Chapters 35 and 36
Christine and Uriel have tracked down the last known residence of the child they've been assigned to protect, but things aren't going well.
Christine also learns that Uriel is a little...off
Bent Copper Bar
Juno drained his glass and threw up a hand for another. “My recollection is that Fighting Jack has an extensive knowledge of G-Series nerve agents.”
“That’s only half the story, Frank.” Sonnet said, lighting a fresh cigarette.
Jack Hallstatt had been born in Dublin, in 1894. He was a street urchin as a youth, and a master thief until entering British military service. He quickly qualified for MI-5 sponsored training with the elite SAS, and excelled in his new environment, heading off to the war in France.
Jack became an expert in counter-espionage against the Germans, and unconventional warfare. He specialized in neutralizing as many enemy officers as possible – which meant a lot of throat cutting.
He got his name by taking the term ‘unconventional warfare’ way too seriously, mainly because he didn’t give a crap. ‘Fighting’ Jack repeatedly went into battle armed with a cross-bow and Claymore sword…at a time when everyone else had machine guns and anti-tank weapons.
And he did quite well.
Fighting Jack Hallstatt was the only recorded soldier to kill the enemy with a cross-bow in the Second World War. Fighting Jack had much more than huge balls, though; he was also a very talented chemist with explosives, deadly gases and nerve agents.
Her Majesty’s Secret Service, section 6, recruited him after the war to experiment with various methods of chemical weapons, including organophoshorus compounds that could kill thousands in either liquid or gas form.
Fighting Jack became very good at his job, but there was one serious drawback to his personality.
Girls….very young girls, to be more specific.
Fighting Jack had an extreme weakness for under-age hookers, and was knifed one night in the West End of London during a particularly enjoyable evening of debauchery. He bled out on a cobblestone street, cursing God’s name…and God heard him.
His soul was sent to the dark side, naturally.
He wasn’t considered a full-fledged demon by his family in Hell, and was allowed to return, providing that he continue his studies of chemical weapons and deadly viruses …should it be needed by the dark side one day.
Fighting Jack immigrated to America as a damned soul in 1956….and promptly forgot the orders issued by Dal Clann Hallstatt. For some strange reason no one could explain, Fighting Jack took on the not-so-lucrative hobby of robbing banks. Saying he sucked at his new profession, though, would be putting it mildly.
He managed to rob three banks before being caught. It was a rather sad affair that netted him a grand total of $650 - plus two bags of quarters.
During the third bank job, Fighting Jack had forgotten to put fuel in his getaway car beforehand, and ran out of gas directly in front of the local highway patrol station. He was sentenced to life in Leavenworth, with no chance of parole. Cuts in funding, however, saw him transferred to the Cumberland Federal Correctional Institution, about an hour drive from Washington.
Fighting Jack, regardless of his screw-ups, was still a wealth of information to the dark side. He was an accomplished chemist and virologist, with experience in the structure of virus reproduction.
He knew how to make sarin, tabon, and cylosarin – which were all considered weapons of mass destruction. Fighting Jack had been incarcerated for 55 years, knowing full well that one day his family would send for him.
That day had finally come. King Brian and Ulf had sent orders through for Sonnet to spring Fighting Jack from federal lockup.
Sonnet was honest enough with herself to admit that she was a rather selfish individual. She shouldn’t have cared one way or another about the mission. But Sonnet was still hesitant to let a complete whack-job like Fighting Jack loose into the world. Somehow, Earth deserved better.
She downed another drink, wondering if an intravenous supply of bourbon was available.
“What are you thinking, Alicia?” Juno said.
“I don’t like this, Frank. Maybe there’s another way.”
“Not this time, dear…not this time.”
Sonnet sagged. “Okay, then. I can use my credentials to personally transfer Fighting Jack, no problem. Where do we go?”
“The Dal Clann Hallstatt have set up a rather remarkable secure facility at a privately-owned air field near North Bethesda…it’s off the beaten path and well guarded. You’ll need to take Fighting Jack directly there so he can get to work.”
Sonnet held up a hand. “Understood. But after that, though, I’m burnt, Frank. I’ll have two or three days before Homeland Security catches on, and then everything goes to hell in a hand-basket.”
“So I can send flash traffic that things are on schedule?”
Sonnet shrugged. “Sure. What choice do I have?”
Laurel Park Apartments
The SWAT truck’s rear doors opened and disgorged police in full riot gear. Christine stared at the disaster, mouth open. “I don’t believe this.”
“PoPo be up in our bidness.”
Christine parked the car and climbed out, pulling her hair back into a ponytail. The police seemed to have surrounded the exact apartment she wanted to visit, which put a bit of damper on her plans. She actually didn’t know what to do next.
