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The War – Episode 15

December 19, 4:36 PM Mountain
Tucson, Arizona

Sergeant Gomez stomped on the accelerator, driving his cruiser as hard as he could. Reports of men shooting up businesses, setting fires, and leaving bombs behind had driven him and the rest of the Tucson police to distraction. Multiple reports of officers being wounded or killed fueled his speed as he rocketed down Miracle Mile. The only saving grace for the day was the lack of traffic on the normally busy streets.

As he turned right on Oracle, his tires screeching, the voice of the dispatcher came over the radio.

“Deputies at Oracle and Glenn report 10-99. We have at least one officer hit. Responding units, what is 10-20?”

Gomez snatched the handset from the dash and said into it in his best forced calm voice, “Dispatch, 30, I am passing Laguna and will be at their location in one minute. Any better information on what’s going on?”

“Negative, 30, they haven’t answered the radio since the initial report of shots fired.”

Gomez swore and hit the steering wheel with the palm of his hand. “Is EMS inbound?”

“Negative. All EMS is engaged at this time. Treat at the scene or evacuate on your own.”

Gomez saw the lights of a county sheriff SUV at an intersection a few hundred yards in front of him. Half of the red and blue lights were still rotating in the late afternoon sun, while the other half had been shot away. The windows were starred with bullet holes, and the tires on the side facing Gomez were flat.

The pavement in front of his cruiser ground up with fresh impacts as he screeched to a halt next to the truck. Gomez heard the rumble of a machine gun and the smack of bullets hitting the sedan’s hood and the passenger door and window. He grabbed his shotgun from here it rested in its cradle and bailed out the driver’s door. He felt gravel bite through his trousers as his knee hit the pavement, and he rolled behind the front wheel as another machine gun joined in. Green tracers coming from behind the cruiser flew over him, then disappeared as the gunner adjusted his aim and crisscrossed his fire with the first attacker.

“Dispatch, 30, I am under attack!” he screamed into the microphone of his belt radio. The answer was lost in the din of glass breaking and metal tearing. His nostrils filled with the smell of gasoline as the tank ruptured and began to spill its contents onto the pavement beside him.

Gomez scooted as far back from the hulk of his cruiser as he could and still use it as cover. When there was a momentary lull in the ambush, he jumped up and ran toward the nearest structure. It was a stucco-faced apartment building, but a low concrete and stone fence ran along the street in front of it. The policeman launched himself over it and landed with a thud on the hard clay beyond.

The machine guns opened up as he ran, and he heard bullets smacking against the wall and into the building behind him. Gomez curled into a ball and got as close to the concrete as he could. He covered his head with his free hand, and could hear his radio squawking in his ear, but could not make out what was said.

Eventually, the firing slackened, and he chanced raising his head enough to look around the small yard. The front of the apartment building was chewed up, with pieces of gray stucco hanging from the steel mesh backing. A wrought iron gate was to his right, opening to the sidewalk and patio. To his left, a still figure in a brown and green uniform lay with its back against the wall. Blonde hair lay in a pile next to its head.

Gomez crawled to the woman, mindful to not get too high or too far away from the protection of the wall. Overhead, green tracers came in infrequent bursts, and he could hear bullets breaking windows and shattering the facing of the apartment building or chewing into the stones facing the street side of the wall.

When he came even with the body, he rolled it toward him. The nameplate on the shirt said “Anderson”. A gaping wound lay above one of her green eyes, and the dirt behind her was splashed red. Gomez keyed his microphone.

“Dispatch, this is 30. I am pinned down in front of the building at the northwest corner of Glenn and Oracle. I need assistance immediately.”

“30, what is your condition?”  The dispatcher’s voice was distorted and faint.

“I’m OK, but I can’t move. I found one of the deputies. It’s Anderson. She’s been shot.”

“Copy, 30, EMS will be there as soon as it’s safe.”

Gomez did not correct the dispatcher. He would not want his name and death broadcast over the radio, so he gave Anderson the same respect.

“There are at least two automatic weapons shooting at me. They knocked out my car as soon as I got here.”

“Copy, 30, backup units are on their way. ETA ten minutes.”

Gomez listened to radio traffic and the occasional chatter of the machine guns while he waited. He resisted the urge to poke his head above the wall to see if the shooters were coming to get him.

The sound of a metallic tinkling drew his attention as something the size of a baseball flew over the wall. Gomez rolled over and covered his head a fraction of a second before the grenade exploded.

Searing pain shot up his leg and side as he was lifted from the ground and shoved against the wall. The shotgun, which he had held in both of his hands, flew away and clattered on the hard-packed earth. His head smacked against the wall, and he blacked out.

A few seconds later, as he came to, he heard boots crunching on broken glass and stucco gravel. Gomez opened his eyes and saw damp earth under his face, while his ears rang and his head pounded in rhythm with his heartbeat. He lifted his head and reached for his pistol, but his right elbow screamed with pain and he almost lost consciousness again.

He tried to sit up, but was only able to heave himself up onto his side before falling over onto his back. Blue sky looked down on him, then a bearded face came into his vision.

Gomez felt the toe of a boot nudge his arm, and he cried out at the pain. The face above him smiled. Gomez tried to sit up again, but a boot on his chest pushed him back down hard. A hand holding a large pistol came into view.

Allahu Akhbar, puto!” the man standing on his chest shouted as he brought the pistol down and put the muzzle against Gomez’ forehead. Gomez shut his eyes and mumbled a prayer.

He winced as he heard gunshots, but opened his eyes after he felt hot blood splash down on him. The man with the pistol was clawing at his chest, where several wet holes had appeared in his body armor. He screamed once, then flopped down after another shot rang out, spraying blood from the top of his head.

Gomez cried out as the weight of the gunman fell onto his injured arm and leg, while the machine gunners opened fire again. As he watched, bullets clawed their way up and down the apartment building behind him, then he heard the report from a rifle. One machine gun stopped firing, and a heartbeat later, another rifle shot rang out. After that, all he could hear was the ringing in his ears.

A small rock bounced off the concrete next to him, and he turned his head toward the new threat. To his surprise, he saw a man and a woman running toward him in a crouch. The woman carried a carbine with a collapsible stock, while the man held a scoped hunting rifle in his hands. Both were dressed in blue pants and work shirts with the name of a business embroidered on them.

As they approached, Gomez reached across his body with his uninjured arm and tried to pull his pistol from its holster. The woman saw him moving and put her free hand out to quiet him.

“Easy, now,” she shouted to be heard above the ringing in his ears, “We’re the good guys.”

Other episodes can be found here.  The rest of the story can be found in Escort Duty, available now at Amazon.

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