Mission Critical

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Chapter 15 - The Team Comes First!

Morning at the hotel. Sometime around nine, I think. I’m too lazy to look at my watch on the nightstand. We’re supposed to leave in about two hours. The Sarge went out for a run while I decided to stay in bed. No, we didn’t sleep in the same bed. There’s two of them in this room. It’s not like I didn’t try to get him into mine, though. I dropped plenty of hints. Oh, who am I kidding? I dropped my skirt right in front of him and flashed my butt in his face. He got a thrill out of it; I could tell. It was hard to tell over his bellowing, but I could tell. There was a flash in his eye that I’m very familiar with. I’ve seen it in the eyes of every guy I’ve ever banged. I like seeing it, too. It’s a real rush. Almost as much of a rush as when I slide their trousers down and mister you-know-what pops out to greet me. That’s one of my favorite rushes, you know. I’m getting to him. Slowly but surely, I’m getting to him. He’s actually in a good mood right now because he walked away from the craps table with a little over five hundred bucks. That’s what he gets for listening to me. Am I good or what? Now if he’d only listen to me when I suggest we play a different kind of game. Don’t worry. I’ll wear him down. The challenge of the chase is half the fun, after all. I’ll say this much: all that flirting with him got me pretty hot. I’ll be glad to get home, call Robbie, and drag him straight into my bedroom. I know he won’t play hard to get. He’d better not! A girl has needs, you know. I keep saying that, don’t I? Well, it’s true.

I got a decent night’s sleep for a change, which was nice. I desperately needed it. I’ve been getting up way too early lately. I really need to get off of the day shift. I can’t handle this “up at the crack of dawn” crap. I’m not a morning person. Never was, never will be. Morning people are a deeply disturbed sort. They become serial killers, you know. It’s a documented fact. Every teacher I ever had who was all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in the morning? I’m sure they’ve got at least a dozen bodies buried underneath their houses. Internal organs in their freezers, along with a few severed heads. It’s a good thing they’re all out of my jurisdiction or I’d make them pay for their heinous crimes.

We got the name of our nerdy bank robbery suspect from our friend Prentiss: Eugene Francis DeWitt. We’ll run him for a criminal record as soon as we get back. The address that Prentiss had for him was in New Mexico, which might explain the phony New Mexico plates he was using. Well, he’s not in New Mexico anymore. He’s in our town and he’s probably ripping off our banks. Would that we could prove that, though. If we could prove he got shot like Prentiss said, that would all but cinch it. Unfortunately, Mister Prentiss’ keen observational skills aren’t admissible as evidence. We’re so close and yet so far. My biggest fear is that these assbags are going to hightail it to the Yukon Territory now that they’ve murdered someone. They will if they’re smart. I’m guessing DeWitt is smart, but his two associates? Probably not so much. They’re still in town and they’re still up to no good. That’s the scary part. The even scarier part is they may not be done robbing banks. Now that they’re facing capital murder charges, they might go into the next bank and just start shooting. It would give them more time and more freedom to clean the place out. I hope they don’t think of that.

In the meantime, we’re stuck in neutral. We can prove DeWitt bought the book and communicated about the specifics of bank robbery with Prentiss, but that’s it. And that’s not a crime, either. We might be able to get a warrant to search his home – assuming we can even find it – but it could be a stretch. I’m no lawyer, but I know that getting search warrants based on people’s reading materials is a very touchy subject. It’s come up before in other states and it always results in an uproar: using library databases to identify suspected terrorists based on the books they check out; things like that. I get how it could be a slippery slope. I certainly wouldn’t want people to make important decisions about me based on some of the more colorful websites I’ve visited. They’d probably get the wrong idea about me. Actually, they’d get the right idea about me, but I wouldn’t want that to become my public persona, if you know what I mean. I’m getting off the subject, aren’t I? Let’s just say getting a warrant based on that book is going to be an uphill battle and leave it at that. And we still have to find him, and based on what LC told us about the guy, that ain’t going to be easy. He’s probably a wanna-be Conspiracy Boy. He’ll know how to cover his tracks.

