Tactical Alert

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"We'll See You in Three to Five"

There it is! There’s the intersection! And that is one holy fucking hell of a fire! Whatever set that thing was huge! Where the hell is the Northside unit? They said they were just west of the intersection, but I don’t see the sector car! God, please let them be all right! This place is total chaos!

“Sixteen Central, we’re code six on the officer needs help call! Northside Delta One! Where are you? We don’t see the sector car!”

“Dani, over there! South curb!”

Wait a minute! That’s Commander Mancia’s car! What the hell is he doing here?

“That’s the Commander’s car!”

“Yeah, but the Northside guys are all hiding behind it! Let’s go!”

Good eye, Harper! I didn’t even see them! They’re all crouched down behind the car facing north, so I’m guessing the shots came from that direction. Those lots all have iron gates in front of them and they’re all busted up. Fuck! The shooters could be anywhere in there! And if they are, then they’ve got excellent cover!

“Harper, get us over there and pull us in right in front of them! Titus! Watch yourself! The shooters are probably across the street on the north side!”

Jesus! Gunshots! They hit the car!


“They’re definitely over there, ma’am! I’m not hit! Go! Haul ass!”

And Harper’s way ahead of him! Here we go! We need to know how many gunners we’re dealing with!

“Sixteen Central to units responding to the help call, we’ve got shots coming from the north side of 84th Street! They hit our car! We can’t see the gunners! Approach with caution! Harper! Titus! Out through the driver’s side! And stay down!”

More shots! This was an ambush, all right! A well-planned one! And it’s too fucking dark to see across the street into those lots! We need to light them up!

“Any air unit in South Bureau, respond to 84th and Prentiss! Officer needs help! Shots fired! Multiple shooters! They’re on the north side of the street, firing from a well-concealed position! We need your spotlight to light them up!”

All right, we’re out! And there are the four Northside officers! They look like they’re in one piece, thank God!

“Mossman, are you guys all right?”

I see he’s got the shotgun, and I can see at least three spent hulls on the ground. He’s been shooting back at them. Hell, there’s a bunch of spent casings back here! They’ve all been firing back! But did they hit any of the suspects?

“We’re good, ma’am! We were passing the intersection when we heard the explosion! It sounded like the end of the world! We saw some people lying in the street and as soon as we went to help, some assholes opened up on us from across the street! We hit one of them, but we don’t know how bad!”

“Did you see how many gunners there are?”

“Negative! At least three! Two guys dragged the one we hit back behind that green gate! Male black suspects, one of them had a white and blue jersey! They guy we dropped has a black sweat jacket on! We nailed him good, but he was still shooting back when they dragged him behind the gate!”

And they didn’t pick that location for nothing! They probably have an escape route all planned out!

“Harper, we’re going to try to draw them out. When they show themselves, act fast! You probably won’t get more than two shots!”

“I’m ready! Just don’t do anything crazy!”

Yeah, I’m afraid this definitely calls for something crazy! We have to give them something to shoot at, which means sticking my ass out there for a second!

“Titus, when I pop out, you lay down a suppressing fire right at that green gate! Don’t give them a chance to draw a bead on me! Ready…go!

Stand up! Let them see me! There goes Titus, blasting away! Come on, motherfuckers! Show yourselves! There! There’s the asshole with the white jersey!


Gunshot! He got him! That one’s down! And there’s number two! Shit! Get down! Son of a bitch! My ears are ringing like shit! Everybody’s firing at once! Take a quick peek around the car! They got him! Oh, Jesus! That asshole’s ripped to shit! I think they all hit him at once! He’s not moving! Two down and out, and at least one back there who’s wounded but still a threat!

“Dani, we’ve got an air unit coming in from the northwest! Coming in low!”

Yes! Exactly what we need! They’ve got a floodlight and infra-red! They can tell us how many gunners are back there!

“Ten Central to Sixteen, we see you on the street. Where do you want us?”

“Lieutenant, the suspects are behind a green steel gate on the north side of the street! They’ve probably got an escape route planned out! We’ve got two suspects down and out of commission, but we don’t know how many more are back there. There’s at least one more back there and he’s wounded! Take a position in the alley north of 84th Street, but don’t go in there! You’ll be in our line of fire!”

“Roger that. I see the air unit coming in. As soon as they take up a position overhead, those assholes are going to move. We’ll be ready for them. I’ve got Eight and Twenty-Two with me. Sixty-Six should be pulling up alongside you any second now. Stand by! We do this together! Understood?”

“Roger that, sir! Standing by!”

So unless they’ve got an escape tunnel back there, the only way they can get out of there is through that alley. They’ll run straight into our guys. Yeah, but how many are there? The two we put down had handguns, but what about the others? They could have rifles and shotguns. Hell, they could have a machinegun!

“Air Three to the units on 84th Street, we’re overhead. Where are your suspects? We see one down in the street and another one right at the edge of the north gate. Neither of them are moving and we see a whole lot of blood on the ground.”

“Sixteen Central to Air Three, we’ve got at least one more suspect in that lot behind that gate. He’s armed and he’s been shot. There could be others. We can’t see a thing back there. Can you hit them with the infra-red and tell us how many gunners we’re dealing with?”

“Roger that, Sixteen. Hey, confirm you’re a Central unit? What are you doing down here?”

“It’s a long story, Air Three. Light it up and let us know what we’re dealing with.”

“Roger that, Sixteen. Stand by.”

There’s Sixty-Six, pulling in at warp factor five! We should have these assholes outnumbered and outgunned unless they’ve got a small army back there. And that’s a definite possibility!

