The phone shrilled, drawing Lt. Virginia Cooper's attention away from the paperwork she was grudgingly filling out. "Cooper," she answered in her inimitable Brooklyn accent. She paused a moment. "Yeah, put 'im through." She waited for the operator to connect her to her caller. "Hi Arthur." Another pause so that Captain O'Byrne could tell her why he called. "Sure, Arthur." Another lengthy pause. "Of course. I'll put Torres and Williams on it. We can meet in my office in an hour." She said the requisite goodbyes and hung up.
She stood up behind her desk, stretching muscles cramped by sitting behind a desk all day, when she was used to more strenuous activity. She momentarily longed for the days when she worked undercover, instead of behind a desk. Those longings came infrequently, because if ever there was a woman cut out to lead a group of officers like Torres and Williams, Virginia Cooper was it. At 5'2" with long blonde hair and hazel eyes, she hardly looked the part, but her tough sense of fair play combined with an unwillingness to suffer fools made her an effective leader. Her compassion and caring for those who worked for her, as well as for the masses she had sworn to protect and serve, made her a good one. The combination of the contrasting traits made her well loved by those she supervised.
She tossed her coat on, effectively covering the gun secured in the back waistband of her silk skirt. After locking her office, she strode down the stairs to where the Detectives' desks were. Torres and Williams were easily seen, standing by a desk and insulting each other's mother. When she got nearer, she heard a few of the insults.
"Your mama's so fat, when she gets on a scale, it says 'To be continued!'" Torres and the mass laughed as Williams thought up an appropriate rejoinder.
He grinned as he thought of one. "Yeah, well your mother's even fatter than mine! She's so fat, when she wears high heels, she strikes oil!"
Cooper, affectionately called Lou, chuckled to herself. "Ding! Match over, gentlemen. My office in an hour." She turned to go back upstairs, waited strategically until she was halfway up the stairs, then called back to Williams and Torres. "Oh, and I happened to see both of your mothers this morning. They were kicking cans down the street. When I asked what they were doing, they said 'Moving!'" She delivered this with a straight face, reveling at their twin expressions of shock, and waited until she was safely back in her office before giving in to the laughter that threatened.
*Cooper's office, an hour later
Cooper took the few minutes before O'Byrne arrived to brief Eddie and JC on the phone call she'd received earlier. "Basically, there's a missing person we gotta find. The reason it's coming this way and not from the typical report filed a day late is because that missing person is a friend of Captain O'Byrne's. Or, her parents are. I don't know the particulars, but I'm sure he'll clear up what he knows when he gets here."
The next five minutes were spent rehashing a case closed a week previously, and dividing the hot roast beef sandwiches that Eddie and JC had picked up on their way in. JC set aside a sandwich and pickle for O'Byrne when he came in. Eddie was talking around a mouthful, gloating about the look on the face of the murder suspect they'd collared the previous week.
"It was great! She thinks she's gonna do some helpless lady publisher, and instead gets a badge in her face." He laughed again and slurped from his soft drink can.
JC tossed in his two cents. "Yeah, it's funny now, but at the time, Lou took a bullet in the vest."
Cooper tossed her head dismissively, and started to answer, when O'Byrne knocked on the open door jamb and walked in.
"Hi Arthur. Take a seat and help yourself." Virginia gestured to the sandwich.
"Thanks." He sat, but ignored the sandwich. He got right to the point. "A friend of mine reported his daughter missing this morning around two o'clock. She was supposed to be home by ten, and he called me at two. I have the name and address where she was supposed to be. It was ascertained that she left there at 9:30. She was seen getting into a car with a man identified as Lucien Fuentes, a known drug dealer and pimp, seen by other acquaintances twice earlier in the day, both in the vicinity of the victim. The man who saw her get into the car said he couldn't tell if she was under duress or not. We have established no motive, and no ransom has been demanded." It was succinct and to the point, and unfortunately didn't give Eddie and JC much to go on. "Her name's Maggie Carlson."
They rallied some guesses back and forth about possible motive, but it was pure guesswork until more information could be gathered.
Cooper stood, signaling an end to the meeting. She, Eddie, and JC said goodbye to the captain, promising to call with any and all information. As soon as the door closed, the three faced each other to talk out their options, as was customary when a new case came in.
JC spoke first. "Obviously this Fuentes is our best bet. We get him, he rolls on whoever he did this for."
"What makes you think he was hired?" Eddie asked. "For all we know, he raped and murdered her and stuffed her in the trash by his apartment."
Cooper answered. "No, I don't think so. Did you hear him say that they saw Fuentes earlier around the girl? Why bother to tail her if all he wants is to rape and kill her? And why a girl like her? Why not some woman in Harlem who won't even be noticed missing for a day or two? She has a special purpose for someone, we just need to find out who."
Eddie jumped back in. "O'Byrne said the guy was a pimp. Easy enough to pick up one of his girls, get her to talk. We can use that to find him."
Virginia nodded. "Fine. You and Williams find out who he's pimping and haul a girl in. I'll work with the witnesses and a police artist, try to get a composite. Make it a little easier to get him."
JC and Eddie got up and left, as Virginia picked up the phone to leave a message for Arthur. She'd need the names of the witnesses, the location the victim had been at the previous night, and information on her parents as a start.
*Typical New York street, late afternoon
It looked for all the world like a sting. Cops eyes might have given JC away too early, had the prostitute not been greedily estimating how much money this particular john would bring in. Good thing--it had taken Eddie most of the day to find the name of one of Lucien Fuentes' girls.
