“They cheered their own deaths.” Detective Frank Mallory spat out the words like the poison they were.
“They thought it was part of the parade.” Detective Alberto “Gunner” Gennaro, his partner in the Major Case Squad, tried to ease the bitter edge Mallory clearly had in his voice. His partner tended to struggle with the emotional toll of these cases. To Gunner, that way laid madness.
“They saw what they wanted to,” Mallory insisted.
“We all do, brother, we all do,” Gunner sighed, looking out across the bloody corner of Fifth Avenue and 69th Street
where the St. Patrick’s Day Parade had been attacked. Three dead, two critical, another four seriously wounded but stable, dozens more with minor injuries. The biggest single spilling of blood in Manhattan in over ten years.
And it had all started so beautifully.
After such a long, harsh winter, many thought the parade wouldn’t happen, forecasters had been predicting yet another snowstorm, or, best case scenario, freezing rain, something horrible and depressing like the city had been locked into for weeks.
If only NYC could only have been so lucky.
Instead, it was crisp blue skies, the sun working to warm a slight chill out of the breeze, urging temperatures into the mid-sixties, warm for mid-March in New York City, and a gift of a day for the parade.
The marching bands lined up, bass drummers booming, bagpipers filling the day with their signature sound, and even a few Glockenspiels tinkled. School band after school band marched blaring joyfully. Smiling young Irish step dancers bounced and twirled. Older, more serious fraternal society bands strode with fierce pride. Civil service Irish societies, their membership beginning to age out a bit, held fast to their significant presence.
The NYPD had their bagpipers, as did the NYFD. The Corrections Department was there, as were construction locals and the teachers, so many groups from all over the city, the surrounding New York counties, and neighboring states. All marching. All proud. All Irish, at least for today.
And, of course, the Hibernians, organizers and hosts of this New York tradition, oversaw the over 250-year-old event.
More than anything, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade was a blue collar event, supported overwhelmingly by working people from all over the tri-state area. Sure, VIPs had the viewing stand, but the crowd was more than willing to let those precious few box themselves fend for their precious selves; the masses took Fifth Avenue, the neighboring streets, and, as a small ocean of beer was consumed, all of Manhattan, turned it all bright kelly green for the day and filled it with laughter and music, cheering and life.
The one percent of the one percent took a back seat on St. Patrick’s Day; this party was definitely for the people.
And to al involved, the parade was grand; a celebratory casting off of the shackles of snow and cold and gray that had held the city down since Christmas. The parade seemed a declaration that spring had finally arrived, and life could begin anew.
Onlookers mobbed both sides of the wide, lavish avenue, cheering, sneaking drinks, wearing green, mostly on their clothes, but some dyed their hair or painted their faces, or both. All in fun, all in the spirit of the day.
As the saying goes, on St. Patrick’s Day everyone is Irish.
With the possible exception of Mallory, whose shoulders seemed slightly more hunched that day, his habitual frown a bit more pronounced as each drunk stumbled by.
“Wearing green doesn’t make them Irish,” he muttered.
“Today it does, you stick in the mud,” Gunner chuckled.
“That’s the magic of the day, the generosity of your people. You should try it some time.”
“There’s so much more to my culture than beer and green and green beer.”
“That’s what the rest of the year is for,” Gunner winked.
“Today reminds people that the Irish culture is alive and well and fun. Then they can explore the rest of it as they please. I plan to start with that redhead over there.”
Truth be told, Mallory hated how people celebrated his cultural holiday. Too many insisted on inebriation because “that’s what the Irish do.” He despised that stereotype so vehemently that he rarely attended the parade, preferring to avoid seeing all the drunks.
Of course, Gunner took Mallory’s morose mood as a personal challenge, cajoling his partner into attending this year by singing The Irish Rovers song “The Unicorn” off key every working hour of every day for a week. Mallory finally consented to attend the parade only if Gunner promised never to torture that song again. The big lug’s solemn vow lasted an hour before “it slipped out”, the linebacker-sized teddy bear apologizing for loving that unabashedly corny song so much he couldn’t help himself.
