BY: JOHN R BEYER
A killer without remorse, burning with pride, and having the time of his life, Zachary Marshall is unstoppable—until Detective Jonas Peters unexpectedly arrives in the midst of one of Marshall’s heinous crimes. After a bank robbery goes from bad to worse and leaves three dead—including a little girl—Marshall finds himself the target of the most intensive manhunt Riverside, California, has ever witnessed.
Detective Peters becomes frustrated and half-crazed as the case falters due to lack of clues and evidence. Ordered to take a vacation from the department before he drives all the other detectives crazy with his constant tirades, he heads to his sister’s in Arizona. But an innocent remark to the media changes the entire scenario—and now the hunter has become the hunted.
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Hunted by John R. Beyer, with one off-handed comment said in the heat of anger, personal pain, and his own frustration at the death of a child in bank robbery gone bad, Detective Jonas Peters goes from being the hunter of evil, to being hunted by the most vile evil he has ever encountered. Someone who will stop at nothing and kill whomever is in his way as he tries to get to Jonas in this gritty, hanging-on-the-edge-of-your-seat thriller.
Bodies start to collect in gruesome ways and the personal death toll leaves Jonas both devastated and running out of time to save his own life and the lives of the next victims before Zachary Marshall can unleash his final and most gruesome killing spree ever. I really enjoyed Hunted, but due to the graphic and violent nature, both physically and sexually, this book may not be for everyone.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Hunted by John R. Beyer is a fast-paced, down-to-earth, crime thriller of the first order. The book is timely due to all the crime in the world today and, unfortunately, all too believable. Some of the violence is a bit graphic, but I think all but the most sensitive souls can handle it. The book revolves around Detective Jonas Peters who is angry, hurt, and frustrated over the deaths of both a child and Jonas’s partner at a bank robbery gone wrong. When a reports accosts him, Jonas makes an impulsive, and unflattering, comment about the bank robber, that sets the plot entirely on its ear. Now it is not enough for the bank robber to have gotten away with killing several people, he now has to punish Jonas and prove that what the detective said was wrong. Of course, he only proves it more true as the bodies pile up and the violence escalates.
As both Taylor and I have warned, the book is a bit graphic, but that doesn’t detract from the page-turning plot and very fast pace. It is one that I, personally, would read over and over again.
The pock face man sauntered up to the boy who was filling the gas tank on an ’eighty-six, baby blue Ford Mustang.
“Hey, kid, need any help with that?”
With a look of disgust, the baggy-trousered youth ignored the older man, who stood only a few feet away, and kept his eyes on the nozzle he held in his hand.
“Ain’t nice to ignore people, son,” returned the man with a grin in his voice.
“Listen, old man,” started the teenager as he completed draining the last drop of regular unleaded from the hose in his hand. He hated adults who thought they could tell kids how to do things. Didn’t this old fart know he belonged to a gang? One more word from the wino and he would let him have it. “I don’t need—”
“That’s right, boy,” continued the man, now standing dangerously close to the youth. “You just keep your goddamn mouth shut. I’m gonna borrow your car for a little job, and, if you is a good little asshole, I may let you live. Get in and slide over to the passenger’s seat.”
Fear shot through the boy as he stared down the barrel of a large-caliber handgun in the stranger’s hand. He could not move. He could barely breathe, let alone think.
Replacing the fuel hose, the boy gingerly stepped in front of the larger man and entered the vehicle through the driver’s-side door. He thought about jumping out the passenger side, but then he realized this stranger wasn’t fooling around. The boy knew he’d be dead before he got a chance to grab the door handle. He could tell from the look in the man’s eyes. This guy wasn’t sane. Lifeless, cold eyes stared right at him and sent chills down his spine. The boy was scared, truly frightened. This man was one serious badass.
The gunman tossed a large brown duffel bag into the rear seat. He pushed in beside the boy, settled himself behind the wheel, and started the Mustang. Slowly, he drove out of the ARCO gas station.
“I noticed you have one of those No Fear stickers on your rear window.” The man smiled as he turned onto the main roadway. “Is it true?”
