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By Janice Cantore
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2014 Janice Cantore
All rights reserved.
Officer Brinna Caruso rounded the corner just as the vehicle she'd come looking for pulled away from the curb. She'd know the car anywhere; the battered black Buick belonged to a registered sex offender named Henry Corliss. He'd been on her radar since his parole to the city of Long Beach three months ago with the designation of "high-risk offender." Her intuition had screamed that he would not be a model parolee, and today her suspicions were confirmed.
Corliss was wanted for abducting a young girl.
Brinna followed the Buick slowly, not wanting to spook her prey, wanting instead to stop him when her backup caught up with her. Three more units would be with her in minutes. Questions swirled through her mind: Had Corliss seen her? Did he know the police were onto him, or was his departure a coincidence? Where was the girl?
Even as she asked the last question, she knew the girl was most likely in the Buick. This sick puppy's MO was to transport victims to secluded areas. With that thought, just following the creep at a residential speed caused a jolt of adrenaline to slam through her, and she tightened her grip on the wheel.
"Where are you off to, Henry?" she said out loud to no one. Today she didn't even have her K-9 partner, Hero, with her to talk to. Rain had been falling steadily for two days, so even if there was a need for a K-9 search today, this weather would hinder a dog, and she'd left him home. The vehicle's wipers beat a high-s peed rhythm on the windshield, yet Brinna's view was still clouded by water.
She reached for her radio mike to inform dispatch and her backup that the suspect was on the move. The Buick slowed at a T intersection, and Brinna relaxed, thinking maybe Corliss's leaving when she showed up had been coincidental.
Her relaxation was short-1 ived. With a puff of smoke from the muffler, the battered vehicle accelerated rapidly to the left, rear wheels throwing up a cloud of water and steam, fishtailing on the wet streets. For a second Brinna anticipated the driver would lose control and crash. But the rear wheels caught and the car leaped away.
Brinna dropped the mike on the passenger seat and gave her black-and-white Ford Explorer as much gas as she dared, trying in vain to close the distance between her and the fleeing car. The rain seemed to fall harder, and the Buick flew through the next intersection against a red light. She knew it was Corliss behind the wheel, and he was not going to stop.
"No," Brinna yelled as she was forced to slow for the light, nearly stopping before it changed to green and she could accelerate through the intersection. As she reached out to pick up the dropped mike, she clicked on her lights and siren. The Buick widened the gap between them.
"King-44, the suspect vehicle left the location just as I arrived. He's westbound on Wardlow, approaching Orange." She spoke a little too loud, her voice ramped up because of the noise from the siren. "I'm in pursuit."
The vehicle extended its lead, making a wild, out-of-control left onto Orange. Brinna followed, frustrated as she was forced once again to slow. Her high-center-of-gravity SUV was no match for the more stable sedan on the wet roadway. The mixture of another siren caused her gaze to flicker across the rearview mirror. There was at least one assisting unit behind her.
"King-44, did you see the victim with the suspect?" Sergeant Rodriguez's voice crackled through the speaker.
Brinna smacked the wheel before responding. No, I didn't see her, but I know he's got her in the car was what her mind screamed. What she answered the sergeant with was a simple "Negative, just the suspect."
She again tossed the mike on the passenger seat as the Buick ran another red light and turned right onto Willow.
Corliss was the one and only suspect in the abduction of a local twelve-year-old girl, Nikki Conner. Two hours ago a 911 call had alerted police to the abduction and kicked off an intense search involving all of Long Beach and neighboring agencies in mutual aid. Corliss had been conversing with Nikki on the Internet, posing as a fourteen-year-old boy, complete with a fake Facebook page. They'd arranged to meet at a park. Fortunately Nikki had a friend who followed and watched the meeting from a distance. Her description of the abduction that transpired in the park—complete with photos snapped with a cell phone—was what led police to Corliss. And Brinna wasn't about to let him slip away.
The radio speaker exploded with unintelligible gibberish as several units tried to get on the air at the same time. Brinna tuned it out to concentrate on her driving, struggling to keep the suspect vehicle in sight while preventing her SUV from hydroplaning.
When the dispatcher deftly regained control of the air, Brinna heard Sergeant Rodriguez assign a unit to check the suspect's house. She started to ask Brinna for an update on her location but was cut off.
Brinna swerved around a slow vehicle as a high-pitched, nasal male voice came through loud and clear. Lieutenant Harvey. Brinna groaned. He was new to the watch; he'd just been promoted last week and he was by the book.
"King-44, this pursuit is not authorized. Weather conditions are too severe. Terminate immediately!"
Brinna kept after the Buick with a white-knuckled grip on the wheel. She'd feared this response from Harvey. A pursuit with the rain falling in buckets would never be approved except in the direst of circumstances. And someone like Harvey, a bean counter in a blue suit, would never agree with Brinna that this was the direst of circumstances. Henry Corliss had kidnapped a young girl.
Harvey would say: "We know who he is and where he lives; we'll get him."
Brinna would respond: "The girl is in danger now."
Harvey: "If she is in the car, you're endangering her by your pursuit. What if he crashes?"
Brinna: "I know him. You don't understand what he'll do to her if he's not stopped now."
All of this played in Brinna's mind as she raced over city streets on the suspect's tail. She heard Harvey continue to try to raise her on the radio, but she ignored him.