Uriel, however, didn’t seem share the same problem, stepping out of the Volvo with two black windbreakers in her hand. “Put this on.”
Christine donned the light jacket, and realized the she and Uriel fit in with the various police personnel fairly well. But they still didn’t have credentials, guns or badges.
“Now what?” Christine said.
“Keep an open mind and follow my lead.”
“I have an open mind!”
“Oh, really? Have you ever had a lesbian experience?”
“Does watching Ellen DeGeneres count?”
“Pul-leaze.” Uriel rolled her eyes. “Come on, let’s go.”
Uriel sauntered up to a patrolman keeping the crowds back and waved a hand, winking at Christine. To her surprise, the officer let them through, and they walked between policemen until finding an older man that seemed to be in charge.
Uriel waited patiently as the detective finished barking orders to SWAT team members, then approached him, holding out a hand. “Evenin’, Detective. I’m Inspector Uriel McClane. And you are?”
“Err..Detective Donald Gladstone, Washington PD.”
“Excellent…now, Donald…what exactly do we got here?”
The detective obviously didn’t know what to make of Uriel, so he answered her. “We have a hostage situation in apartment 2C. We were attempting to serve a warrant on one Jackie Wayne Woods, for dealing in counterfeit currency and narcotics possession. Woods doesn’t live in the apartment, but fake bills were found in the coin dryer downstairs, and it was linked back to him through witness accounts. He’s also wanted for questioning, related to an unsolved homicide last year. Unfortunately, Mr. Woods has barricaded himself in the apartment with what appears to be the primary resident…a Ms. Gertie Hallstatt.”
“Is that so?” Uriel hawked a loogie on the ground, and Christine had to stifle a laugh.
“We believe he’s armed with two weapons – a sawed-off shotgun and a 9mm automatic.”
“Detective Gladstone,” Christine said. “Do you know if a child is in the apartment? Five years old with red hair?”
Gladstone shook his head. “I’m not aware of any children in the apartment, but that certainly changes things.”
The detective got on his radio to relay the information as Uriel took Christine aside. “We need to go in first. If these bozos knock down the door this girl could get hurt.”
“We don’t even know if Siobhan is in there.”
Uriel raised her eyebrows. “Do you want to take that chance?”
“No.” Christine said. “It’s your show now, Inspector McClane.”
Uriel grabbed a bullet-proof vest from Detective Gladstone’s cruiser and handed it to Christine, who removed her jacket and velcroed the vest over her chest.
“What now?” Christine said.
“Be patient, dude.” Uriel gave her a thumbs-up then turned to Gladstone, a toothpick hanging out of her mouth. “We’re goin’ in there, detective, and we’ll be bringin’ out your perp. Just give us five minutes.”
“But…aren’t you going to wear a vest?” Gladstone said. “And where’s your gun?”
“Don’t need no gun or vest, detective.” Uriel drawled. “Just my toothpick and my wits.”
Donald Gladstone’s face changed as his skepticism grew. “Now, wait a second. I want to see some credential, right th - ”
Uriel waved a hand. “We’re not the droids you’re looking for.”
Gladstone turned to his men. “These aren’t the droids we’re looking for.”
The SWAT team members and other officers looked at Gladstone as if he were insane. The detective sputtered, not realizing that Uriel had just performed a Jedi mind trick on him. Christine had heard that God’s four Archangels were rather immature, had certain quirks and could bend people’s minds at will, but she’d never seen it in action until now. Christine snickered. Uriel was strong with the force.
“What do you plan on doing with Woods?” Gladstone said uncertainly.
Uriel smiled grimly. “I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.”
“Okay, now you’re just making movie references.”
“Are you talkin’ to me?”
Uriel shrugged and pushed through the men, with Christine on her heels across the taped-off parking lot to the base of the apartment building’s stairs.
Uriel turned and faced the officers. “What we have here is a failure to communicate. I’m going in after this scumbag, and teach him some manners. Back in five, gents.”
Uriel and Christine climbed up the flight of stairs to the second floor landing. The hallway to the apartment complex was dank, stained, covered in graffiti and speckled with Pepsi cups, take-out bags and condom wrappers.
Piles of trash bags were jumbled outside of every warped door on the long corridor. The age of the complex was very old, probably post-WW2, and heavily-built. And even though the maintenance was poor, the apartments still evoked the charm lost with modern cheap construction.
“This is a really nice building.” Uriel said. “There’s hardly any rats.”
They quickly found 2C. Christine expected Uriel to knock on the door of apartment and open some type of dialogue with Woods, to determine if Siobhan was indeed inside. That wasn’t in the Archangel’s playbook, apparently.
