The Law Vol. 1 Serve or Protect Part 4

As they enter the headquarters of Chicago’s 4th police precinct, Martina Alvarez can feel her partner’s nervous energy. He’s got his hands on his sides and he’s awkwardly rubbing them up and down his hips. “Calm down Tate, it’s fine.”

He glares at her. “It doesn’t feel fine grandma. Going over the captain’s head is a really bad idea. Do you think your dad will even do it?”

She’s not sure if she’s being honest with herself but Martina tries to seem confident. She raises her eyebrows and shrugs. “Probably. We’ll find out.” That’s the most confidence she can manage for her father.

Eyes turn their way as they walk through the room. People here know who Martina is. She’s not above going to her father when needed, something which has rubbed every captain she’s had the wrong way. This is Tate’s first time being dragged along so he stays close, unfamiliar with the way around.

“You know, I’ve been wondering, if you’re grandma, does that make him great grandpa?”

As angry as she is, that puts a smile on her face. “If you want to still be on the force I definitely wouldn’t call him that. Then again, if you want to throw your career away, I can think of less entertaining ways.”

Her father’s secretary’s an older woman named Ida who has been with him for years. He hired her because she doesn’t mind working the same crazy hours he does. He rarely works less than fourteen hours a day and he wants her there the entire time. She’s currently asleep at her desk but she’s there.

A small bell sits on her desk and Martina rings it. Ida pops up and her hair slides slightly to the side. She fixes it without a word and looks at the woman standing before her. “Long time Officer Alvarez. You here to see Captain Alvarez?”

“That’s the plan Ida. He busy tonight?”

She rolls her still half closed eyes. “He’s always busy. He’ll fit you in though. Let me tell him you’re here.” Pressing a button on her phone, crackling comes over an intercom. “Captain, Martina and her partner are out here. Want me to send them in?”

The static filled response confirms they can enter and Ida waves toward the closed door. By the time Martina turns the doorknob she’s already got her head back on the desk.

Entering with confidence, Martina plops into a nice leather chair. Tate enters behind her, staying in the back of the room and keeping quiet. He closes the door without making a sound.

Captain Alvarez doesn’t look up from his paperwork as they enter. He’s a small man with white hair and a pair of thick glasses. His hat’s still on but he does have the top button of his shirt undone. “What do you want Martina? You know I don’t have a lot of time.”

Reaching under her coat, she pulls out her phone to start bringing the pictures she came here to show him up. “I have an interesting case for you. Thought you might want to take a look.”

“Which means your captain doesn’t want to take a look. Is this the flower shop?”

She frowns, any hope that she could be the first to reveal this gone. “You saw the memo.”

“I actually read my mail.” Looking up for the first time since they entered, he glances at Tate. “Sit down Grandon, you’re making me nervous.”

Tate rushes to a chair, not even bothering to correct his name. Martina shakes her head. Now she has to defend him. “Grandon hasn’t been my partner in years dad. He moved out of the city. This is Brandon Tate. We’ve been partners for over two years. You’ve met.”

Tate sits next to Martina, hitting the leather without a sound. “That’s okay Captain Tate, we’ve only met a few times. You can call me whatever.”

He doesn’t bother to respond to this. Looking back at his paperwork, Captain Alvarez starts to tap his fingers on his desk. “What do you have? I assume it’s something if you’re here.”

Martina slides her phone open and passes it across his desk. He starts scrolling through the pictures. “Did you take these? If so you didn’t need anyone’s permission to move against them.”

“No, a vigilante did. He forwarded them to me though and they line up with what I saw in that warehouse. They’re running major drug traffic through there. Tons of boxes just like the ones in the pictures. I guarantee you they’re cleaning that place out right this minute though. I don’t have time to gather more evidence. I need a warrant but Captain Bryant won’t authorize it.”

Her dad shoves the phone back without looking up. “Can you blame the man? You’re asking him to directly disobey the superintendent. That’s good evidence but it’s not enough.”

“Even with our testimony?”

“Is the vigilante willing to testify if needed?”

Pursing her lips, Martina frowns and shakes her head. “You sound just like him.”

“Your captain’s a good man. I don’t like it and I’d go to a judge if it weren’t for that memo but it’s not the right move here.”

Getting to her feet, Martina leans across his desk and gets right in her father’s face. “You’re supposed to be better than that old man.”

He stands up and puffs his chest out. “Get out of my face. You don’t succeed in this city if you make dumb enemies. If you had more I’d stick my neck out but not here. Not when you’re going against your captain. You realize you’re asking to get transferred again, right? You going to move Zoe’s school again too when you have to work across town?”

