Iron Angels – Snippet 34
They rolled up on the traffic light across from the Euclid Hotel around three in the afternoon, and got a fresh red ball at Euclid and East Chicago Avenue. The intersection, teeming with police, firefighters, and EMTs the night before, stood eerily quiet for a weekend day. The mayhem and destruction and death were thoroughly erased, as if the kidnapping, accident, and pointless deaths never occurred.
Jasper shivered despite the heat of the day — and the hotbox Temple created out of the rental vehicle.
“Hard to believe.”
“Yeah, not so much as a piece of glass out here. Hey, you think your Evidence Response Team descended on the old man’s residence this morning?”
“They’re probably at the scene now. But they’ll be by the numbers and not extrapolate, I’m sure.” Bile crept into the back of Jasper’s mouth just thinking about the Senior Team Leader of the ERT program for the Indianapolis Field Office, Special Agent Morris Chan. Jasper swallowed, but the sour taste lingered. “Got any breath mints on you?”
“No, but I bet the woman in the hospital, Hazel, had Certs or LifeSavers.”
“Wow, your grandmother did that too?” Jasper grinned.
“Didn’t they all?” She laughed. “I have some gum if you’re so inclined.” She rustled in her bag with one hand, but kept her eyes on the road. “Here.”
The light turned green after what had seemed an interminable amount of time.
“Once you’re through the intersection,” Jasper stifled a shudder as they crossed over the spot of the accident, “flip a U-turn and pull up to the side of the hotel.”
Temple swung around and Jasper peered at the alleyway behind the hotel as she drove past — the same alley he’d seen the haze resembling an Asian-style dragon.
“Hey, I think Carlos’s truck is parked behind the Euclid — an off-white Toyota pickup. Pull up a little more and park.”
“Yeah, pretty sure.” Jasper frowned and propped his chin up with his fist as he rested his elbow on the armrest. “I wonder what he’s doing here?”
“I think learning more about Carlos should be on our list,” Temple said. “The same goes for that Eulalia chick from the diner.”
“Agreed.” Jasper rubbed his chin. “I remember saying the same thing to Pete during the first meeting with Carlos.”
“What should we do? Go in? See what he’s after? Confront him?”
“I was hoping to get out of this hot box and walk around the perimeter of the hotel, but now I don’t — ”
The nose of Carlos’s truck poked from the alleyway.
“Get down,” Jasper said. “Let’s hope this rentacar is generic enough that he didn’t notice it at the diner. I bet he expected us to show up at the diner in my bucar and won’t even be bothered by a car of this type parked here.”
They both ducked. Temple had pulled almost to the intersection — not far from the alleyway, but far enough that Carlos might not think anything of the vehicle.
“I wonder what he was doing here, anyway?” Temple asked. “You think the hotel’s still buttoned up, crime scene tape, and so forth?”
The sound and smell of ragged exhaust poured into the rental car. Carlos had pulled up next to them — hopefully waiting for the light at the intersection. Neither of them dared poke their heads up. For a moment, Jasper wondered why they cared so much, but if Carlos had anything to do with the mysterious cult, it’d be better to not alert him to their presence.
“We can come back to the hotel later,” Jasper said softly. “We need to follow Carlos.”
“But what if he left a signal or a mark or something?”
“Sounds like spy craft to me, and we’re not after spies, are we?” Jasper raised an eyebrow.
“It’s called tradecraft — but why can’t anyone use signals? Gangs do, right? And you work gangs, how is graffiti any different than a spy leaving a chalk mark on a telephone pole?”
“I see your point.”
The truck’s rumble deepened and for a moment grew louder, but trailed off.
They both sat up.
“He’s westbound on East Chicago Avenue, I bet, uh, turned right — ”
“I’m aware of which way west is.” Temple frowned and started the engine.
“You never know,” Jasper said, “so many people have no idea about the points of a compass. Anyway, we can come back here, let’s see what he’s up to.”
They followed Carlos, which would prove simple if he stayed on majors and other vehicles provided cover between his pickup and them. But little traffic got in the way and after a quarter mile or so he made a southbound turn on Huish Drive.
“Interesting,” Jasper said. “He isn’t heading home. Staying on East Chicago Avenue for a while would have been a safe bet. Okay, this road turns into Kennedy Avenue down here.”
“Maybe he’s going to his place of employment.” Temple glanced at Jasper.
“Maybe. It’s a weekend, butâ€¦ maybe his shop if working overtime. If he gets on the interstate following will be easy.”
But Carlos didn’t. Instead he went under the interstate and looped around to head west on Michigan Street and then south on Indianapolis.
“There are quite a few shops — not department stores — ”
“Yeah, I understand — I didn’t think we’d find a Nordstrom’s over here.” Temple rolled her eyes.
“Sorry. Don’t have to bite my head off.”
“I won’t, if you stop acting like I’m some dizzy broad,” Temple said.
“Fine. I’ll try. I’ll try to try.”
“You may be right, his employment might be over here. It’s kind of a mini industrial area.”
They had taken a few turns with Carlos where no other vehicles offered cover, and now approached a wide band of railroad tracks with an approaching train.
Carlos’s Toyota pickup belched a black glob of smoke and he accelerated over the tracks before the arms came down.
“Damn. He must have spotted us.”
“Or he rushed to beat the train?” A bit of hope crept into the sentence as Temple finished.
“I hope you’re good at re-acquiring after losing the eye,” Jasper said.
“Maybe you worked some spy stuff in the past after all.” Temple turned and raised an eyebrow at him.
“Once or twice. Interesting stuff, but slow.”
“Counterintelligence isn’t for everyone.”
“Well, I say we head down to Summer Street. We can roll through the parking lots of a few businesses over there. With luck, we’ll spot him.”
“If not,” Temple said, “we can always head back to the Euclid.”
Mercifully, the train passed in short order. They hit Summer Street and Jasper directed her westbound.
“Up here, turn right at the next street, I’m not sure of the name.”
Temple laughed as they approached. “Hump Road.”
“And people say men are crude.” Jasper grinned. “Stop thinking about Ed.” He leaned away, expecting a poke, but received her disapproving stare.