Tactical Alert

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"We Have to Consider the Optics"

Woodlawn Station. We dropped off the two idiots we arrested. The third one got carted to the hospital by the EMS unit that took Officer Kimball. The paramedics said the bullet missed everything important, but that you can’t be sure with a neck wound until they get an x-ray. Still, she never lost consciousness, so that’s a good sign. The idiot with the hole in his shoulder? He’ll make it. Oh, and guess what? Officer Woodward recognized him. He’s a parolee. He’s also a Blocktown gang member. All of them were. Officer Woodward is in the Detectives’ Room with the two idiots who didn’t get shot, and judging by the yelling I can hear coming out of there, they probably wish that they were. He’s definitely not fucking around with those guys. Good! I hope he finds a reason to rip off their arms and stick them right up their asses! They’re lucky we didn’t shoot them! Fucking assholes! At least they’re being charged with felony murder. They opened fire on two police officers, which is a felony, and in the commission of that felony one of their idiot friends got killed. Instant murder charge! Throw in the gun charges and the fact that they were acting in furtherance of their gang and they could easily spend the next thirty years in prison, if not more. I hope so. I hope they get life without parole. They definitely deserve it.

The Woodlawn unit? They were wrapping up the death investigation when they heard shots in the alley. They pulled the car in there to see what was happening and as soon as they got out, they were ambushed. Kimball took a shot to the neck almost immediately and her partner Officer Taylor returned fire. When he ran out of ammunition for his pistol, he went for the shotgun and nearly got killed trying to get to it. That round he put into that asshole? He had one round left after that. He said he would’ve gone for Kimball’s gun after that, but he didn’t like the idea of leaving his partner without a weapon. Fortunately, we got there in time. Taylor took two hits in the vest, but he’s OK. He said he didn’t even feel them. Adrenaline can do that to you. There must’ve been twenty bullet holes in their car. Why didn’t they come up on the radio? Because one of the assholes’ shots hit Taylor’s radio and shattered it. They didn’t have one for the car and he couldn’t get to his partner’s radio. Yeah, it can happen that way sometimes, as I know all too well from personal experience. I’m just glad they’re both still alive.

Lieutenant Hagan’s group found the other unit, hiding in the bushes with their radios turned down so low that they couldn’t hear anything. A risky tactic, but it’s what you have to do sometimes when you’re sitting in a ground-level observation post. Anyway, they’re fine and dandy. Since Officer Taylor went to the hospital with his partner, we’ve still got Officer Titus with us. He’s a little freaked out, but he’s handling it well. One month out and he sees a seriously wounded officer and an OIS with a fatality right in front of him. He didn’t fire his weapon, but then again, he didn’t have a shot from where he was standing. That’s pretty good self-control, if you ask me. A lot of boots would’ve started blasting away as soon as they saw another officer open fire. I’m hoping that his performance continues to impress us. If it does, then I’m putting him in for a medal. They don’t prepare you for this shit in the academy.

We’re getting ready to head back out there again. This time, we’re sticking together. I don’t want to run into another situation like that one without having all of the backup we can muster. In the meantime, I’ve scratched out a short narrative of what happened out there and what everyone did. It might help the detectives when they get around to investigating the shooting, which might not happen for a long time. I have a feeling that by the time this shit is over, those guys are going to have a six-month backlog of cases to handle. Right now, Sergeant Ivanell is looking over my report. It’s not like an official report that he needs to approve, but he thought that having a sergeant’s signature on it might help in the long run. He’s probably right.

Oh, shit! That’s Sergeant Satterfield! What the hell is he doing here? Shouldn’t he be at the command post, making sure that no one does their job?

“Sarge! Snake alert! Ten o’clock!”

“That’s Brian Satterfield, isn’t it? I remember him from when I worked over at IAD. Everybody hated him, and he didn’t even work there!”

“They don’t call him Mack the Knife for nothing. Watch yourself. He’ll stab you in the back just as soon as look at you.”

“Don’t worry, Dani. When this is over, remind me to tell you some of the things we learned about him. He’s done a lot worse than just burn police officers. He’s lucky to still have his job.”

Seriously? Now this, I want to hear! I always thought he had to have a few skeletons in his closet. Nobody that mean could be squeaky clean. All right, he sees me. And yes, he knows exactly who I am. He was never a fan of mine. He got it into his head that because a lot of boots liked working with me, I must be sleeping with them. Nice guy, huh?

“What the hell are you doing here, Lynott? You were exiled from this division! You were ordered not to set foot in it again!”

Actually, they never said that. They just kicked me out. It’s not like I was forbidden ever to come back here.

“I never got that order, Sarge. So what are you doing here? I thought you were at the command post.”

“I came back here to make sure everyone reports as ordered! I heard there were Central units in the division! What the hell are you doing out of your division?”

“Saving yours. Oh, this is Sergeant Ivanell. I think you two have met.”

And Sergeant Ivanell has a great big shit-eating grin on his face. He must have some serious dirt on Satterfield. God, now I’m dying to know what he’s got!

“Ivanell, she’s not supposed to be here. She was banned from this place!”

“Actually, Officer Lynott was admin transferred to Central Division, the same as me. But we were ordered to come down here as a result of the emergency. Your Watch Commander knows we’re here. We already spoke to him.”

“You’re supposed to be at the CP! I want the two of you and everyone else that’s with you in your cars and proceeding to the CP immediately! That’s an order!”

“From who? You don’t have the authority to give an order like that. Who’s in charge over there? I’m sure it’s not you.”

