Chapter 21

Three blocks. You couldn't do this in another THREE BLOCKS when I'm next to the cop shop? Sascha relaxed his tense frame and glared into his rear-view mirror. Looking back at him was a young man, maybe 20 years old, whose eyes were wild with panic. The man's face was larger in Sascha's mirror than it should have been. Seconds earlier, Sascha had stopped to let an ambulance cross the street, and a blue Mercury Sable that had been drifting from one side of the road to the other—probably texting, Sascha had thought—slammed into the back of his car, shattering the rear window and puncturing the fuel tank. Traffic around them had continued to flow, but a few drivers behind the Sable had gotten out of their cars to investigate.

"Well, we're all still alive," Sascha said aloud. "Less paperwork this way." He unbuckled his seatbelt and stepped out of the car, getting a strong whiff of gasoline vapors from the fuel that was pouring onto the road and flowing backwards. He let the door rest against the body of the car, being careful not to create a spark. Then he took a few steps toward the Sable and gave a curt wave to the bystanders who were approaching.

Sascha looked inside the car that had hit him. "PUT THAT OUT!" he yelled suddenly, much to the surprise of the bystanders. The man had produced a cigarette and was taking a long drag on it. His look of panic returned as Sascha sprinted to his window. "The car you just smashed into is leaking gas, and it's flowing right underneath you. Unless you want to burn up along with your car, I suggest you snuff it out." Sascha was now leaning in the window, and the look on the man's face was one of sheer terror. With a shaking hand, the man pushed the cigarette into the ashtray in the car's console. "S-s-sorry," he stammered.

Sascha pulled his head and shoulders out of the car and looked around. Two vehicles in the adjacent lane had slowed to watch. The bystanders who had left their vehicles were glancing at one another and slowly backing away. Sascha put his hands up in a sign of apology. "Sorry, folks," he said. "I just have a strong aversion to dying in a fireball." He backed away from the Sable, giving the man enough space to open the door and a little extra for good measure.

"I'm Sascha Greene," he said.

The man looked at him warily. "Joe Marek," he said finally. "Sorry about your car."

"Don't worry about it. I'm glad that you're all right."

Sascha turned toward the group bystanders. "Can someone please call this in?" he asked.

One of the men responded that he had called 9-1-1 a few minutes before. Sascha walked back to his car to find his phone. He was going to be late for the meeting at the NYPD, and he knew that Jesse would be worried about him. His phone had moved from the console between the front seats to the rear window. Not stopping to work out how it had bounced up there, Sascha carefully pulled the phone out of the glass shards and entered his passcode. He had an SMS message from an unfamiliar number asking where he was. The number matched one of the calls in his recent call log, and he recalled that Jesse had called him from his new phone number. He sent a message back: Car accident. All ok, but I'll be late. Don't wait up. Only 3 blocks away, but there will be paperwork....

Sascha saw a police car moving slowly toward him, honking at the traffic to break up the rubbernecking. He sighed. My first interrogation. Down the tubes.