “Well…Uh…Ahem,” he cleared his throat. “I uh…I guess you can’t do that,” he finished sadly.
“Yes sir; tomorrow will be fine for her,” Frasier said gently as he turned and headed for his car. “I’ll see you as soon as you get through with the coroner then,” he finished, before sliding into the driver’s seat.
Grady watched him drive away… “They’d better get to you first,” he mumbled softly to himself.
“What kind of trouble?” Hank questioned curiously at Roy’s worried utterance.
The others looked up from whatever they were doing to listen to his answer. “Seems our highway stalker has a new ruse,” he muttered unhappily.
“What’s that pal?” Hank asked.
“Seems he’s wearing a uniform now to trick his victims,” he replied with a sigh.
“Like a cop or something?” Mike asked.
Roy shook his strawberry blonde head. “Paramedic,” he said somberly.
Five mouths dropped open in shock. “WHAT?” John gasped.
“Yup,” he muttered. “Seems this guy is wearing what appears to be a paramedic uniform,” he reaffirmed.
“Oh no,” Marco murmured.
“What else does it say?” Johnny asked, standing up and moving over to read the story over Roy’s shoulder.
“They’re cautioning the public, especially women alone to be careful of anyone approaching them in uniform unless they’re actually in a squad or fire truck,” he added, reading from the article.
“That’s just great,” Johnny growled in annoyance.
Roy nodded his agreement. Their job was difficult enough without having their victims scared to death of them before they even touched them.
John shook his head before he picked up his coffee cup and took the last swallow. He glanced at his watch and walked to the sink to rinse the cup, taking care to keep his bandaged hand dry. “Guess we better get ready. B shift will be here in a half an hour,” he warned the others.
They needed to strip the sheets from their bunks for the arriving crew before they left. Roy gave John a slap on the back as he passed by him on the way to the dorm. “Hey, how about breakfast at my house,” he suggested.
John grinned broadly. “Sure,” he readily agreed, never one to refuse Joanne’s cooking.
The pair headed out to the bay while the rest of the crew began to clean up their dishes. They were about to head out to the bay when the back door opened and a young uniformed officer stepped inside.
Officer Doug Warren pulled into the back lot of station 51 and cruised to a stop. His blue eyes caught sight of the white Land Rover and a smug smile spread over his lips, sure they would soon have the Highway stalker in custody. He’d bet the vehicle was Gage’s and the tire treads would match the ones found at the scene’s of these attacks.
He slid from the driver’s seat and set his cap on his head. He checked himself over carefully, making sure his baton was in place. He readjusted his gun, making sure it was ready if he needed it, he patted his handcuffs and headed for the door, hoping Vince would get here soon so he could be a part of the collar.
Assured that he now looked totally professional and in control, he strutted toward the back door of the station. He stood in front of it, wondering if he should knock or just walk in. He decided knocking would diminish his authority and simply reached out and turned the handle. The door swung open and he stepped inside where four firemen were currently standing near the table. They all looked up at their uninvited guest as he entered the room.
The four crew members threw a curious glance at each other as the officer stepped inside, before turning their attention toward him.
Hank stepped forward after a moment. “I’m Captain Hank Stanley; can I help you?” he questioned.
The young officer took on an officious stance. “Yes sir. I’m Officer Warren…Can you tell me who owns the white truck out there,” he asked with a head jerk toward the parking lot.
“You mean the Land Rover?” Hank asked, since it was the only white vehicle out there that resembled a truck.
Hank shrugged. “It belongs to one of my Paramedics…John Gage,” he finished.
Warren smirked. He’d been right and he was sure he had his man. “Can I speak to him Captain Stanley?” He retorted.
“May I ask what it’s about?” Hank pressed, not liking the arrogant attitude the officer exhibited.
“Official police business,” Warren snapped back. Hank bristled at the tone but the officer continued on. “Officer Howard asked me to detain Gage until he arrives,” he added briskly, making it sound more ominous than Vince had intended.
“DETAIN HIM?” Hank asked in an incredulous tone, his dark brow rising ominously. “FOR WHAT?” He barked.
“For questioning,” he added smugly.
Marco, Mike and Chet exchanged worried glances at this piece of information. “About what?” Hank pressed dubiously.
Warren drew himself up officiously. “That sir is none of your concern,” he replied coolly.
Hank leaned forward with a frosty look of his own. “As a matter of fact, it is; I’m his captain,” he snapped in the younger man’s face.
Doug almost cringed under the commanding tone and the cold look being aimed at him by the tall captain. He swallowed heavily. “Uh…Ahem,” he cleared his throat nervously before drawing himself up in a haughty manner, trying to regain his position of authority. “Alright…I guess I can tell you that it’s in reference to the highway stalker case,” he admitted.
Hank mouth dropped open in surprise, while his three crewmen looked incredulous. If this officer thought John was involved in anything to do with that case, he was barking up the wrong tree. Hank decided the easiest way to get to the bottom of this was to let him talk to John.
“Come with me,” he snapped, spinning on his heel and heading for the bay.
Marco, Mike and Chet almost tripped over each other in their haste to follow.
John and Roy were leaning against the squad, talking about their long and rare three days off they were getting this time. The pair was trying to decide if they could get in a day of fishing or even a night of camping in around Joanne’s list of things to do around the house.
They stopped talking as they heard the crew approaching and glanced up as the group came through the rec room door. Two pairs of curious eyes looked over the young officer with them.
John frowned as the man’s eyes looked him over coldly, stopping briefly as they caught sight of the bandage on his hand before moving back up to lock his gaze with John’s. He wondered what was going on and shot a glance at his equally baffled looking partner.
Hank didn’t waste any time in filling them in. “John…Roy, this is Officer Warren. He’d like to talk to you for a moment John,” Cap told them.
Johnny touched his own chest in confusion. “Me?” He asked in surprise.
“That’s what he said pal,” Hank replied.
John looked to the officer. “Well…how come?” He questioned with his usual lack of diplomacy.
“I was told by Officer Howard to come down here and detain you for questioning,” he replied officiously.
John looked horrified at the turn of phrase, but it was Roy that spoke first. “Detain him for what?” He barked, reaching over to rest his hand comfortingly on his young partner’s back.
“That’s none of your business sir,” the officer growled arrogantly at Roy.
“Well it’s mine,” John almost squeaked in dismay.
Warren sighed. “Officer Howard wants to question you in connection with the highway stalker case,” he replied crisply.
John’s mouth dropped open in dumbfounded shock. “ME? Www…well W…why?” He stuttered. “What dddid I do?” He questioned.
“Calm down,” Roy said quietly, close to his friends ear, hearing the stutter and recognizing that John was getting very uptight. John nodded and drew in a deep breath to regain control.
“Several women have been attacked on the highway…,” Doug began smugly, knowing he’d upset the firemen and hoping he’d get rattled enough to say something incriminating.
“I know,” John admitted.
John frowned at the accusatory tone.
“We read about it in the paper this morning,” Roy interrupted, having correctly interpreted the timbre of the man’s voice as well.
Warren ignored the blonde paramedic, keeping his attention on his suspect. So certain he had his man that it never occurred to him to ask if John had been on duty last night or was just arriving for his shift.
“Yes…Well, one of our victims said he was wearing a paramedic uniform when he assaulted her.”
“We read that too,” John said.
“She also said he was rude and spoke to her as if she were a hooker or something; offered her money for her time,” he sneered, his eyes looking over the younger man as if he was trash.
John’s eyes widened in surprise at the look. Did this guy really believe he’d done this? Did Vince?
Chet snorted in disbelief from beside them. “Well that let’s Gage out then,” he said snidely. “He’s too cheap to pay for it,” he added with his usual sarcasm.
“Unlike some of you who have to,” John shot back indignantly before turning his attention back to the officer. “But I still don’t know what that has to do with me,” he questioned, looking baffled.
“We found another victim this morning,” Warren said watching the young man closely.
“Found?” John questioned warily.
“Yes…She’s dead, but I suspect you already knew that,” he sneered.
John’s dark eyes blinked in shock. “Wwwhy would I know that?” He stuttered nervously.
“She had your name plate in her hand,” he almost crowed in triumph, relishing the idea of being the one to nail this guy. His nervous stuttering making Doug certain he was guilty and about to be taken in for it. Just wait until the other trainee’s in his class found out about this, he mused proudly.
“WHAT?” Four voices chorused together at that statement.
