Chapter 1: "You're always front and center"
Oh, how I hate this place! 6th Street and Vester! This used to be a nice neighborhood! You know, crack cocaine, junkies, drunks, prostitutes, maybe the occasional knife fight or a two-by-four to the skull. But now? Fuck! Now it’s the goddamned PCP capital of skid row! Can someone tell me where the hell that came from? What is this? Fucking 1983? I thought people finally pulled their heads out of their asses and decided that shit wasn’t worth it! Who the hell thinks that taking a drug that turns you into a stark-raving lunatic is a good thing? This is their idea of getting high? I guess our idiot duster thinks so! He’s already beaten the shit out of four people, and now he wants to add us to his tally!
“Harper, get behind him! Get behind him fast!”
“Watch yourself, Dani!”
“I got it! Be ready with that Taser!”
My job is to distract him. As soon as Harper gets behind him, he’ll light his ass up! I don’t know if the Taser will work, though. This guy’s fucking flying! Look at the sweat pouring off of him! He didn’t just smoke a Sherman or two. No, he looks like he skipped the cigarettes and just guzzled the whole fucking jar! Damn! This guy is beyond gone!
“Hey! Over here! Yeah, you! Just calm down, will you?”
I don’t expect him to listen. His higher brain functions have completely shut down. He probably doesn’t even understand words anymore. Jesus, he’s reverted to pre-caveman status! That’s what PCP does to you! Fuck! Where the hell is our backup? Two of us against a duster? Those are not good odds!
“Look at me, asshole! Right here! That’s it! Right here!”
And pay no attention to that officer behind you with the Taser! Almost…now!
“Harper, light him up!”
Yes! He got him! Good hits! Now let’s see if the son of a bitch goes down! He’s sure as hell screaming his head off, but I don’t know if he even feels it! That’s what PCP does to you: it shuts off your ability to feel pain. It also makes you strong like you wouldn’t believe! Like this guy! Look at him! A solid hit with a fully-charged Taser and he’s only down on one knee! That’s it! I think that’s the best we’re going to get!
“Harper, shut it down! We have to grab him!”
“Stay clear! I’ve got him!”
Ouch! Nice tackle, Harper! He’s down! But it’s going to take both of us to keep him there! At least!
“Keep him pinned! I’m going to try to cuff him!”
“Hurry! This guy’s fucking strong! I can’t hold him too long!”
Yeah, I know! I’ve got one cuff on! Damn! Bending this guy’s arm is like trying to bend a fucking baseball bat! Bend it at the elbow and twist it! Fuck! He’s too strong! Maybe if I bend it against my nightstick? Get it in there…yes! Now I have to get his fucking arm behind his back!
“Harper! Can you pull his other arm back?”
“Negative! I’m barely holding on as it is!”
Fuck! I’ll never get him cuffed this way! But fortunately, this guy’s a skinny little shit! Which means I’ve got an option! If I can’t cuff his wrists together, I can sure as hell cuff his arm to his ankle! That should slow him down!
“Give me your fucking leg, asshole! That’s it! There!”
One down, one to go! Move over to the other side and do the same to his left arm! It’s not one hundred percent, but it should take most of the fight out of him!
“Hang on, Harper! I’ve almost got it!”
“Hurry! I’m losing him!”
A little further…there! Got him! He’s hooked! His arms are out of commission! I’m hoping all he can do now is hop around like a frog! Annoying, but not exactly dangerous!
“Harper, get clear! Now!”
God, this guy’s freaking out even more! I guess his brain can’t figure out why he can’t pull his arms away from his ankles! Good! That’ll help keep him off-balance! But we need to secure him better! And I know just how to do it!
“Harper, grab a hobble! We’ll tie it around his arms and pull it tight! That’ll keep his arms behind his back!”
“At least he won’t be able to kick us anymore! Ready?”
“Let’s do it! Go!”
That’s it! Slide it through his arms! Wrap it around! Loop it! And…pull! Tight! Tight as we can! Jesus Christ! This guy’s beyond strong! But we’ve got him! He’s roped up now! I don’t care how dusted he is, even he’s not getting out of that shit! God damn! I’m fucking exhausted!
“Dani, how are we going to transport this guy?”
“Fuck that! I say we leave him right here in the middle of the street and let someone run over his ass!”
“Works for me.”
Harper’s just humoring me. He knows we can’t do that. As much as we want to, we can’t do it. We’ve got to get him back to the station somehow. Yeah, good luck with that! But at least he’s out of commission. He’s not going to hurt anybody else. We’ll just wait until we get more guys here. Then we’ll move him.
“Dani, we’ve got a unit coming.”
“Just one? Where the hell is everybody else?”
Yeah, I know. They’ve got their hands full. Skid row has gone crazier than usual in the last few days. Everybody’s up to their ears in it. We’ve got a whole new problem to deal with, thanks to some asshole judge and the bleeding-hearted fools in the state! This guy isn’t one of those calls, though. He’s obviously a long-time resident who just decided to fry whatever was left of his brain today. And he did a hell of a job of it!