“W–what?” the youth stuttered, badly shaken.
“Are you stupid as well as ugly, kid? Don’t you fear nothing?”
“I bet you peed your pants already.” The man laughed as he turned north onto De Anza Avenue. “You shitheads with those stickers. You go out and skateboard or ride your silly-assed, off-road bikes and think you’re some sort of brave men. You all are nothing but a bunch of weekend weenies. Shit, you’re probably scared of the dark, ain’t you? With your pants hanging below your ass you gotta be some kind of queer or one of those big bad gangstas those niggers are always singing about. Pukin’ sissies!”
He was scared. Out-of-his-mind scared. “Mister, what do you want?”
“Nothing, now,” the driver answered calmly. “I got what I wanted. I got me a car and a young boy.”
“Oh, Jesus.” The youth suddenly felt sick to his stomach and started to reach for the door handle beside him. He stopped as the barrel of the man’s revolver pressed into his left temple.
“That would be real stupid,” the man whispered as he turned into a strip mall parking lot, drove behind the businesses, and slowed the car to a stop. “This is where you get out.”
The young man was suddenly shaking as he realized this nightmare was almost over. “You’re letting me go?”
“What’d ya think I was gonna do? Break your cherry?” The man stopped talking and pointed to a dumpster tucked up into a narrow alleyway behind a small Mom and Pop Liquor store. “Get out and climb into that dumpster. If you stay there until you hear me drive away, you’ll live. If you don’t…well, I guess you won’t.”
The boy didn’t hesitate as he jumped from the car and made it over the side of the dumpster in one tall leap. Quickly, he burrowed down into the trash, trying to put as much distance between him and the carjacker as possible. His heart suddenly skipped a beat as he heard the Mustang’s door open. “Don’t worry, kid. I gotta take a leak.”
There was silence and then the unmistakable sound of approaching footsteps on blacktop.
“Hey, boy! Fear this!”
The youth looked up and saw the barrel of the stranger’s gun pointing directly at his head. It was the last thing he saw.
The man shot the youth twice in the face. “Not bad, boy—very little noise, and it’ll be a while before they find you in the trash.”
The killer looked around, shrugged his muscular shoulders when he realized no one had come to investigate, and walked back to the dead teenager’s car. “No fear.” He chuckled to himself as he pushed the revolver beneath the driver’s seat.
April Phillips glanced right, left, and then right again before she stepped off the southwest corner of Central Avenue and Riverside Drive and into the crosswalk. Her parents always warned her and she always remembered. Hadn’t Sammy Mathews been run over last summer because he had darted into the traffic lanes without even taking a look for oncoming vehicles? April was a smart girl. Everyone told her so and she liked hearing it.
Staying between the two wide yellow lines painted on the asphalt, April walked her bicycle across the busy street. A red truck slowed to a stop and the driver smiled at the twelve-year-old girl in the crosswalk. April wanted to smile or wave back but, again, the advice of her parents sprang to her memory and she didn’t dare.
“Never get involved with strangers,” her mother had told her time and time again.
She always followed that advice. Safely on the other side of the street, April lifted her little pink BMX up onto the sidewalk and started riding west down the cement path toward Riverside Plaza.
April was very excited this morning. She had one hundred and forty-two dollars in the left front pocket of her jeans, which she planned on depositing into the Citibank located near her home on Laura Lane. First, of course, she had to open an account. But she had her parents’ permission and knew they were proud of her. She had done a good job saving that money from the small, around-the-house chores she did every week. She was still too young to do any serious baby-sitting, but in a year or two she would get all the sitting jobs she wanted, and then the savings would really start to grow.
Slowing the BMX as she approached the bank, April took a couple of deep breaths to calm herself. Then she slowly climbed off the brightly-painted bicycle and locked it to a steel rack by the front door. Patting the money safely tucked into her pocket, she pushed open the heavy glass door and walked into the foyer of the bank.
Today was the day. She was going to be an investor.