“Oh my God,” John whispered in horror.
Roy stepped forward with the intent to ask the cop when the woman had died. After all…If it was within the last twenty four hours, then John had an airtight alibi but the station control unit began to tone.
“Squad 51…Vehicle accident with injuries,” Sam Lanier’s voice intoned.
“Tell Vince I’ll talk to him when I get back,” John said as he started around the front of the squad. Roy turned for the driver’s seat as Hank ran for the podium to respond.
Officer Warren suddenly reached out and grabbed John by the arm. “You’re not going anywhere,” he barked.
Everyone froze uncertainly for a split second. Hank had the mic inches from his mouth but stood in stunned silence at the officer’s foolishness.
“We have a run,” Roy snapped at the man.
“He’s being detained and he’s not getting away,” Warren snapped back.
“I’ll talk to Vince as soon as I get back,” John assured the man, trying to shake his hand from his arm.
“You’ll do what I tell you,” he snarled, twisting the young fireman’s arm behind his back, slamming him against the front of the squad.
Hank realized the cop was serious here and quickly keyed the mic. “LA station 51…Squad 51 is unavailable to respond,” he barked throwing the instrument down and heading for the fray.
“10-4 Station 51,” Sam’s voice replied before the control unit began to tone once again but none of them were listening.
“You can’t keep him from responding to a call,” Hank barked at the young officer.”
“He’s not getting away,” Warren argued as John continued to try and pull away from the punishing hold the cop had on his arm. “Stop resisting,” he snapped as Roy stepped forward to try and talk to him, but before he could Warren reached up to grab the back of John’s head, slamming the young man’s face down on the hood.
Mike, Chet and Marco gasped in shocked horror.
John’s felt pain explode in his brain as his nose and forehead made contact with the hard steel. Dizziness washed over him and it seemed as if bright lights danced before his eyes. He felt the warm trickle of blood run down over his lip to pool on the hood and his arm felt as if it were about to break.
His mind began to wing back to his teenage years on the reservation and the many times his Uncle George had treated him much the same way. He didn’t hear Roy’s shout or the ones that followed as his legs were kicked apart, spread eagle and then the officer’s hands were running up his legs and groping between them. “No;stop…Don’t touch me…Roooy,” John moaned in terror at what was happening to him and tried to push away from the squad and the man holding him.
“Don’t move,” Warren growled, slamming him down once again.
“NOW LOOK HERE!” Hank yelled angrily while Roy reached over to grab the cops shoulder.
“THERE’S NO CALL FOR THAT,” Roy shouted, but the cop shook him off.
“Nooo,” John almost whimpered as the cuffs snapped into place around his wrists.
“Back off,” Doug snapped at Roy angrily. “Or you’ll be going with him,” he barked.
Roy didn’t care. He could hear the terror in John’s voice even though he couldn’t see his face and he was afraid John would pull into himself. He suddenly felt Hanks hand close over his own.
“Let him go DeSoto,” Cap ordered quietly.
“But Cap…,” he began.
“You can’t help him if he arrests you too,” he reminded him. “We’ll get this figured out,” he promised the blonde paramedic. Roy let go and backed up and Warren resumed his actions. He quickly emptied John’s belt pouch of his scissors and his knife, the whole time keeping the dark head pinned against the hood.
Johnny felt sick. He could taste the coppery flavor of blood and his head spun sickeningly. The man’s hands on him sent terror through his body as they ran over his buttocks and then snaked around to his chest and belly. John was afraid he’d throw up and struggled against the hold, trying to lift his head, but once again the cop slammed his face against the truck.
“HEY!” Chet snarled angrily.
The officer threw him a glare but finally pulled John upright. The crews hearts beat double time at the sight of the blood on their youngest crewman’s face and Roy’s skipped a beat before it felt like it was sinking into his belly at the vague and confused look in the dark eyes. “Rrr…roy,” he mumbled, barely audible.
“Right here junior,” Roy said reassuringly.
“CAP?” Marco cried plaintively.
“Everyone just calm down,” Hank rapped out at his distraught crew.
“John hasn’t done anything wrong,” Roy growled angrily.
The cop saw the crew closing in around him and rested his hand on his gun. “You all need to back up,” he warned nervously.
“You’ve got the wrong man,” Hank barked.
“I don’t think so, but well prove that later…right now he’s going for resisting arrest,” he snapped back.
“He wasn’t resisting,” Roy protested. “He was trying to do his job.”
“He was fighting me,” he reminded him.
“He was scared, that’s all,” Roy tried to explain. “He didn’t know what was happening.”
The others looked at their young friend and saw the slightly dazed look and understood. He was rocking slightly and they knew John was very close to losing control of his emotions right now, not to mention the very obvious injury to his head.
“He knew…He was trying to get away,” Warren barked stubbornly.
“He’s injured,” Mike pointed out.
“Let me take a look at him,” Roy pleaded.
“He’s fine,” he said jerking the young man toward the door. John barely moved his feet. “MOVE,” Warren barked, yanking at his arm again, but John was still obviously not all together and stumbled forward.
Roy stepped forward. “Just let me talk to him,” he asked again.
Warren sighed but yanked Johnny to a standstill. “Go ahead,” he growled.
“Johnny,” Roy called softly. “I need you to look at me junior,” he urged. John was trembling and for a moment Roy thought it was too late but finally, the dark eyes lifted to his. “Good boy…Now listen to me. I need you to just stay calm okay? I’m gonna be right behind you and I’ll get this straightened out. We know you’re innocent and Vince is smart enough to listen,” he said, his tone implying that Warren obviously wasn’t.
“Alright, that’s enough,” Doug snapped, angry at the insinuation that he wasn’t smart. He jerked John towards the door.
The young paramedic stumbled once again but regained his balance and shot a pleading look at his best friend. “Hurry Roy,” he whispered.
“I’m right behind you junior,” he promised, before turning toward his Captain.
“Get going Roy,” I’m pulling the squad out of service til Dwyer and Carlson get here and I’m calling the Chief. We’ll get this straightened out, I promise you.”
“Right,” he muttered, more to reassure himself than anything. He turned and ran for the parking lot. He had to get his kid brother out of there, he mused worriedly, remembering the look in John’s eyes and the fear reflected in his face. The others knew John had AS, but only Roy knew that he’d been abused and he was the only one that understood the terror he was reliving right now.
The door slammed shut behind him leaving Mike, Marco and Chet standing there in stunned disbelief at what had just happened.
Outside, Warren none to gently shoved Johnny into the back of the police car and slammed the door before he climbed triumphantly behind the wheel, imagining the praise he’d receive for his heroics when the others found out.
He started the engine and drove away.
Vince sat at the desk staring at the telephone. His fingers tapped a staccato tattoo as he waited for it to ring. He glanced at his watch; it was almost eight and…; the phone rang suddenly, and even though he’d been practically willing it to ring, Vince jumped. He recovered quickly and snatched the handset from the cradle.
“Officer Howard,” he almost barked.
There was a brief hesitation from the other end at the crisp tone before a man’s voice responded. “Officer Howard, this is Battalion Chief Hayes returning your call,” he said coolly. “My secretary said you needed some information on Station 51?” He questioned brusquely.
“Yes sir; I’m not sure if you are aware of the man we’re calling the highway stalker,” he began.
“Yes…I have heard about it,” he replied curiously, wondering what this had to do with Station 51.
“He struck again early this morning,” Vince advised him.
“I’m sorry to hear that, but what does it have to do with station 51?”
“The victim was killed this time,” Vince said softly.
“Oh dear,” Hayes muttered.
“Yes sir. Uh…when we found her she was holding a fireman’s name plate in her hand.”
There was a long silence from the other end. “May I assume that it belonged to one of the men from station 51?” He questioned, sounding very concerned.
“Yes sir…John Gage.”
“I see…Hold on just a moment while I check the log book from last night,” he said.
Vince heard the rustling of paper as Hayes shuffled through the pages. There was definite relief in his voice as he gave the officer the results of his search.
“John Gage was on duty last night. Station 51 responded to a call at 4:04 this morning. They were on scene until 6:18 AM. The squad responded with them and they did not treat any victims at the scene,” he informed him.
Vince closed his eyes and blew out a relieved breath. “That means Johnny was with his entire crew all night and was never alone with the squad at any time last evening,” he asked.
“Correct Officer Howard,” Hayes replied.
