"Designated High-Risk Area"
Back in the shit! I guess our impromptu escape to parts back east will have to wait. As tempting as it was, we can’t run out on the city just yet. We’ve still got a riot on our hands. We left the Woodlawn unit and their surviving prisoners in the hands of what’s left of Woodlawn detectives. When Sergeant Gellar notified Lieutenant Oliver of what had happened, the poor guy sounded like he was about to have a stroke. Another shooting. Another fatality. Two idiots wounded, though one of them got it worse from the neighbor’s dog. That pit bull really took a chunk out of that guy’s ass, let me tell you. That gash looked like it was going to take two surgeons to put it back together. The bullet wound didn’t look half as bad. In fact, it seemed like the asshole could barely feel it, even though the bullet was still lodged in his other ass cheek. We really need to get better ammunition for the officers who insist on carrying nine millimeters. The stuff we’ve got seems to drill nice, neat holes through suspects without doing much good. It’s why I don’t carry one. Everyone on Midwatch carries a forty-five or a forty now. None of us trusts the nine anymore. There’s a move at Training Division to start issuing the .40 S&W to the recruits. Believe me, it’s long overdue. Officer Titus still has his department-issued nine millimeter. I need to talk to him about upgrading that thing to something with more knockdown power.
So there was another officer-involved shooting in Woodlawn. Well, from what Lieutenant Oliver told us, Woodlawn is way behind Avalon Division in that regard. They’re shooting assholes left and right over there, and the assholes are doing plenty of shooting back. They’ve got two officers hit and one of them is said to be in pretty bad shape. Of course, he wasn’t able to confirm much of anything. Communications are in total disarray. It’s as if everything that comes through is either a rumor or somebody heard that somebody else said that something or other happened. We can’t get a straight answer about anything, except for the fact that scientists now have irrefutable proof of a black hole: that fucking command post! Anyone who goes near it gets sucked in and is never seen or heard from again! Jesus, when are they going to shut that damned thing down and get back out here? One promising note: it seems Lieutenant Oliver got a call from a news crew asking about it. They’re sending someone over there with a camera crew to try to get some answers. Evidently, the munchkins of the Emerald City are finally asking where the hell are the police in all of this shit? I don’t think they’re going to like the answer.
Are you familiar with the theory of attrition? Specifically as it applies to war? Basically, it’s a theory that has you targeting the enemy’s resources and personnel. Wipe out enough of them and the enemy can’t continue the fight, so he has to throw in the towel. The idea is that the guy with the greatest resources wins the fight. Harper says it works if you’re willing to pursue it to the bitter end, and that’s exactly what’s happening to us. The police are losing too many people and resources in this shit storm, and it’s wearing us down to the point where pretty soon we won’t be effective anymore. Hell, we’ve been out here since this morning and even though it’s only afternoon, we’re starting to get worn down. Too many fights, too many poundings, too much stress and uncertainty, and nowhere near the level of support that we’re used to having. It’s taking a real toll on us. The department as a whole is doing a lot worse. In addition to all of the shit we’ve gone through, the department is losing too many officers to injuries. We’re taking a real beating and we don’t have anywhere near enough officers in the field to lose so many. We’re losing cars, too. They’re getting shot up, wrecked, and if you believe some of the stories we’ve heard on the radio, they’re getting stolen. That’s right, folks! The assholes are stealing police cars in broad daylight! We can no longer keep the cars running while we jump out and chase people. The car might not be there when we get back. It’s definitely not what we’re used to.
We haven’t found the Woodlawn Bike Patrol. If they’re out here, then they’re not answering the radio. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re hiding in the substation. There’s an office in Hoover High School that serves as the Bike Detail’s substation. It’s got a few desks, a computer, and much to the chagrin of the sergeants in the division, it’s got a nice TV with a Blu-Ray player so they can sit on their asses and watch movies. They’ve even got a few that aren’t pornographic. I wouldn’t be surprised if those guys are sitting in there drinking coffee and riding out the storm. When I was working this division, the Bike Detail didn’t attract the hard chargers. It was a Mid-Daywatch detail, five days a week, regular hours, and as long as you wrote four tickets a day, you were fine. What’s wrong with this picture? Anyway, I hope they’re safe. I’d really like to be sure of that, but so far we haven’t been able to go near that substation. We just haven’t had a chance.
Speaking of the high schools, we got word that all schools in South Bureau are officially closed for however long this shit lasts. Talk about closing the barn door after the horse has escaped! It seems the order to close the schools just made things even worse. We’ve got a shitload of frightened parents headed down to the primary and secondary schools looking for their kids, and that just dumped a bunch of cars into the school neighborhoods to tie up traffic and give the assholes someone else to terrorize. There have already been a few incidents, though we haven’t heard of any shootings or stabbings. Yeah, just give it time. This is Woodlawn Division. Some of those high schools are full of gangbangers who usually observe an uneasy truce while they’re on school grounds, but this shit made those truces null and void. There are going to be fights, and when you have gang fights, the knives and guns are certain to come out. The School Police and the Resource Officers? Good luck! They’re lucky if they get one police car per high school and the Resource Officers are basically security guards with nothing more than a radio. They can’t even carry pepper spray anymore. It seems the loony left didn’t like the idea of the Resource Officers gassing the little tykes. Never mind the fact that those little tykes engage in everything from ADW to vandalism to rape and murder. Welcome to the modern American high school in the ’hood. It’ll make you a true believer in homeschooling.
