Chapter 1: Back in the Game
If I was looking to get killed, then this is definitely the place to do it. A dump hotel on skid row; one of a hundred and each just as bad as the next. I can barely see the other end of the hall. Half the lights are out, and the ones that aren’t don’t work for shit. There’s another stairway over there and at least a dozen doors between here and there. I’ve got no partner, my backup’s nowhere to be seen, and this place is tailor-made for an ambush. And I ran in here alone! How the hell did I get myself into this shit? The call said this guy’s got a gun. I didn’t see it when he ran, but that doesn’t mean a damned thing. I’m pretty sure he’s up here. Somewhere. Anywhere. He could be in any of these rooms. I could walk past one of these doors only to have him open the door a crack, press a gun against my ear and blow my goddamned brains out. God damn it! Where the hell is my backup?
“Three Central Delta; do you copy?”
Shit! I forgot to turn down my radio. Well; if the son of a bitch is up here, he heard it for sure. That means he knows I’m up here. What was it I said about pressing a gun behind my ear and blowing my goddamned brains out?
“Three Central Delta! Dani? Do you read me?”
“Three Central Delta; roger. I read you. Tallman; where the hell are you?”
“We’re downstairs in the lobby. Where are you?”
Where am I? Gee, I’m up here about to get my ass kicked; that’s where I am!
“I’m on the third floor. The suspect ran up here. Male white; brown hair and a gray sleeveless shirt. I lost him. I don’t see him, but he’s here.”
“Roger that. Is he armed?”
“As far as I know, yes. The victim said he saw a gun.”
“We’re going for the back stairs. You stay put until we get up there.”
“Can you send someone up the front stairs to cover my back?”
“Sorry. It’s just me and Burke. There’s no other officers else available.”
“Great! Make it fast, guys. I’ve got no visual on the suspect. This asshole could come out of nowhere.”
“Stay put, girl. We’re coming.”
Good advice. Just don’t take too long, guys. This could get ugly really fast!
“Roger that. Standing by.”
All right, I’ll just wait. They’ll move up the steps, clear the landing and sweep through the hall. Two flights of stairs for each floor. That’s four flights to get up here. If this guy’s in one of the rooms and has enough sense to stay put; he’s in the wind. Even with a K9 unit, we’ll never find him in this place. But I’ve got a feeling he isn’t doing that. He saw it was just me chasing him. One cop. One on one; those are the best odds he’s going to get. A lot of guys think they can take down a female cop; especially if she’s alone. This motherfucker is not going to take me down! Not in this or any universe known to man or God!
Wait! I heard something! Down at the end of the hallway. Oh, hell! I thought it was a straight shot to the stairway. It’s not. The hallway opens up over there. It flares out to either side. My suspect could be hiding behind the wall. If Tallman and Burke come up those stairs and he’s waiting for them? I am not letting those guys walk into an ambush! I’ve got to get down there fast! I just have to keep it quiet. Turn the radio all the way down, move fast, and try not to make too much noise. Oh, and hope I’m right and this guy’s not waiting for me to walk past his door so he can shoot me in the back of the head. All right, let’s move! Keep it quiet, watch the doors, and pray!
So far, so good! Hurry! Almost there! Almost there! Stop! Clear the corner first. Don’t rush out or he’s got you. Ready…now!
Oh, fuck! There he is! Damn! He’s armed, all right!
“Police! Drop it!”
It’s not a gun! It’s a metal pipe!
“Drop it! Now!”
I don’t want to shoot this guy unless I have to! Come on, motherfucker! Put the goddamned pipe down! He’s doing it. Yes! Smart guy!
“All right! It’s down! Don’t shoot, lady!”
“Turn around and put your hands behind your head! Now!”
“No problem, officer.”
I have to wait until he turns around before I radio it in. And watch him! I don’t want this asshole spinning on me!
“Drop to your knees! Do it!”
At least he’s cooperating…so far.
“Now, don’t move! Tallman! Burke! Up here! I’ve got one suspect!”
“Hey, lady! I didn’t do nothing!”
“I said don’t move!”
Where the hell are those guys? We’re on the third floor! How long does it take to walk up three flights of stairs? Shit! People are coming out of the rooms! God only knows who they are. I’d better just cuff this idiot and walk him down myself.
“Give me your right hand.”
“You got it!”
Oh, shit! Look out! He’s spinning! He wants to fight!
“Let’s see what you got, bitch!”
Fuck! He hit me right in the mouth! Spin clear of him! Shit! He’s coming for me again!
“You’re dead, bitch!”
Not hardly! Say hello to mister nightstick, motherfucker! First you crack the kneecap…
Then you give them a shot to the gut…
“Oh, God! Jesus!”
And then you whack them right on the goddamned collarbone! That got him!
“All right, bitch! All right! Stop! Please! I give! God damn it!”
Yeah, like I’m going to trust you twice! Over the railing, motherfucker!
“Hey, bitch! What the fuck are you…”
“This is for taking a swing at me, asshole!”
Oh, shit! That’s Tallman on the stairs!
“What the…oh, shit! Look out!”
Whoa! That’s a long drop! That asshole hit a lot harder than I thought. Oh, what the fuck? He deserved it! Serves him right!
“Dani? Are you OK up there?”
“Yeah, I’m good. Are you guys in one piece?”
“Yeah. You, uh, missed us by a few feet.”
Hey, next time tell me you’re on the stairs before I throw the guy over the side! And it wasn’t like I was aiming for them!
“Sorry about that. I didn’t see you coming. That’s your suspect.”
“I think you mean what’s left of him. Damn! It looks like his knee’s busted!”
“He hit me; I hit him!”
“So how come you airmailed him?”
“I told you! He took a swing at me!”
“Uh-huh. And how many swings did you take?”
“And he just fell over the side of the stairwell? Is that how you’re going to explain it?”
Jesus! How long have these guys been on the job? Don’t they know anything?
“That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”
“Dani, you’re psychotic; you know that?”
