Tactical Alert

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"Some Peaceful Protest!"

And the ambulance takes Garcia to some hospital. The paramedics told us his wounds were bad, but not as bad as they looked. That didn’t make any of us feel any better. As for the asshole? He’s all fucked up. My shotgun blast hit him high in the chest and the neck. He’s lucky it didn’t kill him. It wasn’t for lack of me trying. I wish I’d killed him. I wish I’d killed them all. That’s all I can think right now: I wish I’d killed every last one of them. It’s not a good thing to be thinking, but right now, I don’t have a problem with it. I’m pretty sure no one else does, either. I’m pretty sure we all feel exactly the same way right now: we hate them. Everyone who took part in this fucking riot. Everyone who threw a brick or fired a shot or set fire to a building or who so much as ripped off a can of beer. We hate them all. How could we not? How could any sane person go through what we’ve gone through and not feel the same way?

The paramedics said Garcia was damned lucky. The cars he was trying to squeeze through protected him from the fireball that went off when the propane can exploded, so he wasn’t horribly burned. Mostly first and second-degree burns to his legs and arms. Thank God for small miracles. His legs looked all torn to pieces, though. The paramedic I talked to said it looked a lot worse than it was and it wasn’t like Garcia was in danger of losing his legs. Please God, let him be right! I can still hear him screaming. It was barely human. I think that sound is going to stick in my head for the rest of my life. I hope not, but right now? How can anyone forget hearing screams like that? I don’t think they can. I don’t think I will, either.

Oh, God! Of all the…that sector car? That’s Sergeant Satterfield in it! Just what we fucking don’t need! What’s the matter, asshole? Did they run out of coffee and donuts at the CP? Why else would he leave it and come out here?

“Lieutenant! Heads up! Asshole at twelve o’clock!”

“I see him. You let me handle this. I don’t want you popping off at him. Even if he deserves it.”

Oh, he deserves it, all right! He deserves it and a whole hell of a lot more! What a total suck-butt! Look at him! His uniform looks like he’s ready for the annual inspection! And his car doesn’t have a mark on it! Yeah, he’s been driving that thing around for two days in this shit storm! Sure! And if you believe that, then I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn that I’ll sell you for a song! Here he comes! And he’s got his asinine furious face on! This should be good!

“What the hell is going on here? Lynott! What the hell are you still doing in this division?”

You mean besides getting ready to puke?

“Dealing with asshole rioters. Weren’t you listening to the radio?”

“I heard you on the radio saying you just shot three people! Was that supposed to be funny, Lynott?”

“No, it was supposed to be accurate. You did catch the part about how one of our officers had just been blown up by a homemade bomb, didn’t you? Maybe you thought that was funny?”

“Watch your mouth, Lynott!”

I’d better shut up before Lieutenant Hagan gives me that look that turns all flesh into stone. I think you know the one.

“Lieutenant? Do you want to handle this? I can’t talk to this guy.”

“It’s Sergeant Satterfield, Officer!”

I’m getting out of here before I punch this guy. Or hit him with my nightstick. Or shoot him.

“Don’t you turn your back on me, Lynott!”

On second thought, I am going to punch his ass! Fucking piece of shit! No, Lieutenant Hagan looks like he wants me the hell out of here. Fine, I’m leaving! Let him deal with this asshole!

“All right, all right! Calm down, Brian. What are you doing here? I think it’s pretty clear you didn’t come because of the officer needs help call.”

“Why is she still in this division? She’s not supposed to be here. She was kicked out for a reason, Lieutenant. A good one.”

“No, she was transferred out for political reasons and we both know it, so that matter is closed. I’m asking you again: why are you here?”

“I want her out of this division immediately!”

“And that’s not going to happen. Your current deployment is a disaster. We’re here on orders from Commander Mancia, and he wants us here. We’re doing the job that needs to be done. That’s all there is to it. So if you don’t have anything pertinent to say, this conversation is over. You can leave now, Brian.”

And there you go. Sergeant Satterfield looks like he’s about to start screaming. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if he did. He doesn’t handle disappointment very well. He never did.

“Do you have any idea how many shootings you’ve had in this division since this incident started?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t been counting them. And this isn’t an ‘incident,’ Brian. This is a riot. I know. I’ve seen them before, even if you haven’t.”

“Lieutenant, there’s a standing directive not to refer to the civil unrest as a ‘riot.’ Office of Operations issued…”

“Brian, I don’t give a damn about people’s feelings and I don’t give a damn about anyone’s politics. The fact that you or Office of Operations does means nothing to me. The fact that you’ve got a personal axe to grind with Officer Lynott is mildly fucking interesting, but it doesn’t amount to shit. I can’t spare her. This division can’t spare her. If you’ve got a problem with that, go talk to Commander Mancia. But until he orders her out, she stays. All of my people stay.”

“Your actions are going to have serious repercussions for this department, Lieutenant. You and your people are making this situation worse. Don’t think there won’t be hell to pay when it’s over. People are going to demand action in response to what your officers are doing out here. This is not how the higher-ups want this matter handled!”

“Brian, each and every one of my officers would be thrilled to pack it in and leave your division to the fucking wolves. Look around you: we’re tired, we’re bleeding, and we’ve watched our people carted off to the hospital one by one. We’ve seen good officers get shot to shit and we’re lucky if we can get an ambulance to respond. We have to stand here and look people in the eye while they watch their business burn or get shot for trying to defend them. We’re the ones who have to shrug when they ask us where the goddamned police are! Where the hell have you been? Did you just get that uniform out of the cleaners? One look at you and I can tell you haven’t been out here in the shit. So either grab your helmet and fall in with the ranks, or get the hell out of here! I don’t have the time or the patience for this bullshit! That is all! You are dismissed, Sergeant.”

