Midwatch

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Chapter 15: In the Crosshairs

Another day at Central Division, walking to the station from the closest place I could find to park. I’m a little early for roll call, and I should’ve come in even earlier to take another shower! My God, it’s fucking hot! They said it was 112 degrees at three o’clock this afternoon, and it feels like it’s still at least that hot! God hates us! It’s the only explanation! We pissed him off and he’s taking it out on us by roasting us to death! They said on the news that some of the areas around the city have already started with the rolling blackouts. As long as they don’t hit my neighborhood when I’m home. If they do, then they’ll find my roasted, dead body in my apartment. This shit is ridiculous! Screw it! I’m taking another shower. If I’m late for roll call; so be it.

So once again, I couldn’t find a parking space in the station’s lot. I hate it when I can’t get a parking space in here. This is ridiculous! I’m parked almost two blocks away! Any further, and I’d need to take a shuttle bus to get back to the station. When are they going to expand this goddamned parking lot? Now I’m going to have to come back here in an hour and hope enough people have left for the day so that I can move my car into the lot. This parking arrangement sucks! I should write a letter to the city about it. Oh, why bother? I’m not sure anyone at City Hall can even read.

“Dani! What? Did you walk to work?”

Oh, now this figures! I’m a training officer with eleven years on the job, and I have to park two blocks from the station and hope none of the zombies around here fuck with my car! But my boot finds a space for his vintage gas guzzler so no one will put a scratch on it! Life is definitely not being fair to me today!

“You know, Harper, a gentleman would gladly give up his parking space for a damsel in distress.”

“Sorry, Dani. I can’t leave this masterpiece out on that mean, filthy street. Somebody might rub up against it and get it dirty.”

Oh, just rub it in, why don’t you? Smug bastard!

“I really hate you right now, Harper! I hate every person who got a space in this fucking lot!”

“Don’t worry. We’ll come back as soon as the rest of the afternoon people are gone. We’ll get you a spot.”

“You’re not being very chivalrous. I expect more from an officer of the law.”

“I’m chivalrous. My Camaro isn’t.”

I’d key that fucker if it wasn’t so goddamned beautiful. Of course, if I did it, my dad would turn over in his grave. He really had a thing for 1960s muscle cars. Mom would never let him have one, but that never stopped him from dreaming.


Well, I rushed the shower. I feel a lot better. I’ll even make it to roll call in time. Thank God almighty it’s cool here in the station! I think I told you that one of the worst things about working in this heatwave is that you never get more than a day out of a uniform. At this rate, I’m going to have to buy at least two more. The drycleaner can barely keep up as it is. How much longer can this heatwave last?

“Ready for another day, Harper?”

“You know it. Hey, your hair’s a little damp. Did you just get out of the shower?”

“Yeah. I was sweating like a pig because I had to walk a couple of blocks to the station. Some selfish asshole boot wouldn’t offer me his parking space.”

“I would’ve given you a lift over here.”

I should have stayed sweaty and stinky and made him sit in the car with me with the windows up. Too late now.

“Drop and give me fifty, Harper!”

“In this heat? Don’t be ridiculous.”

“Lynott! Harper! Get in here, now!”

That’s Lieutenant Aldenne. He’s head of the division’s detective squad. What does he want with us?

“Are we in trouble, Dani?”

“I don’t know. Why does a Lieutenant of Detectives want to see us?”

“Beats me. I don’t think I’ve ever said two words to the guy.”

“I don’t think we’re getting a promotion. Come on, let’s go find out.”

God, I hope we’re not in trouble. We didn’t do anything. Maybe it’s got something to do with that report from last night? We ended up forwarding it to a lot of people, and sometimes your area detectives don’t like it when you go around notifying outside units. It’s sort of a turf war they have. But everyone we sent it to needed to get a copy. It was all by the book. Besides, Sergeant Hendrickson signed the thing, so if they’re pissed about someone we sent it to, then they should take it up with him. He approved it. What the hell is this about?

“You wanted to see us, Lieutenant?”

“Yeah, both of you. Join me in the captain’s office.”

Oh, this is not good! This is all way too familiar! The last time this happened to me, I discovered I was in the middle of a citywide scandal! Don’t tell me someone else fucked up and I’m in the middle of it again!

“Did we do something wrong, sir?”

“Not at all. But you two need to hear this.”

Whoa! This is frighteningly familiar. The room’s full of people and all of them outrank me. There’s Captain Mayones, and Sergeant Alfaro, and Sergeant Gellar, and…wait a minute! That’s Detective Godfrey and Detective Cardozo. What the fuck is up, here?

“Captain, I’ve got Harper and Lynott.”

“Thanks, Roy. Sit down, officers. I think you know Detectives Cardozo and Godfrey from Narcotics.

“Yes, sir. I know them.”

“Hey, Dani. This is your partner, Harper? Good to meet you, Harper. I’m John Godfrey.”

“Good to meet you, sir. Why are we here?”

“I like this guy. No bullshit; just straight to the point. Captain?”

“First of all, you’re not in trouble. You didn’t do anything wrong and nobody’s looking to burn you. It’s nothing like that. In fact, you’re both doing a great job out there.”

Well, that’s good to hear. So the big question now is: what the fuck are we doing here?

“This afternoon, Narcotics detectives served a few warrants in our division. They made a number of arrests: dealers, junkies, the usual. In the course of that operation, they came across some information that concerns the two of you.”

Us? What the hell could they have come across that concerns us?

“What information is that, sir?”

“John, do you want to tell them?”

I wish they’d get to the point. I do not like this! What the hell is going on?

“Dani, we have information that Ricky’s trying to put a hit out on you and Harper.”

OK, I definitely didn’t see that one coming! Is he serious?

“Ricky wants to kill us? Gee, tell us something we don’t know.”

“No, I’m not talking about popping off at the mouth. That arrest you made last night? It turns out that hit him hard. Real hard. That was one hell of a catch, by the way. No, the information we got says it’s for real. He’s been fishing around for someone willing to kill the two of you. He doesn’t just want you two dead. He’s looking for someone to make it happen.”

