Chapter 7: Area Denial
Central Station. Actually, I’m walking almost two blocks to the station for the start of our shift. Once again, I didn’t get a parking space at the station. Typical. And I’m here early! It’s usually tough to come back to Midwatch after a single day off, but I’m really fired up. I guess you can tell how psyched I am about doing the job by the fact that I spent most of my one day off doing job-related things. That’s actually nothing new for me. Ever since I got out of the academy, I’ve pretty much tried to eat, sleep, and breathe the job. I’ve always thrown myself wholeheartedly into whatever I was doing, but never so much as this. This job does that to you. I’ve always thought that police work is more than a job. I don’t know if it’s a calling, but if it’s just a job to you, then you’re never going to be very good at it. It takes too much to be really good at it. And let’s face it, you can get hurt doing this job. You can get killed doing this job, and not just by the bad guys. Every year, more cops die in traffic accidents than from gunfire. And that’s just one of the hazards. Hell, the toxic shit they’ve got all over skid row probably causes ten thousand kinds of cancer. And sooner or later, you’re going to have to put your neck on the line. If it’s just a job to you, then you’re not going to be willing to do that. I mean, think about it: would an accountant put her life on the line for her job? Of course not. You can always get another job. You can’t get another life. So being a cop has to be more than just a job, right?
The funny thing is, I don’t usually get here this early before roll call. I wasn’t in some great hurry to get in here today. I just wanted to beat the traffic. But at least I won’t have to rush to get ready. Hey, it takes time to put on all of that shit. And frankly, I’m in no hurry to put on a Kevlar vest in this heat. God, it’s hotter than yesterday! How much hotter can it get? Is the earth moving closer to the sun and nobody told me about it? This summer is going to be a scorcher, that’s for sure. It’s a good thing I work nights. They’re bad enough. I don’t know how they do it in the day, unless you don’t wear a vest. Fuck that shit! Even this heat is no excuse for not wearing your vest. The vest is no guarantee that you’re going to be safe, but every little bit helps. And anyone who saw the hole in that guy’s chest from the other night would probably see the value in wearing one. It’s one hell of a real-life lesson for you.
Oh, would you look at this! Harper’s pulling into the station parking lot, and would you look at what he’s driving!
“Harper, is this your car?”
“Sure is. No drooling on the paint, please.”
Jesus! A 1968 Camaro, fully restored! My dad would have given five years of his life for one of those! And that thing is fully restored! It’s immaculate! It looks brand new!
“Where did you get this thing?”
“I got it right before I enlisted in the Marine Corps. When I got out, I finished restoring it.”
“You did this yourself?”
“Yes, indeed. It took me two years, but it was worth it.”
“Seriously? You did all the work yourself?”
“Every bit of it. Well, my dad helped a bit.”
“Even the engine?”
“Especially the engine. A completely built 350. Purrs like a kitten.”
If police work doesn’t pan out for him, he’s got a future in car restoration. This thing looks like it just came off of the showroom floor!
“You must’ve sunk a fortune into this thing.”
“Pretty much. I didn’t have the money to finish it until I got out. It sat in my parents’ garage with a tarp over it.”
“Aren’t you afraid somebody’s going to steal it?”
“Hey, I carry a pistol, remember?”
“Well, one look at this thing and I think maybe somebody’s overcompensating for something.”
“No, I think somebody’s just jealous.”
“Are you making fun of my little white Honda?”
“Just stating the facts, ma’am. Just the facts.”
“Mine might not be a fire-breathing muscle car, but at least I don’t scream when I have to fill it with gas.”
“You have to learn to take the bitter with the sweet, Dani. Emphasis on the sweet.”
“You are beyond full of yourself, do you know that?”
“You want to race?”
“Just park this monster and don’t be late for roll call, boot!”
And of course, he guns the engine just to show off. Jesus! That thing is fucking loud!
“I’m going to write you a ticket for noisy pipes!”
“You’ll have to catch me first!”
“That’s why God invented spike strips!”
Actually, I don’t think I could bring myself to destroy something that beautiful. I’ve always had a thing for classic muscle cars, and that one is truly something else. I guess I get it from my dad. But I don’t even want to think about how much it must cost to fill that tank.
The roll call room. Everybody’s here and raring to go. Let’s see what’s on the agenda for tonight. Take it away, Sergeant Gellar!
“Listen up, Midwatch! Roll call! The Watch Commander is Lieutenant Hagan. I’m Forty Central, Sergeant Alfaro is Sixty Central. Ruiz and Rosen, you’re Eight Central. Lynott and Harper, you’re Sixteen Central. Vinell and Kursteff, you’re Twenty-Two Central. Signolo and Goren, you’re Forty-Four Central. Does everyone have a job? Good. Everyone’s gainfully employed.”
I might as well try to catch up, seeing as we were off last night.
“Sergeant Gellar? Harper and I were off last night. What did we miss?”
“Two stabbings over by Sacred Heart. Ruiz and Rosen, I want you to give that place extra patrol tonight. I don’t like stabbings near a church. It makes the division look bad. Scares away the tourists.”
Is he kidding? This place?
“What kind of tourist comes to see this shithole, Sarge?”
“They don’t come to see your shithole sector, Lynott. They come to see the Emerald City. Real people go there.”
“Roger that, sir.”
He’s got a point. But then again, I don’t imagine too many tourists come here to see the skyscrapers. There’s better things to see and do in this city.