As he approached her, he jerked his head up in greeting. "Hey."
She smiled at him, her sultry best and whetted her lower lip with her tongue in blatant invitation. "Looking for some company?"
He grinned down at her, and replied flirtatiously "Depends on what the company has in mind."
She reached out and squeezed his forearm. "I think we can work something out."
*Dingy motel room
Eddie quietly pulled the closet door closed as he waited for JC to return with the girl.
As the door opened, he saw a young woman, probably early twenties, walk in, dressed in a yellow miniskirt and red halter. Red fishnets and black patent high heels completed the ensemble. The effect was striking, but a long way from attractive. As JC followed her in, she pressed a calculated kiss on his lips, acting as if she was truly excited, rather than thinking about Oprah, which she had been forced to miss so she could pull afternoon duty. JC broke the kiss so he could lock the door. Eddie smirked and made a mental note to tease his partner later. They'd decided to try to get the information about Fuentes' whereabouts out of her without threatening prosecution, which was why JC continued the charade. Eddie strained to hear JC's voice as he and the girl moved to the opposite corner of the room.
The girl may not have recognized JC as a cop, but she wasn't without street smarts. "Okay, lets settle everything before we start. Fifty bucks an hour. Whatever we do in that hour is up to you." She was a hardened whore--she doubted that JC could ask her to do something that would shock her.
JC pulled a $50 bill out of his pocket and handed it to her. "How 'bout we talk first?"
She shrugged and took the money, zipping it into a pocket on her skirt. "It's your money."
"Well, to start, what's your name." JC sat back, inconspicuously looking for a trace of Eddie.
This wasn't a new question, and she too had seen Pretty Woman. "What do you want it to be?"
He shot her a retiring look and she shrugged. "Chantal."
"Okay, Chantal, I'm JC. Actually, I have some questions for you. Do you know where I could find Lucien Fuentes?"
Her eyes sharpened, and for a moment JC thought she'd made him. But she answered "Maybe. You buying from him? What'd you do, pay him for all of it, and only get half? Then he welshed on the other half, and you want your stuff?"
JC nodded. "Something like that."
Maybe this afternoon would go better than she'd hoped. "I don't really remember."
JC knew the routine. "Would another hundred jog your memory?"
"Let's see it."
He held it out, and she grabbed it, stuffing it into her pocket again. "901 Citrus, 3C. He's usually there from 4 to 9. After that try the Mellow Yellow," she said, naming a popular bar known for it's drug deals.
"Thanks." JC had her name, and knew approximately where she worked. She'd be easy enough to find again if need be.
Chantal left quickly, unable to believe that she had $150 in her pocket and hadn't had to do more than talk to some druggie for ten minutes to get it.
A moment after the door closed, Eddie came out of the closet. "You want to wait until he goes to this club? See if we can catch him dealing? We haul him in on possession with intent, we'll have some leverage. The guy's a two-time loser, this'll be his third offense. Trade him time in the can to roll on his partners."
JC nodded in agreement. "Yeah, that's our best bet, amigo. We'll haul him in and give Lou a crack at him."
Eddie nodded. "By the way, that was quite a kiss there, Papie." He socked JC on the shoulder on the way out the door.
JC just shook his head. He'd been expecting this. "Yeah, I've had better though. From your mama."
"Speaking of mama's, we gotta get Lou back for that one this morning. That came out of nowhere!" Eddie laughed as the door closed behind them.
*Back at the 4th Precinct
Lou and the Detectives studied the picture drawn by the police artist.
"So that's the guy, huh? A real prince." Eddie snorted. "His girl took a real shine to JC here, though."
JC glared at his partner. "You're just jealous it wasn't you, Homes."
Lou interrupted the by-play. "You said you were going for him tonight?" At their nods, she continued. "Fine. Let me know if you need backup. I went to the Carlson's today. She's a psychologist, he's runs an import/export business from Hungary. His firm's called Gray, Gray, and Carlson. I think they're hiding something though. I asked if they had any idea who might want to kidnap their daughter. The father seemed to have a guess, but denied any knowledge. When we find who put Fuentes up to it, we should find out what Dad has to do with it. Another thing. I don't know what the going rate is for psychologists and import businesses is, but that house is more in line for a rock star. Find out where the money's coming from." Virginia rubbed her forehead in a habitual gesture and nodded toward the door. "Go on, see what you come up with."
*Seedy looking bar
JC sat on a barstool, covertly watching Fuentes, who was by the door, checking his watch frequently. JC was expecting it when a man walked in, and immediately Fuentes headed for the alley behind the bar. Torres was covering the alley, but JC followed anyway. Since the hooker had seen him, Torres was the only one whose cover was still completely intact. As soon as his eyes cleared the doorway leading to the alley, JC knew they had Fuentes. The man reached into his pocket and withdrew a handful of small vials that looked like samples of perfume. The other pocket produced a small baggie filled with what appeared to be cocaine. He exchanged the drugs for a handful of cash. As he did, JC moved from the shadows, flashing his badge in one hand, and his weapon in the other.
"Police, put your hands up." He said this as he approached the men. JC let his badge return to where it had been hanging, obscured by his jacket, and grabbed Fuentes, pushing him against the side of the building. Fuentes went docilely, but when JC relaxed his grip to put his weapon away and reach for his cuffs, Fuentes jerked an elbow into JC's chin, knocking him backward. With that, Fuentes turned to run. He came face to face with Eddie's Glock, and put his hands in the air.