“Garcia! Acevedo! Were you listening?”

“It wasn’t easy with Acevedo burning rubber, but we heard! Acevedo! Whose territory is this?”

“That depends. It could be 83rd Street Villains or Blocktown. Blocktown’s been trying to move in on this turf for a while.”

It was 83rd Street back when I was here, but with all the fighting that goes on in this division, Acevedo’s right: it could’ve changed hands by now. Whoever they are, they’re trying to kill us and that’s all I need to know. Fuck these motherfuckers! Hey, assholes! You already got two of your homeboys killed! Way to go, you stupid shits!

“Air Three to the units on 84th Street, red alert! Red alert! We’ve got five hits on the infra-red! They all look like they’ve got weapons! One of them is on the ground and the signal looks like he’s bleeding out. You guys stumbled across one serious ambush!”

Yeah, that much we already figured out!

“Roger that, Air Three. Is there anybody else back there?”

“We can’t tell. The fire at the northeast corner is interfering with our infra-red. There’s nobody else back in that lot. These guys look like they’re gearing up for a fight. I don’t think they’re looking to surrender.”

That figures! Two dead, one critically wounded, and they still want to fight? Stupid motherfuckers! They’re all going to wind up dead! Hey, assholes! There’s a shitload of cops out here, a helicopter flying overhead, two of your asshole friends are dead and one of them’s about to bleed to death! Give it up! You’re not getting away! You’re outnumbered and outgunned! There’s nowhere to go! You’re fucked! Surrender already!

“Ten Central to Sixteen, when the air unit lights up that lot, that should flush them out. They’ll either try to make a break for it through the gate or they’ll go for the alley. Be ready for it.”

“Roger that, sir. We’re ready. If they make a break for the alley, they’ll probably go straight for you. It’s too far to run westbound through the alley. These guys are armed and they’re not afraid to shoot it out with the police. Don’t do anything crazy.”

“Copy that. Air Three, hit the floodlight!”

There it goes! Now we can see back there! Jesus, it’s a fucking junkyard! If we have to go in there to flush them out…cancel that! Here they come, out the gate! And they’re shooting! Two of them! One of them’s got a rifle! Open fire! Blast them!

“Everybody open fire! Don’t let them out of there!”

Use the slugs! Aim high! They’re at least thirty yards away! Got you, motherfucker! One down! There goes another one! He’s hit! But he’s not going down! He’s still shooting! Jesus! That almost hit Harper! Fuck! I can get him…missed! Oh, shit! That hit him! Nice shot, Mossman! Right in the chest! He’s down! There’s still three left, but I can only see two of them! They’re retreating back into the lot!

“Air Three to the units in the alley, you’ve got two suspects headed your way! One of them’s got a shotgun! They’re coming through the fence!”

Gunshots! A lot of them! Jesus, it’s the fucking O.K. Corral back there!

“Air Three to units on 84th Street, we’ve got a code four in the alley. Both suspects neutralized. Those two aren’t getting up again. We’ve got one more target on infra-red. That’s probably the guy you said was wounded. He’s still back there, behind two old junkers. You got the rest of them. Good job.”

“Sixteen Central to Ten Central, Lieutenant! Are you guys in one piece?”

“Roger that, Sixteen. No casualties. Two suspects down, DOA. What’s your situation over there?”

Good question! We got two of them, but we…oh, my God! Mossman’s hit! He’s been shot!

“Mossman! Jesus Christ! Where are you hit?”

“In the leg! Fuck! I don’t fucking believe this shit! I got hit! God damn it!”

“Sixteen Central, we’ve got an officer down! Mossman’s hit in the leg! We need EMS at our location right away! Garcia! Get the first-aid kit! Hurry! Guys, put pressure on the wound!”

How bad is it? It’s high in the leg! It’s not pumping blood, thank God! That probably means it didn’t hit an artery. Yeah, but there’s no such thing as a minor gunshot wound!

“How the hell did you get hit in the leg?”

“I had to break cover to get that guy! Fuck! This shit hurts like a fucking bitch! I think it broke the bone!”

Here comes Garcia with the first-aid kit. Hurry! Get a pressure bandage on it!

“Sixteen Central to all units on 84th Street, we’ve still got one suspect in there. He’s been shot, but he’s alive and conscious and he’s not giving up. We’re going to have to go in there and get him. I’m going to take Harper, Garcia, and Acevedo in through the gate. Lieutenant, you and the units with you stand by in case he tries to get out through that hole in the fence. I’m hoping this idiot will give up now that his friends are out of the picture.”

“Roger that, Lynott. We’re holding in place. The air unit will cover you and guide you in with the infra-red. Watch yourselves back there! The others had a death wish and this guy might, too! Let us know when you’re through the gate.”

“Will do. All right, guys! You stay here with Mossman. If anyone but us comes out through that gate, you know what to do. Titus, you stick close to me! Harper, Garcia, Acevedo, let’s go! Air Three, guide us in.”

“Understood, Sixteen. Be advised, it’s a real mess back there. We’ve got the suspect on infra-red, but it looks like he’s got plenty of cover. He’s definitely moving, so he’s not out of the game yet. Use caution.”

Sound advice. All right, in we go! I doubt he’s got any kind of a shot from back there, so we can get across the street with no problems. Yeah, right past the dead guys! Jesus, they’re really fucked up! Multiple gunshot wounds on both of them. I’m thinking it’s going to be a closed-casket funeral. There’s the gate. This is where it gets interesting!