“Are you fucking with me, Ivanell? Because I’m not in the mood for it! Get your ass over to the CP this instant!”

“How’s Juliet?”

Whoa! Sergeant Satterfield looks like he just got slapped in the face! I think his eyes are going to pop out of the sockets! Who the fuck is Juliet?

“What did you say, Paul?”

“You heard me. You see, I mentioned to Officer Lynott that I knew you. I was about to tell her a few things about you from back when I was at IAD. So, do you still speak to Juliet?”

He looks like he’s going to explode! Whatever the Sarge is talking about, it’s got old Mack the Knife absolutely livid! And I’m fucking loving it!

“Go to hell! Where’s Lieutenant Oliver?”

“In the Watch Commander’s Office. Nice seeing you again, Brian. Stop by and see me if you get a chance. We can catch up.”

And there he goes, storming toward the Watch Commander’s Office! I think Sergeant Ivanell just became my new hero! I want to hear about this Juliet person!

“Sarge, who’s Juliet? Details! I want lots of details!”

“It’s a long story. For now, let’s just say: underage girl, crossing state lines, outside agency investigated, and some very nasty allegations afterward. You do the math.”

Holy shit! This is even better than I expected! I knew Satterfield was a total snake, but nothing like that! I definitely need to hear that story! Christ, I need to have it transcribed!

“Tell me you’ve got more on him! Lots more!

“A few things, but they’ll have to wait. Come on, Dani. We’ll leave this with the Watch Commander along with the pictures we took of the shooting scene. We need to get back out there.”

“Don’t you dare get yourself killed! I want to hear that story! And any others you’ve got about him!”

“It’s a deal. Don’t you get killed, either. You already got shot at, remember?”

“I think we’re all going to get shot at before this thing is over. Come on, let’s grab everyone and get back out there. Tell the guys to fill their gas tanks. We might not get another chance for a while, so we might as well top off while we can.”

If they shut this station down, they’ll shut off the gas pumps. I don’t want to have to drive up to Avalon Division. Hell, they might be in the same boat. We could end up having to drive over to Northside. No, thank you! There’s Harper down the hall. I’d better let him know while I’ve got the chance.

“Harper, top off the gas tank before we leave.”

“Way ahead of you, Dani. We’re good.”

Why am I not surprised? He thinks of everything, most of the time before I think of it myself.

“Roger that. I’ll see you out there in a minute.”

All right, time to collect Officer Titus. I think I saw him in the kit room. Yeah, there he is. And there’s the Woodlawn kit room. God, this is a little trip down memory lane for me. Maybe I should go out to the trailer and see my old locker? Jesus, what for? It’s a locker, for God’s sake! I need to pull my head out of my ass!

“Titus! We’re headed out! What are you doing?”

“Just looking to see if there’s anything we can use. They really picked it clean.”

He’s not kidding. Everything useful is gone. It’s all sitting over at the command post, probably gathering dust.

“Grab your gear bag and make sure you’ve got your riot helmet and face shield. You’re going to need it.”

“Roger that, ma’am. I mean Officer Lynott.”

“Why don’t you try calling me Dani? Everybody else does.”

“I noticed you’re the only one they call by her first name. Why is that?”

“We’re Midwatch. We’re a little weird.”

That seemed to have thrown him a little bit. I need to remember that he’s a green boot. He’s not used to that sort of thing.

“I’m kidding. I’m not sure why they do it. Probably because I’m the only woman on the watch. I hope you don’t have a problem riding with me. I know they told you about what happened with that shooting. They tell every class.”

“They did, and I saw the video. It looked to me like you couldn’t see what happened from where you were. Actually, I wanted to ask you about something else: you were there at the shootout at the St. George, right?”

“Yeah, I was there. All of Midwatch was there. So was Officer Woodward.”

“People at the academy talked about it a lot. I also heard you were part of the Robbery Suppression Unit and that shootout with the Ghost Dragons in Northside Division. You’ve been in some crazy shit.”

He’s heard more than I thought. I know those things come up from time to time. Harper and I have talked to recruit classes about the St. George. I don’t know if we talked to his class, though.

“We’ve had our share of scrapes, but I hope you don’t think that all I do is shoot people. We’ve just had a run of bad luck in that department.”

“You won the Medal of Valor how many times? Three? Four? I’m surprised they haven’t put you in for the Shield Cross.”

Oh, yes. That one. That’s the highest award for valor under fire. They award it maybe once every five years, and usually posthumously. I think there are three or four officers on the department right now who have it, and you wouldn’t want to know what they went through to get it.

“Medals just remind you of how close you came to dying. And I don’t want the Shield Cross. They tend to pin that one on your grave, you know.”

“They told us that. But from what I’ve heard about you, you earned it. I just wanted to say that.”

“I appreciate the vote of confidence. Look, you know I didn’t leave here under the best of circumstances. I’m here only because of the riot. If the station were full right now, there’d be more than a few people who wouldn’t be happy to see me. They think I disgraced the badge.”

“That’s not true, ma’am. Most people around here think you got shafted. They blamed you guys for something you had no control over. About the only one who I ever heard say anything negative about you was Sergeant Satterfield, and I actually got warned about him before I left the academy. Everyone who got sent to Woodlawn did. He told people he was hoping our guys would get indicted on this thing. It didn’t make him a popular person around here.”

Yeah, I couldn’t very well expect him to say anything nice about me. He never did before that shit happened. He took one look at me the day I showed up and instantly hated me. He hates having women on the job unless they’re willing to fuck him, and I doubt any woman on the department is that desperate. And I’m not surprised he was rooting for our guys to get indicted. He’s a piece of shit, plain and simple.

