Tactical Alert

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"He Never Talked About that Tenth One"

Morning in the Harper House, as we’ve taken to calling it. Strangely enough, it’s raining right now. It’s about ten in the morning; I’m a little too lazy to look over at the clock so I’m not really sure. I’ve got Emily on the couch next to me and she’s making happy noises, so that’s a good thing. Try as I may, I can’t stop thinking that any minute now, she’s going to be sixteen and asking to borrow the car. God, I need to stop doing that. She’s a baby. I need to enjoy this time. If I’m not careful, I’ll worry my way straight through her childhood and I’ll miss everything. Do all parents feel this way? I’m telling you, ever since Emily was born, I’ve developed a whole new respect for my mom. I don’t know how she did it. I don’t know how any parent does it. My parents juggled their jobs and raising me and they both seemed to have plenty of time for me. I keep kicking myself for not being with her every second of every day. And right now, somewhere in Salem, my mom knows that and she’s laughing her ass off and thinking “I told you so!” Yeah, she said everything would change once we had a baby. She was right. Oh, Lord! Was she ever right!

Harper’s in the shower. He took Highway for a walk and got caught in the downpour. That’s what happens when you actively try to avoid watching the news: you miss the weather report and so you get caught in the rain without an umbrella. I just hope it stops by the time we have to go to work. I really don’t want to work in the rain, and since the clouds are blocking out the sun, it’s pretty chilly right now. Imagine how it’s going to be tonight. Well, there’s nothing we can do about the weather. We’ll just have to bust out the jackets and raincoats and deal with it. At least my leather gear is in inspection-ready shape. After zapping me with a Taser, I made him clean all of my gear. It’s the least he can do for me after nearly electrocuting my ass, don’t you think? I’m a little worried about going into roll call tonight because I just know those assholes are going to let me have it with both barrels! Yeah, they were cracking up about that shit all night long! Sadists! That shit hurt like a motherfucker! Imagine someone hitting you with a baseball bat five hundred times per second and you’ll get the idea. Don’t let anyone tell you different: Tasers hurt!

We were one hour overtime last night. Not because we got into anything, but because that’s when South Bureau lifted the tac alert. I just thank God that boot wasn’t hurt any worse than he was. The dispatcher sent us a message that he didn’t get hit too bad: a .22 to the hand and it missed everything important. The kid drew his weapon and fired one-handed and hit the son of a bitch with three out of four rounds. If you ask me, that’s some damned good shooting under the circumstances. The one that hit him in the vest didn’t do shit because it was so small. He’s lucky the guy didn’t have a cannon like a .41 or a .44 magnum. Then again, most of these assholes don’t know shit about guns. They just buy whatever the stolen gun seller has to sell or they get something from one of their senior gang members. Some of them are so clueless about guns that I’ve seen nine millimeters with .380 Auto cartridges and even .32 ACP cartridges in the magazine. Hey, you have to be pretty clueless to be a gangbanger in the first place. Just like that idiot with the knife. The idiot in Woodlawn last night? He was a known gang member with the 71st Street Gangster Crips. Major fucking assholes, the lot of them. At least he’s dead. Have fun in hell, you little piece of shit! You brought it on yourself.

We also learned that it was some sort of retaliation for the big media shooting that happened down there. Typical scenario: a bunch of asshole gangsters were drinking all night and when the police came to investigate, some fucking idiot suddenly gets it into his head to take a shot at them. The other gang members who were questioned all said that they were massively pissed off because the police murdered a poor, innocent hardworking man who wasn’t doing anything. Uh-huh! I wonder what they’d say if our idiot chief had released those body camera videos? Sadly, they’d probably say the exact same thing. Of course, that’s assuming they actually exist. I wish to God they’d at least clear that one up. These body cameras do malfunction sometimes, and you never know it until you go to look at the video and there’s nothing there. It’s one of the reasons why the PBA wasn’t too crazy about us using them: if one of them malfunctions, some asshole can say the officer deliberately failed to turn it on or he turned it off before the shit went down. We’ve had some of the brass accuse officers of doing that. The worst part is, there’s no way to prove that you didn’t do that. Not unless they find something mechanically wrong with it. There’s also the problem that they’re made of plastic like everything else these days, so they aren’t the sturdiest things in the world. We’ve had a lot of them get broken in fights or when an officer falls down during a foot pursuit. I don’t know how much they cost, but I know they’re not cheap. Central Division is the last division where they’re not standard issue because of the uproar we received about filming the homeless. That’ll change pretty soon, though.

I haven’t turned on the news yet because I don’t want to end up feeling sick to my stomach, but as soon as Harper comes down here we’re going to watch it. The story about the department not complying with the subpoena for the body camera videos has to be the lead story. Not some cop fresh out of the academy getting shot, but some political bullshit by the department. God, what the fuck are our leaders thinking? Don’t they realize they’re just making this shit worse? Get it out there! Get it all out there! If the cameras broke and there’s no video, then say so! And if our guys did what they were supposed to do, then get it the fuck out there! And if they fucked up somehow, then get it out there and just deal with the fallout! It’ll come down to one or the other anyway, so why play these stupid games? I swear, I’ll never understand politics as long as I live. Good! I’m pretty sure I don’t want to understand them!

