Nine Signs

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Summary

A series of strange and violent incidents lead Detective Sergeant Allison Rane and Sergeant Varanasi to face off with a doomsday cult on the outskirts of the city whose base camp is a seemingly impenetrable desert fortress. The two are forced to navigate through a web of apparently unrelated circumstances in order to piece together the reason for the cult's sudden presence and the hidden motive of their unexpected benefactor; all the while juggling their regular and occasionally bizarre police duties - including a visit from the President and a citizen who insists he has proof of the legendary Chupacabra. The showdown with the cult pits sniper against sniper in a war where no prisoners are taken and no quarter is given. Who will survive? And who will pay the ominous price of survival? Book number four of the Allison Rane series.

Genre:
Action / Drama
Author:
Haley Donohue
Status:
Complete
Chapters:
33
Rating:
5.0 5 reviews
Age Rating:
16+

"A Sergeant's Life - Or Lack Thereof"

This is the desert, and there’s one thing you need to know about the desert: it attracts a lot of total weirdos. Not only this desert, mind you. All deserts. Just read through history anywhere in the world and you’ll find the deserts are full of weirdos. I don’t know why and I’m not sure anyone does, but it’s true. This place? We’ve got a whole collection of weirdos out here: treasure hunters looking for legendary lost mines, people with an unhealthy obsession with the Old West, prospectors looking for a big gold strike, UFO hunters, freaks searching for lizard people, anti-government nut jobs, and more than a few cults of every variety you can imagine. It’s a total circus minus the big tent and the elephants. Something about the combination of extreme heat, lack of water, rocks and sand, and a serious lack of people just draws the whack-jobs to this place like flies to a picnic. And sooner or later, a lot of them end up crossing paths with the police. Not all of them, but a lot of them. And as you already know, I’m a cop. That means they become our problem. They become my problem. That means I have to do something about them. Unfortunately, I don’t always know what to do about it. Neither does anybody else, but I’m the one with the stripes so it’s all up to me. It’s not easy being me, is it?

As you already know – assuming you’ve been following my adventures and misadventures so far – I’m a sergeant now. Detective Sergeant Allison Rane if we want to be picky about it. While being a sergeant or even a detective has its perks, it has a few downsides, too. Case in point: whenever a patrol unit gets some total nut job with a story to match his usual craziness, they immediately dump it on a sergeant. I admit, I’ve been guilty of it a few times when I was a uniformed patrol officer. Unfortunately, as a sergeant I can’t just dump it on someone else. Rank hath its pains in the ass, after all. What’s the only thing worse than being a sergeant and having a unit call you to a scene so they can dump a total shit salad on you and say “You fix it, Sarge?” Being in the police station when a total nut job comes in and wants to make an official report about some crazy bullshit. Kind of like this guy we’ve got here. We can’t just tell him to go home and sober up even though he’s so drunk, he’s probably hallucinating right now. No, we have to be polite and respectful and take the report. And what is our inebriated good citizen – and I use that term euphemistically – here to report to his ever-faithful and valiant police department on this fine summer evening? A matter of great urgency? A major threat to public safety? No! He wants to report a goddamned Chupy sighting!

A little clarification is no doubt in order: A “Chupy sighting” is a euphemism we came up with a while back for when one of our total drunks wants to report that he saw a real live Chupacabra. No, I’m not making that up: a Chupacabra. The Pacific Northwest has Bigfoot, Scotland has the Loch Ness Monster, and out here in the desert we’ve got the Chupacabra. If you believe in that stuff, anyway. It seems to me that huge quantities of alcohol are an essential element of seeing a Chupacabra. I don’t think I’ve ever come across a sober person reporting having seen one. Seeing as the thing is supposed to be native to Puerto Rico, I’m not really sure how we’re supposed to have them out here in Arizona, but evidently we do. And whenever some total drunk sees one – or thinks he saw one – they come to the police station to report the sighting. The life of a police officer isn’t all shootouts and car chases, you know. You have to deal with the more…what’s the word? Mundane? Yes, the more mundane crap. You know, like Chupy sightings.

