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Chapter 20: Ricky's Right Hand

Central Station. All hell’s breaking loose in the Watch Commander’s office. As I suspected, some people aren’t happy with our actions out there. We’ll have to see how it plays out. Right now, Harper and I are just waiting to be called in there. We’re hanging back so that we don’t overhear what’s being said. I don’t want to hear it. I can hear someone in there shouting his head off, and I’m pretty sure it’s about me. Yeah, I was the senior officer, and it was my call. I stand by it, but it’s times like this that make you wonder why you ever took the fucking PIII test. Sometimes, it’s just not worth it.

Well, it turns out this whole thing started the way they usually do: a great big fucking nothing call! Vinell and Kursteff got a call about a psycho causing a commotion in the street. When they tried to arrest the guy, he went completely ballistic and threw a fucking wooden pallet right through the windshield of their car. Then he tried to bash their brains in with a cinder block. They had to put the boots to the guy in order to subdue him, and when they did, the crowd went completely fucking nuts. The rocks and bottles started to fly, and the rest is history. Now we’re back at the station and we’re going to find out if we’re heroes or insubordinate villains who pissed off some lame-assed excuse for a sergeant who didn’t want to cause a scene. How the hell do people like that become police officers in the first place? Goddamned social workers with badges! Don’t ever use force, don’t arrest anybody, and if an angry mob confronts you, turn tail and run! Fucking idiots! It’s cops like that who make assholes like Ricky feel invincible. They make me want to puke.

Speaking of sergeants who make me want to puke, I’ll bet that’s him in the Watch Commander’s office. The one making a big fucking scene like he’s completely outraged by what happened. If anyone should be outraged, it’s the officers who showed up where they were needed and took care of business! You know what? I don’t give a shit what they say. I don’t give a shit what they do to me. I’ll make sure Harper is covered, and then if this guy goes off on me, I’m going to let him have it with both barrels! As far as I’m concerned, he’s a fucking coward and a disgrace to the uniform! And I don’t even know who the fuck he is!

“Hey, Harper? Who’s that sergeant? The one in there yelling his head off?”

“That’s Sergeant Morton.”

“What’s the word on him?”

“Nothing good. He got sent to Nightwatch last DP. He usually works Daywatch. He’s a total do-nothing. He’s one of those sergeants people hope doesn’t show up at their calls.”

“Is he the guy who ordered everybody to stop running code three to that assistance call?”

“I think so. He sounds pretty pissed.”

“Yeah, he’s probably pissed at me.”

“You mean at us, right?”

“Don’t worry. I’ve got you covered.”

“Screw that! You made the right call! Where the fuck was he?”

“Probably waiting at that command post.”

“You mean hiding at the command post.”

“You read my mind, partner. Look, if he gives me any shit, I’m not going to roll over. I’d like to kick him in the ass right now!”

“Get in line behind me. Don’t worry. I’ve got your back. I support what you did one hundred percent, and that’s what I’m going to tell them.”

“We’re in this together?”

“That’s what partners do.”

“All right, then. Let’s go straighten this asshole out.”

At least the Watch Commander is Lieutenant Hagan. He’s a good cop. And Sergeant Gellar is in there, too. I wonder why he wasn’t there at the scene? I sure hope he’s got a good reason. I like him. I’d hate to think he was hiding out at the command post, too. All right, here goes nothing!

“You wanted to see us, Lieutenant?”

“Harper, Lynott, yeah. Come on in. What exactly happened out there?”

And I see Sergeant Asshole isn’t going to give me a chance to answer.

“What happened was they disobeyed an order!”

“Calm down, Chuck. I want to hear what they have to say.”

“I don’t care what they have to say!”

“I do. Lynott?”

“It was an officer needs assistance call, sir. Twenty-Two was taking rocks and bottles. It turns out they had a call about some psycho causing a dustup. When they tried to arrest him, he trashed their car and tried to trash them with a cinder block. When they took him down, the crowd went nuts and started pelting them with rocks and bottles. We got there and they were practically surrounded. There must have been at least a hundred people involved.”

“So what did you do?”

“We did what we had to in order to protect our people, sir.”

And Sergeant Asshole doesn’t like that one bit! Jesus, he’s practically hysterical! They actually let this guy walk around with a loaded gun?

“Lieutenant, she rushed into a…”


And now Harper’s not going to let me finish. He’s probably worried I’ll take it all on myself. He’s a good guy. No way will he let me go down in flames alone. That’s pigheaded, but commendable.

“Sir, Officer Lynott and I saw our people were in danger. Dani…Officer Lynott took control of the situation. She got everyone into their helmets and formed up in a skirmish line to push the crowd away from the original unit. She did a hell of a job, sir.”

One good turn deserves another, I guess.

“Lieutenant, Officer Harper was the point man on the skirmish line, sir. He was the one who kept everyone in formation and focused on the job.”

And Sergeant Asshole clearly hates our little mutual admiration thing!

“The job! Who the hell do you think you…”

“Chuck! I said I wanted to hear it from them! Go on, Lynott.”

