“This way,” Jamal called. Chris followed the big teen through the warehouse. They’d kicked open a locked door when the gunfight broke out. With no way of knowing which side was winning, and with sirens going off heralding the arrival of the cops, they decided to make a break for it through the building.
“Get away from the window, man!” Chris yanked on Jamal’s hoodie pulling him to safety as bullets punched through the thick glass. The boys dropped to the ground and crawled deeper into the dark building.
“What about Lamar?”
Chris shook his head. “Dude, screw Lamar, screw the Kings and the Pinoy and whoever else. Let’s just get outta here!”
He ducked low and hustled in the shadows between shelves stacked with boxes. Jamal chased him. “Where you goin’ man?”
“Tryin’ to find a safe spot to hide.” Chris pulled out his cellphone and tried to get a signal. There wasn’t anything Mom could do, but she was close and he was desperate.
The sound of glass shattering and distorted shouts echoed across the wide warehouse. Jamal grabbed Chris’s arm. “They comin’ in here for us. No witnesses. Or maybe they think we got some of the Kings’ product they can steal. Either way, ain’t safe here. We gotta leave.” He rose and looked around the dim room.
“Exit light that way.” Jamal tugged Chris and ran.
Chris followed, panicked, furious at Jamal. Jesus, let him figure out how stupid this is so he gets out of it for good.
They ran up a flight of stairs and found the fire escape door. Shouts below spurred them on. Jamal shoulder-checked the door and it burst open, leading to a wrought-iron walkway and railing that stretched around the building. Sudden sunlight blinded the teens.
Chris ducked through the doorway and squinted. A siren warbled nearby. Frequent gunshots snapped on the other side of the warehouse. Chris held up his hand—clutching the phone—to block the brightness. He spotted a ladder to the ground at the far end of the balcony. “Jamal, follow me, there’s a way down.”
He hopped down onto the second rung and hooked his feet on either side, hoping the move worked like in the movies.
It almost did.
Chris hit hard, crumpling on the ground next to the ladder. Someone shouted from the street, but Chris couldn’t make out the voice through the pain. He struggled onto a knee and thrust his hands up when he saw the flashing lights of a cop car.
The gunman in the alley fired three shots at the other gang further down. Mason took aim on the gunman’s cover. Pop up again, punk. See what happens.
The radio chirped inside the cruiser. “Ambulance ETA three minutes. Backup enroute. Car Seventeen, say status.”
Something thumped to Mason’s left side.
Mason spun, staying behind the cover of his cruiser door, pistol ready. A thin-frame teenage suspect lay on the ground next to the fire escape ladder. “Freeze!” His voice squeaked at the end of the full-throated roar.
Another one—a bigger guy—ran along the balcony, heading for the ladder down.
The thin guy rose to one knee and extended his hands toward Mason. Something black in his right hand caught the light.
Gun! Mason double-tapped the trigger.
The teenager fell, his weapon scraping across the concrete. His partner hit the ground at the bottom of the ladder then dropped to his knees next to the suspect Mason shot.
“Oh Jesus! Chris!”
Mason did a double-take at hearing his name, but the chaos and panic drove the thought away. Training kicked in. Gain control of the situation. Hunkered down behind the door, Mason took aim and shouted. “Hands behind your head! Get down on your knees!”
He is already.
The new suspect complied. But his eyes seethed and his muscular body shook with anger. He swore at Mason. “You shot a kid! He done nothin’ wrong.”
More gunfire from the alley. A scream.
Mason kept his weapon trained on the kneeling suspect, tuning out the tirade. He took quick glances checking for the gunman in the alley.
A body slumped against the bloodstained wall behind the dumpster.
Tires screeched in the distance and an engine roared. Mason hopped to his feet and ran to the car where Kaz lay. He pointed his gun down the alley and caught sight of two suspects sprinting from the far side of the warehouse, fleeing on foot.
Mason almost gave pursuit, but Kazsinski groaned. Those guys are long gone, and my partner needs me. “Kaz, hang in there, man. Ambulance is coming.”
He moved back toward the cruiser to check on the subdued suspect. You never actually subdued him, idiot. The big guy was gone.
Mason checked for threats, found none, and ducked into the cruiser. He snagged the radio and called in. “Car One Seven status: Shots fired, officer wounded. Two armed suspects fleeing east on foot, one vehicle fleeing scene.”
The radio chirped and the female voice replied, sounding relieved. “Good to hear you, Car One Seven. Ambulance should be there any second.”
Mason heard the sirens approaching.
“How many you got in need of medical attention?”
“At least four suspects wounded in gunfight. Plus two armed suspects neutralized by responding officers.”
He looked over the scene to confirm his facts. One gunman that had Mason pinned down, taken out by the rival gang. At least two bodies at the other end of the alley, probably shot early in the fight. The dead guy by the driver’s side door of the black sedan. The gunman Kaz took out. And the thin guy Mason shot, who lay unmoving on the concrete…
Next to a black smartphone, scuffed and cracked. That’s no weapon.
Mason stared at the device. Oh my God oh my God oh my God.
He tried taking deep breaths to slow his panicked heartbeat. What do I do? “Oh God, Kaz… what do I do?”
Be courageous. Own up when you’ve done wrong.
His voice cracked as he keyed the mic. “HQ, Car Seventeen, correction. Unarmed possible civilian shot on scene by responding officer. Need that ambulance stat.”
The handset thunked in the floor of the cruiser, next to his discarded body cam. Mason scrambled to the kid on the ground, clamping a hand over each bullet wound to staunch the blood flow. Through tears, he barely saw the medics rushing toward Kaz and screamed to get their attention.
“Civilian down over here, I need help!”
Author’s note: Thanks for reading this far, but the novel is really about the aftermath. If you like what you’ve previewed, you can find Not to the Swift at my Amazon author page here.