So here I am, on one of those mornings where you just don’t want to do anything but sit and listen to the rain outside. I’m really fortunate that I’m able to do that. It’s kind of strange when you think about it: I don’t have to worry about much, I’ve got our beautiful daughter here and she’s giggling and blissfully unaware of everything, and a few miles away, people are wondering if their city is going to explode and what will they do if it happens. It’s a stark contrast to the people we deal with every night on skid row: their concerns are how are they going to stay alive for another day. Right now, they’re lucky if they’re able to find a spot to stay out of the rain. We live in a strange world, and that fact isn’t lost on me. It’s definitely lost on Zephyr the cat. He’s sitting on the windowsill, staring out the window like he usually does and to look at him, he doesn’t have a care in the world. Cats are like that. I’m not ashamed to say that I’m jealous of them. They need to teach humans how do to that.

“Zephyr, are you mad because you can’t go sit on the back porch? That’s where you’d be right now if the sun were out. There’s nothing I can do about the rain. I didn’t even know it was going to rain.”

And he looks at me as if to say “You should’ve watched the weather report, bitch!” Cats have no tolerance for humans who aren’t prepared for everything at all times. You should see how he looks at me when I come home from the store and realize that I forgot to buy cat food. He gives me a look that could turn flesh into stone. Highway? He just looks mournfully sad and makes me feel like total shit. And because I don’t want to turn right around and go back to get his dog food, I end up giving him people food, which he likes a lot better than dog food. I’m telling you, those two have me wrapped around their little dewclaws. It’s almost embarrassing.

Here comes Harper. He’s smiling and shaking his head at me. Yeah, I gave him a hard time for getting caught in the rain, and he was really soaked. I hope it’s coming down so hard that it’ll rain itself out pretty soon. It definitely looks like it right now.

“Come here and sit with me. Your daughter is giggling. I think she’s laughing at you for getting caught in the rain.”

“That’s what I get for not watching the weather. I need to get one of those local weather apps for my phone.”

He’s not the only one. I don’t have one of those, either. Hell, I need to get a new phone. Mine is at least four years old. I think they stopped offering upgrades for it.

“Hey Dani, turn on the news. I want to see what’s going on with this subpoena business. I don’t think anyone will be out protesting in this downpour, but I want to see what they have to say.”

He’s right: no one in their right mind would stand outside in that shit for hours. Then again, they’re not in their right minds, are they? All right, let’s see what we missed. Well, it looks like we missed the lead story. They’re just talking about the rain. Fortunately, this channel has a ticker underneath the talking head that recaps the top stories, and there it is! “Police department fails to comply with subpoena for body camera video.” It says a department spokesperson declined to give any details, but said that they were going to challenge it on procedural grounds. I guess that means they’re saying that it would somehow compromise the ongoing investigation. How? It was a pretty run-of-the-mill shooting. I’m guessing the investigation is already concluded. All they have left to do is to present the results to the Chief of Police along with a determination as to whether it was in-policy or not. Now, the chief can overturn that recommendation, but he’d better have a damned good reason for doing it. If he does, the officers will sue the shit out of him and they’ll have the official investigation to back them up. I’ve only seen one instance where they said a shooting was in-policy and the chief overturned it, and the chief lost that one. He’ll lose this one, too. At least, he will if what we’ve heard about it is true.

“At least they finally issued a statement about it. It’s still not going to sit well with anyone.”

“Why are they stalling? What are they doing over at headquarters? Dani, you’ve been through this kind of crap before. You’ve seen it from the inside. Does this make any sense to you?”

“Nope. I do think they’ve got an agenda over at the Chief’s Office and things aren’t going their way. Don’t ask me what it is, though. I’m not crazy enough to understand it.”

“Do you think they’re going to throw those guys to the wolves?”

That’s the real question, isn’t it? It shouldn’t be, but it is.

“I don’t know. But I’m beginning to think that somebody up on the sixth floor thought it would be a good idea.”

And that’s a pretty horrible thought. The only reason I’m thinking that way is because that’s essentially what happened to me. I didn’t do anything wrong and neither did the other officers at the scene, but some squints in the Chief’s Office decided to score political points by railing against us and trying to fire us for some bullshit conspiracy of silence. Then they got the chief to go along with it and suddenly we were public enemy number one; just like that. That’s all it took to tear my life apart. Somehow, it just feels like that’s what’s happening here: they could score some major points by saying that the shooting was unjustified and how the department won’t tolerate it, and then they push through some bullshit indictment and those two officers find themselves sitting at the defendant’s table and facing murder charges. That’s about as scary a thought as a police officer can have: that your own leaders would sacrifice you on the altar of public opinion just because it was expedient. I just hope it isn’t true this time. So far? I have no idea what they’re thinking or how this shit is going to turn out. I’m beginning to think no one does.


