Tactical Alert

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"Good People Get Stomped"

Another dead police officer. Another guy who was barely old enough to buy a drink and he’s dead. For what? For nothing! He’s dead because some asshole killed him for no good reason! Just when I’m kicking myself for being so damned angry and hating these people, one of them turns around and does this shit! Do these assholes just want me to hate them? Are they actively trying to make me think they’re the scum of the earth? Because they’re doing a really good job of it! Because right now I just want to tear into each and every little piece of shit out here! I mean, look at that they’re doing! It’s not enough that they turned the whole south end into a fucking shithole and burned it, but now they’re murdering the very people who are trying to protect them! Why do we do this? We should build a wall around this fucking dump and let them get eaten alive! Let them call 911 and get a fucking busy signal! Sorry, assholes! Nobody’s answering anymore! You’re on your own! Fucking eat it! You deserve it! All of you! Every last one of you! You think they’re right and we’re the bad guys? Fine! Save your own asses! We’re done bleeding for you!

And here comes Harper! He can see I’m fuming about this and he’s going to try to convince me that I’m wrong! Well, I’m not in the mood to hear it! Any of it!


“Don’t say it! I don’t want to hear it! These fucking shitbag assholes! We should just shoot them on sight! End this fucking riot in an hour! Every fucking one of them!”

I see a lot of the other guys agree with me! Because they know I’m right! Every last one of them! And we’re going to find out which one of them killed that officer! We’re going to find out if we have to go totally old-school on these shitbags! I don’t give a shit anymore! They’re giving it up! Fuck their rights! I’m canceling them! Anyone who has a problem with that can talk to my forty-five!

“Listen up, shitbags! Yeah, I’m talking about all of you! That officer you hit? He’s dead! That means you assholes killed a cop! And you’re going to tell us who did it! You belong to us now! And you’re not getting out of here until we know exactly who killed our officer!”

I see some of them are a little cocky. Bad move, assholes! You’re about to find out exactly how bad a move it is!

“Fuck you, bitch! You ain’t gonna do nothin’ to us!”

First volunteer! And he’s covered in gang tattoos! Those look like 68th Street Gangsters tattoos. Perfect! I know just how to get his little shit brain right!

“Really? Let’s take a look at that, shall we? Do you see any of those body cameras on us? Do you see any cameras anywhere? There’s no record of this shit! Garcia, go weapons hot! Shoot the first piece of shit with a cellphone camera!”

“You got it, Dani!”

Suddenly mister asshole looks a little worried!

“That’s bullshit! Y’all supposed to be wearin’ cameras!”

“Sorry, we pawned them for a rock. That’s something you’d know about. So it’s just you and us, and you’re cuffed and we’ve got the nightsticks and Taser guns.”

“Bitch, there’s twenty fuckin’ witnesses here! What’re you gonna do?”

Funny you should ask, asshole!

“You know what? You’re right. We have to abide by the rules. We wouldn’t want to break the rules now, would we? So I’ll tell you what: you’re under arrest for ADW on a police officer for that melee we just had. Officer Acevedo! Take this piece of shit to the field jail, would you?”

“You got it, Dani! On your feet, homie!”

“The field jail at 112th and Francesca! Make sure everyone sees him!”

Oh, look! Suddenly our little asshole isn’t so tough! Gee, I wonder why? Look at him! He’s about to shit his shorts!

“You can’t do that, bitch!”

Yeah, he probably couldn’t read the label on a bag of peanuts, but I’ll bet he can read a fucking map!

“Why not? Is it because that’s Piru Brim territory? Your sworn enemies? Hey, what do I care? I’m sure they’ll welcome you with open arms.”

And open knives, and open hammers, and maybe with an open can of gasoline and a lit match! In case you didn’t know, depositing a little piece of shit Crip in the heart of Blood territory can be…well, just use your imagination.

“Get him out of here, Acevedo! Take him down to the Greenwell! They’re just going to love him!”

And that smile on Acevedo’s face tells me he knows exactly what’s coming next for that piece of shit! Of course he does! He was with the Gang Unit longer than I was.

“You heard her, asswipe! You’re going for a ride! You know what they say: The Well swallows your screams! Come on, homie! Time to meet the Piru!”

And that look of sheer terror on our asshole’s face tells me this little plan is working. Yeah, he should be terrified! Piru Brim? They hate these guys ten times worse than we do! And they don’t have any rules to keep them from venting their dislike on this asshole!

“You can’t do that! Fuck that shit! That’s illegal! That’s…that’s fuckin’ murder!

Oh, suddenly he’s a lawyer? Time to learn the facts of life, asshole! And the facts of your impending death!

“Guess again, shit for brains! We can dump you in any jail in the city! You don’t get to pick and choose, but we do! If we throw you in the Gang Module, we get to pick the cell! And if those field jails in enemy territory aren’t exactly secure, well…that’s just too fucking bad, isn’t it? There’s a riot going on. If we don’t have enough guards to prevent you little cockroaches from killing each other, then that’s just a crying shame, isn’t it? Get him out of here, guys! And make sure his new friends get a good look at those tattoos!”

Yeah, they’ll probably skin him alive and turn them into seat covers! Don’t laugh. When I was with the Gang Unit, we heard rumors. These shitbags really are that sick!

“This is fucked! I got rights! Cops ain’t allowed to murder people!”

And now I get right in his face! Nose to nose!

“And neither are you, asswipe! But that didn’t stop you, did it? So why should it stop me? No one gives a fucking shit about you! You killed one of ours!”

“I didn’t kill nobody!”

“Then give up the piece of shit who did! Who killed our cop? You’ve got exactly ten seconds!”