“As you all know – or should know – many of our ‘residents’ are now flush with their Social Services checks. That means robberies, which means ADWs and maybe a shooting or two. Be ready for it. Now, there was another fire of suspicious origin last night in the warehouse district. We don’t know if it’s the homeless making camp there, or some asshole who likes to start fires. Keep your eyes open when you pass through there. And if you see some idiot jacking off in front of a burning building…”
“Bring him straight to you, Sarge!”
“Goren, you keep him the hell away from me! You hear me?”
“And you wash your fucking hands before you come into my office! I don’t want you bringing whatever he’s got on his dick anywhere near me!”
“Moving right along! We still have no word on any suspects from that shooting at the Big Lot two nights ago. Detectives think it was drug-related, but we’re still waiting for any further information.”
Everybody seems to think it was drug-related, but no one else is mentioning Ricky as a possible suspect. I wonder why?
“Sergeant? Do they have any information on the dead guy?”
“You’re welcome to read the report, Lynott. Whatever there is, it’s in there.”
“Will do, sir.”
“Now, one of our NASCAR wannabes on Daywatch banged up another vehicle. He was overdriving on a nothing call. There was no reason for it to happen. Now, the captain is getting seriously pissed off about all of these goddamned TCs! So everybody watch your driving! Don’t overdrive! And for God’s sake, don’t drive the wrong way on a one-way street! I don’t care if you’re the only car in the entire goddamned city; you don’t do it! Not in this division! You get caught, it’s fifteen days minimum! Does everybody understand that? Good! You’d better!”
Yet another reason why I let Harper do the driving. The streets are weird in our sector. I don’t want to bang up a car while I’m trying to look for an address. I can’t afford it. I’ve got a few admonishments in my jacket for banging up police cars already. Any more and they’ll probably hit me with a suspension day or two.
“Once again, it’s pretty crazy out there tonight, so I’ll cut this thing short. If nobody’s got anything, let’s hit the streets. Watch yourselves out there! Between everything else and the goddamned heat, things are really picking up out there. Don’t take unnecessary chances. The whole division’s got a weird vibe to it, and when you’ve been on the job for as long as I have, you learn to trust those feelings. Watch your backs!”
Definitely words to live by. Especially in this place. The Sarge thinks things are picking up, but I didn’t think they could get any busier. This place just keeps on surprising me. At this rate, I might seriously consider looking for an apartment in this sector. Then I’d never have to leave it. How cool would that be?
Hanging out in the parking lot, waiting for Harper to finish prepping our car. Ours is a real beater. Central Division’s got some pretty fucked-up cars. They’re not as bad as in some of the other divisions, but they’re all pretty worn out. They actually look like they belong on skid row. I guess that’s fitting.
“Are we ready to go, Harper?”
“We’re ready. I’ve got the car gassed up and everything loaded.”
“Too bad it’s not a Camaro.”
“Hey, when are we getting new cars? I heard they’ve already started to deploy some.”
“God knows. They’re not even sure if they’re going to go with the Ford SUVs or the Dodge Chargers. They’ve already got some of the new Chargers in Northside Division.”
“See, that’s what I want. Something with some muscle.”
“We’ll probably get them last. We don’t get into a lot of vehicle pursuits downtown, and we don’t have as far to drive.”
“That doesn’t mean we don’t need new cars.”
“Try working Northside sometime. That place is huge. You practically live in the car. And they’ve got those steep hills.”
“I hear the average response time there is ten minutes.”
“Yeah, and that’s for emergency calls. They’ve got a lot of ground to cover. Cars are a big deal up there. They’re even worse in the northwestern valley area.”
“Well, I can dream.”
“Hey, look on the bright side: when you get wheeled out of here, maybe they’ll send you to Northside?”
“God, I hope not.”
I don’t blame him. Most of that place is too sedate. They’ve got a few hotspots, but nothing like this place. A hard-charger like Harper would lose his mind there. He’s probably got his sights set on Woodlawn. Metro South: that’s where all the young wannabe gunfighters dream of going. I wish I’d never heard of the place. That’s where my career almost came to an end.
“Let’s hit the road.”
The Sarge said there’s a weird vibe going on. He’s right about learning to trust those feelings. Even though I’m from Salem, I’m not big on the supernatural. Still, I sometimes wonder if the senses that a cop develops on the job aren’t somehow supernatural. Someone should do a study of it. I’d like to see the results. I’ll bet every good cop would.
Well, they’re all over the place tonight. The homeless, I mean. A lot of them look worse than usual. Being stuck outside day and night in this heat must be killing them. A lot of the white guys look like they’ve got serious sunburns. With everything else they go through out here, that can’t be good. It’s a wonder they don’t all die of skin cancer.
“Dani, what’s the worst place you’ve ever worked?”
“That depends. Define ‘worst.’”
“I mean the nastiest work environment.”
“That’s easy: Mid-City. What a fucking dump!”
“That’s what I’ve heard.”
Of course, I’m not talking about the division itself. No, I’m talking about the police station. Mid-City station is the biggest fucking dump in the department. That place should’ve been condemned years ago. Decades ago! The city’s been sued a couple of times over accidents that happened there because everything’s falling apart. Maintenance guys have actually fallen through the roof because they stepped on a patch that gave way. They’ve got exposed electrical wires hanging out of the walls, and they’ve started a few fires. You really have to watch yourself just walking around the place.
“I was on loan there a couple of times. I hated it. I felt like I was going to catch something just breathing the air. I mean, people talk about how filthy Central station is, but it’s nothing compared to Mid-City station.”
“I heard they don’t have a women’s locker room there. Is that true?”
“In a manner of speaking. The place was built in the 1940s, and they didn’t have women on the job back then, so they never factored in a women’s locker room. They’ve got an old trailer out in the parking lot for us to change in. And when I say trailer, I mean something that looks like the back of an old eighteen-wheeler that they converted into a locker room. It’s right next to the garage and the gas pumps, so the place stinks like gasoline fumes. It’s enough to make you puke.”
