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Tactical Alert

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The Emerald City is in flames and the police are nowhere to be found. Dani Lynott and the officers of Central Midwatch find themselves in the eye of the firestorm in the worst riot in their city's history. Outnumbered, outgunned, and out of their element, the police face overwhelming odds with no support and no leadership. It's fifteen against an entire city, with the stress and strain taking its toll every minute. How long can the officers of Central Midwatch survive all-out warfare? Who will be alive at the end? And what will the horrors of a total breakdown of society do to the officers who swore to protect and serve the city? Dani Lynott faces the greatest challenge of her life - one that may even bring it to an end. The sixth and final chapter in the Midwatch series.

Action / Drama
Haley Donohue
5.0 9 reviews
Age Rating:

"Storm Clouds are Forming"

Police Headquarters. Downtown. The voice of the people! Yeah, it’s not their voices that bother me. It’s the rocks and bottles that they throw at us! What a bunch of assholes! If they want to protest? Fine! Let them! That’s their right. But throwing shit at us? Swinging a damned two-by-four and trying to bash our brains in? Not even, pal! We’re on the skirmish line in our riot helmets and this so-called “demonstration” is about to go to complete shit! We’ve been here for about thirty minutes and right now, we’re just waiting for the order to advance and disperse the crowd. This craziness has been going on for about two hours and Central Midwatch just got here to supplement the Nightwatch officers who’ve been here since they came down from roll call. Now that we’ve got enough troops, the sergeants have decided to put an end to this fracas before somebody ends up getting shot. With the way this thing has developed, that’s a very real possibility.

It looks like Sergeant Hendrickson is going to be the one leading us in. That’s fine with me. When the shit hits the fan, I’d always prefer to have a Midwatch sergeant calling the shots.

“Detail! Stand ready! Prepare to move out!”

Here we go! The last two times we did this – twice this week – they scattered pretty quickly. But these demonstrations have been getting more violent each time, so it’s probably going to reach a point where they won’t back down. Then it’s going to be a free-for-all and that’s exactly what we want to avoid.

“Detail! Drag step! Forward…march!

And off we go! In case you’ve forgotten, the drag step is a way of marching that’s supposed to intimidate the opposition. It sort of makes the skirmish line look more aggressive. Aggressive my ass! These guys don’t appear to be giving way! Shit! Another fifty feet and we’ll be right on top of them! And that’s if they don’t decide to rush us! Time to draw on my hubby’s tactical expertise. Fortunately, Harper’s standing right next to me.

“Harper, where’s the weak spot?”

“Ten o’clock! The line’s thinnest there! We can split them and drive the bulk of them northbound up the street!”

I see it. The crowd isn’t nearly as deep at that spot. That’s our best bet to break their line. Just give a few specific hand signals to Sergeant Hendrickson to clue him in and…yes! He sees me! He’s nodding his head. He agrees!

“Detail! Three and four, spearhead left! On contact! Forward!”

Translation: our line is supposed to form a point at the third and fourth officers on the left and when we make contact, they drive forward and give us our wedge. I really hope this works! Ten feet to go! Shit! They should’ve given us riot shields! These assholes are throwing everything they can get their hands on! Just bat away anything close with my nightstick and keep moving! All right…now! Contact! And they’re not leaving! Fuck! Now it’s a fight! Jab and block! Don’t let them grab my nightstick! Go for the gut! You! In the red shirt! Don’t do it, asshole! He’s reaching for me! Hit him! Hard! Down you go! Jab to the gut and strike the collarbone! Got him! Yeah, that hurts, doesn’t it? That’s right! Run, you little piece of shit! And here comes your friend! Jesus, what’s with all the red shirts? Fucking punk kids from the valley who think they’re big-time anarchists! You’re next! Jesus, he tried to punch me? Stupid move, asswipe! You need to go back to anarchist school and learn how to fight! Stick time! Jab him right in the breastbone! Now hit him in the gut! And a full-power crack to the knee to finish your ass off! Down you go! Yeah, scurry away! Go back to the fucking suburbs where you belong!

“Harper! Sit rep! How’re you doing?”

“Five by five! Dani! On your right!”

And now we’ve got another idiot trying to bash my head in with a stick! Jesus, look at this punk! He’s got to be a college kid! Fucking human stick insect! I could mop the floor with him even without a nightstick! But since I’ve got one…

“Drop it or you’re going to get hurt!”

Fuck you!”

And we’re going with option number two! Since his elbow is sticking out like that, I’m going to crack him right there! Got you! You’re out, motherfucker! Oh, Christ! He’s actually crying! Get the fuck out of my face, asswipe! Jab to the gut! Got you again! Run! Run, you little weasel! Go home to your mommy! Who’s next? Black jacket! Throwing rocks at us! You’re next, pal! Yeah, see the lady cop who’s coming to whack the living shit out of you! He’s not even going to try to fight! He’s hauling ass just as fast as he can! That’s it! Run! Fucking pussy! Get your ass the hell out of here before you get hurt!

The spearhead’s working! They’re splitting the crowd in two! Get a good wedge in between the two sections and we can scatter the south group and concentrate our efforts on pushing the north group up the street!

“Dani! On your three o’clock! Red shirt, black pants and backpack! Suspect with a tear gas can! Watch your eyes!”

I see him! I’ve got my face shield down so he’s not going to spray me unless he reaches underneath it! I see he’s sprayed a few of our officers already, though! All right, asshole! For that, you get to spend the night in jail!

“Signolo! Goren! Kursteff! Vinell! Arrest team! Red shirt, black pants and a backpack at three o’clock! Armed with pepper spray! Grab his ass! We’ve got your backs! Ruiz! Rosen! With us! Cover the arrest team!”

