Tactical Alert

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"A Measured Response to the Crisis"

Lombard and 101st Street. We’re in it now! Fucking looters! They’ve smashed out every goddamned store window on the block! All we can do is chase them and crack the shit out of them when we can catch one! This is fucking ridiculous! I can see the flames inside of at least three stores on this block! What is it with these assholes? It’s not enough to steal all their stuff and trash the place? No, they have to torch it, too! Fucking animals! Every last one of them! Look at them! It’s a goddamned free-for all! They don’t give a shit! They just want to steal as much as they can! They don’t think about who they’re hurting for a second! What the hell kind of city is this? Where the fuck did we get such shitty people? Fucking assholes!

It’s almost noon and the fucking riot is in full swing! I guess everybody got their rest from yesterday and now they called up all of their friends to help them go ape shit! There are twice as many looters out today as we saw yesterday. I’m telling you, this city is going to disappear into a giant fucking sinkhole if this keeps up! God is going to strike this place down just like he did with Sodom and Gomorrah! No way is he going to put up with this shit! Not if there’s a shred of justice left in the universe!

“Harper! Garcia! Acevedo! Stay close! Don’t get separated! And watch for anyone with a fucking gun!”

“Dani, we’ve got units coming in from the north! I think they’re SEU!”

Good eye, Harper! Those are definitely SEU cars! And if they’re here, then they’ll have their toys with them! That means gas grenades!

“Everybody grab your gas masks! They’re going to unload on the crowd!”

I’ve been carrying this thing in a bag on my belt since this shit started. Time to make use of it. God, I can barely breathe in this thing! And I see it was the right call: those guys are getting out and two of them have launchers! Yep! They’re going to gas the crowd! Do it! Make them fucking choke on it!

“Sixteen Central to all Central Midwatch units! Tear gas! Everybody! Tear gas! Get your masks on! Get your masks on! The wind could blow that shit right back at us! Masks on! Masks on!”

There they go! I can hear the shots! Direct hits! Right in the middle of the main group! And the gas grenades are spinning around and spitting out the gas like a motherfucker! Don’t try to pick them up, assholes! You try to grab one of those dancing gas balls and you’re going to get a third-degree burn! Jesus, those things are really loaded! The cloud’s already so dense, I can barely see through it! And the assholes are starting to choke! Good! I hope they all choke to death! Every last one of them!

“Harper! Where are the rest of our guys?”

“Signolo and Goren are right over there! Rosen and Vinell are over by that car! Sergeant Ivanell and Lieutenant Hagan are by the ice cream shop! I don’t know where Sergeant Gellar and Sergeant Hendrickson are! I saw them a minute ago, but not anymore!”

“Get the shotgun and load it up with rubber ammo! Time to start knocking these assholes down!”

I know we’re not supposed to fire that shit from a regular shotgun, but we don’t have time to find the car with the beanbag gun. Department policy forbids the use of non-lethal rounds out of a regular shotgun. The assholes can’t tell the difference between the rubber rounds and real buckshot, so they might think we’re gunning them down indiscriminately. But do you know what? I don’t really give a shit right now! If they think we’re just executing them, then maybe they’ll get the fuck out of here! Desperate times call for desperate measures!

“I’ve got it! Call your shots, Dani!”

“Start with the assholes rushing the SEU guys! Knock the shit out of them!”

Those rubber slugs hurt like an almighty bitch! Unless they’re flying on drugs or drunk out of their minds, they’re going to feel it big time! Yes! Direct hit on that asshole throwing rocks! Right in the side! He dropped like a bag of dirt! Yeah, that hurt, didn’t it? Serves your ass right! Next one! Red shirt! Boom! Right in the hip! Try walking on that leg for a while, you piece of shit! Oh, now they’re getting the message! Yeah, right here, assholes! Take a look at the big fucking gun pointed right at you! You want to go looting? Today it’s going to cost you!

“The cops are killin’ us! They’re shotgunnin’ the people!”

Oh, give me a break, moron! Do you see any blood on those people? And now he’s squaring off with us! Wrong move, idiot!

“Harper?”

“I’ve got him!”

Damn! Perfect shot! Right in the crotch! Holy twelve-gauge vasectomy, Batman! Yeah, your looting days are over, asswipe! Go home and soak your fucking dick in Epsom salts!

“Keep it coming, Harper! Anyone who gets within twenty-five yards of the SEU line! There! That guy! Knock his ass down!”

The crowd’s beginning to scatter. Yeah, it’s either that or choke on that tear gas! Even with this gas mask, I swear I can smell that shit! They really need to put one of those launchers in every sector car. Think of how much we could’ve done with a few of those and a few cases of gas grenades!

They’re coming over here. I guess they want to see who we are. I’ve got half a mind to chew them out for not showing up until now, but I think I should bite my tongue. We need those guys out here. I don’t want to piss them off. This guy’s a sergeant. Let’s see what he looks like when he pulls off his gas mask. If he’s furious, then all bets are off.

“Sergeant Arcola, SEU. What unit are you guys?”

“Central Midwatch, sir. Sixteen Central. Those two over there are Sixty-Six Central. The rest of Midwatch is around here somewhere.”

“Are you telling me they deployed an entire Midwatch from an outside division?”

“Not exactly, sir. We came down here yesterday morning when it started. I’m Officer Dani Lynott. This is my partner, Officer Ryan Harper.”

I think I can take this gas mask off now. The wind seems to be blowing the gas the other way. Oh, hell! He’s giving me that look. Yeah, I know what it is. I think you do, too.

