There is a point in time where you stop, look around in confusion, and wonder what on earth just happened. I reloaded the gun, as bullets peppered the metal shelving above and in front of me, and wondered exactly what I was doing here. I was supposed to be on holiday. A nice relaxing sojourn in the Florida keys. Warmth, sunshine, cocktails and attractive men wearing not a lot. A far cry from the dismal tower blocks, cold wind and grubby sky of Birmingham. But somehow, instead of reading a crappy book on a beach, I was pinned down in a gunfight, using a borrowed weapon and wondering what the hell was going on.
I suppose it's a well known TV trope that a copper can't be on holiday for more than five minutes without getting embroiled in some kind of case. As more projectiles hammered into the metal cabinet I was hid behind, I wished that in this case life was not imitating art.
The clicking of triggers in the sudden silence where what I had been waiting for. I cocked the gun, took a breath, and stood up.
Golden afternoon sunlight filtered in through the warehouse sky lights, and reflected off the confused faces of my assailants. The three of them stood stupefied, presumably expecting me to be dead. One of them had enough presence of mind to try and reload, but it was too late by then. I saw all this in an instant, in the time it took me to breath out.
Bang, bang, bang. All dead.
They might have worse gun crime this side of the pond, but it's nothing compared to facing down a crook with a gun when all you have is a stick, a tazer if you’re lucky. In the ringing silence that followed I walked over and kicked their weapons away. Satisfied none of them were about to get up, I hurried back to detective Lyons.
He was in a bad way, leaking blood around my makeshift bandage, but nothing that couldn't be fixed, I thought. I patted him down, found his mobile, sorry, cellphone and dialled 911.
"Operator, what is the nature of your emergency?" Her honeyed voice was calm.
"I need to report a self defence shooting, and an officer down," I said, doing my best impression of an American cop show.
"And what is your location?" I froze. Sh*t! Were in the hell was I?
"Ah..." I said and hurried outside. I took it as a good sign when no one shot at me, and I hurried towards the road. I looked up and down, for a street name, a person, anything. "I don't know!" I said more shrilly than I meant. "Where the hell d'you yanks put your road names?"
"So you do not know your location ma'am?"
"No, no I don't" I snapped, Lyons' condition at the back of my mind.
"Okay," the operator said calmly. "One moment, I'm putting a trace on the call, please hold the line." Oh, I'd forgotten they could do that. I remembered how to breath again as she asked for my name, and what happened.
"Detective Inspector Kathy Scott," I said walking back into the building and over to Lyons. "Birmingham PD. I'm assisting detective Dan Lyons of Miami PD in a case. Detective Lyons and myself were following a suspect on foot when the suspect entered a warehouse. Detective Lyons insisted he go first. Everything was fine as he entered the building, but about three meters from the door he was fired upon by three assailants. Detective Lyons was tagged on the leg and dropped his weapon. I ran in and picked up his gun and hid behind a metal cabinet. I then covered Detective Lyons as he crawled over and pushed the cabinet over. As the suspects and allies continued firing I applied a make-shift bandage to his leg. Then when our assailants ran out of bullets, I took my chance and killed them all." As I finished I could hear sirens getting closer. Adrenalin leaving my system made my legs feel weak and wobbly and the phone shook in my hand. I sat down on the busted up cabinet.
"Kathy, are you still with me?" Came the operator's voice, calm efficient. "First responders will be with soon. Okay Kathy?"
Stupidly I nodded, realized what I was doing and spoke instead.
"Yeah, I'm still here." I heard the shake enter my voice.
"Good. Now Kathy, can you tell me what state Detective Lyons is in please?"
"Sure, sure," I said and knelt down next to him, doing my best to describe the bullet wound in his leg, my jacket acting as the failing bandage and his current state of blood-less shock. As I was doing so I heard a noise come from the other side of the cabinet.
"Wait," I said, and put the phone down, and grabbed the gun.
"Kathy?" I heard the operator’s voice coming tiny from the phone. "Kathy, talk to me, what’s happening?" I ignored her and looked at the source of the noise, the door handle. I didn’t remember it closing but that was of little consequence. Suddenly it flew open and through it came a group of people, some wearing flack vests.
"Police! Drop you weapon!" said the woman at the front.
"Show me some ID," I replied, no less demanding.
"You heard her, drop your weapon!" said a guy over her right shoulder.
"ID first," I insisted. There was a pause, then the point woman dipped her gun and tugged up her shirt to show me the badge at her waist. I breathed and flicked the safety on before offering her the handle of the weapon. She holstered her own and took it from me.
"Where’s Lyons?" she asked, tucking it into her belt.
I nodded to the cabinet. "Over there."
She nodded to her colleagues and one of them yelled for the paramedics. I moved back as her team came through. They spread out to get a better look at the situation, as she approached me.
"Detective Josephine Winters," she said and held her hand out. I took it.
"Detective Inspector Katherine Scott," I replied by way of introduction.
"On holiday from the UK."
She frowned. "So what happened?" I ran through it again, and she nodded. "What were you doing out in the field?"
I sighed. Now there was a story and a half, but before I could reply there was a shout from one of the back rooms.
"Boss! You gotta come see this." Winters shot me a look that said this little chat was far from over, before walking away. I took another breath and rubbed a hand over my face, pushing some stray brown strands of hair out of my eyes.
Where the gunmen had fallen people where taking photos of the bodies, and examining the scene. I glanced over my shoulder, to where the EMTs were trundling Lyons out to a waiting ambulance. Clichéd though it may be, I was gasping for a cup of hot milky tea. I started to move toward the door, intending to ask the paramedics what they thought of Lyons' condition, when there was a call behind me.
"Hey, Scott!" I turned to see Winters beckoning me over to the back room. I walked over.
"You know anything about this?" she asked as I looked in the room.
"Sweet Jesus." I swore. Crumpled on the ground was the skin of a human. It lay like a discarded coat, a split all down one side, with a surprisingly small pool of blood under it. The clothes had all been removed and dumped in a pile next to it. I felt Winters watching me as I walked forward and crouched down next to it. It was hard to tell but I was almost sure...
"Glove?" I asked, holding my hand out. I felt the look pass between Winters and her colleague, before a glove was put into my hand. I slipped it on and, with a small grimace, slipped my hand into the man's head, holding it up. After a second or two I carefully let it drop back down, stood up and back away.
"Well?" Winters asked. I swallowed the bile rising in my throat.
"That's our suspect," I told her. She gave me an incredulous look, and glanced at her team-mate.
"Then where the hell is the rest of him?" he asked needlessly.