Among Friends

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Apartment 502

APARTMENT 502

Natalie was already at Albany police headquarters when word of the double shooting came in from a street patrol unit responding to multiple 911 calls. There had been no immediate identification for the wounded men but Natalie got into a car with Detective Broderick on their shared assumption that Kasey Miller had been involved.

Four patrol cars and two paramedic units had already reached the intersection before Natalie was able to confirm the assumption. TV news crews were also blocking traffic.

Natalie reached Toby as a paramedic was putting straps across the blanket covering him.

“Are you in pain?” she asked, crouching down alongside him.

“No,” Toby said, smiling at her. “Must be the shock.”

“Sorry we didn’t find you earlier,” Natalie told him, caressing his scalp.

“How could you?”

“We had a police sketch. Someone Kasey scammed in Burlington gave us a description. That led to two I.D.’s from the sketch, one of them from Jake in your office.”

“Jake,” Toby murmured, closing his eyes.

“Yes, Jake. He only had what he thought was her first name― ”

“Officer, please,” the paramedic told Natalie. “He’s lost a lot of blood.”

Natalie stood up and stepped aside.

“See you in the hospital,” she said.

Looking towards the other ambulance, Natalie watched the police officer being raised on a stretcher for loading. The man seemed alert and was being watched by a semi-circle of uniformed patrolmen.

Then Natalie quickly asked the ambulance driver for Toby which hospital he was being taken to.

“Med Center,” the driver said tersely, shifting into gear.

“Albany Medical Center,” Broderick elaborated as he walked up to Natalie.

“I guess we can question him after he’s been stabilized,” she said. “So, what exactly happened?”

“I got a short version from the officer on the scene,” Broderick told her as they turned back to look at the bloodstained asphalt. “Toby blew a red light at this intersection right in front of his squad car. Obviously, a call for help. Officer Gilbert ordered Toby out of the vehicle for giving him lip and when they got behind Toby’s car, he warned Gilbert about Kasey. But she was a little too fast for Gilbert. She shot them both and took off in Toby’s car.”

“APB on the vehicle?”

“Yeah. Can’t see how she’d get very far, though. Kasey has a suitcase or two but they’re back in her apartment. She might have been looking to find a place to bump off your friend and then go back home, not knowing we have her name and address. If Kasey’s dumb enough, she’ll go back there and get picked up by the men we have watching the place. Otherwise, the APB’s up. She can’t have enough cash on her to keep going for more than a day or two, even if she manages to slip the dragnet.”

Natalie nodded, having heard some of that already at headquarters. She looked at the pair of news crews, each with a correspondent standing in front of a camera, microphone in hand. It was easy enough to imagine the bulletins going out over the air. The sketch had already been released to the electronic and print media; Natalie expected Kasey’s driver’s license photo had also been passed along by now.

Her face would be visible to the general public on the late evening news telecasts, repeated at the night recap if she hadn’t been arrested by then. But if Kasey somehow got access to the news reports, she’d know Toby had survived. They’d be saying something like “grave but not critical condition” at Albany Med Center.

“Listen,” Natalie said. “I think I should get over to the hospital so I can take Toby’s statement as soon as they let me speak to him.”

“I need to stay on the scene here for now,” Broderick told her. “We need statements from witnesses who stuck around after the shooting to talk to us.”

He waved a patrolman over to them.

“Lewis, transport Sergeant Dvorak here over to the Med Center.”

“Yes, Detective,” Officer Lewis said. “This way, Sergeant.”

“ I’ll have Coyle meet you there,” Broderick said.

Natalie gave him a quick nod and followed the young patrolman to his squad car.

It was almost midnight when Natalie drove into the lot behind an apartment building that looked more like Kasey’s home than Toby’s building near the park. She was able to find the one remaining visitor’s space in a far corner of the lot. Natalie got out and looked around. The parking area was lit adequately from a street lamp on the corner as well as from a set of flood lights mounted on the back wall of the building.

Natalie still wondered how often cars were broken into despite the lighting. The neighborhood was lower-income working class, yet not a slum. She walked around to the front entrance, observing the dark brown brick face. This apartment house was also six stories tall and had small balconies beginning at the second floor, both front and back.

Natalie pressed the intercom button for Apartment 502 and waited a few seconds to hear her stepdaughter’s voice come out of the speaker. Natalie said “It’s me” and the front door buzzed open. She took the elevator up and headed down the hallway, hearing muffled sound from TV sets and record players from a few of the units.

