"The District" and the characters associated with it are property of CBS and others

"The District" and the characters associated with it are property of CBS and others.  There is no intent to infringe on copyrights.  This is intended solely for the entertainment of the reader.

Rating:  PG

Setting:  following "Fresh Start"

Sleight of Hand

Mannion made it to the office before the rest of his team.  He needed to find some paperwork before they all met for breakfast.  It was a typical Monday; traffic was snarled, and people were surly.  He took a deep breath and looked out his window for a moment and wondered if life would ever return to any sense of normalcy.  The Russian Mob seemed determined to gain a foothold in his city like they had in Brooklyn.  He was equally determined to prevent it.  It had cost him dearly – both times.  This time, they had missed killing him on several occasions that he was aware of, perhaps a few more that he was not aware of.  They had taken Danny McGregor out in one of the attempts.  Danny spent months in the hospital just trying to survive the injuries he'd received.  That was their first known attempt in Washington.  The bomb they detonated on Danny had been meant for him and Sherry.  It was a terrible irony that after all McGregor had survived in Belfast; he had gotten blown up in America by Russians.  Mannion shook his head and continued to gather folders.  Something pinched him around his waist.  He gave it a tug.

Mannion wore a bulletproof vest now.  He had worn it since Sherry's murder.  Joe had brought it up for him from the Armory.    He'd made a federal case out of it, too.  Mannion had steadily refused until Ella heard the commotion in the office next to hers.  Usually, she'd just call out – "You're yelling again" to gain quiet, but not this time.  She knew that something in their voices required her presence.  She entered the fray as Mannion was telling his immediate subordinate one more time that he could take that vest back to the Armory.

Mannion caught sight of Ella out of the corner of his left eye.  She was just standing there with her arms folded across her chest.  Then she entered into the discussion, "What do you mean you're not going to wear the vest?  Chief, what is it going to take to get you to understand that the Russians among others really want you dead?"

"Aw, come on Ella, not you, too?  You know I hate these things.  They are uncomfortable!" Mannion complained.

"Oh and I suppose they were built for comfort?" she shot back at him.

She picked it up and weighed it in her hands before putting it back down.  It was a lightweight white one that the patrol officers wore.  "Look, it's not the heavy SWAT one like last Christmas.  Even I could wear this one."

"Well go ahead, because I'm not going to wear it!" he boomed.

Joe just looked on, knowing better than to get between these two.  Then again, he also knew, that if anyone could get Mannion into the vest, it was Ella.  She was one of two people he'd listen to on a consistent basis.  Ella moved in on the vest again and picked it up.  She thrust it toward him.  "Yes you are, and that's final."

"No, I'm not," he got louder.

"If not for your own bull-headed self, then what about my Ricky?  He adores you, Jack." was her trump card.

Mannion rolled back on his heels and blinked at her.  He was still in disbelief as she shoved the vest into his hands.  She strode to the door and called for Temple.

"The Chief is going to need an extra large tee shirt," she commanded then shut the door.  "That's final," she directed toward Mannion who was holding the vest with both hands.

He'd been bushwhacked by that woman.  Joe almost said something, then seeing the look in Mannion's eye, kept his peace.  He quietly left the two in Mannion's office.  Temple returned with a tee shirt, giving it to Ella before beating a hasty retreat himself.  Ella on the warpath was not a happy sight.  Satisfied that Mannion had all the parts to accomplish the task of putting on that vest, she turned to him and nodded before she returned to her desk.  Mannion was left with the instructions that she'd be back in a few minutes to check on his progress.  She meant business, and he knew it.  Thinking about that day gave him pause for amusement as well as sadness.  His feelings for Ella had grown since then.

Half an hour later, he joined his team at their favorite diner, "DC's."  Over time, Mannion had added Joe to the breakfast crew, which was now composed of Temple, Nicky, Ella, Joe, and himself.  On occasion, Nancy would join them.  He slid into the large booth.  He passed Joe the first file folder.  "Here are some of the stats the Russians accumulated recently in Brooklyn."

"Chief, are we going there again?" Joe complained.

"Joe, these guys are like a cancer.  You have to get them before they get a good foothold…" Mannion began.

"Nobody disputes that, Jack," Nick chimed in.  "It's just that this seems to take up more time than the everyday stuff of late."

Nick was other person whom Mannion really listened to in addition to Ella.

Ella began, "Chief, it's just that with our focus on the Russians, some of our more home grown criminals have been, well…"

"Okay, are you guys telling me I'm obsessed with the Russians?"  Mannion looked in her eyes for confirmation.

"Chief, would you like to see the 'Overnights'?" she redirected the conversation.

Joe jumped on it, "Yes, Ella, let's see the 'Overnights.'"

Ella began, with her eyes on Mannion, "There were four burglaries, two in Georgetown.  One of our cars hit a parked car as it came around a corner at high speed in pursuit of an armed robbery suspect.  No serious injuries to our officers; they were treated at the scene.  The suspects of the Liquor Store hold-up got away.  Our men did get a license plate that turned out to belong to a car that was jacked earlier in the day."

Mannion drifted off.  Nick noticed and gently nudged him under the table.  He picked back up on Ella's debriefing.  "What else?"

"There was one other armed robbery, with the clerk getting knifed in the eastern district.  The clerk is doing fine, treated at the hospital and released.  There was one homicide – bar fight from the night before, suspect is in custody.  And that is about it for a Sunday night."

Mannion nodded, "Thanks, Ella."  He finished up his grapefruit.  "So how's Ricky?" he asked.  "I miss you bringing him to breakfast," he said with a quiet smile.

"He's fine.  I think he misses you, too.  Why don't you come over sometime for dinner?  We're having a big dinner Wednesday at church.  You'd be more than welcome.  The Pastor likes it when you come by.  It makes him feel like we're not totally forgotten."

"Sure, Sir.  We'd love to have you come," Temple added with a big grin.

It had been some time since Mannion had seen Temple smile from his heart out.  He reached out and patted Temple on the arm, "What time?"

"The usual, dinner starts at 6:30, then we move upstairs for a short service," Temple replied.

Mannion looked him in the eye, "If nothing major comes up, I'll be there!"

"It would do you good, Jack," Nick reminded him.

"And why not join us?" with a partial smile Mannion baited Nick.


A cell phone went off in Nick's pocket.  "Saved!" he laughed.  "Nick Pierce," he began as he slid out of the booth to talk in a corner.

"Some day…" Ella smiled, "That boy's going to get some religion."  She nodded her head in the direction of Nick.

Mannion laughed, "And I'm sure I know who'll help him get it, too!"  He glanced down at his watch, "Well, time to pay the check."

Nick was finishing his conversation as Mannion paid the bill and left a tip on the table.  "Need a ride, Nicky?"

