Sunday evening

“Here,” Deakins told Alex and Carolyn on the front steps of One Police Plaza, handing them a twenty dollar bill. “Go and get yourselves a decent cup of coffee, and bring one back for me. I’ll head upstairs and start making phone calls.”

The women exchanged glances, and then accepted the suggestion in silence, taking the offered money and heading off towards a nearby café. Deakins watched them go before sighing softly to himself and heading inside.

It was deathly quiet in the squad room. Any detectives who may have been working a Sunday shift had gone, and now Deakins found himself to be completely alone as he entered the Major Case bullpen.

He froze as the sound of wrappers being ripped open reached his ears from the break room. There really shouldn’t have been anyone on the eleventh floor at all, so who…?

Treading as quietly as he could, Deakins walked over to the break room, and found himself looking in at an astonishing sight.

Sitting on the floor in the middle of the break room was a child of no more than nine or ten years, thin to the point of near starvation and filthy to boot. He had a packet of biscuits open on the floor in front of him and was stuffing them into his face as fast as he could.

Bemused by the sight, Deakins leaned in the doorway, watching the child for nearly a minute before coughing loudly.

The boy froze, looking up at Deakins with eyes that were as wide as saucers. Deakins couldn’t help but smile. He’d be angry about the security breach later, but after the day’s activities and worries, the sight before him was just too precious not to elicit amusement.

“You know,” he suggested lightly, “milk would help that go down a lot smoother.”

The child moved so fast that Deakins very nearly missed him, launching himself to his feet and making a break for the door. However, years of practise chasing after his own energetic daughters had give him reflexes that could only be attributed to parenthood, and he caught the boy around the waist with one arm before he could make a run for it.

“Easy,” Deakins murmured as the child struggled. “No one’s going to hurt you. You’re not in trouble. Just relax, and I’ll get you some milk and muffins to go with those biscuits.”

Slowly, the child relaxed and eventually ceased his struggles altogether.

“Now, if I let you go, do you promise not to bolt?” Deakins asked, and the child nodded timidly. Deakins withdrew his arm, and motioned to the small table. “Sit down there, and I’ll get you those muffins and milk.”

“You got soda, mister?” the boy asked. “Milk makes me wanna puke.”

It was all Deakins could do not to laugh aloud.

“Diet Coke okay?”

“Yeah. Thanks.”

Pulling a can of diet coke out of the fridge, along with a plate of blueberry muffins that had been left over from afternoon tea on Friday, Deakins set them on the table in front of the child before sitting down himself.

“Go ahead,” he urged the boy. “Dig in. You look like you haven’t eaten for a week.”

“A couple of days,” the boy answered with a shrug as he popped the can open and grabbed a muffin. “It’s no big deal. You take what you can get, when you can get it.”

“So do you have a name?” Deakins asked.

“Jeremy,” the boy answered around a mouthful of muffin.

“My name’s Jim,” Deakins introduced himself. “Jeremy, do you mind me asking how you got in here?”

Jeremy paused, looking sheepish.

“I followed a big fat guy in. He was so busy on his phone that he never noticed when I hid behind him. The security guards didn’t notice me, and I got through the metal detector when they were scanning the fat guy.”

“And what are you doing here? Do you even know where you are?”

“This is that One Police Plaza place,” Jeremy answered confidently. “Where all the cops work.”

Deakins nodded. “Okay. Now for the big one. Why are you here?”

At that, Jeremy paused for a long moment before setting the half-eaten muffin down on the tabletop and looking up at Deakins with big eyes that were full of fear.

“Before I tell you, you gotta promise to help me. ’Cause if I go back out there after this, they’ll kill me. I know they’ll kill me. Even if they don’t know yet, they will. They always find out, and then they’ll kill me…”

“Slow down,” Deakins murmured. “Who’ll kill you?”

“Big Joey and his buddies.”

“Other kids?” Deakins wondered, but Jeremy shook his head.

“No, Big Joey’s a big guy, really big. And he’s mean. He likes hurting people… especially kids, and cops.”

Deakins felt a sudden chill settle in his gut.