“Are you serious? Angelo? Is he serious?”

“I’m afraid so, Dani. We heard it from three different people. They all mentioned the two of you by name. They described you. Ricky wants you dead, and he’s not fooling around. Ricky doesn’t fool around about that shit.”

I don’t believe this! Shit like this doesn’t happen to patrol officers. Detectives? Yeah, once in a blue moon, maybe. Why would Ricky be so angry with us that he’d risk a death penalty charge? And Captain Mayones seems genuinely concerned. If he’s worried, then this shit is definitely for real.

“Captain? Do you think this is for real?”

“I do. What do you guys think about that? Officer Harper?”

“Well, Captain, I guess it means it worked. We were trying to put a dent in his business. Apparently, we succeeded.”

Damn, Harper! That’s exactly what I was going to say! I knew there was a reason why I like you: you’re smart. Just like me.

“This is not a joke, Officer Harper.”

“No, sir. I never said it was. But this doesn’t really surprise me. We put the screws to Ricky, and last night, we got lucky. We got a lot of his dope and one of his couriers. His supplier must be hopping mad right now. Ricky’s in the doghouse with his people, so now he wants payback. He’s a drug dealer, sir. This is what he does.”

“Officer Harper, this is not an idle threat. I know about Ricky. This guy is liable to make good on it. He’s got the connections to make it happen, and we all know for a fact that he’s not above killing people.”

“Yes, sir. But he can do that every time we go near him. We know that and so does he, sir. It doesn’t change anything.”

I see Detectives Godfrey and Cardozo are impressed. They should be. Harper’s not trying to play it off. He’s dead serious. He’s not intimidated. Why should he be? Getting threatened is part of the job. And he’s absolutely right: Ricky could take a shot at us every time we go near the Big Lot. Harper knows that. He’s just not going to let it interfere with doing the job. Neither am I.

“Fair enough, Officer. Detectives, how do you suggest we handle this? John, what do you think?”

“I think they are handling it, Captain. Do you agree, Angelo?”

“Absolutely. These guys know what they’re doing. If they back off now, Ricky wins.”

“My concern isn’t about winning and losing. This is my division. They’re my officers. And I have other concerns, too.”

Yeah, and I think I know what those concerns are. I think that’s my queue to jump in. I’m not going to let this turn into a question of politics without speaking up. I’m not going through that shit again.

“There are no other concerns, sir. And I think you know that. Detective Cardozo is right: if you pull us out now because Ricky says he’s going to kill us, then he wins. From now on, he’ll just threaten every cop in the division. Every cop you’ve got. Are you going to pull them all out? Are you going to give Ricky a free pass just because of what he might do? Detectives Godfrey and Cardozo told me Ricky’s one of the biggest dealers in our sector. And that’s saying something!”

“I know who and what Ricky is, Lynott. Don’t think for a minute that I don’t.”

“Then you know he’s an asshole who’s gotten away with murder for too long, sir. And I mean murder. He killed that guy at the Big Lot the other night. I’m sure of it, and I’ll bet Homicide’s sure of it, too. We’ve got a chance to put him out of business; at least in this division. I don’t think we should pass it up. So he threatened us? He’s been threatening us since the day I started on Midwatch. It’s like Harper said, sir: nothing’s changed. We’ll be careful. And if Ricky tries anything, we’ll do what we have to.”

“John? This is your area of expertise. What do you think?”

“I agree, Captain. They’re good cops. They’ve been putting the screws to him more than we have, and they’re getting results. I say they should keep it up. We’ll do what we can on our end and keep you up to date on whatever we learn. But it’s your call, sir. What’s it going to be?”

Captain Mayones looks pained. This is actually weighing on him. I wonder if I was wrong about him? Maybe it isn’t the politics that’s worrying him?

“I hate to say it, but I agree with all of you. Ricky’s been a major problem in this division for far too long. I think we have to make it clear to him that the tail doesn’t wag the dog.”

Yes! Exactly! You know, it’s a rare captain these days who sees thing so clearly. And he’s right: the tail can’t be allowed to wag the dog.

“All right, everybody. Here’s what we’re going to do: Sergeant Hendrickson’s coming in early. He’s going to work with Midwatch. I want someone with his experience helping you guys out. Sergeant Gellar, I want you to take the whole watch straight down to the Big Lot. I want you to make it clear to everybody down there that we don’t tolerate people threatening our officers. If you see a violation, you bring them in. I don’t care how minor it is. I don’t care how politically incorrect it is. If you see it; they go. No exceptions. I want everyone to know that we take these things seriously, and that there are consequences for this kind of thing. From now on, Ricky is poison. Anyone who so much as gets near him is going to get poisoned, too.”

“Will do, Captain.”

“Harper, Lynott, you two be damned careful out there. And if you see anything that looks like someone’s targeting you, you let us know. You don’t play it the cowboy way. When someone threatens one of us, they threaten all of us. This isn’t just about you two. One of Ricky’s thugs might go after some other officers in the division because he thought they were you guys. Understood?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Will do, Captain. Dani and I will be OK.”

“I’m sure you will. All right, everybody knows what to do. You let me handle any fallout from above. Make it happen.”

I just developed a whole new respect for Captain Mayones. I thought he was going to pull us out of the field. A lame captain would do that in a heartbeat. It’s good to see Captain Mayones isn’t one of them.


Roll call. Oh, this is going to be fun! That dumbass Ricky really put his foot in it! Now he’s got to deal with the whole division; not just me and Harper. If he thought we were a pain in the ass, wait until he sees what a whole bunch of angry cops riding his ass is like!

“All right! Listen up, Midwatch! Roll call! The Watch Commander is Lieutenant Hagan. I’ll be Forty Central. Sergeant Hendrickson here is joining us tonight. He’ll be Eighty Central. Sergeant Alfaro will be Sixty Central. You all know your units, so we’ll skip that part tonight. We’ve got a mission for the whole watch, and it’s a doozy! Narcotics division has reliable information that an asshole dealer down at the Big Lot has threatened to put a hit on two of our officers. I think we all know who they are, and I think we all know who’s responsible for the threats.”