"Good choice, man," Eddie remarked as he searched the other man. He found a .22 semi-automatic in the man's jacket pocket, and removed it carefully. Finding no other weapons, he cuffed Fuentes. Eddie glanced at JC, who was holding his weapon on the buyer. "You're under arrest for possession of an illegal substance with intent to sell. You got the right to remain silent. Do you understand?" When no response was forthcoming, he continued. "Anything you say will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. Do you understand?" Again, no response, so he finished Mirandizing his prisoner. "If you can't afford an attorney, one will be appointed by the court." He glanced at JC, who was doing the same to his prisoner. "Let's go, man. Call Lou on the way."
*Interrogation room at the Fourth Precinct
"How the hell did you fuckers find me? I'll beat your ass so bad when I get out of here, your mother won't know you." Fuentes looked at Torres and Cooper with hate.
"You must be mixed up. You see, in here, we ask the questions, and you give the answers." Eddie glared at Fuentes and slapped the table hard for emphasis. JC watched through the one-way glass of the observation room connected to Interrogation. Virginia strategically stood next to the table, halfway between Torres and Fuentes. "Now, you seen this girl?" Eddie shoved a recent picture of Maggie Carlson under his nose. "Well? Answer me, Goddamn it!" He dropped the picture on the table and grabbed Fuentes by the jacket, hauling him up so their faces were nearly nose to nose.
"All right, that's enough." Virginia's clipped Brooklyn accent jumped into the fray at her cue. "Let him go, Torres. I want answers from him. He's just a liaison, he's not our guy." They were good at this routine--they played some version of it with nearly every suspect.
"Damn it, Lou, he knows where she is!" Eddie disgustedly threw Fuentes back into the chair.
"I said that's enough," Cooper snapped. "Look, if you can't be here, then get out. Now, Torres." She jerked her head toward the door.
Eddie gave her a disgusted look and stalked out the door. He walked around the corner and into the small room that JC occupied. "Well?"
"Looked real from here. It's up to Lou now." They both watched as Virginia expertly and methodically questioned Fuentes. She started by telling him that they had him cold on drug charges, and this time would put him away for quite some time, being his third offense. She then talked about a deal, which included a charge of possession of an illegal firearm. A misdemeanor, no jail time. No mention was made of possession with intent to sell or hard time. She saved for last the part about what he had to do for this deal. Cooper picked up the picture that Torres had dropped, asking if he'd seen the girl. He denied knowing her. She asked a different way. This went on for some time, when Virginia finally looked in the mirror and made brief eye contact with the two Detectives. That was Eddie's cue to go in. If the good cop couldn't get him, maybe the bad cop could. Virginia waited for Eddie to step in, then made her move.
She slapped both hands on the table on either side of Fuentes, and bent so her face was on level with his. "Look, if you don't talk to us, the only fighting you're gonna be doing is protecting your ass in the shower at Rikers."
Eddie stepped closer, and leaned down so he was at the same level as Cooper and the suspect. "Talk to us, man. Who'd you take the girl to?"
Fuentes looked from Virginia to Eddie, then back again. "James Crowley. He's got her in a warehouse on Third. He paid me five thousand to pick her up and bring her in. I don't know why."
Virginia nodded at Eddie. "You and Williams check it out. See what kind of place it is, what the security is. Call back here when you know something."
Torres nodded and headed out.
*Warehouse, Third Ave.
JC and Eddie watched the building in the dark, sitting in their car across the street. Two men had come in and left after being inside less than ten minutes. They had come in an hour apart. The two detectives planned to wait for another hour to go by, and if another man came on schedule, they'd risk sneaking in to see if the girl was there.
When 0300 came and went, and with it another ten minute stay by a black-clad man, JC and Eddie exited the car, staying nearly invisible in the shadows. When they went in the door, JC went high, Eddie low. They covered each other, holding weapons aloft as they looked all over the building. They progressed through a dark warehouse that was basically empty save for a couple of crates and boxes, each aiming their weapon at the slightest sound. When they heard a loud bumping in the corner of the room, both men trained police issue Glocks on a pile of burlap and newspaper. Eddie approached the pile warily, JC close on his heels. When a moan came forth from the pile, he nodded to JC.
"Cover me." Eddie reached for the burlap as JC kept the gun aimed downward. When Eddie removed the sacks, he found what they'd been looking for. The girl was so bloody and bruised, in her tattered clothes, she didn't even resemble the smiling high school senior from the picture Arthur O'Byrne had brought.
JC knelt next to Eddie. "This her?"
"I guess, unless they make a habit of beating girls and keeping them in warehouses." Eddie stuffed his gun in his waistband and shook the girl's shoulder lightly. "Maggie?" His fingers checked her throat, feeling for a pulse, which was blessedly present.
She moaned, but was otherwise non-responsive.
Eddie slid his arms under her and picked her up as he stood. She was limp. Her dark head lolled against Eddie's shoulder as he strode out toward the door. JC went out first, ascertaining that there were no unwelcome visitors outside. They ran across the street to their waiting car. Eddie laid her in the backseat, then jumped into the passenger seat. JC took off quickly.
*The ER waiting room of a hospital
Eddie spoke into his cellular phone. "Lieutenant Virginia Cooper, please." He waited for David, Virginia's sleepy husband, to hand her the phone.
"Cooper," her sleep-slurred voice mumbled.
"Lou, it's Eddie. We've got her. We're in the ER at Queens. You might want to call Captain O'Byrne, notify the parents." Eddie watched JC approach the nurses station and try to find out what he could about Maggie.
