GM - Story #7

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Chapter 20

Alex drove the Ford up the I-5. Danny followed close behind with Cliff and Summer sitting quietly in the second row.

“Same deal,” he said to them. “Stay in the car. Technically, you’re both under arrest. Any attempt to exit the vehicle will be construed as an effort to evade custody and add to your charges.”

Cliff and Summer both nodded in agreement.

“Let’s go back over the case against your two beat cops,” Danny said. “The trunk opens. Winona spots the girl. She hides her under the bridge.”

“The two cops are there first,” Cliff completed Danny’s thought. “They’re already looking around, as if they know the girl was in the trunk to start with.”

“But you didn’t see any of this?”

“It’s Winnie’s story.”

“This is very important,” Danny said. “Do you know what time it was?”

“I don’t know,” Cliff replied. “A little before ten. Maybe 9:30? I was still out of it at that point.”

“If we’re going to connect your cops to Amaya,” he said. “We have to establish the timeline and prove they were looking for her before she was called in as missing.”

“Don’t cops have body cams?”

“Theirs were either turned off or there’s footage missing from the system,” he said. “According to their incident report, they arrived a little before ten.”

“I don’t think it was that late,” Cliff said. “But she wasn’t specific on the time. I didn’t even see them until the second time they approached her.”

At that, Danny took his eyes off the road and turned to look at Cliff.

“Second time?” he asked. “What second time?”

“The second time,” Cliff replied. “I had woken up by then.”

“Were the other officers there during this second encounter?”

“They were standing around the car at that point.”

“Were they looking for Amaya?”

“No, just milling around waiting for the tow truck.”

They crossed Elliott Bay and descended down the exit ramp. Danny spoke on his cell phone with the helicopter and some backup units, coordinating their operation.

Danny brought the SUV to rest a couple hundred feet away from the gate to the maintenance lot, backing into a customer spot in front of a parked minivan.

“The tow truck came at 10:35,” Danny said, rifling through the papers in a folder. “The parents looked for the girl for an hour from about 9:15 to 10:25 at the hospital before calling it in. We didn’t get word the girl was missing for another 20 after that. And you’re saying they spoke to Winnie before all of that?”

“Pretty sure it was before any of the other officers arrived,” Cliff said. “Only a short while after I jumped off the bridge.”

“Do you know what time that was?”

“Sorry,” Cliff shrugged.

“That would be a very helpful clue to have,” Danny said, glancing at a report sitting on the front seat of his car. “The call came in at 10:13. First back-up officers arrived at 10:16. Tow truck showed up 10 minutes later. They must’ve spoken to Winnie even before 10:13. You think that’s possible.”

“I have no clue for sure,” Cliff answered. “I guess Winnie’s the only one that could answer that question.”

Ahead, Cliff, Danny and Summer watched Alex maneuver the Taurus to the far end of the lot. He approached the zoo’s maintenance area and pulled the stolen car through the opened gate. A lock and chain dangled from the top bar, swaying in the movement of the breeze as the car slipped into the secluded lot.

The air in the SUV froze. Danny’s radio remained quiet. Kumi’s voice projected through the speaker of his phone.

“The car’s come to a stop,” she whispered, the sound grainy and muffled from the confines of the trunk. “You’re locked on my phone?”

“I got you,” Danny acknowledged. “You’re parked right next to the dumpster as instructed.”

“The kid?” Kumi asked. “I heard his door open and close.”

“Nothing yet.”

“You should see him any minute,” Kumi said. “Unless he encountered the mark. Heli see anything?”

Danny clicked the button on his shoulder radio and asked the helicopter pilot if he could see Alex emerging from the maintenance parking area, but he reported that the tree cover obscured his view.

“Give me the word and I’ll initiate the takedown,” Kumi continued through Danny’s speakerphone. “If I go, I need you backing me ASAP.”

The helicopter pilot indicated that he could see Alex walking quickly away from the dumpster. Seconds later, Cliff spotted him rounding the gate and trotting toward the SUV.

“The kid’s out,” Danny snapped into his phone. “I’m intercepting him now.”

“I’ll stay dark,” Kumi said. “Hopefully this guy has the same fear about looking in the back as his buddy. Otherwise, I’ll take him down. You gonna drop them off somewhere?”

“Don’t think I’ll have a window,” he replied. “It’s too fluid and Benson hasn’t arrived yet. They’re safer with me than left randomly on the street. Until we know what’s going down, I’m keeping them under my control.”

“That’s the only play right now,” she agreed.

Alex approached the SUV, out of breath. Danny clicked to unlock the door and Alex slid next to Summer, who moved to the middle seat between him and Cliff.

“What happens if Rulon opens the trunk?” Summer asked Danny.