So who’s come to lend us a hand? That’s Twenty-Two Central. Vinell and Kursteff. Good. Midwatch people. When you’re dealing with a duster, you definitely want people around who know what they’re doing.
“Guys! We’ve got another one!”
I can see Kursteff rolling his eyes already. They had one two days ago, right here. I’m pretty sure this one’s worse.
“Christ! Another duster? What is it with this place? I thought dust was a kid’s drug!”
“I guess he’s young at heart. Give us a hand getting him into the car.”
“What the hell did you do to him, Dani? You cuffed his hands to his ankles?”
“It was the best we could do under the circumstances. We couldn’t get his hands behind his back. He’s too damned strong.”
Oh, Jesus! Look at that! Our guy really is trying to hop like a frog! I was only kidding when I said that!
“Hey, brainless! Knock that shit off!”
What was it I said about his brain being too fried to understand words? There you go! All he can do is scream! God, I hate the fucking screamers!
“Do you believe this guy, Harper?”
He’s laughing his ass off! What gives?
“What’s so fucking funny?”
“Hey, Dani! You really are a witch! Look! You turned him into a toad!”
Oh, here they go! Now they’re all laughing at me! Assholes! I’ve said it a thousand times: I never should’ve told anyone that I’m from Salem. This witch shit isn’t going away in my lifetime!
“And you guys are my flying monkeys! Just help me get him into the car!”
“Can’t you just zap him into the car? You know, twitch your nose?”
He didn’t just say that, did he? Oh, I’m going to fucking kill you, Harper! I draw the line at Bewitched jokes!
“How about I turn the three of you into eunuchs? I won’t even need a magic wand! Get moving!”
Just for that, I’m going to let them haul him in there! I’m too tired, and I’m sweating like a pig! This is one hot September! They said it was going to be warm, but this is ridiculous! It wasn’t an especially bad summer, but now we’ve got this! It was just fine up in Alaska. Do you remember how Harper and I decided when he proposed that we were going to go there for our honeymoon? Yeah, it’s moments like this that make me sorry we ever came back.
Oh, would you look at these guys! They’re stuffing him in the car like a suitcase! Hey, what else can they do? It’s not like the guy can sit when he’s all tied up like that. Jesus, this is the fourth fucking duster in two weeks! What the hell made PCP so damned popular out here all of a sudden? And where are they getting it? Back when we were going after Ricky, Harper and I got information that some gangbangers were coming over to skid row to sell that shit. We didn’t have a chance to follow up on it then, but I’ve got a feeling it’s about to become our main focus. If this shit keeps up, we’re going to have to carry a net and a giant pitchfork in the trunk! How else are we supposed to subdue these idiots?
“Dani, how the hell do we buckle him in?”
“We don’t! It’s about four blocks to the station. I think it’s safe to say we’re not going to get into a crash on the way back. Just keep the Taser ready in case we have to light him up again!”
“I don’t know. It’s pretty drained. We might have to start carrying two of them. At least for as long as this PCP shit keeps up.”
“I say we just get a cattle prod! They still make those, don’t they? Come on, let’s get him back to the station. Lieutenant Hagan’s going to love this!”
Actually, he won’t. Lieutenant Hagan has a special hatred of dusters. He got into a few serious knock-down/drag-outs with them back in the day. He said that one of them nearly left him in traction. He’s been pretty upset that it’s making a comeback. Hey, he’s not the only one! He wants us to find the source and put it out of commission fast. Yeah, right! Easier said than done!
Central Station. Our little concrete and steel home in the center of hell. All of the modern conveniences, save for one: the air conditioner’s broken again. This place turns into an oven when it’s hot outside, and without the air conditioner, it’s beyond horrible. All of the air in the station is recirculated, so without the fans blowing, the air becomes unbelievably stale. It’s not like there’s any cross-ventilation, and by leaving the side door open, you let in all of the exhaust fumes from the garage. I feel sorry for anyone who’s stuck working in here until they fix the thing. Of course, city services doesn’t usually work at this hour, so everyone’s fucked until tomorrow morning at least. I’m guessing that means the lieutenant’s going to be in a pretty rotten mood by now. Oh, goody!
It took four of us to get our brain-dead suspect out of the car and into the station. He finally calmed down enough to let the paramedics examine him. His body temperature was almost one hundred and four, so they transported him to the hospital. Twenty-Two went with them. We had to complete the arrest and the use-of-force report. If PCP is back in a big way, we’re going to be completing a lot of use-of-force reports for the foreseeable future. As long as the powers that be don’t give me a lot of shit about it, then I don’t care. But I know the brass will. After what happened last winter, Central Division is definitely under the department’s microscope big time! Oh, and we’ve got a whole new problem in that regard. I’ll fill you in on that a little later.
“Lieutenant Hagan, we’ve got another one!”
“Jesus Christ! Same location?”
“Well, the last guy was on the sidewalk. This one was in the middle of the street. But yes, sir: 6th Street and Vester. This was a particularly bad one. Hey, can you overdose on PCP?”
