Mission Critical

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Chapter 2 - A New Robbery Crew in Town

Morning roll call at the station. One thing I hate about working the day shift: I have to get up early in order to get a workout before I start. I hate working out after my shift, so I end up doing it an hour before roll call. Pushups, pull-ups, bench press, rowing machine, dumbbell curls, leg lifts, leg presses. I have to power through them as fast as I can in order to get cleaned up in time for roll call. My hair’s usually still wet from the shower, but in the desert heat it dries fast. Still rocking the ponytail, in case you hadn’t noticed. It seems to be a big hit with some of the guys, and I can stick it down my shirt collar to keep any dickheads from grabbing it in a fight. It’s either that or tie it up in a bun, and I hate dong that. I’m really bad at it and the result is, it comes unraveled and falls down about two hours after I do it. It’s totally annoying. I prefer the simplicity of the ponytail. I’ll live with the cheerleader jokes. Yes, there’ve been a lot of them. Hey, I’ve seen myself in a miniskirt and t-shirt since I started wearing my hair this way. All I needed was the little white socks and a pair of Mary Jane sneakers and I’d totally look like a cheerleader, so I get it. Some of the jokes are pretty funny, too.

I’m looking at the guys assembled in here and I can’t help but notice they’ve all got spit-shined gear; practically mirror-polished. Mine? It’s polished. It’s black. It’s all one color. That’s the best I can do. I’m going to put the Sarge in a headlock and make him show me how to get my boots and gear looking like everyone else’s. You should see his boots. They’re probably half as old as I am and they’re like black glass mirrors. I know they’re not plastic coated because I’ve seen him touching them up. There’s got to be some kind of trick to it that I just never learned. Now that I’m a sergeant, I’ve got no excuse for not looking squared away. How can I inspect the watch and ding people for the little things when I’m the one who should be dinged on my appearance, right? What goes around comes around.

Sergeant Jardine is about to start. His gear is plenty shiny, but I’m pretty sure at least some of it is patent leather, so it’s kind of like he’s cheating. All right, let’s see what awaits us today, shall we?

“Listen up! Roll call! The deployment is as follows: I’m the Watch Commander. Sergeant Milton is One Lincoln. Sergeant Rane is Three Lincoln. Those are your sergeants for the shift. If you need anything, talk to them. Don’t bring it to me unless it’s serious! I’ve killed people for less!”

Sergeant Jardine isn’t what you’d call a hands-on sergeant. Not when he’s the Watch Commander, anyway. Sergeant Milton is handing me a folder. What’s this? It’s a bulletin about a bank robbery crew. This must be the one I heard about last week. We’ve got some assbags doing fast takeover robberies in the city. That’s not uncommon around here. In keeping with the whole airy, wide open southwest motif, most of the banks don’t have the bulletproof glass barriers in them. They think it detracts from the customer’s experience. It attracts more than a few bank robbers, though. If you’re going to make it easy for them, they’re going to take advantage of it. There’s not much here in the bulletin, though. For starters, it says two or three assbags. Can’t they at least narrow it down? It looks like we’ve got what they call a Mutt-and-Jeff team: one of the guys is big and mean as hell and the other one is kind of scrawny. There might be a third guy and there might not be one. It says they haven’t shot anyone yet, but the mean one has pistol-whipped a few people to get their point across. They sound like a bunch of total dickheads! I hope the Robbery desk figures out who these dorks are in a hurry. We don’t need this crap; especially not with the spring coming up. When the weather gets warmer, the weirdos come out of the woodwork around here. These guys might just be the early birds.

“Does anybody have any questions before I turn you all loose?”

I suppose I’d better ask while I’ve got the chance.

“Sarge? What’s the status of these bank robbers? This is the first I’ve seen of this bulletin.”

“Unless they’ve been caught in the last thirty minutes, they’re still out there. They’ve hit three banks in the last four and a half weeks. They’re clearly into the whole robbery thing, so I don’t think they’re going anywhere. Not with all the easy pickings we’ve got around here. There are copies of that bulletin on the desk here, so everybody take one. Find these guys! I don’t want them getting all stupid and shooting somebody! We’ve had enough of those kinds of idiots already! That’s it, people! Go to work!”

