Chapter 11: Dope Central
Central Station. Yet another roll call. Yeah, I made it in to work, tonight. My eye’s a lot better, but the scratch still stings a bit. I had to submit to an inspection by Lieutenant Hagan to make sure I didn’t cover it up with makeup, which I expected. Fortunately, I passed and I get to work tonight. Good. I can’t wait to get out there! Well, I won’t be too crazy about leaving an air-conditioned station for that heat, but I’ll manage. You have to take the bitter with the sweet.
OK, this is definitely weird. Roll call’s barely started, but Harper’s already got his hand up. What’s so important that he has to ask a question right out of the chute? Sergeant Gellar hasn’t even started the show.
“Sergeant Gellar, sir? Can I take a TO tonight?”
“Why the hell do you need a TO, Harper? Your partner’s here.”
“I know sir. That’s why. The Red Sox got their asses kicked this morning, and I’m afraid to go near Officer Lynott.”
Oh, he is really trying to get me to kill him, isn’t he? Keep it up, Harper! They’ll find your body in an alley behind the missions!
“Forget it, Harper. If I let you take a TO, then I have to drop the car. That means she stays in the station with me, so I’ll have to listen to her bitch and moan about it! Request denied.”
“Roger that, sir. It was worth a try.”
“It was a humiliating defeat, though. Wouldn’t you say, Lynott?”
Oh, don’t tell me he’s going to start piling it on, too!
“Sarge, how many days would I take for killing a boot?”
“That depends on the boot.”
“What would I get for killing Harper, sir?”
He’s thinking about it. As long as it isn’t too many!
“Fifteen days. Is there something I should prepare for?”
“I’ll let you know.”
“See that you do. By the way, how are you feeling?”
“After a six-to three-loss and we blew a two run lead in the bottom of the sixth? Like shit!”
“That’s not what I meant. How’s the eye?”
“It’s fine, sir. It’s not even black and blue – though Harper might be before long!”
“Glad to hear it.”
For a sergeant on Midwatch, that’s an expression of deep and sincere concern. Touching, isn’t it?
“All right, Midwatch! Roll call! The Watch Commander is Lieutenant Hagan. I’m Forty Central. Sergeant Alfaro is Sixty Central. Ruiz and Rosen, Eight Central. Lynott and Harper, Sixteen Central – assuming Harper survives the night. Kursteff and Vinell, Twenty-Two Central. Signolo and Goren, Forty-Four Central. All right, people! Listen up! Last night was a busy one. Lynott and Harper had a major psycho going ape shit in the middle of the street. Signolo and Goren backed, we had a use of force: The suspect was Tased; all by the numbers. Which is why I want to talk about the Taser for a minute. Now, it has come to my attention that some of you aren’t taking Tasers into the field. Let me remind you that you shall have at least one Taser per unit! You can carry it on your belt if you’ve got a holster, or you can keep it in the car, but you damned well better have it! If you end up shooting someone, they might ask you why you didn’t light the bastard up. If your response is: ‘Gee, we didn’t have a Taser,’ then that’s your ass! It won’t matter one bit if the shooting’s in-policy. They’ll burn you for not having the option. Take the fucking Taser! I will be checking the sign-out sheet tonight! I’d better see every unit with a Taser! Is that understood?”
And the Midwatch grumbling that passes for a collective “yes” is heard once again. I don’t know why some guys don’t like to take a Taser. It’s like the sergeant said: if you shoot someone and they ask why you didn’t zap them instead, your answer had better not be: “Because we didn’t have one.” They’ll roast you alive for that. I know. I’ve seen it happen.
“So we’re all on the same page about the Taser. Good. Once again, we’ll keep it short and sweet because the goddamned heatwave is driving everybody completely fucking nuts. Daywatch had four incidents involving suspects resisting arrest today. If that’s how they’re reacting on Daywatch, then imagine how they’re going to react after they’ve had an entire day of this heat and they’ve had the last twelve hours to pump themselves full of alcohol and dope! It’s dangerous out there, so be alert. Watch your backs! So, does anybody have anything? Anything that doesn’t involve the Sox getting their asses kicked? No? Good! Go to work!”
This collective disrespect for God’s favorite baseball team is not sitting well with me! If they keep it up, some of them are going to get pranked! I know plenty of ways to fuck with cops in the field. I know some of the best practical jokes to play, and I’m not afraid to play them. Keep it up, guys! Somebody just might find a live duck in his locker before end of watch!
Well, the Red Sox blew a fucking two-run lead, then choked big time in the sixth. That’s enough to ruin the day for me, but I’ve got a little something that should help make up for it tonight. Harper’s going to love this! But I’m not going to tell him right away. He needs to think I’m still ready to kill him. It’s good for him. It teaches him humility and just how fleeting the life of a boot can be.
“Feeling better, Dani?”
“No thanks to you and your flesh-eating virus shit!”
“No, I was too tired to have any nightmares. I just about collapsed on my couch as soon as I got home. But I spent half an hour in the shower, scrubbing myself raw.”
“Well, you smell nice and clean.”
Bullshit! I smell like I overdosed on antibacterial soap, which is pretty much what I did!
“You know, I did something really nice for you tonight, and now I don’t want to tell you about it. I don’t think you deserve it.”
“Seriously? What did you do?”
“I told you, you don’t deserve it. You went and spoiled it.”
“Come on, Dani!”
He’s so far along on probation, he knows it’s not anything to do with his rating. Still, he’s going to love this.
“All right. When you get our stuff from the kit room, don’t get a car. You tell them we’ve already got one: number 797.”
“OK. You already got us a car?”
“That’s right. Just tell them: number 797. Then grab all of our gear and meet me in the parking lot.”
“OK, you got it.”
Wait until he sees this. He’s going to shit himself! But hey, I didn’t do it just for him. There’s some enlightened self-interest at work here.
Central Division’s parking lot. Since we already have our car, Harper should be the first one out here. And there he is.
“OK, Dani. What’s the big surprise?”
“Here are you keys.”
“Yeah you got the car. You told me that, already. So what’s the surprise?”
“That’s the surprise.”
