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Chapter 17: Breaking All the Rules

Central Station. Ready for another shift. We’re already getting ready to hit the street. Roll call took about thirty seconds because they want us out in the field right away. That’s understandable. Some asshole shot at us last night. When some asshole shoots at the police and gets away with it, they want a real show of force on the street. Maybe we got lucky and he died of heatstroke? It was 113 degrees at noon, and I think it’s dropped all the way down to 110 or so. If this heatwave keeps up, we’re going to set a record in this division for the most stabbings and beatings in a single year. They had three more today, and the night’s young. Hell, the sun isn’t even down yet. Just wait until the homeless zombies think nobody can see them. It’ll be a free-for-all! I didn’t think it was possible, but the people out here are getting even crazier by the day. I’m beginning to think that the psychiatrists are going to have to come up with a whole new level of insanity to describe what’s happening in this division. Our little world gone mad has gone even madder. I’ll bet they never had to deal with this shit in Dorothy’s Emerald City. With what happens in the streets and alleys around here, this place takes evil to a whole new level. The things that have happened out here lately would put the Wicked Witch of the West to shame.

I’m still pretty burned up about not catching that asshole who shot at us. I’m about ninety percent sure it was one of Ricky’s boys trying to make good on Ricky’s threat to have us killed, but since we didn’t catch the guy, I can’t be one hundred percent sure. But the important thing is, if someone’s crazy enough to try it once, then maybe someone else will try it, too? They didn’t say if Ricky was offering any money for getting rid of us. That’s kind of strange when you think about it. Wouldn’t a killer expect to be paid for killing two cops? I wonder how much these assholes think we’d be worth dead? I’d like to think that if someone were going to pay to have me and Harper killed, we’d be worth a decent price.

Whatever the deal is, I can’t worry about it. We’ve got a shift ahead of us tonight, and I want to fuck with more of these dope dealers. They don’t even have to be Ricky’s dealers. Hell, I don’t even know if Ricky’s out on the street. Maybe Detective Godfrey found something to charge him with? Maybe he’s in jail? If so, good riddance! Of course, he can afford bail. Oh, well. If he’s not in jail, we’ll probably see him sometime later at the Big Lot.

“Harper, are we ready to go?”

“We’re set. The car’s gassed up and our stuff’s loaded. Too bad the nice cars are already gone. What’s on the agenda tonight?”

“I want to go back to those shithole hotels and see if we can get a few more dealers.”

“Good. That’s exactly what I want to do. I figure we’ll have better luck there than on the street. Do you want to stop any crackheads or junkies and see if they’ve got any room numbers?”

“It worked before, so we should give it another try. But I’m thinking: after what happened to our friend Jorge, they might not be willing to open the door for us.”

“How do you want to handle it?”

“Drive us over to my car. I brought a little something to take care of that.”

This is a little trick I picked up years ago when I was working the gang unit. It’s not exactly an approved method – to say the least – but it works. And like I said before, the rules are different out here. If you want to get results, you have to improvise. You also have to keep it quiet. The brass doesn’t seem to understand how things work out here. You can’t exactly play it according to Hoyle, as my dad used to say.

And there’s my poor little Honda, parked on a side street a block and a half away from the station. I sometimes wonder if it’s going to be here when I come back to get it. In this area, that’s a pretty big “if.”

“OK, Dani. We’re here. What’s in the car?”

“A little piece of equipment they don’t issue you at the academy.”

“All right, you’ve got me curious.”

I put it in the trunk so nobody who walks by would steal it. These homeless guys? They’d snatch it in a heartbeat.

“It’s to help us in case they don’t want to open the door. Ta-da!”

“Jesus, Dani! Are you kidding me? A sledgehammer?”

I guess most guys find the sight of a girl with a sledgehammer a bit unusual. Then again, there’s probably an entire porn site dedicated to it.

“Yeah. It works great. And it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than a battering ram. Those things cost about three hundred bucks. This sucker was thirty bucks. So if I have to ditch it, I’m not going to cry over that.”

“How much does it weigh?”

“Well, I’m not a six-foot-two Marine, so it’s twelve pounds. But it’ll take a door off of the hinges with one good crack.”

“How come you taped the handle? Is that for a better grip?”

“Not exactly. It’s cloth tape. No fingerprints.”

“I see. So I take it this isn’t exactly authorized?”

“Not even close. So officially, this thing isn’t here and you never saw it. Got it?”

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

“You know, it’s a real pleasure to work with you, Harper. You’re about the only partner I’ve ever had who doesn’t need me to explain things like this. You seem to get it right away.”

“Coming from you, that’s high praise.”

“Well, you deserve it. I mean that. So shall we go knock on a few doors?”

“You got it. Toss that thing that isn’t here in the trunk and let’s get to work.”

I haven’t used this thing in a long time, but I’ve got some fond memories of doors flying off of the hinges during search warrants. This should be fun!

Our first stop of the night: that same shithole where we caught Jorge. This is the logical place to begin, since we don’t need a warrant to go into these rooms. No one is supposed to be in here, so they can’t exactly claim an expectation of privacy. No expectation of privacy; no need for a warrant. Oh, the real owner of the building could complain, but he won’t. With all of the shit that happens here, he’s lucky he’s not in jail himself.

“Harper, check it out! East side of the building, second floor. Third window from the street.”

“I see it.”

They’ve got newspaper covering the window, but you can see that someone’s got a light in there. That’s reason to believe that someone’s in there. That’s as good as any a place to start. Yeah, it could be some homeless guy squatting in there, but so what? If he’s not dealing dope, we just let him go and move on to the next one. But the other windows don’t seem to be covered, so that tells me that whoever is in there doesn’t want anyone to see what he’s doing. I don’t think a homeless guy would go to all of that trouble. And in a place like this, that’s probable cause as far as I’m concerned.

“Seeing as you’re bigger than me, you won’t mind swinging the hammer?”