And yes, he said all of that without ever raising his voice even once. Don’t ask me how. I’d have been shouting at the top of my lungs. It’s a God-given gift that he has. It’s a shame they can’t teach it at Lieutenant’s school. And yes, believe it or not, there really is such a thing as Lieutenant’s school. They should put a life-sized picture of Lieutenant Hagan in there and tell everyone “This is exactly what you’re supposed to be.” It would probably work wonders.

“I can’t believe with all of this shit going on, he’s worried about me being back in his division. That’s the most important thing to him right now?”

“He’s a pencil-neck. People like that just don’t get it. All right, where do we stand right now?”

“Ruiz, Kursteff, Rosen, Goren, and Garcia are all in the hospital. That’s two and a half units. Acevedo can ride with Vinell and that leaves us three units plus the sergeants and you. Vinell is pretty banged up, though. So is Harper, but he won’t admit it.”

“So are you. I don’t know how much longer we can stay out here. Everyone’s pretty spent. They’d better relieve us at eighteen hundred. We’re not going to last much longer at this rate.”

Yeah, and that’s coming from the guy with the gash in his forehead and bruises from head to toe. Sergeant Gellar looks like hell, I don’t know how Sergeant Hendrickson is faring, and I can see the strain on Sergeant Ivanell’s face. He’s trying to keep up with everybody, but he’s terrified he’s going to make a mistake and it’s really taking a toll on him. Have you ever heard of the death by a thousand cuts? I think this is it. It sure feels like it.

“All right, tell Acevedo to take his unit back to Woodlawn Station with Vinell. They’ll come back in Twenty-Two’s car. We’ll use Sixty-Six’s vehicle as a backup in case one of ours gets knocked out. Sergeant Hendrickson just got word of a pretty large-scale demonstration over at Hamilton Park. The other Woodlawn units should be headed over there, so we’re going to go back them up. That way, we won’t be on our own. With any luck, that’ll take us to eighteen hundred and ‘B’ watch will come down and we’ll be relived.”

I wish he sounded more confident about that. I’m beginning to think we’re never going to get out of here. Where’s my notebook? I know that park. I should draw a diagram for him. If we’re going in there against an angry mob, we should have a plan.

“Sir, this is pretty much the shape of the park. The main parking lot is over here, but I think we should stay away from it. There’s only one big entrance into the lot and they could block it off. There’s the south parking lot over here. It’s smaller and there are two big driveways into it. Now, Hamilton isn’t flat like a lot of the parks around here. It’s got three or four big hills by the southeast corner. If we form up here, we keep the trees on either side of us and we’ve got the high ground. We’ll be able to see almost everything that’s going on. It’s not a very big place. There’s a Rec Center here. I’m guessing it’s locked up, but if the crowd wanted to break in, it wouldn’t be hard. We can set up an OP over here by the trees. As long as our radios still work, we should have good communications and a fallback location in case things go to shit on us.”

“I’m impressed. You thought of all that in ten seconds?”

“I used to work here, remember? I also married a Marine.”

“I think it’s a lot more than that. Grab your division map and mark it off just like you did here. I want everyone on the same page when we go in there. And keep an eye on Acevedo. His partner just got torn to hell and I don’t want him looking for revenge. He’s pretty worked up right now.”

“And the rest of us aren’t? I’ll keep an eye on him, sir.”

Not that I could stop him if he goes ape shit. We’d have to zap his ass. Acevedo is like that, as I’m sure you know by now.

“Harper! We’re going to Hamilton Park. I’ve got to mark up the map so we all know what to do when we get there. You check everybody and make sure they’ve got what they need. Let me know if anyone’s injuries are acting up.”

“What do we do about Sixty-Six?”

“The Lieutenant says Acevedo drives their car back to Woodlawn and come they back in Twenty-Two’s. Keep an eye on Acevedo. His partner was nearly killed and we don’t know how bad it is yet. Acevedo might go looking for payback.”

“He’s not the only one.”

“I know, but just keep an eye on him. I don’t want him going all kamikaze on us. If this demonstration in the park goes like everything else, he’ll get plenty of stick time. How’s your arm?”

“It stings. How’s your head?”

“When I think about it, it starts pounding. I feel like it’s going to explode from the inside. Don’t worry, I’m all right. Just a couple more hours and we’re out of here. I’d say we’ve done enough, wouldn’t you?”

“More than enough. I never thought it was going to be like this when I signed up.”

No kidding. None of us did. We’re police officers. Full-scale urban warfare wasn’t in the job description.

“Just keep an eye on your watch. We’re not staying one second longer than we have to. Remember, I’m counting on you to get us home safely. I’ll fall asleep five seconds after I get in the car.”

“Don’t worry. I’ve got enough left to get us home in one piece. Do you think Highway took a dump on the carpet?”

I hadn’t even thought of that. There’s probably a pile of dog poop as big as my head waiting for us. I’ll worry about that later. Right now, we’ve got a demonstration to monitor. And if it’s anything like the rest of this fucking riot, it’ll turn into a free-for-all thirty seconds after we get there. Just thinking about it makes my muscles ache. Oh, well. Time to suck it up and get back to work. What’s the worst that could happen? Don’t answer that. I was being a smartass.