Not a drop of Irish blood in his veins, yet Gunner celebrated St. Patrick’s Day every year, singing the songs, reciting passages from great Irish writers, espousing Celtic mythology, peppering the week with parade factoids.
“Begun in 1762,” he told Mallory every year, “an official New York City event by 1766, ten years before the Declaration of Independence. How do you like them shamrocks?”
Every year. He did the same for his own people on Columbus Day, and over the last few years had begun educating himself in preparation for other parades as well, the Puerto Rican Day Parade suffering particularly badly; Gunner’s Spanish was earnest but brutal.
Regular fountain of information that Gunner, Mallory thought, and a mountain of lust. That unsuspecting redhead had no idea what was coming her way, and if Gunner’s absolutely uncanny romantic track record suggested anything, she’d probably be in love by morning.
The big detective sauntered up to her, said something Mallory missed that got her to chuckle and offer him a truly fabulous smile–
And then the flying leprechauns appeared.
Four of them, each over a foot long, plastic, clearly attached to drones, flying their mischievous smiling faces from Central Park, ascending with surprisingly smooth synchronized movements over and above the parade, trailing festive green smoke.
People looked up, oohing, ahhing and laughing at the grinning toys and their green vapor trails.
“The farting of the green!” a drunk college boy proclaimed.
But Gunner knew immediately. “Incoming! Get down!”
No one listened. Not even the redhead. They were all amused and pointing. Gunner grabbed Mallory and pulled him under a bus shelter. “Take cover! Get away from the—”
The leprechauns exploded simultaneously into what looked at first like sparkling green confetti. The crowds and the marchers cheered, and reaching up to grab some as souvenirs.
The detectives saw it happen, everywhere and all at once.
The flying wish granters had been filled not with confetti but glass shards and shrapnel, and, along with slicing drone blades. All of it slashed right into the crowd, ripping them mercilessly. The carnage was widespread, brutal and immediate.
The detectives raced out into the street and began triage, but there were too many injuries in every direction. Most had minor cuts and scrapes but suffered major panic.
The stampede made things worse.
People ran in every direction, most flooding office lobbies or stores or bars, all shaken, way too many bleeding.
Those left in the open were worse off by far. Two bled out right there in the street. The legendary spirit of New Yorkers who cast caution to the wind ran to aid others in need, saving dozens from death.
Mallory saw one woman rip parts of her own dress to use as bandages.
Duane Reade workers ran from their store with first aide supplies, emptying their shelves on the boss’ orders, saving dozens more.
EMTs on hand for the parade arrived in seconds, more came within minutes.
NYFD marchers ran from the parade, joining the effort, as did the detectives’ fellow cops, rushing back from much further along the parade route. Mallory and Gunner were deep in the crowd assisting the wounded when the Borough Commander grabbed Mallory by the shoulder.
“You,” he barked. “You two are the ones with the reputation. Find who did this.” Mallory blinked. “Sir?”
The Borough Commander’s voice took on a decided edge. “Find them.
Immediately.” He marched away; there would be no discussion.
Gunner looked at his partner, then at the carnage that was Fifth Avenue. “Where do we even begin?”
John Mutchen was bored. He had selected the seminar because it was vaguely related to his field, and it was a good way to kill some time while Greta and her friends were enjoying the parade. She might be a sophomore in college, but the beautiful girl was still his baby especially since Trudie died. After that nightmare he found himself over- protective.
Greta seemed to understand and agreed to let Dad drive herself and her friends into Manhattan rather than letting them come in from upstate by train.
She spoiled him in that way, John knew, just as her mom used to before the cancer took her.
Still, the seminar was boring, and he had absorbed all he would by looking through the slim textbook they had handed out at the start and were following practically verbatim. So it was a relief when Greta texted him. Maybe she and her friends were bored, too. He’d take them to a nice restaurant—
Bomb exploded. Grace & I injured. Please come get us. 69th and Park.