“Not at all.”

“Good. Now, if we have to take the door down, you knock it down and toss that hammer back right away. Then grab your gun and move in.”

“You want to take the shotgun?”

“Not in here. Those rooms are really small. It’s easier to move a pistol around. I don’t want us getting hung up with a long weapon in a confined space.”

“Good thinking. You’d have made a fine Marine. Too bad they don’t issue us those short-barreled shotguns.”

“Keep dreaming. Those are for SWAT guys and special detective units only. We never get the really cool toys. OK, just like before: radios down, controlled use of flashlights if we need them, and for God’s sake, watch your back.”

“Roger that. I’ve put us code six at this location in case we need help.”

“Sounds good. Let’s go catch a dope dealer.”

It’s funny when you think about it, how they set up in here. When I was working the gang unit and we were going after dope dealers in apartments, they always picked a room out front with a window looking out on the street. That way, they could post a lookout and see us coming. Some of them even poured crushed nut shells on the floor so that when anybody stepped on them, they’d hear it and know someone was coming. But not here. That guy’s three rooms back from the front of the building. He can’t see shit from where he is. And there’s no lookout in front of the building. It’s like he’s built the perfect trap for himself. Hey, just ask Jorge. Whoever’s in there might be sharing a cell with him after tonight.

The front door is wide open, which is not surprising. There are probably a few homeless guys and junkies in there. Then again, they’d be better off outside. Just standing in front of the door, I can tell it’s a lot hotter in there than it is out here right now. That’s the heatwave for you. It’s probably like an oven on those upper floors.

“Ready, Harper?”

“I’m ready. What do you see in there?”

“The main hallway’s clear. I don’t hear anyone.”

“They’re in there. Count on it.”

“I know. Now, our target is on the right side of the second floor hallway. Third room from the front. The stairway’s in the back, so we’ll have to come up the hall to get there.”

“These bare wooden floors are going to make a lot of noise.”

“I know. Try to be as quiet as you can. Keep your eyes open. We don’t know what we’re going to find in there.”

“Got it. Lead the way.”

Harper’s right about these floors. They’re bare wooden boards, and half of them are coming loose. They make a shitload of noise when you walk on them. I know it seems louder to us than it really is, but I’ve discovered that the homeless are incredibly sensitive to noises. They have to be. They can’t afford to have people sneaking up on them. There are a lot of really smart people living out here on the street. People think the homeless are a bunch of idiots, but they’re not. These people can run rings around the average gangbanger. That’s to be expected. Out here, mistakes can get you killed very easily and very painfully. The stakes are a lot higher. You either adapt or you die.

“Up the stairs. Don’t let that hammer bang into anything. They’ll hear it a mile away.”

It’s just like the last time. There are rats running everywhere. This staircase looks like someone set off a bomb on it. I’m guessing whoever owns this dump tried to destroy it so that people couldn’t get upstairs. If that’s the case, then it didn’t work. God, we’re really taking our lives in our hands by coming in here! I’m not talking about the people hiding in here. The fucking building is more likely to kill us! They ought to just bulldoze the place.

“One, two, three. That’s it. The third door.”

“It’s closed. It might even be barricaded.”

“That’s why you’ve got the hammer. We’ll deploy on either side of the door. Hit it on the high hinge, strike downward. If the door is locked at the latch, it’ll take the door straight down.”

“Got it.”

“Remember: ditch the hammer as soon as you make the hit. We need to get in there fast. We don’t want to give whoever’s in there a chance to react.”

“I’m ready.”

“OK. On three. One…two…three!”

Nice shot! I said that thing would do the trick! He took the whole damned door down! Yes! We’ve got people in here!

“Police! Let me see your hands! Hands in the air! Do it! Now!”

“You heard her! Hands in the air!”

“Harper, we’ve got two people!”

“I see them!”

“Both of you! Drop to your knees! Now!”

We got them by surprise! They’re too freaked out to try anything! Perfect! They’re giving up!

“All right! All right! Just don’t shoot! It’s cool! Don’t shoot!”

“Do as we say and we won’t! Keep your hands where we can see them!”

I don’t see anyone else, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t anyone else. We need to get these guys cuffed so we can search the place.

“Harper, cover me! I’ll hook these guys up!”

“I’ve got your back!”

One look at these guys and I can tell they’re not homeless. Far from it. Expensive clothes, expensive shoes, and they’re both clean-shaven. They’re here for a reason. Gee, I wonder what that could be?

“They’re hooked. You! On your feet! Spread your legs! Do you have any weapons?”

“I ain’t got nothing, Officer.”

They’re both black guys. That tells me they don’t work for Ricky. The file on Ricky said he doesn’t hire black guys. He’s something of a racist. OK, no weapons on this guy. Let’s hope the other guy doesn’t have any surprises.

“Over there! Move! You! On your feet! Do you have any weapons on you?”

No answer. That’s not good!

“I said, do you have any weapons?”

Still nothing. That’s a definite red flag. Let’s see what he’s got. Nothing in his waistband. His pockets? Oh, shit!

“Gun, Harper!”

He’s got a gun in his pocket!

“Don’t move! You move; my partner shoots your ass! Drop to your knees! Now!”

Let’s see what we’ve got here. Damn! This is no mouse gun! This is some serious shit!

“I’ve got it! A Sig-Sauer. Forty caliber. Nice gun. Where’d you get it?”

I see he’s still giving me the silent treatment.

“I asked you a question. Where’d you get the gun?”

He’s not saying a word. This guy’s obviously pretty hardcore. He may be cuffed and disarmed, but I’m not taking any chances with him.

“You! On your knees, just like your friend! Harper, watch these guys! If they try anything…”

“I’ll shoot them both in the head!”

“He’ll do it, too! So don’t try any shit!”

