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Don Winslow


  To the reader.

  Simply, thank you.


  If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.

  —Stephen King



  Title Page




  Crime 101

  The San Diego Zoo



  The Last Ride


  About the Author

  Also by Don Winslow


  About the Publisher


  The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places.

  —Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

  You ain’t gotta tell Eva the world is a broken place.

  A 911 dispatcher on a New Orleans night shift, Eva McNabb hears humanity’s brokenness for eight hours straight, five nights a week, more when she’s pulling doubles. She hears the car accidents, the robberies, the shootings, the murders, the maimings, the deaths. She hears the fear, the panic, the anger, the rage, the chaos, and she sends men racing toward it.

  Well, mostly men—there are more and more women on the force—but Eva thinks of all of them as her “guys,” her “boys.” She sends them into all that brokenness and then prays they come back in one piece.

  Mostly they do, sometimes they don’t, and then she’s sending more of her guys, her boys, into the broken places.

  Literally, sometimes, because her husband was a cop and now her two grown sons are cops.

  So she knows that life.

  She knows that world.

  Eva knows that you can come out of it, but you always come out broken.

  Even in moonlight the river looks dirty.

  Jimmy McNabb wouldn’t have it any other way. He loves his dirty river in his dirty town.

  New Orleans.

  He grew up and still lives in the Irish Channel just a few blocks away from where he stands now, behind an unmarked car in the parking lot by the First Street Wharf.

  Him and Angelo and the rest of the team are gearing up—vests, helmets, shotguns, flashbang grenades. Like a SWAT team, except Jimmy forgot to invite those boys to this party. Like he forgot to invite the Harbor Police or anyone except for his own team in the Narcotics Unit of the Special Investigations Unit.

  This is a private party.

  Jimmy’s party.

  “Harbor’s gonna be pissed,” Angelo says as he climbs into his vest.

  Jimmy says, “We’ll let them in on the cleanup.”

  “They don’t like being janitors,” Angelo says. He fastens the Velcro across his chest. “I feel stupid in all this shit.”

  “You look stupid, too,” Jimmy says. Friggin’ vest makes his partner look like the Michelin Man. Angelo is slightly built—he went on a crash diet of bananas and milk shakes to make weight for his department entrance physical, and he hasn’t gained a pound since. Thin, like the pencil mustache he thinks makes him look like Billy Dee and doesn’t. Caramel-skinned, sharp-featured, Angelo Carter grew up in the Ninth Ward, as black as black gets.

  Jimmy’s vest feels tight.

  He’s a big man—six-four, with the broad chest and shoulders of his Irish ancestors who came to New Orleans to dig the canal locks with pickaxes and shovels. He rarely had to brawl as a street cop—even in the Quarter—because his sheer size and look were enough to intimidate the most hostile drunk into a sudden change of heart.

  But when Jimmy did have to go, it would take a whole squad of brother officers to pull him off. He once wrecked—wrecked—an entire crew of bubbas who came down from Baton Rouge and got rude in Sweeny’s, Jimmy’s neighborhood bar. They went in vertical and loud, went out horizontal and silent.

  Jimmy McNabb had been one tough street cop, like his daddy before him.

  Big John McNabb was a legend.

  Both his sons had no choice to be anything but cops, not that either wanted to be anything else.

  Now Jimmy looks around at the rest of his team. He judges that they’re tense but not too tense, got just the right edge to them.

  You want that edge.

  Jimmy’s feeling it himself, the adrenaline starting to course through his bloodstream.

  He likes it.

  His mom, Eva, says that her son always liked the juice—whether it’s adrenaline, beer, whiskey or a horse race at Jefferson Downs or a bottom-of-the-ninth at-bat in the police league—“Jimmy likes the juice.”

  Jimmy knows she’s right.

  She usually is.

  She thinks so, too.

  Jimmy and his little brother have an expression for it—“the last time Eva was wrong.”