They keep it short and sweet around here. This division runs five units during the daytime. We should have more but…wait for it…we can’t afford it! That shit really gets old, doesn’t it?

I want to think about how we might catch these guys. I think the best thing to do is talk to the Robbery desk and see if there’s anything we can use that isn’t in this bulletin. The good news is, I know everybody working it because I was a detective here and I especially liked working Robbery. The bad news is, they might be a little resentful toward me because I bailed on being a detective. When I took the sergeant’s test, I explained to everyone how I just felt that being a detective wasn’t for me. At the time, I thought they understood. Now? I’m not so sure. There seems to be a definite chill in the air around some of them. But we’re all cops, right? Well, there’s one other thing that might make some of them resent me: I’m a lot younger than most of them and now I kind of…outrank them. A sergeant is a little bit higher than a detective, hence the bump in pay. And since I’m technically a Detective Sergeant, some of my former fellow detectives might feel a little…you know. But it can’t hurt to ask, right?

I know I’ve only been a sergeant on this watch for a few days, but I’ve noticed something strange: everybody disappears almost as soon as they get out of roll call. I don’t ever remember everyone making themselves scarce when I was on patrol. What gives?

There’s the Sarge. I might as well ask him. He may be a reserve, but he knows just about everything that goes on around here.

“Sarge? Where did everybody go? Every time I get out of roll call, they’re gone. What’s up with that?”

He seems to find that funny. I don’t know why.

“Rane, you’re the new sergeant on the watch. I think they’re trying to come up with a way to welcome you aboard.”

Oh, hell! I know what that means! They’re going to play some evil practical joke on me!

“What are they planning? Out with it, old man! Am I about to get punked?”

“I wouldn’t go that far, but I do think you have to expect something…a little crude.”

“Why? I’m not the only female sergeant around here.”

“You’re the only one on the watch. And you’re not just any female sergeant.”

I guess he means because I’m the Sniper Girl. I don’t see why that would make a difference, though.

“Why? Because I’m officially a sniper?”

And now he’s rolling his eyes! Why? What did I miss? I hate it when everybody knows something I don’t!

“Rane, you’re the youngest female sergeant in the station. You’re barely thirty. And let’s face it: those guys have all seen you in a t-shirt and shorts. They know what you’re packing underneath that uniform. I think they find it a little…distracting.”

I guess I can’t argue with that. But that doesn’t mean I want to be the butt of some sick joke.

“How bad do you think it’s going to be?”

“Not too bad. Crude, but not outrageous. Some of them are probably groaning because now that you’re a sergeant, they feel like they don’t have a shot with you. I’ve heard that said in the locker room.”

I told you he knew everything. Even the dirty stuff that guys never tell girls.

“They should be used to it. I’ve turned down plenty of them since I joined the force.”

It’s not that they’re bad guys. Well, most of them, anyway. It’s just that they’re not what I’m looking for. There are a couple of guys on the job who I wouldn’t mind taking for a total bang-fest – hint, hint, Sarge! – but not many. Cops are a special breed. I can’t really put it any better than that. If you’re on the outside looking in, they’re kind of hot. But if you’re on the inside looking around you? Not so much. You see, a lot of these guys are real horn dogs. You know: charter members of the girl-of-the-month club. Some of them are just snakes. Some of them are even married and don’t seem to take it seriously, if you know what I mean. That’s fine with me as long as I don’t have to deal with it. As you’ve probably noticed, I’m kind of a strange contradiction: as much as I love getting nailed –and oh Lord, do I love it! – I’m not looking to be just another notch on some guy’s bedpost. I guess I can’t explain it any better than that. Is it any wonder why I have no life?

“They’re inherently dogged and relentless, Rane. They’re not the type of guys who are used to giving up on anything.”

That’s true. Some of them still haven’t stopped trying. Part of me thinks it’s flattering. Part of me thinks they really need to move on. It depends on the guy, I suppose.

“Just give me a heads-up if you find out anything. Cops can be pretty brutal with the practical jokes. Especially when it comes to playing jokes on sergeants.”

“I won’t let you walk into any minefields. I promise.”

No, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be laughing right alongside of them if they come up with something that humiliates the crap out of me, old man!

“Who’s over in Robbery right now? I want to ask about these bank robbers.”