Yeah, like I haven’t heard that before!
“I’ve been told that. I think we’re going to need EMS to respond.”
“Yeah, we’ll take care of that. The sergeant’s on his way. Nice catch, by the way.”
Out in front of the hotel, waiting for everyone else to show up. That call was an armed robbery suspect there now. Since I’m riding alone tonight, I didn’t plan on handling it. I was just going to ride backup. But I was the first one on the scene and the victim flagged me down and pointed to the guy. He saw me and took off running. What was I supposed to do? Sit there and let him go? Not a chance. I don’t care what the rules say, smile and wave is not in my nature. There were three of us in here, I found him first, and I defended myself against an attack. That should be the end of it. But it won’t be. Right this minute, there’s a sergeant headed this way. How much trouble I’m in is going to depend a lot on who it is. If it’s a good one, he’ll appreciate good police work. If it’s a goddamned prick, well, then I’m in the doghouse. A single officer goes in foot pursuit of an armed robbery suspect, confronts him without backup and puts the boots to him? Yeah, the pricks don’t like that. They don’t like all the paperwork. Besides, I’m not exactly their favorite person as it is.
Well, here we go. We’ve got an ambulance for the suspect, a crowd of onlookers and here comes the Sergeant. Oh, good. It’s Sergeant Bretton. He’s definitely one of the better ones in this division. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m off the hook. He’s a stickler for good tactics. He’s got thirty years on the job, and he’s seen what can happen when cops use bad tactics.
“Lynott! Did you catch this guy?”
“Yes, sir. Tallman and Burke were there, too.”
“What have we got, here?”
“An armed robbery over on Exeter. Forty-Seven Central got the call. The victim flagged me down and pointed at this guy. He took off running and I chased him in here.”
See what I mean? The tactics lecture begins.
“It was either that or let him go, Sarge. Besides; Burke and Tallman were right behind me.”
“Uh-huh. What’s with the EMS call?”
“He turned on me. I had to give him a crack.”
“You went toe-to-toe with him? By yourself?”
“I had him, but then he spun around and took a swing at me.”
“Maybe because you had no backup?”
“More like he’s a fucking idiot.”
He doesn’t look too happy. I don’t get it. Is it because I’m a woman? He would’ve done the same damned thing in my position. Hell, I’ve been here for barely a month and I’ve seen him do it!
“Just make it read right in the report, OK? Don’t gloss over anything.”
“I never do.”
Well, I may get a little creative about how he went over the side of the railing, but the gist of it will be true. It always is.
“So how bad is he, Lynott?”
“I don’t know, sir. Tallman thinks his knee is broken.”
“Suddenly Tallman’s a goddamned doctor?”
“I’m just telling you what he told me.”
“Where’s the suspect?”
“They’re bringing him out now.”
“Is he walking?”
Probably not. Then again, he might be limping.
“Uh, sort of.”
“Oh, fantastic! You stay here. I’ll talk to him.”
This is where the Sergeant asks the asshole if he has any problems with me beating his ass and taking him to jail. It’s safe to say he’s not going to be happy about it. Jesus, the paramedics have him in a neck brace! Give me a fucking break!
“Sir? I’m Sergeant Bretton. I want to talk to you about what happened.”
“What happened? Police brutality! That’s what happened!”
“Who brutalized you?”
“Her! The bitch over there! She done threw me over the stairs! Beat my ass with a goddamned club! Look at my leg! I’m gonna sue! I’m gonna sue all of you motherfuckers!”
“So let me get this straight: you want it on the record that you got your ass kicked by a girl? Is that it?”
Oh, he’s not going to like admitting to that one! Not this idiot!
“No! That ain’t how it went down at all!”
“You said she brutalized you. Now you’re about, what? Five-ten? And she’s five-five or something? And she kicked your ass and made you cry and now you want to sue for being a fucking pussy? Is that it?”
That’s exactly it! But there’s no way in hell he’s going to admit to it!
“No! That ain’t it! Don’t you be putting that shit down in some report!”
“So I guess she just got lucky, huh?”
“Damn right! I almost had her! Then she hit me with that motherfucking stick! Look at my goddamned knee!”
“Oh, so you swung at her first?”
Oops! You blew it, asshole!
“I ain’t saying it was like that! Maybe that’s what you’re saying, but I ain’t saying that!”
“Yeah, I got a pretty good idea of what you’re saying. Have a nice day.”
Perfect! Right from the suspect’s mouth! He started the fight. I’m in the clear. The Sarge won’t be happy about me going in alone, but that’s OK. Bretton may be a sergeant, but he never stopped being a good cop. That’s what separates the good ones from the pricks.
“Hey, Sarge? Am I in the clear on this one?”
“Yeah, you’re good. Who’s riding to the hospital with this guy?”
“I guess I am.”
“Like hell! You’re the one who fucked him up! Have Burke go. You get back to the scene and make damn sure we’ve got a signed crime report. I want to get this thing wrapped up fast.”
“Fucking fifteen minutes out of roll call! You can’t stay out of trouble for fifteen fucking minutes?”
“That’s what you get for sending me out alone, Sarge.”
“I know. It wasn’t my idea.”
“I’m training officer. See my stripes? When do I get a boot?”
“Talk to Lieutenant Hagan when you get to the station. He’s got some good news for you.”
“Please tell me I’m not going to Daywatch, sir.”
“You? Not a chance. Talk to the lieutenant. Believe me; you’ll be happy.”
This might actually be good news. I sure hope so. I haven’t had any in a long time.
