On a hot, humid July afternoon, agent Matt Hornsby steered the Crown Victoria past a condemned apartment building in a run-down part of the southeast quadrant in Washington, DC.
“Go around the block one more time,” his partner said.
Following orders, Matt turned at the next corner. With no traffic in sight, he glanced at Roger Flynn, sitting in the passenger seat.
“We’ve been at this all day, all week,” Matt said. “I don’t think they’re here.”
“That Hezbollah terrorist cell is around here.”
“It’s Friday and I’ve got plans tonight. How ‘bout we head back to DHS and do our reports?”
“Just a few more times. They’re around this neighborhood, I’m sure of it.”
Matt hated it when Roger repeated himself. Trish had mentioned that he had started doing it at home, too. She wouldn’t have to put up with Roger anymore after tonight, if everything went according to plan.
The steamy July weather turned the sky into a hotbed for thunderstorms and
threatened to make life even more uncomfortable before the day was done. The only saving grace for Matt was sitting inside an air-conditioned car. Still, his damp shirt clung to his back.
“What’s that up ahead?” Roger pointed to two men walking down the sidewalk, dressed in Middle Eastern-style robes and walking fast.
“Looks like a couple Arabs.”
“What’d I tell you, they’re Hezbollah.”
“You’re jumping to conclusions.” Matt didn’t want to leave the cool comfort of the car, and hoped his partner would dismiss any thoughts of pursuing them.
“Kinda suspicious-looking bulges under their robes.”
Glancing over their shoulders toward the car, the two suspects quickened their pace and disappeared around the next corner.
Matt followed with the Crown Vic. As he approached them from behind, he pulled over to the curb and stopped the car. Roger drew his SIG Sauer P-229 from its holster and swung open the passenger door.
“What the hell are you doing?” Matt said.
Before Roger could answer, the suspects wheeled around to face them, pulling AK-47s out from beneath their robes.
“Get down!” Matt yelled, as the Arabs opened fire.
Roger crouched behind the open car door while bullets sprayed wildly around the car. With pistol drawn, Matt jumped out to back Roger up, but the suspects scurried out of sight into the condemned apartment building.
Sirens blaring, two Metropolitan Police Department cruisers from opposite
directions screeched to a stop next to Matt’s car. As the cops got out, Roger held his credentials up in the air. Because Matt and Roger were still hiding behind their open doors, the officers stayed low as they approached.
“Homeland Security?” an officer asked.
“Yeah,” Matt said.
“What do ya have?”
Before either Matt or his partner could reply, an unmarked car slid up and stopped behind one of the cruisers. Matt recognized police Lieutenant Walter Simms running up to them. They had worked together on cases before.
“Hey!” Roger said. “How the hell are you, Walt?”
Roger’s lost it, Matt thought.
“Cut the sh*t, Flynn. Someone called in, shots fired. What’s going on?”
Roger described the Arabs and the guns. “My partner and I will go in after them. If you would secure the perimeter around the building, Lieutenant, I’d appreciate it.”
Matt thought the suspects were long gone by now, but Roger was calling the shots. Even if Roger were right about these Hezbollah guys, that didn’t change anything as far as Matt was concerned. In fact, so much the better. He could use this situation to his advantage for tonight.
Guns drawn, Matt and his partner methodically searched the empty apartment building, room by room, floor by floor. Matt wondered if the unsafe structure posed more of a threat than the terrorists. It took over an hour. When they emerged from the building, Roger wanted to scour the area for witnesses. That took another forty-five minutes.
They got nothing.
Lieutenant Simms said, “We’re outta here.”
Everyone from MPD jumped back into their cars and drove off.
Roger hung his head low. “I shoulda shot those bastards while I had the chance.”
“We’ll get them next time, partner,” Matt said.
Roger glanced at his watch. “Look at the time. Trish is going to kill me.”
“That b*tch. She’s been giving me a lot of sh*t about never being home. I promised her I’d be home at a decent hour tonight, for a change.”
“You can’t go home right now, feeling the way you do. Let’s head on over to Donnegan’s for a thick steak and drinks. You need to unwind. We both need to unwind.”
“We still have to go back to headquarters and make out our reports.”
“The reports can wait. It’s seven o’clock Friday night, for Christ’s sake. Come on. After a good meal and a drink, you’ll feel better.”
“You’re right. Trish can wait.”
During the cross-town drive to Wisconsin Avenue in Northwest, Roger kept muttering , “I shoulda shot those bastards while I had the chance.” Matt hated being with his partner when he was in such a mood, but he could put up with him for a couple more hours.
He found a parking spot close to the restaurant’s entrance. A lucky omen, he thought. Inside, they were immediately greeted by Shaughnessy, the maitre d’, who escorted them to Roger’s favorite booth, semi-secluded in the rear of the main dining area. It was a good spot to conduct a private conversation without drawing much attention. They ordered drinks right away.
“Keep ‘em coming,” Roger said to the obliging waitress. Matt sipped Michelob from a tall, frosty mug. As Roger downed his second Scotch and water, Matt made sure
they ordered their steak dinners so Roger wouldn’t get too drunk, too early.
The Scotch worked its magic. Roger leaned back in the soft upholstery of the booth, his scowl and killer eyes disappearing as his facial muscles relaxed. Still, he couldn’t quite put losing the terrorists out of his mind.
“I had a chance to kill those bastards and I blew it, partner.”
“You know that would’ve gone against our dictum,” Matt said.
Roger’s voice took on a philosophical tone as he grumbled.