Officer Esposito – Patty, to her friends; Patricia for the official death certificate after I kill her for dragging me into this insanity – is having way too much fun at my expense right now. I’d send her off to get me a cup of coffee so I don’t have to listen to her giggle while I have to drag the details out of this dork, but I don’t speak Spanish so I need her here to translate for me. I keep telling myself that I’m the one who wanted to be a sergeant and I knew what I was getting into, but right now? I’m seriously questioning that decision. What on earth was I thinking? It’s not like I don’t know how this sort of thing plays out. As I told you, I’ve done the same thing to my share of sergeants over the years. Now I know how they felt. It’s a wonder none of them ever killed me.

“Ask him how he’s so sure this…thing…wasn’t just a coyote.”

Judging by the way he’s gesturing, whatever he saw was about the size of a black bear. We don’t get those out here. Bears are forest creatures. Just ask Yogi and Boo Boo.

“He says it was at least as big as a jaguar, dark bristly hair all over it, big fangs and claws, and glowing red eyes.”

Sure, guy. Kind of like your glowing red eyes, right? Only yours are red from being totally bloodshot. He’s massively trashed! I’ll bet he’d blow at least a point three-two on the Breathalyzer.

“And it had…I don’t know exactly what you’d call it…spines? It had something like a row of spines along its back, Sarge. Big ones.”

Can you believe we actually have to take a report for these drunken fantasies? It’s true: we have to complete an official report. Nobody follows up on them and they never go anywhere, but we have to waste the ink and paper. It’s official departmental policy.

“Uh-huh. And were there any strange lights in the sky when this happened? Any saucer-shaped objects in the air? Little guys about yea-high with huge black eyes and bulbous heads?”

I’m hoping that even in his drunken state, he’ll realize I’m not taking this crap seriously and he’ll go away.

“He says not this time.”

Oh, not this time! Now I’m beginning to understand!

“So…this has happened to him before?”

“He says he’s had quite a few Chupy sightings.”

“And there were spaceships with them?”

“Sometimes, but not this time. I guess we don’t have to burn a copy of the report for the Air Force. Lucky you, Sarge.”

Patty, one day there will be a terrible price for doing this to me. I don’t know when and I don’t know what it will be, but I promise it will be horrible and if at all possible, humiliating. That’s one of the perks of being a sergeant: there are plenty of opportunities for revenge. You just have to be patient. I can be very patient when I have to be.

“If this thing was so horrifying-looking, then how come he didn’t just shoot it?”

I think that’s a reasonable question, don’t you? Everyone out here has a gun. Most people have at least a dozen of them, it seems.

“He says he doesn’t have a gun anymore. The police took it away the last time he got in a fight with his wife.”

“He threatened her with a gun?”

“No, she threatened him. She beat the crap out of him, too.”

Probably for drinking too much. Then again, maybe he drinks too much because he’s married? She might be a real shrew, you know. We’ve got plenty of those around here. Some of them are actually more dangerous than a Chupy. I’ll bet they’re just as venomous. Chupy venom is one hundred percent lethal to humans, or so I’ve been told.

“Do me a favor: ask him exactly what he expects us to do about this…thing. I mean, we can’t just go shoot it. What does he expect us to do with it?”

He probably wants us to confirm his sighting and then give him something that says he’s telling the truth so he can show it to all of his friends. We get a lot of those requests, and not just for Chupy sightings. They do the same thing with UFO sightings. We’ve had plenty of those. We’ve even had people ask us to confirm an Elvis sighting. The guy would be almost ninety if he were still alive today. Does anyone really think he still looks like he did in the seventies? Well, that’s what happens when you’re this close to Las Vegas, I suppose. And Area 51. They always seem to work Area 51 into it somehow, even though it’s in Nevada and we’re in Arizona. Don’t ask me why. They just do.

“He says he wants the report on file so he can collect the reward if we manage to find it.”

There’s a reward for catching one of those things? Seriously? I didn’t know that. I wonder who put it up? Some college or some crazy person?

“How much is the reward?”

