As soon as we heard that, Coldforge looked at me.
“What do we do?”
“Get that door open!” I ordered Ironhammer, pointing to the overhead. He nodded, and racked the top round from his shotgun, inserting a door round. Designed to take out hinges on doors from the outside, the round should. . . .
The lock on the overhead gave way, along with the mechanism inside. The door sprung up about two feet. Ironhammer placed a hand beneath it, and pushed it up.
“Stay here,” I ordered Coldforge. “He may try to get out this way, now that the door’s open. Don’t take chances. If he doesn’t stop when you tell him to, let him have it.” I looked at Ironhammer then, who nodded.
Leading the way, I stepped inside, and snapped on my light. It was poor tactics, but I needed the light, since the interior was dark.
“Let’s go,” I said softly, and started off. Ironhammer’s light was visible behind me.
“He’s on the stairs!” I heard someone yell. It sounded like Todd Blackarrow, a youngster amongst the rest of us, though he had seven years on the force.
“We got a man down!” the radio cracked. “Captain’s down, and hurt bad!” I immediately got on the radio.
“Stay with him,” I ordered, and switched channels.
“Dispatch, this is H-3, with emergency traffic.”
“All units, all units, hold all traffic. Go H-3 with your emergency traffic.”
“Requesting back up and ambulance at 4355 Mistletoe, repeat 4355 Mistletoe. Officer down, suspect still on scene. Request responding officers cordon the building on arrival. Please alert SWAT that we need them on scene as well. Suspect is an armed and extremely dangerous Tolite Fairy.”
“Dispatch copies all. Attention all units, respond to 4355 Mist. . . .”
I ignored the dispatcher after that, working my way toward the center of the building. Ironhammer stopped me with a hand on my shoulder, and pointed up. Following his gesture, I could see the catwalk over us. Nodding to him in understanding, I motioned for him to hold, watching the catwalk. He nodded, cut off his light, and stepped into the shadows.
I didn’t like us splitting up, be we needed to watch that walk. If Slashknife was on the stairs, that meant he was able to get to that catwalk. He just might use it to find an escape route before our backup could arrive and seal off the area.
Moving in the direction I’d heard Blackarrow yell, I tried to be as stealthy as I could. I suppose it didn’t matter, with my light on, but it made me feel better.
“Todd, it’s Kalef,” I called quietly. No answer.
“Todd,” I tried again, louder this time. Still no answer.
As I reached the base of the stairs, I found Blackarrow, on the ground, bleeding from a wound in his chest. The hilt of a knife was protruding from the wound. I knelt next to him, feeling for a pulse. It was weak, but there. I grabbed my radio mike again.
“Dispatch, H-3. Second officer down. Expedite ambulance, and roll another unit as well.” I heard them start to answer, but switched back to the tact frequency we’d been using.
“This is Bonespear, who’s still up?”
“I’m on the catwalk,” a whispered reply came from Angelhair. “No sign.”
“H-4, you copy that?” I asked. Two clicks on my radio told me Ironhammer had heard.
“I’m at the base of the stairs,” I told him. “Back up on the way.”
“R-2 is on station, west door,” Phillip Drummer called quietly. “I can hear the units responding now.”
The others checked in as quietly as possible. I breathed a sigh of relief as I realized that only Redshirt and Blackarrow were down. Yet.
“Heading up,” I whispered into my mike, and started up the stairs. I didn’t know where Angelhair was, but if he knew I was coming, then he might get a shot at Slashknife when I made myself visible. I didn’t much care for the fact that this would give the rabid Tolite a shot at me, but we had to do something.
Careful to keep my eyes up on the catwalk, I made my way up the stairs. The metal sounded loud under each foot step, but there wasn’t much I could do about it at the moment. We had to find the Tolite. He’d already put two men down, and wouldn’t hesitate to hurt, or kill, anyone who got in his way, cop or civilian alike.
I heard a rustle as I made it to the top step, and turned just in time to see a large knife blade descending on me. I threw the shotgun barrel up to block it, and just narrowly escaped having my head taken off. My hands were tingling from the shock of the blow, and I reeled back, off balance.
Slashknife came from the shadows, blade raised for the kill. I moved with speed driven by panic to get my shotgun up in time to shoot, but I knew I wasn’t going to make it.
Boom! Boom! Boom!
Slashknife’s rage lined face turned to one of surprise, as I saw three bursts of blood and tissue protrude from his chest. The big Tolite looked down at me, shock evident on his face. Slowly, far too slowly for my peace of mind, he collapsed onto the grating in a heap.
Thomas Angelhair approached from behind the Tolite, his shotgun steady on the body, just in case. Tolite’s are notoriously hard to kill, especially when angry.
“Did you do that on purpose?” he asked me, stepping around to offer me a hand up, all the while keeping his shotgun on the fairy.
“Uh, yeah,” I grimaced. That had hurt. “Best I could think of, at the time. I knew you were up here. I hoped he’d move enough for you to see him, and get a shot.”
“I almost didn’t,” he told me bluntly. “Sumbitch moves awful good in the dark. He was on you before I saw him move. I couldn’t shoot until you hit the floor.”
