Reaching their car, Tate heads to the passenger seat but Martina takes the lead, pointing at the other side of the vehicle. “No way, you’re driving. Let’s go.”
Without time to argue, Tate does as he’s told but not without a groan. “It’s not even raining grandma, you’re perfectly capable of driving.”
“It’s not raining yet. If it starts we’ll lose him if I’m behind the wheel.”
They tear off toward the next street over, looking for any sign of their suspect. He shouldn’t be hard to spot in a bright green shirt and pale white pants. There’s plenty of street lights around but even in the dark those pants would stand out. “Why do you always get to decide who’s driving grandma? When do I get to make the call.”
“When you’re the senior officer. Good luck with that. There!” She points as they pass the next street over. A flash of green ducks off the street.
Tate’s head whips to her side of the road, his eyes wide. “I didn’t see anything. Are you sure?”
“I’m sure, he took off into another alley.” Tate starts to turn down the street. “Wait, don’t. He was heading for the next street. Keep going.”
Without hesitation he roars toward the next street. The sirens are blaring and the few cars on the road get out of their way. Turning hard at the corner, their suspect is right in the middle of the road, highlighted by their headlights. He doesn’t stop. Running hard, he makes his way to yet another alley and darts into it. Not ready to let him escape, Martina says, “Get me close. I’ll do the rest.”
Flying toward the alley, Tate stomps hard on the break. They skid as they slow down but before the car is even fully stopped Martina throws her door open and leaps out. Slamming her door behind her, she rushes into the alley. “Freeze. Don’t make me shoot you.”
He’s already flying around the next corner onto another street. Tate won’t be able to get the car turned around fast enough. There’s twenty places he could lose them between here and there. Not ready to let him get away, she goes after him on foot.
On the next street Alvarez is gaining on her prey. He’s quick but she’s quicker. He’s moving toward another alleyway and she wants to reach him before he can find a way off the street. Too many variables at that point. Turning the corner, she raises her gun. The man in green’s standing there staring at a three story tall brick wall before him. He took a wrong turn and now he has nowhere to go. He slowly turns around and finds a gun staring him in the face.
She inches a few steps closer, cutting the distance between them in half. Sweat’s pouring off her forehead. This is the closest she’s been to any of these costumed types. “You made a big mistake, you should have just surrendered. Put your hands up, you’re under arrest.”
His hands fly into the air. There doesn’t seem to be any fight left in him. Her gun stays up as she inches closer but she leaves the safety on. With her free hand she grabs her radio and says into it, “I’m down the second alley, back the way we came. Get down here and give me some backup.”
It doesn’t take long before a police car comes rushing to block the alley’s exit. Leaving his lights on, Tate jumps out and rushes to back up his partner. His gun’s drawn in one hand while his other hand holds his hat on. Alvarez gives him a hand gesture that she uses whenever she wants him to take it easy. He doesn’t lower his weapon but he also doesn’t remove his safety. Maybe more importantly, he keeps his mouth shut.
With backup ready Alvarez closes the rest of the gap between herself and her target. “I want to know where all of your weapons are. Nothing funny or I’ll shoot. I see the holster on your back, is that for a gun or weapon?”
“Just a staff.” He’s trying to speak in a deep tone of voice, but she can tell it’s a put on. She’s dealt with enough teenagers trying to seem tough. He’s nineteen at the absolute oldest. His nerves are evident. He’s practically shaking.
With her free hand, she slips his holster over his head and tosses it to the side. “I see a lot of knives on you. I know you stabbed a guy with one. How many do you still have?”
It takes him a long time to answer. “There’s thirteen more. The one I used on that guy I didn’t get a chance to recover. I can guide you through finding all of them.”
“Impressive stack.” Who carries over a dozen knives into a fight? From this close she can tell they’re throwing knives but he certainly didn’t throw the one he used earlier unless he somehow threw it straight down. One by one she pulls them from the man’s outfit. There are mini holsters for them built into his suit, all the way from his chest down to his shins.
With his weapons disposed of she can really get a look at him for the first time. She’s surprised by what she finds. He looks so young, matching the voice. He’s fairly tall but lanky. There’s not much muscle on any part of him. Can he even be eighteen? Pulling his mask from his face doesn’t change her opinion. He’s got thick black hair on top of his head but his attempt at growing facial hair is best described as a work in progress. It’s thin and patchy, like he’s not shaving in an attempt to grow it in. It looks sloppy. “Jesus, you’re just a kid, aren’t you? What the hell is a kid doing robbing a freaking flower shop?”