“I don’t follow you. What’s going on?”
I’m kind of surprised he didn’t know about this already. I figured Harper had a nose for this sort of thing.
“Does that look like the key to an old, beat-up Crown Vic? Not tonight! We’re driving that tonight!”
That’s right, Officer Harper: Central got exactly three shiny brand-new patrol cars, and I snagged one of them! Look at his face! He’s like a little kid on Christmas Day! God, what a gearhead!
“No way! When did we get this?”
“I heard they delivered them this morning. We got three of them assigned to patrol for the whole division, or so I heard. The other four went to the sergeants. What do you think? A brand-new Dodge Charger, with all of the bells and whistles and complete with a big, fat engine for muscle car freaks like yourself.”
“And no one else took it? How the hell did we get one?”
“Sixty-Five Daywatch was overtime. They were logging off when I walked into the parking lot, so I snagged it from them before they could turn in the keys.”
“How the hell did they get it?”
“I don’t know. I don’t care, either. Once I saw it, I wasn’t about to let them turn it in. You don’t think I’d let this little sweetheart slip through my fingers, do you?”
“Are we allowed to do that?”
“Probably not. But do you really care? Or do you want to drive this thing?”
“Let’s load up and go before they figure it out!”
My thoughts exactly. I’m pretty sure these cars were supposed to go to the sergeants, too. That shit about three of them going to patrol was probably just the lie that Sixty-Five told me to explain how they were driving it. We’d better get out of here before some sergeant sees us and takes it for himself.
“Fire it up, Harper! Just whatever you do, don’t wreck it. Please! We’ll never hear the end of it.”
He’s not listening to a word I’m saying. The prudent thing would be for me to drive tonight. But I’m still learning my way around the division, and Harper would never forgive me if I didn’t let him drive this monster. Oh, I could live with him not forgiving me, but I couldn’t live with having to sit next to him for eight hours and listen to him whine about it. Harper’s not a whiner, but guys are like that when it comes to cars. I doubt he’s any different.
“Nice going, Dani! This thing is sweet! You weren’t kidding about the bells and whistles! We’ve got a dashboard camera, a new computer, a state-of-the-art emergency light bar, the works! We only got three of them for patrol?”
“That’s what I heard. I guess Nightwatch took the other two.”
“We should take this somewhere and see what it can do.”
Yeah, like I’m going to let him do that! I know at least a dozen guys who have taken suspension days for drag racing on-duty. Sure, I’ve done it, too. I just wasn’t stupid enough to get caught.
“Not a chance, partner. Let’s get it ready and get the hell out of here before some sergeant makes us give it up.”
“You’re being a real killjoy, you know that?”
“After a six-to-three loss? Be thankful I’m not homicidal. Let’s get going.”
I sure hope this is a busy night. Because if it isn’t, I’m going to be stewing about that all night long. The Red Sox just started going downhill after the third inning. Christ, I’ve seen little kids in a sandlot game throw better pitches than that! If I didn’t know better, I’d think someone paid them to throw that game. How else can you explain it?
“All right, Dani! Where to? We’ve got the best car in the division, and…”
“And we’re not going to wreck it! No overdriving! That’s an order!”
He looks genuinely disappointed. That’s probably a good thing.
“Good. On to business. Harper, you said Ricky controls a big chunk of the heroin trade around here. So where else does he deal besides the Big Lot?”
“Personally, I’ve never seen him anywhere else. One time I saw him eating at that cafeteria over on 7th Street, but other than that? It’s like he lives in that lot. But his dealers are all over the place. There’s a hotel off of Meridian, on 8th Street. All of the guys who deal there work for Ricky.”
If we want to hurt Ricky’s business, then we have to hit all of his dope spots. That’s the only way we’re going to put a real dent in his profits. So it’s time to expand our efforts beyond his main location.
“Head over there. Let’s see if we can fuck with them the same way we’ve been fucking with Ricky.”
“You got it. Anyone in particular you’re looking for?”
“Anyone who works for Ricky is good. If the junkies think it’s too risky to buy from his dealers…”
“Then he’ll be out of business. At least in this sector.”
“That’s the idea. The plan is to fuck with him until he leaves or does something really stupid that ends up with him in jail for the rest of his life.”
“That is definitely a plan! Let’s take a look at who’s over there tonight.”
Of course, I want to do a lot more than look. Maybe we can’t get Ricky, but I’ll bet we can put some of his boys away. It’s like my mom said about gardening: first you prune the branches, then you get to work on the roots.
That must be it. Damn! Is there any place in this sector that isn’t a dump? What am I saying? This is skid row. They have to be dumps. It goes with the territory.
This place could be a problem. I can see in through the door – why the hell they have a glass door on skid row is beyond me – but that hallway leads straight to the back and I can’t see over that fence along the side. There’s no telling what’s back there, or where it leads. If we have to chase somebody, we could wind up in a bad place fast.
The male Hispanic in the blue shirt by the stairs is definitely dealing dope. He’s trying to look like he’s just standing there, but he’s got all the signs of a dope dealer: he’s checking out the passersby who look like junkies, but he’s not paying any attention to the guys who just look like they’re homeless or drunks. He talks only to the junkies, but even then, only for a second or two. Just enough time to make a hand-to-hand exchange. Just like that one! Nice sale, pal!
“Harper, did you see that?”
“Sure did. That was a sale.”
“He’s not even dealing out of his mouth. He’s got the dope in his pocket. And no money man.”
Look at this guy! He stays on his feet so he can look like he’s just walking by if need be. He’s checking out the cars driving by, but only for a second. He’s looking for police cars. And he’s keeping that door in sight in case he has to make a break for it. Jesus, he might as well wear a sign around his neck that says “dope dealer!”
“Harper, have you ever been in that place?”
“Never. I know this is a big dope spot, though. Which explains our friend, here.”
“That it does, partner. That it does.”
We need a plan in case this guy runs, which he’s sure to do if we so much as look at him for more than two seconds.
“OK, if he takes off running, he’s going to go straight for that door.”
“You think so?”
