Tactical Alert

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"We're Not Everybody Else"

Would you look at this shit? There must be five hundred people tearing into the stores, and at least two of those stores are in flames! They’re running into a burning building to steal shit! They’re completely insane! I see men, women, children, even old people! They’re all looting the stores! The whole fucking world has gone psycho! What the hell is going on here? What are these lunatics thinking? No, they’re not thinking! They’re a bunch of fucking asshole idiots! And not only do we have to chase them the hell out of there, but we also have to save them from being burned to death! Jesus Christ! We’re out of our minds, too! We’re about to risk our lives to protect these pieces of shit! I think we’ve entered a parallel universe! What other explanation is there? The entire fabric of reality just took a great big fucking shit! This is insane! And looking at Harper’s face, he feels the exact same way! Why wouldn’t he? He’s not crazy! Even Officer Titus looks like he’s about to have a meltdown! And he’s only got a month in the field! Holy rude awakening, Batman! We’ll be lucky if he doesn’t resign by dinnertime!

“These people are fucking nuts! Look at that! That building in on fire and they’re running in there to steal shit before it comes crashing down!”

“It looks like the fire’s spreading, Dani! Look! The roof on that store next to it is already burning!”

We should just bolt the doors behind them and scream “serves you right, assholes!” But of course, we can’t do that! Fuck! Here we go again! Beat and release!

“All right, guys! It’s B&R time! Titus, I take it they told you about that in the academy?”

“Yeah, but they told us never to use that term. It’s not very PC.”

“Neither is looting and arson! Let’s go! Hats and bats! And watch your back! Everybody stick together! If you get separated, get up on the radio right away! Titus, our unit is Sixteen Central! If you forget, just yell ‘Officer Titus needs help!’ We’ll get to you! Let’s go!”

It’s like a goddamned Chinese fire drill around here! And yes, I know that’s not very PC either. But how else would you describe this shit? We’ve got five hundred people running in six hundred different directions at once! Our best bet is to clear out the stores one at a time. All right, we start with the biggest one: the clothing store. At least that one’s not on fire!

“Guys! This one first! We move in, fan out in a line. And start cracking heads! Anyone who doesn’t get the fuck out of there is fair game! Stay together and watch each other’s backs! Let’s do this!”

Getting in won’t be a problem. They’ve smashed out the glass doors. Jesus, look at this place! It’s like a fucking cyclone hit it! There’s clothes and shit everywhere! They’re tearing the place apart! Fucking assholes! This isn’t your stuff! You don’t just get to steal it and trash the place because you’re pissed off about something! What’s the matter with you? Assholes! All of you! Fucking assholes! Get the fuck out of here! You! How about a crack to the knee? Got you! Get out! Your turn! Jab to the gut! Crack to the shoulder! Yeah, you’d better run! Now you! Drop that shit, motherfucker! You’re not getting away with it! Hit him! Again! Again!

“Run! Get the fuck out of here before we shoot your ass! Go!”

I see the rest of the watch is dealing with the same shit, and they’re just as angry as I am! Every one of these pieces of shit should be drawn and quartered! For God’s sake, don’t they realize what they’re doing? They’re going to put this place out of business! Everyone’s going to lose their jobs! You fucking assholes! I fucking hate every one of you!

“Get the fuck out! Go! Run! While you still can, you piece of shit!”

“Fuck the police!”

Is that what you think? Here’s what I think, you son of a bitch! Right on the elbow! And another one for good measure, straight to the collarbone! Yeah, try stealing with a broken arm and a broken shoulder, motherfucker!

“Watch your mouth, asshole! Get the fuck out of here! Run!”

Jesus, they’re everywhere! There must be at least a hundred people in here! How the fuck are we going to clear them all out? There’s Sergeant Hendrickson and Sergeant Ivanell! And it looks like Sergeant Ivanell’s got a suspect he can’t handle! Shit! That guy is fucking huge! Time to jump in!

“Harper! Titus! Over here! The Sarge needs help!”

Ten bucks says that asshole is an ex-con! Fucking piece of shit! All right, you’re not paying attention to me? Good! How about a power jab right to your back! That got his attention! Hit him again! Another jab to the gut! Follow it up with a good downward strike to the collarbone! And one more to the back! You’re down, asshole! Don’t get up if you know what’s good for you!

“Thanks, Dani!”

“Are you all right, Sarge? That asshole was pretty big!”

“You took care of him pretty quick. You’re going to have to teach me how to do that.”

“The element of surprise. It works every time. Sarge, how are we going to clear these idiots the hell out of here? The show of force isn’t working.”

“No, but maybe this will!”

What is he…oh, shit! He’s aiming his gun in the air!

“Everybody get the fuck out of here!”

Three shots! Right into the ceiling! With a .40 Smith! Jesus, that thing is loud! It definitely got everybody’s attention! They all see us now! And they’re running! I don’t believe it! It actually worked!

“I don’t think that’s in the manual, Sarge!”

“It’s in mine for the duration of the riot! Is everyone all right? Is everyone accounted for?”

“It looks like it. Everybody! Check your partners! Make sure everybody’s accounted for!”

Everyone’s giving us the thumbs-up sign. Good! Everybody’s accounted for and in one piece! Jesus fucking Christ! Look at this place! It’s totally destroyed! The racks! The shelves! Everything! It’s all wrecked! This place is a total write-off!

“They really gutted the place, Sarge!”

“That’s not all! Look at the roof!”

Oh, shit! It’s burning! The fire’s spread to this place! That whole ceiling could come down on top of us in a few minutes!

“We’ve got to get out of here! We need the fire department!”

