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Chapter 6: A Problem to be Solved

Home again. Suddenly it’s all I can do to climb the stairs. Oh, God! Do you that feeling when you’re so tired that you can barely stand, but you can’t get to sleep? That’s exactly how I feel right now. I don’t know why, but I do. I really don’t want to spend the next eight hours staring at the TV and not really seeing whatever I’m looking at. God, I hate when that happens! I think part of it is that I’m so fired up from the shift. If there were a little more to do, I might’ve actually found some bullshit reason to stay out on patrol. But the radio had died down, and with the sun coming up soon, the real fun’s over. Still, as tired as I am, I’ve got this itch that’s telling me I want to stay out there on skid row. I think I’m really getting addicted to it. Hey, that’s fine with me! That place is an absolute blast!

“Zephyr! I’m home! Where are you, you little shit?”

I’m sensing another cat disaster. What did he do this time?

“Zephyr! Did you shit on the rug again?”

No, it looks like he hit the litter box. Maybe he’s just not used to me being out all night? It’s been a long time since that’s happened. I almost forgot what it felt like. Maybe that’s why I’m so damned thrashed?

“Oh, there you are! Parking your furry ass on my clean laundry! We talked about that!”

Yeah, we talked, all right. I did the talking and he did the ignoring. I’m always picking his cat hairs off of my clothes. And you should see the front passenger seat in my car! It’s a good thing I don’t have anybody to give a ride to. They’d come out of there with a fur coat on their ass!

“Come here, you little shit! Are you hungry? I’m pretty late getting home. You must be starving. I ate some vile shit off of a taco truck at the station. Compared to that, your cat food looks pretty good. Do you mind if I eat it? Hey, I’m just kidding. Do you want some?”

He hasn’t eaten in at least twelve hours, so he’s probably starving. If he were a dog, he’d have bitten me by now. Dogs let you know how upset they are when you don’t feed them on a regular basis.

“Here, you eat this while I call my mom. I’ll say hello for you. You know, she still hasn’t met you. She’s only seen pictures of you. Someday, I’ll have to take you back home to meet her.”

My mom’s been pretty nervous about me since the transfer to downtown. She was hoping I’d end up on some desk job where it’s safe and where I don’t see all of the depressing, crazy shit. I could never make her understand that working a desk job would make me depressed and crazy. Honestly, she was hoping I’d get so fed up with the bullshit that I’d quit and move back to Salem, but I think she knows that’s not going to happen. That doesn’t keep her from trying to convince me, though. This is the first time I’ve called her since I was transferred to Midwatch. I’m thinking she won’t like it one bit. Let’s find out, shall we?

“Hi, mom. It’s me.”

“Dani? What on earth are you doing calling at this hour? Is everything all right?”

“Everything’s fine, mom. I just got home, and I knew you’d be up, so I wanted to give you a call.”

“You’re just getting home now? Why? What happened?”

“Nothing happened, mom. I was transferred to Midwatch two nights ago.”

“Oh, my God! Not that middle-of-the-night shift again!”

“That’s the one. You know I like Midwatch the best.”

“How can anyone work those hours? It’s crazy! The last time you worked that shift, you were putting in twelve-hour days, three or four days a week!”

“That’s Midwatch for you. It’s the busiest watch for patrol, no matter what division you’re in.”

“Are you still working downtown?”

“Yeah, I’m still there. It’s really working out great.”

“Well, I’m just glad you’re out of that gang neighborhood. I hated you being there. That place was so dangerous.”

I wonder how she’s going to react when I tell her I traded the gang neighborhood for skid row?

“Well, you can rest easy, mom. There are no gangs downtown. Well, not where I work.”

“What could you possibly be doing downtown in the middle of the night? Doesn’t everybody go home at five?”

Like most people, my mom thinks downtown begins and ends with the skyscrapers in the Emerald City. I don’t think she’s going to take this very well.

“I don’t work the business district, mom. Where I am, there are people there day and night.”

“What kind of place is that? Where are you working?”

“Well…it’s kind of…it’s a different sort of…”

“Dani, what aren’t you telling me?”

I guess I should just throw it out there. She’s going to hate it, so I’d better just get it over with.

“I’m assigned to the skid row sector of downtown, mom. Where the homeless people congregate.”

“Oh, my God! You’re not serious, are you?”

“Mom, it’s a good detail! I really like it! There’s all sorts of…”

“Dani! That place is dangerous!”

See what I mean?

“I know, mom. That’s why we patrol it. There’s all sorts of crime going on there.”

“Yes, I know! I read the papers! I know what goes on in that place!”

Actually, she probably doesn’t know the half of it. How could she?

“It’s OK, mom. I’ve got a really good partner. He knows the…”

“Wait a minute! I thought you were a training officer? You train the rookies. Don’t tell me they send the officers to that God-awful place straight out of the academy!”

“Some of them, yeah. Every division gets people straight out of the academy. That’s just how it works.”

“Oh, that’s just crazy! I can’t believe they don’t quit after the first day!”

“They don’t. It’s part of the job, mom. Someone has to do it.”

“Not you! Dani, when you said you were being transferred downtown, I thought you meant you’d be working at the police headquarters! I thought you’d be somewhere safe! Somewhere where you wouldn’t be dealing with those horrible things anymore! After what you went through, you deserve to get one of those jobs!”

“Mom, I’d go crazy behind a desk. I told you that. I like being out there. I really like this division. I didn’t think I would, but it’s…I can’t even explain it. This place…it’s the first real police work I’ve done since all hell broke loose. I told you, this is what I wanted. I wanted to be back on patrol, doing the job just like before.”

“Couldn’t they send you somewhere less…I don’t know? Less dangerous?”

Yeah, that’s exactly what I was afraid they’d do. But she’s never going to understand that. I don’t blame her, mind you. But it’s a little frustrating when I can’t make her see that I joined the police department for just this sort of thing.

“Mom, I know what I’m doing. I’m OK. And I told you, I’ve got a really good partner. You don’t have to worry about me.”