Central Station. Downtown. Skid row. When they first sent me here, I thought it was the end of my career. I pretty much knew it wasn’t a reward for my service. So did everyone else. Most people on this department view Central Division as something of a dumping ground for patrol officers; particularly if they put you on Nightwatch or Graveyard. And they were definitely trying to dump me at the time. Since almost no one lives here, you’re not doing the same kind of police work that you’d do in any other division. During the day, it’s mainly a public-relations thing. You walk around and make sure the business owners see you. You’re kind of like a scarecrow: you don’t do anything except be visible. They don’t want you doing any police work because if you do, then you aren’t walking around and being seen. And if that wasn’t bad enough, after about six o’clock in the evening most of the decent people who work around here go home. Then there’s no one around to see you, so what’s the point of being here at all? That’s all I ever knew about the place, and so I thought I’d never do anything worthwhile again – seeing as I’ll probably never get out of here. But I was wrong about this place. Oh, boy was I ever wrong!
This place is incredible! I can’t even wrap my head around it! How did I not know about this? It’s like a whole other world after sundown! A whole other planet. It really is like something out of a nightmare. In a million years, I never would’ve thought that anyplace like this exists. Skid row is the apocalypse and an acid trip and the 21st century Wild West all rolled into one. There’s more to do here in a week than there is in six months in any other division. And none of it is routine, like it is in most other places. Most places, you’re just going through the motions. Same shit; different day. Reports, tickets, domestic disputes, angry citizens, and telling gangbangers to get lost and then waiting for someone to do something serious so that you can respond. A whole lot of boredom with a dash of excitement thrown in from time to time. In no time at all, you can almost do eighty percent of the job in your sleep. But out here, you can actually use your head. You have to. You have to learn how to think the way these assholes do. And boy, can they think! I’d say that’s been the biggest surprise so far. They’re mostly a bunch of fucking drug-addicted zombies, but the way they pull their capers; you really have to hand it to them. They can be downright ingenious. These guys will pull off shit that your typical gangbanger couldn’t think of if you gave him a second brain. They’ll have you chasing your tail if you’re not up to it. And there are no asshole citizens around to twist the truth and raise hell just because you’re doing your job. Out here at night, it’s just us and them. Good guys and bad guys. Two sides of one perfect coin. And in a place like this, that’s how it should be. Plus, there’s so much to learn out here and you can’t learn this shit anywhere else. There’s no place like it in the entire city. Maybe not even in the entire world. It’s like the ultimate test of a street cop. I’m good at my job, but this place will make me better than I ever imagined possible. Hell, this is exactly what I’ve been looking for since the day I joined up! So who gives a shit if I never get out of here? I don’t want to get out of here! Not ever! I was born for this freak show! God, I fucking love it!
It’s all here: everything a hard-working cop could ask for, and none of the bullshit. Dope? Check! The people out here are flat broke, but there’s a hundred times more dope on skid row than anywhere else. It’s mind-blowing. Grab a dope dealer in the projects and you might get five or six puny little rocks and a few hundred bucks. My second night out here, I caught a guy with a half-ounce of crack and about a grand in cash in his pocket. A fucking punk living in a shithole hotel on skid row! He gave up his supplier, and the next night we got that guy in another shithole hotel with five ounces and six grand in cash – not to mention two loaded guns! You do that in most divisions; you’d probably make the papers. Out here, that’s just another day in the city. I never saw a kilo of coke until I got here, but I saw one three nights ago. I can’t believe how much dope is out here.
Robberies? Check! My second call out here was a truck hijacking. Most other places, a stolen vehicle means somebody came outside in the morning and saw that his car was missing. This was two guys with guns who hijacked a hundred thousand-dollar big rig filled with about half a million dollars’ worth of cargo. It was a blitz attack at the truck stop. We found it a few hours later near the train yard. We got one of the guys after a foot pursuit, but the other one got away. But he’ll be back, and the next time, we’ll get him. And it felt damned good to recover that truck with all of the cargo intact. One of the detectives told me there was a brand new Land Rover hidden behind all of the other shit in the truck. I didn’t see it, but I believe him. And have you ever seen the kind of tow truck it takes to tow a big rig? It’s impressive, to say the least! A stolen vehicle in this part of town is no run-of-the-mill crime. There’s no telling where it will lead.
Violent crime? Double-check! This has got to be the most violent place on God’s green earth! There are no drive-by shootings out here. When these people kill each other, it’s up close and personal. Guns are pretty rare, but everyone out here has a knife and they like to use them. These guys will stab anyone at the drop of a hat! It seems like stabbings are a regular occurrence around here. I’ve already handled a dozen stabbing calls, and I’m the new kid in the division. They also like to bash each other’s heads in with metal pipes. You walk through the alleys and there’s always bloodstains – on the ground, on the walls, on the dumpsters – everywhere! Skid row has got to be the violent crime capitol of the world.
What else? Burglaries? Big time check! This place gives a whole new meaning to the word burglary! These guys don’t smash windows and grab a TV or a jewelry box. No, they smash through brick walls with crowbars and pickaxes and clean out an entire store! They make tunnels big enough to drive a car right through it! Hell, sometimes they do drive a car right through it! It’s all out here at night; waiting for us to do something about it. Oh, you have to work for it; that’s for sure. But that’s why it’s such a blast. You work hard and use your head and you get big results. It’s a killer rush. And you go home at the end of the night knowing that you actually managed to accomplish something. Talk about job satisfaction! I’m not in this for medals and pats on the back from the brass. I’m in it to accomplish something and be the best that I can be at it, and this is the perfect place to do that. Hell, the only reason I want to go home at the end of a shift is because the sun’s coming up and I know that the game won’t start again until nightfall. I can’t wait for the next shift. It’s been a long time since I felt that way. It really hurt when I lost that feeling. It’s good to have it back.
The only downside – so far – is that because they transferred me here in the middle of the DP – that’s deployment period, for those of you who don’t speak cop – I wasn’t assigned a partner. Because I’m out here by myself, I’m supposed to stick to taking reports. No real police work, which makes sense because out here, you can find yourself in a world of shit in no time if you’re not willing to stay out of trouble. But there’s no way in hell I’m going to stay out of trouble. It’s why I became a cop. I’ll probably catch hell for confronting that asshole in the hotel, but there were plenty of other cops there, so it’s not like I was completely on my own. Sergeant Trucci promised me that I’d get a partner next DP, which starts tomorrow. They’re supposed to post the schedule tonight. I know I’m working tomorrow night, but that’s about it. They haven’t told me anything else, which has me a little worried. God, I hope they don’t screw me over. Anywhere else; I don’t doubt that they would. But the sergeants are pretty good here. I guess I’ll just have to cross my fingers.
