The Law Vol. 1 Serve or Protect Part 11

Hours go by before the cops clear Martina to leave. Paramedics take the injured worker away and pronounce the shooter dead at the scene. They want to take her to the hospital as well, especially when they see the blood and scratches on her face, but she insists she’s fine. Her shoulder hurts like hell but nothing appears to be broken. The edge of the desk cut her but that was easy enough to bandage.

Laney’s questioned at length but they eventually let her go, confident her story matches up with what everyone says happened here. The first cops on the scene keep looking Martina’s way. They all know who she is. Everyone always knows who she is thanks to her dad. His shadow hangs over everything she does even after quitting. One of the first cops to arrive apparently hadn’t heard she quit because they asked why she wasn’t securing the scene. Another officer whispered in his ear and he quickly apologized.

Of course her former partner Brandon Tate showed up, paired with a rookie she’s only met a few times and whose name she can’t remember. Their few interactions haven’t given her much confidence in the woman. She almost feels bad leaving him with such a trash partner until she remembers he sold her out.

Tate keeps glancing her way as she gets checked out and questioned but he doesn’t come up to her. After how many texts he’s sent her in the last week wanting to explain she’s surprised he isn’t using this opportunity. Maybe he doesn’t want the other cops to see though. Instead he glances.

When most of the cops have left and only a few remain, Tate makes his move. Telling his partner to go get the car, he walks up to Martina. “How you doing grandma? Got a minute to talk?”

“You don’t get to call me that anymore. And no, I don’t. Not for you.”

Taking his almost comically large hat off and throwing it on the ground, he gets right in her face. “Come on, you don’t get to play this game forever. We’re supposed to be friends.”

“Friends have each other’s backs. You didn’t. So we’re not friends anymore.” Remembering the sports peppers and onions she had for lunch, she takes his closeness as a chance to breathe in his face. He always hated her breath.

He cringes away and crinkles his nose. “We disagree on one thing and suddenly I don’t have your back? By the way, you need a mint. What’d you eat for lunch, a raw onion?”

“Two of them. You didn’t have to agree with me, you just needed to back me up. The captain still wasn’t going to change his mind but I wouldn’t have been alone in there. Maybe I wouldn’t have quit.”

They stare at each other for a minute before Martina can’t help but laugh. She’s still mad at the man but she’s always loved messing with him. She’s missed it. Tate turns serious. “Are you okay? You sure you aren’t hurt too bad?”

“I can handle myself. You know that better than anyone. How’d you end up over here anyway? This isn’t our route. Did they reassign you to go along with the shit new partner? Captain punishing you for me quitting?”

“I’m not being punished. I’m the senior officer now. I get to mentor a young officer who yes, has a few opportunities. I think she can be good though. I was a rookie when they assigned me to you. Was that a punishment?”

“Yes actually. Captain always loved punishing me. I was too awesome though and I managed to turn you into something useful. He never saw it coming. Seriously though, what are you doing over here?”

“I dunno, guess hearing on the radio that my anti-vigilante partner is suddenly a vigilante made me want to check it out. We’re not that far from our route. It took like ten minutes to get over here. What the hell are you doing?”

They stare back at each other for a moment. Both are smiling at least a little but this isn’t their normal. She can’t imagine they’ll ever get back to what was normal. “I have a kid to feed. I can have some principles but not too many. Nothing wrong with being a vigilante, the problem’s the cops not stopping the bad ones. I’m not a bad one.”

Retrieving his hat, Tate puts a hand on the back of his neck. “I hope not. Why don’t you come back to the force? Captain hasn’t submitted your paperwork yet. I think he’s hoping you’ll change your mind. Afraid your dad’s going to go to war over him making you quit.”

Sitting on the edge of one of the desks, Martina absent mindedly rubs her injured shoulder. “My dad doesn’t care enough about me to do that. He might care enough about Zoe but it won’t make a difference. I won’t come back unless something big changes and we both know that’s not about to happen.”

“Was it my fault you quit then?”

She takes a moment to think this over. “No, it wasn’t your fault. I might not have done it right then if you backed me up but it was going to be an issue eventually.”

Taking a seat on the desk next to her, Tate seems to be thinking. “So you’re looking for a job as a vigilante then?”

“That’s the general idea. I don’t exactly have a long list of qualifications to do anything but be a cop. Even security guards they want to be vigilantes now. That way they can carry a gun instead of some dinky stun gun. How else am I going to feed my kid?”

“I may know a guy.”

Her eyes snap open and she stands and faces him. “What kind of guy?”

“My brother has a friend who owns a warehouse storing electronics and stuff. People are always trying to rob it because they have high end stereos and stuff, easy to sell. He’s looking for a few vigilantes to work security. It’s not the safest job, they get robbed a lot, but you’d have backup instead of wandering the streets like a crazy person with a gun. The pay’s good and if I put a good word in for you he’ll almost definitely hire you.”

Breathing in Tate’s face again feels good. She’s paying him back in some way for not having her back. “Is their business legal? I’m not getting involved in gang stuff.”

“Completely above board, you can look into it yourself.”

“Is this your guilt talking?”

“Maybe. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a good opportunity. Is it your pride that’s making you consider turning it down?”

“Maybe.” Her hands go to her hips and she closes her eyes. “Fine, text me the details. I don’t like it but like I said, I have a kid who needs to eat; I don’t get to have too many principles.”

 Part 10

Part 12

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The Law Vol. 1 Serve or Protect Part 10

Martina should be at home with her daughter on a weekend but instead she’s going door to door downtown looking for work. She doesn’t know what she expected when she started applying for jobs as a vigilante but it wasn’t complete silence. She’s put in thirty applications online with no replies. The more she looks, the more she realizes how shady most of the jobs advertising for vigilantes are. Personal security, couriers, building security, places where apparently a former cop isn’t welcome. With how recently she left the police force, most probably think she’s undercover.

She can’t be picky. She badly wants to find the perfect job but more than a month out of work isn’t an option. She considered asking her dad for a loan but she’d rather be homeless. She even thought of going back to the station and begging the captain for her job back but that might actually be worse. Going door to door, she’s not searching for a job that requires a vigilante. She’s looking for anything paying more than minimum wage.

“Get back here.” Yelling from down the street grabs her attention. A kid’s sprinting toward her, splashing through puddles and making a mess of the sidewalks. An older man with a gut’s chasing the kid but he gives up two buildings down the road, bending over and putting his hands on his knees. The kid bounces off her shoulder and she yelps. The bruise from the rubber bullet still makes it tender.

Instinctively she wants to get involved. As a cop you stop someone in a spot like this. What do you do as a vigilante though? She’s supposed to keep people safe so that should mean stopping it. Does a kid shoplifting count as a danger? Hard to say. Before she can make a decision, the kid’s around a corner and out of sight.

Making her way up to the man who still hasn ‘t caught his breath, she bends down to get near his face. “You okay?”

“No I’m not okay, that kid took three games out of my shop. Almost two hundred dollars worth. So now I get to pay for them or I get fired. Why didn’t you stop them?”

“I didn’t know what was going on. Sorry. I’m going through the area looking for work. If I see any sign of her I’ll try to bring her in.”

Continuing her search, Martina goes from shop to shop. Nobody’s hiring and most places aren’t even taking applications. A few tell her she can put one in online. This all feels weird. She hasn’t gone looking for a job in years.

The whole time she’s searching she’s also looking for trouble in the back of her mind. There’s a part of her that wants to try out the vigilante thing. Maybe not on a kid but she wants to see what she can do without the rules which have guided her for so long.

Stopping off at one of the best hot dog places in town gets her a perfect Chicago dog. The sport peppers are the best part, bringing a great hint of sweetness that mixes with the onion and tomato to create one of her favorite meals. She can’t bring Zoe here, she’ll want to put ketchup on the dogs. That’s an order that might cause one of the kitchen staff to put a special ingredient of their own on the food.

Taking her cracked brown trey to the garbage to dispose of her wrappers, she sees people running by outside. There seems to be a commotion as more and more people are going the same direction. Martina shoves her way out the revolving door and finds herself swept up in the group. Attempts to figure out why they’re all pushing past each other are worthless. She can’t even tell if they’re going toward or away from whatever’s causing this. A gunshot answers the question. The crowd picks up their speed as they rush away from the noise.

Fighting past the hordes is a struggle. She keeps getting knocked aside. A large man’s shoulder hits her in the back and almost knocks her to the ground. A knee knocks against her own and she almost falls again. Staying on her feet is important. She’s not convinced anyone would stop if she fell.

Reaching the nearest corner, she ducks into the doorway of a spa so she can gain her bearings. The crowds are starting to thin as most people have gotten away from the area. Another shot helps her narrow her search. Whoever’s firing is to her right, no more than a few hundred feet away.

Leaving the safety of the doorway, she rushes in that direction. There’s only a few people still running now. No sirens yet. Someone must have called the cops but they’re far enough from the main downtown hub that there isn’t one on every corner. She knows their response time. It won’t be long but it might be too long.

Drawing her gun makes her feel powerful. She feels like a cop again. That’s all she ever wanted to be. Instead she’s part of the group that are going to put cops out of business.

There’s no sign of a shooter. The shots definitely came from this way but the street’s empty. A few people are glancing out from behind curtained windows but no one’s outside.

