Midwatch

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Chapter 18: Skid Row Crazy

Back on patrol. As much as I enjoyed just having a decent meal and talking with Harper, we only get forty-five minutes to eat. That sucks, but those are the rules. Now we’re back at it, and not a moment too soon. Sergeant Gellar wasn’t kidding about this being a crazy night. We’ve handled three fight calls in the last half-hour. The heat must be killing these people. I mean literally! Some of them are practically foaming at the mouth! Remind me never to end up out here if I lose my apartment. I’d rather live in the woods. This shit is beyond crazy!

“Harper, head over toward the Big Lot. It’s just a block over. I want to see what’s going on right now.”

“Do you think it’s as crazy as everywhere else?”

“On this night? Count on it.”

“Do you think Ricky’s going to be there?”

“Probably. There’s one way to find out.”

I’m guessing he will be. The detectives may have sweated him a bit, but they didn’t have a charge to hold him on. If they did, we’d have heard about it by now. He’s there, all right. Probably parked in front of a portable air conditioner. When you’re the biggest asshole dope dealer in the sector, you can do shit like that.

“You were right, Dani. He’s there.”

“Yeah, and there’s a guy taking off at the back of the lot!”

“I see him. He’s too far away to catch up.”

“The question is: why the hell is he running?”

“Maybe he’s holding dope?”

“Maybe.”

Yeah, but I don’t think so. We know Ricky hides his dope in a bunch of places around the Big Lot, so why would one of his dealers be holding any dope? And if he is, then why isn’t he carrying it in his mouth like every other heroin dealer around here? I think the guy’s running for something else. I just don’t know what it is.

“Stay sharp, Harper. I don’t want to get shot at again.”

“If we get shot at, this time, we’re shooting back!”

“You’re damned right we are!”

Well, Ricky sees us. He doesn’t look happy about it. Good. I like it when Rick’s unhappy. It lets me know I’m doing something right.

“Hello, Ricky. I see you’re out. How long did they keep you?”

“What are you doing here, bitch? Don’t tell me you’re here to fuck with me again! You got nothing on me!”

“I know. That’s why we’re here. How else are we going to get anything on you?”

He doesn’t seem to appreciate my logic. What a shame.

“It’s too hot out here for your bullshit, bitch. Why don’t you two go fuck with someone else?”

“We already did that tonight. Now we’re here. So what’s going on?”

“Nothing. It was a nice night until you two showed up.”

“Who’s your friend? The guy who took off running?”

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

“Yeah, that doesn’t surprise me. Harper, search him.”

“Hey, fuck you, bitch!”

We’re clearly getting on his nerves. Let’s dial it up a notch and see what he does.

“Harper, he’s being mean to me!”

“He’s got a bad attitude, Dani. That’s unacceptable. Hands behind your head, Ricky. You know the drill.”

“You’re really pissing me off, Harper!”

“That’s what we get paid for. Have you got any weapons on you?”

“I got nothing. Go ahead! You won’t find anything.”

“You’ll understand if I don’t take your word for it. Spread your legs.”

As usual, Ricky hates it when he’s not in control – especially when a bunch of junkies are watching. And at the Big Lot, there’s always a bunch of junkies watching. I can see five or six of them at the south end of the lot, right by the alley.

“He’s clean, partner.”

“Hey, Ricky? A couple of dealers got killed the other night. Do you know anything about that?”

“No. I wouldn’t know about that shit.”

“Really? Because I got the impression that they might have been your dealers. Were they? Or were they somebody else’s dealers, and you were clearing out the competition?”

“What competition? People around here know better than to fuck with me.”

“Then how do you explain us?”

“I ain’t got no explanation for you, bitch! I guess it must be that time of the month, huh?”

I was wondering when he was going to make a crack about that. Every asshole in the world thinks all women cops are perpetually on their periods. It’s the whole “PMS and a nightstick” thing. You get used to it.

“Harper, he’s doing it again!”

And there goes Ricky! Right up against the wall!

“Watch your mouth. Ricky!”

“Let go of me, motherfucker!”

“What did you say?”

“I said let go of me if you know what’s good for you, Harper!”

“Are you threatening me, Ricky?”

“Keep it up and you’ll find out!”

Ricky’s really on edge tonight! What’s going on? He’s not like this because we’re fucking with him. Something’s eating at him. Something serious. And I’m betting it’s got to do with those dead dope dealers. They had to be his guys. I guess this Shiloh character isn’t just testing the waters around here. He’s mounting a full-on takeover. That would definitely put Ricky on edge.

“Harper, hold him there for a minute. I’ve got an idea.”

We’re drawing one hell of a crowd. The junkies are coming out of the woodwork. I guess they like to see Ricky get a little of what he usually dishes out. I’ll bet he’s kicked the crap out of every junkie on skid row at least a dozen times. They’re probably enjoying the show.

“Where are you going, Dani?”

“Time to get a little something out of the trunk.”

That would be the sledgehammer, in case you forgot. Now I’m really glad we brought this thing along, tonight. If it can knock down a door, it can certainly crush those cinder blocks along the wall where Ricky hides his dope. Hell, maybe his gun is somewhere in there, too? A twelve-pound sledgehammer should make short order of a gun. It’ll sure as hell make a mess out of his dope.

“Move aside, Ricky.”

“What the fuck are you doing with that, bitch?”

“Maybe I’m going to hit you with it?”

“Give me a break. You’re a cop. You can’t touch me. We both know it.”

“You know something? You’re right. I can’t hit you. I’d like to, but I can’t. But I can hit something else.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?”

“Officer Harper and I have it on good authority that some people are hiding drugs in these blocks along the wall. That’s illegal. It’s also dangerous. Some little kid might find them. That makes these blocks a clear and present danger. Is that what they call it, Harper?”