Zachary Marshall sat in the stolen Mustang near the east entrance to Riverside Plaza off of San Diego Avenue and looked down at his Timex. He knew the time was never going to be any better than right now. With a flick of his right hand he started the Mustang and slowly cruised toward the stand-alone Citibank building.
The sweat was beading up on his acne-scarred nose, and with a nervous gesture he wiped the little balls of moisture away.
“I’ve done this too many times to be nervous,” he ridiculed himself as he eased the Ford into a parking space fifty feet from the double glass doors at the back of the bank.
He glanced around the parking lot and, instantly, the nervous twinges subsided. Piece of cake. He smiled as he shut the Mustang down. Casually, he reached behind the passenger seat and zipped open the bag he had tossed in earlier. Retrieving the light brown windbreaker he always wore on jobs, Zachary actually chuckled out loud. This was going to be easier than he had imagined.
April approached the woman seated behind the oak desk and stood still. The woman looked up and flashed a large smile at the pretty little blonde. “Good morning.”
“Hi,” April returned, feeling funny standing in front of the big desk. It felt like being in the principal’s office.
“Is there something I can help you with?” The woman pointed to one of the empty chairs in front of the desk. “Have a seat.”
April took the money out of her pocket and laid the neatly folded bills on the top of the desk. Then she sat in one of the chairs. “I’d like to open a savings account, please.”
“Well.” The woman smiled even wider. “That is a lot of money for someone as young as you to be carrying around.”
“I want it to be safe,” April replied matter-of-factly.
“I think you’ve come to the right place.” The woman continued to grin. “Wait here a minute and I’ll just get some paperwork for you. Of course, your parents know you are opening this account, right?”
“Of course.” April nodded. “They said there would probably be some papers for them to sign and I have a note and their phone number if you need to call them.”
“You seem to have some pretty smart parents. I’ll be right back,” replied the new accounts specialist.
“I’ll wait right here,” April said.
Zachary edged out of the Mustang, whistling to himself as he tucked the butt of the heavy sawed-off shotgun beneath his right armpit under the windbreaker. As he started walking the few short feet to the bank’s entrance, he touched the butt of the .44-caliber revolver that he had shoved behind the front waistband of his pants. You never know. He was ready. He started for the doors. Through the glass he could see a couple of customers and maybe five bank employees.
Five minutes tops, he thought, as he pushed open the heavy glass door and entered the cool marble foyer.
“S–so, I say to her,” the heavy-set man sputtered as a piece of toast crumbled from his lips, “If you want to do nothing but shop, then you better get a job. I mean, Jonas, I love my wife and I don’t mind her spending money, but right now with two kids in college and a third starting next year—sheesh.”
“You could divorce her, Steve.” Jonas scanned the dog-eared report in his hands. He threw a quick grin at his partner and then took another sip of his coffee. Jonas thoroughly enjoyed talking to Steve, but wouldn’t trade places with him for the world. Marriage just wouldn’t work for him. It hadn’t in the past, sadly.
“She’d kill me.” Steve sighed as he finished off his plate of scrambled eggs. “Nah, I adore the woman. I just wish she’d understand we have heavy expenses right now.”
“Stephanie is a very bright and sensible woman, Steve. I’m sure she knows how much you guys have in the kitty. Of course, I don’t, so tell me…I could use a loan.”
Steve laughed. “Funny, but you’d have better luck getting money out of one of your bookies than me.”
“That’s who I need the loan for. Bad group of ponies last week.” Jonas sighed. He laid the thick file onto the table and signaled the tall, redheaded waitress for more coffee.
“You really should eat breakfast, Jonas. Drinking coffee all the time just makes you nasty.” Steve slurped down a short glass of orange juice, pulp and all.
“And that’s the way you like me.”
“Anything else, gentlemen?” the waitress asked, edging up to their table and pouring coffee.
“Everything seems fine.” Jonas showed a handsome smile to the green-eyed beauty. She had curves that would make Mulholland jealous.”
“Well, if there’s anything else you need…” the waitress offered as she began to saunter away from their table.
