Four floors below Manhattan in a bunkerlike room, a vast wall of monitors pulses with fragments of a city's picture; images flicker to life then disappear like bits of dream.
On one of the screens Mrs. Franklin Holt does not move, not one muscle. She has not moved in six hours. Crowds pour in and out of subway trains on the platform where she is standing but she stares ahead like a statue. She does not flinch when a teenager waiting for an overdue train dances around her to get laughs from his friends. She does not respond when a young couple asks her if she is okay. She is transfixed by something in front of her no one else can see. Something that will happen soon.
Two blocks away from the subway station where Mrs. Franklin Holt is waiting, Mac Wells leans against the wall of a Korean grocery and watches the flow of traffic. He checks his watch. Sam Mullane is late. They are due on station in six minutes. Mac lets his eyes lose their focus and the taxis speeding by form an undulating river of yellow, the blood of the city.
Mac senses someone lean against the wall next to him.
"You counting cars again?" Sam asks tiredly.
"You're a hundred and thirteen cabs late."
Sam has bags under his eyes, a paleness to his skin.
"You and Lisa overindulge?" Mac asks.
"Apparently I was singing into my hand like it was a microphone. Lisa's pretty ticked off."
"Sorry I couldn't make it." Mac claps his hands next to Sam's ear.
"So loud noises are bad?"
"You missed your calling," Sam says, starting off down the street, a few feet ahead so Mac can't clap at him again.
"I don't know. Colombian death squad member." From a pocket Sam pulls a small skin-colored wireless earpiece and slides it into his ear. He places a two-millimeter-wide wireless microphone patch over his voice box.
Mac, impeccably dressed in a conservative business suit, catches up and falls in step with Sam, who is smeared with grime and dirt, wearing five layers of old, torn clothing and shoes that look like they were found in the trash.
A block away a camera in a Plexiglas globe at the top of a telephone pole zeroes in on them, transmitting their images to the watch-room where thousands of images from Manhattan's streets and subways are shimmering, liquid yet constant. The camera zooms in and pictures of Mac and Sam are frozen and outlined in red. Facial characteristics are isolated and in the bottom corner of the screen video photos flip past, an indefinable blur until, a moment later, a match is found; Mac and Sam appear younger and smiling in their police uniforms. In less than a second hundreds of sociological information bits are analyzed, credit ratings to police records to clothing status cues. The scene is determined to have a 100 percent successful nonintervention resolution probability. DADD (Deviant/Antisocial Detection and Deterrent), the most advanced behavior recognition program ever developed, moves on, simultaneously scanning thousands of people, analyzing the most complicated animal behavior on earth: human interaction.
On one of the screens two men in heavy sweatshirts walk into a subway station, their hoods up, their heads lowered. For a brief moment, one of the men looks up, checking out the platform. His face is partly revealed and DADD freeze-frames the image, outlining and enlarging it. A small window appears in the bottom corner of the screen and the identification check begins.
Mac Wells follows Sam Mullane down the steps into the subway. Six months before, the New York underground trains were notoriously unsafe and dirty. Now, no trash litters the platform, no foul odors, urine and worse, assault commuters, no cacophonous boom boxes pound the ears. Instead, a large spotless white sign announces the area as a Police Enforced Anti-Crime Environment, and around the station a Strauss waltz drifts through the air from two-inch-thick flat-screen TVs hanging high on pillars and walls. On the screens commercials without sound play -- a computer-generated image of a racially blended female, with tan skin and Eurasian eyes, drinks the latest preservative-and-additive-free soda. She smiles, seductive but innocent, holding the glistening can forward. Behind her smile, cameras in each TV silently scan the crowd.
Mac and Sam enter the station separately and take up posts at opposite ends of the platform. Mac sees Lisa Washington, the third member of their team, already on post, sitting on a bench between two old ladies. As per protocol she does not acknowledge him.
