Malloy stood ready before Jus came back for him. He took a last look at the blanketed figure in the dark and let his anger rise. He didn’t know if Mac would have, but he had to.
When they came to the van, Will held the passenger door of the cab open. “You’re up front with us, Sarge,” he said.
Malloy stopped six feet from the back. A hostage at gunpoint is the worst place to be… And it would make things messier later. Time to use that anger.
“Well?” Malloy demanded. His voice was ragged. “Are you happy? One fewer of those pathetic, petty people in the world.”
Will’s jaw tightened. He came a threatening step towards them. “Now don’t say anything you might come to regret.”
“I won’t,” Malloy answered. “That boy was one of the truly innocent. The ones that we, you and me, are supposed to protect.” He shook his head. “Of all the people in the world, most of whom you’ve decided are worse than nothing, you had to grab him.” He narrowed his eyes. “You know, I’m glad we’re enemies. You can’t do anything right. You’ll do more real good where you are than you would on the force.”
“That’s enough!” Will screamed. He’d grabbed the shotgun. The barrel swung dangerously at Malloy, like the hypnotic rearing of a cobra. “Jus,” he shouted to his partner, and his lips twitched, “open that door!”
Malloy was shoved into the cargo part of the vehicle, where Margaret and Reed were already captive. The door shut. He blinked. Only a trickle of light came through the thickly-tinted back windows. He felt a shoe pressed into his shoulder.
“You call that playing it cool?” Reed asked.
Malloy snorted as he pulled himself to a sitting position. He swiveled and placed his back against the door. “No. I call that Sergeant Magic.”
“Bobby–” Margaret’s voice came from the right corner. “Is Bobby–” She took a shuddering breath.
Malloy clutched Bobby’s knotted cord in his hand. With a guilty swallow, he just said, “I’m sorry, Margaret.”
The engine’s roar didn’t drown out her wail. Then the van jerked forward, and they pulled out of the warehouse. Full day hit the windows, letting in a blue, hazy light. They paused as Jus lowered the building’s door and climbed into the cab. Then they rolled down the ramp into the daylight streets of Los Angeles.
~ * ~
The van must have been on the highway. The road was smooth, and traffic moved along gently, like an ocean breeze. Reed tried to catch his eye, no doubt hoping for reassurance. Malloy looked at the metal floor. He needed to concentrate.
Reed turned to Margaret. She lay hunched in the darkness with her face to the side of the vehicle, and she wasn’t moving.
“Margaret,” Reed said, “we’re going to get out of this.”
The girl sat up a little to look at him. Her face was blank.
“Pete and I have gotten out of worse jams than this. Haven’t we, Partner?”
Malloy met his eyes and smiled a little, but then looked away again. He moved his lips silently, calculating. He sensed Reed’s temper flare, but he ignored it and closed his eyes.
“We promised your brother we’d look after you,” Reed said. “And we’re safe for now.”
Margaret sniffed. Soon the sobs started again.
Reed scooted to Malloy as well as he could and sat up beside him. “Any ideas? There’s no handle inside, so jumping’s out of the question. What about kicking out the tail lights?”
Malloy shook his head. “How many exits are there on the 405 between Fountain Valley and the 5?”
“I… I have no idea…”
Just then Malloy’s eyes flew open. “Sh.”
Reed stilled. He couldn’t believe his ears. “Sirens?”
He got a real Pete-grin that time. “Yes, Jim. Sirens.”
Reed spoke quietly. “But… They can’t be coming for us…”
“They can and they are.” Malloy couldn’t clap Reed on the back, but he managed to bump their shoulders together in excitement. “I just hope Will and Jus keep their heads.”
Malloy’s shoulder slammed against Reed again as the van swerved to the right. Rising above the squeal of someone else’s brakes, they heard more sirens. All were growing in pitch and volume.
Margaret tried to sit up, but the vehicle lurched again. She bounced back against the wall.
“Okay,” Malloy said, “everyone toward the front.” The three scrabbled to the other wall. Reed and Malloy placed themselves on either side of Margaret and sat with their backs against the cab. “Lean your head back,” Malloy told her, “and brace your feet against the floor. If we stop suddenly–”
“Or crash,” she muttered.
“–we’ll be better off.”
The van veered again. The sirens pursued, but it seemed a long time before they got closer.
Finally, Malloy looked to Reed. “Hear that?”
Reed nodded. “They must have come up an onramp somewhere ahead.”
“I think they got ahead of us through the backstreets and blocked all the entrances to keep civilians out of the way. That’s why traffic’s been so good.”
The jerk they’d been expecting came, and the van skidded to a halt.
Mac’s voice came from all sides over the P.A. system. “Suspects in the vehicle, you are surrounded. Turn off the van and toss your keys out the driver’s window.” The engine cut and there was a pause. Then Mac continued. “Give up your weapons and open the door, nice and slow.”
Reed snorted. “Nice and slow…”
“Step out of the vehicle,” Mac said, “and put your faces to the ground. You know the drill.”
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