There they go! And as usual, Signolo’s already on top of him! God, he’s fucking fast! Nice shot, Signolo! Knock that fucking can right out of his hand! They’ve got him! He’s down! And now your little punk ass is getting handcuffed! Yeah, what’s the matter? You thought we’d just let you go? Not for that shit, fuckface! Your ass is definitely under arrest! Now we just have to give our guys cover while they drag his ass out and back behind the skirmish line! Hit them! Anyone who gets near them! Don’t let them grab that asshole and get away with him! Again! Hit them again! Again! Again! Yes! They’re starting to break and run! And now I see why: the other units have arrest teams in the crowd! Yeah, they’ve got at least eight of these assholes in custody! Have fun in County Jail, motherfuckers! A bunch of fucking suck-butt punks from the ’burbs? The hardcore convicts in there are going to just love you!

“Sarge! They’re starting to scatter!”

“Roger that, Lynott! Hold the line and cover the arrest teams! Detail! Ten through fifteen! Push that crowd north and around the corner! Drive them back!”

I guess that makes us the anchor! We have to hold our position here and let the rest of the detail pivot to the left and toss these assholes back and around the corner! All right, let’s do it! Don’t let anyone get through us or behind us!

“Acevedo! Garcia! We’re the anchor point! No one gets past this spot! Crack the shit out of anyone who tries! Ruiz! That bunch over there! Gas their asses! They’re downwind of us!”

Since it won’t blow back in our faces, we can use our pepper gas on them! Hey, why the fuck not? They’ve been spraying us at these dust-ups for a fucking week already! What goes around, comes around! Spray them! Right in the face! Yes! Got you, assholes! Yeah, it’s not a lot of fun when you’re the ones on the receiving end, is it?

Time to ask the air unit for the high ground perspective. They’ve been circling overhead since we got here and they’ve got the best view of the situation.

“Sixteen Central to Air Two over Police Headquarters, the crowd is dispersing. What’s the situation northeast of us? Are they regrouping or are they scattering?”

“Air Two, we’ve got a lot of people streaming around the corner and headed west on North Capitol Street. They don’t seem to be trying to regroup. A lot of them look like they’re licking their wounds. I don’t think they’ll be coming back, but we’ll keep you apprised. Be advised, you’ve got about six units coming in from the north, code three. It looks like you’ve got your reinforcements now.”

Finally! They must be coming from Northside Division. That’s about the only place where we can get any additional troops right now. Hey, I don’t care where they come from as long as they get here and get in the shit with the rest of us!

“Sixteen Central, roger that. Thanks for the assist. Stick around until we know they’re done for the evening.”

“Will do, Sixteen. This is getting to be a regular thing around here.”

“Yeah, don’t I know it? Thanks again, guys.”

All right, time to find out if we took any casualties. I don’t give a flying fuck about the assholes. They can all run out in the street and get hit by cars for all I care, but I want to make sure our guys are all in one piece.

“Everybody! Status report! Is everybody accounted for? Is everybody in one piece?”

I’m seeing a lot of officers nodding and giving a thumbs-up sign. Thank God! No more fucking injured cops, please! We’ve had enough of that shit already! We’ve been losing about two officers per demonstration on average since this shit started! No more! The department’s brass has to pull its collective head out of its ass and get this shit under control! This has gone on long enough! They need to do something fast!

“Sarge! It looks like everybody is accounted for and unhurt! We’ve got six more units coming in balls to the wall from the north!”

“Roger that, Lynott. I heard the broadcast. I told the units responding to discontinue the code three response. I don’t want any wrecks if we can avoid it. That crowd already trashed one sector car. Don’t ask me how many that makes since this shit hit the fan.”

Judging from what I saw in the station garage when Harper and I came in to work today, it’s at least four. And that’s just in this division. God only knows how many they’ve lost in Woodlawn Division. That’s the real eye of the storm.

“How many arrestees do we have?”

“Eight, plus the ones who got arrested earlier. I want you guys to get them inside and get them booked right away: riot, ADW on a police officer, battery on a police officer, criminal trespassing, anything you can think of. Charge them with the whole laundry list. They earned it.”

“Yeah, but will our suck-butt DA file charges on them?”

And he looks at me with that “Are you fucking kidding me?” look. Yeah, I know. Our current District Attorney is a total piece of shit. Reuben Alioto. He’s an idiotic wokie who likes to think of himself as a social justice warrior and no, I’m not making that up. He’s said it himself many times. His sympathies lie totally with the assholes. Even before this shit started, he’s been declining to file charges on all kinds of shit; even serious crimes. We’ve got people who were charged with armed robbery and assault who walked out of jail free as a bird because of that worthless piece of shit. How the hell he ever got elected is beyond me. The people who voted for him seem determined to drive the Emerald City right into the ground. How else can you explain it?

“Roger that, Sarge. Harper! Round up our people and let’s get these asswipes into the lockup! Everybody goes! Let them spend the night in jail and think about their actions!”

Until Alioto lets them all go in the morning, anyway.

“Roger that, Dani! Acevedo! Garcia! Rosen! Ruiz! Time to escort our guests to their new accommodations!”

I’d like to escort them right into a trash compactor! Fucking assholes! I don’t have a bit of respect for any of them! They’re just a bunch of idiot opportunists who think it’s cool to mix it up with the police. At least, they think that way until they get their asses kicked and end up in jail. We’ve been seeing a lot of that lately. This bunch? Definitely more of the same. What is it with these fucking wokie snowflakes? If they really feel so strongly about this shit, then why aren’t they down in Woodlawn or Lafayette or Avalon Divisions and joining the protests there? Because they’d shit their pants if they got anywhere near those places! These shitheads are what you’d call
“Designer Activists.” They do this shit because they think it’s trendy and they’ll only go to a protest if it’s a trendy protest. The people who’ve been screaming and yelling in the south end divisions are the people who live there; blacks and Hispanics who are used to being up in arms about something or other. But these assholes? They’re mostly a bunch of dropouts and college whiners from the suburbs. Utterly worthless! I’m not being harsh; I’m being honest. There’s no other way to describe them if you’re honest. They’re just totally, utterly worthless people! And we have to clean up the mess they make. Some things never change.

Here’s a case in point: the little shithead that was spraying our officers with pepper spray. Watch this: it’ll be an eye-opener for you.