“Probably. But it can kill you even without an overdose.”
“I think our arrestee qualifies as an overdose, sir. This guy was bat shit crazy and then some.”
“To us? No. But the arrestee’s got a few bumps and bruises. We zapped him with a Taser and Harper tackled him. I had to get a little creative with the handcuffing.”
“You mean the toad was your guy?”
I guess he heard already. Things like that make the rounds pretty quick around here.
“Yes, sir. But it wasn’t my intention to turn him into a toad. He just didn’t give us any choice. It was the only way to secure him.”
“What’s wrong Lynott? Do you only know one spell?”
Ha, ha, ha! I see the witch jokes have gone into overdrive. Halloween isn’t too far away, so everyone’s been preparing to needle me about it. This will be my second Halloween in Central Division, so I’m used to it by now. But you’d think they’d be able to come up with some clever ones.
“I was going to cast a spell to fix the air conditioner, but not anymore. You’re on your own, sir.”
“Let’s see what kind of spell you can cast on this report to get me to approve it. How old was your arrestee?”
“Twenty-nine. It looks like he’s been on the street for at least six years. Ever since he got out of prison, sir.”
“And he’s still smoking PCP? Jesus, I thought we’d seen the end of that shit. Do you have any idea where it’s coming from?”
“No more than what I told you on Monday, sir. We heard about some gangbangers coming here to sell the stuff that summer when I first got here. The gang unit thinks they were from Eastside Five Deuce, but they’re not sure. And we haven’t seen any gangbangers wandering around skid row. If they’re coming here, then they’re doing it during the daytime.”
“The captain’s had the Daywatch footbeats looking for any gang members, but so far, nothing. Of course, I don’t know if that’s because there aren’t any.”
Translation: most of the guys who walk the Daywatch footbeats aren’t what you’d call hard-chargers. Write tickets, arrest drunks, and be seen. That’s the life of a Daywatch footbeat. Going after gangbangers and dope dealers – particularly PCP dealers – isn’t on their list of things to do. Some of them have developed highly selective vision. They wouldn’t see a dope deal if it happened three feet in front of them.
“Sir? What’s the word on Judge Rutherford’s little social engineering project?”
“Don’t ask. We got another busload this morning. They dumped them at the Shepherd Mission. Again!”
“Sir, the Shepherd is already bursting at the seams. They don’t have any more room.”
“None of them have any room, Lynott. But nobody took that into account when they did this shit. And now we’re stuck cleaning up the fucking mess.”
“Roger that, sir. Any suggestions?”
“Yeah, you and Harper should’ve stayed on vacation.”
Yeah, I was afraid of that. It definitely wasn’t what I was hoping he’d say.
And there you have it: the craziness on skid row never ends. People just find new ways to add to it. I guess it’s time we got caught up. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? A lot’s happened since the great Gunfight at the St. George and the demise of Shiloh and his little enterprise. So where shall we begin? How about with that social engineering experiment I mentioned? You’ve probably read stories in the newspapers about so-called “mass incarceration” and how the idiot fringe wants the police to stop arresting people for committing crimes. Well, the shit’s reached a new low in the Emerald City, and guess who got stuck holding the bag? You see, a few weeks ago, the not-so-honorable Judge Alvin Rutherford decided to engage in a little social engineering at our expense. He ordered the jails and prisons to massively reduce their inmate populations almost overnight. As bad as that idea was, the real problem was that the stupid motherfucker never bothered to consider that a lot of the assholes who’ve been locked up for a while don’t have any place to go when they get out, and these mass-releases make it impossible to give the assholes any gate money. That means they get tossed out the door at a moment’s notice with nothing but the clothes on their backs, and if they don’t have anywhere to go, then guess where they get dumped? Bingo! Right here in our little Shangri-La! They’ve been bringing busloads of these guys over to the skid row sector for the last two weeks, and we’ve been told that more will follow. Now I ask you: how would you feel if you’d been locked up in prison and one night the guards shoved you into a bus and drove you down to skid fucking row and just left you there? Yeah, that’s pretty much the long and the short of it. The newly-freed inmates are going ape shit. After they get over the initial shock of discovering that they’re now among the homeless of skid row, they want to get high, get laid, and get paid. If they’ve got any money, then skid row’s got the dope. But the other two? Most guys wouldn’t touch one of the prostitutes out here with a stick, and as for getting paid? Exactly how do you suppose they plan to do that? You got it! Robbery! Burglary! Grand Larceny! Auto theft! Whatever the hell they can steal, they’re stealing it. It doesn’t matter if it’s nailed down; these guys are stealing the goddamned nails! And the rumor is, once we re-arrest these guys for whatever reason, as soon as they get to jail, they toss them right back out on the street. It’s kind of like catch-and-release fishing, except the consequences are pretty severe.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, there’s another rumor floating around that a bunch of moron groups are planning to come out here and conduct some studies about the homeless and life on the streets in an effort to improve things for them. College kids, mostly. If that sounds like a good idea to you, trust me: it isn’t. For one thing, these groups are in no position to improve anything. They pretty much just publish a lot of bleeding-hearted crap on their blogs and that’s the end of it. And then there’s the whole idea of “Gee, let’s all go down to hell on earth and fuck with the natives! Do you think they’ll bite?” Really? Uh, yeah! They’ll bite you! They’ll also beat, kick, stab, slash, pummel, stomp, and strangle you! And if you’re a woman and you look even remotely human, then they’ll probably rape you. Lieutenant Hagan told me about some of the other times when this has happened. He said it never ends well. And this time we expect it to be a lot worse. Not because of anything out there on the street. No, this time it’ll be worse because of us. You see, relations between the police and some segments of