...3:10 A.M., PST...
He continued going up. Karl had prevailed and they were after him in earnest. With Leland dead, they had control. His leg muscles were cramping from the effort of compensating for his feet. He was trying to keep himself pumped up. A cop did it automatically, just trying to remember what he'd been taught, but when the fun was into its eighth hour, the problem became more complicated. Wisecracking didn't work when you had to keep your mouth shut. He'd already thought of the 310. In the twentieth century, when relationships fail, you console yourself with things. It never went anywhere, but he wanted to think about Karen again. He wanted to remember her. One small part of him refused to understand that she would have died anyway, even if they had been able to find a way to live together successfully.
He was going to try to get to the roof — if he could get there before they cut him in half. He wanted to think they were going slowly out of caution, but there was little reason for it. They knew he was hurt. If he could get to the roof, he would tell Hollenbeck. Maybe the police would be able to take advantage of the situation and get into the building.
He heard a door open below him, not too far down, either. He was between the thirty-ninth and fortieth floors, and he still had to get around to the staircase to the roof. Wait a minute!Hollenbeck on the radio? Maybe Robinson was somewhere else because the police were planning another assault. They had picked up the German transmissions and somehow understood their meanings. Maybe he was going to get a break! Hey! Hey!He wanted to shout it out loud.
He could hear footsteps, shoes on the gritty concrete. He couldn't be sure if he could be heard in return. He was even trying to breathe quietly. If the guy got much closer, Leland was going to shoot down the stairs and try to get him on the ricochet. They had almost gotten him that way when he'd dropped the chair-bomb into the elevator shaft.
He was beginning to lose track of what he'd done. Skeezix making a hit on Wilshire Boulevard. The girl at the safe. The one he'd mailed back to them, sitting in the elevator. That was the first. And the guy at the window, who didn't fall for the gobble-gobble trick, but fell for it anyway, and told Leland something about the explosive. A long night. And nobody to bill for overtime.
Leland remembered that he had an arms cache on the roof — Skeezix's automatic rifle and his kit bag of ammunition. Sure, altogether, almost one hundred and thirty rounds. In the right position, it was enough to hold them off indefinitely.
He hurried out onto the fortieth floor, using the wall for support. The latch clicked audibly when he released the knob. He had to hurry. He couldn't be sure that the other person would understand the sound or accept it for what it was, instead of a trap. He had another advantage: he knew the route around to the roof staircase. They had shot up this area, too. He had to be ready. He had come this far. He wanted to go the rest of the way. He had made a hell of a contribution already. When the sun came up, the world would see that they weren't as clever, or invincible, as they were trying to tell themselves and anyone who would listen. One human being had stood up to them. That's all it took. That's what they always said. He was one human being, and everything was different because of him.
The staircase door slammed behind him. He had to run — he started skipping, lost his balance, and fell against a desk. Somebody squeezed off single shots, and he could hear glass breaking. Returning the fire would only give away his position. How many more offices did he have to go through before he reached the hall to the staircase? Two, three? Now two.
From very far below came the sound of more gunfire, the heavy automatic weapons of the gang. Good! The lights of the hall were on, but he had to take the chance. As he headed down the hall, he heard a girl giggling behind him. He stopped.
"Drop the gun, please."
"Now turn around."
It was a little blonde girl in fatigues too big for her, holding an automatic with both hands. Her eyes widened when she saw the badge. "You are a policeman? Where are the detonators? Quick, tell me."
"On the roof."
"Ah, yes, I see. With two fingers only, please, remove the pistol."
He held it out for her. She dropped it in her kit bag. "Now tell me where on the roof."
"You have to go around to the right. There's a staircase up to the elevator tower and an aluminum box opposite..."
She waggled the pistol. "Show me."
He opened the door. She stayed behind him as they went up the stairs. All but a few of the fluorescent bulbs were gone. Mistake number one. He didn't know what the hell he was going to do when they got to Skeezix's gun. She was being too careful. He wasn't going to get anywhere near it.
"This is really too bad," she said. "You seemed to enjoy killing so much. But you are really only a trained dog. You destroy the building in order to save it."
"Honey, I don't give a flying fuck about the building." He was at the top of the stairs. "I have to open the door."
"Just a moment." He heard the click of her radio switch. She spoke at some length in German. Little Tony answered and then she said, "Nein, nein," like a woman telling a man she didn't need his help. Leland was beginning to think of something else. "Now open the door," she said.
The wind was stronger than ever, a warm, roiling gale out of the hills. The sky was clear in all directions.
"You didn't ask me why I didn't care about the building."
"Are you trying to tell me something, old man? Go on, keep moving."
"You people aren't thinking. Why didn't I just work my way down and out of the building?"