Standing up, Martina steps back and crosses her arms. Her voice lowers until it’s barely a whisper. “Leave her out of this.”

“Don’t put me in a position where I have to bring her into it.” He grabs another file off his desk and goes back to reading but doesn’t sit back down.

Tate’s looking back and forth between them like he wants to get between them. He stops himself, knowing any action against Martina will lose her respect and any action against her father will likely ruin his career.

With a shake of her head and a slam of her hands on the desk Martina grabs her phone and storms out of the office.

She doesn’t stop until she reaches the parking lot. Tate follows a few steps behind her. He finds her in the passenger seat of their car. “Still not willing to drive huh?”

“I told you, the weather said it’s supposed to rain.” She never looks up.

Sliding behind the driver’s seat Tate says, “That’s fine, our shift’s almost over anyway. Let’s get back to the precinct and then go get a drink. My treat.”

The offer’s tempting but she shakes her head. “Thanks but no. I need to get home to Zoe. Another time.”

Part 3

Part 5

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The Law Vol. 1 Serve or Protect Part 3

The partners drive most of the way back to the station without a word but as they near the station, Tate looks over at Martina. “What the hell are we going to tell the captain? We can’t exactly tell him we let the kid go.”

“We’ll position it differently, that we worked with him. That’s what they want with the vigilantes anyway. Not that hard. I’m getting really tired of all these new rules. They need to let us do our job.”

Making their way inside, the precinct’s a mad house tonight. At least it’s warm. Slipping out of their jackets, the partners start making their way through the crowd. They pass all manner of people here looking for help. Making their way to the captain’s office they hear story after story about vigilantes, and not the good they’re doing.

The captain’s secretary’s slumped at her desk looking exhausted this time of night. Tate leans over the desk and flashes his best smile. “Good evening Rosa my love. How are you doing tonight? Is that a new haircut? It looks great.”

Rosa’s in her mid 40s and has been the captain’s secretary for nearly a decade. Nobody gets in to see him without going through her. She can be nice if you’re on her good side but not everyone is. Tate’s flirtation is obvious and she knows he’s messing with her but she still enjoys it. Plus, she actually does have a new haircut and he’s the first person to notice tonight. “You’re sweet Brandon. Go take a seat somewhere. I’ll let you know when I can get you in. It won’t be long.”

Flopping his way into a seat, Tate grabs a magazine. Alvarez chooses to stand, taking the moment to check her phone. She stares at him with a look of sadness. “I’m so glad you don’t pull that shit with me.”

“Well I would, but the one time I tried you punched me so hard I almost passed out. Besides, who flirts with their grandma?”

Alvarez punches him hard in the shoulder in response. “For someone who doesn’t want to get punched, you say a lot of things that get you punched.”

“I’m funny that way.” He rubs his shoulder. Martina can throw a punch.

Leaning against the wall, Alvarez closes her eyes and tries to rest her mind. There’s too much going on around her though. Off in the distance she hears one of their officers say, “Look, we’ve been over this every time you’ve come in. We don’t have any control over them. They’re authorized to do whatever they feel is necessary. If you like we can arrange a sit down so you can talk this out. We’ve told you this every time you’ve come in here. The options haven’t changed and they’re not going to.”

A man with a bit of an accent stomps his feet, throwing his hands in the air. “Why would we want to sit down with these monsters? He asked me to put my mouth on his gun. Does that sound like a reasonable man? Does that sound like someone who we’re going to talk it out with and then go out for coffee? You’re job is to protect people isn’t it?”

“You’re preaching to the choir man. The vigilantes can do what they want though. We don’t control them. I know it sucks and believe me, I wish we had more options. That’s the best we can do at the moment.”

“This is ridiculous. Come on Assa, let’s get out of here.” Alvarez opens her eyes just in time to see the couple storm out. The man looks around her age and the woman with him looks a few years younger, though from this angle her head scarf blocks how much she can see of the woman.

After a few more minutes of hearing people scream at their officers Rosa waives them over. The captain sits behind his desk looking exhausted. His tie’s off and his hat’s hanging half off his desk. It’s going on eleven and he was supposed to be out of here an hour ago. From the stack of paperwork piled on his desk, it doesn’t look like his day’s close to over. “Alvarez, Tate, hope you’re having a good night. How’s your dad doing Alvarez?”