“Like I said, I appreciate the vote of confidence. Look, I know you’re still green and they didn’t teach you about what to do in a riot at the academy, so if you see something, say something. If you have any questions, ask. If you’re not sure of something, say so. Everyone on this watch relies on everyone else. We always do. That’s how we get through it.”

“Roger that, Dani.”

What do you know? He didn’t call me “ma’am.” He’s learning.

“Come on, let’s get back out there. The riot awaits.”

“Hey, Dani? That parole officer? Officer Woodward? Did he ever play pro football?”

Yeah, one look at Officer Woodward and that’s the first thing you’d think. And as a matter of fact, he did play football. I think I told you about that.

“Yeah, he did. I think he was the entire defensive line for someone. But right now, I can’t remember which team. You can ask him. I don’t know football. I’m a baseball fan. What about you? What’s your favorite baseball team?”

“Kansas City. That’s where I’m from.”

At least he didn’t say the Yankees. I’d have to toss him out of the car if he were a Yankees fan. I can live with a Royals fan. Their real rivalry is with the St. Louis Cardinals, but they hate the Yankees almost as much as we do in Boston.

“You’ll do just fine. Come on, we’ve got to go. Grab your gear and anything you think we can use out there. I’ll meet you at the car.”

He’s got to be freaked out by all of this. His division deserted him, his training officer deserted him, and now he’s riding third in a car with a bunch of cops that he doesn’t even know. But if he is, then he’s holding it together pretty well. Maybe being green has its advantages? He only just got out of the academy, so maybe he thinks this is just a more intense version of normal police work? No, nobody’s that crazy. At least, I hope he’s not that crazy!

Back in the shit. Officer Woodward decided to take his own car, which is probably a pretty good idea. We might have to approach a location without the assholes immediately knowing that we’re the police, and he’s got a plain car. Yeah, right! Plain car! He’s got a Chrysler 300! That’s a luxury car, for those of you who aren’t gearheads like my hubby. I mean, even the Chief of Police doesn’t have a Chrysler 300. His take-home car is some kind of Chevy sedan. State Parole definitely has nicer fleet cars than we do. They have nicer everything. That short-barreled Remington 870? Only specialized detective units on our department get to carry those. He’s also got a tactical armored vest like the one I was wearing at the firing range shootout where I got nailed right in the chest with a fucking shotgun slug. That vest saved my life. The slug cracked the plate, but it still managed to stop the thing before it blew a hole through me the size of a grapefruit. I wish we had those vests now, but they were all under lock and key for SEU and we couldn’t get them. Officer Woodward was issued his. Not only that, but he’s so damned big that his must’ve been custom-made. State Parole takes care of their people no matter how much it costs. I wish we could say the same.

We got word that there was a demonstration gathering in DuBois Park, but it wasn’t confirmed so we’re going to check it out. DuBois Park is one of the few places in Woodlawn Division that has more than ten square yards of grass. It’s named after W.E.B. DuBois. They say there’s a statue of him in there somewhere, but I’ve never seen it. The park doesn’t get a lot of use because it’s kind of small and they’re picky about what they’ll let you do there. You can’t play football because it tears up the grass and it’s too small for a baseball field, so you pretty much get a lot of old people taking a stroll in there or sitting on the benches and enjoying the scenery. There’s a concrete outdoor stage that used to have plays and things, but that was way before Woodlawn turned into such an asshole place. They haven’t had a play on that stage since before I was born. That’s a shame. It was probably a great place to relax and catch the show back in the day. Not anymore. Back in the eighties, it got the nickname Crackhead Park because of all the crackheads who hung out there looking for dope. How times have changed, and not for the better.

The radio has been going nuts. Emergency calls are coming out all over the division, as well as in every division around us. Some of the others still have units in the field; guys who didn’t get the word to report to the CP or who just decided they weren’t going to abandon the city to the assholes. We’ve counted six officer needs help calls between Wilmington and Lafayette Divisions alone. Avalon seems to be holding their own, but reading between the lines of the broadcasts, they’re definitely living up to their reputation as Avalon Ghetto Gunfighters. By our count, they’ve had six officer-involved shooting incidents already. The assholes in that division must have a death wish. “AGG! Don’t Fuck With Me!” is alive and well up there. I’m not sure you could say the same for some of the assholes.

Since police cars don’t have regular car radios, we’ve been listening to the news on my phone. Thank God for USB car chargers. Anyway, it’s complete chaos. The Mayor has declared a state of emergency for the entire city, but no one seems to know what that means or what it allows him to do. He called a halt to all gun and ammunition sales, which is absolutely fucking ridiculous when you consider that the assholes aren’t heading off to the local gun shop to buy weapons and ammunition. They’ve already got as much as they need. The only people who are likely to suffer from it are the citizens trying to defend themselves. Your tax dollars at work, people! He wanted to call a halt to all sales of gasoline, propane, kerosene, and diesel fuel as well, but that didn’t go anywhere. People need to be able to buy gasoline. Some of them are trying to get the hell out of Dodge, and they can’t do that if the gas tank is empty. The city council passed a resolution calling for calm. Great idea, guys! That ought to do the trick! Jesus, what happens to a person when they get elected? I think their brain cells just start dying off in droves. How else can you explain it?

