St. Louis, Missouri
Rose massaged her knees as she waited for the coffee to brew. "I'll take the blame for the mess," she said.
"You didn't know." Elena took off her shoes. "Oh, that's much better."
Allison walked into the break room, the papers from Lund in her arms. She wrinkled her nose. "Oh, man, what died here?"
"Sorry, Allison." Elena stretched out. "I wasn't expecting to walk that far today."
"I'm going to see what I can do with all this. I started back at Sexton's place, but, well, gunshots don't make for easy reading conditions."
"Coffee should be ready soon," Rose said. "I'll bring some out to you when it's ready."
"Thanks." Allison left, heading to her own office.
Elena flexed her toes. "Rose, why are we doing this? We're not getting paid and it's out of our scope."
Rose sat back in her chair. "I don't like being used. I don't like being set up. I don't like being thought of as expendable. I especially don't like my family being dragged into my work."
"You're making it personal, Rose."
"Damn straight it's personal. It's one thing for me to be hurt on the job. I know the risks. It's different when it's the kids. They didn't choose to get involved."
"How many times have you used someone's family when you were in the CIA?"
"That was different."
Elena leaned forward into her chair. "How was it different?"
"It wasn't my family." Flustered, Rose waved her hands beside her head. "I also didn't kill anyone not in the business."
"The people you threatened didn't know that," Elena pointed out. "The perceived threat was that you would harm them. The act of kidnapping in itself could be called harmful."
"Are you trying to make me feel better?"
"No." Elena stood up. She rolled her toes on the rug. "I'm trying to remind you to stay professional, that's all. And that movie was right."
Rose cocked her head, confused. "Movie?"
"You know, that one with, oh, what's his name? Willis." Elena snapped her fingers as she tried to remember the name of both the actor and the movie. "Rose, you played the movie for me when I moved here. The one with Snape."
"You mean 'Die Hard'?"
"That's the one. Best advice ever in it."
Rose got up and walked to the coffee maker. "You didn't know that? I thought that was common knowledge."
"The KGB's budget required me to take the train in Europe," Elena said. "Oh, can you pour me one, too, please? Thanks. Anyway, I never got to fly as much as you did."
"Trains don't do so well on the water." Rose poured the fresh coffee into two mugs. She added cream to her own.
"Yes, well, still. I don't have the frequent flyer points you do."
Rose set the still mug of black coffee down beside Elena, then returned to her seat. "Point." She took a long draught of her drink. "That hits the spot. So, where do you think Sexton will go?"
Elena shrugged. "I'm hoping Allison will see something in all those papers. He's probably going to ground right now, to heal up and get reinforcements."
"Like Antwerp, 1981."
"I was thinking Oslo, 1983."
Rose set down her mug. "I wasn't in Oslo in eighty-three. You must be thinking of someone else."
Elena sipped her coffee. "Are you sure? I could have sworn it was you."
"Not me. My first trip to Norway was in eighty-five. Were you cheating on me in Oslo?" Rose giggled. Her cell phone trilled. "I should get that." She pulled out the phone and checked the number. Seeing her home phone number, she greeted, "Hi, Amber. Caller ID, Amber. What's up?" The Hispanic woman covered the mouthpiece. "Elena, turn on the radio." She returned to talking on the phone. "Which station?" Rose relayed the information to Elena. "Thanks, Amber. No, we're safe. We're at the office. Sexton got away. I see. That is some good news. Okay. Oh, okay, one mug, and Maria makes it, not you. Bye, Amber."
Elena tuned the radio to the correct frequency. "What's going on?"
"We made the news."
On the radio, the news announcer said, ". . . story. Police were called out to a private home on Suburban Avenue after reports of gunshots were called in. One man is currently in hospital being checked for shock after he was pulled from his car by an unnamed assailant. Police spokespersons have not released details and have closed the block for further investigation. Today's weather after this commercial message."
Elena turned off the radio. "Interesting."
"That's not the word I'd use."
"My car's still there, Rose. If the police are involved, why haven't we been contacted?"
A knock came from the door. "Ten bucks says it's Lepinski," Rose said as she got up. She left the break room. Elena settled back to enjoy her coffee. A few minutes later, Rose returned with Detective Lepinski on her heels. "Told you," Rose said.
Elena smiled. "Good afternoon, Detective. Would you care for a coffee?"
"No, thanks. This is an official visit."
"Darn." Elena frowned. Rose rolled her eyes. "How can we help, Detective?"
"I have a few questions about where you were this morning, Elena." Lepinski flipped open his notebook. "You drive a red Mercedes C230 Kompressor, do you not?"
"Do you have an explanation why it was at the site of a shooting almost an hour ago?"
