Chapter 18

"Let's take a recess for 30 minutes and the trial will resume at 2:30," Judge David Marshall announced. The trial against Anthony Moreno opened Thursday morning with the prosecution questioning Al Gwynn, the hitman Moreno hired to kill the bank officer. Gwynn discussed in detail the meeting where Bannion was a witness to Moreno ordering Gwynn to kill the banker and he recounted several meetings where Moreno talked about his illegal dealings with the banker. Moreno's lawyer, Barry Roberts, started cross-examining Gwynn after the lunch break and tried to present him as a known hired killer who had made a deal with the prosecution to benefit himself. Gwynn freely admitted that he was testifying against Moreno for the deal but that didn't affect the truth which was that Moreno hired him to kill the banker. Dara wasn't worried that the defense was successful in swaying the jury. Everyone, even the defense, acknowledged that Gwynn was a hired killer so the only question was 'who hired him?'. The defense offered no credible evidence that someone other than their client hired Gwynn and tomorrow, Bannion would support Gwynn's testimony that Moreno hired Gwynn to kill the banker. These were the points that Dara was going to emphasize in her closing statements to the jury. The courtroom was quickly emptying for the thirty-minute recess. Sitting at the prosecution's table reviewing her notes of Gwynn's testimony, a warm hand lightly caressed the back of her neck as Dara heard Mac's voice whisper in her ear, "How's it going, beautiful?" Dara looked up to lock her eyes on Mac's warm gaze.

"Hi." Dara motioned for him to sit down beside her as she confessed, "I've missed you." Both Mac and Dara had been very busy the past few days and they hadn't really had time to discuss what was happening to their relationship.

"Me too," replied Mac as he let his finger trace her jaw. Remembering that they were 'at work' in the courthouse he lowered his hand to the table and leaned back in the chair remarking, "I was sitting in the back of the courtroom for the last 30 minutes. It looks like the trial is going well for us."

"It is," Dara agreed. "Normally I would like to have a prep session with a key witness such as Bannion the evening before he testifies, but I have his original statement and that will pretty much be the basis of my cross-examination of him tomorrow. With the security issues, I'll just forgo reviewing his testimony with him tonight."

"Even I don't anticipate seeing Bannion tonight but both Taggert and I will be at the decoy safe-house where Bannion was previously held. If Griffith plans to stop Bannion from testifying then he'll have to make his move tonight, and we'll be waiting for him," Mac stated grimly.

Dara visibly tensed when Mac mentioned that he and Taggert would be waiting to trap Griffith tonight but she tried to mask her feelings with Mac sitting there observing her. As much as she wanted her would-be assassin captured, Dara couldn't help but worry that both Mac and Marcus would probably have an active role in trying to apprehend him. She cared deeply for both men and silently prayed that they both would remain safe throughout the stakeout.

Hoping to assuage her concerns, Mac moved the conversation to issues beyond the upcoming stakeout. He took Dara's small hands into his and offered, "Hey, I know that we won't be able to get together tonight, but let's plan to meet tomorrow night. I think that we have a lot to talk about, don't you?"

Her face brightening, Dara smiled, "Yes, we do have a lot to discuss. Do you have any specific plans this weekend?"

"How about spending every moment with you starting tomorrow evening?" Mac said seductively as he leaned forward and kissed her lightly on the lips.

"Sounds great to me," Dara murmured as she nuzzled her face against Mac's ear and neck and held him closely. She fervently wanted to tell him that she loved him but now wasn't the time or place to make such a statement. Instead she pulled back looking directly in Mac's eyes in hope that he could see how much she felt for him and she said, "Keep safe tonight Mac."

Disregarding their surroundings Mac pulled Dara to him and deeply kissed her. Fighting to suppress a moan and fearing that she was being swept away by Mac's insistent kiss, Dara right hand moved from Mac's neck to his cheek in an attempt to pull away. But Mac continued to hold Dara tightly and kiss her as if he was using this possessive kiss to dispel any worries she had. A few seconds after feeling her relax and give into the kiss, Mac finally broke the kiss. He cupped Dara's chin with his thumb and forefinger and said, "Don't worry. I'll see you tomorrow morning." Nodding her acknowledging response, a speechless Dara gave a tentative smile as Mac released her and left the courtroom.


It was almost 10 p.m. and for the last 3 hours few words had passed between Mac and Taggert as they waited in Bannion's former hotel room. The tension of waiting during this stakeout was bad enough but the added tension because of his earlier comments about Mac and Dara made the situation unbearable to Taggert. Finally he started to speak.

"Look Mac," Taggert began slowly. "I know that I might have been out of line about what I said about you and Dara. But I really said as a friend, to both you and Dara."

A flash of darkness that Taggert was unable to detect in the dimly lit room appeared in Mac's eyes. After their argument a few days ago he knew that it was inevitable that his relationship with Dara would be mentioned during the night. Taken aback by Taggert's comments in his office Mac had unwittingly let himself be placed in a defensive position during that confrontation. That situation would not repeat itself tonight. "Taggert, who are you kidding? I don't have to be a psychologist to say that you sounded more like a jealous ex-boyfriend than a friend the other day."

"What?" sputtered Taggert as he sat straight up in his chair.

"You heard me," Mac continued letting Taggert know that he knew exactly what was going on here. "I know that you and Dara dated previously. Did you think that I wouldn't ask her out because of it?"