He was up and moving quickly, boredom banished.
“Sir,” the seminar host called after. “You’ll miss our secret—”
“Page 53, second paragraph, third sentence in. Not a bad idea. Thank you,” John called as he exited, the rest of the audience flipping to page 53.
Mallory scanned the wounded, the first responders, the dazed remnants of the crowd. Of course, there would be no obvious suspects. Whomever did this had the perfect cover for escape — a panicked mob. He exhaled, “Witness interviews?”
Gunner shook his big, shaggy head. “People were looking at the leprechauns, not each other.” He thought for a moment, then snapped his fingers. “We’re gonna need Jimmy.”
Mallory frowned, “Alright, wise guy, which Jimmy is going to salvage St. Patrick’s Day?” “Canelli.”
Det. Jimmy Canelli was exactly whom they needed; an NYPD tech wizard specializing in video surveillance monitoring. Legend had it that Canelli could bring up onto his monitor array any traffic, weather, or security camera anywhere in Manhattan in less than ninety seconds.
Gunner had him on speed dial.
Jimmy picked up on the first ring. “You catch this mess?”
“Luck of the Irish,” Gunner replied.
Canelli chuckled, “I already started on the roof cameras. At 69th heading south?” “Better to try the Park first. They came from there, didn’t travel far.”
“On it. Let me work. I’ll call you as soon as I find the prick.”
“Pricks. With four drone bombs, we might be looking for a team,” Gunner offered.
Gunner pocketed the phone, turned to his partner.
“The parade in general?”
Mallory squinted across the carnage, “To what end?”
“The Troubles died a ways back in favor of corporate profits.”
Gunner grunted. “Then let’s see who got hit, specifically.”
A uniform had been assigned victim identification detail. Not a rookie, so he knew what the detectives were looking for. “Got a partial list. Donnelly, Janet T., 38. Executive secretary for The Iron Workers local. McManus, John Patrick, 59, Steamfitters local 638 rep. McNally, Theresa P., 27. Formerly Terence Patrick. Affiliation unconfirmed, but it is rumored—”
Gunner finished for him. “She’s an officer of Irish Queers. Saw her on a Sunday news show last week.” The uniform looked confused, so Gunner elaborated. “Irish Queers is dedicated to fighting lingering reluctance of certain influencers to allow LGBT groups to participate in the parade. All sorts of body painting, hair dying, and inebriation are embraced here, but not alternative lifestyles. They’ve been marching for awhile now, but … old habits die hard.”
Mallory’s eyes narrowed, always a good sign. “Those flying leprechauns were homemade,” he said, bending to pick up a glass shard. “Stuffed plastic figures encasing hobby level drones, both obtainable at mall kiosks and toy stores everywhere. That’s easy enough. But making sure they could fly with the extra weight, getting them here, setting them up and flying without detection, that takes a lot of planning. It would have been easier to shoot or stab her. Besides, the result was wholesale injury. This wasn’t a hit.”
The cop countered. “Unless their perp wanted to disguise the intended.”
“Point taken,” Mallory gave his card to the uniform. “Please follow up on her and any possible colleagues that may have also been injured. Call me with whatever you find.”
The uniform read the rest of list, but no one jumped out like Theresa McNally. “I gotta collect the rest of the names, then I’ll call you,” he offered.
They thanked him and moved on.
“Theresa might have just be in the wrong place at the wrong time, like the rest of these vics,” Gunner shrugged.
“The construction locals? Someone trying to stop a project from going union?”
“The reps injured here wouldn’t stop progress on anything. All due respect, but there was no one of weight hit.”
Mallory’s frown expanded. “That would be exactly—”
“—our cup of tea. See what I did there? Irish joke.”
Mallory sighed. “Today it would have to be pint of Guinness.”
“That’s exactly what the survivors need.”
