Bernstein yawned. “Look detective, you can see my client is becoming stressed out with the same line of questioning. You’re giving me a headache as well. Either charge him or release him. Then we can all get on with our lives.”
Mac dived in quick. “I’ll get our doctor to give Mr. Shepherd a onceover, make sure we’re treating him right,” he said for the benefit of the tape. “Any objections?”
Bernstein raised an eyebrow. He shrugged his shoulders. “Go ahead if it helps any, and ask for some acetaminophen for me while you’re at it.”
Mac switched off the tape and called for a recess. Coffee and Danish from the canteen to keep them quiet. He left Bernstein talking to Shepherd while he rushed out to call in the hospital doctor.
The doctor wasn’t too pleased. “Hell, Mac, it’s Saturday afternoon. Bees game, remember? Got the kids all geared up for it.”
“Look, Sam you know I wouldn’t call you in if it could wait. You’ll be in and out in fifteen minutes tops.”
“What you want me to do?”
Mac told him, and warned him. “Sam, if it turns out we missed this first time around, we’ll be eating dog crap if Bernstein finds out. You know how it works. Keep it under wraps and leave me to handle any fallout, ok?”
“Okay, Mac I’ll be right there. Give me forty to get through the freeway traffic. Real busy day today.”
“Okay Sam, I owe you one,” replied Mac.
It took an hour, ten. And a further hour for Elmer to confirm the worst. Sam concurred with Yvonne’s testimony. Vasectomy scar. The lab confirmed no discernable sperm. They were still working on the DNA for completeness.
Mac pulled Elmer to one side. “What the fuck we do now?” he asked.
Elmer gave Mac the bad news. “We bring Andy in on it. It’s too big for us to handle alone. We got one chance. Locate Mason before he brings havoc to Longfield.”
Mac huffed. “If it’s Mason,” he replied. “And among sixty thousand or so Bees’ fans.”
“You got any better ideas?”
Mac hadn’t. They brought Andy in from the incident room and gave him the low-down. He took it surprisingly well. “Even doctors shit. It happens. I’ll call in every available off duty cop to help you. Low key security check, so as not to spook the guy, but we’ll do our damnedest to prevent the perp from starting anything. “I’ll fill in the Chief, and handle Bernstein and Shepherd, ok?”
Mac thought awhile. “Andy...” he started, but Andy cut him off.
“I don’t want to hear what you got planned. It’s still off the record. Just watch your backs.”
Later Elmer asked Mac what they did have planned. “Like you said, how do we find a guy among sixty thousand, that’s if he’s even in the stadium? Could be in Canada by now.”
“I don’t think so,” replied Mac. “That was a ruse to put anyone off his scent. Think on it. He wouldn’t miss this game for love nor money.”
Elmer agreed. “Yeah you’re right. The profile fits perfectly. Mason is definitely our perp. All we got to do is to find him.”
“I’ve been thinking on that,” replied Mac. “We’ll change into casuals, and go down to the stadium and follow Rusty’s advice. Look for anything unusual; see if that gets us anywhere. If not, we’ll get the TV guys to pan through the fans. It’s a long shot, but we got nothing better right now.”
Elmer jumped up. “I’ll rustle up media pictures of him. See what he’s like close up.”
Mac glanced at his watch. Four o’clock. “I reckon we got maybe four hours tops. He wants to see the game. If anything is going to happen, it’ll be after the game ends.” He looked at Elmer. “Buddy, I gotta come clean. My folks and Katie went looking for tickets. Dad’s still got a lot of contacts.”
“Aw fuck,” replied Elmer. “You didn’t say anything?”
Mac hung his head. “We had Shepherd locked up. Dad said he’d take care of Katie. What did you expect me to do? Tell Katie maybe we had the wrong man, and worry the shit out of her?”
“I guess not,” said Elmer, opening the door. “Stop feeling sorry for yourself, ok? What’s done is done. Get your ass into gear, we’re wasting time.”
Mac perked up. Elmer was right. He got up and punched the air. “Mission Impossible, here we come.”
By the time Mac and Elmer made it into the VIP area of the stadium parking lot the game had started. A pasty-faced tout with a cigarette hanging from a corner of his mouth offered him last minute tickets at a discount, but Mac showed his ID. Told him to get lost or be busted.
“Let’s circle around outside first,” said Mac. “See if we can spot anything out of place, or a fire risk.” To save time, they agreed to split up and meet up at the back of the stadium. This took a while.
