Thursday, December 24, 2015



Chapter 8 – Emily Stone


Emily and Rick secured the two men inside the storage building. Their wrists and ankles were fastened with zip ties and then affixed through metal rings on the wall. The men weren’t going anywhere before cops arrived. They remained quiet and rarely looked at the couple.

Emily thought it was strange that they complied so easily and did not protest.

“You good?” Emily asked Rick. She was anxious to leave the property.


“I’m going to search the house for anything about the girls,” she checked her ammunition out of habit rather than necessity. “Give me a few minutes before contacting the cops and FBI.”

She hurried toward the door.

“Okay,” Rick slowly replied, still staring at the two men. “Em?” he said and shrugged.

Emily stopped and turned.

“Be careful,” he warned.

She thought it was out of character for Rick to express that sentiment in the middle of their investigation.

Emily forced a smile and then jogged to the main house.

It was actually a manufactured home, which had been set up on property in several pieces. It was more of a rectangle box that had uneven connections at the outer corners. It appeared to have been assembled recently. There were stickers still attached to the trim areas and windows.

Emily slowed her pace on approach.

She stood for a moment and surveyed the house.

Nothing unusual.

Taking a moment to jog around the structure, Emily made sure that there weren’t any type of cameras, booby traps, or security devices.

It seemed staged.

Automatically she retrieved her Glock and took the safety off.

Emily stood at the front door, grasped the doorknob with her left hand, and turned it. Pushing the door slowly open, the interior was dim and stuffy. None of the windows were open and no air conditioning flowed.

A light flickered in the corner from a muted television.

Emily cautiously entered the house and quickly cleared the living room, kitchen, and the two bedrooms. There was no sign of the missing girls, or any incriminating evidence that they were ever at the location.

How could their information have been so wrong?

Dishes in the sink, cigarettes in an ashtray, sparse thrift store furniture, and empty liquor bottles were the only remnants of anyone living in the house. Closets and cupboards were empty. The beds did not look slept in recently.

Who did these guys work for?

These thoughts plagued Emily as she moved closer to the TV. The regular program was interrupted by a news report.

It read across the bottom of the screen in bold letters: Breaking News from Washington DC as FBI Bomb Squad searches a local city bus.   

The story unfolding caught Emily’s immediate attention. She watched as video clips showed different angles of the bus, bomb squad techs, bystanders, a young anxious teenager, and an agitated FBI Agent talking with another agent.

Emily holstered her weapon. She saw the TV remote on the coffee table, snatched it up, and quickly activated the sound.

A field reporter interrupted the chaos and narrated with a cheerful voice, “As you can see behind me that the DC Bomb Squad has been called in to investigate an allegedly suspicious briefcase that had been left on the city bus, but we have been informed that there was no bomb and no indication of a terrorist threat.”

The young dark-haired reporter pressed her earpiece firmly with her fingers and listened for a moment, her eyes wide. She continued, “Our news station has just received an update from an anonymous source that the briefcase has possibly a connection to two teenage girls that went missing from San Jose, California three days ago. We do not have the girl’s names at this time, nor do we know if they are connected in any way to the briefcase on the bus. We will keep you informed as new information becomes available.”

Emily’s heart pounded as she listened to the reporter.

It had to be a mistake or a joke.

She and Rick had been covertly searching for Maya Reynolds, 15, and Sydney Atherton, 14, who disappeared from a mall in San Jose, California three days ago. Their investigation and solid leads brought them to this property in Iowa where there was no sign of the girls.

Emily felt anxiety rise from her core and it made it difficult to breathe—the restriction made her slightly dizzy.

She tossed the remote and retreated from the house to meet Rick. They had to leave the property as soon as possible.

It wasn’t just a dead end in the investigation—it was a possible trap and they walked right into the middle of it.

Monday, December 21, 2015


                                               Chapter 7: Nick Bracco


They cleared an entire city block while the bomb squad sent a robot onto the bus.  Nick spent most of his time interviewing the one kid who remained until the final stop, while Matt interviewed the bus driver.  The kid was suspicious of everything Nick asked and wanted to lawyer up until Nick convinced the youngster he didn’t care if he was carrying drugs or weapons.  Nick would not ask to search his backpack under any circumstance.

