Midwatch

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Chapter 28: Unexpected Twists

So here I am, lying in bed at ten o’clock in the morning, and that ain’t a cat lying next to me. Yeah, I’ve really done it this time! No matter how many rules I’ve broken, there’s always been one line that I absolutely wouldn’t cross, no matter what. So much for that one! I am now officially, irrevocably, totally across the line. The training officer in me feels like I really fucked up. She just wants to kick me in the ass. But do you want to know the strange thing? I feel great about it! It wasn’t until last night that I realized just how much I wanted to be with Harper. Just how much I couldn’t stand to be without him. And as crazy as it sounds, right now, I feel like it was the smartest thing I’ve done in a very long time. I’ve always trusted my instincts, and they’ve rarely let me down. I don’t think they let me down this time. And hey, the doctor said I had to stay awake until early this morning. Believe me, neither one of us did any sleeping last night. Not by a long shot!
“Good morning, Harper.”

“Hey, good morning, Dani. How do you feel?”

“Are you kidding? I feel fantastic!”

“That’s not what I meant. How are the injuries?”

“Well, my knee hurts and my shoulder hurts, but the rest of me feels pretty damned good.”

“Good. You’re already on the mend. I honestly don’t know how you were able to do that.”

He’s not the only one. I surprised even myself!

“I was highly motivated.”

“You and me both.”

“Hey, wait until I’m a hundred percent. Then I’ll show you a few tricks.”

“You mean more than last night? Is that even possible?”

“Just wait and see, mister.”

Enough talk. I want to kiss him some more! Yes! Just like that!

“Hey, look who’s here!”

Ah, yes! I was wondering when Zephyr would show up. He was really pissed that we locked him out of the bedroom. I could hear him scratching at the door. He was probably wondering why his mom was screaming like that. I felt bad about kicking him out, but there are some things that you just don’t do in front of your cat. They’re too judgmental to see you like that.

“Zephyr! How are you doing, pal? Are you mad because Harper took your spot last night?”

“I took his spot?”

“Kind of. He usually sleeps at the foot of the bed on that side.”

“Sorry, boy.”

“I’m not. He just takes up space.”

“I’m glad I got to do more than that.”

“You did a lot more than that. And by the way, very nicely done! That was incredible!”

“You were incredible!”

“Well, we already knew we made a great team. I guess this was just natural.”

“You think so?”

“Well, maybe not everything we did last night was completely natural, but it sure was a lot of fun.”

“That’s putting it mildly.”

Very mildly! God, it’s been a while for me. I almost forgot how much I enjoyed it. I really needed that.”

“Like I said, when I came in here last night, I didn’t know how I was going to keep my hands off you.”

“And here I was wondering the same thing.”

“And when you came out wearing those shorts, I almost…”

“Oh, you liked those?”

“Are you kidding? I almost lost it when I saw you!”

Well, that was the idea, after all. I’m just glad it worked!

“In case you didn’t know, I was going for that. I didn’t really put them on because of the heat. I was trying to get your attention in all the right places.”

“Well, it worked. Hell, when you went in here to change your clothes, all I could think about was…”

“What? Me stripping off my sticky, sweaty clothes?”

“You have no idea! I almost couldn’t hold it together. I was getting some very unprofessional images in my head.”

“Well, when I’m all healed up, I’ll have to strip for you properly. I don’t have a pole, but I can still put on quite a show for you. I think you’ll be impressed.”

“You’re unbelievable, Dani!”

“So are you, mister. I’m glad I finally got up the courage to kiss you.”

“So am I. I wanted to, but…”

“Don’t apologize. I think we both know I had to make the first move. Me being the training officer and all.”

“Yeah, thank you for doing that.”

“Thank you for letting me. Now, we need to talk about this. We both know there’s a little more at stake here than in your average relationship.”

“I know. I’m your boot and you’re my training officer. We’re not supposed to have a relationship.”

“Well, let’s get something clear: this isn’t just a relationship. We didn’t just hold hands in the park. You fucked your training officer’s brains out. In spectacular fashion, I might add. But that’s an official no-no, and they take that shit very seriously. They’ll burn us both if they find out. So people can’t know about that.”

“I’m pretty sure your neighbors know.”

Oh, he’s not kidding about that one! I think they heard me all the way down the block! That was definitely a first. I always get pretty loud when the sex is good, but last night went way beyond that. My God, I actually lost count of how many times he sent me over the edge! If I’d screamed any louder, they would’ve heard it back in Salem! It’s nice to know I had it in me. I’m looking forward to doing that on a regular basis from now, on.

“Yeah, you definitely brought out the screamer in me. By the way, no one’s ever done that as much as you did. Thank you for that.”

“You’re more than welcome.”

“But getting back to business, we definitely have to keep a lid on this; at least for the next few weeks. I mean that. No one can know about this. Absolutely no one. We both know I’m not the department’s favorite person. This would be more than enough for them to get rid of me.”

“Over my dead body!”

“Yeah, well, we still have to keep this top secret. And that’s not going to be easy. I’ve got a sneaking feeling that some people might have picked up on the way I’ve been looking at you in the last week.”

“You have?”

“Big time. Especially during the last few days. Believe me, I’ve had to stomp on my own foot a few times. You’re very distracting.”

“I was afraid people saw me staring at you!”

He was staring at me? How did miss that? Damn! I could’ve been sleeping with him a week ago! I need to start paying more attention to these things.

“Well, nothing’s gotten back to me, so we have to keep it that way. And I can tell you that the other guys on the watch have noticed that you’re pretty taken with me. I think they just think it’s all professional, but some of them might think that it’s more than that. We’ve got to keep it exactly the same as before when we’re on the job. Like I said, it’s only for two weeks. It’ll be hell for both of us during those two weeks, but we have to do it.”

“Hell is right. It’s gotten so it’s hard for me to take my eyes off of you.”

“The feeling is mutual. Look, once you’re off probation, they can’t touch either one of us. We both get to be consenting adults again. I can stick my tongue down your throat in the middle of roll call and there’s no problem. But until then…”

“We keep it under wraps.”