the community – not that you can call what we’ve got out here a community – are pretty tense. The whole thing with the slasher and Shiloh really soured things, and the media and the anti-police groups are still up in arms about the number of shootings we had because of it. Never mind that in none of them did we fire first, or did we shoot anyone who wasn’t armed with a gun. No, those poor, innocent homicidal dope dealers were just minding their own business; engaging in a little friendly target practice against the men and women in blue, and we had the nerve to shoot them! How dare we! How dare we defend ourselves! Hey, I’m not making that up. There were even a few assholes who came out of the woodwork and claimed we had no right to shoot the fucking slasher! You know, Grigori Sukhanov? The guy who viciously murdered eight people and shot four police officers to cover up Shiloh’s dope takeover? The Russian mob enforcer son of a bitch who tried to drive a fucking knife through my head? Yeah, according to them he was just a poor, misunderstood immigrant. A little tender compassion and he’d have given up right away. God, I hate these fucking idiots! They’re utterly clueless! But no matter what happens, they always make themselves heard. How much do you want to bet that none of them are the ones coming down here to study the zombies? I guess asking them to put their ass where their mouth is might be a little unreasonable. What a bunch of fucking morons!
And if all of that wasn’t bad enough, we’ve got a new Chief of Police. Everybody knew that Chief Staunton was under a lot of pressure to step down. Well, he hit forty years on the job and that made him eligible for a one hundred percent pension at his chief’s salary, so he pulled the pin. I always liked Staunton, but a lot of people on the department didn’t. So who did we get to replace him? Lewis J. Ellison – formerly Deputy Chief Ellison. He likes to be called Rocky. I think it’s a nickname he gave himself, and trust me, nobody but his bootlickers calls him that. That should tell you a lot about him. It’s led to a new nickname for him: Rocky the Flying Squirrel. The “squirrel” part is especially accurate. If they worked twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week for a year, they couldn’t have found a worse candidate for chief. Ellison is almost universally hated by everyone below the rank of captain, and by more than a few people above the rank of captain. He has been for years. He’s a total megalomaniac, and he seems to have a pathological hatred of anyone who doesn’t get down on his knees and worship him like he was God. The joke around here is, “What’s the difference between Chief Ellison and God? Answer: God doesn’t think he’s Chief Ellison.” It’s not an exaggeration. Less that forty-eight hours into his reign – we don’t call it an administration around here – he completely restructured the department. It was the single largest memo from the Office of the Chief of Police in the department’s history, so you know he’d been working on it for at least a year or two. You know how most organizational charts look like a pyramid? Ellison turned ours into an octopus. I shit you not: a fucking octopus! He’s at the center and everything else floats in a circle around him. The chief now has direct control over every single branch, bureau, and division in the police department. The result? Total gridlock! Absolutely nothing’s been getting done because he has to sign off on literally everything. He loves it, but everybody else hates it. It’s a real mess.
If that wasn’t enough to get almost everyone to despise the guy, he’s picked a few bootlickers for his “inner circle” and frozen out just about everyone else. Almost nobody has access to him anymore. Oh, and one of the bootlickers is my old pal Commander Hillel, who he promoted to Deputy Chief. If that doesn’t prove he belongs in the nut house, then nothing does. And to top it all off, he’s launched some kind of vendetta against the rank-and-file in the form of an avalanche of department-initiated personnel complaints. I’m talking about more than in any time in the department’s history. I’d say that about a quarter of the officers on patrol are currently under investigation for God only knows what. I’ve heard that almost a hundred officers are already relieved of duty, with more following every week. That’s not supposed to be possible because they can’t relieve you of duty until a complaint is investigated and sustained. To get around that, Ellison created something he calls “MAR.” That’s Modified Assignment Relieved.” Instead of being stuck on a desk somewhere until they finish the investigation and decide what to do with you, you’re assigned to your home and they lift your badge, gun, and ID. They used to do that only under the most extreme circumstances, but now it’s commonplace. He’s justified it by another one of his inventions: the “Special Authority of the Chief.” There’s no such thing, but he claims that there is and that it gives him the authority to do whatever the fuck he wants. He’s basically making up extraordinary powers that he doesn’t have, but nobody except the PBA is calling him on it. The effect of all of this has been a total disaster: some divisions are deploying watches with no sergeants in the field because they’re all in the station handling personnel complaints. And we’re not talking about complaints from citizens. Those are actually down. No, this is the department tearing itself apart from the inside. It’s completely out of control, and it’s getting so that a lot of cops are afraid to do any police work. And I mean any police work! Arrests are way down, response times are way down, and Chief Ellison has made it clear that he thinks any officer with more than one use-of-force incident per decade is a “problem officer.” That’s police jargon for “we want to get rid of your ass.” There’s a rumor going around that Ellison has a hit list of officers that he wants to fire, and he’s going out of his way to invent reasons to do it. He’s supposedly got his ’Special Investigative Team” of handpicked sycophants over at IAD, and word is they’re not exactly playing by the rules. No one over at the Chief’s Office will confirm the existence of the Special Investigative Team, but they’re not denying it, either. What I do know is that more officers have been ordered to disciplinary boards and fired since he took office than ever before, and there’s no sign of it stopping. He’s actually trying to purge the department, but nobody can figure out why. If you ask me, the guy really is insane.
