Midwatch

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Chapter 10: Down the Rabbit Hole

Central Station. Wrapping up the report on our arrest and use of force incident. Well, this has been one hell of a night! The same guy whacks me on two different occasions, I’ve got a gash on my arm, my left eye is all watery, and tomorrow I’ll probably have a black eye. Now, don’t think I’m complaining. All in all, this has been a really exciting night, and it’s not even over yet.

Harper’s not only great in the field; he’s also really good at writing reports. That’s a minor miracle. Most boots can barely write a good report by the time they get off of probation. Hell, I know plenty of cops with ten years on the job who can barely write their way out of a paper bag. Harper’s got a really sharp eye for detail, and he never fails to get all of the essential elements into the narrative. Considering how much of this job involves report writing, he’s light years ahead of the curve. How the hell did he get so good at this job so quickly? I’m sure part of it is that he’s just a natural, but the rest of it had to be a boatload of hard work. In that respect, he reminds me of myself. I definitely had a talent for the job, but I worked my ass off to learn as much as I could. Not because I’m a woman and a lot of guys expect me to be a total fuck-up, but because I wanted to be the best. I still do. And I can see that Harper’s the same way. He won’t settle for anything less than the best. It’s very refreshing; especially after everything I’ve been through, lately.

He’s also been hovering over me because of my injuries. It’s not typical for a boot to be so protective of his training officer. In his case, I think he’s afraid that if anything happens to me, he’ll end up stuck on the desk for the rest of the DP. That’s probably true. Harper stuck on the desk? God, I’m surprised he lets me go out in the field without a suit of armor!

Speak of the devil. I guess he’s finished with everything.

“How’s the eye, Dani?”

“It hurts.”

“Let me take a look at it again.”

“Yes, Doctor Harper.”

“I’m serious. Let me see it.”

“It’s not bad. How’s our arrestee?”

“They took him straight to the pads. He’s still screaming his head off. The jailers wouldn’t even uncuff him.”

“I don’t blame them. That asshole definitely belongs in a padded cell. Do we even have a name on him?”

“Nope. And there’s no way we’re going to get his fingerprints while he’s going off like that.”

“Fine. He can go to jail as ‘John Doe.’ Eventually, they’ll figure out who he is.”

“I’m not worried about him. I’m worried about you. That was a nasty kick.”

“It wasn’t that bad.”

“Yes, it was. I know. I saw it.”

Fair enough. It was pretty hard. It hurt like a son of a bitch!

“At least he didn’t cut me. All of that blood was from my nose.”

“You stayed in the fight. Way to go.”

“That’s my job. Hey, you did a damned good job out there. Nice shot with the Taser.”

“You know, I pretty much drained that Taser on that asshole!”

“And it didn’t work like they show in the training video? What a shock. No pun intended.”

“I know they said it didn’t always work, but…”

“Don’t beat yourself up over it. Even your gun isn’t guaranteed to work. Excuse me, your weapon. Your pistol.”

“You’ll make a fine Marine, Dani.”

“I’ve got a good teacher. Is that the first guy you ever Tased?”

“Yeah.”

“The first guy I ever Tased was a duster. He charged me, and I shot him right in the chest. It was textbook: a perfect spread, fully charged Taser, both darts lodged solid. It didn’t even slow him down. He just screamed and kept running straight for me.”

“What did you do?”

“I kicked him in the balls just as hard as I could. Between that and the Taser, he went down.”

“Whatever works. Hey, the Watch Commander wants to talk to us.”

Yeah, I was waiting for this. He’s going to be pissed because I didn’t report this gash on my arm right away. Hey, I didn’t want to get pulled from the field over a little cut. But he’ll probably be on a tirade about proper procedure and why didn’t I get it looked at right away. All right, time to face the music! He’s sitting at his desk. I might as well get this over with.

“You wanted to see us, Lieutenant Hagan?”

“Yes I did. Let me see that arm.”

Now I have to unwrap my little bandage. And they did such a nice job with it at the hospital!

“It’s nothing, sir. See?”

“I’ll be the judge of that. OK, it’s not too bad. Did you get it looked at?”

“Yes, sir. When we followed up at the hospital with that stabbing victim.”

“What did they say about it?”

“They said I had a boo-boo.”

“Lynott!”

I forgot to warn you: Watch Commanders usually aren’t known for their sense of humor.

“They said it was no big deal, sir. They took a couple of splinters out of it. It doesn’t even need any stitches.”

“Uh-huh. And that asshole bouncing around in the pads is the guy who did it?”

