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Tactical Alert

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"We All Took an Oath"

Home at last! And we actually managed to get home on time. If Lieutenant Hagan had a shit detail for us, he didn’t give it to us. Of course, tomorrow is another day. We could get screwed right out of the chute tomorrow. I’ll worry about that later. For now, we’re home and we get to see our little girl. A lady from about two blocks away has been watching her. Her name is Helena and she’s this amazing old Russian lady. She’s one of the few neighbors that we know very well and who doesn’t look down the nose at us for being police officers. On the contrary, she’s very proud of us both. Having grown up during the Soviet era, she’s got a strong sense of right and wrong and how people need police who aren’t corrupt. I have no idea how old she is, except that she’s got to be older than my mom. Still, she’s so strong and her will is so powerful that she’ll probably live to be two hundred years old. She’s pretty funny, too. I don’t think she means to be, but some of the things she says are hilarious. She’ll be watching the news and some politician will come on and she’ll point to the TV and tell Emily “That one is bum! You don’t marry bum. You marry good man, like your papa.” Or she’ll see some other guy and say “That one is gangster! You shoot gangster, like your mama.” She’s a trip, and seeing as she raised nine children of her own and about twice as many grandchildren, she’s definitely got the experience. Nothing fazes her. I feel good about having her around. She’s very reassuring and she knows how to do everything. She even helped Harper work on his hot rod once. The woman knows engines. She said she learned in the Russian army. She’s really something.

Given that Emily is only five months old – barely – she hasn’t mastered the art of sleeping through the night yet. Half of the time when we get home, Emily is wide awake. Yeah, that’s something we haven’t gotten used to. Our sleeping time has definitely taken a hit since she was born. Some nights she stays up until dawn. I think she’s already got some Midwatch DNA in her. And Helena? She doesn’t care. She sleeps maybe four hours a day and stays busy for the other twenty. I wish I could do that. We got very lucky with her. I don’t think there’s another person in the world outside of our immediate families that we’d trust Emily with. It really kills us both that we have to spend so much time away from her, but it can’t be helped. Since we aren’t likely to win the Powerball Jackpot, we both have to work for a living. It’s funny, but when I was pregnant, I was really afraid that I’d spend too much time away from Emily because I was too focused on the job. Fortunately, the instant I saw her, I knew that wouldn’t be the case. Like I said: having a kid changes everything.

I’m really tired. Standing on a skirmish line at a violent protest while people throw shit at you kind of does that to you. I also got hit with a few rocks, which wasn’t fun. The next time, I’m going to insist that they give us riot shields. If the assholes are going to throw shit at us, then I want some protection. I’m tired of coming home with bruises. When you get them in a fight with some lunatic, they can’t be helped. But a bunch of idiots throwing shit at you? The department has the means to do something about that.

“Helena, we’re home. How are you? How is Emily? Is she asleep?”

There she is, in the kitchen. I feel so guilty because she’s only supposed to watch over Emily, but she cleans everything in sight. No matter how many times we tell her that she doesn’t need to do that, she just brushes it off and gives us a speech about how hard work is good for you and it’s important to keep busy at all times. She’s also got a pathological thing about cleaning. Everything around her has to be as clean as an operating room. Hey, the woman is at least eighty and she hasn’t lost a step, so it’s not like we can argue with her logic. She may not have found the fountain of youth, but she sure knows a thing or two about the fountain of vigor.

“Welcome back. Baby is asleep now. She just fell asleep. She is good girl. You are well? I see on TV there is problem with fools at your headquarters again.”

I don’t think I’d be as charitable with them. They’re a lot worse than fools, if you ask me.

“Mostly a bunch of spoiled college kids yelling and screaming. We’re all right, but thanks for asking.”

“Young people are fools! Let them talk to Helena! I tell them what is true! They should stop all foolishness and go to work! Work will be good for them! They need it!”

No argument here. Most of the little asswipes we saw at that protest probably never did a hard day’s work in their lives. Something tells me they never will.

“I wish you were in charge. You’d have them straightened out in ten minutes.”

“Five! Give them the back of the hand! Like this! Then they will see! The young ones have it too easy. This is the problem. They say, ‘What can be done?’ Much can be done! Put them to work! Then they will see!”

More likely they’d just shit twice and die on the spot, but that’s a matter for another time. Anyway, that’s Helena for you: she’s very opinionated, but if you heard her stories about growing up in the Soviet Union? I think you’d understand why. Moving right along! There’s my little girl! Sound asleep in her crib! God, she’s adorable! I want to give her a hug, but I don’t want to wake her up if she just got to sleep. I’ll let her sleep. It won’t last. She’ll probably be screaming her head off in two hours or less. Babies are like that. It’s their sworn duty to drive their parents nuts and scare the hell out of them. I don’t know who came up with that rule, but there’s nothing we can do about it. My mom said so. So did Harper’s mom.

“Helena, we can drive you home if you want.”

“For what? Is three blocks! When I was little girl, we would walk so far to school! And in the snow! I walk to my house. I have always done so, and always will! You have good night. Let baby sleep. Soon she will be awake. Goodbye.”

And there she goes. Even if this were a bad neighborhood, she’d still insist on walking home – and I’d feel sorry for anyone who tried to mess with her. I’m pretty sure she knows at least five hundred ways to kill someone with her bare hands. She’s got some stories about her time in the Russian army that would make your hair stand on end. And that part about the snow? She’s not kidding. She showed me a picture of her and her sister when they were little, standing in front of their house in the winter. And I thought Salem got a lot of snow! The snow was literally up to the roof! Don’t ask me how they managed to live like that, but they did. Helena says it was like that every winter, too.

“What do you think, Harper? Should we turn on the news and depress the hell out of ourselves?”

