Trying to catch her breath, Josie rolled to her other side, causing a sharp pain to shoot through her left leg. A glance at her jeans revealed a large tear going up the side of her calf. Shredded, pink skin peeked out from underneath. She took a deep, full breath at last. Her entire torso felt like a bruise. But she was alive. Nothing appeared to be broken or missing, but her adrenaline pumped too hard to register the relief.
Looking back toward the Escalade, she saw a smattering of people gathered around the back end of it, keeping a careful distance. As she staggered to her feet, Josie noticed a man, bent at the waist, hanging face down from the rear driver’s side window of the vehicle. Blood fanned across the back of his white T-shirt. What looked like a TEC-9 had landed in the parking lot about ten feet away from the car. Again, she reached for her service weapon and felt a sense of panic at its absence. She stumbled toward the vehicle, trying to right her posture. Pain prickled across her lower back.
“Get back,” she told the crowd.
Two women looked on, faces pale. One covered her mouth with her hands. The other pressed her hands to her chest, which heaved in time with the sound of the car alarm going off inside the Escalade. The twenty-somethings were there too, clinging to one another. Near the pumps an older woman leaned against her car, sobbing.
The driver slumped forward, his forehead on the steering wheel. His window had been shot out. Blood trickled from his ear. His thick black hair was wet with what Josie was sure was more blood. Josie stepped closer to the car and reached gingerly into the driver’s side window, pressing two fingers to the side of the driver’s neck. No pulse. Her fingers came away red.
sound of someone retching drew her attention. She raced to the
other side of the Escalade. The Stop and Go owner was feet away from the rear passenger’s side, leaned over and vomiting, a shotgun in one hand.
Josie said, “Give me that.”
He didn’t protest when she took the gun. Turning back, she saw what had made him sick. Another man hung from the rear passenger’s side window, his neck twisted at an awkward angle.
She hefted the shotgun up and fitted the stock into her shoulder, keeping the barrel low but at the ready as she prowled toward the front passenger’s seat, cataloging everything she knew so far. Pennsylvania plates. Four occupants, three definitely dead. All three appeared to be of Latino descent, mid to late twenties, and were pretty heavily inked. The two guys in the back had shiny bald heads, and the matching tattoos on the backs of their necks told her they were probably members of a gang. The driver and the man seated behind him had been killed by gunfire, no doubt. The other backseat passenger was more likely killed by the impact of the crash. It looked like a bullet had grazed the side of his head at some point in the gun battle, but she didn’t see any obvious gunshot wounds anywhere else.
The sound of the front passenger coughing sent her arms flying upward, the barrel of the gun pointed toward the open window. Cautiously, she approached. Behind her, the owner of the Stop and Go called out, “Detective!” His voice was high-pitched with concern.
Inside the vehicle, the man’s body bucked and shook. As she got closer she saw that, unlike the other occupants, he was white and middle-aged with short dark hair and glasses. He had his seat belt on. Where the other men wore T-shirts, this man had on a plaid button- down shirt with a tie. Blood oozed from a bullet hole in his chest. His face was pinched with pain and smeared with blood. Thin, rice-sized pieces of glass sparkled all over his skin, like someone had sprayed him with glitter.
His head swiveled toward her and his hazel eyes took her in. Shock coursed through her. She lowered the shotgun. “Mr. Spencer?” she said.
She drew closer,
leaning in toward him. With great effort, he reached a hand through the window.
His fingers searched for something to grab onto and found the sleeve of her
jacket. Josie locked eyes with him, the look of panic in his face like a sudden
splash of cold water down her back. His mouth worked to speak. Blood spilled
from his lips. He whispered hoarsely but with a desperation in his tone that
went right through her. He said only one word. A name.