Chapter 9

Ricardo hit the streets while Carlos arranged to meet his banker and planned their escape to Mexico and then Colombia. The younger brother called in debts and contacted competitors, most of whom knew the situation, eager for the opportunity to buy Ricardo's merchandise cheaply. Ricardo got what he could, amassing several thousand dollars. Had he had time to sell it properly, he would have gotten ten times as much. He began to realize that they would be starting over in Colombia, but he had faith in Carlos' business sense. They had come so far so fast in San Francisco, and Carlos had excellent contacts, even in South America. At noon, he was, as ordered, in Carlos' office waiting for his brother's call giving him final instructions as to where he was to go and how.

Carlos' meeting with his banker would be at one. Ricardo didn't dare do anything that would fully distract him. This is going to be a slow hour, he thought. He sat down at Carlos' desk, picked up a magazine, and began to flip through it, glancing nervously from the photos inside to the slowly moving hands of the clock. After a few minutes, he pulled his gun from its holster and set it on the desk

A tall, lean, gray-haired man in a nondescript suit sat in a small sitting area at the hallway entrance, his eyes intent on the office doorway. His radio, volume very low, carried the voice of Carl Reese.

"Is he in there?"

"Yes," the other man replied.

"Alone?" Carl asked.

"Yes. We've had someone watching the office all day."

"Good. If he tries to leave, keep him in sight. We have people all over the building. He'll have company everywhere he goes. We go in at one exactly."

"Yes, sir, lieutenant. Got it."

"Reese out."

The chief sat somewhat impatiently in the bank manager's office with Mark and Fran. He had arrived as Carl was conversing with his detective about the surveillance of Carlos' office. He knew that Carl and his men were stationed throughout the building. He knew that Carl was good at his job, a bit too methodical sometimes, but a damn good lieutenant who would make a fine captain someday. Like Carl, he had stationed men throughout the bank. He ran their plans through his head, detail by detail, as he had done an endless number of times before. All they could do was wait. These were arrests that he badly wanted made, cleanly, without more casualties. This case had far too many of them as it was.

Ed sat in his bed, restless, staring intently at the wall in front of him. The chief had briefed him on the plans he had for arresting the two brothers. He looked at the clock and imagined each piece in the traps in their places and waiting as inconspicuously as possible for the arrests to be made, each trying to mask the tension that he felt churning inside. He could visualize both scenes vividly. A nurse entered his room.

"Everything all right, Sergeant?" she asked lightly as she checked his charts.

"Fine, thank you," Ed answered tersely. She frowned slightly.

"Penny for your thoughts?" she asked, again lightly. Ed broke off his stare and looked at her.

"I doubt that they're worth that," he responded, smiling a little. "Just a lot on my mind."

"That you can't do anything about right now," she continued.

"Exactly." This time his smile was genuine.

"Can I get you anything?" she asked.

"Out of here?" he asked.

"I was thinking along the lines of water or something. You'll be our guest for the rest of the day at least. I'll be back a little later on. If you need anything in the meantime, hit the call button," she said as she moved toward the door. Ed watched the door close and began running over the chief's plans again. It was 12:30. He resumed staring, visualizing.

Ricardo had put the magazine down. The pictures of celebrities were stupid, repetitive, boring. He would never understand this country's infatuation with "stars." He had taken paper from the wastebasket and was trying to throw it into the trash can from Carlos' chair.

At the back of his mind, on such a primal level that he could not express it in words, he sensed that something was wrong. He tried to imagine why he felt the way he did, found no logical reason, but the feeling persisted, growing stronger. Carlos had told him to sit tight in the office, but the walls were closing in. He walked to the door and peeked through the blinds. Everything seemed fine.

He opened the door and walked toward the bathroom in the hallway, noticing a suited, 40-ish man reading a newspaper in the sitting area at the entrance of the hallway. The man looked up at him and nodded a greeting. Ricardo nodded back. That was when he saw part of the tip of a radio protruding from the man's coat, which lay on the table. Cop. He almost froze but forced himself to stay calm. In the bathroom, he splashed water on his face, dried it, and looked at himself in the mirror, forcing the panic down. What could he do? Right now, he decided, he would return to the office to think. It was 12:35.

The office door closed behind him as Ricardo forced his breathing to slow. What could he do? He could shoot the man, but he was sure that there would be many more. He could run, but if they wanted to arrest him, there was a gauntlet of policemen between him and freedom. He began to pace restlessly.

The office door began to open. Ricardo instinctively grabbed the gun and pointed it at the...janitor? The old man was pushing a custodian's cart. The old man froze.

"Ay, dios mio, patrón, no me mate! Por el amor de dios, Señor!" the man cried, his hands in front of his face. Ricardo lowered the gun without firing. Finally, he had a plan.

"Antonio," he breathed, "You nearly scared me to death. Me asusaste! I need your help, old friend. Tu ayuda, Tio." And he laid out his plan. Antonio listened carefully, but began to shake his head.

"No, por favor, Patrón, no lo puedo. Necesito éste trabajo…"

"You won't lose your job! I'll see to it!" What choice did he have but to lie to the stupid old man? "I will give you one hundred dollars, Antonio. Cien dólares!" Ricardo hissed.