“How about dinner tonight if you have no other plans?”
The woman smiled over her shoulder. “I work until six, but I have no plans after that.”
Jonas smiled in return. “I’ll be back at six, then.”
Steve shook his large head and the waitress returned to her rounds. “Man, I don’t know how you do it, Jonas. Every place we go you seem to be able to latch onto a woman and you’re nearly forty-three.”
“It’s a curse, Steve,” commented Jonas. “Look what it’s gotten me in my long and sad life.”
“A lot of sex I would think.”
Jonas nodded thoughtfully over his coffee mug. “That’s true, but also the unhappiness that strictly carnal pleasure can bring a person. It’s been hell.”
Steve grinned at his partner, unaware of the dried egg stuck to his chin. “I feel for you, buddy.”
“Don’t feel anything for me, my friend, except pity.”
“Right.” Steve wiped his face. The egg fell to the table like a piece of loose skin.
“Anyway, away from the topic of my miserable existence—let’s discuss this screwed up case I’ve got in front of me.” Jonas pointed to the file next to him on the table.
Steve shook his head from side to side like a large walrus. “We didn’t forget anything in that damn collar.”
“Then why would a jury find this scum ball not guilty?”
“Idiots!” snarled Steve.
Jonas tapped the cover of the file. “That jury was trying to send a message to somebody, but all they succeeded in doing was proving how stupid and gullible they were.”
“But the evidence was there. The guy chopped his wife to pieces with an axe and then threw her down the frigging garbage disposal. Forensics verified the whole scenario when they took the kitchen apart and found human tissue on the blades of the disposal system. We got the damn axe out of the garage with his prints on it and his and her DNA all over it.”
Steve pushed a few strands of hair from his forehead. He took a quick breath and continued. “But his attorney stated that Farmingdale had even booked a flight for his wife two days after she was supposed to have been murdered. He got the tickets through that local agent, Hegener, who swore Mrs. Farmingdale picked up the tickets herself. Of course, that could have been a screw up on dates or an accomplice, but you know as well as I do that an eyewitness is a tough bullet to dodge, especially for a jury. And don’t forget, Farmingdale’s attorney claimed the remains on the blades could have been raw meat that had gone bad. Maybe it was a sirloin steak like the defendant said. Maybe she had cut herself sometime in the past over the disposal and that’s where the blood match came from. Maybe she had been chopping wood and that’s why her prints were found on the axe. Hell, too many maybes.”
Jonas huffed. “You believe that crap? The DNA testimony should have stopped that argument. Skin tissue on the blades and the jury couldn’t figure it out?”
“You’re asking a group of twelve ordinary people, and many times not the brightest, to understand the science mumbo-jumbo they had to listen to for four days in that courtroom. Hell, I didn’t understand all the linking and unlinking of the DNA strands, and I was just as involved with the case as you were. Medical jargon is the legalese the slime ball attorneys’ use to confuse the juries of our peers. It sounds great until you try to figure out what the hell they’re really saying but by then it’s too late.”
“Juries are kinky,” Jonas muttered, reaching for his coffee. “But still, that son-of-a-bitch killed his wife and—” He was interrupted by the sound of a long piercing beep from the handy-talkie that was sitting on the table between the two detectives.
The dispatcher’s voice crackled. “Be advised, a two-eleven in progress at the Citibank located at three-six-zero-five Central Avenue. Any units nearby please advise.”
Simultaneously, Steve and Jonas turned and looked out the window next to the table in which they were seated and then glanced at each other. Jonas grabbed the small, hand-held radio. He was the first of the partners out of the restaurant, just east of the bank, and quickly barked into his hand-held radio, “Unit three-five-six, ten-ninety seven. Roll back up and give details.”
Steve followed, yelling over his shoulder to the waitress that they’d be back to pay the bill. As he busted through the door, he drew his heavy, snub-nosed forty-four magnum.
“Unit three-five-six, ten-ninety-seven,” repeated the dispatcher. “Be advised we have no further information at this time. A landline has been tried with no response and the bank should be open and answering.”
