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“Aw, come on, not Wonder Burger!” Blair Sandburg groused at the group around him. “Not again!”
“Sandy’s right, we’ve been there a lot.” Megan commented as she watched James Ellison stretch.
“I like Wonder Burger.” Cascade’s sentinel and most decorated officer replied, still trying to work the kinks out of his back.
“We know you like Wonder Burger.” Simon Banks fought a grin as Blair and Brian Rafe grimaced at the thought of Ellison’ s favorite fast food restaurant. “We’ve had enough of it to last a lifetime.”
“How about we try the new taco place on 4th?” Henri Brown asked, subtly trying to get the group moving.
“It’s not Wonder Burger.”
The rapid-fire response echoed Major Crimes’ nearly frenetic energy level. Two weeks of round-the-clock surveillance, even taken in shifts, had put them on edge. Then just before their raid, armed IRS agents had descended on the target and confiscated everything. The FBI had followed shortly after and told them ‘thanks, but you can go home now’. Instead of arguing with the IRS and the FBI, Simon had ordered his people out of the area. Now he just wanted to get them on an even enough keel to send them home safely. The paperwork could wait.
“We’ll try it.” Simon decided and signaled Henri to lead the group out of the area. “We need to unwind before we go home. We’ll do the paperwork on Thursday. I don’t want anyone coming in on the 4th.”
It was a testament to the unit’s unsettled nerves and frustration that they simply followed Henri and Simon to their cars. Simon frowned thoughtfully as he watched them pile into their vehicles. His people needed some serious downtime.
The Cascade Taco Company was doing a brisk carryout business, leaving the dine area only half occupied. Once they had their food, they had no trouble locating a group of empty tables.
“Hey, Joel. How are you doing?”
Simon turned at Joel’s happy greeting in time to see the ex-bomb captain greet an old friend. As he began to turn back to the Major Crimes crew, a series of sharp, staccato sounds echoed through the restaurant.
“Get down!” Simon found himself yelling as he reacted to rapid weapons’ fire.
The Major Crimes detectives exploded into movement, their trays of food hitting the floor. Instinctively, they followed, taking the nearest civilians with them. Simon noticed Joel grab a child from a high chair, rolling to protect it as he fell and pushed the shocked child under the table. His friend dropped as well, taking the young woman and little girl beside him down and shoving them under the same table. Henri and Brian had simply dropped, drawing their weapons and pointing them towards the sounds. Jim, Blair and Megan were already in motion moving steadily closer to the smoke enclosed vestibule, weapons out, quietly ordering terrified civilians to stay down. Simon followed, covering Joel’s movement from one piece of cover to the next. Under the sound of the shots, shrieks, whimpers, panicked cries and a multiple of rapid, frantic whispers as people tried to comfort each other seemed wrap around Simon.
“Jim?” Blair asked.
The sentinel was frowning as he studied the smoke filled, double glass vestibule. Suddenly, Jim shot forward, a low growl coming from him as he rolled out from behind a planter. Before anyone could protest, he was up and moving at a run. The rest of the group winced, expecting him to go down in the hail of gunfire, but no bullets hit him. As one, Major Crimes followed him through the blue-gray haze of spend gunpowder, past the ringing, echoing noises of miniature explosions that filled the tiny, enclosed glass anteroom and outside.
Two teenagers were frozen against the wall, a cloth bag at their feet, Jim Ellison’s pistol aimed at them. Their eyes went wide at the rest of Major Crimes boiled out of the restaurant, all leveling their weapons at them. Slowly, they opened their hands, dropping several packages of unlit fireworks.
“It was just a joke,” one of the boys whimpered. When the weapons remained pointed at him and none of the police detectives relaxed, he went pale. In the background, the staccato explosions tapered away.
“You are under arrest.” At Simon’s signal, Henri began reading the boys’ their rights. The approaching sound of sirens filled the air. As the boys were cuffed, the detectives holstered their weapons and looked around unhappily. After a moment, Jim turned and stalked inside, the angry tic of his jaw making the others edge out of his way.
“Firecrackers?” Megan asked, picking up a package of M60’s. She turned it over, noting that it was carefully taped so that several strings were linked together.
Brian Rafe picked up another set of fireworks. “I didn’t know they made M80’s”
“Rafe, take care of the evidence. Connor, Sandburg, go deal with the civilians, make sure no one was hurt.” Simon growled, his furious glare locked on the two boys. “Funny, gentlemen? How old are you?”
“Sixteen.” One of the boys replied.
“Seventeen.” The other answered.
Simon grinned ferally. “You can be tried as adults for this. You had better hope no one got hurt trying to get to safety.”
“It was just a joke,” the younger boy whined as several police cars pulled into the parking lot, lights flashing.
Jim came out of the restaurant and walked over to Simon. “We’ve got two ambulances en route. There’s a pregnant lady who fell pretty hard and I’m afraid to move her. And an older man is having chest pains.”
Simon nodded, raising his voice to yell at the police cars, “Clear a hole, we’ve got ambulances coming.” When the cars began moving he turned to the boys. “You had better pray those two are okay.”
The two boys only nodded, watching the commotion. They obviously had not expected this much trouble from their joke.
“It was just a joke.” The one murmured again.
“The mayor won’t think her daughter-in-law’s fall is a joke,” Jim purred, “especially if something happens to her grandchild.”
The two boys blanched and looked at each other, finally realizing how badly they had erred.
Yes, M60’s and M80’s exploding in an enclosed glass vestibule, like the ones that some fast food restaurants have do sound remarkably like automatic weapons fire. Been there, watched the reaction of the cops and the two Viet Nam vets in the restaurant. Got the bruises to prove it. The boys? Well, lets just say one of the calls made was for clean clothes for them after facing that many pistols aimed at them. The folks in the restaurant? Bruised, scared, very, very angry, but no one got hurt more than the one sprained ankle. Of course, the PD insisted everyone get looked at by the paramedics and a couple of people get checked out by their doc’s just as a precaution.