Out of the Blue
By The Sentinel
Where was he? She peered around the edge of the old, brick building, searching the direction from whence she had come. Jack had been right behind her. God, I hope nothing's happened to him. Sighing, she leaned her head against the cold wall and closed her eyes, trying to catch her breath. They had been running for, at least, the last twenty minutes and now, it appeared as though she had lost Jack, and Munch. Great. Out here alone with some crazy maniac on the loose.
"Jesus!" she cried, jumping at the sound to her left. "Jack," she sighed, "don't do that!" She slid along the wall to stand next to him, then slapped him on the chest.
"Sorry. You seen Munch?"
"No. Thought you were gone for a minute."
Jack peered around the corner, then turned back to her. "Abbie, we can't keep running like this." He looked at her again. "Okay, maybe you can, but me? No way." Leaning heavily against the wall, he rested his hands on his knees, hunched forward, breathing hard. Going to the gym was one thing, but running at full gallop from a murdering maniac, that was something else altogether.
"Jack, why is that guy chasing us anyway?" Abbie asked, her eyes narrowed in anger.
"Don't know. Think we might have pissed off the wrong person one-too-many times?"
"Not funny, Jack."
"Sorry. I wasn't really being funny. Seriously. Who have we really set-off lately?" He straightened and leaned his head against the wall, watching Abbie check around the building again.
She shrugged. "I don't know." Eyeing him with concern, she placed a hand on his shoulder. "Jack, you all right?"
His eyebrows twitched up a bit. "Yeah. Just need to catch my breath."
"We need to find someplace to stay. It's getting dark."
"Guess we could stay here." He hitched a thumb over his shoulder, indicating the building at his back.
Abbie screwed her face. "Are you sure that's a good idea, Jack?"
"You see anywhere else we could go?" he asked, waving a hand across the open expanse beyond the few trees growing, seemingly out of the side of the ramshackle building.
Conceding his point, she put an arm around his waist and guided him to the busted out door of the small shelter. She took a good look around, eyeing the corners, what she could see of them, for rodents and snakes and other potentially harmful critters that might have made this shack their home. Satisfied nothing too dangerous would meet them, she led Jack inside, settling against the same wall as the door, near the corner. Jack was still breathing hard and she was afraid something might be seriously wrong.
"Jack, you sure you're okay?"
"Yeah, Abbie. I'm fine. Don't suppose we have any water?"
Abbie screwed her face. "Sorry. I wasn't prepared for a jog through the woods. My purse is back at the car. Wherever that is."
Jack sighed. "Yeah. Me neither. And I don't carry a purse."
Abbie laughed. How he was able to make jokes in a situation like this, she would never know. Maybe he was trying not to focus on the possibility that Munch had not made it, or that they might not make it either.
John pressed his back hard against the tree, listening to the sounds of the footsteps pounding toward him. Waiting, patiently, but with his heart pounding so hard, he was sure it would jump from his throat. This can't be good, he thought. He held his breath as the footsteps neared, then passed. A few moments passed while he made sure the pursuer was gone and he exhaled.
Slowly, he moved to peer around the tree, into the distance in all directions. Nothing but trees for as far as he could see, trees and the approaching darkness of night. Shelter was becoming a concern; soon food and water would follow.
Numerous questions and thoughts began to float through his mind: Where are Jack and Abbie? Are they okay? Are they dead? Have they found shelter? Am I going to die? Is that lunatic coming back? I need a drink.
This was turning out to be the strangest case he had ever worked. It started out as a simple rape/homicide; which does not really sound so simple on the surface, more like a 'typical' case for he and his partner, Fin. Anyway, Fin had run off to investigate something and he was going to talk to the DA about the case, but, on his way, he bumped into Lennie Briscoe, who told him about a homicide the 2-7 had come across that morning. Talking, he figured that Briscoe's homicide was very similar to his and Fin's case. Briscoe suggested he talk to McCoy about it, after a brief meeting with the lieutenant about merging the cases. That had gone well -- Van Buren was all for anything which would get a case solved -- so, off to McCoy they went. The man was not in his office, so he and Briscoe wandered out to get lunch. Leaving the diner, they bumped right smack into McCoy and his partner, Abigail Carmichael, and told them about the new cases.
