Friday, January 4, 2013

"Whiskey, Zebra, Tango" by David A. Todd (Short Story)

Genre:  Action, Crime, 

Type of Short Story:  Short Story

Summary:  A routine traffic stop in Providence, Rhode Island results in a high speed chase, and the suspect fleeing on foot in neighboring Cranston. The investigation determines that Sharon Williams Fonseca, by all appearances an average housewife and grandmother, helped him get away. Police from both Providence and Cranston investigate who she is and why should would help the man, who is suspected of being a terrorist in Yemen. A mysterious CIA agent appears as they are interrogating her, and helps fill in the gaps on what they have learned.


Officer Pete DiPetrillo enjoyed the quietness of the night. Not a moving car in sight. A rash of business burglaries around Columbus Square had him and his partner, Sonny McCormick, parked on a side street and watching. Everyone in the neighborhood knew they were there. This was deterrence, not surveillance. The bad guys would lay off for a while, and hopefully the detectives would figure out who they were.

Their evening shift was about over. Pete and Sonny had covered all the successes and problems with the Red Sox, the Patriots, and the Celtics, and were just moving on to the Bruins when the radio interrupted.

"All units in South Providence in the vicinity of Elmwood Avenue, pursue a fleeing vehicle southbound on Elmwood, a gray Toyota Corolla, license Papa-Delta-7-7-1. Suspect is a Middle Eastern male, believed to be alone in the vehicle. Suspect fled from a routine traffic stop—"

"That's us," DiPetrillo said, and started the engine. They were sitting thirty feet east of Elmwood.

McCormick grabbed the mike and said they would pursue. The suspect car came rapidly into view, zoomed through Columbus Square, veering right at the wye onto Reservoir Avenue. Whatever unit stopped him downtown was not in close pursuit yet, though sirens sounded down Elmwood.

"Jeepers, he's going 80 at least," DiPetrillo said. He gunned the cruiser into the intersection, accelerating rapidly, but the suspect had already disappeared over the railroad bridge. They were up to 60 at the top of the rise, and could see other units in the rearview mirror and the suspect ahead of them. They were now the closest unit.

This was DiPetrillo's first time to drive in hot pursuit. He'd been in Sonny's place several times before. Those adrenalin rushes were nothing compared to what he felt now. His cruiser had more power than the Toyota so they were gaining. The suspect took the right at the Y ahead.

"Suspect stayed on Reservoir," McCormick called in, and appears to not be taking Route 10." The slight rise ahead caused them to lose sight. "C'mon, step on it."

"I've got it floored now. He's gonna be in Cranston before we get close to him.

"Has Cranston been dispatched?" Sonny called in.

"Cranston has been dispatched. So far no report on where their units are." The dispatcher had rarely been silent as she coordinated units.

"We'll see him in a second," DiPetrillo said. "He's just…oh, call it in."

Sonny spoke into the mike, "Suspect has turned west onto a side street just south of Route 10. We are fifteen seconds away."

To make the turn on the side street, DiPetrillo began braking just as he left the bridge over Route 10. He turned sharply, and saw the Toyota ahead in a gas station parking area. The driver had done a 180, crashed the rear end into the air pumps; the driver side door was open, and the suspect was nowhere in sight. DiPetrillo braked harder to bring the cruiser to a stop.

"Vehicle has crashed at the Hess gas station at Reservoir and," McCormick looked at the street sign, "Carleton. Suspect is not in sight and may be on foot."

They had stopped not ten feet away from the crashed car. DiPetrillo looked at the area. The suspect could have fled up Carleton Street, or across the front of the gas station to whatever street was on the other side, or might even be hiding behind the car. The gas station attendant was outside the door of the building and looking in their direction, which convinced the officers the suspect hadn't gone across the front of the gas station. This was a residential area, houses on small lots, no cars on the street. DiPetrillo saw that it was actually two streets that came together in a tight wye, forming a wide triangle of pavement before joining Reservoir Avenue. The suspect could be down either street, or hiding in a back yard. The square was dark except for police flashers. He could hear little over the sound of his engine and air venting from the destroyed dispenser.

Other units began pulling up, both Providence units from the north and Cranston units from the south. A Providence captain took charge. He sent DiPetrillo and McCormick, along with two other officers, on foot to check the street to the left and others to check the street to the right, while sending cruisers down both streets. "Listen for dogs barking," he instructed. "Other teams will begin leapfrogging you in a minute."

DiPetrillo and McCormick and the other two began a quick check of the front of the houses first houses, discussing how they would handle going into the back yards. They could hear a dog yapping at the third house, and when they got there they encountered a woman standing at the bottom of the porch steps, holding the dog's leash and trying to pull the little terrier to her. She looked up at the officers before her with guns drawn, and let out a little shriek.

DiPetrillo spoke first. "Ma'am, please get inside your house. A suspect may have come down this street. We don't know if he's armed, and—"

"I saw him," she said, taking a step toward them and pointing down the street. "He went that way very fast, just seconds before you pulled up." DiPetrillo saw she was an older woman. He guessed about fifty, slender, hair at her shoulders and loose, and wearing a bathrobe over what looked like a housecoat.

McCormick spoke into his lapel microphone. "Suspect was last seen on foot heading…"Again he looked for a street sign, saw none, but the woman said, "Cottage." "…west on Cottage Street, maybe a minute or two ago."

"What's down this street?" DiPetrillo asked.

"It's a long block, then little league fields," she said. "Beyond that is Speck Pond. Franklin Street crosses it first."

"Okay, ma'am. Back inside your house, please. We'll have an officer here in a moment."

"But I've got to walk Molly."

"Later, please." The officers took off at a trot in pursuit.

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