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Chapter 30: Showdown

Central Station. Roll call. Everyone seems a little jittery tonight. After last night, I can’t say that’s a surprise. So what’s on the agenda for this shift? Another duster? A tunnel job burglary in the industrial district? Another guy with his fucking eyeball in his pocket? God, the thought of that one still makes me sick! I wonder if they were able to fix it? The paramedics said it probably couldn’t be fixed, but maybe the doctors were able to do something? I hope so. Of all the senses I’d hate to lose, my eyesight is at the top of the list. If you’ve got your eyesight, then you can still have a pretty normal life. Without it, you’re definitely fucked. No offense to any blind people out there. I just know that I couldn’t handle it. You’ve definitely got a strength that I don’t possess.

I may be losing my hearing; what with the way Sergeant Gellar’s been roaring tonight. I’m guessing he got some bad news in his pre-roll call meeting with the Watch Commander.

“All right! Listen up, Midwatch! Just when we thought it couldn’t get any hotter in the downtown area, the mercury hit one hundred and fifteen this afternoon! In addition to everything else that’s been going on, we’ve had power outages all over the city! People are using way too much electricity, and the heat fried a few transformers or who the hell knows what. Also, the rolling blackouts have definitely begun in the downtown area! They’ve been raising hell with Daywatch, and we just got a report that the power is out south of 10th street, west of Meridian. We have no idea what sector will be hit next, so be ready for traffic light outages, power outages, and streetlight outages tonight!”

Mildly interesting, but I want to know about the big question!


“What is it, Lynott?”

“Will Sergeant Alfaro be joining us tonight?”

That pained look on his face tells me I struck a nerve. Ouch!

“Will I be stringing you up by the fucking balls tonight, Lynott?”

“I don’t have balls, sir. I’m a woman. In case you didn’t notice, I mean.”

“I noticed. Your boobs are a dead giveaway.”

“Damn! My clever disguise has failed!”

“All right, everyone! By now, you all know what happened last night. Sergeant Alfaro is burning up a little overtime while he re-evaluates his career path.”

More like he’s home washing the shit out of his shorts! And here come the slings and arrows of Midwatch! Who’ll be first? It looks like Kursteff!

“Desk job, here comes the Sarge!”

And poor Sergeant Gellar has to listen to it all by himself! Well, unless he shuts us down. I think that’s what he’s doing.

“Can it, Kursteff! I don’t want to hear any more gossip about last night! Look, what happened last night is over and done with. Shit happens. What can I tell you? Not everyone is Midwatch material.”

That’s the understatement of the century!

“With Sergeant Alfaro gone, I’m the only supervisor for Midwatch, tonight. That is not an invitation for dumping your fucking messes in my lap! Do I make myself clear?”

“Would we do that to you, Sarge?”

“Look who’s talking, little miss shit magnet! Lynott, with the way you and Harper have been going this DP, I might as well follow the two of you around with a shovel! You two are the official Midwatch shit magnet! That’s a fact! But tonight shall be different! You shall not attract any shit tonight! Do you hear me? You are to be devoid of shit for the entire shift! Your shift shall be absolutely shitless! That is an order! Do I make myself clear?”

“Unmistakably clear, sir!”

“My fucking cup runneth over with joy! Now, as you all know, we had a real live duster last night. The second one in a week. This one was out in the field, where he was a hell of a lot more dangerous. Midwatch did an exceptional job taking him into custody.”

Yeah, with one notable exception, that is.

“But I want everyone to be aware that we might have someone dealing PCP in our division. All of you are way too young to remember what that shit was like. Be thankful for that! If we’re going to be dealing with dusters, I want to make damned sure every unit on the watch has a fully-charged Taser with them. I know some officers don’t like to take them. God only knows why. But the regulations say that you shall take one at the beginning of your shift! No exceptions! Furthermore, I will be checking everyone’s training records. Anyone who hasn’t gone through the Taser refresher training within the last twelve months will be scheduled for a training session next DP. Harper is excused because he had it in the academy, and he’s already lit up one asshole this DP. He clearly knows how to work the damned thing. But as for the rest of you, if you see your name on the list, you shall undergo the training! No exceptions!”

Oh, let the groaning commence! Taser training is about as much fun as watching grass grow. And Signolo’s obviously going to be on that list; given how he’s got his “oh, kill me now!” look on his face.

“Sarge, I hate Taser training!”

“Signolo, how hard is it to shoot a fucking Taser at a piece of cardboard wrapped in aluminum foil?”

“It portends violence, sir! I hate violence!”

“Good! You just volunteered for the training! You’ll be first in line! And you get to wrap the foil around the cardboard!”

“I take back what I said, sir! I love Taser training!”

“Good! Because you’re still first on the list!”

“You’re a cruel man, Sarge.”

“Does anyone have anything else? Anything worthwhile?”

I’m sorry, but in this heat? I have to go for it! It’s a matter of life and death!

“I do, sir.”

“What is it, Lynott?”

“Can I have your parking space?”

“Why the hell would I give you my parking space?

“Because I had to park almost two blocks away this evening, and it’s really hot outside. I almost died! I’m tired of walking in the heat, sir.”

“Even more reason not to give it to you.”

I’ll give him my best bashful face and smile. Maybe that will do it? I really want a parking space! This shit is killing me!

“But sir! Don’t you want to do something chivalrous for the only lady on the watch?”

“You can lose the smile and the Betty Boop eyes, Lynott. I’d rather watch you sweat your ass off with the rest of the poor unfortunates.”

“Some gentleman you turned out to be!”

“Cry me a river, Lynott. Or better yet, sweat me one! Nobody gets my parking space! When I die, I’m going to be buried there so no one else can ever park there again! Is there anything else? Anybody? No? Go to work!”

If I’m still on the job when they bury him, I’m going to park right on top of his ass! And I’m going to do it with an old patrol car that leaks oil! He deserves it!

Getting ready to head out for our shift. Jesus, would you look at these incidents for the day? The whole division’s gone full-on psycho! Every Daywatch unit ended up with at least one arrest! On Daywatch? Someone call Ripley’s Believe it or Not! This shit is beyond crazy! And look at these power outages! They’re all over the division! I hope the station doesn’t lose power. Those diesel generators aren’t meant to work for extended periods. If we lose the air conditioner, the station’s going to be like an oven! Literally! Everyone in there is going to get cooked to death!

