TUESDAY, 23 DECEMBER 1997, 1100 PT
Over two thousand cops from hundreds of departments and agencies throughout the United States snapped to attention and saluted as the three caskets carrying the two dead Sacramento Police Department officers and one Sacramento County Sheriff's deputy were carried into Blessed Sacrament Cathedral in downtown Sacramento for the memorial service. An estimated one thousand spectators came out in the blustery cold to join the officers and watch the solemn procession. Led by two uniformed officers playing bagpipes, another thousand mourners, including the governor of the state of California, two U.S. senators, all the local congressional, state assembly, and state senate members, and the mayor and the chief of police of Sacramento, followed behind the caskets and took seats inside the cathedral as they were placed before the altar. Each casket was draped with an American flag, with the officer's service cap, badge, and nightstick placed on top. The Christmas decorations in the cathedral and on the route through town offered a strange yet inspiring contrast to the mournful occasion.
The service had just begun when there was a rustle of surprised voices in the back of the church. Heads turned to watch as a heavily bandaged young man in a wheelchair rolled down the long aisle. The man pushing the chair positioned it beside the casket on the left, and the young man laid his right hand on the flag. Then he sat quietly, his eyes on the altar.
Amid the rising murmur in the cathedral, the chief of police of the city of Sacramento rose from his seat in a front pew and walked over to the wheelchair. As usual, Arthur Barona was wearing a dark suit rather than his chief's uniform, and like most of the higher-ranking politicians attending the funeral, he had a bulletproof vest underneath his jacket.
"Hold it," Barona said in a low voice. "What's going on here?"
The young man in the wheelchair looked up at the chief through swollen eyes. His head, neck, torso, left arm and shoulder, and right leg were wrapped in bandages, but his uniform tunic was draped over his shoulders, with all insignia and devices removed except for the shoulder patches and his silver badge, which had a black band affixed diagonally over it. He saluted the chief, then looked up at the man who had pushed the wheelchair, silently asking him to speak for him.
"Sir, Officer Paul McLanahan requests permission to stay by his partner," Patrick McLanahan said, his voice almost a whisper.
"His partner? Who is that? Who are you?"
"My name is Patrick McLanahan, Paul's brother, sir," Patrick responded. "Corporal LaFortier was Paul's partner, his training officer."
"He's McLanahan?" the chief sputtered. His face went white as the name registered. "Wasn't he shot?" He was confused and embarrassed. There were so many wounded, so many press conferences, so much to do trying to track down the suspects, that Barona had not yet visited the hospital to see his injured officers. "Officer McLanahan, you should be in the hospital," Barona said.
The murmur of voices in the cathedral grew louder. When Barona looked up he saw a sea of faces looking at him. The sympathy for the officer in the wheelchair was visible on the faces of the VIP's seated in the front of the cathedral--as was the open hostility on the faces of the Sacramento cops toward the back.
"Sir, please--" Patrick started.
Barona put a fatherly hand on Paul McLanahan's right shoulder and bent down to talk to him. "It's all right, Officer," Barona said, his voice sympathetic. "Your partner is in God's hands now. You're relieved of duty for now."
Patrick was surprised by Barona's response. Why was he denying Paul this simple request? It didn't make sense. "Sir," Patrick said, raising his voice so more people could hear him, "Officer Paul McLanahan respectfully requests permission to stay by his partner."
"I'm sorry, but I can't allow . . ."
"Chief Barona, please let Paul stay." It was Craig LaFortier's widow, seated in the front pew directly behind her husband's casket. She stood, bent down to hug Paul gently, gave him a kiss on the cheek, returned to her seat, then reached over to hold his bandaged arm as if prepared to keep him in place should the chief try to pull him away. All eyes were back on him again, Barona realized, as if waiting to see what he was going to do.
