Tactical Alert

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"New Day, New Disaster"

What the hell? Who…oh, it’s Harper. I was asleep. Where am I? Woodlawn Station. I actually forgot for a minute.

“Dani? I’m sorry, but you’ve got to get up. The radio’s going crazy. It’s starting earlier than we expected.”

Why am I not surprised? God, I ache! I ache over every square inch of my body! And my head hurts like a fucking bitch! That’s what I get for wearing a riot helmet the whole time! God, I’m a fucking wreck! Please let me die, God! Please let me lay here and just fucking die!

“Just give me a minute. I’ll be right there.”

If I don’t die first. I think that would be the easiest thing to do right now. We made it back to Woodlawn Station. Lieutenant Oliver was kind enough to raise the security gates and let us in. I’m telling you, he looked ten years older than when we first saw him. It was almost scary. I guess you didn’t have to be out in the field to suffer from the stress. His division got bent over and fist-fucked and he had to sit here with almost no officers and listen to it all on the radio and watch it on TV. That’s got to be hard on a Watch Commander.

Since Woodlawn’s cot room is literally a converted broom closet and it isn’t fit for human habitation, we all crashed out in the Detectives’ Room. There were six detectives sleeping in chairs when we got here, and even though we weren’t trying to be quiet, none of them woke up when we all found spots on the floor to collapse. They’re as exhausted as we are and they all know that once the storm has passed, their desks are going to be covered with incident reports that will have to be investigated. Good luck with that! A few hand-scratched notes and a bunch of cellphone photos are all they’ll have to work with. I don’t even want to think about all of the shit that’s going to go unresolved when this is over. Strange times call for strange improvisation, I guess. I wonder how it will all turn out in the end?

I barely remember coming in here. As soon as we were in and the security gates closed behind us, it was like my brain turned off. About the only thing I do remember is that the vending machines were all empty. The people left in the station must’ve raided them already. Another lost opportunity. My God, I’m starving to death! I’m sure everyone else is, too. Well, now that it’s daylight outside, we should be able to find someplace that’s still serving food. I’d almost be willing to eat those God-awful brain tacos! No, strike that. I’d rather eat a feral cat than one of those things, but just the fact that I was willing to consider it for a few seconds should tell you how hungry I am. We’ve all been going at warp speed since this shit began, and with no food. That’s definitely not good for your health. It’s no good for keeping a fighting force in the field, either. We have to get some food. I just hope we don’t puke it all up after the shit we’ve been through. That’s a possibility.

“Harper, how long was I asleep?”

“Forty minutes. I tried to let you sleep as long as I could.”

What? Is he telling me that he didn’t sleep? I’m going to fucking kill him! He’s out of his goddamned mind!

“You’d better tell me you got some sleep, mister! And I want witnesses!”

“Don’t worry. I went to sleep as soon as you did and I only got up about ten minutes ago. Just enough time to shave.”

Yeah, we all need a shower, but I don’t think we’re going to get one. I’ve seen the showers here, remember? I’m telling you, they’ve got shit growing in there that science doesn’t have names for yet. We’re just going to have to grin and bear it until we get relieved and they send us home for a day. Believe me, I’m counting the minutes until that happens. I feel so guilty about not being home with Emily, but there’s nothing I can do about it. I don’t even know when they’re going to cut us loose. They’d better not expect us to work until six o’clock tomorrow morning. We’ll all lapse into comas before then.

Jesus, I’ve got dried blood all over my uniform. It’s Titus’ blood. We didn’t get an update on his condition. I knew he was going to be in surgery for a long time, but I still need to know what his condition is. Please, God! Let him be alive and well! Don’t let him be dead! Please! He’s a good guy. It would kill me if he didn’t make it. I just need to keep a positive thought.

I don’t see a shitload of officers in the station, so I’m guessing they didn’t send anyone over here from the command post yet. Jesus, what the fuck are they waiting for? Maybe they sent them out into the field straight from the CP? That’s possible. I just know I never want to see another day like yesterday for as long as I live.

Good God! I ache! It hurts just to stand up! My knees are killing me! I feel like they’re going to buckle right underneath me! My back hurts, my shoulders hurt, my arms hurt…oh, who am I kidding? Everything hurts! I must look like total shit right now. I think I’m going to avoid mirrors until I get home. I don’t want to scare myself. I probably scare everyone who sees me right now. I’m sure I stink to high heaven, too. Unfortunately, there’s nothing I can do about that. I’d probably stink worse if I took a shower in one of those germ factories.

“Harper, did you call Helena?”

“Yeah, just before I woke you up. She’s up and about. Emily’s asleep. Helena says everything is fine and don’t worry about them. Just worry about ourselves. She’s been watching the news, so she knows what’s going on out here. I’m trying not to think about Emily, but it isn’t working.”

And it never will. Mom was right: once you have a kid, all of your old priorities go right out the window.

“Did anyone say how long they’re going to keep us here? When do we get to go home?”

“No word so far. They don’t even have any word on deployments. Lieutenant Oliver looks like he’s about to have a meltdown. I don’t think he’s built for this crap.”

“Who is?”

Anyone who can handle this shit like it’s no big deal is a full-blown psychopath. We’re all going to be doing some soul-searching when this shit is over.

“What’s our status? Midwatch, I mean?”

“Not good. Some of the guys look like they’re going to start puking their guts out. If they had anything in their guts, that is. Everyone’s pretty spent. I don’t know if a half- hour’s sleep did us any good. I think it might’ve done more harm than good.”