“Jesus, Sarge! Are you serious?”

“Very serious, Signolo. Lynott and Harper have been putting the screws to Ricky and his dope dealing business. They’ve put away a couple of his dealers, seized a lot of dope, and last night, they got what appears to be one of his suppliers. Ricky lost a kilo of heroin in that one, and whoever supplied it probably isn’t too happy with him right now. Ricky’s pissed, and apparently, he’s been asking around for someone to take out Lynott and Harper. Narcotics thinks it’s a credible threat. Rosen! Where the hell are you going?”

“Just moving my seat, Sergeant! I don’t want to be sitting next to Lynott if she’s going to get killed, sir!”

“Your courage is inspiring, you little shit!”

“Just being cautious.”

Thanks for the vote of confidence, Rosen. Remind me to steal the battery from your car before you go home!

“You think someone’s going to try to kill her in here. Rosen?”

“You never know, Sarge.”

“I know that if anyone in here is going to get killed tonight, it’s going to be you!”

“Who would want to kill me, Sarge?”

“You want the list alphabetical, or in order of how much they hate you?”

I see Sergeant Gellar is in rare form, tonight. He’s quite the curmudgeon, isn’t he?

“Everyone loves me, Sarge!”

“Yeah, well, I don’t think you have to worry about any snipers taking her out in here.”

“Hey, someone could’ve planted a bomb under her seat. I don’t want some pipe bomb blowing my balls off, Sarge!”

“Since when do you have balls, Rosen?”

“They’re huge, sir! You’d need a crane to lift them!”

I don’t think I’m going to let him get away with that one. As the only woman on the watch, I have a moral imperative to make fun of him right now.

“Huge? Rosen, I’m sitting right next to you and I can’t see them. Harper? Do you have a pair of binoculars in your bag?”

“Yes, ma’am!”

“Let me see them. OK, let’s try again: nope! Still can’t see them. Here, hold still, Rosen. Let me get real close…nope! Still nothing! Harper? Have you got a microscope in your bag?”

“All right, all right! Lynott! Get your face out of Rosen’s balls!”

“What balls, sir?”

“Point taken. Can we get back to work, now? Thank you! Now, we’re all going straight to the Big Lot right out of the chute. We go in together, show of force, we grab everyone there. The slightest violation and they go to jail. That means no exceptions! Captain’s orders!”

“Sarge?”

“You got a question, Rosen?”

“Yeah. What’s the point? Now that everything’s a fucking misdemeanor in this state, they’ll just kick them loose as soon as they’re processed at the jail. Hell, they might even make us let them go before we get there!”

“I want to make it absolutely clear to all of you: No one gets kicked tonight! They all go. Once they’re in jail, it’s up to the jail. But we’re not cutting anyone any slack. You threaten one of us; we fuck with you. Period!”

“Sergeant?”

“What is it, Goren?”

“Does that include Ricky?”

“Are you kidding me? That especially includes Ricky! Does everybody know what that little shit looks like?”

Clearly, everyone’s had the pleasure of meeting him. Good. There won’t be any cases of mistaken identity. God, I want to bring that little asshole in! Even if it’s just for a few hours!

“Now, I’m telling all of you what the captain just told me: The tail don’t wag the dog! Everybody got that? Good! Gear up and meet me in the parking lot!”

Maybe I’m weird, but I absolutely live for this shit! I can’t wait to see Ricky’s face when the whole watch shows up to fuck with him! This is going to be an absolute blast!


Central Station parking lot. We’re all gearing up for the raid on the Big Lot. This is going to be fun! With any luck, we’ll shut down his business for the rest of the night. Hell, maybe we’ll even get to throw his ass in jail? That would be a dream come true.

“Harper, are we set?”

“Gassed and ready to go.”

It seems Detectives Godfrey and Cardozo aren’t leaving. Are they going to be part of this thing? I’d actually like to have them there. It would let everyone know that it’s not just patrol that’s cracking down on the Big Lot. The sight of a couple of Narcotics detectives should put the fear of God into the regulars down there.

“Detective Godfrey, are you joining us for this thing?”

“How many times do I have to tell you? You don’t have to call me detective.”

“OK, John. Are you and Angelo coming with us?”

“Of course we’re coming with you. We got you into this mess. We’re not going to leave you hanging.”

“You’re not responsible for any of it. Hell, we’d have fucked with Ricky even if we’d never met you.”

“I know you would. And don’t think we don’t appreciate it. You two have done more damage to Ricky in two weeks than we’ve done in the last year. You’re making us look good.”

“No, John, she still looks better than the both of us.”

Angelo clearly thinks he’s quite the ladies’ man. But he’s harmless. He wouldn’t be wearing his wedding ring if he weren’t.

“Detective Cardozo – excuse me, Angelo – do you guys need a ride down there?”

“No thanks, Dani, we’ve got a ride. Are you two ready for this?”

“We’re more than ready. Let’s do it.”

“All right. Let’s go kick Ricky’s ass.”

And here we go; all in a line. The only thing missing is Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries playing in the background. Too bad we can’t do that. It would be the perfect touch, don’t you think?


Standing by near the Big Lot. They don’t call it the Big Lot for nothing. Compared to the other parking lots in this sector, this thing is huge. Fortunately, we’ve got enough units to cover the place from every direction at once. One unit comes up the rear alley from the south, another comes down from the north and seals the alley. No one gets out that way. Three units come in from the front, and another one stays mobile on the street to go after anyone who manages to slip by. This place is one hundred percent locked down the minute we get the signal to move in. Nice!

“OK, Harper. The minute we get in the lot, we go straight for Ricky. I want that little shit to see the both of us.”

“Oh, I’m looking forward to seeing him, too.”

“Forty Central to units on the perimeter: all units, stand by. We’re in position.”

“This is it. Get ready.”

“All units: move in! Move in!”

