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The Force

Don Winslow


  During the time that I was writing this novel, the following law enforcement personnel were murdered in the line of duty. This book is dedicated to them:

  Sergeant Cory Blake Wride, Deputy Sheriff Percy Lee House III, Deputy Sheriff Jonathan Scott Pine, Correctional Officer Amanda Beth Baker, Detective John Thomas Hobbs, Agent Joaquin Correa-Ortega, Officer Jason Marc Crisp, Chief Deputy Sheriff Allen Ray “Pete” Richardson, Officer Robert Gordon German, Master-at-Arms Mark Aaron Mayo, Officer Mark Hayden Larson, Officer Alexander Edward Thalmann, Officer David Wayne Smith Jr., Officer Christopher Alan Cortijo, Deputy Sheriff Michael J. Seversen, Trooper Gabriel Lenox Rich, Sergeant Patrick “Scott” Johnson, Officer Roberto Carlos Sanchez, Trooper Chelsea Renee Richard, Master Sergeant John Thomas Collum, Officer Michael Alexander Petrina, Detective Charles David Dinwiddie, Officer Stephen J. Arkell, Officer Jair Abelardo Cabrera, Trooper Christopher G. Skinner, Special Deputy Marshal Frank Edward McKnight, Officer Brian Wayne Jones, Officer Kevin Dorian Jordan, Officer Igor Soldo, Officer Alyn Ronnie Beck, Chief of Police Lee Dixon, Deputy Sheriff Allen Morris Bares Jr., Officer Perry Wayne Renn, Patrolman Jeffrey Brady Westerfield, Detective Melvin Vincent Santiago, Officer Scott Thomas Patrick, Chief of Police Michael Anthony Pimentel, Agent Geniel Amaro-Fantauzzi, Officer Daryl Pierson, Patrolman Nickolaus Edward Schultz, Corporal Jason Eugene Harwood, Deputy Sheriff Joseph John Matuskovic, Corporal Bryon Keith Dickson II, Deputy Sheriff Michael Andrew Norris, Sergeant Michael Joe Naylor, Deputy Sheriff Danny Paul Oliver, Detective Michael David Davis Jr., Deputy Sheriff Yevhen “Eugene” Kostiuchenko, Deputy Sheriff Jesse Valdez III, Officer Shaun Richard Diamond, Officer David Smith Payne, Constable Robert Parker White, Deputy Sheriff Matthew Scott Chism, Officer Justin Robert Winebrenner, Deputy Sheriff Christopher Lynd Smith, Agent Edwin O. Roman-Acevedo, Officer Wenjian Liu, Officer Rafael Ramos, Officer Charles Kondek, Officer Tyler Jacob Stewart, Detective Terence Avery Green, Officer Robert Wilson III, Deputy U.S. Marshal Josie Wells, Patrolman George S. Nissen, Officer Alex K. Yazzie, Officer Michael Johnson, Trooper Trevor Casper, Officer Brian Raymond Moore, Sergeant Greg Moore, Officer Liquori Tate, Officer Benjamin Deen, Deputy Sonny Smith, Detective Kerrie Orozco, Trooper Taylor Thyfault, Patrolman James Arthur Bennett Jr., Officer Gregg “Nigel” Benner, Officer Rick Silva, Officer Sonny Kim, Officer Daryle Holloway, Sergeant Christopher Kelley, Corrections Officer Timothy Davison, Sergeant Scott Lunger, Officer Sean Michael Bolton, Officer Thomas Joseph LaValley, Deputy Sheriff Carl G. Howell, Trooper Steven Vincent, Officer Henry Nelson, Deputy Sheriff Darren Goforth, Sergeant Miguel Perez-Rios, Trooper Joseph Cameron Ponder, Deputy Sheriff Dwight Darwin Maness, Deputy Sheriff Bill Myers, Officer Gregory Thomas Alia, Detective Randolph A. Holder, Officer Daniel Scott Webster, Officer Bryce Edward Hanes, Officer Daniel Neil Ellis, Chief of Police Darrell Lemond Allen, Trooper Jaimie Lynn Jursevics, Officer Ricardo Galvez, Corporal William Matthew Solomon, Officer Garrett Preston Russell Swasey, Officer Lloyd E. Reed Jr., Officer Noah Leotta, Commander Frank Roman Rodriguez, Lieutenant Luz M. Soto Segarra, Agent Rosario Hernandez de Hoyos, Officer Thomas W. Cottrell Jr., Special Agent Scott McGuire, Officer Douglas Scott Barney II, Sergeant Jason Goodding, Deputy Derek Geer, Deputy Mark F. Logsdon, Deputy Patrick B. Dailey, Major Gregory E. “Lem” Barney, Officer Jason Moszer, Special Agent Lee Tartt, Corporal Nate Carrigan, Officer Ashley Marie Guindon, Officer David Stefan Hofer, Deputy Sheriff John Robert Kotfila Jr., Officer Allen Lee Jacobs, Deputy Carl A. Koontz, Officer Carlos Puente-Morales, Officer Susan Louise Farrell, Trooper Chad Phillip Dermyer, Officer Steven M. Smith, Detective Brad D. Lancaster, Officer David Glasser, Officer Ronald Tarentino Jr., Officer Verdell Smith Sr., Officer Natasha Maria Hunter, Officer Endy Nddiobong Ekpanya, Deputy Sheriff David Francis Michel Jr., Officer Brent Alan Thompson, Sergeant Michael Joseph Smith, Officer Patrick E. Zamarripa, Officer Lorne Bradley Ahrens, Officer Michael Leslie Krol, Security Supervisor Joseph Zangaro, Court Officer Ronald Eugene Kienzle, Deputy Sheriff Bradford Allen Garafola, Officer Matthew Lane Gerald, Corporal Montrell Lyle Jackson, Officer Marco Antonio Zarate, Corrections Officer Mari Johnson, Correctional Officer Kristopher D. Moules, Captain Robert D. Melton, Officer Clint Corvinus, Officer Jonathan De Guzman, Officer José Ismael Chavez, Special Agent De’Greaun Frazier, Corporal Bill Cooper, Officer John Scott Martin, Officer Kenneth Ray Moats, Officer Kevin “Tim” Smith, Sergeant Steve Owen, Master Deputy Sheriff Brandon Collins, Officer Timothy James Brackeen, Officer Lesley Zerebny, Officer Jose Gilbert Vega, Officer Scott Leslie Bashioum, Sergeant Luis A. Meléndez-Maldonado, Deputy Sheriff Jack Hopkins, Correctional Officer Kenneth Bettis, Deputy Sheriff Dan Glaze, Officer Myron Jarrett, Sergeant Allen Brandt, Officer Blake Curtis Snyder, Sergeant Kenneth Steil, Officer Justin Martin, Sergeant Anthony Beminio, Sergeant Paul Tuozzolo, Deputy Sheriff Dennis Wallace, Detective Benjamin Edward Marconi, Deputy Commander Patrick Thomas Carothers, Officer Collin James Rose, Trooper Cody James Donahue.


