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Chapter 13: Dope Dealer War

Back at Narcotics Division. I want to check in with Detective Godfrey and let him know what we’ve been doing. I also want to find out if Ricky was good for that homicide. I haven’t had a chance to speak to the Central Homicide detectives. Those guys are usually gone by the time I get to the station. That’s weird, isn’t it? So many Homicide detectives work bankers’ hours, but everybody seems to get murdered at night. You’d think the police department would’ve figured that out by now.

“Hello? I’m Officer Lynott, Central Division. I’m here to see Detective Godfrey.”

“Oh, you again. I’ll let him know you’re here.”

I wonder if I’ll ever be able to just walk into this place without checking in first. Some units do it that way, while some don’t. I guess they have their reasons. It could be worse. I could have to check in with someone at Anti-Terrorist Intelligence. They don’t let anyone in there who isn’t assigned to the unit. I’m serious. They’ve got a high-tech lock on the front door that must’ve cost a thousand bucks. Even James Bond couldn’t pick it.

“Dani! Good to see you! Come on in!”

“Detective Godfrey.”

“What’s with the Detective crap? We’re old friends, now. I told you to call me John.”

“OK, John. I just wanted to check in and let you know what we’ve been doing.”

“Are you kidding? I know what you’ve been doing! And I think it’s great! We got your report on those two dealers you got last night. You caught Cruz with a shitload of crack and a gun! Even we never caught him that dirty! Beautiful!”

“Yeah, we got lucky on that one.”

“Luck had nothing to do with it. You’re a great cop. Believe me, Cruz was no small player. He’s one of Ricky’s right-hand men. Ricky put him in charge of his crack enterprise a few months ago. He’s a key player. Losing him is going to hurt Ricky like a bitch.”

“We were in the right place at the right time, that’s all.”

“Bullshit! You’ve got a knack for this. And you follow through; unlike a lot of people we’ve got out there right now. That’s called doing the fucking job. I wish I had twenty more like you and your partner.”

It’s always nice to be appreciated. And unlike some people on this job who’ve tried to butter me up because they wanted to jump into bed with me, John’s not bullshitting. I can always tell.

“Angelo! Look who’s here!”

“Dani! Great to see you! Nice work, grabbing Cruz!”

“I guess you guys know about him. We’d only heard he was dealing crack for Ricky.”

“He’s more than just a dealer. He’s a fucking asshole! He’s Ricky’s point man for his crack business, or at least, he was. Good work locking his ass up!”

“I can’t take all the credit. We grabbed some crackhead outside of the building. He told us where the dope was stashed. And Harper found the gun.”

“That’s because the two of you took some initiative. I wish more people did. It would make our lives easier.”

“Are you and Detective Godfrey…excuse me, John…are you going to talk to Cruz?”

“We already have. John went to see him this morning.”

“I sure did. And he’s talking up a blue streak. He knows he’s on Ricky’s shit list, now. Ricky won’t let a screw-up like that slide. Not from one of his top boys. He expects a lot more from them. Cruz is fucked. He knows his only hope is to talk to us. He won’t last a week in general population.”

Yeah, it’s protective custody or get a sharpened toothbrush punched through his skull. That’s pretty much what we figured. I didn’t know he’d start talking so soon, though. I thought he might try to hang tough for a few days.

“Did he give you anything good?”

“Oh, yeah! He gave us the names of some of Ricky’s boys we didn’t know about. He also told us a little about Ricky’s out-of-state dope connections. It’s just a start, but we’ll see where it takes us.”

“Did you guys ever find out anything about that homicide? Did Ricky do it?”

“Angelo, do you have that file?”

“Right here. Ricky did it, all right. We can’t prove it, but there’s no doubt. Your victim was a dope dealer who works for a rival dealer who calls himself Shiloh. He’s got his own little fiefdom over in Mid-City.”

“Mid-City? That’s the next division over. What the hell was his dealer doing at the Big Lot?”

“Probably scouting it. This Shiloh guy is looking to expand his territory. We’ve been hearing about it since last fall, but nothing solid until now. I guess he’s looking to move east. Evidently, Ricky took exception to that.”

“Is anyone else talking?”

“Not so far. But now we know that Shiloh’s trying to move into the downtown sector. Like I said, we’d heard rumors, but now we know for sure. That’s a big deal around here, Dani. That’s some serious information. We owe you for that.”

“You’re welcome. So Ricky gunned one of this Shiloh guy’s boys in the Big Lot. So it’s only a matter of time before Shiloh starts shooting back, right?”

“I’m afraid that’s how it usually works. Stand by for a bloodbath, Dani. It’s going to get ugly in a hurry.”

Great! That’s all we need on skid row: a dope dealer war! No wonder Ricky’s so pissed about us coming down on his business. The timing’s for shit. He’s afraid of looking weak. It’ll just embolden his competition to press harder with the takeover. He can’t afford that. “Angelo loved your little raid on the Big Lot last night.”

“You heard about that?”

“We sure did. Some of the junkies who were there told us about it. That was beautiful! Hey, off the record? Did you really spray pepper gas on Ricky’s stash?”

“Off the record? Well, not that night.”

“You’re fucking insane, Dani! I love it!”

It’s nice to know they think it’s so funny. You never know. Detectives are supervisors, so they might be sticklers for the rules. And gassing some dope dealer’s supply is definitely against the rules.