So it’s back to our little slice of heaven in the desert. I’ll be glad to get the hell out of this town. I’m always afraid that there’ll be a knock at the door and it’ll be my mom. I don’t think she lives here anymore, but I’m not sure about that. Wherever she lives, I don’t want to see her. This town brings back enough bad memories as it is. The idea of seeing her for the first time in years is more than I could stomach. No, I decided that she’s permanently out of my life a long time ago. Some people never change and she’s one of them. I’m sure of it. If I ever saw her again, it would be just as horrible as when I was little and I lived with her. I’m not about to subject myself to that. She did more than enough damage to me. I’m not giving her the chance to do any more.

And here comes the Sarge, back from his run. It started raining again, which is why he’s all wet. He’ll probably be happy to get back home, too. He hates the rain. He doesn’t even like listening to the thunder in the distance the way I do. Does that mean he’s not a romantic? No, he’s a romantic. He just thinks I don’t know about it.

“Welcome back Sarge. How was the run?”

“Invigorating! You should’ve come with me, Rane!”

Running through the streets of a town I hate in the rain? I’ll pass, thank you very much.

“I get enough of that back home. Besides, the blisters on my feet haven’t completely healed. No, I got a chance to sleep late and I took it. You should’ve stayed in bed with me instead.”

“My bed’s that one, in case you’ve forgotten.”

“We should’ve slept in the same bed. It’s more efficient that way.”

It’s more fun that way, too. Hint, hint!

“After the way you were acting yesterday?”

“Imagine how I would’ve acted if you’d shared the bed with me?”

Trust me, it wouldn’t have been an act! Every moan, scream, and yell would’ve been absolutely real!

“That’s what I was afraid of! I’m surprised you didn’t try to crawl under the blanket with me while I was asleep!”

Does he really think I’m going to let that one pass? Not a chance!

“What makes you think I didn’t? Maybe I gave you a blowjob while you slept?”

And he gives me the look of horror and disgust! Yes, I was expecting that!

“You’ve really got a screw loose lately! You know that, right?”

“What do you mean ‘lately?’ I happen to be like this all the time.”

That should be obvious by now, don’t you think?

“You just love driving me right up the wall, don’t you?”

Is it that obvious? It should be!

“What makes you think I’m kidding? You’re the expert observer. What was I wearing when we went to sleep last night?”

“An oversized t-shirt from ASU that’s seen better days.”

“So how come I’m not wearing it now? Are you sure I didn’t strip down and blow you last night?”

“Rane! Knock it off! That’s an order!”

Does he think I’m kidding? Some trained observer he is!

“It’s true, Sarge. In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m not wearing a stitch under this blanket. I must’ve lost my clothes sometime after you went to sleep, right? Why do you think that is?”

OK, I took them off right after he left. But I’m not going to tell him that. These sheets are really soft. They feel good without my clothes on. I wasn’t going to waste it.

“Fine! You get off on torturing me! I get it! You get some sort of sick pleasure out of it! I’m not going to listen anymore!”

He really doesn’t get it, does he?

“Sarge, I love torturing you! Seeing the look on your face just makes my day! But I’ll have you know it’s not just me enjoying watching you squirm. The truth is, I’m ready to make good on everything I say to you. You say the word and I’ll take you to heaven and back, and I’m dead serious about that. It’s what I do with guys I really like and you’re the greatest guy I’ve ever met. And that’s the truth.”

I think that threw him a bit. Hey, I go for the direct approach. It’s the only one I know that works for me.

“Rane, you and I…”

“What? Sarge, I’m a big girl. I like being naughty with the right guy. I happen to be very good at it, in case you hadn’t noticed. I’m not going to look like this forever, so I might as well go for what I want while I can, right? It’s not a crime. You know, most women enjoy getting nailed as much as guys enjoy nailing us. It’s a two-way street. It’s not a secret.”

I think I’d better wrap this up before he has a short-circuit. I’m not trying to dump anything on him. I’m just laying it out for him straight-up.

“Look, old man; I love you and I respect the hell out of you and I owe you my life. You’re the best friend I’ve ever had. And sooner or later, I’ll wear you down. And when that day comes, you and I are going to do things that make the karma sutra look tame! In the meantime, I’ll wait. You know I never give up once I set my mind on something.”