I see Harper’s got everything set up. I should kick him in the balls. The little shit got a parking space again! I saw his Camaro way over by the mechanics’ cage. How the hell does he manage to do that? He’s got to have some arrangement with someone on Daywatch. He’d better start sharing if he knows what’s good for him!

“We’re loaded up and ready to go, Dani. Any luck with the parking space?”

“Zip! The Sarge is a callous motherfucker! You know, I almost keeled over walking here this afternoon. The sun beat down on me so hard, it actually hurt!”

“It could be worse. You could be working Daywatch.”

“Bite your tongue, Harper!”

“Hey, you could always make officer of the month. That comes with a parking space.”

Yeah, for twenty-eight fucking days! And that includes your days off!

“Do you honestly see me making officer of the month?”

“I’d vote for you.”

“So would I. But two votes aren’t enough. Got any other suggestions?”

“You could show up wearing that little nightie you wore last night. I guarantee every guy in the division would vote for you.”

“That’s for your eyes only, mister. Let’s hit it. The citizens of skid row are depending on us.”

“We won’t let them down. Will we, partner?”

“Certainly not! Come, Harper! Our shitless shift begins!”

I really shouldn’t have said that. It’s like tempting fate. You learn not to do that when you’re a cop. Not if you want to go home in one piece.

Out on patrol, and we’ve got the air conditioner running full-blast. It’s so loud that we had to crank the radio up to ear-splitting level just to be able to hear it. And just when we thought the heat couldn’t make things any worse, we seem to have reached yet another new level of skid row insanity. There have been fight calls and psycho calls all day long, and they’re not letting up for Midwatch. And it’s still about a hundred-plus degrees outside. Throw in the power outages and this is probably going to be one wild night. I think we’re going to have to let Sergeant Gellar down on that “shitless” thing. On a night like this, how can we possibly avoid it?

“Well, Harper, what should we do to start? Hit the dope spots, check the missions, or look for the next stark-raving lunatic?”

“We could just wait here for a few minutes and see if he finds us first?”

“Sounds like a plan. They’re really out in force tonight. Even Daywatch was crazy. Did you see the incident sheet for today?”

“Wait until all these people get locked out of the missions tonight. Then they’ll really go bonkers.”

“Do you want to work the lockout?”

“I think we’re going to have to. Look at these guys! Those security guys probably can’t handle it by themselves.”

“I agree. We’ll put it on our list of things to do. Hey, Forty-Four just got a disturbance call on Vanguard. That’s just two blocks away. Should we back them up?”

“Sounds like fun. Let’s check it out.”

Anywhere else, these “disturbance, no further information” calls are usually a big nothing, but that’s definitely not the case out here. At the rate things are going, one of these days we’re going to get a call like that and when we get there, we’ll find that a UFO has landed and the aliens are abducting the homeless to experiment on them. I swear, I wouldn’t rule it out.

“Hey, Dani? I think I see the disturbance.”

Oh, please tell me I’m hallucinating!

“This is going to suck!”

“Yeah, but it’s one way to beat the heat!”

That’s putting it mildly! These crazy assholes tore the top off of a fucking fire hydrant!

“Dani, put us code six on the call. And we’d better let the RTO know we’ve got a broken fire hydrant.”

“Look at that shit! It’s like Old Faithful! How did they even do that?”

“God knows. I’ve never seen it before. It must’ve taken some serious force. And they’ve flooded whole damned the street! We’re not getting through there. Is there anything we can do about it?”

That’s a good question. The traffic light is out. It’s not even blinking. I’m guessing that’s why we didn’t get a more specific call about this. The power’s out on this block.

“Sixteen Central, we’ve got a broken fire hydrant, three hundred block of Vanguard Avenue. The street’s flooded, and it looks like the power is out. You’d better notify whoever’s in charge of this sort of thing.”

“Sixteen Central, roger.”

“How do we handle this one, Dani?”

“First: we stay the hell away from that geyser!”

“Hey, it looks like fun!”

“Oh, yeah! Getting blasted up into the air by a giant water spout! Then you fall out of the sky and break every goddamned bone in your body! Thanks, but I’ve taken enough of a pounding this week.”

Look at this shit! We’ve got grown men playing in the water spout like a bunch of five year-olds! Harper’s right: I don’t know what the hell we’re supposed to do in this situation. It’s not like we can fix that shit. I don’t think anyone can fix it until they shut off the water. And with all of that water pressure, someone’s going to get hurt if they don’t back away from it. Christ, that thing must be shooting sixty feet in the air!

“Harper, turn on the P.A. and give the siren a quick blast.”

“You got it. OK, you’re live! Go for it!”

“Attention idiots playing in the water geyser! This is the police! If any of you drowns, we are not here to help you! Get the hell away from that thing now!

“That’s an interesting way of putting it.”

“It’s too damned hot to be professional about it. Besides, this thing is just ridiculous! So sue me.”

Damn! The water’s getting pretty deep around here! If we stay here, we might get stuck.

“Harper, back the car up about fifty feet. I don’t want to get stuck in a giant puddle.”

“Dani? If the traffic lights are out, then the power’s out on the whole block, right?”

“Unless the traffic light got damaged somehow.”

“But if the power’s out, then the burglar alarms are out, too, right?”

“Pretty much, unless they’ve got a battery backup. Why?”

“Because we’ve got a couple of guys tunneling their way into that building over there!”

Holy shit! He’s right! They’re doing a tunnel job in the daylight! How fucking crazy is that?

“Sixteen Central, we’ve got two burglary suspects mid-block on Vanguard, at our location. Two male whites, tunneling their way into the east side of the building on the north side of the street with pickaxes. Requesting an additional unit at our location, code two.”

“Sixteen Central, roger.”

They’re either incredibly stupid or seriously ballsy. They’re hammering away at that wall like a demolition crew!

Harper, do you see any more than just those two?”

“Negative. I don’t think they see us yet. How do you want to handle it?”

If they saw us already, they would’ve taken off running. That means we’ve got the advantage for now. If we’re going to chase these guys, I want to know where they can go, first.

“Harper, where could they run to from that spot?”

“They could go in the alley, but they’d have to run down to the east end of the block. There’s a wall in there that’s pretty high. It runs the whole length. I don’t think they could get over it easily.”

“Or they could run straight for that water geyser. They might figure that if we tried to drive through it, our car would get swamped and we’d be stuck.”

