Mission Critical

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Chapter 9 - Trouble on the Moon

Home and sore. If you’re going to be sore, home is the right place to be. Of course, it would be nice if home had a Jacuzzi, but I’m a girl on a budget. I’m lucky to have a bathtub. I got home and fell asleep before I even got my clothes off, and I only just woke up. I was right about the blisters on my feet: I’ve got two on my left foot and one huge one on my right foot. I popped them with a pin, but when you do that, the loose skin comes right off and now you’ve got a big red raw spot of flesh that hurts no matter what you do. I put the foot cream all over them, taped them up, and I’ve got my big fuzzy socks on that feel great on my feet but are too big for me to wear my shoes over them. I’ve got some red marks on my legs from the chafing – don’t ever do strenuous exercises when you’re soaking wet – and so I’m sitting here in my underwear and an oversized ASU t-shirt that I sometimes wear as a house dress. It’s a habit I picked up in my college dorm days when I was literally a starving student. I know: pathetic! But it’s comfortable and it was cheap and it does the job. Those words are music to my ears most of the time. It’s wash and wear, too. No need to have it dry-cleaned. Pretty good deal, huh?

Don’t you hate it when you fall asleep right away and wake up a few hours later and now you can’t get back to sleep? I do. It’s why I try not to take naps in the afternoon. I end up staying awake until three in the morning, and I’ve got a busy day tomorrow. Even if the SRT assessment is only a half-day, it just means that I have to go back to the station and finish the shift on patrol. I wonder if I can get out of it? I’ve got a massive amount of overtime banked as a result of being a detective, but it’s not easy to use. They’ve got to be able to spare you for the day. I could bang in sick – I’ve got blisters on my feet and I’m guessing that by the time the assessment is over, I won’t be able to walk – but I really hate doing that – almost as much as the lieutenants and the captain hate it when one of their people does that. People who use up their sick time go directly to the official station shit list. It’s crazy, but there it is: unless you’re practically dying, they expect to see you in there.

So I’m standing here looking out the window at the city lights and the mountains in the distance and kind of letting my mind wander. It’s probably not the best idea for a young woman to stand in the window wearing next to nothing, but I don’t care right now. Hell, maybe I’ll catch the eye of a stalker and I’ll end up with a new boyfriend? What do I mean by that? What do you think I mean? I’m lonely. I’ve come to terms with the fact that Anthony’s gone and he’s not coming back. That’s what happens when you end up in the Federal Witness Protection Program. And he’s there because of me, remember? He’s been gone for months and I’m ready to move on, but I don’t know how. You know my luck in that department: total zero. I don’t know why I can’t seem to make a real connection with someone. I can’t even make a frivolous one. Why not? What’s wrong with me? I’ve got the looks and I like to think I’ve got a nice personality, but there’s clearly something that keeps getting in the way. I’m sure it has to do with my screwed-up childhood, but whatever it is, I can’t seem to fix it. It sucks to be alone, doesn’t it? I wish I was one of those people who couldn’t care less, but I’m not. I don’t do well on my own. Even when it looks to all the world like I’m doing just fine, the truth is I’m barely treading water and I feel like I’m going to drown any minute now. I hate it.

If it weren’t for Beefy boy here, I’d be in real trouble. Times like this where I get all full of self-pity are dangerous for me. In case I never told you, one of my greatest fears is that things will overwhelm me and I’ll start to drink and never stop. I’m terrified of becoming an alcoholic like my mom. They say it runs in the family, you know. I can’t begin to tell you how much that scares me. I saw what it did to her and I sure as hell saw what she did to me because of it. The idea that one day I’ll start drinking and never stop scares me like you wouldn’t believe. I drank a fair amount in college, but after that was when it began to really scare me. I used to think that never taking a drink would solve it, but it didn’t. I like a beer when I get home and I like a good stiff drink every now and then, but I’m so paranoid about it that I make sure not to get drunk or even tipsy. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been totally falling-down drunk since college and afterward it scared the living shit out of me. Each time, I thought it was the first step; you know what I mean? It’s not easy to live with that kind of fear, let me tell you. And if there’s a cure for it, I don’t know about it. It’s a curse and I can’t get rid of it no matter what I do. Do me a favor: never tell anyone about that, OK? I don’t like to talk about it.