“He doesn’t know. He says there’s got to be a reward, so he wants to make sure he gets it just in case.”

I don’t know whether that’s crazy or prudent. I’d better not think about it too much. My brain is already a little more scrambled than I’d like it to be, you know.

“Tell him if he manages to bag one, we’ll see to it that he gets all the credit. Other than that, there’s not much we can do. We’ll make a note that he was here and he told us about it. That’s pretty much all we can do right now.”

“We’re supposed to take an incident report, Sergeant.”

“So scratch one out and give it to me. I’ll sign it.”

Delegation of tasks. That’s part of a sergeant’s job, after all.

“You’re all heart, Allison.”

It’s not like I’m sticking her with some massive report. It’s probably about five lines long. I just don’t want to write it. I’m the newest sergeant around here. The senior sergeants won’t pass up the opportunity to torment me over it. They never do.

“Tell him I said good hunting. And don’t get bit. If they bite you, you’ll die in three days max. There’s no known antidote.”

“Has anyone ever been bitten by one?”

Good question. I was making that crap up. I should ask LC over at Cydonia. If anyone ever claimed to have been bitten by a Chupacabra, I’ll bet he’d know about it. Now that I think about it, do I want to know about it? I honestly don’t think so.

“Sergeant Rane, he says he’s going to go back to where he saw it and see if he can catch it. If he does, he’ll bring it in. But he wants that reward.”

If he brings in a real Chupacabra – don’t ask me how we’d ever know if it was a real Chupacabra – I think I’m going to check myself into the psycho ward. One thing’s for sure: I’ll never ever live it down.

Speaking of never living it down, here comes Sergeant Varanasi – the Sarge, as we all know and love him. I’m not loving him too much right now. He’s got that sadistic grin on his face that he gets whenever I’m being made to feel like a complete idiot. Remind me to repay the favor the first chance I get.

“Rane, are you out hunting mythical creatures on city time again?”

“Go choke on your own dick, Sarge.”

I can say that to him now that I’m a sergeant, too. Of course, it never stopped me from saying it to him before. He needs it. Being an old Marine, he’s too used to being in charge. Bringing him down to earth every once in a while is good for him.

“What did he say it looked like?”

“Like a very hairy jaguar with glowing red eyes, fangs and claws, and big spikes along its back.”

“Rane, you know there’s no such creature like that on earth, don’t you?”

Says the man who swears up and down that he once saw Bigfoot. I’ve talked to people who know the Sarge almost as well as I do and they all say he’s not making that up: he swears up and down that he actually saw Bigfoot once. As weird as my life has been so far, I can’t say as I ever thought I’d ever know someone who thinks he saw a Bigfoot. It’s just not the sort of thing you encounter in life, is it?

“Maybe there is when you’re so drunk, you’d blow better than a three on the machine? That guy was beyond trashed.”

“Maybe so, but if he manages to bring one in, I expect to be notified immediately.”

Sure, old man. You’ll be the first one I call. Right after I call the rubber truck to come take me away.

“What brings you here? Besides the chance to watch me suffer?”

“I don’t want to see you suffer, Rane. Who looks out for you more than me?”

Uh, who looks out for me more than the guy who has me do ten billion pushups with a rifle hanging from my teeth? Who has me running over hill and dale and crawling through the desert when it’s two thousand degrees outside? And he calls all of that “training” and says it’s for my own good?

“No one, Sarge. I’m the luckiest girl in the world. So what brings you in here?”

“An intelligence report from headquarters. It’s that time of the year again.”

What time of the year? Summer? What is this…oh, wonderful! Remember what I was saying about how the desert attracts a lot of weirdos? Here’s the proof: it seems we have another cult out in the sticks. This one is just outside of the city on a place called Grey Hawk Plain, but it’s in the unincorporated area so it falls under our jurisdiction. It’s kind of in the middle of nowhere – literally.

“Who are these people? Do we know?”

“Not so far. I just hope they’re not a bunch of goddamned hippies. I can’t stand fucking hippies.”

I’ve tried to tell the Sarge that there aren’t any hippies anymore; they all died out or became stockbrokers back in the eighties, but to no avail. He’s what you call set in his ways.