“We arrest him,” Danny answered.

“And, if he doesn’t?” Summer followed up.

Danny didn’t reply, instead, staring out the windshield at the gate to the maintenance lot.

“He’s pulling out,” Kumi said over the phone. “We’re on the move. Don’t lose me.”

“You got it kid… Chop?” Danny asked into his radio, which elicited a robotic response of “Affirmative.”

Several other voices, presumably from back-up units on standby, acknowledged the situation. Danny waited for Rulon to pass in the Ford Taurus and casually pulled out as he reached the entrance to 50th Street.

He followed just far enough behind to keep several cars between them. Rulon made the light at 55th. Danny waited at the intersection, communicating with the helicopter to keep track of Rulon’s direction. When Rulon was out of sight, he revved the engine and sped from street to street, slowing and driving much more cautiously when the Ford Taurus came into view.

As Rulon turned into the side streets, Danny eased back and let him disappear into the maze of one-way roads. He stared at the monitor in his dashboard that locked onto Kumi’s signal, working his way along the route to catch up.

Rulon turned a corner on 67th. Danny followed about a quarter half mile behind. The radio squawked.

“He’s coming to a stop.”

Danny pulled his SUV to the side of the road a few houses down from the apartment building where Rulon left the car. At the far end of the street, Cliff made out another similar SUV, coming around the corner from the other end of the block. Danny creeped the vehicle closer and parked behind a pick-up truck a half-block away.

“You’re on the street in front of De La Cruz’s address,” he snapped into the phone, “Driver went around back.”

“There’s no other car but the Ford in the driveway,” the voice from the chopper reported. “Infrared indicates one person emerging from a side door.”

Edeyo greeted Rulon in the driveway by the Ford. Edeyo entered the driver’s seat and pulled it into the detached garage at the end of the driveway.

“Stay here,” Danny whispered to his passengers, before turning back to speak into the phone. “I’m behind cover, 200 feet away. You’re in the garage. Looks like the driver’s exiting the structure.”

Edeyo closed the garage door and lit a cigarette. He and Rulon bumped fists and stood in the driveway shooting the breeze for several minutes.

“You’re clear,” Danny whispered, maneuvering from behind the pick-up truck to a car parked on the street adjacent to the driveway.

“I’m out of the trunk,” Kumi continued updating Danny by phone. “We got ’em. There’s more stash here. Looks like a couple burner phones and some automatic weapons. I’m shooting evidence video now. We’ve got what we need. Move in.”

Danny, crouching while he ran, closed the gap. Edeyo and Rulon reopened the garage door. Kumi’s gun protruded first out of the dark, followed by her thin arms. Danny arrived just as Rulon and Edeyo seemed to recognize what was happening and raised their hands in surrender. Other officers appeared from behind other cars. They converged on the apartment building. Danny held Rulon and Edeyo at gunpoint and forced them to the ground as they had done earlier to Cliff, Alex and Summer.

Kumi helped Danny cuff Edeyo and Rulon and read them their rights while at least a half dozen other officers raided the apartment.

Alex slumped below the seat. He strained to peer through the gap to observe the takedown of his roommate and his landlord.

Like the takedown in south Seattle, the arrest took minutes, this time without any gunfire. The officers that raided the apartment congregated in the street. Their faces seemed to imply disappointment.

“Julio,” Summer said to Alex.

“He’s still out there,” Alex replied. “And he’s gonna be pissed.”

While the actual arrest took minutes, the discussions and deliberations with officers and supervisors, cameramen and forensic experts took an hour. Summer shook her phone in frustration at her dwindling battery. Cliff’s stomach reminded him of his intensified hunger.

Finally, Danny and Kumi returned to the SUV.

“You didn’t find Julio?” Summer asked.

“No,” Danny replied, glancing at his partner. “Where do you think he would go?”

“We believe he’s heard about the arrest in south Seattle and has withdrawn into hiding,” Kumi added. “He set up Rulon and Edeyo to take the fall for him and he’s looking to skate under the ice for a while.”

“So, you arrested the second in command down there and up here,” Cliff asked. “And, both leaders are still on the loose?”

“And probably pretty motivated to silence us?” Alex added.

“We’re going to protect you,” Kumi said.

“How?” Cliff asked.

“Well, for now,” Danny replied. “We’re not going to let you out of our sight.”

The thought crossed Cliff’s mind first. Despite his feelings of confusion and rejection, his forehead broke into a sweat.

“Winnie,” he blurted at the thought of Julio rampaging the streets of Seattle looking for payback.

“Oh shit,” Alex added. “Mom.”

Kumi and Danny both looked back at their passengers and uttered the same word at the same time.

“Mom?”

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