“Lynott? Danielle Lynott? Are you the one…”

See what I mean? Some things never change.

“Yes, sir. I’m that Officer Lynott. The whole watch came down here to help. We’ve been here for twenty-four hours without a break. It’s good to see your people out here.”

“We should’ve been out here yesterday, but the goddamned Deputy Chief wouldn’t let us deploy until all of SEU had reported in. You people look like you’ve seen better days. Do you think you’ve got enough blood on those uniforms?”

“Don’t worry, Sarge. Most if it isn’t ours. It’s been pretty busy out here.”

“I know. I watch the news. So how are you guys still in one piece?”

“Duct tape and bandages.”

Hey, it’s not a complete exaggeration. We’re all pretty much taped together right now. I have a feeling that when we finally get home, it’s going to take about four showers to get the glue from the tape off of our skin. I guess I should ask him about the elephant in the room, though.

“Sarge, where are the rest of you? The rest of SEU?”

“They broke us up into four squads when they released us from the rally point. Two hours later, we were in eight squads. Four of those squads got paired down to six-man units after that. That’s what you see here. I couldn’t tell you where the rest of them are right now. We’re scattered over four divisions. I have to tell you, I’m surprised to see you down here, Lynott. I heard you were banished after that incident.”

“I was. If anybody’s got a problem with it, they can talk to Lieutenant Hagan.”

That definitely got a rise out of him. Lieutenant Hagan’s name has a way of doing that.

“Jack Hagan? Are you saying he’s here?”

“Right over there. We brought him and three sergeants with us. We started with five units, but two of our guys ended up in the hospital. We also lost a Woodlawn officer who was riding with us. He got shot in the neck. Four other boots from Northside were here yesterday, but their leader got shot in the leg. I don’t know where the other three are. Probably out here somewhere.”

I don’t think he liked hearing that. SEU tends to…shall we say, have a very high opinion of themselves. The idea of five boots upstaging them in the worst disaster to hit the city in its history doesn’t sit well with him. This riot isn’t going down as one of SEU’s finer moments and he knows it. He seems to be taking it better than I would’ve expected.

“We should’ve been the ones out here. We’ve got the training and experience.”

Uh-huh. See what I mean?

“Well, we’re glad you’re out here now, sir. Thanks for the assist. We didn’t have those launchers. Just an old gas gun we managed to scrounge up. It’s not for open-air use.”

“Where the hell did a bunch of Midwatch cops get a gas gun?”

Translation: patrol isn’t supposed to have them. The really cool toys are supposed to be restricted to SEU and SWAT.

“We found it in a dumpster.”

Here’s hoping that he’s been around long enough to appreciate that statement. Oh, good! Saved by the Lieutenant!

“Benny? Funny meeting you here. I thought you people had all taken to the hills.”

“Good to see you again, Jack. You brought your whole Midwatch down here?”

“I needed my best people when the shit hit the fan. Where the hell have your people been? We’ve been losing officers left and right out here. We’re outmanned, outgunned, and some pencil-pusher took all of our rifles and extra shotguns back to that fucking CP. We could’ve used you yesterday.”

Exactly what I wanted to say. Rank really does have its privileges.

“We’re here now. That’s what matters. We can start securing this division…”

“With six officers? Where the hell are the rest of you? We need a whole goddamned platoon down here! Don’t tell me it’s just the six of you.”

And that look on his face tells me that’s exactly what he means. The mighty SEU! Reduced to six officers and a sergeant for the busiest division in the city. You know, nothing shocks me anymore. Not a goddamned thing.

“Jack, as soon as we can link up with some of our squads…”

“And if my aunt had balls, she’d be my uncle. Are you and your people acting on orders, or did they just tell you to go out and see what you could do? Because if it’s the former, then I need to know what those orders are. If it’s the latter, then fall in with my Midwatch and we’ll head out to the next shit storm. It’s probably two blocks down the street.”

I’m getting the impression that Lieutenant Hagan doesn’t think too highly of this guy. He’s always been kind of sour on SEU. He thinks they’re a bunch of arrogant bastards and he’s right.

“Jack, we’re operating according to our riot-control procedures. In the event of a major disturbance, SEU takes charge and patrol supplements our operations. You know that.”

“Bullshit! You’ve got six guys, Benny! Your people are scattered all over the south end! You’re not following any plan! In fact, I’m guessing you’re taking orders from that blockhead Doyle! What did he tell you? Go out and be seen? Don’t stir up any trouble? We don’t want a public relations cluster fuck on our hands? Do you have any idea what’s been happening out here? I’m watching officers get carried out on gurneys! My people are being beaten black and blue! I’ve lost four officers since yesterday and two of them were boots who came out here against orders because they thought they might be able to do something! If the next words out of your mouth are ‘stand down and let the experts handle it,’ you’re going to see me get very unhappy!”

I think the Lieutenant’s got a perfect grasp of the situation. That’s exactly what I was expecting to hear from our SEU sergeant. I’m halfway surprised that he didn’t say it as soon as they stepped out of their cars.

“Jack, it’s out of control. Do you have any idea how many shootings we’ve had since yesterday?”

“Yeah! We shot some of them! And there aren’t any detectives to investigate them properly! We’ve been reduced to taking cellphone pictures and scratching out a thumbnail on the back of an FI card!”

“And there’s going to be hell to pay for it! We need a coordinated response and my people are the only ones trained to do it! Right now we’ve got patrol running around, getting into shit left and right! SEU will get this shit under control! But we can’t do it if we’ve got officers out here running their own program!”