"Sure, I'll take one.  That was Helen York.  She is on a new fishing expedition," Nick answered.

"What now?  Or should I say, who now?" Mannion looked at his friend.

"I'm not sure, Jack," Nick began as they headed out the door.  "But I'm sure I'll be finding out soon."

Mannion looked closely at his car.  After the bomb, he was even more on alert than before.  Ella rode back with Joe and Temple.  Very seldom did he offer rides to his staff anymore.  Mannion figured if the Russians took him out, at least the team would still be there to catch the guys who did it.  They had found and locked up the guy who planted the bomb that ended Danny's career within a few weeks.  That was cold satisfaction to Mannion.  He'd lost a good man in that.

Then there was Sherry.  The Russians had intentionally killed her at a time when Jack was nowhere near to protect her or even to lay his life down trying.  They had distracted him, broken into their apartment and murdered her.  Sherry had not gone down without a fight though.  She killed one with a service pistol before they killed her.  The Russians must have known she'd be hard to take down and had sent three guys.  Sufficient DNA from the other two were left in several rooms of the apartment to make convictions easy.  They caught up with the perps in a Baltimore hospital.  Now they sat in jail without bond, awaiting trail.  It had devastated Mannion.  He had waited so long to reclaim his bride only to lose her all over again.  He moved back to his boat.  Nightmares plagued his sleep, when he slept.

The week moved toward Wednesday without major incident.  Nancy buzzed Mannion at his desk.  Her voice was pleasant and reassuring.  "Chief, you wanted me to remind you when it was six o'clock."

Mannion looked at his watch and wondered where the day had gone.  "Thanks, Nancy," he replied.  He got up and shook out his suit coat and put it on.  He strode out the door with his usual air of ownership.  "See ya tomorrow," were his parting words to his smiling secretary.

Nancy looked up, "Tomorrow, sir."

Then she looked over at Temple who was also packing it in.  McGregor's desk had been left empty for a few weeks before Temple was paired up with another detective.  This man was a British cop, too, on loan from Scotland Yard.  Normally, Scotland Yard did exchanges with the federal or state police forces, but not this time.  Somebody felt that the experience of a large metro police force would be a good addition to the growing body of knowledge they accumulated across time.  They also had noted the recent successes London was having sine they had begun to employ Jack Mannion's vaunted COMSTAT system.  Still Nancy felt a twinge of remorse over her relationship with Danny.  She was glad she got to meet James, Danny's son.  He looked so much like his father; it startled her the first time.  She wished that…she stopped thinking about it.  It was just too much.  Nancy shook her head and put her things together and left.  Joe and Ella had left an hour before that.  The building was now down to its evening crew.

Mannion poked his head in the church basement door.  Ella greeted him with a big smile as Ricky ran toward him.  Mannion caught sight of the child and knelt down to catch him.  Ricky found himself lifted into the air.  His laughter filled the dining hall.  Mannion brought him back down to eye level and gave him a bear hug, which was gleefully returned by the nine year old.  Mannion then put Ricky back on the ground and stayed down at eye level with him.

"You know I've missed you," the Chief of Police began.

Ricky's response was to wrap his arms around the big man's neck and kiss him on the cheek.  Mannion responded in kind.  He loved this child as if he were his own.  He knew that here in this African-American Church he could be freer than he could anywhere else in the city.  He knew these people were genuinely his friends.  Their relationship had started out rocky, but once they discovered he meant business about making their streets safe again, they adopted him with warmth and grace.  As a result, about once a quarter, Mannion could be seen attending this church with Ella, Ricky, and Temple.  Mannion even admitted to enjoying the preaching.  Every so often, he and Ella would have an ongoing conversation about the sermon for days following.  Sometimes he surprised her with his understanding of the Bible.

Dinner was a wonderful sight to behold.  There were three tables piled high with food, food, and more food.  There were a few single men, like Temple and Mannion, who were expected to come and eat without bringing anything to the table.  It was part of the tradition.  Once Mannion had tried to bring food, but Ella spared him embarrassment by catching him before he could get the deli plate in the door.  Cujo enjoyed it later.  This feast was all homemade – nothing store bought was let in through the doors.  Once he knew the ground rules, he simply relaxed and enjoyed himself.  There were Thursdays when he came late to work…overstuffed and overslept.  But the best part of Wednesday Night Dinners was walking Ella and Ricky home.  They lived two short blocks from the Church Building.  It gave him a few moments alone with her, outside prying eyes.  The only eyes were protective ones.  Mannion knew that if some stranger was seen in the neighborhood, he'd know about it within seconds.  These people protected him.

Tonight, the service was indeed short.  A guest preacher came as the regular Pastor was on vacation with his family in Alabama.  The guest was a local seminarian.  His style was still pretty rough and very intellectual.  Knowing that he was a student, the congregation urged him on even more strenuously.  They gave it their all to make the boy feel welcome.  Feeling their love, he kept his remarks to a minimum.  That gave Mannion and Ella a few more moments at her apartment after Jack had tucked in Ricky.  Jack read to Ricky, and then supervised the child's bedtime prayers before turning out the light and leaving the door ajar two fingers' width.  Before turning to Ella, Jack smiled to himself.  It was just like when he got home in time to tuck his own children in bed.  He had long regretted not doing that often enough.  Beth was working through some of her resentment and Jack Jr was in rehab.  Mannion blamed himself more than he ever blamed Sherry for those failures.

Ella reached up and ran her hand across his back.  Under his coat, she could feel the stiffness of the vest she made him wear.  "Penny for your thoughts," she whispered as she put her arms around him and laid her head on his back.

Mannion smiled, straightened up, and put his arms around hers for a minute.  Then he turned around and faced her.  He held her face in his hands and looked at her.  "Some day, when I get the Russian cockroaches taken care of…"

He closed his eyes and kissed her and held her.  He was always careful to keep out of sight from the windows.

"I hate slipping around like this," he said.  "But I will not have anything happen to you or to Ricky because of being close to me.  I've got to go now.  I can't blow your cover."

She walked with him to the door, "I love you, Jack."

He looked at her, wanting to stay and be with her, "Good night, Miss Ella," he said with a smile.

She quietly closed the door behind him and began turning out lights.  Mannion walked quickly back to his car, checking it, got in and headed home.  He always slept well on the Wednesday Night Dinners.

Early Thursday afternoon, Joe came in Mannion's office.  "We've got a bank heist in progress, Chief."

Mannion looked up.  "Where?" he headed toward Ella's adjoining office with Joe.  He was ready for a break to the monotony.

