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Chapter 16: Under Fire

Central Station. That was one pain in the ass booking. We still don’t know who our arrestee is. We got no match on his fingerprints. We had to book him as John Doe. Oh, they’ll figure out who he is, eventually. They almost always do. But I hate leaving work for someone else to do. I also hate the fact that we had to charge him with assault with a deadly weapon instead of murder. The hospital said our victim is going to be in surgery for a few hours. With all of those deep chest wounds, I don’t know how the hell he can survive. It’s going to turn into a homicide case eventually, but for now, we can’t go higher than ADW. That really sucks. And now I have to go see Sergeant Hendrickson to get the rest of “the talk.” I hope he doesn’t make a bigger deal of this than it deserves. So here I go into the captain’s conference room again. I’m really getting to hate this room.

“You asked me to come see you when we were done, Sarge.”

“Yeah, I did. Take a seat.”

“Do you want Harper in here, too?”

“No, just you. Lynott, I’ll get right to it: you took an unnecessary risk going after that guy alone. You two know better than that. You especially know better than that. You don’t do building searches by yourselves, and you sure as hell don’t go after an armed suspect who just stabbed a guy by yourselves. What were you thinking?”

“I was thinking we needed to find the suspect before he got away.”

“You could have sealed off the area and waited for backup. We would’ve gotten him.”

“I’m not so sure of that. You’ve been here longer than I have. You know full well that these people can practically walk through walls. They know this sector better than we ever will. They get into places we don’t think are possible. Another few minutes and our guy would’ve been in the wind.”

“Fair enough. But that’s a risk we have to take. You can’t sacrifice officer safety for a chance to catch the suspect; I don’t care who he is or what he did. All of the suspects in the world aren’t worth the life on one cop, let alone the lives of two cops.”

“We get paid to risk our lives, Sarge. We do it every day. That’s part of the job.”

“Yes, it is. But we don’t get paid to take unnecessary risks. And lately, you seem to be taking a lot of them. I want to know what’s going on with you.”

Yeah, he’s making a bigger deal out of this than he needs to. Damn! I was hoping he was above that shit.

“There’s nothing going on with me, Sarge. It was a judgment call and I made it. I weighed the risks. I thought we had a good chance to catch the guy, so I took it.”

“No, you and Harper took it. You know as well as I do that when you’re a training officer, you’re thinking for two people. You put his life in danger just as much as you put your own life in danger.”

“Harper’s sharp. He knows what he’s doing. So do I.”

“Lynott, I have absolutely no doubts about your ability to do this job. I don’t have any doubts about Harper being able to do the job. You’re both first-rate cops. And that’s why we can’t afford to lose you. Good cops don’t grow on trees.”

I don’t think I’m going to get him to see this my way, but I’m not going to pretend to kick myself over what I did. I don’t have any regrets. I stand by my decision.

“Things are different out here, Sarge. Sometimes the standard procedures aren’t the best option. Whatever we do out here; we’re going to be hopelessly outnumbered. There’s just no getting around that. We have to adapt, and that’s what I did.”

“Why do you feel this overwhelming need to go it alone?”

Is he kidding? He should know the answer to that question as well as I do.

“I think you know the answer to that, Sarge.”

“This is about the Reid shooting, isn’t it?”

Jesus! Does he really have to ask?

“Permission to speak freely, Sarge?”

“Granted. Speak your mind.”

“Yeah, it is. That fucking caper ruined my life. I did that one by the book. I worked as part of a team, just like I was supposed to do. We had plenty of officers there to handle the situation, but Whaley shot Reid for no goddamned reason anyway. And after the shooting, I cooperated with the investigation just like I was supposed to. Look what it got me.”

I don’t think he was expecting me to unload like that. Hey, he asked!

“So from now on, you just don’t trust anyone anymore?”

“I trust very few people anymore.”

“Lynott, I’m not going to bullshit you by saying I know what you went through. It was wrong, plain and simple. I saw the video just like everyone else. You had nothing to do with it. None of you did. They should’ve cleared you from day one, but the politics took over. I’m sorry about how they treated you and I’m sorry about what they put you through, but there’s nothing I can do about it. And you’ve got a right to be angry. The system didn’t work the way it was supposed to. But you can’t use that as an excuse to fly solo. Sooner or later, it’s going to come back to bite you in the ass. And in this shithole, it’s going to be sooner, rather than later.”

He’s right. It’s not his fault. He wasn’t responsible for what happened. But that doesn’t change the fact that I trusted the system to do its job and it fucked me over instead. How do you put that behind you and just go back to the way things were?

“Sarge, I just want to do my job, the best way I know how. I’m a better cop here than anywhere else I’ve ever worked. I get this place. I understand it. I understand the rules here. What I did tonight was the same thing I’ve been doing since I got here: I’ve been taking advantage of that understanding. I don’t expect you to understand that. The truth is, I’m not sure I understand it myself. But I know it’s true.”

And now we see if he thinks I’ve gone completely around the bend.

“You’re right. This place is different from any other division. And not many cops can adapt to it the way you have. Certainly not as fast as you have. But there’s a fine line between understanding this place and getting sucked into it. Part of your problem is that you like it out here too much. I can see it in your eyes. You’re fast becoming too much a part of this place. Believe me, that’s not a good thing. I’ve seen it happen before, and it doesn’t end well. And you and Harper going in after that suspect alone is proof that you’re getting too enamored of it. You’re thinking more like one of them than like one of us. That’s very dangerous.”

