Tactical Alert

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"The Beast is Hungry"

Out on patrol. We just finished meeting with Sergeant Ivanell at the Levels. That’s the multi-level parking garage just off of 6th Street and Meridian Avenue, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the trendy spots on skid row. It was a pretty quick conversation. Sergeant Ivanell was totally up for what we’ve got planned, and he even did a little homework already. He got hold of an SEU memo about what their plans are in the event of a major disturbance. That’s not easy. SEU tends to keep their plans pretty close to the vest, but he got it somehow. Anyway, it looks like they’ve decided that in the event of a riot, the command post will be at 62nd Street and Vallon Avenue. That’s in Lafayette Division, just across the border with Woodlawn Division. It’s a pretty good place for it. That’s the lot where the Transit Authority parks its busses, so there’s tons of space. It’s completely fenced in, and it’s close to most of the anticipated major hot spots. It’s defensible and it has access to two of the major east-west roads through both divisions. Maybe our leaders are taking this shit seriously after all? The only drawback is, they seem to want to rely on SEU to handle the mob and have the rest of the department stand by. The officers of SEU are good, but nobody’s that good. Sure, they’ve got all of the best toys, but there are only about one hundred of them total and if this thing gets touched off in the blink of an eye, there’s no telling how many of them will be on-duty at the time. Depending on the civilian reaction to a major disturbance, getting in there could be a nightmare.

The Sarge also put together a list of everyone from the rank of commander on up and divided them into two columns: the ones who will probably do what needs to be done and the ones who are likely to be afraid of stirring the shit storm any worse than it already is. Not surprisingly, the latter column is a lot longer than the former. You know, if Sergeant Ivanell hadn’t been exiled to Central Division like certain persons in this car who shall remain nameless, I’d say he should be working in the Intelligence Division. The guy knows damned near everything that’s going on with the upper echelons of this city. I think it’s one of the reasons why they’re afraid of him. He’s got the contacts and he’s got a shitload of dirt on some very powerful people. If he ever gets pissed off and decides to write a book, a lot of powerful people are going to shit their britches. They’ll have good reason to.

Do you want to know what’s really weird? With everything that’s going on in the Emerald City right now, this division hasn’t changed one little bit. Skid row really is a different world. Everything about it is different; like it’s a totally different planet. There could be a nuclear war and unless a stray bomb landed out here, you’d never even know it happened. Everywhere else in the country is pretty much just more of the same no matter where you go, but not here. Skid row is different. They have different priorities. Different rules. Politics don’t mean shit when you’re trying to survive day by day and night by night. People could learn a lot if they just came down here and asked these people the right questions. It never ceases to amaze me. This place is incredible.

I’ve reached out to a few people at Woodlawn that I know who still talk to me, and they said things are at the breaking point down there. The rank and file is getting zero support from the brass and they’re sick of it. Some commander came in the other day to tell the roll calls not to listen to the PBA or anyone who’s criticizing the way the department is handling the case. Are they fucking kidding? Anyone with a brain is criticizing it! Why haven’t the body camera videos been released? Did they really malfunction? Why hasn’t the chief made a statement calling for everyone to shut the fuck up and wait for the investigation to finish? Why hasn’t he said that whatever may have happened, those officers deserve the same rights as anyone else? A presumption of innocence until proven otherwise? Both officers are assigned to their homes, where they’re probably going out of their minds from the stress. Jesus Christ! A guy with a nine-inch knife comes at them and screams how he’s going to kill them both? The Taser didn’t do shit to him? They begged him until they were blue in the face to drop the knife, but he refused? It’s a fucking open-and-shut case! They were justified! Don’t they know what a sharp knife can do to a Kevlar vest? It stops bullets, not blades! It says so right on the warning label! Is all of this bullshit really just because the suspect was black and the two officers were white? What the hell does that have to do with anything? Half of the officers in Woodlawn want to stage a job action: a blue flu until the department pulls its head out of its ass and does what it’s supposed to do. I wouldn’t blame them. The only thing keeping them from doing it is the fact that everyone with a brain thinks there’s going to be a full-blown riot when this shit gets resolved. Well, they had better resolve it fast because those guys aren’t going to wait much longer. And if they pull a blue flu and the shit explodes, then Woodlawn is going to be defenseless. I think that’s the real nightmare scenario.

“What do you think, Harper? How do we handle it if we end up in Woodlawn?”

“I was about to ask you the same question. You haven’t been back there since the Reid shooting. Are you going to be OK with it?”

I was wondering that myself. That was the night that essentially brought my career to a screeching halt and got me exiled to Central Division. The night that Whaley shot and killed Reid for no reason at all except that he got pissed off at him. The only reason why the city didn’t explode then was probably because both Whaley and Reid were white. There was no racial angle for the activists to play up. It’s ironic when you think about it: that time, they actually had a reason to be outraged. But no one was. A few flare-ups, plenty of coverage on the local news and some nasty op-ed pieces in the papers, but for the most part it was the department that overreacted and tried to smear everyone who was there with the same brush. Unfortunately, that included me.

“I’m not worried. I didn’t do anything wrong and I’ve been through too much to let anyone dig that shit up again. If the brass wants to chase me out of there, then let them. They’ll have to show up in order to do it.”

“I’m glad to hear it. I figured it would be a sore spot for you. So we’re dealing with ten officers and three sergeants.”

“And a lieutenant. Lieutenant Hagan is going to be in on this. No way would he sit this thing out.”

