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Betrayal in Blue

By C. R. Downing All Rights Reserved ©

Other / Mystery

Untitled chapter

Chapter 26

Mamba’s flight to Washington, DC, was long and uneventful. He checked into one of the hotels close to the airport that had shuttle service. He ate dinner and went back to his room. Tuesday’s agenda was too important to tackle unrested.

After checking out Tuesday morning, he took the hotel shuttle back to the airport. From Washington National, he boarded the Metro’s Yellow Line. As directed by several fellow travelers, he got off at the Archives station, the closest stop to FBI Headquarters around 10 a.m.

The streets were crowded with families cramming all possible stops at the Smithsonian’s many exhibits and the iconic monuments into their final weeks of summer. Near record heat made Mamba thankful that he had only visitations to the FBI Headquarters and the Pentagon on his itinerary. In spite of his ride on the air-conditioned Metro, he was dripping sweat by the time he reached the entrance to the FBI building.

The roller bag he pulled behind him caused a delay at the security screening. As he approached the arch-shaped metal detector, he felt a hand grab his free elbow. He was firmly and quietly pulled out of line. He had to remove his belt buckle and be re-scanned, show his PI license twice, and allow his bag to be searched before he was granted access. He hoped that experience was the worst part of his visit. It wasn’t.

The FBI was not helpful. They were beyond reluctant to allow access to any file without police authorization. The Bureau’s roadblock wasn’t a surprise, but Mamba still felt deflate. He also was certain that someone in the police department back home would hear about his visit sooner rather than later. He made a mental note to prepare a rebuttal.

As he entered the main reception area, he decided to take one more shot at getting some information out of the FBI. He waited in the short line until a receptionist was available.

“How may I be of assistance?”

“I need to get to the Pentagon. Can you tell me the quickest way to do that?”

“Well, that’s not in my job description,” the receptionist said. After checking the length of the line behind him, which was no one, she said, “But, I think I can accommodate you.”

After a moment of brow-furrowing, she asked, “Do you know where the Archives metro station is?”

“I do. I came here from the airport on the Yellow Line.”

“Then you’ve got it easy. Go back on the Yellow Line to the Pentagon City station. It’s as simple as that.”

“Thanks for your help,” Mamba said with a nod.

The receptionist did not reciprocate.

After hopping back on the Yellow Line, he sat, lost in thought during the ride to the Pentagon.

I hope I leave the Pentagon with something tangible. I’m counting the fact I never had to change subway lines is a good omen.

When he arrived at his destination, Mamba went into the restroom and changed into a clean, dry shirt. Because Hope had packed his bag for him, he could use the same tie with his new outfit.

After leaving the restroom, he found a bank of lockers and stuffed his roller bag into one of them. He was as ready as he’d ever be.

The Defense Department had just declassified a lot of Vietnam era documents. After conquering the challenge of finding those documents, Mamba spent the early afternoon sifting through files. Since Mulligan had worked in security during his stint in the military, his name was in many of the files. These are way too vague. I need to see Mike’s personnel file. It was just after four when he knew he had to make a move.

Okay. I’ve got a small time window to do this—but that’s good. I’ll try to pull off being an overworked, underpaid assistant to some brass who forgot his paperwork and left his badge on his suit jacket. I need a model to mimic.

Armed with his flimsy, fabricated story, he went down to the personnel division of the Defense Department. He would lie, or maybe borrow—steal implied not returning an item—if it came to it, to get a look at Mulligan’s military personnel file.

Mamba waited for several minutes, out of sight of the security desk. Finally, satisfied with what he’d learned through his surveillance, he timed his arrival to coincide with another civilian, keeping close to the man as they approached the security desk.

Since the credentials of the first man were in order and Mamba’s proximity implied they were together, security waved them both through. Mamba’s model continued to an area that did not deal with inactive files. Mamba stuck close anyway. He watched how the man, a civilian working with a Colonel Nicholson, treated the worker at the counter. When the civilian left, Mamba began his solo search for the dead file room.

He was fortunate. The third door he tried opened into a cavernous chamber. A counter separated rows of files from the small area reserved for those waiting for service. Row after row of filing cabinets could be seen behind a chain-link wall.

My boss sent me for a file, and I can’t leave here without it!

The PI pulled his tie askew, unbuttoned the top button of his shirt, and entered. The con was on.

“Colonel Nicholson needs the file on Michael David Mulligan,” Mamba informed the soldier who manned the counter.

