"Duck and Cover"
If this is somebody’s idea of public service, then they belong in the nut house! An angry mob looking to hang a guy for stealing a car? You’ve got to be kidding me! But these nut jobs definitely aren’t kidding! They’ll kill this guy if we don’t stop them! We don’t have enough cops here to do it! These psychos outnumber us at least ten to one! And they’re not taking “no” for an answer! This thing is out of control! Again! What is this? The fourth time this week? This is nuts!
“Three Lincoln, we need additional units at our location immediately! Major crowd disturbance! This is about to turn into another lynching in a minute!”
“Three Lincoln, we’re trying to free up some units to assist you. So far, all units are tied up.”
Tied up? This dork is about to be tied up by the neck! They’re going to kill him! We’ve got to do something! Fast! Time for the mega-pepper gas!
“Everybody cover your eyes! Don’t breathe! Fox! Fox! Fox!”
Aim…fire! Gas them all! Or as many as I can! Fox Five-point-Three! This shit is absolutely brutal! Hose them down with it! As many as I can get! Gas them! But don’t get it in my eyes! If I do, I’ll be totally blind until I can wash it out!
“George! Clear a path for us back to the vehicles! Jimmy! Grab that dickhead and get him the hell out of here! Let’s go! And don’t touch your eyes! You might’ve gotten that crap on your skin! Go! Everybody! Go!”
Move! Get behind George! He’s clearing a path! Yes, he’s clearing a path by busting every head that gets in his way! Just keep moving! Go! Push forward! Don’t look back! Just keep going! Get to the vehicles! Hurry! Before someone in the crowd digs up a gun and starts shooting! Oh, hell! Now they’re throwing stuff at us! Cover my head! Go! Keep pushing forward! Go! Get to the damned cars! And pray they haven’t trashed them!
“Everybody watch your heads! They’re throwing shit at us!”
“No shit, Allison! Keep going!”
The crowd’s giving way! I can see the cars! Go! Push that assbag! He can’t run! He’s beat to shit! Push him! If he stays here, he’s a dead man! Yes! We’re clear! Get in the damned cars! Hurry!
“Everybody get in your vehicles and get the hell out of here! Go! Don’t stop for anything! Just go!”
“What if they won’t get out of the way?”
“Push forward! If they try to drag the prisoner out of the car? Do what you have to do! Do not let them take him! They’ll kill him!”
“This is bullshit, Allison! When is this shit going to stop?”
“How should I know? Go, Jimmy! Go! Get him the hell out of here! Go!”
Get in! Start the damned car! Windows up! Lock the doors! Shit! They’re throwing everything they can find at the car! Drive! Lights and sirens! Drive! Go! Get the hell out of here!
“Three Lincoln, we’re clearing the scene! We have the suspect in custody! There’s still a huge angry crowd here! Advise all units to stay the hell out of the area until further notice! I say again: no units are to enter this area until further notice!”
“Three Lincoln, roger. Do you have injuries?”
How should I know? I didn’t exactly get a chance to check before I started running for my life, you know!
“Three Lincoln, I’m not sure! Have EMS standing by at the station just in case! Be advised: our suspect took one hell of a pounding! That was a serious punch-up back there!”
“Three Lincoln, roger. Report to the Watch Commander on arrival.”
Sure! He’s going to want to know if this was another case of Old West justice! Well, it was! This is nuts! This whole city’s gone nuts! And it’s only getting worse! I don’t know how much more of this we can take!
Back at the station. We made it! Good Lord! You should see my sergeant’s car! It looks like a trash truck took a ginormous dump on it! I don’t think it was damaged, which is more than I can say for Jimmy and Lonnie’s car! Those psychos back there threw bricks through the windows! We were lucky to get out of there alive! And this wasn’t the first time, either! Nine incidents this week! Nine incidents this week alone! I’m telling you, this bullshit is getting worse by the day! People in this town have gone full-on nut job! And there doesn’t seem to be a thing we can do about it! We’ve been saying this was going to happen! We’ve been saying it for at least a year! And now it’s happened! And we said it was going to be bad! Well, it’s bad! It’s worse than bad! This is full-on fucking insane! And it’s getting worse!