Hamilton Park. It wasn’t named after Alexander Hamilton, but rather some big real estate guy from the early part of the twentieth century. At least, that’s what I heard. It’s actually one of the nicest parks in the south end. There’s a grove of trees on the hills and a fountain near the middle of the park. Back in the day, people used to come here and have picnics. Anymore, this is one of the places that parents don’t let their kids anywhere near. There’s a shitload of dope dealing here, particularly at night. I guess this riot is really cutting into the dope dealers’ business. Too bad. They’ll probably apply for benefits after it’s all over to recover their lost income. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if the city approved them.

We’re in the south parking lot, and except for two cars that were here when we got here, it’s empty. I guess nobody wants to come to the park this afternoon unless they’re up to no good. Our cars are in the lot and we’re waiting for Vinell and Acevedo to get here. Six officers, three sergeants, and a lieutenant. Not much of a fearsome force, wouldn’t you say? And we’re all at the end of our rope. I’m pretty sure that Lieutenant Hagan and Sergeant Gellar understand that. As far as I’m concerned, I won’t have any qualms about banging in sick if I can’t get out of bed. I feel like I got beaten up by the heavyweight champ, and I’m pretty sure that everybody else feels at least as bad. I saw Harper favoring his other arm when we were gearing up in the parking lot. That gash on his arm is hurting him worse than he wants anyone to know. I hope to God it’s not getting infected. The next time we come across an EMS unit, I’m hitting them up for some antibiotics. He’s not getting an infection. Not as long as I have anything to say about it.

There’s one good thing about having a skeleton crew: we have enough riot shields for the whole watch. That’ll help if these assholes start throwing shit at us. We went up on the hill and Harper said there were between two and three hundred people here. They’re mostly making noise and yelling “Fuck the police!” They can stay here all night and chant their “Hey, hey! Ho, ho!” shit for all I care. As long as they’re not burning, stealing, or killing anyone. It’s still a free country, right? People have a right to protest, no matter how obnoxious they get. The real question is, will the protest stay peaceful once the sun goes down? I don’t think there’s much more than an hour of daylight left. The shadows are starting to get a little long and the sun is pretty far down on the horizon. It’ll be night soon. Then we’ll see if it takes a turn for the worse.

So right now, we’re going through our gear and deciding what to take and what to leave behind. We can’t take the rifle or the shotgun. Not in a crowd situation. They’d be too easy for someone to grab. It’s sidearms only. I’m thinking about bringing the gas gun, though. It’s nice and compact and it’ll make a hell of a non-lethal deterrent if they try to rush us.

“I’ll tell you, Dani: we really got our money’s worth out of these binoculars.”

Yeah, we’ve got the best pair of binoculars on the department. They cost a fortune, but they let you see better than you’d ever believe.

“Just don’t drop them. I don’t even want to think how much it would cost to replace them. I don’t think they’re going to put you on overwatch this time. The Lieutenant will probably put Sergeant Gellar on that detail.”

“Because he’s in such bad shape?”

“He’s not doing too well. I can tell. At his age, getting your ass kicked a dozen times in thirty hours takes a real toll on you.”

“Lieutenant Hagan’s about the same age.”

“Yeah, but he was forged on Olympus by the hammer of the gods. The rest of us mere mortals weren’t.”

“Good point. Hang in there, Dani. Another hour and a half and we’re standing down. We’re going to go home, see our daughter, take a shower, and crawl into bed. Highway will have to make do with the doggie door. We’re not walking him tonight.”

“Keep telling me things like that. They’re the only thing keeping me going right now.”

“After this thing is over with, we’re taking some time off. It’ll be just in time for the spring. Leaves on the trees, green grass, warm nights. I’m thinking cabin in the woods by a lake. Just us: you, me, and Emily. Zephyr and Highway can come, too.”

“Don’t forget the lightning bugs. And I want to hear birds chirping. I’m talking pretty birds with nice chirps. And throw in some crickets at night.”

“You got it. And fishing. Right in front of the cabin. We’ll catch them and I’ll grill them.”

God, that sounds so good right now! We’re going to need a vacation like that after this shit. We’re going to need time to become human again. I’m not sure what we are right now, but it doesn’t feel very human to me.

“Harper, if I ever get this cynical again, promise me you’ll tie me up and beat me with a cane until I come to my senses.”

“I’ll tie you up, but I can think of better things to do than beating you with a cane.”

Would you listen to him? Please don’t get me started! I can’t even think like that right now! If I did, I’d probably drag him into the bushes and fuck his brains out right here. I could definitely use a good fucking. I just don’t have the strength for it now.

“Hold that thought until I get my strength back.”

“You’d better start getting it back right now. Here comes Acevedo and Vinell. It’s showtime.”

They didn’t want to leave us hanging. I’d expect nothing less from them. All right, time to protect and serve the public. Even if they don’t want it. Signolo just joined us, so we might as well lay out the plan for everyone now – such as it is.

“Welcome back, guys. We’re going to need your help. Harper says we’ve got between two and three hundred people in the northwest sector of the park. Loud, but mostly peaceful.”

Acevedo doesn’t seem convinced.

“For now. Who’s running the show?”

“So far, no one. I don’t see anyone who looks like they’re leading this thing. It looks kind of spontaneous. Not many gangbangers in the crowd. Just angry people.”

“So what’s the plan?”

“For now? Watch and let them vent. As long as they’re not destroying anything or hurting anybody, it’s not our concern.”

“So we just stand there and let them motherfuck us?”

I know what he’s feeling. I feel it, too. But I can’t let him go off half-cocked. Not if the crowd isn’t a threat. I’ve got to nip it in the bud without getting into a back-and-forth with him. Easier said than done.

“As long as they’re not hurting anyone or anything, yes. We let them rant and rave all they want. But if they turn on us, then you have my permission to crack every skull you can catch. Fair enough?”