"I want to hear this. I want you to tell me everything. Now, with nothing remaining, you want to justify yourself."
"The detonators are on the other side of that box, Ursula."
"What? That's not my name..." He threw himself at her, and she shot him, once, in the left thigh. But then he was falling on her, and when the gun discharged the second time, the muzzle blast scalded his arm. She was falling, with nothing to absorb the shock. He was afraid that the gun would go off again, and he rolled to the left, away. He punched her in the face, but she tried to get the gun around, and he punched her again. She got his thumb in her mouth and bit down hard. She was trying to knee him in the groin. He grabbed her hair with his other hand and slammed her head down on the roof. She opened her mouth. He punched her again. His leg wasn't broken, thank God. He punched her three more times, and when the fight was out of her, he twisted the gun from her hand and got to his feet and shot her in the right eye. He was shaking with rage and relief and the exultation of victory. He pulled the trigger again. When the gun was empty he pulled the trigger three more times, and the last thing to pass through his mind was the notion of throwing her body off the roof, too, just to let Tony know he still had his store open. And then Leland fainted.
He didn't know how long he had been out, and the time on his watch, 3:38, wasn't much help. The bullet wound was in the flesh on the outside of his thigh, two small holes five inches apart, the exit wound almost as neat as the entry. A patch of blood the size of a pie plate glistened in the reflective light. He crawled behind the aluminum box and set up Skeezix's gun. He had the strap of his kit bag for a tourniquet, but he didn't think he would need it. More gunfire from the street.
Maybe he had been out less than a minute. This time he wasn't going to announce his continued presence. He had another thought: these people weren't getting tired. In addition to their own amphetamines, maybe they had found Ellis's cocaine, too. Assholes — they deserved each other. He had a clear view of the staircase door as well as the door leading into the elevator tower. He watched both. No surprises.
"Hannah?" someone called.
The man was coming up the stairs. He could have been close enough to hear the shots. This one would be number eight. The door was hinged to swing Leland's way.
The door started to open. Leland got down low.
The door was wide open, but no one appeared. The door started to close again, and Leland fired, slamming the door shut. He waited.
"We're going to leave you up here for now," Little Tony called. "But don't worry, we'll be back in the daylight, and then we will kill you. I will kill you myself — believe me, it will be better that way."
There was another long burst of automatic rifle fire from the street.
"Hey, my man! How are ya?"
"I'm on the roof. I think they've locked the door. I took one in the leg, but it's no big thing. Oh, yeah, scratch one more."
"You're kidding me!"
"She's lying right here beside me. Name of Hannah."
"This is the third woman. I'm almost getting used to it. What's going on down there?"
"Our German ace showed up and he's been giving us their play-by-play. We've got so many radios going down here that I didn't hear anything about women. That's really disgusting."
"Stop being old-fashioned."
"He told us that they were after you, and Robinson tried to get a diversion going. Two things: are you sure about the total number? We are very definitely on hold down here."
"It's what I heard them say. What made Robinson see the light?"
"Well, now we know who you are, man! He's still cursing you out; but at least he knows — we all do — that he's dealing with somebody who knows what he's doing. That's the second question. The German ace picked up something about you wearing a badge. What's that about?"
"It's just something I had. I put it on so you'll know me when I walk put of here."
"Well, that's what they're for. You go on wearing it. Now we got a deputy chief on the site, fully briefed and in charge. Billy Gibbs says he wishes he was covering you, by the way. Hang on." He had the "Talk" button still depressed, for Leland heard him say, "He got another one. That's seven."
"Son of a bitch." The radio went dead a moment. "Joe? Vince Crane here. We met two years ago in New Orleans."
"How are ya?" He'd been in New Orleans two years ago, but he couldn't place Crane in the huge Los Angeles delegation at that conference.
"I'm okay. I think we're going to be okay with this, thanks to you. I wouldn't want to face twelve of them. Now listen, for now, we think it a good idea to let them speak their piece. We want you to hold tight, if you can. We understand the problem, and we're taking all due care, believe me. Are you going to be all right?"
"When you send out for food, put me down for coffee and a jelly doughnut."
He laughed. "Well, you take it easy for a while. I'll give you back to Sergeant Powell."
"Hey, partner," Leland said.
"That's right, and I'm honored. You have the scam now don't you? More news for you. I was talking with Kathi Logan. She doesn't remember you at all!"
"I'll get you for that, fella."
"No, she said a whole lot of nice things about you, man. All she knows is that you're stuck in a building with some bad people. Now something else: the media are showing up and that's in a big way. They want to patch the two of you in, when they can. You lose your privacy, but it's something."
"I don't want a circus."
"It's a little late for that, kimosabe."
"I'll catch you later, Hollenbeck."
"Call me Al."
"You bet. Take care now."