“Yeah, and they’d probably be right.”

“Let’s hope they’re not that smart. Sixteen Central, can we get Forty-Four Central to take a position at the end of the north side alley, one block east of our location? We think our suspects might run in that direction.”

“Sixteen Central, this is Forty-Four Central. Roger that. We’re about five seconds away. What about that busted fire hydrant?”

“Sixteen Central, let’s just hope they don’t run in that direction. I’m not getting soaked, Goren. They don’t pay me for that.”

“Oh, come on, Dani! I’d love to see you in a wet t-shirt!”

Yeah, I was waiting for that one. Somebody had to say it.

“Put it back in your pants, pal. We’re going to move up on foot. If they go for the alley, they’ll head straight for you.”

“Roger, we’re at the east edge of the alley now. Send them our way.”

“Roger that. Stand by.”

“Hey, Dani, I think Goren’s got a thing for you.”

“Yeah, me and every other woman with a pulse. Come on, let’s get these guys.”

“And if they do run towards that hydrant?”

“Then we’re going to get soaked, in which case I’m going to kill these assholes.”

I still can’t believe they’re doing a tunnel job in the daylight. Another hour or so and they’d be a lot safer. But some people are really stupid – or just in a big hurry. The good thing is, with all the noise they’re making and that fire hydrant shooting into the air, they probably can’t hear us. It’s just the two of them. I’m sure of that much. They’re not using a lookout. If we can surprise them, that might be enough. And if they do take off running through the alley, they’re headed right toward Forty-Four. I don’t know about Goren, but Signolo is the department’s gazelle. If he were any faster, he could catch a bullet in flight. God, I wish I could run like that.

“Dani, they’re through the wall! They’re in!”

“Yeah, but they need to make the hole a little bigger.”

“Maybe a lot bigger, depending on what they’re stealing. What’s in there?”

“Search me. There’s no sign on the outside. I don’t even know the name of that place. You’re the expert on this division, Harper. You tell me.”

“Sorry. I’ve never had a call at this location.”

“Come on, let’s get over there. Go for the sidewalk and stay close to the buildings. They aren’t looking in this direction. We need to get as close as possible.”

“Let’s do it.”

I’d really like to know what’s in there. It could make a big difference in how we handle this thing. There’s one nice thing about working downtown and dealing with a burglary in progress: there isn’t a single gun shop in the downtown area. They won’t be coming out of there with a bunch of rifles and shotguns. Of course, at this hour, the gun stores might still be open; in which case the employees would blow these guys right out of their boots. That’s the nice thing about dealing with attempted robberies at gun shops: all we have to do is collect the bodies. The employees have already done all of the heavy lifting. Trust me, I’ve seen it happen.

“OK, Harper, this is as close as we can get without them seeing us. We draw down on them, identify ourselves, and maybe they’ll give up right away.”

“Or start running like hell.”

“Or turn and try to fight.”

“Fight or flight. It’s the same everywhere. Are you ready, Dani?”

“Let’s do it! Wait until they drop the pickaxes. There! That’s it! Go!”

“Police! Show me your hands! Now!”

“Do as he says! Show us your hands!”

Fuck! They’re running! Straight down the alley!

“Sixteen Central, our suspects are running eastbound through the alley! Goren, they’re coming right for you!”

“Roger that, Dani! We’re ready!”

“We’re right behind them! Watch the background and the crossfire!”

Look at them go! Can you believe this shit? These guys live on the street, take ten billion drugs a day, eat out of garbage cans, and they still run like Olympic sprinters! How the fuck do they do it?

“Dani! They’re splitting up!”

“One’s going for the wall! Don’t split up! Don’t split up!”

Shit! These guys definitely know the terrain! The guy on the left jumped right up on the dumpster along the wall! Damn! He can clear that wall easy, now!

“Harper! Don’t let him get over that wall!”

Jesus! Nice flying tackle, Harper! That guy hit the ground like a brick! He probably broke something! The other one’s still flying down the alley! Damn, this guy is fast!


“I got him!” He’s cuffed!”

“Goren! Signolo! Suspect heading your way! Male white, blue plaid shirt, blue watch cap! Moving fast!”

There they are! This guy might give Signolo a run for his money! Shit! He’s got some moves, too! He just faked out Goren! Now it’s a fucking race!

“Signolo, get him!”

Oh, there is no fucking way I’m going to keep up with these guys! They’ll be in the next country before I clear the alley! And the heat is killing me!

“Goren, stay with Harper!”

I’m going to kill this guy! It’s ten thousand degrees out here and he’s making me run! I am definitely going to kick the living shit out of him if I catch him!

“Sixteen Central, we’re in foot pursuit of a burglary suspect! Male white, blue plaid shirt, eastbound through the alley at Vanguard! Two officers in pursuit! We need backup and an air unit!”

He’s heading for the street! Signolo’s right behind him! Jesus, look at those guys run! If that asshole gets away from Signolo, he deserves to get away! Oh, shit! He’s headed back toward the street!

“”Sixteen Central, we’re now eastbound on Vanguard! Requesting backup and an air unit!”

Fuck! All the traffic that tried to get around that hydrant is pouring onto the street up ahead! We’re going to be neck-deep in traffic! I can’t catch up to them, but I can keep Signolo in sight! I can keep broadcasting so he doesn’t have to! Just don’t fucking ditch me, Signolo! Stay where I can see you! If that guy thinks it’s just you, he might turn and fight!

“Sixteen Central, the suspect is now running eastbound through the traffic! We need that air unit! Have units responding take a position…oh, fuck!

Great! I’m going to catch hell for that! You’re not supposed to say “fuck” on the radio! But our suspect just got nailed by a car! I mean he was fucking nailed! Oh, that was painful just to watch! At least Signolo’s got him!

“Sixteen Central, the suspect was just struck by a car! Suspect in custody! Repeat: suspect in custody! Stand by for further!”

It sucks he got hit by a car, but I’m just glad I don’t have to run anymore! God, I feel like I’m going to burst into flames! It’s too fucking hot to be running after people! Would you look at this? He’s still moving! That’s a good sign. At least Signolo had enough sense not to run out into traffic like this dumb shit! He’s got him. He’s got him cuffed. Here’s hoping we don’t have to book this guy in the hospital. We’ve been spending way too much time there as it is.

“Signolo! Are you all right?”