“That’s what they call it.”

“We can’t have a clear and present danger in our sector. So I guess these blocks have to go. Sorry, Ricky.”

“Are you crazy, bitch? You can’t do that!”

“No? Watch me!”

And…yes! Smashed right through it! Kaboom! And Ricky’s going ape shit!

“You’re crazy, bitch!”

And here goes number two! Got it! Oh, he is fucking losing it! Look at him!

“Stop!”

“Why? It’s not your wall.”

And here goes number three! Wow! These things practically explode! This is fun!

“Cut that shit out, bitch! Stop! You fucking bitch! Stop!”

Shit! This thing is heavier than I thought! I’ll do three more, and then let Harper finish them up. Boom! I think there was something in that one. It felt a little different from the others. Whatever it was, it’s toast now! God, now Harper actually has to hold Ricky back! He’s freaking out! I guess there really is a bunch of dope in here!

“Hey! Stop! You can’t do that shit!”

“You’re right. This is wearing me out. It’s too hot for this sort of thing. Harper, finish busting up these blocks for me, please.”

“You got it, partner. You’ll watch Ricky for me?”

“Of course.”

He’s definitely a lot stronger than me. He doesn’t even look like he’s straining. Damn! He just about plowed straight down to the pavement with that one!

“He does it so much better than me, doesn’t he, Ricky?”

“This is fucking bullshit!”

“No, I think it’s called ‘urban renewal.’ Don’t worry. He’s almost finished.”

“Fucking bitch! You can’t…”

“Can’t what? Are you saying you’ve got something in there? Something you don’t want us to see?”

“You’re going to get hurt, bitch! Any fucking day, now! I swear to God!”

“I don’t think God takes your calls. You’re more the other guy’s style.”

“You’re going to wish you never came here! Both of you! You think I’m fucking around?”

“You know where to find us. And we know where to find you. All finished, Harper?”

“Yes, ma’am. The clear and present danger’s been eliminated.”

“I feel safer already. Don’t you, Ricky?”

Look at him! He’s so furious, he can’t even speak!

“Hey, Ricky? Since you’re going to be here for a while, do you think you could find a broom and sweep that up?”

“Fuck you! You fucking cunt! You’re fucking crazy! Fuck you both!”

I guess that’s a “no.” We’ll leave him to stew over it. As mad as he is, he must have had a lot of dope hidden in there. Too bad he didn’t stash his gun in there. We would’ve seen it if it were in there. Oh, well. Maybe next time.

“Come on, Harper. We’re done here.”

“Right behind you. You have a good one, Ricky. Stay out of the heat.”

Have a good one? I don’t know what Ricky’s going to have, but from the look on his face, it won’t be good. And that’s always a good thing.


Back on patrol, headed down Palomar. I sure hope we don’t get shit for smashing up those blocks. I mean, someone’s got to own that place. But I doubt we’ll hear anything about it. Who’s going to tell on us? Ricky? Not likely. Those junkies? Hardly! I could hear them laughing from thirty yards away! They’re not going to snitch us off. Yeah, it’s vandalism and it’s against the rules, but who cares? Sometimes you have to bend the rules if you want to make a difference. And by fucking with Ricky, we’re definitely making a difference. Now he’s got to find a new hiding place for his dope. And whoever owns that wall never did anything to stop Ricky from using it as his stash place, so they deserve to lose it. At least, that’s my thinking on the subject.

“We’re clear, Harper. Well, that was fun. Aren’t you glad I brought the hammer?”

“Yeah, but I think I tweaked my shoulder.”

“Because you were showing off!”

“I was not!”

“Bullshit! I saw you! You saw me straining with it, and you just had to make it look like it was as light as a feather!”

“OK, maybe I was showing off a little bit.”

“It was impressive.”

“Glad to hear it. But I still tweaked my shoulder.”

“Poor baby. Do you want me to rub it and make it feel better?”

“You do that and I’ll probably wreck the car.”

“Don’t do that! We’ll never hear the end of it!”

I’m not kidding, either. They’re still groaning about the number of crashes in the division. Word has it the captain’s taking names. I definitely don’t want to get on that shit list!

“Here. Just a little bit. Does that feel better?”

“Actually, it feels great.”

“Good. I don’t want you to hurt yourself out here.”

OK, that’s a first. I’ve never given one of my boots a shoulder rub before. Then again, I’ve never given one of them a sledgehammer and had him smash a dope dealer’s wall before. It’s definitely a night of firsts.

“Hey, Dani? Do you think Ricky really had any dope in there?”

“I’m sure of it. Did you see the look on his face?”

“Yeah, he was pissed!”

“Pissed? I thought he was going to have a stroke!”

“And if anyone asks…”

“We don’t know anything about any smashed cinder blocks.”

“Got it.”

“Forty-Four Central, Battery in progress, 2nd Street and Convair Avenue, in the street. Two male suspects, no weapons seen, no further information. Forty-Four Central, handle code two.”

“What do you think, Dani? Do you want to back them on it?”

“I would, but we’ve got something else here.”

“What do you see?”

“Spiderman!”

“Excuse me?”

“In the alley! Eleven o’clock; third floor! Male black, gray shirt, blue jeans. See him?”

“I see him. Good obs! Jesus! Is he crazy? How the hell did he get up there?”

Good question. I knew the burglars out here were a hell of a lot more creative than the usual assholes, but that guy is either an expert or a lunatic! He’s standing on a ledge three floors up, and that ledge can’t be more than a few inches wide! Talk about a daredevil! There must be something good in that building for him to risk his life like that.

“Sixteen Central, show us on a burglary suspect there now, 719 Palomar, male black, standing on a third floor ledge outside of the building, on the alley side.”

“Sixteen Central, roger.”

“So what do you think, Harper? Do you think he climbed up there?”