So needless to say, morale is in the dumper and it’s getting worse by the day. I never would’ve thought that one man could wreck the entire department, but Ellison’s doing a pretty good job of it. He’s got friends on the City Council that want to help him remake the police department in his own image. They were never very supportive of us, but now a lot of them are up for reelection and they think that jumping on Ellison’s ’we need to clean house” bandwagon will appeal to the special interests that hate the police. They’re hoping that it’ll get them reelected. But even without them, Ellison’s destroying everything in sight. The guy honestly thinks that the only thing the department needs to do the job is to have him at the helm, and that it can’t possibly survive without him there. Uh-huh. Hitler thought the same thing about Germany, and we all know how that turned out. And no, it’s not an inappropriate comparison. Not by a long shot.
“Ready to get back out there, Harper?’
“Always. Where to?”
“Which mission got the latest batch of…what the hell are we supposed to even call these guys?”
“The wretched refuse?”
“No, that’s taken. Something else.”
“That’s kind of insulting to real refugees. They’re escaping a nightmare. These assholes are a nightmare. What else?”
“Well, they’re sort of guinea pigs in a social experiment. How about guinea pigs?”
“Not acceptable. I like guinea pigs. They’re cute. How about lab rats?”
“Yeah, that’ll work.”
OK, I know it’s cold and it’s definitely not politically correct. But hey, you should know by now that I’m not what you’d call politically correct. Far from it, in fact.
“All right, so which mission got the latest shipment of lab rats?”
“Christ the Redeemer. They got there at about eleven o’clock this morning. At least a dozen of them, from what I heard.”
I guess that’s fitting. I’ll bet no one short of Jesus could redeem these guys.
“Let’s go see how they’re doing.”
“Don’t you mean ‘what’ they’re doing?”
“I was giving them the benefit of the doubt.”
They could have a real problem over there. You see, the Redeemer isn’t exactly one of the biggest missions out here. It’s big, but not like the Shepherd or the Crown of Life or a couple of the other massive ones. They don’t have much space. All of the missions are already bursting at the seams, so it’s not like any of our new arrivals is going to get a bunk. That’s a recipe for disaster, so we’d better go see if there’s anything we can do about it.
There it is: The Mission Christ the Redeemer. We’ve been here before, as I’m sure you remember. It’s a little different from the other missions out here in that it’s situated on a really weird tract of land. It’s shaped funny, sort of like a broken triangle. Clearly, they didn’t intend for anyone to build a huge building on it. There’s only one alley beside it, and it’s a dead-end alley. It’s called the Slot, as you no doubt recall. We got a couple of Shiloh’s idiot gangbanger-turned-heroin dealers back there during the hell that was his attempted takeover. Anyway, the dead end is good for keeping the dope dealers out, but it’s also good for attracting a whole lot of drunks and assholes who want to get into a fight. They have more problems in that dead-end alley during Daywatch than they do at just about any other mission out here. It’s like skid row’s own little octagon for ultimate fighting, only these guys get to use whatever weapons they can find. How the hell people can do that shit when they can just look up and see a great big neon cross and the words “Jesus Saves” overhead is beyond me. Hey, assholes? That’s a hint! This is God’s house! He’s watching what you do! Don’t mix it up in his backyard, OK? But I don’t think anybody pays attention. Some of the bloodstains back there are so big that they still can’t wash them off of the pavement.
“Dani! Check it out!”
“I see it!”
Did I call it or what? I was right! They’ve got a big crowd out front, and they’re not happy about not getting a bunk! It’s past lockdown time. Nine o’clock. They’ve locked the doors for the night. Everyone who’s not already inside and assigned a bunk is shit out of luck. Every mission has some problems at lockdown, but with the introduction of the lab rats, it’s gotten a lot worse. These guys were probably told that the missions would house them for free until they found a place to stay, and then they got here and found out that wasn’t the case. You can guess what happened next.
“Harper, let’s try to get these guys to disperse before we go up there. I’m going to give them a shout over the P.A. and see if they’ll leave.”
“Roger that. I’ve got us code six here. Do you want another unit?”
“Are there any other units?”