At least Lieutenant Hagan’s genuinely interested in hearing us out. I think we might be all right, here.

“We formed everyone who showed up into a skirmish line, sir. We were under-strength because of a lack of responding units, but we managed. Everyone did an outstanding job.”

I think Sergeant Asshole wants to slap me across the face! Just try it, motherfucker! I’ll rip your fucking balls off and shove them right up your ass!

“You call that shit outstanding, Officer? You sent a…”

“Damn it, Chuck! You do that again and I’m going to kick you the hell out of here!”

“Yes, sir.”

“Keep going, Lynott.”

“Yes, sir. We swept the crowd back exactly the way we were supposed to. Nobody got hurt, and we were able to disperse the crowd in a few minutes.”

“Were any of our people hurt?”

“No, sir. We took a few hits, but nothing serious. And no one in the crowd was hurt. A few jabs with nightsticks, but that was it as far as a use of force was concerned, sir.”

“Who had your back?”

“That’s a good question, sir.”

And of course, I looked right at Sergeant Asshole when I said that. Yeah, motherfucker! You were supposed to know I was talking about you!

“Are you telling me you guys were out there in formation and nobody had your back?”

“The air unit was circling overhead, sir. They made sure our six was clear. They would’ve notified us if anyone tried to come at us from that direction. Not that they could have done anything to help us if anyone did.”

“I see. Who gave the orders?”

“I did, sir. I relayed them to Officer Harper, and he commanded the squad. He took the point position on the line.”

“And you didn’t crack any heads?”

“No, sir. It wasn’t necessary. We moved in formation and with good control. They got the message. Once we got them bunched up on 6th Street, they ran.”

“Any arrests?”

“No, sir. We didn’t have enough officers to form arrest teams. I wish we did, but…”

And here goes Sergeant Asshole again!

“Oh, I don’t believe this! Officer Lynott! Do you…”

I think Lieutenant Hagan is going to kick the crap out of him! Please do it! Please!

“What did I just tell you, Chuck? That’s enough! Lynott? Harper? Did you receive any orders to report to the command post?”

“No, sir. We didn’t even know there was a command post until the air unit told us he saw it a block away.”

“So the air unit was broadcasting what was happening?”

“I’m sure he was, sir. You must have heard it on the radio.”

“Unfortunately, Sergeant Gellar and I were in a meeting in the captain’s office when it all went down. It was over by the time someone told us about it.”

Well, that explains why Sergeant Gellar wasn’t there. Fair enough. But what about everybody else?

“The whole thing was over in five minutes at best, sir.”

“Yeah, I know. Did you call for additional units?”

“A few times, yes, sir. Communications definitely heard me.”

“And no units responded?”

“No sir. Not one. Except for the units that got there with us, sir.”

“All of Midwatch was there, sir.”

Nice, Harper! I wanted to make sure the lieutenant knew that.

“Officer Harper, where the hell do you get off…”

“Enough! Chuck, why the hell didn’t you take your units over there? They were asking for help! You knew what was happening! There was a goddamned air unit overhead! You were a block away, for God’s sake!”

“What? So we could go in there and just make the situation worse? There was no need for a skirmish line! There was no need for a show of force! They should have just left the scene immediately!”

See what I mean? He’s fucking useless! Don’t make waves! Don’t upset people! Don’t hurt anyone’s feelings! Don’t make the asshole activists upset! Don’t do the fucking job! And to think: a lot of people think this is the new, better way to do the job! Fucking assholes!

“Our guys were taking rocks and bottles, sir! They had a violent suspect in custody! They were about to be surrounded! And their car was trashed! What were they supposed to do? Run out of there on foot with a hundred angry people on their heels?”

“That’s a very good question, Lynott. Sergeant Morton? Do you have an answer for that?”

“Going in there in riot helmets wasn’t necessary! There was no reason to take an aggressive posture like that over a nickel-and-dime arrest! They should’ve let the suspect go and gotten the hell out of there! People are going to raise all kinds of hell about this!”

“It sounds to me like there was plenty of reason for it, Chuck! And they accomplished the mission with sound tactics and a minimal use of force!”

“The idea is to avoid using force whenever possible, sir! They were out of line!”

“No, they were doing their job! Harper! Lynott! Good work! Write it up for me. Don’t leave anything out. I want it before Nightwatch goes EOW.”

“Yes, sir. Lieutenant, I want to put Officer Harper in for a commendation. He really stepped up out there. He led the squad better than a lot of officers with fifteen years on the job could have done. I know. I’ve seen a few of these things in my day.”

Yes, Sergeant Asshole! I mean you! I see your hash marks! You’ve got fifteen years on the job! I was taking a shot right at you! Eat it, motherfucker!

“Sounds like you earned it, Harper.”

“In that case, sir, I want to put Officer Lynott in for a commendation. She took control of the situation. It was her tactical plan. I just did what she told me to do.”

“Fine. The mutual admiration society has spoken. Just write it all up. Have it on my desk before I leave.”