“Get up! You’re under arrest for battery on a police officer, rioting, and failure to disperse! Plus whatever other charges they can come up with! On your feet!”

“You hit me! You can’t do that! I’m going to sue your ass! I’ll have your badge!”

See what I mean?

“How about I stick it up your ass? If you can shit it out without tearing your ass apart, you can have it.”

“This is bullshit! I didn’t do nothing!

“Uh-huh. You can explain that to the jury at your trial. In the meantime? You’re going to the lockup! We’ll see how you relate to the assholes in County! Let’s go!”

And now he’s ready to shit himself! I told you: totally, utterly worthless!

“You can’t take me to jail! Come on, lady! I can’t go to jail! My dad will kill me!”

“Your father sounds like my kind of guy. Get moving! The jail is right back that way.”

“Lady, come on! You can’t put me in there! I ain’t never been to jail!”

“Sure we can. You’re a criminal. That’s where we put criminals. In fact, seeing as how most of you are wearing red, how about we take you straight to County Jail and put your ass in the gang module with the Piru Bloods? That’s their color, you know. You’ll fit right in.”

Except for the part about being a shithead spoiled white kid from the fucking suburbs who doesn’t have their permission to wear anything red. The gangsters get pretty upset about things like that. I used to work the Gang Unit as you already know, so I know about these things. Trust me: they can get pretty ugly.

“Hey, that shit ain’t funny! You can’t put me in there!”

“No, but the sheriffs can. They run County Jail. They’re also not what you’d call the most progressive people in the world, if you know what I mean.”

Hey, you try dealing with the jails every day for years and see how progressive you are when it’s over. It’s a wonder the sheriff’s deputies don’t go completely bat shit crazy from that crap.

“Lady, come on! I’m sorry, OK? Look, just call my mom! Let me call her! Come on, don’t put me in there! Please!

I should just kill him right here and do the world a favor. Believe me, no one would miss this little asshole!

“Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time, kid. Welcome to the real world. Now you’re going to a real jail.”

“I can’t go to jail! Come on, I could lose my scholarship! I’m going to law school when I graduate! I can’t be a lawyer if I’ve got a record! You can let me go! Just give me a break! I didn’t mean it! I swear! I’m sorry, OK? Come on, don’t put me in jail! I can’t go to jail!”

What a little suck-butt! My God, is this what this city has come to? Like I said: totally, utterly, disgustingly fucking worthless! And someday, he’ll probably be the fucking mayor or a senator or something. Yep! It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel like strangling somebody!

Central Station. Back in the Detectives’ Room. Harper’s finishing up the report and I just finished booking the evidence, so I actually get a chance to sit down for a minute. That’s about the first time since roll call. Today’s been a very busy day for us. I also get to reflect on the fact that we just survived yet another demonstration. Jesus, how many of them does that make since I got to Central? I don’t even know. It seems like there’s always somebody getting all worked up over something around here. Of course, this is a lot worse than most in that regard. Most of the demonstrations around here are confined to the division and are spur of the moment kind of things. This one is different. Very different. And it’s only the beginning. In fact, that’s exactly what I’m afraid of. I’m not alone in that fear, either. The general consensus among our patrol officers is that the Emerald City is one giant green powder keg right now and it’s only a matter of time before someone strikes a match and sets it off.

Since I’m just sitting here and drinking yet another cup of stale coffee, I guess this is a good time to catch up. A lot has happened since you last saw me, so we’ve got a lot to cover. I guess I should start with what just happened. We’ve been having these demonstrations for over a week now and they’re getting more and more violent. What set off the peaceful munchkins of the Emerald City this time, you ask? Oh, the usual: they hate the police. You see, we had what a lot of people are calling a controversial officer-involved shooting in Metro South Woodlawn Division. Gee, how familiar, right? Well, this one wasn’t anything like the infamous Reid shooting that pretty much torpedoed my career even though I didn’t even shoot the guy. No, this was actually a pretty straightforward shooting that for some reason, the usual gang of idiots has turned into a major conspiracy by the police to systematically murder all people of color everywhere on earth. No. I’m not exaggerating. Just ask that little wimp I was talking to earlier – assuming the inmates in the jail haven’t already killed him because they can’t stand his whiny little ass. So what happened? Well, a patrol unit down in Woodlawn got a call about a 415 man causing a disturbance. That happens about twenty or thirty times a day in that division. So when they arrived at the scene, the two officers were confronted by a major 415 asshole who stood at least six-foot-four and was brandishing a knife. I’m not talking about a Boy Scout knife, mind you. This thing was a survival knife that had about nine inches of blade on it, according to what I was told. So the two officers drew down on the guy and told him to drop it. Mister asshole refused and started marching toward the officers, threatening them all the way. The report said they guy’s brain was on Pluto or something. He was clearly out to lunch. So they backed up about as far as anyone could’ve gone; all the while pleading with him to drop the knife. One of them Tased the guy, but it seemed to have no effect. He just kept on coming at them and he kept shouting that he was going to kill them and that they’d better kill him first. I think you can guess what happened next: eleven shots fired, one dead asshole with a knife, and a massive uproar from the morons who claimed that the guy didn’t do anything and that the police just murdered him in cold blood because he was black. Typical, huh?

Well, for some reason, the idiot fringe really latched onto this one. Everything I’ve seen or heard about it says it was a straightforward case and that the officers were justified in using deadly force. It just didn’t have anything out of the ordinary about it. But a couple of things have made the public response to this one far worse than it should be. For starters, both officers were wearing body cameras, but the department hasn’t released the videos yet. Not even a few seconds’ worth of them. That’s against the standing policy set by the last chief. Not only that, but there’s been no statement from the department as to why the videos haven’t been released or even when they will be. Naturally, people are upset about that. So are a lot of police officers. We think they should’ve just put the thing out there right away; particularly if it shows what the involved officers said actually happened. But so far? Nothing. Not even a word. There’s a rumor floating around that for some reason the body cameras failed and there’s no video at all. If that’s true, then let the conspiracy theories begin! Two body cameras failing at once? That’s almost impossible, or so say the people who made them and sold them to the department. Then there were the cryptic statements that some high-ranking officials on the department made about it. I’ll spare you the incredibly tortured language that they used, but suffice it to say, it sounded almost like they were saying that there was a serious problem with the shooting. If that’s the case, then why didn’t they say so in the first place? Well, the department’s brass has steadfastly refused to clarify any of their earlier statements, so everybody is left to wonder what the hell they meant. That’s definitely not a good thing.