Time to catch my breath and try to…what’s the word I’m looking for? Scream? No, I’ve done plenty of screaming lately. Decompress. That’s the word: decompress. Try to calm down and clear my head before I go stark-raving mad! Just breathe. Sit here and calm down and try not to think about this insanity for a few minutes. I think I’m entitled to that. After everything I’ve been through lately? I think I’m more than entitled to it!
It’s your old pal Detective Sergeant Allison Rane, here. The Sniper Girl, as I’ve come to be known. Still here, still the Sniper Girl, still a cop, and rapidly losing my mind! You’re probably wondering why. Actually, you’re probably wondering a lot of things right now. I’ll try to fill you in. It might help keep me from running through the halls screaming. Yes, I’ve done that once or twice. Totally justified, by the way. What you just saw out there? That’s become the new normal around here. Our little town has come completely unhinged and we’re right smack dab in the middle of it. It’s not fun, but then when are my crazy adventures ever what you’d call fun? If you’ve stuck with me this long, then you know what I’m talking about. You know how I got a reputation for being a total shit magnet, right? Well, I don’t have to be a shit magnet anymore. Now you can’t step outside and swing a stick around here without hitting a huge pile of shit! I don’t have to attract it these days. No, it comes looking for me! And for every other cop in this city! And it finds us! Good Lord, does it ever find us!
It’s been three months since we wrapped up the big capers with the cartel meth lab and they whole Myron-and-the-UFO-fragment thing. The cartel case? It’s sort of in limbo right now. About the only one left to charge in that one – or should I say the only player who managed to survive – was their queenpin Laura Paolo. She’s locked up under special administrative measures – which is lawyer-speak for virtual Supermax custody conditions – while she waits for her trial to come up. She got charged with every death related to that meth lab: every assbag who got killed in the raid and every one of her underlings who tried to ambush and kill us. She’s looking at about forty thousand years behind bars, or so I heard. She’s been trying to get the U.S. Department of Justice to transfer her back to Mexico for trial because she’s a Mexican national. Oh, sure! She just wants to get back there because she’s a cartel bitch and the cartels practically own the justice system down there. Naturally, our DA isn’t having any of it. As I’m sure you’ll recall, we got absolutely zero cooperation from the feds on that case so our DA told the Justice Department to…how shall I put this? He told them to go fuck themselves. The city and the state won’t even talk to the feds about it and every time the feds have tried to poach the case, the DA threatens to drag the federal government through the mud over their conduct during the investigation. They’re not getting the case and they’re not getting that rotten bitch. She’s going to grow old and die in an Arizona prison. The fed can go to hell. One of these days, that stupid Paolo bitch might actually realize that.
There was a big fracas – that’s the right word, isn’t it? A big fracas over all of the shootings we had because of the meth lab case. All of the ambushes that they tried and their dickhead soldiers got killed, all of the people who shot it out with us in the meth lab when we raided it and got killed, and the worker bees in the meth lab who got caught in the crossfire and shot. Once again, we stood firm and told the people asking the questions that we didn’t start any of that crap and that how we handled it was the only possible way it could’ve been handled. We got some bad press, but none of it was local. What the assbags who criticized us didn’t seem to realize – they never seem to realize it – was that around here, people don’t really care what people in other cities and states have to say. The locals didn’t have a problem with what we did. The cartels’ reputations around here are lower than snake shit, after all. Arizona is a border state. People around here are all too familiar with the cartels and what they do. They were happy that we staged such a heavy-handed response. Some of them have pointed to the fact that there’s been no cartel presence here since then as proof that it was the right thing to do. I tend to agree.