“All right, we split up, but move in a line. No more than ten feet between us. Flashlights out and clear every nook and cranny before you move past it. Listen to the air unit. They’ve got a location on the suspect. If we can, we get him to toss out his weapon and give up. He’s already shot, so he’s probably thinking he wants to live right now. Don’t take any chances! If he won’t come out, then we do what we have to. Let’s go! Garcia and Harper, you’re at either end. Acevedo, you’re to my left and Titus, you’re to my right. Be careful, everyone!”

Christ! If we fall down in here, we’ll probably land on something that’ll give us tetanus! This really is a fucking junk yard! I’ve got my radio turned down low, but high enough to hear the air unit. Imagine searching this maze blind! Thank God we’ve got the air unit up there to guide us!

“Sixteen, your suspect is about thirty feet in front of you, behind that old junker car. It looks like he’s doing a lot of bleeding. Be careful.”

Yeah, no shit! I have to look before each step, and it doesn’t look like the other guys are having any better luck. I have to remember this guy is armed and he’s already shot at the police. We don’t take chances with someone like that, even if he’s wounded.

“Sixteen, look out! He’s moving! He’s moving fast right toward you!”

Where? I don’t see him! Is he still behind the car? Did he move…oh, shit! He’s attacking! Fuck! He hit me! He hit me with a fucking metal pipe! God, that hurt! Shoot him! Shoot his ass! I can’t get a clear shot! He’s trying…oh, fuck! Nice punch, Acevedo! Jesus Christ! The way that asshole screamed, Acevedo must’ve hit him right where he got shot! And one more to the jaw for good measure! He’s down!

“Dani, are you all right?”

“I think so. He got me pretty good. God damn, that hurt!”

“Just stay there. I’ve got this motherfucker. Hey, shit for brains! Are you trying to get yourself killed? You’re a fucking moron! You’re lucky you didn’t get your ass blown off!”

Son of a bitch! He nailed me right on the fucking collarbone! My left arm is tingling like a bitch! God, that fucking hurt! At least he’s not in any better shape. He’s still screaming his head off. Yeah, he got shot, all right! Look at all that blood! It’s a wonder he’s still alive! And for that matter, why did he hit me? Why didn’t he just shoot me? He’s got a gun. Where is it? Where’s his gun?

“Acevedo, where’s his gun?”

“I don’t know. It’s not on him and he didn’t drop it on the ground around here. Hey, fuckface! Where’s your fucking gun?”

“Fuck you! I’m dyin’! Get the fuckin’ rescue squad! I’m shot!”

“Fuck that! Where’s your fucking gun?”

I don’t think he’s going to tell us. He’s in way too much pain. Good! I hope it lasts for a week!

“Dani! Dani, are you OK? Are you hurt?”

Harper to the rescue. I’m surprised he made it through this junk field so fast.

“I’m all right. He hit me. I don’t know why he didn’t shoot me.”

“He couldn’t. Check it out: I found his weapon over there. It’s empty. He ran out of ammunition.”

Yeah, it’s empty, all right. He must’ve been spraying lead all over the place when they first opened up on our Northside guys. Stupid motherfucker! That’ll teach you about fire discipline!

“Sixteen Central to all units on 84th Street, show a code four. We’ve got the last suspect in custody. We need EMS for a suspect with a gunshot wound to the lower abdomen, conscious and breathing.”

And do you know why he’s not dead? Because he’s so fucking fat, the bullet probably missed everything important! Lucky you, asshole!

“Ten Central to Sixteen, Lynott? We’re coming back there.”

“Don’t bother, sir. This place is worse than a minefield. We’re bringing him out through the gate. You’d better call Commander Mancia. He said we should call him if we killed anybody, and we definitely killed people on this call.”

“Air Three to the units on 84th, good job by everyone. Is the wounded officer going to be all right?”

“I think so, air unit. He got hit in the leg, but it’s not bleeding too bad, so I think it missed the arteries. We’ll keep you posted. Do you see EMS headed this way?”

“Roger that, Sixteen. We’ve got two EMS units headed south on Prentiss with two Transit Police units escorting them. Somebody in the alley, step out onto Prentiss and guide those guys in.”

Good idea. Otherwise, they’d probably stop at least a block away and wait for the all-clear signal. I want Mossman taken to the hospital right away. Like I said, there’s no such thing as a minor gunshot wound.

“Harper, you and Acevedo take that idiot out to the sidewalk. You’re probably going to have to carry him.”

“I’ve got more of a mind to drag his ass across that junk pile! Are you sure you’re all right?”

“I’m fine. I think the feeling is beginning to come back to my arm. Come on, we’ve got a real mess on our hands. Titus, grab a roll of crime scene tape and block off this whole area. Start at the intersection and take it down about fifty feet from the west edge of this lot. Got it?”

“Roger that.”

He looks pretty shaken. Hey, I can relate!

“Are you OK?”

“I never fired my gun before today. I never even got shot at before today. It’s a little unsettling. I’m all right, ma’am.”

“Don’t worry, you never get used to it. God help you if you do. You did fine. You did exactly what you’re supposed to do. But we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, so we need you to hold it together. Can you do that?”

“Roger that, ma’am.”

I’ll let that “ma’am” slide. For a guy who just shot it out with a bunch of major assholes and saw another officer get shot, he’s handling it pretty damned well. I need to remind him that he’s doing just fine. When you’re a boot, you need positive feedback. Besides, he earned it.

