Tactical Alert

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"Two Down"

We’re in! We’re lucky that hole in the fence is still there. If we’d had to go through the main gate, people would’ve been screaming “one time” before we got a foot through the door. Why the assholes think we don’t know that means “police” is beyond me, but they still say it. Fortunately, we didn’t hear anyone yelling when we got through the fence. I guess the assholes are all out stealing shit or doing God knows what. They’re certainly not going to sit out a riot. It’s not like those happen every week. No, this is Christmas, New Year’s, the Fourth of July and every other holiday you can think of all rolled into one for them. They’re not going to miss it.

Now comes the hard part: how the hell are we supposed to get everyone across the compound and over to the south lot without being seen? I wish our homeless zombies had taught us how they manage to move around in broad daylight without being seen. They’re the absolute masters of it, but they don’t like to share their secrets. Too bad. I see the floodlights are on in the middle of the courtyard as usual, so the doors to the apartments facing that way are in the shadows. It’s our best bet, but if anyone comes out of one of those apartments, we’re sunk. No one in this place is going to keep their mouth shut. All right, over to “C” building. It’s the furthest from the courtyard, so it’s the darkest place in this particular spot in the project. God, I hate this place! I hated it in the Gang Unit, I hated it even more when I was on patrol here, and now that we’re here in the middle of a goddamned riot, I hate it ten times worse than I ever did! If I had a nickel for every time I got my ass kicked or punched in the face in here, Harper and I could go out to a very nice restaurant for dinner. Jesus, now I’m going to start thinking about food! Not now! Focus on the job, Dani! Get through this shit and we can find something to eat later! So far, so good. Nobody’s out in the courtyard. I guess they’re all out setting fires or partying. We’ve got to make it over to “F” building next. Maybe we got lucky and everyone’s gone? That would be fine with me. If we’re going up against an army of south end gangsters, I’d much rather do it tomorrow when they deploy the rest of the department. Too many assholes in here don’t have any qualms about shooting at the police. Throw in the riot and they’re twenty times more dangerous. We need to be careful.

Harper’s giving me a hand signal to let me know the other group is inside the complex. Good. They’ve got a little further to go, but they should be out of sight for most of the way over to the lot. About the only thing they have to worry about is if somebody decides to use the laundry room over there right now. I’m guessing that with a riot on, people aren’t thinking about doing the wash. And there’s always the possibility that some old guy is in here with a shotgun, ready to shoot at any asshole who comes near his apartment. He probably won’t wait to see if it’s a cop. Gee, I’m just full of good news tonight!

“All right, guys. Listen up. We need to stick to the east side path. Stay off of the sidewalks. Take it nice and slow, listen as you’re approaching each door. If anyone comes out, sound off and get on the radio to Lieutenant Hagan’s group and let them know we’re blown. If anyone sees us between here and the lot, we call this shit off.”

They’re all nodding in agreement. They’re also all looking to me like I know exactly how to get them through this shit. Yeah, right! Remember all those times I got punched in the face? More than half of them were when I was doing this exact same shit! It rarely worked then, so I’m not very hopeful about it right now.

“Stick close to the bushes. And watch out for feral cats. There’s a hundred of them in this place and if you startle them, they scream like a motherfucker.”

Yeah, they’ve actually got wildlife out here. Those cats are some seriously mangy critters. They’re worse than the opossums that crawl out of the sewers. A little further…so far, so good. Not bad. We might actually get there in one piece. Over there is “K” building. Once past there, we should be able to see the parking lot unless some idiot decided to build a wall around it. It’s been a while since I’ve been in here. You never know.

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

Acevedo. No way could they have made it over to the parking lot already. He might be calling to relay some bad news. Why else would he break radio silence?

“Sixteen Central, go ahead, Acevedo.”

“I just saw three assholes headed for the lot. I’m thinking they’re 89th Street. I’m pretty sure I recognized one of them. I didn’t know he was out of prison. They didn’t see us, but we’ve seen five or six people walking around over here already.”

Just fucking great! They may have to hunker down and wait for that sector to clear out before they can move forward. That means it’s just us.

“Roger that. Stay low and stay out of sight. We’re almost over to “K” building.”

There’s nothing we can do about it now. Just wave everybody over. Keep moving forward. We’re almost there. If we get past this building…

“One time! One time!”

Oh, shit! There goes the neighborhood alarm! We’re blown! Where the hell did that come from?

“Who said that? Did anybody see the guy?”

And Ruiz is pointing to the second floor balcony across the way. Yeah, there’s a guy up there looking right at us! Fuck!

“Sixteen Central to all units, we’ve been seen! You guys better get over here fast! We’re right at the northwest edge of “K” building!”

And here comes the whole fucking peanut gallery! Christ, there must be thirty people headed this way! Where the hell did they come from? Oh, who cares? We need to get the fuck out of here before we have a fight on our hands!

“Get ready, guys! This isn’t going to be friendly! All of you! Back off! We don’t want any trouble!”

“Oh, you got trouble, bitch!”

Fuck the police!”

“Motherfucking murderers!”

“This is our place, cop! You don’t come in here!”

Oh, this is not going to end well! All right, form a line and don’t let them get behind us! Nightsticks out! Get ready for a fight!

“All of you stay back! We just came in here to make sure there wasn’t any trouble! If there’s nothing going on, then we’ll leave! Don’t make this a problem!”

“You’re the one with the problem, bitch!

That woman’s looking at me kind of strange. What’s she…oh, hell! I know what it is!

“That’s the fuckin’ bitch what shot that dude at the gas station!”

