Read Nothing Lasts Forever Online

Authors: Roderick Thorpe

Tags: #det_action

Nothing Lasts Forever

Nothing Lasts Forever
Roderick Thorpe
Tags:
det_action

One man — alone, marooned, outnumbered... and running out of time.
The setting — Los Angeles.
The time — the twenty-four hours between Christmas Eve and Christmas morning.
Joe Leland, veteran cop and former war hero, finds himself bang in the middle of the most terrifying situation any policeman has everdreamed of — a crime in progress.
Stranded in a high office block, outnumbered by twelve to one, the wiry ex-cop takes on a fight to the death against fully armed terrorists, whilst the lives of seventy-five hostages — including those of his own daughter and grandchildren hang in the fragile balance.
But Leland not only knows who the terrorists are and the cruel atrocities of which they are capable, he is also aware of the bloody and destructive anti-terrorist plans of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Annotation
One man — alone, marooned, outnumbered... and running out of time.
The setting — Los Angeles.
The time — the twenty-four hours between Christmas Eve and Christmas morning.
Joe Leland, veteran cop and former war hero, finds himself bang in the middle of the most terrifying situation any policeman has everdreamed of — a crime in progress.
Stranded in a high office block, outnumbered by twelve to one, the wiry ex-cop takes on a fight to the death against fully armed terrorists, whilst the lives of seventy-five hostages — including those of his own daughter and grandchildren hang in the fragile balance.
But Leland not only knows who the terrorists are and the cruel atrocities of which they are capable, he is also aware of the bloody and destructive antiterrorist plans of the Los Angeles Police Department.
Roderick Thorpe
Nothing Lasts Forever
December 24
...3:49 P.M., CST...
"What I don't understand," the taxi driver shouted over the whacking of the windshield wipers, "is what goes through a person's mind when he mutilates somebody like that."
As he glanced over his shoulder in conversational emphasis, the white station wagon thirty feet in front suddenly braked, skidding in the accumulating slush, its massive back end rising like a sounding whale. The passenger in the taxi, Joseph Leland, who had been wondering about something else entirely, perplexed, threw up his hands; the driver reacted, banging his foot on the brake pedal and twisting the wheel. The taxi pitched forward, rotating slowly on its vertical axis, and slammed sideways into the wagon. The right side of Leland's forehead struck the doorpost, drawing blood. He braced for another collision with the car behind, but none came.
"Shit!" the driver cried, punching the steering wheel. "Shit!"
"Are you all right?" Leland asked.
"Yeah." He saw Leland. "Ah, damn. Damn!"
"Don't worry about it." On Leland's handkerchief was a jagged stain of blood the size of a postage stamp.
The driver was black, young, with high cheekbones and almond eyes. He and Leland had been discussing atrocities in Africa. The falling snow had made the ride from the hotel near the huge, stainless steel Gateway downtown a long one; Leland had learned that the driver had come to St. Louis from Birmingham as a single man in the late fifties, and that his son was now an all-city third baseman for his high school team.
In the bumper-to-bumper traffic near the airport, the conversation turned to violence. As he wheeled the taxi from the Interstate to the airport approach road, the driver brought up the recent sexual maimings in black Africa.
Lambert Yield,
Leland realized, with the driver talking about severed penises. Not Lindbergh, in spite of the St. Louis connection. Lindbergh, a dangerous airport, was in San Diego. Leland had been in and out of St. Louis a dozen times in the past five years, and this was not the first time he had made the mistake.
Now he was bleeding: for a jot of people, a mature man with a cut on his brow was a falling-down drunk. In spite of that unnerving prospect, Leland was neither upset nor angry. It was not really a bad cut. Because of the accident, he had lost track of something else that had crossed his mind. It began to nag at him. He worked up a new blot on the handkerchief.
"I'm sorry, man. I'm really sorry."
Leland could see it. Now the driver of the wagon opened his door and looked back, unwilling to step out into the mess on the roadway. He was a big, fat man with a moustache, a man-mountain, the kind cops were always careful with. He had a temper to match, too: he scowled at the taxi driver, and jerked his thumb commandingly in the direction of the shoulder of the road. The station wagon rolled forward, spewing slush up against Leland's side of the car.
"My plane is leaving in twenty minutes," Leland said.
"Right. That guy can see me down at the terminal. I'm sorry, man. I really am sorry." He stopped beside the station wagon, reached over and lowered the right front window, allowing the whirling snow to funnel inside.
"Pull over!" the big man bellowed.
"My passenger's bleeding and has to catch a plane..."
"Don't give me that crap! Pull over!"
Leland cranked down the rear window. "Let me get to the terminal."
The big man studied him a moment. "You're not hurt that bad. Do you know what this guy is going to try on me? Pull over!" he shouted to the taxi driver.
"He has to catch a plane!"
"Don't fuck with me, you goddamned nigger! As soon as he's out of the cab, you'll take off!"
The taxi driver stepped on the gas. "Fuck yourself!" he shouted. He nearly lost control of the vehicle again as he struggled to close the window. "I don't have to put up with that shit!"
"He's a psycho," Leland said. "Here's my card. I'll be in California for the next ten days, then I'll be back east. Later, if he makes trouble for you, I'll give you any kind of deposition you want."
"It's not later I'm worried about," the driver said. "I'm worried about now."
"As long as I'm in the cab," Leland said, "we have an ace in the hole."
The driver glanced in the mirror. "He got back in the traffic. You some kind of a cop?"
