Chapter 25: One Good Turn
Back on patrol. Well, we got the all-clear from the paramedics. And thank God for a can of air freshener. Otherwise, we’d smell like a bonfire all night long. We probably still stink pretty bad, but at least neither of us can smell it anymore.
“What’s next, Harper?”
“They reassigned all of our calls.”
“Maybe they thought we were dead?”
“Yeah, that’s probably it. What are you doing?”
“I’m sending a message to the RTO, telling her we’re not dead.”
“That’s very considerate of you.”
“I’m a very considerate girl.”
“I’ve noticed that about you.”
I wonder if he’s noticed anything else about me? Oh, hell! I’m not supposed to think about shit like that! Stop it, Dani! Stop it this instant before you get yourself in trouble!
“Well, they’re happy we’re not dead. They sent us a call. Some guy’s passed out in the Arcadia hotel on Amsterdam.”
“That’s way south of our area. Everyone must be busy.”
“No doubt. I’ve seen that place. It’s huge.”
“Yeah, and most of the people in there are on parole.”
“Oh, yeah. That’s one of the few places they can go when they get out of prison. They dump the parolees there all the time.”
Translation: nobody there will be happy to see us. We could run into some trouble.
“So it’s not exactly a five-star establishment?”
“More like a hellhole with carpeting.”
“Sounds like fun. You’ll have to show me around.”
“Dani, we’ll be lucky to get in the door. They don’t exactly like the police over there.”
It really says something about this division when a hotel won’t let the police in. You’d think they’d want us to camp out in the lobby.
“Let’s get there. I want to see the inside of this place.”
“There’s one good thing about it: it stinks worse than we do.”
“Then we’ll fit right in. Hit it, Harper!”
It’s hard to believe I’ve never been inside that place. It’s practically a landmark in this division. It’s fucking huge, and I’ve heard plenty of stories about it. None of them good, of course. I didn’t know it was a parolee dumping spot, though. That’s something I should know. Wherever there are parolees, you’ve got a shitload of crime. As soon as they get out, they’re right back to doing whatever got them tossed in the lockup in the first place. It really is a revolving door. You’d think they would’ve given up on it by now, but they keep letting just about everybody out early. Some people say it’s the humane thing to do. Yeah, right! Tell that to the people they victimize. How humane is that?
The Arcadia Hotel. Built sometime in the thirties, I think. They definitely did things big in those days! There’s nothing like it anywhere on skid row.
“Here we are, Dani: the Arcadia. Remember what Obi Wan Kenobi said about Mos Eisley Spaceport in Star Wars?”
“You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy!”
“I’m impressed! You’re a Star Wars fan?”
“Big time. But don’t tell anyone. People think I’m weird enough as it is.”
“Your secret is safe with me, my dear.”
My God! There must be six hundred rooms in this place! At least! You could get lost in here and never be found again!
“Harper, I think we’re going to need a map. And maybe a guide?”
“Maybe we’ll get lucky and he’s in the lobby?”
“I sincerely hope so.”
Well, the door’s open. At least we won’t have any trouble getting in. Getting out might be a different matter.
“Let’s ask the guy at the desk. He probably called it in.”
This is definitely no ordinary hotel. The desk has a gate like a fortress. Given their clientele, I’m not surprised. It’s a shame when you think about it: this was probably a really nice place back in the day. I would’ve liked to see it back then. It’s like something out of an old movie. Maybe it was in an old movie? My dad would’ve loved to crawl around in here and see how it was built.
There’s our desk guy. And he hasn’t even bothered to look up from his newspaper at us.
“Excuse me? Are you the one who called?”
“Do you know who did?”
A man of few words. How nice.
“We got a call about someone passed out in here.”
“Lady, there’s always someone passed out in here, somewhere.”
“Yeah, that’s a really big help. Mind if we look around?”
Definitely not a five-star establishment. Whoa! Check that out!
“Harper, do you see what I see?”
They’ve got an AR-15 behind the desk! You don’t see those in most hotels!
“Jesus! Nice catch, Dani! Hey, buddy! That’s some serious firepower you’ve got there!”
“No kidding, pal. Just in case. You know.”
“Are you expecting trouble?”
“Mister, if you knew anything about this place, you wouldn’t have to ask.”
“Fair enough. Come on, Dani. Let’s find this guy.”
“Yeah, assuming they haven’t blown him away, that is.”
Hey, there’s no law in keeping an assault rifle behind the desk. And he’s right: if I worked here, I’d probably have one, too.
“Harper, we could spend half an hour just searching this lobby.”
“Maybe we could call a K9 unit?”
I’m pretty sure he’s joking.
“I don’t think it would work. This place reeks of piss. The dog would probably go crazy and piss all over the place.”
“At least no one would notice. Do you have any suggestions?”
“What about that guy over there in the chair? He looks kind of passed out. Maybe it’s him?”
“Do you honestly think we’d be that lucky?”
“Not a chance in hell. But let’s check it out.”
Hey, we don’t have anywhere else to go, and by the time we finished searching this place, I’d be eligible for retirement. Hell, Harper would be eligible for retirement!
