To make matters worse, the unbalanced leader of the Jackals feels that this is the work of the Latin Soldados. And he has every intention on getting revenge. But the only one who really knows what happened is a high school kid whos on the run from both gangs and a vigilante whos looking to clean up the streets.
The detectives are forced to keep the peace between the gangs while hunting down a vigilante who will stop at nothing to finish his mission and protecting an innocent kid in the middle of an oncoming blizzard. All in a days work for the Hoboken Homicide crew.
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Raghetti," Josh said into his cell phone. The Hoboken detective stood on line at Jersey City's Newport Centre Mall with his 5-year-old daughter, Tamara. He had planned to get here as early as possible, but being a week from Christmas, so did half of the population of Jersey City, Union City and Hoboken. The line for Santa Claus was not as bad as it was the night before, but it was still longer than he liked.
"Hey Raghetti, Bergen here. Did I catch you at a bad time?"
"Depends what your definition of a bad time is. I'm two people away from getting my daughter on Santa's lap."
"Newport." Josh held his breath, knowing what was coming.
"A week before Christmas? What are you, insane?"
"I must be," Josh replied, looking around for a place to buy a coffee. He knew Lyndsay Bergen didn't call him for a social chat. Bergen was one of the other homicide detectives in Hoboken and they had worked together now and then but nothing big. Not since the Doug Martin case, anyway. She had previously been known to her friends and coworkers as Moskin but a couple of months ago had divorced her husband of two years when she found him in the bed of another woman. Lyndsey quickly changed her name back to Bergen and was enjoying the single life once again.
"Daddy, we're next!" Tamara giggled. She had been excited all week to visit Santa that no matter what Bergen wanted, he wasn't leaving the mall until she spoke to the jolly fat man.
"I know, honey," he said, smiling at her. The excitement on her face was worth the wait.
"Anyway, Stanton was just here in the precinct looking for you."
"He never said. But I think he was looking for something."
"Well, if you run into him again, just give him Foster's number. I know if I talk to him, he'll just go on and on about the latest hockey game."
"No problem. And good luck with the crowd, you nut."
"It's too late for me. I've been assimilated."
"That's too bad," Bergen joked, "All the good ones are taken."
Santa said goodbye to the child that was in front of him. Tamara smiled and looked up at Josh. Staring into her eyes, he was reminded of his ex-wife, Angelica.
He remembered that sparkle in his ex-wife's brown eyes that took him away from the job. It was one of the reasons that made him propose to her. Having Tamara was one of the greatest days in his life. But since, the job had been too taxing on his marriage and he found himself drinking to rid his head of the crime scenes and the stress.
It wasn't until last summer that he had to adjust even further. His partner, Brett Foster, had announced to him that he and Angie had recently gotten intimate after the divorce. The thought of Angie being with someone else was infuriating and he let Brett know with a punch to the face. Angie had come to him later and they had talked it out. In the end, he had given them his blessing, knowing that she was happy with his partner.
Still, seeing them together wasn't easy and being a middle-aged cop in a town of college students, bars and big families only made him lonelier. But he knew if he had been able to win over Angie, there was bound to be someone else out there willing to put up with his shit.
"Do you think he'll say I was good, Daddy?" she asked him.
"I'm sure he will, hon. Now go say hi to him."
Tamara ran up to Santa and gave him a hug. The mall Santa lifted her up and placed her on his lap. Josh stood there listening to his daughter as she gave a long speech on how she had been a good girl all year and helped her mother when it was just the two of them. The Santa laughed and finally managed to ask her what she had wanted.
"I would like the My Little Pony Play Stable!"
"Well, I think for a nice girl like you I can make that happen," said the mall Santa.
"Oh, and I would like to have a second Mommy, so my Daddy isn't so lonely." The statement shocked both Josh and the mall Santa. Santa looked up and at Josh. Raghetti, suddenly speechless, just shrugged his shoulders.
"Ummm, I will see what I can do about that," Santa replied to Tamara, "Here, why don't you take an extra candy cane for your Dad, too."
"Thanks Santa!" Tamara hopped off Santa's lap, took two candy canes from the female elf and handed one to Josh.
"Why don't we go get some hot chocolate?" he asked her, quickly walking away from the giggling crowd with his wise-beyond-her-years daughter.
An hour later, Josh and his partner, Brett Foster, walked into the bus garage, looking for Jeff Stanton from Anti-Vice. After leaving the mall, Josh and Tamara had driven to the Waterford Deli and met up with Angie and Brett. Brett told Josh about Stanton calling him and needing some help with a case that Hoboken Police Chief Christine Black assigned him. After getting Tamara some hot chocolate like he promised, Angie took Tamara home and the two detectives drove to the scene of the latest crime.
Looking around, Foster saw Anti-Vice officers, Mark Doyle and Luis Orlando. He walked over to the two and said hello. Doyle was your typical old school Irish cop: his salt and pepper hair was cropped with the old front swoop over his forehead. His thin clean-shaven face showed his dedicated years on the force in wrinkles. His mouth was usually holding a cigarette. Orlando was the opposite. His slightly plump Cuban features were decorated with a sharp mustache and goatee beard. His short hair stood up in small spikes with the help of some gel.