The way I feel right now, I can relate. I feel ten times worse than I did when we got here. I feel sick, too. That’s no surprise.

“What’s the status of the division?”

“Unknown. Lieutenant Hagan is in with Lieutenant Oliver, trying to get a feel for the situation out there. From what I heard, I think they’re basing their assessments on our reports of what happened last night. They’ve got almost no useable intel on the division. The phones have been ringing off the hook since before six. People are freaking out. They’re scared and they want to know where the police are. It’s not good.”

“Did we get any reinforcements?”

“Come see for yourself.”

I don’t think he’d say that if he didn’t have good news. Please let it be good news! I don’t think I can take any more bad news. So where are we going? He’s headed for the back door. I hope there’s fifty officers locked and loaded and ready to hit the streets back there!

“Take a look, Dani: they’re just waiting for orders.”

Damn! That’s the National Guard! Not many of them, but they’re here. Finally! I guess they’re waiting for the rest of their unit. I wonder how they’ll be deployed? Who will be giving them their orders? Are they going to be riding along with us, or are they going to work independently? Too many questions. My head hurts too much to do that much thinking right now.

“When did they get here?”

“Just now. They’re expecting the bulk of the first units to arrive by noon. Once they do, we should have plenty of help out there. I’m hoping we’ll be out of here by three. Keep a good thought.”

I see a lot of M-16s. These guys didn’t come here to fuck around. They’re loaded for bear. Now, will the mayor and the city council let them on the streets with that much firepower? For that matter, do they have the authority to give them orders? Or are they answering to the governor? Damn it! I’m doing it again!

“I’m going to hit the Watch Commander’s Office and see if I can find some aspirin. I need it.”

“Forget it, Dani. There’s none left. Garcia went looking for a bottle. I’ll tell him to give you some if he finds any.”

Remind me to start keeping a big bottle of aspirin in my gear bag. My head is really starting to pound. I’m not looking forward to wearing that helmet again, but there’s no way I’m going out there without it.

“Do they have a TV on in the break room?”

“Yeah, but the news doesn’t have much right now. Acevedo says it’s all just recaps of yesterday. The word around the station is it’s going to be worse today. Are you ready for that?”

“Hell, no! I say we call in an airstrike and blow this fucking division off the map!”

“I know how you feel, but I don’t think the powers that be would go for it. Hey, check it out: that’s Commander Mancia!”

Pulling into the parking lot in a dualie. I guess he got a new car from somewhere. I think they’re going to have to scrap that sector car he was in yesterday. That thing was trashed.

“If he doesn’t have any word on Titus, he’s getting kicked in the balls. Come on, I want to hear it from him.”

“Titus is going to be all right. You’ll see. He’s tough. Tougher than he looks. He’ll be all right.”

I’ll believe that when I hear it from the Commander. Well, look at that: he got a fresh uniform, too. Rank hath its privileges.

“Commander. Good to see you again, sir.”

“My God! You two look like warmed-over death! What happened?”

“The riot happened, sir. What’s the word on Officer Titus?”

“He got out of surgery about two hours ago. He’s in recovery. They think he’s going to make it, but it’s going to be a long road back. Both hits did some pretty serious damage.”

“And he’ll be getting the Medal of Valor for his actions, right? He did save us from an ambush.”

“He’ll get it. Just write up your statements and get them to me when this shit dies down. Don’t worry, Lynott: nobody’s going to forget about him. Or any of the others.”

“How bad is it, sir? Our casualties?”

“So far? Twenty-six seriously injured, some of them critical. Two killed. Two guys could go either way right now. That’s the latest information, but I can’t promise you that it’s up to date. What about you guys? Are you still in the fight?”

“Barely, sir. We’re running on forty minutes’ sleep and we still haven’t eaten anything.”

And now he looks totally dejected. He was the one who promised to get us some food, remember? He didn’t keep that promise. It wasn’t his fault, but it doesn’t change the fact that we’re still starving.

“I swear to God, Lynott; I’m going to get you guys something to eat. I’ll even take you out of the affected zone if I have to. Officer Harper? What’s the story with these National Guardsmen?”

“They just got here, sir. I think they’re an advance party, supposed to set things up. Is Woodlawn Station going to be a staging area?”

“If we can swing it. Most of the Guardsmen are still waiting to get here. They’re going to bring them in with trucks, but they’re waiting for the trucks to arrive. Nothing’s worked out the way it’s supposed to.”

“Roger that, sir. What about the CP? When are they sending the officers back out? We need the reinforcements, sir. Our guys are worn to a frazzle.”

“I know. Some units are en route to Wilmington Division right now. When the rest of them are going to be deployed, or where? I don’t know. I’m the goddamned field commander of this thing and I don’t know when or where they’re going. I guess I’m not doing my job, am I?”

“I think you’re doing your best under the circumstances, sir. Just keep pushing it. You were out there yesterday. You know what we’re up against. You know what we need. Don’t let them steamroller you, sir.”

“I appreciate your confidence in me, Harper. I haven’t done much to earn it, but I’m going to try to do a lot better. Is Midwatch going back in the field soon?”

“Our cars are fueled, so we just need to round everybody up and tell them what the game plan is for the day.”

“And exactly what is the game plan?”

The million-dollar question! That’s exactly what I’d like to know!