She kicks a pop bottle by mistake and it goes scuttling down the sidewalk with nothing to stop it. The sound every time it bounces echoes back at her. A gust of wind picks up and blows it into the street and blows her hair into her face. She takes her left hand off her gun long enough to brush it away. As she does so, the gunshots start again, far closer than before. They sound like they’re right next to her. Glancing around, she sees a flash through the store window next to her. Seeing no nearby cover and with the shooter already having her sighted, she dives into the bushes in front of the nearest store.

Branches dig into her face and arm but for the moment she’s out of the line of fire. She rolls out of the bush and lands hard on the pavement. Climbing to her feet, she readies her gun and gets ready to respond. She waits on any movement from the store in question. Nothing’s happening. From where she landed she can’t see inside so she has no clue what the guy’s doing. He could be escaping through another exit but most of these stores are back to back so there’s usually not many ways out.

Inching back toward the store, she puts her back to the wall and tries to stay away from the window. Seeing the car she was standing in front of when the bullets started flying, she realizes how lucky she got. There are four holes punched into the side of the bright yellow SUV. They can’t have been more than a few inches from where she was standing. Pure luck. This is where she really misses being a cop. As a cop she had a partner to watch her back. They wouldn’t have had a blind spot. If she did get shot they’d have called for an ambulance immediately. If she’d been shot here there’s no telling when help would arrive.

She wants to glance into the store but knows she could be looking down the barrel of a gun. She instead sticks the edge of her pistol out slightly, hoping to draw the shooter’s attention so they give their location away. Nothing happens. After trying this several times and realizing it isn’t working, she thinks of what else she can do. There are sirens in the distance now but they still sound a long way out. This guy could have hostages in there. Even if he doesn’t, he’s firing indiscriminately. Someone could get hurt. There’s not time to wait.

Turning to face the wall, Martina readies her gun before her. With it pointed forward, she shuffles sideways past the building. She expects bullets to fly past her any moment. None do. No one seems to be in the main part of this shop. A travel agency. She didn’t even realize those were still a thing. Reaching the far side of the building and going past it, there’s a sense of relief that she wasn’t shot and she didn’t have to shoot anyone. It’s outweighed by knowing the shooter’s likely still here somewhere.

She dares to look inside and spend a moment paying attention. Four desks sit tightly packed into a rather small looking room. There’s a door leading somewhere in the back. To an office most likely. Did the shooter go back there? Where are the employees? Examining the room even closer, she notices a foot sticking out from behind one of the desks. Could it be the shooter or is it a victim?

Her hand slowly grasps the handle of the front door. She tries to pull it open slowly. The hinges squeak lightly but she tells herself she’s only noticing because she’s right here. Wherever the shooter is, surely they can’t hear it.

Instinctively she wants to announce herself, to give the shooter the chance to give himself up. That’s what a cop should do. She keeps reminding herself that she’s not a cop anymore. Her first duty’s to the community and her other duty’s to herself and her daughter. To make sure she gets home to her tonight.

Slipping inside she finds the office is just as sad when you aren’t looking at it through dirty glass. There’s a flower pot on one desk with half dead looking flowers. Another desk has a calendar sitting on it from last year. The sign on the door said open but they don’t look it. She jumps and spins when she hears a creak to her left but she finds its the desk with the foot behind it. The chair moved slightly.

Moving behind the desk, she finds a man with a bullet wound in his leg laying there trying not to move. He’s got a napkin in his mouth to help him not scream. Martina ducks down next to him and is relieved to find he mostly looks okay. He’ll need an ambulance but he seems lucid. “Where’d the shooter go?” She tries to keep her voice down but the man still makes a shushing gesture before pointing at the door to the back room.

Sirens are closing in and backup will be here soon. If this doesn’t go well, at least an ambulance should be here fast. She inches to the back door and reaches to grab the well worn brass door knob. Slowly starting to turn it, she feels the door suddenly shoved toward her with extreme force. She’s knocked backward and falls, her shoulder bouncing off the nearest desk. Pain shoots through it and her hand digs into her pistol, knowing she can’t lose it.

There’s a man in the doorway but he doesn’t stop to worry about her. He pushes through the door and heads for the exit. Rolling onto her side, she gets to her knees and points her gun at the man’s exposed back. “Stop or I will shoot you.”

Pausing, the man stands completely still. She wants to believe he’s listening to reason and giving himself up. Then he turns, his arm raising, the pistol in his hand reflecting the sun and nearly blinding her. She fires three shots. Blood splatters and she’s close enough that some lands on her coat and her face. There’s a scream and then he’s on the ground.

Racing to the man’s side, she notices the gun still in his hand. His eyes are wide and he doesn’t seem to know where he is, let alone what he’s holding. She forces it away from him and sets it on the nearest desk. She’s shaking. In all her years as a cop she only had to fire her gun a handful of times. She only ever shot one person and they ended up okay. The sirens are on top of them now and an ambulance should be right behind but somehow she doesn’t believe this man will be okay.

The man behind the desk seems to have taken the napkin from his mouth because she hears him moaning. She moves back to his side. “Are you okay?”

His eyes are closed and he’s clutching at his leg. “Not really, that guy shot me. I need an ambulance.”

“They’re coming.”

“Great. How’s Laney?”

Scanning the office she doesn’t see a sign of anyone else. “Who’s Laney? I think we’re the only ones here.”

“That’s her boyfriend you shot. Or ex, I don’t know. They break up every week. He came to shoot her, dragged her in the back room.”

Leaving him with a promise to return soon, Martina returns to the door leading to the back. She expects the worst as she looks over the small room which seems to be a break area. There’s a couch, a table with a few chairs and a coffee maker on it, a small fridge and a microwave. Perched between the fridge and a coffee maker is a tall red haired woman, crouched in the fetal position with her head against her knees. She’s shaking but sits silently.

Martina ducks down and puts a hand on the woman’s leg. She shudders away. “Are you okay? Was that your boyfriend? Did he hurt you?”

Looking at Martina with tears still running down her face and mascara smeared everywhere the woman manages to shake her head no.

“What did he want? Did he say anything?” At this the woman shakes her head yes but stays silent. “Can you tell me? He didn’t say much to me.”

She stares Martina in the eyes, wiping tears from her face. Barely above a whisper she says, “He wanted to kill himself in front of me. He wanted me to watch him die. I asked him not to, told him he had so much to live for. He said if he couldn’t be with me he had no reason to live.” A cry escapes her throat and Martina squeezes her knee in response. “Is this my fault? Did he kill himself because of me?”

Grabbing the woman by both shoulders Martina shakes her lightly. Pain shakes through her shoulder but this is important enough to be worth it. When the woman looks her in the eye Martina points from her own eyes to the other woman’s. “Look at me. Hear what I’m about to say to you. This is not your fault. He was obviously troubled. You can’t be responsible for his actions. I hope he lives and gets help but you need to remember that either way, he made his choices. You didn’t.” Standing up, Martina looks toward the door. “I’m going to check on your coworker, he got shot but I think he’ll be okay. Stay back here until the police come. I don’t think you want to see what’s up front.” The woman nods and Martina walks back to the front of the business.

Part 9

Part 11

The Law Vol. 1 Serve or Protect Part 9

Pulling into a parking lot in the western suburbs of Chicago, Martina sees a large brick wall surrounding what appears to mostly be an outdoor facility. A small indoor area sits in the center of the building but the outdoor area is huge in comparison. Only a few other cars are in the parking lot in the middle of a weekday so she hopes she won’t have much of an audience.

Taking her gun from it’s holster, she slips it into the glove box of her car. She was informed when signing up to take this test that only non lethal weapons are allowed. Now she has to hope a pistol firing rubber bullets is enough to take down a group of armed volunteers. It hardly seems fair but she knows several people who passed this test and if they’re anything to go on, it can’t be that hard.

She takes a moment to consider how important this is as she gets out of her nearly twenty year old four door sedan. There’s already a huge list of repairs due on it which she’s been declining every time she goes to the mechanic for an oil change. If this doesn’t work she doesn’t have a backup for her backup plan. She won’t be able to afford her parking spot, let alone keep this thing running.

Entering the front door, she finds herself in a poorly lit room with a couple of bathrooms off to one side and a tall front desk ahead. A couple of bored looking employees sit there staring into space. They barely seem to register she’s entered. She walks up to them and tries to appear happy. “I’m here to take the vigilante test. How do I get started?”

The young man sitting behind the counter doesn’t even take the time to remove his head from his hand. He just tilts his face up at her. “Do you have an appointment?”

“Yes, for Martina Alvarez. Should be for one thirty. I might be a few minutes early. Traffic wasn’t as bad as expected.”

With a sigh the man stands and takes a look at his computer screen. It seems to take him a long time to find anything. “Martina you said?”

“That’s right. Is there an issue?”

“Nah, you’re here. Do you need to get changed or anything?”

“Figured I’d wear this.” Jeans and a tank top with a good pair of boots seemed appropriate. She’s got a leather jacket on over it but depending on what the course is like she can take it off.

“Whatever, your deal. Lot of people like armor or something. I’m sure you’ll be fine though. What weapons do you plan to use?”

“I can’t use a regular gun, correct?”

The man starts laughing at this. “Not a lot of volunteers would stick around long if we let you shoot at them. Sorry. Some of these guys could use it but that’s another issue. We have a gun that fires rubber bullets you can use after signing a waiver. Rubber bullets shouldn’t hurt too bad but it can still be dangerous up close.”