“The ones in that flyer? Good call. Sam Chathel’s at his desk. You can ask him.”

Good idea. He’ll probably know. I always got along good with him.

“Will do. See you out there, Sarge.”

I want to know if this is a professional crew or just a couple of meth heads who need to feed their habit. They’re robbing way too many banks to be your run-of-the-mill robbery crew. If it’s the former, then we need to put them out of commission fast. The last thing we want is a professional robbery crew deciding to call our town home. If it’s the latter, then they’ll screw up in no time and get caught. We’ve had more than our share of professional robbery crews in this town; guys who do takeover robberies where they go in with guns blazing. We usually end up shooting people like that. I really hope it’s not going to come to that, but I want to be prepared either way.

There he is. I’d better catch him before he heads out in the field on some investigation.

“Sam! I want to ask you about this bulletin we just got.”

“The bank robberies? What about it?”

“Is there anything else I should know about this crew? Anything that isn’t in the bulletin? It says there are two or three suspects. The witnesses aren’t sure?”

“The first two, they thought someone was waiting in a car outside. After one minute, they heard someone honking a horn. The third one? There was a third guy inside counting down from sixty.”

That’s not good. In and out in sixty seconds. That’s the mark of a professional crew.

“So they’re pros?”

“Hard to say. They’ve got the routine down pretty good, but they hit two of the banks before the armored car drop-off so there wasn’t as much cash upstairs as there would’ve been. Don’t get me wrong; they got plenty. Just not as much as they could’ve had. The third one? They hit right after the drop-off. They got away with over a hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Either they got lucky, or they’re learning. I can’t say which it is.”

“They didn’t try for the armored car?”

“Nope. I guess they’re not suicidal. You know who’s got the contract for that now, don’t you?”

Of course. We got a notification on it two months ago: RSS is in the armored car business now. That’s Randall Schoen Security, in case you’ve forgotten. The biggest collection of trigger-happy yahoos in town, working for one of the richest men in the state who’s little more than a gangster himself. Mixing it up with those nut jobs would guarantee a shootout. I guess it was a stupid question.

“Are there any leads on who they are?”

“Not so far. White males, lots of guns, wearing jackets, masks, and gloves. The bank manager at the second robbery said the two guys never stopped moving. They kept shifting positions so as to keep everyone in sight at all times. The smaller guy seemed to know exactly what he was doing; almost as if he’d worked there before. And they’ve got the control part of it down pat. As soon as they got in and brandished their weapons, they ordered all of the tellers back against the wall. Threatened to shoot them if they so much as twitched.”

So they couldn’t hit the silent alarm. Smart. Risky, going in with their guns drawn. If there was a security guard in there, he’d have started blasting as soon as he saw a weapon. I’m guessing they did their recon and made sure there wouldn’t be any armed security in the banks at the time. Sounds pretty professional to me. So they know tactics and they know basic bank operations, but not the detailed stuff like when the drop-offs are scheduled. That tells me none of them ever worked in a bank before; despite the smaller guy’s apparent familiarity with them.

“Do they try for the vault?”

“Not so far. It’s like it doesn’t even exist for them. I think they know the one in the lobby is just for safe deposit boxes. On the third hit, they went straight for the secure room where the armored car drop-off cash was kept. The first two? Cash drawers only. They always get out in sixty seconds. Once the clock runs out, they take off with whatever they’ve got. You can’t call them the greedy types, can you?”

Very smart. Sixty is the magic number in the bank robbery business: get in and out in sixty seconds and you’ve got a really good chance of getting away. Stay in there any longer and your odds of getting away with it go straight into the toilet.

“Security cameras?”

“Totally ignore them. They don’t touch them. They don’t have to. They’ve got masks and gloves, so we don’t have any shots of their faces. The witnesses say they’re white guys. Beyond that? Who knows?”

“And the getaway car?”

“Unknown. We’ve got nothing on the videos from the parking lots. No one was crazy enough to follow them out and take a look at it, either. We don’t even know if it is a car. It could be a van or a truck. They can be on bikes for all we know.”

I hope not. After the great biker war, I never want to see another assbag on a motorcycle again!

“And the local informants?”