“Thank you Chief. I just couldn’t believe John Gage was capable of something like this but; I did have to ask if he had an alibi,” he said in relief.
“Of course; and you have no idea how relieved I am to be able to provide it,” he answered.
Vince chuckled. “I can imagine,” he replied. “Thank you sir,” he said before hanging up the phone. He started to stand just as the door opened and a several people stepped into the room.
*Pete Malloy, his partner Jim Reed and the young woman from the other night, Heather Perry came toward him.
“Vince; this young woman said you told her to come down and look at some mug shots,” Pete said.
“Yes…Uh,” Vince hesitated, glancing at his watch. “But I uh…I need to go meet my partner over at Station 51. Could you two maybe help me out and take her in the other room to look through the books,” he asked, not wanting to hold up Johnny any longer than necessary, especially since it as now sure that John was innocent of any wrong doing.
“Sure, no problem,” Pete replied, always willing to help out another officer.
“Great; hopefully I’ll get back before she’s through but if you do see anyone you recognize,” he said, directing his comments to Heather. “You just point him out to these two officers.” She nodded. “Good…If she sees someone, don’t wait for me,” Vince said to Pete and Jim. Just radio me and I’ll meet you at his address.”
“You got it,” Pete answered, waving his hand toward the squad room, allowing Heather to precede him out of the room, while Vince headed for the stairs.
Walter Grady leaned against the wall outside the door to the morgue. His face was pale and despite his love of hunting, this was the first time in his life he’d felt sick at what he’d seen.
His beautiful and vibrant wife looking still and gray had bought the sting of tears behind his gray eyes. How could some monster hurt his Anna? She’d never hurt a soul in her life, he mused.
Anger began to build in place of his pain at the animal who’d taken her away. The cops had better get this guy, whoever he was or he’d do it himself. He’d stuff the bastard like one of his trophies, he promised himself silently.
Walt breathed in deep, trying to compose himself before he pushed himself away from the wall and headed for the stairs. He still needed to go to the police station and talk to the cops and then he needed to try and find his daughter.
Sorrow and anger gripped him again as contemplated telling the girl that her mother was dead. He stalked across the lobby and out the front door to his truck.
He was still steaming when he arrived at the precinct. He walked in and spoke to the officer at the desk. “I’m here to see Detective Frasier,” he said without preamble.
“Your name sir?” The officer asked.
“Walter Grady…My wife was killed this morning.”
“I’m sorry sir; hold on,” he said, picking up the phone and calling someone. “I have a Walter Grady here to see you,” he told whoever picked up the phone at the other end. There was a brief pause. “Yes sir,” he replied before hanging up and looking back at Walt. “Down that hall to the end, take a right. Go past the stairway and he’ll be on your left,” he said pointing down the corridor.
“Thank you,” Walt replied before he headed off down the hall. He made the turn at the end of the hall and walked along the worn tile floor, reading names on doors as he went. He passed the stairway and a door that led to a back parking lot.
It opened suddenly and a young officer came inside. He was escorting another man in handcuffs and wearing a uniform of some kind and from the look of it, there may have been a bit of a scuffle bringing the man down, he mused, noting the blood on the suspects face and the bruise on his forehead. The prisoner looked a bit dazed and confused as he staggered along beside the cop.
“Excuse me…Can you tell me which office is Detective Frasier’s?” He asked the young officer.
“Uh…Is he expecting you?” The younger man asked.
“Yeah; my name is Walt Grady. My wife Anna was murdered this morning by that highway stalker guy,” he growled.
The prisoner’s head snapped up in surprise and a look of horror entered his eyes.
Warren nodded crisply, his eyes shooting toward Gage. “Yes sir…I’m very sorry about your loss,” he said sympathetically.
Grady’s eyes narrowed suspiciously at the two varied reactions, but Warren didn’t give him the opportunity to ask. “It’s down the hall there,” he said pointing down the corridor before pushing John toward a door and a set of stairs beyond them that led to the basement. He quickly unlocked it and shoved John through, letting it swing closed behind him.
“Hey wait!” Walt called after them, but Warren quickly hustled the paramedic through and closed the doors behind them.
Grady grabbed the handle and tried to follow, but it had already locked itself behind them. Grady scowled at the offending door and then glanced up the hall. He knew Frasier was waiting on him, but he decided to wait. He wanted to find out if that was the man responsible for his wife’s death. If it was he’d better just be glad the cops had gotten to him first.
Warren pushed his silent prisoner down the steps to where another door blocked their progress. He pushed through that one and stopped at the desk. He tossed a glance at Gage and frowned at the slightly woozy look on the man’s face.
He worried about the man’s silence though out this whole ordeal. Most prisoners loudly proclaimed their innocence, but he hadn’t spoken a word. He’d sat in the back of the squad car rocking slowly but he hadn’t said anything. Probably because he knew they had him dead to rights, he mused smugly.
He hoped that was the problem and not that he’d hurt the guy too bad when he’d resisted arrest or he could be in a lot of trouble for police brutality he thought sourly.
The desk officer, George Hall, glanced up at their approach. “Whadda ya got Warren?” He asked, his brown eyes scanning up and down over the slender, silent man in handcuffs.
“Suspect in the stalker case,” he replied proudly. John’s dark eyes shot toward him and he shook his head negatively but Doug was too busy basking in the glory of having collared this guy himself to notice.
“Yeah? Hey that’s great rookie,” he said, giving the young officer a thump off the shoulder. “I’ll get him processed,” he said, pulling a large envelope from a shelf beneath the desk. “NAME!” He barked brusquely at Johnny.
John flinched at the tone. “J…John Gage,” he stuttered. “Bbb…but I didn’t do…,” he began.
Hall interrupted him with a derisive snort. “Yeah, I know… they never do anything,” he interrupted with a loud guffaw, tossing Warren a wink. “Did you search him?”
“Yeah, when I first arrested him, that’s how he got hurt. He put up a fight.”
“Yeah? What was he tryin to hide?”
Warren shrugged. “I didn’t find anything,” he admitted.
Hall gave a lopsided grin. He loved giving the guys they brought in here a taste of their own medicine. “Yeah? Well search him again. You musta missed something.”
“No…No he didn’t,” John denied adamantly, desperately not wanting them to touch him again.
The kid chuckled. He jerked Johnny toward the wall, pulling the young fire fighter off balance before slamming him hard into the wall. Once again, John felt his feet kicked apart as Warren began to run his hands over his torso and down his backside to check for hidden objects. He pulled John’s wallet and car keys from the back pocket and tossed it to Hall at the desk before moving around and up his sides and chest.
John reacted instantly to the man’s pawing hands, trying frantically to pull away. “No,” he gasped fearfully, pushing away from the brick wall.
“Hey…don’t resist,” Hall barked, coming around the desk to help the rookie officer with the recalcitrant suspect. He spun John around and shoved him back against the wall. “Hold him,” he barked. John winced as Warren tightened his hold and pressed him back forcefully against the bricks.
Hall quickly pulled his badge and name plate from his shirt. His hands felt down the outside of John’s legs and then back up the inside to his groin.
A low moan of distress slipped from John’s lips and his eyes clenched tightly while his stomach turned a small flip as frightening memories assailed him.
Both officers watched the young paramedic swallow heavily and for a moment, they thought he was going to throw up. “Now ya know how those women you’ve attacked feel doncha?” Hall sneered in his face.
John shook his head. “I dddidn’t hurt aa…nnyone,” he stammered just above a whisper, trying desperately to fight off the gray walls that were trying to crash in around him.
“I’ll just bet,” he replied sarcastically.
John flinched with every movement the two officers made. His mind replacing them with the image of George Walking Wolf and the abuse he’d endured at his hands. His body trembled visibly and the young officer shot a worried glance at Hall. The older man shrugged, not understanding that John was bordering on withdrawal from AS and the emotional upheaval and not just plain fear. As far as he was concerned, it served the jerk right for what he’d done to those girls.
He frowned when he found nothing on John during his search and wondered why the guy had been so resistant if he had nothing to hide. “Let’s get him in the cell,” he barked in annoyance that he’d found nothing to further harass the young fireman for.
Hall jerked John toward a large cell where four or five other men were lounged on the narrow bunk or sitting on the floor. He unlocked the door before allowing Warren to remove the handcuffs.
He shoved the young paramedic inside and slammed the door. John almost cringed, the sound of that ‘cage’ door slamming, worse than the roar of any fire. Trapped...Locked up like an animal. It was his worst nightmare. He prayed his partner was planning on getting him out of here soon.