"What? You've got her?" Cooper was confused--it didn't help that it was 3:30 in the morning.
"Yeah. We sat outside the warehouse for three hours, and it looked like somebody was coming in to check up every hour. We waited until the guy left at 0300 and made our move." Eddie smiled sympathetically as JC returned with no information.
"Let me see if I understand this: I ordered you to go and assess the situation, and you and Williams go in with no backup like some modern day Quixote? I'll be right there." She hung up without waiting for a response.
Eddie glanced at JC. "No news?" At JC's negative answer, he scowled. "Lou's pissed we went in with no backup and without telling her. Make it seem like no big deal when she gets here." Eddie thought for a minute. "Actually, it was pretty easy. I've never had a job go so smoothly."
That had been bothering JC too. "Me neither. It was almost like they expected us to make a move, and didn't want to stop it."
The conversation was interrupted by a nurse clad in scrubs. She held two cups of coffee and a box of doughnuts. She was petite with dark hair and changeable gray-green eyes. She smiled. "Hi Officers. I'm Dixie. We had some of these in the lounge, if you want some." She offered first the doughnuts, then the coffee. "By the way, put the cell phone away. The signal interferes with the monitors we use here, so you can't use cellular phones in the hospital."
"Sure, sorry." JC took the phone and stuck it in his pocket. He and Eddie both smiled gratefully, accepting the coffee and choosing a doughnut from the pink bakery box. As JC bit into a sugar-glazed, he returned the nurse's smile. "I'm JC, this is Eddie."
She sat on the edge of a chair opposite the detectives. "Hi JC, Eddie." She glanced consideringly at Eddie. He was pretty good looking.
He returned the assessment, also liking what he saw. "So, what's a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?"
She laughed at the blatant lameness of the shopworn line. "The scrubs are usually a giveaway."
Eddie was preparing to deliver another flirtatious remark, when a voice interrupted from behind him. "Torres, Williams, I want to talk to you, now."
Dixie looked over Eddie's shoulder to see a tiny blonde not much taller than herself. Dressed in jeans and a v-necked green sweater, with a tan coat draped over her arm, she hardly looked fearsome, but both Williams and Torres stiffened. Dixie gave a half-hearted excuse and walked back through the doors to the nurses station.
"What the hell's going on here? Tell me you didn't really waltz into a warehouse occupied by known dangerous criminals with no backup and without notifying anybody of your intentions. Please, tell me that." Lou used her frostiest voice, the tone she reserved for lecturing people.
Eddie and JC exchanged a glance. Eddie spoke first. "Lou, it wasn't like that. There wasn't even anybody in there, no one but Maggie."
Virginia gave a sarcastic smile. "And naturally you had some way of knowing this before you went in. Don't endanger your lives anymore than this job already does, huh? People care about you." She put a hand on JC's arm and smiled at Eddie, sitting in the chair Dixie had occupied. "So, is she okay?"
JC spoke up. "We don't know, nobody'll tell us anything."
Virginia heaved herself out of the chair, and strode up to the desk that the triage nurse occupied. She flashed her badge. "Lieutenant Virginia Cooper, Homicide. I need some information about Maggie Carlson, the young woman brought in by those detectives over there."
Koa, the triage nurse for the night, glanced at the shield. "Look, Lieutenant, I'll let you know as soon as I can. Please have a seat." She gestured at the chairs occupied by Williams and Torres.
Virginia tried another tack. "Look, the girl was kidnapped yesterday. Her parents, who have been worried sick, will be here in a few minutes, wanting information from me. Can you at least tell me if she's okay or not?"
Koa sighed. "From what I know, she's conscious and doing okay. I don't know the specifics."
That was good enough for her. "Thank you," Cooper said, and moved back to the chairs.
She sat with Torres and Williams, silent as they watched the doors that Maggie had disappeared through thirty minutes previously.
O'Byrne and a man and woman burst through the doors, heading for Virginia and the detectives. The woman spoke first. "Where is she? Where's Maggie? Why is she here? Is she okay?"
Virginia reached out and took both of the woman's hands. She looked her right in the eye, trying to convey some calmness through the gaze. "She is being checked by the doctors here. She's okay, from what they've said. Okay?"
The woman took a deep breath and nodded. "Thank you, Lieutenant." She nodded at Eddie and JC. "You too. Thank you for finding our baby."
Dixie came back through the doors. She invited O'Byrne and the Carlsons to come closer to the desk, and conferred with them in hushed tones. When she finished, she escorted Maggie's parents through to the treatment section, and Captain O'Byrne returned to Eddie, JC, and Virginia. "She's okay, but pretty beat up. She's got two cracked ribs and a broken cheekbone. She's conscious now. They uh, they sexually assaulted her. Repeatedly." He looked away, grieving for the girl he knew, and for her parents.
She'd expected this. Even so, she winced when he said it. Cooper looked at JC and Eddie.
They'd expected to hear it too, but even so, it was no easier to face. JC said the first thing that came to mind. "We'll catch 'em, Captain. I promise you that."
Virginia looked resigned. "Torres, Williams, take tomorrow morning off. I'm coming in late too. We'll discuss what we'll do next. Okay?" She reached out and squeezed both of their hands.
Both men returned the gesture. "Sure, Lou. Take it easy, huh?" That was Eddie, who squeezed her fingers and released them. "Get some sleep."
She nodded. "Yeah, you guys too."
