54 - Hot Pursuit

The Guardian Dolphin

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Clarence pumped the officer's hand and melted into the crowd moving down the sidewalk. Barnes watched him go, a half-smile on his lips. The old guy sure was a character.

He had taken a deep breath, and was about to turn back to the gallery when it caught his eye.

He glanced down at the Polaroid shot, back down the sidewalk, and back at the photo again. Then he began to push his way through the crowd, stuffing the picture back in his pocket as he moved.

He went as fast as he dared, wanting to get as close as possible before the old man saw him. He was only about ten feet away when the guy looked back. He saw the panic come into the guy's eyes and he walked a little faster, to close ground.

"Wait a moment, Sir—I need to talk…"

But just as he feared, the old man ran.

Great. With the temperature in the nineties. He sprinted after him, swerving through the crowd which had become a human obstacle course.

The guy was lucky, of course, and had no one in his way. He gained a better lead, then disappeared down an alley. Barnes almost threw his back out managing to thread his way around a middle-aged woman carrying half a dozen bags, a little girl who was walking backwards while eating an ice-cream cone, and a business man who was trying to pass them both, intent on some emergency of his own.

He put on a burst of speed, and rounded the corner to see his quarry half way down the alley.

"Stop!" he shouted. "Police!"

The old guy stopped and turned around. Barnes ran toward him, and almost reached him before he fled again. But this time it only took an extra burst of speed, and he pulled the guy to the ground.

It was a moment before he could catch his breath.

The poor old guy was scared to death. He could see it in his eyes, and he felt like a monster because of it. But he had a job to do. Finally, he got the words out.

"It's.. It's okay…" he said. "You're not in trouble… I just need to… to ask where… where did you get this jacket?"

The old man peered at him with half comprehending, owlish eyes. His toothless mouth worked soundlessly. After a time, his eyes wandered to the wrinkled formal dinner jacket he was wearing over a chartreuse sweater and a blue sweatshirt, in spite of the relentless heat.

His mouth worked some more.

"Danny," he said.

Officer Barnes tried to ignore the odor that hung about the old guy even though it was making his eyes water.

"What?"

The old man was impatient now.

"Danny," he insisted. "At the shelter. Danny give it to me."