“I’m getting so that I can’t watch it anymore. Did you hear Captain Mayones got called into a strategy meeting this morning? Contingency plans in the event of a riot. Sergeant Bergantino said they spent most of the meeting talking about how nothing was going to happen and it’s all just people on edge for no reason. He said the Captain was ready to kill somebody by the time he came out of the room.”

I can imagine. These junior league command staff people are all just kidding themselves. Jesus Christ! Don’t they have eyes and ears? Are they really that clueless? We’ve had how many demonstrations outside of Police Headquarters already? We’ve got an asshole DA publicly trying our guys in the press, talking heads on TV who are willing to believe the most ridiculous bullshit without a shred of evidence, and our fearless leaders are oblivious to it all! I’m telling you, this shit is going to go sideways on us! And when it does, our leaders are going to be completely unprepared. Count on it! And speaking of being prepared…

“A little bird told me Lieutenant Hagan is going to ask you to come up with some kind of plan to deploy our officers in the event we get called down to one of the south end divisions. Is it true?”

“He said something about that. He said it would be good practice for when I go to SWAT eventually. Specifically, he asked me to look at Woodlawn Division. Since both you and Acevedo worked there, he thinks it’s best if we focus on someplace that at least some of us know already. Nobody on Midwatch ever worked in Wilmington, Lafayette, or Avalon Divisions.”

Yeah, I know a little bit about Avalon Division from a few forays into the gang neighborhoods along the border with Woodlawn, but that’s about it. I know a couple of hotspots in Lafayette, and I don’t know shit about Wilmington. I can’t even remember the last time I was down there. We should stick to Woodlawn. Besides, that’s the flash point. That’s where the shooting happened and that’s the division where the people seem to hate us the most right now.

“I take it you already pulled the map of the division? I can show you some of the places we’ll probably get called to. It’s been a while since I worked there, but I doubt it’s changed much.”

“Woodlawn’s the most violent division in the city, right?”

I see he’s been keeping up with the crime stat bulletins. Well, any good cop should.

“That depends on your definition of ‘violent.’ If you ask me, Central Division’s the most violent place I’ve ever seen. People bash each other’s brains in over a cigarette butt. But Woodlawn leads the city in homicides every year; most of them gang-related. They’ve got most of the worst gangs and most of the worst gang conflicts.”

“How hard is it to get around down there?”

That’s Harper for you: always thinking about strategy, tactics, and logistics. He’s right, too: those are the things that make or break any operation, and if we have a riot, then this is going to be the biggest single operation in the department’s history. We need to think ahead.

“It’s pretty easy. The place is in the older part of the city and it’s pretty well laid-out. The streets are mostly a grid: north-south and east-west. There are a couple of places in the northwest end that have some strange street layouts, but we won’t be going there. Nothing much ever happens in those sectors. The housing projects are going to be the most dangerous, and the main drags along the biggest streets are going to be the first targets for looters. As long as the streets are clear, we won’t have any trouble getting from point ‘A’ to point ‘B.’ Of course, that’s a mighty big ‘if.’ They could block the streets pretty easily, and we could face some nasty traffic jams from people trying to get out – especially if some of the freeway on-ramps end up being shut down.”

“Not to mention if they barricade the streets like they did in the seventies.”

Yeah, I just thought of that. Lieutenant Hagan and Sergeant Gellar showed us some pictures of those barricades from the last big riot. People dumped everything and anything they could get their hands on in the middle of the street; mostly trash cans and shit like that. The people who lived there or who had stores in the neighborhood wanted to keep cars from coming in; whether they were the police or a bunch of looters. We could see that happen again. There are a lot more cars out there now than there were back in the old days.

“I’m just afraid we’re all going to get stuck at the EOC sitting on our asses while the city goes up in flames. As soon as they declare a citywide tac alert, the EOC gets activated.”

That’s Emergency Operations center, for those of you who don’t speak cop. Our department’s EOC is this huge thing that looks like a rock star’s tour bus. It’s loaded with communications gear and it has a big portable generator on a trailer behind it. They’ll establish a command post somewhere in one of the worst-hit areas and have all units report to it immediately. That’s where they’ll park the big bus. They’re supposed to form us all into squads and send us out to maintain order and protect people and property, but there’s a lot of scuttlebutt about how they’ll just have us sit there and ride it out until the shit calms down. No, I’m not making that up. Some of our leaders think the best option in the event of a disaster is to do absolutely nothing. Go figure, huh?

“Then you’ll be happy to hear this, but you can’t tell anyone outside of the watch. I mean that, Dani. I got this on the strictest security. Lieutenant Hagan said Captain Mayones is going to send us straight to the south end as soon as the shit hits the fan, and we’ll be under direct orders not to report to any command post. We’re staying in the field one way or the other.”

Seriously? Captain Mayones is playing with fire if that’s true! Disobeying a direct order from the command staff? That’s some serious shit! But I’m glad to hear it. I’m not really surprised, though. Captain Mayones has never gotten over the fact that he pretty much stood by and did nothing while Rocky the Flying Squirrel was tearing the department apart from within. He may be trying to make amends for it. Either way, I think it’s definitely the right call.

“For real? This isn’t just locker room bullshit? This came from Lieutenant Hagan?”

“Straight from him. He said Captain Mayones is determined to be ready for whatever comes down. If the command staff wants to play James Buchannan, he’s not going to sit there and do nothing. Not this time, anyway.”

Oh, here we go! Harper the history buff! Since I married him, I’ve learned more history trivia than I did in the entire time I was in school! For those of you who aren’t married to Harper, James Buchanan was the president before Lincoln and while the whole country was headed for civil war, Buchanan didn’t do jack shit to stop it. He just sat in the White House and twiddled his thumbs. I have to admit, the comparison is pretty spot-on. Our leaders and especially Chief Mooney are definitely twiddling their thumbs. Still, maybe he should’ve said something about how Nero played the fiddle while Rome burned? No, we’ll have to wait until the Emerald City is on fire for that one. We probably won’t have long to wait. And I’ve heard that Chief Mooney actually does play the violin. Now there’s a weird coincidence for you!

