“Hammer One – All clear.”
“Hammer Two – We’re ready here.”
“Hammer Three – It’s business as usual here. We’re ready to go.”
Andy sighed. The new KenTech communications systems were crystal clear. All the field units reported in, one after another. Seven in all; a felicitous number. Six all clear signals so far. But something didn’t feel right. There were no false alarms, nothing. Just the normal runners wandering in and out of the drug factories they’d be striking. Business as usual.
And that made him worry.
“Ready for the all clear?” said Angela, taking one last look through the surveillance van’s monitors.
“Almost. Just want to…wait… There. Monitor three.” He punched up the camera watching the warehouse/drug factor’s rear. A runner dashed from a motorcycle inside, glancing nervously the whole way there as sweat poured from his forehead.
Every other runner they’d seen that evening was calm and collected. They walked into the factories casually, as if it was another day on the dock. Not this one. This one was panicked.
“Oh, Hell. We’ve been blown.” Andy punched up all the other teams. The runner was coming to warn the factory they were on their way. “All units, this is Hammer 7. Move in, now. Repeat, move in now!”
Two years. That was how long they had trained and prepared for that moment. Two years of training, of coordination with SWAT, of evidence collection and preparation. Two years of waiting ended at that moment. They boiled out of their positions and headed for the entrances. Battering rams left the doors in splinters and they poured in, guns raised.
“GCPD Vice! You’re under arrest! Down on the ground NOW!” he bellowed. The factory hidden inside the warehouse dissolved into chaos. Runners, lab technicians, packers, everyone ran in different directions as police in tactical armor surrounded them.
Then the gunfire began. Andy raised his AR-15 and chose his targets. Ages ago, his father told him about the very first fire fight he’d experienced in Vietnam. Time slowed and a single minute became a lifetime. He could see every bullet as it moved through the air. Each shot became a cannon’s roar.
His father’s words sunk in as factory’s muscle picked up their automatic rifles and began firing. The world slowed, and he had an eternity to aim and fire, selecting his targets with care.
And he spotted them. The runner…and Marco “The Lover” Panicelli, one of Begnini’s underbosses who oversaw daily production and distribution. Marco was the key to linking the ground level operations to Begnini’s bigger network.
“On the ground, now!” he yelled. The runner didn’t listen, whipping out a pistol. Marco just ran. Andy took down the runner with the last two rounds from his rifle, and bolted after Begnini’s underboss, through the back stocks of chemicals used to process their new drugs.
“Dammit, Panicelli, don’t make me shoot you.” He needed Marco unhurt. That put his sidearm and the rifle out of his means. He slung his rifle, pulled his nightstick free, and ran. Marco tried dodging through a forest of gas canisters. Andy vaulted over one of the barrels and delivered a flying kick to the fleeing gangster’s chest.
Marco tumbled against the canisters, rolling towards one of the warehouse windows. He reached for his pistol. Andy knocked it into the air with his nightstick, then smacked it across the room like a hurling ball. “Give it up, Panicelli.”
Panicelli said something very rude in Italian and tried to punch him. Twice. Andy sighed, blocked both punches, then boxed him one in the stomach before pinning him against a canister with his foot. By the neck. “Well?”
Panicelli raised his hands. Andy dropped his foot but kept the night stick tip against the mobster as he unslung his cuffs. “You have the right to remain silent. Everything you say—”
It was like his father said. The world slowed. The warehouse window shattered and a single bullet flew through the glass, punching through Marco “The Lover” Panicelli’s skull…and the canister behind him. Metal shrapnel and red gas sprayed from the shattered container.
Crimson covered Andy’s senses. He felt chunks of metal punch into his shoulder and leg. As he spun around, through the broken window he saw a small glimmer on a distant building. Sniper…
His lungs and wounds burned. Pain filled his senses. And then, there was blackness.