And of course, there was the other big case – or non-case, since we were told by the United States government to forget any of it ever happened: Myron Walghast and his UFO fragment. How could you ever forget him, right? You know, I still don’t know if that stupid piece of metal came from a UFO or from some top-secret government lab. We never did get that resolved. What we did get was the mother of all Conspiracy Boy cases: the Men in Black, Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, the FBI, and who the hell knows who else was involved. That had to be the biggest knot of pure bullshit I ever saw, and a lot of people around here share that opinion. Needless to say, we never got that thing sorted out. It was a disaster from the word “go.” About the only thing that didn’t get swept under Uncle Sam’s rug was that offshoot of RSS Security: Kingman & Associates. Randall Schoen’s new security force that was created to compete for top-secret contracts was the mother of all miscalculations, wasn’t it? They went rogue as soon as Schoen let them off of the leash. I still don’t know how many of them we ended up shooting and killing. The final tally is still in debate. I just know it was a lot! It was a whole lot! Anyway, the case against them is moving at a snail’s pace. The Sarge says a lot of it has to do with the highly classified nature of Kingman’s work. The rest of it has to do with the fact that Kingman was stealing shit from that top-secret government base – Site India, remember? – and selling it to anyone with cash. And the people with the cash tended to be enemies of the United States. I’m talking about countries that would probably like to nuke us. It’s a major espionage case that could drag on for years. They’re still extraditing people who were associated with Kingman from all sorts of countries: Canada, Costa Rica, Spain, and one guy who went to New Zealand. Don’t ask me how they managed to find him there, but they did. A lot of Kingman survivors ran like hell to all corners of the world. It’s a real mess.
And of course, there was the involvement of the shadowy Men in Black: the guys who officially don’t exist and are supposed to dissuade and discredit people who see real UFOs. Well, I know for a fact that they exist because I saw them. I talked to them. They threatened me and I threatened them. And I’m pretty sure they’re the ones who shot at us from an army helicopter and managed to blow my crappy little car into a million pieces, as I’m sure you’ll remember. Who does things like that? To a total American taxpaying citizen, no less! Who the hell knows who they are or who they work for? I never got answers to those questions and you’d better believe I looked for them. Fortunately, I haven’t seen them since that night in the desert when we raided their top-secret Site India and rescued Myron. I hope to God I never see or hear from any of them again! I grew to hate those assbags and that feeling hasn’t changed one bit! I also happen to believe that those dickheads are the ones who murdered Myron’s contact at Site India and one of LC’s Conspiracy Boy associates: Robbie Parmalat. Both were professional murders and both were tied to that top-secret base. I’m sure they were killed by the Men in Black, but there’s no way anyone’s ever going to be able to prove it. That makes me sick to my stomach, but there’s nothing I can do about it.
Behind the scenes? I can’t even begin to explain to you what happened as a result of our unauthorized commando raid on Site India. The things we saw? The things we discovered? Things that nobody was ever supposed to see? I won’t lie to you: it’s been hard to live with. Those crazy stories over at Cydonia about a secret shadow government railway underground that crisscrosses the country? I don’t know how extensive it is, but I’ve seen the railway. That thing was sure as hell no movie prop, either. It was absolutely real. When you see the biggest locomotive you ever saw more than five stories underground? You have to believe that the rumors are true. It’s real. I don’t know if it’s what the Conspiracy Boys claim it is, but there really is a secret government underground railway and Uncle Sam definitely doesn’t want anyone to know about it. Security around that base has been quadrupled and it’s become a magnet for every Conspiracy Boy and Girl for about two hundred miles. It’s still there. I haven’t been back out there since that night, but it’s still there. Every time I feel a rumbling beneath my feet, I think of that damned underground train system. I wonder if that’s one of their trains going somewhere on some secret mission. Who’s to say it’s not, right? And the UFOs? I know that triangle-shaped thing we saw at the base said “U.S. Air Force” on it, but it didn’t look like any airplane I ever heard of and the Sarge said he never saw anything like it, either. And he spend a couple of decades in the Marine Corps, you know. They called it “Project Wraith.” It’s pretty ominous-sounding, wouldn’t you say? LC was able to confirm the existence of the project when he came across a few leaked government documents stamped “Top Secret WRAITH” and “Top Secret INDIA,” but no details about it. That assbag we caught? He said he was told it was some kind of anti-gravity drive. We didn’t get to see it fly, but he said it just floated in the air and went faster and higher and turned on a dime like no other aircraft in existence. Looking at it? I believe it. Was it a UFO? Was it some super-secret aircraft built with UFO technology? Or was it just some giant leap forward in aircraft design that the government’s been hiding from the world? I don’t know. I still don’t know. We sure as hell didn’t get any answers from the government and you’d better believe we asked. They didn’t know what to do with us. General Edmonton seemed to think we could be trusted to keep our mouths shut and we have, but other people in the government seemed to want us to disappear permanently. They weren’t shy about letting us know that we’d seen too much and now we knew too much for their tastes, if you know what I mean. Ever since that night, I’ve felt like we’re on somebody’s secret list. I’ve felt like someone is watching us; maybe not all of the time, but they’re watching us. It really shook me, you know? It shook my whole view of the world in some ways. It sure as hell made me think the Conspiracy Boys over at Cydonia are a lot more on the ball than I ever thought they were. Trust me, it’s not a pleasant feeling. I try not to think about it, but sometimes it just hits me like a ton of bricks: what’s really going on out there? What in God’s name is the government doing behind our backs? I don’t know. I’m not sure I want to know. I wish I didn’t know what I know already. It’s a whole weird thing; that’s about the best way I can put it. I won’t say it changed my life – I don’t have much of a life to begin with, as you already know – but it definitely changed the way I think about a lot of things. How could it not, right? I’m still figuring it out.
