Authors: F. Paul Wilson
Tags: #Fiction, #Detective, #General
Stan yawned. He still sat in the driver seat, eyes on the mirrors, mirrors on the Crown Vic.
"Then we get him at noon."
Long night. When was the last time they'd stayed out till sunup? The sky was brightening but the streets remained quiet. The city started moving a little later on Saturday mornings.
"Yeah, well, whenever it is, let's hope we have better luck with your rig than mine."
"We will, Joe. Because I stayed cool while I was making it. And I kept it simple."
Stan liked to call it the Kozlowski Kar Krusher. A quarter brick of C-4 sandwiched between a remote electronic detonator and an aluminum-insulated refrigerator magnet. He wasn't the first to rig one, he was sure, but he'd perfected it to the level of art.
Too bad it wasn't legal to sell them. He'd often imagined an infom-ercial for the Kozlowski Kar Krusher…
Got an annoying neighbor? An in-law who's making you crazy? A
boss who's on your ass all day? A wife who's taking you to the cleaners in divorce court? Sure you do!
And you probably thought you just had to put up with it, just had to grin and bear it, right?
Well, think again!
The Kozlowski Kar Krusher changes all that! It's so easy! And safe too! Reduce your problems to rubble in just three easy steps! Here's all you do:
First, identify the car of the one who's darkening your days.
Second, walk by the target car and stop to tie your shoe. While you're kneeling, simply slip the rig under the car and let the magnet attach itself to the frame. No need to get in the car or under the hood, no dicking around with ignition wires. Simply place the Kozlowski Kar Krusher under the driver side, the passenger side, the rear compartment, the gas tank: the choice is YOURS!
Third, just straighten up and walk on.
And that's IT! Blow the bastard or the bitch to hell whenever you want! What could be easier, or more fun?
But that's not all!
If you're dealing with a suspicious type who has a remote start on his car, or a cowardly type who sends someone else out to start it while he's safe in the house, no problem! The Kozlowski Kar Krusher has got you covered! YOU are in control. Just wait till the human blot on your existence is in the car, then press the red button on the Kozlowski Kar Krusher Remote Detonator (batteries not included) and BOOM! Bye-bye bitch! Bye-bye bastard!
But wait! There's more!
Why blow up the car in front of the target's house? Why be so ordinary? The Kozlowski Kar Krusher allows you artistic expression, lets you choose the venue of your enemy's demise! How does mid-span on the Brooklyn Bridge sound? Or right in front of City Hall? Or better yet, in your ex-girlfriend's driveway! With the Kozlowski Kar Krusher you don't simply eliminate the problem
you make a statement
The Kozlowski Kar Krusher! Regularly $119.99, but now, for a limited time only, get two for $200!
Wouldn't that be something, Stan thought. Wouldn't that be a pisser.
He shook himself out of his reverie and checked the Crown Vic again in the mirror. He'd attached the rig under the driver side. When it went, the C-4 would shred the car and leave nothing recognizable of whoever was sitting inside.
Stan had decided to take no chances. As tempting as it would be to follow the guy around and wait till he was near a cop car before hitting the button, Stan knew getting cute could backfire. A traffic glitch could put the rig out of range of the detonator, or a stray transmission from a two-way radio on the wrong frequency could set it off when they were too close. Keep it simple, stupid, and blow the guy to hell right there in front of his own building.
He stiffened as he saw the apartment building's glass front door swing open. A man stepped out and leaned on the door as it closed behind him.
"Check this guy out," Stan said. "Is that our boy?"
Joe's head popped up, looking through the rear window. "That's him all right. That's the fucker. Looks like shit, though. Like he's been smokin' rock all night."
The guy did look a little wasted as he slumped there looking up and down the street. That was what had made Stan unsure about him a moment ago. Here was a guy who'd been moving like a cat yesterday, but this morning he looked like a tired old hound.
Stan glanced at his watch. "He's an early bird."
"Nah," Joe growled. "
the birds. He's the fuckin' worm."
Stan pulled the remote trigger from his shirt pocket. It was shiny and black, the size of a cigarette pack. He extended the transmitter aerial but left the little hinged red metal guard in place over the button.
As he watched the guy step away from the building, digging in his pants pocket as he moved, Stan thought, Please be going for your car keys.
And he was. A keychain appeared in his hand; he selected one and stuck it into the lock.
"Gimme the button," Joe said, thrusting his good hand over the back of the front seat. "I gotta do this. I just gotta."
"Just wait a sec. We're in no hurry here. Plenty of time. He's ours when we want him."
"You think I don't fuckin' know that?" Joe said, voice rising. "Just gimme the button!"
The guy had the door open and looked about to duck inside, but then Stan saw him step away from the car and go back to the apartment door.
"We missed him!" Joe shouted. He started pounding the seat back. "Shit!"
"Easy, Joe," Stan said as he looked around and spotted a young black woman striding their way along the sidewalk. Her route would bring her within a few feet of their car. He stuck the trigger back into his pocket. "Keep it down. We got company. We don't want nobody remembering us."
"We shoulda done him soon as he opened the car door," Joe hissed.
"Uh-uh. Worst thing is to blow it too earjy. We only hurt him instead of killing him now, we might never get another chance. He probably forgot something. He'll be back."
Sure enough, a minute later the guy appeared again.
"All right, so I was wrong."
As Stan removed the trigger again from his pocket, Joe snatched it from him.
"Damn it, Joe—!"
"It's all right," Joe said. "I'm cool, I'm cool. I'll wait till he's sealed in, I promise."