“I’m glad you approve.”

“Approve? We fucking love it! Jesus, I would’ve given anything to see that!”

“Yeah, well, don’t tell anyone. You either, Angelo. I don’t need to be taking any suspension days.”

“Don’t worry. Your secret is safe with us. Listen: keep up what you’re doing. You and your partner are putting a genuine dent in Ricky’s business. Even if you can’t catch him dirty, that’s the next best thing. John and I are behind you a hundred percent on this. Anything you can do to fuck with him is worth it.”

I agree. It’s nice to know that we’re all on the same page with this thing.

“We’ll keep it up, then. Is there anything else we can do for you while we’re out there? I really want to put this asshole out of business. You guys were right: he’s an evil son of a bitch.”

“Just keep doing what you’re doing. If you come across any intelligence, just pass it on to us. And you watch your back. Both of you. Ricky’s mad as hell right now. All of the junkies out there are saying so. They say they’ve never seen him this pissed off. He’s just crazy enough to try something. You be careful, OK?”

“Will do.”

“If there’s anything we can do for you, you just ask. You got it?”

“Got it. We’ll keep you posted.”

“We owe you guys a round of drinks.”

“Well, I drink bourbon. I’ll have to find out what Harper drinks.”

“You hear that, Angelo? A woman after my own heart.”

“I’d have pegged you for a margarita girl.”

Why do guys always think women only drink pretty drinks? Where did that ever come from?

“I don’t like drinks you have to think about to make.”

“Well, we’ll all get together sometime and we’re buying.”

“I’ll remember that.”

It looks like I’ve found a couple of allies for this thing. Yes! That’s what I was hoping for. We’re never going to be able to make this thing work by ourselves. We need their help. It’s good to know that we’ve got it.

You know, I’m beginning to wonder if Carol was right? I mean, it’s my day off, I have to work tomorrow night, and here I am driving into town to talk to a couple of Narcotics detectives. Maybe I need a hobby? Something to take my mind off of the job from time to time. Of course, I’m not going to tell her that. Carol is the Olympic champion of telling people “I told you so!” She’s worse than my mom. I don’t want to give her the satisfaction.

Well, as long as I’m down here, I might as well go to the range. There’s another shoot in an hour. I’ve been practicing the things Harper’s been showing me. I feel pretty confident, too. Maybe today’s the day I shoot Expert? I should give Harper a call. Maybe he wants to shoot, too? Jesus, he must shoot damned near every day. You have to if you want to ace the course and make the Perfect Score Club. That kind of shooting takes a hell of a lot of practice.

OK, I got his voicemail. He’s probably still asleep. I’ll leave him a message, just in case.

“Hey, Harper? It’s Dani. I’m heading over to the range to try for Expert again. I’ve been practicing the things you taught me. I think maybe today’s the day. If you want to join me, I’ll be there for the one o’clock shoot. Give me a call. Bye.”

You know, it just occurred to me: I’ve never called one of my boots at home before. Not even once. That was a first. I always get their number so that I can reach them if I have to, like if one of them fails to show up for a court case or something. But I’ve never called one of them for a personal thing; even if it’s somehow related to the job. Weird, huh? Well, at least I’ve got a couple of hours to practice those things Harper taught me. I definitely feel more confident about my shooting abilities because of it, and I was pretty confident about them before. I think today’s the day when it pays off.

The academy shooting range. OK, I’m early. Good. That’ll give me time to get into the right frame of mind. I need to concentrate on my shooting and not my score. Harper was right about that: I’m too focused on my score. It’s like everything else: focus on what you’re doing and the results will take care of themselves. I’m surprised there are so many people here today. It’s hotter than hell. God, it must be a hundred degrees out here already, and it’s not even noon! I feel sorry for those poor bastards working Daywatch. They must be melting.

“Hey, Dani! Got your message.”

Harper? Jesus, I didn’t even see him!

“How are you doing, Harper? I figured you might be sleeping in.”

“No, I was out jogging.”

Did he just say he was jogging?

“In this heat? Are you out of your mind?”

“I’m used to it. Try jogging in the desert in the middle of summer.”

I forgot he was in Iraq. This must be a picnic compared to the Iraqi desert in summer.

“Well, thanks for coming. I think today’s the day. I’m going to nail it this time.”

“Just remember: don’t…”

“Don’t focus on the score. Focus on the shooting. I was just telling myself that.”

“You’ll do fine. Here, I brought you a little extra help.”

What? Is he going to take a position behind the railing and shoot the course for me? Not that I’d let him, mind you.

“What’s that? Ammunition?”

“It’s match grade. Very accurate. A lot more accurate than those reloads you get here. It might give you just enough of an edge.”

“Thanks. I never really thought about that. Where do you buy this stuff?”

“I didn’t. I made it.”

“You make your own ammo?”

“Best way to be sure. The reloads they use here can be iffy, and they’re certainly not consistent.”

“I never met anyone who made their own ammunition. Is that a Marine thing?”

“Not really. We loaded our own match grade ammo for competition in the Marine Corps, but I’ve been reloading since I was a kid. My dad got me into it. Saves you money, too. You can shoot more often.”

I never thought of that. Ammunition is really expensive; even the cheap stuff they give you here.

“You’ll have to show me how to do that.”

“Any time. Let’s watch these guys shoot. You can learn things that way.”

“Lead on.”

