“Well, the important thing today is that Eddie Alvarez stopped the crime.” Alvarez’s chest swelled out, increasing his resemblance to a puffed-up peacock. “The citizens of New York City were at great risk today, but thanks to the hard work of one Eddie Alvarez, they can sleep a little bit safer tonight.”
Walsh and Shraeger watched from a distance as Sergeant Brown pulled Alvarez out of frame, cuffing him on the back of the head and hissing something in his ear before turning to speak to the press himself. Never one to be deterred, Alvarez stood at the edge of the press gaggle, doing his best to regain the attention of one of the reporters.
“Think he’ll ever learn?” Shraeger asked.
Walsh snorted. “Are you kidding?”
Twelve hours earlier…
“Everyone drop what you’re doing and come with me,” Brown snapped. “We've got a situation.”
Eyebrows raised, the detectives trailed after the Sergeant into the briefing room, most of them clutching cups of coffee and yawning. A string of car-jackings had them all working extra hours, interviewing witnesses and reviewing security footage. The extra work was compounded by the absence of Delahoy, who was on leave for his chemotherapy treatments. (He was doing well, all things considered, but his immune system was way too weak for him to be hanging around the police station.) Cole had sprained his ankle chasing after a suspect, and Beaumont was still struggling back to full mobility after being shot.
All in all, second squad was having a bad week.
“We’ve got a lead on our car-jacker,” Brown started once they were all settled into their seats. “The sketch ran again on all the news channels last night, and we had multiple calls fingering the same person: Ian Boorland.”
“Boorland?” Banks interjected. “I thought they were all behaving themselves.”
“They are. This guy apparently admires them so much that he got his name changed last year. His real name is Ian Brown. He’s got a record as long as my arm, but mostly for petty theft and minor drug offenses. These car-jackings would be his first violent crime.”
“Any ideas on motive?” Walsh asked.
“Not yet. You and Shraeger are going to his mom’s house, see if anything’s changed in his life recently. Beaumont, Cole, you’re going back over the CC footage. Now that we have a picture of Boorland I want to see if you can confirm that it’s him. Banks, Alvarez, our contact finally came through with a list of chop-shops. I want you to go look for the cars.”
Banks stifled a groan. He’d never admit it to the man, but he missed working with Delahoy- and he really missed him when his lack of a partner got him stuck with Alvarez.
“Sergeant, don’t you think I’d be a better choice for the mother’s house?” Alvarez said. “After all, if she knows where he is, it could close the case.”
Brown leveled him with an unimpressed look. “That’s why I’m sending Walsh and Shraeger. Let’s get to work, people.”
“Do you think he also does the onion thing?” Shraeger mused out loud as they got into their car. “I don’t think the public knows about that, but it would make it easier to track the cars if they've all got onions in them.”
“You actually think a chop-shop would take cars with onions in them?” Walsh’s voice was incredulous.
“Point.” Shraeger settled back into her seat, listening to Walsh swear at the other drivers as he merged into traffic. “I just can’t imagine changing my name to Boorland. If you’re going to go with a crime family, why not go with one more… competent?”
“Maybe he likes the longevity,” Walsh pointed out. “Or maybe he’s just nuts. My money’s on the second one.”
Beaumont rolled her shoulders, suppressing a sigh. She knew if she sighed that Cole would think something was wrong with her, that she’d popped a stitch (even though her stitches had all come out months ago) or started bleeding internally (even though the surgeons had removed all the bullet fragments and her internal injuries were healed). Part of her knew that she was lucky to have such a caring partner, especially since her inability to regain her former stamina kept putting them on desk duty, but his solicitousness towards her was getting old. She’d understand it if it had happened while they were on duty, but he hadn’t been there when it’d happened- and yet he had a tendency to act like it was all his fault.
“This guy definitely has criminal experience,” Cole said, pulling her out of her thoughts. “I think he might be casing the areas ahead of time, too. He does a great job keeping his face away from the cameras.”
“I’m having the same problem,” she replied. “Lots of profile shots, but he’s got his hood pulled up in all of them. We’re probably going to have to get a witness to ID him.”
“Or pull his prints off one of the cars,” Cole pointed out. “If, you know, we find the cars.”
“We are never finding these cars.” Banks stormed out of the “auto repair shop,” kicking at the slush in the gutter. “These guys’ll go to their graves swearing that they don’t take in cars for parts, much less stolen ones.”