I knew it! She recognized me from the Reid shooting! Yeah, I figured someone down here might do that! Now they’re all riled up! Jesus, what the fuck do they care about that shit? I can see that some of them are drunk, so they’ll be the first ones to do something stupid! Yep! That fat guy in the blue shirt! Here he comes! Get ready! Oh, fuck! He’s going straight for Titus!

“Titus! Knock him on his ass!”

Whoa! Good move, Titus! He side-stepped him and gave him a serious crack right to the kidney! That had to hurt like hell! But the guy’s so fucking snockered that he’s not going down! And here come the rest of them! Hit them! Whack the shit out of them!

“Rosen! Call it in!”

“Eight Central on Woodlawn frequency, officer needs help! Major 415 crowd! Oberlin Gardens! We’re under attack! Over by ‘K’ building at the south end of the project!”

Shit! Somebody just cracked me on the back of the head! Thank God for the helmet! Where are you? There! Fucking asshole! Jab his ass! Right in the breastbone! Again! Again! That got him! He’s backing off, but a lot of the rest of them aren’t! Damn! That bitch hit me in the gut! Down you go, shithead! Hit her again! Fuck! Someone threw something at me! What the fuck was that? It hurt like a bitch! We’re getting it from all sides at once! Keep swinging! Stay in the fight! Where the hell is everybody else? They’d better get here before we get stomped!

“Harper! Rosen! Vinell! Don’t let them get behind you!”

Jesus Christ! This idiot’s trying to tear the face shield off of my fucking helmet! Knee him in the balls! Now give him an uppercut to the chin with my nightstick! Got you! Hit him again! Again! Don’t let him get his balance! Take out his fucking knee! Yeah, that did it! Fuck! I’m getting pounded from all sides! We can’t keep them in front of us! We can’t form a circle! They’ll surround us if we do! Just keep hitting them! God damn it, Lieutenant! Move your ass! Get over here before one of us gets killed!

“Dani! Look out!”

What? Harper? Oh, fuck! What the fuck was that? It knocked me flat on my face! Get up! Get up before they pile on you! Stand up! Fuck! These assholes can fucking punch! That one got me seeing stars! Don’t think about it! Swing! Fuck the rules! Go for the face! Whack the living shit out of them! Yeah, you didn’t expect that, asshole! No rules! I’ll take your fucking head off with this thing! You! Hit him! Right in the fucking jaw! You’re out of the fight, motherfucker! Now you…oh, my God!

“Ruiz! Behind you!”

Oh, Jesus fucking Christ! She stabbed him! She stabbed him in the back! He’s down! Ruiz is down! Fuck this fucking shit! You’re dead, bitch! I’ll fucking blow your goddamned brains out! Yeah, take a good look at it, you fucking cunt! This gun is the last fucking thing you’re ever going to see! Shit! Someone jumped in front of her! Fuck this! A few shots into the ground in front of them! Open fire! Spray the ground right in front of their fucking feet!

“The next one of you that fucking moves is dead! Show me your hands! All of you! I’ll fucking kill the first one who doesn’t show me their fucking hands!”

“Fuck you, bitch! You ain’t gonna shoot! You ain’t allowed!”

He’s got something in his hand, but he’s trying to keep me from seeing it. Crazy son of a bitch! Did you think those warning shots were bullshit? You’re about to get dumped!

“Show me your hands! Drop what you’ve got! I’m not fucking around!”

“Oh, you gonna shoot me? You gonna fuckin’ shoot me like y’all shot that boy for no reason? Fuck you, bitch! Come on! Shoot me! Do it! Shoot me, you fuckin’ cunt! Shoot me!”

If he takes one more step with that thing behind his back…

“I mean it! You’re going to get shot! Drop whatever you’re holding! Last chance!”

“I’m gonna fuck you up, bitch! I don’t give a fuck! Go ahead! Shoot me! You ain’t got the heart!”

“Is that what you think, motherfucker?”

I warned him! Eat some of this shit, asshole! Yeah! Right in the leg! And the way the blood’s pouring out of that hole, I hit something pretty fucking serious! I see he dropped a wrench. A big one, too. You’re lucky to be alive, shithead!

“Does anybody else think we’re fucking around? Face down in the dirt! All of you! You too, Hopalong! Get your ass in the dirt before I shoot you in the fucking balls!”

“You shot me! You can’t do that! I got witnesses!”

“Dead witnesses don’t talk, motherfucker!”

Yeah, he got the message! They all did! Don’t think I won’t do it! Look at him! He got down quick this time! Are you happy, asshole? Now you’ve got a fucking bullet in your leg! Here comes the rest of our watch! Better late than never!

“Officer down! Officer down! Ruiz got stabbed! Lieutenant! Get the fuck over here!”

How bad is he? God, please don’t let him be dead! He’s face down on the ground! I can’t see the wound! It’s too fucking dark!

“Ruiz! Ruiz! Can you talk? How bad is it? Where did she get you?”

“I’m all…I’m OK! It’s in…in the shoulder! Fuck! That fucking hurts!

That’s fucking it! I say we shoot the lot of them right here and now! Right on the ground! Let them fucking die in the dirt like the pieces of shit they are! Look at this! Look at this fucking idiot! He’s trying to get up! Let’s see you get up when I stomp on your fucking back!

“Stay down! If I see your fucking face out of the dirt, I’ll blow it right off! Who wants to die? Sound off! Which one of you worthless piece of shit motherfuckers wants to die? I want to hear it!”

“Lynott! Ease down!”

