There I was, Mammonites. Bottom of the ninth. WIP had it’s closer in, and the son of a bitch was throwing smoke. Had me down 0-2, had me thinking the streak was over. Stepped out of the box, cleared my head, and saw the third baseman playing all the way back on the grass. And why not, right? I mean I’ve been squaring it up. So I lay one down, get it past the mound and I beat it out easy. Thirteen days, thirteen chapters. The streak lives!
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Chapter Twenty Two
Gonna end up in Iowa, way the day’s going, thought Lynch stuck in traffic on 88 coming up on the Route 59 exit, trying to get out to meet Perez and the Aurora PD at a scene out there.
Downers Grove thing broke loose right after lunch. Marks had called Lynch and Bernstein out pretty much as soon as he got a look at it. Three Hispanics down, looked like all three of them were mainline members of Hernandez crew out of Juarez, based on the tattoos, and Marks knew the guy they found in the street – Julio Ruiz, trigger man, wheel man, guy that usually travelled with Hernandez himself. Also had a black kid that turned out to be a low-level member of one of the west side gangs that the DEA was pretty sure was tied into Hernandez network.
Thing was a cluster fuck. Three dead in a second floor hallway, two outside on the street. The inside stiffs all looked like.22s, the outside guys were larger caliber, 9mms till they heard different. Witness statements were all over the place as usual, but best they could piece together, there was shooting in the building, then outside. Couple of people said it looked like a black SUV (got everything from a Navigator to an Escalade to a Suburban on the make) tried to run down a couple on the walk. The man shot the driver. The black kid ran across the street, had a gun out, like he was headed for the man, and the woman shot him. Ruiz was driving the SUV, and whoever shot him knew what he was doing, because he took three in the face and two in the chest, which ain’t bad through a windshield when you’ve got three or four tons of Detroit’s finest bearing down on you. The woman shot the kid, he took one in the hip. Then, while the guy was dumping Ruiz out of the SUV, the woman walked over, capped the kid in the head. They both hopped in the SUV and took off.
So it looked like Mr. .22 was in play again, although this inside thing wasn’t his usual double-triple tap to the head thing. Stand up fight. The two guys were armed, both got shots off, and he took them both out. That was interesting.
But the real interesting thing was this. The guy who shot Ruiz? Based on descriptions, it sounded a lot like Hardin. And the women he was with? Well, the dead guys were right outside a condo with the door still open. DEA agent’s condo. Jeanette Wilson’s condo. And things were calming down just a touch by the time this woman strolled down the walk and parked one in the black kid’s brain case. Marks had shown Wilson’s picture around. Consensus was, the woman was her.
That’s when Perez had called. Got another stiff, black guy in the basement of a town house in the DuPage County part of the city, just west of 59. Looked like a .22 again. So Lynch left Bernstein to finish up in Downers Grove and headed west.
Aurora was a city of almost 200,000 straddling the Fox River about forty miles west of Chicago. Lynch didn’t work with suburban cops too much, but Aurora had its own gang problems, and most of their gangs were tied in to the gangs in Chicago. So guys from Aurora would turn up dead in the city, guys from Chicago would turn up dead in Aurora, and guys like Lynch and Perez, they’d sort it out.
Every time Lynch had been out to Aurora before, though, it had been on the east side, usually right in by the river. This was some high-end subdivision just across 59 from Naperville, goofy looking McMansions shoe-horned into tiny lots as he followed the winding street in past the White Eagle sign. He was beginning to think Perez was fucking with him until he saw the black and whites and the crime scene tape in front of a upscale townhouse. Behind the house, a couple of yuppies in ill-advised pants pretended to take some practice swings while they watched the cops moving around the house. Somebody on the tee must have said something, one of the guys looking back flipping the bird, then topping his ball another thirty yards up the fairway. Gapers block on the fairways.
Lynch parked, badged the uniform at the end of the drive. Guy told him Perez was in the basement.
Lynch could smell the before he got to the bottom of the stairs. When he got down, he saw Perez over near an L-shaped office setup. Lots of computer equipment, three different monitors, a rack of some other shit, routers and such Lynch figured. And a black guy in his boxers, his legs duct-taped to one of those fancy office chairs with that hi-tech mesh shit for a sitting surface. Some duct tape also hung from the arm of the chair that Lynch could see. The guy’s head was down on the desk, or most of his head. Looked like some of it was splattered on the monitor in front of him. Lot of blood on the floor, but it didn’t look like anything significant had run down from the head wounds.
Perez saw Lynch, walked over.
