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By Robert K. Tanenbaum
AtriaCopyright © 2006 Robert K. Tanenbaum
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Clay Fulton gripped the armrest of the big armored Lincoln like he used to cling to the safety bar on the Cyclone roller coaster at Coney Island when he was a kid. At six foot three and two hundred and fifty pounds, plus thirty-odd years on the New York Police Department, there wasn't a whole lot that frightened him. But zipping along a snow-patched country highway in upstate New York at sixty-five miles an hour made him nervous as a cat at the Westminster Dog Show.
You're just out of your element, he told himself. But something more than the drive had put him on edge. In fact, he hadn't felt quite right since waking up that morning.
What's the matter, Clay? his wife, Helen, had asked as he dressed for the day, sensing his disquiet.
Nothing, he'd lied. Just don't want to mess this up . . . got to make sure my t's are crossed and i's dotted.
Helen smiled and stretched languorously, making no move to prevent a breast from slipping out of the ancient nightshirt she wore. Come back to bed, she said, her voice suddenly husky -- with sex or tears he couldn't tell. Don't go today. Let one of youryoung guys and the feds handle it. I got a bad feeling, baby.
Fulton felt a chill run down his spine at his wife's words. He wasn't particularly superstitious, but he was also careful not to tempt fate by ignoring gut feelings and a woman's intuition. Still, there was nothing he could do about it except keep his eyes open. I've got to go, baby, he'd argued. You know I won't ask one of my guys to do something I wouldn't. Besides, I promised Butch I'd ride shotgun.
Oh to heck with Butch, she'd pouted. And to heck with your machismo. If you'd rather play cops and robbers than stir it up with your wife, then to heck with you, too.
Helen had, of course, popped out of bed before he left to make sure he knew she didn't mean any of it. But her unease combined with his own had filled him with a sense of foreboding that he still had not shaken eight hours and more than four hundred miles later.
The road wasn't even that bad. The fields and wooded areas on either side were snow covered, but the potentially slick spots on the asphalt were few and apparently of no concern to his driver -- a young, moonfaced FBI agent, who whistled tunelessly and looked back and forth at the countryside like a tourist on holiday.
Fulton wanted to ask the agent . . . his name is Haggerty . . . to slow down a bit, but he didn't want to come off as chickenshit. So he kept his eyes on the unmarked New York State Highway Patrol car on the road ahead of them and maintained a bored expression on his face.
Only normal to feel apprehensive, he thought. After all, a very dangerous individual was sitting in the backseat next to Special-Agent-in-Charge Michael Grover. If not the most dangerous man in America, the prisoner, Andrew Kane, certainly ranked right up there. He was the most cold-blooded criminal Fulton had ever met over a long and "I've seen everything" career, and rich too, which made him even more dangerous.
Fulton glanced up at the mirror in the visor. Kane, the glib, handsome, and fabulously wealthy head of a Fifth Avenue law firm, stared out the side window, his hands cuffed together and locked to a chain-link bellyband. Six months earlier, he'd appeared to be headed for a landslide victory to become the next mayor of New York City. But that was before he'd been exposed by Fulton's boss, New York District Attorney Roger "Butch" Karp, as a homicidal megalomaniac whose tentacles went deep into the NYPD, the city government, and even the Catholic Archdiocese of New York.
Although technically a detective with the NYPD, Fulton worked as the head of the squad of detectives assigned to the NYDAO. He'd taken the job at Karp's request. The two of them had known each other for most of their respective careers, meeting when Fulton was a rookie cop and Karp a still wet-behind-the-ears prosecutor working for legendary DA Frank Garrahy.
Fulton and Karp had not always worked together. Karp had even gone into private practice for a short stretch before returning to the DAO where he'd been working as the chief of the vaunted homicide bureau when the governor appointed him to fulfill the remaining two years on the term of then-district attorney Jack Keegan, who'd been appointed to the federal bench.
The term was nearly up and now Karp was running for the office in November's elections. It was a thought that made Fulton chuckle. His old friend took to politicking about as well as a cat to water; he hated it and few things put him in a sour mood as did the necessity of what he labeled kissing up to people you wouldn't spend two minutes with otherwise.
"Are we there yet?" The mocking voice interrupted Fulton's recollections and brought him back to the moment. He glanced up at the mirror and into the smirking eyes of Andrew Kane.