The thing hasn’t completely disappeared as far as we’re concerned. We’ve had plenty of hang-up calls, cars that we were sure were following us, people checking on our credit histories – or my total lack of one – our tax returns, and a bunch of other little things that let us know the Men in Black haven’t forgotten about us. We haven’t seen any of them since then, but LC and the Conspiracy Boys over at Cydonia have been getting reports of some strange developments in that area – the deep black, as they like to call it. Reports of a shakeup of some kind. Do the Men in Black have shakeups? I don’t think they have to worry about budget cuts or anything. Maybe there are a bunch of their old-timers who are ready to retire and they’ve got a lot of new vacancies? Where do you get new Men in Black candidates? Advertise for the position on Craigslist? I don’t know. There’s something of a weird vibe out there in places that good people don’t talk about, or so LC’s “tuned in people” are saying. We’ll see. I hope they stay the hell away from us. I’ve had enough of them and their bullshit. I wish they’d stop calling us and hanging up the phone, too. It’s as annoying as hell.
So after all of that, we’ve tried to settle back into a normal life. I’m still a cop and so is the Sarge. We’re still together. Beefy the dog is still drooling and chewing on everything in the cabin. Things are going along pretty much as they have around here for a long time. Most people are blissfully ignorant of the secret tunnels that probably stretch underneath the city – they’re definitely out in the desert, but there’s some reason to believe they’re under the city, too. I’m sure the UFO Boys are still logging sightings of weird triangle-shaped aircraft in the skies around here. Our police force is limping along after taking so many casualties in the last few years, including from the raid on the meth lab. Our reconstituted SRT unit is still trying to get to where we need it to be. We finally got a new chief of Police: Garth Edgar Bricklin, formerly of some place in Wisconsin that I never heard of. He’s all right. By that, I mean he hasn’t done anything that makes my life difficult. In fact, some people have remarked that since he got in office, he’s gone out of his way to change absolutely nothing. There was an editorial in the paper about two weeks ago that said they think he came here only for the weather: he was sick of freezing in Wisconsin so he took a lame police chief’s job in Arizona. He’s kind of like Chief Wright – a.k.a. Chief Gone – except so far, he hasn’t thrown any Frisbees to the kids at the station picnics. He didn’t try to interfere with our union’s demand for another raise, so he’s OK in my book for now. We’ll see how it goes.
Who came out ahead from the whole mess? Two people. The first was LC: the King of Conspiracies and one of my best friends. He’s still got all of the unauthorized video and audio we took from our raid on Site India. Oh, you should’ve seen what the feds put him through over that! They were absolutely spoiling to get it all back! He handed over the stuff, but they knew he made plenty of copies of it and no matter what they did, they couldn’t get him to hand them over. They threatened him, hit him with an IRS audit, messed with Cydonia’s licenses; the works! But none of it came to anything. How could it? Finally LC made it absolutely clear to them that if they didn’t leave him alone, he was going to release that stuff on the internet. All of it; including the fact that a Marine Raider unit was present for the raid. I was in there, remember? I can state for a fact that the government definitely doesn’t want that footage showing up on the internet! So LC’s sitting on a Conspiracy Boy gold mine. I don’t know what he plans to do with it and frankly, I don’t care. That whole episode really took the wind out of my sails as far as conspiracies are concerned. I don’t think I can handle any more shadow government revelations right now. But LC? His stock among the Conspiracy Boys of the world skyrocketed. He’s the man now, as you can probably imagine. He’s a total Conspiracy Boy superstar. Yes, they have such things in the world. So he came out ahead. And I’m glad. Who doesn’t like to see their friends succeed, right?