All right, we’ve got our dealers. So where’s the dope? There aren’t any chairs like Jorge used to hide his dope, but I didn’t think we’d get that lucky twice. But there are still plenty of places around here to hide it. Our friend isn’t carrying a cannon because he’s afraid of the rats.

“Dani! Check that bag on the window sill!”

Nice catch, Harper! I didn’t even notice it. A ratty cloth bag doesn’t exactly stand out in this place. But I’m beginning to think that they put in on the window sill so that in case the cops show up, they could toss it out the window before we saw it – usually into the waiting arms of someone who can run as fast as Signolo. That’s what the gangbanger dope dealers do. Too bad they were too stupid to post a lookout in front of the building. So what have we got in here? Oh, my God!

“Son of a bitch! Look at this shit!”


“No. It’s money. A lot of it. I take it this belongs to you guys?”

“I ain’t never seen that before.”

Our first suspect sounds off, but the guy with the gun is still keeping his mouth shut.

“So what are you saying? It just magically appeared in this bombed-out hotel?”

“I don’t know nothing about it.”

“Yeah, sure you don’t.”

Since the other guy is still giving us the silent treatment, I’m guessing that means he’s got the most to hide and the most to lose. I need to keep an eye on him.

“Hey, Officer! Why don’t you and your partner just take that and let us go? We won’t tell anyone.”

He’s trying to bribe us? Jesus, I haven’t heard that in a while!

“Sorry. We don’t do that. But thanks for the offer.”

“Come on! Just take it and go! We won’t say nothing! That’s more than the two of you make in a month!”

“Bribery is illegal. You just bought yourself another charge.”

“Oh, fuck you, lady!”

“I think I’ll pass on that, too. What else are you hiding in here?”

And now they’re both giving us the silent treatment. There’s got to be a few grand in this bag. That tells me they weren’t here to sell dope. No, they were here to buy it. So where’s the seller?

“Let’s finish searching this place and get these guys back to the station.”

“You got it, partner. Let’s go, guys. You’re going to jail.”

“For what?”

“You mean besides attempted bribery, trespass, and carrying a concealed weapon?”

“Oh, fuck you both!”

“Come on, move it! Outside! Now!”

Did we get here early? Before the seller showed up with the dope? If so, I want to be waiting here when he shows up. But I think we’d better take Sergeant Hendrickson’s advice and get some serious backup. We surprised these guys. There’s no guarantee we’ll surprise the seller.

Catching these guys is all well and good, but the truth is, we don’t have much of a charge against them. Trespassing is pretty much it. It’s not illegal to have a bag of money, and the odds of getting a filing on attempted bribery are about zero. But maybe if we get the seller; we can get hang a case on all of them? Who knows? One of them might roll on the others to save his ass? This could turn into something pretty big.

“Harper, see if we can get a sergeant here.”

“Roger that. You want me to…”

“Stash the sledgehammer in the trunk first.”

“Way ahead of you. Sixteen Central, can we get a supervisor to meet us at our location?”

“Sixteen Central, stand by.”

Now we just need a good sergeant to show up. Someone who wants to get these guys as much as we do. Sergeant Hendrickson doesn’t come on duty until the Graveyard shift, so he’s not an option. Fortunately, this is Midwatch. We’ve got Sergeant Gellar. I just hope it isn’t Sergeant Alfaro. He hasn’t turned up at a single one of our calls, and from what I’ve heard about him, I don’t want him to. You know, I don’t think he’s said two words to me since I got to Midwatch. I’ve got a pretty good idea why.

“Sixteen Central, Forty Central is en route to your location.”

Sergeant Gellar. Good. He’ll be up for intercepting a couple of dope dealers looking to make a sale.

“What are we going to tell him, Dani?”

“Just give it to him straight: we found these guys in this abandoned building with a bag of cash. They’re obviously waiting for a dope delivery, and we want to catch the delivery guys.”

“That’ll fly. Are we going to wait for them in the room?”

“Probably. But the Sarge is going to want some more people here. So do I. We’ll leave that part to him. I just hope these guys don’t show up before we’re ready.”

“I know. I’ve been watching the street since we got outside. There haven’t been any cars coming by.”

“Good thinking. I doubt whoever’s coming here is on foot.”

The problem with something like this is that we don’t know who’s coming, when they’re coming, or how many people they’ll have. Those are the kind of problems that undercover detectives are supposed to deal with. Patrol doesn’t usually run into that sort of thing. At the very least, we know the dope dealers are using this place to make some pretty big sales. I still can’t get over how much dope they’ve got on skid row. If I hadn’t seen it for myself, I’d never have believed it.

“Heads up, Dani. We’ve got the Sarge.”

That was fast. That’s another thing I like about skid row: it isn’t very big. Help is just a few seconds away.

“Sergeant Gellar! Thanks for coming.”

“No problem, Lynott. What have you got, here?”

“We were checking this place out and found these two in a room on the second floor.”

“In that shithole? Well, they’re definitely not homeless. Were they dealing dope?”

“More like buying it. They had this with them.”

“Shit! Now, that’s a lot of money!”

“They claim to know nothing about it.”

“I’ll bet. Anything else?”

“The guy with the green shirt hasn’t said a word. But he did have a cannon on him. Take a look.”

“Whoa! That’s not the sort of piece we usually find out here!”

“We’re guessing he’s got a lot to protect, hence the firepower. Harper and I want to wait for the delivery. There’s got to be somebody coming here with the dope.”

“And you want to take them when they show up?”

“That’s the plan, sir.”

“We’re going to need some more officers if we’re going to do this right. I’ll get a couple of units. One of them will take these guys back to the station. Then we’ll set up inside. Park the cars down the block so they won’t be seen. Any idea when this delivery is supposed to take place?”

“I’m afraid not. And these guys aren’t talking.”

“Yeah, I’m not surprised. All right. Let’s get two units for backup, and one to take these guys in. Show me this room where you found them.”

“Right this way. It’s very picturesque.”

“Yeah, maybe I’ll rent a room here. It’s a lot closer to the station.”