Oh, he knows I’m not fucking around! I’ll dump him right in the heart of Brim territory after I paint his ass blue and write “Crip” on his forehead! I’ll fucking do it!

“You can’t do this! You fuckin’ bitch! I want a sergeant! This is bullshit! You can’t do this!”

He wants a sergeant? Fine. We’ll get him one.

“Sergeant Ivanell, could you come here for a minute? Our little asshole seems unhappy about something.”

“I can’t imagine what. So what’s your problem, moron?”

“Sergeant! Sergeant, did you hear what this bitch said? She’s gonna get me killed! She can’t do this shit! This shit’s illegal!

“Yeah, I heard what she said. Now hear this: ten seconds! Nine…eight…seven…six…”

I knew I could count on you, Sarge. This asshole’s got no friends in blue today. Not even his little Crip buddies. None of them are coming to his rescue. They’re just sitting there, praying we don’t get to them next. Some fucking brotherhood, huh?

“All right! All right! Tremell! Tremell Boone!”

And the looks on the faces of some of his homies tells me he’s telling the truth. These gang assholes don’t like it when one of their homies gives up another one to the police, even though they do it all the time to save their own asses. But we’ll make sure he’s telling the truth. We’ll knock on some doors in this place and see if they verify what he said. As you probably noticed, I’m in a very persuasive mood right now. They’ll talk. They’ll talk if they want to keep breathing.

“Now, that wasn’t so hard, was it? So now, Officer Acevedo is going to take you aside and you’re going to tell him everything there is to know about this Tremell piece of shit. And if you lie to him, he’s going to be very unhappy. You wouldn’t like him when he’s unhappy. Especially not today. Trust me, you really don’t want to lie to him. He knows exactly how to hurt you and not leave a mark. Guys, take him somewhere nice and private. Somewhere where they won’t hear him scream.”

“I know just the place, Dani! Partner, grab this piece of shit and put him in the car! We’re going for a little ride! Let’s go, Crip dog! Time to hear you bark!”

And away he goes! I think he’s about to have the worst fucking day of his miserable life. Good! I don’t give a shit if he lives or dies! Now it’s time to have a little chat with the rest of them. Well, not so much a chat as an interrogation. And God help them if they lie to me. They do not want to lie to me today! Not right now! Not if they know what’s good for them!

“All right! Listen up, shitbags! This very large individual is Officer Elias Woodward! State Parole! The officers in the raid jackets are also State Parole! And judging by the looks of some of you, you’re already intimately familiar with the parole system! That means you know what happens to people who fuck with their parole officer! He and his friends are going to question each of you who’ve been guests of the state! When he asks for your piece of shit prison number, you will answer up! And you will not lie to them! Not if you want to keep breathing! The rules are different today, in case you hadn’t noticed! Nobody gives a flying fuck what happens to any of you! Accidents can and will happen! I’m talking about forty-five caliber accidents! Twelve-gauge accidents! Officer Woodward, they’re all yours.”

I can already see some of them shaking. Yeah, they should be shaking! They all saw him choke that asshole out and throw him in the pool. They know what’s going to happen to them if they don’t cooperate. After they get their ass stomped, they’ll probably find themselves in Supermax! Good! They’ll go totally psycho after ninety days of that shit! The rule book just got heavily modified, and it’s about fucking time! I may be disgusted with myself tomorrow for this, but right now, I don’t give a shit! They murdered a police officer. As far as I’m concerned, they just flushed their rights down the toilet. They’re going to talk to us or they’re going to wish they’d never been born. That’s the rule for today. Welcome to the modern-day witch trials, motherfuckers!

Back on patrol. Mission accomplished. We verified that this Tremell Boone piece of shit killed Officer Valderama. Believe me, those shitbags were too fucking scared of us to lie. And don’t give me any bullshit about their rights or how what we did amounts to torture. They started this thing. They murdered a police officer. You don’t treat people like that with kid gloves. Even Harper didn’t have a problem with it, and he’s as much of a Boy Scout as anyone who ever wore the uniform. Fuck them! If this is what they’re going to do, then they should suffer the consequences for it. Anybody who doesn’t see that is a fucking idiot. And as for this Boone asshole? He’ll be lucky to survive the arrest. Like I said, the rule book just got modified. There’s a full-scale riot going on right now and he’s fair game. I say shoot his fucking ass on sight!

We haven’t talked very much since we dumped the prisoners back at Woodlawn Station. There’s really not much to say: another officer died because of this shit. That’s really all there is to it. He wasn’t the first and who knows if he’ll be the last? Some little piece of shit murdered him for the hell of it. From what the witnesses told us, those guys weren’t even trying to arrest the suspect. They were arresting someone else when the fight broke out and as soon as Officer Valderama lost his helmet, the son of a bitch came up from behind him and whacked him over the head. Some fucking punk gangbanger. They say his gang nickname is Lil’ T, so I’m guessing he’s not very old. Some of the people said he was around sixteen or seventeen. Great! Another asshole juvenile! Well, sixteen or seventeen is old enough to be tried as an adult. They can’t give him the death penalty but we can. Just give us a reason, asshole! Just give us a reason!

Acevedo pulled his picture from the Gang Unit files in the station, so at least we know what he looks like. He looks like a total piece of shit to me. Unfortunately, there’s nothing very distinctive about him so he might be able to stay on the run for a while. I’m trying not to think about it. If I think about it, I just make myself insane with rage. You know, that’s the single best word for this whole fucking mess: rage. I’ve never felt such rage before about anything. Well, maybe when Ricky shot Harper, but he was dead before I even knew that Harper was hit. We blew his worthless ass away and I’ve always been glad that I fired the shot that took off the back of his evil fucking head. I’ve never regretted any of my shootings, but that was the only one that gave me a sense of satisfaction. Even killing that psychopath Sukhanov at the St. George didn’t do that for me. I felt damned good about blowing away Ricky. I’m just sorry we only got to kill him once.