“Yes, sir. The Colonel doesn’t do much business with us. Must be a special occasion.”

“Something about a complaint about a medal that was never received. I’m to bring the file to his office.”

“If you have the pass, that’s not a problem.”

“The pass! I knew he forgot something. Never offer to do a favor for someone who’s disorganized. I told Corporal Huntley that I would pick up the file for him since I was coming down here. He had that deadline on the Colonel’s Senate Sub-Committee appearance. And then he forgets to give me the pass to take it out with me.” Mamba threw his hands in the air and announced, “I’ll go ahead and look at it, anyway. At least maybe I can find out if this medal thing warrants further action.”

“Yes, sir,” the soldier responded dispassionately. It’s too close to closing time for theatrics. “Fill out this request form.”

Score! Mamba thought as he printed Mulligan’s name and military serial number in the appropriate boxes on the form. The unwitting Colonel Nicholson was indicated as the requesting party.

Mamba stood at the counter and leafed through the massive file he received. He knew that bureaucracies ran on paper, he still had nightmares about his paperwork as a police lieutenant, but he hadn’t realized the massive amount of paper it took to run the federal government.

Page after page of Mulligan’s file was of little or no interest to him. He was about at the bottom of the stack when he found what he was after.

Back in Manzanita, he’d managed to encourage an officer in the MPD’s downtown records office to pull Mulligan’s file for him. He’d read the entire document several times before he’d left for DC. A copy of at least this page of Mulligan’s military file was also in his MPD personnel file. If Mike had altered something, this could be the smoking gun.

After checking to see if anyone appeared overtly interested in his actions, he pulled three pages from the file. He looked around once again. Satisfied that was alone, he checked the time on his watch. He figured that he had twenty minutes at the most before they shooed all civilians out of the archives.

He began to read. Carefully. The entire first page he read was identical to the same page in Mulligan’s file at the police station.

He turned that page face down and continued reading on page two. There was a notation in a comment box halfway down on that page. His stomach turned in disappointment. The notation on the original government document he was looking at was not the same as the notation on the page in Mulligan’s police file.

Oh, Mike. What have you done?

What was documented in the folder was an infraction. Not a major infraction by any means, but an infraction nonetheless. Knowledge of the infraction could have kept Mulligan from making Police Sergeant and would have kept him from the rank of Lieutenant for life. Without the information included in this file, Mulligan had made Lieutenant and more quickly than most.

Mamba felt the color drain from his face.

“Are you all right, sir,” the soldier asked. “You look pale.”

“I’m just getting over the flu. I‘ve been queasy off and on all day. This humidity is killing me.”

“Pretty routine for this time of year, sir.”

Mamba grimaced.

“Did you at least find what you needed, sir?”

“Yes, I did. There’s no medal in this file,” Mamba answered.

“Is that good or bad, sir?”

“It could be bad, Corporal. Very bad.”

* * *

Sidney Brewster was upset. While that was not an unusual condition, the degree of this episode was. He sat at his most recent acquisition, a metal desk. On top of the multiple moves he’d endured, the necessity to skip on his bail, and the recent incarceration of the hitman he preferred, he now had a metal desk. He hated metal furniture.

“With Briggs in custody, I need a new man for a job. Maybe two jobs,” Brewster told Rick Elkhart in what sounded suspiciously like a complaint.

“I’ve got the names of several hit men. They don’t work as cheaply as Briggs, but they seem to be competent.”

“I want no foul-ups on this,” Brewster was emphatic. “One chance, one result. The result I want. If that goes well, we may contract for a second hit.”

“I’ll take care of it, sir.”

“Good. I want to see the man tomorrow.”

“Here?” Elkhart was baffled. This is the fourth location we’ve had to move into since MPD amped up their campaign to rid the city of drugs. I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t part of the regular team. “I don’t know if I can get any of them to come here. And I know we don’t want to transport them here. That could end badly. I haven’t got much leverage, and, don’t forget, I’m out on bail, too.”

“For which both of us can thank my lawyers. I still think they screwed up with Briggs, though,” Brewster spat. Then, he unleashed a torrent of profanity blaming the judge and his mother for his hitman’s lack of bail.

Wait for it, Elkhart thought.

“Just bring me a name and a picture,” Brewster’s said with a sigh at the end of his tirade.