“Big time. That means no kissing in the parking lot, no grabbing each other in the car, no blowing you in the kit room…”

“Blowing me in the kit room?”

What can I say? A few nights ago, I was sitting in the locker room after our shift was done and I was tired and my mind sort of…wandered. Hey, sue me! Like I’d be the first cop to get laid in there anyway. Believe me, I could tell you some stories.

“Well, the thought sort of crossed my mind once or twice. But no, nothing like that. We can’t do it. Not as long as you’re still officially forbidden fruit, anyway. If they even suspect anything, we’re toast. At least, I’m toast. I’m the one they’ll burn for sure. But they could still fuck with you, and after what happened with Commander Hillel, they might. So for now, it’s our little secret.”

“And Zephyr’s.”

“Well, I can trust him to keep his mouth shut. And if he opens it, I can just stuff food in it. That’ll keep him quiet.”

“He’s not a dog, Dani.”

“Try telling him that. Now, despite my major scream-fest last night, we don’t have to worry about the neighbors. Most of them I don’t know except to say ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ to. None of them are cops, and none of them work for the department or the city. And there aren’t any other cops living in this neighborhood, so nobody’s going to ask why your car was parked in my spot all last night. We’re good, here.”

“Hey, we’ve got a safe haven.”

“Well, we’re going to need one. This was definitely no one-night stand for me.”

“You’re damned right it isn’t! For me, either!”

Like either of us had to say that after last night. No, this is the real deal. I’ve never even thought that before about anyone. It feels really good.

“Still, you’ll need to park your car in different places. A car like yours draws a lot of attention. If people see it in different spots, we won’t have to worry about anyone instantly thinking you’re here to see me.”

“You’re always thinking, aren’t you?”

“Of course. It’s what makes me a great cop.”

“I’ve noticed.”

“We also have to make sure that we don’t slip up in other ways. That means no e-mails or text messages of a personal nature. Nothing like that. And don’t put those pictures you took of me up in your locker, or on your phone. Not until you’re off probation.”

“OK, but after that, you’re going up in my locker. You’re going to be the first thing I see when I open it and the last thing I see when I close it.”

“That’s sweet! And by the way, I’ve already got your picture hanging on my wall in there. But yeah, wait until then. We can still call each other – partners do that all the time – but we can’t call at weird hours. Not on our regular phones, anyway. We’ll get a couple of burner cell phones for that. A couple of cheap, pay-as-you-go phones. Untraceable. Just don’t let anyone see either of us carrying two phones. That’ll raise suspicions.”

“You really think of everything, Dani! Are you sure you haven’t done this before?”

“Never. You’re the first, and I’m guessing the last.”

“I sincerely hope so.”

“Don’t worry, Harper. Speaking for the red-blooded, straight female training officer of the species, guys like you come along once in a lifetime. I got mine. I’m not looking for another one.”

“You and me both.”

“You know, this is actually going to be a lot of fun. Tricky, frustrating, and a little dangerous, but fun.”

“Big time fun.”

In more ways than he probably imagines right now, I’ll bet. Now that we’ve finally crossed the line, I’ve got plans for him! Once my bruises heal, I think my lingerie collection is about to get a serious workout!

“Wait until you see just how much fun I’ve got in store for you.”

“Oh, I can’t wait for that!”

“Don’t worry. You won’t have to. But as for keeping a lid on it for the next two weeks, we’ll work out the details that we haven’t thought of some other time. It’s like how we work in the field: we try to think of everything ahead of time, so that we don’t miss anything and have it come back to bite us. That’s how we stay ahead of the bad guys, and that’s how we’re going to handle this.”

“Sounds like a plan. So what’s on the agenda for today?”

“Well, we’re not going to work today or tomorrow. We’ve been benched, and Lieutenant Hagan’s not going to change his mind about that. You’ll have to take me back to the station later on so I can get my car.”

“Are you OK to drive it?”

“Yeah, I’m good. We’ll do that later this afternoon. Is anybody expecting you to be somewhere this morning?”

“No, I’ve got the whole day free.”

“Good. If we’ve got a regular schedule, then we stick to it. We don’t want to arouse any suspicion. So for right now, I have to take those stupid pills they gave me. The doctor said I have to finish the bottle, and they do seem to help with the pain. Not as much as you did, but they help. So after that, I really think it would speed up my recovery if you’d fuck my brains out for a couple more hours. Do you think you can you manage that?”

“Oh, absolutely!”

See? I told him this was going to be fun! And I’ve got some catching up to do! Forced exile really puts a dent in your sex life. I’m glad that’s over!

“I like your attitude, Officer Harper.”

“I like yours, Officer Lynott.”

“And here I thought you liked my ass?”

“I like that, too.”

“Anything else you like?”

“It would take too long to list them all.”

“Then we’ll skip the list for now. But I want to see it later on. It might give me some ideas for you. Special surprises. Trust me, you’ll like them. But for now, hand me those pills over there and let’s get to it!”

OK, it’s official: we’re spending most of the next two days right here in bed! I don’t care who hears me scream! I want to scream! I want to scream over and over and over again! I really needed this! You have no idea! God, I’m so glad I kissed him! It scared the living shit out of me, but I’m so glad I actually did it! Yes! I finally did something right with a guy! I didn’t screw it all up! Who would’ve thought it?


Back home and enjoying the evening. Well, except for the fact that it’s still about 105 degrees and the sun’s going down. Is this the apocalypse? I don’t remember anything about the earth being burned to a crisp, but how else do you explain heat like this? Four blocks down the street, the power was out for about six hours. Rolling blackouts. My building hasn’t been hit, but it’s probably only a matter of time. I’m definitely not looking forward to that.

