“Chief, you shouldn’t be looking at your file,” said Dr. Abrams, walking into the room. “Since when did you become an M.D.?” he added with a smile.
“In nineteen-seventy…” began Police Chief Lawrence Durrel before he caught himself. “Oh, sorry. Just curious. Say, Doctor, according to this, I was diagnosed as having a massive coronary, not a mild cardiac infraction.”
Dr. Abrams shrugged and looked at Durrel. “That was the diagnosis on the scene, but by the time you got here, things seemed so different that I figured Dr. Monroe had made a mistake, that’s all. Oh, Sharon is here.”
At that moment, a gorgeous black woman entered. “Yes, I am. And you, mister, nearly gave me a heart attack!” She grinned at her husband, walked over to him, and laid a big kiss on him.
Durrel put her behind him. “Gunshots!” he gasped. “Where’s my pistol?”
“The chief said what?” Robert Cook asked his partner.
“‘Oh boy’! Now, I tell you, Bob, in ten years I have never heard the chief say ‘oh boy’ or anything close to that.”
Cook shook his head. “Well, John, in ten years we’ve been here, the chief’s never had a heart attack.”
“Hey, what’s that commotion?” Sergeant John Severn asked, hearing noises coming from around the corridor from where they were near the emergency room. At that moment, a crazed-looking young man holding a pistol dashed around the corridor.
“Hold it right there!” Severn yelled as both officers reached for their own pistols. The young man saw them and started shooting.
“You hear gunshots?” Davison asked his partner.
Officer Green nodded, reached for his pistol, and said nervously, “Stay here.”
“Like I could go anywhere,” Davison grumbled, indicating the cast on his leg.
“So, you think you can help, Delvecchio?” asked Lawrence Durrel.
“I believe we can,” replied Delvecchio. “We’ve got one heck of a fine supercomputer working on all known facts.”
Durrel nodded. “I am still blown away by all that’s happening. I swear to God, I feel like I’m dreaming.”
“Believe me, Lawrence, you’re not the first person to have that sensation, and you won’t be the last. OK, they’re signalling me. Means they have something. Hang loose, gyrene.”
“You, too, swabbie. I’m just gonna lay here and worry.”
“That’s the spirit.”
Back in 1987, John Severn fired point-blank, and the gunman went down with two bullets in his chest. Severn ran over and yanked the man’s pistol, then knelt down and checked him as a doctor ran up. “He’s dead,” the black police sergeant said coldly. “Any idea who he is?”
“Yes,” said the Asian-American doctor. “Timmy Bodeaux, brought in with what seemed to be a drug overdose.”
“$#!*” muttered Severn. “Hear that, Cook? Another Bodeaux. Cook? Bob?”
The officer turned around and saw another doctor kneeling over his partner, who was laying face down in a pool of blood. The doctor looked up and shook his head.
Severn noted that Cook’s pistol was still in his holster, just as suddenly everything went silent, and he screamed, “No! Mother#^@%er! No!”
Durrel ran up, his pistol drawn, followed by Green and other police officers. “Good Lord!” Durrel exclaimed. Green saw the senior officer’s blood and turned around to throw up.
“He can’t be dead!” Severn said. “He can’t be dead.” He was barely aware of another officer taking his pistol as a doctor rolled up his sleeve.
“Calm down, Officer,” said the doctor. “This will help.”
“Mother#^@%er can’t be dead! He’s got a wife and two kids!” Severn found his legs wobbly. “Oh, Jesus, no!” Tears ran down his face as he was helped to a chair.
“Mild sedative,” the doctor told the chief. “Won’t put him out, but it’ll help.”
“What was it?” Durrel asked.
The doctor shook his head. “You wouldn’t know it.”
“Try me,” Durrel responded coldly. “I don’t like the idea of giving sedatives like candy.”
“OK, Al, we got a fix on him.”
“Let’s do it, then.”
The man in the rear admiral’s uniform stepped onto a platform as lights began to glow. “Back to 1987,” he said to himself. “I remember it so well.”
In 1987, a long black limousine pulled up in front of the Bodeaux house, and several well-dressed men got out, looking around with severe caution.
“My friend, Mr. Bodeaux, how are you?”
The two men embraced, and the head of the Bodeaux clan welcomed the aging Mafioso into his home, calling for his wife to make fresh coffee for their guests.
Meanwhile, Donnici’s soldiers positioned themselves around the limousine and the house, warily eyeballing curious onlookers, some of whom eyeballed them just as intensely.
“So your family is well, my friend?” asked Carmine Donnici, a gray-haired, craggy-faced man, as he plucked two cigars from a breast pocket in his expensive suit coat.