Yeah, he’s taking his orders from Doyle, all right! No doubt SEU was told to show up at a few high-profile incidents and contain them, but leave the rest of the division to burn. Then Doyle will spend the next week telling every reporter in the city that he personally orchestrated “a measured response to the crisis.” What bullshit! Does he really believe anybody will buy that crap?

“Benny, what you call ‘running their own program,’ I call doing the fucking job! We’re going to stay out here until we’re properly relieved. Is that understood? We don’t take orders from you or SEU or anyone but the Commanding Officer in Charge. And right now, that’s Mancia. Have you even bothered to speak to him? Because I’m pretty sure he’ll have plenty of work for you and your people. He’s been holding this thing together by a thread. So either fall in or get the hell out of here. It’s your choice. We’ve got work to do.”

“Suit yourself, Jack. It’s your funeral.”

And there he goes. Good riddance! I knew those guys weren’t going to be of much help. Part of me is glad to be rid of them. There’s no glory detail in this shit, boys. Any chance you had for that disappeared yesterday. Now you’re just another unit that didn’t show up when we needed you. That’s got to be a real kick in the ego.

“What do we do now, sir?”

“The same thing we’ve been doing since we got here: protect the public, protect the property, and do whatever we can with what we’ve got.”

“Sounds like a plan, sir. Come on, Harper. Gather up everyone. We’re moving out.”

“With pleasure. Be advised: Rosen’s pretty banged up. He’s holding his left arm like it’s killing him. I think he got hit with something.”

Just fucking great! Another injury! We need to find out how bad it is. Just don’t let it be broken, Lord! Here he comes now. Jesus, his arm’s not broken! It’s dislocated! Look at the way it’s hanging! It’s popped completely out of the socket!

“Lieutenant! Rosen’s…”

“I see him! God damn it! Call for EMS! He’s out of the fight. Son of a bitch!

So we lost another one. Another officer. The way that arm is hanging, when they put it back in? It’s going to hurt like a motherfucker! They’re going to have to shoot him full of Demerol or something like that. He won’t know what planet he’s on. He might even have some torn ligaments in there. He might need surgery. You know, Captain Mayones said that if we did this for him, we could all stay on Midwatch for as long as we wanted. I’m beginning to wonder if there are going to be any of us left when it’s over.


Back on patrol. Goren was hurt every bit as bad as I thought. He’s got a dislocated shoulder and torn ligaments. He was wrestling with some asshole and a guy came up from behind him and hit him with a fucking crowbar. It knocked his arm clean out of the socket. He’s got a deep gash from where the claw end dug into his shoulder, too. He’s going to need surgery to put it all back together. He was practically begging the paramedics to push the arm back in the socket so he could stay with the rest of us, but that was out of the question. When we cut off his shirt, just looking at that arm made me wince. The blood streaming down his chest didn’t help, either. When your arm dislocates like that, it doesn’t just turn black and blue. It turns this sick yellow color along with the black and blue. I’ve seen it plenty of times in Central Division. It looks horrible like you wouldn’t believe. It makes you want to puke. God, he was in agony! And they couldn’t give him anything for the pain until they got him to a hospital. For all I know, they’ll take him over to County or someplace four divisions away and he’ll have to lie there for hours, screaming his head off. No one can take that kind of pain for very long. And contrary to what people say, horrible pain doesn’t make you pass out. Quite the opposite, in fact. He’ll be wide awake for every minute of it until they dope him up. Just thinking about it makes me want to puke.

We’ve heard scattered unit broadcasts lately. There are definitely more units in the division, but they’re not operating according to any plan. As much as I don’t like SEU’s superior attitude, Sergeant Alarcon was right about one thing: we need to coordinate our efforts if we want to put a dent in this thing. I don’t know how we’re going to accomplish that, though. That’s way beyond my paygrade. Even Harper doesn’t have any ideas. He says we need to centralize our command in Woodlawn Division, but who is going to do that? Commander Mancia would be the best choice, but he’s running all over the south end divisions. He doesn’t have a field command post. I’m thinking we need to get him one so he can coordinate things from one location, even if he has to appoint a field commander for each division and coordinate things through them. That’s not going to be easy. Somehow, we’ve got to strengthen our lines of communication. We’ve had repeaters knocked out all over the place. Communications are spotty in some places. We’ll enter a sector and the radio will go dead. It’s working fine, but we aren’t picking up anything. A mile down the road and the radio roars to life. What do we do? We can’t go into survival mode for communications with so few units in the field and so much going on. I don’t think it’s a viable solution.

We had to leave one of the sector cars at Woodlawn Station. Having lost Rosen, we now have one car with no one in it. We thought about having one of the sergeants drive it alone, but that was out of the question. No one should be out here on his own. It’s too dangerous. We took all of the supplies out of it, but doing that just reminded us of how we’re running out of almost everything. We still don’t have any food. Strangely, I’m not starving to death anymore. Unfortunately, I mentioned that to Harper and he said that was a bad sign. Apparently, it means you really are beginning to starve. Those candy bars weren’t exactly a meal. We need to get some food. Anything at this point. We also need water, non-lethal ammunition for the shotguns, gas canisters…Jesus, am I forgetting anything? Oh yeah: sleep. We need to get some goddamned sleep. We’re practically zombies. I’m beginning to develop a whole new respect for the homeless. As you know, we call them zombies all the time. From now on, I’ll say it with respect instead of contempt.

“Dani! Check it out! A message from Commander Mancia to all Central Midwatch units! He found us a place to go eat! Someplace in the division: Cal’s Kitchen. Do you know it?”