The frowning detective almost smiled at his partner. “Perfect place to mingle, enjoy one’s handiwork, establish an alibi—”
“Or create more havoc,” Gunner cut him off, pointing to the mobs fleeing from taverns about two blocks down the street.
The bars were closer to Park Avenue, but those fleeing the parade chaos found all four of them. Beer flowed, as did whiskey, scotch, and so on, everybody looking for relief from the incident, settle nerves, assuage shock.
At first, the drink seemed to be working. People began to relax, text loved ones, make sure all their people were okay.
And then, in each of the four bars, men’s rooms doors flew open, guys rushing out, green smoke following.
That’s all that was needed. Just a bit of green smoke at each location.
Panic ensued; patrons stampeding, trampling each other to get free, to be safe from what must surely be some terrorist plot.
John Mutchen was jogging up the street, determined to get to his Greta quickly. Despite himself, he slowed when he saw the mob coming toward him in a panic. The street was suddenly flooded with people closer than the distant parade crowd. And they were running from what looked to be a number of bars, green smoke seeming to chase after them.
What had he gotten Greta into?
The sidewalk was clogged with injured people. Was this what Greta meant in her text? Or was this something new? Where was she? John looked for young college girls among those running, and then, as he got closer, among the injured.
He spotted four men come together about ten feet in front of him. Two had been waiting for the other pair. They smiled to each other, except for one who looked worried,
then walked casually down the street, not in a hurry at all, passing the concerned John Mutchen making conversation. The worried one was asking if they should just go. The answer didn’t make sense to John.
“No, everything’s going great.”
They must be drunk, he thought, because the rest of the area was in a collective state of fear. What had he just allowed his Greta to experience?
Mallory and Gunner ran to the bars, collecting assistance along the way; a few EMTs, three uniformed cops, two plain clothes guys originally assigned to mix in with the crowd and handle whatever presented itself, now helping out wherever needed.
Mallory addressed their de facto team. “EMTs attend the injured. Uniforms get the crowd under control. You PCs mix in; we’re looking for suspects. We need to find who is doing this and odds are they were just here.”
Everyone got to work.
The EMTs dealt with the trampled. The uniforms corralled the shaken to a safe distance and began taking statements.
Mallory, Gunner, and the two PCs wandered through the crowd, watching and listening to whatever they could overhear:
“The bathroom just started smoking.”
“Same stuff that came out of those leprechaun drones.”
“Al-Quada for sure.”
“The IRA is back.”
“It’s the gays.”
“—movie stunt. I heard they were making a Leprechaun sequel.”
No one was talking sense, Mallory thought, no one stood out, no one even suggested perp.
Then an older man stood up from beside a quartet of young women, a few of whom wore bandages, one sitting on the sidewalk with an ice pack on her ankle. The man stepped to Mallory. Gunner immediately redirected himself to join them, the two PCs positioning themselves several feet behind the man. Mallory liked their instincts.
“Excuse me, sir, are you a detective?”
Mallory squinted. “Why would you ask?”
“You are not helping the wounded. You are not wounded yourself. You are searching the crowd as if looking for someone. I think more than one.”
Gunner leaned in. “What are you getting at, guy?”
“My name is John Mutchen. I was a few blocks away and hurried over when my daughter texted that she was injured. Everyone I saw behaved the same way; panicked, running. All except one group.”
The detectives exchanged a quick glance.
Mutchen continued, “I saw four men casually strolling away, having a conversation that didn’t make sense then but now seems important. One said, ‘This is too much. Shouldn’t we just go?’ And another said, ‘This is going great.'”
Gunner raised an eyebrow.
Mallory didn’t. “Sir, for this to be of value, we would need accurate descriptions. Civilians just aren’t good at—”
The girl with ice on her leg cut him off. “My Dad has an eidetic memory.”
The detectives looked down at her. She gave them a disappointed face “Photographic. He remembers everything.”
The detectives turned their gaze back to Dad. Gunner wiggled both eyebrows now. “Really?”