“Yes, sir. Harper got a look at him before we lost him. Then he turns up going nuts a few hours later at 5th and Kahler. Go figure.”

“Harper, are you sure that’s the same guy?”

“I’m positive, sir. It’s him. I remember the coat. Who in his right mind would wear a full-length coat when it’s one hundred degrees outside? It’s him, sir.”

“Did you complete a crime report?”

“Yes, sir. Dani’s the victim and I’m the witness. And if we can find out who that guy is, we can list him as the named suspect. I was going to hand it in later.”

Lieutenant Hagan looks a little bent out of shape over this. I’d better make sure none of it lands on Harper. It was my call.

“Sir, it was my decision not to report it right away. I didn’t think it was a big deal, and I was OK to keep working.”

He still doesn’t look happy. But at least he doesn’t look furious.

“Harper, give us the room.”

“Yes, sir.”

I don’t know if what’s coming next is a bad thing or nothing. Kicking Harper out of the room isn’t a good sign. I hope I didn’t really fuck things up with this.

“Lynott…Dani, I know things haven’t been easy for you. And I’m not going to pretend that I have the slightest idea what the last year’s been like for you. I also want you to know that as far as I’m concerned, you’ve got absolutely nothing to prove to anyone. I know you’re a damned fine cop, and you’re as tough as anyone we’ve got. You don’t have to prove that to me or anyone else. And I don’t want you to think that you have to go around walking on eggshells and not trusting anyone. You don’t. I don’t pay any attention to all of that bullshit they said about you. You’re here to do police work, and I need you to do it. I’ve got enough people doing the bare minimum as it is. I can’t afford to lose a hard-charger. But there are still people on this department who want you out of here, and if you give them so much as half a reason…”

“I understand, sir.”

“I’m glad to hear it. Now, I’m not going to bench you over a one-inch cut on your arm. Hell, I’m not going to bench you for getting kicked in the head.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“But I do want you to go to the infirmary and have that eye looked at.”

“Will do, sir.”

“Bring Harper back in here.”

This turned out better than I’d hoped. I really like Lieutenant Hagan. How could I not? A Watch Commander with some common sense? Who would have thought it? God, I love this division more and more every day.

“Harper! In here, please!”

Now it’s probably going to be a run-down on the use of force. Hey, it was by the book.

“Lieutenant?”

“Come in here, Harper. Now, tell me about this use of force.”

“The call came out as a disturbance; a man in the middle of the street. Dani and I got there and the suspect was waving a metal pipe around and threatening people on the sidewalk.”

“Did you know right away that it was the same guy that hit your partner earlier?”

“Yes, sir. Pretty much as soon as I saw him, yes.”

“So you ordered him to drop the pipe?”

“Dani did, sir. Several times. He refused.”

“So you lit him up?”

“Tased him. Yes, sir. He dropped to the ground pretty quick, but he didn’t stop. We swarmed him.”

“Just the two of you?”

“No, sir. Goren and Signolo were there. They helped Dani swarm him. I still had the Taser.”

“And that’s when he kicked her?”

“Yes, sir. I saw it go down. So I jabbed him with my nightstick.”

“Where?”

“In the ribs, sir. Just once.”

“Did you break his ribs?”

“I don’t know, sir.”

“Here’s hoping you did. Any asshole who kicks one of my officers deserves a few broken ribs. All right, write it up just the way it happened. Don’t leave anything out, and don’t gloss over the details. Blow by blow. You understand?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And as for you, Lynott: if you wake up in the morning and that eye is black and blue, you call in and you’re off for the night.”

“I can work with a black eye, sir.”

“Not if you can’t see through it. Now, I’m serious about this. If it’s not bruised or swollen, then fine. You can come in and work your shift. But if it is, you’re off for the night. Put an ice pack on it and come in the next night.”

“It’s not that big a deal, sir.”

“We don’t know how big a deal it is. You might be fine now, but tomorrow, who knows? Hell, I ought to send you home anyway, and not because of your eye.”

What the hell is he talking about? Why would he send me home after what he just said?

“Why would you want to send me home, sir? We’ve still got work to do. Harper and I are already leading the watch in almost every category. We even wrote some tickets for you. Ask Harper.”

“That’s right, sir. We wrote two each.”

“Well, bless your little hearts! Both of you! Do you see this? This is the overtime report as of the end of last DP. And look who’s name is highlighted right here at the very top? Miss Dani Lynott! Leading the goddamned pack! You’ve got three hundred and twelve hours banked! I ought to send you home for a week!”

I actually forgot about that. He’s right: I’ve got a shitload of overtime banked. Hey, being on the department’s blacklist for a year doesn’t allow you to burn up your overtime.