“Yes, sir.”

“And I want to know the name of every officer who was there with you. Everyone who bothered to show up. Harper, you said all of Midwatch was there?”

“Yes, sir. There were two units from Nightwatch, too: Twenty-Seven and Sixty-Three. Good officers, all of them.”

“Good. Get all the names. All of the unit numbers. And the air unit, too. We’re done here. Harper, Lynott, you’re dismissed. Chuck, you stay! I want to talk to you!”

That’s right, motherfucker! Now you get to explain why your chickenshit ass made the lieutenant’s watch look like shit! I know Lieutenant Hagan well enough to know that shit is an unforgivable sin to him! So is hiding at the fucking bullshit command post when you should’ve been out there leading us! Have fun, motherfucker!

That went a hell of a lot better than I expected. Yes! Finally! A division where they appreciate real police work! Well, with the exception of Sergeant Asshole, back there. But hey, fuck him! It’s obvious the lieutenant was as pissed at him as I was. I feel bad for Sergeant Gellar. From the look on his face, he was embarrassed that he wasn’t there. He shouldn’t be. He was in a meeting in the captain’s office. You can’t hear shit in there with the door closed. He didn’t know. The whole thing was over before he knew what was going on. It happens that way, sometimes. But I’ll bet the units who sat around at the command post are going to catch hell. My guess is, it wasn’t their fault. They probably got an order to go there. But if they did, we certainly didn’t hear it. That’s kind of strange when you think about it. Sergeant Asshole must have given it when we got out of the car. With all of that noise, I couldn’t hear the radio for shit. But it doesn’t make any difference. We were right and we did our job and the lieutenant knows it. There’s always the possibility that the captain will hate us for it, but I don’t get that impression from him. I’ll say this much: I wouldn’t want to be Sergeant Asshole right now. Not in this or any universe known to man or God!

I definitely want to write this one up to highlight Harper’s performance. He did an outstanding job. I was really impressed. I don’t know if he ever did any crowd control in the Marines, but his performance was flawless out there. A commendation is just a piece of paper that they stick in your personnel jacket, but it’s the best I can do. This department doesn’t give medals for that kind of shit. Maybe they should? The guy’s been on the job barely a year and he takes the point, leads an under-strength squad against a crazy-assed mob, and he doesn’t flinch even once? That’s damned impressive. Yeah, I was taking a shot at Sergeant Asshole, but what I said was absolutely true. I’ve seen guys with fifteen years on the job completely fuck up a squad formation under much easier circumstances, and with a lot more officers to work with. Two and a half weeks shy of getting off of probation and he’s already one of the best cops I’ve ever seen. That’s really saying something!

“Well, what do you know, Harper? I guess we’re heroes.”

“I’m glad the lieutenant saw it that way.”

“Lieutenant Hagan hasn’t forgotten what it means to be a cop. You’re going to miss that when you wheel out of here.”

“Yeah, I guess so. I don’t think Sergeant Morton likes us very much.”

“Oh, take it from one who knows: he hates us! He’s in there getting his ass chewed out!”

“Good! He deserves it! How many times did you call for more units?”

“At least three, I think. And I’ll bet the air unit was screaming for more units the minute you started moving the squad forward.”

“You mean the minute you started moving the squad forward. I’m not going to let you give me all the credit for this. That was a perfect tactical plan, and you pulled it off with half the officers you should have had. That was damned impressive!”

This is getting kind of repetitive, isn’t it? We’d better put a stop to it.

“We’re a good team; that’s what it was. We had good people with us.”

“We’re a damned good team, and we had the right people with us.”

“Amen. Just remember to keep your distance from Morton. I think we made ourselves an enemy tonight.”

“Fuck him! If you ask me, he’s a fucking disgrace! He could’ve gotten a lot of people hurt with his bullshit!”

“Harper, are you sure you don’t have ten years on the job already? Because if I didn’t know you were still a boot, I’d never believe it. I mean that.”

“You taught me well. It’s been an absolute blast working with you, Dani. I’m really going to miss it when they send me to another division.”

Coming from him, that’s high praise indeed. And it’s important to me that he thinks highly of me. His opinion matters a lot. You wouldn’t think a Marine would be so jazzed to have a female partner, but he doesn’t give a shit. Believe me, I’ve had more than my share of boots who thought women have no place on this job. Some of them weren’t shy about letting me know it, either. I didn’t care because I knew they didn’t know shit, but Harper does. He doesn’t give a shit that I’m not a guy and I’m not six feet tall and I can’t bench press five hundred pounds, and that means a hell of a lot to me. I’ve worked a hundred times harder to train some of my boots, and most of them couldn’t care less. You get used to that, but it means a lot to me when someone actually appreciates it. God, I am going to be so fucking miserable when he gets wheeled out of here. There’s no way I’ll get this lucky twice. It’s just not possible.

“Shall we see what the rest of the night has in store for us?”

“I can’t wait!”

“Neither can I. Let’s do it.”

“Lynott! Harper!”

