The sun shined at its highest peak as Gina approached the Alburquerque city limits. Much more activity going around compared to Eagle Nest. Cars cruised down the streets nicely. Plenty of foot traffic on the sidewalks that kept the local shops busy. Ragtime music played from corner loudspeakers, bringing a festive vibe to the scene. A very pleasant day in the city.
Gina parked on the side of the KiMo Theatre on the corner of Central Avenue. Although she had been to Albuquerque before, she paced around and gazed at the buildings like a tourist, excited from the change of scenery. What to do first? “I need a wake-me-up,” she thought. Moments later, she spotted a small corner newsstand across the street. No better way to add some pep in your step than with a cup of hot coffee.
Civilians properly greeted her as she stopped at the corner and waited for the red light to change. A little girl stared at her for several seconds and whispered to her mother, “I wanna be like her when I grow up.” Gina was touched, but at the same time embarrassed. “No kid,” she thought. “Be better.”
Gina approached the newsstand and greeted the old man who stood behind the display of sugary goodies and reading material. “What’ll it be young lady,” he asked. “Err - I mean officer lady.” Chuckling at the kind-hearted gesture, she asked for a cup of coffee and placed a pack of gum on the counter.
As the coffee brewed in the pot, the sheriff’s eyes were drawn to the front
page of The News Review newspaper. Splashed on the front page was an Amber
Alert for thirteen-year-old Christine Jordan, who was kidnapped from her home in Los Angeles two days ago. Based on recorded travel history from the DMV, the suspects in question are possibly heading to Texas. New Mexico police departments across the state are on the lookout.
Gina picked up the paper and flipped to page 8, quoting the latest statement made by Montgomery Cunningham, Governor of California. “I assure the public that bringing little Christine home safely is one of his priorities. My staff and I will stop at nothing to make sure that little girl is reunited with her family,” he said during a live interview. His dedication, however, seemed disrespectful. Not only did he conduct his interview remotely from his beach home in Laguna but had the nerve to wear a Hawaiian-style shirt. “‘Cunningham’ suits him well,”
she sighed. “He’s cunning. And he’s a ham.”
More breaking news grabbed her attention on the next page. Her eyeballs stared at the two-page spread covering the death of a notorious New York crime boss, Crispin Pagnucci. “What? No way,” she thought.
During her rookie days, Gina remembered Crispin in being a ruthless
and stone-cold killer. Always one step ahead of his competitors, including the
NYPD. More popular and dangerous than his father Peter Pagnucci, who sat
on the throne of organized crime in New York for decades. It was only a matter of time before Crispin took the helm. But, murdered? She thought it would’ve taken an elite group of super cops to accomplish such an impossible task. But, someone did. Who is the question?
She scanned through the article for clues about the killer or killers responsible. After reading the gory details of the crime scene, it sounded as if terrorists did the job. Thousands of bullet holes in the walls suggested a massive firefight. His entire estate engulfed in flames. Every crew member killed. No surveillance footage of any kind, not even a cellular photograph. The police had nothing.
Alarming her most was where they discovered Crispin Pagnucci’s body: inside his secret vault. After years of inactivity, the gears inside her detective mind began to turn once more. “How did they know about his safe?” she thought.
The Pagnucci family consumed every meal at his father’s restaurant. Russian and Swedish nightclubs were his favorite nightspots in Lower Manhattan, mainly because of the women. These are his known whereabouts,
making it easy for an assassination attempt. So, how did this group know to
attack him at home? How did they know that’s where he’ll be vulnerable?
Come to think of it...how did they know where he lived?
“Most bosses keep their money overseas,” she thought. “Who, besides him, could’ve known where he kept the money?” Blind luck? Impossible. The killers knew exactly where and when to attack. “An inside job,” she gasped.
Meanwhile, an alarm bell rang from a small antique shop several blocks away. Two young baldheaded thugs, with tribal tattoos and piercings covering their milk-colored skin decorated, red pentagrams spray-painted on their black hooded sweaters, knocked over pedestrians as they bolted down the block.