Joe rattled off the address, which Ella punched into the computer console.  In a few moments, the buildings appeared on the screen.  There was a broad intersection in a rundown section of town.  A dilapidated and condemned building stood across from the credit union.  Next door to the credit union was a liquor store and on the other side a convenience store.  The credit union had taken quite a chance with this location.  Mayor Baker had begged them to locate in this section.  He had hoped that real money, instead of loan sharks and pawnshops, would lure real business into this area.  It was too soon to tell though.  At least that was the strategy that he and Mannion had discussed a few months ago when the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony had been part of the local evening news.  Mannion felt partly responsible for this.

"Joe, what do we know so far?" Mannion inquired as he stared at the computer screen as he rubbed his face with his hands.

"The perps are still inside with hostages.  The last count we got was one hostage injured, possibly a heart attack, and three bad guys," Joe relayed.

"Okay, you stay here and hold down the fort, I'm going down to the scene," Mannion began.

"Do you think that's wise, Chief?" Ella worried.

He patted the vest, "You made me wear this thing, may as well see if it works," he retorted with a smile.

"That's not very funny, Jack," she responded.

"Ella's right, Jack.  It would probably be better if you stayed here and send me to the scene instead," Joe added.

"Probably, but I'm going – and that's final," he concluded.

As Mannion headed back to his office, he remembered, "Ella, you got that new comm gear?  You know, the digital stuff that the techo-wheenies were showing off three weeks ago?"

She nodded and pointed to a drawer in the filing cabinet.  She fished out the keys to the cabinet from the desk drawer and tossed them to Mannion.

He pulled out three sets, "Here, you talk to me, and I'll talk to you.  Will that make you feel better?  And, hey, I'll give one set to Temple."

"It won't make me feel any better, but I guess that is the way it's going to be," Ella conceded.

Mannion thought he'd made a good compromise, and he left her office adjusting the wireless earpiece and tucking the microphone into a secure but hidden place.

"Can you hear me, Ella?" he said quietly as he left he building.

Most Metro Cops had grown used to their new Chief's eccentricities and thought nothing of it if he seemed to be talking to himself.  They simply ignored it or at least pretended to ignore it.  Ella smiled to herself as she listened in.

"I hear you just fine," she spoke into her microphone.  "This is digital, so right now, only you and I can hear one another.  When you put Temple on, it will just be the three of us.  It's supposed to be hacker proof."

"I just love it when you talk like that," Mannion was in his car, heading toward the scene, "That means I can tell you anything I want?" he said with a devilish smile.

"Anything within reason," she retorted with an equally devilish grin.

He settled down, "You know I really enjoyed last night.  I can't say that there is any place in the District that I'd rather be than there at your church."

"The congregation has taken to you, too, Jack…  Jack, please promise me something," Ella started.

"Hmm, I'm here," Mannion spoke.  "That didn't take long.  Traffic is pretty smooth for this time of day."

"Promise me that you'll try really hard to stay out of the line of fire," Ella finished.

"I'll try.  I'm putting Temple on with us now," Mannion cautioned Ella.

"Ella?" Temple inquired into the mic that Mannion just handed him.

"That's right," she responded.  "Tell me what you see," she continued as she stared at her console of the buildings graphically represented there.

She knew that real life could look very different.  Before Temple could give her the details, it happened.  Her heart stopped as two open microphones picked up the sound nearly simultaneously.  Ella lived in a rough enough neighborhood to know the sound of gunfire when she heard it.  But what really caused her to panic was the next sound.  It was a grunt and a thud.  Someone she cared about was shot and on the pavement.

Lots of commotion was all she could make out for the next few seconds.  Her panic rose as she did not hear Jack's voice.  She could hear Temple call out – "Sniper!  Take cover!"  Into a conventional radio, she heard him call again, "Officer down, officer down!"

Somehow she found her voice again.  "Chief," she began softly.  "Chief," she grew emphatic.  "Jack!" she called out.

A grunt was the response for the moment.  Then she heard Mannion say weakly, "Ella."

She began to work the computer.  "I'm sending the helicopter and paramedics your way."

"Get Joe on," was Mannion's reply.

She could hear him breathing hard.  She pressed a button for Joe.

"How bad are you hurt?  He's on his way.  Temple, how bad is he hurt?"

Temple sounded steady, "Can't tell.  We're pinned down for the moment."

She could hear a few more shots ringing out.  The problem was she could not tell where they were coming from, were the cops returning fire, or was it the sniper again.

Joe was right there. "I heard we've got a sniper and an officer down," he calmly spoke to Ella.

"The Chief's been shot, I think.  He sounds hurt, but I don't know how bad," she said to Joe.

She took the earpiece out and handed it with the mic to Joe.

Mannion heard every word.  Joe took Ella's earpiece and microphone.  "Chief?"

"Joe, I'm hit, but I don't think it's too bad.  It just hurts like fire, right in the middle of my back.  Look, I'm in the street and can't move without attracting the unwanted attention of our sniper.  He's in the building across the street from the bank.  Ella's got the chopper in bound.  I'm betting that we were set up.  It's Putin; I'm sure of it, " Mannion said softly between grunts.

"Okay, let's say it's the Russians.  What do you want to do?"

"Joe, are you any good a card tricks?" Mannion began.

The sound of the chopper could be heard closing in on their location.  It swung past the condemned building looking for the sniper.

The crackle of a radio, "Got him.  I've got a visual with our sniper," said the voice.

From the on scene commander, that district's Captain, "Well - take him out, take him out!"

The sniper and the chopper exchanged fire for six or seven rounds.  While the sniper was engaged, three other officers from the SWAT detail moved into the building.  Other officers sealed off exterior exits.  Temple watched as the pool of blood near the Chief grew ever so slightly.  He wanted to go out there and pull his Chief to safety like he would have done for his Commanding Officer in the Marine Corps.  It was too much for him; the old Marine training kicked in.  He was not going to relive the death of Travis Haywood all over again if he could help it.

Temple raced out into the street, bent down and pulled Mannion over his shoulders and brought him to the relative safety between parked police cars.  He began to pull open Mannion's jacket, shirt, and vest.  Another officer had found similar courage and pulled out a medical kit from the trunk of the Chief's car.  Sirens of the ambulance could be heard a few blocks off.

"The ambulance will be here soon, sir," Temple reassured Mannion who was starting to get shocky.

"Ella, Ella," he whispered to himself, not realizing he was talking to Joe instead.

Temple continued to work at a Marine's best "patch up your buddy in lieu of real medical attention."  He had spent enough time with the Field Corpsmen to know how to stop the bleeding in combat.  As far as he was concerned, this was combat and his CO was hit!

"Temple, make sure they take him to GW hospital," Joe directed.

Temple knew exactly why.  He'd been a party to the conversation between Mannion and his Deputy Chief.

"I'll be meeting you there.  Here's Ella again," Joe concluded as he passed the comm gear back to her before leaving for the hospital.