He’s right. I am. But I think that’s a good thing. It makes me more effective.

“I appreciate what you’re doing, Sarge. And rest assured, I don’t have a death wish. I just want to do as much as I can.”

“Do you think you’re making up for lost time? Is that it?”

“Maybe. Yeah, that’s probably a part of it.”

“I figured as much. Lynott, you don’t have to do that. You’ve got the rest of your career to make up for last year.”

I guess I have to lay it out for him in no uncertain terms. Because right now, I almost feel like we’re speaking in two different languages.

“Sarge, I get what you’re saying. It’s just…look, it’s hard to explain. It’s just that…it’s just that I did everything right and all I got was a truckload of shit for it. And they were wrong. I was right and they were wrong and it didn’t matter because they didn’t give a shit. I was right then, and I was right tonight when we caught our soon-to-be murder suspect. If you had any idea of what I went through last year, you wouldn’t be so big on doing things by the book, either. I don’t trust the book anymore. Frankly, I think most of it is a crock of shit. Why should I play by the rules when the people who run the show don’t? Maybe my best course of action is to say fuck the book and trust my instincts? They got me this far.”

“Lynott, I get it. I get that you don’t trust the system. I wouldn’t trust it either if I were you. But we’re not talking about the system. We’re talking about officer safety. No matter how much you don’t trust the brass, taking unnecessary risks doesn’t help you. For God’s sake, you’ve already been threatened by a psycho drug dealer. You’ve got enough risks on your plate as it is.”

“I’m not being a cowboy, sir.”

“I didn’t say you were.”

“I know what I’m doing.”

“I never said you didn’t.”

“Sarge, I know it would’ve been better to go in there with more officers. But I believed that we were more than capable of handling the situation based on the information we had. If you start saying ‘what if?’ every time you need to make a decision, you’ll never make one. So if you ask me, the question isn’t ‘Was it the best way to handle the situation?’ The question is ‘Was what we had enough for the situation?’ I thought it was, and I still do. But I understand where you’re coming from. And in the future, I’ll try to do it more by the book. I just hope you understand why I don’t think to highly of the book anymore. Or a lot of other things.”

“I understand perfectly. And I’ll be the first to admit that as to what you said, I don’t have an answer for you.”

And that gives me an idea. This is something that a lot of cops either don’t have the brains or the guts to say to their superiors.

“How much time have you got on the job, Sarge?”

“What difference does that make?”

“Just tell me. How much time?”

“It’ll be twenty-nine years in November.”

“Think about that for a minute: a Sergeant of Police with twenty-nine years on the job hears about your situation and says ‘I don’t have an answer for you.’ If you don’t have an answer with twenty-nine years on the job, then doesn’t that tell you that something is seriously wrong, here? Something must be major league out of the ordinary? How am I supposed to feel about that?”

Oh, he didn’t see that one coming! People on this department love to talk about how much time they have on the job, as if some sort of mystical wisdom comes with having hashmarks up to your elbow. But as you can see, sometimes it can turn around and bite you.

“I don’t know, Lynott. I guess you’re supposed to feel like shit. I would. And you’re right: what happened to you and the officers who were there was unprecedented. They sold you guys out to cover the department’s ass. And if I were you, I wouldn’t believe a word that anyone on the command staff ever said from now on. But I’m not here to talk about how you and your fellow officers got screwed over. We’re talking about tactics, here. We’re talking about officer safety. In twenty-nine years, I’ve been to too many police funerals. I don’t want to go to yours. I need you to stay safe. Your partner needs you to stay safe. That’s all I care about. And that’s the whole point of this conversation. Fair enough?”

“Fair enough.”

“All right, then. We’re good. And don’t think for a minute that I’m trying to get you to slow down. You keep doing the job just the way you’ve been doing it. Just play it a little safer.”

“Will do, Sarge.”

“Good. And if you ever feel the need to vent about what happened, let me know and we’ll grab a drink. That’s the time and place to talk about shit like that.”

“I can’t. You might get dragged into it if I talked to you about it. My lawyer still won’t let me talk to anyone about it. For some people on the department and over at City Hall, it’s not over.”

“You let me worry about that. Now, you’ll be interested to know that Narcotics Division hasn’t released Ricky. I don’t know if they’ve got something on him or what, but I do know that he’s still over at their office.”

“That’s good news. Maybe we’ll be spared his presence for a little while? That would be nice.”

“We can only hope.”

“Sarge, I’ve got a question: everyone on the street says Ricky keeps a gun nearby whenever he’s dealing, but we haven’t found it. I know he’s got it hidden, but I have to figure that it’s somewhere within arm’s reach. Somewhere where he can get to it in a hurry. I think it might be the one he used to kill that dealer. Do you have any idea where he’s got it stashed?”

“No, I don’t. And I’ve looked for it. He’s smart. I’m guessing he moves it around a lot.”

“Where would you stash a gun if you were a dealer at the Big Lot?”

“Oh, hell! There’s a thousand places! In a parking lot? The first thing I’d look for is an old parked car with its hood popped open. A lot of dealers hide guns and dope in the air cleaner, but you can’t do it with the newer models. I’d also look on top of the tires. Some dealers keep a gun resting on one of the tires. You can’t see it unless you’re right on top of it. Others duct tape it up in the wheel well. You might also want to look in any pipes with a hatch big enough to fit a gun. But there are a million other places, too. And there’s always the possibility that he’s got one of his people holding it for him.”