Outside, a party atmosphere was in full swing. Impromptu barbecue grills from the back of pick-ups in the parking lot. Families were out and around in the late afternoon sunshine; children were running in and out of the thong, blowing horns and screaming.
It was chaos. Mac looked unhappily at the crowds outside. If Mason caused any emergency inside, it would be a catastrophe if tens of thousands poured out in panic. He could create havoc and still escape unnoticed.
He stopped by a concession stand and ordered up a ‘five-dollar special’ chili-dog from the perspiring chef. The guy wrapped up the dog in a paper napkin and handed it to Mac. “Help yourself to extra sauce,” he told Mac, pointing to a tray of assorted plastic bottles. Mac chose the red one. Either catsup or relish, he wasn’t sure, but it tasted ok. He finished it long before he met up with Elmer at the back entrance, wiping the crumbs from his mouth, and stuffing the greasy napkin in an overflowing trash can. Elmer shook his head. Nothing unusual. Mac pointed to the security gate. “Okay, let’s check out this gate,” he said.
The team leader of the grounds crew, Herby Scott according to his nametag, removed his shades and examined Mac’s ID closely. “I already talked to one of your patrol cops just a while back,” he volunteered. “What’s up? You expecting trouble, or something?”
Mac sized him up. Large blob of a guy, balding, over-stretched uniform creased and stained. Large bag of candy on the desk, with wrappers strewn around. Probably a lazy son-of-a-bitch. Mac told him it was normal practice at a high profile game with all the dignitaries present. Now if he could just show their log, they’d get out of his hair.
Herby grumbled a bit, but searched around his desktop, and produced the record from under a pile of documents.
Mac skimmed through it. “What’s this?” he said, pointing to the Fairview tanker entry.
Scott popped some candy into his mouth and chewed on it. “Regular delivery, early this morning. Seems like TV demand a perfect green look. Ordered by Tom Kennedy, himself.” He pointed to the pump house in the distance. “Went over there someplace. In and out in just under an hour.”
“You get a look at who’s driving?” asked Elmer, preparing to pull out a photo-still.
“According to the early morning crew, just a regular Joe wearing green Fairview overalls and a Bees cap. We checked the ID documents. Everything was in order.”
Elmer showed him the photo. “This Joe?’ he asked.
The team leader studied it, and scratched his nose. “Well I was kind of busy,” he confessed. “The Joe talked with the crew; I just gave him the nod and opened the barrier.”
Elmer looked exasperated. “Here take the photo, and go and show it around your crew. See if someone recognizes it.”
“Hell, detective, the early morning shift checked out at four. I’m the only one still on duty, and I’m out of here soon.” He looked at his watch, and grabbed at his bag of candy. “First quarter’s already underway.”
Mac took hold of the guy’s arm. Put some pressure on it to show he was being serious. “This is important. Any of your guys still in the stadium watching the game?”
The team leader regarded Mac closely. “This is more than checking out security, huh?” he asked.
Mac exchanged a look with Elmer. “Herby,” he said. Becoming all friendly like with the fat asshole. “We got a looney on the loose. Might try and upset the dignitaries. This game being on TV and all.”
Herby Scott raised an eyebrow. “Looney, huh? This guy dangerous?” he said, stuffing some more candy down his throat.
Elmer jumped in. “Mr. Scott. We’re wasting time. Just contact your crew.” He pulled out his card and gave it to Herby. ‘Here’s my number. Call me if any of them ID the Joe, ok?”
The team leader nodded. “Where you two going?” he asked.
“We’ll be around,” replied Mac. He was going to add, ‘Doing your job, and checking out the stadium,’ but decided not to antagonize the jerk. Not yet anyway.
Mac fiddled at the padlock attached to the door of the pump house. “New padlock, high security all round,” he said.
Elmer peered through a barred window, the glass coated with dust. “Just a tank and pipes, all electronically controled, by what I can see,” he said, wiping away at the dust. “Looks pretty clean inside; nothing else.”
Mac turned around. “I’ll try and find someone to open this up while you go and search out the TV crew, ok?”
Elmer nodded, and they both quickly moved off towards the action. Mac left Elmer to mingle amongst the spectators while he went in search of a grounds man. The lady at the information desk told him to go down the passage towards the locker room area. With any luck there would be someone who could help. Mac raced down the passage, searching for someone who looked like a maintenance person. He rounded a corner and bumped into a tall thin youth wearing a tracksuit. “You looking for someone?” the youth asked. Frowning at the intrusion.