“I’m sure of it. There’s nowhere else to go. If he goes east, it’s too far to the end of the block, and there’s nowhere to hide until he gets there. If he goes west, he’s in a major intersection. He’ll get hit by a car. There’s nowhere to go if he runs straight across the street. That place over there is gated and he’s not getting over a ten-foot iron fence. That leaves the hotel. Did you notice how he never moves far from the front door?”
“You figured all that out in five seconds?”
“Years of experience.”
“I’m seriously impressed. You’ll have to teach me how to do that.”
“That’s why I’m here. Don’t worry, you’ll pick it up in no time. So how do you want to work this?”
“If we approach on foot, he’ll see us a block away.”
“No doubt. Here’s what we do: we pull up right in front of the place, fast! I’ll go for the dealer, you go straight for the door. Don’t go for him. You go straight for the door. That should give you a couple of seconds on him. He’ll be running away from me, so it should take him a second or two to realize he’s got no choice but to go for the door. That’ll give us the best chance of catching him even if he makes it inside.”
“And if he gets inside?”
“We go after him. He’ll probably go straight down the hall. I saw a door at the end of it when we drove by. That’s probably where he’s headed. Whatever we do, we don’t let him get there. We’re not chasing him through that back door. We don’t know what’s back there.”
“Or who’s back there.”
“See? You’re learning already. If he goes for a room, don’t let him get in there. If he’s got a gun stashed somewhere…”
“That’s where it’s stashed.”
“Exactly. And we don’t want him getting to it.”
I’d call for an additional unit to help us out on this one, but I haven’t met anyone else on Midwatch who likes to work dope. Harper and I seem to be the exceptions. Besides, after what I’ve been through over the last year, I’m kind of hesitant to rely on people I don’t know. I trust Harper. I can rely on him. I know he’s got my back no matter what. I’m not really sure about anyone else. Yeah, it’s not what you’d call tactically sound, but it’s the only plan I’m comfortable with right now. Whatever happens, we can handle it. We’re not going to do anything stupid. A little risky, perhaps, but not stupid. OK, it’s pretty damned risky. But this sector demands risk. Just living here is as risky as hell. Why should doing police work be any less risky? You know what they say: when in Rome…
“One last thing, Harper: remember it’s just the two of us. So whatever happens, whatever we do, we do not lose sight of each other! No matter what. That’s a deal-breaker. If either of us suddenly realizes that we can’t see the other, we stop, get on the radio, and regroup. Understand?”
“One hundred percent. We don’t spilt up.”
“Not ever. That shit only works in the movies and TV. And you know what they say: This ain’t a movie…”
“And you ain’t John Wayne.”
“Got it. Let’s go get this guy.”
“All right. Go in full speed, lock it up, and haul ass for the door. I’ll go straight for him. Ready?”
Jesus Christ! This car is fucking fast! And we’re in luck! Mister Shithead doesn’t seem to know what to do. He’s hesitating. Good!
“You! Stop right there!”
And there he goes for the door! But Harper’s almost there already!
“Hey! She told you to stop!”
Where’s he going to go now? Is he for real? He’s actually trying to run past Harper? What an idiot!
“You’re not getting past me, asshole!”
Ouch! Body-slammed right on the sidewalk! Well, that’s what he gets for trying to run.
“Nice tackle, Harper.”
“Thanks. Come on, get up! On your feet!”
Maybe I should let our dealer catch his breath. The way he hit the ground, he must’ve had the wind knocked out of him.
Oh, this guy does not look happy! I’m betting he’s holding a lot of money, and he knows what’s going to happen when he loses it to the evidence locker.
“Why are you hookin’ me up, cop? I ain’t doin’ nothing!”
“Except selling dope.”
“I ain’t selling no dope!”
“Dani, he says he’s not selling dope.”
“Really? Should we take his word for it?”
No one in their right mind would take this guy’s word for anything. I’ve known him for two seconds and I wouldn’t believe him if he said grass is green and water is wet.
“My partner says we shouldn’t take your word for it. I have to go with him on this one. You’re a dope dealer. You’re out here selling.”
“Says who, bitch? This fucking asshole?”
You know what they say: a picture is worth a thousand words. So let’s see what he’s got in his pockets. Let’s see…jackpot!
“Uh, says this bag of dope, asshole!”
“Oh, this is fucking bullshit!”
“No, this is possession of drugs for sale. Damn! Most heroin dealers don’t keep more than eight or ten balloons at a time. You must have forty or fifty! So I take it you’re the guy on this block?”
“Oh, you’re gonna do me like that? Is that it?”
“Harper, check his other pocket.”
If he’s not using a money man, he’s got to be holding the money, too.
“Holy shit, partner! Check this out!”
Damn! He must have a couple hundred bucks! Heroin goes for eight to ten bucks a shot out here. Business must be good at this spot!
“Let me guess: today’s payday? You just cashed your check?”
“Fuck you, bitch!”
“Ricky’s going to be pissed at you. Losing the money and the dope? Ouch!”
That look on his face tells me I just hit the nail on the head. He’s starting to worry big time. I don’t blame him.
“Break the bad news to him, Harper. I don’t think he wants to hear it from me.”
“You’re under arrest: possession for sale.”
“Fuck you! I want a lawyer!”
Good. That means we don’t have to talk to him anymore. Once they ask for a lawyer, the questions have to stop. But it wasn’t like this guy was going to tell us anything worthwhile. Let him sit in the lockup for a day or two and stew over it. Maybe then he’ll want to talk? I’m sure the Narcotics detectives will be happy to listen. We’ll burn a copy of the report for Detectives Godfrey and Cardozo. They asked us to keep them in the loop.
“Harper, search him and put him in the car.”
“Roger that. Hey! You got any weapons on you?”
“I ain’t sayin’ shit to you!”
Yeah, we can only hope.
Central Station. Less than an hour on this caper. That’s the nice thing about these possession for sale arrests: you finish them up quick. I don’t know if our dealer was telling the truth about his name, though. He didn’t have any ID, which is par for the course out here. No big deal. If he’s lying about his name, then his fingerprints will give him up. I’m still surprised at how much dope he had on him. Everywhere else I’ve worked, you never catch a street dealer with anywhere near that much dope on him. Yet another reason why I love this place.
