Chapter 34 – In Progress

[Half an hour earlier]

Vickers rushed into observation and asked, “He give us anything solid?”

Waters shook his head, and Captain Cosgrove said, “You got anything for us?”

“A phone number,” Vickers said. “Regular minute or so check-ins from both Marcia and Conklin. It’s a prepaid wireless number, no way to trace it quickly, though we know it was purchased from a gas station about a month ago. I doubt they keep security tapes that long though. We caught a break though: he’s in the warehouse district right now!”

“How do you know that?” Waters asked.

“The phone is on right now, and we’re triangulating the signal off of nearby cell towers. We’ve got it down to a five block radius,” Vickers said.

“You got the number off of both their phones?” Waters asked. When Vickers nodded, he went next door into interrogation and said, “We’ve got you and your client dead to rights for conspiracy now. Your phones indicate you’re collaborating with a third party to hold women as slaves! Now if you hope to get out of this alive you’d better tell me who, and where he is!”

Cosgrove looked at Vickers and said, “What do you make of this?”

“He seems to be playing our game, but you never know with these guys,” Vickers said. “Could all be theatrics for our sake….”

“Any way to speed up the process of locating him with the phone?” Cosgrove asked.

“I’ve got one idea,” Vickers said. He called the lab and asked, “If he makes or receives a call, would that help?”

“Shouldn’t make a difference if its a GPS smart phone,” the man said.

“What about a gas station terror phone?” Vickers asked.

“I’d get your SWAT team in the area first, and be prepared for him to realize the deal is up,” the man replied. “But it could help.”

Vickers reported the tech’s advice to Cosgrove, who shook his head and said, “Too risky.”

Inside the interrogation room, Conklin clammed up and demanded a lawyer, and while Waters explained that he could be held on certain counter-terror statutes if the case was presented in a particular way, the DEA agent assigned slipped out of observation to make a phone call to Washington to update his superiors.

Ten minutes later, a young policeman rushed into the observation room. “Detective, Captain … the phone’s receiving a call! We have the location!”

Cosgrove barked, “Get the address to SWAT, now!”

“Already done, sir!” the officer responded.

“Any idea who called him?” Vickers asked.

            “No sir,” the officer answered. “The call came from an unregistered cell.”

“Where?” Vickers demanded.

“Washington, D.C.,” the officer replied.

Cosgrove got on the line immediately with SWAT and said, “GO! Go in hard, live fire authorized. They know we’re coming!”

Vickers stormed out of observation and into the interrogation room. “Waters, you mother fucker!” he said, pulling out his cuffs and snapping them shut over the lawyer’s wrist and over the arm of the chair he was sitting in. Before the lawyer’s FBI escort could move, Vickers gun was in his face. “I’m placing you both under arrest for conspiracy to commit murder and obstruction of justice! You have the right to remain silent; you have the right to …”

“What the hell?” Waters yelled, waving to the FBI agent to stand down. “What are you doing?”

“You’ve killed those girls, you son of a bitch!” Vickers yelled in his face. “Where is that asshole from DEA?”

“He went to the bathroom,” Waters said. “He’ll be right back!”

“Then how come, a couple of minutes after he left this room, Ramon gets a phone call?” Vickers demanded.

“Coincidence!” Waters said. “I’m going to have your badge, Vickers!”

“The phone call came from a cell phone in Washington, D.C.!” Vickers yelled, and Waters’ face went white.

Just then, Cosgrove burst in with a bunch of cops and said, “Stop fucking around, Vickers! DEA is on his way to a holding cell, and these guys will be joining him!”

“Captain, this is ridiculous!” Waters continued to protest.

“I expected that when we traced the cell signal, the call would have come from outside of DEA headquarters,” Cosgrove said. “Imagine my surprise to find out that it came from inside the Justice Department!” Turning to Vickers, he said, “Let’s get down to the scene! It’s a mess!”

“What happened?” Waters asked.

“All I know right now is SWAT engaged, and the building is on fire,” Cosgrove said.

“Jesus F-ing Christ,” Vickers snarled. With his fingers in Waters’s face, he added, “You’d better hope they hold you if any of those girls dies!” Then he stormed out hot on Cosgrove’s heals.

“Vickers,” Cosgrove cautioned, as they got into the car, “it looks real bad….”

Vickers just shook his head and said, “I think I’m done, Captain…. I think … early retirement’s looking pretty good right now.”

“Shut up, Vickers,” Cosgrove barked. “It’s stupid to make that kind of decision in moments like this and you know it!”

“I’ve been having these moments for a couple of weeks,” Vickers protested.

“Yeah, while chasing a serial killer and being undermined by your boss and ex-lover, who just killed himself and probably doomed a bunch of young girls to a fiery death!” Cosgrove said, summing up the situation quite succinctly.

“I’m tired of everything, Cosmo. I’m tired of the process, jurisdiction, procedure: it’s all a joke, and you and me, and those girls? We’re the punchline!”