Maybe it’s going to have to wait. Sergeant Gellar wants us.

“Sergeant Gellar?”

“I just wanted to say you did an outstanding job out there. I’m sorry I wasn’t with you, but you had the situation under control.”

“Thank you, sir. But it wasn’t just us. The whole watch was there. Everyone did a first-rate job. Especially Harper.”

“I know. But you two were the glue that held it together. The other officers who were there are all saying the same thing. I’ve already talked to most of them. You made us all look good. I won’t forget that.”

“Thanks. And Sarge? Go easy on Kursteff and Vinell, OK?”

“Go easy for what?”

Oh, shit! I thought he already knew about the car!

“Their suspect smashed the windshield of their car and bashed in the hood. I think the light bar’s damaged, too. It’s pretty trashed.”

“So? That wasn’t their fault.”

“Yeah, but it was one of the new cars.”

Oh, I can see that really hurt! Why did I have to be the one to tell him?

“It had to be one of the new ones! Fuck!”

“Look at it this way, Sarge: now it’s a real Central Division car!”

“Uh-huh. Get back in the field, you two. I don’t want you to see me cry.”

You know, I think he just might. And he’s right: I wouldn’t want to see that.

Back out on patrol. God, it’s got to be at least 101 degrees out here! And it’s night! The sun’s down! When is it going to start cooling off? Is there a giant, invisible fire-breathing dragon roasting the Emerald City? I’m actually beginning to wonder.

After that little riot on skid row, things have quieted down a bit. I guess when you expend that much energy going nuts in the middle of the street, it takes a lot out of you. Good. I’d hate to think we might go through that twice in one night. On the bright side, if we do have another dustup, I’ll bet every unit in the division gets there before we do. Some people on Nightwatch are going to have a very unpleasant roll call tomorrow afternoon. That especially goes for Sergeant Asshole. I wouldn’t be surprised if he finds himself chained to a desk for the rest of the DP. Then again, he’d probably enjoy it. He wouldn’t have to do any real police work.

“Hey, Dani? How come they don’t issue riot shields to the divisions? We could’ve used them back there.”

“Toys like that go to the SWAT teams and Special Enforcement Unit. They don’t want us to have anything like that.”

“That sucks.”

“Tell me about it. We’re lucky they issued rifles to the divisions. They didn’t do that for a long time.”

“Why not?”

“Mainly because the brass didn’t want us to have them. And they thought it was too time-consuming for patrol to qualify with them. It took a few major shootouts to make them change their minds. But even then, they didn’t issue them because they said the cost was prohibitive. They said they couldn’t afford them for patrol.”

“So how did we get them?”

“Believe it or not, we got them from the army. They reconditioned a bunch of old rifles and gave them to us. I don’t know if they were free, or if we paid a few bucks for them, but we definitely got them on the cheap. That was the only way the department could get enough of them to issue them to the divisions.”
“I thought they were ex-military guns. They did a good job reconditioning them. They look brand-new.”

“I was there when the department first displayed them for the news people. I was on TV for about two seconds, holding one of them. I guess they thought I looked cool; a woman with an assault rifle. I’m just glad we got them. I’ve never had to use one, but I feel a lot better knowing it’s there, just in case.”

“You and me both. Too bad we couldn’t get riot shields, too.”

“Unfortunately, those riot shields cost an arm and a leg. The ones that stop bullets, I mean. I don’t know about the plastic ones. They actually had a few of the good ones for sale at a police gear shop near where I live. I don’t think they sold many of them. They were asking about eleven hundred bucks apiece for them.”

“No, I’ll bet they’re still gathering dust on a shelf.”

“If you want shiny new gear, you should be a motorcycle cop. They don’t get riot shields, but they get a lot of new gear on a regular basis. Especially the bikes.”

“They get new bikes?”

“Of course. Have you ever seen a motor cop riding an old bike? I think they’ve got an unlimited supply of new bikes. I once saw about twenty huge crates stacked up at West Traffic Division. Each one was a brand-new motorcycle. It must be nice.”

“Why do they spend so much on bikes?”

“Good question. Let’s see if you can figure this one out. What do motor cops do most of the time?”

“Write tickets.”


“So it’s the money they bring in?”

“You got it. It’s all about the money.”

Hey, it makes sense. If you’re bringing in piles of cash for the city, then they’re going to spend money on you. And then there’s the fact that a lot of those guys crash those things. I guess it’s cheaper to buy a new one than to fix a trashed one. Too bad they can’t just buy the poor motor cop a new set of bones to replace the ones he broke when he went crashing into the pavement. That happens a lot. Those guys really take their lives in their hands.

“Hey, Harper? How much can you bench press?”

“Why do you want to know?”

“I don’t know. I was just thinking about something earlier and it came to mind.”

“Well, I haven’t tried a max lift for a while. Right now, probably four-fifty. Maybe a little more.”

“Did you ever lift five hundred?”

“Yeah, when I was in the Marine Corps. But I was training back then. I could probably do it again. Why? Have you got some furniture you need moved?”

