Shelter in place, p.8
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       Shelter in Place, p.8
 

          

  Reed heard the woman say, “I don’t need to see how well you shoveled the patio. Close the door. It’s cold!”

  His only thought: He’s not getting in there and hurting somebody else. Reed may not have been his father’s football star, but he knew how to tackle.

  He leaped, left the ground, and took Gray out at the knees on the narrow patio outside the open door.

  When Gray’s face scraped along the stone, he screamed.

  “Hey, hey, what the fuck!” A man stepped out, wineglass in one hand, iPhone in the other. “Jesus Christ, he’s bleeding all over the place. I’m recording this. I’m recording this. This is police brutality.”

  “You go ahead and record it.” Out of breath, with his own bones rattled from the hit, Reed pulled out his cuffs. “Go ahead and record the asshole who beat his wife to a pulp a few blocks over, assaulted a second woman, and tried to kidnap her child as a hostage. The guy who was heading straight into your house.

  “I’ve got him,” Reed reported into his radio. “Suspect’s contained, may require medical attention. What’s the address here?”

  “I don’t have to tell you dick.”

  “Shut up, Jerry.” The woman who’d been laughing shoved the man with the phone aside. “It’s 5237 Gilroy Place, Officer.”

  “In the rear of 5237 Gilroy Place. Thank you, ma’am. Victor Gray, you’re under arrest for assault, two counts, for battery.” He snapped the cuffs on Gray’s wrists. “For attempted child abduction, resisting arrest, and violating the terms of a restraining order.”

  “That man has rights.”

  Reed looked up. “Are you a lawyer, sir?”

  “No, but I know—”

  “Then why don’t you stop interfering with police business?”

  “You’re on private property.”

  “My property,” the woman said, “so shut the hell up, Jerry. You’re bleeding some, too, Officer.”

  He tasted it in his mouth, felt it on the stinging heels of his hands. “I’m okay, ma’am. Victor Gray, you have the right to remain silent.”

  As he recited the Miranda warning, Jerry smirked. “Took you long enough.”

  “Not a lawyer?” Reed pulled Gray to his feet. “Just a dick in general.”

  “I’m filing a complaint!”

  “That’s it. Out. Get out of my house, Jerry.”

  Reed heard the sirens as the woman handed the dick his ass. Since she appeared to have that situation under control, he stiff-walked Gray around to the front of the house.

  “I’m gonna sue your fucking ass,” Gray mumbled.

  “Yeah, you do that, Vic.”

  LaDonna Gray suffered three broken ribs, a broken wrist, a broken nose, two black eyes, a shattered cheekbone, and internal injuries. Her son wasn’t harmed.

  Sheridan Bobbett, who’d been in her yard playing with her two-year-old, sustained minor injuries, and the minor child had some bruises on his arms and shoulders. According to her statement, Gray had rushed into her yard, knocked her down. She’d fought him when he attempted to yank her son out of her arms, then he had run away when a police officer had come over the fence in pursuit.

  Eloise Matherson, resident of 5237 Gilroy Place, served as an eyewitness of the takedown and arrest, stating she’d seen through her open door the man identified as Victor Gray running toward her house, saw the officer tackle him just a foot away from her door, and restrain him when Gray attempted to resist. She expressed her gratitude for the officer stopping a violent man from entering her home.

  And gave Reed her number on the sly.

  Bull dumped the paperwork on Reed—that’s how it went for rookies. And Reed overheard him talking to the hospital, checking on LaDonna Gray’s condition.

  By the time Reed had filed the paperwork, Jerry the Dick’s phone video hit the local newscasts.

  Reed took the ribbing—that’s how it went for cops—winced a little at the cold fury on his face, and figured he’d take some heat from his CO over the dick remark.

  “You hit the Internet already, Quartermaine.”

  One of the other uniforms tapped a computer screen. “McMullen’s blog.”

  “Crap.”

  “Aw, she calls you young and studly, and…”

  “What?”

  “She brings up the DownEast Mall. Don’t sweat it, rook. Nobody reads her bullshit.”