Virginia rubbed her forehead, right between her eyes. She had a headache. It was 1:00 in the afternoon, and she had only been there for half an hour. Her husband had turned her alarm off when he left for work that morning. It was his contention that if the job kept her up at night, she could miss a few hours in the morning. She knew there was a reason she loved him. She'd gotten home to bed at 0100 the previous morning, after interrogating the pimp, and had been awakened by Williams and Torres two hours later. She hadn't come home from the hospital until close to 5:00.
She jumped when her phone shrilled. Sighing, she yanked it out of the cradle. "Cooper."
"Hey Lou, it's Eddie. JC and I are on our way in. You going to be in your office in twenty minutes?"
"Yeah, sure Torres. Twenty minutes." She hung up.
"So, we got the name of the guy who paid Fuentes. We find Crowley, my gut tells me we find out exactly what's going on here." Virginia sat cross-legged in her desk chair, facing JC and Eddie.
"Yeah, I did a little digging on that this morning," Eddie replied. "Turns out he's got a little obsession with certain kinds of girls. My sister covered a story with a bit about him a few years ago, and the name popped up on her computer."
Williams looked up at this. "You asked your sister? I never even thought of that." He was glad to hear it; Eddie's reporter sister was actually coming in handy, instead of being a pain in the neck as she had been the previous week when she did a spot on the two partners that made them the department joke. "What's his jones?"
"He's not too discriminating. He likes seasoned hookers, short with blonde hair. Prefers green eyes. He also has…other preferences…but the article wasn't specific." Eddie looked at the other two. "We could put a female officer under, have Fuentes set her up with this Crowley, see what she gets. Be one step closer, anyway."
Williams was nodding. "Sounds good amigo. We'll figure out who fit's the bill and get back to you, Lou." He grinned over at Eddie. "Maybe with your mama, Eddie."
Eddie scowled, then returned "Well, he'd never go for yours, Papie." They both got up to leave, and stopped at Lou's voice at the door.
"Gentlemen, I'm sure both of your mothers are very good women." At their surprised, but pleased looks, she continued. "At least that's what the guys downstairs say."
"Damn, man, why is it we suddenly seem to have no blonde female officers? Gettings is blonde and hot, but she's 5'10" tall. Mayers is hot, but not blonde. Hutchfield is blonde, but I can't think of anybody who'd pay for her. Our only other women are too old." Eddie slapped his hands on the table. It looked like they might have to call in another precinct, which he and JC both hated to do. Updating uninvolved people was a royal pain.
JC glanced back at the files. "Well, who said she had to be young? I mean, she can't be ancient, but damn, let's at least look at the women between 40 and 50." He reached for the personnel files.
"Right." Eddie grabbed half of the stack and immediately sorted out the women in his. After he's sifted those out, he started looking only at hair color. He soon had a thin stack of blonde female officers. He looked over to see JC having even less luck than he was. JC had two files, Eddie had three. One was out because the woman was too tall. Two of his fit. One was 5'2" and the other was 5'5". He glanced at JC. "You get anything?"
"Naw, only two, one of them I know, and she's on vacation, and the other's 58 years old. I guess if push comes to shove…" JC trailed off. "What do you got?"
Eddie shrugged. "Two here. 47 and 45 years old. First has blue eyes, the other has green. Let's check it out."
JC nodded and started to get up. "Who is it?"
"I didn't even check." He grabbed the files and flipped the top one open. "This one's Loretta Fine. Forty-seven years old, five feet five inches, blue eyes." He set the file down and opened the other. His mouth dropped. "Shit!"
JC looked over, and Eddie proffered the open file to him to see. "Oh man. This Fine woman better work out. Somehow I can't see Lieutenant Virginia Cooper hooking on a street corner."
They decided not to tell her unless they had to. Eddie and JC sat in Cooper's office with her, waiting for Loretta Fine to show up.
"When did she say she'd be here?" Lou asked, checking her watch.
"She said an hour, about an hour ago," Eddie replied.
As if on cue, a knock sounded at the door, and a woman walked in.
Eddie and JC blurted in unison "Who're you?"
She looked at them askance. "I am Detective Loretta Fine. I was asked by a Detective Torres to be here at this time. Now, what can I do for you?"
Cooper glared suspiciously at Eddie and JC.
Eddie and JC glared suspiciously at Detective Fine.
Detective Fine glared right back.
Finally Eddie spoke up, saying the first thing that came to his mind. "But you have black hair!"
She raised her brows. "You must be one helluva detective, Detective."
JC jumped in. "You're supposed to be blonde," he said accusingly.
She looked at all three like they'd escaped from a madhouse. "I colored my hair back to it's natural color over a year ago. Can somebody explain what's going on here?"
Virginia jumped in. "I don't think that's unreasonable, Torres. I'm curious myself."
Eddie looked miserable. "Her personnel file said she was blonde." He looked up at Detective Fine. "We need a blonde woman to go under. We'd hoped you would fit the bill."
Loretta Fine looked a bit more understanding. "I see. Well, as you can see, I am not blonde. Sorry."
Virginia shook her head. "No, we're sorry. Thanks for your time, Detective."
"Sure. Good luck," the other detective said, and turned to leave.
"Well that was a wash," JC muttered.
"You could have asked me before she came in here, Detective. I would have told you that she's not blonde." Virginia recrossed her legs and faced the men.
"It never even occurred to us that she would have dyed her hair, Lou. Sorry." JC shook his head.
"Typical men. Well, she couldn't have been the only one who fit's the bill. Who else have we got?"
