tore holes right through the sheriff's van parked in the center of the street. Then the gunman ducked back out of sight. Two sheriff's air units and a TV news chopper added to the wall of noise as they circled relentlessly overhead. I rolled out low from the Acura, hung my badge case open on my jacket pocket, grabbed my Beretta and ran toward the sheriff's vans and the Suburban TCV parked in a semicircle in the middle of the cul-de-sac.

The shooter's house was a phony Georgian with fake trim and Doric columns. Sprawled across the threshold of the front door was a uniformed deputy. He wasn't moving. But I recognized those shoulders, that short black hair. It was Emo Rojas. Flat on his face, lying in the vertical coffin.

Chapter 2


As I approached I heard a uniformed sheriff's captain screaming into his cell phone.

'The shit just jumped off! We got an active shooter and a deputy down. I need an incident commander and a Special Enforcement Bureau team on site now! There's an SRT unit here, but they're pinned down across the street. They're not on our frequency, so I can't communicate with them.'

Just then, a four-vehicle sheriff's SEB convoy rolled in, sirens wailing, flashers on. The SWAT van squealed to a stop near the three sheriff's vehicles already parked in the center of the cul-de-sac. Two deputy cars and an armored rescue vehicle, an ARV, followed. I had done some cross-training with the LASD at their facility in Spring Ranch, so I knew how they were set up. Special Weapons Teams were comprised of a team leader, usually a sergeant, the second in command was a scout, who did the onsite tactical operation plan. A back-up scout assisted him. The fourth man stayed at the truck to gather intelligence. The fifth and sixth men were responsible for equipment. There were two snipers, called long guns. The weapon of choice for the long guns was a Tango 51 or its predecessor, the 40-X. Both rifles fired armor-piercing.308s. Each long gun had a spotter with him to help isolate targets and to give him tactical support and cover.

The team leader unlocked the SWAT van and the long guns swarmed inside to grab their weapons while the backup scout started passing out flash-bang grenades.

The fourth man opened the office on the side of the truck where the incident board and the weapons team roster hung. He pulled out a graphed Lucite desktop, grabbed a piece of paper, and started to diagram the house and the cul-de-sac, eyeballing it from where he stood, doing a rough but reasonably accurate layout, including all the vehicles parked on the street.

'Get in touch with the city planning office and see if you can get somebody to fax us the plans of this house,' the fourth man said to the fifth.

Just then the barricaded suspect popped up again in an upstairs window, firing his AK-47. From where I was hiding, it looked like the weapon held a hundred-round drum mag. The slugs started tearing up the police cars out front and blowing holes in the brick walls where deputies were proned out trying to take cover.

The team leader grabbed his shoulder mike. 'All deputies on this channel, get back! You aren't safe. This guy's using lead core rounds. You can't hide behind walls or car doors. Get behind a house, or at least find an engine block.'

He opened an ammo box and started handing out.308 mags. His two long rifles and spotters jammed the clips home, then deployed quickly, running low, looking for a good place to set up shop. I ran up to the SWAT van, took cover, then glanced at the team roster clipped to the door. This was the Gray team. The team leader, Sergeant Scott Cook; scout, Rick Manos; first long gun, Gary Nightingale; and spotter, Michael Nightingale. Brothers? As I was reading the board the fourth man spun me roughly around.

'Who the fuck are you, Chester?'

'Scully. LAPD.'

'Get lost. This ain't your rodeo.'

I held up my Beretta. 'This guy's in Kevlar. My nines are useless. Can I borrow some Teflon rounds?'

'Shit,' he said, but turned, grabbed a box, and tossed it to me. 'Stay behind something dense. Those lead cores he's using are brutal.' 'Right.'

I moved away and ducked down behind the engine compartment of a sheriff's car. The deputies pinned behind the brick wall were trying to retreat, but every thirty seconds or so the shooter would appear in another window of his house and start firing. His twenty-round bursts tore up everything they hit. I knelt and thumbed the useless, standard 9 mm Winchesters out of my clip, then started feeding in the Teflon mag rounds. Once I had all thirteen loaded, I slammed the clip home, chambered the gun, then peeked up over the hood of the car. Emo was still up on the porch. It didn't look like he'd moved at all. Nobody had the stones to try and go up there. If you made a run and timed it wrong, it was pretty much suicide. You were gonna get chopped in half by that AK.

I told myself that even though Emo wasn't moving, it didn't mean he was dead.

Ten yards away I spotted Sonny Lopez crouched down behind a squad car with another deputy. Both held shotguns at port arms. Their Ithacas were useless in this situation, and you could tell from their strained expressions that they knew it. I moved up from behind and tapped Sonny on the shoulder.

He jerked around to look at me. His face was pulled tight. 'Scully, whatta you doin' here?'

'Not to be a critic, but shouldn't we go get our guy off the porch?'

'Can't. The perp's got armor-piercing shit. He's blowing holes right through car doors. We're calling for more backup.'

'Why doesn't somebody get him on a cell phone, try and cool this down?'

'The lieutenant tried talking to him. Guy won't come out. An incident commander's on his way. Captain Matthews wants to sit tight and wait for him.'

Then, in an attempt to explain why all these cops were on their faces eating dirt, Sonny added, 'This asshole's nuts,' which was more or less obvious.

'Look, that's Emo Rojas up there, right?' I said.

'You know him?'

'Yeah. If we could get one of those two SWAT teams to work the right side of the house, maybe they could draw the guy over there and you and I could make a run and pull Emo off the porch.'

'You outta your mind?' Lopez said.

'Probably,' I answered. 'Wanta try it?'

He thought about it for a moment, looked skeptically toward the house.

Just then the shooter popped up again. He was upstairs this time, and let go with a five-second burst, aiming at the squad car we were hiding behind. The black and white rocked hard with the impact from a stream of lead that sliced through the door panels like they were plywood. Windshield glass and side mirrors shattered and flew. Then the man ducked back down. It seemed to help Sonny make up his mind.

'Let's go,' he said hotly. 'Lemme get my Loo to sign off on it.' He moved off to find his lieutenant.

There was walkie-talkie madness all around me. People screaming, shouting counter-instructions, stepping on each others' transmissions. While all this was happening, I decided if I was going to try to get Emo off that porch, I was going to need some better intel. I looked up and saw that there were now three news helicopters swirling overhead. Pinned down, I couldn't really risk rising up to case the situation. I looked behind me. The neighbors' houses across the street had all been evacuated. I waited until the shooter popped up and greased off another burst. After he finished I sprinted across the street to the nearest house. Luckily, the front door had been left ajar. I hit the front porch, crossed it in two steps, and kicked the door wide, entering the house.

I ran through the downstairs and collected two small portable TVs, one in the kitchen and one in the office. Then, carrying one in each arm, I ran through an Early American-style living room into the den, where I found a big-screen TV. I turned it on and plugged in the two portables. Every thirty seconds or so, the AK cut loose out front. Bullets whined and ricocheted in a deadly concert of tortured metal. I couldn't hook up all three sets to cable, but I was able to pick up the local news stations with the rabbit ears on the portables. I flipped around the channels, stopping at three different stations that were carrying the shootout. KTLA had a bird up. So did KTTV and KNBC. For the first time, I could see the entire scene.

The sheriffs had the house completely surrounded, front and back. The long lenses from the news cameras

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