“Sometimes I wonder about so-called human nature. Society keeps fooling us with laws. Who do they think they’re kidding, anyway? Laws, laws, laws, laws. Every year more new laws. It’s all a farce.” The waitress delivered a third Scotch for Roger.
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“Simple. Laws are hiding the fact that man is aggressive by nature and will always try to destroy others to further his own selfish needs for power and survival. No matter how so-called civilized we become.”
“How long have you been dwelling on that?”
“It’s just come to me . . . recently.”
“Ah, it’s just the Scotch talking.” Matt wondered if Roger suspected anything.
As the waitress arrived with their steak dinners, Matt started eating as soon as the plates hit the table. It had been at least seven hours since he’d eaten anything. Roger continued grousing.
“You know, ol’ buddy,” Roger slurred, “with today’s new laws, you can even shoot an intruder in your own home. Shoot ‘em deader ‘n a doornail and not go to jail.”
Roger’s dinner was cold and he downed either his fourth or fifth Scotch. Matt had lost count. Where was all this talk leading?
“So, we’re goin’ back to our roots, ol’ buckaroo. Whoopee ti yo ti yea!”
He’s a Wild West cowboy now, Matt thought, hoping his partner wasn’t drawing attention. He looked out from their secluded booth, his eyes scanning the restaurant. None of the other customers seemed to notice.
“I still think I shoulda shot those bastards dead. You know what?” He paused to gulp his Scotch. “Did you know . . . under current law, I woulda been within my rights, ol’ pal, ol’ buddy. Just let one of those bastards break into my house, too. They’ll find out about human nature.” He slumped back in the booth and stopped talking. It was as if the weight of the world had pushed him down, and he couldn’t fight it anymore.
It was getting late, even for a Friday, and Matt wanted to make sure his partner got home. He paid the waitress and then had Shaughnessy order a taxi for Roger.
“Come on, I’m going to put you in a taxi.” Matt helped him get out of the booth and then grabbed Roger’s suit coat from the seat. “I’d drive you, but there’s no way I’m going to let Trish blame me for your condition.”
“That b*tch. What does she know anyway?”
“I know, but you’re married to her so you’ve got to go home now.”
“If you say so, ol’ buddy, ol’ pal.”
The taxi was there in front of Donnegan’s when they came out. Lightning flashed within the menacing clouds overhead, followed by a sudden clap of thunder as Matt nudged Roger into the back seat of the cab. It hadn’t rained yet, but the air felt dangerous with pent-up energy.
The driver seemed to have trouble with English, so Matt wrote down Roger’s
address and handed it to the driver, along with a crisp fifty-dollar bill.
“Make sure you get him home. Keep the change.”
Matt figured the driver stood to pocket at least fifteen or twenty dollars as a tip, which should give him plenty of incentive to accomplish his objective. Roger sat comfortably, eyes closed, his head leaning back on the rear seat.
Before the cab pulled away, Matt felt for Roger’s keys to make sure they were still in the suit coat pocket. They were. He waived the taxi away and walked to the nearby Crown Vic. The jingling of the keys as he dropped Roger’s suit coat next to him on the passenger seat was music to his ears.
He followed the cab to Roger’s house. As the taxi pulled up, Matt turned his headlights off and stopped four houses back. The driver got out and opened the rear door. Roger climbed out, wobbled a couple times, and staggered toward his house. The driver tried to be helpful by holding on to Roger’s left arm, but Roger shrugged him off and waived him away. The driver ran back to the cab and drove off.
Roger reached the front door. He fumbled through all of his pockets for his keys, and then fell down on the ground.
“Damn it, Roger. Get up,” Matt blurted inside of his car. “You’ve got to get up.”
Roger pushed himself to a kneeling position and slowly got to his feet. Matt breathed a sigh of relief as Roger made his way to a side gate leading to the rear of the house, where he staggered through the gate and disappeared from Matt’s view.
He’s home now. He’ll find a way in, Matt thought. He started the car, made a u-turn, and headed to his apartment.
Roger groped his way along the side of his dark house and reached the back yard
patio where he hoped to find a door or window he could jimmy open so he could get inside without waking Trish.
“B*tch,” he muttered
He tried the sliding patio door, the mud room door, then all the windows in back. They were all locked. He tripped over some debris left over from the new gutters he’d recently had installed, and fell down.
As he got up, he felt a solid piece of metal. It felt heavy enough to jimmy open the mud room door.
“Yes, this’ll work,” he mumbled.
He worked the piece of metal between the mud room door and the door jam. The latch gave way and Roger stumbled through the door and crashed to the floor.
Something else made a sound inside the house.
Must be my wife, he thought.
“Trish, it’s me.”
He got to his feet and tried to focus his eyes in the darkness.
A metallic glint from the next room caught his attention. All his years of experience in the justice system told him it could be only one thing.
“No! No!” Three slugs pierced his chest. Roger Flynn slumped to the floor, eyes wide open, blood pouring out of his limp body.
Matt arrived home and tossed Roger’s coat on the sofa. The sharp clink of Roger’s keys echoed in the stark silence.
He pulled a frosty glass mug out of the freezer, a bottle of Michelob from the refrigerator, and poured the beer into the mug. After downing several long swallows, he
sprawled on the sofa to relax. A few minutes later, the phone rang and he answered it. He recognized the cool, calm woman’s voice.
“Thought you should know,” she said. “I just shot an intruder.”
“Is he dead?”
“Must be, he’s not breathing. His eyes are surprisingly wide open.”
“You were right,” she said.
“That he wouldn’t have his keys, silly.”