“That part’s true. I’ve never seen you give up on anything.”

“Then you know I’ll get you eventually. You’re not getting away from me, old man. You trained me too well, remember? In the meantime, I’ll just have to settle for torturing and teasing you. That’s OK, though. It’s a lot of fun. I like doing it.”

“You’re insane. You know that, don’t you?”

“I know. But you wouldn’t have it any other way, would you?”

“That’s true.”

See? Deep down, he loves me. And he wants to nail me. Who wouldn’t? I’m a total nympho when I get my motor running! He’s got to realize that by now!

“And if you ever want to do one of those ‘naughty daddy-daughter’ fantasies with me, I’m totally up for it. Have you seen those porn sites? Some of them are unbelievably hot!”

“Rane!”

“So…raincheck?”

“Get dressed! Jesus Christ!

The chase continues! I wouldn’t have it any other way!

“Are you going to watch?”

“I’m going to kill you is what I’m going to do! Get dressed! I’m going to go wait in the bathroom until you’re decent!”

Decent? Me? That’s going to be one long wait, old man!

“Hey, if you’re going to jerk off in there, can I watch?”

“Rane!”

“Can I do it for you? Pretty please? I’ll be gentle, I swear!”

He’s storming off in a huff! Poor baby!

“I promise I’ll swallow it! I always do! Ask anyone!”

Wow! That scream was definitely a new one! Like an angry bear, I think! All right, I’ve had my fun. I’ll work on him some more when we get back. I’ve got plenty of time. A good bang-fest is a dish best served cold, remember? And once he decides to do it, we’ll generate all the heat we need all by ourselves! I’ll get him. One of these days, I’ll get him. And for some reason, I just know it’ll be worth the wait. I don’t even need the Sphere of Destiny to tell me that. I just know it.


Back at the station. We’ve only got another hour before I go end of watch, but I wanted to read the detectives’ reports on that robbery before I leave for the day. It’s pretty straightforward: they bust in, screaming and yelling, guns waving, they pistol whip the teller, and bang! First-degree murder! Pretty cut and dry, actually. Jesus, how jaded am I? I just said someone getting murdered is cut and dry! I guess the job is really getting to me, huh? I need to watch out for that. They warned us when we first joined the police force that we might reach a point where things just kind of slid off of us that should really register, and that it was a warning sign. I think I just saw the warning sign, don’t you? So what do I do about it? When in doubt, ask someone who knows, right? I’ll ask Lieutenant Jutras. He’ll know what I should do.

Our mystery dickface Eugene DeWitt? No record on file. Interestingly, he doesn’t have a driver’s license or an ID on file anywhere. Not under his name, anyway. In fact, he’s got absolutely squat on file. Before we left Las Vegas, I called Agent Nunez and told him about DeWitt. He ran a federal check on him and in addition to having no driver’s license or ID on record, he’s also got no passport, no federal tax returns on file, not even a W-2 on file, and no record of ever having set foot in a school in the United States. Either it’s a totally bullshit name or this guy has mastered the art of falling off the grid. He’s a ghost! And I can’t fathom that because as Prentiss said, he’s a total Melvin! I can believe he was socially invisible in high school, but no tax returns? No scholastic records? No W-2s? How is that even possible? We have better leads when we’re trying to track down some illegal guy who sneaked across the border last week!

“Allison! Back from Vegas? Did you see the elephant?”

“Sure did. Trunk and all.”