“Yeah, sure.”

“Acevedo, I know what you’re feeling. We all feel the same way, but we’ve got to hold it together. Lieutenant Hagan says as soon as we’re relieved, he’ll get you to the hospital where they took Garcia. Right now, we’ve got to keep our shit together. Enough guys have gone over the deep end as it is. I don’t want to lose anyone to that shit. I don’t want to lose anyone period. We keep our heads in the game and we get through this, no matter how hard it may be. We came down here together and we’re going to finish it together. We owe our guys in the hospital that much. We do this for them. Fair enough?”

He’s nodding. It’s killing him and I know it, but at least he’s in agreement.

“Fair enough. Don’t worry, Dani. I won’t let you down.”

“You never have and you never will. Are we all ready?”

“Roger that.”

“I’m good.”

“Let’s do this.”

“Central Midwatch! Hoo-rah!

And we all respond with the same “hoo-rah!” I swear, I’ve got to get Harper to teach me how to do that right. He’s tried, but suddenly it’s taken on a whole new importance for me. And off we go to the hill. Let’s hope this thing doesn’t go to shit on us like everything else has.

“Lynott! Over here for a minute!”

Lieutenant Hagan and Sergeant Gellar. What now? Did I do something wrong? Right now, I’d feel worse if I forgot something than if I’d fucked up. Here’s hoping I don’t incur the wrath of Lieutenant Hagan. If I fucked up, I don’t think he’d go easy on me.

“You rang, sir?”

“What was that all about?”

“Just trying to keep everybody focused, sir. Everyone’s nerves are pretty frayed. I wanted to make sure they didn’t go off half-cocked.”

“Yeah, that’s what I thought. You never cease to amaze me, Lynott. I don’t say that often enough. I want to make sure you know it doesn’t go unnoticed around here.”

“Thank you, sir. I’m just doing my job.”

“It seems to me you’re doing our job, too. Don’t think for a minute we don’t appreciate it. We do.”

“Thank you, sir. We’re headed up to the hill now. We’re on tac six. The frequency’s clear. We made sure to inform Communications that we’d be using it. They’ll be monitoring it in case we run into trouble.”

You know, some day I’m going to look back on this moment and remember it as one of the proudest in my life. Hearing that from the likes of Lieutenant Hagan is no little thing. But right now, I’m just too damned thrashed to appreciate it. That fucking sucks.

All right, up the hill! It’s not exactly Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima, but it sure feels like it. My knees are killing me. My back is killing me. My head is killing me. And I’m so damned tired! I feel like I could collapse right here and pass out on the grass. If I didn’t think the assholes in that crowd would kill me in a heartbeat, I might actually go for it.

“What’s the story, Harper?”

“Definitely closer to three hundred people now. Lots of yelling and chanting, but so far, no violence. Some of the speakers are a little iffy. I can’t tell if they’re trying to agitate the crowd or not.”

They’re about a hundred and fifty yards away and their P.A. system isn’t very good, so most of what they’re saying is pretty garbled. I can only make out about one word in five. To be honest, I don’t really give a fuck what they’re saying. As long as it isn’t a call to violence, anyway.

“What about the Woodlawn units? They should be here by now.”

“I see two sector cars over by the north parking lot, but I don’t see anyone in them. I’ve been scanning the crowd, but I don’t see any uniforms. Picking them out is like trying to pick out a needle in a haystack.”

Two units? Lieutenant Hagan said there were six. I guess this little get-together didn’t rate the rest of them. Then again, who knows what happened to them? Jesus, where the hell is everyone else? Out in the fucking valley? How can they not send every able-bodied officer down here? The south end should be swarming with cops! What the fuck is going on?

“Sixteen Central to Ten Central, Lieutenant? We’re on the hill overlooking the crowd. Harper sees two sector cars on the north side of the park, but he doesn’t see the officers. What happened to everybody else?”

“God knows, Lynott. Continue to observe. Let me know if you see anything noteworthy. I’ll see if I can’t drum up more units.”

Yeah, you’d better! Six of us against three hundred of them? I don’t think so!

“Dani, we’ve got an air unit coming in from the east.”

“Make sure it’s one of ours. It could be another news helicopter.”

Yeah, like the one over that barricade on Symington. You know, I’m glad I’m not in front of a TV right now. I’m sure that idiot was filming the gun battle. He probably even got footage of Garcia getting blown up. I don’t think I could take seeing that again.

“You’re right: it’s a news helicopter. Channel 4 News. I guess they’re hoping to see something good.”

Unfortunately, they might get the chance. That helicopter looks exactly like ours, except for the Channel 4 logo painted on the side. The people down there probably won’t know the difference. They might think it’s one of ours and that we’re trying to provoke them. That’s the last thing we need.

“Sixteen Central to Ten Central, Lieutenant? We’ve got a news helicopter approaching fast. I’m worried the crowd might think it’s one of ours and we’re trying to start something. Any suggestions?”

“There’s nothing we can do about it. They’ve got a right to be there. Let’s just hope the crowd sees it’s not a threat. Keep me posted.”

Yeah, if they start shooting at it, we’ll let you know. But he’s right: we can’t make them go away. We’ll just have to hope for the best.

“If these were normal circumstances, we’d have undercover detectives in the crowd feeding us information. We’d know exactly what was going on down there and whether we had anything to worry about.”

“So where do you suppose those detectives are now?”

Is he kidding me?

“Probably standing in line at some barber shop on the west side.”

It’s all about the priorities, right? It’s way more important to have all of our undercover detectives sporting short hair and a clean shave than to have them on the ground feeding us intelligence. At least, it is for some members of the brass.

