Chapter 2: SIGN OF THE FISH
Code 6, came the call over Rick Tylers patrol car radio. All available rescue units respond. It was the voice of the ELF that Mina Foski knew as Officer Kevorkians.
Some cops dreaded these calls. Most ignored them. Rick lived for them. They were the reason that the five foot, seven inch, dimple-cheeked young man with the curly, dark brown hair, bright hazel eyes and peaches and cream complexion joined the force. He wanted to help people in trouble. He wanted to be the good guy charging to the rescue. When Rick touched the red light above his message center screen, the time display turned into a two dimensional map of his prescient. A red dot blinked just inside of an area shaded in translucent gray. A thick black line shot out from the dot, tracing a path to the corresponding spot on the map where Ricks squad car was nearing the station. Another black line snaked out from the dot in another direction but vanished before it traveled a block.
It looked as though Rick was on his own.
He made a U-turn on the wide deserted artery with his blue and white Chrysler Pursuer and punched the accelerator.
The low-slung, stubby-hooded car hummed away like a muffled drill motor, shifting to a higher pitch as it gained speed. The adrenaline surging through the young officers veins carried him with it like a daredevil surfer riding a monster wave over hidden rocks. Although he could count on help in a hurry if he called in a code one, he couldnt count on being alive long enough to make the call. The danger was real and, God help him, he loved it.
No official signs marked the beginning and end of a disposal zone because, officially, they didnt exist. Officially, they were New Economic Zones or NEZs and the lines drawn around them appeared only on official maps. There were signs, however, like the dingy, rundown and boarded up storefronts across the main thoroughfare from the beautiful University of Detroit campus. Another reliable sign was the gunfire that sometimes sounded around the clock.
Ricks parents and kid sister lived northwest of the U of D where the charming old homes of the well-to-do had become the newer homes of the lower-middle-class. They lived in a pleasant section of town of which there were many scattered pockets throughout the city surrounded by walls of blighted real estate like the one on Ricks side of the street.
Speeding past the wall of blight on his right and the well manicured campus on his left, he thought about his family as he always did when he drove nearby. But he didnt worry. Despite their proximity to high crime areas on all sides, the problems of those communities rarely spilled over into theirs. No more so, that is, than they did in the suburbs where most of his fellow police officers lived.
Rick rounded the corner indicated by the ever receding rout line on his message center, the traffic lights turning green automatically as his emergency vehicle approached. There was, therefore, no need to activate his siren and his flashing red and blue lights to clear traffic. There wasnt much traffic anyway. But the classic sight and sound of an approaching police car had not outlived its usefulness. It still put criminals on the run. Rick pressed that age-old function into service with the flip of a switch which had the added benefit of drowning out the annoying blare of a distant car horn.
He reached over to the passenger side seat and picked up a domed, dark blue helmet with built-in ruby Daylights and a rotating Black Glass visor. He donned the helmet and slid the visor over his face, dousing the telltale glow of the Daylights. He unstrapped his holster and drew out his dull black service pistol. Then, holding the weapon in his left hand, he thumbed off the safety and drew in a deep breath....
Mina had only the vaguest recollection of laying on her forward horn and driving her car up to the fence. But thats where she was and what she was doing when she heard the police siren a few blocks away. The boys in the dark red suites had already scattered, leaving the tall, slim man on his feet and the short pudgy boy whimpering on his stomach with his pants bunched around his ankles.
Mina was still too outraged by what shed witnessed to fully grasp what was happening at the moment. She knew only that there was something odd about the man having paid so little attention to her horn-blowing car barreling toward him when it had been enough to make the others flee. Now she watched him staring coolly at the drivers side of her windshield. The Black Glass stopped him from seeing inside but it wouldnt stop a bullet.
He smiled pleasantly, lowered the barrel of his gun to the back of the boys head... and slowly squeezed the trigger....
As the rout-line on Rick's message center drew in closer to the dot, like a burning fuse about to ignite a powder keg, he heard the explosion. The sound struck him like a swift blow to the gut. Oh no, he groaned, fearing that his light and siren show had either come too late or triggered the shot it was intended to forestall.
The gleaming new Lexus sitting with its short nose against the fence and its long tail in the street had to be where the call for help originated. Rick jammed on his breaks, squelching the siren and making a T of the two cars as he came to a stop perpendicular to the luxury cars passenger side door. He leaped from his light-flashing Pursuer in a crouch. Taking cover behind it, he drew down on the back of the tan-skinned man with the smoking gun on the other side of the fence, walking casually away from a corpse.
His quick eyes took in the entire scene. Hold it! he shouted, glancing quickly from side to side.
The tall man kept walking.
Rick cursed and vaulted over the hood of his car, realizing that the man with the gun was not about to make things easy for him. He ran and leaped at the fence, holstering his pistol when he found it too difficult to climb with it in his hand. He knew the risk he was taking with his life, but the need to move swiftly left him with no acceptable alternative.
The man looked back at him over his shoulder and ducked into the nearest backyard.
Rick cursed again and resumed his climb. He reached the top of the fence with amazing speed and agility. He was in the process of lifting himself over when he was stopped by a beseeching female voice.