“Yeah, I’m fine! I just need a second to catch my breath.”

A second? If I ever ran that fast, it would take me a week to recover! I think it’s going to take me an hour to recover just from that run! God, my knee hurts!

“Hey, Dani? This guy was good! He’s one fast motherfucker!”

“Yeah, sorry I couldn’t keep up. I don’t have warp speed like you do.”

“Thanks for taking over the broadcasts. It made it easier.”

“It was the least I could do. Harper and Goren have the other guy back in the alley.”

“Good deal. These motherfuckers were doing a tunnel job in broad daylight?”

“Yeah. Go figure.”

Look at him! He’s completely recovered! He’s not even breathing hard anymore! How does he do that? Jesus, even the suspect looks better than me! And he got hit by a car!

“Are you OK, Dani?”

“I think I’ve got heatstroke! And my knee’s killing me!”

“Well, take a knee. That’s it. Just hang there and catch your breath. It’s probably too soon for you to be running with that knee, anyway. Come on, guy! On your feet! That was a good race! You’ve got some speed on you!”

“Fucking car! I would’ve had you!”

“Why’d you run out in the street?”

“On account of I knew you wouldn’t.”

“Yeah? How’d that work out for you?”

“Oh, that’s some cold shit, man! I was getting distance on you!”

I guess this is what they mean by a dialogue of champions. The guy bounces off a car and nearly becomes a road pizza, and all he cares about is losing a race? Fucking lunatic!

“I don’t mean to cut in, but you do know you’re under arrest, right?”

“Of course. Why do you think I was running, ma’am?”

Yeah, I guess it’s pretty obvious.

“Your friend back in the alley is under arrest, too.”

“Did you get him?”

“Yeah. We got him.”

“He ain’t much of a runner. I guess this just ain’t our day. Hey, lady? Excuse me, Senior? Do you need to sit down? You’re all out of breath. Maybe you should take a minute?”

Look at these guys! They just ran a hundred yards at about thirty miles an hour in the burning heat, and they’re fucking fine! They’re not even out of breath! Freaks! They’re fucking mutant freaks! It’s the only explanation!

“I really hate both of you right now.”

“You need to work on some wind sprints, Senior.”

“No, she needs to go with interval training. Hey, did you ever run the stairs at the stadium?”

“All the time. I could take three at a time. How about you?”

“I usually just…”

Oh, I don’t fucking believe this shit!

“You both need to shut the fuck up!”

He’s laughing at me? Signolo’s laughing at me? In front of the suspect? Just wait until I catch my breath, pal! Your balls are toast!

“Sorry, guy. She’s not our kind of people.”

“Yeah, it shows. Where’d you run, officer?”

“UNLV. Sprint, 400-meter hurdles. What about you?”

“Florida State.”

“Seriously? You went to FSU?”

“Seminoles, baby! I could do the 400-meter…”

Are they kidding me? Are they fucking kidding me? I am definitely reaching for my gun, now! I can’t breathe, but I can reach for my gun!

“Would you two…shut…the fuck…up! Before I kill you both? Thank you!”

They’re not even breathing hard! How is that possible? Fucking freaks! There’s just no other explanation!

Clearing from Central Station. Well, that was one for the skid row books! Harper and I did all of the work booking those guys, and all the while Signolo and Burt – that was the guy’s name – talked about running! I was getting heatstroke just listening to them! They’re comparing college records and talking about races and training and all of the human rockets they know. Jesus, if we had let him go, he and Signolo probably would’ve headed out for a couple of beers! It just goes to show: you never know who you’re going to meet out here. That guy went to a good college, and it turns out he didn’t even use drugs! He’s just a guy who ended up down on his luck because of a few bad breaks, and the next thing he knew, he’s out here on the street. He was actually a pretty nice guy. It was almost a shame we had to book him. Of course, the other guy was doing burglaries when I was still playing with Barbie dolls. He’s a career crook. But I will never get over the diversity of the people you meet out here. They’ve got all kinds, that’s for sure. Harper says he arrested a homeless guy once who was a lawyer. The guy was on the street, he had mental problems and drug problems and it just fucked up his life, but he went to law school and he was a lawyer. I guess the prophets of skid row are right: it can happen to anyone. All it takes is a set of bad breaks.

Well, now that my body temperature has dropped below five hundred degrees and I can breathe again, it’s time to set some rules for the rest of the shift!

“All right! I’m laying down the law! No more running! You hear me, Harper? Absolutely, positively, no more foot pursuits! It’s too fucking hot! Plus, my knee is killing me!”

“Don’t you have any more of those pills the doctor gave you?”

“Not with me. I can’t be taking pain pills while I’m on the job.”

“No, I guess you can’t. Good job hanging in there, though.”

“Good job? I thought I was going to drop dead! Next time, I tackle the slow guy! You chase after the speed demon!”

“You got it. Hey, we just got a message from Twenty-Two; something about a guy getting his ass kicked at the Big Lot.”

“I guess Ricky’s back at his old stomping grounds.”

“Emphasis on the stomping.”

“Let me see it.”

At the rate we’re going, the car computers are all going to melt! OK, this is definitely weird. They say they got a call of a battery just occurred, but when they got there, they found a guy beaten half to death. That’s no battery. That’s ADW. The guy was unconscious, and there was no one around. Apparently, even the junkies weren’t there. Kursteff says he and Vinell thought it was unusual, and they wanted us to know. Yeah, that’s unusual, all right. People get their ass kicked at the Big Lot all the time. But knocked out cold and just left there? No witnesses? No call back number for the PR? That’s not exactly standard for the Big Lot. Especially not before midnight.

“What do you think, Dani?”

“I think Ricky got pissed off at somebody.”

“Yeah, but there’s no mention of him.”

Funny, I noticed that, too.

“If Ricky’s on the warpath, he’s probably not done. Guys like him like to take their frustrations out on people who can’t fight back. He’ll probably want to beat the shit out of someone else. Or maybe two?”

“Or maybe three?”

“I’d love to hang an ADW on him.”

“Me, too. We’ll keep an eye on the place.”

“Sounds like a plan. Shit! It’s too late to help out with the mission lockouts.”

“Yeah, we missed all the fun. But we could always get in another foot pursuit.”

“And I could always punch you really hard in the balls again.”

“Definitely no more foot pursuits, then. So where to?”