“Ten-four.” With one hand Jonas stuffed the radio into his rear pocket. With his other hand he ripped out the black 9mm semi-automatic he wore beneath his jacket. “Steve, let’s enter through the back—those bushes by the door will give us some cover.”
“Got ya,” Steve said and huffed as he followed his partner across the three hundred feet of parking lot to the bank.
Jonas cast his eyes over the almost empty asphalt, looking for anything that would tell him what was going on. Years of experience enabled him to read most situations better than other detectives in the Riverside Police Department. Steve, his partner for the past six years, swore that Jonas had a sixth sense. No one had ever argued the point. The team had stayed alive more than once because of Jonas’s special talent.
The two men slowed to a crouched walk and held their guns at the ready. Jonas silently pointed to a car and Steve didn’t miss the gesture.
“The Mustang, Steve,” whispered Jonas, not taking his eyes off of the rear entrance to the bank. “It’s a lone gunman.”
That intuition surprised even Steve. “How can you tell?”
“Driver’s door is ajar for a getaway, but the passenger door is closed and locked. Unless we got a couple of lovers who want to dance over each other when they make their escape, I’d say we’ve got just one perp.”
Steve knew it made sense, but he had to ask just one more question. “How the hell can you see that the passenger door is locked from this distance?”
Jonas grinned. “All that coffee must improve my eyesight.” He motioned to the bank door. “Go around to the right and I’ll take the left. With all that glass we should be able to get a peek.”
“Where’s our backup?” Steve whispered.
“Eating donuts like all cops.” Jonas shrugged. “We don’t have time to wait until the cavalry arrives to assist. Just follow my lead and everything will be fine. We’ll just keep an eye on things for a moment or two.”
Steve liked the sound of that. For once his partner wasn’t dashing in like a commando wanting to take over the world. Jonas must really want to take that waitress out this evening, he thought.
The two men moved slowly into position. Steve was careful as he edged past the only open space in front of the doors, and he was sure he hadn’t been seen. There hadn’t been any broken glass or lead flying his way.
April looked at the tall, ugly man standing in the bank lobby and then looked back at the woman sitting behind the wide desk in front of her. April was frightened. The woman sat blinking wildly at the man as he motioned, pointing the gun in their direction. April could hear the man yelling but the words weren’t registering. She was waiting for a grownup to tell her what to do, but no one was telling her anything. All the man with the gun was doing was screaming a long line of bad words at everyone in the bank.
She started to cry.
“I said, nobody move or I’ll blow your fuckin’ heads off!” Zachary yelled as he waved the sawed-off shotgun at the seven people inside the bank.
He loved this feeling: the raw power as he stood with legs apart, chest out, and the heavy weight of the deadly shotgun in his hands. Everyone was scared of him, as well they should be. He was The Man. He was the one who controlled everything at this point. He was a god in this bank, and he wouldn’t allow them to forget it for a moment.
“Touch any buttons and you all die! I ain’t messin’. I’ll shoot your asses if you cross me.” Zachary made his way farther into the building. “You people behind the counter, move away. You, the pretty girl with the flowered dress. Yeah, you. Load this bag up with all the cash you got back there.”
Zachary threw a medium-sized, cloth bag to a young Hispanic woman behind the nearest counter. With his gun pointed at her, he motioned for expediency.
Man, he loved this feeling.
“No change,” Zachary snapped at the girl. “Nothing heavy or I’ll kill you.”
He turned and looked at April. Slowly an evil grin erupted over his pock-marked face, revealing a set of uneven and dull yellow teeth. “Are you scared, little girl?”
April felt her body shudder and then the warmth of her urine flowed down between her legs. She was horribly embarrassed but could not force herself to do anything except stand and stare at the man with the horrible smile.
“Leave her alone!” snapped the woman from behind the desk.
“Shut your face, bitch!” Zachary stuck the shotgun into the woman’s face. “I’ll do and say anything I want to. I’m the Power in here, and don’t you forget it.”
