“No, you cannot go outside of our jurisdiction,” the police lieutenant answered. Ashley observed that the lieutenant was leaning back on his chair. He always leaned back when his mind was made up. Perhaps he felt physically relaxed after making a decision. “That case is closed. Good job. Don’t ask me about it again, Detective.” The lieutenant leaned forward and picked up a file. He tossed it so it slid across his desk and stopped in front of Ashley.
“What is this, Lieutenant?” Ashley asked. She picked up the thick file folder, opened it, and scanned the contents.
“It’s your next assignment,” the lieutenant answered. “You and Detective Jackson have a look at that. If you have any questions, come see me. Now go out there and get me another win. And play nice with the SWAT Team this time if you call them in.”
Ashley studied the contents of the file at her desk. Someone had been killing drug dealers. The locations and patterns suggested that someone was taking territory held by another gang. It seemed to her that the case should have been solved a long time ago.
Turf wars were not new to Ashley; but as she looked through the file, she saw this case was different. There were no leads from people. In most cases, someone in the neighborhood said something to the police. The reasons for saying something ranged from simply wanting the violence to end to having a preference for which gang held the territory in the end. According to the documents, no one was willing to talk to the police. People were afraid.
Ashley and Kimberly went to investigate the territory where the murders had been committed. There were no clues, so they went door to door to talk to residents. Some people answered the door, but refused to talk. Others who were obviously home did not answer.
“No one’s talking,” Kimberly said. She and Ashley stood on the sidewalk across from one of the many apartment buildings. “Let’s go back to our desks and go over the murder books again.”
“Maybe we should stick around a little longer,” Ashley suggested. “The dealers might talk if we can find them.”
“They might,” Kimberly said.
“They get killed eithe’ way,” a woman said behind them. Ashley and Kimberly turned around and saw an old woman who appeared homeless. She had a shopping cart full of blankets, a tent, cardboard, a jug of water and cans of food. “That boy is takin’ ‘em out.”
“What boy?” Ashley asked.
“Boy in 137,” the woman answered. “Seen ‘im do it. Get out the way.”
“You saw a man kill another man?” Kimberly asked.
“Get out the way,” the woman repeated.
“Just a moment, please,” Ashley said. “You know who killed the dealers?”
“Yep. Boy in 137. That buildin’,” the woman answered. She pointed to a building in the next block. “Kill me too, but I look like the trash in the dark. It’s my camo. Get out the way.”
Ashley and Kimberly had to follow the lead. They walked to the building the woman had pointed to and found apartment 137. Once outside of it, they listened through the front door for a few moments. They heard music coming from the inside of the apartment, but that was all. They rang the doorbell and waited, but no one answered. Then, they knocked and waited.
A short and muscular man answered the door. He had a butch haircut, a weary face, and cold eyes. He wore a white tank top, jeans, and black steel toed shoes. He looked at the two women as if he was trying to guess the intent of their visit before they announced it. Ashley pretended to scratch just below her clavicle. She did not have an itch: she only made sure she wore an orange jewel that gave her the power to replicate herself.
“Sir, I am Detective Smith and this is Detective Jackson,” Ashley said. The man looked at their shoes as he scratched his head as if he tried to understand what she had just said. Ashley glanced at Kimberly to read her thoughts. In the second she looked away, the man had pulled a gun out of his back. There was a loud bang, and Kimberly fell to the ground.
Ashley drew her firearm as she moved behind the wall for cover. The man moved to shoot Kimberly again, but Ashley fired her gun at him. She missed, and the man retreated into the dark apartment.
Ashley was focused on getting through the situation. That focus allowed her to replicate effortlessly. She left a copy of herself, Ashley 2, to protect her partner and then moved into the apartment in pursuit of the suspect.
When Ashley walked into the first room, she noticed the apartment was bigger than she had expected. The layout was a problem because there were rooms in both directions. If she went the wrong way, he could surprise her or escape. It was too risky to pursue the suspect alone. She replicated again. She and Ashley 3 moved through the apartment room by room. The rooms were meticulously clean and organized, so they were easy to search. Still, she expected to be shot every time she looked through a doorway.
Ashley 3 noticed a back door in the laundry room at the back of the apartment. Ashley moved into a position to cover Ashley 3 as she opened the door. When Ashley 3 turned the doorknob, multiple shots were fired through the door from outside. Ashley 3 dropped to the ground. She yelped when a bullet hit the front of her shoulder and went out the back. Both Ashleys remained completely still until the gunfire stopped.
Ashley heard footsteps pounding the pavement outside. She looked carefully out the doorway, saw the suspect running away, and ran after him. Ashley 3 chased him too, but the pain from the bullet wound slowed her down. As Ashley began to tire, she replicated. Ashley 4 sprinted, caught up to the suspect, and tackled him to the ground. She tried to restrain him, but the man resisted. He was too strong for her. He knocked her to the ground and pinned her there by climbing on top of her. He pulled his arm back to punch her, but Ashley and Ashley 3 arrived just in time to grab his arm. The three women wrestled the man to the ground and cuffed him.
Once Ashley was certain that the suspect was restrained, she absorbed Ashleys 3 and 4. She felt exhausted. She also felt the pain of a wound in her left shoulder. The man was armed, dangerous, and impulsive; but that did not justify the communities fear. The case did not feel closed to her.
After police officers arrived to pick up the suspect, the Lieutenant called Ashley. He told her to go to the same hospital where they had taken Kimberly and get her bullet wound treated. After treatment, she was to report to his office. He was concerned that the reports and facts of the events were not lining up.
She took the orange jewel out of her shirt and clenched it in her fist as she took a deep breath. Before going to see the Lieutenant, she needed to find and absorb Ashley 2. After doing that, she would know everything that had happened and be ready to say anything she will need to say.
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