“Go, Harper!”

Jesus! Officer lead foot here doesn’t fuck around! I hope he doesn’t kill us just getting us there!

“Harper, I see him! There’s Ricky! Diego’s there, too! I’m going after them!”

“Watch yourself, Dani!”

Out of the car! Keep them from running! Look at these assholes! They don’t know what to do! They’ve probably never seen so many units crashing their party at one time! Draw down on them! Don’t take any chances!

“Ricky! Let me see your hands! That’s it! Hands in the air and drop to your knees! Now! You too, Diego! On your knees!”

Oh, Ricky looks seriously pissed!

“Quit pointing that gun at me, bitch!”

“Down on your knees, Ricky! Now! Do it! Harper?”

“Right behind you! You heard her, Ricky! Drop to your knees! Both of you!”

I see Harper’s got his rifle again. Good. That ought to let everyone know we’re not kidding.

“Harper, get those guys by the wall over there!”

“Roger that! All of you! Against the wall! Drop to your knees! Do it! On your knees, hands in the air!”

We’re secure over here. I can hear the other guys rounding up everyone else. Good. This place is locked down. Now it’s time to cuff Ricky and Diego. We may not be able to arrest them tonight, but I can certainly make them even more miserable than they already are.

“Hands behind your back, Ricky.”

“What are you doing, bitch?”

“I’m hooking you up.”

“What for?”

“To keep you from getting your ass kicked.”

“Oh, you are really pissing me off, bitch!”

“Well, that’s the idea. Let me know if these are too tight.”

If there’s one thing I know about assholes like Ricky, it’s that they hate having someone take their control from them. Being handcuffed in front of his right-hand man – not to mention about half a dozen junkies – is about as embarrassing to him as it gets. And by a woman, no less. That’s really got to sting.

“Your turn, Diego. Hands behind your back.”

“You’re really itching for it, aren’t you, bitch?”

“We’re just doing our job. There’s a lot of criminals around here, didn’t you know?”

“Fuck you!”

“I’ll take that as a ‘yes.’ Now, both of you stay there until we tell you to move.”

“You’re keeping us on our knees? That’s bullshit!”

“So sue me. Harper, come say hello to Ricky and Diego.”

“Hey, guys! We didn’t see you last night. Did you miss us? We didn’t miss your friend, Ricky. In fact, we arrested him. Right after he wrecked his car, right over there.”

“What friend?”

“Jorge. You remember Jorge? From Arizona? The guy with all the dope? Or was that your dope? In case you were wondering, Dani and I seized it for evidence.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Yeah, I thought you’d say that. Hey, we heard you were looking for us. Is that true?”

“I don’t want to see you! Or your bitch!”

“Then why do you keep hanging out here?”

“Hey, fuck you, Harper! Fuck you and your little bitch!”

Here come the detectives. Maybe they can get something more useful out of these two?

“Hold that thought, Ricky. Guys? Are these the ones you’re looking for?”

“Yes, they are! Thanks for finding them for us.”

“Ricky, this is Detective Godfrey and Detective Cardozo. They want to talk to you.”

“I got nothing to say to them.”

“I think they have something to say to you. Detective Cardozo?”

“Thanks, Dani. Ricky! Como esta? Long time, no see! Remember me, motherfucker?”

“Yeah, I remember you! What the fuck do you want?”

“Let’s talk about that down at the station. On your feet! Who’s this asshole?”

“Fuck you, puto!

“Is that your name, vato?

“I said fuck you!”

I guess Angelo hasn’t had the pleasure of meeting Diego yet.

“His name’s Diego. He’s Ricky’s little friend.”

“Oh, so you’re a friend of Ricky’s, vato? You need to get better friends. You see what happens when you hang out with this asshole? Come on, get your ass up!”

God, the look on their faces is priceless! They don’t look so tough right now. It’s almost hard to believe these are the guys who threatened to kill us. I don’t think we have much to worry about in that department.

“Bye, Ricky. We’ll look after the Big Lot while you’re in jail.”

“You’re going to pay for this, bitch! You don’t fuck with me in my place! You remember that!”

“I already get paid for this. We’re all on the clock. Have fun.”

Mission accomplished, and it looks like quite a round-up. We’ve got Ricky and Diego, plus eight…no, ten. Ten other people. Most of them are obviously junkies. Good. They’ll spread the word among the rest of Ricky’s clientele. That’s the idea. They’ll get the message: buy from Ricky at the Big Lot and your ass is going to jail. That’s definitely bad for business.

“Sergeant Hendrickson? Are we taking everyone?”

“All of them. The ones with warrants get booked straight away. As for the rest of them, we’ll take them over to the jail. They’ve got a D.R.E. Team working tonight.”

“Sounds good. We’ll see you back at the station.”

“Roger that. Ruiz! Break those guys up for transport! All of the junkies, take them over to jail division!”

“You got it, Sarge. All right, everybody! Listen up! You’re all going to jail! Don’t give me any shit about how ‘it’s just a misdemeanor!’ We don’t care! Your ass is going to jail! If any of you don’t habla, I’ll explain to you how life as you know it has come to an end! The Big Lot is henceforth off-limits to all assholes, junkies, vatos, and other assorted lowlifes! This means you! Let’s go! Three in each car!”

I guess they don’t need us to transport anyone. We’ll just go back and help book the ones with warrants. Then I’ll take Harper over to the jail so he can watch the D.R.E. Team work. I doubt he’s ever seen it.

“Harper? Have you ever seen a D.R.E. exam?”

“I was going to ask you: what’s a D.R.E.?”

“Drug Recognition Expert. They do an examination and determine if someone’s under the influence of drugs. It’s pretty interesting. They can tell exactly what drugs a person’s been using. If you ever get a chance to go to the D.R.E. school, take it.”

“Did you go?”

“Still waiting. There’s a long line ahead of me.”