The other guy who came out ahead in all of this really leaves a bad taste in my mouth, as I think you can imagine. I’m talking about Randall Schoen. That fucking rattlesnake got off scot-free even though he’s pretty much the reason why any of it happened. He created Kingman & Associates, remember? And he used his corrupt influence to get them the contract to provide security for Site India in the first place. Technically, his cooperation with us established legal renunciation of any conspiracy to break the law because of what Kingman & Associates did. At least, that’s how the DA explained it to us. And since so much of it involved mega-secret government crap, there was no way they were going to charge him with anything. They’d have had to try him in open court and there was zero chance of Uncle Sam letting that happen. Even the few people who tried to sue him over it got the shaft. Schoen’s lawyers demanded that the suits be dismissed on the grounds of national security and the federal government grudgingly admitted that it wouldn’t be in the national interest to let the suits proceed. That, coupled with the total press blackout on the whole thing, meant he came out of this smelling like a rose. And to think: when it first broke, we thought it would be the end of him and his little empire. Now he’s promoting himself as a hero and a friend of law and order and it’s actually working! A lot of people in this town really believe he’s some kind of hero for bringing down Kingman and saving the day! How wrong we were, huh?
The weirdest part? I now have an unusually strong…I guess you’d call it a connection…to Randall Schoen. He actually trusts me. He said I’m one of the very few people who can show up at his office unannounced and he’ll see me. I’ve even got his private phone number. He says even the governor doesn’t have it – even though he’s got the governor’s number. And he did replace my car with a totally cool new Cadillac. I could never afford a car like that, but he gave it to me for free – mainly because I was the one most responsible for getting him off the hook, even though I wasn’t trying to do that. For the first time ever, I actually look forward to driving to work. That car drives like a dream. And I didn’t even get any crap for accepting it. I guess Randall Schoen saw to that, too. Anyway, he seems to like the fact that I’m a straight-shooter. He also says he likes the fact that I’m one of the few people in his life that doesn’t want anything from him. I just can’t understand the guy. He’s a crook and a snake and he’s even a murderer and I’d be more than happy to lock him up for the rest of his life, but that doesn’t seem to bother him. I think he genuinely likes me, and not just because he likes staring at my boobs and my ass – which he does a lot whenever I’m standing in front of him. No, I think he genuinely likes me for some reason. Weird, huh?
So what the hell was that mob scene we just escaped from, you ask? Well, it’s kind of related to everything that’s happened around here for the past couple of years; going all the way back to the sniper case. You see, people are sick and tired of all these assbags raising hell and starting shootouts and causing general mayhem around here. They’re so sick and tired of it that they’ve decided to take matters into their own hands in a big way. Our local nut job vigilantes have kind of taken over the place and they’re spreading throughout the city like wildfire. No, I’m not kidding. It’s not just the cowboys and the ranchers at the edge of town anymore. It’s regular people. They like to call themselves “Vigilance Committees” because that’s what they were called back in the Old West days. We’ve always had them, but they’ve been few and far between and we were able to control them. But now? They’ve gone haywire! They’ve pretty much said that if the police can’t protect the citizens, then the Vigilance Committees will do it. Things have gotten ugly. Remember, this is Arizona: the most gun-friendly state in the union. You don’t need a license to carry and that includes open carry. Want to carry your loaded sixgun in an Old West rig in plain sight? Go right ahead. You can legally buy any kind of gun you want in this state. You have to jump through some hoops if you want a machinegun, but you can get one here if you’ve got the cash. If you don’t believe me, just head over to Cydonia and see what they’ve got hanging on the walls. These vigilantes are armed and most of them know how to handle a gun and a lot of them seem to enjoy handling them. They also seem to know how to tie a noose with one hand. I’m not kidding. We’ve found a few assbags hanging from the streetlights with signs on them warning potential assbags that the Vigilance Committees are watching them. Arrests are turning into major mob scenes where the people try to lynch the assbag from us and either beat him half to death or break out the rope and look for a sturdy tree. We can’t seem to put a stop to it and the situation is getting worse. I don’t know what we’re going to do about it. The last thing any of us wants is for our town to turn into the vigilante capital of the world, you know. I don’t think anybody wants that.