“Fuck that, Lieutenant! That fucking bitch in the purple stabbed Ruiz! Bring her over here so I can shoot her fucking ass! Bring that fucking cunt right here!

“Holster your weapon! We’ve got this! Just ease down! Your face is bleeding! Go over there and let Sergeant Gellar look at you! That’s an order!”

Does he think I give a shit about a cut on my face? Ruiz got stabbed! They tried to kill him!

“Not until I see you handcuff and hogtie that fucking cow! If you don’t, I will! Right after I tune her fat ass up with my fucking flashlight!”

Yeah, he knows I’m not fucking kidding! Get to it, Lieutenant! It’s either that or let me kill that fucking bitch!

“Garcia! Acevedo! That one! Cuff her and hogtie her! She’s going for attempted murder of a police officer! If she gives you any shit, break something! Something bigger than a finger!”

How about her fucking neck? Let her spend the next twenty years in prison in a wheelchair as a goddamned talking head! It’s better than she deserves!

“Lieutenant, we need EMS! And I don’t want to hear any shit about how they won’t come in here!”

“I’ve got that under control, Lynott. You need to ease down. I understand how you feel. We’ve got two officers down…”

“Two? Who? Who got…”

“Kursteff has a broken leg. Someone hit him with a bat. We’re going to take care of them both. I’ve got EMS coming. Every one of these shitheads is going straight to jail. I promise you that. Now get over there and have Sergeant Gellar take a look at you. You look like you took some hard hits. That’s an order, Lynott! I mean it!”

Yeah, whatever! Is this why they sent us in here? There’s no fucking gang activity in here tonight! Just a bunch of total assholes! What? Did they want to test the waters? See if these shitheads would attack us? Did they really need to send us in here to figure that shit out? God fucking damn it! I want to fucking kill someone!

“Dani, are you all right? Let me see your face.”

Jesus Christ, Harper! What the fuck happened to you? He’s got a gash across his left forearm! It’s fucking huge! Did he get stabbed too?

“Harper, what happened? Your arm!”

“Someone hit me with a box cutter. He got me pretty good, but I’m all right.”
“Who? Which one?”

“That one. Over there.”

Holy fuck! That guy’s sprawled on the grass out cold! Harper really fucked his ass up! Good! I hope he shot the son of a bitch!

“Harper, sit down! Wait for the EMS unit! You’re going to need stitches!”

“Maybe a few. Let me see your face. You took some nasty hits. I saw that guy rip off your face shield.”

Yeah, that thing is history. I’d get another one from the kit room, but they don’t have any left. I guess I’ll just have to go without it.

“I’m fine. Just massively pissed off!”

“Yeah, I saw that. You really nailed that dipshit in the leg. That was a nice shot, by the way.”

“He had it fucking coming! These fuckheads are lucky we don’t line them all up and shoot them right here!”

“I wouldn’t have a problem with that. Look, I think Ruiz is going to be all right. The knife wasn’t that big and I think the vest took a lot of it.”

“Tell them to put that fucking cunt in our car! I guarantee an accidental discharge on the way to the station!”

“And that’s why they won’t let her anywhere near you. Signolo and Goren are going to transport her. Don’t worry, she took her licks. Nobody’s going to give a shit about her whining when she gets to the station. They won’t even ask about the boot prints on her ass.”

Which is how it should be! Fuck this shit! There aren’t any rules anymore! You attack a cop, you get your ass beaten black and blue! Or you get shot! Police brutality? How about pure fucking justice!

“I want to see Ruiz. I want to see how bad he’s hurt.”

“It’s bad. Any stab wound is. I told Sergeant Gellar that you shot that idiot. I saw him come at you. He was holding a wrench. It was totally justified under the circumstances.”

Yeah, as if we need a pretext for shooting someone tonight! You know what they need to do? They need to declare fucking martial law! This is a goddamned riot! Declare martial law! Anyone who fucks with the authorities gets shot! Anyone caught looting gets shot! Anyone caught fucking up at all gets shot! That would put a stop to this shit in a real hurry!

“Fuck him! I should’ve blown his goddamned dick off! Let him go to prison with no fucking dick and get fucked in the ass by every convict in the cellblock!”

“I think you did enough damage. He’s not going to be walking straight for a long, long time.”

Like I even give a shit! I’ve had it with these fuckheads! As far as I’m concerned, let them all fucking die! Every last one of them!

“You know, they should really declare ‘King’s X’ on all shootings for the duration! They’re never going to be able to investigate them all when this is over. These assholes don’t deserve it, anyway!”

“I think you’re right. Come on, we’ve still got work to do. Are you sure you’re all right?”

Jesus Christ! He’s got what looks like an eight-inch slice across his arm, it’s bleeding like shit, and he’s asking me if I’m all right?

“I’m fine. I don’t have one of those on my arm. Harper, you need to get that taken care of.”

“I’ll have the paramedics look at it when they get here. I promise.”

Uh-huh. The paramedics aren’t going to stitch that gash closed. He needs to go to a hospital or at least to an aid station.

“Please tell me you shot the asshole who did it.”

“No, but I cracked him right across the face with my nightstick. I saw teeth go flying. He’s not going to forget it.”

And he probably won’t be eating solid food anytime soon. Good! Fuck him! He’s lucky to be alive!

“Fair enough. How’s Kursteff?”

“Not good. That asshole really cracked him. I saw his leg. It’s definitely broken. It looks like it might be all the way through. He’s in bad shape.”