“Lynott! Get your ass in here!”
Ah, the roar of the Watch Commander! I doesn’t matter what division you work; it’s always the same. It’s also not what you want to hear. Lieutenant Hagan is a good guy, though. He’s also a legend on the department. Unlike a lot of people who promote beyond the rank of sergeant, he hasn’t forgotten what it’s like to be on patrol. I’ve even seen him respond to a couple of calls and jump right in with the rest of us. I’ve got to admit, I never saw that happen anywhere else. I really like him.
“You wanted to see me, sir?”
“Yeah, I heard about your little stunt in the Brookhaven. What the fuck were you thinking; going in there alone?”
“I wasn’t alone, sir. There were two other units there.”
I hate it when he calls me that. That’s how I know he’s going to lecture me.
“It’s true, sir. I wasn’t going it alone.”
“You were alone when you squared off with the suspect!”
“It just happened that way, sir. I lost sight of him for a second. He tried to get through me. I did what I had to do.”
“You could’ve been killed.”
“So could he.”
“You know what I’m talking about. You know about the Brookhaven. You know what kind of place it is.”
“It’s an asshole place. That’s why he ran in there.”
“And it’s a fucking rat’s nest! Who the hell knows why he went in there? Maybe he had a friend? Maybe he had a weapon hidden in there? Did you think of that?”
“There were seven of us in there, sir. It wasn’t my intention to go toe to toe with the guy. It just happened.”
“A lot of things could’ve just happened. You know better.”
Now, I can tell from the look on his face that he’s just switched from ass-chewing mode to lecture mode. Good. I can handle a sermon, and it probably means that he’s not too pissed off at me.
“Lynott, you’re a good cop. I don’t doubt your abilities. You’re a hard-charger, and we need hard-chargers out here. But you’ve got a lot to learn about this division. It’s not like it was in Woodlawn. We’ve got more psychos per square yard than anywhere else, and these assholes have nothing to lose. They aren’t afraid to attack a cop. Especially a…”
“A woman cop?”
“Pretty much, yeah.”
Like I haven’t heard that a million times before!
“I can handle it.”
“I know you can. And I want you to handle it. But I don’t want you handling it alone. And it’s not because you’re a woman. I think you know that.”
If anyone else told me that, I’d say they were lying. But not Lieutenant Hagan.
“I know it, sir.”
“And I’m not saying this because of your…recent history. I don’t have a problem with that. I hope you realize that, too.”
“Yes, sir. I believe you. And I appreciate it.”
“I’m saying it because people get hurt out here all the time. I’d say the same thing if you were a guy and stood six-foot-five.”
I think he would. I never got a sense from him that he thought women shouldn’t be cops. I hate to say it, but given his personality; you’d think he hated having women on the job. It’s a weird contradiction.
“I believe you, sir.”
“Good. That’s all I’m going to say about it. Now, we said we’d get you a partner and get you back in the field. I know you’re a first-rate training officer, and I can’t have you wasting away taking reports. I can’t have anyone wasting away taking reports, but especially not one of my most experienced cops. We’ve got probationers to train, so I need you out there doing it.”
Oh, thank God! He’s going to put me back on patrol! Thank you, God!
“I’m getting a boot next DP?”
“Yeah. But I don’t want you out there with someone inexperienced. You still have a lot to learn about this place, so I’m giving you one who’s almost off of probation. Do you know Ryan Harper?”
“I’ve heard his name. That’s about it.”
“He’s a good guy. Good cop. Frankly, I think he’s the best probationer we’ve got. He’s a Marine, squared away, he’s really got his shit together. He’s got one month left on probation, so you don’t have to worry about his evaluations.”
“No paperwork. Thank you!”
“You’re welcome. He’s been begging me to put him on Midwatch for a while now. Normally, I wouldn’t do it, but he’s been a particularly solid performer. It’s his last month in the division, so I figured I’d give him a shot.”
“That’s right. You’re both going to Midwatch. I know it sucks to spring this on you a day before the new DP starts, but we’ve had to do some juggling; what with all of the new boots coming out of the academy.”
“That’s no problem, sir.”
“I figured Midwatch was the place for you. You want to be a hard-charger? We both know that’s the place to do it. So you’re getting your shot.”
“Looking forward to it.”
Yes! This just keeps getting better and better! Midwatch is the best of Nightwatch and the Graveyard shift, but without the boring periods at the beginning and end. That’s exactly where I want to be!
“What can you tell me about Harper, sir?”
“Basically, he’s a taller version of you. He likes to go looking for trouble.”
“I don’t go looking for trouble, sir.”
“I don’t mean the bad kind of trouble. I mean he likes to be proactive. He likes to make a lot of arrests, and he likes to get in the shit when things are happening. I think you’ll like him. He knows the division. He can show you where all the shit happens.”
“Sounds good, sir.”
“Just don’t go too cowboy on me. And by that, I mean both of you. I know how you work, Dani. You don’t play the ‘I’m a training officer and you’re a low-life boot’ shit. I know you get results with it, but some people don’t like it. In fact, some people think putting the two of you in one car is a disaster waiting to happen. But I want you to know I’m not one of them. With the crime stats being what they are, we’ve got to be more proactive.”
Translation: they’re on his ass for results. It happens from time to time.
“Heat from above, sir?”
“Like you wouldn’t believe. Our burglary stats are through the roof, and we both know who’s responsible for most of the burglaries.”
“Bullseye! I just got the quarterly report form crime analysis. You wouldn’t believe some of the numbers for this division.”
