Police detectives are trained to be observant in all situations, especially emergencies. Juliet noticed a couple things about her imprisonment immediately. The first was that there was no latch on the pantry door, so she could get out whenever she wanted, which meant that Shawn was relying on either trust or common sense to make her stay put.
The second was that the pantry had a wide window, leading out to the yard, easily big enough to clamber through. Which meant that Shawn had made sure she had an escape route, and that...that did not bode well.
She put her ear to the pantry door and listened.
Shawn answered the front door on the second knock. "Howdy, neighbor! What can I do you for?" His voice was jovial and loud enough to carry to her clearly.
She missed the quieter response, but heard footsteps in the entryway, then shoes on the living room's hardwood floor. "Yeah, I'm having a party," Shawn said in answer to something she couldn't make out. "Just me and Mike, here," and she heard the hard lemonade bottles clink in the cooler. "You want one?"
"No, thanks." The voice was male; she didn't recognize it. "So you live here, Mr...?"
"Bowie," Shawn said. "Dave Bowie." Juliet banged her head silently against the pantry door. "...No, no relation. Yeah, I get that a lot, no sweat, man. Pleased to meetcha."
"You're new to the neighborhood?" It was a deep baritone, with a hint of an unidentifiable foreign accent.
"Been here a few weeks."
"And your furniture...?"
"Cuts down on dusting, y'know, man?" Shawn's surfer accent was spot-on perfect; it was impressive, how he could have the same voice and yet sound nothing like himself. "I like to live light. Like margarine."
"And you're here alone?" They took a few steps further into the living room, almost close enough to the kitchen doorway for her to be able to see them. "That's a lot of food for one man."
"A party, like I said. You want some? Help yourself, mi casa is su's--"
"If you're wearing a wire," the man said, "this will be disrupting the signal, and would've been from the moment I drove past."
"What's that, a radio? What're you talking about, wire?"
"And if you are here all alone without one--that was a mistake. There's no one close enough even to hear the shot. You made this too easy for me--really, I'm surprised with you, Mr. Bowie."
"Dude, the hell are you talking about?" Shawn squawked.
The man took another step forward, into the sliver of view Juliet had from the pantry. Iron-gray hair, black suit; his back was to her.
She already had her left hand in her pocket, opening her cell, summoning back-up via a silent text. Her right hand was on her pistol in its holster.
"Why this house?" the stranger mused. "Usually you set yourself up better than this. Abandoned homes are too obvious."
"Okay--okay, you got me. I'm squatting here, just for a while, until I find a place on the beach I can afford--"
"Please, Mr. Bowie. Or whatever your real name is. Don't insult me any longer."
"Man, I don't know who you are and I don't know how to tell you this, but you have the wrong guy--whoever you're looking for, that's not me--"
"On the contrary, I'm quite sure you are."
"But then why? Who'd I piss off--it wasn't that guy whose cat I ran over, was it? I paid for the vet bill, I swear, it's not my fault it had to get a fake leg--oh man. Is that a gun? That's a gun. Man, it's not me, I swear, it's not me--"
"It is you, Mr. Bowie. And that will be proven when the Whisper no longer acts, once you are dead. If it takes time to prove it sufficiently to my employers--I can wait."
"Dead?" Shawn screeched, hitting a pitch that would traumatize dogs. "Are you--you're really here to kill me?"
The click of a gun cocking sounded loudly through the empty house. "I am," said Gerry Kladinski, which was more than enough.
Juliet kicked down the pantry door with one swift blow, her gun drawn. "Drop it, Mr. Kladinski," she said, "and put your hands behind your head. Now."
She saw him start to spin, but she had the advantage of darkness and direction. The shot to the shoulder dropped him to the floor with a thud, his Makarov PM with its silencer clattering after him.
Shawn picked up the pistol, hastily backing away and holding it on the groaning killer uncertainly. "Du-dude, thanks," he stammered, still in the surfer's accent; but over Kladinski's bowed head he grinned at her, and there was no honest fear in his eyes.