“They’re probably a bunch of crystal worshippers. We get a lot of those. Do we know how many of them are out there?”

“Not yet. The state troopers are supposed to go out there to see what’s what. I don’t want to have another back-and-forth over trespassing charges. Especially in that damned unincorporated area!”

That’s not uncommon when you’re dealing with people out in the sticks: who actually owns the property? These cults usually pick a place they think is neat or that has some spiritual significance and they don’t bother to find out who owns the land or get their permission to stay there. The resulting trespassing disputes can get pretty intense. Fortunately, most desert cults aren’t violent or even seriously problematic. A lot of them are stoners, but that’s about the extent of their lawbreaking. Most of them, at least. When you’re talking about cults in the desert, you’re always wondering in the back of your mind if the next one is going to be a modern-day Manson Family.

“Keep us up-to-date, OK? I doubt they’ll be any concern for us, but you never know.”

These desert cults are usually no big deal. We get complaints about them for one reason or another, but usually because they’re considered weird and that’s about it. They have some strange practices and they do get on people’s nerves: they’re too loud, they pester people to join them, they dump trash out in the open; things like that. We’ve had the odd malcontent bunch around here, but they’re rare. Those usually happen somewhere else: California, Texas, Utah, and places like that. Up in Montana or Wyoming they get some real hardcore types, but they’re not cults. They’re the small antisocial, anti-government groups that are armed to the teeth and angry as hell. We can do without those, thank you very much. We’ll take the crystal-kissers any day of the week. They’re peaceful and some of them make some really cool jewelry and sell it at the flea markets. I’ve got some.

So it’s June, it’s hotter than hell as usual, people are drinking way too much and that leads to fights and other trouble, and now we’ve got another whacko group out in the desert. It’s shaping up to be a great summer, wouldn’t you say? After what we’ve been through in the last year, I wouldn’t be surprised if the next big thing is an airborne invasion. I hope not, but considering what I’ve been through? I wouldn’t be a bit surprised.


Out on patrol. While I’m officially a member of the Special Response Team, or SRT; I’m also still a patrol sergeant. Unless and until there’s a callout, I’m just a uniformed patrol cop – albeit with three stripes on her sleeve. I have the usual perks of a sergeant: better patrol vehicle, no pressure to write tickets or handle radio calls, and I get to eat my dinner pretty much whenever I want. I usually eat with the Sarge. He has even less demands on his time than I do. We still work together in SRT and in my sniper training. He’s the best partner I’ve ever had. Actually, most of our units are one-man or one-woman units. That’s another perk: I get to work with someone else. Not bad, huh? Rank hath its privileges.

As a member of SRT, I’m on-call three nights a week in case something really horrible happens. I’m working the night watch now: three to midnight. We’re on a four/ten shift for now: four days a week, ten hours per day. It can be a little tough sometimes, but having three days off per week is pretty sweet. Of course, getting a callout at four in the morning after you just finished eleven hours straight is no fun. Now that it’s summertime, that’s going to happen more often. The good news? I haven’t had to fire a single round since that horrible bank standoff. I hope it stays that way. I’ve spent plenty of hours staring through a rifle scope at the bad guys, but I haven’t had to pull the trigger. Our SRT unit isn’t the biggest, but it’s one of the best. I’ll put it up against any SWAT team in the country. I’m very proud of that. We all are. That’s the mark of a great SRT unit: how often we can resolve a situation without firing a shot. It’s one of the reasons why I went for SRT in the first place. Lieutenant Shears is a fine leader and an excellent tactician, and with the Sarge running the training, we really can’t go wrong. I like that, because things can go wrong like you wouldn’t believe in a high-stress, high-risk tactical situation. As you know, I’ve had enough things go wrong in my life in the last few years. I don’t need any more, please God!