Uriel just…walked through the door, shattering the wood and tearing the metal frame from the concrete foundation – as if it were tissue paper. Before Christine could react, there was the sound of an automatic handgun being shot until empty and a crunch of metal, followed by a thud.
Christine entered the apartment, mouth open. The filthy living room was sprayed with bits of the demolished door, with chunks of wood embedded into the plaster on the far wall.
Uriel’s explosive entrance had also peppered the gunman. A young black man was standing in the middle of the living room, holding a broken arm against his chest. He was bleeding from minor facial cuts, with two crumpled pieces of steel at his feet.
“What’s with all the hostility?” The man cried.
Uriel smirked. “You shouldn’t have shot me, dickcheese.”
The balled-up steel on the carpet, it seemed, had been the man’s firearms, although now they were junk. Christine glanced around quickly, noting the large flat screen and the abundance of children’s DVDs. She turned back to the Archangel.
“What happened, Uriel?”
“He got the drop on me.”
Christine looked closer. Uriel had nine holes in her blouse, and her face was blackened with spent gunpowder. Detective Gladstone rushed in, gun drawn. He looked around the living room, to Woods – then finally at Uriel’s riddled top. Christine sighed. This wasn’t going to be easy to explain.
Gladstone cocked an eyebrow. “You’re not from around here, are you?”
“Not exactly.” Uriel said.
“Welcome to Earth.”
Uriel grinned. “Good one.”
Christine rolled her eyes and took Woods gently by the arm and led him outside to the waiting SWAT team, then returned to join Uriel.
Together, Christine and Uriel found Gertie Hallstatt in the kitchen with a bottle of whiskey, a pack of Lucky Strikes and a crack pipe. Two empty Oxycodone bottles rolled onto the linoleum as the woman, nearly incoherent, turned to acknowledge their presence.
Detective Gladstone joined them, but remained silent.
Christine noted the heavy bags under the woman’s eyes, her faded beauty and the deep lines drugs had etched into her face. It wasn’t a pretty sight.
Christine knelt beside the woman, ignoring the police filing in. “Gertie? You are Gertie Hallstatt, right?”
The middle-aged woman gazed up at Christine with unfocused, rheumy eyes. “Yeah, that’s right.”
“Gertie, this is important. Where is Siobhan? Where is your granddaughter?”
“Bastards…” Hallstatt’s words trailed off and were unintelligible. Gladstone folded his arms and watched, as did Uriel.
Christine tried again. “What? Gertie, I didn’t get that.”
“Bastards took her.”
Siobhan’s room was sad at first glance.
“Sweet Jesus.” Uriel said quietly. “This is no life for a child.”
Christine silently agreed. The walls, at one time, had been painted a light green, but the paint had faded badly, and had cracked in many places. A few stick figures were drawn in crayon around the room, with cheap plastic glow-in-the-dark stars glued to the ceiling above the small mattress serving as a bed.
There was a second-hand pink wicker nightstand with a broken Lulubell lamp cocked sideways. A pink plastic milk-crate with an assortment of clothes sat on the floor, dusty and forlorn.
That was the extent of any real furniture.
A cardboard box served as a mostly empty toy hamper. A few articles of clothing hung haphazardly in the closet, most of it moth-eaten and threadbare.
Christine remembered the overhead shot of Siobhan before the bus bombing, and the condition of her clothes had been unclear due to the long range. It was painfully clear - now - that the very minimum was spent on the girl. Christine blew out her breath. Siobhan could have had better stuff from the Salvation Army, so it was obvious her grandmother hadn’t even cared enough to do that.
“Pure neglect.” Uriel said. “How can anyone treat their child this way?”
“I don’t know.” Christine replied, peering inside the toy hamper, gazing at the sad collection of wrecked toys. A ruined Barbie and a naked baby doll, plus a few brightly colored plastic sandals, none with matching mates. That was it. Stickers had been stuck to the peeling paint along the length of the unmade bed, and few tattered books were scattered about, many with missing covers.
Detective Gladstone entered the bedroom, but all of his bluster – as well as Uriel’s - was gone at the sight of the squalor.
“You have kids, detective?” Christine asked in a hushed voice.
Uriel picked up a ratty book, then dropped it. “We need to find her, Christine. We only have 72 hours - after that the chances of this child’s survival go down 90 percent.”
“She’s right.” Gladstone agreed.
Christine nodded. “I am well aware of the numbers.”
“What’s next?” Uriel said.
“Let’s go talk to Mr. Woods.”
In the parking lot, Jackie Wayne Woods was being treated in the back of an ambulance, guarded by several disinterested patrolmen.