“Sounds like fun.”
“God, the bathrooms are so disgusting, I’d rather use the one at the gas station down the street. That should tell you what it’s like.”
“Why don’t they rebuild that place?”
“Have you got a couple of million bucks lying around? Because the city sure as hell doesn’t. We’re lucky they’re finally replacing the worn-out cars.”
“OK, what’s the craziest division you’ve worked?”
“Are you kidding? This one! Hands down!”
“Yeah, it’s a freak show here.”
“I can’t believe I never knew what it was like down here. I would’ve transferred here years ago.”
“You really like it here?”
“I love it! Plenty of work to do, not a lot of bullshit, and they’ve got things here I never knew existed. It beats the hell out of chasing down little shithead gangbangers and dealing with drunken married couples smacking the shit out of each other.”
“Did you ever work any special units? Gangs? Vice?”
“I worked the gang unit for a while. There was a time when I wanted to work it forever, but that lost its luster real quick. I did a couple of Vice loans, too. Never again!”
“What were the Vice loans?”
“Well, I’m a woman, so what do you think? Trick Task Force. Pretty much me standing on a street corner, pretending to be a hooker.”
“No way! You?”
“Yeah. Why is that so hard to believe?”
“Because I’ve seen the hookers out here. There’s no way anyone would believe you were one of them.”
“Because you’re too good-looking. No way any girl who looks like you would be out here.”
I guess I should be flattered, but compared to the hookers out here, that’s not saying much. Most of these girls look like they just survived a nuclear war. There’s a saying among the street people: any hooker out here who looks good enough to fuck has got to be a cop. There’s a lot of truth to that. But I don’t think it was my movie-star good looks that made me a failure at it.
“Well, I appreciate the endorsement. But to be honest, I wasn’t very good at it. I made myself look all messed up, but I still didn’t get a lot of come-ons. Not nearly as many as the other girls.”
“Because all of the assholes knew you had to be a cop.”
“Yeah, that had to be it.”
“I’m sure it was.”
“You may be right, but for the wrong reason. The lieutenant said that while I was on the corner, I still came across like a cop. He said I lacked talent.”
“That sounds like a good talent to be lacking. So what else?”
“I worked Special Enforcement in Woodlawn for a while. Sometimes that was pretty cool. Woodlawn’s a jumping division. Lots of shit happens there.”
“You don’t want to work it here. It’s almost always stakeouts on car burglary sites.”
“I got loaned to it for a DP when I hit Phase Three. I think they were trying to find someplace to dump me.”
“That’s how it goes. They have to make room for all of the Phase Two probationers coming out of the academy.”
“You got it. I guess I got lucky they didn’t stick me on the desk or some shit like that.”
“That’s what they did to me. So did you get a lot of car burglars?”
“We got a few, but to be honest, I got more of them working patrol. And we almost always worked during Daywatch, so we missed all of the nighttime burglars.”
That sounds kind of weird. Most of your car burglaries happen at night. Smashing a car window in broad daylight tends to draw a lot of attention to you.
“Well, maybe we’ll catch a few tonight.”
“Sounds good to me.”
OK, I mentioned Woodlawn, and Harper didn’t ask me about it. I’ve been waiting for him to ask, but I don’t want to talk about what happened. Maybe he’s just being nice about it? If he is, I really appreciate it. Still, this is our third shift together, so I’d better broach the subject.
“Hey, Harper? I know you haven’t asked me about…well, you know. I want you to know that I appreciate that. I mean it.”
“There’s nothing to ask. I saw the video. You didn’t do anything wrong. Shit happens. You just happened to be there, that’s all.”
“Well, I appreciate that, too. And it’s not like I’m trying to freeze you out or anything. I just…I don’t like talking about it.”
“I don’t blame you.”
“And I don’t want you getting dragged into it. For some people on the department, it’s still not over.”
“It is as far as I’m concerned. And I’m not going to press you on it. But if you ever want to talk to someone about it, you can talk to me. I’ll take whatever you say to the grave.”
He really is a nice guy. Mom would be thrilled. Of course, I can’t have a personal relationship with a boot, so she’d be disappointed. I guess she’s destined for disappointment.
“Hey, I’ve been practicing that grip and draw you taught me. You were right. It’s almost second nature now.”
“I showed you that yesterday. How long could you have practiced it?”
“An hour last night and an hour this afternoon.”
“Seriously? You practiced an hour a day?”
“Yeah. I told you I want to learn this shit.”
“That is seriously impressive! Most people, I can’t get them to practice for ten minutes a day.”
“Well, I did it for thirty minutes, twice each day.”
“That’s still an hour a day. You’re going to learn fast.”
“I hope so.”
“Do you want to add some combat drills to the marksmanship skills?”
“Hell, yes! I don’t want to just be able to punch paper.”
“You got it. I’m going to have to speed things up with you. You’ve got dedication.”
“I learned a long time ago: shooting is the one skill you’ll use the least, but if you ever need it, it’s the one you’ll need the most.”
“That’s absolutely right. Have you ever been in a shooting?”
This is where some guys are a bit shocked. You know, me being a woman and all that.
“You’ve been in two shootings?”
“Yep. Both in Woodlawn. The first one was up close and personal, the second one was an idiot drunk with an old carbine who was shooting at passing cars from his front porch. In that one, there were nine of us shooting back at him. I only fired two rounds. He was hit fourteen times. God knows which of us hit him.”
