Ed Note: We hope you enjoy the following selection from the second novel by Lt. Dan Marcou. We'll continue to add more book excerpts — officer-authored fiction, autobiographies, analysis, and other works from every corner of the ever-expanding PoliceOne library.
McCarthy buttoned his black tactical uniform shirt over his level two second-chance vest. The bullet resistant body armor was one of the most expensive pieces of equipment that the SWAT tactical operator wears, but all cops know it is “cheaper than a funeral.” McCarthy tied in his bloused bottoms of his black tactical pants at the bottom and strapped on his belt. He adjusted each set of handcuffs and replaced each back into its case. He checked his TASER, did a spark test, and replaced it in its holster, cross draw, opposite his firearm. Dan shook his pepper spray and placed it back in the holder. McCarthy tied his tactical shoes and strapped his gas mask holder securely to his left leg. McCarthy made sure all of his magazines were fully loaded with duty rounds and turned them properly in each magazine pouch to allow for quick access under stress. He checked his baton and secured the flap over it to keep it in place.
McCarthy had a routine that was anything but routine. He went through it when time permitted. Dan snapped his helmet and double checked all of his equipment. He checked to make sure his police markings and badge patch were clearly visible on his uniform. Tonight the black would be coming in handy because they would be hitting the target house just before dawn.
La Claire Police Department had a very well trained and well equipped SWAT team. Like most agencies, its members held jobs all over the department. Even some larger agencies discovered that officers who did nothing but SWAT became stale waiting for the “Big Call.” Smaller agencies could not afford having a large contingent of officers doing nothing but SWAT, so as a practical matter SWAT team members came from the patrol division, the detective division, administration, community services, and even school liaison officers.
McCarthy dropped to a knee and closed his eyes, quietly alone in the locker room and said his prayer, “Thank you, God, for my life, for my family, and for my wife. May I do my best until I’m laid to rest. Amen.” McCarthy rarely asked for anything in his prayers. He figured the big guy upstairs had already done so much for him. He had a beautiful wife, his son Nate, who was his buddy, and his darling little dawdler Christa. His daughter Christa took her time with everything and always had a smile on her face. He called her his darling dawdler because she was always the first one in with a smile and the last one out, still smiling. McCarthy already felt blessed with all that he had. People had tried to kill him on more than one occasion, and he had survived. If that happens to anyone and they really give it some thought, it gives one perspective.
McCarthy then rose from his silent prayer and he reached for his cell phone. He called his wife, Victoria. “Hello, Hon.”
“Hi, Sweetheart. Is everything OK?” asked Victoria in a sleepy voice just wrested from a dream. McCarthy pictured her eyes half filled with sleep, her tousled blonde hair and her warmth and softness. You could not separate the two. She was always so warm, so soft, so… “Honey, are you still there?”
“Sorry, Vic, I am going to be late today. I won’t be able to take the kids to school.” McCarthy said.
“What’s up? Late arrest? Reports? SWAT?” queried Victoria.
“SWAT. We have a warrant. Love you, Honey. I will be home as soon as I can.” McCarthy loved what he was doing, but he was wishing he was home in bed after hearing Victoria’s voice. He loved her phone voice. It was friendly, loving, and sensual. Her phone voice always made him want to be with her when he heard it. Then she said it. She did not know she was part of his mental survival readiness. “I love you. Be careful, Sweetheart.”
McCarthy then answered mentally, “Bad guys better be careful.” It was McCarthy’s ritual to get his mind prepared for where his body was about to take him. She would say, “I love you. Be careful,” before every shift no matter how she felt. She would not let him go out of the house without telling him to be careful.
McCarthy had learned this preparedness ritual from Sergeant Dave Compton, who had practiced it with his wife. Sergeant Compton had recently lost his wife of thirty years to cancer. McCarthy recognized Compton to be the strongest man he knew because Sergeant Dave Compton loved his wife more than life itself, and when he returned to work after his funeral leave, there was absolutely no change in his demeanor. It was unusual. It was uncanny. It was almost unsettling. That was Dave Compton though. The strongest man McCarthy ever had met. Except for the dusting of gray in his dark hair, Compton looked just like superman, without a cape.
Dan McCarthy closed his eyes and hung up the phone. He took a breath in through his nose and held it a moment. He then breathed out through his mouth pushing the breath out with the muscles of his abdomen. He placed his black Kevlar helmet on his head and adjusted the strap.
