Chief Inspector Maureen Thompson stood over the tiny wrapped body, wondering if she was going to find a dead, teen aged girl close by. “Have you searched the neighborhood?” she asked Balmario.

“We have two teams doing that right now. Nothing to report, yet,” he said.

“Look at this,” said a young member of the investigation team. He knelt in the corner next to the boarded up door of the closed pharmacy.

Maureen squatted next to him. Someone tried to scratch the cement. “It looks like an address.”

“This isn’t knife scratch, maybe a rock,” he said.

The team looked around for the rock, but nothing popped out at them.   

“Well, at least get a picture of it,” said Maureen. When she stood, she felt the pressure of a rock under her shoe. She bent down to look at it. “Do these look like scrape marks to you?”

Marcus Balmario grabbed a tweezers from his kit and picked it up. He walked into the street to catch an early morning sunbeam and turned the rock this way and that. “No,” he said.

“Bag it anyway, but keep looking. Look for anything. Something made those marks in the cement.”

“We don’t even know if these marks mean anything,” said the young investigator.

“No. We don’t,” said Maureen. “We don’t know anything, so we look at everything. And we look everywhere for it. Search the sidewalk and the gutter. Maybe the person tossed it when they finished scraping that message. We don’t know what he or she was thinking, but we do know they were hurting.”

Her phone buzzed. “Chief Thompson,” she answered.

Dispatch said, “All available units, Pine and Brooklyn, shots fired. Repeat, shots fired.”

“Balmario, we can leave this with the CI’s. Come with me. Shots fired about five blocks from here.” She ran to her car.

Balmario jumped in the passenger seat as she finished radioing intent to attend the call. Radio chatter was coming in from multiple units. This was bigger than a simple domestic altercation. As she turned south onto Brooklyn, a van sped past her going away from the call. The driver looked hell bent on getting out of the area.

“That can’t be good,” said Balmario.

“No. Call it in. We’re changing course.”

While Maureen turned around, Balmario called it in. “Dispatch, this is car 1132, disengaging shots-fired call, redirecting toward possible suspect driving a gray van, plate white on blue, Andy-Robert-Sally,  niner, niner, three. Northbound Brooklyn, repeat Andy-Robert-Sally, niner, niner, three. Over.”

“Car 1132, directing assistance. ETA one minute. Over.”

“Ten-four, out.”

“Here we go,” said Maureen. The driver in the van slowed the vehicle and pulled into a deep vacant lot behind an indoor mini-mall. He came to a stop in the shadow of the large building. If they had not been following him, he would now be undetectable from a casual street drive-by, especially if the persons exceeded the speed posted.

Balmario got on the radio and redirected back up, while Maureen parked. Maureen hoped the CI’s had packed up the abandoned infant scene and left. She wasn’t sure how she felt about leaving an unarmed crew alone at an investigation in a neighborhood that was experiencing a shoot-out somewhere. She radioed Dispatch to send them packing if they hadn’t done so already.

As Balmario’s secondary teams arrived, they lined up with her, one behind and one in front essentially creating a barricade with their vehicles should the need arise.

She grabbed her field glasses to get a look at the man sitting at the wheel. The driver was a statue, young and probably impulsive.

 “He’s not moving,” said Balmario.

“No. I’m a little worried he’s been hit, but I can’t see blood.” She passed the glasses to him.

He watched for a minute, and then said, “No. I don’t either. If he was hit, he was hit low.”

“He could be bleeding out.” Maureen took the glasses back from him.  

Rat Snatcher sat in the vehicle contemplating the decision he was about to make while the officers sat in their vehicles watching for his next move. He could not believe all the time he’d spent on this case, wasted, blown to bits with one stupid act by a horny teenager who thought he was in love.


He stared at his hands for a while as if he could find answers there. His head was telling him this was over, his heart was weeping it wasn’t. While he stared at his hands, he could see the officers in his peripheral vision gearing up.

A woman, armored with a vest, stepped out of the unmarked police car and pointed her service weapon at him. She kept her focus as she stepped between the cars. He knew what she expected: black man behind the wheel of a vehicle fleeing shots fired.

Choices, choices, choices.

He pulled his wallet from his pocket as unobtrusively as he could. He didn’t want to make any sudden changes. He knew that any movement they saw could trigger a response, and it would not be in his favor. He flipped it onto the console between the seats.


Should he try to preserve his cover or blow all his efforts these past months? He hoped to God that Detroit PD had Marchesi and his son in custody. It was the best way to keep them safe. However, there was no chance they rounded up all of Morelli’s men when they raided the event. If he was right, the second Morelli brother had probably slipped back into his hole after sending his men to hunt him down. He had just killed the older Morelli brother. That was a fact, however righteous it was. Rat was now a marked man.