John stood just inside the door…His wary dark eyes traveling around the cell from one man to another. Two of them were dressed in biker leathers while another looked as if he’d been on an all night bender. The other two were rather non-descript and John didn’t give them much thought. His eyes returned to the two bikers, trying to decide the best place to stay well clear of the pair.
“What are you lookin at?” One of them sneered belligerently, noticing John’s wary gaze.
The slender paramedic shook his head, averting his eyes. “Nothin,” he mumbled. He spotted a narrow empty space between the cell wall and the bunk and moved toward it, sliding down the wall to huddle miserably against the cold concrete, hoping to stay invisible. “God Roy; Please hurry,” he whispered.
Officer Warren made his way back up the stairs. He pushed through the doors and stopped in surprise at the sight of Walt Grady leaning against the wall, obviously waiting for him.
The older man pushed away from the wall as soon as he saw the young officer. He didn’t waste time mincing his words. “That man,” he barked. Pointing at the door Warren had just come through. “Is that the bastard that killed my Anna?” He snapped.
Doug stood frozen in uncertainty. Not sure how much he should say but he did gesture to him to lower his voice when several people stepped out of the offices along the hall to see what the yelling was about.
Warren waved them off. “It’s okay, he’s just upset,” he assured them.
They all gave him a nod and disappeared back inside, reassured that the officer had it under control.
“I saw you look at him when I mentioned my wife had been killed. Is that him?” He barked again.
“Mr. Grady; you need to calm down,” he said authoritatively, walking the man to a chair in the hallway.
Walt drew a deep breath but remained standing. “Alright officer; I’ll try to stay calm, but I wanna know right now…Was that the man that killed my wife,” he growled.
Warren heard the dangerous tone of the man’s voice and thought Gage was damn lucky he’d gotten to him before Walter Grady had.
“We’re pretty sure it’s him,” he admitted. “Your wife was holding his name plate in her hand when we found her and his hand is cut as his last victim described and the description matches,” he added smugly.”So you can just relax and let justice take its course, alright?” He soothed.
Grady’s eyes were narrowed in anger but he nodded reluctantly. “It just better take it quickly.”
“I promise you it will…Now let me show you to detective Frasier’s office,” he said, waving the man down the hall.
Walt threw one final glance at the locked door and then turned and headed up the hallway.
Officer Warren had no idea what he’d just set in motion.
Hank snatched up the phone the moment the officer dragged John from the station. He knew there had to be some kind of mistake here. John Gage wasn’t capable of hurting anyone and he’d been here all night, which they would have told that young officer and Vince if he’d bothered to come down here and ask.
Why would Vince Howard, who knew John well, would even think he could do something like this? Much less send that over eager Gestapo officer to pick John up. The entire crew would have vouched for him if he’d just asked before manhandling his youngest crew member and slamming his face into the squad. Well…He’d get to bottom of it and put their suspicions to rest in short order as soon as he got the chief on the phone.
Mike, Marco and Chet hovered near his door listening and silently praying that headquarters would clear this up quickly and they could get Johnny out of there. There wasn’t much that scared John Gage but they had all seen the fear in the young man’s eyes this morning and it tore at their hearts.
“Los Angeles County Fire Department, How may I direct your call?” A woman’s voice answered.
“This is Captain Stanley; Station 51, can I speak to Chief Hayes or Chief Sorenson please?” He asked, shooting a glance at the worried faces of his crew and noting that the rest of B shift had showed up and were standing outside the door as well, curious about what had the A Shift crew huddled in their captain’s doorway.
He could hear the low murmur of conversation as his crew explained the morning’s events and the look of shocked disbelief that settled on their faces when they were done. They all knew Johnny too well to believe anything bad about him.
His attention was brought back to the phone by his superior’s voice. “Chief Hayes here Hank; what can I do for you?”
“Chief; we just had an officer here from the LAPD…He’s just arrested John Gage,” he began to explain.
“WHAT?” Hayes barked angrily.
“Yes sir, in connection with this highway stalker case,” he added. “But John was here with us all night Chief,” he assured his commanding officer.
“I’m well aware of that Hank, since the dispatchers log book is sitting here in front of me,” he replied drily.
“Then you know Gage can’t have done what this guy said?” He pressed.
“Yes; I’m well aware of the young man’s innocence and I’m a bit confused by all this since I just got off the phone with Officer Howard and told him John had a rock solid alibi for his whereabouts at the time of the crime,” he growled angrily.
“Yes sir; that is odd that he’d still have sent someone to arrest him.”
“I’d understand if he’d just wanted to talk to him,” Hayes snapped.
“Yes sir, but we got a call out on a run and John tried to respond. Then this guy just grabbed him and slammed his face into the squad and claimed John was resisting arrest by trying to flee,” Hank snarled.
“Oh good Lord,” Hayes muttered. Wait’ll he got this guys superiors on the phone, he mused to himself. “Alright Hank... I’m going to call them back and find out what the hell is going on,” he growled. “If I have to, I’ll get a departmental representative and go down there and straighten this all out,” he reassured the anxious Captain. “I’ll call you back as soon as I know what’s going on. You may need to tell them yourself that Gage was with you all night.”
“Gladly,” he said sounding relieved. “I’ll be at home but DeSoto is already on his way down there.”
Hayes smiled ruefully. “I’m not surprised,” he admitted. “He and Gage are quite close,” he added.
“I’ll call you as soon as I get this straightened out,” he promised.
“”Thank you sir,” Hank replied, hanging up the phone. He turned to his worried crew and began to repeat the conversation. The relief on their faces was evident when he finished.
“Uh Cap? Can you call me when the Chief gets back to you?” Chet asked, shuffling his feet nervously.
“I will Chet,” he promised with a small poignant smile. Kelly would never admit just how fond of Johnny he really was but it was pretty obvious to most people anyway.
“And me Cap,” Marco added.
“Me too,” Mike asked.
“I will…As soon as I hear anything,” he assured them, unfolding his tall, thin form from the chair. “It’s all yours,” he said to Hookrader as he ushered his men away from the door. He noticed the look on the older Captain’s face and grinned. “I’ll let you know too,” he promised, in answer to the unspoken question.
“Thank you…Good luck with all this. Gage is a good man,” he added.
“Yes he is. Thanks,” Hank replied as the crew headed for the locker room and then for home.
Roy parked his truck and practically ran through the parking lot of the LA County police Department. He was stopped by a Sergeant at the front desk. “Can I help you?” He asked politely, seeing the uniform and affording the fire fighter a bit more courtesy than he would the average citizen.
“Yes sir; my names Roy DeSoto and I’m looking for Officer Howard…Vince Howard,” he stressed.
“What’s it in reference to?” He questioned, looking a bit annoyed to be playing secretary to street cop.
“They just brought my partner in. They said Vince wanted to talk to him,” he explained.
“I can’t disturb him if he’s in an interview,” he warned.
“But they just brought him in…I just want to talk to him for a minute,” Roy pleaded desperately, afraid John was injured and would get too stressed and slip away if he didn’t get him out of here fast. There’d be no way they wouldn’t notice and then he’d really have some explaining to do.”
“I’ll check the squad room,” he sighed, but if he’s already gone into the interview you’ll have to wait,” he added with a shrug.
“Thanks,” Roy breathed out in relief.
The man dialed the number and Roy had to force himself not to bounce on his toes in anxiety as he waited, listening to the one sided conversation.
“This is Sgt O’Connor at the front desk, Is Officer Howard there by any chance?” He questioned. “He did? When? Can one of you poke your head in there and tell him there’s a Roy DeSoto here to see him? Sure…I’ll wait,” he growled. “I ain’t got nothing better to do,” he mumbled sarcastically. There was a long pause before he spoke again. “I’ll send him up,” he finally replied.
He hung up and handed Roy a visitor’s pass before buzzing him through the door. “Second floor…fourth door on the right,” he directed, returning to the reports on his desk.
“Thanks,” Roy replied, shoving through the door and taking the stairs two at a time.
Vince stepped from the small office where Malloy and Reed were now sitting with Ms. Price as she flipped through the pages of a mug shot book. He was just about to start down the stairs to head out to Station 51 when Officer Matthews stuck his head out of the squad room door.
“Vince!” He called down the hall.
“Yeah?” He called back, stopping in mid stride.