“Hey! You! Wake up!”
“We got a call about somebody passed out. Was it you?”
“Was I passed out?”
“Then it must’ve been me.”
“Well, I’m sold. Harper?”
“Works for me. Let’s go.”
I like it when they’re easy. Of course, there’s no way in hell that was the guy, but who cares?
“Sixteen Central, we’re clear.”
“Sixteen Central, roger.”
Short and sweet. Besides, what were we going to do if we did find him? Exactly the same thing. It’s really no different than Daywatch kicking drunks on the sidewalk. Just sweeping the floor without a dustpan: all you can do is move the dirt from one place to another, but you never get rid of it. Welcome to skid row.
Back out on patrol. It’s really been crazy tonight. Lots of radio calls, and most of them are some pretty serious shit. Still, I want to talk to some of the junkies and see if they know anything about those two gunners. I’m pretty sure Ricky won’t be in any mood to talk to us, so I figure they’re our best bet. But the best place to look is over in Ricky’s territory. Who better to know about what he’s been up to than his regular customers?
“Harper, where’s the biggest junkie alley in Ricky’s territory?”
“Grand Alley’s the biggest, but the Narrow Alley is probably the number one junkie spot. Everyone in there is a junkie. Almost no one else ever goes in there. Not even the crackheads.”
“I don’t know that one. Have you been keeping secrets from me?”
“You can’t learn everything in one DP. That’s something I learned about this place when I first got here.”
“Head over there. Let’s see if the locals know anything about those two gunners.”
“You got it. But we can’t take the car in there.”
“Because it’s too small. They don’t call it the Narrow Alley for nothing.”
That makes sense. I guess we’re walking.
“Oh, and keep your eyes open when you’re in there. It’s a great place for an ambush.”
“That’s good to know.”
“Officer Stahl got cut up in there really bad a few months ago. Some psycho junkie jumped him when he chased him in there. Sliced him up with a broken bottle.”
“I’ll remember that. Where does it lead?”
“It comes out on 6th street, but there’s a bunch of little escape paths in there. I hate to admit it, but I don’t know most of them.”
It sounds like a dangerous place. Definitely the sort of place I want to get to know. The more dangerous spots I know about, the better my chances of getting out of here in one piece. I came here to work, not to get killed. I guess Sergeant Gellar hasn’t realized that yet.
“How many alleys are there in skid row?”
“Who knows? There are at least twenty in our sector alone. Probably a hundred, at least.”
“I wonder if anybody knows them all?”
“Maybe some of the old-timers? Officer Loomis, maybe. Or Richford. He probably knows them all. He’s been here for a few hundred years.”
“He’s been on the job since at least nineteen-eighty. Maybe longer than that? He says he remembers when they still had police call boxes here. I know he’s still got his key. He showed it to me.”
He must really be an old-timer. They stopped handing those out about ten years before I joined the department, and the call boxes stopped working about twenty years before that. That’s some real ancient police history, there. We’re talking about the days of wooden nightsticks, six-inch .38 Specials, and cops who actually used their whistles. Things were really different back then. Sometimes I wonder if it was better? People didn’t expect cops to be social workers, priests, psychologists, and God knows what else. Technology is great, but sometimes I think we’ve lost something important over the years. I wish I knew what they knew. I’m sure I’d be a much better cop because of it.
“We’re here, Dani. Welcome to the Narrow Alley. We’ll leave the car here and walk.”
“Damn! You weren’t kidding about this thing being narrow! Why the hell did they make it like that?”
“You’d have to ask the city.”
“It’s dark as hell in there. You can’t see a thing!”
“That’s why God created police flashlights.”
He’s right about that. Before I joined the department, I never knew they made flashlights so bright. These things can light up a room as bright as daylight. My dad would have killed for one of these in his contractor business. He always complained about how he never had a really good flashlight. They’re also made of strong aluminum and the batteries weigh a ton, which makes them really good for cracking the shit out of someone when you can’t get to your nightstick. I know. I’ve put more than a few people down with mine. Believe me, it works. That’s why a lot of police departments outlawed them. We’ll probably be next.
“I don’t see anyone. You got anything, Harper?”
“Not yet. But they’re in here. They’re always in here.”
He wasn’t kidding about the escape passages. And the clutter! This place is like a maze! Jesus, I can see about twenty good hiding places already! This is a good place for an ambush!
“Take it slow. Don’t pass up any place where…”
“Dani! Look out!”
Shit! I didn’t even see him!
Fuck! He’s got me pinned against the wall! I’ll try to spin him! Wait a minute…
“Get off of her, motherfucker!”
Whoa! Nice shot, Harper! See what I mean? Those flashlights really do put a guy down quick!
“Are you OK?”
“I’m good. Thanks for saving my ass.”
“Any time. On your feet, asshole!”
“I didn’t do nothin’! I swear!”
“You jumped my partner! What the hell is wrong with you?”
“I didn’t know! Honest! I…hey, I know you! You’re Officer Harper!”
“How do you know me?”
“Are you kidding? Everybody knows you! Hey, guys! It’s cool! It’s Officer Harper!”
