Chapter 12: The Warehouse
Cassidy woke up late Friday morning and rushed off to work with just enough time to get there on schedule. The confusion that she experienced the night before was gone. Everything seemed to be as it should, with exception for her late start. She dismissed this as overwork that caught up with her. The feeling of lost time that she experienced Thursday night was gone. In her mind, there was no memory of ever having this sensation. Thursday night’s argument with James was also gone from her mind. She had no recollection of it ever happening. Sleep had somehow washed away her confusion. It cloaked everything that happened after her meeting with David, and it induced a feeling within her that all was as it should be.
Cassidy was nearly two-hours into her work day when a call came into her station from Dr. Janice McCullough. She noted her name in the caller ID and greeted her after picking up the phone.
“Hi, Cassidy,” Janice returned. “I heard that you were back at work and I thought I should give you a call.”
Cassidy thought the last part of Janice’s greeting was an unusual declaration. Their friendly interaction notwithstanding, she had never thought of Janice as a close friend and assumed this was true in reverse. This thinking was reinforced by the absence of a call from her over the past twelve days. Because of this perception, she had no reason to expect a personal call from her now.
“Yeah, I came back Monday, but I’m on desk duty until the end of the shooting review.”
“That’s standard procedure,” Janice replied sympathetically.
The momentary awkward silence that followed this remark caused Cassidy to believe that there was more to this call than a welcome back greeting. After coming to this thinking she spoke a question to draw this reason out.
“Is there something I can do for you?”
“I wasn’t sure if I should bother you with this,” Janice hesitantly began. “This is something that I’ve been sitting on for more than a week.”
“And what is that?” Cassidy encouraged.
There was a pause of silence behind this query. Janice’s answer began on the other end of it.
“I saw the doctor’s report on Albert Haynes. They noted something that—surprised me.”
“What?” Cassidy questioned with concern in her voice.
“The attending doctor notated that Haynes had a pair of tiny puncture wounds, slightly more than an inch apart, on the inside of his right arm, just above the wrist.”
Cassidy needed to hear no more to understand why Janice was telling her this. The description of these injuries was similar to what was found on five of the nine bodies found in the Greenbelt and in an identical location to two of them.
“The injuries were well into the process of healing,” Janice continued. “It was an incidental notation. The doctor thought nothing of it. I only mention it because it caught my attention.”
“Did you examine these wounds?” Cassidy challenged sharply.
“On what grounds?” Janice questioned back. “The injuries played no part in his death. They were at least a day old and they appeared to be superficial.”
“They sound like a match for wounds found on some of the Greenbelt victims,” Cassidy sternly insisted.
“I knew you were going to say that,” Janice mildly retorted. “This is why I was reluctant to tell you.”
“You should have called me, Janice,” Cassidy argued into the phone.
“The case is closed, Cassidy,” Janice responded. “You killed the guy.”
“There could have been accomplices,” Cassidy disputed. “We have to examine those injuries.”
Janice hesitated to respond to this. Everything that she was hearing from Cassidy was anticipated. It was an obvious coincidence, but the similarity of the wounds was not enough to convince her that there was a connection here. She had no reason to believe that any of the nine victims were killed by this kind of injury, and Albert Haynes clearly was not. The only thing that made any of these injuries objects of interest was the absence of an explanation for them.
“I told Lt. Graham about the wounds and he dismissed them,” Janice reported in defense of her actions.
“This is my case,” Cassidy rebuked. “You should have called me.”
Cassidy knew that examining those injuries was very unlikely now that Haynes was interred. She already knew that Lt. Graham was not going to support a request from her to exhume Haynes’ body. And she believed it even less likely that the precinct captain would agree to it without Lt. Graham’s endorsement. It was this understanding that was fueling her frustration.
“I thought I should tell you, and I did,” Janice offered apologetically. “If you can get Albert Haynes’ body exhumed I will be happy to examine it. But I can’t support a request to do that without some evidence that links these injuries to the deaths of the Greenbelt Nine. I’m sorry.”
Janice excused herself from the call on the grounds that she had to get back to work. Cassidy accepted this parting without response and hung up the phone. After taking a brief time to mull over the news that Janice gave her, she went back to work processing the paperwork that other detectives did not have time to do.