Mac had struck a nerve when he accused Taggert of being jealous. "No," Taggert countered in a spiteful tone of voice, "I thought that you wouldn't ask her out because you're still married. I don't want to see Dara hurt Mac."

Mac's jaw clenched as he willed himself to control his temper. "Not that it's any of your concern but I've filed for divorce from Felicia and I'm not using Dara to 'get over' Felicia. I'm finally following through with something that I wanted to do years ago and I'm thankful to have this second chance with Dara. And I'm sure that if you've broached this subject with Dara she's told you that she's more than capable of taking care of herself. So don't bring up this subject with me again, O.K., friend?" Mac said with obvious sarcasm as he spoke the word 'friend'.

Mac took Taggert's non-response to his question as an unspoken yes and they both sat in silence as the stakeout continued. At 10:40 p.m. the lights and heat suddenly stopped operating in the room. Immediately Mac used a police radio to communicate with the law enforcement officials in the hotel room near the elevator down the hall. That room was without power also. Taggert in the meantime was busy using the room phone to contact the front desk. He was informed that there was a temporary power outage on 2 floors of the hotel and the maintenance people were working on it. Just at the moment when Taggert ended the call the power was restored and the room was lighted again. The power couldn't have been out for more than 2 minutes. After looking through the peephole at the door Taggert slowly opened the door and saw no one in the hallway. Mac didn't believe that the power outage was an accident and immediately he called the officers in the room near the elevator to ask if the video surveillance equipment was in operation during the power outage. As he suspected, the equipment had not been operational during the outage.

Mac knew that certain systems in the hotel, such as emergency hallway lighting and the electronic key card systems for rooms, were usually run on backup electrical systems so that they would be operational during power outages. Placing a call to the hotel security officer, Mac asked him to review the log of electronic key card usages for the hotel rooms on the 6th floor where they were located and report any rooms that were entered with a key card during the power outage. The hotel security officer reported that only one room on that floor was entered during the power outage using a key card; it was room 621, which was currently listed as unoccupied.

After quickly coordinating the team of officers on the 6th floor and giving them last minute instructions, Mac stood with 4 other men outside of room 621 a few moments later. It was Mac's desire to apprehend Griffith without any violence but that all depended on what waited for them on the other side of the door. On Mac's signal, the officers used a battering ram to break down the door. With their guns drawn, Taggert and Mac were the first to step into the room and the other officers quickly followed.

"Don't move!" shouted Mac and Taggert simultaneously. Seated at a table near the window was the hitman Roger Griffith. His right arm was stretched over small round table that was covered with a large backpack. In his hand was a 44 caliber semi-automatic gun that he had just retrieved from the tabletop but it was pointed towards a side wall and the palm of his hand was facing downward towards the table as he held the gun.

"Drop your weapon now!" Mac sharply ordered. "This will be your only warning."

Griffith's eyes immediately locked with Mac's and he recognized Mac's face and voice from the city garage two days earlier when he attempted to kill Dara. He grudgingly gave Mac a brief glance of admiration. There was no one else that Griffith had encountered during his 20 year 'career' who had prevented him from killing his target not once, but twice. For Griffith, surrender and prison were not options. At best he thought that with a stray bullet from one of the officer's guns he'd be able to take out every in the room with him. He started firing his gun immediately as he swung it around to point it at Mac and he used his left hand to grab the large backpack and use it as a shield against his chest. As Griffith made his first move Mac immediately shouted "Temple!" Jack Ribisi, the best target shooter on the PCPD, was given his signal by Mac to kill the suspect immediately with a single shot to the head. He had been standing a few feet to the left of Taggert with a clear shot at Griffith and the one shot he fired did not miss its mark. Mac swore under his breath a mere few seconds later as Roger Griffith sat in front of them, dead, still holding the blue backpack. Griffith was only able to fire two shots before being killed and they injured no one. Gingerly touching the backpack, Mac briefly glanced inside of it and saw that it contained a large amount of explosives. It was clear that Griffith's plan was to use a bomb to kill Bannion. After instructing Taggert to contact the bomb squad and the coroner's office, Mac walked out of the hotel room to the end of the hallway to place a call from his cellphone. His call was answered after the first ring.

"Mac?" Dara whispered nervously. She'd recognized Mac's cell phone number on the caller id display. Dara had been hoping that he would call her tonight but she also knew that she wouldn't receive a call unless something occurred. "Are you O.K.?" she asked waiting anxiously to hear his response.

"Hi Sweetheart," Mac sighed, realizing that Dara had no idea how just hearing the sound of her voice made him feel so much better. " I'm O.K. Griffith is dead. He made an attempt to get Bannion tonight and he left us no choice in the end."

"I know," Dara said wanting to console him.

"I'm going to go and be with Bannion for the rest of the night just to make sure that everything is O.K. and I'll bring him to the courthouse tomorrow. I just wanted to let you know what has happened and..." pausing as he reflected on what he wanted to say, Mac continued, "I just wanted to hear your voice. I needed to hear it tonight."

"Me too," Dara acknowledged. "I wouldn't have slept at all tonight if I hadn't heard from you. Thanks for calling Mac. I... " Biting her bottom lip, Dara decided that she could wait one more night before telling Mac how she felt about him. " I'll see you tomorrow morning."

"Goodnight Dara."