Kori looked around the pier, noticing some of the other people—tourists taking pictures with their cell phones and locals dangling fishing lines into the water. An old Otis Redding song started playing in her head. Then she noticed a person who instinctually stood out to her. A brawny man with a heavy black beard and cream-colored jacket was loitering along the edge of the pier, trying, it seemed to Kori, just a little too hard to look casual. Kori took out her phone and held it up in the direction of the Transamerica Building as if she were taking a picture, but out of the corner of her eye she was looking at the bearded man. He was looking at her. She snapped a photo and then slid the phone into her purse and began walking back toward the sidewalk. Behind her, she sensed the man following.
At the sidewalk, Kori turned and continued walking along the waterfront. Then she crossed the Embarcadero at Broadway and began walking back toward the Ferry Building from the other side of the street, essentially pulling a U-turn. She took out her phone as she walked and reversed the camera to see behind her. The man was still there, still following.
At Washington Street, she took a right and walked to Montgomery. At Montgomery, she took a left. In both instances, the man did the same. At California, a crowded cable car made a stop and Kori hopped on and slid between the other passengers toward the far end. Ordinarily, she would have enjoyed a ride on one of San Francisco’s legendary cable cars, the only mobile member on the National Register of Historic Places. But this was no time for tourism and sightseeing. She glanced behind her and the man had hopped aboard the cable car too. There could be no doubt now. With the cable car still in motion and a half a block to go before the Grant Avenue stop, Kori leaped off and ran down Quincy Street, ducking between two buildings. There she waited. She didn’t have to wait long. Sure enough, she heard the rapid footsteps of the man who had been pursuing her.
She pressed her back against the wall of the building toward the man and as he went by, she sprang out from between the buildings. In one fluid motion, she grabbed the man’s wrist and brought it behind his back, shoving it upward and causing the man to scream out in pain and fall to his knees. She pushed him down on his stomach and pressed his head against the pavement.
“Okay, who are you!?” she demanded.
The man remained silent.
“Tell me!” she yelled. Then she twisted his hand further up his back. “Don’t make me ask again!”
The man moaned in obvious discomfort but said nothing.
“I’ve got all day, Sporty,” said Kori. “We’ll just sit like this for as long as you like. I’m comfortable here and I’ve got no place to go. How about you?” She had her knee firmly planted in his back now and was grinding his head into the sidewalk. Still he refused to talk.
Kori searched through his jacket pockets and brought out a nine-millimeter Luger with a silencer. “Interesting choice of weapon,” she said. “Something tells me it’s not just for self-defense.”
Meanwhile, a small crowd had begun to gather at the commotion and someone had flagged down a passing police car.
“Ma’am!” Kori heard someone saying, “I’m going to have to ask you to release that man.”
Kori looked up and saw a uniformed officer coming through the crowd of onlookers with his hand reaching for the gun on his hip, ready to draw it out. The crowd, sensing a violent altercation, scattered, but everyone hung around close enough to watch whatever it was that was about to unfold.
“Relax, officer,” Kori said. “I was just defending myself.”
“That may be, ma’am, but it looks to me as if the threat is over,” said the cop, a muscular young man with a long nose and a pointed chin. “Now stand up, leave that gun on the ground, and back away slowly. No sudden moves.”
Kori did as the officer ordered, leaving the Luger on the ground, but sliding it out of the reach of the bearded man. “Look, officer, I’m an agent with the US government. I think you’ll find that this man is involved in a murder that took place here two nights ago. Call Detective Mack Walton from homicide.”
“I’ll need to see some ID first, ma’am.”
Kori reached slowly into her purse and pulled out her National Bureau of Criminal Investigations ID and badge. Since the organization was a cover and didn’t actually exist, the officer hadn’t ever heard of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigations. Nevertheless, the woman certainly seemed official and her mention of Detective Walton gave her enough credence in his mind to take his hand off his gun and pull out his handcuffs instead, using them on the prostrate man on the sidewalk.
That man, safe from the reaches of Kori Briggs for the moment, decided to start protesting to the officer. “She attacked me, officer,” he pleaded. “She came out of nowhere and threw me down. I was just walking along, minding my own business. That’s not my gun, it’s hers. Am I under arrest? I want a lawyer. I haven’t done anything. She’s crazy, I tell you. She was trying to kill me!”
