Tactical Alert

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"To See It Like It was Yesterday"

Salem, Massachusetts. It’s a beautiful day. Just like that day in front of Central Station when I received command of Central Midwatch. I’ve been remembering that day a lot lately. Then again, I’ve been flooded with memories about that time. I can remember it like it was yesterday, even though it was so long ago. Sixty years, I think. Something like that. Several lifetimes ago. When you get to be just short of a hundred years old, dates kind of blur together. The numbers fade. But the memories? They don’t fade. Especially not now. They hit me like a ton of bricks. You can’t imagine how much you remember. It’s astonishing. It’s heartbreaking. But I’m glad I still have them. I don’t know what I would do without them.

I’m standing in the backyard of our house. The house I grew up in. The one my mom left to us after she passed away. I’m just staring at the sky and remembering. Remembering everything. My God, how do you remember a whole lifetime in just a few minutes? It’s not possible. But it’s all come flooding back to me. All of it. I just can’t believe it.

“Mom? Are you all right?”

Emily’s been worried about me ever since the funeral. Well, since before then. But especially now.

“I was just thinking about your father. And a lot of other things.”

“It was a beautiful service. Dad would’ve liked it. Especially the Marines.”

Six Marines in dress blues carrying his coffin. Yeah, he would’ve liked that. Harper was always a Marine, first and foremost. He would’ve liked it a lot.

“I thought about having him buried at Arlington. He was a decorated combat veteran. But he said he wanted to be buried here. This was his home. And I’ll be joining him soon enough.”

“Mom…”

“Emily, how many times do I have to tell you? We’re Harpers. We don’t hide from the truth. I’m an old lady and I’m dying. The doctor says I’ve got a few months left. It’s OK. I’m ready. I’ve lived a long life. I almost broke the hundred year mark. I expect you to do that, just like your grandmother did. You’ve got Lynott blood in you and Lynott women live for a long time. It’s our tradition. My time has come. I accept it. I need you to accept it, too. Nobody lives forever.”

A few more months. That’s what they told me, anyway. Congestive heart failure. Even coming up on the twenty-second century, they haven’t learned to make that go away. It’s OK. You can’t suffer the kind of heartbreak I’m feeling right now and not have it kill you. Harper’s gone. The love of my life. We were together for so long, I can’t even remember a time when he wasn’t right here with me. But now he’s gone. I really don’t want to live if he’s not here, and it looks like I don’t have to.

“I can’t believe dad’s gone. I mean, I knew…I just thought he’d beat it. He was always so strong.”

“Yes, he was. He was so strong. I walk around the house and I expect to see him sitting there. I’ve been in a fog ever since…”

“Mom, Don and I want you to stay with us. You shouldn’t be alone. Especially not in your condition.”

“Sweetheart, you know better than anyone what my condition is. There’s nothing you or anyone else can do. No, this is my home. This is where I started, and this is where I’m going to finish it. Too many memories. I can’t leave now. I’ve still got some things to do.”

She’s giving me that look. Not the look of a daughter worried about her mother so much as a doctor worried about her patient. My daughter the doctor. When Emily graduated from medical school, we were so proud. We were relieved, too. She wouldn’t be following in our footsteps. She wouldn’t see the things we saw. She wouldn’t have to do the things we had to do. She wouldn’t know what we know. Let me tell you, it was a big relief.

“Emily, you and Don need to get going. Don’t worry about me. I’ll be all right. I’ve got Jake to keep me company.”

Our crazy dog, named after a John Wayne character, of course. Guess who came up with that one? He’s been a Godsend these last few days.

“All right. But you call me tonight. I mean it, mom. If you don’t call, I’m coming right over here. You’re not that far away.”

About six blocks. Six blocks. Six minutes. Six minutes? Isn’t that what Will Sitrey said an ambulance took to get across traffic? I still remember him. I can see him lying there after that idiot Hillel shot him by mistake. Six minutes. That’s what he said. I remember.

“I’ll call you. Don’t worry about me. I’ll be all right. I’m a survivor. I always have been.”

We were really blessed with Emily. No one could ask for a better daughter. I wish she didn’t have to go through all of this, but having your parents die is one thing you can’t spare your children. All parents know that. Especially me.

I guess we’ve got a lot of catching up to do, right? Yeah, it’s been a long time. Lifetimes have passed. Literally. I keep thinking back to that day at Central Station when I officially took over Central Midwatch. I don’t know why. I guess because it marked the end of so much. The old guard – Sergeant Gellar, Sergeant Hendrickson, Lieutenant Hagan – they were leaving us. Leaving us forever. They’d all put in their paperwork and a few weeks later, they were gone. We saw them all again, but never at the station. Never in uniform. That’s the rule, if you’ll recall: once you leave, you never look back. You never come back. Doing so is just too painful. I know exactly how painful. I know because I felt it when I retired and so did Harper and so did everyone else. It was almost as painful as going to work every night and knowing that I wouldn’t see any of them there anymore. That’s a pain you can’t imagine unless you’ve been there.