“You don’t want to do that, sir. You’d miss me. I bring joy to your life.”

“Is that what you call it? The truth is, I can’t do that! If I send you home for a week, I lose a Midwatch unit. I can’t afford that. I’ve got too many guys on Nightwatch out on forced overtime as it is. But the Bureau says I’m supposed to get everyone under one hundred and thirty-five hours, and you’re way past that. You’ve got to burn some of this overtime. It’s that, or if your eye’s swollen, you go I.O.D. I don’t think you want that.”

I.O.D. is injured on duty. If that happens, I need a doctor’s clearance before I can work again, and you never know what they’re going to say. Fuck that shit! I’d rather take a TO and burn the overtime. A TO is a “Time Off,” which is what they call burning up your overtime. Jesus, I haven’t been on a TO in over a year!

“No, I wouldn’t want that, sir.”

“I didn’t think so. Now, guess who’s just shy of the mark, Officer Harper?”

“That would be me, sir.”

“That would be you! One hundred and twenty-eight hours of overtime! How the hell does a goddamned boot rack up one hundred and twenty-eight hours of overtime? Can you explain that to me?”

“Court cases from working Nightwatch and Graveyard, sir. That, and regular overtime.”

“Well, aren’t you the fucking eager beaver! It’s bad enough I have to explain to the captain that one of my officers is the reigning overtime queen of the division. I’m not about to explain how a goddamned boot racked up almost a hundred and thirty hours of overtime in this division. So here’s the deal: if she’s on a TO tomorrow, then you’re on a TO tomorrow. Got it?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And Lynott! Don’t think that because you’re a fucking girl, you can cover it up with makeup and pretend it’s fine. We’re all trained observers around here. That shit won’t fly.”

“No, sir. I wouldn’t do that.”

Well, yes I would, but since he already anticipated that move…shit!

“You’re both dismissed. And Lynott! I’m going to call the infirmary before I leave tonight to make sure you actually went there.”

“Don’t worry, sir. I’ll have it looked at.”

“And don’t forget what I told you. All right?”

“I won’t, sir.”

“Good. Now get out of my station and go back to work.”

Hell, yes! I’ve been listening to the radio and it’s still pretty crazy out there. I don’t want to miss anything good. I just hope I don’t get fucked over at the infirmary. Those doctors can be pretty picky. Lord, please don’t let him put me on restricted duty. I’ve missed enough already. Enough to last me a lifetime.


Back on patrol. Well, at least the doctor cleared me for duty. God, I hate going to the infirmary. That’s the doctor’s office at the jail. Either it smells like a hundred gallons of Lysol, or it stinks like you wouldn’t believe. Tonight was the latter. No matter. I got a clean bill of health. No broken bones, no damage to my eye. But it stings like a bitch! He put some shit on it that’s supposed to make it feel better. I’ll let you know if that ever happens. In the meantime, at least we’re back out in the field. I wonder what’s next? This has been a seriously weird night.

“God, I hope I don’t wake up tomorrow with a footprint on my face. That would really suck.”

“Look on the bright side, Dani: at least he didn’t cut you. That would’ve been bad.”

“Why? Because it would mess up my pretty face?”

“Yeah, but it’s not just that. No, it’s because that guy was homeless.”

“What’s that got to do with it?”

“Well, you’ve seen these guys. They spend all of their time in alleys.”

“And?”

“And think of what’s in there. I mean, hell! These people shit in those alleys! They shit and then they walk through and step on it.”

Oh, great! That’s just the fucking image I need in my head! Harper, you asshole!

“Oh, God! Harper! Are you trying to make me puke?”

“I’m just saying…you did wash your face, didn’t you?”

“Obviously not enough! Fuck! Are you saying I’ve got human shit caked on my face?”

“Well, not anymore.”

“I’m going to kill you! I’m going to fucking kill you! That’s disgusting!”

“I know. That’s why I’m glad it’s not my face.”

“Where’s that goddamned hand sanitizer? I need to scrub my face!”

“It’s probably too late. You’ve already got that human shit bacteria working its way into your skin.”

“Stop saying that! You’re freaking me out!”

“It’s probably worse than a zombie bite; having human shit microbes working their way into your face. Maybe even into your brain?”

Oh, he’s laying it on thick! And that’s what I’m going to write on his fucking tombstone!

“You’re a fucking dead man, you know that?”

“And into your eye! Hey, isn’t that how you get that flesh-eating virus that just dissolves all your skin?”

“What? Flesh-eating virus? You’re making that up!”