Temple waited for her to come back on the line, "Ella, I think he'll be okay.  He looks kinda pale right now.  Look the ambulance is here, and we're taking him to GW."  He stopped for a moment to regain his breath, "The bullet did not go all the way through.  It's lodged in his back – not sure how deep though."

Ella was speechless.  Even if she could not find her voice, her hands tapped out the proper codes to send the right assets to the scene.  She might not go with Joe, but she'd be at the Hospital before they took Jack off to surgery.  What she did not know was what Mannion and Nolan had planned.  Only Temple knew that.

Carefully, the paramedics lifted Mannion onto the gurney.  They had started an IV and checked the dressing that Temple had applied to the wound in the middle of Mannion's back.  They tucked a pillow under one shoulder to ease the pain he was experiencing and added some morphine sulfate to the IV drip.  Temple rode in the back with his Chief.  Both had insisted.  The paramedics were left with little choice.

The ER staff was prepared to receive casualties.  The sniper had been located and subdued.  He was not dead, but he was significantly injured.  He'd fallen through a floor, two floors actually, as he had attempted to evade the SWAT members who were closing in on him quickly.  Both legs were broken; one had a compound fracture, and he was losing blood.  Then there was the Chief of Police who had been shot in the back.  What the general staff did not understand was why both men were being brought to them.  Generally speaking, in incidents like this, the ambulance crews tried to separate the warring parties, but this was on the orders of the Deputy Chief who was at that moment standing in the Senior Attending's Office.  It did not look like they were having coffee, but something was going on in there.

Dr. Clark was a man in his early sixties and well known for his abilities in emergency medicine.  He would be caring for the Chief.  He began the scrub procedure in the farthest from the center treatment area.  He called for two trusted nurses and sent everyone else away.  The first ambulance rolled in with Mannion.  Temple was right at his side.  The paramedics and Temple lifted him from the gurney to the table in the ER.  Temple was sent out.  He hung back, just the other side of the curtain, which was quickly pulled around.

The nurses began to cut Mannion out of what was left of his clothes.  Dr. Clark ordered whole blood, antibiotics, and some other drugs that Temple had never heard of.  Temple watched as bits and pieces were piled up around the table.  He could hear Mannion being rolled on one side as Dr. Clark examined the bullet wound.  He worked quietly and quickly.  Once in a while, Temple heard the Chief groan.  He saw blood spill onto the floor.  Then he watched as the sniper came in.  The sniper was screaming his lungs out – in Russian.  Temple felt that the Chief's suspicions were now fully validated.  Joe Nolan kept his distance in Dr. Clark's office.

Thirty minutes to an hour passed as both combatants were worked on for Temple it seemed like a short and long time all at once.  Then Dr. Clark came out from behind the curtain.  The Chief's body lay on the table with a bloody sheet drawn up over his head.  Temple reeled back on his heels and swallowed hard.  Dr. Clark walked passed him.  The nurses gathered up what was left of the Chief's belongings and put them in a bag, which they gave to Temple.  They shook their heads.  By this time, Ella had joined Nolan in Clark's office.  Temple watched as the doctor told them something.  Ella folded into the chair.  Joe just stood by her.  Ella then got up with Joe's help and walked to where Mannion lay.  Temple joined them.  Her hands quivered as she drew the sheet back.  She broke down in Temple's arms.  He knew just how she felt.  It had not been so long ago that Giselle had died, and Mannion was the one who held him.  Temple and Ella had a long cry.  Nolan wore his most worried face ever.

The sniper was continuing to howl.  What appeared to be his family arrived.  Dr. Clark brought them back to see if they could quiet him down.  The Chief's body, surrounded by Joe, Ella and Temple, was in full view.  The monitors over his head all registered flat lines.  The sniper's family looked over, and Temple felt the urge to snatch the curtain closed.  He gave them a dark look and closed off their view.

Dr. Clark rejoined Ella, Temple, and Nolan.

"It's time," he said softly as he led Ella away from the body.

Two orderlies brought a black body bag and gurney and put Mannion in it.  The curtain was open and the sniper's family could see everything again.

"The Coroner's Office is working faster than usual," commented Nolan. 

Ella glared at him through her tears.  "How can you say that, Joe?"

Joe looked away.  Nick had now arrived.

"Where is he?" he demanded.

Nolan nodded behind him.  Nick stopped the Coroner's men.  He unzipped the bag and looked at Jack's face.  Nick reeled backward.  Temple knew what was going to happen as was ready to catch Nicky.

"Oh my God, oh my God…Jack," whimpered Nick.

The Coroner's men kept on with their task.  Nolan and Temple escorted Ella and Nick on out.  The Press was outside and bombarded Nick instantly.  Nick was at a loss for words.  Instead of his usual calm, Spinmeister self, he was edgy and hostile.

"What do you people want?  My best friend is dead, so what do you want from me?" he yelled at them.  He just kept on moving toward his car, saying, "I don't want to talk to you people right now, okay!?"

In the crowd was one familiar face, Vicki Montgomery.  She was shaken by the news.  She got to Nick before he got to his car.  "Nick!"

He twisted around and started to yell, then saw who it was.  "Monty, I'm sorry."

"He's gone?  Really gone?" she needed to know for her more than for a story.

"He's really gone," Nick choked back tears.  "Get in," he opened the door for her and drove off.  "I need to get wasted-drunk – want to drive me home later?"

The Deputy Coroner on duty was a middle-aged woman named Dr. Daniels.  For her shift it was dinnertime when the crew drove up with Mannion.  They wheeled the old gurney past her office.  One wheel rattled.

"Whoa, there a minute guys.  What have we here?" she wanted to know.

"Chief of Police, doc," one replied.

"No kidding?" she responded.

"Nope.  He bought the farm this afternoon at some bank job," the other attendant volunteered.

Dr. Daniels snorted.  "Let's take a look."  She unzipped the bag and pulled it back off Mannion's face.  Leaving the bag flopped open, she commented, "This place is starting to resemble Tijuana or Columbia or some other Latin dictatorship…  This is not the city I grew up in!"  She moved away.  "Put him on the table and cover him with a sheet.  I'll be in there in a few minutes – just as soon as I finish dinner."

"Yes ma'am."

The attendants took Mannion out of the body bag and put him on the steel autopsy table.  They pulled a fresh sheet from the laundry stack and covered him up.  "I don't think I'll ever get used to the docs around here…" began one.

"I know what you mean.  I think they could eat dinner off the dead man's belly if they had to…" the other finished.

"Cold, very cold.  And I'm not talking about it being like a refrigerator in here either."

They were finished in a few minutes and left the area.  Dr. Daniels waited for them to go before heading to the back door and opening it.  Temple handed her a bag that contained a small vile, fresh syringe, and a bag of Ringers Lactate with the necessary tubing.  She held it up to the light and nodded.  He followed her inside.  He rubbed his hands together.