“Someone downstairs to see you,” he informed him. “They’re sending him up.”
Vince sighed. Johnny wasn’t going to appreciate being kept waiting. Maybe he should just call over there and ask him to come here instead, he mused. It might be a good idea since Heather Price was here and he could let the woman take a look at him. It would be a sure way to put the matter to rest once and for all.
He heard rapid footsteps on the stairs and his dark eyes widened in surprise as he spotted Roy DeSoto practically running toward him. “Roy?” He questioned. “What are you doing here?” He asked curiously, wondering at the angry look on DeSoto’s face as he replied.
“What am I doing here? Where do you think I’d be?” He snapped back. Vince shook his head in confusion as Roy continued. “Why Vince? Why would you do that to Johnny? You know him better than that.”
“What are you talking about? What happened to John?”
“What happened?” He barked.
“I needed to talk to him. I just asked my partner to tell him to wait for me,” he replied looking baffled at Roy’s anger over such a harmless request.
“Yeah…He told us that and then he practically accused Johnny of killing someone and then we got a call.”
Vince looked perplexed for a long moment. "He didn’t interfere with a run did he?” He finally asked.
“Interfere? He practically broke John’s nose slamming his face into the squad,” he snarled. “If he doesn’t have a concussion it’ll be a miracle,” he added angrily.
Vince’s eyes widened in horror. “Roy; I promise you…I didn’t tell him to detain Johnny. Is he okay?”
“I don’t know,” he growled in obvious distress. “His nose was bleeding and he had a nasty bruise on his forehead,” he snapped angrily. “That was just before he handcuffed him and dragged him down here.”
Vince looked shocked. “God Roy…I swear, I never intended for John to be arrested. I just needed to talk to him and find out if he knew how our latest victim ended up with his name plate in her hand when she died.”
Roy shrugged. “I don’t know how she got it, but John’s shirt was stolen from Rampart last shift. Dixie was cleaning blood off it and left it at the base station for a minute and when she came back it was gone,” he told him. “His badge and name plate were on it.”
Vince nodded in relieved understanding. “That’ll give us a place to start and it’s all I wanted to ask Johnny. I promise you Roy, he was never a suspect in my book.”
“Well that’s just great; so how do I get him outta here,” he pressed urgently.
“I’ll get him out,” he promised the worried blonde paramedic.
“How fast?” He pushed, concerned about John’s state of mind and still worried that he’d slip into withdrawal.
“I’ll call down there right now,” he said picking up the phone.
Roy sat in the chair, waiting nervously but there was obviously no answer.
Vince hung up. “No answer. I’ll go down there and get him…,” he began, standing up. The rest was interrupted by the ringing phone. Vince snapped it up. “Officer Howard,” he answered. There was a pause. “Yes sir…Roy DeSoto is right here with me,” he said, his frown was warning enough for Roy that whoever was on the other end wasn’t happy.
“Yes sir…I was just telling him that this was all a mistake and I’m going down to get Gage out right now,” he assured the caller. “Yes sir and again; I’m very sorry for this mix up and I WILL deal with the officer personally,” he promised. There was a long pause before he spoke again. “Yes sir…I’ll tell him,” he replied before hanging up and giving Roy an eye roll at the dressing down he’d just received.
“Who was that?” Roy asked, frowning in confusion.
“Chief Hayes,” Vince replied. “He’s very upset about what happened to Johnny since I’d already spoken to him this morning and verified that John was on duty this morning when Mrs. Grady was killed and had a roomful of witnesses to prove it.
“Yes he was,” Roy reaffirmed. “We were at a fire from four to six but John and I were together the whole time,” he assured him.
Vince nodded and then sat up abruptly, looking pleased. He’d just remembered that another victim was in the next room and decided to finalize the issue. “Roy…You wouldn’t happen to have a photo of Johnny with you?”
“Yeah,” he said with a nod as he reached for his wallet. He pulled a small photo of him and John standing in front of the squad from inside. “Here,” he said, handing it to Vince.
The image was small but clear and he hoped Miss Price wouldn’t be influenced by the uniform he was wearing. “C’mon,” he said with a head nod toward the door. Roy stood up and followed him out the door and over the next office where a pretty blonde sat with two officers.
Roy recognized them as Pete Malloy and Jim Reed. They looked up as he followed Vince into the room and gave the officer a confused glance as to why Roy DeSoto was here, but Vince turned his attention to the blonde. He handed her the photo he held in his hand.
“Miss Price; can you look at this picture and tell me if you recognize the man in it?” Vince asked, blowing out a nervous breath. You just never knew how good a victim’s memory was when they’d been under attack as she’d been.
She studied the photo for a long moment and then looked up at Roy, realizing it was obviously not him in question and then looked to Vince. He shook her head. “I wish I did,” she said wryly. “I would have accepted if he’d asked me out,” she added with a rueful quirk of her lips.
Vince chuckled while Jim and Pete stole a glance over his shoulder to look at the photo. Pete frowned. “That’s John Gage,” he said in surprise.
Vince nodded. “I told Warren to ask him to wait around after his shift ended so I could talk to him,” he said.
“And?” Pete questioned.
“He arrested him when tried to go out on a call.”
Jim and Pete gave him an incredulous look…Their eyebrows rising practically into their hairlines in shock.
“GAGE?” Pete said incredulously.
“Johnny would never hurt anyone,” Jim added positively.
“And he interfered in a call?” Malloy asked.
“Yeah,” Vince sighed in disgust. “I need to get down there and get him out,” he added.
“Yeah…Right away,” Pete suggested.
“Roy, can you wait right here?”
“Sure,” he agreed, relieved that this would soon be over and he could take Johnny home and make sure he was alright. “Thank you Miss Price,” he said to Heather.
She smiled back. “You’re welcome. Maybe someday I’ll get lucky enough to meet him instead of that other jerk,” she said in disgust.
Roy might have laughed if the situation wasn’t so serious. Pete and Jim grinned as Vince headed for the door.
Johnny sat curled in his secluded corner with his knees drawn to his chin and his arms wrapped tightly about his torso. He rocked in a slow rhythm and only someone familiar with the symptoms of Apergers Syndrome would recognize the slight, tell tale motion of his body.
John wasn’t in withdrawal but he was teetering on the edge and barely holding back the gray walls that were trying to crash in around him…The ordeal this morning triggering the frightening and painful memories of his past and replayed over and over in his mind. Only his reassurance that his best friend had been right behind him and would be working to get him out of here kept him from slipping away completely.
A few feet further up from where he sat, two men were watching the young paramedic. Neither was particularly savory and most sane people would cross to the other side of the street to avoid them. John was oblivious to the stares being directed at him.
“What’s up with that guy?” One of them asked his friend.
“Don’t know but I like the patch he’s wearin on his sleeve,” he added with a leer.
The first one…Howie Brown; nicknamed ‘Python’ for the snake tattoo that wrapped about his right arm, grinned wickedly. “You gonna go get it?” He asked, excitement at the prospect of a fight lighting his eyes.
His friend…Richard Gallow, nicknamed the ‘Hangman’ for obvious reasons, nodded. “It’ll look real good on my vest,” he added, patting the black leather garment he was wearing, which was decorated with tattered patches of various origins. Some of which looked as if they hadn’t been handed over willingly by their previous owners.
“Hey…You got enough; I want that one,” Python protested.
“I saw it first,” he argued, shooting the smaller man a challenging look.
Python swallowed hard and decided against pushing the larger man to hard. “Then I want that pouch on his belt,” he whined.
Hangman shrugged. “That’s cool man,” he agreed, pushing himself to his feet. His friend followed.
The three other men in the cell saw them coming and shrank away from them as they crossed the room, hoping they weren’t the ones the two were after with such obvious, evil intent. They watched sympathetically as they approached the young man in the corner, trying to stay invisible. They felt bad for him but they were relieved that they weren’t the target, and none were willing to interfere to help the kid either.
John felt, rather than saw the men that stood before him. His senses had been honed long ago by his grandfather and his upbringing to notice every little disturbance in the air around him and even Aspergers hadn’t dampened that ability. He raised his head cautiously and saw the two pairs of booted feet standing before him.
One of them reached out and prodded him with his toe and the dark eyes lifted slowly to meet the sneering gaze of the two men.
“Hey man,” Python said, sounding anything but sociable.