“I don’t know. I know that a lot of burglars sneak into buildings during the day and wait for their chance later on. It’s a real problem on Nightwatch.”

“Yeah, but he’s outside the building!”

“Maybe he hid out on the roof during the day and waited for the building to close? That’s pretty common out here.”

“Seriously? That must take some patience. I know I keep saying this, but I’ve got a lot to learn about this division.”

“Learn fast, partner. I’ve only got two and a half weeks left to teach you before they wheel me out.”

Yeah, that really sucks. The best partner I’ve ever had, and I’m going to lose him as soon as he gets wheeled out. I really hate that. I wish there was some way he could stay here. Maybe I’ll get lucky and they’ll leave him here for a few DPs? It’s pretty rare, but it does happen sometimes.

“You’re the expert, Harper. How do you want to work this?”

“Well, we’re not going up there after him! They didn’t issue me a bat-rope!”

“So we just wait until he comes down?”

“He’s got to come down sometime.”

“Or fall down.”

“Either way, we’ve got him.”

He looks like he’s trying to get in that window. He must be out of his mind! Look at him! He’s barely hanging on! The way he’s trying to jimmy that window open; he’s going to lose his grip or lose his footing! What a fucking idiot!

“All right, we have to do something. This idiot’s going to kill himself.”

“What do you suggest?”

“Let him know we’re here.”

“Blast the siren?”

“And hit him with the spotlight. And hope to God he doesn’t freak out and fall!”

“You got it.”

Come on, you asshole! Whatever you do, don’t freak out and fall! I do not need that kind of mess on my conscience! Hell, I don’t need the goddamned paperwork!

“Here. Take the mic. You’re on the P.A. When I hit the siren, you tell him to freeze. Use your Marine voice.”

“Sounds good. Hit it!”

Oh, he definitely heard the siren blast! He just about jumped out of his skin!

“Hey, you! Police! Stop where you are!”

Fuck! He freaked! I think he just shit himself! Well, thank God he didn’t slip and fall! It looks like he’s got a good grip. The question is: what the hell do we do now? We’re sure as hell not going to climb up there and get him, and we’re not going to catch him if he slips.

“Harper, send a message to the RTO and have a fire engine meet us at our location. We’re going to need that big ladder truck. Tell them our guy is three stories up. I’m going over there.”

“Roger that. Hey, what happens if they fire department tries to get him and he falls? Is that on us, or them?”

Did he just say that? Doesn’t he know about jinxes? Is he trying to jinx us? Jesus Christ!

“Don’t even think about shit like that!”

There is absolutely nothing good about a jurisdictional fight over a dead body! I know. I’ve seen it. Six years ago, we had a guy jump off of a freeway overpass onto the freeway. Suicide. Jump, splat, wham! He must’ve got hit by five or six cars before the traffic came to a stop. If he wasn’t dead when he hit the pavement, then he was sure as hell dead after that. Anyway, we got into a huge blowout with the Highway Patrol over who had to clean up the mess. They said he jumped off of our overpass, so it was our problem. We said he was alive until he hit their freeway and got run over by five or six times, so it was their problem. That back-and-forth went on for almost an hour, with at least a hundred people watching. It wasn’t one of our finest moments.

“Dani, the fire department’s on their way. They said we should try to make sure the guy doesn’t fall.”

“How exactly are we supposed to do that?”

“I don’t know. Maybe you could cast a spell on him?”

“Again with the witch jokes? Seriously?”

“I suppose we could pray?”

Hey, it’s got to be better than nothing, right? Witchcraft sure as hell isn’t going to save this idiot.

“Sounds like a plan. Dear Lord, please don’t let this stupid asshole fall! Amen!”

“Did it work?”

“Well, he’s still up there. Thank you, Lord.”

As long as he doesn’t try to move, he’ll be OK. But if he thinks he can climb back up on the roof…

“Harper, get on the P.A. and tell that idiot not to move. Tell him the fire department’s coming to get him down.”

“Roger. Hey, we’ve got another unit here.”

Yeah, a call like this attracts a lot of attention. These are the calls you want to watch; not the ones you want to handle. Oh, it’s Sergeant Hendrickson. Good. I’d love to get his take on this.

“Lynott! Harper! What the hell is going on? Where’s this burglary suspect?”

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so…

“See for yourself, Sarge.”

And I turn the spotlight on our Spiderman. Ta-da!

“What the fuck? Are you shitting me? How did he get up there? That guy’s out of his fucking mind!”

“Our thoughts exactly, sir. Any ideas?”

“We should shoot him for being a goddamned stupid motherfucker!”

“I don’t think that’s in the book, sir.”

“Screw the book! What the hell are we going to do with this fucking idiot?”

“We’ve got the fire department coming with a ladder truck, sir. It was the only thing we could think of.”

“Oh, they’re going to love this!”

“They rescue cats from trees, don’t they?”

“What the hell decade are you living in, Lynott? That shit only happens on Leave it to Beaver. Besides, cats aren’t stupid fucking asshole burglars who get stuck on a goddamned ledge!”

He’s got a point. Zephyr would never do anything so stupid. It looks like Harper’s got something. Let’s hope it’s a solution to this cluster fuck. Something tells me this guy’s going to do something really stupid, any minute, now. Oh, good! It’s the fire department. Not a minute too soon, guys.

“Dani! We’ve got the fire department!”

Yeah, the sirens and air horns kind of give that away. I just hope they don’t get pissed and leave. The Sarge is right: this isn’t exactly in their job description.

“I hope that ladder truck fits back here, Sarge. There’s not a lot of room in this alley.”

“Fuck him! They can open the air bag and let him jump!”

Do they really have those? I thought those were just something you see on TV. Jumping into one of them must be dangerous as hell.