“Everyone comes back alive and in one piece, sir. For now, that’s probably the best we can do.”

And that, boys and girls, is the voice of reason. It’s what I’ve always expected from Harper. Screw the tech-heads and college professors; Harper is the smartest person I’ve ever known. Is it any wonder why I’m so crazy about him?

“Good call. Listen, you two have your people start patrolling the southeast sector of the division. If the ruckus is going to start early, that’s where it’s going to start first. They’ve sent some sergeants out from the CP into the south end divisions. I don’t know what they’re going to tell you, but if anyone gives you any shit about doing what needs to be done, you tell them you’re acting under my direct orders. I’m responsible for you for as long as you’re out here. You answer to me, not them. Understood?”

“Does that include Sergeant Satterfield, sir?”

“That especially includes Sergeant Satterfield!”

“Roger that. Come on, Dani. We’ve got a riot to handle. New day, new disaster.”

Don’t remind me. I’m still trying to pretend this is all a bad dream. As soon as I fully wake up, that won’t be possible. But for right now? It’s like a little ray of hope. I’d like to hang onto it for a few more minutes. I think I’m going to need it.

Out on patrol. Still hungry, still exhausted, and if I weren’t so damned tired, I’d still be furious at the looters and rioters. We haven’t heard any gunshots yet, but it’s only a matter of time. You can feel it in the air. It’s going to explode again. I’m guessing that by ten o’clock, we’ll be right back in the thick of it. I keep looking around to see an army of police cars, but so far, nothing. Lieutenant Hagan came out of that meeting with Lieutenant Oliver looking mad enough to chew iron and spit rust. Whatever he heard in there, it wasn’t good news. I didn’t have the strength or the heart to ask him about it. Maybe later. I don’t think either of us were in the mood for it right then.

Everybody’s on edge like you wouldn’t believe. The news about Titus was welcome, but it also stirred up a lot of ill will that he got shot in the first place. No argument there. I’ll tell you one thing: I’m not going to let anybody say he got shot for nothing. I’ll beat the living shit out of anyone who says that. He got shot because he tried to help. He got shot because he tried to save us from getting blown away. Nobody’s ever going to take that away from him. They’re not going to take it away from anyone who came out here and tried to do the job. No fucking way in this or any universe known to man or God. People are going to talk all kinds of shit about this thing when it’s over and that’s fine. Let them. Most of them wouldn’t know their ass from a hole in the ground. But if anyone says that we were fools to try to stop this shit, I’m going to rip off their head and shit down their neck. And I’ll have plenty of help to do it.

So right now, we’re all pretty much just waiting for the thing to go to shit again. We’ve probably got two or three hours before that happens. Most of the looters won’t try anything until the stores are officially supposed to open, though anyone down here who owns a store and tries to open up today is a total fucking idiot. The best they can do is what those people at the swap meet did: barricade the shit out of the place and shoot anybody who tries to break in. If you ask me, any looters who get shot got exactly what they deserved. I won’t lose any sleep over them. If you don’t want to get burned, then don’t stick your hand in a fire. Pretty simple, huh? But some people won’t see it that way. Those are the total fucking idiots. I’ve got no use for them. No one I respect does, either.

Hang on! What’s that over there? That old lady, standing on the sidewalk in front of that burned-out building. What’s she doing?

“Harper, stop the car. Right over there. Do you see her?”

“Yeah, what’s she doing? She’s got the thousand-yard stare. Do you think that was her shop?”

It looks too big to have been a store. It looks like a bomb got dropped on it. Oh, hell! I know what that place is! That’s Woodlawn Savings! That was a bank! Hell, it was the bank in Woodlawn Division! Jesus, it’s been totally destroyed! That building was solid concrete! How the hell did they manage to wipe it out like that?

“Ma’am? Are you all right?”

Nothing. It’s like she isn’t even aware we’re here. She’s just staring at the rubble.

“Is there something we can do? Ma’am? Can we…do you need a ride somewhere? This is…ma’am, it’s probably not safe to be here. Those ruins are still smoldering. They could catch fire again.”

“I used to work here. I worked here for forty-two years. Every day, five days a week. I should be here right now.”

This isn’t good. She seems traumatized. Maybe in shock? Jesus, look at this place. It’s been destroyed all the way down into the basement. There’s nothing left of it.

“This was a bank, right? Woodlawn Savings? I used to work in this division. I heard about it from a lot of people.”

“This was our bank. It’s been here since the end of the war. This was the only bank we had.”

I know. I’ve heard the story. Back in the day, the big banks in the city wouldn’t serve black people. They couldn’t get loans for anything. There was even a time when they wouldn’t let black people open a checking account. That’s why the people around here got together and built this place: a bank that would serve the black community. From what I heard, most of the businesses around here got their start with this bank. Half the homes in the division got financed here. It was like an icon in Woodlawn. How the hell could people destroy it? Don’t they know what this place meant? I would’ve thought this place would be considered sacred ground. But it wasn’t. They wrecked it, just like everything else down here.

“Harper, we can’t just leave her here. What do we do?”

“I think she’s in shock. Maybe we should call EMS? There’s nothing going on right now. They’ll probably respond right away.”

I know that makes sense, but something tells me that if they cart her away in an ambulance, she’ll die in the hospital. I mean, just look at her: she looks like she’s got nothing to live for anymore.

“Ma’am? I’m…sure they’ll rebuild it. I mean, what would the division be without it? This place is famous. People need it.”

