3: Jack


The sergeant noticed the new icon appearing on the screen as his partner wrestled their patrol car around another hairpin corner. More cops were joining the chase at last, he saw with relief. He’d begun to think it would remain a one-on-one contest to the end.

The rear wheels slid out for a moment as they found one of the many puddles still left from the rain that afternoon, triggering a string of broken Spanish invective from Roy. Jack had discovered long ago that his own Spanish was actually much better than Roy’s, contrary to their respective heritages, but as Roy liked to say, “Grandpa did teach me how to cuss, you know?”

The plain brown sedan pulled away on the straightaway as it had done after every corner so far. The thirty-year-old model probably more than doubled the horsepower of their fuel-miserly St. Louis MPD patrol unit. Luckily the subject was staying off the highway where he could have put those horses to better advantage. Fortunate also that Roy had better high-speed driving skills. The patrol car closed the distance every time the subject took another corner.

The fishtail shook Roy, though. He segued from cussing to complaint. “My first high-speed chase in years and there’s gotta be rain on the pavement! ¡Son chingederas!

Jack humphed with a slight smile, projecting the calm his age and seniority obliged him to maintain. “You’re doing fine, Roy. Just be glad he waited until one in the morning to show up. Not as much traffic to deal with.”

In fact it was a stroke of luck they were following at all. The ‘Amber’ called for a black sedan, but something about this car had prompted him to tell Roy to follow it anyway.

No, although he would never admit it to anyone else, ‘something’ hadn’t told him. That weird intuition of his, that inner voice that would sometimes whisper to him that one had not let him take his eyes off the vehicle. He had no explanation for it, and only half-believed in it, but that intuition had kept him alive in the Army, and it still showed him the way in his work as a police officer.

So Roy had followed his directions, sliding in behind the brown car, and the driver had panicked and run. As the chase continued, although they were now simply following a vehicle driving unsafely and behaving suspiciously, Jack’s intuition progressed to certainty that they were pursuing the serial criminal who had just abducted his sixteenth teenage girl.

He read the ID on the icon and picked up the mike. “3-5-32, this is 3-5-48. Are you responding?”

“Affirmative, 3-5-48. We’re trying to guess a way to get out ahead of him.”

“32, radio it next time, please.”

“Sorry, Sarge.” He identified the voice, pictured Markhov’s perpetually-worried face and smiled for a moment. Markhov was right to be embarrassed. The younger officers relied too much on the communication system that automatically reported pesky details like position and time. Human ears still needed direct reports because human eyes were not always looking at the data feeds.

Jack checked the nav system HUD again. They remained within their own district but they were about to cross to the other side of I-70. If the subject had driven a straight line, they would have long since left it, but he’d been crossed back and forth, presumably in the attempt to shake them. They were now headed for the riverfront, industrial and warehouse territory.

His eyes flicked back to the road ahead as he saw the sedan take yet another turn. He radioed it in and braced both feet on the floorboard as Roy slammed on the brakes and worked the vehicle through the corner. He cringed within, because even Roy’s skill couldn’t guarantee safety at these speeds. But as they straightened out, he saw the suspect vehicle screech to a halt in front of a fenced warehouse block.

By the time they skidded to a stop next to the sedan, the driver had sprinted from the car and scaled the gate. He disappeared behind a large forklift in the middle of a cargo-loading zone. The fence and gate were iron bar, too substantial to ram through with a police vehicle, so following the subject on foot was the only option.

Roy jumped out while Jack picked up the mike again. “Dispatch, 3-5-48 is going to mini units, pursuing on foot.”

The dispatcher repeated back his report while Markhov’s unit came careening around a corner down the street. He triggered the mike once more. “32, we’re on the subject. You guys check the car.”

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Roy was already over the top before Jack hung the mike up. The ‘kid’ was actually a man in his early thirties but that made him still young enough to not have the sense to understand that this tall fence was just a bit intimidating. The aging sergeant about to follow him held no such delusions.

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