“Head over to where we got that duster yesterday. If someone’s dealing PCP over there, we need to know about it.”

“Good idea. We may get lucky again.”

Why not? We’ve been lucky as hell, so far. This might turn into something good.

And here we are. Well, there’s only about two thousand people crammed into a two-block stretch. Yeah, it should be a breeze to find a PCP dealer in this crowd. No problem!

“Where do we start?”

Good question. We can’t just walk up to everyone and ask “Hey, do you know who’s slinging PCP around here?” That doesn’t usually get a lot of positive results.

“We need leverage. Find someone with an open bottle of alcohol. Maybe the thought of a ticket will loosen his tongue?”

“Got one! Male black, older guy, white shirt, brown pants.”

Good call, Harper! He’s an older guy. He looks like he’s been out here for a while, and he definitely doesn’t look like the type to be into PCP. That means that if he gives up the dealer, then he won’t be giving up anything he’s going to miss.

“Let’s see if he knows anything.”

He doesn’t look too drunk yet. Good God! Who the hell can drink in this heat? Alcohol dehydrates you. In this heat, it can be lethal. It’s a wonder half of these people aren’t passed out flat on the pavement by now.

“Excuse me, but drinking in public is illegal.”

I think I just ruined his evening. That’s a shame. He kind of looks like a nice guy.

“Give me a break, Senior! I ain’t doin’ nothin’ wrong! Just havin’ a drink! It’s hot as hell today!”

“And it’s not much cooler now that the sun’s gone down. I know. But we’re under orders to write anyone with an open container of alcohol a ticket. No exceptions.”

“Oh, that’s just wrong!”

“I agree. Hey, maybe we can cut you a break after all? What do you think, Officer Harper?”

“Sure. Maybe he can tell us something we need to know?”

“What do you think? You answer a question or two, and we forget about your drinking.”

“Do I get to keep my bottle?”


“You got a deal, ma’am! What do y’all need to know?”

“Well, yesterday, a guy freaked out on PCP here.”

“Yeah, I saw that. Terrible thing. That boy was out of control!”

“He sure was.”

“You two was there, wasn’t you? I’m pretty sure I saw you both.”

Perfect! His brain’s still sharp. He pays attention to details. And he remembers things.

“Yeah, we were. You don’t see a lot of people smoking that shit anymore.”

“Yeah, it’s been a while, Senior. I never got into that. That juice? That shit fucks you up somethin’ awful. Don’t know what people see in it, myself.”

“We’re right there with you on that one. So do you know where he got it?”

“Probably got it right here.”

“Someone’s selling PCP here?”

“Yeah. Last few days, I think it’s been. Wish they’d take that shit somewhere else. Don’t need that kind of trouble ’round here. We got enough as it is.”

“Who’s doing the selling?”

“You know, that’s the strange thing. They’re young guys. Youngsters. Ain’t never seen ’em before that. They showed up the first time about a week ago. Yeah, about a week. They come by in the afternoon.”

“Do they live on the street?”

“Oh, they ain’t from around here! That much, I know. They got a car and everything.”

Somebody’s driving up here to sell PCP? That’s unexpected. I figured they brought it in from somewhere else, but I also figured that the dealers would be locals. Evidently, they’re not.

“What kind of car?”

“Oh, they got a nice one! Black Mustang! New one, too! Ooh, that thing was sweet!”

“A new one?”

“Looked new to me. Not a scratch on it. Got the new tires. Rims, too. Expensive ones. Them youngsters, they got to have the rims anymore. It’s what you call a status thing.”

“Anything else about it?”

“That’s all I remember. Got the music playin’ real loud. You could hear it down the block. You can’t miss ’em.”

“What do these guys look like?”


“Black? White? Hispanic? Asian?”

“They’re black dudes. If you ask me, they look like gangsters. Got the red clothes, gold chains, all that shit. Got that PCP shit in a jar. Walkin’ around, offerin’ a dip. Five bucks to dip your smoke.”

Jesus! This guy’s a fucking gold mine of information! I don’t think I’ve ever gotten this lucky so fast. He was our first try. I need to remember this guy!

“And you said they’re here in the afternoon? About what time?”

“Well, the mission makes the lunch around noon, so it had be right after that. They was here when the mission was lettin’ out, so it was after that.”

An hour for lunch, so that would make it one o’clock. Interesting. These guys seem to know the mission’s schedule. I guess they did their homework.

“We appreciate that.”

“Can I keep my bottle?”

“That was the deal.”

“And you ain’t gonna give me no ticket?”

“Just like we said. You’re free to go.”

“Thank you, Senior.”

“Hey, how the hell can you drink in this heat?”

“Shit! I can drink in any weather! Rain or shine, hot or cold! You learn to do that out here.”

Now that, I can believe. If I lived out here, I’d probably be drinking around the clock. This guy seems like a decent guy. God, I wonder how long he’s been out here? He looks like he’s been trying to keep his dignity. His shoes look like shit – being on your feet twenty-four hours a day will do that – but the rest of him looks reasonably clean. I’ve noticed that about some people out here. Some of them seem like they’re trying to hang onto some shred of their old lives. I kind of feel bad for them. How the hell do you stay a decent guy when you live in this filthy shithole? But this guy seems to have pulled it off.

“Hey, what’s your name?”


“Henry, there’s nothing we can do tonight, but I want you to take my card. It’s got my name on it. You go by the Shepherd Mission tomorrow before lockout and show them that. We’ll call ahead and make sure you get a bunk. They’ve got air conditioning. You look like you need it.”

“Thank you, Senior! I really appreciate that!”

“You help us out, we help you out. You take care of yourself.”

“You, two. Both of you. Shit’s dangerous out here. Even for the police. You were here yesterday, so you know that. This heat’s makin’ people crazy.”

“Yeah, we know. You watch your back.”

“Always do, Senior. Always do.”

Imagine what that guy’s seen since he’s been out here. Imagine what he’s lived through. Imagine all of the times he’s nearly died, but he’s still here. A nice guy like him? How is that even possible? The homeless are truly amazing people. And nobody knows it. That’s what’s mind-blowing about it: nobody knows unless they’re out here like we are. Think of what that guy could tell us if we had the time to listen to all of it! God, there are so many secrets out here! I wonder how long it takes to learn them all?