God, every step I take feels like I’ve got stabbing pains shooting through my collarbone! I’ll see if the paramedics have one of those chemical icepacks I can put on it. That should help. So we had another shooting. Another ambush. Fortunately, these assholes fucked up big time. How much longer are we going to keep getting lucky? Forever, I hope. Of course, I know the world doesn’t work that way. Not by a long shot.

Clearing from the scene of the 84th Street ambush. Commander Mancia showed up as promised, and he was driving the Northside guys’ car. God, it looked worse than it did after they crashed it into that idiot! He must’ve taken a shitload of rocks and bottles after he switched cars with them. Why not? Everybody hates the police today. The assholes don’t give a shit if you’re a commander or a low-rank PI. They’ll kill anyone in a blue uniform. I wonder if we’ve lost anyone yet? God knows we’ve had more shootings in one day than we’ve had in the last two years, and now that it’s night, things are only going to get worse. Probably a lot worse. I can’t shake the feeling that we’re going to lose some people before this shit is over. It’s a feeling that makes me physically sick to my stomach. I wish it would go away, but that’s not going to happen anytime soon.

Commander Mancia collected our UO cards before we left. That’s Unusual Occurrence for those of you who don’t speak cop. I was actually glad to hear him ask us for them. It means the department has finally decided to mobilize everyone. I’m hoping that means that we’ll be on “B” watch and we can go home soon, but the radio hasn’t broadcast the mobilization order yet, so we’re stuck here. Harper says he’s sure we’re going to be working at least twenty-four hours straight. Look on the bright side: the department will finally have to stop bitching about our overtime banks. They’re all about to explode. Mobilization means no days off. Everybody works twelve hours per day every day until they decide to call it off. That shit racks up fast.

I’m a little surprised that the department’s usual nervous nellies haven’t sent sergeants into the field to physically corral every officer who’s still out here. With the shootings and more typical use-of-force incidents we’ve been having, they’re probably thinking it’s the mother of all public relations nightmares. You know, Harper had a good take on it when we were talking a few days ago. I was trying to figure out how many shootings the brass would tolerate in a riot before they completely freaked out and told everybody to go find someplace to hide, but Harper said that it really wouldn’t matter. He said that from a public relations standpoint, we’d catch just as much hell for one officer-involved shooting as we would for a dozen. He was right. The people who are constantly bashing the police don’t have a threshold for that sort of thing. In their minds, one shooting or major use-of-force incident is one too many. Now that we’ve been involved in a couple of them since this shit started, I realize that the brass probably came to the same conclusion. Harper’s clarity of thought never ceases to amaze me. It’s one of the many things I adore about him. He just has this ability to see through the bullshit and get to the real heart of the matter, whatever it is. He’ll make a great captain or even a commander someday, and I’m not just saying that because I’m biased. He’s really that good at this shit.

I wish we could link up with some Woodlawn officers for Titus’ sake. I keep looking back at him in the back seat and I swear, he must feel like the loneliest guy in the world right now. He’s with a bunch of strangers, he’s already been involved in a shooting – no, make that shootout – and he’s probably thinking that he doesn’t have a friend in the world. I kind of know the feeling. He hasn’t been out of the academy long enough to really know anybody yet, so he’s probably desperate to see someone that he at least recognizes. Well, he’ll have some pretty wild stories to tell when it’s over. He’s performed really well so far. He hasn’t shirked from anything and he’s seen some serious shit. I plan to write some glowing reviews in his probationer’s book. I don’t know if it’ll make any difference, but he’s earned it and someone should say so. I always hated it when I did something really well when I was a boot and my training officers didn’t take notice of it. I had more than a few of them who didn’t think much of women on the job and the better I performed, the more they disliked me. I doubt he’s had to deal with that, but take it from me: being a boot is a lonely existence. Even if you’ve got three or four of your classmates in the same division, you feel like you’re all alone. Boots count down the days until they’re off of probation like the soldiers in Vietnam counted down the days until their tour of duty was over. That’s one thing that’ll never change. A lot of boots don’t feel like they’ll be able to breathe easily or get a decent night’s sleep until they’re finally off of probation. God knows I was one of them.

At least the feeling has returned to my arm. That fucking asshole really whacked me good. I’m going to have a nasty bruise by tomorrow. Hell, I’ll probably still be out here by then. I wonder how many other bruises we’re going to get? Or how many broken bones? Or knife wounds, or gunshot wounds, or burns from firebombs…you get the idea. We heard on the radio that the officers still in the field over in Lafayette Division got into it with a pretty sizeable crowd and a lot of them got banged up. They set up a triage area for the injured officers over in the parking lot of a Home Depot. I keep trying not to imagine what it looks like right now, but my mind keeps flashing images of ten or fifteen police officers lying in a row in that parking lot, waiting for an ambulance that’ll probably never come. God, I am such a fucking pessimist! I really need to knock that shit off. It’s not doing me any good. It doesn’t do anyone any good.

In the “The Emerald City is going to hell in a handbasket” department, the authorities have shut down the airport. You heard me right: a major airport has been completely shut down because of this shit. There’s so much smoke from the fires and the south end divisions are all in a line along the approach pattern to the airport that the pilots decided it was too dangerous to try to land there. Every plane has been diverted to some other airport. I don’t even want to think about how much that’s going to cost the city. No doubt it’ll add a few million dollars to the already escalating debt. One thing that all riots have in common: they’re money pits. You don’t have to be a politician or a social engineer to figure that out. Hundreds of stores are shut down in the south end divisions, so that’s God only knows how much sales tax revenue is being lost. Business are closed and their employees are being told to stay home, so there goes your payroll taxes. Nobody is riding the busses or the subways, so no fare money gets collected. I think you get the picture. Throw in the property damage and even if this riot wraps up in a couple of days, the dollar amount is going to be in the billions. Not millions; billions. We’re going to be feeling the effects of this crap for a very long time.