“Dani, the reports are done. Do you want to check them?”
“At this stage of the game, I’m betting you know how to write a report. Just do me a favor and burn an extra copy and send it to Detective Godfrey at Narcotics. I told him we’d keep him up to date on what we’re doing out here regarding Ricky.”
“Sounds good. So, shall we get another one?”
“They’ll be expecting us to go by that hotel again. Where’s another good spot?”
“You still want to focus on Ricky’s boys?”
“One of his guys deals crack out of a squat on Pritchard.”
“You mean that squashy little place by the warehouse that looks like it got hit by a bomb?”
“That’s the one.”
God, that place is worse than that dump where I got whacked! I’ve only driven past it, but it looks like someone dropped a bomb right through the roof. I’m not kidding! Part of the roof is gone! And there’s a ton of garbage outside the door. Jesus! In three seconds, I saw about fifty rats crawling on it! Compared to that shithole, skid row is fucking Park Avenue!
“Is it safe to go in there without one of those decontamination suits?”
“As long as you wash your hands afterwards.”
“Grab a few bottles of hand sanitizer from the kit room. And I don’t want to hear any shit about flesh-eating viruses! Do you hear me?”
This should be interesting – as long as the whole place doesn’t come crashing down on top of us!
There it is. God, I can’t believe anyone actually lives in there! But they do. If I had a choice between living in there and sleeping on the street, I’d choose the street every day of the week and twice on Sunday. What a fucking pit! But there’s something about it…I don’t…I don’t know how to explain it. Somehow, I just know there’s all kinds of shit going on in there. I want to see it. I want to see if it’s as fucked up on the inside as it is on the outside – or worse.
“Do you know the layout, Harper?”
“Three apartments on either side of the hall; one at the end of the hall. It’s the same on each level.”
“Yeah. There’s no roof access. It’s a steel fire door that’s welded shut.”
Yeah, except for the hole in the roof, you mean!
“The lock’s busted. Anyone can go in.”
“None that I’ve seen. There’s no alley behind it, and no way to get around the sides.”
“One way in and one way out. That’ll work. Do you know which room this guy’s in?”
“I’m pretty sure he’s on the second floor; either the second or the third door on the right.”
“What’s his name?”
“People call him Cruz. I don’t know his first name. I’ve just heard people talk about him.”
Normally, that would be a big problem. But this guy’s a crack dealer, so that means that his customers are all crackheads, and that’s his Achilles’ heel. Crackheads are so crazy and addicted that they’ll give up anyone in two seconds. Fortunately, that includes their dealer.
“We need more information before we go in there.”
“How do we get it?”
Harper seems a bit puzzled by the simplicity of it.
“Who do we ask?”
“The first crackhead we can catch. Park the car at the end of the street. We’ll walk over to that little parking lot. I’m sure there’s someone there who can tell us everything we need to know.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
“Keep your radio down. We don’t want them to hear us sneaking up on them. Crackheads are pretty jittery. We don’t want to cause any heart attacks.”
That parking lot is small and exposed. No junkie would risk shooting up in that place. There are no cars to hide behind. But if there’s a crack dealer selling dope out of that rat trap hotel, then this parking lot is about as far as the average crackhead can walk without smoking up his dope. Patience is definitely not their strong suit. Somebody is going to be in there. We just have to wait until we see him. Something tells me we won’t have to wait very long.
“Dani, what do we do if they run?”
“Because they’re crackheads. Suddenly interrupt a crackhead while he’s smoking his shit, and he’ll be too busy having a heart attack to run anywhere.”
I see Harper didn’t know that little bit of crackhead trivia. That’s OK. Stick with me and you’ll get an education, Officer Harper. And look here! It appears we have a candidate! I knew we wouldn’t be waiting long.
“There! By the key box. See him?”
“I see him. Are you sure he’s a crackhead?”
“There’s only two kinds of people in this parking lot after five: crackheads and us. He’s not one of us, so…”
“So he’s a crackhead.”
“That, and he’s lighting a crack pipe. Wait until he takes a hit, and then we double-team him. One on either side. You take the left. Identify and tell him to stop.”
He’s only about ten feet away, so getting to him is easy enough. And he’s too focused on his crack to pay any attention to us. He’s going to freak like a motherfucker! Anytime now, Harper.
“Police! Don’t move!”
And that’s what I mean by having a crackhead heart attack! I think the poor guy actually shit himself! Whatever. He’s caught now.
“I said don’t move!”
He dropped his crack pipe, but he forgot to step on it. Good. I don’t want him to smash it. I want him to think we’re going to arrest him for it.
“Harper! Don’t let him step on that pipe!”
“I got it! Hands behind your head, guy! Do it!”
“Hook him up! And tell him he’s under arrest.”
He’s not, but I want him to think he is. The handcuffs should get his mind right where we want it. He’ll freak if he thinks he’s going to jail.
“Oh, man! Please don’t put a case on me, officer! Cut me some slack!”
“Keep your hands behind your head!”
And now that I’ve got his crack pipe, I’ve got enough probably cause to lock him up. It’s chickenshit, but it’ll do for now.
“I got his pipe. Bring him over here.”
“You heard her! Move!”
This guy is shaking so hard, he just might fall over. We’d better let him sit down. I’d hate to have him vapor-lock and die on us. Hey, crackheads do that sometimes.
“Harper, let him sit down.”
“Take a seat.”
“Officer, you ain’t got to do me like this! Please cut me a break!”
“Sorry, pal. That’s up to her. She’s the boss. I do whatever she says.”
“Senior? Senior, please don’t put no case on me! You ain’t got to do me like that! Please! It ain’t even a felony no more! You ain’t supposed to be fuckin’ with people for this shit no more!”
True, but we can still twist his arm over it – figuratively, I mean.
“OK, what have you got to trade?”
“Yeah. What can you give us so we let you go?”
“I ain’t got nothin’, Senior. You can check my pockets. I got nothin’ to give you!”
