Friday, December 14, 2012
The Big Bust.
“Shhh! Someone’s coming,” whispered Staff Sergeant Jinny Rosko.
Her partner crouched there in suspense, peering intently through the strap-on night-vision goggles.
“There’s three of them,” advised Constable Bill De Floret. “I’ve got three hot spots in the brush. They’re walking east, just this side of the cornfield.”
DeFloret was a good man and a hot trigger, and she was glad to have him here for backup under these tactical circumstances.
She lowered her daylight-type pocket scope half an inch and took a regular look for herself. Three distinctly bulky, black silhouettes were visible in the moonlight to her naked eye.
They were just on this side of the fence-line. Small conifers provided a windbreak, and the men flitted through the shadows for cover.
She could see why they chose the place for an entry point into their patch. The occasional passing car headlights would be easy enough to dodge, and dopers were a paranoid bunch. Their bobbing, round little heads were occasionally backlit by the light of the full moon as they traipsed along.
People walking across farmer’s fields in the middle of the night were an unusual sight, and bound to arouse comment. Some of these people knew their ground very well indeed. It was best not to underestimate the opposition in this never-ending war on drugs.
She keyed her microphone and whispered instructions to her troops, perfectly disposed to interdict and capture what she figured were dope-cultivators. A local farmer, yet still within the city limits, was reporting suspicious activity on his property. He said there were all kinds of nocturnal comings and goings. They had found a trail running across his land, and a dead giveaway, plastic bags, peat pots, arm-loads of stalks and sticks, root-balls, and other garbage dumped in the ditch.
An urgent phone tip half an hour ago brought them here on the double. Their farmer-friend was driving to town when he observed three men on mountain bicycles and wearing backpacks.
They were riding out along Vimy Ridge Side Road. She scrambled half her shift, not sure they could get here in time to deploy in classic ambush positioning.
“Observe and report,” she instructed. “Be aware of booby-traps. These men are presumed armed and dangerous.”
In her earpiece, she heard a series of double-clicks in acknowledgement. Bringing the microphone to her lips, she breathed softly in tension and suspense. There was only the eight of them, four teams of two.
“Hold up, hold up,” she murmured into it.
De Floret was still watching intently.
“They’re going into the trees,” he reported. “They’re following their little trail.”
“Wait,” ordered Rosko. “Everyone just hold up until I say. We need evidence, remember.”
Bill looked over for a moment.
“Safety first,” she added into the mic.
He nodded with a little grin.
“They’re at a hundred-fifty metres,” he advised, pointing across the gloomy fields, to where the dope-trail led into the dark and threatening forest.
“Based on past performance, they should have a couple of lights,” he allowed.
While still speaking at a murmur, silence was not so crucial, now that the quarry was committed. It was vital to catch as many of these turkeys as they could. In a world where social inequality, rampant consumerism, and crass materialism ran amok, people smoking pot represented a challenge to the established social order, without which further economic progress could not be made. And it cost a lot of money—a good bag of pot might run as high as $300 these days. The scum should be spending that money to feed their families; but it just went to more dope and more crime.
The mosquitoes were bad, despite the fact she was liberally slathered with repellent.
It was a known fact the stuff would fade the dye in their uniforms. She cursed the anti-social misfits who put the state to so much time and expense.
Time hung heavy on their hands.
She checked her Rolex.
“They’ve been in there five minutes,” she said quietly.
Jinny made a careful note, and then re-stashed her notebook.
“How long?” asked De Floret, with a bead of sweat trickling down his forehead from under the camouflaged forage cap. “I’ve had enough of this crap.”
“We want to nail ‘em good,” she said. “Let’s catch them with the stuff, all right?”
Checking her watch again, she saw that a fairly large, fluffy cloud was going to go past in front of the full moon.
“All right. All units converge, very slowly now. Soupy’s ETA three minutes, confirm,” she breathed into the radio.
A series of decisive double-clicks avowed their determination to succeed, a form of non-verbal communication.
“Bill?” she murmured.
De Floret was already moving out, his .40 Colt automatic ‘all tuned-up and ready to go,’ the saying went. She shoved the little scope into a pocket and fastened the Velcro properly.
She picked up her weapon.
Cocking the SPAS-12 assault shotgun, she checked it for safety. Her finger would never leave the lever until these guys were in the back of a cruiser, or the scene was secured…Jinny wasn’t taking any chances with these jerks.
Some saw it as a game, a big chess game. But she never traded pawn-for-pawn with these turkeys. There was no ratio. It didn’t matter if you killed a hundred of them for even one of your own, the price was still too high.
Simply put, they didn’t get paid to take risks with their lives. She focused on following Bill silently through the gloom, relying on his unerring instinct and the fact that he had their only pair of night-vision goggles. The department could only afford a small number of the devices, and so she had to share them out, one set to a team. She tripped on a root or something invisible and went down.
Back up in a heartbeat, she gratefully acknowledged that it was a pretty quiet sort of a fall.