“I was a cop, I know the drill.”

His face comes to life with astonishment. “Then what the hell are you doing here?” She doesn’t have an answer ready for him. After a moment he shrugs. “Whatever. The test is pretty simple. You have thirty minutes to take down however many guys are in there. Or girls, could be girls. There’s going to be between six and ten and you’ll be notified by loudspeaker when the test ends. Take them all down. If you shoot them in a place that would likely put them down they’ll go down. If they shoot you in a place you’d likely go down, test’s over.”

Taking the pistol, she’s led into a small room with only what appears to be a garage door ahead of her. She’s left alone to sit and wait for whatever comes next. A few minutes go by before the door fights its way upward. A beautiful green field filled with massive trees sits ahead. Her gun’s already drawn and ready for anything. She turns left and tries to stay near the wall so they can’t sneak up on her.

Disappearing between the trees, she doesn’t see any sign of people. This place looks huge. From where she is the far wall can’t be seen and she starts to worry about how she’ll find anyone with so little time. She can’t hear anything except the sound of her own footsteps and tree branches flapping as a light breeze pushes them around.

Emerging from the wooded area, a few rows of buildings stand ahead. She slowly moves toward them. The first building she reaches works as cover and she glances around the corner for any sign of the volunteers. Still nobody. Moving from building to building, she looks inside each for any sign of people. In the last building of the first row she sees a woman sitting at a table through a broken window. Inside the lights reflect off the broken glass piled on the floor. The woman’s facing the door and doesn’t seem to notice her yet. She ducks down to keep things that way.

Creeping around the other side of the building, she looks for any other way inside. Nothing stands out. With the door being out as an option, she returns to the window. A doorway between them makes it a difficult shot but the only other option is rushing the front door and hoping to dodge the woman’s shot.

Lining her shot up and hoping this gun fires straight, she squeezes off three shots. The woman isn’t expecting them and is knocked back when the first connects. She looks back and forth for the shooter and when she sees Martina in the window she gives her a dirty look before laying on the ground.

A shout goes out in the distance as the sound of several people running reaches her. There’s no cover in sight so she starts moving away from the noise. Ducking around the corner, she waits for anyone to show up. A man runs past the gap between buildings ahead but doesn’t seem to notice her. There’s a rustling to her left and she turns in time to see another man turn a corner and raise his gun. Ducking back between the buildings, rubber bounces past her and falls in the dirt.

Running to the other side of the building, the first man she saw comes back around the corner. She lets off three shots and they bounce off the man. His momentum carries him for a few more steps before he can process what happened and drop. Martina keeps moving. The other guy has to be close and he’ll catch her if she stays still. There could be another seven just like them right behind.

Reloading the gun, she sees a staircase ahead of her leading to the roof. She races toward it and takes the stairs two at a time. Maybe from the roof she can find some sign of the other man. Her head rises over the side of the building.

Another man’s sitting there. He’s already turning to her when she manages to squeeze a couple of shots off to take him down. On the ground she can hear legs coming toward her and the man from before pops into view. His gun’s pointed up at her and he squeezes shot after shot off but his aim sucks and most of his shots bounce off the side of the building. One does connect with her left shoulder though and the pain’s fierce. No announcement comes on to end things though so she has to assume it isn’t lethal. Through gritted teeth Martina fires a few shots at him and he gives up and lays down.

Four down’s a good start but there could still be a lot left and she has no clue where the rest of the group are. The world around her is quiet and she assumes there’s no more in the immediate area. Catching her breath, she realizes she shot more people in the last ten minutes than she has in her entire career. That nobody’s seriously hurt helps but hopefully shooting people won’t be the only way she can protect people or use her registration to make a living.

Returning to the ground she checks the rest of the buildings here but there’s no sign of other volunteers. She reaches the far side of this area and looks back to the woods. The rest have to be out there. She rushes into the trees, hoping something will catch her attention.

At first she methodically darts from tree to tree but soon she realizes that’s taking too long. If she keeps this pace she won’t cover half the distance needed before her time runs out. She starts to run, her head darting from left to right, hoping to see any further attackers before they see her.

Her wish is granted. Ahead she sees two more men working their way between the trees. She takes cover and watches them move. They’re not that big and she starts to think of ways she could take them down without firing a shot. Thinking of Zoe gets that out of her head. She needs to pass this so she can start applying for jobs as a vigilante. She told her daughter things would be okay but in truth if she’s out of work for any significant amount of time they won’t be able to make rent.

They’re coming her way so she waits for them to reach her. When they pass the tree she’s standing behind, she jumps out. One of them must see her out of the corner of their eye because they turn and start firing. Martina’s already moving by that time though and she manages to get the second man between them. His partner shoots him right in the chest.

The shooter and his partner both have their mouths drop. They pause, seemingly unsure what to do. Martina doesn’t stop. Shooting, she hits the man who shot his partner. He goes down and tosses his gun. The man who was shot doesn’t seem to know what to do. The loud speakers do. “This vigilante test is over. Congratulations on taking down all volunteers. Please proceed to the entrance.”

The last man standing never bothers going to the ground. He kicks at the dirt as he walks away, clearly not liking the speakers’ verdict.

When she reaches the front of the facility, everyone seems to be smiling and clapping. She has to fill out a bit of paperwork but soon the same man who walked her through how the test works hands her a certificate telling her she’s a federally authorized vigilante. “You’ll get a permanent card in the mail in two to four weeks. For now, try to keep this on you. If needed the cops can look you up but its a lot more work.”

“I know, I was a cop.”

Blinking a few times, the man stares through her. “Why the hell are you doing this then?” She still doesn’t have an answer.

Part 8

Part 10

The Law Vol. 1 Serve or Protect Part 8

“How could you do this? This year of all years.” Zoe Alvarez throws anything she can get her hands on which won’t easily break around her room while her mother Martina Alvarez tries to think of ways to calm her. So far she hasn’t come up with anything. All she can do is try to catch the things that are a little more breakable than her daughter thinks.

“It’s going to be alright. I promise.” As she crosses the room Zoe throws a stuffed rabbit at her. She catches it and sets it on a shelf.

“How can you say that? You don’t have a job. We aren’t rich. How are you going to pay for my camp next month? I can’t be the only one who doesn’t get to go.”

Martina holds her hands before her in surrender. “You won’t be. I promise. I will figure it all out. I already have a bunch of ideas.”

With her eyes tightening, Zoe stops throwing things. The picture frame in her hand threatens that this could be a temporary reprieve. “What sort of ideas? I want to hear them. Now.”

“You do know you aren’t the adult here, right?”

“Now.”

With a deep breath, Martina regrets saying anything to her daughter. She would have found out from her grandfather otherwise though. Better she hears it from her. “I’m going to register for the vigilante act.” Since the passing of the Vigilantes Making Us Safe Act, anyone can register and start walking the streets protecting people. She doesn’t need to be a cop to keep her city safe. With how things are going on the police force she might do a better job as a vigilante.

The throwing doesn’t start up again but there’s no excitement on her daughter’s face. “How does that make you money? They don’t pay people to be vigilantes do they?”

Martina hesitates and her daughter’s hand starts to shake. “No, but there are ways to make money once you register. A lot of people are looking for security help or guards who are registered now. The money can be pretty good. With my experience, I’ll find something. I promise.”

Shaking her head, Zoe flops face first onto her bed. “I don’t believe you. That sounds like its going to pay terribly. What if it doesn’t work out? What then?”

With a deep sigh Martina starts pacing back and forth. “I don’t know, I’ll figure something out. I’m not going to let my kid end up on the street. If I have to I’ll go out on the corner and turn some tricks.” She laughs, hoping to lighten the mood.

Turning over to face her mother, Zoe looks her up and down. “I don’t know mom, I don’t think anyone will pay.”

She has to pay for that. Martina rushes the bed and tackles her daughter before tickling her stomach. The girl can’t help laugh. After a minute she relents, rolling over and laying next to her daughter. Zoe turns to her and still has a concerned look on her face. “I know you keep saying its going to be okay, but are you sure? Maybe you could still get your job back. You could talk to grandpa, he could put in a good word.”

Martina puts a hand on her daughter’s cheek, trying to look more confident than she feels. “Honey, do you really want me to go to a job every day I don’t believe in? To help people hurt other people?”

Zoe looks away. “Not really, but I do want to eat.”

“You don’t ever have to worry about that. I’m going to make sure this is okay, no matter what it takes.”

Part 7

Part 9

The Law Vol. 1 Serve or Protect Part 7

Walking into the precinct, Martina heads straight for the Captain’s office. She woke him up on the way in and he agreed to meet them here. It only took her promising to keep calling until he did. His secretary Rosa has long since left for the night so there’s nobody to stop her from walking right in. Without bothering to knock, she enters and takes a seat. Tate sulks in after her, but sends the captain a look to let him know this wasn’t his idea.

The captain’s desk is piled with work and he’s trying to get something done while waiting on them. Watching him work in pajamas puts a smile on Martina’s face but the captain doesn’t return it. “My wife was not pleased with the late call Alvarez. This had better be important.”

“It is sir. I have an arrest I need to make and I need your okay. Another precinct beat us there and they weren’t confident enough in their captain to make the call but this really needs to happen. We have enough.”