“Forget it, Dani! They won’t come! Not with this many people going crazy in the lot! They won’t come near this place! Everybody clear out! Move! This place isn’t safe! The roof’s on fire! Everybody out! Go!”

No need to tell me twice, Sarge! Fuck this shit! I’m not getting burned to death and I’m not getting crushed by a collapsing ceiling! I’m getting the fuck out of here!

“Harper! Titus! Everyone! Let’s go! Hurry! That roof could come down any minute now! Move it, guys!”

One store down and who knows how many others to go! We’ve got to move on to the next one! Which one?

“Harper, which one do we clear next?”

“I say the pharmacy. They’ll hit it for the drugs. We need to stop that from happening.”

I don’t know. Pharmacies are little fortresses. The room where they keep the good drugs is built like a bank vault. But the assholes don’t know that. They might try to force the employees to open the door.

“All right, let’s go! Everybody! The pharmacy! At the east end of the lot! Let’s move!”

Even if the assholes held a gun to their heads, the people who work in the pharmacy can’t open that door. The drugs are safe. The people? Not so much. There it is! It doesn’t look damaged. Not yet, anyway. All right, let’s get there! Run!

Hang on! It looks pretty calm in there! Did the looters even try to get in here? There’s one way to find out! The doors are locked. Good! Bang on it! They should open the door for us. Yep! Here comes somebody! A Hispanic lady. She seems pretty cool about it, considering what’s happening right next door. Open it up, sweetie! We need to make sure you’re all in one piece!

“Is everyone all right in here?”

“So far! Where the hell have you been? We’ve been calling you people since those fools started tearing up the mall!”

“Better late than never. Has anybody tried to get in here yet?”

“Not yet. We were about to drop the gates. Are there more of you coming?”

“Not likely. Most of us are being held prisoner at the command post. Where’s the pharmacy?”

“In the back, but nobody’s there except Jamel. Everybody else took off.”

Then Jamel is either very brave or very dumb. Let’s go find out. There he is. God, he looks really young to be working in the pharmacy. Maybe eighteen or nineteen at most. He’s locking up the security gate behind the counter. Smart man. Of course, that gate won’t keep out a mob of looters determined to tear it down.

“Excuse me? Are you Jamel?”

“Yes, ma’am. You people better take off. We’re lockin’ the place up. Fuck this shit!”

“My sentiments exactly. They said everybody back here took off except you. Why did you stick around?”

“Some of these ladies ain’t got no cars. They take the bus. Ain’t no busses gonna come by in this shit. I figured I’d try to fit them all in my car.”

Not bad. If they gave out good citizen awards, I’d nominate him.

“Is that thing going to hold? You saw what’s going on outside.”

“Why do you think we’re getting’ the hell out of here? This’ll probably keep ’em out. This stuff on the shelves ain’t worth shit anyway. Some of ’em are just empty bottles. They put ’em here for show.”

“So these aren’t painkillers or anything, right?”

“Fuck, no! They don’t keep that shit out here! You got to keep that shit under lock and key!

“What about this upstairs room where they keep the painkillers? Is it secure?”

“Fuck, yeah! The door on that shit is about six inches thick! Ain’t nobody gettin’ in there! They lock that door and the shit don’t open until the next day. Got to keep that shit locked up like a motherfucker!”

Sounds good to me. At least there won’t be a shitload of OxyContin on the streets. We’ve got enough of that as it is.

“Are you going to be safe to get out of here? These people are going ape shit out there.”

“Don’t I know it, lady! I’ll be all right. We just got to get the fuck out before them motherfuckers try to bust in here. After that, I’m goin’ home and I ain’t comin’ out ’til the National Guard gets here! Hey, do you know when they’re supposed to show?”

Good question. Too bad I don’t have a good answer. In fact, I don’t have any answer.

“I don’t know. That’s out of our hands. It’s probably going to be a while. The governor has to declare a state of emergency to activate the Guard and he hasn’t done that yet.”

“Why not? He don’t know what’s goin’ on out here? Tell that motherfucker to turn on the TV!”

No argument, my friend. But with no chief running the show, the governor may not be in any hurry to take action. Activating the National Guard is some serious business and it doesn’t look good for him. We may not see those guys for a while, and that’s if they show up at all.

“What can I tell you? It’s all politics right now.”

“Politics ain’t the one what’s gonna put some bullets in my black ass! We need the motherfuckin’ Guard out there! Who’s gonna help us? The police? You people ain’t nowhere to be seen! Y’all are the first cops I done seen since this shit got started!”

You know, when they hold hearings about this shit and how the police totally dropped the ball, I hope this kid is front and center in the hearing room, demanding answers. He’s a kid and he knows the division has gone to shit. Why don’t our superiors seem to comprehend that?

“And we may be the last ones you see for a good long while. Look, if you guys can be ready to leave in five minutes, we can cover your exit. Make sure you get out all right.”

“Lady, we’ll be better off if we ain’t seen in your company. You know what I mean?”

Yeah, I know exactly what he means. And he’s absolutely right. It’s a sad state of affairs when you’re actually safer by avoiding the company of the police. It makes me wonder what the fuck we’re doing out here.

“Dani! Sergeant Gellar says they’re in the electronics shop! We’ve got to go!”

“Roger that, Harper! All right, let’s get out of here. Good luck, Jamel. My advice? Bolt your door when you get home and keep a gun handy, just in case.”

“I got that shit covered. Good luck to you. I think you’re gonna need it a lot more than me.”

No doubt. All right, next crisis! There’s an electronics shop in this place? I didn’t know that. It’s probably cleaned out by now, but we’ve got to try. Let’s go! Run! Get there! There it is! Christ, it’s already on fire! And I’ll bet there are a bunch of idiots still in there stealing shit! I can see Signolo, Goren, Acevedo, and Garcia already over there. Why aren’t they inside, chasing out the looters?