“Fourteen hits? Yeah, he died real quick. At least one of the hits was with a shotgun.”
“What about the first one?”
“That one was different. We pulled over a car with two guys in it who looked like serious assholes. They blew right through a red light and took off. I thought we were going in pursuit, but almost as soon as it started, they pulled over. As soon as the passenger got out of the car, I could see him reach for a gun in his jacket. I drew my gun and told him not to do it, but he yanked it out and racked the slide. He was bringing it up when I opened fire. Four rounds. I hit him three times.”
“Very dead. He tried that stupid ’gangster stance” like they do in the rap videos. You know, they turn sideways toward you, hold the gun with one hand and turn it on its side and shoot? My first shot hit him on his right side a few inches below his armpit. The bullet went all the way through his chest, to the left side. That’s what killed him. The second one hit him in the gut when he spun around toward me. The third one hit him in the forearm. He was still holding the gun out in front of him. The fourth shot hit the side of the car. I saw it hit.”
“Sounds like damned good shooting.”
“The truth is, I was scared shitless. He got off two rounds. If he’d been a little bit faster…”
“But he wasn’t, and you were. You did what you had to do. You held it together.”
“Yeah, but I should’ve been better prepared. That’s when I started taking my shooting training seriously.”
“You’re never prepared for the first time you shoot someone. The first time I shot someone in Iraq, I damn near shit myself. And that was with a rifle at sixty yards. It sounds to me like you did just fine. You should be proud of yourself.”
“Thanks. I appreciate it.”
I really do appreciate it. I’ve been kicking my own ass over that shooting ever since it happened. It all worked out fine: the asshole’s dead and I’m alive and I didn’t get shot, but as soon as it was over, damn! I felt like I was totally unprepared for it. I’ve worked like hell to prevent that from ever happening again.
“Sixteen Central, possible suicide in progress, 1454 Regal Street, PR reports someone on the roof, possibly preparing to jump. Fire Department is en route.”
OK, here we go!
“Sixteen Central, roger. Show us en route.”
“Sixteen Central, handle code three.”
“Sixteen Central, roger on code three. Hit it, Harper!”
I’ve never handled a jumper before. Another first in Central Division for me.
Who the hell jumps off of a building on Regal Street? I think the tallest building around is three stories tall. From that height, the fall might not even kill you. It’ll definitely fuck you up, though.
“Harper, where is this place?”
“It’s at the end of the block on Regal.”
“I hope this guy isn’t in a hurry to jump.”
“We’re almost there.”
A lot of little streets dump onto this one. A lot of them are blind corners. You can’t see shit. We don’t want to get broadsided by anyone.
“Watch out for the fire engines. With the sirens on, they might not hear us and we might not hear them.”
“Right with you. They should be coming from behind us.”
“I don’t see them.”
“The next street down is Regal. The building should be just south of us. Hang on!”
Jesus! I wish he wouldn’t take those corners so damned fast! I really don’t want to get into a crackup in one of these rattle traps.
“”Do you see it?”
“Right there! The one with the brick façade!”
“I see it. Sixteen Central, we’re code six at 1454 Regal. Do you have a description of this person?”
“Sixteen Central, negative. Stand by for further.”
“Sixteen Central, roger. Wait a minute! I see her! Harper! Left side of the building!”
“I see her! You think she’s going to jump?”
“Sixteen Central, we’ve got a woman on the roof, standing on the edge of the building. ETA on the Fire Department?”
“Sixteen Central, stand by.”
“Sixteen Central, advise the Fire Department to…oh, shit!”
“Sixteen Central! The suspect just jumped!”
Oh, shit! Oh, shit! Oh, shit! She really fucking did it! Oh, God! Right in front of us! Right on the sidewalk! She hit like a ton of bricks! Oh, fuck!
“Sixteen Central, we need EMS now! Right now!”
“Sixteen Central, roger. EMS is en route.”
“What do we do, Dani?”
“What the hell can we do? Let’s go! Hurry!”
“There’s the fire truck!”
“Let’s hope the ambulance is right behind it!”
Oh, God! She is fucked up! Look at her leg! It’s got to be broken in fifty different places! Her arm, too! I can’t tell if she’s alive or dead! I think her head’s cracked open! Fuck! There’s blood everywhere! If she’s not already dead, then God help her! She’s all busted up! The pain must be unbelievable! It hurts just to look at her!
“Dani, we’ve got EMS!”
“Get them over here fast!”
Shit! She’s bleeding worse than that guy with the gunshot wound the other night! It’s everywhere!
“Over here, guys! Fast! She jumped!”
“What’ve you got for us?”
“She jumped! From up there!”
“You guys saw her jump?”
“Hell, yes! She jumped as soon as we got here!”
“Nobody pushed her?”
What the fuck difference does that make? Does this paramedic think he’s a detective all of a sudden?
“No. She was alone. We saw it.”
“All right. Give us room to work.”
I think you guys are going to need a lot more than just room to work! God, I don’t want to even think about how many broken bones she’s got! Oh, Christ! Look at the bottom of her left foot! See that hole in her heel? That’s where the leg bone punched through the skin on impact! It tore right through her fucking foot! This girl’s better off dead! No way can they put her back together! No fucking way in this or any universe known to man or God!
“Is she alive?”
It’s bad enough her life is so fucked up that she wants to kill herself. But she breaks every fucking bone in her body and lives to feel all of it? That’s beyond bad luck. That’s being cursed, plain and simple. This girl was fucking cursed. There’s no other explanation.
“Harper, put up the tape. I’ll start the crime scene log.”
“I’m on it!”