Actually, it’s a lot of work for a misdemeanor arrest, and people convicted of being under the influence usually don’t spend more than a couple of days in jail, no matter what the statute says. That’s especially true since the laws changed. But one thing I learned a long time ago is that even if you can’t get something serious on a habitual criminal, you can get a lot of little things on them. In effect, you can make them serve life in prison one day at a time. Whether it comes as a result of a single major conviction or a whole lot of little ones, a life sentence is a life sentence. Remember: it’s not about the process. It’s about the result.


Clearing from Central Station. Not bad! All ten of those junkies were booked for one thing or another. That was the idea. Of course, I still have no idea what happened to Ricky and Diego. Godfrey and Cardozo took them both straight to their office at headquarters. If they arrested them for anything, they’ll let me know tomorrow. The sad fact is that I’ll probably see Ricky right back at the Big Lot tomorrow night. I know for a fact that he doesn’t have any warrants, and I doubt that they could justify an arrest based solely on some secondhand information that he wants to kill us. But I can’t let that bother me. With some suspects, you have to play the long game. You can’t expect to build a case against them in a hurry. But that’s OK. I’ve got plenty of time until retirement, so I’ve got plenty of time to put Ricky away for good.

“What’s next, Harper?”

“No priority calls. There’s an old call about someone hanging around the plaza, nothing further on it.”

“Is that the plaza by the skyscrapers?”

“Yep. Heller Plaza. The heart of the Emerald City, or as close as the homeless are allowed to get to it.”

Heller Plaza is beautiful. It’s all white marble and mirrored glass. During the day, it’s a great place to sit down and take a break – assuming it isn’t over one hundred degrees outside. It’s the far western edge of the homeless zone, which means that if a homeless person gets within fifty yards of the place, they call the cops. Let’s see…the call’s over an hour old. Unless this guy is drunk and passed out, he’s in the wind. Still, we might as well clear the call from the list.

“Buy the call and let’s clear it. It’s probably just a drive-by call anyway.”

“Fair enough. At least we’ll get to see the nice part of the sector.”

It’s funny. Listening to him say that, I realize that I don’t want to see the nice part of town. Hell, I don’t want to go anywhere near the place. It’s like…I don’t know. It’s like I don’t belong there anymore. I actually feel sort of uncomfortable in places like that. I didn’t used to, but I do now. I guess that old guy from the other night was right: I have become a part of this place. Who would’ve ever thought it?


Heller Plaza. Carol was right: this place is beautiful. There was a time when I would’ve liked hanging out here. I’m surprised the place is so lit up this late at night. It must cost a fortune to keep those lights on all night long. If I were homeless, I’d probably hang out here, too. God, the place is so clean. You could probably eat off of the pavement. It’s hard to believe this place is only a few blocks from skid row. Talk about a contradiction!

“This is a far cry from our area, Dani.”

“In a place like this, you could forget there ever was a skid row. Who called this in?”

“A security guard. There’s a security booth by the entrance to the building. He’s probably in there.”

“Let’s take a walk.”

This feels weird. The place is all lit up like there should be a hundred people here, but there’s no one here. No one but us. It’s so damned quiet. It’s like one of those movies where everyone in the world suddenly disappears and one person has the whole planet to herself. It’s kind of cool when you think about it that way.

“Dani, we’ve got the PR. The security guard’s waving us down.”

“He doesn’t seem to be too excited. I’m guessing our squatter is long gone.”

Frankly, I don’t know why they’d call us for a guy hanging around here. That guard is armed. He can tell someone to get lost just as effectively as we can. He’s also pretty damned big. I doubt many people would try to fuck with him.

“I’m Officer Lynott. Did you call?”

“Yeah. I’m Eric Dixon. I’m the night security.”

“Are you working here alone?”

“No, there’s two other guards here at night. They’re doing the building check right now. I’m the one who called you.”

“Where’s the guy hanging around?”

“Well, he was sitting over by the benches on the north side.”

“Are you saying he’s gone?”

“Yeah, finally. Some homeless guy. Didn’t want to leave. Parked his ass and all his shit right over there. Most of the homeless know better than to come here at night.”

“How’s that?”

“They know they’re not allowed to be here. The property owners take their security seriously.”

I don’t need to work down here to know what that means. He’s telling us that if the homeless come around here, they get their asses kicked.

“Did you guys put the boots to him?”

“No, nothing like that. We just…motivated him.”

“Uh-huh. How much motivation did he need?”

“Just fifty thousand volts or so.”

The fact that he’s slapping his stun gun explains that comment. They shocked his ass until he left. That figures. Stun guns are basically hand-held Tasers. They work through clothing, and unless you press the prods against bare skin, they don’t leave a mark. That’s why they don’t let us carry them. I guess the brass figures it’s too much temptation to torture people with them.

“Is this guy going to turn up in a hospital?”

“No way! We didn’t light him up that bad. Just a few shocks in the ass; enough to get him going.”

“How long ago was that?”

“Twenty minutes or so.”

“Do you guys do that a lot?”

“Only when it’s necessary.”

“How often is that?”

“Maybe…oh, a couple times a week.”

He seems very pleased with himself. I’ve seen this sort of thing before. I’m thinking this guy is a bully. I really hate bullies.

“Did he put up a fight?”

“They never do.”

“Did he try to break into the place?”

“No, nothing like that. He just parked his filthy ass where it didn’t belong.”

Yeah, right! As if this guy owns even one fucking brick in this place! Where does he get off saying people don’t belong here?

“I see. Harper, get his information. Which way did he go?”

“Up the street. That’s the last we saw of him.”

Northbound. He was making his way back to Skid Row. That’s not surprising. This guy and his buddies made it perfectly clear to him that he wasn’t wanted here.

“If he comes back, let us know.”

“Will do, Officer. You guys have a good one.”

Yeah, and I hope you fall on your ass and break your tailbone, motherfucker! Right on that polished marble plaza! You definitely deserve it!