“All right, so counting him, we’ve got fourteen bodies. That’s just shy of three squads. We can work with that. Three squads should enable us to handle even the biggest stores once the looters hit. I watched some videos on YouTube about riots in major cities. The looters? They’re like locusts. They swarm in and strip everything. You should see them.”

I have. He’s not the only one who looks at YouTube. I checked out a few of them between my usual fare of crazy cats and silly birds. Hey, I like the animal videos. Everyone’s got a hobby, right?

“The looters are only the general problem. This is Woodlawn, we’re talking about. You know we’re going to get shot at. Probably a lot. That idiot with the knife in Woodlawn? He was a former gangbanger. Some of those assholes are going to be looking for payback.”

“Even though most of them never heard of that guy?”

“They won’t care. They’re gangbangers. All they need is an excuse.”

And that’s the truth. They won’t care about any of the social bullshit. They just want a chance to pick off a few cops. And if gangbangers are going to shoot at the police, it’s going to happen in Woodlawn. I’ve seen the pictures on the wall of the station. It’s happened plenty of times.

“Dani, once we’re down there, we’re going to be out of our element. You and Acevedo are the only ones who spent any time down there. The RD maps will take us only so far. You guys are going to have to lead the way. Let us know what the tourist guides don’t tell you about the locales.”

“I know. And I haven’t been there in years, so things could’ve changed. Not much, but even the slightest change could make a big difference.”

“What are the major gangs down there?”

“Uh, do you have about an hour for me to list them all? Woodlawn Division is the most gang-infested place in the city. It’s number one in homicides every year and most of them are gang-related. Throw in the anger that the people down there already feel over this shit and we could be getting shot at on every block.”

“Wow! You’re full of good news tonight!”

Don’t think I haven’t been going over it in my head about a thousand times a day since this whole riot talk started. It’ll be bad in every division in South Bureau, but Woodlawn’s going to be the worst. And if the brass strips the divisions and sends everyone to the CP, then we could be seriously fucked.

“Sixty-Six Central, officer needs help! We’re at 5th and Meridian! Southeast corner! Major TC with injuries! We’ve got a violent ADW suspect, possibly under the influence of PCP! Officer needs help!”

That’s Garcia! And it sounds like all hell is breaking loose in the background! We’re two blocks away!

“Sixteen Central, show us responding code three! ETA is thirty seconds! Hit it, Harper!”

“Hang on!”

What the hell is going on over there? Did an ADW suspect cause the crash? Is it some guy who flipped out after the wreck? Garcia sounded pretty freaked out! There’s Meridian! One block north!

“You’re clear on the right! Hit it!”

Jesus, Harper! Take the turn at sub-light speed, why don’t you? There they are! God, what a fucking mess! I see two cars totally trashed! The one on the sidewalk sheared off a fire hydrant! The water is shooting into the air like a geyser! There’s Acevedo and Garcia! And there’s the ADW suspect! Jesus Christ! That guy looks totally unhinged! He’s practically foaming at the mouth! PCP is right!

“Sixteen Central, we’re code six with Sixty-Six Central! Suspect is a male black, early twenties, definitely high on something! Get us at least two more units! Let’s go, Harper! Grab the Taser!”

“Got it! Watch yourself!”

Fuck! Look at that asshole move! He’s moving faster than Signolo! He’s got to be dusted! He’ll probably rip the Taser darts out and shove them right up our asses! But we’ve got to try!

“Garcia! Are you all right?”

“Watch yourself, Dani! This guy’s fucking wasted! He just drove through that wall! We’ve got two people in the car, probably DOA! God knows who’s in the other car!”

We don’t have time to check on them! We need to lock this idiot down fast! How the hell are we supposed to get a hold of him? He’s moving too fucking fast!

“Hey, you! Over here! Just take it easy! No one’s going to hurt you!”

What am I doing? He can’t hear me! There’s too much noise! And he’s screaming at the top of his lungs! It sounds like fucking stripped gears! What the fuck did he do? Smoke up a whole barrel of PCP?

“Just take it easy! Look, you might be hurt! We just want to help you!”

If I try to get anywhere near him, he’s going to rip my head right off! Stay clear! Get his attention! Give Harper a clear shot! He’s moving off to the left! Almost there! Just keep this psycho occupied!

“Come on, guy! Just calm down and let the paramedics take a look at you! They’ll be here any second! I promise, no one’s going to hurt you!”

That’s it! He’s fixated on me! Light his ass up, Harper! Yes! Good shot! Right in the chest! Both darts! Oh, fuck! He pulled the darts out! God, I hate fucking dusters!

“Harper! Stand by for number two! Garcia! Move left! Don’t let him make it to the sidewalk!”

I guess I can lose the “we’re not going to hurt you” bullshit! We just sent fifty thousand volts through his ass! And it didn’t do jack shit! We’re going to need a sledgehammer to put his ass out of action!

I hear sirens! More units! Good! More numbers! But the sirens are freaking this guy out! Damn it! What the fuck are we supposed to do? If we rush him, we’ll have at least two injured officers and a suspect with a skull fracture!

“Everybody! Move together! Over to the hydrant! Now! Move!”

If we can get him close to the fountain of water, then maybe we can use it to corral this idiot! That’s it! A little further! He doesn’t seem to notice the billion gallons of water shooting into the air! Fucking stoned out of his mind duster! Keep moving! That’s it! Just a little further! Give the guys a hand signal and let them know what I’ve got in mind! Harper looks like he thinks I’m crazy, but Acevedo’s clearly up for it! Stand by! Now! Charge his ass! I got him! Push him into the fountain! Face-first! Jesus! That almost ripped off his head! Take him down! Down on the ground!