He frowns. “Who are we arresting?”

“Guy who shot two unarmed people in the street. He’s a vigilante—”

“No.”

“Let me tell you the details captain. I think you’ll agree that we have enough.”

“Did he admit that he gunned them down in cold blood and this had nothing to do with being a vigilante?”

“Well, no but—”

“Then you don’t have enough Martina.” He leans forward and puts his head in his hands. “You know I don’t like vigilantes any more than you do. They’re going to put us all out of jobs if things keep going this way and they’re dangerous. I’d love nothing more than to arrest this guy. The fact that their targets weren’t armed isn’t enough though. He’ll say he thought they were and the VMUS Act focuses a lot more on what the vigilante thinks than what was true. We have no way to prove what they thought.”

“Sir, I caught them in at least three lies on questioning. He said he shot them when they were facing him. We know for a fact that isn’t the case, they were turned away and running. He told us he flipped one of the bodies over. It was never flipped. That’s confirmed. He also told us he shot them in only a few seconds. The bodies were too far apart for that to be the case. Oh, there’s a fourth. He said they were dead when they hit the ground. We know they crawled away. We have this guy. Even if it doesn’t start a trend, a case like this will be huge. It’s going to tell the rest of the vigilantes out there that they’re not above the law. The next time one of them tries to gun some people down in cold blood, they’ll worry. We have to do this.”

The captain rubs his temples. “Is that all true Tate?”

Still standing in the back of the office, Tate nods. “It’s true sir. Guy’s definitely lying.”

“That’s actually more than I thought you’d have.” He starts rubbing his temples. At least he looks awake now. “I’m still not sure it’s going to be enough though. Is the medical examiner’s report back yet?”

Martina leans forward and puts her hands on her knees, a smile starting to come to her face. “It may be a few days sir but I already talked to them. They confirmed there’s zero chance what the guy said is correct. There’s no reason for him to lie if the truth is on his side. What he’s claiming he did is legal.”

The captain stands and puts his hands on his hips, shaking his head. “I really want to make a move here. This sounds promising. I’m just not sure it’s going to be enough. We’ll need the medical report but if we know what the results will be we could move now. I’d want to talk to the examiner myself though. This is a big deal.” He turns to Tate who has a pained look on his face. “You have some thoughts Tate?”

“Yes sir. Look, I agree with Martina that this guy’s lying. This was an execution and it’s awful. I don’t know why but this guy just decided he wanted to kill some people tonight. It’s possible he’s telling the truth about what got him chasing them but even that doesn’t make a lot of sense. I don’t think we should arrest him though.”

The captain looks surprised. “Any reason why not? If you think he’s guilty shouldn’t you want to go after him?”

Tate closes his eyes. “I do want to go after him sir, badly. That could be my brother or my nephew next time. It won’t do any good though. There’s no way the DA files charges. This would be a direct attack on the act and by extension on the president. The DA’s considering running for the house next year. He’s going to want the president’s endorsement. Zero chance he goes after him. We’d need so much more than even the report. In another town I’d say go for it but here all we’re going to do is get on his bad side. We’re going to burn any rope we have for nothing.”

Martina’s jaw drops. She thought Tate was with her and now he’s trying to protect himself instead of doing his job. “You can’t be serious.”

“Sorry Alvarez, I really want to back you on this but I can’t. It’s a waste of time. If he admitted the crime it’d be different but he stuck to his story pretty well even when you challenged him. It doesn’t have to make sense. He just needs to say it loud enough that people who support the act believe him.”

The Captain sits back down and puts his head in his hands. “I hate to admit it, but he may be right Alvarez. Can you honestly tell me you think the district attorney will file charges here?”

“I can sir. We’ll put him in a no win situation. A case so obvious he doesn’t have a choice. In a normal case he wouldn’t but these lies are too obvious. That’s the whole point. Even if charges aren’t brought, maybe seeing us try will give cops in another city the courage to do so. It can still matter.”

Looking her straight in the eye, the Captain shakes his head. “I wish I agreed, I really do. Brandon’s right though. We’re going to hold off here though. In a couple of days once the medical examiner’s report comes back we’ll send someone to the vigilante’s house and press him on the details. Maybe he’ll crack and confess. If we get that, we’ll go after him. If we don’t, we’ll revisit and maybe call a meeting with the DA to discuss options.”

“Sir, you’re advocating letting a man we know is a murderer keep walking the streets.”

“No Alvarez, that’s what the act does. I don’t pick the rules.”

She stands up and looks toward the door. “I can’t stand for that sir.”

“What are you going to do, go to your father again?”

The words sting. She knew word had reached him by now but she didn’t expect him to call her on the trip to see her father. “Captain, that wasn’t anything personal and you know it. I take our job seriously and I felt you made the wrong call. I tried to see if someone else would make the right one. That’s all.”

“Here’s the problem Alvarez. It’s my call. I’ll always listen to your input and I respect it but at the end of the day I have to do what I think is best for this precinct and this city. I can’t have you going behind my back every time we disagree.”

Martina starts to pace. “I understand sir, but this is wrong.”

“How many people need to disagree with you for it to be enough? I disagree, your partner disagrees, the other officers on the scene and their captain disagreed. I know you’re trying to protect people but we have to enforce the rules. VMUS doesn’t give us a lot to go on.”

“Captain, earlier tonight a vigilante took a shot at us. Bullet just missed Tate. Moron was shooting at ghosts. I let that go. Nobody got hurt and as dumb as the guy was, he didn’t break any laws. I know what we have to deal with when it comes to the act. This is different though. Two people are dead and as far as we can tell they weren’t doing anything wrong. This man isn’t protected by the act. It’s one thing when we follow a law we disagree with. It’s another when we ignore people who we can go after.”

The captain walks around the desk and looks her in the eye. “I’m asking you to let this go Alvarez. There’s not enough. Things will change. There’s too much going wrong with this act. It’s going to get overturned. We just have to keep order until that happens.”

Shaking her head, she walks over to his desk. “I wish I could sir.”

“What are you going to do?”

She starts to pull her gun out before thinking better of it. Instead she unclips the entire holster and sets it on the captain’s desk. She proceeds to remove her badge and throw it down next to the gun. “If we aren’t going to do all we can to protect people then I can’t do this job captain. Consider this my resignation, effective immediately.”

Part 6

Part 8

The Law Vol. 1 Serve or Protect Part 6

For the next few hours Martina and Tate don’t talk much. Martina picks the music and puts on her favorite 90s station. Tate cringes but doesn’t argue as she dances along in her seat. Their rule has always been that whoever drives gets to control the radio. They take a few calls but nothing ends up panning out. It’s a boring night, the kind you dream of on nights when things are going crazy but you hate when they actually arrive.

As it nears three in the morning, they get a call about a scene only a couple of miles away. Lot of gunshots, neighbors calling it in, not an area you see a lot of gang violence. Desperate for anything to do, Tate grabs the radio. “We’re not the closest but we can be there in a few minutes as backup.”

Dispatch sends them to the scene and soon the red and blue lights are flashing over their heads. Making sure his gun’s loaded, Brandon gets ready in case there’s still danger by the time they arrive. As they near the area they find it’s a standard residential street. Two other cars and an ambulance have beaten them to the scene. One of the cops is occupied roping off the area so the immediate danger must be over.

Parking next to the other cars, the partners jump out and proceed onto the scene. It’s a dark street with not a lot of light but between the cars and the street lights there’s enough to get an idea of what happened. A trail of blood leads from the sidewalk, through the grass and into the street. A car parked nearby has the back window blown out. The trail of blood leads to a pair of tarps covering what look to be a pair of bodies. The ambulance sits open with a bald man in a vest perched inside. His legs dangle over the edge as a paramedic checks him out. He’s wearing a gun holster on his hip. He seems middle aged and slightly out of shape. There doesn’t look to be anything wrong with him.

The lights and noise seem to have woken half the neighborhood and more and more people are streaming out of their houses and gathering just outside the police tape. Others are waiting on their porches or staring out from behind their curtains. Two of the officers are working crowd control, trying to keep people back and get them to return to their homes. None of them seem interested in listening. This is a sleepy neighborhood and they want to see what everyone’s going to be talking about for the next six years.

Looking around for the person in charge, Martina spots one of her favorite officers. She heads over to Officer Tracy Daniels. A tall, dark skinned woman with long hair tied in a pony tail, she’s talking with her partner off to the side. Making her way over to the pair with Tate at her heels, she’s greeted with a weak smile. “This is a messed up one Martina.”

“What the hell happened out here?”

“Apparently that middle school principal looking idiot over at the ambulance was walking along and saw a couple of guys running through the neighborhood. Didn’t have a clue why or what was going on but he saw running at night so he took off after them with his gun. Yelled to stop a few times and they didn’t. Says one of them turned around and pulled a gun on him so he had to draw his own and fire at them. Put them both down with a few shots each.”

Scanning the scene, Martina’s eyes narrow. “Any of that check out?”

With a wave of her hand Tracy says, “Go ahead and take a look.”

Martina heads over to the tarps where a medical examiner has just arrived and is investigating the bodies; she sees the tarp pulled aside. The bodies are in the darker section of the crime scene but there’s enough light from the examiner’s flashlight that she can already tell the man’s story is crap. For one, both bodies landed face down. The bullets entered through their backs, so they weren’t facing him down with a gun when he killed them.