And now she looks at me. She’s forcing a smile, but it’s pretty clear she doesn’t feel much like smiling. I can see her tears.

“Do you really think so?”

“Of course. Everybody around here knows this place. Half the people over forty in this division probably have an account here. They’re not going to let it go under. Harper? Am I right?”

“She’s right, ma’am. People need a neighborhood bank. The big ones don’t care about the people who live here. You should’ve seen it when we bought our house, and we didn’t even ask for a mortgage loan.”

“Are you two…are you two married?”

“Yes, ma’am. I’m Officer Ryan Harper, and this is my wife, Officer Dani Lynott.”

“You’re the first policemen I’ve seen since the riot started. Where are the rest of you?”

Good question. I don’t want to get started on how the brass ordered everyone out. Better to leave it alone for now. She’ll find out on her own later on.

“I don’t know, ma’am. We’re here, and there are some other units in the neighborhood right now. We’re not going anywhere.”

“I don’t know what I should be doing right now. Every day, I’ve been here at seven in the morning to get ready for work. What am I supposed to do now?”

“I think it would be best if you went home for now. I’m afraid we’re expecting more trouble today. It would be better if you weren’t on the street when it starts. It’s not safe.”

“We’ve had our troubles in this neighborhood. Lord, don’t I know it. But this has always been my home and I’ve never been afraid to walk down the street. Until now, that is. I just don’t…I don’t know what’s happening anymore. Do you? Do you understand this?”

“Not at all, ma’am. We don’t understand it one bit.”

And that’s the God’s honest truth. We don’t understand it and we never will. No matter how long we live, we’ll never understand it. Standing in front of this crater that used to be this woman’s whole life? There is no understanding it it.

“Ma’am? Can we give you a ride somewhere? It’s no trouble. We’ll take you wherever you want to go.”

“No, that’s all right. You two have work to do. I’ll walk home.”

Walk? At her age? She’s got to be in her seventies at least!

“You don’t have to do that, ma’am. We can take you home. Really, it’s no trouble.”

“Officer, I’ve walked to and from this bank since before you were born. I’ll be all right. This is my neighborhood. No bunch of hoodlums is going to change that. I’ll be fine. You two go do what you’ve got to do. Folks need you out here. Now more than ever.”

“All right, but do me a favor: give me your address so we can check in on you later. Fair enough? Just write it on the back of this card. Harper, give her one of your business cards. We just want to make sure you’re all right.”

She’s doing it. That’s good. I’m really worried about her. Her whole life just went up in flames. I don’t even want to think about how I’d react if I were in her shoes. And there she goes. Walking away with that same thousand-yard stare on her face. I hope she makes it. I’m not sure she will. At her age, a blow like this? People have died from a lot less.

“If I find the people who did this, I’m going to kill them. I’ll drag them into the alley behind this place and put a fucking bullet in their heads!”

“Not if I get to them first. These assholes are animals. Worthless fucking animals!”

And if Harper would say something like that out loud, then you can imagine what I’m feeling right now. There’s no justice in this. Not anymore. Some asshole with a firebomb destroys an old woman’s life and doesn’t give a flying fuck about it. Animals is right!

Back out at it. We sent a message to Lieutenant Oliver about what happened and that Woodlawn Savings is gone. The message he sent back made it clear that he couldn’t believe it any more than we could. Like I said, that place was an icon around here. I hope they rebuild it. There’s got to be some state money for it. That bank was a piece of the city’s history. They can’t just write it off as another casualty to the riot. That would be like spitting in the face of every decent person who ever lived down here. Then again, we’re talking about the city government. I wouldn’t put it past them. Nobody would.

“I hope I didn’t lie to that woman. Do you really think they’ll rebuild the bank?”

“If it’s as historical as you said, then yes. They won’t want a major bank coming in and trying to take over. Most people won’t want to transfer to some corporate thing that doesn’t even know their names. They’ll rebuild it. It may take a while, but they’ll rebuild it.”

Great. That lady doesn’t look like she’s got a lot of time to wait. I’m guessing they won’t keep her on the payroll while the place is under reconstruction. I wonder if there’s anything we can do? No, probably not us. But maybe the Reverend Ehlers? He’s a skid row preacher, as you’ll undoubtedly remember, but he’s still a powerful voice in the city’s black community. I’m going to call him and ask him to see what he can do about it. If anyone can light a fire under the city to do something good, it’s him.

“Forty Central to all Central Midwatch units, get ready everyone! It’s starting early today! We’ve got a call of a major 415 crowd over on…what the hell is that place? 102nd and Rendelsohn. Some furniture place, I think. Start heading down there. Lynott and Acevedo, send everyone a message about the best way to get there.”

“Sixteen Central to Forty Central, roger. Sarge? What’s the status of the units at the CP? Are we getting any help from them?”

“Not so far, Lynott. They sent thirty officers to quell a disturbance in Wilmington. Five minutes after they got there, they were screaming for help. I don’t know if anyone else got sent in. They sure as hell haven’t sent them here. If I hear anything, I’ll keep you posted. Don’t hold your breath, though.”

“Understood. What about the National Guard? We saw the troops at the station.”

“From what we were told at the meeting this morning, they’re still waiting for a ride into the city. Their assembly point is almost a hundred miles north of here. I don’t think we’re going to see them until this afternoon at the earliest. For now, it’s still just us. God help us all.”