  Like, “The last time Eva was wrong, dinosaurs roamed the earth.” Or “The last time Eva was wrong, God took the seventh day off.” Or, Danny’s personal favorite, “The last time Eva was wrong, Jimmy had a steady girlfriend.”

  Which was like, yeah, eighth grade.

  “Jimmy’s a pitcher,” Eva once said, “but he prefers to play the field.”

  Funny, Eva, Jimmy thinks.

  You’re a hoot.

  He and Danny always refer to their mom as “Eva.” In the third person, that is, never to her face. Just like they call their dad “John.” It started when Jimmy was maybe seven. He and Danny were being punished by a “lockdown” for some infraction involving a baseball and a broken window, Jimmy said, “Man, Eva was really pissed,” and it stuck.

  Now Jimmy glances over at Wilmer to check on him. Suazo looks kind of bug-eyed, but the Honduran usually runs a little hot. Jimmy calls him a Honduran, but Wilmer grew up in the Irish Channel, too, in the little sub-neighborhood called Barrio Lempira that’s been there since before Jimmy was born.

  Short and wide—a refrigerator—Wilmer’s a New Orleans guy, as much a Yat as the rest of them, and it’s good to have a Hispanic on the team, especially these days, since more Hondurans and Mexicans came in to rebuild after Katrina, and no one was asking to see green cards.

  Good to have him tonight, too.

  Because the target is Honduran.

  Jimmy gives him a wink. “Tranquilo, ’mano.”

  Easy, brother.

  Wilmer nods back.

  Harold—and do not call him “Harry”—never runs hot.

  Jimmy wonders sometimes if Gustafson even has a pulse, he’s so laid-back. One time on a drive over to a raid where he could very well have been killed, Harold fell sound asleep in the backseat. To Jimmy he’s a “vanilla milk shake”—bland, benign, and very white. Blond-haired, light blue eyes, literally a church deacon.

  Even Wilmer curbs his language around Harold, and Wilmer has a mouth like a Third World outhouse. But when Harold is present, Wilmer curses in Spanish, in the correct belief that Gustafson doesn’t understand a word.

  McNabb is big, Gustafson is bigger.

  “We don’t need to build a border wall,” Jimmy has opined, “just have Harold lie down.”

  On a bet one time (not between Jimmy and Harold, Harold doesn’t gamble), Gustafson bench-pressed Jimmy.

  Ten times.

  Cost Jimmy fifty Grants, but it was worth seeing.

  I have a good team, Jimmy thinks.

  Smart, brave (but not fearless, fearless is stupid), their strengths, weaknesses, and talents blend perfectly. Jimmy has managed to hold them together for five years now, and they know one another’s moves like they know their own.

  They’re going to need all of that tonight.

  They ain’t never done a boat before.

  High-rise heroin mills, shotgun-house crack emporiums, biker clubs, gang corners—they done all that,
countless times.

  But a cargo boat?

  That’s a first.

  But that’s what Oscar Diaz is using to bring in his huge shipment of methamphetamine, so that’s what they’re going to hit.

  They’ve had the Honduran up for months.

  Laid way off him, though.

  Passed up the small shit, waited for Oscar to make his big play.

  And now he has.

  “Okay, let’s do the thing,” Jimmy says. He reaches back into the car and takes out his old, worn Rawlings glove, the same one he’s had since high school, a scuffed ball wedged in the webbing.

  The others also take out gloves, and they stand a few feet apart, throwing the ball around like it’s infield practice. It’s almost comical, in their vests and helmets, but it’s a ritual, and McNabb respects ritual.

  They ain’t never lost anyone when they tossed the ball before an op, and he don’t intend to lose anyone now.

  And it’s an unspoken reminder—do not drop the ball.

  They do a few circuits, and then Jimmy takes off his glove and says, “Laissez les bon temps rouler.”

  Let the good times roll.

  Eva McNabb listens to the child’s voice on the telephone.

  It’s a DV, a domestic-violence call.

  The little boy is terrified.