 “I wasn’t doing nothing wrong,” the boy said with conviction.

 “We know,” Nick said, kneeling down next to the boy while he sat under the shade of a tree.  “There was a very bad man on that bus and that’s who we’re chasing.  It’s very important that you tell me everything you can about him.”

 “Which one?”

 “The dark-haired guy who got on the bus at 4th street.  He was carrying a briefcase.”

 The was recognition on the kid’s face.  “You mean the guy who got on the bus and the left?”


“Is that what he did.  Did he come onto the bus and leave before the bus took off?”

 “Yeah, he acted like he’d forgotten something and got off right away.”

 “Did you happen to notice him carrying a briefcase?”

 The boy seemed relaxed now that he was convinced the conversation wasn’t about him.  “Man, I do remember the dude walking past me with a briefcase, but now that you mention it, I don’t remember him leaving with it.  Is that important?”


 The kid looked over Nick’s shoulder at the bomb squad technicians wearing their protective gear.  Oversized Kevlar with titanium shields.  He said, “Is that what they’re looking at right now?  Did he leave a bomb on the bus?”

 “That’s a possibility, yes.”

 “Aw, dude, I had no idea.  I would’ve kept closer attention.”

 A beefy bomb technician wearing a bulky blast suit stiff-legged his way over to Nick.  When he was a few feet away, he removed his full-face helmet and said, “The bus is clear, Agent Bracco.  There’s no bomb inside the briefcase.”

 “Whoa,” said the kid.  “That’s good.”

 “So what’s inside the briefcase?” Nick asked.

 The bomb tech handed Nick a slip of paper.

 Nick opened the paper and read the note:

 I know where Stone’s missing girls are.


Thursday, December 17, 2015


Chapter 6 – Emily Stone

The increasing fatigue travelled down her arms as Emily gripped the gun.
She anticipated the assault.
The heavy gunfire ceased with only a small spray of bullets in several directions around her before it stopped completely. The men stopped their pursuit; it appeared they reevaluated their search.
The rising humidity fought against Emily’s awareness as she quickly wiped her sweaty hands on her cargo pants. She pressed her back harder against the cool rock to steady her nerves and focus on the imminent danger.
The landscape became quiet— unnervingly quiet. The birds were silent, no wings fluttering in the trees, and the breeze ran out of energy, not a leaf moved. The only constant thing was the humidity, which remained high and invading.

Emily licked her dry lips waiting in expectation for the next heavy barrage of bullets.
She tried to readjust her headset, hoping to hear static or the sound of Rick’s voice, but she only heard silence. Daring to peek around the rock formation, Emily eyed the trail of approach.
Where did they go?
She strained to hear any sound out of the ordinary, footsteps, crunching of leaves, winded breathing, soft conversation—anything.
What are they doing?
Still staying in a crouched position, Emily moved carefully from her location to gain a better vantage. The trees and surroundings looked normal. She stood up straight, still with her weapon directed and ready, cautiously sidestepping to move into another area away from the previous path.
She gained momentum and a confidence, hurrying down a makeshift pathway to view building location. She knew that she should continue uphill and move west to meet Rick, but her drive and concern to locate the missing girls overrode strict protocol.
Emily’s internal conversation was interrupted by shouts—first it was several men’s voices. She immediately recognized Rick’s authoritative tone. “Drop your weapons and show me your hands now!” he yelled.
Emily hurried downhill, careful not to stumble and fall. She ran as fast as she dared to in order to reach Rick. Disturbing thoughts raced through her mind of what might happen if she did not reach the location in time.
Reaching the bottom, Emily saw Rick holding one of the automatic weapons directed at the men—his shotgun lay on the ground next to him. The men were on their knees with their hands laced behind their heads.
“Rick,” Emily said breathlessly. “How’d you…”
“I had them in my sights after the alarm went off.”
Emily kept her Glock trained at the men. “Where are they?” she demanded.
The two men looked straight ahead, not moving, and ignored Emily’s question.
“I said…” she began as she confronted the first man by pushing her weapon into his face. “Where are the two girls?”
The man remained quiet.
“Em, secure them.”
“I want to know where the girls are!”
Rick lowered his tone, “Secure them and we’ll search the property before we alert authorities.”
Emily let out a breath clearly frustrated. She pulled several plastic zip ties from her cargo pant pocket and restrained the men—both wrists and ankles. She didn’t care that she pulled the ties too tight and hoped that it was uncomfortable.
“Keep an eye on them. I’m going to check this storage building.” Emily knew that the alarm was deactivated and there was no chance of a repeat of events.
Rick nodded and stood guard, taking the situation very seriously.
Emily hurried to the building. She stood at the entrance for a moment, hesitating, before she moved toward one of the tarps. 
She flung back the covering and revealed various types computer parts. It was not entire computers like laptops and desktops, but boxed parts of motherboards, internal drives, memory cards, and various controller drivers.
Emily quickly documented the inventory with her phone and personally viewed everything in the storage area. There was no sign of the missing girls or any indication that they had been there.
She returned to Rick and reported, “No sign of the girls.”
“What’s in there?” he asked. “More weapons?”
“No, computer parts, all kinds,” she stated. She watched for any reaction from the two men.
“What the hell… why are they storing computer parts in a secure building?”
Emily added, “We need to find out who is behind this and where the girls are.”