McCoy had suggested going back to his office, but John was tired of walking around and just wanted to know what the DA wanted him and Briscoe to do. "Find the killer, Detective Munch," was McCoy's response. Lots of help that was.
So, how does all of that lead to being stuck behind a tree, quivering in his shoes, clinging to said tree, hoping a madman does not find him and kill him? After that little talk with the DA, Briscoe said he was going to talk to a snitch about a possible lead and disappeared, and no sooner had Briscoe crossed the street, did several shots ring past the ears of the two DA's and the detective. Ordinarily a 'duck-and-cover' approach would have been sufficient to avoid the gunfire, but not in this case. The gunman began a pursuit; unfortunately the vehicles were too far away for them to use as a means of escape. So, running was the only viable option.
How fast and how far he had run, he could not determine, even if he really wanted to; all he knew was that staying here at this tree was a bad idea. That lunatic would be back and he needed a good place to hide.
He still was not sure how he had been separated from Abbie and McCoy. One minute, they were just in front of him, then shots rang out again and they all took cover. When he emerged, the two attorneys were nowhere to be seen and the lunatic was circling back to his location. The only thought in his mind then was 'Run! Now!' and he did.
"Jack, you think anyone's looking for us? Or wondering where we are?" Abbie asked, leaning against his shoulder.
He shrugged. "I don't know. How long have we been gone?"
Abbie strained to see her watch in the faint light that was the end of the evening. "About three hours."
"Well, Adam might be a little concerned. Judge Rivera might have a bone or two to pick. We were supposed to have opening statements today on the Mansfield case."
"Guess we got a continuance, huh?"
Jack laughed. "Guess so." A heavy sigh escaped and he closed his eyes. "I'm going to sleep."
"You sure you're okay, Jack?" she asked, concerned.
"Yeah. Just tired."
"Sleep, Jack. I'll keep watch."
He nodded and mumbled something she could not understand. Gently, she stroked back his hair with her hand and leaned her head against his shoulder again, keeping one eye focused on the doorway.
Munch. God, where was he? She could not even remember how they had been separated. It must have been during the second round of shots. Whoever was after them was either very determined or completely off his rocker. She was betting on the latter, though either way, they could all still end up dead. She hoped he was all right.
And speaking of where - where exactly were they? She knew they were no longer in the city - that sly trip on the subway and the hitched ride on a bus across the bridge had seen to that. But, somehow, the lunatic had followed them. Had he been on the bus with them? Or was he so sadistic as to have planned the entire thing and meant for them to leave the city and then be separated? Too many thoughts were screaming through her head, she just wanted to sleep.
Jack shifted beside her and she altered her position to better see the opening in the wall. The sun was almost set now and once night fully fell, she would need to rely on her other senses to know if anyone was near. Honing survival skills was not part of her job description. Then again, neither was being pursued by a homicidal maniac.
Sitting in a tree, trying to sleep is not what he had had in mind when he left for work this morning, but somehow, John was managing. A knot in the branch was pressing painfully into his left leg, but he dealt with the pain, favoring that over potentially attracting unwanted attention.
He stiffened at the sound of something passing by beneath him. Leaves crunched and twigs snapped. Whatever it was, it was large. John tried to tell himself it was just a woodland creature creeping around, searching for food, and not a man looking for a cop to kill. Holding his breath, he waited for the creature to pass, but it seemed to stop at the base of the tree.
John's heart was pounding in his chest, his palms were sweating, slipping on the branch. He was not ready to die, not now. He willed himself to stay in the tree, closing his eyes and praying the creature below was not there to kill him. Ears focused, he listened to the sounds around him. All the sounds and noises seemed louder than natural, everything but what was happening on the ground immediately below the tree. Straining to hear or sense anything, he squeezed his eyes closed and held his breath again. Nothing.
Jack blinked, rubbing a hand over his face, pushing sleep away, and turned his head to his right, where Abbie was supposed to be, but found only empty space.
He heard a squeal from the corner and turned toward it, but his head met with something heavy and solid. Everything went blank as he fell to the ground.
Abbie tried, strained in the darkness to see what was happening to Jack. Suddenly there was a light in the center of the building, and she could see the shadowy outline of a man standing over Jack, holding a knife in one hand and a gun in the other. The eerie light flickered, casting a sickening glow over the morbid scene before her. She drew in a breath, praying this maniac would not do what she was sure he would -- kill Jack, then her.
