Authors: Austin S. Camacho
“I'm quite busy here, but tell me how I can help Missâ¦”
“Kwan,” the girl said. “Detective Kwan.” The girl was small, the way Japanese women are, and the suit she was wearing seemed more appropriate to a secretary than a police detective. Her long black hair carried blonde streaks, or perhaps they would be called highlights. Her hips were
narrow but her bust seemed unusually large, at least by Eastern standards. Large, thick glasses dominated her face, and they magnified her bright green eyes to twice their actual size.
“Just a few routine questions,” the woman said. She spoke in that accent that Benson associated with waitresses in Chinatown. She stood before his desk in an aggressive manner he found most annoying. Benson maintained his seat.
“Yes, well I always like to cooperate with the police,” Benson said, lying through a smile. “Could you be more specific?”
“You want specific?” the woman said in a thin voice. “Here's specific. You have a patient named Amy Brooks. What can you tell me about her?”
“What can I tell you? Well, I have her file right here.” Benson riffed through a half-dozen folders on his desk. He flipped one open. He brushed his stringy brown hair out of his eyes to read.
“Well, she's fourteen years old and lives in Bensonhurst with both her parents. She's an A and B student in the public school and does not represent any risk to society.” Benson looked up with a saccharine smile. “And that, detective, is all I can tell you. As someone must have told you during your training, psychiatric records are like any other medical records. Confidential.”
“Of course they are,” the woman said, removing her glasses and sitting them on Benson's desk. “I was hoping, however, that there might be something in there about her father. He is not your patient and therefore, you might share anything you've learned about any unusual habits.”
Benson considered the woman squinting at him across the desk. If he played this just right, it just might promote the situation he was being paid to present. He drummed his fingers on his desk for just a moment.
“I'm not sure what I can tell you, detective,” Benson said. “However, let's take a look.”
Benson had one eye on his wall clock as he slowly turned the pages in the folder, his brow furrowed as if he was looking for something. The woman sat patiently, making it clear that she understood her place. She was being good. He would throw her a bone. Just short of the last page of the file he stabbed his finger at a random paragraph.
“There is something here you might be concerned about. Have you heard anything about the father's relationship with Amy?”
“Nothing definite,” the girl said. “But you should know that I'm with internal affairs and we are looking closely at Officer Brooks. Right now we have nothing but rumors and implications. Can you give me anything more?”
Benson was almost trembling with inner tension. If he did this just right, he might be able to avoid having to testify on the witness stand, which would allow him to bypass the necessity to perjure himself. He took a deep breath and gathered his thoughts.
“Detective Kwan, all I have is the word of the little girl I'm treating, and those words are confidential. However, I believe that if you were to interview her mother, you would find that she has her own fears. There is good reason to believe that Officer Brooks has touched Amy in inappropriate ways.”
“You mean, in places a father doesn't touch a daughter?”
“Exactly,” Benson said. “Do you think you can do something about that, without my having to take action?”
“Perhaps.” The girl stood up, returning her glasses to her face. “I want to thank you, Dr. Benson. You have been a big help. When we've analyzed this information I'll get back to you.”
The Japanese woman left the psychiatrist's office without a backward glance, and suspected that Dr. Benson
had forgotten her as soon as she was out of his sight. Each step she took was driven with a little more force. By the time she reached the sidewalk she was seething with rage. She stalked to her car with lips tightly pressed together. She unlocked her car with the remote key signal, but just before she slid into her powder blue Mazda MX-5 she unbuttoned her business suit, pulled the foam enhancer out of her shirt and tossed into the back seat. As soon as she was comfortable, Chastity Chiba sat her glasses on the passenger seat and dropped her green contact lenses into their little case.
She knew that Benson would walk right past her if he saw her on the street. After all, to most whites, all Asian women looked alike. Even if they didn't, she knew what men remembered most about a woman. This fool would look right at her and never see the big-chested, green-eyed, bespectacled policewoman who sat in his office.
