Iron Angels – Snippet 22
Pulsing lights, red and blue, struck them as they drove upon the scene in Jasper’s bucar, the Dodge Charger. He hadn’t gone lights and sirens as Temple had urged, seeing no need. At this time of night, traffic was negligible in this part of town. They had rolled for the spot of the abduction in Gary, but had quickly deviated when they’d heard of the accident near the Euclid Hotel.
“Got your creds on you, I hope?” Jasper regretted asking Temple the question as soon as the words left his lips.
Her eyes bored into him. He didn’t dare ask if she carried her firearm. “No need to be touchy, so many HQ types forsake their weapons — ”
“I don’t work in the Hoover building, remember?”
They arrived at the hotel and Jasper parked half a block away so as not to impede the rescue work. An ambulance was already on the scene along with a couple of cop cars.
Temple immediately got out. “Let’s go see what happened.”
Jasper approached the nearest uniformed officer and displayed his creds. “I work with Pete.”
The officer, a young Hispanic male, arched an eyebrow. “We have a few Petes running around, care to elaborate?”
“Yeah, we have one of those. What do you want?”
Temple stepped forward. “We’re working a couple of sensitive investigations involving deaths, likely a murder, as well as kidnappings. Let us through.”
The officer gave way and gestured for them to pass, exaggerating with a sweeping motion as if treating them like royalty.
“You know,” Jasper said, “I do have to work with these locals. You won’t be here for much longer, but this is my territory and rebuilding a bunch of bridges you apparently know how to burn down with a certain kind of flair does not sound like fun.”
“Calm down, he’s a big boy, he’ll get by. They always do. Besides, he’ll keep quiet about a woman giving him a hard time.”
“If you say so.”
“That’s probably the only time you’ll utter those words,” Jasper muttered, not thinking she could hear him.
She proved him wrong immediately. “I have excellent hearing and the words ‘I do’ have crossed my lips before.”
“Didn’t know you were married.” Jasper was embarrassed and regretted the barb.
“Yes, but it’s over and I don’t talk about it. You of all people should understand, right? Now, let’s figure this scene out before the night becomes morning. I’m tired and cranky.”
“You’re telling me.”
Temple’s head swiveled and her eyes had the don’t-push-it stare she’d probably mastered while still in the crib.
The scene smacked Jasper in the face, and Temple sucked in a startled breath. A body covered in a white sheet lolled from an opening on the side of what was once a mini-van. A breeze caught the sheet exposing for a moment the victim beneath. Jasper took in all he could — a piece of white cloth adorned her neck — a gag? Yes, a gag that had been pulled free. A thin rope, maybe twine of some sort, laced about her lifeless body, obviously cut free by the responding EMTs.
“Bound and gagged,” Jasper said. “African-American.”
“And now dead. You can say black, by the way,” Temple scowled.
“Sorry, just trying to be — ”
“Yeah, I know, politically correct. But what a horrible way to go.”
“Is there any other way?” Jasper shook his head in disgust. “I mean, all the deaths these past couple of days have been horrible.”
Would things get worse? Could they? People were dying daily since Jasper had assisted in the rescue of Teresa at the Euclid Hotel, which now loomed over the intersection like a beacon of death.
They worked their way into the twisted metal littering the intersection. Two EMTs worked on one of the crash victims sprawled alongside a crushed hunk of metal, presumably a Chevy Astro. The other vehicle, a sedan, had suffered as much damage as the Astro, including a blown-out windshield. The person lying on the ground next to that vehicle had flown through the smashed windshield. Jasper had a hard time believing some people still refused to wear safety belts.
“Hey!” Temple called out to the nearest East Chicago Cop, a young black male. He spun, searching for the word’s owner. He visibly scowled as they approached. Jasper kept his face neutral, and for once, hoped to see what Temple’s demeanor would do to the unsuspecting.
“Civilians are supposed to be outside the perimeter.” The cop turned away, expecting the encounter to be over.
“We’re FBI.” Temple thrust her arm forward and practically smacked the cop in the face with her credentials. He stepped back, and recovered quickly.
