I'm in traffic, about ten minutes out. What have we got? Emerson said nothing.
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He had seen shootings in public places. He had seen dead people. But he had never seen only dead people. Public-place shootings always produced injured along with the dead. Usually in a one-to-one ratio, at least. Four males, one female. Just one of them. It fired fast, but it wasn't on full automatic. The KIAs are all hit in the head. A crazy man with an assault weapon. People have taken cover. Most of them are in the library now.
I've got a few people with me. Maybe in the parking garage. The new part. People were pointing at it. There may have been some muzzle flash. And that's the only major structure directly facing the KIAs. A damn rat's nest. Shit, Emerson thought. For the recruiting office. TV people and a crazy man with a rifle, he thought.
Shit, shit, shit. Pressure and scrutiny and second-guessing, like every other place that ever had TV people and a crazy man with a rifle. He hit the switch that gave him the all-cars radio net. Probably an automatic weapon. Indiscriminate firing in a public place. Possibly from the new part of the parking garage. So either he's still in there, or he's already in the wind.
If he left, it was either on foot or in a vehicle.
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So all units that are more than ten blocks out, stop now and lock down a perimeter. Nobody enters or exits, OK? No vehicles, no pedestrians, nobody under any circumstances. All units that are closer than ten blocks, proceed inward with extreme caution. But do not let him get away. Do not miss him. This is a must-win, people.
We need this guy today, before CNN gets all over us. He drove inside and thumbed the button again and the door came down after him. He shut the engine off and sat still for a moment. Then he got out of the van and walked through the mud room and on into the kitchen. He patted the dog and turned on the television. Paramedics in full body armor went in through the back of the library. Two of them stayed inside to check for injuries among the sheltering crowd. Four of them came out the front and ran crouched through the plaza and ducked behind the wall.
They crawled toward the bodies and confirmed they were all DOA. Then they stayed right there. Flat on the ground and immobile next to the corpses. No unnecessary exposure until the garage has been searched, Emerson had said. Emerson double-parked two blocks from the plaza and told a uniformed sergeant to direct the search of the parking garage, from the top down, from the southwest corner.
The uniforms cleared the fourth level, and then the third. Then the second. Then the first. The old part was problematical. It was badly lit and full of parked cars, and every car represented a potential hiding place. A guy could be inside one, or under one, or behind one. But they didn't find anybody. They had no real problem with the new construction. It wasn't lit at all, but there were no parked cars in that part. The patrolmen simply came down the stairwell and swept each level in turn with flashlight beams. Nobody there. The sergeant relaxed and called it in.
And it was good work. The fact that they searched from the southwest corner outward left the northeast corner entirely untouched. Nothing was disturbed. So by good luck or good judgment the PD had turned in an immaculate performance in the first phase of what would eventually be seen as an immaculate investigation from beginning to end. By seven o'clock in the evening it was going dark and Ann Yanni had been on the air eleven times. Three of them network, eight of them local.
Personally she was a little disappointed with that ratio. She was sensitive to a little skepticism coming her way from the network editorial offices. If it bleeds, it leads, was any news organization's credo, but this bleeding was way out there, far from New York or L. It wasn't happening in some manicured suburb outside of Washington D. It had a tinge of weirdo-from-the-heartland about it. There was no real possibility that anyone important would walk through this guy's cross hairs.
So it was not really prime time stuff. And in truth Ann didn't have much to offer. None of the victims was identified yet. None of the slain. The local PD was holding its cards close to its chest until families had been notified individually. So she had no heartwarming background stories to share. She wasn't sure which of the male victims had been family men. Or churchgoers. She didn't know if the woman had been a mother or a wife.
She didn't have much to offer in the way of visuals, either. Just a gathering crowd held five blocks back by police barricades, and a static long shot down the grayness of First Street, and occasional close-ups of the parking garage, which was where everyone seemed to assume the sniper had been. By eight o'clock Emerson had made a lot of progress. His guys had taken hundreds of statements. Marine Corps First Sergeant Kelly was still sure he had heard six shots.
Emerson was inclined to believe him. Marines could be trusted on stuff like that, presumably. Then some other guy mentioned his cell phone must have been open the whole time, connected to another guy's voice mail. The cellular company retrieved the recording and six gunshots were faintly audible on it. But the medical examiners had counted only five entry wounds in the five DOAs.