Stan didn't like this. Something about the whole setup was gnawing at him. He didn't like Joe with the trigger, but that wasn't it. Maybe it was the way the guy was standing inside his open car door scanning the street, like he was looking for something? Did he suspect?
Stan glanced around for the black girl—gone. Nobody else on the street now—no cars, no pedestrians…
As the guy slipped behind the wheel and closed the door, he heard the button guard click back and Joe say, "Now, baby,
And in that instant Stan knew what was wrong and he reached for Joe's hand, screaming, "NOOOOOO!" as he tried to keep his brother's joyful thumb from jamming down on the button.
The explosion rocked the pavement as the car dissolved in a dazzling cloud of flaming debris. Jack ducked below his dashboard in case a piece came flying through the windshield. His big car was well insulated, muffling much of the sound, so his ears weren't ringing when he stepped back onto the sidewalk to survey the damage. A deep hole smoked in the pavement where the Taurus had been parked; the cars fore and aft of it were crumpled and burning, sending up dark twisting spirals of smoke. Shattered glass, twisted metal, and fuming pieces of plastic were strewn everywhere. The blast had broken auto and building windows up and down the street; alarms blared and rang and whooped; an unfortunate tree near the blast had been stripped bare and its leaves were still fluttering back to earth.
Jack closed his eyes against a wave of weakness and nausea—not because the bomb had been meant for him, but because he was almost too sick to stand. If he'd felt this bad a few hours ago he never would have found the bomb.
Good thing he'd pushed himself then. Sneaked down to the street via the fire escape of a neighboring building and crawled along the gutter to his car. His Viper goggles had allowed him to spot the bomb on the undercarriage. He'd removed it and, again with the aid of the goggles, made his way to the Taurus. Recognized Stan Kozlowski behind the wheel; took a bit longer to peg the heavier man with him as brother Joe. At that point it took Jack about a nanosecond to decide what to do. These guys were too dangerous to leave running around.
So he'd attached the bomb to the Taurus's underbelly and crawled away.
Barely made it back to Jeanette's where he collapsed with an alarm clock next to his ear. Just after sunup he'd staggered down to the street, hoping he'd be the only one up and about. On a mostly commercial block like this he should have been, but he'd spotted this black woman approaching the K brothers' car, so he'd gone back inside until she passed.
Okay. No more Kozlowskis—no more bombs for Kate to worry about. Looked up. Jeanette's windows had escaped damage. Saw Kate's strained face through the intact glass directly above, looking down. He waved that he was okay.
"What happened?" said a voice behind him.
Jack turned and saw a fiftyish fellow in jogging shorts and a NYAC sweatshirt.
"I don't know," Jack said. "I stopped to tie my shoe and next thing I knew I was flat on my back."
The man looked at him strangely. "You don't look so good. Are you okay?"
Jack ran a shaky hand across his face—the chills were back so he didn't have to fake the tremor. "If my lace hadn't come loose I would have been right down there by the blast. I'd be… dead!"
"Oh, man, talk about luck. I'd frame that shoelace if I were you." He looked around. "Anyone call nine-one-one?"
Just then the sound of sirens filtered through the morning.
"I guess so," Jack said.
"I'm going down for a closer look," the jogger said.
"I think I'll stay right here."
The braver souls and the too curious were filtering out of the Arsley, but otherwise the street remained deserted. Jack edged away, back up toward Sixth Avenue. When a howling pair of blue-and-white units screeched onto the street, he slumped himself into a doorway, head down, allowing himself to look as ill as he felt. As soon as they roared past he was up and moving again, heading east, but not quickly enough to raise suspicion.
On Sixth he walked down to the Twenty-third Street subway station and hopped the first train heading uptown. The car was almost empty and it felt good to sit down. Another chill shuddered through him.
How the hell did I catch this? he wondered. Flu season's long gone.
After listening yesterday to Fielding talk about the contaminant in his cultures, a viral infection now was unsettling. But he remembered
Fielding's mention that the contaminant didn't cause any symptoms. That was comforting, because Jack had symptoms aplenty.
Needed to get home, needed major rack time under a pile of blankets.
"The phones haven't stopped all morning," George Meschke said. "The response has been wild, beyond anything I imagined."
Sandy sat in his editor's office, leaning back, his ankle resting on his knee. Last week he'd have been on pins and needles, hoping he wasn't going to get chewed out about some little mistake. Now he was totally relaxed. Chillin' with the bossman. Because he was in the catbird seat. Circulation was soaring. Ad revenues this week alone had been equal to the entire first quarter's.
And all because of one person, Sandy thought.
He said, "I knew my amnesty idea would strike a chord."
"But what a chord!" Meschke said, running both hands through the few remaining stands of hair atop his head; his thick mustache was the same shade of gray. "It's Saturday morning and people have already read the story and are burning up the phone lines! Amazing!"
Equally amazing, Sandy thought, glancing around at the otherwise deserted editorial area, is that it's Saturday morning and I'm at work. And what's truly mind-blowing is I'm glad to be here.
"They should be calling City Hall," he said. "That's where it'll do some good."
"Speaking of which, you need to talk to City Hall yourself. I know it's Saturday, but see if you can track down the mayor and the DA and the police commissioner for their reactions. We need something for Monday." Meschke rubbed his hands together and grinned like a little kid. "Can you imagine? We've just had a Saturday issue, now we'll have another on Monday. Four issues of
in one week! Who'd have believed it?"
Monday edition or not, Sandy was not anxious to do those interviews. Any other time he'd have been chomping at the bit, but after this morning's issue he knew he wasn't going to be the most popular guy with the city brass, not after putting them on the spot like this.