“I’m sure the rats would love the company.”

“Have Harper stay with these two, and have the unit taking them back take that cash, too. I don’t want to leave it sitting in a trunk for some homeless guy to steal.”

“Yeah, that would be embarrassing, Sarge.”

“You two really come up with the good capers, I’ll give you that.”

You’re damned right we do. And the night’s just getting started. God, I love this place. It’s like Christmas every day for me. Maybe I really should consider getting a place down here? It wouldn’t be boring, that’s for sure.

All right, we’re set. Harper and I are in the room, and the Sarge and Kursteff and Vinell are in the one next door. Ruiz and Rosen are in place downstairs. As long as our dope couriers don’t decide to search the place before they come up here, we’ll be just fine. And I don’t think they’ll do anything like that. They’ll want to get in and out, fast and easy. Judging by the amount of cash in that bag, they’re not going to miss this meeting. But we’ve been here for almost an hour. Where the hell are these guys? That’s one of the bad things about criminals: they’re not dependable.

“Eight Central to the units in the building, we’ve got a car pulling up out front.”

It’s about time! That’s got to be them. Who the hell else would be coming here in a car?

“Units in the building, be advised: two suspects, both male, black, and they’ve got a gym bag with them. A big one.”

That’s got to be the dope. Here we go!

“Stay sharp, Harper. It’s showtime!”

“I’m ready. As soon as they come through the door…”

“We take them down. Remember: one guy had a gun, already. These guys might be armed, too.”

“I’m ready for it.”

I’d hate to get into a shooting in here. The place is so small, and there’s no good cover in here. These walls are made of spit and toilet paper – what’s left of them. Bullets would go through at least four of them before they slowed down. We’ve got to neutralize these guys fast, or it could get very ugly in here.

“Units in the building, be advised: the suspects are in the building and coming up the stairs.”

I can hear them. I was right about this place: every sound is as loud as shit! I can hear their footsteps like they’re right in front of me. It’s a wonder those first two guys didn’t hear us.

“They’re coming down the hallway. I can hear them. Get ready, Harper.”

“Stay clear of the door, Dani.”

“Let’s hope they don’t notice it’s knocked off of the hinges.”

We left it open just a bit. We had to. Harper destroyed it when he hit it. Hey, we weren’t expecting to need it again. I just hope these guys don’t notice it and take off running. Smart dope dealers would. Let’s hope these guys aren’t smart.

“They’re here. Stand ready.”

Either they’ll knock, or they’ll just come right in. I hope they just come right in.

“Yo, Dewan! You in here?”

“Now, Harper!”

“Units in the building, move in! Move in!”

“Police! Hands in the air! Both of you!”

“You heard her! Hands in the air! Drop the bag! Drop it!”

We’ve got them! They’re too shocked to do anything! We need to take them now! Hurry!

“Don’t move!”

“They’re running!”

Not for long! I can hear our guys outside in the hallway! Vinell’s got them! He’s blocking their path to the stairs! Kursteff’s right behind him! They can’t get past them! Good!

“Where are you going, asshole?”

“Shit! There’s cops everywhere!”

“They’re behind us, too!”

“That’s right, motherfucker! Stop where you are!”

“Don’t even think it, asshole! You make a move and I’ll fucking shoot your ass!”

“Hands in the air! Now! Do it!”

They’re giving up! Yes! Perfect! What else could they do? Seven of us and two of them? They had nowhere to go. At least they weren’t stupid enough to start shooting! Thank God for that!

“Sarge? Are you OK?”

“We’re good. They’re caught. Everybody stand down.”

Oh, these guys are seriously pissed! They walked right into a trap! Beautiful!

“Harper! Grab that bag!”

“I got it. Fuck! This thing weighs a ton!”

“It’s a big bag. There must be a lot of dope in there.”

“It doesn’t sound like dope. It sounds like metal.”

“Metal? What the fuck is in there?”

“Uh, Dani? This isn’t dope.”

Oh, don’t tell me this is some bullshit! No fucking way!

“What? What is it?”

“Take a look.”

“Holy fucking shit!”

Guns! It’s a bagful of guns! They weren’t selling dope! They were selling guns! Who the hell sells guns on skid row?

“Sarge, look at this!”

“Jesus Christ! It’s a fucking arsenal!”

He’s not kidding! There must be at least six handguns in there. Ammo boxes, too. Lots of it! Jesus! That’s a lot of firepower for any place, let alone this place! What the hell did we stumble into, here?

“Sarge? We need someone to…”

“Way ahead of you, Lynott. Somebody get downstairs and secure that fucking car!”

I’ll bet anything they’ve got more shit in that car. Maybe guns, maybe dope. I don’t want the zombies stealing it before we can secure it. We need to get inside and see what they’ve got. And I see Sergeant Gellar is on the same page.

“Lynott and Harper, search these two for weapons! Vinell! Go through their pockets! Find the keys to that car!”

“You got it, Sarge. Which one of you has the keys?”

This is even better than I’d hoped for. If these guys…

“Gun! Dani, this one’s got a gun!”

Shit! I knew it!

“Don’t even move, asshole!”

“Don’t point your gun at me, bitch!”

“I got it, Dani! Weapon secured!”

“Harper, check the other one. He’s probably got one, too.”

“Come here, asshole. Have you got any…yep! He’s got one, too!”

Those are some first-rate handguns. Not the usual junk we see in the south end. We got lucky with this one. If we hadn’t surprised the shit out of them, we’d probably have had a running gun battle. Thank God for small miracles.

“Weapon secured! We’re good! Sarge, what’s our next move?”

“Vinell, did you find the keys?”

“Roger that, Sarge. On the first guy. The one who had the bag.”

“All right, everyone! Good job! Lynott and Harper! Check out that car. Vinell and Kursteff! Get these guys out of here! We’re done, here! Nice work, everyone!”