The effects of the riot are being felt in other ways. Because of the fires, his honor the Mayor issued an emergency order prohibiting the sale of gasoline and diesel fuel in South Bureau. You can imagine how that one went over with the public, and a lot of the gas stations aren’t complying. In fact, they’re charging black market prices. Acevedo talked to a guy a few minutes ago who’s demanding twenty bucks per gallon and he’s only taking cash. The guy had his brother and his cousin sitting by the cash wrap with a couple of shotguns just in case. Gas stations are targets for the arsonists. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a fire at a gas station, but they’re pretty spectacular. Some of the gas stations down here aren’t taking any chances. We’ve seen plenty of guns being carried in full display. They want the assholes to know what they’re getting into. Good for them. We’ve got enough fires in this division as it is. Oh, and while we’re on that subject, we just passed the burger place at 94th and Boca and it was totally engulfed in flames. Poor Sergeant Monett! He’s a lazy old-timer Daywatch sergeant down here and he spends half of each shift sitting in that place, reading the paper and drinking bad coffee with enough sugar in it to kill ten diabetics. Everyone in Woodlawn calls it his office, and it’s not far from the truth. Well, now he’s going to have to find another office. By the time that fire stops burning, that place is going to be an empty patch of ground. In the meantime, the fires continue to spread. I can’t get over the number of places with big signs spray-painted on them: “Black Owned! Don’t Burn Us!” It’s like an old black-and-white photo from the sixties, but it’s right here in the twenty-first century. It doesn’t help much, either. We’ve seen places with that plea written on them that are already burning. There’s definitely no solidarity in this division. No one gives a shit. Everyone is considered fair game by the assholes. It’s actually heartbreaking. Some of these businesses will never recover. They don’t have insurance. They can’t afford it. Down here, the cost of insurance is enough to bankrupt you. The insurance companies won’t budge on the rates no matter how many local businesses band together and try to buy it in bulk. If you want it, you have to pay a king’s ransom. Everybody knows it. Even the people who set the fires. It just makes me hate them even more. I honestly believe that anyone seen with a firebomb should be shot on sight and questioned later; assuming they survive. I wouldn’t have a problem with that. Neither would the people whose businesses just went up in flames.
Harper’s got a cut on his chin that he’s hoping I won’t notice, but I saw it as soon as it happened. Somebody threw a glass bottle at the wall where he was standing and it shattered right next to his face. If he hadn’t been wearing sunglasses, the glass would’ve gone in his eyes. He got off lucky. How much longer our luck will hold out is anyone’s guess. We’re still in one piece, but we’ve already had some close calls and it’s not even dark yet. Once the sun goes down, I think it’s going to get about a thousand times worse. That’s when the major assholes will come out and try to ambush the police. Oh, and the regular assholes will be thoroughly drunk by then. I’m pretty sure every liquor store in South Bureau has already been hit. We got a report that one place in Wilmington was hit in force, but the people who worked there just grabbed the arsenal that seems to be the hallmark of liquor stores in this city and started blasting at anything that moved. Holy Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Batman! Well, the word we got is that they put the dead bodies out in front of the store for any asshole to see what he’ll be getting into if he tries to rob the place. Hey, whatever works, right?
I see Harper’s looking at his phone. At least I know he’s not pricing motorcycles. Pretty much everything is on hold when the apocalypse hits your city.
“Dani, what’s the Spade & Archer’s nightclub?”
Seriously? He’s asking me that? How did he even know about that?
“It’s the last of the great nightclubs down here. Way back in the day, all of the famous jazz clubs were here. It’s named after the guys in The Maltese Falcon. Why do you ask?”
“I just got a message from Acevedo. He says it’s on fire. A total loss.”
Now that’s depressing. When I was stationed here, I used to like to look at the pictures they’ve got of the old days. Men in suits and ladies in nice dresses and hats, all going to see the visiting players at one club or another. Sometimes people would spend a Friday night walking up and down Capitol Street for half a mile, hitting all of the hotspots and seeing people who I’ve only read about in books. I heard it all fell apart during the sixties when all hell broke loose in the country. I wish I could’ve seen it back then. Things really were a lot better back in those days. So Spade & Archer’s is gone. It’s like the last gasp of everything decent down here just died. That sucks. It really fucking sucks.
“You would’ve thought they’d leave that one alone. I guess nothing’s sacred anymore.”
“Dani, you’re talking about a bunch of idiots. They don’t understand anything. All they care about is tearing it down and stealing whatever they can get their hands on.”
“I’m guessing the people who used to go to Spade & Archer’s back in the forties would never do anything like this.”
“Of course not. They were good people. They had too much sense and too much self-respect to even think about doing something like this.”
And for a lot of them, their lives were ten times harder than people have it today. What does that tell you about what we’ve become? God, I’ve got to stop thinking about shit like this! It’s driving me crazy! I can’t solve the world’s problems! I’ll be lucky if I can keep one person around here from dying today!
“Give me your phone. I want to respond to Acevedo.”
And what will I say, you ask? Simple: end of an era. That’s what it is, after all: the end of an era. Now Woodlawn Division is nothing but the ’hood. The assholes have taken over and this riot is their victory celebration. Hell, they’ll probably make it a national asshole holiday. Maybe they’ll hold it on a Monday and we’ll get the day off from now on? I wouldn’t call it impossible.
“Dani, Sergeant Ivanell sent out an all units: there’s an attempted 211 at the check cashing place on Dorsey. Do you know it?”