“I think he’s doing fine captain, but I’m probably not the best person to ask. Haven’t talked to him for a few weeks. You know how many hours he puts in, hard to find time. Anyway, I don’t want to take up too much of your time but we need a warrant fast tracked if we can. Place called Lovely Lovely Flowers we were sent tonight on a call. There were reports of a shooting. When we showed up they claimed there had been a break in but the guy had gotten away. I checked with my sources though and found evidence they’re being used as a front to move drugs. Take a look at these.”

She slides her phone across his desk so he can see the pictures the vigilante sent her. He scrolls through them. “These aren’t bad, but they’re not enough for a warrant without someone willing to speak to them. You know how easy it is to fake pictures nowadays. Someone could easily have put those logos on.”

“Captain, I saw the boxes when we were in there. These are legit, I’d bet anything on it. The longer we wait, the more time they have to scrub the place. We need to get in there now.”

“Why didn’t you investigate them further when you were there?”

She sighs, wishing she had a better answer to that. “We chased after the supposed robber. He wasn’t a robber though, he was a vigilante and he’s our source.”

His eyes perk up but he’s still fighting to suppress a yawn. “Is he willing to testify about these? Did you bring him in?”

“No.”

“Didn’t think so. We need more than just some pictures. I’m sorry, but I’m not going to a judge with this. It won’t get through. Especially not after I got a memo tonight that we’re to leave that place alone.”

Blinking a few times in disbelief, Alvarez is about to speak up but her partner beats her to it. “Wait, captain, are you saying someone’s specifically asking us to leave this random flower shop alone? Isn’t that weird?”

“Of course it is Tate, but apparently the owner is old friends with the superintendent and she felt bothered by you two showing up. Don’t worry, you’re not in trouble or anything. Without stronger evidence though, we’re going to be running into a buzz saw on this one. I need you to let this go.”

Snatching her phone off the captain’s desk, Alvarez storms out of his office. Tate’s a little behind her but eventually follows. “Where are you going grandma?”

“To talk to someone who actually wants to enforce the law and not just follow orders. You coming?”

Part 2

Part 4

The Law Vol. 1 Serve or Protect Part 2

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.”

“You don’t?”

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.”

Part 1

Part 3

The Law Vol. 1 Serve or Protect Part 1

When a call comes in, you don’t have time to think. Any issue can escalate into a life or death situation so you hit the gas and worry about the details later. A two minute delay could be the difference between someone going home to their family or a family picking out coffins. Nobody else is coming to save them.

That used to be the case at least. Lately the world’s changing faster than people can adapt to. The streets are no longer the domain of the police. They’re outranked by a bunch of amateurs enforcing the rules however they see fit from one moment to the next. Chaos masquerading as justice.

A voice comes over their radio. “We have a call about a possible disturbance at Lovely Lovely Flowers over on Cicero. Someone said they heard gunshots inside. Probably nothing, but they have a big warehouse out back and it can’t hurt to make sure. Who has it?”

Martina Alvarez reaches for the radio to accept the call but her partner’s faster. “We’ll take it, we’re only a few minutes away. We’ll let you know if there’s anything going on.”

Turning their sirens on, her partner hits the gas and speeds toward Cicero. It’s a late night at the end of March and there’s black ice on the streets. They have to take things a little slower than they normally would. It’s been a mild winter and there’s no snow left on the ground but it’s still cold enough that both partners are wearing coats. They can still probably arrive within ten minutes.

Brandon Tate runs his hand through his hair. He’s self conscious about his new haircut, especially after Martina’s been making fun of it all night. He’s behind the wheel because the weather reports said it was supposed to rain. So far the reports seem wrong but Martina doesn’t like to wear her glasses on patrol and she’s nearly blind at night when it rains. “Hey Grandma, do you really think they cut this too short? It seems really short to me.”

She sighs, the jokes about his hair were fun for a few hours but she’s tired of them now, especially now that he’s actually starting to worry about it. “It’s fine. I was messing with you. But don’t call me that. I’m not that old. Time to put our game faces on.”

“Would mom be better?”

“No, not really.”

They drive onward, getting close to Cicero. Turning down the street, they find the whole neighborhood nearly abandoned. It’s after nine and as cold as it is, most people are staying inside where it’s warm. Only a few shops down here are still open. The heat inside their patrol car is cranked to high despite their coats. That’s another reason Brandon teases his partner with the nickname Grandma. “At least if you’re going to be a grandma, you could bake me some cookies or something.”

