Danny careened through the streets of Fremont, down Interlake Boulevard to 35th. He wound through traffic to 34th and then split onto Northlake toward the Gas Works plant. Their sirens wailed through the city, scaring the cars in front of them to move quickly out of their way.
They crossed the park around the defunct power plant and head for the metal garage on the far side of the lawn. They skid to a halt by a locked gate and jumped out of their vehicle. Danny hoisted himself over first, crashing hard to the ground. Kumi followed closely behind him. They reached the locked side door to the garage and both started kicking it. Danny cleared Kumi out of the way and took a running start to barrel it down with his shoulder.
The sound of wood splintering against cheap sheet metal echoed across the park.
They entered the building and drew their guns. A breeze whipped through the shattered doorway, but the garage was otherwise deathly silent. Kumi fished to find a way to turn on the lights while Danny walked slowly to the far end. Danny kicked something on the floor and bent to investigate just as Kumi found a light switch.
Both Duff and Jackson lay face up on the cement floor of the garage. Duff’s eyes remained closed. Blood gushed from a bullet wound to his head and created a dark red circle around his wild gray hair. Jackson had two wounds, one to the stomach and another to the chest. He lay staring up at the ceiling with his eyes wide open.
Danny squatted to close Jackson’s eyes with his hand.
“I’ll call it in,” he said. “Then we’ll have to tell Winona.”
Kumi placed her hand over her mouth. As Danny contacted the dispatcher in their office, Kumi made another sound like a groan.
“Elmer,” she gasped. “The hospital.”
“We better get there now,” Danny said, hanging up his phone.
They both scrambled out of the garage and back up the fence. Kumi scaled it like a gymnast, sticking her landing and clamoring into Danny’s SUV.
“You think it was Hutch and Peters?” she asked as they turned onto Leary Way and head east toward the medical facility where the ambulance had taken Elmer earlier in the day.
“Pretty cold, even for them,” Danny said. “I’m thinking this is Garlag.”
“Me too,” Kumi shouted over the scream of the sirens. “Except, one was shot in the head and the other one in the chest. The lack of consistency implies more than one shooter, maybe firing at the same time.”
“Doesn’t matter,” Danny said, cutting the wheel hard to avoid the oncoming traffic. “Whoever it is, we gotta stop them.”
“Shit,” Kumi said, pulling out her phone. “We should warn the crew at the Naito’s. They could be in danger as well.”
“What about Kipp?” he asked.
“They know where Amaya is,” Kumi said. “But nobody knows anything about Kipp. We didn’t even tell Hector.”
“So, do we go to the hospital or the Naito’s?” Kumi asked.
“We’re almost at the hospital,” Danny replied. “Let’s see if Elmer’s ok. We’ve got a detail watching Amaya and we called for back-up. That’s gonna have to do.”
Danny pulled up to the ambulance spot. A hospital security guard attempted to stop them, but they jumped out, ignoring him and ran into the hospital.
Kumi pointed to the nurse’s station and Danny followed her lead.
“We’re here to check on a patient named Elmer Gans,” Kumi huffed.
“My goodness,” the nurse said. “He’s very popular tonight.”
“He’s here?” Kumi asked. “He’s ok?”
“Well, I’m afraid, there was a bit of a problem earlier.”
Kumi’s heart sank, Danny looked past the station down the hall. A hospital security guard ambled toward them.
“What happened?” Kumi asked. “Where is he?”
The security guard answered from down the hall.
“That friggin homeless pain in the ass snuck out,” the guard said. “Middle of the night, he dressed himself up in his clothes and just walked right out the front door.”
“I was indisposed and didn’t see,” the guard continued. “We saw it on video after the fact.”
“You weren’t watching?” Kumi scolded him.
“You said he was popular,” Danny addressed the nurse. “What did you mean by that?”
“He had a relative stop by to visit him not 20 minutes ago,” she replied.
“He didn’t say his name,” she answered. “A cousin, I think he said.”
“What this this cousin look like?” Kumi asked.
“Big guy,” she answered. “Looked like he was from India or Pakistan or somewhere like that.”
“That’s Garlag,” she said to Danny.
“It’s all like we told the police officers when they came to investigate,” the security guard said. “We tried to tell them about it.”
“What police?” Danny asked.
“Peterson, I think it was,” said the nurse. “He was with his partner, uh, no, maybe the bigger guy was Peterson. I forget their names.”