“Dani, I do worry about you. I worry about you all the time. You know that.”

“I know. And I appreciate it. But this is what I do best, and now I finally get to do it again. I really like working there. It’s a really good assignment. The lieutenant and the sergeants are really good. So far, none of them has even brought up the Reid shooting. I don’t think they’re holding it against me. And skid row? It’s different. I’ve never seen any place like it.”

“Yes, I’ll bet you haven’t! Dani, there are crazy people down there! Dangerous people! And it’s so…filthy! My God! You could catch something! Something serious!”

That’s a mom for you, isn’t it? Like I said, she doesn’t know the half of it. I’d better not try to describe it to her.

“Don’t worry. I’ve had all of my shots.”

“Dani! I’m serious!”

“Mom, they’re good people in this division. I told you, nobody’s giving me any grief. I think I’m finally past all of that. I really feel good about it. God, I can’t even tell you how good that feels!”

“Dani, I know how hard it’s been. I wish you had quit that job when all of that trouble started.”

“And what would I do with myself?”

“You can do anything you want.”

That’s a mother for you. They always think their daughters can do anything under the sun. Would that it were true.

“Mom, I’m a good police officer and a good shortstop. That’s it. The Red Sox won’t sign me, so I have to be a police officer. That’s what I do.”

“You don’t have to be a police officer on skid row.”

“Well, that’s where they sent me. I have to go where they send me.”

“That’s not what I mean. There are other police departments. We’ve got one here in Salem, you know.”

And here we go again! Come home, Dani! Get out of that cesspool! I’ve been listening to that since I started in the academy!

“Mom, Salem’s a small town with a small department. It’s not what I was…”

“You could do plenty of good work here. We have a fine police department. They’d be lucky to have you. With your experience, they might even make you a sergeant. Or maybe a detective?”

“I like working patrol.”

“They have that, too, you know. I’ve seen them.”

I think my mom’s forgetting about the elephant in the room.

“Come on, mom! After everything I went through? They heard about it in Salem, too. It was in every newspaper in the country. I don’t think anyone would want me after that.”

“That doesn’t mean a thing! You were cleared. Everyone knows that. You didn’t have anything to do with that shooting. Everyone here was behind you. They told me so. Besides, this is your home. They know you. They know you’re a fine young woman. I could call Mrs. Clevinger. She knows the Police Chief.”

“Mom, I like it here. I like what I’m doing. Hell, I love what I’m doing now. But I appreciate the thought.”

“It’s just that I haven’t seen you for so long. When all of that trouble happened, you should’ve come home. At least for a while.”

“It wasn’t that simple. I had to stay here. The investigation? The Grand Jury? The trial? The way things were going…”

“All right, we won’t talk about that. I know how it upsets you. But that’s behind you now. What about now? You must have a vacation coming. Can’t you come home now? You always loved it here in the summer.”

“I still do. But I’m new to the division, so I’m at the bottom of the vacation roster. They haven’t even mentioned it to me yet.”

That’s actually a good point: when the hell do I get a vacation? I’m not in any hurry, but since I spent a year in limbo and missed my last one, they owe me two this year. And you can only bank so many vacation hours before they disappear.

“I’ll tell you what. I’ll look into when I get a vacation. And when I do, I’ll try to arrange to come home. OK?”

“You can do more than try, Dani. Don’t try to blow me off. I’m your mother. I know when you’re doing that.”

“It’s not always that easy. Sometimes you get hit with a court case. I told you about that before, remember?”

“So tell them you’re on vacation!”

“I don’t think that will fly with the judge.”

“Tell him to call me. I’ll set him straight.”

She’s not kidding. She’d actually do it. The woman is utterly fearless. I wish I were that way sometimes.

“Mom, I couldn’t do that to some poor judge.”

“That’s not funny, Dani.”

“Yes it is, mom.”

“All right. You definitely sound a whole lot better. That’s good to hear. I guess this new assignment is doing at least that much.”

“It is. I really like working down there.”

“Why? Because it’s exciting? Because it’s dangerous?”

“Yeah. But it’s more than that. This place is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It’s a whole different world on skid row. It’s weird.”

“Oh, I can believe that. From what I’ve read about it, it’s like something out of a horror movie.”

“There’s a lot of truth to that. It’s hard to explain. It’s like…it’s like a whole different reality. It’s just amazing; that’s all I can say. The things that go on, there? You’d have to see it for yourself to really understand.”

“I’ve seen enough of it on the news. And I want you to know that I don’t like the idea of you being out there at night.”

“I know. But you don’t have to worry.”

“Of course I have to worry. I’m your mother. I told you: I always worry about you.”

“Fair enough. So how is everything back home?”

“Things are fine. I can do without the heat, but everything’s fine.”

“I can relate to the heat. We’re having a record-breaking heatwave out here. It’s been over one hundred degrees for a few days, already. Oh, Zephyr says hello.”

“Does he? How is he behaving?”

“The usual. He isn’t.”

“You always liked dogs. You should’ve gotten a dog.”

“They don’t let you have dogs here, mom. I told you that.”

“Well, at least the cat is good company.”

“Yeah, he is that.”

If by that, she means he sits on my lap and ignores me most of the time, yeah. He’s good company. But at least he’s a good listener.

“So tell me about your new partner. Are you training him?”

“Not really. This division is so different; you could almost say he’s training me. He’s almost off of probation, so he’s trained. He’s been showing me the ropes of this place. He’s really sharp. It’s like he’s got five or ten years on the job already. I got lucky with him. He’s a great partner.”

“Is he married?”


“Does he have a girlfriend?”

Oh, my God! She’s doing it again! Every time I so much as mention a single guy who isn’t an asshole, she tries to set me up with him! And she’s doing it again! With Harper!


“Well, is he nice?”

“He’s my partner! I’m his training officer!”

“You said he was already trained.”

“He is! That’s not the point!”

“I’m just saying…”

“I know what you’re saying! I can’t believe you’re doing this!”