No! cried Mina, Please dont leave me alone.
Rick looked at the elegant woman bathed in the red and blue flash of light from the roof of his squad car and nearly lost his balance. It never entered his mind that the person who had summoned his help and acted so bravely to foil a brutal assault against someone else was a womanmuch less a beautiful woman. Things like that didnt happen. Not to him anyway.
He took a last, frustrated look at the last place he saw the tall, slim gunman and dropped to the ground where his eyes fell on the ugly wound in the dead boys head. Shit! he thought.
Rick sidled through the small space between the Lexus front end and the fence as the stunningly attractive woman took off her Daylights and checked out his name plate. She was obviously shaken but just as obviously trying to appear in control. Its OK now, maam, he, said, removing his helmet.
Tell that to him, said Mina, nodding sadly toward the lifeless body of the chubby black boy in the alley.
Rick took her gently by the shoulders and led her around the back of her car toward his. It wont do any good to look at him, he said. Though hed hoped that his guiding touch would be of some comfort to her he couldnt tell by their body contact which of them was trembling the most. God, he thought, shes so small and fragile. Why would anybody this vulnerable try what she did to save a stranger in a DZ?
That was only one of the questions posed by her presence on the scene. Some could be answered to his satisfaction by direct questions. Others would, no doubt, have to be deduced. He wondered how far he could dig and how far he should dig for the answers.
By being such a good citizen according to twentieth century standards, she had complicated matters substantially for the legal standards of the mid-twenty first. If he didnt handle things right, both of them would need a lawyer.
They got to his car where the drivers side door was already open. She got in and slid across the bench seat. He climbed in after her. For a long time they sat without speaking. Then Rick said. My name is officer Tyler. You dont have to tell me yours right now if you dont want to, He tried a weak smile that he hoped she would find appealing, but I would appreciate it.
Mina cut him an icy look and said nothing.
Rick cleared his throat. Excuse me, maam, I have to call in.
Mina leaned her head back against the rest and stared unseeingly into the header. Rick tapped a button on his wristband computer next to the miniature telewindow displaying the time, 5:12. The window on his wristband and the one on his instrument panel both opened with the 3-D image of a middle-aged, blue-eyed white man with silver captains bars on his collar. It looked like a real person. But so had officer Kevorkian. These days it was hard to tell. She had made many an ELF herself that no one would have seen as the ultimate cartoon characters they were.
Rick mumbled something that even he couldnt understand and reached over to touch the off button above the big screen. Delta three. This is Gamma six. Please acknowledge.
When Mina didnt hear a reply she assumed that the cop was listening though an ear plug receiver and transmitting through his multi-function wristband. She rolled her head slightly in his direction and spotted the small black plug in his ear canal when he turned his head to check the streets. Older men and men with old-fashioned ideas seemed to prefer them over surgical implants or earlobe receivers like hers even though they looked exactly like hearing aids.
Mina had often fantasized about men like him from another age and would have tingled all over in his presence if the circumstances werent so appallingand if he hadnt been so white. Mina Foski didnt believe in mixed intimate relationships.
She didnt think about those things. They were simply part of the canvas already painted into the picture of what was happening in her mind as she read the lips of the captain on officer Tylers wristband telewindow.
If Rick had thought for one moment that she could tell what his supervisor was saying, he would have warned her in advance to be quiet about it. As it was, he intended to tidy up his end of the exchange as best he could and assumed that she wouldnt object to what she heard.
So, smiled the captain, did you get your first kill yet?
Minas eyes bulged causing Rick to think that she had somehow tuned into his radio frequency. He made a stern face and shushed her with a quick shake of his head and a finger to his lips. No sir, he said. But there is a fatality.
Not the citizen? said the captain knitting his brow in concern.
No sir, said Rick, He was looking Mina hard in the eyes shaking off anything she might want to say. Shes OK. It looks like one of the locals got hit with a stray round. Minas face mirrored her dawning awareness of what was going on. Ricks tensed muscles relaxed. Thats it for now. Im talking to the citizen. Shes a little rattled but I might be able to get something out of her on the shooter.
Dont worry about it, kid. Forget the shooter. Just make sure the citizen is OK. Escort her out of the DZ if you have to but make sure you get the real story for your report on how he ended up there. Too many citizens have been wandering into DZs lately. Mostly out-of-towners but a lot of metro people, too. We gotta figure out whats going on so we can get a better handle on the traffic flow. Ill mark your location and send for a slab wagon.
Oh yeah, kid. When you take those code 6 runs by yourself you oughta leave your transmitter open.
I know you know. Next time do it.
Rick and Mina searched each others faces like clandestine Christians in Neros Rome looking for one or the other to make the sign of the fish. Rick licked his lips nervously. We have to talk, he said.
Mina continued to search his face a little longer, then nodded. Yes, she said. We have to talk....
As they talked, Shag Man listened from his car half a block away. He learned that the reckless young officers name was Rick Tyler and the witnesses name was Mina Foski. He learned that the witness was a time track programmer with a sister named Vivian who lived nearby.
Vivian Foski? Could it be the Vivian Foski? It had to be!
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Contact the author: Jasper Garrison