While being a sergeant is definitely different than being one of the boys and girls in the rank and file, we’re a small enough department that the camaraderie is still there despite your rank, and I like that a lot. Especially now that I’m a much better cop, thanks to becoming a sniper. I still can’t get over that: Allison Rane is a trained sniper and damned good at it. I’m not only trained, I’m battle-tested as I’m sure you already know. It’s like seeing the world through a whole new set of eyes, if that makes any sense. I’m proud of it. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished. I don’t like the fact that I’ve been forced to shoot and kill a lot of people, but I understand that it was their choice and not mine: they could’ve surrendered and they could’ve chosen not to do whatever the hell they did to get themselves shot in the first place. No, I understand that it wasn’t my idea to kill them. It still makes me feel like shit sometimes, but I can live with it. I can get over it. The worst part about being the Sniper Girl? The never-ending fear that I might make a mistake. As the Sarge likes to say, I’m responsible for every bullet that comes out of the barrel of my rifle. I have to make damned sure that none of them is ever fired in error; let alone at the wrong person. That’s a weight that I have to carry around all the time. Believe me when I tell you that you never want to know what it feels like. The only thing worse? Actually making that horrible mistake and having to live with it for the rest of my life. I don’t know how anyone could manage to live with something like that. I hope I never have to find out.

Other than that, nothing’s changed with me since the last time we checked in. I’m still single – all the good ones seem to be taken and I still haven’t been able to get the Sarge to take that kind of an interest in me for some reason, though I’m not giving up – and part of me is still reeling from my horrible divorce from my stupid ex. I still live alone with Beefy the dog in a dumpy apartment, I still drive the same crappy Ford Five Hundred and wonder every other day whether it’s going to come apart at the seams, I’ve still got my…shall we say…unusual obsession with getting laid, and I’m still addicted to really terrible old Sci-Fi movies. I’ve even got one at home that I’m dying to see: The Giant Claw. A giant vulture that eats airplanes in flight. It’s supposed to be so bad, it’s amazing. I just haven’t had a chance to see it yet. And of course, in times of crisis or confusion I still seek wisdom from the Great Beyond from the mystical Sphere of Destiny; otherwise known as my Magic 8-Ball. It hasn’t steered me wrong yet, so I still trust it. What else have I got, right? I’m a pretty solitary person anymore so I need to get my guidance where I can find it. Don’t we all?

So what’s going on this evening? I suppose you could call it the Great Cleanup. You see, that damned COVID-19 virus really screwed up a lot of things; not least among them the criminal justice system. With all the shutdowns, they closed all the courts and emptied the jails as best they could in order to deal with the situation and that caused some real problems for us. People who should’ve gone to court on all sorts of charges ended up in limbo. Most of them didn’t even get a desk appearance ticket with a date on it. They were pretty much kicked out of jail and told to pay attention so they’d know when their court cases came up. I think you can guess how that turned out: nobody paid any attention and they didn’t show up for court when the courts opened up, so now the city is full of dickheads with warrants and we have to go find them. In short, almost everybody on the department is on warrants detail. You never know who our guys are going to bring into the station every day. Some of these dorks have some serious charges pending, too. As a result, more than a few of them really don’t want to go to jail. That’s where the fights usually start. We’ve had a lot of punch-ups with dickheads who acted like they had no idea they were wanted. None of our people have ended up in the hospital yet, but that probably won’t last much longer. Throw in the summer heat and a whole lot of alcohol and drugs and the basic pigheaded stubbornness of the average Arizona criminal and it’s only a matter of time before someone gets seriously hurt. As you can imagine, I’m not looking forward to that.