“So? This is an accident. Didn’t realize accidents fell under the Bureau’s jurisdiction.” He tried to turn away again, but Temple grabbed his shoulder and prevented the action. The cop glanced at her hand and then into her eyes. He was the first to break eye contact.
“I’m not here to make trouble,” she said. Despite the mollifying words, her tone made it clear that if the ECPD officer wanted trouble she’d be happy to oblige him. “But this accident is likely related to an ongoing investigation your department turned over to the Bureau.”
“All right, all right,” he said.
Jasper stepped forward and glanced at the cop’s name tag. “Officer Jackson, I’m Agent Wilde. Jasper Wilde, I work with Pete Hernandez.”
The cop’s features softened. “Why didn’t you say so right off? You have a question, Agent Wilde?”
“Not just yet, but I believe Agent Black here did.” He glanced at her. “Temple?”
Temple shook her head. Exasperated, perhaps? “There an ID on the black woman over there. The one that’d been gagged and bound. Also, how many people were involved?” She gestured at the hunk of sheet metal and plastic. “And anyone else in the van beside the woman who’s now mixed in with the mini-van wreckage? The driver maybe?”
The cop’s smile morphed into the deepest frown Jasper’d ever seen.
“We’re not sure about the driver of the van, but the driver of the other vehicle,” the cop pointed with his flashlight at the other hunk of twisted metal, “probably won’t make it. That’s who they’re working on now. The evidence you pointed out does suggest a kidnapping, but she was deceased when we arrived on the scene.”
“From the accident or other means?”
“We believe the accident killed her, and you know that’s not my call,” the cop said, “but what do you mean by other means?”
“May we take a peek?”
“She’s already been picked over and gawked at, the poor soul.”
“We insist.” Temple walked around the cop.
Jasper shrugged and hoped his expression came across as apologetic. If Temple persisted in approaching every situation in her brash manner, the potential of each day feeling like a week increased.
Jasper caught up to Temple and touched her shoulder. She spun on him and her eyes smoldered with anger.
“You don’t have to be so smug,” she said. “You know, every time I interact with someone you feel this need to rescue me.”
“I’m not rescuing you, I’m salvaging relationships you’re destroying. One of the reasons I’m here is to smooth over your liaison with the locals and anyone else we meet,” Jasper said. “I’m not trying to be an ass.”
“You’re well past trying.”
“Let’s not make this bad situation harder than it needs to be. How about this,” he said, and waited for her to calm herself.
“Okay. If we have to interact with other law enforcement agencies, I’ll take the lead, please. I’ll tee them up for you, but you can’t come in here acting like we’re the big dogs even if we are. Perpetuating what these guys already believe about the Bureau does us no good.”
“All right, all right.” She sighed. “Let’s get this over with.”
“You’ve been around crime scenes before, right? I mean, messy, brutal scenes.”
“Too many. And not all with the Bureau, I’m afraid.”
“All right, just making sure.”
“You don’t need to protect me.”
“Pfft, as if you’d ever need protecting.”
Jasper edged past Temple, taking the lead and approaching the body. A breeze rippled the sheet resting on her body allowing a glimpse, but not enough to tear away the cloth, unlike the impact responsible for tearing the life from her. Jasper’s jaw clenched and the back of his head ached from the repetitive nature of the action. He loosened his jaw, working it back and forth.
“You okay?” Temple asked.
“This is senseless violence.” He lifted his chin and gazed at the stars poking through the clouds. “A pointless death. I’m tired.” He lowered his gaze on the rippling sheet, imagining the dead woman beneath. Who she was. If she’d been on the way to meet friends, or just coming back from a good time. He always imagined the best, even if what he witnessed most of the time was humans at their worst, but his imagination was no match for the truth laying at his feet. “Let’s see if this incident is related to the other kidnapping and get this over with.”
Unbidden, Temple stepped forward and whisked the sheet off the body, as if performing some sort of magic trick.
Jasper had seen many bodies during his time on the streets with the locals as well as during his time on the Evidence Response Team. The Bureau was routinely requested by other agencies to assist with evidence recovery since they were without peer when processing crime scenes from an administrative purity angle, not to mention the eventual testifying required.