“That’s not what we mean. What about information?”
“Yeah. Information about Cruz.”
“Cruz? I don’t know nothin’ about no Cruz.”
Typical. You always have to go through this whole back-and-forth with these guys, even though they know exactly what you’re talking about from the get-go. It’s annoying like you wouldn’t believe, but that’s police work for you.
“Really? You don’t know anything about the guy who sold you that crack?”
His hesitation means we’ve just established a connection. Unfortunately, his crack-fried brain is now paralyzed with indecision. It’s like that old commercial: This is your brain on drugs! I’d better help him along.
“Yeah, that Cruz! We know about him. We wouldn’t be asking you if we didn’t. So what can you tell us about him?”
It’s basic interrogation strategy: if he thinks he’s not telling us anything we don’t already know, then he’ll be more willing to give it up.
“What do you want to know?”
“He’s in that shithole building, isn’t he?”
“Yeah, he’s in there. That’s his spot.”
“Number nine. He’s in there. I swear.”
“Is he alone?”
“He is tonight.”
So he’s usually got someone else in there with him. I’ll have to remember that.
“Where does he keep the dope?”
“Oh, please, Senior! Don’t be askin’ me that!”
“One of you is going to jail tonight. It can be him, or it can be you. We’ve already got you, so if you want it to be him…”
“All right, all right! The dope’s in the chair.”
“In the chair?”
“Yeah, he got these chairs…metal chairs, like they got in school. The legs is hollow. He keeps the dope in the legs. He puts it in the metal foil, and keeps it in the legs.”
OK, that’s a new one on me. But hey, whatever works. I have to admit, I wouldn’t have thought to look in there unless we were conducting a major search warrant. Then it’s standard procedure to tear everything apart.
“Has he got any weapons?”
“I ain’t never seen none.”
Which doesn’t mean he doesn’t have one. No matter. That’s enough. We know who he is, where he is, and where he stashes his dope. That’ll do nicely.
“Harper, get his information and then cut him loose.”
“Thank you, Senior! Hey, you ain’t gonna…”
“Don’t worry. We won’t say a word to Cruz.”
“Thank you, Senior! You won’t see me around here no more! I promise!”
“See what happens when you cooperate?”
“Yes, ma’am, I do! You both have a good night, you hear?”
“We will. Good luck to you. I think you’re going to need it.”
Now all we have to do is go get our friend, Mister Cruz. Yeah, we’re supposed to have a warrant, but there are ways around that. You just have to get creative. And hey, it’s not like we’re putting an innocent person in jail. We wouldn’t be fucking with him if he wasn’t a dealer. Even worse: he’s one of Ricky’s dealers. That means he made two seriously bad choices in his life. So fuck him.
“Dani, how do you want to work this one?”
“The chances of him being armed are a hell of a lot higher since he’s indoors. Our best bet is to knock on the door, pretend to be a crackhead looking for dope, and when he opens the door to get a look at us…”
“We kick the door in?”
“Bingo! How are your door-kicking skills?”
“You’ve got the big feet, so you’re on point. I’ll do the talking at first. He won’t be as suspicious if he hears a woman’s voice.”
“I didn’t think of that. That’s a good idea.”
“See? There are advantages to having a female partner.”
“Especially if she’s you.”
“Flattery will definitely get you a good rating. Come on, let’s go get this asshole. And be careful. With our luck, I’m betting he’s armed.”
I’m somewhat surprised there’s no one hanging out in front of this place. Usually, crackheads are swarming around any source of crack, even when they don’t have any money. They’re not above begging dealers to front them some dope. Of course, that’s a good way to get your ass kicked. It’s a good thing our friend Mr. Cruz isn’t in one of these front rooms. He’d be able to look out the window and see us coming. Oh, would you look at that! This just keeps getting better and better!
“Harper, we just hit the jackpot!”
“Take a look at that sign on the door.”
“This building is condemned. No occupancy. Trespassers will be prosecuted.”
“Which means that anyone in there is trespassing. We don’t even need a ruse to kick in the door. Take a picture of that sign. We’ll attach it to the report in case they don’t have a copy at the station.”
Now we don’t even have to knock. There’s no expectation of privacy when you’re trespassing. That’s all the probable cause we need.
“Got it. The picture came out good.”
“Then let’s go get us a trespasser.”
Harper was right about the door. The lock’s not just broken; it’s gone! In this place, maybe the rats ate it? Nobody in the downstairs hall. Good. The hallway lights are on. Weird. You’d think that a condemned building wouldn’t have any power. Hey, I’m not complaining. Look at this place! This dump is beyond condemned! There must be a dozen rats in this hallway alone! Usually, they take off when somebody gets near them, but these rats don’t seem to care. As long as they don’t run up my leg, I’m good. The stairs at the end of the hall look like they’re still intact – sort of. As long as they don’t collapse under our feet. Nobody’s peeking out of the apartments. Some of the doors are missing. Harper was right about this place being a squat. I guess it beats getting rained on, but just barely. Second floor; looks good. Nobody out here. There’s the apartment the crackhead told us about. It looks like he was right: I can see light coming from under the door. This must be the place.
Fuck! I didn’t think he’d kick it right off of the hinges! There’s our guy!
“Police! Don’t move! Let me see your hands!”
“Do as she says! Hands in the air!”
“All right! Don’t shoot!”
This is an apartment? More like a broom closet with a table and chairs! I don’t see anyone else in here, but we need to be certain.
“Harper! What’s that behind him?”
“Looks like a closet. I’ll check it out.”
“You! Drop to your knees! Now!”
“All right! Just don’t shoot, OK? What the fuck are you doing here?”
“We were about to ask you the same question.”
“Dani, the closet’s clear. No one else in here.”
“Why? I didn’t do anything!”
“What are you doing in here?”
“I live here!”
“In a condemned building? I don’t think so. What’s your name?”
He gave up his real name. Or at least half of it. That was nice of him. Of course, he probably thinks we don’t know who and what he is.
“No one’s allowed to be here, Gustavo. There’s a sign on the front door: ‘Trespassers will be prosecuted.’ So why are you here?”