Everyone’s got a long list of people who didn’t show up for court and ended up with warrants. Some of them are really rinky-dink and some of them are no-bail warrants for some major charges. We ended up letting a lot of people go who should’ve stayed locked up, so you can imagine how much they don’t want to go back to jail. The smart ones left the city. They may have left the state, but they’re sure as hell not hanging around their old haunts. The stupid ones? They’re actually pretty easy to find. They didn’t move, didn’t change their phone numbers, didn’t change where they work or their favorite hangouts, and kept seeing the same girls and driving the same cars or bikes. Those are the ones I keep seeing in the station chained to the bench. And believe you me, they’re not happy about it! I’ve seen more than a few of them sitting on the bench and looking like they just got finished playing a rugby match. You’ve got to wonder about pigheaded people sometimes, don’t you? If they were really smart, they’d show up in court with a lawyer and say “I wanted a speedy trial, but you assbags closed the courts so you violated my rights! I want my case dismissed!” Hey, the dickhead didn’t cause the closures or the virus, right? I’ve heard a few people have already had their cases dismissed by doing that. What have you got to lose? All of them should try it and see if the judge agrees with them. It doesn’t cost anything. But most criminals are too pigheaded to even think of it. Think about that for a minute: it’s bad enough that you’re a criminal, but now you just dumbed yourself into prison. It’s things like this that make you understand why the smart criminals stay out of jail.

Right now, I’m looking for one Mister Edmund Foster Lukash. It seems he likes to pass his time by robbing jewelry stores. That’s a really stupid crime, in case you didn’t know. For starters, what are you going to do with a bunch of jewelry? Bad spy movies have a lot of villains who like to be paid in diamonds, but in real life? What would you do with the stuff? You can’t just spend them, right? Then there’s the little-known fact that ripping off a jewelry store is a federal offense. They don’t often prosecute it at the federal level, but they can if they want to. That means you’d end up in federal court where they don’t have any parole and when you get locked up, you’re in the federal pen. Those are nicer than the state pen, but they’re a lot tougher, or so I’ve heard. Lukash has a few prior convictions – not as serious as armed robbery, but they’ll still be counted against him – so he’s looking at a whole ton of time if he gets convicted. He knows it, so it means he probably won’t go quietly.

In case you were wondering, I have absolutely zero intention of trying to arrest this guy by myself. I’m weird, not crazy. And I’m definitely not suicidal. A lone female officer? A lot of guys try to start a fistfight because they think they can take her no problem. Even if I thought I could handle it myself, why take the chance? If I find him, I’ll call for backup and make sure I’ve got the strength in numbers. A lot of times, that’s the key to resolving a situation without anyone getting a black eye or a split lip: the assbag sees a bunch of cops and figures starting a punch-up isn’t worth it and they surrender. We’ve got a good crew of hard-chargers on the night shift, so I know that whoever shows up will be ready to work and able to handle whatever comes their way. That’s another good thing about being a sergeant: I have a say in the watch’s deployment so I can help keep the dead wood out of the watch. As soon as summer comes around and the temperature breaks into the triple digits, we get a bunch of drones from the day shift putting in for Nightwatch. I don’t want them on the watch. Nighttime is when the real crazy crap happens, so the last thing I want is a couple of total drones who are just waiting for the shift to be over to show up at a call that demands some serious police work. Been there, done that, and I’ve got the bruises to prove it. Never again, God willing!

According to the file I read on him, this dickface is a real creature of habit. He eats at the same roach coach almost every evening, so I’m going to see if I can spot him there. The entry in the file said he goes there between five and six in the evening, so I figure I’ll spend an hour sitting on the place and see if he shows up. If he does? He’s going to be having breakfast in jail tomorrow morning. This assbag had better not start any trouble at that roach coach, either. I’ve seen that thing. The owner’s got a twelve-gauge shotgun in there in case someone tries to rob him. He’s the kind who’d use it, too. He’s a total surly asshole. I’m not saying I’d be all broken up if he put a load of buckshot in Lukash, mind you. It’s just that all things considered, I’d rather take the dickhead to jail in one piece.

There it is. I see four customers in front of it and two guys inside preparing the food. It’s kind of an insult to real food to call what comes off of that grill food. It’s more of a “food-like object” not fit for human consumption. Their beef tacos? They’re probably made with prairie dog meat. Or worse.

Our guy isn’t there. We’re looking for a white guy, early forties, kind of a weird hairstyle so he stands out. It’s hard to describe, actually. I guess you’d call it “Disco Mad Scientist.” Hey, that’s what popped into my head when I saw his picture. If you think you can do better, then feel free to try. Hairstyles aren’t my strong suit. I’m still rocking bangs and a ponytail and I stumbled upon that one by accident, as I’m sure you’ll remember. I think it’s the best look for me right now. A number of our guys have told me they agree, so I’m sticking with it.