Back on patrol. I’m definitely going to make that call for Henry. He earned it. I’m surprised he had as much information as he did, seeing as how he doesn’t smoke that crap. I’m also surprised to hear that our dealers are young gangbangers. Sure, PCP is a young person’s drug, but a couple of guys who look like gangbangers coming up to skid row to sell dope? I haven’t heard of that ever happening. I guess you go where the market is. They probably think they won’t be stepping on anybody’s toes by selling up here. They’d better hope Ricky doesn’t hear about it. Even if he doesn’t sell PCP, he won’t like anyone thinking his territory is open for business. He’s got enough problems with that as it is.

“Hey, Dani? They just shot us a call at the Big Lot. Another ADW. Victim down in the lot.”

“I guess Ricky really is on the warpath.”

“Maybe it’s the heat? Maybe Ricky’s air conditioner broke?”

“Hey, they’ve got air conditioning in jail.”

“Too bad. I’d rather he sweat to death in his cell. OK, let’s check it out.”

I just hope the power isn’t out down there. Jesus, the Big Lot in total darkness? There’s a scary thought! Thirty junkies in total darkness, trying to light a match? They’d burn the whole fucking city to the ground!

The Big Lot. Just fucking great! The lights are out, all right! It’s dark as shit in there! About the only light is from the streetlights across the street. I guess the blackout didn’t hit the east side of Palomar. I never realized just how dark the Big Lot could get without those overhead lights.

“What do you think, Harper?”

“This is a first. I can’t see a damned thing in there.”

“I don’t hear anything, either. Do you think Ricky could be in the alley?”

“Maybe, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen him in there. The alley is for junkies. Ricky’s not a junkie.”

“No, he’s their lord and master. Still, we should check it out. Go up to 8th Street and hit the alley from that side.”

“Do you want to drive through? It’ll be darker in the alley than in the lot.”

He’s right. It’ll be a lot worse in there, and we have no idea how the zombies are going to react because of the blackout. We could get ambushed in there.

“When we get to the entrance of the alley, light it up with the spotlight. If we don’t see anything, we’ll go in on foot.”

“Sounds like a plan. Let’s do it.”

I’m really surprised that we didn’t see Ricky at the wall. With this blackout, he could be doing sales left and right and we wouldn’t be able to see him. You’d think every dope dealer on skid row would be taking advantage of this shit. I’ll bet most of them are.

Well, we’re in position. Jesus Christ! Talk about a black hole! I can’t see shit down that alley! It’s totally dark in there! You’d have to be a total fucking lunatic to go into an alley when it’s like this! And guess what? That’s exactly what we’re about to do. Hey, it comes with the job.

“Light it up, Harper. Let’s see what we can see.”

And there goes the spotlight. I saw a few people scatter over by the dumpsters at the far end. Typical. That’s where the junkies like to slam. I don’t see Ricky, though. Where is he?

“Dani, did you see the junkies at the far end?”

“By the dumpsters? Yeah. I’m surprised there aren’t more of them. Let’s get out and take a walk. I want to find Ricky.”

It’s really quiet in here. That’s definitely weird. This is one of the noisier alleys, given all of the junkies who hang out in here. But I don’t hear jack shit.

“Anything, Harper?”

“I’ve got nothing. Nobody’s hiding in the regular places.”

“Considering how mad Ricky must be right now, I don’t blame them.”

“Do you think he’s the one beating these guys up?”

“Unless he got a new bodyguard. Do you think that’s possible?”

“He’s going to fill the job sooner or later. I wish I knew who he was going to tap for the position. We’ve got to figure it’s going to be some asshole who’s worse than Diego.”

Now there’s a scary thought! Shit! We’ve got someone headed this way! And he’s in a hurry!

“Harper! Twelve o’clock! Moving fast!”

“I see him! Hey, you! Stop! Police!”

He’s a junkie, all right. Who else would be wearing long sleeves in this heat? Black guy. Wait a minute! That’s the guy we talked to the other night! The one who gave us those two shooters!

“Hey, you’re Porter, right? We talked to you a few nights ago.”

“That’s right, ma’am! Are you two headin’ to the Big Lot?”

“That’s the plan.”

“Don’t go in there, ma’am! You don’t want to go in there tonight! Trust me!”

He seems genuinely scared. That’s nothing unusual for a junkie, but he seems scared for us. That’s definitely unusual!

“Why not? What’s going on?”

“Ricky! That motherfucker’s gone fuckin’ crazy! He done lost it! I ain’t never seen him like that before! And that’s sayin’ something for Ricky!”

So I was right: Ricky’s on the warpath. Something must’ve set him off.

“We didn’t see him when we drove by. Where is he?”

“Probably in the doorway. He’s been sittin’ in there all day, drinkin’ and yellin’ his ass off!”

“Doorway? Harper, do you know about this doorway?

“Yeah, it’s kind of like a booth in the north wall. I think it’s where the parking lot attendant used to sit. It’s just at the edge of those cinder blocks we smashed.”

Damn! I never even saw it! It must be pretty well-hidden.

“Porter, what’s he doing in there?”

“I don’t know, ma’am. It’s like he don’t want no one to see him or somethin’. Anyone gets near him; he goes off like a motherfucker! He done beat the livin’ shit out of a couple of guys already!”

That explains the radio calls. Ricky’s taking his frustrations out on anyone who gets near him.

“What do you think, Harper?”

“He might be drunk. If he goes off on us, I’ve got my Taser. I think we can handle him.”

I wish we could arrest him for beating up those guys. We’d need a complaining victim, though.

“Hey, Porter? We got a call that there’s a guy down in the Big Lot. Is that one of the guys Ricky beat up?”

“Probably. He was wailin’ on some dude a few minutes ago. Dude named Marley. I don’t know him that well. He’s kind of new around here. He didn’t know better than to get near Ricky when he’s in a mood, if you know what I mean. I tried to tell him, but…”

“Yeah, we can imagine. Do you know if he’s still in the lot?”

“I don’t know that he’d be in any shape to walk away, ma’am. Ricky really did a number on him. Marley ain’t no fighter. He ain’t got it in him. He just stood there and took it. He tried to cover up, but it didn’t do him no good.”

I can believe that. Especially if Ricky took some lessons from Diego. Or maybe it was the other way around?

“All right, here’s what we’re going to do: Officer Harper and I are going to go see if we can find this guy. You said he was hurt bad?”

“Real bad, ma’am! Ricky got in some pretty good head shots. Fucked him up good!