“Well, you’ve given me some ideas. Thanks.”

“Any time. Let me know if you ever do find it.”

“You’ll be the first to know.”

I really want to find Ricky’s gun. Like I said, I’m betting it’s the same gun he used to kill that dealer. John and Angelo said a .38 Super Auto is a status symbol among Mexican dope dealers. I can’t imagine why, but that’s what they said. If that’s true, then Ricky might be stupid enough to hang onto it, even though it’s got a body on it.

Back on patrol. I’ve got mixed feelings about my conversation with Sergeant Hendrickson. He was right: he was talking about officer safety and I was talking about how I don’t really trust anybody anymore. They’re definitely two different things. And there’s no reason why I shouldn’t start trusting the other officers on Midwatch. They all seem to be great cops, and none of them seems to hold what happened in Woodlawn against me. Why can’t I just let it go? No, I’ll never trust anyone on the command staff ever again, but the cops in the field are a different story. I can do without the occasional suck-butt and his feigned outrage over the Reid shooting, but most of the rank-and-file was on our side throughout the whole fucking mess. So why do I have so much trouble trusting any of them? Except for Harper, that is. I trust him with my life. Jesus, I’ve known the guy for about two weeks and I already trust him with my life. How the hell did that happen?

“Hey, Dani? What did Sergeant Hendrickson say about us chasing that guy without backup?”

“He wasn’t happy about it. He thinks I’m taking too many unnecessary risks.”

“I don’t think you are. I don’t think we are.”

“Neither do I. The more I learn about this place, the more I realize that you have to take risks that you wouldn’t take anywhere else. This place is a whole different ballgame, that’s for sure.”

“We know what we’re doing. We can handle it.”

“You’re damned right we can!”

“I’d follow you anywhere, partner.”

You see? This is why I knew going after that guy was the right thing to do. Harper had my back and I had his, and we both knew it. I wouldn’t let anything happen to him, and he wouldn’t let anything happen to me. Once you’ve got that kind of trust between partners, you can accomplish damned near anything. It’s a rare thing, anymore.

“Harper, do you remember that file on Ricky we got from Narcotics?”

“What about it?”

“It said that some of Ricky’s dealers started a new dope spot on Brixton, just north of 5th. How about we go see if any of Ricky’s boys are over there tonight?”

“Good idea. Hit him everywhere we can.”

“Let’s check it out.”

Checking this place should also give us an idea of whether word of what we did at the Big Lot tonight has spread. I’m hoping it has. The more people who are afraid to go near Ricky’s dealers, the sooner he’ll be out of business for good. Also, I want to start taking pictures of the dealers. When I worked the gang unit, we took pictures of all known gang members and put them in photo books – one for each gang. It made it a hell of a lot easier to identify them. The only problem is that the department frowns on patrol officers keeping books like that. They say it’s OK to use booking photos – what most people call mug shots – but not your own photos. But if you do that, you might end up with photos that are several years old. People change. So to hell with the rules. I want to know who these guys are and what they look like. Knowledge is power, and we need as much of it as we can get.

Brixton Street: a dark, four-lane road named after what used to be one of the worst neighborhoods in London. At least, I think that’s what it’s named after. This is one dark street! You’d think the city would spend a few bucks for some more streetlights. Are they trying to encourage the criminals? If so, it’s definitely working. You should see the crime stats in this area.

“Do you see anyone, Harper?”

“There’s a couple of guys over by that low wall.”

“The one in front of the parking lot?”

“That’s the one.”

“I guess we’ll have to start calling this place the Little Lot.”

“I don’t see any junkies. If those guys are dealers, business must suck tonight.”

One thing about being a heroin dealer: you’ve got a captive clientele. They can’t exactly decide to skip their nightly fix. Not if they want to avoid horrendous vomiting and searing pain.

“Pull up in front of the lot, but don’t go in. Let’s have a talk with these guys.”

“You got it.”

I see four guys. They’re not drinking, they’re not smoking, they’re not doing anything except sitting there on that wall. Who the hell would loiter here at this hour? No one. They’ve got to be dope dealers.

“If they take off running, don’t bother to chase them. This is just a reconnaissance mission.”

“Roger that. Are we putting these guys on their knees?”

“Oh, hell yes! I don’t want any of them trying any shit. Especially if they heard about our takedown at the Big Lot.”

“All right. Let’s do it.”

They see us, but they aren’t running. That’s weird. They saw us coming a block away. Even if they’ve got their dope stashed so well that we’ll never find it, it doesn’t make sense that they’re just sitting there waiting for us.

“Harper, stay sharp. I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”

“Do you want to bag it?”

“No, let’s do this. Just keep your eyes and ears open.”

They’re looking right at us, but they’re not moving. It’s like they’re waiting for something. Or someone. This is not your typical dope dealer behavior. That’s definitely a red flag. Well, let’s get it over with. Guns out, stay sharp!

“Police! All of you! Show me your hands! Drop to your knees!”

“Do as she says! All of you, on your knees!”

At least they’re complying. As long as they’re all down on their knees, we have the advantage. They can’t jump up and try any shit before we’d have a chance to react.

“What are you guys doing here?”

Dead silence. I guess they’re all mute. Yeah, right!

“I said, what are you guys doing here?”

“She asked you a question! What are you doing here?”

“No habla Ingles.”

Oh, here we go again! Do they really think we’re going to fall for that shit and just go away?

“Don’t give me that bullshit. I want to know…Jesus Christ!

Gunshots! We’re taking fire!