So I’ve got my car back, and I feel a lot better than I did. The pain’s actually gone way down. My knee’s still sore, but as long as I stay off of it, it’s not too bad. My head isn’t bothering me at all. I actually feel good enough to go back to work right now. I guess getting fucked every which way you can is a great way to work through a few injuries. It certainly worked for me. Having the right guy do it is a big help, too. I also feel really psyched. I was kicking myself all that time for thinking about Harper that way, and now I’m pretty sure I’d want to kill myself if I hadn’t stuck my tongue down his throat last night. All I can think is, ‘why didn’t I do this sooner?’ Don’t get me wrong: getting involved with your boot is something I take very seriously. But this isn’t a case of a training officer taking advantage of a boot. This is a serious thing, and we’re both adults. We’re not kids, for God’s sake! The idea that it’s somehow wrong for us to get involved when it’s completely mutual is ridiculous. And I guess it helps that he’s only got a few days left until he’s off of probation. Trying to carry on like this for five or six months would be a major problem. Thank God we don’t have to do that. But I’ll tell you something that I really didn’t expect: the idea that we’re sneaking around is kind of exciting. I’ve never sneaked around before. It’s a killer rush. But it’s only because I’m sneaking around with the right guy. I wouldn’t enjoy sneaking around if the truth might hurt someone. This is different.

I think the weirdest part of it is that for the first time in a very long time, I don’t feel like I’m all alone. It’s been forever since I had someone in my life, and to be honest, I’ve never felt like this about any guy I was with. When I told Harper that “I got mine,” I wasn’t kidding. I think I finally got the one I’ve been looking for, even if I didn’t know I was looking for him. It sure feels that way. I like it. I like feeling this way. It’s a shame we have to sneak around for a few days, but then again, I don’t think we’ll be going out to dinner or to the movies very much in the beginning. If last night was any indication, we probably wouldn’t make it out the front door. And that’s just fine with me.

Harper’s gone back home for a while. Hey, after a performance like that, the guy needs to get some sleep. He’ll be back tonight, and to say I’m looking forward to it is probably the understatement of the year. But for now, I’m hungry. Everything I ate yesterday is on the floor of that stairwell at police headquarters. Fucking concussions! They make you puke and puke and puke; even if you don’t have anything in your stomach! It’s horrible! The result of all this is that I’m starving. I need to eat something. I just hope those pain pills don’t mess with my stomach. I don’t want to do any more puking for the rest of my life. My friend Carol’s probably down at that diner for dinner. You know, the one where I met her for an impromptu breakfast? She goes there a lot. I should be able to catch her before she sits down. We can do a little catching up. No, I’m not going to tell her about Harper. Too bad for her. That’s something she’d love to hear. Carol’s quite the gossip hound. Then again, she’d squeeze every intimate detail out of me. She’d insist on it. She’s really big on sex stories. God knows she’s never held back any of hers when we talk. You wouldn’t believe some of the things she’s told me, and she talks about them like she’s describing doing the laundry. The woman definitely gives new meaning to the term “open book.” But even if Harper and I weren’t sneaking around until he gets off of probation, I still wouldn’t tell her. She talks to my mom behind my back, remember? Little snitch! Anyway, I don’t want my mom knowing about some of the things Harper and I did last night. We got pretty creative, and mothers can’t imagine their little girls doing such naughty things. I think it might actually kill her.


The neighborhood diner. Aren’t I a great cop? See? There she is! And she hasn’t got a table yet. Hey, when you’re good, you’re good.

“Hey, Carol! Over here!”

“Dani? What are you doing here?”

“Looking for you. I thought we could grab an early dinner together.”

“Sounds good. How’d you know I was here?”

“You’re a creature of habit.”

Oh, shit! I forgot about the stitches in my forehead! Yeah, she’s staring at them. You can barely see them because my hair covers them up pretty good, but she sees them.

“Oh my God! Dani, what happened to you? Are those stitches?”

“Yeah. Eight of them, actually. But with the way I wear my hair, you can’t see them too well.”

“I can see them! What happened?”

“I fell down a flight of stairs.”

“Dani!”

I guess all of those TV shows about battered women have made it totally impossible for anyone to believe a woman when she says she fell down a flight of stairs. It does happen sometimes, you know.

“It’s true. Well, I didn’t actually fall. I got kicked down a flight of stairs.”

“What? You got kicked down a flight of stairs?”

“Yeah, at Police Headquarters, no less. And no, it wasn’t the Chief who did it. We were escorting this dope dealer we picked up, and I stupidly got in front of him, so he kicked me down the stairs. I cracked my head, sprained my shoulder, and banged the hell out of my knee.”

Why is she looking at me like that? It’s not the first time I’ve told her a story like that.

“Dani, are you kidding me? Please tell me you’re making this up.”

“Nope. He gave me a hell of a concussion. I puked my guts out like you wouldn’t believe, but I’m a lot better now.”

“Dani!”

“No, really. The concussion’s healed. At least, I think it has. It was really bad when it happened, though. I was puking and I couldn’t see straight; though part of that was because I had a lot of blood in my eyes from this gash on my head. At first, the paramedics thought I might’ve broken my neck. They put me in a big neck brace, but I started puking again so they took it off so I wouldn’t choke to death on my own vomit. And for a while, I thought my head was literally going to explode, but…”

“Dani! Sit down! Right now! Sit!”

“Carol, it’s no big deal. I’m fine. Besides, it was my own fault. We knew this guy was really dangerous, and I never should have stepped in front of him. Stupid, huh?”

“Are you listening to yourself? Dani, you could have been killed!”

“I know. That’s what the paramedics and the doctor said. But at least the asshole got it a lot worse. Harper beat the crap out of him. He’s got a fractured skull, a bunch of broken ribs…”

“Dani, are you insane? You nearly get killed by some drug dealer, and you’re acting like it’s no big deal!”

“It isn’t. I’m a cop. It’s just…”

“If you say ‘line of duty,’ I’m going to kill you right here! Dani, this is serious! Look at you! You’ve got stitches in your head!”

“Yeah, but they’re really small.”

I don’t think she appreciates my sense of humor. She looks really pissed off.

“This isn’t funny, Dani! You’re out of control with this job! You are totally out of control! You can’t keep doing this! You’re going to get yourself killed!”

“Carol, I know the risks. They come with the territory.”