We can’t call for EMS until we know we’ve got a victim. We’ll worry about that when we see what’s in there.

“All right, you’d better clear out of here. With these rolling blackouts, the alleys aren’t the safest places, tonight.”

“You don’t got to tell me twice, ma’am. You two watch your asses! There’s all sorts of crazy shit goin’ down tonight! Not just here, either!”

Tell me about it! I have a feeling we’re going to be setting some records tonight that the city would rather we didn’t. You know, the kind that make your division look like shit at the CompStat meetings over at the chief’s office? Yeah, lucky us!

“We’ll do that. Harper, see if we can get an additional unit, here. I don’t know if anyone’s available, but see if we can get somebody to show up.”

“Roger that, Dani. Sixteen Central, we’re requesting an additional unit at the Big Lot, 9th and Palomar. We’ve got a possible battery suspect over here.”

“Sixteen Central, no Central units available. Will broadcast for any and keep you updated.”

Yeah, that’s what I thought. Everybody’s too busy. All right, we can handle this. We’ve never had a problem with Ricky before, so we probably won’t have one now. And I think the two of us can handle him if he’s so drunk that he actually takes a swing at us. Who do you think he’ll swing at first: me or Harper? I’m betting on me. I get this strange feeling that Ricky really enjoys beating up women. He just strikes me as the type. Well, if he tries it, then he’s going to get a nightstick shoved up his ass!

“It looks like it’s just us, Dani. It’s your call.”

Porter’s already gone. Good. We won’t have to worry about him getting hurt if there’s a fight.

“I want to wait for another unit, but if she just put it out as a ‘broadcast for any’ call, then…”

“Then we could be waiting for a long time.”

“And I’d be willing to do that, but we might have a victim down in the lot. From what Porter said, he’s hurt pretty bad. If we sit here and wait, who knows? He could die.”

“I agree. We can’t wait for anyone else. I think we can handle Ricky by ourselves. We always have.”

“That’s true. All right, let’s go say hello to Ricky. And keep your eyes open for this Marley guy. He could be in pretty bad shape. If he’s there and he’s hurt, then we arrest Ricky on the spot. Battery, ADW, whichever. I don’t care if the guy doesn’t want to press charges. If he’s there and he’s hurt; Ricky goes. Got it?”

“Sounds good to me. Let’s do it.”

I just wish those fucking lights were on! All we’ve got are our flashlights. They’re bright as hell, but in this much darkness? They can really fuck with your vision. And if the fight’s on, then we can’t exactly hold our flashlights while we’re trying to wrestle Ricky to the ground. The first thing I want to do is destroy Ricky’s night vision. His eyes should be adapted to the darkness. That means he’s got the advantage. One flash of our lights in his face will ruin that. The odds will be even.

All right, we’re in the lot. It’s even darker from this side than it is from the street! Shit! How long is this blackout going to last? Thank God the lights are still on across the street. We wouldn’t be able to see jack shit if they weren’t.

There’s the north wall. I see the cinder blocks we destroyed are still there. Nobody cleaned them up. That’s no surprise. Where’s this doorway?

“Harper, where’s the doorway?”

“Right there. See it?”

Now that you lit it up, I do. Damn! That thing really blends into the wall! No wonder I didn’t see it before! That thing is tiny! It’s no bigger than an old-fashioned telephone booth! Ricky’s a bit of a porker. I’m surprised he fits in there! And that’s not exactly a door on it. It looks more like someone boarded it up a long time ago. Ricky’s in there? How the hell did he get inside?

“Harper, we stop just outside of it for a second. See what we can hear. Do you really think he’s in there?”

“The only time I’ve seen him in there is when it rains. It’s sure as hell not raining tonight.”

“All right, you take the left side. I’ll take the right. Do you know which way that door opens?”

“No, I don’t. Damn it! I should know that!”

“It’s no big deal. Just be ready. I don’t think he’s going to be happy to see us.”

“Not by a long shot.”

I don’t hear shit. If he’s in there, then he’s not making any noise. Maybe he’s asleep? Or passed out? Porter said he’d been drinking all day. Between that, the stress, and the heat? He could definitely be passed out. Good. It’ll make our job a lot easier.

“Dani, check it out! There’s somebody down along the wall! About thirty feet up!”

Good obs, Harper! I didn’t even see him! He’s laying along the wall, and with those dark clothes, he practically blends right in. That’s got to be Marley. And he’s not moving. He’s not moving at all. Jesus, did Ricky kill him? As much as I want to put Ricky away for the rest of his life, I’d hate to think that somebody had to die in order to make it happen.

“Harper, try to wake him up.”

“Hey, are you Marley? We’re police officers. Hey! Can you hear me?”

He’s not responding. That’s not good.

“Roll him over. Gently! He’s probably hurt bad.”

“Yeah, you weren’t kidding! Look at his face!”

His face? What face? All I see is blood! Oh, Ricky beat the living shit out of this guy!

“Is he breathing?”

“Barely. Dani, we need EMS. This guy’s in bad shape!”

“Fuck! Look at his face! Ricky didn’t do that with his fists! He must’ve used a club!”

“Or a steel rebar like Diego.”

Shit! What’s that? I heard…that door! It’s opening!”

“Harper! Behind you!”

Oh, hell! It’s Ricky! And he looks drunk as a motherfucker! Christ, he looks like he can barely stand up!

“Hold it right there, Ricky! Let me see your hands!”

I can see his hands. He’s holding a beer can. Yeah, he’s fucked up, all right!

“Hey, Ricky! Did you do this? Is that your handiwork?”

“Fuck you, you fucking bitch! What the fuck are you doing in my lot?”

Oh, he’s in rare form! So this is what Ricky looks like when he’s three sheets to the wind. It’s not a pretty sight. Then again, Ricky’s never a pretty sight.

“Dani, he’s got blood on his hands.”

Yeah, and on his shirt, too. He did this, all right. No way is that a coincidence. He’s going to jail. I don’t know if they’ll keep him, but his ass is going to jail tonight!

“Why’d you beat this guy, Ricky? What did he do to you? What? Did he piss you off? All the shit that’s been happening to you and you can’t take it out on anyone but some junkie? Someone who’s too afraid to fight back?”

“Fuck you, bitch! I don’t have to answer to you, you fucking cunt!”

I don’t think I’ve ever hated him more than I do now. He is really pissing me off!