“Speaking of hair, be careful when we get home and you wash yours. You’ve got blood in it. You must’ve been cut on the head.”

“Yeah, you and me both. We’re out of our minds, aren’t we? We actually volunteered to come down here for this shit. What’s wrong with us, Harper? We could be back in Central Division, standing guard at City Hall and we wouldn’t have a mark on us.”

“Yeah, but what fun would that be?”

Normally, that would rate him a punch in the balls, but I’m too tired. And I’m afraid that if I tried to reach over and do it, my arm might fall out of the socket. Jesus, that suddenly made me remember how Rosen looked when he got his shoulder dislocated! That was enough to make anyone puke! I hope to God he’s all right. Probably doped up and feeling no pain. Good. He earned it. But I’m thinking it’s going to be a long road to recovery for him. I can’t imagine you can come back from an injury like that in a hurry.

“Hang on, Dani! We’ve got a problem! I just found two of those officers! They’re in the crowd! Damn! They’re not even wearing their helmets!”

“Let me see!”

Yeah, but they’re standing there in full uniform! What the hell? Two cops in the middle of an anti-police protest? Are they insane?

“Keep an eye on them. Sixteen Central to Ten Central, Lieutenant? We found two of the Woodlawn officers. They’re standing at the back edge of the crowd. They’re not wearing their riot helmets, but they’re in full uniform. We could have a problem on our hands.”

“Keep an eye on them. I’m switching to Woodlawn frequency. I’m going to try to get them the hell out of there. Does anybody in the crowd see them?”

How could they not? They’re wearing police uniforms. Some people must’ve seen them, but so far, they don’t seem to care. That could change in a real hurry.

“So far, nobody’s challenged them, but that probably won’t last long.”

“All right, stand by. I’m going to order them out.”

“Harper, do you see the other two? They’re probably in the crowd somewhere.”

“Not so far. Damn! Those guys are going to get killed! Who the hell sent them there?”

“Just stay with them. If they get into trouble, sound off.”

This sucks beyond belief! What the hell were they thinking? They’re sitting ducks out there!

“Ten Central to Sixteen, they won’t come out! They say they’re under orders to be there! And that other unit you saw? It’s that jackass Satterfield! He’s in there somewhere, too! Find him! I want eyes on him and the others right away! God damn it! What the hell is that idiot thinking?”

He’s not! That’s the problem! He’s fucking oblivious to what’s going on! Wading into an angry crowd? Does he think he’s going to be welcomed with open arms?

“Forty Central to all units on the hill, I’m sending Ivanell up there right now. Stand by. We may have to go in there and do an extraction. Don’t move until I say so.”

An extraction? Seven of us against three hundred pissed off people? How the hell is that supposed to work?

“Harper, the Lieutenant said…”

“I heard him. I’m looking for the Sarge now. So far, nothing. If he’s alone in that crowd, he’s going to be next to impossible to find without a telescope. And we’re losing daylight. Once the sun goes down…”

“We’re fucked. I know. And those two officers won’t leave without orders. Jesus, how can anyone be that stupid?”

“Dani, we need more units. Seven of us aren’t going to be able to do squat against an angry mob. Not unless we start shooting, and we’re not going to do that.”

Not unless they shoot at us first. God damn it! A couple of UCs in the crowd and they could find him easy! Drag his dumb ass the hell out of there! If it were just him, I’d say leave him there! What the fuck was he thinking, going in there in the first place? There are a lot less painful ways to commit suicide!

“Dani, I’ve got him! He’s standing about twenty yards west-northwest of the stone fountain. He’s got to be at least thirty yards from the two officers. He’s out there on his own! I hope he’s got friends in there!”

Right now, no one in blue has any friends in there! Fuck! We’re going to have to go in there and drag his ass out! And we’re probably going to get the shit kicked out of us in the process!

“Dani! Harper! Any luck?”

Sergeant Ivanell. Well, he wanted to learn as much as he could about field police work. He’s about to get a crash course in cluster fucks!

“Harper found Sergeant Satterfield. He’s by the stone fountain, at least thirty yards away from the other two officers. We don’t have enough people to get them all out of there. Where the hell is the rest of Woodlawn Division?”

“Tied up on a barricaded suspect near the border with Lafayette. We just got word, they’re sending SWAT over there. It’s a real mess. At least three fatalities so far.”

Great! We’re not getting any help! How the hell are we supposed to pull this off without killing anyone or getting killed ourselves?

“Uh, guys? I think we’ve got trouble! A couple of people look like they’re getting into it with Sergeant Satterfield! Other people are starting to join in!”

“Is he trying to run?”

“He’s arguing with them, I think. Dani, this is turning to shit! Sarge, what do we do?”

I don’t think I want to hear the answer to that!

“How far away?”

“Almost a hundred yards! By the time we got there…”

The Sarge will be a crimson stain on that fountain! Shit! I knew this was going to blow up in our faces!

“We’ll have to go in there in a car and get him! Damn it!”

“Dani, we can’t drive through there! Not without mowing down fifty people!”

“So what do you want to do? Charge in there on foot? We’d have to leave the riot shields! We’d get pulverized!”

“Oh, hell! Someone just punched him! Right in the face! Sarge, it’s your call! What do we do?”

“We go in on foot and we get him the hell out of there! And then we kill him ourselves!”

I wish I could say that’s a good plan. Fuck! We’re going to take a beating for that piece of shit! All right, we might as well get it over with!

“Everybody! Drop the shields and run straight for that fountain! We’ve got to go extract a fucking idiot! Let’s go! Run!