“Harper! Zap his ass! Now!”

“You’re too close!”

“Fire that thing! Do it!”

Oh, my fucking God! It hit me! Holy mother of shit! That hurt! That fucking hurt like a son of a bitch! It stopped! Fight! Keep fighting!

“Help! Somebody get in here!”

Who’s that? Acevedo! And he’s punching the shit out of the suspect! Grab his legs! I need to keep him from kicking! Damn, this motherfucker is strong! Just hang on! Here come the other guys! Jesus, can the four of us hold this guy down? Wait! Here comes the rest of the division! Thank God!

“Watch out! He’s fucking dusted!”

Jesus, there must be eight people trying to bulldog this fucking idiot! And we don’t seem to be having a lot of luck! Hang on! Who the hell is that? Sergeant Hendrickson! He’s got the guy in an arm lock! Yes! Just hang in there, Sarge! We need to put about ten pairs of cuffs on this psycho!

“Cuff his ass! Lots of cuffs! Lots of fucking cuffs!”

“Lynott! Are you all right down there?”

Am I all right? I’ve got eight hundred pounds of guys on top of me and I just got Tased! No, I’m not all right!

“Get these guys off me! Fuck! I’m going to suffocate down here!”

Whoa! Just yank me up into the air, Sarge! At least I can breathe again!

“Thanks. Is that fucking idiot cuffed?”

“He’s hooked and hobbled. Nice move with the fire hydrant. I saw it when I pulled up. That was pretty gutsy of you.”

“The fucking asshole’s dusted! I needed to do something to even the odds! Harper! Where the fuck are you? I’m going to kill you right here!”

Oh, would you look at him! He’s got that Gomer Pyle “Well, golly!” look on his face! Yeah, it’ll look great in his picture for the morgue!

“Dani, I told you! You were too close for the Taser!”

“You can shoot the eye out of a fucking mosquito at a thousand yards, but at fifteen feet you shot me with the Taser? Are you fucking serious?

“I didn’t mean to! Are you all right?”

Fifty thousand volts through my ass and he asks me if I’m all right? I’m going to fucking kill him!

“Sarge! What’s the penalty for shooting your partner after he zaps your ass with a damned Taser?”

“I think you’d better dry off first, Lynott. Harper, you might want to go hide for a while until your wife calms down.”

“Roger that, sir!”

Oh, don’t you dare disappear on me, Harper! You have a date with an execution! A very slow one! Jesus Christ! Another fucking fire hydrant! I’m going to have to start wearing a goddamned rain suit!

“There’s two people in that car, Sarge. Garcia thinks they’re DOA. We didn’t get a chance to check the other car.”

“I’ll handle it. Good job, everyone. Especially you, Lynott. Get back to the station and dry off before these guys start making wet t-shirt jokes about you.”

“The first one who opens his mouth is a dead man!”

“Noted. Go on, get out of here. We’ve got this. Again, great job. That was quick thinking on your part.”

Yeah, a fat lot of good it did me! Look at this shit! I’m fucking soaked to the skin! I can feel my underwear sticking to my ass! Son of a bitch! From now on, anyone who shears off a fucking fire hydrant should be sentenced to life in prison with no parole!


Central Station. Well, I just got a shower to scrub off whatever microbes are swimming around in the city’s water system! I scrubbed myself raw and I still feel contaminated! And I’m down to one uniform until I can get to the drycleaners tomorrow. This fucking sucks! I had to sit on a bunch of plastic bags so as not to get the seat all soaked through, and Harper was being a total asshole the whole way over here! I could see him smirking! He’s fucking dead! As soon as we get home! Oh, have I got plans for his ass! There’s got to be a place that sells horse whips around here somewhere! By the time I get through with him, he’s not going to be able to sit down for a month! I’m never going to hear the end of this! No fucking way! Lynott got Tased by her own partner-slash-husband! This is the kind of shit that gets told over and over for years! Just watch: I’m going to be Taser Girl for the next six months!

You know, I’ve been Tased before. A dope dealer zapped me once and I’ve accidentally rolled into the line of fire a few times, but that one hurt more than any I’ve been through in my life! That one must have been overcharged like a motherfucker! It felt like a thousand strong hands grabbed every bone in my body and bent them all at once! You know, Harper zapped that asshole square in the chest and it didn’t do shit to him. If he took that much pain and didn’t even flinch, then that PCP must’ve turned his brain into stone! I don’t know how anyone could stay standing after that. That was a whole new experience of pain for me. I never want to go through it again in my life!

There he is! Sitting in the Report Writing Room, yucking it up with the guys! Keep it up, mister! It’ll just make it worse when we get home!

“Gee, did somebody tell a funny joke? I’m sorry I missed it. Perhaps one of you would like to fill me in?”

Silence! Yeah, as if I don’t know what they were laughing about!

“What? Nobody? I have a sense of humor too, you know.”

“I certainly hope so, sweetheart!”

Harper, you’re just digging your grave deeper and deeper! Just because I love you doesn’t mean I won’t kill you with my bare hands! Emily and I will enjoy spending your pension!

“Harper, are you trying to get me to strangle you? Because you’re doing a pretty good job of it!”

“Dani, I’m really sorry! I swear! I was trying to hit the suspect!”

“Marine sniper my ass! Fifteen feet! You missed an entire person from fifteen feet! How do you explain that?”