  Everybody read it, Reed thought. Including cops. Just like plenty had read the book she’d published the year before. Massacre DownEast. With her buzz, the likelihood of the damn phone video going viral—and national—catapulted to the top of the heap.

  He knew the word had already started burning when Essie—now Detective McVee with the Portland PD—stepped in, signaled to him.

  She walked him into the currently empty roll-call room.

  “You okay?”

  “Yeah, sure.”

  “Something left a mark.” She tapped a finger to his bruised jaw.

  “Hit the back of his head on the takedown. It’s okay.”

  “Get some ice on it. The media’s going to play with this a little. Young hero of DownEast Mall becomes hero cop—with a bite. And like that.”

  He shoved at his hair—cop short, as his sergeant insisted he keep his loosely curling mop trim. “Shit, Essie.”

  “You’ll deal. Your sergeant’s going to give you a little flick over the ‘dick’ remark. But he, and every cop in Portland and its ’burbs, is going to give you a nice golf clap over it. Don’t worry about it, and don’t worry about McMullen or the rest of the media. Keep your head down and do the job.”

  “Well, I was,” he pointed out.

  “That’s right. And what the dick’s video showed was a cop doing his job, maintaining his composure and control—with the exception of a muttered word. A word the video also shows was well earned by said dick. You did it right, Reed, and I wanted you to hear that from me, since I feel I had something to do with getting you in that uniform.”

  “You had a lot to do with it. I felt … I had to get him. When I saw that woman bleeding on the floor, I had to get him. It wasn’t like a flashback sort of thing. I didn’t flash back to that night or anything like that, but it was sort of like when I knew I had to get that kid.”

  “Instincts, Reed. You’ve got them.” With approval, she gave him a fake punch on his bruised jaw. “Keep using them, and learn from Bull. He’s a solid son of a bitch despite his bullshit.”

  “He rides my ass—that’s not a complaint. Especially. He was gentle as a priest with LaDonna Gray. I guess that’s something I’m learning from him—how to handle victims so they don’t feel so victimized.”

  “That’s a good one. How about you come to dinner next week?”

  “I could eat. Are you still seeing that professor?”

  “Some cop you are.” She held up her left hand, wiggled her fingers to show off the ring.

  “Holy shit, Essie.” He started to reach out, stopped himself. “I can’t hug a detective in the precinct. It’ll wait. He’s a lucky guy.”

  “Damn right. If you need to talk, you know who to call. I’ll text you about dinner.”

  He went straight to the locker room to change out of uniform. He’d been off shift since before he’d filed the paperwork. He found Bull hanging up his own uniform jacket.

  “You finished getting kissed from the Detective Bureau?”

  “Can’t kiss her. She just got engaged.”

  “Huh. Cops oughta know better than to get married.” He pulled on a plain white T-shirt. “Did you call that civilian witness a dick when you fucking knew he was recording you?”

  “It’s on the recording, so I’d be stupid to deny saying it.”

  “Well.” Studying himself in his locker mirror, Bull scraped a hand over his crew cut. “Looks like I’m going to buy you a beer.” He shut his locker. “You might make a half-decent cop after all.”

  CHAPTER SIX

  Patricia Jane Hobart devoured McMullen’s blog along with a bo
wl of veggie sticks with gobs of hummus.

  She’d been a tubby child, routinely indulged by her mother with cookies, snack cakes, and her favorite M&M’s. Her interests—computers, reading, watching TV, and the occasional video game—merged well with her appetites. She’d often consumed an entire bag of Oreos (she preferred Double Stuf, chilled in the fridge) washed down with a liter of Coke while immersed in a spy novel, a murder mystery, the occasional romance, or testing her hacking skills.

  While her father (redneck loser) and mother (hapless idiot) battled their marriage to dust, she enjoyed playing one against the other and reaping the rewards of more chaos—and more cookies.

  By the age of twelve she carried one hundred and sixty pounds on a height of five feet two inches.