Cassidy was not convinced that the puncture wounds on the Greenbelt Nine, or on Albert Haynes, was germane to the crime she was investigating. But coincidences were annoyances that she felt a need to resolve or prove to be irrelevant before letting them go. In this case the puncture wounds had yet to meet either one of these ends. Despite this irritation, she put the matter behind her after a few minutes. She then fixed her concentration onto her duties at work and the list of names she got from David Burrell. Nearly an hour later a new report was brought to her attention.
“Cassidy,” Nina Chan called out after snatching open the Information Technology Room door and stepping into the hall.
Cassidy was moving through the precinct outside of the IT room when she was stopped by Nina’s call. She turned back towards the precinct’s technical analyst and watched as she raced towards her with a sheet of paper in her hand.
“Hi, what’s up?” Cassidy questioned as Nina stopped in front of her and extended the paper.
“Last Tuesday I did some test calls in the Newtown area that you were interested in,” Nina began with an inflection of excitement in her tone.
Cassidy took the sheet of paper and began examining it while Nina continued to speak. Printed on the paper was a map of a half mile square area in Brooklyn.
“And I’m ninety-five-percent sure that I know from which building those calls you were asking about were made from.”
“You do?” Cassidy questioned back as she continued to examine the paper with a look of astonishment.
“Yeah,” Nina returned with a wide smile and a point towards the paper.
“Is this an apartment building?” Cassidy questioned as she continued to study the paper.
“No, it’s a warehouse,” Nina corrected an instant behind.
Cassidy continued to study the map as she pondered out a two-word question: “A warehouse?”
“That’s it. I’m sure of it,” Nina insisted with a nod of her head. “You see; I did some test calls all around this area. And I noted the towers that were handling the calls and the differing signal strengths from each location. By comparing the signal strengths recorded by the towers for each location I was able to shrink the area where the calls originated from. This is the place. I’m sure of it. I would have brought you this sooner, but I had to wait for the phone companies to pull...”
“Damn,” Cassidy exclaimed with a look of frustration.
Nina was startled a little by this sudden burst of aggravation. She stopped in mid-sentence to give Cassidy a look of surprise. A second later she verbally responded to it.
“Sorry, I’m just upset about this whole situation,” Cassidy explained.
Nina had expected her report to be welcome information. The fact that it was not made her wonder if she had done something wrong.
“What situation? I thought this is what you wanted.”
“It is,” Cassidy assured. “I’m just pissed off about having my hands tied.”
Nina had no idea why Cassidy was angry. Her mind was always focused on providing the answers to questions that the detectives put to her. How that information was used was often of no interest to her.
“So, this doesn’t help you?” Nina questioned more than said.
“Yes, yes it does,” Cassidy spouted apologetically. “I’m going to look into this. It’s just these prepaid phones. I’m certain that the answers that I’m looking for are hiding behind them and the Lieutenant is preventing me from getting around them.”
“Well prepaid phones are anonymous,” Nina explained with a confused shake of her head. “You can’t get around that. The carriers don’t even know who owns them.”
“I don’t think I need them to know,” Cassidy mused out loud.
“Why is that?” Nina questioned with a look of curiosity.
“I’m thinking that the people using these phones may be buying them in bunches—three, four, five at a time. Which would make sense because they only use them for a short time, a month at the most, and then they discard them. And if this is true, then the last phone that my suspect uses has a good chance of being the last phone in the lot to be activated.”
Nina’s face lit up with comprehension after hearing this.
“So, the only thing you need to find that phone is all the cell numbers from that lot. If you had those it would be a simple process of elimination.”
“I wouldn’t even have to wait for the last phone to activate. I could just filter out the phones already discarded and then search for any cellphone in the lot that only makes calls to burner phones.”
“So, the person you’re looking for is almost certain to have the last two or three cellphones from the lot to go active,” Nina added with a look of sudden awareness.
“Precisely,” Cassidy agreed.
Nina gave this plan a moment of assessment in her mind. At the end of this she was convinced that it was doable, and then she asked the only question this conclusion produced.