“You were both rolling around in the water! As soon as I pulled the trigger…”

“Lynott! Harper! In here now!”

Lieutenant Hagan calls. He’s probably going to ask how he’s going to fill the hole in the deployment after I kill Harper!

“You rang, sir?”

Oh, would you look at him? He’s not even trying to conceal the laughter! You fucking sadist! This is payback for that crack about the Yankees last night!

“What’s so funny, sir?”

And now he completely loses it! And so does Harper! That’s it! I’m killing them both!

“Lynott, just tell me one thing: he didn’t shoot you in the ass, did he?”

Oh, ha, ha, ha! It’s getting really hard to admire you right now, Lieutenant!

“I really hate both of you right now!”

“I’m sorry. If it makes you feel any better, I’ve been zapped a few times myself. I know how you feel.”

“Really? Was it your husband the crack shot who nailed you square in the back from fifteen feet away? No? I didn’t think so!”

“Fair enough. Look, I wanted to say that was a great job you did out there. Sergeant Hendrickson gave me the rundown.”

“No, you just wanted to laugh at me in person! That shit hurt like a son of a bitch! What did you people do to those Tasers? I’ve been Tased before and it sure as hell didn’t feel like that!”

“According to the kit room log, the one you guys checked out was brand-new. I guess it throws a stronger jolt than our others. Luck of the draw, Lynott.”

Yeah, sure! He probably juiced the damned thing! If they can cork a bat, then someone can figure out a way to juice a Taser!

“More like the luck of a moron husband and partner!”

Yeah, I’m looking right at you, mister Harper! Prepare for excruciating pain!

“Point taken. Look, you and Sixty-Six are getting a commendation for your actions out there. The suspect? Ninety-Five went to the hospital with him. Even after the bath you gave him, his body temperature was one hundred and five degrees. So not only was he clearly dusted, but you guys probably saved his life. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the two passengers in his car. One of them is DOA, the other one is circling the drain. The woman in the other car is pretty banged up, but she’s going to make it. So you’ve got a vehicular manslaughter arrest to recap. I’d say you earned it.”

Small compensation for my pain and humiliation! But I’ll take it. I’d rather they picked up the check from my drycleaners, but I’ll take it.

“Roger that, sir. Is there anything else? Anything that doesn’t involve making fun of me?”

“Yeah. I know the captain spoke to Midwatch at roll call. I just want to let you know that if and when the shit hits the fan, I’ll be out there with you. I already spoke to Captain Mayones and he’s good with it.”

I figured he’d be there. And I’m glad to have him with us. It’s just that right now, I really hate him!

“That’s good to know. Maybe Harper can Taser you while you’re out there, sir?”

“He knows better. That’s all. Dismissed. And Lynott? You smell good. I guess whatever they’re putting in those fire hydrants agrees with you.”

Oh, I am so going to get him back for this! I don’t know how or where or when, but his ass is toast! Count on it!

“Move it, Harper! That’s an order!”

“Hey, I’m a PIII too, you know!”

“Not anymore! For the remainder of this shift, you’re demoted to boot! On grounds of sheer idiocy! Move it, mister! Back to the car!”

I want to get back out there before people around here start making more lame jokes about what happened! Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to have a felony arrest already. I like to keep our recap numbers high. But that doesn’t mean…what the fuck? Oh, I don’t believe this shit!

“Dani, what’s wrong?”

“That! Are you seeing this? Are you fucking seeing this shit?”

I don’t fucking believe it! On the Officer’s Bulletin Board! It’s a cartoon of me with two Taser darts sticking out of my ass! Already? I barely have time to take a shower and they’re already fucking with me? Oh, this is fucking it! I’m going to kill all of them! Every single asshole on Midwatch!

“It’s actually a pretty good likeness. They got your hair just right.”

“You are going to die, Ryan Harper! You and all of your little friends!”

“You forgot to say ‘and your little dog, too!’”

Did he really just say that? That’s it! Time to die, Harper! Say goodbye to your balls, mister! Bang! Got you! Right in the crotch! The Lynott Knee of Death! Serves you right, asshole!

“Dani! God damn!

“Walk it off, asshole! You had it coming!”

That really got him good! Hey, he was laughing at me! He was making fun of me! I’m his wife! He’s supposed to be on my side!

“And don’t think I don’t know who drew that thing! I recognize Ruiz’s artwork! I’ve seen it before! He’s next on the death list!”

“Yeah, I believe it! Holy shit! I think you broke something down there!”

Don’t worry. I’ll have it functioning perfectly once we get home. I’m angry, not stupid!

“Take that thing down at once! And I don’t want to see it hanging anywhere else! Jesus, he couldn’t even get the picture right! You shot me in the back; not the ass!”

I understand the whole “boys will be boys” thing, but this is unacceptable! I will not have them getting their jollies at my expense! It’s a matter of principle!

“Now, I want you to limp over to the kit room and grab as many things as you can. But don’t take so much that they’ll know it’s missing. We need to stock up carefully for this thing. I’ll get a key from Jessie to one of the maintenance closets downstairs. Move it, mister! You’re in the doghouse effective immediately!”

Jesus Christ! Shot by your own partner! That’s the sort of thing training officers talk about over beers and everyone rolls their eyes in disbelief! And he’s a goddamned expert shot! Thank God we’re married or I’d start wondering if he did it on purpose!

“Officer Lynott, report to the Watch Commander’s Office.”

How much do you want to bet I’m about to be humiliated in front of Sergeant Gellar and Sergeant Hendrickson? This has turned into one fucked-up night! All right, let’s get it over with!