Looking at Kane, it was hard to imagine him as a monster. Despite being approximately the same age as Karp and Fulton, the blue-eyed, blond-haired, and boyish Andrew Kane looked more like a well-preserved former fraternity president than a vicious crime boss charged with capital murder and a host of other major felonies. Nevertheless, they were on their way to a private psychiatric hospital in upstate New York to have Kane evaluated by doctors selected by his defense team, who hoped to have him declared insane and therefore not responsible for the crimes he'd been accused of.
The state's psychiatrists had already examined Kane and declared him fit to stand trial. Fulton had read their reports. Kane, they said, had an antisocial and schizophrenic personality disorder with strong narcissistic tendencies. In other words, he didn't give a shit about anybody else but himself.
Still, the important thing from the legal vantage of the prosecution was that he "knew and appreciated the nature, quality, and consequences" of his acts and that those acts were wrong. If the prosecution could prove that Kane possessed such a state of mind, he would be held accountable for his crimes, and any attempt at an insanity defense would be defeated.
Naturally, however, Kane's dream team of lawyers -- the very best that money could buy -- insisted that he be tested by their own doctors. The state's psychiatrists were obviously prejudiced, they argued, and the judge in the case, Paul Hans Lussman III, had allowed it. Like most judges, he was inclined to bend over backward on defense motions in a death penalty case so as to give the defendant every benefit of the doubt. Besides, no jurist likes to be reversed, especially on capital cases, which have a way of making it to the U.S. Supreme Court for the entire world to watch.
So now Fulton was riding shotgun on the transport security team. The New York City Department of Corrections was nominally in charge of getting Kane to and from the hospital for his evaluation. But Karp had asked him to oversee the security measures, which to Fulton meant he had to be there every step of the way.
"We'll get there when we get there," Fulton replied to Kane.
"If we get there, Mr. Fulton . . . if we get there," Kane laughed.
Fulton glanced at Haggerty, the driver, who smiled and rolled his eyes upward. They both knew that every precaution had been taken.
In fact, Fulton had taken a page from the past by re-creating a security detail he'd been on back in the late sixties.
Essentially, he was creating a diversion. To transport Andrew Kane, a five-car motorcade had wheeled up the driveway from the city jail known as the Tombs, and proceeded to the Willis Avenue Bridge. Crossing the East River, the motorcade converged with the Major Deegan Expressway, heading north toward Albany.
Meanwhile, an hour after the motorcade left, a hooded Andrew Kane was rushed out of the DA's elevator and into the armored Lincoln with Fulton and the two federal agents. A single unmarked NYPD sedan had escorted them up the West Side Highway and over the George Washington Bridge, where the New York cops were relieved at the sight of two state patrol cars with four armed officers inside each, with one taking the lead while the other brought up the rear.
Not even Kane's defense lawyers had been told what day Kane was to be transported, nor was anyone informed that they would be avoiding the interstates and traveling north on small country highways and back roads. The biggest irritation for Fulton had been having to pass his plan through Special-Agent-in-Charge Grover, now blank-faced as he sat in the back next to Kane. The feds had insisted on participating -- Kane had broken several federal, as well as local, laws, and the word was that after "the locals" were through with him, they wanted to talk to Kane about some of his international dealings with suspected terrorist organizations. Thus, the presence of Agent Haggerty and Grover, who'd essentially rubber-stamped Fulton's plan.
"Yeah, well, if something goes wrong, it'll give me a chance to shoot your ass and save the taxpayers a lot of money," Fulton said and looked again in the mirror. The humor was gone from Kane's face, replaced by a mask of such malevolence that the detective was suddenly reminded of one of his mother's old sayings about letting sleeping dogs lie.
"I'll remember that, Mr. Fulton," Kane said, and turned his head to stare out the side window again as he clenched and unclenched his jaw.
Fifteen minutes later, Fulton was grabbing the "oh shit" handle above the door as Haggerty jumped on the brakes to avoid colliding with the car ahead of them. They'd come around a corner and found that the vehicle in front had suddenly slowed to five miles an hour as they approached some obstruction on the road ahead.
Fulton grabbed the radio microphone. "What's the problem, Alpha?" he asked, calling ahead to the lead car.