  She played her teachers and neighbors as slyly as her parents, wearing the mask of a stoic child bullied by her peers. She was, in fact, bullied, but she invited it, embraced it, and used it to her advantage.

  While the adults stroked and cosseted her, she plotted and executed vengeance with the stealth and focus a CIA operative would admire.

  The boy who dubbed her Patty the Porker took a flying header off his Schwinn when the chain she’d compromised snapped.

  She considered his fractured jaw, broken teeth, hospital stay, and the thousands for dental work his parents had to shell out almost enough payback.

  The ringleader of the girls who’d stolen her underpants while she was in the shower after gym and then creatively tacked them to a drawing of an elephant before posting them on the bulletin board nearly died when the peanuts Patricia crushed to powder and slipped into her thermos of hot cocoa sent her into anaphylactic shock.

  By the time she hit her teens, Patricia was a virtuoso of vengeance.

  Occasionally she enlisted the aid of her brother, the only person in the world she loved almost as much as herself. Her schemes engaged him—she plotted several for him as well—enough to keep their bond strong after the divorce.

  She hated that JJ lived with their worthless father, hated that he actually preferred it. She understood why. He could run wild with no repercussions, sneaking beer and weed while she remained stuck with their whiny martyr of a mother.

  But JJ depended on her. He wasn’t particularly bright, so he needed her help with schoolwork. He had impulse-control problems, and needed her to remind him that payback worked best when carefully crafted.

  She enjoyed nothing more than carefully crafting payback.

  At seventeen, her brother too often showed the world the angry, violent, bitter beast. On the other hand, Patricia’s quiet, studious, kid-with-a-weight-problem façade hid a cunning, brutal psychopath.

  Perfectly aware that teenage boys—and she considered all men on that level—would stick their dicks in anything, she had sex with both Whitehall and Paulson. She calculated it as a way to control them—useful tools—and to make them believe they controlled her.

  JJ knew better, but blood was thicker.

  She devised the plan. A mass shooting that would shake the core not just of the community she despised, but the city—the entire country. She worked on it for months, selecting and rejecting locations, refined and refined the timing, the weaponry.

  She told no one, not even JJ, until she’d settled on the mall. The mall, where giggling teenage girls who treated her like dirt ran in packs. Where perfect parents with their perfect kids had pizza and went to the movies. Where old people who should just die already walked in their ugly tracksuits or rode around on scooters.

  She considered the mall a perfect location for payback on everyone and everything she despised.

  Even after she told JJ, she swore him to secrecy. He could tell no one, could write down nothing they discussed. When the time was right, when she had everything in place, all contingencies nailed down, they could bring in his two friends.

  She walked miles in the mall—joining those revolting old people for their preopening exercise, and letting them make her a pet.

  She took photographs, made maps, studied mall security. Took off a little weight as cover, and directed JJ to get a part-time job at the mall.

  He chose the theater, so she worked that sector in for him.

  By her calculations, Operation Born To Kill would go green mid-December, giving her time to work out kinks, and capitalizing on the holiday crowds for the most impact.

  They would take out hundreds.

  But then JJ, literally, jumped the gun. And hadn’t even told her.

  After all the work she’d done, he’d let his impulses rule him. She found out about the shooting from a bulletin when the local news broke in during a rerun of Friends.

  She’d had to scramble to destroy her notes, her maps, her photos, every scrap of six-months’ work. She hid her laptop in a neighbor’s broken down garden shed. She’d bought the laptop—used exclusively for the mall project—for cash when visiting her grandparents in their big-ass, fancy house in Rockpoint.

  The cops would come, she knew. They’d question her, her mother, they’d search the ratty, wrong-side-of-the-tracks rental from top to bottom. They’d talk to neighbors, teachers, other students.

  Because JJ would get caught. Even if he had followed her plan as she’d laid it out so far, he’d get caught. He’d never implicate her, but his two asshole friends would.

  But the cops would have nothing but that, the word of two assholes against a fifteen-year-old girl, a distinguished honor-roll student without a single mark on her record.

