STOP AT NOTHING- release date: August 22, 2017

Chapter 1

Backed up to the low parapet on the roof of the four-story walkup, the man sat on his haunches. A drizzle of rain pecked at his head as he examined the gray metal parts distributed evenly over the dark blanket. He’d left assembling the weapon until now because it fit into a duffel bag and was less conspicuous to transport. He glared at the burner phone lying within easy reach.

Ring, dammit. I don’t know why I have to wait ‘til the last minute for a ‘go’ command.

He glanced at the cheap military-style watch held on his wrist by a web band. The target was unpredictable and could appear soon.

Rising, he peeked over the edge, confident the dim moonlight made it difficult for him to be seen.  A sudden stiff wind threatened to unseat the black ball cap he had tightly pressed on his head. He held on to the brim and peered down at the quiet street. Traffic was light at the late hour and few people were out walking. The delicatessen across the street was closed. The only activity came from the building next to it, where the target worked.

The cool October night made him wish he had worn something heavier than the black hoodie. As if the temperature and wind weren’t enough, the rain began to come down in earnest.

This would make his job difficult and, worse, he viewed it as a bad omen. He sunk back to the blanket and noticed the wind had disturbed his neat array of parts.

Even with the rain beating down, it took him under five minutes to assemble the Heckler & Koch sniper rifle, load it, add a scope, and attach a silencer. Now he had to wait.

He hated waiting.

Waiting is an opportunity for an unforeseen event to occur. He relied on being thorough in his planning and executing the plan.

He had turned down the volume on the cell phone and nearly missed the vibration alerting him to a call. He grabbed the clamshell phone, flipped it open, and listened.

“Take the shot.”

***

 

NYPD Detective Ray Scully had left Captain Roy Burke’s office just as his superior took a call from Commissioner Sheppard.

I know in my gut they’re hiding something.

At his desk, he watched Sean McCarthy’s hunched back expand and contract with each deep breath. His partner had been busy updating reports since they returned from McAllister’s Pub earlier that evening.

Scully’s head jerked at the sound of a door closing. Without a good night to anyone, Captain Burke locked his office, strode to the open elevator, and left. Scully checked the time. Looking for his sergeant and not seeing her, he seized an opportunity. He cleared his desk and rose to stand next to his partner.

“Sean, can you cover for me? I should be back before the shift ends.”

“Okay.”

“Thanks,” he said and grabbed his jacket.

“Ray?”

“Yeah?”

“Anything to do with your meeting with Burke?”

“You should be a detective,” Scully joked, but McCarthy wasn’t smiling.

Sean shook his head. “You know you’re playing with fire, right?”

 

***

Ray Scully pushed through the doors to the street and stood on the top step staring at the hammering rain. Raising the collar of his jacket, he skipped down the steps. Pressing himself against the precinct building, he paused to see if the rain would let up before heading toward the garage. Scully took advantage of a slight lull in the rainfall and stepped away from the building.

At the sudden familiar sound of a suppressed rifle shot, he dropped to the ground, taking cover behind a large SUV. The shot whizzed past Scully, splintering the doorframe of Sy’s, the twelfth’s favorite deli. The few pedestrians near the police station scattered in different directions, one dashing into the precinct. Drawing his Glock, Scully scanned the immediate area, from the well-lit precinct entrance to the row of darkened walk-ups across the street. He rose from his crouched position and peered over the hood of the car.

Hearing a noise behind him, he twisted and raised his gun. A young man approaching with music blasting through his ear buds halted at the sight of Scully’s weapon. Wide-eyed and slack- jawed, he threw his arms in the air. Scully stood and waved him back. The young man turned and ran. Another shot sped past Scully, missing him by inches and shattering the deli’s window.

Men in blue poured from the police station, blanketing the street. Scully moved farther from the precinct and more minutes passed with no other shots fired. Scully’s mind raced. He knew two things. The shots were aimed at him, and the shooter had been on the roof of one of the row houses, but was most likely gone.