“Don’t give me that macho cop bullshit! Look at you! Dani, you need help! I mean professional help! You need to talk to someone about this.”

“About what?”

“About you having a death wish, for starters.”

“I don’t have a death wish. Believe me, I like living.”

I like it now more than ever, but I can’t explain that to her for at least another two weeks. Too bad. Maybe she’d ease up if I did?

“I’m not so sure that’s true, Dani. You’re completely out of control and you don’t even realize it. Dani, you have to get out of there! You have to get out of that job before it kills you!”

Now I know she’s been snitching to my mom. She sounds just like her!

“I’m not going to quit my job. I love being a cop. It’s what I am. I don’t want to do anything else. I don’t know how to do anything else.”

Some cops even say that after ten years on the job, you’re not fit to do anything else. I don’t know if that’s true, but I think it pretty much describes me.

“Dani, that place has just…it’s taken over your mind! It’s taking over your soul! You’re so infatuated with that craziness that you can’t stand being anywhere else. I mean, look at you!”

“What are you talking about?”

“You’re fidgeting around in that chair like you’re on pins and needles! And don’t say it’s from the pain! I can see it in your eyes: you can’t stand being here! You want to be back in that filthy shithole, chasing after drug dealers and pyschos and God knows what else!”

She’s got a point. I do wish I were out in the field right now, doing the job. But I don’t think I’m on pins and needles. I mean, yeah, I’m a little uncomfortable right now. But that’s from the injuries. Isn’t it?

“So I’m a little fidgety? It doesn’t mean I’ve gone skid row crazy.”

“I think you have. You just don’t realize it yet. Are you working today?”

“No.”

“Then why are you wearing your combat pants and boots?”

“Oh, God! You sound like my mom!”

“I know. I talked to her.”

“Yeah, I know you did. Snitch!”

“Dani, I’m really worried about you. She called me because she couldn’t reach you, and she’s worried about you, too.”

“There’s nothing to worry about. So my wardrobe is a little…”

“Post-apocalyptic?”

See? Maybe I’m not the only one who thinks this heat is the apocalypse? If it is, then I’m the one who’s appropriately dressed.

“That’s a little dramatic, don’t you think?”

“So is that look. It’s scary. Did you know people were staring at you when you came in?”

“How would you know? I saw you first. I waved to you.”

“And I saw how people were looking at you. Dani, you look like you’re ready to shoot up a shopping mall.”

“I’m a cop. I shoot people who shoot up shopping malls.”

“You’re lucky they didn’t see that gun. They would’ve been diving for cover.”

“That’s why I keep it concealed.”

I think I’m beginning to irritate her. That wasn’t my intention.

“You’re not listening. Dani, you’ve sunk so far into this job that you can’t see where the job stops and you start. Not anymore. This job…this place is eating you alive.”

“Carol, I’m in a really good place in my life.”

“No, you’re not! You’re in the worst place on earth, and you’re happy about it! You’re obsessed with it! It’s taken over your whole life! You don’t have anything left that isn’t the job. You’re sitting here with a head full of stitches and you don’t even care!”

“I do care. I’m just not obsessing over it. I fucked up and some asshole got the drop on me, and now I’ve got a few stitches to remind me never to do anything so stupid again. Lesson learned. Next case.”

“I don’t know how many ‘next cases’ you’ve got left. Your luck’s going to run out, Dani. It has to. What are you going to do when it does?”

“Actually, I feel pretty lucky these days. Things are going good. Better than they have in a long time.”

“This is your idea of good? You’ve got no life, a head full of stitches, a torn-up knee and a torn-up shoulder and you say you feel lucky? Explain that to me, please.”

Well gee, Carol: I’ve finally started fucking my partner and it’s incredible, and he likes me as much as I like him, and I’ve been putting more serious assholes in jail than anyone in the division, and the other night I put together an operation that got two major killers torn apart by machinegun fire, and I’ve been sticking it to Ricky worse than he’s ever had it before. No, I don’t think I should tell her that. I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t understand. She’d probably call the men in the white jackets to cart me away.

“Look, you said I could’ve been killed, right? Well, I wasn’t. I took a few knocks and my partner put the asshole that did it in the hospital, so yeah, I’m pretty lucky. I’m here. I’m still in one piece. And I’m doing something I love. Something I’m damned good at. If you ask me, that’s pretty damned lucky.”

“No, Dani. That’s pretty damned insane that shit like that happens to you at all. And it’s totally fucking insane that you get a kick out of it. Dani, I’m not kidding. You need help. Professional help. I used to do this for a living, remember? I’m deadly serious.”

“You think I should see a shrink?”

“I don’t know. Maybe? You need to see someone. Whatever’s happening to you, you can’t handle it. It’s like you’re addicted to drugs, only your drug is risking your neck on skid row. If you don’t stop, something really bad is going to happen to you. Something a lot worse than a few stitches in your head. I mean it. You’re headed for a major crash.”

“You really have been talking to my mom, haven’t you?”

“Come on, Dani! Someone has to look out for you. You’re certainly not doing it.”

“That’s my partner’s job.”

“And I’ll bet he’s as crazy as you are. Maybe even worse?”

OK, she’s got a point, there.

“Pretty much.”

“Great. That’s all you need in your life right now.”

Actually, she’s right. That is all I need. Last night was proof positive of that.

“So I’m crazy and I’m hopeless. So what’s new with you?”

And he head sinks and her eyes roll. I’ll bet my mom does exactly the same thing when she talks to me over the phone. See, this is why I don’t have a lot of friends. But that’s OK. It just makes me value the few that I’ve got even more.