She smiled, "You get used to it."

First Dr. Daniels drew the sheet away from Mannion's face.  Then she opened a syringe, wiped the vile down with an alcohol prep pad.  She drew some of the fluid into the syringe and tapped it.  She pulled back the sheet from Mannion's arm.  Next she wiped down the heparin-lock in Mannion's right wrist.  Normally, the hospital would remove tubes unless there were questions as to the cause of death.  The Coroner liked to examine the minute details in those cases.  However, there would be no question here – pretty straight forward – gunshot to the back, bled out – that's what goes on the Death Certificate.  There was a small squeak as the needle went into the hep-lock.  The fluid was injected directly into his vein.  In less than one minute, Temple saw Mannion's chest rise and fall with a very deep breath.  In less than five minutes, Mannion muttered, "Why is it so damned cold in here?"  Of course, his eyes were still shut.

Dr. Daniels supplied answers, "Well, Chief, it could be because you're in the morgue, and we like it that way.  Then again, it could be because you're lying on a steel table in little more than your boxers," she suppressed a laugh.

Mannion eased an eye open then with a groan shut it quickly.  The doctor maintained one hand on her patient.

"Other than cold, how do you feel?" she inquired.

"Like I just drank a quart of tequila and chased it with half a gallon of rum!" he declared.  "Can I have a blanket, please?"

"Don't get much call for blankets around here…  And the disorientation is perfectly normal.  It will pass in a few hours," she continued.  She took his hands and wrapped his fingers around the edge of the steel table.  "Hold on to the edge of the table while your helper here and I get you dressed."

Mannion peeked out to see Temple.  "Good to see you, Temple."

Temple smiled broadly, "It's even better to see you, sir!"

Both Daniels and Temple started by putting socks on Mannion.  Then they got him part way into a set of coveralls pulling them up around his waist.  He was going to be immobile for a few more hours.  A white tee shirt was pulled over his head and around his shivering body.  Then the doctor inserted the fresh IV.  Five more sheets were thrown over Mannion in an effort to help him warm up.  Three hours later as it neared nine o'clock, Dr. Daniels made mention of the time.

"You know it's going to be hard to explain why the phone company is here at all hours of the night.  How are you doing now, Chief?  You still feel like a drunken Sailor?"

Mannion had been sitting up for half an hour.  Occasionally he'd open his eyes.  He'd only fallen over twice.

"Let's see how well you can stand on your own, then."

Mannion, with help from Temple, got to his feet.  He was still pretty wobbly, but Temple commented it was only a short walk to the truck.  Dr. Daniels shook her head.  As he headed out, Mannion looked back, "So how are you going to explain the missing body?"

"I've got a cousin in the mortuary business who has already collected you.  The Death Certificate is filed.  Not to worry…just try and stay alive, okay?  I'd just as soon not see you back again for a really long time!  I like the way you've made some of us feel safe to live here again, Chief," Daniels affirmed.

With that, Mannion gave her a "thumbs up" and straightened up and did his best to walk to the truck without looking too much worse for the wear.  It seemed odd, but he wore sunglasses and a ball cap pulled down.  Temple turned over the engine and started off.  Mannion sank back into the seat and side panel.

"This is a first – you're getting to drive!" he chuckled out loud, eyes closed again.

Temple snickered, "And probably the only time, too.  So how you feeling, really?"

"Like I'm at about 25,000 feet and descending.  Where are you taking me?"

"The Mayor's, just like Deputy Chief Nolan has worked out," Temple answered.

"Good.  I need to see Ella," Mannion stated flatly.

"You mean, she needs to see you," Temple responded.

Mannion opened an eye.  "Does she think I'm dead?"

"Oh yeah, in a big way, dead."

"Then that was no dream I had," Mannion reflected.

"Huh?  Sir?"

"When I was in the hospital, I thought I was having a dream that Ella and you and Joe were there.  Ella was really broken up, but I couldn't tell her that I was okay," he rambled.

"That was no dream.  There was no time to tell her either," Temple told Mannion.  "You love her don't you, sir?"

"Well, that was pretty direct, Temple," Mannion had both eyes open now.

"Sorry," Temple grew quiet.

"Yeah, I love her.  And I wanted to protect her from the Russians," He had moved too fast.  Mannion closed his eyes again and leaned into the door.  "Oh, I think we're down around 10, 000 feet and heading for a crash landing."

"You gonna be sick?" Temple's eyes grew large.  He knew himself well enough to know that if the Chief started puking, it would not be long before Temple joined in the unhappy chorus.

"I'll try not to, just you try and miss the cracks in the pavement," Mannion cautioned.

Temple eased the truck around the back of the Mayor's mansion.  Ethan Baker was out back waiting for them.  He took one arm and Temple had the other.  Mannion found himself in the finished basement, or rather bomb shelter.

He took off the sunglasses and let his eyes begin to focus again.  Every so often he had to shut his eyes.  "This is nice – best looking bomb shelter I've seen in a while!"

They all laughed at the relic of the Cold War.  "Get me Ella down here, Temple," Mannion turned to his detective.

"On my way, sir."

"Have her bring a laptop.  I'm going to need communications."

Baker spoke up as soon as Temple left, "Take it easy Jack.  You just got shot; escaped with your life; now let your team do their work for once.  Come on in here," he escorted Mannion to the bunkroom.  "Now lay down.  My wife Karen is an RN, and she'll be by to check on you every so often.  And if you think I'm rough on you, wait 'til you try and cross swords with her!"

Lying on his belly, Mannion sank into the cot with a groan.  He drifted off to sleep within seconds.  Ethan pulled his feet up onto the bunk and covered him up with an old, green, wool blanket.  The next thing Mannion knew, he awoke to the scent of Ella's perfume.  Kneeling by the bunk, she was crying again.  He struggled to get up and hold her.

"Shhh; shhh; shhh.  Don't cry, Ella.  I'm okay.  It's just a flesh wound," he tried to console her.  "I'm sorry I scared you.  And I'm really sorry it took so long for you to find out."

"Oh it's okay," she sniffed back the tears.  "It made it more believable for that Russian in the bed next to you to think you were dead.  They were all eyes: Temple told me."

They held one another wordlessly for several minutes.  Temple and Ethan moved off into another room in the bunker.  Mannion brushed his hand across her face and wiped the tears away.  Then he kissed Ella passionately.  "I never meant for you to not know what we planned.  I told Joe this would buy us maybe 72-96 hours to put Putin away.  Or at least get closer to cracking his whereabouts."

"Jack, the FBI is crawling all over the office," Ella said before kissing him.

Her hands ran through his graying hair and across his back.  She found the wound and carefully avoided it.