Which meant they had eyes on this – whatever this turned out to be. Choices.

He shook his head slightly as if that would help. He turned and watched the woman step across the sidewalk. Her entire team aimed their weaponry at him. Choices.

He sat straight and slowly slid both empty hands around the wheel of his van until they rested on top of it where her team could see them.

She slowly approached.

He kept his eyes forward, looking straight ahead instead of at her and kept his hands still.

He heard the click, as she engaged the handle of the door.

“Step out of the car and keep your hands where I can see them,” she said, calm and collected as if she was accustomed to being obeyed. Impressive.

He knew when he stepped out of the vehicle, her attitude would change. He was big. Big and black. A perfect scenario for regrets if he didn’t handle this exactly right. He let her open the door, then slowly raised his hands to clasp them behind his head. He shifted his legs to stretch them toward the ground so he could stand in front of her.

“Get down on your knees,” she said.

He did. It was at that moment he noticed that another officer had joined her. That officer quickly stepped behind Snatcher and grabbed one of his wrists, a little more roughly than he should have. He allowed it. He allowed the officer to zip tie his hands behind him. He let the cop haul him to his feet.

Maureen said to him, “Name please.”

“Rat Snatcher,” he said, lowering his gaze to look at her directly. He knew it would seem defiant. Might as well keep up appearances.

The woman, who was obviously the ranking officer, wasn’t intimidated. She chuckled and said, “Mr. Snatcher, it’s so good to finally meet you.”

“What?” he said. What the hell?  What was she talking about? Why would they ever have a need to meet each other? It threw him, and he backed up slightly.

Five officers, including the woman in front of him, prepared to shoot. The man holding him threw his body into the hold.

“Easy, easy,” said Rat. “Just lost my balance for a moment.”

Keeping her gun focused on him, Maureen said, “We are detaining you as a suspect in a shooting incident. Furthermore, we wish to question you about another case. You were seen by one of my officers in front of the building of a missing teen aged boy.”

Rat nodded. Evan Fischer. He remembered the cop that took the call. The man had not backed down when Rat hassled him. 

To the officer holding him, she said, “Read him his rights.” She lowered her gun. She backed up a few steps while she stared at him, daring him to make her reestablish her aim. When he didn’t respond, she turned and walked toward her Corolla. The other officers at the arrest surrounded him to accompany his walk into custody.   

Choices. As they go, keeping his cover was probably the best one for now. He had no idea what Detroit PD had found at the Marchesi/Morelli showdown. He knew only his part. He had shot the eldest Morelli because he’d executed Allessandro Santorini, and then had threatened Charlie and his son. Rat had run like hell after that. He hoped it was enough to distract the other brother from taking the shot at them. He prayed to God that Sawyer, aka Jonathan Tyler, had turned into a rabbit. It hurt to think that another lost boy might not survive this monumental fuck up.  

As the team secured Rat Snatcher in the car behind Maureen’s Corolla, Balmario combed the van for evidence. He ran back to the caravan with two evidence bags in hand. “Found this in the car.” He held up the first bag so that Maureen could see the gun within it. “Also this.” He held up the second. It contained an open wallet with the prisoner’s ID.

Badge number on an FBI insignia.

Maureen turned to glance at the car behind them. Great. “What did we step into?” she muttered.

“There’s more,” said Marcus. “There are shovels in the back covered with fresh dirt. I found a green and gold letter jacket that is clearly not his. There seem to be traces of body fluids, maybe blood, at least that’s what it smells like. He has a lock box in the spare tire well. I think we need to tow that thing before we take eyes off it.” He glanced back at the van.

Maureen sighed. “Agreed. Call for a tow. Send the car with our friend to the precinct. We’ll wait for the tow and cover for each other.”

“You don’t want to talk to him?” Balmario tipped his head toward Rat Snatcher who sat gazing at his lap in the back seat of the car behind them.

“No, not out here. Somewhere safe. We need to get him to the precinct, play the game to an expected result.”

“Roger that,” said Marcus Balmario. He popped out of the car and ran to the one behind them. He spoke to the officer in the passenger seat. When he was done, he tapped the car, nodded, and ran back to Maureen’s Corolla and got in.

“Guess we hang out for now,” he said.

“Yep,” she answered.

They watched as the car behind them pulled away with their prisoner on board. Whether or not he was really FBI she would know soon enough. She could hardly wait to hear his story.

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