The news is reporting fires everywhere. The videos we’ve seen are unbelievable. As soon as one place gets torched, three or four more go up in flames. I think Harper’s right: these guys were ready for this shit. They sure as hell aren’t having any trouble getting gasoline for their firebombs. They’re also not running out of ammunition. We’ve had eight shooting calls go out in Woodlawn in the last half hour. We don’t know who the suspects are or who the victims are. This thing already has a body count, and God only knows how high it’s going to go before this shit is over. Most of the casualties are going to be people who try to defend their stores and their property. We knew that going in, but now that it’s here, it’s really sinking in. South Bureau has turned into sheer hell. That’s what it is: sheer hell. And the people down here have to live in it. It’s not like they can abandon their homes. People down here are poor. They can’t collect their families and drive fifty miles and check into a hotel for a few days. They’ve got to stick it out, and if the shit comes to their doorsteps, then they have no alternative but to fight. Fight in their stores. Fight in their own front yards. It’s the Tet Offensive, American style. I can’t believe this shit is happening. It almost doesn’t seem real, but it’s very real.

“Harper, make a left over there. The park is two blocks over.”

“Roger that. How big is this place?”

“It’s pretty small. Bigger than that park the other night, but not much. There aren’t any buildings in it. It’s not flat like that one, though. They’ve got some hills in there.”

I hope there aren’t any assholes shooting at us, either. We’re about to find out. There it is, just down the street. I don’t see anybody in there. It must not be much of a protest.

“Sixteen Central to all Midwatch units, the park is just up ahead. Sixty-Six, you and Forty-Four go north and take up a position near the northeast corner. The rest of you, follow us into the parking lot. That way, we can see the whole thing. If anyone sees an angry mob in there, sound off.”

Our job is to make sure we don’t bunch up in that lot. There are only two driveways into it and we could get cut off in there if we’re not careful. All right, here we go! I don’t see anyone in there. No one. Not even any cars in the parking lot. What the hell kind of demonstration is this? Are we going to find one guy with a sign in there?

“Sixteen Central to Sixty-Six, Garcia? Do you see anything? We’ve got nothing down at this end.”

“Negative, Dani. There’s nobody on the hill. Maybe they left already?”

If they did, then that had to be the shortest protest in history. Maybe they were going to hold a rally and got spooked when the riot turned so violent? That’s possible.

“Roger that. Give it five minutes and if nobody shows up, we’ll get out of here and maybe come back later. Sixteen out.”

It’s amazing when you think about it: this division is literally on fire, but this little park is completely peaceful. There’s nobody here, but then again, there’s nothing burning and nobody’s stealing anything or killing anybody. Weird. I’m pretty sure that when this thing is over and done with, we’re all going to have a thousand stories to tell. You see this only once in your lifetime – if that.

“Hey, Titus? Is there a statue of W.E.B. DuBois in here? I always heard there was one, but I never saw it.”

“There was. Sergeant Enterro gave us the orientation when we first got here and she said there used to be one, but somebody stole it a few years after they put it up.”

They stole a bronze statue? Who? The Incredible Hulk? Those things must weigh five thousand pounds!

“How can somebody steal a huge bronze statue?”

“It wasn’t huge. It was about three feet tall. The neighborhood group that put it up didn’t have a lot of money. The pedestal’s over by the acacia trees. It’s all covered with graffiti.”

OK, that thing, I’ve seen. I had no idea it was a pedestal. It looks like some imitation marble block that used to have a big ashtray on top. This should tell you something about me: I never heard that story and I was in this division for how many years? Titus has been here for a month and he knows about it. Then again, I never got an orientation when I got here. I suddenly feel a little left out. Do you have any idea how many times I got my ass kicked in this division? The least they could’ve done was give me the orientation tour.

Oh, shit! Gunshots! Close by! Where? Where is it coming from?

“Twenty-Two Central! Shots fired! Shots fired! Someone’s shooting at our car! Southeast corner of the intersection! Take cover!”

“Harper! Punch it! Bootleg turn! Go! Titus, hang on!”

Thank God Harper knows how to do that! Jesus Christ! Holy fucking g-forces, Batman! All right, we’re pointed in the right direction! Where the fuck is that gunner? I don’t see anyone in the intersection! God damn it! A fucking hit and run raid!

“Twenty-Two, are you guys all right? Vinell! Was anybody hit?”

“Negative! We’re all right! They shot the shit out of our rear windshield, though! I know it came from the southeast corner of the intersection. There was a green car stopped there, but it’s gone now. Fuck! That was close!”

He’s not kidding! Their front windshield is cracked, too! One of the bullets must’ve gone all the way through! Jesus, it could’ve hit one of them in the back of the head!

“Sixteen Central to all units, we’re sitting ducks here! We’re moving out! Acevedo, I say we head over to the Peachtree shopping center. That place must be getting hit right now. What do you think?”

“Sounds like a plan, Dani. Forty-Four and I are headed over there. We’ll meet the rest of you there. Watch yourselves! That won’t be the last ambush!”

No shit! We’re probably going to be dodging sniper fire for the next two days!

“Harper, take it straight down the street and over to Symington, then head west. It’s not too far from here. Let’s go! And everybody keep your eyes open for more assholes!”

What am I saying? This is fucking ridiculous! Keep an eye out for more assholes? You can’t swing a stick in this division right now without hitting an asshole! Hang on! Harper’s got something! On the computer!

“Harper, what’ve you got?”

“The Peachtree’s going to have to wait. That surplus shop you talked about? They’re being hit! A lot of gunshots reported! Multiple 911 calls!”