Well, Sergeant Hendrickson is in there with Lieutenant Hagan, but not Sergeant Gellar. What is this? The warm-up?

“You wanted to see me, Lieutenant?”

“Yeah, close the door.”

All right, this isn’t about making fun of me. Something’s up.

“What’s going on, sir?”

“Since we’re all in on this unauthorized contingency plan, I wanted you to hear this. I just got a call from a friend of mine over at Office of Operations. The department was hit with a subpoena this morning for the body camera videos. Some community activist group filed a lawsuit demanding that we hand them over. The department didn’t respond. They’re not turning them over; at least not yet. Don’t ask me why, because I don’t know why.”

Is he fucking serious? A judge signed off on a subpoena and the department is refusing to comply with it? Are they insane?

“Sir, Chief Delano established a policy…”

“That requires the department to release all relevant footage from a body camera within forty-eight hours of the incident unless it would compromise the investigation, and to release the whole thing within seven days after that unless that would also compromise the investigation. I know. He did it because of our Robbery Suppression Detail and the success we had with having those churchmen view the videos immediately after each incident. That was your idea, Lynott. It was a damned good one, too. But the new chief isn’t playing by the policy and he’s not saying why.”

Which would tend to mean only one of two things: either the cameras malfunctioned and there are no videos of the shooting, or there’s something on those videos that they don’t want people to see. As for the second one, how is that possible? I haven’t heard a single thing that suggests that shooting was anything but clear-cut and in-policy. What the hell could they have?

“Could the rumors about the cameras malfunctioning be true?”

“I don’t know. I hope not.”

“Could there be something on those videos that looks bad? Something that’s going to screw us over?”

“Good question. I’ve talked to everybody I know over at headquarters. They all tell me it was a cut-and-dry shooting; everything by the numbers. No one has told me otherwise. I don’t know what the department’s motivation is, but when this makes the morning news, all fucking hell is going to break loose.”

No shit! They’re going to scream “cover up!” loud enough to wake the dead! This could trigger the whole goddamned shit storm!

“Is the Chief’s Office going to make a statement? Are they contesting the subpoena?”

“Not according to what we heard. Sergeant Hendrickson just got off of the phone with a contact in the City Attorney’s Office. If the department was going to challenge the subpoena, they’d be the ones to handle it. Jack says his friend hasn’t heard a damned thing. They’ve received no instructions to prepare a court challenge. It looks like the department is pretending that this thing isn’t real. Somebody on the sixth floor is living in fantasyland and right now, I couldn’t tell you who it is.”

“Sir, I know I’m just a patrol officer, but the chief has to know the idiot fringe is going to crucify him for this. How is he going to do the job if the whole city is calling for his head?”

“That’s way above our paygrades, Lynott. I just want you to know what’s happening and what’s about to happen. By noon tomorrow, we’re going to have a protest over at headquarters that’s going to make the one yesterday look like a sit-in. Things are going to get ugly as hell.”

That’s the understatement of the century! We’ll be lucky if the assholes don’t try to burn Police Headquarters to the ground!

“I know this is way beyond my paygrade too, but is there anyone you can call on the command staff, sir? Someone who can make a statement? Get out in front of this thing before it goes to shit?”

“I’ve got a call in to Commander Mancia at Support Services Bureau. He’s a stand-up guy who knows how things work. I’m waiting for him to call me back, but I don’t know if he can do anything. Something like that has to come from the Office of the Chief of Police.”

“I take it he knows this is going to be like dropping a bomb on the city?”

“Everyone with an IQ above single digits knows it, Lynott. If the brass has some plan in mind, I can’t figure out what it is. We’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t. If we release the video and it shows what we think it shows, then the officers are in the clear and the idiot fringe will go ballistic. If we don’t release it, then the same people will claim we’ve got something to hide. Someone at the top must’ve thought the easiest thing to do is to do nothing.”

Yeah, because that always works so well! Jesus, I’m watching our department commit suicide! There’s no other way to say it! My department is cutting its own throat! I don’t believe this shit! This whole department has gone insane! I’m in fucking Crackerbox Palace! And I don’t know how the hell I got here!

“So what do we do, sir?”

“I don’t suppose you’ve got a spell you could cast that would fix this?”

“Really? Witch jokes at a time like this?”

“I’m not joking, Lynott. I’m beginning to think witchcraft is the only thing that’s going to get us out of this mess.”

And I hate to say it, but he’s probably right. I’d better dust off my cauldron and start mixing herbs and salamander guts. It may be the only way to save us.


Back on patrol. I spread the word to the entire watch about the recent development. The guys were flabbergasted, to say the least. It’s one thing to fail to abide by the department’s policy regarding the release of the body camera videos, as crazy as that sounds. But to simply ignore a subpoena? That’s insanity to the millionth degree. And Chief Mooney is brand-new. Is this any way to start you career as the head of the police department? Nobody is going to trust him after this shit gets out. The idiot fringe is going to roast him over a spit and the media is going to turn the crank! Slowly! Of all the stupid-assed moves he could make right now, this one is right up there at the top of the list. I wish I knew what he was thinking, because if this is all part of some master plan of his, then he’s got to be a certified genius. I sure as hell can’t figure it out. I even asked Sergeant Ivanell and he was as stunned as everybody else. And he’s got a Ph.D. in snake politics! The fact that he’s as lost as we are really scares the hell out of me. It tells me that this shit is going to end badly for everyone.