Then there was the fact that some unidentified “whistleblower” leaked a document from the Coroner’s Office that said the guy had been shot in the back and there was no mention of him holding a knife. The report said the guy was holding a cellphone. Naturally, that one sent shockwaves through the city. I mean, I heard they recovered the knife at the scene. So did everyone who bothered to read a newspaper or watch the evening news. But even then, the department refused to take any position on the story. What the fuck? That one could’ve been cleared up in a flash! Why didn’t they issue a statement? God only knows. People started screaming about an official cover-up and demanded that the officers be charged with murder. Our aforementioned asshole DA didn’t help matters by getting up in front of the TV cameras and claiming that he was going to get to the bottom of this criminal conspiracy by the murderous police department and that the officers who fired their weapons would be prosecuted and thrown in prison. Understand: all of this was before the coroner had even completed his report. It’s still not complete! Nobody knows why, but it’s still not complete. All they said was that the autopsy is finished. What’s the big hold-up? And the Coroner’s Office wouldn’t confirm or deny that the leaked document came from their office or if it had anything to do with the case. It sure as hell stirred up a hornet’s nest, though! And the rank and file is completely in the dark. We aren’t getting jack shit except for what we saw on the news or read in the papers, and it was always pretty terrible stuff. People throughout the city were getting angry, and I mean very angry! And the department wasn’t doing a damned thing about it! They still aren’t! I ask you again: what the fuck?

Our idiot DA has been screaming for the coroner and the department to finish their investigations so that he can indict the officers on murder charges. Yeah, you heard me right: he wants to indict them before he’s even got a shred of evidence of any wrongdoing! What a piece of shit! So between him and the talking heads on TV ginning up every activist and idiot in the city; people are seriously on edge. I’ve seen it when it gets bad – you know all too well that I have – but I’ve never seen it this bad. And a lot of people are saying that if the officers aren’t indicted, there’s going to be a full-blown riot. Not just something in Woodlawn Division, but a full-blown, old-fashioned 1960s type of riot. And make no mistake: everyone on Midwatch believes it too. This shit is serious and the powers that be aren’t doing jack to prevent it. The whole thing is surreal. It’s like the brass is living in a dreamland. They’re oblivious to it all – or at least, they seem to be. No one can understand it, and that’s pretty scary if you ask me.

So why is our leadership so oblivious to what’s going on? Probably because we don’t have any leadership. You see, we’ve gone through some major changes since the summer of the great Asian Gang War, which is where you last followed my exploits. Chief Delano, who was brought in as an interim chief until they could find a permanent replacement for old Rocky the Flying Squirrel, is gone. He went back to Texas or some such place and he’s in the private sector now, which totally sucks for us. He was a damned good chief. They should’ve offered him practically anything to stay on permanently – especially after what we went through with that fucking asshole Ellison! That son of a bitch practically destroyed this department and Chief Delano did one hell of a job restoring the morale of the rank-and-file. Anyway, the first guy they got to take the job was an outside candidate from God-only-knows-where who bailed on the city at the last minute. They’d already put his name on the Chief’s Office door and bam! He announced he’d changed his mind. I guess he got cold feet and decided not to come here, but it meant that the City Council and the Police Commission had to scramble to find another chief. You see, they were determined to bring in an outside candidate. After the debacle with Chief Ellison, they didn’t want to take a chance on another insider candidate – not that there were too many left to choose from. Between Ellison’s reign of terror and the fact that none of the top contenders were even in the running for the top spot, a lot of our highest-ranking people have pulled the pin already. They either took jobs as the chief of some other department somewhere or else they’re sitting on their asses and enjoying their retirements. So after a mad dash to find a replacement and several refusals, they settled on some guy from a city in Ohio. Dayton or some such place; I’m not really sure. Well, it was all smiles until about a week before he was supposed to assume his position, and then it exploded in everyone’s face. It seems he’d made some…shall we say…off-color remarks in some of his official emails that really set a lot of people’s hair on fire. I’m not saying the guy was some kind of a Klansman, but he definitely used some words that don’t go over well in this day and age. Needless to say, he was out of the running before you could say “politically correct.” Back to square one!

So after another round of screaming fits, they finally settled on some guy who’d been a deputy chief in East Jesus, Illinois somewhere. Not Chicago or anything like that. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a major city. Anyway, he became our new Chief of Police: Calvin Leland Mooney. And yes, he’s every bit as bland as his name sounds. When he got the job, Harper and I were determined to give him a fair chance and we did. I wish I could say that our patience was rewarded. They guy hasn’t done anything wrong, but he hasn’t done anything right, either. In fact, he hasn’t done anything at all! I’m being totally serious! He hasn’t done a goddamned thing! Nothing! My dad had a term for men like him: an empty suit. Yeah, that’s Chief Mooney, all right! It’s as if he’s not even there! He makes no public announcements and his press conferences generally consist of “yes” and “no” answers to whatever questions he’s asked. They tend to last about five minutes, too. The stations are receiving absolutely no guidance from him or his office. It’s like the Office of the Chief of Police has mysteriously disappeared. When he assumed command, he issued a boilerplate statement about how happy he was to be our new chief and then he disappeared into his office. Some people say he hasn’t been seen since. Goren said that on the few times that Mooney has appeared on TV, he was actually a CGI-style hologram. At this point? I wouldn’t dismiss the possibility. We’ve got what seems like a total vacuum at the top, and right now is the time when we can least afford it. His unwillingness to do anything is making this situation a lot worse and a lot more dangerous. If he doesn’t start exercising some command in a hurry? He could end up provoking the riot we’re all hoping to avoid.