Back on patrol and clear from Heller Plaza. It really pisses me off, what just happened back there. I fucking hate bullies! Yeah, so the homeless aren’t allowed there. It’s that guy’s job to keep them out. I get that. But lighting some guy up with a stun gun just because he wanted to get away from skid row for a little while is just wrong. I don’t believe for a minute that they did it because they had to. No, they did it because it was fun. They got off on torturing that guy. That’s fucked up. I wish we could find this guy so he could swear out a complaint. I’d arrest everyone who had a hand in it in a heartbeat.

“Something wrong, Dani?”

“You know they tortured that guy, don’t you?”

“Yeah. A lot of the security guards around here leave a lot to be desired.”

“And no one ever does anything about it?”

“There’s not much we can do. The homeless won’t file charges. They won’t even sign a crime report.”

“Because they’re scared?”

“Wouldn’t you be? They’re here every night. They’re going to run into those guards for the rest of their lives. This is nothing. Believe me, I know. I’ve only been here a year and I’ve seen them do a lot worse. You should see the ones that work during the daytime.”

“Real assholes, huh?”

“Like you wouldn’t believe. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying all of them are like that. Some of them are really professional. They’d make good cops. But a lot of them are just a bunch of sadists.”

“Most security guards catch hell from their supervisors if they use force.”

“Yeah, but most security guards aren’t working next door to skid row. Places like Heller Plaza? All they care about is keeping the homeless as far away as possible. And their bosses don’t care how they do it.”

“So basically, they’re saying that the homeless don’t count. They don’t have any rights, and they don’t need any rights. That’s fucked up.”

“I hate to say it, but this is nothing. Try working the bus station during the day. Some of the guards over there have put people in the hospital. And I don’t mean just a few. Loomis said that a few years back, they practically had to station an ambulance at the front door. It was out of control.”

“How did it get so bad?”

“I don’t know. And it wasn’t just the private security, either. They used to hire a lot of off-duty cops to work security at the bus station. Then the division stopped it before I got here. Too many complaints.”

“So they went with a private security force that doesn’t have to answer to anyone?”

“Exactly. I mean, some of those guys are good. But some of them? Jesus, they must have found them at the psycho ward!”

“I’ll remember that. Did you get a description of this homeless guy?”

“As much as the guard could give me, which wasn’t much. Male, black, forties, dirty white t-shirt, dark pants, wearing a black watch cap.”

“That describes about a hundred people out here.”

“More like five hundred.”

“Well, keep an eye out for him. If we find him, I’m going to ask him to sign a report.”

“And if we don’t find him?”

“If we don’t find him, I’m going to scratch out a general report. Maybe it’ll get back to that asshole’s boss.”

“Do you think he’ll care?”

“He won’t like the negative attention, that’s for sure.”

“There’s something you need to know, Dani. Things don’t change around here. I don’t know why. I just know they don’t. People talk about the homeless all the time, they run stories in the paper, they do shit on TV, but it doesn’t matter. Nothing changes here. Asshole security guards laying into the homeless; that’s just par for the course.”

“I know. But it’s the right thing to do and it won’t cost me anything, so why not?”

“I like your attitude. You’re right. Why not? The least we can do is try.”

He’s right, of course. And I don’t have any illusions about changing things. But like a wise man once said: “Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” So maybe a general report saying they’ve got a fucking asshole working night security will make his boss take notice? If it stops one unnecessary ass-kicking, then it’s worth it. Like I said, I really hate bullies.

“Hey, Dani, we should check that abandoned building over on…”

“Harper! Two o’clock! You see him?”

“I see him!”

What the hell happened to him? I need to get a better look. Oh, Jesus! This guy’s bleeding like he’s been gutted! Fuck! This couldn’t have happened too long ago! Jesus, he’s barely moving!

“Harper, get EMS! Hey! Hey, you! What happened? Who did this to you?”

I count three…four…no, five holes in his shirt! Fuck! Somebody stabbed this guy over and over again! If we don’t get an ambulance fast, this guy is going to die for sure!

“Who did this to you? Where did he go?”

“In the alley…white guy…long hair…”

“Harper, did you…”

“Yeah, I heard him. EMS is en route.”

“Where does that alley lead?”

“Nowhere. It’s a dead end.”

“Then our suspect’s still in there. Let’s go!”

He’s got to be in here somewhere. We don’t have much of a description. A white guy with long hair, that’s about a third of the people out here.

“Harper? Anything?”

“Got nothing on this side.”

“Keep an eye out for any way he could’ve gotten out.”

“Dani! Over here! We’ve got a bloody shirt!”

Our suspect probably ditched it. Smart. He doesn’t want to be walking around out here with a gallon of blood on his shirt. It’s a t-shirt, so our guy is probably bare-chested right now. Unfortunately, in this heatwave, a lot of these guys are running around without their shirts.

“Harper, put out the call: ADW suspect, male white, long hair, probably not wearing a shirt, last seen in this alley.”

“You got it.”

Where the hell did this guy go? How did he get out of here? There are no spaces between these buildings. I doubt he crawled into the sewer, and I don’t see any manholes for him to use. He didn’t climb up the walls unless he’s Spiderman. I don’t see any broken windows, so he didn’t get out that way. Fuck! Where is this guy?

“Harper?”

“Still nothing. He might have gotten out before we even got here.”

“I didn’t see anyone coming out of the alley besides the victim, and I sure as hell didn’t see anyone running. We had to have gotten here just after it happened. That guy couldn’t have walked more than a few feet in his condition. The suspect’s got to be in here somewhere. Try the doors on your side. I’ll try the doors on this side.”

“He could be hiding in one of those dumpsters over there.”

“Check them all. But be careful! This guy’s already stabbed one person!”

If this asshole jumps out of a dumpster when we lift the lid, we’re almost certainly going to end up shooting him. Knives at close range are more dangerous than guns, especially if the guy knows how to use one. And the people out here are all pretty good with a knife. I really hate it when the bad guys have the advantage. Maybe we should just seal the alley and wait for additional units? No, fuck that! He’s here, we’re here. We’re going to catch this guy!

“Harper, anything?”

“Nothing in these dumpsters. What about that one?”

“I haven’t checked it yet. You cover me.”