“Dani, you haven’t been out on a date in more than a year. When all of that trouble started, you shut yourself off from the whole world. You were all by yourself. You need to have something in your life that isn’t the job. And it’s not good for you to be alone.”

“Well, this last year, I wasn’t exactly in any shape to go looking for a boyfriend.”

“I know. I understand that. But that’s over. It’s done with. You need to get out more. And you’re certainly not going to meet anyone while you’re working in that horrible place.”

“Uh, no kidding!”

“So is he nice?”

“Mom, I am not having this discussion with you!”

“Just tell me if he’s nice. You can tell me that much, can’t you?”

“Fine. Yes, he’s nice. He’s very nice.”

“Is he handsome?”

She just won’t quit! I don’t fucking believe it! I can’t win! There’s no way to make her stop! Is every girl’s mother like this, or is it just mine that’s crazy?

“Mom, I’m going to kill you! Do you understand? I’m going to come home on vacation and I’m going to kill you!”

“So he’s nice and handsome?”

She’s out of her mind! She’s as crazy as those fucking zombies on Skid row! I can’t believe this! At least I can zap them with a Taser! What am I supposed to do with her?

“No, mom! He’s an ugly, twisted, psychotic jarhead maniac!”

“So he’s a Marine?”

See what I mean? I can’t win! I absolutely cannot fucking win with her!

“I’ll tell you what, mom. As soon as he’s off of probation, I’ll jump in the sack with him and bang his brains out. Will that make you happy?”

“Dani, I hate it when you talk like that.”

“Then stop trying to set me up with him!”

“Why? You’re not doing very well on your own. I saw your friend Veronica the other day. She’s got another baby on the way.”

Oh, God! Just kill me now! Not the “Dani, you’re my only daughter and I want grandchildren before I die” shit again! I told you about this, didn’t I? Well, here you go!

“Great. I’m happy for her.”

You hear that? I’m happy for a girl I haven’t seen since we graduated from high school! Do you see what I have to deal with?

“You know, you’re the same age. And she’s already got a little boy.”

Translation: you’re way behind the curve, Dani. You need to get knocked up before I kick the bucket. Your biological clock is ticking, and I’m an old lady who’s not getting any younger. Ah, yes! The curse of being an only daughter!

“I have to go, mom. I need to put my pistol in my mouth.”

“Dani, that’s not funny. I told you about that.”

“I know. I’m just kidding.”

“Well, don’t kid like that. I’m not crazy about you having a gun in your house as it is.”

“It kind of comes with the uniform.”

“I know. I’m just saying, I don’t very much like it.”

“Mom, dad had four rifles, two shotguns, and a .357 magnum. Last time I looked, you’ve still got them.”

“That was different. He was a hunter. He shot animals.”

“So do we. They just have two legs.”

“Dani, you know I don’t like to think about you having to do that.”

“Neither do I. Here’s hoping I never have to do it again. Goodbye, mom. I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

“I’ll call you in a couple of days.”

“You didn’t tell me your partner’s name.”

“It’s Harper. Ryan Harper. Everyone calls him Harper.”

“Does he like you?”

Oh, good God in heaven!

“Enough, mom! Goodbye!”

And she wonders why I don’t call her more often! I wonder what would happen if I told her I’d finally met the guy of my dreams and we were getting married? She’d probably keel over from a heart attack!

Can you believe this shit? Somebody kill me now! You see, this is what happens when you’re an only child and an only daughter, and your dad passed away when you were a teenager. Mom’s back in Salem alone, so she spends a hell of a lot of time worrying about me and wondering when I’m going to get married and crank out a whole pack of grandchildren. I think she believes that as soon as I get married and discover I’m knocked up, I’ll suddenly quit the job, move back to Salem, buy a house next door to her, and get a job in real estate sales. Mom sold real estate before she retired. She was really good at it, too. She absolutely freaked when I told her I was joining the police force. By that, I mean she just lost it! Nice suburban girls weren’t supposed to become police officers. And since I went to college, she probably thought it was way too “blue collar” for me. Jesus, my dad was a contractor! He was as blue collar as they get! Finally, she said that if I had to be a cop, why not be one in Salem? Well, besides the fact that they weren’t hiring, it just wasn’t what I was looking for. I wanted to be a cop in a pretty big city. Salem isn’t a tiny place, but it’s not a big city by any stretch of the imagination. Besides, I wasn’t exactly a saint when I was a kid. I had my moments. The Salem police might actually remember me. That would be embarrassing, don’t you think?

“All right, Zephyr. I’m going to sleep. That means no screeching, no whining, and no clawing at my face because you’re bored and you want attention. And stay out of the laundry! If you want to watch TV, the remote’s on the table.”

Don’t laugh. Sometimes I think that cat can actually work the remote. He figured out how to work the door handles in the apartment. I sure as hell didn’t teach him how to do that.

One last thing before I turn in: I need to write down the name of that detective at Narcotics. I’ll try to contact him this afternoon. I want to talk to this guy about Ricky. I wonder if he really did do that shooting? The Homicide detectives probably won’t tell me anything, and from what Harper said, none of those witnesses were saying much. If he did do it, we’ll all know soon enough. They’ll arrest him. Or he’ll turn up on a wanted poster and then all of us will be looking for him. But even if he had nothing to do with it, he’s still a major asshole operating in my sector. If Narcotics isn’t going to put him out of business, then I’m sure as hell going to try. And if he’s even half as bad as everyone says he is, then I’m going to need all the information I can get on him. Knowledge is power; even on skid row.

Oh, hell! I knew this was going to happen. It’s one o’clock in the afternoon, which means I got a whopping five hours of sleep. Midwatch always does this to me until I get used to the hours. Well, at least there’s still time to do a few things today. In fact, the first thing I can do is see if that detective is working today. If he is, maybe I can pay him a visit? I’d rather not go in early tomorrow and track him down if I can avoid it. I’ll give Narcotics a call and see if he’s in. I’m a cop, so they should at least tell me that much. Hey, don’t laugh. Sometimes they don’t give a shit and they won’t tell you anything. It happens.