So that’s the overall situation right now: on edge, uncertain, and definitely going south in a hurry. But enough about yet another impending apocalypse. What about us? Well, the mighty Central Midwatch is back and healthy after that God-awful shootout with the Ghost Dragons at the outdoor shooting range. Our wounds have healed, we got a special commendation from Chief Delano, the Fentanyl supply in the city was cut down to almost nothing, and the overdoses dropped down to normal levels. We caught some massive administrative flak for getting involved in another major shootout, but the fact that Northside officers were right there with us and SWAT took the worst of it when they raided the Ghost Dragons’ gun shop and shot it out with the gangbangers made it a lot easier for the department to swallow. The usual pencil-pushers screamed about us having too many shootings and how it didn’t matter that they were all adjudicated as reasonable, necessary, and in-policy; but it died down pretty quickly. We were all benched for about four weeks, but that went away without much fanfare. Frankly, we all needed the rest! We were assigned to our homes or to special details that usually consisted of training days, so none of us were complaining. I have my own thoughts about why the idiot fringe didn’t get all up in arms about it, but I think I’ll sit on them for now. They’re not exactly politically correct, even though they’re almost certainly right on the money. Hey, you know what I’m like! “Political Correctness” does not apply to this girl! Not in this or any universe known to man or God! And I happen to like it that way!

On to more personal things. Since I’m out in the field and duking it out with a bunch of protesters, I think you’ve already figured out that I’m not pregnant anymore. No, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl last year: Emily Anne Harper. That’s what we named her. Anne is Harper’s mother’s name, and we have a tradition in the Lynott family of never naming babies after anyone in the family who’s still alive. Don’t ask me why; we just do. That’s why my mom’s name was out of the running and there was no way in hell that I was going to name her Danielle Junior! I couldn’t do that to any kid, let alone my own kid. Anyway, she’s happy and healthy and she weighed eight pounds, four ounces. Yeah! That’s what happens when your husband is a huge Marine and your husband’s dad is the size of Bigfoot! I thought the delivery was going to kill me! I was in labor for nine and a half hours! I was ready to give up and die! It was sheer, unadulterated hell! And that was with the painkillers! Good God! I knew that childbirth was painful, but I had no idea just how painful it could be! God was punishing me for something! I just don’t know what it was. It must’ve been something serious, though. That much pain was definitely biblical in origin!

So what’s my take on pregnancy and childbirth? Two words: never again! The actual birth was pure hell, but then so was the pregnancy. Oh, my God! It was beyond horrible! I don’t even know where to start! I gained a ton of weight. In fact, I gained so much weight that for a while, I was sure I was having twins! Then there’s the stuff they never cover in classes like the fact that the baby pushes all of your organs out of the way to make room for her to stretch out. Oh, you think I’m kidding? You try growing an eight and a half pound porker in your gut and see if your kidneys and intestines don’t get pushed halfway into your ass! Everything in my body got thrown into total disarray: I couldn’t digest food properly. I thought I was going to be perched permanently on the toilet because I was pissing my brains out constantly. I had the weirdest pains in the weirdest places. My feet swelled up to the point where I had real trouble walking, and my back? Oh, my God! My back! I thought I’d never recover! My back got twisted into a question mark! It was beyond horrible! It actually got to the point where I had to sleep sitting up half the time! And the muscle spasms in my back? Don’t even ask! Never, never, never ever again!

Don’t get me wrong: one look at Emily made it all worthwhile. We’d both been panicking since I found out that I was pregnant, but we felt infinitely better once Emily was born and we knew she was healthy. On the drive home from the hospital, I don’t think Harper drove more than ten miles per hour the whole way. He’s such a daddy, and Emily is going to be so lucky to be daddy’s little girl. I didn’t think it was humanly possible for me to love Harper any more than I already did, but seeing him with her somehow made it possible. He’s downright adorable around her. He bought a video camera and he follows her around everywhere with it. Yes, he’s driving me crazy with it, but somehow it’s cute. Most of what he’s got is totally boring, but it’s adorable to watch him. He’ll be on the moon once she takes her first steps. When she rolled over for the first time, he was in heaven. The downside? Someday, poor Emily is going to be sixteen years old and he’s going to make her watch those videos over and over again and she’ll want to die of humiliation. Hey, fathers are supposed to embarrass their daughters. Even I know that.

My mom was overjoyed to finally have a grandchild – gee, what a surprise, huh? – and so were Harper’s parents. They all came out to see her and my mom stayed with us for about three weeks, which was a Godsend for me since I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I don’t care how many books you read or classes you attend; nothing can really prepare you for becoming a parent. Everything changes. You don’t fully understand it, but you definitely realize it. You realize how much you have to learn and you’re terrified of making the slightest mistake. The problem with that situation is that life goes on and you can’t just hit the “pause” button because you’ve got a kid now. Life goes on and you’ve got to find a way to make it work. If anyone knows exactly how to do that, please let us know. We’ll be eternally grateful. The only one who wasn’t freaked out by all of it was Highway the dog. He knew something weird was going on with mom because I was pregnant, but when we brought Emily home from the hospital? He stared at her for a few seconds, gave her a sniff, and then figured out that she wasn’t going to play with him or give him any treats so he just walked away. He’s a very practical dog, I suppose. At least he seems to like her. They can play when she gets older.

So here we are, in the middle of April. The baseball season is shaping up to be a good one and the Red Sox did well in the preseason. Here’s hoping we have another win in the World Series. Given the shitty pitching I’ve seen from the preseason games, I’m thinking that a lot of teams are going to have some high-scoring games. I don’t mind a high-scoring game, but not because the pitchers walk everybody in sight or toss powder-puffs across the plate that any sixth-grader could knock over the center field wall. That just pisses me off. But right now, all I can think about is how and when will this shit down in Woodlawn Division sort itself out? Are we going to have a riot? Are two good cops going to be indicted for some asshole’s political agenda? Is our new chief going to pull his head out of his ass and put a stop to this shit before it goes any further? Great questions, but very few answers. It’s pretty tough to be a cop in this town right now. Tougher than usual, anyway.