All right…lift the lid gently…light it up with the flashlight, and…nothing! Fuck! Where the hell is this guy? He couldn’t have just disappeared into thin air! I know the people out here are experts at hiding, but they can’t just disappear. Even if they can vanish right in front of you, they can’t just teleport out of an alley. Where are you, you son of a bitch? Wait a minute! We’ve got something here!

“Harper! Over here! By this door!”

“Got something?”

“Bloodstains. Right at the edge of the door frame.”

“This must be where it went down.”

“Not likely. That guy’s bleeding like a fire hose. There’s not enough blood here. I’m betting our suspect left this here.”

“You think the victim got a piece of him?”

“Either that, or it’s the victim’s blood dripping off of him. Either way, our guy was here. I don’t see any other bloodstains. They stop at the door.”

“Meaning he went in there. Is it open?”

“No, it’s locked. So how the hell did he get in?”

“Maybe he didn’t?”

“Or maybe it was unlocked when he went in, and he locked it behind him. Kick it!”

“Are you sure?”

“Exigent circumstances. Hot pursuit. We’ve got probable cause. Kick the fucker!”

“OK, stand clear!”

I may have been stretching my assessment a bit, but I think we’re in the clear. Besides, he’s got to be in there. There’s no place else for him to go.

“It’s open!”

“Nice kick! OK, we do this the same way we did the last one. I’ll go right, you go left. We move together, don’t lose sight of each other.”

“Let’s do it! Ready?”

“Ready.”

“Go!”

We’re in! Fuck! It’s dark as shit in here! Typical. I can see this isn’t a warehouse. This is the back of a store. Our guy isn’t as smart as I thought. The entire front of the place is covered by a roll-down steel gate. He’d need a blowtorch to cut through it. That means if he’s in here, he’s trapped. The only way out is through that back door, and the only way to get there is through us. He’ll either give up or fight, and given the fact that I don’t think our victim is going to live, he probably knows he’s looking at a murder charge. He’s going to fight.

“Harper, do you see a light switch?”

“Not so far.”

“All right. Our guy is probably in here, which means he’s had time to pick a hiding place.”

“Or an ambush spot.”

That’s exactly what I was thinking. It’s nice to know Harper and I are on the same page with this one. He knows this guy is likely to fight, rather than surrender. Good. That means he’ll be ready for it.

“Harper, hold up. I’ve got a door here.”

“I’ve got your back.”

“No good. It’s locked.”

“Could he have locked it behind him?”

“No, it’s padlocked from this side. Keep searching.”

“Got a door over here. Kind of small. I think it’s a bathroom.”

Normally, that’s a pretty dumb place to hide. But I just noticed the ceiling is acoustical tile. That means he can lift it up and climb into the ceiling – if he can find something to stand on so he can reach it. You know, like maybe a toilet?

“What do you think, Dani?”

“I’m thinking he might be trying to stand on the toilet or the sink…”

“So he can reach the ceiling tiles…”

“And climb up into the ceiling. That would be a good hiding place.”

“That’s what I’d do. People don’t look up.”

He’s right. Even cops fail to search anything over their heads. I once saw a knife sticking up in a ceiling on an ADW call. Everyone else missed it. Even the detectives. Hell, I didn’t see it for about fifteen minutes.

“What are you thinking, Dani?”

“I’m thinking the door opens inward. That’s a pretty small space. If he’s in there…”

“He’ll jump out at us. How do you want to handle it?”

“I’ll take the door. You step back a few feet. Don’t use your flashlight. You’ll silhouette me. My flashlight only. Got it?”

“Roger that.”

“You’re a lot bigger than me. If he tries to run past me, I’ll grab him, but you stop him. Tackle his ass, knock him down, whatever. But if he tries to stab you…”

“Two to the body, one to the head.”

“Exactly. Don’t worry about me. I’ll get clear. Ready?”

“I’m ready.”

“All right. Now!”

It’s open! Harper was right: it’s a bathroom. And…holy shit! There’s our guy! He’s trying to climb into the ceiling!

“Police! Stop where you are!”

He’s halfway into the ceiling! We’re not going to chase him up there, so I need to pull his ass down before he gets any further up there!

“I said stop! Get down from there!”

Fuck it! If he doesn’t want to listen, I’ll just grab his legs and use my body weight to pull him down!

“Get down here, motherfucker!”

Son of a bitch! He must have a pretty good grip on something up there! He’s not coming down! I need a little more weight on my side!

“Harper! Give me a hand!”

“I’ve got him! Pull!”

Jesus! He really ripped the guy right out of there! Oh, hell! Our suspect just bashed his head on the back of the toilet! Great! Now he’s probably got a skull fracture! That was a pretty hard fall!

“Let me see your hands!”

He’s too woozy to understand what I’m saying. Fuck it! We’ll just cuff him and be done with it.

“Give me your hand, asshole! You’re under arrest!”

“Huh?”

“I said, you’re under arrest! Give me your other hand!”

He’s too dazed to fight back. I guess we caught a break on that one.

“Where’s your knife?”

“Knife?”

“Yeah, the knife you used to stab that guy in the alley! Where is it?”

“Huh?”

Oh, great! That crack on the head turned him into a fucking pine cone! Let’s see if he’s got it on him. He might have been stupid enough to keep it. Oh, here we go. Right in his pocket. Typical skid row piece-of-shit lock-back. And it’s covered with blood! Gee, I wonder where that came from?

“We’re good, Harper. I got his weapon. It’s got blood all over it.”

“Yeah, no doubt from the guy he stabbed.”

“His hands are bloody, too. So are his pants.”

“I guess he couldn’t very well take those off.”

This is our guy, no doubt about it. It’s always nice to be in the right place at the right time. Of course, I’m probably going to catch a bagful of shit for going after him without backup. It’s not exactly by the book. It’s not exactly tactically sound, either. But I’ve come to learn that things are different here. They happen a lot faster. If you want to be effective out here, you have to take chances. I don’t mind taking them. I’m pretty sure Harper doesn’t mind, either. But that won’t stop the sergeants from giving me a bagful of shit over it.