"The FBI, eh?" he breathed deeply enough to remind himself there was an injury back there, arching his back.

"I'm sorry," Ella apologized.

"It's not you, believe me," he spoke tenderly.  "Come on, let's get some work done before the FBI has all the fun!  And, yes – you were right about the vest.  It saved my life.  Thank you," he smiled.

She put her arm around the small of his back, and they walked arm in arm into the main part of the bunker.

"So what did you bring?" Mannion inquired.

Ella presented the laptop, its dedicated connection to her office console, and that digital comm set they had been using earlier in the day before all the shooting started.

"Okay, we keep my whereabouts to the smallest number of people possible.  Who knows right now?" Mannion wanted to know.

Temple ran down the short list of people who knew the Chief of Police was alive, if not alive and well:  Joe Nolan, Dr. Clark and his two nurses, Dr. Daniels and her cousin, Ella, the Mayor, his wife, and himself.  That was a very short list.  Mannion debated bringing Nick into the conspiracy, but the Mayor talked him out of it.  Nick was more useful as a grieving friend.  Tomorrow, Joe would naturally come over to discuss what was next now that the Police Department was without a Chief.  That would give them time to sit down and run strategies, especially with a link to Ella and Temple.  Mannion was beginning to believe that he was going to come out on top of Putin this time!

Very early the next morning, Deputy Chief Nolan swung by the Mayor's mansion.  Baker was expecting him.  Together they headed to the basement where they found the Mayor's wife changing the dressing on Mannion's gunshot wound.

When he pulled the shirt back on, Mannion turned and faced Nolan.  "Joe," he stretched out his hand, "I want to thank you for the vest.  You were right, and I was wrong."

Nolan shook his Chief's hand, "No hard feelings, Jack, but it was Ella who got you into the thing.  Thank her, not me."

With a grin, "Did that last night."

"Mmm, I'll bet you did," was Joe's cryptic reply.

Mannion slapped him on the back and they all sat down around the table.  "I figure we've got maybe three or four days to make the most of my 'death' before the Russians slip back into their lairs."

"I agree," Nolan nodded.  "We have to set them up somehow, at least into revealing Putin.  Jack, you need to know that the FBI is crawling all over the Department.  Once they got word of you being shot, they were down there.  We might actually be able to use their help this time."

Mannion looked away and sighed.  He detested and distrusted the FBI.  He pursed his lips and began, "You might be right.  Are they the same agents as before?"

"I think so, plus a few on top of that," Nolan finished.

"Do we know what their game plan is yet?"

Joe looked at his watch, "I'm supposed to meet with them at…nine this morning.  I'll have Ella 'sit' in the meeting.  As it's happening, she'll feed you the notes back here."  He patted where he would put the mic.

"Sounds good.  Let's get these guys this time!" Mannion said as they all stood up.  "Ella has that comm gear as well as the secure line to here."

Nolan turned to leave, "Nick and I will also be planning your Memorial Service this afternoon for noon Monday.  Any favorite hymns?"  Nolan smiled widely.  He was beginning to like this Chief and the deception.

Mannion thought for a moment, "Always liked 'Amazing Grace' with bagpipes…  How's Nicky doing?"

"Don't know.  Haven't seen him since last night at the hospital.  He was angry and hurt.  He left with Ms Montgomery."

"Now that's a name I haven't heard in a while," Mannion mused.  "I hope they can help one another," he continued.  "Take care of Nicky, Joe."

"Will do, Chief."

When Nolan got to the office, the FBI was still pouring over Mannion's office and Ella's.  Ella was growing in resentment for the unwanted intrusion.

"Chief Nolan, Chief Nolan, Joe," she called out as he got off the elevator.  "You have got to get those people out of my office.  I can't get anything done with them there."  Her voice was full of annoyance as well as the secret they shared.

"I'll see what I can do," was his flat reply.

Before he got to Mannion's office, he noticed Nick.  Nolan knocked, and Nick stood up.  "Look, Joe, I can have my stuff out of here in a day or so, like after the Service, if that's okay with you?"

"What are you talking about, Nick?" asked Joe.

"Well, you're going to want your own man, and it's not like we have been fast friends or anything…" Nick started.

"You're not going anywhere.  I'm keeping you.  I may not always agree with you, but you do a good job.  Well at least you've always done a good job for Mannion," Joe insisted.  "So stop packing your gear and start planning his Memorial Service.  I want to hear 'Amazing Grace' on bagpipes somewhere along the line, too."

Nick was dumbfounded.  All he could do was nod in assent.

That was one problem solved, Nolan thought to himself.  Now if he could get the FBI out of Ella's hair, life would be good again.  Before he entered the office, he paused at Nancy's desk.  "Nancy, you still got the Chief's dog?"

Nancy broke down and cried with a nod.  Joe hated it when she did that.  He could barely handle Ella's tears from the ER, but it would be days before Nancy would know that Mannion was alive.

"Well Officer Pares, when you regain your composure, you can take Cujo over to the Mayor's.  They have offered to take him in since they know your landlord won't let you keep him."

Nancy could muster only a few more nods in between her sobs.  Joe opened the door to the Chief's office and found two FBI agents inside together with the US Attorney Bruce Logan.

"You know Mr. Logan, the Chief's spirit will haunt you forever if you take anything that does not belong to you…" Nolan warned as he caught Logan admiring some of the antiques the Chief had collected.

Logan just snorted as he returned the Greek warrior's bust to the table.

"You're glad he's dead, aren't you?" Nolan wanted to know.

"Whatever makes you think that, Chief?" Logan rejoined.  "I always got the feeling that you hated him.  Now that he's dead, I'm surprised you haven't started moving your things on into your new office."

Nolan took a few steps closer to Logan who moved back a bit.  "You've got your nerve.  His body isn't even cold yet, and you've got me moved into his desk?"

"No matter," Logan dismissed Joe.  "It'll be a pleasure working with you, now!"  Logan moved toward the door.

Nolan muttered under his breath, "I wouldn't bet on it."  Then he turned his attention to the FBI.  "Agents, how can I help you?"

"Chief," Agent Grace Curry spoke first.  "We are pretty sure that the sniper belongs to Dimitri Putin's bunch."

"Oh, you are, are you?" Joe was incredulous and dripping with sarcasm all at the same time.  "What gave it away?"

Curry took a deep breath.  "You know Chief, he's really rubbed off on you," she began again.

Nolan broke in, "Then I'll take that as a compliment."  He folded his arms across his chest defiantly.  "Again, Agent Curry, what do you want?"

"The same thing you want – to catch Putin and put him away for all time," she responded, her arms across her chest.

Ella walked in from her office.  "Then don't you think the two of you can work together for a change instead of seeing who can best whom?  I've had about enough of the chest thumping from you all!"