As a matter of fact, I do. It’s over on the west side of the division on 103rd Street. It’s a soul food place. A lot of the old-timers in Woodlawn like to eat there. It’s been around since the sixties.

“He’s sure it’s still open?”

“That’s what he says. What do you say? Are you up for some soul food?”

“Are you kidding? I’m up for damned near anything! I’m sending a response that we’re headed over there right now. Take a left over there and right on the next major street.”

Finally! Something to eat! We probably won’t get much time to sit down and have a meal, but anything is better than nothing, even if we have to eat it on the go. Right now, I think I could eat two lunches! I know I said I wasn’t hungry anymore, but the second Harper said we were getting some food, it all came rushing back. I don’t like the idea of stepping out of the field even for a few minutes, but I know that our presence out of the field for half an hour probably won’t make much difference. We need a break in the action. We need a decent meal, and that place has some pretty good food. Their chicken is fantastic.

“Now all we need is for nothing to explode in front of us before we get there.”

“Are you suggesting we put our blinders on? Dani, that’s not us. We’ll just have to hope we catch a break.”

Yeah, right! Garcia and Acevedo just blew past us at about warp six! They got the message! I’m betting our sergeants are doing the same thing right now!

“Just turn right and make sure we get there. God only knows when we’re going to get another chance to eat something.”

There’s another fire on the left. It looks like an auto parts shop. What the hell is the rhyme or reason behind these arsons? Why are they burning these shops? I can’t believe they all pissed off the locals. They never would’ve stayed in business this long if they had.

“Sergeant Gellar says he’s going to pull the pin after this riot ends. Did you know that?”

“Yeah, I heard. I was pretty bummed out to hear it. Did he tell you himself?”

“He did. I can’t say I blame him. He’s already working for free. He could be sitting at home right now, collecting the same paycheck he’s getting for being out here and risking his life.”

“Dani, you can’t blame him for not wanting to die at his desk. He’s a good man. He’s earned it. We both knew he wasn’t going to be here forever. He was on the job before we were born. I think he’s seen enough. And I think his heart condition is worse than he’s letting on. I’m not saying he’s going to drop dead any minute, but I think he knows he’s gone as far as he can. He deserves to enjoy the rest of his life.”

“I know. I told him he’d better not disappear on us. Emily needs a grandfather. Mine’s dead and yours is in Colorado.”

“Yeah, I told him the same thing. I think it’s exactly what he needs. His kids are grown. He hardly ever sees them. One of them lives in Indiana. I don’t know where the other one lives. I think being a grandfather might just keep him young for a while.”

So do I. And I want to keep the old coot around for a good long time. It’s going to kill me when he retires, but it would be even worse if he moved to some farmhouse in Missouri and we never saw him again. That’s not going to happen. I won’t let it happen.

“Hey, did you ever wonder why the Sarge never bought one of those Rolex Submariners like the other motor cops wear?”

“He did. I saw him wearing it once. He doesn’t wear it on-duty because it’s too valuable. He said his wife nearly killed him when he bought it. He paid eight hundred bucks for it back in the seventies. Do you know how much those things cost now?”

As a matter of fact, I do. You remember my friend Carol, right? The one who likes to drag me into stores where I can’t afford to shop? We spend a fair amount of time after lunch in jewelry stores and I’ve seen my share of ritzy watches. Just one of those things would wipe out our discretionary budget for a couple of years. I’ve got a Luminox that works just fine, thank you very much. It’s a Navy Seal watch, or so it says on the dial. Harper’s got one, so I ended up buying one. That’s as much as I’m willing to spend on a wristwatch. It cost a lot more than fifty bucks, but it’s built like a tank so I’m not worried about it. Harper wore his through a war and it still works just fine. Still, I’m kind of glad the Sarge has one of those things. Like I said, it’s a real status symbol among the motor cops. I wouldn’t want him to feel left out.

“There it is! On the right! Can you believe this place is still open?”

“Dani, I can’t believe it’s not on fire! It looks like some of the other places around here didn’t get off so lucky.”

Yeah, there’s two stores over there that got torched. Fucking Woodlawn! Get pissed off at the police and what do you do? Burn your own neighborhood down! Go figure! Well, it’s time to forget about that for a few minutes. Time to eat! Officer Lynott has her mind set on a real pigout! I’m sure I’ll burn it off by the time they let us go home. Christ, I’ve probably worked off about five pounds since yesterday!

And here comes the rest of the watch. This would be a hell of a lot better if everyone was here. Goren is probably eating through a tube snaked down his nose, and that’s if he’s even out of surgery. The same for Titus. Ruiz? He may have been released from the hospital by now. I’m pretty sure Kursteff is out, albeit with a big fucking cast on his leg. And how many of us will be joining them by this time tomorrow? I’m trying not to think about that. All right, let’s just focus on stuffing our faces. We can do that.

The lady behind the counter is waving us in. I guess there’s someone here who won’t be throwing rocks at us. Good for her! Not everybody in this division is an asshole. I know that, but I have to keep reminding myself of it lately.

“Y’all must be the Midwatch! Come on in!”

How the hell did she know that? It’s not like we wear signs on our uniforms saying what unit we’re from.

“How did you know that, ma’am?”

“We got a call from some commander. Mancia or somethin’ like that. Told us y’all were comin’ by and he was gonna pick up the check. Order up! Whatever you want! He already paid for it.”

Well, what do you know about that? I hope he doesn’t expect us to go easy, because we’re starving and he knows it. Oh, well. He’s a commander. He can afford it.

“We appreciate you letting us in here, ma’am. A lot of people around here aren’t too fond of the police today.”

