Braxton tried to shine his wide beam on the art gallery’s windows, but some kind of black curtain blocked anything from view. A few curses under his breath later, Officer Lyle calmed down. The growing crowd that did their best not to look interested at the lone police vehicle outside the gallery whispered. Braxton didn’t pull his gun from its holster, worried that might incite the crowd more, but his hand itched to reach for it. Instead, the radio crackled to life and offered a temporary release.
“Officer Lyle, this is Captain Hanover from the Salt Lake City precinct. How copy, over?”
“I’ve got you Lima Charley Captain,” Braxton said. “Do we have reinforcements headed my way?”
“Yes.” Captain Hanover drug out his answer. “We spared one vehicle with two Officers to help you. There just aren’t any signs of needing more help than that at this moment. Please confirm your location for backup to find you.”
Braxton kicked the tire of his cruiser. Working in other jurisdictions made it a pain in the ass sometimes to get the right help. But Braxton took in a deep breath, grunted it out, and then pressed the PTT button.
“Understood, thank you Captain.”
Braxton tried to relax his clenched jaw. That made the words come out clipped. Braxton gave his cross-roads and closed the conversation. Each moment of waiting made Braxton feel like another second closer to Benjamin’s death. I wish I still had my phone. If the Artist did this, then Braxton received that email right after Benjamin’s text, then The Artist would use it to track him.
Seeing that there was little cause for watching further, most of the crowd dissipated into their prior engagements. Braxton breathed a sigh of relief until he felt a tap on his shoulder.
“Officer, I think I see someone limping over their,” the man said. “It looks like someone just came out a back door of the gallery.”
Before Braxton could turn to find the speaker, the man somehow disappeared. Darkness from the unlit park encapsulated most of the landscape. The lack of the stranger didn’t mean that they were wrong. Sure enough, a woman with fire red hair against a blood soaked white hoodie leaned against the far wall of the gallery.
“Ma’am, are you okay?”
The yell didn’t seem to reach the woman’s ears, so Braxton tried again, with no effect. Then the woman collapsed to the ground. I can’t wait for backup. They would understand, right? Braxton sprinted to the red-haired woman and kneeled beside her. No pulse existed, and her skin felt cold from the frosted Halloween air. The woman could have died minutes or hours ago, but Braxton couldn’t tell without knowing how long she’d been outside. A crunch of gravel warned of someone, but not soon enough. Braxton spun in time to see a blur of black jeans and a white hoodie smeared with blood before a dark hood covered his head. Cable ties cinched tight around Braxton’s wrists. A click of a hammer cocking back and Braxton got the message.