I got nicked completely by accident.
I left me flat and petted Constable the cat goodbye for the last time before heading out for me excursion, as I called them. I did these from time to time, leaving mid-morning and heading out and stopping at places that interested me.
The first suspicion I had something was wrong came while I was walking down the boulevard. I was on me way to me dinner spot and had stopped to look in a window and I saw a couple ahead of me. I had seen them before and what struck me was the woman: she was wearing a red top and blue skirt, an ensemble that looked like a cheerleader’s uniform. It was the second time I had seen them that day, having also spotted them while visiting the library. With her was a rather serious-looking man who had copper written all over him.
I didn’t like the looks of this at all. Certainly, you run into the odd person from time to time on outings like this but something seemed incongruous and out of place. A lifetime working it taught me to trust me instincts and me instincts said this was trouble. You can’t go fleeing immediately, though, because that lets them know that you know and then they come and get you. You have to act completely natural. You can’t dawdle, of course. You must hurry but not rush and as I furtively considered matters, I gave myself an OK shot of getting out of this and back to me flat and Constable the cat. I also gave meself an OK shot at sleeping in a cell tonight.
I feigned enthrallment in whatever was in the display front of me. I couldn’t tell. I was looking in the window’s reflection to see what I could see and it was most discouraging: a cop car parked – illegally, mind you – across the street and a gaggle of rather official-looking folks on the sidewalk across the street. I could hear, vaguely, a helicopter above. I wanted to enter the store, but it was closed.
I thought about Constable the cat and turned to take what free steps remained for me.
The couple came out of the store they were in and faced me. I continued the charade by desperately trying to make it look like I’d forgotten something and turned around.
When I turned around, there was the constable. He called me by me real name, the one I was given at birth. I hadn’t used it for years and it sounded odd to hear. So did the sound of handcuffs being applied.
That was that.
I was nicked.
I couldn’t believe the phone call. It was from Harris. He said he was in a donut shop at a certain intersection when he overheard a man in a tough to determine but obviously foreign accent use the phrase “some zero good” and wasn’t that the phrase the criminal liked to use in his letters?
My stomach froze and my feet got warm. Of course, that was the phrase he used. In letters, on the phone once or twice, the criminal used that phrase virtually every time I’d heard from him. Harris described him and while it wasn’t an exact match I long ago learned the criminal knew how to work a disguise. Harris said he was a trim Caucasian male of more or less average height. Close enough. I told Harris that if he didn’t want to be pounding a beat in Isola that night he’d do well to keep the critter in view.
The criminal had done his work well. Very well. Too well for my taste. He had been impossible to find. We’re good cops and, of course, we have assorted techniques for finding people, some of them effective, but if you are chasing someone who knows what he is doing he will be almost impossible to find. Plainly the criminal had planned for this evolution. We have sources and none of them knew anything. Even our source in the Firm who had squealed on him knew nothing. Once he fled out the back door of his building we lost him. Of course, we were able to track the taxi he took and the driver remembered both him and his drop-off point, but he had been let off in a busy part of town and we had lost his trail there. It was probably nowhere near where he ended up.
Harris did his work well, too. The criminal had some zero reason – Christ, he even had me saying it, now – to expect a tail and it was a crowded boulevard and it was a weekend so there were lots of people and one more man wandering around with a donut would hardly be noticed.
I was at home, well, what was passing as a home since my divorce, but that’s another story, when Harris’ call came. Where he was spotted was not conveniently located to my house so I dressed quickly, got my piece and my shield, and headed out. Driving and parking in this town is a fiasco on par with herding geese, and the subway was as quick a way to get there as any. On the way, I called the office, which was pretty close to where Harris sighted him, briefed the agent on duty and told him to send every available agent to the area and for heaven’s sake make sure they were looking casual about it. We didn’t need to alarm him with a law enforcement invasion, even plainclothes, because if you know what you’re looking for, and the criminal probably did, cops can stick out like sore thumbs even if they are dressed like nuns.
Harris kept me posted via text. Soon the cell numbers of all involved agents were added. We got a break when he went into the library. A female agent named Conroy joined Harris and they posed as a couple.
The original arrest warrant – the one we tried to execute the night he scrammed – was still active and I told the crew that if the option was to arrest him or lose him to arrest him, but otherwise wait until I was there before hooking him up. Arrest first, ID later. If it turned out not to be him, our bad, I would deal with the consequences. But I had never heard anyone say some zero anything before much less in every other sentence as the criminal did. Now, there were millions of people in this city and it was not unreasonable to expect others might use this phrase, but coming from a male with a foreign accent, well, this was too much of a coincidence to be ignored.
All of us knew the area well and it wasn’t too difficult a matter to coordinate my agents. The library visit bought us some time and his stay was long enough to get other agents in the area. In fact, when the criminal left the library and turned toward the Dinner District, we had had agents outside the main entrance – which the criminal had no reason not to use – and Harris and Conroy were actually able to walk ahead of the criminal. It’s not easy tailing someone from in front, but modern communications made it doable.
