A kidnapping with a lethal toxin.

More chapters from ToxiCity

A VG Serial: Toxicity

Episode 93

The wind sliced through Stone like the beak of a bird of prey. The Hawk was earning its name tonight. In the distance a hound bayed.

In the alley behind Romano’s building, he waited for back up. Like so many Chicago alleys, the ground was patched and rutted and needed resurfacing. He gazed up at Romano’s apartment. A tiny sliver of light rimmed the shade. Someone was there.

At ground level twin beams of light poked through the shadows. He squinted. Brewster, Nelson, and three other officers were heading towards him with flashlights.

“Was it her?” Brewster asked, his breath short. “The waitress at Adam’s Rib?”

Stone nodded. “We think so.” After Matt’s call, he’d tracked down the owner of Adam’s Rib on the phone. Though irritable at being woken up, the man admitted that Annie Sears hadn’t shown up for work that day, which was unusual. She’d been very reliable, ever since he’d taken her off the weekend shift. As Stone hung up, he realized the man never asked whether Sears was okay.

His cell vibrated. It was the officer he’d sent to check out the Mount Prospect address Sears gave Matt. “There is no such number on East Kensington. It doesn’t exist.”

Stone went back to his car to nail down a warrant.

“I don’t know,” the judge said when he reached him. “Probable cause is a yellow towel?”

“It’s a kidnapping, Your Honor. The offender has a key to the place. And uses a lethal toxin. Ricki Feldman is the intended victim. I’d stake my reputation on it.”

Silence. Then a sigh. “I knew Helen Wexler. I haven’t forgotten you got the son of a bitch who killed her last year. I hope you’re right.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“I’ll have someone at the station fax it over.”

Stone went over the plan. He would divide the officers into two teams. Brewster would be in charge of one; he would lead the other. Brewster would take his men up the fire escape for an assault through Romano’s bedroom. Stone’s team would go in the front. All of them would wear masks and gloves. He would rather Matt lead the other team, but he wasn’t around.

Nelson passed out gas masks and gloves and instructed each officer to cover all their skin. “A precaution against ricin,” she said. “Or whatever the fuck they’re using.”

“We don’t know that the pathogen will be airborne. It might be in liquid form or even powder,” Stone added. “But we don’t have time to bring in a hazmat team. It’s up to us. The key is not to touch anything. Keep your hands on your weapons. Nothing else.”

He glanced at each officer in turn. He knew he was asking a lot. If any officer didn’t want to go in, he told them, he would release them. No one asked.

Brewster and his men started toward the fire escape. A minute later Stone’s radio squawked. “This is Brewster. Over.”

Stone pressed his radio’s talk button. “Go ahead.”

“We’re at the base of the fire escape.”

“That’s a ten-four. Now, listen to me. We don’t know what ‘s waiting for us inside. Let’s avoid confusion. You go up on my command only, okay Brewster? No one else. Over.”

“Got it. Your command only.”

Stone pocketed the radio and took a look around. This part of Glenbrook, with its white picket fences and tidy lawns, wasn’t high end, but it wasn’t blue collar either. You could see “Neighborhood watch” signs in some of the windows. An uncontrolled ricin emission could take out the whole block.

Episodes in the novel will be published on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Please click the following title,ToxiCity, to read more about Libby Fischer Hellman’s books on Amazon.

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