“Wait a minute! He can’t send the whole division to South Bureau! I take it this little scheme involves only Midwatch? Jesus, ten officers? What good is that going to do?”

“Ten officers, one lieutenant, and two sergeants. Three, if they get Sergeant Ivanell to go along. I think he’ll be up for it.”

Fourteen cops. Two seven-officer squads. Yeah, against a whole division gone mad!

“That’s still not much of a force.”

Harper’s looking at me like I just insulted the Marine Corps.

“I wouldn’t want to be up against it.”

He’s right. We’re not super cops, but we’re as good as any and better than most. We’re Central Midwatch. We’ve been through hell more times than I can count. And we’re a unit; as tight as a unit can be. We’ve been through the fire plenty of times and we’ve got nothing left to prove to anyone. He’s right: I wouldn’t want to be up against it either.

Uh-oh! I hear Emily crying! She’s awake! All hands on deck!

“She’s up!”

“I’ve got her. You just sit there and take it easy.”

Uh-huh. She probably needs her diaper changed and Harper’s not about to do that. Not that he hasn’t tried, mind you. He just hasn’t gotten the hang of it. You haven’t laughed your ass off until you’ve watched a big, tough Marine try to change a baby’s diaper. It’s hilarious.

“I’m thinking she needs a change. You play with her while I get her a fresh diaper.”

“Make it fast, Dani! This one’s a big one!”

Yeah, it never ceases to amaze me how she can exist on liquid food and still poop more than Zephyr does. Babies are strange things. No wonder there’s no owner’s manual for them. Right now, I’m feeling a little like a bad parent. Here we are, home at last with our little girl and we’re talking about impending urban warfare. We shouldn’t even be thinking about our jobs. We should be thinking about how we’re fortunate enough to have a job and a home and a baby and each other. Our priorities are definitely out of whack and we need to get them straightened out before we really screw things up. We can’t afford to make mistakes because they won’t just come back on us. They’ll come back on Emily, and that’s not an option. We need to shield her from this shit as much as possible, just as we have to remember what’s really important in our lives. We have a little girl now and she comes first. I just wish I didn’t have to force myself to remember that. Is it any wonder I feel like I’m a bad parent sometimes?

Lying in bed and it’s almost noon. Harper went to court on a preliminary hearing on a dope case that we had. He was nice enough to let me sleep in. Hey, he’s the one who caught the guy and recovered the dope, so they didn’t really need me there. Anyway, Emily is in her crib, poking at the toy that hangs over it while Highway is watching her. He really likes Emily, and I think she adores him. She likes to grab his wrinkles and he doesn’t seem to mind when she does it. He just stares at her as if he’s thinking “When is this one going to be tall enough to reach the treat jar?” I think that’s going to take a while, pal. I certainly hope so, anyway. As for me, I’m crashed out on the bed and watching St. Louis devastate the Cubs. Now this is a perfect example of what’s wrong with baseball today: the Cardinals just had one of their power hitters at bat. This guy has been swinging at every piece of trash that comes low and inside the plate and he’s never come close to hitting one of them. He’s struck out twice; once with a runner on third and two outs. This time, they had runners on second and third. So what does the Chicago relief pitcher do? He tosses some powder puff that was probably supposed to be a changeup pitch right across the outside corner of the plate, right in the sweet spot! Boom! Grounder all the way out to the center field wall and he drives in two runs! Say goodbye to your one-run lead, guys! Shitty fucking pitching! I’m sure they paid a king’s ransom for this guy and now he blows the lead in the eighth inning, there’s a guy on second, and only one out! The next guy up is a left-hander who’s likely to sock it deep into right field and bring the man on second home. I swear, if I were a Cubs fan? I would’ve killed myself years ago! No wonder Chicago has so many homicides! It’s got to be the frustration, and they’ve got two teams!

I caught the news earlier and there was a snippet on it about the Woodlawn shooting. The talking heads are still debating whether the leaked document from the Medical Examiner’s Office is genuine or a first draft or whatever, and the one brain-donor who’s supposed to be a professor of social bullshit was saying that if the officers weren’t indicted, it would be disastrous for the city. He actually said that whether the shooting was in-policy wasn’t important. The important thing was to send a message about police accountability and build up some trust in the downtrodden communities. Give me a fucking break! The truth isn’t important? The fact that the guy was an asshole with a little sword who was trying to kill them doesn’t matter? The fact that they begged him over and over again to drop it doesn’t matter? The fact that they didn’t commit a crime doesn’t matter? Not to professor dumbshit, obviously! Here’s a fact: if your kid wants to go to college, just take him straight to the hospital and get him a lobotomy! It’s faster, cheaper, and the result will be exactly the same! Fucking idiots!

Oh, look! Mister shit pitcher just walked the batter! Nice going, moron! One more and you’ll load the bases! Not to mention the fact that the next batter knocked the shit out of the ball the last two times he was at bat! You’d better pull this guy before you’re down by four! Don’t tell me you don’t have anyone left in the bullpen! You could put the ball girl on the mound and she’d do a better job than this guy!

“Zephyr, where do they find their managers anymore? Who the hell is calling this thing? I should be out there calling the shots! Look at this shit! The play’s at third, the batter’s a lefty, and they’ve got the shortstop playing deep in left field! Hey, asshole! How are you going to get over to third when you’re way out there in the middle of fucking East Jesus? Hello!

“Dani, calm down or I’m taking away your TV privileges.”