There’s a weird vibe on the street. While skid row couldn’t give a shit about some guy in the south end getting shot by the police, it doesn’t mean they don’t know about it. It doesn’t mean they don’t have a take on it. I think we need to find out what they know. What they think. It might give us some insight on what we’re going to be facing. I’m telling you, these guys out here know shit that nobody on earth knows. They see things that the smartest people in the world miss. I’ve been patrolling this area long enough to know that. I want to know what they know. It might not make any sense to me now, but I want to hear it anyway. That’s why I told Harper to head over to Parolee Park. At this hour, the old-timers will be out there playing chess or dominos or just shooting the shit. They’ll be the ones to talk to. They’ll be the ones with the best take on what’s happening.

And there it is: a fenced-in little area with the only real grass for about ten blocks. There are a couple of picnic tables where the venerated elders like to sit. You might remember we actually took over this place once when Chief Ellison was on the warpath and we got so fed up with his bullshit that we walked out of roll call and spent the evening drinking beer. Yeah, that’s one of those stories that everyone in the division knows but nobody ever spoke about until the departmental statute of limitations ran out. I saw Baker earlier, coming out of a liquor store with a bottle of Cisco. Assuming that shit doesn’t kill him instantly, he’ll be in here. He’s one of the local chess masters. I’ve seen him play without a rook and a queen and still kick the shit out of all comers in thirty moves or less. He’d probably be an international grandmaster if he wasn’t an old drunk on skid row.

“Dani, there he is. Over there at the first table.”

That’s not surprising. There’s a total hierarchy in this place. Where you sit, what table you sit at; all of it denotes your status, and guys like Baker are at the top of the heap. There he is: the old black guy in the gray jacket and that frayed old hat that he always wears. Time to pick the brain of the master. He’s about to lay waste to that young guy. I’ll bet he has a checkmate in another five moves.

“Relax, everybody. We’re not here to arrest anybody. We just want to talk to Baker.”

Fortunately, he knows us both and he sort of likes us. I doubt he trusts us as far as he can throw the both of us, but he’s always been civil to us. That’s a sign of genuine respect among these old-timers out here.

“Officer Dani! What can I do for you on this fine evening? Come to sit with me for a while?”

I see the Cisco is already having an effect on him. One of the great advantages to being a female cop out here is that a lot of the old-timers like to flirt with me. It’s nothing serious. Everyone knows Harper and I are married, but they don’t get to flirt with a lot of women on skid row, so they welcome the opportunity. It’s a great way for us to pick up information.

“How long does your friend have to live? Five moves?”

“No, he’s pretty sharp, this one. It’s checkmate in eight. Stick around and watch.”

Well, I was close. His opponent seems pretty crushed. He shouldn’t be. I’m telling you, these old-timers can beat the best the game has to offer.

“Finish him off and let’s talk. It’s kind of important.”

“You got it! Hey, Harper! Tell me you’re treatin’ this beautiful lady right!”

“Always, my friend. Even when she kicks me in the balls.”

“Hah! That’s what you get for shootin’ her with that shock box!”

See what I mean? It’s all over skid row by now. It’s probably made it as far as the freeway. The skid row grapevine! It’s faster than email and it doesn’t cost a cent.

“Baker, I want to talk to you about this business in the south end. I think you know what I’m talking about.”

“Hang on, Miss Dani! Let me take care of this real quick. Your move!”

And there he goes; down to his inevitable defeat. Three moves…now Baker…now the young guy moves his bishop…Baker moves his pawn…the kid moves his rook…Baker moves his knight. He was right: checkmate!

“Good game, boy! Now, I got to talk to this fine officer for a minute. Set ‘em up for the next game. So what you folks want to know? I’m guessin’ you already know as much about it as anyone, seein’ as it was you people what shot that motherfucker.”

“Actually, I wanted to talk to you about what’s going to happen if the loudmouths don’t get their way. There’s a strange feeling in the air. I don’t know how to explain it any better than that.”

“That’s on account of there ain’t no better way to explain it. You got the sense, Miss Dani. Probably on account of you bein’ a witch and all.”

Yeah, a lot of people out here get a hell of a lot of mileage out of that story, as I’m sure you already know.

“Well, my crystal ball isn’t working on this one. I’ve got a terrible feeling about how this is going. Something big is going to happen if this goes a certain way.”

“You mean if your people walk? If there ain’t no charges? Yeah, you ain’t kiddin’ with that shit. Folks is fed up. They got it into their head that this here is some kind of…what you call ‘transitional’ event. And it ain’t gonna go their way. That shit just ain’t gonna happen. You’re right: shit’s comin’ down and it’s gonna come down hard and deep! You folks is gonna be caught in the middle. Be thankful you’re up here in the sector instead of down there in the ’hood.”

“So how bad is it going to be? This isn’t the first time this city’s seen something like this.”

“Oh, it’s gonna be bad! I done seen the last ones. They was bad, but this shit’s gonna be worse. Motherfuckers got that anger all stored up. Got them motherfuckers stirrin’ the pot! Makin’ it worse! Got that internet shit what lets ‘em all scheme up for it! Talkin’ shit on them little twitters! The beast is hungry, Miss Dani. He’s out there, and he’s a hungry motherfucker. Got to feed him from time to time, and the time is now. Blood’s gonna flow, shit’s gonna burn. Only question is, what are you people gonna do about it? ‘Cause from what I done heard, y’all ain’t fixin’ to do shit!

See what I mean? Everybody knows. They know we’re not going to take a stand. It’s all politics and even an old guy on skid row knows it.