I keep telling myself I’m in a good place now. I’ve got a good job and I’m making more money than ever before. I’m not going to get rich being a cop, but it pays the bills. And I feel more connected to the job than I ever did. It went from being a job that pays a decent wage to something more. A lot more. I used to be glad I had this job, but now I want it. I really want it. I used to be satisfied with being a good cop, but now I want to be a great cop. The Sarge did that for me, you know. He really transformed me. Who would’ve thought it, huh? And as much as I adore the old coot for everything he’s done for me, I feel like shit that I can’t repay the favor. What could I possibly do for him that comes even close to what he’s done for me? Is it any wonder why I keep fantasizing about banging his brains out? It’s about the only thing I can think of that could make him as happy as he’s made me. I also happen to be really good at it, as I hope you’ve noticed. Hey, when you’ve got it? Flaunt it! I won’t be young and pretty forever, will I? If I’m going to give it to him, I’d better hurry up about it.

It’s times like this that I wonder how I ended up here. I mean in my whole life. I was a kid in a farming town in Kansas with what most people would describe as the perfect life. It wasn’t exactly Huckleberry Finn, but it was pretty close. Then one fine day my dad tells me he’s leaving and I never saw him again. A few days later, my mom tosses me in the car and drives all the way to Las Vegas so she can become a star singing old sixties crooner’s tunes. We all know how that worked out, don’t we? I picked a college because it offered me a free ride; nothing more. I had no other way to pay for it. The next thing I know, I’m out of a job and desperate for a paycheck and I see a sign hanging in the employment office saying the police department is hiring. Then I found a guy who I thought was the perfect match and we’d be together forever and boom! Later, honey! I’m moving on! Have a nice life, you dumb bitch! Now here I am: Detective Sergeant Allison Rane – divorce survivor, decorated cop, and the Sniper Girl. God, if I tried to sell that story to a Hollywood studio, they’d kick me out of the office! No one would believe it. So how the hell did it become my life? How did I end up here? A million questions; no answers. That’s the life of a detective for you. Is it any wonder why I took the sergeant’s test?

“Beefy! Mom’s feeling sorry for herself again! Do something goofy to make her laugh so she’ll snap out of it!”

If you need to laugh? Get a pit bull. They’ll have you in stitches. They’ve got a knack for that. Here he comes! Oh, hell! He’s running straight at me!

“Beefy! No! No! No wrestling! No!”

Fuck! He jumped on me! God, that hurt!

“Get off me you fat pig! Off! Off!”

What the fuck? No! Do not bite my shirt! No!

“Beefy! No! No tug-of-war! Let go! No! Let go of my shirt! No!

Stupid dog! He pulled it right off!

“Give me back my shirt! Beefy! I’m warning you! Give me back my shirt!”

This is what happens when you undress in front of your dog! He ends up thinking it’s a game! It’s not a game! Look at him! He’s all crouched down in front of me! He’s daring me to chase him! Screw that! My feet hurt too much to stand! I can’t go running after him!

“Beefy, you give me that this instant! Give! Beefy! You are in so much trouble, you little shit! Give!

Fuck! My feet hurt! Screw this! Sit down! Anything to get off of my feet! I’m going to strangle his ass!

“Not funny! Not funny! Beefy! You give me that shirt! This is ridiculous! Bad dog! Very bad dog!”

What’s he doing? Oh, hell no! Get off me, you little shit! What’s he…no! Do not pull on my bra strap!

“Stop! Bad dog! Beefy! Let go of that! What the fuck are you doing? No! Bad dog! Bad!

And there goes my bra! Stupid dog! I just washed that! I’m going to kill him! What the hell has gotten into him?

“All right, pal! If you think I’m going to sit here with my tits hanging out while you chew on my bra, you’ve got another think coming! You’d better not chew it up! I was going to wear that tomorrow!”

Damn it! I just washed that! It was my last clean sports bra! Now I have to wear a different one tomorrow! There had better not be any “wet t-shirt contests” tomorrow at the training! I don’t want some lacy thing showing through my t-shirt in front of those guys! I’ll never hear the end of it!

“Your ass is mown grass, Beefy! Do you hear me? You were supposed to come sit with me and cheer me up! Not strip off my clothes! Bad dog!”

What’s the point? Look at him! He’s smiling from ear to ear! Stupid dog! Forget what I said about getting a pit bull! They’re as dumb as a box of rocks!