I can’t believe we’re doing this! This is suicide! The sight of the seven of us running in there is going to flip that crowd! Fuck! I hate this shit! And my legs feel like they’re on fucking fire! Don’t think about it! Keep going! Pray we get lucky! Very lucky!

“Sixteen Central to Ten Central, that asshole just got decked! We’re going in before he gets killed! Get on the radio and tell those two Woodlawn cops to get the hell out of there now!”

Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! We’re going to get killed! We’re going to get fucking killed! And that’s if my legs don’t explode on the way over! God, it fucking hurts! Keep running! Get there! We’re almost at the fountain! The crowd’s not attacking us! If we can…oh, shit! A floodlight! It’s that fucking news helicopter! They’re lighting us up! I don’t fucking believe it!

“Dani, they see us now!”

“I know! Signolo! Get to the Sarge and drag his fucking ass out of there! We’ll cover you!”

If he wasn’t so banged up already, he’d have been there and back by now! Jesus Christ! Look at him go! How the hell does he do it? He’s almost there! Run! Hurry! We’ve got to get there and distract them! Christ, we’ll be all used up by the time we get there! Don’t think about it! Run! Almost there!

“Dani, he’s got the Sarge!”

Yeah, but the Sarge can’t even stand up! He’s already beaten senseless! I can see the blood all over his face! Fuck! I can barely breathe! How the fuck am I going to fight when I get there? Just keep running! Almost there!

“Everybody stand back! Police! Step back! All of you! Right now!”

Made it! I don’t fucking believe it! Now how the hell do we get out of here? These people are fucking pissed! Nightsticks! Show of force! Keep them away from the Sarge!

“Stay back! We’re taking him out of here!”

“Fuck you!”

“Fuck all of you!”

“Fuck the police!”

“Fuckin’ murderers!”

“You gonna kill us, too? Fuck y’all!”

Now we’re in it! Fuck! How the hell are we supposed to get out of here now? Look at Satterfield! He can’t even stand up! He sure as hell can’t run! Stupid motherfucker!

“We’re taking him out of here! We don’t want any trouble! Step back and clear a path and we’re out of here!”

“Oh, you already got trouble, cop!”

“What you gonna do, cop? You gonna beat me with that stick?”

“You cops ain’t goin’ nowhere!”

“Fuckin’ pigs! Kill ’em! Kill ’em all!”

We can’t push through them if they won’t fall back! God damn it! We should’ve left that fucking idiot here!

“Form a circle! Everyone! Circle!”

At least we won’t get hit from behind! No, we’ll just get hit a hundred times from the front! Lieutenant, you’d better pull a fucking rabbit out of the hat fast!

“Harper! That move you taught me! The fountain! Go!”

Yes! He knew what I was talking about! He took out the guy in front of the fountain! One down!

“Shift! Everybody! On me! Shift! Acevedo! Same trick!”

Damn! He fucking decked that guy good! Two down!

“Shift! On Acevedo! Move!”

Now we’ve at least got the fountain to our backs! A little trick Harper taught me in case we ever got surrounded: take out the guy closest to the wall, then do it again. If it works, you can keep the wall to your back and you’ve got a fighting chance. It doesn’t get rid of the rest of the assholes, though. And we’ve got plenty of them right now! And here they come! The fight’s on! Hit them! Hit them all! Knock the shit out of them!

“Vinell! Call it in!”

Maybe somebody will hear it and save our asses! Your turn, asshole! My nightstick beats your fist! Hit him! Right in the chest! Again! Hit his collarbone! Hit his wrist! Kick him! Straight back! He’s out of it! Jesus, Signolo’s choking that guy out! Good idea! Fuck the rule book! Best close-quarter combat technique in the world! Say goodnight, Gracie! Lock him up! Don’t let him grab my face! Yes! He’s going out! Down you go, asswipe!

“Harper! Find us a way out!”

Yeah, with this crowd? We’ll be lucky…fuck! What the hell? That son of a bitch hit me! Shit! He’s got a knife! Take him out! Taser! Got you, motherfucker! Choke on it!

“Dani! Behind you!”

Jesus Christ! I’m hit! I’m down! Get up! Hurry! Get up! Get…oh, God! He stomped me! They’re all stomping me! They’re going to kill me! Shoot! Shoot them! I can’t get to my gun! Shoot them or they’ll kill you! God, it fucking hurts! I can’t breathe! I can’t get up! I’ve got to get to my gun! Shoot them!

“Get off of her! Get the fuck off!”

Harper! He hit them! Jesus, he hit them all right in the head! They’re fucking history! Get up! Get up before someone kills you, damn it! God, it hurts! I can’t breathe! They stomped the wind out of me! I have to get up! Fight! Don’t think about it! Get up! Get up or you’re fucking dead, Dani! Get the fuck up!

“Dani! Dani, don’t move! You’re hurt! Stay down!”

Fuck this shit! They want to die? Fine! I’ll make it fucking happen! Now I’ve got my gun! Eat some of this shit, motherfuckers! That one! You’re first, asshole! I’ll fucking kill you! Aim! Fuck! I can barely see straight! Aim and…Jesus Christ! He’s down! Someone hit him! Right in the fucking head! There’s…who are those guys? They’re cops! Uniforms! They’re not ours! They’re…they’re Transit cops! A bunch of them!

“Officers! Are you guys OK?”

Thank God! There’s a bunch of them! And they’re beating the living shit out of the crowd! Jesus, they’re whacking these assholes with flashlights! Right in the head! They’re going for fucking kill shots!

“Come on! We’ve got to get you out of here! Can you walk? Officer! Can you walk?”