Oh, I believe it! I read the papers. Crime’s been going up for months – despite the department’s valiant attempts to manipulate the statistics – and a lot of people are screaming about it. And shit rolls downhill, so it’s probably landing on the lieutenant big time.
“Is there a plan to do something about it, sir?”
“Yeah, the plan is to go out and arrest these motherfuckers. With the command staff, it’s all about the stats. I don’t like it, but I don’t have any say in it. We need big numbers in this division, and I think the two of you together can bring them in. Do you understand what I’m trying to say?”
Oh, I know exactly what he means! He’s telling me I actually get to do my job! I was beginning to wonder if that was ever going to happen again.
“All right, then. Bring me those numbers and we’ll get along just fine.”
“And don’t make me regret it, OK?”
“No, sir. I won’t let you down.”
“See that you don’t. Now, about this arrest you made. Run it down for me.”
“Armed robbery. The victim identified him at the scene.”
“Yeah, I know. So just what the hell did you do to that asshole that he’s on his way to the infirmary?”
“He started swinging. I swung back.”
“And then he slipped and fell on your nightstick?”
“A couple of times.”
“And the trip down the staircase?”
“It just happened to be there, sir.”
“Amazing coincidence; don’t you think?”
I really like Lieutenant Hagan. His sense of humor gives new meaning to the term “sardonic,” and he really appreciates hardworking cops.
“Yes, sir. That’s what I thought.”
“Yeah, right! All right, just write it up. And don’t leave anything out. Blow by blow, just like it happened. Including the stairs.”
“Now I have to see who I stick with the use of force report.”
He’s not kidding about that part. A use of force report usually involves a mountain of paperwork, and all of the sergeants really hate doing them. They can’t just do a quick overview anymore. They have to address about a hundred questions for each one.
“The burden of command, sir.”
“Get the fuck out of here!”
“Nice work. I mean it.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“Bring me numbers!”
“Your wish is my command, sir!”
“In that case, would it kill you to write some goddamned tickets? You haven’t written one for the entire DP!”
“I’m a one-man unit, sir. We’re not supposed to do traffic stops.”
“You’re familiar with the term ‘jaywalking,’ aren’t you?”
I really hate writing tickets, but the brass seems to think they’re more important than saving a human life. It’s all about the revenue. There’s no getting around it. Fine, I’ll write a couple of tickets! But do they really think that some homeless guy on Skid Row has a couple hundred bucks to pay a jaywalking ticket? Go figure.
“I’ll write a few tickets for you, sir.”
“That’s very fucking generous of you. Go back to work.”
He said “nice work!” He actually said “nice work!” You know, I can’t remember the last time anyone said that to me. I was beginning to think that the whole damned department had forgotten what it is we do for a living. But not here. In this division, they’ve still got their heads screwed on straight. It really renews your faith in things. And after what I’ve been through over the last year or so, that’s saying something! And here comes Burke; hopefully not with any bad news about that idiot from the hotel.
“Hey, Dani! We got your victim’s statement.”
My victim? It was his call! Since he’s calling it “my” victim’s statement, I think that means it’s “my” call now.
“So suddenly it’s my arrest?”
“Hey, you hit the guy!”
“Thanks, Burke. What about the suspect’s info?”
“Nothing yet. He wasn’t exactly talking when they took him away.”
Yeah, that’s kind of what I was afraid of. I cracked him pretty good. And that trip down the stairs looked really painful.
“What was he doing, exactly?”
“Just kind of groaning. The paramedics said he may have a concussion.”
“Hey, I didn’t do that!”
“No, it was probably when he fell down the stairs.”
“OK, I sort of did that.”
“The guy’s full of shit. I think he’s embarrassed because he got his ass kicked by a girl.”
“He should be embarrassed! He fought like a fucking pussy! Did anyone recover the weapon?”
“No, he must have ditched it. The victim described it pretty good. Did Tallman tell you?”
“Yeah, a big folding knife with a brown handle.”
“Standard skid row issue.”
He got that right. I’ve been here less than a month and I think everyone out here has one just like it. They’re everywhere. I mean, what? Do they just issue you one when you become homeless?
“I’ll write it up. Anything else?”
“We got information from one witness. Pretty much what the victim said. Here’s the info and the statement.”
Some statement! This witness says he saw the guy pull a knife on the victim and take his money. Not what you’d call the crime of the century, but pretty standard out here.
“Who’s with the suspect now?”
“Rudin and Prentiss. They’re going to keep the guy in the infirmary, so they should be back soon.”
Another thing I’ve learned about working skid row: a surprising number of arrestees end up in the infirmary. Not just because of us, mind you; but because a lot of them have a million things wrong with them. I guess that’s to be expected. Living on the street can’t be good for your health.
“Let me know when they get here, OK?”
“You got it. Hey, I hear you’re going to Midwatch.”
“Yep. Just found out.”
“You’ll love it. You were made for that shit.”
“I’m looking forward to it. No more fucking report car.”
“Welcome back to world of real police work, girl!”
I was beginning to think I’d never hear those words. I’m really beginning to think they might finally be finished fucking with me. God, let it be true! I think I’ve earned a break.
Back on patrol. Burke was right: they kept the guy in the infirmary. Evidently, he has a broken kneecap. I knew I landed a good hit, but I guess I didn’t know how good. The report was pretty straightforward, but I’ve learned that this division has a big problem with getting victims to show up for court. Since the vast majority of the non-homeless people are down here to work, they frequently don’t show up for court because they can’t get anyone to cover for them while they’re sitting in court. The result is a lot of cases getting kicked; probably more so than in any other division. That must be frustrating as hell. Particularly for the prosecutor.
Now I need to find something interesting out there for the rest of the night. There aren’t any report calls pending, and I sure as hell don’t want to hang out at the station. If the sergeants see you’ve got nothing to do, they can usually find you some shit detail to ruin your day. It’s an old rule of thumb: if you’re not in the station, it’s hard to fuck with you.