  “Cops are just people,” she said irrelevantly.

  “They start out that way, I’ve heard.”

  —Raymond Chandler, Farewell, My Lovely



  Title Page



  The Last Guy

  Prologue: The Rip

  Part 1: White ChristmasChapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Part 2: The Easter BunnyChapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Part 3: Fourth of July, the Fire This TimeChapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34

  Chapter 35

  Chapter 36

  Chapter 37

  Chapter 38

  Chapter 39


  About the Author

  Also by Don Winslow


  About the Publisher

  The Last Guy

  The last guy on earth anyone ever expected to end up in the Metropolitan Correctional Center on Park Row was Denny Malone.

  You said the mayor, the president of the United States, the pope—people in New York would have laid odds they’d see them behind bars before they saw Detective First Grade Dennis John Malone.

  A hero cop.

  The son of a hero cop.

  A veteran sergeant in the NYPD’s most elite unit.

  The Manhattan North Special Task Force.

  And, most of all, a guy who knows where all the skeletons are hidden, because he put half of them there himself.

  Malone and Russo and Billy O and Big Monty and the rest made these streets their own, and they ruled them like kings. They made them safe and kept them safe for the decent people trying to make lives there, and that was their job and their passion and their love, and if that meant they worked the corners of the plate and put a little something extra on the ball now and then, that’s what they did.

  The people, they don’t know what it takes sometimes to keep them safe and it’s better that they don’t.

  They may think they want to know
, they may say they want to know, but they don’t.