Narcotics Division. Day two of my forced convalescence. I’ve been thinking about what Carol was saying, yesterday. She’s right about one thing: I can’t stay away from the job. Hell, just look where I am right now! I can’t go to work until tomorrow, but there’s nothing keeping me from talking to the Narcotics detectives on my own time. I want to know about that asshole Luis. Not because he kicked my ass down the stairs, but because he’s Ricky’s cousin. I want to find out as much as I can about him. He’s got to be important. With all of the shit that’s happening to Ricky right now, he’d want someone like that doing important shit for him. I don’t think they’ll let me visit him in the jail ward of the hospital and ask him a few questions, though. I just hope that Detectives Godfrey and Cardozo have some good information on him. We sent them a copy of the arrest report, so they know what happened. They know he’s locked up. I told Harper to meet me here. He needs to hear this, too. And there he is! Right on time; just like a top-notch boot should be!

“Hey, Harper. You made it.”

“I wouldn’t miss this for the world.”

“Me, neither. Let’s see if they know anything we don’t. God, I hope so!”

Why would Ricky suddenly have his cousin doing street-level dope deals for him? I say “suddenly” because I’m sure that if he’d been there the whole time, we would have heard of him a long time ago. Anybody that violent is incapable of keeping a low profile. Look how many of those junkies I that alley were intimately familiar with Diego. Luis was no better, and probably a lot worse. Now, suddenly he’s dealing crack out of a shithole hotel? It could be a coincidence, but I’m not a big believer in them. Something’s changed, and we need to know what it is.

There’s the lady at the desk. God, she looks worn out! It must’ve been a busy day around here. What am I saying? This is Narcotics Division! Are there any other kind?

“Excuse me? I’m Officer Lynott, and this is Officer Harper. We’re here to see Detectives Godfrey and Cardozo.”

“Back again, huh? You know the way. Straight back. They’re expecting you.”

If I keep coming here like this, I’m going to ask for a permanent parking space. Not that I’d get one. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that some of these detectives don’t have one. That’s one of the strangest things about this police department: at almost every facility, parking is at a premium. People fight over parking spaces like you wouldn’t believe. I’ve actually heard of people inheriting parking spaces after someone retires or dies. Strange, but true.

There’s Detective Godfrey: drowning in work, as usual. And Carol thinks I don’t have a life? Look at him! He must have twenty case files in front of him! This poor guy needs a raise and a vacation!

“Detective Godfrey?”

“Jesus! Dani! Let me take a look at you! How are you feeling?”

“I take it you heard.”

“Of course we heard! Angelo! Dani and Harper are here!”

Judging by the look on John’s face, you’d think I was hit by a truck. It’s not that bad, John. Christ, if you want to see bad, go take a look at Luis!

“God damn, girl! Don’t you know how to take it easy?”

“We are taking it easy. We both got benched for two days. Lieutenant Hagan’s orders. Ask Harper if you don’t believe me.”

“It’s true, sir. I’m under orders not to let her near the station.”

It looks like John agrees. The way he’s staring at my head, he must think I’m a total psycho to be here right now.

“You’d better follow that order, Harper. We can’t afford to lose her. Or you. Dani, we just about shit ourselves when we heard what happened. How bad did he get you?”

“Not that bad. Bumps and bruises.”

Oh, he’s not buying it! Not for a second!

“She’s lying, isn’t she? Harper, how bad did she get hurt?”

“Pretty banged up, sir. Eight stitches in her head, concussion, sprained shoulder, and a banged-up knee. For a minute there, they were afraid she might have had a broken neck, but thank God that didn’t happen. So don’t worry, sir. She’s invincible.”

“I believe it. Still, that report sent one hell of a shockwave through this place. You guys made a lot of people very happy around here, lately.”

It’s always nice to hear that your efforts are appreciated. And I knew they’d be happy to get those two gunners off the street.

“Glad to hear it. We wanted to ask you guys about Luis. The guy who kicked me down the stairs.”

“We heard Harper took care of him pretty good. Good work, Harper.”

“Thank you, sir. I just wish I could ’ve prevented it in the first place.”

“Don’t think that way. You can’t anticipate everything. You can do everything right and sometimes they’ll still get you. That’s just how it is. I speak from painful experience.”

“I still feel like shit about it, sir.”

“Don’t. The important thing is, you took care of your partner and you made that asshole pay for it. Sometimes that’s all you can do.”

“Not enough, if you ask me. And our lieutenant says they might lay into me because the guy was cuffed when I hit him.”

“You’ll be fine. It was a necessary…

And here’s Angelo! And he looks pissed!

“Fuck that ‘necessary’ shit, John! Who gives a shit about that? Fuck that little asshole! You should’ve killed him! You should’ve stomped his ass into a red stain on the floor!”

“What? Oh, hey, Detective Cardozo. Good to see you again.”

“Good to see you, too, Harper. And I mean what I said. I wouldn’t worry about that shit at all. That shit was totally justified. We’ve had cops shoot handcuffed suspects and it was justified. Hell, I would’ve killed the motherfucker! If you don’t believe me, ask John.”

“That’s right. He’d do it. Angelo’s our resident stone-cold killer.”

“Yes, sir. I wish I’d broken more than his head and a few ribs.”

Harper shouldn’t feel bad. From what I heard, he really did a number on that guy. I’d like to see him in the hospital so I could gloat, but I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t let me.

“Don’t forget: you broke his nose, too. I’m very proud of you, Harper.”

“Thanks, Dani. See? She’s always looking out for me, sir.”

“That’s what partners do for each other. And you’re right, Dani: you should be proud. And you guys don’t have to worry about him getting off too easily.”

“Why is that?”

“John, you want to tell them?”

“I’d love to. You don’t have to worry because…he’s dead!”

“What?”

Jesus, Harper looks like he’s going to have a stroke!

“Hey, detectives! I didn’t hit him that hard!”

“No, but the two guys in the jail ward who stabbed him over twenty times did.”

Holy shit! Someone stabbed him? They killed him? What the hell is going on here?

“He got stabbed?”

“Over and over, to be precise. In the hospital ward in county jail. He’s dead. Harper, you won’t have to worry about any investigation, now. They’re not going to waste time over a corpse.”

He’s right about that. Jesus, I can’t believe this shit! Who would do it? Kill Ricky’s cousin? That’s pretty ballsy shit! Ricky’s connected. With his dope connections, he could unleash some serious retaliation. Come to think of it, that’s very ballsy!