"More of a consultant, these days." Leland patted his forehead again. "The important thing is that I'm carrying the iron that makes it official."
"Jesus. You never do know, do you? Hey, here's something I always wanted to know: How do you get that thing on the plane?"
"They issue a card. Very special. It can't be copied."
"Sure, right, they would have a card. That's funny, like the commercials. Do you know me?" he mocked. He made a gun of his hand. "This is the
real
American Express."
Leland grinned. "I'll have to remember that."
The bleeding had lessened, but now his head throbbed. It was going to get worse. The traffic slowed, and the driver glanced up and then over to the mirror on the door.
"Here he comes."
The wagon was on their left. The big man swung it over so that it skidded against the taxicab. Leland moved over and lowered the side window.
"Don't plug him, man, please."
"These guys plug themselves," Leland said, enjoying the old slang. Like so many blacks, the driver had the gift of language — he had wanted to know what went through a
person's
mind. Leland had wondered about the driver's choice of words in that context — and then had remembered something else, the thing that had begun eluding him with the accident. "I'm a police officer," Leland shouted to the big man. "Let us get to the terminal!"
"I told him not to fuck with me! Now I'm telling you the same!" the big man roared, and turned his steering wheel so that the wagon continued to press against the taxi. Leland was thinking of a guy like this who had held off a dozen policemen in a bowling alley in New Jersey, heaving bowling balls like cantaloupes. There was no telling how wild this one was. Leland drew his Browning 9 millimeter, made sure the safety was on, and pushed it through the open windows toward the big man's nose. The Browning was a professional's handgun, thirteen shots in the magazine and room for one in the clip, which was empty now. The big man saw Leland's seriousness. His eyes rolled back and his tongue protruded, curled like a canape. He thought Leland was going to shoot him in the face... to get on a plane.
"He'll see you at the terminal," Leland said to him.
The big man was motionless, afraid to move. The taxi driver eased forward, the fenders scraping.
"Jesus," the driver said.
Leland was trembling, nearly sick. He could be in deep trouble — at least, have some serious explaining in store. "I made a mistake," he said to the driver quickly. "It's just a fender-bender. If he tries to push you around, we'll both charge him with assault."
"Hey, man, don't worry about it. I saw no gun."
Leland got twenty-five dollars out of his wallet. The curving ramp up to the terminal emerged from the falling snow.
"California, huh?" the driver asked. "I've never had the pleasure."
"I'm going to see my daughter in Los Angeles. Then I'm going to drive up the coast to Eureka to see an old friend."
"Your daughter married?"
"Divorced. She has two children. Her mother's dead, but we were divorced, too, years ago."
"Well, you'll be with your family," the driver said. "That's the important thing. Me, too. I'm going to have a good Christmas in spite of this. I'll tell you, man, I've never had much luck with Christmas. When I was a little boy, my daddy used to get drunk and beat up on me. I guess it's not all clear sailing for anybody..."
A 747 rose up over the roof of the terminal, blackening the fishbelly sky and drowning the driver's last words. The station wagon glided by again, the big man glowering at them warily. Leland got another ten from his wallet, then, almost as an afterthought, the I.D. that would get the Browning, loaded, onto the airplane. While the gun was legal, a badge he was carrying was not. It was a New York City detective's badge, a gift from friends in that department, the back engraved THIS MAN IS A PRICK. Leland pushed the twenty-five over the front seat.
The driver pulled to the curb and flipped the meter flag. "Oh, no, man, this is on me."
"Merry Christmas," Leland said, thrusting the money at him. "Have a nice holiday."
The driver took it. The station wagon pulled in front of the taxi. A skycap opened Leland's door. As he got out, Leland gave him the ten. "Get a cop, pronto. The luggage goes to Los Angeles."
"Yes, sir. I'll get somebody to ticket your bags. You have yourself a Merry Christmas."
Leland felt the beginning of relief. This morning's "Good Morning, America" had reported Los Angeles at seventy-eight degrees. A cop was coming through the terminal crowd toward the automatic doors. Leland raised his hand to hold the cop inside. "Stay in your seat," he called to the driver. "Merry Christmas to you."
"You, too. Thanks for your help. Have a nice flight!'
Leland felt he was abandoning the man. Inside the terminal, he produced for the cop, another black man, the I.D. Woven into the plastic of the card was a coded array of rare metals, and now they sparkled under the terminal lights.
"Oh, yeah, right, I know you." The cop, whose name was JOHNSON, T.E., looked over Leland's shoulder, "What's the problem?"
Leland explained that he had been in the taxi during the accident and that the driver of the wagon had gone berserk.
Patrolman Johnson eyed Leland. "You wave your piece at him?"
"I told him I had it," Leland lied.
He smiled and glanced at the taxi. "Sounds good. The brother with you on this? Don't juice my fruit."
Leland grinned. "Scout's honor. I'd salute, but I'd start bleeding again."
"You better have that looked at. Go ahead. Don't worry about this. Have a nice holiday."
"Same to you." Leland kept the identification in hand for the officer at the metal detector. He blotted his forehead again — now he had four large stains on the handkerchief. He had a look at himself in a mirror in the window of a gift shop. It was a real cut, all right, but not deep and barely half an inch long. Something was still bothering him. The officer at the metal detector was another black man: LOPEZ, R.A. Spanish father and black mother? The combination was more common in Los Angeles, and for a second it made Leland wonder dizzily if he had stepped through the looking glass.

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