An officer was down. But who was it?

More chapters from ToxiCity

A VG Serial: ToxiCity

Episode 95

“Okay. We go,” Stone said.

He put his mask on, scrambled up the stairs, and sidestepped down the hall to Two-B. The men with the ram followed.

The door to Romano’s apartment looked like heavy wood, but it probably was just pressed board. Stone thought he heard a thump. Someone was in there. He tried to press his ear against the door, but the mask got in his way. He ripped it off and heard a muffled voice.

“Dusty, bring the backpack.” A female.

“Okay.” A male voice.

“Hurry. We’re behind schedule.” Silence. A loud thump. “Did you hear that?” The female voice was high strung. Tense. “Dusty, what –”

Her words were cut off by a shout, followed almost immediately by the blast of a shotgun. Then another scream. And a burst of staccato shots.

“Fuck it. They’re in. Let’s go!” Stone motioned to the men with the battering ram.

Cursing the failed radios, Stone threw his mask back on. The officers took a running start and smashed the ram against the door. The door splintered with a loud crunch, and the door fell off its hinges. Stone slipped his Sig Sauer out of his holster and pushed inside, followed by his team.

A woman wearing a black warm up suit and a fatigue jacket stood in front of the couch. Behind her on the cushions lay Ricki Feldman, her eyes closed. The woman’s blonde hair was pulled back from her face, revealing shallow, colorless eyes. She was in a shooter’s stance, one foot in front of the other. She aimed a Beretta at Ricki’s chest.

“Drop your weapons,” she said, “or I’ll put a bullet through her brain.”

Stone dropped his Sig. It skittered across on the floor, coming to rest at the edge of an area rug. He heard the other men’s weapons hit the floor behind him.

The woman jerked her head toward the bedroom. “Dusty? What happened?”

“A man’s down,” a man answered. “The others backed down the fire escape.”

Stone tensed. Brewster or Nelson?

The woman loosened her shoulders, as if confirming what she already knew. “You shouldn’t have tried to do an end run. Your timing sucks.” She smiled. “But never mind, you’re here now. Welcome, men. Or are there ladies, too? Hard to tell under those big scary masks.” Her tone was eerily calm. She waved her gun at Stone’s mask. “They’re about as effective as toilet paper, by the way. You may as well take them off.”

Stone took his off. The sound of a window sliding on its track squeaked from the other room.

“Dusty?”

“Someone’s bleeding out on the steps,” he called.

Stone stiffened.

“Forget about them. Bring me the backpack.”

“They’ll storm the window.”

Champlain flicked her gun at Stone. “Not if our leader here tells them to stand down.”

Stone angled his head toward Ricki. “Not until I know she’s all right.”

She shook her head. “Not until you give the order.”

Stone hesitated, then spoke into his radio. “Brewster, this is Stone. I want you to back off. Do not, I repeat, do not attempt to come back up the fire escape. They have us covered. Over?”

Static. Shit. Not again. Come on Brewster, Stone pleaded. Then there was a squeak, a squeal, and a voice came through the radio.

“We got a man down. It’s Nelson. Over.”

Stone winced. “Brewster,” he said slowly. “Take her down. And back off. You hear me, over?”

“Got it. We will not attempt an assault.”

Stone heard a slight emphasis on the word “we”. His eyes moved to Champlain. Had she heard it too? When her expression didn’t change, Stone dared to hope. He lowered the radio, motioning toward Ricki. “Okay. Let me see her.”

“Dusty,” she called, “cover me.”

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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