“The bigger question is what were they going to do with the computer parts and explosives?”

Monday, December 14, 2015


                                                     Chapter 5: Nick Bracco


  There were flashing red and white lights in the distance charging toward the bus.  In his peripheral vision Nick could detect unmarked sedans maneuvering around slow-moving city traffic .

                “What’s going on?” Matt asked, gripping the steering wheel with clenched fists.

                Nick was immediately on his phone.  “What’s happening,  Walt?”

                “We received an email bomb threat five minutes ago,” Walt Jackson said.  “I can’t allow innocent people to get in the way of our operation.  Go get him now.”

                Nick  put the phone down and watched a cascade of sedans with flashing lights converging on the bus.  One sedan pinched the bus toward the curb while five others surrounded the vehicle in a random display of power.  Plainclothes FBI agents jumped out of their cars with guns drawn,  crouched low and ready for the hostage situation to develop. 

                Nick and Matt hopped out of the SUV and carefully approached the bus from the door side of the transport vehicle.  The bus driver was a round figure behind the wheel  sitting still with his head on a swivel searching for the danger he knew was present.    

                Nick was close enough now to see that the only visible passenger was an African American male who stood with his arms in the air as if he were guilty and didn’t want to be shot.  He moved to the doorway of the bus and shouted, “Please don’t shoot!”

                Something was wrong.

                Nick quickly ran to the kid’s side and put his arms around the frightened teen.  “Relax,” Nick said, “no one’s going to harm you.  You’re safe.”

                “Please, I didn’t do nothing wrong,” the kid stammered.

                “We know,” Nick said, escorting the kid away from the bus.  “You’re not in trouble.”

                “You promise?”

                “I promise,” Nick said, watching Matt lead the team onto the bus, his gun out and ready.  Once the kid was far enough away from the action, Nick asked, “Who else is left on the bus?”

                The boy’s eyes were wide with anxiety, as if any wrong answer would cost him his life.  “Just me and the driver.  That’s all.”

                Something was definitely wrong.            

                Nick saw the bus driver waddle down the ramp while two agents helped him to the curb.  There were agents shouting to pedestrians to move away from the scene as Matt made quick-twitch moves inside the tight quarters of the bus, searching for the assassin. 

                Nick’s temple pounded as he watched Matt duck down, then raise up, checking under each of the seats.  Nick handed over the frightened teenager to another agent instructing him to protect the kid until Nick returned.

                That’s when Matt scurried backward toward the front of the bus, shoving a team member to move quicker  as he kept glancing over his shoulder.

                When Matt finally jumped out of the bus, he screamed, “Call the bomb squad!”