Not unless he became homeless yesterday. He’s way too clean. His clothes are in good shape. His shoes aren’t caked with dirt and road grease. Except for his moustache, he’s got a clean shave, too. Homeless, my ass!
“You don’t look homeless.”
“That don’t mean I ain’t.”
“Why are you in this particular apartment?”
“This one’s got lights.”
“Does it have anything else?”
“Just what you see.”
I’m more interested in what we don’t see. Like what’s inside the legs of that chair.
“Harper, check the legs.”
“Excuse me, Officer? You gonna check my legs?”
“Not your legs, pal.”
I think our friend just figured it out.
“He’s going to check the chair’s legs. You know, the chair you were sitting in.”
“What? Hey, you can’t do that! That’s illegal!”
“Yeah, we can. Watch us.”
I’d better take control of this guy in case he freaks out when Harper opens the legs of that chair. I don’t want him going off when his crack spills out.
“Holy shit! Dani, look at this!”
That’s not a few little pieces of crack! That’s the fucking motherlode!
“He’s got to have at least an ounce in here!”
“Check the other legs. Then check the other chairs.”
“We got some in this leg!”
Jesus! How much dope does this guy have? And that’s only two legs from one chair!
“This one, too! This thing is packed!”
“Put it all on the table. I’ve got this guy.”
Our friend looks like his world just came to an end. And in a sense, it did. No way is he going to skate on that much dope. He’s going away for a few years, at least!
“There’s more in this chair!”
“Hey, Gustavo? How much dope do you have in here?”
No answer. I guess I didn’t really expect him to answer.
“Got more here, too!”
This is unbelievable! Short of a major Narcotics case, I’ve never seen that much crack at one time! That shit must be worth thousands of dollars!
“There’s some in this one, too!”
Just when I think skid row can’t surprise me anymore, this happens! I can’t believe how much dope this guy’s got! And in this little shithole!
“No way he’s in here by himself with all of that dope and he doesn’t have a gun. It’s got to be around here somewhere. Find it, Harper!”
“Got it! Taped under the table!”
That was fast! Harper must have a nose for finding guns. A Raven .25 automatic. Pea shooter. I would’ve expected something a lot bigger. With all this dope, this guy can afford a better gun.
“Gustavo, you’re in big trouble. Let’s get back to the station. Harper, don’t forget the chairs for evidence.”
Wait until the sergeant sees this haul! He’s not going to believe it. Hell, I can barely believe it! God, I love this place!
Central Station. Time to break the good news to the Watch Commander. This should make him happy. Hey, he wanted numbers, right? This is one big number! Our guy’s in the holding cell and Harper’s running that gun we found. I don’t really expect anything big to come back on it, though it might be stolen. At the very least, I’ll bet they find Gustavo’s fingerprints on it. Who the hell else could it belong to? I see Sergeant Hendrickson’s sitting in for the Watch Commander. Good. I’ll bet he’ll love this.
“Sergeant Hendrickson! We brought you a present!”
“Yeah? What did you get me?”
“Come see for yourself.”
Harper should have already weighed that shit. I’m curious to see how much it weighs. I’m betting three ounces at least.
“So what do you think, Sarge?”
“Jesus Christ! Where the hell did you get all that?”
“A condemned shithole on Pritchard Street. The dealer’s in the holding cell.”
“Lynott, do you have any idea how many cops in the south end have blown out their knees jumping over fences and running between houses to catch some asshole with fucking five little rocks in his pocket? Look at this shit! How much is here?”
“I’m guessing three or four ounces at least. Harper, did you weigh it yet?”
“Sure did. Just over six-and-a-half ounces.”
Better than I thought. Sergeant Hendrickson looks like he’s going to choke on his moustache!
“Are you shitting me? You guys got almost half a pound of crack?”
“Harper, run it down for him.”
“Six point eight ounces of crack, eighteen hundred dollars’ cash, and a gun. The gun’s clean. No record on file.”
“You got a gun, too?”
“Yes, sir. A .25 Auto. Loaded, one in the chamber. Our guy had it taped under the table.”
“Don’t forget about the chairs, Harper!”
“Oh, yeah. We got four desk chairs where he hid the dope.”
“How did you two find out about this place?”
“Uh, Dani’s a witch, sir. She used her crystal ball.”
“Yeah, it comes in handy, sometimes.”
You’d think he’d have a better sense of humor. We just brought him a great arrest. Some people, you just can’t please.
“We knew it was a dope spot and we knew one of Ricky’s dealers was selling crack out of the place. We talked to one of the local crackheads…”
“Talked to him, or choked it out of him?”
“We just talked, sir. He told us which room the guy was in and where he hid his dope. The building’s condemned. There’s a big ‘No Trespassing’ sign on the front door. The guy had no legal right to be there.”
“Do we have a copy of the ‘No Trespassing’ order?”
“We haven’t looked yet, but Harper took a picture of the sign, just in case.”
“Did this guy put up a fight?”
“No, sir. I think he thought we were just looking for trespassers, so he tried to play it off.”
“OK. Write it up. Don’t leave anything out. See if we have a copy of that ‘No Trespass’ order on file. If not, attach the photo of the sign. What do we know about this guy?”
“He’s very unhappy, sir.”
“He says his name’s Gustavo Cruz. We’re pretty sure at least the last name’s correct. That’s what the crackhead called him. He’s supposed to be one of Ricky’s dealers.”
“Does he have a record?”
“We haven’t run him yet. We’ll let you know.”
“You two have been putting the screws to Ricky pretty good. Any particular reason why?”
Is he kidding? Does there even have to be a reason?
“Because he’s a dope dealer and an asshole and he’s in our sector.”
“Fair enough. Burn a copy of the report and send it to Narcotics.”
“We’ll send it to Detective Godfrey.”
“I see you followed up on my suggestion. Good deal. Bring all of that evidence into the Watch Commander’s office. I want to take a picture of it. I’ll write you guys up a good one. Outstanding work, both of you.”
“Thank you sir.”
“So you’re a witch?”
Oh, here we go!
“It’s a long story, sir.”