Detective Marty Brocius of our Burglary desk. He likes to insist that he’s a relative of some famous outlaw named Curly Bill Brocius, but I don’t think anyone believes him. Detective Arredondo told me that guy got killed back in 1882 and he didn’t have any kids, so Marty’s probably not related to him. Marty’s fascination with Arizona’s Old West outlaws kind of creeps into the way he talks. “See the elephant” is an old cowboy term from the days of the cattle drives. Apparently, a big deal for cowboys back then was to see a circus when you got to one of the cattle towns, hence “see the elephant.” I’m still not sure what it’s supposed to mean beyond that, but it’s something Marty says on a regular basis. It kind of goes with his Old West bolo ties and his “authentic” cowboy boots. No alligator or snakeskin for him. No, he only wears boots that look like something you could buy in 1870. Oh, and his cowboy hat. Don’t forget the hat. Stetson, of course. It cost him nine hundred bucks. True story, guys: he blew nine hundred bucks on a cowboy hat. I don’t think he even owns a horse. He drives an old Audi. I just can’t see Wyatt Earp in an Audi, can you? I think Marty needs to work on his cowboy persona. You need a little substance to go along with the image, right?

I mentioned Detective Arredondo. He’s still our senior Homicide detective, but he’s on restricted duty after nearly getting killed in that shootout with the Storm Wraiths. He wasn’t in the best shape to begin with, so his recovery has been long and painful. I’ve visited him several times since it happened. I miss having him around here on a regular basis. He treated me like a kid when I made detective, but he really does know his stuff and he was a good source of information for a lot of things. I’m hoping he makes it back here full-time very soon. I was amazed when Lieutenant Jutras came back as fast as he did. He got shot almost as bad as Arredondo. I’m telling you, this tradition we inherited from the big eastern cities of detectives wearing suits? I think we need to abandon it. Detectives should wear hard armor these days. Most of the detectives we’ve had get shot in the line of duty weren’t wearing vests. Just suits. You can imagine how that worked out. Those two shootings made me think that a suit was a good way to get a detective killed. Put them in uniform with hard armor, I say. The job is just too dangerous for anything else. Just ask Detective Castile. Actually, you can’t. He’s dead, remember?

So until we come up with something to tell us where to find DeWitt, we’re stuck. I damn sure don’t want to wait around for him and his friends to hit again, but what can we do? LC doesn’t know who he is or were to find him. Nobody does. I might as well take off now. I don’t have anything to do. And here I thought sergeants always had a ton of stuff to do, but I’m sitting here twiddling my thumbs like I sometimes did when I was a detective. My God-awful pursuit report? I finished that when we were in Las Vegas. Hey, I didn’t have anything else to do. Twenty-six pages of pure hell. Pure hell for me to write it; not for the poor schmuck who might actually try to read it. It would put them to sleep. And the worst part of it? It was all for nothing. They’ll link that report to the arrest report and the Traffic report and nobody will ever see it again. All of that work and nobody will even care. It’s not like I didn’t know that’s how it goes. Unless it’s a major pursuit or there’s some terrible incident connected with it, it really doesn’t matter. We’ve got way too many rednecks out here who think running from the police is the official state sport. Too many pursuits, too many reports, and not enough time or inclination to read them. Is it any wonder why we buy paper by the metric ton? Now you see why the green freaks hate us: we kill all the trees.

I think you can tell how tired I am; given how my mind is wandering and I’m sort of babbling about this and that. A long drive and frustration with this case will do that. I’m thinking about cancelling on Robbie, going straight home after this, taking Beefy for a walk, and crawling into bed and staying there until I have to get up in the morning. Oh, who am I kidding? When I get up, it’s still night! It’s dark outside! The only people who are awake when I get up are construction workers and truck drivers. I see them in the parking lot when I leave, getting ready for their shifts. Nobody should have to get up at that hour. It’s not natural. We’ll see. I’ll be able to get up a little later once the SRT assessment is finished. I won’t be coming in extra early to do what I have to do before I have to run off to do that. The whole thing should be finished in a day or two and then we’ll find out who made it. It sucks that only a couple of us are going to get chosen for the team. All of those guys are good enough to make it. If we had the money, there’d be a whole other SRT platoon and all of them would be on it, but it’s not in the budget. It’s crazy, isn’t it? The news is full of stories about cities going to hell and riots in the streets and they’re cutting police budgets when they should be doubling them. Who’s going to deal with that crap if it isn’t the cops? The citizens? Sure, that’s just what people want: armed vigilantes taking to the streets because there aren’t enough cops to handle it! In this town? They’d have plenty of takers for that one. Plenty of people with guns who believe in Old West justice. You know what they say: be careful what you wish for because you might get it. Just get us the money for a second platoon already! Cheap fucking dickheads! Would you rather have Randall Schoen’s yahoos policing the city? I wouldn’t!