Therefore there was a bullet missing. Three other witnesses were vague, but they all reported seeing a small plume of water kick out of the ornamental pool. Emerson ordered the pool to be drained. The fire department handled it. They set up floodlights and switched off the fountain and used a pumping engine to dump the water into the city storm drains. They figured there were maybe eighty thousand gallons of water to move, and that the job would be complete in an hour.
Meanwhile crime scene technicians had used drinking straws and laser pointers to estimate the fatal trajectories. They figured the most reliable evidence would come from the first victim. Presumably he was walking purposefully right-to-left across the plaza when the first shot came in. After that, it was possible the subsequent victims were twisting or turning or moving in other unpredictable ways.
So they based their conclusions solely on the first guy. His head was a mess, but it seemed pretty clear the bullet had traveled slightly high-to-low and left-to-right as it passed through. One tech stood upright on the spot and another held a drinking straw against the side of his head at the correct angle and held it steady. Then the first guy ducked out of the way and a third fired a laser pointer through the straw. It put a tiny red spot on the northeast corner of the parking garage extension, second level. Witnesses had claimed they had seen muzzle flashes up there.
Now science had confirmed their statements. Emerson sent his crime scene people into the garage and told them they had all the time they needed. But he told them not to come back with nothing. Ann Yanni left the black glass tower at eight-thirty and took a camera crew down to the barricades five blocks away. She figured she might be able to identify some of the victims by a process of elimination. People whose relatives hadn't come home for dinner might be gathering there, desperate for information.
She shot twenty minutes of tape. She got no specific information at all. Instead she got twenty minutes of crying and wailing and sheer stunned incredulity. The whole city was in pain and in shock. She started out secretly proud that she was in the middle of everything, and she ended up with tears in her eyes and sick to her stomach.
The parking garage was where the case was broken. It was a bonanza. A treasure trove. A patrolman three blocks away had taken a witness statement from a regular user of the garage saying that the last slot on the second level had been blocked off with an orange traffic cone. Because of it, the witness had been forced to leave the garage and park elsewhere. He had been pissed about it. A guy from the city said the cone hadn't been there officially. No way. Couldn't have been. No reason for it. So the cone was bagged for evidence and taken away.
Then the city guy said there were discreet security cameras at the entrance and the exit, wired to a video recorder in a maintenance closet. The tape was extracted and taken away. Then the city guy said the new extension was stalled for funding and hadn't been worked on for two weeks. So anything in there less than two weeks old wasn't anything to do with him. The crime scene technicians started at the yellow and black Caution Do Not Enter tape.
The first thing they found was a scuff of blue cotton material on the rough concrete directly underneath it. Just a peach-fuzz of barely-visible fiber. Like a guy had dropped to one knee to squirm underneath, and had left a little of his blue jeans behind. They photographed the scuff and then picked it up whole with an adhesive sheet of clear plastic.
Then they brought in klieg lights and angled them low across the floor. Across the two-week-old cement dust. They saw perfect footprints. Really perfect footprints. The lead tech called Emerson on his Motorola. It's a kind of crude rubber. Almost raw. Very grippy. It picks everything up. If we find this guy, we're going to find crepe-soled shoes with cement dust all over the soles. Also, we're going to find a dog in his house.
And then scraped off again where the concrete's rough. And carpet fibers. Probably from his rugs at home and in his car. At ten to nine Emerson briefed his Chief of Police for a press conference. He held nothing back. It was the Chief's decision what to talk about and what to conceal. I'm betting on a trained shooter. Probably ex-military.
The technique might be the same, but the emotion isn't. It was a lone nut. We've seen them before. At nine o'clock exactly Emerson took a call from the pathologist. His staff had X-rayed all five heads. Massive tissue damage, entry and exit wounds, no lodged bullets. Six bullets in there, he thought. Five through-and-throughs, and one miss. The pool was finally empty by nine-fifteen. The fire department hoses started sucking air. All that was left was a quarter-inch of scummy grit, and a lot of trash. Emerson had the lights re-angled and sent twelve recruits from the Academy over the walls, six from one end and six from the other.
The crime scene techs in the parking garage extension logged forty-eight footprints going and forty-four coming back. The perp had been confident but wary on the way in, and striding longer on the way out. In a hurry. The footprints were size eleven. They found fibers on the last pillar before the northeast corner. Mercerized cotton, at a guess, from a pale-colored raincoat, at shoulder-blade height, like the guy had pressed his back against the raw concrete and then slid around it for a look out into the plaza. They found major dust disturbance on the floor between the pillar and the perimeter wall.