Central Station. Gearing up for roll call. The rain stopped and the clouds all blew away, but now it’s pretty damned chilly out there and it’s going to get colder, so it’s back to wearing long sleeves and a jacket. Can you believe that once upon a time, we had to get permission from Police Headquarters to wear our short-sleeve shirts? It’s true. We could wear them only if the temperature hit a certain mark, and every Daywatch Watch Commander had to call in and see if the day was an authorized short-sleeve day. And that all depended on someone at Office of Operations calling the weather service and getting the forecast for the day. Crazy, isn’t it? But it’s the truth. Thank God we moved past that insanity. Of course, that was back before all officers wore bulletproof vests. It’s bad enough to have to wear a wool long-sleeved shirt when it’s really hot outside, but try doing it with a bulletproof vest under that shirt. You’ll feel like you’re dying. I know. Every cop on this department knows it because Field Training Officers frequently order their boots to wear a long-sleeved shirt in the summer heat just to torture them. I’ve never done that to a boot and I never will, but it happened to me more times than I care to remember. Training Officers can be pretty sadistic toward their boots. It accomplishes nothing, but they think they’re being traditional. Don’t ask me where that came from.

I’ve been thinking about asking Sergeant Gellar to arrange for some squad formation training for the watch. It’s as boring as hell under most circumstances, but if the city takes a giant shit on us, we’re going to need it. We haven’t done anything like that for quite a while. We could all use a refresher course. I just don’t know if we can do it. Maybe we could devote a few roll call sessions to it? Anything would be of help. The sad truth is that most of the patrol officers on the department haven’t done any training at all on that subject since they left the academy. Most of us think it’s pointless, but here in Central Division, the homeless get riled up on a semi-regular basis so we still do it sometimes. I have a feeling that a lot of officers are going to wish they’d paid more attention to it when they had the chance.

All right, my gear is shined, I’ve got my clean uniform with my long sleeves, and my clip-on tie that keeps me from being strangled in a fight. Harper once told me that General Patton used to fine his soldiers in World War II for not wearing their neckties. What a fucking moron! Who the hell would wear a tie in combat? Yeah, sure! Just hand the enemy a pre-tied garrote to strangle you with! You have to wonder about some people. He may have been a fine general, but he obviously didn’t know jack shit about being in a fight. I read somewhere that he came from a stinking rich family, so maybe that explains it? No, I think he was just a moron. I think the official term for someone like that is a martinet. Harper said that Patton used to have thirty coats of varnish on his army helmet. That gives new meaning to the term obsessive-compulsive. He should’ve just sent it to some guy who paints cars and have him spray it with some shiny green paint. Of course, a shiny helmet in a combat zone sounds like a great way to get shot in the head. I’m sure he would’ve been the best-dressed corpse in the war.

All right, time to go to roll call. And there’s Harper, waiting at the door for me. How much do you want to bet that Sergeant Gellar calls an inspection tonight? Well, I’m ready for it.

“Looking sharp, Harper.”

“You, too.”

“I should. You shined my gear, remember? Shall we?”

“After you.”

Damn! The sergeants are already in there! We’re not late, are we? I was sure it was only…oh, what the fuck is this?

“Lynott! Take your seat! I think you can guess which one is yours!”

Very fucking funny, Sarge! Look at this shit! They took an office chair and dressed it up to look like an electric chair! Ha, ha, ha! Very funny, you assholes!

“Is this supposed to be a hint, Sarge?”

“More like a tribute to your getting electrocuted last night. What’s the matter? Don’t you like it?”

I’m not sitting in that thing until I’m sure it’s not wired to something. Hmm…I don’t see any wires coming out of it. Still, better safe than sorry.

“Harper, you sit in it. I want to make sure it’s safe.”

“Dani, you’re being paranoid. It’s just a little aluminum foil here and there. I think it’s kind of neat.”

“Uh-huh! Sit! If nothing happens to you, then I’ll sit in it!”

So far, so good. Nothing’s happening. OK, I think it’s safe. Hey, I wasn’t taking any chances! Not with these pranksters! Hell no!

“Satisfied, Dani?”

“Just keep an eye on my back. If anything happens, I’m blaming you!”

It’s nice to know I provide everyone with so much amusement! Listen to them! They’re all laughing their asses off! You know, I wonder what they did for laughs before I came along? Because I seem to be the target of a disproportionate number of practical jokes around here.

“All right, everybody! Settle down! Roll call! The Watch Commander is Lieutenant Hagan. I’m Forty Central. Sergeant Hendrickson is Sixty Central. Rosen and Ruiz, Eight Central. Harper and Lightning Girl, Sixteen Central.”

“I really hate you right now, Sarge!”

“Duly noted. Kursteff and Vinell, Twenty-Two Central. Signolo and Goren, Forty-Four Central. Acevedo and Garcia, Sixty-Six Central. Congratulations! You’re all gainfully employed. As you all know, we had a duster take out a fire hydrant last night. He wrecked his car along with another one, then took out a fire hydrant and plowed right into a wall. One person in his car was DOA and the other one is in a body cast. The occupant of the other car was pretty banged up, too. She’s got a fractured pelvis and a broken arm.”

And that fucking duster hardly looked like he had a scratch on him! Where is the justice in that? Can somebody tell me that?