Late morning at the assessment training. It smells like a Ben-Gay convention around here! Everybody’s sore as hell from yesterday. I used up a whole jar of Tiger Balm myself. And my feet? Don’t ask! They were nice enough to let us all wear running shoes today, but the truth is they’re not much better. Even with memory foam, there’s no such thing as a comfortable shoe when you’ve got blisters on your feet. The SRT guys took pity on us and we spent most of the morning going over tactical scenarios on a whiteboard. They asked us what would you do in this case or that case; that sort of thing. It was a real eye-opener for me. I did pretty well, but that’s because I’ve been training with the Sarge for almost a year. The rest of the guys? They didn’t have that advantage and yet most of them really knew their stuff. It’s almost embarrassing for me when I think about how long I was a cop and didn’t know most of that stuff. Sometimes I wonder how I managed to stay alive for so long. I don’t know. And I know of a few cops who weren’t so lucky. It really shakes you when you think about it.

I think Lieutenant Shears is about to wrap it up. Well, if we’re talking about tactical plans, then I want to take the time to pick his brain about our current situation.

“Sir? I have a question. How do you guys handle a situation involving a hostage scenario inside of a building with multiple suspects?”

“I take it you’re referring to your bank robbery crew? Good question! Let’s take a look at a possible scenario.”

He’s drawing a diagram of a bank on the board. Too bad we don’t know which one they’re going to hit next. It would help.

“As we touched on earlier, a hostage situation is one of the most dangerous scenarios you’ll face; either as a patrol officer or as a member of SRT. The situation Sergeant Rane is talking about is one of the worst: multiple hostages and multiple hostiles. And a lot of the banks in this city seem like they’re designed to thwart our efforts. Take a look at this: if this were downtown Phoenix, most of the banks would be modern glass and steel boxes. Lots of windows, lots of ways to see what’s happening inside of the location. In this city, most of the banks are either in brick and mortar buildings or worse: converted buildings that were designed for some other purpose. They don’t have nearly as much glass and some of them have sturdy, thick walls.”

Which means we can’t see inside very well and they’ve got good cover from any rounds we fire at them. That sucks.

“In the bank robbery hostage situations we’ve faced in the past, there are a few commonalities but they’re each different. In one case, the suspects lined up the hostages here, along the front counter. They had them sitting on the floor. That meant they were out of the immediate line of fire. But in the Sundance Bank heist, the suspects lined the hostages up in front of the glass doors and kept them standing the whole time. It was the perfect human shield tactic: we had a great view of the hostages, but no view of the suspects until it was too late. It was a disaster.”

I remember that one. By “too late,” he means when the entry was botched and the assbags shot all of the hostages. The main shooter ran along behind them and shot them in the back even after he’d taken two solid hits. He was a total nut job. He didn’t stop firing until he collapsed from his wounds. It was a bloodbath: four x-rays killed and two hostages killed. Four more hostages were wounded.

“The problem with the bank scenario that Sergeant Rane is talking about is that there’s usually no more than two entrances into a bank: a front door and a back door and they’re both highly visible. In a very few cases, a dynamic entry can be made through the ceiling, but not many buildings around here have a roof made of spit and toilet paper. We’re confined to going through one or both of the entrances, and you can bet the hostiles are going to be expecting it. We had a case a few years ago where the hostiles made the hostages pile all of the furniture in the place in front of the back door. That left one way in or out, and it was easy for them to keep an eye on it.”

“So how did you guys handle it?”

“We deployed flash bangs and tear gas grenades here, through the window. We used the MRAP to smash through the back door and the team entered on foot behind it here. Once we were in, the hostiles surrendered. Fortunately for us, they were so focused on the front door that we caught them off-guard. If they’d been smart enough to place one guy to watch through the back door, we might’ve had another Sundance on our hands.”

“Sir, it sounds like you’re saying a hostage scenario like that is all a matter of us getting lucky.”

“I hate to break it to you, Allison, but most of the time it is. Banks are a weird contradiction: they’re designed to be open and inviting, but they’re also little fortresses designed to keep people from overrunning them. You’ve probably seen those videos from Latin American countries. You’ve seen how the bad guys rob banks over there.”

No kidding! I’ve seen those videos. They’re all over the internet. They’ll have thirty guys go rushing into the bank with sledgehammers and lots of guns and they literally swarm the place. They smash the ATM machines and drag them out with trucks and tow cables. They clean out the cash drawers and dump the money into the back of a pickup truck like they’re filling it with oranges. It’s insane. People in this country don’t know how lucky they’ve got it.