Yeah, that’s a major spot in this division. They’ve been investigated half a dozen times for laundering drug money for the local dealers.
“I know it. Titus, did they tell you about that place yet? Never mind. I’m sending this to all units: go down about three quarters of a mile and turn left on White Oak. It’s about a quarter mile down on the right. It’s got a huge orange sign outside. There’s really an attempted robbery over there? That place is like Fort Knox.”
“You know, Fort Knox is actually pretty tiny. The bullion depository, I mean. It’s this weird little granite building…”
“That’s it! I swear to God, no more History Channel for you! You’re driving me nuts with this shit!”
“Dani, I told you: I’ve actually been there. The 4th Cavalry Division is there. We trained with them once. They’ve also got the Patton Museum. You should see it.”
Remind me to strangle him when this is over! Does he really think I give a shit about any of that right now?
“We’re not going to Kentucky! Just shut up and drive!”
“They’ve got bourbon there. And fireflies. And you like horses, don’t you?”
Poor Titus back there must be wondering if we’re both insane. I’m sure he’s not used to seeing two officers acting like a married couple while on-duty.
“Titus, this is what happens when you marry your partner. Be warned.”
“Roger that, ma’am.”
He’s still doing the “ma’am” shit. I really need to break him of that habit. One month out of the academy? It won’t be easy.
“Hey, Titus? Are you married?”
“Not yet, ma’am. I’m engaged.”
“To another officer?”
“No, she’s in grad school.”
Jesus, they didn’t waste any time! What is he? Twenty-three? I’ll bet she’s no older than him. I suddenly feel like an old lady! He’ll probably have four kids by the time he’s thirty. I didn’t even have a regular boyfriend when I was thirty. Hell, I didn’t have any boyfriend when I was thirty! I didn’t even have Zephyr! God, now I really feel old!
“I take it you know about this check cashing place?”
“Which one, ma’am? There are fourteen of them in Woodlawn alone. Detective Saugus says it’s one of the most common businesses in the division. People around here don’t use a lot of banks.”
Yeah, and I know why: the banks out here are fucking insane! Try to open a checking account sometime anywhere in the state. They’ll want your fingerprints, a vial of your blood, and a DNA sample! I don’t know if I told you what happened when I first moved out here and tried to open an account. I didn’t even want a checking account. I wanted to open a savings account and I had the cash, but not one fucking bank would take it. You heard me right: a bank that wouldn’t take your money! I had to get the head of the undergraduate studies department to call the bank and tell them to take my money. I should’ve known this place was hell right then and there. Is it any wonder that people who don’t have much money choose to deal with these check cashing places instead of those jackals?
“The big one at Dorsey and White Oak. The one with the double door vestibule?”
“Oh, the one that handles the drug money? I’ve heard of it. You know some of the officers in the division work security there under the table.”
Oh, I know. Working under the table is practically a rite of passage for cops in this city. You’re off the books, you get paid in cash, and you conveniently forget to file for a work permit for off-duty employment. The check cashing places are officially off-limits for off-duty work because there’s a good chance you’ll get into some shit while you’re there. Everyone knows it, but it doesn’t stop them from doing it. The money’s good and it’s tax-free, so a lot of guys go for it.
“I’m pretty sure none of our guys are working there today, but they’ve got their own security people and those guys can get a little trigger-happy. Did they tell you the story about the shooting at Lancer Check Cashing?”
“Yes, ma’am. Detective Phelps did at our orientation, only he called it the Lancer Massacre.”
Yeah, when some yahoo security guard with a twelve-gauge shoots six people in a space the size of a studio apartment, I guess you could call it a massacre. That happened exactly six days before I got to Woodlawn. On my first day here, I saw the remnants of the bloodstains all over the walls. Some guy tried to pass a counterfeit check and things kind of went downhill in a hurry. Punches were thrown and the next thing anyone knew, the guard started blasting away. He fired nine rounds at a guy who was standing about four feet in front of him and hit him once. The rest of his shots took out five people standing in line to cash their checks. Three of them died along with the suspect. The guard was never charged. Welcome to Woodlawn!
“Keep that in mind when we get there. The people at that place undoubtedly called their security firm when the riot started. They’ll either be there or they’ll be on the way. Be ready for it.”
Translation: just because you see some tough-looking guy with a gun, it doesn’t mean he needs to be shot. There are a lot of good guys running around with guns today. I don’t want any tragic accidents on our watch.
“Straight down on the left, Harper. Pull up near the front of the place. The parking lot is in the back. We want to be able to see who’s in there.”
“I see it. It looks like somebody tried to shoot out the windows.”
He’s right. The whole front of the place is made of bulletproof glass, but it didn’t stop the assholes from trying. Damn! It looks like six shots at least! Somebody really wanted to get in there! I hope everybody is still alive!
“Sixteen Central to all Midwatch units, I need a team to go in there. Acevedo and Garcia, you come with me, Harper, and Titus. Eight Central, you and Forty-Four cover the front in case we get any sudden visitors. Twenty-Two, you’re in the back. And be careful back there! That’s the parking lot and there’s no telling who might show up when they see our cars out here. Acevedo, you know this place at least as well as I do. If we can get in the back behind the glass, I want to search the place.”
“Roger that, Dani. If that door’s locked, we’re not getting through it. Not unless you’ve got a ten-ton truck with a battering ram.”