Nolan knew she meant business and hoped that the FBI would hear that tone in her voice.  He could not reveal that Mannion was still alive, but if he could just get the feds to do their part, they'd have Putin before the whole house of cards that Mannion had just constructed came fluttering down.

"Ella, I think we'll manage.  Thank you," Nolan said.  Then he turned to Curry, "Now if we can sit down and share the information we each have accumulated.  And if you will leave Ms Farmer alone.  She's got work to do, and your folks are deterring her."

Ella retreated to her side of the double doors after Curry nodded that they were done with her.  Curry and Nolan put all the cards on the table for the first time.  Nolan held the bullet that Dr. Clark dug out of Mannion's back the night before.  It was Soviet sniper munitions.  The rifle itself was recovered as well.  It all tied up to the Russian Mob.  Curry laid out on the table the money laundering pieces they had pulled together so far.  She felt sure that they were only a few steps behind Putin.  They had targeted Chief Mannion more out of vengeance than out of necessity.  Nolan pointed out that this was most likely the key thread to unravel the whole.  Putin was personally involved, and that could be his undoing.  Both agreed that more pressure needed to be applied.  As Curry left, she asked about the Memorial Service.  Joe informed her it was scheduled for noon on Monday at the Washington National Cathedral, Main Chapel.  His rosary and funeral would be tomorrow for family only at a small Catholic parish back in New York where he and Sherry had been married the first time.  The mortuary had already shipped his cremains home.  Curry thanked him.

"I think I'll check on Nick.  I know they were close," she said softly.

"Yes, you do that," Nolan concluded.  As they left, he switched off the light.

Ella was on the computer talking to Mannion.  Joe had been wearing the new comm gear.  She told him everything that transpired, the blow-by-blow.  She could not see him smiling on the other end but could hear his amusement in his electronic conversation.  His typing needed work, but that was a small thing in comparison to where her emotions had been in the last 24 hours.

Before leaving for the night, Nolan stopped by her office.  "Anything?" he asked.

"Nothing new.  He's going over the information that Curry fed you, looking for I don't know what.  You going over to the Mayor's?" Ella wanted to know.

Nolan looked at her, "Probably tomorrow.  I'll take my wife as cover," he paused a moment then continued, "You two have got to be the oddest couple I've ever known.  I don't know what you see in him, but that's not for me to say," he smiled and left.

Ella blushed and smiled to herself.  Nolan was right.  She and Jack Mannion were an odd couple.  Each had suffered tremendous losses that seemed to cement them ever closer.  Jack had been there his first week on the job for her – first week, what was she thinking, first day.  He never wavered in his enthusiasm or energy for putting Pablito away.  He had made sure that her sister's killer was gone out of their lives.  He had lost Sherry, but somehow he'd found a way to love again.  Their mutual encouragement fed the other.  He was not a man that she would have ever given second thought to, but now she found it hard to not think about him.  She told him good night on the computer.  He wrote back to take the comm gear home so they could talk.  He was lonely in the Mayor's basement; he'd buy the replacement batteries later.

Nolan and his wife paid the Mayor a visit Saturday.  He left his wife to chat with Mrs. Baker as he and the Mayor did "manly" things.  The wives interpreted that as cigars and fish stories in the den.  They giggled together as Joe and Ethan headed toward the den.  They detoured to the basement.  Baker took dinner to Mannion who was starting to get stir crazy.  His strength was returning as the drugs were wearing off.

"Did you bring it?" he asked Joe.

Joe nodded, "I'll leave it as we leave tonight.  You know I've got real reservations about this.  Why expose yourself unnecessarily, Jack?"

"Are you kidding, Joe?  How could I pass up this opportunity?" Mannion teased.

Baker just shook his head, "Jack I've got to agree with Joe on this one.  This is the craziest thing you've done yet – well short of going to Brighton Beach months ago.  If you had stayed home…"

"Don't start," Mannion winced.  "You don't think I'd go back and change it all if I could?"

Joe added, "You did what you thought was right.  You wanted to catch the guys who murdered our cops as badly as anyone on the force.  And, when it's all said and done, it turns out you were right on about every count that we've tracked down so far."

"Cold comfort, Joe," Mannion replied with a deep breath.

The Mayor broke in, "Joe, we'd better get on back upstairs before the wives notice we're missing in action."

"Did you get anything else out of the information that Ella passed on to you?" Joe wanted to know before leaving.

"Nope.  All we know that we could use is that Putin is personally involved in my 'murder'," Mannion shook his head.  "I'm just not sure how to use it, yet."

"It'll come to one of us," Joe added as he and Ethan went back upstairs to join the ladies.

Ethan stopped off in the den and lit a cigar, "For effect," he told Joe as he waved it around their heads.

Nolan shook his head, "And you think I'm infected with the way he," nodding to the basement," thinks!"  They laughed.

As the Nolans drove away, the headlights lit up a small black trash bag that had not been there before.  A few minutes after they departed, Baker retrieved it and took it downstairs.

In the closed off balcony of the Cathedral, Mannion hid himself in the shadows.  Ella had slipped off to the Ladies Room fifteen minutes before the Memorial Service was to begin.  Mannion caught sight of her in the stairwell.  He came out of the shadows and joined her.

"I can't believe you're doing this," she chided.

An enormous grin painted across his face, "Are you kidding?  Who else gets to go to this own Memorial Service?  With few knowing I'm not dead, I get to really hear what people think!"

"It's not always about you, Jack," Ella began.

Mannion reached out and stroked her face, then he pulled her close for a kiss.  She did not feel the vest under the janitor's uniform he wore.  She pulled back, "Where is it?"

He knew what she meant and looked away.  "Ah, gee, Ella, I must have gotten up without it this morning," he made his lame excuse.

"No excuse!"

"It had a big hole in it anyway…" he tried again.

"An even worse excuse.  You're lucky you don't have a bigger hole in you!" she fired back.

"Shhh.  Nobody knows I'm here.  I'm just a janitor.  Who wants to kill a janitor?" he asked.  "Look the festivities are about to start.  You better get on back."

Ella started to turn away then reached out to him.  He kissed her forehead.  "It's going to be okay."

"Or not," she replied as they parted.  She stroked his face and looked as if one last time into his brown eyes. 

He smiled back and winked at her.  As she left, he moved back into the shadows.  He had not noticed that there was one more moving shadow up there with him.  That shadow was also dressed like a janitor.

"God, what an ego you must have, Jack Mannion," whispered a thickly accented Russian tongue.

Mannion's eyes popped wide open.  He spun around, looking for where the voice had come from.  His eyes narrowed as he spotted the other janitor.  "Dimitri Putin, I presume?"

