Minutes earlier as Juan left the jewelry store, Elliot had stood up on his legs and with the chair on his back, he made his way as fast as he could toward the door and pushed it closed before the last bird left. He reacted instinctively in an attempt to stop the diamonds from leaving. A single pigeon was still in his office when he closed the door in a haphazard move that ended with his fall. His body and the chair lay sideways, keeping the door closed. Elliot then stared at the one pigeon inside the room. He also noticed the Glock 9 gun on the console behind his desk and the many papers all over the floor that once housed precious stones. Many, many of these diamonds had left, flying away. Who would believe that? This bird was proof of what happened and the only clue to who had done this.
A thought occurred to him. They could follow the bird back to the thieves’ lair. His mind reeled as people began to push on the door. He needed to prevent them from entering because the bird would fly away!
Elliot worked his tongue muscles, trying hard to push out the silk scarf. He finally managed to remove the scarf by pressing his mouth to the floor and having the friction of the rug tug at the scarf. Little by little it came out until he pushed it out with the help of his diaphragm, which he filled with air. Pawgh—a final cork-popping kind of sound he made.
“Hello!” Elliot screamed.
“Hello, this is Detective Godwit. Who are you?”
“I am Elliot Quayle.”
“Who is there with you?”
“What? Let us in, then.”
“Please listen. I am blocking the door, do not open it. There is a pigeon in here with a pouch filled with diamonds strapped to its leg. If you open the door it will fly away with them. They are worth tens of thousands of dollars!”
“What?” Ivory was shocked. “But I saw many pigeons leave the building, dozens.”
“The thief put diamonds on each and every one of them. I saw him do it. He tied my hands to the chair. Then they flew out. Are any still in the shop?”
“No. The guard opened the doors to let them out.”
“Damn it!” Elliot said.
“Cliff, call off SWAT. We need an animal handler. A net,” Ivory commanded as she stood next to the door Elliot was behind. “And make sure the front door is closed, just in case the last bird escapes from the office. And check that all windows are closed.”
“Roger that,” Cliff responded and walked over to the front doors to lock them. He used his walkie-talkie to stand down the SWAT team. From behind the glass, he could see a barrage of officers in black, pointing guns at him.
“Mr. Quayle, I am going to push the door open just a little to see in there. The front door is closed.”
“No need, I can move.” Elliot moved a bit away from the door. “Here.”
With that Elliot allowed Ivory to peek. She saw the bird on the desk inching to leave. It made strange purring sounds and kept looking at the gap in the door. She could see Elliot’s hands and the zip cord.
“Mr. Quayle, please scoot over to the door gap. I think I can cut the straps on your hands if you just get over here.”
“OK, good idea.”
Elliot scooted and squirmed to where the one-inch gap allowed Ivory to access the zip cord. She turned around and looked for scissors. None were nearby.
“Do you know where they keep the scissors?”
“There are none on the floor. We don’t allow them. Don’t you have a knife?”
She looked to the back where Cliff was talking into a walkie-talkie, stopping the SWAT team’s assault on the building.
“Cliff, I need a pair of scissors or a knife. ASAP!” Ivory commanded.
Cliff opened the doors and was immediately rushed by the senior SWAT commander.
“We need a pair of scissors. The building is empty except the manager. Stand down.”
“We still need to enter. It is our job. The perimeter must be secured, and every inch of the building must be cleared.”
“OK, but I need scissors or a knife right now. Anyone have a knife?”
Immediately all the SWAT members pulled large black knives from their sides. Cliff grabbed the one closest to him, which was the commander’s.
“Nobody come in yet. Until I call you.”
He ran back into the store, only to immediately turn back and explain. “Oh, yes. We must keep this door closed until we secure the bird inside. There is a pigeon carrying diamonds, so he must not fly away!”
Cliff arrived and gave Ivory the SWAT team commander’s huge, sharp black hunter’s knife.
“Mr. Quayle, don’t move. I am going to cut the plastic.”
“Call me Elliot,” he said.
“OK, Elliot. Don’t move.”
Ivory cut the hard plastic, and it was easier than she expected because the knife was so sharp.
Elliot stood up and closed the door.
“I’ll kill that bird!” Elliot said.
“Don’t! Don’t!” Ivory screamed.
“I won’t, I’m just mad. I know we need it. We can follow it back to the thief.”
“The thief! Was it a single person?”
“I don’t know, but I only saw the one.”
“How did he bring so many birds into the store.” Ivory kept up the conversation through the closed door. It was awkward.
“Let me catch the bird first and then we can talk,” Elliot said.
Inside he approached the bird but well before he could get near it flew on top of the bookcase cabinet opposite the door. Elliot was powerless sooner than he thought.
“Motherfucker!” Elliot screamed.
“What happened?” Ivory asked.
“He flew to the cabinet top. I can’t reach it there, and he is too fast. We need a net.”
“Wait a second.” Ivory said and immediately called dispatch and spoke into the walkie-talkie. “Thirteen, come in. What is the ETA on the animal handler? Bird animal handler. Over.”
At that moment the door opened and Elliot Quayle came out fast and closed the door immediately behind him. The bird was trapped inside, but he wasn’t anymore.
“Whew!” He said.