The woman slowly walked from behind her desk and calmly approached April. Staring at the gunman, she draped an arm around April’s shoulders and pulled the young girl close against her. Zachary snarled but then turned his attention back to the teller who was filling the bag with money.
“Is that it?”
“Y–yes, s–sir,” the teller stammered as she held the bag out to the robber.
Zachary took a couple of steps toward her and retrieved the bag. He laughed and punched the Hispanic woman in the face with the barrel of the shotgun. The blow caused the skin to tear away below her left eye. She stumbled backwards with a moan and collapsed to the floor, blood gushing from the deep wound.
“That’s a present from the bitch with the brat over there,” Zachary snapped and started to walk to the rear of the bank.
He was burning with pride. He had done a great job, here—with no complications. It would be a long time before these people forgot who Zachary Marshall was. In a moment of sublime satisfaction, he raised the shotgun at the security monitor and let loose with a round, shattering the camera in an instant. The explosion reverberated about the room nearly causing the portly, balding bank manager to faint right where he stood.
Zachary had never had more fun in his life.
“Damn,” Jonas cursed as the explosion reached his ears. “We can’t wait until he comes out, Steve, that psycho’s going to start shooting the place up.”
“Let’s do it,” Steve agreed as he edged his body closer to the rear doors and watched for Jonas’s signal to enter.
Jonas motioned with a flick of his wrist as he bolted for the door. Within seconds he and his partner were scurrying across the marble floor. As they reached the end of the teller counter, the robber spun on his heel and pumped out two rounds in their direction.
Jonas had just enough time to dive behind a small counter. The pellets pounded into the wall directly above him.
“Shit!” Steve threw himself down onto his stomach behind the customer counter at the entrance to the foyer and heard the pellets from the second blast tearing apart the countertop near his face. That had been close—too close. He forced his body into as tight a knot as he could.
As Jonas heard the receiver sliding back on the shotgun, he instantly reached around the corner of the counter and let loose with two rounds from his own 9mm automatic. He knew that the bullets would probably miss their mark, but they might make the robber hesitate long enough for Jonas to get into a better firing position.
Zachary found himself in a terrible position. He was standing exposed in the middle of the floor with no protection and a cop stationed on either side of the rear entrance, ready to fire within seconds. He had to think quickly. Without the plug in the shotgun, he knew he still had five rounds, but there was no way he was going to stand there and shoot it out with these coppers. He needed a diversion. With a grin he turned toward the little girl and the bitch of a female banker.
“Ah, hell!” Jonas yelled as two more reports from the shotgun shook the interior of the bank. He knew those rounds hadn’t been meant for him or Steve and his blood ran cold. He pulled himself upright with the automatic at the ready, but caught only a glimpse of the robber as he sprinted out the front door of the bank heading south.
“Christ,” Steve muttered as he came out into the open and surveyed the damage done by the retreating thief.
April and the new accounts clerk lay in a pool of blood, the child still cradled in the woman’s arms. Jonas moved over to the bodies and checked for signs of life. It was just a matter of routine. It wouldn’t take a coroner to tell they were both dead.
“I’ll get the bastard,” Steve snapped as he clapped Jonas on the shoulder and chased after the gunman.
Jonas tenderly reached out and caressed the dead little girl’s cheek. The shotgun blast had torn half of her head away but, to Jonas, she was still a beautiful child. Nothing could destroy that. He didn’t hear the mournful crying of the other bank employees as they began to understand that their immediate nightmare was over. The rest of their nightmares would be full of terrible memories.
Jonas brushed the girl’s blonde hair off of her bloody forehead and felt a tear start to run down his cheek. “I’m so sorry,” he muttered, absentmindedly wiping at the wetness on his face. He clamored to his feet. Looking at the woman lying next to the little girl, he felt a certain guilty tug at his heart, but nothing like the one he was feeling for the little girl. It was a tragedy for an adult to be brutally murdered in cold blood, but it was so unnatural for a child to face the same end.
With a loud crash, three uniformed police officers burst through the rear of the bank and then stopped in their tracks as they saw Jonas standing above the bodies of the two murder victims.