“I think so! I just need…fuck!

I can barely stand! I can’t walk! I can’t breathe! I can’t even see straight! I’m all fucked up! Christ! It fucking hurts! It fucking hurts so much!

“Dani, I’ve got you! We’re getting out of here!”

“The others? Our guys?”

“We’re getting them out, too! Come on! This way! Move!

I can’t! I can’t even stand up straight! It hurts too much! My head’s spinning! Fuck! Stand up! Let it hurt! Just stand the fuck up! Who’s that? Vinell! He’s pulling me up! Jesus, his face! He’s all bloody! Stand up! Get the fuck out of here!

“Harper, we need…we need a way out of here. Which way?”

“Fuck this shit! We’re clearing this fucking crowd right now!”

Gunshots! It’s Harper! He’s shooting at the ground! Warning shots! He’s trying to scare them! Vinell’s pulling me…pulling me…

“Dani, we’ve got to go! That way! Follow Harper! Move it, girl! That way!”

I can’t see where he’s leading me! I can’t see shit! My eyes…it’s blood! There’s blood in my eyes! My face! It’s burning! Gas! Pepper gas! I can smell it! Someone’s spraying pepper gas!

“Where are the rest…the rest of our guys?”

“I’m not sure! Come on! We need to get you out of here! Move your ass! Go! That way! Come on!”

I can hear the helicopter! It’s low! It’s too low! Too loud! I can’t even hear myself think! Move! That way! Fight through it! Don’t think about the pain! Just keep going! That way! Go! Don’t stop! Just keep moving!

The south parking lot. They’ve set up a triage here. We’ve got a lot of help now. Some Woodlawn officers and a bunch of Transit officers. They heard the officer needs help call and they weren’t far away. They saved our lives. They sure as hell saved my life. What’s left of it, anyway. I’m lying flat on my back on a blanket on the pavement. I’d pass out if it weren’t for the pain. Those assholes beat the living shit out of me. They must’ve stomped me a dozen times, from my legs to my head. If it weren’t for the riot helmet, I’d be dead for sure. I feel like I’m going to die in the next ten seconds. No, I’m not exaggerating. I think this is as close to feeling dead as you can get and still be alive. I think I might have a cracked rib. It feels like I’ve got a knife stuck in my right side. God, it fucking hurts! If I didn’t know better, I’d say they broke every goddamned bone in my body!

None of us fared any better. We all got beat to shit. It’s a wonder we’re still alive. The only thing that saved us was those Transit officers. They attacked the crowd with flashlights and pepper gas, and they were aiming for skulls. I saw at least a dozen assholes with blood streaming out of deep gashes in their heads. Some of them are here, though they’re in flex cuffs and wondering if they’re going to jail. They ought to be looking at major prison time! They were trying to kill us! It’s a wonder we didn’t shoot the lot of them! It would’ve been totally justified! That was a deadly force situation if ever there was one! Still, I’m sure that asshole news chopper got the whole thing on video. We’ll be hearing the cries of police brutality by tomorrow morning. Fuck them! Fuck them all! They’re lucky to be alive! They sure as hell don’t deserve to be!

Every one of us is stretched out in this damned parking lot. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been here back when I worked this division, but I sure as hell never thought I’d be lying here as a casualty. We got beaten, punched, kicked, and hit with anything those assholes could find. Every one of us is bleeding from somewhere. My vision’s cleared up, but a lot of that was from some paramedic dumping a bottle of water on my face to wash away the blood. Some asshole actually stomped on my face! He didn’t get me as good as he could’ve, but it was enough. I’ve got a cut on the base of my nose that only stopped bleeding after they put some kind of powder on it. Vinell actually got it worse than me, and Signolo got it worse than him because he was too busy trying to shield that idiot Satterfield to protect himself. Acevedo dished out more that he got, which is typical. He’s about ready to crack. The strain of seeing his partner get blown to shit was too much for him, I guess. It’s a miracle he didn’t start shooting into the crowd, but he didn’t. He held it together. I don’t know how he does it. I just pray that he keeps on doing it. Harper’s knuckles are torn to shit. He’s got bandages on both hands. Some asshole ripped his nightstick away and tried to hit him with it, so he went to his flashlight and broke the guy’s jaw. And Sergeant Ivanell got pummeled big time. He’s lying two spaces over from me, holding an icepack on his right elbow and bleeding from his mouth. I wouldn’t be surprised if his arm is broken. I’d be surprised if any of us got out of that shit without at least one broken bone. I think I have twenty. The paramedics said they aren’t, but I think they’re lying. I feel like I got run over by a car and all four wheels ran over me from head to toe. This has got to be a record-breaking ass-kicking for me. No doubt about it.

Satterfield? Well, his nose is broken and I heard he’s got some broken fingers to go with it. What was he doing in there, you ask? He thought he was going to get up on that podium and tell everyone to calm down and go home. He really thought he could just calmly tell everyone to chill out and everything would be all right. Just when you think a human being can’t possibly get any stupider, you see something like that. I don’t know what happened to those other two Woodlawn officers who were in the crowd. They were supposed to protect the idiot sergeant, but he told them to hang back because he had the situation under control. Yeah, some control! We’re probably going to end up getting ten tons of shit for what happened and it wasn’t even our fault! Christ, when are they going to get a handle on this shit? This is day number two! When are they going to pull their heads out of their asses and do what should’ve been done in the first five minutes of this thing?

