Read The Victim Online

Authors: Jonas Saul

Tags: #Mystery, #Thriller

The Victim (10 page)

 

She forced a smile and walked to the swinging door. A moment later, she stepped into the cool evening and took a deep breath.

 

Yonge Street bustled at this hour. Construction signs were posted everywhere. She had read something about how all the construction in Toronto drove everyone crazy.

 

She stepped off the front steps to let a couple with their two kids enter the hotel, dragging their luggage behind them. The little boy had wide, round eyes. He yawned as he stepped past Sarah.

 

She smiled inwardly, her resolve building. That was why she did what she did. So little boys and girls everywhere could sleep better, safer at night. Damn the media. Damn the hype. She would do Vivian’s bidding until it killed her. She believed in the afterlife, so she had nothing to lose. Vivian had shown her the truth. If anything happened to Sarah, she would join her sister.

 

A small group of teen boys slowed as they looked her up and down. When the sidewalk in front of her thinned of people momentarily, the gang stepped into the road and set something on the circular sewer grate. They stepped back to watch whatever it was they had done.

 

Sarah moved forward to get a better view. What looked like a silver blade stuck up at a forty-five degree angle, aimed at the vehicles driving north on Yonge Street.

 

She looked left. The light had changed half a block down. Two rows of cars, headlights blinding her, approached. She lunged forward, ignoring the shouts from the gang of teenagers and tried to get to the grate before the first car.

 

She didn’t make it. A red Buick, coming too fast, ahead of the other cars, forced her back. She lost her balance and fell into the side of the car as it passed, but caught herself from sprawling out into the street in time.

 

The Buick’s front right tire hit the blade, seven feet from Sarah. The puncture popped like gunfire. The car swerved left, then right, sliding sideways in the street. It came to a stop without hitting anything, half a block up.

 

People all around gaped. Some had jumped back from the edge of the sidewalk, putting their backs to the wall of the hotel. Southbound traffic had stopped. A horn blared, then another.

 

The driver of the Buick got out and examined his ruined tire. Then he shot an accusatory glance at Sarah.

 

She searched for the gang of teenagers. Almost a block away already, they laughed and high-fived each other. She contemplated running after them, calling the police and holding them accountable, but she couldn’t. There just wasn’t enough time in the day for her to deal with all the assholes she encountered.

 

She waited a moment, got her breathing under control and then moved down the sidewalk the other direction. At the corner of the hotel, she slipped into the shadows and waited for Waller pull up, her hands repeatedly tightening into fists and then releasing.

 

Lately, her life didn’t seem to want to slow down. A month ago she was held captive by a demented psychopath. Last week it was Hank Frommer and his forced prophecy sessions. Now Hank was dead, Rod was dead, the psychopath was dead and so was … Drake.

 

She looked at the ground.

 

What happened to Drake?

 

She only hoped it had nothing to do with her. It couldn’t be. Together they had silenced Drake’s enemies. She’d helped free him of the target on his back. If the target had been replaced because of her help, it would be as ironic as getting hit by an ambulance.

 

She had to change her way of thinking. Negative thoughts were cancerous. Making herself accountable for actions that were meant as good, with no ill-intent, was wrong. Thoughts like that would make her judge herself and cause her to slow down what progress she had made. It would be counterproductive. She had to stay strong and always move forward without thinking about repercussions, as long as she meant to do what was right. As long as she came from the right place.

 

Even if that meant she had to walk in front of a car in an intersection as Vivian told her to do.

 

She pulled Vivian’s note out and reread it.

 

“This sucks sometimes.”

 

She put the note away and watched the people of Toronto walk by on the sidewalk a few feet away, relishing their diversity. Members of almost every culture came and went. A living, breathing melting pot. Maybe Toronto would be a good place to hide out, spend a few years. No one in the States
needed
her. She’d miss her parents and friends from the now-defunct psychic fair, but maybe she could make a life for herself in the Great White North.

 

A siren blared from her left. She stepped out to see if it was Waller arriving. A black and white drove by, stopping to deal with the Buick. The cop got out of his cruiser, placed a hat on his head and walked up to the driver, who still stood by the hood of his car. Southbound traffic had started moving again, but it was slow going. Northbound was eking by around the trunk of the Buick.

 

As Sarah watched, the driver pointed at her. The cop glanced over his shoulder. She edged back into the shadows.

 

Now what?

 

After a couple of breaths, she peeked around the corner again. The cop was halfway to her. She would have to tell him about the teenage boys. They were at least five minutes away by now. It wouldn’t sound good, but she couldn’t leave her spot as Waller would show any moment. If she wasn’t here when he arrived, it wouldn’t bode well.

 

The cop stepped in front of her.

 

“Please step away from the wall,” the cop ordered.

 

Sarah moved out of the shadows.

 

“Why did you try to run into traffic when that car was going by?”

 

“I didn’t try to run into traffic.”

 

“That’s not what the driver claims. Just before his tire blew, he said he saw you running at his car, bending down, and then his tire went.”

 

“It was a blade—”

 

“A what?” the cop cut her off.

 

She met his gaze. “A group of teenage boys set a blade in the sewer grate over there and then stepped back. When I realized what they were doing, I ran to the street to remove the blade but was too late.”

 

The cop nodded in an over-exaggerated fashion. “Right. Okay. And where are these teenage boys now?”

 

She could tell he wasn’t buying her brand of truth but felt compelled to answer his question.

 

“They ran that way,” she said, pointing north.

 

“Okay, normally a flat tire doesn’t bother me,” the cop said. “But when it looks like deliberate sabotage, on such a busy street, that gets under my collar. You’re going to have to come with me and give me statement …”

 

“I can’t.” She glared at him.