“Let me take a look. Mister computer says…nope! Everyone’s tied up. We’re it.”
“Then we go with what we’ve got.”
I don’t really expect these guys to listen when I order them to leave. They never do. But you have to cover all of the bases before you do anything that could end up with some guy going to jail with a nightstick wrapped around his head.
“Attention everyone in front of the mission! This is the police! You are ordered to disperse! This is an unlawful assembly! The doors are locked! You’re not getting in! They don’t have any more room! Leave now, or you will be subject to arrest!”
That’s the usual line you have to give an unruly crowd before you go in and start tossing them out. And as you can see, it didn’t make a damned bit of difference. They know we’re here, but they don’t seem to be too impressed. Unfortunately, we’re on our own with this one. Now that the doors are locked, their security guys probably won’t come outside to help disperse the crowd. I don’t blame them. They’ve been getting a lot of shit for that in the press ever since these mass releases started. People are ragging on them for not magically finding room for all of the ex-convicts that are suddenly turning up at their doors, and they’re really going ape shit when the security guards have to get a little rough to maintain order. I can’t understand that. These people are doing more good down here than anyone, and they just don’t have any more to give. Of course they’ve got security! They need them! And sometimes the security guards have to use a little force to protect the place and the people inside. But if these high-minded study groups come down here to see what’s really happening, do you think for one minute that they’re going to report on that? Hell, no! They’re going to say they’re a bunch of brutal assholes. They say the same thing about us.
“Dani, they’re not leaving.”
“No? What a surprise. Come on, let’s move them back before they try to kick in the doors.”
Not that they could. Those doors are steel, and they’re as strong as hell. A lot of these missions are built like fortresses. This is one of them. You’d need twenty guys with a battering ram to knock those doors down. But that won’t stop them from breaking out the second floor windows or setting fire to the place. They’ve done it before.
“You know the drill, Harper. Stick close and we push them back away from the doors.”
“Got it. Sixteen Central, can we get an air unit over our location to help disperse a 415 crowd? We don’t want this getting out of hand.”
“Sixteen Central, roger. Any air unit, come up over Central frequency for a 415 crowd disturbance at the Christ the Redeemer mission.”
That should help. If they see an air unit overhead, then they’ll probably think a lot more units are on the way. In the meantime, we need to get in front of this crowd.
“Let’s go around to the right and get between them and the door. I don’t want to try to push our way through this crowd by ourselves.”
The crowd’s thinner over there. We should be able to get past them that way. At least nobody’s picked up a pipe or a two-by-four. Not yet, anyway. Some of these guys are clearly our recently-released lab rats. Their clothes are too clean, and so are they. Yeah, they probably thought they hit the jackpot when they got early release. But I’ll bet they never expected to end up out here. Be careful what you wish for, guys!
“Move it, people! Back away from the door! The mission’s closed! You’re not getting in! Just leave! Leave before you end up getting arrested!”
“Fuck you, bitch!”
“Fuck the police!”
“Fuck all y’all!”
It never fails! Whoever said you get more flies with honey than with vinegar never spent any time out here!
“All right, we tried. Let’s do it the hard way! Harper, push them back! Away from the doors! Back! All of you! Get back! Move it!”
“Hey, cop! They’re supposed to let us in!”
Totally clueless. Definitely a lab rat. This guy’s going to be trouble.
“They don’t have any room! That’s how it works out here! If you don’t have a bunk by the time they close, then you’re not getting in! Leave! Now! All of you!”
“Fuck you! I ain’t sleeping on no fucking street!”
“You’re not sleeping here! Not tonight! Leave or you’re going to be sleeping in jail!”
“Bullshit! They just let me out!”
“Do you want to go back? Get out of here while you still can!”
There’s the air unit! Thank God! This crowd’s getting way too ugly for my tastes!
“Harper! Tell them what we’ve got!”
“I’m on it! Air unit over the mission, this is Sixteen Central! We’ve got a pretty nasty crowd down here! No units available! Can you let them know they need to leave?”
“Sixteen Central, this is Air Three. Roger that. We’ll give them a dispersal order.”
Here’s hoping the air unit has more luck with that than we do. These guys are getting angrier by the minute. We could lose control of this in a hurry.
“Attention all persons in front of the mission! This is the police! This is an unlawful assembly! You are ordered to disperse! Failure to do so will result in your arrest! Leave now!”
At least it sounded better than when we did it. But they’re still not leaving. Fuck! I really don’t want to mix it up with these assholes!
“Sixteen Central, we need backup on a crowd disturbance at our location!”
There aren’t any units clear, but maybe that’ll get a few of them to drop whatever they’re doing and come give us a hand!
“Dani, look out! Oh, shit!”
Fuck! That fucking hurt! That asshole whacked me on the knee with a board! Oh, that’s it! You want a fight? You’ve got it, motherfucker!
“You son of a bitch!”
And now I crack him on the knee with my nightstick! And follow it up with a power jab right to his fucking gut! That’s right! And finish with a crack across his back! Yes! He’s down! The rest of them are backing up! Good! I can cuff this asshole!