So that’s where we are now: it’s like someone demanded that the last three months never happened and we all mysteriously woke up in this place where everyone’s totally furious about the crime and the criminals and they want to go back to the old days of corporal punishment and the death penalty for horse thieves. Or car thieves, as is the case with the dork we’ve got in custody now. Twenty-four years old, total assbag, multiple arrests, and he got caught trying to steal a car out of a cul-de-sac in a…shall we say, less-fashionable part of town. Instead of calling the police, they reached for baseball bats and a rope. Our dickhead is lucky to be alive. He doesn’t seem to be too grateful. He’s been giving Jimmy and Lonnie a hard time since we got here. Well, maybe some time in jail will change his bad attitude? The strange thing? Right now, he’s safer in jail than he is on the street. That’s what happens when you take a relatively conservative populace and throw in a skyrocketing crime rate, a bunch of social engineers who want to abolish laws and criminal penalties, and dickheads who get elected DA or Congressman and they call for the abolition of the police and any right to protect yourself or you property from total assbags. People get sick of it and they take matters into their own hands. And we’re stuck in the middle of it. Sounds like fun, huh? You know, we’re hiring. I don’t suppose you want to be a cop?
As usual, Sergeant Kettering is our Watch Commander. I’m telling you, I don’t think he’s had a day off in months. I feel really bad for him. At least I’m back on a normal schedule so he doesn’t have to keep dropping me from the deployment. When the Sarge and I were doing almost all of the training and selection for the new guys in SRT? We were on special detail more than we were working regular patrol. That must’ve been hell for Sergeant Kettering: losing two sergeants at a moment’s notice.
“We barely got that idiot out of there alive, sir. If this keeps up, we’re going to start losing prisoners to these mobs.”
“Be thankful there wasn’t one of the Vigilance Committees there, Allison. They’d have taken the son of a bitch at gunpoint. This shit is out of control. People don’t care about the law or the courts anymore. How are we supposed to keep a lid on things when we’re the only ones obeying the rules?”
“It’s not like they don’t have a point, sir. We’re the ones who are supposed to control the crime and we haven’t done a very good job of it lately. People are fed up.”
“And around here, when people get fed up, they take the law into their own hands. I’m aware of our history. I grew up here. But this is crazy! These Vigilance Committees are turning into old-fashioned lynch mobs.”
Yes, they are. They’re less about preventing crime than they are about punishing the criminals. And their idea of punishment is pretty severe, isn’t it? They think every crime deserves either a beat-down or a hanging. The Sarge says it won’t be long before they start carrying bullwhips to dish out a little vigilante justice. I’m sure you can get one online. You can get everything else online, can’t you?
“And we’ve got no one to blame but ourselves for that, do we?”
“I won’t deny we dropped the ball. It wasn’t entirely our fault…”
“The buck stops here, sir. That’s what the Sarge likes to say. We didn’t protect them, we didn’t protect their property, and the suck-butts were releasing everyone on their own recognizance unless they committed a rape or a murder. We didn’t do the job so the people are going to do it themselves. However they see fit.”
“Even if their way is felony assault?”
“Why not? We didn’t do anything about the assbags who were running around committing felony assaults, did we? People probably think they’ll receive the same treatment. What’s the saying about sauce for the goose?”
“I don’t think that’s what the suck-butts had in mind.”
“Yes, but they’re all in hiding, aren’t they?”
And that’s the truth. These loony lefty social engineers? So-called community activists? The ones around here who were really vocal about hating the police and eliminating all punishment for crimes and crap like that? Some of the Vigilance Committees declared open season on them. It wasn’t pretty. A lot of them got it worse than the assbags they love so much. Some of it was actually funny: we’d get a call and find some college professor or sociologist stripped to his shorts and hanging from a wedgie from a fence. Yes, people really did that. But then sometimes we’d get a call and find some professor or sociologist or lefty activist in a pool of his or her own blood after they’d been stomped by an angry mob. That wasn’t funny. A few of them nearly died. This bullshit has gotten out of hand.