Now we get to see what else these guys have. I can’t wait to find out!

“Vinell, let me have the keys. I want to see what’s in that car.”

“All yours, Dani. Come on, guys! On your feet! I’ll give you three guesses where you’re going, and the first two don’t count.”

Oh, I think they know exactly where they’re going!

“Harper, bring that bag. Let’s see what’s in that car.”

Frankly, I’m surprised they didn’t leave someone in the car with the motor running. Gun dealing is even more dangerous than dope dealing. You pretty much have to figure that everyone involved is carrying a gun. These guys were pretty nonchalant about it. They’re either very brave or very stupid.

“Let’s go, Harper. Everybody, watch your step going down the stairs. This place is falling apart.”

That’s all we’d need: we make a great catch and then one of us breaks their neck on this fucked-up staircase. I’m a big believer in Murphy’s Law, though. How could I not be?

And there’s the car. An Infinity. It looks pretty new. You don’t see many of those east of Meridian Avenue.

“Nice car. Five minutes out here and the zombies would descend on it like locusts. Harper, run the plate and see if it’s stolen.”

“Got it. You want to pop the trunk?”

“Hell, yes! I want to see what’s in there!”

“Do you think they’ve got more guns?”

“There’s one way to find out.”

So I pop the trunk and…holy shit! Talk about an arsenal! I see two…no, three! Three rifles! No, it’s two rifles and a shotgun! What else? We’ve got ammo boxes, and it looks like three…no, four more handguns! Jesus Christ! These guys were ready for fucking Omaha Beach!

“Check it out, Sarge!”

“Holy shit! You guys hit the jackpot on this one!”

“I didn’t know there were that many guns on skid row.”

“There aren’t, usually. These were probably meant for someplace else.”

“They just came here to make the deal?”

“Why not? Downtown’s the business center of the city.”

“Some business, huh?”

“Secure those guns and hold them for prints. Then I want you two to search the shit out of this thing. Have it towed and held as evidence. No one’s getting this thing out of the impound lot until the detectives take it apart. God knows what else they’ve got hidden in there.”

“We’re on it. We’ll meet you back at the station. Thanks for your help. Sarge.”

“You’re welcome. I think you guys deserve a medal for this. Outstanding work, both of you.”

“Hey, we love what we do.”

“Keep doing it. You’re making us look good. Jesus! Wait until the captain sees this!”

“I don’t think captains work this late, Sarge.”

“Yeah, well, I’m going to call him just the same. He’s going to love this.”

“No more than we do.”

I swear, if all these guys weren’t here right now, I’d be jumping up and down in the street! Yes! It doesn’t get any better than this! God, I love this job!

Wrapping up at the scene. All right! The car’s towed, and I can’t wait to get back to the station! I want to see what all we got! These guys had enough firepower to start a war! And Sergeant Gellar was right about them being for someplace else. When they were putting those two guys in the car, I saw their tattoos: “4DES.” That stands for “Four Deuce East Side.” They’re gang members, and they’re a long way from home. East 42nd Street? That’s hell and gone from downtown. You see what a tour in the gang unit does for a girl? So we know who the sellers are. But who are our buyers? Most gangs don’t sell guns to other gangs; not even allies. They keep them for themselves. Oh, well. We’ll sort it out back at the station.

“What do you think, Harper? Nice hall, huh?”

“This is unbelievable! This shit doesn’t happen in Central Division.”

“Have you ever seen that many guns before?”

“Yeah, in Fallujah.”

“I guess the Emerald City’s a little safer tonight.”

“Maybe just a little bit.”

“Did you see the tattoos on those guys?”

“Yeah. Gangbangers. That’s your area of expertise, right?”

“I worked the gang unit. So that leaves the buyers. I wonder who they are?”

“I think we’re going to find out soon enough.”

I sincerely hope so. It’s going to take a while to run all of those guns, the car, and our suspects. I just hope we don’t have to let the two buyers go. We might have to, though. Like I said, it’s not a crime to have a bag of money. But I’m hoping that the Watch Commander will sign off on booking them. If the DA doesn’t want to file on them, fine. That’s their call. But I’d hate to let these guys go. I think it’s safe to say that we’re all better off if they’re not out on the street. They weren’t buying those guns because they want to go duck hunting.

Central Station. Let’s get started on this thing! First things first. There’s Lieutenant Hagan. I guess nobody told him yet. That’s a bit odd. Usually, the Watch Commander is the first to know about everything you bring into the station.

“Lieutenant Hagan? Sir, we…”

“Lynott, why is almost all of Midwatch back in my station? Don’t you people have work to do?”

Just wait until he hears this!

“Sergeant Gellar? Did you tell the lieutenant what we got?”

“Hell, no! I was waiting for you two to get here. Jack, you’re not going to believe this!”

“All right, Lynott. What did you get? Another dope collar?”

“No, sir. We made a gun collar. A big one.”

And that look on his face tells me he doesn’t believe me. Hey, I don’t blame him.

“A big gun collar? In this division? Sergeant, is she putting me on?”

“She’s not kidding, sir. Lynott and Harper just got a couple of gun dealers during a sale. They had a goddamned arsenal with them. They got the buyers, too.”

“How many guns were there?”

“Fourteen, plus the two they took off of the sellers and the one they got from the buyers. Seventeen guns. That’s one hell of a haul, don’t you think?”

“Jesus Christ! Seventeen guns? They took seventeen guns by themselves?”

“No, sir. They had plenty of backup. I was there. We had Ruiz, Rosen, Kursteff, and Vinell with us. It was a good coordinated operation. Everything went down smoothly. They had a shitload of ammunition, too. These guys were ready to supply an army.”

“How much ammo?”


“Eight boxes in various calibers, sir. Sergeant Gellar’s right, sir. These guys were loaded for bear.”

Except there aren’t any bears on skid row. They were probably meant to hunt two-legged game.