Plus more blue fibers and more raincoat fibers, and tiny crumbs of crepe rubber, pale in color, and old. We ever find his shoes, they're going to be all scraped up at the front. Directly in front of that position, they saw varnish scrapings on the lip of the wall. What he saw in front of him was Emerson, pacing in front of the empty ornamental pool, less than thirty-five yards away. The Academy recruits spent thirty minutes in the empty pool and came out with a lot of miscellaneous junk, nearly eight dollars in pennies, and six bullets.
Five of them were just misshapen blobs of lead, but one of them looked absolutely brand new. It was a boat tail hollow point, beautifully cast, almost certainly a. Emerson called his lead crime scene tech up in the garage. Emerson got up to the second level and found all the techs crouched in a low huddle with their flashlight beams pointing down into a narrow crack in the concrete.
But this one got away. There was one close by, new, with unconnected cables spooling out like fronds. He looked on the floor directly underneath and found a rat's nest of discarded trimmings.
He chose an eighteen-inch length of ground wire. He cleaned it and bent it into an L-shape. It was stiff and heavy. Probably overspecified for the kind of fluorescent ceiling fixtures he guessed the garage was going to use. Maybe that was why the project was stalled for funding. Maybe the city was spending money in all the wrong places. He jiggled the wire down into the open joint and slid it along until the end went neatly into the empty cartridge case. Then he lifted it out very carefully, so as not to scratch it.
He dropped it straight into a plastic evidence bag. I'll scare up a DA. Then he stopped, next to the empty parking bay. Empty the meter? But he guessed it was the kind of insight detectives were paid for, so he just dialed his cell phone and asked the city liaison guy to come on back again.
Someone from the District Attorney's office always got involved at this point because the responsibility for prosecution rested squarely on the DA's shoulders. It wasn't the PD that won or lost in court. It was the DA. So the DA's office made its own evaluation of the evidence. Did they have a case?
Was the case weak or strong? It was like an audition. Like a trial before a trial. This time, because of the magnitude, Emerson was performing in front of the DA himself. The big cheese, the actual guy who had to run for election. And re-election. They made it a three-man conference in Emerson's office. Emerson, and the lead crime scene tech, and the DA. The DA was called Rodin, which was a contraction of a Russian name that had been a whole lot longer before his great-grandparents came to America.
He was fifty years old, lean and fit, and very cautious. His office had an outstanding victory percentage, but that was mostly due to the fact that he wouldn't prosecute anything less than a total certainty. Anything less than a total certainty, and he gave up early and blamed the cops. At least that was how it seemed to Emerson. Right now he's still John Doe. Can't see the plates for mud and dirt, and the camera angle isn't great. But it's probably a Dodge Caravan, not new, with aftermarket tinted windows.
And we're also looking through old tapes right now because it's clear he entered the garage at some previous time and illegally blocked off a particular space with a traffic cone stolen earlier from a city construction site. Therefore the cone would have looked plausible. We have a witness who saw it in place at least an hour before.
And the cone has fingerprints on it. Lots of them. The right thumb and index finger match prints on a quarter we took out of the parking meter. You know, selfish, but innocent. And the quarter could have been in the meter for days. Cops think like cops, and lawyers think like lawyers. At various points he left trace evidence behind, from his shoes and his clothing. And he'll have picked trace evidence up, in the form of cement dust, mostly. Probably a lot of it. That's all. Not specific enough.
That got Rodin's attention. And you know what? That's exactly how ballistics labs test-fire a gun. They fire into a long tank of water. The water slows and stops the bullet with absolutely no damage at all. So we've got a pristine bullet with all the lands and grooves we need to tie it to an individual rifle. We find the rifle and we'll match the varnish and the scratches. It's as good as DNA. It's got tool marks on it from the ejector mechanism.
So we've got a bullet and a case. Together they tie the weapon to the crime. The scratches tie the weapon to the garage location. The garage location ties the crime to the guy who left the trace evidence behind. Emerson knew he was thinking about the trial. Technical evidence was sometimes a hard sell. It lacked a human dimension. Same thumb and index finger as on the quarter in the parking meter and on the traffic cone. So we can tie the crime to the gun, and the gun to the ammo, and the ammo to the guy who used it.