“Eddie Alvarez finds your lack of confidence disturbing. The next shop might have the cars we’re looking for.”
Banks stared. “Okay, first of all, stop quoting Star Wars. It’s weird. Second, the last robbery was two days ago. That car is in pieces and probably all over the tri-state area by now. We’ve got to catch this guy in the act or track him down through his mom. And you know it, that’s why you wanted to go to see her instead of Walsh and Shraeger.”
“I just think it’s important for the highest ranking detectives to do the public-facing work,” Alvarez said. “You know, give a positive impression of the department.”
“You do realize that Walsh and Shraeger get more useful information out of witnesses than any other set of detectives in New York, right?”
“Hi, Mrs. Brown,” Shraeger said when the door opened, giving her best “please like me!” smile. “I’m Detective Shraeger, this is Detective Walsh. We were wondering if we could speak to you about your son?”
The woman at the door was maybe five feet tall, if you included the extra inches from her teased-up hair, and had one cigarette in her mouth, another dangling from her hand, and an unlit one behind her ear. She squinted at them. “Which one?”
“Ian,” Walsh said. “We’re concerned he’s gotten himself into some trouble.”
Mrs. Brown heaved a sigh. “You’d better come in, then. Try not to step on anything.”
What had seemed an off-handed comment resolved into a survival tactic once they stepped into the living room. There were piles of magazines everywhere, mostly women’s glamour magazines like Vogue and Marie Claire. Most of the piles had an ashtray sitting on top, and there was a petting zoo’s worth of small animals chasing each other around the small space.
“Sorry about the mess,” she said, waving a hand around vaguely. “I've got to keep up with my fashion tips, and the boys would be so sad if I got rid of any of their pets.”
“Yes, they’re very… friendly,” Shraeger said, carefully pulling a small mammal off Walsh’s shoulder. She thought it might be a chinchilla but she was also pretty sure that chinchillas were not usually bright blue. “How many sons do you have?”
“Usually?” Walsh prompted.
“Oh, sometimes they disown themselves, but they always come back. Which one did you want to talk about?”
The detectives sat in silence for a moment before Shraeger snapped out of it. “We wanted to ask you about Ian. This is him, right?” She handed Mrs. Brown one of the mug shots.
“Yes, this is Ian. Has he fucked up again?”
“That’s what we’re trying to figure out,” Walsh said, leaning forward. “Have you seen him lately?”
Mrs. Brown sat in silence for so long that her cigarette burned all the way to the end, finally extinguishing itself and dropping two inches of ash onto the floor. “Last time I saw him was a couple of weeks ago. He showed up in a nice car and asked if I wanted to go for ride. We took Betsy and Joey with us and took it for a spin around the block.”
“What kind of car was it?” Walsh asked.
“Oh, some kind of fancy red car. A convertible, I remember that because he wanted to drive with the top down even though it’s December.”
Walsh and Shraeger exchanged glances. One of the stolen cars was a Mustang convertible in cherry red. “And who are Betsy and Joey?” Shraeger asked.
“Betsy is the darling trying to fix your hair.” Shraeger jumped, hands flying up. There was indeed a rather large gerbil sitting on the back of the couch, chewing on her hair.
“Why didn't you tell me about that?” She hissed at Walsh. He shrugged.
“Figured it could take care of your split ends. And Joey?”
“Joey is one of my other sons. He and Ian have been fighting ever since Joey couldn't get his name changed. It was so nice to see them do something together.”
“Joey wanted his name changed too?”
“Yes, he and Ian went to the courthouse together but the judge said Joey had to wait until his probation was over before he could change his name.”
The detectives exchanged a glance. “Do you know what Joey wanted his name to be?” Walsh said.
“Same thing as Ian. He wanted his last name to be Boorland. Their daddy wasn't any good so it makes sense that they wouldn't want his name.”
“Perfect sense,” Shraeger agreed. “Do you know where your sons are now?”
“Oh, they’re probably around here somewhere,” Mrs. Brown said, waving towards the window. “They don’t tell me much of anything these days. But I’m sure they’re staying somewhere in the neighborhood. They've been dreaming of turning this area around their entire lives. Like Robin Hood.”
“Walsh and Shraeger just checked in,” Sergeant Brown said, dumping another box of videotapes on Beaumont’s desk. “The mom confirmed that her son came by with a fancy car, thinks he’s still in that neighborhood. We also think her other son is involved, so you need go back through these and look for Joey Brown.”