“Lieutenant? You should also know that the sellers are Four Deuce East Side. I saw their tattoos.”

“Are you sure of that?”

“I’m sure, sir. But the buyers didn’t have any gang tattoos. At least, none that I saw. Maybe when they’re strip-searched?”

“Make sure you find out who the hell they are before you book them. We need to know who’s buying all those guns. Jesus! Seventeen guns in this division? I don’t think we’ve ever recovered that many in one caper.”

I think he just said that everyone goes to jail, but I just want to make sure we get to keep the buyers even though we don’t have much on them.

“So we’re also keeping the buyers, lieutenant?”

“Hell yes, we’re keeping them! We’re not letting a couple of illegal gun buyers walk out of here!”

Yes! They’re all going to the lockup! Perfect!

“We’ll start on the reports, Sarge.”

“Lynott, how much money was in that bag you and Harper showed me?”

“Almost ten grand. I guess that was for the guns in the trunk, too.”

“Somebody’s going to be really pissed about losing all of this shit. Guns are a hell of a lot harder to replace than dope.”

“Yeah, those rifles look expensive.”

Damn! That sure as hell got the lieutenant’s attention! He looks absolutely stunned!

“Jesus, Lynott! They had rifles, too?”

“Two rifles and a shotgun, sir.”

“You know, we’ve got about a hundred stabbings for every shooting that happens in this division. I never thought I’d see anything like this here.”

“Neither did we, sir.”

“Lay all of that shit out neatly. I want to get some pictures of it.”

“Yes, sir. Sergeant Gellar thinks we should call the captain.”

“You’re damned right we’re calling the captain! He’s going to want to know about this right away! Jesus! Seventeen guns! Rifles! Ammunition! You guys may have just prevented a war!”

“We hope so, sir.”

This is going to look so nice on our records! Harper’s going to be disappointed wherever he gets wheeled to when he’s off probation. He’s not going to be finding shit like this anywhere else in the city. Hell, I’ve got eleven years on the job and I’ve never seen a haul like this! Down in the south end, you get a high-five for catching some little shithead gangbanger with a .25 Auto!

“Lynott, how the hell did you come across this caper? And I don’t want to hear anything about witchcraft or crystal balls!”

I see the stories about me have definitely made the rounds.

“We were in the building looking for dope dealers, sir. We caught two guys with a big bag of cash. We thought they were waiting for a delivery, so…”

“So you decided to stake on the building to catch the delivery guys?”

“Yes, sir. We were expecting it to be dope. We were pleasantly surprised.”

“Is that true, sergeant? This wasn’t a radio call or a flag-down?”

“No, sir. It was officer-initiated. Not a radio call.”

“Jesus! All right. You know what to do?”

“I’ll write it up good, sir.”

“See that you do. Outstanding work, both of you! Where is this arsenal? I want to see it.”

“In the report room, sir. Harper’s got them ready for you.”

After all of the shit I went through over the last year, this almost completely makes up for it! God, I feel good! And I can’t wait to find out what all this shit comes back to! I want to start running these serial numbers right away. I’ll bet all of them are stolen. I just hope they’re all in the system.

I think Sergeant Gellar’s got something else for us.

“Lynott! Harper! Make sure those suspects are separated. I don’t want them talking to each other.”

“Will do, Sarge. Harper, let’s start running these things. Start with the handguns. They’re the most likely to be in the system.”

“I’m pretty sure they’ll be in there. Most of these pistols look brand-new.”

“Do you think they were all stolen at once?”

“It’s possible. Maybe somebody ripped off a gun store? It wouldn’t be the first time.”

Sadly, that’s true. Wherever they came from; I hope it helps us figure out what this shit is all about. I’ve got a lot of questions and not many answers. When you catch a couple of assholes with that much firepower, not having the answers is definitely a bad thing. This caper is a really good lesson for all of us: there’s more than just zombies, junkies, crackheads, and dope dealers out here. I’ll remember that. I need to remember that. We all do.

Central Station; wrapping up the reports. Now that was worth every minute it took! We burned up half of the shift, but it was worth it. All of the handguns came back stolen; most of them from a gun store burglary. The AR-15 we got was reported stolen two years ago in a residential burglary, and the other rifle and the shotgun had no record on file. They’re probably stolen, too. Maybe from out of state? It’s possible. And all four of our arrestees are ex-cons, which means they can’t even touch a gun without going back to prison. They’ve all got parole holds, so they don’t get bail. They’re not going anywhere. Our two gun dealers actually had good I.D. on them. Can you believe that? Who the fuck carries righteous I.D. when they’re committing a big-time felony? Some people don’t have the sense God gave a cockroach! Good! That makes our job a lot easier. And Captain Mayones actually came in to look at the haul. He was just as impressed as we were. It surprised me that he came in. Most captains hate being called back to the station after they’ve gone home for the day. Besides, I doubt he lives anywhere near here. It was probably a pretty good commute for him. But he was all smiles when he saw that table full of guns. He said he would’ve called the press, but he didn’t want to take a chance that it would screw up some future investigation. That was a good call. I was actually wondering about that myself.

“Well, Harper, I don’t think we’re going to top that one tonight. It’s all downhill from here.”

“That was one amazing haul! I am psyched!

“Well, don’t let it get to you too much. We’ve still got a few hours out here, and remember: someone did try to kill us last night.”

“Oh, I haven’t forgotten. Do you want to go by the Big Lot and see if Ricky is there?”

“Later. Right now, I’m starving. I want to get something to eat.”

“Where do you want to go?”

“What’s open at this hour?”

“Pretty much only a couple of Chinese places.”

You know, I’ve never understood that. Chinese restaurants stay open until ridiculous hours. And every time I’ve been in one at some God-awful hour of the night, there are always people in there. Who besides cops eats dinner at one o’clock in the morning? But hey, I’m not complaining. I like Chinese food. And anything’s better than eating off of one of the roach coaches. I’m pretty sure that most of the stuff they have on those things can’t legally be called food.