We’ve reached the eye of the tantrum. Elkhart nodded and left Brewster’s room. He took the stairs down two floors, transferred to the elevator for two more floors. He ended his trip to the underground parking garage by walking down the entrance ramp. He’d seen no one who appeared out of place or interested in what he was doing. Whether you like the accommodations or not, Sid, this hotel appears to be off MPD’s radar.

* * *

After his disappointing day in Washington, DC, Mamba found that the airline had overbooked his flight. A two hundred dollar travel voucher, free hotel room, dinner, and breakfast. I could live with that. He volunteered to be bumped and was accepted. After calling Hope, he spent another night in the same hotel and headed home on the first after breakfast flight to LAX.

Seldom talkative to those seated next to him on an airplane, Mamba was Sphinx-like during this flight. He landed having exchanged no more than two-dozen words with anyone while inside the plane.

Since he’d checked no bags, he was at the curb waiting when Stallings arrived to pick him up. He briefed the Sergeant as they drove to his office.

“The FBI finally acted a little interested when I told them of the differences in the Defense Department file and the one in the Police Department. Actually, Special Agent Greene met with me in his office,” Mamba sighed. “I’m inferring interest. Greene did imply possible syndicate connections.”

“That fits with the drugs,” Stallings thought aloud. “I find that hard to believe about Mulligan, though.”

“I don’t believe it, either,” Mamba said. “But, I’m going to Mike with this. I want to hear his side. Sooner rather than later.”

“You’re thinking the feds will contact Chief Rogers.”

“Based on my interaction, I suspect that I opened a can of worms with my poking around. I can’t imagine a scenario where The Bureau wouldn’t pass on what I told them I’d found. And I’ve got a good imagination.”

“And the Pentagon?” Stallings asked.

“Not so good there, either,” was all Mamba offered.

“No details to share?”


For the rest of the drive, Mamba was as conversational as he’d been on the airplane. His mind was too busy constructing and deconstructing possible situations. A few of his scenarios were good. But most were bad. Some were awful.

* * *

Larry Lester had news. The news wasn’t good: Brewster found a hitman to replace Briggs. Dancer will flip me back into the joint if I don’t keep my end of this bargain.

Lester dialed Mamba’s office. The phone was answered on the fourth ring.

“Dancer, this is—”

“Thank you for calling Mamba Investigations,” Hope Mamba’s well-modulated voice informed the caller.

Lester cursed Mamba’s answering machine. As much as he hated doing it, he was forced to leave what he’d learned on the message tape or leave no message at all. He did not want to do either, but his information needed immediate action.

He decided to leave the message.

“Dancer won’t like hearing this after the fact. But, at least he’ll know for certain that Larry Lester is a man true to his word,” he muttered after hanging up.

* * *

Woodrow “The Whack” Evans was a proud man. Generally, his display of that pride was tolerable. Today, though, most of the people around him would have silenced him if they hadn’t been deathly afraid of him. Evans was a professional assassin He was bragging about his current contract, a policeman.

Sidney Brewster had given Elkhart the go-ahead to hire Evans. All it took was Evans’ photo and a brief verbal résumé of his work. For Evans, it was the break he had been waiting for. He’d agreed to a lesser fee than his usual compensation since Brewster represented the upper echelon of the criminal community. Doing a job for Brewster was a big step up the ladder, even in spite of Brewster’s current situation.

At the moment, Woodrow sat in the backseat of a car with windows tinted far darker than California’s vehicle code allowed. He stared out the side window comparing each male that walked out of the police station with the DMV printout he held in his hand.

This Mulligan guy better get here soon. I don’t want the cops poking around before I take him.

Evans considered himself to be the best hitman around. If Brewster was an upper echelon employer, those who’d used Evans considered him to be upper tier in both skill set and price. Because of his one hundred percent success rate, he was in demand, in spite of the cost.

Mulligan was the name of the cop he waited for. So tight was his focus, he was unaware of anything but his victim’s picture, tightly gripped in his hand, and the last name of his target. He enjoyed the shocked expression on his victim’s face when he called them by name just before they died.

He checked the photo again as a suit exited the station. Show time! He slid out of his car and crouched beside the wheel well. Peering around the front bumper, he watched his prey unlock his car door, slide in, and insert the key in the ignition. As Mulligan reached for his seatbelt, Evans sprang forward and used his large body to ensure Mulligan’s door would remain open.

Before the policeman could turn his head, Evans’s fist smashed against the left side of his victim’s face. His attack complete, he yanked the policeman from the car with a single, vicious jerk. Mulligan crashed to the ground. His head bounced off the pavement with a thud. He didn’t move, knocked unconscious by the fall.