I formally took over the watch four weeks later. By then, I was healed enough for light duty status, so I sat in as the Assistant Watch Commander. That’s a fancy term for the dumb bitch who has to answer the phone and deal with the bullshit that comes along each night. A few weeks later, I was out in the field; full duty. I was Forty Central: Sergeant Gellar’s old unit designation. I almost burst into tears the first time I had to identify myself as Forty Central. As far as I was concerned, Forty Central would always be Sergeant Lee Gellar. He was irreplaceable. I always expected to hear his gruff voice over the radio or bellowing from the Watch Commander’s Office. Let me tell you, it took a long time for that to pass. The same for Lieutenant Hagan. Every time I walked past that office, I expected to hear his deep, intimidating snarl: “Lynott! Get your ass in here!” It took me a long time to accept that I’d never hear those voices again and that now I was the sergeant. I had some gigantic shoes to fill and I knew damned well that I could never fill them, so I didn’t try. I tried to find my own way instead. I did, after a while. I made the job my own, which is what you’re supposed to do. But whenever I thought of those men, I knew just how much I paled in comparison to them. I still do.

In the end, I took over not only for Sergeant Gellar but for Lieutenant Hagan, too. That’s right: Dani Lynott retired from the department with the rank of Lieutenant II, just like Lieutenant Hagan. Yeah, I was as surprised as you are. I never thought that would happen. I finished my career as the Nightwatch Watch Commander. I think I did a good job. People told me I did. But a part of me was never really sure. I guess when you’ve served under the greatest of the great, a certain amount of doubt naturally comes with the job. Even so, I was a good sergeant and a good lieutenant. I just didn’t measure up to the people who came before me. No one could. They were the archetypes. They were the very models of what a sergeant and a lieutenant should be. Thank God I got to serve under them. I always felt sorry for anyone who didn’t get that chance. They have no idea what they missed. There are plenty of fine sergeants and lieutenants on the job, even today. But there will never be another Lee Gellar, Jack Hagan, or Jack Hendrickson. If people only knew. Their names are forgotten now. It’s been too long. Too many years. Too many decades. I’m the only one left. The only one who was there. The only one who remembers. If you ask me, that’s a crime.

So what happened after the great riot? Well, life went on. The officers of Central Midwatch recovered from their wounds and went on doing the job they did so well. Some of us healed better than others. Sergeant Hendrickson went back to Nightwatch to take over for Lieutenant Hagan while the division searched for a new lieutenant. He recovered from the pounding he took at the hands of countless mobs of looters, but about four months after I got back he blew out his rotator cuff in a hideous injury. I responded to the scene and I almost puked when I saw it. It was beyond disgusting. That was it for him. The department classified him as permanent light duty and he pulled the pin right after that. He said there was no way he was going to sit at a desk for the rest of his career. He wasn’t built for that shit. Watching him walk out of the station for the last time nearly killed me. I felt like I’d been abandoned. They were all gone. All of my superiors who I looked up to and respected and counted on were gone. Now it was all on me. The retirements hit the whole watch like a ton of bricks and I was the one who had to keep morale going. It wasn’t easy, but we were Midwatch. Everybody pitched in and did what had to be done. We soldiered on. I was so proud of our guys for doing that. I was supposed to carry them through it and it turned out they were carrying me through it. That’s Central Midwatch for you: they just never let you down.

We went through a couple of officers to work Sixteen Central, but most of them didn’t work out. Either they weren’t fired up to work a jumping watch or they were just there because they’d heard the war stories and they thought it would be non-stop action and they’d get a chance to notch their guns. I was so frustrated about it that I nearly went to Captain Mayones and told him to scratch the unit, but then one day Ruiz brought me the transfer list and said he’d found the right guy for Sixteen. There was Titus’ name. He’d gotten off of probation and since he was wounded in the line of duty and had the Medal of Valor, he got to pick his next division. I almost jumped out of the seat when I saw it. I wrote his name on the deployment right then and there and he turned out to be the perfect choice. It took a while to find him the right partner, but a young guy named Lamar Aldridge came along and we finally found our last man. The watch was almost as tight as the old days after that. Needless to say, I was relieved. I thought I’d be overseeing the demise of Midwatch, and that was something I couldn’t live with. But it felt almost like the old days after that. The guys even took to playing their usual practical jokes and pranks – most of them on me – and Aldridge turned out to have a very creative sense of humor. It really helped. It really helped a lot.

In time, the guys went their separate ways. Most of them promoted. I stayed on Midwatch for six years. By the time I requested a transfer off of the watch, everyone was gone and it just wasn’t the same. I felt like I’d stayed too long at a party and suddenly realized that everyone had already left. It was heartbreaking, but by that time I was ready for a change. So what happened to them? Well, Sergeant Paul Ivanell promoted to Sergeant II and then to Lieutenant. He taught me a valuable lesson: people can change. I hated him when I first met him, but I came to like and respect him. He thought his career was over after being associated with Chief Ellison’s Special Team at IAD, but time, accomplishments, and his medals allowed him to overcome it. He finished his career in Hawthorne Division as a Lieutenant II and retired with just over thirty years on the job. He’d gotten his law degree and went into private practice; no small part of it being defending cops who got caught in a jam or wound up the target of some political bullshit. He was a first-call attorney for the PBA and he helped a lot of officers. He died about fourteen years ago of stomach cancer. I miss him. He was a good man. A very good man.