A woman with a stroller enters the station and Mac watches her roll the carriage out into the middle of the platform. Mac cannot help but stare at the woman, her back turned, her blonde hair down to midshoulder, just like Eve. Even the way she holds herself is the same as Eve, from the waist up tilting slightly backward, feet turned outward, and it could be Eve standing there, going on an errand with a little baby. Their little baby. But the woman turns, her face larger and broader than Eve's and the illusion is gone.
Mac looks away and the two men in hooded sweatshirts come into view. Trying not to stand out they stand out. Mac doesn't alter his stance, his heartbeat does not even slightly increase. Instead, he casually touches the wireless receiver in his ear and waits for confirmation.
Tony Parks, the taller hooded man, senses he is being watched. But everyone feels that in the subways now. To take the trains is instant paranoia. Still, without lifting his head he glances around the platform. Nearby, a large group of German-speaking tourists laugh loudly over some joke, one of them repeating the punchline, Sein hund rot und fett tragt jetzt die kleidung seiner frau, over and over. Across the platform there's a woman with a stroller, a businessman with a leather briefcase, a group of men bouncing a basketball, and, sitting alone, a graduate student type in a ratty tweed jacket. Tony looks at the stairs, considers the street. But the street is a bad idea. Better to play it cool, see what happens. Casually, Tony unzips his sweatshirt to have easy access to his gun.
On the watch-room monitor DADD has a match. Pictures of Tony Parks, a tear-shaped scar below his right eye, and his younger brother, Tommy Parks, fill the screen. Tony Parks's criminal and personal histories begin to scroll across the screen. DADD switches on a Passive Millimeter Wave Imaging system attached to the camera in the subway. Tommy Parks is standing on the other side of Tony and only Tony can be scanned. Variations in electromagnetic rays emitted by Tony Parks's body and all the objects he is carrying, his wallet, a pen, and the gun in a holster under his arm, are measured. Immediately, flashing red images of the gun and the other objects are produced on the screen contrasted against a blue image of Tony Parks's body. DADD bumps the scene to INTERCEPT and a warning tone sounds.
Tom Martinez and Jim Lincoln, the PEACE watch operators, immediately act. Martinez pushes a button that brings the information to a central screen. Tommy Parks has no priors but Tony's rap sheet is endless, a laundry list of armed robberies and assaults. And he is armed.
Lincoln whistles. "A real beaut."
Martinez taps a code on a keypad in his console and leans forward to a microphone. "Watch to seven." Martinez waits a moment. "Mac, you there or what?"
Mac Wells walks to a pillar as if stretching his legs. He speaks quietly, the skin-colored two-millimeter-wide adhesive microphone positioned just below his voice box, sensitive to the softest whisper.
"The computer's caught two fish there on the platform with you. One's an ex-con wanted for a shitload of stuff. The computer says he's packin'...they're wearin' -- "
"I've marked them."
"You got 'em?"
"Red and green sweatshirts. Tall one's spooked."
"Okay. Backup's on the way. You take the marks before the train pulls in."
Mrs. Franklin Holt can feel the convergence of forces closing in around her. Squeezing tighter. It has been coming a long time and now that the moment is close she feels something similar to relief. The train, the first hint of a low rumble, the sound traveling dimly from a station away, is approaching. People in front of her start to shift toward the edge of the platform. Into her field of view a woman pushes a stroller. That's good, Mrs. Franklin Holt thinks. That's appropriate.
Mac slides into position near the two marks but the men walk forward into a crowd and stand on either side of the woman who looks like Eve.
"No go," Mac breathes. "Innocents in the line. It's gonna happen on the train."
"Okay," Martinez says. "The eighth car is gridded. You know the procedure, Mac. Get them into the grid sector or wait till they're off. No firing on the train."
Mac senses Lisa and Sam moving into position near him.
The sound of the train, less than two blocks away, grows louder as it approaches.