Am I missing something here? This junkie’s acting like he just met a rock star!
“Hey, everybody! Come on out! This is the cop I was telling you about!”
“Dani! Behind you!”
Fuck! There’s two of them! Where the hell did they come from?
“Stop right there! Both of you! Let me see your hands!”
“It’s cool, officer! Hey, you’re Lynott! Guys! It’s her!”
“You know me? How?”
“Are you kidding? You two are famous!”
“That’s right, officer! And you’re Harper! Hey, can I shake your hand, sir?”
What the fuck is this? Am I hallucinating? Jesus, there must be ten or fifteen guys in here!
“Everybody hang on for a second! Would somebody tell me what the fuck is going on? How do all of you know us?”
“Everybody knows you two after the other night! That’s Officer Harper! He’s the guy what busted up Diego!”
“Damn! It’s really you!”
“Hey, thank you, Officer! I really mean it!”
“You’re all right with me, sir!”
“We owe you big time, Officer!”
Jesus Christ! More of them! How the hell many guys are in this place? There must’ve been ten guys within five feet of us! And I didn’t even see one of them!
“I guess you’re famous, Harper. You’ve got your own fan club, here.”
“It looks that way. You guys know about Diego?”
“Are you shittin’ me, Officer? Everybody knows about it! Someone finally busted that sick motherfucker up! Thank you!”
“Yeah, man! That dude beat the fuckin’ shit outta me once!”
“Oh, that ain’t nothin’ compared to what he done to me! That motherfucker busted my nose!”
“Remember how he done broke my jaw? That was fucked up!”
“Yeah! Hey, see this scar? That asshole found me in an alley once, and he had this knife…”
I guess Diego was every bit as unpopular as I thought. He really was a menace. Now I’m even happier that we put him out of commission.
“Listen up, everyone! We appreciate the thanks. I’m sorry we couldn’t put him away sooner.”
“Is he gonna get out, Ms. Lynott?”
Suddenly I’m Ms. Lynott? I guess these guys really do like us!
“Probably not in this century. And even if he does, he won’t be in any condition to fuck with anybody. Officer Harper really did a number on him.”
“I heard he done broke his jaw clean off! Is that true, ma’am?”
“That’s putting it mildly. Harper shattered his jaw into about a thousand pieces. Right after he shattered his kneecap. And he’s looking at about fifteen to twenty years, minimum. You won’t have to worry about Diego ever again.”
“That’s fuckin’ music to my ears!”
“That is some sweet shit to hear, ma’am!”
“We owe you both! Anything we can do, you just name it!”
Well, I see no reason to let that go to waste. We came here looking for information. Maybe they’ve got it?
“Now that you mention it, there is something you can do for us. You can tell us about those two gunmen Ricky’s got shooting up the competition.”
“Competition? What? You mean Shiloh’s boys? Yeah, that’s Ricky, all right.”
See? I told you junkies know everything about dope in their neck of the woods. We definitely came to the right place. I guess we’ll start with this guy. He seems very informative.
“What’s your name?”
“So what can you tell us about the gunmen, Porter? We know there’s two of them.”
“Yeah, a couple of Mexican motherfuckers. Word is they’re Mexican Mafia. Hard cases, both of ’em. Ricky called in a few favors to get them dudes. Real mean sons of bitches!”
“Do you know their names?”
That seems to have scared him. I don’t blame him. He’s afraid if he tells us, he’ll be next on the hit list.
“Guys, we promise not to use your names. No one will know you talked to us. Hell, we don’t even know who any of you are, and we’ll keep it that way. Right, Harper?”
“Absolutely. We were never here, you were never here. So can you help us out?”
At least they’re thinking about it. They know what we’re asking. They know the risk. We know it, too.
“Yo, dudes! This here’s the guy who done fucked up Diego worse than he done fucked us up! We got to tell him!”
“Yeah, you’re right.”
“The man’s right. We owe them.”
“They done for us, so we got to do for them.”
“What do you say, Porter? Can you help us out? We really need to get these guys.”
“OK, ma’am. Yeah, we heard about ‘em. Ricky was talkin’ about ‘em a few nights back. The one dude’s name is Francisco Arnez. The other dude’s name is Sergio Covarrubias. At least, that’s what the word is. They’re stayin’ over at the Astoria. Don’t know the room. It’s on the second floor, I think. Harliss, you seen ’em over there, right?”
“Yeah, that’s right. I done seen ’em on the second floor. All the way at the end, by the stairs. They was there last night. I done seen ’em both.”
Is he shitting me? He actually saw these guys at the hotel?
“You saw them last night?”
“Yeah, they was goin’ down to the roach coach in front of the place. They eat there every day. They don’t go out, except when they’s goin’ to kill some motherfuckers.”
“Can you describe them?”
“Oh, yeah! I can tell you what they look like down to their eye teeth! Mean motherfuckers! Both of ’em! But I saw ’em good. I was in the hallway. I know what they look like.”
Jesus! This is better than I could have dreamed of getting! We hit the jackpot with these guys!
“Harper, get the descriptions. As much as you can. And I give you my word, guys: we won’t even ask you your names. Like Harper said: we were never here, and you were never here.”