“Dani, we’re ready to go. I have to tell you, it’s kind of frustrating writing these reports when you know they’re just going to turn these guys loose. What’s the point?”

“Ours is not to question why. Ours is but to kill trees with the mountain of paperwork we churn out every night. But I know how you feel. Come on, let’s get it signed and get back out in the field. The thought of hanging out with a bunch of junkies and homeless zombies actually appeals to me after that crap.”

“I feel the same way. Let’s do it.”

Another arrest report that, for all we know, will be rejected on standing orders from our idiot DA. He’s too busy kissing the demonstrators’ asses to do his job. I wonder what’s going to happen if this shit turns into a riot? Will he prosecute anyone then? Anyone but the police, that is? Oh, I don’t doubt for a minute that he’d blame the whole thing on us. He’s exactly that kind of an asshole. The good news is that he might not be long for that job. The PBA is getting seriously pissed off at this moron. There’s already talk of a job action. A lot of officers might suddenly show up on the sick rosters when they get subpoenaed to appear in court – on the few cases that are still being prosecuted, anyway. I’m not ruling it out. Neither is Harper. That’s how bad it’s gotten.

There’s Lieutenant Hagan, sitting at his desk. I’ve been picking his brain from time to time lately because he’s one of only two people around here who were in the last great citywide riot. That was in 1975, right after he got out of the academy. That one started because of a State Police shooting inside the city limits that wasn’t out-of-policy or anything, but the way the powers-that-be handled it was…insensitive, to say the least. What started in Lafayette Division suddenly spilled out into the rest of the south end divisions and the next thing you know: bang! Full-scale riot! So I’ve been asking him questions in the hope that I can prepare for whatever might happen in the next few days. Mostly, what I’ve learned is that a citywide riot is something to avoid under almost any circumstances.

“Lieutenant Hagan? Sir, we’ve got the arrest report on the guy we hauled in from the protest over at Police Headquarters. Battery on a police officer, sir. Specifically, 22810(2) PC.”

“Tear gassing a police officer? I take it you booked this guy on the felony and not the misdemeanor version?”

“Roger that, sir. He’s also got a prior conviction for gassing someone at a protest, so that’s another felony for possession of the stuff. I guess he can forget about law school.”

Yeah, I wonder how he missed that part: the fact that he already had a record for assaulting someone with a chemical agent? I think that conviction would probably disqualify you from law school. Then again, maybe they let anybody become a lawyer these days. Hey, based on some of the lawyers I’ve seen? I’d believe it.

“This little punk is in law school?”

“No, sir. He said he planned to go to law school after he finishes college. It kind of makes you wonder what they’re teaching people in college these days.”

“I don’t have to wonder, Lynott. I read the papers. And at the rate things are going, our blockhead DA will hire this guy even without the law degree. All right, you’re good to go. Signed, sealed, and delivered.”

Uh-huh. Now all we need is a filing, but that’s probably too much to ask in this town anymore.

“We’re going to head over to some of the dope spots and see what’s happening. With the summer coming up, we want to be ready for any surprises.”

“What’s the matter, Lynott? Are things too dull for you since the Fentanyl got shut off?”

Is he kidding? I was practically turning cartwheels when that happened!

“No, sir. I don’t miss the overdoses. I also don’t miss finding dead junkies in every nook and cranny.”

“Just regular old overdoses now. Did I ever tell you about the time my partner and I caught a junkie who injected himself with gasoline?”

Oh, God! Only about twenty times! And I damn near puked my goddamned guts out when he described every disgusting detail of how that idiot died right in front of them! Just the thought of it is enough to make me want to throw up! Junkies are truly disgusting creatures! Disgusting and insane!

“Yes, sir. You did. In vivid detail. Did I ever tell you about how Boston kicked the shit out of New York to clinch the playoffs and go on to win the World Series in five?”

There’s no better way to shut down a Yankees fan that to remind him of that. It also puts a big shit-eating grin on my face every single time!

“Go away, Lynott! Far away!”

“Going away, sir. Come on, Harper. The lieutenant needs some time to cry.”

Yes, there’s nothing sweeter than beating the pinstriped horde to make the playoffs and then watch them cry in their beer when we take the Series! If God were truly merciful, he’d make it happen every year. It sure as hell put a smile on this girl’s face, let me tell you!

“Thanks a lot, Dani! Now he’s going to stick us with some crap detail!”

“No, he won’t. He doesn’t have one. He’d have done it right there if he did.”

“The night’s young. Just watch: now we’re going to get stuck with some death investigation or a business dispute in the Garment District.”

Either one of which could ruin our night and make us stay overtime until daybreak, so we just have to go find something good before that happens. See? I’m way ahead of them both on this thing.

“Quit worrying. We’ll be out of here on-time and home with Emily as planned. I’m sure of it. We just need to get something to tide us over for a while. I say we hit the Brickline Alley and look for some of our wanted burglars. The weather’s warming up, so the junkies will be out and about later. We’ll catch one. Trust me, it’s a lock.”

“It had better be. I don’t want to be here all night again.”

Yes, having a baby at home definitely changes your priorities. We used to work a double shift and not think twice about it. How times have changed, huh?

“Harper, if we get stuck on some crappy detail that keeps us overtime, you’re welcome to take it out of my ass. Literally, if you want.”

“Oh, you’re going to pay for it if that little crack comes back to bite us! Count on it!”

Yeah, I don’t doubt it for a minute. But we’ll be fine. We’ve got a stack of suspects who are wanted for a bunch of burglaries in the warehouse district. The detectives got them on their fingerprints, so there’s already a positive ID on them. The warrants are in the system. Now all we have to do is find them. That’s not hard. They’re junkies. They’ll be where the dope is. It’s as natural as breathing.