“Nobody’s got anything. They’ve all heard about the robberies, but that’s it. Whoever these guys are, they’re not going around bragging about it. They’re keeping to themselves.”

And that’s another sign that they’re pros. Smart crooks keep their mouths shut and they don’t let themselves be seen in the wrong company. You know, like snitches?

“And there’s no discernable pattern?”

“None. That’s to be expected. Except for the ones that keep an armed guard inside the bank, our local banks are cheeseboxes ripe for the picking. You know that.”

Everybody knows it. We’ve asked the banks to install bulletproof glass, but like I said: they think it ruins the customers’ experience. They don’t want to do it. Maybe this will change their minds?

“Are you guys running stakeouts at the banks?”

“Not yet. Lieutenant Jutras doesn’t want to commit to them yet. Between you and me, I think he’s a little overcautious after what happened to him.”

He’s talking about the market shootout with Childerson and his buddy. Yeah, he got shot and nearly died! And Hank Castile got killed and some other guys got shot, too! It was horrible like nothing I’d ever seen before, and that includes the shootout in the diner. Is it any wonder he’s a little hesitant to risk something like that again? I don’t think so. I still have nightmares about that shootout. I’m talking about real nightmares. The kind where you wake up screaming sometimes. I wish they’d stop.

“Patrol has the bulletin, so we’ll see what we can come up with. Maybe we’ll get lucky?”

“Please do! Allison, these punks haven’t shot anybody yet and we’d like to keep it that way. Try not to let anybody force a confrontation, OK? We don’t know how they’ll react. This ain’t the old days where if the guy was a pro, there was a good chance his gun was empty. The young ones aren’t that smart. They go in with plenty of ammo and they’re usually not afraid to use it.”

“You read my mind. I’ll keep in touch. Thanks, Sam.”

Not exactly good news, is it? A professional robbery crew. Three guys. They could cause real problems for us if one of our units happens upon them before they get out of the bank. We could have a hostage situation. The stuff I’ve been reading for the SRT assessment? They all say the last thing you want is a hostage situation because you never know how they’re going to play out. Your options for a successful resolution go way down as soon as some assbag takes a hostage. We need to avoid that if we can. No more shootouts! Please!


I’m out and about in the big city. OK, it’s not actually a big city, but I’m out and about. Another nice perk of being a sergeant? We get the newest cars. SUVs, in this case. I’ve got a shiny new Ford Explorer police model. It’s a hell of a lot nicer than our worn-out old Crown Victorias. Can you believe we still use those things? They’ve all got about two hundred thousand miles on them. We’re phasing them out in favor of the Explorers, but we’ve still got some of those old lead sleds, as we like to call them. They’re horrible! The only saving grace is we’ve been able to keep the air conditioners working. Without air conditioners, they’d be death traps in the desert heat. Not only that, but all of our guys would “accidentally” sabotage them until the department took the hint and got rid of them for good. We do that sometimes. Only when it’s absolutely necessary, though.

Do you want to see how far I’ve come as a cop after all this intensive training with the Sarge? All right, take a look over there at that bank. Now, imagine if there were a robbery in there. The first thing I thought of when I glanced at it was “God help us if we end up boxing the suspects in there.” I don’t think I would’ve even considered that before I started on the path to becoming a sniper. I’m kind of ashamed to admit that, but it’s true. Take a good look at that place: the whole front vestibule is made of heavy glass. Maybe not the bulletproof stuff, but it’s so heavy that we’d probably have a hell of a time trying to shoot through it. And the assbags could see everything we’d be doing out front. Surveillance of what’s going on inside the place? Forget it! If you’ve ever seen TV shows where the cops drill a hole in the wall and slide a tiny microphone through the hole to listen in on the assbags? Well, it’s true. We do that sometimes. But one look at that place and it’s pretty clear that we’d have to drill through the back wall to do it and the assbags would probably be so far away from it that the microphone wouldn’t pick up much. Drill through the roof? I’m guessing that thing is tar paper and gravel. I don’t see how you could walk on it without everybody in the place knowing about it. Or crashing right through it, for that matter. A frontal assault? All the assbags would have to do is line up the employees facing the vestibule and they’d have a human shield. No, our best bet would be to make sure they got out of the bank before we tried anything. If we tried to take them while they were still inside, we’d have a protracted hostage situation complete with every horrible thing that could go wrong with that. And all that came from just glancing over at the place while I was stopped at the light. I think back on how I didn’t know or even consider any of this stuff before and I think to myself, “It’s a wonder I didn’t end up getting myself killed.” I’ve got a whole new appreciation for the job. As much as it kind of overwhelms me, I have to admit: I like it. I feel like I’ve really come into my own now. In spite of the rotten things that have happened lately – you know, like having to shoot a lot of people – I’m more fired up about the job than I’ve ever been. Pretty amazing, huh? It’s a good feeling. I like it.