Damn, she wished she could have just slapped that evil bastard upside his pointy little head. But she needed to follow the steps in the right order, and now she felt she had the ammunition to take down Francine Brooks' evil house of cards. The camera in her eyeglass frames should have captured just about everything in Amy's file. Combining those images with the shrink's recorded words should be enough to convince anyone that any child molestation charge against Alex Brooks was a fabrication. Of course, she couldn't be sure just yet. She needed to see the images the tiny camera had captured. Then she could confront Francine and try to make her see reason. But first she would wash those stupid highlights out of her hair.
“What do you mean, suicide?” Ruby Sanchez screamed in her high squeal. “What kind of poison you had my man's halfwit brother bringing up in here?”
“Watch your mouth, bitch,” Hector said.
No one else spoke. She knew there would be no
answer forthcoming from the three fake Colombians in front of her. They had directed her and Rafe to one end of the big living room while they stood with Hector a dozen feet away. One man held his Glock pointed at Rafe, while another aimed at Ruby's stomach. Did that mean they recognized her as the greater danger? No, more likely they thought that anger might drive Rafe to risk his own life, but that he would not do anything that might get her shot.
Her shouted question had not been meant for them, but for their leader who had left the room. But since it seemed there would be no answer from that direction, she turned to Hector instead.
“These guys are friends of yours?”
Hector snarled at her and stomped out of the room. Rafe looked like a man in shock. Or maybe he looked like a man who knew he might die soon. She understood the feeling. The score stood three guns to nothing and they were not about to let her out of their sight so she could find anything that might serve as a weapon. The carpet was warm and soft beneath her bare feet, but it did not stop the chill rolling down her spine.
When Hector returned, he was trailing de La Fuente, who carried a small case about the size of the first aid kit in Ruby's glove compartment. He continued to smile, in contrast to the grim look on the faces of his followers. It sure felt like he wanted to talk. Maybe she needed to change the question.
“So, where'd you get the guns?” Ruby asked in a calmer voice. “You sure as hell didn't bring them into the country with you. Even a Glock has too much steel in the barrel to get past the metal detectors.”
de La Fuente dropped the little case on the coffee table. “Oh, no, I would never try to travel with a firearm. Luckily, Hector is a good host. These were given to us by some friends of mine he has been in contact with, friends who were already here in the United States. They arrived not long after you two went to bed. I didn't see any reason to
“Uh-huh. And where are these friends now?”
“Oh, they stayed outside,” de La Fuente said, opening the case. From it he drew a small syringe and a medicine bottle. “I thought it wise, just in case you decided to try to leave the house with any of our secrets.”
“Gee, how many friends do you have around here?” Ruby asked.
“Enough,” was all de La Fuente would tell her. He drove the needle into the top of the bottle and tipped it to fill the body of the needle. “Now Rafael, I need you to come over here.”
“Not until you tell me what this is all about, and what that stuff was I stuck in my mouth.”
“Suit yourself,” de La Fuente said. “Up to this point, your little brother here has been accepting, and shipping, parcels of the cocaine that fuels our movement and funds our activities. We had to be sure you had a workable distribution system before sending our real cargo.”
“Which is?” Ruby asked.
de La Fuente laughed even as his three gunmen remained silent. “You are persistently curious, my girl. You know what that did for the cat, don't you? But since Hector has asked that we keep Rafael with us for a while I will tell you that the powder in the bags downstairs contains a dense population of weaponized anthrax spores. The trick, you see, is to get them to be negatively charged so that they will float on the air as they do, instead of sitting like an inert clump.”
“Wait a minute. Rafe's going to have anthrax? People die from that shit!” Ruby's fingers formed claws and if not for the gunmen it was obvious that she would have tried to take de La Fuente's eyes out.
“You needn't be so concerned,” de La Fuente said. “His total exposure was not that great. A course of antibiotics will be enough to help his body resist the disease. Which is why he needs this shot right away.”
Ruby swallowed her anger, turned to Rafe and snapped her head toward de La Fuente. After a moment of reluctance he leaned forward to kiss Ruby quickly and walked to the other side of the room.