Putin came out of the shadows, hands extended.  "Being in a Cathedral, out of respect for God, I am unarmed.  I see we came for the same reasons," smirked the Russian.  The Russian was small in comparison to Mannion's frame.  His hair was close cropped in a typical military haircut.  "We both wanted to see how my handiwork played out."

Mannion snorted, "Well, I don't think you're going to like it much.  You're under arrest!"

The organ prelude began as the Chief's closest aids and friends filed into the first few pews.  Nick sat on the end closest the center aisle.  Nolan sat at the other end.  Nancy, Ella, Ricky, and Temple finished out the front pew.  On the other side of the aisle were the Mayor and his senior staff, complete with the "court jester," Bruce Logan.  The Chief of Police's official portrait was draped in black.  There was a Hat and Badge sitting on the table in front of the portrait.  Nancy had made the arrangement herself.  It was the least she could do she had thought.  Nolan could hardly take her grief.  He had read Nick's eulogy.  That was hard, too.  He'd be too glad when the deception was over.  The FBI agents filed in behind Nick and Joe.  If a cop was off duty, he or she was there.  The cathedral was packed.  Ella's church had also sent a large contingent, which sat behind the Mayor.

"Oh Mannion, give it a rest and enjoy the show!" Putin teased.

"Please, do give me a reason to beat the life outta you," Mannion moved closer.  "Come on, do resist arrest."

"How can a dead man arrest anything?" Putin shot back.  Then Mannion saw the other janitor in the corner.  Putin grinned, "You see?" he said as he arched an eyebrow.

Putin's bodyguard was every bit as big as Mannion and twenty years younger.  Mannion pulled the collar of his dark blue work shirt up and opened the cuffs.  The younger man took that as a hostile move and lunged toward the Chief. 

"Nyet!" cried Putin.

It was too late.  Mannion and the younger man were locked in combat, metal folding chairs scattered across the floor as two big men rolled around up there.  The growing commotion in the balcony alerted the crowd below.  The organist was unsure what to do next.  So he kept on playing hymns.  Only Joe, Ella, and Temple knew what had started, or at least they thought they did.  Joe stood up and directed his comment to Temple, "Putin!"  Curry overhead him and instantly knew.

She looked at Nolan, "He's alive isn't he?"

He glanced at her, "Yeah," as he moved out of the pew toward the balcony and ran down the aisle.

"You held out on us!" shouted Curry.  She was right after Temple.

"Not now!" Nolan shouted back.

The other officers made him a hole.  Temple chased along after him with the FBI in close pursuit, weapons drawn.

In the balcony, Putin grabbed one of the folding chairs and slammed it down into Mannion's back.  He cried out.  Ella put her hands over Ricky's ears, and in the chaos moved the child out of the Cathedral.  She got him over to her Pastor and his wife.  They had returned early out of respect for Mannion.  They surrounded Ella and Ricky with all the protection they could offer.

Then next thing anyone knew, they heard the younger man scream as he tumbled over the balcony railing on to the crowd below.  Several uniformed officers restrained him, after getting a couple of licks in.  With all the bumps and bruises of the fall from three stories up, who could say which bruise came from where.  That left Putin to face Mannion by himself.

"Well now, Jack, may I call you Jack?" Putin began.  His eyes flitted around looking for a way past the larger man.

"You may not, Dimitri," Jack said as he moved in on his quarry.

Putin lashed out with a ferocious spinning kick to Mannion's head.  Mannion had half anticipated it and the blow glanced off.  That left Putin's back exposed.  Mannion launched himself toward Putin.  They crashed through the few folding chairs that remained upright as they sprawled across the floor.  Putin was not through as he struck back.  Mannion was thrust backward.

"Diplomatic Immunity," called out Putin.

"Diplomatic Immunity, my ass," responded Mannion who was back on top of Putin.  "I'm going to tear your head off with my bare hands!"

Mannion had the Russian by the throat and was banging his head on the wooden decking.  Mannion's voice reverberated throughout the entire Chapel. 

Temple outran Joe by two steps and began to pull Mannion off the Russian, "Sir, sir!"

Joe held the Russian as Temple wrestled the Chief.

Mannion shook Temple off, "I'm okay, I'm okay.  Temple," he said as he regained his composure.  He smoothed his hair back and patted Temple in the chest.  "Let's get this guy downtown."

The FBI agents applied the handcuffs to Putin who glowered at Mannion.

"Looks like you win this round, Chief," he said in a low growl.

"Like you didn't try and kill half the town just trying to get at me?" Mannion hotly replied.

As Mannion descended the stairs, Nancy grabbed him and bear hugged him.  Mannion had to smile.  "I'm sorry, Nancy," he said sheepishly.

Others came up and hugged and clapped him gingerly on the back.  He accepted the adulation with style and grace.  Then with Mannion on Putin's left arm, and Agent Curry on his right arm, they led him outside to an awaiting police car.

Before Putin got in, he looked at Mannion then across the street and said in Latin, "We who are about to die salute you."

Mannion thought about it a moment and then realized what Putin had just said.  He looked up at the building across from the Cathedral and saw what Putin was looking at.  He shoved Putin, but not in time.  The sniper's bullet drilled the Russian squarely in the chest.  Putin fell backward, limp, onto the pavement.  The rest of the group hit the deck as well.  The sniper vanished without a trace.  His face had been obscured in such a way that not even Mannion's trained eye could provide much of a description.  Now they had another dead end.

Boris, who was still sitting in federal prison, waiting for sentencing got a message to Mannion.  Mannion went down and talked to the former restraunteur.  Boris stood up as the Chief of Police entered.  He clapped his hands in mock applause.  Mannion was unimpressed.  They picked up the phones to talk.

"What do you want, Boris?  Why not talk to the feds?" Mannion wanted to know.

"My Bosses wanted this message for you not for them," Boris began in his heavy accent.  "They were much impressed by how you took out Pulcovnik.  Not even the Taliban could do this thing."

Mannion was unmoved, "So they killed him instead?  What's your point?"

"Putin made a mistake.  Failure is not tolerated.  He got personally involved in his own private war with you.  Is the price of doing business.  You understand that, eh, Jack Mannion?"  Boris took a breath and continued, "Anyway, my Bosses have noticed that your bite is worse than your bark, Mannion.  So, we are going to go where business is, shall we say, less resistant to our overtures?  We shall leave you and your District for now." Boris was not finished, "My superiors also wished me to convey their deepest condolences for your many losses of late."

That last statement infuriated Mannion who shot to his feet.  He wanted to go through the glass and grab Boris by the throat, "My losses?!" he boomed through the glass.

Boris drew back, dropping the phone, glad for the reinforced glass between them.  He held out his hands and mouthed the word:  Sorry!  Just business…  He got up and left for the safety of his cell.  Mannion was left alone.  He closed his eyes and drew a deep breath before hanging up the prisoner phone.