"The victim is not at the suspect's house," the unit assigned to check the residence announced on air when the lieutenant took a breath.
"Brinna." Sergeant Rodriguez's voice came over clear and calm, using her first name and not her call sign. Brinna flinched as she heard the pleading in her sergeant's voice, asking for her location. "What is your 10-20?"
They were downtown now, and the path of the Buick was more erratic, with the driver crossing to the wrong side of the street, moving perilously close to the Blue Line train tracks, not slowing for stop signs or red lights and nearly crashing every few seconds.
Brinna blew out a frustrated breath and pounded the wheel. She couldn't shut out Sergeant Rodriguez like she shut out Harvey. She clicked off her siren and picked up the mike.
"He's still heading south, now on Atlantic, crossing PCH." She kept following without the benefit of her light bar and noted that one assisting black-and-white stayed with her as well. It had to be Maggie and Rick.
"King-44,1 want that pursuit terminated and you to return to the station. Meet me in the squad room. Now!" Harvey was practically hysterical.
Just then the Buick slowed to make a tight right turn onto Tenth Street. Brinna finally had a chance to close some distance between them, and she took it, accelerating. Copying the next wild left he made on Magnolia, she pulled even closer. As a testament to her good fortune, even the rain seemed to be letting up, pounding drops giving way to a light shower. Lieutenant or no lieutenant, Brinna knew she couldn't quit yet.
She also knew Harvey had issued his order over the radio so it was clear and easily documented. But for Brinna, a young girl in danger mattered more than anything Lieutenant Harvey could say.
Brake lights flashed as the fleeing driver attempted to turn right onto the Seventh Street freeway on-ramp but couldn't; the ramp was closed for repairs. For the first time since the Buick had sped away from her, Brinna smiled. The vehicle fishtailed back onto Magnolia and continued south. Brinna knew that if he tried the Third Street ramp, he would be out of luck there as well. God bless Caltrans. The puke had finally made a mistake.
Sure enough, he made the same aborted turn attempt at the Third Street ramp, almost coming to a complete stop. For a moment Brinna thought she'd won. Off came the seat belt, and her hand gripped the door handle. But once more the driver of the Buick punched it, continuing south on Magnolia toward the harbor, with Brinna gaining ground.
They passed the police station and the main fire station before the driver made a final, crucial mistake. Standing water in a low spot on the street disguised the depth of the puddle. The vehicle never slowed as it approached the dip. The Buick hit the water hard, and the driver lost all control.
Brinna slammed her brakes as the black car spun out in front of her. The driver couldn't pull out of it, and with a sickening bang, the vehicle's back end hit a parked car, sending the driver's side careening around into another parked car, where it came to rest in a splash of water, steam, and amber and red plastic from the taillights.
Brinna flung her door open and hit the pavement at a full run, dodging the falling rain and the deep puddles. She saw movement as the driver slid to the passenger side and pushed the door open. He jumped out, cut between two parked cars, but Brinna was on him as he reached the sidewalk. She grabbed his shoulders and threw her weight into him, knocking him off his feet and into a planter. She managed to keep her balance and a hold of one of his arms.
"You're under arrest, Corliss. Stop resisting." Brinna almost lost her grip because both she and the suspect were drenched and muddy within seconds.
"Police brutality!" Corliss wailed.
"No audience here," Maggie yelled at the man as she appeared on Brinna's right and grabbed his other arm. Between them, they had Corliss handcuffed and sitting on the planter ledge in short order.
"Where's the girl?" Brinna demanded, hands on hips, glaring at the suspect through the rain, blood pumping, heart racing. A slight man with thinning hair and a sallow complexion, Corliss looked like a muddy, drowned rat and wouldn't meet her gaze.
"I want my lawyer."
Brinna caught Maggie's eye and shook her head. It was times like these she wished she could shake information out of uncooperative suspects. But she couldn't. She couldn't touch him or talk to him now that he'd cried for a lawyer, and he knew it.
"Rick's checking the car as we speak," Maggie said, and Brinna followed her gaze back to the Buick. "He also told dispatch where we are." She caught Brinna's eye and looked down her nose, lifting an eyebrow, an unspoken reprimand for Brinna's radio silence during the chase and a reminder that Brinna was in trouble. Harvey would not just drop the matter of her ignoring him. It would make no difference that the suspect was in custody.
"Hey." Rick stuck his head out of the suspect's car. "She's here, and she's okay!"
Brinna looked at Maggie and then at Corliss, whose head was down, rain dripping from his forehead.
"Go." Maggie waved toward the car. She pulled Corliss to his feet. "I'll put him in my car because he is most certainly going to jail."
Brinna hurried to the Buick and peered into the backseat. Nikki Conner had been tied up and wrapped in a blanket. As Rick loosened the rope and pulled the blanket from her face, she sobbed but appeared otherwise unharmed.
Brinna felt every negative emotion drain away. This was what mattered. The girl was safe, and the creep was in custody. Her throat clogged with emotion.
She looked up to see the lieutenant's car turn the corner, coming her way. Brinna folded her arms, ignoring the rain and her drenched uniform. Whatever the consequences for her now, it just didn't matter.
Excerpted from Visible Threat by Janice Cantore. Copyright © 2014 Janice Cantore. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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