“Hello? Yes, this is Officer Lynott from Central Division. Is Detective Godfrey working today?

“Yeah. He’s out right now, but he should be back in about an hour.”

“Could I come by and talk to him? I want to ask him about something that’s going on in the division.”

“Sure. I’ll leave a note to let him know you’re coming by.”

“I appreciate it.”

Good. He’s in today. So I’ll go by Narcotics and pick his brain, and then grab something to eat. Maybe I can get to the range and get in a little target practice. I’ve only been there once this month. I hate to say it, but that’s more than most cops. Shooting is a perishable skill. They told me that in the academy, and it’s the God’s honest truth. I’ve seen enough cops fail to qualify at their every-other-month qualification shoot to know it. Some of our people are such bad shots, it’s scary.

Narcotics Division. Downtown at Police Headquarters. One thing that’s nice about working downtown: so many units are only a couple of blocks away from the station. God, I haven’t been down to Narcotics Division in a long time. I used to know a few detectives who work here, but they come and go pretty quickly. Narcotics is practically a revolving door on the department. I wonder if there’s anyone here that I know anymore?

That woman at the front desk looks like a civilian. She’s not wearing a badge or a gun.

“Excuse me?”

“Can I help you, Miss?”

That’s what they say when you show up in civilian clothes. You might be a citizen. If they know you’re a cop, they’re not always so polite. So show them the badge and I.D. and see if they tell me to take a number.

“I hope so. I’m Officer Lynott, Central Division. I was supposed to meet Detective Godfrey. They said he’d be in about now.”

“Oh, yeah. You called earlier. In the back. Second desk on the left.”


Jesus, would you look at this place? Busy, busy, busy! That’s Narcotics Division. Look at the piles of paper on these desks. It’s a wonder they’re able to get anything done. Sometimes I think the whole damned city is on dope. How else can you explain it?

That must be him; buried behind a stack of papers about eighteen inches high. Yep, that’s a typical Narcotics detective for you.

“Detective Godfrey?”

“That’s me.”

“I’m Officer Lynott. I work Central Division.”

“Yeah, I got your note. You said you wanted to talk about something that’s going on in your division?”

“Actually, I wanted to talk about someone in particular. A heroin dealer named Ricky.”

That look on his face tells me Ricky’s no stranger to him.

“Oh, yeah! That piece of shit? You came to the right place!”

“That’s good to know. I just got transferred to Central last DP, and now I’m working Midwatch. My sector covers the Big Lot.”

“Lucky you. You’ve got your hands full.”

“It looks like we both do.”

There’s enough paper on his desk to wipe out a couple of giant redwood trees. And my mom wonders why I don’t want to be a detective? I should take a picture of this place and send it to her.

“We had a shooting last night at the Big Lot. The victim died at the hospital. My partner and I were the first unit on the scene.”

“Seriously? We didn’t hear anything about it. What happened?”

“I don’t have all the details. The victim was a male Hispanic, about mid-twenties, I think. He wasn’t a junkie; I know that much. I’ve got a hunch he was a dealer. He took one to the chest, probably at close range. The weapon was a .38 Super Auto. We found one shell casing near the victim.”

“And you think Ricky did it?”

“I don’t know. And I’m not looking to step on a homicide investigation. He wasn’t there when we got there, which I’m told is pretty strange. I hear he’s a fixture over there. Anyway, my partner thinks he did it, and his name was the first one to come up when we started talking about possible suspects.”

“Really? I’m not surprised.”

“Like I said, I’m brand-new to the division. I’m still learning the players. But from what I’ve heard, this guy is a pretty big deal. But he’s out there in a parking lot in the middle of the night like any other street-level dealer. I mean, I don’t get it. He’s not like any other mid-level guy I’ve heard about. I just want to know what you can tell me about him.”

“Who gave you my name?”

I was afraid he’d ask that. Sergeant Hendrickson said that patrol was told to stay away from Ricky. Detective Godfrey might be fishing for a name so he can raise hell about it. But I don’t think Sergeant Hendrickson would’ve given me this guy’s name if he were an asshole who would pull something like that.

“Sergeant Hendrickson. He works Graveyard. I asked him about Ricky and he told me to talk to you.”

“Jack’s a good sergeant. Don’t worry, I’m not looking to jam anyone up. I was just wondering because no one from Central patrol ever seems to come up here asking questions. It’s like you guys don’t even know we exist. I’m glad to see there’s at least one of you who does.”

“I’m glad we’re on the same page.”

“Believe me, we are. So you want to know about Ricky? Well, you’re right: he’s a pretty big deal in your neck of the woods. He’s got a lock on most of the street-level heroin trade in the skid row area, and he’s managed to outlast most of the mid-level dealers, there.”

“Only because Hoekstra’s aim was low. Or so I heard.”

“Don’t think I wasn’t hoping that son of a bitch would die. The world would be a much better place without him.”

“So what’s with this guy? He’s at least a mid-level dealer, he’s got a dozen dealers and other thugs working for him, and he’s still doing hand-to-hand sales in the Big Lot?”

“Yeah, he’s a strange duck, all right. Ricky’s very territorial. He has to be. There’s a hell of a lot of competition in the downtown heroin trade. Sometimes it’s actually block by block. He thinks that by being there and letting people see him, the competition is less likely to move in on his territory. And so far, he’s been right. He’s got a real lock on things over there. His operation’s very efficient.”

“But why shoot a guy? Most dope dealers aren’t usually violent. It’s bad for business, right?”

“Yes, it is. The problem is, nobody told Ricky that. The guy is fucking evil. That’s not an exaggeration. He’s just fucking evil; plain and simple. He gets off on hurting people. It’s part of his reputation. He’s a mean, rotten son of a bitch. He scares the living shit out of everyone, and…”

“And everyone does what he says.”