It all connects. The guy, the gun, the crime. It's a total slam dunk. So it's just a matter of time. A desk guy knocked and entered. He was carrying a sheaf of paper. The paper listed a name, an address, and a history. Plus supplementary information from all over the system. Including a driver's license photo. Emerson took the paper and glanced through it once.
Then again. Then he smiled. Exactly six hours after the first shot was fired, the situation was nailed down tight. A must-win. Silence in the office. He lives twenty minutes from here. He served in the U. Honorable discharge fourteen years ago. Infantry specialist, which I'm betting means a sniper. DMV says he drives a six-year-old Dodge Caravan, beige. Rodin picked them up and scanned them through, once, twice, carefully. Emerson watched his eyes. Saw him thinking the guy, the gun, the crime.
It was like watching a Vegas slot machine line up three cherries. Bing bing bing! A total certainty. He separated out the DL picture and gazed at it. Judges will be lining up to sign them. The Chief said he would schedule an eight o'clock press conference for the next morning. He said he wanted Emerson there, front and center.
Emerson took that as all the compliment he was going to get, even though he didn't much like the press. The warrants were ready within an hour, but the arrest took three hours to set up. First, unmarked surveillance confirmed Barr was home. His place was an unremarkable one-story ranch. Not immaculate, not falling down. Old paint on the siding, fresh blacktop on the driveway. Lights were on and a television set was playing in what was probably the living room. Barr himself was spotted briefly, in a lighted window. He seemed to be alone. Then he seemed to go to bed. Lights went off and the house went quiet.
So then there was a pause. It was standard operating procedure to plan carefully for the takedown of an armed man inside a building. They used zoning maps from the city offices and came up with the usual kind of thing. Covert encirclement, overwhelming force on standby front and rear, sudden violent assault on the front and rear doors simultaneously. Emerson was detailed to make the actual arrest, wearing full body armor and a borrowed helmet.
An assistant DA would be alongside him, to monitor the legality of the process. Nobody wanted to give a defense attorney anything to chew on later. A paramedic team would be instantly available. Two K9 officers would go along, because of the crime scene investigator's theory about the dog in the house. Altogether thirty-eight men were involved, and they were all tired. Most of them had been working nineteen hours straight. Their regular watches, plus overtime.
So there was a lot of nervous tension in the air. People figured that nobody owned just one automatic weapon. If a guy had one, he had more. Maybe full-auto machine guns. Maybe grenades or bombs. But in the event the arrest was a walk in the park. James Barr barely even woke up. They broke down his doors at three in the morning and found him asleep, alone in bed. He stayed asleep with fifteen armed men in his bedroom aiming fifteen submachine guns and fifteen flashlight beams at him. He stirred a little when the SWAT commander threw his blankets and pillows to the floor, searching for concealed weapons.
He had none. He opened his eyes. Mumbled something that sounded like What? He was a large man, with white skin and black hair that was going gray all over his body. His pajamas were too small for him. He looked slack, and a little older than his forty-one years.
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His dog was an old mutt that woke up reluctantly and staggered in from the kitchen. The K9 team captured it immediately and took it straight out to their truck. Emerson took his helmet off and pushed his way through the crowd in the tiny bedroom. Saw a three-quarters-full pint of Jack Daniels on the night table, next to an orange prescription bottle that was also three-quarters full.
He bent to look at it. Sleeping pills. Recently prescribed, to someone called Rosemary Barr. The label said: Rosemary Barr. Take one for sleeplessness. Emerson shook his head. Plus the whole pint of JD. So I guess Mr. Barr had trouble getting off to sleep tonight, that's all. After a very busy and productive day. It smelled of dirty sheets and an unwashed body. His lawyer is going to say he's not fully capable of understanding Miranda. So we can't let him say anything. And if he does say something, we can't listen. Told them to check Barr out, to make sure he wasn't faking, and to make sure he wasn't about to die on them.
They fussed around for a few minutes, listened to his heart, checked his pulse, read the prescription label. Then they pronounced him reasonably fit and healthy, but fast asleep. Emerson found a pair of dress pants folded over a chair and checked the pockets. Came out with a small wallet. Found the driver's license. The name was right, and the address was right. And the photograph was right. Then he recited the Miranda warning. The right to remain silent, the right to a lawyer.