“So why aren’t you doing this?”
“I’m on desk duty for one,” Cassidy explained with an exasperated toss of her hands. “I’m not supposed to be working cases. A second reason is the subpoena I would need to get my hands on those mobile identification numbers. The Lieutenant would never sign off on that. In his mind this case is closed.”
“So, you’re working a case that you’re not supposed to be working,” Nina pondered out with a look of confusion mixed with surprise.
“Yeah,” Cassidy admitted in a word and a shrug.
Nina took a moment to give this answer a constrained grin, and then she spoke the first thought that came to the top of her mind.
“Well, I might be able to get those numbers for you.”
“What?” Cassidy questioned in a hurry.
“Yeah, there might be way,” Nina returned with a contemplative look and a nod of her head. “But I don’t think you’ll be able to use the information as evidence in trial.”
“Wait, wait,” Cassidy jumped in with a shocked expression. “You’re saying that you can get this information without a subpoena?”
“Maybe, yeah,” Nina confirmed with a nod and shrug.
“Wait,” Cassidy challenged with a look of disbelief. “I’ve dealt with phone companies before, and they don’t give up anything without a subpoena, and the majority of the time they devote weeks to fighting those.”
“Well, that was your problem,” Nina returned with a smile and a pleased-with-herself expression. “When you come at the phone companies with subpoenas that brings the lawyers into the room.”
Cassidy was taken aback by the confidence in Nina’s response. She took a moment to be amazed by this and then shook it off when Nina went on to explain.
“This isn’t top secret information. They’re not hiding it in a vault. That’s just quality control records. If you go into the head office with a subpoena they’re going to think trial, publicity and damage to the brand. Now, if you go in through a side door and convince the right person that there won’t be any of this, then they just might be willing to let you take a peek at what’s lying around on their desk.”
“And you know someone like this?” Cassidy questioned with a mixture of surprise and hope.
“Hey, this is my bailiwick,” Nina professed with a wide smile. “Just give me a few days to look into it and I’ll see what I can do.”
“Nina, you’re a treasure,” Cassidy proclaimed with excitement.
“Thank me later,” Nina quickly pushed back. “This isn’t written in stone.”
“I have faith in you,” Cassidy insisted with near to a grin on her face.
Cassidy was overwhelmed with excitement for this news. She turned away and hurried back to her desk with an eagerness to investigate the warehouse where the Newtown calls originated from. But the possibility that she might learn the new number that one or more of her suspects were now using was the icing on the cake. She had high hopes that this information would unveil the secrets that these prepaid phones were concealing. Her need to know and understand what had happened overruled all other concerns and considerations. The names that she got from David Burrell the night before became a secondary issue. They were just more people that had to be investigated. She believed this warehouse had the potential to give her some answers to this mystery that she was immersed in.
It was half past eight in the morning when Nina told Cassidy about the warehouse. She had the bulk of a full day of work ahead of her. This fact became a growing irritant as the morning moved on. She quickly learned the name of the owner of the building, Andrew Lantz. She also learned that he was a white male, 63 years of age, he had no criminal record and he had good credit. But this information told her nothing about what was happening in the warehouse, and the weight of work being piled onto her desk was stopping her from learning any more than that. Her frustration with working an investigation as a side project had reached a whole new height of exasperation within her. She had nothing pleasant to say to anyone and often said nothing when spoken to in passing. This was doubly true when someone brought her more work to do. It was a quarter to twelve when this silence was broken.
“Cassidy,” Nina called out as she approached her desk. “We’re going to Griff’s for lunch. You coming?”
Cassidy looked up with a start and took note that Nina was accompanied by Officers Kate Hecht and Eileen Nugent. It was not the offer that surprised her. It was the time. She had been working too diligently to keep note of the time. Her mind was preoccupied with clearing the work from her desk as quickly as possible.
Cassidy had lunched with this group of women many times in the past. But she had not done so this week. Over the past four days she considered her time to be too valuable to waste it by going out for lunch. But this did not stop them from asking every time they went out.
“I can’t,” Cassidy professed apologetically.
“You say that every time. You’re working too hard and you’re letting them take advantage of you.”