McCarthy then started his stretching routine. Calls on the street did not allow time for officers to stretch before things got physical. Cops get into foot chases in full gear. They get involved in full contact combat, even sometimes make flying tackles, and never get a chance to stretch first.
Everyone knows bullets sometimes kill cops, but very few know how many die from heart attacks during very physical activities. Many more cops are put out of business by back injuries doing things that pro football players, wrestlers, and boxers do, except with no protective equipment and no time to warm up. McCarthy liked to stretch before SWAT calls when time permitted. He ended his stretching with some controlled front and side kicks into mid air. He was mentally kicking an imaginary person his own size in front of him. He would start his kicks with a slow smooth precision and build power, with each practice kick.
The door to the locker room swung open just as McCarthy had finished his last front kick and set it down “McCarthy! Did you take your battle piss?” inquired Sergeant Compton as he entered in full gear. Compton was the officer in charge of the SWAT team. When the team was formed, the mayor said he did not want the SWAT team called SWAT because it was “too harsh sounding.” In a world where freedom of speech has been quashed by the term politically correct, the people in that world have become obsessed with inventing new terms that sound nicer than old terms. Governments and businesses pay individuals and committees fortunes to think of new words to call old items, ideas, concepts.
In fact, a “new idea” with the mayor was, as the mayor would call it, “a synergistic thing and thinking out of the box.” Thinking out of the box was the practice of the brilliant in the eyes of the mayor.
The mayor asked the officers present for alternative names for the team other than SWAT. He invited them to, “Think out of the box. Do not have your minds chained by convention. Think out of the box,” the mayor repeated.
Compton immediately responded, “Your honor, while thinking out of the box, I have thought up a new name for the SWAT team. Your honor, how about we call it the Fast Action Response Team.”
The mayor smiled at such a quick and sincere response, which obviously showed at least one person present was a true modern professional capable of thinking out of the box. At least one person present agreed with him on this issue that called for a certain amount of political correctness. “Good idea. The Fast Action Response Team that would be…”
“The FART team, your honor,” said Captain Hale, who was head of community services and a master of politically correct speech with everyone except officers, those below him in rank. Hale cast a truly disdainful look in the direction of Sergeant Compton. “This was an apparent attempt at humor by Sergeant Compton. Sergeant Compton, a good joke requires proper timing and this is poor timing for humor such as this,” lectured Hale in his most condescending tone he could muster.
“Respectfully, sir,” followed up Compton, “You can call a fart perfume, and it is still a fart. You can call a SWAT team a boy choir, but it will always be a SWAT team and everyone will know it. Why not just call it that? There is a time for politically correct semantics, and I do not feel that the naming of a SWAT team is the time to be politically correct.”
Eventually Compton’s point was made and the team was called The La Claire Police Special Weapons and Tactics Team. It was an example of why Compton would always be a sergeant. He was honest, and most politicians cannot handle the truth. There are politicians in politics. There are politicians in police departments. Compton was too honest for the politicians inside and outside the department.
Sergeant David Compton would remain a sergeant, and the officers would be the benefactors of Compton’s career “stagnancy” as some would put it. Compton did not call it that. He would always say, “Find a job you love and you never have to work another day in your life.” Compton loved police work, and his affliction was contagious. He knew that in McCarthy he had found another carrier of that enthusiasm.
“Battle piss? No, Sergeant, I did not.” answered McCarthy, already heading down the hall. When time permitted, Compton always recommended taking a “battle piss.” Once the entry was successfully made, it would be a long time before anyone would have a chance to use the bathroom if things went well. If things did not go well, no one wanted to get shot with a full bladder. It increased the possibility of a life-threatening infection. Compton was a Marine who had been to war in Vietnam. He was a warrior who had lost friends who had survived the battle wounded but had died later from infection. It was all a part of his “prepare for the worst and hope for the best” philosophy, which he practiced on a daily basis. This philosophy was always demonstrated by Compton but especially showed prior to the SWAT team rolling.