I never thought about learning to shoot by watching other people shoot. I guess I thought I might pick up bad habits; thinking they were doing something right. Then again, I wasn’t sure what to look for in the first place.

“All right, Dani. Check it out: they’re about to shoot the fast phase. They guy on number one is Ollie Trevor. That man can shoot! Watch how he does it.”

Oh, I know he can shoot. He just can’t teach. Officer Trevor was one of the shooting instructors who never said “boo” to me in the academy. But I know he’s a great shot. I’ve seen him shoot quarters out of the air. He’s on the pistol team. He’s also a member of the Perfect Score Club. He made sure we all knew that. Especially the women.

“All right, Dani, watch how smooth he shoots it: two shots per second, even rhythm. He’s not rushing it. You don’t have to rush it. Just get the timing in your mind: one-two, one-two, one-two.”

He’s right. The guy’s really even. I always rush this phase. It’s usually where I fuck up my score, too.

“See how he doesn’t break his form? He turns at the waist without moving the rest of his body. Do it just like that. Try it now. Just imagine you’re on the range, bring your hands up to your shooting position, one-two, turn just enough to face the other target, one-two, turn back the same way, one-two. Yes! Just like that!”

“Economy of motion, right?”

“You really did pay attention to those training tapes. You’re right: it is about economy of motion.”

I am so going to nail it this time! I feel even better about it than I did earlier!

“Now, watch the barricade shoot: see how a lot of them rest the weapon against the barricade? Don’t do that. You’ll interfere with the movement of the slide, and the recoil will bounce the weapon off of the barricade. You’ll miss for sure. Just hold it a little bit away from the barricade, and make sure the muzzle is past the post so the muzzle blast doesn’t deflect against it. Your sights are calibrated for twenty-five yards as it is, so with that ammo, you should be dead on. Don’t rush it, and don’t think about the barricade.”

He’s right. I never really noticed it before; the way their guns are bouncing off of the barricade. I always leaned the gun against the post. That’s probably why I always shot poorly on this stage, too.

“Ok, Dani. That’s it. We’re up next.”

“I think I’m going to shoot better than you.”

“Hey, I’m a good teacher, but I wouldn’t go that far.”

Is that sarcasm on his part? From a boot? He likes to live dangerously, doesn’t he?

“Stand by to be humiliated, Officer Harper.”

“Standing by, ma’am.”

Let’s do this! I know I’m ready!

Finished! Yes! I know I shot well this time! I just know it! I was on fucking fire! God, it was all I could do to not try and see where my shots were printing. I’m pretty sure I did it, but I’m going to have to work on that part harder. Please let me break three-eighty! I really want my damned Expert medal!

“Here we go, Dani. Scores are up.”

Harper was on nine, I was on ten. Damn, I hate this part! Waiting for them to hand you that little slip of paper that says you’re either a good shot or a hopeless case. Judging from the faces a lot of them are making, I’d say they didn’t shoot too well. Hey, blame it on the heat. It was hotter out on the range than it is over here. In that enclosed space, it was like roasting in an oven! I thought my eyes were going to melt! I really want to get inside somewhere where they have air conditioning.

“Number nine? Who was that?”

That’s Harper. I wonder how well he did? I was too busy focusing on my own shooting to look at him during the relay.

“Officer Harper, sir. How did I do?”

“Sorry Harper, three ninety-nine! You missed the PSC by one point. We tried to give you the benefit of the doubt, but the shot didn’t touch the ring. Almost, though. Damned good shooting.”

Well, so much for beating Harper. I don’t think for a minute that I shot a perfect score, and that’s the only thing that would beat him. Maybe someday, though?

“Number ten? Where are you?”

“Right here! Give me the bad news.”

“Nothing bad, here. Three eighty-five. Nice shooting.”

I did it! I actually did it! Yes! Thank you, God! Finally!

“You did it, Dani! You shot Expert! Congratulations!”

“Finally! Yes! Finally!”

“Hang onto that. A three eighty-five counts toward DX. Five more of those in five months and you’re there.”

Jesus, I’m actually giddy! Hey, I’ve been working for this for eleven years! I deserve to be giddy!

“I owe you, Harper. Seriously! I’ve been trying for this since I was in the academy.”

“And now you got it. Let’s go get your medal.”

God, I can’t believe I finally did it! Now I get to pick up my medal. Watch: they’ll tell me they’re all out of Expert medals and I’ll have to wait a few months. I wouldn’t put it past them. Some of the guys who work the shooting range aren’t crazy about having women on the job, and they’re even less crazy about pinning an Expert medal on a woman.

“Hey guys? My partner here just shot Expert. She wants her medal.”

And the news is met with a collective yawn. These guys at the Firearms Training Unit never seem to get excited for you when you do something good. I guess it’s because they can all shoot Expert with their eyes closed. Look at this guy at the desk. That look on his face says “big fucking deal.” Well, it’s a big fucking deal to me!


“Lynott. Dani Lynott.”

Here’s where he’s going to pull my card and tell me I owe him for the Sharpshooter medal I lost a few years ago. I wonder how much he’s going to charge me for that?

“Lynott. You were a Sharpshooter. Turn in your Sharpshooter medal.”

“I can’t. I lost it a few years back.”

“Then you have to pay for it first before I can give you your Expert medal.”

“That’s fine.”

“No checks or credit cards. Cash only.”