“Exactly. As scared of him as they are; a lot of the junkies are too scared to buy their dope from anyone else. They’re afraid of what he’ll do to them if he finds out. And they’re right. He’s killed people for switching dealers on him. He’s killed people for a hell of a lot less.”

“It makes for a captive clientele.”

“That’s the idea. Why do you think most of the junkies on skid row are afraid to go west of Meridian to buy their dope?”

“I didn’t know they were.”

“Trust me, they are. And Ricky’s moved into other shit, too. His boys are dealing coke, weed, crank, pills, you name it. He’s got some serious suppliers. He can get you practically anything, and he never seems to run dry. He’s become a pretty serious player across the board, and he’s caused us a shitload of headaches in the last few years.”

“So, that leads to the big question…”

“Why is he still on the street?”


“I wish I had a good answer for that one. We’ve been working him for a while, but I’ll be honest: we’re not getting anywhere. Nobody’s talking, and he’s very good at covering his tracks. And we haven’t been able to pin down his suppliers, either. We’ve been focusing on his heroin connection, but so far? Zero. We know it’s an out-of-state connection, but that’s about it. For an asshole, he runs a very tight ship.”

“I heard you guys ordered patrol to stay clear of him. Just leave him alone. I’m told that’s why nobody will fuck with him.”

Shit! It looks like I just pissed him off. I hope that isn’t the case. I need friends in Narcotics Division if I’m going to be of any use out there.

“God damn it! Are they still telling you guys that shit?”

“That’s what I was told. They said the order came from you guys and from headquarters: stay away from Ricky. Narcotics wants him. Patrol doesn’t go near him. End of story.”

Oh, he didn’t like hearing that! He looks like he’s ready to punch something! I just hope that’s a good thing!

“Those sons of bitches! That’s not what we said! We said that we were working the case, and that patrol should give us some room. That’s all! We never said ‘hands off!’ Hell, we said if you guys have anything we can use, for God’s sake, let us know! We need it!”

And that’s exactly what I would’ve expected him to say. I wish I could say that this sort of miscommunication was rare, but between units and offices on the department, it isn’t. Shit like this happens all the time, and you can’t imagine how much trouble even a simple case can cause. This one is a perfect example. Ricky’s gotten a free pass for God only knows how long because the right people got the wrong word.

“I guess the message got garbled.”

“Garbled, hell! It’s that fucking asshole Commander Hillel! He says he’s putting together a task force to clean out the dope dealers in the downtown area, and Ricky’s at the top of the list. What a load of crap! He probably thinks he’ll make chief behind it. Yeah, right! He hasn’t done shit so far!”

Oh, Jesus! Of all the people he could have named, that one’s the worst! Commander Hillel made it his mission in life to get me kicked off the department after that fucking Reid shooting. He failed, and he hates me with a passion because of it. And here I thought I might actually be rid of that asshole for good. No such luck, I guess.

“I can relate. I’m not exactly Commander Hillel’s favorite person on the department, as you might have heard.”

“Yeah, I know what happened. I recognized your name. I figured there weren’t two cops on the job with the name ‘Lynott.’ I didn’t want to say anything, but…”

“It’s all right. Everybody knows what happened. Or at least, they think they do. But Commander Hillel still has it in for me. He made that unmistakably clear.”

“Fuck him! You didn’t do anything wrong. It’s not your fault you just happened to be there. I saw the video. What were you supposed to do? Dive thirty feet in a split-second and get between Whaley and Reid and take the bullet?”

“He doesn’t see it that way.”

“Well, fuck him! And fuck his order to stay away from Ricky! He’s got no authority to give an order like that. Hell, you guys bring us some of the best shit! These assholes get popped by patrol, and the next thing you know, they’re talking to us to try to stay the fuck out of jail. We need you guys out there doing the job. It makes our job a hell of a lot easier.”

“That’s the way I always saw it.”

“I mean, fuck! I didn’t even know there was a shooting at the Big Lot until you just told me!”

“Would they normally notify you right away? I mean, it only happened last night. Well, this morning, actually.”

“A shooting at a major dope spot, with a serious asshole dealer doing his shit there? You’re damned right they should notify us! And you said Ricky was GOA when you got there?”

“As far as I know. We were actually heading down there to check on the dope activity when the call came out. We were on the scene less than thirty seconds after that. As soon as we got there, my partner asked: ‘Where the hell is Ricky?’”

“So he was nowhere to be found?”

“Nope. I mean, I’ve never seen him in person. Just a picture. But Harper would’ve seen him. He knows what he looks like. And some of the potential witnesses were junkies, so Harper asked them where was Ricky?”

“And they didn’t say shit, right?”

“Not a word.”

“Then he was there, all right. Believe me, if he wasn’t there when the shooting went down, they would’ve said so right away. They’d have thought it would put them in Ricky’s good graces if they gave him an alibi. Who’s Harper? Is that your partner?”

“Yes, sir. Ryan Harper.”

“You don’t have to call me sir. I work for a living, just like you do.”

“Got it.”

“So we’ve got a homicide at the Big Lot, when? What time?”

“About five minutes before two in the morning.”

“OK, five minutes before two, which is when Ricky’s usually there. And you get there thirty seconds after the call goes out, you’ve got a victim down, and no sign of Ricky. Is that right?”

“That’s it, exactly.”

“Jesus Christ! That should’ve been sitting on my fucking desk as soon as I got in this morning!”

“I don’t know what to tell you. I’m sure our Homicide detectives…”

“Oh, I’m not blaming them. This is a fucking breakdown in communication. They probably got the same speech you got: leave the dope shit to Narcotics. No, this isn’t on them. This is fucking Hillel screwing up shit he’s got no business being involved with!”

Honestly, I don’t know if I just did a good thing or if I just opened a huge fucking can of worms. I sure hope it isn’t the latter.

“Dani, hang on a second. Hey, Angelo! Angelo, come over here! You’re not going to believe this shit!”

Another Narcotics detective. Oh, hell! I’m thinking it’s going to be the latter!

“Angelo, this Officer Lynott. She’s from Central Division.”