Franco Ruiz promoted to Detective, rose to Detective II at Robbery-Homicide’s Major Crimes section, and then became a sergeant in Eastside Division. He finished his career at Central Division as a Sergeant II on Daywatch. He said he wanted to wrap it up in Central; the best division he ever worked. It was so nice to have him back. I cried my eyes out at his retirement party. He lived a quiet life and died eleven years ago of a heart attack. His hair had turned completely gray, but he kept that cheesy mustache to the very end. He left five children, eleven grandchildren, and something like nineteen great-grandchildren. At his funeral, one of the toddlers put a pair of neon yellow sunglasses on his face in the open casket. The kid’s mother was horrified, but I loved it. It was just the sort of crazy joke Ruiz would’ve pulled. He was always there for me, no matter what. And he never lost that smile. Not even when he got stabbed. I loved him to death. Rest in peace, old friend. I’ll see you soon.

Victor “Vic” Rosen made PIII and transferred to SEU. He was there for a while, eventually going to the Mounted Unit. Who knew he liked horses? I think he did it primarily to impress the girls. The Mounted officers are always a big hit with the girls. He went to Training Division and taught patrol tactics, where the recruits couldn’t get enough of his tales of the mighty Central Midwatch. He made Detective II in Avalon Division a few years before he retired, working mostly the Robbery desk. He had an enviable case closure record and cracked one of the biggest robbery rings in the city’s history; practically living in his car for days while he tailed the suspects all over town. He made the news and even ended up in a recruiting ad for the department because of it. He retired and moved to Florida with his wife. He died there some fifteen years ago from a long illness. His wife told us he never stopped talking about Central Midwatch and Harper and Lynott. She said he thought his time on Midwatch was the best time of his life. I know the feeling, buddy. I miss you. We’ll be seeing each other pretty soon.

Stan Kursteff went further than any of us, retiring at the rank of Captain of Mid-City Division. Before that, he made PIII, then sergeant, then detective, and then lieutenant. He worked at least half of the divisions in the city. He was a great leader; always respected by the people under his command. Let me tell you, that’s no easy feat for a captain. He never lost sight of what the job was all about or about how patrol was the heart and soul of the department. He was the only one to stay on the job longer than me, retiring about four years after I did. I wish I could say he had it easy, but he had two divorces and the second one was particularly nasty. It took a toll on him. He and I got to be great friends, seeing as we were the last two on the job. After he retired, he became the chief of a small department in Indiana, but his health caught up with him and he only served about four years. He retired there and stayed there for the rest of his life, which ended three years ago after his kidneys failed. I wish his final days had been easier, but he’s at peace now. Harper and I were the only members of Midwatch at the funeral. Everyone else was gone. That was probably the saddest part. He was a great guy and a great cop and he deserved a lot more. I’m looking forward to seeing you again, old friend.

Adam Vinell…it still breaks my heart. Vinell was the only member of Midwatch to be killed in the line of duty. He didn’t get shot by a dope dealer or stabbed by a psycho in an alley. Far from it. After Vinell left Central Division, he went to Air Support Division. He developed a love of flying and got his pilot’s license and finally got picked up by ASD for pilot training. Once he got certified, the first thing he did was to fly the bird to Central Station and land it on the rooftop helipad so he could show it to me, like a kid showing off his new car. Needless to say, I was impressed. But one day about three years after that, I was in the Watch Commander’s Office and I heard the broadcast about a Tac Alert in Lafayette Division. I called over to Communications to find out what had happened and they told me an Air Unit had crashed. It was Vinell’s. He and his observer were killed instantly. It turned out that a faulty part in the engine had failed and the helicopter dropped out of the sky like a rock. I was a total basket case. I was so shaken that Harper had to drive to the station to get me. I couldn’t drive myself home. I couldn’t do anything. At the funeral, we had to sit in the back because I couldn’t stop crying. It wasn’t fair. After everything we’d been through, he wasn’t supposed to die in some stupid accident. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way. I’ve gone by the memorial to the fallen officers a thousand times since then and I always run my fingers over his name. It’s the closest I can get to him now. God, I miss him. He was taken from us too soon. I’m going to hug the shit out of him as soon as I see him on the other side.