“You’re all right, ma’am. Both of y’all.”
“So are you guys. We appreciate this. I mean that.”
“You really gonna get them motherfuckers?”
“Oh, you better believe it!”
I’ve never gotten information like that from anybody who wasn’t looking at ten years minimum! Only on skid row! Is this how it always works? Jesus Christ! I may just move in down here!
Yes! Yes! Yes! Fan-fucking-tastic! Those guys weren’t kidding when they said they could describe these guys down to their eye teeth! They did everything but draw us a sketch! We’ve got the gunners, we’ve got the car, and we’ve got where they’re staying! We’ve got it all! This worked better than I ever thought it would! And all because Harper knocked the living shit out of that asshole Diego! Damn! We should go out and beat the shit out of one dope dealer’s enforcer every week! Think of the information we could get! Unfortunately, the brass would never go for it. Fucking assholes! Think of what we could do if every junkie out here felt like they owed us as much as these guys did!
“Are we going to take these guys down tonight, Dani?”
“As much as I’d love to, it’s too dangerous. We’re going to need serious backup on this one. I’m talking about a fucking army.”
“Where do we start?”
“We start by calling Detective Godfrey.”
“At this hour?”
“If he’s asleep, he’ll be happy we woke him up.”
Hey, the man did say to call him day or night. And I know he’ll be fired up to hear this news right away. I know I would be.
“Hello? Detective Godfrey? It’s Dani Lynott. Central Division. Sorry to call you this late…”
“Don’t be sorry. Are you OK?”
“Yeah, we’re fine. Listen, Harper and I just got some information, and we figured you’d kill us if we didn’t call you right away.”
“What have you got?”
“We’ve got information about those two gunners Ricky’s had shooting up the rival dealers in our sector. Lots of information. Everything you could ask for.”
“Is it solid?”
“Rock solid. We’ve got their names, their descriptions, a description of their car, and the shithole hotel where they’re staying.”
“You’re fucking shitting me!”
“Nope! We came across a couple of junkies who were fountains of information. They knew everything about these guys. Hell, they’ve even seen them.”
“You’re telling me a junkie gave you all of that?”
“A bunch of them, actually. And they all said exactly the same thing. They said they owed us big time.”
“Did you hear about what Harper did to Ricky’s enforcer, Diego?”
“Yeah, we heard about that! We were laughing for two days! Tell Harper I said nice work!”
“Detective Godfrey says nice work, Harper.”
“Tell him thank you. It was my pleasure.”
“Harper says it was his pleasure. By the way, how is he? We haven’t heard anything since we left him at the jail ward of the hospital.”
“Angelo and I went to see him yesterday. I’ve never seen anyone’s face busted up like that! He looked like something out of a horror movie!”
“Well, Harper’s the new national hero among skid row junkies, so they felt they owed us a favor.”
“And they just gave these guys up?”
“They gave us everything! Of course, we, uh…we weren’t able to get any names.”
“Say no more. I understand. Confidential informants.”
“Look, as much as we’d love to go get these guys ourselves…”
“Don’t even think about it! This is way out of patrol’s league! This is a SWAT callout! We’ll have to pull out all the stops for this one!”
“Yeah, that’s what we figured. We can bring the information to your office tomorrow morning if you want.”
“Screw that! Where are you guys?”
“Out on patrol.”
“I’ll be at your station in an hour. I’ll meet you there.”
Is he serious?
“You don’t have to come in at this hour.”
“For this shit? I’ll gladly come in! We’ll all come in! I don’t want to leave these psychos on the street for another five minutes! Let your Watch Commander know what’s going on. We’ll handle the rest.”
“OK, then. We’ll see you in an hour.”
“Hey, Dani? Great job! I mean it! Outstanding! You and Harper! This is big! This is really big! We owe you for this!”
“Just doing our job.”
“And we appreciate it. I’ll see you in an hour.”
“We’ll be there. Talk to you later.”
I didn’t expect him to rush right in, but now that I think about it, I’m not surprised. Hey, I’d do the same thing if I were him. He’s right: I don’t want to leave these crazy motherfuckers on the street for another night. They’ll probably kill someone else!
“OK, Harper, he’s coming to the station. We’re supposed to meet him in one hour.”
“Are we going after these guys tonight?”
“That’s up to Detective Godfrey. He wants SWAT to handle the entry and arrest. So do I.”
“Do you think this qualifies for a SWAT call-out?”
“These guys are good for how many murders and attempted murders in the last week and a half? Yeah, I think it’s a SWAT call-out.”
“Cool! I’ve never seen one before.”
“It’s impressive. I just don’t know if he can put it together tonight. But even if he can’t, he’ll have it set up for tomorrow.”
“Are we going to be in on it?”
“Are you kidding? I wouldn’t miss this for the world!”
“We won’t get to take part in the takedown, but if they get these guys, we’re taking credit for the arrests on the log. Unless they kill them, of course. That doesn’t count as an arrest.”
“Do you think they will?”
“Professional gunmen? Multiple murders? Mexican Mafia? What do you think? Will they go quietly?”