“Allison, the longer this goes on, the worse it’s going to get. We could end up cutting bodies off of lampposts three or four times a week. I’m afraid it’s really coming to that.”
Back to the nineteenth century? I don’t think I want to see that happen.
“Isn’t our new chief supposed to talk to some of these groups?”
“And say what? ‘Hi, I’m new here but you all need to trust me?’ How do you think that’s going to go over with people these days?”
Not well. Chief Bricklin isn’t what you’d call an inspirational speaker. He’s made a few of what my Aunt Janice used to call “canned speeches.” That’s a speech that he didn’t write and didn’t review and when he gives it, it’s painfully obvious that he’s just reading it off of the teleprompter and he has no idea what he’s saying. Definitely not the inspirational type.
“Well…who is on our side with this? What about the preachers? Guys like that?”
“Not many of them. The preachers are staying out of it. Maybe they’re saying something about it from the pulpit, but they’re not going on TV and saying anything. If you believe what you read in the papers, these vigilantes have a lot of support right now. That scares the hell out of me.”
Because it encourages the lunatic fringe. That much, I figured out already.
“Sir, these guys are getting too much press. It’s encouraging the radical types to go out hunting for assbags. That’s the real threat. Some of our elk hunter types? We could have another Corey Faisse on our hands.”
Corporal Corey Faisse: a.k.a. The Sniper, as I’m sure you’ll remember. Lord knows I’ll never forget him. I’ve never been more afraid of anyone in my life. I still have the occasional nightmare about that night in that desert field.
“Don’t remind me. A unit on our Graveyard shift found a truck with three drunken yahoos in it and they all had their hunting rifles with them. We might already be headed down that road.”
“What about…I don’t know…trying to turn public opinion against this whole ‘take the law into your own hands’ movement?”
“And how exactly would we accomplish that?”
“I don’t know. Make our case directly to the public, how about?”
Why is he looking at me like I just stepped in a bear trap?
“I’m glad to hear you say that. As it turns out, there’s a town hall meeting over at the Sundance Rec Center at eight o’clock tonight. Some city councilman is going to be there arguing against this turn toward the Vigilance Committees. He wants someone from the police department to share the podium with him. None of the brass is willing to go. Congratulations. You just volunteered.”
Fuck! I totally stepped in a bear trap! When am I going to learn to keep my big fat yap shut?
“Wouldn’t the captain be a better choice?”
“Captain Weitz isn’t stupid enough to go. Neither is Lieutenant Jutras or anyone else above the rank of sergeant. You brought it up. You’re the chosen one.”
I think he means I’m the sacrificial lamb! They’re going to…what’s the word I’m looking for? Eviscerate! They’re going to eviscerate me! I am so stupid sometimes!
“Can I bring a bulletproof shield?”
“You can wear your Class ‘A’ uniform. Public function. Regulations. Have fun. And try to smile. There’ll be photographers there.”
Oh, wonderful! They can take pictures of me after the assbags in the crowd throw garbage at me! Why me? I’m the junior sergeant around here! Not to mention the fact that as the Sniper Girl, I’ve probably shot more people than any officer on the police force in the last two-and-a-half years! How the hell am I supposed to convince anyone of anything? I’m probably the last person they want to hear from right now!
“I’ll bring my sniper rifle.”
“Like hell you will! It’s bad enough you’re going to show up wearing a low-drop swivel holster with a custom 1911. That rig makes you look like you’re a cop looking for a fight.”
Too bad. I don’t have a less-threatening holster for my sidearm and most of the people at the meeting will probably be packing guns anyway. This is Arizona, after all.
“I don’t suppose you have any brilliant advice for how to handle this? What am I supposed to tell them? What am I supposed to say when they ask how the police are supposed to keep them safe when we’re at our lowest deployment level in decades?”
“My advice? Tap dance! You tell them we’re still running a skeleton crew and they’ll all go out and pin on their hunting licenses while they hunt down every asshole in the city. That’s kind of what we’re trying to avoid. Remember that.”
You don’t say? He’s a real leader of men and women, isn’t he? Can’t you just feel the inspirational vibe coming off of him right now?
“And what do I do if one of the Vigilance Committees shows up at this shindig?”
“Duck and cover.”
Totally inspirational. I’d say something really snarky right now, but he makes the deployment and I don’t want to get stuck with a bunch of crappy days off. He can do that to me, you know. He wouldn’t be the first.