“Guys! Get in there! Chase those assholes out! Signolo! What’s the holdup?”

“It’s locked! The gates are shut and there’s two guys in there!”

What? He’s right! The security gate is locked! And those two guys look like security guards!

“What are you doing in there? This place is on fire! Get the fuck out!”

“We can’t! We’re locked in! They locked the gates and told us we had to stay here and keep the looters out!”

Is he shitting me? They locked them in a burning store? What? To be killed? Who the fuck made that decision?

“How do we open this thing?”

“You can’t! It’s padlocked! Get us out of here!”

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse! Somebody ordered these two guards to stay in there and die in a fire! Who the fuck gave that order? Do the words “attempted murder” mean anything to them? What kind of people have we got in this fucked-up city?

“Harper, get the bolt cutters from the car! Hurry! This place is filling up with smoke!”

Jesus Christ! These guys don’t even have guns! They don’t even have nightsticks! What the hell were they supposed to do if a horde of looters came in here? Jesus, that smoke is getting thick! We don’t have much time! If he doesn’t get back here in a few seconds, we’re going to have to try to shoot the lock off! And despite what you see on TV, that shit rarely works!

“Dani, stand clear!”

Nice work, Harper! That was fucking fast!

“Get these guys out of there! That smoke…”

“I’ve got it! There! Pull the gates! Pull! This place is about to go! Hurry!”

Jesus, these security gates weigh a fucking ton! Pull! Harder! Pull! Yes! They’re moving! That’s enough! They can get through there!

“Run! Move it! Get the fuck out of there!”

They’re out! I swear to God, I’m going to track down whoever the asshole was who locked them in there and throw his ass in jail! That was beyond insane! That was fucking sadistic!

“Are you guys all right? Can you breathe?”

“We’re good! Fuck this shit! We’re getting the fuck out of here!”

Uh-huh! That might be easier said than done!

“Do you guys have a car? Are you sure you can make it out of this place? The whole division’s gone to shit. I don’t think the busses or trains are running in this part of town.”

“Fuck that shit, honey! We’ll walk out of here if we have to! We ain’t stickin’ around here! No fuckin’ way! I knew I should’ve stayed home today!”

Truer words were never spoken, mister! You almost died for a rent-a-cop job that probably pays about twelve bucks an hour! Time to find a new line of work, guys!”

“You need to find a safer job. What’s your name?”

“Albert. You know, I applied to the police force, but I ain’t heard back from them yet.”

Well, if he’s got the balls to come to work in this shit, then he’s probably got the balls to be a cop. What the fuck? Give him my card and tell him to use my name. No, my name would probably hurt him. Give him Harper’s card.

“Harper, give Albert your business card. Albert, when you get home, call them up and give them Harper’s name and tell them there are three officers from Central Division who’ll vouch for you. I think you just earned it.”

He seems pretty appreciative. Jesus, he and his partner almost died! I’m not so sure I’d be as fired up over a job right now. And away they go! Good luck, guys! I think you’re going to need it!

“Who the hell said they were looting this place? It’s all locked up!”

“Dani, look at those flames in the back! Someone must’ve tossed a couple of firebombs in here when they found out they couldn’t get in! If they couldn’t steal the stuff, then they’d burn it! Great thinking!”

Goddamned evil thinking if you ask me! Where the fuck did this sense of entitlement come from? It’s like they think they’re entitled to steal and burn and do whatever the fuck they want to do! Total fucking psychos! All of them!

“Forty-Four Central to all Central Midwatch units! Listen up! We just talked to a couple of firemen and they say the paramedics are ordered to stay out of the danger zones! Don’t get injured, guys! There’s no one coming to help you if you do! We’re on our own!”

Jesus, I thought they might do that, but hearing it for real? We’re out here alone! If we get shot or stabbed or whatever, there’s no EMS coming to help! We’ll bleed to death before they can get us to the hospital in a sector car!

“Roger that, Signolo. Did they say if they’re just waiting for the police to escort them?”

“It’s worse than that, Dani. Two of their guys got shot over on 96th Street and another one of their ambulances took a shitload of rounds in the Sendero Projects in Wilmington Division. These assholes are picking off the paramedics! They’re not going to risk any more of their guys. Not until they can get some serious armed escorts and we don’t have the manpower to do it.”

Oh, fuck this shit! It’s time to use the resources we’ve got left! If the department and the mayor won’t do it, then we’ll just do it ourselves!

“Sergeant Ivanell! Over here! Code three!”

I know it kind of sucks to do this, but he’s the only sergeant we’ve got that I can pretty much order to do something. We can’t be out here without EMS. It’s way too dangerous.

“What’s up, Dani?”

“Sarge, I know we don’t have the authority to do this, but I need you to call the Transit Police and tell them to form up squads to start escorting the paramedics and the firemen. Signolo just got word that EMS has stopped sending their people into the riot zone. They’re getting shot at left and right and they’ve already taken casualties. We need those guys out here and we don’t have enough officers to do it. The Transit cops do. They’re not even running the buses down here!”

“That actually sounds like a good idea. I’ve got a friend on their command staff I can call. I’ll get it done.”

Seriously? He actually knows somebody high-up over there? Sergeant Ivanell has more connections than I thought!

“Come on, Harper. Where’s the next disaster?”

“Are you kidding? Take your pick!”

He’s right: it’s everywhere. The sky is full of black clouds from the fires. We couldn’t go a hundred yards in any direction without hitting an affected area. And there are fifteen of us to handle it. Eleven officers, three sergeants, and a lieutenant for a division that normally would have at least fifteen units out here. Are we just kidding ourselves? What are we going to do about this shit? What can we do?