“Dani, you’ve been awfully quiet over there.”

“What’s there to say? Another cop got killed. The only difference is, I had to look this one in the eye right before he died.”

“I don’t like it any more than you do. I’m just a little worried about you.”

“Why? Because I threatened to drop that piece of shit in enemy territory? If it got him to talk, that’s all that mattered.”

“Would you have really done it?”

“Harper, do you honestly think there’s a field jail at the Greenwell?”

In case I didn’t mention it, the Greenwell is a well-known gang spot down there. It’s an alley with a long cinder block wall that’s painted an ugly green and the end of the alley has always been known as the Well. Don’t ask me why. Maybe there was a well there once? Anyway, that’s why it got the name Greenwell.

“I don’t know. You sure sounded like you knew there was.”

I have to keep reminding myself that Harper never worked down here. I’m sure Acevedo knew I was bluffing. He knows this area better than I do.

“There’s no jail over there, trust me. That’s one of the most dangerous spots in the south end. Think Ambush Alley without the walls.”

He seems relieved. I wish I could tell you that it was all a cool, calculated bluff, but I can’t. I knew there wasn’t any field jail over there, but I was perfectly ready to drive him over there, take away his shoes and leave his ass to the sharks. Yeah, that’s how furious I was. And yes, it scared the living shit out of me. When you’re suffering from blind rage, you’re capable of anything. In a police officer, that’s a very dangerous thing.

“So what would you have done if he called your bluff? I’m just wondering.”

Uh-huh! He’s just afraid that I’ve taken leave of my senses. Well, he’s got a good reason to be. That’s pretty much the case.

“I would’ve kicked him in the balls until they lodged behind his back teeth.”

“I could go with that.”

At least he said that without a hint of sarcasm. I know he’s as angry as I am. He just controls it a lot better. I wish I could do that. It must be a Marine thing.

“Harper, I’m sorry if I lost control back there. It’s just…I looked that officer right in the eye and I could see how scared he was. I think he knew he wasn’t going to make it. But I lied and told him he was going to be all right. I hate myself for that.”

“Don’t be so hard on yourself. Dani, even if you knew there was nothing we could do for him, you did the right thing. You tried to give him some hope. Even if you gave him a minute’s peace, it was the right thing to do.”

“I still feel like shit about it.”

“I know you do. It doesn’t mean you were wrong. You weren’t.”

“Sixty-Six Central to all Central Midwatch units, give us a backup at 71st and Patuxent! We’ve got a situation over here!”

Seriously? We just passed that intersection about two minutes ago and nothing was happening. Now suddenly one of our units is asking for a backup over there?

“Sixteen Central, show us en route. Hit it, Harper!”

“Hang on!”

We should be able to get there in about a minute with the lights and siren on. That’s a little commercial area about two spots down from the intersection. Whatever is going on over there, if it’s big enough, then it’ll threaten the houses nearby. We’d better shut it down fast. Hey, maybe we’ll get lucky? Maybe that piece of shit Tremell will be there? God, I hope so! I’ve got a great big load of buckshot with his name on it!

“How many more rounds do you have for that rifle?”

“Not many. If we get into a serious firefight, I’m going to run out. Any ideas where we can get more?”

Our best bet would be the same store that loaned it to us, but they’re not open today. There are a couple of other places that sell guns and ammunition, but they’re probably closed as well. We’d better think of something. We don’t want to lose our best weapon for lack of ammunition.

“We’ll figure something out. I don’t think they’ll be giving us back our rifles before tomorrow – if then. We’re going to need that thing.”

“I hope they don’t expect me to buy it when this is over. That thing is expensive. With the scope, it’s got to cost three grand.”

Yeah, and we’ve got better things to spend it on, like Emily. Babies are a lot more expensive than you might think. There’s always something they need. No matter how many checklists we draw up, as soon as we go shopping, we discover something that we left off.

“They’ll probably put it in a case with a sign on it saying ‘Genuine riot gun used by the police.’ That should get it to sell in a hurry. That thing’s already got a couple of bodies attached to it.”

“I think I’ll suggest that to them. It might make it bring twice the price.”

How nice to know that at least somebody is going to make a profit off of this shit.

“Harper, if you see me going over the deep end again, I want you to reel me in. Even if I scream bloody murder, just do it. I know I’ll appreciate it later when we all cool off.”

“Understood. And if you see me going off the deep end, I expect you to do the same.”

Yeah, right! Harper go off the deep end? That’ll never happen. He’s too disciplined. He never lets himself get carried away with anything. It’s one of the many things I love about him.

“Will do. Up ahead, take a right. It’s a straight shot up from there.”

I can’t believe we’re not getting help from the National Guard until seven o’clock. And when that rolls around, they’ll probably say they’re pushing it back to midnight. What’s with those guys? What’s the big holdup? Just issue them their gear and get them the hell out here. How hard is that?

“Dani, we’ve got major fires up ahead.”

“I see them. Punch it!”

How is that even possible? Like I said, we passed by there about two minutes ago and everything was quiet. Now suddenly it goes ape shit? That doesn’t make a lot of sense.

“Sixteen Central broadcasting on Woodlawn frequency, show us code six with Sixty-Six Central. Be advised, we’ve got a pretty big fire here. Send the fire department if they’re available.”

I hope that doesn’t spread to the nearby houses. I know the water pressure in the hydrants was failing yesterday, but I don’t know if they fixed it. They could be completely out of water in those hydrants by now. And if that’s the case, then whatever fires are burning are going to keep on burning. There’ll be no way to defend against them. They’re not going to put out a full-on blaze with fire extinguishers.