It’s Harper. I didn’t even hear him come in. Damn, he got out of there in a hurry! I never get out of a felony preliminary hearing before noon!

“How did your case go so fast?”

“The defendant didn’t show up. He was released OR and the judge did a roll call of the defendants before they started. Anyone who wasn’t there? Bang! Automatic bench warrant.”

How come I never got that lucky? This is a perfect example of how things are going to complete shit in the city: they’re releasing people arrested for possession of dope for sale on their own recognizance. No bail, no bond, just a promise to show up and face a few years in prison. Gee, what could go wrong?

“Lucky you. This pitcher’s arm is made of rubber. He couldn’t find the strike zone with a map and a compass!”

“That’s no excuse for scaring Emily. Or Highway. Or Zephyr.”

“They’re not scared. Zephyr and Highway are both used to it and Emily thinks it’s funny. I’ve heard her giggle a few times.”

“Oh, yeah? And what happens when she goes to kindergarten and starts repeating some of the words her mom uses when she watches baseball?”

Good point. If I keep this up, I’m going to get called in for a lot of parent-teacher conferences about Emily’s colorful language. It’s not like we’re in South Boston where that shit is expected – and perfectly acceptable.

“What can I tell you? I’m a potty mouth. You knew what you were getting when you married me. So were there any protests over at the courthouse?”

“None that I saw. If anything, they’re going to protest if our guys aren’t arraigned pretty soon. The DA who was on our case? She said things over at the DA’s Office are getting pretty bad. Our idiot District Attorney is making it impossible for the ADAs to work with the police. There’s a lot of bad blood being stirred up. A lot of them don’t like Alioto any more than we do.”

So why haven’t they shot him yet? Just chalk it up to a negligent discharge. I can promise you: nobody will even bother to investigate the shooting.

“We should be investigating him. He’s probably molesting farm animals! I’ll bet he’s got pictures on his computer!”

“Dani! Emily can hear you!”

Do you see what I have to put up with ever since he became a daddy? I really need to straighten his ass out before he drives me right up the goddamned wall!

“Oh, for God’s sake! She’s five months old! She has no idea what I’m saying!”

“That’s not the point, is it? We have to be careful around her now so that we won’t be saying things later on when she can understand it.”

I think he’s been secretly taking pointers from my mom. I’ll have to talk to her about that.

“This whole daddy thing is getting to you. You know, one of these days she’s going to be sixteen and she’ll have boobs and a nice butt and she’ll have boys chasing after her.”

“And I’ll be on the roof with a rifle!”

Yeah, he probably will be. I have a feeling that Harper’s going to become the kind of dad that terrifies any poor kid who even thinks about asking Emily out on a date. Well, I’ve got sixteen years to figure out how to get him to ease up. I’ll worry about it later.

“Was there any talk around the courthouse about when a decision is going to be made about indicting our guys?”

“The DA I talked to said they’re waiting for the coroner’s report and the results of the shooting investigation. There’s real pressure in the DA’s Office for Alioto to back off and let the system work the way it’s supposed to. Evidently, he doesn’t want to do that. I think he’s hoping to ride this whole social justice crap into the Mayor’s Office. Or maybe even the State Attorney General’s Office?”

“And if he does? Then we’re moving to Salem. Or maybe Fairbanks? Hell, we can go to Timbuktu! Anywhere but here.”

“Dani, they don’t have a baseball team in Alaska. Or Timbuktu.”

Details, details!

“They’ve got satellite TV. That’s enough. I’m serious. I’m not staying here if that fucking asshole becomes Mayor. Think of what he’ll do to the police department.”

“Right there with you, sweetheart. So how’s my little girl? Did she do anything special today?”

See what I mean? If I mention one little thing out of the ordinary, he’ll go running for that video camera and beg her to do it again!

“Let’s see: pooping, peeing, eating, giggling, drooling; nope. Just the usual.”

“Don’t underestimate our daughter! She’s a genius! I can tell! Just wait until she starts talking!”

And as much as I’m looking forward to it, I know all too well that once she starts talking, she’ll never shut up! That’s what kids do when they learn how to talk. My mom has no end of stories about how I never shut up when I was little. I have to take her word for it that they’re all true. God, look at them! How is it that whenever Harper picks her up, she doesn’t start crying? Half the time when I pick her up, she starts crying instantly! I have no idea why, and it’s pretty heartbreaking sometimes. I feel like she doesn’t love me. I know she’s just a baby and she isn’t thinking about things like that, but it still hurts. On the other hand, I’m glad she’s daddy’s little girl. I didn’t have my dad for very long. I want Emily to have her daddy around for the next hundred years.

“And when you’re crying on my shoulder because she won’t stop asking you ten million questions that all begin with ‘Why’ or ‘How come,’ just remember: I told you so! In the meantime, don’t forget to shine your gear. It’s the first week of the DP so we’re due for an inspection.”

Like I really need to remind him about that. Harper’s a Marine through and through. His gear is always mirror-polished. It could rain for forty days and forty nights and he’d still look like a recruiting-poster officer. Mine, on the other hand? Not so much. My belt looks good, but my boots need some work. I’ll get to it before much longer. Sergeant Gellar’s getting kind of picky about our appearance. Midwatch traditionally isn’t the most spit-and-polish watch in the division. That’s OK, though. We know how to clean up nicely when we have to.

Hang on! Both my phone and Harper’s just beeped for a text message. Both at the same time? It’s got to be from someone on the watch. We all get alerts when there’s something important going on. Since Harper’s holding Emily, I’d better get this one.

“What does it say, Dani?”

“Sergeant Gellar wants everyone to be on-time or early for roll call tonight. It seems we’re getting a visit from Captain Mayones. He’s got an announcement. Something about our response in the event of a major disturbance. I’m sending him a roger-received. I guess the captain is taking this thing seriously.”