“What’s going on, Rane? You’re staring into space. That’s not a good sign.”

The Sarge. How is he so wide awake? He drove the whole way back here. No, it’s not like I was too lazy to do some of the driving. He just doesn’t like anyone driving his truck except him. Guys are like that, aren’t they?

“Sorry, Sarge. My mind is wandering. It’s fatigue.”

“Why don’t you get out of here and go home? There’s nothing more to do today. Nightwatch just came down. You’re done for the evening.”

And our bank robbers aren’t going to hit again. Bank robbers never hit in the late afternoon, right before the bank closes. Everyone knows that.

“What do you think our assbags are doing right now?”

“I don’t know. Maybe kicking back and having a beer? They got thirty-nine thousand bucks in that last hit. If they’d made it into the secure closet, they’d have gotten almost five times that amount.”

But some guy tried to help that teller and they killed him for it. I guess it put a damper on their plan for the place. Lucky us, huh?

“What the hell do they need all that cash for? What are they? Pack rats? They’re just hiding it under their mattresses? The Robbery desk says they’ve got a line on practically every place they could be spending it: car dealerships, jewelry stores, the Indian casinos; nothing! Nobody’s out there spending big bucks all of a sudden. Narcotics says they’re not spending it on drugs, either. What are they doing with it?”

“You’re just making yourself crazy, Rane. It’s not healthy. We’ll find out what it’s all about when we catch them. Not before. I’ve been around here long enough to understand that.”

So have I, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t drive me insane; not knowing. If we knew what they were doing with it, then we might be able to figure out who they are.

“You didn’t come back here just to tell me that, did you? What happened? Something bad, right?”

“Detective Rhee approached the DA about getting a search warrant for this DeWitt guy’s place once we find it. No-go. They wouldn’t even consider it based on what we found. The guy he talked to said people have a right to read whatever they want. If we can’t tie him directly to the robberies, then we can’t touch him.”

I told you that was going to happen, didn’t I? And we don’t even know where to go looking for him.

“Where are these guys, Sarge? They’ve got to be somewhere in the city. They’re not commuting back and forth from Phoenix. They’re local. They have to be. They’ve got to be someplace where people come and go all the time. Someplace where people suddenly show up and leave after a while and nobody notices.”

“Trailer park, maybe?”

“I thought of that, but I don’t think that’s where they are. Have you ever lived in a trailer park? I have. Believe me, no one who’s got the money to stay someplace better would spend more than one night in one of those dumps.”

“Maybe they’re staying someplace centrally located to the banks? That would make their getaways a lot easier.”

You’d think so, but not in this case. Not these guys.

“You’re thinking like a military guy, Sarge. These assholes aren’t military. No one with that kind of discipline would’ve shot that guy in the face like that. Besides, look at that pin map on the wall. There is no central location for the places they hit. It’s like they’re just driving around town, looking for banks. They see one doesn’t have the bulletproof glass and they rip it off. There’s no pattern to it. These dickheads are amateurs. Amateurs with a how-to book. And we can’t catch them. It’s insane.”

That’s the right word for it, isn’t it? Insane. It’s just insane.

“Why do I get the crazy ones all of a sudden, Sarge? Mad snipers, outlaw bikers, and now this? I never used to attract this kind of craziness.”

“You stepped up your game, Rane. The crazy ones were always out there. You just decided to take the job seriously and here we are.”

Yes, I think I should’ve stayed blissfully ignorant. I never had this much stress when I worked Traffic Division. Compared to this? That was easy.

“Remind me to kick myself in the ass for that. I’m going home. I’m going to take the dog for a walk and then I’m crawling into bed and staying there until the alarm clock goes off.”

“That sounds like the sensible thing to do. Call me if you need to talk about anything, OK?”

He gets all overprotective when I get this way. I get it. It’s cute. It’s also very much appreciated.

“I’ll do that. Goodnight, Sarge. Or good afternoon. Whichever.”

