Friday, December 09, 2011

Protect and Serve: Don't Need a Hero by Lena Austin

Protect and Serve: Don't Need a Hero
by Lena Austin

Cover art: Bryan Keller
ISBN: 978-1-60521-749-9
Genre(s): Futuristic, Paranormal, Humor & Satire
Theme(s): Shapeshifters, Men and Women in Uniform
Series: Protect and Serve
Length: Novella
Page Count: 61

When cat shifter Petra (aka Pete) becomes the victim of "friendly fire" during the apprehension of a bank robber, panther shifter cop Apollo Jones feels obligated to make sure she's okay. Pete's positive she doesn't need another hero in her life, and Apollo's out to prove her wrong.

 Name: Lt. Apollo Jones
Timestamp: 1934
Incident Date: August 17, 2027
Incident time logged as 0837
I finished my boiled eggs and tucked my lunch bag under the seat. It was my turn to drive, and I didn’t want the straps tangling in my feet if I had to get out in a hurry. “Jeff, if you don’t quit eating like that, you’re gonna be in the fat boy program on the force.”
Jeff Petoskey patted his slightly rounded belly and grinned sheepishly. “Ya think, Jonesy? Married life is making me soft.” He polished his new wedding band. He’d just come back from his honeymoon, and his uniform still fit a bit more snugly than usual. I’d given him the usual razzing about married life making him slow and fat that morning already, but he’s a good cop. He’d be back in shape in a day or two.
The Motorola radio squawked. Bank robbery in progress at the Bank and Trust just up the road from where we sat. Jeff and I glanced at each other. Something in my heart and mind said this was going to be ugly. Call it instinct. I didn’t have another word for it, and I still don’t.
Jeff slapped his collar mike. “546, we’re on it.” He threw the remains of his lunch into the bag and burped. “Let’s roll!”
I flipped on the lights and siren and hit the accelerator. Lunch break was over, and the old parking lot we’d been using as a stop was emptier than the dreams of the former owners.
I wove easily in and out of what little traffic still used the city streets. Out there in suburbia, it wasn’t so bad, but the inner city was quite literally turning into an urban jungle full of predators, who were slowly expanding out into the outer limits. Pretty soon, even our relatively quiet precinct would suffer the same fate and become abandoned by the law.
I personally think we should just wall in the inner city and hit it with a bomb. Any of the few remaining good citizens still living there would either have to take warning and flee or suffer the consequences. Either that, or it’s going to take superheroes, and I stopped believing in that kind of bullshit when I stopped reading comic books.
We drove into chaos. The radio went nuts trying to keep up with the calls, but the main points were clear. A lone robber, dressed in medieval armor, of all things, had managed to get out of the bank and was on the move.
A man in a businessman’s jumpsuit flagged us down from the left. He waved frantically toward a fast food joint. “Some sonovabitch in chain mail shot my car! He went that way!”
“Fuck me running!” Jeff called it in that the perp had been spotted heading into the Mickey-D’s on Beach and Kernan. Shit, on a Saturday morning, the place was likely packed with people stocking up on their carbs before heading to the beach.
I just cursed and hit the gas, ran over the curb, knocked down some old sago palms decorating the median between the businesses, and arrived first.
The place was crazy. People burst out of the doors in front of us, screaming and heading for the protection of their own vehicles or anywhere else they could. Most of them made it out of the parking lot at lightning speed.
In the confusion, three more police vehicles arrived, blocking off the exits. The design of the fast food joint’s landscape hemmed in all escapes with a fenced kiddy playground, streetlight poles, and a copse of large, decorative trees. The heat wasn’t so bad, but the trees still provided a barrier, if not shade. The perp was trapped.
Jeff opened his door and used the thing for a shield seconds before I jammed the car into park and did the same. Jeff barked into his collar mike, “Where is he? How hard can it be to find a guy in armor?”
“He’s in the gray Mercedes in the drive though! Window tinting makes it hard to see if he’s got hostages!” Was that Lt. Anders? Someone check his voice recording. Anyway, I thought it was Anders.
“I got a bead on him from the side!” I didn’t catch the names on the speakers. It’ll be recorded.
“I can’t see anyone in the passenger seat, nor in the back! I think they ran with the rest of the customers!”
Gunfire rang out. I’m fairly sure our dashcams and throat mikes caught the sound.
“Shit! He’s firing.” That was Cussler, I’m sure of it. He’s got a mouth like a trucker.
“Shots fired! Shots fired! Officer down!” Darcy. I think. She was Ander’s partner that day. Guess that was when Anders got his bullet.
“I see him!” Jeff fired once, but all he did was hit the windshield. The old glass spider-webbed, making it more difficult to see if anyone at all, even the perp, was in the car.
I shouted to my partner. “If you can see him, he can see you!”
Too late. A red-and-silver arm appeared out the window and fired.
Jeff cried out, and his face was covered in blood. He fell backward, out of sight. Over the sirens and gunfire, I couldn’t hear anything, but I remember I reported into my collar mike anyway. “Officer down! Repeat, officer down. 546!”
To say adrenaline raced through me was an understatement. Time slowed down, and I narrowed my focus. Two officers out of our dwindling force was bad enough. Blue took care of their own. I was pissed beyond belief. Jeff was a fucking newlywed who didn’t deserve to die.
Apparently, my fellow officers felt the same. The Mercedes became a target, then Swiss cheese. The windshield shattered, and the bank robber/cop-killer died in a barrage of hot lead.
One by one, the guns stopped firing.
In the silence that followed, I heard the worst sound in the world, and the one we all dreaded, coming from inside the Mercedes -- a child screaming for her mommy.

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