“Maybe we should go to the CP and just sit there?”

“Dani, you’re not serious. We can’t give up. Even if everybody else does.”

“Why not? It seems like that’s what everybody wants us to do.”

“We’re not everybody else. We have to do what we can. If we can save one life, one business, then it’s worth it.”

It’s hard to argue with Captain America. I just feel…I’m so fucking sick of banging my head against the wall. It doesn’t seem to do any good and it really hurts your head.

“Shut up and kiss me. Then we’ll get back to it.”

It’s not much, but it’s something. God, I think I’d give anything right now to just chuck this shit and go home and jump into bed with him! Too bad our sense of duty won’t let us. I really need to do something about that. It’s really fucking annoying sometimes.

“All right, most of the assholes seem to be moving out of here. I guess they don’t want to burn to death any more than we do. We’re going to have to move on to the next one. There’s a bunch of wholesale electronics shops a few blocks north of here. Converted warehouses. I think we should go there next. Those places are definitely targets.”

“That’s my girl. Dani, when this is over, some of us are going to be able to look ourselves in the mirror. A lot of people won’t. You’ll see. It’ll be worth it.”

Uh-huh! Say that again if one of us gets killed!

“Keep reminding me of that until this thing blows over. Come on, gather everybody up and let’s go!”

I feel so tired right now. Worn out. I know it’s only been a few hours since the riot started, but it’s more than that. The whole day has just drained me. And we’ve got a long way to go. But Harper’s right: we have to keep at it. No matter how hard it gets, no matter how much we want to just throw in the towel, we have to keep going. We don’t have a choice. Not if we want to be able to look ourselves in the mirror after this. It’s pretty sad that it comes down to that, but right now, it’s all we’ve got.

The warehouse wholesale district. These places are like the ones in Avalon Division: they sell all kinds of electronic shit at wholesale prices. You don’t always get the factory warranty, but since things like that don’t usually break down, you don’t really need it. The prices and the selection are so good that we get people from all over the city coming down here to shop. It’s a majority black division, but it’s not unusual to see white people from the suburbs down here buying big TVs and computers. It’s exactly the kind of place that the looters will hit with a vengeance, and from the looks of the people running in the streets around here, that’s what they’re doing. We’ve got everybody assembled and I guess it’s up to me to give the instructions. I think Lieutenant Hagan is doing that by design. I’m not sure why. All right, here we go again!

“All right, guys! We do it the same way as the last time: we clear out one place at a time! Stay together and watch your backs!”

Hang on! There’s a sector car over there by the warehouse on the left! A Woodlawn unit? I didn’t think there were any left!

“Lieutenant Hagan! There’s a unit already here! Over there! Eleven o’clock!”

Four officers. They must’ve gone out in one car. Wait a minute! That car! That’s not a Woodlawn number! That’s a Northside unit! What the fuck are they doing down here? Oh, what am I saying? They’re here doing the same thing we are!

“Sir, that’s a Northside unit!”

“Then we’d better go help them out! Get over there! Go!”

Those guys are outnumbered! They’re trying to clear out fifty assholes by themselves! Jesus, it’s a wonder they haven’t all been shot! Move in! Start cracking these assholes! You first! Yeah, that hurt! That’s what you get for being a fucking looter! Next! Down you go, you little piece of shit! Number three! Jab to the gut! Again! Yeah, not what you expected, is it, motherfucker! Keep hitting them! That’s it! They’re breaking and running! Fucking assholes! I hope I broke your fucking rib! Goddamned pieces of shit! You don’t get to steal! Get the fuck out of here!

There’s the Northside unit. Those guys have definitely seen some action. Their uniforms are pretty messed up. They look like they’ve been fighting hand-to-hand since this shit began. They also look pretty young. I’m guessing none of them has much time on the job.

“Hey! Northside! Are you guys all right?”

I guess the black officer is their leader. He’s nodding. He’s out of breath, but he looks like he’s OK.

“We’re good. Thanks for the assist. We thought we were the only ones left in this division.”

“You guys are a long way from home. What’s a Northside unit doing down here?”

“Well, we’re not exactly a unit. I just got these guys together and we headed down here when the order came to report to the command post. We figured…I figured it was better than sitting around and watching the city burn.”

“So did we. We’re Central Midwatch. What unit were you before you came down here?”

“We were Delta units. All of us. We’ve been on Delta cars since we made Phase III.”

What? He’s a boot? They’re all Phase III boots working one-man units?

“Are you telling me you guys are all boots?”

“Roger that. I grew up down here. Officer Jonas Mossman, ma’am. That’s Jim Tyndale over there, the big Mexican is Hector Guzman, and the one holding his elbow is Bobby Lilienthal. He got hit with a pipe as soon as we got here. I don’t think it’s broken, but he’s hurting pretty bad. I don’t suppose you’ve got a first-aid kit on you, ma’am?”

“I’m Dani Lynott. Yeah, we’ve got one. Where’s yours?”

“Used up. We ran into some people who got all messed up a few blocks from here. A bunch of shops tried to keep the looters out and they got all busted up in the fight. We gave out what we had. It went fast.”

“Lieutenant Hagan! You’re not going to believe this, sir! These guys are all boots from Northside Division! They were working Delta units when the word came down to report to the CP. They decided otherwise.”

“What’s your name, Officer?”

“Jonas Mossman, sir. Sir, it was my idea to come down here. I take full responsibility for leaving our division. If you’re going to burn anyone for us disobeying orders, blame me, sir. It was my call.”