“Nina is right,” Kate supported. “If you don’t set limits they’re just going to keep pushing more work on you.”
Cassidy could think of no immediate response to this and began shaking her head in anticipation that she was going to decline the invitation.
“Come on, relax a little,” Eileen quickly spoke up to cut Cassidy off. “It’ll all be here when you get back. I promise.”
Cassidy could think of no good reason to say no. She would not be able to do any work on her side project until later that afternoon and could think of nothing more she could do in the precinct to unveil the mystery of Andrew Lantz. Her reluctance to accept was due to the fact that she wanted to use her lunch to see this warehouse. But the act of leaving the precinct after declining this lunch party invite was a maneuver that she had not worked out in advance. She was just about to reverse her position and accept the invite when a person she did not expect to see at that time, or in this place, walked into the squad room.
“Uh, I’m sorry,” Cassidy commenced with a stutter. “But I have a lunch date.”
Cassidy logged off her computer and gathered up her trench overcoat as she spoke these words. Her attention to what she was doing intermittently broke away for looks at the person that had just entered the squad room. Nina, Kate and Eileen followed her glances to the stranger that was coming towards them. Collectively they assessed him as a medium height and exceedingly good looking man with neatly coifed hair. He was smartly attired in a charcoal gray suit with a matching vest, a gray patterned tie and a shockingly white shirt with cuffs that protruded out from beneath the suit by half an inch. A folded white handkerchief peaked out from the suit breast pocket, and a visitor’s identification card was attached to his lapel. Cassidy hurried to intercept him before he could reach her desk.
“Hello,” David Burrell greeted as Cassidy hooked her arm around his and turned him back toward the entrance.
“Come on,” Cassidy encouraged as she led him back the way he came.
“Okay, well you have a nice time,” Kate called out to Cassidy with a wide smile.
Nina, Kate and Eileen watched them both exit the squad room with approving stares.
Cassidy steered David out of the squad room and down the hall in a rush. David put up no resistance to this and was more than a little surprised by her eagerness to leave.
“What are you doing here,” Cassidy questioned with a frown.
Cassidy continued to steer David towards the employees parking lot entrance.
“I’m here to invite you out to lunch,” David responded with a smile.
“You didn’t say anything about us going out to lunch today,” Cassidy whispered as she walked.
“If I had you would have said no,” David returned with a pretense of a scowl.
“So, you just decided to come to my job and drag me out of the precinct,” Cassidy questioned more than stated.
“I gambled that you would be more inclined to say yes if I was already here,” David explained. “And it would appear that I’m right.”
Cassidy was slightly displeased with David’s attempt to manipulate her this way, but she was not prepared to dispute the matter. She gave his answer a look of irritation out the corners of her eyes and then led him out the door to the parking lot.
“My car is in the front,” David advised as he continued to follow her lead.
“We’re taking my car,” Cassidy returned as she strode with resolve.
“Yes Ma’am,” David concurred as he tagged along.
Cassidy drove out of the one-two-two precinct parking lot in haste and with David in the front passenger seat. She knew that travel time to and from the Brooklyn warehouse would give her little time to look it over. This problem did not deter her from this plan. She was determined to get a look inside this building before the weekend started. They were five minutes into the journey when curiosity got the better of David.
“Where are we going?”
Cassidy kept her focus on the road, and the rapid pace of her driving, while she answered the question without a second thought.
“There’s a warehouse in Brooklyn that I need to check out.”
“Is the food good?” David queried back with an inflection of witticism.
“I need to take a look at it,” Cassidy explained without regard for his remark.
“Why?” David questioned with only a faint hint of curiosity.
“You don’t need to know that,” Cassidy replied with a dismissive manner.
David accepted the answer without giving a thought to disputing it. He road silently alongside Cassidy up until the moment she parked the car, twelve minutes later.
“Is that it?” David questioned with a point towards a brownstone building further up the street.
Cassidy ignored the question. Instead she responded to David’s preparation to leave the car.
“You’re not coming,” Cassidy instructed as she pulled the key from the ignition.
“This is not what I was expecting when I said lunch date,” David commented as Cassidy opened the door.