“Yeah. I don’t know his last name. He moved in on our territory a few months ago and took over. Now everyone in our area’s scared to do anything without his say-so. It’s really bad, but up till now I didn’t wanna say nothing. ’Cause I figured nothing Big Joey did to anyone was my problem, you know? ’Cause he wasn’t hurting anyone I knew.”

“So what changed your mind?”

Jeremy drew in a long breath.

“I saw something. Something bad… and it happened to someone I know… someone who helped me once, when I was just a kid.”

Deakins held back from pointing out to Jeremy that he was still just a kid.

“Tell me what you saw.”

The wild look in Jeremy’s eyes was suddenly back.

“You gotta promise me! You gotta promise you’ll help me! I got an aunt, she lives in Connecticut and she said she’d take me in, but I ain’t never had no way of getting there.”

“Tell me what you saw, Jeremy,” Deakins promised him, “and I’ll drive you to your aunt’s home in Connecticut myself, if I have to.”

Jeremy let his breath out in a rush, placated.

“I was wandering around on Friday night, near the south-side rail tracks. There’s a good bar near there, and sometimes I can beg money off guys that come out drunk. Anyways, these two guys came out… I think it was around midnight. I’m not real sure. I was gonna go and ask ’em for money but then I recognised one of ’em.”

“Who did you recognise?” Deakins asked.

“The cop… Mike, his name is. He helped me out once, stopped some bigger guys from beating the crap outta me. He got me into a home for kids, so I’d have a chance of being fostered. That didn’t work out, but it wasn’t Mike’s fault. He’s a good guy… Anyway, I figured I didn’t wanna take any money from him… and I didn’t want him to know I was back on the streets again. So I was just gonna go, but then I see Big Joe and his guys coming towards them. I wanted to warn Mike, but I was too scared. Big Joe would’ve hurt me… maybe killed me. So I was chicken, and I didn’t say anything.”

“It’s okay, Jeremy,” Deakins reassured him as the child rubbed furiously at his eyes. “Take your time.”

Jeremy looked up sharply.

“That’s just it. There ain’t no time. Big Joe and his guys, they beat up bad on Mike and his friend. I mean real bad, and then they shot them, too. Big Joe shot them both in the leg. They knocked them out and put them into a car and drove off… and I followed ’em.”

Deakins sat forward.

“You know where they are? Is that what you’re saying?”

“Yeah. I saw where Big Joe put them in this building… an empty building. There’s this big cage in the basement. I’ve seen it. Big Joe had ’em put in there, and just left ’em. They’ve been there since Friday night.”

“And you can show us where?” Deakins asked.

“I can tell you where, but you gotta hurry. It’s the old Collins Street apartment block.”

“The Collins Street…” Deakins trailed off, a look of horror dawning on his face. “But that building is scheduled to be demolished!”

Jeremy nodded. “Yeah, I know. At six o’clock tonight.”

Alex and Carolyn were just emerging from the lift, coffee in hand, when Deakins almost literally came running out of the break room.

“Captain…?” Carolyn asked in confusion.

“Forget the coffee,” he bellowed at them. “Let’s go!”

Abandoning the coffee on the floor, they followed him back into the lift.

“Captain, what’s going on?” Alex asked tensely.

He regarded them grimly.

“I know where they are. The catch is we have to hurry. They’re trapped in a building that’s scheduled to be demolished, tonight.”

“Oh god, no,” Alex whispered. The lift slid to a halt at the car park level, and they left the lift at a run to get to the SUV.

“Head for the Collins Street Apartment block, in the Bronx,” Deakins instructed Alex.

“Isn’t that the building that there was a big fight over?” Carolyn asked, grabbing at the dashboard as Alex swerved the SUV into the heavy Sunday evening traffic without hesitation. “Half the locals wanted it torn down, and the other half wanted it heritage-listed?”

“That’s the one,” Deakins confirmed. “Put the lights and sirens on, and floor it, Alex. The building is supposed to be imploded, and the city’s scheduled detonation for six o’clock. We have twenty-five minutes to get from here back to the Bronx, and stop the detonation.”

Alex slammed her foot down on the gas pedal.

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