“Our leaders are playing the wait-and-see game for now.”

“Y’all ain’t got no time to wait. What y’all gonna do when the shit starts up and you got the fools in the streets settin’ fires and shootin’ motherfuckers? Y’all gonna do somethin’ about it then? That’s when it’s too late! I’m just glad I ain’t gonna be there to see it this time. You be glad you ain’t gonna see it neither. Up here? Motherfuckers ain’t got time to be messin’ with that shit. We got our own problems to worry about.”

No doubt. I figured he’d have a take on it, and I wasn’t disappointed. He may not have to worry about a riot, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t keep his ear to the ground.

“Thanks, Baker. Have a better one. And stay away from that Cisco. That shit’s going to kill you.”

“Ha! Ain’t killed me yet! When you’re my age, you ain’t got time to get there. Got to get there as fast as you can! This shit gets you there damned fast!”

Yeah, that’s why it’s pretty much the official drink of skid row. I wonder if that’s true in other cities?

“Too fast! Have a better one. And go easy on that guy for your next game. Take away the rook and the queen.”

“I did that last time. Got ’em back with my pawns. He ain’t gonna beat me, Miss Dani. Ain’t none of these motherfuckers can beat me. It’s the only thing I was ever any good at. The good Lord sees to it I still am.”

No argument here. I don’t know how much of his mind still works after sixty years of heavy drinking, but the part that plays chess is still plenty sharp. So the old-timers think this thing is going down and it’s going to be bad. They know we don’t seem to be ready for it. And they know that some of the assholes are using the internet and social media to gear up for it. Yeah, this is going to suck in absolutely biblical proportions! And when the smoke clears, about the only thing we’ll be able to say to our leaders is that we told them so. A fat lot of good that’s going to do anyone.

***********************

On patrol, over by the loading docks. They’ve had a few burglaries here lately, so we’re giving the place extra patrol. Because it’s prematurely warm outside, the thieves are more likely to come down here and see what they can grab before this place opens up at five in the morning. It’s hard to believe that just a few weeks ago, the nights around here were practically freezing. For some reason, this sector always gets colder than the surrounding ones. I’m sure there’s some scientific reason for it, but I don’t know what it is. I just know that for a couple of months out of the year, it helps to keep the thieves away. When you consider some of the major burglaries that have happened here, it’s a wonder the owners don’t import a giant iceberg to keep it freezing all year long. It might actually be worth the money to do it.

“Harper, do you see anything?”

“Negative. The doors all look secure. I don’t see any dents in them. If someone had tried to get in, they’d look like a car smashed into them.”

“This place really needs its own security force. I don’t know why they don’t try to contract with another company.”

“Probably because they’re still paying off the verdict from the last one.”

Yeah, they had a little incident here a few years ago. They hired some fly-by-night security company to guard the place and the guards got a little carried away when a crew came to try to break into the docks. Four people shot, two of them dead, all of them shot in the back with no warning given. The investigation revealed that the security company wasn’t licensed to use armed guards, and that their business license had been suspended for all kinds of unprofessional shit. The assholes won a multi-million dollar settlement from the company that owns the buildings, since the security company didn’t have two nickels to rub together and call a dime. Needless to say, the owners weren’t happy. I think the worst part was when it was discovered that two of the guards who fired their unauthorized weapons were in the country illegally. They didn’t go to jail, but they got deported. The place hasn’t had a security guard since.

“All right, I’m putting it down in the log under extra patrol. We’ll come by one more time before end of watch. That’ll make everybody happy.”

“Unless somebody manages to break in before we get here.”

“We can’t be everywhere at once, sweetheart. We do the best we can.”

All units, this is a tactical alert broadcast. South Bureau is on tactical alert due to an unusual occurrence in Woodlawn Division. Repeat: this is a tactical alert broadcast. South Bureau is on tactical alert due to an unusual occurrence in Woodlawn Division.”

Oh, shit! Did it start already? No, it wouldn’t start at this hour. It’s way too late. But maybe somebody learned about the department refusing to comply with the subpoena? If they don’t know already, they’re going to find out when they turn on the news in the morning. So why the tac alert? What happened?

“Dani?”

“I’m sending a message to dispatch asking what happened. They’re probably getting hundreds of them right now, but we should be able to find out something, at least.”

It used to be that a single division would go on tac alert at the order of the Watch Commander, but anymore, if one division goes on tac alert, then the whole bureau automatically gets put on it. So it could be something peculiar to Woodlawn, or it could involve a number of South Bureau divisions. All right, we’re getting a response. Oh, my God! No!

“Dani, what’s wrong?”

“They’ve got an officer shot in Woodlawn. The Ambassador Suites. That’s an asshole apartment complex on the southeast side of the division. The gangs control it.”

“Is the officer still alive?”

“She doesn’t say, which means she doesn’t know. She does say it sounds pretty bad over there. Lots of confusion from the units at the scene. They’re trying to lock it down and get a better picture of what happened.”

I know what Harper’s thinking. I’m thinking it, too: should we go over there? At this hour, we could get on the freeway and shoot down there code three. We could be there in fifteen minutes. But that’s two whole divisions away, and it’s in the south part of Woodlawn. It’s too far. We’d catch holy hell for going down there, and even if we did, there’s nothing we could do. We just have to sit and wait and pray that the officer is all right. It sucks, but that’s what we have to do.

“All right, we just go back to our regular patrol. We can’t go down there. We’ll wait to see what happens. If there’s any news, the RTO will tell us.”

