Tactical Alert

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"The Blind Leading the Blind"

Well, that was fun! We cleared out this place in record time! I think the looters probably figured they’d be safe if they hit the place before noon. Guess again, motherfuckers! We sent them home with plenty of bruises to remind them of their stupidity. It’s about the only justice that anyone’s going to get in this shit. With all of the looting, arsons, assaults, and even murders going on, I’m betting that less than a tenth of a percent of these assholes are ever going to be prosecuted for what they’ve done. Even the ones we arrested will probably end up being released “in the interests of justice.” Interests of justice? Since when is convenience in the interests of justice? But that’s how it’s likely to go down. I’ve already convinced myself of that. Too bad that doesn’t make it any easier to take.

So who are those detectives? Like I said, they’ve got long hair and they need a shave, so I’m guessing they’re both Narcotics guys. Maybe the know John and Angelo? With everything that’s happened, I hardly had a chance to think about them. They’ve got to be deployed out here somewhere, but who knows where? I hope they’re all right.

“Detective? You guys are detectives, right?”

“We are. Thanks for the assist. What unit are you guys?”

“Sixteen Central Midwatch. I’m Dani Lynott. That guy over there chasing the assholes out is Ryan Harper. He’s my partner.”

And his eyes just got about three sizes larger. Yeah, we’re getting a lot of that.

“A Central Midwatch unit? What the hell are you doing here? Honey, in case you didn’t know, this is Woodlawn Division!”

“We know. All of Central Midwatch came down here as soon as the shit hit the fan yesterday. We’ve been out here since the first match was struck. Are you guys Narcotics?”

“No, we’re ATD. Joe Pentario. That’s my partner over there, Nick Ward. Good to meet you, Lynott.”

Excuse me? Anti-Terrorist Division? What the fuck are they doing in uniform? Hell, what the fuck are they doing out here at all? Most of those guys work deep cover. They never show their faces in public. It’s probably the most secretive unit on the department.

“What are a couple of ATD detectives doing out in public? You know you guys are going to get photographed in those uniforms.”

“Don’t I know it! We showed up at the office at six o’clock this morning, expecting to go out as UC’s. Infiltrate the demonstrations, find out which ones might get violent. Some commander I’ve never seen before shows up and tells us all to put on our uniforms and form up in the parking lot to be deployed. I haven’t worn this thing in eleven years!”

I hate to break it to you Joe, but it kind of looks it. You know you’re supposed to keep a uniform in good shape and ready to go just in case, right? That think looks like it’s been gathering dust on a hanger since the day he made detective. That’s pretty sad when you think about it. Oh, and in case you’ve forgotten? UC stands for undercover. That’s what I would’ve thought they’d do with these guys.

“I’m pretty sure there’s no such thing as a non-violent riot, Detective. There aren’t any organized protests. At least, none that we’ve seen so far. This is just pure anarchy. Hey, where’s your unit? We didn’t see your car when we pulled up.”

“Right over there.”

Is he shitting me? That’s an old Chevy Monte Carlo! That thing’s got to be twenty-five years old at least!

“You came down here in that old junker?”

“That’s what they gave us. It came from the CVP. I didn’t think it was going to start.”

The CVP is the Confiscated Vehicle Pool, for those of you who don’t speak cop. Remember when we did the Robbery Suppression Detail and they gave us some civilian cars to use? There you go. But that thing? I think they stopped making the Monte Carlo in 2000 or something like that. What a shitbox! And they send a couple of detectives out in it?

“Are there a lot of guys in civilian vehicles?”

“I don’t know. We were ordered not to go to the CP because of our assignment, so they stuck us over at headquarters until they decided what to do with us. I guess they’re all out of sector cars. I know they sent some detectives out in Charlie units.”

Parking Enforcement cars. Yeah, the rioters will be thrilled to see those things down here! Everybody hates Parking Enforcement because of all of the shitty tickets they write. Ten bucks says half of those cars never make it back to the motor pool.

“Didn’t they form you guys up into squads? Sending you out here alone is practically suicide.”

“I’m becoming aware of that. So you people have been out here since yesterday? I’ll bet you’ve seen some shit.”

“You don’t know the half of it.”

That got a smile out of him. Then again, he may be smiling for another reason. He already gave me the three-pass. It’s a time-honored tradition among certain officers on the department. For those of you who don’t know, that’s when a guy checks out my face first, then my rack, and finally my ass. I saw him do it as soon as he shook my hand. Yeah, you get used to it on this job. They really need to add another step to it: the left hand. You know, the one where I’m wearing my wedding ring?

“Look, you guys can’t be out here by yourselves. Especially not in that old jalopy. Did they even bother to give you a radio?”

“Yeah, just one. Can you believe it? One radio for the two of us. They didn’t even give us an extra battery. With both of using this thing, I don’t know how long it’s going to last.”

And that’s assuming it doesn’t get broken when you’re wrestling with some asshole out here.

“We can spare a couple of extra batteries. Come on, we’ve got them in the car.”

“We appreciate that. So you work Central Midwatch? You know, our office is just a five-minute drive from your station. You should drop by sometime.”

See what I mean? For God’s sake, we both know they wouldn’t even let me through the door of ATD! I’m not cleared for it. He’s got something else in mind, if you know what I mean.

“Sounds good. Can I bring my husband?”

And that sound you hear is the hot air rushing out of his plans to take me into a conference room and have me blow him. I tend to brush that shit off. He’s probably a decent guy. He’s just a little too taken with himself. A lot of guys on the job are guilty of that. They’re harmless. He probably thought I’d be massively impressed by the fact that he’s an ATD detective. Sorry, but that shit doesn’t hold a candle to what we’ve done in Central Division.