“Hi, I’m Detective Godwit.” Ivory introduced herself.
“Hi, Elliot Quayle. I’ve just been robbed! By a bunch of birds! I guess you got the silent alarm. Did you catch the fat bastard!”
“No. We do have everyone who was in the store when the pigeons were released, though. So the perpetrator is here,” Ivory said.
“Good,” Elliot said immediately.
“Cliff, do you mind staying here and ensuring the bird doesn’t fly away?” Ivory asked. “Make sure they don’t harm the bird, because we need to follow it back to where the others went.”
“Ivory. Can we talk?” Cliff motioned to speak to her in private.
“What is it?” She whispered.
“One car with two passengers drove off.”
“What, so we don’t have everybody?”
“No, but I have the license plate.”
“OK, stay here but call the plates in and identify the vehicle. Maybe you can get in touch with the owners, and if they are innocent they can come back to be cleared.”
“OK, I’ll watch the door. You might as well send the SWAT guys in, just so they can leave sooner.”
“Will do.” Ivory walked back to where Elliot stood.
“Mr. Quayle, let’s go.”
“Yes, sorry, Elliot. Let’s go.”
Ivory went to the front doors and spoke to the SWAT team outside with Elliot by her side. Reporters were beginning to arrive, but she motioned for them to stay away.
“Commander, I know you need to enter,” Ivory said. “We believe the building is empty, but you are welcome to do your assessment provided you do not enter the manager’s office. There is a pigeon there that has diamonds on its leg. In a pouch. It is a homing pigeon trained to return to its home. We cannot lose this bird. You understand? We are waiting for animal control to arrive.”
Ivory saw Captain Brent Argus arrive in his unmarked vehicle. She made a beeline for him.
“Sir. We have a bird…” Ivory started.
In a few minutes Brent was informed.
“We will wait for animal control,” Brent said.
“This is Elliot Quayle. He was the hostage. Elliot, this is Captain Argus.” Ivory introduced them.
“Nice to meet you,” Brent said. “I am sorry for the circumstances.”
“Not your fault,” Elliot responded. “I am glad you are here.”
“We have the perpetrator in custody. I am bringing Mr. Quayle to look at all the people that were in the store at the time. This way, we can release the innocent employees and customers.”
“You mean you got a good look at him?” Brent asked Elliot.
“Absolutely. He wasn’t wearing a mask or anything,” Elliot said.
“Let’s go.” Brent rushed them.
They moved to the grassy area where thirty or so people sat, stood, and moaned in aggravation, surrounded by police officers and yellow plastic crime-scene tape. Behind them were reporters’ vehicles and the back of Tori Taka with the Yummy Yolk sign across the street. Elliot walked up and down, looking at everyone who stood there. The perpetrator was clearly not among them.
“He’s not here,” Elliot said.
“But everyone is accounted for,” Ivory said.
“Are you one hundred percent sure?” Brent asked Ivory.
“Well, not one hundred percent; two got away. But Cliff is tracking the license plates now. Let me call him,” Ivory said and began to dial Cliff on his cell phone.
“If all we have is license plates, you know what that means!” Brent looked furious.
“Cliff, any luck on the license plates?” Ivory asked, putting Cliff on speaker phone.
“The car belongs to a couple who live in Tierra Santa,” Cliff said. “They just got home, and I spoke to both of them. They are on their way back, to be identified and cleared.”
Brent did not look happy.
“We have the bird, right?” Elliot asked, sensing that there was not much hope in the air.
“Animal control should be arriving any minute,” Ivory said.
“I would like to go straight to the security footage. Who here is your IT guy, Elliot?” Brent asked.
Elliot glanced around for Peng, his trusted Chinese-American head of security.
“Has anyone seen Peng?” Elliot asked.
“No. He was not in today,” Rob the manager said.
“That’s not good,” Ivory muttered.
“Rob, please call him at home and let me speak to him. Do you have his number on your cell?” Elliot asked.
“I do, sir.”
Rob called Peng and put the phone on speaker.
“Peng, is that you?” Rob asked.
“Yes,” Peng spoke to Rob.
“Mr. Quayle is here with me he wants to speak to you.” Rob said.
“Peng, could you come immediately?” Elliot asked.
“But it’s my day off,” Peng said.
“It is of the utmost importance that you come here now,” Elliot said.
“We’ve been robbed.”
“I’m on my way.”
Rob hung up and Elliot looked at Ivory.
“You heard him; he is on his way in,” Elliot said.
“Good. Let’s go look at it,” Brent said.
“Are we going to wait for Peng?” Elliot asked.
“No.” Brent cut him off and went to the inside of the store.
“Sir, what do we do with these people?” Ivory asked.
“Everybody stays until I see the tape. Understood?”
“Hey! We want to go home.” Several people shifted restlessly, complaining.
Brent did not stop and left Ivory to deal with the crowd. Elliot followed Brent.
“Everyone stays. You heard the Captain, unless you want to remain a suspect in grand theft, which is a serious felony,” Ivory said loudly.
“Oh…” The moaning continued, but was muted.
“What a hassle,” someone said.
“The inspector will view the security footage, and you will all be in the clear soon. Bear with us a little longer,” Ivory said.
The crowd settled and became calm. The bird in captivity was calm as well.