“John, why did he get killed? You guys know he was Ricky’s cousin, right?”

“Yeah, we read the report. That came as quite a surprise. We’d never come across him before that. We knew about him, but that was it.”

They were surprised? Christ, I was practically floored when I saw it on the printout!

“So do you know why he got killed?”

“Good question. Let’s see what your partner thinks. What do you think, Officer Harper?”

John’s testing him. I guess Harper can’t escape being a boot; even here. That’s one of the many things that suck about being a boot: you’re always being quizzed about something.

“Well, my first thought is that somebody’s sending Ricky a message. But then again, that guy was a major asshole. As violent as he was, he could’ve made plenty of enemies on his own. Without more information, I can’t be sure.”

Very good, Harper! Even the detectives are impressed!

“You’re absolutely right, Harper. I like this guy, Dani. He thinks like a detective.”

“Acknowledge the obvious, but don’t jump to conclusions. Without facts, it’s just a theory, and theories aren’t evidence. She taught me that, sir.”

“She taught you well.”

“Don’t I know it? Sir, Dani had a question for you.”

“Shoot.”

Here’s my chance. Let’s see what the hell the late and unlamented Luis was doing in our sector.

“John, we didn’t know anything about Ricky’s cousin before last night. We never heard of him. Hell, we didn’t even know he existed. Now, suddenly he turns up dealing crack for Ricky at street-level? I don’t think that’s a coincidence.”

“Neither do we. We were very surprised to find out he was in town. Last we heard, he was somewhere in Phoenix.”

“Another Arizona connection?”

“You got it. All these Arizona connections led us to conclude that that’s where Ricky’s been getting his dope.”

“And those two gunners the SWAT team took out? They were Mexican Mafia?”

“As a matter of fact, they weren’t. Well, not exactly. They were members of the cartel.”

“Los Zetas?”

“Maybe. Definitely connected to them, at least. The DEA says the dope’s coming from Laredo, Texas. Then it goes to Arizona. The Zetas are right across the border from Laredo, and Ricky’s originally from a town in west Texas. So was Luis.”

“So the theory is that Ricky fucks up and gets a couple of their guys killed, and they’re not happy, so they pay him back for it by killing his cousin. Luis is in jail, which makes him an easy target. And by leaving Ricky alive, they hope he’ll get the message, clean up his act, and still make money for them. Is that it?”

“She’s good! Isn’t she, Angelo?”

“She’s damned good. You can learn from her, Harper.”

“Believe me, I know, sir. So what’s the next move? Ricky’s not about to take on the Zetas. Even he’s not that crazy.”

“You got that right. If he’s got a brain in his head, he’ll hide out somewhere for a while.”

“Dani and I don’t think he’s got much of a brain, sir.”

“Neither do we. He’s street-smart, but not intelligent. And he’s got a nasty temper. It’s gotten him into trouble more than once. He might be looking for some payback, so you guys watch your asses. You really fucked with Ricky’s world this time. And you cost him his cousin. Luis was loyal to Ricky like you wouldn’t believe. Ricky thought the world of him. He won’t take that shit lying down. He’s going to be out for blood. Your blood! You watch your back! Both of you!”

“We will. Thanks.”

Why is Angelo cracking up all of a sudden? What’s so funny? Whatever it is, it’s got something to do with Harper.

“One more thing before you go, Harper. About that guy you fucked up? Ricky’s little junkyard dog?”

“You mean Diego, sir?”

“Yeah. We went to see him this morning to ask him a few questions.”

“Did he give you anything?”

“Are you kidding? That dude can’t even talk! He’s got fucking bolts sticking out of his jaw! They’ve got his head in a halo so he can’t move it! You fucked him up!”

“Well, he tried to bash my head in with a steel bar, sir.”

“I honestly don’t think he’s ever going to heal! You really fucked him up good! I wanted to thank you for that. That guy was a monster. It’s about time somebody did something about him.”

I think Harper’s ego just grew by about two sizes! It’s OK. He’s entitled.

“See, Harper? I told you: you’re the Captain America of skid row. You’re a hero.”

“Much obliged. Just doin’ my job, ma’am.”

Oh, God! That has to be the worst John Wayne impression I’ve ever heard!

“Don’t listen to him, Angelo. He’s full of shit, but you get used to it.”

“That’s OK with us. Listen, I want you both to know something: with all of the work you two have done lately, all the guys you put out of commission, the information you’ve brought us; we put you both in for the Meritorious Service medal. I don’t know if you’ll get it, but John wrote it up really good. We wanted you to know.”

“That’s some pretty serious shit. Thanks. From both of us.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“You don’t have to call us sir, Harper. Even if you are still a boot. You guys deserve that medal. You really kicked ass. And Dani, you fucking bled for us! We won’t forget that.”

“She puked, too, sir. All over the stairs. It was really gross.”

“Don’t forget I also puked on you.”

“Yeah, she did that, too. It was disgusting.”

“Jesus, eight stitches! I’m sorry you had to go through that, Dani.”

“Yeah, but they’re small stitches. Don’t worry about it. Scars prove you were there, right, Harper?”

“They certainly do.”

“Besides, I don’t think Commander Hillel is going to let us win any medals. Not if he has any say in it.”

“Oh, fuck that son of a bitch! Did John tell you what happened after those two shooters got blown away?”

Oh, this, I definitely want to hear!

“No. What happened?”

“We got back here for the debriefing, and Hillel shows up at five in the morning, mad as a motherfucker! He’s screaming about how we should’ve informed him and gotten his approval before we went ahead. He’s screaming about his task force and shit, and the DEA agent in charge is there; you know, McMillian? And he just looks Hillel straight in the eye and says: ‘I don’t know who the fuck you are or what the fuck you’re talking about! I never heard of any task force, and if I don’t know about it, then it doesn’t exist!’ He said he was going to call Washington and tell them never to listen to a fucking thing Hillel ever says! He’s persona non grata with them from now, on. Man, he just laid into that motherfucker!”