“Whack!” was the single word spoken by Woodrow Evans.

After a quick look around, the hitman used a strand of electrical cord to tie Mulligan’s wrists together. The knots tightened until blood oozed from the grooves cut into his target’s skin as he dragged the body to his car by the cord. Once there, Evans unceremoniously shoved Mulligan into the back seat.

Evans was careful to obey all traffic laws on his drive to Koufax Field. He squeezed the steering wheel tightly in exhilaration as he thought of what was to come.

* * *

It had taken Mamba more effort than he’d thought it would to sound casual when he’d called Mulligan the morning after returning from Washington, DC. He had no desire to confront Mulligan. He hated that term but could not think of a less confrontational one. But, confrontation or not, he had to know how much his former partner knew about the discrepancies in his personnel file.

Mulligan agreed to meet with the PI and discuss what information he’d gathered on the case. Mamba suggested meeting for ice cream after dinner. Mulligan was a sucker for cookie dough ice cream. The meeting was supposed to have started at 8 p.m.

Mamba looked at his watch for the thirtieth time in the last thirty minutes. It was 8:30 and Mulligan had yet to arrive. He walked to the counter.

“Hey, David,” he said to the high school kid with the name badge manning the register. “Can I use your phone?”

“I’m not supposed to let anyone use the phone, sir.”

“I’m calling the police department,” Mamba explained.

“Oh, no reason for that, sir! I’ll let you use the phone!” He pulled the device from the shelf under the cash register and slid it over the Mamba.

I should explain what I meant. Naw. This will make a better story for him to tell his buddies. He dialed the station.

“Lieutenant Mulligan, please,” he told the Desk Sergeant.

“He’s gone for the day,” was the reply. “I can take a message.”

“No, thanks. I’ll call back later.” He hung up and dialed Mulligan’s home number. David, who’d stepped away from the counter after giving Mamba the phone, started forward when the first call ended. He jumped back when the PI started dialing a second time.

“Hello, Kate. This is Phil Mamba. Can I talk to Mike?”

“I thought he was with you.”

“He must have got hung up at the office,” Mamba covered for his gaffe. “I’ll try there. Sorry to bother you.”

I don’t like this. Mike’s not at either of the places he should be. What if— Cut the speculation. He’s probably went out for dinner and came back through the side door. I’ll bet up to his eyeballs in paperwork.

In spite of his self-comforting conclusion, he slammed the phone down and headed for the police station at what the police department considered excessive speed for the road conditions.

After parking in the visitor’s lot, Mamba peered through the fence into the police personnel lot. Mulligan’s car was parked in its usual spot, clearly visible even through the deepening dusk.

He walked to the entrance to the lot and slid around the motorized bar that blocked the driveway. He hurried to Mulligan’s car and peered inside. The car was empty. The door wasn’t locked, and Mulligan’s keys were in the ignition. There was something sticky under his right shoe.

A quick look was all it took. The sticky substance was blood.

The PI sprinted into the station.

Desk Sergeant Bob Smith saw him coming. He met him at the door and held it open.

“You might as well come back to the force, Dancer. You’re here so much that people are expecting to find you here. In fact, I got a message for you to call your office about an hour ago. I called and only got your machine.”

“Which phone can I use?” Mamba demanded, immediately regretting his tone. If the message was from Mulligan, there was no need to panic the troops.

“Sorry, Smitty. It’s been one of those days.” He punched in his voicemail retrieval code.

“Not to worry. I’ve been bitten worse by a mosquito.”

“BEEP! Dancer, this is Lester. By the time you get this message, it will be too late for your Lieutenant. You need to tell the cops that Woodrow Evans did the hit. I suspect the body’s out at the ballpark since Evans fancies himself a ballplayer. He even calls himself ‘The Whack’ like the sound of a hard-hit baseball. Of course, I think ‘The Whack’ refers to the fact that he’s a hitman and crazy as well. Sorry, but I tried to find you. Remember that.”

The message smashed into Mamba with the force of a .45 caliber slug. Mike might already be dead.



“Get at least one car out to the Koufax Field, quick! And an ambulance, too!”

“What’s going on?” the Sergeant asked as he patched into the direct line to the dispatcher.

“Mulligan’s been kidnapped!” Mamba blurted as he sprinted toward the door.

Sergeant Smith shouted into his end of the hook up to the dispatcher.