Thursday, December 10, 2015



Chapter 4 – Emily Stone

Emily’s strength dwindled from her arms as her legs weakened. Her ears buzzed with a strange hypnotic sensation. Shock and disbelief took hold of her. After realizing she held her breath, Emily immediately let out a burst of air. 

She stared at the crates and the word explosives unable to move. 

“Em?” Rick interrupted over her headset. “Emily, can you read me?”

“Yes,” she said slowly. Gaining her composure, she reported, “Negative on the girls.”

“What’s going on?” he persisted.

She hesitated for a full minute before answering.

“The building is filled with crates and heavy-duty black cases.”

Emily moved around the area to confirm that indeed the entire inventory was what it appeared – and it was.

There was a pause on Rick’s end.

“Rick, there are military weapons and explosives,” she managed to say.

“Get out now. Back track to the west side of the property and I’ll meet you there.”

“I can’t do that.”

“Get out now Em. This is not our area of expertise. I’ll forward everything to the FBI and let them handle it.”

“No,” she insisted. “I have to make sure that the girls are not being kept here. They are running out of time.”

Emily gained control of her emotions and documented the inventory with her cell phone with both photos and a quick video. She decided to treat the investigation like any other and move forward. Sending the photographs to Rick’s cell phone, she prepared to move to the next building.

“Dammit Em,” Rick’s voice responded.

Emily ignored his concern and focused on the next search. She eased back to the entrance, squeezed through the door, and carefully replaced the lock to appear engaged.

Whispering, Emily said, “I’m moving to the next building.”

Rick was silent on the other end.

Emily stopped and listened. She heard only birds chirping in the trees, but no voices or footsteps.

Daring to move, she kept her body close to the backside of the buildings and inched forward. 

The next structure had two windows on the backside. Emily moved in that direction hoping to catch a glimpse inside. She approached the windows, which were large enough to see the interior.

Standing up straight and straining her neck, Emily peered inside. More large tarps covered items around the interior. It did not appear like the same formation as the weapons shed. The farthest corners were dark. She could not ascertain if something moved or not.

Emily took a step backward and refocused her eyes. She looked inside again.

Something moved in the corner.

Without wasting any more time, Emily hurried to the door with two sliding deadbolts. She slowly flipped up the bolting mechanisms and slid both locks aside.

As she opened the large door, a screeching alarm sounded.  

Emily silently reprimanded herself for not checking for signs of alarms or infrared devices.

“I’m heading north…” was all that Emily could say before heavy static filled her ears. The connection with Rick was lost.

Shouts from the pursuing men advanced in her direction.

With no other choice, Emily ran into the wooded area heading north on the property.

Several rounds of gunfire expelled into the air like warning shots.

The alarm continued to blast.

Loud voices kept increasing in volume competing with the blaring alarm, and the men continued to close the gap between the buildings and Emily.

Emily stopped to catch her breath, trying to calm her pounding heart rate. The escape route was up hill zigzagging around overgrown trees.

Emily continued to climb to safety. Her leg muscles burned with overexertion and increasing fatigue.

The alarm abruptly stopped, leaving a strange silence for only a moment.

Gunshots rang out.  Bullets whizzed in Emily’s direction cutting through vegetation and tree branches. The firepower was no match for her Glock.

Emily knew that she wouldn’t make it to the top of the hill without being struck by at least one bullet.

             Emily dropped down and took temporary cover. She sat with her back against a large rock formation shielding her from immediate attack.
With her weapon drawn, she waited for her fate.

Monday, December 7, 2015



                                                               KILLER ON THE LOOSE                                                                

                                                              Chapter 3: Nick Bracco

                 Matt stayed a block behind the bus, while Nick scrutinized the passengers with his binoculars.

                “Nothing suspicious,” Nick answered Matt’s silent question.

                “Can you see him?”

                “No,” Nick said referring to Karl Saxon, the assassin they suspected was on the bus.  Saxon’s nickname was, The Ghost, so the two agents kept a sharp eye on the vehicle as if he could evaporate at any moment.