“Dani, are you all right?”
“I’m good! He’s cuffed! We’ve got to get some space between us and them! Let’s gas these assholes!”
There’s no wind in here, so it won’t blow back in our faces. All right, here we go!
“Light them up, Harper! Gas them!”
And a face full of pepper gas for each of you! That’s right! Get the fuck back! Yeah, that hurts like a bitch, doesn’t it? It blinds you, too! Keep moving!
“Cease fire! Harper, cease fire! The crowd’s breaking up!”
“Have you got that guy?”
“Roger that! He’s going with us! ADW on a police officer!”
He’s going right back to jail! Stupid motherfucker! Fuck! He nailed me pretty good! It hurts like a bitch!
“Dani, we’ve got a unit coming in!”
“That’s one more than I expected! Watch your flank! These guys might start throwing shit!”
They don’t seem to be too impressed with the air unit anymore. I think they’re too riled up. They’re probably going to go looking for some water to wash the tear gas out of their eyes. Good luck with that around here!
“Lynott! Harper! Are you guys OK?”
Sergeant Hendrickson. I guess everyone else was stuck with something they couldn’t just drop. Thank God our sergeants still work for a living.
“Dani took a hit to the knee, Sarge. I’m good. This guy’s not.”
“Is that the suspect?”
“Roger that. We had to gas the crowd. Dani got hit and there weren’t any backup units available.”
“I know. These goddamned ex-cons are causing problems all over the sector. They’re already talking about holding Nightwatch over for a few hours.”
“Three hours before they go end of watch and they’re already making that call?”
“What can I tell you? That’s how bad it is out there tonight. Harper, get this guy back to your car. Are you in one piece, Lynott?”
“Yes, sir. He cracked me on the knee. It hurts, but not too bad.”
“Can you walk?”
That’s a strange question, seeing as I’m still standing up.
“Of course. I’m fine, Sarge.”
“Where’s the mission security?”
“Inside. They’ve probably got their hands full. These guys have been causing problems inside the missions, too.”
“We need more people out here. They’re dumping too many of these assholes in our division. How the hell do they expect us to keep the peace around here?”
“I’m not sure they do, Sarge. That’s probably why they’re dumping them on us. What do they care what happens out here?”
“You’re right. They don’t. Come on, let’s get out of here. Are you sure you can walk?”
“Too bad. I was looking forward to sending you a get-well card.”
Yeah, I should’ve seen that coming. When Sergeant Hendrickson got shot over at the St. George, he sent us all a message that he didn’t want any goddamned get-well cards, to use his words. So naturally, I went out and got the biggest, pinkest, girliest-looking get-well card I could find and had the entire watch sign it. We’re talking something you’d get a five year-old girl who’s at the height of her fairy princess obsession phase: unicorns and ponies and about ten pounds of sparkles and glitter. I heard he hit the roof when he saw it, but his wife laughed for about two hours, non-stop. She’s got it framed and hanging on the wall in their house. He says it’s torture to look at it, but I’ll bet he secretly loves it. Hey, what Sergeant of Police and former Marine doesn’t love pink ponies and unicorns?
“As long as it’s a Red Sox card, Sarge.”
“After this season? I think they’re the ones who need a get-well card.”
I’d bite his head off for that if it weren’t for the fact that he’s right: this wasn’t exactly our season. It was like our entire bullpen forgot how to pitch. How hard is it to throw strikes?
“There’s always next year, Sarge.”
“I think the Yankees are going to take it next year.”
Oh, now I have to kill him! You do not mention that pinstriped horde in my presence, unless it’s to denigrate them without mercy!
“I still have some pepper gas left, you know.”
“Move it, Lynott! Or should I say Mrs. Harper? Whichever you are, get back to the station!”
Yeah, it’s been a little confusing for some of the people here since Harper and I got married. Around here, I’m still Dani Lynott. But my driver’s license and everything else says Dani Harper. I’m still getting used to it, too. We figured that it would be easier for everyone at the division if I just stuck with Lynott for a while. Besides, with the two of us in the same car, “Harper and Harper” sounds like a law firm or some bad sitcom. We get enough jokes about it as it is. No need to add fuel to the fire, right?
Back at the station. Two felony arrests and two use-of-force incidents in the first few hours of the shift. God, what could possibly go wrong now? Lately, they’ve been going nuts about shit like that. I’m talking about Chief Ellison’s campaign against officers using any force because it looks bad, or so he says. But ever since they dumped the lab rats on us, it’s par for the course. It’s also made the job a hell of a lot more dangerous, and I didn’t think that was even possible. We’ve had officers getting attacked left and right since Ellison went on his crusade. Some of them have been hurt. Word got out that cops will get in trouble if they use force, so the assholes are all looking for a fight. Not only that, but everybody thinks that they can do whatever the hell they want out here because if they get arrested, they’ll just be released in a few hours because of the judge’s order. And the sad thing is, they’re probably right.
“Lynott, I need to see you in the Watch Commander’s office.”