Hold up, people! I think that’s him! See what I mean about his hairstyle? Yes, that’s definitely him. He actually looks smaller than he does in his picture. Good Lord! He’s wearing a flannel shirt with long sleeves and it’s still over a hundred degrees out here! What? Is he a junkie or something? Who else would be roasting in a long-sleeved heavy shirt like that?

“Three Lincoln to dispatch, have Eleven Baker meet me on tac two please.”

Eleven Baker is Jimmy Corrales: one of my best friends on the force and one of our best street cops. I want him here in case this goes sour. He’ll find someone else to bring along with him and it’ll be three against one. As long as dickface doesn’t have a gun on him, everything should be all right.

“Eleven Baker, what’ve you got, Allison?”

“Hey, Jimmy. I’ve got number eight on our list over here at the roach coach on Maricopa. He’s alone, but I want some backup just in case. This guy’s wanted for armed robbery. I’m about twenty-five yards north of the truck, facing southbound.”

“I’m on my way. Caspar’s here, too. I’ll bring him along. We’re just up the block from your location. Eleven Baker to dispatch, show me responding to Sutton and Maricopa to meet Three Lincoln on an armed robbery suspect. Five Baker’s going, too. Our ETA is one minute.”

“Eleven Baker, roger. Five Baker, roger.”

George Caspar’s a big guy and not afraid of a fight. He’ll be good backup. Now I just wait for them to get here. From what I’ve read, this guy tends to eat his dinner right here at the truck so he’s not likely to go anywhere. I just hope he doesn’t have a friend show up. He committed his robberies solo so I don’t think he’s going to have some assbag friend turn up to join him. But you never know, right? This situation gives you some insight into how dumb some crooks are. It’s still daylight, this isn’t a busy street, I’m sitting in here in a clearly marked Ford Explorer police model and this dickface still hasn’t seen me. Don’t ask me why. All he’d have to do is look down the street and he’d see this big fat police car, but he’s not doing that. Weird, huh?

I don’t know what that guy is eating, but the way he’s shoving it into his mouth is pretty disgusting. It’s like he’s not leaving any room in his mouth to chew the stuff. Why do people do that? Beefy does that, but he’s a dog and he eats like a pig. And it’s only slightly less disgusting when he does it. Shoving that much food in his face? If this assbag takes off running on us, he’s going to double over and vomit his guts out. He’d better not puke on me. I just got this uniform back from the dry cleaners.

I can see two units arriving in my rearview mirror. Time to get the show started! They’re coming in on foot. Good. We’ll walk over there together.

“Thanks for coming, guys. Our assbag for tonight is one Edmund Foster Lukash: wanted for armed robbery of a couple of jewelry stores. He’s over there at the roach coach, shoving food in his face like it’s going out of style. His warrant number’s on the handout. I don’t know if he’s got a weapon on him. He’s got a long-sleeved flannel shirt on…”

“Guilty! Absolutely guilty!”

I tend to agree with you, Caspar. He’s got to be up to something illegal. No sane person likes roasting alive when they don’t have to, after all.

“Be that as it may, he’s got an active warrant for armed robbery, so he’s going to jail. He uses a gun, so don’t take any chances. I don’t know if he’s got it on him now, though.”

“Sarge, how has this guy not seen you already? We’re thirty yards from the truck and there’s three cars on the street!”

“He’s not what you’d call aware of his surroundings. That’s him, over by the front of the truck. See him?”

He’s kind of hard to miss. He’s not looking straight at us, but then again, he’s not looking away from us. He’s just clueless. You’d think a guy with an outstanding felony warrant would pay a little more attention to detail, wouldn’t you? This guy? The only thing he’s paying attention to is that burrito he’s trying to shove whole into his mouth right now. He’s oblivious to everything else.

“That’s the guy?”

“Allison, he could have a cannon stashed under that shirt.”

Good point, Jimmy. I was thinking the same thing.