“Come on, Sarge! Do you want to live forever?”

“I’m just looking to live through today. You’ll be the death of me one way or another, Lynott. That’s if Acevedo doesn’t give me a heart attack first.”

Yeah, I think Acevedo and Harper turning the division into their own personal Indy 500 is getting to him. You know how he is about traffic safety. Once a motor cop, always a motor cop.

“Head straight down Richardson and turn left on 102nd. Rendelsohn is about two or three blocks east of Harrison High. Hit it, Harper!”

“Hang on!”

Yeah, I’ll hang on, all right! This riot has really cleared out the traffic, which is an excuse for Harper to kick in the warp drive! See? There he goes! I think we just broke the barrier into hyperspace! I’m hitting the lights and siren before somebody plows into us!

“You’re going to get us killed! Slow down!”

“We’ve got the whole road to ourselves! And we’re authorized to go code three to these riot calls! We should take advantage of it! Hang on, Dani! I think I can get us there in sixty seconds or less!”

“It’ll take me less time to strangle your ass! Slow down!”

Look at him! Look at that shit-eating grin on his face! He’s having the time of his life while my ass is sucking up the seat cover! He’s a dead man!

“Watch the cross traffic!”

“Plenty of room! You’re not falling asleep now, are you?”

No, I’m about to have a heart attack! Jesus Christ! What’s the big hurry? We can’t do anything until the rest of the units catch up!

“This isn’t funny, Harper! Sub-light speed! Now!”

Holy shit! Another sector car just blew past us at about warp factor nine! That’s got to be Sixty-Six! Acevedo’s the only one crazy enough to drive faster than we are!

“Harper, don’t you dare try to outrun him! Slow down! I mean it! I’m going to grind your balls into powder!”

Christ! He took that left turn like a maniac! And Acevedo’s still at least an eighth of a mile ahead of us! They’re both dead! I’ll kill them both! Back to back!

“Forty Central to Sixteen and Sixty-Six! You two assholes slow down to double-digits or you’re both getting days off! That’s an order!”

Thank you Sergeant Gellar! Harper will slow down even if Acevedo doesn’t! Then I’ll only have to kill one of them!

“You heard him, Harper! Sub-light speed now!

And now we’re coming out of the time warp! I can barely see Sixty-Six anymore! I think Acevedo’s going to be taking a few days after this one. Good! Maybe it will knock some sense into his head!

“That big beige building on the right is the high school. You’re clear on the right. Nice and easy, mister!”

“You never let me have any fun!”

“Bullshit! We have plenty of fun and it doesn’t involve getting killed in a car crash!”

“Yeah, but that kind of fun isn’t something we can do on-duty.”

God, he’s incorrigible sometimes! Can you believe him?

“Fine. When we get home and I get some sleep, I’ll bust out that blue and white outfit you love so much. Is that fun enough for you?”

It had better be. The last time I wore that one, he fucked me so hard I practically had to crawl to the shower. That was a night to remember. Trust me, we have all sorts of fun that doesn’t involve us both getting dismembered in a wreck and he knows it!

“Sixteen Central broadcasting on Woodlawn frequency, we’re code six with Sixty-Six Central at the 415 group at 102nd and Rendelsohn. Awaiting the rest of the watch for backup. Come on, mister speed demon! And don’t touch the tires! You’ll get a ninth-degree burn!”

Frankly, I’m surprised they didn’t completely melt! There’s Garcia and Acevedo, laughing it up and pointing at us. Poor Harper must be crushed! Hey, better crushed than dead! And there’s our 415 group. Jesus, it’s more like a 415 mob! They’ve kicked in the doors and they’re streaming through! A furniture store? What the hell are they going to do? Carry away a couch on their shoulders? Oops! Bite your tongue, Dani! That’s exactly what some of them are doing! You’ve got to be fucking kidding me!

“Harper, are you seeing this?”

“I’m guessing most of them don’t have a truck waiting for them. Are they really going to carry that stuff home with them?”

“Not if we can help it. Come on! B&R! Let them know the store is closed for the duration!”

Beat and release. Not what you’d call politically correct, but definitely an appropriate solution to the problem. Let’s go! Anyone with any stolen shit in their hands gets whacked! Hard!

“Sixteen Central to dispatch, we have a looting in progress at the furniture store. Over one hundred suspects. Send any available units to this location code three!”

Like there are any additional units to send! The Sarge was right: we’re still all this division has got! Time to go to work! Hey, asshole! No stealing! Yeah, that’s the new penalty for looting: a full-power shot to the kneecap! Down goes the chair! Leave! Limp away! Next one! Down you go, motherfucker! Next! Yeah, smart move, asshole! Drop the shit and run for your life! You just got spared a beating! Here come the rest of the units! Now it’s a fight!

“Everybody! Over here! Form a line! We have to clear these shitheads from the front of the store!”

We need to clear out the assholes from the front before we can go inside and clear them out of there. God, this place is really huge! There could be three hundred looters in there! For now, we take care of the idiots out here. Down you go, asshole! Drop the shit! Jesus! I didn’t say drop it on your head! Oh, well! Serves you right!

“How are you doing, Harper?”

“Hanging in there! The crowd’s starting to scatter!”

Yeah, a police squad with nightsticks and riot helmets can do that sometimes. All right, we fight our way over to the store and then go in there and clear it out!

“Dani! We’ve got smoke coming out of the front doors!”