“Okay, okay, just relax,” said the cop. “I’m calling Detective Walton down here and we’re going to get this all straightened out.” The cop pulled the bearded man up and sat him down against the wall of the building and searched his pockets. “Sir, don’t you have any identification?”
“I uh…I left my wallet in my other pants.”
“Uh-huh.” Then he radioed for Walton who was soon en route. While they waited, he turned to Kori. “You know, I’m going to need to search you, too.”
“I understand, of course,” said Kori. “Have at it, Officer.” She pulled her purse from around her shoulder and laid it on the ground. “You’ll find my own gun in there. A Glock G43 nine-millimeter. I have a permit for it, of course.”
“Fine,” said the officer, as he took the purse and sifted through it, pulling out the gun plus the ID holder, looking at the ID a little closer now. “So what exactly is this National Bureau of Criminal Investigations?”
“It’s a US government intelligence service, Officer.”
“Really? How come I’ve never heard of it.”
“We like to keep a low profile.”
“I see. Card says you’re based in Washington, DC.”
“So what are you doing here?”
“Investigating a murder.”
“So you said. What murder?”
“Nob Hill. Detective Walton has all the details.” Then, pointing toward the handcuffed man sitting with his back against the wall, Kori added, “My guess is that this lunkhead here is involved in it. More than a guess, in fact. I’m sure of it. Do you need to frisk me, or is the purse sufficient?”
The officer looked Kori’s firm body over and, against a few base instincts, decided that perhaps discretion would be the better part of valor. “I don’t think that will be necessary, ma’am.”
A few minutes later, Detective Mack Walton pulled up to the scene.
“Agent Briggs,” he said, stepping out of his car. “Somehow I knew I hadn’t seen the last of you.” Then he turned to the uniformed officer. “So what do we have here?”
“I’ll tell you what we have,” Kori interrupted. “I’ve made a break on the case of Dane Reinhart’s killing.”
“Take that gun with the silencer to ballistics. I’ll bet you a dozen jelly-filled donuts that it’ll match the slug from Reinhart.”
Walton glanced over at the bearded man sitting with his back against the building. “And I take it that the gun belongs to this unfortunate guy?”
“It’s not true!” cried the man. “I’m telling you, that’s her gun! She attacked me, Detective. Out of nowhere. If anybody ought to be arrested, it’s her.”
Walton turned to the officer. “Okay, so what exactly did you see?”
“Well, when I got here, this woman had the guy face down, her knee into his back and holding his right wrist, basically threatening to break his arm.”
“Is that right Ms. Briggs?”
“You’re damn right it is. Good thing for him that the officer came along. This guy has been following me all morning. He’s the killer of Reinhart, I’m certain of it. And he was about to be my killer. Why do you think his gun has a silencer?”
“Don’t listen to her!” said the bearded man. “She’s crazy. I’m telling you, she attacked me! That’s her gun!”
Walton strolled over to the man, gestured toward Kori, and said, “Do you mean to tell me this young woman, probably half your size, just randomly picked you out on the street and decided to attack you for no reason?”
“Oh, I’m sure she had a reason.”
“How would I know? She’s a lunatic.”
Walton was silent and the man, sensing a lost cause, finally said, “I want a lawyer,” and then shut up.
“Okay, Ms. Briggs,” said Walton. “We’ll check out the gun and see if there’s a match. In the meantime, we’ll hold this guy on suspicion. I’ll question him at the station.”
“I want a lawyer,” the bearded man cried again.
“Why don’t you let me question him, Detective?” said Kori. “I was doing fine until your man got here. Give me five minutes.”
Walton chuckled. “I have no doubt you’d get more out of him than we probably will, but I’m afraid I can’t do that.”
Kori briefly contemplated taking the man into custody herself. She knew that with a single phone call, she could override the detective’s jurisdiction. But she also knew that she needed the police department’s cooperation. For the time being, it was probably better to play ball.
“Okay, Detective. He’s all yours.”
“We’ll take good care of him, Ms. Briggs, don’t you worry. Now, if you want to give me a statement about what happened here this morning, I’ll take it and then let you go on your way. I’ll be happy to call you later this afternoon. I should have the ballistics report back by then, and maybe some more information about our suspect here, if we want to call him that. Fair enough, Agent Briggs?”
“Fair enough, Detective Walton.”