A few feet behind Mac, Mrs. Franklin Holt moves for the first time in just over six hours, her hand, cramped and hurting from lack of movement, gestures toward the crowd. She opens her mouth and begins to speak but at first nothing comes out, just a dry hiss. She tries again and this time the words have form but are without voice, as though she is whispering a secret. "If you saw what God sees you'd think he was mad, lock him up, give him electroshock...but God doesn't need to be cured."
She takes a painful step forward. Blood has settled in her feet and she can barely keep her legs from collapsing under her. Muscles are cramping all over her body, and unable to control herself she begins to urinate, the urine spreading down her thick knit stockings, hot against her skin, collecting in her shoes.
She can feel the train vibrating the cement of the platform. She has only a little time left.
Mac watches Tony Parks look up to a mirror on the ceiling and scan the crowd. Suddenly Tony turns toward him and Mac casually looks away. But it is too late. Mac can feel Tony staring at him. Perps sometimes have a way of sniffing out a PEACE officer; Mac knows his cover is blown. He looks up and meets eyes with Tony. There is a moment when they both stare, the predator and the prey.
In less than a second, Tony knocks Tommy to the floor out of firing range, draws his gun, and ducks in the crowd, pivoting behind a teenage girl, holding her in front as a shield.
Mac's gun is out and pointed at the part of Tony's head just visible behind the girl, Sam and Lisa drawing their weapons only a half a beat slower. Mac immediately assesses the situation, some of the crowd backing away but others freezing in place, the armed target visible behind the girl but the other target somewhere out of view. A dangerous situation. Calm the armed target and locate the other suspect. Then take them out.
"Just put your gun down and everything's going to be fine...."
Before Tony Parks can respond the event that Mrs. Franklin Holt has been waiting for happens. A force enters her body, an intense new strength that seems to come from outside her, taking control of her body and pushing her forward, rushing her across the platform. As the train rockets closer, its light just glinting off the tracks of the first half of the station, she shoves the stroller with the baby into the tracks.
Mac, catching the horrific scene in the corner of his eye, responds without thinking, holstering his gun, turning to sprint toward the tracks. But the baby's mother is closer; she leaps in first after the stroller, which sits on end, its large sunguard propped against the second rail, its two rear wheels spinning futilely in the air. The mother lands awkwardly, the snap of her ankle bone audible to those close to the tracks. She falls grabbing at the carriage, pulling at the wheel spokes, screaming desperately for help.
Mac leaps easily into the tracks, the world going into slow motion, his peripheral vision taking in the shower of sparks that shoots from the rails as the wheels of the train grind and slide less than thirty feet away, the driver frantically trying to stop, the squeal of the brakes like a scream.
People on the platform are emerging from their initial shock; some are screaming, panicked, while others begin to scramble forward to help. Mac hoists the mother, his hands in her armpits, in one motion, practically throwing her into people's arms on the platform. With the train less than ten feet away, he reaches into the carriage, snatches the baby up by its little blue pajamas, and dives with all his might toward the middle track. He protects the baby by turning in midair and landing on his side, rocks and wooden tracks jamming into his shoulder as the train misses his legs by an inch and slams into the baby carriage, smashing and dragging it down the tracks. Sparks spray onto Mac as he rolls to his knees, the baby cradled in his left arm like a football, light and dark flashing as the train passes, the fingers of his left hand supporting his weight against the ground just inches from the electricity-carrying third rail.
Mac looks down at the crying baby's beet-red face to make sure he is okay. Mac does not see Mrs. Franklin Holt jump into the tracks and go under the train, where her body is severed into two pieces, her cauterized torso tossed up onto the platform. The boy's gumless mouth wails louder than any baby Mac has ever heard. Mac feels a heat growing in his chest, anger.
He stands, drawing his gun, and walks quickly to a space between cars, unaware of the people in the train watching him through their windows. He steps between the cars and sees across the platform the old lady's severed body, Sam motioning with his hands, trying to calm Tony Parks. People around the platform are beginning to gag and vomit, crying and choking sounds fill the air; Sam is doing his best to trade himself for the teenager and Lisa has her gun trained at Tony's head. The mother of the baby, lying on her side, frantically peers between train cars and screams for her child. Mac looks for the other target and sees him, no more than a boy really, standing frozen in place and unarmed.
