Divide & conquer, p.6
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       Divide & Conquer, p.6
 

         Part #4 of Cut & Run series by Abigail Roux
Page 6

 

  Chapter Three

  “THIS is a WBAL TV 11 News Special Saturday Report. Im Andrea Gregg. ” “A false bomb threat last night had off-duty police officers and volunteer workers scrambling to evacuate a group of children from the Baltimore Aquarium. The aquarium was open late for Sea Life Safari, an educational evening program for kids in kindergarten through second grade. The program was sold out with forty children in attendance. ”

  The visual cut to a grim-faced older man with graying hair wearing a blue polo embroidered with the aquariums logo. The titles labeled him as a Facility Proctor. “We were having a great time,” he said. “The kids were really enjoying it. We were spread out all over the aquarium in little groups, to give them more one-on-one attention, but it made it harder to get them all out without panicking them. We didnt want to panic them. ”

  “How did you hear about the bomb threat?” the reporters voice asked. “A security guard came up and told me we needed to get the kids out quickly and quietly. He didnt tell me why, just that we had to go now. Now, you have to understand, these are little kids, and theyre all spread out through the room, and we just had two adults per ten kids, which is normally fine,” the man answered, starting to ramble.

  The reporter cut in. “So you ordered the evacuation of the facility. ”

  “Security did,” he said, starting to look a little nervous. “We did it as fast as we could. ” The video cut back to the outside of the aquarium and Andrea. “WBAL News arrived just as the children were being escorted from the building and, we are told, right after the first police car arrived. ”

  The picture changed to a well-lit nighttime scene of the front expanse of concrete along the harbor. For a few seconds, children rambled out through the doors, some skipping and singing, some jogging, others dragging along as the proctors tried to shoo them directly away from the front door. A voice-over started.

  Two squad cars sat parked at the curb, blue lights flashing, but the uniformed policemen were fifty yards up the pier toward the museum, moving the children away from the building. At the same time, the rumble of an engine covered the chatter of childrens voices.

  “As we filmed, several off-duty officers arrived on the scene. ” The footage shook and swung around to a man sprinting toward the aquarium through the jumble of concrete and carefully manicured shrubbery between buildings. He leapt over a barrier, using his hand to support him as he literally ran sideways against the wall beside him and then hopped down again, running full-tilt toward the aquarium entrance, jumping over low barriers and concrete planters instead of going around them. The badge hanging from his neck was easy to make out as it bounced around, glinting in the various lights of the harbor.

  “Over there!” a crew member shouted and the camera swung again. A cobalt blue motorcycle tore up Pier 3 from Pratt Street to the brick and concrete courtyard and skidded to a stop next to a lamppost. The mans helmet hit the concrete as he yanked it off in his hurry to get off the bike, and the camera zoomed in on a badge hooked onto his waistband before panning to the right to follow him as he ran.

  More plainclothes policemen began to arrive, most on foot from the parking lots, and the camera jumped from one to the other, going back to the two who had arrived in such spectacular fashion as they met for mere seconds in the center of the courtyard with a few other policemen and then hurried to the aquarium entrance. The footage remained on the front door for a moment before it was kicked open and an off-duty came out carrying a child under each arm.

  “With the help of the officers, the evacuation finished quickly. We are told that the news spread through word of mouth and police radios, though officers are not required to leave their radios on if they are not on call. ”

  “The bomb squad arrived as the evacuation finished and, after searching the building, declared it a false alarm. Despite this, parents and officers are angry that such a threat was made. ” The camera zoomed in on two men—the motorcycle rider and the parkour runner— as they exited the aquarium, looking distinctly displeased. The runner started to shrug into his jacket hed shed earlier, but the rider stopped him long enough to reach out and fix a twisted strap on his shoulder holster.

  The video quick-changed to the camera and reporter converging on that man whod run onto the scene: he wore a brown leather jacket, Converse sneakers, and a deep frown on his heart-shaped face, along with more than a five oclock shadow.

  “Excuse me, sir! WBAL 11 TV. Did you run here, sir? How far did you come?” The man looked like he was going to move to avoid the camera, putting his shoulder toward it and giving the lens a wary look. Then he looked to his companion, whose dark hair was still mussed from the motorcycle helmet hed discarded. They shared a shrug.