“Could’ve warned me about 59,” Lynch said. Maybe five miles or so from 88 down to White Eagle, Lynch sat in traffic for better than half an hour. “Another five minutes, I was gonna eat my gun.”
‘”Hey,” Perez said, “You been out in Downers Grove all day, driving out here to yuppie town, I figured you probably needed to suck down some exhaust, keep your city boy lungs from going in to shock.”
Lynch nodded toward the body. “So what have you got here?”
“Stiff’s name is Robert E. Lee,” Perez said.
“Ironic,” said Lynch.
Perez shrugged. “I’m just a dumb Mexican whose family got stuck on the wrong side of the Rio Grande when you guys stole Texas. I got no dog in that fight.”
“You said .22s?” Lynch asked
“Three to the back of the head,” said Perez.
“Awful lot of blood on the floor,” said Lynch.
“Pedicure,” said Perez. “Your .22 buddy took off a couple of his toes with something before he plugged him.”
“Could see where that might be persuasive,” Lynch said “Any idea what he was after?”
“Last thing Lee printed out was this.” Perez handed Lynch a sheet. Jeaneatte Wilson’s name and address. Mr. .22 had been a busy boy today.
Lynch nodded, looked up at Perez, who had a little grin on his face.
“What?” said Lynch.
“Jenks!” Perez called. Metrosexual looking guy in civilian clothes walked over, flat-front pants, shirt in a you-can’t-buy-me-at-Penny’s shade of blue on, some of those rectangular, steel-framed glasses. “Show Lynch here what ol’ toeless had been up to.”
“Guy’s got a great set up,” said Jenks. He and Lynch were sitting at a wet bar across the basement from Lee’s office area. “Highest speed wireless pipe I’ve ever seen. Wouldn’t been tough to crack in, except he had a pad in his desk with all his keys in it. Stupid, but we all do it, right?”
“I just plug into my cable box,” said Lynch.
Jenks shrugged. “OK, so anyway, I start poking around, just looking at recent files, IP addresses, shit like that, and one of the things I get is this.” Jenks popped up a series of pictures of Hardin in Chicago. Traffic cam shot Lynch had seen on Columbus, Hardin in front of the Hyatt on Wacker, Hardin’s rental in the Grant Park Garage.
“Can you tell when he pulled those?” said Lynch.
“First one, the shot of the car? That was the morning after the Stein shooting.”
Couple days before we started looking for it, thought Lynch.
“You know how he got them?”
“Watch this,” said Jenks. He hammered at some keys. Kid had fast hands. A video feed popped open. Columbus Street – same angle as the Hardin shot they’d been using. Had to be the same camera.
“Tell me that’s not live,” said Lynch.
“Oh,” said Jenks. “It’s live.”
Hardin and Wilson had been driving the Honda north for better than six hours. Figured a little space was what they needed right now. They’d also been listening to the radio. The shit in Downers Grove was getting some play, but they were keeping their names out of it so far, the whole thing going down as some drug turf thing.
It was almost 8:00 PM and they were cruising a neighborhood in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. Lots of Bed and Breakfasts up here, figured with the economy the way it was, somebody wanted to pay cash for a room for a while, nobody was going to get real picky about IDs and such.
“That looks nice,” said Wilson, pointing at a big, dark green Victorian on the next corner.
“Always wanted to see Door County,” said Hardin.
Husam al Din was back in his hotel room, sitting on the toilet and pulling the duct tape off his leg. The disinfectant and bandages he’d bouht were lined up on the edge of the sink. Fortunately, he had worn dark colored slacks, so the blood was not obvious. One of the men had fired a round into the floor, and a piece of it had punched into his calf, just above the ankle. After he’d killed the two men, he’d wrapped some duct tape tightly around the wound to avoid leaving a blood trail. The old woman in the unit two doors down from Wilson’s had poked her head out her door then. Best shot of his life so far, snatching the .22 up with his left hand, oblique off-handed shot right down the wall with the only round left in the weapon, catching enough of the woman’s head to put her on the floor before she could shut the door. He finished taping his leg and walked over. She was laying on her back, looking up at him, her mouth opening and closing like a fish, trying to say something. Trying to say no, he supposed. He slapped in his spare clip, pulled back the slide and shot her two more times. That’s when he heard the gunfire outside. From the window at the end of the hall, he could see Hardin pulling a dead man from a black SUV and a woman walking over to a black man who was sprawled on the walk. The woman shot the black man in the head, then she and Hardin drove away in the vehicle. He didn’t have the right angle to see the number on the vehicle’s license.
But the woman was Wilson.