“Yeah, I don’t think so, either. These guys are probably toast. Come on, let’s go tell Sergeant Gellar and Lieutenant Hagan what’s up.”
Whether it happens tonight or tomorrow night, this is going to be one hell of a takedown. There’s no way in hell these guys are going to give up peacefully. No fucking way in this or any universe known to man or God. They’ll try to shoot it out. Better to have SWAT handle it. God only knows what kind of firepower these assholes have with them. They’ve probably got more than the pistols they’ve been using for these shootings. I’ve seen a few of these high-risk warrant operations. I worked the perimeter. Some of them turned into the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral! It takes more than being a great shot to deal with that. Best to leave it to the experts with all of their toys. That’s what they get the big bucks for.
Central Station. The Detectives’ Room. I see Detective Godfrey doesn’t fuck around! Half past midnight and he’s got more done than most detectives do in a day with everyone’s office open. I see he dragged Detective Cardozo out of bed, too. Poor Angelo. He’s chugging coffee to try to wake up. He’s also got the entire SWAT team here – don’t ask me how he got them all assembled in the middle of the night – and he’s already got a telephonic warrant for our two gunners. And it looks like he’s brought some friends, though I don’t know who they are. Some kind of detectives, I guess. They’re in t-shirts and jeans. And of course, Sergeant Gellar’s brought in all of Midwatch. It looks like Detective Godfrey’s ready to start. Good! Let’s get this show on the road!
“All right, listen up! For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Detective John Godfrey from Narcotics Division. This is my partner, Detective Angelo Cardozo. Over here are Agents Rausch and McMillian. They’re with the DEA. And you all know the SWAT team. Lieutenant Leung is the SWAT team leader on this one. Now, in case you didn’t know, Central Division has had a dope dealer war going on for a little over a week. This war’s already got a pretty nasty body count. So far, it’s been a one-sided war. A fucking asshole dealer named Ricky has been taking out the competition that’s trying to move in on his territory. His gunners have killed at least six people and wounded a few others. He’s brought in two shooters for the job, and they’ve been pretty damned busy. But thanks to Officers Lynott and Harper, we now have a line on these shooters. My partner is passing out the information now. Lynott and Harper got us their names, their descriptions, a description of their car, and the place where they’re holed up. We’ve confirmed that they’re known members of the Mexican Mafia, and that this sort of thing is right up their alley. We’ve got two detectives sitting on the place right now, and they’ve confirmed that our suspects are still in there. Our target is a second floor room at the Astoria hotel. It’s a major shithole, as most of you already know.”
He’s really put all of the pieces in place. When this is over, I want to ask him how he managed to do it so fast? That’s a skill I’d like to learn.
“This is a high-risk operation, so SWAT will handle the entry and arrest. These guys are serious assholes, and there’s a good chance they’ll try to shoot their way out. Their vehicle is a green 2010 Toyota Camry. It’s parked behind the hotel in the parking lot. They’ve got a tarp over it so it can’t be seen from the alley. We’ve confirmed the car is there, too. We’ve got a warrant for both of these guys. We’re good for the assholes, the room, and the car. Our friends at the DEA know all about these guys, and they’ve provided the photos on the info sheets you all have. They want these guys as much as we do. Now, SWAT goes in, followed by Detective Cardozo and myself, and the DEA. Central Midwatch will handle the perimeter, as well as evacuating the residents from the hotel. We’ll be able to evacuate the first and third floors without a problem. The second floor is going to be a bit tricky, seeing as we don’t want to alert these guys. Fortunately, they’re in the room at the far end of the hall. We should be able to isolate them. Sergeants Gellar and Hendrickson will be in charge of Central Midwatch at the scene. We’re going to be on Tactical Frequency Six. Stay off the air unless you absolutely have to transmit! The SWAT team will be on their own channel, so don’t be surprised if you can’t hear them. We want to keep the radio chatter to a minimum. Approximately five minutes before we move in, Central officers will block all street traffic around the hotel: vehicles and pedestrians. Nothing gets in or out! That’s about it. Does anybody have any questions?”
I didn’t think anybody would. We’re basically just support on this thing, which is what I expected. This is SWAT’s ballgame. I just hope none of them gets hurt. We set this thing in motion, so it’s on us if they do. These assholes are Mexican Mafia. They’re hardcore people, and they’ve got access to some serious firepower. The SWAT team could kick in the door and find these guys sitting on the other end of a cannon or a grenade launcher! I sure hope that isn’t the case.
“All right, then. Everybody knows their jobs. Let’s do this by the numbers. Everyone comes home safe! If these guys don’t want to give up, well, that’s their fucking problem. Let’s do it!”
“Are you ready, Harper?”
“Hell, yes! Are you ready, Dani?”
“Yeah, I’m good. We’ll be evacuating the hotel. We’ll be on the first floor. Make sure everyone leaves, whether they like it or not. If they won’t leave, then we drag their ass out.”
“Got it. You look a little worried. Is everything OK?”
“This is a bad one. We put this thing in motion. I just hope no one gets hurt.”