“No, I’m pretty sure I saw that on TV. Yeah, human shit bacteria gets into your body, and the next thing you know…”

Oh, God! I need to be decontaminated! It’s like I can feel the filth bacteria working its way into my bloodstream! Yuck!

“Stop! You’re a fucking sadist! You know that, right? You’re just…evil!

“Me? Evil? With this face? I’m an angel. My mom said so.”

As God is my witness, I will find a way to get him back for this! I swear to God! He’s going down! I don’t care if he is a boot! He will know my wrath!

“Sixteen Central, burglary suspect there now; 1121 Central Avenue, handle code two.”

That’s a weird place for a burglary. That whole stretch of Central Avenue is a total shithole. What’s there to steal?

“Sixteen Central, roger, en route.”

“What do you think, Dani? Tunnel job?”

“What’s there to tunnel? Fleabag motels?”

“Pretty much.”

“I guess we’ll find out when we get there.”

“Try not to get kicked this time.”

“Now it’s your turn to get kicked! And I hope the guy’s shoe is caked with shit!”

“Never happen. God loves me too much. It’s a Marine thing.”

“I will get you for this! You know that, right?”

Oh, I’m going to have to figure out something especially devious for him! Something he’ll never forget! He deserves it!


We’re at the scene of the burglary call. Fleabag motel was right! This dump looks like a half crackhead, half skanky hooker motel. Save for some dope dealer who keeps his stash in there, there’s nothing to steal. And if someone tried to rip off one of the dope dealers, he’d probably get shot or stabbed for his efforts. Besides, there’s a guy working the front desk and he looks as calm as can be. How the fuck is this a burglary suspect there now?

“Harper, do you know this place?”

“Yeah, it’s a major asshole location.”

“It looks like it. The lobby seems normal enough. Who called this one in?”

“Let’s find out. Sixteen Central, who’s the PR on this call?”

“Sixteen Central, PR is the night manager.”

Which is a fancy way of saying the guy behind the desk. He sure as hell doesn’t lok worked up over anything. He looks like he’s half-asleep.

“Let’s see what he knows.”

I don’t see anyone else in there. He’s buzzing us in. Good. That tells me there’s nobody holding him hostage. Jesus! This place smells as bad as it looks! What? Does everybody use the lobby for a urinal? The place smells like an unflushed toilet!

“Hey! Are you the guy that called?”

And he doesn’t even bother to look up at us. That’s a concerned citizen for you.

“Hey, behind the desk! Did you call the police?”

“Yeah.”

“You said there was a burglary?”

“Yeah.”

“Is there a burglary?”

“Yeah.”

I’ve heard of men of few words, but this guy is a man of one word. I’m sure there’s a story behind it.

“So where’s the burglary?”

“There.”

OK, he knows two words. That’s a one hundred percent improvement.

“Where’s ‘there?’”

“There. On the sidewalk. Right out front. Guy pried open that metal thing. Went inside.”

Is he talking about a manhole? Did someone break into a sewer? Even for this division, that’s just crazy!

“Which metal thing? Where does it lead? Is it part of this place?”

“That one. Right there. On the sidewalk. I don’t know where it goes. I’ve seen the power company working there, sometimes. You’d have to ask them.”

“What do you think, Harper?”

“I think this guy’s legally brain dead.”

“I mean besides the obvious. What is that thing?”

“I don’t know. I guess it leads to the electrical system.”

Great! We have to search an underground electrical tunnel, and we don’t even know who owns it. No owner, no victim, and a strong possibility of electrocution. This call is going to be a picnic!

“Let’s check it out. We can at least see where it goes.”

“You got it. Watch yourself in there, Dani. Some of these electrical tunnels can be pretty big. You should see the one near the station.”

“I’m not sure our radios will work down there. I’ll bet that’s a lot of concrete and steel.”

“Good point. We can keep the hatch open. That might help.”

“Good thinking. Let’s see what we can see.”

Harper knows what he’s talking about. Some of these service tunnels are tiny; some of them are huge. I know that in some places, they go on for a couple of blocks. You learn shit like that when your dad was a contractor. There’s no way we’re going to try to search anything huge. Hell, we don’t even know the layout down there. That’s way too dangerous. I hope this thing is nothing more than a crawlspace.

“What do you think, Harper? No name on the hatch. We still don’t know who owns this thing.”

“Could it be the city?”

“I doubt it. The city puts its name on everything it owns. This thing’s blank. It probably belongs to whoever owns the building.”

“There’s pry marks here. This is where he jimmied it open. Let’s lift it up and see what’s in there.”

