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Broken City (Prequel, Calamity Series) - Preview

Prologue

Derrick Hart

 

Derrick leaned forward, feeling the weight digging into his elbows into his knees. Drops of sweat pooled at the end of his short bangs, the bridge of his nose, and his chin before the droplets rained down on the carpet below where he sat—the short-fibered, aqua-gray carpet that hid the stains of the last decades of use.


How much blood, sweat, and tears has this absorbed over the years?

The shouting outside was barely audible in the interior roll call room of the central police precinct. That was nice, at least. Derrick’s hearing was starting to go out. There was a ringing in his left ear that reminded him of leaving a rock concert. The heavy silence of the room made the ringing even louder.


Fifty police officers were packed inside the room that was meant to only hold half that amount. The twenty-five who hadn’t managed to secure a chair for the brief break they enjoyed leaned against the walls or sat on the floor in a defeated pile of limbs and eighty pounds of riot gear. Derek pulled both layers of his body armor down from his neck and felt the hot air trapped against his chest rise, happy to have a place to escape. His undershirt clung to his body like he had just worn it into the pool, but at least he got some fresh air in there to try and cool down.


“You know, I was supposed to be in Memphis right now,” Hughes said.


He was sitting in the seat beside Derrick. His thirty-pound heavy vest was sprawled on the table before him,along with a few random pieces of riot gear armor he’d stripped off as soon as he sat down: one shoulder pad, two forearm pads, and one glove.


Derrick looked up, realizing the man was talking to him.


“I got this week of vacation approved on freaking January 1st. Four months ago.” Hughes shook his head. His sweat-soaked shirt revealed the round start of a beer belly. Hughes was a giant, though, so when he stood the belly somehow disappeared into his frame. “I should be stuffing my face with some dry rub barbecue, sittin’ by the pool, knockn’ back Bud Lights right now.”


Hughes finished his third bottle of water like he was chugging a beer. “Instead, I’m here. Doing this shit.”


Brennan scoffed behind them. “Bud Light?” Brennan’s eyes narrowed on the rest of the officers listening in. “Why the fuck would you drive all the way to Memphis just to drink water?”


A small laugh rose through the room. It was an exhausted laugh.


“Tonight’s my ten-year wedding anniversary,” another man said at the front of the room.

“Dodged that bullet!” the men laughed at someone’s comment.


“Are you kidding? You know he’s going to get it as soon as he gets home,” Brennan joked. “Best just pull a double tonight. At least you can arrest people when they yell at you.”


“I already pulled a double,” the first guy said bitterly. “Working on my triple right now.”


“Hey, you never know. Maybe she lets him use his handcuffs on her?”


The room came alive as the officers clung desperately to whatever levity they could. Derrick laughed with them and enjoyed being a spectator, not having to turn his brain back on yet. They knew their break was almost over.


Derrick caught eyes with an older officer with a paunch and a thick mustache who stood beside Brennan. Derrick didn’t know the man’s name, but he had seen him many times over the years in passing. The man leaned from side to side, often shifting weight, and seemed to be hurting more than most. Pointing at his seat and nodding at the officer, Derrick stood when the bigger man gave him a grateful smile and a pat on the shoulder as he took Derrick’s seat. Derrick grabbed his ballistic helmet and moved to the wall.


“Five-minute warning,” Sergeant Downs said while looking at his watch.


The room went quiet after they each took turns releasing exasperated sighs.


Derrick used his last minutes to stretch. His calves, his back, his quads… all the muscles that had grown stiff and cramped over the past hours on the line.


Hughes looked over his shoulder, “Hey, Hart, why don’t you take that cannon of yours and fire a few grenades into the street already? What are ya waiting for?” Hughes nodded at the small, single-shot grenade launcher that was slung behind Derrick’s back.


“And ruin all this fun we’re having?” Derrick smirked as he twisted his back and heard a crack.

“He’s just going after that overtime,” Brennan mused. The round eyes and constant smile the man wore gave him a look similar to that of a Labrador Retriever.


“Good god, man. When this week’s check hits, it’s going to be historic,” Derrick said.


Brennan nodded, “A few more nights like this one and I think the police department will single-handedly bankrupt the city on OT.”


“Fuck, don’t jinx us,” Hughes waved a hand over his head. “I can’t do another night of this shit.”

Derrick thought about what he would do with his overtime money. The obvious choice was to pay off the five-thousand-dollar credit card bill he racked up.


Or you could just return the fucking engagement ring…


Derrick let his mind wander to Alyssa for a moment. To how this was the longest they had gone without speaking since they started dating years ago. She might have already fled the city. Maybe she went to her parents’ place. He quickly shook away the thought, having already broken his promise not to think about Alyssa.


“You know,” the big man who took Derrick’s seat spoke, “I was supposed to be at Disney World this weekend.”


The room went silent, then a chill went down Derrick’s spine as he remembered the latest video footage released from the Florida hot zone.


“Well, that’s drawing the long straw if I ever heard of it,” Brennan said.


“Yeah, you ain’t kidding,” the man replied. “Can you imagine if I’d scheduled the family trip last weekend instead and been there when the infection hit?”


“Go buy a lotto ticket, ASAP,” Derrick added.


“Break’s over, ladies and gents,” Sergeant Downs announced. “Get your gear on and grab a water bottle for the road. Could be a bit before we get relief.”


The roll call room became a living organism with fifty different appendages all moving at once. They strapped on armor, finished protein bars, and single-serving bags of chips, and filtered out the doorway to the exit. No one wanted to go back out there. But it was their job. Their duty. What kind of person would they be if they fled when duty called?


“Why grab an extra bottle of water? I’m sure if you’re thirsty, they’ll be happy to throw one to you,” a woman joked as she joined the single-file line.


Derrick grabbed two bottles from the torn, open case of water as he passed it. Down the hall and to the front door of the precinct, he could hear the shouts grow louder as he neared. Like honing in on a fight in a crowd of people, the curse words became intelligible as the intensity grew. The thick blanket of humidity that fought its way inside the air-conditioned precinct covered Derrick a few feet from the doorway.


He settled his ballistic helmet on top of his head and cinched the chin strap on tight. Pulling the plexiglass visor down, Derrick left the precinct and entered the chaos of downtown Birmingham. One hundred and ten police officers surrounded the Central Police Headquarters standing shoulder to shoulder. And surrounding them were twenty-five thousand rioters, their bodies clogging the streets in every direction. Their screams blurred together into a wall of rage—just another day at work.



 

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