GM - Story #7

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Chapter 17

Danny Johns navigated his black SUV down the perilously steep Union Street hill and screeched his tires as he wound through the traffic on 1st Ave to Pike. He stopped abruptly in front of the Starbucks and opened his passenger door for Kumi.

“Quick,” he barked at her as she flung her laptop bag into the back seat. “Move.”

“Go,” she shouted as she flailed for her seat belt and Danny darted aggressively into the traffic toward the highway. “It’s a 2012 blue Ford Taurus Sedan?”

“Yes,” Danny replied. “We used to do it all the time down in Roxhill, Delridge and Highland Park. Plant a little tracker under the fender and just wait. Worked every time. I was pushing 50% back when I ran a beat too. Never got to hang with the Chief though.”

“I’m impressed,” Kumi said, clutching the door as Danny accelerated up the exit ramp onto the crowded highway. “How long have these cars been planted?”

“A couple months,” he answered, cutting off an 18-wheeler as he veered across the lanes. “The detective squad lets the local cops canvass the streets to gather intel on stolen cars, but they like to set honey traps to track bigger operations where they can. That way they get the locals rounding up the petty criminals and Squad can look to bust the organized rings.”

“And, you planted these cars to catch our traffickers?”

“Not exactly,” Danny replied. “Based on your data, I checked with my detective buddy, who runs the program. I had him check your hotspots. We got a hit while I was on the phone with him. I told him not to call in the locals. I go way back with him. I told him we’d handle it and call for backup if anything goes south. I told him we’d give him the kill, but we needed to go at this alone. He knows we’re Internal. He got the message. We can trust him.”

“Where is it now?”

“It’s down by the airport at a storage garage. We probably missed the jackers, but we can pick up video from the storage company.”

“I’m not sure I want to ask…”

“Korean girl, 13,” Danny said, staring catatonically at the traffic. “Jenny Cho. Taken from a bus stop outside Salmon Bay Park.”

Alex stepped out of the Uber car first, helping Summer from the middle seat. Cliff exited the far side. They stared at the metal garage door, one in a row of about a dozen.

“118126,” Alex repeated to himself as he punched in the security code to open the door.

The creaky metal elevated slowly, revealing a blue sedan in an otherwise empty storage space. The shiny cement floor glistened in the early morning sun and reflected off the windshield and headlights.

“Whose car is this?” Cliff asked.

“Who cares,” Alex said. “We drive it up to Woodland and dump it. Then I get the rest of my bank from Edeyo and take my girl out for something good to eat.”

Summer smiled and slung her arm around Winona’s 15-year-old boy.

“Where’re the keys?” Cliff asked.

“You think you’re gonna drive, old man?” Alex laughed.

“No, we have to open the trunk and see what’s in there,” Cliff urged.

“Hell no,” Alex said. “Julio told me he’d mess me up if I looked in there.”

“But we have to find out,” Cliff pressed. “There could be …”

“I open that trunk,” Alex sneered. “Julio’ll know and he’ll think I shorted him. I ain’t gonna give him no reason to doubt me. Get in the back. You need to make up with my mother.”

Summer jumped into the passenger seat. She reached into her clutch, slid a pair of shades across the bridge of her nose and dropped a bright pink pair of Beats headphones around her neck.

“You don’t understand,” Cliff pleaded as Alex moved toward the driver’s side door. “There could be a little girl tied up and stashed in the back of that trunk.”

Summer emerged from the car and took off her shades.

“What the hell are you talking about, a girl in the trunk?” she asked.

“The old man don’t know what he’s talking about,” Alex said. “He’s a crazy homeless dude. We’re just running the shit up to Julio. That’s all. We ain’t taking a cut. We ain’t doing nothing wrong. And we certainly ain’t opening that trunk. He’ll know and he’ll take it out on all three of us. I know you don’t want to owe him nothing. And, I like my teeth where they are. Now, get in and let’s go.”

Summer hesitated.

“I thought we were just driving the car,” she said. “Maybe some shit in the back. That better be all we’re doing here.”

She looked at Cliff and back at Alex before opening her door and taking her seat on the passenger side.

“Get in, old man,” Alex said. “Don’t make me hurt you.”

Alex wheeled the car out of its storage space and onto the paved area leading back to the main street.

“Please,” Cliff pleaded. “Just open the trunk. You’ll see.”

“Is there a girl back there or what?” Summer asked Alex.

“No,” he replied.

“Where do you think your mother found the little girl last week?” Cliff asked.

“What little girl?” Summer asked, more tersely. “Alex. If there’s a girl...”

“I don’t think so.”

“You don’t think so?”

“Shouldn’t we find out?” Cliff asked, trying to capitalize on the doubt Summer sparked in Alex.

“Shut up old man,” Alex shouted. “I don’t know what to do. We open that trunk and Julio finds out; we get hurt. But, if there’s a girl in there ...”

“Then let’s check,” Cliff said. “Just pop the trunk.”

As they debated, a shiny black SUV skid around the corner from the main street into the driveway and head straight for their vehicle. The SUV stopped abruptly in front of the sedan with a short screech of the tires.

Danny Johns opened his door and trained his gun on the windshield of the sedan.

“Get out of the vehicle with your hands where we can see them,” he said while crouched behind his opened door.

On the other side, Kumi stood on the running board and trained her weapon between the opening of the passenger side door.

Summer screamed and swore in the front seat. Alex slammed his hands on the steering wheel and turned to glare at Cliff.

“Cops?” he said. “You brought in the cops? How the fuck?”

Summer raised her hands and exited the car. Alex pointed menacingly at Cliff’s forehead before opening his door to surrender. Cliff raised his two hands and followed behind Alex.

Danny instructed the three of them to lay face first on the pavement with their hands behind their backs. Kumi conducted a thorough pat-down. She removed Alex’s knife while reading them their Miranda rights. Then she bound their hands in zip ties before asking them each to stand with their backs against the side of the SUV.

“Where are the keys?” she demanded.

Alex nodded toward the fab in the ignition. Danny grabbed it and clicked the button. Kumi disappeared behind the car. They could hear her swear, but couldn’t see her until she emerged holding what looked like a pound of flour, wrapped thoroughly in clear duct tape.

“A brick,” she said, “That’s all. No girl, just a lot of money’s worth of drugs.”

“Where’s the girl?” Danny shouted in Alex’s face before recognizing Cliff standing just behind him. “What the hell are you doing here?”

“Is there really a girl in the trunk?” Summer asked, struggling to follow the disjointed conversation.

“How did you get here?” Danny asked Cliff again.

“Is there a girl in there or not?” Cliff asked, ignoring Danny’s question.

“No,” Kumi said, handing the block of cocaine to Danny. “There’s no girl.”

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