John’s eyes tracked warily between the pair but he stayed silent. He’d known this type too many times in his young life, and he knew they were looking for a fight. He also knew that no matter what he said, it would be taken as an act of aggression and an excuse to attack him.
“Whatsa matter…You too good to talk to us?” The other taunted, his eyes taking in the blood on the kids face as well as the bruise on his forehead from his overly zealous handling by Warren earlier.
John sighed. There it was; the pair would use any provocation to fight, he mused nervously as he shook his head in the negative. These two reminded him of a trio of bullies from high school, not to mention the ones in Montana that included his cousin Ben Walking Wolf.
His attention was brought back to the matter at hand as one of them reached down and grabbed him by his shirt front. John tried to shove his hands away, but he was at a decided disadvantage from his sitting position and he was yanked to his feet as if he were weightless.
John struggled against the larger man’s hold, refusing to cringe in fear like a coward. He swatted the man’s hands away and shoved him backward. “Let me go,” he snapped brazenly.
Hangman stared at him dumbfounded, impressed by the skinny guys guts to stand up them both. From the blood and bruises, he looked as if he’d already been in one battle today. Gallow suspected the kid was tougher than he appeared and he might even have walked away if not for the audience watching the altercation, including Python. He couldn’t afford to lose his respect or his fear of his anger.
His fist lashed out and slammed into John’s stomach, doubling the slighter man over with a grunt of pain.
Python stepped into help. He threw an uppercut that stood John upright with a low cry of pain as his lip split. He gasped harshly, trying to draw in air without using his bruised stomach muscles. He wrapped one arm protectively over his belly before the one called Hangman hit him again, banging his head back into the concrete wall behind him.
The other three men scurried away, not wanting to get involved in the fray.
Gallow grabbed John by the shirt front and slammed him back into the wall, pinning him there. “All I want is the patch on your sleeve man,” he growled, his rancid breath clogging up Johns nostrils.
John shoved at him, managing to free himself for a moment, long enough to get in one hard punch. “Let go of me,” he growled, trying to scramble over the bench and out of reach, but Python’s tattooed arm managed to snag the back of his shirt and drag him backward.
John was thrown off balance and fell into bars of the cell. He grunted in pain as the wind was knocked out of him.
“Spunky for a skinny guy ain’t he?” Python cackled out, sounding almost insane to John. Both men reached in to grab the slender paramedic and hauled him upright before shoving him hard against the wall.
Blood ran freely from John’s mouth and his nose was once again trickling the crimson fluid. The younger man’s eyes looked dazed and confused but he still continued to push at the hands holding him against his will.
John continued to struggle against the pair but they were both heavier and there greater weight won out. He felt one of them tearing at the patch on his sleeve. The blue material tore at the shoulder. John lashed out and clipped Python; that earned him another punch to the side of his head.
John’s head reeled and there were flashes of light dancing before his eyes for a brief moment. The dark eyes clenched shut for a few seconds until his head and his vision cleared. His eyes opened to see his paramedic patch and what was left of his sleeve dangling from Hangman’s fingers while he laughed in John’s face victoriously.
“This is gonna look great on my vest,” he crowed in triumph. The laugh faded as John struck out with his fist and clipped the man in the face. The man gasped as the cartilage in his nose broke and blood began to flow.
He stumbled back holding his face as the crimson liquid trickled between his fingers. Python’s eyes flared in shock at his friend’s bloodied face and he turned his blue eyes toward John with a hint of respect.
“Got some balls doncha?” He laughed in John’s face, showing cracked and broken teeth from his own lost battles.
John didn’t answer. He was trying to regain his breath and keep from throwing up on the cell floor.
Gallow shook his head and looked at the blood on his hand. His eyes narrowed and he charged back toward Johnny, shoving his friend out of his way. “You’re a dead man,” he growled, as his fist slammed into John’s gut, knocking the air from the young paramedic.
John doubled over trying to pull air into his lungs. He felt hands pressing him back against the wall. His stomach muscles were screaming in pain and he wheezed painfully. A second pair of hands joined the first.
“My turn,” Python giggled as his hands moved to John’s belt. “I’m gonna get that pouch,” he said gleefully.
John was hurting and his head was spinning. He felt the gray walls beginning to close in around him and tried to fight it off. He felt the rough hands that settled at his waistband and the pull at his trousers as he unbuckled his belt and the color drained from his face. He had no idea what was happening but it didn’t matter. His uncles black, leering eyes swam before him and John began to shake as the memories assailed him...Not again, he couldn't let that happen to him again. “No…No, leave mmme alone,” he whispered as the gray walls crowded in around him.
“We’re not done,” he sneered.
“You got what you wanted,” he gasped out.
“I want somethin else,” Python taunted tugging John’s belt free.
“Roy; help me,” he mumbled desperately, terrified at what was about to happen and unable to stop it. This was the final straw and the walls finally won the battle and crashed in around him. His arms wrapped around his torso, he stopped fighting and sagged against the wall.
The weight of the two men pressing against him suddenly lifted, but it was too late and John no longer noticed.
Vince half ran down the stairs to holding cells, vowing all the way to kick Doug Warren’s rookie behind all the way to the sergeant’s office as soon as he got Johnny out of that cell. What the hell had the over eager fool been thinking? Vince mentally chided himself for sending the rookie to talk to Johnny in the first place, when he knew how gung ho the guy was.
He pushed his way through the heavy doors at the bottom of the stairs and walked quickly to the desk where Hall was sitting. The man glanced up from his book. “Hey Vince; what can I do for you?”
“Did Officer Warren bring someone down here a little while ago?” He asked urgently.
“Sure did…Skinny guy, dressed like a fireman. Said he got himself the stalker. Looked like it was a rough collar too… Serves the bastard right,” he laughed.
Vince’s eyes narrowed at the man. It hadn’t been necessary to manhandle Gage like that and that kind of violence was unacceptable with an unresisting prisoner as far as Vince was concerned. “He got a paramedic out of Station 51,” he growled angrily. “He’s a friend of mine,” he added.
“Sorry to hear that Vince,” Hall replied, not getting the big picture.
Vince sighed at the man’s obtuseness. “Gage was on duty last night and he has a station full of witnesses that he was there all night. He’s not the stalker,” he clarified sarcastically.
The man’s face blanched. “Oh man,” Hall muttered, visions of false arrest and police brutality law suits swimming through his head. He snatched the keys from the desk. “We better get him outta there,” he said knowingly.
“Why the rush?” Vince questioned suspiciously.
“He ain’t alone in the cell,” he replied.
“Couple of street thugs in there with him,” he muttered.
“Oh God,” Vince almost moaned. How would he ever explain this to Roy; how would he ever apologize to Johnny if he’d been hurt? “Hurry man…Get him outta there,” he barked, running past Hall and down the short corridor to the cells. He skidded to a halt and sucked in his breath at the sight that greeted him.
The slender paramedic was pressed against the wall with his knees drawn to his chin. His arms wrapped about himself. His body trembled in shock and there was a slow, rocking motion. His shirt was torn and while Vince couldn’t see much of his face, what he could see was bloodied and bruised.
Two men dressed in motorcycle leathers stood over him. One held the tattered remains of John’s shirt sleeve. A hint of yellow told Vince it was John’s paramedic patch. The other held John’s belt and the leather pouch that usually hung from it.
“OPEN THE DAMN DOOR!” Vince shouted at Hall. The two men looked toward the cell door and blanched at the sight of the two officers. Hangman shoved the patch in his pocket, unwilling to give up his prize, while Python stood staring at the incriminating pouch in his hand before he flung it away, too late since Vince and Hall had already seen it.
Hall fumbled with the keys for a few seconds but finally got the door open. Vince ran inside. He grabbed Gallow and shoved him toward Hall, who quickly managed to cuff him while Vince did the same to Brown and hauled the pair away from Johnny.
“Get them in another cell,” he barked as he turned his attention to John. The young paramedic hadn’t looked up and didn’t seem to realize Vince was there.
The older, black officer squatted next to his friend. “Johnny?” He called softly, reaching to touch John’s shoulder.
John slapped his hand away, edging away from whoever was intruding into his safe place. The slow rock increased its pace. Vince frowned at the reaction. What was wrong with Johnny? Shock maybe, he mused worriedly. “Johnny?” He said, trying again, but John refused to look up and Vince worried his lower lip between his teeth at the lack of response and the now rapid rocking motion.
John was shaking but Vince couldn’t tell if it was, shock, pain, injury or fear or a combination of all four.