“No. Hell, I don’t think I own anything that weighs that much. Except for my car.”

“They’ve got bumper jacks for that, you know.”

“I’m not asking you to lift my car, Harper.”

“Good. Because they’ve got bumper jacks for that.”


“Shall we pay a visit to Ricky?”

Weird. After that little riot, I hadn’t even thought much about him tonight. I guess a riot takes up all of your attention.

“Sure, why not?”

“Heading over there.”

We haven’t heard any shooting calls tonight. Maybe his gunners are taking the night off? No, Ricky isn’t the sort of boss that would give his people a night off. He strikes me as a real slave-driver. It’s a wonder anyone is willing to work for him. Hell, it’s a wonder someone who works for him hasn’t killed him by now.

“Hey, Dani? Where do you suppose Ricky’s getting these guys to carry out these shootings? That’s not the sort of thing your average dope dealer would do, right?”

“Good call, Harper. I was wondering the same thing.”

“Great minds think alike. So what do you think?”

“Mexican dope dealers are all connected to the Mexican Mafia. Maybe he’s getting them to do it?”

“That’s some pretty serious shit. Do you think Ricky has that much influence?”

“Frankly, I think it’s the other way around. But somebody’s doing them. Maybe they’re gangbangers? They did at least one drive-by. But skid row is a long way from any gangbanger territory. I doubt they’d want to come over here and risk it, especially when there’s nothing in it for them.”

“We know he’s got some pretty hardcore assholes working for him.”

“Yeah, like our friend Diego! Look!”

“I see it!”

That’s Diego in the Big Lot, beating the shit out of some guy! Oh, his ass is going to jail tonight! Yes! I’ve wanted to lock that asshole up since the moment I first met him!

“Watch yourself, Harper! He’s got something in his hand!”

“Yeah, it’s a piece of rebar! Jesus, he’ll kill that guy!”

That’s ADW for sure! He’s not going to walk on this one!

“Out of the car! Move wide! I’ll go straight in! And if he doesn’t drop it quick…”

“Shoot his ass!”

“Damn right! Go!”

He doesn’t even see us yet! Good! That’ll give us the drop on him! That’s it, Harper! Move to his left! I’ll draw his attention, and you whack him good!

“Diego! Police! Drop it!”

“Fuck you, bitch!”

“I said drop it!”

This dumb fuck does see I’m pointing a gun at him, right? What a fucking idiot!

“Last chance, Diego! I said drop it! Now!”

“You want some of this, bitch? Fine!”

Here he comes! This fucking idiot is going to get himself shot!

“Harper! Now! Crack his ass!”

Yikes! Right on the kneecap! Oh, that’s got to hurt like a motherfucker!

“Drop it, asshole!”

He’s still up! He’s fucking going for Harper! Is he fucking insane? He’s got a fucking death wish!

“Harper! Hit him on the…oh, shit!

He moved! Diego tried to duck, and Harper hit him right in the face! Jesus! Right on the fucking jaw! Oh, my God! Look at all of that blood! Oh, that put him down fast! He’s fucked up! Hell, that hit probably killed him!

“I got him, Dani!”

Yeah, you got him all right! Jesus! That was the worst hit I ever saw anyone take from a nightstick! His jaw must be broken into a million pieces!

“Nice work. Is he still alive?”

“He’s alive. I only hit him in the jaw. He shouldn’t have ducked like that.”

“I think you knocked his jaw into the cheap seats! Holy shit! Would you look at all of that blood!”

“Yeah, it’s pretty fucking messy. Damn! He’s out cold! Should we get EMS?”

Actually, I just want to leave his worthless ass right there to bleed to death. But we can’t do that. Not even for a piece of shit like him.

“Yeah, get EMS. And a sergeant. This is definitely a reportable use of force.”

“Oh, shit! Look at that! I guess I hit him harder than I thought!”

Holy Jesus! His whole knee looks like it’s been bent backwards! And his fucking jaw is completely dislodged! Holy shit! Can they even fix something like that? That shit looks permanent! God damn! How strong are you, Harper? I’ve seen people get hit by cars who didn’t get that fucked up! And you only hit him twice!

“I think you’re good for that five hundred pound bench press, partner. Jesus! He’s bleeding like a stuck pig! We’d better roll him on his side so he doesn’t choke to death.”

“I got it. You call it in.”

“Don’t forget to cuff his ass. Not that he’s going anywhere. Sixteen Central, we need EMS and a supervisor at the Big Lot, 9th and Palomar. We’ve got one in custody.”

“Sixteen Central, what do you have for the EMS?”

Oh, this is going to be fun! Just wait until everyone hears this broadcast!

“One male Hispanic, mid-twenties, possible broken knee and a very definite broken jaw. He’s unconscious, but still breathing.”

“Sixteen Central, roger.”

We’d better make sure our victim doesn’t disappear on us. This one’s going to raise a few eyebrows. Not that he didn’t deserve it, but we still have to cover all of the bases.

“Hey, you! Are you OK?”

“I think he done broke my arm!”