“They ought to throw that duster in front of a moving bus, Sarge!”

“That may not be an option, Lynott. At approximately two forty-five this morning, he had some kind of seizure. He’s in the Intensive Care Unit with about a dozen machines plugged into him. Central Traffic is handling the investigation and at this time, they don’t know if he’s going to make it. PCP is a real bitch.”

It doesn’t make up for the guy he killed, but it’s a start. And no, I’m not being callous. Anybody who smokes that shit knows the risks; not just to themselves, but to everybody around them. They should lock his ass up for twenty years just for being stupid enough to smoke that psycho juice! People take drugs to feel good, but how the fuck is turning into a stark-raving lunatic feeling good? Go figure.

“Moving right along! For those of you who’ve been living in a cave, the department announced this morning that it was refusing to comply with a subpoena to release the body camera videos from that shooting in Woodlawn Division. A spokesperson for the department said that they’re going to challenge the subpoena on the grounds that releasing the videos will somehow fuck up the investigation into the shooting. The fact that we have a standing policy that requires us to release those things doesn’t seem to matter to anyone over at the Chief’s Office. The usual blowhards have been all over the TV, screaming about a cover-up. Watch yourselves out there! This thing is generating more hostility than any incident in recent memory! There was an incident in Woodlawn last night where an officer was shot. The suspect is dead, which is as it should be. The officer took a round to the hand, but he’s expected to make a full recovery. Forty-nine days out of the academy and he gets shot and still manages to kill the son of a bitch. Not bad! Remind me to ask the captain to have that kid wheeled here when he gets off of probation. We can use a cop like that around here.”

I second the motion. Hell, I’d vote to have him here on Midwatch. He clearly knows how to handle himself in a crisis. Anything else, we can teach him if necessary.

“People, I don’t have to tell you that tensions are running high with this thing. I’ve seen a lot of shootings that caused an uproar, but this one is different. A lot of people have latched onto this one for some reason and they’re blowing it way out of proportion. Everyone I’ve talked to says they’ve never seen it this bad before, and I agree. It’s getting really dangerous out there. We don’t have it as bad as in some other divisions due to the unique situation in Central Division…”

Translation: almost nobody lives here who isn’t homeless and they don’t give a flying fuck about it.

“…but that doesn’t mean we won’t get some idiot who tries to take out someone in a blue uniform. Every cop is a target right now! Don’t forget it!”

Yeah, like anyone would forget that. I think we’ve all got it burned into our brains by now.

“Sarge? What about doing some training in squad formations? We could all use the practice if this thing goes to shit on us.”

This is interesting: everyone is nodding their heads in agreement. That should tell you how serious this is.

“Lieutenant Hagan already suggested that, and we’re looking into it. We’ll keep you posted. On that note, Captain Mayones has managed to get us some riot shields on loan. I don’t know how many, but we’ll take what we can get. I expect them to disappear from the kit room and find their way to whatever stash place you people have set up.”

Oh, they’ll be there before we leave the station! And if the department comes looking for them, we’ll just say that some mysterious crackhead stole them and we’re looking for them at all of our ersatz swap meets in the division. I’m sure they’ll turn up right after the riot.

“Now, it’s cold and windy outside, so we’ll probably have the usual problems associated with that sort of thing: fights over spaces to keep warm, burglar alarms going off by accident. And since it’s likely to get even colder, my duties will keep me in the station for most of the night. If you need a sergeant, Sergeant Hendrickson is available to handle all of your needs.”

Oh, sure! He’s going to sit on his ass, drink coffee, and watch TV! I’m dragging his old ass out of the station even if I have to invent a reason to do it!

“And last but not least, line up for inspection! I expect all of you to pass with flying colors! I want to see my face reflected in your gear! I expect crisp creases in those uniforms! This is Midwatch! You’re all held to a higher standard!”

“Does that include you, Sarge?”

Hey, someone had to ask!

“Negative, Lynott! I’m the one holding the standard! The standard-holder is exempt! Line it up! Tallest to shortest! So I guess we all know who’s going to be at the end of the line!”

What else is new? Someday we’re going to have to get someone shorter than me on this watch. By the time he gets to me, he’s already found whatever problems there are, so he really lets me have it. It sucks.


Out on patrol. We all passed the inspection with flying colors, probably because we all saw it coming. Within two days, some of us are going to look like we walked through a gravel pit in our duty boots. That’s Central Division for you. It’s the filthiest environment in the city, so how can anyone expect the police to look all squared away? The place makes your gear and your uniforms take a beating. There are also the old dinosaurs on Daywatch who take pride in not having shined their leather gear in ten years. They think the worn, scuffed leather is a sign of experience. More like a sign of laziness. Some of those guys have handcuff cases with the Velcro closures that were issued back in the eighties, and the Velcro is completely shot. The covers of the cases just sort of flap around. Someone should do something about that. I’m not saying we should always look inspection-ready, but I think it’s important to look as good as you can. It’s a sign of professionalism. It’s also a sign that you’ve taken care of your gear so that it won’t fall apart in the event you actually need to use it. Some of these old-timers? I honestly wonder if their guns would fire if they pulled the trigger. Some of them have so much dust and lint on them that they’d probably burst into flames at the first shot. I hope I never have to find out if that’s true.