When McCarthy returned to the briefing room, Compton began speaking. He was obviously waiting for McCarthy’s return, but he made no mention of it. Compton was always careful not to get a laugh at someone else’s expense. He then began as McCarthy seated himself. “We are looking for this man,” Compton had put together a PowerPoint presentation on the pre-dawn raid, and a picture of a ruddy-faced felon flashed on the screen, “Harley David Slade. He hates the government, he hates the courts, and he hates us. He will have a weapon within reach wherever he is in his house.” Compton advanced the PowerPoint to a screen showing a run-down, white two-story home that was poorly maintained. “It’s early. We want to hit the door at 5:58 AM so we catch him the way I like to catch them.” He turned to Stammos as if the briefing was rehearsed.
“Still takin’ his mornin’ nap and before he has taken his mornin’ crap,” answered Stammos. McCarthy looked at Stammos and Stammos acknowledged the glance with a wink.
Stammos was one of the SWAT team’s team leaders. On this call out, he made the plan and now would give the plan to the team. He stepped forward and continued.
“We will take two marked units for possible pursuit and later for transport. The SWAT unmarked van will contain the entry team. Officer Shepherd will be driving. Stand up, will you, Shep. Officer Shepherd is the newest member of our department. He is in field training.”
Shepherd hesitated, stood up, and proudly smiled.
“At least this one is old enough to shave,” commented Officer Gary Carpenter, who was sitting here on this day thanks to the new technology of Kevlar in his Second Chance Vest and the age-old warrior spirit. He had been shot through the arm and into his chest by a 20-gauge slug several years earlier. Although he was knocked down, he stood himself up again. Carpenter was referring to the heavy “five o’clock shadow” on Shepherd’s face. His beard grew fast, thick, and black. It gave the rookie the grizzled look of a veteran “You got it!” We will stop the transport on 1200 Oak. There is a stone wall and bushes, and we will be able to approach unseen. There are no lookouts and no visible cameras. You guys on the perimeter will stack first and separate here, cutting through the yard at 1215 Oak. The entry team will hit the door here. Dooley will breach after what, Dooley?”
“After I check the door first,” responded Officer Dooley. “Opening an unlocked door is faster and quieter than any breaching device yet invented.”
Stammos continued, smiling at Dooley’s answer, “Dooley will breach, and then we announce. This is a no-knock warrant because Slade is known to be armed. After Dooley, it will be Brockman with the shield, Carpenter with the Benelli, Stammos, that’s me,” said Stammos looking at the name patch on his tactical uniform, “with the MP5, and, McCarthy, you will be with your hand gun and will handle anything physical that does not rise to deadly force. You will be the hands-free guy taking all comers.”
McCarthy listened to Stammos’ briefing as he subconsciously checked his equipment again. He checked his radio and made sure it was on the SWAT channel. 911 Dispatch had designated a dispatcher assigned to this operation.
“The SWAT van will park, and the entry team will stage here and get into the stack, while the marked units will park here and here,” Stammos used the laser pointer on a schematic of Slade’s house and neighborhood. You will arrive precisely at the moment that the team calls out moving. One officer from each marked unit will approach here to cover the perimeter, and one will stay with the marked unit in the event that we have a pursuit. I want Hartley and Lusk behind the wheel. You two will handle negotiations if it turns into a breach and hold stand-off. Did you load your gear?” asked Stammos.
“I have enough equipment to get us started quickly if we need,” answered Hartley.
“Questions?” asked Stammos. He was met with the tense silence of a pride of lions who were about to pounce on their unsuspecting prey.
“Ok, let’s mount up and get ready to roll. You know what day it is today, guys?” asked Compton. There was no answer. “It’s St. Crispin’s day. October 25,” said Compton to a room full of blank stares.
“What the fuck… St. Ritz Cracker Day. Who the fuck… what is that?” asked Brockman, who sounded genuinely puzzled. McCarthy could hardly recognize Brockman’s voice devoid of sarcasm.
“On October 25 in 1415, a badly outnumbered group of English knights defeated a much larger French army on the fields of Agincourt. The battle was immortalized in a speech from a Shakespeare play, Henry the Fifth. You read Shakespeare, don’t you, Brockman?” asked Compton.
“I once had a pork sandwich made from a pig named Hammmmlet!” answered Brockman, his voice once again recognizable, generously laced with sarcasm.
“Anyway,” continued Compton, “King Henry V gave a speech before the battle. Many of his knights wore black armor just like you guys. He said to them,
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.”