“You lift it. I might break a nail.”

“Well, we wouldn’t want that!”

All kidding aside, that thing looks like it weighs a ton! I’m not going to try to lift it! I might break my goddamned back! That’s what boots are for. See? Even he’s struggling with it!

“Whoa! Check it out, Dani! Talk about down the rabbit hole!”

He’s not kidding! It looks like there’s a whole room down there! Look at all those machines and panels and shit! That’s no electrical tunnel for wires. That’s some sort of control room. Damn! I never would’ve guessed! That place looks really cool. I know it’s not the best idea in the world, but I want to check it out.

“That’s a bad place to get into a jam, Harper. There’s not much room to maneuver down there.”

“I know. I was thinking the same thing. You’re the boss. It’s your call. Do we go in?”

“We check it out. If it looks too iffy, we bail. Got it?”

“Let’s do it.”

What’s really weird is that this place has lights. Not much light, but I wasn’t expecting any lights at all. Some of this electrical shit looks new; some of it looks like it’s at least fifty years old. I was right: this place is really cool! I love checking out shit like this. But we definitely don’t want to get into any trouble down here. It’s way too small to move around easily, and God help us if we have to fire a shot down here! With all this concrete and steel, the muzzle blast would probably leave us permanently deaf. OK, we’ve got a corridor ahead. This place is narrow, but long.

“Harper, check it out: it looks like it goes down that way for about fifty feet. I can’t see if it dead-ends, or if it turns.”

“Did the suspect turn on these lights?”

“Good question. I don’t know. I don’t see a switch. Maybe they stay on all the time?”

“I can see why someone would break in here. All of this copper wire would bring a lot of money at the recycler.”

Yeah, it would. But that’s assuming the asshole doesn’t electrocute himself stealing it. I’m guessing all of this shit is live. There’s a dozen different things humming down here, and a lot of these panels have gauges that seem to be working. There must be a shitload of juice running through these things. This is one seriously dangerous place. Anyone who would steal this shit is taking his life in his hands.

“I still can’t tell if it turns down there, or if that’s the end. OK, here’s what we’ll do: we go down as far as that end. If it turns, we stop and back out. That’s too damned big to search with just two of us. Plus, we don’t know where the hell it leads. We’ll just leave and sit on the entrance for a while.”

“Wait for the guy to come out?”

“That’s the idea.”

“What if there’s another exit?”

“Then this guy struck the motherlode and he gets away with it. You can’t win them all.”

“At least now we know about this place.”

“Yeah. But I wonder how many others are out here? The homeless would go nuts in here. Between the metal and having a nice, dry place to yourself; this would be a prime spot. People out here would kill for this place.”

“Maybe they have already?”

“Yeah, I was just thinking the exact same thing. Let’s move forward, OK?”

“I got your back. Let’s go.”

At least we don’t need our flashlights. The light down here is dim, but it’s more than enough. This place is really neat. It’s like the engine room of a spaceship. Look at all this shit! And none of it looks trashed! That tells me the homeless don’t know about it, or they can’t get down here. I’m surprised there aren’t twenty guys down here right now, tearing it apart!

“Harper? Anything?”

“Not so far. Lots of places to hide.”

He’s got that right. Damn! This place is a trip! I’ve done a lot of searches in my day, but nothing like this. I almost expect a monster to jump out and try to eat us. That’s what this place feels like. We’re almost at the end. Shit! It looks like it does turn to the right! As much as I want to see this whole place, that’s as far as I’m willing to go without knowing where this thing leads. I want to keep that entrance in a straight line of sight. And I don’t want anyone or anything getting between us and it. I’ll give Harper the hand signal that I’m going to take a quick look around that corner, but that’s it. After that, we get the fuck out of here. So let’s see…oh, shit! We’ve got someone!

“Police! Don’t move! Hands where I can see them!”

“Dani!”

“We’ve got one suspect! Male black, gray hair! Hands where I can see them! Now! Harper, cover me!”

“I got you!”

“Drop to your knees! Do it now!”

“Yes, ma’am. I ain’t gonna try nothin’. I swear.”

One guy. This thing turns to the right and ends in a little room. Good. No other entrances or hatches. I can see his pry bar. He was down here ripping off metal, just like we thought. But he’s older than I expected him to be. This guy looks like he’s at least sixty. I’d expect a younger guy to hit a place like this.

“Hands behind your back!”

“Yes, ma’am.”

I can’t believe we didn’t hear him. He was only a few feet away from us. This guy must have a real talent for keeping quiet. All right, cuff him quick and find out wht he’s doing down here.