“Harper get down!”


“Stay down!”

Fuck! I don’t see the shooter! It came from across the street, so it wasn’t any of these guys! Who the hell is shooting at us?

“Harper, take cover!”

“Dani, are you OK?”

“I’m all right! I’m calling for help! Sixteen Central, shots fired! Officer needs help! Shots fired! Brixton, north of 5th Street! The shots are coming from the west side of the street! Do not approach westbound! Repeat: do not approach westbound!”

God damn it! Where the hell is this guy? We can’t shoot back if we don’t have a target! How many rounds were fired? Three. I counted at least three. Shit! Where is he?


He’s still shooting! That one makes four shots! Fuck! Still no fix on the shooter!

“Dani, do you see anything? Do you see the shooter?”

“I’ve got nothing! No fix on the shooter!”

I can hear the sirens in the distance. Help is on the way! Is he still shooting at us? I haven’t heard another shot. Is he waiting for the additional units to show up so he can shoot at them? Fuck! We need to find this guy before he scores a hit!

“Hang on, Harper! We’ve got a unit approaching northbound!”

“Got another one approaching eastbound!”

This fucking sucks! Without a position on the shooter, we can’t direct the arriving units to a position of advantage! They could be sitting ducks even before they get out of their cars! God damn it! Where is this motherfucker?

“Lynott! Harper! What have you got?”

That’s Vinell and Kursteff! Fuck! I can’t even guide them in! I can’t see the fucking gunman!

“Vinell! Shots fired from the west side of the street! Unknown gunman, unknown location! Take cover!”

Good! They’re using the car doors for cover. Not exactly the best shield, but it’s better than nothing!

“Lynott! Is anyone hit?”

“Negative! I’m good! Harper?”

“I’m good! No hits!

“Vinell! Kursteff! Get us an air unit!”

I don’t think this guy’s on the roof. That building is too tall. The shots seem to be coming from someplace level to this one. I don’t think he’s in the building. So where the fuck is he?

“Dani, I think it’s stopped.”

“We can’t be sure. Stay where you are.”

I can hear more units. The whole cavalry’s on the way. But what we really need is that air unit! Where is he? Wait…yes! I hear him! He’s coming in from the northeast. Judging from the sound, I’d say he’s flying awfully low.

“Sixteen Central, this is Air Three. What have you got down there?”

“Air Three, this is Sixteen Central. We have shots fired at officers. Four shots, coming from the west side of the street. No ID on the gunman, no fix on his position.”

“Air Three, roger. Is anyone hurt down there?”

“Negative Air Three. Not yet.”

“Roger that. You guys keep your heads down. We’ll see if we can pinpoint this guy’s location.”

Even if they can’t see him with their spotlight, they might be able to pick him up on infra-red imaging. I hope to God they find his ass so I can fucking kill him myself!

“Sixteen Central, we’ve got no visual, and nothing showing up on infra-red. Could this guy be in a car?”

“Negative, Air Three. We didn’t see or hear any cars pull away. We’re guessing he’s on foot.”

“And you don’t have a description?”

“Negative, Air Three. We don’t even know if it’s just one gunman.”

“Air Three, roger that. We’ll keep looking. Be advised, you’ve got about six additional units heading your way. Four from the north, two from the south.”

“Roger, Air Three. Let us know if any unit attempts to arrive westbound. We don’t want them driving into the gunman’s line of fire. Be advised, we think the shots were fired from a location level to our position.”

“Air Three, roger. You guys just hunker down. We’ll try to flush this guy out.”

Still no more shots. Maybe he ran out of ammo? Or maybe this guy decided it was too dangerous for him to stick around? He’ll probably ditch his gun and try to walk away like nothing happened. And without a physical description, he’ll probably pull it off. Fuck! I don’t want to lose this guy!

Kursteff’s got the best view of the other side of the street, but it doesn’t look like he sees anything, either.

“Lynott! Is it over?”

“I don’t know. Kursteff, you and Vinell try to move behind this wall in front of the parking lot. You’re too easy a target out on the street. Harper and I will cover you.”

“You got it! Rob, you go first! Stay low and move fast!”

There he goes. Our gunman isn’t shooting at Vinell, even though he’s out in the open. That’s a good sign. If he were still trying to kill us, then he wouldn’t have passed up an easy shot like that.

“Sixteen Central, we’ve got nothing on this side of the street. It looks like there are a lot of places this guy could have gone to. I hate to say it, but he’s probably in the wind.”

“Roger that. Stick around until we get a sergeant here. We’re going to have to do a search for this guy.”

“Sixteen Central, roger. Standing by.”

There’s no way we’ll get a K9 unit at this hour. Without one, the odds of finding this guy are pretty slim. We don’t even know where to look for him! Jesus, who the hell could be shooting at us? It’s not like the homeless have a lot of guns. It’s got to be someone else. A dope dealer? Maybe. It didn’t come from a car, that’s for sure. There weren’t any passing cars. Whoever it was, they got pretty close. I heard some of the shots hit near us, but I don’t know where. Is this guy finished? He could be waiting for more of us to show up. Fuck! I hate it when I don’t know what’s going on!

“Harper, do you have any idea where this guy might be?”

“I’m not sure. I think it came from that corner, but I didn’t see anyone.”

He’s probably right. I can’t believe it came from inside that building. Not at this hour. Hell, I don’t think those windows even open, so you can’t just shoot through them. Someone could’ve cranked off a few rounds from that corner and then took off running. There are plenty of good hiding places just west of there; especially with all of the construction sites.