                “I don’t like it,” Matt said.  “He must know we’re following him.  Why not make a move?

                After more than a decade of partnering together, Nick’s mind was rummaging through the same exact thought.  “Maybe he’s preparing to take a hostage and wants the bus to thin out first.  Less people to control.”

                “Yeah,” Matt said, gripping the steering wheel with clenched fists.  “But the longer we wait, the more time he has to prepare for us.

                The thumping sound of a helicopter became too conspicuous and Matt stretched forward over the dashboard.  “Tell Lincoln to get the chopper out of here.  I don’t want Saxon to spook.  The less hostages, the better.”

                Nick called Agent Jack Lincoln to instruct him bring the chopper to a higher elevation, but continue his surveillance.  When Nick placed the phone back on his lap and looked through the binoculars, he said, “As far as I can tell there’s only seven passengers left.”

                They were still on Pennsylvania Avenue, just before the White House and watched the bus make a left turn to head back south where they had begun.  At the first light the bus pulled over at a stop and Matt crept toward the curb to double-park.  Nick almost jumped from his seat when the car behind them honked the horn.  Matt opened his window and waved his arm to encourage the driver to go around, but there was already a line of cars too close for the driver to negotiate the turn. 

                Another long honk.

                Nick could feet his temple pulsate with pressure.  He opened the car door.

                “Hey,” Matt said.

                “I’ll be right back,” Nick said, then jumped out and stomped over to the car behind them.  The driver was a young male with a buzz cut and a gold earring pierced through his lower lip.  Nick went over to his window and slammed his FBI credentials up against the glass so hard he thought it might break. 

                The guy’s eyes widened.

                “Get out of here!” Nick shouted.

                The guy jammed his gear into reverse and slowly rolled backward, causing the rest of the cars behind him to do the same. 

                Meanwhile Nick moved behind the SUV for protection and scrutinized each passenger as they exited the bus, his fingertips lingering on the grip of his gun.  There was a woman with two children.  A businessman.  A young kid with red headphones dangling around his neck.

                The bus began to pull out into traffic and Nick hopped back into SUV.  When he shut the door behind him, Matt said, “There’s two left.”

                Nick scanned the interior of the bus with the binoculars.  “This isn’t good.  I’m getting backup.”

                Matt glanced down at the bus route displayed on his phone sitting on the console.  “There’s one stop left on the route.  Have Walt bring the crew to 14th and Constitution.”

                Nick made the call, then returned his attention to the bus, examining the pedestrian traffic to assess the risk involved with the imminent confrontation.  His head began to pound as he withdrew his pistol and examined his chamber with a quick slide out and snap back into place.

                “You getting ready for a shootout?” Matt asked.


                “Well don’t, you’re scaring me.”

                “What, you think I’m trigger happy?” Nick asked putting the binoculars to his eyes. 

                “No I think you’re target challenged.”

                “Very funny.”

                “I’m serious.”

                “I miss a target by three inches and right away I’m target challenged.”

                Matt looked over at him.  “You were twenty feet away when I had—”

                “Stop,” Nick said, squinting through his binoculars now.  “Something’s happening.”

Thursday, December 3, 2015


Chapter 2 – Emily Stone

Emily Stone deliberately slid down the rocky hillside and cautiously approached the house.  The heat and humidity of the summer bore down on her. The dense trees on the large 200-acre homestead made for a convenient camouflage as she approached the first building. 
She checked to make sure that her Glock and Beretta were still secured in her hip and ankle holsters.  
Adjusting the listening device, she whispered, “Rick, you read me?”
“What took so long?” he replied.
Ignoring his irritated response she stated, “I’m at the first storage building on the west side of the property.”
“I don’t need to remind you of our protocol?” he pushed.
“Of course not.”
“And?” he curtly interrupted.
Emily could hear the growing tension in his voice, and could imagine his usual dark stare and clenched jaw.  “Just locate and observe,” she sighed.  
Of course, she knew the protocol.  They had tracked serial killers and abductors on many occasions, all with covert anonymity and shadowing of law enforcement. 
Their search and investigation brought them to the rural location near Mason City, Iowa to find the three missing girls taken from a suburban neighborhood in California. 
Footsteps approached.