“Let’s go, Harper! Watch yourself!”

Jesus Christ! The shops on all four corners of the intersection are fully engulfed in flames! Total losses! Christ, I’m standing in the middle of the intersection and the heat is so bad that I can feel it singing my hair! How could this have happened? In two minutes everything went from zero to hell on earth? How is that even possible? They’d need at least four people to start fires in each building! Tell me this shit wasn’t planned! This shit was organized and deliberate!

“Sixteen Central, be advised: we have major fires on all four corners of this intersection! We’re going to need the fire department! We’re going to try to evacuate the houses nearest to the fires! Come on, Harper! Start banging on doors! Mandatory evacuation! Nobody gets to say no! Garcia, Acevedo, you take those two streets! Harper, you’re southbound! Clear out the first four houses and then make your way to the other side of the street! Tell everyone to head one block away from the fires! Move! The wind’s blowing the embers all over the place!”

These are old houses. A lot of the roofs aren’t fireproof. Shit! This whole block could go up! All right, first house! Pound on the door! Hey, wake up in there!

“Metropolitan Police! We’ve got a major fire right next to your house! You need to get out now! Hurry! That fire is spreading!”

Well, at least they’re not arguing. Two people. I don’t see anyone else. One down! I see Harper’s not having the same luck over there. He’s banging on the door loud enough that I can hear it from over here. Maybe nobody’s home? Just move on to the next one, already! We need to clear this…shit! Gunshots! Somebody’s shooting at Harper! Jesus Christ! They shot through the door! The shooter is on the inside! Did he get hit?

“Harper! Harper! Sixteen Central, shots fired at our location! Shots fired at officers!”

God, he flipped over the porch! Is he shot? Please don’t let him be shot! Get over there! Run! Please let him be all right!

“Harper, talk to me! Are you all right?”

I can’t see him! If he’s hit, he’s down! If he’s not hit, then he’s staking cover behind that porch! Wait! There! I see him! He’s up! I don’t think he’s hit! Thank God! He’s definitely pissed off, though!

“You in the house! Drop the gun and get out here now! If I see a weapon, you’re dead! Drop the weapon now!”

Jesus, that door looks like Swiss cheese! It must’ve been a shotgun! Here come the rest of our guys!

“I think he’s all right! Harper! Are you hit?”

He’s giving me the signal that he’s not hit! Yes! Thank you, God!

“Deploy on that house! Garcia, around the back in case he tries to run out that way! Acevedo! Diagonal on the front and side! Go!”

Who the hell is in there? This place? When I was here, it was all old people. I guess the neighborhood has changed. Some little punk asshole must live there now. Fucking piece of shit! Shooting through the door? How cowardly is that?

“Harper! Right behind you! On your left!”

“Roger that! Stay there! You’ve got cover down there! Hey! You in the house! You’d better toss that gun if you don’t want to get shot! Mine’s a lot bigger than yours!”

With that rifle, he can shoot through the door and it’ll come out the other side of the house! Come on, asshole! Toss the weapon and give it up! You can’t win! We could just sit here and wait for your house to burn down!

“Don’t shoot, sir! I’m putting it down! Don’t shoot me! I’m coming out!”

There goes the door! He’s got his hands up! Jesus, it’s an old guy! And he looks like he got his ass kicked! Harper’s cuffing him! Signal to Acevedo that we got him! He sees me. It’s over. Thank you, God! Nobody get killed!

“Harper, get his weapon. Hey! What the hell were you doing, shooting through the door like that? You could’ve killed my partner!”

“I didn’t know it was you, Senior! I thought it was more of them punks! You see what they did to me!”

Yeah, I can see. Somebody really beat the shit out of him. His face is all banged up and swollen. He was afraid they’d come back to finish the job. I can relate. He was just defending himself. He nearly killed my husband doing it, but he was just defending himself. Fuck! How many more of these are we going to run into?

“Is there anyone else in the house?”

“My wife. She’s bedridden. She can’t come down the stairs unless I help her.”

Great! His wife is the perfect sitting duck for this shit!

“Who beat you up?”

“A bunch of little assholes! I didn’t do a damned thing to them! They just jumped me! Right there in my front yard! Beat the tar out of me!”

“Were they locals?”

He doesn’t want to answer. I can understand why. If we make an arrest, they’ll know he snitched and they’ll come back and kill him. Or their little asshole friends will. People around here are practically held hostage by the neighborhood gangbangers. He’s lucky he’s got that shotgun. He’d be defenseless without it. He still needs to do better than to shoot blind through a fucking door, though!

“It’s your call, Harper. What do you want to do?”

“Let him go. He didn’t know it was the police. Looking at what they did to his face, I’d say he had reason for shooting. Hey, mister? Next time, be sure of your target before you open fire! Get yourself one of those hidden door cameras. They’re cheap and they work.”

“I’ll do that, sir. I appreciate this. I really do. I didn’t mean you no harm.”

“You don’t know why they attacked you?”

“Since when do a bunch of punks need a reason? They’ve been beating up people all over the neighborhood. This riot! I know the youngsters call it an ‘uprising,’ but it ain’t no ‘uprising!’ It’s a goddamned riot! I know! I’ve seen one before! Detroit! Sixty-eight!”

The riots after Martin Luther King got killed. Yeah, my mom told me about those. She was a kid, but she remembered seeing them on TV. They were all over the country.

“All right, I’m going to take these cuffs off of you. Dani, check that weapon and make sure it’s clear.”

Yah, it’s clear all right. It’s empty. I guess he only had the one round.