“What if he misses the bag?”

“Then he’s roadkill! Serves him right!”

“From that height? They’ll need a spatula to get him off of the pavement!”

“Good! Maybe he’ll learn!”

Oh, this is going to be ugly when he gets down from there! I mean, he didn’t get through the window, so all we’ve got him on is attempted burglary. Yeah, that’s the least of his worries! Sergeant Hendrickson is likely to kill him just for the hell of it!

“Do you want to talk to the firemen, Sarge?”

“Why would I want to do that? It’s your call.”

Translation: it’s your cluster fuck and I don’t want to explain it to them. You do it. Yeah, I kind of saw that one coming.

“Actually, it wasn’t a call, Sarge. We just saw him up there.”

“That’s even worse. You handle it. You and Harper.”

See what I mean? All right, I’d better go break the bad news to our valiant firefighters. I hope they don’t go off on me.

“Thanks for coming, guys. Who’s the boss?”

“I am. Captain Palajac. What’ve you got, here? We didn’t get an alarm.”

“It’s not a fire, sir. It’s a burglar.”

“Excuse me?”

“Up there, sir. On the side of the building. He’s a burglar. We need to get him down.”

“What the fuck? How the hell did he get up there?”

“We’re not sure. But we definitely need him down in one piece.”

“Oh, he’s coming down, all right! Whether it’s in one piece is up to him.”

I really wish he hadn’t said that. I don’t have a lot of faith in that fool up there. I mean, he did think it was a good idea to crawl out onto that tiny ledge in the first place. He’s clearly not what you’d call a quiz kid.

“Can you get the ladder up there?”

“Sure, we can get it up there. It doesn’t mean he’s going to come down.”

The man’s got a point. How do we make him climb down the ladder? We can’t exactly push him.

“Just do your best, OK?”

“You guys really love to ruin our night, don’t you?”

“It’s been a crazy one.”

“You should see it from our perspective, Officer! The whole damned downtown’s gone psycho! We haven’t had fifteen minutes’ peace since the shift started. You were lucky to catch us between calls.”

I guess they’re having as crazy a night as we are. Whatever. I just want them to get this asshole down from there in one piece. I don’t want to be here until noon, standing over a dead body.

“All right, Officer. You guys stay here. We’ll handle it. But if he doesn’t want to come down…”

“Then we’ll come up.”

“Oh, yeah! Sure you will!”

I really don’t want to go up that ladder. I’m not what you’d call a fan of heights, and that guy might try to take one of us over the side with him. In this place, I wouldn’t doubt it for a minute. Well, they got the ladder up there pretty quick. Now it’s up to the burglar.

“Harper, if that asshole won’t come down on his own…”

“Then we’ll have to go get him, won’t we?”

“You got it. I don’t know how we’ll manage that, though.”

“Don’t worry. It looks like he’s happy to see them.”

“Well, what do you know? The prayer worked.”

He’s right: they’re coming down. I guess our burglar wasn’t a fan of heights, either. Damn, he look pretty shaky on that ladder! I hope he doesn’t fall off! What a stupid motherfucker!

The firefighters seem pretty happy to be rid of him. I guess they were just as worried as we were.

“Hey, officers! He’s all yours! We’re out of here!”

“Harper, cuff this guy. Hey, thanks, guys. We owe you one.”

“Just one?”

“Point taken. Have a better one. Hey, you! What the hell were you doing up there?”

“What do you think, Senior? A man’s got to make a living.”

“Are you out of your fucking mind?”

Oh, do you believe this shit? He’s looking at me like I’m the one who’s crazy!

“Senior, I smoke crack! I live on the street! I’m standing on a ledge, breaking into a third-story window in the middle of the goddamned night! What do you think?”

I don’t know whether to punch this guy or admire his honesty.

“You’ve got integrity, I’ll give you that. Harper, search this guy and put him in the car.”

“You got it. Hey, buddy? Why were you up there?”

“Because there ain’t nothing worth stealing down here.”

Jesus, he’s got to be one of our skid row philosophers! He’s even got Harper nodding in agreement.

“He’s got a point, Dani.”

“Yeah, on the top of his head! Get his information. I’ll get the fire department’s info. We’ll also need the address of this building. Hey, Sarge? Anything else?”

“Yeah! Kick that son of a bitch in the ass for me!”

“Will do, sir.”

That seems to have our arrestee a little worried.

“Hey, Senior?”

“Yeah?”

“If it’s all the same to you, I’d prefer not to have my ass kicked. I’ve been through a lot tonight. It was very traumatic up there. I wouldn’t want you to add to that.”

“No doubt about that. How about we pass on the ass kicking?”

“I’d appreciate that, Senior. I most certainly would.”

He’s very eloquent. I’ll give him that. Some of the homeless are. They’re definitely not what you’d expect to find out here. Lord, this is one seriously weird night!


Clearing from Central Station. Just get us out of the parking lot fast! Before something else happens! All right, we’re out. Back on the street. Thank God! The station is a madhouse tonight. They’ve got so many people in the tanks and chained to the bench in there that it’s like a big party for the skid row criminal element. Half of them were going nuts while the other half were happy to be out of the heat. And in the misdemeanor big tank? Those fucking lunatics actually ordered a bunch of pizzas to be delivered to the lockup! The pizzas showed up at the desk while we were writing the arrest report. Yes, arrestees do that, sometimes. And no, we don’t bring them the pizzas. It’s against the rules.

Well, our burglar-slash–Spiderman has to be the most polite guy I’ve run into out here. He certainly was the easiest booking I’ve had. Most guys either clam up, or they give you no end of grief through the whole process. That guy was downright helpful! I almost felt bad for locking him up. Good manners should count for something out here. They’re that rare. OK, what the hell could possibly happen next? Is all of skid row going to choose up sides and have the world’s biggest free-for-all in front of the missions? Are they all going to start howling at the moon all at once? Is a giant sinkhole going to open up and swallow the entire sector? At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised by anything.