“Sixteen Central to all units, screw the Peachtree! Head straight for Emmet’s Surplus! The gun shop! It’s under attack! 89th and Pershing! If you don’t know the way, follow us or Sixty-Six! And be ready for a shootout! That place is full of guns and ammunition! Go! All units, go! Code three! And don’t shoot anybody in a black and gold polo shirt! Those are the employees! Hit it, Harper!”

“Hang on!”

I guess I should’ve figured this place would get hit early! And with Woodlawn Division stripped of units, it just made it an even more tempting target! If there’s any saving grace, it’s that the guys in there can hold up an armed assault for a week! Yeah, unless the assholes crashed a car through the front of the place and charged in through the hole with guns blazing, which is a distinct possibility!

“Titus, is that place still armed to the teeth? Do they still have those steel bandit barriers out front?”

“I don’t know, ma’am! It’s out of our area and my FTO wouldn’t go out of our area!”

Fucking drones! This is what happens when you have fucking drones working in a jumping division!

“You’re about to get a crash-course in Woodlawn Division! That’s the biggest gun shop in the south end! It’s a primary target in a riot! The employees are all armed and they don’t hesitate to shoot people who fuck with them! All employees wear black polo shirts with wide gold stripes down the sides. If you see anyone wearing one of those, he’s a good guy! Anyone wearing gang colors is a bad guy! If you see a bad guy with a gun…”

“Two to the body and one to the head! Roger that, ma’am!”

“Good man! Harper, cut left at Symington and go over two blocks! Then take Dennard straight down to 89th! The shop will be on your left! South side of the street, about three buildings over! There’s a huge sign out front! You can’t miss it! You’re clear on the right!”

“Roger that! Everybody hang on!”

Jesus! Four wheels on the pavement, Harper! Not two! We’ll be lucky to live long enough to make it there!

“Dennard, straight ahead! Everybody hang on! That street looks pretty narrow!”

Damn you, Harper! You’re going to make me puke all over this car! Jesus! All right, this is Dennard! Oh, fuck! What the hell is all of this traffic doing on the road? There’s a riot going on, assholes! You’re all supposed to be at home beneath your beds!

“Harper, what are you doing?”

“Getting there!”

He’s out of his fucking mind! You can’t slalom down a city street in a fucking police car!

“Harper, you’re crazy!”

“You knew that when you married me! How’s my right?”


“Roger that! Titus, how’re you doing back there?”

“Holding on for dear life!”

“Just hang on! We’re almost there!”

Yeah, because we’re traveling at warp factor nine! Jesus Christ, Harper! You’re as bad as Acevedo!

“You’re clear on the right! Everyone’s still behind us! Don’t ask me how!”

“89th Street, two blocks ahead! What color is that sign?”

“Yellow! It’s huge! Like a billboard!”

“I see it! Tell dispatch we’re here! Gear up, guys! We’re landing on Iwo Jima!”

No fucking shit! There it is! I can’t see if anybody’s in the parking lot and there’s no way to see through the front of the store!

“Sixteen Central transmitting on Woodlawn Frequency! We’re code six at Emmet’s Surplus with six other units! Is there any contact with the store?”

“Sixteen Central, negative. Be advised, we have multiple calls of shots fired at that location.”

“No kidding! Send anyone you can find to help us out! Sixteen out!”

Oh, fuck! I can hear gunshots inside that store! A lot of them! They’re having a full-on shootout!


“I hear it! I’ve got the rifle! Grab the shotguns, both of you! Helmets on! And keep your heads down! Use the cars in front for cover! Stay away from the sector cars! They’re bullet magnets! Go! Go! Go!”

I don’t see anybody in the parking lot! That means the assholes are all inside the store! Stay down! Move behind the cars! Jesus Christ! Did I call it? There’s a car smashed through the front door of the place! That’s how they got through the bandit barriers! It also makes it impossible to see what’s happening inside the place! Here comes Sergeant Hendrickson! Four of us! We can do a two-by-two covering formation, but we can’t see inside the fucking store! We’re going through that hole blind!

“Lynott! You’ve been here before?”

“Roger that, Sarge. The gun counter is all the way in the back, straight back from the front door. There’s all kinds of shelves and racks and shit between the door and the gun counter. The place is a maze. The aisles are barely wide enough for two people to walk through them together.”

“What about a back door?”

“It’s a fucking bank vault, Sarge. You’d need a bazooka to get through it. And the side door was welded shut and bricked over back in the sixties. This is the only way we can get in.”

“How do you want to handle it?”

“Two at a time. Me and Harper, then you and Titus. As soon as we get through the hole, we’ll break left and you guys break right. Everyone else does the same: two and two. Stay away from the center of the store! I’m guessing that’s their field of fire. And those guys behind the counter have some serious firepower in there!”

“Roger that. I’ll signal the others. Good luck! Go when you’re ready!”

“Harper? On three! One…two…three!

Hurry! Get in there! Don’t get hung up in that hole! Thank God I’m small enough to get in there fast! Made it! Come on, Harper! Get in here! You’re silhouetted in the door! Yes! He’s in! Break left! Get over to the wall! Oh, shit! We’ve got a man down! Male black, young, blue Dodgers baseball jersey! There’s a pistol by his hand! He’s a gangbanger! A dead gangbanger! Look at that hole in his chest! Somebody shot him with a fucking cannon! Secure that weapon! Fuck! More gunshots! Somebody’s still in here trying to rip the place off! Jesus, my ears! Whatever they’re shooting, it’s going to blow out my eardrums! There’s the Sarge and Titus on the right! Ruiz and Rosen are in, too! Six officers! Let’s see if we can end this now!