“Glad he knocked me down, then,” I tried to grin, but couldn’t.
“Sure ‘nough,” the old detective nodded.
As the paramedics and SWAT secured the building, I just stood there, glad to be alive.
Others weren’t so lucky.
“Detective Bonespear, can you explain to me why your squad tried to apprehend this fugitive, rather than call in the SWAT team?”
Chief of Police Randall Kringle, yes, of those Kringle’s, was staring at me intently over the expanse of his desk. And he was, well, pissed. Captain Redshirt was dead, and Todd Blackarrow was still in critical condition.
“No, sir, I cannot,” I admitted. “All that Captain Redshirt would say was that this was our case, and we would do this ourselves.”
“So you blame Captain Redshirt?” Kringle asked, just a little snarly.
“It’s not my job to assign blame, sir,” I replied calmly. “You asked me if I could explain. That’s all I can tell you.”
“And none of you thought to question Captain Redshirt?”
“All of us questioned it, sir,” I corrected. “I was told to shut my mouth and get with the program.”
“So you and the rest just went out, on your own, to capture this Tolite, leaving your Captain dead, and another detective lying in hospital, then?”
“Sir, we followed orders,” I corrected again, still calm. Getting mad wouldn’t help at this point. “I would hardly say ‘on our own’ being as Captain Redshirt gave the orders, and led us to the scene.”
“So again, you’re blaming the late Captain Redshirt,” Kringle nodded. I sighed, shaking my head.
“What is it, Bonespear?”
“Nothing sir,” I shook my head. “Nothing at all.”
“If you have something to say, by all means share it.” I hesitated, then plunged on.
“Sir, are you looking for a scapegoat? Is that it? Captain Redshirt, rest his soul, made this decision. He refused to entertain using the SWAT unit for this job, saying it was our case, and we’d handle it. Far wiser heads than mine asked about the SWAT team as well, and were rebuffed just as I was.”
“If there’s blame to be laid, that’s your job to decide, sir, with respect not only to your position as Chief, but as the reviewing officer. All I can do is tell you what happened. And I have.”
“You didn’t care much for Redshirt, did you detective?” Kringle asked suddenly.
“Sir?” The question caught me off guard.
“You heard me,” Kringle replied. “You didn’t care much for Redshirt, did you?”
“We weren’t friends, if that’s what you mean, sir. I hardly run in the circles that Captain Redshirt did. I respected him as a detective, and as my superior. He wasn’t a bad boss,” I told him, truthfully. “He was demanding, and somewhat unforgiving of mistakes, but that was his job. He had to get the best out of us that he could.”
“And he was never shy or lax about praising our efforts, when praise was deserved. To be honest, I enjoyed working for him.”
Kringle sat back, obviously surprised by my statement. I couldn’t figure out what was going on, here, and it bothered me.
“You’re slow to anger, aren’t you, Bonespear?” he asked suddenly, and much more politely than his earlier questions.
“I try to be, sir,” I nodded. “Anger interferes with my judgement, and is something no cop can afford. And, anger doesn’t really solve anything,” I added with a shrug.
“Too true,” Kringle sighed, leaning back, and looking out the window.
“This is a serious situation, Detective,” he said, his tone grim. “I’ve got to replace Redshirt as soon as I can. There are still crimes that need to be solved. Are you satisfied that the death of Slashknife will close the Airdancer case?”
I looked at him for a moment, stunned. Why would he ask me that? Why talk to me like this?
“It’s my belief that someone hired the Tolite to kill Jason Airdancer, sir,” I decided to be honest. What the hell, maybe I could make toys for a living.
Kringle looked at me closely.
“Care to explain that?”
For the next five minutes, I did just that, stating my evidence in clear terms, and adding my own reasoning for following the trails I had chosen to follow.
“So you think this could have been about Sleigh Racing? Of all the things?” Kringle looked incredulous.
“Or money,” I nodded. “Or the two combined, if someone lost enough betting against Airdancer’s juiced up deer.”
“Good grief,” Kringle sighed, shaking his head. “As if we don’t have enough trouble, with a Privie getting killed.” I had to hide my surprise that Kringle would us the slur ‘privie’ in front of someone like me. Of course, I did say he was a Kringle, right? He looked up suddenly.
“I’ve got to have a temporary replacement for Redshirt. You’re it until I can get someone better. You may, on your own, continue following this case, and see where it leads. Don’t involve any other personnel without my consent. And I’m telling you now, there won’t be any consent, unless it’s something big. And bad.”
“Sir, I’m hardly qualified. . .” I stammered out. Me? Replacing Redshirt? Even for a minute? Oh, hell no.
“I said it was temporary. And it is. Now, go and get things in order. We’ll have a full ceremony for Redshirt in two days. I’ll expect you and the other detectives to be there. Until then, get your work done. That’s all.”
Still wanting to protest, I knew a dismissal when I heard it. I got up and literally staggered out of his office. Being off my feat so long reminded me of how long it had been since I’d slept.
This case had turned the department on it’s ear in less than thirty six hours.