“Nice to meet you, Officer Lynott. Uh, I don’t mean to pry or anything, but….”

“It’s all right. Yes, I’m that Officer Lynott.”

“I’m glad to see you’re still going at it. You got the shaft big time, lady!”

“Tell me about it. Do you work with Detective Godfrey?”

“I’m either his partner or his surrogate wife, depending on the time of day. John, what’s going on?”

“Dani’s working Central Midwatch. She just told me there was a shooting at the Big Lot early this morning. A homicide. She and her partner got there less than thirty seconds after the call went out, and guess who was nowhere to be found when they got there?”

“Fucking Ricky!”

“You know it. Dani thinks the guy who got killed might’ve been a dealer.”

“And we’re just hearing about this now?”

“From a patrol officer. The only one with enough fucking brains to put two and two together.”

I appreciate the compliment, but it was Harper who first suggested Ricky might be the shooter.

“Well, let’s give credit where credit is due, guys. It was my partner Harper who noticed it first.”

“OK, Angelo, so we’ve got at least two serious cops working Central Midwatch. And guess what? The sergeants told her we told them it’s ‘hands off’ on Ricky!”

“Jesus! They’re still saying that shit?”

“That’s what they told her. And she got there last DP, so it’s recent.”

“Fucking unbelievable! But you came down here anyway?”

“It seemed like the thing to do.”

“It’s nice to know we’ve still got some friends down there. Angelo Cardozo.”

“Dani Lynott. Nice to meet you.”


Look at that! A handshake! I guess it’s not a can of worms after all. This might turn into something very good. The more contacts you have throughout the department, the better. And these two guys seem to want Ricky’s head on a lance. Good. That’s where it belongs.

“Dani said there were a couple of junkies at the scene who wouldn’t say shit when they asked were Ricky was.”

“Which tells us he was there for sure.”

“No doubt about it. Angelo, her sector covers the Big Lot.”

“You’re Sixteen Central? Would you be willing to keep us up to date in what you see out there?”

“Of course.”

“Angelo, give her that file on Ricky.”

“You got it. Hey, Dani? You watch your ass around him, you hear?”

“I will.”

“I mean that. That motherfucker’s not afraid to take a shot at a cop. And he especially gets off on hurting women. You square off with him, the fight’s on. Be ready for that.”

“So you won’t mind if I bust him up a bit?”

“You put that motherfucker in the hospital and I’ll fucking marry you!”

Hey, mom would be happy. At least I got a proposal.

“We’ll see about that. Detective Godfrey, is there anything else I should know?”

“Just what he said. Ricky’s dangerous. He’s fucking crazy, and he’s always got a gun. He doesn’t keep it on him, though. But he’s got it nearby, right where he can get to it. Count on it.”

“That’s what Harper said. Oh, and someone said they saw Ricky earlier with a blue Toyota or a Honda. We’re trying to get a better description of it.”

“We’ll make a note of that. We’ll get a copy of that homicide report. Listen, anything you can find out while you’re out there, we want to know about it. Even if you don’t think it’s very much, you let us know anyway.”

“Here’s my cell phone number. Just let me know what we can do for you.”

“You got it. Here’s ours. And thanks. I mean that. We really appreciate you coming to see us.”

“I appreciate your help. You guys stay safe, OK?”

“You do the same. Especially around Ricky. I’m thinking he’s not going to like you one fucking bit.”

Good. Because that’s my intention. I’m going to make him hate me with a passion. And then I’m going to throw his ass in jail for as long as the state will have him.

God, I love it when things work out like that! This is a big part of why I became a cop. I love working with the different units, trading information, and maybe there’s something that patrol sees or hears or comes across that helps the detectives put a serious asshole behind bars for the rest of his life. And it works both ways. That file on Ricky is a fucking gold mine of information! I copied almost every page of it. They’ve definitely been watching this asshole for a long time. Frankly, I’m amazed he’s not in jail or dead by now. I guess it’s the luck of the criminal. A lot of dealers are bad news, but this guy really takes the cake. The file says he may be good for at least half a dozen murders. And he’s beaten more people senseless then I can count. There are dozens of assault cases where he’s a named suspect. The file’s got the names and pictures of all of his known dealers, so now I’ll know them when I see them. It kills me that all patrol officers don’t do this shit every day. There’s so much you can learn if you just ask, but so many of us never ask. I don’t know why. It seems to me like the most logical thing in the world.

Well, if I want to make it to the shooting range, I’d better do it now. I’ll have to postpone getting something to eat, which sucks because I’m really hungry. But if I head over to the range now, I can get in a round of practice and beat the traffic on the way home. I guess that means I’ll be splitting a pizza with Zephyr tonight. It’s a good thing I like pizza. It’s the one food I never seem to get tired of eating.

The academy shooting range. It looks like I made it in time for one of the last relays. Oh, well, better late than never. I really need the practice. And Alex is running the show. Good. I like him. He was one of my instructors.

“Dani Lynott! What are you doing here this late? You’re usually here first thing in the morning.”

“Alex the range master! What’s going on?”

“Not much today. You should’ve been here earlier. You’d have had the whole range to yourself. What brings you in so late?”

“I’m working Midwatch. Today’s a single.”

“That’s got to suck. How many rounds do you want today?”

“Well, you guys are going to close soon, so make it fifty rounds. Have I got time?”

“You’ve got time for fifty. Are you going to shoot for your medal?”

That’s something else I need to do. I was almost at Expert, but my transfer to Central kind of threw a monkey wrench into that. I need to get back on track. I want my Expert medal!

“I wish, but not today. I need the practice before I try again. Maybe next week.”

“How close are you?”

“The last time, I missed Expert by two fucking points!”

“You’ll get it. Hell, if you want to shoot Expert, you need to talk to that guy over there. He’ll get you there.”

“What guy? Who…”

Holy shit! That’s Harper!

“Harper? What are you doing here?”

“What do you think? I came here to shoot.”

“You should’ve told me.”

“Dani, do you know Harper?”