We seem to be a little short of those. Let’s hope the employees didn’t lock up before they skedaddled. All right, in we go! And we can forget about the element of surprise. The whole front of this place is made of bulletproof glass. If there’s anyone in there, they saw us coming half a block away. So far, so good. I don’t see anyone in there, but that doesn’t mean they’re not hiding behind the counter. It’s pretty damned quiet. I halfway expected to see this place in flames. These places charge a hefty fee to cash people’s checks. As necessary as they are, most people think they’re a notch above loan sharks. A lot of people wouldn’t hesitate to vent their frustrations on them.
We’re in! And I don’t see a soul around. Jesus Christ! Look at the door to the counter! It’s completely bashed in! Whoever did that must’ve had a twelve-pound sledgehammer and a whole hell of a lot of muscle! They broke the area around the lock and pried the door open. They definitely had a plan to get in there, but I can’t believe they got into the safe. Not unless they brought a case of dynamite.
“Garcia, Acevedo, you guys break right. We’ll take the left. Titus, you focus straight ahead. If anybody sees anyone, sound off! Ready? Go!”
Nothing! Damn, this place is smaller than I thought! Where the hell is the safe? I was expecting a bank vault, but I don’t see shit back here. Where the fuck do they keep it? I’ve been behind the counter, but I’ve never been back here. It’s got to be hidden around here somewhere.
“Clear left! Titus?”
“Clear right! This place is empty. They must’ve bolted the door and taken off. That light on the security panel is blinking. I think it means they alerted the guards.”
It does, and that means they’re on their way. Good. They can secure this place so that we don’t have to sit here. This is one place we couldn’t just leave to the looters.
“Dani! Check this out! In the floor!”
Harper found something. In the floor? Maybe that’s where they put the safe? I guess it would be a good place for it. Whoa! They were trying to tunnel into it! They even left their pickaxe. What the fuck is that? They dug two holes and there’s definitely something in there, but it’s way too small to be the safe. It’s round and maybe ten or twelve inches across. What the fuck is it?
“Eight Central to the units inside, we’ve got visitors. An armored car company in a white sedan. It looks like there’s at least four guys in it. Be advised, they’re packing some serious firepower.”
That would be their security people. I kind of figured they’d bring more than a few pistols with them. Here they come. Holy shit! They look like a commando team! They’ve got bandoleers with shotgun rounds and each of them has a tac vest with about twenty magazines in it! I see two AR-15s and an AK-47! Not to mention a shitload of pistols and one guy who’s got what looks like a fucking cattle prod! Serious firepower is right!
“Officers! Is this place secure?”
That guy looks like he’s at least six-foot-four. He’s wearing sergeant’s stripes. He must be their leader.
“Nobody here but us chickens. Who are you?”
“Gregg Morelli, Tonopah Security. We’ve got the contract with this place. We got an alarm activation about thirty minutes ago. Our desk people said the employees called and reported someone was trying to shoot out the windows. They took off when the shooting stopped. We were lucky we could get here. They’ve got roadblocks up about two miles north of here! It’s crazy!”
Years from now, people are going to be talking about the Avalon Division Line. The great attempt to keep the riot from spreading north of that division. And they’re going to say it was a miserable failure. In fact, I think they’re going to say a lot of things about this riot were a miserable failure.
“Nice to meet you. I’m Dani Lynott. That’s Ryan Harper. It looks like they were trying to dig something out of the floor. Is that a security box or something?”
“No, that’s one of the safes. There’s four of them in a row, right along this line. They were trying to dig it out with a pickaxe? Good luck with that!”
“Why? Is it bolted in there?”
And he’s looking at me like I’m the dumbest woman on earth. What did I say? I thought it was a reasonable question.
“Officer, that safe is bigger than an oil drum and it’s in there to stay. No way are they getting that thing out of the ground unless they brought a crane.”
For real? It sure as hell doesn’t look that big. Damn! They must’ve put some serious thought into that shit!
“How much money is in that thing?”
“Well, let’s see…that’s the number two safe and it’s the big one, so I’d say about…oh, maybe two hundred eighty grand.”
Excuse me? Did he just say there’s a quarter of a million dollars in that thing?
“You’re joking, right?”
“Nope. There’s about six hundred grand between the three of them. Hey, that ain’t shit! In this neighborhood? You should see this place when the welfare checks fly. Between that and Mother’s Day and disability, they could easily have over a million in there.”
Jesus Christ! I guess I never thought about how much cash they needed to have on hand. People use these places more than they do banks, and between the General Relief, disability payments and Mother’s Day – which is what people around here call the welfare checks for women with dependent children – I guess they could easily go through that kind of cash in this division. Woodlawn’s a big place with a pretty dense population. Damn! That much cash in one place and I never even knew about it! Think about the times I walked back here and never knew what was right beneath my feet!
“Do they have a big safe in the back, too?”
And now he’s laughing at me. I guess I just said something really dumb.
“Girl, that’s just a dodge! That thing in the wall? It’s not real! It’s just a steel door that’s cemented into the wall! People waste time trying to open it and the cops come and haul their asses to jail! Whoever hit this place knew where the money was. They just didn’t know how hard it would be to get to it.”
No doubt about that. I think I just gained a whole new respect for the ingenuity of these places.
“Can you and your team secure this place? We can’t stay here. We’ve got emergency calls to handle.”
“We’ve got this. We’re just going to sit here until the company sends an armored car to transport the cash to another location.”
