Zeus and Io - Books 1 and 2
Copyright 2012,2013 by Harry Carton
Joe Lanzetta: Memorial Day
It was just about a quarter after eleven. 'The regular crowd shuffles in.' For some reason, Detective Sergeant Joe Lanzetta, a seventeen year veteran of the Orlando Police Department, couldn't get that Billy Joel song out of his head. He hummed a snatch of the melody. 'There's an old man at the bar / Making love to his tonic and gin.' Well ... so what if he didn't get all the lyrics exactly right?
Well, 'the regular crowd' on a Memorial Day holiday was about a zillion tourists, all headed for Disney and Universal. He squinted up at the sky, as seen through the Golden Arches. Lots of tourists meant lots of minor emergencies. A peaceful day for peace officers.
Nice day for it, he thought to himself. He checked his driver, one raw rookie named Al "Sweetie" Morris, so named because he got a call from his wife every day before his shift started. Every call finished with, 'Miss you, Sweetie.' Sweetie was just pulling in to fill up on McCoffee.
"Anything for you, ma'am, sir?" said Sweetie.
He already knew that Lanzetta would take his coffee with one sugar, and two creams. The lady in question was in the back seat. She was a reporter for the local CBS affiliate, WOOO, Carole Stinson. She was on a 'ride-along' on what promised to be a boring Monday. The 'sir' in question was her cameraman/producer, Jeff Robbie. All in all, it was a crowded police cruiser.
"Nah," said Robbie. "We're good."
The radio squawked, "10-33. Unit 17L, 10-61. Switch to Tac-2."
10-33 was an emergency. 17L was Lanzetta's personal call sign. And 10-61 meant he should isolate himself from others. He motioned Sweetie to stay in the car, while he got out. He switched his personal radio over to the requested frequency.
"This is 17L," he sent.
"Lanzetta, you still got that reporter?"
It was the Captain's voice. He wasn't even supposed to be in, today.
"She's in the car right now. I'm outside. What's up?"
"We got ourselves a 10-299. Call me."
Then the radio went dead. A 10-299 doesn't exist, technically. It's a private code in the Orlando PD that kind of meant: 'This is too sensitive to go on the radio. It's a real fucking emergency. Get on your cell phone.'
He opened the door of the cruiser, said, "Stay here. We're probably rolling," and shut it again.
Flipping open his cell, he hit a speed-dial button and called the station. He asked for the Captain. Three clicks and some static, told him he was probably being patched into another line. The Captain came on.
"Lanzetta, we got a Priority One alert from Homeland Security, and you're almost on top of it. Two probable DBs and a big fuckin' cylinder of sarin gas. Maybe it's leaking, maybe not. We gotta get on this, asap."
'DB' meant Dead Body.
"It's just east of the service installation on Bear Island Road, there's an unnamed service road."
"Well fuck me! I am almost on top of it," said Lanzetta. "I'm at the McD's on Osceola and Buena Vista. What do I do with the ride-alongs?"
The station knew where he was, GPS being what it was these days.
"Try to limit what they know, or what they say, anyway. Think of something. Threaten them with going to Gitmo if it gets out before we okay it. But we can't just dump them or they'll know something big is up. You're running the show, on-site. HazMat is OTW. I'm getting units at all the roads leading into the area. We've got to know if it's leaking sarin gas."
"Okay. I'll try to find out. Lanzetta out."
He got back into the cruiser. "Sweetie, we're headed for Bear Island Road just off Western Way. Use the lights and the jet fuel. We need to be there five minutes ago."
Then he looked to the back seat.
"Better put your seat belts on, folks," he said as he buckled his, too. "I can drop you off here, or you can come along. It's going to be dangerous, probably. You can film it, but if anything gets out before it's okay'd, the Cap'n said you're going to Gitmo. I don't think he was kidding."
"I'm in," said Stinson and Robbie almost together.
"What is it?" Stinson asked.
"A Priority One call from Homeland Security. That's not supposed to be used unless a real attack has occurred," he answered.
It's amazing how fast a police cruiser can accelerate when the driver puts his foot down.
"Don't get us killed trying to get there, Sweetie."
The car pelted down Buena Vista Drive, and hung a left through the traffic to get to Western Way. They picked up two more units on the way, and Lanzetta talked to them on Tac-2. He ordered one to peel off the road at the canal and make sure nobody tried to move on that dusty track, and the other was to stop at the Bear Island Road exit and prevent any traffic from using it. Nobody in. Nobody out.
He thumbed his collar mike, and said, "Get the north end of Bear Island Road shut down."
They found Bear Island Road, and then the service installation. The cameraman was taking shots out the window at all the tanks labeled 'flammable.' The reporter was trying to talk into her mic. She gave up and decided she's do a voice over later. Things were going by too fast.
Lanzetta was directing Sweetie, now, while looking at the map display on his electronic pad.
"Right, here. Another right. Now left. Right, there, onto the dirt track. Then slowly down the service road."
About a thousand feet down the road, they could see a gray convertible. The cruiser stopped a hundred yards from it, and cut its lights and siren. As soon as it stopped, Lanzetta got out. He went to the trunk and came out with four gas masks, and gave three of them to the occupants of the car.
"Okay, everybody out. Nobody moves from this spot, okay? That's maybe sarin gas up there. I don't know if these masks will do any good, but they might. We're upwind, so maybe it's safe. Maybe." He addressed Sweetie. "Al, if I'm not coming back, tell my wife and kids that my last thoughts were of them."
The radio on Tac-2 squawked.
"H team, five out."
That'd be the HazMat boys, five minutes away.
"Roger that," said Lanzetta. "H team in five. I'm going to look, now."
Nobody wanted to use terms that some idiot on a police scanner could easily decipher. No sense getting everybody in a panic ... unless, of course, they needed to panic.