The sun’s gone down. It’s night. I don’t know what time it is. I’m too tired to look at my watch. I’d be amazed if it wasn’t destroyed back there. Thank God I’ve still got my wedding ring. Thank God I’ve still got the finger it came on! I don’t wear my engagement ring out here for obvious reasons, as I’m sure I’ve told you before. Now my hands are so fucked up that I probably won’t be able to get it on my finger for at least a week. I’ll be lucky if I can untie the laces on my boots. I’ll probably have to cut them off just to take these boots off. That’s it! We’re fucking done! No more! We are thrashed! All of us! No fucking more! We’re going home and none of us are coming back for a fucking month!

“Dani, drink this. It’s just water. Not too cold.”

I see Harper is doting on me. Jesus, I’m amazed he could lift the bottle! Someone should be doting on him! Someone should be doting on all of us!

“Thanks. I already rinsed the blood out of my mouth, but I’ll take it. How are you hanging in?”

“Remember how I got blown up in the Humvee in Iraq? This hurts worse. A lot worse.”

“I hear you. At least it’s over for us. We’re out of here. No more! This is pure suicide!”

“No argument. Mind if I crash out next to you? My knees are about to give out.”

I’m amazed his knees even work. I don’t think mine do.

“Park you ass right here, mister. Jesus, they really did a number on you!”

“They did a number on all of us. I just got the word: they’re taking Vinell to the hospital. He’s got a concussion and a broken wrist. One of the paramedics said he’s worried he may have a skull fracture. He lost his helmet in the fight and he got hit with something heavy. He’s all fucked up.”

Yeah, I saw he wasn’t wearing it when he started dragging me. Stupid motherfucker! He should’ve left me there!

“At least he won’t have to drive home. Are we going to be able to make it back?”

“Don’t worry, I’ll get us there. I’ll collapse in the garage, but I’ll get us back home in one piece.”

“I’ll crawl into the house and bring Emily out to play with you. Even if you’re out cold.”

“I think we’re going to need to hire Helena full-time for a while. Don’t ask me how we’re going to pay for it.”

“You’ll build her a new car. Turn some junker into a fire-breathing dragon. She’ll probably love it.”

“We came down here with fourteen officers. Fifteen if you count Titus. Now what’s left? You, me, Signolo, Acevedo, Sergeant Ivanell, Sergeant Hendrickson, and the Lieutenant.”

“You forgot Sergeant Gellar.”

“No, I didn’t. Dani, he’s pretty fucked up. When they pulled you out, they all came charging in. They got surrounded. They look as bad as the rest of us. Sergeant Gellar took a real pounding. They stomped him like they stomped you. It’s bad. Lieutenant Hagan says he won’t let him back in the field no matter what. He had a unit transport him back to Woodlawn Station. I think he should be on his way to the hospital, but he won’t go.”

Everyone on this watch is too damned pigheaded to take care of themselves. Even me. We ought to call it Midwatch Disease.

“Is he able to walk? What about his heart?”

“I think his heart’s OK. I don’t know. The rest of him? Not so much. He’s moving around, though. That’s a good sign, right?”

I’d like to go see him, but right now, the best thing I can do is lay here. I’ll get up in a minute. Jesus, fifteen officers and now we’ve got seven left. That’s over fifty percent out of action in less than forty-eight hours. We were damned fools to come here. And the worst part is, it was mostly my fault. I actually thought we could make a difference. Do some good. Did we? It sure doesn’t feel like it. When you get right down to it, I think I may have been as stupid as the brass; just in a different way. There are all kinds of stupidity, aren’t there?

“What time is it?”

“Eighteen fifty. ‘B’ watch is down by now. We did it, Dani. We stuck it out. We even survived. We’ve done our part and now we’re getting the hell out of here.”

Finally! I was beginning to think we’d be here forever. Thirty straight hours of hell and no break. How the hell did we ever make it this far? I don’t know. I don’t care. It’s over. For us, at any rate. That’s all I care about.

“Lynott? Harper? How are you two doing?”

Lieutenant Hagan. Jesus Christ! Look at him! He looks like someone threw him in a wood chipper! His uniform is all shredded! His sleeve is torn off and he’s got a rip across his chest that went right through the vest carrier! Someone must’ve slashed him with a knife! And his jaw looks like someone punched him with brass knuckles!

“Sir, are you all right? You look…”

“A hell of a lot better than you two, Lynott. I’m fine. I probably won’t be able to get out of bed in the morning, but that’s OK. Effective immediately, this watch is out of action until further notice. Everyone is now officially IOD. That includes the two of you. We’re one hundred percent combat-ineffective.”

I think if I ever hear that term again, I’m going to scream. I’m a cop, not a Marine. When did police work in this city become urban combat? We like to say that it is, but after this shit, I’ve got a much better understanding of what real warfare is. And I never want to see it again!

“Sounds like a plan, sir. Do me a favor: pull me up. If I lay here any longer, I’m afraid I’ll never be able to get up again.”

Jesus Christ! I think I felt every bone in my spine pop one at a time! God, that fucking hurt! But at least I’m on my feet. At least I can stand. Walking? I’ll try that in a minute.

“Thanks for the assist, sir.”

“Don’t mention it. You all fought the good fight and a lot more. I’ve never been more proud of anyone in my life. You people are head and shoulders above the rest. Every one of you. You should be damned proud of that. I don’t think there’s another group of officers who could’ve done what this watch did. And I’m not just talking about this department. I mean anywhere in the goddamned world.”

And we’ll all take a special pride in that, but not tonight. Not tomorrow, either. It’ll have to wait until we’re all back together and all healed up. I don’t know when that’s going to happen, but it will. Then we’ll take that special pride. But for now? It’s all we can do to put one foot in front of the other without falling down.

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