“Sixteen Central, we also have a male black, early thirties, possible broken arm, conscious and breathing. Victim of an ADW.”

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

“Sixteen Central, roger. Hey, buddy! Yeah, you! What’s your name?”

“Name’s Isaac.”

“Well, Isaac, why was he beating the crap out of you?”

“He said I owed him money. Motherfucker! He didn’t have to do me like that!”

“Did you owe him any money?”

“Yeah! Eight bucks!”

“He was wailing on you with a piece of rebar over eight bucks?”

“What can I say? He’s like that. Ask anybody. Motherfucker! Hey, thanks for savin’ my ass.”

“No problem. That’s our job. You just sit there. We’ve got an ambulance coming.”

“Is he dead?”

“No, he’s alive.”

“That’s too bad. You should’ve killed his ass! The world would be a better place without that motherfucker!”

“Yeah, tell me about it. But at least he’s out of commission for a good, long time.”

“Is he gonna go to jail?”

“Big time.”

“Good. That guy’s an asshole! Ask anybody.”

“Yeah, I gathered that. We need to get your information for the report.”

“Whatever you need, Senior. I owe you guys. You done saved my life. Hey, your partner’s got a hell of a swing! Did he ever play ball?”

He’s right: Harper does have a hell of a swing. The Red Sox could use him. Jesus, seven to four? Seven to four! And against the fucking Yankees!

“No, but maybe Boston could sign him? What team do you like, Isaac?”

“Cincinnati Reds. Got to root for the home team.”

“You’re a long way from Cincinnati, Isaac.”

“Yeah, but the Emerald City ain’t got no team.”

“Good point. But if they did, they’d probably be munchkins.”

“Yeah, that’s probably true.”

And I’ll bet they wouldn’t give up seven runs in four innings! Jesus! You don’t play your infield deep when you’re down by two runs and the fucking play’s at third! Their shortstop should’ve been arrested for trespassing in left field! What the fuck were they thinking?

“Dani! We’ve got a sergeant! It’s Sergeant Gellar.”

“You mean Sergeant Morton didn’t want to come see us?”

“I’m pretty sure he’s off-duty by now.”

“I’m pretty sure that asshole’s been off-duty since he got out of the academy.”

I hope the Sarge doesn’t give us a hard time over this. Yeah, you’re not supposed to hit people in the head unless it’s a deadly force situation, but the guy had a piece of rebar. That’s pretty deadly. Besides, if he hadn’t tried to duck, Harper would have hit him in the chest. Then all he’d have is a broken sternum. Serves his ass right, if you ask me.

“Thanks for coming, Sarge.”

“Well, you two at the Big Lot. What a surprise. What’ve you got this time?”


Oh, you know it isn’t good when a Sergeant of Police with almost forty years on the job makes a face like that!

“Holy shit! Is he dead?”

“Unfortunately, no.”

“Did you guys do that?”

“Yes, sir. He was beating this guy over here with that rebar. We told him to stop.”

“And I take it he wouldn’t?”

I see Isaac wants to chime in. Hey, it’s probably just his way of showing his gratitude.

“That guy’s an asshole, Sergeant! These here officers saved my ass!”

“Who are you?”

“Name’s Isaac, sir. That motherfucker was gonna kill me for sure!”

“So this is your victim?”

“He is. The suspect is Diego. He’s Ricky’s right-hand man. What’s left of him, at any rate.”

“He’s Ricky’s motherfuckin’ asshole, Sergeant! You ask anybody! That motherfucker done tried to kill me! These officers saved my life!”

“Yeah, thanks. I got that already. You just hang tight. So what happened, Lynott?”

“Harper hit the suspect in the kneecap, but he didn’t go down.”

“Uh-huh. So what did you do?”

“I told him to drop the rebar again. He wouldn’t. He tried to hit Harper with it, so Harper hit him first. He was going for his chest, but the suspect ducked, and Harper hit him in the jaw.”

“With his nightstick?”

“Yes, sir. That put him down.”

OK, that’s a bit of an understatement.

“Put him down? Jesus, Lynott! It looks like it put him down and out! Is all of that blood his?”

“Yes, sir. We’re fine. No injuries.”

“And you said this guy works for Ricky?”

“Well, probably not anymore.”

“Very funny, Lynott. Where is Ricky?”

I was just wondering that myself. I don’t think I saw him when we pulled into the lot. Where is he?

“Now that you mention it, we didn’t see him. He’s not here now, that’s for sure.”

“Are there any other witnesses?”

“Just Isaac, here. We didn’t see anybody else, sir.”

“She’s tellin’ the truth, Sergeant. I saw the whole thing. They was justified. Swear to God.”

“Glad to hear it. What happened to your arm?”

“That motherfucker done broke it! Hit me in the arm with that iron bar! For eight bucks! Can you believe that shit? Eight bucks! He’s a motherfuckin’ asshole! Ask anybody.”

“All right. Get them both checked out. I take it we’ll be booking this asshole in the jail ward of the hospital?”