"Where's Stanton?" he asked.
"He had to run," Doyle replied, "Got called off for a drug overdose. Lucky bastard."
"So, what the hell happened here?" Raghetti piped up. He saw the bloody scattered bodies of gang members. Hoboken Forensic examiners, Lucky and Melvin, were collecting photos and bullet casings. Lots of bullet casings.
"Quite the shit storm," Orlando replied. He pointed to the left side of the Homicide detectives. "Over here, you've got members of the Latin Soldados. Note the black wardrobe. And to the right are members of The Jackals, wearing a lovely Shamrock green. So far, it seems that we've got a meeting gone wrong. We're still working on figuring out who shot first. But I'm not envying the M.E. He's got some overtime coming."
Brett squatted down to look at one of the Soldados members. Using his gloves, he turned the face to the side, getting a better look. "This is a pretty clean shot. Looks like he was close to whoever shot him."
"We've got a circle of shell casings here," Melvin piped up, "They all look like 9 by 19mms. Most likely from the same weapon - a submachine gun."
"I'm not finding one, though," Lucky added.
"That means we've got one guy standing right here shooting all around and then walking away?" Josh asked them.
"No way one guy could have taken out all these gang members by himself and walked away," Doyle said.
"Could have just started it and let them finish each other off."
"We'll know more once everything is recorded."
The scene ate at Foster's gut. There was something not right about it. Something was missing. He began to wander around, looking for something, anything. He peeked around the flipped over tables and the shelves, searching for a clue or a sign as to the truth of what had occurred here hours before.
"Bathroom's over this way," Luis joked.
"That's not what I'm looking for," Brett replied, straight-faced.
"What's up his butt?"
"He's working," Raghetti explained. Having been partners for so many years, Josh and Brett knew each other's styles. Josh liked to sit back and view it all in at once while Brett got his hands dirty getting right into the scene. It was from the training that his father provided to him when he had first started as a police officer in Jersey City. Blue blood ran through the Foster family.
Brett turned and walked around the pallets behind them. He slowly headed for a pallet stacked with cardboard boxes. He examined the boxes for bullet holes and found two on the north side of the pallet. Then he looked around the side and stopped. He leaned over and studied what had caught his eye.
"Hey Doyle, Orlando, did you see this?" Brett called out. His partner followed the two Anti-Vice detectives over to the pallet and looked behind it. On the ground was a middle-aged man with a bullet wound in his chest. Doyle scrunched his forehead and looked over at Foster.
"Who the fuck is that?"CHAPTER 2
Hey, Melvin, can you come here, please?" Raghetti called the forensic examiner over. Melvin looked up from photographing one of the Latin Soldados members and walked over. He peeked around the pallet and saw the dead man lying alone. The man was white with a neat trim haircut. He was wearing a royal blue buttoned down shirt under a faded brown bomber jacket with blue jeans and hiking shoes. It was not an outfit any of the gang members would have been wearing.
"Who's he?" Melvin asked them.
"It's Santa," Doyle answered sarcastically.
"We were hoping you could tell us," Brett responded.
"Let me get my print kit." Melvin walked over to his Forensic case. The slim and bushy haired F.E. grabbed a small black box and returned to the mysterious body. He took several photographs of the body, preserving the scene before searching the clothing.
"He's too old to be a gang banger," Orlando observed, "And he's not wearing either of the colors."
"Innocent bystander working late and caught in the crossfire?" Brett threw out there.
"Could be. But his hands are too clean to have been working on engines," Doyle said.
"We should have one of the officers contact the owner to see if he can ID him."
Raghetti waved over one of uniformed officers that were holding the scene. A female cop walked over to see what Josh needed. Josh noticed the badge read: S. KASSEN. She looked young to be a cop, Josh thought, glancing at her freckled face. She must have been one of the new officers that were just added to the force a month prior.
"Officer Kassen, we need you to contact Salvatore, the owner of Academy Buses and let him know that we need him to identify one of the victims. We believe he might have been an employee or something who got caught in the crossfire."
"Sure thing, detective." Officer Kassen turned, her long reddish-brown ponytail whipped around as she headed back outside to her cruiser.
"Wait a second," Luis said, "What if this is the lone gunman?"
"Where's his gun?"
"Maybe he dropped it somewhere around here, trying to get away."
"Where the hell was he going?" Doyle asked. Orlando pointed behind Brett to the back door that was slightly ajar, a small pile of snow gathering in the sliver of an opening.
"Hey Doyle, come with me," Brett asked, heading for the back door. Doyle followed his fellow Homicide detective to the door. Foster slowly opened the door, revealing the cold grey night sky. He saw the partially covered sneaker prints in the snow leading away from the back door headed east towards Madison Street.
"Looks like we've got a live one," Doyle muttered.
