Michael “Doc” Kildare’s new glass eye was really plastic. Acrylic, to be precise. The same stuff they used for airplane windshields and storm doors. That didn’t matter. He would have hated the fucking thing if it were a diamond.
He pushed it into his vacant left eye socket.
Doc’s real left eye so deep-dark blue, so wonderfully sharp it practically had X-ray vision, had gotten shot out when he was still Sergeant-of-Detectives Kildare of the Chicago Police Department. Now, he was just an ex-cop and he sat alone in the office of Gunther Dietz, ocularist, practicing how to put his prosthesis in and take it back out again.
He felt no better with the thing in than if the surgeons had just closed the wound and sewn a button on like goddamn Little Orphan Annie.
He popped the prosthesis from the enucleated socket. Doc looked at his disfigured reflection in Gunther’s mirror and he wanted to kill somebody. Maybe himself.
The thought brought a bitter smile. What was the point of suicide when there was nobody left to care? Moving his scarred eyelids apart, he worked the prosthesis back into place again.
His shrink had told him not to dwell on it, but staring at the reflection of the plastic marble in his head he thought for the millionth time about the raid that had cost him his eye and his job.
The whole thing had started when one of his snitches, Bobby Ro, came to him with a new idea in law enforcement.
“Confidential informant credit,” Bobby said. “What do you think?”
“Confidential informant credit,” Bobby said. “What do you think?”
“What’s that? A lay-away plan for snitches?”
“Hey, Doc. Have a little respect. Lookit where I brought you.”
The two men were having drinks at Fullwell’s. It was thepriciest new bar on Rush Street. They clipped you six bucks for a beer, but they threw in all the atmosphere you could stand. Then after you walked out the door, depending on how your expensive buzz left you feeling, you could stroll a few short Gold Coast blocks to either the city’s most elegant brothel or Holy Name Cathedral.
Wherever Bobby Ro planned to go next, he didn’t intend to get there on foot. His new black Jaguar XJS gleamed in the crisp autumn night outside the window where they sat. Bobby saw Doc looking at the car.
“You hit the Lotto, Bobby? I’m surprised I didn’t see your name in the paper.”
“Bought me a house out in Barrington Hills, too.”
“Yeah? You pay for it with some of that Confidential Informant Credit?”
Doc drank his six-dollar beer straight out of its imported bottle. He looked at Bobby, all five-foot-five, hundred and twenty-three pounds of him. He was a Chicago-born Puerto Rican, 22 years old, and he ran small errands for a Colombian named German Aldena. The only reason he’d gotten the job was because the Colombian had married Bobby’s knockout teenage sister, Maria Rosario.
Doc had caught Bobby delivering half-a-key of coke to a party thrown by a trader from the Mercantile Exchange. He’d been Doc’s snitch ever since.
Now, he was buying British luxury cars and suburban mansions.
Doc said, “Okay, let’s hear about this idea of yours.”
“I got it reading the Wall Street Journal.”
“Come on, Bobby.”
“Yeah, really. It was this story on the sale of intractables.”
“You know, things you can’t put your hands on. Like ideas – or information.”
“The word is intangible.”
“Like I said. Anyway, they was talking about one company runs a clean business can sell another company a credit to run its business twice as dirty. I mean, for pollution and shit like that. Or two guys’re are putting up skyscrapers, see, and one doesn’t build as high as the law allows, so he sells his air credit to the other guy so he can go above the law. You get all this?”
Doc rolled his eyes and ordered another beer on Bobby’s tab.
“Just explain what it has to do with you.”
“Well. I got some information you really oughta know.”
“So tell me.”
“I mean, this is big time.”
“Not money, man. Credit.”
“For something I ain’t been caught for yet, but still might be.”
Doc glanced at the car again.
“See.” Bobby said, “my problem is, what I got to tell is only good for a little while and then it’s too late. So if I wait to see if I get caught to tell you, I might have nothin’ left to trade. So, what I thought was, I tell you now and if I need it get credit later.”
“Confidential informant credit.”
“Yeah, why not? The Journal says we’re livin’ in the Information Age.”
“And if you don’t get caught, I get a freebie. “
“That plus knowin’ you helped me retire honest “
“You’re gonna retire? At your age? Must be some ripoff you pulled. You sure you got something big enough to trade for that?”
Bobby smiled “Put you on the front page of the Trib, man. Politicians be linin’ up to shake your hand “
“Maybe put a bad guy away just to ice the cake?”
“The baddest, man “
Doc stared at him and Bobby’s smile only got wider.
“Okay, Bobby. Your credit application’s on the table. Let’s see how you fill it in.
The planning session had to be fast. Doc had wanted to limit the information to the fewest people possible: him, the eight guys on his team and his boss, Lieutenant Vince DiGiuseppe. Vince overruled him and said the Captain had to know. The Captain included a token fed from DEA for reasons that actually made sense. Even with all that, they still got the whole thing laid out in 24 hours.
Armando Guzman himself was coming to town, and nobody wanted to miss him.
Guzman was a Medellin big boy, one of the famous “extraditables.” According to Bobby, though, he’d fallen into deep shit with his fellow coqueros and had to make some fast vacation plans. He was on his way to Spain, but he had to stop in the States first to pack a few bags.
With money. As Bobby had put it, he wasn’t coming to Chicago to shop for socks at Sears. Guzman was cleaning out his pipeline so no one could rip off his cash.
