“Sit in that chair,” Will said. “And keep your hands where I can see them.”
The robbers had set up a campsite beside their van, a couple of blankets laid out with wide, clear bottles of water and cans and boxes of food, and two chairs made of canvas stretched over a fold-up metal framework. Malloy sat in the nearest chair and left his hands in his lap.
Will stood in front of him and seemed to be sizing him up more scrupulously than he had before. He tapped his own upper arm. “What are you? A sergeant or something? Reed treats you like a sergeant.”
Malloy checked his shoulder where his Senior Lead Officer patch, two chevrons and a star, was stitched in silver. He tried to make his face appear open. “Not sure?” he said. “Do you have different rank symbols in Seattle?”
Will stiffened. Then he forced himself to relax; he even pasted on a smirk. “So the kid’s been talking?”
“Yeah.” Malloy turned his eyes down. “He won’t be talking much longer if you don’t do something for him.” Then he looked up into the man’s face, and his brow wrinkled. “Why did you do it? Is his life only worth your share of a hundred grand?”
Will’s eyes got hard. “He was trying to escape. He wouldn’t stop.” He shrugged. “Training kicked in.”
Malloy stiffened. “Just a few days late, wouldn’t you say?” Training would have prevented every mistake this callous man had made…
The man glared at Malloy but quickly regained control. He gave a short laugh. “Right; you’re a sergeant, one of the few who’s completely bought into that,” he pointed to the door of car 012, “‘to protect and to serve‘ stuff. How long have you been protecting and serving, Sergeant Malloy?”
Malloy said nothing.
“Well, I’ll tell you how long I tried it: too long!”
Malloy looked away. His instinct to let the man talk warred with his disgust at what he was likely to hear. Again he chose silence.
“Haven’t you ever noticed the quality of the people you protect and serve, Sergeant Malloy?” Will said. “The ‘Innocent’ for whom you lay out your life over and over? They are petty. Pathetic. More likely to stab you in the back than have the courage to back you up.”
He waved his hand. “But that’s just the majority of humanity. You do deal with some people of character: the crooks.”
He paced to the right. Malloy followed him with his eyes.
“Think about it; they don’t get upset over their neighbor playing the piano too loud.” He stopped and grasped at the air with one hand. “They take life in their own two fists and make something of it. Sometimes they make it, and sometimes they lose it. But at least they don’t sit back and watch.”
He looked at Malloy, who smirked. “You finished?” he asked.
Will snorted. He seemed genuinely amused at his own speech. “Yeah. I guess now you’ll try pulling some sergeant magic on me. Go on. You gonna tell me that the world makes sense? ‘Just stop thinking about it.’ Good is good and bad is bad, and we’ll win if we just keep plowing forward?”
“No.” Malloy leaned back in his chair. “It’s too late for you. What about your partner? Does he agree with all this?” He glanced over his shoulder to Jus, who was resting in the driver’s seat of the black-and-white with his eyes closed. Malloy frowned. “He doesn’t look too good. Have you thought about getting him to a hospital?” He smiled. “You could take the kid, make it a double-trip. Get your partner settled and get a fourth murder off your chest at the same time. Sounds like a deal to me.”
Will stared at him with narrowed eyes. “Jus is fine. And if he’s not, that’s a murder on your chest.”
Malloy shook his head, not taking his eyes from the man. “I almost feel sorry for you,” he said. “You are so mixed up.”
“Well, I didn’t bring you over here to discuss ethics. I want to talk options.” Will paced over until he was in front of Malloy, but still some distance away. “What are the chances of your brass making a trade; we give them you four, and they let us get to the border easy?”
Malloy sighed. “No chance.”
“I figured. But when they find out we’ve got hostages, they’ll keep out of our way, right?”
“Probably. Keep their distance, anyway. If there’s one good thing about these people of principle, it’s that you know just how they’ll act: from their principles.” Malloy hardened his voice. “But also know this: if you let this kid die, they will be on you like duct tape ’til the sun dies. And if there’s anything I know about you ‘people of character’, it’s that you don’t want that.”
“Fair enough,” Will said. “So tell me, Sergeant Malloy, if you were in my place, or equivalent circumstances, what would you do?”
Malloy stabbed the other man’s eyes with what he hoped was a Mac-glare. “Give up.”
Will blinked a couple of times, but he didn’t break the intensity of the gaze.
“Pete!” Reed’s voice floated through the shelves and echoed off the roof.
Malloy raised his eyebrows at Will. The man nodded.
“Yeah?” Malloy called back. “What is it, Reed?”
“It’s Bobby…” The younger man’s voice was strained. “He–Just come here!”
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