“Where do we go now, Dani?’

“Somewhere where there won’t be any lunatics going crazy from the heat.”

“I think we’d have to leave the division for that.”

“Head over to Meridian. All of the stores are closed, and the homeless know they’re not supposed to go near the place right now. It’s either that, or hide out at Heller Plaza.”

“I’ll bet there’s at least three units hiding out at the Plaza right now. Graveyard guys do that a lot.”

“Then forget Heller Plaza. I don’t want to be there if some sergeant shows up and starts in on them.”

“You got it. Meridian Avenue, here we come.”

“Warp speed, Mister Harper. And try not to see any shit between here and there.”

We’ve got an hour until end of watch, assuming they don’t hold us over. As busy as it’s been, that’s a distinct possibility. Just watch: in five minutes, the whole of downtown will suddenly burst into flames. Poof! Or the homeless will all turn into real zombies and start eating people. Something tells me that even by hiding over on Meridian, we won’t escape the lunacy. I’m just not that lucky.

“Good call, Dani. This place is deserted.”

“The way the heat beats down on this place; it must have been murder during the day.”

“It’s still pretty hot now.”

“Yeah, maybe there’s something to this global warming shit after all?”

“I think it’s just one of those summers. We’ll probably get a cold winter and we’ll both be complaining that we want the heat back.”

“You won’t hear me wishing for triple-digits. Hey, who’s that over there?”

“Which side?”

“East side. By the electronics shop.”

It looks like a woman, and I’m betting she’s a full-fledged member of the bark-at-the-moon crowd. She’s screaming at the steel security gate, and I mean screaming! See? They really have gone howling mad!

“I see her. She’s yelling at the gate. Do we just shine her on?”

I wish we could, but now she’s kicking it. That’s going to set the alarm off. We’d better get her moving along before it starts ringing. At least we can knock out the radio call as a false alarm.

“Let’s get her out of there before she trips the alarm.”

Lady, just don’t have a seizure or anything while we’re here. I’m counting the minutes until we can get the hell out of here, tonight. A shitload of guns, burglars on the high wire, a few ADW suspects, fuck! We’ve definitely earned our money tonight!

“Harper, break to her left in case she goes off on us. Hey, lady! Stop kicking that!”

“Go away! I ain’t bothering you!”

“Yeah, but you’re bothering that gate! Stop kicking it!”

“Go fuck yourself!”

I swear, if they eliminated the words “fuck you” from the language, most of the people out here would be practically mute.

“I said stop! Put your hands up!”

“Why? It’s his fault!”

Well, now we know that the gate is a guy. Good to know. Great! Just great! She’s a total whacko!

“Harper?”

“Don’t look at me. She’s a woman. You need to search her.”

“Gee, thanks for reminding me. Lady, have you got any weapons? Anything sharp in your pockets?”

“I take care of myself! I don’t carry no sharp things in my pockets! They ain’t no good for you! They mess up your clothes! I take care of myself!”

This lady hasn’t had a bath since the 1990s. That’s taking care of yourself? And she’s wearing about four layers of clothes. In this heat? How is she not dead from heatstroke? God, she stinks to high heaven! I can’t even describe it!

“I’m just going to check your pockets. Hey, what have you got in here? It’s heavy.”

“I told you! I clean up after myself!”

Yeah, right. I don’t think the word “clean” is in her vocabulary. What the hell is this? It feels like a bag of clay. Is it dope? No, it can’t be dope. It’s way too heavy, and no one this crazy carries that much dope. It’s not a rock. It’s too soft. Could it be dope? Tar heroin? If it is, then she’s a bigger dope dealer than Ricky! She’s loaded with it!

“Harper, she’s got something weird, here. Whatever it is, she’s got it in both pockets. It might be a shitload of dope. Don’t move, lady. I just want to see what this is.”

Fuck! What the hell is this? It sure as hell isn’t dope. It feels like squishy clay! What is she doing? Stealing clay from a construction site? I need my flashlight. What the fuck is…oh, my God!

“Shit!”

“What? Dani? What is it?”

“It’s…it’s shit! She’s got shit in her pockets!”

“I told you I clean up after myself, you fucking bitch!”

“Are you fucking kidding me? Are you saying you took a shit in the alley and stuffed it in your pockets?”

“Of course! I clean up after myself! That’s what a lady does! Not like these men out here! Leaving their shit all over the place for people to step in it! Damn pigs is what they are!”

“You’re out of your fucking mind, you crazy bitch! Oh my God! It’s all over my hands! It’s everywhere!”

“Well, you shouldn’t have stuck your damn hands in my pockets! Ain’t like you got any business in my pockets!”

“Are you fucking kidding me? You put your own shit in your pockets? What the fuck is the matter with you? You’re insane!”

I don’t fucking believe this! Good God almighty, I’ve got her shit all over my fucking hands! I’ve got someone’s shit all over my fucking hands! This is not happening to me! Jesus Christ! I think I’m going to fucking puke! This is fucking gross!

“Harper!”

“Hey, I’m glad you searched her!”

He’s laughing at me? He’s fucking laughing his ass off! I’ve got someone’s shit all over my hands and he’s laughing his ass off! I’m going to kill him!

“Harper, you fucking asshole! Get me something to clean this shit off!”

“Sorry. I don’t have any toilet paper.”

“Harper! You help me get this shit off of me right now, or I swear to almighty God, you’re fucking dead! You’re a fucking dead man!”

This is not fucking happening! Oh, God! There’s fucking human shit all over my hands! It’s sticking to my skin! God, I’ve got who knows what kind of diseases crawling all over me! I just want to puke! This is fucking gross!