“Dani, this isn’t on us. And it isn’t on you. This is what we do. The detectives have everything covered. The SWAT guys know what they’re doing. They’ve got everything they need for this. That’s as much as anyone can do. You know that. If something goes wrong, it’s not your fault.”
It looks like Angelo agrees with him.
“You should listen to this guy, Dani. He’s a fellow Marine. He knows what he’s talking about.”
“Thanks, Angelo. And I do listen to him. A lot, in fact.”
“Smart girl. Come on, let’s go get these sons of bitches.”
I just hope those aren’t the proverbial famous last words. I don’t want any more cops’ pictures on the wall of the station lobby. And I sure as hell don’t want anyone to get hurt because of something I started. That’s the sort of thing you’re never able to live with.
The Astoria Hotel. 8th Street. All right, this is it. The street’s blocked off, SWAT’s at the ready, and we need to clear these people out of the hotel. The guy at the desk says there are twelve rooms on each floor. Three floors, that’s thirty-six rooms. Eight of the rooms on the first floor are occupied. We’re looking for a total of ten people. That shouldn’t be too hard.
“Let’s go, Harper.”
“Is that the master key?”
“That’s what the desk guy said. Let’s see if it works.”
“Knock first. We don’t know how these people will react.”
“Good thinking. We’ll start at the far end and work our way to the front. I just hope none of these people gets loud on us. I’ll take the first door; you take the second. It’ll go faster that way. Remember: nobody gets to say ‘no.’ Everyone exits the building, one way or the other.”
“Roger that. Good luck.”
“You, too. Sound off if you need me.”
OK, door number one. Here we go!
“Police! Open the door!”
There’s only supposed to be one person in this one. Good. He opened the door.
“What do you want?”
“You have to come with us. Right now.”
“We’ve got a gunman in the hotel. We’re evacuating the place. Right now!”
“Are you serious? You got it!”
“Go straight down the front stairs. And keep it quiet!”
Harper’s got his tenant. Two down, eight to go.
“Police! Open the door!”
“What’s going on?”
Two people in this one.
“There’s a gunman in the hotel. We’re evacuating the place. Both of you, come with me! Now!”
“Can’t we just stay here? We’ll lock the door.”
“The door won’t stop bullets. Neither will the walls. There might be some shooting any minute, now. Let’s go!”
“Jesus! OK, lady! Get us the hell out of here!”
It’s going as well as can be expected. Harper’s got the two people out of his second room. So far, no one’s giving us a problem. I hope the guys on the third floor are having as much luck.
“Police! Open up!”
No answer. I guess we go with the master key. It works. Oh, shit! The guy’s in bed, and I can see the empty liquor bottles! He’s fucking passed-out drunk!
“Come on, buddy! Up you go!”
“What? Who are you? Hey, are you a hooker?”
Jesus! I’m wearing a fucking police uniform and he thinks I’m a goddamned hooker!
“No! I’m a cop, and you’re coming with me!”
“So you don’t get your ass shot off! Let’s go!”
Fuck! This guy’s a fat motherfucker! He weighs a ton! What is it with these heavy-duty guys today? That’s two of them I’ve had to drag out of a building to save their goddamned lives!
“Harper! Drag this drunk out of here, will you?”
“I got him. Get the next room.”
There’s a bunch of people coming down the stairs. Vinell will lead them out the front. Good. It’s working. Lets’ just pray it keeps working! This is some seriously nerve-wracking shit!
“Police! Open the door!”
“What did I do?”
“God only knows! Come on, you have to get out!”
“There’s a gunman in the hotel. We’re evacuating everybody. Let’s go!”
“Gunman? In here? You don’t have to tell me twice!”
Good. Kursteff took over for Harper. I’ve got one more room to go.
“Police! Open up! Open the door!”
“What’s your fucking problem? Oh, shit! Sorry, ma’am.”
“Don’t be. We’ve got a gunman in the hotel. Everybody’s got to get out, now!”
“Where are we going?”
“For now, out of here! Let’s go! Move!”
That should be the last one. But I need to check. We can’t leave anyone in here. There’s Sergeant Hendrickson. He should have the count.
“Sergeant Hendrickson! Is that the last of them?”
“On this floor, yeah. We’re good to go. Get out to the street and take those people one block west of here.”
“Got it. What about you?”
“I’ll leave when the guys on the third floor are clear. Go!”
Like that other guy said, you don’t have to tell me twice! So far, so good. Nobody’s making any noise. Where’s Harper? Oh, there he is, with our fat, drunken friend!
“Harper! Get somebody to take that guy down the block, west of here! How are we doing?”
“Good. The third floor’s evacuated.”
“So is the first floor. That leaves the second. That’s the tricky one. How many people are supposed to be on that floor?”
“Detective Godfrey said ten.”
“Then we wait here and count the people coming out from now, on.”
“Got it. What about the sergeants?”
“Sergeant Hendrickson said he’d leave as soon as the third floor is evacuated.”
“That woman was the last of them.”
If that’s true, then where the hell is he? Oh, thank God! There he is! That leaves Sergeant Gellar on the second floor. Come on, guys! Get those people out of there! These gunners like to work late. They could come out at any minute! If they do, we lose the element of surprise, and we’ll have a gun battle in the hallway! We do not want that!