  Malone and the Task Force, they weren’t just any cops on the Job. You got thirty-eight thousand wearing blue, Denny Malone and his guys were the 1 percent of the 1 percent of the 1 percent—the smartest, the toughest, the quickest, the bravest, the best, the baddest.

  The Manhattan North Special Task Force.

  “Da Force” blew through the city like a cold, harsh, fast and violent wind, scouring the streets and alleys, the playgrounds, parks and projects, scraping away the trash and the filth, a predatory storm blowing away the predators.

  A strong wind finds its way through every crack, into the project stairwells, the tenement heroin mills, the social club back rooms, the new-money condos, the old-money penthouses. From Columbus Circle to the Henry Hudson Bridge, Riverside Park to the Harlem River, up Broadway and Amsterdam, down Lenox and St. Nicholas, on the numbered streets that spanned the Upper West Side, Harlem, Washington Heights and Inwood, if there was a secret Da Force didn’t know about, it was because it hadn’t been whispered about or even thought of yet.

  Drug deals and gun deals, traffic in people and property, rapes, robberies and assaults, crimes hatched in English, Spanish, French, Russian over collard greens and smothered chicken or jerk pork or pasta marinara or gourmet meals at five-star restaurants in a city made from sin and for profit.

  Da Force hit them all, but especially guns and drugs, because guns kill and drugs incite the killings.

  Now Malone’s in lockup, the wind has stopped blowing, but everyone knows it’s the eye of the storm, the dead quiet lull that comes before the worst of it. Denny Malone in the hands of the feds? Not IAB, not the state’s attorneys, but the feds, where no one in the city can touch him?

  Everyone’s hunkered down, shitting bricks and waiting for that blow, that tsunami, because with what Malone knows, he could take out commanders, chiefs, even the commissioner. He could roll on prosecutors, judges—shit, he could serve the feds the mayor on the proverbial silver platter with at least one congressman and a couple of real estate billionaires as appetizers.

  So as the word went out that Malone was sitting in the MCC, people in the eye of the hurricane got scared, real scared, started to seek shelter even in the calm, even knowing that there are no walls high enough, no cellars deep enough—not at One Police, not at the Criminal Courts Building, not even at Gracie Mansion or in the penthouse palaces lining Fifth Avenue and Central Park South—to keep them safe from what’s in Denny Malone’s head.

  If Malone wants to pull the whole city down around him, he can.

  Then again, no one’s ever really been safe from Malone and his crew.

  Malone’s guys made headlines—the Daily News, the Post, Channels 7, 4 and 2; “film at eleven” cops. Recognized-on-the-street cops, the-mayor-knows-your-name cops, comped seats at the Garden, the Meadowlands, Yankee Stadium and Shea, walk-into-any-restaurant-bar-or-club-in-the-city-and-get-treated-like-royalty cops.

  And of this pack of alphas, Denny Malone is the undisputed leader.

  Walks into any house in the city, the uniforms and the rookies stop and stare, the lieutenants give him a nod, even the captains know not to step on his shoes.

  He’s earned their respect.

  Among other things (Shit, you want to talk about the robberies he stopped, the bullet he took, the kid in that hostage situation he saved? The busts, the takedowns, the convictions?), Malone and his team, they made the biggest drug bust in the history of New York.

  Fifty kilos of heroin.

  And the Dominican who was trafficking it gone.

  Along with a hero cop.

  Malone’s crew laid their partner in the ground—bagpipes, folded flag, black ribbons over shields—and went right back to work because the slingers and the gangs and the robbers and the rapists and the wiseguys, they don’t take time off to grieve. You wanna keep your streets safe, you gotta be on those streets—days, nights, weekends, holidays, whatever it takes, and your wives, they knew what they signed up for, and your kids, they learn to understand that’s what Daddy does, he puts the bad guys behind bars.

  Except now it’s him in the cage, Malone sitting on a steel bench in a holding cell like the dirtbags he usually puts there, bent over, his head in his hands, worrying about his partners—his brothers on Da Force—and what’s going to happen to them now that he’s put them neck deep in shit.

  Worrying about his family—his wife, who didn’t sign up for this, his two kids, a son and a daughter who are too young to understand now, but when they’re old enough are never going to forgive why they had to grow up without a father.

  Then there’s Claudette.

  Fucked up in her own way.

  Needy, needing him, and he’s not going to be there.