“Get units scouring San Diego, De Anza. and Central, this thirty-six hundred block,” Jonas snapped into his hand held radio without looking up at the uniforms. “The perp’s a white male, over six-foot, two-hundred plus, wearing Levis and a light tan windbreaker. He’s armed with a sawed off twelve-gauge. Detective Steve Reynolds is in foot pursuit south of this location.”
Jonas stopped talking and then looked at the men behind him. “One of you stays here, one comes with me, and one keeps an eye on that Mustang out back in case the suspect tries to use it. Let’s do it!”
The commands were quick and to the point—straight out of the textbook. But the three men did not expect anything different from the homicide detective. Everyone in the department knew the professionalism that marked Jonas Peters. The men nodded to each other and carried out the orders. There was no reason to suggest another plan. If Peters wanted it that way, then that was the way it was going to be.
With one last glance at the little girl lying discarded on the cold floor, Jonas bolted through the front door, checking his automatic as he ran. He wanted to be prepared, just in case he got a chance to blow the suspect to hell.
Steve had to admit the gunman was fast—damn fast—as he watched the large man dodge in and out of the heavy traffic on Central Avenue. Steve waved his arms at the oncoming cars hoping to make them slow down, but his efforts were in vain, so he simply followed the robber’s route and ran directly into the traffic. Ignoring numerous screeches of tires and loud curses from furious drivers, Steve was barely able to make the mad dash across the wide avenue with his life.
“Assholes!” he yelled at the drivers who had nearly run him down. As they honked, he swerved and finally jumped over the curb and onto the opposite sidewalk just as the shotgun-wielding suspect leapt over a cement planter and crashed through a set of double glass doors into the Central Plaza Building. “I should have shot the damn drivers,” Steve wheezed.
Zachary was pissed. How dare that cop chase him across the street? Shouldn’t he be allowed to escape? After all, he had only wanted to rob the bank. It was the cops who made him shoot the little girl and the woman banker. Zachary grinned as he ran toward the stairwell on the far side of the carpeted entry. He was mad, but having a hell of a good time except for having to drop the bag of money that bitch had given him when the cops had started shooting but there were always other banks to rob.
A woman dressed in a business suit stepped out of a nearby office directly in front of his path, forcing him to hesitate a moment in his flight.
“Fuckin’ bitch!” he yelled as he brought the shotgun down on the startled woman’s head nearly crushing her skull. As the woman fell to the floor, he stopped just long enough to place a few solid kicks with his heavy army boots into the moaning woman’s face. The smashing of her teeth made a delicious sound, and for a moment he almost forgot where he was or what he was supposed to be doing. I don’t have time to finish this.
Glancing up from the damage he was creating with the blows, Zachary saw the shorter and heavier of the two cops nearing the planter right in front of the building. He kicked the woman’s head one more time for good measure and then ran for the stairwell, yanking the door open just as the detective reached the lobby entry.
Steve held his revolver at waist level. He glanced across the lobby, saw the woman lying in a bloody heap, and caught a glimpse of the stairwell door as it slowly eased shut.
He cautiously made his way across the carpet and stooped down to inspect the unconscious woman. The injuries looked bad. They looked near-death bad. An office door behind him opened and a tall, well-dressed man stepped into the hall. Steve swung his gun on the man and then stopped.
“I’m a police officer,” he said. “Call nine-one-one for this woman. Advise the dispatcher that the suspect is headed for the top of this building.”
In silence, the man just stood staring at the carnage on the floor in front of him.
“Do it now!” Steve yelled.
Finally the man turned, as if in a trance, and retreated back into his office.
Taking a deep breath and trying not to notice how nervous he was, Steve stood up and approached the stairwell door. Through the narrow rectangular piece of glass in the door, he could see that the stairway was empty. That didn’t make him feel any better as he grasped the doorknob and, as carefully as he could, started to open the heavy door.
“Six floors. Christ,” he whispered.