“You’re married?”

And now he checks out the wedding ring! Some detective!

“To my partner. Officer Ryan Harper.”

Let the disappointment commence!

“Lucky guy.”

I don’t know if he’s just saying that because he thinks he needs to give me a complement after I realized he was hitting on me. I mean, I already told you how I look like shit right now. Still, I’ll take it. It’s one of the few nice things anyone’s said to me in the last twenty-four hours.

Here comes Lieutenant Hagan. Holy shit! His forehead’s bleed like a son of a bitch!

“Lieutenant! What the hell happened?”

“Some asshole chucked a bottle at me and it shattered on my helmet. I’m all right.”

“Like hell you are! Your head’s gushing blood!”

“Don’t be such a mother hen, Lynott. Who’s your new friend?”

I swear, this macho bullshit “It’s just a scratch!” crap is really pissing me off! These guys need to take better care of themselves! Look at that gash on his forehead! That’s going to need stitches!

“This is Detective Pentario, ATD. They sent them out here alone, if you can believe it. In an old civilian Chevy with one radio. We were going to give him a couple of extra batteries.”

“Good idea. Detective, I’m Jack Hagan, Central Midwatch leader for the duration of this shit. ATD? Where’s your cloak and dagger?”

Oh, ha, ha! He’s making jokes when his forehead’s been split open? Like hell! I’m getting EMS down here! He’s going to have that looked at if I have to sit on his ass until they get here!

“Harper! Front and center!”

OK, maybe I’ll need Harper to sit on him. He’s a lot bigger than me.

“What’s up, Dani?”

“Lieutenant Hagan got his head split open by a bottle. Call for EMS and don’t let him go anywhere until he gets it looked at. He’s going to need stitches.”

“He’s not the only one. Vinell got pretty cut up, too. Same thing: a bottle to the face. I’m starting to think these people don’t like us.”

“Gee, whatever gave you that idea? Make the call. I’m going to check on Vinell.”

He’s sitting over there on the sidewalk in front of the shop. I can see the blood on his face from here. It looks like he’s got a gash on his nose. That’s got to hurt like a bitch. Where the hell is his face shield? It’s not on his helmet.

“Vinell, how bad is it?”

“I’m fine, mom. It’s just a scratch.”

I swear to God, the next guy with blood all over him who tells me “it’s just a scratch” can kiss his balls goodbye! Scratch my ass! Look at that shit! His nose could be broken!

“Bullshit! Harper’s got EMS en route. Lieutenant Hagan got hit in the face with a bottle just like you. Where’s your face shield?”

“Gone. Some piece of shit hit me in the face with a board and it shattered. That’s the second one I lost since this shit began.”

And we don’t have any replacements. Damn it! We grabbed every spare one that we could find, but we didn’t plan on losing them this fast. I don’t know where we can get another one. There’s none at Woodlawn, and I’m guessing they don’t have them at the CP now that they’re redeployed the officers there. Shit! We’re running out of everything! How the hell did the department not stock up for this shit? Great planning, assholes!

“We’ve got to find you a replacement. What about the rest of the watch? Does everybody have one?”

“Yeah, but some of them are for shit. They’re so scratched up from rocks and boards that you can barely see through them. Signolo sent a message to Central Station asking if they’ve got any extras, but I think we already took them all.”

We did. That much, I’m sure of. We’ve got to find some more. We need food, face shields, Taser darts, gas canisters, and non-lethal shotgun rounds. We’re going through our supplies too fast. We’ve got plenty of pistol ammunition, but that’s about it. And the truth is, ammunition is the one thing we’re likely to use the least of out here.

“Rosen, tell everyone I want an inventory. We’re going to have to start scrounging if the department doesn’t have what we need. Spread the word. I want it in five minutes. Things are going to pick up fast out here. We need to be ready.”

“I’m on it. What about you? How are you guys fixed for supplies?”

“I’m down to my last pepper gas canister. Harper could use some rounds for that rifle of his. I’m thinking we should go back to that surplus shop and beg for whatever we can use.”

“Dani, they’re not open. Not unless they’re insane. We’re not going to get anything from civilians. If the department can’t supply it, we’re just going to have to do without.”

He’s right. Scrounging is out of the question. The neighboring divisions aren’t likely to have what we need any more than Woodlawn or Central do. So where the fuck are we supposed to get resupplied? God, this fucking sucks!

“Take the inventory anyway. We may have to start rationing some of our gear. Any ideas on where we can get anything? We need first-aid gear, too. We’ve all used up most of ours. Do you think we can get some from the local hospitals?”

“I don’t think they’ll give it to us. They’re probably hurting for supplies as it is. Garcia already tried to hit up the paramedics the last time they were at the scene with us. No go. They don’t have anything to spare. What about the National Guard? Now that they’re here, we should be able to get some of what we need from them.”

That’s actually a good idea. They’ll have riot control gear. Our helmets are just surplus army Kevlar helmets, so their face shields should fit ours just fine. We should also be able to get some first-aid gear from them. They might not have beanbag shotgun rounds, but they’ll have rubber rounds and those are even more effective than the beanbags. We can use them. But where the hell are they? And when are they going to be out here in force? That’s what it’ll come down to: will they be out here in time for us to hit them up for anything?

Well, would you look at that? Here comes EMS! They sure got here in a hurry. Maybe that means things are beginning to stabilize? Over here, guys! We’ve got two major pigheads for you to look at! And don’t listen to them when they tell you it’s nothing. It’s not nothing. For God’s sake, they’re bleeding all over the place for a bunch of people who would just as soon kill them as look at them! That’s definitely not nothing!