Oh, fucking great! Some asshole set fire to the place! And if there’s a shitload of people in there, then we’re going to have to go in and rescue them!

“Sergeant Ivanell! We’ve got a fire in the building! Get on the radio and tell dispatch we need the fire department! Everybody form up! We need to get in there and clear the place before the fire spreads! Form it up!”

I don’t know this place, so I don’t know if there are any other doors. They’ve definitely got loading docks somewhere in there, but I’m betting the gates are down. We’re going to have to stick with the front doors. Our best bet is to send our guys in there in groups of three or…holy shit! It exploded! The store exploded! There’s flames shooting out through the broken glass!

“Sixteen Central to dispatch, we just had an explosion at our location! The inside of the furniture store! We need EMS and fire here now! The place was full of people!”

That had to be a gas leak! Someone set the fire and there was a gas leak! Christ! How many people were in there? Are they still alive? We can’t go in there! It’s too damned big and we don’t know how far that fire has spread! But we can’t leave them in there! Not if they’re still alive!

“Harper, we’ve got to go in there! There might still be people in there alive!”

“Hang on, Dani! There’s a lot of people coming out!”

“What about the ones who can’t make it out? We have to see if anyone’s down in there! Come on!”

I can’t believe we’re doing this! Running into a burning building to save a bunch of asshole looters! All right, in we go! Jesus! They really trashed this place! There’s furniture all over the place! We’re going to have a hell of a time getting through here, and the power’s out, too! Flashlights! Light it up! Is anybody down? I don’t see anyone so far. Christ! We must be out of our minds!

“Police! Is anyone injured in here? Anyone hurt? We can help! If you’re hurt, yell! Is anybody hurt? We can get you out!”

No response! But this is a big place. Maybe they didn’t hear me?

“Sixteen Central to Sixty Central, Sergeant Hendrickson! We’re in the building! The power’s out and we can barely see anything in here! Get on the P.A. on your car and announce that the police are inside and if anyone’s hurt, we can get them out! Tell them to sound off if they’re injured! Hurry! This place is on fire!”

“Sixty Central, I’m on it! You and Harper get the hell out of there now! Leave it to the fire department! That’s an order!”

“Sarge, there might be people down in here! We’ve got to clear the place!”

“You clear out of there now, Lynott! That roof could come down any second! Get your asses out of there!”

He’s right, damn it! That explosion could’ve weakened the whole roof! We have to get the hell out of here before we end up buried in here! But we have to clear the place! If someone’s in here and they can’t get out…

“Dani! We’ve got one! Woman down! She’s pretty banged up!”

“Grab her and head for the door! I’m right behind you!”

Nothing fancy, Harper! Just toss her over your shoulder and move! One last pass with the flashlight. Come on, you idiots! Sound off! You stay in here and you could die in a real hurry!

“Dani, let’s go! We can’t stay in here! Move!

Fuck! All right, we’re leaving! There had better not be anyone left in here! Look at that stupid bitch! She’s got a bunch of stolen shit sticking out of her purse! And now we’re saving her thieving ass! Can you believe it?

“This is the Metropolitan Police! If you are inside the furniture store and are in need of assistance, call out to the officers inside the building and they will get you out! The building is on fire! Call out for assistance and the officers will get you out! The fire department and the paramedics are on the way! We can get you out! Call out to the officers if you are injured!”

There’s the Sarge, letting them know what to do. Yeah, right after he told us to get the hell out of here! I don’t hear anyone calling out for help. If they’re in here, they’re either unconscious or they can’t scream. Move! Get the fuck out of here! Get out before they have another goddamned gas explosion!

Made it! And the place didn’t cave in on us! God, it stinks to high heaven in there! They should pay us double for being part-time firemen!

“Lynott! What part of ‘Get the hell out of there, that’s an order’ did you two fail to understand?”

“Harper found this woman in there, Sarge. We had to get her out. Now we can arrest her for looting.”

“You’re both lucky I don’t write you up! We’re already taking too goddamned many chances out here! What the fuck is wrong with you? Both of you!”

Uh, is he serious about that one?

“Have you got about an hour to listen to the answer, sir?”

And he’s rolling his eyes! I hope he found that funny or else we’re going to be on some shit detail when this is over. Hey, we weren’t going for a medal. We just couldn’t leave her in there. Or anyone else for that matter. We take that “protect and serve” shit seriously. Maybe a little too seriously.

“All right, Lynott. We’ll consider it your good deed for the day. Is she all right?”

“We don’t know. She kind of looks like she got trampled when the gas exploded. It’s a real mess in there, sir. The looters tore the place apart. She’s one of them. She’s got some silver candlesticks in her purse. She probably grabbed them as soon as she got in there.”

“Yeah, right after she stole the purse. It’s still got a store tag on it.”

Good obs, Sarge. I didn’t even see that. Yeah, that thing is definitely brand new. It’s a nice one, too. So it’s early in the morning and she’s already going from store to store and stealing shit. What a standup citizen! Stupid fucking bitch!

“I say we leave her in the parking lot, Sarge. We got her ass out of there. I think that’s the only break she’s entitled to.”

“No can do, Lynott. She’s our responsibility for now. Lay her down under that tree and wait for EMS. At least this is one store they won’t come back to clean out.”

Yeah, they’re going to have a genuine fire sale – right before they’re forced out of business forever. Another business bites the dust thanks to the riot.

“The fire department’s en route?”

