49

It was now after midnight, and Scott and Benny were crawling through the darkened streets of the Sunset District in Bridge’s VW Bus. Micah had been too distraught to come along, so Benny had been awakened from a sound sleep and recruited, then Bridge’s wheels commandeered.

            As they expected, most of the cops on their list lived in the Sunset, and now they were driving from house to house and finding little more than darkened windows and silence. What they were looking for they were not entirely sure. It certainly wasn’t a sign reading “SECRET HIDEOUT” like on Batman. What they were looking for was more of a feeling, a sense that something wasn’t quite right.

            Now they were on their way to the last house before they headed off to the Excelsior and Dogpatch districts to see the remaining two. The bus was not ideal for this purpose, being far from silent, and because of that Benny, who had volunteered to drive, could never completely come to a stop in front of a house, only roll by as inconspicuously as possible.

            Like all of them, Benny was flabbergasted by the news about Shiva.

            “You know, I never really trusted her,” he said at one point.

            “You might have said something,” said Scott.

            “Well, you know, Micah was so happy. I didn’t want to mess it up.”

            “That’s what we all thought,” Scott sighed. “And now Micah is more miserable than he’s probably ever been in his life, and all because we were too nice to be honest with him.”

            “Yeah, we’re assholes,” observed Benny.

            Now they were pulling up to the next house.

            “This is Mike Connolly’s place. He’s the one who used Ari as an informant.”

It was a home much like the other homes they’d looked at: A single floor dwelling built atop a garage overlooked by a picture window and a miniature balcony. Like the others, it appeared that it was either empty or that everyone inside had gone to bed. Nothing but drawn curtains with darkened rooms beyond them. Then Benny noticed something.

“Scott, look.”

It was a faint light that was illuminating part of the pathway that lead around the house to the back yard.

“It’s probably a basement window. Let’s go look.”

Just to be safe, Benny drove several houses farther down the street before parking. Then he and Scott got out and walked back to Connolly’s house. Just as they were reaching the start of the path, they heard a muffled male scream.

“Holy shit!” exclaimed Benny, his eyes widening in terror.

“I know,” said Scott, equally shaken.

“Was that Hunter?” Benny asked.

“No. It was someone older. An adult.”

Their pace was now much slower than it had been before the scream. They were now pausing after each step to see if they had been heard. On top of that, the path was lined with leafy greenery that they had to be extremely careful not to rustle as they passed. Finally, they reached the window, whereupon they heard another scream.

“Yeah, definitely an adult,” Scott confirmed.

From the sound of it, the screams were coming from the basement. Given the top of the window was only about twelve inches above the ground, they had to kneel down to look through it, again taking great care not to make a sound. Benny had to remind himself to breathe.

When they looked through the window, they saw a table saw, a couple of saw horses, and a workbench covered in scattered tools. There were no human figures, thought there were occasional shadows of movement coming from the far end of the room, which was out of their view. These were accompanied by more voices. There were two men, one yelling and one pleading, though what they were saying Scott and Benny couldn’t make out, until the pleading voice very clearly yelled out “I didn’t tell him anything!” Again, it wasn’t Hunter, but there was something in it that Scott recognized.

The shout was followed by the sound of a chair screeching, then a series of muffled impacts that was accompanied by a lot of grunts and groans.

“God, he’s beating the shit out of that guy,” Benny whispered.

The two of them listened for a couple more minutes, each trying to figure out what they should do, until Benny made up his mind.

“Scott, I can’t do this.”

Scott looked over to see that he was visibly trembling.

“Ok, buddy. We’ll go call the cops.”

The two of them ran in a hunkered down position back to the bus, then opened the doors just wide enough for them to edge inside before closing them as quietly as possible. Benny put the key in the ignition and the engine stuttered into noisome life. It was loud enough to give Scott a panic attack.

“Let’s go, dammit.” Scott barked.

Benny pulled out from the curb, but was only able to travel about ten feet before slamming on the breaks. Scott looked up.

Directly in front of them was a male silhouette. It was pointing a gun at them, and from the pose—spread legged, two handed grip—it was a cop.

“Get out of the vehicle!” The figure commanded.

Benny instinctively reached for the door handle. Scott grabbed his arm, shaking his head furiously.

“Get out of the vehicle!” The figure again commanded.

“We’re not getting out!” Shouted Benny, much to Scott’s distress.

“Get out of the vehicle or I’ll shoot!” came the reply, the figure tensing its stance accordingly.

“Benny, step on the gas! Run him down!” Scott shouted.

“Scott, he’s a cop!”  Benny pleaded.

Scott’s response was to swing his leg over and stamp on the gas himself, Benny’s foot with it.

“Ow!”

The bus rocketed forward, narrowly grazing the cop as he leapt out of its path. Benny struggled to regain control of the vehicle and barely avoided running into a ditch.  Then the bullets shattered the rear windshield. Benny threw his whole body into a turn that took them careening down a side street and out of the bullets’ paths.

“Are you ok, Ben?” Scott asked.

“No!” was Ben’s response.

“Ben, are you hit?” Scott shouted.

“No,” Benny finally answered. “But I think I shit my pants.”

“You and me both,” said Scott.

As planned, Scott called Reed and had him send a patrol car to the house, only for the patrolmen to find the house completely empty when they arrived. The next day, Scott would learn that Ari’s body had been found on Ocean Beach, tortured to death. Ocean Beach was just four blocks from Connolly’s house.