“That’ll do. Whichever one is open and closest. I’m really hungry.”

“You got it. We deserve a decent meal after that.”

“We should’ve brought Sergeant Gellar. We could stick him with the check.”

“No, he brings his food to the station. I think his wife makes it for him. I’ve never seen him eat anywhere around here.”

Yeah, that figures. With all the time he’s got in this division? He probably knows something we don’t.

“Too bad. Let’s go before they shoot us a call.”

“Roger that. We are ten-seven! Out of service!”

Now, watch: we’ll get there just in time for some shithead to come in and try to rob the place! I honestly wouldn’t rule it out.

The Chinese restaurant at the north edge of the division. Don’t even ask me to pronounce the name of this place. Most cops in Central Division just call it the Chinese place off of Main. This is one of the good things about being a training officer: you don’t have to eat at some horrible place because your partner has the seniority and gets to pick. When I was a boot, I had one training officer who always wanted to eat at this God-awful cafeteria with the worst food in the world. You’d have been better off eating the grass at Fenway Park. Everything they made tasted like dirt, but he loved it. Their food used to sit in my stomach like a pile of wet cement, and I felt like absolute shit after every meal. It’s a wonder I didn’t get food poisoning. I have no idea what he saw in that dog shit food, but it was the only thing he ever wanted to eat. Being a boot can really suck when you get a training officer like that.

I don’t think I’ve been to this place before now. That’s OK. Like I said, I like Chinese food. There’s always something on the menu that I’ll eat. And take a look at that! It’s past one o’clock in the morning, and the place is about half full. They’re doing a brisk business. Chinese restaurants must know something that other restaurants don’t.

“Harper, does this place go half?”

“Yeah. Sometimes they go full, but that’s usually on weekends.”

For those of you who don’t speak cop, “Go half” means they charge the police half-price. “Going full” means the food is free for the police. Yeah, we’re not supposed to accept civilian gratuities, but every cop does. If we didn’t, then eating out every night could get very expensive. And it’s not like we’re going to five-star restaurants. The restaurants like having the police there, particularly at night. They figure it keeps away the assholes. They’re right. It does.

“Just grab a table. They’re not formal about that, here.”

“Fine by me. Grab a couple of menus. I’m starving.”

The only drawback to Chinese restaurants is that every once in a while, you come across one where the menu is totally in Chinese. Needless to say, I don’t read Chinese. I can’t even tell the difference between Mandarin and Cantonese. In those places, you have to point at a picture of the food and hope it tastes as good as it looks. Fortunately, I don’t have any food allergies. Don’t laugh. That could make things dangerous if you don’t know what you’re getting.

“Hey, Harper? How old are you?”

“Twenty-nine. I’ll be thirty in October. Why do you ask?”

“I was talking to my mom this morning and she brought it up.”

“You talk to your mom about me?”

“Sure. She always asks about my partners. She wants to make sure I’m working with someone who knows what they’re doing.”

“Fair enough. So how old are you?”

“Thirty-three, as of last month.”

“Damn! You must have joined the department right out of college.”

“Yeah, I did. You went into the Marines first, right?”

“Right out of high school. Then I went to college. Now I’m here. So what does your dad say about your partners?”

“My dad died when I was sixteen.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Yeah, he had a heart attack. It just hit him out of the blue.”

“Was your dad a cop?”

“Nope. I’m the first in the family to be a cop. My dad was a contractor. He did home repairs and remodeling, mostly. He really loved it.”

“How did it work out for him?”

“Great. In Salem, we get a fair amount of rain, and almost every house leaks somewhere. Leaky basements were my dad’s stock in trade. I sometimes think he worked on every old house in Salem at one time or another.”

“I guess I just assumed he was a cop. I figured that’s where you got your interest in shooting. You don’t see that in a lot of women; even on the job. Did he like to shoot?”

“Oh, yeah! My dad was a big hunter. Every year, he looked forward to hunting season. Sometimes he’d go to other states to go hunting. He had hunting buddies up and down the east coast. He was good, too. I don’t think he ever shot twice. It was always one shot; done.”

“Did you go with him?”

“All the time. I loved it. Not many girls were into hunting where I lived, but I thought it was great. I haven’t been hunting since I went home last time. It’s different around here.”

“I know. My brothers and I used to go hunting all the time with my dad. Colorado hunting’s a whole different ballgame. Long-distance shots are the norm.”

“Not in New England. I don’t think I ever took a shot from more than fifty yards.”

“Well, now that you’re an Expert, you’ve got to go with me to Colorado. Try shooting at four hundred yards. That’s a challenge.”

“You’ll have to teach me to hit at that range first.”

“I can do that. But it’s a lot of mountain ranges, so you need to be ready for a lot of hiking.”

“That’s something we didn’t have back home. Plenty of trees, though. I love being in the woods.”

“So what else do you do on your free time?”

“Not much. My mom says I’m too focused on the job.”

“I know what you mean. I broke up with my last girlfriend because she said all I cared about was the job.”

“I guess that means we’re birds of a feather.”

“Yeah, and we both like Chinese food.”

“OK, what’s the worst place you’ve eaten in the division? I need to know these things, now that I’m working here.”

“I don’t know if there’s a worst place, but I can tell you who was the worst to eat with: Officer Saunders. He works Daywatch.”

I don’t know him. He must’ve been one of Harper’s training officers.

“What was so terrible about eating with him?”

“Clearly, you’ve never had the pleasure.”

“No, but I want to hear about it.”

“If you look at him, you wouldn’t think he eats a lot. He’s in good shape. He spends a lot of time in the gym. But holy shit! When we’d go eat, he didn’t give a shit what we ate, as long as there was a lot of it. That’s all he cares about: how much food you get at one shot. He’d eat roadkill off of the sidewalk if there was a ton of it. And he would eat like a human garbage disposal! It was like a machine, devouring everything within reach! I was afraid to reach for anything on the table! I was afraid he might stab a fork in my hand and eat that, too!”