  For her or for anybody, so he doesn’t know now what’s going to happen to the people he loves.

  The wall he’s staring at doesn’t have any answers, either, as to how he got here.

  No, fuck that, Malone thinks. At least be honest with yourself, he thinks as he sits there with nothing in front of him but time.

  At least, at last, tell yourself the truth.

  You know exactly how you got here.

  Step by motherfucking step.

  Our ends know our beginnings but the reverse isn’t true.

  When Malone was a kid, the nuns taught him that even before we’re born, God—and only God—knows the days of our lives and the day of our death and who and what we’ll become.

  Well, I wish he’d fucking shared it with me, Malone thinks. Given me a word, a tip, dimed me out, ratted on me to myself, told me something, anything. Said, Hey, jerkoff, you took a left, you should have gone right.

  But no, nothing.

  All he’s seen, Malone isn’t a big fan of God and figures the feeling is mutual. He has a lot of questions he’d like to ask him, but if he ever got him in the room, God’d probably shut his mouth, lawyer up, let his own kid take the jolt.

  All this time on the Job, Malone lost his faith, so when the moment came when he was looking the devil in the eye, there was nothing between Malone and murder except ten pounds of trigger pull.

  Ten pounds of gravity.

  It was Malone’s finger pulled the trigger, but maybe it was gravity that pulled him down—the relentless, unforgiving gravity of eighteen years on the Job.

  Pulling him down to where he is now.

  Malone didn’t start out to end up here. Didn’t throw his hat in the air the day he graduated the Academy and took the oath, the happiest day of his life—the brightest, bluest, best day—thinking that he’d end up here.

  No, he started with his eyes firmly on the guiding star, his feet planted on the path, but that’s the thing about the life you walk—you start out pointed true north, but you vary one degree off, it doesn’t matter for maybe one year, five years, but as the years stack up you’re just walking farther and farther away from where you started out to go, you don’t even know you’re lost until you’re so far from your original destination you can’t even see it anymore.

  You can’t even get back on the path to start over.

  Time and gravity won’t allow it.

  And Denny Malone would give a lot to start over.

  Hell, he’d give everything.

  Because he never thought he’d end up in the federal lockup on Park Row. No one did, except maybe God, and he wasn’t talking.

  But here Malone is.

  Without his gun or his shield or anything else that says what and who he is, what and who he was.

  A dirty cop.


  The Rip

  Lenox Avenue,



  And the gods are laughing at us.

  —Langston Hughes, “Lenox Avenue: Midnight”

  Harlem, New York City

  July 2016

  Four A.M.

  When the city that never sleeps at least lies down and closes its eyes.

  This is what Denny Malone thinks as his Crown Vic slides up the spine of Harlem.

  Behind the walls and windows, in apartments and hotels, tenements and project towers, people are sleeping or can’t, are dreaming or are beyond dreams. People are fighting or fucking or both, making love and making babies, screaming curses or speaking soft, intimate words meant for each other and not the street. Some try to rock infants back to sleep, or are just getting up for another day of work, while others cut kilos of heroin into glassine bags to sell to the addicts for their wake-up shots.

  After the hookers and before the street cleaners, that’s the window of time you have to make a rip, Malone knows. Nothing good ever happens after midnight, is what his old man used to say, and he knew. He was a cop on these streets, coming home in the morning after a graveyard shift with murder in his eyes, death in his nose and an icicle in his heart that never melted and eventually killed him. Got out of the car in the driveway one morning and his heart cracked. The doctors said he was dead before he hit the ground.

  Malone found him there.

  Eight years old, leaving the house to walk to school, he saw the blue overcoat in the pile of dirty snow he’d helped his dad shovel off the driveway.

  Now it’s before dawn and already hot. One of those summers when God the landlord refuses to turn the heat down or the air-conditioning on—the city edgy and irritable, on the brink of a flameout, a fight or a riot, the smell of old garbage and stale urine, sweet, sour, sickly and corrupt as an old whore’s perfume.

  Denny Malone loves it.

  Even in the daytime when it’s baking hot and noisy, when the gangbangers are on the corners and the hip-hop bass beats hurt your ears, and bottles, cans, dirty diapers and plastic bags of piss come flying out of project windows, and the dog shit stinks in the fetid heat, he wouldn’t be anywhere else in the world.