Here is the thirteenth droplet of my novel Biotime. Under-cover police officers launch a major assault in the heart of Harlem, knowing they are massively out-gunned. Violence is inevitable. But where is little Rocky?
It’s been wonderful interacting with so many readers over the past year. As this is the last entry of 2014 and also my last before I go on holiday for a couple of weeks, I’m again publishing a slightly larger droplet today, with an almost indecent cliff-hanger. Comments welcome as always.
Don’t forget the “story so far” post for infrequent readers, bringing together the excerpts published up to now.
Guggenheim Museum, New York City – Photo Robert Pimm
Biotime. The future, today. Excerpt 13
[Part 2, Pax Vobiscum, continues]
I sat in my piece-of-shit squad car and imagined where Roland’s son Rocky might be. Then I thought of my own two boys: one older than Rocky, one younger. My kids were black, just like Rocky, and we all lived in Harlem.
I thought: my kids could be victims, too.
I thought, if I join up with Roland, I’ll put my boys in danger. But in the long run, I’d be standing in harm’s way to save them, and maybe thousands of other kids.
I’m a cautious fellow. That’s what’s kept me alive all these years, including on the ski slopes. So I slept before I decided. Next morning, my mind was made up.
It took me two hours to track down Roland Nelson. I found him at the car pound, in a hut surrounded by towed vehicles. First thing I noticed was that many of them were crocks of shit, too. I never saw that until Roland pointed it out.
Second thing I saw was a couple of tough, lean-looking cops hanging around the pound. One of them asked me if he could assist me. When he heard who I was, he took me to the shack. Inside, Roland and a couple of other guys had huge holo projectors set up that didn’t look like anything I’d seen before in the world of traffic violations.
Roland turned round, real relaxed, when I walked in the door. I guess he trusted his team.
‘You decide yet?’ he said.
I looked at the other cops in the hut.
‘Everyone here is 100%,’ Roland said. ‘You know how I’m sure? First, I recruited them myself. Second, every guy in this room has kids. You know what chances kids have in Harlem these days? How many contribute?’
‘These Style Soviet guys have more resources than the US Army,’ I said. ‘They probably control the whole of NYPD. They offered you five grams of ‘Time. Think what they gave the Police Commissioner.’
‘Sure. It’s dangerous. But I can’t leave Rocky in their hands. Could you?’
‘No. I could not.’ I shook my head. ‘I told you. I got a family too.’
‘So are you in?’
‘Yes,’ I said. ‘I’m in.’
People these days think Roland Nelson was some kind of tough guy superhero on a quest to right the wrongs of an oppressed people. Fact is, he was a hero. It’s the truth. But courage alone would never have cracked Pax. Roland also had patience; and a general’s grasp of strategy. Most of all, he wanted to save little Rocky. He figured a slow-burn assault would have the best chance of avoiding casualties. He had no idea what we were up against.
It took us four months to locate the Pax Vobiscum Funeral Parlor in Harlem as the likeliest location for the crimes we believed were being committed. During that time, Roland worked tirelessly to recruit the officers we needed to launch a surprise assault. He also spent months trying to identify a Deputy or Assistant Chief of Police he could trust, in order to gain access to the heavy weapons and resources he needed to ensure the assault was a success.
Roland Nelson could not identify a senior officer he was sure was not corrupt.
So the raid went ahead, that fateful Friday morning, with a plan relying on a few good men and a brilliant strategy, backed up by a super secret weapon the bad guys never dreamed of and could not resist.
It helped that Roland’s cover job was in traffic enforcement. The night of the raid, a dozen of us drove nearly one hundred impounded vehicles, including the most solidly-constructed trucks and vans we had available, to the perimeter of a twelve-block area surrounding the funeral parlor. An hour before we went live we adjusted the blockade to seal the streets completely with a couple dozen squad cars.
Then we sent fourteen of our guys to launch the assault on Pax. Roland, me and the rest waited by the road-blocks. By this time the city was waking up and news that something big was happening spread fast, including up the ranks of the NYPD. What happened next should have surprised none of us. But it still takes my breath away to think of it.
The assault began at 5.30 a.m, just before dawn. At 5.32, spotters told us a bunch of refrigerated trucks in the livery of a well-known beer company had exited the premises of what appeared to be a cannery close to the funeral parlor. Fourteen trucks came out, one after the other, a colossal convoy.
First of all they drove around the same few blocks a while, looking for a way to penetrate what must have looked like a pretty random bunch of cars blocking the street. But after fifteen minutes, someone must have given them orders. They tried to crash their way through.
Roland had planned for this. He wanted to ensure that what resources we had – including two TV news crews we’d sworn to secrecy – were as concentrated as possible. So he built one of the blockades to look weaker than the rest.
That was where we put the tyre shredders; the heaviest, lowest saloons; and the steel chains which, barely visible, combined the strength of maybe twenty vehicles into what we hoped would be an impenetrable obstacle.
We didn’t know how determined the drivers of those trucks would be.
Those drivers knew the stakes. They knew what the penalties would be if they and their cargoes were captured.
I was standing next to Roland when we saw the trucks turn a corner and come rumbling towards us. Fourteen eighteen-wheeler semi-trailers, building up speed in the heart of Harlem.
I never drank that brand of beer again.
The first truck hit the centre of our barrier rolling at sixty miles an hour. The truck’s tyres were gone, but the momentum carried our entire chain of vehicles half-way across the junction, opening up a space between the blockade and the street corner. Roland ordered a squad car to plug the gap. Two brave officers obeyed without hesitation.
[Excerpt ends][Next excerpt]
I hope you’ve enjoyed this excerpt from my novel “Biotime”. If you’re interested in hearing about further episodes, follow this blog by e-mail (top right, “click here”); or follow me on Twitter @RobertPimm (left hand side). I can promise you a fun ride.
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