“I think of that speech often. It says because we risk what is near and dear to us and count on each other, it makes our bond special. We do not have to bleed today to be brothers. Let’s stay safe together. Let’s say our SWAT prayer.” Everyone bowed their heads. “Whether we are five or ten, good women and men, and we can count on each other to come back again, and one more thing, good God,” Compton paused and as one they all ended the prayer with the volume and intensity of any SWAT team at prayer, “Amen.”
“Let’s roll!” shouted everyone. They moved deliberately and expertly exactly to where they needed to be. A well-oiled SWAT team is like a macho ballet in motion. It is a highly trained, highly motivated group of modern knights. Make no mistake about it. The knights of old were the policeman of their time. The policemen and policewomen of modern day are the knights of today. The tactical operators are in top physical condition and the most highly trained of all police officers. Their movements are practiced so often together as a team they appear choreographed.
The vehicles pulled out of the police ramp, and Compton radioed dispatch, “Dispatch we are 10-76 (en route).” Dispatch was already aware of the location the team was headed. An ambulance was standing by at a location close to the scene to allow for a quick response if needed. All other units on the street could not help but listen to the SWAT channel. They knew the team was going out. You could not miss the activity at the station. There was a tension that could be felt, but not explained, by every officer listening to the radio, whether they were in the SWAT van approaching the target or in a squad working a beat.
Shepherd pulled silently up to the spot where he had been directed to stop. He hit his mark perfectly. The team exited at the staging area silently and stacked in a column perfectly as directed by Compton with a thumb up. The last man in the stack tapped up the line, and when Dooley received the tap, he adjusted the “Thunder-shock 2000” in his two hands and tightened the grip. The Thunder-shock 2000 was his battering ram of choice. It was his ram. It was his favorite ram. Dooley moved and the rest of the stack followed, quickly, quietly, smoothly, as if they were attached by some unseen cord.
The approach to the house was like a ride at Seven Flags. It started slowly and sped up click———click——click——click—click—click–click-click.
As they reached the sidewalk leading to the door, every member of the entry team could smell the marijuana. It was as plain to them as smelling the onions on the roadway beside a large onion field just before harvest. “Wow, the mother-lode,” thought McCarthy. “The mother-lode!” Click—click–click-clickclick!
Harley David Slade was awake. He did not sleep much. Morning was the time he watered his plants. The house was not just Harley David Slade’s home. It was his greenhouse. It was his place of business. He did not make sales from his house. In this house he grew the plants, dried the plants, separated the seeds, and weighed and bagged the plants. Each of these functions was done as a separate operation in a separate room.
Harley David Slade was a successful businessman, in his point of view. He had been the child of a vagabond biker, whose only legacy was to name his son after his favorite and only possession. Harley David Slade was named after his father’s Harley Davidson motorcycle. Slade did not know his father and had never met him. The name was unique just like Harley David Slade. Harley liked his name. It was one of the few things in life he liked.
Slade’s mother was a seventies’ flower child, who also passed on a legacy to Harley. She passed on her love of “the plant,” as she called it. She never liked to refer to it as weed because she felt marijuana was not a weed. She would say, “A weed is an unwanted plant that is ugly and serves no purpose.” She would say, “Marijuana was a plant, which was a gift from God with powerful healing qualities. We have a God-given right to smoke the plant.” Slade’s mother felt the government illegally kept marijuana from the masses because it was afraid that the people would live up to their potential and realize there would be a perfect world if there were no governments. Her legacy to her son was a love of “the plant” and a hate for the government.
Nearly the entire house was used for the manufacture of “the plant.” Harley ate in the kitchen and slept in the a corner of the living room in the midst of his product. He was not sleeping now though. The voice had awakened him again.
Slade was a deep thinker and a dark dreamer. He was the proverbial “loner.” Harley had smoked marijuana all his life. His mother smoked it while she was nursing him, and he had no memory of a life without marijuana in it. It entertained him as a youth, and now it soothed him as a mentally tortured adult. Harley was certain without it, his dark dreams would turn into a horrific reality, which both scared him and intrigued him. He wore his paranoia on his sleeve. A simple, “Good morning,” from a passing stranger on the street would go unanswered and be met with a stare of puzzlement. Slade would spend the rest of the day pondering the innocent stranger’s meaning, motive, and next move.