Bobby’d given Doc the location of a caleta, a stash house, and the time Guzman would be there. Bobby had reminded Doc that Guzman wasn’t the type you took alive. He’d also added that his brother-in-law, German, would be on hand, and don’t spare any bullets on his account, either.
The treachery among in-laws had been what convinced Doc that Bobby Ro wasn’t just jerking him around. And if everything worked out right, Doc was determined that Bobby would receive a get-out-of-jail pass for anything short of murder. Even then, it’d depend on who he’d killed.
The caleta was a rundown cinderblock house sitting alone on an open, weed-filled lot between two factories on Ogden Avenue. Behind the house was an alley. Along the far side of the alley ran a block-long fence that enclosed a giant scrapyard that held a mountain range of discarded car and truck tires.
Doc and Detectives Junior Little, Steve Petrovsky and Frank Wallis waited in a ‘65 Chevy with heavily tinted windows parked around the corner at one end of the block. They were the guys who’d be going inside.
Vince, DEA Special Agent Starling, and three other detectives from Doc’s team were parked in two cars around the far corner of the block. They’d take the perimeter of the house.
The junior members of the team, Detectives Janet Foxx and Burt Levitt, were hiding in the scrapyard opposite the rear door of the caleta in case anyone climbed over the fence.
Eight squad cars of uniforms would pull up to block off the street and the alley; all they’d been told was to be ready for anything.
Everybody’s radio was set to channel 5, the car-to-car frequency. They weren’t going to communicate through an operator and let the whole world in on the raid. When everyone was in place, they sat and waited for Guzman.
“You know,” Wallis said, “just once I wish we’d go charging into one of these things and have the assholes outgunned.”
He held a pump-action shotgun between his legs. Junior Little smiled and shook his head.
“Frank, I wanna be outta town the day they turn your ass loose with an Uzi.”
The argument revolved around a standard cop gripe. Everyone from dopers to drag queens was arming for World War III, and the department limited them to handguns and shotguns.
“Least they give us raid hats,” Junior said twirling a baseball cap with CPD on the front, “so we won’t shoot each other.”
They talked to keep from getting too cranked up and to pass the time. The next topic was how much money Guzman was coming to get. Everybody figured it’d be enough that he’d have to bring a step-van to hold it.
When the Colombian rolled past at 3 a.m. he was in a two-ton truck. If Guzman planned to fill that thing with money, Doc thought, this was going to be a motherfucker. The truck turned into the alley that would take it behind the house.
The plan was to hit fast and hard, but the timing had to be just right. Doc started his engine and wheeled around the corner onto Ogden. He did 20 miles per hour. He wove back and forth over the double yellow line. If any lookout was going to spot them, he’d see a drunk who forgot to turn his lights on.
Doc had Junior radio the contact to Vince. Then he had him talk to Foxx in the scrapyard. She whispered back that the truck had stopped in back of the house and three men got out of it. Two other men opened the steel-covered back door of the house and were looking around, checking things out. Four of the men had automatic weapons. At the back of the truck, two of the ones who’d just arrived were having trouble getting its doors open; the third was cursing them. No one was going into the house yet.
Doc wanted them all in one place. He didn’t want to rush the ones outside and get caught in a crossfire if anybody else was still in the house.
He pulled the Chevy over to the curb. Wallis got out and, maintaining their cover as drunks, peed noisily in the doorway of the building across the street from the caleta. He zipped up fast when Foxx reported that the men had opened the truck doors and were walking toward the house.
Doc took the radio and whispered, “We’re going in.”
Wearing Kevlar body armor and carrying their weapons openly, the four detectives raced silently across the front yard of the house. Doc whipped around the rear corner of the structure just in time to throw his shoulder into the back door before it closed.
His momentum carried both him and the man on the other side of the door to the floor. A split second later a hail of bullets scorched the air over his head. A return shotgun blast roared from behind him. Despite all the explosive racket, Doc heard someone groan – practically right in his ear. The man he’d knocked down was regaining his senses, and he had a machine pistol in his hand.
The guy never got a chance to use it. A fusillade of automatic weapons fire cleaved his head open, and a round grazed Doc’s left shoulder. Doc rolled to his right and took cover behind a packing crate.
Somebody wanted him bad because they fired right through the crate. He backed up as fast as he could, until he bumped into a wall. Bullets, jagged pieces of wood and bits of green confetti exploded all around him.
He got a moment’s reprieve when the sonofabitch who was shooting at him had to change his clip. Doc bounced to his feet, firing as fast as he could to give himself cover. There were only two Colombians left alive, Guzman and German Aldena. They crouched on opposite sides of another crate kitty-corner from him, out of the line-of-fire from the doorway.
Doc cut Aldena down as the Colombian was trying to seat a magazine in his AK-47.
Then, before Doc could swing the barrel of his Walther, he saw Guzman’s gun – a pistol – pointed at him, and Doc knew he’d shot the wrong guy first. He tried to turn and duck.
Guzman’s first round missed but the bullet fragmented against the cinder-block wall next to Doc’s head and he felt red-hot lances of pain as the ricochets shredded his left eye into a leaking bag of jelly. Guzman fired again and the round hit Doc in the middle of his Kevlar vest.
As he fell, losing consciousness, he noticed that the top of the crate he’d sheltered behind had been blown off. It was filled with money.