“Officer! What’ve you got?”

“A pair of macho bullshitters who think getting hit in the face with a broken bottle is no big deal.”

“Yeah, we’re seeing a lot of that with. All right, we’ll take it from here.”

There’s the Transit Police running escort duty. Jesus Christ! Look at that car! It’s full of bullet holes! Somebody shot at them big time!

“It looks like you guys took some fire. Was anybody hurt?”

“Luckily, no! Fucking asswipes! We’re over on DeKalb and some dick opens up on us with a fucking Garand! Sounded like a goddamned cannon! Look at that shit! Motherfucker ripped the goddamned car to pieces!”

“You’re lucky no one was sitting in there. Two of them look like they would’ve killed the driver.”

And since he got out of the driver’s seat, I’m guessing he was it. You should go play the lottery, pal. Today is clearly your lucky day.

“Fucking ‘A!’ Goddamned Carlisle dropped his ass with a slug when he tried to reload! Motherfucker! I wish I could’ve blown his ass away myself!”

Don’t worry. I’m betting you’ll get your chance before this shit is over. Four guys in the car and all of them look like they’re ready to tear into these idiots and show no mercy. I can relate.

“Did you guys report the shooting to our detectives?”

“We tried! Our Sarge called Woodlawn and got a fucking busy signal! Ain’t nobody answering the motherfucking phone! What the fuck’s going on over there?”

Good question. They weren’t exactly up and running when we left this morning, but they had enough people to pick up a phone. Then again, they were still in lockdown until about six this morning, so maybe they just took the phones off the hook? That’s entirely possible.

“They were picking up the pieces at six this morning. They were on lockdown since last night. Try again now. You’ll probably get through. If not, I’ve got the Watch Commander’s cellphone number. You can call him directly. What did you do with the body?”

“What you mean, what did we do with it? We left his ass right where he dropped! What could we do? Motherfucking piece of shit! Leave him for the goddamned rats!”

Right there with you, pal. Still, they should at least let the Watch Commander know what happened. Then again, I don’t even know who the Watch Commander is right now. I don’t know if Lieutenant Oliver is still in charge. They might’ve brought somebody else in to relieve him.

“Just call the station again, tell them what happened, and give them your unit number. Here’s my card. If you have to, let them know you told me what happened. A lot of these shootings aren’t going to be investigated the way they should be, but we have to at least report them. If you shoot anyone else, be sure to take a bunch of cellphone pictures of the scene for the report.”

“Oh, we’ve got pictures! See for yourself!”

Uh, that’s probably not the kind of picture you want to put in the report. Doing a high-five over the suspect’s corpse? Yeah, you might want to keep that one to yourselves.

“How many units do you guys have running escorts?”

“Fifteen. Maybe more, now that it’s daylight. We started running escort about nine o’clock last night. Shit’s been crazy ever since. There’s supposed to be two units with each ambulance, but we got stretched kind of thin. A couple of ambulances got hit over in Lafayette Division last night. Some asswipes smashed a car into one of our escort units. Fucking T-boned them! The other unit took care of business, though. Blew their motherfucking asses away!”

These guys are having it as bad as we are. I didn’t think they’d run into that much shit. I guess I underestimated how dangerous running escort for the fire department could be.

“How many sergeants do you have in the field?”

“Right now? None! We had one last night, but he got all fucked up when some dickheads jumped us over at the border. Ain’t seen another one since. Don’t know where the rest of them are. Probably hiding out over at Holyoke, sipping hot coffee and watching the soaps!”

That’s the Transit Authority’s main headquarters. I guess they took their cue from our brass.

“Do you guys need anything? We don’t have much to spare except for a few radio batteries, but…”

“What we really need is gas. We’ve been running low since last night and the tank’s down to fumes. You think we could gas up at Woodlawn? I know you don’t like other departments using your gas pumps, but we ain’t got nowhere else to go. We tried to gas up over at Lafayette, but they shut off the pumps. They’re afraid someone’s going to set fire to them.”

“Yeah, they’re still running. If anyone gives you any shit, show them my card and tell them I said you could do it. We can’t have you out here with no gas. Hey, do you know any place around here that’s still open for food? We haven’t eaten in twenty-four hours.”

“Not around here. We were going to go to this taco truck, but some asswipes tried to take it down and the dude in the truck started blasting away. We got there just as the motherfuckers took his ass to jail! For what? Blowing away a bunch of fucking asswipes who went and tried to take his shit? They ought to give him a medal for doing that!”

“Who arrested him?”

“I guess it was you guys. It looked like you guys. Round about maybe four in the morning, I think.”

I didn’t know there were any other units out here at that hour. And who the hell would arrest a citizen for self-defense in the middle of a riot? That doesn’t make any sense.

“I’m sure they’ll let him go. They’re letting all the assholes go, so they’re not going to keep a citizen on a nickel-and-dime gun charge.”

I certainly hope they won’t. Then again, given the current political climate, I wouldn’t be surprised if they gave all the assholes a pass and tried to prosecute a citizen who was just trying to defend himself. Welcome to our world.

I see the paramedics are patching up Lieutenant Hagan and Vinell. And the look on the lieutenant’s face tells me he hates it. Too bad, mister! I don’t want to hear any shit from him about it. This blood and guts crap might work in a John Wayne movie, but as we like to say on the department: this ain’t a movie, and you ain’t John Wayne.

“How does he look, guys?”

“He could use a few stitches, but he won’t let us take him out of the field. We’ll clean out the wound and bandage it up. Your friend over there is the bigger concern. I think his nose might be broken. He should really see a doctor and have it x-rayed, but he’s as stubborn as this one.”