Now this might be interesting! It looks like Tobias and Sevigne have something going on. They’re pulling gear out of their trunk. They’ve got a night vision scope and a pair of binoculars. I smell an observation post in the making. They’re definitely planning to set up on something. Maybe I can get in on it? If it’s just the two of them, then they’ll need someone to be the spotter. Time to volunteer myself before someone sticks me with some bullshit.
“What’s up, Tobias? You guys got something going?”
“Yeah, we’re setting up on a dope spot and we need someone to do overwatch. Do you want in on it?”
“Is it just you and Sevigne?”
“Just us. We’ve been checking out this place off of Meridian for a while now. In the last two weeks, it’s been picking up. The junkies who buy at the Awning make their way over there. As far as we know, the security guards on Meridian never go back there, so they feel pretty safe. We’ve been seeing five or six of them at a time. So do you want in? You can recap the arrests on your log if you want.”
“Hell, yes! Where’s the OP?”
“South side of the parking garage at 8th and Meridian. Go up to the third floor. There’s a space off the alley where the junkies gather. Even if we don’t get any dope, some of those guys might be good for some of the burglaries we’ve had in the last few days.”
That’s putting it mildly. Show me a junkie on skid row and I’ll show you a burglar. That’s what the Lieutenant was talking about. Most of the junkies out here feed their habits through burglaries.
“How long until you set up?”
“We’re going now. We’ll meet you over there. Pull in from the west side entrance. That way, no one will see you going in. We’ve got a tac frequency reserved, so no one’s going to cut into our communications.”
“What’s the tac frequency?”
“We’ll be on tac four. Keep the radio chatter down to a minimum. Give us three quick flashes with your flashlight if you need us up there and can’t get to your radio.”
“Roger that. What’s my distance?”
“From the wall of the lot to the dope spot; about forty to fifty yards. You shouldn’t need the night vision unless they’ve busted out the lights again. The last time we checked, the lights were still working.”
“Good deal. Are you going to let everyone know to stay away from the area?”
“Roger that. We’ve got the RTO ready to check on our status every ten minutes until we go in.”
That’s another thing I love about this division: they’ve got a lot of very smart and capable cops working here. Too bad every division can’t say that.
“Sounds like you’ve got it all worked out. What’s your unit number?”
“All right, then. See you over there.”
This could be fun. I love working observation posts. Watching these junkies when they don’t think anyone’s around is a blast. You’d be amazed what you see them doing. As long as this OP is a good one with a clear view, we’ll probably come up with something good. That’s another thing I love about working on skid row: there aren’t a lot of dry holes. It’s as if there’s a criminal on every square foot of ground out here. And to think I thought it would totally suck when they sent me here! Talk about a pleasant surprise!
Well, this is the place. Tobias was right: this is a good spot and no one saw me pull in here. As long as my observation post here isn’t lit up by the overhead lights, the junkies on the street won’t see me. And even if it is, most people never look up. I don’t know why, but it’s true.
Look at this fucking parking building! Jesus! It looks like it survived a nuclear blast! Who the hell would park their car in a shithole like this? Ten bucks says it would be stolen by the time you got back. And check out the fucking rats! They’re everywhere! It’s perfect! This place is so fucking filthy, the assholes probably think no cop would dare spend five minutes in here. Too bad for them they never took into account someone like me. Eleven years on the job and I never imagined that a place like this existed. Skid row is beyond cool. It’s downright mind-blowing! You can really do some interesting police work here – if you’re up to it.
I’d better get started. First, I let them know that I’m in position. They’re on a tactical frequency – tac four – so we won’t get interrupted. Like I said, these guys did their homework. They’ve got it covered. The only problem is that if the assholes run or turn on them; it’s just the two of them down there. Everyone else is tied up on calls. I blame that on this heatwave. I swear, this is some sort of freak of nature! The heat’s been unbelievable! Since I’ve lived here, I’ve never felt scorching hot days like this before. And this is day number five!
“Three Central Delta, I’m in position. I’ve got eyes on your dope spot. I see three guys down there. Correction: four guys. There are four guys down there.”
“Twenty-Seven Central, roger. Is anyone heading northbound in the alley?”
Good question. If someone in the alley sees them approaching on foot; they’ll sound the alarm.
“Negative, Twenty-Seven. The alley south of your target is clear.”
“Roger that. We’re going in.”
Good luck, guys. Because if it goes to shit; there’s no way I can do anything to help you out. Not from way up here.
“Twenty-Seven, the guy at the edge of the space has his back toward you. Go now! They won’t see you coming!”
And there they go! They definitely had the element of surprise. Come on, guys! Get those assholes on their knees and cuffed! You’re outnumbered two to one! Shit! What’s that one guy doing? He just tossed something! Oh, shit! He’s running!
“Twenty-Seven, one of your guys just tossed something underneath the dumpsters! He’s running southbound through the alley! Male Hispanic, green t-shirt, blue jeans!”
Sevigne’s taking off after him. Good. Wait a minute? What the fuck? Tobias is staying with the other guys! No! What are you doing? Don’t split up! You know better!
“Twenty-Seven, Tobias! Your partner’s in foot pursuit southbound through the alley!”
This is fucked up! We’re all on a tac frequency! If Sevigne starts broadcasting; he’s doing it on a frequency nobody’s listening to! No one will hear him! I need to get down there, fast! Get in the car and go!
“Twenty-Seven Central; I’m in foot pursuit of a narcotics suspect! Male Hispanic; green shirt; blue jeans; southbound through the alley!”
There he goes, but he’s still on the tac frequency! Fuck! I need to hurry! If I get out there in time, I can cut this guy off at Meridian. He won’t turn east. It’s wide open over there. But he could lose Sevigne on Meridian. I definitely don’t want that to happen!
“Twenty-Seven, this is Three Central Delta! I’m on Meridian, heading your way in my car! I’ll try to cut the suspect off one block south and half a block west!