“Honey, don’t you go lumpin’ us in with those fools. I see what they’re doin’ out here. Hoodlums! Every one of ’em! Besides, if y’all are in here, then ain’t nobody gonna mess with the place. Y’all got more guns then they do.”

Good point. I guess a small army of police officers is one way to keep the idiots from torching the place. But what happens after we leave? People are going to see us in here. Some of them might take it out on these ladies later on.

“We’ll make sure to come by here pretty regularly after we leave. You know, just in case.”

“You do that, honey. We’ve don’t want to see it go up in smoke. We done lived through the last one and we’re gonna make it through this one, too.”

If they do manage to make it through this shit, then we should dedicate the place as a historical landmark. I’ll have to have Lieutenant Oliver speak to the captain about that.

“We will. And for now, give me the biggest chicken meal you’ve got. We haven’t eaten since yesterday morning. I think Commander Mancia’s credit card is going to get a workout.”

“That’s what he said. Come on, y’all! Don’t be shy! Order up!”

Oh, we will! Make no mistake about that! We’re going to have your kitchen running full speed! We’re starving! I think this is exactly what we needed!


Back on patrol. I think that was the best meal I ever ate! I’m pretty sure the rest of the guys feel the same way. We practically inhaled our food! It was so nice to get away from the craziness for a little while. A few people came in, saw us sitting there, and got the hell out of there in a hurry. Gee, I wonder why? But some other people saw us and thanked us for being out here. They came and got some food and said they felt a lot safer with us in there, so they decided to stay. It actually helped to restore my faith in humanity. Well, a little bit, anyway. I needed that. I think I needed it more than the food, and that’s saying something. There are good people here. I know that. I’ve always known it. But this riot has made me angrier than I’ve ever been in my life. At least, it’s made me angrier than I can ever remember being. That’s definitely not a good thing. No one should hate that much; especially not a police officer. It’s a scary feeling. What’s even scarier is the idea that I might actually get used to it. With the shit we’ve seen since this thing started, it feels like it’ll never go away. The hatred. The rage. It feels like I’m going to be that way for the rest of my life. That’s scary like you wouldn’t believe.

Lieutenant Hagan called Commander Mancia and thanked him for the meal, but since we ate like ravenous pigs, he offered to cover the tab. Commander Mancia said no, we earned it and it was the least he could do. That was very noble of him, but if you’ve been a cop for long enough, a part of you thinks that it means he’s going to ask for something in return. Normally, that would be a shit detail, but in a riot? It could be something that puts us in some serious harm’s way. Well, as I like to say, we’re all volunteers. Nobody ever got drafted into the police department. We’ll see if it comes back to haunt us. In the meantime, we’re headed off to an apartment complex where a couple of units got into a jam. They tried to arrest some people and all hell broke loose. We don’t know any more than that because they stopped broadcasting. Right now, I’m just praying that nobody got hurt. I’ve seen enough wounded police officers to last me for the next ten lifetimes. We’re going in ready for anything. That’s the best we can do.

“Right up ahead, Harper. On the right. This place isn’t very big. Two stories and a courtyard, gates on all four sides. The parking is along the south and west sides. It was an asshole place when I was here and I’m guessing it hasn’t changed. The call didn’t say if the units were inside of the place or out on the sidewalk.”

“Roger that. Just hang in there, Dani. Another four hours and ‘B’ watch should be down. We’ll be relieved then.”

“Yeah, unless they say that because we’re all on ‘B’ watch, we have to stay until six in the morning.”

“They’re not that crazy. They know we’ve been going for over twenty-four hours as it is. They’ll call us off the line. You’ll see.”

From your lips to God’s ears, sweetheart. All right, this is it! I don’t see anybody on the sidewalk. They must be inside the courtyard.

“Let’s go, Harper. Be ready. This could go south on us in a hurry.”

“It sounds like it already went south on them. Should we bring the rifle and the shotgun?”

“Negative. It’s a little too close in there. We’d end up shooting right through a wall if it comes to that. Bring the gas gun, the Taser, and some extra darts, though. Just in case.”

Just in case we run into some asshole drunk who wants to fight, which is a definite possibility in this place. Better to light them up than to risk a stray shot that might hit somebody. I can hear a lot of yelling in there. I’m thinking the residents didn’t take kindly to our people making an arrest. They never do, but in the middle of a riot, I think the whole resisting thing got dialed up to eleven. Yep! I can see it through the gate! There’s a crowd of people in there and they’re seriously worked up! I can’t see any of our guys, though. We need to get in there now! Shit! The gate’s locked! I don’t think anybody’s going to open the door for us!

“Somebody grab a crowbar! We need to get in there now!”

Prying a security gate open is generally frowned on, but today is a special case. There’s Signolo with the bar. Pry the fucker open! That’s it! We’re in! And now they can’t lock the gate behind us unless they try to chain it!

“Let’s go! Fan out! Don’t let them surround you! Go!”

These people are seriously pissed off about something! Where the hell are the officers? I didn’t see their cars out front. That’s not a good sign. Time to elbow our way through the crowd. Fortunately, there aren’t that many of them. I’m guessing less than forty.

“Out of the way! Police! Coming through!”

Oh, shit! Four officers and one of them is down! And the rest are about to start shooting these people!

“Sixteen Central Midwatch on Woodlawn frequency, officer needs help! Officer down! Officer down at our location! We need help!”

Jesus, that officer doesn’t look good! Is he shot? I can’t tell from here! We have to get to them! Draw down! Get these people back!

“Everybody back! Move! Get back! All of you!”