Let’s see what everyone’s up to. I’m a sergeant, so I’m supposed to keep track of my officers, right? Three Baker’s on a traffic stop. Five Baker’s on a domestic dispute. At nine o’clock in the morning? Who the hell gets into a domestic argument at nine o’clock in the morning? What? Did she burn the toast or make the eggs scrambled instead of over-easy? People should either be at work or just getting out of bed at this hour! Of course, I know better. Some people stay up all night drinking or getting wasted and once the sun comes up, the fights start. Weird, huh? Welcome to the life of an American cop! Seven Baker is clear, and Nine Baker is sitting over at Donatella and Paseo Vista. That’s one of our ticket orchards, as we like to call them. Everyone runs that stop sign. You could write a whole book of tickets there every day. Like most departments, ours is pretty big on tickets. They generate a ton of revenue for the city. That’s another nice thing about being a sergeant: I’m not expected to write tickets anymore. The downside? I am expected to get on everyone’s case about writing more of them. You have to take the good with the bad, right? Who else? The Sarge shows out to the station and Sergeant Christensen is clear. That’s everyone. We don’t run a big Daywatch, as you can tell. Not usually, anyway. Yet another reason why I want to get transferred to the Nightwatch. Bigger watch, more interesting stuff going on, and it’s cooler once the sun goes down. We can’t forget that part. Not with the spring only a few weeks away. Around here, spring is just another word for early summer. Stand by for the heat!

“Nine Baker, I’m following a white Nissan Rogue, license number DMA9690, westbound on Paseo Vista from Donatella. One male occupant in the vehicle. Failure to yield. Requesting backup.”

So somebody isn’t pulling over for them. Somebody doesn’t want to get a ticket. Either that, or they’re up to something serious and we don’t know about it. Not yet, anyway. Fortunately, I’m really close to them.

“Three Lincoln, show me responding to the backup call. ETA is less than a minute.”

“Three Lincoln, roger.”

“Seven Baker, show me responding. ETA is one minute.”

“Seven Baker, roger.”

That’s three officers. The three of us should be able to handle one guy. Unless he’s a major dickhead, that is.

“Nine Baker, I’m in pursuit! He just jammed the gas! He’s trying to lose me! Westbound Paseo Vista, passing Caldwell! He’s weaving through traffic!”

Oh, crap! Who runs from the cops at this hour? What the fuck is up with that? Cut over on Reimer and link up with him on Paseo Vista! Step on it! Lights and siren!

“Nine Baker, alert the sheriffs! We’re going to be heading into their jurisdiction at this rate! Speed’s increasing! Still westbound on Paseo Vista!”

That’s just up ahead! Whoa! There they are! And that assbag is really hauling it! Crazy dickface! There’s a lot of traffic on that street at this hour! Pull in behind him and get in the game!

“Three Lincoln, I’m behind Nine Baker. Still westbound on Paseo Vista, passing Service Street. Get us an air unit if you can.”

“Three Lincoln, roger. No want or warrant on the vehicle.”

So it’s not reported stolen and it’s not wanted. So why is dickface running from us? He’s driving like a total douche! The way he’s weaving through traffic, he’s either going to hit somebody or he’s going to roll that thing!

“Nine Baker, he’s turning north onto Sarasota! High rate of speed! He’s going to wipe out if he keeps this up!”

No kidding! That’s a two-lane road with a lot of dips and twists!

“Seven Baker, I’m behind Three Lincoln!”

Good! Just in time for the total wipeout! There’s a big ditch running along the side of Sarasota! This assbag’s going to end up in it! Left curve coming up! Slow down, dickface! Slow down! He’s not slowing down! Oh, shit!