“If either one of them gives you any shit, you tell me right away. I’ll straighten them out. I’m talking about you, Lieutenant!”

“You’re a real pain in the ass, Lynott. Did I ever tell you that?”

“Plenty of times. Now, sit there and let them clean that wound. That’s an order.”

“You’re giving me orders, are you?”

“I’m not the one with my head split open, sir. Yes, I’m giving you an order! Do as I say or you’re going to find a live duck in your locker!”

Yeah, I’m still on about that. That was definitely a life-altering experience for me.

“Guys, can you possibly sedate her and take her away? Or at least tie her up and throw her into the back of that ambulance?”

“Forget it! I’m not into that sort of thing.”

Well, sometimes I am. But that’s not the point. Hang on! Harper’s running over here at top speed! Something’s up, and I’m betting it’s not good news!

“Dani! Sir! We just got a report: Woodlawn Station is under attack! Multiple suspects and they aren’t retreating! A lot of gunfire’s being reported! Whatever it is, it sounds massive!”

Fuck! Wasn’t last night enough? What? Are they trying to finish the job?

“Sir, we need to get over there now!”

“Damned right, Lynott! Get everybody over there as fast as you can! I’m right behind you! We go in together in force! Move out!”

Why isn’t there anything coming over the radio? Why isn’t the station broadcasting situation updates? This is not good! All right, if the station really is under attack, then there’s got to be an air unit en route. They’ll give us a bird’s-eye view of what’s going on down on the ground.

“Sixteen Central Midwatch broadcasting on Woodlawn frequency, any air unit come up on Woodlawn frequency. We have a report that Woodlawn Station is under attack. Dispatch, we need an air unit over the station now!”

“Sixteen Central, roger. We’ve received the same report. Air Three is en route. Are you code six at Woodlawn Station?”

“Negative. Not yet. We’re all headed over there right now. All Central Midwatch units. ETA is about one minute. Be advised, we’ll all be proceeding code three.”

“Sixteen Central, roger. Central Midwatch, proceed code three.”

Every unit in the division is probably headed over there code three. Hey, look on the bright side: now we should at least get an idea of how many units we’ve got in the division.

“Hit it, Harper! Warp speed!”

“Hang on!”

This is one time where I’m not going to give him any shit for going balls to the wall. Jesus, a police station under attack for the second time in less than twenty-four hours? Now I know the world is coming to an end!

Woodlawn Station. They definitely weren’t kidding! The place is under attack! We’ve got at least three fires burning on the front of the station; one of them is pretty damned big, too! And we’ve got a whole shitload of assholes throwing shit at the steel security gate! They’ll never get in that way, but we heard gunshots as we approached, so this shit definitely has to be stopped before they shoot someone!

I don’t see anyone on overwatch. Yeah, because a certain asshole sergeant probably took all of their rifles back to the fucking command post! We need to get Harper up on the roof where he’ll have a clear shot at anyone with a gun. The problem is, how do we manage to do that? They’re not going to open those gates for him while this crowd is out here trying to tear the place down. We’re going to have to clear out the assholes the old-fashioned way. Unfortunately, they’ve got the numbers advantage. But they’re a disorganized mob and we’re not. We’ve also got a lot of experience at this. Besides, I’m so fucking sick of these assholes that I’m actually looking forward to this!

“Let’s go, Harper! Have everyone form a wedge! We’re going right through these fucks! As soon as we get between them and the front of the station, we fan out in a line and drive them right back into the street! Once we get some maneuvering room, I want you to make your way to the roof. We need someone on overwatch.”

“Dani, I’m not leaving you down here!”

“You have to. You’re the best shot and you’ve got the only rifle. I’ll be all right. I’ve got plenty of backup. If these assholes dig up a gun and start shooting again, our best bet is to take the shooter out from the high ground. Let’s go! And don’t let them surround you!”

And into the breach we go again! Where the hell is that air unit? They should be here by now. We could really use their eyes with this thing. There aren’t enough of us to cover the whole station. Damn it, where the hell is the rest of the fucking division? They’re not at the CP anymore, so why aren’t they here? What? Did the brass send everybody down to Wilmington and leave the rest to the wolves? Fuck it! We’re formed up! Let’s start cracking heads!

“Listen up! We drive through to the front of the stairs and fan out! Form up a skirmish line! Riot shields in front! Then we push these assholes back! If the air unit shows up, they’ll be able to tell us if anyone got back behind the building! Until then, if they’re not wearing one of our uniforms, they get thumped! Move out! On me! Forward! Double-time!”

I’ve got Harper and Sergeant Hendrickson on either side of me. Good! Two of our three biggest guys! You know what the hot-rodders say: there’s no replacement for displacement! Start swinging! Got you! Next! Jab his ass! Another crack to the collarbone! Push his ass out of the way! Keep moving forward! Here come the rocks and bottles! Our guys with the riot shields are doing a pretty good job of protecting us, but the idiots are still getting in a few hits! Just keep moving forward! Hit them! You! Hey, bitch! You should’ve stayed in bed! Down you go! Yeah, it hurts! What did you expect? That I wouldn’t hit your ass because you’re a woman? You assholes never showed me the same courtesy, so don’t expect it for yourself! Keep hitting them! Fuck! Somebody nailed me with something right on the thigh! That fucking hurt! Stay in the fight! Don’t think about it! Drive forward! Get to the stairs! We need to get between the assholes and the station! Hang on! Here comes the air unit out of the northwest! It’s about fucking time, guys! What? Did you stop for coffee along the way?

“Air Three to the units in front of Woodlawn Station, do you read us?”