“Who knows? EMS is coming, but after yesterday, the hydrants may have run out of water.”

That’s what I was wondering. What we need is a meeting between all of the emergency services to give status reports: what still works, what does everybody need, and how the hell do we get it? Actually, they should’ve been having those meetings even before this shit got started. Yet another thing we didn’t do when we should’ve. We’ll add it to the list. It’s a long list, and it’s getting longer by the hour.

Heading for our next shit storm. Well, we found out how the gas leak got started. It seems a couple of brain-donors were trying to break through the wall of the furniture store in the back. Why they didn’t just steal a truck and a big chain and tear off the roll-down steel door to the loading dock is beyond me, but they decided to do it the hard way. So in smashing through the wall with sledgehammers and pickaxes, one of them cut through a gas line. Then when some asshole inside the place started a fire, boom! That’s what happens when you have failure to coordinate among criminals. These assholes need to go to Central Division and learn from the pros. Our homeless population could teach them how to do a proper tunnel job. They know how to do that without blowing up the goddamned building. Remind me to show them better respect when we get back there. I was always in awe of some of our Central tunnel jobs, but now I see how bad it can get when you don’t know what you’re doing.

The fire department showed up and got to work putting out the fire. There’s still water in the hydrants over there, but elsewhere? Not so much. The Fire Captain told me they’ve been losing water pressure in the most hard-hit areas. He said Mid-City is one of them. Apparently, it’s spreading like a contagion: people who aren’t fired up for some bullshit social reasons are taking the riot as an excuse to steal everything that isn’t nailed down. And if it is nailed down, then they just steal the nails and take the shit anyway. Because the buildings in Mid-City are all jammed together with almost no space between them, the fires spread a lot more easily over there. The Fire Captain said that his guys were getting to the point where they won’t be able to put out the fires. No water, no fire fighting. And I remember Harper telling me when he was assigned over there that those old buildings tend to go up like kindling. They’re all a bunch of firetraps. I wonder if any of them will be left by the time this shit is over?

That’s not all. The racial aspect of the riot has spread. There’s a section of Mid-City called Little Seoul that’s full of Koreans, and it seems their businesses are being targeted. There’s a lot of resentment between the blacks and Hispanics and the Korean merchants, and it’s gone into overdrive. On the bright side, the Koreans are fighting back. Since there aren’t any police left on the streets, the Korean merchants are banding together to protect their shops and they’re doing it with guns. From what little we’ve seen on our cellphones, it’s gotten really bad over there. It’s so bad in some neighborhoods that the fire department has taken to red-lining them. That’s what that Fire Captain told me. He said the order went out sometime yesterday afternoon. For those of you who aren’t old enough to remember what red-lining is, it means they’ve designated certain areas where they just won’t go no matter what. They could have a five-alarm fire and the fire trucks won’t show up because they don’t want to get caught in the crossfire. They just let the shit burn. The people in those neighborhoods are on their own for the duration of this bullshit. Garcia says they’re taking some pretty heavy casualties, too. He’s talked to some people he knows over there. The merchants have shot the shit out of the looters, but a lot of their guys have been shot, too. They’re having running gun battles in the streets. That’s definitely not a good thing. They’ve also been reduced to trying to put out fires in their shops with fire extinguishers, so they’ve had some people get burned. There are only a couple of hospitals in Mid-City and they’re kind of small. They’re not trauma centers. They’re not where you want to go if you need emergency surgery for a gunshot wound or a third-degree burn. I wish those guys luck. They’re going to need it.

The lack of sleep is starting to show on us. Some of our guys were starting to zone out back there at the furniture store while we were waiting for the fire department. When you get this tired, you have to keep your mind active constantly or you’ll lose focus and forget where you are or what you’re doing. Why do you think there are laws restricting truckers from trying to cannonball across the country non-stop? Now imagine your job involves pointing a loaded gun at somebody and you see why we’re all so concerned. We just broke the twenty-two hour mark and we’ve got a long way to go. We might not get out of here until eighteen hundred. That’s six in the evening, for those of you who don’t tell time like the military does. Speaking of telling time, we ran across two motor cops before we cleared from the fire scene. Now, how crazy do you have to be to be riding a police motorcycle out in the middle of a riot? Yeah, that crazy! But if that wasn’t bad enough, both of those lunatics were wearing a Rolex Submariner on their wrists. You heard me right: they’re out in the middle of a goddamned war zone with an eighty-five hundred dollar watch! Lunatics! Yeah, I know those things are a major status symbol among the motor cops, but give me a break! Leave the luxury watch at home and bust out the fucking Casio! There’s a war going on out here! I know I told you at least once already that the department has an official policy: if your watch gets damaged or destroyed in the line of duty, they’ll give you fifty bucks for it. Fifty bucks! For a Rolex? You couldn’t buy a link in the fucking watchband for fifty bucks!