So we just lost two officers. Two of my best friends. Two guys who have saved my ass more times than I can count. Two down. Two down and none of these shitbags is dead. That’s just fundamentally wrong.

“Heads up, Dani. We’ve got backup. Officer Woodward. Over there.”

I see he brought two State Parole Officers with him. Good! They can round up this filth and take them straight to fucking prison! I’ll bet every last one of them is on fucking parole!

“Sorry we’re late, Dani. Damn, girl! You got into some shit!

“I’m fine. Ruiz got stabbed and Kursteff got his leg broken. Everyone here goes! All of them! Including the asshole I shot in the leg!”

“Which one is he?”

Is he kidding? That piece of shit hasn’t stopped screaming since I blew a hole in him!

“The loudmouth over there with the blood. He came at me with a wrench after I fired a bunch of warning shots. Stupid motherfucker!”

Hang on! It looks like one of the parole officers recognizes the moron! Good! That means he’s on parole!

“Sir? Do you recognize that guy?”

“Hell yeah, I recognize his ass! Demarcus! We meet again! What the fuck did you do now?”

Do you mean besides being the mother of all stupid motherfuckers?

“Mister Nathan, sir! That bitch fuckin’ shot me! She done shot me for no reason!”

Holy shit! He stepped on the asshole’s leg! Right where I shot him! Jesus, talk about screaming!

“Motherfucker, I know I didn’t hear you call this fine officer of the law a bitch!”

Fuck! You can’t do that shit! This is fuckin’ brutality! Fuck this! I need to go to the hospital! I’m bleedin’ to death! Get me a fuckin’ ambulance!”

Officer Nathan isn’t buying it. Neither am I! Let him die right here!

“Ain’t got no ambulance for your ass, motherfucker! Ain’t got no hospital, neither! The only place your ass is going is straight back to the motherfucking pen!

“For what? I ain’t did nothin’!”

“The hell you didn’t! Did I give your ass permission to catch a bullet? Fuck, no! So you must’ve been out here fucking up, otherwise you wouldn’t be lying there with a big fucking hole in your shit! Your ass is violated, Demarcus! All you motherfuckers are violated! That’s right! You’re dealing with State Parole, here! I want to hear some prison numbers! Start talking! Every one of you! Anyone who lies to me is going to take a goddamned beat down! We ain’t fucking around! Start talking! You! What’s your prison number, motherfucker? Don’t you fucking lie to me! Your ass got ‘convict’ written all over it!”

Oh, so now they’re all respectful! Fucking asshole pieces of shit! I hope you all go straight to prison! Throw away the goddamned key! I hope you all die in there! All right, here come the paramedics. I guess whatever Lieutenant Hagan said to them worked. I see they’ve got four Transit officers in tow. Good. We can use the help.

“Officers! What’ve you got? Who’s been stabbed?”

“Officer Ruiz over there. And Officer Kursteff has a broken leg. Harper says it’s pretty bad. Oh, and that guy’s got a bullet in his leg. I had to shoot him.”

“Oh, fuck his ass! He can lay there and bleed! Where’s the officer with the broken leg? We’ll take the two of them with us.”

“He’s right over there with his partner. Neither of them can walk. What about the asshole with the gunshot wound?”

He’s looking at me like I’m out of my mind. Hey, I’m right there with you, pal!

“Clara Barton Hospital is four and a half miles south of here. They take the rejects. We’ll draw him a map. In the meantime, get every officer who got injured so we can examine them. Hey, that officer’s got a nasty laceration on his arm. Mind if we take a look at that?”

“Please do. Harper! Front and center!”

I guess these guys have had a bagful of assholes today. They don’t seem too worried about the suspects. After what they’ve been through, I can’t say I’m surprised. Like I said, the rules went down the toilet once this shit got started. Welcome to the new reality, motherfuckers!

“Let him look at it, Harper. I mean it. That’s no paper cut. Guys, if he gives you any shit, let me know. I’m his wife. I’ll straighten him out.”

It looks like the parole guys are making short order of our morons. They’ve got flex cuffs on at least half a dozen of them and they’re putting the boots to the rest of them. Fine with me. Take them straight to prison so we don’t have to deal with them. God, I fucking hate these assholes! I hate them like I never hated anyone in my life! And the thought of that makes me sick to my stomach. I’m a police officer. I’m not supposed to take this shit personally. But I can’t help it! I want to kill each and every one of them right now! Why? What’s changed? Is it the riot? Is it because two of our guys are being carted away in an ambulance? Or am I just finally coming to my senses? Maybe the people who think everyone out here is the scum of the earth were right all along? Guys like Officer Hoekstra? I always despised him for being a sadistic motherfucker, but now I’m wondering if he wasn’t right and I’m just totally fucking clueless. It’s not a good feeling, but I don’t think I’m going to shake it anytime soon.


Back out in the field. Everyone back there got hauled off to jail or straight to prison. We deposited the ones the parole officers didn’t take over at a field jail right on the border with Avalon Division. Let me tell you, some of those Avalon officers look like they’ve already flown the coop. Our arrestees were giving us plenty of shit, but as soon as they came across the Avalon cops, they started shaking in their boots and with good reason. Those cops looked like they were ready to execute them right where they sat. I was right: this riot is pushing us all to the breaking point and some of us have already reached it. God, it’s only the first night! What’s going to happen by tomorrow night? Remember how a bunch of liberal assholes said that the riot at the ’68 Democratic Convention in Chicago was a police riot? That was pure bullshit, but they might be right this time. If this shit doesn’t come under control pretty soon, the police really will riot. And if we do, I’m guessing a lot of people are going to wind up catching some lead. And the worst part is, right now I wouldn’t give a shit. I keep trying not to think that way, but every burning building I see and every bunch of shitheads running in the street from the scene of a looting just makes me wish God would lay waste to this whole fucking city! Sodom and Gomorrah had it coming and so do these motherfuckers! Anyone who tells you otherwise belongs in a mental institution. That’s something I don’t feel bad about thinking. Why should I? It’s the truth.