Cassidy gave no thought to David’s remark. Her mind was fixed on the warehouse, for the most part. She gave David a parting instruction as she stepped out of the car.
“I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
The warehouse was a two-story high building that looked to be out of use and had been this way for some time. There was no movement of people on the outside of the building, and the loading bay door was closed. Cassidy examined the outside of the building as she moved towards the personnel entrance. When she arrived there she promptly tried the door and found it locked. She then shifted her focus to the small square window in the door. She attempted to peer into the interior of the warehouse through it, but the limited illumination inside made this difficult. She could see that there were no lights on inside, but she could discern that windows along the side of the building were creating small bright spots and long black shadows. Shortly into this she began to loudly rap on the door while continuing her search for movement. A minute later she concluded that this was a wasted effort.
Cassidy’s reluctance to accept this result caused her to back away from the building and look for another way in. Shortly she came to the decision to walk around to the rear of the warehouse. She did not know what she would find there or what she was looking for. Her motivation for doing this was an absence of patience. She suspected that the warehouse would be even less accessible over the weekend, and she was eager to learn something about the contents of this building if not the people who were regularly inside it.
A raggedy chain-link fence was a poor obstacle to Cassidy’s plan to circumnavigate the building. It took her little more than a minute to pass through a tear in the fence and move around to the rear of the building. At the back of the warehouse she saw nothing to suggest that anyone was in the structure. There were no people moving about. There were no cars or trucks parked in the spaces lined out for them. After a brief scan of area, she turned her attention to the closed personnel door at the back of the building. She walked up to it with the expectation that it too would be locked. She grasped the knob, gave it a twist and then pushed. To her surprise, the door began to swing open.
Much of the interior of the warehouse looked like the black of night minus the street lamps. Cassidy pulled a small flashlight out from the exterior lower left pocket of her suitcoat, turned it on and then stepped across the threshold. She moved carefully as she walked into the building with the beam of her flashlight illuminating the floor in front of her. The deeper in she went, the more her eyes looked for signs that someone was inside. After a dozen steps into the warehouse, without sight or sound of another person, she elected to stop and call out a question.
“Is anyone here?”
The silence that followed was further support that no one was inside the warehouse. The pitch darkness of the interior was interrupted in places by a diffuse light coming in from small windows high upon the wall to Cassidy’s left. In most places this light was blocked from streaming directly onto the floor by crates and boxes situated in and on fifteen-feet-high metal racks. Much of the floor was bathed in black shadows created by these racks and the containers that they held. The main room of the warehouse floor was more than twenty feet high. A second level extended a fifth of the way out from the right side wall and all the way down its length. There were two large windows and four doors fixed in the outer wall of this second level. There was no light shining out from the windows. A walkway with a railing extended down the length of the second level. Staircases were situated at either end. Cassidy slowly moved to the right, along the back wall, until she found the center aisle. She then turned into it and began to walk towards the front of the warehouse at a slow pace.
Occasionally Cassidy used her flashlight to examine the crates and boxes shelved at the end of a side aisle. Time and again she noted nothing suspicious about them. Halfway up the center aisle she saw, for the first time, the bottom of the front stairs that lead up to the second-floor level. The staircase was situated along the front wall of the warehouse. Cassidy continued to move in that direction at a slow pace. She directed the beam from her flashlight from one side of the floor to the other and back again. Nothing she saw looked to be interesting enough to hold her attention for more than a few seconds.
After a slow walk, Cassidy reached the front of the warehouse floor. Along the way, she saw boxes and crates that were marked as containers of machinery parts, raw materials and retail merchandise. When she reached the end of the center aisle Cassidy turned her attention to the stairs that led to the second level. She commenced to climb them several seconds later.