Pete Signolo; the fastest man I ever saw. The human rocket. He left Midwatch after another four years and promoted to PIII at Training Division, where he helped to train the next generation of the department’s human rockets. He kept competing in the Police Olympics and in department races well into his forties; always leaving everyone in the dust. Even the ones who were half his age. He had a gift and he never lost it. Someone published an article in the department’s newsletter saying that no suspect had ever gotten away from Signolo on foot. I believe it. He retired at the rank of Sergeant I over in Morningside Division. He moved to Nevada and went into the real estate business, where he became very successful. He never lost his love of running, and he volunteered to train the track and field team at the local high school. When he died, the school named the track in his honor. I’ve still got a picture of it hanging on the wall in the main hallway of our house. It’s been almost twenty years since he died and I can still see him like it was yesterday, moving at the speed of light after some idiot trying to run down Palomar. Godspeed, Signolo. I’ll be along soon. I’m not as fast as you, so you’ll have to wait for me, as usual. But you’re used to that by now.

Seth Goren had an interesting career after he left Midwatch. He left at the same time as Signolo, heading off to greener pastures in the valley divisions. He bounced around there for a while before making Detective I and going to Burglary-Auto Division, where he ended up on a task force investigating truck hijackings. One day they recovered a stolen truck down at the port and when they went over it with their gizmos, an alarm sounded suggesting that it had radioactive material in there. This was at the height of the terrorism scare, so the whole city went ape shit. He ended up being stripped naked in a parking lot and scrubbed down with these huge brushes to decontaminate him while the TV cameras rolled. It turned out to be a false alarm. The machine was defective. He was livid! After that, he wound up in Support Services Division as a Sergeant. He ended up being selected to test a new police SUV. The thing was a piece of junk and he lost control of it, rolled over about half a dozen times, plowed into the reviewing stand where all of the brass was sitting, and they had to saw him out of the wreck. He didn’t have a scratch on him, but it was another public humiliation. He had a few others before he retired. He always took it pretty well, but considering all of the practical jokes they played on me, I got a sick satisfaction whenever I heard about one of those fiascos. Can you blame me? He passed away about sixteen years ago of renal cancer, having settled in Georgia with his wife and children. One of his sons joined the department and rose to the rank of Lieutenant II. He was in charge of logistics or something. I doubt he’s still there. He’s probably retired by now. I miss you, Goren. I miss you a lot. I can’t wait to see you again.

Rich Garcia rose to the rank of Detective III in Wilmington Division, working Robbery and then Homicide. He was seriously injured in an on-duty car wreck and ended up being transferred to Mid-City Division, where he closed out his career as a Lieutenant I. He was the Nightwatch Watch Commander. We used to trade messages when we were both sitting at our desks and wondering if we’d made a terrible mistake by promoting. We were great friends: him, me, Harper, and Garcia’s wife. He’d been married three times by the time he got it right, and he’d had kids with two of those women. The divorces and the alimony were tough on him, and we ended up giving him some money on a few occasions when things got really tight. He always wanted to pay it back, but we wouldn’t take it. He was Midwatch. He was family. When one of us needed help, we didn’t expect to be paid back for it. He finally straightened out his life, but then he came down with cancer and it took a little more than a year before he was dead at the age of sixty-two. He’d always seemed so healthy before then. Several years after he died, Harper found an article about a study that was done and it found that the type of cancer that killed Garcia was directly attributable to the filthy environment on skid row. Harper always believed that having worked the streets and alleys there for so long is what killed Garcia. I don’t know. I tried not to think about it. His death hit us both really hard. I’m sure that when my time comes, I’ll see the two of them laughing it up like they always did. I miss that. I’m looking forward to seeing it again for the first time in a very long time.

Tony Acevedo. The Latin King! The hot-rodder! Acevedo the invincible! He was one of the first to leave Midwatch. He got tapped for a special gang task force when the east side of the city suddenly exploded with gang homicides. It turned out to be a much longer assignment than I thought and after the task force folded, he made detective. He spent the rest of his career tackling gang crimes, rising to the rank of Detective II in Eastside Division. He was so effective that on two occasions the gangbangers actually put out a contract on him. No, I’m not making that up. They actually put a price on his head. I think you can imagine what happened to the idiots who tried to collect on it. Gangbangers on the east side lived in fear of him. It got to the point that he’d call up some asshole and tell him “I’m coming for your ass tonight!” and the next thing we knew, we’d get a communique from Nebraska saying there was this fucking cholo out there in the cornfields and did we want him back? He says he’s running from some detective named Acevedo. Do you know what he’s talking about? Acevedo was larger than life, every minute of every day. He never slowed down. Even after he retired, he stayed in the city and pursued his other great love: drag racing. He became a legend among the east side hot-rodders. One summer day at the age of sixty-three, he was at a drag race at the racetrack over there when he lost control of his car and slammed into the wall at over a hundred miles per hour. He was killed instantly. He went out the way he lived: in a blaze of glory. When Harper told me, I started crying like you wouldn’t believe. But the strange thing is, a part of me wasn’t sad. I knew that Acevedo had gone out exactly the way he lived: balls to the wall, on the edge, and absolutely fearless. He died doing what he loved at twice the speed of sound. At his funeral, there must’ve been five hundred hot-rodders of all ages with their tricked-out cars in attendance. All of them paying tribute to the one and only Latin King. Even after all these years, if I hear the song Born to Run, I can’t help but smile and think about Acevedo. That song was written for him, even if it was written before he was born. I miss you, old friend. I can’t wait to see you again. I’ll be there soon. Count on it.