“Yes, sir. I think he’s going to have a problem with solid food for a few months.”

“More like a few years, from the looks of it. Jesus fucking Christ! Are those his teeth on the ground?”

Damn! I didn’t even see that! Jesus! Look at all those teeth! There must be ten of them! Nice work, Harper!

“I guess so. I hadn’t noticed that before.”

“Uh-huh. Did you leave any in his mouth?”

“Uh, you’d have to ask Harper, sir. He was the designated hitter.”

Looking at that bunch of teeth on the pavement, I’d say he didn’t. Good God! When this asshole wakes up, he’s going to be in pain like I can’t even imagine! Hell, I don’t even want to imagine it! They’re going to need something fifty times stronger than heroin just to keep him from screaming himself to death!

“Dani, we’ve got EMS.”

“Roger that. Sarge? Anything else?”

“No, that’s about it. It sounds pretty cut and dry. You guys know what to do. Write it up, and don’t leave anything out.”

“Yes, sir. Blow by blow.”

“Good deal. Jesus Christ! He is fucked up! Are they going to be able to fix his jaw?”

“I don’t know, sir. To be honest, I don’t really care, either.”

“Now that you mention it, neither do I. Let me know if he suddenly dies en route to the hospital. Other than that, I don’t need to know. Nice work, you two. I’d say you just chopped off Ricky’s right hand. We’ll see how that plays with him. You two have had a hell of a night. As usual.”

That’s putting it mildly. Damn! Is there anything that doesn’t happen in this place at night? I swear, this is the greatest place in the entire fucking world to be a cop; bar none! God, I love it!

Home at last! And I’m not even falling asleep on my feet from the overtime! How could I? God, what an amazing night! And it had a perfect ending! Divine justice at last! That little asshole Diego is out of commission for a long, long, time! Jesus, I knew he was an asshole, but I had no idea how much of an asshole until I saw his rap sheet. It’s three feet long, and it’s all for dope and violent crimes! He’s got twelve arrests for ADW, a few for battery, and he got arrested for rape four years ago. I can believe he’s out on the street! If you ask me, he’s probably good for a few rapes; not to mention a few murders. Strangely, he doesn’t have any murder charges on his record. Anyone that sadistic has to have a few bodies on him. Well, tonight he got a taste of his own medicine. Harper really did a number on him. Talk about a power hitter! Diego’s kneecap was completely shattered, but that was hardly the worst of it. The doctors couldn’t believe it when they saw his jaw. They were passing his x-ray around and saying how they’d never seen anything like it. They said a specialist might be able to put it back together, but don’t count on it. They said his jaw was broken into at least a dozen pieces, and it was knocked completely off its hinges, or whatever you call them. Half of the teeth in his mouth were knocked out, too. At least he had most of his upper teeth left. Well, most of them. Not that he’ll be using them any time soon. He’ll probably be on social security before he eats solid food again. Good! Serves his ass right! Plus, he’s going down for ADW, ADW on a police officer, and resisting arrest. Hey, he shouldn’t have tried to hit Harper with that rebar. With all of his priors, he’s going away for at least ten years. Maybe twenty? I really don’t care about the final number. Getting that asshole off of the streets definitely makes a big difference. A lot of junkies are probably rejoicing right now. If you ask me, they should. I’m certainly rejoicing.

But now, I’m home. I’m not a bit tired. In fact, I’m totally psyched! I wish the shift had gone on until sunrise, but they’re cracking down on overtime and the Sarge wouldn’t let us sneak back out into the field when we got back from the hospital ward. The more I work on skid row, the more I learn about it; I really don’t want to leave! It’s like that’s where I belong, now. I guess that old guy was right: I really have become one of them. I don’t belong in places like this anymore. I don’t belong in nice places with nice people and boring, normal lives. The only place where I feel comfortable anymore is skid row. I’ve actually got half a mind to get back in my car and go back to the station. Of course, they’d probably have me committed if I did that. I don’t blame them. Still, no one could understand it unless they’ve been through what I’ve been through. But crazy or not, I realize now that I’ve finally found exactly where I belong. And now that I know it, I don’t want to be anywhere else. Not even for five minutes.

“Zephyr! I’m home! Come say hello!”

Why do I still expect a cat to behave like a dog? Now that’s crazy!

“Zephyr! Come see your mom! She had a hell of a night! Very exciting! What did you do? Sat around and slept, probably. Maybe shed all over my laundry? Are you hungry? Do you want food?”

Yeah, that always gets his attention. He may be a cat, but he eats like a dog. Maybe it’s his dog qualities that make me like him so much? I wish I could housebreak him like a dog, though.

“Come on, eat up! Dinner is served! Mom didn’t even get a chance to eat tonight. You know, Harper and I probably miss more meals than we get to eat. You know why? Because mom and her partner are too busy working to eat. That’s probably a good thing. The food in Central Division isn’t exactly the healthiest crap. Missing meals helps keep mom looking good.”