"Mr. Fulton, there's been an accident," was the reply. "Damn, looks like a school bus turned over on its side. There's an ambulance on scene. Should we lend a hand?"
Fulton opened the window and stuck his head out. He could see the yellow bus and the ambulance; a paramedic seemed to be administering to several children standing near the bus, while a second paramedic trotted toward the lead car waving his arms.
Furrowing his brow, Fulton asked aloud, "How come we didn't hear about this on the scanner?" Each of the cars was equipped with a standard police scanner that should have at least picked up the call for help and the response from the ambulance crew.
Pulling his head back in, he yelled into the microphone and grabbed his gun out of his shoulder holster. "It's a setup! Back up! Back up!"
As Haggerty and the drivers in the other cars began to comply, Fulton looked in the rearview mirror just as a figure clad in black stepped from a wooded area behind and to the side of the rear car. He recognized the grenade launcher on the man's shoulder a moment before the rear state patrol car was struck and exploded in a ball of fire that lifted the vehicle off the ground and flipped it over onto its top.
"Get us the hell out of here!" Fulton shouted at Agent Haggerty, who sat with his mouth open looking in the rearview mirror at the burning vehicle behind them.
Up ahead, Fulton saw a paramedic dive in through the window that the driver of the lead car had rolled down. There was a blinding flash and then a full-throated roar as the man detonated a bomb attached to his chest. The suicidal act was so unexpected that Fulton was as stunned as Agent Haggerty, who looked like a man desperately trying to wake up from a nightmare.
Fulton quickly recovered and reached over to turn the steering wheel violently to the left. He jammed his leg across to hit the gas pedal, and the big sedan lurched off the road, striking another black-clad figure who was pointing an automatic rifle at them but did not fire.
"Drive!" Fulton yelled at Haggerty, who started to respond, but just then his head exploded from the impact of a bullet. A red mist filled the air as the agent slumped forward, his lifeless hands dropping to his sides.
The car continued for perhaps twenty-five more yards with Fulton trying to drive despite the obstacle of the dead man, but finally mired itself in the mud. It's over, he thought. Shoot Kane before they get to you.
Fulton started to turn but saw, in his peripheral vision, that Kane's hand was already moving toward him. He noticed that there was something in Kane's hand, but there wasn't enough time for him to wonder why his prisoner was no longer restrained. He felt a jolt on his neck from the stun gun and then everything went black.
When the lights came back on, Fulton was lying in the snow outside the car. He heard a man's angry voice . . . Kane's.
"You fucking moron!" Kane was shouting. "You could have killed me!"
"They were trying to escape." Fulton recognized this voice after a moment as Special Agent Grover's. "I had to shoot him. I knew the car would slow down in the field."
"Knew?" Kane hissed. "You knew the car wouldn't roll? You knew we wouldn't plunge into one of these frickin' ponds these hicks have out here? What do you mean, you knew?"
Fulton raised himself on his elbows, conscious that two armed, hooded men stood behind him with their guns trained on his back. They did not try to stop him from watching Kane berating the quaking Grover.
"You're an idiot, and I can't abide idiots," Kane said. He reached up with the stun gun and zapped the federal agent in the face, knocking him to the ground. He then bent over and picked up the shaken man's gun.
"No, don't!" Grover pleaded weakly as he struggled to recover from the shock.
"You're too stupid to live, Grover," Kane replied and shot him in the face, blood and brains splattering the snow.
Kane nodded in satisfaction as the body twitched once then stopped. He walked over until he stood directly in front of Fulton. "You owe me one," he said. "Saved you having to shoot him yourself, but I guess you won't be shooting me today."
"Fuck you," Fulton replied. He figured that there wasn't much of a reason for Kane to let him live, so he might as well go out cursing his executioner. Good-bye, Helen. Good-bye, kids. I love you.
Kane laughed and pointed the gun, but turned hearing a shout from down the road.
Fulton looked that way as well. The hooded man up near the first burning police car yelled again. Fulton thought the words sounded Russian.
The smaller of the two guards behind him spoke -- surprising Fulton because the voice was that of a woman -- in yet another language . . . Arabic, maybe . . . to the guard next to her. This guard also proved to be a woman and replied to her comrade in Arabic, obviously translating what the man on the road was saying.