Sergeant Jack Hendrickson was one of the toughest cops I ever knew. After he retired, he moved to Idaho, of all places. I actually Googled it and found out that a lot of cops retire to Idaho. I don’t think I could handle the weather. That place makes Salem look like Miami Beach. We tried to stay in touch with him, but it wasn’t easy. His life didn’t turn out the way he’d imagined and it hurt him pretty bad. The breakup of his marriage was something he never got over, and being essentially forced out of the department due to his injuries wasn’t in the plan, either. One thing, though: he never once missed a Central Midwatch reunion. We held one every year on the anniversary of the official end of the riot. Everyone always showed up unless there was something they just couldn’t get out of, and then they showed up via video. See? Computers are actually good for something. We found out that he’d died from his son. They’d drifted apart over the years, but there had been at least a partial reconciliation in the end. What I didn’t expect was that he said his father never shut up about Central Midwatch and the amazing officers who manned it. He said the Sarge felt it was the proudest part of his service and he could remember every detail of it. God, I just came apart when he said that! Sergeant Hendrickson wasn’t what I’d call the sentimental type, but we clearly got to him a lot more than I ever expected. I’m glad, too. He was one of us and I’d have gone to hell and back for him. I miss him every day. I see his picture in the upstairs hallway and I remember him exactly as he was: tall, strong, confident, and the very model of a Central sergeant. I wish things had ended better for him, but I know he’s at peace now and when I see him, I’ve got a lot to tell him. Stuff I should’ve told him when he was still with us. I really want to do that.

Lieutenant Jack Hagan was without a doubt the most awesome human being I ever met. I don’t mean that like some people use the word “awesome” to mean great. I mean I was in awe of him. He just dominated every room he walked into. He was intimidating and inspiring at the same time. He was the archetype of a police officer; what every cop should’ve aspired to be but probably couldn’t even come close to being. He was a legend and rightfully so, and it’s one of the proudest things in my life that I knew him, I served under him, and that I called him a friend. No one ever inspired me more than he did. Not even close. I wanted to be as much like him as I could, and he was my role model for when I made lieutenant. When I took over Nightwatch, I knew I was standing in the shadow of a true giant and I never forgot it. No one who ever had the privilege to serve under him could forget it. I was truly in awe of him, just like everyone on Midwatch. I actually felt sorry for all of the officers who came along after he left and never got the chance to serve under his command. Captain Mayones may have commanded Central Division, but Lieutenant Hagan was the law. Everybody knew it. He retired to Syracuse, just like he said he would. We stayed in touch for the rest of his life. I called him plenty of times to ask for his advice and he never hesitated to give it. It usually took a little prodding, though. I’d call him with some problem I was facing and he’d tell me to quit whining and suck it up. Yeah, that was Lieutenant Hagan for you. But I’d press him and he’d come around and tell me how to handle it. We went to visit him on a few occasions and he’d take us hunting or fishing. Once he took us into New York City to see a Yankees game. I couldn’t root for them and I wasn’t too happy when they won, but it was great to just be with him again. He died fourteen years after he retired. After everything he’d been through, that was a pretty good run. I’m glad he got to spend the rest of his life in peace in a place where he felt at home. His death really devastated me, but I could almost hear him shouting down from heaven to quit crying and get on with living. I miss him every day. I’ll see you soon, sir.

The one passing that absolutely destroyed me was Sergeant Lee Gellar. God, I loved that old man! He was like a second father to me and a grandfather to Emily. He was my sergeant, my friend, and my mentor. He even walked me down the aisle when Harper and I got married. I never would’ve made it through so many tough times without him. During the first year I was a sergeant, I was on the phone to him every week asking for advice. Sometimes every day. I needed it, too. Being a sergeant turned out to be a hell of a lot harder than I thought it would be. I never would’ve made it without his help. I can’t tell you how many people would tell me that it was amazing that I seemed to know everything about everything, but it was mostly Sergeant Gellar. He was my ace in the hole. I don’t know why everyone didn’t seek out his advice. If he’d charged for it, he’d have been a millionaire about a thousand times over. We saw a lot of him after he retired. We had him over to our house all the time and we spent plenty of time at his. He absolutely adored Emily. I knew being a grandfather to a toddler was just what he needed after he retired, and I was right. As a surrogate grandfather, he spoiled Emily rotten. I wasn’t mad, though. That’s what grandfathers are supposed to do. He died peacefully in his sleep at the age of eighty-nine of heart failure. I was at work when Harper called and told me. I actually fell on the floor when I heard the news. When I managed to pick myself up, I went straight to the deployment board and slid my magnet under the “Bereavement Leave” heading and waited for Harper to come collect me. I didn’t come back to work for a week. Nobody asked any questions. They didn’t have to. Everybody knew how much I loved him. We all did. I’ve thought about him every single day of my life since then. Just wait, you old coot! I’m coming! I’ll be there before you know it. It’ll be a happy, long-awaited reunion. I’m looking forward to it.