“It’s empty. Was that your last shot?”

“Yeah. I can’t get any more today. Everyplace is closed down.”

We’re not going to leave him here defenseless. I know it’s totally out of policy, but fortunately, shotgun rounds don’t have serial numbers on them.

“Here, take these. That’s six rounds of buckshot. But if anyone asks, you didn’t get them from us. Understood?”

“I understand. Thank you, Senior! You may have just saved our lives.”

“That’s the idea. Look, you’re going to have to evacuate. The whole intersection is on fire. All four corners.”

“I know. I saw it go up. All four of ’em at once.”

Like I said: this shit was clearly planned. Four buildings on four different corners don’t catch fire at once unless a firestorm passes through.

“Have you got a car? Can you get out of here?”

“I got a car. My wife’s going to need some help, though. Got to get her downstairs and into the seat.”

“We’ll help you with that. Acevedo, give Harper a hand with the wife. She can’t walk.”

That’s great, isn’t it? First, the local assholes nearly kill this guy for no reason, and then they torch the buildings right next to his house so he has to leave. I should take a picture of this. It sums up this riot in a nutshell: good people get stomped on. Assholes get away with it. That really is the last word on this shit, isn’t it?

Back on patrol. We managed to get the people in those houses clear of that fire. It took the fire department almost an hour to get there. By that time, those buildings were pretty much gutted. At least they were able to keep it from the homes. The people will be able to go back as soon as the danger passes. Yeah, right! As soon as the fire danger passes. What about the rest of the dangers? I guess they’ll just have to live with those. There are plenty of them, and I don’t just mean a bunch of thugs who beat you up in your front yard. A bunch of transformers in Lafayette Division were destroyed. Whole neighborhoods are without power. That’s going to come into play as soon as it gets dark, but right now, it means that fire and burglar alarms don’t work. Somebody has to see some shit going down and call 911, and that’s assuming they can get through. There are so many people trying to get through to 911 right now that the system keeps crashing. It wasn’t made for a riot. I’m pretty sure nothing ever was.

I’m convinced now: we’re all slowly dying. Maybe it was finally getting something to eat, but right now, staying awake is a real fight. We’re worn out. Hell, we’re totally thrashed. All of us. There are no supermen on the job. Just human beings. Human beings who can only take so much, and we reached our limit some time ago. We’re pretty much running on autopilot now. I don’t know how they expect us to come back and do it all over again tomorrow. I’ll be amazed if any of us can get out of bed. Right now, I feel as if when I fall asleep, I’ll never wake up again. Not for about six months, anyway. I hate life. That’s really how I feel right now: I hate life. I’ve got everything to live for and I feel like I’d be better off dead. Don’t ask me to explain it because I can’t. I guess frying your brain from exhaustion does weird things to you. I just want it to be over. How much longer can it last? I know that crazy shit like this tends to burn itself out pretty fast, but when every minute seems like a year, pretty fast doesn’t mean a whole hell of a lot. I feel like we’re going to be here forever. We’re all counting the minutes until “B” watch comes down and we get relieved. The problem is, those minutes don’t seem to go by very fast. I keep looking at my watch and thinking it’s frozen. This is one experience I just want to forget. Too bad that’s impossible.

It’s not just us. I saw Sergeant Gellar get into his car and he acted like every bone in his body was breaking. Lieutenant Hagan isn’t doing much better, though he’s better at hiding it. That crack on the head hurt him a lot worse than he’s letting on. Throw in the fact that neither of those guys is what you’d call a spring chicken and it’s got to be a thousand times worse for them. They’ve got to be thinking that they’re too old for this craziness, and they’re right. How they can stay out here at all is beyond me, but I’m glad they’re here. Part of me thinks they’re the only thing keeping us from going completely ape shit. I’d hate to think of what we’d look like if it weren’t for a couple of strong leaders out here. We’d be as crazy as those guys from Avalon I saw the other night. They’re trying to keep us from taking it personally. Believe me, that’s not easy. This shit is very, very personal. We all feel that way. We’re all seething from what we’ve seen out here. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’ve never felt such rage in my life. I didn’t know I could be so angry. It’s scary. I pray to God that it goes away in a hurry once this thing is over. The thought of feeling this way for the rest of my life is too much for me. I hope I get over it in a hurry. I hope all of us do. Shit like this can change you forever, and these are the best guys I’ve ever known in my life. If this shit changes even one of them, I’ll never forgive the assholes responsible for it, and that includes some of the people at the top. As far as I’m concerned, they bear a lot of the blame for how this shit has turned out so far. We’ll just have to see if they get called on it. I don’t think they will, but I can dream.

Harper brushed that incident back at the house off like it was nothing, but when I heard that shot and saw him tumble over the side of the porch, I was sure he’d been hit. It scared me like you wouldn’t believe. Deep down, I think it scared him, too. He’s slowing down as much as the rest of us. He doesn’t show it as much, but I’ve seen him start to doze off at the wheel a few times. Thank God I’m not driving or we’d be wrapped around a tree by now. We keep stopping to get out of the car just to walk around and hope it’ll wake us up. It does, but usually only until we get back in the car. If this were a normal day in Central Division, we’d get out and walk a footbeat for a while. We can’t do that here. That would be tantamount to suicide, and suicide is deeply frowned upon by the department. Out here, we have to keep plugging away. There’s nothing in the manual that tells you how to do that, though. There’s no secret training that you get in the academy that tells you how to keep going when your entire body is screaming at you to shut down and give it a rest. Harper says it comes down to sheer willpower, but that even willpower doesn’t make it any easier. He says it gets to the point where you don’t try to overcome it anymore; you just try to get through it. Getting through it becomes your only priority. Now I know what he meant.

