Free Deadeye by William C. Dietz

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Authors: William C. Dietz
old travel trailer. It was riddled with bullet holes and had clearly been used for target practice. A momentary breeze came up and sent pieces of litter skittering across the broken concrete before dying away.
    Then, as Popeye’s gaze slid over a bloated dog carcass, there was a hint of movement. He brought the binoculars back a hair and adjusted the focus. The main entrance appeared. And there, framed inside of it, was a figure dressed in black. Fabric billowed as the breeze came up again, and Popeye knew he was looking at a burqa-clad female. What did she have? Three arms? Anything could be hidden under the baggie. He glanced at his watch. It was 11:58. The freak was right on time.
    But, conscious of the fact that there was more territory to examine, Popeye continued the scan. Once that effort was complete, he turned his attention to the sky. The LAPD had drones. Everyone knew that. But when Popeye looked up, all he could see were a pair of white claw marks on the otherwise blue sky. Fighters probably—on patrol.
    Satisfied that everything was as it should be, Popeye got into Stella and sent a text message. The reply came quickly. So Popeye put Stella in gear and guided her between various obstacles until he was about a hundred feet away from the woman in the black burqa. Then he got out, went to the trunk, and removed a large duffel bag. It was loaded with rocks to give it heft and chunks of Styrofoam to bulk it out. With the Colt in one hand and the bag in the other, Popeye began to walk.
    *   *   *
    Lee’s vision was limited to the horizontal eye slit. But she could still see quite a bit, however, including the way the air shimmered over the hot concrete and Popeye’s emaciated figure as he came toward her. He was holding a long-barreled pistol down along his right leg. That ran counter to the ostensibly friendly manner in which the criminal had approached Mr. and Mrs. Fuentes. It looked as if Popeye had grown more cautious and less inclined to pretend.
    Lee’s line of reasoning was interrupted by the loud rumble of engines as three customized motorcycles entered the parking lot from different directions and started to converge on her. That, too, was different from Popeye’s previous MO and a reason for concern. “Uh-oh,” a male voice said in her ear. “Cherko brought backup.”
    Mick Ferris was in charge of the six-person SWAT team that was deployed on the roof of the building behind Lee. Their positions had been carefully chosen and were well camouflaged. Initially, Lee had assumed that the snipers would be largely superfluous. Now she was glad to have them. “So it would seem,” she said, as her heart began to pound. “Wait for me to identify myself—then go with the flow.”
    *   *   *
    Lee had a reputation as a loner and a bitch. But Ferris had to give the detective credit. He could see her through the telescopic sight on his .308 caliber Remington 700P rifle. And as the motorcycles came to a stop, and the riders got off, Lee stood her ground. Of course, that was what one would expect of a cop who had smoked nine bad guys in a single gun battle. Still, standing there all alone took some major ovaries. He whispered into his mike. “You heard her . . . From the left . . . Tanaka, Hoover, myself, and Ramirez. Oko will cover our six—and Miller has the overlook. Stay sharp.”
    *   *   *
    Popeye came to a stop. The fact that she was still there came as a surprise. He had expected her to run. Then the other band members would run her down. The breeze ruffled the burqa and the duffel produced a puff of dust as it hit the ground. “You want parts, and I have parts,” Popeye said. His crew were flanking him by then. Skitch and Kat stood to his right, with Zeeb on the left. It was the same lineup they used onstage.
    Lee pushed her badge out through a slit in the fabric.

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