"Can you also check his hands for GPR?" Josh asked Melvin. Melvin nodded without looking up while he blotted the mysterious victim's fingertips with black ink. Gun Powder Residue could tell them whether the victim had fired a gun recently.
"Any chance I could get you to call Wogle for some help? This is a lot to cover for just two guys." Melvin asked Raghetti. Mike Wogle, head of the crime lab unit in Hoboken, was known to be a bit of a hard ass but was also to be oddly known by most of the cops in the precinct as a "Chick magnet". Josh didn't quite understand why but accepted it.
"Don't worry, I'll give him a call before we're done looking it over."
"This doesn't make any sense," Orlando told Josh.
"Sometimes it's the ones that appear not to make any sense that end up completely reasonable."
"Yeah, thanks for the fortune cookie talk."
"Well, ok, so let's review. We've got a group of Latin Soldados and Jackals in one place. Why?"
"A meeting, of course. And a big one according to the fact that Robbie Cruz was present."
"Ok, so what could the meeting be about?"
"Um, negotiating, perhaps. Or could have been about territory crossing."
"What's territory crossing?"
"When one gang contacts another gang so that the they can briefly enter the second gang's territory to grab something or someone."
"Alright, that's a possibility. Now we throw in the X factor. Mister Bullseye. Who would interrupt a meeting between two gangs to kill them all?"
"Well, it could, um, nah." Orlando stopped.
"A third gang? Trying to move in and take over?"
"Have you guys heard anything about something like that?"
"No, I mean it's been pretty quiet the last few weeks between these two. With the number of informants Anti-Vice has, one of us would have heard something."
"We're going to have to figure this out fast. A gang war the week before Christmas is not going to be good for the city."
"Damn," Orlando did not like the thought of that. Before the two could continue the conversation, they were distracted by shouting from the front entrance of the garage. They looked over and saw that one man was trying to get into the garage but was being held back by two officers.
"Aw, crap," Luis said shaking his head.
"What?" Josh asked.
"It's Vinnie freakin' Donnelly."CHAPTER 3
The two detectives followed the faint prints to the tracks of the light-rail. The further they went, the tougher it was to see the tracks thanks to the thick falling snow. Doyle zipped his winter parka up to his neck and shoved his hands into his pockets. It had been a calm winter up until two days ago when a winter chill came over the Tri-state area. The weatherman had recently warned of a possible heavy snow fall.
"This weather sucks," Doyle complained.
"I heard that up in Boston, they got hit with 3 feet of snow. Just remember that this could be worse."
"And I could be in Hawaii."
"That's what I like about you, Doyle, always the optimist."
"I do always search for that silver lining."
Foster continued following the faint tracks south along the light rail route. He was still thinking about the scene that they had just left and tried imaging what had happened there.
"You know this incident is only going to be trouble," Doyle told Brett.
"Are you thinking gang war?"
"Yep. Of course, you've got two different gangs and two different minds running each."
"How do you mean?"
"Well you've got the Latin Soldados. They're run by Julio Jimenez. Smart man, clever and strategic. He plans everything out before he does it. For him it's not about the violence, it's about taking care of their own. They're mainly focused on the families and their Hispanic neighbors. They are willing to help them out beyond what the police can do. Thus, the name, Soldados. Or Soldiers for all you non-Spanish speaking peons. Him, I'm not worried about. He would think twice about his profits before doing anything. It's the Jackals. They're run by Vinnie Donnelly. The guy's nuts. Clinically. He'd have the whole city burned to the ground by now if it wasn't for his second in command, Liam Dillon. Dillon keeps Donnelly docile and in check. He does the dirty work. Jimenez knows that, too."
"You think Donnelly may have done this?"
"Not sure. Don't know if he has it in him to sacrifice his own men to get to Cruz. It would explain how the shooter was able to walk in without getting stopped and it would be a strong move for the Jackals, if Dillon didn't know about it."
Doyle looked up and saw the 9th Street station half a block ahead of them. He tapped Brett in the arm and pointed ahead. Brett smiled, hoping that the trail of footprints led to a parking spot. He knew the parking lot would have security cameras. If the tracks vanished they could still request the footage to see who left the trail of prints. The tracks led to the platform and then disappeared in a dry area. Brett and Doyle looked around and were unable to discern the specific tracks from the numerous ones made in the last few hours.
"That's the end of that. At least we can get the footage to see who walked away from the shootout." Brett looked up and smiled at the camera pointed in their direction.
"Talk about luck," Doyle added. Brett pulled out his iPhone and dialed the front desk of the precinct. After a few rings, the new desk sergeant, Danny Hines, answered.
"Hey Hines, it's Foster, I need the number of the head of Lightrail security."
"Hey Foster. Yeah, give me a minute and I'll look that up for you." Brett waited and listened to the tapping of the keys while Hines accessed the information. Hines began singing in a whisper to himself one of the classic songs from the 1950's that he was known to hum while working the desk. Even though Foster was in his early 40s, the songs that Hines belted out were unknown to him.
"Here we are," Danny said. He provided the number to Brett.
Excerpted from "Gun"
Copyright © 2018 Sean Lennon.
Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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