“All Woodlawn units, be advised: major 415 group at Symington and Inverness. PR reports gunfire and the rioters have blocked the street with abandoned vehicles. Possible victims down at the scene. Any Woodlawn unit available to respond, please identify. We show no units in the division clear.”

No units in the division clear? Gee, you think? I’m pretty sure they haven’t had a clear unit in this division since nine o’clock yesterday morning.

“Sixteen Central Midwatch on Woodlawn frequency, Central Midwatch will respond.”

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

“You heard her. Hit it, Harper!”

“Hang on!”

That’s not too far away. If they blocked Symington, it could seriously fuck with our ability to get around in a hurry. We need to clear that roadblock. I hope they’ve got a tow truck, because I don’t think we’re going to get out and push a bunch of junkers out of the road. Let’s see if there’s any more information in the comments of the call. Nope. Just what she said, nothing more. Typical. We haven’t received a detailed call since this crap started and I don’t think we’re likely to get one. Information is pretty sketchy. I’m guessing the calls come in to the 911 center as nothing more than someone screaming into a cellphone and then nothing. I’m also guessing that when we get there, we’ll be the only ones at the scene. At least it’ll get us out of the car. Here’s hoping we’ll be able to stay awake.

“Hey, Dani? I don’t suppose you’ve got a spell to make me more alert?”

I told you he was wearing down as much as the rest of us.

“Sorry. I think the only thing that’ll do that is a dose of crystal meth.”

“I wouldn’t mind some right now.”

You and me both, sweetheart. I’d give anything for something that would wake me up. Coffee doesn’t do it and neither do those energy drinks. They seem to work on Harper, but he’s guzzled a bunch of them since this shit began so I guess their effectiveness is waning.

“Just a couple more hours and we’re out of here. We’ll get home and crawl right into bed.”

“Do you think Emily’s going to let us do that?”

“She doesn’t have any say in it. Right now, I could sleep through an air raid siren. A crying baby won’t do a damned thing to me. I’ll make it up to her tomorrow.”

“We’ll be right back here tomorrow, remember? We’ll wake up just in time to start the next shift.”

Did I ever tell you Harper has a sadistic streak? You just saw it. The thought of coming back here is enough to make me start crying.

“Forty-Four Central to all Central Midwatch units, we’ve got a situation here! There are at least four wrecked cars in the road at the Symington intersection! The street is completely blocked! We’re taking rocks and bottles! Get here quick, guys! We’ve got some seriously angry people here!”

I guess it’s even worse than I thought! Shit! Are we ever going to get any good news?

“Sixteen Central, we’re less than a minute away, coming westbound on Symington. Hang in there, guys! Help’s on the way! Punch it, Harper! Warp speed!”

“You got it! Hang on!”

We should be able to see it up ahead by now. I guess that means the barricade isn’t on fire. That’s something. I don’t hear any gunshots, but with the siren screaming, that’s to be expected. Hang on! There it is! Jesus, Signolo wasn’t kidding! They’ve blocked the whole damned street! Six lanes!

“Sixteen Central Midwatch, show us code six with Forty-Four Central on the incident on Symington. Come on, Harper! And watch your back!”

Not to mention your front, your sides, and your head! Jesus, about the only thing we don’t have to watch is the ground beneath our feet! Here comes Sixty-Six at about warp factor nine! All right, let’s do this! I can see a bunch of people on either side of the barricade, and they’re all throwing shit! As long as they don’t dig up a gun and start shooting at us!

“Dani, get down!”

Oh, shit! Gunshots! Famous last words! Take cover! Behind the car! Where the fuck is it coming from? I can hear it, but I can’t see it! Fuck! Whoever’s shooting, they can sure as hell see me! That one hit right in front of my face! Stay down!

“I can’t see the shooter!”

Signolo’s shooting at something! I don’t know what, but he’s got a target! Move! Get the fuck out of here! That gunner already sighted this spot! I need to get out of here before he hits me! Over there! That parked car! Go for it! Run! Get there! Made it! Chamber a round! That barricade is a little far for a shotgun blast, but fuck it! If I see the son of a bitch, I’m taking the shot! There! There he is! At the south end! White football jersey! Come on, stick your head out again! Stick it out so I can blow it right off! There! Mistake, asshole! Fire! Got him! I hit him! I don’t know if he’s down, but I know I hit him! Harper’s on his radio!

“Sixteen Central to dispatch, shots fired! Officer needs help! We’re taking fire from the crowd! Unknown number of suspects behind the barricade! We need an air unit to spot for us!”

“Sixteen Central, no air units available. No Woodlawn units available.”

Just fucking great! Where the hell is everybody? Down in Wilmington? Why the fuck aren’t they up here? Oh, fuck it! Move! Don’t stay in one place! If there’s another shooter, he saw me for sure! Move! Over to that next car! Stay low! Jesus, more shots! Somebody else has a weapon over there!

“There’s another shooter! I don’t know where!”

Harper seems to know where! He’s firing! He wouldn’t shoot if he didn’t have a target! Go! Move! Use the distraction to get closer! Run! Stay low! Jesus, that’s a lot of shooting! How the fuck much ammunition did these assholes bring? There’s Signolo! Behind that car! Get up there! He’s all alone up there and he’s closest to the barricade! He needs backup!

“Dani! Air unit coming in from the southeast!”

