Chase, part six: Jack

(Start with Part One)

“SDPD! Open up!”

I waited one heartbeat, two, three. No answer.

The cheap lock gave easily when I kicked it. One more kick opened the door wide enough to see the entire studio apartment.

I went over the potential hotspots: kitchen to the right, bathroom on the left, balcony just past the kitchen. Gun held out in front of me, I ran to the right, along the living room wall. Lacey went left.

No one in the kitchen. I looked over at Lacey coming out of the bathroom. She shook her head. No one there, either.

Shit. That left the balcony, or nothing.

The balcony door was closed. Lacey slid it open while I watched for signs of movement outside, pistol ready.

As soon as it was open I hurried through, gun pointed to the right, towards the balcony corner we couldn’t see from inside. Other than a few recycling bins, it was empty.

“She’s not here.” I said it out loud, just to cover my disappointment. We’d finally managed to come up with a suspect from one of the plates: athletic woman that lived alone, kept weird hours, owned a red Suzuki bike. Neighbors said she was usually home this time of the afternoon. We’d hoped to grab her, finally put a lid on this case.

Wasn’t meant to be.

I went back inside. Lacey was already poking around the living room section of the apartment, checking the magazines left on the coffee table, pulling a cigarette butt out of the ashtray for later DNA testing.

There were two closets, one beside the area she’d turned into her bedroom, the other along the wall facing the bathroom. The first was mostly open already, filled with an assortment of women’s clothes.

The second one held a goldmine of evidence.

I had to turn the bathroom lights on to get a good look inside. The closet doors folded almost all the way against the wall, leaving plenty of room for a small desk, a chair, and hundreds of photos and news clippings lining the walls.

Lacey let out a low whistle when she saw it. “Looks like she’s been doing this a while.”

I nodded. “And not just here. These clippings are all from Arizona, those are from Texas, and those are – Jesus Christ – those are from Virginia.”

Lacey arced an eyebrow.

“The Trick-or-Treat kidnappings? From last October?”

She continued to stare at me blankly.

I sighed. “A dozen kids went missing around Halloween in the Shenandoah. I’ve still got family up there. My dad joined one of the search parties.”

“My god. Did they find the kids?”

“Yeah, they found ’em. Wandering along a country road, scared out of their minds, with no memory of how they got there.”

Lacey’s radio crackled. “Suspect entering the building. Shall we intercept?”

She unhooked the unit from her belt. “Negative,” she barked into it. “We’ll get her from here. You cover the exits in case she flees.”

“Roger that.”

I moved into the kitchen and crouched behind the counter. Lacey took a position against the wall where the opening door would hide her.

A few minutes later, we heard a racking cough from outside the door, then keys jangling and the lock turning.

As soon as I heard the door swing open, I popped up, gun in hand. “San Diego Police! Put your hands in the air where I can see them!”

The woman coming in – blonde, in her 30s, wearing a red leather jacket – dropped the bag of groceries she was carrying and ran out the door.

I swore. Lacey called down to our backup while I hurried to follow the suspect.

Right out the door to the hall, then left, my heart pounding in my chest, yelling at her to stop. Then down two flights of stairs, into another hallway.

I was catching up with her. She looked back, saw me getting closer, gritted her teeth.

Down another flight of stairs then, and right down another hallway. She was headed for the back. I knew we had the exit covered, but I wanted to catch this one. I pushed myself to move faster.

Almost to the next stairwell. Movement to my right – someone opening a door. I yelled at whoever it was to stay inside, but it was too late.

The suspect pushed into the apartment, started to slam the door behind her.

I dove for it, made contact just before the door shut, pushed back. I heard a high-pitched scream on the inside, then the resistance against me went slack.

I tumbled into the room. A college girl was standing on a couch, screaming and crying. The suspect – Mary, I told myself, the woman that took those kids is named Mary – was laying on the floor, coughing.

I cuffed her before she could stand and started reading her her rights.

“No more kids for you, you sick fuck,” I whispered in her ear.

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