Our guys are spaced out pretty good to control the crowd, but getting a downed officer out of here isn’t going to be easy. Christ! What the fuck happened?

“Harper, keep them back! Anybody who tries to get near, zap his ass!”

Shit! Some of these assholes are already starting to mix it up with our guys! Lieutenant Hagan’s already wrestling with someone! Fuck this shit! These motherfuckers are clearing out now! Gas their asses! Hose them down!

“I said get back! All of you! Get the fuck back! Leave! You’re done! Go! Get out of here!”

I don’t know if I made the situation worse, but at least I bought the other officers some breathing room! I’ve got to check on that guy and see how bad he’s hurt!

“What happened? How bad is he hurt? Can he move?”

The one tending him looks like he’s about to explode! Ten bucks says that’s his partner on the ground!

“Who are you guys? Where did you come from?”

“Central Midwatch! How bad is he hurt?”

“These fucking assholes cracked his skull! He can’t walk! Get these fucking shitbags the hell out of here or we’re going to start shooting!”

“Did you call for EMS?”

“They won’t come! No escort! Get these assholes the fuck out of here or we’re going to start dropping them! Fuck this shit!”

He’s not kidding! He’s ready to start killing people and it looks like the others are, too!

“We’ve got help on the way! We’re going to get him out! You stay with him! You two! Start clearing this crowd! Whack the shit out of them! We’re taking him out of here!”

Jesus, he looks pretty bad! I can’t even tell if he’s still conscious! We have to get him the hell out of here! But I have to focus on this crowd! In this place? Someone could go into one of the apartments and come out with a shotgun! Fuck! If we have to fight our way out, that officer might end up dead!

“Garcia! Go for the cars! Non-lethal! We need it! Go!”

He’s the closest to the gate. Hurry! In this courtyard, we’ll be fighting hand-to-hand! We need to put some space between us and these shitheads! Oh, fuck! What was that? Something hit me good! Right between the shoulder blades! God, that hurt! Get up! On your feet! Fight! Stay in the fucking fight! Swing! Hit them! Hit them all! Anyone out here is fair game! Hit them! Again! Again! Shit! That was a fucking brick! Right in the chest! Don’t think about it! Fight!

Overhead! An air unit! Help is on the way! Keep fighting! You! You want some of this? How about a jab to the breastbone? Down you go, motherfucker! Shit! Sergeant Gellar’s in trouble! Get over there! Jesus, that guy is fucking big! Who cares? His bones break just the same! Hit him! Oh, hell! That didn’t work! He’s turning! Hit him again! Don’t give him a chance to charge! Go for his wrist! Break it! Got him! Hit him again! Go for his chin! Full power! Hit him! Yes! Got him! That had to hurt like a motherfucker! He’s backing off! Good!

“Sarge! Are you OK?”

“Hanging in there! Watch out!”

What? Oh, fuck! What the fuck was that? God almighty! I’m down! What hit me? Christ! It felt like a fucking car! Get up! Get the fuck up! I can’t! Fuck that! Get up! Don’t think about the pain! Get the fuck up or you’re fucking dead! Shit! Gunshot! Somebody fired! Right behind me! Am I hit? Did I get shot?

“Lynott! Lynott, are you all right? Get up! Get your ass up!”

“I’m all right! Something… something hit me!”

“Yeah, a bat! Right on your head! Are you all right? Can you stand?”

“I can…yeah, I can stand. I just need…”

Fuck! My head’s spinning! If it weren’t for the helmet, I’d probably be dead! Shit! I need to shake this off! Stay in the fucking fight! Oh, hell! More shots! Loud ones! That’s a shotgun! It’s Garcia! He’s shooting the crowd! Rubber slugs! At this range? He could kill someone!

“Sarge, we’ve got…got to…we’ve got to get that cop out of here!”

“We’ve got to get you out of here, Lynott! Come on!”

We’ll never make it! Not through that crowd! It’s a fucking free-for-all! We need…oh, shit! Who are these guys? Raid jackets! Parole officers! It’s Officer Woodward! And a bunch of his friends! Jesus, they’re tearing the crowd apart!

“Sarge, they’re State Parole!”

“I can see that, Lynott! My eyes still work! Yours don’t! Stay here! Don’t you dare fucking move! Harper! Harper, get your ass over here! Lynott’s hit!”

I’m not shot! I’m just…God, my head feels like it’s going to explode! I can’t focus my eyes! Shit! I’m fucking useless!

“Dani! Dani, what happened? Sarge, did she get shot?”

“She got clubbed over the head with a bat! Stay with her until her head clears! That’s an order! We’ve got plenty of help now! I’m going to find Ivanell and we’re going to get that wounded officer out of here! You two stay put! We’ve got this!”

Yeah, and I’m sitting on my ass with a cracked head! I’m fucking useless! Our guys are still fighting and I can’t even stand up straight!

“Dani, don’t try to stand. We’ve got this. Officer Woodward brought a lot of help. They’re laying these punks out! It’s going to be OK.”

“I didn’t even see the son of a bitch! I am so fucking stupid!

“No, you’re not! It could’ve happened to anybody!”

“Get me on my feet! I’m not going to sit here! Get me up!”

“Dani…”

“Get me the fuck up, Harper! Now!”

He knows better than to argue with me! That’s it! Jesus, I feel like I’m going to fall over! My balance is for shit! Do I have a concussion? God, I hope not! I don’t think I can take another one!

“Ms. Dani! Are you all right? Did they get you?”

Officer Woodward. Damn, they took care of that shit fast! My eyes are still blurry, but I can see assholes stretched out all over the courtyard! A lot of them are bleeding! They really fucked these guys up!