We stashed the riot shields in the closet in the basement with the rest of the stuff. I wonder how much longer we’re going to be able to keep it there before someone notices it missing? We’re starting to get a pretty good hoard in there. Lieutenant Hagan managed to get us some gas masks that SEU isn’t using anymore. They’re nowhere near as good as the ones those guys have now, but they work and that’s what matters. If they deploy SEU in the event of a riot, we’re going to have to deal with some tear gas grenades. I don’t want to be out there without a gas mask if that happens. Too bad we can’t get a tank. I’d feel a lot better with a tank, but the department doesn’t have any of those. Too militant-looking, I suppose. Maybe that will change if we have a riot? Better late than never. And no, I’m not being facetious. If we have to go to Woodlawn Division in the middle of a full-scale riot, I definitely want to do it in a tank. Still think I’m full of it? You take a drive down Via Vista Avenue at night when people are going ape shit and then tell me you don’t want one – assuming you survive, that is.

One of the worst things about this whole Woodlawn business is that it makes it hard to concentrate on the work in our own division. We’ve got plenty of problems that need our attention. The summer is coming and the junkies, crackheads, pill-poppers, meth-heads, and whatever other drug users you care to name are gearing up for it. They’ll be out later, more mobile, and ready to stick a knife in your ass if they think they can get so much as a crumb of dope from you. A lot of the dealers have a new supplier: some joker named Octavio Rivas. I’ve only seen him once or twice out here, but his name is on every junkie’s lips. I spoke to John and Angelo over at Narcotics Division, and they said his wholesaler is somewhere in Eastside Division, but that’s as much as they know. The dealers we arrested last month were pretty flush, so Octavio definitely has the hookup for heroin. We should be grateful. At least he’s pushing plain old heroin instead of that Fentanyl-laced crap that kills you before you can finish injecting it. On the downside, we’ve found two crack dealers beaten within an inch of their lives. We couldn’t figure out why until Signolo and Goren found a few crackheads who said those guys were selling bunk. Fake dope. Selling a piece of soap wrapped in aluminum foil to a crackhead on skid row? You might as well jump in front of a speeding train. It’s a lot less painful than having a psychotic crackhead go berserk on your ass and it’s over a whole lot quicker.

We’ve also got our usual thieves out here stealing everything that isn’t nailed down, as well as a few things that are. A few days ago we had a couple of brain-donors who tried to steal the air conditioner off of the roof of the Genesee Building, which is a real cheese box of a structure over on 9th Street. I don’t know what the hell they did or how they did it, but these two morons managed to unbolt the thing from its supports and it literally crashed right through the roof and into the furnace room below. We’re talking about an air conditioning unit that must weigh a couple of tons. How they thought they were going to get that thing off of the roof is beyond me. What I can tell you is that they set off every alarm on the block and got caught trying to climb down the drainpipes along the side of the building. God only knows how much that cave-in is going to cost to fix. It put a hole in the roof the size of a little swimming pool. The owners of the Genesee will probably call it remodeling and raise everybody’s rent. Some of the property managers do shit like that in this division. A few of them are even sitting in prison because of it. Yes, there’s never a dull moment in our little slice of heaven!

So our busy division is getting even busier, but all we can think about is what’s going to happen in the south end once this investigation is wrapped up and the findings are announced. Even the Chief of Police can’t sit on the findings once they’ve been submitted. He’s got to release them to the public the next business day. That’s not policy; that’s the law. He doesn’t have to announce whether he’s going to endorse the findings or dispute them when the case is presented to the Use of Force Review Board, but he has to announce the findings of the investigation that were submitted to him: no ifs, ands, or buts. I’m thinking our current chief isn’t too happy with that one. Politicians sure like to talk about how they’re all in favor of transparency, but they don’t seem too fond of it when it applies to them. That’s not something peculiar to the would-be Wizards of Oz in our Emerald City. It’s true of politicians everywhere. Yet another reason why I’d rather eat a bag of broken glass covered in battery acid than run for office.

“Dani, check it out: Eight Central’s caught a mean one. A possible ADW suspect in the Annapolis Hotel.”

That fucking dope pit on 9th Street near Meridian Avenue. Harper’s right: that place is dangerous. We’ve had our problems there in the past, as I’m sure you remember. And when an ADW call goes out there, you know it’s a good one. We’d better lend them a hand. If they get in a fight inside that place, they could have some lunatic with a machete come charging out of one of the rooms before they have a chance to react. That’s happened more than once.

“Right there with you, sweetheart. Sixteen Central to dispatch, show us responding to Eight Central’s call on 9th Street.”

“Sixteen Central, roger. Be advised, we’ve just received a second call from that location on the possible ADW suspect.”

“Roger that. Show us en route. We’re right down the street from the location. Sixteen out. Hit it, Harper!”

“Hang on!”

If they got a second call from that place, then it’s definitely a good one. Not only that, but in order for two people to call the police from the Annapolis, the suspect is probably some lunatic with a hockey mask and a chainsaw. They don’t bother to notify us about a run-of-the-mill ADW guy.