The reporter was disheveled but went on camera, anyway, live-to-tape. She looked around. Both Morris and Robbie were putting on gas masks, but she decided not to wear one.
"If it's sarin gas that's coming out of there, and if it's blowing this way, we're already dead," she said to herself.
Then she squared her shoulders and nodded to Robbie.
"This is Carole Stinson, WOOO news. I'm at the site of a Priority One alert from Homeland Security. That means a confirmed terrorist attack. We are near a service installation, on the southwest side of the Disney property. Detective Sergeant Joe Lanzetta is going in to check on that." She pointed down the road at the gray convertible, and the camera followed her finger.
"As you can see, Sergeant Lanzetta is wearing a gas mask. That's because there may be poison gas coming from that car. We'll know in a few minutes."
The camera zoomed in on the convertible. All it could show was a bloody windshield and a body spread over the side.
Lanzetta walked the three hundred feet to approach the car. It was a bloody scene, that much was clear, but he was focused on the cylinder he could see sitting in the back seat. He touched nothing, but the scuba tank appeared to be NOT leaking. He did a quick survey of the carnage in the car.
Thank God for small favors. Big ones too, he thought to himself. He was not normally a religious man, but he crossed himself as he walked back toward the car.
He took off the gas mask, keyed his collar mike, and said, "Looks like there is no leak. Repeat: no leak. We can start spreading the crime tape, boys. There's two DBs and there are indications they were shot from the north and the south. So don't go in those areas. We'll have the lab boys do that, after the H team is done."
The camera just kept rolling.
"What did you find, Sergeant?" asked Stinson.
"Not a word goes out until we're done with the investigation or you get authorization from somebody higher than me."
"Cross my heart, and go to Gitmo," she replied.
"There are two dead bodies. The driver was hit in the head from behind – that's north – and the bullet went into the steering column. The second man was hit twice: once in the shoulder and again in the head. Again from the north; that bullet passed through the front seat and went into the passenger side floor."
"How can you tell they were shot from the north?" she asked.
"Well, there was blood and brain matter all over the inside of the windshield, and that was south of the bodies," Lanzetta said and seemed to enjoy the expression on her face as he mentioned the brain splatter. "It is a pretty gruesome scene."
"When were they shot, Sergeant?"
"Recently, that's all I can say. The blood on the windshield seemed to be fresh."
"Then the killers are somewhere close."
"Seems likely," he replied.
The camera zoomed in, over his shoulder, at the gray convertible. Robbie filmed silently for a few moments, then turned it off.
"How close can we get, Sergeant?" Robbie asked.
"Well," Lanzetta said with a grin, "I got crime tape at all the exits from this area. Are you happy, here, or do you want to go back to the crime tape?"
"No, we're good here," Robbie said.
"Sweetie, you're in charge of these two," Lanzetta said, gesturing at the reporter and her cameraman. "Let them film what they want. Keep them out of the way. If you get any sign that they're going live with the coverage, you're authorized to take all their equipment. That includes taking it by force if you have to," he said and turned to look at the news duo, "Clear?"
"I crossed my heart, and everything, Sergeant," said Stinson.
"Good. Then there won't be any problem."
Lanzetta's radio came to life again.
"This is Harris, south end of Bear Island Road. Sarge, you there?"
"Go," he said.
"Sarge, we got a dark blue Ford rental here. It's in the underbrush off the road. Somebody tried to hide it."
"Roger that. Tape off the area, and stay with it. Anybody comes near, you treat him as an armed terrorist until you can confirm otherwise," Lanzetta said.
"Roger," said Harris.
"HQ, you copy? We need another truck full of lab rats. I'm sure the Feds will take over at some point, but they're not here, now," said Lanzetta.
"HQ copies," said a voice.
Two trucks pulled up behind them, and several men and one woman poured out in HazMat suits. They looked like astronauts: air cylinders on their backs, and they were sealed into their suits. They began walking slowly toward the car. Others behind them began setting up a robot that would go in first. It had a large claw for grabbing and lifting, a camera, and it moved on treads.
Always ready to film the PD's newest toys, Robbie had his camera ready to record the arrival of HazMat and their approach to the gas cylinder.
Lanzetta approached the lead HazMat officer. "There's footprints on the passenger side. I didn't go around to the driver's side. Scuba tank in the back seat. Keys in the ignition. I didn't open the trunk. There's a rumor that it's sarin gas in the tank, so don't set it off by mistake, you clumsy oaf."
Lieutenant Carina Ortiz grinned back at the Detective, from inside her 'space suit.' "Couldn't you at least clean up the bodies before we got here? You know we Cubans have delicate stomachs, it's a holdover from when we floated over on the rafts."
Every radio squawked, as Ortiz said, "HazMat 1 will follow me in to one hundred feet and hold there. The robot will go and retrieve the cylinder if it can. We all know what's in the cylinder, so be careful with it. If the robot can't grip it or hold it with no chance of damaging it, we'll send in the humans."
The robot proceeded at its sedate, stately, but most of all safe pace toward the car.
"Break for Lanzetta," the radio squawked again, this time it was a new voice.
"This is Melchior at the north end of Bear Island Road. Something strange is happening here. When I arrived a few minutes ago, there were already cones blocking the road. The guard said that he was told by DEA to shut down access over an hour ago."
"Say again. We only got the activation about fifteen minutes ago. The Feds aren't even here yet," said Lanzetta.
"DEA told him to shut down this access point, over sixty minutes ago. The guard is about to go off his shift at noon, but I thought you'd want to talk to him first."
"Damn right, I do. Or somebody from the task force will," Lanzetta said, then thought, 'Surely, somebody is gonna set up a task force, soon.'
"Roger that. I've got him in my cruiser. He's eating lunch," said Officer Melchior.