“Sixteen Central to Air Three, roger that! We hear you! What’s the situation down here? Is anyone out behind the station?”

“Negative, Sixteen. We don’t see anybody back there right now, but we’ve got a group approaching from the west on foot and some of them look like they’re checking out the wall. They might try to go over it.”

“Keep an eye on it for us. We’re trying to get between the crowd and the front of the station. We’ll form up into a skirmish line and drive them into the street once we do. We also want to put one of our officers up on the roof on overwatch. There’s been a fair amount of shooting at the building.”

“Understood, Sixteen. I think you’re definitely going to need someone on overwatch. We’ve got people approaching on foot from the north. You’re about to have a crowd maybe three times the size of what you’ve got. Be advised, the antenna tower to the west of the station is damaged. They might not have communications inside the building. Christ, it looks like somebody took a chainsaw to the tower! That thing is history!”

That explains the communications blackout. Oh, well!

“Sixteen Central, where the hell is the rest of Woodlawn Division? The CP’s been shut down and everyone’s supposed to be back in the field! Where are they?”

“God knows, Sixteen. A lot of them are over in Lafayette Division on a major 415 demonstration. They sent at least six squads down into the projects in Wilmington. I think you guys might be on your own on this one.”

Oh, just fucking great! And the longer we’re out here, the better the chance of some asshole opening fire on us! We need to get Harper up on that fucking roof! Oh, shit! Asshole at nine o’clock with a fucking bat! Move! Get out of the way! Gas his ass! Right in the fucking face! Hose him down! Got him! But he’s not giving up! And now he’s got a friend! Gas him, too! Blind his ass! Got you! Fuck! They’re not giving up! They can’t see jack shit, but they’re not giving up! Would you look at this shit? It’s the blind leading the blind! Literally! They’re swinging at me, but they’re not getting anywhere near me! Time to knock this shit off! Wait for fat boy to swing…missed me! My turn, asshole! And since the only target I’ve got is his jaw, eat some of this shit, motherfucker! Damn! Direct hit! Oh, that had to hurt like a son of a bitch! He’s out of the fight! Christ, he’s probably out of the solid food-eating business for a while! That was a full-power shot to the jaw! Now I have to deal with his friend! He still can’t see me! He’s screaming for someone to throw water in his face! Yeah, I’ll give you something, but it won’t be water! Right between the shoulder blades! That got you! Hit him again! Again! Don’t let up on him! Take him to the ground! There’s no time to cuff him, so take his ass out of the fight for good! Hit him again! He’s down! He’s not getting up after that! See? Three assholes are dragging him to safety! Hey, you can have his ass! Just get him the fuck out of here!

Oh, shit! What the fuck was that? Something hit me big time! What was it? Who the hell…Jesus Christ! That guy’s rushing me! No time to move! Fuck! He’s got me! We’re going down on the pavement! Hit him! Use my flashlight! Crack his fucking head open! Got you! Oh, Jesus! He hit me right in the face! My face shield shattered! God damn, that hurt! Stay in the fight! Hit him! Anywhere! Keep hitting him! Oh, God! He’s punching the shit out of me! Fuck this! Shoot his ass! Go for the contact shot! Don’t let him grab my gun! Draw and shove it into his gut and…whoa! He’s gone! Where the hell did he…Lieutenant Hagan! He’s got him! He’s got him and he’s beating him to death with his bare hands! He’s beating the living shit out of him! Thanks for the assist, sir! And that’s the end of that piece of shit! He dropped like a bag of wet cement! He’s not getting up! Hell, he’s not even twitching! He’s out like a light!

“Lynott! Grab my hand! Get up!”

“Thanks for the help, sir!”

“You’re bleeding! Bad! Get behind me!”

Yeah, I’m bleeding all right! And my face shield is history! It’s fucking gone! But I have to stay in the fight! Our guys are starting to spread out! No! Stay together! Stay together until we make it to the front of the station!

“Sir, we need to get Harper on that roof! The air unit says we’ve got a shitload of people headed this way! Someone’s going to start shooting!”

“I’ve got an idea about that! Ten Central to Air Three, I need you to set down in the east parking lot and pick up my sniper for overwatch! Pick him up and put him down on the roof of the station!”

“Air Three, it’s going to be a pretty tight squeeze in that parking lot, but we’ll try. Have your man over there in less than a minute. We want to get in and out before the crowd damages the helicopter. We don’t have another one to spare.”

“Ten Central, roger! Do it! Lynott, you get Harper over into the parking lot in the most open spot you can find! Make it fast! One brick hits that rotor and we’ve lost the air unit! Go!”

“Understood! Sir, as long as that air unit is down on the ground, you won’t be able to hear yourself think! We’re about to lose voce communication! Hand signals only!”

“They all know what to do! Go! Hurry! We don’t have a lot of time!”

I hope this works! That parking lot is pretty empty, but it’s also pretty small. Here’s hoping they can do it themselves, because I don’t know shit about directing a helicopter into a landing zone!

“Harper! Front and center! Hurry!”

Not before he whacks the shit out of those two guys, I guess. All right, they’re down! Move it, mister! I’ll bet anything that at least one of the idiots headed over here has a gun. I want him up there laying down suppressing fire if anyone opens up on us.

“Jesus, Dani! What happened to you? Your face!”

“I got punched. There’s no time, now. Lieutenant Hagan told the helicopter to land in the east parking lot and take you up to the roof. Hurry! We’ve got a major group headed this way! Let’s go!”

And there goes the helicopter! Come on, guys! No mistakes! If you land too close to the south wall, you won’t be able to take off without bashing into it and then you’ll be grounded! That’s it! Nice and easy! Set it down right in the middle! Yes! They did it!