That’s seriously gutsy of him. A boot could get fired on the spot for that shit. This guy is impressive. Hell, all of them are impressive! A bunch of boots coming down here and not even knowing the division? That’s practically a suicide mission! Lieutenant Hagan definitely seems impressed.

“Officer, I don’t burn cops for doing the right thing. I commend them for it. All four of you are boots?”

“Yes, sir. Phase III. I’m a month ahead of the rest of them. Three months to go before I’m off of probation, sir.”

“For the duration of this goddamned riot, I hereby promote all of you to PII! You are no longer boots! You will fall in with my Midwatch units and we will take back this fucking division! Is that understood?”

“Yes, sir!”

“How the hell did you know to come here in the first place?”

“I grew up here, sir. 89th and Columbus. I knew this division would be the worst hit.”

Jesus, talk about an asshole neighborhood! That’s some serious gang territory! He’s lucky to be alive! And he became a cop? Those gangbangers probably have a contract out on him!

“Have you got family down here, son?”

“Yes, sir. My mom and my grandma, but they’re gone. When the shit broke, they went to my auntie’s place in Morningside, sir. They’re going to stay there for a few days until the shit dies down.”

“Smart move. All right, we’ll have our guys take a look at your wounded man. The rest of you, form up in a skirmish line and stand by to move forward. We’re going to sweep these assholes right out of the street! Lynott, get them in a line!”

“Roger that, sir. Everybody form up! Skirmish line! Cover the entire street! Harper, you’re the south anchor! I’m the north! Let’s go!”

Now we’ve got four more officers. It looks like Officer Lilienthal isn’t willing to sit this one out. He’s already taking up a position. All right, sergeants and Lieutenant Hagan in the back. They’ll direct the line and order any serious agitators to be arrested. Let’s do this!

“Squad! Stand by! Ruiz! Get on the P.A. and give them the order to disperse!”

We’re like a broken record: the same shit, over and over again. Give an order to disperse, get totally ignored, and then move in and crack heads! This fucking sucks! We clear them out and twenty minutes later, they’re right back here doing the same shit! Unless they release those officers from the command post, we’re never going to make a dent in this bullshit! All right, Ruiz gave them the order in English and Spanish. And naturally, they’re not listening. Fucking idiots! I guess we do it the hard way!

“Squad! Forward…march!

Here we go again! This time, the shitheads are lining up across from us and screaming bloody murder! These guys must really want a fight with the police! What the fuck for? The goddamned Woodlawn shooting? Racial justice? For God’s sake, half of that crowd isn’t even black! They’re Hispanic! And the Hispanic community didn’t give a flying fuck about that shooting! But hey, don’t let a little thing like that get in the way of a perfectly good riot! God, I hate these fucking idiots! You guys had better break ranks and run! Because if we get there and you’re still squaring off with us, you’re going to get your heads cracked!

Goren is looking pretty uneasy. Yeah, I can’t say as I blame him! I’m pretty uneasy about this shit, too!

“They’re not backing down, Dani!”

“Just keep moving. They’ll break. They’re not suicidal.”

At least, I hope they’re not. Oh, shit! Now they’re starting to throw things at us! Damn it! I should’ve had everybody grab the riot shields! Just keep moving forward! We’re closing in on them. About fifty yards. Fuck! That one almost hit me! Just keep going! Jesus! Another one! Some of these guys can definitely throw! Just keep moving! Oh, fuck! That asshole in the red is lighting a firebomb!

“Dani! That guy’s got a…”

“Molotov cocktail! Hey! Drop it! Drop it now!”

Look at me, you stupid son of a bitch! I’m pointing a fucking gun at you! If you throw that thing, I’m shooting your ass! Don’t do it! Don’t fucking do it!

“Drop it or I’ll fire! Do you want to die? Drop it!”

You’re dead, asshole! Last chance! Don’t do it! Don’t fucking do it! You…holy shit! What the fuck was that? He threw it straight up in the air! What the fuck kind of throw was that? Holy fucking shit! It hit the telephone wires! It…oh, Jesus! It hit that car! That thing is packed with stolen shit! That asshole just burned up his stash! What a fucking idiot!


“I see it! I just don’t believe it!”

“Nice fucking throw, asshole! Say goodbye to your shit!”

Oh, my God! Am I really seeing this shit? He and his friend are trying to get back into the car! The car’s on fire! It’s fucking torched! And they’re trying to drive away in it! They’re fucking insane!

“Harper! Acevedo! Grab those fucking idiots before they fry themselves! Jesus Christ!

That has got to be a whole new level of stupid for the human race! Morons! Total fucking morons! Look at that thing! It’s completely engulfed in flames! What the fuck made them think they could drive away in it? All of the wires probably melted! It’s fucking toast! At least Harper and Acevedo aren’t gently escorting them from the vehicle. More like ripping them both out through the windows! Yeah, count your blessings, motherfuckers! They just saved your worthless piece of shit lives!

“Drag those idiots back behind the line and hook their asses up! They’re going for arson! Squad! Forward, march!

That little episode seems to have taken the wind out of the crowd’s sails, but some of them are still holding fast. Fuck! What is it with these idiots? They don’t look drunk, so they must be naturally stupid! All right, time to put an end to this little social uprising!

“Squad! Double-time! Forward! Charge!

And now we break into a full-on run! Yeah, that’s right! We’re coming for you, assholes! And there they go! Now they’re running! Keep running, motherfuckers! If we catch you, you’re all going to be wearing ghetto turbans by the time we’re through with you!

“Everybody, halt! Let them go! Don’t chase them!”