Mossman got carted off to the hospital, practically kicking and screaming that he was still fit to fight and that he wanted to stay in the field. No, he’s not crazy. He’s a boot. He’s a police officer. He’s young, gung-ho, and probably thinks he’s invincible. He’s also dedicated enough to risk everything to come down here and try to make a difference even though he knew it might get him killed. That’s no ordinary boot. None of them are. If they don’t pin a medal on those guys for that, I’m going to throttle someone. Someone very high-ranking. Jesus, that hole in Mossman’s leg was a lot bigger than I originally thought. Then again, that’s to be expected. One of the dead assholes had a .45 Auto, and I think that’s what he got hit with. Those things make big holes. That’s why we carry them. The paramedics said they thought he’d be OK, but he was going to need some serious stitches and no doubt some serious painkillers to go with them. He got damned lucky if you ask me. He broke cover to get the asshole when Titus and I came under fire and that’s how he ended up getting shot. He got the son of a bitch, but not before the son of a bitch got him. Christ, why is it always a trade-off? Why does it always seem to cost us something in blood? It’s almost as if God’s got it in for us. I hope that’s not true and I guess I don’t really believe it, but it sure seems that way. We need a break for a change. Actually, we need a royal shitload of breaks. We’re way overdue for them.

“All right, guys, where to next? Where’s the next disaster?”

I don’t seem to be getting any responses from the boys in our car. Then again, Harper’s never worked here and Titus barely knows his way around the place. They’re both looking at me to make the next call.

“Fair enough. Harper, go down about half a mile and then turn south on Ticonderoga Avenue. Go straight down for about a mile and a half until you hit Durango. We might as well start checking the housing projects now that the sun’s gone down.”

“Which one are we going to?”

I might as well play the training officer and test Titus’ knowledge of the division. After one month in the field and all of it on Daywatch, I won’t hold it against him if he doesn’t know the answer.

“Titus? Where are we going?”

“South on Ticonderoga? Oberlin Gardens. The Flats.”

I’m impressed. He not only knows where we’re headed, but he also knows what the assholes call that place. Yeah, it’s the Flats. Don’t ask me why. I was never able to nail that one down.

“Very good. You get an ‘A’ for the day. Do you know who runs the Flats?”

“Nine-Seven Blood Stones. It’s the last of the projects where they’re still in charge.”

OK, now I’m really impressed! He’s right: Blood territory in this division has been shrinking for years and they’ve barely been able to hold onto the Flats. Eight miles south and you’re in Wilmington Division and the Bloods rule the roost down there, but up here? They’re an endangered species – emphasis on the “endangered” part. When I was down here, they’d lost enough of their members to shootings to field half of the National League.

“What about their allies? Do you know who they are?”

“They don’t have any, ma’am. They had the Van Allen Park Raiders, but those guys are history. Detective D’Angelico told us the Gang Unit just put the last of their leaders away for murder, so they’re basically leaderless right now.”

Damn! I hadn’t heard that! Do you see what happens when you’re exiled from the division for a few years? You miss out on everything. So the Nine-Seven is on their own now. Jesus, the only reason they’re still alive is probably because all of the other gangs are too busy fighting with each other. But sooner or later, they’ll get around to finishing them off. Yeah, and then we’ll have a war for Oberlin Gardens. Just what this division needs: another fucking gang war! I’d like to take every fucking gangbanger and dump them in Ambush Alley after dark. I could stand outside of Black Iron Gate and listen for the screams. Five minutes in that hellhole and they’d learn what it feels like to live in fear like the decent people down here. At least, they’d learn what it was like until some Central psycho skinned them alive and then ate them.

“Well, the projects are going to be staging areas for the gangbangers. They’ll meet up there, get drunk and then go out and do whatever they’ve got planned, which probably has to do with shooting at us. We need to gather some intel in the event we have to go in there in force. We might as well start with Oberlin since it’s the smallest one in the division. After that, we’ll check out the Royce.”

That one’s the real nightmare: the Royce Gardens Housing Projects. It’s the one with the biggest gang and drug problems, and it’s right on the border with at least three gangs that all hate each other with a serious passion. During the summer, they used to have a shooting in that place almost every other night. Sometimes the fighting gets so intense that it looks more like genocide than a gang war. If it weren’t for the city’s position on maintaining whatever affordable housing that’s left, they’d have bulldozed that place years ago. I’m not looking forward to going in there, but if the local gangsters are planning a move against us, then they’ll probably plan it in the Royce. We need to know what’s going on so we can let everybody know. We don’t want any surprises. In a riot, surprises can definitely kill you.

“Sixty-Six Central to Sixteen Central, Dani? Are you there?”

That’s Acevedo. Maybe he’s got something?

“I’m here, Acevedo. What’ve you got?”

“Do you remember the Reverend Ansel over at the 89th Street Baptist Church?”

Is he kidding? He knows I used to work Woodlawn Division. That’s practically like asking a five year-old if she’s ever heard of Santa Claus.

“Sure, everyone down here knows him. He’s the one who wears those ugly ties. Why do you ask?”

“I just got a call from a contact I’ve got down here. The Reverend went out to try to stop the looting over at the Florentine strip mall and some asshole shot him in the back. I don’t know his condition, but my contact says he’s not good. I just thought you should know. I always liked him. He was a good man.”