Two nights, two people hanging on by a thread, two crime scenes. I don’t think I was ever the first on the scene at two fatal incidents in a row before this. This division is even crazier than I thought! But we need to cover all the bases, so to speak. In a lot of cases, suicides are homicides until proven otherwise. You’ve got to check all the boxes or else you create a pile of unnecessary work for the Homicide detectives.
“Sixteen Central, can we get an air unit to do a flyover and check the roof of this place?”
“Sixteen Central, stand by. Any air unit, come up on Central frequency. Sixteen Central is requesting a roof check, 1454 Regal Street. Any air unit, please respond.”
“Air Three, we’re en route.”
“Roger. Sixteen Central, Air Three is en route to your location.”
“Sixteen Central, roger.”
“Dani, what’s with the air unit?”
“Just covering the bases. I want them to check that roof. I want to make sure nobody else is up there. Just in case.”
“Good thinking. I didn’t even think of that.”
“That’s why I’ve got the fancy stripes on my sleeve. OK, look sharp! We’ve got Sergeant Gellar pulling up!”
This is the first call of ours he’s showed up at. I guess this is where I find out what kind of sergeant he is – beyond roll call, that is.
“Lynott! I heard your broadcast! She jumped?”
“Yes, sir. The paramedics are treating her now. She hit like a ton of bricks. I can’t believe she’s going to survive.”
“God damn it! Two fatal calls in two nights? I’m going to have to start calling you two the Grim Reaper car! Are we sure it’s a suicide?”
“We saw her jump. No one pushed her. I’ve got an air unit coming to check the roof, but we didn’t see anyone else up there with here.”
“Good thinking. A lot of people miss that. The Homicide detectives are going to be happy you did that.”
“Do you get a lot of jumpers in this division?”
“More than you might think, but not from this place. They usually jump off of the railroad bridge. Who’s the jumper?”
“Unknown. Black female, I’d say early thirties. She was unresponsive when I went over to her.”
“Yeah, I’ll bet! That roof is just high enough to do it.”
“How the hell did she get up there, Sarge?”
“How do any of them get up there? We’ve got some very determined people living out here.”
Not to mention dying out here. I can’t believe she got into the building and made her way up to the roof. It would’ve triggered the alarm and we’d have heard the call. She must have climbed up there from the outside. That’s determination for you.
“Dani, the air unit’s coming.”
“I see him. Harper, see what you can get from the paramedics.”
I need the air unit to check the immediate surrounding area, too. I’d hate to find out that anyone was up there and climbed down before they got here, so I’ll have him look for anyone heading away from this building. Surprisingly, we haven’t drawn a crowd yet.
“Central units on Regal, this is Air Three.”
“Roger that. This is Sixteen Central. We’ve got a jumper who just jumped. Can you check the roof of the building directly in front of us?”
“Sixteen, roger. What are we looking for?”
“Anybody else up there, and anyone who seems to be on the ground and leaving the scene in a hurry.”
“Sixteen, roger. Stand by.”
God, I hope there’s nobody else up there. Because if there is, then we’ve got to get them down, somehow. Damn! He’s flying really low! I can barely hear myself think!
“Harper! Are the paramedics ready to transport the victim?”
I can’t hear what he said. I hate it when they fly that low! That helicopter’s kicking up a hell of a lot of dust down here!
“Harper, I can’t hear you! That damned chopper is too low! Ask him to take it up a bit! I can’t hear a damned thing with him flying so low!”
I can’t hear him, but I can see him nodding his head. Good. The paramedics probably don’t want that chopper blowing their medical shit all over the place, either. OK, that’s better. What’s another hundred feet of altitude between fellow officers, right?
“Sixteen, there’s no one on the roof, and no one walking away from the scene.”
“Roger that. Thanks for the assist.”
“Any time. Have a good one.”
So now we’re good to call this one exactly what it is: a suicide. With the way things are out here, it’s a wonder more of them don’t kill themselves. I probably would.
“What did the paramedics say, Harper?”
“She’s gone. They called it.”
“Well, what do you think, Sarge?”
“Straight up suicide. Tear down the tape. I’ll send a Delta unit to the hospital to handle the death report. Make sure you get the paramedics’ info. Take a few pictures of the scene and clear. It’s getting busy out there.”
And that’s that. Someone dies and all we can do is take a report. There’s something seriously wrong with that, don’t you think?
Back on patrol. I don’t know how many death investigations I’ve handled over the years: shootings, stabbings, car accidents, heart attacks. It always gets me that the last word on someone’s life – literally, the last word – is a line on a police unit’s log. It just doesn’t seem right. I guess almost anyone’s life should be worth more than that. There’s one good thing about this call, though: there’s no notification of the family members. Not for us, at any rate. Someone will have to make the notification once they identify the victim, but at least it’s not going to be us. God, how I hate making death notifications! When I was a boot, my first death notification was pure hell. Some guy got killed in a traffic accident and we got the order to inform the relatives. Since I was a boot and my training officer had no desire to do it, I got stuck with it. I tried to be as professional and respectful as I could, but the guy’s parents just completely fell apart. I thought the dad was going to have a heart attack and die right there. It was horrible. And the worst part? When we got back to the station, my training officer told the lieutenant what a great job I did. You know, how sensitive and professional I was. He said he was very impressed with my performance. So as a result, I became the division’s official Angel of Death. Whenever I was working and a death notification had to be made, I got stuck with it. I made eight more notifications before I got off of probation. Every one of them made me feel like complete shit. I seriously considered keeping a bottle of bourbon in my locker for those calls. After every one of them, I just wanted to go home and get drunk. Fortunately, it never got that far. But I still hate doing them. It’s the one official duty that I don’t feel bad about weaseling my way out of.