Both of the victims are black men, both look like they were in their late teens or early twenties. Both have short hair and are wearing basketball shorts and t shirts. One of their faces is sideways and his eyes are still open. She didn’t notice before but the bodies also aren’t that close. They’re not that far from each other but one got almost ten feet further than the other. That’s another hole in the story, the killings weren’t one right after the other.

Returning to Tracy, she shakes her head. “That was an execution. They were running from him but they never turned back. Any idiot could see that unless he decided to flip them over after he killed them. You find any sign of a gun on either?”

“Nothing except the one he’s carrying.” She points to the man sitting on the back of the ambulance, chatting up a young paramedic. She’s taking his blood pressure while he’s laughing about something. Martina feels ill. From her current angle the light hits him just right for her to see his holster. His gun’s still in it. She spins back to Tracy.

“Why the hell is he still armed? For that matter, why is the only cuff we’ve got him in on his upper arm?”

“He’s a vigilante.” She shrugs, as if that should answer it.

“What the hell do you mean? He just murdered people in cold blood. We’ve got enough here to know that. Vigilantes aren’t immune to murder charges.”

Tracy sighs. “Can you prove those two didn’t just fall weird? We know they didn’t but we can’t prove it yet. Try going against a vigilante and not proving it. You know exactly how that’s going to end. We’ll see what the medical examiner comes up with but we’re probably going to have to send this guy home.”

Leaving her friend, Martina heads right for the back of the ambulance. Tate tries to grab her arm. “What are you doing grandma?”

“Just follow my lead Brandon.” She almost never uses his first name. He pauses for a moment to take it in but he follows a few steps behind.

The vigilante’s in the middle of a story about a recent trip to Wisconsin when they approach. He smiles at them. “Good evening officers, sorry to bring you out here this time of night. What can I do for you?”

Keeping one hand near her weapon, Martina stares at him for a moment without saying a word. His smile cracks slightly, but in response he just makes it bigger. When he starts to open his mouth she breaks the silence. “I’m Officer Alvarez, this is my partner Officer Tate. We have a few questions for you.”

“I’m glad to help but I actually already gave a statement to the first officers who got here. Did you talk to them?” He points back toward Tracy.

“I talked to them. We have a few more questions. Is that a problem?” Her eyebrow raises, daring him to have a problem.

He frowns. “Not at all. Always glad to help out the police. That’s why I signed up to be a vigilante after all.” As he says this the paramedic takes the blood pressure cuff off his arm and climbs into the back of the ambulance.

“What were you doing out here tonight?”

“I believe I already answered that.” He pauses to wait for Martina to move on. She doesn’t. “No reason I can’t go over it again though. I live down the street, just about a quarter mile that way.” He points to their left. “I was up late, I have insomnia you see, and I heard something in the street. I don’t know if it was those two or not but I went out on my front porch and that’s when I saw them running along. I thought it was weird to have people running through the neighborhood this time of night so I followed them.”

“I see. Do you normally try to sleep in a vest?”

He’s wearing khaki pants as well but this doesn’t shake him. “Not at all but I’d already given up on getting any more sleep tonight. Grabbed a shower and got ready for work a little while ago. I was hanging out in my bedroom and watching TV while my wife slept.”

“What do you do?”

“I teach High School English.” Tracy wasn’t far off.

“So you were dressed and awake. You had time to grab your gun I see.”

“That was already on too. I put my holster on when I get dressed since I registered. Figure I can’t protect people if I don’t have the tools. I don’t see being a vigilante as a part time job. I always want to be prepared.”

Martina grabs a notepad from her pocket and pretends to take notes but so far he hasn’t given her anything useful. “So you take your gun to school with you?”

“Not yet, but eventually maybe. For now I lock it in a safe in my trunk.”

Martina looks at Tate but his face doesn’t offer any help. “Will your wife confirm what time you left?”

“I don’t know how she could, she was asleep when I left. She’ll be able to say what time I went to bed though.”

“What made you think you needed to shoot these guys? Running late at night may not be normal but it’s not a crime.”

“Of course, I feel terrible about that but I really don’t see how I had a choice. I called out to them at first, trying to get their attention. Followed them until we got here but they were losing me. I’ve been using the act to get in shape and I’m doing better but there’s still a ways to go.” He pats his stomach as he says this, his face twisting into a grin. “I was thinking of calling the police actually, to report it you know. Then they stopped and suddenly turned around. They said something.”

“What did they say?”

“I wish I knew, they didn’t say it very loud. I tried to ask them to repeat themselves, but then I saw the one man’s hand going up. There was something in his hand that reflected the light from the street light. I’m fairly sure it was a gun. I didn’t have time to think at that point. I raised my gun and started firing. It happened so fast.”

Martina desperately wants to push him on his facts. They don’t line up with the scene at all. She’s nervous to give away their case but without more they don’t have a case. “Did you shoot out the car window over there?”

“I’m afraid so, not intentionally of course. I wish I could say I’m a great shot but I’m just okay. I do well enough at the range but this was the first time I’ve had to shoot at someone. I became a vigilante to protect the neighborhood. We have a kind of neighborhood watch, a few of us dads and we thought it’d be good to have authorization to do what’s necessary. We only go out a few nights a week though. Mostly on the weekends. This is a quiet area.”

Looking at her notebook and back at the man, her eyes narrow. “What about the fact that both of the men landed on their stomachs? If they faced you they’d have likely landed on their backs.”

His smile cracks again and he takes a deep breath. “I don’t really know. I think they might have tried to turn as I fired or maybe when he hit the ground. One of them actually did land on his stomach but I flipped him over to see if I could help. All I really know is CPR though and he was beyond that.”

Without saying they’re done, Martina walks away and Tate follows. “Grandma, he didn’t give us enough to do anything. You need to let this go. I know it sucks but we have nothing we can prove.”

“Like hell we don’t.”

Walking over to the medical examiner, she crouches next to him. “Question, were either of these bodies flipped from their stomach onto their back?”

He gives her a strange look. “I can’t do my full autopsy out here but almost zero chance. There’d be a puddle of blood on the ground next to them. They moved after being shot, you can see the trail. That was just forward momentum though. They were running as they were shot. I’m fairly certain they weren’t moved after they fell though except for maybe crawling.”

Thanking the man, she walks back over to Tracy. “We have him.”

“What do you mean?”

“He just told me he flipped one of them over after they fell to try to help them. That one of them landed on their back. Medical examiner says no way. Obvious lie and that means he wasn’t just trying to protect the public. He just decided to kill these guys. No idea why, but that’s enough. Plus he said they were beyond help when they landed. We know they crawled from the trail of blood. We can charge him.”

“You do realize the DA hasn’t charged a single vigilante with anything yet, right?”

Martina throws her head back. The cops shouldn’t be fighting her on this. “There has to be a first time. We have enough. We can get around the vague rules. We need to make a move now. We can’t send this guy home after he shot down two people. We’ll arrest him and figure out the rest later.”

Tracy looks uncomfortable, her brow furrowed. Her eyes close for a moment. She turns to Tate. “What do you think Brandon?”

He has the same uncomfortable look on his face. “I mean, the guy’s clearly lying. That’s not hard to prove. That doesn’t necessarily prove enough to have charges brought against him though. I think we might have enough but we really need to wait until the autopsy comes back.”

Nodding, Tracy turns to Martina. “I agree with your partner. That’s a really good bit of info you got him on but on it’s own I don’t think it’s quite enough. I know it won’t be enough for my captain.”

There has to be a way. “What if I can get my captain to sign off on it?”

Tracy puts her hands up. “Sounds good to me, if you want to go to him with this that’s great. I’ll back you up on the scene if needed. For now though we have to let him go. I got his information. It won’t be hard to find the guy if we get an okay to go after him.”

She looks back at the shooter. The ambulance is closed now and he’s throwing his arms around, trying to stretch. He looks completely comfortable. It makes her want to go over there and beat the smile off his face. “Let’s go Tate.”

He tries to grab her by the arm and stop her. “We should finish helping here.”

“They have it, let’s go do what we can to get this guy.”

Part 5

Part 7

The Law Vol. 1 Serve or Protect Part 5

The next evening the partners are back on the streets as if nothing happened the night before. The weather assured them it’d be nice tonight so Martina’s behind the wheel, cruising well over the speed limit. They got a call about possible gunshots heard near the mall. The caller wasn’t certain they were gunshots but he wanted to call it in. They agreed it was probably just someone’s exhaust back firing but they’re still racing to get there. Just in case.

As they pull up Martina starts circling the building. It’s late evening and there aren’t a lot of cars left in the parking lot but the place is far from abandoned. If someone was shooting around here, she’s pretty sure they’d have more reports. They still cruise around. If they’re wrong and they take off they’ll be on desk duty for weeks. The captain’s likely looking for an excuse after last night. Another cop told her word traveled that she went to see her father.

They’re near the back of the mall when they hear a shot in the distance. It’s just one but it came from the other side of the building. Martina’s pretty certain that wasn’t an exhaust. Stomping on the gas, they rush around the building. Pulling around the side, there’s almost no cars in sight but that makes the two cars they can see stand out. Another shot goes off and this time they can tell exactly where it’s coming from. There’s a large indentation in the building where a set of garbage cans big enough for the mall are piled. Whoever’s back there has a gun and they aren’t afraid to use it.