A sweating and suddenly worried Zachary burst out onto the flat rooftop of the building. The sound of the stairwell door opening below concerned him.
What kind of cop would run by a woman so badly hurt? That cop should have tended to her wounds and not bothered chasing him. Public servant, my ass! They should all be fired.
The brilliant sunshine had nearly blinded him when he exited the stairwell and landed on the roof. He had to shade his eyes a few seconds before he was able to focus. Glancing around, he suddenly realized there was no way down: no fire escape, no elevator shaft. No escape. Zachary knew he had to get away. He couldn’t afford to be caught. This would be his third felony arrest and he wasn’t about to spend the rest of his life behind bars because California voters decided—twice—to try to stop people like him. He was unstoppable! He was Zachary Marshall—one tough guy. Many a person had found that out the hard way over the years.
A grin stretched across his face as he spotted a steel pipe attached to the west side of the building. He jumped up on the low parapet of the roof to inspect the pipe further. It was securely attached by bolts about every three feet or so down the side of the building and stopped about five feet from the ground. Though it was a long way down the pipe should hold him. He started to turn around on the ledge to grab the edge when the roof stairwell door slammed open and the cop who had been chasing him walked toward him.
Steve wasn’t going to take any chances with this guy. He didn’t bat an eye as he approached the man who stood across the rooftop from him. Steve took aim at a bull’s eye he imagined on the robber’s chest, and never lowered his revolver a millimeter as he walked toward the suspect.
“Don’t do anything. Not a thing or I’ll blow you right off this roof, asshole!” Steve warned.
“I’m an iceberg,” Zachary returned as he raised his arms out to his sides holding the end of the shotgun in his right hand.
“Drop the gun,” Steve snapped, feeling the pressure of his index finger tightening on the trigger. “Just give me any excuse.”
“Not today.” Zachary grinned as the heavy gun toppled from his grasp and clattered noisily to the rooftop. “I have rights. I don’t want to give you any excuse to shoot me.”
“Like that little girl had rights?” God, he wanted to pull the trigger and send this bastard screaming into the empty air behind him.
Zachary chuckled. “Her parents sure won’t be able to recognize her sweet little face now, will they? Bet she looks like a piece of badly packed hamburger…a slab of raw meat with eyes.” He chuckled again. “Anyway, she was your fault—yours and your partner’s. You interfered with my job and she was just a casualty of war.”
Steve had to swallow hard on that perverted logic. “What about the woman downstairs that you beat senseless?”
“Now, wait a minute.” Zachary was no longer amused. “How was I supposed to know that you wouldn’t stop to help her? What kind of cop are you to leave a tax-paying citizen bleeding like that? Don’t you have no ethics?”
Steve knew there was no arguing with this type of person. He had seen this mentality a thousand times before: the dirt bag playing the victim. The system had screwed with these guys for so long they felt there were actual rules to be followed in the everyday cat and mouse game of crime. Steve knew there were no rules on the streets, only winners and losers. He had to keep the proper perspective. He spoke slowly and clearly. “I want you to keep your hands in the air and step down from that wall. I expect you to do it slowly. If I think you moved without permission, I’ll kill you.”
“Not to worry, officer, I’ll follow what you say to the letter.” Zachary made the pronouncement as he stepped from the wall and tripped.
Jonas was just outside the entry of the Central Plaza Building when he heard a shot from the roof-top. Quickly glancing up, he saw a body falling toward him. He was just able to get out of the way as the body slammed into the masonry water fountain not more than two feet to his right.
He stood staring at the upturned face and the crumpled corpse, feeling the bile beginning to rise in his throat.
The only sounds Jonas could hear were those of his own heart beating and the water dripping down onto his partner’s outstretched body in the fountain. Jonas’s legs felt like iron as he tried to move. He couldn’t. Steve was gazing into the sky with open, unseeing eyes. Jonas was paralyzed. He didn’t have to check to see if Steve was dead. He was, and there was nothing Jonas could do about it.
Slowly, anger replaced shock and he bolted for the front door of the building, followed by the stunned uniformed officer who had come with him.