Malloy straightened up, holding his hands far out from his sides, and turned to face the speaker.
A man (late-forties, wearing a blue serviceman jumper, brown eyes, about 6’3″ and 240 pounds) stood behind and to the left of Reed, eyes and shotgun trained on the younger officer’s back. Small leaves stippled green in his gray-black hair; he’d crawled through the bushes to knock Reed’s gun from his hands. His eyes flicked to Malloy. “Hands high, where I can see them.”
Then the guy glared at Reed again and called, “Jus? You okay?”
The man on the ground behind Malloy grunted. “Yeah. I guess so.”
“Stay out of reach of our officer friends. We don’t want them to think they can try anything.”
The man beside Reed continued. “Think you can get the girl inside and to the van?”
Jus scrabbled to stand in the dust, and he pulled air through his teeth, hissing at the pain. The girl was sobbing as he hustled her to her feet. Malloy didn’t turn.
“Where’s Bobby?” she asked through her tears. She trilled her R. “You killed him!”
“You better hope we don’t knock you off, too. Now come on.” Their footsteps retreated and disappeared as the foot-traffic door creaked shut behind them.
The man with the gun stood very still. “Okay, now. We’re gonna work this one step at a time, nice and slow. You,” he said to Reed, “walk over to your partner. And I’m warning you: my nerves are pretty frayed. Don’t do anything stupid.”
Reed’s hands were up near his head. He stepped around the car door, which their captor shut with his left hand, and came through the gate to stand by Malloy.
“Okay, that’s enough. Now turn around.”
Reed complied. The two officers were about five feet apart.
The man stayed far out of reach, but he leaned forward a little and squinted as he read their tags, “Reed and… Malloy.” He straightened. “I like to know who I’m talking to.”
Malloy smirked. “So do I. You got a name?”
“Sure. Call me Will. The man you shot is Justin. And I doubt he’s too happy right now.”
Will grinned, but it was the same smile Malloy had given a hundred times: weary, humorless. “What say you lose your guns?”
“Sorry,” Reed said. “We can’t do that.”
“Yeah, you can’t. You already did. But I wasn’t asking you.” The shotgun swayed to Malloy. “What about it?”
Malloy shook his head.
“Hm… My partner’s injured, and I don’t dare come near you. Looks like we need another pair of hands.” His face hardened. “Walk over to the door. Reed first, then Malloy.”
Malloy turned and followed his partner to the door, hands still high. When Reed was eight feet from the building, Will stopped them. “Okay, Reed. Get the door.”
Reed walked over and yanked it open.
“All the way.”
Reed pulled further until it stuck in the dirt.
“Now keep going.”
The interior of the warehouse was significantly darker than the early morning outside, though the windows near the roof caught much of the light. It was vast, filled with rows of shelves that reached to the ceiling. It reminded Malloy of a time he’d been in a public library after closing time. (They’d gone to a movie; the librarian had bought the popcorn.)
All the lights were off, and the air was still and cold. The shelves were about fifteen feet apart to allow forklifts to pass, and each was crammed with boxes. Malloy counted four exits, two up a flight of stairs and along a wooden walkway, the one behind them, and one mirroring on the other side. He guessed there would be four more spaced out along the walls.
To the left, about fifty yards away, sat a blue-green delivery van. Jus relaxed in the passenger side, his eyes shut, and pressed a rag to his injured shoulder. Something dark covered his hand and soaked his shirt. That was all Malloy saw before he and Reed started down the aisle.
Malloy tried to read the box labels to see if there might be something useful, but it was too dark. Reed grunted, and Malloy guessed that he, too, was frustrated. Except that the grunt lengthened into a groan and was definitely not coming from his partner.
At the end of the aisle, they turned left, then almost immediately right, and came to a dead end, surrounded by shelves. The groaning became a whimpering intake of breath. It stilled as Malloy’s eyes fell on the body of a young man.
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