Iron Angels – Snippet 12
Temple and Vance stayed at the animal control scene long enough to see the coroner’s van arrive followed by a black SUV. A grumpy looking man with round spectacles exited the van while two women wearing cargo pants and dark blue shirts emblazoned with FBI and ERT exited the SUV and marched purposefully over to Jasper and his cop friend, Pete.
“Hold on a moment,” Jasper said to the two women and focused on Temple and Vance. “I’ll see you later?”
“Fine,” Temple said. “But don’t be late — we have work to do.”
Jasper rolled his eyes. “Yeah, sure.”
“Let’s go.” Temple motioned for Vance to get in their rental. She started the car but kept the air conditioning off and lowered the windows. Jasper was pointing and gesticulating like a madman as he appeared to lecture the two women who were Evidence Response Team members. The rental was far enough away that she couldn’t make out the words but she imagined what the man was thinking and could probably guess what he was saying. Agent Jasper Wilde was probably thinking the women loved their “chick SWAT.” Bureau women didn’t typically join the tactically-minded and typically knuckle-dragging group known as SWAT — Special Weapons and Tactics — but preferred the more cerebral ERT, the Evidence Response Team, known as “chick SWAT” by a few women Temple had known on ERT.
“Hey boss –”
Temple’s grip on the steering wheel tightened and her head snapped toward Vance. “What?” she demanded. Then she took a deep breath and relaxed. “I’m sorry. It’s just that –”
Temple nodded toward Jasper. “That annoying man out there is going to be trouble. He’s already gotten under my skin and we were with him for what, five minutes?”
“I don’t know, he’s probably all right.” Vance stared through the windshield and not at Temple. “When you were in the field didn’t you resent having HQ show up?”
“HQ never showed up in the field, except for maybe meetings at the office, but –”
“No, you’re right,” Temple conceded. “The field hates it when HQ butts in. But if he’s the agent we have to deal with out here, Lord do I hope it’s only for a day or two.”
She swung the car around and headed for the Euclid Hotel.
“So, Temple, what’s the plan? Where are we going, not our hotel, right?”
“No. It’s too early to check in, but we are going to drive by another hotel, the Euclid, maybe we can sweet talk the police they left there into allowing us in, and then we’ll head over to Merrillville and the hotel, see if we can get an early check-in.”
Vance yanked his neck to the right, then the left, cupped his chin in his right hand and shoved to the right and then to the left, filling the car with pops and snaps and cracks. Temple’s stomach grumbled — now she wanted some cereal, Rice Crispies.
“You done? If so, how does that plan sound to you?” Temple asked.
“I’m hungry, but yes, that sounds good.”
As they drove by the Euclid, they spotted two police still watching over the abandoned hotel, so they didn’t bother stopping or even slowing up much for that matter. Temple swung into the first greasy spoon she spotted, hoping to soak up some local color, or perhaps overhear some gossip about what happened the evening before. But the place was close to empty and the few people who were in there kept to themselves, so they just ate and left.
They drove by the FBI office in Merrillville and farther down the road found their hotel. It was a decent looking place, part of a major chain but certainly no Hilton or Marriott. She was glad Vance hadn’t chosen the Express, since he’d be cracking that silly joke about knowing how to do everything since they had stayed there. Temple smiled. Vance wasn’t perfect, but he was easy to work with and willing to put in crazy hours in the name of science.
Jasper phoned his boss, Supervisory Special Agent Johnson, the senior Agent of the Merrillville office, requesting a meeting for around seventeen hundred. Johnson met his request with a sigh. His excuses all sounded the same — something about his kids, but Jasper read between the lines. Johnson simply didn’t want to come in on a Saturday, especially when he discovered no crisis existed. After hearing about the headquarters people and the mangled body on Gary Avenue, he capitulated and promised he’d meet Jasper at the office, but that whatever this problem was better not take long.
Pete had already arrived at the diner in Hessville where they’d directed the informant to meet them. Pete’s Crown Vic was empty, and Jasper spied Pete through the window, seated alone at a booth.
Jasper found meeting an informant such as this one in a public place safer, and the odds of a successful recruitment higher. The locations for gang informants mattered, since a bad one could result in the death of the informant. But with this type of person, someone who’d simply reported the whereabouts of a missing girl, the diner was a decent place to break the ice. It was well-known in the area and had been in business for years.
This particular diner was located outside of East Chicago, since Hessville was one of the neighborhoods in nearby Hammond, but it was close enough that straying into another local department’s jurisdiction wouldn’t be an issue for Pete. They weren’t actively working a case, anyway; the meeting was for informational and recruitment purposes. And meeting in the middle of the afternoon meant the three men wouldn’t be hassled to finish and get out.
The diner’s exterior demanded a new paint job. The fake luster reminiscent of so many diners had tarnished, the railing was pocked with rust, and the concrete steps cracked. Often with diners like this, though, the food was a lot better than the rundown appearance. Jasper hadn’t eaten here in quite a while, but as he recalled the meal had been good if not outstanding.
A middle-aged hostess greeted Jasper, but he nodded toward the dining room and she gestured for him to head on in. All neighborhood diners like this featured the same sort of smell — fried food laced with coffee followed by a tinge of sweetness. A few even claimed wet dog as a featured scent, but not this one.
“Glad you could make it.” Pete grasped a mug with both hands, as if warming them.
“I had to call my boss.”
“About those headquarters people?”
A waitress appeared, wearing black and white attire and holding a little pad in one finely manicured hand and a pencil in the other. She had a tattoo on her neck and a spike protruding from beneath her bottom lip.
“Something to drink?”
“I don’t suppose you’d be able to make a cappuccino?” Jasper asked.
“Sorry, hon,” she splayed her hands, “don’t do those here. But the coffee is drinkable.”
“A coffee then, cream only.”
“Something to eat?”
“We’re waiting on someone else,” Pete said, glancing past Jasper toward the entrance.
She nodded and walked off.
Pete grinned. “You’re probably not much older, my friend. You go for her type?”
“What do you think?”
“How should I know? You don’t date anyone. Just askin’,” Pete said. “Ah, there he is — has to be him.”
Jasper turned in his seat for a glimpse and spun back around. A short Hispanic male, glancing about nervously, stood inside the door. He wore a short-sleeved, black and white checkered button-down shirt and faded but intact jeans. On his feet were work boots, steel-toed. A factory worker most likely, but Jasper’d been wrong before on his attempts at profiling. He’d been wrong about his wife, Lucy, after all. He reminded himself that there was no point in allowing his personal life and divorce to take up residence once again in his head.
“I’ll go get him,” Pete said.
“He can sit next to me, you think that’ll work?”
“That’d be better.”
The waitress returned with Jasper’s coffee as Pete and the informant arrived. After an awkward moment of jockeying for seats, Pete and the informant sat across from Jasper, with Pete scooted all the way to the window.
Jasper tilted his head and Pete flashed a quick grin in return. There were always plans, and they usually never worked out the way they were drawn. The seating arrangements were less than optimal, but acceptable. Jasper believed having Pete sit across from the informant better because he figured they’d do most of the talking, leaving Jasper to his coffee.