“Police! Throw down your weapons! There’s no way out! We’ve got the whole front of the store blocked! You’re not getting out! Drop your weapons and come out with your hands in the air! Do it! You don’t have a prayer if you keep this shit up!”

There’s Kursteff and Vinell. Thank God! Eight officers! They won’t get past us, and if they keep trading shots with those guys in the back, they’re going to end up like their friend here!

“Give it up! You’ve got one man down already! It’s over! Drop your weapons!”

There! Up ahead to the right! We’ve got a suspect giving up!

“Don’t shoot! I give up! I ain’t got no gun! Don’t shoot!”

The Sarge and Titus are closest to him. They can take him into custody. But what about the rest of the assholes in here?

“Sarge! We’ve got one suspect down over here!”

“Roger that, Lynott! There’s another one down by that rack!”

Ruiz is signaling that he’s got one down over where he is. Jesus Christ! Three assholes got shot in here? No, four! Kursteff and Vinell have one over by the rack with the hats! And Kursteff’s making a slashing motion across his throat. That guy’s dead. Nice going you assholes! You tried to storm the one place where you’re most likely to get your ass shot off! Was it worth it?

“Sarge! We count four down! At least two dead!”

“At least three dead! The one by the coat rack is history! This guy’s cuffed! We’re bringing him out! The rest of you sweep this place clear! Hey! All of you in the back! Stand down! It’s over! The suspects are down! You got them! Stand down!”

“Officers! We’re good over here! Are any of your people hurt?”

That’s Santos. I recognize his voice. He’s been here forever.

“Santos! It’s Dani Lynott! Stand down! We’re coming out! Hold your fire!”

And now that we can stand up, we can see what’s going on. Shit! Look at all of those bullet holes in the back wall! This must’ve been one wild fucking shootout!

“Santos! Over here! We’re good! You nailed four of them!”

“Five! This piece of shit made it to the counter before we took his ass out!”

All I can see are the guy’s feet sticking out from behind the counter, but he’s definitely not moving. What a fucking bloodbath!

“It’s good to see you again, Santos. I see you haven’t lost a step. Still practicing, are you?”

“Always, girl! You never know when shit like this is going to happen. Long time no see, Dani!”

“I’m in Central Division now. What happened? They crashed the car through the front door…”

“And six motherfuckers bailed out and started shooting! But we were ready for them! As soon as this shit flared up, we knew we were going to get hit! I told everybody to load heavy and be ready for anything!”

Load heavy is right! I see one guy with a lever gun that looks like a .45-70! That’ll blow a hole in you the size of a basketball! Another one with a Benelli shotgun like the SWAT team carries, and two other guys with tactical pump shotguns. And Santos has an M-14! What were those assholes thinking? Hitting this place? It’s fucking suicide!

“Ruiz! Are any of the suspects still breathing?”

“Negative! This guy’s got about twenty holes in him! That one by the boots got the top of his head shot off! They don’t fuck around in this place!”

No, they definitely don’t! Five assholes dead! I’d say that would bring retaliation from the gangbangers, but if they try, they’re going to end up like their homeboys. God, what were these fucking idiots thinking? I knew this shit was going to happen! What a fucking waste!

“Well, Santos, you’ve got a few more notches in your gun. Are you guys going to be OK in here? It’s not like they can send a board-up service to fix that hole today.”

“We got this under control. If they come back, we’ll be ready for them. What about you guys? If you’re from downtown, then where the hell is the Woodlawn Division?”

“At the command post. The department activated the Emergency Operations Center. They’re pulling officers from all over South Bureau and Central Bureau and having them sit there until someone with a pair of balls decides to do something about this shit.”

“Yeah, we saw that little bitch Mooney on TV. He really quit?”

“Yep. He’s gone. He already cleaned out his desk. We’ve got no chief and nobody to take his place. Are you sure you’re going to be safe in here? With all of these fires, you could lose the power. There are already blackouts in some areas.”

“Girl, this is an army surplus shop! We’ve got gas-powered generators, lanterns, you name it! We’ll be all right. I’m more worried about you guys. People around here are looking to kill you after those two cops walked.”

Yeah, we’re painfully aware of that. And with everybody sitting over at the CP, it makes it a million times worse for those of us who are still out here. It’s almost like the department is trying to help the assholes. I know that’s not the case, but it certainly seems to be the effect.

“We’ll have to deal with it as best we can. You guys hang in there. You did good. Maybe people will get the word and leave you guys alone? I certainly hope so.”

“Don’t be a stranger, Dani. I always liked you. Come on by after this bullshit dies down. I’ll give you a good deal on a pair of boots.”

Yeah, he knows I wear Danner Fort Lewis boots and they cost about three hundred bucks a pop when you can find the women’s version. They’re worth it, though. My feet never felt better. Of course, try telling your mom that you spent three hundred bucks on a pair of army boots. She gave me a look like I’d completely lost my mind.

“I’ll remember that. I’ll see you later. Come on, Harper. We’ve got a suspect to process. Did anybody put out a code four on this place?”

“Sergeant Gellar did. Hey, does that moron know he’s going for five counts of felony murder?”

“Who cares? That’s his problem. Let’s get out of here before someone does a drive-by on our cars. Ruiz? Can you and Rosen get some quick statements from these guys? And make a note that there’s a security video of the shootout.”

“Will do. We’ll see you out there.”

So who gets to take mister asshole back to the station? I don’t want to do it. God only knows who we might run into over there. All right, let’s get the hell out of here. On to the next disaster!