“Save it for later. Good work, both of you. That’s a hell of a catch. Jesus, your friend Ricky’s going to go ballistic when he hears about this.”
I certainly hope so. That’s the idea, after all.
All finished. I’d better let Sergeant Hendrickson know we’re headed back out. I think it picked up while we were in here. They’re probably holding a bunch of radio calls. Time to do our part for the division’s response time.
“We’re done, Sarge. All of the evidence is booked, our guy’s been booked, and we’re heading back out.
“Not so fast, Lynott. There’s something we need to talk about.”
Oh, this doesn’t sound good!
“What’s that, sir?”
“Look, I know you and Harper want to go out there and just do it all. I get that. And that was one hell of an arrest you made. But I’m a little concerned that you went after that guy by yourselves.”
“It was one guy. There were two of us.”
“Yeah, but it was one guy in an asshole place where a lot of things could’ve gone wrong in a hurry. Why didn’t you call for backup?”
“I felt we could handle it.”
“That’s not an answer. You know better.”
“It’s the only one I’ve got, sir. I analyzed the situation, and I believed…”
“Dani, let me get something perfectly clear: I don’t have any doubts about your ability to do this job. I don’t have any doubts about your ability to handle yourself out there. And while Harper’s still a boot for the next ten minutes; I don’t doubt his ability, either. That’s not what I’m talking about. I think you know what I’m talking about.”
I think I do, too. But I’d better wait and hear it from him.
“A lot of people don’t want to work dope cases, Sarge. Harper and I do.”
“Yeah, but that’s not why you went in alone. You need to start trusting people, Dani.”
I was right. I knew this was what he was talking about.
“I trust Harper, sir.”
“One guy’s not enough. Don’t get me wrong: if I were you, I probably wouldn’t trust too many people, either. You got fucked over big time. I know that. But you’re going to have to start trusting your fellow officers. This place is too dangerous not to. I’m a lot less worried about these dope dealers you’re fucking with than all of the psychos we’ve got wandering the streets. Back in that shithole, there could’ve been twenty of them. One armed dope dealer is one thing. Twenty fucking lunatics coming out of the woodwork before you even get a chance to see them is something else.”
“I know that, sir.”
“Dani, nobody here is out to get you. Nobody here gives a shit about what happened in Woodlawn. It wasn’t your fault, and you couldn’t have prevented it. You sure as hell couldn’t have seen it coming. We all know that.”
Unfortunately, there are plenty of people on the department who don’t feel that way. A lot of them are a hell of a lot higher up the food chain, too. But I’m not going to throw that shit in his face. He doesn’t deserve it. And he knows it as well as I do.
“Doing it by the book didn’t help me very much, sir. If you can’t trust the book…”
“I’m not telling you to trust the book. I’m telling you to trust your fellow cops, here. I’m telling you to trust me. Can you do that?”
It would be easy to lie to him and say “Yes, sir, no, sir, three bags full, sir.” But he’s a good guy and a good sergeant and I’m not going to do that to him.
“I won’t lie to you, Sarge. I don’t know. But I can try.”
“I’ve seen a lot of cops get hurt out here. In more ways than one. I don’t you to become one of them. That’s all I’ve got to say. Fair enough?”
“Fair enough, Sarge.”
“Get back in the field. And don’t let up. You’re doing good work. Both of you. Don’t think people haven’t noticed.”
“I appreciate that, sir.”
“And we appreciate you. So if you run into any problems…”
“I’ll let you know.”
“Do that, OK? That’s what I get the big bucks for.”
That went better than I expected. I know he’s right, but when you’ve been stabbed in the back the way I was, trust doesn’t come easy. And it isn’t the rank and file that I don’t trust. It’s the people above them. Sometimes I wonder if some of them were ever really cops? They sure seem to have forgotten what the job is all about.
Well, we pruned away two of Ricky’s branches, now it’s time to stomp on his root – or his dick; whichever. By now, he’s got to have heard the bad news. That much is certain. Dope dealers have a communications network that would make the NSA jealous.
“Shall we go by the Big Lot and see how Ricky’s taking the bad news?”
“You got it, partner. I can’t wait to see his face.”
This ought to be interesting. Ricky just lost a shitload of dope. Oh, he won’t give a shit about losing a dealer, and he probably won’t be too broken up about losing eighteen hundred bucks. It’s not exactly chicken feed, but he can make that back in a night. But that much dope? If he were any other dope dealer, I’d imagine that someone fronted it to him and now he’s on the hook for a whole lot of money. But from what I’ve heard about Ricky, he’s a bit higher up the food chain. He probably paid for it up front. So he won’t have to worry about someone else coming down on him about it, but he’ll be out of his mind about losing all of that expensive product. And this on top of his heroin. That’s what it means to hit him in the wallet. A dope dealer’s wallet is especially near and dear to his heart. He might even try to do something about it. We’d better be ready for that.
Coming up on the Big Lot. Stay sharp!
“We’re almost there, Dani. Do you want to go in the front?”
“Yeah. I want him to see us. But stay sharp. He might try something. He’s going to be seriously pissed; especially if he already knows it was us who locked up two of his boys tonight.”
“So how do you want to handle it?”
“Let’s not give him a chance to do anything stupid. Let’s take the initiative.”
“How do we do that?”
“A show of force. See who’s available.”
“It looks like we’ve got…Eight Central. Ruiz and Rosen. They’re clear.”
“Hold here and tell them to meet us here. We’ll go in together. Lights, but no sirens.”
“Sounds good. Sending them a message now.”
Well, the Sarge said I had to start working and playing well with the other children, so I might as well start now.
“They’re en route. E.T.A. is about two minutes.”
“Good. And Harper?”
“Let’s make it a real show of force. When we get out, grab the rifle. Make sure everybody sees it.”
Even in this lunatic asylum, a cop with an M-16 makes a hell of a statement.
We’re all in position and we’re ready to go. Just go over the plan one more time.
