DISTURBANCE AT APARTMENT 408 • by Mark Noce

In the Mission District, all the creeps come out at dusk. Mom-and-pop shops do business during the day, but the hoods and addicts emerge when the sun goes down. I hate getting calls for this part of town just before dark. Three months with the Department and I still haven’t drawn my gun outside the firing range. I’d like to keep it that way. My sergeant turns up the dial on our patrol car radio as Dispatch murmurs through the speaker.

“Disturbance reported at the corner of Mission and…”

My sergeant curses before Dispatch finishes. I cringe. He starts up our black-and-white sedan, the siren blaring while blue and red lights flash down the crowded boulevard. Shadows lengthen across the sidewalks as cars pull out of our way. The deafening roar of our siren makes me wince, but I keep my window down. Our car’s AC busted last week, just in time for Indian Summer. The stifling heat permeates every inch of my damp skin. Earthquake weather, we call it.

We pass the Old Mission as the car races down the main avenue. Pigeons scatter across the adobe church. Barrio thugs on the front steps leer at us as we pass. At noon, they’d scatter like cockroaches if we drove by, but with dark coming on they give us the stare. Come nightfall, this is still their part of the city, not ours. Not the cops’.

My sergeant double-parks outside an apartment complex. It’s my turn to curse. I recognize the slum. We busted a big-muscled guy manhandling his girlfriend here just last week. My left ribs still smart from a blow he gave me with a wrench. My grey-haired sergeant took care of him with a nightstick to both knees. Never underestimate a cranky old badge.

Two other blue uniforms arrive on the scene. Chen and Wachowski. I’ve seen them before, but they work a different station. They frown as we come up the walk. A woman’s voice screeches from an upstairs apartment.

“That for us?” my sergeant asks.

“Number 408,” Wachowski says.

They each pull out their batons as we take the stairs. My sergeant turns around and jabs my chest with a heavy finger.

“You’re on Red.”

Damn it. I draw my pistol, checking the magazine before I cock it. Red means one officer is ready with lethal force, just in case things go wrong. Standard police procedure. Unfortunately, something always goes wrong. The four of us cluster outside door 408. Piercing feminine shrieks emanate from inside, the drone of TV static permeating the room. My sergeant bangs on the door.

“Police, open up!”

The door opens a crack, unlocked. My sergeant prods his head inside, raising his club. The shouting within the apartment suddenly stops.

A butcher knife twirls through the air, embedding itself in the doorframe. My sergeant jumps back. I flinch, the steel blade wobbling nearby in the doorway. I raise my piece. An elderly woman with white hair screams again, a pair of kitchen knives in either hand. She bawls at us as she hurls another dagger at the door.

“Get out! You won’t take me! I know Tai Chi!”

A second knife thuds into the door, sending splinters across my cheek. My sergeant frowns.

“We got a goddamn nut job in there! You still on Red, newbie?”

I nod, holding my gun up. Christ. Do I really have to shoot this old lady? She’s probably somebody’s grandmother. She tosses another knife. Chen and Wachowski exchange looks.

“She’s got to run out of knives sooner or later,” Chen says.

I shake my head.

“I don’t think so.”

Behind the half-open door, the old woman picks up more cutlery. Dozens of knives cover the linoleum floor. The old bat must have ordered steak knives for years. Wachowski grimaces.

“What do we do now?”

My sergeant looks at my pistol.

“Not much choice. The first guy that sticks his head in there gets a knife between the eyes.”

No one else draws their gun. I can’t blame them. If I wasn’t already on Red, I wouldn’t be volunteering to put a bullet in some old granny’s skull. My shift was almost over for the day. Damn. Every time I get a call for the Mission, something bad goes down. My sergeant puts a hand on my shoulder.

“If you can’t do it, rook, I’ll have to.”

I nod, wishing I could holster my sidearm and let someone else do this. Chen and Wachowski keep their eyes on me. Every man here’s been on the Force for years. I knew I’d have to draw my gun on somebody someday; I just wish it didn’t have to be a senior citizen. I nudge towards the door as another knife wedges into the woodwork. My gun barrel hovers over the door handle. Why’d this old crazy bat have to be a ninja-star throwing nut too?

My eyes suddenly widen. I keep my gun in one hand, taking my sergeant’s baton in the other.

“What are you doing, kid?”

“Trust me, Sarge.”

He exchanges looks with the other cops as I push the door open with my knee. The old crone raises another kitchen knife. I lower my piece and lob the baton forward with my good arm. The nightstick spins end over end toward her.

She shrieks and drops her knives, ducking out of the way as the baton crashes through a window. Before I can blink, the sergeant and other officers dog pile on the old woman. She glares up at me, snarling.

“He tried to kill me!”

My sergeant smirks as he puts her in handcuffs.

“You should thank him, ma’am. If I had my way, you’d have died of lead poisoning.”

I holster my gun, putting the safety on. Wiping the sweat from my brow, I heave a sigh. At least I didn’t have to pull the trigger. That can wait for another day.


Mark Noce is a Technical Writer by day and Fiction Author by night. He writes novels about historical fiction, ranging from pirates to the colonial frontier to the American Civil War. He also writes contemporary short-stories.


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