What had started out as if it might be some sort of grandstanding demonstration had turned into a scene deeply touching to those in the church, and it appeared as though Chief Barona was trying to prevent it. Patrick--who had objected from the start to his wounded brother's leaving the hospital and, after losing that argument, had insisted that he accompany him to the service--watched Barona as in sequence anger, then confusion, then embarrassment and worry passed across his face. The chief felt very exposed; he had to extricate himself from this scene gracefully--and fast. He put on his best fatherly expression, gave permission with a nod, and laid his hand on Paul's right shoulder again before returning to his seat.
Being the chief of police for the capital of California, a city of almost half a million people, was certainly no popularity contest, Patrick acknowledged, but shouldn't the guy at the least recognize one of his own officers, especially one who had been wounded in the line of duty, and not object to his display of loyalty?
The ceremony was designed to move and uplift the listeners. The amplified voice of the bishop of the archdiocese of Sacramento sounded the reassuringly familiar prayers. The music of the organ resonated through the great space. The speakers told of how LaFortier had killed one attacker before he was murdered, and they spoke about the heroic but futile actions of the police and sheriff's units as they tried to stop the heavily armed robbers. Inevitably, politics entered into some of the eulogies. There were appeals for a total confiscation and ban on all assault rifles in the state of California, and calls for more prisons, more executions, and more funding for everything from the police to education to welfare programs--even a call to close the downtown entertainment complex for fear it might attract further violence. Patrick ignored it all. What moved him were not the voices or the prayers or the ceremony or even the organ, but the bagpipes.
When the two uniformed officers, one from the Sacramento Police Department and the other from the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department, played their bagpipes, the keening soared above the utter silence throughout the huge cathedral. There was something about the sound of a bagpipe, Patrick thought, that reached very deep into the soul. The eerie wails were sad yet stirring. Haunting. That was the word. The sound of the bagpipes mesmerized him. Patrick knew that for centuries armies of Scotland, England, and even America had marched into battle with bagpipes blaring, the sound inspiring and terrifying at the same time.
As he looked at the coffins, then at his injured brother in the wheelchair, he felt the anger surge in his chest. The wail of the pipes touched a rage within him, something evil, something angry. He had been away from Sacramento for many years, but it was still his home--and his home was under attack. For U.S. Air Force Brigadier General Patrick McLanahan, the pipes were not a tribute to the fallen police officers--they were a rallying call. The homeland was under siege. It was time to take up arms and defend it.
The ferocity of the assault on the police had startled Patrick. He knew of nothing else on so drastic a scale within the United States. He had fought with ex-military drug smugglers when he flew for the Hammerheads of the U.S. Border Security Force, but Salazar and his former Cuban-military "Cuchillo" pilots had not dared to venture into America's cities. Henri Cazaux was the only exception, but he had confined his attacks to simple kamikaze-like aerial bombardments of major airports, quickly stopped by federal and military forces. The recent robbery-shootings in Hollywood, in which heavily armed gunmen kept a hundred police at bay for nearly thirty minutes, were little more than a "suicide by cop" incident--the robbers wanted to shoot up the city, and they wanted the police to kill them.
From press accounts of the shootout, the guys who robbed Sacramento Live! were clearly military. They certainly hadn't used pure military tactics--marching out into the open in columns of two abreast with guns blazing had not been used in combat since the redcoats were kicked out of the Colonies. But their weapons, their armor, and their brazenness meant they knew right from the start that they had the upper hand.
How would the police stop nutcases like these guys? Would cops on the beat now carry automatic rifles? Would armored vehicles replace squad cars to protect against antitank rockets? What if the robbers decided to use even heavier weapons? Would the streets of Sacramento eventually turn into a battlefield? Would the National Guard or the regular Army replace the police?
Patrick McLanahan knew military combat strategies. He knew what would be needed to analyze the enemy and plan an offensive. But he had to have information, intelligence, and reconnaissance. He had to find out more. He would get all the information he could from the police and the federal authorities investigating the attack, and then map out a counteroffensive strategy of his own.