“Dani, we’ve got a sergeant here.”

Sergeant Hendrickson. Good. He’ll decide how he wants to set up a search. At least he can’t rag on me for bad tactics this time. Hell, we didn’t have a chance to do anything except take cover and hide! How’s that for tactics?

“Lynott! Harper! Are you guys all right?”

“We’re fine, Sarge. We’ve got four shots from the west side of the street. We didn’t see the shooter. We’re not sure exactly where the shots came from. Maybe that corner over there? There haven’t been any shots for about a minute, now. The air unit didn’t find anything.”

“Who have we got, here?”

“Kursteff and Vinell are by that wall. Rosen and Ruiz are just north of us, west side of the street. I saw them pull up. I heard some other units setting up one block south and one block north, I think. I’m not sure who they are.”

“So we’ve got the makings of a perimeter?”

“Yeah, but we don’t know where the shooter is. We started taking fire almost as soon as we got out of the car. We never saw the shooter.”

“Are you sure no one’s hurt?”

“We’re fine. He didn’t hit us.”

“Sounds good. I’ll notify the Watch Commander that we’re going to need more units. We’re going to set up a staging area half a block north of here. There’s no way we’re going to get a K9 at this hour. We’ll have to do it ourselves.”

“You’d better reserve us a tac frequency, Sarge. We’re going to be using up a lot of air time.”

All right: where the hell would I go if I were this guy? I’ve just taken a shot at a couple of cops. They didn’t see me, they don’t know exactly where I was, and they don’t know what I look like. So what do I do? If I’m on foot, there’s no way to get out of here in a hurry. So my best bet is to blend in. Lose myself in the crowd of homeless guys. But maybe the cops saw me, so I get rid of my shirt or jacket if I can. More important, I get rid of the gun. I wipe it down and toss it away. That way, if I get stopped by the cops, I don’t have a weapon on me. Yeah, that’s probably what he did. Fuck! Finding this guy is going to be like finding a needle in a stack of needles! Maybe someone else saw the shooter? No, I doubt it. If we had any good witnesses, we’d have heard from them by now. And our dope dealers by the wall are all in the wind. No, we’re on our own with this one. At least we’ve got Sergeant Hendrickson. He’ll want to get this guy as much as we do. Believe it or not, I’ve known sergeants who would call the whole thing off without a search. They’d figure the guy took off, so why bother? Yeah, that’s a great way to look out for your people! Sergeant Hendrickson’s definitely taking charge of this thing. Good. That’s how the book says you do it, and that’s what he wants.

“Lynott! Harper! Kursteff! Vinell! I want to go over to that corner and lock it down. Everyone listen up! Lynott says that might’ve been the shooter’s position when he fired. If we can pinpoint his last location, we can figure out where he went. We’ll cross the street north of here, move down along the sidewalk, and deploy on the corner. Let’s go!”

If our guy was shooting from that corner, there should be empty shell casings. Unless he used a revolver. I don’t think it was a rifle. The shots weren’t loud enough. Harper’s got the shotgun. Good. A little superior firepower never hurts. We’re almost there. I don’t expect this asshole to be waiting for us, but you never know. I’ll have Harper clear the corner before the rest of us move in.

“Harper, take the lead. You’ve got the shotgun. Take a quick look around that corner and make sure it’s clear.”

“Roger that. Stand by!”


No shots. No suspect. So far, so good.

“It’s clear! No one there!”

That figures. But was this the asshole’s firing position? Oh, yeah! We’ve got empty casings on the sidewalk! He was shooting from right here! Good call, Harper!

“Sarge! We’ve got empty casings! I’ve got two on the sidewalk, one…no, two in the gutter. Our guy was standing right here when he opened up on us.”

“That’s not all we’ve got! Dani, check it out!”

“What did you find, Harper?”

“This. In the trash can.”

A handgun. Semi-automatic. Good work, Harper! I was right: the guy tossed the gun as soon as he was finished.

“What kind of gun is it?”

“A .380 Auto. Mouse gun. No wonder he didn’t hit us.”

This corner is about thirty to thirty-five yards from our car. Yeah, that’s asking a lot from a little .380. Especially if the shooter’s firing under stress, and shooting at the police is a pretty stressful undertaking.

“Sarge, Harper found the gun.”

“Good work. Secure it. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover. I want to clear this sidewalk down to the next block. After that, we go back to the staging area and do a proper search.”

At least we found the gun. That’s something. But as for finding the gunman? Not likely. Still, I’m not giving up hope. This is definitely going to be a long night.

Central Station. Wrapping it up for the night. Three hours overtime, four city blocks shut down, the whole bureau on Tac Alert, and we come up empty. Well, except for the gun and four casings. Talk about frustrating! Some asshole opens up on us from across the street, and we don’t know who he is or why he did it. But I’m starting to wonder: those were Ricky’s dealers we were investigating. They didn’t run or try to hide anything when we showed up. And they were gone as soon as the shooting stopped. Could they have known someone was across the street and he was going to open fire on us? The more I think about it, the more I think that’s exactly what happened. They gunman might have been a bodyguard for the dealers. They knew he was there, they knew he’d open fire if the cops jacked them up, so why bother running away? But why would a dope dealer’s bodyguard shoot at the police over a routine stop and frisk? I can’t believe this had anything to do with Ricky’s bragging about having us killed, but I can’t rule it out, either. Of course, if Ricky wants to kill us, he’s going to have to find a smarter and better shot than that.