“Maybe not, Sarge,” Banks interrupted breathlessly, charging into the office. "Dispatch just got a call from one of the squad cars. They pulled someone over for driving without a license plate. Registration in the glove compartment matches one of the cars that got stolen last week.”
“They left the registration in the glove compartment? How stupid are these people?” Cole asked incredulously.
“Don’t complain about the break, Cole,” Beaumont advised. “They bringing the driver in?”
“On their way.”
“I didn't know the car was stolen, honest,” the guy said. “Ian said he wanted to help me get back on my feet. I can’t have a long commute ‘cause I gotta pick my kids up from school.”
The guy - his name was Tyler Hopkins - had no criminal record, except for a few unpaid utility bills and a whole bunch of credit card debt. On paper he was no different than the thousands of other people struggling to live in New York City on minimum wage… other than his new citation for driving a stolen vehicle.
“So Ian just gave you the car and you didn't’t think that was weird?” Banks asked, voice incredulous.
Hopkins shrugged. “Ian’s a good guy. He’s always tried to help out the people in our neighborhood. I just figured he’d got a good deal on the car.”
“Do you know where Ian is now?” Beaumont said.
“My cell phone got turned off so I can’t be positive, but he’s probably at the elementary school down the block from his mom’s place. He likes to be a traffic monitor when school gets out.”
After all the worry about the car-jackings turning violent, the wrap-up of the case was pretty anticlimactic.
Dispatch sent a bunch of squad cars to the school, meeting Walsh and Shraeger who were still in the area talking to people who might have seen Ian or Joey. Ian was out in front of the school, wearing a safety vest and holding a STOP paddle to help kids cross the street. He swore a blue streak when he saw the cops, but didn’t resist arrest, and even gave up the location of his brother.
Sergeant Brown had been prepared for a lengthy interrogation with the brothers, but they were quick to explain themselves, evidently hoping that their cooperation might get them a lighter sentence.
“We just wanted to help people,” Ian said plaintively. “Like Robin Hood. Most of our neighbors lost their cars ‘cause the can’t make the payments. We wanted to make their lives better.”
“Yeah,” Joey added. “Those rich people can afford to buy new cars. Our neighbors can’t. We was just making the world a better place.”
Brown shook his head. “Gentlemen, unfortunately the law doesn't have a Robin Hood loophole.”
Since the brothers had confessed to the crimes, Sergeant Brown just handed everything over to the prosecutor, who promptly offered the brothers a plea deal if they helped return all the cars they stole. By the end of the day, all of the stolen cars were back with their rightful owners. They were all missing their license plates, which had been thrown into various dumpsters, but were otherwise in fairly good condition.
In hindsight the public had probably never been in physical danger from the brothers, since they seemed pretty averse to violence, but the public reaction to the news that they had been caught was overwhelmingly positive all the same, leading to the media frenzy at the station and the joust between Brown and Alvarez during the briefing.
“Want to get out of here?” Beaumont said, appearing behind Walsh and Shraeger. “Delahoy’s feeling good enough to meet us at the Apollo.”
“Hell yes,” Walsh said, slinging his arm around her shoulders.
The detectives loosened up once they reached the bar, especially when they found Delahoy there.
“You started without us? Jerk,” Banks teased, giving his partner a hug.
“Hey, hey, no need to get mushy,” Delahoy protested, even as he returned the hug. “Doctors are pretty sure I’m going to live. They think I might even be able to come back to work in January.”
“Seriously? That’s awesome, man,” Walsh said. “The 2-2 isn't the same without you.”
“Yeah, well, it’d just be desk duty for a while, but I've actually started missing you people. And clearly you need my help if it took you two weeks to figure out that some Robin Hood imitators were stealing cars and driving them around in the same area where they were stolen.”
Shraeger laughed. “We’re just not the same without you.”
Cole edged around her side to lean against the bar, frowning when he caught sight of the back of her head. “Hey, Casey, what happened to your hair?”
Shraeger rolled her eyes. “Betsy the gerbil happened. Who says I've never been injured in the line of duty?” She took a sip of her drink, then her eyes widened. “Oh no, my mom’s Christmas party is tomorrow, she’s going to freak out if I show up with my hair like this!”
“All the more reason to do it,” Banks pointed out. “You might win the pot for the best holiday story this year.”
“Yeah, and then I could use the money to buy Mrs. Brown some cages.”
Walsh snorted. “Her neighbors might get a Robin Hood after all.”