“Nine Baker, he just rolled it! He’s in the ditch!”

He sure is! That was a bad one! He really hit hard! Is he still alive? The car’s upside down! He could be all fucked up!

“Three Lincoln, pursuit terminated! Roll EMS and a tow!”

They’re going to have a hell of a time getting that hunk of junk out of there! I see smoke coming from the wreck! I hope that dickhead had his seatbelt on! Around here? Probably not!

“Brentano! Is that guy still alive?”

“He’s alive! Holy shit! It’s a fucking kid!

What? A kid was driving that thing? I don’t believe it! Look at that little punk! He looks like he’s in middle school!

“Is he all right?”

“He’s good! Get over here, you little shit! What the fuck were you doing? Do you even have a license?”

“No!”

“How old are you?”

“Fourteen.”

Did I hear him right? That little shit is fourteen years old? Did he steal the thing?

“Hey! Kid! Where did you get the car?”

“Are you a real cop?”

Excuse me? What the fuck is wrong with this little shit?

“Yes, I’m a real cop! I’m a sergeant! See the stripes?”

“You look like a stripper to me.”

Is he trying to get me to smack him across the face? Because I’ll do it! I don’t care if he’s a kid! Right now, he’s a goddamned felon!

“How about I shove a pole up your ass and you can dance for us? Do you know what you just did? Grand theft auto! Evading pursuit! Felony endangerment! Do you know how much time you’re looking at?”

“I didn’t steal it! It’s my dad’s car!”

You mean it was your dad’s car! It’s totaled! The whole roof is caved in! And I think it’s on fire! What a stupid little dickface! Who raised this little punk?

“Did he give you permission to take it?”

“No. I ain’t old enough to drive it.”

“Then that means you stole it, dickhead! Grand theft auto! Hook this punk up! You’re under arrest, dickface! Three felonies! Congratulations! You hit the trifecta!”

“You can’t arrest me! I ain’t eighteen! You got to take me home!”

Does he actually believe that? What the hell are they teaching kids these days? And I thought my generation was dumb! This little shit probably can’t tie his own shoes!

“News flash, dickhead! We can arrest you! You’re under arrest! We’ll see if the judge lets you go home or if he sends your little punk ass to juvenile hall! Brentano, toss him in your car and take him back to the station! Charge him with everything you can think of! What a stupid little shit!”

The only question now is: how are his parents going to react? Are they going to kill him, or are they the type that couldn’t care less? If they’re the latter, then the little shit goes to juvenile hall. Let me tell you, that’s going to be a real eye-opener for this kid! And if dad kills his ass for stealing his car and wrecking it? Hey, I don’t have a problem with that! No harm, no foul! File it under extreme child-rearing! We need a lot more of that around here! This little shithead is the proof!

************************

Back at the station. Full disclosure: I’m not crazy about kids. I know it’s a rotten thing to say, but it’s the truth and I always try to be honest with people. I don’t like kids in general. I’ve met some nice ones, but for the most part? I’m uncomfortable around them. My own childhood was pretty rotten, as you already know. Seeing kids now bring up too many bad memories. Plus, I was never very good at being a kid. Then there’s the fact that in this job, you meet a lot of kids who are total shits. This little punk is a perfect example. He’s been picked up a few times; nothing serious until now. His biggest problem is he’s got an attitude. I don’t know where he got it – from his friends or his parents – but he’s a little dickface. I don’t think sitting him down and talking to him is going to do him any good. He needs a conviction on his record and some supervised probation to straighten his ass out. Either that, or it’ll just prove that he’s a dickface through-and-through and we can get a head start on his file for when he’s an adult and goes to prison.

As a sergeant, my job is to write the pursuit report. We lay out in detail how it happened, what everyone did, and whether any policies were violated. We get a whole lot of pursuits in this town, so it’s not like I’m unfamiliar with them. Fortunately, this is an easy one. It lasted for only a few miles and the stupid kid didn’t plow into anything or anyone. Everybody did a good job. It’s definitely an easy one. The hard ones? Those reports end up looking like a novel. I’ve seen my share of them. Never been in one, though. I don’t like car chases. I worked the Traffic section, remember? I know what can happen when you drive like a maniac. Toss in the fact that I didn’t get a driver’s license until I was in college and you understand why I don’t like them.