Cosgrove grunted but he had no response so he just drove. Not another word was spoken until the Captain involuntarily exclaimed, “Holy Mary mother of God!” The inferno that had consumed the warehouse holding the girls had engulfed an abandoned auto-parts factory next door and threatened to spread further. They couldn’t see the building yet, but they could see peaks of flame along the squat industrial skyline, which glowed an ominous and sickly orange.

Just before they turned down the street to face the true horror of the conflagration, Vickers’ phone buzzed and he saw Andy’s message. His immediate response, as the flames burst into full sight, was a profane exclamation, full of feeling but void of content. “Fuck, no! God damn mother fucking sons of bitches!”

***

The following morning, when Alan and Billy joined the others for breakfast at the hotel buffet, the mood was somber. Everyone in the common area was sitting or standing so they could listen to the news as it unfolded.

Details were sketchy but the news was reporting that an undisclosed number of women were killed in the blaze, along with their captors.  A source in the police department had revealed, on the condition of anonymity, that the warehouse was suspected to have been a holding facility in a sex trafficking ring based out of state.

“This must be what Detective Vickers was dealing with last night,” Andy said, shaking his head. “Those poor girls!”

Soon though, the news moved along to other stories and the pall that had fallen over the room lifted somewhat.

“So what are we doing today?” Sean asked. “Besides, I assume, dropping by the hospital?”

“We could go to the zoo,” Paul suggested, not worried by the enthusiasm slipping into his voice. They all shrugged and nodded at that.

{Unpublished}

Jim suggested, “Dad and I can go to the hospital while the rest of you head straight over.”

Billy said, “I bet Paul wants to go with you. Why don’t the rest of us just wait here for you guys to go visit?”

Alan nodded and said, “That sounds good.”

“Wanting some private time?” Jim asked with a wink.

“I hadn’t thought of that,” Billy said. “Sean can go to the hospital too!” That got a lot of laughs. “I’ve got my phone. If we go out I’ll call you.”

“You guys really are trying to get rid of us!” Sean laughed.

“What can I say?” Billy said with an angelic smile.

“Don’t go to far from the hotel if you leave, guys,” Andy said with a look to Sean, who nodded his agreement.

“Don’t the police still think Robert’s long gone?” Billy asked.

“Yeah,” Andy said, “but I don’t want any of you boys to start taking risks just yet!’

“Agreed,” Sean said.

When they were alone, Billy turned to Alan and said, “What do you want to do? We could go out to…”

“Or we could go up to the room,” Alan said with a brilliant smile and a wink.

“Perv,” Billy said with a grin and held out a hand to help Alan up. Then he led the way excitedly to the elevator.

***

“Go home, Vickers,” Cosgrove said. “This isn’t your case anyway….” The two cops had been on scene all night coordinating disaster response.

“I can’t leave,” Vickers insisted. “I’m responsible for….”

“You aren’t responsible for anything about this situation,” Cosgrove said. “Without you we never would have caught the people behind this.”

“Maybe the feds would have been able to shut down the whole system,” Vickers said, shaking his head.

            “With a mole in Washington reporting to the cartel?” Cosgrove snorted. “Not fucking likely.”

“What about the girls,” Vickers asked.

“That’s all the feds’ mess to clean up,” Cosgrove said. “Our department is their mess too. At this point, I’ll be the figurehead ‘til they get us all sorted out. Then maybe I’ll retire too….”

            “Not fucking likely,” Vickers snorted. “Waters out yet?”

“Nope, he’s in a holding tank with his lackies. Justice Department called demanding I release them into federal custody – my guess is that only the ATF guy is in trouble. I told them to go fuck themselves, that I’d hold their guys the legal maximum unless served with a court order,” Cosgrove said.

“So you are thinking about retirement, then,” Vickers laughed.

Cosgrove nodded solemnly, then added, “They’ll be out by lunch I expect.”

“But the girls,” Vickers began.

“Give it a rest, Vickers,” Cogrove said. “What else do you want? We saved those girls and they’ll be sent into federal protection. They’ll all get a clean slate and an American birth certificate courtesy of the forgers at the FBI. What more is there?”

“How do we KNOW they’re going to be okay?” Vickers asked.

“This is too big now to put a lid on,” Cosgrove said. “We won’t be able to keep the news that they’re alive secret for twenty-four hours! Honestly I can’t believe we sold it this long. But they’ll be protected. That’s someone else’s responsibility though. You get back to your job, catch some murderers, and do your best to track down Robert Dyer!”

“Yes, sir,” Vickers said and shrugged, turning to go.

“And Vickers?” Cosgrove added. When the man turned he said, “DO NOT GO TO THAT FUCKING STATION. GO GET SOME REST FIRST, OR I’LL SUSPEND YOUR ASS FOR TWO DAYS AND MAKE YOU!”

“Yes, sir,” Vickers said with a smile. Usually he’d disobey, but instead he asked, “Could I just have those two days? Robert’s so far out of our jurisdiction right now, and Ryan is still….”

“Sure,” Cosgrove said. “Get to the hospital. But keep your phone nearby!”

“Thank you, sir,” Vickers said, making Cosgrove roll his eyes at the sir.

LAST UPDATE 7/8/2019