Mac flashed his ID. “Maintenance or grounds man, someone who can access the pump house at the back of the ground.” He paused for effect and began to speak slowly. “This – is – important.”
The youth disregarded Mac’s urgency. “Well you’re out of luck, detective. This is Saturday. There’s no one here. So you can piss-off. Come back Monday.”
Mac restrained himself. Just. “Look, you asshole. If I’m not in that pump house in the next thirty minutes, I’ll drag you down there myself and use your fucking head to batter open the door. Do I make myself clear?”
The youth sniffed. Didn’t appear too fazed. “You lay one finger on me; my father will have you fired from the force.”
Mac was taken aback by this show of spirit. He was going to say, ‘I don’t give a fuck about your father,’ but thought the better of it. “Who the hell is your father?’ he asked.
The youth smirked. “Tom Kennedy, Bees’ chairman and owner of around everything in this state, including your police chief,” he replied. “I’m Steve Kennedy.”
Mac groaned inwardly. Not only were the ground staff on leave, but now he had to tackle Tom Kennedy’s son. Keeping a low profile was becoming very difficult. He tried a subterfuge. “Well Steve, you show me where they keep the keys and I’ll open it myself, ok?”
Steve shook his head. “Eddie Nicholls, head grounds man is the only one with the pump house key,” he replied. And I haven’t seen him today.”
Mac kept his patience. “How do I get hold of this Eddie Nicholls?”
“You could try his home,” Steve suggested.
Mac tried again. “Where - is - that?” he asked through gritted teeth.
Steve shrugged his shoulders. “No idea, you’re the cop. Look it up on your database.” He looked closely at Mac. “You do have a database don’t you?”
Mac turned his back, and flipped open his cell before he hit the smarmy kid. One day he’d get even with Steve Kennedy. Fit him up good. Even if it meant crossing Bernstein to do it. He left the grinning youth, and walked back outside where the reception was clearer, but the stadium noise was deafening.
“Nine-eleven,” he shouted at the police desk clerk when she answered. “Get me an address for Eddie Nicholls, maybe also try Edward. ASAP. I’ll hold on.”
He waited. Saw the center hike the ball to Babe George but the crowd groaned as the famous quarterback fumbled the pass. Dead ball. Soon be half-time. Bees down three points to their opponents’ touchdown, rectified partly by their last minute field goal in the first quarter. He tried scanning the crowds, searching for Katie and his parents. All he could see was a mass of colors and scarves being waved. Eventually the desk clerk came back. “Mac, we got over two dozen with ‘E’ initials. And that’s just central Longfield. You got anything else, like a zip code or something?”
Mac swore. Loudly.
“Mac,” she added. “More bad news. Even if we get an address, all our available patrols are at the stadium.”
Mac swore again. “Okay, I’ll get back to you,” he said. He had to think it through.
He found a concession stand and ordered another chili-dog. “Seven bucks, mister,” said the guy. “Help yourself to extra relish.” He pointed to a large plastic bottle with green sauce dripping from the nozzle.
Mac frowned. “It’s only five dollars outside,” he complained. “And they got catsup.”
The guy looked at him. “Mister, we got higher overheads. You want to go outside, I’m not stopping you. I got plenty of customers to serve. Now do you want a chili-dog or not?”
Mac handed over the seven bucks. “Make sure you put in plenty of chili and onions.” Then sat down on a grey plastic chair to chomp through his chilli dog. He had got to the point where Mason had somehow constructed and hidden explosives in the pump house, hoping to set them off after the game. But it didn’t fit. It didn’t fully explain the tanker. Fertilizer. You could make a homemade bomb using it, but a tanker full? It didn’t make sense. He had to get inside the pump house. But how could he track down Eddie Nicholls? The Bees’ administrative office was closed.
And then he remembered. Cindy would know. He punched in Rusty’s number on his cell phone and waited. It rang and then went into voicemail. Rusty couldn’t answer right then. Leave a message after the tone. Mac nearly screamed in frustration, but he asked Rusty to get back to him. Urgently. Matter of life or death. He ended the call. Elmer hadn’t contacted him either. Time to go and find him. Pan the crowds until someone got back to them. It was half-time. There was nothing else he could do.
Just then his cell phone rang. Katie’s name on the screen. “Mac, we got tickets,” she said. “Your Dad got lucky.” Voice excited. “Up in section C grandstand, close to the firework display. Can’t talk, battery low. Take care.”
Mac watched the call end. Hell, he thought. Anywhere but there.