“Yeah, he’s my partner.”

“How about that! You’re in luck! He can teach you to shoot Expert.”

“First, I teach her to shoot Expert. Then, I teach her to shoot DX.”

“Yeah, promises, promises.”

“I’ll keep that promise. We can shoot together. Alex, set up two targets for us. We’ll start at seven yards.”

“You got it. You both know the rules: eye and ear protection at all times, muzzle pointed downrange at all times, obey all commands of the range officer immediately and exactly. You guys are the only shooters this relay, so you don’t have to worry about being downrange with anyone behind you. Report any and all gun malfunctions to the range master immediately.”

Every cop knows all of that by heart, but they have to give you the speech every time you go out on the range. You can’t be too safe when you’re dealing with guns. You should hear some of the horror stories the range masters tell about people doing stupid shit out here. It’s a wonder no one’s been killed.

“All right, guys: you’re both on station two. Don’t draw your weapons until you see the targets appear. Once they do, wait for my command to begin firing.”

“Don’t worry, Alex. I won’t shoot you. I don’t know about Harper, though.”

“You shoot me, I’ll kill you both.”

Yeah, I’ll bet he would. I’ve seen him shoot. He’s incredible. He can ace the course with either hand. That’s probably why he’s on the pistol team.

“So I’m trying to make Expert. What are you going for, Harper?”


Ah, yes. The PSC Board. PSC stands for “Perfect Score Club.” You need to shoot a perfect score of 400 on the medal course to get that. You don’t get anything to wear on your uniform, but you get a plaque and they put your name on the board. They’ve had that thing since before I was born, and there are still less than sixty names on it. That should tell you just how hard it is to get into that club. Maybe someday I’ll do it?

“Shooters may enter the range.”

“That’s us. Come on, Harper. Let’s see if you’re as good a teacher as you say you are.”

“I’ll have you shooting Expert in no time. Got your eye and ear protection?”

“I’ve got my own.”

“I’m impressed. Really.”

I guess he didn’t think I took marksmanship seriously enough to buy my own shooting glasses and ear muffs. But even if I didn’t, I would’ve bought them just because I can’t stand using the range-supplied eye and ear protection. The shooting glasses are so scratched up that you can barely see through them, and the ear muffs are so filthy, I swear you could catch some fatal disease from them. Wearing them in the academy was more than enough for me. I used to think I was going to get ringworms or something like that.

“OK, Dani. Load your magazines. We’ll try the first target at the seven yard line. Then we’ll see what we can see.”

“If I hear you laugh, you’re toast! You know that, right?”

“Don’t worry. I’m not going to laugh.”


“I’m ready.”

“All right, from the holster. Two to the left target, two to the right, then a head shot in each.”

“Standing by.”

“Commence fire!”

OK, get that front sight in view. Fire! Fire! Shift! Fire! Fire! Easy on the head shots…Fire! Fire!

“Assess and holster your weapon.”

Harper definitely talks like a range master. Notice how he always says “weapon” instead of “gun?” They all talk like that. I guess he really does know something about teaching people how to shoot.

“I’m good. Holstered and ready.”

“Let’s take a look.”

Oh, shit! I threw a fucking head shot! I always do that! Fuck! Why do I have so much trouble with that?

“OK, we’ve got two in the ten ring on the first target, one ten and a low nine on the second, one good head shot and one miss.”

“I hate myself today!”

“Don’t hate yourself. I think I see what you’re doing.”

“I’m missing two of my shots, that’s what I’m doing!”

“That’s not what I mean. Clear your weapon and holster it.”

“Yes, master.”

This is why I need the practice. Of all the shots you might need to make, none is more important than a head shot. You miss that; someone’s probably going to end up dead. And I don’t mean the bad guy.

“All right, draw your weapon and draw a bead on the left target. That’s it. Now hold it! Right there!”

“OK, what am I doing wrong?”

“Basically, nothing. You’ve got a good draw, and your grip looks pretty good. You definitely need to index that grip as soon as you grasp the weapon. Holster your weapon and show me how you grip it in the holster.”

I don’t remember going through this in the academy. Then again, they didn’t tell me much of anything in the academy. I remember the first day we went to the range. Six o’clock in the morning, we’d been there since five, and it was fucking freezing outside. They had us shoot at targets twenty-five yards away. Some of us had never fired a gun before. Thank God I wasn’t one of them. It rained all night long, and there was a mist covering the targets. I couldn’t see a single one of my shots. Some guy walks behind each of us with a pair of binoculars and looks at our targets. They didn’t say anything to us. They didn’t tell us if we were hitting anything. The guy walks behind me, looks through the binoculars and says, “She’ll qualify.” That was pretty much the last thing they said to me at the range the entire time I was in the academy. I have to say, I felt cheated. I was hoping they’d teach me to be a dead shot. That didn’t happen.

“OK, so I go to draw and I grip the gun like so.”

“You grip the weapon. It’s not a gun. It’s a weapon, or a pistol.”

“Is this a Marine thing?”

“If we were in the Corps and you called your weapon a gun, I’d have you drop and give me fifty on your knuckles.”

“You’re not having a flashback, are you?”

“Very funny. Just grip your weapon like you’re going to draw it from the holster, but don’t draw it.”

“Like this?”

“Good! Hold it! Don’t move your hand. Look down at your grip. Your index is good. You’re not grasping the grip off to one side. You’re centering it in your hand, but you’re gripping the weapon a bit low. You want to grip it up here. That way, the bore axis is closer to your hand, the trigger reach is shorter, and you can handle the recoil better.”

“So grip it like this?”

“Exactly. Now draw your weapon and bring it up on target.”

Do it just like he says. He seems to know what he’s doing.

“Right! Just like that! So your draw and your presentation are good. You’ve got that down. In fact, it’s better than good. You didn’t learn that in the academy, did you?”

“No. I wasn’t happy with the way I was doing it at the academy, so I got a training video someone recommended. It talked a lot about the draw and presentation.”