“He’s not a big guy, but that doesn’t mean he can’t fight. He could be trouble. I think the three of us can handle him. The file on him says he works alone, so we probably don’t have to worry about a partner coming along to help him out.”

“How long has he been here?”

“He got here right when I called you. For some reason, he’s wolfing his food down like there’s no tomorrow. He might have someplace to be.”

“He might be smarter than you give him credit for, Allison. Grab his food, shovel it down fast, leave no traces and get out. He probably doesn’t want anybody following him back to his place. If you’re wanted, that’s pretty smart.”

Which could explain the shirt: wear it on the way over here and ditch it before he heads back home. That way, if they’ve got someone sitting on his place? He comes home looking different than when he left and he’s not carrying any food. It could throw off the people sitting on his house just long enough for him to make a break for it. Not bad, if it’s true. It also makes me a little nervous. If he’s not a total idiot, then how smart – or should I say how dangerous – is he?

“George, you go around the truck. Jimmy and I will take the direct approach. If he makes a run for it, Jimmy goes for his sector car and you and I chase him down until Jimmy cuts him off with the car. Agreed?”

“Good to go.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

Actually, there’s not much around here. Where could he run to? He probably stays in one of the apartments on Treadway. That’s two blocks away and he’d have to run along Sutton Avenue. That’s a really busy street. Lots of people. Lots of cars who don’t stop for the light, either. He really doesn’t have anywhere to go.

“All right, let’s make it happen. George, we’ll give you a minute to get over there into position. This dickface really doesn’t seem to be paying attention to anything around him. Just get over there and get ready to grab him.”

And don’t squeeze him too hard! George can get a little carried away when someone takes off running. Some of the sergeants have had to talk to him about it in the past. Having to take your arrestee to the chiropractor before you can book him at the jail? It raises a few eyebrows, if you know what I mean.

We’d better hurry. The way he’s stuffing that food down his face, he’ll be done any second now. It looks like George is in position. Time to take our suspect into custody.

“Edmund Lukash! Police! We have a warrant for your arrest! Stay right there and put your hands up! No sudden moves!”

What the…he’s reaching! Under his shirt! He’s got a gun! Shit! Take cover! Get to…gunshot! Who fired? He didn’t bring his gun up! Who fired? Screw it! Draw down on him! Wait! Is he…he’s hit! He’s shot!

“Everybody cease fire! Cease fire! Who fired? Who fired their weapon?”

“Not me!”

“I didn’t!”

If Jimmy and George didn’t fire…oh, you’ve got to be shitting me! The son of a bitch shot himself!

“Lukash! Where are you hit?”

He’s still on his feet, but he’s hurting bad! He really nailed himself with that one!

“I don’t fucking believe it! I just fucking shot myself!”

Dancing around like that, I’m guessing he shot himself in the leg! He tried to draw his gun out of his waistband too fast and he shot himself! What an idiot!

“Drop your weapon! Drop it now!”

It’s down! He dropped it! And I can see the blood pouring out of his leg! He really did a number on himself! He might even bleed to death!

“Jimmy! Call it in! We need EMS here immediately! We’ve got one in custody with a self-inflicted gunshot wound! Right leg! He’s bleeding all over the place!”

George has him cuffed, but good Lord, is he ever in pain! Nice going, dumbass! You really hit the mark with that shot! Oh, yes! Right above the knee and it looks like the bullet went down at a diagonal angle and probably blew his kneecap right off! I don’t even want to think about how much that must hurt! It hurts me to just look at it!

“George! Get the First-Aid kit from your car and get a pressure bandage! No, get two of them! There’s an exit wound in the side of his calf! A big one!”

Unbelievable! We go out of our way to avoid a shooting and this total dickface shoots himself! I can’t wait to see the body camera videos of this one! I’ll bet they look even worse than seeing it in real life! Damn it! He’s losing a lot of blood! Did he hit the artery? How would we even know for sure? What a total mess! He really trashed his leg! He’ll be lucky if they don’t end up cutting it off! Stupid, stupid, stupid! Why do I always get all the stupid ones? Why, God? Why?

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