“So what’s the best way to bring it to a successful conclusion?”

“Time. In most cases, time is on our side. The longer the bad guys have to sit and think about their situation, the more likely it is that they’ll see it’s hopeless and give up. Most crooks aren’t in a hurry to get killed. But if you’ve got a bunch of animals like we had at the Sundance robbery? Time works against us. Guys like that are too willing to kill people and the longer we wait, the more likely it is that they’ll do it. The safety of the hostages comes first. No exceptions.”

“But there’s not a lot we can do to guarantee their safety, is there?”

“There’s nothing we can do to guarantee that. If we thought every hostage would be released unharmed once the bad guys got away, we’d let them all go every time. But we know from bitter experience that the odds of a hostage being released unharmed are slim to none. Kidnapping is a federal offense and you get life for it. No jury will sympathize with a kidnapper. Suspects know it and they know their best chance to make good their escape is to eliminate the hostages so they can never testify against them.”

I know. It sucks. Totally!

“If I’m a sniper, what’s my best opportunity for a shot?”

“Good question. The answer is: when the hostiles get clear of the bank. That glass in the doors? It can be up to an inch thick and it’s safety glass. Even if you can shoot through it, your bullet is going to deflect so much that you won’t hit the target. And the banks in converted buildings usually change out the glass in the windows for some kind of indestructible stuff, so going for a shot through what looks like a typical window is a no-go. You’ve got almost zero chance of making a shot while they’re in the bank. You’ve got to wait until they get outside in the open.”

“And the downside?”

“Limited time and your target is going to be moving. There’s also the fact that some bank robbers know a few tricks to screw up our plans. We once had a guy set off a smoke grenade before he rushed outside. He and his hostage were in the getaway car before we could zero him. The pursuit went all the way into New Mexico. We got him when he wrecked the car. The hostage suffered a broken arm, but that was it. We were damned lucky with that one.”

So it looks like the best strategy is a waiting game. It also looks like it’s a very risky strategy. There’s got to be a better way.

“Isn’t there any way we can improve the odds, sir?”

“Sure. Get the stupid banks to install bulletproof glass bandit barriers at the teller windows and high-security doors at the counter. Good luck with that.”

I know. We already went through that. Maybe these assbags will make them change their minds?

“So if the units roll up and the assbags run back in the bank…”

“We’re screwed. That’s when we get the call. So what do you think, Sergeant Rane?”

Not inspiring me with confidence, Lieutenant! If this thing goes south on us, it’s going to happen really soon! We can’t just hope for the best when it does!

“I think we need to bring back the Reactive Squad.”

And that look on his face tells me what he thinks of that idea! Hey, I just blurted it out! I didn’t exactly think it through!

“Forget it! The city’s still paying off the lawsuits from the last time!”

I know. We’ve all heard the stories. In case I never mentioned it, back in the day, the department used to have a special detail attached to the Robbery desk called the Reactive Squad. They were a small team of detectives modeled on the old Stakeout squads from the sixties and seventies; back when the police could shoot crooks without everyone getting their knickers in a knot. They’d follow the crooks around and jam on them when they tried to pull a rip-off. Every instance ended in a shootout, and I mean all of them! It quickly got to be too much even for the people around here to stomach. A couple of those shootouts weren’t exactly kosher, if you know what I mean. The facts didn’t exactly match what those detectives claimed in their reports and there were a thousand lawsuits; some of which we lost massively. We’re not going down that route again. No one would stand for it and the city can’t afford it.

“So what’s the alternative, sir? You shake a Magic 8-Ball before each operation and see how things are going to turn out?”

My apologies to the Sphere of Destiny. I just blurted that one out, too.

“I got rid of our Magic 8-Ball, Allison. It kept telling us things we didn’t want to hear.”

For real? That’s exactly my experience with it! Part of me thinks he’s not making that up. He’s a fellow believer? Good Lord! Now I have even less confidence in him!

“I didn’t mean to put you on the spot, sir. I just don’t like the idea that it all boils down to dumb luck.”

“Neither do we. We study and train and chase after new ways to do things in the hope that it’ll save lives. Unfortunately, there are limits to what we can do and that’s not going to change. Not unless science invents a weapon that lets us push a button and stun all the bad guys while we waltz in and handcuff them, and I don’t think there’s anything like that on the drawing board.”