Eddie and JC shared a look. Both avoided the Lieutenant's eyes.
She gave each man a hard look. "Who have we got?" she asked again.
Eddie spoke. "Well, we have one other woman who'll bit the physical bill, but I don't think she'll want to do it." JC nodded emphatically.
Lou rolled her eyes. "I didn't ask if they wanted to do it. I asked who you had. Surely we have to have more than one woman with blonde hair, less than five feet six inches."
JC jumped in. "Well, not counting Fine, we have two. Detective Althea Rayburn is one, but she's on vacation for another week and a half." He looked at Eddie, hoping Eddie would have to say it.
Virginia pinned both men with a hard glare. "I'm getting sick of the games, Detectives. Who is the other one?"
Eddie finally looked her in the eye. "Give me the physical description again, Lou, then grab a mirror."
It took a moment to sink in. When it did, she started to laugh. "Great. Twenty years on the force, and here I am at 45, hooking on a street corner. This is beautiful, Detectives." But she was already working her mind around the best way to start this ball rolling. "And my eyes aren't green. They're hazel." She rolled those hazel eyes in disgust. "Get Fuentes back in here. He'll set us up. Tell him to have this guy be on the street at a certain time, rather than just send me directly in. Less suspicious that way. Have him set up a location and time with this Crowley." The more Virginia thought about it, the less horrible it seemed. Not many professional women at 45 who could pass for a hooker. Not that it was a good thing…but it wasn't necessarily such a bad thing either.
"One comment and you're dead." Virginia looked up at the detectives warningly. She shoved a .38 into the black patent knee-high boots she wore. The boots were the same material and color as her zippered top, which brushed the waistband of her red skirt, which barely covered her butt but blessedly had matching tiny shorts sewn in beneath the skirt. Her long hair was loose, waving softly to her mid-back. Her usual bright red lipstick was painted on meticulously, with a high gloss covering it. Black eye pencil was heavily and dramatically applied, in addition to thick foundation and light blush. The effect was startling, to say the least. She resembled the straightforward, no bullshit Lieutenant Virginia Cooper not at all.
Eddie and JC gaped. JC recovered first. "Well, you look believable, Lou. You got an act worked out?"
"Yeah, typical hooker, couldn't be too hard. I go in his place with him, look around as much as I can, fish a little for information, look for anything remotely suspicious enough to get a warrant. Apparently, the DA didn't think the claim of a pusher who's been arrested that this guy might have paid him to snatch a kid won't get one. Big surprise." She shoved cuffs into her other boot. Best to be prepared. If it came down to it, they would be seen as trappings of the trade.
"Where we gonna put a bug, Lou?" Eddie held up a small black device questioningly.
She took it from him, turned her back on the men, and clipped it on the middle of her bra. "There." She turned back. "So, what I do is go in with him, see if I can find anything obvious, and hope he says something incriminating. Not much to go on gentlemen."
They nodded. "Yeah, we know," JC answered. "But it's more than what we got, and maybe we can pressure him into talking if we toss a rap his way for soliciting a prostitute. Maybe you'll get lucky and see him do something else. Lotta maybe's. If this doesn't work, we haul him in anyway and see if we can get a confession out of him threatening a trial for the kidnapping. Not much else to do."
She nodded. "Good deal. Okay, here it is. You wait in the van until he picks me up. I'll have a tracking device in my purse, I'll try to hide it in the car he picks me up in. I go in where ever with him, see all I can. Fuentes will page him at the signal from you, to distract him. I'll see everything that's laying out, so they can't say I illegally searched without a warrant and suppress the evidence, try to talk him out of some information. Then I'll go off to the bathroom and run. You'll be listening just in case that falls through, okay? I'll give you some verbal clues about where we are, in case it's an apartment. Got it?" She raised her eyebrows.
"Fine. Let's go." She reached for the door handle on her office door.
Eddie reached out and stopped her. "Here, Lou, put this on," he said, shrugging out of his coat and draping it around her shoulders.
Virginia may have been uncomfortable parading up and down a sleazy street wearing clothes that wouldn't adequately cover a five-year-old, but she didn't show it. She'd been pawed by a few, but had easily brushed them off by demanding $500 for an hour. She spotted a man loosely fitting Crowley's description walking toward her purposefully. He gave her what she imagined he thought was a heart-stopping smile. It was pathetic.
He eyed her, and asked "I think I've been waiting for you, honey."
This must be him. "I hope so," she purred in a low, husky voice. "What can I do for you?"
He leered down at her from a superior height. "You'd know that better than me."
She wanted to roll her eyes. Instead, she licked her lips voraciously, as if she'd waited all her life to be picked up in Harlem on a street corner by a man who hadn't shaved in a week. "How much?" she asked.
"Depends on what I get from you," Romeo answered. Virginia imagined he thought himself to be terribly clever.
She sidled closer. "You get me all night, anything you want. $500 cash."
That was when things spun out of control. She found herself being grabbed, and her arms pinned behind her back. Before it penetrated her consciousness that she was being arrested by an undercover cop, she stepped back on one leg, placing one foot between his wide-spread legs, and jerked her elbow back into his solar plexus. She heard the rush of air as if left his chest with a certain satisfaction. Before he could recover, she spun around, keeping her hands on his back to push him down, and kneed him in the gut, then threw him face-first over the hood of a nearby car. She jerked his hands behind his back and reached for her handcuffs.
"Freeze!" a voice behind her snapped. "Police! Let him go."