  “Can you tell us what agency you work for and why youre here?” the reporter persisted from off-screen, the microphone shoved toward him.

  The runner sighed heavily and met the reporters eyes. He was still out of breath when he spoke. “Im a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. My partner and I heard the call over the radio and came to help. ” His words had finality to them, as if that was all he was going to say. He started to turn away.

  “Is this threat linked to the others? What does Baltimore law enforcement intend to do about these continuing threats?” the reporter asked hurriedly.

  The man stopped at the last question, his head down, and the camera was briefly filled with his broad shoulders squaring and the face of his partner, who was looking at the reporter over one shoulder with narrowed eyes.

  Then the agent turned and looked the reporter up and down before turning his eyes directly into the camera. “Baltimore law enforcement is going to kick this threat in the ass,” he answered heatedly, his oddly colored eyes flashing angrily. He pointed one long finger at the camera, as if speaking directly to the bombers who had set Baltimore on its ear. “Were coming for you. ”

  A nearby parent cheered, and several other parents, aquarium staff, and officers broke into spontaneous applause as the mans partner, who was failing to conceal a smile, steered him away with a hand on one shoulder.

  Video cut to the Baltimore police chief. “Of course well consider this threat as seriously—if not more so—than any others,” he said firmly. “Baltimores children are our greatest treasure, and well be working closely with the FBI to find the perpetrator of this heinous hoax. ”

  “„HEINOUS hoax? Who talks like that?” Special Agent Scott Alston complained.

  “Always attempt to avoid alliteration,” Ty said with a straight face. Alston barked a laugh.

  “You shut up,” McCoy snapped as he pointed a finger at Ty. The entire department was gathered in one of the auditorium-like lecture halls on the main floor of the field office late Saturday morning. People had still been filtering in as McCoy watched the tape of the news story from that morning again. He pulled at his hair as Ty appeared on camera, and Ty sank lower into his chair, hiding his face behind his hand and trying to make himself smaller. He knew he was in deep shit this time. But he would say it again if presented with the opportunity.

  “And you, Garrett! You were right there! You should have known better than to let Grady talk to a reporter!” McCoy added from where he stood on the small stage, clearly working up an angry head of steam.

  Ty heard Zane draw in a breath, but nothing else. He turned his chin to see Zane sitting still, staring at McCoy, his lips pressed flat. Ty knew that meant his partner really wanted to say something but was stopping himself. Ty would have liked to have heard it. It wasnt often Zane let his temper loose.

  To Tys surprise, it wasnt Zane who finally spoke. It wasnt even someone on his immediate team. A voice in the back piped in. “Sir, all due respect, but it was about time someone said it. ”

  A rumbling of agreement passed around the lecture hall. “Weve been getting nothing but shit from the press and people out there since the fall,” Special Agent Fred P
errimore added, his deep voice easily carrying through the room. “Then today I drive in, and nobody threw water balloons at my car. Theyre still yelling that we should be doing something, but its an improvement. ”

  McCoy began to rub at the bridge of his nose, squeezing his eyes closed. Ty cleared his throat and sat straighter. He tended to think people needed someone to kick a little politically incorrect ass, and do it loudly, but he wasnt paid the big bucks to make those decisions. He was paid to kick ass quietly. “Im sorry, Mac,” he offered. “I shouldnt have said it, but… it cant make things any worse. ”

  “It can make you a target, Grady!” McCoy shouted, obviously at the end of his rope. Zane finally spoke up. “No more than the rest of us,” he said evenly. “If theyd known his name, they would have splashed it all over the broadcast. ”

  “Do you have any idea how many calls weve fielded asking who the two FBI agents at the aquarium were? It wont be hard to find out who you are, and they will eventually. For right now theyre calling you „the Rider and him „the Runner. ”

  “Original,” Alston observed sarcastically with a glance at Ty. “Catchy,” Ty responded with a nod.