Ryan Harper. The love of my life. My partner, my friend, my husband…what more can I say about him? I never loved anybody so much and I never will. I never could. A guy like Harper comes around once in a thousand generations. Just when I thought my life was over and I was going to fade away in the department’s dumping ground, he changed everything. I didn’t even exist before him. I didn’t know who I was or who I could be before him. I didn’t know what living was. I lived for the job and basically used it as a distraction for how empty my life was. Then I found Harper and everything came alive. I came alive. How can you ever repay that? How can you ever go without the person who was all of those things and more to you? I don’t know and I don’t want to know. Harper was the finest police officer I ever saw. He was the finest man I ever knew. I loved him every minute of every day and I never wanted to be with anyone else. People wondered how we could spend an entire shift together and then go home and not get on each other’s nerves, but that just meant they didn’t know Harper like I did. I needed him. I never wanted to be apart from him. When he went to SWAT, I was lost. Even coming home to him every night wasn’t enough. That’s how much he meant to me. That never changed, even to the day he died. He died of congestive heart failure; the same thing that’s going to kill me. He just went first. That’s what he always did: if there was a great unknown or some kind of danger, he insisted on going in first. That’s the kind of man he was.

Harper did great over at SWAT. In two years he was promoted to Element Leader. He racked up a shitload of accolades from his teammates and superiors. He also was involved in some very high-profile and dangerous operations. He was the consummate SWAT officer. He stayed there for eight years until an incident with five terrorists on the west side went sour and they detonated a huge bomb. None of the team was killed, but Harper’s leg was seriously injured and after that, he couldn’t pass the PFQ. I thought he’d be crushed, but he took it in stride, just like always. He stuck around to train new SWAT officers, then went to Training Division to teach tactics and officer survival. He did that until he made sergeant and was put in charge of the entire Physical Training unit. He also subbed as a shooting instructor. Our house is full of the trophies he won over the years. Mine are there, too; but nowhere near as many as Harper won. Every time I looked at him, I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to have found him. He was absolutely everything to me. I can’t believe he’s gone. Sometimes, I honestly thought we’d be together forever. We’d never die. It would be the two of us for eternity. I’m counting the minutes until I see him again.

He retired about a year after I did. We packed up and moved to Salem. Harper really loved it here. You know Harper: the history buff. He loved the history in Salem. He loved the pier and the ocean. He used to stand at the pier and look out over the water, and I could tell he was looking back in time. He was seeing it all as it was, back in the days of the great wooden ships and the iron men who sailed them. He became a member of the town’s historical society and he drove me absolutely nuts with that damned metal detector. He’d be out in the woods for hours, looking for little bits of junk that he’d bring home and catalog. He had quite a collection. Once, he found an old axe head. I thought it probably dated from the nineteenth century, but a museum in Boston said it was from the seventeenth century; the time of the witch trials. God, you should’ve seen him smile! I thought I’d never hear the end of it! It’s in a museum now, along with the rest of his little bits of junk. People will go see it for generations and they’ll see the little card saying “Gift of Ryan and Dani Harper.” They won’t know who we were and they won’t care, but I think it’s kind of neat. A little piece of us will live on long after we’re gone, just like those little bits of junk that he thought were so important. I can see him now, pouring over his collection. Just thinking about it makes me smile.

Harper wrote seven books on police tactics and officer survival. They found a pretty good following in the law enforcement community. I know they’re used in some police academies. Well, maybe not anymore. I guess they’re pretty dated now. Police work has changed. Not as much as I thought it would, but it’s definitely changed. But my favorite book was the one we wrote together. So many people who heard our stories encouraged us to write a book about our exploits, so we finally caved and did it together. We wrote the story of Central Midwatch. It wasn’t a bestseller, but it did pretty well. The money we got from it came in handy during the tough times, like when the pension bubble finally burst and the Emerald City cut off our pension payments for a little over a year. That was a scary time. Midwatch came to the rescue and we all helped out each other until the courts ruled that the city had to pay what they promised. Those retro checks were something to celebrate. Imagine getting a year’s salary all at once. Yeah, a good time was had by all when that happened. We were fortunate, though. We sold our house for a tidy profit when we retired and when we came out here, we had my mom’s house to move into. Since it was paid off a long time ago, we didn’t have to worry about rent or mortgage or anything like that. That turned out to be a Godsend. Believe me, juggling your finances when you’re on a permanent fixed income isn’t easy. Retirement turned out to be a lot more work than I expected. Still, we were together. We were together and we made it through the tough times and enjoyed the hell out of the good ones. And there were plenty of very good ones.