The Brickline Alley: one of the many scenic dope spots of skid row, as you already know. Now that the weather’s warming up, the junkies are staying out and about later than before. They’re out buying dope, looking for dope, and begging for dope. And if they’re not doing that, then they’re out here stealing shit to sell or trade for dope. A junkie’s entire life revolves around dope. Other than eating, sleeping, and dying, there’s just nothing else. That’s what being a junkie means. That’s what it does to you. This is your life: deal with it. Your only hope is to kick your habit and that ain’t easy. I know. Plenty of junkies have told me so. Your best bet to kick is to get locked up so that you’re forced to quit. The problem is, eventually you get out and then you’re right back here and the shit usually starts all over again. And if it doesn’t? Then you’re out here but without the dope. You’ll save a little money, but now you have to face life on the street without the balm that the dope provides. I sometimes think that’s even worse.

Where there are junkies, there are thieves. Where there are thieves, there are thieves with warrants out for them. That’s what we’re looking for. Junkies are often master thieves, but they don’t take a lot of precautions to avoid getting caught. They don’t wear gloves, and since they’ve all been arrested twenty times, we’ve got their fingerprints on file so it’s not too hard to match the prints from a crime scene to one of them. As a result, they get caught and locked up for a while and then they get out and it starts all over again. It’s no wonder they call it the revolving door of justice.

We drove by the Brickline a few times to make sure there are plenty of people in there, which there almost always are. Tonight is no exception. The place is practically bustling. Some of those people have to be the ones we’re looking for. They’re either in here or over at the Big Lot, and since there was a stabbing there earlier and that brought a heavy police presence, this is the best spot right now. Time to get close on foot, stop, look, and listen. Just like hunters, only when you hunt, the game doesn’t usually pull a knife or a steel rebar and try to kill you.

Harper’s got our good binoculars. He’s the real trained observer in this car, so it’s best to have him scan the area for our quarry. He’s trained to spot little things that even a lot of experienced police officers would miss. God bless the Marines. They definitely know their shit.

“Dani, I think we’ve got one. Brown plaid shirt, grayish-black pants. The black man near the pipes on the west side of the alley. Take a look.”

All right, let’s see what we’ve got. Yep! Good eye, Harper! That’s Rendell Wallis; a.k.a. Socket. I think he got the name because he tends to steal tools on order for the day laborers. Something about socket wrenches. Anyway, that’s definitely him and he’s got a felony warrant for burglary. I’ve got the flyer on him right here.

“Bullseye! That’s our old friend Socket. He’s wanted for 459 of a warehouse over on 4th Street. He’s not known to go armed and he’s got no history of violence. He has been known to run, though. What do you say we call Forty-Four and have them take the north end of the alley? Our guy won’t get past Signolo.”

“You read my mind. I’m sending them a message right now. They should already be close by.”

One other unit should be enough. I don’t want to tie up a lot of people who are probably going to be needed elsewhere. Still, we have to be careful. While our guy may not be the violent type, some of the other zombies in the alley definitely are. Those are the ones we have to worry about.

“Dani, Forty-Four says they’re en route. They’re just down the street, so they’ll go over one block and move into position. We’ll go when they’re ready.”

All right, we just need to keep an eye on our guy until they get here. That shouldn’t be hard. Rendell is at least four inches taller than any of those other guys in there, so he really stands out. As long as he doesn’t duck into an alcove or something like that, we should be able to keep him in view. He seems to be relaxed; just shooting the shit with a couple of guys along the wall. He’s not antsy, which tells me he’s got enough money for his dope and he’s just waiting for a dealer that he knows to come along. The only time a junkie can relax is when he knows that his next fix is a sure thing and very close at hand. It makes our job easier.

“Forty-Four Central to Sixteen, we’re at the north end of the alley. We see at least six people in there about midway through it. Which one is your guy?”

That’s Goren. That was fast! Time to get this show on the road!

“Goren, our suspect is a male black, tall, bearded, wearing a brown plaid long-sleeve shirt and grayish-black trousers. He’s talking to two guys who are standing against the wall. He’s the tallest one of the bunch. Do you see him?”

“Roger that, Dani. He’s kind of hard to miss. How do you want to handle this?”

“We’re going to move in along the west wall and try to stay in the shadows. When we get to the middle of the alley, we’ll prone those guys out. If he runs, he’ll run toward you guys. Don’t let him get past you. He’s a known burglar with a felony warrant; no history of violence.”

“Great! That just leaves the other ten or twenty assholes in there! We’re standing by. Go whenever you’re ready. Good luck, and watch yourselves!”

Amen to that. All right off we go! The entrance to this alley is pitch dark at this point. That gives us an advantage. I just hope nobody pops out and sees us. They’ll be yelling “one time!” before we can make a move to grab them, and if our guy runs southbound toward us, there are two escape routes he can take to get out of there. Once we get up to where he is now, the only way to go is north and right into the waiting arms of Forty-Four. This guy is caught for sure unless we fuck it up. And we’re not going to fuck it up.

Nice and slow; let your eyes adjust to the dim light. Listen carefully. Hear the voices. Try to tell them apart so you know how many people you’ve got in here. That’s how you do it. I can hear a lot more people in here than I can see up ahead. Be damned careful! I don’t want some psycho jumping out and attacking us! That’s it…nice and slow…almost there. None of the people seems to be aware of us. Good. Our guy is still there. The three of them are staying in the same spot, taking advantage of the overhead light behind them. All right, we’re about ready. Stand by with the flashlights. We need to light them up nice and bright. That’ll distract them long enough for us to get the drop on them. Harper’s moved off to my right. We’ll block their way south and hope they all just give up without a fight. He’s giving me the signal that he’s ready. There’s no sign of an ambush. That’s a good thing, but don’t let your guard down until it’s all over and you’re driving away with the suspect under arrest. You’ve got to stay alert every second that you’re out here. We’re ready. One…two…three! Go!

“Police! Hands in the air! Nobody move! Let me see your hands! Do it! Hands in the air!”