Kursteff’s leg is broken all the way through. It looks like he got hit by a speeding car. Vinell was ready to start shooting those motherfuckers one by one, but Sergeant Gellar and Sergeant Hendrickson managed to get him to back off. Yeah, I wonder how much longer that’s going to last? How much longer will our superiors be able to control us? Not much longer, I think. They need to get us the hell out of the field before we all go stark raving mad. Too bad there’s nobody to take our places right now. I wonder if the brass thought of that when they gave the order to corral everyone at the command post and wait it out? Probably not. They don’t seem to be thinking about anything but their own reputations right now. They’re sure as hell not thinking about their officers. We’re living proof of that.

I got a look at Ruiz’s shoulder before they carted him away in the ambulance. It was low in the shoulder, which made me wonder if he had a punctured lung. I still don’t know. He was definitely having trouble breathing, but it didn’t look too serious. He actually walked to the ambulance, which just made me want to throttle him. For God’s sake, you just got stabbed! That knife went through his vest like it was made of paper! Lie down on the fucking gurney for God’s sake! But he’s a tough guy, just like practically every other guy on this job. He had to show everyone that getting four inches of razor-sharp steel shoved through your back was no big deal. I guess it comes with the badge: we just don’t know how to take care of ourselves. I can tell you he was in terrible pain. Jesus, who wouldn’t be? I was screaming at the paramedics to shoot him up with some painkillers, but they wouldn’t do it. They said they couldn’t take the chance until a doctor evaluates him. Yeah, I know that. It just isn’t easy to be so coldly rational when one of your best friends is in agony. I’m telling you, I’m going to be one mean, heartless bitch by the time this riot is over! I just pray to God that it doesn’t last. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life feeling like that.

Commander Mancia met us back at the cars before we left. He had to be the most miserable-looking guy I’ve ever seen. He sent us in there to gather some information and it turned out to be bogus, and two of our guys are headed to the hospital because of it. Not to mention the fact that the rest of us took a hell of a pounding – again! I’m sure he was acting on orders just like we were, but it didn’t make him feel any better about sending us into the lion’s den. How many times today has he had to order officers to do things that got them all busted up? And it’s not over yet. He’s going to age twenty years by tomorrow night. I’d say I hope they relieve him soon, but the truth is I’m afraid of who they might put in his place. At least he has a handle on what’s happening out here and what we have to do. Somebody else? God only knows. I think he’s in it for the duration just like the rest of us.

We heard from Sergeant Ivanell that Central Midwatch is officially on “B” Watch for the mobilization. Six in the evening until six in the morning. Yeah, right! Does that mean we can go home now? Fuck, no! The watches don’t go into effect until five o’clock tomorrow morning, which means we could end up working almost forty-eight hours straight. If that happens, we’re all going to drop dead. We’re already spent. I don’t know how we’re going to keep going until six in the morning the day after tomorrow. Frankly, I don’t think we can.

“Sixty Central to all Central Midwatch units, we just received word there’s been a major shooting over at the swap meet on Sausalito. Everybody head over there code three. There’s supposed to be multiple victims down. We don’t know if the shooting is still going on, so be ready for anything.”

I guess Sergeant Hendrickson is watching the news on his phone like the rest of us. I didn’t hear the call go out over the radio, so that’s probably how he heard about it. I was wondering when that place would get hit. It’s the mother of all swap meets: two gigantic buildings two stories tall, but the ceilings are so high that they’re actually more like four stories tall. On the weekends there’s five thousand people in there from the minute they open their doors until the minute they close them. Everyone knows the place. And if everyone knows it, then that’s where they’ll go to loot.

“Sixteen Central, roger. Have everyone go south down to Symington and head east. Go all the way straight to Sausalito and hang a right and go south. The place is over on 91st Street. Sixteen out. Hit it, Harper!”

“Hang on!”

Holy shit! Harper, you’re fucking out of your mind! A bootleg turn on a major street?

“Are you trying to kill us?”

“We already passed Front Street. It’ll be faster to go south on that one. Hang on!”

“Titus, this is why you never marry a hot-rodder! Buckle up!”

“Already done! How about a little warning before you do that again, sir?”

“No promises!”

Crazy son of a bitch! I think I left my stomach at that intersection back there! All right, let’s hope we don’t run into anything between here and there. Once on Symington, we should make pretty good time if we’re running code three. And since it’s a whole bunch of units at once, we’ll be more likely to clear away any traffic that’s still out here. I just hope we don’t run into a wreck or something like it. We’ve already seen a few nasty crashes. We couldn’t stop to take a report or render assistance. That’s another thing we’ll probably catch hell for when this shit is over. Oh, well. Chalk it up to the riot.

“Front Street up ahead! Hang on, guys!”

They should put a roll cage in these cars! Too many cops drive like Harper! What’s going to happen when they retire the Dodge Chargers and we all end up in those Ford SUVs? I’m thinking we’re going to be up to our ears in rollover crashes! Jesus! Leave a little rubber on the tires, would you? Oh, he’s just eating this up! How often do you get to turn a bunch of major city streets into your own personal racetrack? And I see he’s not the only one! There goes Sixty-Six blowing past us at about ninety miles per hour! Fucking Acevedo! He’s crazier than Harper! We watched him slam into a wall the last time we were at the track with him. I almost had a heart attack! Don’t ask me how, but he walked away without a scratch.

