“Okay, so we have an APB out on Jack and his car but honestly, Steve, we can’t be a hundred percent sure he has Mike, can we?” Rudy Olsen was sitting on the couch in the Union Street apartment.
Steve was pacing back and forth across the living room floor, his hands atop his head. “Where the hell else would he be, Rudy? He knows he’s not supposed to leave the house, the doctors told him.”
Olsen and Norm Haseejian exchanged skeptical looks. “This is Mike we’re talking about, right?” offered the Armenian detective with a trace of humour in his voice, which was not lost on the young inspector.
Steve glared at his colleague, then started to chuckle. “You’re right, what am I saying?” He flopped down onto the armchair. “But I know he would have left a note; he knows I’m worried about him.”
“Agreed,” said Olsen as he stood and walked to the phone. He picked up the receiver and dialed.
Haseejian, sitting on the arm of the couch, leaned closer to Steve. “Can I get you another cup of coffee?” he asked quietly as Olsen asked for his call to be transferred to Homicide.
Steve shook his head. “No thanks, Norm.”
“Dan? Yeah, Rudy. Listen, I know we have a priority on this Jack Elliott thing, but could you just make sure that nobody goes overboard on this, makes it bigger than it is at the moment. We just want to talk to the boy, alright, not drag him in in handcuffs, okay?” Olsen listened. “Perfect, that’s great. Thanks, Dan… Yeah…. Yeah, we’ll let you know if we hear anything from this end.”
Olsen hung up the phone, turned to the others and shrugged. “Now we wait.”
# # # # #
Steve was sitting in the armchair, sleeves rolled up and tieless, cradling a coffee cup in both hands as he leaned forward, elbows on knees. He’d been staring at the carpet for the last ten minutes.
Olsen and Haseejian were on either ends of the couch. Silence was the fourth presence in the room and had been for quite awhile.
Everyone jumped when the phone rang. Olsen, who was closer, grabbed the receiver. “Hello,” he growled, then froze and listened with an intensity that instantly alerted the others. Steve got up and moved closer.
“Yes…yes…right, okay… that’s great. Yes, we’ll be right down.” He hung up and turned to the others. “Jack. They got him. A patrol car just stopped him near the Presidio and they’re bringing him in right now. And yes, he was alone in the car.”
Steve heart leapt into his throat. “Shit,” he muttered as he grabbed his car keys then started for the kitchen to turn off the coffee pot.
Haseejian had moved to the front window during Olsen’s phone call and was staring out at the street. He was just about to turn away when he froze. “Steve,” he called, “there’s a taxi pulling up in front of your building.”
Within seconds, both Steve and Olsen were at his side, looking through the picture window. The taxi was idling in front of the apartment, the passenger obviously paying the fare.
“Is that an Oakland cab?” Haseejian asked.
“Yeah,” said Olsen slowly, sounding equally confused.
Finally the back door opened and, painfully slowly, the stiff figure of Mike Stone emerged and, turning carefully, slammed the car door. Steve was in motion for his own front door, throwing it open and stepping out onto the stoop with blinding speed.
Mike, looking down, holding a file in his left hand, his left arm held tightly against his side, arrived at the bottom of the stairs and put his foot on the first step, his right hand on the railing.
“Where the hell have you been?!”
Mike flinched and looked up quickly, almost losing his balance. His startled look immediately turned to guilt.
Still standing at the window, Olsen and Haseejian exchanged wide-eyed but relieved looks. Haseejian began to chuckle. “Oh oh, Mike’s in shit,” he whispered and Olsen laughed quietly.
Mike smiled sheepishly then continued to climb the stairs, trying to ignore his partner’s angry glare. “I, ah, I took a little road trip.” He grimaced, tucking his left arm tighter against his side. “I was gone a little longer than I figured.”
Against his better judgment, Steve went down the stairs and took the file and, with a hand on Mike’s right elbow, helped the older man the rest of the way up and into the apartment. As they crossed the threshold, Mike spotted his two colleagues.
“Hey, Norm, Rudy. What are you guys doing here?” he asked with a grin as he sat heavily on the couch and tried to suppress a pain-laden sigh.
Both men looked at Steve who, still scowling, had tossed the file onto the coffee table, removed Mike’s fedora and was unzipping his jacket.
Olsen glanced at Haseejian then pointed at Steve. “Ah,” he started slowly, “we’re gonna let him tell you. We were just on our way out.”
“Right,” agreed Haseejian with a nod, as both men moved towards the door.
“Steve,” Olsen said a little louder, trying to get the younger man’s attention. When furious green eyes finally turned in his direction, both he and Haseejian cringed slightly. “I’ll handle the, ah, the other matter,” he jerked his thumb loosely over his shoulder, “and you just concentrate on what’s going on here.”
Haseejian was standing in the open doorway, trying somewhat unsuccessfully to suppress a laugh. Covering with a cough, and trying to avoid Steve’s glare, he looked at Mike. “Great to see you again, boss,” he grinned and turned away quickly.
“Yeah, great to see you, Mike. Wish I had the time to stay, but, well, there’s a lot going on downtown…” Olsen’s voice trailed off. “Steve, ah, I’ll talk to you in the morning.” And with that he beat a hasty retreat.
Still seething, Steve stood in front of his partner with his arms out, trying to get some control over his conflicting emotions before he could speak in a civilized manner. Mike, head lowered but looking at Steve through upraised eyes, waited, knowing that the younger man needed to get out his frustration first before he would listen to any explanation.
“What the hell were you thinking?” Steve finally asked.
“I honestly didn’t think it was going to take that long. I had hoped to be home hours ago.”
His racing heartbeat finally starting to slow down, Steve sat in the armchair and leaned forward, putting a hand on Mike’s knee. He shook his head in relief. “I’m just glad you’re okay,” he said quietly.
Mike smiled warmly. “I am really sorry if I scared you. I had no intention of doing that. I actually thought I could do it fairly quickly.” He shook his head ruefully. “I should have left a note, but I thought if I could get there and back before you got home, you might never find out… I’m sorry.”
“So what exactly did you do?”
“I took a cab to Oakland.”
“Yeah. I would have been back long ago, but there was a multi-car pile-up on the bridge and there was only one lane open.”
“Why did you have to go to Oakland?” Steve asked quietly.
Mike smiled and leaned forward to pick up the file. “Steve, I really think I found something.”