Mamba and Martinez worked past 5:00 p.m. after Mamba’s sabotage. They agreed to meet at the office of Mamba Investigations. The Latino was waiting outside when the PI pulled up to the curb.
“Am I late?” Phil asked.
“No. But, I’m anxious. We better get inside, pronto. Some of your business neighbors don’t look too comfortable about a huge, tattooed Mexican hanging around.”
“I haven’t seen one of those,” Mamba deadpanned as he opened the door.
In spite of his best efforts not to, Martinez gave a snort.
After the outside door was closed and locked, the two men went into Mamba’s private office. He described the double-cylinder setup inside the copier in the Records Division.
It didn’t go well.
“That’s what I saw!” Mamba repeated for the third time. “I’m convinced each flash of the camera light ends up as two copies of the image.”
“¡No es posible! That’s just not possible!”
“One machine. Two copy drums. Two places where copies end up. Give me another option!”
“I don’t have one,” Martinez admitted.
Both men sat, each stewing inside for a different reason.
“Sorry. It’s just so—” Martinez started, thought better of that it, and asked, “Whatta we do now?”
“I made sure that Edwards is going call for a repair. I modified one of the drums.” Mamba held up his toolkit. While making a slashing motion with thumb and index finger touching. “Like this, but I used one of the tools in this kit.”
“You dug a hole in one of the cylinders?”
“Yep. Seemed like the logical thing to do.”
Martinez gave another snort.
“Not very subtle, are you?”
“Only when it’s absolutely necessary. And, I mean only when it’s absolutely necessary. Actually, the hole’s not all that big. I suspect no one will complain about the gap in the print on their copies until it lines up with some critical phrase and renders it illegible.”
“So, we know that Edwards will be calling for service. I’ll stop in when the repairman’s working.”
* * *
Mulligan’s progress during his recovery exceeded the expectations of the doctors. He reached several milestones for patients with severe head trauma faster than anyone, other than Kate, had imagined possible. His memory of his previous vocabulary of nouns still had many more holes than solid parts, but the physical side of his rehabilitation was ahead of projections.
This morning, he’d asked the nurse for a mirror. The term he’d used was a “see-at-self” as he couldn’t think of the concrete term. He had learned to substitute the imprecise descriptive terms still present in the right side of his brain for concrete words he could no longer find in the damaged left side of his brain.
Because of the inexactness of the substituted terms, incorrect interpretation of what Mulligan wanted was common. That was a primary source of his frustration.
The nurse was hesitant to comply with his request for the mirror—even after she was certain that was what he wanted. The scars from the surgery were still flame red. Incisions that had been reopened for follow-up procedures still sported stitches. Small areas where hair was shaved from his head during the grafting of the metal plate into his skull were visible as the stubble of regrowth. Most of his left ear was missing, still untouched by the plastic surgeons.
The hesitation by the nurse to follow his directive is when the police Lieutenant in him surfaced. He’d made it clear that she would bring him a mirror. If she chose not to, he would climb out of bed on his own, walk to the bathroom door, and look in the mirror attached to its inside surface. Of course, what he thought he said and what the nurses heard him say seldom aligned.
In the end, a mirror was procured.
Mulligan stared at his reflection in the silver surface. A grim smile curled the functional corner of his mouth.
“Not look bad as it felt hurt before,” was his assessment.
The nurse holding the mirror shook her head, and thought, you must have been in some serious pain!
* * *
As much as Martinez hated paperwork, he hated the thought of losing his job more. Because of that, he tried to spend six to eight hours on one day per week holed up in the squad room. It was hard to tell if the sound of typewriter keys punctuated a running commentary on the typewritten text or on the continuous flow of deprecating remarks against paperwork. Making the distinction more difficult was the fact that most of the muttering was in Spanish.
He chose to make the day of the expected repair call on the one of those paperwork days. He was slaving away on a typewriter keyboard when he thought back to a police report he’d learned about that morning. Four known drug dealers had been found riddled with bullets in a conference room at a local hotel. It sounded like Brewster’s boss was cleaning house.
Further contemplation on the state of the drug supply network as well as additional typewriting was interrupted by a phone call from Sergeant Smith at the reception desk.
“Detective Martinez, please.”
“You got him.”
“Hey, Snake. You wanted to know when the copier repairman got here.”
“He did.” Smith chuckled at his repartee. It wasn’t often he got one in on an undercover guy.
“Nice one, Smitty. I’ll mark it on my calendar since it’s the only one you’ll get for another year.”
“Did you call Mamba?”
“When the truck pulled up. I had to talk to his secretary. I found out from her that he’s tailing the repairman. Why would he be doing that?”
“He’s a gumshoe. Those guys are all about half a bubble off.”
“Understood. Anything else the front desk can do for you, Detective?”
“You added concierge service like I requested?”
Another laugh from Smitty closed the conversation.
“Then, nope. I’m good.” Martinez hung up the phone. Sergeant Smith went to the front door and motioned for Mamba to come inside.
Martinez reached the corner where the hallway from the squad room intersected the hallway that housed the door to the Records Division. He watched the repairman enter the copy room. As he started toward that door, he saw Mamba approaching from the other end of the hallway. He timed his arrival to arrive simultaneously with the PI.
Without a sound, they stepped through the door to the outer office in tandem and watched the opening scene of the impromptu drama they’d created unfold.
The repairman opened the copy machine with Sergeant Edwards standing close beside him. As both men peered into the innards of the machine, Martinez made his move. With amazing speed and grace for a man his size, he leaped toward the offending piece of equipment.