“What did they do when you told them Elmer wasn’t here?” Danny asked. “When did Elmer leave?”
“We barely said anything,” the security guard replied. “They just took off. According to the video, Mr. Gans left the premises about 45 minutes ago.”
Kumi and Dany bolted from the hospital lobby and returned to their SUV. Danny took a u-turn and head out of the hospital toward the street.
“How far could he get in 45 minutes?” Kumi asked.
“Mile or two?”
“What direction?” she asked. “He’s gotta be going back to the bridge?”
Kumi scrolled through alerts on her phone and yelped loud enough to startle Danny into jerking the wheel.
“What?” he asked.
“Break-in reported at 43 Norcross Way, up by Piper’s Creek,” she said, nearly dropping her phone from her hand. “The home of Shinjiro, Haya and Amaya Naito.”
Cliff watched the lob-sided Mount Saint Helens shrink into the background as the bus sped up Route 5 from Portland and ambled its way over the Washington state line. Thoughts of Winona sleeping alone under the Aurora bridge, or submitting to random homeless men weighed on his mind and stopped him from dozing as he had on the way down to San Francisco the previous day.
He didn’t understand at first, but as he stared out at Mount Hood and then Mount Saint Helens and finally Mount Rainier, he reflected on what he had heard. He came to realize her disorder and took her misstep as her own physical and emotional problem that he needed to help her overcome. He had thought about himself so deeply and the offense he felt at her betrayal, he never stopped to try and understand her perspective. She didn’t think less of him when he spoke to the unseen hag in his mind, he should have the same sensitivity to her demons.
He watched as the Seattle Space Needle rose into the sky and the rest of the skyline followed just behind it.
He also seethed at the thought of officer Hutch threatening her. When she gave her statement at Kipp’s house, Cliff had withdrawn so tightly, he barely listened to her tell her story to Kumi. He even caught himself thinking to himself; “good” as Winona described her harrowing experience.
“How could he be so heartless?” he thought.
Setting aside the sex act he witnessed in the basement of the church, Cliff realized that his abandonment was the real betrayal, not her meaningless encounter. And, her sadness belied the actual feelings she harbored for him.
“Can this bus travel any faster,” he thought as it edged through the tail end of the evening traffic.
Cliff counted his money and marked his notebook. He estimated a $12 cab ride from the center of the city to the Aurora bridge, where he would meet with Hutch and Peters, lie that Kumi and Danny had no evidence against them and turn over the watch in exchange for freedom from their abuse.
The cab ride would eliminate half the money he had. But he believed in his plan and looked forward to getting the meeting over with so he could return to Winona and apologize for unfairly judging her.
The cab stopped a block from Fremont Ave. Cliff looked at the clock in the car. He had a half hour before Hutch and Peters asked him to meet with them under the bridge. He had just enough time for a box of chicken and a soda.
Danny cut across two lanes of traffic on 36th Street and pulled into the gutter along the side of the road. His large vehicle stuck partially into the right lane, causing traffic to bunch up as drivers struggled to merge around the partial lane blockage.
“What does it say?” Danny asked.
“Just that a break-in was reported,”
“Where’s the family?”
“According to the report, they weren’t home,” Kumi said, her voice losing its anxious edge.
Seconds later, her voice elevated in pitch and the anxiety filled the cabin of the vehicle.
“Jesus Christ,” she squealed. “They were escorted by two officers off the premises.”
“What two officers?” Danny asked. “Jesus, two officers? They didn’t go after Elmer, they went up there after Amaya.”
“God,” Kumi said. “What do we do? Who can we call?”
“I don’t know.”
“Is there anyone we can trust?” Kumi continued. “Hector? Barnes? Toya?”
“Latoya’s gotta stay with Winona at Kipps.”
“She’s not a trained police officer,” Kumi said. “What’s she going to do if Hutch and Peters finds them? Is she even armed?”
“They won’t find them,” Danny said. “Nobody knows.”
“Or Garlag?” Kumi continued. “What if he finds them? And, who’s on this rampage? Hutch and Peters? Garlag? Both?”
A clean-shaven, respectable-looking man exited from a cab a block away from Danny’s truck. The man looked up and down the road and padded toward the Fremont Troll. Danny watched him mindlessly as he listened to Kumi vent about the case.
“I don’t know,” Danny responded to Kumi’s questions, his face suddenly turning white at the sight a block ahead. “Wait, is that Lucky?”