And if anyone tries to fuck with them, these guys will open fire with their private arsenal and that’ll be the end of whoever was dumb enough to try to rob them. I’d say the place is in good hands.
“Then we’re out of here. We’ll alert dispatch that you guys are going to be here. If you have to communicate with your dispatcher, use your radios. With all of the fires they’ve got going around here, you could lose your cellphone service.”
“We know. We’ve got this under control. You people have a better one. Don’t get shot. It’s crazy out there.”
Yeah, tell me about it! We’re lucky the assholes took off before we got here. The holes in that bulletproof glass look like they were made by rifle shots. It could’ve been one hell of a shootout.
“Harper, let everyone know we’re moving out. Ask Sergeant Hendrickson where the next disaster is.”
“Do you want them in alphabetical order or by level of severity?”
Very funny. Unfortunately, he’s not wrong. We could stay on this block and try to keep the other stores from being hit, but our first duty is the protection of life. We need to go where people are in danger of being killed. That shouldn’t be too hard to find today.
No rest for the weary! And believe me, we’re already pretty weary. We’re running from one emergency to the next and our stress levels are through the roof, so that shit takes a toll on you physically. I wonder how long we’re going to be here before they get up off their asses at that fucking CP and send us some relief? Harper and I are gearing ourselves up for a twenty-four hour shift. Twenty-four hours of this shit? We’ll be dead on our feet! I’m not sure we’ll even make it home. We’ll be too tired to try to drive back. I already called Helena and told her, and she’s like: “Not to worry! You do what you must. Baby is fine. You go shoot many gangsters. Shooting is what they need!” That old-fashioned Russian sensibility. You’ve got to admire it. I’m just glad she’s there to help out. Not being with my daughter is driving me fucking nuts. As soon as I back out of condition red and my mind starts to drift, it drifts right back to Emily. The city is falling apart and I’m right in the middle of it instead of being with her. Some mother I turned out to be. We’re definitely going to have to make some changes in our lives after this. Emily deserves a hell of a lot more than a couple of part-time parents.
We just passed a stretch of Symington Avenue where I counted six stores on fire. Jesus fucking Christ! I never knew we had so many firebugs in this city, and this is just one division! It’s like the assholes are burning everything in sight; no rhyme or reason. One of the places was a muffler shop. Who the fuck burns down a muffler shop? What? Did they get a bad deal there? The muffler was too loud? Give me a fucking break! These people are pure evil. There’s just no other explanation for it. They’re destroying shit for the sheer hell of it. They couldn’t care less about the people they’re hurting. Don’t they know that a lot of these people aren’t going to be able to recover from it? Every goddamned fire I see, I think “there’s another life ruined.” Some of the people who own those places are going to wind up in Central Division on skid fucking row! That’s what they’re doing to their neighbors! God, I hate them! I fucking hate the living shit out of them! And if you think for one second that just because I’m a police officer, I’m supposed to have some kind of bullshit professional detachment from this whole thing? Let me tell you, you’re out of your goddamned mind! Come down here and see this shit for yourself and then you tell me how it makes you feel! Anybody who could look at this shit and not be seething with rage isn’t human. You’d have to be a robot to do that, and we don’t have any robots on this department. They’ve turned the city into a war zone. We might as well be in fucking Damascus or Baghdad. Yeah, it really is that bad.
Officer Titus is being awfully damned quiet back there. He’s probably going out of his mind. His whole division is corralled over at the command post, his FTO bailed on him, and he’s sitting in the back seat like a recruit on a ride-along with two people he never met before this morning; all the while watching the apocalypse unfold before his very eyes. That’s a lot to dump on anybody, but especially on a boot with a month out of the academy. He’s probably wondering how the hell he ever wound up in this shit. I feel bad for him. I know what it’s like to be on the outside looking in. It sucks. Under these circumstances, it must suck in ways no mortal can begin to fathom.
“Hey, Titus? What unit have you been working since you got here?”
“Thirty-Three Woodlawn. But we don’t seem to spend a lot of time there. My training officer spends most of his time in the north end, looking for deuces.”
Is he serious? He’s on Daywatch! How the hell many drunk drivers can you find on Daywatch? And what the hell is a Field Training Officer doing wasting time doing traffic enforcement when he’s got a brand-new boot to train? That guy must be one major drone!
“How many deuces can you find on Daywatch? The bars aren’t even open.”
“He seems to find them, ma’am. I’ve got four subpoenas for deuce court already. I get the feeling that I’m not really getting the full experience here. I was pretty psyched to be sent to Woodlawn, but it hasn’t been what I expected.”
Yeah, I can imagine! Fortunately, he won’t have to suffer with his drone FTO much longer. They’ll send him to someone else after three DPs.
“Don’t worry. You’ll get a real FTO soon enough. This is the busiest division in the city. You’ll see plenty down here. Just wait until you get to Nightwatch. That’ll be the real test.”
“I’m looking forward to it. So, Officer Lynott? You’re a big baseball fan?”
And I can see Harper rolling his eyes already! Watch it, mister! Riot or no riot, I’ll still punch you in the balls!
“I’m a big Red Sox fan. The other teams are just stepping stones to the Series.”
“I was thinking you’d like my grandfather. He’s a huge baseball fan. He collects baseball cards.”
Hang on! Harper’s stopping the car! What the…oh, don’t you dare, mister!
“Hey, Titus? Ask Dani about how much she spent on one old baseball card. You’ll love this!”