Jesus Christ! They shot a preacher? A man of the cloth? Reverend Ansel is a legend down here. Everybody loves him. They respect the hell out of him. He probably baptized half the people in this division. What the fuck? What the hell kind of asshole shoots a preacher in the back?

“Roger that. That’s just evil. I hope the guy who did it burns in hell. Let me know if you hear anything else.”

“Will do. If anyone finds the motherfucker who shot him, I call dibs on him. Just leave me alone in an alley with him for five minutes. That’s all I need.”

I doubt there’s anybody down here who would say no to that request. I’d volunteer to do it myself, but Acevedo can hit a lot harder than I can. Shooting a preacher in the back for trying to stop the looting? If that doesn’t prove this city has gone to total shit, then nothing ever will.

“Titus, did you ever meet the Reverend Ansel?”

“During orientation. He spoke to us. He was a good guy. You could tell he was the real deal, no bullshit. I can’t believe somebody would shoot him.”

“These people have gone psycho. All of the old rules went right down the crapper. Don’t forget that. It might just save your life tonight.”

I meant that. The rules are gone. We can’t trust anyone. Some little old lady might have come unhinged and start shooting at us the moment she sees a blue uniform. I know it’s a shitty thing to say, but it’s the truth and denying it doesn’t do anyone any good. Until we have proof to the contrary, it’s us against them for the immediate future. It’s a rotten way to live. I can’t wait until it’s all over.

“Sixteen Central to all Central Midwatch units, we’re headed for the Oberlin Gardens Housing Projects. Everybody watch yourselves in there. We don’t have a lot of friends in the place.”

“Roger that, Dani.”

“We’ll be careful.”

“We’ve got your back. Just make sure you watch ours.”

“Forty Central to all units, stick together in there. Don’t anybody go chasing anyone. I don’t want anyone getting separated in the projects.”

Sound advice. Like I said, the Oberlin isn’t as bad as some of the others, but it’s still plenty dangerous. The projects are bound to be hotbeds of anti-police sentiment right now. We’re probably walking into a real hate storm. Yeah, what else is new?

“Dani, we’ve got Durango up ahead. How far down is this place?”

“About four blocks. You’ll know it when you see it. It’s painted the same ugly blue as every other housing project in the city.”

God, it feels weird to be back down here. I never thought I’d see these places again. And the truth is, I’d come to accept that. I didn’t miss this place anymore. Part of me feels like I’m back home and the other part feels like a fish out of water. I see Durango hasn’t been spared the riot. There’s a liquor store on fire over there and it looks like the car dealership got hit by a tornado. I’ll bet when this is over, we’ll have a list of stolen cars ten feet long. I guess you could call that job security.

There it is, right up ahead. It doesn’t look any different, but that’s not surprising. These places never change. Every housing project in the city looks exactly the same. They’re all painted the same color, they all have the same layout for the apartments, and they’re all total shitholes. I used to wonder if they were ever decent places to live. The old-timers in Woodlawn like to say the projects went to shit as soon as the first tenant moved in. I don’t know if that’s true, but I wouldn’t rule it out.

“Just up ahead, Harper.”

“I see it. I thought you said this place was small.”

“Compared to the others, it is. Wait until you see the Royce. Compared to it, this place is one of those twelve-unit buildings in the middle of a residential block. Stop about one block short of the place, right behind that row of bushes. No sense in letting them know we’re coming. Sixteen Central to all Central Midwatch units, this is it. Forty and Sixty Central, you come in the front with half of us. The rest of you go for the east entrance with Lieutenant Hagan and Sergeant Ivanell. And for God’s sake, be careful in there!”

As much as I don’t want to make a scene in here, I’m taking the shotgun and Harper’s taking his rifle. It wouldn’t be the first time that some asshole bolted the gates once we were in there and trapped us in the place. With what’s going on right now, I’m not taking any chances.

“Harper, grab your rifle. I’ve got the shotgun. I want every pair of officers to have a shotgun just in case.”

“Roger that. So how do we get in there? I’m guessing you’re not going to blow the lock off.”

“I used to work this division. I’ve got a key to the front gate. It opens every gate in the place. Just watch out for some asshole sneaking behind us with a bike chain and a padlock. That’s how they trap you in here. All right, let’s move out!”

So who do we have? We’ve got Sixty-Six, Twenty-Two, and the sergeants. The rest of the guys will move in through the east gate. I see Acevedo’s giving his key to Lieutenant Hagan. Good. That way, they won’t need us to let them in. I don’t see anyone out front. That’s unusual. There’s usually a bunch of people out in front of the main entrance. The drunks sit out there and drink while the lookouts for the dope dealers keep watch for the police. This definitely isn’t normal. All right, time to see if my key still works. Yep! We’re in! There’s nobody in our line of sight. Where the hell is everyone? Probably out looting, setting fires, or hunting the police.

“Everybody fan out, but don’t get too far apart. And remember what the Sarge said: don’t go chasing anybody. You could get lost in here. If somebody pulls any shit, just make sure you see what apartment they run into. We’ll deal with them when we’ve got everyone together. Let’s do this!”

There’s the hill. It’s actually just a slope in the middle of the courtyard, but everyone calls it the hill. It’s kind of fucked up because it ruins the field for the kids who want to play ball there. It’s bad enough being a kid in this place, but to deliberately design the lawn so that kids can’t even play a decent game of football? That’s just mean.

All right, we’ve got activity at the south end of the place. It looks like a pretty sizeable group. I can see some of them have beer cans in their hands. Hey, if they want to sit here and drink and wait this thing out, then more power to them. It’s probably the most sensible thing you can do under the circumstances.