“Can I take Sergeant Varanasi with me?”
“Are you insane?”
“What? He’s a Sergeant of Police and a former Marine.”
“Exactly the sort of person I don’t want anywhere near this thing. Allison, you know the Sarge better than anyone…”
Umm, duh! He knows I live with the man. He knows I do a hell of a lot more with him than just live with him, too!
“…and the last thing I need is for Varanasi to pop off at the crowd like they’re a bunch of new meat at Parris Island. He’s still got a little too much of the drill sergeant in him.”
Don’t I know it? But it happens to be something that totally turns me on in all the right ways.
“Maybe that’s what people need right now: somebody to read them the riot act and knock some sense into their heads?”
“Allison, when a police force gets out of hand? The courts can order it put under a conservatorship until it cleans up its act. But when a civilian population does the same thing? What’s the remedy? You can’t put a bunch of citizens under some sort of consent decree. People around here are fed up…”
“And I don’t blame them, sir.”
“And just between the two of us? Neither do I. Not after everything that’s happened around here. But that plus the rising crime rate across the country have pushed things to the breaking point. The truth is we’re not doing the job.”
“We’re doing the best we can under the circumstances.”
“But that’s not what people want to hear, is it? They want to know when this insanity is going to end and we can’t answer that question. We don’t know. We’ve run into the worst streak of bad luck I’ve ever heard about.”
No kidding! Mad snipers, outlaw biker gangs at war with each other, lunatic armed robbery crews, psycho doomsday cults, a crazy prison gang and a paramilitary army, and most recently? A cartel meth lab on an industrial scale and a rogue security force guarding a top-secret military base that may or may not be testing recovered UFOs! This city has totally turned into an episode of The Twilight Zone!
“And we’ve lost more than three dozen officers as a result of it to injuries, stress, reassignments, and – oh, yes! Some of them got killed! And we were never a big department to begin with.”
“And until the next raise kicks in, we’re still one of the lowest-paid departments in the state for a city of this size. I know. You’re preaching to the converted, girl.”
“Sir, we’re down to two minimum-strength SRT teams. Lima team is still trying to rebuild. Alpha team is probably going to have to be scrapped for the foreseeable future. Our patrol officers are racking up overtime like people wouldn’t believe and half of them are either looking for a way out of here or they’ve put in for a transfer to Traffic Division. And our new chief needs to use Google Maps just to find his way to headquarters. He doesn’t know a thing about this city. None of that is a secret, sir. People are going to see me and they’re going to ask me how the police can protect the public under those conditions. What am I supposed to tell them?”
At least he’s thinking about it and not just running for the door. I hope that’s a good sign.
“Tell them we’re doing the best we can under the circumstances and that we understand their frustration. But that’s no excuse to take the law into your own hands. That’s what you tell them. Nobody wants to go back to the bad old days.”
“Are you sure of that, sir? With everything that’s been going on around here lately?”
“Allison, you didn’t grow up here. I did. I know the history of this town. Back in the nineteenth century, right after the Civil War? This place had a reputation for angry mobs lynching suspected outlaws. They built a scaffold in the vacant lot right across from the old jail. You can go see the pictures of it down at the Historical Society. All they needed to go out and kill someone was an accusation. We’re not going back to that.”
I guess he didn’t read our incident report from half an hour ago. It sure looked like we’d gone back to that to me! And I’ll bet Jimmy and Lonnie would agree!
“Just don’t get your hopes up, sir. Even with my profile in this town, I don’t think anyone’s going to listen to me at this thing. People are sick of assbags and drugs and psychos trying to kill everyone. No one’s going to want to hear me say they need to be patient when they’re all waiting for the other shoe to drop.”
“Just do your best. People respect you. They know what you’ve done for the city. Don’t worry, I’m not expecting miracles. Neither is anyone else.”
Good, because I don’t have any and I don’t know where to get any. And I don’t know anyone who does. You know what my life’s been like. Miracles seem to avoid me like I’m a disease. And for every good thing that happens to me? It seems like I have to suffer through twenty or thirty horrible things to pay for it. Right now, I’m hoping the fates aren’t about to knock on my door and come collecting, if you know what I mean.