“Harper, park us across the street from the front of the place, just out of the line of sight from the door. And let’s hope the suspect isn’t looking out through one of the front windows.”

“Do we have a description on the suspect?”

“Male black, about six-four, massively huge. That’s all it says in the comments.”

“I hope the four of us can take him.”

“Just shoot him with the same Taser we had last night. As long as he isn’t dusted, he’ll drop like a stone. Just don’t shoot me this time!”

“Are you ever going to forgive me for that?”

“Yeah! When the feeling comes back in my hands!”

I can still feel how much that thing hurt. Don’t ask me why, but I can. I guess they’re making Tasers a lot stronger these days. Good! I’ve seen enough of them fail since I’ve been a police officer. You know, you can buy a stun gun that throws two million volts, but the Taser still has the same fifty thousand volts as when it came out in the seventies; at least as far as the instruction manual says. I’ve never understood that.

“Right up ahead, Dani. There’s Eight Central pulling up.”

“We’re code six at this location. When we get out, listen for screams. Huge guys on skid row like to beat the shit out of people with their bare hands.”

And they do a very professional job of it, too. I’ve seen beatings that made the one Rocky took in the movies look like a slap across the face. These guys can be absolutely brutal. We’d better be damned careful.

“Guys! Where’s your suspect supposed to be?”

Rosen’s holding his hands up like he has no idea. That’s generally not a good sign.

“You don’t know where he is?”

“The original call didn’t say. It just said there’s a huge guy in there throttling the shit out of someone. We thought we’d just ask at the front desk.”

Sounds like a plan. As long as the night guy isn’t drunk off his ass, he should tell us. Most of the people who work the desk at these places don’t like to have a homicide on their watch. It looks bad to the other tenants. I know they started running a night desk guy in this place a few months ago. Before that, it was hit or miss with them. All right, there he is. I can see him through the door. He’s not passed out on the desk. That’s something.

“Excuse me? I’m Officer Lynott. Is there a huge guy in here killing someone?”

“Apartment four.”

Jesus, he barely even glanced at me! And he’s pretty nonchalant about an ADW in progress. What the fuck is going on around here?

“Are you sure about that?”

Holy shit! That sounded like somebody just crashed through a wall! Yeah, I guess he’s not kidding! The rest of the guys are running down the hall already! Hurry! This could be some serious shit! Oh, hell! I can see the door’s been kicked in! How much do you want to bet this is a dope deal gone seriously wrong? Hang on! Harper’s giving me the code four sign: stand down, it’s over. What the fuck?

“Harper…”

“Code four, Dani! It’s not an ADW! It’s Officer Woodward!”

Elias Woodward? State Parole? Yeah, suddenly it makes sense. This place is a known parolee hangout. I guess Officer Woodward came here to collect one of his charges for failing to report.

“Officer Woodward! It’s Dani Lynott! Are you in there?”

Whoa! He must be in there, because that asshole just came flying out the door head-first! Oh, shit! Right into the wall!

“Come here, you motherfucking piece of dog shit! What the fuck did I tell you? Sound off! What the fuck did I say I was going to do to your motherfucking ass if I ever caught you fucking up again? Answer up!”

Yep! That’s Officer Woodward! Three hundred pounds of muscle and mean! And I don’t think that guy could say his own name right now. He really hit that wall hard.

“Sixteen Central to dispatch, show a code four at this location. There’s no ADW suspect here. It’s just State Parole making an arrest.”

As you know by now, Officer Woodward’s arrests are usually a lot different from ours. Ours don’t usually involve so much pummeling. Then again, we don’t usually arrest parole violators who are hiding out in dumps like this one. And now he’s got what’s left of his arrestee by the neck! Maybe we do have an ADW suspect after all?

“Your miserable fucking ass is mine, motherfucker! You fucked up big time! Your ass is going back to the motherfucking pen for the rest of your motherfucking life! You hear me? Kiss the rest of your motherfucking life goodbye!

Damn, what did this guy do? Something pretty serious, obviously!

“Officer Woodward! What’s he wanted for?”

“This little piece of motherfucking shit’s wanted for two rapes! Two motherfucking rapes! One of them was a fourteen year-old girl! I ought to kill your worthless ass right fucking here!

Hey, that’s fine with me! I don’t doubt he’s telling the truth. They don’t send a parole officer after you unless they’ve got you dead to rights. And if he raped a fourteen year-old girl, then I don’t have a problem with him becoming a statistic. Fuck him! But I see Harper, Ruiz, and Rosen don’t seem to agree. They’re handcuffing him. I guess he gets to live for at least a few more hours.

So who’s our pervert? Male Hispanic, about thirty-five, fat, and bleeding severely from his head. He looks like a piece of shit, but right now I might be a little biased.

“Does this guy have a warrant?”

“You’re goddamned right he does! He’s got an outstanding warrant from the sheriffs and a parole warrant! Motherfucking piece of worthless shit! I knew he was going to fuck up just as soon as they let his motherfucking ass out of the pen! Four weeks! He’s been out for four motherfucking weeks! They should’ve shot his motherfucking ass at the gate!