At the top of the stairs Cassidy came out upon the walkway that went down the length of the second level. The outside light coming through windows on the opposite wall did a better job of illuminating this level. Cassidy began to move down the walkway with the beam of her flashlight still illuminating her path. At the first window, she noted the closed blinds and moved on to the door next to it. She tried the door knob and found it unlocked. She opened it, stepped through and illuminated the room with her flashlight. It was a small indistinctive office. An old metal desk, metal file cabinets, and metal and vinyl chairs were inside. The floor was vinyl and looked to be in need of cleaning. The room was utilitarian and not setup for comfort. Cassidy took one look around from just inside the doorway and then stepped back out and moved down past the next window and onto the door beside it. This door was unlocked as well. Inside the room, she found a similar setup. After a few seconds of examination Cassidy backed out onto the walkway and moved down to the third door. There was no window next to this door, but it too was unlocked. Inside Cassidy found a large storage closet filled with office and janitorial supplies. She took a few seconds to scan this room and then backed out onto the walkway.
As Cassidy moved down to the fourth door she pondered what she might find inside. Because it was the last room she judged by the remaining length of this level that the space behind the door had to be quite large. Cassidy approached the door and grasped the knob with the expectation that it would open with the same ease as did the first three. She was mildly surprised to learn that it was locked.
The fact that this was the only locked door that Cassidy found inside the warehouse was all the incentive she needed to be curious about what was on the other side of it. In turn, this curiosity motivated her to examine the lock.
Cassidy did not have a honed skill for picking locks, and this was far more true when it came to locks that were serious about keeping people out. But her time as a uniformed patrol officer did afford her an opportunity to coax open a bathroom door in a forty-year-old two-bedroom house. After examining the lock, she concluded that the similarities between the two were greater than their differences, and with this thought in mind she applied herself to the task of unlocking this door. With the use of a department store credit card it took her a little more than a minute to jimmy the latch out of the framework. She then gave a push and the door swung open.
When Cassidy first peered into the fourth room she could see nothing. The room was long and dark. There was no window here to allow in the diffuse light from the warehouse windows. She immediately brought her flashlight up and panned its light across the interior. The length of the room was the first thing that Cassidy took interest in. It was as large as the other three rooms combined. The décor was the next thing to take her by surprise. Her small flashlight did a poor job of illuminating the color and quality of the furniture within the room. But the large canopy bed at the far end from the door was unmistakable.
Cassidy stepped across the threshold an instant after noting the bed. A new sensation caught her attention the instant her foot settled onto the floor. The room was thickly carpeted. She paused for a moment to take notice of this and then she walked two steps into the room. From this position, she could see that there was no desk or file cabinets. A four-person sofa, a coffee table and two sofa chairs were situated at the end of the room opposite to the bed. Every new discovery raised Cassidy’s interest in this room. The limited ability of her pocket flashlight had suddenly become unacceptable. She turned about and began a search for a light switch and shortly found one next to the door. She promptly flipped the switch and a soft yellow light filled the room. Cassidy immediately looked up and noted a series of decorative lamps attached at intervals along a rod that spanned much of the length of the room. Each lamp directed its light at a different area of the room. After noting this Cassidy turned her attention to the decor.
The furnishing was sparse but attractive, and it looked expensive. The heavily ornate, intricately carved wood framed canopy bed dominated the room. Cassidy gravitated towards it with a growing look of curiosity. At first this interest was limited to the fact that it seemed out of place in this location. Slowly this interest turned to the furnishings atop the bed. The abundance of decorative pillows suggested to her that the bed might not be there for sleeping. When she came to within a foot of the bed her eyes locked in on the brown fur throw blanket that covered it. She then reached down, pulled out a few strands and examined them.
“Oh, my god,” Cassidy spoke to herself in response to the thought that popped into her head.
Cassidy stood there for several seconds and looked at the bed in stunned silence. At the end of this a new thought took over. She quickly returned her flashlight to the lower left suitcoat pocket and then retrieved her personal ultraviolet flashlight from the upper left inside pocket of her suitcoat. With this in hand Cassidy hurried over to the light switch, flipped it to the off position and then turned on the ultraviolet flashlight. When she turned it towards the bed Cassidy was surprised by what she saw from fifteen feet away. The black light illuminated a vast area of glowing speckles and splatters on and about the bed. The densest area of this was at the head of the bed. Cassidy moved several steps closer as she continued to examine these stains. Soon she noted full and partial handprints mixed in with these stains. She gasped in response to the realization of what she had found, and then she vocalized it with an exclamation.