“Go, Harper!”

“I’m not leaving you here!”

“You can do a lot more good for me up there than down here! Go! I’ll be fine! Go!”

I hate it when he gets that look on his face. You know, the one that says he’s afraid he’s never going to see me again. He will. This is going to work. Fuck! Why isn’t every unit for ten miles headed over here at warp factor nine? Are we really the only ones still in the division? Again?

All right, they’re putting him down. He’s up there! He’s on the roof! Great timing, sweetheart! Here come the rest of the assholes! Time to get back in the fight! There’s Sergeant Gellar. I’ll go form up with him. We need to get everyone into a skirmish line and start pushing these assholes back into the street!

“Sarge! Form them up into a skirmish line! Along the front of the station!”

“Jesus Christ, Lynott! What happened to you?”

“The riot happened! Get them in a line, Sarge! Harper’s up on the roof on overwatch! We’ve got a huge crowd headed this way! We need to get a handle on this before they get here! Send the word!”

I can see the new arrivals filtering in. Some are coming down from the west side of the street while others look like they cut through the houses just north of the station. That’s not good. If they cut through the houses, it means they’re probably working out escape routes in case they have to get out quick. And the only reason why they’d have to do that is if they plan to start shooting. This shit is going to get ugly in a real hurry!

“Lynott! Get in formation! Right here!”

All right, we’re in a line and we’ve got the shields spaced out along it. I wish we all had one. If we move in a line and look menacing enough, we might be able to get the upper hand. We did a fair amount of damage to the most belligerent assholes, so I’m hoping the ones who are left aren’t as fired up to do some damage. But with a bunch of newcomers, you never know who’s in that crowd. Here we go! Give the order, Sarge!

“Detail! Forward, march! Stay in formation!”

And they’re throwing everything that isn’t nailed down at us! Fuck them! A few more feet and they’re going to be chewing on our nightsticks! Fucking assholes! Closing in! So far, no gunshots. Almost there! I can hear Sergeant Hendrickson yelling at them to disperse. God, it’s a wonder I can hear anything with that helicopter flying so low overhead! Just keep moving! Stay in formation! They’re starting to back off! Thank God! Just keep going! Leave, assholes! Get out of here! You don’t want this any more than we do! Leave!

“They’re backing up, Sarge!”

“There’s more of them coming in, Lynott! Stay focused!”

You’re damned right I’ll stay focused! I’m watching for the first idiot who pulls out a gun! Or a firebomb! So far, so good. No weapons. Keep it that way!

“Sixteen Central on overwatch! Dani, you’ve got a car coming at a high rate of speed! Eastbound! Take cover!”

Jesus, he’s not kidding! Look at that lunatic! He’s going to plow right into that crowd! Warn them! Get them the hell out of the way!

“Everybody scatter! Car! Car!”

Holy shit! He’s ramming right through the crowd! He’s insane! What the fuck is he doing? Run! Get back up on the steps! Oh, fuck! He’s aiming straight for us!

“Get clear! He’s going to ram us!”

Move! Run! Get out of the way! Jesus Christ! He slammed into the stairs! What the fuck was he thinking? Did he think he was going to drive up the stairs and crash through the security gate? Get out of the way! He’s still coming! Fuck! Gunshots! From the roof! Harper’s shooting at him! Get clear! Get clear! Out of the line of fire! He stopped! The car stopped! Did Harper hit him? Did he shoot the driver?

“Harper, cease fire! Cease fire! He stopped! You might have hit him!”

“I don’t think so, Dani! Watch yourself! I’ve got you covered! If he comes out of there with a weapon, I’ll drop him!”

Well, I guess we can forget about the tactical approach! Garcia and Acevedo just ripped the guy out through the door window! He’s still alive. I don’t see any blood. Damn! Acevedo just nailed his ass! That was one hell of a punch!

“Acevedo! Are you guys all right?”

“We’re fine! This motherfucker isn’t! What the fuck is wrong with you, motherfucker? You just ran down fifty fucking people! Are you out of your fucking mind?”

“Fuck you, motherfucker! Fuck all you cops! Black lives matter!”

“Yeah? What about the black people you just ran over, asshole? You’ll be lucky if you didn’t kill any of them! Stupid piece of shit!”

And another punch to the gut! We’d better call him off before he kills that idiot!

“Garcia, cuff him! Acevedo! Stand down! He’s caught!”

“Fuck that! Look at that shit! He hit at least ten fucking people! I say we kill his ass!”

Don’t worry. They’ll probably kill him in jail when they find out he ran down a crowd of black people. Jesus, we’ve definitely got people down! Some of them aren’t getting up, either!

“Sergeant Ivanell! Call it in! We need every EMS unit they can spare!”

“I’m on it! Be advised, he got a piece of Goren, too! He’s down!”

What? Goren got hit? Oh, my God! How bad? Is he all right? Jesus, he’s down on the stairs! He’s holding his leg and I can hear him screaming from here! Not again! Not another one!

“Goren! Goren, how bad is it?”

“I don’t know! God, it fucking hurts! He hit me and I bounced off the side of the car!”

His leg could be broken! Please, God! Please let him be all right!

“Can you straighten out your leg? We need to see if it’s broken.”

“It’s not broken! I’m all right! I’m not going to some damned hospital! I’m still in the game!”

“Bullshit! Your leg could be snapped in half! Let me see it!”

He’s got it pulled up against his chest, bent at the knee. That’s actually a good sign. It means he can still bend it. I don’t see anything like a bone sticking out, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t broken. God damn it! Another one! Another Midwatch cop gets busted up in this shit! Christ almighty! Are we all going to end up like this before this shit is over?