“Ruiz, verify the outstanding sheriff’s warrant. And talk to him if he’s able. I think the impact short-circuited the English-speaking part of his brain. We’ll probably need you to translate.”

“Why? I say fuck his ass! If he’s good for it, I hope they pull a fucking train on his ass when he gets back inside!”

Which they probably will. And after they’re finished fucking him in the ass, they’ll probably cut off his dick with a piece of broken glass. They don’t take kindly to child molesters in prison. Even those psychos have a code of conduct, and they have some pretty serious consequences for violating it. And this guy doesn’t look like a tough guy. They’re going to eat him alive behind bars. Good! Serves him right!

“Yeah, but we have to know what he’s got to say.”

“Do you want to know what he’s got to say? Culpable! That’s Spanish for guilty.”

“Just dot the ‘I’s’ and cross the ‘T’s’ before we cart him away. Believe me, I’m right there with you on this one. I’ve got a daughter of my own, remember?”

And the thought of her existing in the same universe with a child rapist is enough to make me pull my gun and blast a hole right between his eyes. But we’re professionals, and as much as it pains me to say it, even this piece of shit has rights. We have to respect that, no matter how much it turns our stomachs.

“Officer Woodward, how did you find this guy? If the sheriffs were looking for him?”

“I got a snitch who gave his ass up! That’s right, motherfucker! You don’t have a motherfucking friend in the world! Everybody’s ready to give your motherfucking ass up!”

This guy looks absolutely terrified. Yeah, he should be! What are his options? Go back to prison and face the animals doing ten life sentences who have nothing to lose by fucking him up, or deal with Officer Woodward who’s ready to kill him on the spot! Holy damned if you do and damned if you don’t, Batman!

“I’m kind of surprised to see you out this late. Was it just to catch this guy?”

“I wish! They’re really on us to round up as many of these assholes with warrants ahead of what’s going to happen in a few days.”

“I take it you mean the possible riot?”

“From what we’re hearing from our parolees in the south end, there’s nothing ‘possible’ about it. The shit’s going down just as soon as they decide not to arrest those two officers of yours. And from what I’ve heard, there’s no way in hell they’re going to file charges against them.”

“Not if what we’ve heard is true. That was a justified shooting, but you never know with our new chief and our less-than-ideal DA.”

“That DA is an asshole! He doesn’t know shit! He’s trying to shove his nose up the ass of every liberal mouthpiece in the goddamned city! Do you have any idea what his bullshit policies are doing to our office? We’ve got motherfuckers thinking they don’t have to report in anymore! We’ve got him sending letters to the agency telling us not to be so hard on these assholes! He wants to ‘integrate them into society again.’ Fucking bullshit! Is he going to integrate this motherfucker back into society? Four motherfucking weeks! Four fucking weeks and he’s already done two rapes that we know about!”

And I’m sure our DA will say he’s just misunderstood and he had a hard life and we need to give him a chance. Yeah, and probably a job, a car, a house, and a million dollars so he can get back on his feet! I’m telling you, it’s getting harder and harder to have any faith in the system. I’m betting that if you look at this asshole’s record, you’ll see he never should’ve been let out in the first place. But here he is, and at least two women paid the price for it. That’s what the liberals call “social engineering.” And the two victims? They’re what they call a “glitch.” And no, I’m not kidding.

“What’s the story, Ruiz?”

“The warrants are good. He’s Hermosillo Estevan Cardenas-Santos. He’s even got ID. It’s him. He’s got an outstanding warrant from the Valinda Sheriff’s Office for rape and lewd acts with a minor issued three days ago. And he says he’ll do anything you ask if you promise to keep Officer Woodward away from him.”

Does that include going up to the roof and diving head-first onto the pavement? Because that’s the only thing I want him to do right now.

“Does he admit to the charges?”

“He says he won’t talk about that. He wants a lawyer. He also doesn’t want us to hand him over to immigration. He’s afraid of being deported.”

Christ, that’s the least of his worries! This is all the shit that’s been on TV for the last three years! And the truth is, they should’ve deported his ass the second he got released from prison! You have to wonder why that didn’t happen.

“Tell him not to worry. He’s going to spend the rest of his life in prison – however long that is. I’ve got a feeling he’s not going to be too popular in there.”

“That’s what I told him. He’s still more afraid of Officer Woodward.”

I can’t say I blame him. Well, he’s going to be safe for at least twenty-four hours. We’ll take him in and book him on the warrants, and he won’t be transferred to the custody of State Parole until the twenty-four hour period elapses. After that? He’s basically fucked.

“Ruiz, you and Rosen stick him in your car and transport him back to the station. We’ll be right behind you.”

And the little hand signal I just gave Ruiz means he should take a picture of the guy before they transport him. This asshole is clearly a weasel, and I don’t want him claiming that Ruiz and Rosen kicked his ass. State Parole? Hey, they don’t report to our department. He can bitch and moan about Officer Woodward as much as he likes. It won’t go anywhere. Parole officers have to listen to parolees bitch and moan every day, so they quickly develop a deaf ear to it. Would that we could be like that.