“And you were definitely paying attention. That’s impressive. Most people can’t learn shit from a video.”

“I watched it a lot.”

He seems genuinely impressed. Like I said, a lot of guys can’t believe that a woman takes this shit seriously.

“So you’ve got the hard part down already. Most people who have trouble with pistol shooting don’t know how to grip the weapon properly. You do. You just need to work on gripping the weapon a little higher along the backstrap when you first go to draw it. Practice that a few minutes each day, very slowly, and before you know it, it’ll be second nature.”

That’s what they said in the video. Practice each procedure slowly and smoothly and before you know it, you’ll do it without thinking about it.

“OK, Dani. Why do you think you missed the head shot and dropped one of the body shots?”

“I was rushing it.”

“A little bit, but that’s not really your problem. Your problem is a very common one. You’ve got ‘Score-itis.’”

“What the hell is ‘Score-itis?’”

“It’s a disease that affects a lot of shooters. ‘Score-itis.’ It’s an unhealthy obsession with your score. It screws up your sight alignment and ruins your follow-through.”

“Explain this, please.”

“It works like this: you draw your weapon, get a good sight picture, press the trigger, and as soon as the shot’s fired, you droop the weapon down, scan the target with your eyes, and think to yourself: ‘Ooh! What did I get?’ You want to know right away what your score is. It’s very common.”

He’s got a point. I am obsessed with my score, and I do have a habit of trying to see where the shots hit. I guess that does fuck up your marksmanship.

“So how do you cure ‘Score-it is?’”

“Fortunately, it’s not terminal. It can be cured. Careful practice, and a little knowledge about shooting are all it takes.”

“OK, tell me what to do.”

“First, you need to trust that if you get a good grip, good index, good trigger press and good follow through, most of your shots are going to go exactly where you want them to go without anything else.”

“Aren’t you forgetting the sights?”

“Yes, I am. Deliberately.”

Is he fucking with me?

“How are you going to hit anything without using your sights?”

“If you do the things I just said, in many cases, you won’t need your sights.”

Now I know he’s fucking with me!

“OK, I have to call bullshit on that one. You’re not serious.”

“One hundred percent serious.”

“Sure! All right, Harper, prove it. Let’s see you put two in the ten ring without using your sights.”

“How about two in the ten ring and one in the head?”

Now he’s really fucking with me! He has to be!

“You’re on. Let’s see you do it.”

“No, that would be too easy. I think you should do it.”


“Yeah. And I want you to do it in less than three seconds.”

“You just saw me miss a head shot and drop a body shot when I was using the sights! How the hell am I going to clear this stage in less than three seconds without using the sights?”

“By doing just what I tell you to do. Grip your weapon the way I showed you, draw and present to the low ready position. Do it nice and slow, just like we talked about.”

This, I’ve got to see! If he’s fucking with me, I’ll have him in long sleeves and a buzz cut for the rest of his probation! I don’t care if he drops dead from the heat!

“All right, say when.”


High grip, draw smoothly, present and move to the low ready position. Easy enough.

“Now hold it right there. Now, without aiming at all, I want you to point the weapon as if you were aiming. Don’t look at the sights. Just point the weapon where your mind wants it to go and press the trigger for each shot. Just go through the motions. Do it five times. I’ll be right back.”

“Where are you going?”

“I need to get something to make sure you don’t cheat.”


“So you don’t use the sights. Go ahead. Do it. Nice and slow, five times. Just like I said.”

Either he’s fucking with me, or he’s going to show me something so simple that I’m going to kick myself for not figuring it out on my own. OK, just like he said: One. Two. Easy enough. Three. Still good. Maybe he’s on to something here?

“That’s it! Keep doing it!”

Two more. Four. Now a little faster. Five.

“Very good! Now give me your weapon.”

“What’s with the masking tape?”

“It’s so you don’t cheat. I’m going to tape over your sights.”

“You’re going to what?

“There. Now you can’t see them. You’ll have to rely on what I just told you. Now take your weapon and load a magazine.”

“You’d better not be fucking with me, Harper! Not unless you want me to turn you into a toad!”

“No magic allowed here. And you’re going to amaze yourself. Trust me. Now, chamber a round and assume the low ready position.”

“All right.”



“Now, do it just like I said: good grip, good index, good trigger press, good follow-through. Just point the weapon where you want the shots to go. Ready?”

“I’m ready.”


Point and shoot! Point and shoot!

“Holster your weapon. You see?”

“Holy shit!”

Two shots almost dead center, one good head shot! I don’t believe it!

“I wasn’t even looking at the gun!”

“The weapon!”

“Yeah, whatever! Damn!”

“So you see? A proper grip, trigger press, and follow-through can cover most of your marksmanship. I’m not telling you not to use the sights, but I don’t want you to overestimate how much they contribute to your shooting.”

“OK, but that was nowhere near three seconds.”

“Fair enough. Watch me. Ready?”


“Say when.”


Jesus! He fucking did it! I don’t think that took two seconds!

“Now you try it. Just that fast. Ready?”



Shoot! Fast as I can! Yes! Done!

“Take a look.”

I did it! Son of a bitch! I actually did it! And without looking at the sights!

“I don’t believe it!”

“Believe it. You can do it.”

“You really are good at this.”

“That’s lesson one. So you need to practice your high grip when you practice your draw and presentation. Just a few minutes a day with an empty weapon. You’ll nail it in no time. That’s lesson one.”

“Show me lesson two.”

“Are you sure you’re ready?”

“You’re damned right I am! Come on! Show me something else! I want to learn this shit!”

“All right. Let’s move back to ten yards, then. We’ll work on the fast phase: six shots in three seconds.”

“That’s at the seven yard line.”

“Yeah, but if you can do it at ten yards, think of how easy it’ll be at seven.”

Oh, I am going to love this! I can almost feel that Expert medal on my chest. It won’t be long now.

“All right, Harper, show me how to ace this sucker.”

Jesus Christ! I really did luck out getting him for a partner! Let’s do this!

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