“So light a fire under them and tell them we want it by Monday.”

Everyone got a chuckle out of that. The problem is, I wasn’t necessarily making a joke. It’s the twenty-first century. Where the hell is our stun button? You’d think we’d have it by now.

“I wish it were that easy. This is a good lesson for all of you: we don’t have all the answers and we’re not supermen. A lot of people are under the mistaken impression that SRT can do anything. And I’ll admit, sometimes we get a little too carried away with our own reputation, but in the end, we realize our limitations. We can’t do it all. We don’t have an ideal solution for every scenario. We don’t always win. If you came here under that impression, then you need to rethink why you’re here because I promise you: if you make this team? Reality is going to kick you in the ass more than once and you’re not going to like it.”

That part, I believe. I don’t even need to consult the Sphere of Destiny for that one.

“I’m actually glad you brought that one up, Allison. Tomorrow, we’re going to put you through some tactical scenarios as a team to see how you do. I can promise all of you this: there will be a bank hostage situation in there! So be ready for it! Because Sergeant Rane is right about one thing: this robbery crew that’s been hitting across the city? They’re going to make a mistake. Sooner or later, they’re going to make a mistake. And when they do, there’s a better than average chance that SRT’s going to get the call to come handle it. You’re all going to see just what we’re up against tomorrow and you’re going to see what our limitations are in a case like this. And I promise you: you’re not going to like it!”

I can believe that part, too! I hope I didn’t just screw over any of my fellow candidates in the assessment. It sounds like the Lieutenant just told us we’re going to get hit with a scenario that has no solution. If that’s the case, then I’m going to be a very unpopular girl by the end of the day.


Back at the station. We wrapped up at SRT an hour ago and I’m going over the reports from the first units at the scene of the last robbery. I’m trying to focus on them, but my brain keeps screaming at me to go across the street to Wintergreen’s and buy a pair of slippers. My feet are killing me! You can’t wear running shoes with your uniform, so I’m wearing my usual black boots and my feet are not happy about it. I don’t know how marathon runners can stand it. We’ve got a lot of them out here because of the weather and you see them in the parks picking blisters out of their feet all the time. I feel like I’m an inch away from filing for disability over this crap. I’ll bet the rest of the candidates are, too. They’re all back at their posts with their blistered feet, suffering in silence just like me. There’s no rest for the weary around here, is there?

The only lead we’ve got on these assbags – besides that psycho book they’re using – is that they used a pretty big new or near-new truck to make their getaway. Unfortunately, everybody and his dog out here has a truck. I think I’m the only one in town who doesn’t have one, and I spend a fair amount of time sitting in the Sarge’s truck so it kind of counts as mine. How are we supposed to track it down without a description? We don’t even have a color for it so we can’t tell our officers to be on the lookout for it. These fucking dickheads have gotten way too lucky so far. That needs to change pronto!

“Rane! Let’s go! Trouble on the moon!”

The Sarge. Just great! For those of you who don’t frequent some of our less scenic locations, “on the moon” is the Full Moon Trailer Park: otherwise known as Meth Central. They cook a lot of meth over there. We get about three or four calls a day at that place. Mostly on the night shift, though.

“Chemical or domestic?”

A cop’s way of saying is it a drug-related incident or some drunk beating the crap out of his wife – or vice-versa?

“Chemical. One of our units came across another meth lab.”

“On the moon? Gee, what a surprise!”

“It’s not that simple. There was a fire. The lab is history.”

Another “what else is new?” moment for that place.

“How many units are over there mow?

“Four. It’s a mess. They need a couple of supervisors on the scene.”

Can’t they find one whose feet aren’t covered in blisters? Someone who doesn’t want to scream with each step she takes? Never mind. Dumb question.

“Let’s get over there. You’re driving. My feet are still on the disabled list.”

“You know, when I was a boy, we used to walk to school…”

“Fifteen miles uphill over broken terrain each way while barefoot! Spare me the ‘when I was a boy’ speeches, Sarge. I’ll bet you really lived right across the street from the school. And even then, I’ll bet you took the bus.”

I’m serious. The bigger the bullshit story, the more mundane the truth is. That’s been my experience with him, anyway.

“Are you questioning my manhood, princess?”

“Just your veracity. Let’s move, old man. And if I end up puking my guts out from a bunch of noxious fumes, I’m puking right on the front seat of your truck.”