“Code 999! Officer needs help. Any units respond! I repeat Code 999! Koufax Field. Code 3! This is an emergency! Lights and sirens! Roll EMTs and an ambulance, too!

In response to the dispatcher’s broadcast, three patrol cars and two ambulances with paramedics simultaneously began their Code 3 trips to Koufax Field. Lights flashed and sirens blared as they tore through traffic.

* * *

Few cars littered the Koufax Field parking lot when Evans pulled in. He preferred empty parking lots and darkness, but this was a rush job. He’d lobbied for some extra cash to complete the kill by the end of the day. I don’t like this, but I can’t kidnap a cop and expect to lay low for a couple hours waitin’ for dark before I off the guy.

Evans nodded in what passed as casual acknowledgment for him when a VW Bug passed him on its way out of the lot. Now, the only cars left were down by the kid’s playground. And, he could see parents rounding up the kids and equipment as he parked. His mood improved.

When the last vehicle, a minivan, pulled out of the lot, Evans extricated himself from behind the steering wheel of his sedan. Without ceremony, he pulled Mulligan from the back seat. It was fortunate for the Lieutenant that the hitman pulled him out by the shoulders because his feet were the last to exit the car. Those crashed against the pavement.

Evans dragged Mulligan’s still unconscious body by the wrists the several hundred feet across the parking lot, past the dugout, to the pitcher’s mound of the baseball diamond. Once there, he released his grip on the electric cord around Mulligan’s wrists. The policeman groaned.

The Whack smiled at the sound. He hated shooting unconscious people. He pulled his gun and sat cross-legged in the dirt cutout surrounding the mound. Now that it was dark, he was prepared to wait as long as necessary.

As Mulligan regained consciousness and tried to sit up, he discovered his hands tied in front of his body. His wrists and shoulders hurt—a lot. When he tried to stand dizziness and nausea convinced him to reconsider. He folded his body back into a heap. He looked around out of his right eye; his left eye was swollen shut from the blow by his attacker.

What the one good eye saw puzzled him. This looks like a baseball field. Even though the darkness altered the perspective, he was certain that he was on the pitcher’s mound of a baseball diamond. Directly in front of him was a scorekeeper’s booth. A painful turn of his head brought a dugout into focus. What am I doing tied up on a baseball diamond?

“So, you’re finally coming ‘round.” Evans pushed himself to his feet and prodded Mulligan’s prostrate form with a shoe. “It’s about time. I was almost ready to give up on you knowin’ who killed you.”

“I don’t understand,” Mulligan mumbled.

“You don’t need to. All you need to know is that I am Woodrow Evans. You can call me The Whack because you, Lieutenant Mulligan, are about to die.”

How does this guy know my name?

“Why?” Mulligan managed to ask through his swollen jaws. I need to stall. Phil knows I’m in trouble. I didn’t meet for ice cream. What a stupid thing to think about now!

“Why?” Evans laughed. “For eight thousand dollars cash and two grand of high-grade horse. That’s why.”

The hitman grabbed the collar of Mulligan’s coat and pulled him to a kneeling position.

Come on, partner. I need you!

Evans placed the barrel of his gun to Mulligan’s forehead.

Who is this guy? It’s that page of DMV info! Kate, I love you! Hide, Kate, hide! Phil’s name’s on that list. I’ve got to warn him!

“Bang,” Evans said as he pulled the trigger.

In an unintentionally simultaneous move with the trigger pull, Mulligan lunged toward the man in a desperate attempt to thwart the killer’s plan until he could warn Mamba of the danger.

An explosion felt as though it blew off half of his skull. Kate, I love you. I need to—

After the blast, Mulligan heard nothing but the echo of the shot that lingered, ebbing and flowing with his heartbeats. In spite of his efforts to remain on his knees, he crumpled to the ground.

* * *

Mamba’s car roared into the parking lot of Koufax Field. He slammed on the brakes. The car screeched to a stop. Long, black lines of burned rubber appeared, smoking evidence of the car’s speed upon arrival.

Mamba leaped from his car and sprinted for the player’s entry gate. God, help me not to be too late! I need Mike to know I believe in him! He’s my partner! Don’t let him die alone!

Sirens wailed close by. He could feel their sound waves pounding against his body as the emergency vehicles moved ever closer.

Please, God! Help all of us to be in time!

The sound of the shot stopped him as if the bullet had hit him.

Noooo! I can’t be too late! He forced himself to run again.