She slowly released him, and put her hands in the air. She realized then that she couldn't tell these men who she was--the street was far from empty, and she had no idea if the people on it could give her away later.
The cop who had come out of his hiding place when he'd seen an undersized hooker beating on his partner grabbed her hands and cuffed her. "Surprise, Angel. We're NYPD. Vice."
She glared at him, but said nothing.
"You're under arrest, cutie. But then, you know the drill, don't you?" He shoved her toward a typical non-descript car waiting by the curb.
Eddie looked incredulously at the police officers surrounding Lou. They'd bolted from the surveillance van when they'd heard the unmistakable sounds of fighting, and had reached the scene in time to see Lou release the man she had subdued and wisely put her hands up. They recognized why she wasn't identifying herself, and melted into the shadows as she was pushed into the car. They hurried back to the van to follow the Vice cops to their precinct.
Virginia waited until they were safely away from the curb with the doors closed before she spoke. "Gentlemen, you are making a very big mistake." As soon as she said it she winced. Every criminal and creep she'd ever arrested had said the same thing.
The cops in the front looked at each other and laughed. "Sure we are, Goldilocks."
She narrowed her eyes. "Look guys, I'm a cop. Okay? I was working undercover."
The two laughed again. "Nice try honey. Why didn't we find a badge along with that gun you had?"
She rolled her eyes. "It would have been a little out of place, don't you think?"
The driver nodded. "She's right, Andy. Heck, let's let her out here. I'm sure she's telling the truth."
Andy laughed. "Good line, Blondie."
She fumed in silence. Finally she said "My name is Virginia Cooper. I am a Lieutenant over at the Fourth Precinct. Call it in."
The cops just shook their heads in disgust. "Yeah, right. You know your rights by now. Why don't you use the one to remain silent?"
It was useless. She'd have to wait until she got to the Vice precinct to get sprung.
Virginia scowled at the mirror in the interrogation room. She had to resist the urge to give whomever was on the other side the finger. Where the hell were Williams and Torres? She'd expected them to rescue her as soon as the car stopped.
The door burst open as if on cue. Williams and Torres followed the two officers who had arrested her. Virginia didn't much care for the poorly concealed smirks on the faces of her Detectives.
Andy and his partner were babbling apologies as they unlocked her handcuffs. She rubbed at her wrists and glared at them. "Thank you so much gentlemen. Did you ever call in my badge number, or did it take my Detectives finding you?"
Both men looked at the floor. Andy replied "They found us, Ma'am. We are sorry."
"I'm sure you are. Officers, is it your usual policy to arrest people without reading them their rights first? Miranda v. Arizona, 1966." She was back in control, and relishing every moment of it.
Both muttered excuses.
She noticed a smear of blood on the chin of the one she'd hit, and immediately forgot her anger. They'd only been doing their jobs, after all. "Did I hurt you, Officer Thane?" she asked, reading the name on the badge he'd clipped on.
His head snapped up. "No, ma'am." His male pride was wounded that this woman had gotten the best of him.
She reached up gently, as if he was one of her kids, and wiped the smear away with her thumb. "I am sorry, Officer. I wouldn't have responded that way if I'd realized who you were." Her voice and eyes had softened considerably.
He nodded, mollified. "I know, Lieutenant. Us too."
Eddie once again passed her his coat. "Come on, Lou, let's go. You've strolled the streets enough for one day." He'd bite his tongue until they were away from the Vice cops about how she looked.
Hadn't she had enough? Yet here she was again, set up for a rendezvous with Crowley. This time, her cover was cemented by word of her arrest, and she simply was being dropped at Crowley's place by Fuentes. JC followed at a discreet distance, and Eddie lay concealed by a blanket in the backseat of he car driven by Fuentes. JC's brows raised in mild surprise as they neared the warehouse that he and Eddie had found Maggie in.
Virginia glanced around. Not exactly a nice neighborhood. Fuentes was driving the car she was in, so as not to tip off the people she was visiting. He'd turned out to be very helpful--though they'd ran out of bargaining power from the drug bust long ago, and the department had since been paying cash for his services.
JC parked behind a dumpster when he saw Fuentes stop right at the door to the warehouse that had hidden Maggie Carlson. He watched Lou get out of the car and swagger into the building.
The door was opened by a muscle-bound cretin stuffed into a cheap suit. Virginia put her nose in the air and breezed inside. There were a group of four men in a corner of the large warehouse. One other woman was there, dressed similarly to Virginia. She was also short with blonde hair. The next thing she noticed were the cameras. Obviously this scuzbag had more than one peccadillo. Yuck.
She was motioned over. On her way to the camera bank, she noticed several crates. On the side was stenciled "GG&C Inc." GG&C? Why did that ring a bell? She didn't have time to wonder. When she neared the group, she almost cringed. Two of the men sat on the edge of a partially opened crate. She could barely see what was in it, but the glance she got was enough. They were filled with assault rifles.
That logo was bothering her. She knew she had seen that before. GG&C…
"Let's see what we got, Blondie. Fuentes better not have been lying about you." One of the men rose from his place on the crate and neared Virginia. He seemed satisfied by his inspection of her. "We're gonna make a little movie here. You just do what we tell you, got it?"
Damn! Now she realized where she'd seen that logo! She smiled guilelessly. "A real movie? You mean, on camera? Me?" She giggled coquettishly.
He grinned. "That's right, honey. You, on camera."
She giggled again, then adopted a horrified look. "But I can't! I can't be on camera looking like this! And I left my makeup bag in the car!" She wrung her hands.