“Dani! Come check this out!”

Harper seems excited. What could be so exciting at six in the morning?

“What’s so interesting?”

“In the parking lot! You’ve got to see this!”

Watch this: he probably found somebody else with a classic muscle car and he wants to rub my nose in it. What a gearhead!

“Check it out, Dani! How’s that for close?”

OK, this has nothing to do with muscle cars. Holy shit! That’s our police car! With bullet holes in it!

“One shot hit the roof and the other one hit the left side, just over the front wheel!”

So two of the four shots that asshole fired at us hit the car. Damn! Harper was standing about two feet from where that bullet hole in the side is! I guess the guy was a better shot than I thought.

“The one that grazed the roof must have been aimed at you. It’s right over the passenger side door.”

“Yeah, but I was already on the sidewalk when the shooting started. That one in the side got a lot closer to you. Are there any other hits?”

“Just these two. I didn’t even see them until I came out here to clear out the car.”

Yeah, when you work at night, you can miss things like that. Does the Daywatch Watch Commander know?”

“I was just about to tell him.”

“Let him know. They’ll probably take the car out of service.”

“I already gave the keys to a Daywatch unit.”

“Then they’ll have to get another one. Right now, this is evidence.”

The fact that they hit the car will put everyone on edge. Some yahoo taking pot shots at the police; that’s one thing. But bullet holes in a police car definitely takes it up a notch. Being able to touch them makes it all very real.

“Did you get anything on the gun?”

“It’s not in the system. The shell casings were .380 Auto. I doubt it’s a coincidence.”

“Yeah, our gunman tossed it as soon as he figured he didn’t have a shot anymore. I thought he might do that.”

“Do you think it was one of Ricky’s boys?”

“Those were Ricky’s dealers. Like I said, I doubt it’s a coincidence.”

“So Ricky’s making good on his threat?”

“Maybe. It was pretty dark where we stopped. That gunman was firing from a lighted street corner. I don’t think he got a good look at us.”

“So, he was just shooting at any cops who happened to come by?”

“At this point, we just don’t know. We might never know.”

And like I said before, I hate not knowing things. I’m almost sure it means something. Contrary to what you see on TV, bad guys don’t normally shoot at the police. Especially like that. That was an ambush shooting. It could be nothing, but I don’t think so. We know Ricky put the word out on us. Maybe one of his more idiotic boys tried to impress him? And if that’s the case, then how many more of them are out there?

“It’s been a hell of a night, hasn’t it, Harper?”

“Never a dull moment with you. But that’s OK. I like it like that.”

“So do I. And if someone’s going to shoot at me, I want a partner I can depend on. That’s why I’m glad to have you around. You’re very dependable.”

“Likewise. Do you think they’ll shoot at us tomorrow?”

“I don’t know. But if they do, the next one isn’t getting away. No fucking way in the world.”

It’s easy to say that, but making good on it is something else. One thing you learn as a police officer: the bad guys have most of the advantages, and they get away with it more often than you’d think. It really sucks, and you never get used to it.

Home again! Finally! I can’t believe it’s almost eight in the morning. The sun’s beating down, and this heatwave is making it hotter than hell even this early. I almost wish I’d left the air conditioner running in my apartment. I hope it’s not too hot in there already. If it is, then rest assured, Zephyr will make me pay for it. He’ll give me a look like I’m the cruelest cat mommy in history. I don’t know where he learned how to do that, but he’s got it down perfectly. He can make me feel like absolute shit with just a glance.

“Zephyr! I’m home! Where are you?”

It’s pretty warm in here. He’s probably in the bathroom. That’s the coolest place in the apartment.

“Are you in here? There you are. Parked in the tub, just like I figured. Come on, I’ll turn on the air conditioner. Are you hungry? You must be hungry. You were expecting dinner hours ago.”

God, my clothes are sticking to me! Hurry up, air conditioner! I’m melting, here! Hey, isn’t that what the Wicked Witch said when Dorothy threw the water on her? I’d better never say I’m melting to Harper. He’ll never let me hear the end of it. He really seems to like those witch jokes.

“Eat up, you little pig. I’m going to peel these clothes off. I’m sweating so much, I’ll bet I could ring them out. God, I am so tired! Hey, guess what happened tonight? Some asshole shot at your mom. He missed. Bad guys don’t practice like your mom does. That’s a good thing.”

Speaking of mom, I guess I should call my mom. I’m not going to tell her I got shot at. She’d completely freak. There’s no need to put that image in her head.

“Hi, mom. It’s Dani. How goes everything?”

“Fine, honey. How are you?”

What am I supposed to say? I’m fine, except a drug dealer threatened to have me and my partner killed, and some asshole tried to make good on it last night; barely missing us by a few feet? I don’t think so.

“I’m fine. I’m sweating to death, but I’m fine.”

“It’s still very hot out there?”

“Yeah, this heatwave won’t let up. It’s definitely keeping us busy.”

“How does a heatwave keep you busy?”

“Because people who live on the street don’t have air conditioning. They have to stay outside in the heat, and it makes them crazy. Crazier than usual, I mean.”

“So you’re still working in that horrible place?”

Does she really think I was transferred in the last week? No, but she hopes I’ve been transferred. That’s a mom for you.

“Yes, mom, I’m still there. I like it. It’s exciting.”

“I don’t care if it’s exciting. It’s dangerous. I’ve been reading about what happens on skid row. It’s awful.”

