Sascha stood with one hand tucked into the pocket of his jeans. He had just explained the accident to the young officer who responded to the accident. They were standing well away from Sascha's car to give a fire engine enough space to put down dispersant and oil dry on the road. So far, there had been no sparks. Sascha expected an opportunistic stranger to fling a hot cigarette onto the slick of oil and gasoline, but his fellow man had pleasantly surprised him.
The officer finished writing, glanced toward the driver of the Sable that had demolished Sascha's car, and frowned. He stepped closer to Sascha and spoke in a low voice. "Did you get a look at the guy before he ran into you?" he asked.
Sascha sucked his teeth. "I remember that he was drifting from side to side," he said finally. "Someone blew a horn at him once. I didn't get a good look inside the car, though."
"He seems a little over-amped to me. I've seen a lot of accidents, and it's normal to be nervous or even panicked at first, especially if you're at fault. But this guy can't sit still. Wait here, Mr. Greene. I'll be with you again in a few minutes."
The officer walked away, leaving Sascha with a few more idle moments. He pulled out his phone and opened the web browser. "If I can't get away myself, I'll find out what's up in the Big Apple," he muttered to himself. He downloaded a pair of articles from the New York Times's website and flipped his phone into landscape mode for easier reading.
Sascha had just finished the first article when the young officer approached him again, this time looking worried. "Mr. Green," he said, "can you tell me where you were going before the accident happened?"
"NYPD headquarters," Sascha said. "I was asked to participate in an criminal investigation. Figures, right? Why do you ask?"
The officer raised his left hand and turned the mobile phone in it so that Sascha could see it. There was an SMS message on the glowing screen. Sascha read it twice before the meaning sunk in.
ABORT. ABORT. DO NOT FOLLOW. WAIT FOR NEW INSTRUCTIONS.
"This is his phone?" Jesse asked, his eyes widening.
The officer nodded. "We just handcuffed him and put him in the patrol car. This is out of my control now because we have reason to believe that this man meant to commit a crime today, and somehow it was connected to following your car. You might want to see the earlier messages, too."
Sascha took the phone and pressed the button for the previous message in the conversation.
only one guy in car. should i still follow?
He swallowed hard and pressed the button one more time.
Follow license plate F553G9. Blue Chevy Cavalier. Two men.
That was his car. Sascha frowned. Two men? He pressed the button a third time.
im at the parking structure. what next?
Sascha cringed. He had been at the office all day, getting his normal duties out of the way to make space in his schedule for the interrogation. This guy had followed him all the way from CUNY.
God damn it, Sascha thought. Why didn't I walk? If I had cut out one coffee break, then I would have had enough time.
The phone indicated that there were no more messages, and he handed it back to the officer. "Where should I go, officer?" Sascha asked. "They'll need to ask me questions, and I think that the rabbit hole just got deeper for me." He sighed. "It may be connected to the case that I was supposed to help investigate today."
"The same place you were headed," the officer said. "The feds and one of our detectives will meet you at headquarters. I'll give you a lift, unless you feel like walking."
Sascha caught the sarcasm. "Thanks," he said with a lopsided grin. "I'd better not take any more chances today. What about my car?"
"We'll take care of the towing. You can settle up and retrieve it tomorrow."
They walked toward the police cruiser. The officer gestured toward the front passenger seat, and Sascha took a look at the handcuffed man in the backseat as he opened the front door. The look on his face was still one of utter terror.