That’s it! As soon as I get a chance, your balls are history!
“Don’t listen to him! It was a Ted Williams rookie card! It’s going to be worth a fortune someday!”
“Ma’am? Was it the ’39 Goudey Premium?”
Holy shit! How the hell did he know that? That’s some serious baseball card knowledge he’s got there!
“Yes! How did you know?”
“I knew it couldn’t be the ’39 Play Ball card. Not on a police officer’s salary.”
At two hundred thousand dollars a pop, I’ll never get one of those. Hell, I’ve never even seen one except on the internet. Damn! He really knows this shit!
“How do you know so much about baseball cards?”
“I told you: my grandfather collects them. He does it professionally. His grandfather started it and they just got handed down the line. He’s got a collection you wouldn’t believe. He goes to all the conventions. He’s even written some articles for collectors’ magazines.”
“Seriously? Has he ever seen a ’39 Play Ball Ted Williams?”
“Sure. He’s got two of them. One of them is a nine, or so he tells me.”
What did he just say? His grandfather’s got a PSA grade nine Ted Williams Play Ball rookie card? He’s got a two hundred thousand dollar holy grail Ted Williams card? No fucking way!
“You’re making that up!”
“No, ma’am. You can look him up on the web. He’s a pretty big deal in the baseball card-collecting world. He’s got a ’52 Topps Mickey Mantle grade six and a ’55 Topps Roberto Clemente grade nine. A couple with Babe Ruth, but I don’t know which ones. One of them is the Sporting News one, I think. He’s got a bunch of other rare ones that I don’t know much about. The whole collection is worth a few million dollars, or so my dad tells me.”
I think I just found my new best friend! I would kill to see that collection! Hell, you’d probably have to handcuff me and put two bodyguards on me before you could let me into the room where it’s stored!
“Does your grandfather live in the city?”
“Can it, Harper! We’re talking baseball cards! So, does he live around here?”
“No, ma’am. He lives in Kansas City. But I’ll give you his e-mail address. He loves to talk about his hobby. I think he’s got pretty much every Boston Red Sox card since about 1920 or so, so he’ll understand what you’re talking about. He’s got a complete 1960 set in fantastic condition. That’s the one with Carl Yastrzemski’s rookie card, I think. He’s got a couple of those in grade eight or nine. I remember him telling me about it before the NSCC last year.”
His grandfather goes to the NSCC? The National Sports Collectors Convention? He must be a serious player in the baseball card world. Damn! All right, it’s settled: we’re going to Shanghai Officer Titus over to Central Division! Hey, he’s going to inherit that collection one of these days! And I want to be the first one to see it when he does!
“Are you sure you want to stay in Woodlawn Division? You know, Central Division has more…”
Harper, I’m about an inch away from killing you!
“Pay no attention to him. He only likes cars and the Marine Corps. So as I was saying, I think you’d really like it in…”
“Forty-Four Central to all Central Midwatch units! Shots fired! Officer needs help! We’re under attack! Multiple gunners! Hayes Street, just south of Symington! Approach southbound from Symington! The gunners are on the east side of the street! Officer needs help!”
Holy shit! That’s two blocks up ahead of us! And Signolo sounded like he was hiding under the dashboard when he was broadcasting! I could hear the gunshots in the background!
“Straight ahead! Harper, two blocks down and hang a left! Hit it!”
“Sixteen Central, we’re en route! ETA is about ten seconds! Hang on, guys! Help’s coming!”
I can see Twenty-Two and Eight Central hitting their lightbars! Time to do the same! It’s red lights and siren time! Go! There! There’s Hayes Street! Left turn! They’re just south of us! Holy shit, Harper! Leave a little rubber on the tires! We might need it! There’s Forty-Four! And their driver’s side windows are shot out! Where are the goddamned shooters? Signolo said they were on the east side of the street! There! I see one! Male black, gray shirt, and he’s got a pistol!
“I see him! Hand me the rifle!”
“You got it! Titus, go out the passenger side and take a position behind the car! There are more shooters around here! Go! Go!”
Harper’s got his rifle and I’ve got the shotgun! We need to keep our heads down! We’re sitting ducks inside this fucking car! Move! Out of the car! Yes! We made it! Now get behind it and hope whatever that son of a bitch has won’t shoot through these fenders! Oh, hell! He sees us! And he’s aiming right at me! Stay down! Whoa! That was a rifle shot! Harper’s rifle! He got him! The suspect’s down! Jesus, he fucking flattened him! That asshole is spread-eagle, flat on his back! He’s not moving an inch! I think he’s dead!
“Ten Central to the units on Hayes! We’re right behind you! I saw one suspect go down! Do we have a fix on the others?”
Sorry, Lieutenant! Not without sticking our heads out from behind this car, we don’t! And if we do that and the other shooters are waiting for us, we’ll get killed! Damn! Where the fuck is Forty-Four? We need to find them! Are they all right? Are they hit? Oh, shit! More gunshots! Those came from the yard where the suspect went down! But they came from the back, I think! Fuck! Where the hell are you, Forty-Four? Hang on! We’ve got a unit coming northbound on Hayes, going balls to the wall! That’s not one of ours! Who the hell is it?
“K9 Six, I’m code six with the units on Hayes! We’ve got shots fired! Somebody give me a suspect description!”
“Sixteen Central to K9 Six, we’ve got one male black suspect down on the lawn! Multiple gunshots coming from that yard; either the side or the back! We have two officers unaccounted for, possibly in the back yard!”