“I’ll be fine. I just got hit with a goddamned bat! I didn’t even see who did it!”

“Don’t worry! We’ll find the motherfucker! He’s got to be in here somewhere! You just sit still. We’ve got this. Listen up, everyone! Round these motherfuckers up! Every one of them! If they can’t walk, drag their motherfucking asses over here!”

I think I see Sergeant Gellar and Sergeant Ivanell carrying the injured officer out of here. Yeah, but with no EMS? Where are they going to take him? God damn it, I thought we had this shit with EMS cleared up! The Transit cops are supposed to protect them! Where the hell are they?

“Lynott! What the hell happened? Are you OK?”

Sergeant Hendrickson. I can’t see him too clearly, but my ears still work fine.

“I’m fine, Sarge. I got blindsided. Some guy with a bat, according to Sergeant Gellar. I didn’t see him.”

“You mean that asshole over there?”

Holy shit! That guy is either dead or out fucking cold! He’s got what looks like a bat next to him. I guess it’s him. Who the hell knows?

“It might be. Did you do that to him?”

“No, Elias knocked his ass out. He hit the pavement pretty hard. He’s probably got a skull fracture. Fuck him! Do you need EMS? You don’t look so good.”

“I’m fine. I just need a minute to clear my head.”

“Uh-huh! Harper, is she lying to me?”

“Big time, sir.”

Traitor! Just lay me out, why don’t you? Your shit is toast when we get home!

“Don’t listen to him Sarge. I’ll be all right. I should’ve seen the guy coming.”

“Oh, because you’ve suddenly got eyes in the back of your head? It was a melee, Lynott. Shit like this happens. Don’t worry, we got all of them. At least, I think we did. Some of them may have run out through the gate.”
“How’s the officer? He didn’t look too good when I saw him. His partner said he got his skull cracked.”

“It looks that way. They chased an arson suspect in here and the people turned on them. He lost his helmet and somebody cracked him over the head. You’re lucky you had yours on or you’d be lying next to him right now.”

“Three cheers for chin straps. Is he going to be all right?”

“How the hell should I know? We called for EMS, but I’m not holding my breath. Word is, they’re all back in their stations waiting for this shit to die down.”

So we’re back to that again, are we? What happened? I thought we had it sorted out?

“Where are the Transit Police? They’re supposed to be running escort for them.”

“They were ordered to stand down. Some of their units got into shootings and their chief panicked. People aren’t used to hearing that the Transit Police shot someone. Goddamned public relations strikes again!”

I can’t say I’m surprised. Even with my brains scrambled, I can see how the Transit Chief would freak out at the thought of a bunch of his officers getting into shootings. In the entire time that I’ve been on the job, I think they’ve had exactly three officer-involved shootings throughout the city and only one of them was a fatality. After this shit, I’m guessing that both of those statistics are going to increase by about five hundred percent.

“So no more EMS? How are we going to get that guy to a hospital? In a sector car?”

“Unless you have a better idea. We’re going to have to take you there in a sector car, too.”

Oh, no! No fucking way! I’m not going to the hospital! I got hit over the head, but I was wearing a bulletproof army helmet! I just got my bell rung, that’s all. I sure as hell don’t need to go to the hospital!

“I’m not going to the hospital, Sarge! I’m fine! I just needed to catch my breath.”

“Really? How many fingers am I holding up?”

He’s kidding, right? He’s standing three feet in front of me and he’s got a hand the size of a first baseman’s glove! Mister Magoo could see how many fingers he’s holding up!

“Three. Did I pass?”

“Lynott…”

“I’m not coming out of the field, Sarge! You need me! You need every officer you can get. Do you really want to drop another unit? We’re already down three officers. Four if you count Titus and eight if you count the four guys we lost from Northside Division. We’ll be down to six officers plus the sergeants and the lieutenant. It’s going to be dark in about four hours. Do you really want to be out here with twenty percent of your force out of action?”

He’s thinking about it. One thing that always works with a sergeant: hit them with the numbers. They never argue with the numbers when they’re that clear.

“All right. If we can get EMS out here and they clear you, you can stay. Jesus, I can’t believe I’m saying that! You’re right: we’re desperate.”

Harper clearly doesn’t like that one bit.

“Sarge! She could’ve been killed! She’s done! You’ve got to pull her out!”

“I can’t spare her, Harper. Or anyone else, for that matter. You keep an eye on her. If she gets into trouble, you tell me and we’ll do something about it. But she’s right: the city’s still going to shit and it’s going to be dark in a few hours. That’s when the real fun’s going to start.”

“We’ll be out of here by then. ‘B’ watch will be down and we’ll be relieved.”

“I hope so, but so far, we haven’t had that confirmed. There’s no telling when we’re going to get out of here. I was hoping they’d have the Guard deployed by now, but there’s still only a handful of them in the south end and until they get here in force, we’re stuck here. I know it sucks and I know what you’re feeling, but we’ve got to hang onto what we’ve got left.”

No kidding. That officer they just carted out of here isn’t coming back. Not for a good long time. That means we just lost another Woodlawn unit. Basically, we’re all fucked.

“Guys, I’m fine. See? I can stand up and my vision’s already cleared. The worst I’m going to get out of this is a headache. I can still work with a headache. Harper, I’m OK. I swear.”

He’s obviously not convinced. If the roles were reversed, I wouldn’t be convinced either. But I’m not being pigheaded. We can’t afford to lose anyone else. Not if we want to remain effective. I’m afraid that if we drop another unit, the rest of the watch will be split up and rolled into different squads and sent God only knows where. Hell, they could end up here until “A” watch comes down tomorrow morning. They won’t make it that long. Not after what we’ve been through.