“Dani, here they come! I see three, four, five, seven…eight! We’ve got eight!”
“That leaves two more. Damn it! Where the hell are they?”
“There! The last two! Sergeant Gellar’s with them! Hey! Why is he going back inside?”
“He has to. He’s our communications link. We can’t hear the SWAT team. They’re on a different frequency. He’ll relay the situation to us. That’s it, then. The place is clear. It’s up to the SWAT team now.”
“How will we know when they go in?”
“They’ll probably toss a flash bang in, first. When that thing goes off, the whole damned block’s going to hear it.”
“Let’s move over to the other side of the street. We can see the window of the room from there.”
“Are you sure?”
“Positive. I checked it out before we went in.”
“Good work, Harper. I didn’t even think to do that.”
“I didn’t want to miss anything. Plus, we can cover the window from there, in case they try to get out.”
“The SWAT team’s got it covered, but we can back them, just in case. Grab the rifle from the car.”
I don’t plan to interfere with the SWAT team, and anyone who jumped from that window would almost certainly break their ankle. But you never know.
“Got it. Where do we set up?”
“Behind that car over there. It’s good cover, and we can see the street out front and the window.”
“Good position. I guess all we can do now is wait.”
“It’s out of our hands, partner. I just hope to God none of our guys get hurt.”
“They won’t. Don’t worry. They know what they’re doing. This is going to work.”
I hope you’re right, Harper. God, I hope you’re right.
“Dani! The DEA Agents just came out the front door!”
“This is it!”
Holy shit! I was right about the flash bang! God damn, those things are loud! And we’re out here on the street! Those assholes in that room must be fucking deaf!
“They’re in! I see them! Dani, they’re…oh, shit! Two shots! Two shots!”
Machinegun fire! The SWAT team’s shooting back! Jesus! O.K. Corral my ass! It’s fucking Iwo Jima in there! I can see the muzzle flashes in the window!
“It’s stopped! Dani, it’s stopped!”
“Stand ready! We don’t know what’s going on in there!”
“Forty Central to units on the perimeter, all clear! All clear! Suspects are down! Repeat: suspects are down!”
Great! But what about our guys? Screw the radio silence! I want to know if everyone’s all right!
“Sixteen Central to Forty Central, are all of our people all right? Was anyone hurt?”
“Forty Central to Sixteen, we’re all good. Repeat: we’re all good in here. No casualties. Only the bad guys went down.”
“Sixteen Central, roger. Thank God!”
Lord, I owe you one for this! Big time!
“What do you think, Dani? Do you think they’re both dead?”
“All that machinegun fire in that tiny room? I’m sure of it. They’re dead, all right.”
“Good! Serves them right!”
“Amen to that, Mister Harper.”
“What do we do now?”
“Well, we’re usually not supposed to go in there, but it’s technically our call, so…”
“I’m right with you, partner. I want to see this!”
They’ll probably toss us out as soon as we get in the door, but it is our call, so I want to see it, too.
“We have to be careful not to fuck up the shooting scene.”
“I’ll be careful.”
It sounded like they fired about a hundred rounds. I’m sure it wasn’t that many, but machineguns are like that. I sure as hell wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of one! There’s Detective Godfrey and Detective Cardozo! They’re OK! Thank God!
“Detective Godfrey! Are you and Angelo OK?”
“Damn it, Dani! How many times do I have to tell you? Call me John!”
That’s what he’s worried about? A blazing gun battle and that’s what he’s worried about?
“Sorry. Are you guys OK?”
“We’re good. Everybody’s good. Well, except for those two assholes. They’re not so good.”
“We heard two pistol shots.”
Yeah, one of them started shooting right after the flash bang went off. I don’t think he could see what he was shooting at. But our guys sure could.”
“I’m just glad our guys are all right.”
“You were really worried, huh?”
“Of course! We’re the reason they were in there!”
“You know, you’re going to make a hell of a sergeant someday, Dani. You care about your people.”
“Of course I do.”
“Not everybody does. Don’t ever lose that. I mean that. You guys did great. You and Harper. These were some seriously bad guys. You should see the DEA file on them.”
“We’ll come by your office and take a look at it. So we’re sure these are the right guys?”
“Agent McMillian said so the minute we told him the names you gave us. These guys are known gunners. The DEA’s been after them for a while. They usually work out of Arizona and Texas.”
“That dealer we caught at the Big Lot…”
“Was from Arizona, too. Yeah, there’s a connection, there. This was a big win for all of us, Dani. You and Harper really came through for us tonight.”
“Well, a bunch of junkies came through for Harper, actually.”
“Hey, we’ll take it any way we can get it.”
Amen to that. As long as only the bad guys got hurt.
“Where’s Lieutenant Leung? I want to thank him and his team.”
“I’ll take you both up there. He’ll want to thank you, too. Your information allowed him to set this up perfectly. Great job, guys! Seriously!”
Once I see that everyone’s in one piece, I’ll probably be on cloud nine, too. But I need to see it for myself. Just hearing it isn’t enough.