He gave her a pat on the butt. "I'm sure it won't be a big hassle for you to get it. Lucien said he'd be waiting for you."
She visibly brightened. "Oh, thank you! I'll be right back!" She dashed off to the door, and trotted back to the car where Fuentes sat. Eddie still lay flat in the floor of the backseat. She climbed inside and refreshed her makeup as she gave the Eddie terse instructions.
She sat in the car as Eddie dialed a number on his cell phone. "Hurry, hurry, hurry," she chanted silently. The thugs inside would be looking for her soon. If she ran, they'd know something was going on. If she went back in, she might not get out so easily. So she sat, and sweated, pretending to apply horrific amounts of foundation and blusher while Eddie talked to a judge. She saw Brutus, as she thought of the door gorilla, disappear from view. Just then, Eddie hung up the phone.
"We got a warrant. Based purely on finding the girl here, but we got it." He used the radio to contact JC. They were a ten minute ride away from the precinct, and the warrant was on it's way.
"Fine, I'm going back in." Virginia got out of the car. "Just get in as fast as you can." With that, she was walking back into the building.
Where were they? She resisted the urge to check her watch. Disinterestedly, she observed the men making last minute changes on the camera settings. She grinned idiotically at the malodorous cretin pawing her leg. "Do we really get to be in a movie?" She simpered as if, all her life she'd been waiting for the golden opportunity to be in a homemade porn flick starring Bobo the Clown who sat beside her.
He whispered something in her ear. She missed whatever it was because out of the corner of her eye she saw Brutus by the door crumble without a sound. Romeo next to her was turning toward the door. She placed her hand on his thigh suggestively.
"For my first picture, I'm sure glad you're the leading man." As far as lines went, it was pathetic. But her hand on his leg had the desired effect of turning his attention from the police officers no doubt working just outside.
His next pathetic come-on was interrupted by five police officers striding inside, weapons drawn. Eddie and JC were in the lead.
"Okay, everybody, Police. We've got a warrant to search this building." That was Eddie.
The men's eyes widened, and she saw who she thought must have been Crowley reach for something concealed in his jacket. She immediately started to scream in a high pitched voice, theatrically ducking behind Romeo next to her. "Oh no!!! Oh, oh! They've got guns!!!" Crowley thought she meant the cops, but she'd been trying to warn Eddie and JC that he'd been reaching for one.
Her warning worked. JC trained his weapon on Crowley and walked forward. "Whoa, get your hands up." Crowley looked incensed, but did as he was told. Slowly everybody in the warehouse other than the police officers had their hands up, except for Virginia and the man next to her.
He leaned over to whisper "I'll stand up and push you at him. You fall on him and I'll take out the others."
What a moron. He wouldn't get two feet. But he might just get off a lucky shot that killed one of the officers.
She nodded excitedly. "Sure. Right after I cuff you." She drew her gun quickly from her boot. "Get your hands up." Her voice had miraculously changed from simpering and airy to her usual clipped accent.
He looked at her incredulously. "You bitch!"
"That's right. Get 'em up." She joined the line of officers holding the men at bay.
Eddie reached into the partially opened crate. "Well well, what have we here? Certainly enough probable cause to bring these guys in." With that, he, JC, Lou, and the other officers began to handcuff their suspects.
"GG&C Inc. is your firm, is it not Mr. Carlson?" Virginia was taking a statement from Maggie Carlson's father, an arms dealer who smuggled illegal firearms into the United States.
"Yes, it is. Gray, Gray, and Carlson." He had agreed to plead to possession of illegal firearms. He would do 2 years in exchange for his testimony against Crowley, who was his buyer.
"And do you smuggle weapons into the United States from Hungary using this business as a cover?"
He nodded. "Yes, I do."
She continued. "Do you know a man named James Crowley?"
"I do. He bought weapons from me after they were smuggled into the States." Carlson looked at his hands. "I decided that I wanted out of the deal. When I refused to give him the last shipment because I thought the cops were on us, he took my daughter, Maggie. He contacted me the day following the kidnapping and said if I gave him the guns, he'd allow the cops to get her. I had them transported to his warehouse that day. She was rescued by the officers the next morning. I swear, I never thought they'd take her. I certainly never thought they'd hurt her." His voice broke.
Lou, Eddie, and JC nodded in satisfaction. "Thank you, Mr. Carlson," Virginia said as she switched off the tape recorder. She got up and left, followed by Eddie and JC.
*At Natalies that night
Lou, Eddie, and JC sat at the bar nursing drinks. "Well, we got 'im." Virginia smiled in satisfaction.
"Yeah, thanks to you. That was some quick thinking to come back and have us call for a warrant to search. Those guns would never have been admissible without it. They'd scream entrapment, and we'd be left holding the bag." JC saluted Lou with his drink.
"Yeah, that was some good work, Lieutenant. Who'd have expected that hot little hooker to bust that gang?" Eddie knew he was taking his life in his hands, but couldn't resist just one remark about her ho outfit. "I really liked that outfit you had on. You should come to work like that more often."
She glared at him. "Do you want to die, Torres?"
He held his hands up in mock surrender. "I take it back." He rubbed the small of his back, grimacing.
She was instantly concerned. "Did you hurt your back, Eddie?"
He nodded, an expression of pain on his face. "Yeah."
She set her drink down. "How'd you do that?"
Now came the revenge for the two jokes she'd gotten off on him and JC. "Giving yo mama a piggyback ride."