“Aye, yes. We survived the storm with no ill effects. But we did have some interesting moments this morning.”
“Oh?” he asked as his personal bodyguard stooped down with a solid-gold-plated lighter.
“Yes. Some stupid cop fell into a hole up a piece, a hole maybe we can use once the local boys in blue forget about it.” His cigar, in turn, was lit by the bodyguard, who then went to stand near his boss, smiling pleasantly as Mrs. Bodeaux brought a tray laden with coffee pot, mugs, and freshly made crullers.
Donnici waited until she went back to the kitchen. “Indeed?” he said with a raised eyebrow. “Well, that is good.”
“But what, my friend, brings you all the way out here?” Bodeaux asked.
“A serious situation. You know of this spic calls himself El Diablo Roho?”
Bodeaux nodded. “Peruvian. Owns some big plantations, wants to take over the cocaine business. Been fighting some of his competitors down there in South America.”
Donnici nodded. “Yes, and as long as them grease-balls are killing each other, it’s difficult to get good product. But the situation has gotten worse.”
Bodeaux raised an eyebrow of his own. “Feds? Or those costumed interferers?”
“If only–!” Donnici said, shrugging. “It seems this #^@%head done won his war and wants a bigger piece of the pie, which is already sliced pretty thin as it is.”
“I know, I know,” said Bodeaux. “So what’s this got to do with me? I got my boys buying from your boys. Who supplies it to them isn’t my concern, is it?”
“Maybe not, but could be.”
Bodeaux leaned in. “I take it this greaser is a thorn in your side?”
“Not yet, but could be. He wanted DeNucci’s people to buy only from him at his rates, and to give him a cut in sales, too.”
Bodeaux shook his head.
“DeNucci refused the latter, and, uh…” Donnici spread his arms. “That bastard had his soldiers pull a hit on DeNucci’s home, killing everyone — women, children, everyone.”
“Son of a $!^@#!”
“That’s not how we do business,” Donnici said. “This thing of ours has always had a hands-off the family members not in the business. This @$$#*!%, he kills everyone!”
Bodeaux looked glum. “I will light candles in their memories.” All three men made the sign of the cross.
“What I am worried about, he maybe comes after me next and anyone associated with me,” said Donnici, “like you.”
“I got lots o’ boys of my own. You need ’em, I send ’em.”
“No, I appreciate that, but I am bringing in extra soldiers myself,” said Donnici. “That or give in to this #^@%wad’s demands. Which, by Christ, I will not do! Dominick, he was like my own brother.”
Bodeaux looked sympathetic. “I have my family watching anyways. This sum$!^@# sends his people around, we drop them in that hole I was telling you about, eh?”
Donnici nodded. “I knew I could count on you. Hey, these’re good pastries. Your wife, she’s a good cook.”
“I think so.”
Just then the phone rang. The men heard Mrs. Bodeaux answer it, and moments later, she began to wail. Bodeaux ran to her, followed closely by the other two men.
“Our nephew, he — he–” she sobbed. “Pierre, he was taken to the hospital this morning, and now he’s dead!”
“Shot — killed by a cop! They say Timmy started it and killed one, then this other cop shot him!” she said, sobbing. Bodeaux held her close.
Donnici and his bodyguard quietly returned to the living room.
“Carmine, this don’t sound so good,” the bodyguard said softly.
“I know, I know. Listen, take up a collection from the boys. We help with the funeral.”
The bodyguard nodded. “OK, boss.” He went out the front door.
But the members of the Bodeaux family were not the only ones receiving news of tragedy.
Six-year-old Daniel Cook looked out his front window, then went running to his mother and nine-year-old sister, who were in the kitchen preparing lunch. “Mom, Uncle John and Aunt Mary are coming up the walk, but I don’t see Dad!”
Paula Cook stopped spreading peanut butter and looked up, her daughter dropped the bread loaf she was holding, and both females wore worried looks on their faces. Noticing their reaction, Daniel suddenly mirrored the same look on his face. Paula, an attractive Seminole woman, went to the door just as her friends entered without knocking.
“Paula…” Mary began, then stopped as tears began flowing from her eyes. Paula then looked at Sergeant John Severn, who was himself unable to talk. Within moments, her children were with her, and all of them began realizing that their greatest fear had come to pass. They reached out to each other and to John and Mary Severn.
As Police Chief Lawrence Durrel was putting his shirt on, he saw a door of light opening. “Al!” he said.
“About time you remembered my name,” chuckled Dr. Abrams. “I was beginning to think you were still upset about that fifty I won last week from you.”