“Sixteen Central, Dani! You’ve got a blue sedan headed westbound! I think it’s Officer Woodward’s car. I’ve got it in my sights in case I’m wrong.”

No, that’s his car all right. And that’s him in the passenger seat.

“Hold your fire. It’s him and another parole officer. Check the area for any other units headed this way. We need a shitload of help down here!”

“Roger that. Be advised, I think that kamikaze driver took the wind out of the crowd. Most of them are either taking off or trying to help the wounded. I’ll keep an eye on them.”

Goren’s not screaming as much. I hope that’s a good thing. Fuck! We never should’ve been here! We’re all too fucking worn out for this shit! I’ll bet that’s why he couldn’t get out of the way fast enough! Hell, I barely made it out of the path of that thing and I was on the far end of the line!

“Goren, we’ve got help coming. Just hang on. They’re going to fix you up.”

“I don’t need fixing up! I just need a few minutes! I’ll be fine! Get me on my feet!”

Is he fucking shitting me? He just got rammed by three thousand pounds of car!

“You’re not going anywhere until the paramedics check you out! I don’t want to hear any of your macho bullshit, mister! You stay there! Signolo! If your partner does anything stupid, I’m going to rip off his balls and feed them to him! Is that clear?”

“You’d better listen to her, partner. I think she means it.”

“You’re damned fucking right I mean it! Stay there! Don’t move! I’m going to check on the people in the crowd!”

A lot of those people look worse than he does. I hope to God his injury isn’t serious. I’m not just thinking of him, either. I’m thinking of myself. I’m thinking of the watch. We can’t afford to lose him. We’ve lost three officers already. Three officers in less than twenty-four hours. I hate this fucking riot! I hate it!

Jesus, look at this! An old lady! That asshole ran down an old lady! No way is she just going to bounce back from that shit! Not at her age!

“Ma’am, we’ve got the paramedics en route. Just try to lie still. We don’t know how badly you’ve been hurt. We’re going to get you fixed up.”

She’s taking it pretty well. She’s holding her right side, but I don’t know if it’s her side or her hip. What the hell is an old lady doing out in the middle of an asshole riot? I’m guessing she didn’t sign up for this. A minute ago, we were at each other’s throats. Now she’s lying there in pain and I’m trying to console her. Welcome to the wonderful world of police work. Is it any wonder some of us go crazy on this job?

Sergeant Ivanell’s waving me over. He’s got Officer Woodward with him. Something tells me this isn’t going to be good news.

“What’ve you got, Sarge?”

“The car comes back as a Mid-City stolen. The report was filed last night. I don’t think this was a spur-of-the-moment thing. This shit was planned.”

That’s what I was afraid of. We knew some of the idiot fringe was planning for a riot, but this suggests that now it’s in full force. It also suggests that the assholes went way out of the division for their plans. God, what’s next? A secret arsenal in one of the valley divisions? Maybe they stole a bomber from the Air Force? Or a tank from the National Guard? Remind me to ask them if they ever bother to show up.

“Sixteen Central on overwatch, Dani! You’ve got two EMS units coming in from the east. They don’t have any escorts. What happened to the Transit cops?”

Good question. Maybe after getting into a shootout and blasting a shotgun slug through the gunner’s chest, their superiors pulled them from the escort duty? God, I hope not! Without escorts, the paramedics won’t be allowed into the riot zone!

“Roger that. Be advised, Goren got hurt. The car nailed him. I don’t know how bad it is yet.”

“I know. I think he’s OK. He saw me looking at him through the binoculars and he gave me the finger.”

That’s a Midwatch cop for you: they never seem to lose their sense of humor. Not even when they’re in agony. Don’t ask me how we do it.

“I’m sure you deserved it. I’ll keep you posted. Sixteen out. Officer Woodward, it’s good to see you.”

“I’m just sorry I couldn’t get here sooner. We’re getting swamped with this damned riot. It’s like one out of five motherfuckers you people arrest are on parole.”

“Speaking of which, can you take a look at the driver and see if he’s one of yours? And if he’s not, then could you lie and say he is?”

“Where is that motherfucker?”

“Right over there. Do you know him?”

“Sorry, I don’t recognize him.”

But it looks like the other parole officer does. Yes! Finally! Some actual justice!

“Oh, I know that dude! That’s Clarence! He did a stint for armed robbery! He’s one of Eddie Vincent’s charges! Hey, Clarence! You done fucked up big time! Looks like twenty counts of attempted murder at least!

And that’s all Officer Woodward needed to hear. There he goes! He’s going to rip that idiot’s head off! And I’m not going to lift a finger to stop him!

“Little shit-assed cocksucking motherfucker! What the fuck are you doing out here? You’re out fucking up! How much do you owe, motherfucker? Answer me! How much do you fucking owe?

I think the guy said three years, but I’m not sure. Oh, well. They can tack that onto the sentence he gets for running down all of these people. Ouch! Nice gangster slap, Officer Woodward!

“Ten Woodlawn to all units in front of Woodlawn Station, hold your fire. We’re opening up the station. Do not fire. Repeat: do not fire.”

And there goes the security gate. So there were some people inside after all. Yep! There’s Lieutenant Oliver. I guess he didn’t get relieved as the Watch Commander. He’s been on-duty for as long as we have. At least he got to sit down for most of it.

“You’re still here, Lieutenant?”

“I’m afraid so. They keep telling me someone’s going to take over, but nobody’s shown up. I see you people are still out and about.”

“We didn’t get relieved either. One of our officers got hurt…”

“I know. I saw it on the security camera. Is he all right?”