There’s no point in it. Our best bet right now is to clear out the stores. I can hear a whole bunch of assholes in there tearing the place up. I’m sure it’s the same with the other stores. Oh, why bother? By now, those places are cleaned out and trashed. Still, we don’t have much choice, do we? Protect the public; protect the property. Yeah, right! Today, we’re protecting a bunch of ash piles! God, we must be out of our minds!

“Harper, form everyone up into four-man squads and let’s get in there! Toss the assholes out!”

“Do you think there’s anything left in there?”

“Probably not, but we have to try. After that, we should all be committed!”

“No such luck. The mental hospitals are probably all closed.”

Good point. I guess we’ll just have to wander the alleys of Central Division like the rest of the tinfoil hat crowd. You know, this day is really starting to get to me. I’ll just have to fight through it. I have a feeling we’re not going to be relieved anytime soon. All right, Harper’s got Ruiz and Rosen with him. That’ll make four of us. That should be enough to throw the looters out of this place – assuming they don’t start shooting at us. Time to see what’s left of the store. I’m guessing it’s not much.

And I was right! Jesus, they totally wrecked this place! Look at this shit! They didn’t just knock everything over, they fucking trashed it! The shelves are all shattered! And the TVs and shit? Broken into a million pieces! I can see at least five big screen TVs over by what used to be the front counter and they’ve got holes smashed through them. They were probably too big to steal, so the assholes just wrecked them. If we can’t have it, then nobody can! That’s the logic of the looters for you. It makes me sick to my stomach. Anybody who saw this disaster would feel the same way. Anybody decent, at least. Clearly, the assholes who did this didn’t have a problem with it. Unless the owner of this place is insured out the ass, he’s out of business forever. He’s going to need a whole new store with whole new merchandise. He’ll probably never recover. I have a feeling that’s going to be the story for a lot of businesses today. I can see from his face that even Harper can’t believe it. This shit is beyond greed. This is just mean. Now you know why I never hesitate to call them assholes: because that’s exactly what they are!

“Watch your step, Harper. Don’t trip in here. You’ll break your neck. They didn’t leave much, did they?”

“Dani, they didn’t leave anything! Is there anything in here that’s not busted to shreds?”

Uh, no! Including the people! We’ve got a man down on the right, near the tables!

“Harper, we’ve got someone down! Guys! We’ve got a civilian down! Over there! Watch yourselves! He could be a suspect!”

He’s not moving, whoever he is. All right, take it slow. Guns out, watch the crossfire, and watch out for anyone else still in here. Is he a looter? Maybe he tried to take something and another asshole wanted it for himself? Yeah, that would definitely result in a beat-down. Oh, fuck! That’s no looter! That guy looks Middle Eastern! A lot of the people who own these places are Middle Eastern. God damn it! He either works here or he’s the owner! Jesus, is he still alive? Is he even breathing? Harper’s checking him out. Christ! What a time for EMS to stand down!

“Harper, that guy looks like he works here! Is he alive? We’ve got to get him out of here!”

“Forget it. He’s dead. I think his neck is broken. This guy took a hell of a beating. It looks like he got stomped to death.”

God, he can’t be a day over forty! He came to work today like any other day and the next thing he knew, five hundred people came storming in here and destroyed the place. Maybe he tried to stop them? Maybe he never had a chance to try? It doesn’t make any difference, really. He’s dead just the same. Time to let the bosses know. It’s not the sort of call your superiors like to receive.

“Sixteen Central to Ten Central, Lieutenant Hagan? We’ve got a body in here. The victim looks like one of the employees. Maybe the owner. Harper, check him for some ID.”

“I already did. His wallet’s gone. So is his watch and his wedding ring. I can see the mark on his finger. He was wearing one, but it’s gone. It looks like they broke his finger to get it off.”

“Ten Central to Sixteen, Lynott? Clear that place and make sure there’s no one else in there. We’ll lock the scene down as best we can and let the Woodlawn detectives know. I take it I don’t have to ask if it looks like a homicide.”

“Negative, sir. It’s definitely a homicide. This guy was beaten to death. Harper thinks his neck is broken.”

“Roger that, Lynott. Our riot just got another body to its name. Stand by while I call the station. You people know what to do. Stay sharp. It’s going to be a long day.”

That’s the understatement of the eon! I don’t even know what time it is and I’ve got no desire to look at my watch. I don’t want to know what time it is. Why bother? It won’t make any difference to this guy. He’ll probably go down in the books as an unsolved homicide; one of many today. I wonder how many others we’ll find before this day is over? For that matter, I wonder how many assholes we’ll have to put down before then? From what we’ve seen so far, I’d be amazed if we manage to get through this without killing half a dozen assholes. They just aren’t willing to stand down. Well, neither are we. We’ll do what we have to. We’re not turning the city over to people who would do something like this. No fucking way!

Heading off to the next disaster. Lieutenant Oliver came out to the scene of the homicide with a couple of detectives that he managed to scrape together. God, one of them was a Burglary detective and the other one just got to Woodlawn Robbery from Bunco Forgery! Welcome to the big leagues, guys! They’ll do the best they can, but they’re not Homicide detectives. So where are the Woodlawn homicide detectives? Most of them were ordered to report to the command post. It seems the order now extends to all sworn department personnel. Anyone with a gun and a badge is supposed to be there unless they were specifically detailed to some other location. Half of Central Division is at Police Headquarters and the other half is over at either City Call or the city courthouses. Lieutenant Hagan spoke to the Central Division Watch Commander and he’s freaking out because he doesn’t have any people left. He had to send a bunch of detectives over to the museum to make sure it didn’t get looted. There’s not a single sector car left in Central Division. All of the cars are either at the locations or they were taken to the CP. They really stripped the place to the bone. I’m guessing they also stripped the other divisions in Central Bureau. That leaves West Bureau and Valley Bureau. God only knows what’s left of them right now. And what about tomorrow? Will the whole department be mobilized by then? Who knows? We’re not exactly a well-oiled machine, are we? We left a homicide scene to a couple of Burglary and Fraud detectives. We’ve already had an officer-involved shooting and it didn’t get investigated right away. Well-oiled machine? More like some piece of rusty junk held together with spit and bailing wire!