“Harper! Don’t you dare!”

“He’s challenging me! Our honor’s at stake!”

His ass is going to be at stake if he doesn’t slow down!

“Harper, I will beat your ass senseless if you don’t slow down! You know I will!”

“Just hang on! I can take him when we turn off!”

“You’re going to take us straight into the side of a building if you don’t slow down! Cut it to sub-light speed, mister! That’s an order!”

“Hang on!”

Oh, shit! I swear to God, we just tipped on two wheels! He’s a dead man! I’ll kill him!

“You’re going to get us killed!”

“We’ve got clear streets up ahead! It’s a straight shot over to Sausalito! You said so yourself!”

“It’s fucking dark and the streets are full of potholes! I’m going to fucking kill you!”

I don’t believe it! He’s doing ninety! I can see the speedometer from here! That’s it! I’m taking away his keys when we get home! He can ride the bus to work! That’s if we survive!

“Harper, you two have left everyone in the dust! We’re going to get there and we won’t have any backup! What are we going to do if we run into a bunch of assholes with guns?”

“Run them over!”

He’s enjoying this too fucking much! Get ready for pain, mister! As soon as we get home, I’m going into full-on dominatrix mode! I’ll whip your ass with a lamp cord! Count on it!

“Sausalito! Right up ahead!”

“Don’t take that turn like this! You’ll flip us over!”

Jesus Christ! Acevedo just skidded across four lanes of traffic taking that turn! Crazy son of a bitch! And Harper’s laughing his ass off! Not funny! We’ll see how much they’re laughing when Sergeant Gellar writes them both up for this!

“You’re going to end up taking five days for this shit!”

“How? There’s no sergeant around!”

“I’m going to snitch your ass off! Titus! You’re my witness! We’re going to burn the both of them! Sergeant Gellar’s going to kill a fucking tree on you, Harper! Acevedo, too!”

God, just get us there in one piece! Sausalito’s a major-league fucked up street! It hasn’t been re-paved since Kennedy was president! Fuck! It’s like driving over moon craters! I hate this fucking street!

“You’re going to bust the suspension! Slow down!”

“She can take it! She’s a Mopar!”

He’s making hot rod jokes? Is he begging me to kill his ass? Because he’s doing a good fucking job of it!

“There! Up ahead on the right! That’s it! Slow the fuck down!”

Thank you! God, it’s like the fucking Millennium Falcon coming out of hyperspace! I can actually see the buildings along the street now!

“Sixteen Central to all Central Midwatch units, we’re code six at the Sausalito Swap Meet. We’re going to hang back until those of you without warp drive can catch up to us!”

Would you look at that shit-eating grin on his face? That shit wasn’t funny! Look into my eyes, Ryan Harper! This is the Dani Lynott death look! Created by witches and handed down from one Salem woman to the next to keep their stupid husbands in check! You’re a fucking dead man, mister!

“I’ll deal with your ass later! Titus, reach into my gear bag and grab the binoculars. We need to see what the fuck is going on here. Harper, get out and see if there’s any rubber left on the tires! We might actually need it, you know!”

Normally, I think he’s really cute when he laughs. But right now, I want to strangle him! He knows how much I hate high-speed driving! Can you believe I fell in love with such a speed demon? I know, it doesn’t make any sense to me either. All right, let’s see what we can see. The power’s still on here. That’s a good thing. There aren’t any windows in those buildings. They’re giant cinder block cubes. The south building is painted school bus yellow and the north building is puke green, and they both have a big red stripe across them. Go figure, huh? Of course, the bottom halves are covered with graffiti. Gang graffiti. This is serious Ten-Strike territory. That’s the 110th Street Gangster Crips, for those of you who don’t speak urban asshole. I don’t see anyone and I don’t hear any shooting. Of course, it’s hard to hear anything with my heart pounding like a fucking bass drum!

“The place looks deserted from this side. Hang on! There’s something in the street over there. 91st Street. What the hell is that thing?”

Jesus Christ! It’s a fucking homemade tank barrier! It’s a pile of bricks and blocks at least ten feet tall with razor wire strung all over it! I guess the merchants in the swap meet didn’t want any assholes getting through in cars!

“Harper, take a look at that thing! How the hell did they get it in there?”

“You got me. They must have a backhoe around here. Either that, or they had twenty guys hauling that crap in by hand. Damn! That thing could stop a Humvee! These guys take their security very seriously!”

Remind me to commend whoever had the sense to build that thing. It’s probably the only way to keep a bunch of looters from pulling up to the front door with a truck and cleaning the place out. Then again, you’d need at least a dozen eighteen-wheelers to clean out just one of these buildings.

“Titus, get on the computer and send a message to all units: this place is heavily fortified. The east security gate is down. The only way in there is the main entrance on the west side, which means we’re going to have to go in there on foot. Is there still a vacant lot across the street from the west side?”

“Roger that. People set up in there and sell stolen shit. They can’t bring it in to the buildings. The security guards won’t let them. You know those guards are armed, right?”

“Yeah, I remember. They weren’t shy about putting bullets in people’s asses, either. All right, we wait until the rest of the watch gets here. Harper, get on the radio and tell Garcia and Acevedo to get over here. I want to keep some distance between us and that building until we’re ready to go in.”