Mutchen got right to work. “First one was approximately six foot, 200 pounds. Nose has been broken and never reset. Small blue eyes with a half-inch scar through the outside of his right eyebrow. Once wore an earring in his left lobe, hole is closed but still visible. Brown corduroy sports jacket with a lump in the right pocket, possibly a small caliber weapon. Maroon V-neck sweater over a crew neck white T-shirt. Khaki pants with a ketchup stain not completely cleaned off of his left thigh. Beige construction books, scuffed on the outside of the left one, oil stain on the inside of the right. He chews his finger nails….”
Mutchen described each of the four with the same exacting details. Gunner took copious notes, Mallory absorbed and visualized.
When the man was done, the detectives got an EMT for the girls and a uniformed officer for Mr. Mutchen, asking him to repeat the statement he’d made to them. Mutchen
agreed, and pointed out the direction the men went.
Mallory, Gunner and the two PCs headed that way, each taking a side of the street to cover.
“A bit much for a prank,” Gunner began when the partners were walking up their side.
“The bar chaos blocks the majority of cops walking the parade from progressing further into Manhattan.”
Mallory nodded. “I’m thinking the same thing.”
“Whatever they have planned has to be executed in a very short amount of time.” “Clock is definitely ticking. The crowd back there is already calming down,”
Mallory said. “So what’s nearby that is worth all this trouble?”
The detectives scanned the buildings before them, settling on an impressively exclusive bank on the corner.
The partners never said a word, they just strolled, staggering once in awhile as if they’d had a few too many green beers to steady their nerves and were now wandering toward the train back to the ‘burbs. They passed within ten feet of the guy in the window.
Gunner spoke quietly, not looking at Mallory,
“Approximately six foot.”
“A little light for 200 pounds, but close.”
“Someone disliked that beak, brother. Maybe with a pool cue.”
“Eyebrow scar is right where it should be,” Mallory mumbled, passing so close there was just glass between the detectives and their target. “Jacket, sweater, T-shirt. Check.”
Gunner watched the suspect go into his pocket, thinking for a second they’d been made. Then the guy brought out a big wadded up bandana and wiped his sweating brow. He stuffed it back. Raised his empty hand to his mouth. Bit the nail of his ring finger, lost in thought.
“God bless eidetic memory,” Gunner chuckled. “If we’re right, they are pulling their heist right now. No time for backups.”
“It would be stupid to try this without support,” Mallory shook his head. “Thank God those PC guys have us,” Gunner smiled, waving them over. “You brief them, I got an idea,” he said wandering toward a sidewalk souvenir salesman.
Their team was in place, and working well, a still worried Luke observed, trying desperately to ease the tension as the seconds ticked away. So close. So damned close.
Wilford ran the job. He was the planner, the exec, the job creator, as he liked to say.
Ronnie was assigned to grab the VP and their target, force them back into open the vault.
Ray, their best shooter, coolest head, sharpest eye, covered everyone with a tech nine.
Luke was the street lookout.
This would work, he told himself, slapping at the sweat under his nose. Just like Wilford had shown them. They weren’t small time thugs, they were an executive board. They had a business plan. They had invested time and assets. Everything had worked well so far.
Just under three minutes and they could retire, he told himself, fighting an urge to puke. You cannot succeed without risk, that’s what Wilford preached. Can’t achieve without having skin in the game. This was the price of success. Wilford had taught them all of that, wanted them to live by it. Luke was hanging on to Wilford’s philosophy and trying not to faint.
It was Wilford’s vision that tipped them off to the widow Branchley’s weekly ritual. She had inherited the Branchley’s Confections fortune when her husband’s heart gave out. Legend held that Widow Branchley had turned up the volume on their 75-inch television when she heard a thud in the luxurious penthouse bathroom, utilizing her favorite station’s business report to better ignore his subsequent strained cries for help, thus securing her promotion to president of that company and sole executor of its fortune.
This was how the rich ascended, Wilford taught them. Succeed by any means necessary. Only the brave can thrive. Only the strong arrive.