“Sixteen Central, show us clear. Where are we heading, Harper?”
“You look kind of down. Is it that last call?”
“I hate calls like that. There’s no upside. No investigation, no suspect to arrest, nobody to lay the blame on. Somebody just can’t stand to live anymore and decides to end it, and we get dragged into it.”
“I’ve never seen somebody jump before. I’ve been there afterwards, but I’ve never seen it happen.”
“Neither have I. This one was my first.”
“Yeah, it’s pretty fucked up.”
“There’s nothing we can do. It was her choice. We don’t know what put her there. I don’t think I want to know.”
Christ, I sound like a fucking mourner at a funeral! With the way Harper’s looking at me, he’s probably worried that I’m going to wallow in this shit all night. I can’t do that to him. That’s one of the rules: if something’s got you down, don’t dump it on your partner. Believe me, I’ve worked with plenty of cops who never heard of that rule. I wasn’t happy about it, either.
“Dani, there’s something I’ve got to talk to you about.”
“What’s on your mind?”
“Something you did back there. I wasn’t going to say anything, but I’m afraid it was just too serious to let it slide. I can’t have you doing it ever again. Not if you’re going to work with me.”
“What are you talking about? What did I do?”
“When you said that the air unit was flying too low?”
“Well…you called it a chopper. It’s not a chopper. It’s a Helo.”
“What? Are you fucking kidding me?”
“Chopper is an Army term. I could forgive you if you’d been in the Army. But you weren’t, and I’m a Marine, so that makes this unit a Marine unit. Marines say Helo. Not chopper. It’s kind of a law.”
“You’re out of your mind, do you know that?”
“I can’t have you talking like an Army Dog. Not in this car. I let you do that and before long, you’re so far down that road that there’s just no saving you. You’ll be so far gone, I’d have to shoot you. I can’t let you do that to yourself. It’s a Helo! Not a chopper! OK?”
“You’re completely out of your fucking mind!”
“Yeah, but at least I got you to laugh.”
That’s right, he did. I guess I looked more depressed than I thought. You see? That’s what a real partner does for you. It’s a lot more than having your back in a building search. You look out for each other, no matter what. It’s one of the few things about police work that movies and TV get right. It’s also one of the things that really makes doing the job worthwhile. God, I thought I’d never have a decent partner again. I actually had nightmares about who they’d put me with when I first got here. I definitely lucked out with Harper, that’s for sure. I keep saying that, don’t I?
“Any time, partner.”
“OK, so it’s not a chopper, it’s a Helo. And it’s not a gun, it’s a weapon. Is that right?”
“Yep. You can be specific, too. It’s a pistol. It’s a rifle. It’s an AS350.”
“Noted. Anything else?”
“If you wear a hat, it’s a cover.”
“I’ll have to start writing this down.”
“There you go. I’ll make a Marine out of you.”
“I think my mother will kill you if you do. She has enough trouble with me being a police officer.”
“No, she’ll be proud of you!”
“She’ll probably hit you with a shovel. She’s got a big one in her garden.”
“Then we won’t tell her. So what do you want to do?”
“There’s no calls right now. Let’s head over to the Big Lot.”
“I figured that. I take it you want to meet Ricky?”
“Oh, I definitely want to meet him!”
“OK, then. I’ll introduce you.”
“Do you think he’ll be there? I mean, we both think he killed that guy two nights ago.”
“That won’t bother him one bit. Trust me, he’ll be there.”
Good. It’s about time we got acquainted.
The Big Lot. Heroin Central. There’s a lot of people here. Weird. Everywhere else I’ve worked, when someone gets killed, people tend to avoid the place for a few days. Gangbangers do that. They put a votive candle or some shit like that where the guy died, but they don’t hang out there for a day or two at least. But this place is business as usual. That’s the life of a junkie for you, I guess.
“Harper, don’t go in through the front entrance. I don’t want him to see us right away.”
“Roger that. Let’s go in through the alley. I want to see who’s here, first.”
“Sixteen Central, show us code six in the alley west of the Big Lot, 9th and Palomar.”
“Sixteen Central, roger.”
Junkies rarely go far from someplace where they can buy their dope. Crackheads are every bit as addicted to their dope, but junkies are a unique breed. Nothing takes over every aspect of your life like heroin. Why the fuck would anybody use that shit? You’re better off just saving your money for a gun to blow your brains out. The result is the same, and it’s a lot faster and a lot less painful.
“OK, Dani! Stay sharp! Now I know Ricky’s here! See that guy?”
“The one by the dumpster? Blue t-shirt, black pants?”
“That’s Vincent. He’s a real asshole junkie.”
“So how does that prove Ricky’s here?”
“Look at his face.”
“He’s bleeding. Jesus! Somebody beat the crap out of him!”
“Ten bucks says it was Ricky.”
“Why would Ricky kick his ass?”
“Just for the hell of it. Ricky beats the shit out of him once or twice a month.”
This Ricky guy is a real piece of work. I’m amazed somebody out here hasn’t killed him yet. A guy like that wouldn’t last five minutes anywhere else. This place really is the end of the world.
“Hey, Vincent! Come over here!”
“Officer Harper? Hey, I ain’t done nothin’ wrong!”
“I didn’t say you did. Come over here. I want to take a look at your face.”
“It ain’t no big deal.”
“Yeah? Who did that to you? Ricky?”
By the way he just jerked, that’s definitely a “yes.” Harper was right.
“So why did Ricky kick your ass?”
“I didn’t say nothin’ about Ricky.”
“You didn’t have to. What? He told you to stay away from here and you came looking for dope anyway?”