“Jesus! Dani, look at that!”
There’s empty shell casings everywhere. They’re all over the floor. Jesus, they really unloaded on those two assholes!
“That’s a lot of brass!”
“That’s an M4 for you. That’s what we had in the Marine Corps. They definitely work.”
There’s the lieutenant. He looks pleased with his guys. He should be.
“Lieutenant Leung? Dani Lynott. My partner and I just wanted to thank you for your help. We’re glad you’re all OK.”
“You’re welcome. Good job, everyone.”
“We heard they got off two shots.”
“Yeah, we were lucky they didn’t get to their bag.”
“What’s in the bag?”
“Two sawn-off shotguns, a MAC-10, and a shitload of ammo. These guys were armed to the teeth.”
“Thank God you were better armed.”
“That’s why we’re here. You all did an outstanding job.”
“Us? You guys did all of the heavy lifting.”
“That’s why we get the big bucks. We’ll see you back at the station.”
“Roger that, sir. Thanks again.”
I’ll never get used to how casual they can be after something like that. SWAT trains like you wouldn’t believe, but sometimes I think that all of the training in the world can’t possibly prepare you for something like this.
“Hey, Dani! Come take a look at this!”
I guess Harper wants to see the body count. Hey, I want to see it, too. I want to see the guys who killed all of those dealers.
“Looks like they hit them with every round!”
He’s not kidding! These guys got ripped to pieces! They couldn’t have been more than ten feet away when they got hit! Good! They sure as hell had it coming! Fucking assholes!
“I guess Ricky’s going to have to put up another ‘Help Wanted’ ad.”
“After this, I don’t think anyone’s going to want to work for him. It’s too hazardous to your health.”
Harper’s right. After tonight, no one in his right mind – or out of it – would want to work for Ricky. I think this is the light at the end of the tunnel for putting Ricky out of business permanently. And I’m glad I’m here to see it. I just wish Ricky were here so we could rub his nose in it. Oh, he’ll hear about it, but a picture is worth a thousand words. And this picture’s worth about a hundred thousand words.
“Dani, you still look a little shaken up. Are you sure you’re all right?”
“I’m fine. I just…everyone was here because of me. I was the one who went after Ricky hammer and tongs, and this is what it led to.”
“Dani, these guys were multiple murderers. Everything worked out OK. This is a good thing.”
“I know, but it doesn’t change the fact that a lot of things could’ve gone wrong. I could’ve gotten some of our people hurt. Or worse.”
“But you didn’t. And this is our job; just like going through that door was the SWAT team’s job.”
I think he’s missing the point. I’m sure he understands it, but I think I need to spell it out for him. Just in case.
“Harper, I’m sure you probably know this, but there’s something you have to understand about this job: actions have consequences, and in our line of work, those consequences can be serious. They can be deadly. The guys who went through this door just killed two people. Yeah, they were assholes and the world’s a lot better off without them, but it doesn’t change the fact that those officers had to kill a couple of people today because of information that we provided. That’s not always an easy thing to live with, no matter how big of an asshole the guy was. And our guys could’ve been killed. For better or worse, that fact always sticks with me.”
“It should. It’s like Detective Godfrey said: you care about your people. That’s a good thing.”
“What I want you to remember is that it’s not just the life-or-death shit I’m talking about. What seem like little decisions to us can have a major impact on people. Just deciding to impound some guy’s car is no little thing. It’s nothing but a report to us, but to the guy? If we take his car, he could lose his job. Then he loses his house, and the next thing you know, he’s out here on the street.”
“I never thought about it that way.”
“Most of us don’t. And it gets a lot easier over time. Shit like this doesn’t, but don’t ever forget that what we do affects the hell out of people. Someday, you might pass on an FI card to some detective because you think there’s some information on it that he can use. Most of the time, it’s nothing. But sometimes, he might go to a location looking for the guy and the guy starts shooting.”
“It’s the risk we take, Dani.”
“And I’m more than willing to take it. I just don’t like creating situations where other people have to take that risk for me. This went down by the book and everything worked out fine, but all the while, I couldn’t stop thinking about what happens if it all goes to shit? Is one of our guys going to catch some lead because of me?”
“You’re not Atlas, Dani. You can’t carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. You just have to have faith in your fellow officers. They know what they’re doing, and they’ve got plenty of backup. And if the roles were reversed, they’d be just as worried about you. But you can’t let it overwhelm you. If you do that, it’ll paralyze you. You won’t be able to function. You won’t be able to make the hard decisions when you have to. I know. I’ve seen it happen.”
I don’t doubt that for a minute. I know what a moment of indecision can do to you out here. I’m sure it’s a million times worse in a war. Still, I feel almost like someone punched me in the gut. That’s what the stress of worrying about a fellow officer taking a bullet for you can do to you. And it doesn’t just go away when the smoke clears. At least, it doesn’t for me. And after eleven years, I still don’t know if that’s a good thing. I can’t speak for other cops, but this is the sort of shit that keeps me awake at night. When people tell me “Officer, I wouldn’t want your job for all the money in the world,” this is what they’re talking about. Even if they don’t know it.