Oh, God! I should’ve seen this coming! It’s kind of a thing with her. She does it all the time. She fixates on something horrible and then she reads everything she can on the subject. That just makes it worse.

“Mom, stop reading about it.”

“I can’t. The thought of you working there really upsets me.”

See what I mean? I wish I had a nickel for every time she’s done this to me in my life.

“Mom, this is like the time when I found that little Rottweiler puppy and wanted to keep him. Remember that? I had him for two days, and you looked up every horrible news story about ‘Rottweiler eats family of five!’ All you did was make yourself crazy.”

“I made you get rid of that vicious dog, didn’t I?”

“He wasn’t vicious, mom. He was a sweetheart. You know, I cried when you made me give him away.”

“Dani, you were eight. You cried about a lot of things.”

I’m not going to win this one. She’s been doing this since before I was born. She’s got it down to a science.

“I still miss that dog, you know.”

Sorry, Zephyr. I’m not ragging on you, but I love dogs.

“Well, can’t you work with dogs on the police force? That would be much better than working around a lot of crazy people.”

“I’ve thought about trying out for the K9 unit. I’d have to find a place to live that takes dogs, though.”

“That would be wonderful! You could take the dog to schools and talk to the children. Oh, you really should try for that.”

“Mom, that’s not what the K9 unit does.”

“But I’ve seen them on the news.”

“That’s a public relations stunt on TV. I work in the real world.”

“So what do they do?”

This is going to kill her, but hey, she asked. Get ready to have your oh-so-cute doggie bubble burst, mom!

“They search for high-risk suspects that just ran from the police. A lot of them are armed and dangerous. The dog tracks them down and if they don’t surrender, the dog bites them.”

“That’s horrible! Oh, those poor dogs! To make them do that! It’s…”

“The dogs actually seem to enjoy it, mom. And they’re well-protected.”

“But what if someone tries to hurt the dog? You said those people were armed? What if one of them tries to injure the poor dog?”

“Then we blow his brains out.”

“Oh, my God! Dani, don’t say things like that!”

I told you. But she asked, right?

“It’s true, mom. We’re not going to let them hurt the dog.”

“I don’t believe they actually do that, Dani.”

“Believe it. The K9 handlers shoot more people than the SWAT team. It’s a pretty dangerous job.”

“Then why would you want to do it?”

“For the same reason I like working on skid row: it’s exciting, and you’re right in the middle of it all. Plus, you’re getting the worst kinds of criminals off of the streets.”

“That is not a healthy way to think, Dani!”

Jesus! I should introduce her to Sergeant Hendrickson! They’re definitely on the same page about that one. No, that’s a terrible idea. They might like each other, and the next thing I know, he’s my stepfather. Yikes! There’s an image I don’t need in my head!

“It’s OK, mom. Things are going pretty good for me. Sometimes I feel like the weight of the world is finally off my shoulders. It’s a nice change.”

“Well, I’m glad to hear that. But I’m not glad to hear that you like this dangerous work so much. I know how wrapped up in things you get, Dani. You focus on something and suddenly it’s the only thing in your life. You’ve always been like that.”

“I know.”

“And now you’re all wrapped up in this dangerous work, in that terrible place! It’s not good for you!”

“I’m happy, mom. For the first time in a long time, I’m happy with the way things are going.”

“The way what things are going? Do you even have anything going on besides your work?”

Oh, here we go again! Why aren’t you married, Dani? Why don’t I have grandchildren, Dani? What the fuck is your problem, Dani? Stand by!

“Zephyr would be angry if he heard you say that.”

“I’m serious, Dani! All you ever talk about anymore is your work and how much you love working in a cesspool. It’s like all you’ve got anymore is your work. You know what that got you. Do you remember what you were like, all last year? Is that what you want for the rest of your life?”

“I don’t know about the rest of my life. But it’s what I want now. Why is that so difficult for you to accept?”

“Because you’re my daughter and I love you, that’s why. Your whole life is passing you by and you don’t even notice it. You’re almost thirty-three. You have no friends outside of work, you never go out, you don’t have a boyfriend…”

“You mean I’m not married and I haven’t given you any grandchildren? Is that what this is about?”

“No, Dani! It isn’t. It’s about you. It’s about how you can’t see yourself beyond being a police officer. It’s about how you can’t stand the idea of being anything else. You’ve got nothing in your life beyond that job. I’ve seen what it’s done to you. Even when you’re not working, you’re mind’s there. You can’t think about anything else. You don’t want to think about anything else. That job has swallowed you up and you don’t even care.”

Yeah, she definitely sounds like Sergeant Hendrickson.

“Mom, I like what I do. I’m good at it. I make a difference. It’s important.”

“But it doesn’t have to be your whole life.”

“It isn’t.”

“Then tell me what else you’ve got? What else do you have going on in your life? What do you do when you’re not at work?”

“I’ve got…I do plenty of things, mom.”

“Name one. And don’t say ‘I take care of the cat.’ When was the last time you went on a date?”


“When? Just tell me. When was the last time you went out on a date? When was the last time you got together for five minutes with anyone who wasn’t a police officer? Just for coffee?”

“I had breakfast with Carol about a week ago. There! Are you happy?”

“Was it planned, or did you just happen to run into her?”

How the hell does she know I just ran into her? How could she know…oh, I don’t fucking believe this!

“Did she call you? Did Carol call you?”

“No, I called her. I was worried about you, and I know you two used to be friends.”