Oh, that is music to my ears! What I wouldn’t give to have been here for that!

“I don’t suppose you guys got that on video for me?”

“Sorry, Dani. Maybe next time.”

“Well, at least that’s something. Right, Harper?”

“Absolutely. Sir? Does this mean Commander Hillel’s not going to be the next chief?”

And that got him laughing! Lord, please let that be a sign from you!

“I think that’s a pretty safe bet. Not unless he makes a major case and arrests Ricky single-handedly, and I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon.”

Not in this or any other universe known to man or God!

“You guys just keep doing what you’re doing. Everyone here loves the shit out of you. Dani, I think there are a few marriage proposals around here for you, if you’re interested.”

I can’t exactly tell them that I’m off of the market because Harper and I are together. Too bad. I’ll break it to them in two weeks.

“I’m married to the job, guys. Sorry.”

“Now that’s a damned shame!”

My mom, Carol, and now these guys! I just can’t win, can I?


And now it’s time to go home. I hope I don’t hit a lot of traffic. Driving with my knee fucked up is kind of painful. Still, it’s almost worth taking a tumble down the stairs to know that Hillel got his ass handed to him over one of our arrests. I don’t think there’s a chance in hell that we’re going to get the Meritorious Service medal, but it’s nice to know that they put us in for it. Personally, I think we deserve it. We’ve been working our asses off, and we’ve been risking our necks putting the screws to Ricky and his operation. I’m not in it for medals, and neither is Harper, but it’s nice to know that somebody thinks that much of what we’ve been doing. The truth is, no one has ever put me in for a medal before. I’d like to get it, but I won’t be broken up about it if I don’t. And besides, Harper’s got enough medals for the both of us.

“Harper, can you believe Luis got killed? I have to admit, I didn’t see that coming.”

“Neither did I. That’s some fucked-up shit.”

“Do you think they’ll come after Ricky next?”

“If those guys really were Los Zetas, or even connected to them, then yeah. I’ve read about the Zetas. When I was in the Marine Corps, some of the Special Ops guys helped train the DEA agents for cross-border operations. They specifically mentioned the possibility of coming up against the Zetas. From what I heard, those guys are fucking ruthless. They’ll kill anyone.”

“Then maybe we won’t have to worry about him for much longer?”

“That would suck when you think about it. I mean, we’ve done all this work to put him in jail. I’d hate to think someone else might finish the job.”

“Yeah, but they won’t put him in jail. They’ll kill him. And probably not quickly, either.”

“I know. I’ve read about their methods.”

“Do you think they’d use a chainsaw?”

“We can only hope. Preferably one with a dull blade.”

“That would be justice. So are you coming over tonight?”

“Of course.”

“Good. See you then.”

“Too bad I can’t kiss you goodbye.”

I was just thinking the same thing.

“Not around here. Don’t worry. I’ll kiss you hello when you get there.”

“I’ll bring a treat for Zephyr. I don’t want him to get jealous.”

“If he can eat it, he’ll love you forever. Hey, I got something for you.”

“You bought me a present?”

“Sort of. I bought us both some very useful gadgets. Here. It’s a burner cell phone. I bought them from two different places, paid cash, neither one was anywhere near my apartment. Now, I already put my number in it. Yours is in mine. Mine’s just like it. Pay as you go, no records, and no GPS in it. Use it for personal calls to me and no one else. Don’t use the e-mail function. Calls and text messages only, and no names in the text messages. Remember: e-mail is forever. Use a security code to lock the screen, and make it something that no one will ever guess. And like I said before, don’t let anyone see you carrying two phones. They’ll definitely think you’re up to something.”

“You think of everything.”

“That’s what training officers are for. Now remember: this is only for the next two weeks. Once you’re off probation, destroy it! Don’t throw it away. Destroy it! Take a hammer to it and toss the pieces in a fire. Don’t leave anything left. These things are going to be the only proof we’re sneaking around. Once we don’t need them anymore…”

“Not a trace. Got it.”

“See? I told you this would be fun.”

It is fun! It’s almost like being a secret agent or something. I never wanted to be James Bond, but it’s kind of cool to try it for a couple of weeks. Oh, God! I just got this image of Harper in a tuxedo, like James Bond! Yeah, that’s definitely going on my list of things I want to see him in! It had better not be a rental, though. Something tells me I’ll be tearing it off of him as soon as he walks in the door. What time is he coming over tonight? I can hardly wait!


Central Station. Roll call’s in a few minutes, and I have to get the “all clear” from Lieutenant Hagan before I can report in. Two days off. Jesus! I can’t say they weren’t fun, but I’m ready to get back to work. Watching the news made me feel like I’m missing out on everything. Central Division’s been going crazy these last two days! And I know Harper’s itching to get back to work, too. There’s only one problem: I needed a doctor’s letter clearing me for duty. Well, I got it, but it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. Oh, God! And I thought the hand sanitizer and toilet tissue in the roll call room was bad! This is going to be an embarrassment of biblical proportions! I just hope no one else is in the Watch Commander’s office.

“Ready to go, lieutenant.”

“Welcome back, Lynott. You’re looking a lot better than the last time I saw you. Did you get clearance from a doctor?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Let me see the letter.”

“Can’t you just take my word for it?”

“You know damned well I can’t. Are you saying you didn’t get one?”

“No, I got it.”

“Then what’s the problem?”

Is there any way I can answer that question without explaining it to him?

“I don’t want to show it to you.”

“Are you fucking with me, Lynott?”

“No, sir.”

“Harper! Get in here!”

Oh, not Harper! We may be sharing a bed, but he’ll never let me live this one down!

“You wanted to see me sir?”

“Your partner says she doesn’t want to show me the letter she got from her doctor, clearing her to full duty.”

“I don’t know what to tell you, sir. She told me her doctor gave her one.”

“Hand it over, Lynott.”

Not in front of him! No fucking way!

“Harper, leave the room.”

“Why?”

“Because I’m about to be horribly humiliated, and I don’t want you to see it.”

“Permission to stay in the room, sir?”

“Permission granted. Hand it over, Lynott!”