“Do you think he knows something? Maybe he got some information at that meeting?”

“We’ll find out in a few hours.”

I have to believe that if he did learn something, it wasn’t good news. That’s the only reason why he’d want to clue us in during roll call. I keep talking about how everyone is on pins and needles with this thing, and crap like this doesn’t help the situation. The department’s stress level is going through the roof. If it keeps up, I’m afraid that people are going to start making mistakes out in the field and that’s the one thing we can’t afford right now. Somebody had better do something, because at this rate? We might all go insane before it’s resolved. And no, I’m not exaggerating. After everything we’ve been through in the last few years? We might literally go insane.

Central Station. Roll call. We’re all in our places with dull, somber faces. Actually, we’re all sitting here waiting for the sergeants and the captain to arrive. At least everybody got the message to be on-time. We usually are, but if Captain Mayones wants to talk to us, then we don’t want to be straggling in a few minutes after he starts talking. It looks bad and incurs the wrath of the sergeants. We definitely don’t want that.

My gear is shined and the surfaces look like polished glass. I can’t exactly take credit for it, though. Oh, I can do it – Harper’s a great teacher – but it’s a lot easier to bribe him to do it for me. I don’t have to offer him money, either. I just have to pop in on him in my little red baby doll nightie with the bow and presto! We have a deal! Yes, there’s a lot more to it and I’ve got some real soreness as a result, but it’s a good kind of soreness. Frankly, I’m kind of amazed that he had the strength to shine my gear after fucking my brains out like that. What can I tell you? The man’s got stamina. He’s also built up quite a reserve since I wasn’t exactly the sexiest-looking woman while I was pregnant. No matter. We’ve been making up for the lost time in all sorts of interesting ways.

And the sound of heavy steps on the stairs tells me that the sergeants are coming. I can hear Captain Mayones’ voice, too. He’s a man of his word. Yep, there he is. I hope this is good news. We’ve had enough rotten news lately to fill a warehouse on 4th Street. It looks like Sergeant Gellar is ready to start. He’ll call out the assignments and then turn it over to the captain. Here we go!

“Listen up, Midwatch! Roll call! Lieutenant Hagan is the Watch Commander. I’m Forty Central. Sergeant Hendrickson is Sixty Central. Ruiz and Rosen, Eight Central. Lynott and Harper, Sixteen Central. Kursteff and Vinell. Twenty-Two Central. Signolo and Goren, Forty-Four Central. Garcia and Acevedo, Sixty-Six Central. Does everyone have a job?”

Sarge, there’s ten of us. There’s always ten of us. It’s not like you’re likely to miss somebody.

“All right, I have an announcement before I turn this thing over to Captain Mayones. Kursteff! It has come to my attention that you somehow managed to shoot DX today! I’d say congratulations, but I think it’s better if I ask what took you so goddamned long?”

He finally made it! That’s the whole watch! Everyone on the watch now shoots DX! That’s Distinguished Expert, in case you’ve forgotten. After the Robbery Suppression Detail and the shootout at the firing range, the rest of the guys finally started taking their marksmanship very seriously. Kursteff was the last one to make DX. Well done, my boy! Well done!

“I was pacing myself, Sarge.”

“More like you were hanging around the range, looking for someone you could bribe to shoot for you! Well, however you managed to do it; congratulations! You’re the last of the watch to shoot DX! People, I’ve been harping on this marksmanship thing forever! Everyone in this room has had to use their weapon more than once! Don’t let your skills atrophy! Shooting takes constant practice to maintain a level of proficiency, and we all know what can happen when you don’t possess that proficiency! Stick with it! Practice! Soak up all the training you can get!”

Uh-huh! I do notice one little flaw in his assessment…

“Sarge? When are you going to shoot DX? That Sharpshooter medal of yours is looking a little…how shall I put this? Pathetic!”

And the mighty Central Midwatch howls in agreement! See? Even Captain Mayones is nodding! Yeah, old man! When are you going to put your money where your big mouth is?

“Lynott, I don’t need to shoot DX! That’s what I’ve got you for! If some asshole opens up on me, I’ll just use you for a shield!”

“If you’re going to hide behind me, then you’d better lose a whole lot of weight, Sarge.”

Oh, he just walked right into that one! Damn! I’m on fire tonight! Everyone is just loving it! I’ll bet he wishes Captain Mayones wasn’t here right now!

“I’ll lose the weight when they put me in prison for strangling you, Lynott! All right, everyone settle down! Captain Mayones has some information to give you. Be advised, this information is not to leave this room! This is for Midwatch only! I mean it, people! Don’t let me find out any of you spread this shit around!”

Whatever it is, it must be serious. Captains don’t usually single out a specific watch for privileged information. I think Harper was right about what he heard regarding a possible riot deployment.

“Captain Mayones, the watch is yours.”

“Thank you, Sergeant. People, I want to let you know about a meeting I had with a number of the command staff members the other day. I’ll lay it out for you: it wasn’t what you’d call encouraging. Basically, there’s no standing plan to respond in the event of a major civil disturbance. We have the standard plan which dates back to the time of the dinosaurs and that’s it. For those few of you who have actually read that plan…”

Translation: Harper. He reads everything of a tactical nature that the department prints. The rest of us? Not so much.

“…the thing is hopelessly out of date. The communications plan envisions radios that we haven’t used in over twenty years, deployments that we don’t practice anymore, staffing levels that are straight out of the early eighties, and a massive coordinated response from outside agencies for both tactical and logistical support. One of the things that the chief said was that there is no plan to call in any outside agencies if things erupt. The mutual assistance network hasn’t even been alerted and it isn’t going to be put on standby. If the shit hits the fan, we’re going to be on our own. At least, that’s what it looks like right now.”