Hang on! Look who’s in the parking lot! Sergeant Asshole! What the fuck is he doing here? Shouldn’t he be back at the CP? Oh, great! He’s all spitting and cursing! Why? We didn’t do anything wrong.

“What the fuck are you people doing here?”

The idea that we have to explain that to a Sergeant of Police is absolutely mind-boggling!

“There was a robbery attempt here. We came to help. We’ve got one suspect in custody and five dead ones in there. But it’s OK. We didn’t fire a shot.”

“OK? You call a massacre OK? What the fuck is wrong with you, Lynott?”

“Only the bad guys got shot, Sarge. And the store employees are the ones who shot them. What were they supposed to do? Let them steal everything and maybe kill everyone who works there?”

He’s practically beside himself! He’s really taken it to a whole new level of asshole! I didn’t think it was possible, but I actually hate this guy worse than before!

“It’s a goddamned public relations disaster, Lynott! Or didn’t you think about that? I take it the suspects were all African-American? Five dead African-American youths! We have to think about the optics of this shit! Now we’ve got a major shootout in the same division where this shit got started! Do you think that’s going to go away? Do you think it won’t blow up in our faces?”

There’s no reasoning with this asshole! He just doesn’t get it!

“Sarge, we didn’t shoot anybody! We didn’t fire a shot! This isn’t on us!”

“Look at those people across the street, Lynott! They’re all filming this shit! Look at those cellphone cameras! This is going to be all over social media in ten minutes!”

What’s going to be on it? A bunch of cops standing out in front of a store? Who gives a shit about that? What the fuck is he talking about?

“Sarge, we’re just standing here! Let them film it! What’s it going to show? We’re just standing here!”

“With rifles and shotguns! You look like a fucking invasion force! Turn those things in this instant! All of them! You’re allowed one shotgun per unit! I want the rest of those weapons unloaded, stacked, and secured! Hand them over, Lynott! That’s an order!”

OK, now I know he’s gone completely insane! Hand over our heavy weapons in the middle of a riot? He’s fucking lost the plot!

“Sarge, you don’t have the authority to make us do that. These belong to Central patrol and they’re available to any patrol officer going out in the field.”

“Not today! I have an order from Deputy Chief Hymes to collect all long weapons and return them to the command post! I’ve given you a direct order, Lynott! All of you! Unload those weapons and stack them over there!”

He’s completely lost his mind! He wants to disarm us? In a riot? He belongs in a fucking straitjacket!

“Lieutenant Hagan! Are you hearing this, sir?”

“I heard it. Sergeant, do you have a copy of this order?”

“You have a phone, Lieutenant! Call over to the CP and ask them yourself!”

This can’t be right! No fucking way! They want us out here with nothing but sidearms? We’re already outgunned with our limited numbers! They can’t possibly want to make it worse!

“You know you may be getting officers killed with this order, Sarge.”

“Not if they’re back at the CP where they belong! All of you have been ordered back there! The fact that you’re out here now makes you subject to an insubordination charge, Lynott!”

“No, sir. We have direct orders from Captain Mayones to be out here, and until he tells us otherwise, we’re going to stay out here. You have a phone, Sergeant. Call him up and ask him yourself.”

Hey, it worked for him, so why not use it against him, right? Oh, hell! Lieutenant Hagan is coming over here and he doesn’t look happy!

“Sorry, Lynott. The order is valid. Keep one shotgun per unit and stack the rest of the weapons. All rifles have to be turned over. Brian, if one of my officers ends up getting hurt because of this order, I’m personally going to take it out of your ass! Count on it!”

I don’t believe this shit! I take back what I said earlier! They really are trying to make it worse! Fuck the optics! It’s a fucking riot! The optics can’t get any worse!

“Harper, send the word. Unload and stack all rifles and additional shotguns. Sergeant Satterfield wants them back at the CP where they won’t do any good.”

“Are you kidding me? What are we supposed to fight with if we get into a situation?”

“We’re not. We have to consider the optics, or so I’m told.”

“Hey, Sarge! How’s it going to look if one of us gets killed? What kind of optics are those?”

“I don’t need your attitude, Officer Harper. Just do as you’re told. Stack those weapons over there. I’m taking them back to the CP.”

“Yeah, I’m sure you need to get back to your coffee and donuts.”

Whoa! Did he really say that? Harper? He never loses his cool! Well, almost never! And Sergeant Satterfield didn’t like that one fucking bit!

“What did you say, Officer?”

“What’s the matter? Are your ears full of shit, too?”

Jesus, Harper’s not backing down! He looks like he’s about to deck that idiot! Time to stop this before it goes any further! Shut this shit down!

“All right! Enough! Harper! Harper, back off! Sarge, take your guns and get the hell out of here!”

“Let him go, Lynott! I want to see what he’s going to do!”

“No, you don’t! And nobody wants to look at your picture on the wall of the station lobby! Just go! Get out of here!”

And here comes Lieutenant Hagan! Thank God! This looked like it was about to come to blows!

“All right, knock it off! Both of you! Sergeant, get the hell out of here! I don’t want to see you again! And you remember what I said: God help you if one of my people gets hurt because they didn’t have the weapons they need for this shit! And you tell whoever the hell is back at that CP that they’d better pull their head out of their ass and get those units back in the field immediately! People are getting killed out here! Your goddamned division’s on fire! You took the same oath as the rest of us! Or did you forget about that already?”