Mac blocks out the chaos on the platform and raises his gun. He has a shot but Sam and a civilian are standing between him and the target, leaving only a small triangle of space through which to shoot the suspect. He can see that Sam, a few inches at a time, is working himself closer to Parks. Everything becomes slow, Mac's hand is perfectly steady, he begins to squeeze the trigger. Then things go wrong. He tries to pull back even as he is firing, the release of the gun inevitable and dreadful, as at exactly that moment Sam leaps forward to disarm Parks.
Mac watches stunned as the shot hits Sam on the back of the neck, the electropatch releasing its charge, the electricity dancing between the fillings inside his mouth, his body paralyzed as he falls to the ground, his head hitting hard against a metal post.
Suddenly out of breath, the scene losing its focus for a moment, Mac watches as though he is a great distance away, Lisa firing her gun, her first shot hitting Tony in the temple and dropping him to the ground as his teenage captive scrambles into the arms of bystanders.
Mac crawls under the train coupling and hands the baby to a large black woman, who hands the infant to the mother, who begins to sob uncontrollably.
Mac pushes onto the platform toward where Lisa crouches above Sam. He bends at Sam's side when the crowd to his right parts and there stands Tommy Parks, a seventeen year old who looks like he hasn't even begun shaving yet, pointing a .44 at Mac's heart. The teenager's gun hand visibly trembles.
Mac slowly stands, trying to shift gears, to give all his attention to the gunman. The stench of vomit is overwhelming and he involuntarily gags. And another smell, just as sickening, is in the air, like aged cheese but much worse. Mac has smelled it before from dogs when they have been in a fight. Fear and aggression. It is coming from people on the platform, their faces terrified, their brains unable to make sense of the carnage around them. But mostly, it is coming from the boy with the gun.
Mac decides to talk.
"Son, I'm going to lower my gun and you lower yours."
"You killed my brother."
"No, he's just asleep...he'll be fine." Mac begins to lower his gun.
"I have nothing to lose," Tommy Parks is breathing out of his mouth, like a caught fish drowning in the air. "I can't go back to juvi court."
"Look, everyone's scared. You haven't done anything that can't be fixed. It'll look good you put down the gun." Mac stands in a relaxed way, his body language conveying total confidence in the situation's outcome.
For a few seconds Tommy Parks nervously glances around then slowly drops his gun hand to his side.
Mac shoots from the hip, the electric patch hitting the boy in the center of the forehead. The boy's finger instantaneously relaxes on the trigger, his eyes fluttering, his mouth jerking into what looks like a smile as he topples.
Mac turns back and stares down at Sam's crumpled form, oblivious to the smattering of cheers and applause that erupt around the station.
Copyright © 2000 by Guy Holmes
A Novel of Police Terror
A Novel of Police Terror
Enter Mac Wells, a cop whose legendary cool reserve masks a fierce loyalty to his colleagues and his city. As one of New York's elite undercover agents, he is part of a flagship anti-crime experiment that everyone wants to work. And at first glance, it seems to be doing just that -- crime is down; the citizens are happy. But strange and random acts of violence persist, in a pattern that no one can decipher. And when Mac accidentally tranqs his partner during a subway crime, he unwittingly stumbles upon a conspiracy that reaches to the highest echelons of the police department...and the government. Now Mac is forced to choose between his loyalty to his colleagues and his sense of justice -- and to figure out whom to trust before he becomes the next casualty of a tragic "accident."
P.E.A.C.E. is a heart-pounding thrill ride that signals the debut of a potent new voice in the thriller genre. Breathlessly original, P.E.A.C.E. launches the dazzling career of a writer destined to rank alongside Ed McBain and David Baldacci.
- Simon & Schuster |
- 320 pages |
- ISBN 9780743211901 |
- December 2001