  While she paced, waiting for the next bulletin, she worked out what she’d say, how she’d react, every word, every expression, her body language.

  Shock and deep, genuine grief dropped her to the floor when the grim-eyed reporter announced the shooters—believed to number three—were dead.

  Not JJ. Not the only person in the world who knew her and gave two shits about her. Not her brother.

  That grief rose up in a single wail. Then she shoved it back. She’d save it for the police. Save it for her idiot mother when the cops pulled her out of her second job—cleaning the offices of a bunch of lying lawyers.

  She’d save it for the cameras.

  And when they came, when they notified her and questioned her—with her trembling mother beside her—when they searched the house from top to bottom, talked to the neighbors, they’d see a fifteen-year-old girl in shock. A girl who clung to her mother and sobbed. A girl as innocent as her brother was guilty.

  As expected, her mother fell apart, her father raged and picked up a bottle he’d never come out of. She bore up, asked one of the lawyers from the offices where her mother cleaned to help write a statement expressing their shock and horror and grief, a statement, she insisted tearfully, that apologized to everyone.

  And because her parents couldn’t handle it, she read the statement herself through choked sobs.

  They had to move. She secreted the laptop in a box of stuffed animals. They couldn’t move far—her mother needed her jobs, and her employers kept her on. She finished her high school years with a tutor—her wealthy paternal grandparents paid.

  She kept her head down and gathered her vengeance to her, preparing to serve it ice cold.

  At eighteen, she carried a sharply honed 112 on a five-foot-four-inch frame. Her family attributed her initial weight loss to stress and grief, but Patricia worked to turn herself into a whippy weapon.

  She had people to kill, and compiled dossiers on all of them.

  Time, she calculated, remained on her side, and she had college to finish. With her stellar grades and smarts she had numerous choices, and settled on Columbia, as two of her targets—and the one her primary—chose it.

  How better to keep tabs on the person she held most responsible—even more than the cop who’d put the bullets in him—for her brother’s death?

  Without Simone Knox, the cops didn’t get there so quickly, didn’t enter the movie theater, didn’t kill her brother. He’d have walked out the way he’d walked in, but fo
r Simone Knox.

  She could’ve killed Knox and finished JJ’s job on her little Asian friend a thousand times already. But the dish was not cold enough.

  And they would be far from the first to pay.

  On the food chain of her revenge, she’d placed her parents first. But now, reading McMullen’s blog in the studio apartment her grandparents paid for—she just couldn’t live with people!—she reconsidered.

  Not the cop, and not the boy hero who’d become one. They ranked too high to be shifted that far down. But maybe, just maybe, she could pick one of the lessers, run a kind of test.

  She munched her hummus and veggie sticks in an apartment across the street from her prime target and began the selection process.

  * * *

  On July 22, 2005, Roberta Flisk was thirty-six. She’d gone to the mall with her sister and her young niece to have the ten-year-old Caitlyn’s ears pierced.

  They’d planned to conclude the rite of passage with ice cream sundaes. But as Caitlyn with her tiny gold studs, Shelby carrying the bag of overpriced daily cleaner, and Roberta strolled out of the earring boutique, everything changed.

  Roberta stopped at a kiosk to buy her little boy some beach toys for his long weekend away with his grandparents. She and her husband had planned their own long weekend on Mount Desert Island in hopes of reviving their troubled marriage.

  Later, she’d tell police, her family, reporters, how she’d seen the boy identified as Kent Francis Whitehall come into the mall as she, her sister, and her niece walked toward the same doors.

  She’d thought he was wearing a costume for some event. Until he’d lifted the rifle. Her sister was the first victim of the attack.

  As she’d fallen, Caitlyn screamed, dropping to the ground with her mother. Roberta threw herself over her niece and sister. Whitehall shot her twice—left shoulder, left leg—before he’d moved on to other targets.

  With her sister dead, her niece traumatized, her own injuries requiring two surgeries and months of therapy—physical and emotional—Roberta hadn’t been shy about talking to the press.

 
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admin 22 September 2018 10:55
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new Nora Roberts book
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