“We’re clear, Harper. He’s cuffed. You! Stand up!”

It doesn’t look like he got anything yet. Nothing looks damaged.

“What are you doing down here?”

“Just lookin’ for a place to sleep, ma’am.”

“With a pry bar?”

“I had to get the lid open somehow.”

It doesn’t make sense. If he’s here to steal, then he had plenty of time to start ripping shit out of the walls. But nothing looks touched. Maybe he is telling the truth? An older guy like him? Ten thousand crazy motherfuckers up there? That makes sense. If the other zombies don’t know about this place, then it would make for a sweet little hide. It’s hidden, it’s got lights, and it’s secure. That’s pretty much the Trifecta on skid row.

“Are you down here stealing shit?”

“No, ma’am. I just come here to sleep.”

“Yeah, but you broke into the place.”

“No, ma’am. I didn’t break in. Ain’t no lock on the lid. That lid’s real heavy. That’s all that’s keepin’ it closed. You just need to get yourself somethin’ to pry it open with.”

He’s got a point. I didn’t see a lock on the outside, and even Harper had trouble lifting it. If he didn’t break in here, and if he’s not trying to steal anything, then it’s just a bullshit trespass charge. We’re sure as hell not going to take him in for that.

“Harper, did you see a lock on that hatch?”

“Now that you mention it, no. Just the pry marks at the edge.”

Our suspect is nodding his head. I guess he figures he’s in the clear. At least on the burglary charge, that is.

“It’s like I said, ma’am: I didn’t break in. I swear. They got this special tool for openin’ it. But if you ain’t got one, you got to get yourself somethin’ to pry it open. That’s the only way you get down here. Unless you’re as big as this officer here, I mean. You must’ve had one hell of a time liftin’ that lid, sir.”

“He’s right about that, Dani. That thing’s a bitch.”

“And you’re telling us you’re not down here stealing anything?”

“Hell, no! Down here? You gonna kill yourself stealin’ this here shit! Here, put your hand on that black pipe! Here, like this…you feel that? You feel that shit? Vibrations? That’s electrical shit! You try to take that shit; you gonna’ fry your ass!”

He’s right. I can feel the pulsing. I don’t know what’s in that thing, but I’ll bet it’s not very safe.

“This is a pretty dangerous place to hang out, don’t you think?”

“Not compared to what’s up there, ma’am. That’s where the danger is. That’s why I come down here. Down here, I ain’t gotta sleep with one eye open, if you know what I mean.”

“I know exactly what you mean. You wait here. I need to confer with my partner.”

“I ain’t goin’ nowhere, ma’am.”

We need to decide what to do with him. Like I said, it’s a nickel-and-dime trespass. And frankly, I’m tempted to let this guy stay here for the night. He’s older, he’s polite, and I honestly don’t think he came down here to steal anything. When he found this little hideout – one that nobody else knew about – he probably felt like he’d hit the jackpot. I would.

“Well, Harper? You’re the expert in this division. What do you think?”

“Do you believe him?”

“As a matter of fact, yes. I do. He’s an older guy. Nothing’s been touched, and he didn’t actually break in. He knows what it’s like on the street. I think he’s just looking for a place to crash for the night.”

“This is a good place. Nobody’s going to mess with him down here.”

“I’ll bet he’s the only one who thought to come down here. I mean, look at this place. If everyone else knew about it…”

“It would be trashed by now.”

“Big time. I say we just leave him alone.”

“I can live with that.”

I guess this qualifies as our good deed for the night. After getting my ass thumped twice, it’s nice to meet someone out here who seems harmless. Why not let him stay down here? He’ll probably take better care of the place than whoever’s supposed to be down here.

“If we let you stay down here, are you going to steal anything?”

“Hell, no!”

“Are you going to mess up anything?”

“Hell, no! I like to keep my place clean, ma’am.”

“Good man. Turn around. I’m going to uncuff you.”

“Thank you, ma’am.”

I have to admit, I kind of feel sorry for this guy. He doesn’t look like a hard case. It must be tough for him out here at his age. I just hope I’m not making a mistake. I’ve already learned that they’ve got some really good con men out here. I’ll feel like a fucking idiot if I find out I’m being played.

“What’s your name?”

“Luther.”

“Well, Luther, here’s the deal: we’re going to let you stay here. But you have to behave yourself. If we come back here tomorrow night and find out you ripped off a bunch of this shit…”

“No way, ma’am. I ain’t fixin’ to get myself electrocuted.”

“Good deal. Harper, get his information. You take care of this place, Luther. You take care of it and we won’t tell anyone else about it.”