Uriel and Gladstone followed Christine to the vehicle, and stood by for a moment as the black man’s arm was placed in a temporary sling. A female paramedic gently plucked pieces of wood from his face.
Christine put on her best neutral face. “Sir, we have a few questions.”
“Ain’t got nothin’ to say.” Woods glared at her for a moment. “Bitch.”
Christine shrugged, and gave Uriel a pat on the shoulder. The dickcheese was all hers now.
“Let’s do this.” Uriel said with a false smile. “Look, Jackie…I want you to listen to me very carefully. You have a choice to make before they cart you off to jail. There was a five year old girl named Siobhan living in that apartment. We need to know where that child is.”
“You the bitch that broke my arm!” Woods spit. “I don’t know nothin’”
“You seem to really like the word ‘bitch’.”
Woods sneered. “So?”
“How ‘bout I make you my bitch?” Uriel smiled again, except it wasn’t a nice smile this time. “Remember what I said about there being a choice, Jackie? Pain or no pain, that’s the choice. Simple, right? You can tell us where Siobhan is - and there will be no pain. Or you can choose not to talk…and I will pull out your intestines. Slowly. And that will hurt very much, believe me.”
Woods looked Gladstone for help. “Bitch be trippin’”
“I’ll allow it.” Gladstone said indifferently. “We’re talking about a little girl here, son…a child. Tell us what you know.”
“I want a lawyer.”
Gladstone sighed. “Jackie, we got you on counterfeiting, drug possession, a serious weapons violation and attempted murder. Thirty years, minimum. Help us help you, okay? Tell us about the kid.”
“I want a lawyer.”
Uriel patted the paramedic on her back. “Girlfriend, we need some alone time with Mr. Woods. Maybe you could grab a smoke or a cup of coffee?”
The paramedic disappeared and Uriel’s face changed. She grabbed an aluminum oxygen tank from a rack in the ambulance, then twisted the tank into a pretzel. The explosive release of pressure enveloped the vehicle with a high-pitched shriek of oxygen. Jackie Wayne Woods looked on with wide eyes as the fog cleared. Uriel set the destroyed tank down and placed a hand calmly on his injured arm.
“Know this, you dysfunctional crackhead,” Uriel hissed. “I’m going to hack off your feet and make you eat them, you scumbag ass-eating circus-act stepchild. You obviously have the mental capacity of a Casio battery, and the cognitive skills of a pigeon….so I’ll make it real simple. Where is the girl?”
Woods eyed the hand hovering near his hurt arm, biting his lip. “Rich white dudes took her. Few hours ago.”
Christine’s eyebrows shot up. “Rich white men took Siobhan?”
“Yeah.” Woods said. “Can you make her…back up some?”
“Uriel, step back.” Christine said, and the Archangel complied.
“White dudes, banker types.” Woods snorted. “Six of ‘em, all in suits. They showed up in three black Lincoln Navigators - rides were sweet. Not custom, but top of the line. Gertie didn’t know them, but she knew them…know what I mean?”
Christine was puzzled. “No, please explain.”
Woods grew frustrated. “Like she knew they were coming - for the kid. She acted all resigned an’ shit when they knocked on the door, dig? Dudes had a whole pharmacy for Gertie, so she didn’t argue much.”
Gladstone stepped forward, glancing at Uriel. “Big night for you, son. I can forget about the attempted murder rap, Jackie. This young lady doesn’t seem to put out.”
Uriel agreed. “I’m cool with it.”
“But,” Gladstone said, “Got to know where these guys went.”
Woods shifted on the gurney and grunted. Then he wiped his nose on the sleeve of his good arm, and shrugged. “Heard ‘em talking, to each other. ‘Bout a place. You really gonna forget the attempted murder charge?”
Gladstone nodded. “Sure, no problem.”
“Cedar Creek Falls Airfield. That’s what one dude said. I don’t know nothin’ else.”
Christine and Uriel left the ambulance with Detective Gladstone, and went back to his cruiser. Christine pulled off the bullet-proof vest, wondering when the detective would freak out over Uriel’s antics - but he seemed perfectly at ease with the Archangel and the bullet holes in her shirt.
“I’ll put a BOLO out on the Navigators,” Gladstone said, “and an Amber Alert on Siobhan Hallstatt. Ever heard on that airfield he mentioned?”
“Nope.” Christine shook her head. “But we certainly appreciate your help.”
“I’m still looking for Cedar Creek Falls.” Uriel scrolled through the apps on her iPhone. “Nothing on Google maps. It could be under a different name.”
“We should go, Uriel.”
Uriel saluted Detective Gladstone. “I’ll be back.”