He’s right: I’m wiped out. I can’t even think straight. I guess I’ll have to pass on another bang-fest with Robbie tonight. I’ll call him and let him know. I’m sure he’ll be crushed, but he knows I’ll make it up to him. Right now, I’m drained. I’m too young to feel that way, but there it is: I’m drained. The Sarge is right: I need to be sensible and do what’s best for me. I’ll grab a steak sandwich on the way home. Two of them. One for Beefy. I guess I could use an early night for a change. I have a feeling it’s going to be a busy day tomorrow. I need to be ready for it. As ready as I can be, anyway.


One o’clock in the afternoon at the SRT assessment. Thank God I went straight to sleep last night, because today has been ridiculous! Nothing but fast-team drills, deploying from one scenario to the next on the double, and in between? Obstacle courses and rope climbs! They’re trying to kill us! I’m sure of it! It makes sense, doesn’t it? They don’t want to have to disappoint eight of us, so they’ll just work us to death until only two of us are left! It’s devious and brilliant at the same time! And it’s fucking killing me! I think I’ve sweated off five pounds and I didn’t have five pounds to spare! I think my arms are already halfway out of the sockets! I know some of the guys are doing everything they can to hide their injuries, and some of those injuries look pretty severe to me. Sammy Bautista can’t hide that limp anymore no matter how much he tries. I think his knee’s blown, and I don’t mean bruised. He’s hiding it under one of those elastic braces, but I saw him when he pulled it down earlier and it’s a really horrible color. Something serious is going on underneath it. He might wind up needing surgery. He’s in agony, but he won’t admit it. SRT assessment is known to take a terrible toll on anyone crazy enough to try out for it. Now I see it for myself. I’m praying I don’t get knocked out of the running because of some dumb injury, but I’ve got pains that tell me I’m almost at the breaking point. I just have to fight through it. Don’t give up. Stay in it until the end!

This test? A timed two-mile run in full gear, including our weapons. It seems pretty mundane, but after what we’ve been through for the last seven hours, it’s anything but! I swear, it actually hurts to breathe! It’s about eighty degrees out here, but it feels like it’s a hundred degrees and the air is as thin as on top of a mountain! That’s how beat-up we are right now! I have a feeling half of us are going to drop over before we make it to the finish line! But the worst part? They made it pretty clear that for some strange reason, they’re looking at this run more than anything else. Why? It’s just another timed run in full gear. But to listen to the SRT cadre talk about it; this run is make-or-break time. Blow it and you wash out. I don’t know why, but if that’s what they want? Fine. I’ll make it. I don’t care how much it hurts.

I have no idea how Bautista is going to pull this one off. He’ll force himself to finish, but it’s a timed run and they made it pretty clear that it’s a big factor in everyone’s final grade. Some of the other guys aren’t in much better shape. There’s a lot of tension about it right now. We’ve all done our best throughout this thing and I think we’ve done damned well, but it looks like one slip-up now and we’re out. I’m sure they made it that way on purpose – they’re a bunch of sadists, remember? – but I can’t shake the knot in my gut that I’m going to blow it somehow. I just have to force myself through it. We’re sure not getting any encouragement from the assessment cadre. They’re all standing there stone-faced. Come on, guys! Would it kill you to crack a smile at least? Just to break the tension?

It looks like Lieutenant Shears is about to start the race. I’m still planning on burning that clipboard of his when this is over. I’m not the only one, either. I know. I’ve heard the other guys talking about it.

“All right, candidates! We’re worked you to the point of exhaustion and then some! And now we’re asking for more! If you want to be SRT, that’s what you can expect!”

I expect my arms to fall off at any minute! Get on with it, will you?

“This is a timed run in full gear! We will be paying especially close attention to this one! Failure to complete the run in the allotted time will count heavily against you! This is your last chance to drop out before we start! Does anyone want to drop out?”

No one is volunteering. I guess we’re all in it. To the death! Literally!

“All right! Ready? Go!”