Scully ran away from the precinct toward the busy avenue. He crossed the street and darted along the avenue to the next street. The rain tapered to a drizzle as he made his way to the buildings that backed up to the row houses across from the precinct. He stopped at an empty lot between an apartment building and another stretch of brownstones. Looking past the building’s edge, he saw a lone car ten yards away, its fog lights on. Before he could act, a well-built man, sporting a military crew cut and dark clothing, emerged from behind the brownstones. The man ran to the car, hoisted a duffle bag inside the vehicle, and jumped into the driver’s seat. The car’s headlights beamed bright, and it lurched into drive.

Within seconds, Scully debated the wisdom of opening fire. Instead, he pressed himself against the building when the car revved forward. He watched it hit the street, noting the sedan’s dark color and make. The car sped away too quickly to see the details of the orange and black New York plate, but Scully caught sight of the “freedom is not free” bumper sticker and noticed one tail light was out.

The detective’s cellphone vibrated; it was McCarthy. Scully turned off the phone, deciding not to talk to anyone from the precinct before he could come to grips with why he was a target. Walking back to the corner, he saw two Kevlar-clad officers at the end of the street. Scully turned in the opposite direction, walked a few city blocks in the light rain, and hailed a cab.

 

***

After the call from Ray telling me he wanted to see me right away, I showed Maddie where she could put her overnight bag and freshen up. I didn’t mention to Ray that Maddie had shown up at McAllister’s to surprise me. The timing wasn’t great, but I was glad to see her.

I turned off Louie Armstrong and peeked out the window for any sign of Ray. I thought he’d be lucky to get a parking spot this time of night, when a taxi pulled up in front of my brownstone. Ray Scully jumped out and reached my door the same time I did.

“Lucas,” he said and rushed past me. He looked disheveled, and he was soaked to the skin.

“What happened to you?” I asked. “Take off that wet jacket and those shoes.”

Ray stared at me a moment and then walked back to my front door and peered through the etched glass. “Can you shut the foyer light?”

I did without question. “Ray?”

“Someone tried to kill me.”

It took a moment for the words to sink in, and before I could respond, Maddie spoke from the stairs, “Are you hurt?” Maddie had changed out her filmy blouse and camisole for a loose-fitting cotton pullover. Her deep red hair was pulled back in a low ponytail; a few loose tendrils touched her face. She hurried to us.

Momentarily confused, Ray glanced from Maddie to me. “Ray, this is Madeline Grange. Maddie, Ray Scully.” I looked at Ray. “Now, tell me what the hell is going on?”

As he slipped out of his jacket and shoes, Ray told us how a sniper shot at him. Seasoned detective that he is, he gave us a detailed account, but I knew he was shaken.  I led us all to the kitchen and handed Scully a shot of whiskey to calm his nerves. Maddie made coffee, and we sat at the kitchen’s breakfast bar to decide what to do next.

Ray’s main concern was his family. He didn’t want to use his own phone, so I gave him a burner to call his wife. Regina was understandably upset after getting a call from Sean McCarthy looking for his partner. I know Regina to be a brave cop’s wife, who could rise to any challenge and Ray was able to reassure her. Ray then called Sean McCarthy and filled him in on what had happened. McCarthy promised to call in a few favors and send a couple of off-duty officers to Brooklyn to keep an eye on Scully’s house.

“McCarthy’s a loyal partner,” I said to Ray.

“Yeah, the best.” He shot me a glance and smirked. “Well, after you, that is.”

Ray and I had been partners at NYPD’s 12th Precinct for five years. I left the force a few months after my daughter Marnie was kidnapped. Until McCarthy was assigned to the precinct, Ray was saddled with a series of rookie cops, who hadn’t worked out.

“You think the attempt on your life has to do with your investigation of Giaconne’s death,” I said.

“Yes, which I believe is connected to Marnie’s kidnapping.”

Maddie, who had opted for decaf coffee, decided to call it a night. “Since there’s a lot I’d need to be brought up to speed on,” she said, “I don’t want to be a drag on your discussion. I’m not going anywhere for a few days, at least, and will be glad to help if I can.” She leaned over and kissed me. “Night. Glad you’re okay, Ray.”

We both bid her goodnight and dove into the details of Ray’s investigation, and who might want him dead.

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