Pulling the car as close as they can, the partners jump out and draw their weapons. Approaching the garbage cans, Tate takes the lead and keeps his gun up. “This is the police. Whoever’s back there, drop your weapon and come out now.”

Another gunshot goes off which flies right by Tate’s head. Unable to return fire since he has no idea where it came from, he hits the deck. Martina surges forward and throws herself behind a half wall, looking for a shot or any sign of the shooter.

A few seconds later a gun’s tossed from behind the dumpsters. “Don’t shoot. I’m coming out with my hands up.”

A short man in a blue mask comes out from behind the garbage cans. He’s wearing a pair of jeans and a blue vest. There’s no shirt under the vest so his beer gut and chest hair are on display for all to see. A white star’s over his heart though it looks like somebody just sewed it on. He stumbles as he makes his way out but his hands are in the air. “I’m glad you guys are here. I could use a hand.”

Back on his feet, Tate hurries over and pats the man down. Once that’s done he grabs his handcuffs and starts to secure the man. He resists, trying to get his hands free. Tate’s eyes are still wide. “Don’t make me tackle you.”

“Buddy, we’re on the same side. I’m a vigilante. There’s no need for us to get into it. The bad guys are still around.”

Tate puts a hand on his forehead at hearing the v word. “What bad guys?”

The man turns around as Tate’s grip loosens. “Couple of dumb kids. They started chasing me around, acting like idiots. At first I told them to get lost but they shoved me and I had to teach them a lesson.”

Martina steps up and gets in the man’s face. “Did that lesson have anything to do with the gun shots that were called in?”

He looks away and shrugs. “I don’t know, maybe. That was just a warning shot though. They took off running and wouldn’t stop when I said to. Wanted to give them a chance to give themselves up so I shot into the air. They didn’t take it well. Got to their car and tried to run me down. That’s why I was back behind the dumpsters, their car couldn’t fit back there. They weren’t brave enough to face me head on so I knew I was safe. Sorry about shooting at you, when I heard your car coming I thought maybe they’d come back.”

Tate turns the man back around and finishes slapping the cuffs on. He starts pushing the man toward their car. “You’ll get to tell that to a judge. You shot at an officer, that’s a crime. Also, for future reference, you can’t fire warning shots at a mall. Too many people around. Every time you fire your gun, you need to know exactly where that bullet’s going.”

Despite some protests they’re able to secure the man. Once Tate has the vigilante in the back of their car, Martina pulls him aside. “You realize we have to let him go, right?”

Tate’s eyes almost bug out of his head. “What the hell do you mean grandma? I’m not letting that guy walk. He took a shot at me.”

“Except if he is authorized, and I’m going to call it in and make sure, but if he is authorized then he can just say he thought he was keeping people safe. Sounds like it’s even true. He’s just not good at it. He’ll be on the street in hours and we’ll end up reprimanded. Not worth it.”

“You thought it was worth it last night.”

She shoves her partner against their car, her eyes growing dark. “That’s because if we got the warrant last night we could have made things stick. We know the evidence was there. That’s not true here. This will be thrown out right away. I know it sucks but if he’s a vigilante we cut him loose.”

Tate wanders off, staring at the ground. He keeps his mouth shut as Martina calls the vigilante office and confirms their captive is registered. He signed up the first week sign ups were open and so far has done absolutely nothing worth putting in his file but he is registered.

Pulling the man from the car, he’s grinning from ear to ear. “I take it you confirmed I was telling the truth. No hard feelings, I know you guys have a dangerous job. We’re here to help though. Sorry about the gunshot too, guess I got a little jumpy. I’ll try to be more careful in the future. Give you my word.”

Taking the cuffs off, Tate practically shoves the man away as soon as he’s free. “No more warning shots in public places, alright?”

Rolling his eyes, the man rubs his wrists. “I mean, I’ll try to be careful. I don’t tell you how to do your job though.”

Martina quickly moves between Tate and the vigilante before her partner has a chance to tackle him. His eyes are about to burst and his mouth starts to open before she puts a hand over it. “Let’s go partner.”

Part 4

Part 6

The Law Vol. 1 Serve or Protect Part 4

As they enter the headquarters of Chicago’s 4th police precinct, Martina Alvarez can feel her partner’s nervous energy. He’s got his hands on his sides and he’s awkwardly rubbing them up and down his hips. “Calm down Tate, it’s fine.”

He glares at her. “It doesn’t feel fine grandma. Going over the captain’s head is a really bad idea. Do you think your dad will even do it?”

She’s not sure if she’s being honest with herself but Martina tries to seem confident. She raises her eyebrows and shrugs. “Probably. We’ll find out.” That’s the most confidence she can manage for her father.

Eyes turn their way as they walk through the room. People here know who Martina is. She’s not above going to her father when needed, something which has rubbed every captain she’s had the wrong way. This is Tate’s first time being dragged along so he stays close, unfamiliar with the way around.

“You know, I’ve been wondering, if you’re grandma, does that make him great grandpa?”

As angry as she is, that puts a smile on her face. “If you want to still be on the force I definitely wouldn’t call him that. Then again, if you want to throw your career away, I can think of less entertaining ways.”

Her father’s secretary’s an older woman named Ida who has been with him for years. He hired her because she doesn’t mind working the same crazy hours he does. He rarely works less than fourteen hours a day and he wants her there the entire time. She’s currently asleep at her desk but she’s there.

A small bell sits on her desk and Martina rings it. Ida pops up and her hair slides slightly to the side. She fixes it without a word and looks at the woman standing before her. “Long time Officer Alvarez. You here to see Captain Alvarez?”

“That’s the plan Ida. He busy tonight?”

She rolls her still half closed eyes. “He’s always busy. He’ll fit you in though. Let me tell him you’re here.” Pressing a button on her phone, crackling comes over an intercom. “Captain, Martina and her partner are out here. Want me to send them in?”

The static filled response confirms they can enter and Ida waves toward the closed door. By the time Martina turns the doorknob she’s already got her head back on the desk.

Entering with confidence, Martina plops into a nice leather chair. Tate enters behind her, staying in the back of the room and keeping quiet. He closes the door without making a sound.

Captain Alvarez doesn’t look up from his paperwork as they enter. He’s a small man with white hair and a pair of thick glasses. His hat’s still on but he does have the top button of his shirt undone. “What do you want Martina? You know I don’t have a lot of time.”

Reaching under her coat, she pulls out her phone to start bringing the pictures she came here to show him up. “I have an interesting case for you. Thought you might want to take a look.”

“Which means your captain doesn’t want to take a look. Is this the flower shop?”

She frowns, any hope that she could be the first to reveal this gone. “You saw the memo.”

“I actually read my mail.” Looking up for the first time since they entered, he glances at Tate. “Sit down Grandon, you’re making me nervous.”

Tate rushes to a chair, not even bothering to correct his name. Martina shakes her head. Now she has to defend him. “Grandon hasn’t been my partner in years dad. He moved out of the city. This is Brandon Tate. We’ve been partners for over two years. You’ve met.”

Tate sits next to Martina, hitting the leather without a sound. “That’s okay Captain Tate, we’ve only met a few times. You can call me whatever.”

He doesn’t bother to respond to this. Looking back at his paperwork, Captain Alvarez starts to tap his fingers on his desk. “What do you have? I assume it’s something if you’re here.”

Martina slides her phone open and passes it across his desk. He starts scrolling through the pictures. “Did you take these? If so you didn’t need anyone’s permission to move against them.”

“No, a vigilante did. He forwarded them to me though and they line up with what I saw in that warehouse. They’re running major drug traffic through there. Tons of boxes just like the ones in the pictures. I guarantee you they’re cleaning that place out right this minute though. I don’t have time to gather more evidence. I need a warrant but Captain Bryant won’t authorize it.”

Her dad shoves the phone back without looking up. “Can you blame the man? You’re asking him to directly disobey the superintendent. That’s good evidence but it’s not enough.”

“Even with our testimony?”

“Is the vigilante willing to testify if needed?”

Pursing her lips, Martina frowns and shakes her head. “You sound just like him.”

“Your captain’s a good man. I don’t like it and I’d go to a judge if it weren’t for that memo but it’s not the right move here.”

Getting to her feet, Martina leans across his desk and gets right in her father’s face. “You’re supposed to be better than that old man.”

He stands up and puffs his chest out. “Get out of my face. You don’t succeed in this city if you make dumb enemies. If you had more I’d stick my neck out but not here. Not when you’re going against your captain. You realize you’re asking to get transferred again, right? You going to move Zoe’s school again too when you have to work across town?”

Standing up, Martina steps back and crosses her arms. Her voice lowers until it’s barely a whisper. “Leave her out of this.”

“Don’t put me in a position where I have to bring her into it.” He grabs another file off his desk and goes back to reading but doesn’t sit back down.

Tate’s looking back and forth between them like he wants to get between them. He stops himself, knowing any action against Martina will lose her respect and any action against her father will likely ruin his career.

With a shake of her head and a slam of her hands on the desk Martina grabs her phone and storms out of the office.

She doesn’t stop until she reaches the parking lot. Tate follows a few steps behind her. He finds her in the passenger seat of their car. “Still not willing to drive huh?”

“I told you, the weather said it’s supposed to rain.” She never looks up.