Pulling up to the building, there’s no sign of a commotion. It’s a large brick building with only a small storefront jutting out of the front. Behind it seems to be a massive warehouse. It’s far bigger than you’d expect a small flower shop to need. Before they can get out of the car, a gunshot echoes in the distance. It sounds like it came from inside. The hair stands up on the back of her neck and she exchanges a quick look with Brandon. No more jokes. Tate grabs his hat off the dash and throws it on his head. It’s way too big but hides his hair.

Parking the car and quickly getting out, both partners draw their guns. They close their doors quietly, not wanting to give themselves away. They move with a level of precision and coordination only years of familiarity can provide. Alvarez slips into the lead, easing up to the front door. The first thing she notices is that the hours posted on the door show the place should still be open. Despite this, the open sign is turned off and the door’s locked. A small business closing a little early isn’t that strange but in combination with the reports of shooting it’s worth a closer look. The lights inside are off except for a few small ones pointing at specific plants and through the smudged glass she can only make out a counter and rows of shelving.

About to pound on the front door to see if anyone responds, she pauses as a door inside the shop opens. There’s just enough light to reveal a tall, thin woman with straight black hair coming their way. Seeing the lights from their car, she comes toward the door. Tate raises his gun and points it straight at the woman. “Ma’am, are you armed?”

The woman freezes as she sees the gun pointed her way. Her hands go up high in the air. “No, I’m not armed. Relax officers, I’ll gladly let you in. Is it okay for me to do so?” The pair give the okay and she makes her way to the door. Flipping a light on, she turns a deadbolt and cracks it. She’s careful not to open it all the way though. With more light they can see enough of the woman to believe she’s unarmed. Her hands are empty and there’s no sign of a bulge anywhere on her person.

Pushing past the woman, the pair sweep the room for any signs of danger before lowering their weapons. They don’t holster them. Content that there’s no immediate danger Tate approaches the woman. “Good evening ma’am. I’m Officer Tate and this is Officer Alvarez. Sorry to worry you so late but we got a call about a possible disturbance. Someone reported hearing a gunshot. We heard one ourselves when we were pulling up. Do you know anything about that? Is this your shop?”

Nodding, the woman’s eyes go wide. “Yes, this is my shop. My name’s Carol Grant. I heard the gunshots too. After the first one I shut the lights off and locked up. I don’t know where they came from though. I was in my office getting some paperwork done before getting out of here.”

Standing across the room and leaning against a wall, Martina runs the words through her head and decides she doesn’t trust this woman. She can’t place why. She seems nice enough but something seems off. “I see you’re normally open until nine. Do you normally close this early?”

“It was a long day and we don’t get a lot of last minute traffic. I figured I’d get an early start on my paperwork. The gunshots worried me and I didn’t want someone to see I was open and come in.”

“Awfully big warehouse you have going back there. Do you mind if we take a look? Maybe something happened you didn’t notice.”

Mrs. Grant keeps smiling but Martina thinks she sees it crack, if only for a second. Just long enough for her to be even more confident something’s wrong. “If you’d like to of course but I don’t know that it’s necessary. All that’s going on back there are a few of my employees getting their evening work done. Nothing that should sound like a gunshot.” When it becomes clear the officers are going to investigate the warehouse she stops them for another moment. “Actually, there is one other thing I should tell you. We had a break in tonight. Nothing major, nobody hurt. We captured the thief but he was young and seemed apologetic so we were going to let him go. No real harm done. My men may still be talking to him though.”

The partners exchange a look. Something’s definitely wrong. A break in and she didn’t want to call the police? Why would she want to let someone trying to rob her go? Even if she did, what is there to question them about if they were a kid who wouldn’t be a problem again? None of it adds up. This woman doesn’t have a plan. She’s running along in front of the train and hoping to dance aside at the last moment.

Leading the way to the back, Mrs. Grant opens the door and steps into a much darker room. Martina takes lead position after Mrs. Grant and surveys her new surroundings. The first thing she notices about this room is how large it is and how little light she finds. There’s only a few lights in the entire warehouse, small bulbs attached to long cords descending from the ceiling. They light only a small area around them and she can’t see anyone back here. Tate follows, adjusting his hat as it almost slips from his head. They’re surrounded by large shelving units which seem to be filled with crates of flowers. Labels such as daisy, violet, orchid, are printed in black paint on the wooden boxes. An absurd amount of crates for a shop this size. How many flowers could they possibly sell before these go bad?

One of the only things she can make out in the dim light are a pair of crates sitting broken on the far end of the warehouse. They look like they fell off the shelves and broke on the ground. There’s wood and flowers spread everywhere. Definitely more of a disturbance than their host let on. Blinking repeatedly, hoping her eyes will adjust, her finger twitches on the barrel of her gun, staying ready to raise her weapon and fire at a moment’s notice if things get bad.