  Married to Big John McNabb for coming on forty years, Eva—five-three to his six-four—is no stranger to violence in her own home. John don’t hit her no more, but he’s a mean, angry drunk, and he’s drunk more often than not since he pulled the pin. Now he throws glasses and bottles and punches holes in walls.

  So Eva knows something about DV.

  This one is different.

  They’re all bad, but this one is bad.

  She hears it in the boy’s voice, in the shouting in the background, the screaming, the hollow thumps of blows landing that she can hear over the phone. This one starts bad, and the only thing she can do is try to see that it doesn’t end worse.

  “Sugar,” she says softly into the phone, “are you listening to me? Can you hear me, darlin’?”

  The boy’s voice quivers. “Yes.”

  “Good,” Eva says. “What’s your name?”


  “Jason, I’m Eva,” she says. It’s a violation of protocol to give her name, but fuck protocol, Eva thinks. “Now, Jason, the police are on the way—they’ll be there very soon—but until they get there . . . Do you have a clothes dryer, cher?”


  “Good,” Eva says. “Now, Jason sugar, what I need you to do is climb into that dryer, okay? Can you do that for me, sweetheart?”


  “Good. Do it right now. I’ll stay on the phone.”

  She hears the boy moving. Hears more screams, more yelling, more curses. Then she asks, “Are you in the dryer, Jason?”


  “Good boy,” Eva says. “Now what I need you to do is close the door behind you. Can you do that? Don’t be scared, now, sugar, I’m right here.”

  “I closed the door.”

  “Good boy,” Eva says. “Now, you’re just going to stay in there, and we’ll have a nice chat until the police get there. Okay?”


  “I’ll bet you like video games,” she says. “What games do you like?”

  Eva runs her fingers through her short black hair, her only sign of nerves, and listens to the boy talk about Fortnite, Overwatch and Black Ops 3. Looking at the screen in front of her, she watches the blinking light representing the patrol car moving toward the boy’s address in Algiers.

  Danny is in a radio car there in District 4, but it’s not his.

  She’s relieved.

  Eva is protective of both her boys, but Danny is younger, the sensitive one (Jimmy’s as sensitive as brass knuckles), the softer one, and she doesn’t want him seeing what the officer going into that house is likely to see.

  The car is close now, barely a block away, with two other units—neither of them Danny’s—chasing. She sent all three with the warning that there are children involved.

  Every cop in the district knows that if Eva McNabb tells them to go fast, they’d better go fast. Or they’re going to have to answer to her, which ain’t nobody want to do.

  Eva hears the sirens over the phone.

  Then the gunshot.

  The round strikes the metal bulkhead waaay too close to Jimmy’s head and then ricochets around with a randomness that sends Angelo sprawling to the deck.

  For a second, Jimmy thinks his partner’s hit, but Angelo rolls tight against the bulkhead and gives him a thumbs-up.

  It ain’t good news, though, the Hondurans wanting to slug it out, lead pinging off steel with a sickening whine, bouncing around like the balls in one of them lottery machines, and Jimmy and his team pinned down in a narrow passageway.

  Maybe I should have brought the SWAT team, Jimmy thinks.

  The bullets are coming from an open hatch thirty feet down the passageway. Someone has to be the first to go through that hatch, Jimmy thinks, or we should just tuck our tails between our legs and slink the hell back off that boat.

  That someone is going to be me, Jimmy thinks. He unclips a flash grenade from his belt and tosses it overhand through the hatch. No filth on it, no spin, just a straight-ahead fastball across the center of the plate.

  The white light blasts, hopefully blinding the shooters on the other side.

  Jimmy bursts in behind it, shooting in front of him.

  Some bullets come back, but he hears footsteps on the steel deck running away from him.

  “New Orleans Police! Lay down your weapons!” he yells, for the benefit of the shooting review board.

  He hears footsteps banging in front and behind him now, doesn’t have to turn around to know that Angelo, Wilmer, and Harold are coming up right behind him. In front of him, he sees a guy, and then the guy just disappears, and then Jimmy realizes that he’s gone down a ladder.