"Mil. Es un riesgo ridículo. Mil." Antonio countered. A thousand dollars. The young patrón had much, much more, he was sure. He would never miss it, but the old man would never forget this windfall.

"Hecho. Okay. Mil," he said as he pulled the bills out of the roll in his pocket and handed them to the old man. Antonio left the office without the trash can and went to the supply closet near the office. From it, he extracted a wad of trash bags. They were on top of a custodial coverall that he guessed would fit the young patrón. He wrapped the coverall in the trash bags and re-entered the office, feeling the eyes of the detective in the hallway watching his every move. Ricardo donned the coverall and slid into the trash can.

With difficulty, Antonio pushed the trash can out of the room and stopped at the next office, opening the door and entering. He nodded a terse, silent greeting at the people working inside. He emptied the trash cans, partially covering Ricardo. One more office should do the trick. Antonio glanced at the clock. 12:42. He entered the next office, emptying the trash cans, completely covering Ricardo. As Ricardo had told him to do, he rolled the large cart down the hall past the seated detective, who rose to look inside. Just trash, he thought. Job makes me too suspicious.

Antonio waited calmly waited for the elevator, pushed the cart inside, and descended to the basement where the building's large metal trash bin waited. No one paid the old man any attention as he slowly rounded the bin. He stopped in front of the bin and Ricardo climbed out, then into the metal bin. Antonio grasped the much lighter can and emptied it, then turned back towards the building. He patted the $1000 in his pocket and went back to work. It was 12:55.

Minutes before 1:00, two of Carlos' men walked into the bank and stationed themselves strategically around the main lobby, much more conspicuously than the handful of plainclothes policemen scattered around, in the teller's line, in the waiting area, in an office with an account manager. At 1:00 exactly, Carlos strode into the bank accompanied by a third man and walked directly toward the bank manager's office.

"Ah, Mr. Miranda, good afternoon!" said the manager, emerging from the doorway to direct his client inside. One of Carlos' men moved to enter with him, but Carlos shook his head. He backed away, but continued watching intently. As Carlos entered and the door shut behind him, he saw Ironside. His hand went to his gun.

"I wouldn't," said the chief. Fran trained her weapon on Miranda. He moved his hand away from the hidden holster and held them loosely in front of him.

"Ironsides," he hissed. "What is the meaning of this? I am here to make a simple, legal bank transaction. Why does your policewoman have her gun on me?" he demanded.

"Ironside, Mr. Miranda. One s. And my policewoman's actions are one of the many things we have to discuss."

"I will discuss nothing without my attorney," Carlos told the chief.

"Of course. Fran, let's take Mr. Miranda into custody and get him downtown. This discussion is one that I am eager to have," said Ironside, turning to leave the office. Two plainclothes officers entered the office as he left. As planned, when the door to the office had shut, the officers in the lobby had arrested Carlos' men without incident. The four suspects were loaded into police cars to be taken downtown.

The chief entered the van and grabbed the radio mic.

"Carl, come in. Carl!" he demanded.

"Chief? Reese here," Carl said. The chief thought that the tone of Carl's voice betrayed that this was a conversation that he would rather not have.

"Carl, what's going on up there? We've arrested Carlos Miranda and are taking him downtown. Do you have Ricardo?" Carl hesitated for a moment, but knew that with Ironside, whether the news was good or bad, the only way to give it to him was straight. Damn.

"No, chief, he was not in the office," Carl said as calmly as he could. He shot a glare at the detective that he had posted in the hall.

'Not in the office? How? Your man was watching the only exit, wasn't he? There WAS no other way out, was there? How did this seemingly foolproof arrest come up empty? Where IS Ricardo Miranda?" Ironside thundered. "All right, Carl, give me the details," he said, sighing, a little more calmly.

"I had Phillips in the hall and the rest of us nearby, watching other areas as inconspicuously as we could, but ready to go. Just before one, I and three others entered the office. The door was locked, so we kicked it in. He simply wasn't there. We searched the office, then the building. No dice. I don't know how he got past us, but I know that he isn't here. Word on the street was that he was dumping drugs for next to nothing this morning, but that the wad of bills he kept rolling the new money into could have been several grand." Carl finished and waited. When the chief didn't say anything, he continued.

"Around 12:30, a janitor used his keys to enter the office. He was in for a few minutes, came out, and went to the custodial closet for some trash bags, went back in with the bags, and then came out for the last time at about 12:40 or so," Carl said and paused.

"Well? Was his cart checked or did Detective Phillips simply open the door for the man and let him through?" the chief asked. Are you kidding me? he thought. One of the most important arrests of the year in jeopardy because a detective was fixated on the planned chain of events.

"Phillips says that the janitor went to other offices before pushing the cart right by him and taking the regular elevator instead of the service elevator. He examined the cart without really searching it, but neither the janitor's behavior nor the cart seemed suspicious," Carl explained, uncomfortably, again glaring at Phillips. He had made sure the detective could hear the conversation.

