Home Chapter 29
“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
“This is crazy.” The accented voice of the operator traveled to the back of the cab, followed by mumbling in what could have been Farsi. Not that Marc understood Farsi. He also didn’t know why they’d sat stuck in the same line of cars through two full cycles of lights and were rounding on a third.
Before the inexplicable traffic, the cab had sailed through mid-town, not surprising at this time of night, but now, here they were, blocks away from his destination.
The calculation, whether to stick with his ride or start out for Dr. Alcott’s house on foot, began. Into the formula Marc threw in his cramping arches from an afternoon standing at the hospital, the blister from his trip back to the Federal Building, and bruised feet from his long sprint to catch a cab after the call to Chandler had gone so spectacularly wrong.
Five more minutes passed with nothing moving but the fare meter.
Marc Morrissey wasn’t getting perfect A’s on his life computations of recent. In a few hours, he’d face his superiors and he needed his witness safe, in the bag, and on their team against Moreno or there’d be hell to pay.
Two fire trucks whizzed across the larger avenue behind them.
He flipped open his new wallet, a birthday present from Craig, and pulled out the necessary bills plus tip.
“Hey, I’ll just get out here.”
“You sure, man?” the cabbie asked, but accepted the proffered cash before Marc uttered a, “Yeah, thanks.”
After exiting the car he began walking towards Chandler’s safe house, wondering what he could say once he got there.
There is a moment in city living when the cacophony of existence goes from overlooked to important, from unconscious to concerning, when the urban dweller focused on the million details of their lives realizes the surrounding clamor and commotion involves them. For Marc Morrissey, the dawning arrived when two police cars turned the corner and started bullying their way through the traffic, forcing vehicles onto the pavement to get by, followed closely by another blaring fire truck… headed in the same direction he was.
Gaze lifted from the uneven sidewalk he navigated in deficient footwear to the sky—orange-tinted. And was that smoke against the clouds?
Despite the pain, Marc ran.
Since the call to his reluctant witness, he’d gone from angry at Cathy Chandler for not confiding in him to furious at himself for not negotiating effectively. But Dunn pushed them too fast, too rough, with no space to plan, to prep … and for her, no time or chance to trust.
And now it may be too late.
“I know. They are already here.”
Dunn, what did you do?
A block away, dozens of onlookers and police kept Morrissey from getting a good view until he shoved to the front of the crowd. Once there, he saw a pile of smoking rubble with half the street caved in.
Dunn, you sent him right to her.
The Alcott home stood just outside the main blast zone, dark, with windows destroyed, ignored by those searching the wreckage for survivors, even if Morrissey held the sinking suspicion this house, or more accurately, the witness living here, was the reason for the calamity.
No sign of movement from inside. Did they take off already?
Marc squeezed out of the crowd and climbed the few stairs. The front door wasn’t fully shut.
He drew out his service Sig and pushed open the door.
“Dr. Alcott? Ms. Chandler? FBI! It’s Agent Morrissey,” he announced. “Is anyone here?”
In the alternating red and blue lights of the police cars outside, Marc saw a body splayed near the stairs. As per his training, he scanned for threats as he approached. He recognized Chandler’s doctor friend on the floor, bleeding from what looked like a gunshot wound.
A rustle and moan. He was still alive.
Jacket off in an instant, Marc pressed the makeshift bandage on the injury.
“Who shot you?”
“A … policeman …” the semi-conscious man gasped.
A policeman? Or someone dressed as one?
“Peter,” the agent demanded, “stay with me. Where’s Cathy Chandler?”
“Cathy …” The drifting man thought hard and gritted out, “I think she ran with the baby…”
Ran. Dear God, where?
“Please … save her.”
“I will, as soon as we find you some help. Can you put pressure on this? I’ll call the paramedics.”
Before he took over, Alcott motioned to the desk and the phone. Practical doctor. Good doctor. He would survive … Morrissey hoped.
Marc snatched the receiver off the cradle, but no tone came from it.
The line was dead.
He was slamming the handset down when the front door swung wide.
He raised his weapon.
“Whoa!” The incoming paramedic, laden with bags, froze in the foyer.
Marc lowered the gun. “I’m Agent Morrissey, F.B.I.” Marc grabbed his wallet to show his I.D.
“I’m Raul Diaz, from Presby. A woman said there was a victim here?” he inquired, but as soon as he saw the old man he rushed over, dropped his supplies, and got to work. Clearly, not Raul’s first rodeo.
