a/n - here's the last chapter of this short story. Thank you so much for the kind words of support and taking the time to read this story.
With his gun ready, Mike followed Cranston around the corner as the gunman looked for a way to escape. "The window? The ventilation?", he thought as he frantically searched.
As Mike had a direct line on him, he yelled, "Police, hold it right there. Keep your hands up!"
"No way," Cranston protested. "I'm not going down for this!" He turned and pointed his pistol at Mike.
The seasoned detective was ready; however, and shot the assailant in the side. Cranston lost the grip on his gun and recoiled in pain. Spinning around as he placed his hand over his wound, he stumbled as he fled from Mike.
Mike secured Cranston's weapon and began pursuit of the wounded and unarmed man.
Steve heard a gunshot and sat up quickly. The motion nearly made him pass out, but he regained enough composure to keep upright. He shot a brief glance at Rhinelander, who was stunned at the turn of events.
Steve left the sofa and staggered to the door.
"Inspector, you can't go out there." Rhinelander warned.
"Have to help Mike," was Steve's only thought and words. He opened the door and awkwardly drew his pistol with his left hand. "Stay there," Steve ordered, but Rhinelander followed closely behind.
As he staggered down the corridor, Steve reasoned that the gunman had a silencer on his weapon, so the gunshot had to have come from Mike. The idea gave him some relief, but he wouldn't be happy until he could see Mike safe for himself.
His desire for escape outweighed the pain he felt from the bullets in his body. Cranston came barreling from the side passage and directly into Keller and Rhinelander's path. Mike was only a few feet behind.
"Steve, he's unarmed!" came the warning from Stone who saw his partner and Rhinelander.
Cranston decided to run full into Steve, hoping to knock the weak detective down and grab his weapon. Instead, Rhinelander intercepted.
"I've got him!" Rhinelander called out as he tackled the man. Cranston fell backward with the Councilman on top. To ensure that the gunman was fully disabled, the Councilman reared back and gave him a strong right hook into the jaw. Cranston was dazed and quickly passed out.
Mike bent down and tried to revive Cranston by giving him a couple of slaps on the face. Cranston came to as he moaned in pain.
"What's your name, son?" Mike's tone was authoritative with a puzzling degree of sympathy to the gunman. He secured Cranston's gun and then stared into the gunman's face, noting the two different colored eyes. I'll be damned, Mike thought. Steve was right.
Cranston remained quiet.
Mike leaned over and frisked the injured man. He pulled out his wallet, which contained his driver's license.
"Toby Cranston," Mike said as he read over the ID. Curiosity took hold and he checked to see what he had listed as eye color. Nodding at the word 'dichromia', Mike shifted his attention back to the matter at hand and tried coaxing the young man further. "Well, Toby, you better tell me who put you up to this? Who sent you to shoot the Councilman here?"
"No, I won't rat on who sent me." Cranston was getting breathless as the pain in his side worsened.
"Before it's too late, son, I think you need to make your peace." Mike further advised. For effect he looked at the bullet wound in the man's midsection and winced.
"What? I'm not going to die, am I?" Cranston appealed.
"I won't lie. It's a bad injury. Toby, do you have any family?" Mike probed further.
"I think I'm going to be sick," the gunman said as panic began to set in.
"Please tell me who sent you. Get it off your conscience before it's too late." Mike finally pleaded.
Cranston began coughing. "Okay, okay. It was this businessman, Harold Spring. He paid me to take out Rhinelander. He wanted the entire housing project halted." Cranston closed his eyes. "I don't want to die."
Mike wondered how many times he had heard a would-be killer, or a killer for that matter, plead with him not to let him die. It was a sick irony. Mike stood up and walked away from Cranston. He saw Lessing approach with Captain Carson. "This is the gunman, Toby Cranston," he added.
The Councilman quickly recognized Mike's strategy as he spoke with Cranston. "Is that something you learned in the war?" he whispered.
"The streets." Mike replied with a half smirk.
"Uh-huh…" Rhinelander added with an eyebrow cocked as Mike's response confirmed his thoughts.
"I can't help it if he spilled his guts to me. It wasn't like I told him he was dying." Mike said with a wink. Quickly Mike turned to Lessing. "Lee, call an ambulance for Cranston. Then after you do, book him with attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon. Then, let's get an arrest warrant for Harold Spring."
"Got it, Mike. He shot another man downstairs. He's alive, but in pretty bad shape."
"Then two counts of attempted murder."
Mike caught sight of his partner now leaning against the wall looking like he was going to drop at any moment. He rushed over to his side. "Next thing is to get you to the hospital."
"Just drive me," Steve said somewhat short of breath. "It sounds like Cranston and his other victim are in worse shape than me. I can make it downstairs and to the car."
Mike was surprised, but then Steve continued. "I can't have you old war veterans corner the market on macho." Rhinelander and Stone exchanged a quick grin.
"Speaking of macho…" Mike added as he saw Joe Skowlownowski head their way.
The burly mayor's aide carefully eyed Keller and his injured shoulder, but then turned his full attention to Mike. "Good work, Stone. Lessing told me that you and, uh, your partner were with Rhinelander at the time of the shooting and saved his life."
"Well, I believe that.." Mike started to credit Steve since he was the one who took bullet meant for Rhinelander, but was interrupted by Skowlownowski.
"Lessing also told me that there was another mugging and robbery down at Union Square: right at the same area of where Councilman Rhinelander was robbed yesterday. It was the same MO and roughly the same description of the attackers. You might know the victim. He's the old newspaperman who's been working the Square for decades: Wally Sensibaugh. Anyway, as admirable a job that you did here today, I'm afraid that Councilman Rhinelander's first attack has not been solved."
Mike began his response, but paused for a moment to check on his partner. Much to his surprise, Steve now stood unaided by the wall and looked stronger than he had minutes earlier. He had energy enough to glare at Slowkownowski while he spoke.
Buddy boy, right now I'd put you against any Marine as far as macho goes, Mike thought humorously.
Skowlownowski continued barking. "Stone, I think you better get him to the hospital. He looks a little green."
Steve eyes squinted and shot daggers at the man. The double meaning of 'green' was not lost on the young detective. The aide turned to leave, but then turned around. "Oh, and, uh, Kelly…nice work. Get that shoulder taken care of."
Steve's jaw dropped as he watched Skowlownowski retreat down the hallway. "Kelly? Are you kidding me?" he mumbled under his breath.
"Well, it's better than 'what's his name', isn't it?" Mike said as he laughed, then looked at Rhinelander. "Councilman, the officers here will take a statement and then if you don't mind, perhaps we can finish up the paperwork at my office."
"Yes, Lieutenant. And my thanks to you both. I wouldn't be alive right now if you didn't come around when you did. I can't tell you how humbled I am to have gone through this experience. Inspector Keller, I wish you God's speed in your recovery."
"Thank you, sir." Steve looked over to his partner. All the macho and bravado was draining and he really wanted to do nothing more than to stop the pain in his shoulder.
Mike saw the signs and grabbed onto his partner's good arm. "Okay, what's-his-name, let's get you taken care of."
"Very funny. You should take your act to the streets." Steve replied exasperated.
"I already have, Buddy boy, I already have."