No, he just never took it seriously. That’s the really sad part. He never gave a shit about it and he never will. And when he takes his promotional interviews, he’s going to lie through his teeth and say how heartbroken he was about this shit and how he swore he’d make sure it never happened again. Uh-huh! A lot of people are swearing the same thing right now, but they’re actually trying to do something about it! But a fucking weasel like Satterfield? Not a chance in the world!

“What do we do now, sir?”

“Twenty-Two is going to take that asshole back to the station and drop him in a holding tank. Sooner or later, they’ll arrange transportation to Jail Division. In the meantime, we do what we can, the best we can, with what we have.”

“We don’t have much, sir.”

“Then improvise, Lynott. Make use of what’s available, even if it’s seventeen feet behind you.”

What the hell does that mean? Since when does Lieutenant Hagan talk in riddles? He’s the most straightforward person I’ve ever met!

“Harper, do you know what he’s talking about?”

“Well, the front door of the surplus store is about seventeen feet from us. Yeah, I think I know what he means.”

So do I! If we don’t have any weapons, then maybe we can convince the guys in the store to loan us a few. We can’t buy them. Even if we had the money, the state’s draconian regulations require us to wait ten days before we could pick them up. But an under-the-table loan? Hey, I won’t tell anyone if they don’t. It just might work. Even if we could get a few shotguns, it would be a big help. What have we got to lose?

En route to the Peachtree shopping center. Well, Harper’s idea worked out. We didn’t get much, but the guys at the store were definitely willing to help. That’s no little thing, considering that the state could revoke their license for loaning us weapons. We got three shotguns and a rifle for Harper. Santos loaned him the M-14 that he used in the store shootout, and they mounted a scope on it so that we could reach out and touch some asshole at a distance. He gave Harper five hundred rounds of ammunition for it, too. Three shotguns and a rifle. I hope it’s enough.

The news on the cellphone is getting even worse. More fires, more looting, more people getting shot or stabbed. The fire department issued a warning that the water pressure in the hydrants is dropping and they might not be able to respond to fires pretty soon. EMS has been shot at so many times that they won’t go out without a police escort, and there aren’t enough of us left out here to ride shotgun with them. I told Sergeant Gellar that we should ask the Transit Police to ride with EMS, since they weren’t included in the order to report to the CP. Of course, I have no idea if they’d be willing to do that. There are so many unanswered questions in this shit. It’s maddening. I think that’s the best word to describe it. A lot of the shit going on today is maddening. Nobody is going to be the same after this. The whole city is going to boil down to what was before the riot and what came afterward. It’s going to be ugly. Very fucking ugly.

We’re all still in one piece. That’s the best thing. Nobody’s been hurt and I’m praying my ass off that it stays that way, but I don’t think that it will. People have gone completely bat shit crazy out here and it’s getting worse. I think it would be naïve to expect that we’d come out of this unscathed. How many of us are going to get hurt? Will any of us get killed? How large is the body count going to be? How many people are we going to end up having to shoot? How many people are we going to end up having to kill? I don’t want to shoot anyone. None of us do. But if we get shot at, we have to return fire. We have to protect ourselves and others, right? That won’t make us feel better if we end up killing somebody. It never does.

“Harper, stay in this lane. The shopping center is just up ahead, about half a mile.”

“Roger that. How big is this place?”

“One full city block. Lots of stores. The biggest one is a clothing store, but there’s a cellphone place, an auto parts shop, and a pharmacy in there. I don’t know about the rest of them. I don’t even know if the stores are the same as when I got here. Titus, is this place still the popular shopping spot in the division?”

“I think so. There’s always a lot of cars parked in the lot. Most of the stores are pretty junky. Officer Thurman said the good ones folded a while ago. Nobody shopped there. Some of the stores are empty. That’s a good thing, right?”

“Unless somebody decides to torch them. Then the whole place will go up in flames.”

“You’re not exactly filling me with confidence, ma’am.”

I see Harper finds that funny. I don’t know why. I’m a bastion of confidence!

“Don’t listen to her, Titus. Dani sometimes doesn’t think things through. She does things without considering the consequences. Ask her why she couldn’t order a pizza at her old apartment.”

Oh, God! Not that again! I’m going to kill him when this is over!

“Ma’am? What happened? Did you get blacklisted?”

“No! And I don’t want to talk about it! It was a minor misunderstanding, that’s all!”

And now Harper’s laughing his ass off! If we weren’t going to an emergency call right now, I’d punch him right in the balls! He knows how much I hate that story!

“Shut up, Harper! Focus on the job! It’s likely to be crazy in that place. When we go in there, we all need to stick together. If they’ve got a lot of looters running around, we could get surrounded if we get separated. Titus, you stick close. If anyone tries to grab you, whack them with your nightstick. Our job is to sweep the area and clear out the looters. Dish out a little pain and they’ll run.”

“Won’t they come right back?”

“Probably. We’ll be responding to the same calls over and over again today. Get used to it.”

“Roger that. I’m not looking to get myself killed today.”

No one ever is, but it’s good that he’s thinking about it. It’ll help to keep him from doing anything crazy.

“Where do you plan to go after you finish probation? Have you given any thought to it?”

“Right now, I’m thinking about whether I’m going to live through today. I’ll worry about the rest some other time.”

He’s even smarter than I thought. Good. We need smart cops on this department. We especially need them out here today.

“There! Right there, on the left! Harper, that’s it!”

“I see it! But I don’t believe it!”

He’s not kidding! Holy fucking shit! Is this really happening? Am I really seeing this shit? Somebody tell me this is a hallucination! Please!

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