I had a grand production in local media (and even social media, going so far as to make a Facebook Event page for it, to which tens of people replied) of the upcoming “burial” of Kirchner (who has in fact already been cremated, as his body had no further value as evidence and no one cared to claim it), arranging for a phony wake at a funeral parlor. Hopefully, the killer would try to mingle with the crowds of strangers who always come out to grieve big news stories, and then I could ride my desk again until retirement.

No such luck. The only people in the chapel were I and the bureau commander, who for some reason wore sunglasses while scrolling through his phone, and the funeral director, who ambled about the halls, constantly checking his watch. Finally, a middle-aged couple entered, confused, and asked the funeral director if this was the viewing of whatever name it was they said, something I didn’t recognize, not Kirchner’s. But the bureau commander noticed the woman was wearing a Packers sweatshirt, and he leapt out of his chair to confront them. They were baffled, then irritated, then threatened to file a complaint. The commander made a crude sexual quip about Aaron Rodgers as he let them alone and the woman gasped in terror, shrieking that it took one to know one. In any event, it turned out they were merely at the wrong funeral parlor. The commander ordered them followed anyway.

He snapped at me about the cost of the ruse and then he started yelling when I told him he was the one who approved it. I offered that the best we have now is to keep digging into Kirchner’s life; somebody must’ve known him. He starts bitching again about my lack of progress at the sports bars and is unamused by a joke I make about all the weight I’m gaining from all the wings I crush when I’m there on stakeouts that I’m of course not really doing. Maybe he knows I’m lying. Coyly, he asks me something about the playoffs and I reach for a notepad inside my jacket; realizing I still don’t have one, I turn my back to him and pretend to produce one, alongside a make-believe pen, then I pretend to make notes will murmuring words like field goals and pick six. He’s still talking, and I ask him how to spell that.

Spell what, he wonders, irritated and confused.

How to spell touchdown, I say, deadly serious, looking back over my shoulder, eyes narrowed, focused totally on my mission.

He storms outside and I follow, as he’s still yelling at me, threatening me and my pension. I struggle to surreptitiously turn on my phone and record the exchange in the event there’s anything the union can do for me while he climbs into his SUV. As he starts it, there’s an explosion from under the steering column just large enough to drive me back and torch him. He bursts out of the truck but then his movements almost instantly become torpid, robotic, malfunctioning, until he’s simply standing there, crumpling, melting slowly to the ground as he’s burnt to death. He’s trying to scream but he keeps inhaling flame. The SUV’s interior is now incinerated, the flames whipping and licking out the burst windows. I cannot believe how quickly this happens. Between the sheer speed of the event and the intense heat, it doesn’t occur to me to even pretend to try to save him, though I’m sure even any real effort would’ve been hopeless. He’s now a crouched, flaming skeleton swaddled in melted clothes, and then he vanishes further into a lump of sticks and wires with a screaming face. Soon he will be mostly a pile of ash crowned with a howling skull, his jaw torn and cracked wide open from the useless attempts to gulp air and scream, wide enough to swallow his own body, or what’s left of it, which will barely fill a few dustpans.

There are lashing and tinging sounds erupting from everywhere, and I hunker behind another car in the lot. I can’t understand why the SUV is producing shrapnel. Then I see one of the growing crowd of spectators drop. Someone’s firing on the entire parking lot. Windows shatter and auto bodies are perforated with gaping black holes trimmed in the silver left behind by peeled paint. I fling myself to the asphalt and slither to cover, and, stealing a glance from beneath a parked car, I see a giant, a block away, his trench coat, his mask with the open mouth. He’s yelling something. He removes the empty magazine from the smoking MAC-10 and throws both into the Buick. I can’t make the plate. He’s laughing.


For all installments of “The Ambush,” click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Part 1: The Body
  2. Part 2: The Colony