“I hope so. We’re about to find out.”

“What about you? You’ve got blood all over your face. What happened?”

“I got punched a few times. A bunch of assholes decided to stand and fight. Lieutenant Hagan got it a lot worse. He still needs some stitches.”

“You can forget about going to the hospital. We just got word: some of the local ones are shutting their doors for the duration. They’re overwhelmed. Not just injuries, but a lot of people with heart attacks and chest pains; things like that. Last we heard, the aid station over on Ardmore is still functioning. You can probably get patched up over there. I wouldn’t wait too long, though. Today is shaping up to be worse than yesterday.”

“What’s the status of the division?”

“Not good. I got exactly four units from the CP. The rest got sent to Lafayette and Avalon. Most of their units got sent to Wilmington. Avalon’s holding on by a thread. They’ve taken some pretty heavy casualties. They had a sergeant killed.”

Yeah, I know. I also know what it did to at least some of the officers over there. By tonight, some of those guys are going to be out hunting down assholes and shooting them like deer. I hope not, but that’s the impression I got.

“What about the National Guard?”

“The first Guard units are en route to the city now. I guess they managed to scare up some trucks. I don’t know when they’re going to be deployed, though. Or where. I know they’re setting up a base of operations in Wilmington and they’re scouting locations in Lafayette, but that’s about it. They’re talking about taking over Avalon Station, but that place is smaller than this one. Nobody knows what to do.”

And the sixty-four thousand-dollar question is: why the hell wasn’t all of this worked out well in advance? We’re the police, for God’s sake! We’re supposed to have plans for major civil unrest. Plans that don’t date back to the seventies, when nobody ever heard of a cellphone and there were plenty of huge parking lots for staging areas!

“Sir, we’re wiped out. We can barely stand up. We should’ve been relieved last night.”

“I can relate. Lynott, I don’t know what to tell you. The ‘A’ and ‘B’ watches won’t go into effect until eighteen hundred tonight, and it may take another full day to work out the shifts. Some of the people on ‘B’ watch are already here and out in the field.”

Yeah, including us! God help us if they try to keep us until six o’clock tomorrow morning! We’ll all die for sure!

“Hey, Lynott? Who’s that guy killing your suspect?”

Huh? Oh, he’s not kidding, is he? Officer Woodward’s got the guy stretched across the hood of his stolen car. Hey, go for it. I don’t give a shit right now.

“That’s Officer Woodward. He and the other guy in the raid jacket are State Parole. It seems the suspect did time for robbery.”

“Should we intervene?”

Is he kidding? Lieutenant Oliver is taller than me, but he’s as thin as a rail. He’s going to stop Officer Woodward? Did you ever see the film Bambi vs. Godzilla? Yeah, exactly!

“Sixteen Central on overwatch, Dani? Do you read?”

“Roger that. Go, Harper.”

“Dani, I just heard a broadcast on tac 3 for Woodlawn Division. The dispatcher said all Woodlawn personnel should stand by for a possible Code 100 Edward. I never heard that code before. Do you know what it means?”

I never heard of it, either. But Lieutenant Oliver looks like he just got stabbed right through the heart.

“Sir? I don’t know that code. What does it mean?”

“Something I never expected to hear. It means to stand by for a possible evacuation order. Somebody over at headquarters is considering ordering us to evacuate the station. We’ve been using tac 3 to communicate with headquarters and the EOC. That means the order has to have come from the top.”

Abandon the station? Are they serious? If we do that, this place won’t be here tomorrow morning! It’ll be an empty patch of ground!

“Sir, they can’t be serious. Abandon Woodlawn? The idiots will burn it to the ground as soon as the last officer leaves! They’ve got to know that.”

“Lafayette and Wilmington stations both came under attack yesterday. A lot of shots were fired. There was pretty heavy damage to the lobby in Wilmington. I guess they want to avoid any more problems.”

Heavy damage to the lobby? Uh, he does know we had some asshole toss a bomb in the lobby of Central Station, right?

“Sir, Central had its station blown up. They didn’t order an evacuation.”

“I know. But Delano’s not the chief anymore. I don’t know who’s calling the shots. Whoever it is, they’re not showing a lot of backbone. Look, I know you’ve been hitting it hard since yesterday and your people are all banged up, but I need you out here. I don’t have enough units in the division as it is. You’re not going to bail on me, are you?”

“No, sir. We’re here for as long as it takes, or for as long as we remain combat effective.”

That seems to have surprised him.

“Combat effective? Where did you pick that up?”

“I married a Marine. Just…try to get us some help. Even if you can’t get us any relief. I don’t know how much longer we can keep this up. We haven’t even eaten anything since yesterday morning.”

“I’m afraid I can’t help you there. I’m guessing everything in the division is closed, and I can’t have you people headed over to Mid-City. I need you all right here.”

Uh-huh. I saw that one coming from a mile away. We’re stuck here. Remind me who thought it would be a good idea to come down here. Oh, yeah. That was me.

“We’re not going anywhere. Just talk to headquarters or the EOC or whoever is calling the shots and get us some units. We’re losing this thing. If we don’t turn it around soon, we never will.”

And as soon as I said that, I realized that it might be the last word on this riot. We could lose this division. I’m talking about the kind of shit that doesn’t get repaired for years. The kind of shit that turns a division into a ghost town. Have you ever seen those neighborhoods in Detroit with blocks and blocks of abandoned buildings? Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about. And we’re just running from one disaster to the next and not making a damned bit of difference. All we know about what’s going on fifty yards beyond our field of view comes from TV, and we’re only getting snippets of that. We’re the blind leading the blind. The question is, to where are we leading ourselves and everyone else?

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