Oh, this is worse than I feared! Why me, God?

“Now, Lynott!”

“Yes, sir. Here.”

Wait for it!

“What the fuck is this?

“My doctor’s on vacation. The other doctor in his office is covering for her. She’s a pediatrician, sir.”

“You have got to be shitting me! This is fucking classic! Harper, you didn’t see this?”

“No, sir.”

Oh, God! This is not happening! Kill me now! Hurry!

“Listen to this: ‘Dani was sick, and she felt a bit gray. She couldn’t come in to work or to play. She went to the doctor, and we want you to know, now she’s fit as a fiddle and raring to go! Signed: Bethany D. Sanger, M.D.’ And look! It’s got a little teddy bear on it!”

“Will somebody please kill me now?”

“Now I see why you didn’t want to show me this, Lynott! This is beyond humiliating!”

“I begged her to just write a letter! ‘Officer Lynott is now fit for duty. Period!’ She wouldn’t do it! Rotten bitch!”

“Remind me to thank this woman, Lynott. This just made my whole fucking day!”

Lieutenant Hagan’s got a really evil smile! I just noticed that! And Harper’s cracking up so much, he’s practically crying! Why does this shit always happen to me?

“I really hate both of you right now.”

“May I have a copy of that, sir?”

Harper! You’re a dead man! Dead!

“Don’t you dare show it to him, sir!”

“I’ll post it on the Sergeant’s Bulletin Board, Harper. You can look at it there.”

“Thank you, sir!”

Even he couldn’t be that evil! No way!

“You’re not serious, are you, sir?”

“I’m deadly serious, Lynott!”

That asshole! That’s beyond cruel! And he knows that if he posts it there, I can take it down without getting a three-day suspension! That’s the standard penalty for fucking with the Sergeants’ Board! Harper! Stop that laughing! I’m giving you the death look! See? Look into my eyes, Harper!

“I’ll let everyone know it’s there, sir.”

“See that you do, Harper. You know this is going in your personnel file, Lynott?”

“No, it isn’t!”

“Yes, it is. Standard procedure. You were injured on-duty. It’s an official document. It’s required.”

I know he’s right. I was just praying there was some way around it.

“I really, really hate you both right now!”

“Well, I love you, Lynott. This made my fucking day!”

“Harper, stop laughing!”

“I can’t! I’m sorry! I’m trying!”

“Try harder!”

What the hell is the lieutenant doing? Oh, he is not going to…

“Test, one-two.”

Oh, God! Not the station’s P.A.!

“Attention all Central Division personnel: There is an important notice on the Sergeants’ Bulletin Board dated today. All personnel are required to read it. It will be posted in five minutes. That is all.”

Oh, God almighty! This is worse than one of those dreams where you’re naked in front of everybody you know! And this one’s no dream!

“You two are dismissed. Welcome back, Lynott.”

“You’re a real sadist! Do you know that, sir?”

“I’m a lieutenant. It’s in the job description.”

“I will have my revenge, sir.”

“No, you won’t. Not ever. It’s not in the cards for you. Roll call’s in five minutes. You two had better get up there.”

He’s right, you know. He’s a lieutenant, he’s a great cop, and he’s been on the job for a million years. There’s no way I’ll ever get the upper hand on him.

“I can’t do anything to him, but your ass is mine, Harper!”

“Yes, ma’am. Hey, Dani? Did they have any cool toys in the waiting room when you were there?”

That’s it! I’m bringing my handcuffs and nightstick home with me tonight! He is so going to get it!

“You’re enjoying this way too much, Harper!”

“I’m sorry, Dani. That must’ve been horrible.”

“Oh, it’s not over! Wait until he posts that thing on the bulletin board!”

“You should have…I don’t know, forged something? Anything but that!”

“I thought about it.”

“But forgery’s a felony, huh?”

“Bingo.”

Just take a deep breath. This too, shall pass. Just keep saying that. Maybe I’ll come to believe it, eventually? Yeah, right!

“Harper, when they start laying into me – and they will – I expect you to abstain.”

“I will. I promise.”

“You’d better!”

This is not how I wanted to return to work! It’s bad enough I got my ass kicked and missed two days, but now this? I must be paying for some serious sins in my life!

Well, everybody’s already in here. I guess they were waiting for us.

“Hey, look who’s back!”

“Welcome back, Dani!”

“There’s our girl!”

“We missed you, Dani!”

“How do you feel? Are you full-duty?”

They actually sound sincere. Yeah, right! Just wait until they see my note from Doctor Teddy Bear! I’m going to get raked over the coals big time!

“Lynott! Good to have you back! Are you all healed up?”

“Healed enough, Sarge. But if people see something on the Sergeants’ Board and start laughing at me, the doctor says I could have a relapse. It would be very dangerous to my health, sir.”

“We wouldn’t want that.”

“Don’t worry, sir. Officer Lynott is fit as a fiddle and raring to go! The doctor said so.”

He just had to say it, didn’t he? Get ready for pain, Harper!

“Do I want to know what that means, Officer Harper?”

“I think you’ll all know soon enough, sir.”

“You’re a dead man, Harper. You know that, right?”

“You really need to see it for yourself, sir.”

“I can hardly wait. All right, everybody take your seats! Roll call! The Watch Commander is Lieutenant Hagan. I’m Forty Central. Sergeant Alfaro is Sixty Central. Ruiz and Rosen, Eight Central. Lynott and Harper, the disaster car! Sixteen Central. Vinell and Kursteff, Twenty-Two Central. Signolo and Goren, Forty-Four Central. Does everyone have a job?”

As bad as I’m going to get it for the next three days, it’s really good to be back. I was going out of my mind, being away from here. I missed a lot of good capers in the last two days. This division has been going absolutely crazy! I hate missing out on shit like that. And I really feel like we’ve finally got a shot at shutting down Ricky for good. Yeah, someone will take his place pretty soon after that, but you don’t often get to finish something big that you started. Not on patrol, at least. So I don’t want to miss my chance. I might not get another one.

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