"Yes." Elena batted her eyelashes at the detective.
Rose rolled her eyes. "I'll get you a coffee, Detective."
Lepinski sat in an available chair. "Ladies, this is serious. The home owner is saying two women, both blonde, one bleached, broke into her home and threatened both her and her boyfriend. It doesn't explain why the boyfriend jacked a car at gunpoint." He leaned forward, resting on the circular table. "Please, enlighten me."
Elena smiled. "That was us."
The detective sighed. "Not even going to try to deny it?"
"Why would I, Detective?" Elena asked. "You already know, so what's the harm in admitting the truth?"
"That 'presumption of innocence' the courts like to pretend exists. I kinda like having it exist, too. I was ready for any explanation except the truth."
"I didn't mean to disappoint you, Detective," Elena said.
Rose interrupted, saying, "We were looking for Ray Sexton."
"Is it safe to say that you found him?" Lepinski asked.
"And lost him," Rose sighed. "He's the carjacker. Allison's trying to track down possible locations."
Lepinski nodded. "How's Amber?"
"She's okay. Going through withdrawal, mainly."
"She needs to get into surgery. You can't let her go around with a slug of metal in her shoulder."
Rose poured a mug of coffee for the detective. She brought it over to him. "I'm not, but she's safer where she is now. Besides, Amber seems to be back to whatever passes as normal for her. Outside the coffee headaches."
"I can sympathize. How much does she have in a day?"
Elena shrugged. "Two or three, at least."
Lepinski raised an eyebrow. "That's not much. I've gone through two or three cups on stakeouts."
"Pots, Detective," Rose said.
Seeing Lepinski's eyes widen, Elena added, "And that's just here. I have no idea how much she has before or after work."
"That does explain why she seems hyper."
Allison returned. She slowed her pace when she saw Lepinski. "Oh, hello, Detective. I'm not interrupting anything, am I?"
Lepinski smiled. "Not at all."
"It's okay, Allie. The detective is interested in what you found."
"Okay." Allison joined everyone at the table. "There's a lot of slush happening in that department. Again, I'm surprised that no one's come down on them by now. It could be that Sexton has dirt on someone higher up, but I can't prove it here."
"What can you prove?" Elena asked.
"Sexton's got another apartment somewhere, paid for by us taxpayers. It took me a bit of time, but it's downtown, on West Pine Boulevard. Not a great place, but he's not paying for it."
"Thanks, Allison," Lepinski said. He started to stand up. "I'll notify Dispatch and get some cruisers in the area."
"Detective, wait," Rose said. "I don't think that's a good idea."
"Why not? He's wanted for at least one charge of auto theft."
"He has at least three men with him," Rose said.
"Two," Elena corrected. "You got one."
Rose nodded. "Two men, armed with who knows what weapons."
"I dealt with that sort of thing as a beat cop. There's some gangers out there better armed than the Marines."
"I don't want to tip off Sexton that we know how deep his scam is," Rose said. "I'd love to know what the area looks like."
"It's a street-side building, parking in back," Allison said.
Elena looked over to the brunette. "Have you been there?"
"Google Maps. Let's you zoom down to street level."
"Satellite maps online? Rose, do you know how much trouble that would have saved us twenty-five years ago?"
"And created new ones," Rose said. "Detective, I think we need the Feds involved now. This is far bigger than Metro PD. Not that you're not capable of handling it, Lepinski, but I want this guy put down and away as long as possible. The evidence we have is just the tip of the iceberg, and I want someone not from here to get Sexton."
"Are you saying that the police department, including me, is corrupt?"
"Rose," Elena started, "what are you saying?"
"Not corrupt, Detective," Rose explained. "Sympathetic. I don't know who else he's worked with. Chances are, someone from the FBI won't have had as much contact, especially if they're from, say, Kansas City."
Lepinski nodded. "I get you. Look, let me do a drive by look at the place. I can check out if there's anyone guarding it. My car's unmarked, and there's enough Crown Vics out there that, while I might get a second look, they won't panic if I keep going."
Elena looked over at Rose. "Not a bad idea. We're too recognizable right now. Besides, Detective Lepinski is a man. Definitely not one of us."
"Elena has point," Allison said. "Gives me more time to try to trace the money."
Rose surrendered. "Alright, Detective, if you want. I do trust you, Lepinski. Even if you do ride my investigators a little hard at times."
"Detective, what about my car?" Elena asked.
"Towed to impound. Sorry, Elena, it's evidence. It'll take the lab boys some time before they get all the pellets out."
Elena sighed. "Pity. It's going to be tough explaining to the insurance company what happened."
"You'll get a copy of the official report." The detective set down his mug. "I'll get going. I want this out of my hair and my city as much as all of you do."