I didn’t think it was going to be good news. It isn’t. I guess Harper was right. I wonder if he’s right about us being frog-marched down to Woodlawn Division in the event of a catastrophe?

“Furthermore, some of the things that were said at that meeting were a little disturbing, to say the least. Some of the command staff is talking about trying to ride out any disturbance: keep a skeleton crew in the divisions and send most of the officers to a command post at some predetermined location and wait for the worst of it to blow over in forty-eight hours. After that, the officers at the command post will saturate the worst-hit divisions and maintain high visibility patrols. Of course, we all know how much damage can be done in forty-eight hours. Most of you have come close to being killed in less than forty-eight minutes. Needless to say, we can’t very well leave the city to a bunch of rioters for forty-eight hours, no matter what the brass says. So I’ve made a decision and I need to know which of you are in agreement. In the event of a major disturbance anywhere in the city, we will not be going to the CP under any circumstances. We’re staying in the field. Or at least, you people are. On my authority, you are not to report to the CP even if you receive a direct order over the radio to do so! Is that understood?”

Harper was right! Jesus, is he serious? Harper and I were planning on staying out in the field, but the whole watch? On a captain’s orders? That’s some serious shit. But I’m pretty sure we’re all on the same page as him. We’re not going to sit around with our thumbs up our asses while the city burns.

“Sir? We’re in. All of us. To be honest, I think we were going to do that anyway.”

They’re all nodding. They agree. None of us was going to turn our backs on people when they need us, and they’re going to need us big time.

“I appreciate that, Lynott. All of you. Look, I know what I’m asking. Any order to report to the command post is going to come from the Bureau Commander or higher, and there’s always the possibility that someone will scream about insubordination. And if that happens, I’ll do everything in my power to cover you. This is my call. I just don’t want us to hide out while the city’s on fire. We all took an oath to protect and serve, and I take that very seriously. So do all of you. I don’t know how much the ten of you can do, but you’ve all been pretty impressive so far. I’m hoping you people can make a difference, because we’re going to need it. I’m afraid the department isn’t taking this one seriously enough. And if I’m right, then it’s going to cost us.”

Yeah, that’s what everyone with a brain has been saying since it happened. The question is: why the hell aren’t the powers that be listening? Every indication is that things are going to explode in our face. Why is it that nobody above the rank of captain can see that?

“Sir, what do they expect us to do? Are they really going to have the department just hide out and come up with some lame excuse afterward? People are going to go nuts! They’ll never trust us again! And that’s if they don’t hunt us all down and kill us for abandoning them!”

“What can I tell you, Lynott? They’re jockeying for position with the new chief. The department’s come under a lot of fire recently for a lot of things, as you’re all aware. The shooting in Woodlawn is just the latest. There’s a movement throughout the whole country to paint the police as the source of everyone’s problems. Some people want to use the Woodlawn incident as leverage to force major changes in the department. I’m talking about the kind of shit Rocky Ellison was trying to pull. We’ve got a DA who seems to agree. We’ve got a city council who wants to take more control of the police department and rewrite the rule book. Some of the department heads think that at this point, the safe move is to do nothing. Don’t do anything provocative. Don’t give them any ammunition to use against us. I don’t agree, but I don’t wear stars on my collar.”

Clearly! Everyone knows that those stars on your collar choke off the flow of blood to your brain!

“And the chief is OK with this?”

“You tell me. He doesn’t seem to be staking out any positions. He’s just going with the flow. Either that, or he’s completely oblivious to it all.”

Why does that sound like exactly the sort of thing he’d do? Does he really expect to function as Chief of Police if he sits on his ass while the city descends into a full-blown riot?

“All right, so how do we proceed? If they declare a citywide tac alert, all Central Bureau divisions are going to be among the first ones sent to the CP. They’ll strip the division of its cars and all of our gear. No riot shields, no gas masks, and probably no rifles and shotguns. What do we do if that happens? We can’t go out there with nothing, sir.”

“I’m way ahead of you on that. If it looks like things are going to go to shit, we’re going to hold back some cars by taking them out of service. On record, they’ll be in for maintenance. We’ll stock them with as much gear as we can scrape from the kit room. We’ll hold back a few extra radios and if possible, some rifles and ammo. Right now, that’s the best I can do. You people might want to start hoarding some essential gear ahead of time.”

It’s actually a pretty good plan. Be prepared. It’s a start. And we won’t be going in with nothing.

“Sir, what happens when we try to deploy and they order us to the CP? Once we’re logged on, we’re kind of at their mercy.”

“So don’t log on. I doubt this thing is going to explode as soon as Midwatch comes down from roll call. You’re probably going to get called in early, so you won’t be able to log on anyway. I’m going to try to create a few special units for you to log on as, but that might not work. You might wind up out there with nothing but your sector car numbers to identify yourselves with. I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, I need you people to come up with some kind of response scenario. Lynott and Acevedo, you two know Woodlawn Division better than the rest of us and that’s going to be ground zero for anything that happens. Harper? You’re our tactical expert and you’ve got the most experience in urban warfare. I’m not saying this is going to be like downtown Falluja, but…”

“I understand, sir. Dani’s going to identify some likely targets in the event of a riot. What kind of support can we expect from our usual resources? Fire department, EMS, that sort of thing?”

That’s my hubby: always thinking way ahead!

“I wish I could tell you. Right now, the fire department is playing the wait-and-see game. They’re not going to go to a heavy deployment until they’re sure it’s going to be necessary. The same with EMS. They’re worried about overtime and overworking their crews. I can tell you that in the event that certain regions become too dangerous to enter, the emergency services are likely to be ordered to steer clear of them until they can be secured. And if the bulk of the department is sitting in the command post? That isn’t going to happen anytime soon. So here’s a piece of advice for you: don’t get shot! Don’t get stabbed! Don’t get seriously injured in any way, shape, or form! Because if you do, there might not be anyone coming to save you.”