At least they can’t shoot at us without us seeing them first. Like I said, there are no windows in the place. They’d have to shoot from the rooftop, and we’d see them as soon as they stuck their heads out. This place was abandoned by the police just like everywhere else, so they might be massively pissed off at us right now. Pissed off enough to take a few potshots at us. Not to mention the fact that unless things have changed, most of the security guards in there don’t speak ten words of English. Fuck! With Ruiz out of action, we lost our best translator. Garcia and Acevedo both speak Spanish, but Ruiz has a way about him. He can relate to anybody. People just automatically like him and they’ll open up to him in a heartbeat. It’s gotten us out of more than a few tense situations over the years. We could really use him on this one.

We could really use an air unit, too. A flyover would let us know what’s going on around the whole block in one pass. Unfortunately, they’re still tied up over Wilmington. They’ve got some major crowd situations going on and damned few officers left to handle them. Sergeant Ivanell said they reached out to the sheriffs to help, but with no chief, we don’t have anyone to make a formal request for assistance. They won’t cross the city’s boundaries without it. A few units decided to say fuck it and jump in anyway, but it’s hardly enough. Here come the rest of our units. See? They drove like sane people and got here just a few minutes later. I really need to have a talk with Harper. I think Acevedo is having a bad influence on him.

Here comes Lieutenant Hagan. Acevedo and I are the only ones who’ve ever been in here, so he’s going to expect us to lead the way. Gee, what else is new?

“Lynott, do you know the layout of these buildings?”

“There’s not really a layout. There’s about five hundred stalls between them and the aisles are like a maze. I know how to get to the security office. It’s on the second floor. Does anyone know what time they shut these places down? If it wasn’t too long ago, there could be a lot of people in there. There must be hundreds of people working in there.”

“So you’re saying we could have a crowd in there and the minute they see us, they’re going to expect us to get them out.”

“Pretty much. Assuming they don’t shoot us first. There’s an improvised tank barrier in the street over there, so they’re prepared for trouble. How much do you want to bet it’s not the only one? The security guards in this place are pretty well-armed, too. If they had a bunch of looters hit this place earlier, those guys would’ve shot at them for sure. We could have a real problem on our hands, sir.”

“I don’t see anyone around. Maybe everyone took off?”

“Not likely, sir. The guards are here twenty-four/seven. They work eight hour shifts, but there’s always a detail here. I don’t think they’d abandon their posts. If they’re alive, they’re in there.”

“What makes you think they might not be alive?”

Is he kidding? He’s been here since we got here. He’s seen everything we’ve seen. And he’s still asking me that question?

“Sir, this place has got to be high up on the looters’ hit list. There’s not much of value in there, but everybody knows this place. I’m surprised they haven’t set fire to it. I’m guessing it’s because there are still armed guards in there. I’d be amazed if there hasn’t been some gunfire here already.”

He knows I’m right. I can see it in his face. He also knows it means we might find a few dead bodies in there – or out in front of the place.

“All right, I want to search these buildings one at a time. They’re too big for us to split up. Not if we want to stay safe. Lynott, you’re going to be up front with Harper. You say you know where the security office is, so that’s probably where we should start.”

Hang on. Titus is waving at us. He’s got his cellphone out. Did he get a call from someone?

“What’ve you got, Titus?”

“I just called Communications Division and told them where we are. The supervisor said they lost all contact with this place a few hours ago. The landline went dead. They think somebody may have cut it. I also had a lot of trouble getting through, ma’am. She kept cutting out. It was weird; not like a normal bad connection. I’m thinking the rioters may have damaged the cellphone tower around here.”

Oh, great! Looters who actually know what they’re doing! Just what we need!

“Roger that. Have you ever been in here?”

“Yeah, a couple of times. It’s a real hodgepodge inside. It’s like they put the stalls wherever they’d fit. You can get lost in there really easy.”

That’s the understatement of the year. Stick a rat in there and it would take him a week to find his way to the street. Well, as long as it hasn’t changed too much, I should be able to find the security office. When we got calls here, that’s where we invariably wound up. I doubt they’ve moved it.

“What do you think, Lieutenant? Do we blast a siren and hit the lightbars to let them know we’re here, or try to go in quietly?”

“If it were just the security guards, I’d say announce ourselves. But if we’ve got a gang of idiots in there or anywhere nearby…”

Translation: within shooting distance. Yeah, that’s exactly what I was thinking.

“We go in quiet. As quiet as we can be. We’re going to have to go in through the front entrance, right?”

“Roger that, sir. The rear entrance is locked up and the loading docks on the north side all have the gates down. I still have a key to the front door. So does Acevedo.”

Yeah, I know: where did we get so many keys to places in this division? There’s not a lot of turnover in Woodlawn among the businesses. The same people keep the shops for a long time. The owners tend to give the police keys so we can get in if it’s an emergency. They’re supposed to stay in the Watch Commander’s Office, but Woodlawn cops have a habit of making unauthorized copies of them. I just never threw them away. I’m weird like that.

“All right, we go in by way of the north side of the building. Everybody stay together. I don’t want to see any diagonal deployment. Not on this place. It’s too damned big. We’ll move up four officers at a time: Lynott, Harper, Titus, and Rosen go first. You’re with me.”

Because Rosen doesn’t have a partner anymore. Because some psycho jammed a knife into his back! God, I can’t stop thinking about that! But I have to. I can’t let my mind drift. Out here? Tonight? That’s a great way to get killed.

“Sir, we’d better take Garcia with us. We’re definitely going to need at least one person who speaks Spanish up front.”