 

He pushed his chest out subtly, his alpha-male complex genuinely surprised.

 

“Excuse me?”

 

“I said I can’t. I’m not leaving with you.”

 

“And why’s that?”

 

“I’m waiting for the police to pick me up.” She looked around his shoulder on each side, but no Waller yet. She hoped he showed up soon because trouble was brewing.

 

“Oh, this just keeps on getting better. And why would the police be picking you up?”

 

She gave a quick smile for his benefit and then looked away.

 

“Did you hear what happened earlier today at the Allandale Centre?” he asked.

 

She nodded, afraid her answer would upset him more.

 

“Police officers were slaughtered.”

 

“I’m sorry …”

 

“You’re sorry,” he said. His voice raised a notch. “You’re sorry. Understandably, that incident this morning makes the rest of us police officers a little uneasy on the job today.”

 

“I would be.”

 

She tried to move around him as he blocked her view of the street. Waller could park and walk into the hotel without her even seeing him. He countered her move. This was getting annoying.

 

“Is that a threat, Miss?”

 

“Look,” Sarah said. “I told you what happened. A group of teenagers set it up as a prank. They fled north on this street. I tried to help but got there too late. Now, if you would, allow me to see the street better as I’m waiting for Detective Waller to show up—”

 

“Detective Waller?”

 

“You know him?”

 

“Know him? He’s one of the only cops to walk out of the Allandale Centre alive today,” he paused. “Hey, wait a second.”

 

He fumbled with his breast pocket button. He yanked out a notebook and flipped it up. Then he looked from Sarah to the notebook and back again.

 

Slowly, he replaced his notebook and unclipped his holster. People had gathered in a semi-circle around them. When he touched his holster, a collective gasp came from a few of the female gawkers.

 

Oh, shit.

 

“Identify yourself,” he said.

 

She really didn’t want to say her name but knew she had to or things would go from bad to worse.

 

“Sarah.”

 

“Sarah what?”

 

She met his gaze. “Sarah Roberts.”

 

He yanked his sidearm out, stepped back and said, “Sarah Roberts, get on the ground. Hands on the back of your head. Do it now.”

 

“You’re making a mistake.”

 

People stepped farther away from them.

 

“I will shoot if you resist arrest. If your hands come anywhere near me, I will shoot. Get on the ground, now.”

 

Sarah had no option but to listen to him. He would take her to the police station and Waller would have to talk to her there. The problem was how she would be handled by regular cops who thought she had something to do with their colleagues’ deaths.

 

What now, Vivian? How does this fit into your plan?

 

“Step away, Officer,” Waller’s deep voice ordered.

 

Waller pushed through the onlookers and moved up behind the cop. They looked at each other.

 

“Afraid I can’t do that, Detective. I just caught her in the act of mischief with that Buick over there and then I identified her from the bulletin earlier. She’s wanted for questioning.”

 

“I know. That’s what I’m here for. I’m taking her in. Now, lower your weapon and place it back in your holster.”

 

“No.”

 

“What?” Waller asked. “I’m a superior officer and I’m ordering you to put your service revolver away.”

 

“Friends of mine died today. This bitch was on camera running from the scene with her black-coated friends helping her escape. I got the collar. She’s coming with me.”

 

The cop stepped inside her personal space. Before she could react, he dropped to his knees, his firearm aimed at the sky as Waller used some kind of Chuck Norris move in less than a second.

 

Waller moved his hands so fast Sarah didn’t see exactly what he did, but the cop’s gun was taken from his grip and snapped apart, the magazine flying in the air where Waller’s free hand caught it. He tossed the empty weapon on the sidewalk a few feet away. Then he lifted his foot off the back of the cop’s knee.

 

The cop had tears in his eyes. It wasn’t because of any pain Waller inflicted in those couple of seconds.

 

“But we lost good men …” he hiccupped, “men we served alongside.”

 

“I know. But this isn’t the way to handle it. Sarah is coming with me. Collect your weapon and collect yourself. Then get back in your cruiser and finish your shift. When you’re done, go home, take a couple of days off. Rest. Don’t come back until you remember to earn and honor rank. We work as a team out here. Anything less and people die. Got it.”

 

The defeated cop lowered his shoulders and nodded. He picked up his sidearm and its pieces and shuffled to his car, only looking back at Sarah one more time.

 

“Come on,” Waller said. “Let’s go.”

 

Waller led her through the throng of onlookers that were starting to disperse. He opened the passenger door of a Ford F-150 and waited until she hopped in, then closed the door behind her. Once behind the wheel, he flipped off his hazards and turned into the northbound traffic to go around the Buick.

 

“What was that all about?” he asked.

 

Sarah pegged him for late twenties, early thirties. No wedding ring, and no wrinkles. A flat stomach. She admired discipline. Not many people had it.

 

“Just a bunch of teenagers fooling around.”

 

“Tell me.”

 

Waller maneuvered his pickup around the trunk of the Buick. The driver was on his cell phone, probably calling a tow truck, while the cop stood beside him and watched Sarah as they passed. She kept her eye on him in case he tried something foolish.

 

“They stuck a knife in the sewer grate’s little hole where water runs down. I saw what they did and ran to yank the knife out, but got there too late. The driver saw me, thought I had something to do with it.”

 

Waller glanced sideways at her, then back at the road.

 

“You always try to play the hero?”

 

“No. Shit just happens in front of me. I’m like a shit magnet.”

 

Waller chuckled. “You remind me of the Trailer Park Boys.”

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