Wilford did insist on referring to them as the “executive board” of a company he called Progressive Ventures Limited. PVL was designed to ascend like any major corporation, building on smaller
projects to acquire personal fortunes. The only difference was PVL would attempt this ascension in a single day.
Today, in fact.
The Flying Leprechaun Amusement was a brand that would excite interest, Wilford had promised. Then the spin off of one popular aspect of that project, the green smoke, in this case, would generate secondary interest and widen brand recognition.
And then they would diversify, utilizing momentum generated from these projects to mount a hostile takeover of Branchley Confections’ assets, namely acquiring the widow’s “girls” — her collection of rare jewels, which she visited once a week at this time like clockwork, holidays be damned.
Each member of the team had agreed to take control of one asset as Wilford put it.
Luke, the youngest member of PVL, was assigned the lowest asset: blue garnets from Madagascar worth $1.5 million per carat. She had three of them, two carats each. Ray would take on the serendibite gemstones from Mogok in north Burma. Of these, the widow owned four three carat stones, estimated at $1.8 to $2 million per carat. Ronnie would take over the red diamonds account. Widow Branchley currently owned two of these, each about two carats, estimated at $2.5 million per carat. Wilford himself would take control of the widow’s four one carat jadeite gems, worth $3 million each.
Ronnie would get them from the Widow Branchley, disable both her and the bank VP, emerge from the vault, hand each of the executive board a small pouch. They would slip these into their pockets, walk out, and dissolve the company, retiring multi- millionaires.
Wilford’s vision for this asset takeover actually came from being the venomous old witch’s much maligned personal driver for three years before she canned him for “being diseased” (Wilford had dared to catch a cold and sneezed four times while driving her to dinner on Christmas Day, two years ago). Ever since then, Wilford spent his time studying corporate strategies, acquired skilled assets like Luke himself, created his business plan. And PVL was born.
But Luke should be doing his job. He jumped a little out of his thoughts, tapped the timer app on his phone. “Two minutes!”
Then he scanned the streets for police. It was clear except for parade drunks. Even they were wandering away. “Streets are emptying,” he called out.
Wilford didn’t like that news. “This is New York City, Lucas, one of the most densely populated centers in the world. If no one is on the street, we are in trouble.”
Luke’s stomach lurched. He hated worrying Wilford. “There’s people, of course there are,” he switched gears. “Just no obstacles, I mean.”
“Keep watching,” Wilford ordered.
“One minute left!”
Ronnie emerged, shook their hands, delivering a small velvety pouch each time. This was it. They were rich. All that remained was for them to mix into the city
crowds as successful entrepreneurs.
Wilford gave the signal. They departed.
The sun felt warm, inviting them into their new life. Success felt thrilling—
And then someone threw a plastic leprechaun at them. All four jumped, covering up as if expecting pain.
When they looked up, a big sloppy man was pointing a gun at them. “Police. Drop that weapon or we will drop you without hesitation.”
There was another guy to their right, two more to their left, guns in one hand, cuffs in the other.
Ray dropped their only weapon.
“Lucas,” Wilford muttered.
“There were no cops,” Luke tried but failed to keep the whine out of his voice.
The detective to their right was holding up his badge and his gun. “You all have the right to remain silent….”
After booking and paper work and all the rest, Mallory and Gunner and the two PCs, Billy Williams and Chuck Stockton from Warrants, it turned out, went to the traditional NYPD post-parade bash. It was understandably subdued, but livened up when the four “heroes” arrived.
Drinks were lined up for them. It was going to be a long night.
To everyone’s surprise, the Borough Commander insisted on buying the first round, and joined them for a shot of Jameson.
After signaling the bartender to pour again, he turned to Mallory and Gunner.
“When I ordered you to find the perps, I didn’t think you’d nail them in less than two hours. How did you know it was that bank?”
Gunner smiled, “Luck of the Irish, boss. Luck of the Irish.”
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