“That’s fine. How much is it?”

“Eighteen bucks.”

Did I hear that right? Eighteen fucking bucks?

“Eighteen bucks for that little piece of tin? Are you fucking kidding me?”

“It’s a silver medal. You’re getting a bargain.”

“Silver? Don’t you mean silver-plated?”

“No, I’m pretty sure it’s real silver.”

Bullshit! That thing is made of tin, just like all of them. I don’t think it’s even silver-plated. More like pewter-plated! Trust me, I know. I’m from Salem. That’s in New England. We New Englanders know pewter when we see it! Silver my ass!

“Fine. Eighteen bucks. Do you have change for a twenty?”

“Yeah, right here.”

What the fuck? Quarters? He’s giving me two bucks in quarters from the coffee fund jar?

“Seriously? You’re giving me two bucks in quarters?”

“It’s still money, sweetheart.”

I swear, these guys just love sticking it to you. I think they’re all brain-damaged from inhaling all that lead from the bullets every day.

“Here’s your Expert medal. Congratulations. Wear it with pride.”

“I will!”

Hey, he can be sarcastic all he wants. I’m damned proud of this thing!

“Way to go, Dani. I knew you could do it. You should be proud of yourself.”

“Yeah, but you must be disappointed. You missed by one point.”

“When you shoot competitively, you get used to it. It’s like losing a race by a thousandth of a second. It sucks, but that’s life. I’ll get it.”

I can’t believe he’s so nonchalant about it. Whenever I missed Expert by one point, I threw a hissy fit!

“Well, I owe you. I wouldn’t have made it without your coaching.”

“No problem. Now we have to get you your DX medal.”

“I’m ready. Hey, I spoke to those Narcotics detectives today. They’re very happy with us.”

“They should be. Two big seizures. Plus, we’ve been putting the screws to Ricky pretty good.”

“That guy we caught last night? Cruz? They said he was Ricky’s point man on crack. And he’s already talking to them.”

“He probably figures it’s the only way he’s going to stay alive.”

“Yeah, he’s smarter than we thought. They also said that guy who got killed at the Big Lot was a dealer who worked for a guy trying to horn in on Ricky’s territory.”

“Dani, are you telling me we’re going to have a dope war on our hands?”

Hey, not bad for a boot! That’s exactly what I thought. He saw that right away. He’s definitely ahead of the curve!

“Maybe. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

“So what are you going to do with the rest of your day off?”

“I don’t know. Go home and polish my new medal?”

“It’ll look great on your uniform.”

“You’re damned right it will! What are you up to today?”

“My cousin’s in town. I’m supposed to meet him this afternoon.”

“Well, say hello for me. I’ll see you at work.”

“You got it.”

“Thanks again, Harper. I mean it.”

“No problem. You did the shooting. You earned it.”

That’s right. I did. I finally did it! This is going to look damned good on my uniform. And I’m not going to lose this one. It’s gold-colored. Probably not really gold-plated, but gold-colored. God only knows how much they’d stick me for to replace it.

Central Station. Roll call. I swear, I nearly died just walking the two blocks to the station from where I parked! When is this fucking heatwave going to end? As pale as I am, I’ll be lucky if I don’t die of skin cancer from the sunburns I’ve been getting! My arms are red from the edge of my sleeves down!

I see Sergeant Gellar is ready to get the ball rolling. Jesus, he looks like he’s about to keel over from the heat, too! And he gets to spend at least half of his time in the station if he wants. Imagine if he had to spend the whole shift out there?

“All right, Midwatch! Roll call! The Watch Commander is Lieutenant Hagan. He’s the luckiest son of a bitch in the division right now, because he gets to stay inside all night. I’m Forty Central. Sergeant Alfaro is Sixty Central. Rosen and Ruiz, Eight Central. Lynott and Harper, Sixteen Central. Vinell and Kursteff, Twenty-Two Central. Signolo and Goren, Forty-Four Central. Is everybody gainfully employed?”

I don’t know about the “gainfully” part, but we’ve all got a job.

“All right, people! Listen up! It’s the start of the weekend, it’s a full moon, and it’s even hotter today than it was yesterday. The news said it was a hundred and eight at three o’clock this afternoon, so we all know it was even hotter in the downtown area! The division’s been going ape shit since noon! Nightwatch is running a skeleton crew because of all of the goddamned homeless zombies going berserk! It’s ‘Get Yourself Arrested’ night on skid row! Half of their units are already tied up with arrests or investigations! It’s a fucking zoo out there! And when the sun goes down, then we’re really going to have our hands full! We’ve had four stabbings and about a dozen other assaults already, and the people who don’t get a bunk in the missions are going to be outside in this fucking heat! That means they’ll be crazier than usual!”

And that’s really saying something! Honestly, how much crazier can they get? But if I’ve learned one thing about this place, it’s that it never ceases to surprise me. Around here, “expect the unexpected” is standard procedure on steroids!

“In addition to today’s insanity, there were two homicides last night. Both happened after Midwatch went home. One in the alley by the north end loading docks, and another by that asshole place they call the Awning. As far as we know, both victims were dope dealers. Both of them were shot, so it probably wasn’t some angry junkie looking for a refund. They were definitely locals, too. Does this mean we’ve got some kind of dope dealer war going on? Who the hell knows? Just keep it in mind when you’re anywhere near a dope spot.”

