“Well hello, buddy. Let me guess. You’re on the edge again.”
At last. The familiar baritone. Mac wasted little time on pleasantries. “Yeah, right on the ball as usual -- Rusty, I need your help.”
Choked laughter from Rusty. “You run out of cops?”
“That’s another problem,” replied Mac, which was true. “I’m short-handed on this one, and I need a fire safety inspection, like today.”
“Just like that? Hey Mac, you think we sit around all day drinking coffee and waiting for a fire to happen so we can look good?”
“Rusty you know me better than that. My dad taught me everything there was to know about drinking coffee and looking good in uniform. Dating women mainly, that is until he met my mom.”
Mac heard the sigh. “You want to tell me about it, or you just chewing the fat?”
Mac hesitated. This was the hard part keeping Rusty out of the firing line. But Rusty had been there before.
“Rusty, this one is about as sensitive as you can get. Better you’re not in the full picture. But it could help us nail a killer, that’s the bottom line.”
There was a short silence. “Mac, I’m still listening. No need to be coy with me. You know I’m not likely to fall out with you over this. Even if you are bending the rule book — again.”
Mac was relieved. “Okay Rusty, I owe you. This is the plan. I want you to contact the Bees operational office suite. They’re sharing the admin part of the stadium until the big game is over. Tell them the fire service and the police need to check fire safety today in view of the big firework display planned for Saturday.”
“Okay so far. That’s legit.”
Mac continued. “Once we get the ok, I want you to carry out an emergency evacuation drill, while we check out their operational rooms. Oh, and the set-up has to be for real. Apart from their contact person, no one else should know it’s just an exercise. You clear on that?”
Rusty was quick to latch on. “Search exercise, huh? How much time you need?”
“As long as it takes, but I’m hoping for twenty minutes tops.”
Rusty laughed. “In that case I’ll get the boys looking their best.”
“Call me back when you got it arranged, ok?” Mac listened for Rusty to agree, and cut the call. He breathed a sigh of relief, and got up to refresh his coffee cup. All that talk about drinking coffee had made him thirsty. Better check with Elmer. See how things were progressing at his end. He walked over to the coffee machine and put a bill in the slot. There was a noise behind him.
“Make that two,” said Chief Amos, putting his hand on Mac’s shoulder. “You got a minute?” he asked. “My office, now.” He said it in a way that was more serious than he put it.
Mac shrugged. Hell, it’s not easy this one, he thought. “Chief, I’m all ears,” he said diplomatically. He picked up their cups and followed the chief.
“Mac, I going to be straight with you,” said the chief as he stirred around the froth on top of his cup with a stained plastic spoon. “Riley came to see me. He’s not too happy about being asked to commit a felony. I’m not up with all this tech stuff. Couldn’t understand a word. What did you ask him to do?”
The little shit, thought Mac, but he smiled at the chief. “I told him to copy some files; that’s all. You know I can’t get a judge to sign a search warrant until after the game on Saturday; this is our way in through the backdoor. No one gets hurt, but we could nail the perp before he gets a chance to kill hundreds, maybe thousands of unsuspecting fans.”
The chief swallowed some coffee, and wiped his hand across his mouth. “Yeah, that’s just about what I thought. I told Riley unless he wants you up his ass, he’d better cooperate. I gave him the promotional talk. Said Mac wasn’t playing at cops: he’s a well respected senior homicide detective who is about to nail a particular merciless killer. So get real.” He squinted hard at Mac. “Is that right, Mac? Are you going to nail him?”
Mac relaxed. Chief was on their side. “Chief, you told Andy and me to think of something a whole lot better than increased vigilance. This is it. To answer your question, Riley’s expertise could put a name to the perp.”
The chief finished his coffee. “You’d better check on Riley then,” he said waving Mac away, picking up a file and opening it. Same message as Andy.
Mac didn’t need to be told twice. He was out of the chief’s office and striding down the corridor to the tech area. He found Riley hunched over an assortment of laptops, while chewing on a sandwich from the delivery deli. He was dressed casually in T shirt and jeans, pony-tail and all. He flinched when Mac put a hand on his shoulder.
“Okay, providing I have open access, and your numbers are accurate, based on our records it should take fifteen minutes thirty two seconds to collect the data and sort it into a readable file format. You want two copies, so add another two minutes, fifteen.” He turned away from the laptops and gave Mac a half smile. “Chief put me straight,” he said.
“Lives could depend on you,” replied Mac, relenting a little. He gave a wry grin. “Those seventeen minutes, forty seven could make a difference between life and death.”
Riley nodded. “Received loud and clear, Mac. Anytime you want to go, I’m ready, ok?”
Mac started to walk away. “Yeah, okay. I’ll go and round up Elmer. Catch up on the latest profile.” He went back down the corridor to the incident room and found Elmer busy scribbling.
“Any progress?” asked Mac, as he drew up a chair and sat down.
“Mac, I’m worried,” replied Elmer. “To date, this perp does single killings; he’s not a mass murderer. Maybe he’s thinking of a high profile hit at the game. With it being televised, that would satisfy his ego.”
Mac drummed his fingers on the table. “All we got coming is one of the state senator’s that we know about. If it was higher than that we’d have Feds and Homeland Security crawling all over. The perp wouldn’t get anywhere near.”
Elmer sat back, a bit dejected. “It just don’t fit.”
Mac punched him on the arm. “Elmer, listen up. We heard the perp on tape. He’s got something big planned, and he’s confident he can pull it off. It’s more than just one hit, I’d place my chips on that. So think along those lines.”
Elmer gazed at his notes again. He hummed, frowned, and scratched his ear. “For him to make that transition, he needs a certain expertise. He has to have some technical skills.” Elmer paused in thought. Probably eliminating possibilities. “For now, I’m ruling out a bomb. Even if he was capable, he’d never get it past security.”
Mac exchanged a knowing glance with Elmer. “Arson?”
Elmer nodded. “Probably simplest for him. I think we can extend our fire safety inspection.”
Mac’s cell phone vibrated. He looked at the display. “Fire chief,” he said as he clicked the button to receive the call. He listened for a while and then said, “Yeah that’s great, we’re on our way to do some pre-planning.” He clicked off. “Full uniform, Elmer, we’re competing with the fire guys. They’ll meet us at the stadium in one hour from now.”
“And Riley?” asked Elmer.
“Riley will be undercover. A computer consultant, helping us out on business continuity and backup procedures. He’ll travel separately.”