“So what's the plan?” Ruby asked. “You going to mail a bunch of letters to politicians again? Or, wait, you're against capitalism so maybe just to the rich oil barons? Hell, I might help with that plan.”
“Oh, I think we can be more sophisticated than those religious fanatics,” de La Fuente said while swabbing Rafe's arm with alcohol. “You see, Hector and his connections have already established our delivery system.”
It came to Ruby in a wave of shock and grudging respect. “The cocaine. Only people with money snort coke in this country. Poor people smoke crack.”
“Very good,” de La Fuente said. “We will simply substitute this powder for the inert materials the dealers usually cut their cocaine with. Each customer will draw our spores deeply into their own lungs. The victims will target themselves.”
“And it might be weeks before enough of them admit to drug use for anyone to pick up the pattern of transmission,” Ruby said.
Ruby was sick with self-hate, for letting these fools take her phone. She should have told Gorman to bring the cavalry the last time she spoke to him. She knew she was facing the Shining Path. Why did she think she could handle this alone? The only bit of gratification she could feel was the reaction on the faces of the Sandoval boys. Rafael looked sickened by what the visitors planned, and Hector could not hide his surprise. He really hadn't signed on for this kind of action.
Through the window Ruby watched the tail end of morning traffic in motion and heard the cars easing past at safe suburban speeds. She saw a couple of school children hurry past, bundled against the weather. Then the
heater fired again under her feet and that chill returned to her spine.
“Wait a minute,” Ruby called as de La Fuente slid the syringe into Rafe's arm. “That stuff's been in the heater duct, and I poked a hole in it yesterday morning to get a sample. That stuff's been blowing all over the house. I think we all need a shot.”
“Not really.” de La Fuente put his needle and kit away. “The rest of us are vaccinated against the disease.”
Rafe's hand hit de La Fuente's chest like a loud pistol shot before his fist curled into the taller man's shirt and he pulled him down so they were eye to eye. “Then Ruby needs the same shot, and she needs it right now.”
“No!” Ruby shouted, paralyzed with fear as the gunman following Rafe raised his pistol. But de La Fuente held up a palm before the gunman could fire. Then he locked eyes with Rafe and again flashed his gold tooth.
“Your concern is touching, Rafael,” de La Fuente said, grasping Rafe's arm. “However, you needn't worry. If she gets the right antibiotics within two or three days of her exposure, she should be fine. I assure you that as long as you do as I ask for just one more day, she will receive what she needs. Until then, she is my insurance that you will remain compliant.”
Rafe slowly released his grip. “You saying that tomorrow you'll be gone from here?”
“Rafael, by tomorrow this time my friends and I, and our precious cargo, will be out of your life.”
Yes, Ruby thought, and enough anthrax spores to kill hundreds will be gone and untraceable somewhere in the United States.
Midtown at midday was a grid pattern moving in lockstep. Traffic flowed up and down Manhattan like blood in the human body, either flowing through the northbound veins, or the southbound arteries, or occasionally branching off into one of the smaller capillary streets that fed the body of the city. Double-parked delivery trucks were the plaque clinging to the sides of these major arteries, slowing the flow enough to cause pain, but not enough to kill the city.
Assistant District Attorney Preston drove one of the cars in that grid flowing north toward the Bronx. This morning he would meet with a very frightened young woman. She would give him certain information implicating a respected businessman in certain racketeering activity. They would have lunch together in a very public place. He would put her at ease and the information she would give him would make his career. ADA Preston was on his way to a meeting with destiny.
Three vehicles behind, ADA Preston's destiny was closing in on him, riding in a 1994 navy blue, four-door, Lincoln Continental. Robbie wrestled the big blue beast through traffic. Behind him, Gunny Roberts hung his elbow out the open window fighting for air in the stuffy confines of the car. Gus sat stoically beside him, unmoving between Gunny and the even bigger Mike. Up front in the passenger's seat, Lorenzo Lucania sat in silence, considering the rest of his life.