“Which is pretty much every square foot of this division, Sarge.”

“That’s one way of looking at it, Signolo. Now, in case you sleazy bastards haven’t been staring at Lynott’s chest the way you usually do, you might take notice of the fact that she’s now wearing an Expert marksman’s medal. Congratulations, Lynott! Good work! I’d like to see the rest of you shoot Expert! What’s the matter with you? You can’t shoot as well as a girl? She’s making you guys look bad!”

I can’t let that fall on Harper. I mean, shit! The guy’s got a DX medal!

“Sergeant Gellar? Harper missed a perfect score by one point. He’s not making us look bad.”

“Point taken. Harper’s a dead shot. He walks on water. He’s excused. What’s wrong with the rest of you sorry assholes? You can’t shoot as well as the only girl on the watch? Ruiz, what do you shoot?”

“Marksman, sir.”

That’s the lowest medal you can get, in case you didn’t know. It’s better than no medal at all, but not much. And I see Sergeant Gellar is well aware of that.

“Jesus Christ! Don’t you draw your fucking gun anywhere near me, Ruiz! Marksman? That’s one step above a blind man! Goren, what about you?”

“I don’t have a medal, sir.”

“Are you shitting me, Goren? You didn’t even qualify for a goddamned medal?”

“I don’t need it, sir. I can talk my way out of situations. I don’t need to shoot anyone.”

“What are you? A goddamned social worker? Jesus Christ! I want to see at least a Sharpshooter medal on each and every one of you by the end of the DP! Do you hear me? Each and every one of you! And I’d better see a few Expert medals in there, too! This is Midwatch, for Christ’s sake! We hit what we’re aiming at!”

I think I’ve started something that some of the guys are going to hate. But frankly, I don’t give a shit. I got my medal!

“And Harper! If you’re such a goddamned dead shot, then why the fuck aren’t you on the pistol team, representing our division?”

“They don’t take boots on the pistol team, Sarge.”

“This is your last DP on probation. You’re a boot in name only. Are you going to try out next DP?”

“As soon as they have tryouts, sir.”

“Outstanding! Make us proud! As for the rest of you sorry-asses, if someone needs to be shot, you let Harper or Lynott shoot them! At least I know they can hit the fucking target!”

“Sergeant Gellar?”

“What is it, Harper?”

“Maybe Dani should try out for the pistol team, too?”

“Not a fucking chance, Harper.”

“Why not? She’s a great shot.”

“It’s not her shooting ability I’m talking about. Lynott doesn’t play well in team sports. If you don’t believe me, ask her why she’s not on the women’s softball team anymore.”

Oh, God! He had to bring that up! Now I’m never going to hear the end of it!

“It wasn’t my fault! I was unfairly treated, Sarge.”

“Bullshit! You’re lucky they didn’t file on you, Lynott! All right! The division’s going to shit, the heat’s getting worse, and they’re talking about starting the rolling blackouts in a day or two if this crap doesn’t let up! That means the shit’s going to go from bad to worse! Does anybody have anything? No? Go to work!”

If the Sarge is serious about everybody qualifying for at least Marksman this DP, then some of these guys are going to hate me for it. You’d be amazed how many cops actually hate to practice their shooting. The truth is, most cops aren’t into guns and shooting. And given that our hit rate in officer-involved shootings is a whopping twenty-eight percent, I guess you could say it shows.

Standing in the parking lot while Harper gets our car gassed up. Jesus, it’s like a goddamned oven in here! How the hell can it be so damned hot in an indoor garage? I can’t wait to get going and get the air conditioner blasting. On that note, we’re back to a tired, old Ford Crown Vic with about half a million miles on it. One measly day off and they took away our fancy Dodge Charger. I’m not surprised. I knew they’d restrict them to sergeants; at least until we get more of them. I saw little tags on the Dodge keys in the kit room that said “Sergeants Only!” Rank hath its privileges. But I’m afraid Harper’s going to be heartbroken. Of course, our getting into a pursuit the very first night we had the thing might have had something to do with the captain restricting them. Oh, well. I don’t much care about the car – as long as it runs, the air conditioner works, and as long as it doesn’t have fleas. You heard me: fleas. I’ve discovered that the homeless out here frequently have fleas. I’ve seen at least two cars parked at the far end of the parking lot with signs on them that say “Fleas! Do Not Use!” They have to fumigate them before they’re fit for use again. Two police cars out of service in the heart of the city because of fleas. Only on skid row.

“Harper, Are we good to go?”

“Loaded up and gassed up. We’re set.”

“Too bad they took the fancy car away.”

“Yeah. Don’t think I didn’t try to get it.”

I’ll bet most of the division tried to get one of them. Cops will go to great lengths to get the best cars. It’s a good thing we’re cops, or else we’d be great car thieves.

“Let’s hit the street.”

“You know I’ve got to ask…”

Yeah, I knew this was coming! I just figured it wouldn’t be right out of the chute.

“Get in the car.”

“Come on, Dani!”

“Get in the fucking car, Harper!”

It occurs to me that he’s discovering too much personal information about me, but I don’t know shit about him. It’s time to start trading: I want an embarrassing story about him for every embarrassing story I tell him about me. That’s only fair.

Sergeant Gellar was right: the denizens of skid row are out in force tonight. And it is still hotter than hell. Hotter than it’s been at this hour throughout the heatwave. That’s strange. I thought it would’ve cooled down by now. This summer is definitely one for the books. And these zombies have been out in the heat all day long. Their brains are probably short-circuiting more than usual. That should make for an interesting night.

