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STRATAGEM Chapter 7

STRATAGEM by Joshua Graham

PREVIOUS CHAPTER

SEVEN

NYPD 33rd Precinct
Washington Heights, New York

“YOU’RE MAKING A HUGE MISTAKE!” Derek shouted at the one-way mirror in the interrogation room. To his left, the blinds covered the window, its entire frame caged in by a metal grid fixed with a padlock. The silver-painted radiator looked like it had seen its final days in the last century, and some of the black lockers next to it had missing doors. “You can’t just hold me here all day.”

“Wrong,” the cold female voice said over the intercom. “Based on what you’re suspected of, we can hold you up to ninety-six ho

urs, and up to fourteen days if the Terrorism Act applies.”

“Terror—are you out of your mind?” What had they done with Paige and Hulk? She must be scared and confused. “Is Paige all right? You have someone taking care of her?”

“We’re going to start with some questions in just a minute. Sit tight.”

He looked at the handcuffs, the chain, and scoffed. “Right.” There was no time for this nonsense. He hadn’t committed any crime. Did they have any idea what was going on, the danger everyone was in?

Finally, the door opened. In walked a woman and a man, the former appeared to have been bestowed with a congenital scowl. With her partner standing behind her in at the mirror, she swung the chair on the other side of the desk around straddled it, and tossed a manila file folder onto the desk.

“Mister Stone,” she said. “It’s not looking good for you.”

“I didn’t do anything,” he said. “Why won’t anyone let me explain?”

“Your arresting officer was doing you a favor advising you not to speak.” She shrugged. “I, on the other hand, can’t wait to hear your story.”

“It’s not a story, you have to believe me.”

“Hold on,” she said, opened the folder, and thumbed through the photos. She slid the one with the dead officer over for him to see. “I just want to make sure you understand why you’re here.”

Derek took a deep breath.

Unreal.

“Come on, you know I didn’t kill those cops.”

“You were driving their vehicle—a stolen vehicle—you had a child…”

“I had to get Paige to safety, whatever killed those cops—”

“Murder, kidnapping a minor, first degree GTA…that’s just what I’m seeing here. The Feds? Well, that’s a whole ‘nother ball of wax.”

“Do you not have a clue what’s going on in the city? All the dead people at Mt. Sinai? The plane crash? The building collapses and explosions, all the missing people!”

She got up and got right into his face. “You think you’re building an insanity plea right now? It’s pathetic! You’d better start cooperating or it’s going to start getting really unpleasant!”

Start getting unpleasant?” Derek said, unable to hold back an incredulous laugh.

Her eyes and nostrils flared. She raised a hand as though she was about to backhand him across the face. But her partner came over and put himself between them. “Hey, hey…take it easy Rodriquez. We don’t want a repeat of the Landers case now, do we?”

She glared at him for two long seconds.

Finally, she exhaled a sharp breath, stormed out the door and slammed it shut.

The male detective waited two seconds, the relaxed his posture. “Okay…First: I’m detective Meyer.” He went over to the coffee machine in the corner, poured a cup and brought it over to Derek and sat at the desk with him. “Here ya go.”

“Seriously?” Derek nodded to the coffee. “Good cop/bad cop?”

Meyer raised his brow.

“Shouldn’t I have a lawyer?” Derek said.

“That’s certainly your right,” Meyer replied. “But honestly? Let me help you out here. It’ll look a lot better if you just stick with the truth—which I’m sure you’re going to tell me, right?”

“Of course.”

Meyer smiled. “Oh, and you’ll have to excuse my partner. She’s going through a rough time right now—custody battle with her ex. She’s kinda pissed these days.”

“I’ll bet,” Derek said, not even trying to conceal his skepticism. “Listen, Detective Meyer, I’m sorry I took that car, but it was the only means of escape. You do know what’s been happening out there, don’t you?”

“What I know is two police officers are dead, and you were found driving their car with a child.”

“I was helping her.”

“She’s not your child.”