Good! We can use a dog here! He can find Forty-Four in a hurry! Come on, guys! Come up on the radio and let us know you’re all right! God damn it, where the hell are you?
“Forty-Four Central, we’re in the north-south alley behind the houses! Two male black suspects just north of our location! Both armed with handguns! They’re trying to make their way up to Symington! Somebody cut them off! Don’t let them get to the street!”
Finally! The assholes must’ve jumped the fence! If they didn’t have guns, Signolo would’ve caught them both by now! We have to get back there!
“Harper! Titus! This way! Over the back fence! Sixteen Central to Sixty-Six! Garcia! Acevedo! They’re in the north-south alley just east of Hayes! Take a position at the mouth of the alley and watch the crossfire! Don’t let the suspects back onto Symington! We’ll have a running gun battle on a major street! Forty-Four, we’re coming over the fence! Hang on!”
That fence looks like it’s about six feet tall. Thank God it’s not one of those ten-foot monsters! I don’t hear any shots, but I don’t want to go flying over that fence and end up flat on my ass in the middle of the alley with two armed and dangerous suspects in there! Oh, for Christ’s sake! I guess Harper doesn’t feel the same way! He just cleared the fence in one move!
“Dani! Titus! Come on! I’ll cover you!”
Showoff! Remind me to kick him in the ass for pulling a stunt like that! All right, over we go! Still no gunshots. Are they still back here? Did they duck back into one of the yards? I don’t see Forty-Four. Fuck! Don’t tell me those assholes already made it to Symington!
“Harper, do you see them?”
“No! They’ve got to be back…”
Oh, fuck! More shots! Yeah, they’re back here! Up ahead about maybe fifty feet! There! I see Goren! And he’s cranking off rounds in the direction of that blue car! Where the hell is Signolo? There! Just up ahead! He’s behind the dumpsters! And there’s one of the assholes behind the car! Fuck! I don’t have a shot! But Harper does!
“Harper, drop his ass!”
God damn! That fucking rifle is loud as hell! He got him! The suspect’s hit! He’s not down, but he’s hit! He’s fucked up bad!
“Drop your weapon or you’re a dead motherfucker! Do it!”
I think he dropped it! He’s down on one knee…no, he’s down on his side! He’s out of the fight! I see his gun on the ground! Oh, he is massively fucked up! His shirt is half-soaked with blood already! Stupid motherfucker! That’s what you get for trying to ambush us!
“Goren! Where’s the other suspect?”
“He’s somewhere behind that car! I know he didn’t make it out of here! He’s still armed! Male black, black pants and blue cutoff sweatshirt! Watch the far end of that car! That’s where he was last time he stuck his head out!”
“Roger that! Sixteen Central on Woodlawn frequency to the units on Hayes, we have a second suspect down! One suspect left! Male black, black trousers and a blue cutoff sweatshirt! Armed with a handgun! Last seen in the north-south alley just north of the original location!”
And there he is! He’s firing! Stay down! Jesus Christ! He’s spraying lead all over the place! He’s going to make a run for it! He’s keeping us pinned down while he makes his move! Take a peek around this dumpster…yep! There he goes! He’s running like a son of a bitch! Fuck! I hope to God Sixty-Six is at the north end of this alley! Whoa! Gunshots! He’s hit! Who’s firing? Over there in that yard just up ahead! It’s Lieutenant Hagan! He hit him! Jesus, and there goes the dog! He’s got to be doing twenty miles an hour! Oh, fuck! Talk about a takedown! The dog just about ripped his arm off! He’s down! Face-plant right on the fucking pavement! And the dog isn’t finished chewing on his ass! He’s really tearing him up!
“Everybody hold your fire! The dog got him! Hold your fire! Wait for the K9 handler! Don’t approach!”
I don’t want anybody getting between that suspect and the dog! I also want that piece of shit to suffer as much as possible! Fuck him! Let him scream! All right, here’s the K9 handler and he’s calling off his dog. Where the hell is the asshole’s gun? Over there, on the other side of the alley. He either tossed it when he got shot or it went flying when the dog latched onto his arm. Fucking idiot! He’s lucky to be alive!
“All right, everybody move in and secure these guys! Harper! Titus! You two cuff the human dog biscuit! I’ll get the other one!”
Just fucking great! Three goddamned shootings! Harper just shot two motherfuckers with an unauthorized weapon, and Lieutenant Hagan now has what? Twenty shootings? Fifty? There’s going to be holy hell to pay for this shit once the storm passes! The department’s brass is going to freak like they’ve never freaked before! I swear, this fucking riot! I’d like to line up every stupid motherfucker who’s responsible for it and shoot them all!
Well, I see Harper hasn’t lost his touch! This guy is a royal fucking mess! He’s hit just below the midline of his chest, just off to the right side. He’s bleeding like a stuck pig! At least he’s alive and awake. All right, cuff him and hope to God that an ambulance is willing to respond!
“You’re lucky to be alive, asshole! Hands behind your back! You’re under arrest, in case you hadn’t figured that out already!”
“Fuck you, you fucking cunt! You shot me!”
“I didn’t shoot you, moron! And good luck finding a doctor in this shit! You’ll be lucky if an ambulance is willing to respond today! Sixteen Central transmitting on Woodlawn frequency, we need one and maybe two EMS units to our location for two suspects with gunshot wounds, conscious and breathing. We have a third suspect with a gunshot wound who’s probably DOA. If you can dig up a Woodlawn supervisor, we’re going to need one. We have multiple officers involved. All officers are accounted for and unharmed.”