“Move it, Harper! Officer needs help! Right now!”

“Do you want me to put out a help call?”

He’s making jokes? Can you believe it? I’m standing here with this fucking bitch’s shit on my hands, and he’s fucking laughing his ass off! I’m going to kill him! I’m going to fucking kill him with my bare hands! My shit-covered hands! Oh, yuck! I can’t stand this!

“Hurry up, God damn it!”

“I found some napkins in the glove box.”

“Give them here! Where’s that hand sanitizer?”

“Uh, I think we ran out.”

“Harper! This is not fucking funny! Jesus! Oh, God! Look at this! I can’t fucking believe this!”

“You’re not going to just drop those on the ground, are you? That would be littering.”

“Hey! This psycho bitch can shove them in her pockets! That’s where it came from!”

“Hey, cop! Don’t call me pyscho! I ain’t no psycho!”

“Lady, you shoved your own shit in your goddamned pockets! You’re a total fucking psycho! Own it!”

“That ain’t how a lady should talk!”

“A lady? Are you…Jesus! Get this shit off of me! God! Oh, this is so fucking disgusting! Harper! Bring me that fucking hand sanitizer! Code three!”

“I told you, I don’t think we have any left.”

Is he…fuck! I’m going to kill him! That’s it! Give him the death look! Right in his fucking eyes! The “I’m going to kill you stone dead, motherfucker!” look! That’s it, Harper! Look in my eyes and see your impending fucking death!

“You’d better stop laughing right now, boot!”

“I’m sorry. I’m trying.”

“Try harder, you little shit!”

“Are you sure you want to use that word? You’ve still got some of it on your hands.”

Die, Harper! Just fucking die! Right here, right now!”

He’s still laughing at me! I’ll bet he wouldn’t think it was so funny if I smeared this shit on his face!

“Come here, Harper! Let me wipe my hands on you! Just hold still!”

“Screw that!”

“Stop moving! Come here, Harper! I’ve got something for you!”

God! I can’t stand it anymore! Scrub! Just scrub it all off! Gross! Oh, God! I’m going to have to take ten showers when I get back to the station!

“Where’s that hand sanitizer, you little shit? Bring it here! Now!”

Oh, now he finds it! Yeah, after it’s too late and I’ve got some zombie disease in my blood! God, I think I can feel the little disease bugs crawling up my arms!

“Here you go, Dani. You don’t need to give it back to me. I really don’t want to touch it.”

“Asshole! Oh, yuck! I can feel the fucking shit germs crawling on my hands!”

“Hey, remember what we said about the flesh-eating…”

Oh, he is not starting with that shit again! Not in this or any universe known to man or God! I will fucking kill him! Right where he stands!

“Silence! Not one fucking word, Harper! You hear me? Not one fucking word about that!”

“Yes, ma’am. Is it all off?”

“You’d better hope so!”

“I think you missed a spot.”

“Oh, you’re just loving this, aren’t you?”

“Well, now that you mention it…”

“Can it! You hear me? Not one word! Not one fucking word! Do you hear, boot? You will never tell anyone about this! Do you read me? Not one fucking word to anyone! Ever!”

“Your secret is safe with me, partner.”

“Yeah, I’ll believe that when I see it!”

“So what do you want to do with her?”

“Are you kidding? I want to fucking kill her! First her, then you!”

“I mean besides that.”

“Nothing! I don’t ever want to see her again! We’re going to forget this ever happened!”

“I don’t think I’ll ever forget this one, Dani.”

Harper!

“I can’t believe that happened to you! It’s so fucking disgusting!”

If I didn’t know better, I’d swear he planned this! Look at him! He’s laughing so hard, he’s practically crying!

“Get me back to the station now!

“Should we go code three?”

“Fuck yes! Red lights and sirens! I want to be back there in ten seconds or less!”

“I don’t think that’s authorized, Dani.”

“Do you want to die tonight? Do you? ‘Hello, Mrs. Harper? Yeah, I’m sorry to report your son’s partner killed him in a fit of rage. You can claim the body at the morgue. Click!’ Is that what you want? Do you want me to make that call to your mother? Because I’ll do it! Oh, yes! I will fucking do it!”

“Don’t worry, Dani. I’ll get you back to the station fast.”

“Warp speed, Mr. Harper!”

“Roger that. Just don’t touch anything in the car, OK?”

“Oh, I am so going to fucking kill you tonight! Count on it!”

That’s it! It’s official! I’m one of them! I’m one of the skid row zombie psycho people! That crazy old guy in the alley was right! I’m one of them!


Central Station. Or maybe should I call it “Decontamination Station?” Thank God for Midwatch. It’s about the only time you can work where you can show yourself out to the station, take three showers in a row, scrub the first two layers of skin off of your fucking hands, and not have it raise any suspicions with the Watch Commander. Fuck! I can’t even put on that uniform again! I think I’m going to burn it! No, it’s too expensive. I’ll wrap it in a trash bag and leave a note for the dry cleaner to run it through the machines three or four times. Maybe they have some major decontamination procedure? Maybe they can blast it with some highly radioactive crap that’ll kill anything on earth? I’ll take the radiation over being smeared with human shit any day! Thank God I have another clean uniform in my locker. The rest are either at home or at the dry cleaners. Oh, I think I’m going to puke! I cut my fingernails back as far as I could, just in case! Good Lord! What kind of person scoops up her own shit and packs it in her fucking pockets? How fucking psycho can she be? You could give me fifty lobotomies and I still wouldn’t do that if you held a gun to my head!

“Are you all decontaminated, Dani?”

“Yes! No thanks to you!”

“Hey, I drove you here. I may have saved your life.”

“You were of absolutely no help out there! You should be ashamed of yourself!”