Harley David Slade was a dangerous man. He knew it. The La Claire police knew it, but for some reason very few others could see it. He quietly maneuvered about the world barely noticed. If anyone would ask, “What’s the deal with Slade?” The answer would be, “He’s quiet. He’s a loner. He doesn’t say much. You hardly notice he’s around. He’s the perfect neighbor.” To some, the perfect neighbor is someone they rarely see and never hear. If that was true, then Slade was, indeed, the perfect neighbor.
If not for his marijuana, he would have no world. He grew it to smoke it. He sold it to grow it. He cleaned up a strip joint after hours and hung at its bar nearly every evening. The joint’s name was RUMPlestiltzkin’s on the south end of River Street. It was affectionately called “The Rump” for short. At a glance, Slade did not fit in, but then again, he never fit in anywhere. He had no desire to fit in anywhere. He was there nearly every day from about 6:00 PM to close. He would help the bartender close up, and then he would clean up.
Slade was paid to clean up, but that is not how he paid for his weapons, house, car, and van. The Rump was where he quietly sold his product. No one gave Harley a second thought. He was good for the Rump’s business because he had a high quality product. He became a fixture at the bar. At six feet three inches, 215 pounds, he was a rather imposing fixture. He wore cowboy boots, blue jeans, and an army jacket whether he was inside or out, winter or summer. His dope was beyond good. It was beyond real good. It had a great, fast, and pleasantly long-lasting high.
When the drug investigator Detective Sergeant Brickson tested the marijuana that his informant bought from Harley David Slade, he popped the second ampoule in the field test packet and yelled, “Bam! This is some quality shit!” The clear liquid in the plastic packet exploded into a bright violet instantly. The THC, which is the magic potion inside marijuana, heavily occupied Slade’s product. “That’s what I’m talking about,” shouted Brickson to his partner Jefferson. “This warrants a warrant!” exclaimed Brickson.
On this morning, Harley had just gotten home after cleaning the bar, and he was tending his hybrid cannabis plants. Slade’s plants were the most important living things he cared for in his dreary life. He nurtured them, talked with them, and shared his home with them. He was closer to them than any human.
There was one human that was worthy of his attention. In the world inside his mind, he did have a girlfriend of sorts. Darla Darling was the moniker she worked under. It most probably was not her given name. Darla was one of the strippers at the Rump. This was the perfect relationship for both Harley and Darla. Harley worshipped Darla from the seat next to the stage as she danced, kicked, twirled, and disrobed at the Rump. Darla did not know she was Harley’s girl any more than Harley knew that he had just sold a quantity of his product to a police informant. Harley similarly did not know his simple life was about to be drastically altered.
Click—click–click-clickclickclick… Smash! Dooley hit the sweet spot on the front door with his Thunder-shock 2000. He had wielded the ram so efficiently that it had “key to the city” painted across its length. “Police! Search warrant! Down! Down! Down!” Every member of the team shouted in unison as it filed through the door and poured into the house. It was all you could hear up and down the entire street. It jarred every neighbor awake for one square block.
Slade froze for one interminably long second as the team members thought, “What next?”
“Police! Get down now!” ordered Stammos with the menacing MP5 submachine gun pointed at Slade. The LASER sight was in the dead center of Slade’s forehead. In a blink, Slade spun and ran down a hallway. He disappeared as he pivoted into a bathroom, and when he was safely inside the bathroom, he slammed and locked the door. Stammos and McCarthy followed but backed off when they heard a shotgun round being cycled by a pump action into the chamber of a 12-gauge shotgun. Stammos positioned himself at the corner by the entrance of the hallway. He covered the door, motioned a hold for the rest of the team, and shouted loudly, “Gun!” Stammos thought, “Who the fuck keeps a shotgun in their bathroom?”
Randy signaled silently for the shield man to bring the shield forward. Brockman came forward and positioned himself at the corner of the hallway, and Stammos nestled himself behind and beside Brockman. Stammos radioed through his head mic while still covering the door, “Suspect Harley David Slade has barricaded himself in the first floor bathroom. He appears to be armed with a pump-action shotgun. All units hold your positions. I want Jim Hartley at my position. Have him come through the entry point. Send in another shield with him.” Stammos then called to Slade, “Harley David Slade. This is Officer Randy Stammos of the La Claire Police Department. Put down your weapon and come out slowly with you hands up. Do it now!”