“We’re still friends! And how…how did you get her number?”

“I’ve had her number for a while. You gave it to me in case of an emergency, remember? You don’t have any family out there. I called her, and she said she’s worried about you, too.”

What the hell would Carol have to be worried about? We sat and talked, that’s all. Everything was fine. What’s going on?

“What did Carol tell you?”

“She said you looked terrible. She said you had a big scratch across your eye, and you didn’t even care. She said you looked like you were getting ready to go to war. First thing in the morning and your hair was a mess, you were wearing a gun belt and combat boots. Since when do you wear combat boots?”

“They were…I wear them with my uniform, mom.”

“You weren’t wearing your uniform. You were off-duty. Carol said you looked like you were dressed for a raid. She said you looked almost like one of those people you talk about on skid row. Dani, what’s happening to you? You never used to look like that.”

“I’d just gotten off of work. I didn’t much feel like doing my hair and makeup when I was going to go to sleep, OK?”

“When was the last time you even wore makeup? When was the last time you wore something nice? Or do you even have any nice clothes left? Did you get rid of them all?”

I don’t believe this! Where the hell is this coming from?

“Mom, take it easy. Everything’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with me. I promise.”

“Everything isn’t fine, Dani. I’m your mother. I know you.”

“Mom, you really need to…”

“No, you need to listen to me. I’m really worried about you, Dani. I’m worried that now that you’re back on patrol, you’re throwing yourself into it so much that you can’t imagine anything else in your life. You’re too involved in that job, Dani. And it’s not good for you. You used to tell me what you did at work. You don’t anymore. You never tell me much about your work. Why? What changed? What did you do last night? Tell me about your work last night. What did you do?”

“I really don’t want to go into it right now.”

“Why not? What don’t you want me to know? Why don’t you want to talk about it?”

“I don’t want to upset you, that’s why.”

“What would upset me? What did you do? Tell me.”

Fuck this! If she wants to know, fine! I’ll tell her!

“Well, let’s see: first, we raided a major drug spot and took a bunch of people to jail for a lot of chickenshit charges. Oh, and the head dealer? Yeah, he almost certainly murdered a guy recently, but we can’t pin it on him. Then I saw a guy come out of an alley with about half a dozen stab wounds in his chest. We chased the guy who stabbed him into a building and caught him trying to climb up into the ceiling. We had to pull him out. He’d ditched his shirt because it was so completely soaked with the victim’s blood that he stood out like a sore thumb. The guy he stabbed is almost certainly going to die. Then we tried to jack up a few dope dealers, and some asshole across the street started shooting at us! He hit the car a few times, but he missed us. He almost got Harper, though. We looked for him, but he was long gone. He’s still out there. We got his gun, but he’s probably got another one by now. That was pretty much it. Satisfied?”

Yeah, that’s what I figured: dead silence. Right now, she’s trying to decide if I’m making all of it up just to piss her off. She’ll figure out that I’m not in about a second or two.

“Someone shot at you?”

“He shot at me and Harper. He came closer to hitting Harper than he did to me. But don’t worry, mom. Harper’s just like me: he lives for the job. He’s got no wife, no kids, no girlfriend. He doesn’t even have a cat. He’s got a really cool car, though. Dad would’ve killed for one like it. He restored it himself. I guess that means he’s got a life.”

“Dani, this isn’t funny. You’re saying someone tried to kill the two of you? Are you telling me the truth?”

“Yes, I’m telling you the truth. Someone shot at us. It isn’t the first time it’s happened to me, and it won’t be the last. That’s part of being a police officer. Sometimes people shoot at you. It’s nothing personal; they just don’t like the police. Or they don’t want to go to jail. You wanted to know what happened last night? That’s what happened. Just another night on glorious skid row.”

“And you think that’s exciting?”

“As a matter of fact, yes. I do. But I don’t let it get the best of me. I’m a good cop, mom. I know what I’m doing. I’ve got a good partner. He’s only got a year on the job, but you’d think he’s got as much time as I have. We work great together. I trust him. He trusts me.”

“Is this the same partner you told me about?”

“Yes, mom. It’s the same partner. His name is Harper. Ryan Harper. I told you about him.”

“He’s the Marine?”

“Yes. He was a Marine. I guess he still is. Working with him, I’ve learned how you never really leave the Marines. Once you’re a Marine, you’re a Marine for life. That’s Harper. He’s a Marine, through-and-through.”

“How old is he?”

“What difference does that make?”

“I’m just asking. How old is he?”

Now that she mentioned it, that’s a very good question. To be honest, I’m not sure. I never asked him. I think he’s only a couple of years younger than me, but I really don’t know. He’s definitely older than your average boot, that’s for sure. It’s funny. I never really thought about it before.

“I don’t know. He’s maybe…twenty-eight? Maybe thirty? Something like that.”

“And he’s just starting out on the police force?”

“Well, he was in the Marines. He went to Iraq. I think he went to college after that. So yeah, he got sort of a late start.”

“So he’s about the same age as you, right?”

“I guess so. I don’t know. He’s maybe…I don’t know, two or three years younger than me? Something like that. Why do you want to know?”

“Well, you seem to like him. And you said he was single and he doesn’t have a girlfriend, so…”

“Are you shitting me? Mom!

“I’m just suggesting…”

“Don’t suggest! For God’s sake!”

As God is my witness, I’m going to kill her! It’s the only way to make it stop! Forgive me, Lord, but it has to be done! There’s just no other way! It has to stop!

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