“OK, that’s pretty bizarre. But while we’re on that subject, I heard Hinojosa only eats off of the roach coaches. Is that true?”

“Oh, you have no idea! He’s a roach coach fanatic! Not only does he eat off of them, but he eats these stomach-churning brain tacos!”

Did he just say “brain tacos?” Did I really hear him say that?

“You’re making that up!”

“No, I’m not! They’ve got these tacos made out of cow brains, and he just sucks them down like potato chips! I’d watch him chow down on those things and it was all I could do to keep from puking! I was afraid he was going to order me to eat one. I kept wondering what I’d do if he did. There’s no way in hell I’m eating brains! I don’t care if I’m on a long-range patrol in the desert and I’m starving to death! God did not intend for humans to eat brains! No sir! That was not meant to be!”

I’m one hundred percent behind him on that one. If I ever saw anyone eating brain-anything, I’d puke all over them in a split second!

“It’s hell being a boot sometimes.”

“Well, it’s not like I could override him. If he wanted to eat somewhere, then that’s where we ate. And the only place he ever wanted to eat was a roach coach. He even ate there in the rain. I think he actually scouted out the dirtiest, skankiest ones in the city. The shit they sold wasn’t human food. No fucking way! Even a stray dog wouldn’t eat that shit!”

“Don’t worry. I promise never to make you eat somewhere that makes you sick. Believe me, I know exactly how you feel.”

“Sometimes I think he did it just to make me sick! I’ve noticed some training officers get off on that. They take you to calls that have some disgusting shit, and hope you’ll throw up.”

“You mean like dead body calls?”

“Exactly. I’ve seen a couple of boots throw up at those. They find these bodies that have been decomposing for a few days, and they call in all the new boots to see it. Some of them couldn’t take it.”

“Yeah, my training officers did that to me a lot. I think they took a special kind of pleasure from making the female boots puke.”

“Did you ever lose it?”

“Not when I was a boot, and never at a dead body call. But a few years ago I did a ride-along with the air unit. Those fucking assholes flew the helicopter like it was going to crash! I puked all over the place!”

“I know what you mean. That’s just cruel.”

“Not only that, but they made me clean it up! It was on the floor, it was on the seats, hell, it was on the roof! I’m never getting in one of those things again!”

“Yeah, those helo pilots are like that. You should see what they do in the Marine Corps.”


“A few times, they’d hang a turn so sharp that I almost thought I was going to fall out of the side of the thing. They’re fucking psychos, all of them.”

It seems Harper and I have more in common than I thought. We both like to hunt, we both have nightmare experiences with bad food, and we both hate riding in helicopters. I’d better not tell mom about it. She’d start shopping for wedding invitations.

“So what about you, Dani? How come you’re not seeing anybody?”

Christ, was he just reading my mind? Do they teach you that in the Marine Corps?

“Are you kidding? This is the closest thing to a date I’ve had in over a year.”

“Now that, I don’t believe.”

“It’s true. I wasn’t much for going out last year. I had other things on my mind.”

“I know you don’t like to talk about what happened…”

“And I appreciate you not asking me about it. I’d rather just try to forget it.”

“It was that bad, huh?”

“It was hell. It’s no fun having everyone in the world think you’re a murderer.”

“Yeah, but you didn’t shoot that guy.”

“I know. But I told you: that didn’t seem to matter. As far as everyone was concerned, I was as much to blame as Whaley.”

“That’s bullshit. I saw the video. You didn’t do anything wrong. None of you did. That was all on Whaley.”

“That’s what I thought. Unfortunately, that’s not what a lot of other people thought. And some of them are on the command staff.”

“Look, if you ever want to talk about it…”

“You’ll be the first person I call. But don’t go waiting for that call, OK?”

“Fair enough. But just remember, I’m there to listen.”


“You’re my partner. I’m there to look out for you.”

Don’t think I don’t know that. Believe me, after you’ve had the whole fucking city looking to roast you on a spit, you know when someone’s really on your side. I didn’t think I’d ever have anyone on my side again. Sometimes I think Harper’s a Godsend. But I don’t think I should tell him that.

“I appreciate that, Harper. A lot. Seriously, thank you.”

“Anytime. I just hope you’re this nice to me tomorrow night.”

“What’s tomorrow night?”

“The Yankees are playing the Red Sox this afternoon. You know your boys are going to get slaughtered.”

I might have to take back that “Godsend” thing. I hate the Yankees!

“Ten bucks says we take them by at least two.”

“Make it twenty and you’re on.”

“Deal! I am so going to enjoy spending your money.”

“Are all Red Sox fans this delusional?”

That’s it! I take back everything nice I ever said about him! He’s the devil! He’s the fucking devil!

“You’ve got a real evil streak, you know that?”

“Twenty bucks is twenty bucks.”

“Yeah, your twenty bucks is twenty bucks in my wallet!”

“We’ll see.”

“I should make you pay for both of us tonight.”

“When your boys get their asses kicked, I’ll pay for both of us tomorrow night.”

Oh, he’s just begging for it! I wonder if I can get the waiter to poison his food? They’ve probably got something weird in the kitchen that would make him sick. I’ll have to make a note of it. You do not rag on my Red Sox when they’re playing those pin-striped assholes from New York! That’s almost an unforgiveable sin! But you know what’s really weird? I’m enjoying the hell out of this. I mean just sitting here, talking with Harper. For some strange reason, it feels almost like a date – all ragging on my Red Sox aside. How weird is that? Eating dinner in the middle of the night with my boot, and it feels like I’m on a date. And I’ve got to be honest: it’s a lot more enjoyable than any date I’ve been on in a very long time. I wonder why? It’s as weird as hell, but I have to admit: I’m really enjoying it. Go figure, huh?

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