“You put down your guns and leave my house. Do it now!” shouted Slade in response.
Officer James Hartley came in with Jefferson holding the second shield. Stammos motioned them to the opposite side of the hallway entrance, and they quickly crossed and fell into a mirrored position across from Stammos. Hartley had his weapon out, but even though they all came prepared for a gun fight, everyone was hoping he could work his magic.
Everyone liked Jim Hartley. If he could look a suspect in the eye and get one complete sentence out, there probably was not going to be a fight. Every member of the La Claire Police Department SWAT team was cross-trained as a tactical member and also were trained negotiators. Hartley was a communications master. Compton always said, “If you are talking, you are probably not shooting. If we can all keep them talking, a police shooting might be avoided. Regardless, we are going to prepare you on the team for all eventualities.”
Most of the team members were on the team for their tactical skills primarily and their negotiator skills secondarily. Compton did not want one dimensional personalities on his SWAT team. Hartley was one of the four team members whose primary job was a negotiator. He brought a bullhorn with him. The bullhorn was annoyingly loud and distorted the voice badly. It was not the best way to conduct a conversation which might result in a deadly encounter. Hartley would rather not use the bullhorn, but he preferred the bullhorn to yelling. If a suspect had to resort to yelling to communicate, it usually had a tendency to wind them up tighter than a Swiss watch.
“Harley David Slade, this is Jim Hartley of the La Claire Police Department. I’m here to help see that this situation does not get any worse than it is. Mr. Slade… Harley. Can I call you Harley?” asked Jim.
“Sure. That’s my name,” came Harley’s response.
“Great!” Jim thought. “The walls are thin enough so that we can talk and hear each other, but that means they are thin enough to shoot through.” That concerned Hartley deeply and inspired him to snuggle a little closer behind his shield man. “Harley. How about you just come out of there, and we can end this right now?”
Jim would say later at the debrief that he should have taken more time to establish a rapport. He thought by the sound of Slade’s voice, when asked about his name, that he was already second guessing his actions and was ready to come out. Jim said at the debrief later, “Hindsight being 20-20, I would say now that my judgment was wrong. I should have spent more time on the rapport building.”
“Yeah. I’ll come out now. I’m counting down from ten, and if you guys are not out of my house, I am coming out shooting,” growled Slade in a voice that was sinister as death itself.
“10 – 9 – 8,”
“Stop and think about this Slade,” called Hartley, now shouting.
Stammos made his athletic frame smaller, like a clenched fist tightening just before a punch.
“7 – 6 – 5,”
“Shit!” whispered Brockman to nobody… to everybody. He brought the shield up and re-gripped it as he peered through its window while he attempted to pick up the front sights on his Glock through the window on the shield.
There was a pause in the counting, and the door opened. The muzzle of a shotgun extended out of the doorway, pointed at a ninety degree angle to the officers at the end of the hallway. The longest ten count anyone on that team had ever heard continued.
“4 – 3 – 2 – 1,” then… nothing. The number one seemed to hang in the air floating above the muzzle of the shotgun.
Stammos focused on the spot where Slade would have to appear if he did exit. He could easily figure it by the position of the barrel and the size of Slade. He waited. He breathed. He shouted one last time, “Police. Drop the gun. Do it now!”
“Blast off!” shouted Slade.
With a frantic thrust, the shotgun barrel came around the corner and then Stammos saw it. He was so focused that all he could see was the shotgun and the green of Slade’s shirt.
It was all so surreal. Ten seconds that felt like ten minutes. The movements seemed so slow and deliberate and so unlike the high speed desperate movements that they would have looked like if played back by a replay camera.
“Brrrap,” spit Stammos’ MP5. He did one controlled trigger squeeze on auto, and they later found that all three rounds he fired hit their intended target. The green fatigue shirt was floating down the hallway away from the team. Then, like a prom dress in May, it dropped to the floor. The shotgun disappeared back into the bathroom from whence it came.
“Shots fired,” called Jim Hartley.
“Hold your positions,” barked Stammos.
“What happened?” asked Brockman.
“I just shot the guy’s shirt. He tied it to the gun and shoved the gun out the door way.