No weapons! The two by the wall are putting their hands up! They’ve got nowhere to go! But Rendell bolted! He’s going north through the alley! Damn, he can really move! He’s got long legs so he can cover a lot of ground! And there go the lights on Forty-Four’s car! Yes! You’re caught, asshole! Give it up! There’s nowhere to go! There’s Goren in the lead! Prone that guy out! Don’t let him get near the car!

“Police! Stop where you are! Let me see your hands! Don’t even think it, pal! You’re caught! Hands in the air right now!

Yes! They got him! He’s dropping to his knees with his hands in the air! All right, we need to hook these two. Harper’s got them covered, so I’ll cuff them. Hurry! I don’t like splitting our attention between these three. I want them all in one place where we can see them. All right, one’s cuffed. Now the other one. Watch him close. Don’t let him make any sudden moves. And now he’s cuffed. Yes! We got them! And we got our main guy! So far, so good!

“Goren! Bring that guy back down here as soon as you’ve searched him! We got the other two!”

We probably don’t even want these other two guys, so we’ll get their information and run them for warrants. Unless they come back with a felony warrant, they’re going to get kicked loose. We’re not going to bother with any chickenshit traffic warrants or open container of alcohol charges. Those things are a dime a dozen out here.

“You! Have you got any weapons on you? Anything sharp in your pockets? I don’t want to cut myself.”

“No, Senior. I ain’t got nothin’ but a little straight shooter.”

A little glass crack pipe, for those of you who don’t speak crackhead. There it is. Well, I’m doing him a favor by stomping on it. Crack is evil. He’s better off without it. All right, now for our second guy. He’s no crackhead. Not as fucked up as he looks. He’s a junkie, and from the looks of him, he’s as sick as a dog. I wish I knew why. He’s not sick from withdrawal, but really sick. I need to be careful. God only knows what he’s got, and as you already know, there are a million different contagious diseases out here. Hang on! What’s this in his pocket? Whatever it is, it’s pretty damned big and hard like a metal plate! Holy shit! It’s a fucking meat cleaver! Would you look at this thing? The blade’s got to be seven inches across! And he had it stuffed in his pocket? Is he out of his mind?

“What the fuck is this?”

“It’s for protection, ma’am. I wasn’t gonna use it on you guys.”

Jesus Christ! You could chop off an arm with this thing! Look at the edge on it! This thing is razor sharp! He didn’t find this in a dumpster, that’s for sure! He must’ve ripped it off from a restaurant. He’s lucky he didn’t get caught by some boot fresh out of the academy. The guy would’ve shot his ass in a heartbeat!

“Yeah, I hope not! Where the hell did you get this? And don’t tell me you found it in the trash!”

“No, I clipped it from that Chinese restaurant just past the arch. The one with the green dragons out front. The chink at the counter went to grab a cigarette and I just walked into the kitchen and swiped it off the rack.”

At least he’s honest about it; though I don’t imagine he’s a popular guy in Chinatown if he’s going around calling Chinese people chinks. God, didn’t we leave all that shit behind with our last case up there? Whatever. Here comes Forty-Four with our prisoner. Now we need to see if we’ve got one arrestee or three.

“Great catch, guys. Did he have any weapons on him?”

Signolo’s got something in his hand. Is it a knife?

“Just this. Not much of a weapon, but I’d hate to get hit with it.”

It’s a wrench. Big. A nice one, too. I see Socket is still into stealing tools. That one looks expensive, like the ones they sell at Metropolitan Hardware. Somehow, I don’t think he got it there. That place is notoriously hard to steal from.

“Rendell Wallis, I’m Officer Lynott. Central Midwatch. You’re under arrest for burglary. There’s a felony warrant out for you.”

He doesn’t seem too broken up by the news. I’m sure he’s not surprised by it. When you have a felony arrest warrant out for you, you tend to know about it. Still, most people are at least a little upset when they realize they’re going to jail. Not this guy. The news didn’t seem to faze him at all.

“You don’t seem too worried about going to jail. Why is that?”

And he just shakes his head dismissively, like I just asked him the dumbest damned question on earth. Am I missing something here?

“Senior, I’m better off in the lockup than I am out here, what with the shit what’s about to happen. To be perfectly honest, I feel sorry for you guys. You’re the ones what got to deal with the shit when it all comes down. And you know it’s comin’ down. Maybe just a matter of days now.”

He may not have been at the ruckus over at Police Headquarters earlier, but he probably heard about it. Hell, he may have actually heard it himself. It was certainly loud enough.

“Are you talking about what happened over at Police Headquarters earlier? I didn’t think anyone out here cared about that crap.”

And he’s looking at me like he knows something that I don’t and it’s just ridiculous to him. I’m telling you, these homeless guys? Don’t underestimate them. They know all kinds of shit. They know what’s going on beyond skid row. Most of them don’t care about it, but they know it. They definitely know things we don’t, and some of those things can get you killed. I’ve learned to pay attention to them when they talk. I try to separate the bullshit from the real wisdom later on.

“Senior, that shit was just the beginning. The real shit ain’t even started yet. But it’s comin’. It’s comin’ down and ain’t nobody can stop it. It ain’t gonna happen here, but other places? South central? It’s comin’ down. And when it does, y’all ain’t gonna like it one bit. Some of y’all might not make it. I’m tellin’ you, blood’s gonna flow. You’ll see. Y’all gonna see. So lock my ass up and get me the fuck away from it, ’cause I don’t wanna be out here when it blows.”

See what I mean? He knows. He knows it’s coming and nobody’s doing a damned thing to stop it. And he knows that when it blows, all fucking hell is going to break loose. He thinks he’s better off in jail than out on the streets. He’s probably right, too. Jesus, when people think they’re better off in jail than out here where they might get caught in the middle of it, then you know there’s some serious shit about to happen. All that’s left to figure out is when will it start and how bad will it be? The answer to the first question is probably soon. As for the second? I don’t even want to think about it. I’m going to have to, but I don’t want to. I think it’s going to be bad. Really, really bad!

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