“This is it!”
At this moment, there was no doubt in Cassidy’s mind that she had found the sight where her nine victims had died. By her thinking the stains she was looking at had to be the residue of their blood. Shortly her mind went to the question: What was happening here? With this in mind, she went back to the light switch, turned on the overhead lamps and commenced a more thorough examination of the room. She was looking for anything that would explain, or be a clue to, what had happened here. But there was nothing there besides the bed, seating and the coffee table.
It did not take Cassidy long to accept the thinking that she would find nothing more in this room to advance her investigation. This decision freed up her mind to entertain a new question: What should she do next? She knew that the absence of a search warrant would make the discovery of this room inadmissible as evidence. It took a second of thought for her to conclude that she had to get back to Lt. Graham and convince him to apply for a search warrant on the weight of the evidence that brought her there.
A second behind this thought Cassidy turned about and hurried onto the walkway outside of the room, turning off the light and closing the door behind her as she went. Within that same time span she retrieved her flashlight and began using it to light her way back the way she came. The pace of her movements through the warehouse was quicker this time. She was in a hurry. Besides wanting to get back to the precinct as soon as possible, she wanted to get out of the warehouse before anyone connected to it could arrive to see her. After reaching the bottom of the stairs, she hurried over to the center aisle, and turned down it.
Cassidy had walked a quarter of the length of the center aisle when she heard the first sound that was out of place. It was a noise and it sounded like it came from something small and metallic that had fallen to the floor. The sound came from behind and to her left. She spun around and pointed her light in the direction that the sound came from.
“Is someone there?” Cassidy called back.
After several seconds of stillness and silence, Cassidy abandoned the observation. She dismissed the sound to a rodent or a breeze through a crack in the building. She had just turned about and taken a step when a rustle of noise to her left front, coupled with a quick shadowy movement high atop racks, startled her into drawing her weapon and bringing it to the ready. With her gun gripped in her right hand and her flashlight gripped in the left, Cassidy positioned the right hand atop the left and commenced to examine the dark spaces above the side aisles to the front and left.
Cassidy had no expectations regarding what she might see atop the fifteen feet high warehouse racks. A person moving about on them was the thought that was furthest from the front of her mind. This disbelief was supported by her thinking that the figure she saw moved nothing like a person. But this logic only enhanced her feeling of dread. If this shadow was not a human, then she concluded it had to be an animal of some sort. And based upon the size of the shadow, and the range and quickness of its movement, she concluded that it had to be much larger than a rodent.
Without speaking a word Cassidy examined the area to the high left front. It was clear to her that whatever was there it was stalking her. By staying put, with her gun pointed in this direction, she hoped to get a good bead on it long before it could make contact with her. Several seconds into this wait the sound of movement to the rear and left shocked her into spinning around. A look near to panic framed her expression. With her gun and flashlight extended out at arm’s length, she looked over the top of them with a wide-eyed gaze and saw nothing in motion. She was a second into this study when a loud sound to her left front shocked her into spinning back around with her gun fixed at the ready.
The crash of something heavy falling to the floor caused Cassidy move back one step reflexively. In that instant, her stare, the point of her flashlight and the aim of her gun turned down towards the floor where the noise resounded from. At that same moment, a figure leaped across the center aisle and landed atop a rack on the opposite side. Cassidy’s sudden fixation with the bottom area of the side aisles to her front left and the commotion created by the fall of this heavy object combined to enable this leap to go completely unnoticed by her. After another few seconds of panning her flashlight across the side aisles to her front left a new sound drew her attention back to her rear and to the left. She spun about, gave the location a momentary scan and then began to move back towards a side aisle to her right. She reached the refuge of the aisle’s confines after five steps. She paused there to give the center aisle one last look from one end to the other, turned around and commenced her escape down the aisle.