I’ll do it, too. I just won’t puke on my side of the seat. All right, let’s see what happened over at Meth Central. Jesus, another fire! We ought to just let that whole place burn to the ground once and for all. I’m up for it.


The Full Moon Trailer & RV Park. They weren’t kidding about the fire! There’s nothing left of that trailer! Poof! Gone! There’s nothing but the foundation! It’s been a little while since I’ve seen one of these. One thing about meth labs: pretty much everything in them is as flammable as hell. You just breathe hot on the mixture and you’ve got a five-alarm fire on your hands.

At least no one was hurt. See the old white guy with the ZZ Top beard over there in the back seat of the patrol car? That’s our meth cook. Our guys say he got out just before the fireworks show. His name is Billy “Karts” Karcher – no relation to the Carl’s Jr. burger guy. He’s been in the dope business since before I was born. You’ll notice he’s got no teeth, he’s as thin as a skeleton, and he’s fidgeting about in the back of that patrol car like he’s sitting on a burning hot stove. That tells you he’s been sampling his own wares, as we like to say. That’s a fatal mistake when you run a dope kitchen. If I were still one of the boys – or girls – I’d bet five bucks in the pool on how long it’s been since he’s slept. I’d take six to seven days and I’ll bet I’d win. Too bad sergeants can’t usually get in on those pools. When you’re a good guesser, it’s pretty easy money.

The fire department’s got the fire out, most of our evidence is now a pile of ashes, and Billy’s probably looking at six years minimum. With his record, he’s pretty screwed. The forensics people will be able to confirm he was cooking meth in there. There’ll be traces of the chemicals all over the wreckage; not to mention all over his clothes. Why the hell does Arizona Man love crystal meth so much? I’ll never understand that. We’re practically the meth capitol of the world, it seems. How the hell did that happen? What’s the big attraction with a drug that makes you psychotic, keeps you awake for weeks at a time, makes it almost impossible to eat, ruins your sex drive, and can give you a heart attack or a brain aneurysm without the slightest warning? Can somebody explain that one to me? I happen to like eating, sleeping, fucking, and a healthy heart. And don’t get me started on the psychotic part. I lived with a lunatic until I went away to college. That was enough for one lifetime, thank you very much.

There’s the ever-present Officer Jimmy Corrales, running the scene. Now that I’m a sergeant, I should really make sure he gets the recognition he deserves. He does more in a day than a lot of cops do in a week and he rarely gets so much as an “atta-boy” for it. That’s just wrong.

“What’s the word, Jimmy?”

“Hey, Allison. I mean Sergeant Rane. You know, I think I’m going to have a hard time getting used to that.”

“Join the club. Was Billy the only one involved?”

“No, we got his partner. He’s over there with Santiago.”

What the fuck? Look at that guy! Long straight hair parted in the middle, beard and mustache, skinny as hell and totally thrashed! He looks like Jesus! And I’m talking right after the crucifixion!

That guy’s involved?”

“Yeah! Jesus of Methadrine! He’s a pretty big dealer in the neighborhood, or so we’ve heard. I don’t know his name. He won’t talk to us. He had three ounces of crystal meth in his backpack. I guess he made a pickup right before the fireworks.”

“Do we know what started the fire?”

“According to Billy? A lack of ‘No Smoking’ signs. The stupid dick lit a ciggy and forgot he had a batch cooking in the kitchen with the fans turned off. Boom!

That’ll do it. Smart meth cooks make everyone dump anything that could start a fire before they let them in the lab. They literally make you turn out all your pockets first. I guess Billy’s gotten a little careless in his old age.

“He wasn’t injured?”

“No, he was standing by the screen door and got his ass blown right through it. He got a little singed, a couple of bumps and bruises, but that’s all.”

They’ll spray a little Bactine on him at the jail. He’ll be fine.

“What about Meth Jesus?”

“Not a mark on him. I think he was outside when it happened. Too stupid to run, though.”

“It sounds like you guys have everything under control. Leave the reports in my box before you go end of watch. Hey, Jimmy? Is there any word out there on these dickheads doing the bank robberies?”

“Just that it’s happening. Nobody seems to know who they are. I guess they’re not part of the ‘established’ criminal element.”

“Newcomers?”

“Maybe? Maybe they’re snowbirds? It’s still pretty cold up north, you know.”

So they came down here for the sun and to rob banks? I can’t say as I’ve ever heard of that one before.