Run! Straight ahead! The first turn is a quarter mile down the path! Go! I’m not trying to finish first! I just want to finish in time! I’m not going to kill myself to finish first! Robbie’s way out in front! He certainly has plenty of stamina, doesn’t he? I know that from very personal experience! Keep running! I figure a ten minute per mile pace and I’ll finish five minutes early! Yeah, if I can keep up that pace! My muscles are already burning! Just keep running! Go! Straight ahead! Don’t look left or right! Straight ahead! And for God’s sake, don’t drop the rifle! I won’t do that! The Sarge drilled that one into me like you wouldn’t believe! Never drop your weapon! Just hang onto it for dear life! And try not to choke on all the dust we’re kicking up! Couldn’t they find some grass we could run on? Between the dust and the sweat, it’s hard to keep my eyes open! My eyes are burning like I got sprayed with tear gas! It fucking sucks! Just keep going! Run!

I see the first turn up ahead! Are they going to throw us a curve in this one? Try to ambush us along the way? That would explain why we’ve got our weapons with us. Damn! Now I have to look all around for any trouble spots! That’s going to mess with my concentration and make the run seem like it takes longer! Just keep your eyes open, Allison! Don’t let them surprise you! Run! The first turn and I’ll know I’m one quarter finished!

What the…behind me! Is it an SRT ambush? No! No, it’s Sammy Bautista! He’s down! He’s down and he’s in trouble! He’s grabbing his knee and he’s screaming! Not yelling; screaming! Screw the run! He needs help! Get over there!

“Hey! Everybody! We’ve got a man down!”

They’re not stopping! Not even the ones who looked back! It figures, doesn’t it? Damn it! I’m not leaving him like that!

“Sammy! Is it your knee? How bad?”

“Bad! Something tore! Fuck!

I’m not going to ask him if he can stand. He can’t! No way! He’s going to need a stretcher!

“Somebody give me a hand! Sammy’s hurt! His knee’s all screwed up!”

Here come the SRT guys. They don’t have a gurney? It figures! All right, they’re going to have to carry him back to the SRT truck!

“His knee’s wasted! We’re going to have to carry him. He can’t walk on it.”

“We got this, number five. Come on, Sammy! Up you go!”

Just lifting him made him scream again! He’s all messed up! Not good! Not good at all! He’s going to have to go to the hospital!

“Sergeant Rane! What the hell are you doing?”

Lieutenant Shears. What’s he yelling about? He’s not blind! He saw what happened!

“Sir, Sammy went down. His knee’s all…”

“You were told this run would factor heavily in your final grade! And yet you stopped! Are you trying to wash out, Sergeant Rane?”

Is he for real? Where is this coming from?

“Sir, Sammy’s hurt bad! He didn’t just sprain his…”

“So you’re a doctor now?”

You know, he is really starting to tick me off! What the hell has gotten into him? Look at Sammy! He’s in serious fucking agony!

“I don’t have to be a doctor to see the guy’s in major pain, sir! He needed help! I helped him! Have you got a problem with that?”

“You’re damned right I’ve got a problem with that! You were assigned to complete this run in a certain amount of time! You’ll never catch up now! You blew the mission, Rane! The mission comes first! If someone goes down, that’s just too fucking bad! You stay on mission no matter what! If this were an actual SRT mission and you pulled some shit like that…”

Oh, I am not going to stand here and listen to this crap!

Fuck the mission and fuck you, Lieutenant! A cop went down! One of our own! If this were a real SRT mission, would you expect me to just leave him there? Fuck that shit! If you’re saying the mission is more important than your cops, then you need to have your head examined! We can get another mission! We can’t get another officer! Your team comes first, Lieutenant! Not the goddamned mission!”

How did he suddenly become a total fucking assbag? He never…what the fuck? Why is he grinning like that? No, he’s not grinning! He’s giggling! He’s fucking laughing at me! What the fuck?

“You’re absolutely right, Allison. The team does come first. And not only were you the only one to stop and render aid, but you had the guts to tell me to go fuck myself when I was being completely unreasonable. Congratulations. You passed the test.”

What? What test? The run? I damned sure didn’t complete the…what the fuck? Sammy! He’s walking! He’s barely limping! How is that even possible?