“How are you going to explain to the Watch Commander why your hair’s all wet?”

“I’m not! Front and center, boot!”

“What do you want me to do?”

“Take this towel and dry my hair!”

“Are you serious?”

“You’re damned right! You’re responsible for this! It’s the least you can do! Start drying, boot! Start on the sides, on to the top! Dry!”

Hey, it’s the least I can do to make him pay for it! And to tell the truth, he’s pretty good at drying my hair. Maybe I should make him do this more often?

“Keep working, boot! Rub ’til it’s dry!”

“Yes, ma’am.”

God! I can still feel that…that…shit on my hands! Now I know how Jesus felt when he said: ‘God, why have you abandoned me?’ There is no God in a place where someone would do something like that, and where I would end up with it on my fucking hands! God has abandoned our sector! I’m sure of it!

“All done, ma’am?”

“Let’s see. Not bad, actually. You’ve got a talent for this.”

“It’s one of my many skills.”

“Let’s see if one of your many skills is keeping your mouth shut! Because if I hear one fucking word about this…”

“My lips are sealed, partner.”

“They don’t look sealed to me! You’re still laughing at me!”

“I’m sorry, Dani. I just can’t believe…”

You can’t believe? How the hell do you think I feel?”

“Pretty shitty?”

Did he…did he actually say that? Did he have the unmitigated gall to say that? That’s it! Time to die, Harper!

“I’m reaching for my gun, Harper! You taught me how to shoot! Here I am, reaching for my gun! Yeah, you’d better run!”

“I’m running, ma’am!”

If he thinks I won’t go after him in the men’s locker room, he doesn’t know me very well!

“If you think you’re safe in there, Harper, think again!”

Actually, I’d better get him out of there before someone asks him why he’s hiding in there. If he squeals about this, I’ll never hear the end of it!

“Harper, I order you to come out of there! I give you my word, I will not kill you!”

“Just as long as you promise not to touch me with those hands.”

“Fine! I won’t touch you. Get out here! We’ve still got a few minutes before end of watch.”

“OK, but remember: you gave me your word.”

“Fine. Hey! Touch! Touch! Touch! Ha! I got you!”

“Too late. You already scrubbed your hands raw.”

“Yeah. Lucky you.”

“Lynott! Harper! What are you two doing in the station?”

Oh, shit! Sergeant Gellar. Here’s where we find out if Harper can keep his mouth shut.

“We were just leaving, sir. Weren’t we, Harper?”

“That’s right, sir.”

“What’s so damned funny, Harper?”

“Nothing, sir. I’m just happy to be here.”

“Yeah, right. Hey, what is that? Damn, Lynott! You smell good. In this heat? What? Are you wearing perfume?”

No, it’s the ten fucking gallons of shampoo and soap I used in the shower! I wasn’t taking any chances. Think fast, Dani. I do not want to explain this to him!

“I’m the only woman on Midwatch, Sarge. Of course you think I smell good.”

“Yeah, that’s probably it. Whatever. Get back to work, you two. You’re not end of watch yet.”

“Roger that, sir.”

Now let’s get out of here before he has a chance to think about it.

“Do you think he bought it?”

“No doubt, Dani. No doubt at all.”

“Shut up and get in the car, you little shit!”

“You do smell nice. What kind of shampoo do you use?”

“Oh, you are such an asshole!”

I wonder which is the best alley to hide a body? Not Grand Alley. The Narrow Alley? The Brickline Alley? I think I’m going to find out in a few minutes. He is so fucking dead!


Back on Patrol. 5th Street. Skid row central. I know I shouldn’t ask this, but what the hell could happen in the next ten minutes before end of watch? You see, after what I just went through, asking that question is like tempting God to hit you with a lightning bolt. Remember what I said about jinxes? I’m definitely bucking for a lightning bolt, here. And on this night, anything’s possible.

“Are we clear?”

“We’re clear, Dani. Come what may!”

“Don’t say that! Not after what I just went through!”

“Hey, after that, what could possibly go wrong?”

“One of the cardinal rules of being a cop, Harper: Don’t ever tempt fate!”

“I’ll remember that.”

“Sixteen Central, ambulance shooting, 8th Street, one block east of Meridian. One victim down, north side of the street. EMS is en route.”

“See what you did? Asshole! Sixteen Central, roger.”

“Sixteen Central, handle code three.”

“Sixteen Central, responding code three. Hit it, Harper!”

“Hang on!”

Eighth Street one block east of Meridian? There’s nothing much going on there at this hour. Even the homeless don’t hang out there very much when it’s this late. So who the hell would shoot someone over there? A carjacking? Who the hell would park there?

“Almost there! Dani, do you see anything?”

“Nothing! There’s nothing here!”

“They said east of Meridian. Maybe they meant west of Meridian?”

That would make a lot more sense! Those hotels over there? West of Meridian and a few blocks north? Those are nice places. That’s where you’d pull a carjacking.

“Turn us around and hit it!”

“Hang on, Dani!”

Oh, shit! Harper was right! There’s our victim! Two blocks west of Meridian!

“Sixteen Central, be advised, the victim is two blocks west of Meridian. Repeat: west of Meridian. North side of the street. We’re going to need an additional unit. No, make that two additional units! We’ve got a crowd forming!”

“Sixteen Central, roger. Central units, be advised: the shooting is two blocks west of Meridian. Units en route, identify.”

Great! Right in front of an asshole hotel! I don’t remember what it’s called, but I heard about this place. They stick a lot of parolees in there as soon as they get out of prison. Plus, it’s a major dope spot. That narrows our list of suspects down to about a thousand.

“We’re here. Dani, put us code six.”

“Sixteen Central, show us code six at the shooting. We’ve got one victim down. Male, black, about twenty-five. Oh, hell! This isn’t good! What’s the ETA on EMS”

“Sixteen Central, ambulance is en route.”

