“Officer Mendez, please don’t misunderstand. You are not being accused by any member of this department.”
The detective’s assurance did nothing to ease Roy’s anger. He stood in the lieutenant’s office with arms folded, seething but unsure as to who he should be mad at. He knew the lieutenant would be against suspending him, and these other two wouldn’t have the authority. The lieutenant fiddled with a pencil on his desktop, glanced at his laptop when it chimed with a message but didn’t move to check it, and generally looked as angry as Roy. Payton sat with hands together on her lap, looking up at him sympathetically and waiting for his reply.
He already knew Detective Payton. She was a very direct sort, and she preferred honesty regardless of how difficult it made her job. He knew far less about her partner Cipolli, sitting to the side with folded arms and chewing his lip, but he wasn’t the one who made the statement. Roy felt he should take her word for it, but… these two were with Crimes Against Persons, not Internal Affairs. He wondered if she really knew enough to extend her claim to the whole department.
Cipolli took the floor. “It’s pretty simple, Roy. We have no say about what the FBI does or thinks, and their spook investigators are now on the case. They’re the ones who want you put on paid leave, not us.”
“Can I blow up a buildin’ and make my partner disappear?” he demanded. “What the hell do they think I am? I was born right here in St. Louis, for chrissake! I ain’t no spook!”
Cipolli shrugged. “All they know is, they have a policy which says that miracles don’t happen. A cop who survives a massive explosion and fire uninjured is a suspected Non-Terrestrial Entity, end of discussion.”
He glowered at them as they waited to see what he would do. Fine. Let them investigate. He relaxed and shrugged.
“So why would they send CAP to tell me I’m on leave? That don’t make no sense.”
Crimes Against Persons certainly had jurisdiction with the serial kidnapping, but that didn’t extend to matters like this.
Lt. Moore cleared his throat. “They didn’t. That should have been my job, but Payton insisted. She and Cipolli actually came to take you to breakfast before you went home.”
That was right out of left field. “Say what?”
Payton smiled again. “We have some questions to ask you. It’s for our case, not the FBI’s case. We’re on the serial abductions, now. Breakfast is on us.”
Roy frowned, confused. “Don’t someone else have it? They came to brief us just yesterday…”
She nodded. “Mannheim and Du Bois. But thanks to you and Garner, we now know that spooks are involved. We’re the spook specialists.”
If the Department had spook specialists, it was news to him. Roy had kept up with such things ever since his previous spook incident, so this was a pretty well-kept secret.
“There’s one more thing I need to talk to you about,” Lt. Moore stated, and opened a desk drawer to pull out an object in a clear zipper bag. He didn’t say anything about it, just set it on his desk, folded his hands and considered it. The room stayed silent for a few moments.
“What’s that?” Roy finally asked. He saw a shapeless lump of melted black plastic, but he found something disturbingly familiar about it.
“They tell me,” Moore stated, “that this is the remains of a mini unit. A department-issue hand-held police radio relay. We believe it to be Jack’s, since you still had yours when you got out.”
He stared at it, absorbing what he saw. It was supposed to be the combination of police radio, GPS and wirelessly connected computer that supported police activity away from their ‘unit’, their vehicle, but hardly looked anything like one. It had been in a very hot place.
The human who had held it could not have survived. The lump which suddenly formed in his throat was nearly too large to talk around.
“They found him?”
“No.” Moore replied.
Roy stared at him, uncomprehending.
He continued. “We have found no human remains. Nor any effects of a police officer other than this. No shield, no Beretta, no cuffs. Just the radio. That big-ass tactical flashlight Jack normally carries was still inside your cruiser.”
Cipolli spoke up, a little more gently than before. “That’s good news, Mendez. The metal items would last far longer than a plastic mini unit. Which means Jack got away from the place where he dropped it. Although, where he lost it was the middle of that blaze. There is no Earthly way he could have made it out of the building, as fast as it went up.”
After a few moments, Payton echoed carefully, “No Earthly way.”