* * *
Kladinski's little Radio Shack gadget had blocked Juliet's phone's signal; it took some fiddling and finally smashing the box with the butt of her pistol to properly call for back-up and an ambulance. By the time both arrived, she had tied up Kladinski's wound, and handcuffed him to the sofa for good measure.
And Shawn was gone, taking the cooler and candied pineapple with him, leaving nothing behind.
Lassiter was the first through the front door. By then, Juliet had her story mostly worked out. "I received a phone call from a man claiming to be the Whisper, telling me to come here at this time, and to come in through the back. When I did, Kladinski was just entering. He started threatening another man, and when he pulled the gun I intervened. The other man ran. I never saw his face, sir."
"Good work, O'Hara," her chief said, and if he smelled lo mein, he didn't comment. No one else would suspect the Whisper incompetent enough to show his face to a cop.
After they had taken Kladinski away in the ambulance, sedated and under guard, Juliet excused herself and jogged alone down the street, back to her car at the end of the block. Her heart was still pounding in her ears, along with the ringing of her own gunfire.
She stopped when she saw the little black rental car parked behind her own. "You didn't get far," she said.
Shawn grinned at her, sitting behind the wheel with the window down and the driver's seat inclined back, his hands tucked behind his head. "Getting low on gas. You got enough to nail him, right?"
"Well, just in case. His hotel room. I'd send someone over there quick, he's probably got measures to clear it out."
He tossed her a sheet of hotel stationary folded into an airplane for better aerodynamics. There was a room number printed on it, and some long strings of digits. "His off-shore accounts," Shawn said. "You can't trace the payments' origins, but the timing of big deposits with his hits won't look great to a jury, I bet."
"Thanks," she said.
"I better call this in."
Shawn nodded, started the engine.
Juliet took a step towards the Honda. "It was a trap," she said.
"I had the number of one of his trusted contacts. Faked a call from it, informed him of a new squatter in town, along with a couple other details."
"Shawn, he was a hired gun. They could send someone else--if you work with us, police protection--"
"This wasn't the first time," Shawn said, just that easily. "And won't be the last. I can handle it. I told you before, I'll be fine."
Juliet swallowed. "So...see you later?"
He shrugged. "Maybe."
She ducked involuntarily at the roar of an approaching engine, still jazzed on adrenaline. Lassiter's car pulled around the corner and up beside her. "O'Hara, I thought you were parked out here," he said out the window, and then looked past her, staring.
Shawn raised his hand. "Hey, big chief."
Lassiter stopped the car, got out. His arms were folded and his expression was more thunderous than thunderstruck; hardly startled at all.
"He just gave us Kladinski's hotel room and account numbers," Juliet said.
Carlton gestured acknowledgment, still staring at Shawn. "Good work, Spencer," he said with a curt nod.
Shawn's grin broke even wider. "Catch you on the flipside, Lassie," he said. "Bye, Jules," and he pulled out in a u-turn, tires screeching.
Lassiter watched his taillights disappear around the corner, heading towards the highway. Juliet in turn watched her chief's face, pasty and washed-out in the dull glimmer from the streetlight across the street. "You're not surprised," she said.
"It was always Spencer," Carlton said.
"No--before he ever got that stupid name, or the superhero reputation. The morning after the wake...outside my place, I was getting in my car, and Spencer pulled up on his motorcycle and gave me an address, a couple accounts, the companies where they'd bought the explosives. Enough to put Shattuck and O'Malley away on the spot. All I had to do was follow the clues--hell, if he'd given them to you, we probably would've made those arrests in two days instead of three."
"I doubt it," Juliet told him.
"It wasn't the only time, either. A few other times...I don't know, four or five in the past ten years, I've gotten a call, or an email. Never traceable, always anonymous. Warnings about things going down in this city. I've always known who it was. And the rest of it...well. I guessed. I didn't know. But..."
"You were as sure as I was," Juliet said.
"Don't know if I'd ever trust him that much," Lassiter said, sourly, but his face in the shadows told a different truth.
to be concluded...