“These guys must be ready to explode by now. Today was a scorcher.”

“I would’ve thought you were used to it; growing up back east.”

“Salem’s actually not too bad during the summer. We get a lot of rain, but it doesn’t usually get into the high nineties; let alone the hundreds. I was in New Jersey one summer and the humidity nearly killed me. That part of the east coast gets it bad. But this shit is ridiculous! My car was like an oven when I got into it this afternoon. I couldn’t even touch the steering wheel. Yuck!”

“So what happened with the softball team?”

At least he waited until we pulled out of the station before he asked me that. Isn’t that sweet of him?

“None of your business.”

“I’m your partner. I want to know.”

“Well, we all want things we can’t have.”

“Come on, Dani! It’s obviously not a secret if Sergeant Gellar knows about it.”

“Fine. Let’s just say they overreacted and leave it at that.”

“You mean by kicking you off the team?”

“Yes. The most they should’ve done was eject me from the game.”

“Sergeant Gellar said they should’ve filed charges.”

“He’s exaggerating. I got screwed is what happened.”

“I want details. You don’t want me to go asking someone else, do you?”

He’s got a point. God only knows what someone else will tell him. And it’s not that big of a deal. I mean, it’s not like it never happened in baseball before.

“All right. We were playing against the Park Police. It was a tie game, three to three. I’d already hit one home run and a double, and I was kicking their asses in the field.”

“What position?”

“Shortstop, of course. I always play Shortstop.”

“So what happened?”

“It was three to three, bottom of the eighth. We had one out. Their pitcher had already walked two batters. She was pretty much used up, and it was starting to show. She was telegraphing her pitches, and she’d lost a lot of her speed. They should’ve pulled her out, but I guess they didn’t have a relief pitcher. Go figure. So I’m up, and she knows I’m going to drive in both of our runners.”

“She knew that?”

“Of course! I was on fire! She had nothing I couldn’t hit! So anyway, being the total bitch that she was, she tried to bean me.”

“She threw a bean ball?”

“Hell, yes! That pitch nearly took my fucking head off! I had to hit the deck! So naturally, I was pissed!”

“So what did you do? Did you start motherfucking her?”

“No. I was about to say something when she gave me this smarmy look. It was really nasty. She said she didn’t do it, but I saw it! I knew she did it on purpose! So did everyone else! So I got really mad, and I…”

“You didn’t punch her, did you?”

“Of course not! I should have, but I didn’t.”

“So what did you do?”

“I didn’t do anything! Not really! It was just…it was sort of an accident, that’s all.”

“An accident?”

“Yeah. It wasn’t intentional.”

“So what did you…wait a minute! Dani, you didn’t throw the bat at her, did you?”

“No! It just…sort of…slipped.”

“No way! You threw the bat at her?”

“Well, she had it coming!”

She did, too! The rotten little bitch tried to bean me! I was completely justified! Any true baseball fan would tell you the same thing!

“Did it hit her?”

“No, she ducked. It came close, though. It was a hell of a lot better throw than her fucking bean ball!”

“So they kicked you off the team?”

“First, they ejected me from the game. Then they kicked me off the team. For crying out loud! Is it a crime to take the game seriously? I don’t think so. It was a total overreaction on their part.”

See? Now he’s laughing his fucking ass off! It wasn’t funny! I was having the best season I’ve ever had! I was batting just over four hundred! That little bitch and her fucking bean ball cost me the MVP! I was furious!

“It isn’t funny, Harper!”

“I’m sorry! It’s just…I can totally picture you doing that!”

“It’s bad enough they don’t have a women’s hardball team! Now I can’t even play fucking softball anymore!”

“I think you need to work on your temper. At least when it comes to baseball.”

“Your lack of empathy doesn’t speak well of you, mister.”

“I feel bad for you. Honestly, I do. I know you take baseball very seriously.”

“You know, I want to hear something embarrassing about you! I’ve told you two things about me that made you laugh your ass off, and now it’s your turn! Come on! Give it up! Let’s hear a story you don’t tell anybody!”

“I don’t really have one.”

And I’m supposed to accept that while he’s laughing his ass off at me? Not a chance in this or any other universe known to man or God!

“That’s an order, Harper! Out with it!”

“I’ll have to think about it. I promise: if I come up with one, I’ll tell you.”

“Yeah, you’re Mister Perfect, right?”

“Pretty much.”

“I can punch you in the balls from here, you know that?”

“Forty-One Central, requesting backup, 4th and Baxter, 415 crowd!”

415 is the police code for a general disturbance, but it can also mean a violent one. And judging by the way that guy was yelling, it’s a violent one!

“Harper, what’s over there?”

“I think that’s the methadone clinic. You know, the one I showed you?”

“That’s a pretty good place for an uproar. Sixteen Central, show us en route.”

“Sixteen Central, roger.”

“Hit it, Harper!”

“Hang on!”

I wonder what they’ve got over there? Did the clinic run out of methadone? Now that would be a scary thought!

“Make it fast, Harper. If they’re alone over there…”

“Then they’re outnumbered! Hang on!”

It’s awfully late for a methadone clinic to be open. Maybe it has nothing to do with the clinic? We’ll know soon enough.