He pulled his gun as he ran, an instinct from his days at MPD. He sprinted past the bleachers. Once again, instinct took over, and he slowed to a fast walk before entering the field just past the third base dugout.

He could make out someone moving through the near darkness toward the right field foul line.

Stop! Police!” He shouted out the lie. When the figure kept moving, he fired. The figure made a sudden change in direction. Mamba saw a flash of red and white flame. A screaming noise left a legacy of pain across his left biceps.

He dropped to his belly and squeezed off three quick shots in succession. The figure staggered but kept on moving away from him.

Without warning, light from police flashlights sent thin beams in crisscross patterns over the infield grass to his right. As the beams played across the pitcher’s mound, Mamba thought he saw something lying there.

His right field target now pursued by the police, Mamba stood and started toward the mound. He hadn’t gone more than a half-dozen steps when two uniformed officers caught him from behind. One grabbed the detective by his injured arm. He winced and gasped in pain. The other trained his gun on him and directed him to drop his weapon. Mamba let his revolver slip from his fingers.

“Check the body,” Mamba said without emotion. He motioned with his head toward the still form on the mound. “I think you’ll find its Lieutenant Mulligan of Homicide.”

“How do you know that?” the officer with the gun demanded.

“I don’t know for sure,” Mamba answered in a hoarse whisper. “I hope to God I’m wrong.”

The officer who’d been holding Mamba’s arm released it. He left the PI guarded by his partner as he hurried across the sloping dirt side of the mound.

“I can’t tell who it is,” he called. “Half of his face is gone.” He knelt down and leaned over the body. His eyes opened wide, and he yelled, “Oh, my God! He’s still breathing!”

“Officer down!” Mamba bellowed and bolted toward his friend. The uniformed officer covering him called for him to stop. Mamba did not stop. When he reached his partner, he dropped to his knees and cradled Mulligan’s shoulders in his arms.

The policeman who’d checked the body started to protest. But, it was evident within seconds that Mamba meant no harm to the victim.

Tears burst from Mamba’s eyes and coursed down his cheeks. Mike! Oh, Mike! I’m sorry I’m late! I’m never late! How could I be late this time? The words flew through his mind.

As though someone had flicked a switch, Phil’s mental monolog became words of comfort pouring from his lips as he begged his friend not to die and God not to let him.

“Oh, Mike, don’t die—you can’t die on me! Oh, God, save my friend! Please God! He saved my life when we were partners! Please, oh, please save him now! Please!” He repeated the phrases over and over.

“We’ve got a body over here!” The call came from down the right field line.

“It’s the shooter,” Mamba mumbled without looking up.

“Approach with caution!” The officer with the gun called from the mound area. “That one’s armed and dangerous!”

The two paramedics who arrived with the ambulance entered the field by the third base dugout. One stopped at the mound. The other ran out to the collection of patches of light in right field.

The first paramedic jerked open his kit tried to shove Mamba aside.

“He’s my friend!”

“Right now, he’s my patient,” the EMT said with an edge to his voice that left no room for misinterpretation. He was in charge of this situation now. “The best thing you can do for your friend is to let me save his life.”

Mamba gave a mechanical nod. He lowered Mulligan’s shoulders to the ground, wincing in pain as his arm straightened. He stood. The paramedic filled the void he’d left.

Mamba backed away, prayers streaming from his lips. He stared with vacant, unseeing eyes as packages were ripped open and antibiotics poured over the massive wound to the skull of the body that lay before him. An IV was started. In minutes, a huge bandage enveloped what was left of Michael Mulligan’s head.

A gurney arrived. Two EMTs lifted Mulligan onto the gurney’s padded surface and wheeled the stretcher to the waiting ambulance.

Mamba stumbled after them. He tripped, came close to falling, the emotional and physical pain having taken their toll. A uniformed police officer moved to his side and supported him on the rest of his trip to the second ambulance that arrived at the scene of the shooting.

The EMTs loaded Mulligan into the first ambulance. One paramedic from each emergency vehicle clambered aboard after the gurney was inside. The siren began its fluctuating wail. With emergency lights flashing, the ambulance pulled out of the driveway and began the trip to Memorial General Hospital.

“That’s my f-f-friend,” Mamba choked out.

“He’s in good hands,” the paramedic charged with caring to Mamba’s wounded arm assured. “One of those guys is my partner.”

“Mike was my partner.”

“I understand.”

Mamba winced instinctively as repairs began on his injured arm. His brain registered no pain. He was completely focused on the departing ambulance.

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