Thank you, Harper! Yes! Now we’ll have someone to spot for us! Get over here, guys! We need your eyes! Hurry! There! Another shooter! He’s got a shotgun! Take him out! Shoot him before…damn! Down he goes! Who shot him? Acevedo! Good shooting, Acevedo! That guy’s down for the count! God, please let him be the last asshole with a gun! Oh, shit! More shots! Where the hell did that come from? Wherever it is, the shooter knows where I am! Stay down! Jesus! That hit right above my head! Stay down! This asshole knows how to shoot! I hear sirens! More units! Get over here, guys! We need the help! What the fuck is that air unit doing? He’s overhead, but he’s not broadcasting! God damn it, we need his eyes to spot these guys! What the fuck is he…oh, I don’t fucking believe it! It’s not one of ours! It’s a goddamned news helicopter!

“Guys! The air unit’s not one of ours! It’s a fucking news chopper!”

Just what we need: a goddamned looky-lou! Like he’s going to do us any good! Stay in the fight! Focus! There’s still at least one shooter out there!

“Lynott! Where’s the shooter?”

Lieutenant Hagan and Sergeant Ivanell! They’re moving up! Don’t come up here, guys! That asshole might pick you off!

“Behind the barricade! He’s got a clear view of this position! Don’t come up here! Stay there! This asshole knows how to shoot!”

It looks like they’re moving over to the north side. Probably trying to cut off the gunner if he tries to make a break for it. Shit! This guy doesn’t seem to want to escape! He’s determined to kill us! Goddamned maniac! Fuck it! If that’s what he wants, then we’re going to kill his ass first!

“Harper! The shooter’s behind the first car on the left! He’s got a clear field of fire on me!”

“Dani, stay down! We’ll get him! Garcia! With me!”

Jesus Christ, Harper! You’re crazy! He’s moving up on the barricade! He’s going to be face-to-face with that asshole in a minute! And I can’t stick my head out without getting it shot off! Harper, what are you doing? He’s aiming through the window of one of the wrecked cars! Garcia’s further down and he’s trying to get between the cars! Harper, I’m going to strangle you when this is over! I swear to God!

“Hey, asshole! Over here!”

What the fuck is he doing? He’s trying to draw the shooter’s fire! Oh, fuck! He got him! Harper got the shooter! He shot his ass! Point blank with an M-14! That guy’s fucking dead for sure! He…oh, my God! The cars blew up! That was an explosion! Jesus fucking Christ! That’s right where they were standing! Harper!

“Harper! Harper!”

He’s down! He’s on the ground! Jesus Christ! What the fuck? Get there! Get there fast! Run!

“Harper! Harper, are you all right?”

“Yeah! What the fuck? Was that a bomb?”

“I don’t know! Are you hit? Are you bleeding?”

“No, but my ears are ringing like shit! Son of a bitch! Oh, fuck! Garcia! Where’s Garcia?”

I didn’t see him! He was squeezing between the cars! Jesus Christ! If he was in there when that explosion…no! Where is he? God, where is he? There! He’s on the ground! Oh, Jesus! He’s hurt! He’s hurt bad!

“Officer down! Officer down! Garcia’s down! We need help!”

Fuck! More shots! There’s another asshole with a gun! We can’t get to Garcia!

“Where are those shots coming from? Somebody help! We have to get to Garcia!”

I see him! I see the shooter! He’s right…shit! His head exploded! What the fuck? It’s Lieutenant Hagan! He shot him! He got the guy!

“Shooter down! We need help! Garcia’s down! We need help!”

“Hang on, Lynott! We’re clearing this side of the cars! Ivanell! Get over there and help them with Garcia! Move it! The rest of you, with me! Anybody makes a move, gun his ass!”

Oh, God! He’s hurt bad! But he’s alive! Thank God, he’s alive!

“Garcia! Garcia, can you hear me?”

“Yeah! Fuck! My fucking leg’s on fire!”

No, it’s not! But it’s all torn up! His uniform’s been shredded! Shrapnel! He took a lot of it! He’s all torn up!

“Garcia, stay still! We’re going to get you out! Just lay there! Don’t try to move! Sixteen Central on Woodlawn frequency, officer down! There’s been an explosion! We have an officer down! We need EMS and fire here now! Right fucking now!

“Sixteen Central, EMS is on restricted response. They cannot respond to an unsecured location. Is your location secure?”

Is she fucking shitting me? What the fuck part of “officer down” does she fail to understand?

“Yes! Yes, the fucking scene is fucking secured! We just killed all of the fucking suspects! Get EMS and fire here now! We’ve got an officer down with shrapnel wounds from an explosion! Is that clear?”

“Sixteen Central, stand by.”

Stand by? Stand by for what? Is she out of her fucking mind?

“Garcia! Jesus Christ! Partner! Are you OK? What the fuck happened?”

Acevedo! God, he’s going to fucking flip! Garcia’s his partner!

“Just hang on, partner! We’re going to get you out! Dani, what the fuck happened?”

“I don’t know! Harper shot the gunner and there was an explosion! Garcia was between those cars! He got hit! Help us get him out of here! Over to the sidewalk! Hurry! Signolo! Get the first-aid kit! We need pressure bandages! Everything! Go!”

Christ, his legs are covered in blood! I can’t tell how bad it is, but it looks fucking horrible!

“Lynott! What’s his status?”

What? Sergeant Hendrickson! What’s his status? Jesus Christ! He’s screaming in pain! That’s his status!

“He’s all fucked up! He needs EMS right fucking now! Where the hell are they?”

“I don’t know! I’ll try to get them to respond! Do what you can for him!”

God, his screams are like a fucking knife in my ears! I want to tell him to shut up, but I can’t! And I can’t press on his legs because the pain will send him through the roof! What the fuck was that? A pipe bomb? It was loud as hell and I saw a huge flash of fire for a second! He’s lucky he wasn’t burned alive! At least he’s moving his arms and legs! He’s not paralyzed! But he’s in agony and there’s not a damned thing we can do about it! Here comes Sergeant Hendrickson! He’d better have some good fucking news!

