Darkstar: Chapter One, part one.

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Chapter One - Tuesday

Los Angeles, September 1997.
Parker Center, third floor.

“Right, what’s next then?” Homicide Special lieutenant Andrew Burke sat forwards in his chair, flipping the over another page in the inch thick budget sheets. Ignoring the words in front of him he looked over at the three men also sitting around the table. “What other non – personnel costs can we shed?” He asked, hands gesturing outwards towards his colleagues, knowing exactly where this conversation would lead to in a few minutes.
The other men at the table all looked down nervously but it was the man sitting on his right who spoke. “Andy, we’ve already cut out fifty percent of the assignment expenses budget per officer and cut out on duty expenses completely for officers who haven’t been with us for more than three years. Force policy has pushed holiday pay to two weeks per year, and top floor thinks we need to cut that even further. Sick pays gone, the pension plans going to take a hit, and disability pays been pushed down to sixty percent base salary for officers injured after the end of this month. The academy has a fifth of the places it had before the Glick case, and officers are finally paying for the canteen. Overall salaries have gone down by five percent. We have cut everything but manpower, and top floor wants you to start talking about doing some of that as well.” Evan Naylor was a good man and a fantastic police officer but at the same time a realist. Burke knew that if he said it was time to start firing people, then that would be the inevitable result.
Homicide Special was a relatively new outfit in the LAPD, having been started up three years ago with the rise of the ‘Window Shopper,’ a psychotic who preyed upon young woman he kidnapped from public places, raping and torturing them to death. Lieutenant Burke had been placed in charge of the operation set up in order to bring him down, and once that had finally happened the Chief of Police had asked him to head up the squad in a permanent position. If it had a potential political or celebrity risk, anything that could embarrass the higher ups then it went to Burke and histeam.
And that’s what he’d done for the last two years, with Homicide Special becoming a regular fixture on the front page of the LA Times. But things were different now; they had been for the last month. A drugs bust had gone bad; the millionaire kingpin that the Narcotics squad were supposed to arrest had accidentally been shot, bringing a $50 million dollar lawsuit against Los Angeles County. And the jury, in the endearing wisdom shown so often by the American public had given him every penny.
And so a week ago the inevitable memo had come. The acting Chief, with the full backing of the Mayor and State Governor were calling for cuts in every department, particularly in what was seen as an overloaded detectives division. And many higher ups were now saying that Burke’s team really needed to be cut down if it were to be kept operational at all.
Burkes squad consisted of twenty officers. There was Burke himself, overseeing the whole team. Below him were the trio of Grade III or supervisory detectives, the three men with him at the table - Detectives Gareth Trenton, Evan Naylor and Ross Hart. After these came the bulk of the squad, fifteen of the most talented detectives in the LAPD that were divided into teams of five and placed under the command of one of the supervisory officers. Finally there was Sergeant Edward Grant, the administrative officer for the squad and their liaison with the other departments.
“Alright then.” Burke sighed. “Alright. What’s the absolute minimum amount that we can hang on to?” He looked at each of the three officers in turn.
Trenton was the one who answered this time, putting on his glasses as he studied the memo in front of him. “Based upon the cost projections that upstairs are giving us, and including us four, we are allowed a maximum of fifty percent. That’s ten people.”
“That’s six of the team. We have to cut loose nine people.” Hart looked straight at Burke as he told him.
****. What do I tell them? “But they’re just being moved into other department’s right?” Burke felt stupid, knowing that he probably should have read the memo himself when he had arrived at work.
Hart looked down. “Five officers, including Ed are being moved into different departments. We have to make the recommendations as to who to transfer and where. The other five will be let go with a years disability pay at the new rates. Then nothing.”
“It’s bull****.” Burke heard Naylor mutter under his breath.
“It sure is.” Burke responded. “Nine people. Ok look, how long have we got on this?”
“until next Friday. Otherwise we may well be in the firing line too.” Hart told him.