There’ve been a record number of officer needs help calls in all South Bureau divisions. We’re headed over to the location of one broadcast to see if we can do any good. From what we’ve been able to gather so far, there’ve probably been at least a dozen officer-involved shootings so far, and I’m guessing that’s only about one-third of the true number. In a total catastrophe like this, a lot of us probably aren’t too concerned with procedure. I’ll bet they’re going to have to sweep the empty brass casings out of more than a few sector cars by tonight. It’s insane. The Emerald City has lost its collective mind. I wonder if we’ll ever come back from this shit? Right now, I wouldn’t bet on it.

I keep thinking about Emily. We should be with her right now. She’s just a baby. She doesn’t know what’s going on, but the more we see of this shit storm, the more we think that we’re somehow abandoning her and it’s making us feel like total shit. I say “we” because I know for a fact that Harper feels the same way. Some parents we turned out to be, huh? I guess my mom was right after all: we don’t take our responsibilities as parents seriously enough. I’m telling you, words can’t even begin to describe how rotten we feel about it. It’s downright shameful. But we have a job to do and we’re going to do it. We’ll worry about what shitty parents we are later.

“Harper, go right and then straight up for about three blocks. According to Woodlawn Station, there’s been no contact with that unit for the last ten minutes. I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”

“I didn’t think there were any Woodlawn units left out here.”

“One or two, apparently. They left the station without being deployed, so they couldn’t log on. That’s probably how they got overlooked.”

“Those guys are out here and nobody even knows who they are? That’s crazy!”

“That seems to be the rule today. Up ahead. That’s their last reported location: 8119 South Bradshaw. Keep your eyes open. The police aren’t too popular in this area. This is one of the few Hispanic neighborhoods in Woodlawn. The gang that controls it is called DeLancy 13. Little assholes. Full strength, they number about twenty-five. But that was back when I was here. For all I know, they’ve doubled in size. A lot of younger guys are in that gang. It’s pretty new.”

Which means they’ve got a shitload of angry teenagers who have a lot to prove to the street veterans in the other gangs. That makes them dangerous. The riot makes them even more dangerous. A bunch of little shitheads like that might try an ambush. A single unit out here? They’d make a tempting target.

“Dani, we’ve got a sector car on the lawn up ahead! And it looks pretty shot up!”

Yeah, the windows are all shattered. I don’t see the officers. I hope that’s a good sign.

“Sixteen Central to Midwatch units, we’ve got a shot-up sector car on the lawn on the west side of the street. No sign of the officers. Everybody fan out and start looking for them. And whatever you do, don’t get separated! Stay in each other’s sight!”

At least I don’t hear any gunshots. And since those guys don’t have a unit number and we don’t know their names, we can’t exactly call for them on the radio. Hell, they haven’t responded in the last ten minutes, so what’s the point? Besides, if they’re in a strong position and trying to remain undetected, then calling them on the radio could give it away. We definitely don’t want to do that. All right, let’s check out the car. No bloodstains in it. That’s encouraging. I see at least six bullet holes in it. God, I hope they weren’t hit!

“Twenty-Two Central to Sixteen, Dani? Harper? We’ve got what looks like a body in the back yard. We can see a pair of legs sticking out from underneath the back porch. Not the officers. Get back here and give us a hand. We want to check it out.”

Jesus, someone else is down? Is it related to this shit? There’s one way to find out. There they are, and there’s the porch. And I can see a pair of legs with khaki trousers sticking out of it. Hang on! The legs are moving! Whoever it is, he’s not dead! And Kursteff’s pulling the guy out. Oh, look! It’s a little fucking gangbanger! Christ, he’s probably eighteen years old and his arms are already completely covered with gang tattoos! And judging by that big red stain on his white t-shirt, he’s either been shot or stabbed!

“Kursteff! What’s the situation with that guy?”

“He’s been shot! Hey, idiot! Who shot you?”

The little punk looks pretty agitated. I’m guessing he was hiding from the police.

“I said who shot you? You’d better sound off if you want us to help you!”

“Fuck, homes! Y’all shot me! Get me a fuckin’ ambulance!”

“What do you mean, ‘we’ shot you? We didn’t shoot anyone.”

“You fuckin’ cops shot me! Fuck! I need an ambulance! I got to go to the hospital! Fuck!

He’s hit high in the right leg, almost at the hip. I guess one of our guys scored a hit. And look at that! Vinell just found a gun in the trash can! Gee, I wonder whose gun it is? Yeah, I’ll give you three guesses and the first two don’t count!

“Sixteen Central to Forty Central, Sergeant Gellar? Kursteff and Vinell just dragged some little gangbanger out from beneath the back porch. He’s got a gunshot wound to the leg and he says the police shot him. We’re going to need you back here. The guy’s screaming for an ambulance and we’re not likely to get one right now.”

“Roger that, Sixteen. Forty-Four just found one of his homeboys in the next yard. He wasn’t so lucky. He’s DOA. I’m coming back there. Everybody stay sharp. We’ve got a confirmed ambush on officers with shots fired. We need to find these guys fast!”

No argument there. But where the hell are they? They could be all the way down the block by now and they’re still incommunicado. This is definitely not good!