“Harper, we’ve got a group at the south end, right near the entrance to the parking lot. It looks like maybe forty people. Let the others know and be ready for anything. Titus, stick close. If they’ve been drinking since this shit began, some of them might get ugly. Be ready for it.”

I wish Officer Woodward were here. This place has more than its share of parolees and quite a few huge motherfuckers who aren’t afraid to take a swing at a police officer. We could really use him.

“Harper, send a text message to Officer Woodward and tell him where we are. Tell him if he can meet us here, try to get here fast.”

“Roger that. How far back does that parking lot go?”

“About thirty yards. There’s no good place to hide except for in the carports. Unless someone goes all the way around the three front buildings, they can’t ambush us.”

“No, but they can rush us head-on. Forty’s a lot more than fifteen, and we don’t want a shootout in here. They could open fire from every window in the place.”

And cut us all to ribbons before we could get a lock on them. He’s right. We’re just here to gather a little intelligence: find out what the people are doing, see if any of the gangs are massing for an attack, and get the fuck out of here. If those people back there were gangbangers, I’d expect to see a lot more cars out of the spaces; doors open and the music blasting. They’ve got some music going, but nothing like what a bunch of gangbangers would have. I think those people are mostly average tenants. The good news is, they’re less likely to attack us. The bad news is, it means the gangbangers are out and about somewhere. Well, one disaster at a time.

“Dani, Officer Woodward’s on his way. He says he’s not far from here. So how do you want to handle this?”

“First, let’s get everyone on the same page. Sixteen Central to Ten Central Lieutenant? We’ve got about forty people in the south parking lot. It looks like a pretty informal gathering, no hardcore gangbangers that I can see. I need you and your group to go through the corridor between ‘E’ and ‘F’ buildings and sweep around. We’ll go straight in. I want to avoid contact with them if possible. Just see who they are and what they’re doing and whether they’re planning anything for later.”

“Sounds like a plan, Lynott. We’re heading over there now. Watch those balconies. If someone comes out from the second floor, they’ll see us in a heartbeat.”

“Roger that. Let us know when you’re in position. We’re moving forward. Sixteen out.”

That tells you a lot, doesn’t it? We’re the police and we have to sneak around like we’re behind enemy lines in an occupation zone. How did it ever get to this point? We’re supposed to be the people you can depend on. Now we’re the enemy. Boy, did we take a wrong turn somewhere!

Almost there. I just want to get to the edge of that corridor and take a peek in there. We’re looking for any signs of trouble: gang activity, brandishing weapons, that sort of thing. If there’s none of it, then we’ll get out of here and thank the Lord that at least one powder keg isn’t about to explode. A little further…

“One time! One time!”

Shit! We’ve been spotted! Where the hell? Oh, fuck! Up there on the balcony! There’s a guy pointing right at us! Lieutenant Hagan was right! We’re blown! Time to get the fuck out of here!

“Sixteen Central to all units, they see us! We’re blown! Everybody withdraw! Get back out to the street! Move it! We don’t want to get stuck in here! Harper! Titus! Grab everybody and get the fuck out of here!”

Here they come! And boy, are they fucking pissed! I knew we didn’t have any friends in here, but this crowd looks like they’re ready to kill us! We need to get the hell out of here before we end up having to shoot somebody!

“Stay back! All of you! We don’t want any trouble!”

“Bullshit! Y’all are here to kill us! Just like you done killed that boy!”

Oh, this is going to get ugly real fast! I’m guessing they didn’t see the body camera video yet! Not that they’d care what it showed, anyway!

“Stay back! We’re not here to arrest anybody! We’re just making sure there’s no trouble! In case you didn’t know, there’s a riot going on!”

“And it’s because of you, bitch!”

“Fuck the police!”

“Fuck all y’all!”

“Goddamned murderers! All of you! Fucking racist pigs!”

God damn it! We’re not going to get out of here without cracking a few heads, and that’s just going to make it worse! I can already see a bunch of people over at the entrance through the main gate! They’ll lock it! Fuck! All right, we’ll give them one chance to back off and let us leave in peace! If that doesn’t work, we do it the hard way!

“Last chance! Back off! We don’t want anyone to get hurt!”

“The only ones getting’ hurt are you, bitch! Fuck the police!”

Did I say it or what? All right, sling the shotgun and go to the nightstick! I can see some of the other guys are already going for their pepper gas! This is going to suck beyond belief! Get ready! Anyone who gets too close gets cracked! Harper’s got his rifle slung and he’s got his nightstick out! God, please don’t let us have to shoot anyone! Oh, shit! Here come the rocks and bottles! Those assholes over by the building are throwing shit at us and we don’t have our riot shields! Just don’t get hit! Fuck! Too late! That one nailed me right on the head!

“Sixteen Central to Ten Central! Lieutenant! Get up here fast! We’ve got a major 415 crowd! Rocks and bottles! They’re blocking the main entrance! We’re going to have a fight on our hands!”

And here comes the first idiot! Of course he charges me first! I’m the only woman, so he figures he can take me easy! Guess again, asshole! Step to the side and whack his ass! Got him! Hit him right between the shoulder blades! Yes! He’s down! But we’ve got a few more charging Harper! Bad move, idiots! There you go! He just whacked the shit out of the first guy and now he’s finishing off the second! Idiots! You’re not going to win! Just back off! We’ll leave if you stand down! No, they want to fight! All right, let’s fucking fight! You! Here! Right in the fucking gut! And another one across the knee! One more to the back! Down you go!