“You’re full of good news. I don’t suppose you could get your uncle the shaman to conjure up their names?”

“He wouldn’t do it. He wouldn’t want to have to go to court. He doesn’t have a car.”

“So? You’ve got a car.”

“I’m not driving him! That old man gets on my nerves with his mystical shit!”

Jimmy may be a full-blooded Chiricahua, but he doesn’t exactly subscribe to the old traditions. I’ve heard him whine about his uncle and his old-fashioned demands before. Hey, at least the guy didn’t abandon him for a bottle like some people I could name.

“We need a break on that case. It’s only a matter of time before those assbags screw up and kill somebody.”

“I hear you and the Sarge think they’re following a play-by-play from some crazy book. Is that true?”

Word gets around, doesn’t it?

“It looks that way. Some dork with a thousand bank robberies to his name wrote a how-to book on it. He’s even got videos on his website about it. It looks like these guys got their hands on a copy and they’ve been using it as a guide for their hits.”

“So contact the company who sold it and see if anybody around here ordered one.”

“Now why didn’t I think of that? Gee, Jimmy! You’re a real genius! You just solved the case all by yourself! How can I ever thank you?”

Yes, that was sarcasm. It was more appropriate than slamming my knee into his ball sack. Not as satisfying, though.

“I’m just saying…”

“We thought of that right away. But this book isn’t available from any of the retailers. You have to get it directly from the guy who wrote it and he’s ignored our requests for his mailing list. We’re trying to get the OK to go up to Vegas and talk to him directly.”

“A free trip to Vegas? Hey, do you need someone to go with you?”

Remember what I said about degenerate gamblers? Here’s one for you. I’ve seen him at the local tribal casino, parked at one of the poker tables. I don’t know why he’s so fired up to go play. He sucks at it just like most cops do.

“It’s strictly business. There’s no time for the gambling tables.”

“In that case, I’ll pass.”

Gee, what a surprise!

“Do me a favor and try to drum up some information on these guys. All we know for sure is they’re white guys and they’ve got a king cab pickup truck; new or near-new. A powerful one. That’s all we’ve got.”

“It’s not much, but we’ll ask around. Who are these guys? Addicts?”

“We don’t think so. They don’t act like addicts; at least according to the witnesses in the banks. They seem to be stealing a hell of a lot of cash, though. We don’t know why. Why would anybody need that much cash in such a hurry?”

“Who knows? Maybe they want to get into the dope business? Maybe they want to buy a house? Or a boat? Did you check the boat dealerships?”

God, what is it about cops and boats? I swear to the almighty, there’s no more useless toy in the world than a boat! They cost a fortune, you need a trailer to haul it around, and they’re nothing but trouble! If you don’t make your living from the water, then you don’t need one! Period! End of story! But pretty much every cop I ever met has one, is saving up for one, or just wants one. Me? I couldn’t care less. I’ve been on a boat exactly twice in my life and I can take it or leave it. It just doesn’t do anything for me. If I want to lie out on the water in a bikini, I’ll buy one of those inflatable rafts for twenty bucks, thank you very much. Screw the boat! I saw Titanic. That was enough for me.

“Anyone who buys a boat needs his head examined.”

“I’ve got a boat.”

Why am I not surprised?

“A real boat, or a canoe for fishing on the lake?”

“Both. I’ve got a jet ski, too.”

He’s hopeless! Totally, utterly hopeless!

“No wonder you’re still single.”

“Look who’s talking. And you don’t even have a boat. How are you going to catch a man if you don’t have a boat?”

That’s his take on that? Somebody get me a huge net! I’ve got one for the booby hatch! Coming in code three!

“I don’t need a boat for that, pal. I’ve got these two built-in flotation devices right here. They’re a hell of a lot more appealing to a guy than any boat.”

“No doubt about that!”

Maybe he’s not totally hopeless after all? He’s still got at least one of his priorities straight.

“Let me know what you turn up. I’m out of here. My feet are killing me. I don’t suppose you know any secret Indian remedies for blisters on your feet?”

“Yeah. Stay off of them.”

Some Indian you are, Jimmy! I hope your uncle slaps a hex on your ass! One that makes you hideous to women! That’ll teach you a lesson, mister! Yeah, like that’s ever going to happen! Time to go home and soak my feet! Sergeant Rane is end of watch, and not a moment too soon!

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