He couldn’t see his face but there were smears of blood and the deep red of what would surely become a nasty bruise on the one cheek he could see part of. He couldn’t tell if he was hurt anywhere else.
Should he go and get Roy? He didn’t want to leave Johnny alone. “John? Can you stand up?” He asked gently but the young man didn’t respond and Vince’s heart pounded fearfully; worried that something was very wrong.
Hall returned from having relocated the prisoners to another cell. He frowned at the kid’s odd behavior. He wondered about how much trouble he’d be in for letting him get hurt and for the way he’d treated him earlier. He held out John’s belt and pouch that he’d retrieved from Python. “This is what they were after,” he said holding it out to Vince.
Vince glanced over his shoulder at him and took the items from the man. “Call upstairs…Malloy and Reed are in the interview room with his partner. Ask one of them to bring him down here,” he ordered.
“Yeah…Yeah okay. What’s wrong with him?”
“I don’t know,” he muttered worriedly. “I don’t know. See if Dr. Suarez is in the building after you get DeSoto,” he instructed.
Hall turned and ran for the desk, leaving Vince alone with John.
Vince refrained from trying to touch him since it seemed to only agitate the young man even more. “Johnny? Can you hear me?” he questioned again. There was no change in the rocking motion or John’s lack of response. He glanced at the belt and the pouch in confusion. Was that what had scared John so badly, and if so why? Or was it possible the young man was more badly hurt than he thought? “What did they do to you Johnny?” He questioned softly. Vince ran his hand over his face worriedly and hoped Roy could help when he got down here.
Officer Hall snatched up the phone and a moment later a man’s voice replied. “Officer Malloy speaking.”
“Pete; this is George down in lock up.”
“What do you need?” He asked, concerned by the tone of the man’s voice.
“Vince and I got a problem with that fireman.”
“Johnny?” Pete queried worriedly.
Roy’s head snapped up at the name and Jim Reed moved over to stand near him as the conversation continued.
“Yeah; I guess that’s the kid’s name,” he replied, truly worried now. It seemed as if everyone in the department except him knew and liked this young paramedic. His name would be mud around the station if the boy was hurt badly, he mused unhappily. Just wait till he got his hands on that rookie for getting him involved in this mess.
“What’s wrong with him?” Pete asked anxiously.
“He got attacked in his cell by a couple of thugs. He’s conscious but unresponsive and Vince wants you to bring his partner down here right now.”
Pete’s blue eyes rested on Roy and the senior paramedic saw the concern in them?
“Johnny?” He questioned anxiously.
Pete nodded. “We’ll be right there,” he replied, slamming down the phone. Roy was on his feet and the fear for his partner was obvious.
“What happened? Is Johnny okay?”
Pete waved them away from where Heather was looking through the books. Something’s happened to Johnny. Vince needs you down there right now.”
“Oh God; how bad?”
“I don’t know. Jim; stay with Miss Price okay? Roy, come on,” he said with a head jerk toward the door. He didn’t have to ask twice, Roy wasn’t wasting any more time trying to wring information from the blonde cop and was already at the door, pulling it open and stepping out into the hall. He just needed to get to John.
The two men ran for the stairs.
Vince sat on his heels and watched his young friend rock slowly. The shaking had subsided a bit, but the vague look on the kids face scared him silly.
Vince felt someone come up behind him and looked up quickly, but it was only Officer Hall. “I found the doc. He was in a meeting in the Captain’s office. He’ll get here as soon as it busts up,” he informed the officer.
“What about Roy?” Vince asked curtly.
“He’s on his way down.”
“Johnny? Johnny...Roy is here and he’s on his way down,” he assured the young man. “Johnny?” He queried. “Johnny…can you hear me?” He pressed. He frowned worriedly at the complete lack of response.
Vince heard the pounding of running feet and spun around as DeSoto and Malloy ran inside. Roy took one look at his young partner and knew instantly that something serious had happened to Johnny that had sent him over the edge.
Vince quickly scrambled to the side out of the blonde paramedics way. Roy dropped to his knees next to Johnny.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with him Roy.”
“I do,” Roy murmured, watching John rock.
“God, I’m so sorry about this,” Vince apologized sincerely.
Roy waved him off. “I know Vince,” he replied absently, his whole attention centered on John. “Hey junior,” he said quietly. “Can you hear me?”
John was tucked safely behind the gray walls where nothing could hurt him and for a time there was peace. He was aware that something had happened around him…Outside that safe place. The pain he’d been experiencing had stopped suddenly. He heard the voices around him and felt the touch of someone’s hand. He’d pulled away, afraid his tormentors had returned; but now a new voice intruded, one he knew and trusted, at least he thought he recognized it.
John’s head jerked at the sound of Roy’s voice and the older paramedic knew John was very aware of his presence, but the fact that the younger man hadn’t looked up warned Roy that John was deep inside his safe zone.
Roy often wondered what the young man was thinking; feeling? What was going on inside his head when he slipped away, but John could never remember for sure; just that it was peaceful and safe.
Roy reached out and gently touched John’s hand, but the young paramedic pulled away, shrinking in on himself.
“What’s wrong with him Roy? Did he get hit in the head?” Vince questioned worriedly.
“No…At least I don’t think so. He’ll be fine won’t ya junior?” Roy said softly. “Johnny? Johnny…it’s Roy. I’m gonna touch you junior…It’s just me okay? Don’t be afraid,” he warned his friend.
John heard his friend’s voice, sure now that it was Roy; he let himself drift from the fog that seemed to surround him as his friend continued speaking.
Roy reached out to lay his hand on John’s head. The younger man stiffened at the touch but he didn’t move away. “Thatsa boy,” he murmured. “Now I want you to lift your head for me,” he instructed gently, now that he was sure John wasn’t going to fight him.
John finally stirred a bit and Roy waited patiently for him to make a decision to come back or if he’d need to try again. John lifted his head uncertainly. The wary dark eyes glanced around the cell before returning to hesitantly meet the blue orbs watching him intently, before looking away once more.
“Good boy,” Roy said soothingly, moving his hand to gently cup John’s chin. “Look at me John,” he instructed, keeping his voice even despite the anger that was boiling up at the blood and bruising decorating Johnny’s face.
“R…Roy,” he stuttered hesitantly.
“Yeah Junior,” he said softly, pulling John into his arms. John stiffened and began a slight rock but Roy didn’t let go. “It’s gonna be okay,” he soothed, letting John rock. “You’re safe now.”
John was rigid for a few moments more before Roy’s words began to sink in. The rocking motion slowed. “G…Go hhhhhome,” he stammered hopefully, his eyes shifting hesitantly to the three officer’s standing in the cell, watching the gentle handling Roy gave his young partner.
“Yeah Johnny; you’re free to go,” Vince assured him softly.
“Here that? C’mon Junior, let’s get you on your feet here huh?” Roy said, taking John’s arm and pulling the still shaky young man to his feet.
Roy’s eyes practically shot fire as the reason behind John’s withdrawal became apparent. “What the hell did they do to him?” He snarled, seeing the torn belt loops and the missing leather belt. He knew the memories that would have crashed in like waves over him in that moment. John flinched at the angry tone but Roy gave his arm a reassuring pat. “It’s okay…I’m not mad at you,” he assured him.
Vince frowned in concern at the young man’s behavior. “They knocked him around, that’s for sure, but I got them off of him before they could hurt him too bad; at least I uh..I think I did,” he added, looking at John worriedly.
“Bastards,” Roy barked angrily.
Vince picked up John’s leather pouch and the belt. “This is all they were after I guess,” he said, handing it to Roy.
“John didn’t know that,” he raged.
John jumped at the angry tone. “Doan y…yell,” he whispered.
“I’m sorry Junior,” Roy said contritely, quickly lowering his voice before leading John from the corner of the cell toward the door.
Vince reached out to help but Johnny recoiled, stepping quickly out reach. “No…No; don’t touch me,” he mumbled.
Roy knew it would be several days before John would settle down from this incident.
Vince quickly pulled back at John’s apprehensive reaction. “Sorry man,” he said, giving Roy a hard stare. Vince had been around the block a few times in his career, not to mention that he’d been around John Gage for over two years and he’d seen this young man charge into too many dangerous and life threatening situations without so much as batting an eye. He’d seen John take several injuries and keep on going without a whimper but now…? John was showing some obvious signs of something far more than having been roughed up. Vince was certain someone had hurt this kid badly somewhere in his past.