"Do they seem suspicious now, Lieutenant Reese?" Carl would have preferred that Ironside shout, but his voice was carefully controlled.

"Of course, sir. We have found the janitor and they are bringing him to me to question. We've put an APB out on Ricardo Miranda. We're focusing on the piers, especially those with ships with Hispanic registry. Are you coming here, chief?" Carl asked. He wasn't sure what to hope for, and he was sure that the chief would resent delaying his interrogation of the older brother to help come and clean up what ultimately was Carl's mess. Ironside paused for a moment before replying.

"No, Carl. I'll work the case from Carlos' end, and you keep the lead on Ricardo. And Carl," the chief paused

Yeah, chief?" Carl replied.

"Carlos Miranda is a calculated criminal who lets others do his dirty work. Ricardo is an armed, panicked fugitive who is capable of doing his own. I very much want him alive, but I want no more police or civilian casualties in this case. Be careful."

"Got it, chief. He won't get by me again," Carl declared. If I can find him, he thought. And with that thought, the janitor, Antonio Sandoval, arrived. Carl sighed and turned his attention to the old man in the dirty coveralls. This guy better have what I need, he thought

"Antonio Sandoval," he began. The old man listened intently. "Do you mind answering some questions?"

"Cuestions? Cuestiones?" he stammered He looked around nervously.

"Yes." The old man did not answer. Carl took his silence as assent, and pulled out a photo of Ricardo Miranda. "Do you know this man?" he continued.

"No comprendo, señor, no hablo inglés. No entiendo." Carl felt like he might explode. No English. Great, just great. A torrent of words that he was too professional to say rushed through his mind. Hey, chief, he thought, more good news.

"Anybody here speak Spanish?" Carl shouted, a bit more loudly than he intended. A few did, none particularly well, but there was a Hispanic kid in uniform downstairs as part of the team. Carl called for him to be sent up and waited.

Antonio Sandoval was a wise old rooster. He spoke enough English to do his job, barely, but his English had improved some. He diligently hid his progress. It was amazing what these yanquis said when they thought you couldn't understand. What he heard, learned, observed, he filed away in his mind and awaited an opportunity that might improve his circumstances.

The young patron today had provided just such an opportunity. The old man knew that he might get caught taking Ricardo out with the trash. He also knew that he could plead that the younger man had threatened him. If somehow he did manage to get the boy to the dumpster unnoticed, he would obviously be the only explanation for his escape.

There were very good reasons for helping the young patron, fear, threats, and so forth, but if they found the money on him, there was only greed and they would know that he had been a willing participant. They had a word for it which he could not recall, but it was a crime. So he hid the money and went back to work as though nothing had happened, knowing that the summons would come. It did.

Carl approached the young officer emerging from the elevator. The young man was in his early twenties, smallish, slim, and handsome, with olive skin, deep brown eyes and neatly cut straight black hair. Licking his lips and glancing at the detectives, he walked up to the lieutenant.

"Officer Steve Méndez, Lieutenant," the officer said, coughing a little.

"Thank you for coming, Officer Méndez. I know it's a little unusual, but we need some answers from this man and he doesn't understand the questions. Can you help us?" Carl asked.

"Yes, sir, I think so," Méndez replied. He turned his attention to the old man, small, wrinkled, balding, but strong from a lifetime of hard work. Was there a faint gleam of defiance in his gaze? Hard to tell.

"Buenas tardes, señor, me llamo Officer Méndez. Necesito preguntarle a Ud. unas preguntas sobre la desaparencia de éste hombre." He showed the old man the picture. "Lo conoce? Do you know him?" The man nodded. Carl watched the exchange closely.

Lt. Reese gave the young man the questions he wanted to ask. The janitor's answers were short, at times gestures only. At first, he denied knowing anything about Ricardo's escape, but the young man pressed with Carl's guidance, telling him that the cart was the only possible way for Miranda to leave the office. Antonio began to squirm, then sweat lightly. Finally he burst out, "Por favor, señor, tenía que hacerlo. El patroncito iba a matarme y a todos en la oficina. Lo tenía que hacer!"

Méndez relayed the information to Carl, who nodded slowly, staring at Antonio, sizing him up. So Carlos had threatened to kill the old man and everyone in the office that they entered. Knowing what he knew of the Mirandas, the old man was probably telling the truth.

"All right, Méndez, find out exactly where he took him and when. Ask him why, once Ricardo was gone, he did not let us know what had happened." The young man spoke softly to the janitor, who this time ended his answer with what sounded like a plea.

"Well?" Carl demanded.

"He took him to the dumpster out back and Ricardo climbed in. He has no idea when he came out or which way he went. He didn't come to us because he thought Ricardo might be hanging around waiting to make good on his threat, and also because he had threatened his family as well."

"Do you believe him?"

"Do you, sir?" the young officer countered. Kid had a backbone. This one was worth watching.

"What he says is certainly believable, and until we catch Ricardo, there is no way to know. Even then, I would believe him before Ricardo. Thank you, officer, you've been a big help," Carl said."Tell him he can go, but to stick around. We may need more information from him later."