“All right, does everyone know what to do? Harper’s going to be guarding the rest of us with the rifle. Our job is to grab Ricky, his little guard dog, and anyone who’s over by the wall with him. We line them up and put them all on their knees. We make them all miserable. We make them afraid. Then they won’t want to do business with Ricky anymore. Everyone knows Ricky by sight. Ruiz, do you speak Spanish?”
“Good. If anyone gives us the ‘I don’t speak English’ routine…”
“I’ll take care of them. You just watch your ass, Dani. Ricky already hates you. And after that last arrest…”
“Yeah, I know. Now remember: we know Ricky’s got a gun somewhere nearby. He won’t have it on him, but he’ll have it close by and well-hidden. We also think he’s good for that homicide the other night. Don’t give him so much as half a chance.”
“OK, then. Everybody ready?”
They definitely look ready. This should be fun!
“Let’s do it! Move in! Move in!”
Yes! There’s Ricky and Diego! And there must be eight or ten people by the wall with them! Ricky was planning on a good night. That’s about to change!
“Police! Everybody put your hands up and face the wall! Now! Do it!”
I was right: one look at Harper with that M-16 put the fear of God into them! They don’t know what the fuck is happening!
“Line it up! Now! Against the wall! Rosen, get the guys on the far left!”
“I got it! Where the fuck do you guys think you’re going? Get against that wall!”
Ruiz has the guys on the right. Everyone behind us is running away as fast as they can. And Ricky looks even more pissed than the last time I saw him! I guess he already got the news.
“All right! Everybody drop to your knees! Now!”
Hey, would you look at that? They’re all obeying! Even Ricky! Though he sure doesn’t look happy about it! I don’t know if he’s pissed because I put him on his knees, or because he can’t get to his gun. God, I wish I could figure out where he’s got it stashed!
“How are we looking, Harper?”
“All right, everyone! Listen very carefully! My name is Officer Dani Lynott! The guy with the big, black rifle is my partner, Officer Ryan Harper! And on the sides, we have Officers Victor Rosen and Franco Ruiz! We’re here to deliver a message to everyone! Effective immediately, this place is poison! The Big Lot is off limits to all junkies, crackheads, pill heads, and whatever! From now on, everyone we catch here is going to jail! If you’ve got warrants, you go for warrants! If you’ve got fresh tracks, you go for marks! If you’ve got a crack pipe, you go for paraphernalia! No exceptions! You will go to jail! Does everyone understand me?”
Evidently, we’ve got one person who claims to be dumb. What’s his problem?
“Hey, you! I asked you a question! Do you understand me?”
“Officer Ruiz! Would you please explain the facts of life to this asshole in a language he can understand?”
“You got it. Ven aca, puto!”
Even I know what that means. An asshole is an asshole in every language.
“Tonight, right now, is your one get out of jail free card! Leave now and don’t come back! If we see you again, you’re going to jail!”
Clearly, they get the message. Good! Let’s hope it sticks.
“And make sure to tell all of your friends! You will all henceforth purchase your fucking dope somewhere else! No more buying from Ricky! If your friends get caught here, they’re going to jail! If you get caught here, you’re going to jail! Officer Harper, please escort these gentlemen to the sidewalk.”
“You heard her! On your feet! Start walking! All of you!”
“All of you except for Ricky and Diego! You guys stay here!”
Now we see if our little show of force had the desired effect. Jesus, how could it not?
“Ricky and Diego, on your feet!”
Look at him! He wants to tear me apart with his bare hands! Not that I’m going to let him, of course.
“Consider this a taste of things to come. As long as you’re here; we’re here. Every goddamned night. Your drug market is closed. We put two of your dealers away tonight, and we’ll put more of them away tomorrow night. You’re shut down; here and everywhere else. Do you understand? We’re putting you out of business, Ricky.”
“You don’t know who you’re fucking with, bitch!”
“Yeah, I think I do. You took a pretty big hit tonight. You lost one heroin dealer and his stash, and your boy Cruz lost a shitload of crack, along with the cash and his pop gun. He’s going away for a long time. Tomorrow night, who knows? Maybe it’ll be your turn?”
“You’re number one on my shit list, bitch! You remember that, you hear? I warned you, but you didn’t listen. That was real stupid.”
“Officer Harper, is he threatening me?”
“Are you threatening my partner, Ricky?”
“Big man with a machine gun. What are you without it?”
“You want to find out?”
Poor Ricky! He can’t stand the fact that there’s nothing he can do about it. Good. Now he knows how all the people he’s fucked with over the years feel. What goes around, comes around. That was the point, after all.
“There’s four of us here tonight, Ricky. And there’s a lot more of us in this division. A lot more of us than there are of you. Even if we can’t catch you dirty, we can fuck with your business until you don’t have one anymore. Frankly, we’re doing you a favor. We’re giving you a chance to pack up and leave. If I were you, I’d take it.”
“If that’s how you want it, bitch! You got it!”
Somehow, I don’t think that means he’s going to pack up and leave.
“Well, if you change your mind, we know where to find you.”
He’s really eye-fucking Harper. I guess he didn’t expect the major firepower, but that was the idea. I want him to know he’s outnumbered and outgunned.
“Hey, machine gun man! You’re on my shit list, too! You won’t always have that cannon!”
“Don’t be too sure of that, Ricky. And this is better than what you’ve got.”
“He’s telling the truth, Ricky. I think he sleeps with that thing.”
“Fine! Just like you want it, bitch! We’re going to see how this plays out. Count on it!”
“Gentlemen, I think we’re finished here…for now. Let’s go.”
And just like that, it’s over. It’s amazing how empty this place got. Even the psychos scattered. If we were in the suburbs, you’d be able to hear crickets chirping.
“Ruiz, Rosen, we appreciate your assistance.”
“Anytime, Dani. That was fun!”
“And thanks for translating for that guy.”
“No problem. Just watch your back, will you? This guy is a serious asshole. He might try something stupid.”
“I’ll be careful. Stay safe, guys.”
I’m beginning to wonder if Ricky’s got the balls to do anything to us? I know what everyone says about him, but so far, he’s been pretty much a wimp. But I can’t underestimate him. That’s one of my cardinal rules: no matter what, you never underestimate the enemy. It can be lethal.