Sliding behind the driver’s seat Tate says, “That’s fine, our shift’s almost over anyway. Let’s get back to the precinct and then go get a drink. My treat.”

The offer’s tempting but she shakes her head. “Thanks but no. I need to get home to Zoe. Another time.”

Part 3

Part 5

The Law Vol. 1 Serve or Protect Part 3

The partners drive most of the way back to the station without a word but as they near the station, Tate looks over at Martina. “What the hell are we going to tell the captain? We can’t exactly tell him we let the kid go.”

“We’ll position it differently, that we worked with him. That’s what they want with the vigilantes anyway. Not that hard. I’m getting really tired of all these new rules. They need to let us do our job.”

Making their way inside, the precinct’s a mad house tonight. At least it’s warm. Slipping out of their jackets, the partners start making their way through the crowd. They pass all manner of people here looking for help. Making their way to the captain’s office they hear story after story about vigilantes, and not the good they’re doing.

The captain’s secretary’s slumped at her desk looking exhausted this time of night. Tate leans over the desk and flashes his best smile. “Good evening Rosa my love. How are you doing tonight? Is that a new haircut? It looks great.”

Rosa’s in her mid 40s and has been the captain’s secretary for nearly a decade. Nobody gets in to see him without going through her. She can be nice if you’re on her good side but not everyone is. Tate’s flirtation is obvious and she knows he’s messing with her but she still enjoys it. Plus, she actually does have a new haircut and he’s the first person to notice tonight. “You’re sweet Brandon. Go take a seat somewhere. I’ll let you know when I can get you in. It won’t be long.”

Flopping his way into a seat, Tate grabs a magazine. Alvarez chooses to stand, taking the moment to check her phone. She stares at him with a look of sadness. “I’m so glad you don’t pull that shit with me.”

“Well I would, but the one time I tried you punched me so hard I almost passed out. Besides, who flirts with their grandma?”

Alvarez punches him hard in the shoulder in response. “For someone who doesn’t want to get punched, you say a lot of things that get you punched.”

“I’m funny that way.” He rubs his shoulder. Martina can throw a punch.

Leaning against the wall, Alvarez closes her eyes and tries to rest her mind. There’s too much going on around her though. Off in the distance she hears one of their officers say, “Look, we’ve been over this every time you’ve come in. We don’t have any control over them. They’re authorized to do whatever they feel is necessary. If you like we can arrange a sit down so you can talk this out. We’ve told you this every time you’ve come in here. The options haven’t changed and they’re not going to.”

A man with a bit of an accent stomps his feet, throwing his hands in the air. “Why would we want to sit down with these monsters? He asked me to put my mouth on his gun. Does that sound like a reasonable man? Does that sound like someone who we’re going to talk it out with and then go out for coffee? You’re job is to protect people isn’t it?”

“You’re preaching to the choir man. The vigilantes can do what they want though. We don’t control them. I know it sucks and believe me, I wish we had more options. That’s the best we can do at the moment.”

“This is ridiculous. Come on Assa, let’s get out of here.” Alvarez opens her eyes just in time to see the couple storm out. The man looks around her age and the woman with him looks a few years younger, though from this angle her head scarf blocks how much she can see of the woman.

After a few more minutes of hearing people scream at their officers Rosa waives them over. The captain sits behind his desk looking exhausted. His tie’s off and his hat’s hanging half off his desk. It’s going on eleven and he was supposed to be out of here an hour ago. From the stack of paperwork piled on his desk, it doesn’t look like his day’s close to over. “Alvarez, Tate, hope you’re having a good night. How’s your dad doing Alvarez?”

“I think he’s doing fine captain, but I’m probably not the best person to ask. Haven’t talked to him for a few weeks. You know how many hours he puts in, hard to find time. Anyway, I don’t want to take up too much of your time but we need a warrant fast tracked if we can. Place called Lovely Lovely Flowers we were sent tonight on a call. There were reports of a shooting. When we showed up they claimed there had been a break in but the guy had gotten away. I checked with my sources though and found evidence they’re being used as a front to move drugs. Take a look at these.”

She slides her phone across his desk so he can see the pictures the vigilante sent her. He scrolls through them. “These aren’t bad, but they’re not enough for a warrant without someone willing to speak to them. You know how easy it is to fake pictures nowadays. Someone could easily have put those logos on.”

“Captain, I saw the boxes when we were in there. These are legit, I’d bet anything on it. The longer we wait, the more time they have to scrub the place. We need to get in there now.”

“Why didn’t you investigate them further when you were there?”

She sighs, wishing she had a better answer to that. “We chased after the supposed robber. He wasn’t a robber though, he was a vigilante and he’s our source.”

His eyes perk up but he’s still fighting to suppress a yawn. “Is he willing to testify about these? Did you bring him in?”

“No.”

“Didn’t think so. We need more than just some pictures. I’m sorry, but I’m not going to a judge with this. It won’t get through. Especially not after I got a memo tonight that we’re to leave that place alone.”

Blinking a few times in disbelief, Alvarez is about to speak up but her partner beats her to it. “Wait, captain, are you saying someone’s specifically asking us to leave this random flower shop alone? Isn’t that weird?”

“Of course it is Tate, but apparently the owner is old friends with the superintendent and she felt bothered by you two showing up. Don’t worry, you’re not in trouble or anything. Without stronger evidence though, we’re going to be running into a buzz saw on this one. I need you to let this go.”

Snatching her phone off the captain’s desk, Alvarez storms out of his office. Tate’s a little behind her but eventually follows. “Where are you going grandma?”

“To talk to someone who actually wants to enforce the law and not just follow orders. You coming?”

Part 2

Part 4

The Law Vol. 1 Serve or Protect Part 2

Reaching their car, Tate heads to the passenger seat but Martina takes the lead, pointing at the other side of the vehicle. “No way, you’re driving. Let’s go.”

Without time to argue, Tate does as he’s told but not without a groan. “It’s not even raining grandma, you’re perfectly capable of driving.”

“It’s not raining yet. If it starts we’ll lose him if I’m behind the wheel.”

They tear off toward the next street over, looking for any sign of their suspect. He shouldn’t be hard to spot in a bright green shirt and pale white pants. There’s plenty of street lights around but even in the dark those pants would stand out. “Why do you always get to decide who’s driving grandma? When do I get to make the call.”

“When you’re the senior officer. Good luck with that. There!” She points as they pass the next street over. A flash of green ducks off the street.

Tate’s head whips to her side of the road, his eyes wide. “I didn’t see anything. Are you sure?”

“I’m sure, he took off into another alley.” Tate starts to turn down the street. “Wait, don’t. He was heading for the next street. Keep going.”

Without hesitation he roars toward the next street. The sirens are blaring and the few cars on the road get out of their way. Turning hard at the corner, their suspect is right in the middle of the road, highlighted by their headlights. He doesn’t stop. Running hard, he makes his way to yet another alley and darts into it. Not ready to let him escape, Martina says, “Get me close. I’ll do the rest.”

Flying toward the alley, Tate stomps hard on the break. They skid as they slow down but before the car is even fully stopped Martina throws her door open and leaps out. Slamming her door behind her, she rushes into the alley. “Freeze. Don’t make me shoot you.”

He’s already flying around the next corner onto another street. Tate won’t be able to get the car turned around fast enough. There’s twenty places he could lose them between here and there. Not ready to let him get away, she goes after him on foot.

On the next street Alvarez is gaining on her prey. He’s quick but she’s quicker. He’s moving toward another alleyway and she wants to reach him before he can find a way off the street. Too many variables at that point. Turning the corner, she raises her gun. The man in green’s standing there staring at a three story tall brick wall before him. He took a wrong turn and now he has nowhere to go. He slowly turns around and finds a gun staring him in the face.

She inches a few steps closer, cutting the distance between them in half. Sweat’s pouring off her forehead. This is the closest she’s been to any of these costumed types. “You made a big mistake, you should have just surrendered. Put your hands up, you’re under arrest.”

His hands fly into the air. There doesn’t seem to be any fight left in him. Her gun stays up as she inches closer but she leaves the safety on. With her free hand she grabs her radio and says into it, “I’m down the second alley, back the way we came. Get down here and give me some backup.”

It doesn’t take long before a police car comes rushing to block the alley’s exit. Leaving his lights on, Tate jumps out and rushes to back up his partner. His gun’s drawn in one hand while his other hand holds his hat on. Alvarez gives him a hand gesture that she uses whenever she wants him to take it easy. He doesn’t lower his weapon but he also doesn’t remove his safety. Maybe more importantly, he keeps his mouth shut.

With backup ready Alvarez closes the rest of the gap between herself and her target. “I want to know where all of your weapons are. Nothing funny or I’ll shoot. I see the holster on your back, is that for a gun or weapon?”

“Just a staff.” He’s trying to speak in a deep tone of voice, but she can tell it’s a put on. She’s dealt with enough teenagers trying to seem tough. He’s nineteen at the absolute oldest. His nerves are evident. He’s practically shaking.

With her free hand, she slips his holster over his head and tosses it to the side. “I see a lot of knives on you. I know you stabbed a guy with one. How many do you still have?”

It takes him a long time to answer. “There’s thirteen more. The one I used on that guy I didn’t get a chance to recover. I can guide you through finding all of them.”

