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Authors: William C. Dietz
“LAPD! Drop your weapons! You are under arrest!”
    *   *   *
    Light reflected off the stainless-steel Colt as it came up. But the process was still under way when Ferris put a bullet into Popeye’s skull. Maybe the bastard was wearing armor and maybe he wasn’t. It paid to be careful. There was a sudden spray of blood as the bullet exited through the back of Popeye’s skull. His body hit the pavement and lay with arms spread.
    The woman to Lee’s left was dressed in leathers and sporting a pink crew cut. She was armed with a sawed-off shotgun which discharged into the air as a third eye appeared between the two she already had.
    Then it was over as the others dropped their weapons, raised their hands, and were ordered to lie facedown on the ground. Lee kept them covered while members of the SWAT team came to join her. Then it was time to remove the baggie as Ferris appeared at her side. “Two scumbags down and a quarter million left to go,” he said.
    â€œThat’s a lot.”
    Ferris nodded. “There’s a lot of Popeyes out there.”
    â€œYes,” Lee agreed as she looked down at the body. “But this is the only one that Mrs. Fuentes cares about.”

    LEE WAS STARING at a computer screen in a small, nearly featureless room at the
Los Angeles Times
building. It was Sunday, and the newspaper’s so-called morgue was closed. But after plying the weekend crew with coffee and doughnuts, Lee had been allowed to use the facility anyway.
    Material from the last few years was available online. But the older stuff, meaning stories written immediately after the onset of the plague, could only be accessed via terminals in the morgue. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much of it. Many of the reporters were terminally ill as they wrote about besieged hospitals, desperate mobs, and acts of unexpected kindness. As a result, there were days when the paper was only a few pages long and a period of weeks during which nothing was published at all.
    Tears streamed down Lee’s cheeks as she skimmed page after page. The plague and its effects on LA was an enormous story, so she knew the chances of finding some mention of Alma Kimble were slim, but the photo of the girl standing between the two policemen continued to haunt her. And like any detective, Lee was used to following up on leads no matter how tenuous they might be.
    So Lee continued to read, looking for any mention of the mysterious woman. And finally, after an hour and a half of sifting through old editions of the paper, she hit pay dirt. It wasn’t as complete as she’d hoped for—but the brief obituary was better than nothing. It appeared in a special edition of the paper called
The People We Lost
and had clearly been written by a relative. “Alma Kimble, age 22. Alma got sick so she shot herself rather than run the risk of becoming a mutant or dying of the plague. May God forgive and keep her.”
    Lee was still in the process of absorbing that when her phone rang. She checked the screen and saw the name, “Roscoe McGinty.” One of the two men pictured with Alma shortly before her death. Was that a matter of coincidence? Or a cosmic echo? The phone rang again. Lee thumbed the screen. “Yes, sir.”
    â€œSorry to bother you on a day off,” McGinty said, “but I need your help—and I’d like to brief you before we meet with the victim’s family.”
    â€œOkay,” Lee responded. “Where would you like to meet?”
    â€œI’m in Beverly Hills,” McGinty replied. “At a restaurant called Maximo’s.”
    Lee was about to ask “What victim?” when the line went dead. So all she could do was thank the Sunday editor, return to the ground floor, and go out to where her motorcycle was parked. It was a replica of a 2002 Harley Davidson Road King—Police Edition. Though not the real deal, it had all of the original

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