“Let’s get him out of here. Put out the code four: suspect in custody.”

“Got it. Sixteen Central, we have one ADW suspect in custody, the alley south of 8th Street, west of Meridian.”

“Sixteen Central, roger. Sixteen Central, meet Eighty Central at the scene of your ADW. He’s standing by with EMS.”

“Sixteen Central, roger. What do you suppose that’s about?”

I know exactly what it’s about. I’m about to get my ass chewed out. Oh, who cares? We got our suspect, and from the looks of our victim, he’s a murder suspect. That’s worth an ass chewing.

“We’re about to find out. Listen, Harper: if they ask – and they will – going in here without backup was my call. You told me we should wait for backup, but I overruled you. Got it?”

“Come on, Dani! I’m not going to leave you hanging like that. I was as much for going after this guy as you were.”

“I appreciate that. But we just broke about twenty regulations going in there alone. I don’t want it to come down on you. So if they ask, it was my call. That’s the way it has to be.”

“I don’t like it. We did the right thing.”

“I agree. But others won’t, so be ready for it.”

“Roger that.”

It’s killing him to think he may have to roll on me if this turns to shit, but it’s for his own good. He may be almost off of probation, but until he is, I can’t have him taking that chance. I can ride this out. Harper might not be able to.

“Hey! Hey, you! Ceiling guy! What’s your name?”

“Why’d you do me like that? I wasn’t doin’ nothin’.”

“Fine. You weren’t doing nothing. So what’s your name?”

“I got the right to remain silent.”

“That’s right, you do. But we still need to know your name.”

“I ain’t sayin’ nothin’ until I get me a lawyer.”

“Suit yourself. How’s your head?”

“It’s broke! I’m gonna sue you! I’m gonna sue you both!”

“Take a number.”

At least they can’t hit us with a charge of excessive force. All we did was pull him out of the ceiling. That’s not a use of force. Then again, this idiot might tell the sergeant that we cracked his head with a flashlight. I’ll make sure he sees that toilet before he leaves. He can see the bloodstain from his head on the back of it.

“Harper, take a picture of that bloodstain on the toilet. And make sure to recover that bloody t-shirt when we get out there. That’s evidence.”

“I know where it is. I’ll take care of it.”

Well, at least it’s Sergeant Hendrickson and not Sergeant Alfaro. There’s a chance he’ll be a lot more understanding about us going after an armed suspect with no backup.

There he is, right at the edge of the alley. And he doesn’t look happy!

“Sergeant Hendrickson! Over here! We got the suspect!”

“Where the hell were you two?”

“Chasing this guy.”

“Chasing him where?”

“In there. That door back there. We caught him in a bathroom, trying to climb into the ceiling.”

“Are you sure he’s the guy?”

“He fits the description. He’s got blood on his hands, blood on his clothes, blood on his knife. Yeah, it’s him.”

“Uh-huh. And who put that gash in his head?”

“He did. We had to pull him down from the ceiling. He hit his head on the toilet tank. You can go see the bloodstain he left.”

“So you guys didn’t tune him up, is that it?”

“No, sir. We didn’t touch him. No use of force at all.”

He still doesn’t look happy. He’s taken care of the usual points, and now comes the part where he goes ape shit because of my bad tactics.

“Harper, take this guy to your car. I need to talk to Lynott for a minute.”

I hate it when I’m right about this shit. Here it comes!

“Lynott, what the hell were you doing, going in there alone?”

“I wasn’t alone, Sarge. Harper was with me. We followed the blood trail to the door. I knew that if we didn’t go after him, we might never have found him.”

“And you didn’t think to wait for backup?”

“I didn’t think we could afford to wait. I saw the victim, Sarge. I didn’t think he was going to make it. As far as I was concerned, we had a murder suspect fleeing the scene. I felt like we had to go after him.”

“What did Harper have to say about this?”

“It was my call, Sarge. I made it. It’s on me.”

“Well, that’s very noble of you. It’s also piss-poor tactics! You could’ve been killed! Both of you!”

See what I mean?

“We know what we’re doing, Sarge. The guy had a knife. One guy, one knife, against the two of us with guns. We weren’t being cowboy about it. We had it covered.”

“Uh-huh. Lynott, are you trying to get yourself killed?”

“No, sir. I was trying to catch a murderer.”

I can’t really get a read on him. That’s not a good sign. But I know Sergeant Hendrickson is a damned good cop, and he appreciates good cops. We’ll be OK on this one. At least, I hope we’ll be OK.

“All right. We’ll talk about this more, later on. For now, you need to get this guy looked at.”

“Are the paramedics still here?”

“They just left with your victim.”

“How’s he doing?”

“He’s circling the drain. They don’t think he’s going to make it. I sent Kursteff to ride in the ambulance with him. He’ll let us know if your guy croaks.”

“Sounds good. We’ll book this guy’s clothing as evidence, along with the knife.”

“Yeah, he’s got a lot of blood on him.”

“Yes, sir. And it isn’t his. He’s our guy.”

“Has our guy got a name?”

“Yeah, his name is ‘I want a lawyer.’”

“There’s a lot of people out here with that name. Write it up and see me when you’re done.”

“Will do, sir.”

“It’s a good catch, Lynott. But I’m not happy about the way you did it. Especially not with you two in Ricky’s crosshairs.”

“I understand, sir. But this guy didn’t have anything to do with Ricky.”

“Probably not. But why take the chance? Go on. We’ll get into this later.”

He’s definitely not finished ragging my ass about this one. I could see he was happy we got the guy, but he didn’t look happy with me. Coming from him, that’s a bad sign. I don’t think he’d make a major case of it on his own, which means he’s probably getting heat from above. I’d hate to think I was responsible for that – I know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of that kind of heat – but I stand by my decision. It’s a different world out here. The rule book was written for the rest of the world. This place needs its own book, and the only way we’re going to get it is to write it ourselves, one page at a time.

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