"He wants to know what to do with the prisoner," the first woman said to Kane in accented English.
Fulton looked at Kane and back to the scene on the highway. He could see one of the state police officers sitting on the ground, apparently wounded.
"Kill him, of course," Kane said.
The first woman shouted a command in Arabic, which the second woman translated to German or Russian, Fulton wasn't sure which, directing the translation back to the hooded man. She drew her hand across her throat for emphasis. The men on the road immediately shot the prisoner.
"Who's injured?" Kane asked the first woman, nodding toward the man who'd been run over when Fulton steered the car off the road. The man lay on the ground, propped up on an elbow and talking to one of his accomplices, who knelt to give him a cigarette.
"Akhmed Kadyrov," she said. "A Chechen."
"Hmmm . . . gives me an idea," Kane said. "Finish him and leave the body. We'll call our friends later and suggest that this presents an opportunity."
"And the infidel children?"
Kane scowled as though annoyed by one too many questions. "Must I tell you everything?"
"God, no!" Fulton shouted looking at the school bus where the children he'd seen earlier were now sitting, obviously crying.
The first woman shouted something else toward the men standing with the children. Apparently, one of the men there understood her and didn't need a translator. Immediately, there were several bursts of automatic rifle fire, which echoed across the fields. An eerie silence followed, which was broken by the cawing of crows and, after a moment, a bellow of rage from Fulton.
"God damn you, you murdering son of a bitch," he yelled. He tried to rise to his feet to go after Kane but was clubbed back to the ground by the two guards. Dazed, he rolled over onto his back. "Better finish it," he swore at Kane. "Or someday I'm going to kill you, you insane piece of crap."
Kane put a finger to his lips. "Oooooh. Down 'Shaft.' Always playing the hero, but it didn't do those children who were kind enough to participate in my little ruse any good, now did it? Or save any of these fine police officers and marshals? Guess being a hero didn't mean shit today."
Waving Agent Grover's gun at the detective, Kane said, "You know, I really should shoot you now. Isn't it always the way in movies: the bad guy doesn't kill the good guy when he has the chance and lives only long enough to regret it?"
Without warning, Kane rushed at Fulton and kicked him hard in the ribs, knocking the wind out of the detective. He kicked him again and again like he was punting a football. "You going to kill me, Detective?" he raged. "You think a piece of shit nigger is going to kill Andrew Kane?" He rained more blows.
Finally, Kane tired and stopped. Panting from his exertions, he said, "However, no, Detective Fulton. As much as I would like to stomp you to death like a cockroach, I'm not going to kill you. Not yet. I want you to have to live with this fine job you did weighing on your conscience for a while, maybe you'll decide to suck on the end of your gun and blow your ugly head off because all those kids were counting on you to deliver crazy Mr. Kane to the hospital safe and sound. But first, I need you to take a message back to our mutual friend Mr. Karp."
"Fuck you," Fulton croaked, spitting blood out on the snow. "I ain't your messenger boy."
"Oh, I think you'll do as told," Kane said, kicking Fulton again. "After all, ol' Butchie is going to want to know everything that happened here today. So tell him I said, 'The game is on.' And that I hope he's up to the challenge. I don't want this to be too easy when I kill every thing he loves -- his bitch, his idiot kids, his imbecile friends, and even his fucking dog -- before I come for him."
A black helicopter appeared from over the top of the trees and landed on the highway behind the last burning car. "Ah, my ride awaits," Kane said. "Samira, my love, would you do the honors."
Fulton looked back and saw that the first woman had a handgun pointed at his leg. She pulled the trigger and the bullet tore into his knee. He screamed in rage and pain, and then screamed louder as a second bullet blew his other knee apart.
"Just a little something to remember me by," Kane said. "I think your chasing days are done, don't you?" He giggled and took off at a trot for the helicopter with Samira and the other female terrorist on his heels.
As the helicopter took off, Fulton lay in the snow wishing that Kane had killed him. Then he thought of Helen and his children and slowly, painfully, began dragging himself through the snow toward the overturned school bus.
Copyright © 2006 by Robert K. Tanenbaum
Excerpted from Counterplay by Robert K. Tanenbaum Copyright © 2006 by Robert K. Tanenbaum. Excerpted by permission.
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