Come on, come on! Show yourself! The son of a bitch should be right down there by now!
“Twenty-Seven Central; the suspect is running westbound toward Meridian! He’s probably headed for the Awning!”
No kidding! That fleabag dope hotel is a perfect place to lose us! This guy is smart!
“Three Central Delta, I see your suspect! Westbound at the northeast corner of Meridian! He’s definitely going for the Awning!”
Time for a little front-bumper takedown! That’s it! Run right across the street so I can tap you and put you right on your ass! Fuck! He saw me! He’s running southbound!
“Sevigne, your guy is running southbound now!”
This guy may know the territory better than I do, but he sure as hell can’t outrun a police car! As long as he stays on Meridian, he’s going to get caught – or get run over by a car! There’s a lot of traffic on Meridian!
“Twenty-Seven Central, running southbound on the east sidewalk of Meridian! One suspect! Male Hispanic, green shirt and blue jeans!”
I don’t want to try to cut him off on the sidewalk. He’ll just hesitate for a second, allow me to overshoot, and take off again. With just one officer in foot pursuit, we’d lose him for sure. Fuck! We need to corral this asshole! Come on! Try for the other side of Meridian! Then I can get you! But we’re going to need help! My car’s radio is still on Central’s frequency. At least I can put out the backup call!
“Three Central Delta, Twenty-Seven Central is in foot pursuit southbound on Meridian, approaching 9th street! We need backup and an air unit!”
Now we have to hope the air unit responds damned fast! Oh, good! There goes our suspect! Right across Meridian! Now we’ve got him for sure!
“Twenty-Seven Central! Dani! Cut him off!”
You don’t have to tell me twice! Here we go! Yes! He’s stopped! He doesn’t know where to go! Get out and draw down on him!
“Police! Stop right there! Put your hands up! Now! Do it!”
“Don’t shoot! I ain’t got nothin’ on me!”
“Hands in the air! Now!”
“All right! Just don’t shoot me!”
“Drop to your knees!”
“I’m doin’ it! Just put your gun away! I ain’t done nothin’ wrong!”
At least he’s cooperating. I can cuff this idiot and turn him over to Sevigne. I just hope like hell Tobias is OK. Sevigne should never have left him; let alone left him with three suspects! But it’s not my place to chew him out over it. If he was one of my boots, I’d have his fucking ass on a stick! But he’s not, and I haven’t been here long enough to start pissing people off. I need to make friends here; not enemies.
“Dani! You got him?”
“I got him. He’s cuffed. He threw something just before he took off. I saw it go under the dumpster.”
“Thanks for the assist. Twenty-Seven Central, Tobias! Do you read? Suspect in custody. Dani says he threw something underneath the dumpster.”
“Twenty-Seven, Sevigne? Yeah, roger that. He tossed a knife. It looks like there’s blood on it.”
“Roger that, partner. We’re headed back your way. Dani, can you give us a lift?”
“No problem. Search him and toss him in the back of the car.”
A bloody knife? Maybe we’ve got an ADW suspect here? Or maybe even a murder suspect? This guy didn’t take off like a bat out of hell because he had a knife. Hell, everyone out here has a knife. Some of them have two or three. He’s good for something and he knows it. That’s why he didn’t want to get caught.
“Hey, Dani? Did you get a name on this guy?”
“Not yet. Hey! You! What’s your name?”
“OK, now, what’s your real name?”
“That is my real name.”
Yeah, right! Nobody out here ever gives up their real name on the first shot. Well, almost nobody. And since we’re going on the assumption that this guy is wanted, then it’s safe to say that there’s no way in hell he’d give up his real name.
“Fine. We’ll figure it out at the station. Get in the car.”
“You’re takin’ me to jail? What for?”
“Running from the police, for starters.”
“That ain’t no crime!”
“No, but it’s very disrespectful and it’s annoying as hell.”
“You’re gonna take me to jail for that?”
“You also ran through the middle of traffic. That’s jaywalking.”
“Are you shittin’ me?”
Hey, the lieutenant said he wanted me to write a few jaywalking tickets. OK, that’s just me being ridiculous. But I really want to find out who this guy is and why he ran like hell. I’d like nothing more tonight than to clear an open murder case. Of course, it’s not like we can have the blood on that knife tested tonight. Most of the technicians that do that shit work regular hours. They won’t be in until tomorrow morning. I just hope we don’t have to kick this guy loose until we at least find out his real name. He didn’t have anything on him, and he really didn’t do anything that we saw; jaywalking notwithstanding. Sadly, he’s absolutely right about one thing: running from the police isn’t a crime. It isn’t even probable cause unless you get the right judge.
“Hey, Javier? How long have you been out on the street?
“Maybe two years.”
Good. If he’s been out here that long, then he’s in the system. We’ll have his criminal record, his name on a crime report, or a field interview card. The point is, he’s not exactly living off of the grid. Now all we have to do is match him to whatever record he’s got.
“What were you doing back in that alley?”
“Just talkin’ and wastin’ time.”
“Who are your friends? You know, the guys you left back there?”
“I don’t really know those dudes. We just got together to do some talkin’ and drinkin’ for a while.”
We’ll take him back to the station so he can be reunited with his friends. Assuming, of course, that those guys didn’t overpower Tobias and escape. Three against one are terrible odds. Three against one and the one is seriously distracted because he doesn’t know where his partner is or what happened to him make for almost suicidal odds. God, Sevigne should know better than that! Judging from his badge number, he’s got at least three years on the job. Where does he get off making a rookie mistake like that?
“Let’s get back to Tobias. I don’t like the idea of him being alone with three suspects. Try to raise him on the radio if you can.”
“Twenty-Seven Central, Tobias! Do you read?
“Roger that. I’ve got three suspects in custody here.”
“Good work. Stand by. We’re bring the fourth one over to you.”
Well, at least he’s in one piece. I was pretty worried there. I’ve seen a few disasters in my day. I know how ugly they can get.