“Sixty-Six Central to all Midwatch units, we found the officers alive and well! Be advised, they’ve got one shithead down with a bullet in his ass! They say there are at least two more down around here and one guy who ran off. Does anybody have eyes on the two suspects who are down?”

Thank you, God! They’re all right! Why the hell didn’t they respond? The station has been calling them constantly!

“Sixteen Central to Sixty-Six Central, Garcia! Where are you guys?”

“We’re four houses north of the sector car, headed your way. Both officers are alive and well. We’ve got another OIS, though. These guys shot it out with a bunch of gangbangers. Do you have eyes on any of the suspects who got shot?”

“Roger that. We’ve got one in custody with a GSW to the leg and the other one is in the next yard DOA. We’ve recovered one gun. Why didn’t the unit respond to the radio?”

“They couldn’t. No power. They’ve only got one radio and the battery is dead. No more in the Woodlawn kit room. They grabbed the only one left and it wasn’t charged. They say it died on them as soon as they put out the help call. Shit happens.”

I should be screaming at the top of my lungs right now over that explanation, but it’s the truth: shit happens out here. It just doesn’t usually involve life-and-death circumstances.

“Roger that. How bad is the suspect you guys caught?”

“We didn’t catch him. He jumped over a fence without checking and the neighbor’s pit bull took a chunk out of him. He tried to shoot the dog and one of the officers shot him in the ass. Now he’s got two fucked up ass cheeks!”

I take it he’s not walking on his own, then. They’re going to have to carry him out of there. Hey, serves him right! He’s lucky the dog didn’t bite off his dick!

“Kursteff, you and Harper bring that idiot out to the street. Hey, asshole! One of your friends is dead and the other one’s got no ass anymore! Nice going! You can wheel around the prison yard in a wheelchair!”

“Fuck, bitch! I can take it! Don’t mean shit to me!”

Uh-huh. Give it twenty-four hours and see if he says that again. He doesn’t look like he ever did any adult time. Now he’s going for attempted murder of a police officer and the felony murder of his idiot friend. I think he’ll change his tune in a real hurry. I see Sixty-Six. They’re carrying the suspect. Jesus, that kid is seriously fucked up! I can see it from here! That’s a shitload of blood!

“Sergeant Gellar! Put out a code four! Both officers accounted for! And we’re going to need EMS for these two morons!”

“I already called them. They said they’d see if there’s anybody available to respond. Don’t hold your breath.”

There are our two missing officers. I don’t recognize either of them. God, it’s hard to believe I worked in this division for years. It’s like everyone is a stranger to me. At least they’re all right. That’s all that matters. Jesus, the kid with the dog bite looks like he might be sixteen at most! Little fucking pooh-butt gangbanger! I’m tempted to ask him if it was worth it, but there’s no point in it. They always say the same thing: sure it was worth it! Yeah, right! Even when they’re parked on the front porch in a wheelchair and unable to move anything from the neck down, they insist it was worth it. Fucking idiots!

“Guys! Glad to see you’re alive. I’m Dani Lynott; Central Midwatch. What unit are you? They don’t have anything on file down at the station on you.”

It looks like the black officer is the senior one. He seems pretty damned relieved to see us.

“Kyle Nellis. Woodlawn Special Detail. That’s Rafael Quinteros over there. We were supposed to be working the car strippers off of Symington today, but I guess the shitbags had other plans. And we’re not a unit. We didn’t get a designation before we left. It was the only way we could get out of the station without being dragged over to that fucking command post. We’re just the two guys in shop 262. That’s what we were using for a designation until our radio took a dump on us. Hey, can we hit you up for a fresh battery?”

Their car is definitely shop 262 – or at least, it was. It’s going to be in the body shop for a while, getting those holes patched up.

“Yeah, that much, we can spare. How are you fixed for ammunition? We can spare a few shotgun rounds. One of your idiot sergeants took all of our rifles and hauled them back to the CP.”

“Do I have to guess who it was?”

Is he kidding? This is Woodlawn Division. Everybody knows who the biggest asshole with three stripes on his sleeve is.

“No, you don’t. Do you know how many other units are still in the division? You’re the second one we’ve seen. We’re wondering if there’s anybody left.”

“Well, the only unit that might be out here is the bike detail. They’ve got one car assigned to them, so you might find four guys in bicycle shorts driving around in it. That’s about it. Everyone else got dragged off to the CP. Sergeant Satterfield’s orders.”

Holy God! Four guys who spend their days riding around on bikes and handing out tickets? Yeah, there’s a fearsome force for you!

“Maybe we should all go back to Central? We seem to be spinning our wheels down here.”

“Forget it. Central’s gone to shit. We saw the protests on a cellphone. Headquarters is practically surrounded by at least a thousand people and City Hall’s got cars burning out front. The Transit cops tried to form up a detail and break through the line, but they got ordered away by one of our Deputy Chiefs. I don’t know which one, but he’s a fucking moron! Turning away help? It’s not like we’ve got much of it in the first place. Besides, you’d have a hell of a time just making it back.”

“Why is that?”

“You didn’t hear? The freeway’s been shut down south of Saratoga and they’ve got roadblocks in Avalon Division. They’ve had a couple of shootings there already. Somebody must’ve given an order to contain the shit down here. Keep it in the ’hood. Face it: we’re on our own, Lynott. With everybody in the CP, we’re all that’s left. Nobody’s coming to save us.”

And that, boys and girls, is one very scary thought. I’ve got half a mind to put Harper behind the wheel and try to run those roadblocks. We’d swing by our house, grab Emily and head east just as fast as we could. We wouldn’t stop until we hit the Georgia coast. Sounds like a plan to me.

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