The last door on the left opened and Elaine Moritz stepped out to greet Natalie with a big smile on her face. Natalie smiled back, observing the mix of traits from each parent. Elaine had long, thick hair like Michelle along with an imposing bust line; but her hair and skin had Dan’s dark coloring. Elaine was almost as tall as Dan and had powerful muscles like his.

“No luggage?” Elaine asked after hugging Natalie up off her feet.

“This trip was very spontaneous,” Natalie said, following her step-daughter into the apartment.

“You can borrow my toothbrush if you want.”

“Thanks.”

“Want a drink?”

“A glass of water would be fine.”

“Go on, sit down.”

Natalie chose a reading chair and kicked off her shoes before folding her legs up on the cushion. There was a plastic coffee table in front of a black leather sofa which faced a large TV set. The TV was on with the sound muted; a commercial for a local car dealership was on the screen.

Over to the left was the sliding glass door out to the balcony. Natalie smiled at a pair of old time framed wrestling posters on the wall between the glass door and the kitchen/dining area. They were promoting arena matches from decades past, basically listing the wrestlers due to battle it out.

Natalie recognized the name Gorgeous George from her own childhood. Other wrestlers’ names were more obscure although she remembered Dan praising Mike Mazurki as an actor. Mazurki was listed on the left-hand poster in a match against somebody named Tosh Togo.

“Well, here you go,” Elaine said, handing Natalie a cup with chilled spring water in it.

She settled on the couch, swinging her long legs up and stretched them over the rest of the seating space.

“Luke’s on the road?” Natalie asked.

“He’s got a match over in Buffalo against Edgar the Goliath.”

Natalie grinned.

“Is Edgar still a Goliath next to your Luke?”

“Yeah, Edgar’s seven foot even, that’s still four inches taller than Luke.”

“When’s the match?”

“Tomorrow night.”

“The Milkman vs. Edgar the Goliath!” Natalie called out, announcer-style.

Elaine’s boyfriend had grown up on a dairy farm in the Finger Lakes region and was in fact wrestling professionally as The Milkman.

“When are you up for another match?” Natalie asked.

“Not for about two months,” Elaine said. “I think I might be going against Greta Haas. You know, the American Valkyrie.”

“Can she chop down the Mighty Maple?” Natalie asked, referring to Elaine’s wrestling name.

“Why don’t you come see the show and find out?”

“Where’s the match?”

“Here in Albany.”

“Let me know the date and I’ll try to be here. Has your Mom seen you in action yet?”

“Not so far,” Elaine sighed. “She doesn’t want to see me get hurt. I got hurt worse at the supermarket a month ago when a crate of dog food cans landed on my foot.”

“Did you break any toes?”

“Just bruised the hell out of my instep.”

Natalie looked at Elaine’s feet, crossed at the ankles.

“Large targets, those feet of yours.”

“Oh, stop! So I saw the news about your case. They still haven’t caught that crazy bitch?”

“Not so far. They found Toby’s car abandoned outside a grade school. Was that mentioned on the news?”

“Yeah, How’s your friend?”

“Doing okay. And the cop who was shot, he’s doing fine. We have another cop sitting outside Toby’s room at the hospital since the shooter’s still at large.”

“Sounds boring for that cop on guard duty.”

“It’s all overtime pay for him.”

Elaine took a sip from her own drink.

“What happens if that woman gets caught? She go on trial here for shooting people in Albany or does she get sent back to Vermont for those murders?”

“Unusually the more serious crimes take precedence,” Natalie replied. “If we can’t prove Kasey killed Rick Gresham and Sharon Parker, she can still face charges for attempted murder over here. That’s a sure thing.”

“Somebody on Channel 10 said you’re on that freak’s hit list. Is that true?”

Natalie scowled.

“Well, is it?”

“Yeah, it’s true. I didn’t want that getting out for public knowledge. Guess we have a leak at Albany H.Q.”

“And this goes back to some murder that happened when you were, like, my age?”

“A little younger but, yeah, practically. I was seventeen.”

“Tell me the whole story.”

“I don’t really know the whole story.”

Elaine rolled her eyes.

“Tell me what you know, what you saw, and what you did.”

“Okay. But let me ask you something first. I’m going back to visit Toby in the hospital. A personal visit; I already got his statement. Would you like to meet him?”

“What time are you going?”

“I don’t know. When’s your shift start at the supermarket?”

“Not until eleven.”

“So that leaves the morning open.”

“If we get there at 9:30, that’s good, right?”

“Yes.”

“Now tell me that bedtime story.”

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