Durrel grinned sheepishly and shrugged.
“Lawrence, your mother’s here,” Sharon Durrel said as she opened the office door. “Uh… Albert, let’s let her have some time with her son.” She motioned to the doctor, who nodded and followed her out.
A short, stately looking black woman entered, looked around, and said, “Where’s my son, and who are you?”
Miami International Airport:
Agent Smith was relaxing, playing his guitar for some children by entertaining them with his version of Puff the Magic Dragon, while Agent Jones waited impatiently nearby with a cup of coffee.
A tall, slender man with the beginnings of male-pattern baldness and glasses walked up to him and said, “Jones?” When Jones nodded, the man said, “Special Agent Skinner, FBI. I’ve been sent to meet you and your partner.”
“My office got a call just a little while ago from Dr. James Monroe, who I’m sure you’ve heard of. My director ordered me to meet you and redirect you and your partner.” Jones nodded.
Smith, meanwhile, was both performing and noting the number of men who came into the terminal from various paths and were all headed toward the rental car agencies. Most of them were short, dark-complexioned, and, to his trained eye, obviously soldiers of some sort. They were probably Peruvians, he noted, and not here for sightseeing. This is going to be an interesting case, he thought.
But the man named Smith wasn’t the only one observing the influx of dangerous-looking men. In a nearby coffee shop, two well-dressed members of the Donnici family made note of them, too, as did a muscular blond man who was relaxing and seemingly nodding off in a plastic airport lounge chair. This was a man whose briefcase contained not business papers but a red and green costume, which he was more than eager to put on when the time was right.
Agent Jones motioned to Agent Smith, who finished his song and, to the regrets of the children and their parents, packed up his guitar.
“Thanks so much for singing to the kids,” one mother said to him.
“Well, ma’am,” Smith said, “as my uncle Bat once said, the children are our future.”
“Bat Lash?” one precocious youth asked him.
“Bat Masterson?” a father suggested.
“Bat-Man?!” one wide-eyed child queried.
“Nope. None of the above, but some good guesses,” Smith said with a twinkle in his eye. “My uncle was Bat Wing Smith, who, according to family history, slugged ol’ Hitler right in the face once.”
“Awesome!” one parent said as Smith walked away. “So did my Uncle Sal, according to my mother.”
Agent Smith joined Agent Jones and Special Agent Skinner and was introduced.
“So how many you count?” Jones asked him. “Forty-two, or maybe forty-three?”
“Forty-three? How you figure?”
“Two hard cases in the lounge sipping coffee, and possibly the sleepy kid behind me, but he didn’t feel like a baddie. More like one of us.”
“God help him, then,” Jones said, exasperated.
Skinner looked bored. “If you ladies are done, I’ve got to take you out of here and brief you on the change of plans.”
“FBI, huh? Why bother us? We’re FEMA,” Smith responded.
“Yeah, right,” Skinner said impatiently. “DEA, FEMA… heck, for all I know, your real employer is CONTROL or UNCLE. Doesn’t matter to me. I just follow my orders, and whoever you two really are, I’m supposed to babysit you for a short while, then deposit you with some others.”
“CONTROL? UNCLE?” Agent Smith asked. “What is this, a TV show?”
“Yeah,” cracked Agent Jones, “My World and Welcome to It.”
“William Windom — now there is an actor!” Smith proclaimed. Walter Skinner dry-swallowed a Tums and had a feeling this wouldn’t be the only one while he was working with these two.
The so-called sleepy-looking kid figured the parade of underworld soldiers was done for now, and with a shrug he picked up his briefcase and headed for the men’s room. He was wondering about the odd vibes he had picked up from the supposed hippy playing guitar for the children; there was just something strange about that guy. But it was in his nature to be inquisitive. After all, he was Terry Lee Travis, the nephew of a late former newspaper publisher and media mogul who himself had once been a mystery-man, exactly as this Travis now intended to be.
Sitting in a booth, he dug out a map tracing the route to Seminole, Florida, where his sources informed him that a serious branch of the black market was in operation, supplying much of Northern Florida with its nose candy and white horse over the rainbow dreams — cocaine and heroin, in other words. And one thing this young man hated were people who dealt out slow death as a commodity.
Meanwhile, in Seminole, an angry black woman turned from Lawrence Durrel to the white-uniformed man standing near the police chief. “And you — put that cigar out! This is a hospital!”
“You can see me?” he asked, astounded.
“Dammit, put that thing out right now, or I’ll shove it up your @$$!” No one could ever accuse the older Mrs. Durrel of subtlety.
“Oh boy!” exclaimed Durrel in surprise.