“Dani, you worked in Woodlawn. That could be someone you know.”

“I know, but there’s nothing we can do about it up here. It’s too far to justify leaving the division.”

And as if we didn’t already know that, here’s an all units message to Central Division telling everyone to remain in the division. Yeah, we know. We have to sit and wait with our stomachs tied up in knots. That’s a fact of life for a police officer. It sucks, but there it is.

I’m going to send a message to dispatch to give us the incident number for that shooting. Maybe we can find out something from the comments of the call? Was it a radio call? An observation-initiated activity? Or did some piece of shit just walk up to a cop and shoot him? Christ, I don’t even know if it was a he. It could be a her. And Harper’s right: it could be somebody I know. An old friend of mine. Who knows? All right, here’s the incident number. Let’s see what we’ve got. I just hope that I don’t crash the system by running this on the computer. Right now, every cop in Woodlawn Division is doing the same thing. Let’s see what we’ve got. Yeah, just like I figured: someone reported gang activity in the south parking lot of the Ambassador Suites. Gee, what else is new? That shithole has gang activity twenty-four/seven. Twenty-Nine Woodlawn got the call. They went code six about twelve minutes ago and the officer needs help call went out about two minutes later. EMS was dispatched. Does it say what the officer’s injuries are? Pull up the EMS dispatch call. A police officer with a gunshot wound, conscious and breathing. Thank God for that! I just hope he stays that way! Hang on! There’s an update: a second shooting victim, unconscious and not breathing. And there’s the code that tells me it was an officer-involved shooting. Good! They shot the son of a bitch and he’s obviously fucked up big time! I hope they killed the motherfucker!

“It looks like they shot the suspect. I can’t be certain, though. If they did, they should be requesting a supervisor and two additional units to respond code two. So far, there’s nothing in the comments about it.”

“They’re probably being flooded with information right now. It’ll take time for them to catch up and put it all in the incident log. Just have faith, Dani. They’re going to be OK.”

From your lips to God’s ear, Harper! There! There it is! They definitely shot somebody. I just hope it’s the asshole who shot that officer. It doesn’t look like they have any suspects outstanding. They’re not asking for a perimeter, and they’re not asking for a K9 unit. It says they’ve reserved tac four for the incident.

“Harper, switch over to tac four. Let’s see if we can get any information.”

“Roger that. Switching now.”

“Air Three to Twenty Woodlawn, do you want a unit at the entrance to the alley behind the driveway? You’re starting to get a crowd forming over there. I don’t want those guys to head over to the gate and get into that parking lot.”

“Negative, Air Three. I’m sending three units over there as soon as someone else gets here and we can deploy them over there. Be advised, the suspect’s body is just inside that overhang on the west side of the lot. I want to keep everyone as far away from there as possible. Some of the people in this complex are getting pretty riled up.”

I guess that confirms it: they shot and killed the suspect. Good! Fuck his ass! Now we need someone to get on the air and tell us if the officer is all right.

“Dani, who’s Twenty Woodlawn?”

“I don’t know. When I was there, it would’ve been Sergeant Bittner. That was a few years ago. It could be anybody. I don’t recognize the voice.”

“Forty-Three Woodlawn, we’re going to escort the paramedics into the courtyard. Can we get someone to move those people off of the sidewalk? They’re yelling up a storm over there. The paramedics are a little worried about going through there with this gurney.”

That sounds like Steve Magnusson. He was there when I was on Graveyard. He was a little too cowboy for my tastes, but definitely someone you’d want on your side in a fight.

“Seventy-One Woodlawn to Forty-Three, tell them to leave the gurney in the ambulance. The officer says he can walk out to them. He’s got a GSW to the right hand and one in the vest, but he swears he’s OK to walk to your location. He’s one tough boot.”

Oh, thank God! Thank you, thank you, thank you! He’s all right! At least, it sounds like he’s all right! A gunshot wound to the hand can be very serious, but at least he’ll live. And if he’s insisting on walking to the ambulance, then there’s a good chance that the wound isn’t that bad. They said he was a boot. In that case, I wouldn’t know him. I know it makes me sound like a total bitch, but I’m glad it wasn’t somebody I know. Lord, please let whoever it is be OK. Let it be a scratch. Don’t let it be anything that’s going to fuck with him for the rest of his life.

“See? I told you everything would be all right.”

“Yeah, but I’m glad we heard it for ourselves.”

“Twenty Woodlawn to Seventy-One, I’ve got the Watch Commander breathing down my neck for answers, and I don’t have any yet. Do we know who put down the suspect? Was it that boot? What’s his name? Varalles?”

“Roger that, Sarge. The son of a bitch shot him in the wrong hand. He’s a southpaw. He nailed the guy just before he could duck behind those cars. Confirm it’s a ‘K’ injury on the suspect?”

“Roger that, Seventy-One. It’s definitely a ‘K.’ The suspect is DOA. We’ve got the suspect’s weapon in custody and three or four shell casings in the lot. Get Varalles to the paramedics and get him the hell out of here. We’ve got a tac alert for the bureau, so we should be getting more units down here for crowd control.”

“How bad is it over there, Sarge?”

“Bad enough. I’m starting to see some gangbangers in the crowd. Just wait until that damned knife shooting gets wrapped up. It’s going to make this crap look like a goddamned picnic!”

So the boot killed the guy who shot him. Good for him! I hope they pin a medal on him for it! And that sergeant is right: once that fucking media case gets wrapped up, all fucking hell is going to break loose and Woodlawn Division is going to be right in the eye of the storm!

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