The man raised the knife over his head and Abbie closed her eyes tight, until she was ordered, harshly, to keep them open -- she was to watch the entire 'proceeding', as he had called it. Tears staining her face, blood, her hands from digging her nails into her palms, she looked on, watching, but not seeing. This would be the hardest thing she ever had to do - watch Jack die. It might not have been so hard to watch him die had it been under less frightening circumstances, but that did not seem a possibility, unless Munch had some incredible timing.
The sun fell calmly through the breaks in the branches above him, casting a warm glow around his makeshift bed. John opened his eyes to the realization he had survived the night and was being pelted with something small and hard. One of the objects landed on his chest. Pebbles? Was it raining pebbles? He looked up, saw nothing falling from the sky, so he looked down to see....
"Hey, man. What *are* you doing in that tree?" John's partner, Fin Tutuola, asked from his pebble tossing position on the ground.
"God am I glad to see you," John stated, jumping down from the tree. "You have no idea how difficult it is to sleep up there."
"Yeah. And I don't intend to find out either. Come on. Lennie's waiting for us a few yards that way." Fin pointed off into the distance.
"Fine. Whatever. Just keep me the hell away from trees." John slapped Fin on the back. "Man, how did you find me anyway?"
Fin stuffed his hands into his pockets. "Don't know. Almost didn't though. We had *no* idea where you had gone."
John followed his partner through the gradually receding woods to a dilapidated building surrounded by officers and yellow police tape. He looked around; there were more than thirty officers; not to mention Cragen and Van Buren. What were they doing here?
"John, I don't think... well, maybe you should stay over here," Lennie Briscoe suggested.
"Why? What's going on?" John asked, trying to step around the detective.
"It's not pretty in there."
"It's a crime scene, Lennie, it's not supposed to be pretty." John pushed past Briscoe and rounded the corner.
"Detective, I don't think you should go in there," a nondescript officer stated.
John ignored him and entered the building, his eyes widening in shock. This was not happening. His fists clenched in anger, he began drawing blood, having pressed his nails hard into his palms. Fighting, he kept his legs from failing, but could not move.
"Hey, John, come on, man. Let's get you out of here." Fin put his hands on his partner's shoulders and led him into the fresh air.
"What the hell is going on, Fin?" John demanded.
"We don't know yet," Cragen stated as he approached. "We're still looking into it."
"We don't know, John."
"Was it that guy who was chasing us?"
"We don't know, John. Look, why don't you go back to the precinct and tell Fin what you know?"
"No. I'm not leaving them."
"This wasn't your fault, John," Fin declared. "There's nothing you could have done."
"I could have been here."
"Then you'd be dead too. Don't beat yourself up. You are the only witness. We need to know what you know."
"Not much," John grunted, turning and crossing to a tree, leaning against it for support.
Cragen put a hand on Fin's shoulder when he started to walk toward John. "Leave him. Let him work this out. We've got work to do."
"Yeah. Just need to keep an eye on him."
"Sure thing. Come on, let's finish this, then we'll talk to John." Cragen walked back to the building, Fin only a couple steps behind him.
Don Cragen crossed his arms over his chest, watching the questioning session of his detective through the observation mirror. Munch had been through a great deal in just under 72 hours.
"John, is there anything else you can tell us?" Tutuola asked his partner.
Munch shook his head. "No. You've heard everything I remember."
"Okay, John. I think we just have a couple more questions for you, then someone will take you home."
"I can get home on my own," Munch protested.
"I'm sure you can, but there's still the chance that whoever did this is still out there looking for you," Tutuola countered.
"Whatever." Munch leaned back in the chair, arms crossed over his chest, and closed his eyes.
Don turned toward the man who had entered the observation room. "Hi, Lennie, what's up?"
Briscoe frowned as he peered through the mirror. "Not much really."
"So, what ya got?"
"Nothing. Munch's description was great. We know who we're looking for. Problem is, we can't find him."
"Two members of the DA's office are dead, Lennie. We have to do something."
"We are. Don't worry. Every available man is on the hunt. Ms. Lewin has even suggested asking the local FBI fellas to help out. This is one hell of a case, Don."
Don nodded solemnly. "I know, Lennie."
"We'll get him. No matter what it takes. We'll get him."
"I hope so," Don stated as Briscoe left the observation room.