“Sixteen Central, confirm you have an officer-involved shooting at your location?”
“Dispatch, we’ve got three officer-involved shootings and at least four officers who fired their weapons, including our lieutenant. It’s been that kind of day around here.”
Not exactly standard operating procedure when you’ve had an OIS, but things are very different today. I’ve got a feeling we’re going to be rewriting the whole goddamned manual after this shit is over.
“Sixteen Central, we need confirmation that your scene is secure before EMS will dispatch a unit. Your present location has been designated a high-risk area by the Emergency Operations Center. EMS requires clearance to respond to a high-risk area.”
This shit just keeps getting weirder and weirder! Now the EOC is designating sectors as high-risk? They’re not even here! How the fuck do they know what’s going on out here? Is there some guy with a telescope standing on the roof of the fucking Winnebago?
“Lieutenant Hagan! You’re not going to believe this shit! The dispatcher said…”
“I heard her, Lynott. Give me your radio.”
And he’s got that “I’m going to kill someone with my bare hands” look on his face! Good! He can start with these two shitheads!
“Ten Central Midwatch to dispatch, we need at least two EMS units to this location right away! We’ve got two suspects with gunshot wounds and another one lying dead on the front yard of the house next door! We have multiple officers involved in this shooting! This scene is secure! Everyone who posed a threat is either dead or dying! If the EOC needs confirmation, tell whoever is in charge over there to get his ass down here and see for himself! Is that understood?”
And that awkward silence is the RTO shitting her shorts over at Communications Division! Let’s see if she regains her composure long enough to respond.
“Ten Central…roger. I don’t…we aren’t in direct contact with the EOC. We’ll relay your…request.”
Translation: they’re as much in the dark in this cluster fuck as we are. They’re probably getting directives handed down from God only knows who and sent through some go-between over at the EOC. Yeah, this is one well-oiled machine we’ve got here!
“Lynott, what’s this piece of shit’s condition?”
“He’ll probably be crapping into a bag on his side for a while, but I think he’ll live. Are you sure the guy out front is dead?”
“He’s history. We saw him before we came back here. Ivanell’s standing by with him right now. Tell Harper I said that was some damned good shooting on his part.”
Yeah, I saw him fire the shot. He fired from the hip. Most people couldn’t hit shit that way, but he’s got a real gift for that sort of thing.
“How bad is the other guy, sir? The dog looked like he took a chunk out of him.”
“He did. I hit him high in the side. Signolo thinks the son of a bitch is paralyzed on his right side. And on that subject, Signolo’s bleeding from his neck. He says he was hit by flying glass, but I want you to make sure he’s not hurt worse than that. I don’t care if you have to strip-search him right here in the alley, but make sure he’s not trying to play the tough guy. We’ve already taken a pounding today and it’s not over yet. I don’t want any false bravado. We’ll be lucky to get through this day in one piece.”
You took the words right out of my mouth, sir. I’ve been thinking the same thing. Jesus, we just had a running gun battle! How many more of those are we going to have? And it’s not even dark yet. Once the sun goes down, all fucking hell is going to break loose. That’s when the real bloodshed is going to start.
“Roger that, sir. Nice shooting yourself, sir. That guy was at least twenty yards away.”
“Practice makes perfect. I’ll have Sixty-Six set up the crime scene tape at the end of the alley. Set up the other end just south of the house where this all started. We’ll try to establish as small a scene as we can. I’ll see if I can get Woodlawn Station to send their detectives out here. Start taking pictures of everything in case they can’t respond. If they’re not coming, then we’re out of here as soon as the EMS units finish up.”
Yeah, if they happen to respond, you mean. This neighborhood is a notorious gang area. There’s an apartment building over on the next block down that’s been dealing dope since the seventies. No one’s been able to do anything about it. EMS might not get clearance from the EOC to come here.
“And if EMS won’t respond?”
“Then we throw these assholes in our cars and take them to the nearest hospital. You used to work here, Lynott. What hospital is the closest?”
“Around here? I think Piedmont’s the closest, but it’s not a trauma center.”
“It’ll have to do. Send the word and make sure Signolo’s not hiding any bullet wounds. I’m going to go make sure Sergeant Ivanell’s not having any problems with the locals.”
A white sergeant standing over the dead body of a black gangbanger who got shot by the police in this neighborhood? He’ll have plenty of problems if we stay here much longer. So will we all.
“Harper! Send the word: if Woodlawn’s detectives can’t get out here right away, we move out in about five minutes. We also have to find out if Signolo’s hurt worse that he’s letting on.”
“He’s not. He got scratched up by some flying window glass is all. It looks like everyone’s in one piece. Three gunners. We got damned lucky.”
Yeah, but how long will that last? One of the first things you learn when you become a police officer: luck is always in short supply. As soon as you realize that, you’ll spend the rest of your life wondering when yours is going to run out. We’ve been through some horrible scrapes on this watch. We’ve survived things that should’ve killed us a dozen times over. But this shit? This riot? This is different. It’s like everyone out here is living on borrowed time, every second of every minute of every hour. I’ve got a bad feeling about it. I don’t like to think of myself as being fatalistic, but there’s this voice in my head that keeps telling me not all of us are going to walk out of this one. It scares the hell out of me. I wish I could make it stop.