And thank goodness for that, because they were right at the black edge of the tree line.
She and Bill both halted for a moment and breathed a sigh of relief when they got out of the direct moonlight.
Units Two and Three were deployed to cut off the quarry’s escape route, and Bill and she were following the trail. Unit four was right at the road, anticipating that if the men slipped through the cordon, they would make for the place they normally stashed the bikes before the long hike in. Twenty men would have been insufficient, if truth be told, and she knew it, but…but.
While they hadn’t had time to locate any patches of dope, that was why Two and Three were in close, where they could observe and locate the exact spot the men went.
The night exploded with shots, shouts, and flashes of light in the woods from ahead and off to their right.
“Go, go, go!” she gasped at Bill, but then she stumbled right into the back of him.
“I’m friggin’ blinded,” he gasped in dismay. “Hold up, hold up!”
“Follow along,” she advised, grabbing his sleeve and literally willing the man to move along.
More shots, more incoherent shouts, she recognized some of the voices among them…
Stumbling forwards with De Floret in tow; Sergeant Rosko made for the ruckus, still trying to follow the trail in the blackness of the forest.
“Damn! I’ve got to turn on a light, Bill,” she cursed.
“I still can’t see a damned thing,” he agreed. “Down.”
They squatted there in the underbrush as they heard more loud voices, and another shot. It was dead ahead, about forty metres into the thicket.
“That’s Murgatroyd,” gasped Jinny.
“Hold fire! Hold fire!” she bellowed, conscious that they had no idea where that round went, or where it was directed, or who had just fired it. She could see beams of light stabbing around over there.
Everything was very silent for a moment, and then someone off the trail but inches away, just on the other side of a veritable wall of tall grass, leapt up and dashed away off to the northwest, or so she thought. Their breath was ragged, and loud in the darkness, clearly someone panic-stricken with fear…
“Hold fire!” she shouted, springing to her feet and pelting off through the long grass and small shrubs that made for a small clearing in the gloom. Just for one moment, her flashlight picked out a fleeing figure.
“Halt! Halt!” she shouted, slowing down, sliding into position, and freezing into her firing stance.
It was already too late, but she pulled the trigger a eight or nine times in sheer desperation before thinking better of it and putting the weapon up.
She didn’t have a compass…but she was pretty sure it was northwest. Jinny pulled out the microphone.
“Four, one suspect has gone to ground, may be heading to you, over,” and she heard excited voices in response, drowning out all the voices, good, excited cop voices, behind her.
She held the button down, making everyone’s ear pieces squeal for a good thirty seconds, an old supervisor’s trick. When she let it up there was silence.
“All right, I’m coming in, hold your fire,” she ordered. “Bill?”
Off in the distance, from the direction of the city, she could hear sirens—a lot of them.
“I’m right here where you left me,” he responded. “I can see better now.”
“Shine your light, I’m coming in,” she told them. “What have you got, Two and Three?”
What they had was one dead suspect, face down in the grass, and two backpacks. One was still on the suspect, and one had simply been abandoned in flight.
“There are two suspects still out there, people,” she advised all the teams, including those inbound.
“Let’s see what we’ve got.”
De Floret gently lifted the dead person’s chin, and rotated the neck to get a look at the face.
“I saw this guy at the drop-in centre a couple of months ago,” he grunted.
She was busy re-deploying available manpower, and waiting for reinforcements. With cruisers parked on all contiguous side-roads, the suspects were probably walking across-country, most likely back to town.
“What was the beef?” she asked.
“Huh?” asked Bill. “No, he was just there. Having a free cup of coffee and some cake, and listening to some lecture on something or other. Mental hygiene, for all I know.”
Bill was there looking for another individual.
“What’s in the bag?” he mused, whistling a nameless tune through slightly pursed lips.
He knelt in the grass beside the dead man and carefully opened up the top while Jinny held a light for him.
The dead weight of the load suddenly let go, and she stepped back as the stuff rolled and tumbled out on the forest floor.
“What the hell?” she gasped in sudden confusion.
The pair of them stood looking at a load of tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, and acorn squash.
What the hell was going on here?
Jinny stood there gasping for breath and sanity.
“Three here. We have a blood trail. I repeat, we have a blood trail…”
Bill got up abruptly and went to the other pack. It was the same thing; more vegetables, more tomatoes.
“Aw, for God’s sakes,” he groaned.
Bill grabbed the microphone.
“Approach suspects with caution, and hold fire,” he advised all the teams. “We may have a code ten-one-hundred here. Ten-one-oh-two. They’re probably, I repeat probably unarmed, and not dangerous. Approach with caution.”
Jinny stood there, gazing down at the dead man’s load of stolen vegetables.
“How could we have known?” she asked the brooding night, as silent tears streamed down her face. “How could we have possibly known?”
The voices of a billion crickets, with all of their chirping and rustlings in the grass, was no answer at all.