“I ain’t got no dope.”
“No kidding. If he kicked your ass, then he obviously didn’t sell you anything.”
“I don’t wanna talk about it.”
“You sign a crime report, I’ll lock his ass up.”
“I don’t…I don’t wanna do that.”
“Suit yourself. You should go by the fire station. Get that eye checked.”
“Yeah, maybe I’ll do that instead.”
“OK, get out of here. This isn’t a good place for you tonight.”
“Tell me about it.”
I almost feel sorry for that guy. It’s bad enough he’s a junkie, but he had to be a junkie in a place with a sadistic dealer controlling the dope supply? That’s being double-fucked. But he’s still shooting dope! I mean, if that didn’t get him to quit, nothing will. Talk about being a slave to the needle!
“Nice friends you’ve got, Harper.”
“He’s harmless. That’s probably why Ricky picks on him. He likes to kick around the weak ones.”
“Where is he?”
“He usually sets up a couple of chairs by the north wall. He stays back from the entrance so he can take off running before we can get in through the front. Just in case.”
“So he’ll take off when he sees us?”
“Probably not. Not when we come in through the alley on foot. Besides, he never keeps the dope on him. He’s got a thousand little hiding places around here.”
“Detective Godfrey says he always keeps a gun within reach.”
“Yeah, he’s got hiding places for that, too. If he starts moving in one direction, stop him. Whatever he’s got over there, we don’t want him getting to it.”
It’s weird that nobody’s sounded the alarm yet. Usually, they’re all sounding off before we get out of the car. Maybe they’re all hoping Ricky will get caught? They’re all afraid to do anything about him, so they’re probably hoping we’ll do their dirty work for them. With this guy, I don’t mind one bit.
“There he is, Dani. The one on the left.”
“You were right: he looks just like his picture.”
“Let’s go say hello. Watch the guy on the right. That’s one of his boys. If Ricky tells him to take a swing at you, he’ll do it.”
“Good to know.”
I am not taking any chances with this asshole! If he so much as looks at me funny, he’s going to get a flashlight to the side of the head!
“Officer Harper. Sneaking up on me? Who’s your pretty friend?”
“Officer Lynott, meet Ricky: the scourge of skid row.”
“Nice to meet you, Ricky. I’ve heard about you.”
“I should hope so. You’re not bad, chica. You got a nice rack; even under that vest. You’re a lot better looking than his last partner.”
“And you look the same as your mug shot.”
“Ancient history. I ain’t been pinched in years. I’m a fine, upstanding citizen. So what brings you down here, chica?”
This asshole’s exactly what I thought he’d be like. What a piece of shit! I notice he speaks with almost no accent. He must have been born and raised here. At least he isn’t playing the “I don’t speak English” bullshit.
I see Harper’s not buying his flirtatious attitude one bit. He’s talking control of the situation.
“Her name is Officer Lynott. Both of you guys, face the wall! Drop to your knees! Hands behind your heads!”
“Oh, are we going to do this again? You know I ain’t got nothing on me, Harper.”
“Then you won’t mind if I check. Do it!”
He wouldn’t be smiling like that if he had anything on him. I don’t like the way his asshole friend is looking at me. He looks like a guy with something to prove.
“Who’s your friend, Ricky? He keeps staring at me. What? He’s never seen a female officer before?”
“That’s Diego. You like him? I think he likes you.”
“They’re clean, Dani.”
“Of course we’re clean. I told you, Harper. We ain’t got nothing on us.”
“Yeah? Your friend’s got a lot of money on him. Why is that?”
“Diego works for a living. That ain’t a crime.”
Sometimes I wish I worked for the IRS. They could lock this guy up for not paying his taxes. Unfortunately, we can’t. Let’s see how he handles being questioned by a woman. Something tells me he won’t like it.
“So tell me, Ricky: why do you guys sit out here all night long? What’s so special about this parking lot? Have you got a car here and you’re afraid it’s going to get stolen?”
“Why? You want to take a ride with me, chica?”
Whoa! Harper didn’t like that one bit!
“Hey, asshole! You call here chica again and we’re going to have a problem! You read me?”
“Get your hands off me, Harper!”
“I asked you a question, Ricky! Do you read me?”
His boy’s going to make a move! Like hell he is! Grab him!
“You stay where you are, asshole! You move when we tell you!”
“Take your hands off me, bitch!”
Ricky’s little lap dog definitely didn’t like that! This guy isn’t very smart. I don’t want to give him a chance to pull anything.
“Hands behind your back!”
“What are you doing, bitch?”
“I’m hooking you up so we don’t have a problem!”
“We already got a problem, bitch!”
“And this will put a stop to it. There! Much better!”
“Hey, he ain’t done nothing, lady! You got no right to hook him up!”
I see Ricky doesn’t like any challenges to his authority. I guess he thinks only he gets to chain up his dog. Let’s see how this plays out.
“On your feet, Ricky.”
“What for? You going to hook me up, too?”
“Not unless you give me a reason.”
Now he’s eye-fucking the shit out of me. He’s trying to scare me. It isn’t working, and he definitely doesn’t like that! Good!
“You don’t scare so easy, Officer Lynott. Not bad.”
“There’s nothing to be scared of, here. Do you see anything to be scared of, Harper?”
“Not a damned thing.”
“Is that why you got my boy hooked up?”
“It’s to keep him from doing something he might regret. We wouldn’t want that.”
Diego is getting seriously pissed off! I was right: he thinks he’s got something to prove to his boss. Of course, I’m not going to let him do it.
“Cut me loose, bitch! We’ll see how this goes!”
“You want me to cut you loose? OK, I’ll cut you loose.”