“I’m keeping an eye on you, Dani! If I see you get into the slightest…”

“You can handcuff me and drag me back home. Fair enough?”

Actually, you can leave the cuffs on when we get home and we can have some fun if you want. When he gets all protective on me, it’s kind of cute. And when he gets frustrated with me and I manage to get out of my clothes before he starts yelling, it usually leads to some very interesting experiences.

“All right. What do we do now, Sarge?”

“First, we find out which one of these asswipes hit that officer. That’s major ADW on a police officer. He’s not going to shake that shit off in a couple of days. We’re not letting him get away with it. That piece of shit is going to jail for a good long time.”

Agreed. And I know the perfect people to get the information we need. In fact, they’re already doing it. Yeah, I’m talking about Officer Woodward and his friends. They’re some of the most persuasive people I’ve ever met.

“Officer Woodward! We need your assistance. You and your fellow parole officers. We need to find out who bashed in that officer’s head. I’m thinking it was someone in this group you’ve got here. And we don’t really care how you find out, if you follow my line of thinking.”

Yeah, he follows my line of thinking perfectly. He’s got them all in the center of the courtyard and the parole officers are surrounding them. Stand by for a crash-course in serious intimidation.

“Listen up, motherfuckers! We’re going to ask you some questions and you’re all going to answer up! Any motherfucker who gives me any shit is going to wish he’d never popped out of his momma’s pussy! And that goes for you goddamned bitches, too! You’re all looking at attempted murder of a motherfucking cop! Anyone who fucks with us is going straight to the motherfucking lockup! Any of you little pieces of motherfucking shit who are on parole, your ass is going straight to the motherfucking pen! Straight to the motherfucking hole! Do you hear me? You got three choices: the truth, the towers, or the motherfucking pen! Or you can get in my face and I’ll beat your motherfucking ass to death right here! Who wants to begin?”

Something tells me they’re going to talk. Some of them might try to tough it out, but most of those guys haven’t regained consciousness yet. Hell, the guy with the bat hasn’t so much as twitched since Officer Woodward laid his ass out. When he wakes up – if he wakes up – he won’t know what the hell planet he’s on. And judging by the amount of blood coming out of his mouth, he won’t be eating solid food for a year or two. Hey, serves his ass right! He tried to kill me, plain and simple. And if it wasn’t me, then he’d have tried to kill some other officer who just happened to get within range of his bat. Fuck him! I hope he lost all of his teeth and they can’t find any dentures that fit!

Oh, hell! It looks like one of the assholes just took Officer Woodward up on his challenge! Bad move, guy! He’s got to have at least a hundred and fifty pounds on you! You’re going to be sorry! See? He’s got the little shithead by the collar and the guy’s feet are barely touching the ground! Hey, don’t look at me to intervene! I’m still nursing a possible concussion! Jesus Christ! He threw the asshole in the pool! He fucking launched him into the pool! I hope that idiot can swim!

“Are you out of your mind, motherfucker? Do you want to die? Because I’ll kill your motherfucking ass right here! Don’t you ever give me a hard look! You ain’t shit! You ain’t even the motherfucking stink on shit! Get your ass out of there! Come here, motherfucker!”

I have a feeling he’ll be in a much more cooperative mood now. In fact, I think they all will. All right, here comes Lieutenant Hagan. I hope he doesn’t give me any shit about going to the hospital. I’m not going!

“How are you doing, Lynott? No bullshit. I want to know how bad you’re hurt. I saw you go down. You hit the pavement like a brick. How bad is it?”

“I’m a little dazed, but the helmet took most of it. I’m fine. My vision’s clearing up already. It just hurts like a royal bitch.”

“Getting clubbed over the head with a baseball bat usually does. Are you sure you’re OK to be out here right now?”

Well, I can barely think straight, but that never stopped anyone on the command staff from showing up for work. Or from ordering everyone to hide out at the CP and let the city burn.

“I can still fight, sir. And that seems to be all we’re doing lately. Yeah, I’m good. I’m not going anywhere.”

“Good, because right now, I can’t spare you. Harper, you need to keep an eye on her. If she shows any signs of a concussion, you tell me immediately. Lynott, I won’t have you in the field with an injury like that. You could black out. If I find out you got more than your bell rung, you’re benched. I’ll drive you straight to the hospital myself. Understood?”

Great! Now I’ve got Big Brother watching me! And he’ll do it, too. I know he will.

“Understood. I’ll be fine. They guy we dragged out of here might not be, though. Sir? Did we manage to get an ambulance for that officer? I didn’t even catch his name. I know his partner called for one…”

“No. They didn’t respond. His name was Felipe Valderama. Two years on the job.”

“Sir? What do you mean, his name ‘was?’ Are you saying…”

“He’s dead, Lynott. He died en route to the hospital. I just got the call. They never even got him to the door.”

Oh, God! Not another one! This can’t be happening! He’s dead? What if…if we’d had an ambulance…if the paramedics had…God fucking damn it! It’s not fair! He was just…two years? He’s a goddamned kid! Did he die because we couldn’t get him a fucking ambulance? Did he die because we couldn’t get here fast enough? Shit! Fuck! I hate this shit! I fucking hate it! And I hate these fucking assholes! Every goddamned fucking one of them! Why don’t we just kill every last one of them? It’s better than they fucking deserve! All of them! Just kill the whole fucking lot of them! I hate them! I hate them all to fucking hell!

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