We weren’t even finished with law enforcement, much to my surprise. Harper and some of his Marine friends out here started a training company to teach people police and civilian defensive tactics and shooting. It did pretty well, except when it snowed. People definitely don’t want to go to the range when it’s freezing cold and there’s three feet on snow on the ground. I helped out sometimes, but the prejudice against women being good at that sort of thing still exists even today, so I was never one of the regular instructors. Some guys had a hard time of swallowing their pride when I’d blow them away on the range or on the hand-to-hand combat training. Most didn’t, but there were a few. And we were even called in as consultants a couple of times. Salem had its problem with the homeless, if you can believe it. There were a string of armed robberies being committed by homeless people and since we’d worked skid row and the police knew us well, they called us in to consult on the cases. It was weird reading crime reports and looking over reporting district maps for the first time in God only knows how long, but it was amazing how quickly it all came back to us. We’ve got a couple of commendations from the city for our efforts. They look really nice on our “I Love Me” wall. Yes, even after we retired, we still have one of those. Cops will always be cops, after all. A number of local officers would come by the house and gawk at our medals and photographs and the written accounts of our more celebrated achievements. You don’t get to do a lot of that sort of work in a place like Salem, thank God. We worked in a hellhole. We sure as hell didn’t want to retire to one.

Emily was the apple of our eye. What a wonderful daughter! We were so blessed with her. When she got to be around five years old, I finally realized what it meant that I couldn’t have any more children. I know I said it didn’t matter at the time, but in time, it did. I got over it, but it hurt worse than I ever thought it would. Emily was a great kid. I know it was hard on her having two parents who were both police officers, but she bore it well. It got a little dicey when she got old enough to be interested in boys. Harper was the ultimate overprotective father, and he was a SWAT officer with a machinegun in the trunk of his cruiser. I feel sorry for some of the boys who chased after her. When she went to college, we were worried that she’d get the bug and decide to join the police department like her parents, but she didn’t. She got a full ride to a pretty good college, thanks in no small part to our hammering away at her about studying. The schools back home were total shit, so we practically homeschooled her in addition to sending her to the regular school. After she graduated, she got another scholarship to medical school and told us she was going to be a doctor. Needless to say, we were thrilled. We weren’t too thrilled with her first husband. Frankly, we both hated him. We thought he was a narcissistic asshole. Sadly, it took Emily a few years to figure that out. The marriage ended badly and Emily went through a very dark time, but one day she went to some medical conference and met Don and everything clicked. We really liked him. He’s exactly what she needs. They have two children; a boy and a girl. Ryan and Danielle. Gee, where do you think they got those names? Danielle works for an ad agency in Boston. She’s quite the artist. When she was sixteen, she redesigned the covers on Harper’s books and let me tell you, they looked a hell of a lot better that what we had come up with. She never got the itch to go into police work, but Ryan? That was a different story. He could never get enough of grandma and grandpa’s war stories. I know it drove Emily crazy, but we just couldn’t resist telling them. He joined the Marine Corps as soon as he got out of high school, then when he was discharged he powered through college in three years and headed straight for the Emerald City to follow in our footsteps. And even though we knew that Emily and Don would never forgive us, we made some calls and pulled some strings to make sure he got accepted at the Police Academy. Emily was livid! Can you blame her?

Ryan is about ready to finish his probation and I know he put in for Central Division. I’m sure it’s not the same as when we were there, so I told him not to expect the same shit we experienced. I also told him that nobody would remember either of us because it was so long ago. That turned out to be not entirely true. When Ryan showed up at Hawthorne Division to start his probation, his captain had been a boot at Central and while it was after our time, he’d heard the stories about the mighty Central Midwatch back in the day. When Ryan told him that Harper and I were his grandparents, he didn’t believe him. He really laid into him about it, too. So I called the son of a bitch and told him yes, I’m Dani Lynott and yes, Harper and I are Ryan’s grandparents. Ryan said the captain was afraid to even look at him for about two months after that. I would’ve liked to have seen that. How often can you say you put a captain in his place? Anyway, he’s been by Central Station and he told us something that shocked the hell out of us. He said that in the hallway by the Captain’s Office, they have a bunch of pictures of the history of the division and one of them is a photo of Central Midwatch. He said it’s the same one we have hanging in our living room. I couldn’t believe it. It’s a photo that was taken right after everyone came back after the shootout at the St. George Hotel. He also said that the pirate flag that we flew outside of the station during the Great Department Civil War is in the Police Museum. I know we gave it to them, but I had no idea they actually have it on display after all this time. It gave us a real sense of pride to know that. It still does.

