"And Then They Came..." (Chapter LVIII)
Lucas had been sitting in the police captain’s office for an hour, alone.
He did not know where the rest of his group was. They had all been separated when they arrived at the Carolina Police Station, presumably to be interrogated separately.
However, Lucas had heard Montañez warn the police that he did not want anyone to be interrogated until he was present. Had he changed his mind, or had his orders been contradicted? Then again, nobody had questioned him about anything so far.
A soft knock on the door interrupted his thoughts, and then, at last, the Superintendent walked in. He was followed by a woman in her forties, and a tall, relatively young man dressed in a jacket and tie who looked very familiar to Lucas, but whom he could not immediately place. The woman was garbed in a Navy blue pants suit and a white blouse which failed to conceal her toned muscular arms and legs, and wore black, very tall high heels.
“Emilia,” the young man said. “Do you know Lucas Alfaro?”
Emilia extended her hand and shook Lucas’ with surprising strength and firmness.
“Emilia Andújar,” she said in a pleasant but deep voice, examining his face as she spoke. “I am very pleased to meet you. I have heard a great deal about you. It’s an honor.”
On the whole, she was an average looking woman, except for her penetrating, intelligent eyes. And her height, which neared six feet tall, and was accentuated even more by a short, pixy-like haircut of her very dark hair.
“Emilia Isabel is Carolina’s District Attorney, a fantastic litigator, and a great friend and colleague,” the man in the suit said.
As he finished talking, Lucas finally recognized him. It was Bobby Maldonado, the former Superintendent Maldonado's son, whom he had met briefly during his father’s funeral.
“You’re Bobby, Maldonado’s son,” Lucas blurted out before he could stop himself, smiling at him. “What are you doing here?” he asked, shaking his hand warmly. "Sorry I didn't recognize you sooner. I'm a bit tired."
Bobby laughed, gesturing with his head toward Montañez. “I don't blame you. I had asked my godfather to alert me if I could be of any help to you.”
The Superintendent confirmed Bobby’s statement with a short nod.
“You know," he said, "when I first heard about you, I suspected you were somehow involved with the terrorists, because for some strange, unknown reason, you always kept popping up where the action was. I even told Bobby’s dad about my suspicions. Except that you've always managed to spoil…No, spoil is not the right word. You've always managed to kill all or most of the terrorists that ‘happen’ to wander into your path, haven’t you?”
“Like now,” Bobby interjected.
“Like now,” Montañez confirmed. “So even though I could never understand how you've always managed to get sucked into whatever conflicts were being concocted by the terrorists, I felt really fortunate that they always involved you in their plots. Because you got results.”
The female District Attorney smiled, barely suppressing a chuckle, and stared with enjoyment at Lucas’ embarrassed expression.
“We’ve been talking with your friend, Doel Reyes, for the past hour,” she said. “He told us how you had been kidnapped by the terrorists, and how they had demanded that your brother-in-law Archie—whom they also targeted, I guess, because of his participation in the rescue of the Grand Laguna hostages last year—turn himself in or they would execute you.”
Lucas nodded, trying to look as convincing as he could.
“Archie should have warned us, instead of trying to organize a rescue operation all by himself,” Montañez said in a gentle, reproving tone. “Even though I understand the stress he was under, particularly after the terrorists claimed there is a mole in the Department. And there could be. He almost had no choice.”
“Fortunately, his plan worked,” Bobby Maldonado piped in. “Most of the terrorists were captured or wiped out.”
“A few of them escaped before we…Archie’s group, could intervene.”
“That's what Mr. Reyes…Doel, told us,” Montañez responded. “We’ve put out an APB to all the members of our force, asking them to look for a red Honda CRV. Also, we've placed additional security in the airports and ports. They’re on alert for any suspicious persons or activities. But it will be hard to find them, since we don’t have a solid idea of who they are or what they look like.”
“What will happen to us?” Lucas asked.
The female district attorney and the Superintendent exchanged a cryptical look.
“Mr. Reyes has agreed not to report anything about your rescue mission,” Montañez said curtly. “Instead, the official news will be that the police, based on an anonymous tip, were able to locate and destroy the terrorist cell. Knowing you, I don't think you will have any problem with that version of the facts, do you?"
Lucas shook his head emphatically. "None, and I'm sure my friends won't either."
"That's what I thought. The feds will take over the few survivors that...that..remained alive after the rescue…Archie’s rescue mission…For questioning and legal processing.”
Montañez had indeed allowed the local FBI to take over the prisoners, and Gumer had been ecstatic with the prospect—and with the prospect of claiming part of the credit for their arrest.
“There will be questions along the way, I’m sure,” Emilia added, raising an eyebrow, “but we’ll deal with those. I think the press will be more interested in finding out what these people were doing here, than how they were captured. Besides, we’ll argue that the safety of those who participated in the raid against the terrorists is more important than the details of the operation, and only give a few, bare boned description about what happened.”
Lucas’ eyes shifted exclusively to Montañez. “And Archie?”
“I plan to meet with him tomorrow to reprimand him and put the fear of God into him for pulling a stunt like the one that he pulled. But I’ll keep him as our press secretary. Between us, what he did was rather heroic.”
The Superintendent shook Lucas’ hand, and walked to the office’s door, followed by the female district attorney.