“You’re right. You don’t. You have the right to remain silent. I suggest you use it.”

“You’re arresting me, bitch? For what? Arrest yourself! You and your fucking boy, here! You killed my fucking cousin!”

“No, we didn’t. But we think your friends did. What happened, Ricky? You got their gunners killed and they sent you a message? You fucked up and they made your cousin pay for it? Is that what happened?”

“You fucking bitch! You fuck with me in my place! You fuck with my people! You fuck with my business!”

“And now we’re fucking with you. You’re under arrest: assault with a deadly weapon. Put your hands behind your back, Ricky.”

“I didn’t do nothing! You can’t fucking arrest me! This is my place! My fucking place!”

“Yeah, until the city abates it and turns it into a strip mall. Come on, Ricky. You’re going to jail. Put down the beer and put your hands behind your back.”

He’s really staggering. He must’ve had a lot to drink. But he’s jittery, too. I wonder if it’s more than just the beer? Maybe he’s been dipping into his own stash? Not heroin. Cocaine, maybe?

“Harper, hook his ass up! Try not to fall on your face, Ricky!”

“Roger that. Let’s go, Ricky. You know the drill: hands behind your back.”

“Fuck you!”

Jesus! He threw the beer at Harper! He really wants to get his ass kicked, doesn’t he? And he’s likely to get it! Harper’s pretty pissed off!

“Damn it, Ricky! Knock that shit off! You’re under arrest! Hands behind your back! Quit fucking around, already!”

“Don’t fucking touch me, motherfucker!”

Did he just push Harper back? He did! He really wants us to beat the crap out of him! Hey, I’ll be happy to oblige him!

“Keep it up, Ricky! You’re going to get a nightstick wrapped around your head!”

“Fuck you, bitch! You want to hit me? Go ahead! Go ahead, you fucking bitch cunt!”

I’m not going to let him bait me. If he swings at me, I’ll hit him. Otherwise, I’ll just slap a wristlock on him and get him cuffed.

“Enough of this shit, Ricky. You’re drunk. You’re making an ass of yourself. You’re going to jail for beating the shit out of that guy over there. Turn around and put your hands behind your back.”

Oh, hell! Now he starts falling down! Fucking drunk! I don’t believe this shit!

“Take a good look, Harper. It’s Ricky! The scourge of skid row!”

“He doesn’t look like much right now.”

“Get up, Ricky! Don’t make us have to lift you! Come on, on your feet! You’re under arrest! Deal with it!”

“Deal with this, bitch!”

What the hell is he…is he reaching?

“Dani! Gun! Get clear!”

Jesus! Where the fuck did that come from? Fuck! Harper pushed me! He pushed me down! Oh, Jesus! Gunshots! He’s shooting at us! Ricky’s shooting!

“Dani, get clear!”

There’s no cover! We’re wide open! Ricky’s ten feet away! Get in the fight! Harper’s shooting back! Draw your gun! Shoot! Take him out! Yes! Keep shooting! Jesus fucking Christ! He’s not going down! Ricky’s still on his feet! He’s still shooting!


Oh, my God! He’s hit! Harper’s hit! He got shot! Keep shooting! Shoot! Kill this motherfucker! Keep shooting! Fuck! I can barely see him! It’s too fucking dark!

“Fuck you, bitch! I’ll fucking kill you! You’re dead, bitch! You’re fucking dead!

Oh, Jesus! Harper’s hit! He hit him again! He shot him in the leg! He’s still standing! Harper’s still standing! Keep shooting! Fuck! Why isn’t he going down? Aim for his head! Shoot him in the fucking head! Aim! Aim…yes! He’s hit! I think I got him! Right in the head! He’s down! Ricky’s down! Oh, Jesus fucking Christ! Harper! Harper’s hit! He’s been shot!

“Harper! Harper! Oh, my God! Harper!”

He fell! Harper’s down! Oh, my God! He’s hit! He’s hit bad! He’s down!

“Harper! Talk to me! Harper! Where are you hit? I saw you get hit! Harper! Say something!”

Oh, Jesus! There’s blood everywhere! He’s hit everywhere! His arm! His left arm! He’s hit! In the forearm! He’s bleeding! His leg! He’s hit in the left leg! It went all the way through! Oh, my God! His neck! He’s hit in the neck! The side! Right side! Oh, Jesus! Did it hit the artery? There’s so much blood! There’s…no! He’s hit in the chest, too! It missed the vest! He’s hit in the chest! Oh, my God! Four hits! Harper got hit four times!

“Harper! Say something! Talk to me!”

“Dani? Are you…are you…hit?”

“No! No, I don’t think…I don’t think so! I’m all right! Oh, Jesus fucking Christ! Just breathe! Breathe! Hold still! I’ve got you! Oh, Jesus Christ!”

“Call it…call it in.”

Yes! I’ve got to call it in! Officer needs help! Oh, God! He’s bleeding! He’s bleeding so much! Where’s my radio? I’ve…oh, shit! It’s broken! It’s shot! Ricky shot my radio! Where’s Harper’s? I need his radio! I need his…got it! Please let it work! Please, God! Please let it work!

“Sixteen Central…Sixteen Central, officer down! Officer down! Officer needs help! The Big Lot! 9th and Palomar! Officer shot! We need help! Shots fired! Officer down! We need help!”

Did they hear me? Did it go through? Answer up! Answer! Put out the call, damn it!

“All units, officer needs help. 9th and Palomar. Shots fired, officer down. Repeat: officer down. Officer needs help. 9th and Palomar. The Big Lot. Shots fired. Officer down. Officer needs help. Sixteen Central reports officer down. Officer needs help.”

They heard me! Thank God! They heard me!

“They’re coming, Harper! Just hang on! I’ve got you! They’re coming! Everyone’s coming! You just hang on, you hear me?”

“Get his…get his weapon. He might…he’s still…”

“He’s dead! He’s dead! We got him! Harper, we got him! He’s dead!”

“I can’t…I can’t breathe. My chest…”

“You’re hit! You’re hit in the chest! Oh, God! Don’t talk! Don’t try to talk! Just breathe! Nice and easy! I’ve got you! I’m not letting go!”

Where the fuck is everyone? Where are they? God damn it! Harper’s hit! He’s been shot! Oh, God! He’s dying! Where is everybody?

“Somebody help me! Please!

Please! Somebody please help me! Please!

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