We’re still waiting for the little shit’s parents to get here. Theresa called them. You remember her, right? My friend back in the Detectives’ section. She likes kids. She can deal with him. Me? I want to shove a nightstick up his nasty ass! Now that I’m back in uniform, I don’t have to borrow one from a patrol officer. Another plus to being back on patrol. If they show up and say their precious little angel couldn’t possibly have done anything like that, I may shove a nightstick up their asses! This little dickface has one seriously nasty mouth on him! I’m thinking his parents might be assbags; sort of like a certain mom I could name. The only thing that makes me think they’re not is that the car the kid was driving was really nice. It was only a year old. Maybe I’m stereotyping people, but it just wasn’t the sort of car that your basic assbag parents would own. They’d have spent the money on something more practical, like drugs or whiskey. We’ll find out one way or the other. Good parents or bad; their kid is a total piece of shit!

“Rane! I heard you had a little chase!”

The Sarge. Probably looking to bust my balls, so to speak.

“It wasn’t my chase. It was Brentano’s. I was just along for the ride. The driver’s fourteen years old, if you can believe it.”

“Took mom’s car out for a little joyride, did he?”

“There wasn’t any joy in that ride. The little dickface totaled it! It’s over at Sutter’s Tow Yard, getting ready to be sold for scrap!”

“Boys will be boys, Rane.”

That’s his take on this? The little shit steals a car, runs from the cops, totals the fucking car and that’s his take on it?

“More like total dickheads will be total dickheads!”

“Don’t you think you’re being a little hard on him?”

Seriously? Watch this!

You talk to the little shit and tell me I’m being hard on him!”

“I will. I relate to kids.”

Sure you do, old man! That’s why you never had any! Just watch: five minutes with that little asswipe and he’ll be calling for a firing squad! Have fun, old man!

“How’s being a sergeant treating you, Allison?”

Lieutenant Jutras. It’s good to see him walking normally. After getting shot last fall in the biker war, he was using a wheelchair until just recently. It made me sick to see him in it. I was there, remember? And I didn’t get a scratch.

“Just fine, sir. That little dickface who ripped off his dad’s car? Not so much.”

“Are the parents coming in to collect him?”

“I don’t know. Theresa called them. I don’t know what they told her. I’ll bet they said keep the little dork!”

“This is why I never had you do a Juvenile rotation when you were a detective.”

Yes, I skipped over that one and I was damned glad for it. I don’t know how those guys do it. I’d be in a straitjacket if I had to work Juvenile. Or in prison.

“And I never thanked you enough for that. By the way, I’m glad to see you up and about again. Any pain?”

“Some. I know I used to bug you after you got shot. I should apologize for that. I didn’t realize how annoying it could be until I had people asking me twenty times a day how am I doing?”

“It’s different for you, sir. I got shot once and it went straight through. You got hit multiple times and they had to dig the bullets out. You do realize you almost died, right?”

“Don’t remind me. I get that from my wife about a dozen times before I leave for work every day.”

“I’m authorized to remind you. I was there when it happened, remember? You scared the crap out of me.”

“How do you think I felt?”

Probably even more scared than I was. I saw him. I saw the look on his face. He thought he was dead for sure. So did I.

“Just promise me you won’t ever do that again, OK?”

“I can’t make that promise. Not as long as I’m on the job. None of us can.”

True, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. These guys are the first people I’ve gotten attached to in a long time. I don’t like the idea of losing any of them. I still miss Hank Castile. Every time I see his picture in the front lobby, half of me wants to cry and the other half wants to scream with rage. Never again please! No more!

“I’m going to tell your wife you said that.”

“I don’t want you talking to her. I don’t want her picking up any bad habits from you.”

Uh-huh. You know, whenever he says something like that? I get this weird feeling that he knows I’m a total bad girl in the sack and that’s what he’s talking about. He’s afraid I’ll teach his wife some of my more…esoteric sex games. I don’t know how he’d ever find that out about me, but I always get that feeling. Weird, huh? Don’t get me wrong: if she asked, I’d be happy to teach her. He’d probably enjoy it, too. I’ve never had a guy I banged complain to me. Quite the opposite, in fact. I come highly recommended by the male of the species. A few women, too.