  Jimmy gets to the top of the ladder in time to see the guy banging down the rungs, but Jimmy don’t do that. Placing one hand on the railing, he vaults down and lands in front of the guy.

  The guy goes to lift his gun, but Jimmy gets off first, a left hook that puts the skell on the deck, unconscious. Jimmy stomps his face for good measure—and by way of teaching a lesson as to what happens when you pull a weapon on a Narcotics Unit cop.

  Then it goes black.

  Danny McNabb’s on the graveyard shift.

  He doesn’t mind. Most of the action happens on graveyard, and a second-year patrolman needs action if he’s going to move up. And he likes his assignment in District 34—Algiers—because Algiers, while technically a part of New Orleans, is a world of its own.

  The “Wild, Wild East,” as they call it.

  It keeps a patrol cop busy, and Danny likes to be busy. But now his long legs are starting to cramp, what with sitting in the car for all these hours.

  If his brother Jimmy is a bull, Danny is a Thoroughbred horse.

  Long, lean, and lanky.

  He still remembers the day he got taller than Jimmy, his mother marking their heads with a pencil on the doorsill of their bedroom closet. Jimmy was pissed, insisted on fighting him. (“You may be taller, but you ain’t tougher.”) Eva wouldn’t let the fight happen, though.

  They went out to the ball field for a night game, and on the way Jimmy said, real serious, “You may be bigger now, but you’re still my little brother. You always will be. You got dat?”

  “I got it,” Danny said. “I’m better-looking, though.”

  “True,” Jimmy said. “Too bad you got that mini dick.”

  “You wanna measure that, too?”

  “Just my luck,” Jimmy said, “getting a fag for a brother.”

  When Danny told Roxanne that story, he changed the word to “gay guy.” It wasn’t as funny, but Roxanne is gay and he knew she wouldn’t like “fag.” He knew that Jimmy didn’t mean anything
by it, though. Jimmy doesn’t hate gays—he hates everyone.

  Danny asked him that one time, after Jimmy had gone off on one of his rants. “Do you hate everyone?”

  “Let me think,” Jimmy said. “Gays, lesbians, straights, blacks, Hispanics, white people . . . Asians if there were any here . . . yeah, pretty much I hate everyone. You will, too, a few more years on the job.”

  Danny’s mom and dad told him pretty much the same thing. That the biggest downside of police work is it makes you hate everyone except other cops. He doesn’t believe it, though. He just thinks police have a selective experience with people. Cops just see too many bad things and forget that there’s good.

  Eva didn’t want him to be a cop.

  “Your husband’s a cop,” he answered. “Your other son’s a cop.”

  “You’re different from them,” she said.

  “Different how?”

  “I meant in a good way,” Eva said. “I don’t want you to end up like your father.”

  Angry, bitter, drunk.

  Blaming the job for it.

  That’s him, though, Danny thought. It’s not me.

  It’s never going to be me.

  He has a sweet life now.

  A good job, a nice little apartment in the Channel, a girlfriend he loves. Jolene is a nurse who’s on the graveyard at Touro, so even their schedules work out. And she’s a sweetheart, with long black hair, blue eyes, and a wicked sense of humor.

  Life is good.

  The unit is parked on Vernet Street by McDonough Park across the street from Holy Name of Mary Church, because the parish priest complained to the district captain about the “perverts” who are cruising the park in the small hours of the morning.

  Like priests should complain about perverts, Danny thinks.

  Eva made him go to Mass until he was thirteen, although she never went herself. He and Jimmy went to Catholic school all the way through Archbishop Rummel High, and Jimmy used to say there were two kinds of Catholic-school boys, “the quick and the fucked.”

  Jimmy and Danny were two of the quick.

  Anyway, he and Roxanne have been parked out here all damn week to keep the priest happy, and they haven’t seen one “pervert,” and Danny’s bored as hell.

  Just sitting in the dark.

  Someone turned the lights out.