“I appreciate that.”

“I hope you do. I mean that. Don’t make us regret it.”

“No chance of that, ma’am. Places like this? They’re hard to come by around here.”

I think I’m beginning to understand people out here. Well, some of them, at least. You go your whole life and you find yourself in a place where making your way into an electrical tunnel underground so you can sleep at night without being beaten, robbed, or stabbed is a Godsend. Life on skid row. This is one weird fucking place; that’s for sure. That’s for damned sure. Harper was right: I’m definitely down the rabbit hole.


And we’re back on patrol and watching the clock. I guess that’s it for the night. Quite a night! If I ever write a book about this place, I’m definitely going to remember the old guy in the tunnel. I have to include him. I mean, how could I not? Where else are you going to find someone like that in this day and age? He’s currently one of the more interesting people I’ve met since I got here.

“Back to the barn, Harper! Five minutes to end of watch. We’ll turn in our reports and pack it in.”

“Sounds good. It’s been a hell of a night.”

“And it’s not even a full moon yet.”

“How’s the eye?”

“It really stings. Does it look swollen?”

“Not really. But you’ve got a nice scratch, there. How’s the arm?”

“The arm’s fine. It doesn’t even hurt now.”

“Give it a few hours.”

“Gee, you’re full of good news! How is it that you’re the boot and the Marine, and I’m the one who’s all banged up?”

“God looks out for Marines. And boots.”

“Yeah? Well, next time, you take the lumps.”

“So do you feel like you’re turning into one of them yet?”

“Don’t start with that shit! God! I’m going go home and take four showers, thanks to you!”

“Are you sure that’ll get the human shit molecules out of your face?”

“I’m reaching for my gun, now!”

“You can’t kill me. You haven’t shot Expert yet.”

Damn! He’s got a point. I still need him. But after that? Oh, yeah! Boom!

“I’m going to eye-fuck the shit out of those reports you wrote.”

“With the good eye or the bad eye?”

“You are so fucking dead! You know that, don’t you?”

“Kill me and they’ll have to transfer you to Daywatch. Have fun with the walking wounded.”

“Shut up and drive, Harper.”

You know, for a boot, he’s awfully smug all of a sudden. Maybe I’m losing my touch? My awe-inspiring training officer presence doesn’t seem to be working on him. I need to work on that.


Central Station. End of watch. Well, now that I’ve scrubbed my face raw, I should be all right – at least until I get home and really clean up. That crack about the flesh-eating virus kind of struck a nerve. I saw something about it on TV, too. It freaked me out. You get that shit and they immediately start cutting off body parts. I’ll bet it’s out here somewhere. I’ll bet every disease on earth is out here on skid row. Hell, it may have even started out here! Judging from the smells in this sector, they’ve probably got diseases that doctors haven’t identified yet. I’d bet money on it.

But aside from that, it’s been a productive night. A couple of good arrests, more than our share of excitement, and a strange guy living in a strange tunnel. Never a dull moment on Skid Row. I’m just glad we’re not going to be overtime tonight. I am completely worn out. God, I hope I don’t fall asleep driving home.

“Did you finish scrubbing your face, partner?”

“Harper, you’re living on borrowed time! You know, I was wondering why it is that since we’ve been working together, I’ve been doing most of the talking. Now, you finally start talking to me and what do you do? You try to turn my stomach!”

“It’s for your own good. You need to learn to face your fears.”

“I’ll be facing a jury for murdering you! And I’ll be acquitted, too! Come on, let’s give the reports to the Watch Commander and get the hell out of here. I need a few dozen showers.”

“Roger that. Do you think they ever found out who our psycho was?”

“I don’t know. We can ask.”

I’m kind of curious about him, too. When someone kicks you in the face, the least they can do is introduce themselves.

“We’re done, Lieutenant.”

“You guys really earned your money tonight. A two-page log. Not bad! How are you feeling, Lynott?”

“Just fine, sir.”

“Your eye’s not black yet.”

“I’ll be in tonight. Count on it.”

“You just remember what I said: If it’s swollen, you’re on a TO or you go IOD. Whichever it is, you call in. Don’t even try to show up with your eye swollen shut! I will be very, very unhappy!”

“Yes, sir.”

“Are those your reports?’

“Everything for the night, sir. If there are any mistakes, just remember: Harper wrote them.”

“Did you check them?”

“Yes, sir. But I had to do it with my bad eye, so I might’ve missed a few things.”

“Very fucking funny, Lynott.”

“Harper wants to know if they got a name on our psycho. Do we know who he is?”