“What’s the best approach?”

“There’s only one. 4th is a one-way street. It should be right up ahead. Do you see anything?”

“Not so far. It’s on the south side of the street, right? Oh, shit! Do you see that?”

“415 crowd, hell! That’s a goddamned riot in progress!”

I was afraid of this. There’s just the one unit, and there must be thirty people there spilling out into the street. Those guys are practically surrounded. We’ve got to clear them out, fast!

“Sixteen Central, we’re at scene at 4th and Baxter. Harper, who’s working Forty-One?”

“I don’t know.”

Forty-One is a Nightwatch unit. I don’t have a clue who they are.

“Then we look for the uniforms. Grab your nightstick and stay close. We’ve got to clear a path to those guys.”

“We don’t even know what this is about.”

“We’re about to find out. Sixteen Central, what was the original call at this location?”

“Sixteen Central, stand by.”

I’m afraid standing by isn’t an option. Fuck it! We’ll sort it out later!

“Let’s go! And watch your back!”

It isn’t the clinic. The gates are down. That place is closed. So it’s something that happened here, which means it could be anything. Where the hell are our guys? I see the car, but I don’t see them. I hope to God they’re in one piece!

“Dani, should we get on the P.A. and tell them to disperse?”

“Not until we find our guys. We need to get to them first. Then we can worry about these assholes. Start clearing a path!”

I have to let Harper go first. When you’re trying to part a human wave, size matters a lot.

“Just push them the hell out of the way! We’ve got to get to our guys!”

This is definitely no time to be gentle. Our guys could be getting their asses kicked up there. Where the hell is everybody else? We need more than four cops to handle this shit!

“Move aside, damn it! Move! Coming through!”

I see them! They’re OK, but there’s a guy down on the sidewalk and he’s not moving one bit! I think we might have a homicide here! Where’s Harper? Oh, there he is! He’s already there. Good! Maybe he can yank me through the rest of this crowd!

“Harper! Give me pull, will you?”

“I’ve got you, Dani! Come on!”

We’re through, and this crowd is seriously pissed! What? Did one of our guys shoot this guy on the sidewalk? I don’t even know these two officers. Fuck! I hate being the new kid in the division! Wait a minute…yes! I see them! They’re just up ahead. Harper’s with them. They look OK. Thank God for that!

“Harper, who are those guys?”

“Terios and Norman. They said they got here, there was a big fight, and that guy over there was on the ground. They tried to break it up, and bang! The shit hits the fan!”

“Is that guy dead?”

“God knows. What do you want to do about this?”

“Call EMS for that guy and keep these people away. That’s about all we can do now.”

We can tell them to leave, but I don’t think they’re going to listen. Why the fuck are they all pissed off? Do they think our guys shot the son of a bitch? This thing will get way out of hand if they did!

“Terios! Did you guys put that guy down?”

“No way! He was down when we got here!”

“What’s wrong with him?”

“I don’t know! We haven’t exactly had a chance to find out!”

Great! We still don’t know a fucking thing! At least it wasn’t a police shooting. But that won’t keep this crowd from thinking it was! I’ve seen that happen plenty of times!

“All of you, step back! That’s an order! Step back!”

And nobody’s listening! Especially not this guy in the gray shirt!

“Fuck you, cop! Y’all killed that boy!”

“We didn’t do anything to him!”

“Bullshit! Y’all killed him!”

Oh, fuck this! We need to know what the hell happened to that guy! There’s only one way to find out! Terios can deal with this asshole! I’ve got to go check on the guy on the ground!

“Lynott! What are you doing?”

“Hold the line, Terios! I’m going to find out what happened to this guy!”

He’s definitely not moving. He looks dead. Face down, and I can’t see any wounds. Oh, shit! There’s blood on the other side of him! I need to flip him over. The detectives won’t like it, but the paramedics are going to flip him, anyway. All right, pal! Let’s see what the hell happened to…holy shit!

“Terios! Come look at this!”

“Mother fuck!”

“Yeah, that’s probably what he said!”

This guy’s got a goddamned knife stuck in his chest! Damn! This thing is driven in all the way to the hilt! Somebody was seriously pissed off at this guy!

“Y’all murdered that boy!”

“You think so? Come over here!”

Maybe if I let this guy see it, he’ll realize we didn’t do it? That’s right, asshole! Take a look at that knife shoved in his chest!

“Now, you tell me: does that look like something the police do?”

“God damn! Who the fuck did him like that?”

“Well, it certainly wasn’t us!”

“Nah, y’all didn’t do that!”

“No kidding! Do you want to tell them that?”

“Yeah, you’re right. You’re right. This ain’t on you. Yo! Everybody! The cops didn’t do it! Somebody done stuck this boy! It ain’t the cops!”

Well, that was nice of him. Unfortunately, some of these people don’t seem convinced. Maybe if I back up his account, they’ll listen?

“All of you, listen up! This was not a police shooting! Somebody stabbed this man! Did anyone see what happened? Does anyone know who he is?”

OK, now that they see that big fucking knife sticking out of his chest, they know we didn’t kill him. Jesus, maybe Terios and Norman should’ve flipped this guy over when they got here. It might have saved us a lot of trouble. At least the crowd agrees with our loudmouthed friend.

“You see? We didn’t do this! Someone out here did! Now, does anyone know what happened? Did anyone see it?”

“God damn! Somebody got that boy good!”