“What’s going on here? Sammy! How are you able to walk?”

“My knee’s not as bad as you think, Allison. I knew I was going to get recycled when my knee got fucked up, so the LT asked me to help out with a little test.”

“What test?”

Oh, wonderful! Now he’s laughing, too!

“To see who would risk blowing their shot on the team to help out a wounded teammate. You’re the only one who stopped. Congratulations, girl! You made it! You passed!”

Is this some kind of put-on? No, I don’t think it is! Most of the SRT cadre is coming over here with big shit-eating grins on their faces! Is he telling me this whole thing was a goddamned setup?

“I passed? What about the run? Sir?”

“There is no run, Allison. This was the test. You said it yourself: the team comes first. You’re right: it does. Every day of the week and twice on Sunday. We were looking to see who would put the welfare of the other team members above everything else. We do this all the time. We rarely get more than one candidate who stops. Everyone who failed to stop did it because they were afraid that if they didn’t finish the run, they might not make the team. You didn’t. You saw a team member in trouble and you took action, even though you knew it might cost you dearly. That’s what we were looking for. That, plus the rest of your performance scores? You made it. You’re in. Congratulations. And welcome to SRT.”

I’m in? I made the team? I don’t believe it! I did it! I actually made it! Look! Here comes the Sarge!

“Sarge! They said…”

“I know what they said, Rane! All right, all of you suckers! Pay up! Twenty bucks each!”

What’s he talking about?

“Sarge, did you know about this test?”

“Of course I knew, Rane! Who do you think came up with it? We do this every time we have an assessment! And this time, I bet every one of these suckers that you’d be the first one to turn around and help out your fellow teammate! And I was right! Hand it over, maggots! All of you! Easiest beer money I ever made!”

“This was your idea?”

“Damned right! Rane, a lot of the department thinks SRT is full of egomaniacs, but the truth is very different. We ask a hell of a lot from people. The best candidate is the one who’s basically selfless. They put the team above their own interests. This was a good way to see who really has that quality. You’ve got it in spades, Rane. Not that I needed anyone to tell me that.”

This was his idea? I don’t know whether to kiss him or kick him in the nuts!

“Lieutenant?”

“He’s right: we don’t need any egomaniacs. They’re the ones who go off-mission and cause problems for everyone. Look, the truth is, about seventy percent of the department has the chops to do this job. Maybe half of those guys could manage to fit in with the rest of the unit. But we’re looking for the ones who really stand out in that regard. It’s not as easy as you’d think, and you’re about to find that out for yourself. We’ll decide which of the other candidates made it, but I can tell you right now that you’re in. Welcome to the team, Sergeant Rane. You’re our new sniper. We’re glad to have you.”

“I don’t know what to say, sir. Thank you! Sammy, I’m so sorry you got hurt.”

“It wasn’t your fault, Allison. Don’t worry, I’ll make it next time. I mean it, LT! You save my spot! I’ll be back!”

“I don’t doubt it. Thanks for your help with this one, Sammy. I won’t forget it.”

First they tell him he’s being recycled for an injury and then they ask him to help out with this little test and he says yes? That sounds pretty selfless to me. I think he’d make a good addition to the team. A damned good addition!

“So…what happens how, sir?”

“You’re done. The assessment’s over. Turn in your weapons and your gear and head back to your station. You’ll get your orders to report for SRT training in a day or two.”

It’s not how I expected it to end, but I’ll take it! I’m in! I made it! I actually made it! Now all that’s left is to find out who else made it. I feel terrible for Sammy, but I think the other seven guys who learn they didn’t make the team are going to feel even worse.

Hang on! We’ve got one of the SRT guys hauling ass over here! Did someone else get hurt?

“LT! LT! Where’s Sergeant Varanasi?”

“I’m right here! What’s going on?”

“Sarge, that bank robbery crew you guys have been chasing? They just hit again! You’ve got two victims down at the scene! They want you and Sergeant Rane back at the station forthwith! It sounds like this was a bad one! Something went seriously wrong this time!”

Oh, wonderful! Just when I’m supposed to be jumping for joy, this shit happens! It never fails! It never fucking fails!

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