The owner staggered out seconds later and yelled for help. Stunned
pedestrians had mixed reactions: “Somebody stop them!”
“Hey! Why don’t you watch where you’re going?!” “Call the police!”
“I’m posting this on Facebook!”
Gina heard despairing voices dancing in her ears, but she turned and saw... nothing. The area remained calm. People went about their business as normal, enjoying the quiet. Where did those voices come from?
“Somethin’ wrong, officer?” asked the newsstand employee. “Did you just hear an alarm go off?” Gina skeptically asked. “Wuz that ’cha say? An alarm?”
“Like a school bell or a fire alarm ringing, ya know? Ding-ding- ding-ding! Did you hear anything like that?”
“Ah, heck no. Ain’t been no schools ‘round here fur fifty years. Got nuthin’
but movies n’ shoppin’ stores.”
“I could’ve sworn that I…never mind. How much I owe ya?”
“On the house, ma lady. Looks like ya been workin’ too hard. Take a walk and get yurself sum sunshine, okay?”
“Thank you. Have a nice day.” “You, too, purty officer.”
Gina took a short sip of her coffee as she walked across the street. Ringing. Shouting. She heard it again! But like before, she looked around and everything seemed fine. “What the hell is going on here?” she asked. Was she having a premonition? “Maybe the old man’s right: I am working too hard.”
Dismissing it as if it was her imagination, fluttering butterflies in her
stomach told her otherwise. Something was wrong. Gina hopped inside her
jeep and surfed through the channels on her police scanner. Not much going on besides routine checks and one disturbance call. Then Dispatch butted in with a robbery call from an antique shop on Kent Avenue. Two suspects were caught fleeing the scene and are believed to still be in the area.
“Wally?” she gasped. Could it be her old friend Walter Nixon who was just robbed? Gina jumped behind the wheel and drove down Central Avenue, swishing passed red lights and swerving around oncoming traffic. Sirens blared overhead. Assuming the suspects were running down Kent Avenue, she kept her eyes peeled, feeling like she can run into them at any minute.
Shortly after moving to Eagle Nest, Gina bought most of her décor from Wally, who owned the only furniture shop in town. Once sales started declining, he unexpectedly moved to Albuquerque and opened the antique shop. Keeping several collectibles throughout the years, he decided to put those up for sale in hopes to draw higher paying customers.
Besides Veronica, Wally was the only friend Gina had who she can talk to like a mentor. He didn’t know much about life, but his words often help snap her out of her many depressive episodes. They haven’t spoken in years. Not the best way to get reacquainted. Still, Wally was her friend and no one will get away with hurting him.
“Open the door.” Unexplainably, Gina had a sudden urge to open her door.
Why? For what? It sounded ludicrous. But, that voice? It felt so real. Assertive.
Eyeing the traffic jam up ahead, she made a sudden right turn onto 7th Street. “Open the door.” The urge grew stronger. Approaching Cooper Avenue, she heard civilians squealing for help. “Open the door!” Blind instinct took over. She pushed the door open.
Blood and teeth splashed onto the window. She stomped on the brake, completely shocked. From the bald head and graffiti-covered clothing, she recognized him as one of the suspects. He rolled on the ground like a pig in mud, groaning in pain as grasped on his bloody mouth.
“What the hell just happened?” she thought. How did she know to open the door at that exact moment? First, she heard screams from several blocks away. And now this? There may be something else happening with the sheriff than just working too hard.
Gina ran to the fallen perpetrator and kicked him over on his stomach. She slapped a pair of handcuffs on his wrists while reading him his rights.
But she stopped in mid-sentence, feeling the other thief was close. Onlooking pedestrians surrounded the area, filming her arrest on their cellphones. She then noticed a man inside a bakery who rolled his eyes toward the kiosk.
“EVERYBODY GET DOWN!” the sheriff yelled. Pedestrians dove to the ground just as bullets flew over her redhead. She took cover behind a parked car and reached back for her weapon. Damn! She left it inside the jeep, along with her radio. She couldn’t even call for backup.