Clearly the officers aren’t the only ones confused. Mrs. Grant has a look of genuine surprise on her face. “Men, get up here now. Any sign of our guest?”

Any sign? She thought they were just talking at this point. “I thought you said you’d caught the guy and there weren’t any issues?” Men start emerging from the darkness, five of them in total. Mostly large men showing signs of exertion. They’re all coming from the same direction.

With the tone of someone not used to being challenged, Mrs. Grant says, “That was the situation when I came to greet you Officer Alvarez.” Turning to one of her men, she asks, “What the hell happened?”

None of them make a move to answer. No one wants to be the person to earn their boss’ ire. As they get closer, she can make out that their shirts are dripping with sweat. Their eyes all stay on the floor. One in particular is moving quite strangely and trying to stay behind the others. There’s something very strange about the way he’s moving.

A tall, thin man with a scar below his left ear is practically shoved forward from the group. His left hand grabs at his opposite arm. “He got loose and we started chasing him around. He got away. Not sure if he’s still here in the warehouse somewhere or if he got out.”

Why were they having to chase this guy if they were going to let him go? Martina slowly starts circling the group. Tate notices but she uses her free hand to signal for him to stay put, at least for now. Step by step she can better see the man working to stay in the back. Looking him up and down, she notices what looks like blood leaking out of his grey shoe. There’s a hole going through the top and it’s also stained red. “What the hell happened to your foot? Are you bleeding?”

The man glances at Mrs. Grant and then back to Martina. He won’t meet her gaze and turns his attention briefly to the door as if he’s considering escape. That seems impractical so he says, “Ya, he uh, he stabbed me. He has knives. Dangerous guy. Not sure what he was thinking. Must have been trying to steal some flowers or something. We had him captured and were just about to call the cops when you showed up. Lucky for us I guess.”

Something’s definitely going on here. Mrs. Grant already made it perfectly clear that this guy wasn’t a big deal and they had no intention of getting the cops involved. “You should get that looked at, I’ll call an ambulance.”

He lifts his arms before him, putting his hands out in front. “No need officer, I’m alright. I’ll have one of the boys drive me to the ER after we’re done here but it really isn’t that bad.”

She tries not to let on she’s suspicious. At this point though it’s hard not to bust out laughing. These guys really aren’t good at lying. “Any idea what direction he went in? If he’s still here in the warehouse, I want us to capture him fast before someone else gets hurt. Did he have any weapons other than his knife?”

She directs her questions directly at the injured man. He’s hurt and frazzled and might give her what she needs. Before he can answer though, the tall, thin man steps between them. Tate’s hand goes to his gun, ready for a confrontation but Martina stays calm. Seeing no sudden movement, Tate rests his hand on the grip but doesn’t draw. The tall, thin man says, “He had a bunch of knives actually, and a long stick of some kind. I think he’s long gone though. Pretty sure he snuck out the back door. If you don’t mind, we have a lot of work to do. Why don’t we take our friend to the hospital and you folks can get on your way. We’ll give you a call if we see any sign of him again.”

That’s not going to happen. They need to search this place and figure out what’s going on. Just as she’s about to respond though, a loud squeak echoes through the warehouse. Everyone starts looking around and soon all eyes rest on the source. Someone opened the back door and even at night, the light shining in is bright enough to act as a spotlight. Standing in the doorway’s a man in a green shirt and khaki pants. He looks to be dark skinned but the lighting makes it hard to tell with any degree of certainty. He’s wearing some sort of green mask as well but from this far away that’s the best she can say.

Seeing her best potential witness walk out the door, she turns to Tate. “Come on, we can’t let this guy get away.” They both draw their guns and rush toward the door. That seems to be all the encouragement the man in green needs and he rushes into the night.

By the time they exit the warehouse, the man isn’t in sight. They have to be cautious to avoid an ambush while this guy can focus on running. Every corner’s a new danger. Tate sees him first. At the far end of the alley’s a wire fence and he’s already on top of the thing, about to jump down. He throws his bag down. “Stop, this is the police. Surrender now.” He pays them no mind and leaps over.

Tate rushes toward the fence and steadies himself to fire but Martina stops him. “I’m not climbing a fence. I don’t know that I can climb a fence like this for that matter. Get the car, we know what way he’s going, we’ll cut him off.” Clearly annoyed as the suspect gets away, Tate turns and runs back toward the front of the store.

Part 2