And on the subject of sheer lunacy, we received an all-units alert a few minutes ago to be mindful of the media. There are TV crews all over the riot zone, and not just the local news. The bulletin said there are national outlets crawling around and even some international crews. This shit is worldwide front-page news. Oh, goody! Now everyone in the world will see what an asshole place the good old Emerald City really is! Not only that, but those news crews are going to be tempting targets for the assholes. I’m just waiting for the APB on a stolen news van. It’ll happen. Why not? They’ve been stealing everything else down here. We got a report that somebody in Lafayette Division stole a city bus. Now, how the fuck many people in the world know how to drive a bus? It’s sure as hell not the same as driving your mom’s minivan. Anyway, I don’t know what happened to it. I don’t even know if they recovered it. We just got the alert that a city bus was stolen. If we see one tearing ass down the street at sixty miles per hour, we’ll know that’s it. There’s not much we can do about it, but at least we’ll know that’s it. Yeah, there’s plenty of insanity for the camera crews to take a picture of. The really crazy part is that while we haven’t seen any official news vans from the major networks, we’ve seen those plain white vans that the stringers use. Those are the guys Harper calls Journalists Without Jobs. It’s a sort of cynical take on Doctors Without Borders. The stringers are, for the most part, people who drive around on their own time for a video company and look for a story to catch on film. If they find something good, they sell the footage to a local or a major network. Since they don’t work for an organization, they’re totally on their own if they run into any shit out here. Cellphone service is still pretty spotty down here, so they could dial 911 and not get anyone. Then they get to film themselves getting murdered. Fun job, huh? If you’re interested, they’re probably hiring.

Hang on! We just got an alert! Looters at a wholesaler not far from here. Yep! It’s definitely starting early!

“Sixteen Central to all Central Midwatch units, we’ve got looters over at an electronics wholesaler about two blocks north of here. 1509 Beauregard. Everybody take the next right, go two blocks north, and then about half a block west. Hit it, Harper!”

“Hang on!”

I’d better not be hanging on for dear life! Sergeant Gellar ripped Harper and Acevedo a pair of new assholes for their little Talladega performance earlier. Good! Somebody needs to keep them in line! Ha! See? This street is too narrow for him to floor it! Poor Harper! He’ll just have to drive like a normal person for a mile!

“Harper, do you think any other units will respond to this one? If they’ve released the officers from the CP, we should start to see them out here.”

“I hope so. This ‘go it alone’ shit is really getting old. I’ve got aches in places I didn’t know I had.”

I know exactly how he feels. I’ve got them, too. It’s just that I’ve had so many of them in my life that I already know every inch of my body and exactly how much each part can hurt after a day like yesterday.

“Now that we’re on full mobilization, there’ll be officers out here who haven’t worked patrol in years. I think it’s going to be a problem.”

“As long as they can swing a nightstick, I’ll take them. You said turn on this street, right?”

“Roger that. After that, it’s just down the street on the north side. Look for the looters. That’ll tell us which one is the right location.”

I know this area. It was pretty big for burglaries when I was here. Oh, it’s nothing like Central Division, but it was still a hotspot for break-ins. Usually smash-and-grab type crimes. I’m guessing this one is going to be a lot more than a smash-and-grab caper. It looks like we’ve got the whole watch behind us. Good. We’re going to need them. I don’t want to split up today. Everybody sticks together while we’re out here. We’ll be safer that way.

“Dani, check it out: right up ahead!”

About a hundred people running in front of that big cinderblock building? Yeah, I’m guessing that’s the one. All right, here we go again!

“Sixteen Central Midwatch broadcasting on Woodlawn frequency, we’re code six on a 415 group of looters at 1509 Beauregard. We have multiple units and supervisors with us, but you’d better send backup if it’s available. Come on, Harper! Time to educate the locals on the evils of stealing!”

“Right with you!”

It’s a big group, but not as big as some of the ones we encountered yesterday. Yeah, right! Just give it another hour or two! And here we go! Stick time! Harper was right: this shit is getting seriously old!

“Dani! Two o’clock! Uniforms!”

He’s right: two uniformed officers whacking the shit out of the looters! Wait a minute! Those guys look older than me and they’ve both got long hair! What the fuck? They’re detectives! They must be Narcotics guys! Welcome back to uniformed patrol, boys!

“Detectives! Are you guys in one piece?”

Two middle-aged white detectives in the middle of a riot in Woodlawn? Holy fish out of water, Batman! The one with the sunglasses is waving us over. I guess he’s the senior man in the unit.

“Honey, are we glad to see you! We just got here!”

“Start swinging, guys! It’s strictly B&R! Don’t let them get behind you!”

Here comes the rest of the watch! Let’s go! Just start whacking them! You’re first, asshole! Down you go! Now you! A good crack to the arm to get him to drop the shit he’s got, and now…bang! Right in the gut! A final jab to the back and he’s down! Fuck! What was that? A goddamned rock! Right on the shoulder blade! That fucking hurt! Who threw it? That guy! The one picking up another rock! Your ass is fucking grass, motherfucker! Yeah, I’m running straight for you! And a full-power shot to the knee before you can throw it! Got you! Try walking on that for a while! One good jab between the shoulder blades! Down you go!

“You’re lucky we don’t haul your ass to jail, motherfucker! Go! Run! Limp! I don’t give a shit! Just get your fucking ass out of here!”

“Fuckin’ cunt!”

That just earned you a kick in the balls, asshole! Got you! And that scream is music to my fucking ears!

“Do you want to say that shit again? Get the fuck out of here, asshole!”

And away he goes! I didn’t think he’d stick around after that one. Our guys are really laying into these assholes. Yeah, this one didn’t turn out the way they expected! Well, fuck them! Fuck them all! Maybe today we’ll get control of this shit? Now that the whole department is back in the field, the tide should turn. It’s about fucking time! Yesterday belonged to the looters. Today belongs to us, and we’re going to straighten these losers out big time! Fucking count on it!

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