“Impressive stack.” Who carries over a dozen knives into a fight? From this close she can tell they’re throwing knives but he certainly didn’t throw the one he used earlier unless he somehow threw it straight down. One by one she pulls them from the man’s outfit. There are mini holsters for them built into his suit, all the way from his chest down to his shins.

With his weapons disposed of she can really get a look at him for the first time. She’s surprised by what she finds. He looks so young, matching the voice. He’s fairly tall but lanky. There’s not much muscle on any part of him. Can he even be eighteen? Pulling his mask from his face doesn’t change her opinion. He’s got thick black hair on top of his head but his attempt at growing facial hair is best described as a work in progress. It’s thin and patchy, like he’s not shaving in an attempt to grow it in. It looks sloppy. “Jesus, you’re just a kid, aren’t you? What the hell is a kid doing robbing a freaking flower shop?”

The kid shifts uncomfortably but keeps his hands up. “I wasn’t robbing it. That’s just what they told you to get you out of there and after me. You walked right into their safe house and didn’t even know it.”

Tate’s starting to get annoyed by the answers he’s getting. He adjusts his grip on his weapon. “Sure thing kid. How do you know it’s a safe house?”

“Because I was there investigating. I’m a vigilante and I have evidence on my phone that proves it. Take a look if you want.”

Alvarez and Tate exchange a sudden look. They’re supposed to stay clear of the vigilantes as much as possible. They’re allowed to do whatever they want and the cops can’t do anything to stop them. It’s enough to make her ill. The next thing you know, they won’t need cops anymore. Something seems wrong with the kid’s statement. “If you’re a vigilante, why the hell did you run back there? Vigilantes are able to do pretty much whatever they want. You could have just stepped out of the shadows.”

His shoulders slump. “I’m not registered. I failed my test and was trying to do this anyway. I know I’d have to take the test again if caught, and I wasn’t sure what would happen since I can’t take the test again yet. Besides, you’ve seen the news. No offense, sure you’re great, but I don’t have a ton of trust for the cops.”

Martina breathes a sigh of relief hearing he’s not registered. That gives her a little more leeway. He’s right about one thing. Something in that warehouse didn’t add up. Mrs. Grant seemed off from the moment they arrived. “What did you see in there? Place seemed off to us too. Show us this evidence and maybe we don’t make your life too difficult.”

His hand starts to go to his pocket but the kid freezes. His arm shoots straight back up. “Is it okay if I pull my phone out? You aren’t going to start firing the second my hand comes down?”

“You’re good kid. Just move slowly as you get it.”

He resumes his hunt for his phone and soon he’s pulling it out of a pocket in his shirt. He starts scrolling through the device. “How do I show these to you? Pretty sure you don’t want to come stand next to me.”

“Just hand me the phone.” Martina holds her hand out expectantly. She’s starting to get annoyed now. This is taking too long and if she’s not careful, Tate’s going to lose it. She moves to holster her gun and walks towards him.

Her putting her gun away makes Tate hold his tighter. “Alvarez, you sure you want to do that?”

“It’s fine Brandon, we already took all his weapons. If the kid wanted to fight he’d be doing so. If you want to keep your gun on him, that’s fine. I don’t think you need to though.”

She grabs the phone from his hand to see the picture. On the screen is the inside of a wooden box. It’s at least similar to what they saw back in the warehouse. You can’t make much out in this one though and all she can see inside are flowers. Those won’t get a warrant.

“Scroll right to see more. I took a bunch. They clearly show the logos from their boxes, the flowers inside, and the drugs hiding underneath them. I made sure to get a good amount of proof.”

The rest of the pictures tell a story. Each one’s better than the last. They show the boxes, the flowers, bags of what appear to be drugs hidden under the flowers. They even show the Lovely Lovely Flowers logo written on the boxes in that same black paint she remembers. She turns to her partner. “He’s actually got a lot of good pictures here. I think he’s telling the truth.” She looks back at the kid. “Do you think you can forward these to me? They’re good evidence. I’m going back to that warehouse once we’re done here and searching those crates. Good chance they already took care of the evidence in case we come back but I need to be sure. I also need probable cause if the owner throws a fit about us searching her place.”

She holds the phone out for the kid to take back. He snatches it away and stuffs it into his pocket. “What about me now? What are you going to do?”

“That’s a tough one kid. The evidence is good. I believe you were there trying to investigate what they’re doing. How did you know to look into them though?”

The story he spins is hard to believe but it’s also hard to believe a kid his age would make it up. He talks about overhearing some guys he knows discussing it and following them to an abandoned warehouse. While there he oversaw a lot of drugs being transported. He confronted the guys to get more details. That led him to look into the flower shop. She knows a lot of bad stuff happens in the warehouse district so that part makes sense.

“That still doesn’t explain why you stabbed that guy in the foot. You’re running around with knives kid. Someone’s going to get really hurt. Why shouldn’t I take you in?”

He throws his head back with a groan. “They’re not to hurt people unless they have to be. I use them to pin people’s clothes, to scare them. I use my staff if I can but I didn’t have much choice here. They said they were going to kill me and I was way outnumbered. The only reason they didn’t shoot me is that you guys showed up and they knew a gunshot would get your attention. They had me surrounded though. I didn’t see another way out.”

Turning her back on him, she walks over to Tate. He still doesn’t look convinced. “What are we going to do with the kid partner?”

“Why don’t we just take him in? Let the detectives decide if he’s dangerous or should be charged with anything.”

“Because if we turn him in we create an enemy out here. If we let him go, we potentially create an ally. Someone who will come to us if he has good information. That’s worth a lot more than a collar.”

“That assumes you trust him.”

“You don’t?”

He fidgets. His hat looks uncomfortable. She’s really going to have to convince him that haircut’s fine. “I’m not sure honestly. He says a lot that makes sense but it feels like he’s not telling us everything.”

Glancing at her email, she’s glad to see the evidence came through. It’s not enough on it’s own but it’ll be enough to get any warrants she might need. “Are you okay with letting him go? This really helps, I think he’s earned it.”

Finally he holsters his weapon. “I’ll follow your lead grandma. I’m on board if you need me to be.”

Heading back for their prey, Alvarez tries to put on her best tough cop face. “Kid, you seem to be telling the truth and I have the pictures so I can search them. I’m going to let you go, but only under two conditions. The first is that you need to take the vigilante test again as soon as possible. I want you registered. Do you understand?”

For the first time since he was cornered in this alley, the kid seems to have some hope. He starts to smile before thinking better of it. “I can do that.”

“Good. The second is that going forward, you trust me. For that matter, you trust all of us out here. No more running from the police. I don’t like this vigilante thing but if it’s going to work, we need to be on the same side. Can you do that?”

His answer is less immediate this time. He seems to be starting to sweat despite the cold. “Ya, I think so. I have another problem though even if you let me go. She knows who I am. She recognized me in there. I’m afraid she’ll come after my family.”

She puts a hand on his shoulder, hoping to set him at ease. He’s clearly worried and she doesn’t have an easy answer to this problem. “Not much I can do about that. If you want to testify against her, I can get your family some protection but that assumes I find enough in that warehouse to arrest her. I can’t promise that right now. I actually don’t even know who you are. Care to tell me?”

“Not if I don’t have to.”

“Ya, that’s kind of what I figured. That’s okay I guess. I won’t make you tell. I have your email though and if I get enough evidence I’ll let you know. Just watch your back, you seem like a smart kid. You’ll probably be fine. You have my email if you see anything weird. She probably won’t come after you. It’ll look too suspicious. Is there anyone you can trust to contact me if something were to happen to you?”

He puts his hand on his head while he thinks about this one. “I have a friend who I can give your information to.”

“Do it. If you can, get ahold of the flower woman and let her know you did it. That’s your insurance policy. Tell her you’ve told a few people so she doesn’t try going after them too. Just keep your head down.”

With a thank you, the kid starts getting ready to book it out of the alley. Alvarez puts a hand up to stop him. “Hey, you can’t just leave your weapons here. I’m guessing you’re going to need them and besides, I don’t want some random person walking by to find a bunch of throwing knives.”

With an apology, the kid starts working to shove his many knives back into their slots. Watching him do so makes her cringe. His fingers practically dance between the handles. He thrusts them into their slots hard and fast. What if he’s even slightly off? He’ll end up skewering himself. His last step is to slide his satchel back over his shoulder. Once he’s done, he’s gone without another word.

Tate starts shaking his head once they’re alone. “I didn’t agree with that partner, just for the record. Vigilantes are dangerous. We have a chance to get one off the streets, we should do it.”

“Unless you have an idea to change the laws, that seems like a waste of time. Two more will just replace them. You know how many people want in on this thing?”

They get back in their car. Brandon looks at her with expectation, clearly hoping she’ll drive for a bit. Instead she makes her way to the passenger’s seat without a word. The drive back to the flower shop doesn’t take long. When they go to enter the warehouse door though, they find it’s sealed. The front is the same and pounding on either door does nothing. They’ve either cleared out or they’re pretending to have done so.

Kicking the door hard, Brandon puts his hands on his hips and starts pacing. “We should never have left this place. Or you should have gone after him and I should have stayed here.”

She doesn’t necessarily disagree but calming her partner’s more important than being right. “We got enough evidence to dig into this. We don’t need to get them tonight. We just need time. Well, that and a subpoena. Come on, we’ll head back to the station. Maybe we can get this pushed through quickly and still make it in there tonight.”

Part 1

Part 3