There were various postcodes known as the ‘red’ zones. Years ago the MCPS had had a grading system. It went green, blue, amber and red. Green was the cushy neighbourhoods. Everyone hated getting a green-shift. You were dealing with old ladies that thought they saw a funny looking fellow snooping around, usually turning out to be their cat or a loose garbage bag. It was what you got when you fancied a break, a little holiday without taking the hours off. After more than a week your brain was likely to slowly dribble out of your ears, no doubt trying to find something more interesting to do.
The blue-shift was, or at least it used to be, the standard core of police work. It represented 80% of police time. You’d be dealing with domestics, burglaries, missing children, traffic offences. Lots of traffic offences. It was what used to be normal police work, and still is with most neighbourhoods.
Amber, they were the tough districts. They were carefully rationed so no one had over their fair share. If you were on amber you got the dangerous jobs. It was where most of the rapes and murders happened. Robbery was so common people didn’t bother reporting it. You were likely to come across gangs. No one went around solo, always in pairs. No rookies. Sadly, the number of amber districts have increased year on year. These days they were the ones that took up the majority of the budget and officers.
Then, red. In the beginning, well before his time, red districts were almost a myth. There were a few near the Mexican border where the drug war spilled across, but none of them ever lasted more than a few weeks. They were ruthlessly stamped out.
Now there was a red postcode in every large city in the United States. Montreal was famous for its island. Red Island the police called it. The largest density of red postcodes in the northwest.
They didn’t take up any police time. The point was there is no red-shift. They were the areas too dangerous for anyone to enter routinely though sometimes there would be a new attempt to police it. There was a strong undercover contingent of the police that had a strange symbiotic relationship with the gangs they silently warred with to contain.
Oh, and the PR department… its constant war was trying to hide to the public just how bad it was. It helped that a lot of the people living in these areas weren’t registered. When they got murdered it didn’t show up in the official statistics. No one cared enough for it to get into the news.
So when Arthur got the call out details he was surprised. He’d assumed it was a mistake. A quick call to the supervisor confirmed that it wasn’t.
“Some fancy guy high up in the military. He’s dropping names, knows the chief, his little girl just called him in a bother.” Shit, when the people with power called in their favours… He hoped this wasn’t going to turn into a political minefield.
“Right,” He signalled to his team to get ready with a nod.
“Get in there and get out as soon as possible. We don’t want this guy bringing shit down on our heads, but don’t stay any more than you need to. We can’t afford a riot.” There was a quick silence. “And watch out for your men, it’s red for a reason.”
The dial tone filled his ear. Shit, when the super told you to be careful…
“Right lads, let’s get out there. Priority one is to get some high-ups’ kid out, we can worry about all else later. Stick to your training.”
* * *
The snow helped them, not much traffic – all the MCPF vans got fitted out with snow tires as soon as it hit winter.
The scene was eerily quiet when they approached. They knew the location from the GPS coordinates provided. There wasn’t a surrounding crowd like there usually is. The people around here knew when to steer clear. There would probably be the odd onlooker from windows and alley except the weather made visibility so poor… it was an advantage really. Arthur thanked whatever Gods there were for that. Less chance people would react violently to a police presence if they couldn’t see it.
He’d seen a lot in his time, and this one looked depressingly familiar. He counted five bodies, though two were moving and one had CPR being administrated by the only person who was standing.
No, he could hear crying – there was someone else, yes in the vehicle.
The van ground to a halt and his men got out and secured the area. He sent the two medics to take over the casualty. It was a girl, could be the one they were looking for.
He approached the woman, now relieved of her attempts at first aid.
“Ma’am, we need to get you out of here,” he said. They had a standard script for these scenarios, they roll-played them as new officers. Touch the victim on the elbow to reassure them. If they flinch away you have to be careful with them. She let him touch her, good.
“Alexis.” The woman looked towards the car. “She’s been hurt.”
“I’ll take care of it, would you go with this officer here back to the van?” He handed her over to Fred, he was good with people.
Right. This other girl. Probably the source of the crying, well if she was crying she couldn’t be hurt too badly.
The paramedics had already got the casualty laid out onto the stretcher and were taking her back to the van as quickly as they could – they had a lot of equipment back there. He couldn’t see any visible trauma and it was hard to tell one person’s blood from the another’s.
And now he had a chance to look at the bodies… some of them were really messed up. One’s face was completely mashed; one was bleeding from his neck – slowly crawling away. His men were surrounding them to deal with appropriately. He spotted a dislocated arm – the owner breathing in shallow breaths but seemed otherwise uninjured.
The most grisly was the guy with a knife sticking out of his eye. No one bothered to surround him. He wondered who’d done all the damage, it looked just like one gang had met another but the woman, and the girls, they suggested a robbery… or worse. His men had already started loading them into body bags or stretchers, whichever was appropriate. Lucky they brought two vans.
Follow the crying. He peered through the window. A girl. Small one, real skinny, sobbing quietly, “Hey.”
She turned, and the sobbing stopped. He nearly took a step back, the look she gave him was… Yeah, dangerous.
And her face… it was covered in blood. Had she bit her tongue or something? He tried to open the door but it was locked, so he reached through the window to pull open it form the inside.
She didn’t move, either away or towards him.
“Are you ok?” he asked. “We’re here to help.”
She just said a name, a girls. Maybe it was the casualty?
“She’d being looked after by the paramedics, we’re going to take her to the hospital. You need to come too.”
She looked at him, not responding. Alert, it seemed like she’d understood. After a moment of silence, her eyes looked him up and down. Uniform, badge tacked onto his flak jacket, gun at his hip then back to his eyes.
She nodded, but with empty eyes. Arthur stepped back so she could pull herself out of the car. He got a glimpse of her knuckles. They were split, bloody and broken – he’d seen it before in people after fights. She’d been in the thick of it.
He wasn’t sure he dared do the elbow-touch test.
Time to get the hell out of here and start on the paperwork.
* * *
“I sent you that autopsy report,” Greg said, taking a seat opposite him.
He looked up and then swiped his tablet to read it, then figured he might as well just ask Greg.
“Summarise?” He prompted. He’d only traipse up the four flights of stairs from the basement if he found it interesting.
“One beaten to death. His face was a real mess I can tell you that. The other stabbed in the eye so hard the knife got jammed in the skull. They weren’t the interesting part. I talked to the doctors, got an idea of the other injured. One had his arm almost torn off, but here.” He threw a lumpy blue object, Arthur fumbled to catch it. “That there is the mould of the teeth marks on one of their necks. Like, whoever it was tore a chunk out!”
Arthur turned it in his hands, studying it.
“Look at the size of it.” Greg said, impatient. “It’s like a child’s bite. Did you catch who did it? Freaked me out.”
That girl did it. “He was the attacker, I think the victim did this.”
“Some fucking victim.” Greg pushed himself up. “They picked the wrong fight.”
* * *
“Then she just went psycho! She fucking tore Baz’ throat out.” He sounded outraged, like it was an awful thing to do.
Which it was…
But by the accounts of the only reputable witness over 15, Baz, a convicted sex offender before he fled into a red district, was about to rape said minor and was threatening to sell her into some sort of sex slave ring. He’d have to question them on their contacts for that later.
He couldn’t help not feeling sorry for them. He’d come away with his life, which was more than some of his friends.
They’d have to wait before interviewing this Baz, he was undergoing surgery on his throat tomorrow…