The kid shifts uncomfortably but keeps his hands up. “I wasn’t robbing it. That’s just what they told you to get you out of there and after me. You walked right into their safe house and didn’t even know it.”
Tate’s starting to get annoyed by the answers he’s getting. He adjusts his grip on his weapon. “Sure thing kid. How do you know it’s a safe house?”
“Because I was there investigating. I’m a vigilante and I have evidence on my phone that proves it. Take a look if you want.”
Alvarez and Tate exchange a sudden look. They’re supposed to stay clear of the vigilantes as much as possible. They’re allowed to do whatever they want and the cops can’t do anything to stop them. It’s enough to make her ill. The next thing you know, they won’t need cops anymore. Something seems wrong with the kid’s statement. “If you’re a vigilante, why the hell did you run back there? Vigilantes are able to do pretty much whatever they want. You could have just stepped out of the shadows.”
His shoulders slump. “I’m not registered. I failed my test and was trying to do this anyway. I know I’d have to take the test again if caught, and I wasn’t sure what would happen since I can’t take the test again yet. Besides, you’ve seen the news. No offense, sure you’re great, but I don’t have a ton of trust for the cops.”
Martina breathes a sigh of relief hearing he’s not registered. That gives her a little more leeway. He’s right about one thing. Something in that warehouse didn’t add up. Mrs. Grant seemed off from the moment they arrived. “What did you see in there? Place seemed off to us too. Show us this evidence and maybe we don’t make your life too difficult.”
His hand starts to go to his pocket but the kid freezes. His arm shoots straight back up. “Is it okay if I pull my phone out? You aren’t going to start firing the second my hand comes down?”
“You’re good kid. Just move slowly as you get it.”
He resumes his hunt for his phone and soon he’s pulling it out of a pocket in his shirt. He starts scrolling through the device. “How do I show these to you? Pretty sure you don’t want to come stand next to me.”
“Just hand me the phone.” Martina holds her hand out expectantly. She’s starting to get annoyed now. This is taking too long and if she’s not careful, Tate’s going to lose it. She moves to holster her gun and walks towards him.
Her putting her gun away makes Tate hold his tighter. “Alvarez, you sure you want to do that?”
“It’s fine Brandon, we already took all his weapons. If the kid wanted to fight he’d be doing so. If you want to keep your gun on him, that’s fine. I don’t think you need to though.”
She grabs the phone from his hand to see the picture. On the screen is the inside of a wooden box. It’s at least similar to what they saw back in the warehouse. You can’t make much out in this one though and all she can see inside are flowers. Those won’t get a warrant.
“Scroll right to see more. I took a bunch. They clearly show the logos from their boxes, the flowers inside, and the drugs hiding underneath them. I made sure to get a good amount of proof.”
The rest of the pictures tell a story. Each one’s better than the last. They show the boxes, the flowers, bags of what appear to be drugs hidden under the flowers. They even show the Lovely Lovely Flowers logo written on the boxes in that same black paint she remembers. She turns to her partner. “He’s actually got a lot of good pictures here. I think he’s telling the truth.” She looks back at the kid. “Do you think you can forward these to me? They’re good evidence. I’m going back to that warehouse once we’re done here and searching those crates. Good chance they already took care of the evidence in case we come back but I need to be sure. I also need probable cause if the owner throws a fit about us searching her place.”
She holds the phone out for the kid to take back. He snatches it away and stuffs it into his pocket. “What about me now? What are you going to do?”
“That’s a tough one kid. The evidence is good. I believe you were there trying to investigate what they’re doing. How did you know to look into them though?”
The story he spins is hard to believe but it’s also hard to believe a kid his age would make it up. He talks about overhearing some guys he knows discussing it and following them to an abandoned warehouse. While there he oversaw a lot of drugs being transported. He confronted the guys to get more details. That led him to look into the flower shop. She knows a lot of bad stuff happens in the warehouse district so that part makes sense.
“That still doesn’t explain why you stabbed that guy in the foot. You’re running around with knives kid. Someone’s going to get really hurt. Why shouldn’t I take you in?”
He throws his head back with a groan. “They’re not to hurt people unless they have to be. I use them to pin people’s clothes, to scare them. I use my staff if I can but I didn’t have much choice here. They said they were going to kill me and I was way outnumbered. The only reason they didn’t shoot me is that you guys showed up and they knew a gunshot would get your attention. They had me surrounded though. I didn’t see another way out.”