“They’d better get here fast! This guy’s hit bad!”

Judging by the amount of blood on the sidewalk, this guy took a major hit. He’s going to bleed out if that ambulance doesn’t get here quick!

“Harper! Get these people back!”

“You head her! Move back! Give us some room!”

He’s still twitching, so he’s not dead yet. Jesus, I think he’s actually conscious. He must be one tough motherfucker. He got hit square in the chest!

“Hey! Hey, you! Who did this to you? Did you see the shooter?”

“I don’t…I don’t know. Mexican guy. Two of them, I think.”

“Just hang on. The ambulance is coming. Where did they go? The shooters?”

“Green car. That way.”

Towards Meridian. That figures. There’s a lot of places they could go from Meridian.

“Harper! Two male Hispanics! Green car, last seen toward Meridian!”

“Got it! Hey! Did anyone see what happened?”

“Yeah! They done shot that boy!”

It looks like Harper found at least one witness. Good. That’s a lot more than we usually find. He’s an older guy. Maybe late forties. They tend to make better witnesses. They’ve usually got their heads on straight.

“Dani, I think we’ve got something, here. Hey, you! You saw it? Who shot him?”

“Motherfuckin’ dudes in a car! Just up and shot that boy! No reason!”

“What kind of car?”

“Little car. Honda, maybe. Maybe a Toyota? One of them kind, you know? It was green. Definitely green. I done saw that much.”

“Good! You come over here. You just became our new best friend.”

“Why’d they have to shoot that boy like that?”

“Good question. What was he doing?”

“He wasn’t doing a damned thing! He was just standin’ there!”

“Dani! Did you get that?”

“Yeah, I got it.”

Two male Hispanics do a drive-by shooting on a black guy standing in front of a dope spot? Anywhere else, it would probably be gang-related. But out here? There aren’t any gangs on skid row. And this guy doesn’t look like a gangbanger. He’s a little old for that, and I don’t see any gang tattoos. Damn! I guess we really do have a dope dealer war going on. And the body count’s rising!

“Dani! We’ve got EMS!”

I count at least three hits in his chest. Maybe more. The bullets really ripped him up. He’s a fucking mess. It’s a wonder he can still talk. I was right: this guy is definitely one tough motherfucker!

“Let them through!”

“Officer! What have you got?”

“One victim, multiple gunshots to the chest! Conscious and breathing!”

“OK, we got it! Keep these people back!”

These bystanders probably ruined our crime scene, but we still have to try. There may be something we can salvage.

“Harper, any shell casings?”

“Not so far.”

“Try further out in the street.”

The shell casings could have gone back into the car. Or the gunman could have used a revolver. Or someone could’ve picked them up, already. Like I said, it’s not like you see on TV. They always find a shitload of evidence that leads straight to the shooter. Not so much in real life.

“I got nothing, Dani. No skid marks, either. Whoever was driving didn’t peel out after the shooting.”

“Grab the tape. We need to move these people back. We’ve got to salvage whatever we can of the crime scene.”

OK, we’ve got additional units arriving. Good. They can start grabbing these people and questioning them. One guy’s talking, so maybe someone else will? Of course, it doesn’t sound like there’s much to tell. That’s the problem with a drive-by shooting: almost zero evidence at the scene. In this case, just a little green car and two male Hispanics in it.

“So we’ve got no evidence? No shell casings? Nothing?”

“I wouldn’t go that far, Dani.”

“Why? What did you find?”

“These. Over by the stairs.”

Good obs, Harper! Little rolled-up balloons. Heroin. I was right: our guy was a dope dealer. He probably spit them out of his mouth when he got hit.

“Nice catch, Harper. So our victim is a dealer?”

“Unless somebody else dropped them.”

“Dropping heroin before the police arrive, when they’ve still got time to get out of here? What are the odds of that?”

“Slim to none.”

“Yeah, and not in that order. It looks like the Sarge was right.”

“You mean we’ve got a dope dealer war?”

“It sure looks that way. And if it’s the Mexican dealers against the black dealers, then…”

“Then we know who the Mexican is.”

“Bingo! Fucking Ricky! He’s sending a message to the competition.”

“Yeah: get the fuck out of my territory now! Is that guy going to make it?”

“I don’t know. I can’t believe he’s talking. He’s got at least three solid hits in the chest, and he’s lost a shitload of blood.”

“You want me to ride with him in the ambulance?”

“Yeah. I’ll meet you at the hospital. I’ll turn the scene over to Ruiz and Rosen. I’ll leave when a sergeant gets here to take over.”

“Some of these witnesses are pretty pissed off.”

“I’m not surprised. They’re black and the victim’s black, and the gunmen are Hispanic. As far as they know, this guy got shot for no reason. They probably think it might be racial.”

“Maybe we should tell them it isn’t?”

“If we do, then they’re going to ask why it happened. I don’t want to be the one who tells the public we’ve got a dope dealer war going on. That’s a few levels above my paygrade. I’ll leave that to the captain.”

“Good idea. Just watch your back while I’m gone. I don’t like leaving you here.”

“Don’t worry. I’m a big girl with a big gun, and I’ve got six other officers here with me.”

“Yeah, but you’re my partner. You watch your back all the same, OK?”

“Will do. Write down anything our victim says – if he says anything. I’ll see you over there.”

So we’ve got a fucking dope dealer war on our hands, and now they’re doing drive-by hits. That’s a great way to take out a shitload of innocent bystanders. I swear, if there were any justice in the world, we’d go over to the Big Lot right now and shoot Ricky right between the fucking eyes. He may not have pulled the trigger, but he sure as hell ordered this. He sure as hell started it, too. And this guy won’t be the last one. Count on it.

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