“Good idea. Lynott, get your key ready. Sergeant Hendrickson, send Garcia up here. You take Goren, Signolo, and Vinell. Tell Ivanell to take four officers with him and Sergeant Gellar will take in the last group. All right, let’s do this! Watch the high ground! Hug the walls! Don’t get too far out onto the sidewalk and for God’s sake, stay the hell out of the streets! One shooter with a rifle on that rooftop could pick you off easy! Let’s move out!”

And here we go! I’m curious to see what’s behind that tank barrier. There’s got to be more of them. Maybe a lot more. And there could be four guys with guns standing on the corner at the far end of the building, just waiting to open up on whoever might be dumb enough to come anywhere near the front of the building. Here’s hoping that isn’t the case. All right, we’re almost at 91st Street. Let’s see what we can see down the block. Jesus Christ! Would you look at that! There’s three more of those things in the street! And whoever build them strung razor wire all over the place! Somebody definitely didn’t want anyone getting in here!

“What do you think, Harper?”

“It looks like the goddamned Green Zone in Iraq! Where the hell did they get all that shit? These guys really geared up for war! Look how they staggered it: just how you do it to stop an infantry advance. These guys are good! They know what they’re doing!”

Thank God none of us tried to drive down here at a high rate of speed. Hit one of those things? There’d be nothing left of the car!

“What’s the best way to get through that razor wire?”

“Uh, a really big pair of bolt cutters! We’re going to have to spread it out and squeeze through. Dani, we’re going to burn a lot of time getting through there. If somebody decides to start shooting at us while we’re trying to get through…”

Don’t tell me: we’re sitting ducks. I figured that one out already.

“I know. Let’s try to do this as fast as we can. You hold the wire up and I’ll go through first. I’m smaller than you, so I’ll get through easier. Just watch yourself. They don’t call that shit razor wire for nothing.”

You know, I wouldn’t even know where to buy the stuff. I’m pretty sure they don’t sell it at Home Depot. Whatever. They got it from somewhere and now we have to deal with it. All right, here we go: nice and easy. I hate the fact that it’s freakishly quiet around here. This place? I’m used to it being packed with people making all kinds of noise. All right, I’m through the first one. Hold the wire and let Titus get through. Now for the hard part: Harper and the Lieutenant have to get through and they’re both over six feet tall. Nice and easy, guys. Don’t get snagged on that shit. All right, Lieutenant Hagan’s through and here comes Harper. One down, two more to go. There’s a second barrier in the middle of the block and another one at the next intersection. Watch the high ground. Yeah, right! I can barely see a thing, it’s so dark! And since we’re right up against the wall, I’ve got to tilt my head back ninety degrees to see the edge of the roof! So far, so good.

“Officer Lynott! Check it out, ma’am: shell casings. On the sidewalk. A lot of them.”

Good obs, Titus! He’s not kidding! There looks like there’s at least a dozen of them. Let’s take a look…shit! .30-.30 Winchester! My dad had one. That’s a rifle cartridge. A deer rifle. Great! We’re outgunned!

“Harper, take a look: rifle casings. They’re scattered across the sidewalk. .30-.30s.”

“Who would be carrying something like that out here?”

That’s easy: the security guards. They’re all Mexicans, and a lot of Mexicans have a real thing for the Old West. Lever guns like the cowboys used to carry? If they can afford only one rifle, that’s what they go for.

“Probably the security guards. I guess they couldn’t afford to buy AR-15s to go with their hunting rifles. Lucky us.”

“Remember what Colonel Cooper said, Dani: ‘Beware the man with only one rifle. He probably knows how to use it.’ He was right.”

Thanks for the morale boost, Harper! All right, through the next one. Same trick, just like the first one. Nice and easy. Don’t get caught on that razor wire. I still don’t see or hear anything. I’m hoping that’s a good thing. Maybe they really did all take off? Maybe they locked the place up before they left? I hope so. I don’t want to spend a lot of time in here. We need to get back out to where it’s really going to shit. We’re through the second barrier. I can see the other teams moving forward. So the question now is, what are we going to find in the front of the building? Who’s going to be waiting for us? And are they going to open fire the second I stick my head around the corner? All right, time for the moment of truth. Get up to the corner of the building and take a look. Please let it be completely empty up there! I don’t want to find fifty assholes looking for a fight!

“Titus, get up here. I’m going to take a look around the corner. If I let out a scream, you grab me and pull my ass back. Got it?”

“Ma’am? Shouldn’t Officer Harper do that?”

Jesus, he’s a gentleman! He doesn’t like the idea of grabbing another man’s wife and yanking her right on her ass. And here I thought Harper was the last one.

“Harper’s got the rifle. If I let out a yell, it’s because I’m staring down the barrel of somebody’s gun. This is no time for modesty. You just grab my waist and yank as hard as you can. Understood?”

“Roger that, ma’am. Say when.”

All right, take a deep breath. Focus. I’ll have about a second to take a look and process everything I see. It’s not as easy as you might think. Stand by…now! Poke my head around the corner and…holy fucking shit!

“Jesus Christ!

What the…ouch! He yanked me right onto the pavement! Right on my ass! I guess Titus took that for a scream! Shit, that hurt!

“Sorry, ma’am. I didn’t mean…”

“It’s all right. You did what I told you to do. Lieutenant! We’ve got…there’s a situation!”

“What is it, Lynott? What did you see?”

For real? What did I see? A fucking nightmare! That’s what I saw! A total fucking nightmare!

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