“10-3,” Emily whispered, alerting Rick to radio silence.    
She moved stealthily away from the building, deeper into the wooded area.
Voices ensued and the words became clearer.
Emily strained to hear the conversation, but realized that they were speaking another language – nothing that she had heard before. 
She crouched low and tucked herself completely out of view. 
Retrieving her cell phone from her pocket, she pressed the recording app and held it in the direction of the unknown men, hoping to catch some of their dialogue for later translation. 
The two men talked excitedly in their foreign dialect with a few interjected English words.  They stopped at the front of building.
A cigarette butt landed on the ground near Emily, still smoldering before it eventually extinguished. 
Emily leaned forward and craned her neck to get a look at the men.  They were dark-haired, one with a beard, and both were dressed in casual dark kakis and t-shirts.  One man carried an automatic rifle, while the other had a large hunting knife sheathed on his right hip.
Several times Emily heard the English letters “DC” and word “train” or “trainer”.
The shorter man unlocked the large doors, swung them open, and disappeared inside for a couple of minutes.
It remained quiet.  No conversation, no movement, it was as if everything had stopped.
When the man finally returned, he seemed agitated swinging his weapon erratically as he spoke.  After engaging the padlock, both men left.
  Emily waited for a few more minutes until she could not hear the conversation between the men anymore. 
She updated her partner, “Two suspects, one AK-47, one hunting knife, heading east in your direction toward the main house.” 
“I can see them.  Two suspects,” responded Rick.
“I’m checking the building now.”
“Copy that,” he replied.
Emily emerged from her hiding place, taking a moment to survey her surroundings for traps or possibly another suspect.  She eased forward and noted there were no windows located anywhere on the building, nothing to give her an idea what was inside.
The small padlock was secured, but not impossible to break.
Emily searched around the area and found wooden boards from an old fence discarded in a neat pile.  She dug deeper, but kept alert.
“Em,” her earpiece crackled.
There were nails and pieces of wire hiding beneath the old fencing.
“Em?” Rick said again.
She had almost given up her search when she spotted a piece of steel resembling some type of rebar.
“What?” she stressfully whispered.
“I’m getting ready to break the lock and look inside, out.”
She knew that Rick worried about her safety, and he had told her on countless occasions that she took too many risks. 
The risks during the search for missing children were necessary.
She took the metal bar and inserted it into the lock at an angle, taking the extra precaution to make it as quiet as possible.  Leveraging the bar, Emily used all of her strength to break the lock, but it wouldn’t budge.
She took a step back.  It would have been much easier to shoot the lock off, but she would have had only seconds to escape the barrage of bullets.  The men’s firepower was no match for her.
With determination, she sucked in a breath and forced the bar downward. 
The padlock finally snapped, released, and fell to the ground.
Emily stood still, body rigid, listening, and half expecting an alarm to sound.
She then carefully opened the door barely wide enough to slip inside.
Large tarps covered the majority of the area, the shapes underneath appeared symmetrical and about six feet high.  Emily’s eyes adjusted to the dim lighting as she grabbed one of the corners of a white tarp and flipped it up.
Her skin prickled turning icy despite the mugginess.
Approximately 25 large wooden crates along with several heavy black plastic suitcases were exposed. 

Emily had never seen anything like it in any of her searches, but the symbols on the sides of the crates were unmistakable.  The containers held military weapons and explosives.