“That’s some cold shit!”

“That ain’t the cops! Cops don’t go around stickin’ motherfuckers!”

Halleluiah! Another crisis averted! But now we’ve got a homicide on our hands, and our crime scene is for shit!

“Dani! We’ve got a sergeant pulling up!”


“Sergeant Gellar!”

Good! He can take over this mess!

“Sergeant Gellar! Over here!”

“What the hell’s going on here, Lynott?”

“Homicide, Sarge. One victim. Right here.”

“Are you sure it’s a homicide?”

Is he fucking kidding me? He can see that knife, right?

“Does that look like a suicide, Sarge?”

“Jesus! Not unless he’s a Samurai!”

“I don’t think that’s how Hara Kiri works, Sarge.”

“You’re probably right. And this used to be our crime scene?”

“I’m afraid so. The crowd went nuts before we got here. They thought we killed him. Now they know we didn’t.”

“Yeah, I think they know we don’t stab people to death. Any suspects?”

“Not that I know of. The only thing I can tell you for sure is that it isn’t another dope dealer. This guy was homeless. This was a skid row thing.”

“I guess it sounds like shit to say we got lucky with that. What else have you got?”

“You need to talk to these guys, Sarge: Norman and Terios. They put out the backup call. We were the first unit on the scene. I think you’re the second. This was a backup call. Where the hell is everyone else?”

“Tied up on other shit. Like I said in roll call: the division’s going nuts. We’re having to pull units in from other divisions.”

Oh, great! I know what that usually means: a Tactical Alert! That’s when they mobilize the whole division. Unless you’ve got a riot on your hands, there’s usually nothing to do until they lift it. And they might not lift it until tomorrow morning.

“Are we going on Tac Alert, Sarge?”

“We might. The Watch Commander’s deciding now. Did anyone get hurt, here?”

“No, we’re all good.”

“What about the crowd?

“We just kept them at bay. No one got whacked. They calmed down when they saw that knife sticking out of the guy’s chest.”

“Is it his knife?”

“I doubt it. Why?”

“Because he’s got an empty sheath on his belt.”

Son of a bitch! I didn’t even notice that! How the hell did I miss that?

“Sorry, Sarge. I didn’t even see that.”

“That’s OK. It’s not his knife. The blade’s too long to fit in that sheath.”

“Are you sure?”

“Look at his back. The tip of the knife is sticking out, just barely. That sheath is for a little knife. That’s definitely not the one he was carrying.”

OK, that’s two things I missed. This is another reason why I’m not a detective.

“I don’t see a blood trail, Sarge. And with a wound like that, he wasn’t doing any walking.”

“No, he got stuck right where he fell. This is your crime scene. Tape it off and see if you can find anyone who saw anything.”

Oh, sure! We’ll find oodles of people willing to come forward with all sorts of pertinent information! I’m sure of it!

“Harper! Start putting up the tape!”

Once these people see the tape, they’ll scatter. They’ll know it’s a homicide and they won’t want to get involved. It happens every time. Best to start with something simple: who the hell is this guy? Giving up his name doesn’t mean they get roped into the investigation. At least it can narrow down the number of people we have to interview, and eliminate the bullshit witnesses.

“Does anybody know this guy’s name? That’s all I’m asking, just a name. Anyone?”

“That’s Rudy.”

“No, man! That’s Edward!”

“His name’s Leroy.”

“You trippin’, boy! That’s Monroe!”

“I heard his name’s Franklin.”

Oh, this is going to be fun!

“Harper! Over here!”

We’re going to have to take everyone here down to the station. God, they’re going to freak!

“What have we got?”

“We have to take all of these people to the station. They’re all potential witnesses.”

“Every one of them?”

“I’m afraid so.”

“No problem. I think we’ve got enough units here now to transport them. I’ll start breaking them up into groups of three for transport.”

Uh, did I just miss something? People go nuts when they get roped into a murder investigation. Harper’s making it sound like they’re all going to go quietly. He can’t be that naïve.

“Harper, you do realize they’re all going to hit the roof when we tell them they’re all going down to the station?”

“No, they won’t.”

“They won’t?”

“No, they’ll love it.”

OK, I’m definitely missing something. Nobody loves getting dragged down to the police station!

“Harper, people freak out when they get dragged down to the police station. You know that, don’t you?”

“Not these guys. They’ll be thrilled. They always are.”

OK, that does not compute! What the hell is going on here?

“Uh, do you want to explain that to me?”

“Dani, they’re all homeless. They’ve been out in this heat all day. If we take them down to the station, they’ve got a roof over their heads, air conditioning, free coffee, and if we keep them for more than a couple of hours, then we’ve got to feed them. That’s like winning the lottery for these guys. Trust me, they’ll be lining up to go.”

Son of a bitch! That actually makes sense! Damn! That never occurred to me! How did I miss that? Look at them! They’re all totally psyched to go to the station! Hey, a chance to spend a few hours in an air-conditioned room in this fucking heat? No wonder they’re all up for it!

“What’s wrong, Dani? You look confused.”

“Things are really different around here, aren’t they?”

“You said it. There’s no place like it in the world.”

He’s right. This is skid row. The end of the world. None of the normal rules apply. Hell, they don’t even exist in this dump! Up is down, left is right, black is white, and nothing makes any sense. This is one seriously weird place. And for a hard-charging cop, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

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