“EMS says if we can move him one block east, they’ll respond. Can we get him there?”

“We’ll get him there if we have to fucking carry him! Get our car over here! Here, take the keys! Go!”

I don’t like the idea of moving him like this! I have no idea how bad he’s hurt! But we sure as hell can’t do anything for him here! Oh, shit! Harper sees something and I can tell by the look on his face that it isn’t good!

“Dani, we’ve got a crowd coming and they’re not happy! Heads up, everybody! We’ve got trouble coming!”

And here come the local assholes! Probably whining about the shitbags we dumped and how they didn’t do nothing, officer! Fuck that shit! Anybody who fucks with us right now is getting a forty-five right between the fucking eyes!

“Fucking murderers!”

“Fuck the police!”

“Y’all done murdered them boys!”

“They wasn’t doin’ nothin’! Y’all are a bunch of fuckin’ murderers!”

“Police brutality!”

All right, you shitbags! You asked for it!

“Dani, what are you…”

Fire! Three rounds! Right at their fucking feet! Yeah, you want to talk some shit? Talk to the Glock, fuckheads!

“You want some more? Bring it on! I get a day off and a medal for every piece of shit I kill! Bring it! I’ve got plenty more for you!”

Yeah, I’m aiming right at you, motherfucker! Take one more step and see if I shoot at your feet this time!

“Get the fuck out of here while you still can! Run! All of you!”

Two more shots in the air for good measure! Yeah, look at them run! Fucking worthless assholes! Take your shit somewhere else! Stay here and you’re going to fucking die like your asshole homies!

“I don’t want to hear it, Harper!”

“I wasn’t going to say anything. Come on, let’s get him into the car. Sarge! Acevedo! On three! Watch his legs! One…two…three!

Oh, God! I know it hurts, Garcia! I know it hurts but we have to do it! Hurry! Get him in the car! Nice and easy! Get him in! God, those screams! I can’t stand it! Those burns on his legs are killing him!

“Set him down easy! That’s it! Acevedo, ride in the back! Sarge, you drive! Get him to that corner over there and if that fucking ambulance isn’t there…”

“They’re there. I saw them. He’s going to make it, Dani. Just keep thinking that. Let’s go!”

I won’t believe that until I see him walking normally. God almighty! How much does one cop have to suffer? Garcia nearly got his arm blown off in the St. George! Now this? Are we all going to end up like that? Enough! No more! No fucking more!

“Lynott! Come over here!”

Lieutenant Hagan. He’d better not give me any shit for firing those warning shots! It was all I could do to keep from shooting everybody in that fucking crowd!

“Sir, if you’re going to give me shit for…”

“I don’t have a problem with what you did, Lynott. I saw what happened. Give me a little credit, will you?”

“I’m sorry, sir. I shouldn’t have yelled at you.”

“Under the circumstances, it’s understandable. I just wanted to say I looked at the car and I saw the remains of a propane tank in there. They probably had it rigged to explode. We’ve gotten reports of them from other divisions. This is the first casualty, though.”

Jesus, what next? What fucking next? What the fuck can they possibly do to us next?

“Harper, did you hear that?”

“Yeah, I heard it. So these assholes are using IEDs now? What the fuck? How the hell are we supposed to protect against that? Sir, what the fuck are we supposed to do if these shitheads are setting booby-traps for us?”

He’s really furious. When Harper starts swearing like a Marine, you know he’s pissed. It stands to reason: he and Garcia are tight. Seeing him lying on the ground was like looking at his brother.

“Guys, I know how you feel because I feel the same way. But we just lost another man and we’re hanging on by the skin of our teeth. I need you two to keep it together. I know I’m asking for the moon right now, but that’s my job and I need you to keep your heads in the game. We’re barely effective now. We lose another unit and we’ll be combat-ineffective and that won’t do anybody any good. So I’m asking you: can you keep it together? Can you stay focused? Because if you can’t, then I need you to tell me that right now. We’ve got no one but each other out here. Can you do it?”

There’s a loaded question if I ever heard one! Can we keep it together? Sure! For the next five minutes! Beyond that, who the fuck knows? Are we even going to be alive in the next five minutes?

Hang on! Signolo’s signaling to us! He’s got something!

“Guys! Lieutenant Hagan! This one’s still alive!”

Which one? That’s the asshole I shot! Lucky you, motherfucker! You get to go to prison for the rest of your life!

“Let him fucking rot! Leave him for the rats!”

I can see the “RG” tattoo on his neck! Fucking Royce Gardens! You guys just went from total asshole to fucking subhuman in my book, motherfucker!

“Hang on, Lynott. We can’t just leave him here, as much as we might want to.”

“Why not? He tried to kill us! He may be the one responsible for that gas bomb! Do you want to ask Garcia what we should do with him, sir?”
“I’ll take it under advisement. Signolo, get him on his feet.”

“Sir? I don’t think he can walk, sir.”

“If he wants to live, he’s going to have to walk back to that intersection where the paramedics are. We’re sure as hell not going to carry him. On your feet, asshole! It’s that, or you stay here and bleed to death. Your choice.”

“I say leave him here! When he dies, we can toss his ass in that sewer over there!”

“That would be unlawful dumping of toxic waste, Lynott. Come on, asshole! On your feet!”

And up he goes! Fucking asshole! I say let him die! A piece of shit like him doesn’t deserve to live! None of them! Him and his fucking gang! Let them all fucking die! Every last one of them! The whole damned world would be a better place without them! Tell me I’m wrong! Go take a look at Garcia and then you tell me I’m wrong!

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