Barr tried to focus, but didn't succeed. Then he went back to sleep. They wrapped him in a blanket and two cops dragged him out of the house and into a car. A paramedic and the ADA rode with him. Emerson stayed in the house and started the search. He found the scuffed blue jeans in the bedroom closet. The crepe-soled shoes were placed neatly on the floor below them. They were dusty. The raincoat was in the hall closet. The beige Dodge Caravan was in the garage. The scratched rifle was in the basement.
It was one of several resting on a rack bolted to the wall. On a bench underneath it were five nine-millimeter handguns. And boxes of ammunition, including a half-empty box of Lake City M grain boat tail hollow point. Next to the boxes were glass jars with empty cartridge cases in them. Ready for recycling, Emerson thought.
Ready for handloading. The jar nearest the front of the bench held just five of them. Lake City brass.
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The jar's lid was still off, like the five latest cases had been dumped in there recently and in a hurry. Emerson bent down and sniffed. The air in the jar smelled of gunpowder. Cold and old, but not very. Emerson left James Barr's house at four in the morning, replaced by forensic specialists who would go through the whole place with a fine-toothed comb. He checked with his desk sergeant and confirmed that Barr was sleeping peacefully, in a cell on his own with round-the-clock medical supervision.
Then he went home and caught a two-hour nap before showering and dressing for the press conference. The press conference killed the story stone dead. A story needs the guy to be still out there. A story needs the guy roaming, sullen, hidden, shadowy, dangerous. It needs fear. It needs to make everyday chores exposed and hazardous, like pumping gas or visiting the mall or walking to church. So to hear that the guy was found and arrested even before the start of the second news cycle was a disaster for Ann Yanni.
Immediately she knew what the network offices were going to think. No legs, over and done with, history. Yesterday's news, literally. Probably wasn't much of anything anyway. Just some inbred heartland weirdo too dumb to stay free through the night. Probably sleeps with his cousin and drinks Colt Nothing sinister there. She would get one more network breaking news spot to recap the crime and report the arrest, and that would be it. Back to obscurity. So Yanni was disappointed, but she hid it well.
She asked questions and made her tone admiring. About halfway through she started putting together a new theme. A new narrative. People would have to admit the police work had been pretty impressive. And this perp wasn't a weirdo. Not necessarily. So a serious bad guy had been caught by an even-more-serious police department. Right out there in the heartland.
Something that had taken considerable time on the coasts in previous famous cases. Could she sell it? She started drafting titles in the back of her mind. America's Fastest? Like a play on Finest? The Chief yielded the floor to Emerson after about ten minutes. Emerson filled in full details on the perp's identity and his history.
He kept it dry. Just the facts, ma'am. He outlined the investigation. He answered questions. He didn't boast. Ann Yanni thought that he felt the cops had been lucky. That they had been given much more to go on than they usually got. Then Rodin stepped up. He made it sound like the PD had been involved in some early minor skirmishing and that the real work was about to begin.
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His office would review everything and make the necessary determinations. And yes, Ms. Yanni, because he thought the circumstances warranted it, certainly he would seek the death penalty for James Barr. James Barr woke up in his cell with a chemical hangover at nine o'clock, Saturday morning. He was immediately fingerprinted and re-Mirandized once, and then twice. He chose to remain silent.
Not many people do. Not many people can. The urge to talk is usually overwhelming. But James Barr beat it. He just clamped his mouth shut and kept it that way. Plenty of people tried to talk to him, but he didn't answer. Not once. Not a word. Emerson was relaxed about it. Truth was, Emerson didn't really want Barr to say anything. He preferred to line up all the evidence, scrutinize it, test it, polish it, and to get to a point where he could anticipate a conviction without a confession.
Confessions were so vulnerable to defense accusations of coercion or confusion that he had learned to run away from them. They were icing on the cake. Literally the last thing he wanted to hear, not the first. Not like on the TV cop shows, where relentless interrogation was a kind of performance art. So he just stayed out of the loop and let his forensics people complete their slow, patient work. James Barr's sister was younger than him and unmarried and living in a rented downtown condo. Her name was Rosemary. Like the rest of the city's population, she was sick and shocked and stunned.
She had seen the news Friday night. And she caught it again Saturday morning. She heard a police detective say her brother's name. At first she thought it was a mistake. That she had misheard. But the guy kept on saying it. She burst into tears. First tears of confusion, then tears of horror, then tears of fury. This one has come to the heartland from his own kind of hell. And Reacher knows that the only way to take him down is to match his ruthlessness and cunning—and then beat him shot for shot.
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