“So what are State Parole’s plans for the riot? Assuming there is one, I mean.”

“Dani, everything we’re hearing is that the south end is about to explode. They’re not going to charge those guys. Even the witnesses to the thing said the cops only shot him when they couldn’t back up any further. They’re going to find the shooting justified and the people in the south end are going to go motherfucking crazy! It’s going to happen. The question is, what are you people going to do about it? Because from what I’ve seen so far, your department isn’t doing anything to prepare for it. A little talk here and there, but no action. That decision could come down any day now and you’re not even on heightened readiness.”

“We know. We’re doing what little we can on Midwatch, but it’s not much. We’ve got a plan in place to head straight for Woodlawn Division as soon as we know things are going to shit.”

“So your people are going down there? Even though you know what’s going to happen?”

“Some of us still remember we get paid to run toward the threat, not away from it.”

“Ten of you against every asshole south of the downtown area? With no support from the rest of the police?”

“We don’t get paid to run away. We’re going to do what we can. Maybe it’s not much, but we’re going to do our job no matter what.”

“Dani, I don’t think you realize how angry people are right now. This shit’s been building up for a long time. This isn’t going to be a bunch of protests over at City Hall. Motherfuckers down there are talking about killing people. Talking about killing you people. Anyone with a badge. Don’t tell me you’re ready for that, because no one’s ready for it. You could get killed. All of you could get killed.”

“We know. But at least we’ll be able to look ourselves in the mirror. Assuming we don’t get killed, that is.”

That got a laugh out of him. I know he’s only trying to help. He thinks we don’t realize how different this one is. He’s wrong. Even up here in Central, we get it. We understand how bad it’s likely to be, but we still have a job to do and we’re going to do it.

“Dani, let me tell you something: I’ve got family back in New Orleans. When Hurricane Katrina hit, everybody knew it was coming. They knew it was coming for at least a week. There wasn’t any doubt, but the motherfuckers in charge of everything didn’t do shit. There was no preparation. Everybody knew for decades that those levies wouldn’t hold in a major storm, but they didn’t do shit about it. And then it hit and the city was flooded and thousands of people got stranded on their rooftops. Homes destroyed, people living like animals in the Superdome. All because nobody in charge took it seriously. That’s what I see happening now. Your chief and his people? They’re not taking it seriously. The only thing he’s said is he’s got a million dollars set aside for overtime in the event of an emergency. A million dollars? How the fuck long is that going to last if they have to mobilize the whole police force?”

About four days if my math is right. And it doesn’t even take into consideration the amount of resources we’re going to burn through in a week. Then there’s the possibility that some of our police stations could be burned down. It was a joke when it was announced and it’s even worse now.

“What can I tell you? The chief won’t budge. It’s like he thinks he can just will it into not happening.”

“He’s got that Cal Coolidge mindset. Ten troubles come at you down the road? Nine of them will fall into a ditch before they ever get to you, so don’t worry about them. That’s what he used to say. But he never talked about that tenth one that comes up and grabs you by the balls.”

Yeah, that’s it in a nutshell, isn’t it? What do we do if this thing goes down the way everyone expects it to? I don’t think this one is going to fall into a ditch. We may be the ones who end up in the ditch.

“What are you guys going to do? I don’t imagine they’ll have you chasing parole violators in the middle of a riot.”

“We’re standing by to stand by. If they activate the emergency assistance network, then we’ll be out there with the rest of you, doing what we can.”

“And if they don’t?”

“Then I’ll tell them to kiss my big ass right on the crevice! I’ll still be out there. This is my city, too. I’m not going to stand by and let a bunch of motherfuckers burn it down.”

I was hoping he’d say that. We could really use his help on the front lines.

“If this thing goes to shit, either me or Harper will call you. You meet us at Woodlawn Station. We need your help even if the brass thinks we don’t.”

“I’ll be there. Just don’t forget to call. As soon as you guys are ready to move, you let me know. I’ll be there.”

“I appreciate it. And don’t worry, we won’t be going into any hotels after serial killers. I never want to have another cluster fuck like the St. George again.”

“You and me both. I got shot in that asshole place, remember?”

Oh, I remember. He got shot a few times. He didn’t have to be there, but he volunteered. And after he got shot, he stayed in the fight. He never backed down, even after he couldn’t stand up anymore. Some of us are alive because of him. That’s something I’ll never forget as long as I live.

“Let’s make a deal: no one gets shot this time. Especially not you! You already took enough hits for one lifetime. Agreed?”

“You got a deal, Dani.”

And a handshake seals the deal. I don’t know how I’m going to guarantee that, but for now, it’s my mantra: nobody gets shot. Period! No fucking shooting! Pepper gas, nightsticks, and Tasers are fine. Gunplay? Fuck that! I never want to fire my gun in the line of duty again! And neither does anyone on the watch. If you don’t believe me, just ask them. There’s nothing glamourous about an officer-involved shooting. I’ve said it a million times and I’ll say it again: it ain’t like you see on TV. Not by a long shot.

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