Hector Gomez, the Harry Houdini of Police Headquarters, is behind bars again. Time will tell if he stays put.

FBI agents and Philadelphia police detectives caught up with Gomez, 28, about 3:30 p.m. yesterday while he was hiding at a friend's house on Algard Street near Benner in Wissinoming.

He was charged with criminal mischief, vandalism and escape, a third-degree felony, police said.

Gomez was expected to spend the night in a holding cell in the basement of Police Headquarters, 8th and Race streets. It's the same building he managed to escape from earlier this month.

He presumably is being kept under close watch this time around.

Gomez was arrested on Dec. 7 after being caught in Kensington driving a stolen car, police said. The next day, he failed to post 10 percent of his $10,000 bail and was supposed to be taken to the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Northeast Philadelphia.

But he convinced investigators he had information about a homicide case and was taken instead to headquarters at about 1:30 p.m. Police sources said yesterday that Gomez referred to an actual murder case but had no information to offer.

"He was buying time, just trying to figure a way out," a source said. When he was left uncuffed in a homicide-unit interview room for a couple of hours, police said, Gomez channeled his inner Richard Kimble and went to work.

Investigators said he stacked chairs and gouged an opening in the ceiling of the interview room. Gomez then squeezed through ductwork, dropped from a vent into a hallway and strolled out of the building unnoticed. *