“Yeah, they did. I’ve got it around here somewhere. When they got him to the psycho ward, the intake people recognized him right away. He’s a frequent flyer.”

I can’t say as I’m surprised. You don’t get that crazy in one night! Not without a whole lot of PCP.

“He’s also a named suspect in at least four outstanding ADW cases. Apparently, he’s a real terror around the missions. I left the information for the detectives. You guys caught a good one, there. Nice work, you two.”

Even better! Now he’s sure to go to jail! Even if they don’t file on him for kicking me in the face, they’ll file on him for the other cases. You don’t skate on four separate counts of ADW.

“You said to bring you numbers, sir.”

“And you’re doing it. Don’t think I don’t appreciate it. You two get the hell out of here. Go home. Get some sleep. You especially, Lynott. That’s an order.”

“Looking forward to it, sir.”

“Sorry, Dani. You won’t get much sleep tonight.”

What? Is he going to start with the infection shit again? The flesh-eating virus? I hope not! That really freaked me out! I just about scrubbed the skin off of my face in the bathroom! And that look on the lieutenant’s face suggests he’s imagining something else completely. A lot of cops have really dirty minds. Go figure.

“Why isn’t she getting any sleep tonight, Harper? Is there something I should know?”

“No, sir. It’s just that she has to get up bright and early to watch the Red Sox get their asses kicked.”

Fuck! I actually forgot they’re playing tomorrow! Well, today, actually. I am not missing that game! I’ll sleep for a few hours before then, and then I’ll go back to sleep after they win.

“You’re a Red Sox fan, Lynott?”

“Of course! I’m from Salem. That’s not too far from Boston.”

“Jesus! You’re more fucked up than I thought!”

“Excuse me, sir?”

Why is Harper snickering like he knows something I don’t?

“Harper, what’s going on?”

“You’ll have to forgive the Lieutenant, Dani. He’s from Syracuse.”

“Syracuse? Oh, don’t tell me!”

“Yep. He’s a Yankees fan.”

“Oh, God! You have got to be fucking kidding me! Say it ain’t so, Lieutenant!”

“Lynott, if you hadn’t been thumped twice tonight, I’d be making fun of your sorry ass right now. Jesus Christ! Who let a Red Sucks fan into my division?”

Did he just call them the Red Sucks? How much time will I get for murdering a lieutenant? It might even be worth it! And if can make it to Boston, they’ll never extradite me!

“I really hate you both right now, sir.”

“Take it out on Harper. That’s what boots are for.”

“Count on it, sir.”

This could be a very interesting summer. If the Yankees choke – and let’s face it: they will – I can have a lot of fun rubbing it in. My God! A Yankees fan? Lieutenant Hagan just dropped several points in my estimation. He’s going to have to work on earning them back.


Home at last! God, I ache! It happens this way sometimes. You get knocked around during your shift, but you don’t really feel it until you get home. I feel like I got hit by a car! Maybe I should just record the game and sleep? I don’t think I’ll be able to wake up after a few hours. And I still need another good scrubbing. I know Harper was fucking with me, but I’m not taking any chances.

“Hello, Zephyr! How are you? Did you have fun while I was at work? Yes, I smell like hand sanitizer. I had to scrub my face with it. Don’t ask why.”

That’s the thing about cats: they have one expression and it never changes. They’re inscrutable.

“I’m glad you didn’t leave me any presents on the rug. That was nice of you. I had a busy night. As you can see, my eye’s a little fucked up and I’ve got a cut on my arm. Therefore, there shall be no hitting me in the face with your paw because you want attention! Do we understand each other?”

I’ll take that as a ‘yes,’ but he’ll probably do it anyway. Cats are like that.

“Yes, yes, I know you’re hungry. Don’t worry, I’ll feed you. But I’m too wiped out to eat anything. I’m going to jump in the shower and scrub the crap out of myself, and then I’m going to sleep. Come on, fuzz face. You know where the food is.”

That’s right. Stuff your face. One of us should eat something. Oh, fuck! I ache! I’d better take a look at my eye. It doesn’t feel like it’s swelling up. Still, it really stings. Harper said I have a scratch on it. Let’s see…yep! He was right! It’s not a bad scratch, but it’s one of those scratches on your face that really hurts. Oh, well. It wasn’t my first knock-down/drag-out and it won’t be my last. It’s part of the job. And as much as I ache right now, it feels good to be aching because of a highly productive night. I know that sounds strange, but I learned a long time ago that people outside of the job rarely understand it. That’s OK. I understand it. I get it. It’s all a part of why I love doing it. And that’s all that matters.

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