Sunday, November 29, 2015


Breaking News: I'm very excited to announce a collaboration with Award-Winning author Jennifer Chase. Each Monday I will post a Nick Bracco chapter and each Thursday I will post the Emily Stone chapter from Jennifer Chase. Please check out Jennifer's webpage:                                             

                                            Killer on the Loose

                                        Chapter 1: Nick Bracco  

                “Is it him?” FBI Agent Nick Bracco asked.
                His partner, Matt McColm, craned his head forward and squinted through the powerful binoculars at the man sitting on the bus stop bench with a briefcase on his lap.  They were on the third floor of the FBI’s Washington DC Field Office when Nick thought he spotted a familiar face below them.
                Matt pulled the binoculars down and turned away from the window with a confused expression.  “How?”
                Nick shrugged.  “I thought you killed him in Cairo?” he said to the FBI’s three time sharpshooting champion.
                “I did.  He was three hundred yards away and I had a perfect angle.”
                Nick stared out the window and noticed a bus approaching the bus stop.  He grabbed Matt’s arm and said, “Let’s go.”
                They ran into the stairwell and scrambled down the stairs two and three steps at a time, Nick’s head pounding with the thought another threat this close to home.
                “What’s he doing in DC?” Matt’s voice echoed off the cement walls.
                “No idea.”
                “And what’s in the briefcase?”
                “That’s what I’m worried about.”
                They ran down the stairwell toward the front door and two agents in the reception area immediately ran up and asked if they needed support.
                “Yes!” Matt shouted.  “It’s a Redball on the bus stop across the street.”
                The two agents followed them out the front door into the bright sunlight and the muggy summer heat.  As they ran to the curb, the bus was pulling away from its stop. 
                Nick stared at the empty bench.  “Shit.”
                Matt looked at the other two agents and said, “Get a bird in the air, quickly. ”
                The two agents hustled back into the federal building while Nick examined the numbers on the back of the bus.  “That goes down Pennsylvania Avenue.”
                Matt began to run toward the underground parking garage and glanced back at his partner.  “C’mon.”
                “No,” Nick said, beginning to jog across the street.  “You get the car and I’m going to try to stay close on the sidewalk.  Pick me up along the way.”
                Matt sprinted down the street, while Nick negotiated the traffic with quick bursts of speed and a couple of hip checks around slow-moving vehicles.  He ran onto the sidewalk and tried desperately to track the bus which was already a couple of blocks ahead of him.  He needed help from a stoplight or passing police car.  Something that could give him hope.
                 But when the bus turned down Pennsylvania Avenue and began pulling away, he slowed to a jog.  The heat, the humidity, the years of chasing criminals, everything conspired to work against him.  Nick was bent over catching his breath when he heard a horn and saw Matt’s SUV in the right lane with his partner waving for him to get in.
                Nick jumped into the black Explorer and slammed his door shut.  He leaned back against the headrest.  “What’s he doing on a bus?”
                “With a briefcase?” Matt said, pulling into traffic and flipping the emergency lights on the grill.
                “Well,” Nick said, “the good news is he’s an assassin, not a suicide bomber.  Whatever’s inside that case probably isn’t a bomb.”
                “Good call,” Matt said, accelerating into the middle lane for turns and flying around a group of cars waiting at a light.  He jammed on the brakes momentarily until he saw it was clear, then quickly sped through the intersection. 
                “There it is,” Nick said, pointing to a distant bus just as Matt pulled around a large panel truck.
                Matt’s heavy right foot found more speed as he urged the cars ahead of him to move.
                Matt jerked the steering wheel from side to side while Nick grabbed onto the safety bar and braced himself with his feet against the floorboard.  “I’d like to be alive when we catch that bus.”
                “Don’t get greedy.”
                As Matt rushed along the left lane, Nick grabbed his arm.  “Hold on a minute.  If he spots us we’ll turn this into a hostage situation.  We need to wait him out.”
                “Too risky,” Matt said, still rocking the SUV between lanes.  “We can’t afford to lose him.”
                Nick flicked off the emergency lights.  “Slow down, buddy.  We’ve got time on our side.  He won’t get away.”
                Matt pursed his lips, then pulled his foot off the accelerator.  “If you’re wrong about this—”
                “It’ll be a first.”
                Matt grinned.  Over a decade of partnering allowed Nick the freedom to call the shots.  “Okay, but you’d better get on the phone and tell Walt what’s going on.  And to keep everyone out of the area.”

                Nick pushed a button on his phone, then put it to his ear.  “Because I’ve got the cowboy with me.  What could possibly go wrong?”