Roy caught the stare Vince leveled at him and looked away, unable or unwilling to answer the unspoken question, but his evasiveness was answer enough for the savvy black officer.
John didn’t look up, but his dark eyes shifted warily at the three officers standing in front of the door, afraid they weren’t going to let him leave after all.
“They locked mmme…in a ccccage Roy…They hurt mme,” he whispered forlornly.
“I know… but you’re free now.”
“I www…wanna go home Roy.”
“I called the doctor…He’s coming to take a look at him before he leaves,” Hall advised them.
John shook his head. “No…No…Go hhhome,” John stuttered pleadingly, shaking his sable head adamantly.
Roy threw Vince and Pete a glance and shook his head. “He isn’t gonna let a stranger touch him right now,” he said firmly. “Let me just get him outta here.”
“He was injured by one of our officers and attacked in one of our cells,” Hall argued, but Vince saw the blonde paramedics jaw set mutinously.
“I’ll take him to Rampart, but I think you’ve all done enough,” he growled, glaring at Hall.
Vince and Pete shot the man a hard stare of their own and Hall subsided. He knew there would be some serious repercussions over this. The young man had been falsely accused and abused by one of their officers and then Hall had been rough as well and then stuffed him in a cell with those two thugs. Not only an innocent man but a paramedic and a friend of Vince and Pete’s and who knew how many others in the department. Early retirement was looking pretty good.
“I’m real sorry about this Vince. Warren said he was the stalker,” he said lamely.
“I’ll deal with Warren,” he said angrily. “But you’ll both have to deal with Sergeant MacDonald after,” he assured him.
Hall blanched at that but stepped aside to let Roy lead his partner from the cell. John was a bit unsteady and Roy was concerned about the ugly bruise on his forehead and a potential concussion, but he figured it was more likely the stress of being manhandled so intimately first by Warren and then by those animals he’d been locked up with that had stirred those horrible memories of his past and sent him into withdrawal and left him so wobbly at this point.
Vince and Pete followed, wanting to help their young friend, but pretty sure that their help would be rejected.
Johnny was barely allowing Roy to touch him right now, much less two men wearing the same uniform as the two who’d put him through this, not to mention that he thought Vince had sent Warren in the first place just as Roy had.
The blonde paramedic assisted his partner up the stairs and waited for Vince to unlock the door for them before leading Johnny through.
There were two men standing in the corridor. One was a stranger but the other was Officer Warren.
Walt Grady was sitting slumped in his chair in Detective Frasier’s office. It had been a tough sixty minute interview, and while the detective had been as gentle as possible, he’d also been ruthless with his questions about his and Anna’s marriage and relationship.
Walt was seething. They had the man in custody so why were they harassing him?
Detective Frasier finally seemed satisfied that Walt and his wife weren’t having any issues that may have led to his killing her and that he’d been home in bed at the time of her murder. His daughter would vouch for that.
He’d told him to be sure the girl came in. He’d need a statement from her and he’d need her to verify his story as well.
Frasier climbed to his feet and extended his hand. “I’m sorry to put you through all of that Mr. Grady, but I do have to ask these questions,” he explained.
“Yeah…Well you just hang onto that little creep you got downstairs. He’s the one that killed my Anna,” he sneered angrily, snatching up his hat.
“Who would that be?” He asked in confusion.
“That paramedic that cop brought in,” he growled.
Detective Frasier’s eyebrow rose questioningly. He assumed it must have been Vince, but he’d been so sure of his friend’s innocence. He must have just brought him in for questioning, he surmised.
“If he’s guilty, we’ll see to it he pays for it,” he assured the man as he led him to the door. He glanced out in the corridor and spotted Officer Warren coming from the small coffee room down the hall, along with several other rookie cops. “Warren!” He called, gaining the young officer’s attention.
Warren turned away from his friends. “Yes sir?” He replied curiously.
“Can you show Mr. Grady out please,” he asked, waving Walt out into the hallway.
“Yes sir,” he replied, sketching a wave at his buddies and trotting toward the detective and Walt.
“Thank you again Mr. Grady and please be sure your daughter comes in as soon as possible.”
“Yeah sure,” Grady grunted as he passed him.
“Officer Warren will show you out,” he added.
Warren jerked his head down the hallway that led to the front of the building and the pair headed off.
Lance closed the door behind them and picked up the file. He heaved a sigh and glanced at the phone, hoping Vince would call him and let him know what had happened with his paramedic friend, and if the guy had an alibi as Vince thought he did, they’d be back to square one.
Doug led Walt Grady down the hall to the double doors that led to the front reception desk. Grady was still angry that they’d put him through this when they had the man right down stairs. They’d almost made it when the door behind them opened and a group of men stepped into the hall.
Doug gasped in surprise at the sight of his prisoner being assisted carefully into the corridor by none other than his interfering partner and escorted by Vince Howard and Pete Malloy. The dark haired paramedic’s clothes were disheveled and torn. His face was more bloodied and bruised than when he’d brought him in.
Vince’s eyes locked with his as they came up the hall and Doug blinked in surprise at the anger reflected in the deep brown orbs.
“Uh hey Vince; what’s up?” he questioned the older man suspiciously.
“Nothing’s up. We’re letting John go home,” he informed his trainee.
The man next to Doug looked shocked and then angry at Vince’s statement. They were letting his wife’s killer just walk out the door.
“But why?” Doug gasped, looking indignant at this turn of events. He’d made a good collar of a murderer and now they were just going to let him go? They hadn’t even interrogated him yet.
The group halted as they waited for Vince to respond. The older black officer noted the other man standing with Doug and his intense interest, but he had no idea who he was and he had no intention of discussing a murder case in front of the man. His dark brows drew together of his nose. “I told you I wanted to talk to John. I never told you to arrest him. I told you I’d handle it,” he growled.
He turned and the group began to move forward. John was still rather shaky and Pete and Vince exchanged a worried glance. “Roy; are you sure you don’t want the doctor to take a look at him?” Vince asked as they walked.
Roy looked back over his shoulder without releasing his hold on his young partner. “No…I’ll take him to Rampart. He knows them,” he replied simply as they pushed through the doors and disappeared.
Grady turned to Warren as the door closed behind them. “THEY’RE JUST LETTING HIM GO?” He snarled angrily, a look of outrage on his face.
“It appears that way,” Doug said sourly, sure that Vince Howard was just aggravated that his trainee had arrested his ‘friend’ even though it was a good bust. He’d made the older officer look bad that he’d been playing favorites. And then down the road when they had all the evidence that pointed inevitably at Gage and he had no choice, he’d make the arrest himself and look like a hero.
“Why would they do that?” Grady barked, his face growing red with rage.
Warren shrugged. “He’s a friend of my partners,” he replied, looking disgusted. He’d thought Vince was a great training officer, but now he wasn’t so sure.
Walt’s eyes nearly bugged from his head. “So they’re just gonna let him WALK? Let him kill someone else?”
“I guess; at least until they have no other option,” Warren replied sourly.
“Well he won’t get away with it,” Grady warned the young officer.
Warren suddenly realized he’d said too much…That the angry man was a loose cannon and if something happened because of it, he’d be responsible. He tried to reassure the man. “He won’t get away with it. We’ll gather enough evidence and then they’ll have no choice. We’ll pick him up, or at least, Vince will,” he sneered.
“Too late!” Grady snapped. “You had your chance. Now it’s my turn,” he said softly, his gray eyes narrowing dangerously.
Warren’s face paled a bit at the threat, worried now about what his loose tongue had caused. “Mr. Grady…I know you’re upset, but you can’t be taking the law into your own hands,” he warned.
“LAW? What law? You just let him walk,” he growled as he turned and stalked toward the exit. He’d find this Gage guy and when he did? He’d make him pay. He’d mount the man’s head on his wall.
He slid into the driver’s seat of his old pickup truck and grinned wickedly. He already knew where to find him. His friend had told the cop he’d be taking him to Rampart Hospital. It was a start.
To Be continued...
A/N: *I know I don’t usually mix the two series together but I chose to this time so that I could dedicate the story to Martin Milner who passed away earlier this year. He played Pete Malloy in the series Adam 12 for many years and introduced us to a straight up, honest, compassionate and professional officer that we could all admire. RIP Martin…You will be missed.
Posted to Site 11/28/15
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