As she hunkered down under the dusty workbench, Officer Gillian Snow heard the far-off footsteps of a man who was coming to kill her. In what seemed like hours but in fact was less than 15 minutes ago, she had emptied the magazine of her department-issue Beretta 9mm at an attacker who had ambushed her in a dark stairwell. Fingering the trigger on the tiny derringer she’d retrieved from the elastic band molding her bullet resistant vest to her body, she pondered her options. Another 15 minutes would bring dusk.
The setting sun shot white rays through broken panes of a jalousie window on the western wall of the condemned warehouse, illuminating dust particles that danced around the jagged glass. The window was about 20 feet away. Broken down tables and oddly shaped pieces of machinery crouched in her path. Even if she reached the window, she couldn’t be sure what was on the other side. Diving through windows and rolling neatly up to one’s feet was something accomplished more by Hollywood stunt actors than by actual police officers. She could also wait it out, confront her pursuer with her two-shot backup, and hope to hell she hit him somewhere important.
Gillian closed her eyes when she realized she could no longer hear footsteps. The door to the storage room where she hid hadn’t opened and she had already assessed the window — he couldn’t get in there without silhouetting himself in dusty sunlight. Where was he? More importantly, where was her backup? She had radioed in as soon as her feet hit the pavement after following his Taurus into the warehouse district. Her mistake, she mused, was letting her feet hit the pavement at all before her backup arrived. If she survived this incident, she would take a colossal ass-chewing from Lt. Floyd.
The lieutenant was old school but had developed a grudging respect for Gillian’s style of law enforcement. She maintained throughout her 10-year career that women who work patrol have to work twice as hard as men do to be taken only half as seriously. Lt. Floyd is her litmus test. If he doesn’t grumble, she knows she’ll pass muster with the rest of the squad. He was definitely going to grumble about her recklessness this time.
Of course her biggest mistake was falling for the trap. The man she was pursuing, who now pursued her, had no reason to kill her, or so she thought. His crime probably wasn’t all that serious and he had far more to lose by fighting rather than by fleeing. Perhaps that was why she could no longer hear his footsteps. Yes, he’s exited the warehouse and is making his way through the waterfront. She comforted herself with this thought awhile, rolling it around in her brain like a shiny bullet.
Reviewing the events of the past 40 minutes allowed her to focus. She’d seen the Taurus, an ugly 1980s tan, leaving the Vicolo Pizzeria on Ivy Street where she’d just finished a late lunch. The vehicle headed north on Franklin for a few blocks, then turned west onto Golden Gate, doing nothing to attract attention. Gillian remembered a bulletin from the shift’s briefing regarding a tan 1980s Ford sedan that was seen leaving a house in the Haight where the Animal Care and Control unit had discovered five nearly starved German Shepherds. The ACC had already put two of the dogs down and recovery of the other three looked bleak. There was no suspect description, only the vehicle was seen. She pulled into late Sunday afternoon traffic and headed toward Golden Gate, trailing the Taurus lightly, keeping several vehicles between them.
Gillian, recently promoted to the new Street Crimes Unit, still wore a uniform but drove an unmarked car. Unmarked cars, not to be confused with undercover cars, pissed off the citizenry, especially when someone did something stupid behind the wheel thinking there wasn’t anyone but fellow commuters to witness. Unmarked cars allowed SCU officers to sneak up on all types of transgressors — from asshole drivers to mid-level dealers and their errand boys-in-the-hood. Of course anyone taking a second look at the SCU cars could see strobes attached to the visors and a few too many antennae, but it was a lot less obvious than a black-and-white with a lightbar across the roof.
The Taurus turned on Market Street and headed for the Embarcadero. Gillian radioed in that she was following the Ford sedan from the briefing bulletin and gave her location. Oddly, the dispatcher didn’t acknowledge her call. Heading south on the Embarcadero, the Taurus put on some speed and zipped into the warehouse district near the Bay Bridge. She tried the radio again, no luck. Suddenly, her quarry swerved into a broken chain-link fence surrounding a decrepit loading dock. Majorly hinky, Gillian thought as she braked hard, now trying to keep more distance between them. She reached over to the console and flipped on her blue strobes to let this guy know she was definitely going to have a chat with him. For the third time, she put in her location and received a scratchy, unintelligible reply. What the hell is wrong with this thing? At least now they knew where she was.
The vehicle stopped in front of the warehouse and the driver emerged slowly. Male, white, 30 to 40 years old, medium build with brown hair. His medium-everything blandness was set off by two starkly distinguishing features: an eye-patch over his left eye, pirate style, and the nastiest hairy mole she’d ever seen on the center of his forehead. It looked like a small tarantula gradually making its way down his brow, hesitating to step over the elastic band of the eye-patch. Mesmerized, she hardly noticed when he reached inside his terribly retro Members Only jacket and brought out a small machine pistol — looked like a Mac 10 — and sprayed her brand new unmarked unit with bullets.
Shit … I am in so much trouble with Fleet now, thinking of the last car she turned in for bodywork. Not waiting to see if he was finished she returned fire with her Beretta, unloading seven rounds, hitting mostly the broken door to the loading dock he’d now slipped behind. She heard footsteps as he retreated into the building.