Way to send us off on a high note, Captain! Jesus, Harper doesn’t look fazed in the least!

“Roger that, sir. I guess that’s it for now, right?”

“For now, yes. Beyond that, all I can tell you is if you’re religious, start praying. Some of the things we’re hearing in the south end divisions suggest this one could be the worst yet. I’m talking about worse than 1968. There are a lot more guns on the streets and a lot more gangbangers in the south end divisions. Throw in the general ill-feeling and our reliance in a bunch of online digital crap and we could be in for a real-life nightmare.”

Uh-huh. Well, I’m ready to move to Alaska. I’m thinking everybody else is, too.

“Anything else, sir? I mean, after that uplifting news.”

“Yeah, if you people manage to pull this off and not get killed or all busted up, I’ll keep all of you on Midwatch for the foreseeable future, no matter what the bureau says. If you’re willing to stick your necks out like this? It’s the least I can do for you.”

That’s actually the best news I’ve heard in a long time. And judging by the enthusiastic response, I’d say the same is true for everyone else. We get to stay on Midwatch after all the pressure the Captain’s been getting to bust up the watch? Hell, I’m in! I’ll bet all of us are in!

“It’s a deal. We won’t let you down, sir. Right, guys?”

“Hell yes, sir!”

“We’re with you, Captain!”

“We’ll make it work for you, sir!”

“We’ve got your back, Captain!”

“Let’s do it!”


I’d say we’re all of one mind on this one. Even without the sweetener, none of us were looking forward to sitting out a riot. We take our job very seriously. The few times we’ve been forced to stand down for whatever reason, it’s made us sick to our stomachs. Not this time. We’re not standing down this time. And it looks like Captain Mayones is very pleased with the response.

“All right, then. You know what to do, and if you need any help, you come straight to me. Everything I just said is for Midwatch ears only. Sergeant Gellar, the watch is yours.”

So the captain leaves and the secret meeting is over. I’ve got to admit, I didn’t see this coming. It’s a relief to know that at least some people with their rank on their collar instead of their sleeve are actually giving this thing some weight. I just wonder how many other captains and above feel the same way? One thing’s for sure: enough of them don’t that they felt the need to call a meeting and spread the gospel of “We don’t give a shit.” If this goes down, we’re going to find out who’s who on the command staff, and it won’t be pretty.

Sergeant Gellar seems pretty satisfied with what he heard. Satisfied? The rest of us are practically overjoyed! Keeping this watch together? What could be better?

“All right, Midwatch! Settle down! That was some unexpected good news, but we’ve got a lot of work to do and we have no idea how much time we’ve got to do it. There’s no telling when this thing is going to break, one way or the other. We can’t just raid the kit room for everything we need and hide it in our lockers. Sergeant Hendrickson and I are going to put in a few requisitions for supplies that we can get pretty quickly. You people will need to find a place to stash them until D-Day, and you can’t take them home with you! We don’t want any hint of anyone ripping off departmental inventory! That’s especially true for any weapons! Find a place in the station that’ll be secure for a few days. There’s got to be somewhere around here we can use.”

Fortunately, this is a big station. There are plenty of places to stash some gear for a few days. We’ll just need to get a key to the door. We can do that. But there’s one other thing I want to get for this little conspiracy of ours. I’ll take care of that tonight.

“Moving on to some of our regular business! We’ve got a bit of a warm spell going on! Spring has sprung early on skid row! Guess what that means?”






“Junkies on the prowl!”

Yeah, I think that one was a no-brainer. The weather warms up and the homeless zombies are out and about, doing all the shit they had trouble doing when they were freezing their asses off at night. It’s kind of like the baseball season: you can’t play baseball in the snow, but as soon as the weather warms up, it’s play ball!

“Very good, people! The shit’s starting up early out there! Two of our units already caught one of our wanted burglars last night. One down, and about thirty more to go! You’ve all got the flyers from the Burglary detectives. Check the alleys! Check their known hangouts! These guys are all experienced crooks, so you can skip the missions. They’re too smart to go there unless they need a meal, and meal times are over by the time we get here. Work your sources! Talk to people! We need to clear these case numbers and we’re counting on all of you to help us do it! Don’t let me down!”

Fair enough. So why are Signolo and Goren giggling over there? What did I miss? I think we’re about to find out. Goren’s got his hand up.

“Sarge? Did that roach coach you love so much have a problem last night?”

God, he’s asking about that thing? The thought of eating off of one of them is enough to make me lose my lunch right here! And Sergeant Gellar doesn’t look happy at all!

“All right! Cut the cackling! As at least some of you know, my personal favorite mobile eating establishment was sinfully defaced last night! It seems one of our local hobgoblins took a piss on the truck, right by the customer window! And when Gustavo – a criminally underrated culinary master if ever there was one – took exception to it, the son of a bitch jumped in the truck and took a great big steaming shit on the floor!

Yeah, and Gustavo probably scooped it up, threw it on the grill, and sold it as the dinner special for five bucks!

“People, you shall find this miscreant and charge him to the fullest extent of the law! He is described as a while male, forty to fifty, unshaven with long hair, and with a long, filthy green raincoat! Because of that asshole, I had to get my dinner from the vending machine in the break room! And we all know what that’s like!”

Yeah, you need a jackhammer to cut through the bread on those sandwiches! Now, here’s the sixty-four thousand-dollar question: did they take the truck out of commission so that they could clean and sanitize it? I’ll give you three guesses and the first two don’t count!

“Come on, Sarge! That shit pile was probably the best thing on the menu!”