“No.”

“So where are her par—?” he stopped himself and recalibrated. “Let’s start with the two dead cops. Tell me what happened.”

“We—”

“Who’s ‘we?’” Meyer said.

“Paige and I were getting away from Mount Sinai, looking for help. I saw the driving over and flagged them down.”

Meyer took a memo pad out from the manila folder and started writing. “Getting away…Mount Sinai.” He looked up. “What help did you need?”

“It was coming. We couldn’t get away on foot.”

“What was coming?”

Oh, crap. How was he going to describe, much less explain all this? “I don’t know, it was like a wave of destruction, death…”

Meyer scoffed. “Sounds apocalyptic.”

“Are you mocking me? Because if you are…”

“Sorry,” he snorted. “Go on.”

Derek narrowed his eyes at him. This bozo was just trying to trip him up. His only recourse now was to answer carefully in a way that wouldn’t even appear to contradict the facts. “Just as the officers arrived, they got out of the car, and well…they just collapsed. I checked on one of them—that’s all the time I had—and he had no pulse.”

“So you just left them to die?”

“You don’t understand, it was coming!”

What exactly was coming?”

Derek’s mouth went dry. His heart pounded so hard it felt like it would burst. “You know, what happened at Central Park, my apartment building on 108th, Saint John the Divines! How can you be so clueless!”

When had he stood up? When had he slammed his cuffed fists onto the desk? Derek found his hands, his clenched jaw, his entire body trembling.

And Meyer just sat there observing him like he was an insect specimen in a jar. “One thing I do know: You’re connected to all those events.”

“No, dammit! I was fleeing from them. Can’t you even—?”

“All right, tell me about Paige.” Meyer’s voice suddenly went cold. Goodbye, good cop.

Derek sat back down, collected himself though he’d probably just screwed himself over. “I found her.”

“Where?”

“Central Park West, near 108th.”

“Where are her parents?”

Drawing a shaky breath, Derek looked down at the table. “They’re both…dead.”

“What happened to them?”

“How should I know? I just found them outside of their car, dead… I mean, dying—not in that order. Anyway, Paige was inside having some kind of seizure, so I drove her over to the ER.”

“In a stolen vehicle.” He pulled out a picture of the white BMW with its plates in the back. “Mister Storm—Derek. How about I call you Derek? That make you feel more comfortable?”

“Whatever.”

“I’m seeing a pattern of murdered people, stolen vehicles, abducted children and the destruction of property in your wake. Now, if you cooperate and tell me what you did, I’ll make sure they keep this out of federal court where they’ll definitely charge you with acts of terrorism.”

“You’re insane. I’m no terrorist.”

“Confess, and I’ll recommend that the DA not seek the death penalty.”

“New York abolished the Death Penalty in 2007.”

“The Feds can and will seek it. And believe me, they’ll get it.”

“This can’t be happening.” Derek’s head started to spin.

“I’m trying to make it easier for you,” Meyer said. “But I’m running out of patience, and you’re running out of time.”

Derek rested his head in his fists. “What happened to all those people on the Upper West Side, at the ER?”

“I was hoping you’d tell me.” Meyer stood, gathered all the papers and photos, picked up the coffee cup and dumped in the trash. “However, I can see you’re determined to make my day harder.” He went over to the door and opened it.

“Wait!” Derek looked up. “I haven’t had my phone call—I want a lawyer!”

“Think about what you’ve done. If you change your mind about helping, we’ll talk.” The door slammed behind him.

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Joshua Graham is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, winner of the International Book Award and Forward National Literature Award. His thrillers include DARKROOM, LATENT IMAGE and BEYOND JUSTICE, and TERMINUS. Graham's works have been characterized as thought-provoking page-turners.

Legal Notice: All information on this website and blog are from Mr. Graham's personal experience and insight and should not be viewed in any way, directly or inferred, as qualified professional advice.

All creative writing on this website or Mr. Graham's books: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. (novels, short stories)

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