Gillian hesitated long enough to let her eyes adjust to the darkness, then plunged forward. Realizing her tactical error a fraction of a second too late, she felt strong arms from behind pick her up in a reverse bear hug. She brought the heel of her size eight Rocky boots straight up to his balls while throwing her head back, hoping to break his nose. He was strong and had anticipated her move. With the Beretta still in her hand, which was pinned to her own thigh, she tried cocking her wrist upward toward his thigh. He whispered something French in her ear and, as if toying with her, bit her right earlobe and a small piece of her cheek clean off.
Staggering pain exploded on the entire right side of her body and as her knees buckled, she heard the sound of Velcro® as he lifted pouch flaps on her duty belt and removed her two spare magazines. Having to adjust his grip on her to do this gave her the break she needed to twist her wrist around and try to fire.
Her attacker had, again, anticipated her move and had already started to release her and turn to run up the stairwell. She fired three rounds, hitting him at least once in the thigh. He grunted but kept moving, returning her fire at the next landing, the spray of his fully automatic mocking her semi-auto. Seven rounds outside, three here makes 10, five rounds left … five rounds left … she repeated the mantra in her head. The loss of the two magazines, holding another 14 rounds apiece, sickened her. She had to make these last five count. She no longer heard his footsteps in the stairwell above her. He had stopped, as if wanting her to catch up.
Cut the pie, cut the pie she used the technique for rounding a corner into a room with her pistol held in close to her chest. Her last cut revealed Tarantula Guy and his merry Mac 10. She backed away at an angle while firing her last five rounds, center mass. He fell backward but managed to stagger back through another corridor and unleash another five zillion or so rounds at her before running again. You’ve got to be fucking kidding me … he’s wearing a vest?!
With blood streaming down her neck Gillian reached for her radio only to discover that it was gone, the broken leather holder a testament to the absolute idiocy of her situation. She needed a place to regroup. Turning, she ran back down the steps and took a dark hallway on the first floor, running toward the far side of the warehouse. Here she found the door to the abandoned storeroom, crept inside, and crouched under the workbench.
Tears of frustration mingled with the blood still flowing from the side of her face. She needed to stop the bleeding. She took her buck knife out of her boot and cut off the left sleeve of her uniform. Casting that aside, she began carefully cutting away the sleeve of her white cotton undershirt, going around her shoulder with the seam to preserve the sleeve. Reaching up the front of her vest, she also cut away several strips from the front of the undershirt. She wadded these into pads and pressed them against her severed cheek below her missing earlobe, then pulled the T-shirt sleeve over her head to hold them in place. Think she commanded herself, what had he whispered?
Her French was rusty. She’d spent two years in her high school French club, but that was a long time ago. “Je vais avoir plaisir à vous détruire, ma chérie,” she thought she had heard him say. I am going to have pleasure … doing something to you … my dear. What the hell was détruire? Something about my ass? No that would be derrière … She was now wishing she’d spent more time actually studying French instead of French kissing Jeremy Lutford in the broom closet behind a cheesy travel poster of the Arc de Triomphe.
Slowly her thoughts coalesced and the sick feeling in the pit of her stomach was joined by an unpleasant burning in her ribcage as she started to align the pieces. The fact that she first caught sight of the car leaving her favorite restaurant, the way it hesitated in traffic, almost as if the driver knew he was being followed, the ambush in the stairwell. The vest he was undoubtedly wearing, and, most chillingly, the sudden malfunctioning of her car radio. And then it hit her — the German Shepherds had something to do with this.
Gillian’s off-duty involvement with the sergeant in charge of the K-9 unit wasn’t a secret. Their recent trip to Belgium to check out dogs for the department was uneventful, but there had to be a connection. In Wallonia, the southern part of Belgium, everyone spoke French. What the hell is détruire? Hearing footsteps again, she refocused her attention on the broken jalousie window. It was at that moment that she remembered … to kill … he is going to enjoy killing me….Thinking that there could be nothing worse than dying at the hands of a man with a hairy spider mole and a Members Only jacket, she applied more pressure to her ruined ear and prayed that her squad partners had heard her last radio transmission.
“You are out of boo-llets, ma chérie.” She heard from the corridor outside the storage room. The fucker can count too, that’s just great. The revelation that he thought he’d removed all her firepower comforted her a bit, but not much. Designed for up-close protection without much accuracy downrange, the derringer was a last ditch solution — a Hail Mary pass at this distance. It was also in direct violation of department policy. I’ll be sure to put myself on report as soon as I get back to HQ.
The footsteps were louder now and Gillian watched the door handle. Just like in the movies, it jiggled a bit — as though someone were testing it — then nothing. Her heart was pounding so hard under her vest she was sure there was a five-piece metal band inside cranking it up to 11. Backup backup backup, the new mantra intruded. One in my hand, hopefully some on the way …. Just then she heard screeching tires a few streets over and the familiar roar of a Chevy 5.7-liter engine as it alternately accelerated and decelerated, searching each alley and driveway, probably trying to find her car.
Her momentary elation was soon jarred by another noise coming from overhead. What the … in the sub-ceiling …?
She watched in horror as pieces of the ceiling above her workbench shook, crumbled, and sprouted legs. Here we go … only two shots …. Gillian waited until her pursuer had fully emerged from the ceiling before she leaned forward, giving away her hiding place. Praying to whatever gods and goddesses happened to be paying attention, she point-sighted the derringer at the hairy mole, now the size of a dinner plate, and pulled the trigger twice.