Sergeant Hendrickson’s calling me into the office? Maybe I spoke too soon? Lieutenant Hagan’s not in there, so it’s just us. I’m hoping this isn’t bad news. There’s too much of that going on around here lately.
“What do you need, Sarge?”
“I’m just checking up on you. How’s the knee?”
“It’s fine, Sarge. Just like I told you.”
“I know. But I wanted to talk to you about it. Lynott, it’s not lost on me that you’ve taken a hell of a pounding in the year and a half that you’ve been here. In fact, that’s putting it mildly. The captain was going over the division’s injury reports the other day, and you’re head and shoulders above everyone else. You’ve got a stack of injury reports about an inch thick. It’s cause for concern.”
“I appreciate that, Sarge. But I’m fine. Really.”
“Well, I’m just asking. I know you. You’re the kind of cop who wouldn’t say anything even if she wasn’t fine.”
“Sarge, you’re not thinking of pulling me from the field over this, are you?”
“No. No, I’m not. But I am concerned. You’re always front and center when the shit hits the fan, and I appreciate that. We all do. In this sector, we need good leaders and they’re not easy to find; especially these days. That means we can’t afford to lose the ones we’ve got. I just need you to start looking out for yourself a little more. I don’t want you to find yourself in a situation where you’ve taken so many hits that maybe you don’t heal for a long time. And I have to tell you, I think that’s where you’re headed. So I want you to just…I don’t know, try not to get banged up so much. Can you do that?”
“I’ll try, Sarge. But it’s really up to the assholes out there.”
“Yeah, I know. And it’s getting worse. Cristofino and Powley are both going to be out for a few days at least thanks to that dust-up over on Palomar. Cristofino’s got a dislocated shoulder. Powley’s got nine stitches and a pretty severe concussion. One of these assholes whacked him over the head with a goddamned cinder block! Christ, I’d like to beat the shit out of that fucking judge!”
“Harper’s dad says the guy’s shooting for higher office. He wants a spot on the federal appeals court or something like that.”
“Yeah? Well, he’s fucking with our division to get it! He’s endangered the lives of my officers!”
“Sarge, how much longer is this going to go on? We’ve almost hit the breaking point.”
“Who told you that?”
“Reverend Howell, over at the Shepherd Mission. Harper and I were talking to him last night. He says the support system out here might actually break down. They’ve got fights in the missions, people freaking out. These guys are causing all kinds of trouble and they can’t handle it.”
“The good Reverend is right: we can’t take much more of this. The captain said the city’s looking into finding somewhere else to start sending these guys, but they’re not having any success.”
Translation: no one in their right mind wants a bunch of ex-cons dumped in the middle of their neighborhood. That’s the NIMBY of all NIMBYs. As far as they’re concerned, that’s what skid row is for.
“Sarge, how many more before the state meets the judge’s requirements?”
“Who knows? He’s already said it’s working beautifully, so let’s just release a whole lot more. This is going to get a lot worse before it gets any better.”
“Most of these convicts don’t have anywhere to go. No one’s coming to get them. If they stay here for more than a few weeks…”
“Then they’ll probably never leave. Yeah, the captain’s aware of that, too. But so far, nobody wants to listen to him. He’s not getting anywhere with anyone. Our new chief won’t even take his calls. I think he’s reached the breaking point, too.”
“Find out what he drinks, sir. Harper and I will buy him a bottle. I think he’s going to need it.”
“That sounds like a good idea. In the meantime, I want you to think about what I said. I’m not trying to hover over you, and it’s not because you’re a woman. I just know what you’ve been through, and I guess getting a hole blown through my chest makes me think about these things more.”
“Are you still getting pain? Harper had it for a long time after he got back on his feet.”
“Yeah, some. Mostly numbness. I think I’ve lost a little range of motion in my arm. The doctor said it could last for up to a year.”
That’s what the doctor told Harper when he got shot. I hate it when cops on TV bounce back from a gunshot wound in a week. It makes people think that’s how it really works. Believe me, it isn’t. I took two hits in the back of the vest and it took almost a month just for the bruises to go away. Imagine how much worse it is when the bullet actually goes through you.
“Are you still going to physical therapy, sir?”
“Twice a week. I hate it. I think I can do better on my own.”
“That’s what Harper said until he overdid it in the gym. Listen to your therapist. Those people know what they’re doing.”
“I just wish he’d speed things up a little. I hate not feeling like I’m a hundred percent.”
“You’ll get there, Sarge. Just give it time.”
“I don’t have a lot of time left, Lynott. I’ve been on the job for a lot longer than you. I don’t have twenty years ahead of me. I need to get back to my old self now, not later.”
“You will. And I’ll think about what you said. I’ll try to stay out of trouble, Sarge.”
“No, you won’t. It’s genetically impossible for you to stay out of trouble. Just try not to get hit anymore, OK?”
“It’s a deal.”
I know he means well. He nearly got killed in that shootout. He’s been a lot more protective of us ever since then, and that’s understandable. And as for me not getting beaten up? Hey, I think it’s sound advice. I just hope the assholes out there will oblige me.