“This is Peter Alcott,” Marc explained. “He’s been shot.” Although the paramedic could probably figure that out on his own.
Raul yelled into his walkie-talkie, “Frank, I’m inside. Shooting victim. We need the gurney, now! And get the police in here!”
“Roger that,” the other end acknowledged.
Raul peeled off Marc’s bloody blazer and sliced through the physician’s pajama shirt with his scissors.
“Did you shoot him?”
“Jesus, no!” Morrissey exclaimed. “Unknown suspect. You said a woman told you?”
“Yeah,” he said as he ripped open sterile bandages and pressed them onto the bleeding man’s abdomen and back. “We were responding to the explosion, but got caught in traffic off Madison. Then this lady with a baby came up to the rig and said someone was hurt at this address. Peter Alcott, you said?”
“Doctor Peter Alcott, from New York Hospital. Where was she headed?”
“I don’t know. Towards the Park, I think.”
Then Raul spoke to his patient.
“I’m going to start an I.V., Peter. We’ll get you to the hospital soon. Just hang in there, okay?”
Marc heard the old man give a weak affirmation as he began to leave.
Once he realized Morrissey was headed out, the paramedic barked, “Hey, I need you to stay for the cops!”
“I can’t!” Marc halted for a only a half-moment. “I need to catch the shooter. Tell them he’s in the vicinity and trying to kill a woman and her baby. White man, approximately five foot ten, with white-blond hair. May be dressed as a cop. Give them a description of her, too. And tell them to contact Special Agent Robertson.”
After exiting, Marc searched the gathered crowd. Enough people that if there was a killer chasing a lady with a baby, people would notice, right? He’d see it, right?
Morrissey navigated through the swarm, past the fire crews, the victims being wheeled into ambulances or treated on scene, but no trace of Cathy or the hitman. He scanned both sides of the pavement, jogging past Madison, eyes scouring each shadowed stair and alcove, around the trash piles and trucks, but nothing. What if he was on the wrong street?
He’d made his mind up to try another when he noted a strange shadow in a car. Gun drawn, he approached. A body slumped over the steering wheel. If he hadn’t been looking, he wouldn’t have noticed. Down the lane of dark apartment buildings and closed cafes nobody else did.
Marc sidled to the driver’s side. The man had been shot in the temple. Darker stains that Marc assumed to be blood splattered over the seat and lower door. Through the open window, he reached in to press two fingers to the man’s neck. While waiting for a sign of life that didn’t come, he spied movement through the windshield, not far up the street. He extricated himself out of the car to investigate.
“White Rabbit, that’s who he was …”
A Black bag lady, either large in her own right or due to her many layers of clothes, huddled in a narrow loading area between restaurant and apartment building.
“White Rabbit!” She cowered when she saw the Sig in his hand.
“Ma’am?” Morrissey called out to her, lowering the gun to the side out of her line of sight. “I’m not going to hurt you.”
Marc raised his arm, palm out in a gesture of détente. “I’m a good guy, okay?”
He inched forward.
“Did you see who shot this man?”
“White Rabbit,” she hurled, swaying with her arms around herself. “Rabbit chasing … chasing Alice and her piggy. White Rabbit works for the Queen…that bitch…”
She gazed down at her chest and switched to rocking a phantom baby.
“Piggy crying…shhhh piggy, piggy don’t cry.” She hushed the unseen. “Shhh…” She turned back to Morrissey. “I hide from the Queen … in there.” She pointed to what looked like all her worldly goods camouflaged as trash. “Alice asked the guy in the car for help, to hide from the Rabbit. Asked that guy.” She gestured at the corpse. “But the White Rabbit shot him in the head! Alice tried to get away, but White Rabbit caught them!”
She motioned for Morrissey to come over to see, and he followed, dreading she’d show him the bodies of Catherine Chandler and her child strewn in the garbage.
“The White Rabbit took her and piggy,” she said as he got closer.
“He didn’t shoot them?”
“No. Grabbed ‘em. Took ‘em away.”
Hope. Hope he could find them yet.
“Then Cheshire Cat came. Cheshire Cat was all fucked up.” Her hands twirled around her head where, Morrissey assumed, the “Cheshire Cat” was hurt. “Went after Alice and the White Rabbit…”
Cat. The VICAP profile?
“Ma’am, please tell me where they went. I … want to help Alice. Where did they go?”
The crazy woman pointed to a displaced manhole cover he hadn’t seen before at the opposite end of the road.
“Down the rabbit hole…”