Now that I mention it, I do look pretty good. I think I’ve lost a couple of pounds since I got back on patrol. Crushing crime is good exercise. The again, maybe it’s the heatwave? Not that I needed to lose any weight. When I was relieved of duty, I practically lived in the gym. It helped me stay sane, and it definitely kept me in good shape. Not to brag, but I weigh the same as I did in the academy. Maybe even a little less, now. I know because my Sam Browne belt is about the only piece of equipment I got at the academy that I still use, and it still fits just the same. In fact, it’s getting a little loose. I may have to move the buckle back a notch or two. See? Skid row is good for me in more ways than one.

“Your mom and her partner broke up a riot tonight! We did! Officer Harper was really something! You should have seen him! He was so impressive today, I could hardly take my eyes off of him! He really stepped up during that little riot! And after that, he broke an asshole’s kneecap and jaw! Don’t worry, the guy had it coming. He was a really bad piece of shit. And now he’s going to jail for a very long time. With any luck, some huge lifer will fuck him in the ass twenty times a day! He deserves it! Trust me, I know what I’m talking about.”

Zephyr doesn’t seem very interested in my daring exploits. Typical cat. Their idea of daring is catching mice. Fortunately, we don’t have any mice here.

“If we moved to some asshole place on skid row, you could catch all the mice and rats you like. They’ve got millions of them. Would you like that? Of course not. You’re hopelessly lazy. You’d hire another cat to catch your mice before you’d do it yourself, wouldn’t you? Yeah, I know you! Lazy boy!”

The big question is this: what am I going to do in a little more than two weeks when Harper finishes his probation? With the way they’re cranking boots out of the academy, they’ll probably wheel Harper out within twenty-four hours. God, that’s going to suck! I finally get the perfect partner, and I only get to work with him for one DP! I’ve had boots I liked working with before, but not like this. He and I are on the same page in almost every way. We can almost read each other’s minds. Do you know how rare that is? I’ve known cops who had the same partner for years and they didn’t work this well together. And we don’t just work well together. We actually like each other. That’s not as common as most people think. You see cop shows on TV and they all get along famously. Real life is a lot different. Over the years, I’ve found that most cops could take or leave their partners. That’s how I’ve felt about most of them. They’re good cops and they’re good people, but I just didn’t have that connection. Now I do, and I’m going to lose it at the end of the month. That absolutely sucks! I’m going to be miserable when he leaves, and I’m afraid that I might unconsciously take it out on whoever they give me after that. That’s not fair, and I have to make absolutely sure that I don’t let myself do that.

Do you want to know how comfortable I am working with Harper? I haven’t even looked at the books of the other boots in the division. I usually go through them to see who they are, if they’re any good, and to learn about any landmines before I might end up working with them. But I haven’t even looked at any of them since I got to Midwatch. Hell, I don’t think I could name six of our boots besides Harper! That is definitely something new for me. But here at Central Division, “new for me” seems to be par for the course. And to be perfectly honest, I fucking love that part of it! But lately, I can’t stop thinking about the fact that they’re going to split Harper and me up. It’s weird. It’s like I’m going to lose more than just a great partner. I mean, thinking about it almost hurts. I’ve split up with good partners before, but it never felt like it hurt. It’s hard to describe. It’s beyond…I don’t know. It’s like it’s beyond the job. I’ve never had a connection with anyone like this before.

Wait a minute! Am I starting to have feelings for him? Personal feelings? No way! Harper’s my partner, that’s all. He’s a great partner. He’s the best partner I’ve ever had. He’s also my friend. Hell, he’s pretty much the best friend I’ve had in God knows how long. I don’t know. But Harper’s different. He’s not like any guy – I mean partner…I mean any cop I’ve ever known. He’s got…he’s so much more…oh, this is not good! Holy shit! Am I starting to fall for Harper? No way! Harper’s a boot! It’s not possible! It’s not allowed! That’s one line I swore I’d never cross. Training officers don’t get involved with their boots. It can’t happen. But Harper won’t be a boot for much longer. And when we were at that restaurant the other night…no! Absolutely not! Stop! Stop this at once! I can’t think about him like that! Absolutely no way in this or any other universe known to man or God! No good can come from it! Harper’s a boot! Harper’s my boot! He’s off-limits! Done! End of story! That’s it! I need to stop thinking about this right now! No thinking about Harper that way! Not allowed! Change the subject! Right now!

“Sorry, Zephyr. Mom went a little psychotic there for a second. So what do you want to do? I’ve got a feeling that mom’s not going to be able to sleep for a while. Do you want to watch TV? As long as it isn’t a rerun of that fucking game! Seven to four! Yeah, you remember! Mom was screaming at the top of her lungs and using all of those very naughty words! I apologize for that, but seven to four? That’s just beyond pitiful!”

So I guess we’ll just sit here and watch TV, shine my boots, and think about what I’m going to do tomorrow. With Diego locked up and thoroughly busted up, it’s time to focus on doing the same to Ricky. Because if Diego had it coming, then Ricky’s got it coming in fucking spades. And it’s high time he got what was coming to him.

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