“Like I said, I don’t quite understand how you keep popping up in the midst of all of these terrorist plots, but I love what you do to those criminals,” Montañez stated, staring directly at Lucas without cracking a smile. “Go home. Rest. A hurricane is coming.”
“It was a pleasure knowing you,” Emilia, the district attorney, said. “I’m glad and relieved everything turned out all right.”
Montañez turned to his godson,
“You coming?” he asked him.
“Would you mind waiting just five minutes?” Bobby replied. “I’d like to speak privately with Lucas.”
Montañez hesitated, then nodded. “Emilia and I will be outside, taking care of a few loose ends.”
As the Superintendent began to leave, Lucas said, “Colonel Montañez! I mean, Mr. Police Superintendent. The ambulance that escaped shortly after we…after the the rescue party arrived in the terrorists’ property. Archie had one of his friends follow it, and the friend apparently reported where the ambulance had gone. Did anything come out of that?”
Montañez acknowledged Lucas’ statement with a nod.
“We got them. The ambulance was packed with explosives. Apparently, they were planning to use it against the police headquarters in Hato Rey, since they parked less than a half mile away from it. By the way, Archie’s friend played a prominent role in the interception of the ambulance. I’m sorry to say that he was injured, but he will recover.”
“I’m glad to hear it,” Lucas said, surprised that El Chino had been involved in the efforts to stop the terrorists. He liked the bolita boss, even though he strongly disapproved of his activities, and was relieved to learn that although injured, he would recover.
“I’ll be waiting outside,” the Superintendent repeated to his godson.
Bobby motioned with one of his hands for Lucas to sit in front of the office’s desk, and moved the chair next to it to be closer to him. He leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees.
“My godfather called me shortly after he got to the terrorist compound,” he said without any preamble. “He told me that you and several of your friends had been involved in a mini-war with the terrorists, and that many of them had been killed or wounded. Since I am a district attorney—although I work in San Juan—he asked for my help.”
Lucas said nothing, waiting for him to continue.
“I know most of the island’s other district attorneys quite well, but Emilia Isabel is a particularly good friend of mine. Hard worker, sharp attorney, but most of all, a good person. I got here, to the Carolina police station, shortly after your group did, and spoke first with Mr. Reyes who, being with the press—WKPA TV, I think it is—was probably the best equipped to describe what had happened, and give us an idea of what he was going to report…and what he would leave unsaid. He gave us the story that Emilia repeated to you a while ago, about you being kidnapped and Archie organizing a rescue.”
Lucas nodded briefly, trying to maintain a neutral face.
For a short moment, both men kept silent.
“When I first met you, during my father’s funeral, I told you that if you ever needed anything, anything that was within my power to grant, of course, I would gladly assist you.”
“I remember,” Lucas replied, smiling ruefully. “It sounded strange at the time to me.”
Bobby also smiled, clearing his throat, before proceeding.
“As a prosecutor, I’ve listened to thousands of witnesses, and sort of developed a sense of when they’re lying, making up stuff, or telling the truth. Although Mr. Reyes was pretty good at sticking to your made-up story, I could tell he was hiding information from us.”
Lucas waited for Bobby to continue, choosing to say nothing.
“For one thing, Mr. Reyes’ story was bare bones, as far as your kidnap was concerned. But then, he had a lot more detail to tell about what happened in the later stages of the fight, which tends to indicate that that part was more accurate to what really happened in the terrorist camp.”
Lucas opened his mouth to speak, but the prosecutor interrupted him with a slight wave of his hand.
“I don’t want to hear your version of what happened. The less I hear, the better it is. Instead, let me tell you what I think happened.”
Bobby took a deep breath before continuing, looking quickly at the office's door to make certain that no one was within hearing range.
“I think you somehow found out where the bad guys were hiding," he said in a lower voice. "I think you found them, or Archie, and decided that enough was enough, and that rather than risking that they would be warned by some mole in the police force, you decided to strike at them first, and destroy them. And I know that’s exactly what you did.”
“That’s your theory?” Lucas asked quietly.
“That’s my theory,” Bobby confirmed. “But of course, it's just a theory. I have no evidence to sustain it, and I’m guessing the rest of your people there—at least those we found, because it looked as if an entire army had descended upon those terrorists—will confirm Mr. Reyes’ version. So we’ll stick with Emilia Isabel's even shorter version, that the police got an anonymous tip, and dismantled the hideout.”
“Thank you,” Lucas said with apparent relief.
“No,” Bobby responded. “I want to thank you. Those people were scum. They murdered my father and your mom, along with many others. They deserved to die. So don’t worry. We have your back.”
Lucas stared with surprise at the young prosecutor. He looked a lot like his father at that moment, his eyes flickering with the hidden anger inside him, his jaw set with unshakeable determination.
Bobby shook Lucas’ hand warmly, stood up, and left without saying another word.
For a moment, Lucas wondered if he could leave. Then Archie walked in.
“Come on,” his redheaded brother-in-law said with a happy smile. “We can go now.”
Lucas exited the office, and found the remainder of the group that had been taken to the Carolina police station waiting for him: Michael, with a smug grin; Ojeda and Myers, quietly examining the man they were supposed to guard--Lucas--for signs of any injury; and Doel, smiling tiredly while looking at the busy activity in the police precinct.
There could be no better friends than these, Lucas thought.
(Chapter LIX will be posted on Thursday, November 12)