Turning her back on him, she walks over to Tate. He still doesn’t look convinced. “What are we going to do with the kid partner?”
“Why don’t we just take him in? Let the detectives decide if he’s dangerous or should be charged with anything.”
“Because if we turn him in we create an enemy out here. If we let him go, we potentially create an ally. Someone who will come to us if he has good information. That’s worth a lot more than a collar.”
“That assumes you trust him.”
He fidgets. His hat looks uncomfortable. She’s really going to have to convince him that haircut’s fine. “I’m not sure honestly. He says a lot that makes sense but it feels like he’s not telling us everything.”
Glancing at her email, she’s glad to see the evidence came through. It’s not enough on it’s own but it’ll be enough to get any warrants she might need. “Are you okay with letting him go? This really helps, I think he’s earned it.”
Finally he holsters his weapon. “I’ll follow your lead grandma. I’m on board if you need me to be.”
Heading back for their prey, Alvarez tries to put on her best tough cop face. “Kid, you seem to be telling the truth and I have the pictures so I can search them. I’m going to let you go, but only under two conditions. The first is that you need to take the vigilante test again as soon as possible. I want you registered. Do you understand?”
For the first time since he was cornered in this alley, the kid seems to have some hope. He starts to smile before thinking better of it. “I can do that.”
“Good. The second is that going forward, you trust me. For that matter, you trust all of us out here. No more running from the police. I don’t like this vigilante thing but if it’s going to work, we need to be on the same side. Can you do that?”
His answer is less immediate this time. He seems to be starting to sweat despite the cold. “Ya, I think so. I have another problem though even if you let me go. She knows who I am. She recognized me in there. I’m afraid she’ll come after my family.”
She puts a hand on his shoulder, hoping to set him at ease. He’s clearly worried and she doesn’t have an easy answer to this problem. “Not much I can do about that. If you want to testify against her, I can get your family some protection but that assumes I find enough in that warehouse to arrest her. I can’t promise that right now. I actually don’t even know who you are. Care to tell me?”
“Not if I don’t have to.”
“Ya, that’s kind of what I figured. That’s okay I guess. I won’t make you tell. I have your email though and if I get enough evidence I’ll let you know. Just watch your back, you seem like a smart kid. You’ll probably be fine. You have my email if you see anything weird. She probably won’t come after you. It’ll look too suspicious. Is there anyone you can trust to contact me if something were to happen to you?”
He puts his hand on his head while he thinks about this one. “I have a friend who I can give your information to.”
“Do it. If you can, get ahold of the flower woman and let her know you did it. That’s your insurance policy. Tell her you’ve told a few people so she doesn’t try going after them too. Just keep your head down.”
With a thank you, the kid starts getting ready to book it out of the alley. Alvarez puts a hand up to stop him. “Hey, you can’t just leave your weapons here. I’m guessing you’re going to need them and besides, I don’t want some random person walking by to find a bunch of throwing knives.”
With an apology, the kid starts working to shove his many knives back into their slots. Watching him do so makes her cringe. His fingers practically dance between the handles. He thrusts them into their slots hard and fast. What if he’s even slightly off? He’ll end up skewering himself. His last step is to slide his satchel back over his shoulder. Once he’s done, he’s gone without another word.
Tate starts shaking his head once they’re alone. “I didn’t agree with that partner, just for the record. Vigilantes are dangerous. We have a chance to get one off the streets, we should do it.”
“Unless you have an idea to change the laws, that seems like a waste of time. Two more will just replace them. You know how many people want in on this thing?”
They get back in their car. Brandon looks at her with expectation, clearly hoping she’ll drive for a bit. Instead she makes her way to the passenger’s seat without a word. The drive back to the flower shop doesn’t take long. When they go to enter the warehouse door though, they find it’s sealed. The front is the same and pounding on either door does nothing. They’ve either cleared out or they’re pretending to have done so.
Kicking the door hard, Brandon puts his hands on his hips and starts pacing. “We should never have left this place. Or you should have gone after him and I should have stayed here.”
She doesn’t necessarily disagree but calming her partner’s more important than being right. “We got enough evidence to dig into this. We don’t need to get them tonight. We just need time. Well, that and a subpoena. Come on, we’ll head back to the station. Maybe we can get this pushed through quickly and still make it in there tonight.”