The shooter ran around the car and stood over the sheriff. He pointed his gun directly at her head. Death was inevitable. No fear pulsed in Gina’s heart as she knew this day would come eventually. The thug squeezed the trigger.
Click! Click! Click!
Frustratingly, the shooter pulled back the hammer and found three bullets
jammed in the chamber.
Gina attempted to tackle him down, but she lost plenty of spring in her step over the years, no longer as fast or athletic as she used to be. The shooter saw
her coming a mile away and tossed her into a pile of empty grocery boxes. He threw his gun down the sidewalk drainage, abandoned his friend and took off up the street.
The sheriff gave chase, hoofing as hard as she could after him. Her ankles nearly snapped as he made a sharp left onto 6th St NW. She barely dodged passed the civilians constantly being thrown in her path. Fatigue rapidly settled in, heavily breathing after a couple of blocks. Living in a relaxed environment and dealing with depression for so long affected her conditioning.
Tackling a lamppost, the sheriff stopped to catch her breath. “This isn’t my district,” she puffed in surrender. “Albuquerque police are on their way. I got my town to think about.” Ready to quit and go home, Gina spotted a boy and his mother on the floor. The boy cried from the top of his lungs as his mother cradled him in her arms.
“It’s okay, honey,” she consoled while rubbing his chest. “The police
will catch the bad man.” Tiredness instantly dissolved. Seeing that kid in pain reminded her of just who the hell she is. Gina tucked down her chin and ran down the block again, gaining momentum with every step. Her target was in sight, running toward the intersection.
The shooter panicked as he glanced over his shoulder and saw the sheriff getting closer. In spite of crossing cars moving at top speed, he ran out to the street. Several cars nearly mauled him down like roadkill. Barely making out
of the intersection alive, he believed she would hesitate to follow him and wait for the light to change. He thought wrong. Cars came to a screeching halt as she fearlessly ran across. There was no escape.
The shooter entered Robinson Park and stutter-stepped around a few trees. After running onto a wide-open field of grass, he realized this was a stupid idea. Except for ducking under a park bench, there was no place to hide whatsoever. Just then, Gina speared him to the ground like Bill Goldberg and delivered a walloping punch to his chest. Payback for hurting the little boy.
She kicked him over and held his arms behind his back. Regrettably, her handcuffs were locked onto the first thief. Was she to beat him senseless and carry him over her shoulder? Hail a cab back to her jeep? Tie his wrists together with her belt or sit on him until the police arrived?
“You can’t arrest me,” the shooter coughed.
“What do you mean I can’t? I AM arresting you!” proclaimed the sheriff. “Even if I have to drag your sorry ass by your ankles, you’ll be sleeping in a cell tonight.”
“No! They’re coming! They’ll be here any minute!”
“Really? Well, when they get here, I’ll arrest their asses, too.”
From out of nowhere, Gina got kicked upside her head by another thug wearing steel-toed boots. She stumbled down to the grass. Pain throbbed in her head. Her surroundings became blurry. Three more thugs ran over and carried their beaten companion out of the park. A black van waited for them with his handcuffed partner sitting inside. Gina groggily got to her feet and trotted after the vehicle, but smoke and skid marks remained. The thugs got away.
As her vision started clearing up, she sat down on the curb, needing a few minutes to catch her breath before taking that long walk back to her jeep. With
no way of catching the thieves now, she thought she should visit Wally and make sure he was okay.
“Hmm, what’s this?” she wondered. Something lying by her feet. It looked like a brown sack. She picked up the bag and opened the drawstring. Glistening from the inside was a silver dagger, engraved with pentagrams on the blade and a collage of skulls sculpted around the pommel. Clean. Untarnished. Not a mark on it.
Although the design was horrific, its craftsmanship was flawless, which meant it was highly valuable. They don’t make knives like this anymore. “Is this what they stole from the shop?” Gina wondered. “Looks centuries old. How did Wally get something like this?” Rest time was over. She had to see Wally now. Questions needed to be answered before those thieves returned. Whether tonight, next week or next year, she knew she would see those guys again.