“I just shot the guy’s shirt,” repeated Stammos keying the mic for the benefit of the remainder of the team holding the perimeter. “The suspect is barricaded again. He is still armed.”
“Don’t shoot. I’m coming out,” shouted Slade.
“I want to see your hands first. I want to see your empty hands first, and step out slowly turning away from my voice,” ordered McCarthy, leaning out high over Stammos, who quickly opened the action on his MP5, switched to a full magazine, and then slammed the bolt home. The practiced movement was over in a second at the most.
Slade stepped out slowly with his hands in the air. “Don’t shoot. I put the gun down,” Slade reported.
Slade then did everything McCarthy asked him to, and he did it immediately and quickly. He had found out what he wanted to know about these SWAT guys. He was prepared, now, to be arrested. He had wrapped his mind around it when he saw his shirt ripped from the barrel of the shotgun. McCarthy ordered, “Walk backward slowly… hands higher. Higher! Now drop to your knees. Put your hands flat on the floor in front of you. Walk backward on your knees until you’re flat on your stomach. Place your hands in the small of your back. Point your fingers to the sky. Lay your left ankle inside the back of your right knee. Point your left toes to the sky. Turn your head to the left. Now, do not move!”
McCarthy slid into a leg lock and applied the handcuffs as quickly and as smoothly as Stammos had reloaded his MP5. To anyone watching, they looked like SWAT, and to Slade it felt like SWAT, even though this was his first arrest at the hands of a SWAT team.
Slade had tied his shirt to the shotgun to see what would happen if he went charging out of the door. He wondered if he would be able to get a shot off and take one or two with him. He wondered how fast these guys would react. Slade was like a swimmer who was just trying the water by dipping his toe in. He got his answer in less than one second, with three well-placed shots. Slade looked at his shirt lying dead at the end of the hallway. “That could be me right now. What a waste. I’m not leaving this world for no reason like the Beetles’ song,” he promised himself, “A Nowhere Man.”
Slade did not want to die on this morning. He did not even want to kill. He did not want to go to jail either, but this morning, he would. He would get out. He would have a chance for revenge. “Next time, I will be the one dressed in black. I will be the one with the gun. If they want war, they shall have war!” Then Slade warned in a muffled voice as he talked into the carpeting, “War on drugs? I’ll give you a fucking war on drugs!”
The words were muffled and unintelligible but were foreboding in their tone. After McCarthy handcuffed and then searched Slade while he was covered by Stammos and Hartley, Slade turned his head and looked at McCarthy. “He’s smiling,” thought McCarthy. “This man is smiling. This man is a very dangerous man.”
Slade looked at the name patch on McCarthy’s uniform and said in an inquisitive tone. “McCarthy?”
“Sir, you are under arrest for manufacturing marijuana and reckless use of a weapon. You, sir, have a right to remain silent….” McCarthy could recite it by heart. He had done it a thousand times before. He now had a tone that made it less of a memorization and more of a conversation, like a friend giving another friend some advice on a used car he was about to buy.
The courtesy was lost on Slade. His home was invaded. His business was destroyed. He had read extensively on the “War on Drugs.” Richard Nixon had declared the war on drugs. Slade had learned from his mother that war had been illegally declared. She would rail on constantly about it as they smoked the magic plant together. Slade was now on the floor. He had been taken prisoner in that unconstitutionally declared war. “I am now a POW. That means I must be a combatant. If I am a combatant, then I can inflict casualties,” reasoned Slade as he lay there looking at McCarthy, “the enemy.” Then he smiled bigger and said, “Good morning, McCarthy.”
The rest of the team moved through the house clearing it. The place was a greenhouse for the largest in-door marijuana grow operation in the history of La Claire. Slade had made hundreds of thousands of dollars selling the best weed manufactured north of the Rio Grande. It was homegrown and American made. Harley David Slade was living the American dream. He had a small business, and he produced and sold his product. He even was the quality control officer, for he did not pass a day or night without sampling his wares. He would not think of selling foreign imports or outsourcing any of the labor. He would not have some Punjab in New Delhi taking orders for him over the phone. He reconciled everything he did and had yet to be targeted in this war on drugs. Now that he was targeted, it was his turn to fight back. As McCarthy helped Slade to his feet, Slade looked at him and smiled again as he thought. “The difference between you and me, McCarthy, is when I launch my counter-attack I will take no prisoners.”