Judging by the laughter, I’d say everyone agrees with me! Everyone but Sergeant Gellar, that is!

“Not funny, Lynott! You have no appreciation for the finer things in this division! What Gustavo does with a quesadilla is art! I was looking forward to it all night, and then this happened and I’m fucking screwed! I want this asshole found! If I had to eat sliced shoe leather last night, then this piece of shit can enjoy the cuisine in our jail for a night!”

And it’ll still be ten times better and a hundred times cleaner than anything you could get off of that roach coach! I’ve said it a million times: those things are mobile bioweapons labs! Drop one in the clean part of the Emerald City and you’d have to evacuate it for twenty years!

“All right, Midwatch! You have your marching orders! Anyone who doesn’t have the flyers from the Burglary detectives; make sure you pick them up before you hit the streets! And everybody watch your backs! We didn’t have any demonstrations today, but people are on edge! The homeless may not give a shit about what’s going on, but not everyone out there is homeless! Protect yourselves! It’s only going to get worse out there! Does anyone have anything? No? Good! Go to work!”

We should find that zombie and give him a medal for neighborhood beautification. Well, I’m going to leave that to someone else. We’ve got work to do on this pending riot thing. We might as well get started right away. We may not have a lot of time left.

Standing in line at the kit room. I think what we should do is to start grabbing things we need in small quantities so that nobody notices it missing right away. They don’t exactly take inventory in there every day, unless you count the radios and the car keys. We can snag things like shotgun shells, pistol ammunition, pepper gas canisters, and Taser darts and stash them in one of the pipe rooms or the generator room. The only ones who ever go there are the maintenance guys and we can let Jessie know what we’re up to so that none of them report it. Jessie will definitely help us out. He’s the lead maintenance guy around here, in case you’ve forgotten.

Hey, there’s Sergeant Ivanell. I said I needed to get something for this little mission, and that something is him. We can use another sergeant on this thing if the shit goes south on us, and I think he’ll be up for it. Time to find out.

“Sarge, have you got a minute? I need to talk to you about something.”

“Sure. What’ve you got?”

Good Lord! How do I start? I’m asking him to enter into a conspiracy to commit insubordination! It’s not the sort of thing you do lightly.

“I don’t…did you hear about that meeting the other day with the captains? The one where they talked about the possibility of a real shit storm if there’s no indictment over the Woodlawn thing?”

And the way he’s rolling his eyes, I think it means he knows exactly what I’m talking about.

“I heard about it. Remember: I’ve still got contacts in the building. My sources say it was a real three-ring circus. The deputy chiefs want to stand back and let the worst of it blow over before the department takes any real action. They’ll clean up the fallout with a PR campaign afterward. Some of the captains objected, including our own. Chief Mooney is acting like he’s completely oblivious to the whole thing. I think we’re going to get caught with our thumbs up our asses at this rate. If this thing goes sour, it’s going to be a disaster of epic proportions.”

He seems to be completely up to speed on it. I’m not surprised. Sergeant Ivanell may have fallen out of favor with the squints, but he’s still got some seriously good sources over at Police Headquarters. They’ll tell him things they won’t tell anyone else.

“That’s what we heard. Sarge, there’s a plan here on Midwatch. A plan to keep us in the field if the department mobilizes and starts sending people to sit on their ass at some CP while the city burns. I was wondering if you…”

“Say no more, Dani. I’m in. Meet me at the Levels later on, before I go end of watch. You can fill me in there. This place? The walls have ears. Especially now.”

Damn! That was easy! I’m glad to have him along. Sergeant Ivanell has turned into a damned good cop and we need every one of those we can get.

“Will do, Sarge. And do me a favor: you know the command staff. Most of them, at least. Can you put together a list of the ones you think are going to try to do the right thing if this crap blows up in our faces? Who’s going to stay in the field and try to make some sort of difference? It would be good to have some idea of who we can trust and who’s just looking out for the politics.”

“I can do that. But I’ve got to tell you, Dani: that’s probably going to be a very short list. Most of the top dogs are way too new in their positions and the rumor over at Headquarters is that Mooney isn’t long for the job. Nobody’s satisfied with his performance.”

Uh, more like his total lack of performance. Still, this is a new wrinkle.

“Are you saying the Police Commission is going to move to replace him?”

“I don’t think so. It would be an admission that they made a big mistake and a lot of them haven’t gotten over the last time that happened. But some people are saying he’s not going to serve out his full term. He’ll be here for maybe two years and move on. He’s getting heat to start doing his job and so far, he isn’t doing it. He won’t stay long enough for the Commission to get fed up with him and kick him out. Unless he sees the light, I don’t think he’s going to last beyond two years. Which means they’ll be looking for another chief, and everyone with the rank of commander and above is a potential candidate. They’ve all got stars in their eyes.”

Great! Another political free-for-all! Just what we need!

“Well, look on the bright side: if the city explodes, Chief Mooney will either be a hero or the most hated chief in modern history, depending on what he does.”

“Dani, we’re talking about a citywide riot. The kind of thing most cities haven’t seen since the sixties. The police response would have to be enormous. Overwhelming! Do you really think a guy like Mooney is going to give the order for something like that?”

No. No, I don’t. And neither does anyone else. That’s what worries me.

“Be at the Levels in thirty minutes. Harper and I will meet you there and fill you in on what’s going on.”

“Roger that. Stay safe out there. There’s bad blood in the air. You can feel it.”

Amen to that. All right, it looks like everyone’s got their cars and gear. Time to say the magic words. Grab the radio and…

“Sixteen Central to dispatch, Central Midwatch is down.”

“Roger, Sixteen. All Central units, Central Midwatch is down.”

And another shift begins. No doubt more of the same. The only question is: how much longer will that last?

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