So what do I do now? Believe it or not, I have a plan. It’s going to sound crazy to you, but somehow I know it’s the right thing to do. I’ve already taken care of all the arrangements for when I die. The house and the cars are signed over to Emily. The will is in order and up to date. I’ve moved most of our belongings into storage. The house is practically empty right now; only what I need is still here. Everything with the bank and our investments has been taken care of. Emily gets it all. She’s our only daughter, so there’s nobody else to leave it to. She’ll take good care of everything. She knows what was important to us and she’ll make sure it all stays in the family. It’s a good feeling to know that I haven’t left anything to chance. It’s a relief. So now it’s just me and Jake, waiting for the inevitable. I’ve got three months; maybe four. No more than that. That much, the doctors are sure of. So what am I going to do? Basically, I’m going to be Dani Lynott. Not Dani Harper, not Officer Lynott or Sergeant Lynott or Lieutenant Lynott. Just Dani. The girl from Salem, Massachusetts. This is where I started and this is where I’ll end it. That’s fitting. Robert Frost said you can’t go home again, but he was wrong. You can go home again, but only after you leave and become the person you were meant to be. Once you’ve done that, then you can go home again. So I did that, and now that I’m at the end of my life, I just want to be Dani Lynott again. Just for a little while. I’ll walk the streets I walked when I was a kid. I’ll see the sights I knew so well back then. That’s the beauty of Salem: nothing much ever changes around here. I like that. So I’ll wander around, see the old places, enjoy the summer sunshine, and remember. Remember what it used to be like. Remember the old friends I don’t have any more and look forward to seeing them again on the other side. And I’ll have Jake to keep me company. As you know by now, I’ve always depended on pets to get me through the toughest times. Just as Zephyr the cat got me through a hellish time after the Reid shooting, Jake the dog has gotten me through losing the love of my life and facing my own impending death. I couldn’t have done it without Zephyr and I couldn’t do this without Jake. He’s a good boy. Emily will take him when it’s time. She loves animals and she loves Jake. It’ll be hard for him, but he’ll be OK. That’s good to know.

So many memories. It’s unbelievable how much you accumulate in your head in a lifetime; especially one as long as mine. They’ll keep me company in these last days. People will see me at standing the pier or walking around the Federal District and think I’m just some old lady; one of a thousand in this very old city. I don’t look bad for my age, if I do say so myself. People who don’t know me think I’m in my early seventies at most. I can still get around, but I tire easily. So I’ll take lots of breaks in my wanderings. Just an old lady and a dog. And none of them will know. None of them will know the things I’ve done and the things I’ve seen and the people I’ve known and the history I’ve witnessed. All of it will die with me. All of those memories. That’s how it’s supposed to work. I’ve come full-circle. Everything comes to an end eventually. My dad used to tell me that. He liked the fact that his work would outlive him. I think ours will, too. The things we did. The lives we saved. What we felt. How much we loved each other. I served with the greatest cops who ever lived. I married the greatest guy who ever lived. Somehow, I feel like that will never die. It can’t. It’s too strong. Somehow, it’ll go on without us. Emily is our legacy. Our daughter is an amazing woman. I think she’s a testament to all of our hopes and dreams, and I can say that we definitely weren’t disappointed. Not in the least. She’s our pride and joy. She’ll carry our legacy from now on.

Am I afraid of dying? Nope. I know that sounds like bullshit, but it isn’t. Maybe it’s because we saw so much death in our lives that we kind of got used to it? Death was ever-present in police work, and especially in the streets and alleys of Central Division. I don’t fear it. I’ve got my faith. I’ve never been the most religious person in the world, but I believe in God and his promise of an afterlife where everything is good and there’s no sorrow or fear or pain. But there is one thing on which I have to disagree. You see, I don’t think that I’m going to some ethereal place with clouds and daylight and white robes and perfect harmony. I really don’t. No, in my case, it’s going to be different. When I get to the other side, there won’t be any pearly gates. Instead, it’ll be a dingy roll call room in the downtown sector of the Emerald City. And when I get there, Sergeant Gellar will be sitting up front and he’ll look at me and yell “It’s about time, Lynott! Take your seat!” And I’ll sit right next to Harper and everyone will be there. We’ll all be young and vibrant and never more alive than we are right then and there. We’ll be in our old uniforms and they’ll be immaculate. And the Sarge will read the announcements and call the roll and we’ll all answer up when our units are called. Then we’ll head out into the city and police the streets and alleys of skid row. We’ll chase the bad guys and lock up the assholes and catch the dope dealers and none of us will ever get shot or stabbed or hurt. We’ll always win. And at end of watch, we’ll all congratulate each other on another productive shift and we’ll go home and Harper and I will be together until it’s time to do it all over again. We’ll be Central Midwatch at the height of our power and it’ll never end and it’ll never get old. They’re waiting for me right now. All of them. They’re waiting in that roll call room. That’s fitting, since I was usually the last one to get in there. Don’t worry, guys. I’m coming. I’m coming real soon. I’ll be there before you know it.

So that’s it. I want to thank you all for joining me during my many capers. I hope you enjoyed it. I hope you learned something from it. I hope I didn’t bore you. It’s been a wild ride, and for all of the pain and fear and suffering I experienced through it all, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Not a chance. So it’s time to finally close it all out. Sixteen Central is end of watch. Forever. It’s been an honor serving with you. Thanks for being there. And I’ll see you on the other side!

“Sixteen Central, roger. All units, Sixteen Central is end of watch. Forever. Godspeed, Central Midwatch.”

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