“Let’s go collect your partner and get these guys back to the station. We can figure out what to charge them with when we get there. I’ll take one, and you and your partner take the other three.”
“Sounds like a plan. Let’s do it.”
That was fast! Let’s just hope it leads to something.
Central Station. It’s a busy night – just how I like it. This heatwave has really stirred things up around here. During the day, some of the homeless have even passed out from heatstroke. I saw it on the news. Thank God I don’t work days. I don’t think I could bring myself to wear my bulletproof vest if I did. The damned thing raises your body temperature like you wouldn’t believe. I don’t know how those Daywatch guys handle it. I would have dropped dead four days ago. As much as I don’t like hanging around the station; I’m kind of glad to be here now. This place has an excellent air conditioner. It’s nice to know the city actually spent some money on it. Everyone needs a break from the heat once in a while.
“Tobias! Sevigne! You start processing these guys while I start running their information. I’m assuming you didn’t find any ID on them?”
“Nothing at all. No ID, no dope, no nothing. Well, except for that guy who tossed his knife.”
“Can I see the knife?”
“Sure. Knock yourself out.”
Jesus! Tobias wasn’t kidding about the bloodstains! We’re not talking about a few specks of blood here. No, this thing has a lot of blood on it! Since it’s safe to say that he wasn’t out deer hunting, I’m going on the assumption that it’s human blood. The question is: whose blood is it?
“Guys, I’m going to go back in the detective’s room and see if I can find any recent open cases with a stabbing or a slashing.”
“Good idea. Sevigne and I will process him and write up the report. We’ll hit you up for any details we might have missed.”
I’ll say this for Central: they’ve got a huge detective division. This room is twice as big as anyplace else I’ve worked. Look at this shit! It never ceases to amaze me just how much paper a police division uses in one day. These detective desks all have enough paperwork on them to wipe out the Amazon rainforest! I guess the technology for us to go paperless isn’t ready yet. Let’s see…we need crimes against persons. Right here. Jesus! This is all from the last forty-eight hours? You’ve got to be kidding! I’ve worked divisions where they don’t get this many violent crimes in a month! A whole lot of people out here are victims of violent crimes. Just based on this one stack of paperwork; I’d say this is probably the most dangerous place in the fucking world! And it’s not just the numbers. The homeless who are out committing crimes don’t get picky about their victims. They’ll go after anyone if they think they can get something out of it. That pretty much means everyone they can catch. To a lot of them, any human being with a pulse is fair game.
Jesus! And people say Metro South-Woodlawn is a busy division! It’s got nothing on this place! There must be ten stabbings in the last two days! Not to mention beating people shitless with pipes and two-by-four! Do these people do anything except drink, get high, and kill each other?
Unfortunately, these stabbing reports have almost no suspect description. We’re not going to hang any of them on our guy based solely on these. Can someone explain that to me? How can someone get stabbed and not be able to describe the guy who did it? I mean, the guy had to be standing right next to you. You have to have seen something, right?
“Dani? You got anything?”
“Sorry, guys. Ten stabbing reports and no description we can use.”
“That figures. We’ll just throw a line in the report to have the blood on the knife tested.”
“Given what I’ve seen out here, I’ll bet there’s more than one person’s blood on it.”
“Good. He can go for everyone they can identify.”
The man’s got a point.
“Good idea. That might teach him to ditch the knife after each stabbing.”
You know, that’s the part that I don’t get. Assuming that he stabbed somebody a week ago, or yesterday, or even this morning; why didn’t he ditch the knife? It’s a piece of shit knife, so he doesn’t have any money in it, and he can get a new one in five minutes. Why hang onto it? The logical answer is because he just recently stabbed someone – like in the last hour or less. But I haven’t heard any stabbing calls go out. So either he’s just really dumb, or there’s someone out there right now who’s been stabbed or slashed and we don’t know who it is. I know it’s not a patrol officer’s job to be a detective, but I really hate leaving loose ends lying around – especially if those loose ends are lying in an alley, bleeding to death.
“Hey, Sevigne? Are you guys going to try running their prints?”
“No, we’re just going to go with what they gave us. If nothing comes up, we’ll just kick them loose.”
Excuse me? We chased one of those guys down for nothing? You’re just going to kick him loose?
“Even the guy who took off running?”
“If nothing comes up, we don’t have anything on him.”
I can’t fucking believe it! After all of that shit? But it’s their call. I’m not going to say anything.
“I’d run his prints if I were you. He didn’t take off running for nothing.”
“Yeah, maybe we’ll take him over to records. I don’t know. It’s such a pain in the ass.”
Clearly, Tobias and Sevigne aren’t what I’d call hard-chargers. It makes me sick, but it’s their call. Still, I want to know who that guy really is. I want a copy of his information. If they aren’t going to try to keep him, then I want to be able to track him down if anything turns up on that knife.
“It’s your call, but burn me a copy of their information. And make sure you take a picture of our runner.”
Gee, in case he comes back wanted for a dozen murders, maybe? Christ, I’m beginning to understand why he took off and left his partner outnumbered three to one!
“In case I want to go looking for him later on.”
“Why don’t you give him your phone number? Maybe he’ll call you?”
I can see what Sevigne thinks of women on the job. Thank God I’m going to Midwatch tomorrow!
“Just burn me a copy and take a picture, will you?”
I’ve seen that look before. Lots of times. It kills him that I outrank him. Good! After his boneheaded move back there, he deserves an ass-kicking. Or at least to be humiliated by a woman who’s probably forgotten more about this job than he’ll ever know.
“Yeah, sure. We’ll leave it in your box at end of watch.”
And I’ll bet you twenty bucks that when I go to look for it, it won’t be there. I swear, if they kick that guy loose and he turns up on the detectives’ wanted bulletin, I’m going to kick the crap out of both of those guys! I guarantee it! I don’t care if I end up taking ten days for it! I’ve had enough of cops who don’t do the job for the next ten lifetimes. To hell with all of them!