I made it to the area in pretty good time. I exited the subway station on the boulevard and in short order was met up with two agents who were tailing the agent who was tailing the criminal. It wasn’t the most difficult tail in law enforcement history. The criminal was in no rush to do anything, spending a weekend afternoon strolling the boulevard at leisure, stopping at a variety of shops though purchasing nothing. Helen Keller probably could have tailed him and not lost him.
The criminal appeared to have caught Harris and Conroy out of the corner of his eye and just as apparently recognized them and, despite the fact they were ahead of him, plainly became suspicious. He must have recognized them from the library. He was probably also suspicious of the city police car that happened to pull up right then, but we had nothing to do with that, a stroke of luck Fate is probably still wondering whether to classify as good or bad.
I was now close enough to get a decent visual on him. He was taller than we thought and had hair, but he was trim and take away lifts and a wig it was a close enough match to go and get him. I texted Harris and Conroy to step out into the street and head towards us. The time had come to move.
The criminal had good instincts. He knew. He fought it to the end, but he knew. By chance, the store was closed so he couldn’t go in so he headed down the street, saw Harris and Conroy, and turned around, where he saw me.
His hands were in view.
I told him he was under arrest, we could do this the easy way or the hard way, his call, though soon it would be mine.
He raised his hands a bit, the universal sign of surrender.
The pursuit was over. It took several years and had cost me my marriage and damn near my sanity.
But it was over.
I said nothing.
Or, more accurately, I said very little. One of the rights the accused enjoy here in the States is the right to remain silent and when they asked me if I would give up me right to remain silent I said bloody well not. It was one of the rules of the Firm not to talk to bloody coppers and while I wasn’t entirely certain Firm rules still applied to me it was a good lesson to heed anyway because it was not unprecedented for the constables not to have much of a case when they hauled somebody in and every now and then you will run into a constable who knows what he is doing and is able to extract a confession when silence would have resulted in liberty. I was not entirely sure what kind of case the constables had but it couldn’t have been much because I did not kill the ambassador. Somebody else did.
I couldn’t see too much out of the van they had me in, but I was able to recognize the plaza and the building I had stalked the constable from. After that, it was tough to see too much because they covered me eyes, but I got the impression we were driving down a ramp. I was taken out of the van and I was led to a door that sounded like it was open from the inside because I wasn’t stopped to be let in. I was led through several doors and down a lift. A barred door was opened, I was led forward a few more steps and told to stop. They removed the blinders and I was standing in a small jail.
Behind me was the barred area where the lift was. Ahead of me another barred area that featured three cells, doored, not barred. Off to the left were some doors that probably led to offices or utility rooms. The bottom half of the walls were painted dark green. The upper part beige.
I was booked in. Had me photo and fingerprints taken. I said nothing. Let me fingerprints identify me, they were taken when I was booked into the nick back home. Me clothes, me everything, was taken from me, I was strip-searched – which would never stop being insulting – and given an orange jumpsuit and some slip-on sneakers. From the booking area I was taken to a cell.
One end was barred off and here were the three cells. I was taken to one of them and told to enter.
Later the screw came by and said meals would be brought over from the neighboring jail each day. Two proper meals, morning and evening, with a sandwich or something equally grim at noon. The alleged meals were kept in a plastic bag and were kept cold until heated in boiling water, which the screw was able to do on a stove.
Blimey, this was depressing. I’ve had me share of nick food, of course, and based on the way these barbarians treated me it wasn’t too difficult to imagine the food here being barely edible.
Fortunately, since I had money, the screw said I could order something from nearby restaurants. This would save them the hassle of having to go to the jail, which he said was a pain in the arse, and would benefit me by giving me edible meals. For that night they went and got me a sandwich.
I barely tasted it. I was completely demoralized. I had no idea how they had made me. I couldn’t even muster up a fantastic guess and when later I found out it was because some bloody copper had overheard me say some zero good, well, I wanted to weep. I was nicked thanks to some of the worst luck in human history. Not because of any skill on the constable’s part, and Lord knows it wasn’t due to any idiocy on me part, it was stupid bad luck. Had I gone somewhere else – had he gone somewhere else – I wouldn’t be here. Had I kept me mouth shut I wouldn’t be here. Had he not been paying attention I wouldn’t be here. Had I not left the house, had me parents never met.
Already, missing Constable the cat was tearing me insides out. Eventually, I’d have to talk, trading information for taking care of Constable. Ever prepared, I never left him without a week’s worth of food and a couple-three boxes for him to doo-doo in but I couldn’t leave him by himself in the flat forever and ever. The idea of the constables taking care of Constable also tore me heart out.
I didn’t sleep very well that night.