“No, it’s all right, Harper. Here, right over here, Diego. When I unlock your right hand, you put it on your head. Got it?”
“Yeah, I got it!”
This guy’s even dumber than I thought! Does he really think I’m going to uncuff his right hand first? That’s probably his strong hand. You never uncuff that one first. No, I’ve got a little surprise for this asshole, and all I need is that drain pipe over there.
“Here we go.”
“Yeah! We can…what the fuck? You fucking bitch! What the fuck are you doing?”
And there we go! Have fun being cuffed to a drain pipe, asshole!
“What the hell are you doing, chica?”
I guess Ricky’s done calling me Officer Lynott. What a shame!
“I’m cuffing him to a drain pipe. Your friend can’t do much with his hands behind his back, hooked to a drain pipe. Now he won’t get into any trouble.”
Our little friend Diego is going ape shit! I don’t know if it’s because I tricked him, or because he got tricked by a girl in front of his boss. Boy, is he angry!
“You fucking bitch! Let me go!”
“All in good time.”
Between me smiling and Harper laughing his ass off, Ricky’s starting to lose it! Like I said, let’s see how this plays out.
“You’re beginning to piss me off, chica!”
“I didn’t come here looking to make friends, Ricky.”
“Be careful you don’t make any enemies.”
“I’ll take my chances. Harper, where do you suppose our friend Ricky’s hiding his dope tonight?”
“I don’t know, partner. Could be anywhere.”
“I don’t think he’s going to tell us. You’re not going to tell us, are you, Ricky?”
“Fuck off, bitch!”
“I’ll take that as a ‘no.’ I’m guessing it’s somewhere in one of these cinder block holes along the wall.”
Ricky is one lousy poker player. That look on his face tells me I’m on the right track.
“You see, Ricky, you know as well as we do that if we find it, we can’t just hang it on you. All we could do is seize it as evidence, and that’s a lot of work for nothing.”
“Sounds like it to me.”
“And we don’t really feel like fishing around in all of those holes. I mean, hell! A smart dealer like you? You might have those holes rigged. I stick my hand in the wrong one, and you’ve got a couple of razor blades wedged in there to slice off my fingers. That would really suck.”
“Yeah, it would. Wouldn’t it?”
“But there is something I can do to make sure you don’t make any more sales tonight.”
“Give me a break, chica! You take me in; I’ll be out in an hour.”
“We’re not going to take you anywhere.”
He didn’t expect me to say that. It seems Ricky doesn’t like it when he doesn’t know exactly what’s going on. Good. That’s something I can use against him.
“What have you got in mind, chica?”
“Well, my partner here is a Marine. He’s teaching me to think like a Marine. Marines have something called ‘area denial.’ Do you know what that is?”
I can see Harper knows what it is. He’s probably amazed that I’ve heard of it. And Ricky clearly doesn’t know what I’m talking about.
“No, chica. I don’t know what the fuck that is.”
“It’s where you make the area too dangerous for the enemy to go.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about making it so you can’t hide your dope in these holes anymore.”
“And assuming I had any dope in there, how the fuck do you plan to do that?”
Now that threw him for a loop! Oh, just wait until he sees what I’ve got in mind!
“Bitch, what the fuck are you talking about; chemical warfare?”
And you take out your pepper gas canister, and you spray the shit out of the holes where they hide the dope!
“I wouldn’t put my hand in there if I were you. Ricky. It’ll probably burn like a son of a bitch.”
“You fucking bitch!”
“And for God’s sake, don’t try to hide any of that dope in your mouth. I know you guys like to do that. But with that pepper gas on it, it’ll hurt like you wouldn’t believe. It’ll be like sucking on a lit match. Isn’t that right, Officer Harper?”
Jesus, he’s laughing too hard to even answer! Well, he got me to laugh, so I returned the favor. Partners should do that.
“So whatever you do, Ricky, don’t put it in your mouth! Oh, and you might want to warn your customers. I wouldn’t want to inject that stuff. Some of the pepper gas might get in there. I don’t even want to think about how much that would hurt.”
Oh, I definitely struck a nerve! He didn’t expect me to fuck with his stash. Dope dealers hate it when you do that. Yeah, it’s unauthorized, but who cares?
“You don’t fuck with me in my place, bitch!”
“Really? Because I think we just did.”
I was right. Look at him! He’s mad enough to chew iron and spit rust! Oh, he did not see that coming!
“I’m going to remember you, bitch!”
“Gee, I’m touched. In the meantime, get the fuck out of here.”
“I ain’t doing nothing wrong!”
“Well, not anymore, you’re not. At least, not tonight. And remember this: from now on, every time we see you out here, we’re going to fuck with you. You get no breaks. There’s no ‘Get out of jail free’ card for you. So you take your little dope franchise and get the fuck out of our sector, and never come back. Do you understand?”
“I don’t think you understand!”
“Then I guess that makes two of us. Well, don’t say we didn’t warn you. I think we’re done here, Harper. Ricky, you and your friend have a nice night.”
Wait for it!
“Hey, bitch! You going to unhook me?”
There it is! Our friend Diego probably thought we forgot about him!
“Oh, we have to go somewhere first. But don’t worry. We’ll be back for you.”
“Are you crazy? Fuck you, bitch!”
“Hold that thought. Let’s go, Harper. ’Bye, Ricky.”
And away we go! For now, at least. I have a feeling we’re going to be back here a lot. Good. I hate this Ricky guy even more than I thought I would. I really want to lock his ass up for a couple hundred years. And until we can manage that? I’m going to enjoy the living shit out of making his life miserable. Count on it!