  “Thought that reporter was gonna pass clean out when you rode up on that hog, Garrett. Good one,” Perrimore said with a light punch to Zanes bicep. “Must do you good with the ladies. ”

  Zane just rolled his eyes as he sighed and shook his head. Ty smiled at him before he could stop himself. That Perrimore didnt know the Honda Valkyrie wasnt a Harley probably irritated Zane more than the fact he thought Zane used it to pick up girls.

  “One more word from the front row, and I will fire you all on the spot,” McCoy threatened. “Now. We have a speaker from Public Relations here to have a talk. You can all thank Special Agent Grady after its over,” he announced to the room, then stalked off the stage and told the guest speaker to go on.

  The PR guy started by replaying the news broadcast for them. When Ty and Zane came on camera and Ty spoke this time, his finger pointing at the camera, the room of agents erupted into cheers, whistles, and applause. Ty sank lower and covered his face again so McCoy wouldnt see him smiling and fire him. He felt a nudge of a toe to his foot. A sideways look at his partner earned him an amused wink. Zane had told him last night that he agreed with what Ty had said and the delivery of the message, despite the fact that McCoy would blow a gasket. Zanes prediction had come to pass. There were gaskets galore this afternoon.

  “Now, while I must agree that Special Agent Gradys phrasing could have been more diplomatic,” the PR rep said, showing off his perfectly aligned, extra-bright white teeth, “I do have to say that the image being presented can only help us. People have been demanding action, and theyve just been given some big and bold action. ”

  “Now that is what they should call us,” Ty said with a satisfied nod.

  “Oh Jesus,” Alston muttered. “And to be frank,” White Strips continued, “procedural and agency shows are all over TV and are big hits, and Grady and Garrett here looked just like the rogue agents do on TV. ”

  Zane choked on his sip of coffee, setting off a round of tittering and outright laughter.

  “Well,” Alston said, just loud enough for Ty and Zane to hear, “McCoy did say you two were pretty. ”

  Ty reached over and flicked him on the tip of his nose. Alston laughed even as he turned his head away.

  “… and we estimate public opinion of the FBI rose as much as 8 percent after the very first broadcast,” White Strips continued. “Ooh, so Garrett and Grady are sexy TV stars now,” Special Agent Michelle Clancy crowed as Zane talked over her, saying, “Those percentages dont mean anything. ”

  “It means, Special Agent Garrett,” White Strips said with a smarmy smile, “that due to your sudden rise in popularity, you and your high-profile partner just earned another three months of community class duty. ”

  “Oh son of a bitch!” Ty blurted out with a flurry of hand motions and stomp of one foot, sending another ripple of laughter through the entire conference room.

  “I didnt even say anything,” Zane objected. “Your bad-boy biker image did your speaking for you, Special Agent Garrett,” White Strips pointed out. “You should have thought of that before zooming however-many hundred feet down the pier on that motorcycle. ”

  “Yeah, Garrett, next time curtail your hotness,” Ty sniped. He crossed his arms and slumped in his seat like a sulking child. More classes, more lectures, more dealing with people and being nice to them. He was going to go insane. “And do I get no credit at all for running the same distance in the same amount of time that he rode? Come on!”

  There was a brief chorus of pandering, unsympathetic “awwwws,” followed by Alston drawling, “And why is it—” “We shop at the same grocery,” Zane said sweetly, cutting off whatever Alston was starting to spin out. “Ty doesnt eat real food,” Alston observed with a frown. Ty waved him off.

  “Back to business,” White Strips insisted, picking up a stack of thick manuals and starting to pass them out. “Time for a general review of agency public-relations guidelines. ”

  Ty groaned inwardly. He hoped the sudden support from his fellow agents would hold after being bitch-slapped with a regulations manual for the next hour. He doubted it.

  Z ANE parked near the ambulance that sat to the side of the softball field and climbed out, leaving the truck running with the heater on. It only took him a few steps to get to the open back doors of the ambulance where Ty sat, looking awfully dejected. He wore a loose blue and gray baseball jersey with the word “Feds” written in cursive across the chest, and he was covered in red dirt almost from head to toe. The number twelve and the name “Bulldog” were stitched on the back where his last name should have been. The jersey had come untucked from a pair of gray baseball pants, revealing a dark blue Under Armour shirt that hugged Tys torso.
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