“Then we wait till next Friday before we submit anything final. This is **** but it’s what we have to deal with by the sound of it. Right we need a 9am meeting on Thursday; I want a list from each of you ranking the squad in preference of who we want to keep. I’m going to get myself a meeting with the Chief and someone from finance and try to get us more manpower. I want to start asking for volunteers from Friday, see if we can make this any less ugly then it currently is. Right then, we have seven open cases in the squad, two of which are pretty high profile. I want them taken care of and having the team all scared about which of them are going to be out of a job in the morning probably won’t help matters. So we keep all of this to ourselves till Friday.” Burke sighed, looking at each of the men in turn. “I’m sorry we all have to do this guys. Look, I have to make a few calls, any of you want to talk about this or any case related stuff my doors open.” He got up and left without a word.
**** this. He thought to himself as he walked out of the squad conference room and down the glass corridor towards his office, located at the other end of the suite of offices. Looking through the window to the workstations he could see that nine of the detectives were hard at work. Any of them could be out of work soon. Better me than them.
He walked into his office, slamming the door behind him and loosening his tie as he sat back in his leather office chair. When he put out the memo asking for volunteers to leave the department and maybe the force, his name would be on it.
Burke was a unique creature within the LAPD. Thirty – eight years old and ruggedly handsome with his short, tidy blonde hair and light blue eyes, he had only lived in the United States for the past eight years. Born in Manchester, England he had left school at 16 and enlisted in the Royal Marines, where he’d gained O levels in Psychology and Economics. First being deployed at the age of eighteen he saw two tours of duty in Northern Ireland, before being invited onto the SAS training course aged twenty – two. The six month selection procedure had nearly killed him, but he and two others were chosen to serve in the 22nd, seeing action in the Falklands and Northern Island. After the attempt on Margaret Thatcher’s life in 1984 his unit was selected to assist the Metropolitan Police in guarding her family and cabinet. It was here that Burke met Tracy, a junior staffer in the American Embassy. They were married in 1985 and had their first child, a son named James the next year. Burke transferred out of the SAS, being appointed a junior staff member for the Minister of Defence. In 1989 Tracy had their second child, Lucy, and the couple decided to immigrate to the United States, back to Tracy’s hometown of Los Angeles where Burke had enrolled in the LAPD and been fast tracked to Lieutenant in just five years.
Burke knew that his military training and record would be on the lists of every corporate security company in America. He could resign and get himself another with one of these companies; he’d already received two headhunting letters in the last week.
But Burke put all that out of his mind for now. He had a job to do. Starting up the computer on his desk, he opened up all the open case files on the squad network, looking at the two ones that were attracting the most media attention. Ethel Baltan, a retired City councillor who’d died in a hit and run when she’d been walking her dog in Valencia, and Shaun Cook, a real estate developer suspected of drug dealing on a large scale.
Shaun Cook. They’d looked at him before as being involved in a lot, including a very nasty firebombing two years ago that had taken the lives of several of Burkes men. But he put that out of his mind for now, the bastard was dead. Unfortunately he had to find out who killed him.
There was a knock on the door. “Come in.” Burke muttered, glancing up as one of the squad, Detective Lawrence Halden walked in, an envelope in his hand.
“Morning sir. This was left at reception for you.” He placed it on the desk. “See the game last night?”
Burke managed a smile, meeting Halden’s gaze. “Afraid I missed it but I take it Galaxy won. Sorry Lawrence, I’m kind of busy now. Catch you later, ok?”
Halden nodded, and left without comment. Burke felt guilty, Halden was a nice guy but he couldn’t see him making the cut to stay in the squad. He was good, but not really spectacular in any way.
Burke spent the next half hour tapping away on his computer, sending off routine stationary requests he knew would never get answered and reviewing the open case files. After a while he bored of the work and looked at the envelope that had been left on the desk. The envelope merely had his title and surname printed on the front, with no return address. Opening it, he was surprised to see that it only contained a small piece of card, with a short handwritten message.
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