Here comes the Sarge, and does he ever look ticked off!

“Did you relate to the little tyke, Sarge?”

“Fuck that little shit and the bitch who gave life to him!”

I knew it! Relate to kids my ass! I’ll bet the little dickface said something nasty about the Marines. That’s a surefire way to get the Sarge all up in arms.

“You can tell her that yourself if she ever bothers to show up. I say throw the little shithead in juvenile hall. He’s going to wind up there eventually. No time like the present, right?”

“I say put his ass on the HMCs! That’ll straighten him out!”

No doubt, but I don’t think a judge would sign off on it. HMC is a term we use around here that means “Highway Maintenance Crew.” It’s a fancy way of saying “Prison Chain Gang.” Most of them don’t wear the chains around their ankles, but we’ve got plenty of convicts working on the highways in this state. Drive around long enough and you’re bound to see them. They wear striped uniforms just like in the movies. You’ll also see the prison guards sitting up on horses with shotguns in their hands and big cowboy hats on their heads. It’s a sight to see.

“From your lips to God’s ears, Sarge. Lieutenant, what can you tell us about this bank robbery crew we’ve got hitting in the city?”

“Not much. Given the frequency of their robberies, I’d have to say they’re dope fiends. They’re feeding a habit.”

That’s what everybody seems to think. Bank robbery is a risky crime. Doing it a lot pretty much guarantees you’re going to get caught eventually. The main thing that overcomes that knowledge is the fear of running out of drugs.

“Has Narcotics figured out who they might be?”

“Not so far. I spoke to a couple of their guys yesterday. They said a lot of their usual sources know about the robberies, but they don’t know who’s doing them. They also said the dope heads say there’s nobody suddenly flashing a lot of cash at the dope spots. It doesn’t quite add up, does it?”

No, it doesn’t. I’d expect them to be all over the place if they were spending the money on drugs. One thing you learn about dope heads: they all seem to know each other and they sure as hell know when someone in their circle suddenly has a lot of money to buy drugs. Everyone else tries to mooch off of them.

“We’re sure it’s three guys now?”

“That’s what the witnesses at the last one said. If there’s a fourth guy waiting outside, we don’t know about it. We don’t have a vehicle description for them. We don’t have any reports of stolen vehicles in the vicinities of the crimes. They might be using their own car or they might be stealing a getaway car well in advance. We’re still developing leads. So far, we don’t have much to go on.”

“And there’s no reason to believe they’ve shot anyone?”

“Not as far as we know. Some of the witnesses even said the little guy was very polite during the robberies. Firm, but polite. Then again, they may have shot five people doing something else and we don’t know about it. They haven’t fired any shots at any of the robberies. They’re strictly professional during each takedown. After what happened last fall, that’s a nice change of pace.”

Tell me about it! Trigger-happy bikers with a death wish? I never want to see anything like it in my life!

“You’ll let us know if you find anything?”

“Don’t we always? What about you guys, Allison? Do your ‘unusual sources’ have anything we can use?”

He’s asking about the Conspiracy Boys over at Cydonia Survival. I’m sure you’ll remember them. How could you forget them? How could anyone ever forget those guys? They leave an impression like you wouldn’t believe, as you probably know already.

“I haven’t talked to them. They’re conspiracy freaks; not hardcore criminals.”

“They seem to know a lot of things they shouldn’t. That includes some very dangerous people. Maybe you should talk to them?”

Oh, sure! He knows how much I hate going over there and poking around for information. Those guys hate authority figures. They say we’re part of a vast “Crypto-Fascist Shadow Government;” whatever the hell that is. And of course, they know I’m a cop. They’re generally not crazy about helping us out.

“Why don’t you talk to them, sir?”

“Because they won’t say two words to me.”

Sure they will! They’ll say “Fuck off!” Then they’ll shut up!

“I’ll think about it. I’m working Three Lincoln. Let me know when you’re going to lunch. We’ll join you. We’ll even buy. Consider it our ‘Welcome Back’ present to you, sir.”

“You’ve got a deal. Be safe out there.”

After everything I’ve been through since last summer? That should be a breeze. Then again, I hope I didn’t just jinx myself. You know how I feel about jinxes. See? I just did it again! Damn!

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