“Dani, behind you!”

Oh, Jesus! What the fuck was that? That felt like a fucking sledgehammer! Stay up! Stay on your feet! There you are! The asshole’s got a fucking fence post! All right, now I’m going to crack the shit out of you! Yeah, a swing and a miss! Now you’re wide open! One across the gut! And a power chop to the collarbone! And a jab to the back! Yeah, you’re not getting up after that shit! Fuck! Another fucking rock! God, that hurt! Where the hell is everyone else? There! Here comes Lieutenant Hagan and the rest of our troops! Now it’s a fight! Yeah, take a good look, motherfuckers! You’re about to feel some serious fucking pain!

“Knock the shit out of them! Every fucking one of them!”

Like I even had to tell them! Our guys are making short order of these assholes! Good! Lieutenant Hagan already took out two of them and Sergeant Hendrickson just knocked that big guy out cold! Keep fighting! Stay in it! Fuck! I didn’t even see that guy! God, he socked me right in the eye! Here! Have a face full of pepper gas! Yeah, now you can’t see for shit! Which means I can crack the living shit out of you! Hit him again! Again! Again! Whack his fucking knee! Drop his ass right to the ground! Got you, motherfucker! Enjoy the broken kneecap!

“Dani! Five o’clock! We’ve got company!”

Yes! It’s Officer Woodward and a bunch of parole officers! And they’re charging headlong into this shit! Now we’ve got the numbers, too! Keep hitting these guys! Stupid motherfuckers! You should all be running! Give it up! You’re just going to end up in the fucking hospital! Christ, the parole officers are kicking the shit out of them worse than we are! Yeah, because they’re all as big as fucking dinosaurs! I think the assholes are starting to realize this was a really bad idea!

“Nice to see you again, Officer Woodward!”

“Are you all right? You took some hits!”

“I’m fine. Just start rounding up these fucking morons!”

What’s left of them, anyway! We took our lumps, but they definitely got the worst of it! The rest of them are running for the apartments. Fine! Let them go! That’s what they should’ve done from the start! And here comes Harper, no doubt checking to see if I’m still in one piece. Jesus, he’s got another cut across his chin! I can see the blood from here! And he’s worried about me?

“Harper, you’re bleeding again!”

“I got hit with a bottle. Are you OK?”

“I took a few good whacks, but I’m fine. Was anyone seriously hurt?”

“It doesn’t look like it. The parole guys are really laying into these assholes!”

“They deserve it! Fuck them!”

Jesus, when I said to round them up, I didn’t mean literally! Officer Woodward is tossing the suspects into a goddamned pile!

“Goddamned piece of shit motherfuckers! Get your motherfucking ass over there! You, too! Over there! Let me see your motherfucking hands! All of you! I see any piece of shit make a move, I’ll shoot you right between the motherfucking eyes!

Oh, now they want to cooperate! Yeah, after they got their asses kicked! Suddenly they’re all ready to do whatever they’re told! Fucking assholes! I’d like to strangle every last one of them!

“Listen up, motherfuckers! In case you assholes can’t read, this says State Parole Officer! That’s right! And I’m betting every last one of you little pieces of shit are on parole! Sound off! Who the fuck’s on parole? I want to hear some fucking prison numbers! Starting with you, motherfucker! What’s your prison number? What the fuck did you do time for?”

Now they’re really shaking! They didn’t expect State Parole to show up! I’m thinking at least half of these assholes are going straight back to the lockup. Have fun, shitheads! ADW on a police officer plus the parole violations? We’ll see you in three to five!

Damn! Look at Sergeant Hendrickson! His knuckles are all torn up! He really laid into them! Can you believe they want to put him on permanent light duty? I should take a picture of him right now and send it to the review board. They’d all vote to keep him in the field forever!

“Sarge! Are you all right?”

“I was about to ask you the same thing, Lynott! You took some bad hits! I think you’re going to have a black eye come tomorrow.”

“It’s not my first and it won’t be my last. Was anyone hurt?”

“We’re all going to be aching when this is over, but everyone’s OK. You, Harper, and Titus took the worst of it. You’re always front and center when the shit hits the fan.”

Yeah, I should probably have my head examined for that. It’s definitely not good for your health.

“Titus! Are you in one piece?”

He looks OK. He looks like he’s been in a fight, though. His uniform is all messed up. Welcome to Woodlawn Division, Officer Titus! This is the part they didn’t tell you about in the academy. If they did, then no boot would ever want to come here.

“I’m all right, ma’am. Sorry, I mean Dani. I saw you get hit in the back with that pipe. Maybe you should get checked out?”

“We don’t have time for that and besides, EMS probably won’t come anywhere near here. Come on, we need to get back to the cars.”

“What about the suspects?”

“Fuck them! Leave them to the parole officers. Anyone who’s on parole gets a free trip back to prison. Officer Woodward and his friends will scare the shit out of the rest of them. We need to get back out there. We came here to gather information and we got it: everyone blames us for this riot and they’re attacking anyone in a uniform with a badge. The housing projects are ready to explode.”

“Roger that. But if this one went to shit on us that fast, then imagine what the bigger ones are going to be like.”

Yeah, I’m way ahead of you on that one! If we got attacked by a mob in this rinky-dink project, then we’re going to face holy hell in the Royce Gardens! And no, I’m not looking forward to it! We need more officers to go in there. We need to make a show of major force or we’re likely to have a shootout on our hands. Oh, this shit just keeps getting better and better!

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