The side aisles were the darkest areas of the warehouse. The racks, the boxes and crates shelved in them, did an effective job of blocking out what little light there was. Cassidy used her flashlight to illuminate her way. The pace of her movement was rushed but at a walk. Her gun remained at its ready position atop her flashlight hand. A look of fear continued to be a fixture on her face. After moving down the aisle for several seconds, a sound from behind shocked her into spinning around to look back the way she came. She was one step away from the end of the aisle. She panned her flashlight back and forth across the aisle and then up and down. She saw nothing. Shortly she decided to move on and began to turn around. Halfway through this movement she became aware of a presence immediately behind her. Her shock motivated her to whip around at the best speed her reflexes could produce, but this action was stopped in mid turn. A pair of hands that grasped her right arm and the collar of her jacket and wrenched her into the air. The warehouse seemed to tumble around her. Cassidy could feel herself tumbling through the air. The duration of her fall seemed longer than it should have been up until the moment her mind stopped processing time.
As Cassidy stirred to consciousness the first thoughts that her mind began to make were nonsensical ramblings. Her eyes opened and a vague imagery of darkness and bright lights began to coalesce in her vision. The first awareness to enter her mind was smoke. Her lungs were experiencing a burning irritation. An instant behind this she became aware that the smoke was stinging her eyes and she had a severe headache. She began to cough and move as awareness slowly returned to her. She could see the glow of a large fire on the far side of the warehouse, and an awareness of laying on the floor came into being. Shortly her memory recalled that she was attacked. She remembered being thrown through the air and colliding hard with something that did not give. She searched behind her and noted that she was lying next to the warehouse side wall. She then looked back the other way and saw her flashlight, still on, lying on the floor in the distance. Her thinking turned to her gun. It was not in her hand. She began to feel for it in the darkness as she pushed her upper torso up from the floor, and then she saw him. It was the figure of a man, and he looked to be about ten yards away. Her dazed state, the darkness and the smoke combined to make him barely visible. She could see that his back was turned to her. She began to search harder for her weapon. The figure turned about in response to her movements, and then she froze. His eyes luminesced like the eyes of a cat. He held his stare on her and she on him. This exchange lasted for a couple of seconds, and then a distant shout from a female voice broke the connection.
The figure looked back towards the caller. He held this look for a short moment and then turned his attention back towards her. Cassidy could see nothing of his face due to the smoke In her eyes and the black of the shadows that engulfed him. A dim outline of his figure, on one side, was intermittently illuminated by the growing glow of the fire in the distance. The rest of him blended into the darkness of the aisle that he was standing in. The only part of his person that stood out clearly was the gleam of light coming off his eyes, and Cassidy was fixated on them. He returned her gaze for two seconds more, and then he backed away into the aisle and out of her sight.
Cassidy had no time to ponder where he went to. Within a few seconds of his disappearance the smoke and fumes of the fire began to overwhelm her. The increased strain to breathe was the motivation for a renewed and frenetic search to find her gun. Cassidy crawled about in the darkness feeling for the weapon with her hands. Her coughing became more frequent and pronounced with each passing second. Shortly into this effort she heard a familiar voice calling her name. The calls were repeated and the caller was David.
“I’m over here,” Cassidy choked out at a level far below a shout.
Cassidy repeated her response several times with declining success. Despite this failing David followed the call to her.
“I have to find my weapon,” Cassidy protested when David grasped her by the arm.
David ignored this objection and tried to pull her up from the floor. Cassidy pulled free of his grasp and continued to feel about on the floor.
“Do you see my gun?” Cassidy asked between coughs.
David noted her determination to find it and gave the area a quick scan but did not see it. He quickly abandoned the search and reached down for Cassidy.
“We’ve got to go,” David yelled as he grasped Cassidy by the arm.
David pulled Cassidy up to a stance and then began to steer her towards the rear exit of the warehouse. It took them less than a minute to get out of the building. From the rear of the building he guided Cassidy around to the front and across the street. By this time the flames of the fire were extending out through windows and up through the roof. Smoke was billowing out through every opening in the building. Cassidy and David stood watch from the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street. The sounds of sirens in the distance could be heard closing into their location. After a moment of gawking David looked to Cassidy with a question.
“What happened in there?”
Cassidy held her stare on the burning warehouse as she pondered the question with a look of disbelief. After several seconds of thought she responded to the question with the only answer her mind could produce at that moment.
“I don’t know.”