“Freeze!” he bellowed. He trained his gun on the repairman. The volume of Martinez’s cry, coupled with the word he shouted drew several officers to the scene.
At the sight of a huge Latino in a bandana and denim vest holding a gun on a uniformed officer, pandemonium ensued. Shouts and recriminations flew between the men beside the copier and the officers that gathered in the reception area.
It took the arrival of Captain Abbott to restore order. After listening to a shouted explanation by Martinez and a vocal barrage from Sergeant Edwards, he demanded silence.
“Martinez. Edwards. My office,” Abbott directed. As an afterthought he added, “You, too, Mr. Mamba.”
The Captain directed two officers to detain the repairman and keep everyone away from the copy machine. Tossing back a follow me gesture, he strode through the surly but subdued crowd in the reception area into the copy room itself. When all were inside, he closed the door.
“Officer Martinez, I am here to listen to your explanation for this display of madness.” He stopped and stared hard at the man. “And it better be good.”
“These men barged in here!” Edwards shouted.
“That’s enough, Sergeant Edwards! You’ll get your turn.” He waved off the start of a second protest. “I said, ‘you’ll get your turn.’ Continue, Officer Martinez.”
“This whole thing started with a list of names . . .”
It took forty-five minutes to relate the story of the leak and the search for the source. Mamba added to the length of the discourse by embellishing the narrative when Martinez reached the part about Franklin Stallings’ disappearance. He included the cross-country odyssey that he’d undertaken to locate him.
Abbott asked a single question during the recitation. He wanted to know if there were copies of the documents that would clear Stallings. Mamba provided a positive response. The Captain’s only comment during the prolonged explanation was a command that silenced Edwards’ only attempt to interrupt.
“So, Captain,” Martinez began his conclusion. “Inside the big copy machine is the proof that Sergeant Edwards is the departmental leak.”
“I’d say the next step in the process is for us to return to the scene of the crime,” Abbott said.
In less than two minutes, the quartet faced the copy machine.
“If you look, you will find a second copy drum with a connection to the copier’s camera. There’s even a separate paper tray for storing the copies out of sight. Every document copied for the Department has the potential of being copied on the unauthorized machine at the same time. I suspect they have a way to copy only what they want to leak.”
Abbott peered into the access cavity. When he straightened up, there was no doubt of Martinez’s veracity. A second copy drum was clearly visible.
“Don’t bother to ask for your union rep, Sergeant. You need to save your explanation for your lawyer,” the Captain said to Edwards as he and the repairman were taken into custody by an abundance of willing officers.
* * *
William Anderson sat in his office with scissors in hand. He was removing loose ends from the binding that edged a blanket his family had sent him from Mexico. I like these blankets, but they need to use better something to keep this from happening. It looks like a bunch of cattails. He held the blanket up, allowing the threads to dangle. Inverted like this, the threads do bear a resemblance to a stand of reeds.
While basking in the success of what he considered his takedown of the Brewster organization, he’d neglected one very critical loose end. He picked up his phone and dialed.
“Is Reed still a potential problem?”
“Nice to hear your voice, too, Mr. Anderson,” Petula Jacobs shot back. She was reeling from aftershocks generated when Rogers went ballistic on her. She was in no mood for more testosterone-induced attitude.
“I do not appreciate your tone.”
And I’m tired of playing the runner in a game of pickle. I hated it when my brothers made me do it, and I hate it even more now when two pompous males think I’m their puppet.
“Yeah, well tell it to the Marines.”
Anderson waited for a wave of anger to pass. He took a deep breath and started over.
“I need to know if Reed might be a future problem as we move from where we are and where I want us to end up.”
“Reed is in jail. He’s got only a public defender. My guess is he’ll plead out of whatever his maximum charge is and end up serving some lesser amount of time. Assuming that’s agreed upon by all parties involved.”
“That’s far from a best case scenario. Let me investigate. Can you find out the date of his day in court?”
“I can. When you call me back, I’ll have that information. But, I want something from you in return.”
“We already have an agreement.” Anderson’s voice was low and hard.
“Lighten up. It looks like they found the departmental leak for the copied documents.”
Silence was Anderson’s response to the information.
So that’s new information to you. The thought encouraged Petula. That makes this the perfect time to call in a favor.
“All I want is a plane ticket to somewhere without extradition. By the time all this dust settles, I want to be out of here.”
Ah, ha. It turns out she is a runner, not the fighter she pretends to be. I’ll play along until I verify her information.
“That can be arranged. Will you need documents?”
“I’m sure I will. I’ll check on destinations and see what they require. I look forward to hearing from you again.”
Perhaps sooner than you are thinking, señorita.
Guillermo Arcenas immediately dialed another number.
“Who do you know that wouldn’t mind staying in prison for life?”
“Hmmm. That’s a tough one. There’s a crazy hitman I might be able to contact. He’s the one that ripped Brewster’s neck open, so he’s pretty much a guest of California for life anyway.”
“He’s not in isolation?”
“Don’t know. But, even if he is, he has to know someone we can use. All we’d need to do is put some grease on his skids.”
“Get me the details and a timeline. I’ll call you back if I need this to happen.”
“Is that all, señor?”
“I forgive your slip into español. This time.”
“I’m sorry, sir. Is that all?”
“For now. Thanks.”
What this world needs are more people willing to help like that. I’ll bump his next payment appropriately.